With my mystery taking place a great deal in Siberia - in particular around Lake Baikal - I have to go back and jog my memory of the sights, the sounds, the people I encountered at age 20 when I got to tag along on a Conference on Children's Health held in Boise's sister city of Chita - in the heart of Siberia.
We had the good fortune of having a private concert by a local traditional dance troupe. Unfortunately, my video cassette of the entire trip was eaten by a tempermental VCR many years ago and I have not been able to track down a copy. But I remember the energy and the pride of those dancers.
I was struck by their costumes - some looking like my expectation of the village peasant, Russian Cossack, but more showcasing heavy influence of nearby China and Mongolia, and still more influenced by what I would label as Native Alaskan. It truly is a small world after all. This particular YouTube clip captures what I remember of the spirit and energy, as well as the shrill yelps I remember from the private performance. I haven't concretely defined the role the Siberian Dance troupe will play in the story, but they are there.
I've been re-acquainting myself with my story's heroine, and she has changed rather dramatically over the past few years that I've been thinking of her. Not the small town dingbat that I first envisioned. She has broken free from her roots and has made a name for herself among the high society O.C. and Hollywood set - though a small name. Her tea expertise hasn't changed, but she has backed away from her own tea shop in favor of being the Tea Docent to the Stars. Charity teas, upper crust bridal and baby showers, ladies' luncheons - her name is at the top of every Who's Who party planner's list. And in her spare time, she leads exclusive, luxury world tea tours. Mystery and murder ensue.
The item of greatest interest in research right now: The Siberian tea trade route - known as Tea Road. As luck would have it, the route split at Lake Baikal. A perfect destination to discover tea, among other things, in Siberia. I've got lots of lovely photos of my brief time in Irkutsk.