ALMOST AS MUCH AS I LOVE WRITING, I love research. Every time I sit down to write a new Logan McKenna novel—actually, long before that, when the story first starts stirring—obscure bits of knowledge or experiences pop into my head that spark story elements, plot lines, characters or scenes.

I thought it might be fun to share with you some of that process. I’ve been lucky or unlucky, depending on how you look at it, to have lived a patchwork life, so have a lot of varied experiences to pull from.

Take SHATTERED: Logan Book 1, for example. When I first started tossing around the idea of writing a Mystery series, I had recently completed a Cultural Anthropology degree. Included in my undergraduate work were courses in Physical Anthropology and Archaeology. One of those classes was Geology. I loved it.

As a kid in Italy, I remember collecting geodes that had cracked open near the railroad tracks. I didn’t understand what they were or where they came from. To me, the magical, amethyst interiors were fairy caves. I wanted to live in one. Years later, a retired Geology professor taught some classes in my very small high school in Arizona. Learning that all quarts crystals had six sides and what those layers in the low mountains around me represented was just as magical.

Then, when I returned to college once my boys were in school, my Geology professor brought out a hunk of black, shiny rock that was swirled—not a straight line in sight. Wow! He told us how Native Americans used this material for weapons and work tools and that someone made a set of surgical instruments out of it that proved to be sharper and more precise than anything made from steel.

But how it was formed was what got me hooked. Obsidian, otherwise known as volcanic glass, was just lava cooled so quickly (usually by flowing into the ocean) that it hardened before it had time to align itself into crystalline structures. Wow! and Double Wow!

So, when I decided to set my story in an Arts Festival—modeled after the Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach, CA, near where I lived at the time, and the murder victim was one of the glassblowers…well…of course, obsidian leaped to mind. It wasn’t long before I found the perfect way to weave it into my story. That’s not exactly true, because obsidian weaved itself into the story, all I did was write it down.

I still had to do my homework, for this and many other aspects of the story I knew nothing about, such as glassblowing itself, its history, technical details, the culture surrounding it, but this bit of knowledge gave the story that little indefinable oomph. When we include things we love (or hate, I suppose, but I haven’t had that experience yet) our stories are better.

Hope you enjoy this glimpse into the research and writing of SHATTERED. Next up is FOREST PARK: Logan Book 2, which was inspired by one of my favorite cities, Portland, OR and my love of Vietnamese food.