Our daughter’s visiting us this weekend, so this blog is going to be shorter than usual. Planning on lots of play time:) I’ve been working on rewrites for my fourth Jazzi Zanders book, though. So my mind has been playing with her, the people she hangs with, and renovating old houses. And as always when I’m putting the finishing touches on one book, my mind starts wandering to the next book in the series.
And that’s where a good friend of mine and my husband’s has proven a treasure trove of ideas. Ralph used to buy old houses and renovate them to rent. Now, Ralph isn’t the type to just slap paint on walls and make a space liveable. He’s a perfectionist. He makes everything he works on the best it can be for the price he can put into it. And when I told him that I was writing a series about a woman, her cousin, and her romantic interest who flip houses, he suprised me with one idea after another of how flipping a house could dig up clues to old murders.
I’ve already used a few of the things he’s shared with me. Like finding an old, loved tool box in a basement with all kinds of antique tools no one can find anymore and a person’s initials burned into the beautifully carved wood. That’s how Jazzi and Ansel knew Joel had been in Cal’s house in book one. For book two, Ralph told me about how an older man walked past a house he was renovating every day at the same time, and how he came to watch for him, until one day he didn’t come. And Ralph wondered about him. Was he all right? Had something happened to him? I used that idea for Leo walking his dog past the roof Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel were working on, and Leo would stop to talk to Jazzi every chance he got because he was lonely. And then one day, Leo didn’t come.
For book five, Ralph intrigued me with a story he told about finding a woman’s treasure box in a closet while he was gutting a house. She had stones she’d collected when she was a little girl, grade school class pictures, a yearbook, letters from friends, pieces of jewelry, and ribbons and awards, among other things. For book five, I have Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel fixing up one of the old “grand dame” houses in Auburn, a town north of where I live. And I keep thinking about what Jazzi will find in a treasure chest of the girl who grew up in that house, but when Jazzi tries to return the box to her, she finds out the girl died soon after her senior prom, and no one ever solved what happened to her. And that, of course, sets up the mystery she tries to solve.
Ralph’s given me lots more ideas, and I’ve written them all down and keep them in my own small box of treasured story ideas for later use. Who knew flipping houses, in real life, could stimulate so many plots? But I’m grateful for all of them. And if I’m lucky, I’ll have lots more Jazzi Zanders mysteries to write.
And for all of you, happy writing!