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).

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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


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?

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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.

Writing into the Sunset

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Hello, good evening and welcome to our blog!

By Sally Carpenter

Greetings! We’re an eclectic group of mystery authors talking about the craft of writing and the clues of detection. Sharing our thoughts over the Internet might be criminal!

We’ll begin with introductions. I’m a native Hoosier now ensconced in Southern California. I grew up in a small rural Midwest town where reading books was the only recreation. I was storyteller at a young age. While my mother washed dishes and I dried, to pass the time I made up stories.

During summers, mom dropped me off at the library in town while she went shopping; easier than getting a babysitter. In eight grade I won the library’s summer reading contest by devouring the most books.

My first published piece was a puppet play. My high school had a working TV studio and the seniors produced shows to air to the elementary schools. As “Sesame Street” had just burst on the airwaves, our shows used puppets too and I wrote a silly skit that the puppet company put in its newsletter.

During a midlife crises, I returned to college to pursue the theater degree I always wanted but didn’t get because, as my parents said, “you’d never get a job in it,” despite the fact my first real job out of college was with a traveling drama troupe.

In college I focused on playwrighting. Two plays that I wrote in the playwrighting class were finalists in a multi-state college theater competition. One of the scripts also received a college drama prize and the other was produced in New York City.

One of these plays was about an aging teen idol and one of his grown-up fans. A professor said, “I see a bigger story for these characters.” We’ll get back to them later.

After college, in a fit of madness I moved to So Cal. Eventually I ended up in my present day job at a community newspaper. One day a press release came across my desk at work; a local library was hosting a Sisters in Crime panel discussion. A voice in my head said, “You need to go to this.” At the event, as the various authors described the mysteries they wrote, I thought, “I can do this!”

I used the characters from my college play to create a cozy series with a former teen idol named Sandy Fairfax, although at the time I didn’t know a cozy from a thriller. But thanks to the support and guidance of the mystery authors I’ve met since, I’ve published three books and four short stories. I have a WIP (work in progress) and plans for a second cozy series.

PS. I’m also “mom” to a few black cats.

Enough about me. Let’s hear from the other ladies of mystery!