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Researching Dinosaur Digs for See Jane Dig!

Researching Dinosaur Digs for See Jane Dig!

Work on Book #4 in the West River Mystery series has begun. Here's what's involved in researching dinosaur digs for See Jane Dig!

Researching dinosaur digs for See Jane Dig!, Book 4 in the West River Mystery Series, is occupying the time I usually devote to writing. The picture shows the sources I’m digging into:

  • Newspaper clippings from Nation’s Center News. The weekly paper has been covering news in Harding County, South Dakota for decades, and I’ve been a subscriber for many of them. Once I read an issue cover to cover, I clip out any articles that could inspire a story line or are related to an idea already in the works. Like the dinosaur clippings pictured here. They are amazing!
  • Digging Dinosaurs by John R. Horner. This book was published in 1988 and has been out of print for years. Thankfully, I found a copy on Amazon and snapped it up. That turned out to be a wise choice. The events it covers span 1978-1985, the same years we lived in Harding County, and the same time period as the West River Mysteries. Horner recounts his work at the famous duckbill dinosaur dig in central Montana, which included nests full of the remains of juvenile duckbill dinosaurs and intact, fossilized duckbill eggs. Those dinosaur fossils are different from those found in northwestern South Dakota, but the tools and processes used are the same. It’s hard to beat a primary source document from the right time period.

When finish these sources and add them to what Hiram and I learned on last summer’s paleo tour, at the end of last summer, it’ll be time to plan out the story––plot points, new character sketches, and such. At least I hope that’s what happens because the only ideas I have now are as follows:

  • The action happens in the spring.
  • There is a field trip to a dinosaur dig.
  • Something bad happens.
  • Someone dies.
  • Jane and the sheriff solve the mystery.

It doesn’t sound like much now, but trust me. if Book #4 is half as interesting as researching dinosaur digs for See Jane Dig!, you’re gonna love what Jane gets up to next!

Introducing the See Jane Advisory Board

Introducing the See Jane Advisory Board

Introducing the See Jane Run Advisory Board gives me great pleasure. The board’s formation came about when the 7 and 4-year-old grandchildren were back seat passengers in our car a few days after Christmas, 2022. Hiram was driving so I directed all my attention to the following conversation. It began when the 7-year-old became curious about the box on the seat between him and his sister. It contained copies of See Jane Run! and See Jane Sing!. The 7-year-old opened the box and used his burgeoning reading skills to read the titles, emphasis on burgeoning as you’ll see below.

“Is Seejane the girl on the front of these books?” he asked.

“Yes, but since there’s a space between ‘See’ and ‘Jane’ it’s pronounced ‘See Jane.'” I explained.

“Oh, I see. Jane is the girl. Why are there different covers?”

“Because they’re two different stories. The first is See Jane Run! and the second is See Jane Sing!”

“What kind of books are they?”

“They’re mysteries. Jane catches bad guys.” I added a bunch more, but all of you have heard the spiel, so there’s no need to subject you to it again.

The 4-year-old piped up. “Are you going to write more of these books?”

I told them about the upcoming titles, See Jane Dance! and See Jane Dig! With that the floodgates of their imaginations burst wide open.

“Grammy, you should write See Jane Christmas!” said the 7-year-old.

“That’s a great idea, and there’s actually a Christmas program in See Jane Sing!

Back to the 4-year-old. “How about See Jane Halloween! instead?”

“I have a better idea,” said the 7-year-old. “See Jane Underground! where they go to London and catch bad guys in the underground subway.”

“Or See Jane Invisible Hole! where they dig a hole and it’s invisible and Jane jumps in and the bad guys don’t see it and they fall in…”

The 4-year-old went on and on, but I missed the gist of her plot line because my mind was on how anyone would see Jane do anything in an invisible hole.

“Grammy,” interrupted the 7-year-old. “You could make Jane statues to sell. And tee-shirts.”

“And earrings,” added the 4-year-old. “And you could give Jane a sword and a shield and a gun to shoot bad guys,”

“Jane doesn’t like guns. She doesn’t own one.”

The 4-year-old gasped and after a dramatic pause proclaimed. “You could write See Jane Freeze! and Elsa from Frozen could freeze the bad guys.”

“How would you two like to be members of the See Jane Advisory Board? I’ll serve treats at meetings.”

“Yes,” they shouted as my husband pulled into the garage.

That, dear reader, is the humble beginning of the See Jane Advisory Board. Leave a comment if you’d like to join the team. I’m not sure how much we’ll get done at our meetings. However, I can assure you that our gatherings will be entertaining and there will be treats!

 

See Jane Dig! Will Be a Dirty Business

See Jane Dig! Will Be a Dirty Business

See Jane Dig!, will be a dirty business, when I get down to writing it the fourth book in the West River Mystery Series. I learned this lesson on a morning spent looking for fossilized tortoise shells and crocodile teeth while scrambling around the rocky, washed out terrain pictured above. Friends and colleagues who would have voted me ‘most likely to avoid dirt, sweat, and hiking” probably don’t believe I would do such a thing statement.

But I did, and it goes to show that authors 1) will sacrifice all for their art, and that 2) they are crazy people.

With that truth established, let’s circle back to the morning Hiram and I spent digging in the dirt for fossils. Or to use terminology preferred by the good people at the Pioneer Trails Regional Museum in Bowman, North Dakota,* on our paleo site tour. Our guide was Darrah Steffen, the museum’s paleontology curator.** We followed her by car about 30 miles west and slightly north of Bowman to the site of the paleo tour in Slope County. Then we followed her on foot to what she called a “micro site,” which looked like this.

Not quite the dinosaur bones sticking out of bare earth I had pictured. Quite a disappointment, in fact, until we got the hang of spotting bits of rock just a little different from the surrounding dirt and debris. Like these, which Darrah identified as 65 million-year-old fossilized crocodile skin.

We didn’t find any crocodile teeth, but our eventual haul included fossilized tortoise shells, more crocodile skin, petrified wood and reeds. Then we headed back to the town for lunch and and afternoon in the museum’s paleontology lab. We used specialized paleontologist tools*** to clean the fossils. Once they were squeaky clean, Darrah put them under the microscope so we could see what the they looked like up close and personal. Here’s a magnification of the crocodile skin.

Amazing, huh? Finally, Darrah took us into the lab’s inner sanctum and showed us how they will label and store the fossils found during our tour. She told us about the inland sea and its coastland which included the far western North Dakota, far western and northen South Dakota, and eastern Montana.**** She also answered my questions about the tools and processes used in the late 1970s when See Jane Dig! will take place.

The plot particulars are a mystery to me at this point, since I’m still slogging away at the first draft of See Jane Dance! What I do know about West River Mystery #4 is this:

  • The dinosaur dig will be somewhere in fictional Tipperary County, which is located in real dinosaur country.
  • Jane will take her students on a spring field trip to the dinosaur dig.
  • Jane’s students will assist their teacher up and down the ravines, much like my husband helped me.
  • Dinosaur dig tools include pick axes, sledgehammers, and dental picks so there will be plenty of murder weapons available.
  • See Jane Dig! will be a dirty business. Murder mysteries are like that.
  • Book #4 will release in late fall of 2024 or early 2025.

What do you think of the of dirty business Jane is getting herself into?

*Bowman is a real town, about 68 miles north and a little west of the fictional town of Little Missouri in fictional Tipperary County. Bowman is the county seat of Bowman County, just over the border in North Dakota.
**She holds an undergrad degree in geology and a master’s in paleontology and could teach Jane a thing or two.
***Tap water and toothbrushes.
****This area is rich in dinosaur skeletons, including stegosaurus, triceratops, T-Rex, and hadrosaurus.