Expanding my Horizons by Paty Jager

“You can’t make everyone happy.” One of my least favorite sayings but so true.

I took two trips last year that were experiences I’d never had before. I finally saw a tropical island for myself and I traveled to another country by myself – Iceland. I loved the trips and wanted to use what I experienced to write books with my characters enjoying the same places.

I set Abstract Casualty in the Shandra Higheagle series in Kaua’i Hawaii. I had a great time reliving my time there while writing the book. And the fun I had finding a way to get my character to the island in a realistic manner. Some readers loved it and the new experience, others wrote to me and wanted Shandra back in her fictional county in Idaho. They missed the secondary characters they’d come to know.

For those readers who love going back to the same place, Capricious Demise is set back in Weippe County, my fictional county in Idaho. I finished the first draft and will be releasing it in July.

This month, June 1st, the 5th Gabriel Hawke Novel, Fox Goes Hunting, released. My critique partners, beta-readers, and proof reader, loved it! I already received one 2 star review. The reader didn’t like that Hawke wasn’t tracking as much and they couldn’t pronounce the names of the characters. This book is set in Iceland.

I loved bringing things into the book that I saw and learned while in Iceland. I hope to capture a broader range of reader by going “International”. Yes, there are typical Icelandic names for characters from there. It is also set during an international Search and Rescue conference so I had secondary characters from around the world.

Yes, both books set in real places took twice as long to write. I had to make sure distances, towns, places were correct. I wanted to make sure I gave a clear picture of where they went and what they saw.

When I write the Shandra books set in a fictional place, I can make things up as I go, though I did make a map of the county when I started writing the series, so I do keep things in the same place every book. But if I want to add a business, I find a block that I didn’t put a business in already and add it.

The Hawke books are set in a real place, but I made up fake towns in place of the real ones to keep anyone I might have grown up with in that county to think I am talking about them. 😉

While I know there are some readers who don’t like the unexpected, I believe writing outside of my comfort zone and incorporating other places and cultures into my writing helps me grow as an individual and hopefully gives my readers a glimpse at a culture they might not get a chance to experience first hand.

Excited about 2019 by Paty Jager

gabriel hawke logoI think the last time I was so excited about a new year, it was 40 years ago. The reason being, my hubby’s mother told him he couldn’t get married until he was 21. She had a strange reason why, so we waited two years. Yes, we met when we were 19 and knew several months into the relationship that we were getting married. We didn’t really talk about getting married but where we would live, what we would do.

Anyway, 1979 couldn’t come fast enough for us.  And then it did, we married, had children, and forty years later he still supports my need to write.  He is a definite keeper. We both believed in dreams. He is living his– a 60 acre alfalfa field irrigated by a pivot. I am living mine by writing every day and putting out stories that I hope others enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing them.

My excitement for 2019 to get here has to do with my new Gabriel Hawke mystery series. The first book is on pre-order and will release on Jan. 20th.  Murder of Ravens takes me home. Most of the series will be set in the remote county in NE Oregon where I grew up.

I have always loved the beauty of the county, but the small town atmosphere really doesn’t work for this introvert. I don’t like people knowing what I’m doing or watching my every move. Which is why I didn’t return to live there. However, the same reason I don’t want to live there is exactly what I wanted for my series.

The area not only has generations of families and acres of remote land, it is one of the few counties that the Fish and Wildlife officers are also State Troopers. This dual job gives my character more subplots and a way to be in the middle of murder investigations.

I wrote about riding for a day with a Fish and Wildlife State Trooper in Wallowa County on an earlier post. That was my in-depth researching I did for this series. I’ve also had many email conversations with the same trooper and my son-in-law who is a detective with the state police.

As I’ve written each book, new things come up for me to research and carry the story in new directions and plant red herrings. I thought I couldn’t have anymore fun than writing the Shandra Higheagle mystery series, but, I have to say, writing Hawke’s books is just as fun! I hope the readers think so too.

Book 13 in the Shandra Higheagle series, Homicide Hideaway, released last week. Even going on their honeymoon to a remote hunting lodge, Ryan and Shandra get pulled into a murder investigation. In this book my reader are also introduced to Hawke.

homicide hideaway 5x8Love… Marriage… Murder

Less than twelve hours after arriving at a remote hunting lodge for their honeymoon, Shandra Higheagle and Detective Ryan Greer find a body. Shandra’s cousin had quarreled with the man earlier, and the clues point to her as being the murderer.

Fish and Wildlife State Trooper Gabriel Hawke, arrives and immediately takes a dislike to Shandra’s cousin. But he is willing to work with Shandra and Ryan to discover the truth.

For a remote hunting lodge, the place becomes overrun with suspicious guests. Shandra’s dreams and Hawke’s tracking skills soon discover the cause of the drunk’s death.

Universal Buy Link: https://www.books2read.com/u/3nYweo

State Trooper and master tracker Gabriel Hawke comes across a murder he’s never seen before while in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Once he starts following the trail of clues, he’s determined to see the investigation through to the end.  Murder of Ravens Is available on pre-order and is releasing on Jan. 20th.

1 GH Murder of Ravens 5x8The ancient Indian art of tracking is his greatest strength…And also his biggest weakness.

Fish and Wildlife State Trooper Gabriel Hawke believes he’s chasing poachers. However, he comes upon a wildlife biologist standing over a body that is wearing a wolf tracking collar.

He uses master tracker skills taught to him by his Nez Perce grandfather to follow clues on the mountain. Paper trails and the whisper of rumors in the rural community where he works, draws Hawke to a conclusion that he finds bitter.

Arresting his brother-in-law ended his marriage, could solving this murder ruin a friendship?

Pre-order link: https://www.books2read.com/u/bxZwMP

These two books are the reason that I am so excited for 2019. I love writing these series. I can’t wait to get up in the morning and start working on them. Knowing I can get up every day and work on the books for these series makes me happy and will keep me rolling through this year.

How about you? What do you have that makes you happy keeps you going?

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Killer Ideas by Paty Jager

I was visiting with my brother this weekend and he told me I had to come visit him. He had discovered some great ways to murder someone at the new fish hatchery where he works.

Not that we think a lot a like or anything… 🙂 This is the same brother who cave me the inspiration that started my Shandra Higheagle Series. As a bronze sculptor, he had details about how some statues were put together that gave him an idea on how to conceal a murder weapon which he passed on to his lovely big sister who likes to write stories about killing  people. LOL

How he works at an Indian fish hatchery which I can make fit into my new Gabriel Hawke series. You can bed as soon as things slow down around here with harvesting and company, we’ll take a trip to see all the great ways he’s found to hide a body or shorten a life. I know that sounds gruesome, but when you are constantly trying to find new and plausible ways to commit a murder that will stump your main character and your readers, you have to dig into every possibility.

For me a good murder mystery read is one where I’m interested in the method of murder as well as why it happened and by whom.

My first Gabriel Hawke book releasing in January has a unique twist to how the murdered victim is found.

Here is the blurb to Murder of Ravens to pique your interest.

The ancient Indian art of tracking is his greatest strength…

And also his biggest weakness.

Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife  State Trooper Gabriel Hawke believes he’s chasing poachers. However, he comes upon a wildlife biologist standing over a body that is wearing a wolf tracking collar.

He uses master tracker skills taught to him by his Nez Perce grandfather to follow clues on the mountain. Paper trails and the whisper of rumors in the rural community where he works, draws Hawke to a conclusion that he finds bitter.

Arresting his brother-in-law ended his marriage, could solving this murder ruin a friendship?

Hiding the killer in my subconscious by Paty Jager

2017 headshot newEvery mystery book I’ve written, I start out with the firm belief I know who the killer is.

I start preparing for the book by deciding where the main character, Shandra Higheagle is, what she is doing, and how she will come to either discover a body, be in the vicinity of who does find the body, or know the accused murderer.

The next step is making up my suspect chart and writing down what I know and want others to know about each suspect.

With the suspect chart comes red herrings and other characters- friends, family of the suspects and the victim.

Once the chart is done, I evaluate and decide which one would be the least likely to have killed, yet have the best motive. And that’s the character who I start out hiding the information( red herrings and quick mentions of clues that are glossed over) and plan to have be the one who dunit in the end.

Cars on winding road trough the forest aerial viewEvery book so far, the killer has ended up being someone other than I started out to write about.  I’m not sure if its because I do so many twists and turns in who it could be that I confuse myself or that I realize the person I started out as the murderer is too logical, so I do yet another twist and there is my killer! When I go back through the book to put in clues, I always see that I’d added the necessary clues without thinking about it.

All along my subconscious knew who did it while my working brain was busy workingConcept of the human brain on my initial scenario. I love that this happens because it surprises not only me but the reader.  And it means that writing mystery is what I should be doing since my subconscious seems to know my murderous mind better than I do!

Do you like stories with lots of twists and turns or do you like to know who did it and work with the sleuths to prove it?

SH Mug Art

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

I Love Writing Mysteries Except… by Paty Jager

I’ve been working on the next Shandra Higheagle book. It will be book #9 and it is set around Halloween.  On top of it being book #9 and a bit of a Halloween setting, it will have an orange cat on the cover.  I love when I have fun ideas come to me. I decided since Sheba the dog found the body in Yuletide Slaying and was on the cover, the October release, Haunting Corpse, should have the cat, Lewis, find the body and be on the cover. I wonder if I can come up with Shandra’s horse Apple finding a body for a future book?   LOL

Besides having fun coming up with murders, figuring out why the person was killed and how, and who the killer is, I enjoy coming up with the premise and the titles just as much.  I would have to say the only thing I don’t like about writing murder mystery books is the fact most of the big mystery contests and conferences don’t feel a self-pub or Indie book/author has anything of value to give on a panel or their books aren’t good enough to be in contests. Otherwise, I love it all! And I wish I had stayed with mysteries when I first started writing all those years ago.

I’m looking forward to attending Left Coast Crime Reader/ Author event March 22-25, 2018 in Reno, Nevada. It’s fun talking with other authors and meeting new readers. If I’m lucky I’ll get on a panel but because I’m an Indie Author and can only be a moderator or if there is a panel with not enough “traditionally” published authors to fill it and I meet the criteria, I might get on a panel.

Romance Writers of America have embraced the self-published author but the mystery genre is still a bit behind the times.

That is the one thing I don’t like about writing mystery.

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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

SH Mug Art (2)

 

Walk the Walk by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)The whole reason I picked an amateur sleuth was to avoid having to be too technical with cop speak and legalese.

I’m working on Book 8, Fatal Fall, in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series. Shandra has the flu and her boyfriend, Weippe County Detective Ryan Greer, has had more time in this book than in previous ones. I didn’t think this would be a problem. Usually Shandra is sleuthing, and Ryan is backing her up with his credentials. This book, he’s doing the investigating, and I find myself having to look up cop jargon and legal words.

My poor son-in-law who is in law enforcement has had more emails than he probably likes from his mother-in-law lately. 😉 I’ve also googled, and I remembered seeing a couple of blot posts on the crimescene yahoo group about cop speak.

I had a suspect who had been arrested before. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to say on felonies or misdemeanors. I googled and found a wonderful dictionary of legal terms that helped me out.

Misdemeanor

A lesser crime punishable by a fine and/or county jail time for up to one year. Misdemeanors are distinguished from felonies which can be punished by a state prison term. They are tried in the lowest local court such as municipal, police or justice courts. Typical misdemeanors include: petty theft, disturbing the peace, simple assault and battery, drunk driving without injury to others, drunkenness in public, various traffic violations, public nuisances, and some crimes which can be charged either as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances and the discretion of the District Attorney. “High crimes and misdemeanors” referred to in the U. S. Constitution are felonies.

Felony

A serious crime, characterized under federal law and many state statutes as any offense punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year. Under the early Common Law, felonies were crimes involving moral turpitude, those which violated the moral standards of a community. Later, however, crimes that did not involve moral turpitude became included in the definition of a felony. Presently many state statutes list various classes of felonies with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the offense. Crimes classified as felonies include, among others, Treason, Arson, murder, rape, Robbery, Burglary, Manslaughter, and Kidnapping.

I needed to know about warrants- I asked my son-in-law and Wikipedia.

Search warrant is a court order that a magistrate, judge or Supreme Court official issues to authorize law enforcement officers to conduct a search of a person, location, or vehicle for evidence of a crime and to confiscate any evidence they find.  Typically, a search warrant is required for searches police conduct in the course of a criminal investigation.

Since I am in the cop’s point of view so much, I needed to use words that I wouldn’t use for Shandra. This is where I remembered seeing, and I had thought I’d bookmarked, blogs that Lee Lofland had posted on the Crimescene and Sisters in Crime yahoo loops. I posted to the crimescene loop, and he sent me the URLs to the blog posts. Here they are for your viewing and perhaps writing pleasure.

http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/cop-speak-wtf-did-he-say/

http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/?s=cop+slang

All of this information will help to make my character, Detective Ryan Greer, sound as if he and I know what we’re talking about.

Have you ever come across a book where the character said or did something that didn’t jive with what you knew of their profession?

Paty

SH Mug Art

 

Staying Small Town by Paty Jager

20170311_100646 (400x225)

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. 😉

SH Mug Art

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Merry Mystery by Paty Jager

yuletide-slaying-5x8I hopped on the Amazon Kindle site and punched in Christmas Mysteries and several pages of free and $0.99 books popped up.  I was going to grab a few and put them up here, but hey, you may like  something different than me, so jump over to the Kindle Christmas Mysteries page and download a few for yourself. 😉

It appears from scanning the website that many mystery authors like to set mysteries around Christmas and even other holidays. It makes sense. Families are gathered. People who may only visit at this time of the year are back in town. This makes for past differences surfacing and the potential for a murder more likely.

And who wants to spoil Santa’s visit with a dead body in the chimney or in a snowdrift?  A mystery writer that’s who. 😉 In my mind I can make the most macabre scenario out of a mundane holiday happening.  A sprinkle of arsenic on a cookie made just for rich Uncle Marvin.  Or a bit of cyanide happens to spill into Grandma Velma’s hot toddy. Maybe the candy cane handed to cousin Zeb has been dipped in the sap of water hemlock.  Yes, I could come up with all kinds of ways to take out someone during the holidays.

Maybe a paper cut that happens to become infected and moves rapidly into gangrene and worse. Or a ski or sledding mishap? Oh yes, what evil lurks under this granny’s, gray hair the world may never know, but my readers will discover it as the Shandra Higheagle mystery series continues!

This will be my last post this year. Merry Christmas to all my fellow Ladies of Mystery and all our followers!  Beware the token treat from an estranged family member! 😉

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. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for her Action Adventure and received the EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Western Romance. 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 / Pinterest

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