Luisa Scala Buehler grew up in the town of Berkeley, IL, a suburb of Chicago. when her parents made the decision to sell their home on the west side of the city. The small bungalow on Victoria Street was perfect for her family: two parents, older brother, and an uncle.
Her first exposure to a public library was the small “volunteer” library located in the basement of a grocery store onTaft Avenue. It was there that she discovered Nancy Drew. Luisa realized that this would be her career; not girl detective, but girl mystery writer. About that time, her family subscribed to the Sunday paper and Luisa found another fascinating role model in the comic pages, Brenda Starr, reporter!
Book One of the Grace Marsden Mystery Series
During the 1940’s the women attending Rosary College insisted a beautiful young woman wearing a ‘fancy dress’ haunted the halls near the chapel. Many claimed to see the apparition often entering, sitting, and softly crooning a mournful melody. Stories of the ‘Rosary Bride’ continue from generation to generation. Fifty years later, during the renovation of the college library, workers expose a skeleton.
Grace Marsden, present at the discovery is drawn into the search for the victim’s identity, fearing the remains will lead to skeletons in her own family closet. Against her husband, her best friend, and her own common sense Grace determines to find the truth. Her involvement grows beyond her control when the dead woman reaches out to her. Can Grace name the ‘Rosary Bride’ before her killer strikes again?
Plotting while Potting by Luisa Buehler
How do my stories grow? The answer to the nursery rhyme would be, much like my garden. Many of the plot devices and much of the descriptive tone of my stories were developed while I gardened. Over the last twenty years I have planted and nutured a perennial flower garden that runs the length of my yard, across the front atrium and around the side of the house to the deck. I do the work on my own with occasional hired help to move mulch and flagstone.
During the hours I spend immersed amongst the plants, my mind often turns to murder and mayhem. In my second book, THE LION TAMER: A CAGED DEATH, I use fool’s parsley as a means to poison a character. I got the idea from studying the similarities between the doppelganger, growing in the field behind my house, to my real garden grown parsley. It’s an easy mistake to make and I capitalized on that fact.
That discovery led to my interest in garden variety poisonous plants, many of which I already grew (but didn’t know) and others that I’ve since planted. Beyond finding ways to dispatch characters, time spent in the garden helps me plot, develop and polish the story.
When I noticed that my grey coneflower grew taller than I had envisioned when I planted it, I realized that I’d have to move it or the thick growth would smother the more fragile Blue Gentian. When I thought about that, I realized in my WIP at the time that I had over developed a story thread that turned out to be too weak to carry the story. The more interesting plot had been left to languish under the heaviness of the other story thread. I rewrote the focus and developed the intricate story as the continual thread and switched the larger story as a backdrop running behind the scenes. The story took off and practically wrote itself.
So many writing tips come from my garden time. Readers have commented that they ‘hear’ and ‘smell’ scenes in my books. You can’t avoid the sounds and scents in a garden: freshly turned rich, black soil, a whiff of Trumpet Flower or Night Jasmine, birds’ early morning calls or the drone of a bumble bee searching out a favorite flower. Awareness of those sounds and smells reminded me to write beyond only visuals. In one scene the thrip, thrip, thrip, tat, tat, tat, tat, of a lawn sprinkler provides a clue with a sound they should have heard, but didn’t.
The south side of the house is a bit of a naturalized area. I have consciously planted ground cover and evenly spaced taller plants. The other plants have wandered in from air born seeds, bird assisted planting or replanted bulbs courtesy of a busy squirrel. In a story, most of the ideas are planned but some ideas show up, take hold and bloom.
Working in the garden allows the ‘no-brainer’ tasks at hand to present sounds, plot twists, murder methods and structure to my subconscious mind which always has a plot percolating.
The only transition I’ve not yet made from garden to writing is suspense. Difficult to spot tension between plants, although I think the Monarda shivers when the Monskhood leans its way.