Modus Operandi by Paty Jager

canstock keyhole knife graphicModus Operandi: Noun – is someone’s habits of working, particularly in the context of business or criminal investigations, but also more generally. It is a Latin phrase, approximately translated as method or mode of operation.

This is where I’m at in the stage of writing my next Shandra Higheagle mystery. I have the victim, but I’m figuring out why and who would want the victim dead.  And so I turned to one of the books that helps me with my mysteries. Modus Operandi: a writers guide to how criminals work by Mauro V. Corvasce and Joseph R. Paglino.

Here is what I’m looking at: The chapter on homicide and the reasons a person might kill.

Passion Killing – This takes place usually without much forethought or planning. it could be an argument gets out of control and one of the two people concerned gets caught up in rage and uses whatever weapon is close at hand.  These are usually domestic assault, homicide-suicide, or a disgruntled employee.

Premeditated Domestic Killing  – This could be one spouse killing another for insurance money or other financial gain.  It is also known as profit murder.  Or because of threats of divorce or personal disclosures. They usually act like the grieving spouse  even though they have the murder planned out and prearranged scenarios to cover up their involvement.

The cover-up murder – In the perpetrator’s mind, they may feel justified in killing people to cover up other acts of crime and violence.

Sex Offenders – Some sex offenders will kill at the conclusion of the sexual assault or even to obtain their sexual gratification.

There are also serial killers, contract killing, and ritualistic cults. These last three reasons won’t work for the story I’m building.  The sex offender won’t work either.

In my mind the murder has to be one of passion. Because the murder is happening at a small event- a bridal shower. The victim is a friend of the bride-to-be. Someone she grew up with. So the scenario for when and where the murder happens is at a remote place with all women. Which would lead one to believe that the killer should be one of the women… but I want to put a twist on the story.  It will be a crime of passion, but maybe, just maybe, there is someone lurking in the woods….

This is the best part of writing a blog post. It lets me air out my thoughts and have the real story flood in!

Thanks for helping me!

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Killing Off a Series by Paty Jager

book hangingI’ve been contemplating when to end my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series.

Book eight, Fatal Fall, released recently. Book nine is in the planning stages, and I feel I could get another five or six books out before the story/characters go stale.

However, I’ve already had people asking me when am I ending the series.  My comeback, “Why, are you tired of the characters?”  I’m not tired of writing about Shandra, Sheba, Ryan, Lil, and the cast of characters who live in Huckleberry and Weippe County. I do worry about the people who complain, you can’t kill anymore people off in that small area.

But really, this is fiction. Is it that hard for a reader to suspend belief that so many murders could happen in an area and with the same amateur sleuth being involved?

I have taken Shandra to the reservation a time or two and plan to have another story or two set there. She and Ryan are going to a police conference and an art show in two different books. Kind of like Jessica Fletcher moving to New York or going to book related events out of Cabot Cove. 😉

The other reason I am contemplating the demise of the series, is because I want to introduce the amateur sleuth for the next series in one of the Shandra books before the Higheagle series ends. But I want to wait until the last or next to last book.

And yes, it will be another Native American character. I am still working out the details of him, where he lives, what he does for a living, and how I can connect it to multiple murders without getting into the “too many deaths” in one small area.

How do you gauge when a series has run it’s course?  Have you read a series or two that went on too long? Do you think there is a magic number of when a series should end or is it best to leave it up to the story and characters?

I would love to hear readers and writers thoughts on these questions.

Books 1,2, & 3, Double Duplicity, Tarnished Remains, and Deadly Aim are out in audio book.

Here is the info on Fatal Fall:

Fatal Fall 5x8Book eight of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series
Avarice…Family…Murder

When the doctor is a no-show for her appointment, Shandra Higheagle becomes wrapped up in another murder. The death of the doctor’s elderly aunt has everyone questioning what happened and who’s to blame. Shandra’s dreams soon tell her she’s on the right path, but also suggests her best friend could be in grave danger.

Detective Ryan Greer knows not even an illness will keep Shandra from sneaking around, and he appreciates that. Her insight is invaluable. When she becomes embroiled deeper in the investigation, he stakes out the crime scene and waits for the murder to make a tell-all mistake.

But will he be able to act fast enough to keep Shandra or her friend from being the next victim?

Universal Link – https://www.books2read.com/u/bQZ5d7

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Shiny new release! by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)This is late! I wrote it and thought I’d scheduled the post to go live yesterday, but no, it was still in my folder. So, after a day delay, here is my post!

The 8th book of my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series is now available in ebook and print. This time around Shandra is not only trying to discover who killed the doctor’s elderly aunt, but she’s also trying to protect her friend who could be engaged to a killer.

This book was fun to write, in that, I had my usual list of suspects charted out and was leaning toward one person, then about a third of the way, I started leaning another way, and at the end, I typed a scene that came out of nowhere and “Bam!” who dunnit popped into my mind so clear, it made me wonder if I was grasping at straws. So, I private messaged my niece on Facebook. She is making a series bible for me and knows the secondary characters pretty well in my series. We discussed my pros and cons for the revealing of the killer. After I finished talking to her, it was clear I had the right person.

The fun part; after my niece read the book, she commented, “Even though I knew who you’d picked as the killer, I was having my doubts throughout the book thinking you changed your mind.”

That means I did my job, throwing in enough subtle clues and red herrings that even someone who knew the truth was wondering.

That my friend’s is why I write mysteries, I love the dance of putting out a story that keeps the reader entertained and guessing!

Fatal Fall 5x8Book eight of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series
Avarice…Family…Murder

When the doctor is a no-show for her appointment, Shandra Higheagle becomes wrapped up in another murder. The death of the doctor’s elderly aunt has everyone questioning what happened and who’s to blame. Shandra’s dreams soon tell her she’s on the right path, but also suggests her best friend could be in grave danger.

Detective Ryan Greer knows not even an illness will keep Shandra from sneaking around, and he appreciates that. Her insight is invaluable. When she becomes embroiled deeper in the investigation, he stakes out the crime scene and waits for the murder to make a tell-all mistake.

But will he be able to act fast enough to keep Shandra or her friend from being the next victim?

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Fingerprinting by Paty Jager

canstockphoto17652788My current work in progress has been interesting and fun. I’ve had numerous conversations with forensic and law enforcement employees about fingerprints.

While the fingerprints on an object doesn’t help find the killer in my book, the illusion they are important draws the reader into a speculation of what-if and hopefully lets an important piece of the puzzle become a throw-away thought.

What I discovered while asking questions about how fingerprints are stored and who might have access to the fingerprints came from a variety of people and, not surprisingly, they all had a bit different take on it all.  Which led me to believe, I could do what I wanted in discovering who had their hands on the weapon. 😉

When I looked up fingerprinting, I discovered there are many jobs where fingerprints are required.  Medical, educational, and of course law enforcement. But also, companies that contract government work.

What I wanted to know dealt with my medical examiner, a local doctor given the honorary title and honor of pronouncing people dead, and a person who came from another country but had gained U.S. citizenship thirty years ago. Would they have fingerprints in “the system”? The answers were varied on the M.E.. Yes, most would have had their prints taken, but they wouldn’t be held in a local police database or AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System). They also said my new citizen would not have had fingerprints taken unless arrested or had a job that required it, and they would only be in the system if arrested.

So millions of people have their prints taken for jobs. What happens to those prints?

According to the law enforcement people I contacted, the employees either send the prints to a local print collection business or they are sent to AFIS. If the prints come up clean, the ten-print cards are then either put in the employees file or trashed. They don’t go into a national system.

So, if you haven’t done a crime and you are fingerprinted, you have nothing to worry about. And your prints shouldn’t wind up in any databases. But what if you had a crooked person running one of the databases, and they did keep your prints to use when committing crimes????

That just may be another book!

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photo source: © Can Stock Photo / peshkova

 

Print or Audio? by Paty Jager

availableI’m happy to say my first mystery audio book is now available! This has been a dream of mine since my first book in the Shandra Higheagle mystery series was available to purchase in ebook and print.

From the very conception of this series, I could hear the voices and couldn’t wait to hear them “for real.” I have the seventh book released in ebook and print and now I can say I have one in audio. And the second book is already in production.

After attending a workshop at the In’Dscribe conference last summer by Ann M. Richardson also a narrator. One who is so wanted, I couldn’t afford her prices, but she had some wonderful insights into how to get a newer narrator and cultivate them into the narrator you want.  She said to get a better quality narrator and not someone just starting out, you had to pay some per finished hour and do the royalty share.

My goal by doing it this way and getting a more professional narrator, I will have more sales and can keep building the audio editions to this series.

The fist thing I had to do was listen to the audition files. I only had two, because I couldn’t afford more than $100 per finished hour. However, one of the two did a wonderful job, had only produced half a dozen book,s and her words were, “I’m coachable.” Those were the words I needed to hear, because, as I said up above, I had these characters’ voices in my head.  I also have some Nez Perce words in the books and they need to be said correctly.

Working on the first book with Ann Thompson, a Cincinnati radio news anchor, has been fun.  She doesn’t mind changing one word in a chapter or changing up voices when they don’t sound/feel right for the character.

I’ve listened to several audio books over the years. Some have been duds and some have been very good. I’m happy to say, that Ann is doing a great job with Double Duplicity.

Do you prefer audio or print/ebook books?

Leave a comment and I’ll pick one person on Saturday, 2/18 who will win a code to download the audio of Double Duplicity for FREE.

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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Killing Time by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)Eons ago when I wrote my  first mystery book it all started with guests on a talk show. Well, let me take a step back from there. I wrote that first murder mystery because there was someone in my life I wanted to see dead. Since I’m a law-abiding citizen, I used the power of words to kill my intended victim. 😉

It was having the demise of this person in mind as I watched the talk show that the premise of the story formed. The talk show had a woman and a man who were private detectives and they’d written a book, Be Your Own Detective. I listened to them talk about how they’d written a book that could help anyone be their own detective.

I haunted bookstores until I found the book. (This was way before you could order easily online). With the book in hand, I came up with a freelance photographer and divorced mother of two who gets a call from her ex that he is in jail for a murder he didn’t commit. The woman debated on whether to ignore her husband or make sure her children didn’t have the baggage of a criminal father. She watched a talk show and discovered the same book I did. 😉

With the book in hand she begins digging into the whereabouts of her husband when he supposedly killed a woman. (The person I wanted dead)  I used the information in the book on tailing, surveillance, paper trails and verbal seduction to come up with scenes and move the story along. The book had lots of great information in it. Some of it would still work to day and some that is dated.

I actually wrote two books with the same amateur sleuth. Some day, with lots of updating, they might become published. But as long as I can keep coming up with plausible deaths and mysteries for Shandra Higheagle to solve, I’ll be working on her stories.

higheagle-book-banner

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure.  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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Mystery and Mysticism by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)My brother is an artist who creates his own bronze statues and patinas bronze work for other artists. When he told me about a specific piece he’d put the patina on and how it had a unique configuration, he had my attention. His words, “This would make a great murder weapon.”

That sentence stayed with me for several years.

And finally, when I decided to write a murder mystery series, I jumped at the idea of using a 300 lb bronze statue as the weapon. Only I had to come up with a plausible amateur sleuth and give her a profession. That is how Shandra Higheagle, a potter who is half Nez Perce Indian, came to be. I wanted her to have the Native American background to keep with my tag line, “Murder mystery and steamy western romance starring cowboys and Indians.”  And I wanted her to use her heritage to help solve the murders. That is where her Nez Perce grandmother came onto the scene.

Shandra’s Nez Perce father was a rodeo bronc rider who died in a rodeo accident when she was four. Her Caucasian mother and step-father kept her from her father’s family until Shandra rebelled as a teenager and spent a summer with her grandmother.  While Shandra still wasn’t allowed to let people know of her Indian heritage, she kept in touch with her grandmother. The first book opens with Shandra returning from her grandmother’s funeral and seven drum ceremony.

Where is this all going you ask?  When Shandra is suspected of killing a gallery owner and then the county sheriff’s detective turns his interest to her best friend, Shandra’s grandmother comes to Shandra in her dreams, guiding her to the evidence that will help them find the murderer.

Shandra has a hard time believing in these dreams, yet the detective believes. Her dreams cause her conflict with herself and allows her to let someone in after years of keeping herself closed off.

One of the most difficult and rewarding parts of writing these books is to come up with dreams for Shandra to have that reflect what is going on with the mystery without giving anything away.

The first three books of the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series are now in an ebook box set.

Here are the shortened blurbs for the first three books in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series.

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Double Duplicity

Potter Shandra Higheagle’s Nez Perce grandmother visits her dreams, revealing clues that help Shandra uncover not only one murder but two.

Tarnished Remains

Digging up Crazy Lil’s past takes Shandra Higheagle down a road of greed, miscommunication, and deceit.

Deadly Aim

The dead body of an illicit neighbor and an old necklace sends potter Shandra Higheagle on a chase to find a murderer.

Windtree Press / Amazon / Nook / Apple / Kobo

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.”

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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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Amazon / Kobo / Nook / Apple / Windtree Press

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.

blog / websiteFacebook / Paty’s Posse / Goodreads / Twitter

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 photo source: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / dizanna

6 Deadly Sins of Writing a Mystery by Paty Jager

Every mystery writer wants to write the best who-dun-it. The one who kept the reader guessing to the end and then has the reader saying, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming.”  But the writer has to beware of the 6 things that can make them lose readers.

  1. Fair play – All clues discovered by the detective must be made known to the reader.
  2. The murderer must be introduced in the story before he is announced as the killer. Someone can’t appear in the last chapter and then is announced as the murderer.
  3. The crime being solved must be significant. Murder, kidnapping, blackmail, theft something that has a significant impact on the story.
  4. The solution can’t be stumbled on. There must be detection done by the protagonist(s). A web of clues that not only misdirects the sleuth but the reader.
  5. The suspects should be known and the murderer among them.
  6. Keep the story to the solving the crime, don’t toss in unnecessary things to throw the reader off.

If a writer keeps these in mind and takes the reader on a journey of discovering one clue after the other, you can still keep the reader guessing as each suspect is slowly dropped from the list.

I like to bring the murderer into the story not as a character on the page but as a character that is alluded to. I used this method in my latest Shandra Higheagle Mystery, Killer Descent.

Some may say that having my amateur sleuth’s grandmother come to her in dreams would be a no-no as stated in number 4. But the dreams don’t give her the clues, they direct her to seeking out the clues. She still has to decipher the dreams and then find the clue. I have a post about it here.

I’m currently writing the next Shandra Higheagle Mystery, Reservation Revenge. Setting it on an actual reservation has been giving me some logistical challenges, but I’m excited to see where the clues lead me. 😉

About Me:

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.

blog / websiteFacebook / Paty’s Posse / Goodreads / Twitter

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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.