I’m not sure how plot ideas come to me. I do know it happens on a subconscious level, and the most important thing I can do is to give my brain stuff to work with. Book research, for me, is as much about diving into the sense and “feel” of the time and place as it is about finding out the details of things — like the price of wheat in New York in 1824. As the details of the plot emerge, I will often take field trips to the places where the action happens. Sometimes, I have to do that virtually. Thank goodness for Google Maps! For book three in the Captain Jane series, my research has taken me to the overgrown banks of the Erie Canal in Montezuma, an abandoned graveyard, the Erie Canal museum, and many places in between.
It is not unusual for me to bring home things that connect me to those places, like the print of a packet boat on the canal you see above. Every time I walk past it, I am reminded of the story, and that place and time. Before long, the plot emerges, and I am ready to write. That is always a thrilling moment!