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Get creative promoting your book

Sharon reads from Beyond the Tripping Point

Author readings have been standard for authors to promote their books, but they can be boring. The operative word here is “can” which means you can turn your author reading into something different, something individual. Below are a few twists (and turns) I’ve tried.

1. Have the main character in your book dominate your reading. My main character in my Beyond mystery books is PI Dana  Bowman and I’ve made her into a real person (well, almost, although she thinks she is real). I have created an antagonism between Dana and me. Part of this antagonism is who wrote Beyond Faith – Dana or me? So I delve into that when I read.

2. Dana has a tendency to crash my readings. She hides at the back of the room or just outside the door of the room or in the case of a bookstore, behind a bookshelf. I warn my reading audience about her, including holding up an enlarged coloured photo of her,  and at the end, pretend to see her poking her nosey nose (well, she is a Private Investigator) at the back of the room, so I abruptly end my reading and go chase her.

Dana Bowman from the Beyond mystery series.

3. Read with another author – literally. You read from each other’s fiction and take the part of the main characters in the excerpts read. I’ve done this with literary author (nothing like mixing up the fiction genres), Michael Dyet and his short story collection  Hunting Muskie. We pick a theme and pick passages from there. With his short stories the passage has two characters. With Beyond Faith, sometimes more. And to make it interesting, Michael sometimes takes Dana’s part so I can read her seven-year old son, David’s part. And it works.

Michael and Sharon – Muskie and Murder presentation. Shane Joseph photo.

4. Use humour. Do skits with another author using two or more characters in your novels and expand what is going on in one novel into a comedy skit. Michael wrote a skit for us where Dana became the PI (instead of the cop  in one of Michael’s short stories in the collection. And when the two met, it did not go well to the point of being ludicrous. In another skit with prolific literary author Shane Joseph, I wrote a skit where Dana seeks out one of his book’s characters (George in the novel In the Shadow of the Conquistador) to find a possible relative of Sharon’s – Shane had one of his character’s last names the same last name as Sharon’s maiden name – without knowing this when he wrote the book). The skit turned into a free-for-all, especially when the Blue Denim Publisher arrived on the scene to scold the feuding characters. Shane played two roles, but the skit worked.

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5. I’ve had Dana appear instead of me to promote Beyond Faith. Below she is with a bunch of other mystery authors from Crime Writers of Canada at an annual Ontario Library Association annual convention in downtown Toronto.

 

6. And you can take your author PR beyond readings to appear on panels, which I have done many times. I also host an online interview show Crime Beat Confidential on thatchannel.com where I interview people involved in some way with crime and mystery. Dana starts the show off, doing her usual Dana – dissing me and claiming she wrote Beyond Faith. But she also mentions the show’s guest and when it was a real life private investigator, she interviewed her for part of the show. Usually I do all the interviewing.

A link to the PI guest episode of Crime Beat Confidential is here.

And all this is a lead in to my Author Reading as part of a round of 11 Toronto Sisters in Crime reading each briefly reading a short excerpt from their published fiction. I will be focusing on a theme in my short passage and that’s all I’ll say. Except to add the details for these readings. So, if you are in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area Thursday, January 16, 2020, here are the details.

Date and Time: Thursday, January 16, 2020, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Location: Northern District Library, 40 Orchard View Blvd., Room 200, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

If not, maybe you can get some ideas from what I do to enhance author readings for your own author readings. Happy readng.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery series.

 

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New Beyond appearances for Sharon A. Crawford

I haven’t disappeared – being kept busy with current and upcoming appearances and writing. More on both in future posts which starting this week will be at least every two weeks.

For now, I have a couple of links for you to see the mystery mayhem I am currently creating and those in the works.

There is a Gigs and Blog Tours Page connected to this blog and I keep it update with what I’m up to in all things mystery and mystery writing. That includes PI Dana Bowman. The link to this page is here. Pay attention to the December 3 event with four other Crime Writers of Canada authors. We deal with Toronto the Good? or maybe that should be Toronto the Foul?

And Episode 6 of my TV show, Crime Beat Confidential was taped this week on thatchannel.com. It is currently being edited. This current show has both Pi Dana and I hosting, but I do the actual guest interview – if you can call it that when two mystery reading addicts who are also former journalists get together and talk about crime and crime books.  The Youtube link to the five previous episode is here.

Below, PI Dana Bowman does her Introduction at the show’s beginning.

 

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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Sharon and Dana at Word on the Street

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It’s PI Dana Bowman here and I’m so excited. The annual Word on the Street Book and Magazine Festival rolls into Toronto this coming weekend. And I’m going to be there at two booths. I am front stage and centre at the Toronto Sisters in Crime Booth and share space at the Crime Writers of Canada booth with authors Lorna Poplak  and what’s her name who says she wrote Beyond Faith and I didn’t. We’ll see about that. This will be my opportunity to set some things straight to everybody who comes by the SINC booth. I can show them parts of Beyond Faith and ask them.

Who wrote the book?

Oh, what’s her name is here. I better scoot.

 

Hey you, Dana Bowman. Get your nosey nose (and the rest of you) back inside Beyond Faith. Oh, hello from the real author of the Beyond mystery books, including Beyond Faith. If you look a the book cover below you will see it doesn’t say “Dana Bowman” as the author, but me, ” Sharon A. Crawford”. Do I try to stick my nose into Dana’s life?

Don’t answer that. Of course, I do, as an author.

The latest Beyond mystery. (2017).

Now, down to business.

Word on the Street (WOTS) appears every year about this time somewhere in downtown Toronto, Canada. For the past few years it has been at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre by Lake Ontario. And that can give a real meaning to “jump in the lake”..WOTS covers pretty much the gamut of books and magazines; hence its title.And it doesn’t matter if you are publisher, author or reader (or some or all of those); it doesn’t matter if you read only print books or e-books; it doesn’t matter if you write prose or poetry or plays, there is something (or several somethings) for all. Yes, even a kids section. Children’s literature is big business these days, especially Young Adult books. So are romance and mysteries. Whatever you like to read is there. And a word of warning. The festival may be free to get into, but all those books and magazines. You’ll need to bring money and some canvas bags..

Take a gander over to the Toronto Word on the Street 2019 website and browse. You’ll be doing more than just browsing. With all that is going on ast WOTS, you will need to plan your visit down to the last second. But, this time there are events on the Saturday as well.

Dana got one thing right. Two appearances – but for me. She”ll be there inside the books and if I catch her trying to take my place, I’ll…I’ll

Well, maybe I’ll let her out if she sells some books.

Anyway, Dana Bowman (from wherever) and I look forward to meeting you and talking to you at WOTS on Sunday, September 22, 2019. The three Beyond mystery novels   – Beyond the Tripping Point, Beyond Blood and Beyond Faith will also be available to browse and purchase.

Here’ my (er, our) appearance info.

Sisters in Crime Toronto Chapter

Booth #WB5

11 a.m. to 12 noon

 

Crime Writers of Canada

Booth #WB4

Times and Date.

3.30 p.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, September 22, 2019

Location:

Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto, Ontario

Please note the whole festival for the Sunday runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

And let’s hope the weather and public transport co-operate. We don’t want any rain to fall on our “parade”, especially if we are waiting for a bus to get there.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond mysteries.

And PI Dana Bowman, the books’ main character.

 

 

 

 

 

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Revisions in Life and in Writing

Beyond Book No. 1 – the short story collection

“Half my life is an act of revision” – John Irving.

Most of us writers are familiar with doing many revisions of their short story, their poem, their novel – whatever they are writing. But did it ever occur to you that our lives are full of constant revisions and we often have to “rewrite” parts of our lives? And that sometimes these life revisions affect our “revisions” in writing.

If this sounds absurd, let me give you a few examples from my life.

From when I was a teenager (back in the grey ages, of course) I wanted to write and get published. I accomplished the first, but the second was not so easy, Around the age of 20 I was writing short stories and when I finally got up the nerve to send them out (in those days by snail mail), I got what I thought was a devastating rejection from a journal in Alberta. “This is not a short story; this is an incident”. I was so upset that I stopped writing short stories and switched to non-fiction – newspaper and magazine articles. But first I took various courses i  magazine and newspaper writing at a local community college.

Then my husband (at the time) and I moved just north of Toronto to Aurora, Ontario. This was the mid-1970s and Aurora, unlike today, was a very small town. But that local college from Toronto had a campus in a smaller town just outside Aurora, so I took another course in freelance magazine and newspaper writing. This class was a turning point – all of the students got published.

My publishing started with me cold-calling a local newspaper in Bradford to pitch a story idea. The idea was actually my husband’s and he had to stand by the phone and give me moral support to call the editor. I was a real chicken then. But I did it. Then I go brave and added, “I also sent you a humorous personal essay.”

tBoth stories were published and I ended up freelancing for that newspaper for a few years, then moved geographically (getting published. i was still in Aurora). I wrote a weekly column on Aurora’s community groups and their activities – first with a newspaper in Newmarket for a year and a half, and then with one in Aurora. There is a story behind those gigs, but that is for another posting. My next regular writing  freelance gig was for the  Toronto Star – at the suggestion of one of the editors at the local paper. So I was freelancing for that newspaper as well as a few small magazines – writing profiles of quirky people (my favourite), theatre reviews, some business stories, stories of local organizations and their members.

And then I moved back to Toronto in fall 1998, and expanded my writing to higher profile magazines, wrote freelance for another Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail and began to focus more on writing health-related articles – something I had become interested in when I started getting migraines.

But this was all non-fiction. Oh, yeah, I wrote a few poems and some were even published – in local newspapers and in a few literary magazines.

But what about fiction? I began writing what would become much later my first novel  in the Beyond mystery series. Actually I started that in Aurora not long before I moved.

And at some point in there I began writing short stories, one story in particular, Porcelain Doll. The idea for that came from my background way back. I was a railway brat – my dad worked as a timekeeper for the CNR and he, Mom and I got free train rides. So I started thinking like a writer. What would happen if? The father in the story is very different from my real father except for working for the railway and the three of us travelling to Grandpa’s farm in the summer.

Porcelain Doll went through many revisions and some of the writing critiques (from various writing groups, including the one I started – the East End Writers’ Group) tore it apart. But I kept on writing it and a few other short stories. Some of these other short stories were published in anthologies.

A new small book publishing company, Blue Denim Press, started up. One of the publishers in this husband and wife enterprise, used to come to my EEWG  group when he still lived in Toronto. so we were familiar with some of each other’s work from there. and after pitching a short story collection idea (originally with two of us authors), the publishers were interested in my stories. But I didn’t have enough stories to make a collection; still I signed a contract, and began writing frantically and furiously. Short stories travelled by email back and forth many many times with many many revisions. It seemed as more than half my life was then in constant revision

But Porcelain Doll finally made the cut and was one of the 13 stories published in Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). From there I (slowly, lots of revisions), I wrote and Blue Denim Press published my (so far) two Beyond mystery series novels – Beyond Faith (2014) and Beyond Blood (2017).

Now I’m writing two books and wondering if I have finally gone mad, crazy, off my rocker (well, I am a senior). One is a memoir, getting my most attention as it is the next one for publication next year, and the third Beyond novel, which has a beginning and I am also doing research with it and a constantly changing the plot outline – much of the changes going through my head.

So you can see where your life going through constant revisions can affect what you write (or don’t write) and when. All from the wisdom in a short story rejection – “this is not a short story; this is an incident”.

I use that one in the short story workshops I teach – but that’s another “story”.

And that’s my cue to get out of Dodge – for now.

Question: What revisions or changes in your life have affected your writing? And how have they done so?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

With Crime Writers Canada at Richmond Green library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Taming your main fiction character.

PI Dana Bowman, main character Beyond books.

She’s done it again. Private Investigator Dana Bowman has jumped out of Beyond Blood and Beyond Faith to run amok in the real world. Is she going too far? Has she taken over?

When your main fiction character takes over your story, what should you do? Scream? Kick her or him back into the manuscript? Go with the flow (or flood)? Or listen to what he or she is saying?

Often you get so deep into writing your short story, novella or novel  that it seems like the story is getting away from you.  You are sitting there writing away in a creative fog or focus (take  your pick) and suddenly  it dawns on you. Hey, just who is writing the story?

First, take a deep breath. A character getting involved in their story  is not always a bad thing. It is a sure sign that your character is alive and you are deeply connected to his life. You know better how he operates because he is telling you this – or so it seems. That can be a good thing. Maybe your story was getting dull with something missing. Then it was as if your character jumped in to save the story? Your character is also telling you who he is and how he acts and speaks..

But what if the character is way off base? Not necessarily adding on to what you envisioned as the latter can be a big help. But what if the character has turned so unrecognizable that he just doesn’t seem to be himself?

Sometimes this character reveal develops your character in ways that makes the plot work better. It is as if you are getting insides from deep down. But….

If your character really seems to have gone off the rails and it is not because he  is drunk, on drugs or hasa psychological condition…then you need to stop and take stock.

Sop writing and sit back. Go over your character descriptions and what you have written in your story so far and remind yourself where you as a writer want to go with this character, with this story and with the two connected.

Ask yourself:

Are your character’s actions and diaogue things he would do and say in character – even when he is angry; even when he is sad? For example, if your character has a habit of swearing when upset, and suddenly is throwing plates,. you .need to step back and think. Was the situation something that would push your character over the edge? And how would he react when pushed over the edge? This latter would tie in with his traits. For example. if big on justice and the law, and somebody in his life has crossed the line – maybe beat up his spouse – would you main character beat up the wife-beater? Is that how hat character would exact justice? Maybe, if you have made this character the type of person who when pushed too far takes the law into his own hands. Or maybe not.

Sometimes you might just need to sit down and have a conversation with your character and ask “Just what were you thinking when you…?

And yes, I do carry on conversations with Dana bowman. But she still leaps out of the Beyond books and does her thing – which consists of mostly dissing me, her author. And she even says she wrote Beyond Faith.

Now tthat’s when you start worrying about your character taking over.

If you want to see Dana Bowman in action, she opens all my Crime Beat Confidential TV shows on thatchannel.com and here is a link. This is the third episode where Dana actually returns later in the show to do some of the interviewing of our guest, a real life private investigator. At least it gets Dana off my back…momentarily.

Now if Dana would just use some of that energy to take care of the crap in my life – you know cleaning the house, doing the dishes.

But she won’t. I didn’t create her that way. She doesn’t  even cook. It’s her fraternal twin PI Bast Overture who cooks.

Maybe i should rethink Dana and have her take cooking lessons in the next Beyond book. Yeah right. the books are murder mysteries so Dana is liable to poison someone with her cooking..

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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The tools of creative writing

 

Sometimes we get too caught up in the tools of our writing  trade. Our computers act up and give us grief. Or we can’t get on the Internet and can’t connect with anyone. Or…or…

Hold on a minute. Aren’t we forgetting the other tool of the writing trade? Our imagination. Which leads to being creative. Which leads to some interesting and creative writing.

It you can’t get online, count it as a blessing in disguise. Or a message from the universe to get writing. If the computer is misbehaving, try another way to write. Type on a typewriter – you know that ancient pre-computer method of creating story. Sure, not as good as a computer (copy and paste it was not).

Do any of you even have an old typewriter hidden in your basement or attic? Try a garage or yard sale. Old school, I know. But remember I’m going on the thread that you can’t get on line. But for your info, typewriters are available on e-Bay.

Create a story in your mind and tell it out loud. And if you have a recorder – digital or otherwise – that can operate without being connected  – record your story.

Or if all else fails, go back a century or two and do what writers did then. Write with pen and paper.

And maybe write about the problems and pitfalls of writing while being connected.

And yes, fellow and sister writers – I do have an old typewriter. It’s an electric typewriter. Not the best choice if there is a power outage.

Guess I’m heading for some  yard and garage sales.

How do you get writing when the technical tools of your trade let you down and give your grief?

Cheers

Sharon

My third Beyond mystery. Written creatively despite computer snafus.

 

 

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Don’t forget your research

Beyond book No. 3

You may be writing fiction, but you still need to do some research. Sure, you can make up your story, your characters – and you better be doing the latter – but some things such as a place, a date, a real life event will pop up that you need to check out, even if you are writing science fiction. And if you are writing anything – sci-fi or other – and there are police in it, you will need to do research. Ditto for any other career involved even if you have worked in it.

Then there are stories set in countries other than the one you live in – or oven another part of the country you live in. Peter Robinson, who writes the Inspector (now Superintendent, I believe) Banks mystery series sets his novels in Yorkshire, England. Peter has been living in Canada for many, many years, but he makes regular trips back to Yorkshire.

And if you are writing historical novels – romance or mystery, or any novel set in the past, you need to do some research. My Beyond Blood and Beyond Faith are set in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Computers, the Internet, etc. were quite a bit different then. If you set your story in the late 1990s you can’t have people running around with smart phones. Yes, there was email and Internet then, but on computers.. My twin PIs, Dana Bowman and Bast Overture do have cell phones, but the type that flipped open and closed and no email or text on them, although text was just coming in across the pond in Europe. But not in Toronto, Ontario and north of Toronto.

Even though I didn’t have a cell phone then, a real estate agent/friend of mine did. So I could go back to what I remember about that phone, which I did use a few times. Not enough though, so I did a lot of research on cell phones from the past, what they looked like, their size (fortunately in the late 1990s they weren’t still the big clunkers from four or five years earlier). I was able to do enough research for that on the Internet. But not all research on the Internet is sufficient. Sometimes you have to get off your laptop, off the Internet and off your butt, off your smart phone, and get out there and do other research.

There is the obvious one with police and I’ll go into that in another post. Today, I want to talk about one of my in-your-face type of research – not exactly interviewing someone – which I did a lot of when I was a journalist (and some was via phone and email). No, something else I used to do for research for a story was to get out their and “absorb the scene”.

One of my stories in Beyond the Tripping Point is set in present day Toronto. There is an alley in the story, so I re-visited the alley behind a street of row houses where relatives used to live many years before present day. I walked up the street in front of the houses to see what they looked like today and then I went around the corner and into the alley behind and started walking there. I visualized the scene in the story (Missing in Action) and decided this alley fit the story. So when I wrote that scene this was the alley I was thinking about. Yet I didn’t pinpoint where it was in Toronto in the story.

In the story “Unfinished Business” I have the main character revisiting her childhood home area in Toronto with her 12-year old daughter because the daughter insisted. Something really bad happened to the mother when she was around the daughter’s age and she had only been back once just for a ride-through with a friend and she ducked down in the car so she wouldn’t see the place. When she came with her daughter, I envisioned where I grew up and had her drive in past buildings and on roads there up to the house (but I changed the street names). However, the whole street was in my mind as I wrote it as were most of the changes outside the house like for my house – except the rickety old garage at the back  of the driveway. It had been replaced  just before I moved back to Toronto in 1998, but I left it in my story, because it was crucial to the story. The people in the story and the bad thing that happened to my character didn’t happen in my life. (I had other things that happened instead). And for the record, I have a son, not a daughter. And also for the record, I took many walks along that street and even talked to the current owners before I wrote my story. Unlike my story’s main character, I don’t drive.

And how the latter happened is the “fault” of a couple of cousins visiting from Michigan, well, one of them. Here’s how that went.

My cousins, G and K and I were driving downtown from my place to meet my son for dinner. As we drove past the street where I grew up, big mouth me mentioned this. G turned onto my street, stopped outside the house (big mouth  me again telling him which one). A man in his mid-fifties was hauling a golf set from the trunk of his car. G rolled down the window and shouted out “My cousin used to live here.” So the three of us had to get out and we got into a conversation with the man and his wife. Turns out they (particularly her) are interested in the house’s history and the street’s history too. And the garage came into the conversation. The wife asked me if the original garage was so far back and I said “no.” Some more comparisons of outside were made and I learned some of the history of the property from after I moved. And I saw more inside when a few months later (I had their permission to call to make an appointment for this) I visited the couple inside the house.

Unfinished Business did not take place inside the house, but it did have scenes on the street, in the driveway and the old rickety garage.

So research is not all boring and you can get some physical exercise doing it. Just remember to go beyond the Internet.

Cheers.

Sharon A Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery series.

Short story collection (2012)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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