Second Saturday Interview with Author Linda Crowder

Today we’re chatting with talented writer, Linda Crowder.

Linda lives with her husband and a variety of happy pets in the wilds of windy Wyoming.

Thanks so much for joining us, Linda.

  • Cropped head shotReaders are interested in how familiar writers are with the locations in their books. Your Jake and Emma series is set in Wyoming. How long have you lived there?

I moved to Wyoming in 2006 and have spent the last ten years exploring the state. My husband is a third-generation Wyomingite and has been a wonderful tour guide. I can’t believe I grew up so close to Yellowstone and the Tetons and had never visited them until I moved here. They are spectacular and should be part of everyone’s summer vacation at least once.

  • I understand that you grew up in Colorado and also lived in the Bay Area, but your new series is set in Alaska. Have you ever lived there?

I haven’t lived in Alaska, but I’ve been to towns very similar in feel to my imaginary Coho Bay. Unlike many tourists, I spend a lot of my time talking to locals about what it’s like to live there – the good and the bad so I hope they’ll feel their time talking to me was well spent when they read the new book.  I’m returning for another two weeks in May and hope to be back on a regular basis.

  • You are not only an author, but also a career coach. What exactly does a Career Coach do, and how does this work influence your writing?

Different coaches have different areas of specialization. Mine is working with people who’ve been laid off. I help them explore what they’d like to do next. Some want to jump right back into the work force, doing pretty much what they’ve done before so I help them be more competitive in doing that. Others want to step back and think about their next move and I help them explore what they might want to do next, then map out a strategy to take them there.

My work in nonprofit human services, which I did before I became a Career Coach, bubbles up in Emma’s career as a therapist and in Jake’s work in juvenile justice. I very carefully don’t base people in the books on people whose stories I’ve been privileged to hear over the years, but what I’ve learned about mental health and about how the courts work does find its way into the books.

  • You have many pets and include them prominently in your books. What is your favorite real-life anecdote about one of your animals?

I have, at current count, seven cats and one incredibly patient dog. Ringo left me a couple of years ago and is now starring in my short stories about his exploits as a ghost cat. That cat had too much personality to say good-bye! One day he was sitting on the porch, flopped on his ringoside in his lion pose, listening to my husband talking with his daughter and her fiancé. My husband made the mistake of saying that Ringo was too “fluffy” to catch a bird. Well, that cat stalked off the porch and was back not five minutes later with a bird! Caught and released, mind you, just to prove that he could.

  • How delightful! Do you find that your readers connect more with your characters because of the character’s connection to their pet(s)?

I get emails and comments from readers who love that I write rescue animals into the lives of my characters. I’ve always had rescue animals and I absolutely love them. I’ve adopted kittens and puppies, but I have to say I’ve had the best luck with the adult dogs and cats I’ve brought home. They are much more easily introduced into the crowd I always have with me and they are so often passed by in favor of the babies. I encourage everyone to consider adopting an adult cat or dog.

  • You are currently an independent author. From your experiences of doing all the promotion, etc. yourself, will you be looking to sign with a traditional publisher in the future?

I am looking at working with a small press for my Coho Bay series and we’ll see whether they like the book enough to offer me a contract. It’s a LOT of work being author and publisher in one and I would love to see some of that workload go off my shoulders. However, I won’t hesitate to publish independently in the future. It’s been a learning experience, but a satisfying one.

  • Any advice for other indie authors?

Two things helped me most. First, join a really knowledgeable and supportive author’s group. There’s so much to learn but you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Second, make the investment in an editor, even if only a line/copy editor. It makes a huge difference.

  • Who designs your covers?

Carla Garcia, who is a graphic artist. I am her only covers. She normally designs websites and marketing material.

  • Current work in progress? Plans for the future?

Coho Bay is with my editor right now. My next work is the fifth Jake and Emma book, A Body on the Ballot, which is currently in outline form. I am planning to spend a month in Texas next year, researching locations and culture as a setting for a work I’ve been tossing around in the back of my mind for more than a year now. I’d planned to write it after Death Changes Everything came out, but Coho Bay elbowed it’s way in and demanded to be written first. Books do that.

We will keep an eye out for Coho Bay and the next Jake and Emma.  We have enjoyed sharing with you today, Linda. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Readers can sign up for notifications of new releases and promotions on your website, http://www.lindajcrowder.com/

See Linda’s Amazon Author page: http://smile.amazon.com/Linda-Crowder/e/B00A3AY5RG

 

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Character Sketch: Rev. I. Merrill Bishop

This month we are  taking a closer look at the Reverend Doctor I. Merrill Bishop, introduced in A Body in the Belfry.Merrill small

Character Name & brief background: Merrill, born Indigo Merrillanne Rose to hippy parents, has two brothers; older brother Wolf and younger brother, Sage.  After spending their preschool years living in a tepee, a caravan and a couple of communes, the Rose children and their now middle-class parents moved to the Southern California suburbs.

Called Indigo as a child, Merrill decided the moniker “Indigo Rose” sounded more like an exotic dancer than a serious student and began using her abbreviated middle name in college, where she met and married William Bishop who was attending a nearby seminary.

Role in Story: Protagonist in the second book in the First Ladies Club series.

Occupation: After enjoying many years as the wife of a pastor, Merrill felt the call to ministry and went to seminary, obtaining her Master’s Degree in Theology. She assisted her pastor-husband until his death from cancer. As a widow, she joined the staff of a large Bay Area inner-city church. When we meet Merrill she has just been called to her first senior pastorate, the struggling First Baptist Church of Bannoch, Oregon.

Physical Description: Merrill has shoulder length blond hair, sprinkled with gray, blue eyes and a trim middle-aged figure. She is petite,  but stronger than she looks.

Personality: Fun-loving and mischievous by nature, Merrill feels a responsibility to maintain a more serious demeanor befitting her role in the church and community.

Habits/Mannerisms: Merrill is determined to maintain her physical health with regular exercise, including long daily walks on the beach. She plans her wardrobe so as not to appear frivolous, but to seem approachable. Aware of the prejudices some hold against women pastors, she walks a tightrope trying to avoid offending anyone.

Internal Conflicts: Loneliness may be Merrill’s greatest conflict. As a still-vibrant woman, she longs for companionship and intimacy, but fears that becoming involved in close relationships would distract her from her ministry or even undermine her position in her church.

External Conflicts: Someone is killing people in her new hometown and may be targeting her church, the congregation, or Merrill, next.

If you read A Body in the Belfry and wonder what happens next for Merrill,  you will be able to catch up with her and her friends in the First Ladies Club in the next book in the series, A Corpse in the Chapel, scheduled for publication this summer. 

Chasing the Muse

Every writer is inspired by different things. The ancient Greeks ascribed various muses to the arts;  Thalia was for comedy and pastoral poetry, Terpsichore was dance, and Erato was for love poetry. Lately, my personal muse seems to be Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, because, tragically, I can’t seem to write, at all.

I am in the midst of unpacking after a household move and, although things are beginning to take shape, I’m one of those unfortunate souls who requires balance and order in my work space before the ideas begin to flow. I’m getting closer to having my writing nook set up to my liking, but as I work, I feel the urgent nudging of the characters in my work-in-progress telling me to stop neglecting them and get the show on the road. Judy Falls is eager to know all about the body she discovered in the ruined chapel in the woods and the rest of the Bannoch First Ladies are anxious to know more about the wife of the new pastor at First Baptist. It’s a lot of pressure added to the stress of a move, believe me, but enough whining.

Next week is the second Saturday of the month and we are in for a treat as we visit with that brilliant and clever writer, Julie Seedorf. It should be a fun time as her irrepressible character from Fuchsia, Granny, has promised to join us.  I’m not sure who the Greek muse of hilarious cozy mysteries is, but Julie must be very familiar with her.

I’m hoping some of her inspiration rubs off on me! See you next week.

 

Character Sketch: Naidenne Grinager Davidson

Naidenne was most requested to be featured as this month’s Character Sketch.

If you want to know more about the background of a character in any of my books, be sure to leave your request in a comment. I will be featuring one character sketch on this blog each month, as long as there is interest.

Character Name:  Born Naidenne Grinager. (Introduced in Seadrift) Married Rev. Scott Davidson (…and Something Blue)

Role in Story: Naidenne is Bunny Elder’s first friend when she moves to Bannoch, OR (Seadrift, Something Blue). She is the main character in The First Ladies Club, the first book of that series.

Occupation: Real estate agent/owner of property management company. Also runs a local crafts boutique in a corner of her real estate office.

dream-of-curlsPhysical Description: Naidenne, in her early forties, is almost six feet tall, slim and attractive, with riotous curly red-gold hair she struggles to tame.  Until meeting Bunny and getting a little help with her style, Naidenne dressed as inconspicuously as possible in a uniform of straight dark skirts and business-like shirts and jackets. She tried to control her frustratingly independent hair by skewering it into a knot on the top of her head. Once Bunny convinced Naidenne of her model-like beauty, she discovered her own sense of style, shook out her glorious hair and left the dowdy wardrobe behind. These changes soon caught the attention of Scott and resulted in their marriage.

Personality: Modest and unassuming. Although capable and assertive in her business life, Naidenne’s childhood left her scarred and emotionally insecure. Meeting and marrying Scott has changed that. She has blossomed into a confident and kind wife and mother.

Habits/Mannerisms: Unusually for such a tall woman, Naidenne has excellent posture. She is invariably kind and compassionate.

Background: Naidenne, an only child, was raised in various small towns in Oklahoma by parents who were both Pentecostal preachers. She enjoyed a life centered on the rousing church services until she was thirteen, when a painful experience with the visiting evangelist during a revival meeting turned her away from the church and made her distrust all clergy. Because of their lack of support at this time, she is now estranged from her parents. Meeting Bunny, and falling in love with Scott, allowed her to get over her earlier trauma and begin to find her way back to God.

Internal Conflicts: She has residual issues of confidence and trust from that early episode. Being the tallest girl in school made her want to disappear in social settings, but she has overcome those feelings, for the most part. It is important to Naidenne to raise her small daughter, Talitha Joy, with a healthy self-image, so she strives to model that.

External Conflicts: Naidenne is kidnapped and assaulted in The First Ladies Club. She must escape from her attacker, an escaped convict. In the other books where she appears she has only normal relationship issues with her sister-in-law, Rosamund, church members, and the other wives in the First Ladies Club, but thanks to her generous nature, these never grow to the level of conflicts.

The Character Sketch

When I begin a new work, or whenever a new character pops up in the narrative, I like to complete a brief synopsis of the character’s background and personality.  This adds depth to the people populating my books, as well as providing me with a place to go to compare what I plan for a character to do or say, so it doesn’t appear “out of character” in the finished work.  The writing software I use, Scrivener, has helpful templates providing prompts about the character being created.

Even though only brief glimpses of a complete character may appear in the story, these sketches provide continuity and a firm foundation for the person’s motivations and actions.

I thought it would be fun to share a bit more of the background of some of the people you meet in my stories, so from time to time, beginning with this post, I will be revealing information from the background sketches of my favorite characters.

Do you want to learn more about one of my characters? Leave a comment and I will be happy to schedule that person for my next Character Sketch post.

It seems appropriate to begin with the character who ties all my work together, the indomitable, Bunny Davis Elder Banks:

Character Name:  Born Leveline Davis – preferred nickname “Bunny”

Role in Story: Protagonist in the Bunny Elder Adventures series, she also pops ups for cameo appearances in the First Ladies Club books.

Occupation: Former pastor’s wife and secretary/reporter on a small town newspaper (Hollow), turned free-lance writer (Seadrift), and  currently an aspiring novelist (First Ladies Club)

Physical Description: Bunny is a petite woman in her mid-fifties with a sweet smile, mischievous blue eyes, and soft honey-blond hair sprinkled with silver and gray. She struggles to combat a tendency to chubbiness by eating less than she’d like, doing yoga and taking long walks.

Personality: Bunny is a devout Christian, constantly humbled by her own disobedience and failings. Nevertheless, she is determinedly optimistic, with a penchant for plain speaking.

Habits/Mannerisms: Constantly looking for the best in people and circumstances often gets Bunny into trouble. Without looking for it, she stumbles into some pretty scary situations involving a varied collection of bad guys who want to do her harm.

Background: Bunny is the youngest of three sisters raised in a small mountain town in Northern California. She married her high school sweetheart, Max. Although this early marriage was short-lived, Bunny and Max were never completely out of each other’s heart.  On the rebound, she married Rev. Eustace Elder. The marriage, though lacking joy, lasted until his untimely death (Hollow), when Bunny had to start over as a middle-aged widow. For a short while she lived in southern Idaho with her sister, Linda (Vain Pursuits) before relocating to the Oregon Coast (Seadrift).

Internal Conflicts: Bunny has all the same needs and desires as any woman. Most of her internal conflicts involve reconciling these temptations with her determination to be faithful to God. Her on-again-off-again relationship with Max is just one her issues.

External Conflicts: Bunny must deal with a deranged serial killer (Hollow), smugglers and the Italian mob (Vain Pursuits), human traffickers and a new love interest (Seadrift), Somali pirates (…and Something Blue), and a kidnapped friend (The First Ladies Club). You might say she has an overabundance of external conflicts.

Notes: Bunny steps out of the books and drops in to host my blog from time to time, as well.

[These Character Sketch categories are taken from the Scrivener software Character Sketch template.]

New Year + New Friends = New Opportunities

This month I have the honor of being the Spotlight Author on the fun website “FolksTalesThings”,  a joyous, eclectic site run by my author friend, Barbara Martin. A visit to the site is like wandering among the merchandise in a great old country store and bumping into friends, old and new. I’m excited to have a featured spot in such a charming atmosphere and to have the opportunity to make new friends for Bunny and the quirky bunch of pastors’ wives in the First Ladies Club.
     As you might suspect from the characters in my books, I’ve spent much of my life in small town churches, many of those years as the pastor’s wife. My characters tend to be compilations of people I’ve actually known. Like those real people, they have struggles with their faith in good times and bad. The bad may not have been as bad as the troubles I give my fictional characters, but the strength of faith they use to surmount them is as real as real can be.
     I hope you will explore the worlds I’ve created and enjoy the thrills and chills along with the humor and warm fuzzies I provide to help balance the scary bits…and as you read, please don’t be too hard on my characters when they stumble. Many of us in the real world have scars and bruises from similar slip-ups, as well.
     To learn more about me and my books, please drop by my website http://jbhawker.com/, anytime.  And have a joyous, blessed New Year!

Christmas in Bannoch

creche

Christmas is next week, so today we are checking in on our friends in Bannoch, Oregon to see how they are planning to spend this Christmas. It should be interesting because for Bunny and her friends in the First Ladies Club Christmas is a highlight of the year.

Bunny (Bunny Elder Adventures series) is packing today for her trip to Boise, Idaho, where she will spend a white Christmas with her sister, Linda and family.  She smiles as she tucks a small nativity set made of seashells and driftwood into  her bag to add to Linda’s collection. It is sure to bring back memories, fond, not-so-fond and hilarious, from the sisters’ trip to Italy to acquire a special Neapolitan crèche.  (You can read about their adventures in Vain Pursuits.)

Across town, in the Bannoch Community Fellowship parsonage, Bunny’s good friend Naidenne Davidson (The First Ladies Club) is happily baking gingerbread men with her small daughter, Talitha Joy, while husband and father,  Scott, with the help of his brother-in-law, Len Spurgeon, wrestles the family Christmas tree into place in the high-ceilinged, old-fashioned dining room .

“We’ll miss you and Rosie this Christmas, Len,” Scott says, standing back to check the tree. “I think it could be just a hair straighter, but it’s a real beauty!”

“It should be, after lugging it half a mile down the hillside,” Len replies. “but you’re right. When it’s decorated, it will be a stunner. Rosie says you absolutely must take dozens of photos of the tree, the Christmas Eve service, Christmas morning and all…and she wants you to post them on Facebook, so we can see them right away.”

“Are you sure you two want to travel all the way to Southern California for Christmas?” Scott asks. “My sister has never had a Christmas away from home, you know.”

“Oh, I know, but this is Rosie’s idea. Ever since she was a youngster she’s dreamed of Christmas at Disneyland. My brother’s family live in the area, too, so we will get to fulfill her dream and catch up with my family at the same time.”

“Oh, Mommy! Come look at the tree! It’s so big…it didn’t look so big when we picked it out,” Talitha cries, running into the room and flinging her flour-covered arms around her father’s legs.

Scott sweeps his daughter into his arms with a laugh.

“As soon as we are through with the baking…and get washed up…we can decorate the tree,” Naidenne says, walking into the room wiping her hands on her apron. “Will you need help bringing the decorations down from the attic, Scott?”

“Can I help, Daddy?” Talitha asks, patting him on the cheek.

“I thought you wanted to finish the cookies, first,” Scott says.

“It takes too long. Mommy can do it. Right, Mommy?”

“Sure. You have been a big help with the baking, but now it’s Daddy’s turn to have a helper,” Naidenne grins at her husband as she speaks.

The happy family continues with their holiday preparations just as many of their Bannoch neighbors are doing.

Few of the town’s ministers and their families will be traveling during this special Holy season. Their lives will center around their church, congregation and the special services of celebration. There is no need to remind any of them of the true reason for the season.

Rev. Merrill Bishop (A Body in the Belfry) and her nephew, Ryan, are in the grand First Baptist Church sanctuary where Merrill is helping the ladies decorate the pews and altar rail, while Ryan and his friend and church musician, Peri, practice the special music for the Christmas Eve communion service.

In the midst of this happy work, a woman staggers in from the foyer, backwards. She’s pulling something. Dressed like a gypsy with a many-layered full skirt and flowing shawls, she tugs a large wicker basket up the aisle.

“Judy! What have you got there?” Merrill cries to her friend, Judy Falls, wife of the Presbyterian church pastor (read Judy’s story in A Corpse in the Chapel coming in 2016).

“Do you need help?” Merrill asks.

Giving a last mighty tug and losing her grip, Judy plops down on her backside with a laugh before responding.

“I’ve been trimming the wild holly bushes for the hanging of the greens and seem to have gotten carried away. We have all we can use at my church, so I’m toting the bounty around to see who else can use it. It would be criminal to snatch these beautiful branches from their home in the woods and then just throw them away.”

“You’ve come at just the right time. Look ladies! More greenery, just what we needed,” Merrill calls to the other women.

Joyful scenes like these are taking place in all the churches and parsonages in town as these friends from the First Ladies Club share the special happiness each experiences in her own way while celebrating the birth of their common Savior.

May I join them in wishing you all a Blessed Christmas and a spirit-filled New Year!

If you want to keep up-to-date on all the happenings in the lives of these women and their friends, please sign-up for my periodic email newsletter.