by Heather Weidner
Details at the end of the post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of the first book in Heather’s Delanie series, Secret Lives and Private Eyes, and a link to order Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers from Amazon. You can find buy other buy links on the author’s website.
I love doing research for my writing projects. It’s probably the most fun of all the tasks in the writing process. During the plotting for my latest cozy series, I needed a job for my amateur sleuth that would give her some schedule flexibility to hunt down clues and ferret out murderers and still keep her business viable.
My husband likes to do restoration projects (campers, boats, old houses, and classic cars), so we watch a lot of shows on HGTV and YouTube. I stumbled upon folks who restore classic campers and decorate them for today’s travelers. One of my favorites was of a couple, Anna and Justin Scribner from California, whose work was documented in the series, Flipping RVs. A light bulb went off. Jules, my sleuth, could own an upscale campground where folks can go to get away and enjoy glamorous camping (glamping). She lives and works at the resort, and while she is busy with her business, she also has the flexibility to chase down clues, do research, and poke and pry into the local sheriff’s investigations.
I’m Heather Weidner, and I write the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries set in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. In the series, Jules and her father upcycled old, beat up campers into posh trailers with wine chillers, plush amenities, and all kinds of electronic doo-dads for a luxurious experience. They saved about fifty trailers from the scrapheap and preserved their history for future generations. The resort also has a lodge for gourmet breakfasts and lots of traditional camping activities like hiking, bird-watching, watching movies and concerts in the outdoor amphitheater, and making s’mores at the fire pits. The resort sits on twenty-five acres in the mountains near Charlottesville, Virginia, in the fictional town of Fern Valley.
At the Fern Valley Luxury Resort, Jules themed each vintage trailer with special décor that matched the camper’s name like the 1947 Robin Hood Trailer that is decked out in honor of its namesake; the 1959 Sunliner Caravan that sports a posh Barbie fashion design from the same year that the camper and the doll debuted; the 1953 Redman New Moon decorated for Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball’s movie from the same year, The Long, Long Trailer; the 1954 Airstream decked out to commemorate Elvis and his recordings at Sun Studios; the 1954 Airfloat with its porthole windows that reminded Jules of spaceship and its Area 51 theme; and the 1955 Terry decorated for James Dean and his movie, Rebel Without a Cause.
Online, there are Facebook groups, blogs, and websites where owners showcase their decorating and restoration skills, and the renovations to the neglected campers are amazing. While I am not the adventurous, survivalist camper, I do love the idea of glamping, and the upscale resort was a perfect setting for my series. Lots of guests come to town each season, and there were plenty of opportunities for murder, mayhem, and sleuthing. Jules and her trusty sidekick, Bijou, a spunky brown and white Jack Russell Terrier, spend most of their days (and nights) keeping the resort viable. She is always promoting on her social media sites and looking for ideas for fun get-aways like crafters’ weekends, writers’ retreats, wine tastings, and romantic Valentine weekends. It’s a full-time job and then some trying to keep the resort out of the red.
At the end of the first book, Jules partners with her maintenance/security guy (boyfriend) Jake to add tiny houses to the resort’s offerings. I am fascinated by these compact structures where all the floor plans and storage are minimalistic. These dwellings usually range from 400-1,000 square feet. If the tiny houses are designed to be movable, then the width has to fit within one lane of traffic. People create some amazing spaces with just a bit of square footage. This link showcases the variety of looks from cozy cottage to modern designs.
The creators find creative ways to use every nook and cranny for storage or living space, and many of the design pieces and furniture serve dual purposes. Jules decorates all of the ones in her resort with author and book themes, and each has surprises for the guests. Her tiny house neighborhood on the edge of the resort has houses named for Beatrix Potter, L. Frank Baum, J. K. Rowling, and Bram Stoker. The Rowling house has a reading nook tucked under the staircase, while the Baum one has a revolving, two-sided bookcase. Jules put black and white books on one side, and colorful ones on the other, to remind readers of epic scene change in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz.
In book four, Jules and Jake are going to take their restoration and building efforts to a new level and build a treehouse where guests can get a bird’s eye view of the mountains. This new structure offers visitors a new way to glamp and to check out the mountain vistas.
I am fascinated with all the tiny spaces that people make so functional. I would love to have a tiny house, restored camper, or treehouse as a writing retreat in my backyard. It would be the perfect space to plot, write, and edit. I think it’s time to get my husband to work on a new project.
Overview Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers
There is nothing like finding a dead body, clad only in a red satin thong, on your property to jolt you from a quiet routine. Jules Keene, owner of the posh Fern Valley Camping Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is thrust into the world of the Dark Web when one of her guests, Ira Perkins, is found murdered in the woods near her vintage trailers. Jules quickly discovers that the man who claimed to be on a writing retreat was not what he seemed, and someone will go to any length to find what he left at her resort. Jules, along with her Jack Russell Terrier sidekick Bijou, has to put the rest of the missing pieces of a blackmailing scheme together before her glamping business is ruined.
Jules’s resort, set in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville in the quaint town of Fern Valley, offers guests a unique vacation in refurbished and upcycled vintage trailers. Hoping to expand her offerings, she partners with her maintenance/security guy to create a village of tiny houses, the latest home DIY craze, but a second murder of a reporter interrupts Jules’s expansion plans. Curiosity gets the best of her, and she steps up her sleuthing to find out what Ira Perkins was really doing and what he hid at her resort.
To enter to win an ebook copy of the first book in Heather’s Delanie series, Secret Lives and Private Eyes, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “secret,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 2, 2022. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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