On The Road

As you are reading this, I’m off on a research trip for the next Gabriel Hawke novel. This one is set in Montana. I have an place in the middle of the two areas I need to research.

This story started about 5 years ago, before I had even started writing the Gabriel Hawke series. My husband and I were driving from the south to the north of Montana headed to visit my cousin in near Flathead Lake. As we followed this lake, I looked out and spotted a resort on an island in the lake. My first thought was “what a great place to have a writers retreat!”

A photo from when I was in Montana before. This is south of the lake.

That island and building kept coming back to me and when I decided on the premise of book 10 in the series, I knew that resort would be in the story.

I didn’t know the name of it and hubby and I were of a different opinion of which road we’d been on. One of my oldest daughter’s friends lives and works in Helena, MT. I contacted her and asked if she’d seen the place on her weekend drives. She knew the place and sent me a link to their website. I had been right! It was off the road I had said we’d driven up to my cousin, not the road, hubby had thought. Score one for me! That doesn’t happen often when it comes to driving and roads since hubby was a truck driver for 30 years.

With the website I looked up the island and the resort. I had hoped to stay there one night and get a feel for the place. Not at $2000 a night! So then I emailed and asked if I could just come hang out for a couple of hours (you have to get there by boats that are run by the resort). I explained I was a writer and wanted to use the resort for a couple of scenes in my book.

The person who wrote back to me asked if I was the author who had requested the same a while back. I said no. When I told her when I’d be in the area, she said there would be guest at the resort and no one else was allowed. But she would be happy to answer my questions and send me any photos I might need. You can bet after I go scope it out from the side of the lake, I’ll have more questions for her. Luckily it is only being used as the place where Hawke’s sister is attending a corporate retreat and it is more of a starting point for the story than a main setting.

The other place I’ll be visiting is the Flathead Indian Reservation. I’m debating on where the sister will run to, the reservation or the wilderness. That will depend on what I find out on my trip.

Right now, I’m pleased to say that book 9, Owl’s Silent Strike, is now available in ebook and print. My narrator is working on the audiobook.

Unexpected snowstorm…

Unfortunate accident…

And a body…

What started out as a favor and a leisurely trip into the mountains, soon turns State Trooper Gabriel Hawke’s life upside down. The snowstorm they were trying to beat comes early, a horse accident breaks Dani Singer’s leg, and Hawke finds a body in the barn at Charlie’s Lodge.

Hawke sets Dani’s leg, then follows the bloody trail of a suspect trying to flee the snow drifted mountains. Hawke is torn between getting the woman he loves medical care and knowing he can’t leave a possible killer on the mountain.

Before the killer is brought to justice, Dani and Hawke will put their relationship to the test and his job on the line.

universal buy link: https://books2read.com/u/bw19DG

The Art of Getting it Right

Last month I participated in a month-long online workshop/class about law enforcement. It was taught by a veteran policeman who had worked in several places and organizations and enjoys helping writers get it right.

He started the class with an actual case report of a murdered woman. We read it and then asked questions, which he answered very thoroughly. He told us what the police had to do by law at the scene and what they could and coudn’t do while talking to people trying to gather information to help them catch the perpetrator.

We went through processing a crime scene and saw actual photos of the scene. I had a barebones idea of what took place but had left out a few steps when my characters have come across a body. However, I was happy to hear that when a homicide happens the detectives or whoever is working on the case can and do work non-stop the first 48-72 hours. They take short naps and go home to change clothes, but they stay on the evidence because there is that small door of opportunity to gather all the information that could help them apprehend someone. I have had Gabriel Hawke work nonstop on murder cases. I had made it his need to find the truth, but it appears is what a good detective does.

The evidence in the case of the homicide we were “working” pointed to one of the victim’s sons. But several of us, me included, felt it was too easy. Yes, our red herring minds were trying to find ways to make it stick to someone else. Even when all the evidence clearly pointed to the person that was eventually arrested. He even confessed in his own way.

The instructor said that few murder investigations and homicides are as convoluted as writers of TV shows, movies, and books make them out to be. The need to make motives and means hard to figure out are the writer’s way of entertaining the reader. In real life, if the evidence is pointing to one person, it is usually that person. It’s just a matter of the detectives gathering enough to make a solid case and the icing on the case is getting that person to confess.

Something I have had happen to me several times while on jury duty. Once the evidence is all lined out against the accused, they will plea out, sometimes at the last minute, (as when we were waiting for a trial to start and were dismissed because the person plea bargained). The instructor said, that happens the most when the accused has confessed during an interview. The interviews are taped and once a jury sees the person confessing, they are going to be found guilty.

I enjoyed that the instructor was so willing to answer questions for our books and help us with law enforcement questions. I have asked this person questions before on the crime scene email loop I’m on. If you would like to join to ask questions of retired and practicing LEOs, lawyers, forensic pathologists, FBI, DEA there is a person on the loop from just about any entity you might want to ask questions to get your scene or scenario accurate. Crimescenewriter2@groups.io

Besides knowing what I need to about the legal side of things for my mysteries, I also like to go to the area where the story I’m working on is set. I recently watched security guards at an Indian run casino and did a walk around the tribal police station in my Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series. In June I’ll be traveling to Montana to walk through a resort that will be the jumping off spot for the next Gabriel Hawke book and I will be taking a couple trips into a wilderness area near the resort to discover what it is like to better write that story.

What can I say, I like to make sure I not only entertain but I enlighten as well.

Never Too Old

I think back to my childhood every time I find myself digging for more information. I loved school and learning. While math wasn’t a favorite and I struggled to be proficient in it, I understood it was necessary to learn the basics. In the fourth grade every evening while my mom and I washed and dried dishes, she would quiz me on the multiplication table. And today, I can pretty much spout out the correct answer with a few minutes to pull numbers out of my filled brain. 😉

Writing books has been my way of continuing to learn and fulfill my love of research and discovering new things. From the occupations my characters have:

Vase by Olaf

Shandra Higheagle, my Native American potter character, gave me the opportunity to spend time with ceramicist Ted Juve, or Olaf, the name he signs to his work. He taught me the process of extracting pure clay from clay soil that he uses for some of his pieces and the method my character uses for her art pieces.

My character Gabriel Hawke allowed me to spend a day with an Oregon State Trooper with the Fish and Wildlife Division in the county where I have my stories set. That was an eye-opening day with lots of notes taken as we drove around the county. He gave me insights into the job and some incidents that he had been a part of.

My newest character, Dela Alvaro, is taking me into the world of Tribal run casinos and the life of a lower limb amputee. Both new things to me and I’m soaking in all I can learn from many different sources.

This month I am also taking an online workshop from a retired law enforcement officer. He has over forty years law enforcement and what I appreciate the most is he has worked with lots of different law agencies and knows a lot about how different states handle things. And if he doesn’t know, he knows someone who can give us the correct answers.

The workshop started out with him attendees some law enforcement information and then he gave us the first responders view of a murder scene. We are now not only learning the whole business of processing the area and starting the investigation but also being asked along the way who we think might have killed the victim and why. He not only has us using our minds to learn, but to be creative in what we think might have happened or how it would have happened if we wrote this in a book. I like learning two things at once!

This workshop came at a good time for me. I sent out my most recent finished WIP (work in progress) to my retired LEO beta reader. He found fault with three different scenes. Two, I will learn about from this workshop. The third…is harder. It goes to the core of being a policeman for decades. I was being too soft. My character isn’t soft, so I can’t have him acting like I would act. He is tough and knows when his life is in danger he must react as he’s been trained. Another lesson learned. Did I say I like learning new things?

The reasoning my beta reader gave me made sense. It just didn’t work for the scene to come later, so I had to rewrite the scene to keep my character from killing someone they needed to question. I had my LEO wounding the man. But with an AR rifle aimed at him, my character would have “tapped” the suspect three times. (tapped=three quick shots to the torso) Which would end up with a dead, or close to dead, suspect they needed to question. I changed the scenario to the suspect realizing he was shooting at police and surrendering. He wasn’t the bad guy they were after, which the police discover after questioning him. Whew! That scene was rewritten three times before my beta reader gave it a thumbs up.

But he also questioned my character never giving the people he brings in for questioning Miranda Rights. That is why I am taking this workshop. To learn more about that process and how I can incorporate it into the books at the correct time.

There is always a need to learn something. And I love drinking it all up and using it in books.

As a reader do you like to learn while you are entertained?

As a writer do you feel the need to learn and get things right in your books?

My “Little Gray Cells” Are Getting Full

As Hercule Poirot, one of Agatha Christie’s prominent characters, was often to say, his “little grey cells” were working. I have been feeling of late that my “little gray cells” or brain is getting too full to handle much more. LOL

Between the research I’ve been doing for the latest Gabriel Hawke book I’m writing, which is set in the winter in the mountains, to the research for Dela Alvaro, a lower limb amputee, I feel like I finish one book on a subject, only to pick up another book and read about something else I need to know for the book I’m writing or plotting.

While I sound like I’m complaining, it is the research I love the most about writing a book. Well… maybe that’s a second to coming up with an interesting or unique way to kill someone. They are close in what I enjoy most about writing a murder mystery.

I have been using Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking, The Outdoor Survival Book, Hiking Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness, Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow, and the Oregon Gazetteer, not to mention Google Maps and numerous sites I’ve pulled up on the internet to answer questions. These are all for Owl’s Silent Strike, book 9 in the Gabriel Hawke series.

My character has to take care of a broken leg on his significant other in three feet of snow. Care for another person’s frostbite on their feet and keep all three of them away from men with AR rifles that Hawke believes are after the man he found wandering on the mountain. So you can imagine I had to also research caring for a compound fracture and frostbite.

I also was lucky enough when I started this series to make friends with an aviator who is always willing to help me with aircraft questions as Hawke’s significant other is a pilot. He helped me figure out why she wouldn’t be able to fly the helicopter, they came after, off the mountain.

There are some books, like this one, that I feel like I put in twice as much time with the research as I do actually writing the book. I hope all of this effort pays off in the incidents sounding plausible and realistic.

I have also been filling my head with as much information as I can about a lower limb amputee for my character, Dela Alvaro, in my Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries. I found a book the other day titled AMPossible. It’s written by a lower limb amputee who also counsels other amputees. It has all the nuts-and-bolts information about how a person feels after the amputation, from emotions to physical and what to expect. It has been very helpful for knowing how to portray my character.

All of this and the research I will continue to do for each book as it comes along is why my “little gray cells” are getting full. It’s no wonder I forget the little things. Where’s my phone? What did I do with that letter? What was I supposed to do when I finished writing?

Getting into the Rhythm

My second book in the Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries is up on pre-order, publishing on February 18th. I have been fascinated with my main character, Dela Alvaro, ever since I conjured her up for a short story I entered in a contest. She kept knocking around in my head until I decided to make her a main character in her own series.

Even before starting her series, I introduced her to my readers in a Stolen Butterfly, book 7 in the Gabriel Hawke novels. Readers liked her and the secondary characters who are in her life. I was excited to start her series. I had gathered gambling terms to use for book titles because she is head of security at a casino on a reservation. The first book was Poker Face. It delved deeper into what makes Dela tick as the reader is in her point of view, not someone seeing her on the outside.

She has been medically discharged from the Army due to losing a lower limb from an IED. Her plans had been twenty years in the army, which was cut five years short due to the explosion. In book one she has returned to the reservation where she grew up and is trying to piece her life back together. She’d planned on a job in law enforcement but being an amputee put a stop to that plan. Through Grandfather Thunder, the man who lives next door so her mother, Dela gets a job working security at the casino.

During book one, while Dela and FBI Special Agent Quinn Pierce work together to find out who killed and stuffed a casino employee in a laundry chute, Dela, myself, and readers discover more about her and how determined she is to not let her disability be who she is. One of my beta readers thought I’d talked too much about her disability in the first book. But I wanted readers to feel how she felt. She has only been an amputee for less than two years, a year of that was spent in surgery and rehab in an army hospital.

Fast forward to House Edge, book 2, the same beta reader said she loved how I handled the disability, how she’s coming into her own, and the expanded men in her life. That made me feel good. Because I thought after the short story and Dela having a large role in Stolen Butterfly that book 1 wouldn’t feel like an author exploring what she could do with a character.

As I wrote book 2, the premise I had planned for book 3 took root and I planted a hint of what will happen in book 3 in book 2 and I wrote the opening scene for Double Down while I was writing House Edge. It felt right to get the information accurate while the start of the conflict was fresh in my mind.

It isn’t new for me to come up with ideas for future books while I’m writing the current book. I do it all the time. I generally just jot down the idea and then when I’m not writing, swirl it around in my head figuring out how to make the idea work and where in the line of books it will fall.

I have several ideas for what will happen down the line in various books. Some deal with her friends in trouble and some will deal with the father she was told died before she was born.

There will be more mystery in Dela’s life as she continues to solve murders that happen at the casino and on the reservation. It’s a good feeling when a character becomes real in my mind and writing the book is like walking in their footsteps. That’s when I know I have found the rhythm of the character.

Book 2 in the Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries has Dela Alvaro not only trying to keep her job by discovering the killer before word spreads about the murder, but she also has to deal with FBI Special Agent Quinn Peirce butting heads with her high school sweetheart who has returned to the reservation as a tribal police officer

Zealous Environmentalists

Greedy Power Companies

…and a body

A bitter dispute over the breaching of dams in Idaho sparks emotions at a summit held at the Spotted Pony Casino. When the keynote speaker is murdered, Dela Alvaro, head of security, teams up again with FBI Special Agent Quinn Pierce.

The suspects are many since it appears the victim was playing both sides of the controversial environmental issue. Did someone take advantage of a marital dispute… witnessed by a crowd of casino spectators? Or did an angry wife murder her husband? 

Pre-order link:

https://books2read.com/u/bWQ8X0