The World Through My Eyes

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The fifth book in the Adam Kaminski mystery series will come out this summer. I am so excited to share it with you! I’ve spent the past two years working on this book that looks at the world through the eyes of a photographer, while also telling the story of a cruise in which everyone is pretending to be someone they’re not.

One of the things I enjoy most about writing is the opportunity to look at the world through other peoples eyes. Because my series has one main character– Adam Kaminski – who always finds someone to help him out, I have the pleasure of creating a new point-of-view character for each book (that is, a character whose thoughts you, the reader, get to hear.)

In this book my second leading character is Julia Kaminski, sister to Adam. Julia has appeared in most of the other books in the series, so I’m not creating her from scratch. But this is the first time I’m writing from her perspective, describing the world through her eyes. In this case, the eyes of a photographer. There can be no doubt, we all see the world a little bit differently.

 

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A very blurry suggestion of the cover for A Pale Reflection  – the world as I might see it!

Personally, I’ve been wearing glasses since I was five (and probably needed them before that). The world through my eyes looks very different. Terribly near-sighted, without my glasses I see blurs of color without distinct shapes. Every pin prick of light becomes a giant, glowing snowflake. It’s actually quite beautiful! As long as I don’t need to see clearly. These days, I wear bifocals, so I get two different views of the world depending how I hold my head! (And does anyone hate progressive bifocals as much as I do? I couldn’t stand them.)

As an aside, I recently saw a video about very young children – one year or younger – getting glasses and being able to see their mothers’ faces clearly for the first time. The expression of joy on their faces was indescribable. How the doctors were able to figure out a) that they needed glasses and b) what their prescription was I have no idea. But it is remarkable.

 

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Bifocal and near vision only – just two of the many pairs of glasses in my life!

My husband, on the other hand, is farsighted. How strange! After a lifetime of holding things next to my face to read them, I can’t imagine only being able to see clearly when things are far away. The world he sees is very different from the world I see.

I’m pretty sure the same holds true for reading. I write a book and let it out into the world. Now it’s up to the reader to see whatever he or she sees in it. I love hearing other peoples perspectives of my books — don’t get me wrong — but I admit there are times when I hear someone describing one of my characters and I think: can’t I just give you a prescription that lets you see it the way I see it?

A Pale Reflection, my book about seeing the world – and other people – clearly, comes out this summer. Check out my Facebook page or sign up for my newsletter at my website to see the full cover soon. And follow me on Instagram to see photos of my world. I hope my perspective of other people’s perspective will keep you entranced – and wondering who the killer is!

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Who Saw That?

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Julia Kaminski, sister to the hero of the Adam Kaminski mystery series, is a photographer. A good one. She’s still figuring out how to make a living in her chosen profession. In an ideal world, she’d earn her money by showing and selling her photographs at galleries. But until that happens, she’s getting by by taking on gigs as a photographer at wedding or parties. And still holding out for her big break.

Julia’s photographs take on new meaning in book 5 in the series, A Pale Reflection. Julia finally gets a leading role, after appearing as a side character in the first four books, and jumps into the chance to use her photographic skills to help her brother Adam figure out whodunnit.

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The thing about photographs is they capture more than you might realize. You, the tourist, for example, sees a beautiful scene and snap a shot. It may only be later, as you go back to look through the photographs, that you notice someone or something in the picture you hadn’t previously realized was there. Or someone watching when you thought you were alone.

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In my family, my husband is the photographer. We just had the amazing opportunity to spend a glorious week in Rome. (Will Adam Kaminski be solving a murder in Rome in the near future? Stay tuned!).

Chuck, my husband, takes spectacular photographs of traditional scenes — statues, artwork, natural beauty and urban beauty. But he also finds joy in surprising details. For example, catching an unexpected eye.

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For us, it’s fun. We use these photographs to share our experiences with friends and family and to refresh our own memories of the time we spent there. And if we were trying to catch a killer, the “mouth of truth” pictured here would be a huge help!

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Of course, we’re not trying to solve a murder. For Julia and Adam, a photograph can mean so much more. Even the difference between life and death.

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Learn more about Jane Gorman and the Adam Kaminski mystery series at janegorman.com or follow her on Facebook. For some great photographs of Rome and her other travels, check out her Instagram page!

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Understanding Your Characters

Part of what makes a great story is great characters. Any reader can tell you that. Writers talk about developing characters, fleshing them out, giving them back story, making them flawed and relatable. These are all vital steps in creating great a character.

But once the character is created, I find I have yet one more hurdle that I have to jump: I have to understand my characters.

A young couple in Galway contemplate the evening

But you created them, you might say with surprise. You wrote their background, you devised their likes and dislikes, fears and dreams. What’s left to understand?

Lots.

Characters run the show. They get away from you, the writer, taking their own story in directions you hadn’t anticipated. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous. Yet it happens to all writers.

In my current work in progress, I realized after finishing the second draft that I had the wrong killer. A different character was standing in the wings looking guiltily around, trying not to make eye contact with me. Ah-hah, I thought. That’s the real killer!

Trying to pull a fast one on me, I might add.

In several of my books I have another problem of understanding with some of my characters: I write characters who are not native English speakers.

My mother and grandmother in Warsaw

As we all know, language affects not just the way we talk but even the way we think. Writing a foreign character (foreign to me, that is) means not only understanding their native tongue enough to be able to replicate their thoughts, but also understanding the way they frame their thoughts in the first place.

A Pole, an American and an Irishman walk into a bar…. They’re all thinking a little differently and it’s my job to understand those differences.

A woman examines a grave in Warsaw. What might she be thinking?

I’m not complaining. I love that job! I spend time improving my language skills. (By the way, for anyone interested in learning French, I recommend the lessons by Paul Noble. They’re very good!). Extra bonus, it helps when I travel the world and meet new people. So it’s a good problem to have. And one that I hope I have succeeded in overcoming.

But you tell me. If you’ve read any of my books, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my foreign characters and how well I’ve captured their differences.

Learn more about Jane Gorman and the Adam Kaminski mystery series at janegorman.com.

Brainstorming another Series by Paty Jager

Besides loving thinking up ways to kill people and how to fool readers about who did it, I love coming up with a new series and characters.

That’s where I’m at now. I have three more Shandra Higheagle Mystery books to write and I’ll introduce the two main characters of my next mystery series in that third book.  I’ll keep writing the Shandra books, but plan to bring out another series in 2019 that will be written this coming year.

 

The main character of the next series will be a male Nez Perce Fish and Game warden.

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Wallowa Lake

He’ll be working the area his ancestors once roamed during the summer and winter months. He’ll be a proficient tracker, asked to come help find people, and to train others. This will take him not only around the state but also to seminars, giving him an expanded area to help solve the murders.

To make this even more unique, he will spend time at a remote hunting lodge in the mountains where he works that is owned by a woman who he respects and is in love with but who he feels doesn’t deserve someone the likes of him.

She will be an independent woman who runs the hunting lodge and flies an airplane, which is one of the two ways to get to the lodge. The other is by horseback.

So far these are the only two characters I know and am still fleshing them out. There will be a superior of Hunter, that’s my name for the character right now but that could change. Still working on it. And there will be employees for the lodge.

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I also need to come up with a name for Hunter’s horse. A sturdy Appaloosa/Quarter horse cross gelding. I’m also thinking about him having a dog. Perhaps part wolf or husky. Still working out these details.

I’ve been reading books by Craig Lesley. He has a male Nez Perce main character in his books. It is giving me the “feel” for how a man such as my character would think and talk.  I’m enjoying the books and the getting to know my character through his characters.

As I start working on this series, I’ll keep you updated on how it’s coming along and when you can find the books.

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photo of Wallowa Lake by Paty Jager

 

 

 

What Makes a Book Great?

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I just finished the seventh book in a seven book mystery series. I picked up the first because I loved the cover. Also because it had a good blurb and some good reviews and it was set in a little town in France that appealed to me, but mostly because it had a beautiful, tantalizing cover.

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I like to think this cover is just as captivating!

I bought the second book as soon as I’d finished the first, and kept going that way straight through book seven. As an author, I have to ask myself, why did I find this series so compelling?

There were several ways in which the writer didn’t follow the “rules” that writers are so often warned about.

She bounced around between points-of-view. For every book you read, there is one— or two or three or more—point-of-view characters. That’s the character through whose eyes you get the story. In a cozy, which this series was, that’s typically the amateur sleuth—the little old lady or librarian or divorcee or pet shop owner or knitting club president who can’t help but get involved and who solves the crime in the end.

Writer are always warned not to bounce around between points-of-view, and if you must have more than one point-of-view character, then change points of view between scenes, not within a scene. That’s how I do it when I write. Each of my stories is told partly from the point of view of Adam Kaminski, the hero, and also partly through the eyes of another important character. And sometimes through the eyes of the killer.

But this series jumped from one person to another to another to another all within the same scene. The writer used a striking combination of the omniscient point of view (when the reader hears all the thoughts of all the characters) and a second person point of view.

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It broke the rules and it was wonderful!

Other aspects of these stories could have irritated other readers. There were some editing errors. Not little typos, but pretty major issues such as a character not speaking French in one scene then speaking French in another (I actually thought that was a clue and it proved the character was lying about himself, but it turned out just to be an error!).

So why did I love these books so much?

The characters. The juicy, crazy, emotional, fascinating, sometimes twisted, sometimes bizarre characters that populate the little town in which the stories take place.

Though I should clarify, the town itself was one of those characters. A beautifully crafted and gorgeously described town in the south of France.

Focus groups and marketing studies are clearly important, but not something I can do within my budget. Instead, I base a lot of my decisions about my books on what I like or don’t like. And this series proved a few things I kind of already knew.

I will choose a book by its cover. And I will keep reading a book because of its characters.

What do you look for in the books that keep you reading?

Learn more about the Adam Kaminski mystery series by Jane Gorman at janegorman.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Canine Takeover by Paty Jager

sheba-canstockphoto18381057I’m sure you’ve heard actors say not to work with children and animals, you’ll get upstaged every time.

That’s what happened when I decided to make a secondary character from the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series a main player in the Christmas mystery, Yuletide Slaying.

I was excited when I came up with the idea to make Shandra Higheagle’s big mutt the character that finds the body in the Christmas mystery. I and many of my fans have fallen in love with the big, goofy Newfoundland/ Border Collie cross dog. She’s as quirky as a dog can get. With her large size she should be a great guard dog, but alas, her Border Collie timidness keeps her from being ferocious. Instead, she rolls onto her back in a submissive gesture when meeting people. She’s scared of loud noises, and prefers to hide behind Shandra than take on any confrontation.

Knowing all this about her dog, it’s a bit disconcerting for Shandra when Sheba bolts out of the parade line after a vintage car backfires and drags a sleigh filled with presents for foster children down a side street and disappears. Not only does she fear for her dog, she is worried what Detective Ryan Greer’s mother will think when the sleigh doesn’t arrive at the Christmas carnival.

To Shandra’s relief, Sheba steps out of an alley with the sleigh in tow. But there is a dead man in the sleigh. And she soon discovers, Sheba witnessed the attack because she has a stab wound.

Will the killer be out to finish off the big goofy dog? Will Sheba run when she sees the killer or will her Newfoundland protection instincts kick in?

This was a fun book to write with the focus on the beginning and end on Sheba. She has become one of my favorite secondary characters in this series along with Crazy Lil and Maxwell Treat.

Have you read a mystery where an animal was an integral part o the story line? What was the animal and the book?

Right now you can pre-order Yuletide Slaying for a special price. $.99!

Book 7 of the Shandra Higheagle mystery series

Yuletide Slaying

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When Shandra Higheagle’s dog brings her a dead body in a sleigh full of presents, her world is turned upside down. The man is a John Doe and within twenty-four hours another body is found.

Detective Ryan Greer receives a call that has them both looking over their shoulders. A vengeful brother of a gang member who died in a gang war is out for Ryan’s blood. Shandra’s dreams and Ryan’s fellow officers may not be enough to keep them alive to share Christmas.

Pre-Order Links:

Amazon / Nook / Apple / Kobo

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western historical romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award, received the EPPIE Award, and a Paranormal Lorie Award. Her mystery, Double Duplicity, was a finalist in the Chanticleer Mayhem and Mystery Award and a runner-up in the RONE  Mystery Award.  This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

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photo source: Canstock.com

Who’s In Charge Here?

by Janis Patterson

Once someone asked me to do a workshop on creating characters. He had read several of my books and was impressed with how ‘real’ they all were. Could I, he asked, share my creation process?

I told him I couldn’t do such a workshop, and explained why, but somehow I don’t think he believed me. And I couldn’t blame him, because it’s pretty unbelievable.

You see, I’ve taken all the workshops. I’ve done character sheets and created questionnaires for them, some even to the extent of their favorite flavor of Jello. And every character so created died. Just faded away into cardboard flatness. I have never ‘just created’ a major or even secondary character. Minor characters and walk-ons, yes; but let’s be honest – one doesn’t have to go very deeply into a character who appears just a time or two and has only a couple of lines, if that.

So what do I do to have these apparently wonderfully realistic characters? The basic truth is, I stay out of the way.

You see, my characters come to me. They march into the story and tell me what they’re going to do. If I say the leading man has to have sooty black hair and he says he has a curly red mop, I have to go along. If I don’t, he’ll go sit in the corner with his back to me and not say a word. He won’t speak to me, he won’t do what I tell him to – he just lies there like a lump. Trying to bend him to my will is sort of like trying to make pantyhose out of an oak tree. Sooner or later – if I’m smart – I give in.

It’s the way I’ve worked all my life. I believe in character-driven stories (always have) and therefore by necessity have become a thorough pantser. Though I do have some vague idea of where the story is going, and usually a pretty good idea of where it’s going to end (though not always!) for me writing is simply hanging on for dear life until the characters are satisfied.

On one of my mystery novels I knew from the beginning who the murderer was going to be. There were several villains of one persuasion or another, but the murderer was going to be someone special. I wrote along happily, until about the last third of the book, when I had a sinking sensation in my stomach that the person I had always thought the murderer couldn’t have done it.

Urk.

Okay, I thought for a while and decided that another character just had to be the murderer. Except a chapter later I found he couldn’t have done it either. All in all, I changed the murderer’s identity five times in the last third of the book, and for one reason or another not one of them could have done it.

Double urk.

I was almost to the point of giving up when like a light from above the perfect solution came to me. It was a character I had never associated with the murder and for a reason that had never occurred to me, but everything fit together as if it had been planned from the beginning – means, motive and opportunity in one well-wrapped package. I finished the book with ease. But then – there was the problem of clues. The solution was perfect, but now I quailed at the thought of having to go back through the entire book and plant clues to the murderer. One should always play fair with the reader, after all…

Finally I girded myself for the task and plunged in… where I found to my utter amazement that they were already there. I did add one or two more, just so I’d have some feeling of being in control, but the story would have worked equally as well if I hadn’t. When I think of how many hours I spent worrying and how many scenes I wrote and then trashed…! It would have been so much simpler if I had just sat back and let the characters do the heavy lifting.

That was several years ago and that book is still selling well. It has also won more awards than any other of my books.

My current Work-In-Progress is a straight romance set in the Palo Duro Canyon kindle world of the fantastic Carolyn Brown (who is also a friend, I’m proud to say) and it is ticking along most pleasingly, which means the characters are behaving quite well. Jeri and Doug are total opposites – she’s a sophisticated globe trotting photographer, he’s a tall, strong and handsome rancher – and their mutual attraction is working just fine. I was about 10K into the book when all of a sudden her half-sister who is also her agent (and who I had no idea even existed) started banging about and now she’s worming her way into being a major part of the story… and perhaps the heroine of yet another book that I had never even thought of!

Years ago my late – and adored – mother, a supremely practical woman, listened to me talking about writing with something like despair. “They’re your imagination,” she said half angrily, half condescendingly, “they should do what you say.” Of course, very few living people ever defied my mother… When she tried to write a book on her own, though, she changed her tune. Apparently her characters were a strong-willed as mine. It was a pretty good book, too, but unfortunately she died before it was finished. I’ve been asked why I didn’t finish it for her (like I did her memoir THE LAND OF HEARTS DELIGHT) I can only say that her characters won’t speak to me and I have no idea of where she was going with it. It’s sad.

The Husband has no intention of ever writing anything except a technical report, but when I tried to describe my writing process to him, he thought for a moment, then said “Sounds like possession to me.” He might be right. I just know that I can only pretend to be in control.