My Favorite Part of Being a Writer by Paty Jager

I don’t know about all writers, but for me, the best part of writing a book is the “stewing and brewing” process. It’s the time between, “Bing!” I have an idea and when I start writing the actual story.

source: Depositphotos

What I call the “Stewing and Brewing” process is where I come up with the story idea or setting and then start researching and filling out my suspect chart.

I get to scan websites and look through baby name books to come up with character names and then give the attributes and reasons they are part of the story. Suspects, officials, friends, the whole bit.

And even better! Figuring out how the victim dies. I love putting a twist on the cause of murder. My newest Shandra Higheagle release, Toxic Trigger-point the death is caused by an acute allergic reaction to bees. The book I’m “stewing and brewing” right now I’m thinking the death appears accidental at first. Then… as things get investigated further it was murder.

There are times my devious mind astounds me! LOL However, coming up with the out-of-the-box scenarios is so much fun. Taking the reader on the trip of; this person did it, no, that person did it, is almost as much fun as coming up with the characters, motive, and cause of death.

I pinch myself all the time wondering how I can have so much fun writing when other writers are always complaining how hard it is. I do agree, the editing, revisions, and making the story shine are hard, but it’s like child birth. I forget about those things when I’m in the throes of “stewing and brewing”. 😉

Here is my latest Shandra Higheagle release:

Toxic Trigger-Point

Adultery… Jealousy… Murder

Shandra Higheagle Greer is minding her own business when she walks into a room for a massage and it is already occupied—by a dead body.

Always the champion for someone she knows, when her favorite masseuse looks like the murderer, Shandra listens to her gut and dreams choreographed by her deceased grandmother.

Detective Ryan Greer can’t believe his wife has walked into another homicide. He’s learned no matter how he tries to keep her out of the investigation he can’t. But this time the consequences could be deadly for Shandra—she heard the murder happen.

https://books2read.com/u/4Ex9De

The Aging Protagonist by Paty Jager

I get an online ezine called the Crimereads. It has great articles about mystery books, authors, and the genre. The latest one had a topic on what makes a good protagonist and in the article the writer talked about how some protagonists age through the lifetime of their series and others don’t.

Because I am a writer who likes to keep my stories as real as possible, I tend to age my characters and keep track of the time/years for each book. If I write three books in one year, they are set in that year. So the next year, my characters are a year older and things, like secondary characters getting pregnant are part of my secondary plots. I remember reading books with characters that didn’t seem to age. Like Kinsey Milhone (the character who was the impetus for me to try my hand at writing mysteries), Miss Marple, Stephanie Plum, Mrs. Pollifax, and even James Qwilleran, and his two Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum

It will be interesting to see how long I can keep my character Gabriel Hawke traipsing about the Eagle Cap Wilderness solving murders when I started him out at 53 years old. But I have a feeling he will be going strong for a good long time. People around him will age, as will he, but we’ll see if his aging makes him think harder about family, his own presumably.

As for Shandra Higheagle, she has married since becoming a mystery character and while her friends are all becoming pregnant, I haven’t decided if she’s going to become pregnant, if she and Ryan will be a childless family, or if they will bring an older child into their family. It’s all up in the air at this time. It all winds around in my head as I ponder the future for these two.

One thing I know for certain. My characters will age, their lives will have ups and downs, and I hope they continue to be characters readers want to read about.

What are some of your favorite characters and have they aged over the course of their series or stayed the same?

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The Mystery of Finding Time by Paty Jager

hauling hay

I have always been a very time structured writer. I make time to write and I stick with it whether my brain is mush or not.

This summer has pulled me out of writing so much, I’m struggling to get back into the work in progress and finding time to get some solid time in. I wouldn’t have given up anything I did this summer, but it’s starting to weigh on my conscience that I am behind on my releases and dragging words out when I’m in front of the computer.

This past week, was supposed to be the last time I’d be kept from my writing, but I have a cousin coming for a week and then hubby and I have an anniversary trip planned in October, though that will be a trip to do research for a book as well as enjoy.

Tomorrow, I’ll sit down and write four days (have to take my mother-in-law home today) Which is an unexpected turn of events. Then next weekend we have company and I get another week before company for a week. So I need to really hunker down and write when I have time, which will mean little social media time and hubby will have simple meals.

When you have a lot interrupting your writing, how do you deal with it? Does it take you longer to get back into the story when you have tiny bits of time with beg gaps in between?

Readers, do you ever wonder why some authors have gaps in their releases? This is why. Life interrupts the writing process.

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A Bee in my Bonnet by Paty Jager

depositphoto

While figuring out the means of death in my latest Shandra Higheagle mystery, Toxic Trigger-point, I had to come up with something quiet, easy, and could be done while a woman was face down on a massage table.

I wanted the scene when the body is found to look as if the woman is on the table waiting for a massage, but then they realize she is dead.

The scene had to look serene-normal.

I came up with an allergy to bees. After reading up on it, I discovered people who are deathly allergic to bees can die within minutes of contact with bee venom. Further research, I discovered there are some facial creams that have bee venom in them. Enough to cause anaphylaxis shock and death.

To tell you any more about how it all happened would give the story away. ;)_

However, each time I tried to come up with a way for Shandra and Ryan to get a confirmation it was from a bee sting or venom from forensics, I was shot down by Judy Melinek, MD and forensic pathologist.

Each time I’d come up with something, like, how about finding the enzymes for bee venom in stomach contents, she’d shut me down. Bee venom can not be tested for because of it’s chemical break down. Hmmm….

She told me the discovery would have to come from the investigation. Discovering the woman’s allergy and working from there. So that’s what I did. With the help of information from the victim’s family and, of course, Shandra’s dreams, she and Ryan solve the murder.

This is what I enjoy about writing mysteries. While I might have a great idea in mind for a murder, I have to dig and research to discover the best, and sometimes the only way, to disclose or discover how the victim was killed.

Have you read any mystery books with an unusual way the victim was killed?

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Decisions, Decisions by Paty Jager

I’ve been contemplating whether or not to write books out of sequence since my trip to Iceland.

The trip started out as fun way to see Iceland with other authors, but the more I thought about it, I decided to set a Gabriel Hawke book there. However, the next book in the series has already been mentioned in the last Hawke book, so I have to make sure it comes next….

But…I believe I need to write the Iceland book while it is all still fresh in my mind. One day while the tour group was having lunch, I sat with our guide, Ragnor, and asked him questions about the best way to bring my Fish and Wildlife State Trooper with Master Tracker credentials to Iceland, other than a vacation. He would never travel that far for a vacation. He would stay close to home and perhaps even stay with his mother on the reservation.

Ragnor didn’t see him coming to any conference or event that would be put on by the Icelandic police. He did say that they had a very active Search and Rescue program. *boom* That is how I will have Hawke be in Iceland. He will be doing a training on tracking for the search and rescue. I even brainstormed his superior’s sister is married to an Icelander and they are living in Reykjavik.

I still have to do the research on their Search and Rescue program and put together the who and why of the murder he’ll get involved in. But the pieces are slowly coming together and I’m getting excited to write the book.

While we were out driving around on the tour, I took tons of photos (that are a bit blurry) of businesses and things that I will mention to give the feeling of the country to the book. And good photos of the place I think will work for Hawke to take his workshop outside to do some tracking. That will be when they discover a body.

Once Hawke starts on a trail, he can’t quit. Upping the stakes, the main suspect will be the nephew of his boss back in the states. Hawke is loyal. He’ll do everything in his power to make sure they find the real killer.

So my decision? Even though it will put the next Hawke book further out on a publish date, I’m leaning toward writing the Iceland book now.

What do you think? Good plan or could it backfire in my face since there hasn’t been a Hawke book out since March and the next one may not be until the end of the year?

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It’s Audio Book Month by Paty Jager

Do you like to listen to audio books? I have become a fan of them both as a writer and a listener.

I just finished the second book in Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s , Thora Gudmundsdottir series. They are classified as suspense, but I really enjoyed the humor that makes the suspense/ supernatural undertones not so real. LOL I know, I’m a wimp when it comes to scary. But I have to say the first two books in the series were really good.

I think what made them so good was the narrator. I loved her pauses and attitude when narrating. She had the right amount of “drama” for lack of a better word to make the books really come to life.

That’s what I’m hoping to find on my quest for a narrator for my Gabriel Hawke books. 

I have been making audio books with the talented Ann M. Thompson. You can find the first 9 books in the Shandra Higheagle Mysteries in audio book.

I’ve requested auditions from two male narrators to begin putting the Gabriel Hawke novels into audio. This will probably be harder to find a narrator than the Shandra books were.

Ann had the warm tone I envisioned as Shandra’s, but of all the men who were suggested from my description of what I wanted for Hawke’s voice, there were only two who seemed close to what I was looking for. I’m interested in hearing their auditions of the first chapter of Murder of Ravens to see if they capture how I see him and the tone of the books.

Making an audio book isn’t hard, but it is stressful and time consuming. Stressful in hoping you pick the best representative of your book to narrate it and at a price you can afford.

Time consuming is going through the book to make sure it will read well, then picking out words that the narrator may need guidance with pronunciation. Then it’s listening to the chapters as the narrator sends them to you and making sure your book is well represented without you driving the narrator nuts with changes. But you are paying them and they should be willing to work with you to make your book its best.

Do you enjoy listening to books on tape? What makes a good audio book for you? Narrator or how well the characters are portrayed?

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Voice and Word Choice by Paty Jager

Voice is the author’s style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character; or. Voice is the characteristic speech and thought patterns of the narrator of a work of fiction.”

This definition I pulled off the internet helps define Voice, but I’m going to dig a little deeper.

Each genre, historical or contemporary, western or mystery, I have to think about the “voice” I need to use for each one. I know the example of voice says it conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character- true, but that has to also fit the time period and the place- historical or contemporary western. Jeans in a historical are called denims or overalls – in a contemporary they could be call Jeans, Wranglers or Levis.

This also goes along with word choice. The writer needs to know if a word was used in 1880 or if it didn’t become popular until the 1900s. When I type a word when writing an historical, and it feels modern, I use online etymology, a website where you can type in a word and it tells you when it was first used and the meaning of the word at that time and later.

Same goes with my mystery books. I use terms that are contemporary but try to include a bit of a western feel or voice to the books. I do this because they are set in rural areas and because my main characters are Native American, which also leads me to think about phraseology when writing from their points of view.

Paiute Fancy Dancer

Especially, my Gabriel Hawke character. He grew up surrounded by his culture, and therefore, has a deeper connection to the outdoors and the earth in general. While writing in his POV, I try to make sure his inner dialog as well as what he says to other characters captures that essence. 

Shandra Higheagle, while having the love of the outdoors and making pottery from clay she digs on the mountain where she lives, she grew up in a white world and is only now learning how deep her roots go in the earth. And because of this, she is easier for me to write because I can include my wonder of the Nez Perce and their culture to be reflected in her as she is coming to know more about her family.

When I sit down to write a book, depending on the genre, I have to mentally put myself in that time and place to make sure I give the best accounting of the events that are happening and told through my characters’ eyes and emotions. If you read a book from each of the genres I write, you will see there is a bit of difference in voice because I am trying to show the story through their eyes and not mine. But some of my emotions- such as my need to show injustice – will come through in every main character.

Word choice as I commented on earlier, has to do with making sure the word is true to the time and the occupation of a character or knowing what I am talking about. I don’t know how many western romance books- contemporary and historical – I stopped reading because a character grabbed a fetlock to swing up onto a horse’s back, or they grabbed the cantle as the horse started galloping. Or what really had me tossing a book…They put the halter on the horse and slid the bridle into its mouth. The writer needs to know what they are writing about. If they don’t know, they need to look it up. I spend a third of my writing time looking things up. Even if I think I know it, I still look it up to be sure. And while I’m looking it up, I might find a better word that makes the scene sound even more convincing.  

Words are what make up a book and they need to be thought about carefully. Just as carefully as the characters that are fabricated to show the story.

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