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Marketing your book – more ideas learned

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

Although my Beyond Blood novel is two years old (and yes, the next one is tentatively scheduled to appear just under a year from now), I am still doing PR for it and surprisingly, still for the previous Beyond Book – the short story collection, Beyond the Tripping Point.

I am doing new PR and also adding on to what I have previously done. For example, I have sold copies of my Beyond books at the Toronto Heliconian Club annual pre-Christmas sale of art, books and other creative things in past years. But just selling. This year I am one of the authors from the Literature group reading a short excerpt from our published books (from Beyond Blood for me). There are also music interludes from the Club’s Music Group. More information is in the Gigs and Blog Tours page and also at the Heliconian Club website.

Another new thing here with the Heliconian club is our Literature group held a Dinner and Salon November 8 and I read from one of the short stories – The Body in the Trunk -in Beyond the Tripping Point. And that book came out in fall 2012. But it was suggested a short story excerpt was preferable for that than from a novel, so I complied. Just picked out a funny one and got a lot of laughs and good feedback comments afterwards.

All this can help build future book sales.

I’m also compiling a list of Toronto and York Region libraries where I could do crime fiction presentations/readings and/or teach writing workshops and courses. I already have a very big in with the two library systems having done all of that in the past four (for the fiction books alone) to six years (for the workshops) in many library branches.This past June I started something else – or rather one of the library branches hired me to do – teach a four session (once a week) course on Memoir Writing. From that a librarian at another library branch approached me to do the same next spring and I agreed. So my list is going back to some places I’ve been, but ones I haven’t don so for a year or more and to get gigs for next spring and summer.

This is all for the first two books. Once the third Beyond book is ready with a signed contract, I’ll start doing the library pitch for that one. This time I may do a specific proposal for author readings/presentation – for a specific form which goes out to all the libraries.

Each of these workshops/courses/ presentations/readings presents an opportunity for my Beyond books.

I have also started approaching area writers organization where I have not appeared and snagged one with the Writers and Editors Network (WEN). It is a breakfast one but on a Saturday in April. I am not a morning person, but you can bet I’ll make that extra effort to get there on time.

Two more things, one I’ve learned from experience. If you live where winter can be iffy with weather that can be blizzards, mixed precipitation and the like, you don’t do in-person presentations, readings or teach courses. I have managed to be lucky with teaching workshops in March and even February and evena couple of readings in February. But there have been very iffy ones due to weather in late March. That was the case with the Crime Writers of Canada panel I was on at the Gerrard/Ashdale library the past March. It got put on hold when the weather forecast was mixed precipitation and that’s what we got. The librarian there didn’t want us to cancel but was prepared to wait until the morning of (the panel was in the evening), so I emailed the other four panelists that it might be cancelled. When the librarian phoned me the morning of, she convinced me to not cancel. So I had to phone the four other panelists. It was just rain in the early to late evening and we packed them in to a very lively interactive discussion. The librarian took photos and the close-up on is at the bottom of the home page of my website. The long shot of the audience is at the bottom of this blog post.

Those winter months are for planning, social media PR and writing, writing, writing,.

There is also one more thing I did and I recommend it to anyone trying to promote their books – whether trade published or self-published. Sign up for the free Build Book Buzz weekly newsletter and the much more Sandra Beckwith offers with that. Check out the website for more information. I can’t say enough on how much it has opened my eyes to marketing my books and it isn’t all social media but that is a part of it. There are free webinars offered and…well you can check it out for yourself. And a disclaimer: Sandra Beckwith hasn’t hired me to do publicity. I just like to pass along info about something good to help other authors.

So happy and prosperous book marketing..And oh yes, the usual – click on the Beyond Blood icon at the top and see where it leads you.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Longshot of the Gerrard Ashdale library CWC presentation in March 2016

Longshot of the Gerrard Ashdale library CWC presentation in March 2016

 

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Using fictional characters’ inner thoughts for character development

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

We’ve all read fiction where the characters come across as superficial. I’m not referring to their traits (and superficiality may well be one of them). Instead, I’m referring to characters that don’t evoke a strong reaction from the reader, characters that  don’t connect in some way to the reader, characters that leave the reader thinking “Who cares?”. Chances are fiction with characters that the reader can’t seem to get into means that the writer doesn’t really know their characters. The writer didn’t get inside each haracter s’ head.

Getting inside your protagonist’s or antagonist’s head is key to understanding them and bringing them to life to your readers. Here’s a short excerpt from my novel Beyond Blood to illustrate this.

Chapter Twelve:

David:

He had woken up to cold and darkness. Beechnut. Where was Beechnut? He was lying on his back and tried to sit up but his arms were stuck in front of him and his feet were stuck together. Shadows seemed to come at him.

“Mom … mee,” David said. “Mom … mee. Where are you? Mom … mee, I’m scared.”

No answer. Where was he? Where were Mommy and Uncle Bast? Where was Debbie? They’d been reading Alice in Wonderland. Then he had gotten hungry and run downstairs to the kitchen with Debbie after him. It was a game they always played. When he’d heard a noise in the basement he’d run down there and seen one of Mommy’s friends playing the game, so he’d chased after … and then … he couldn’t remember. His head hurt and he felt a little sick. He tried to move his hands again, but couldn’t. They were still stuck together.

Where was he? His toes hurt. His teeth hurt and he was so cold.

“Mom … mee. Mom … mee.” Now he was yelling.

A door burst open and something thudded in.

Oh no, a monster. Coming after him.

“Mom … mee. Mom … mee. I’m scared.”

He heard a click and a bright light blinded his eyes.

“Pipe down,” a voice shouted at him from above, or was it beside him?

“Who are you? I want my mommy. I want Beechnut.”

Instead he felt something heavy and sticky cover his mouth. The bright light clicked off and footsteps receded to the doorway, and then he heard a door slam.

In darkness and alone, David began to cry, his sobs muffled by the tape over his mouth.(From Beyond Blood, copyright Sharon A. Crawford, Blue Denim Press,2014).

It is probably obvious that David has been kidnapped and that he is a small child (he is six). Here the reader finds out how David feels about this from first discovering he is not at home and his Mommy is not around. The reader can feel for David, can feel his fear and despair.

Of course not all characters get kidnapped. Some fall in love; some are con artists, etc. The writer needs to convey all this to the reader and getting inside the character’s head is one way to do this.

There are other ways to develop characters. I will be teaching a workshop on Developing Characters and Dialogue in Fiction next Tuesday, Oct. 11 at the S. Walter Stewart library branch in Toronto, Canada. If you are in the area and want to attend, it is free. The library prefers you to register first (call 416-396-3975) , but you can just show up at 6.30 p.m. Workshop runs to 8 p.m. Here are the details about it.

Developing Characters and Dialogue in Fiction

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Learn how to show, not tell, to develop credible characters and make their dialogue sing. Uses excerpts from Beyond the Tripping Point and Beyond Blood by Sharon A. Crawford to illustrate. Writing exercises and some writing critique.

Facebook Event

Location:
S. Walter Stewart Library Branch (auditorium)
170 Memorial Park Ave.
(Coxwell Ave. and Mortimer Ave. area)
Toronto, Ontario

Time:
6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

And if you are interested in reading more about developing characters but can’t make the workshop (for obvious reasons such as you live in another part of the world), you can click on the Beyond Blood icon at the top and that will take you to my publisher’s website where you can see my profile and where my books are available online and elsewhere. I didn’t do the usual link to Amazon because they have the incorrect price for my mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point. It is not $94.36. I have contacted Amazon about this error so hopefully it will be corrected shortly.

It would be nice to get that much from a book, but who will buy it at that price? Somebody with big fingers on little keys maybe entered the amount?

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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Electronic mania versus telling a good story

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

We are bombarded with electronic devices in our daily lives and that includes TV shows. Sometimes the story gets lost in all the “bells and whistles.” But what about books? In particular novels set in present time? Should authors overwhelm the reader with smart phone usage, social media and the like?

A story in the May 2016  issue of The Walrus writes about this conundrum. Here writer Naben Ruthnum, discusses how some authors like best-selling author Joy Fielding skirt around it. While summarizing the story lines and acknowledging that the story is important, Ruthnum wonders how long this approach will be relevant in our digital/social media obsessed society?

Ruthnum writes “By ignoring the contemporary reality of instant communication, authors such as Fielding are preserving the nail-biting satisfactions of their art. But how much longer can these books provide escapism-seeking readers with relief given that their trick of withholding details is in direct conflict with our expectation that information always wants to be free?” (bolded part is mine).

That’s a big point with mystery novels – readers get temporary relief from a mad mad world and that includes overdoses of electronic media leading to overwhelm.

Yes, mystery novels do imitate reality. But the reality is what the story is about, the story’s setting and its characters. As in real life, not all people are digitally proficient; nor do they all immerse themselves in the whole digital/social media life-style. So, Fielding and other authors have to be true to that. And they are.

Personally, after all the over-abundance of bells and whistles on some TV shows set in present time (not futuristic and not fantasy), I prefer a somewhat toned-down digital presence in the novels I read (and write for that matter).

Many mystery novel authors handle this digital business very well. Marcia Muller’s PI Sharon McCone has a nephew who handles all this digital stuff so only what is necessary to the story is told. McCone gets to do what she does best – personal investigation while her nephew helps out on the digital end.

Mystery novel authors like Peter Robinson, acknowledge the digital aspect – his police officers have smart phones (they are called mobiles in England) but his main character Alan Banks doesn’t investigate by being glued to his smart phone or sitting in front of his computer (which some consider passe these days). He does what police should be doing – gets off his butt and interviews people, as well as following suspects in his car.

And yes, Robinson makes use of one current technology available to police in most cities world wide – CCTV- the police surveillance cameras on public city streets.

And I do the same in my Beyond books. Perhaps the short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point is the best example as stories in there take place in different time periods – 1965, 1980s, 1999 and present day. So for the first two – no technology-infested society. In 1999, where my fraternal twin PIs, Dana Bowman and Bast Overture are introduced, technology is relevant to the time – so I have cell phones (that have antenna and fold closed), Polaroid cameras for “instant” photos, and dial-up Internet connection, but with email functions. (Note: in Canada DSL didn’t get going until late 1999 – after the four “twins” stories in BTTP. I should know. My computer techie son’s computer business at that time was testing one of the DSL’s in 1999 and in late fall1999, my son hooked up my computer o one of the first DSL’s provided. Dana uses a computer for basics such as email and leaves all the computer technology to her brother. So in my third Beyond book (which I’m still rewriting), which is set in November and December 1999, I have computers – desktop and laptop – using DSL. There are also onlinr forums involved which Bast accesses – but it is all part of the plot and the twins’ investigation of a case. And birth record searches (which is part of the novel’s plot) were not online then (I checked with Service Ontario on this one), so Bast has to go into the Ontario Government dept. office to do an in-person search.

My BTTP stories set in present time do use electronic realities such as CCTV and smart phones. In fact one story, the main character is obsessed with using her device but that is part of the plot. The plot, the story is never buried in electronic devices.

Which is what Peter Robinson and many other mystery novelists do. Use the current technology (or technology for the time period of your novel) as it applies to  your story. Don’t make the technology the story unless that is your plot.

A happy medium often works best. Besides, we mystery novel readers need a rest from the over-indulgence of digital on TV in other areas of our lives. And that’s one reason I like reading from my Kobo (I do still read print books). Not a lot of flashing digital nonsense. And the print size is bigger – better for my fading eyesight (left eye)

Our eyes and brains need this respite, this escape from too much digital.

What do you think?

And on another note, I will be part of a panel (along with Ali Cunliffe and Susan Viets) about Self-publishing from both authors and editors perspectives. Hosted by the Editors Association of Canada, the panel/seminar will be held in Toronto Tuesday, April 26, from 7.30 p.m. More information on my Gigs and Blogs page here and also on Editors Association of Canada website.

Cheers.

Sharon

Again click on the Beyond Blood icon at the top to find out more about my Beyond books. At least we have this digital function today.

 

 

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Promote your book alone or with other authors?

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Do you join with other authors to promote your books? Or are you the lone wolf? I do both and there are pros and cons for each.

With other authors – to use a variation on an old phrase – there are benefits in numbers. If three or even five authors band together to do a reading or some sort of presentation, it can draw in some readers that might not otherwise attend your presentation alone. Not to belittle your book, but we all have preferences for books we read. In the crime genre there is fiction and non-fiction. So by mixing it up with a variety of sub-genres, you can draw in more people. They may not know you or your books but they will find out. The trick is to be friendly, knowledgeable and interesting. Panels with q and a and a bit of author reading work best I have found. And when readers congregate at the author table at the end, there is a good chance they will be purchasing books. Yours might be one of them. Just don’t push it. And you get to meet a bunch of authors writing in the same genre and learn from each other.

Going it alone is a good idea if you want to focus on a particular subject that your book deals with – that could be writing series characters, especially if some appear in short stories as well as novels. Or if you want to talk about particular issues that are in your book and use your book and its story as an example. Beyond Blood covers child kidnapping, serial killers, fraud and abortion pill issues. Although Beyond Blood is set in August 1998, the abortion pill in the novel is still illegal in Canada.

Lots of fodder for thought there. You may also have a specific type of crime writing workshop and use your book for examples.

Then there is the honey of all solo presentations. When the person in charge of the venue – whether library, cafe, pub or festival – asks you to come and do a presentation. The latter has happened to me a few times with Beyond Blood and yes, I have sold book copies. I will be doing it again Sept. 3 (see the Gigs and Blog Tours page).

Just remember not to come on as a salesperson. You are there to primarily entertain and of course underneath all that, hopefully sell some books. But if you stand up (or sit at a table) like some of these motivational speakers continually pitching their courses, you won’t sell a book.

My thoughts anyway.

What do you think?

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Click on the Beyond Blood cover at the top to find out where copies are available.

 

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Researching mid-stream for your novel

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

I just finished a draft of the first part of my newest Beyond novel. As usual I am juggling several balls with plots and characters and inconsistencies, and again as usual, I need to do more research. I’ll deal with the juggling act and inconsistencies in another blog post. But today, briefly I’ll go into the research part.

Yes, I have covered research previously, but it is important in fiction writing. If you mess up, readers will find the mistakes. Some of them get very picky with details. One reader chided me for using a BlackBerry and not an IPhone in one of my short stories in Beyond the Tripping Point. She was reading the book when Blackberry was having financial difficulties (the first time), just before the big changeover in their executives. Beyond the Tripping Point came out in October 2012, so the story she was referring to, “Missing in Action” was written before that (April and May 2012).

Which brings me to my first point for research: make sure your details are accurate with the time-line you are writing in. Especially important if you are writing historical fiction (mystery, romance or other). Even going back a few years as my current novel Beyond Blood and four linked stories in BTTP do, you have to get your facts straight. Beyond Blood is set in August 1998, so we have dial-up Internet connection and cell phones that are longish, narrow, have antennae and you flip them open and closed. Not to mention how police set up taping phone calls from kidnappers. My police consultant, Constable Brent Pilkey and I had a good laugh over the setup of that one.

If you are writing anything that includes police procedure, you need to do research. I have my police consultant who is very helpful. I run questions by him, sometimes including inserts from the work-in-progress so he can see what I am trying to do. Yes, I have another round of questions and excerpts to email him.

Medical info needs to be checked to get it accurate. I do both checking online at qualified sources (Mayo Clinic, for example), but also consult MDs. One, who is a former MD-turned freelance writer asked on a medical listserve she is on and forwarded the feedback to me. Now, I have a couple of MDs who specialize in what I’m looking for to consult.

These are just a few examples of research required. Depending on your novel, yours may differ.

Remember: the devil is in the details and you better get those details right or the “devil” in the form of readers will complain.

And rightly so. Readers are your audience, your book buyers.

A reminder: I’m on a panel this evening with other Crime Writers of Canada authors – Nate Hendley (true crime), Sylvia Warsh (historical mystery), Steve Burrows (winner of the Arthur Ellis first novel award 2015), Rosemary McCracken (author of the Pat Tierney mystery series and also moderating the panel. She will be asking questions about researching for your novels), and me Sharon A. Crawford (author of the Beyond mystery series). Check out the full details on my Gigs and Blog Tours page at

https://sharonacrawfordauthor.com/getting-around-with-the-beyond-blood-gang-and-friends

If you are in Toronto, feel free to drop in. We authors will also be reading from our books and book copies will be available for sale.

Meantime, the photo at the top of this post still connects to where you can get e-copies of Beyond Blood. Print copies available (among other places) at https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/home/search/?keywords=Beyond%20blood%20and%20Sharon%20A.%20Crawford

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Changing your story mid-stream

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

As I continue writing my third Beyond mystery book, things are changing with the plot and the characters. That is the big reason why I don’t pre-plot down to the last T. Characters, like real people, change over time and that includes perspective – mine and my characters.

Yes, you read that right – my characters are changing and I’m letting them do so. The main characters of the Beyond series – fraternal twin PIs – Dana Bowman and Bast Overture, Dana’s son David and Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding – have to change and grow. If I want my characters to be real life, they can’t stagnate. This third book has to reflect consequences of what happened in Beyond Blood (the novel) and the four Bowman/Overture stories in Beyond the Tripping Point. BB takes place in summer 1998; those four stories in BTTP from May 1999 to mid-October 1999. The current Beyond book takes place from November 1999 to the beginning of January 2000.

So, I’ve been sitting at my computer almost every weekday, writing, some of the story pre-thought out, much “by-the-seat-of-my-pants.” At the end of the day’s work I type up a few notes about what to cover the next day – not that I will stick exactly to it.

Something just wasn’t working out. I do choose who the murder is before I get going on a novel. But the who and the whys just weren’t making sense here. And there would be some similarities to Beyond Blood. I’m supposed to be continuing the characters’ stories, not copying them.

So, on Tuesday I woke up brainstorming and later put down some changes in writing. Yes, I changed the who-dunnit and of course the why. This made sense and provides a real twist in the story. The other person who I had pegged for the murderer will not be lily-white and will figure into the plot line – not just as a red-herring, but also in a subplot that ties in with the main plotline. I love complicated. And yes there are more twists and turns going on.

But I’m not telling what. I just might change my mind. Or the characters might.

Sometimes I wonder just who is writing this novel.

And it’s not just me that thinks that. When I was interviewed about Beyond Blood a few months ago on the Liquid Lunch for thatchannel.com, one of the interviewers, Sandra Kyrzakos, said I was channelling my characters. Perhaps she is right. See for yourself at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2bBaePIWgY&feature=youtu.be

 

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Sharon A. Crawford is the author of the Beyond book series. More info at www.samcraw.com and www.bluedenimpress.com – my publisher – you can also purchase e-books – both Kindle and Kobo from Blue Denim Press. Click on the Beyond Blood Book cover at the top of this post.

 

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Serendipity Book Marketing

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Last Saturday I was the guest speaker for an English Conversation drop-in seminar for new Canadian citizens at a local Toronto library branch (Brentwood). From what was discussed by email with the organizers, I was to talk a bit about writing memoirs using the senses. However, I could bring copies of my mystery books to sell.

So armed with memoir writing handouts and my books I arrived early.

And received a very pleasant surprise.

I already knew one of the organizers, Bill, who attended my memoir writing workshop at another library branch. So, from our phone conversations and emails I knew of this plan he had concocted and yes, I knew he was interested in buying my books as well as others – librarians and seminar participants.

What I didn’t know was all the enthusiasm I would receive about my books and being a writer. As I’ve mentioned before, we writers sometimes forget that this is what we do (just like some people are lawyers) so we take it as second nature.

We, or at least I, never forget we do want and need to sell book copies. But I try not to be in people’s faces about it.

The whole two hours was all about my books – characters and plot – and writing, but with a twist. The participants are newly-arrived in Canada and their English varies from good to just learning. Part of these seminars’ focus is on the idiosyncrasies of the English language. So when a slang phrase or cliché came up, Anna the librarian or Bill would ask the others if they knew what it meant so that started a lively discussion. I caught on to this and started to do the same as for some reason I began involuntarily using a lot of slang terms. And near the end I was allowed to sell my books – sold all of the Beyond the Tripping Point short story collection copies I had brought along and half of the Beyond Blood novel copies.

And Bill, Anna (and Lidia, the other librarian who also facilitated this session) want me back to do a guest spot in one of their evening sessions. Not sure if its fiction writing or memoir writing, but I will be ready for either or both and yes, I can sell books.

Lidia also had me sign the contract to teach a different memoir writing workshop for library patrons in the fall. And yes, I can sell books then, too.

The point here is – no matter how you organize promoting your books, you may miss something – often something pleasant and rewarding – not just book sales, but that magical connection with others who are interested in writing and your books.

Meantime I’m preparing for two gigs with other Crime Writers of Canada members coming up June 11 and June 12. See my website www.samcraw.com and go to Beyond Blood for a list. More on that in next week’s posting.

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Sharon A. Crawford is the author of the Beyond book series. More info at www.samcraw.com and www.bluedenimpress.com – my publisher – you can also purchase e-books – both Kindle and Kobo from Blue Denim Press. Click on the Beyond Blood Book cover at the top of this post.

 

 

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