Book Signing

Booksigning Friday, February 8th  6:30-8:00 pm at Face in a Book bookstore, 4359 Town Center Blvd., El Dorado Hills

 

It’s February – get ready for some romance! Need a new novel to get in the mood for Valentine’s Day? Wondering what your future holds? Join us for this fun evening!

 

Meet Elizabeth A human development and early childhood education instructor at Sacramento State and Folsom Lake College, and a mom/wife/writer by night, Elizabeth Ferry-Perata strives to create stories that offer escape and excitement.

 

The story of two best friends, a family feud, and a search for love keeps readers turning the pages of Elizabeth’s Grains of Truth (a Book Excellence Award finalist). Her gripping novel Public Affairs offers an intergenerational saga about family, love, and loss – and hard choices.

 

Meet Catherine A writer of intelligent historical fiction that readers of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy without blushing, Catherine McGreevy lives in Northern California but grew up in France, Spain, and Morocco. This former newspaper journalist and teacher now fulfills a lifelong dream of writing novels like the ones she loves reading.

 

An orphaned pioneer girl, a bandit with a conscience, and a Civil War captain are brought together when their lives are touched by murder in Catherine’s exciting novel, Chance’s Bluff. In A Place Called New Hope, Letty dreams of building a utopian community but needs a husband so she may access her vast inheritance. Fate brings her into a marriage of convenience but not everything in Letty’s utopia – or her marriage – turns out as planned.

 

Meet Erin Prior to her life as an author and tarot reader, Erin Burrell worked in banking, elementary education, and for the State of California. Erin’s unexpected experiences and spiritual connections make her a gifted tarot card reader. She won’t promise you’ll pull a romance card, but looks forward to a reading with you!

 

In her memoir, That’s Why We’re Here, Erin shares her remarkable journey out of grief into metaphysical awareness – and along a path that led to her true calling. Intuitive and empathic, Erin discovered she had a gift for giving and receiving messages on a soul level, and found that sharing stories is a healing experience.

 

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Face in a Book Appearance

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As any author will tell you, the hardest part of writing is marketing. I’m a writer. That means I like to hole up by myself and dream up stories and characters. For an introvert to have to put herself out there, blow her horn, tell people, “READ ME!!!” is counter to everything that I am comfortable with.

For that reason, I am grateful to the owner of Face in a Book, a delightful independent bookstore in the heart of El Dorado Hills, for inviting me to be part of a Valentine’s book signing 6:30-9 p.m. Friday, February 8. Thanks to her, all I have to do is show up—no planning, no stress over venue or refreshments, or whether anyone will come…nope, all that is on the bookstore’s shoulders! (Deep sigh of relief).

If you are in the area, please mark this on your calendar! I will be signing two of my books that fit the Valentine’s them. Although adventure, mystery, and suspense keep the pages turning, both stories, at the core, are about two characters falling in love.

Chance’s Bluff is set in the American West shortly after the Civil War, with characters whose lives take sharply different turns than they expected. Can they find a happily-ever-after ending together?

A Place Called New Hope is a unique Victorian romantic suspense. An heiress engages in a marriage of convenience so she can build a Utopian society based on such experiments as Brook Farm. However, as she and her husband confront an unknown enemy seeking to destroy their dreams, they must work together to survive, perhaps finding true love along the way.

Hope to see you there, and bring your friends!

My Writing Process

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When I was a young reader, I wanted to live in a book and be friends with the characters. Books were much more interesting and exciting than real life, and the characters were so intelligent, witty, and well educated (especially those by my favorite writer, Mary Stewart) that I wanted to grow up and be just as smart and well educated as they were. The people in books always seemed to be quoting poetry, and referred to arcane, fascinating facts that I assumed all adults knew, and that someday I wanted to know too.

It was quite a disappointment to learn that in real life guys didn’t go around quoting classical poetry to girls in order to woo them, like Stewart’s heroes did. Oh well, life is full of disappointments.

Still, I wanted nothing more than to write books too. My highest dream was to someday see my books on the library shelves next to the ones I loved so much, and I never doubted that would happen. As a sixth grader, I discovered my mother’s old (non-electric) typewriter, and banged on the keys for hours, turning out stories that were all of, oh, ten pages long, set in periods of history I knew nothing about. I figured if it’s fiction, you’re allowed to make everything up, right?

Fabulous scenes involving my characters swirled through my mind when daydreaming in class (which was most of the time), or later, when I was standing in line at the grocery store, pumping gas, or driving down the freeway. To my dismay, however, novels did not pour out as easily as I’d expected. I got stuck on writing and rewriting individual scenes, which were never as good as when they were in my mind, and work and family ate up the rest of my time. I never seemed able to finish anything.

Not until I took a UCLA screenwriting class did I finally break through that barrier. My wonderful teacher, Erica Byrne, taught me the basics of plot that I had never bothered to learn, since the characters and their interactions with each other were what interested me most. Belatedly, I learned a very basic storytelling truth: if the characters don’t have a goal, then there is no story.

Another giant step forward was when I learned that writing need not be a solitary profession. Writers, while often introverted, can also be very warm, social, and helpful, and there are many wonderful writers’ organizations. These’ groups not only brought me many new friends, but taught me more writing skills, including building tension into a story (thank you, Bryson Kilmer!).

Today I spend an hour or two every night at a desk in my study working on one of my latest stories. I don’t live in a book, but I do live in a library of my favorites: children’s books, history books, novels, and the entire oeuvre of Mary Stewart and Elizabeth Peters.

I get bored easily, so when I tire of one story, I work on another. Usually, I’m writing about three books at a time, in different genres. (By the way, I do not recommend this for others!) 

Another important step in my writing process is meeting with critique groups two or three times a month. We discuss what we’ve written since our last meeting, and those discussions can be lively and frank, with lots of laughter. I always think not a single word of my pages could be improved, then, a few hours later, head home with suggestions large and small that always make them better.

After making edits, I send the finished story to several beta readers, most of whom are not writers themselves, but friends who are avid readers. They catch mistakes and contradictions, and make useful comments. Then, when the book is finally complete, I contact my cover artist, Tatiana Vila, and give her some ideas about the cover. She works her magic, and then my book then appears for sale on Amazon Books as an ebook and print on demand.

My Top 5 Historical Fiction Recommendations

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The best historical fiction books transport me into the past as effectively as a time machine. While often educational, the stories are so involving that I don’t feel like I’m learning about what things were like back then, but rather living it.  While the historical novels that I write feature central romances, my favorite historicals by other authors often don’t feature a romance at all. 

Here’s my list:

1) I Claudius by Robert Graves. So much better than the mini-series, which is not to put down the mini-series at all. This book changed not only the way I saw ancient Rome but human nature itself. Twenty years after reading it the first time, I still often think about this book when watching what goes on in politics and the world today. 

2) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Okay, there are long, tedious parts in the middle, the heroine is despicable, and the view of the Civil War from the Southern perspective is hardly politically correct, but the story is unforgettable.

3) The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. “They seek him here, they seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere….” This book is everything a swashbuckler should be. I love, love, love this book! It’s in the spirit of The Three Musketeers (another of my favorites) but probably more accessible for modern readers and definitely far more romantic!

4) Centennial by James Michener. Really, I could put anything by James Michener on this list (except The Source, which for some reason I couldn’t get into). I don’t agree at all with those who say his books are too long; I enjoy every bit of them, even the prehistoric stuff. Claims that parts were researched and maybe even written by people who worked for him don’t bother me. The master painters had students paint parts of their greatest paintings, and nobody complains about that: the works speak for themselves. I learned so much more from reading Michner’s books than dull textbooks that I think they should be taught in schools, to ignite students’ interest in history.

5) Anything by Georgette Heyer. Okay, I’m cheating here, but I can’t just pick one. She single-handedly started the genre of Regency novels, and hers are unparalleled in wit and authenticity. She shows you don’t have to be vulgar or risqué to tell a compelling, romantic story set in the past.

Many others deserve to be on this list: Lonesome Dove, the Hornblower series, Mutiny on the Bounty and its sequels, lots of great classic children’s books like Island of the Blue Dolphins, Johnny Tremain and The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and lots of newer novels. But these are the ones that most influenced me and started my ongoing love of historical novels.

Hello, Summer!

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It’s been fun to see kids in my neighborhood so excited to plunge into summer vacation

scenic view of beach

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

now that school’s out. I’m sure there were moments of sadness as they signed each other’s yearbooks and promised to stay in touch, but I doubt a single one wanted to linger a moment past that final bell.

Adults with year-round jobs don’t have quite that prospect of freedom, but even so, I still experience that surge of joy when summer officially arrives. There’s so much I look forward to this year: kayaking on Lake Natoma, planning a dream vacation to Japan, and finding a bit of shade to catch up with my books-to-read pile. Then there’s concerts in the park, ice cream, watermelon, family reunions, and fireworks on Independence Day. Bliss!

For the next few days I’m going to draw a deep breath or two and enjoy the advent of summer. Eventually I’ll make a list of all those things I didn’t get around to during the busy winter months, and maybe, during those long, blissful summer days, I’ll actually get around to doing them. Maybe. But I wouldn’t count on it. 🙂

 

A New Generation of Student Writers

Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting some bright young writers at Marble Valley Academy in El Dorado Hills. At this private school, students are encouraged to create their own hard-bound books of poetry each year, documenting their growing writing skills while building up a library of their own writing that they and their families will always treasure. It was impressive to see not only the literary skills and insights of these young people’s poetry, but the care and artistry they put into decorating their covers, some of which were absolutely beautiful.

As I told these young writers about my own journey to becoming a published writer, it occurred to me how much influence my own teachers had, passing on their love of literature and introducing me to writing techniques that I still use today. It was heartwarming to see this process continues.

This past week was Teacher Appreciation week. To all of you teachers out there I extend a heart-felt thanks for what you do, and how you influence new generations.mvs-0043_1_orig

Library Discovery

Today I discovered a Sacramento treasure for the first time: The McClatchy Library.

The Academy Award-nominated movie Lady Bird delighted Sacramentans by showing many of the landmarks of California’s capital city, and visitors now tour the spots featured in the movie. Here’s one more site that belongs on a must-see list for anyone looking for local spots to visit: the Ella K. McClatchy Library

I stumbled across this historical jewel box by accident. Early for an appointment, I was hunting for a library where I could kill some time comfortably. Libraries are perfect for this because they are free, offer water fountains and restrooms and, best of all, have rooms full of books.

The building was older than I expected, as my eyes were caught by a historical marker near the entrance. It said the house, which was built in the early 1900s and renovated in 2013, was once inhabited by the McClatchy family, owners of the Sacramento Bee. Two of their daughters later donated their home to be used as a library in memory of their mother.

As a former newspaper reporter and fan of the Sacramento Bee, I was intrigued.

Moments later I found myself inside a charming house lovingly turned into a public library, without losing an ounce of the warmth and welcoming feeling of the family home it once was. Now the dining room, living room, and other rooms are lined with bookcases full of mystery novels, children’s books, magazines and more.

A landing halfway up the wooden staircase glowed with colored light passing through a stained glass window above green-cushioned window seats. Former bedrooms upstairs have been turned into reading rooms, still  furnished with the house’s original sofas, armchairs and rugs. The message is to come in, sit down, and stay a while.

Despite my ignorance, the library has not spent all these years unknown to the public. The Sacramento Historical Society and the Newton Booth Neighborhoods Association honored the Friends of the McClatchy Library for their superb stewardship of this lovely building.

I actually debated whether to post this blog, however, because one of the charms of the library is that it is relatively undiscovered. On this weekday afternoon, I got a whole room to myself, with a fireplace, comfy couch, and a view over the tree-shaded street. I loved not having to share it with anyone else.

But if more people stumble across it, I just might have to.

http://www.saclibrary.org/Locations/Ella-K-McClatchy

 

Books on the Shelf and Left Coast Crime

While visiting family in Utah I had the thrill of seeing my first two novels in bookstores: Chance’s Bluff and the just-released A Place Called New Hope. It was my first time seeing my books on the shelf beside my favorite writers. Of course I took lots of photographs in Deseret Book and Seagull Book stores to document the occasion.

Soon after, I was lucky enough to attend the Left Coast Crime mystery writers’ convention in Reno, where my friend and fellow-author Michele Drier, president of the Sacramento chapter of Sisters in Crime, spoke on one of the panels. The discussions ranged from writing political thrillers to cozy mysteries to writing in several genres. Best of all, I came home with lots of books for my ever-growing to-read pile!

I may have said this before, and will probably say it again, but one of the greatest pleasures of writing is not just putting down stories on the page, which I love. It is getting to know fellow writers, who, it turns out, are some of the nicest, most generous people on earth. Whether household names or still developing their skills, they are witty, warm, and, surprisingly not at all competitive. When one succeeds, everyone else is thrilled for him or her.

In a way,  seems counter-intuitive because many writers, including me, are naturally introverts. In fact, part of what attracted me to being an author was the idea that I could stay at home and play with my imaginary friends without having to go out and make conversation with real people, a thought that used to strike terror into my heart.

So why is it so easy to mingle with other writers?

It must be that we face similar struggles and challenges and share some of the same interests, twisted or otherwise. A writer of cozy mysteries told me that the readers of these sweet stories are surprisingly blood-thirsty, which I suppose is true of the writers as well! Historical writers share fascinating and amazingly specific details of life in the past, that make me try to figure out how I can include them in my stories.

In spite of all the fun, I confess to being a tiny bit relieved when it was time to go home and return to my laptop and plotting–and resting up for the next writers’ convention.

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A Place Called New Hope on the shelf at Deseret Book Store

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Edgar Alan Poe and me at the Left Coast Crime Convention

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Friends from the Capitol Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime

Busy New Year

Oh my goodness, I am so swamped! I will write more later, but I do want to note the official publication today of Chance’s Bluff, my first novel published by Sweetwater Books, an imprint of Cedar Fort Publishing. So exciting! This is a day I have looked forward to a long time.

Today also happened to be the date my final edits were due for my next novel, A Place Called New Hope, which comes out in March. There is so much more I want to say, but it will have to wait–no time now.

I hope 2018 is the year that your dreams come true. God bless.