I have written two mystery series with Native American characters, while I am not Native American. I’ve read books by Native American authors, have a friend who lives on the Colville Reservation with her Native American husband, and I have lived in an area that has so much Native American history I feel it seeps into you.
But I am facing my biggest challenge as a writer, now, when it is more politically correct to be of the same heritage as the characters you write.
I started slowly, with my heroine, Shandra Higheagle being only half Native American so I could have her raised without that influence and have her discover it as I did writing her story.
But I felt the area where I grew up, needed more exposure about the people who lived and were stewards of the land before if was favored as lush feed for cattle. And that was how my character, Gabriel Hawke, came to be. He is of Nez Perce and Cayuse heritage. He is working as a State Trooper with the Fish and Wildlife Division in Wallowa County, the land where his ancestors summered and winter. While he hasn’t lived on the reservation since graduating high school, I feel I can pull off his loyalty to his ancestors and still have him respect his culture but not be fully immersed in it.
Now, as I am writing the last Shandra book and moving onto a new character, I have to tame the lump in my gut and start contacting people on the Umatilla Reservation. My next character will be living and working on the reservation. I will need first hand knowledge to make this character ring true and to make her not only show the life of someone trying to end the cycle of prejudice and move on, but also someone who values her people’s culture.
That my writer and reader friends is what I will be trying to achieve the next few months. Connecting with people who are willing to allow me into their world and to show a life that I am not a part of but believe in.
Wish me luck! And let me know if you have anyone on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation who would be willing to help me. I’m sending out feelers this week.
When I start to plan an Emily Swift Travel Mystery, I go where my amateur sleuth will go and jot down descriptions, observations, and plot ideas in my journal. Because Emily is a travel writer, I want to capture her enthusiasm for new places and describe them as well as I can. Useful as my journal is, however, I often turn to the Internet to develop my ideas in more detail when I’m actually writing. I find the combination of real-life observation and research works for me.
Sometimes I have an idea for a scene that means I must head off to a place I’ve never been. In Murder on Madeline Island, the first book in the Emily Swift Travel Mystery series, Emily is helping an elderly woman search for her long-lost Ojibwa brother. I thought her search might lead her to a Powwow. So, I drove to Bayfield, Wisconsin to see a powwow firsthand. As I always do, I jotted down detailed descriptions in my journal. But when I started to write the scene, I realized I needed more. I went on UTube to watch the Shawl Dance and Grass Dance and found out their significance. Then it was easy to imagine the scene. In the final version a snippy young girl who has been resisting Emily’s entreaties to meet with the old woman, dances beautifully, transforming herself from a girl into a crow. The character’s love of tradition gave her greater depth and made her more likeable. That was my intention anyway. If you read it, let me know if you agree.
Sometimes I see something on a trip that gives me a plot idea and then I go online to find out more. While I was in Hawaii, my husband and I visited a mountain top that had been the site of an ancient temple. Fresh fruits and flowers were placed there as if at a shrine or gravesite. It seemed to me this would be the perfect place for a body to be discovered. So, in Homicide in Hawaii, that’s where the victim’s body is found. I went online to do research and discovered there had been a resurgence of interest in the old Hawaiian religion and worship of the god Lono. Here was another lead to help me develop the story. One character – a young girl who has been adopted and is now seeking information about her Polynesian heritage becomes fascinated by the old religion.
Now, when we are all kept inside by the Pandemic, it was a particular joy to relive my last trip to England where I did the research for A Killing in the Cotswolds, the third book in the series, which has just been published by Cozy Cat Press. In the novel, Emily is writing articles about daytrips not far from London when she is drawn into a murder investigation. Like Emily, I travelled from London to charming Cotswold villages to Stratford upon Avon and Avebury and enjoyed delicious teas and visits to historic sites. But it was Internet research that gave me the idea for the long-buried secret that led to murder. I didn’t use the actual event, but it spurred my imagination.
For now, I highly recommend armchair travel. Emily Swift Travel mysteries are available in print and Kindle on Amazon.
A Killing in the Cotswolds, An Emily Swift Travel Mystery
It’s springtime in England and travel writer Emily Swift is writing about charming Cotswold villages. But when a politician is found dead in a country inn, she and her boyfriend Jack are drawn into a murder investigation. Who killed him? An actor with a talent for deception? A schoolmaster fired after a mysterious death? A tour guide at Warwick Castle bent on revenge? Over tea and crumpets, Emily’s childhood friend begs her to find out and save an innocent woman from being charged with murder. Emily can’t say no. Clues lead through the British countryside and danger lurks where Emily least expects it.
The books are available in print and Kindle on Amazon
Lorrie Holmgren is the author of three Emily Swift Travel Mysteries: Murder on Madeline Island, Homicide in Hawaii and A Killing in the Cotswolds. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband, busily penning mysteries and hoping it will soon be safe to travel. She enjoys Zumba, Salsa, Bachata, aqua aerobics, gardening, knitting, and book group discussions.
Due to the covid and so many conferences and events I’d planned to attend being cancelled, I am now putting those dollars into getting more books narrated. Which is a good thing, except…. I’ve caught up to the last book written in the Gabriel Hawke series, Fox Goes Hunting.
It’s nice to have the audio book ready close behind the release of the ebook and print, but… this book is set in Iceland. My poor narrator is having to learn how to pronounce a lot of words in Icelandic.
The guide I met on my trip to Iceland has been a HUGE help with my book. He answered questions when I was on my trip and later via email. He also read the book to make sure the way the Icelanders in my books expressed themselves was correct and that I conveyed the spirit and feel of his homeland.
And I have once again reached out to him as this book is beginning to be narrated. I asked if he could give me a pronunciation guide for the Icelandic words. He came through, but said if the narrator needed more detail in the saying, he could do an IPA system but it would take him much longer to do.
Thankfully, my narrator has already reached out to some other narrators for help in the pronunciation of the words. I feel for him. He was excited to do this book, but he will have a lot more work than he usually puts into the Hawke books.
If you would like to listen to one of the first five Gabriel Hawke audio books for free, I have some Author Direct codes you can use to listen to the books.
Here’s to hoping my narrator can channel his inner Icelander.
No matter what genre I write, there is always research. Did I say I love research? LOL The current work in progress is the 6th Gabriel Hawke novel. You would think setting the book in the county where I grew up and having had a ride-along with the State Trooper of the Fish and Wildlife Division I’d have everything I need to write the book.
I don’t and I’m having fun learning about muzzleloading rifles, rendezvouses, shooting competitions, and the general lifestyle of the people who travel to muzzleloader events.
Did you know that they not only have shooting competitions with the muzzleloading rifles, but they also have knife throwing and long bow competitions? And they all use an alias while at the events.
I contacted the person in charge of the Facebook page for the local (to Wallowa County) Muzzleloading Club to learn about the club, the rendezvous they hold every year, and all I could that would help me enhance my story. They have vendors who sell articles and clothing of the early 1800s the time period they represent while at the events.
I even drove to Grizz Flat where they hold the Rendezvous to get photos, see the area, and figure out how to set up the story.
The premise of the murder happens to be something the State Trooper told me about when I did my ride-along. He stopped on a road, across the river from Grizz Flat and pointed to the camping area. “See that campfire to the left?” I nodded. “A vehicle rolled over the campfire and caught on fire. A man died. They say he was drunk, passed out, and must have bumped the gear shirt. But after investigating, we discovered he’d had an argument with his wife.”
I said, “It couldn’t have rolled, the ground is too flat. And how coincidental would it be for the vehicle, if he’d put it in gear, to stall over the campfire. I say it was homicide.”
The trooper said, “That was what all the investigators said, but the D.A. said it was an accident.”
That is the story I am writing for this Hawke book. The vehicle is found burning over a campfire and the victim is in the vehicle. This time, Hawke will push to make sure the killer is caught and the D.A. prosecutes.
Have I mentioned the theme of my books is justice? 😉
Hi, I’m Ann Charles and I write the USA Today Bestselling Deadwood Mystery series, which has a spicy mixture of mystery, paranormal, humor, and romance.
One of the questions that I am asked periodically by fans of this series is how I came up with my heroine—Violet Parker. They often want to know if I based her off someone I know; or, if I am the real Violet and she’s based on me since we both have two kids, a boy and a girl.
Before I talk about the “how” in relation to Violet, let me tell you a little about her. At the start of this eleven-books-and-growing series, she is in her mid-thirties and a single mother with nine-year-old fraternal twins whose father was basically a sperm donor. She’s semi-recently moved to the small town of Deadwood, South Dakota to live with her Aunt Zoe and is trying her hand at a new career—real estate. Unfortunately, little girls are disappearing in the area and her daughter could be next, so she finds herself trying to hunt down a kidnapper while struggling to make her first sale and keep her little family alive and afloat.
Lucky for me, my experiences with motherhood are nothing like Violet’s. However, she and I do share a sense of humor, parenting exasperations, and a fondness of family and friends. We also are softies for crusty old men who make us laugh at their colorful and often unchecked ways.
Violet Parker came to me one day while I was visiting my mom, who lives in the Deadwood area. I was pregnant with my second child and driving around town when the thought came to me—what would it be like to be a single mom trying to raise two kids here. At the time, the economy was struggling a little and the big gold mine in the area had closed down, so jobs were hard to come by, especially for a thirty-something woman with a family to support. From the start, I knew Violet and I would be good friends because we kept sharing the same jokes about different characters as they came on the page, and we found ourselves wincing at our children’s antics.
I loved creating a character based on so many strong women I knew over the years who were raising kids on their own. They were my heroes, and I wanted Violet to represent them in different ways, so that we could all cheer her on whether it was for her successes in her career, crime solving, or love. Like so many of us regular women, I wanted her to be curvier than most, have wild hair (literally and figuratively), and make mistakes along the way. BUT, she would be funny and charming and full of love for her family and friends.
From this mishmash of thoughts and experiences, Violet Parker was born, and so was the Deadwood Mystery series.
Ann Charles’s books are available as ebook, print book, and audiobooks for individuals, bookstores, libraries, etc. You can find her books on all of the usual major vendor sites: Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Ingram, Audible, and Overdrive, as well as many others. You can also find links to her books on her website: http://www.anncharles.com
Book 11 in the USA Today Bestselling Deadwood Mystery series, DEVIL DAYS IN DEADWOOD, will be available for pre-order at the end of April with a release date near the end of May. (With this crazy virus mucking up the works both online and offline, Ann isn’t giving set dates at this time.)
USA Today Bestselling author, Ann Charles, writes spicy mysteries full of comedy, adventure, suspense, romance, and paranormal mayhem. She currently has five on-going series in the works and is often daydreaming of starting a sixth series, but she needs to master the art of cloning first. When she’s not dabbling in fiction, she’s arm wrestling with her two kids, attempting to seduce her husband, and arguing with her sassy cats.
Most readers remember the main characters or protagonists in a book or story. They carry the story and have the most ups and down, triumphs and failures. I love my main characters and showing their growth and life changes through each book.
But I love coming up with new secondary characters for each book. While some continue through other books because they live in the area where my protagonists do, there are always the new secondary characters who are caught up in the murders. The victims, the people who were close to them, and the people who end up on my suspect chart.
These characters can be as interesting and complex as my protagonists. If they don’t have a complete- well-rounded life for the reader to know about, how will the reader care if their murderer is found? At least that’s how I feel.
The victim, no matter how awful he or she might be, has to have a life before their death. One that, even if the reader doesn’t like them that much, they want to know why and who killed them.
My current WIP ( work in progress) has me really stretching my research skills to make sure my characters from around the world ( the book is set in Iceland at a world-wide SAR conference). SAR is Search and Rescue. When I did my research on the conference that does happen every other year, I noticed that the attendees are from all over the world.
I have always had an eclectic group of characters. So why stay with only American and Icelandic attendees when the conference draws them in from all over? I have British, Australian, Kenyan, and Japanese characters who are integral to my story. And of course, Icelandic and American.
My bookcase has many useful writing books and the one I used to start my latest WIP was A World of Baby Names. It gives common names from many countries. I have also been emailing with the tour guide I had on my trip to Iceland. He gave me common Icelandic names. He has also helped me with information I’ve been unable to find online or in books. He’s been a lot of fun to work with.
The goal with this in-depth research is to discover how people from these countries would use slang from their countries while speaking English. I feel it will make the people more realistic.
Of course, this is a conference and the other thing that will be working against me and my character will be time. The people will scatter at the end of the four day conference and the body is found on the second day of a pre-conference event. There is going to have to be some quick digging of clues to find out who the murderer is before the attendees scatter all over the world.
I just finished the 14th Shandra Higheagle Mystery book. This book is set in Kauai, Hawaii. Yes, I had to write off the trip I took to Kauai last October. LOL Actually, it took me 40 years to get my husband to go to Hawaii with me and I happened to like the idea of setting a book there.
I enjoyed revisiting the places we went to add spice and authenticity to the book. My photos, some I took with the intention of using for the cover, and others so I could remember what I’d seen, helped me bring the island to life in the book.
While the writing, bringing in the island flavor, and discovering an actual event that brought my amateur sleuth potter to the island in a real way, it was the intricacy of the plot that kept me spellbound as I wrote the book.
As usual, I started out with my suspect chart, all part of the art world on Kauai. But as I researched and discovered more about the island, the art world became more dark and convoluted. This on an island that boasts very low crime rates. But I couldn’t help myself. The island is warm, inviting, and overpopulated with tourists.
Because of the tourists, I have my characters catering to the masses. I’m not saying what I wrote about isn’t happening on the island, but it isn’t in the statistics that I read. However, I did read about the influx of drugs back about 5 years and taking creative license, I used that information to sway the direction of the story.
I take pride in so many readers saying they didn’t know who the murderer was until it was unveiled in most of my mysteries. And so, I go at each book with the intent to drop clues but keep the reader wondering until the end. I hope I’ve done that with this book as well. We’ll see when I get my critique partners’ notes on it.
Here is the cover for Abstract Casualty, set on Kauai, Hawaii.
Historical mysteries are travel literature with a kick. You get to visit a different locale, exploring a distant place AND era. New vistas, new sensations: you want to experience it all and, to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, you don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.
I’m the kind of writer who needs to immerse myself in a setting. The third book in my noir series takes place in Saigon, circa 1957, and builds off my favorite Graham Greene novel: Banished from the set of The Quiet American, actress Cara Walden stumbles onto a communist insurgency—and discovers her brother’s young Vietnamese lover right in the thick of it. How could I get myself to Asia?
It turns out that luxury cruise lines are always looking for guest lecturers. I put together a a film and lecture series for Silversea entitled “Asia Through Hollywood’s Eyes,” a romp through classic movies featuring Asian characters and stories. From Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan through Cato in the Pink Panther series, pre-Code gems like Shanghai Express starring Marlene Dietrich (“It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily”) and the ever-fascinating Anna May Wong, beloved epics including The Good Earth and Bridge on the River Kwai, musicals including The King and I along with the best-forgotten Road to Singapore not to mention masterpieces based on Somerset Maugham stories and featuring the best leading ladies out there: The Painted Veil (Garbo), Rain (Joan Crawford), The Letter (Bette Davis).
Okay, it took me the better part of a summer to research and write the lectures. I had to watch all the films (poor me . . .) and learn how to rip DVDs to make clips to embed in my presentations. I had to upgrade my wardrobe and get my bridge game back up to snuff. But October 17, 2015 found me at the five-star InterContinental Hotel in Hong Kong, doing Tai Chi by the pool with William to get the kinks out of my body after the nineteen-hour flight. Then I boarded the ship for the eleven-day all-expenses-paid cruise to Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Singapore and ports in-between. The highlights of my trip included tagging along as a chaperone on a tour of Hue, retracing Graham Greene’s footsteps through Saigon, and visiting the palace and temple grounds of the King of Siam, followed by a very expensive mojito in Somerset Maugham’s favorite watering hole, Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental.
What an adventure!
The Glass Forest
A Cara Welden Mystery
Saigon, 1957: Banished from the set of The Quiet American, actress Cara Walden stumbles onto a communist insurgency-and discovers her brother’s young Vietnamese lover right in the thick of it. A bittersweet story of love and betrayal set in the early years of American involvement in the country, Lisa Lieberman’s tribute to Graham Greene shows us a Vietnam already simmering with discontent.
Lisa Lieberman writes the Cara Walden series of historical mysteries based on old movies and featuring blacklisted Hollywood people on the lam in dangerous international locales. Her books hit the sweet spot between Casablanca and John le Carré. Trained as a modern European cultural and intellectual historian, Lieberman abandoned a perfectly respectable academic career for the life of a vicarious adventurer through perilous times. She has written extensively on postwar Europe and lectures locally on efforts to come to terms with the trauma of the Holocaust in film and literature. She is Vice President of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of Mystery Writers of America.
As I write this, it’s raining. Heavily and steadily. And there’s a bit of a chill in the air. After all, it’s fall, a transition month of warm days, cool nights, brilliant sunshine and cloudless skies; apples, pumpkins, red orange, rust and yellow leaves and a profusion of brightly colored mums. And, of course, there’s also the rain, wind and a sea so noisy we can hear it with our windows closed. I’ve worked all morning on Murder in the Cemetery, the second book in the Edmund DeCleryk series, which is set in the fictional village of Lighthouse Cove, NY. I imagine Ed, and his wife, Annie, sitting in front of a roaring fire at the end of the day, drinking red wine and discussing the case.
Yesterday was different. It was one of those days when you just want to be outside enjoying the crisp fall air and the smell of the decaying leaves. I imagine a reflective Ed, walking on a deserted beach, waves lapping onto shore, cup of steaming coffee in hand.
In the winter my characters take long walks in the snow and meet friends at cozy pubs with wood-beamed ceilings that have parking lots filled with snowmobiles. They eat hearty food and settle in with a good book in front of the fire.
In the spring the roads they drive on meander through acres of fruit trees covered with fragrant, fuzzy pink and white blossoms, and in summer, you might see them sailing on the teal blue waters of Lake Ontario or watching a splendid fireworks’ display from their decks.
Each season of the year has its own beauty and inspires me to interject that beauty into the plot of the Cozy mysteries I write. I have an affinity to Cozies because of their charm, but also because the reader gets to know not only the cast of characters but also the towns and villages where they live.
Think about Louise Penny’s Three Pines series- would it be as engaging if it weren’t set in a small, quaint Canadian village? And what about the works of Martha Grimes, whose character, Richard Jury, gets help solving cases from friends living in the quirky village of Long Piddleton. If you’ve ever watched Midsomer Murders (one of my favorite “cozy” TV series), you’ll remember the festivals, concerts and fairs as well as the enticing Midsomer County woods, fields and streams that help set the scene for those murders.
The setting of a book is crucial to drawing the reader into the plot. “It was a dark and stormy night, ….” although comically trite, really does warn the reader that something ominous is about to occur. But then there’s also an intriguing juxtaposition between a day when the birds are singing, the sunrise glorious and all’s right with the world, and a horrific murder that occurs that same morning in dark and swampy woods.
Since this is also my wedding anniversary, it’s a good time to announce that I have a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery–Not as it Seems.
Tempe and her husband, Hutch, travel to Morro Bay to attend their son’s wedding. This is also the first time they’ve been able to meet Blair’s fiancee, Amaresh.
I did some new things in this mystery. Usually, the setting in my Tempe mysteries are fictional though based on real places. This time I used one of my favoirte places on the California’s Central Coast. Doing so, my fictional characters also visited some great and very real restaurants as well as other attractions including the San Luis Obispo Mission, Montana de Oro, and Pismo Beach.
What isn’t new is Tempe is thrust into the supernatural world of the local Indians, in this case, the Chumash and Salinans.
My husband I have visited all these places many times and it seemed natural to have Tempe and her husband visit them too. Friends who live in the area I’ve written about helped me too.
The main plot of the story is centered around the missing maid of honor.
Like with most of my mysteries, some of the ideas came from my experiences, others came from new things I’ve learned. Being an author is so much fun. Memories from the past pop up and give me ideas for plot twists. Sometimes I read something that immediately says, “Use me!”
I hope that others will chime in and tell where some of their ideas for their mysteries come from.