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!