Searching for Estrada

It is a glorious fall day–Canadian Thanksgiving–so I wore my new hikers up to Buntzen Lake to test them out on the trails and search for Estrada. (I love these Keens!)

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When you take a three-month hiatus in the middle of writing a book you can’t always pick up where you left off. Buntzen Lake is where the Hollystone witches do their rituals and it’s Estrada’s favourite place. I knew if I could find him anywhere, it would be here in these woods.

I discovered Buntzen Lake twenty years ago. It’s a beautiful park located in Anmore, B.C.

When we left Ontario, with all of our possessions in a trailer and drove west, Anmore Campground was our end point. I saw it on a map, and it seemed like the closest camping spot to Vancouver. When we arrived, we rented a storage locker and unloaded our U-Haul. That campground became home for several weeks before we found our first suite.

The park itself hasn’t changed much, although developers are cashing in on the beauty of this land and its location. Run by BC Hydro, it’s a gorgeous playground with many hiking trails and launch facilities for watercraft. The campground is still there, as is the small Anmore store where you can buy ice cream and rent canoes and kayaks.

To Charm a Killer

The off-leash dog beach at Buntzen Lake is where Maggie Taylor is writing her Macbeth essay and playing with Remy, her black lab, at the beginning of To Charm a Killer. When the dog hears Dylan’s bagpipes in the forest, he takes off. And that’s how Maggie first meets the Hollystone witches and gets caught up in their charm.

Remy stopped digging and sprung from the hole. Hackles rigid, he pivoted to face the forested mountain at their backs. Bagpipes? Scottish bagpipes? The music of Macbeth? Here? In the forest above Buntzen Lake?

A shiver struck Maggie as her dog bolted. In his haste, he leapt off a stump, cleared the chain link fence, and disappeared through the trees.

Chasing after him, she hit the top bar with both hands, vaulted over the fence and raced into the forest. “Remy!”

Writing is a fascinating process. Everything you encounter gets stored in your research data banks and may eventually appear in a book. This beach, where we took our pup many years ago, became an anchor setting in To Charm a Killer.

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Maggie Taylor lives in a log house at the end of Hawk’s Claw Lane–a laneway nestled up against the park. When she moves to Ireland with her mother, Daphne and Raine, two of the Hollystone witches, rent the house and adopt Remy. So, the log house continues to be an integral setting in books two and three. A VIB (very important baby) is born there on the back deck, but I can’t tell you who. Not just yet.

Despite her parents, Maggie knew that she was fortunate to live in this place. Their home perched between two bodies of water close enough to walk between: Buntzen Lake and the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes the inlet was rank with decaying sea creatures and slick fetid muck that could suck down small children and gumboots; while other times, the water flowed deep, charged by the invisible force of the tides. Bordered by beaches, boardwalks, and parks, it attracted boaters and paddlers, along with salmon-chasing harbour seals and bald eagles.

Shadowed by the Coast Mountains and groves of giant red cedars, their yard was shaded, yet brilliant with blossoming rhododendrons, planted by Shannon in one of her gardening frenzies years before. Anchored by the log house that John had built for them with his own hands, the Taylor family lived in tenuous tranquility at the end of Hawk’s Claw Lane. Their lives were so well constructed that Maggie had told only two people—who absolutely required an explanation at the time—that her father suffered from a severe head injury and required medication and constant monitoring to keep up the façade.

She had told no one that she was the cause of that injury. Once uttered, that truth was irrevocable and could unleash forces over which she had no control—forces that could change her life forever.

But it’s their high priest, Estrada, who loves Buntzen Lake the most–and it’s where I found him today, as I knew I would.

 

At the signal tree, they veered off a grass-flecked game trail between massive ferns. Buntzen Lake simmered below, a smoky emerald in the growing dusk. Ancient granite mountains encircled the water; their snow-tipped spires still harbouring scattered traces of last winter’s storms. Pine spikes jutted like slivers from the distant peaks, split only by immense mottled rock that gaped through the trees—faces of mountain spirits and Old World giants.

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