So here we are, last day of mystery weekend. We’ve had a wonderful time staying at Harbor House in Freeland here on Whidbey. Yesterday morning, an eagle swooped by right outside the window, and I got this incredible shot of a heron taking a stroll on the beach. The house itself is wonderful, comfortably furnished, and well appointed. We’ve been doing this for a decade now, and I think this is our favorite house so far!
Alas, it’s almost time to pack up from our lovely temporary home and head back into Langley for another day of questioning suspects and gathering clues. At this point, this twisted mystery (Loretta Martin weaves a wonderfully convoluted tale) is leading down multiple paths. Murders are usually dependent on means, motive, and opportunity. The trick that we’ve learned over the years of attending the Langley Mystery Weekend is to follow the motive. The evidence points to multiple suspects, and it’s not until the reveal that you get the information to make the true conclusion. So this year, I’ve decided to try a different tack.
To get into the mind of a mystery writer, even one so accomplished as Loretta Martin, one must think like a mystery writer. So, I have pulled out my notes from my “Plot Your Mystery” workshop from the Book Passage Mystery writer’s conference. If this was a mystery I was writing, I’d chart my suspects in a spiral starting with those who had most motive, means, and opportunity closest to my victim (the unfortunate Stone Fissure in this case). Closest on the spiral to the center, where the victim is, are those with the most motive, plus the means and opportunity. As I go further out on the spiral, I list the suspects by reduction in the three primary factors. Now, I think I’ve got it narrowed down to two suspects; Natalie Drezed or Shari Fissure, but it’s going to take a day of questioning shady characters, apparently in the rain. We’ll see how wet and cold we get before we give up, name a suspect and flee the February San Juan Islands weather…
Every year there is a murder in Langley, Washington. There are a few constants about these crimes. They always happens the third weekend of February. They always create a stir. And they are always solved. They are also the most fun that you can possibly have when staring at a crime scene and trying to suss out the clues hidden there. It’s possibly the best Mystery Weekend event in the country. (If anyone knows of a better one, let me know!) Detectives from all over the country (and even from outside the country!) show up to solve the case. My family has been making an event of it for more than a decade now, renting a house and having a mini-reunion while sorting clues and weeding out the guilty party.
I’ll be Instagraming the mystery as it unfolds, and will be hopefully be blogging along here as well. It’s time to do some sleuthing!
When I decided to include Santa Cruz in my novel, I didn’t really think it through. I drove over, spent a day watching surfers, drinking coffee, wading in the ocean, and thought, yah, okay, I’ve got it. I got home, sat down at my computer, and realized that one day wasn’t enough to capture the strange allure of Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz is new and old side-by-side. It’s an old place, with history etched into the very cliffsides, but the rush of tech from the Bay Area has brushed it with broad strokes of modernization. There’s a resentment from the old surfer/hippy culture towards the growing sprawl of the Silicon Valley culture that has invaded the town, and a growing sense of entitlement from the tech crowd. As a visitory, you can hang out at Pleasure Point and watch the surfers all day long, or go enjoy the quaint summer-vacation-by-the-sea feel of the Boardwalk with its wooden roller coaster and carousel. You can drink microbrews in posh mod-art bars overlooking the beach, or have a pizza in a surf-shack with painted surfboards hanging from the ceiling. You can shop for new fine jewelry or old used vintage clothing. Street musicians and artists hawk their wares on the sidewalk downtown. Santa Cruz has everything, and all of its elements seem in constant battle for dominance.
Trying to capture the feel of Santa Cruz had to happen in the opening paragraph of my manuscript; the sights, the smells, the sensation of having spent time eating vegetarian portabello burgers at Saturn Cafe and drinking espresso at Finn’s. Santa Cruz was more than a place, it was a voice, and trying to bring that voice to life was more complicated than I imagined. My partner lived in Santa Cruz for some time, went to school there, and every time I questioned my writing decisions I turned to him. “Does this feel right?”
“You’re missing something…” he would say, and the next day, I’d climb back into my red Yaris and head back down 880 and across Highway 17.
If this sounds like complaining, it isn’t. I wrote entire chapters sitting on benches at Pleasure Point and hiding out of the blistering wind in my car in beach parking lots. I ate where my characters ate, swam where they surfed. (My spinal surgeon has politely suggested to me that surfing is on the list of things I should probably never do again, along with skiing and snowboarding. He’s such a spoilsport. *eyeroll*) I walked where they walked and drove where they drove until I felt that my descriptions did those places justice. And along the way, I fell in love with the strangeness and contradiction that is Santa Cruz. I hope when you get a chance to read the first Kami story, you will, too!