Thursday, June 9, 2016

Peace by the Water

Chesapeake Beach, MD in the 1980s
    I have been intrigued by running water since my parents took my brothers and me fishing at Hains Point on the Potomac River in Washington, DC. I was all of five or six, and never wanted to touch the worms. I would sit by the metal railing and just stare into the river.
    Later, a friend and I bought a tiny cottage (a.k.a. falling-down clapboard house in need of much TLC) on the Chesapeake Bay. It sat high on the rocks, so no threat of flooding.
     I often sat on the back patio wrapped in a sheet so the mosquitoes didn't get me after dark.
    This lifelong love is probably why I was immediately enamored with President Kennedy's quote that shows how we humans tie to water.
    “All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea - whether it is to sail or to watch it - we are going back from whence we came.”
    The quote, which I knew I'd read but could not find (in the pre-Internet days) led me to the JFK Presidential library in Massachusetts. It was a good break from a business trip, and a great opportunity to read more of his writing and see many photos of JFK on the water.
    It's natural that my two mystery series are set near water -- the Jolie Gentil series at the Jersey shore and the River's Edge series along the Des Moines River in Southeast Iowa.
Des Moines River, Farmington, Iowa
    Lots of movies and TV shows depict the shore. My cozy mysteries are far less gritty than most. The ambience of an east coast beach town varies with the seasons, with most of my books set in the off-season. Otherwise, the setting would be much like any tourist beach town.
    I have sat by the Des Moines River hundreds of times in the last few years. A park in Bonaparte Iowa and benches by the water in Keosauqua are two favorite places. Just last week I found a batch of poppies along the bank in Farmington.
Keosauqua, Iowa
    River's Edge is fictional, but the series draws from many small towns in Van Buren County Iowa. Rural Iowa is corn, but it's also fall festivals and bike rides along the river.
    These river towns are small, generally less than 1,000 people. In fact, if you added up the items in the antique shops, there would be more antiques than people. But, that's part of the charm and why visitors are welcome.
    So that the River's Edge characters would have plenty of opportunities for trouble, I gave that town a population of 7,500. It has a thriving newspaper, old-fashioned diner, a plastics plant, and a meat packing facility. If there aren't places to work, there wouldn't be enough people to make the mysteries interesting.
    And probably not enough people to murder.
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