The Illusive Word

Early on in my writing, I would have times when I’d be writing along and…nothing. I knew what I wanted to say but I couldn’t find the word I wanted. That was before I was writing on a computer. I would pull out my dictionary and look up a word similar to what I wanted. And hopefully by process of elimination, the right word would reveal itself.

After attending my first RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference, I learned that every writer needs a dictionary( which I had), a thesaurus, The Chicago Manual of Style, and the book Goals, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon. I went home and found those books at my local bookstore and they have been on my shelf. I even purchased a newer version of The Chicago Manual of Style this year.

my shelf of reference books

As you can tell by the ratty cover on the thesaurus, I have used it a lot. Even when I look up a word through Word Docs, I will end up going to the book. I sort through word after word, until I come up with the one that makes the sentence show what I want.

My falling apart thesaurus

There are days it feels like I stop my momentum more than I write. On those days my brain doesn’t spit out the words I want and I hunt and hunt. Then there are days I don’t touch any of the books as my fingers fly over the keys moving my story along with the precise words I need to convey the scene.

I know I will be going back and editing the story and could just put in what I want to say in parenthesis and move on. But my brain won’t let me. I have to have the exact word or I can’t move on with the story. Although there have been a couple of times when the right word couldn’t be conjured up with all my reference books. Then I do put down what I want to say in parenthesis and come back to it when I do the edits, hoping the brain is more engaged that day.

I think the need to have the “perfect” word is a curse to writers. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can use up writing time hunting down the illusive word that is on the tip of my fingers but can’t quite manifest in my mind.

For me, this is a second behind editing as the hardest and most dreaded part of writing for me. How about other writers? Do you also struggle at times to find the right word? Readers, have you ever read something and thought, “this word would have been a better choice?”

Do you like SWAG? by Paty Jager

While I enjoy writing my books more than promoting or marketing, I do enjoy coming up with items to give away as swag. S.W.AG.= Something We All Got. I had to look that up! LOL I didn’t realize it actually meant something.

Anyway, as I chortle over the definition… With the new series I needed bookmarks. My awesome daughter to has designed most of my covers and all of my bookmarks and swag, came up with this design for my Spotted Pony Casino Mystery bookmark.

And because I’m headed to Bouchercon this month and wanted items to give away during the event, she also designed these chocolate poker chips I’ll be handing out. I wanted something that said “Casino Mystery” and was lucky enough to find a promotion site that made custom chocolate poker chips.

The one on the left is fuzzy due to the setting on my camera.

For my Gabriel Hawke fans, I ordered these fun flashlights for Bouchercon last year. A conference that never happened. Good thing flashlights hold over well. 😉 Worried about transporting this on the plane, I asked a security person when we took our grandson to the airport if they would be allowed and he said, “yes.”

Over the years I’ve given away ereader covers I made, Dream catchers I’ve made, and I hand out small tote bags with purchase at the Sumpter Flea Market twice a year. The bags do help. I had one woman tell me that seeing someone carrying one of my bags reminded her she needed more of my books. I am finding out that while I’ve picked up swag over the years that didn’t move me to purchase a book, it does seem that a bit of the freebies handed out do help to sell the next book by an author.

For Bouchercon, I also made a 4″ x 6″ chap book with the first chapter from each of the first books in my mystery series and my Romantic Suspense trilogy. I’ll be handing those out during my “Speed Dating” event. I’ve made several of these over the years that I hand out at conferences. I have one that is the first book of my historical western romance series. One that is the first chapter of the first book of my trilogies or series with Native American elements. And one with the first chapters of my mystery books, like this one, only minus the new mystery series.

As an author what are some of the things you’ve given away over the years? As a reader what are some of the items you’ve received that you kept? Did that every remind you to look for a book by that author?

SINCE WRITING THIS POST BOUCHERCON HAS BEEN CANCELED. So the swag will have to wait for another conference.

Writing Makes me Happy by Paty Jager

I started this writing journey decades ago because I had a need to write. That sounds hokey or corny to some but it was my husband who first realized when I didn’t have time to write, I became cranky. LOL I would become irritable and crabby when I was so busy raising kids and taking care of the chores that I didn’t have time to write. He would say, “Go write for a while. Leave the dishes, or do the laundry later.” And I would go write, and the real world would once again be a happy place for me.

My best guess would be, anyway from what I’ve noticed over the years, my overactive imagination would keep me up at night with ‘what ifs’ and tragedies befalling family members. When I write and am engrossed in causing all kinds of trouble for my characters, my mind is at ease and I sleep better. If I don’t write, I put all of the danger into potential threats to my family members and friends. Weird, right?

I also enjoy the research. Over the years, even as a child, I would read books and discover new places, new people, new cultures, and learn about things I didn’t have where I lived. That was exciting to me! As a teen I loved the old Gothic Romances by Phyliss Whitney, Mary Stewart, and Victoria Holt. I enjoyed living in mansions, the terror of crossing a moor in the dark, experiencing a time and country that was so different from what I lived. I also liked they were the thickest books in the school library. I could go through a thin novel in two days, reading during lunch, afterschool and when I was supposed to be sleeping. 😉

I started reading mysteries then and continued as an adult. A good mystery for me has twists and turns and engaging characters. I devoured books by Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Dorothy Gilman. Lilian Jackson Braun, Tony Hillerman, and Sue Grafton.

Putting a bit of mystery in everything I write has shown me that I am a writer who has to write mystery to feel I’ve built a complete story. And that is why I write mystery books. It is what, is deep in my core. I like writing twists and turns and having justice at the end of the story.

My innate need to always write about justice or injustice has brought me to writing mysteries with Native American influences. Whether it is characters or setting. Their plight has always tugged at my conscious and now, with writing, I have a way to show they are human and viable people just like everyone else. They have been trod upon and nearly annihilated, yet because of their faith and resilience they are growing stronger and becoming a voice that needs to be heard.

Writing mysteries with Native American elements is what makes me happy. I have a couple of romance series I need to finish, and I tried. However, my heart isn’t into those at this time, so I will continue to write the stories that are calling to me.

Here is the latest release of my new Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series.

Poker Face

Spotted Pony Casino Mystery

Book 1

Dela Alvaro is a disabled veteran who grew up on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. When an IED in Iraq ended her military career, she came home to reassess her life and landed a job in security at the Indian run casino on the reservation.

Not even a year into being the assistant to the head of security, Dela is promoted on a trial basis. When one of the casino employees is found stabbed and stuffed in a laundry chute, she knows she can kiss head of security good-bye if she doesn’t find the killer before the media gets hold of the story.

While she is in over her head, she can’t decide if the FBI Special Agent called in to help is a blessing or a curse. It’s a man she ran across in Iraq who overrode her authority. When a second casino employee is killed, Dela has to decide if she can trust the special agent with not only keeping her job but keeping the rest of the casino employees safe.

Universal Buy link:

https://books2read.com/u/brPxxw

Reaching out by Paty Jager

Whenever I start a project with a topic I know only enough about to want to write about it, I reach out to others who have experience.

That’s what I did for my latest Gabriel Hawke book, Stolen Butterfly. For years, I’ve heard of the injustice towards the Native American people. The women and children who were murdered and missing. While the cause, MMIW, now also titled MMIP, because it isn’t just women but children and even some men who are murdered or missing, has been growing slowly, the last few years it has started rolling with fury.

While the Indigenous population is only 2% of the all the people in the U.S., they are the group with the largest percent of missing and murdered people. The reason is law enforcement up until lately hasn’t cared. It has taken the MMIW movement to bring this to light.

Because I had decided back when writing book 1, Murder of Ravens to have Gabriel Hawke tackle this injustice, I reached out to social workers in and around the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation to find help in telling my current release, Stolen Butterfly, accurately. The social worker I contacted, put me in contact with a woman who has lost four family members and is an advocate of the MMIW/MMIP cause. When she told me the stories of the people she’d lost and photos she took to commemorate them, I was choked up. That’s when I knew this was the book I was born to write.

Not only was the woman, Kola Shippentower-Thompson, an advocate for MMIP, she also is the co-founder of Enough Iz Enough a non-profit that teaches women and children how to defend themselves and be aware of danger. She was the prefect fit for the research I needed. She also had worked in security at the Wildhorse Casino on the reservation and her husband works with the Tribal Police in the Fish and Wildlife division. She could answer all of my questions and give me the emotional side I needed as well.

One of the secondary characters in the book is my new main character in my upcoming Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries. Kola has graciously said she would answer any questions along the way as I write that series which will be set on the Umatilla Reservation.

By reaching out and asking for help to make sure my book captures the way the people come together when a person is missing and showing their emotions, as well as the treatment they receive from entities that should be helping, I hope my book will build a little more compassion toward the Indigenous People. This is a book that I hope will make more people aware of the fear that is faced every day by a people who have lived through diseases that nearly wiped them out, being banished to reservations, and then treated as if they weren’t human. They are strong and resilient and deserve to be heard when their people are being taken from them.

Here is the review Kola gave my book after reading it: “The story was captivating, I couldn’t put it down. So many memories were brought to surface, so many emotions, like this has been lived before, because it has, this is a glimpse into our reality in the Reservation. Thank you for seeing us & helping tell part of the story.” 

The proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the non-profit Enough Iz Enough. This is a community outreach organization that advocates for MMIW on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation.  

Stolen Butterfly

Gabriel Hawke Novel #7

Missing or Murdered

When the local authorities tell State Trooper Gabriel Hawke’s mother to wait 72 hours before reporting a missing Umatilla woman, she calls her son and rallies members of the community to search.

Hawke arrives at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation and learns the single mother of a boy his mom watches would never leave her son. Angered over how the local officials respond to his investigating, Hawke teams up with a security guard at the Indian casino and an FBI agent. Following the leads, they discover the woman was targeted by a human trafficking ring at the Spotted Pony Casino.

Hawke, Dela Alvaro, and FBI Special Agent Quinn Pierce join forces to bring the woman home and close down the trafficking operation before someone else goes missing.

Universal buy link: https://books2read.com/u/baZEPq

My Voice by Paty Jager

From the first writer’s meeting I attended decades ago I heard people talking about voice. My first thought, being a newbie writer, was, “What is voice?”

No matter how many people explained it in various ways, I couldn’t grasp what they were talking about. But writer’s voice is the writer’s influences into the story. The writer’s feelings and emotions that are shown through the characters in the book. How the syntax and phrases flow in the story.

It has taken me over a decade to see my voice in stories. Where readers think I did a good job describing setting, I think it might have been sparse but it was as I saw it in my mind. My writing has always been, what I’d call sparse. When I first started writing, historical romance books had to be 90-100,000 words. I struggled to get to 90,000. I’ve always been a minimalist with it comes to words, in writing and when talking. 😉 However, I do try to make the few words I use have an impact. Whether it is setting, a character, or dialog.

When I come up with new main characters, I don’t just sit down and start filling out a chart or character sheet on them. They live in my head for several months or a year, living a life outside of their books. When I sit down and write their books, I’ve been thinking about the book, the title, what they will encounter and how they will react before the book starts.

With my mystery main characters, who are Native American, I read all I can by and about their tribes. I want to try to see and feel things as they would, not as a not quite senior citizen white woman would see it. I’ve always been interested in other cultures and felt anger over how so many races have been mistreated. I use this as my catalyst to feel and hopefully show the correct emotions when I write.

My latest project has been something I knew I would write the second I’d decided to write the Gabriel Hawke novels. I have heard and seen so much about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women cause that I had a desire to tell the story and hope that it would open more eyes to the problem.

Where does this come in with my voice? My voice in my books, is not only concise working and phrases, it is the need to show justice can be found and a need to show where there is an injustice. My beta readers, line editor, and final proof reader all say this is my best Gabriel Hawke book.

The woman, Kola Shippentower-Thompson who worked with me to make me see how things worked on the reservation when a tribal member is missing gave me this review: “The story was captivating, I couldn’t put it down. So many memories were brought to surface, so many emotions, like this has been lived before, because it has, this is a glimpse into our reality in the Reservation. Thank you for seeing us & helping tell part of the story.” She is the Co-founder & Director of Enough Iz Enough, a non-profit organization that works to teach women and children how to be vigilant and safe and who support the MMIW cause. Proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Enough Iz Enough organization to benefit the MMIW movement.

When Kola was reading the book, she told me she had to stop at one point because it brought back so many sad memories. She has lost multiple family members and has never received any answers about what happened to them.

My hope is that this book will enlighten more people to the plague of violence they Indigenous women, children, and even men have been enduring. The ebook is available for pre-order publishing on May 18th. The print books should be available by the end of the month.

Stolen Butterfly

Gabriel Hawke Novel #7

Missing or Murdered

When the local authorities tell State Trooper Gabriel Hawke’s mother to wait 72 hours before reporting a missing Umatilla woman, she calls her son and rallies members of the community to search.

Hawke arrives at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation and learns the single mother of a boy his mom watches would never leave her son. Angered over how the local officials respond to his investigating, Hawke teams up with a security guard at the Indian casino and an FBI agent. Following the leads, they discover the woman was targeted by a human trafficking ring at the Spotted Pony Casino.

Hawke, Dela Alvaro, and FBI Special Agent Quinn Pierce join forces to bring the woman home and close down the trafficking operation before someone else goes missing.

Pre-order purchase link: https://books2read.com/u/baZEPq

This also happens to be my 50th published book! I’m having a 50 Book Bash event at Facebook and this week I am featuring my Mystery Books. So come on by, learn about my mystery books, leave comments and get in the running fore the daily prizes. Here is the URL: https://www.facebook.com/events/299774331600785

Adding my voice to my books wasn’t a matter of me finding my voice. It was a matter of me realizing what my voice was. Can you tell an author’s voice when you read a book? Or do you just enjoy the characters, the narrative, and the dialog and afterword, just smile, knowing it was a good read?