Writing a Mystery is like Baking a Cake by Paty Jager

I had a post written, went back in to add a little more, and lost the whole thing! Man, I hate when that happens!

I am finishing up a historical western romance book and getting ready to start on the next Shandra Higheagle book. It will be book 11 in the series and take place partly on the Colville reservation.  It will be the wedding book…or will it?  LOL That’s for readers to find out!

Shandra will go to the reservation to learn and practice a Nez Perce dance she wishes to incorporate into her wedding to Ryan. Having found her family and heritage at the same time as finding Ryan, she wishes to combine her two cultures in the wedding.  which means someone will get killed and she will want to help discover who did it and why with the help of her deceased grandmother.

All the research–Shandra’s heritage, how someone could be killed and what the forensics would say, the legal information I need to know, and keeping it all plausible is what makes writing a murder mystery so much fun! It makes me think, piece things together, and then try and keep the reader from figuring out who did it while also dropping some clues in the mix.

In a way writing a mystery is a lot like baking a cake. You have to read the recipe, which in this case decides the who, what, and why. Gather your ingredients — in my case gather my suspects.  Then mix together the ingredients or in the case of the book put together plausible scenes that show and deceive at the same time. Add a little something special that makes the cake or the story interesting and enjoyable, all the while holding out on what the “secret sauce” or killer is.  Then ice the cake with something delicious and come up with an ending that surprises the reader, yet was there all along.

I must have used the correct recipe on Haunting Corpse, book 9 in the Shandra Higheagle Series because it is a finalist in the paranormal category of the Daphne du Maurier contest. I’m honored that my book did so well in such a prestigious contest.

Another fun thing about my Shandra Higheagle Series, Books 1-6 are now available in audio!

 

Murder From the Headlines by Paty Jager

2017 headshot newWhen I started brainstorming the newest Shandra Higheagle Mystery, I didn’t think about what was in the headlines. I don’t even watch the news. It’s too depressing.

Every time I start brainstorming a book, I think about the world around me or my life. It is easier to write about something you have a vested interest in. I’d already determined that Shandra would volunteer at  Warner High School. That had been mentioned more as an excuse for her to ferret out information in the previous book, but it was an option for the next book. I took it and ran.

She’s at a high school. Who could I murder and why? I traveled back to my high school days. There had been favorite teachers and not so favorite teachers, but the one that stuck out in my mind the most was the one who gave me the creeps. I didn’t like his smile, he dressed too fancy for the area where we lived, and everyone knew, that if a girl sat in the front row wearing a dress, they received a A for the day and enough of those would get you an A for the class. I didn’t hear any more rumors about him than that, but as I stated before, he kind of gave me the creeps, and I had two classes with him.

I took that feeling and information and came up with a much more lecherous teacher in my fictional school. I gave him a mental disorder that made him a pervert. He was short of stature and preyed on the women his size of smaller. Teachers and students alike. Then I gave the principal a misguided reason for not following through on the harassment charges.

And I had a murder victim.

Adding an autistic boy, who’s older brother looked out for him, and cyber bulling, I found a story full of possible suspects and lots of hidden secrets.

When I finished the book, I saw it as a misleading mystery.  My reviewers wrote in their reviews, “ripped from the headlines.” So I’m guessing my latest book is not only a mystery, but it has subjects that are being talked about in the news. Which is good for my story and promotion, but I hadn’t planned it that way. It was a story born of my past experience and adding in the culture of today.

Do you like stories that incorporate what is happening in the news?

Artful Murder 5x8Book ten in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series

Secrets… Scandal… Murder…

An autistic boy and his brother need potter Shandra Higheagle’s help when a teacher’s body is found after a confrontation with the older brother. Shandra knows the boy is innocent. Digging into the teacher’s life, she and Ryan turn up scandal.

Detective Ryan Greer has believed in Shandra’s dreams in the past, but she can’t always be right. When his investigation uncovers a principal on the take, females being harassed, and parents kept in the dark, he discovers more suspects than the brothers. Shandra’s time at the school is coming to an end, and the killer has struck again.

Universal buy link: https://www.books2read.com/u/bapvjq

Artful ad

Writing is My Life or My Life is My Writing by Paty Jager

Artful Murder 5x8There’s not a writer out there who hasn’t brought something from their life into their writing. Writing whether for pleasure or for money, deals with everyday life experiences. It has to. One can’t bring the full flavor of life into a story without allowing something they have experienced to come into the writing.

Everyday happenings: the pungent aroma of coffee brewing, the dampness of mist walking on the beach, the blinding glare of light from an oncoming vehicle at night, the sweet and sour tingle on the tongue while eating candy.  All of these everyday things are used when writing. The senses and what we see and feel around us are used to show the characters in the same or comparable settings.

When I started planning Artful Murder, book 10 in the Shandra Higheagle mystery series and my March release, I had to draw on past experiences. Far back experiences. LOL In Artful Murder, Shandra volunteers in a high school art department.

While figuring out who the murder victim would be and lining up suspects, I went back to memories of high school and found the one teacher who the boys made fun of and the girls found creepy.  He became my murder victim.

I made the victim worse than the real life teacher. And I gave the principal a reason for ignoring the complaints of the other teachers and students. Which, of course, added more suspects and widened the net of suspects to parents and significant others of the female teachers.

Students are more savvy to what is going on in their schools than teachers think. I used this and a person with a grudge to add even more fuel to the ffire that was about to explode at the school.

I can honestly say that I have more fun fleshing out my mystery books than I do the other genre I write. There is something therapeutic about putting the people or events that I’ve come across through my life into books and find my own justice.

SH Mug Art

 

 

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.

Holiday Reads or Not? by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)I’m not one of those people who has to buy every romance or mystery book that deals with a holiday. In fact, over the 50+ years that I’ve been a reader,  I’ve had one Nora Roberts set of romance books that were Christmas books that I read every year in December, but I didn’t read any other Christmas books. Then a friend wrote a Thanksgiving novella. I pull that out and read it in November. But that’s about it for reading holiday themed books.

And yet, I seem to write a lot of holiday themed books. In my romance books I’ve written three Christmas Stories, a 4th of July, New Year’s, Halloween, and Valentine story.

In my mysteries, I’ve now written a Christmas and a Halloween story. Last November I put out Yuletide Slaying with Sheba the pony-sized mutt as the character who discovered the dead body.

And this month, going with the theme of an animal finding the body in the holiday stories, Lewis, Crazy Lil’s orange cat, finds the body in Haunting Corpse, book 9 of my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series.

I found while planning this book, I didn’t really think about the holiday. My mind was focused on the murder and who could have done it. The Halloween party was merely used as a means to gather information for Shandra and Ryan and the reader. But I had fun writing the party, the costumes, and the conversations.

Do you find as a reader that you like to read between the lines of the conversation and character’s actions, to try and discover the murderer? Or do you just let yourself go with the flow of the story and be surprised at the end?  Writer’s do you try to make your characters’ conversations relevant to giving clues or do you just write what comes to mind and drop a hint here or there?

Here is the blurb and cover of my newest Shandra Higheagle Mystery.

Haunting Corpse 5x8Desertion…Wrath…Murder

A runaway bride, murder, and arson has Shandra Higheagle sleuthing again. Sorting through the debris of her best friend’s childhood, Shandra believes she must solve the murder before her friend becomes the next victim.

Stumbling upon a dead body, Detective Ryan Greer is determined to bring the killer to justice before Shandra becomes too entangled in her friend’s dysfunctional past. He hopes he’s not too late. Her deceased grandmother has already visited her dreams, putting Shandra in the middle of his investigation and danger.

Universal Link – https://www.books2read.com/u/3J0ZWX

 

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