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Former columnist publishes 4th book
WHAT: Book signing for "Murder in Mendocino" by Shari Edwards.
WHEN: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. today.
WHERE: Elk Creek Harvest Bazaar, 411 Church St., Elk Creek
ONLINE: Books also available at Lyons Books, Amazon.com or directly from the author at email@example.com.
Who would have thought longtime newspaper columnist Shari Edwards could ever have it in for anyone.
But killing off a few people and terrorizing a couple of women have turned out to be just what the 74-year-old writer knew she was meant to do all along.
Edwards has just released her fourth book, "Murder in Mendocino," her first work of fiction.
Her previous books "As I Remember," and "Still Remembering," were memoirs based on popular columns written for the Willows Journal and Sacramento Valley Mirror.
Her third book, "Sometimes, memories are all we have," published in 2009, delves into grief and healing following the death of a loved one.
"I never considered myself an author," said Edwards, who was born and raised in Willows. "I never seemed to think it was a label that applied to me. I guess now I can say, 'yeah' I'm a author."
Edwards' debut novel tells the tale of two sisters, Julie Morgan and her sister Ann, who return to their coastal hometown of Crowville to dispose of their mother's estate.
While sifting through their mother's belongings, they find an old newspaper clipping about a gruesome murder of a little girl, whose body was found in a shallow grave.
What is the connection to Crowville?
And what does the chilling, handwritten words at the bottom of the story have to do with the death of their own mother, and possibly their father's tragic death several years earlier?
While trying to unravel the mystery, terrifying events begin to happen that suggest a killer might be among them.
Edwards' first fiction novel, by Stansbury Publishing, didn't come easy, she said.
She had been taking pen to paper for years, packing most of her thoughts, poems and essays away in boxes, and seldom sharing them with the outside world.
"I'm someone who just starts writing," Edwards said. "If something comes into my head, I pick up a pen and a tablet. I don't know where it comes from. It's just there. I have never been one who can sit in front of a blank computer."
When Edwards returned to Willows in 1986 to take care of her ailing father, she began using writing as a creative outlet and was part of a writer's group who worked together one day a week.
Mostly, it was the encouragement from friends and the support of the community that eventually pushed her into making her writing public.
"When I was in college, one of my professors looked at me and said, 'Miss Fisk, you will never be a writer,'" she said. "I wish I could find him now. I was very hurt. I could never let it go. That little bit of negativity had a profound effect on me for a long time."
Although Edwards often struggled to get over her teacher's words, she never lost her desire to write.
Her published newspapers columns throughout the 1990s flamed her "writer's heart" and gave her the confidence to continue.
After publishing three books, Edwards' family and friends started pressing her to try writing fiction.
It was all she could do to not let her professor's callous words start to seep back in.
"The first thing out of my mouth was, 'I can't write fiction, I'm not a writer," Edwards said. "But then I thought that was being very closed-minded to trying something new."
Writing, after all, brought her joy and comfort, she said.
Willing to try a work of fiction, she thought about places, faces and names that were familiar to her or caught her facny.
She took a memory from her own childhood and recalled reading a newspaper story about a child being kidnapped.
That, she thought, would be her best first step in telling a gory tale.
"It was tough for a little while, but I got there," she said. "My publisher was wonderful. He encouraged me so much, and helped me tie up all the loose ends."
"Murder in Mendocino is available in paperback, and with an ending that reveals all.
But don't expect Edwards' pen to stay still for long.
She's already thinking about a new novel, which could be a combination of fact and fiction as she continues to research a mystery in her own family.
Why did the man who was her grandfather later live and die with another man's name?
"Time will tell," she said. "Time will tell."
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.