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.

spotted appaloosa horse in white and brown grazes on the green p
photo from depositphoto

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.

SH Mug Art

photo of Wallowa Lake by Paty Jager

 

 

 

Guest: Maggie King

Why Do I Write Mysteries? The short answer: I love reading them. The long answer is much, well, longer!

Like many young girls I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew and the Dana Girls. I’ll never forget the day my mother brought home The Hidden Staircase after a trip to the P.M. Bookshop in Plainfield, New Jersey. My friends and I started swapping tales of those intrepid girl detectives like mad. We loved the puzzles and the adventures. My parents were great role models for mystery reading with the stacks of Agatha Christie and Erle Stanley Gardner paperbacks atop their nightstands.

In sixth grade I started writing my own girl detective mystery and read installments to my friends while walking home from school. They enjoyed my creative efforts. I wish I still had those stories, for posterity.

By high school I had drifted away from writing and reading mysteries, finding an outlet for my considerable adolescent angst in poetry and journal entries. The journal entries (as well as the angst) continued throughout my life but it wasn’t until the nineties that I took up mystery writing again.

I joined my first mystery book group in Santa Clarita, California in 1993. I’d been devouring anything by Agatha Christie for years but there was a whole world of other mystery authors out there and I was ready to dive in. The women in the group were lovely—almost too lovely. I hadn’t yet started my writing career but I knew I was on my way when the what-if scenarios came to me unbidden—

What if these women weren’t really so nice?

What if this was all for show and they harbored secrets, agendas, hatreds?

But it wasn’t until 1996 when I moved to Virginia and took a creative writing course at the University of Virginia that I started writing in earnest. I didn’t forget those nice women—or were they?—from the Santa Clarita book group. I gave them backstories and they became the story prototypes for Murder at the Book Group.

Like many mystery writers, I have a strong need to see justice done and set the world right. Mysteries are the perfect vehicle for that. Mysteries are about relationships—relationships that have gone awry. I’m fascinated by family dynamics and how memories of my own family experiences have popped up throughout my life, sometimes in good ways and sometimes in disconcerting ways. Love and obsession intrigue me to no end, as does sin and how we’re impacted by it.

My short stories are morally ambiguous and I sometimes explore vigilante justice. I’m a law-abiding citizen, but sometimes I wonder if justice is better served outside the boundaries of the law. That’s why I write. It keeps me out of prison and my victim(s) safe. And I can create interesting characters I’d never want to know off the page.

It’s unlikely that I’ll ever solve a mystery—and I have no desire to—but my sleuths can do anything. Just like Nancy Drew. Nancy Drew was intrepid, talented, bright, and flawless (Okay, she was a bit uppity at times, especially in the early stories). My characters, like most modern day sleuths, are flawed but I get to pick and choose their flaws and their virtues.

To circle back to the original question, “Why Do I Write Mysteries?”

Because I love reading them.

And I love writing them.

Blurb for Murder at the Moonshine Inn:

murder-at-the-moonshine-inn-cover-lowWHEN HIGH-POWERED EXECUTIVE Roxanne Howard dies in a pool of blood outside the Moonshine Inn, Richmond, Virginia’s premiere redneck bar, the victim’s sister enlists Hazel Rose to ferret out the killer. At first Hazel balks—she’s a romance writer, not a detective. But Brad Jones, Rox’s husband, is the prime suspect. He’s also Hazel’s cousin, and Hazel believes in doing anything to help family. Never mind that Brad won’t give her the time of day—he’s still family.

Hazel recruits her book group members to help with the investigation. It’s not long before they discover any number of people who feel that a world without Rox Howard is just fine with them: Brad’s son believes that Rox and Brad were behind his mother’s death; Rox’s former young lover holds Rox responsible for a tragedy in his family; and one of Rox’s employees filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against her. The killer could be an angry regular from the Moonshine Inn—or just about anyone who ever crossed paths with the willful and manipulative Rox.

When a second murder ups the ante Hazel must find out who is behind the killings. And fast. Or she may be victim #3.

 Buy link: http://amzn.to/2dtozWa

maggie-king-author-photo-72Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including the recently-released Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She contributed the stories “A Not So Genteel Murder” and “Reunion at Shockoe Slip” to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies.

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.

Website: http://www.maggieking.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaggieKingAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthr

 

Mystical Mysteries

Mystical Mysteries

If I could channel the spirit of any author to mentor me, it would be the late James D. Doss of Los Alamos, New Mexico. I discovered him through a review in New Mexico Magazine and read all seventeen of his Charlie Moon mysteries, some of them more than once, and I know I’ll read the whole series again. Though I don’t attempt to write like Doss—no one else could—he influenced me greatly as a writer of unconventional and mystical mysteries, where the ordinary and the spiritual meet.

Here’s a short list of the things I love about Doss’s books:

  • Characters. Complex and eccentric, they surprise the reader. I love the ongoing characters and the unique, colorful people introduced in each of the books. My favorite one-book character is six-year-old Butter Flye in The Night Visitor. Doss wrote child characters with unsentimental realism. Butter is tough and strange and yet likeable, and I have never laughed louder or longer reading any book, let alone a mystery, than I did when I read the encounter between Charlie’s irascible aunt, the shaman Daisy Perika, and Butter in the back seat of a truck.
  • Spirituality. The visionary experiences that Daisy and her ward Sarah Frank have are written in a way that makes me feel as if I’ve taken the shaman’s journey with them. The spirit world is integrated seamlessly with earthy realism and humor that says Doss understood this aspect of Indian culture: the sacred and the comic are not opposite or incompatible. He mixed Catholic mysticism into the books as well with beauty and sensitivity, another Southwest truth. Many people adhere to both Native religions and Catholicism at the same time. My favorite character for expressing that unique blend of spiritual worldviews is Nahum Yacitii, the old Ute shepherd who apparently ascended to heaven in a windstorm and comes back to visit the few who can see him.
  • Language. I read a Doss book and I am in the place. When he takes us for walk in the Canyon of the Spirits with Daisy, I hear every step and smell and feel the air. Even the description of the nervous, jerky second hand of a ticking clock is a marvel of observation that sets the mood of a scene perfectly. (I leave you to find this treasure, also in The Night Visitor.)
  • Mastery of the omniscient narrator. Most writers can’t pull this off, but Doss could show the thoughts of every character in a scene without causing the slightest confusion or disorientation in the reader, often to humorous effect. He could even use the point of view of an animal—a bird, a deer, or a prairie dog—as the only witness to an event, and make it work.
  • Hanging out with the guys. Doss wrote real, not hyper-masculine, male characters. Charlie often fails to understand the women around him, but he does it so sincerely I like him for it. The friendship and repartee between Charlie and Scott give me a sense of hanging out with the guys in a way a woman doesn’t often get a chance to in real life, even when some of her best friends are men.
  • Humor. I get a kick out tall tales Charlie Moon tells just for the fun of it, pulling people’s legs. While the essence of each book is serious, dealing with life and death and love, there is a layer of humor as well, coming from the genuine interactions between characters and from their various eccentricities. Daisy is a spiritual visionary and also a quirky, cranky old lady.

Doss resolved the tangles of Charlie’s love life finally in the last book. I wonder if there were more books in his mind when he left this world, though. Daisy was the oldest living member of the Southern Ute tribe, and Sarah Frank, a young adult by the end of the series, was trained—somewhat—as Daisy’s shaman’s apprentice. Was Sarah destined to inherit all the spirits in the canyon, and the ancient little spirit-man living in a badger hole, the pitukupf? I’ll never know. It’s the sign of a good series, though—I still think about it. The characters live on.

This is revised from a tribute to Doss originally posted on http://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com.

On the Trail of Inspiration

Some of my friends here think I’m crazy. Not because I’m any more peculiar than most people in Truth or Consequences—that would be more difficult than the odd thing they question, which is running at noon. In the desert. In July.

It’s much more pleasant than it sounds, though it would have been hell in June before the rains came. Now the temperatures are in the upper eighties or low nineties, with a few little storm systems flirting with the mountains, and no one around except the quails and jackrabbits and lizards. Snakes are hiding from the midday sun, and all the humans are out on the lake. That’s the way I like it. Not that I have anything against snakes, but I prefer not to meet them—or my own species—while I run. I want to be alone. It may look as if I’m only exercising, but actually, I’m writing.

With my train of thought taking a crooked path between lizard sightings and admiration of quail chicks, cacti and the rain-promising sky, I get creative. At the beginning of the run I pick a plot problem and turn my mind loose to play with it. Something about the free flow of running breaks mental dams. Key lines of dialog and important character goals arrive, ideas that refused to show up at my computer the night before. Snake Face has a lot of music in it, and all of those songs came to me on my favorite trail in Elephant Butte Lake State Park, complete with melodies no one will ever hear.

Over the past couple of years, someone has had the urge to make art along that trail. First, there was the miniature Stonehenge. Now there’s a spiral of pebbles presided over by a bulbous lava rock that looks like the Venus of Willendorf with a few too many endowments, and another that looks remarkably like a fluffed-up bird. The bird rock faces out, with its clutch of egg pebbles nearby. The fertility goddess squats on a large flat rock overlooking the spiral. All along the trail I keep noticing additional smaller arrangements, such as a square white rock placed in the center of the square red patch on a larger white rock. I find light green on dark green, bright yellow on dark brown and gold, all sorts of little rocks arranged on shape-and-color-compatible members of the community of stones marking the trail’s boundaries. These creations required time and thought and close observation.

As I wondered how long they took and try to picture the person behind them, a plot puzzle I was struggling with resolved itself. These little henges and heaps are going to find their way into the book in progress, perfectly suited to a certain character and his needs. Art meets art on the trail of inspiration.