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Rolling out the author readings with Canadian Authors Toronto

Now that spring is here, it is time for me to get back into author readings.So next Tuesday evening, April 4, I will be taking my Beyond books for a reading at a Toronto library branch. Four other authors will join me: Bianca Lakoseljac, K.V. Skene, Michael Pawlowski, Catharine Fitton.

The readings are being held by the Canadian Authors Association Toronto Branch. This branch has been shall we say “sleeping” the past couple of years, but now branch president Chris Canniff has kick-started it with this author reading which is open to the public.

The Canadian Authors Association has been around for close to 100 years. It was started in 1921 by some prominent Canadian authors, including Canadian humorist, Stephen Leacock. It’s focus has been and still is “writers helping writers”, which it does in many ways. These include work with copyright issues for writers, establishing literary awards including the annual CAA Literary Awards for non fiction, fiction, poetry, and drama. CAA also came up with the first book contract between authors and publishers.

And, oh yeah, members are both published and non-published authors.CAA has branches right across Canada.

Some of these branches have a Writer in Residence. Vancouver branch’s WiR is well-known poet, editor, and short fiction author Bernice Lever. Bernice used to live in my neck of the woods and she was one of my mentors. She used to run a writing critique group in Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto. When I lived in the area, I attended it. Bernice inspired me to start my East End Writers’ Critique group in September 2000 and EEWG is loosely based on the Richmond Hill group.

I, too, had the honour of being Writer in Residence for the CAA – the Toronto branch, from 2001 to 2003, and then again from 2009 to 2015, although the current Toronto branch website still has me listed as WiR. The website is to be updated shortly.

You can check out more about the Canadian Authors Association here. There are links to the branches and much more information.

As for the Toronto branches Authors Reading evening, here is the “dirt” according to Chris Canniff and a link to the CAA Toronto Facebook page. And you don’t have to be a CAA member to read at this event, but if you are in the area you can drop in to meet us.

“We want your stories! The Canadian Authors Association Toronto Branch is having a meeting on Tuesday, April 4 at 6:15pm and we want you to come prepared to read, or come to listen to what others are writing. Event details are below Bring your best work, or a work in progress! Please RSVP to president@canauthorstoronto.org to sign up for a reading. Readings are generally 3-5 minutes long, but that can be extended depending upon the number of readers. Beverley Burgess Bell, who hosts an Oakville Writers Group, will be moderating. Come out, bring a friend, and help us make this meeting a success. We look forward to seeing you there! Check out our new Facebook page, at > https://www.facebook.com/CanadianAuthorsAssociationTorontoBranch/ And our soon-to-be-updated website www.canauthorstoronto.org Event Details: What: Member Reading. Non-Members are also welcome to attendd, but all members and non-members should RSVP. Non-members are encouraged to consider membership!
When: Tuesday, April 4 from 6:15 – 8:15 Where: Toronto Public Library [Annette St. Branch] – 145 Annette St. Website: http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?R=LIB022 Location Details: Closest major intersection is Keele and Annette Streets. Branch is located on the southwest corner of Annette Street and Medland Street.”

And if you click on the Beyond book icon at the top it will take you to more info about my books.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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Are librarians to be made redundant?

S. Walter Stewart – Sharon’s library branch

I am a big fan of librarians. In all my years of using the library (since I was 12, back in the grey ages, the early 1960s), I have received all kinds of help from librarians from finding books to other research to daily living. Now, the Toronto Public Library Board is starting a pilot project in the cities two smallest library branches – Todmorden in the east and Swansea in the west.

The project would extend the hours the libraries are open. But there is a big catch. There will be no librarians present. If you need to contact a librarian, it will all be by video. And no security guards, so good luck if some crime is committed. Video cameras may catch it, but with no staff person present in the library, good luck.

A City TV news story describes the situation, including listing the crimes that have been committed in the last year or so in various branches. You will notice we are not talking about stealing books in this story here. The librarian union head, Maureen O’Reilly, is interviewed in the story. Ms. Reilly also emailed out petitions, copies to go to the city’s mayor and the signer’s local councillor. You bet I clicked on the email and went to the page with the petition letter. The letter also had space for alterations/additions to content and so I added a short summary of how l have always used libraries and how as a writer and reader the librarians have helped me.One example I gave was one of the librarians at the S. Walter Stewart Branch was instrumental in getting my East End Writers’ Group (a writing critique group, see my website for more info on EEWG) to meet there at no cost to us – we are now partners with the branch and part of their programs.

Interestingly, this branch is the first library branch I started going to as a child of 12 – when the new big branch first opened. Except for the 23 years I lived in Aurora, S. Walter Stewart has been and still is my library branch. And yes, when in Aurora I was a regular patron of the Aurora Library where one of the librarians (who became a friend) helped me with some health information when I was still a journalist – getting me set up on data bases to check out the information. This was in the early 1990s before a lot of this info was available on line.

But I still go to the librarians in person for info, to teach writing workshops and courses, for presentations with my Beyond mystery books – with or without other authors.

And on a more personal note – when my son was a toddler and driving me nuts in the  Aurora Public Library, the head librarian quietly called me over and spoke to me. Not to tell me to get my son to shut up. She was concerned with me, with my getting frazzled, etc. by being a young mother. The librarian suggested we take a break one day soon and go to lunch. And we did.

Meantime, the librarian at S.Walter Stewart helps me with PR for our EEWG meetings and also when we have guest speakers and do presentations. Perhaps one of the biggest clarification of that is a few years ago after EEWG celebrated its 13 anniversary with a presentation in the library auditorium, after the presentation a few of us went out to a nearby pub to chat and grab a drink and some food. This librarian and her husband came along, too.

I can’t even fathom doing workshops or courses at a library branch with no librarian present (although the two in the pilot project don’t have the room for this). I am constantly asking questions and asking for help in workshop setup. Sure, some is done by email and phone, but not all, especially when I show up. What would happen if problems occurred with a workshop? And if there are no librarians present, who sets up the room, including bringing in and setting up any AV and computer equipment?

This is all very short-sighted and stupid by the City of Toronto and the library board. If they are trying to save some bucks and increase library open hours, the flip side doesn’t work. Librarians will be out of work and we the librarian patrons will be worse off for it.

Here, the end doesn’t justify the means, especially as the end is questionable.

If you want to read more about this situation just Google “Toronto public library no staff at Todmorden” and you will get a long list.

I hear this situation is happening in a few other places too.

Is this the price of progress? If so, turn the time back to the 1990s. And if I sound like a curmudgeon, so be it.

What do you think of this situation?

Comments, please.

Cheers.

Sharon

And yes, copies of my Beyond books are in some of the public library branches Toronto and York Region (latter includes Aurora). For those outside these area, you can check out my Beyond books by clicking here.

The CWC gang up close at Gerrard/Ashdale library. Photo courtesy of Gail Ferguson – a librarian then

 

 

 

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Listen to your publisher

I am lucky that the editor at my publisher’s goes through my submitted manuscript and makes suggestions. Then we book a phone consult to hash through all these suggestions and comments.

It really gets me thinking beyond whatever box I was writing in.

I had that experience earlier this week. This was the “final” submission, i.e., the one that would make or break whether my new Beyond novel would be accepted for publication.He was quick to praise that it was a much better story and worth being published, but it came with the suggested changes. And some of them pointed out what wasn’t working and left the how-to-do-so up to me.

So we had, as the current dialogue goes, “a conversation about it”. We were both polite but explored what could be done. He said he had read the novel as a reader and not a publisher and that’s where his suggestions came from.

Besides stretching the creativity limit, it also served as pointing-out what just might not work. He didn’t say it, but he was playing devil’s advocate.

Not all publishers do this with their authors – whether new. Often it is “my way or the highway if you want it to be published.” That often stifles the author’s creativity. It is okay for authors to talk about why they wrote what, but go from there. Get past the ego that everything in your manuscript, down to the last comma, is sealed in gold and it has to be published exactly that way. We have probably all read published trade books where the publisher gave the author (often a well-known author) free rein. I won’t mention any names, but some of those books could have been shortened by 200 pages or so.

Getting published, at least by a trade publisher, is a two-way street. Remember, your publisher wants to sell your book, so making that more viable is a good idea. And it can also increase not only your royalties but the book’s presence in a very crowded market.

I have to the end of April to make the changes. So, after our phone conversation, I spent the rest of the afternoon and into dinner time going through the whole novel again and making short comments to his comments based on our conversation. Because being human, I would not remember it all if I didn’t do that.

I’ll keep you posted on Beyond Faith.

Meantime, you can familiarize yourself with the Beyond mystery series by clicking on the Beyond Blood icon a the top.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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Three Author Snafus Editors find

I’m wearing my Editor’s hat today and the hat pin is keeping it firmly in place. There are several “concerns” (to put it gently) I come across when editing an author’s fiction manuscript. Today, I’ll highlight three of them with quick suggestions on how to avoid.

  1. Point of View does the lice movement, i.e., switches heads a lot. Sometimes this switch occurs many times within one scene and it is confusing for the reader. The scary part here is some of the POV switching occurs in published novels. Somebody was dozing at the wheel. Yes, you can have multiple points of view in a novel. Often, depending on the novel’s plot, multiple POV is very necessary. But the rule of thumb is to keep the same POV for the chapter, or a scene in the chapter. Get inside one character at a time. If it helps subhead the POV character’s name for the chapter or scene (you can remove that subhead later). Refer back to that subhead when you finish writing the scene’ or chapter’s draft.
  2. When detail becomes expository. This can happen with describing rooms, towns or history and when it gets out of hand can put the reader to sleep. Why? Because the prose is coming across as a lecture. Even putting it as dialogue doesn’t always help. Yes, put the character in the scene and if describing rooms or towns, beaches, etc. do it as the character goes into the room, etc. and what they see. If the room is untidy, maybe they trip over something. For history, keep it to a minimum – what actually is connected to the story’s plot – not the area’s whole history from BC. Yes, use some dialogue, but keep it short and have the characters do something while talking, have other characters ask the history teller questions or make comments. And have the conversation interrupted with something else happening. For example, if they are in a car, maybe the car blows a tire; maybe they are being followed (but watch the POV here); and maybe there is a sudden storm.
  3. Weird formatting in Word. I’m talking beyond what a copy editor would do – such as changing paragraphing to traditional style for submission to publisher. I have had hard returns in manuscripts, extra space suddenly appearing at the bottom of the pages, backward quotation marks. And my favourite for “the author is in the doghouse” – submitting a manuscript for editing when the manuscript has already been formatted in Word’s book form. Huh? Keep it simple and basic. If you can’t do this, hire a Word professional to type up your manuscript. Oh yeah, handwritten manuscripts are never acceptable.

These are just a few of the “idiosyncrasies” I have received from authors expecting me to edit their manuscript.and I have received worse.

Okay, back to wearing my author’s hat.

And as usual, if you click on the Beyond book at the top, it will link to more information. Teaser: there may be some news of another Beyond book soon.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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Snafus getting in the way of your writing?

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

The actual “final” rewrite of my latest Beyond mystery is coming along and I am enjoying doing it because I get more creative insights, can fix inconsistencies, check the research and am really tightening up the wordage.

However, I’ve hit a few outside snags that are interfering with my writing time. And they make me angry. So, I’m doing something about them.

One biggie comes under the heading “My health ate my life.” So far since 2017 arrived I’ve been and am faced with two separate unexpected molar extractions. The dental surgery for the second is the day before my publisher’s deadline. As he has given me two extensions already and for health reasons, I do not want to push my luck – it would also not be fair to the publisher.

To get the manuscript and its synopsis (the latter rewritten this week with the word count part left open so far) done in time, I’ve arbitrarily given me an earlier deadline before the publisher’s and before the dental surgery.

It has also forced me to do something I had started to do this  year. Get rid of a lot of the stuff I do that isn’t really important and put some of the others in “pending”.

So far I’ve cancelled me going to a meeting tonight, limited what I get involved in within my community. Important are my East End Writers’ Group and keeping track of a nearby Light Rail Transit line being built as that will affect me in many ways. I am also a member of a local garden club and go to some of their meetings but no volunteering there this year. A couple of other community things I’m interested in I signed petitions and will let the persons organizing them do all the work – just keep me informed. At this point I am also careful of how many social and pseud-social events I go to.

And I finally found someone to shovel my snow when we get bigger snowfalls.

The big take-away point here for writers – whatever you are writing or rewriting – is you can’t do everything, especially what others think you should be doing. Figure out what is important and don’t be afraid to say “no” and/or put some of that on hold. Prioritize. Make the word “no” a big word in your vocabulary even if you have to post it all around your house and on your devices – maybe create an electronic file with a big “NO” and click on it sporadically. You can figure something out.

What I have kept in is family. Last Saturday I was to take out my son and his girlfriend for his birthday dinner (which is actually tomorrow but he will be out of town in the US for a tour with his band – Beams). Martin was sick last weekend. I wanted to see him and at least get his birthday present to him before tomorrow – the present, although not connected to music, is something useful for travelling. So, we arranged for me to make a “flying visit” to his and his girlfriend’s place in another part of Toronto last evening – if you can call buses and subway “flying.” He was feeling better. Dinner will be rescheduled when he returns home.

I know this isn’t exactly about writing, but perhaps if those getting distracted from their writing from whatever, can see one person’s way to deal with the problem, maybe it will help.

How do you deal with writing distractions?

Comments please in the comment section.

Cheers.

Sharon

And as usual, click on the book icon at the top to find out more about my Beyond books.

 

 

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Creating suspense in fiction

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

How many books have you read where the plot seems to flatline? Maybe the characters get too chatty. Maybe the description of characters or setting reads more like an expository. Maybe the scenes themselves are mundane. Do you then yawn?

Those spell boredom for the readers. And I see it happening in novels that are supposed to be mysteries. A village scene, instead of creating some touch of menace or at least some suspense, reads more like a slice of village life. Not all authors can do the village scene as well as the late Agatha Christie did.

There are ways your novel can get a life readers will want to read about. And just to clarify. Suspense doesn’t only equal mysteries and thrillers. All fiction needs some suspense – and that includes romance novels with their relationships. In fact, the twists and turns of relationships in any novel are fodder for creating suspense. Characters are at the core.

Here a few tips to create suspense in fiction:

  1. Start your story with something to draw in your reader. If you must have your village scene, get inside your main character’s head and show her take on the scene. Perhaps she dreads the town council meeting, the gardening club meeting, the tea, etc. Why? Or something terrible happens at the beginning at that meeting. Here’s a quick example. Marion would never call Fairfax council meetings boring again.
  2. Dialogue is good – reveals and develops characters and their interactions, as well as moves the plot forward. Unless your characters get overly chatty and go on and on for pages about religion, politics and more mundane things. All three might be relevant to your story, but add some spice, some suspense. Maybe one of the characters chatting is not making sense, seems to be high on something. More to the point, have a character reveal something startling to move the plot forward. Or have the dialogue interrupted by something happening. Depending on your story’s genre, could be somebody unexpected bursting into the room and creating chaos.
  3. Character descriptions. Forget the long expository but blend it in with the storyline and reveal something or several somethings about the POV character and other characters in this scene. In Beyond Blood, PI Dana Bowman meets Det. Sgt. Donald Fielding for the first time when her house is broken into. I show it from Dana seeing Fielding from the feet up as he comes down the basement stairs. The two clash. Dialogue and action show this and builds suspense about what could happen later on with two strong personalities trying to solve crimes when they can’t even agree on what crime happened in Dana’s basement. You can also have characters make snide remarks about another character’s hair or clothes. That would tell you something about both characters. Some narrative is necessary, but don’t drone on.
  4. Same can be said for settings. Nothing is more boring than reading paragraph after paragraph describing the main street of a town or the town itself. You aren’t writing a travel piece: you’re writing a novel or short story. In my Beyond mystery novels, I don’t just describe the town of Thurston, Ontario (fictional town), but have Dana  or her twin PI Bast  actually drive down a street, Suspense could be someone following Dana or better still she thinks someone is following her and dodges all over town to ditch the person. Or there is a collision – accident or intentional? Or if one of the twins goes into a shop or restaurant, I work in the location and relevant characters inside. “Relevant” is the key word. .

Visualize what you want and then write it for the reader to get the picture Remember: show, not tell the reader.

These are just a few suggestion. I also suggest you read published books by authors in the genre you are writing – authors who know what they are doing to create suspense within the mundane. Sometimes the latter is the most frightening.

If you click on the Beyond Blood novel above it will take you to more information about my Beyond books.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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Writing stories from extreme weather

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

Can you take an extreme weather situation you lived through and write a story about it?

Often living through these types of events can cause a lot of trauma, even post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And one way to get on the road to healing is to write about it. If it is too painful to write your story, then why not use it as a basis for fiction. Getting your imagination to work with what is now a reality can often produce a powerful short story or novel.

Examples are floods, tornadoes, volcanoes, and ice storms, The one in the news lately is the severe prolonged ice storm in the province of New Brunswick in Canada’s Maritimes. That one caused widespread prolonged power damages.

I wasn’t there for that one, but did go through the one in southern Ontario, particularly Toronto, in December 2013.

So, give your imagination free reign for story ideas. If you’ve lived through an experience, your experience will factor in for what it feels like, what can happen, what it looks like. But you want a different story, different characters – could be mystery, science fiction, fantasy, young adult, romance.

Or you might want to take one or two events that happened during the storm – to you or friends and go from there. For example, in the December 2013 ice storm in Toronto, I had a belligerent boarder and her cat living with me when the power went off. Fortunately the phone (a land line) still worked so my son (who still had power – it wasn’t everywhere in Toronto – in fact there were blocks with no power right beside blocks with power) could phone me. My son arranged and paid for a hotel room for the boarder, her cat and me for two days and took us out to dinner the first evening there.

Outside it was icy – sidewalks, roads, trees and power lines, some still down. Until downtown where the hotel was – the scene was more normal, dry sidewalks, lights and heat.

Oh yeah, the boarder’s cat was black.

So, what can you come up with in a story with just that much information?

If you click on the Beyond Blood novel above it will take you to more information about my Beyond books. No floods or tornadoes, but there is a scary scene in a lake, both above and under water in Beyond Blood, and a hair-raising car drive up a highway in the short story “No Breaks” from Beyond the Tripping Point. The idea for the short story came from something that happened to a friend and me, but the short story is not our story. The scary lake scene in Beyond Blood comes from a few pieces in my life – I can’t swim, being on a sailboat with a friend, her boyfriend and my son, and the swimmer (my friend), not me, falling into the lake. This latter wasn’t a traumatic scene (it was actually funny and yes my friend did get herself safely back onto her sailboat – and she was laughing all the way about it), but it does give you the idea of taking something you lived through and “spinning a yarn” from it.

Creative writing to all.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

 

 

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