Sunday, May 4, 2008

Scuba Diving and Gardening

by Jess Lourey

Thank you to Joanna for allowing me to guest blog on this lovely day. I have met and am a fan of most of the Killer Hobbies crew, and I appreciate the opportunity to hang out with such a crafty group of mystery writers.

By the way, does reading mysteries count as a hobby? I ask because in Minnesota, where it is not uneard of for the temperature to fluctuate 60 degrees in the span of a week and most of us are so busy worrying about offending people that we don't move much, we have a limited number of hobbies to choose from. Fishing and hunting are the two most people pick, with a little snowmobiling and fourwheeling thrown in for good measure. If you’re feeling wild, you can mix and match, for example snowmobiling out to your fish house.

I don’t eat much meat, I think fish smell, and I can't afford the big toys. As a native Minnesotan, that left me to become creative in finding recreational pursuits. I came up with two that I enjoy, the second more regularly than the first: scuba diving and gardening. Because both hobbies define my life to a certain degree, I hoisted them onto Mira James, the protagonist of my Murder-by-Month series.

Scuba diving was surprisingly easy to work into a plot. My series is set in the real-life town of Battle Lake, Minnesota. Turns out there is an enormous diamond nestled in the silt at the bottom of a lake in that area. It happened in the 1920s, when wealthy east coasters regularly took the train to Battle Lake to “summer” on any of the crystal-clear, fish-packed lakes. At a local resort, nowadays known as Xanadu, a rich female vacationer went into the water for a dip wearing a diamond ring with a rock the size of a gumball and came out with no jewelry. The diamond has never been found, and so I made a fictionalized version of that real-life mystery the center of June Bug (, the second in my series.

Gardening has never been a central plot in the series, but like all good hobbies, it leads to deeper character development. What our protagonists like to do to clear their minds and connect with something larger and more organized than themselves is very telling. Mira likes to garden for the same reasons I do: it’s a family tradition, it combines physical and mental focus, it creates visual order, and it has tangible results. As women, a lot of what we do during our day is either erased every 24 hours or so, like cooking and cleaning, or never particularly visible in the first place, like teaching, nursing, or selling. Not enough of us are carpenters or painters or masons, but we’ve got some killer hobbies.

Jess Lourey, the guest blogger for today, has just released August Moon, the fourth novel in her Lefty-nominated Murder-by-Month series. Of August Moon, Denise Swanson, author of the Scumble River Mysteries, writes, "Lourey has a gift for creating terrific characters. Her sly and witty take on small town USA is a sweet summer treat. Pull up a lawn chair, pour yourself a glass of lemonade, and enjoy."

Jess will be touring the West Coast with mystery author Dana Fredsti in May and hitting the Midwest in June. Check her website ( for more details. Also, the first person to email Jess through her website and correctly identify the Minnesota state flower will win a free copy of June Bug. Be sure to tell her Killer Hobbies sent you!


zhadi said...

Ah, I love being the first to comment!

I loved the glimpse not only into your own hobbies, but into the lives of Minnesotans...Minnesotians? in general. I'm looking forward to reading June Bug - I'm working my way backwards through your books and expect it to arrive from Amazon on Monday. Yay!!!

Other Lisa said...

Second!!! (waves wildly)

I never thought of scuba diving as a hobby associated with Minnesota. Looking forward to reading - with what book should I start?

Jess Lourey said...

Hi, Other Lisa! May Day is the first, and I'm proud of it, but it's a little choppy in spots (sort of like a first kiss--lots of energy, not so much skill). June Bug is my favorite and August Moon is the best. They're all designed to be ready in any order, so...June Bug has scuba diving. I'd start there if it were me. :) If you email me the answer to the contest (see above), I may just send you one of the books...

elysabeth said...

Your series sounds very interesting. I look forward to checking out a new series. I'm on the prowl when I'm not writing my children's geography mystery series. Funny that you should ask a state flower for your contest because one of my clues on every state will be the state capital, flower, bird, et cetera - all crammed into one clue. Looking forward to reading your series. Tell Dana to behave herself too - lol - and it's Minnesotans - nice posting - E :)

zhadi said...

I have to wonder why people always seem to think I need to be told to behave myself. :-)

Jess Lourey said...

Congratulations to all who entered to win a copy of June Bug! Elysabeth, everyone's favorite geography mystery writer (sounds like a fantastic concept) is the winner! Whoo-hoo! A copy of June Bug will be hurtling (well, wobbling, at media rate) through cyberspace to you!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...


Great having you. But after that scene you wrote about scuba diving--eeeeekkkkkkk! I don't think I could ever do it!

Jess Lourey said...

Thank you for graciously allowing me to visit, Joanna! How about instead of scuba diving, we grab a couple margaritas and stick our feet in the water, preferably on a warm oceanfront?

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Such a sensible woman and a lovely friend.

We'll do it!