Both Secret in the Stars, and the second book in the Abi Wunder mystery series, Secret in the Mist, are based on our neighborhood where my family used to live in Purcellville, Virginia, with lots of fiction sprinkled in, of course. 😊 The inspiration for Secret in the Stars came from an experience I once had at an inn built in the 1700s located about a mile down the road from our house. You can scroll down to the post “Linda’s Eerie Encounter” to find out how that story can to be.
Secret in the Mist, which will be out soon, is the story of a young girl who had been haunting Jess’s neighborhood for a long time—100 years, people say. Locals call her the Misty Maiden because she is known to rise out of the depths of a marsh and roam around the old farmhouse nearby and beyond, searching . . . searching. No one knows why she appears or what she’s searching for. That’s what Abi and Jess have to find out. Here is how I came up with the idea for the story.
Our house and property of five acres stood near the northwest corner of Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are part of the Appalachian Mountains. I could look out my bedroom window and see a grassy hillside that led to the West Virginia border. It felt like living in a corner of the world. That part of Virginia is known as “horse country.” Jackie Kennedy Onassis rode horses there. The Appalachian Trail, a trek of about 2,200 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, that many people hike year-round, was a few miles up a dirt road. There were two horse stables nearby, and an alpaca and peacock farm down the road. That road, which bordered our house, was an official Virginia byway, a scenic road known for its beauty and cultural and historical significance.
There were thirty-three homes on my street in the shape of a horseshoe, each with three-to-five acres of grass. Originally, the property had been a farm that had been developed, and eventually became our neighborhood. All the homes were new except two, the original farmhouse and barn, and across the street, an old deserted farmhouse and barn. In Mist, I added a third original property, Caleb’s farm. In truth, a small marsh about the size of an above-ground pool separated the deserted farmhouse from the road, which was across the road from our house. During warm months lots of creatures lived there, including a bull frog that croaked on and off throughout the day. My favorite sounds came from the tree frogs that chorused the entire neighborhood in early spring. The marsh became a significant part of the Mist story. Perhaps you can see why I have revisited our old neighborhood to write my first two Abi Wunder stories.
Speaking of horses, my fourteen-year-old next-door neighbor owned a horse that she kept at one of the nearby stables. She wanted very badly to keep her horse on her property during the warm months in a lean-to where her horse could have shelter. But her property did not qualify. It did not reach the five-acre minimum set by the neighborhood association for keeping a horse. Her property was only a little over four acres. In order to have a horse, the association said that she would have to circulate a petition for all thirty-three families to sign. As long as no one objected, she could have her wish.
So, she prepared a petition and went around getting signatures. Everyone signed but one neighbor, who lived behind her. The woman said she didn’t want “horse sounds and smells” to ruin her “peace and quiet.” My next-door neighbor told me that horse manure dries up quickly, does not give off an odor that say, cow manure does, and that one horse wouldn’t make much noise. Nonetheless, at a neighborhood meeting her petition was denied due to her neighbor’s objection.
From these circumstances and the Civil War history behind our neighborhood, which I’ll share with you in another post, the story for Secret in the Mist was born.