First and foremost, may you be safe and healthy.
As spring deepens and the lengthening days are raucous with birdsong and bright with blossoms and tender leaves, I am at home tending the garden, moving shrubs, transplanting saplings nurtured over the past few years, pruning, weeding. A nesting pair of crows have been assisting me, pruning dead twigs from the crowns of a Japanese maple and a redbud outside my office windows. At first I gathered the twigs that fell to the ground and piled them where the couple might pick over them, but I soon understood that I’d been mistaken—the crows had judged them unacceptable. Now I thank them for the pruning assistance as I toss the discards in the yard waste bin. The crows know…
Speaking of crows… As book lovers, you may have heard about publishers deciding to hold back books due to be published as we cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, and you might be wondering what’s happening with the 12th Owen Archer mystery, A Choir of Crows.
I am delighted to announce that Severn House has decided we all need a dose of Owen, Lucie, Magda, Michaelo, and company sooner rather than later. Publication has been moved forward! The hardcover of A Choir of Crows will be available in the UK on 31 May, and both the hardcover and e-book will be available in the US and Canada on 2 July. I hope this news brightens your day.
I am aware that bookshops in the UK find it almost impossible to order new books, both brick and mortar and online bookshops, a complex situation that may or may not change by late May. At the moment the Book Depository and Waterstones online are accepting preorders. I will have a better idea when we’re closer to publication date and let you know what options might be available. I welcome you to keep me posted in comments regarding your attempts to preorder a copy. Together we can make this work for all of us—bookshops, publishers, and readers.
In the US, I’m teaming up with a local bookshop, Third Place Books, for what will almost certainly be an online launch in early July. Online will mean more of you can participate, or at least view it! Right now it’s available for preorder at Third Place Books and your local bookshop, as well as online.
More sweet news (for me)… I was delighted to see the Kate Clifford series on a New York Public Library list, 30 Historical Mystery Series to Get You Through Any Crisis: “Set in 15th century York, Kate Clifford is a young widow trying to get herself out of the debt left to her by her two-timing husband. Estranged from her family and raising the children of her husband’s dead mistress, Kate relies on her intelligence and intuition as well as her wily servants to get her out of trouble both political and murderous. Turns out York is a minefield of deceit, betrayal and murder. Well known for her Owen Archer series, Robb writes mysteries that are intricate, dense with historical detail and great characters that truly satisfy history and mystery lovers alike.” And The Apothecary Rose appeared on a list, 10 Great Medieval Mystery Books. I’m feeling the love.
Lastly, I am happy to announce that I’ve signed a contract with Severn House to write two additional Owen Archer novels! So when I’m not gardening or taking long walks I am working on Owen Archer #13, tentatively titled The Riverwoman’s Dragon. I am dedicating it to my dear friend Joyce Gibb who died on Christmas Eve. Beginning with A Gift of Sanctuary, Joyce was my sounding board on early drafts, reading chunks of the manuscript as I wrote, offering insights. I miss her more than I can say. Over the years she urged me to give Magda Digby a central role in a book, and this past autumn I decided that #13 would be the one. She cheered me on.
The book is set in late spring 1375 at the beginning of a plague summer. You can imagine my unease when the topic on which I settled in the autumn began to seem horribly current in winter. But letting fictional characters express my feelings is cathartic, and spending my days in the mind of Magda Digby is a joy.
Be safe! Be well!