This year, I’ve been banging the keyboard and getting projects done…until last month. It seemed like every time I got in a good day, or two, of writing, something came up and I went days without getting a word down on my WIP (work in progress).
This month, I’m determined to get the 6th Gabriel Hawke book written and out to my CPs (Critique Partners) I’ve had this story idea in my head since I did my ride-along with a State Trooper before I started this series.
It’s something that happened in real life but I’m putting a different spin on it. On the ride-along, the trooper pointed out a campsite and said, “See that burnt spot?”
I did. It was a campfire ring of charred rocks and grass three feet around the ring.
“A vehicle rolled over the fire with a man in it. It was written up as an accident.” The trooper looked over at me. “What do you think?”
“There is no way it was an accident,” were my words. The area was flat. A vehicle even if knocked out of gear wouldn’t have rolled the distance the vehicle was parked away from the fire.
“The victim was drunk. His wife kicked him out of the tent and he went to sleep in his vehicle. They say, he must have bumped the gearshift and it rolled.” He glanced at me again.
I shook my head. “Why was it pronounced an accident? I don’t see how it could have been.”
“All the investigators wanted to call it a homicide but the District Attorney said we didn’t have enough evidence and didn’t want us digging into it any further.”
I could hear the dismay in his voice. He clearly felt someone had gotten away with murder. And that is why my book, Turkey’s Fiery Roost, is about Hawke tracking down the killer.
Writers, do you like to use real life murders/criminal activity to spur ideas?
Readers, do you like knowing that writer’s try to write their own form of justice when putting together a murder mystery?
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? 😉
“You can’t make everyone happy.” One of my least favorite sayings but so true.
I took two trips last year that were experiences I’d never had before. I finally saw a tropical island for myself and I traveled to another country by myself – Iceland. I loved the trips and wanted to use what I experienced to write books with my characters enjoying the same places.
I set Abstract Casualty in the Shandra Higheagle series in Kaua’i Hawaii. I had a great time reliving my time there while writing the book. And the fun I had finding a way to get my character to the island in a realistic manner. Some readers loved it and the new experience, others wrote to me and wanted Shandra back in her fictional county in Idaho. They missed the secondary characters they’d come to know.
For those readers who love going back to the same place, Capricious Demise is set back in Weippe County, my fictional county in Idaho. I finished the first draft and will be releasing it in July.
This month, June 1st, the 5th Gabriel Hawke Novel, Fox Goes Hunting, released. My critique partners, beta-readers, and proof reader, loved it! I already received one 2 star review. The reader didn’t like that Hawke wasn’t tracking as much and they couldn’t pronounce the names of the characters. This book is set in Iceland.
I loved bringing things into the book that I saw and learned while in Iceland. I hope to capture a broader range of reader by going “International”. Yes, there are typical Icelandic names for characters from there. It is also set during an international Search and Rescue conference so I had secondary characters from around the world.
Yes, both books set in real places took twice as long to write. I had to make sure distances, towns, places were correct. I wanted to make sure I gave a clear picture of where they went and what they saw.
When I write the Shandra books set in a fictional place, I can make things up as I go, though I did make a map of the county when I started writing the series, so I do keep things in the same place every book. But if I want to add a business, I find a block that I didn’t put a business in already and add it.
The Hawke books are set in a real place, but I made up fake towns in place of the real ones to keep anyone I might have grown up with in that county to think I am talking about them. 😉
While I know there are some readers who don’t like the unexpected, I believe writing outside of my comfort zone and incorporating other places and cultures into my writing helps me grow as an individual and hopefully gives my readers a glimpse at a culture they might not get a chance to experience first hand.
I went on a trip of a lifetime, for me, last summer. When I received an email about a literary trip set in Iceland and saw the itinerary and how well we’d be taken care of, I told my hubby it was my birthday gift and I signed up.
Now, almost a year later, I am getting ready to publish a book I set in Iceland. I loved the country- the people, the scenery, the history. I felt at home there. Hmmm… I wonder if I have more Norse in me than I thought? I’m ready to go back whenever my hubby would agree to it and the pandemic lifts.
The trip was put together by The Author’s Guild. It was a mix of half usual tourist sights and half literary sights. We had a meeting with Yrsa Sigurdardottir, a crime fiction author in Iceland whose books I had read and enjoyed. We went to a museum which had ancient Icelandic manuscripts. They were made of sheep skin and wood covers. And we visited the home of the 1955 Nobel Prize winning author, Halldor Laxness.
But I would have to say the highlight of my trip was getting the other writers, who mostly wrote non-fiction books excited about helping me find a good place to have a murder. Each place we stopped someone would say, what about this or that? And then as a group they would come up with how and why someone would be murdered in that spot. It was a lot of fun.
On the last day, which happened to be my birthday, all ten of us loaded up in the small bus we’d been travelling in all week, and headed to Lake Kleifarvatn. The landscape at this lake has been likened to a moonscape. It is sparse, barren, rocky surroundings. I took quite a few photos, thinking this would make tracking someone near impossible and would make a great place for a tracking specialist to be needed.
However, we continued on and as soon as I saw the steam and the bubbling mud I knew I’d found my means of murder! At Krysuvik, a tourist attraction of sulfurous steam escaping boiling mud pools, I could see a body half in and half out of one of the mud pools. The more I walked around the area taking photos, I solidified this was where the the murder would take place.
I asked our guide, Ragnar, lots of questions and scribbled in my little book. I asked him about Search and Rescue. He said they had a large SAR program. When I came home, I looked it up. I was so excited! They had a world reknown SAR conference every two years. I could send Hawke to Iceland to teach at the conference. And the best part, the conference was this year, well, we’ll see if it is still held with all the closures of conferences this year, but it would be held in the Harpa. The Harpa is a fairly new concert hall and conference center that is beautiful! It was a building across the street from our hotel and I had been in it for dinner one night and a play another. It was a building I knew.
Everything just seemed to fit together for my book! And I’m pleased to say, Fox Goes Hunting, book 5 in my Gabriel Hawke Novels is available in pre-orde and will release on June 1st. What a fun way to celebrate the anniversary of my trip- with a book set in Iceland.
Writing the book I was able to revisit several of the places I’d been, reconnected with our guide for some help with things I hadn’t seen or didn’t know about the country, and enjoyed putting my taciturn Native American Game Warden in an environment different than he knew.
Blurb for Fox Goes Hunting
While teaching a tracking class at a Search and Rescue conference in Iceland, Oregon State Trooper Gabriel Hawke discovers a body in a boiling mud pool. The body is the young man Hawke’s class is tracking.
Unable to walk away from the young man’s death without helping to find the killer, Hawke follows the clues and discovers the young man had few enemies, and all of them have alibis. The killer is cunning like the fox, but Hawke is determined to solve the homicide before the conference attendees head home in five days.
Many literary prose are filled with angst and trepidation. I wonder if literary writers feel the same angst and trepidation that genre writers do?
This is a confession of sorts. Before I started writing mystery, I just researched either history, settings, occupations or whatever I needed to make the story real and conjured up characters that I liked and hoped readers liked. Those were my romance books.
Then I wrote an action adventure trilogy. I researched and read and studied. I came up with a high IQ character and hoped I could pull her off. I set books in areas I had never been, but I found people who had or lived there. I dug deep to make sure I had all the knowledge I felt I needed to write those books. When the first one released, I knew it was going to flop. How could I write about an anthropologist with a genius level IQ and make people believe her?
After all the angst and worry, I decided to try my hand at the genre I really wanted to write– mystery. And what did I do? I made my character half Native American. Mainly because I feel it is a culture that gets shoved under the rug and partly because I love research and learning new things. I thought why not learn about the culture along with my character.
But I worried I couldn’t pull her off. That someone would tell me I didn’t have the right to write such a character or I wasn’t portraying her correctly. However at book 14 in my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series, I have people who love the information on the culture that I include in the books. This makes me happy that I am informing my readers about a culture they may not know about in an entertaining way.
Then I start writing another book and I worry this one won’t be as good as the last. Or I feel it’s lagging, not enough twists, or not enough culture… There is always something I feel I didn’t flush out enough.
This goes on daily as I write. My books go through critique partners, beta readers, a line editor, a sensitivity reader, a proof reader and my final arc readers before it gets to the public. And I still worry that something was missed.
It isn’t until my ARC readers send me the links to their reviews that I know if my book was mediocre or they enjoyed it. I”m happy to say the newest release has been a joy to get reviews and emails about. The subject lines have been: I loved it! You did it again!
These are worth all the worrying, angst, and beating myself up over the characters and plot.
Here is Abstract Casualty
Book 14 in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series
Hawaiian adventure, Deceit, Murder
Shandra Higheagle is asked to juror an art exhibition on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.
After an altercation at the exhibition, the chairwoman of the event, Shandra’s friend, arrives home with torn clothes, scratches, and stating she tried to save an angry artist who fell over a cliff. Shandra and Ryan begin piecing together information to figure out if the friend did try to save the artist or helped him over the edge.
During the investigation, Shandra comes across a person who reminds her of an unhealthy time in her past. Knowing this man and the one from her past, she is determined to find his connection to the dead artist. When her grandmother doesn’t come to her in dreams, Shandra wonders if her past is blinding her from the truth.
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.
I wasn’t a child who thought too much about the future. At least not beyond my own desires. There was a time when I wrote a story about being a writer and living on the Oregon Coast in a renovated barn. I would have two tigers as my pets. If you’ve ever read the “Cat Who” books by Lillian Jackson Braun, you know that the protagonist, Qwilleran, made walkways for his cats in his home. This was how I saw my barn, only the funny thing is, I’d never read one of the “Cat Who” books until later. When I did, it was deja vue and my mind went right back to that story I’d written in Jr. High
While I had dreams of being a writer as a teenager, it wasn’t until I had children that I decided to fulfill that dream. I started writing mystery. It was the genre I loved to read. But after two books and a bad start with finding help to make my books better, I segued into romance.
Three years ago, I decided to write what I had always wanted to write. I am a better writer, I’ve had enough classes on craft, and still read murder mystery books. I could do this. And I did.
The best part about how much I enjoy writing the mysteries, are the reader/fan emails I receive. All the years I wrote romance, I think I had a half dozen readers comment on how they enjoyed reading my books. With mystery, I receive something every week!
And a friend who has been with me on my road to becoming published, says my true voice comes out in my mysteries. It took me nearly 30 years to get back to the genre I love best, but I am here and I plan to stay writing murder mystery until my hands are so gnarled I can’t type anymore. 😉
As a writer, did you start with mystery or did you start in another genre? As a reader, have you always read mystery or did you discover it recently?
Oh, and the fresh perspective in the new year? I am only writing mystery. I’ve put writing romance books aside, so the mysteries can come faster!
Happy Holidays, Everyone! If you are American, I hope you enjoyed a happy Thanksgiving. Whether it was with, family, friends, or time to yourself. And now we are approaching another holiday. I’m not sure how many cultures have a holiday in December, but for my family it is Christmas.
I enjoy learning about other cultures. If you are celebrating something besides Christmas, I’d love to know a bit about it. Please comment below.
If I had the money and the time, I would love to be a world traveler. In High School I loved World Geography. Our teacher had been to a lot of places so he could give us information that you don’t get from text books. He made learning about other people and cultures exciting. I think that, and my infatuation with the Nez Perce band that lived in the county where I grew up, is why I like to have Native American characters in my mystery books. I can show people a past they may not know about and a culture they have only seen stereotyped.
I’m excited about the book I’m writing now and the one that I will be writing after this one. They are both set in the places I visited this year. I’ll get to add in the cultures I experienced and have my characters see similarities with their lives.
Right now, I’m pleased to say that the 4th Gabriel Hawke book has released. It is available in ebook and print.
Chattering Blue Jay
Killer on the loose.
Revenge could get them killed.
Fish and Wildlife Oregon State Trooper Gabriel Hawke is set to teach a class at a Search and Rescue conference in Idaho when a dangerous inmate breaks out of prison. It is believed the man is headed to Hells Canyon.
Hawke is enlisted to find the escapee. He’s paired with a boastful tracker who doesn’t follow directions, making them both targets.
Before the dust settles, the other tracker is dead and Hawke is twisting in the wind for letting the possible killer get away.
The first book in this series, Murder of Ravens, is also available in audiobook.
Book 1 of Gabriel Hawke series
The ancient Indian art of tracking is his greatest strength…
And his biggest weakness.
Fish and Wildlife State Trooper Gabriel Hawke believes he’s chasing poachers.
However, he comes upon a wildlife biologist standing over a body that is wearing a wolf tracking collar.
He uses master tracker skills taught to him by his Nez Perce grandfather to follow clues on the mountain. Paper trails and the whisper of rumors in the rural community where he works, draws Hawke to a conclusion that he finds bitter.
Arresting his brother-in-law ended his marriage, could solving this murder ruin a friendship?