Site icon Joanna Campbell Slan

Honey, You'll Never Guess What Rolled Up in the Surf

By Joanna Campbell Slan,


is a giant bug light for crazy people.” ~ Phyllis Smallman, Sleuthfest 2014

no surprise to any author living in Florida that some of the craziest stories
we can write are actually inspired by true events in our sunshine state. Join
us in exploring a different side of Florida than the travel bureau promotes
with our first Blog Hop sponsored by Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of
America. Read on, click the links below to read another member’s view of crazy
Florida, comment, share your favorite stories, and enter the contest to win a
Kindle Paperwhite.

When people learn that I write mysteries, they ask, “Where do you get your ideas?”

You never know what will wash up in the surf.

My answer is, “They roll up in the surf.”

When I first moved to Florida, I walked the beach for seashells. Some days I found a lot. Some days, not so much. But quickly the shells became secondary to the other wonderful, weird, and wacky items that have made their way to the shore.
I have found:

1. Toothbrushes — By the handful. In fact, I’m convinced that dentists must hold conventions weekly where they toss toothbrushes over the sides of boats. How else can you explain the plethora of toothbrushes. I mean, these are a daily find!

2. A hard hat — In bright orange. I wondered if the wearer fell overboard, or if he simply got tired of wearing a plastic helmet in the sun. (I only found one of these, but I did admire it for weeks.)

3. Syringes — With needles. (This convinced me not to go barefoot in the sand. I’m especially careful of piles of Sargasso, the seaweed that gives the beach its distinctive odor. You never know what’s inside those weeds.)

4. Vials of drugs — This particular tube held insulin, but other beachcombers have found cocaine. Or so the police have told me.

5. Shoes — But never a pair. And never Jimmy Choos. Or Christian Louboutins. Sigh. Still, a girl can dream.

6. Fishnets — Not stockings, but the stuff that gets wrapped around the necks of turtles and seabirds. These I collect and take home to put in the garbage. I also pick up plastic bags. Turtles swallow these, thinking they are eating jellyfish. The bags fill their stomachs, causing the sea turtles to starve to death.

7. A boat full of marijuana — One-point-seven million dollars worth to be exact. The smugglers set sail at eleven p.m. from Bermuda. They didn’t account for how choppy the sea was, so they overturned on the beach right off my backyard. I woke up to a swarm of helicopters and DEA agents. Then came the media trucks and reporters.

I have not found a raft, but my neighbor did. Imagine the desperation that might drive someone to hop on a bunch of branches roped together and set sail for a distant shore. Nor have I found gold, but another neighbor discovered a cannon full of gold coins.

There’s so much to love about Florida. And if you are a mystery writer, you don’t need to go looking for ideas. They’ll wash up in the surf.


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 Check out the posts by these other Florida writers–and enter to win the Kindle Paperwhite:

Victoria Allman, Gator Bites,

Miriam Auerbach, Bonkers in Boca,

Gregg E. Brickman, Crazy South Florida