Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Plumbing the Depths for a Great Story

Hello, Sandra Orchard here to talk about my latest research adventure.

Last week, a writing friend treated me to a four-day Bahamas cruise she'd been awarded and since I finished my last manuscript the week before, my plan was to brainstorm my next book with her. I find traveling is always a great time to flesh out characters, because I there is so much more time to people watch--while waiting for planes, boats, and meals or simply while sitting on the beach.

I even thought visiting a few islands might inspire ideas for the Serena Jones follow-up novel fans have been asking me to write about her honeymoon mystery in the Greek Isles.

But I didn't anticipate the inspiring sights I'd find BENEATH the water, while snorkeling!

Sure I knew there'd be a few fish eager for their fifteen minutes of fame on my next blog. 😉

Although who would've thought they'd literally line up to take turns posing for my camera. Honestly, they did! It was hilarious.

And this downed airplane was a surprise. It definitely got the creative juices churning.

Then there were these sea mines.

Thankfully the ones we found were already detonated, but my friend Lisa Belcastro told me 18,000 were recently cleared from around Martha's Vineyard (the location of Serena's last adventure) and several thousand were still live! Oh, the fun I could've had with that while writing Over Maya Dead Body.

There's always next time, of course. 😀

The best source for the contracted mystery I needed to brainstorm turned out to be a retired Navy man who was seated at our breakfast table with his wife. My friend and I had already plotted the bones of the mystery set on Orcas Island and knew we wanted "something" to be stolen from "someone high up in government", but we couldn't decide what or from whom.

Our source, who'd actually worked security in the navy, shared some amazing ideas and even scared us a little with how true-to-life many or our "fictional" ideas actually are!

We had another couple at the table who'd been in the airforce for a few years and a real estate agent and everyone soon started tossing out ideas.

And would you believe, I'd gone to breakfast without a notebook and pen?! 😧

What was I thinking?

My wise friend asked the waiter if he could bring us pen and paper, which he did, and I was soon madly jotting down all the ideas. By lunchtime, I had them culled into a timeline for the first third of the book. It was awesome!

Sadly, you'll have to wait awhile, before you can read how it turns out. The mystery will be #20 in Annie's Attic Victorian Mansion Flower Shop Mysteries, but Digging Up Secrets comes out in a few months and next time I visit, I'll share the not-so-fun way I dreamed up the idea for that mystery, based on real life . . . mine.

Until then, please visit me on Facebook and my blog for more anecdotes from the trenches.

Sandra Orchard—winner of several Canadian Christian writing awards, the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, and the National Readers’ Choice Award, among others—leaps off the garden trails of her herbal-medicine-researcher-turned-amateur-sleuth (Port Aster Secrets) series, to the museum corridors of her plucky FBI art crime agent Serena Jones, in A Fool and His Monet, Another Day Another Dali and Over Maya Dead Body. When not plotting crimes, Sandra plays make-believe with her young grandchildren or hikes with her hubby and husky near their home in Ontario, Canada. 


  1. Can't wait to read how this new story unfolds!! Love all the pictures. :-)

  2. Sounds great! If you're ever without pen & paper again & have Google on your phone, you can open up Google Keep & take as many notes as you want! ;)

    1. Thanks for the tip. I'll have to investigate if I could use that offline, since I don't have data.

  3. Sounds fabulous! Looking forward to reading :)

  4. I can't wait to read more! Thank you for sharing these awesome photos!

  5. Sounds like you had fun! Can't wait to read more about Serena eventually! And the cozy sounds awesome.

  6. Wow ... how neat. I could see a new Dirk Pitt adventure with salvaging sunken planes full of treasure. Ha. You can tell I'm a Clive Cussler fan.

    I love your new photo, Sandra. So natural and vibrant!

    1. Thanks! I just cut my friend out of it. ;)

  7. I love hearing how books come about and to think so many ideas came from breakfast. I also love reading a story where I can see something that I have seen or done in person. I have never snorkelled but have friends who love doing it. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Oh snorkelling is amazing! I did it for the first time last year after getting prescription goggles. It is so cool what you can discover under the water. The water was especially perfect where we went last week, because it was clear and not too deep so the sun penetrated well.

  8. What a fabulous experience! I'm a little concerned by the sea mines though ...