Friday, June 19, 2009

Creating The Rune Stone Murders

What do Renaissance Fairs, rune stones, and post office employees have in common?

Absolutely nothing -- unless you allow a writer to run wild with her imagination.

That’s exactly what happened to me when I wrote The Rune Stone Murders.

I had an idea for a perfect heist story, one where the bad guys got away with their crime for decades. I only had to figure out how my series characters, Caroline Rhodes and Professor Carl Atwater, would root out the criminals and reveal their perfidy.

And then my oldest daughter suggested a day out for the women in the family. It was summer, and there was a Renaissance Fair taking place in Wisconsin just over the Illinois border. A day at the fair sounded like fun, so we all piled into one car and merrily made our way north.

It was one of those perfect Midwestern summer Sundays when the sky is free of clouds, the humidity is acceptably low, and the temperature is pleasantly warm but not outrageous. A good-sized crowd was in attendance at the fair, and everyone was in a good mood.

Strolling down the grassy paths that wound among the Old English buildings erected for the fair, we explored booth after booth featuring crafts from the Middle Ages. Candles, jewelry, herbs, glassware, and leather and woven clothing of all sorts dominated the scene. Fortunetellers sat stolidly in the shade, waiting to read your palm or the Tarot cards after you finished gorging on deep-fried turkey legs and roasted corn on the cob. Knights and ladies casually made their way to the queen’s pavilion, waving to fair goers while jesters followed them juggling brightly colored balls and wooden bowling pins. Shaded by an awning, three men wrestled in a mud pit to the amusement of their audience. Farther down the road, a man demonstrated falconry to a crowd seated near the jousting stands. Magicians and acrobats wandered the grounds, delighting both young and old.

It was a magical day, full of delightful new experiences for me, and I came away from it determined to include a Renaissance Fair in one of my novels.

But how could I mesh my perfect heist with a Renaissance Fair setting? The answer came to me a week later while watching a TV program about Leif Erikson and his Viking community in Newfoundland.

Coming in my next blog: Leif’s impact on The Rune Stone Murders.

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