No one knows what caused a series of major earthquakes centered near New Madrid, Missouri, and felt in much of the eastern United States 200 years ago, according to geologists at the “It’s Your Fault” conference, University of Missouri, February 18, 2012.
I attended to hear whether any new information would affect my Thunder Beneath My Feet manuscript(nothing did) and when to expect the next big ones (no one knows).
Experts can tell big earthquakes occurred in the state’s southeast corner about 1450 and 900 and at similar intervals for 5,000 or so years. They don’t know whether other catastrophic quakes are coming in 300 years, 50 years, or never. Some theorize that the few modest quakes and countless tremors since 1812 are aftershocks that will eventually end.
Professor Eric Sandoval, a member of the Missouri Seismic Safety Commission, called the New Madrid seismic zone one of the most difficult to understand on the planet. Located in the middle of—rather than on the boundary of—a tectonic plate, this zone doesn’t fit the models that apply in most of the world, including California.
New Madrid resembles a seismic zone in northern China, said Professor Mian Liu. Models indicate low hazard, but quakes have killed hundreds of thousands. He emphasized that over a few centuries quakes in such zones may occur in different locations. Why? Nobody knows for sure. Recorded history deals with only a fraction of earthquakes, and much of what happens deep beneath the earth’s surface remains a mystery.
I live about 300 miles from the New Madrid earthquake epicenter, close enough for a 7.+ quake to bring down chimneys and spires. Until geologists find more clues to the mystery, I won’t know whether my quake insurance makes sense.
The first book in my Show Me mystery series will be published in February 2013 by Five Star, an imprint of Thorndike/Gale/Cengage.
Moving a book from initial idea to print distribution takes years. For me, the most exciting part of the process is writing the first draft. I also enjoy rewriting to shape the whole, to strengthen each chapter, to add punch to each scene, to find the exact word or phrase. The next three to five passes, when I try to function as an editor, don’t thrill me so much.
As Show Me the Murderwends its way through the publisher’s editorial, design, and production process, I’ll polish the second book in the series and entertain myself by writing the third.
Near the lake that cools the Summer Palace in Beijing, a tall man with a wet mop wrote something in large Chinese characters.
This mystery writer’s first thought: “What a clever way to write a message that would disappear before authorities could gather evidence.” I scrambled to take out my camera and get a shot.
My second thought: “Can’t be anything subversive. Too risky in such a public place.” I asked our tour guide what the man had written. She glanced at the characters and said, “Something about tourists and peace.”
I could tell she was lying, but since I don’t read Chinese and don’t make scenes in China, I didn’t challenge her.
When I returned to the States, I showed a Taiwan-born friend the photo. She couldn’t read all the characters, but one part said something about birth and another about the coming of autumn breezes. She explained that when the man took water from the lake in his bucket, he also mixed in a little oil.
What the photo shows is a form of performance art. I suspect he’s demonstrating his calligraphic skills by quoting or composing a poem, not a political statement.
I still like the idea of using writing with water in a mystery.