September 2, 2012

Writing - and Speaking - About Gardening

This blog entry is going to be a bit different from my usual menu of gardening observations.  It’s going to be about, well, me.

September 2012 is turning out to be something of a watershed month for me.  First, I’m celebrating the publication of my fifth mystery.  Murder for a Worthy Cause is my second entry in the evolving story of Detective John Flynn, Garden Club President Liz Phillips, and the town of Hardington, Massachusetts.

Most people think they’ve got a book in them.  As it turns out, I apparently have lots of them.  I’m able to draw ideas from things I’ve observed over my lifetime, and to weave those ideas into a coherent, enjoyable story line. 

Three of those mysteries have horticultural themes.  No, it isn’t that someone gets strangled with a dahlia; rather, it is that plants figure into the story (and sometimes into its solution).  In The Garden Club Gang, four ‘women of a certain age’ decide to do something very un-ladylike: they steal the gate from a large New England fair.  Being astute horticulturalists, they devise a very clever way of incapacitating guards.  And, being garden club members, they use their position as docents at the fair’s flower show as both their observation post and staging area for the crime. 

In A Murder in the Garden Club, one of the two protagonists is a garden club president whose close friend and fellow club member is found dead.  The dead woman managed a wayside garden program for the club and took care of one of its most prominent sites.  Her death may well be linked to that program.

Murder for a Worthy Cause opens with Liz Phillips, the garden club president, in a rage because a Texas-based home center is sending a California-based TV production company a tractor-trailer load of plants that are doomed to die in a New England climate where they’re to be installed at the new home of a family in need.  Other horticultural subplots populate the book.

I’m currently working on A Murder at the Flower Show, in which horticulture comes front and center in the plot.  To solve a murder, the detectives investigating the case will have to learn a great deal about plants.

I do more than just write horticultural mysteries.  I also talk about them.  Book clubs read my titles and I’m pleased to be a guest at their meetings.  This month for the first time, a garden club will be reading The Garden Club Gang as its change-of-pace event, and I’ll speak at their monthly meeting. 

On September 18, I’ll speak at the Pembroke (MA) Public Library.  I’ve spoken at lots of libraries but, this time, I’ll be there as the guest of a garden club and, rather than talking about my books, I’ll give a talk drawn from my Principal Undergardener essays.  I’ll discuss The Rule of Three, The Cascade Effect, the internet’s fascination with dumb horticultural ideas, and my war with squirrels over a composter, among other topics.  It’s all woven together into an illustrated fun, half-hour narrative.  "Gardening Is Murder" has also been a hit in Topsfield and is booked in Uxbridge, Peabody and Marblehead.

I tell you all this because, well, I hope to do more of it.  Are you a member of a book club?  A garden club?  Please invite me to speak to your group.  My books make terrific discussion topics.  Do you need a horticultural speaker who isn’t going to show an endless succession of pictures of moss?  I can be your guy.  Because book clubs buy my books, I appear without charge.  For other groups, my fee is exceptionally modest: my goal is to get people to buy and read my books, not become wealthy through speaking fees.

To reach me, you can comment to this blog or email me at n_h_sanders (at)

2013 update:  I seem to have struck a respondent chord.  If you're a book club, library or garden club; please give me a call at 508-359-9453 and I'll mail or email you a brochure.  Needless to say, it is still a ton of fun giving these talks!

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