Where to Begin by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)I’ve started researching and writing the sixth book in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series, Reservation Revenge. I visited the Colville Reservation where Shandra’s family lives and wrote about the visit and the woman who lives on the reservation and helps me with my research here.

Bookmark FrontDuring that trip I knew I would set a murder at the reservation and one of Shandra’s relatives would be involved. This is that book. While I’ve had a tour of the reservation and while on that tour acquired a wonderful topographical map of the reservation, I still have questions about the lake where the murder takes place and the area where Shandra’s cousin is hiding.  For these answers I’ve once again gone to my friend and fellow author who lives on the reservation.

The best part about having an author help with digging up the research is they understand the need for some of the tiniest mundane things. Like what are the plants in this area, how many police officers are on the reservation, who would be working the crime scene?

These are all questions I have to have answered before I can start writing the book. While I’m not a plotter, I need to know information about the place and who would be people my character would come across while trying to prove her cousin’s innocence.

And because this series is written from the amateur sleuth, Shandra, and the County Detective , Ryan’s, points of view, I have to have the murder scene figured out. Who was there, who wasn’t? Who was killed? What was the cause?  My main sleuths aren’t on the scene in this book. The murder happens four hours from Shandra, and she has to rely on talking to people and her grandmothers cryptic dreams.

So where did I begin this book? With a dream. A short to the point dream that unsettles Shandra and reveals there is trouble to come.

“Ella what do you want?” Shandra Higheagle pleaded as she stood looking up into the clouds that formed her deceased grandmother’s face. The droplets of rain falling on Shandra’s face were warm and salty. Tears.

What better way to start a book where the amateur sleuth uncovers the real murderer through dreams then with a dream.

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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. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters.

 

 

 

 

Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries

The Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries

By Heather Haven

I’d like to think the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series was a carefully thought out project, but I have a feeling it more or less evolved. When I started out, I knew I wanted to write a mystery series with a human and lovable protagonist, Lee Alvarez, who had a few things going for her. Not perfect, but striving. I didn’t want yet another protagonist who learned nothing, who was ostracized from those she loved, who owned one crummy black skirt and life was one, long penance. Lee Alvarez loves life. She’s funny and learns from her mistakes. Like most of us, she grows as she goes along. After all, life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Lee’s lucky in that she has strong familial support to see her through it all, even though they are often a pain in her jazzercised derriere.

It was also important for my series to include two important elements:  the recently immigrated, which is one of America’s best natural resources, and the family unit.  Hence, the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series, a family of detectives, was born. The first book – which took me so long to write, planets formed and decayed in the interim – I knew had to be called Murder is a Family Business to set the tone for the series. However, the Alvarez family is a little off-center. They aren’t the ‘classic’ family i.e., father, mother, sister, brother, and large dog, all driving around in a shiny SUV eating Snickerdoos. Of course, these days a family like that is harder to find than a dinosaur with feathers. Oh, wait a minute. Archaeologists are digging those up all the time from unsuspecting peoples’ backyards. That means the Ozzie and Harriet family does still exist somewhere. Helloooooo out there!

Initially, the book was represented by an agent, but it was going no place fast.  I saw an Internet ad and sent the manuscript off to an online publishing house, with no hopes whatsoever for publication. I sent it because I believe Isaac Asimov is right about Perseverance, “you must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer.” Within three-days I had a contract for the first book, Murder is a Family Business, and two months later for the 2nd book of the series, A Wedding to Die For. So you never know. Keep sending your work out, is the lesson here. And never lose the faith.

I’m in the throes of editing the 5th book of the series, The CEO Came DOA. If the publishers and the readers are happy, I’ll just keep on writing about my wonderful Alvarez Family. They are so fun and I love it. Plus I get to be all the characters, including the cat!

I am proud to say Murder is a Family Business, Book 1 of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, is included in Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries. The lineup of the other nine authors is impressive. It includes Lois Winston, Jonnie Jacobs, Judy Alter, Maggie Toussaint, Camille Minichino, Susan Santangelo, Mary Kennedy, RP Dahlke, Vinnie Hansen, and yours truly. We are a murdering lot, but fun!sleuthing women 3-D.2

Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries is a collection of full-length mysteries featuring murder and assorted mayhem by ten critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling authors. Each novel in the set is the first book in an established multi-book series—a total of over 3,000 pages of reading pleasure for lovers of amateur sleuth, caper, and cozy mysteries, with a combined total of over 1700 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4 stars. Titles include:

Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery by Lois Winston—Working mom Anastasia is clueless about her husband’s gambling addiction until he permanently cashes in his chips and her comfortable middle-class life craps out. He leaves her with staggering debt, his communist mother, and a loan shark demanding $50,000. Then she’s accused of murder…

Murder Among Neighbors, a Kate Austen Suburban Mystery by Jonnie Jacobs — When Kate Austen’s socialite neighbor, Pepper Livingston, is murdered, Kate becomes involved in a sea of steamy secrets that bring her face to face with shocking truths—and handsome detective Michael Stone.

Skeleton in a Dead Space, a Kelly O’Connell Mystery by Judy Alter—Real estate isn’t a dangerous profession until Kelly O’Connell stumbles over a skeleton and runs into serial killers and cold-blooded murderers in a home being renovated in Fort Worth. Kelly barges through life trying to keep from angering her policeman boyfriend Mike and protect her two young daughters.

In for a Penny, a Cleopatra Jones Mystery by Maggie Toussaint—Accountant Cleo faces an unwanted hazard when her golf ball lands on a dead banker. The cops think her BFF shot him, so Cleo sets out to prove them wrong. She ventures into the dating world, wrangles her teens, adopts the victim’s dog, and tries to rein in her mom…until the killer puts a target on Cleo’s back.

The Hydrogen Murder, a Periodic Table Mystery by Camille Minichino—A retired physicist returns to her hometown of Revere, Massachusetts and moves into an apartment above her friends’ funeral home. When she signs on to help the Police Department with a science-related homicide, she doesn’t realize she may have hundreds of cases ahead of her.

Retirement Can Be Murder, A Baby Boomer Mystery by Susan Santangelo—Carol Andrews dreads her husband Jim’s upcoming retirement more than a root canal without Novocain. She can’t imagine anything worse than having an at-home husband with time on his hands and nothing to fill it—until Jim is suspected of murdering his retirement coach.

Dead Air, A Talk Radio Mystery by Mary Kennedy—Psychologist Maggie Walsh moves from NY to Florida to become the host of WYME’s On the Couch with Maggie Walsh. When her guest, New Age prophet Guru Sanjay Gingii, turns up dead, her new roommate Lark becomes the prime suspect. Maggie must prove Lark innocent while dealing with a killer who needs more than just therapy.

A Dead Red Cadillac, A Dead Red Mystery by RP Dahlke—When her vintage Cadillac is found tail-fins up in a nearby lake, the police ask aero-ag pilot Lalla Bains why an elderly widowed piano teacher is found strapped in the driver’s seat. Lalla confronts suspects, informants, cross-dressers, drug-running crop dusters, and a crazy Chihuahua on her quest to find the killer.

Murder is a Family Business, an Alvarez Family Murder Mystery by Heather Haven—Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez, has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve.

Murder, Honey, a Carol Sabala Mystery by Vinnie Hansen—When the head chef collapses into baker Carol Sabala’s cookie dough, she is thrust into her first murder investigation. Suspects abound at Archibald’s, the swanky Santa Cruz restaurant where Carol works. The head chef cut a swath of people who wanted him dead from ex-lovers to bitter rivals to greedy relatives.

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Bio: After studying drama at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida, Heather Haven went to Manhattan to pursue a career. There she wrote short stories, novels, comedy acts, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and two one-act plays, which were produced at Playwrights Horizon and well-received. Once she even ghostwrote a book on how to run an employment agency. She was unemployed at the time.

One of her first paying jobs was writing a love story for a book published by Bantam called Moments of Love. She had a deadline of one week but promptly came down with the flu. Heather wrote “The Sands of Time” with a raging temperature, and delivered some pretty hot stuff because of it. Her stint at New York City’s No Soap Radio – where she wrote comedic ad copy – helped develop her long-time love affair with comedy

Heather lives in the foothills of San Jose with her husband of 34-years and her two cats, Yulie and Ellie. She is currently writing her ninth novel.

http://www.heatherhavenstories.com/

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Twitter@HeatherHaven

Email me at: Heather@HeatherHavenStories.com

Clue, Clue, Who’s Got the Clue, or How to Sneak Your Way to a Good Mystery

by Janis Patterson

Writing a mystery means walking a very fine line.

You want to play fair with the reader and give him the chance to solve the mystery. Sort of.

Readers love to play along and see if they can match/beat your sleuth to the correct solution. In almost every case (so said because there is an exception to everything) nothing makes readers angrier than the solution just coming out of the blue with nothing leading up to it. Worse than that, it’s lazy writing.

So how do you do play fair and still mystify the reader?

Be sneaky.

Put your clues out there, but make them appear to be inconsequential, throw-away things that have no relation to the case. Also put out fake clues leading to a different conclusion (some call them red herrings, but I don’t like fish), but put them out in two ways – some as inconsequentials and some as great big whacking things that might as well have CLUE in blinking neon above them.

No one said you had to play completely fair, did they?

There’s also a traditional ploy called a MacGuffin. Sounds sort of like it should be some kind of fast food, but it’s real – trust me. The MacGuffin is a lovely tool of misdirection. That’s the word I’ve been looking for – misdirection! Just like a magician, you direct the reader’s attention in one direction with one hand while the other hand – in semi-plain view – is actually doing the trick, but no one is really looking at it.

Anyway, the MacGuffin is what everyone in the book seems to want – such as everyone believes the vicar was murdered in a foiled robbery attempt to steal an ancient chalice. All the characters go rushing around trying to figure out who wanted to steal the chalice and why, while the vicar was really murdered because his tulips were certain to win the annual flower show away from the Grande Dame of the village who dislikes losing. The chalice is only a MacGuffin. Now that’s an extremely simplistic example, but in reality the MacGuffin is one of the best tools in the mystery writer’s arsenal.

MacGuffins and misdirection – use them well, and you will keep your reader happily amused and hopefully confused. Or is it the other way around?

(For those with very good memories, you know I wrote this blog several years ago. I am reposting it now because (1) it is still true and relevant and (2) for several days before this appears and for several days after I am up to my earlobes in a very intense professional conference. It seemed better to share a ‘golden oldie’ than to just cobble together something or skip posting entirely. Hope you understand. Also, because I will not have my computer available, please forgive if I am not able to okay comments until this madness is over. I promise I will then!)

Murder Without Violence

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I had the great pleasure this past weekend to attend a meeting of my local chapter of the Sisters in Crime (the Delaware Valley Chapter). The guest speaker for the meeting is a Conservator at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (which is, coincidentally, where I earned my PhD in Anthropology). Because it is a museum of archaeology rather than fine arts, Molly Gleeson conserves artifacts and other specimens. That includes human remains.

It was a fascinating talk — as they always are at these meetings. Ms. Gleeson prefaced her talk by warning us that she was going to show us images of human remains, then admitted that for this particular audience that might not be a problem. We all write and read about murder. We’re used to human remains, right?

IMG_2463Well…maybe. A murder mystery can be many, many things. It can be light hearted and funny. It can be chic lit. It can be dark, gritty. And it can be gory, a story of violence and evil. When choosing a new book to read, a mystery reader has to know what she’s getting into — or she reads at her own peril.

Personally, I prefer not to read gruesome stories. I particularly avoid books that include rape scenes, but I generally skim through (or avoid altogether) stories with too much gory detail, too much vividly painted violence. I write the books I like to read. Relatively dark mysteries, gritty even, but with the violence taking place almost entirely off the page.

As an aside, one of the most beautiful death scenes I’ve ever read was written by the late, great Ruth Rendell (who, incidentally, did not shy away from violence when she felt it was called for). I always picture that pretty corpse floating peacefully and elegantly down the river, surrounded by wildflowers, whenever I’m trying to write my own murder scenes. I have not yet achieved Rendell’s level of artistic description of death, but I’ll keep trying.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 2.05.07 PMWhich brings me back to the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Sisters in Crime. Each month, a technical speaker is invited to come to our group, to share his or her knowledge of biology, ways to kill a person, how crime scenes are handled, even about ancient methods of human preservation (mummies). To an outsider, we probably seem like a pretty gory bunch.

Quite the contrary. In our group, you’ll find cozy writers, young adult writers, and many, like me, who write traditional mysteries that are high on mystery but low on sex and violence. But one thing we have in common: we’re all well-informed on those gory topics that inform the background of our stories, but don’t make an appearance on the page.

How about you? How much violence do you want to see in the mysteries you read?

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Lifus Interuptus by Paty Jager

This photo is why my post is late. Grandkids have taken over my office!

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I started out 2016 telling myself I wasn’t going to push so hard. Last year I wrote and published four mystery novels, three western historical romance novels, and one novella. The three projects at the end of the year were almost more than I could handle. That’s when I made my decision for 2016 to write two novels and a novella in the mystery series and two historical western romance this year.

However, due to catching the virus going around and family visiting, I’m already behind my slower pace for this year. Killer Descent was to be published by now but it is a week to two weeks out.

Killer DescentKiller Descent book five in the Shandra Higheagle Mysteries

Abuse…Power…Murder

Once again Shandra Higheagle finds herself a suspect in a murder investigation when an ex-lover is found murdered on a Huckleberry ski run. A past she’d planned to never divulge now must be shared with the first man she’s trusted, Detective Ryan Greer.

Ryan puts his job in jeopardy when he’s booted from the case and uses all resources plus a few extra to prove Shandra is innocent. The information leads them down a road of blackmail and betrayal of the ugliest kind.

This past weekend, one of my daughter’s went with me on a road trip to a book signing. On the way back we started brainstorming the Christmas mystery I’ve been thinking about writing this year. It was fun, since she’s read the books in the series and knows the characters. She gave me some fun ideas. Have any of you ever read a book where and animal is the main suspect? I’m thinking about making Sheba, Shandra’s canine sidekick,the suspect.

And I plan to introduce a couple of new characters into the next couple of books to also use as suspects. That is the fun of writing a mystery series, incorporating characters you know will be suspects or the killers in books to come. I’m always thinking two to three books ahead when I write a book to drop small clues to what may be a next book.

As  a reader do you you like clues to a possible next book dropped in? Or does it make you upset if that little nugget isn’t the next book in the series?

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Writing into the Sunset

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Researching a Mystery by Paty Jager

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I’m not a forensic coroner or a lawyer or even a law enforcer. I’m the wife of a rancher and I write murder mystery.

As I write this next book in my Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series I’ve come across questions that have required answers by professionals. When I start a book I know how the victim will die and where. But I ultimately need to know what their injuries would look like say if they fall off a cliff or are stabbed with a blunt object or shot at close range with a small caliber gun.

These are all things coroners have seen and can tell me. But how do I get a coroner on speed-dial or in my case speed e-mail? I’m part of a yahoo loop that is filled with every kind of occupation a mystery or murder writer might need expertise about. The yahoo loop is crimescenewriter@yahoogroups.com

That’s how I connected with a coroner who not only answered my question I put on the loop but also emailed back and forth with me as I asked more questions and what-if’s. She has lots of knowledge and being a budding writer is willing to help out fellow writers.

Writing the opening and how the victim is killed and what is discovered went well, knowing I had the correct information and knowledge. Then I brought in some secondary characters and a sub-plot. For the sub-plot I needed some legal information. I turned to my niece who is a para-legal and what she couldn’t answer she knew where to send me to find the information. After my niece and I discussed the issue I wanted brought up in my book and how I wanted it dealt with, she suggested I contact a law enforcement officer.  I happen to have one in the family. 😉

I sent off an email explaining what I wanted to do, how would it be handled, and after some back and forth ,that element of the sub-plot was worked out.

Writing mystery books is my favorite writing experience. Not only do I have to puzzle out a mystery that will keep the reader thinking, I have to make sure the forensics and laws will work in the story and enhance the overall realness of the crime and the killer.

Have you read books where you could tell the writer hadn’t researched the laws or forensics? Did it bother you while reading the book or is that something that doesn’t bother you?

~*~

Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. All Paty’s 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