I just spent two weeks with my mom in the Florida panhandle. It was my first trip in over a year and my first time back in Florida in sixteen months. It was so great to get to see my mom. Being there with toes in the sand is a lovely way to renew my connection to the area and it enabled me to do a bit of research for my Chloe Jackson Sea Glass Saloon mysteries. While I was there I turned in the third book in the series, Three Shots to the Wind, worked on the release for A Time to Swill which comes out on July 27th, and tinkered with ideas for the untitled fourth book.
So what is my connection and why write about this area? My parents started vacationing in the Florida panhandle in the mid-eighties. Soon they started spending part of the winter there and finally they moved to Destin, Florida. My family lived in the area for almost three years when my husband was stationed at Hurlbert Field and taught courses on Sub-Saharan Africa at the Special Forces Schoolhouse. (Yes, that’s what it was actually called!)
I’ve been visiting the panhandle for a long time and watched (often with horror) the massive growth of the area. It went from long stretches of lovely beaches to high rises and houses being crammed in every available space. One developer actually managed to get the city council to approve moving the road so he could make a beach front housing development. It took another area of stunning views away from the general population. Now all you can see is an ugly stucco wall and the top stories of too big houses.
There are always disagreements between the locals and the masses of tourists visiting the area. On the one hand all the tourists means there are more restaurants, grocery stores, and amusements. But there is also wear and tear on infrastructure, massive traffic jams, and more crime. The fight over who owns the beach continues with current Florida laws tilting back to property owners. Looking at the intersection of all of this is fascinating to an author like me.
It’s not always easy to put aside all the noise and just enjoy the beach. But I gave it my best shot as many times as I could while I was there. My mom and I took some wonderful walks at the Crab Trap. We loved spotting dolphins, pelicans, and just taking in the stunning color of the water against the oh, so white sand. It truly does feel like paradise at times.
Readers: Do you like doing research for projects?