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Soaring Over San Francisco

This summer, while managing kids on school holiday, camping trips, nursing a pinched nerve in my shoulder, and generally burning the candle at both ends, I finished writing a novel.

Cassidy Kincaid, my protagonist in my amateur sleuth series, is back with a new quest: to find and bring home a wayward college student after she disappears.

If I had an unlimited budget and oodles of free time (ha! someday…) I would trace Cassidy’s journey from Joseph, Oregon to the final scene in San Francisco. Because I don’t have either of those things I rely heavily on Google maps to show me some of the stopovers along the way. Like this one, which is a truck stop along Oregon’s 1-84.

I’m sure I’ve even been to this truck stop, but the ability to fly around this hub of travel activity helped me “be” there while Cassidy tried to dig up information. In Biggs Junction, Cassidy arrives in the middle of summer, the sun frying the pavement. She flags down a trucker that gives her critical information on where Izzy may or may not have gone.

I also used Google maps to zoom Cassidy to her next destination. I got the lay of the landscape as well as the distances between destinations. I imagined driving her route. What would I see out the window? Where would I stop for gas or a snack? Where would the young woman she’s following have gone off track?

At one point, Cassidy must confront a faculty member for what she believes is a misuse of his influence. Because many of the conversations Cassidy has with suspects and persons of interest happens on the phone in this book, I decided that Cassidy needed to conduct this interview in person. I used Google maps to investigate different neighborhoods until I found just the right location. While I never copy the real life example, it’s the seed that sets my imagination loose.

At one point, Cassidy gets stranded and an anti-hero is the only person who can help her. Based on her location, I could pinpoint the side of the road where she would have stopped. Because it’s near where my family once camped for a family reunion, I could smell the lakeshore, the red dirt and open pine forest, hear the cars zooming past.

The most fun was flying over San Francisco! While it’s one of my favorite cities, I have not visited in several years, so re-orienting myself with some of the neighborhoods, transportation systems, and maritime feel of the peninsula was essential.

I also relied heavily on the advice of my good friend David, who lives and works in the city. “What train would Cassidy catch?” “Where’s a good area for student housing?” “Do locals take the trolleys?” For the next Cassidy book, The Silent Search, I am definitely going to have to plan a visit to San Francisco, because a critical piece takes place there that ties the whole series together.


Finally, the climax scene needed to take place somewhere out of the way, but not too far from the city center. I searched and searched, narrowing my search after my friend Dave gave me a good idea. I’ll give you a preview–remember those pallets! You’ll see them again 🙂

I’m so excited to share Cassidy’s next adventure with you!

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