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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Enough Pluff Describe the Stuff by Jackie Layton

I’ve always loved vacationing at the beach. Growing up, we went on hiking and camping trips. We laughed and had fun, but I dreamed of the coast. It only seemed natural to make the setting for my books a beach. A few years ago, my husband’s job brought us to Pawleys Island, South Carolina, and so I adapted my setting to the Low Country.
Between the mainland and the ocean is the marsh. Some call the marsh the creek. People can fish, kayak, and parents can teach their children to swim in the calm marsh waters. The salinity of the marsh water is about the same as the ocean. The water level of the marsh is determined by high and low tide. A type of mud accumulates which holds cordgrass (also known as marsh grass or tidal grass) in place. There’s a rhythm to living on the coast that you don’t find in land-locked areas of the world.
The special mud is called pluff mud, pronounced like fluff. It’s slippery, shiny, brownish, and it will pull you down. The first time I got ensnared by this gooey slime, I wasn’t sure I’d make it back onto the beach. The pluff mud has a distinct scent from dying grass and decomposing fish. It’s a sweet sulfur smell. This scent welcomes locals home and visitors back to the marsh areas along the coast of South Carolina. There’s nothing more beautiful than a South Carolina beach. The sand and waves provide an emotional tug, and along with the beauty there can be a violence in the roar of the waves crashing onto the land. I enjoy incorporating the environment and weather with the emotions my characters feel.
Because readers don’t want me to tell them about the setting, I show it to them with my characters. Andi Grace Scott is a dog walker who often takes dogs for walks on the beach. She always has water on hand and never takes the dogs out during the hottest part of the day.
Picking a real physical setting sets an author up to make mistakes. Readers will notice. Creating a fictional town prevents these slipups. I chose to create Heyward Beach, South Carolina and took the best parts of some of my favorite beaches in the Carolinas. The Low Country is also known for rice plantations, and I created Kennady Plantation for my setting as well.
I featured some careers in Bite the Dust that would be unique to the area. There’s a shop where you can rent boats, bikes, and surf boards. One of the main characters builds and repairs boats on his property that borders the river. Throughout the series, the plantation home will be converted to a business. There is also the Richard Rice Plantation which has a board of directors who play a part in my story.
Besides writing cozy mysteries, I’m a pharmacist. This is a career without flexibility once you show up for work. By law the pharmacy can’t run without a pharmacist. For example, my son is also a pharmacist. His wife went into labor with their second child, and it was his weekend to work. There was no way he was going to hang around for the next ten hours filling prescriptions while his wife delivered their baby. He called the owner who agreed to work the rest of the day for Bill. Then my son got everybody out of the store, customers and employees, locked up, and left for the hospital.
Realistically, a pharmacist wouldn’t be a good amateur sleuth because of the lack of freedom. Before I started writing these books, A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery series, I needed to pick a career with freedom. That’s how Andi Grace became a dog walker. She runs around town from one dog appointment to the next. She’s in and out of people’s homes and can be flexible with her schedule. She actually finds a dead body when she goes to walk a friend’s puppy. She wants justice for her friend, and the past has taught her the bad guys don’t always get caught. So, Andi Grace decides to try to find the killer and begins her journey as an amateur sleuth.
Her favorite hangout is Daily Java, the local coffee shop and bakery. She gathers lots of gossip and even clues. The beach is where she goes to find hope. No matter what storms come, the sun eventually rises, and life goes on.
I hope readers will enjoy the Heyward Beach setting so much they’ll wish they could visit the fictional town. Since that’s impossible, maybe they’ll want to buy the second book.
Author Bio:
Jackie has lived her whole life in the South. Kentucky then Georgia, back to Kentucky and now South Carolina. She’s a quick golf cart ride from the nearest beach and loving life on the coast.
As a child, Jackie loved to read, play with her dolls and play Barbies. In high school, she dreamed of stories she’d write, but she didn’t pursue the dream until her youngest son was in high school. One day she thought she’d better start learning or it was never going to happen.
Years ago, Jackie became a sports fan in order to carry on conversations with her husband and two sons. This girly girl learned to understand baseball, football, basketball, soccer and tennis and spent years cheering for her boys.
Jackie enjoys exploring the Low Country of South Carolina where she set her fictional town of Heyward Beach. She spends her time working as a pharmacist, volunteering with a children’s afterschool program, getting involved at her new church, and, of course, writing cozy mysteries.


Nancy Nau Sullivan said...

Hey Jackie!
I liked your post, and I felt right at home reading it. My first mystery, coming in June, takes place on made-up Santa Maria Island, based on Anna Maria Island where I've wandered, escaped to, and loved for sixty years. And my MC is a part time journalist. I guess we think alike--in some ways! Congrats on the book! Can't wait to read it.
Nancy Nau Sullivan

KM Rockwood said...

I went to some presentations given by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. They were given at various sites in the area. I was the only person who had never attended any of their offerings before.

The first time we met, the site was a salt marsh. We'd been warned to wear old clothes & shoes or boots, as we would get muddy. I wore an old pair of sneakers. At low tide, we waded out and stopped for the presenter to give his talk.

After a few minutes, I noticed that I was sinking in the mud. No one else was sinking in the mud. As I felt the ooze on my ankles, I finally asked the person next to me how he kept from sinking.

He pointed out that everyone else had carefully stood on the roots of marsh grass rather than directly on the mud.

I managed to pull my feet up, one at a time, and was very gad I had tied my sneakers tightly, or I'm sure I would have lost them.

Jackie Layton said...

Hi Nancy,
It's good to meet you. Congratulate on your new book! I'll be looking for it. Sounds like we're kindred spirits.

Thanks for stopping by!

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Interesting overview of the South Carolina coast and marshes. I taught my kids to swim and hunt for hermit crabs in the creek running from a Cape Cod barrier beach to a pond at the back of the marsh. Muddy, but not suck-your-foot-off mud.

Looking forward to reading your series!

Jackie Layton said...

KM, thanks for sharing your story. I can totally relate. I'm glad you were able to 'escape' without completely falling in.

Jackie Layton said...

Hi Margaret,

I see many people crabbing from a little bridge or they wear tall boots.

I hope you enjoy reading my books. Thanks for stopping by.

Kait said...

This sounds like a delightful series. I'm looking forward to visiting Heyward Beach, sounds like the perfect place to relax and kick back with a book and a cup of Java. I'm in.

Jackie Layton said...

Thanks so much Kait. I think you'll enjoy Heyward Beach. Be sure to visit Daily Java for your coffee and other goodies.