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Tag Archives: Beyond the Tripping Point

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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Getting ideas from your garden

Scene from my garden

Many of us writers are also gardeners. I’m not sure why. Both are creative although not in the same vein. One we create with words and the other we create with colour, design and more practically for food to eat. Writing is more in the head and gardening requires a lot of physical exercise. So maybe the two provide balanced living.

For example, when something about a story I’m writing hits a stalling point, I go out in the garden. Often I end up pulling weeds. Like the bad things in life irritating me, which I want gone, I want the weeds gone. And sometimes when someone or some entity (read big utility company and the like) has messed up something in my life, I give the weeds names as I yank them out and pitch them in the yard waste bin. And yes, when I’m done in the garden I often have an idea how to deal with the problem person or entity.

And I often get a story idea – like the short story I’m writing and rewriting about telemarketers.

So, let’s see how something in the garden can bring about a story idea. Let’s take something common in people’s gardens – wildlife trespassing and doing damage. In particular raccoons getting into the garbage and creating a mess. I used that idea as part of the plot in my first Beyond novel Beyond Blood. I had someone doing a series of break and enters one summer also leaving a dead raccoon at some of the places. There was a reason for it and not to punish raccoons for causing damage. You’ll have to read Beyond Blood to find out what.

But raccoons or any other animal doing garden damage can conjure up several story ideas: a rash of garbage and recycling bins being knocked over in a neighborhood on collection days. Raccoons? Or something else. Maybe a red herring for something really bad going on. Perhaps someone in the neighborhood wants to sell their property to a developer and his or her neighbors don’t want to. Or vice versa Maybe a developer wants to tear down some old houses to put up condos. So someone (depending on your story’s angle) might be imitating raccoon actions to make the area no longer livable for the residents and so they will want to sell, but not get caught.

Or back to the weeds for another story idea. Whose name are you using when you pull a weed and why? What’s the problem the person is causing? Take it from there but fictionalize it.  Like I did with the telemarketer story. I wrote it somewhat tongue in cheek but it is a murder mystery (well, that is what I write). I decided to take a crack at telemarketers and created a fictitious telemarketing firm and had a gardener and a non-gardener who are friends go after that company. And that’s all I’ll say.

And from that, you can see your story characters don’t all have to be gardeners. In my Beyond series, neither PI Dana Bowman or her fraternal twin PI Bast Overture are gardeners, but gardens and gardening appear in two of the short stories featuring them in Beyond the Tripping Point. In “Road Raging”, the twins traipse through a garden gone dormant in the fall – they are after a road rager. In “Digging Up The Dirt” inside a garden centre  something poisonous in it is featured.

Want more ideas? Watch the old BBC series Rosemary and Thyme which has two gardeners who are hired to fix large estate gardens in England and always run into murder. One of the two women gardeners is a former police detective. Sometimes PBS runs reruns but it is also available ion You Tube.

Or if you want something currently running on TV on one of the specialty channels – try Midsummer Murders – often takes place in a large beautiful English country garden although murders are investigated by police, not gardeners.

Take a look at the photo from my garden at the beginning of this post. Does it give you an idea for a story?

Cheers.

Sharon A, Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery series. Latest Beyond Faith. Here is one of the other Beyond books mentioned in the post above. Click on it for more info about it and the other two Beyond books.

 

 

 

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Unexpected snafus when marketing your book

Click on book for more info

I love promoting my Beyond books – in person (alone or with other authors) or on social media. Sure, it is a lot of work but it can get very creative. However, one thing, actually many things have come up, under one category to slow or stop the process – snafus from outside sources, particularly connected to computers and other digital stuff.

Here’s what I’ve been dealing with to promote Beyond Faith. Warning: some of it might sound a bit odd and at least unexpected and unwelcome.

My Beyond books are available online in both paperback and e-copy in many outlets world-wide. But to get them in bookstores the bookstore has to order them in at either my request or someone who walks into a bricks and mortars bookstore and wants a copy. If I have already persuaded the bookstore to order in a copy, then the customer can buy it. Otherwise it can be ordered in.

That’s the way it is supposed to work and has with Beyond the Tripping Point and Beyond Blood. My publisher’s distributor sends electronically all the info to all these bookstore.

Not for the Indigo Chapters Coles chain. And this was not the chain’s fault. Imagine my surprise when I went into a Coles bookstore and the manager was so enthusiastic to order in Beyond Faith and Beyond Blood and have me do a book signing, but when she went to order them in (while I was there) no problem with BB, but she couldn’t do so with BF. She advised me to contact my publisher and when it was fixed she would order them in and set up a book signing.

I emailed my publisher right away and he got on it right away, even ccing me with his email to the distributor. A customer service guy from the latter emailed me and said it was being forwarded to their tech dept. to fix. Yes, it was a computer glitch from the distributor. Since then, my publisher let me know it has been fixed so I emailed the bookstore manager and just hope this message hasn’t screwed up her still wanting to order in my books and have me do a book signing.

And the bookseller company isn’t completely guilt-free as there is another problem – the book cover for Beyond Faith shows fine on their website for ordering in for the e-copy but for the print copy (which presumably can now be ordered in) shows no book cover  – just a standard book graphic with the message that the book cover graphic isn’t available. I contacted the bookstore online customer service and got an email that I had to contact the new author section and gave me an email. Somebody from there emailed me and said they could fix it if i emailed them a jpeg of the book cover – and proceeded to give me the size and dimensions and dpi required and the file name to use. i had to find the larger book cover graphic on my computer . Even with my organized file system it wasn’t that easy to find and then I had to rename file and find it again. And yes I used my computer’s Search function.

It doesn’t help that I have limited sight in my left eye.  Which explains any typos I may have not caught and corrected after reading the preview of my posts.

But I sent the book cover graphic and got a reply that the jpeg is okay but it will take a few days for them to get fixed.

At least all the replies to me from the bookseller customer service, etc. came quickly

Like I said I like doing book promo – the legwork – in person and the finger work online including social media. But trying to remedy others mistakes? Especially technical ones?

Nah!

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

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Catching story ideas on the fly

 

I’m a writer as rarely as possible, when forced by an idea too lovely to let die unwritten.

– Richard Bach

Our story ideas may not be as esoteric as Richard Bach’s – he wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  Where can we get story ideas and when we get them, what do we do with them?

Story ideas often pop into our heads when we are busy doing something else or more likely when our mind hits a lull. Or we are reading an article in the daily newspaper or the classifieds (online or in print) and our right brain, the creative side, suddenly wakes up. A conversation overheard on a bus, especially those cell-phone monologues, conversations overheard in restaurants can suggest several story ideas, often of the criminal intent. Brochures on community groups, art shows, and even the supermarket flyers can inspire. Take the old (former) Dominion supermarket slogan, “We’re fresh obsessed,” and try to look at a story angle that is fresh. Taking a shower or bath is also guaranteed to fill you with more than water. The Internet is full of potential story ideas. Don’t underestimate the power of dreams. Drugs and alcohol are not recommended as you will see from the following example.

Late one night a photographer friend once thought he had a brilliant idea. He scribbled it down on a piece of paper before he crashed for the night. When he woke the next morning, he looked at the paper. On it he had written, “I am very drunk.”

Another moral from this story is look at photographs. A picture is worth a thousand words, but before the words come the ideas.

What do you do when an idea hits? Grab it before it disappears into the nether area of your mind. Write it down. Keep a notebook (electronic or paper) handy. If you think faster than you type or scrawl, use a recorder for dictating your ideas. If the source is the Internet, bookmark it under the heading “Story ideas.”

Then let the idea rest for at least a few days. The idea will simmer in your subconscious and when you sit down at your computer, the act of starting to write will draw out these ideas. On rare occasions, a simmering story suddenly bubbles and you are compelled to write it right now. Do so – if you don’t you might not only lose the momentum, but the idea as well. Nothing, except maybe a blank screen, is worse than an idea gone stale because it was left in storage beyond its best date.

Follow the advice of Martin Woods, who said,

“Write great ideas down as soon…”

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery novels – whose ideas came from all of the above.

And if you click on the Beyond Faith cover icon at the top, it will take you to the one of the online places the novel is available – as well as more details about the novel itself.

 

 

 

 

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Plan some novel writing time during holidays

Sharon’s latest Beyond mystery.

When you are overstuffed with turkey and Christmas cake; when you have had it with family cheer; when you are…well…bored with all the Christmas songs, sales, and noises, just write.

Shut yourself in your room, the rec room, your office – somewhere away from everybody, and start writing that short story, that novella, that novel, that personal essay, that memoir, that poem, that play, that… Well, you get the idea.

And speaking of ideas, maybe you have a story idea – plot or characters or both running around in your head, but you just haven’t had the time to do anything with it because you have been buried in Christmas paraphernalia. Once the hoopla of Christmas is over with and before you get into New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and all those new resolutions, get a head start.

That last paragraph describes me. Instead of visions of sugarplums dancing through my head, the next Beyond mystery novel is swirling around. I have an idea for a plot premise and new characters (and old ones, too  this is a series, after all). Each time I think of it, more ideas run through my mind. However, unlike my other Beyond books, I can’t seem to come up with a beginning – what to start with and where to start it. Considering the ending for Beyond Faith (and you’ll  have to read it to find out. No spoilers here), it is no wonder this is happening.

So, I’m going to get at it between Christmas and New Year’s. Not even going to wait for Boxing Day to pass. I hate crowds so don’t do Boxing Day (or week) Sales. And while I’ll get some things online, clothes aren’t part of that. I have to try things on first. So during that time I will  start by getting some of these ideas in a Word file and maybe even do a rough outline. Maybe even get at least an idea of the beginning. I know some of the remnants from Beyond Faith will require some research, so I might also do that.

Sounds ambitious? I’ll let you in on something.

Starting tomorrow, December 19, I’m taking two weeks holidays (staycation or is that stayvacation?) but the first few days will be spent finishing Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, and spending Christmas Day with my son and his girlfriend. I am also hoping to get together with a few friends outside of Christmas Day.

What I am not planning to do is working on client projects, volunteer work, and answering any related email. Strong emphasis on the latter. My days seem to include too much time replying to email that is not from friends and family. And one of my new year’s resolutions will be to have set times to do emails and if they don’t get done that day, they sit in the pending file. I mean, even my client work time was suffering because of dealing with emails.

Just as long as the email accounts are working – there has been a bit of some accounts not working in the past month.

I’ll let you know January 4, 2018 how it went, because this is my last author post here for 2017. I am still posting to my personal blog next week and the next – because that’s personal. In case you are interested in reading those posts, here is the link. Not too much about writing, except memoir writing, goes in there, but…. I will still post to Facebook (my main account) and my author Facebook page, and Goodreads. I better post to Goodreads. I am still updating the list of books I have read this year and doing book reviews for some of them. Finally got off to a good start a couple of weeks ago and then got side-lined by…you guessed it…email. Well, also shovelling snow.

Meantime, have a happy and health holiday. And write.

Oh, yes, if you click on the Beyond Faith book above, it will take you to one of the online places where it is available. There is a New Year’s Eve scene in it and PI Dana Bowman, the main character, isn’t spending that time making new year’s resolutions.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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Creating Credible Fiction Characters

Dana Bowman from the Beyond mystery series

Creating characters that resonate with your readers, characters that are three dimensional – in other words credible characters – is not always easy. But it can lead you down interesting and unexpected pathways and forge a bond between author and character. Sometimes that bond means the character thinks he or she is writing the story.

That’s what happened with the main character in my Beyond mystery series – PI Dana Bowman. Maybe it’s because as part of my book promo she comes to life when I dress up as her for presentations in libraries,cafes and the like.

I have to keep reminding Dana that is is my  name, not hers, on the book cover as the author.

And we really are not alike, so not the same person – as I keep telling Dana.

Here’s a  character comparison of us on my website

So how do you create credible characters? Do they suddenly appear in your head? Sometimes. Sometimes you get your plot first

Characters can come from real life, your imagination or by osmosis. Here are a few pointers

  1. If you create a character from real life, make sure you use the real person as only a kicking-off point – perhaps how they look, perhaps one distinctive characteristic and create from there.

  2. Don’t steal other authors’ characters – evenly loosely disguised as your so-called character.

  3. Personal experience and knowledge can help in creating and developing characters. but remember you are creating fictional characters for fiction, not writing a memoir.

  4. An oxymoron – fictional characters must come across as real characters, real people, so readers can connect to them.

  5. Once created, characters don’t remain static – they evolve; they change, even in just one short story, and more so in novels, especially series novels.

I have lots more info on this and will be teaching a workshop on Creating Compelling Characters this Sunday, November 5, from 2 p,m. to 4 p.m. with the Toronto Writers Circle at the Toronto Reference area. It is free and open to the writing public. Here is the library info about the group and location. If you live in the general area you might like to join us.

And here is my latest Beyond mystery book. Click on it for more info

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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