Thursday, September 15, 2011

Documenting the Crimes

“Chloe found the first body right there,” I said, pointing.

My husband Scott said, “Perhaps you should keep your voice down.” Then he balanced precariously on the shifting beach cobbles and started shooting. Digital images, not bullets.

Rock Island lighthouse beach

I’ve mentioned before that Book 3 in the Chloe Ellefson series will take place on Rock Island, WI, in Lake Michigan. It’s a state park. Much of the action will take place at Pottawatomie Lighthouse; I’ve had the good fortune to serve as a live-in docent there several times, and know it well.

lighthouse NW view

But other scenes take place at other locations on the island, such as the magnificent boathouse.

Rock Island boathouse

Since my mysteries are rooted in long-ago events, I do a lot of historical research. And since I write about real and public places, I need to be careful about getting not just the historical details but the geography right.

Rock Island south point

Book 3 (tentatively titled Beyond Death’s Door) takes place the first week in September, and Scott and I spent last week visiting the story’s locales. I wanted to make notes about what flowers were blooming, what birds were migrating through, etc. at the exact time of Chloe’s visit.

Rock Island berries

We also photographed and videotaped each location. The videotape will help me remember perspective when I’m actually writing or revising the pertinent scenes.

Rock Island cave

As a benefit for spending time back at the scene of the crime, as it were, we stopped in the independent bookstore on neighboring Washington Island. Preliminary plans for a book launch in 2012 are now underway. I also pinned down a few last details at the local archives, and questioned the local ranger about a logistical issue I’d been confused about. And we visited—just for research purposes—a local tavern/restaurant, which is famous for never closing during Prohibition (the proprietor got a pharmacist’s license and dispensed Bitters.)

Washington Island Nelsens sign

All of this took place the week Book 2, The Heirloom Murders, was officially released. I’m juggling launch events for that with finishing the manuscript for Beyond Death’s Door. It’s a wee bit overwhelming (especially since I’m working on a children’s book project as well), but it’s also great fun! I got to wander around two gorgeous islands, and write off travel costs as a business expense. How cool is that?

Washington Island moon Jacksons Hrb

Heirloom_1 cover


Vicki Doudera said...

Gotta love those research trips! Very interesting, Kathleen.

Kathleen Ernst said...

I would love to set a book up your way some time!

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Kathleen,
I write about real locations, too, and visit them to get the facts right. I'm luckier than you, though, in that my books are set in present-day versus long-ago. That's got to add another layer to your research!

Deborah Sharp said...

Great post, and lovely pictures, too. Very inspiring! As a technical aside, I also envy how nicely sized the photos came out on the blog. Perfect, and all lined up like orderly soldiers. Is that how they were saved, or was it the size option picked once you uploaded to the blog?

Kathleen Ernst said...

Beth, I envy you your river research!

Deborah, I always resize photos in Photoshop before using them (500 p. For the largest side), compose in Livewriter, and just center each photo. That's the extent of my technical knowledge!