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Just Write

How I feel some days lately

Tuesday I decided I had had enough of trying to get all the client and other not-my-writing work done. I was behind in it all and not keeping to schedule anyway. So I played hooky that afternoon

And sat in front of the desktop PC, just daring it to blue screen on me. (It didn’t then) and dived into rewriting my memoir. It had stewed in its file for a few years. It was time to return to it. I did have a deadline of sorts – submit the first 10 pages to the Writer in Residence at the Toronto Reference Library – in January. That’s when the submission time frame opens.

It was on my schedule to get back to the memoir during the two weeks I’m taking off from client work (and all the other madness – book PR, etc.) Instead,  there I sat Tuesday afternoon reading some of my memoir’s beginning, did some rewriting, did some deciding what needs changing or deleting, did some deleting. It was wonderful to be able to just write, even though it was rewriting. It was my creative stuff.

I am back to the other stuff in my business – client work, book promo, trying to get writing teaching gigs ,etc.. But I have discovered what the big time stealer is and yes, some is related to clients or wannabee clients.

E-mail. All the frigging email I get. I still want my email programs and accounts to work, but I don’t want to spend so much time on it answering everybody’s queries, doing this and that for everybody (“everybody” is a generic term here). So, I’ve started giving my notice – during those two weeks, December 19 to January 2, I’m going off the work grid. I’ll answer family and friends email, do my blogs, and Facebook and Goodreads.

But work stuff – emails related to that arriving while I’m taking my break – they will sit in the pending folder until after January 2. And after that it will depend on who is emailing – the clients whose work I’m getting back to –  any querries for book promo and teaching writing – those will get priority.

But for those two weeks, I will do what I haven’t been doing too much of – read, see family and friends.

And Write!

A writer has to get her priorities straight.

And for those who might be wondering – yes there will be a fourth Beyond book – ideas and plots and characters are running round in my mind. So, some of that will have to get on the computer soon.

Maybe I will wish that my main Beyond character PI Dana Bowman was actually doing some of the writing.

How do you deal with all the other stuff in your life getting in the way of your writing?

Comments, please.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The real me

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When in doubt kill the character off?

 

Dana Bowman from the Beyond mystery series. Still alive.

In last week’s fall finale of The Blacklist, Tom, one of the major characters was killed off in a very brutal way. Those following the British series Inspector Banks were jolted in one episode where a major character DI Annie Cabbot was killed. Blue Bloods killed (off screen/between seasons) a minor, but important to the series character, Linda, Detective Danny Reagan’s wife.

Near the end of last season, NCIS Los Angeles killed off Michelle, the wife of NCIS Agent Sam. Michelle’s roll wasn’t even as a regular, but as a recurring guest. But in a twist, the actor who played Grainger – Miguel Ferrier – a regular –  died in real life. Instead of following suit, the writers and producers had Grainger quit NCIS and go off to some faraway place.

 

 

Perhaps the weirdest one is the actor who played the original Morse on the old Inspector Morse series. Yes, the producers had Morse die of a heart attack when they were killing the series. But not long after the segment aired, John Thaw, the actor who played Morse died  also, but from throat cancer.

Lately, TV series seem to be in a killing mood. Want to delete a character from the series. Kill him. Actors playing the characters want more money than the new contract will offer. Kill off their characters.

So what does this have to do with fiction characters in novels? Maybe something as some of those series originated from books.

To me, killing off a character just to get them out of the TV series, out of the novel series, or even just out of a novel is a poor way to do it.  If you are going to kill a character there must be a reason within the story itself, something with the character and his other relationship with another character or characters.  Even in murder mysteries, characters are bumped off for some reason – maybe they were going to reveal something bad about the murderer, maybe they stood in the way for the murderer to inherit money, maybe revenge and yes even the so-called random killing spree where the killer kills for no apparent reason. there is always some reason even if just in the killer’s mind.

If a character in your novel dies from natural causes,  it has to be worked into the plot. Let’s look at a scenario from Beyond Faith, my latest Beyond mystery. There are two brothers – Gerrard Olsen and Larry Olsen. Near the beginning one of them gets killed. Without giving any spoilers, I had to think which brother and why and of course, who killed the brother and what led up to the killer doing so. That doesn’t come out right at the beginning, but PI Dana Bowman and her fraternal twin brother PI Bast Overture, and Det. Sgt. Fielding are trying to find out. Like most of my mystery novels and short stories, it is not straightforward. It all rises from the characters – who they are – what they have gone through and are going through in life and would they cross that line to kill? That latter is very important for an author to consider. Some characters are such bad assess in what they do that killing is believable. Other bad ass characters commit a lot of crime and/or are mean and ill-treat the people in their lives, but draw the line at killing them. Then there is the so-called good character who is pushed beyond his limits to the point where they kill.

Iit really all boils down to the character and the plot – and the two go hand in hand and drive each other. If you want one of your novel’s major characters to exit the novel, killing them may not be the only answer. That often comes across as lazy writing. Tthat can happen in mystery novels too, although when you get to the end and the good guy confronts the bad guy (or gal – guys don’t have the monopoly on being bad asses), the author has to “get rid” of the bad guy, but shooting her dead is not always the best way. The author has to consider who the good guy/gal is and how she would deal with it. Would she arrest the bad one? Or shoot him? Torture him? Push him into the lake and let him either swim or drown? Having said that, sometimes the good guy (or gal) isn’t the trigger-happy person, but is forced into a situation where it is ether the bad guy’s life or his. Then he might have to shoot – but not always to kill. Be creative. Many authors are. They have killers disappear during one novel only to return in a later novel. Chances are with this type of scenario, the novel’s protagonist probably has had some kind of a relationship with the baddie – so he will have to deal with the before and after. Unless you are a sociopath, you will be scarred  by the death of someone close to you. You will have to grieve.

Back to Inspector Banks and the killing of Annie. That does not happen in the books by Peter Robinson the British series is based on. And to me that is a disrespect for the original author. True, TV series don’t follow the novels they come from and often go off the novel’s track, often for a good reason. They can’t get all the novel contents in a movie or limited TV program. And series have to expand beyond the novel’s plot.

Killing a character on TV or in a novel shouldn’t be done just to eliminate him. There has to be a reason – beyond the character just being bad or leaving the TV series. Haven’t these producers heard of just getting another actor to play the part? It was done years ago with the comedy series Bewitched when the actor playing the husband died. And it was done recently with the British series Jack Taylor. A different actress now plays the part of Kate. Both work.

What are your thoughts and ideas on killing off characters in books and TV. Do you kill of any of your fiction characters? Why or why not?

Comments, please.

Cheers.

Sharon.

Sharon’s latest Beyond mystery links to Amazon

 

 

 

 

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Keeping the suspense in your novel’s plot

As an editor I have read and edited a variety  of fiction manuscripts. The creativity of many of the  writers and the wide range of story lines is very interesting. But one thing (among others) I sometimes find is the lack of sufficient suspense. The story drags; the story, well, it flat lines. Here are a few tips on creating suspense in your novels.

1. Leave your reader hanging – at the end of the chapter is a good place because it not only raises the reader’s interest, it gets him or her reading the next chapter. Here is an example from my mystery novel Beyond Faith.

“From what Sister Olsen had told me about her brothers, I had some idea what might be bothering Eli. Too bad neither Eli Foster nor I had all the facts.”

2. Ask a question. You know the old saying “questions are the signs of intelligence.” Questions also make the reader want to continue to get some answers. These are questions in the narrative, the character’s inner thoughts, not in dialogue. Obviously in dialogue, another character will usually answer the question although they might lie.

Again from Beyond Faith, “Who were they? And why did one seem familiar?” (all Beyond Faith excerpts, copyright 2017, Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press.)

3. Don’t tell all at once. Keep some information from the reader. I do a lot of this in Beyond Faith. The idea is you build up your plot with tidbits even if the character knows more than she is letting on. This is just the opposite from the example in point one above.

4. Use foreshadowing.This is often in conjunction with another technique. Again, see the example in point one above. Another example of foreshadowing is when the character is heading for an encounter they don’t relish. Perhaps with someone they don’t like and know is a nasty person. Build up the tension by getting inside the character’s head. How does the character feel? Scared? Are they sweating? Do they try to avoid meeting this character or delay the meeting by driving the long way to the meeting place. If it is in a restaurant, do they drink a lot, drop the cutlery, knock over a glass of water?

5. Or as a twist, the person is overly confident about meeting someone – a piece of cake, the character thinks. Then, wham, when they get to the meeting place, something happens – a car runs her down; someone takes a shot at her. She finds the person there all right at the meeting place – lying dead on the ground. You can tell I write mystery novels.

6. One suspense-building technique that I use is to have two main characters both heading for the same place at the same time – maybe one knows the other is there; maybe not. But one or both of them know that there is danger at the other end. Each one is racing to get there and perhaps save the other. You flip back and forth between the characters in separate scenes or short chapters. Show the reader what each character is thinking and what is happening to them. And don’t make it easy. In Beyond Faith I have PI Dana Bowman following Eli Foster in their respective cars; then I flip over to her fraternal twin, Pi Bast Overture who is not following anyone, but he has found out vital information about another character and figures out what this character is going to do so he is off to stop it. And no, I don’t tell all to the reader. And I’m not telling you any more here.

There are many more ways to create suspense. The twisted plot is one. And you can get ideas by reading published novels, the ones that do build suspense. Yes some crappy novels get published and I am not referring to self-published here.

And keep writing and rewriting, rewriting, rewriting.

And join a writing critique group for feedback.

And when you have rewritten a lot, hire an editor.

Then you can do some more rewriting.

I just started reading Hunting Muskie, a collection of literary short stories by Michael Robert Dyet (Blue Denim Press, fall 2017 – yes, same publisher as me). The first story “Slipstream”, has many plot threads popping up – all connected to a theme. And it keeps you reading. It also breaks the idea that some people have (mea culpa sometimes here) – that all literary stories don’t contain suspense.This one sure does have suspense.

Happy reading and happy writing.

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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Beyond Faith – some thoughts on holding the book

As you can see from the picture I finally have a print copy of Beyond Faith in my hands. Actually several copies which the editor at my publisher’s Blue Denim Press just brought here  – some copies for Bouchercon and some for other author events where the publisher or a bookseller isn’t present. It was getting tiring, especially to my bad eyes, to deal with e-copies only. And again as you can see, it shows on my face. That tired look isn’t just from not enough sleep, it is partly because I’ve been getting out invitations to my book launch – again online. My face may be in permanent squint mode.

But to finally hold a copy does fill me with joy and a sense of accomplishment  (despite the clutter behind me in my office). It was a long road of  many revisions, two switches in book launch dates, but it is worth it. One friend said I was really proving myself as an artist. And (this is me, talking), I do get a lot of fun out of it as I can commit murder –  all between the books covers, of course. Another friend I used to work with many many years ago – we connected through Linked In –  is coming to the book launch – we haven’t seen each other in years and years and…

I guess what I’m trying to say to anyone who is writing a book – fiction or non-fiction, a short story, poetry, a play, whatever. The going may be very uphill, not only with the writing, but with getting it published or presented. Don’t give up. Think of yourself holding that book (a real print book – e-books won’t do it) or performing in a play, or… you supply the outcome.

Keep the long-range goal and wish in mind.

And keep on writing.

I plan to follow my own advice – once the book launch is over .

Here is the book cover up close without my sorry face in the way.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford.

 

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Beyond Faith is here – some author thoughts on writing, rewriting and publishing

Beyond Faith has arrived at Blue Denim Press – my publisher. Soon I will get some print copies in my hands; soon it will be available on both the main Amazon site and the Canadian Amazon site. Check these current links for when. The book launch is still scheduled for October 22 at Supermarket Restaurant and Bar; I’m headed for Bouchercon the big mystery writers conference Oct. 11 to Oct. 15, and etc.

Whew! I need to take a deep breath and think. Think about how an author gets to this stage – at least this author – and how it feels.

This is my third Beyond book but still the elation, wonder and gratitude is there – just like  with the first book, and the second book. Although supposedly I am an old-hand at all this (and that is a myth – you always learn from each book’s writing, each book’s marketing – the whole she-bang). Among other things, with Beyond Faith, I learned a lot about revisions and working with the editor at my publisher’s. Some of you may know that I am also an editor, albeit a freelance one. Sometimes experience on both sides of the fence can be a help; sometimes not. The main thing is to remember which side of the fence you are on at that time. Sure past editing experience may help you with rewriting, but you are not the editor. Having said that, the book editor and the book author must not work at cross-purposes. You have to work together to create the best book possible. I like to think that’s how Shane and I brought Beyond Faith to publication.

The little voice in my head is whispering, “I should hope so – after eight revisions requested by Shane since the first submission. And that’s not counting all the revisions pre-submission and when I made all the changes, additions and deletions with each revision. It doesn’t come with the first try. Revision 1, Revision 2 and so on required several rewrites, only to go back the next day to make more changes to that revision.

In between all this and even during, my mind was whirling around with ideas of what and how. Sometimes I had to go out to my garden and pull weeds; sometime go for a walk, sometimes sleep on it. I don’t think I dreamed up any ideas, but sometimes when I woke up, an idea was there in my mind.

Shane would make suggestions for what needed changing and even say something had to go because it didn’t work. One example is in a scene I  had with David, Dana Bowman’s seven-year-old son, who was out walking the dog, Buddy, with his babysitter. The sitter goes into the drugstore and David and Buddy have a confrontation with a couple of the other characters. Shane pointed out that a seven-year-old, particularly David, wouldn’t talk like that. So, I had to do some rewriting to keep the plot intact but make David, well David. Usually I can do this, but something was definitely off. I was also told to put in more menace to have something frighten David then. And I did.

So while waiting for the publisher to deliver the actual print book author copies, I feel a sense of accomplishment, relief but also some trepidation. Because Beyond Faith now has to sell. And while I love doing book promo, there are never enough hours in the day to do all that I think is needed for that. And I am still learning how to do many of those things.

And do you know what is high on my list of impediments to doing book promo? Same as gets in my way of writing.

Screw-ups and other problems in other areas of my life – especially those caused by what I call “outside” – others screwing up, bad weather and the like. Things like unexpected house repairs, health issues, other people wanting me to do things for them now, late and delayed public transportation, bureaucratic and bank errors – all things that steal from my time.

And yes, they all make fodder for future stories. Some of them are at the basis of some of the happenings in Beyond Faith – all fictionalized, changed to be more menacing than in real life. Sorry, folks, not telling which happenings or even which characters fit that category. I will say that I do have an axe since 2014, but it’s used for chopping the ice that sometimes forms on sidewalks in the winter, not for chopping up people.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

author of the Beyond mystery series

Sharon holding up the previous 2 Beyond books at WOTS

 

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The Beyond gang head for Word on the Street Sunday

Dana Bowman PI from Beyond Faith and Beyond Blood

Dana Bowman PI from Beyond Faith and Beyond Blood

It’s official – Sharon A. Crawford and Dana Bowman will be at Word on the Street – the big annual book an magazine at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. Still up in the air is if Dana will be kept inside the covers of Beyond Blood or if Sharon will let her out. Sharon is set to appear at the Crime Writers of Canada booth from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the company of four other crime authors. All will have copies of their books to sell, but also to talk about Crime Writers of Canada.

Dana will need a briefing if she is to do some of this. And Dana likes to follow her own ideas. She is a private investigator after all. But Sharon is a former journalist and she also like to stick her nose into things.

The other appearance is one author and one other volunteer for Sisters in Crime Toronto’s booth from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. – perhaps more to Dana’s liking to appear here.

That will have to be sorted out on Sunday. For now, let’s talk a bit about Word on the Street, CWC and SinC Toronto.

Sharon here….

I’ve been going to Word on the Street almost since it started in 1990. The first few years the location was Queen Street West from Spadina to Bathurst St. – not a particularly long stretch. But it sure seemed like it if you wanted to go to a specific booth at one end and another one at the other end, particularly if you were on a time-line to get to a workshop or reading or signing in a particular tent. The booths lined up in the street on both sides, plus the crowds moving through, made it difficult. And the availability of washrooms was limited to coffee shops and restaurants with long lineups – unless you wanted to use the portable toilets.

Fast forward to September 2007 and WOTS was now being held at Queens Park – no not in the legislature building or other Ontario Government buildings, but in an actual park, a circular park with booths positioned all along the east and west walkways and at the front and bottom. You could cut across the park to get to bootha on the other side – or walk along the circular walkway. Some tents were in the actual park. The setting was very relaxed and yes, there were portable toilets but also washrooms in nearby Victoria College on the University of Toronto campus. The college also held their annual book sale the same day, so it was a big day for books – the print kind.

At the 2007 WOTS I did my first appearance in a tent talking about freelance writing – interviewing techniques and the like. I was also running a course (in my house no less) a couple of weeks after and this WOTS talk was a great opportunity to get participants for that. It was also a lot of fun as I called people up from the audience to be the interviewee while I played interviewer for role playing. And my son and his then girlfriend, dropped in to watch the proceedings.

In future WOTS at Queens Park, I appeared at the Crime Writers Canada booths to promote and sell the Beyond books. One year the CWC booth was facing the sidewalk instead of the street, so it attracted less people. The location had some personal history with me. The CWC booth faced the Ontario government building where i had my first job at age 18 and 19 when I was a secretary (in another life, of course).

This Sunday, September 24, WOTS is in its third year in its third location- Harboufront Centre on Queens Quay West on Toronto’s waterfront. I have mixed feelings about it. On the plus side you are on the waterfront and the events are outside and some indoors. Some areas seem a bit crowded and the first year I was there, the SinC booth was at the end side of a long group of tables of various organizations. To get to the SinC spot you had to go in at the other end. At that end one of the poetry societies held were readings. The poet stood on the table and performed his or her poetry.

We’ll see how it goes this year and what Dana does and says if she doesn’t stay between the book covers.

Beyond Faith won’t be there – it’s still at the printers. But the flyers for the book launch will be and so will copies of Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point.

Maybe I’ll see you there. Look for one or both of us – Dana’s photo is at the top and mine is below here.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

and

Dana Bowman

 

Sharon A. Crawford author of the Beyond books

 

 

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