Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wandering Wednesday - Digging Up Secrets

Hi everyone, Sandra Orchard here. 

Who wouldn’t want to visit the gorgeous Orcas island to research their book?

It is, after all, one of the loveliest of the 172 named San Juan Islands, which dot the sparkling waters of Puget Sound off the Washington State coast. It’s home to an assortment of plant life and wildlife. The quaint villages offer unique shops, fine food and numerous outdoor activities, including whale-watching, sea-kayaking, hiking, cycling, and sailing. And to top off the breathtaking ocean views, there are scenic farmlands and vineyards, and deep emerald forests, dotted with lakes.

When I was invited to write Digging Up Secrets, the fifth book in the multi-author Victorian Mansion Flower Shop Mysteries, set on Orcas Island, I was certainly game.

But alas . . . our circumstances don’t always allow for such fact-finding expeditions.

Yet sometimes life conspires in other ways to equip an author to write a story.
Book Cover for Digging Up Secrets by Sandra Orchard

I was in the midst of a summer-long hospital stay with my grandson at the time my editor invited me to write DiggingUp Secrets, but I knew instantly that I’d have no trouble finding fodder for it.

Sometimes the culmination of research from previous projects combined with the ridiculous calamities of our personal lives swirl together to create the perfect storm, or in this case, story idea.

First of all, the series’ heroine, Kaylee Bleu, has just taken over her grandmother’s flower shop housed in an old Victorian Mansion and I live in a similar old house—very old. In fact, two days before my editor emailed I’d been home for the weekend and our well’s foot pump went kaput. Before it could be fixed and we could have water again, we had to dig down to the wellhead.

Trouble was . . . we didn’t know where it was!

Based on where the pipes entered the basement, we began digging. And by the time we unearthed the wellhead, we had a grave-size hole, five feet deep beside our house. So . . .

Of course, I knew the same trouble needed to befall Kaylee. After all being without water for several days is pretty troublesome for a flower shop with countless thirsty flowers inside. But was it troublesome enough?

How much better would it be to find unknown human remains in the hole?

I mean the police will be slow to release the crime scene and allow the plumber to get her well back in operation, which not only puts her plants’ health in jeopardy, but her entire business.

Thankfully, the dead body part came from my imagination, not personal experience!

Then again . . . when my kids were younger, they did set up an “archaeological dig” next to our house and came across some bones.

But I’m pretty sure they were old beef bones a dog had buried.

I hope.

As if we didn’t have enough crazy things to deal with that summer, once we had the new pump installed, the awesome improved water pressure blew our hot water tank and flooded the basement. So . . .

I did what every intelligent author does when something bugs her . . .  I wrote it into the story.

As I alluded to earlier, it also helped that I had tons of “plant research” under my belt from my Port Aster Secrets Mysteries.

You see, Kaylee has a PhD in plant taxonomy, and had been a university professor who also did forensic botany consulting for law enforcement, before her position was suddenly eliminated.  

She also tends to refer to plants by their taxonomical name, rather than their common name, a phenomenon I also have ample experience with, since my eldest daughter studied horticulture for three years.

To top it off, while I didn’t get to visit the picturesque Orcas Island, I previously gained a helpful perspective on “island life” while researching Martha’s Vineyard for Over Maya Dead Body. So the extent of my “wandering” in researching this book extended to interviewing a few florists for anecdotal details.

And yes, when you get to the <shudder> creature Kaylee finds in her flowerpot, that is true-to-life too. But thankfully not mine!

About Digging Up Secrets:

Nothing is coming up roses for Kaylee Bleu. Not only are all of the plants in her flower shop going thirsty because of a busted well pump, but a competing florist on Orcas Island is stealing customers from The Flower Patch. As if that wasn’t enough to turn her into Florist Grump, a new client who could be Kaylee’s golden ticket to the lucrative country club set is also her most persnickety yet—and continuously threatens to take her business elsewhere.

But all of that seems like no big deal when Kaylee’s plumber discovers a fractured skull in her shop’s yard. The remains belong to Danny Lane, a troubled teen accused of killing a high school girl in a boating accident thirty-five years ago. The consensus around Turtle Cove was that the boy fled town shortly after the accident, but Kaylee thinks the holes in that story are as big as the grave-size pit dug up around her well head.

Unfortunately, somebody on Orcas Island wants Kaylee to leave the past buried.

Your Turn:

If you could go anywhere to research a book, or explore the location of a favourite book you've read, where would you go? 

Orcas Island Photo By Patrick_McNally, CC BY 3.0,

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. 

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  1. Yes, I love Orcas Island. We had a lovely holiday there several years ago. Would love to go back!

    1. It's been fascinating reading about the area, because other than Vancouver Island, I'd never heard anything about islands off the west coast before now.

  2. I had a pen pal who lived in the San Juan Islands. I would have loved to visit it when I was there. I did get to Vancouver Island but not any nearby. Have been to some of the smaller ones around Australia although not ones where many live. I love hearing about different places.

    1. That's so cool! I'm so sorry I lost touch with my childhood pen pal. She lived in England. It would've been so fun to visit.