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The number one rule writers are taught in the hard-knock school of writing is “write what you know.” Which is all fine and good, unless you are a middle-class, pushing-social-security-age, rule-following female who writes about murder. I am going to put this out there to all of my past, present and future readers, I HAVE NEVER KILLED ANYONE just to research a book (or for any reason, for that matter). Nor have I ever stumbled across a dead body lying in the garden or sitting in an empty garage or floating in the surf (my husband has, but that’s another story for another day.) The only dead bodies I have seen/touched have been prettified, with hair styled, dressed in their best Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, lying in a casket.
          But I will admit to having done a few things, all in the name of research.
For “Best Friends Help You Move the Body” in Virginia is for Mysteries, we were tasked with using a Virginia landmark as our setting for our short mystery. Living—and loving—life near the Chesapeake Bay, I thought setting a story at the infamous Cape Henry Lighthouse would be just the ticket. One Saturday I mentioned to my husband that I would like to tour a local historical site. He was SOOOO excited (it was a far cry from my usual request of a trip to the mall, traipsing through open houses or a rainy afternoon watching romantic comedies.) So we journeyed to the lighthouse. While he read through all the historical placards spaced around the perimeter of the lighthouse, I looked around for the best place to hide a dead body. As you can tell from the photo, the area around the lighthouse is pretty barren, lots of sand and sea grass. Not many good hiding spots. I had to rethink the story entirely (and I’m very happy with how that turned out.)
For my Blonds at the Beach stories, my main character is on the hefty size (tall and wide), and I needed her to fit inside a mini cooper. I found a fellow writer who owns a sporty 2-door coupe, recruited my tallest friend, tied a few pillows around her and stuffed her (literally) into the driver’s seat. Truth be told, I about wet my pants when she tried to get out (I left that part out of the scene because I simply couldn’t humiliate my friend.) I also asked another friend if I could drive his Porsche for a chase scene I was developing. I'm sure he imagined a calamity in the making. (I know I would!) I had to settle for a ride in the passenger seat, at (or under) posted speed limits.
          Most of my stories involve some sort of adult beverage, so I host happy hours with the various concoctions mentioned, a Basil Lime Martini being a particular favorite. In order to write about wine with a modicum of authority, I took an 8-hour wine class (I know, it was quite a sacrifice!), during which I scribbled copious notes, and tasted lots of very expensive wines. The main takeaway from that education is that I honestly don’t have the palate to discern the difference between a $100 bottle of wine and a $10 bottle. Lucky for my budget! The one thing I did learn was the advantages of a Stelvin Cap over a cork. To further my "research", I also attend weekly wine tastings at my local wine shop, learning about the various grapes and their flavors from someone who has a master’s degree in wine. Know that a great deal of research has gone into the wine-aspect of my stories. (I know…it’s a tough gig, but somebody’s got to do it!)
But I do “write what I know” when it comes to beach life. Having been married to a U.S. Navy officer, we’ve spent most of our 40 years together near the shore. I love the beach: the feel of cool sand between my toes; studying the different “moods” the oceans and bays exhibit; the squawking of the seagulls fighting over a discarded PB&J sandwich; the fresh salt air that never fails to calm my worried soul. I will continue to enjoy “beach life” in order to write with authority as long as I need to. Yes, I’m willing to make that sacrifice for you, dear readers. 

For more information on Jayne and her writings, click here.


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