Joyce author Sims puts series heroine on Peninsula; writer gives talk before moving to Florida

PORT ANGELES — Our heroine, single mother and sometime actress Rita Farmer, is headed into another steamy adventure — searching for her lost sister Gina, who’s been missing for days in the wilderness of the Olympic Mountains.

Oh, and her fiance, timber-company heir Lance de Sauvenard, is somewhere out there, too.

That’s the moss-covered setting for On Location, the seventh and latest mystery-thriller from Elizabeth Sims, a novelist who lives in Joyce — at least for a few more days.

Sims, a Michigander who spent her first career as a bookseller in San Francisco, fell in love with the North Olympic Peninsula years ago. In 2003, she settled in a house in the woods west of Port Angeles and has been writing about tough mystery-solving women ever since.

Rita Farmer series

Her series starring Rita Farmer — The Actress and then The Extra preceded On Location ­– has sparked praise around the country. Booklist, for one, pronounced The Actress “a gripping read,” and called On Location “crime fiction as smart as it is compelling.”

Sims has been eager for some time to set a book here on the Peninsula.

And On Location is dripping wet with atmospheric detail, from the weather system that “had decided to park here like a Greyhound bus” to the band of shaggy poachers Gina encounters deep in the forest.

But just as she published her Olympic novel, Sims had to make plans to move to the opposite corner of the country: Bradenton, Fla., where she can be closer to her mother, who needs her help.

Sims talk on Thursday

And Sims, who was originally scheduled to give a talk on On Location in late October, also had to move that up to this Thursday.

She’ll host a discussion of mysteries and writing in the Raymond Carver Room of the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St., at 7 p.m.

Admission is free, and more information is available by phoning Port Book and News at 360-452-6367.

During Thursday night’s talk, Sims will pay tribute to some real-life characters whose expertise informed the story — a neighbor who helped her do a small amount of lumberjacking, as in chopping down a giant maple tree that was threatening her house; Dr. Margaret Baker, who taught her the mountainside first aid she weaves into the novel; and retired Olympic National Park ranger Paul Crawford, who explained backcountry law enforcement and rescue.

In addition to writing novels, Sims is a contributing editor for Writer’s Digest, offers private coaching and workshops for writers — and relishes a discussion of how wordsmiths can develop their powers.

She’s not shy about using her own evolution as an example: For one thing, Sims wrote her first four books in first person, from the heroine’s point of view only.

That was limiting, she said, for reader and writer. So in the Rita Farmer mysteries, she stretched herself in several new directions.

In these books, Sims switches narrators, from Rita to her sometime paramour George Rowe, and even tells some of the story according to Rita’s 6-year-old son, Petey.

Seeing the world through these males’ eyes “is a lot of fun,” Sims said.

Colorful characters

On Location thrums with colorful characters: the rough-looking woman working at a country store a long way from anywhere; the young gay man who handles fine art at a Seattle auction house; the Southern Californian who knows how to survive in the backcountry but likes to order cute cupcakes when he has a party.

Put such people in a story, and you run the risk of offending some readers, Sims acknowledged.

She has been criticized for typecasting — in one instance by a woman who believed Sims had stereotyped black people in The Extra by having some inner-city black residents speak in nonstandard English.

Elsewhere in the novel, there are black characters who speak standard English — but the woman hadn’t read the whole book.

“You can’t win them all,” Sims said.

And to her mind, any artist, working in any medium, had better take risks if he or she wants to develop.

On Location has our heroine taking risks to find her sister, making her way through the Olympic wilderness and up the Harkett River, a stand-in for the Elwha.

“Rita and her compatriots go through hell and back,” Sims said. The tale ends with “a lot of sturm and drang,” as in storm and stress.

For her next novel, Sims plans to give Petey a bigger role in a mystery whose working title is Best Boy. She’s also working on a proposal for a book about how to write a novel or a narrative nonfiction book.

And on Nov. 18, after she’s settled in Florida, Sims will teach a webinar on the mystery-thriller genre.

Details are available at www.WritersDigest.com, while information about Sims’ books and other activities is at www.ElizabethSims.com.

Four days after Thursday’s appearance, Sims said, is when she and her partner, Marcia Burrows, will begin their drive east.

“My heart is heavy about leaving this beautiful area and so many friends and book lovers,” she said, adding that she has had the great pleasure of knowing extraordinary people here.

So on Thursday night, Sims promised, she and friends will serve “special refreshments,” and offer something that won’t be plentiful here for the foreseeable future: autographed copies of On Location.

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

More in Life

Katie Lee of Port Angeles examines a table of perennial plants during Saturday’s annual plant sale and raffle at the floral barn at the Clallam County Fairgrounds in Port Angeles. The sale, hosted by the Port Angeles Garden Club, was a fundraiser for club projects and scholarships, and it featured a wide variety of plants for the upcoming growing season and beyond. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Plant sale at Clallam County Fairgrounds

Katie Lee of Port Angeles examines a table of perennial plants during… Continue reading

The 2024 Community Service Awards winners gather before Thursday's awards ceremony at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. This year's recipients were, seated from left, Steph Ellyas and Lyn Fiveash, and standing from left, Gordon Taylor, Don Zanon, Carol Labbe and Betsy Reed Schultz. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Six honored for community service efforts

Volunteers provide energy for trails, respite care

Photo by Karen Griffiths

Cutline: A fundraiser for WAG and Open starts Today at 11 a.m. with an English and jumping fun show, followed tomorrow with a Western Games show at Kari Payne’s 4-L arena off Blue Mountain Road, 95 S. McCrorie Rd. Port Angeles.  Fox-Bell Farm owner Shelby Vaughan, and her assistants Sophie Feik and Kaia Lestage (holding Marley) will be there to host. Shown is Tatar Trots, 10. a horse Shelby got from OPEN five years ago when he was a feral, unhandled stallion and, now, after castrating and training,  he’s a docile horse who enjoys teaching kids how to ride.

 

(Rescue dog Rocky laying down if he’s shown in photo)
HORSEPLAY: Rescue program gives horses new life

SHELBY VAUGHAN WAS born into the rescue mindset. She grew up on… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: For garden chores, keep the spring in your step

SO THE DREAM Playground build is going wonderfully. Thank you for those… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Be a gracious and hospitable host

NOTICE OUR ROAD traffic is getting busier? Yep. We are beginning our… Continue reading

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “Love God and Tie up your Camel” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Schellink is the guest speaker at Unity in the Olympics, 2917 E. Myrtle Ave.
Weekend program scheduled for Unity in the Olympics

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “Love God and… Continue reading

Unitarian speaker slated in Port Angeles

Phoenix Biggs will present “Singing of Honor… Continue reading

Jaiden Dokken, at Jeanette Best Gallery in Port Townsend, is Northwind Art’s new exhibits coordinator. (Northwind Art)
Poet laureate takes on new role with Northwind Art

Artist, poet and educator Jaiden Dokken is Northwind Art’s… Continue reading

Author John Vaillant stands in front of the iconic tower at Port Angeles City Pier. (Elijah Sussman/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Author visits Peninsula for Writer in Residence program

Vaillant awarded Shaughnessy Cohen Prize

A GROWING CONCERN: Volunteers a dream for playground

YOU, MY LOYAL readers, have been excellent the couple of times I… Continue reading

Unity in Port Townsend planning for Sunday services

Joanna Gabriel will present the lesson at 11 a.m.… Continue reading