The Importance of Setting by Karen Shughart

aerial view, architecture, autumn

As I write this, it’s raining. Heavily and steadily. And there’s a bit of a chill in the air. After all, it’s fall, a transition month of warm days, cool nights, brilliant sunshine and cloudless skies; apples, pumpkins, red orange, rust and yellow leaves and a profusion of brightly colored mums. And, of course, there’s also the rain, wind and a sea so noisy we can hear it with our windows closed. I’ve worked all morning on Murder in the Cemetery, the second book in the Edmund DeCleryk series, which is set in the fictional village of Lighthouse Cove, NY. I imagine Ed, and his wife, Annie, sitting in front of a roaring fire at the end of the day, drinking red wine and discussing the case.

Yesterday was different. It was one of those days when you just want to be outside enjoying the crisp fall air and the smell of the decaying leaves. I imagine a reflective Ed, walking on a deserted beach, waves lapping onto shore, cup of steaming coffee in hand.

In the winter my characters take long walks in the snow and meet friends at cozy pubs with wood-beamed ceilings that have parking lots filled with snowmobiles.  They eat hearty food and settle in with a good book in front of the fire.

In the spring the roads they drive on meander through acres of fruit trees covered with fragrant, fuzzy pink and white blossoms, and in summer, you might see them sailing on the teal blue waters of Lake Ontario or watching a splendid fireworks’ display from their decks.

Each season of the year has its own beauty and inspires me to interject that beauty into the plot of the Cozy mysteries I write. I have an affinity to Cozies because of their charm, but also because the reader gets to know not only the cast of characters but also the towns and villages where they live.

Think about Louise Penny’s Three Pines series- would it be as engaging if it weren’t set in a small, quaint Canadian village? And what about the works of Martha Grimes, whose character, Richard Jury, gets help solving cases from friends living in the quirky village of Long Piddleton.  If you’ve ever watched Midsomer Murders (one of my favorite “cozy” TV series), you’ll remember the festivals, concerts and fairs as well as the enticing Midsomer County woods, fields and streams that help set the scene for those murders.

The setting of a book is crucial to drawing the reader into the plot. “It was a dark and stormy night, ….” although comically trite, really does warn the reader that something ominous is about to occur. But then there’s also an intriguing juxtaposition between a day when the birds are singing, the sunrise glorious and all’s right with the world, and a horrific murder that occurs that same morning in dark and swampy woods.

A groovy new book

By Sally Carpenter

Flower_Power_Fatality_jpg (1)

My new retro-cozy, “Flower Power Fatality,” seems like it’s taken forever to write. I estimate the actual writing time at about 1.5 years but it’s been on my mind for much longer.

The idea originated a number of years ago at a fundraising concert at my parish. A group of ‘60s rockers were performing and I thought a cozy set in the 1960s was a pretty far out idea. I only know of one other mystery series in the ‘60s so the field seemed ripe for exploiting.

I considered a series with a college student as a protagonist (campus unrest was a big topic in the era), one book for each year of school. However, high-achieving students are too busy with classes, homework and extra-curricular activities to have time for sleuthing (except for the Hardy Boys who always seem to be on a school holiday). Writing scenes about someone sitting in lecture classes all day didn’t interest me either (my apologies to those of you who write school mysteries).

I didn’t want to write about a rock musician, because I already had a musician in my Sandy Fairfax series. Hippies are interesting characters, but they make poor sleuths. They don’t want to deal with the cops and frankly, some of them are too strung out much of the time to be of use.

One of my writer acquaintances is a Doris Day fan, so I started watching Doris Day movies. The idea clicked with “The Glass Bottom Boat.” Doris plays a civilian who unwitting gets mixed up with spies. Aha!

The 1960s was the height of the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia, with nuclear annihilation of both countries only a button-push away. Everyone knew about CIA and KGB spies, no matter how hard they tried to keep their activities a secret. Mad Magazine made light of this conflict in the wordless “Spy vs. Spy” cartoons.

The spy genre was popular entertainment in the 1960s, kicked off, of course by the James Bond craze. Soon Bond found himself parodied in the Derek Flint and Matt Helm films and in the 1967 “Casino Royale.”

Spies took over TV as well with such shows as “I Spy,” “The Man From UNCLE,” “Mission: Impossible” and “Get Smart.” One could argue “Batman” followed suit as well, with its many bat-gadgets, droll sense of humor and over-the-top presentation like the Bond movies.

“UNCLE” episodes featured a new “innocent” (guest star) each week, a civilian recruited by the agency to help the spies with the mission, much like the protagonist in my book, an actress who stumbles upon a murder and missing microdots.

But I couldn’t start writing right away. I wanted to crank out another Sandy Fairfax book, so I put the new idea on the back burner. Then I researched a big presentation for my parish. Then I wrote a short story for the “Cozy Cats Shorts” anthology (2017). And along the way I was still writing my monthly Ladies of Mystery post and my newspaper column.

At long last I put everything aside to work on the new idea.

Sometimes letting an idea simmer makes it tastier. I used the time to research my setting and the 1960s in general. Being a kid at the time, much of what was going on went right over my head. I also had to check on every product and piece of music mentioned in the book to make sure it was time-appropriate.

And the book has a pet cat. Well, that one was easy to research. I just looked in my yard.

Name that tune

By Sally Carpenter

In my mysteries I use song titles as my chapter headers. The protagonist in my cozies is a former teen idol, so the stories slanty heavy into music. And just saying “chapter one, “chapter two,” etc. is boring.

The chapter title makes some reference to what’s going on in that section so I can keep track of how the action progresses throughout the book. And I like the challenge and fun of finding songs to fit. It amuses me.

And no, quoting song titles in a book does not violate copyright law. If it did, writers would be in trouble every time they used phrases like “she loves you” or “I feel fine” or “I want to know” or even the word “misery.”

 Below are the chapter titles to my upcoming cozy. “The Quirky Quiz Show Caper.” See if you know the artist who recorded the song.

1. Monday, Monday

2. I Want To Know

3. We Just Disagree

4. Carry On Wayward Son

5. Be True to Your School

6. Stiletto

7. (It’s a) Family Affair

8. If You’ve Got Trouble

9. Call Me

10. Games People Play

11. Xanadu

12. Listen to the Band

13. Sometimes She’s a Little Girl

14. Saturday in the Park.

15. Up, Up and Away

16. We Can Work It Out

17. FM (No Static at All)

18. (I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden

19 You Won’t See Me

20. Diary

21. Your Lying Eyes

22. Mr. Success

23. Thanks for the Pepperoni

24. I Can’t Get Her Off My Mind

26. Garden Party

26. Live and Let Die

27. Last Dance

 Answers:

1. The Mamas and The Papas

2. Eric Clapton and The Powerhouse

3. Dave Mason

4. Kansas

5. The Beach Boys

6. Billy Joel

7. Sly and the Family Stone

8. Beatles, but didn’t appear until “Anthology”

9. Blondie

10. The Spinners

11. Olivia Newton-John from the movie soundtrack

12. The Monkees

13. Boyce and Hart

15. Fifth Dimension

16. Beatles again

17. Steely Dan

18. Lynn Anderson

19. Beatles one more time

20. Bread on the original version but Micky Dolenz recorded it years later

21. The Eagles

22. First recorded by Frank Sinatra but I have a version by Bobby Sherman

23. Extra points as this one’s obscure. An instrumental jam on the third disc of George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” opus.

24. Monkees once more

25. Ricky Nelson

26. Paul McCartney and Wings

27. Donna Summers

 Cross posted in The Cozy Cat Chronicles

 

How long should a Series be? by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)When I came up with the idea for a mystery series, the second thing I thought about after bringing Shandra Higheagle to life was: Can I write enough stories to make this a long running series?

So I sat down and thought about where she lives- a ski resort; what she does- a potter; and then the people she is closest to. Her family history and heritage also can play into several story linesBookmark Front. All of these things figured into stories I could write to expand the series.

I’m also finding that as I write a story, something will pop up that sends me to my list of story ideas and adding another one. Also, things I hear and see on the news starts and idea for a premise of a story.

I figured if Sue Grafton could write 26 books with the same sleuth, Janet Evanovich went for Tricky Twenty-Two, and Tony HIllerman put out 19, I should be able to come up with that many mysteries for Shandra to solve without her or the stories getting stale.

Right now I’m researching for Book 5. I know who will be killed and who will be suspected, but I still need to write up my suspect chart, which will happen after I know more about the murder venue. Usually by this stage I have a title for the book. This one isn’t coming to me as easily. But I’m sure by the time I get to the middle of the book, I’ll know my title.

If you read series, has there come a time when you’ve found the series going stale? Why do you think that happened?

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Dreaming up an Amateur Sleuth by Paty Jager

Dream your dreams with your eyes closed…paty shadow (1)

But live your Dreams with your eyes open—

                                                                     ~Cherokee~

The amateur sleuth in my Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series is half Nez Perce. She was raised to hide her Native American heritage when her Nez Perce father died and her mother remarried. However, her paternal grandmother kept in touch, and Shandra spent a summer during her teen-age years with her grandmother on the reservation. Her grandmother said Shandra had powers. When Shandra announced that at home her mother and step-father quickly made her see it was an old woman’s way to making an awkward teenaged girl feel special–nothing more.

As an adult, Shandra visits her grandmother more and is interested in discovering more about her roots. But her grandmother dies, leaving Shandra a note requesting she attend the Seven Drum Ceremony after the funeral.

While in the midst of murders and mystery, Shandra’s grandmother comes to her in dreams showing her clues to the true murderer. While Shandra investigates the dreams and discovers helpful information, she has a hard time believing the dreams and her grandmother’s presence.

This is the information I came up with when I was brainstorming who my amateur sleuth would be in the mystery series I wanted to write. I started with the niggling that I wanted a Native American character. But not being Native American myself, I didn’t know the first thing about being from that heritage. That’s when I came up with the idea of her being kept from those roots. It allowed me to discover Shandra’s heritage as she is discovering it, a piece at a time.

To add a bit more of the “mysticism” or “dreamer” qualities to the Native American element I have her deceased grandmother come to her in dreams. Visions and dreams are instrumental in Native American culture. This was my way of drawing on elements that could be intrinsic to Shandra.

And all amateur sleuths need a person in law enforcement to keep them safe. I gave Shandra handsome Weippe County Detective Ryan Greer. He believes in Shandra’s dreams more than her in the beginning thanks to his Irish mother who taught him to believe in things you can’t see.

I’m enjoying getting to know Shandra and Ryan better with each book I write and having them meet the locals of Huckleberry, Idaho and the unique murders that draw Shandra into the investigations. And I can use the backdrop of the ski resort and the art communities because Shandra is a potter whose works are considered art.

What draws you to the main character in a mystery series? What elements in a character haven’t you seen that you would like to see?

Publication1

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Series- Keeping it Interesting by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)I don’t know how you feel about reading mystery series but I love reading and writing them. Following a character on their journey through life, murders, and mayhem is fun. They have personal triumphs and failures, that the reader who has become a part of that character’s world can cheer and cry over.

Some of my favorite characters and series to read over the years have been Mrs. Polifax by Dorothy Gilman, Tony Hillerman’s Navajo Mysteries with Joe Leaphorn,  Leighann Dobbs, Blackmore Sisters, Marilyn Meredith’s Tempe Crabtree and J.L. Simpsons’s Daisy Dunlop. I enjoy meeting back up with them in each book and seeing what mayhem they get into.

I like writing series because I can continue relationships, make new relationship, and have a cast of characters I know and can take on adventures. Whether they are the main characters, Shandra Higheagle and Ryan Greer of if they are the quirky, endearing, and annoying secondary characters, like Crazy Lil, Sheba the dog, Ryan’s nosy family,  or the cast of characters who live in Huckleberry.

The murdered person and the murder suspects are usually new characters, which means I have to discover all I can about them before I start writing the books. But that is one of the best parts about a mystery, discovering how to make characters connect and have motives for the murder that happened.

I’ve never thought of myself as analytical or a puzzle solver but I love piecing the story together to have my sleuths think it’s one person only to discover it could be someone else. Keeping my sleuths guessing, I hope also keeps  the readers guessing.

I just released the fourth book on my Shandra Higheagle mystery series- Murderous Secrets. This book has Shandra delving into her father’s death. She’d always been told it was a rodeo accident, but as her grandmother continues to come to her in dreams, she begins to feel it wasn’t an accident and searches for the truth.

A bonus about this book, the timing couldn’t have been better, because it happens in December and ends on Christmas Eve.

Murderous SecretsMurderous Secrets

Jealousy…Deception…Murder

The accident that took her father’s life has always haunted Shandra Higheagle. When her dreams become too real, she knows it’s time to discover the truth. It doesn’t take long to suspect her father had been murdered and that someone is unhappy with her probing.

Detective Ryan Greer knows Shandra well enough to insist he be kept informed of her investigation into the decades old death of her father. When signs implicate her mother, he can’t withhold the information, even though he realizes it could complicate their relationship.

Buy Links:

AmazonNook –  KoboWindtree Press

Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. On her road to publication she wrote freelance articles for two local newspapers and enjoyed her job with the County Extension service as a 4-H Program Assistant. Raising hay and cattle, riding horses, and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story.

You can learn more about Paty at

her blog; Writing into the Sunset

her website; http://www.patyjager.net

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/pages/Paty-Jager/132536633482029

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twitter @patyjag.

Who Said You Could Wear a Dress?

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By JL Simpson

I made it this month. Due to the hectic pace of life, family crisis and dumb stupidity I missed posting in September. I hope you didn’t miss me, actually you probably never even noticed. However, whilst I have forgotten to post on here I have been busy writing.

Even though people buy and read my books I do feel like a fraud some days. In my head a writer bangs away on a typewriter with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of their mouth, a glass of whiskey close at hand. Even worse, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, (clue ha ha, no pun intended).

Some writers plot. They have weird charts, spreadsheets, cards and all manner of paraphernalia. I just have a blank screen. I’ve tried to plot. I’ve tried to work out how many words the book is going to be, how many chapters, what the gist of each chapter is, whose point of view it’s in, what the hook is at the end. It’s a great idea, but it doesn’t work for me.

For me writing a book is a lot like childbirth. Yes, lots of screaming, sweating, swearing at my husband (just kidding). Every word is hard earned. No matter how much you practice your breathing, and think  you know what is coming, labor is like nothing you could imagine. Everything you thought you knew goes out the window. Writing is like that for me.  Even when I have a plan or a plot my characters just do what they choose. I start a chapter thinking one thing is going to happen and then Solomon or Daisy will do or say something that takes the story off on a tangent. Today I was thinking I knew all there was to know about my grumpy Irish PI hero and then another character mentions that he once went undercover as a woman. Now Daisy is plotting how to put this knowledge about the Irish git to good use.

Not only is writing unexpected but it’s also surprising. If you’re going to slug it out for hours and hours then it’s nice to have something exciting at the end. When I had my kids I never knew if I was having a boy or a girl, and when I’m writing a book I never know what is going to happen. The only thing I know for sure is that someone it going to die, Daisy and Solomon are going to give each other hell, Daisy is going to flirt outrageously and somehow someway she is going to solve the case. Who dies, who kills them and why are not things that concern me when I start the story. Thankfully every book so far has been delivered healthy, and once dressed in a pretty cover lots of people have taken a look and decided that they love my crazy creation almost as much as I do.

 

www.jlsimpson.com

Guest Author – Kathleen Kaska

Inspirations from Long Ago

Typewriter, newspaper, glasses and a cup of coffee on desk, high angle view, close up
Typewriter, newspaper, glasses and a cup of coffee on desk, high angle view, close up

As soon as I graduated from college, I packed two bags and my dog and left Austin to
experience life in the Big Apple. I’d grown up in a small town, worked my butt off to get
through college, and after receiving my diploma, headed straight to New York City. No job
awaited me there; I had no place to live and very little money; and I knew hardly anyone.

But adventure called. Miraculously, everything worked out and I stayed for eighteen months. That was thirty-five years ago. At the time I had no aspirations of becoming a writer. I just wanted to experience life in one of the most thrilling cities on the planet. Little did I realize that my time in NYC would become valuable to my future writing.

I’m now working on a new mystery series; this one is set in 1945 in Manhattan. Mickey
Spillane, Rex Stout, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler were inspirational in my
decision to try my hand at hardboiled crime fiction. Once I began writing, memories of my time in New York came flooding back; the jazz club on Seventh Avenue where I bartended; the homeless woman who went by the name of Rooster; an elderly woman who lived in Hell’s Kitchen who believed the entire state of Texas was responsible for assassinating JKF (and since I was a Texan, I was part of that conspiracy); my apartment on 30th and Madison; the Dubrovnik Hotel down the street; a dark, eerie bar I happened to walk into one day; and the deli near my apartment where I learned to order cream cheese with my bagel by asking for a schmear. All these find their way into my new book.

I am glad I took time to visit some of Manhattan’s other institutions while living there, and not just the popular venues on every tourist’s list like the Empire State Building, United
Nations, Statue of Liberty, and Central Park; but places frequented by locals: Carnegie’s Deli in Midtown (famous for corned-beef and pastrami sandwiches); Sardi’s Restaurant in the theatre district (known for the caricatures of show-business celebrities displayed on the walls); and what became my favorite Italian restaurant in Little Italy, Luna’s on Mulberry Street. All these establishments have become my down-and-out detective protagonist’s regular hangouts. He also moves into the Dubrovnik Hotel after his apartment is ransacked and most of his positions destroyed. Rooster and the elderly woman are regulars on the street corners of Hell’s Kitchen where he lives in an apartment over Frank’s Place (based on that eerie bar).

But what really helped me develop a sense of place were the sounds and smells I vividly recall: I loved hearing the staccato chatter of short-order cooks behind the deli counter on the first floor in my apartment building; those early morning, marshy smells wafting in from the East River as I strolled down Water Street, damp with dew, in Lower Manhattan; the noise of food purveyor trucks rattling down the street on their way to make restaurant deliveries—all come alive in my story. I’m only halfway through the first draft, and am eager for more tidbits to pop up from the treasure trove of memories I’d stored up more than three decades ago.

300_Murder at the Driskill_mockup01About Kathleen

Kathleen Kaska is a writer of mysteries, nonfiction, travel articles, and stage plays. When she is not writing, she spends much of her time with her husband traveling the back roads and byways around the country, looking for new venues for her mysteries and bird watching along the Texas coast and beyond. Her latest mystery is Murder at the Driskill (LL-Publications). It was her passion for birds that led to the publication The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida).

Buy Link: goo.gl/lnf2WU

http://www.kathleenkaska.com

http://www.kathleenkaskawrites.blogspot.com/

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https://twitter.com/KKaskaAuthor

Life Would Be Boring Without Mystery by Paty Jager #mystery #cozymystery

The creaking door, missing papers, an unusual scent hanging in the air…Mystery is all paty shadow (1)around us every day of our lives. It could be the phone call you answered to find no one there. The new cat hanging out in your back yard. Or something that’s gone missing at work. Mystery is what keeps life interesting and always testing our brain.

Life would be boring without mystery.

Growing up I was an avid reader and my favorite books were those that had a bit of mystery to them. In junior high I devoured the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series. Even the Walter Farley books I read had mystery to them even though I initially picked up the books for the horses.

When I first started writing historical westerns I couldn’t keep the mystery out of the stories. It was building the mystery in the story rather than the romance that made the plotting interesting to me. I recently had a conversation with the editor who published my first westerns. When I told her I was writing mysteries and loving it, she said, “I always thought your voice leaned toward mysteries.”  That kind of validated my decision to write mysteries.

My other interest is Native American cultures, specifically, the Nez Perce. I grew up in Wallowa County, the area where the Chief Joseph band or Lake Nimiipuu as they call themselves, summered and wintered. Of course this was way before I lived in Wallowa County, but they were always on my mind growing up. I found it unfortunate that the only time the Nez Perce were allowed in the county was during Chief Joeseph Days a rodeo weekend where the locals benefited from the history of the county yet the people who lived there before them it was the only weekend they were allowed to return.

A lot has changed in the thirty years since I moved away. The Nez Perce have purchased land in the county. They have a yearly powwow, Tamkaliks, the weekend before Chief Joseph Days, and they have put up interpretive centers as well as are now monitoring the salmon runs in the county. I’m happy they are having voices into how the county is moving forward.

My interest in the Nez Perce and my love of mystery is combined into the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series. Shandra Higheagle is a half Nez Perce artistic potter. Her father was a rodeo bareback bronc rider. He was killed in a rodeo accident when she was four. Her mother remarried and Shandra was told to keep her Native American heritage a secret. However, her paternal grandmother a shaman in the Nez Perce Seven Drums society made sure Shandra was drawn back to her roots.

The first book, Double Duplicity, starts with Shandra returning from her grandmother’s funeral. Shandra finds a murdered art gallery owner after seeing her best friend, also an art gallery owner, hurrying across the street. When Shandra is dropped as a suspect, she begins digging to find the real killer before her friend becomes the scapegoat. Her grandmother comes to her in dreams, directing her to clues that help Shandra and a detective find the real murderer.

Double Duplicity (652x1024)Double Duplicity: A Shandra Higheagle Mystery

Book one of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series

Dreams…Visions…Murder

On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene was just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever but just as determined to discover the truth.

Detective Ryan Greer prides himself on solving crimes and refuses to ignore a single clue, including Shandra Higheagle’s visions. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Ryan believes in them and believes in her.

Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?

Buy Links:

Windtree Press http://windtreepress.com/portfolio/double-duplicity/

Amazon  http://authl.it/2ng

Kobo  http://store.kobobooks.com/search?Query=Double+Duplicity

Nook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/double-duplicity-paty-jager/1120790322

Apple https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id942249867

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Secret Handshake

By Paty Jagerpaty shadow (1)

Hello! I’m excited to be part of this mystery author blog. Years ago when I first tried my hand at writing mystery novels I felt like a secret handshake was needed to become a mystery author.

I grew up in the NE corner of Oregon. The summer and winter home of the Chief Joseph band of the Nez Perce Indians. I’m not sure if wandering the Wallowa 20150505_135357_001Mountains on my horse or the fact I saw a ghost of a Nez Perce warrior while on one of those rides is what brings my writer mind to that band every time I try to come up with a new and unique story. I have a historical paranormal romance trilogy about the Nez Perce and my current mystery series has a half Nez Perce potter as the amateur sleuth. Her deceased grandmother comes to her in dreams, helping her discover clues to the murderers.

I’ve always loved reading and wrote stories for my family, friends, and my own entertainment.

When our two oldest children were in grade school and the youngest was still at home, I took writing classes at the local college. One of the instructors insisted we needed to believe in ourselves and our ability to write. I took that message to heart. One day at a school assembly with a storyteller, I decided to write an article about him and submit it to the local newspaper. I took notes and interviewed him, then ran home and typed up my article.  I called the newspaper and asked for the editor. I told him I had an article about the story teller. He said, “I have a reporter and photographer going to such and such school tomorrow.” I said, “You only need to send the photographer, I have the story written.” Boy did I grow a pair that day! LOL.  He laughed. “Okay, bring your story in by two and I’ll take a look at it.”  Two was only twenty minutes away, and I lived ten minutes from town.  I hopped in the car with my story and raced to the newspaper office. I asked for the editor. He came out of his office with a smug expression. “Here’s the story I told you about,” I said and handed the paper to him. He read it. Looked at me. And read it again. “This is a good story,” he said. “We’ll use this one and send a photographer.”  I walked out of that newspaper office on air. A few days later the editor called me with a job. They wanted me to be a freelance human interest reporter. I worked for that newspaper for two years and then another local paper for two years. During that time I started writing a mystery novel.

But I had trouble finding mystery writers who would help me learn the craft of writing mystery. I felt like I didn’t know the secret handshake to get my feet in the door and find the help I was desperately seeking. I bought books and did my best, but when I sent off my first manuscript, having no one to consult, I was a sucker and followed every thing the agent told me to do and ended up with a crappy story and having paid him money. I had a bad experience with writing mystery and started writing historical western romance. I found the Romance Writers of America, and they helped me learn the craft of writing and the business of writing.

In 2006, while working as a 4-H program assistant for the extension service, I published my first historical western romance novel. I now have twenty published novels. Most are20150505_135144 historical and contemporary western romance, three are action adventure with romantic elements, and now my Shandra Higheagle mystery series. I’ve won three awards for my romance and action adventure books. And now that I’m writing mystery, I’m ecstatic to be back where I started– writing the books I love.  I finally discovered the secret handshake.

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