Bad Actors

Mysteries, even the lighter ones, touch on the darker side of human nature. There is a wrong to be righted, not just a puzzle to solve. Since I don’t write about murder, I alternate between what I think of crimes of the spirit and actual crimes. The antagonist is usually based on someone who made me angry, created a sense of outrage, or gave me the creeps. In The Calling, Mae Martin encounters a professor who appears to be unethical in his relationships with female students and colleagues, and there’s a dark spiritual power around him as well. Shaman’s Blues starts with missing people, one who may be connected with a ghost, and one who claims to read auras and gives strange advice. She was inspired by someone I met many years ago in Santa Fe and never forgot—because people seemed to believe her, despite the dubious nature of her guidance. The exploitation of others’ spiritual longings and desire for healing is a theme I explore often. Living in New Mexico, where alternative medicine and spiritual seekers are a big part of the scene, I’ll never run out of material. There are many excellent practitioners here, but there are some questionable ones as well.

Because of the hot springs, the land where my home town, Truth or Consequences, is situated was a healing place for the Apaches long before Europeans arrived. Visitors come here now for retreats and to recover their health and peace of mind. I set my most recent book, Death Omen, here, for that reason. Some of it takes place in Santa Fe and on the road, but much of the third act takes place in one of Truth or Consequences’ hot springs spas. The antagonist claims to be a healer and a visionary who can see past incarnations. If she’s not what she says she is, her followers may be risking their lives.

*****

Shaman’s Blues, book two in the Mae Martin series, is currently on sale for 99 cents.

When Words Matter

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I was working on my current manuscript the other day, when the idea for a short story came to me. I’m not a short story writer. I’ve tried. I did not succeed. But I was struck by the idea, wondering why it came to me. At this point, I’m more interested in the idea than in writing the actual story.

The story would go something like this: an average guy accidentally gets involved in a battle between good guys and bad guys from the future (yes, I’m a Sci-Fi fan). He doesn’t have the skills or knowledge that the future warriors do, but he has a good heart and a lot of courage. He joins the battle and helps the good guys win. They invite him to join them, to travel to the future with them, where he can have a better life. He’s thrilled. He’s got no family he’ll miss (maybe his wife just died in childbirth or something tragic like that).

He travels to the future with his new friends, excited for the life that awaits him. When he arrives, he’s processed into his new community. You know the type of thing: paperwork, blood tests, analyses to make sure he’s safe. To make sure he’ll assimilate well. Everything goes great, until they get to the final page of the questionnaire.

“What is—well, ahem, I suppose I should say what was your profession? What can you do to contribute to our society?” The future agent man asks him.

“I’m a writer,” our hero replies. “I write fiction. Books. Stories.”

Future agent man blanches. He stands, the papers he holds shaking in his hands. He glances at the two-way mirror on the wall and jerks his chin toward it in some sort of signal.

Our hero, for the first time, starts to worry about his decision. Two burly men in white suits carrying long, silver tubes enter the room.

“I’m sorry, but we can’t let you stay,” future agent man explains apologetically. “Writers are too dangerous. Too subversive. We don’t allow those types here.”

Our hero doesn’t feel a thing as he is humanely euthanized.

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Sometimes I feel powerless. Sometimes I feel like I’m just a cog in a machine that I can’t control. But we all have our own way of moving our little part of the machine. Maybe we can’t steer, maybe we can’t even control our speed, but for each of us there’s something we can do. For me, it’s writing.

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The author in her natural habitat

I love the fact that I can build my own worlds, create my own characters, heroes and villains. Bad things happen, but they generally end well. (Alright, not for the people who get killed, obviously. But usually for everyone else!)

When I write, I need to remember to do it with intention, with thoughtfulness (my fellow Lady of Mystery, Amber Foxx, might say mindfulness). Because what I write matters.

I think my idea was connected to the fact that today is Martin Luther King Day. He was a man who knew how to use words, as well as actions. His words had power. They still do.

I’m inspired by him in many ways. One of those ways is recognizing that words matter.

To learn more about Jane Gorman and the Adam Kaminski Mystery Series, visit her website at janegorman.com or follow her on Facebook.

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In the Dark: About Titles, Writing and Eclipses

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I usually develop the titles to my books somewhere in the early stages of writing. I know the theme, I know the murder weapon and motive, and I know the red herrings that will be swimming through the story. The title usually comes from one of those. This time around, I find myself in the dark.

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My current work in progress takes place on a cruise ship traveling from New York to Bermuda. Our hero, Philadelphia detective Adam Kaminski, must figure out who poisoned the Claypoole family patriarch—and how—before the ship docks and all the witnesses (and suspects) hit the open seas. But first he has to convince himself that he still has what it takes to catch a murderer.

I really want to title the book, Through a Glass Darkly. It’s part of a verse from the bible, 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I love the poetry of the words and also the theme it implies—being in the dark but eventually finding your way to the light. After all, isn’t that what happens in most mysteries?

It didn’t take much polling of friends and readers to realize my working title wasn’t a hit. Too many people didn’t get the reference. And my books are not religious in any way, shape or form, so I really don’t want to give the wrong impression.

That led me to working title number two, Voices Carry. It fits with one of the elements of the story. It’s short, kind of catchy. It would work as a title. But I just kept thinking about the darkness.

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Today is an appropriate day to think about darkness, obviously. I’m not on the path of the total eclipse, sadly, but I was able to see a partial eclipse. I loved watching not only the eclipse itself, but also its effect on the shadows on the ground around me. They became visibly crisper, cleaner. I’m a huge fan of shadows, so for me that was one of the highlights.

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Light and dark, shadows and sun. I need a title that captures it all. Being in the dark, then seeing clearly.

Right now, I’m on working title number three, A Pale Reflection. I’m toying with changing that to A Dark Reflection.

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At some point soon, I need to make a decision! I’m still hoping the right title with come to me, focused like an eclipse-sharpened shadow. Or perhaps a sign from above, like the blotting out of the sun.

If any of you have any suggestions, I’m open to ideas! Let me know what you think!

For more information about Jane Gorman’s books, visit janegorman.com or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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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

yuletide-slaying-5x8Family, Revenge, Murder

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

That Could Kill Someone by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)As a murder mystery writer there are times when I have to acknowledge the fact my brain and actions could lead one to think I’m a psychopath or serial killer. 😉

I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to kill someone that is easy or unusual. Not because there is anyone in particular I’m thinking of offing, but because I need to find unusual and hard to discover mysteries/ ways of murder for my amateur sleuth and detective to come up against.

A recent trip on the Steens Mountains in eastern Oregon had my mind flashing in overdrive with scenarios that could happen on an innocent trek to the wilderness. Around one small lake where people camp and fish the undergrowth was so thick a person could be killed and their body hidden for quite some time before either the smell aroused a curious dog or coyote or kids playing would find it. The body could be hidden for weeks, months, or years, depending on when the killing happened and if there were people around to smell the decaying body. The high precipice where a person can look down over a mile to the Alvord desert is also an innocent, yet deadly spot. The vistas are breathtaking. Someone struck in awe of the sight could easily have a miss-step or push that sends them plummeting to their death.

Another interesting tourist spot is Diamond Craters. These large craters caused by lava tubes and bubbles are deep. The upper edge is lined with uneven, craggy rocks that could easily trip a person to fall head first into the crater and land on large boulders, up-heaved lava waves or a rattlesnake. Once the victim has fallen into the crater and is injured, if no one came along during a hot summer day, and if the injuries from the fall or a snake didn’t get them first, the hot sun and no water would give a person heat stroke.

Even the local historical museum had a storage room of sorts in the back that held antique items that had yet to be put in the museum. There were several long, heavy metal branding irons that could easily be swung with enough force to crack a skull and the body could be shoved behind a large wooden sign leaning against the wall. Or the rusted metal plow hanging from the ceiling could “accidentally” fall on an unsuspecting victim.

Even my own property has several places if not careful someone with a grudge could send a boulder hurtling down the side of the hill to wipe out an unsuspecting victim.

Double Duplicity (652x1024)I’ve always had an imagination that would put my family and friends into danger now I do it with my characters in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series.

www.patyjager.net

Writing into the Sunset

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