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Category Archives: Writing

When the muse strikes write?

My Muse?

My muse has been busy this week. Early in the morning, she appears in the last dream  before I wake and she appears with answers, suggestions to the story I’m rewriting.I don’t actually see her or hear her. It is more a short scene showing the story scenario I have been struggling with, and leaving me waking up with an answer of what to write. You see, the more I rewrote the story, the  more I questioned something in the plot. Most of the questioning was under the “does it make sense?” category or the “have I got the police procedure right?’

It is a mystery at a crime scene and there is some police procedure there. But the main character is a civilian who wants answers and is determined to get them. because of who the victim is. So police procedure has to be correct, but it is seen from somebody not really familiar with it. And my character is a fat eccentric senior So the story is not just a mystery, but it has humor, satire.

I did my research and have explicit info from a police sergeant who is involved in investigating homicides. So I’ve been going over what he emailed me to fact check with what I’ve written. And that necessitated some changes and a follow-up email concerning the large binders police now use for interviews of all things. And he caught something else I had in the question wording – where witnesses and suspects are taken for more questioning.

So, like I said before, every time I made a change, another necessary one would pop up.

This story has a submission deadline of a week from now and a maximum word count. So those factor in with writing time and story changes.

So I’ve been lucky with my active Muse. And sitting down at my computer every day and rewriting. And resenting time I have to do other things.

It is only now that I have figured out how my Muse is working. Each day and each evening I mull over what needs to be changed to work in my story and it gets pushed into my unconscious when I get distracted. And I do get distracted a lot – problems coming at me to solve, health issues, other writing and editing stuff, phone calls, computer problems, errands, etc. When I finally get to bed and get some sleep  I have to go through several sleep cycles first and several unremembered dreams to get to the point when my Muse can get through. And she has and I am grateful for that and also for her timing – last dream before I get up.

Now if my Muse would only help me solve all the other annoying problems I have to deal with.

Any day I would much rather do something creative – like write or take photos or in the summer garden then deal with what I call negative problems shoved at me from what I call outside. I can create enough chaos without any help from others.

So, the lesson learned is – when the Muse strikes, WRITE!

How does your Muse work? Do you have a Muse? Do you listen to your Muse?

Cheers.

Sharon A Crawford

riter/Editor/Writing Instructor

Author of the Beyond mystery novel series.

 

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New Year new writing energy

Many years ago I learned something important for writers from freelance writer Paul Lima. Yes, he said you need a Marketing Plan for your writing business,but he added something that is core to this –  You need a vision for your writing business in order to figure out your marketing plan.

Very true. I know that from experience as the last couple of years I didn’t have a vision and only a marketing plan for my Beyond books.. For 2017 I was sick the first part of the year and for last year, let’s just say I had more than my share of problems in all areas, stupid problems, with 80 per cent of them caused by other people or organizations.The rest included health and house issues, I won’t go into a long list, just mention the one that gets the cake (in the face, of course) for the most ridiculous.. My CARP (the Canadian Seniors advocate organization that also publishes Zoomer magazine) membership got messed up by CARP. First, I didn’t get any notification to renew so I phoned. Yeah, I got my membership renewed and a new card last February – dated to expire February 2018. What’s wrong with this number? After raising more than a little hell over the phone and getting the CARP membership advocate involved, I got a replacement card dated to expire February 2019. And I have received a renewal notice for this February.

So, when not dealing with this and other problems, I just dived in and did client work, did some writing, did a lot of promo (and organizing such) for my Beyond Faith mystery novel. Sure, I did my usual daily “to do” list…

But something was missing and something unwanted was there.

The unwanted was the somewhat randomness of it all and lack of any defining vision for my writing.

For 2019 I went back to listening to Paul Lima. And this time I shortened my vision and its marketing plan. It is only one page and under my vision I list three things I am focusing on, three things I envision I want to do (and am doing – hey, it’s already January 4). I’m not going to copy the whole marketing plan, just my vision.

Sharon’s Vision:

Threefold:

  • Write more – memoir book finish; continue writing Beyond Truth, and write more personal essays and short stories for publication.
  • Help other writers with their writing, and at the same time earn more money for me.
  • Sell more Beyond books.

Each part of the vision statement covers what I want to do in 2019. The first one is self-explanatory. The second one covers both my editing for writing clients, doing one-on-one teaching writing sessions, and teaching writing workshops. The last part is also self-explanatory. This second one is both for my clients and me. The third one is also self-explanatory.

My next heading is simply; How I will do this.

And I list, which I’m not going to do here. I did put in for book marketing to go to a separate file. But my book marketing plan is much shorter than the very long one from last year. It is more to the point and organized by month. And it is not sealed in granite or whatever is the digital equivalent. So if January gets clogged with too much, some can be moved to another month.

My last heading is:

Professional Development:

Writers always need to learn something about writing and marketing. Like other things in life it is an ongoing process and any writer who thinks they’ve reached their pinnacle because they are publishing their books or they have steady work writing, teaching writing, etc.. think again. We freelancers know (or should know) that freelance writing and the like is precarious and steady writing gigs can go at the drop of a well, the proverbial hat maybe.

As for Paul Lima, he is still freelancing – but scaled down a lot. Paul has MS and has wisely learned to work around that. He has written and self-published two books on MS which are available online. His previous books on writing and marketing are still available online. He blogs about his MS and shares info on that and his writing on a writer/editor listserve.He also posts regularly to Facebook. And he does get out every day for two hours walking his dog. I suspect the dog and his family are a big help and support (emotional and otherwise) for him. He also has a positive attitude – something we writers need to remember. No point in getting in the dumps about another rejection for a story.

I’m going to finish off here with a few links to Paul Lima’s website, which as all the info about the above on him and more. And also a link to his MS blog, and a story another writer wrote about him and two others who had to relearn how to live their writing career because of various chronic illnesses.

Paul Lima’s website here

Paul’s MS blog here

Paul’s business blog here 

His Dec. 30, 2018 posting is titled My Freelance Writing Resolutions for 2019. Writers take note.

Story here

May your 2019 be joyful and creative.

Cheers.

Sharon A,.Crawford

Writer/Editor/Writing Instructor

Author of the Beyond mystery novel series.

 

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Using Humour in Fiction

Mysteries, thrillers and horror fiction can be very grim. Some authors (including me) add a little humour to lighten the load a little. But there are a few things to consider if you want to use humour in your fiction. (Note: I’m using the Canadian spelling of  “humour” because I am Canadian).

First, a big  no-no:

Don’t have your character or characters crack a lot of jokes. This isn’t stand-up comedy or a comedy TV series. There could be one exception to this – if a trait of one of your characters is to tell jokes – bad or otherwise and it fits in with the plot and this character’s interaction with other characters. But use it sparingly or not at all. It is not the best technique.

Some techniques that can work:

Your main character is a klutz. Picture a klutzy private investigator or cop or? This can bring up several scenarios that can lighten your story. It can also provide some problems for your character in their investigation. For example, your PI is snooping outside a house where nobody is home at the moment. Or maybe he or she gets into the house to look around. Instead of the family dog barking at them or charging at them, why not have the kluzy PI trip over a sleeping cat and fall down a few stairs – or how about a whole menagerie of animals – maybe he or she collides with a snake that has gotten loose from its cage? And the PI is terrified of snakes.

Or give your PI or cop, what we call a character tag and use that to create some humour as the character does what he or shee normally do. In my Beyond books, Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding stutters – not with work-related things, but with personal things that make him nervous – such as his attraction to PI Dana Bowman. He also suffers from migraines. In one scene in Beyond Blood, Fielding knocks on the door of the bedroom Dana had to sleep in overnight – not at her place as a murder and kidnapping took place there and her home is a crime scene,so Dana and her fraternal twin PI  Bast Overture are staying at a neighbour’s next door. Here’s a short excerpt from Beyond Blood with the encounter the next morning between Dana and Fielding.

Beyond Book No. 2

The pounding came from the bedroom door.

“M … M … Ms. Bowman,” Fielding said from outside the door.

Couldn’t the man give me a little privacy? I pushed the covers off and realized I was in a strange bed and still wore my party dress. Red for blood. Red. Cut it out, Dana.

“What the hell do you want, Fielding?”

“Are you d … d … decent?”

“What?” I scratched my head and yawned.

“Ms. Bowman. I need to talk to you.”

“So talk.”

“I h … h … have a ch … ch … change of clothes for you.”

“What?” I leaped out of bed, ran to the door and pulled it open.

Fielding leaned against the wall. His face resembled whitewash and red rivers flowed through his eyes. He held a plastic bag, which he slid over my way.

“Your ch … ch … change of clothes. C … Constable Nivens collected them.”

“Thanks.” I grabbed the bag. “You look like hell. No sleep?”

“Just a migraine. I get them all the time. It’ll pass.”

“Migraine. Here, come in and sit down on …” A quick glanced around the room showed an ironing board piled high with clothes standing beside a chest of drawers. A basket of clothing sat in the room’s only chair. “… on the bed.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“No, it isn’t. Migraines are awful. My mother used to get them, but thankfully I don’t. She used to blow in a paper bag, to get rid of the pain, I mean. Maybe there’s one here.” I started rummaging in the dresser drawers.

“Ms. B … B … Bowman. It’s all right.”

“Here we are.” I shook a scarf from a Fashion Shoppe bag and shoved the bag at Fielding. He ignored it. “Put it over your face and blow.”

He stared at me, for once speechless, took a deep breath and sputtered.

“Take the damn bag and blow. And go and sit down. I don’t want to have to deal with a cop passing out in a bedroom.”

A little colour hit his face for a second. He staggered over to the bed, plunked down on the edge, leaned over and blew. I moved towards the doorway, stopped and swung around.

“Look, Fielding, I’m sorry. Guess we’re all a little edgy.” I sat on the bed beside him and touched his forehead. He flinched and pulled away. “Sorry. Do you want a glass of water?”

“W … w … wait. It’s the kid. I m … m … mean your son. I have a daughter.”

“I know. You told me earlier.”

“Well, I want you to know, Ms. Bowman.”

“Dana.”

“D … Dana, that I’ll do my best to get your son back safe and sound.”

“I know that, Fielding.”

“Don.”

“What?”

“M … my name is Don.”

“Okay, Don. Anyway, you have two private detectives in the house to help you out.”

“Now, listen here, Ms. Bowman. You let the police handle this. Your job is to answer your cell phone if it rings, so we know what the kidnappers want. Nothing else.” He pointed his forefinger under my nose. (Copyright Sharon A. Crawford, From Beyond Blood, Blue Denim Press, 2014).

As you can see,  there is enough for the reader to visualize – especially a burly cop blowing into a brown bag.  hey are in close quarters and both characters are uncomfortable. But it is only a moment before the two characters return to “business”. But what else does the encounter tell you about the characters and the story?

In my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point, some of my stories are noir and satire, one in particular – The Body in the Trunk, which has an unusual take on two friends trying to move a body to… well, that would be giving it away. You have to read it to get it.

And that’s my last suggestion. Read published novels  containing humour in the genre you are writing in. Three authors who do it so well are:

Melodie Campbell with her Goddaughter  series. The Toronto Sun calls her “Canada’s Queen of Comedy”.

Steve Shrott (who also teaches humour writing) with his stand-alone mysteries. One features a dentist who is a part-time PI and another features an actor whose main roles have been dead bodies.

Janet Evanovitch and her  mysteries. Her bail bonds character, Stephanie Plum, is forever getting into scrapes, especially with the two fellows who like her.

See how these authors work their humour to fit their characters and their plots.

Happy reading, especially over the Christmas season.

Have a good holiday.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

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Getting back into novel-writing groove

It has been awhile since I have had time to actually work on my fourth Beyond mystery book.Earlier this year I got a good start and then as they say “life happens.” A lot of that life this year for me is a lot of problems coming my way – the annoying part being that 90% are caused by other people and/or organizations.

Heck, I can create enough chaos without any input from others, But they provide lots of fodder for future short stories and maybe even for my new mystery novel.

But not all the distractions were bad. I an still a writing instructor and editor so there was work there. And I also write memoir and that’s where the bulk of my creative writing has been taking place. The results are a short memoir piece about dealing with my father’s death from cancer when I was 16  which is to be published in an online university journal, to just about finishing the final rewrite of the full book-length memoir – at least until any interested publisher gets at it and edits it..But I like rewriting.

And of course, book promo for Beyond Faith – and that continues. Some via social media, some in person and some with my new TV show Crime Beat Confidential on thatchannel.com, Episode three coming up soon. But you can catch the first two either at thatchannel.com under “Shows” or by Googling “Crime Beat Confidential and Youtube” as thatchannel.com uploads all their shows on Youtube.

But this week I spent an afternoon back at Beyond Truth. Did some more plot and character development.I had forgotten how a writer can be so absorbed in creating a novel, a short story, etc. that the rest of the world can go to hell and you just don’t care. My world was the world of Beyond Truth and its characters and plot. And I still like the beginning Prologue I wrote earlier this year.  It was good to see I can still develop twisted plots – now I have to write them. I always do so with the premise that none of it is sealed in granite. If it doesn’t work out I can come up with something else. Or my main book character Private Investigator Dana Bowman can. And that woman sometimes gives me grief. She thinks she wrote Beyond Faith so I think for Beyond Truth she and I will have to collaborate or there will be no peace.

But I’m getting the byline on the book.

To do all this, I have to write more often. To do this I have to get rid of some distractions and prioritize others. For one thing I’m back to setting a timer for when I do daily email (and finally finished in the time allotted today). And I am pickier about what I reply to and when. I am deleting more. I am saying “no” to more requests for stealing my time and not just those coming in via email.. Now that winter is here, I hope to spend more time indoors as I’m not a winter sport or any winter activity fan, although I do walk in winter.  I will also attend less events when the weather is terrible.

As for those problems that won’t go away. I try to pick one to deal with each day.

So, as of next week, I plan to spend more than just one half day a week working on Beyond Truth and will more than pencil it in to my calendar.. I have to. My police consultant stopped me at a mutual author’s book launch last month and asked me why I haven’t emailed him with more research questions. He may get inundated shortly.

How do you find time to write your novel, short stories or whatever you write?

Comments, please. I can learn from others’ experiences.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery series. Most recent book, (Click on the book)

 

 

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Getting story ideas from your neighborhood

The latest Beyond mystery. Click on it for more info

In the last post I talked about getting story ideas from your garden. But here’s another story source – your neighborhood. Maybe the house down the street is a marijuana grow -op ( there was one kitty-corner across the street from me a few years ago. Unfortunately I was out when the police raid went down.). Maybe there are always loud arguments from the house next door. Maybe…

Well, never the maybes here. This morning a couple of legal surveyors knocked on my door to let  me know that they would be doing a survey of the next door neighbor’s house – on the other side of my driveway – just to let me know they were there and what they were doing. The wouldn’t tell me why, said they don’t know and aren’t told. Yeah, right. When I found them on my verandah taking pictures of my property i called them on it and they said they need to get the properties next door for boundaries as the underground metal stakes weren’t found.

Oh! Oh!  Even though they said they were probably removed (these houses go back to 1949 and 1950), it got me thinking – what if the underground metal stakes are under my driveway? What if they have to dig up that part of my driveway. What if somewhere the property line is wrong and part of my property is really theirs? And what are they going to do? Build a fence around their property? Sell their house? Or add an addition? Because they have three kids and they are all getting older, and the boy’s room is tiny, I’m guessing it’s an upper addition. Except for selling their house, most larger renovations including fences, require a permit and before that a property survey. If they are building an addition, does the city give  notice to  us living near in case I want to object? I don’t know about Toronto, but when I lived in Aurora, they did when the neighbors wanted to do so. because it would invade our privacy (on higher ground than our house), my then ex-husband and I formally objected. They couldn’t build an addition, so they build a swimming pool and held noisy parties late into the night. Some of us called the police.

You can see where this real life occurrence can give you story ideas? What if the surveyors were actually casing the joint to do a robbery? What if they are actually who they say they are and the boundaries are wrong. What about the change starting a neighbors’ feud – which could lead to murder? What if…?

What is going on in your neighborhood? Does your neighborhood have a neighborhood gossip? Most do. Ours does and I’m going to talk to her, although I suspect in this case I know more. Stay tuned to what is happening in your neighborhood and your neighbors. You may just get an idea for your next story. Just don’t forget to fictionalize it – use the real situation as a kick-off point for your story and create if from there.

And for those in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area, I’m one of several authors reading at an event for the alumni of workshops and/or courses taught by well know southern Ontario writing instructor and editor Brian Henry this Sunday afternoon. Specifics are:

Author Readings at The Wallace Gastropub

Sunday, June 10, 2018

12 noon – 4 p.m.

Location:

The Wallace Gastropub

1954 Yonge St, Toronto (Just north of Davisville)

Sharon A. Crawford reads from Beyond Faith as she joins other alumni of Brian Henry’s writing classes to showcase their writing creations. More info here.

Cheers.

Sharon A, Crawford’

Author of the Beyond mystery series

 

 

 

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The rocky road of book promo

Sharon at CWC Arthur Ellis short list Marilyn Kay photo

The aftermath of getting Beyond Faith published has been nothing close to easy, especially in the book promo department. Don’t get me wrong. I love doing book promo and I realize it all takes time and some of it will get put temporarily in Pending. But …

Well, let’s say that all did not go well for me…and apparently some other authors had the same problem – at the CWC Arthur Ellis Awards. Even CWC itself ran into a few snags – but Elizabeth Duncan who organized it with the Indigo Bookstore venue, fixed them very well. For example, the main guest who was to announce the authors shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis awards was ill and couldn’t make it. Elizabeth had some of the mini-presenters – one per category – go up to the podium, open the envelope(s) and read out the shortlisters. It was such a great choice and maybe could be done in future years.

The venue was good, a little oasis set up for the event surrounded by shelves and shelves of books. What more could an author want? Well, maybe spring weather outside.

Everybody’s presentation went very well and was interesting – much more interesting than eight authors reading excerpts from their books, one right after the other. We had to talk about our books in whatever way we wished. I chose not to do a Dana Bowman skit, but the nosy Private Investigator had apparently jumped out of Beyond Faith a a busy subway transfer station enroute to the bookstore and was lost in the rush-hour crowd. But Dana is not stupid and I knew she would show up. After thanking CWC for arranging the event, I went into my presentation – holding up a photo of Dana Bowman and asking “Have you seen this woman? She is….” After the escaping-the-book business I segued into a bit about what the book  is about from the viewpoint of what Dana and her twin PI investigating brother Bast Overture have to contend with. As I neared the finish, I thought I saw Dana darting between the bookshelves, said so, thanked the audience, grabbed Beyond Faith and Dana’s photo, chasing towards the books. A few seconds later when I showed up at the back of the audience, Elizabeth from the front asked, “Did you find her?”

“Yes,” I answered. “She’s back in the book.”

So, what was wrong with this picture? Both Beyond Blood and Beyond Faith, hadn’t arrived at the bookstore and it’s all the distributor’s – Ingram Sparks – fault. First because of all the nonsense with BF not able o be ordered in the Indigo chain stores, yet available for online orders  – which had to be fixed twice and also as the bookstore manager told  me “sometimes it takes six weeks for books to arrive from Ingram.” But the manager had contacted me beforehand about BF’s not arriving yet and we arranged I would bring in three copies for show and sell that evening, and any left could also be left in the store afterwards to go through usual ln-store selling procedure. When the shipment from the distributor arrived, I could come in to get three copies back from that.

But what happened to Beyond Blood? There were no issues with ordering it in – at least as far as availability was concerned. It has to be Ingram’s tardiness, although another store in the chain had already ordered in copies of Beyond Blood for another event with me and those copies arrived in two weeks time.

And I found out some other authors had the same problem – their books didn’t arrive on time either. No idea if their publisher uses the same distributor.

I know this has happened before to authors, but it is frustrating to an author, especially as I didn’t know about Beyond Blood.

Still, it was a great event.

And there is another CWC one Monday, April 23 in the Richmond Green Library in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Five of us crime novelists are on a “crime” panel there. Here are the highlights.

Crime Writers at RG Panel

If you’re are in the Greater Toronto Area, why not drop in? It’s free and an interesting time is guaranteed.

And our books will be there – we five are bringing copies from our own stashes.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

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Dark and stormy nights and other novel settings

It was a dark and stormy night. All right, cliche setting. But perhaps it’s overuse and familiarity has a reason. Settings are important when writing fiction. You don’t live in a vacuum, do you? Neither do your characters and their stories. Even if your character has disappeared to a remote island, there is still a setting. Think ocean, sand, trees, wild animals, an anonymous presence, etc. Even if your character is in prison, there is still a setting – albeit one limited in space.

Settings influence your plot and your characters’ behaviour. Don’t believe me. What about the late Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries? Wolfe, a  middle-aged PI, lives in a brownstone apartment in New York City. He seldom leaves his apartment and prefers to spend his time alone in his big orchid room, commiserating with his large collections of orchids. Yes, the plants, in a room of their own.. Not your typical use for a spare apartment room. Wolfe is a loner and an eccentric. When he wants to see clients or suspects, he orders his employee, side-kick Archie to get them in. Any legwork outside the brownstone is Archie’s responsibility. And that is where the reader sees and experiences the setting – a New York City a few decades ago.

So you can see how setting is part of the characters and plot. Sometimes setting can even be a character. Think The Perfect Storm, although here I am treferring to the movie. In fact if you want to see setting, watch the movies and TV shows and see the variety of settings presented. There are hospital series such as The Good Doctor and Chicago Med. So you feel like you are there in the hospital. Or a fire with some of the firefighters stuck inside it in Chicago Fire. You can tell what I like to watch. Even the overdone car chase scene has setting. If you can get your eyes off the cars for a few minutes and just see their surroundings. A car chase on Hawaii Five-O is much different than one through the slushy, snow-covered streets in wintry Chicago PD. And the setting for the car chase influences just how the chase might go.

Back to books. In my mystery novel Beyond Faith, late the last night in November 1999, PI Dana Bowman is walking from a reception party to a midnight meeting with a blackmailer at St. John’s Church. Basically, she is walking from the industrial area of a mid-sized town to its downtown. On the way, I blend in the warm for  November night with a car that seems to be following Dana. I’m not going to tell you what happens with that; instead I’m going to quote some of what happens when Dana gets to the church.

No one else was about, which might make it easy to spot the blackmailer as he or she arrived—if he or she showed up. Even the area of St. John’s was barren of people, but about half a dozen cars were parked in the parking lot. Overflow from the Beaver and Cricket, no doubt. Not the church, which appeared dark, and after climbing the stairs, I found that the door was locked. Odd. But then the time was pushing closer to midnight and St. John’s probably was the church that had been robbed earlier this year.

I walked down to the cement seat surrounding the fountain, and began pacing to and from the seat. My digital showed as five minutes before midnight. More pacing and time checking did nothing except move time forward to 11.58. The blackmailer was pushing it close. A breeze brushed my face and I wished to be wearing the usual wardrobe of jeans, sweats and warm jacket. I also wished the blackmailer would hurry up and get here. Just as I started to put on my fake fur coat something snapped nearby. A tree branch? I jumped and dropped the coat on the ground. Get a grip, Dana. Clutching my bag, I moved away from the fountain seat and looked at the other side of the fountain. (from Beyond Faith, Copyright 2017, Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press, 2017)

And no, I’m not going to tell you what comes next. You have to get the book for that. (Hint. Click on the book at the top of this post.)

But from the Nero Wolfe scene descriptions and from the above from Beyond Faith, something else is going on. We don’t just get a bland description of the setting. The characters are actually doing something in it and the plot moves forward.

Plot, characters, setting – all part of a novel and they are intertwined, connected.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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