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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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Don’t forget the libraries and librarians

Crime Writers of Canada authors at the OLA convention

We authors sometimes either forget or minimize one big resource. We are too busy doing research online, selling our books through Amazon and the like, connecting through Twitter and Facebook. This resource has been around a long time before anything online. I’m talking about the public library.

And if you think libraries are all about print books in the actual library, think again. With a library card (free), you can borrow e-books online, put  books on hold online, renew books online and yes, do research  online through your library’s connection with data bases. Some libraries even have online access to big city newspapers. And yes, you can still physically visit your libraries. I do and when I’m there I see teenagers and others using either the library’s computers or working away on their laptops. Yes libraries are connected to the Internet and it is less messy than sitting in a cafe with a laptop and risk spilling your coffee on the keyboard. It is also quieter.

There are also art exhibits, programs and presentations on business to health and wellness, to gardening to learning computer and online functions to writers’ groups to talks by book authors and workshops and courses- all for free.

And of course there are those books. I go to my library to pick up books (some found and put on hold online, some just from browsing in the library). And I run the East End Writers’ Group, a writing critique and guess where we meet – the library – my local big branch S. Walter Stewart in Toronto. EEWG does this in partnership with the library branch and it was one of the librarians there who asked us to meet there.

Don’t forget these librarians. They are very helpful when you are stuck with what book to get and for any other research (despite all your online work in those areas). And they are instrumental in the writing workshops and courses I teach at library branches. Although free to participants, I do get paid for teaching them

Some of us published authors from Crime Writers of Canada didn’t forget the importance of librarians last Friday. During the annual Ontario Library Association conference, CWC again had 23 of its recently book-published authors (or a book coming out in a few months) authors taking our turn in front of the mic doing  our own two-minute pitch for our books. These pitches were as diversified as the authors. My favourite was one by Dr. (as in medical) Melissa Yi who put a plastic garbage bag over  her head for a few seconds to illustrate how the bodies of some murdered Indigenous peoples are left by their killers. i channelled my main Beyond Faith book character, Dana Bowman. And the pitches weren’t  limited to books published by trade publishers. Libraries now carry self-published books as well. In the photo of us at the top, “Dana” is to the right of the CWC poster and Melissa is at the right end of this row.

My Beyond books aren’t self-published (Blue Denim Press is my publisher), but I’m happy to say that the first two,  Beyond the Tripping Point and Beyond Blood are in some of the Toronto Public library branches. And the librarian, Janet Nanos, who got EEWG into the S. Walter Stewart library branch informed me that she had put in for four copies of Beyond Faith for the TPL – just when the OLA conference was starting – just before I did my pitch.

The first two Beyond books are also n libraries in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario,  York Region (just north of Toronto) and in Prince Edward County in Eastern Ontario.

Those are the ones I know of.

It doesn’t stop there.

As authors with books in libraries, you can receive annual royalties for your books being there and number of times being borrowed. Another organization takes care of this (in Canada it is The Public Lending Rights Program administered by the Canada Council). You just have to enter your books on their form, updating it when you publish another book. This Canadian program is open for this listing-registration from mid February to May each year..

So, I have many reasons to be grateful for the public libraries and the librarians. I’ve been a big fan and library user since I was 12 years and my grade 7 teacher led all her class on a walk to visit the then new S. Walter Stewart Library branch.

It isn’t coincidence that my main library branch is the same library – since I moved back to Toronto almost 20 years ago.

Don’t forget your library and the librarians – the writer’s and reader’s best friend. The library is where readers, writers and librarians can connect.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

 

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Keeping track of fiction queries and submissions

Sharon’s latest Beyond mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

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