I had heard the nightmares. A newbie author attends his or her first book signing and faces an empty venue echoing with the sound of crickets chirping. Maybe that was why I had not rushed into scheduling public appearances since the recent publication of my first novel.
Then the opportunity came up to attend an event with multiple authors. The Englewood Public Library held their 15th annual Meet the Faces Behind the Books event Sunday, April 27. All genres of fiction, non-fiction, memoir, history, children’s and YA authors were represented. I would not be facing an empty room.
I am happy to report there were no crickets chirping. Authors chatted with the steady stream of browsing library patrons, and with each other. I enjoyed hearing other authors’ journeys to publication, their words of wisdom, the trials and tribulations, and ultimately the triumph of publication.
Deb Parker, the library staff and volunteers made the experience fun and easy. I felt at home when I saw several RMMWA members setting up tables with their books. I snapped photos of RMMWA members before the event began, so I am certain I missed some mystery writing folks who arrived later. See slideshow below:
What two things did I need to learn about writing fiction? Join me on the Buried Under Books blog Friday, April 25 at: http://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/what-do-you-know/
April 27, 2014
I am delighted to be participating in the Englewood Public Library's annual author event. To be considered, I had to submit my novel for review. Fifty four authors will be in attendance, and their books will be available for purchase. This is a chance to meet the people who write the books you love, and to get autographs!
Join me, and fifty three other authors, at the Englewood, Colorado Public Library this Sunday for:
Meet the Faces Behind the Books at the Library's 15th Annual Colorado Author Open House.
For more info about the event from the Englewood Herald:
Spring is finally coming to Colorado. The trees look fuzzy, their branches covered with buds ready to leaf out. I have planted a few things in the garden - lettuce, spinach, and peas.
A herd of deer visited the parking lot where I work. They posed for photos. Check out my April 8 blog post to see a magpie nest in the same parking lot. We seem to be a hot spot for wildlife activity!
As a follow-up to my March 12 guest blog post on author Judy Alter's website, I learned that activities are planned to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre.
My schedule will be busy for the next few weeks. On April 27, I will participate in the Englewood library's Meet the Faces Behind the Books author event. http://www.englewoodgov.org/our-community/news-and-events/calendar-of-events/-item-13863
The first weekend in May, I will be in Bethesda Maryland, attending the Malice Domestic traditional mystery conference.
In between, I hope to spend time in my garden. I can't stop to smell the roses because there are none in bloom yet, but I can clean up my iris flower bed and plant more cold hardy vegetables. This time of year in Colorado, we alternate summer-like days with brief, furious snowstorms. We welcome the spring snow because we need the water. I hope you are enjoying spring!
Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 43 books. She writes two contemporary mystery series, and an historical series. Glastonbury – A Novel of Christian England is her most well-known work, an epic historical novel centered around the Holy Grail.
CD: Donna, thank you for stopping by my blog for a chat. I believe we share one of life’s great challenges – gardening in the semi-arid American West. Has your English garden survived the winter?
DFC: It’s lovely to be here, Catherine! Oh, yes—not just gardening, but trying to grow an English cottage garden. My David Austin English roses are my favorites and I think they made it through the winter. Another challenge I have is that my garden is really too shady to be prime for roses, but I soldier on.
CD: The question I most want to ask is how you manage to write three mystery series: The Monastery Murders, The Lord Danvers Series, and the Elizabeth and Richard Mysteries? How do you find time to enjoy that fabulous garden?
DFC: Oh, time. Isn’t that always the question! I love having three series to work on because that way I can have one with my editor, one in the incubating stage and one actively growing (hopefully) on my computer. And I enjoy the fact that, while they are all mysteries that include my love of history in some way and usually a good dash of romance, each one has a separate focus that indulges a different interest of mine: Celtic saints for the Monastery Murders, the Victorians for Lord Danvers which is Victorian true-crime, and English literature for Elizabeth & Richard which is literary suspense. And then when it all starts driving me crazy I go out and smell my roses.
CD: I am amazed at the variety of your work. Mystery, Historical, Romance, Children’s Fiction, and Non-Fiction. If you only had room for three novels in your suitcase for a long trip (let’s exclude The Bible, non-fiction, and assume you can’t take an e-reader), which would you pack?
DFC: No contest—they would all be English mysteries.
CD: Can you tell us about the journey to your first published novel?
DFC: Brandley’s Search (reissued as Where Love Begins) was my first novel. I had been overdosing on Georgette Heyer novels and one of her minor characters got hold of me and demanded that I continue his story. It was like being pregnant—I would wake up in the middle of the night and write; be driving down the road and have to pull over and make notes. I do wish all my novels would come like that.
Then I somehow managed to get it accepted by a small publisher who rather promptly went out of business (not my fault, honest). I was at a writers’ conference when the word went around. I was sitting next to an editor. “They had my novel!” I wailed.
“Send it to us,” she replied.
In what has to be one of the all-time hard sells I replied, “But you don’t do fiction.”
“We’re starting a new line.”
That first novel became a six-book series The Cambridge Chronicles and that editor even accompanied me on a research trip to England. All that was 30-some years ago and we still keep touch.
CD: With so many successful novels, most in series, has the excitement faded when a new book becomes published?
DFC: Never! It’s always like a having a baby.
CD: Do you have any insights or opinions about the opportunities for beginning writers in the rapidly changing world of publishing?
DFC: What a Brave New World publishing is today! I love the opportunities available through electronic publishing and social media. Most of my older books are coming back as ebooks and that’s just so exciting! The challenge is not to let it become too easy. We all need to keep rewriting, working with good editors and working to up our standard whether it’s our first book or our 45th.
CD: How has your faith influenced your fiction writing? Is it a strain of soft music in the background of the story, or is it front and center?
DFC: The main influence has been in my choice of subject. My passion is the history of British Christianity so there will be an old monastery, a Celtic saint or a magnificent cathedral somewhere in any story I tell because that’s what I love. I firmly believe that no matter what we write who we are will speak louder than our actual words. I hope my faith is that for my stories.
CD: Do you have a favorite character? Favorite setting? Favorite time period?
DFC: Felicity, the amateur sleuth heroine of my Monastery Murders is one of my favorite characters to work with because she has so much growing to do. Book 4 in the series is with my editor now and it’s fun to see the progress she has made and the rough edges I still need to work on. Also, the fact that she’s so hard-headed and impetuous is a great way to keep the plot going because her scrapes are always interesting—no matter how much they drive her loving, sensible Antony absolutely wild.
Anywhere in the British Isles is my favorite. Even The Daughters of Courage, my family saga set in the Idaho desert, works in a bit of English background.
Favorite time period is whichever one I’m working on at the moment, although I’ve always had a special drawing to the Regency, fed by my love of Jane Austen. I got to indulge this in A Jane Austen Encounter, the latest in my literary suspense series.
CD: Do all of your historical novels involve research? How do you keep track of research pertinent to a novel or series?
DFC: Absolutely. Research is the core of everything I write. I read everything I can find on my subject here, then head off across the pond to find the missing bits on-site in England. I try very hard never to write about a place I haven’t visited. When in the field I make notes in spiral notebooks and take pictures. In the “old days” I then put things on 3x5 cards and kept them in index boxes. Now everything goes in folders on my computer.
CD: Thank you for visiting today, Donna.
DFC: Thank you so much for the great interview, Catherine. I love the opportunity to meet new readers. For those interested in my latest release:
“Jane Austen’s Regency World” Magazine said:
Playful mystery featuring an engaging pair of amateur sleuths.
A letter, apparently from Jane Austen’s great-niece, is at the heart of this entertaining literary mystery— the third volume in Donna Fletcher Crow’s Elizabeth and Richard series. American academics Elizabeth and Richard Spenser are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary with a trip to England to visit Jane Austen’s various homes. Their first port of call is Bath, where Richard— thanks to his distinction as an Austen scholar— is invited to help sort through a box of documents donated anonymously to the city’s Jane Austen Centre.
. . .
It’s great fun— but just as entertaining as the mystery itself are the settings. Fletcher Crow brings Bath, Winchester and Chawton to vivid life in her pages, with a good helping of literary history and numerous references to Austen’s writings that illuminate the narrative.
Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 43 books, mostly novels of British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, A Novel of the Holy Grail, an epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. She is also the author of The Monastery Murders: A Very Private Grave, A Darkly Hidden Truth and An Unholy Communion as well as the Lord Danvers series of Victorian true-crime novels and the literary suspense series The Elizabeth & Richard Mysteries. Donna and her husband live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 adult children and 13 grandchildren. She is an enthusiastic gardener.
To read more about all of Donna’s books and see pictures from her garden and research trips go to: http://www.donnafletchercrow.com/
You can follow her on Facebook at: http://ning.it/OHi0MY
One summer day, I was indoors writing while my aging cat Tyger lounged on the deck, soaking up the sun. All was well with the world until I heard a raucous cawing.
I ran to the window, convinced something terrible was happening. A black and white magpie perched on the deck railing, screeching at Tyger. The poor cat crouched in a corner, trying to hide. She was a small cat. The bird was nearly as large as her. I opened the screen door and the bird flew away. Tyger crept inside and observed nature from behind the screen door for the rest of the day.
At work, a pair of magpies have built a nest in the parking lot (photo below). Employees are warned to roll car windows up, or the magpies will fly inside your vehicle and tear up the interior hunting for food.
A magpie soars across the cover of my novel. The image is pulled from a scene in the story. Why did I include a magpie in my murder mystery?
Besides the fact that I see magpies almost daily, they fit in well with my story because they are common in Colorado. They are a bird of the American West. While they are similar to crows in size and appearance, magpies are more handsome in their black and white tuxedos. Like crows, they collect shiny objects. Magpies are smart - a perfect bird to get caught up in a mystery.
You can learn more about magpies at:
I haven’t planted anything outdoors yet. There isn’t a lot we can plant in April in the Colorado foothills. Our average last frost is May 15, and tomatoes and peppers can't survive until June. Still, if I had my act together, I would already have beets, radishes, and spinach in the ground.
I could blame the weather, which seems great during the week when I’m stuck in the office, and then turns wintry on the weekends. Or life, and the many unexpected things that have come up this year.
The real reason I haven’t planted yet is because I lost my first planting in 2013 to record low April temperatures. Once burned, twice shy. Or more accurately, once frozen. After putting all that effort into preparing the soil, deciding what goes where, and measuring out the plot and the seed distribution correctly, losing the planting to a freeze was sad.
The second planting came up. The season ended well. Not a spectacular year, but then the garden just can’t be fantastic every year. I’m determined to do all I can to make this season a good one.
How many things in life mirror the anticipation of gardening? The eager preparation, the hope for wild success, the labor to get the project going. Then the setbacks, the challenges, or the outright failure.
Success, whether occasional or dependable, keeps us going. The surprise crop of tender yellow “green” beans that produced until the first fall freeze. Carrots determined to grow no matter the conditions. Fun little cucumbers perfect for salads.
A trip to the local garden shop provides inspiration with displays of seed packets and the smells of earth and vegetation. In my flowerbed, the irises are poking through the layer of winter mulch. Birds are singing. I’m ready to get my hands in the soil! But maybe I’ll give it another week or two. This spring fever could end in another disastrous freeze.
Until then, I'll have to be content to baby my broccoli, tomato, and pepper seedlings, and encourage the amazing winter eggplant with promises of sunny days on the deck.
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