Something happens when you write a story about a place. You learn about the place, the people in the story, but you learn something about yourself, too. As Nick O’Flannigan travels across the country, as an author I travel with him. I see new places, new faces, and look at things from a new perspective.

It’s my hope that as you follow along, you do the same. As you can imagine, writing travel mysteries at a time when we can’t really travel—well, it makes for some interesting dilemmas. Do I pretend this all happened before COVID and before a global pandemic? I almost have to, or it changes the series in pretty significant ways. For one, Nick’s journey would get much longer as he quarantined along the way. But second, there are things he couldn’t do or be a part of.

At the same time, we have protests about racial inequality and clashes with law enforcement over issues that should have been settled long ago. No matter what “side” of the argument you’re on, one thing we can likely all agree on is that we need to be better as humans. Better to each other, better to ourselves, and just plain better no matter what our gender, the color of our outer shell, our religious choices, our culture, or any of the other things that can so easily divide us.

But enough of my author soapbox. Here are some lessons I learned writing about and virtually visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico.

History is Important

The city of Santa Fe is often seen as an art and cultural center, and it is. The capital building itself, known locally as “the roundhouse” is much like a museum, decorated with art and sculpture. The extensive collection has an assigned curator, but it’s only one of the cultural attractions there.

But it wasn’t always that way. The city hoped to be on the transcontinental rail line, but when the rails, the trains, and the money they brought didn’t arrive, Santa Fe nearly died, and went through some dark times despite being the capital of its state. It wasn’t until much later when the artist community and creatives of all sorts recognized the value of this desert gem, and the city gained a new life.

Bee and Wasp Venom is a Thing

Apis Labs is a fictional place in the book. The work they do is not. There are many companies working on a vaccine for those who are allergic to bee and wasp stings. There are a few experimental programs, and there are even vaccines out there. It’s a great thing, because people actually do die of wasp and bee stings, and even if they don’t, the sting can be very painful for those who are allergic and even permanently damage their lungs.

That’s not all though. There are many uses for bee and wasp venom in beauty products, serums to help with arthritis, and many other holistic applications. This is not new: many ancient civilizations have used bees for various purposes, sometimes with good results, and sometimes with—well, you remember people who are allergic die sometimes, right?

Ancient people didn’t always recognize allergic reactions for what they were.

Crime Still Happens, Even During a Pandemic

If you are not tired of hearing words like “Unprecedented” and “New Normal” congratulations on your social and digital media fast. How’s it going? And how did you find this post to read it?

But beyond the headlines, people still do horrible things to each other. Crime still happens, and as clever as any murderer can be, they still get caught, even if that isn’t as often as we’d like.

And that’s what I’d really like to leave with readers of the Capital City Murders Series, even though I’ve said it before. While real life doesn’t always come with a happy ending, mysteries tell us that the criminal can be caught. Fairy tales tell us dragons can be conquered and even that sometimes, the dragon isn’t as bad as we thought he was at first. Science fiction teaches us that space is just another place, and that people will be people no matter where they are. They will do both wonderful and horrible things.

In the end, good can overcome evil. It doesn’t always work that way. But fiction lets us dream, doesn’t it?