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.

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Staying Small Town by Paty Jager

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As I was contemplating the next Shandra Higheagle Mystery, I thought I needed to take her out of Huckleberry and away from the reservation to not have critics saying there are too many murders in the ski resort or on the reservation.

Then there was a timely blog post at Mystery Readers.org about small town cops, which had me thinking about my small town amateur sleuth.

While we all know small towns have a lower rate of murders, the small town atmosphere is what makes placing a mystery there so enticing. My character, Shandra Higheagle knows many of the local people. Her conversations are much like that of Miss Marple in the Agatha Christie books. She doesn’t wander about in an apparent aimless way asking questions like Miss Marple, but she does use the knowledge of the people in Huckleberry or the Reservation to learn the information that helps her, along with her dreams, unravel the murders.

From the blog post on small town murders, it seemed readers are willing to put up with an unusual amount of people being knocked off in a small area if you give proper reasons for the murders and give them a good test to their detective skills.

After reading the post, I moved the next book back to Huckleberry and the crime and suspects came to me like a barrage of hungry dogs. (No offense, Sheba). Putting my story back in the town I knew, with people I knew, and using one of the scenarios I’d already set up in previous books, I couldn’t wait to get started on this book.

The only thing eluding me now is the title. All the other books in the series, I had the title before I started writing. But this one is still waiting to come to me. I’m thinking Fatal Fall, because the body is found at the bottom of the stairs, and the word fall could work into the premise of the story. But I could also use Fatal Tale, as the dead person is telling her memoirs to a ghost writer.  So who knows. It may end up something completely different. 😉

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What do Jessica Fletcher, Shania Twain, and Sarah Winnemucca have in common? by #Paty Jager

canstockphoto26040640I was asked this question for a blog interview I did: Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

These are the people/characters I picked and the reasoning behind choosing them.

The first is a character: Jessica Fletcher of the TV series Murder She Wrote. Jessica is always finding herself in the middle of murders and so is Shandra Higheagle my protagonist in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series. They are both amateur sleuths and they both have creative minds. Shandra is a potter who sells her sought-after vases as art pieces.

DanPost_DP3544_15The second person is real: Shania Twain, the country singer. Her artistic nature and panache reminds me of Shandra. My character buys a new pair of fancy cowgirl boots every time she sells a vase. She likes the flashy, fancy ones with embroidery and cut-outs. And while she dresses with flair and adds special touches to her vases, she loves to ride her horse, snuggle with her dog, and dig in the clay that she uses for her art.

The third person is also real and a part of history: Sarah Winnemucca, a Paiute woman who was an activist and educator from 1844-1891. Shandra has been kept from her father’s Nez Perce family while growing up. Now that is an adult, she is exploring her heritage. The more she travels to the reservation to get to know her family, she is determined to help her people and family through her art and educate the masses. I have a post here about some other fascinating Paiute women.

When this question was first put to me, I had to think about it a bit. But once I started connecting the people with my character it became clear who she was and how she related to each of these women I picked.

I’m currently working on the 6th book in the Shandra Higheagle series, Reservation Revenge. This book is all set on the Colville Indian Reservation. The home of the Chief Joseph band of Nez Perce and 11 other tribes. It has been a learning experience writing this book. Both culturally and as I try to make it twist and turn.

If you want to learn more about Shandra Higheagle you can go here.

You can get the first book of the series for free:

Double Duplicity (652x1024)Book one of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series
Dreams…Visions…Murder
On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene was just as innocent.

With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever but just as determined to discover the truth. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Detective Ryan Greer believes in them and believes in her.
Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?

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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. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for her Action Adventure and received the EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Romance. Her first mystery was a finalist in the Chanticleer Mayhem and Mystery Award and is a finalist in the RONE Award Mystery category. 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.”

All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

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 photo source: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / dizanna

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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Life Would Be Boring Without Mystery by Paty Jager #mystery #cozymystery

The creaking door, missing papers, an unusual scent hanging in the air…Mystery is all paty shadow (1)around us every day of our lives. It could be the phone call you answered to find no one there. The new cat hanging out in your back yard. Or something that’s gone missing at work. Mystery is what keeps life interesting and always testing our brain.

Life would be boring without mystery.

Growing up I was an avid reader and my favorite books were those that had a bit of mystery to them. In junior high I devoured the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series. Even the Walter Farley books I read had mystery to them even though I initially picked up the books for the horses.

When I first started writing historical westerns I couldn’t keep the mystery out of the stories. It was building the mystery in the story rather than the romance that made the plotting interesting to me. I recently had a conversation with the editor who published my first westerns. When I told her I was writing mysteries and loving it, she said, “I always thought your voice leaned toward mysteries.”  That kind of validated my decision to write mysteries.

My other interest is Native American cultures, specifically, the Nez Perce. I grew up in Wallowa County, the area where the Chief Joseph band or Lake Nimiipuu as they call themselves, summered and wintered. Of course this was way before I lived in Wallowa County, but they were always on my mind growing up. I found it unfortunate that the only time the Nez Perce were allowed in the county was during Chief Joeseph Days a rodeo weekend where the locals benefited from the history of the county yet the people who lived there before them it was the only weekend they were allowed to return.

A lot has changed in the thirty years since I moved away. The Nez Perce have purchased land in the county. They have a yearly powwow, Tamkaliks, the weekend before Chief Joseph Days, and they have put up interpretive centers as well as are now monitoring the salmon runs in the county. I’m happy they are having voices into how the county is moving forward.

My interest in the Nez Perce and my love of mystery is combined into the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series. Shandra Higheagle is a half Nez Perce artistic potter. Her father was a rodeo bareback bronc rider. He was killed in a rodeo accident when she was four. Her mother remarried and Shandra was told to keep her Native American heritage a secret. However, her paternal grandmother a shaman in the Nez Perce Seven Drums society made sure Shandra was drawn back to her roots.

The first book, Double Duplicity, starts with Shandra returning from her grandmother’s funeral. Shandra finds a murdered art gallery owner after seeing her best friend, also an art gallery owner, hurrying across the street. When Shandra is dropped as a suspect, she begins digging to find the real killer before her friend becomes the scapegoat. Her grandmother comes to her in dreams, directing her to clues that help Shandra and a detective find the real murderer.

Double Duplicity (652x1024)Double Duplicity: A Shandra Higheagle Mystery

Book one of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series

Dreams…Visions…Murder

On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene was just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever but just as determined to discover the truth.

Detective Ryan Greer prides himself on solving crimes and refuses to ignore a single clue, including Shandra Higheagle’s visions. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Ryan believes in them and believes in her.

Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?

Buy Links:

Windtree Press http://windtreepress.com/portfolio/double-duplicity/

Amazon  http://authl.it/2ng

Kobo  http://store.kobobooks.com/search?Query=Double+Duplicity

Nook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/double-duplicity-paty-jager/1120790322

Apple https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id942249867

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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.

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