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

Ideas Knocking at My Creative Self

There are times, like now, when I wish my creative self would take a vacation. However, I also don’t really want all of my creative self to go away. After all, I need that part of my brain to help me write books.

It’s the part of my brain that comes up with story ideas that could take a rest. While going through the final edits on my newly released Gabriel Hawke book, Churlish Badger, I came up with the premise for the next two books in that series. Which is awesome because that means I will have two more books in that series. 😉 The bad part is I’m so excited about them, it’s hard to concentrate on the Spotted Pony Casino book, House Edge, I’m writing now. Sigh.

I can never seem to write as fast as my ideas hit. An idea can come out of nowhere in seconds, but a book takes a good month to prepare and research, then another three (without interruptions) to write. That means, I have about two more months of finishing House Edge, to do the research for the next Hawke book and start writing it in February, if all goes as planned.

When it is written, then I’ll start on book 3 in the Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries, Double Down, which I started the premise for it in House Edge, which made me want to start on that book…. Yes, it is a never ending cycle for me. I get excited about the next book in a series, then have to wait to write it because, (oh, now why did I decided to write two series at once?) I have to write the next book in the other series.

I’m sure there are other writers out there nodding their heads. Yes, we understand, there are those of us who can’t work on one series at a time. Heaven forbid, we should get bored of that series and not want to write the next book. So we juggle, two, or three, or more series at once to keep the monotony of writing about the same characters all the time from becoming tedious.

As Churlish Badger publishes and House Edge is being written, I have three more books churning in the back of my mind. This is how I have spent most of my writing career. Always writing with two to three books on the back screen of my brain, fading in and out, as I dissect the new characters, plot, and setting. And I do the research for the next book while I’m writing another. If only I could plug into my brain and have it all pour out onto a computer screen.

Churlish Badger

Book 8 in the Gabriel Hawke Novels

An abandoned vehicle…

A missing man…

Oregon State Trooper Gabriel Hawke discovers an abandoned vehicle at a trailhead while checking hunters.

The owner of the vehicle never arrived at his destination. As Hawke follows leads, he learns the man was in the process of selling his farm over the objections of his wife who said he would only sell over her dead body.

Continuing to dig for clues, Hawke turns up two bodies buried on the farm. Who killed the two and why keeps Hawke circling for answers, backing the killer into a corner.

Buy link:  https://books2read.com/u/mZZx2l

Not Just a Pretty Face

I’ve been taking online workshops through the International Thrillerfest Online school. While a couple of topics are ones I’ve attended workshops on before, each presenter has their own unique spin they bring to it. Which means, I have picked up a few new tricks and things to try.

The first one was a workshop by Adam Hamdy on Pacing. While I had learned about most of what he talked about before, it was his discussion on how he went from a pantser (someone who just starts writing with no idea where they are headed) to someone who does plot out the book in a basic way. Not an outline or thorough scene by scene . He writes the tag line then expands that a bit, then expands that a bit more, until he has 5-7 lines for each chapter with the action or external plot of the story and maybe some of the internal plot that will play out.

I decided to try this for the latest book I’m working on. I’ve always known my beginning, a couple of plot points in the middle, and my end, but when he said by taking the time to do this step speeded up his writing process, I thought it was worth a try. And the last book I had so many interruptions, I’d repeated myself in several places- which was discovered by a beta reader.

It took me two days to discover what my book was about, write up my suspect list, and write the 5-7 sentences per chapter. This is just the investigation, or external plot, that will be brought up in each chapter. After starting the book, I added in a new secondary character who will help add more dimensions to my main character and also add more internal conflict in House Edge, book 2 in the Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries.

And you were wondering where the title of this post came from… A bonus workshop we received dealt with what mystery/suspense/thriller readers look for in a book cover. I found the information insightful. So much so, I sent an email to my cover designer to redesign the first three covers in the Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series. I have Poker Face published and available to the public but it is the first book. I decided it was best to get it and the next two I’d had made to get a consistency in the series from the beginning.

Here are the books I had made before the workshop:

These aren’t bad and convey a bit of the story. However, the survey taken by a marketing firm who works with all the big publishers and some of the larger writing organizations said that mystery/suspense/thriller readers don’t care if the image on the cover is anything like what’s in the book. They read the title first. They want a title that catches their imagination and is a play on words. Check- my titles do that. They don’t like people/faces on the books. They don’t mind shadowy figures and prefer covers that look like a puzzle. They want to see creepy, mysterious, or action depicted on the covers. And they prefer a description of the type of book: Mystery, Thriller, True Crime, Action Adventure, Suspense not A Novel.

And these are the new covers:

Simpler images, in-the-face title, and the word Mystery is easier to see than in the logo that sweetened the look of the books. These covers also leave more to the imagination.

I’m glad I had this workshop now and not a year from now when the fourth book would be coming out.

And I’m thankful I went with simple covers on the Gabriel Hawke books and I have a play on words for the titles.

It might be just a book cover, but it is the face of the book I want to draw readers into. So while pretty is nice, I want a cover that exudes mystery, intrigue, and a reader can’t pass without at least taking a peek inside.

What do you think of the change of cover?