What To Write

While I always have a lot of ideas bouncing around in my head, when I finished the latest Spotted Pony Casino book, I wasn’t sure which idea I should write next.

Should I just pick one of the titles? I have a list of gambling terms that I use for the titles in the Spotted Pony Casino series. Or should I use one of my ideas and figure out which term/title would work for it? I pondered this as I began the next Hawke book. I like to be thinking about several books ahead while I write the current one. It’s how I can finish up one and dive right into the next one, because I’ve been thinking about it in the back of my mind.

I had a little help from my subconcious.

One night as I was taking a shower a scene popped into my head and I knew which idea I’d be using. I got out of the shower and wrote the scene down. Now that I know the direction the next story is heading, I can pick one of the ten titles I have to go with it, and I can begin plotting the suspects and motives.

When I finish writing the current Hawke book, Bear Stalker.

Because I write two series, hopping from one to the next I have also been wondering which of my Hawke ideas would be the next book. There are times I can have two to three books in a series lined out in my head and on paper, but I’m working on book 10 in the Gabriel Hawke series and while I have three more ideas written down, I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go.

The other night, just as I was about to drift off the opening scene for the next Hawke book trickled through my mind. I immediately grabbed the notebook by the bed, went into the bathroom and closed the door to not wake hubby and the puppy, and started writing it down.

As I wrote the opening scene, I realized the story would play out differently than I had originally planned for this scenario. I love when my brain figures out a better story line than what I’d first thought.

This new idea should make the readers who like when Hawke tracks in the mountains happy and will keep them wondering how many bodies Hawke will come across. 😉

When ideas come to me like this- out of the blue when I’m not trying to figure something out-I call them gifts. Because they are always better than what I had come up with while forcing myself to figure out a story line.

The mind is a wonderful thing. I hope we don’t lose our originality and creativity to machines.

BACK IN THE GROOVE—SORT OF

Attending the PSWA Annual Conference was wonderful. So rewarding to see old friends and make some new ones—plus talk writing and hear speakers and panels on various writing topics.

I need to write another—and the last—Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. Tempe is retired now and I’m ready to let her enjoy her retirement. Though I’ve had a request to put one of the ongoing characters in, one who is based on a real person and would like to see something specific happen with the character, that’s all I had. (I thought End of the Trail would be the last and then The Trash Harem had to be written. Now I need to send Tempe off with one last adventure.

In my newsletter, I asked my readers for ideas and did the same on Facebook. More ideas, but nothing that appealed.

While I was at the conference I some thoughts about what might be good in this final visit with Tempe started to pop into my brain. I even thought of a good beginning. No, I haven’t written anything down yet as I’ve had too many other things to do. When you come home from being gone six days duties pile-up: unpacking, laundry, and all the mail.

Frankly, I’ll be glad to actually be in the writing groove again, it’s been far too long. In the past, I’ve managed to write and publish two books a year. Nothing so far this year.

I’ll start like always, jotting notes down. Eventually getting to who turns up dead—where, and all those who might have wanted the victim dead. Naming and writing all the new character descriptions often comes next. Usually while I’m doing it, plot ideas will come tumbling unbidden but quite welcome.

Because I have other work I do for folks, sometimes it takes a while to get started on a new book. I am hoping for the best. I really, really want to get back to writing.

Marilyn

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?

SAYING GOODBYE TO ROCKY BLUFF

Rocky Bluff, California is not a real place, but it has been alive and active through sixteen Rocky Bluff P.D. mysteries with one more yet to come. The fictional beach town is much like the one I lived in many years ago although located a little farther up the coast. It seems quite real to me.

The decision to end the series came to me while I was writing the newest, now with my editor. My reasons to do this are many.

First, I’m up there in years, and much slower in so many ways.

Second, policing has changed so much since I first started writing this series. I’ve been fortunate to have many persons to call upon for research, starting with my now deceased police officer son-in-law, plus the wonderful members of the Public Safety Writers Association who’ve always answered my questions.

Third, though I’ve always had my police department be understaffed and underfunded and using the nearest big city for many of their needs such as the coroner, forensics etc., it limited much of what I could include in a plot.

Fourth, I’ve been reading some of the big name author’s police procedurals and I feel like I’m not up to addressing the modern day issues for police officers in the outstanding way they’re doing.

As I was writing this last RBPD, I decided to tie up some loose ends for some of my characters, part of why I came to my decision to end the series.

No, I’m not giving up writing. I love to write and I can’t imagine not having a writing project. I’ve got some ideas for a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery floating around in my imagination. (I truly thought I’d ended that series with End of the Trail but ended up writing The Trash Harem.)  I’m also considering writing a young adult mystery set during WWII—and yes, I will use a lot of my memories of what it was like to be growing up during that time period.

I’d like to hear from other authors who’ve decided to end a series, and how they felt about it.

Marilyn

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