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Putting your writing out there – whatever way

sharon at CWC Arthur Ellis short list Marilyn Kay photo

We. all have to start somewhere to get our writing out there – first for publishing and then to promote the published work. Both can involve some reading in public. But getting out of our comfort zone of behind our laptop, Ipad, etc. isn’t easy at first. Our “audience” might not like our work. They might say rude things about it – like “don’t give up your day job soon.” They might not get what we are writing. Or maybe deep inside there is a fear of …not failure, but success.

Oh sure, I can say that easily, you think. I, who do live skits and TV shows featuring Dana Bowman, my author readings – alone or with other authors, which come across more as acting then reading. I who teach writing workshops and courses. I, who approach venues to do some of the aforementioned. And let’s not forget my 35 years as a freelance journalist which required much story pitching.

Dana Bowman does the into

It’s that last phrase that is important. Not the 35 years, but the years of experience. Maybe being a senior has something to do with it, too. Where you know your life length is ticking away so you (or I do) tend to take some chances you wouldn’t maybe do otherwise. I also am known as a big mouth – not just having a loud voice. I say what I mean and sometimes I’m blunt. Taking after my late mother? Maybe, but as I said, age can make a difference.

But it was not always this way and I’m not referring to age. Let me give some examples.

When I was 20 I began submitting short stories to magazines. One editor, of a now defunct magazine wrote a note back about one story “This isn’t a short story; this is an incident.”

I was so incensed, so upset that I gave up writing short stories for years.

But I didn’t give up writing. I just switched – to journalism, which I had been interested in anyway. I took many journalism courses at what is now Ryerson University in Toronto and at Seneca Community College. After the Seneca course in 1976, where every student in the course got published somewhere on their own merits and with good suggestions from the instructor), I started pitching stories to local newspapers

Not without trepidation. My first story pitch was about a local noisy ratepayers group.My then husband had to stand by me at the phone while I called and talked to the editor. When the editor said to “send the story” I got a little brave and mentioned that I had sent him a humorous personal essay and he said he would check it.

Both were published as were many more. And after those two, for journalism stories I just pitched the idea first. Personal essays, like fiction, you usually write first and pitch after. I also moved along to other local newspapers – at the request of their editors. So I wrote a weekly community news column for first one newspaper and then another.

But that didn’t go smoothly all the time. For the first one, the editor forgot to tell the current community news columnist that she was fired. She found out when I called her in her capacity as spokesperson for a community group for info. Oops.

At this newspaper I really messed up. Six months after I started writing my column , the editor of another newspaper asked me if I wanted to switch and write a similar column for them. Although the pay was higher, I declined out of loyalty to the first paper, because of the short time writing the column.

The following year the first newspaper gave me a raise of the princely sum of $5.00 a week. So when the “new” (as in a year and a half) columnist for newspaper no. 2 told me she was moving out of the area and so leaving the newspaper (yes, we “rivals” knew each other – covering the same events. Hey, a reporter from the first newspaper and a reporter from the second newspaper got married – they met covering town council meetings. Both became my friends and they are still married, although they each went on to different jobs and are now retired).

So I ate crow and phoned the editor at the second newspaper and said I had heard E. was leaving and I was now interested in writing the community news column for his newspaper. He gave me an appointment to go in to see him. By then my husband and I were separated – we had a preschooler son ,so there I was pushing his stroller into my interview with the editor.

I got the column and wrote it for six years until the publisher canned the column. I had also been writing community theatre reviews and feature articles. After the column went, I did some freelancing for several other local papers and then move don to the Toronto newspaper and magazine market – and other area magazines. Not all smooth sailing, which is one of my points. Like everything else in life, you get some bumps in the road. Each bump you handle adds to your experience and your confidence, although if you are like me, you still sometimes worry about it.

As for my reading, skits and TV appearances with my books, that’s from experience, too.Teaching the writing workshops helped develop confidence in front of other people.This for someone who in high school nervously took part in a class debate. Reading – I just practice before hand. Ditto the skits. And I have a little secret. I am terrible at memorizing scripts when I am acting with another person. Even on my own, I forget lines. So I improvise and make sure I have a script handy.

And the short story writing? I went back to it about 12 years ago – had some stories published in anthologies and my first Beyond mystery book, Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012) was a collection of 13 stories.

Also to get a little practice in getting your writing out there and in reading,and some feedback, join a writing critique group. I blog about that here.

Cheers.

Sharon A,. Crawford

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Beyond Faith on the PR road again

The latest Beyond mystery.

 

Beyond Faith continues in person appearances – the next one is with my writing colleague, Michael Robert Dyet. Our books were published by the same publisher (Blue Denim Press) and launched the same date last fall by Blue Denim Press. So Michael and I are doing some joint (and not the weed kind either) presentations, readings and the like. Besides the book launch we have both done readings at the same library last fall. But this upcoming presentation, next Wednesday, June 27, is the first of this kind and more are in the works. And Michael writes literary fiction and is known as The Metaphor Man. I write murder mysteries and am sometimes mistaken for my main Beyond book character, Dana Bowman.

I came up with the general idea, then narrowed it down to the below blurb. But Michael organized and wrote what we are going to do – it is very interactive with the audience. We don’t want to put people to sleep. We’ve been practicing and still are practicing and fine-tuning as we go. This is the show’s inaugural and are we nervous? You tell me. Nervous energy is good as long as the memory doesn’t pull a blank.

Anyway, here’s the blurb for it to give you an idea what it’s about.

East End Writers’ Group Presents Muskie and Murder

Is there murder in literary fiction and character depth in mystery fiction? Join Michael Robert Dyet, author of the literary short story collection “Hunting Muskie: Rites of Passage” and Sharon A. Crawford, author of the mystery novel “Beyond Faith”, for a lively discussion, rapid-fire questions, readings, audience participation and a skit involving story characters. Free. All welcome. Rumour has it that there will be a special guest.

Date and Time: Wednesday, June 27, 2018, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Location:

S. Walter Stewart Library (auditorium)

170 Memorial Park Ave. (Coxwell/Mortimer Ave. area)

Toronto

And there will be book characters present including her… (and she is NOT the special guest although she may think she is.)

Dana Bowman PI from Beyond Faith and Beyond Blood

 

If you are in the Greater Toronto Area,  hope to see yhere. If not, you can always read our books. They are available in the usual places, Amazon, Indigo-Chapters and the like including some bookstores – chain and independent – for those who like to visit bricks and mortars stores.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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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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Sisters in Crime Reading positive experience

Sharon beginning of SinC reading. E. Terri J. Dixon photo

I do love reading from Beyond Faith. It gives me a chance to show readers what my characters have to contend with (besides the main character, PI Dana Bowman). Last Thursday, I joined 10 other Sisters in Crime (well, one brother, author Ken Ogilvie) Toronto for their monthly gathering for an evening of reading from our newest books. And was it interesting – all that crime and so many variations, so many voices, so many stories, and so many photographs, thanks to SinC Treasurer, Terry Dixon.

Location! Location! It isn’t just for selling and buying real estate. We were in a library – all those books, albeit we were upstairs in one of the program rooms. To me it was especially good, as Beyond Faith is on order for three copies for the Toronto Public Library system. The other two, Beyond the Tripping Point and Beyond Blood are already in the Toronto Public Library (and in other libraries in other cities and towns, too).

And this time I kept Ms. Dana Bowman, Private Investigator, firmly between the book covers, although I did hold up an enlarged photo of her at the beginning and ask the audience if they had seen her and if so, to shove her  back in the book.

We authors also had a table to sell our books and I sold a few Beyond Faith copies, including one just as I was setting them up on the side of the table before the readings. That might also be “location, location”. And we also received Sisters in Crime Toronto Chapter mugs – red print (what else in colour for mystery authors?) on white. Now, that’s my coffee mug to start each day – gotta get into the mood for committing crime – between the book covers, of course.

Here’s some more info on Sisters in Crime Toronto. Members also include readers – the mystery author’s biggest fan.

Cheers.

Sharon A, Crawford

Sharon reads from Beyond Faith at SinC. E. Terri J. Dixon photo

 

And the book.

Beyond Faith with Dana Bowman firmly inside

 

 

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Keeping track of fiction queries and submissions

Sharon’s latest Beyond mystery.

We writers spend a lot of time writing – short stories, novels, novellas. We hone our story; we revise; we get feedback; we get it edited by a professional editor – all or some of those.

Then we send it out to a magazine to a publisher with a cover email or letter.

And then we hope, forget about it and move on to the next story.

Not quite. Something is missing. We need to put on our administrator hat and keep track of where we are sending our stories. If we don’t, we can easily forget when and maybe even where. This was brought up at the meeting of my East End Writers’ Group meeting last evening. We were talking about marketing and our newest member, a guy in his thirties talked about using spreadsheets to keep track where he sent out his writing. That reminded me of how I used to do it – not just for short stories but when I freelanced as a journalist, article ideas I pitched. Except I used tables in Word. Excel and I don’t get along too well.

There are several good reasons for doing this type of what we used to call “paperwork.” One biggie is called follow-up. If you don’t keep records of where you send what, it will suddenly dawn on you that you haven’t heard back from… and now where did I send it….(maybe the latter) about so-and-so story. So you decide to follow-up. Presuming you do remember where you sent it, you probably won’t remember when. Writing a follow-up email (or letter – there are still a few print magazines that don’t accept electronic submissions) saying something like “I’m following up on my “so-and-so” short story which I sent you sometime a few months ago…”

Sound svery professional doesn’t it? We writers have to be professional, not just in our actual writing, but in our dealings with publications and their editors. Keeping track of our stories and queries is one way to be professional. You may not want to get into Excel spreadsheets or even Word tables, and there is probably a software program for this function, but just doing a list in Word can be sufficient. Just the title of the short story, where sent (publication, editor’s name and contact info), the outcome (which could include if you have to do a followup, or the publication’s yes or no).

It also wouldn’t hurt to do what I do – I list other possibilities for sending the story, in case the first one says “no.” And as I find more info, I add it to the list.

So take some time to do this. Set it up and as soon as you send/email in a story or query, record the details.

Meantime, I’m doing something totally non-administrative early this evening. Doing a public reading from Beyond Faith, my latest Beyond mystery novel.

If you are in the Greater Toronto, Ontario, Canada area you might like to drop in to the Urban Folk Art Salon. It’s not just me, but also my colleague Michael Robert Dyet whose book Hunting Muskie Blue Denim Press launched the same time as my Beyond Faith. Plus four other performers/presenters including two folksingers  Brian Gladstone and Glen Hornblast  It’s at a public library and is free. Check it out on my Beyond Faith page – scroll down – it’s there – at least until after the event is over.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

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After the book launch of Beyond Faith

The book launch for Beyond Faith was held by Blue Denim Press on Sunday and while not attracting large crowds, we had people there. And we all enjoyed ourselves. My main book character PI Dana  Bowman and a few more of the quirky characters  – Bast Overture – Dana’s fraternal brother and PI partner, Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding – head of Major Crimes, David, Dana’s son, and a couple of new characters for the novel – Eli Foster and the nameless one all appeared from my reading. And I only read a couple of short excerpts within 15 minutes. But I read as l like to say – putting myself into the characters’ heads and shoes.

 

Photo courtesy Martin Crawford

At least I was awake then (Don’t let that photo here mislead you. I am listening to my friend and apparently trying to sign my book which she bought and looking at something not in the photo.) Unlike now, when I feel like I’m one of the walking dead and Halloween isn’t quite here as I write this. But it was worth it at the book launch.

So what have I learned from this book launch?

Good side – people invited will come – most let you know they are coming but some just show up. And they buy books – some even bought a copy of the previous novel Beyond Blood.

Bad side – those who RVSP’d they were coming, and didn’t bother to let me know that they couldn’t make it after all. Let’s put it this way – I know who you are and my take on you has gone down a notch.

Good side – those who RVSP’s they were coming, then couldn’t at the last minute and let me know. I can understand and accept that. Stuff happens at the last minute. And I won’t bite off your head because you did tell me.

Good side – Meeting and reconnecting with friends including a fellow I worked with in both our first jobs as teenagers (well late teens) for the Ontario Government. I first contacted him via Linked In. So don’t be too quick to complain about Linked In. Thanks to Linked In, I have reconnected with a former editor, a cousin who is now living in Asia. And I have found editing work via Linked In.

Bad Side – More people would have been nice. Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point brought in more people. But from what I’ve seen with other book launches I’ve gone to this year, evening launches seem to attract the largest number of people.

Good Side – some of those people who couldn’t make the launch because of previous commitments want to buy a copy of Beyond Faith – one already has.

And so the book promotion will continue.

But first I need to catch up on some sleep.

And then start kicking things I “have” to do; things others want me to do – out the window.

But I’ll open the window first.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Here’s the book. Click on it for a link to one place the book is available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review of Shane Joseph’s Crossing Limbo

Just finished reading Crossing Limbo by Shane Joseph and below is my review as posted on Goodreads.

Crossing Limbo

by Shane Joseph,

published by Morning Rain Publishing

available at Amazon

at Chapters Indigo

And at the Toronto book launch this Saturday, July 8, 3 to 5 p.m. at Supermarket Restaurant & Bar, 268 August Ave. (in Kensington Market), Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Guest author readings by Sharon A. Crawford and Michel Dyet from their upcoming new books

The book’s title Crossing Limbo says it all – the main character or characters in each of these 13 short stories by Shane Joseph are stuck in limbo in their lives. In Greek mythology, the dead were ferried to the underworld by a boatman named Charron, who demanded payment. In Crossing Limbo, the characters have to make some payment, some trade-off to get to the other side of their limbo. For some the trade-off hangs in the future; for others it is now. Usually their past is a big factor. Whatever happens, Shane Joseph makes it original, yet the outcome is logical based on the main characters’ traits – on a scale of mean and nasty to troubled. All the stories reflect many current issues –divorce, online chat, finding a mate at a certain age, big developers versus property owners, writers who never make it versus jaded bestselling authors, death in the family, to adult “children” still living at home with dad. And Joseph brings out the emotions these characters go through when trying to cross their personal limbo, so that the reader gets it, even with the despicable characters.

In one of my favourites, Waiting for the Train, there are two main characters, an old man and a teenage girl who meet at night on the railway tracks. Both, for various reasons, are contemplating suicide, but their meeting and listening to each other forces a twist in their lives.

Then there ls the egocentric Arvind, the title character in The Supreme Leader’s Big Day, who  puffs himself up, as if he is God of the small country of Kanjipoor. Arvind forms secret pacts with his ministers, and orders killings. He is also a sex maniac who takes 16-year-old concubines to bed. On the day of the story’s title, he is expecting certain things to happen. But he gets a big surprise.

Perhaps the best story is also the most unusual – Shock & Awe, reflecting society’s attachment to their pet dogs, which is told from a dog’s point of view. Shep, a former police dog who got a little too violent with a drug dealer, is literally put out to pasture, living on a former police deputy, Bob’s, family farm/ Besides early retirement, Shep deals with many other issues akin to the human ones, love for a neighbour – Buster, the dog next door, dealing with Bob’s death in Iraq. But when what’s left of her family are faced with losing their home, Shep follows true doggy feat, proving that even with crossing limbo, dogs are still (hu)man’s best friend.

And in a world peopled by some of Shane Joseph’s characters in Crossing Limbo, that is a good thing.

 

 

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