I’ve moved a lot. I’ve moved so many times that I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve moved. I know it’s over fifteen times, which is rather ironic because I spent most of the first twenty years of my life in the same city. Then I married a man in the Air Force and life hasn’t been quite so settled. Ironically, I’m not a person who craves change and new things. I prefer to be in familiar surroundings. With each military move, I went reluctantly, but once the boxes were unpacked and we settled into our new life, I grew to like the new place—well, that’s a true statement for most of the places we’ve lived. There were a few locales I couldn’t wait to leave—and that’s the good thing about being a military spouse, if you don’t like the assignment, you know you’ll be moving on soon.
As painful as the frequent relocations were for me, they also provided a rich background for my mystery series. I grew up in Texas and, despite what you might think, I did see snow. Great wind-blown drifts of it would pile up next to our garage when huge snowstorms swept down from the plains, but I’d never seen snow like they had in Washington State. We lived in Spokane in the inland Pacific Northwest for several years and one winter we had endless rain. The next year we had endless snow. I’d never seen snow plows push the unmelting snow higher and higher along our street, until it rose above my car window and there was only a narrow corridor wide enough for one car. I’d never had snow tires or seen wires zigzagging along roof edges to melt ice. I loved writing about this very different world in the first two books in the series, MOVING IS MURDER and STAYING HOME IS A KILLER.
For the third book, I sent Ellie on vacation to Washington D.C., where—surprise, surprise—I’ also recently vacationed. After touring the Smithsonian museums and walking the National Mall, I thought it would be a perfect setting for a mystery about a military spouse. Little did I know, in a few years we’d be stationed in both Maryland and Virginia. We lived in a rural area in Maryland where red barns dotted the landscape of corn and tobacco fields. That’s where I discovered that I’m a suburban girl. I like the grocery store to be ten minutes away and I really need a bookstore within half an hour! I loved the hustle and bustle of Virginia. We lived outside the Beltway, but we could hop on the Metro and revisit the monuments and museums pretty much whenever we wanted.
Since I’d already written about the D.C. area, for the fourth and fifth books, MAGNOLIAS, MOONLIGHT, AND MURDER, and MINT JULEPS, MAYHEM, AND MURDER, I moved Ellie to the south to a fictionalized version of Warner Robins, Georgia. I wasn’t too enamored of the humid summers, but I did enjoy the fall and winter in middle Georgia. I put all those quirky and interesting things about Georgia into the books—the roadside boiled peanut stands, the kudzu-draped power lines, the abandoned family plot graveyards scattered around the countryside, and the old-fashioned hardware store down the road with trophy heads mounted on the walls, rocking chairs by the stove, and a bucket of bubble gum under the counter for the kids.
When it came time to write the sixth in the series, MIMOSAS, MISCHIEF, AND MURDER, I decided to send Ellie to visit her in-laws in Alabama. I spent a very happy three months at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, avoiding snow and enjoying a balmy southern winter while my husband attended a military training course called Squadron Officer School, or SOS, for short. It wasn’t an SOS situation for me. I met the nicest people and would have stayed longer if I could. Alabama wasn’t the only short trip we’ve taken that I’ve wanted to write about. Being in a military family means we’ve been able to combine work and travel to Hawaii, England, Germany and even work in a weekend trip to Paris, which wasn’t nearly long enough!
Sometimes people ask me if I’m afraid I’ll run out of things to write about. I don’t think I will. For me, many of the stories grow out of the setting and I still haven’t written about Oklahoma, southern California, Texas, and Florida. And, there’s all those international destinations, too. The Eiffel Tower might be an ideal place for a murder…
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