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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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Book promo in person with a twist May 29

 

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Previously I blogged about using videos to get the word out about your book(s). Now, I’m going to talk about old school – well, only in the sense that it is an in-person presentation. But it is not only a reading or readings. A writer-friend once told me that authors reading more than five minutes can start to bore the audience. I suppose that does hinge on what and how the author is reading.

And this is not a lesson on how to read book excerpts in public. Maybe in another post…

My publisher, Blue Denim Press, has come up with a unique presentation setup that guarantees not to bore the audience. Here’s the blurb for it and below a bit more info.

Small Presses: Guerrilla Book Marketing in the Digital Age

Join the East End Writers’ Group for an evening with the Blue Denim Press Gang. Readings from Shane Joseph’s latest novel, Milltown, and Barb Nobel’s debut short story collection, Edgy People, with a duet by Sharon A. Crawford (Beyond Faith) and Michael Dyet (Hunting Muskie) featuring characters from their books. After a mix, mingle and snack break, join these authors and their publisher in a panel discussion on how the Small Press is filling the void in publishing today.. Hosted by Gail Murray.

I start the whole she-bang off with a short (promise) welcome to all including a brief (really) history of the East End Writers’ Group, then turn it all over to our real host, Gail Murray a poet and travel writer and longtime member of East End Writers’ Group. Gail will introduce each presenter, one by one.

Barb Nobel is up front to read a short funny excerpt from her short story collection Edgy People.

Michael Dyet and I are up next – we get a bit more serious except for one of my reading excerpts which is a bitchy fight between two women in Beyond Faith. Michael and I will be doing something we do in our War Between Genre Fiction and Literary Fiction presentation – taking on the roles of each other’s characters in our excerpts from our books – :”Slipstream,” from Michael’s short story collection Hunting Muskie and my mystery novel Beyond Faith. As with the “War” presentation, Michael gets to read a variety of characters. But we have a switcheroo in here. And there is a dog in my presentation – but he has no speaking parts, but he is there as he is important to our reading’; theme – relationships in families and all the things that they entail.

And no, Michael and I won’t be dressing up as any of our characters. But there are rumours circulating that a character from one of the books by one of us authors will make a surprise appearance.

The fourth author in the presentation, Shane Joseph will be reading from his latest novel (launched this spring) Milltown.

Then we are going to break for what has become a tradition of East End Writers’ Group gatherings – the networking snack break or mix and mingle and eat and perhaps buy some books. (the latter is not at all of our meetings). Hey, writers, readers and most everyone else likes to eat.

After the break, we four authors return to the stage and the table for a panel discussion that will hit on and expand the title of this presentation. Gail Murray will moderate and keep us in line if we get too chatty. There wil also be q and a as we want some audience participation.

And afterwards  – some more chatting with anyone from the audience who hangs around. Books still available for sale then, too.

And clean up and clear out.

And a thank you to the S, Walter Stewart library branch for hosting our East End Writers’ Group meetings and presentations.

Below are the location, time and date details and the covers of the books for the remaining two authors.

Location:

S. Walter Stewart Library branch

170 Memorial Park Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Time and Date:

6.30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday, May 29, 2019.

All welcome And did I say that admission is free?

See you there.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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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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Muskie and Murder engages audience

Michael and Sharon – Muskie and Murder presentation June 27. Shane Joseph photo.

Muskie and Murder with Michael Robert Dyet (Muskie) and me, Sharon A. Crawford (Murder) made its debut presentation last evening at S. Walter Stewart Library. It was my East End Writers’ Group’s second event for 2018. Although I was disappointed in the small number of people who attended (probably to inaccurate weather forecasts for torrential rain) those of us there were really engaged in the presentation. I’m not talking just Michael and I and our guest speaker, Shane Joseph (editor at Blue Denim Press – our publisher), but the whole audience of writers and readers.

There was a continual conversation going on among all of us and I think we learned a lot. I know I did.

Using four different set-ups, we were all looking at what Michael so aptly titled The War between Literary Fiction and Mystery Fiction. We discussed questions dealing with plot and characters in both and not only discovered there is both in both types of fiction, but we found out we all read more than one or the other. Margaret Atwood (she of Alias Grace and The Handmaidens Tale) and Stephen King (Pet Cemetery,The Shining, The Outsider) entered the conversation – at least their names and writings did. So did memoirs – another “M” area of writing. Perhaps we should add Memoir to future presentations?

Then Shane asked Michael and I questions on plot and characters and then he asked us how often do we write and do we write regularly.

Not as often or regularly as we would like. The other stuff of life (Michael’s day job, my teaching writing and editing, the garden, and house problems ), all took up necessary time. But there are a lot of other things in our lives that can be pruned or purged and some of what is still there can be manouvered somewhat.

Michael and I read parts from our books based on a theme (not telling what – we want to use it at more presentations).

And then it was skit time. Michael played Norah Watson from “Slipstream”, the novella in Hunting Muskie and I played PI Dana Bowman (although Dana might argue about the latter as she thinks she wrote Beyond Faith and is a separate person. Hmm.) Norah had reluctantly hired Dana to find a missing family member, but Norah and Dana are like oil and water.

You can imagine how that went. If not you’ll have to catch a Muskie and Murder presentation in the fall.

PI Dana Bowman and Norah Watson. Shane Joseph photo.

Meantime, this whole presentation, particularly what the writers and readers in the audience said, has inspired me to get back on my creative writing track. Not just writing book promo blurbs and the like, but my own M and M – Mystery and Memoir. I remembered that I used to always write at least two afternoons a week – Friday was sacrosanct for my creative writing, with Wednesday afternoon another one.

Earlier this year I started the fourth Beyond mystery book, started another rewrite of a black noir mystery short story, and returned to my memoir writing – both the book and some shorter pieces for possible magazine publication.

And anyone who dares interfere with my writing time, let’s just say it could mean “murder”.

Well, between the book covers.

Do you write regularly?

How do you do it?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The Mystery half of Muskie and Murder.

Michael and Sharon with Muskie and Murder. Shane Joseph photo.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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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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The perils and joys of book marketing

I love marketing my Beyond mystery books. I learn so much from all that I do and meet so many interesting people – other mystery writers, readers, librarians and booksellers. But lately I’ve been experiencing an ongoing problem – so is my publisher – so are the Indigo chain booksellers who try to order in Beyond Faith, the latest in my Beyond mystery series.

I have touched on this in a previous post, but since then the problem has again arisen or as I suspect, never was fixed. What happens is when the managers from the Indigo book chain stores tried to order in Beyond Faith they get an error message and the order cannot be processed. No problem ordering in copies of Beyond Blood, the previous novel in the series.

Twice my publisher Blue Denim Press has had to email the distributor (ingram Sparks) and twice the distributor has rebroadcast the book info to Indigo and all done electronically. The first one didn’t work as one store manager found out and let me know politely in an email. I got right back to her by phone and then contacted my publisher. He wasn’t too happy about the situation and I don’t blame him.

But it isn’t just my Beyond Faith book. Several other authors who have different publishers (and perhaps different distributors?? I don’t know about that) have run into the same problem. One of their books can be ordered in by Indigo but not the most recent one.

And before you start blaming Indigo, the weirdest thing is the other author, Michael Robert Dyet, whose book Hunting Muskie was published by Blue Denim Press at the same time as Beyond Faith has had no problems with Indigo ordering in books to their bricks and mortars stores. Another strange thing – Beyond Faith can be ordered in to the bricks and mortars independent bookstores.

Which makes me wonder if it isn’t the distributor but maybe a computer glitch somewhere along the line.

Or maybe gremlins doing some random targetting.

In this overly digital world anything weird is possible.

Meantime I’ve been back and forth with the indigo chain  – three bookstores where a possible book signing or other appearance is possible. A presentation  with other Crime Writers of Canada published authors is already booked – and that’s where i found out there are other others in the same limbo boat.

At least the Indigo owned bookstores give me (and other authors) the option of selling Beyond Faith on consignment for these events (and possibly leaving copies left over to be placed in the stores’ bookshelves for a bit). And Beyond Faith is still available at Indigo online in paperback and e-copy as you can see with the link from the book cover at the top of this post.

Here’s the flyer for that Crime Writers of Canada event April 18. If you are in the Toronto area, please come to it. it’s free and wlll be different. I’ll give more details about it in my next post.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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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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