My Current Writing Project & Road Trip

Right now, I’m working on the next book in my Spotted Pony Casino mystery series. Double Down, has been fun to write so far. A couple of Sundays ago, I was in the area of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation where these stories are set.

I believe in learning as much as I can about my settings. Therefore, I spent about an hour sitting in the Mission Market on the reservation and watched the people who came and went and their interactions. Studying people is one of my favorite pastimes and that day was no exception. I had a fresh, tasty salad made in the store while I people watched.

From the market I went to the tribal police station. I had hoped to get inside the building and talk to someone in law enforcement, but the building was locked. I peered in the windows as I walked around the building learning the entrances and exits and seeing the lay of the building. I have a scene in the current WIP (work in progress) where my character goes to the police station.

After the police station reconnaissance, I went to the nearby casino. While the casino in my books is fictional, I like to keep things close to real as I can. In this instance I wanted to see how real casino guards looked and did their jobs. I flitted from slot machine chair to slot machine chair watching six security guards and studying their uniforms. Then I followed a group of three who were refilling the ATM machines. That was a job I hadn’t thought the security guards would do. I would have thought that would be a job of someone from a bank. That little fact gave me an idea for another book premise. 😉

Yes, it doesn’t take much to spark my imagination. I won’t give the details away, but it would be a plausible premise.

Ignore the dirty windshield. This is Tutuilla where my character lives

I also made a side detour to the area on the reservation where my character lives. I wanted to make sure she could see some things that I had mentioned in the book.

George

Using what I already know, my main character now has a donkey as one of her pets. Since we have had two donkeys, one was Jethro (the same name as my character’s new donkey) and now with us still is George. Donkeys have so much personality, I thought it would make a great secondary animal for my main character. Her large, three-legged dog and now a donkey give her a reason to get out of the casino and go home. I will use some of George and Jethro’s antics to give a personality to my fictional Jethro.

So stay tuned for Double Down, book 3 in the Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries, hopefully releasing in August.

House Edge Released

On February 18th the second book of the Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries released. This series has been fun to research and even more fun to write. Though I do need a trip to a real Native American run casino to get a little more intel on things. That will be a trip I’ll take after Mother Nature has decided winter is over.

In book two I added a new secondary character who has a past with my main character Dela Alvaro. When I first added him, it was to cause friction between two characters other than their being from two different law enforcement branches. However, as I began to flesh him out, it gave me new insight on Dela and how I could incorporate their connection into other books.

I also did something in book 2 that I haven’t done in any other book, I started an event that will be the basis of the next book. The reader doesn’t know it as they are reading the book, but it came to me and I felt I needed to go with it.

To hopefully portray Dela, a lower limb amputee, correctly, I joined an online group for lower limb amputees. They don’t normally let anyone in who isn’t an amputee, but I let them know I was only there to gather information to portray a character like them. And, thankfully, they let me in. I’ve been taking notes on how people feel and what they go through on a daily basis. I also purchased a book titled, AMPossible by Jeffrey Allen Mangus. He is an amputee and he counsels other amputees. His book is the nuts and bolts of what to expect and how you have to change some ways you do things but never say you can’t.

I know I don’t talk that much about my writing here, but when I have a new book out or found did some really cool research, you’ll read about it here.

This book is going on a virtual blog tour starting March 2nd. There are chances at the blogs it will be at to win a print copy of the book and some swag. Here is the list of places it will be:

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

March 2 – Lady Hawkeye

March 2 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

March 3 – I Read What You Write 

March 3 – MJB Reviewers 

March 4 – FUONLYKNEW 

March 5 – Celticlady’s Reviews 

March 6 – Brooke Blogs 

March 7 – Literary Gold 

March 8 – Mysteries with Character 

March 9 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews 

March 10 – Nellie’s Book Nook 

March 11 – Baroness Book Trove 

March 12 – Maureen’s Musings 

March 13 – Girl with Pen 

March 14 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews 

March 15 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book 

Zealous Environmentalists

Greedy Power Companies

…and a body

A bitter dispute over the breaching of dams in Idaho sparks emotions at a summit held at the Spotted Pony Casino. When the keynote speaker is murdered, Dela Alvaro, head of security, teams up again with FBI Special Agent Quinn Pierce.

The suspects are many since it appears the victim was playing both sides of the controversial environmental issue. Did someone take advantage of a marital dispute… witnessed by a crowd of casino spectators? Or did an angry wife murder her husband?

Book 2 in the Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries has Dela Alvaro not only trying to keep her job by discovering the killer before word spreads about the murder, but she also has to deal with FBI Special Agent Quinn Peirce butting heads with her high school sweetheart who has returned to the reservation as a tribal policeman.

Universal Buy Link: https://books2read.com/u/bWQ8X0

Research is Fun

I have to say my favorite thing about writing is the research. I’ve always been a nerd and like to learn new things. Not so much about math and science, but the world. However, there are times when I need to do a little science to learn what I want to know.

In this case, it is for book #9 in the Gabriel Hawke Novels. I’m still working on a title for it. I thought I had it and remembered I’d already used fox. It needs to be an animal that is out in the winter. One that lives in the mountains and is cunning or shy. If you have any thoughts, toss in the comments. 😉

The research I’m doing now has to do with survival in the mountains in a blizzard and my character is tracking someone who is wounded. Right now I have blood I saved from meat before I cooked it that I dripped in the snow. I’ve been watching and recording what it looks like each day so Hawke will be able to surmise how far ahead of him the person is that he is tracking.

I could barely see the red of the blood under the 1/2 inch of snow that had fallen.
This shows the blood drops after I’d swept away the 1/2 inch coating of snow on top.

I ordered books on hiking in avalanche country, and winter survival. I’ll be reading those to help me get a feel for what my characters will be dealing with. I have the basic premise of the story thought out but will soon begin writing the opening scene and jotting down events that will happen.

This book will include one or more of Hawke’s Native American ancestors who will help he and Dani Singer stay alive as they battle the elements and the person who doesn’t want to be found.

Have you ever had any experiences in the snow that you think would help my story? I’d love to hear about them.

Continuing my writing voyage

I’ve just finished book 2 in the Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series, House Edge. While I had a premise for the book, I still needed to figure out a way to work the title into the story. After all, I’d decided from the onset of this series that the titles would all be gambling terms. Which makes coming up with story ideas a bit more complex, than coming up with the story and then the title.

The premise of this book was set around the controversy of breaching dams in Idaho to help the native fish reproduce. A summit is held at my fictional casino and one of the main speakers is murdered. The title House Edge has many ways it could be played in this book. And as usual the way I had planned to play it out ended up not being the way I did it.

Which is normal for my thought process. I make a suspect chart when I start a story. I have the idea of how a person is murdered and then I plan out who I think is the murderer. But over the course of writing the story and adding in twists, the real killer ends up being someone other than the person I started with. So the murderer is usually a surprise to me as well.

The fun part is when I go back through to add in the clues to point to that person, I discover I had already sub-consciously added them.

While I usually make each story, even in a series, a standalone book, I have an altercation in this book that plays over into the next book. It just felt right to set it up as a scene in this book. I don’t usually do that, but it felt right to do it this time.

Do you like it when a series starts something even if it seem insignificant in the book at the time and in another book you’re like, “Oh yeah, I remember when that happened?”

Here is the blurb for House Edge:

Book 2

Spotted Pony Casino Mystery

A bitter dispute over the breaching of dams in Idaho sparks emotions at a summit held at the Spotted Pony Casino. When the head speaker is murdered, Dela Alvaro, head of security, teams up again with FBI Special Agent Quinn Pierce.

The suspects are many as it appears the victim was playing both sides of the controversial environmental issue. His actions caused a domestic dispute between the victim and his spouse, drawing a crowd of spectators on the casino floor.

Could someone have used the scene to set the wife up? Or is the wife the killer?

Back in the Groove

At least I hope so! I’m trying to get back on top of my writing and keeping my with my blog, and everything else writing related.

Covid didn’t take away my time or creativity, it is having a teenager in the house again and attending all the activities that go with a teenager in sports and her last year of school. When I offered to take in our oldest granddaughter a year ago, after 20 years of no kids in the house, I had forgotten how much time and energy they require.

As I said, this is her senior year, and hopefully, after a year of getting back in the swing of things, I can get my writing back on track.

After taking an online workshop on book covers, I worked with my cover designer to rework the Spotted Pony Casino Mystery books. I went from this:

To this:

Trying to add more suspense/mystery, intrigue to the covers. And I feel keeping them clean and simple also helps the reader let their own imagination work more.

Besides we working the covers, I’ve been doing the final read through of Churlish Badger. Book 8 in the Gabriel Hawke Mystery series. This book will be available in ebook on December 1st. I’m excited for the ideas I have for the two books following this one. They will get Hawke back out in the wilderness tracking. One will be set in the Wallowa Mountains in a snow storm and the other will be set in the Montana Wilderness.

I have started gathering information on tracking in the snow and what pitfalls he’ll have to over come while not only tracking a person they believe is a killer but also keeping his significant other safe. I’m feeling the suspense of it already and haven’t even begun writing it!

Before I can write it, I have to finish up House Edge, which has an incident in it that will be the murder mystery in Double Down. Again, I am excited to begin writing that one, but it won’t happen until after I write Hawke’s book 9.

This is what keeps me writing and enjoying the whole process. I get excited about the plot or concept of a book and that keeps me pushing through each one to get on to writing the next one. I will continue to write until I no longer am excited about writing the next book.

Freezeout Trip

The latest Gabriel Hawke book I’m writing starts at Freezeout Trailhead in the Hells Canyon Wilderness on the Oregon side of the Snake River. An abandoned vehicle is found there by my character State Trooper Gabriel Hawke.

one side of the Imnaha store

While most of this series is set in Wallowa County where I grew up, I didn’t travel around the county as much as my brothers did. I tended to stay home and read, while they were out fishing, hunting, hiking, skiing, and other out door activities.

When I start a book, I look at the maps of the area, and use google earth to discover how or where I want the murder to happen. Then I use the maps, google earth, and hiking books to help me get a feel for the terrain. But it never fails, I always need to make a trip to the area to see it for myself.

That’s what my husband and I did a few weeks ago. We drove to Imnaha. It had been a long time since I’d been to the store and area. We went inside, visited a bit with the owner and I took a couple photos. Then we took the upper Imnaha road to Freezeout Trailhead.

Imnaha River

I was so good we made the trip. The area at the trailhead didn’t look a think like what I’d envisioned from the photos and google earth. It wasn’t as flat nor as large as I’d thought. When I returned home, I had to change up some scenes to accommodate the location and size.

loading ramp at the trailhead

Traveling up the road, alongside the river, we saw some nice farms and wildlife. Some of the farm ground would have been thrilling to try and farm back in the day they used horses. I would have been a bit leery of using modern equipment on some of the side hill fields.

Doe and fawns cooling their feet in the river.

We stopped at a Hells Canyon viewpoint, but it was so smoky from fires all over the Pacific Northwest that we didn’t see much.

Hells Canyon overlook

We could see how families would have lived off the land and enjoyed the solitary life at the bottom of the canyon along the Imnaha River. Since we were headed back to SE Oregon, we continued on up the river and on over to Halfway, Oregon. It had been years since we’d been to this town. Neither one of us remembered it being as populated. We remembered only a couple of buildings. Unless we had mistook another small town for Halfway. We’re still puzzling that. We are excited to go back there again and check it out more.

From Halfway we headed to Baker City and then on home. It was an 850+ mile round trip that weekend, but it was worth it for me to see the area I was writing about.

I love research trips!

Is summer retreating?

Summer is slowly taking a bow. We, here in SE Oregon, need rain badly, but it doesn’t look like we are going to get it any time soon. The good news it has finally cooled down. We can sleep well at night now that our house isn’t sweltering.

The other bit I like about summer ending is Labor Day weekend. It means I’ll be spending time with another author who is fun for three days. We set up a booth at the Sumpter, Oregon Flea Market every Memorial and Labor day weekend. There we sell our books, watch the myriad of dogs go by some on leashes, some in strollers, and some on their own. We also visit with other vendors and locals who stop by every time.

Sumpter Flea Market

I like wandering around and seeing what types of things are being sold and maybe get and idea of two for projects I’d like to make.

It’s also a few days, to myself. No cooking, cleaning, laundry. Just me hanging out at the flea and then spending the evening blissfully by myself. Sometimes I write on those evenings. Sometimes I watch movies or read a book. It doesn’t matter, it’s just me and whatever I want to do. Those types of days come far and few between as a mom, grandma, and wife.

Oregon Coast

I am looking forward to my week by myself at the Oregon Coast in October. Again, I write, take walks, and only have to prepare food for myself. I always take easy to prepare foods, because, I’m not there to cook, clean, and do laundry. I’m there to get many words written and catch up on my writing schedule.

Which, I have fallen behind on this year. Too many family things going on, I guess. Of just starting to feel the burn out of trying to get 5-6 books written a year. I’m thinking of slowing down to 3 or 4 which is what I will have accomplished this year. There is a little more wiggle room for doing things other than writing.

How has your summer gone? Are you ready for Fall?

Feng Shui is the way to go

Sixteen years ago I participated in an online Feng Shui workshop. I am a believer in making things happen. And I believe my taking the workshop did make things happen for me.

Through Feng Shui you arrange things based on the principles of Bagua. Ba means eight and gua means area. So you place items with different energy or focus in each of the areas. The areas are: Prosperity, Fame & Reputation, Relationships, Health & Family, Foundation, Creativity, Wisdom, Career, and Helpful People. This workshop showed me that you can make things happen by how you set your life and your workspace up.

Before the workshop, I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere with my writing. I had written seven books, had been a finalist in multiple contests, but couldn’t get a publisher or agent to take the step to contract me. After the workshop which happened in December of 2005, I received my first book contract in May of 2006. I believe it was because I opened myself to new things and faced my opportunities.

When I started the workshop, my desk faced the wall in a loft. There was a small window to my left, and I had bookcases filled with reference books to my back. I learned that the front of the house has lots of energy. I moved my husband’s desk, which he rarely uses to the back of the loft and placed my desk out to the front of the loft, facing the main door and large windows that revealed green fields and mountains.

With my room set up in the proper areas of Prosperity, Fame & Reputation, Relationships, Health & Family, Foundation, Creativity, Wisdom, Career, and Helpful People, I moved on to set up my desk to bring more energy, creativity, and wealth.

Using the same quadrants on the diagram of my desk, I incorporated the items in the correct areas to enhance the “Action” I want to happen in my life.
See photo below: This is a photo of the handout Bella Andre gave us during the workshop.

While our grandson was visiting, I had to shift things in the office so the Murphy bed was easy to lower and raise. I ended up facing the wall and my back to the door. During this time I wasn’t feeling productive and was out of sorts when I’d sit down at my desk to work.

As soon as he was on the plane back home, I turned my desk around and reset my tone and mood for getting work done. I am still in the process of Feng Shuiing my desk, but I have already written more words in a week than I had in a month while my desk was turned. I have felt like my writing life is taking another good turn.

I’ll let you know if something good comes from this switch. Anyway, something other than me being more creative!

Exciting things happening

The first book of my new Spotted Pony Casino mystery, Poker Face, has released. I really like writing this character, though she is tough for me to write. She is a lower-limb amputee. I have joined a lower-limb amputee group online to help me understand the struggles. I hope I can do a good job of showing how strong a person has to be mentally to continue life as close to normal as they possibly can.

I also like the face most of the books will be set at a fictional Indigenous run casino on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. By making it a fictional casino, I can run things as they best work for my stories. However, I’m still trying to keep it working much like any other Indigenous owned casino.

Here is the info on the book.

Poker Face

Spotted Pony Casino Mystery

Book 1

Dela Alvaro is a disabled veteran who grew up on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. When an IED in Iraq ended her military career, she came home to reassess her life and landed a job in security at the Indian run casino on the reservation.

Not even a year into being the assistant to the head of security, Dela is promoted on a trial basis. When one of the casino employees is found stabbed and stuffed in a laundry chute, she knows she can kiss head of security good-bye if she doesn’t find the killer before the media gets hold of the story.

While she is in over her head, she can’t decide if the FBI Special Agent called in to help is a blessing or a curse. It’s a man she ran across in Iraq who overrode her authority. When a second casino employee is killed, Dela has to decide if she can trust the special agent with not only keeping her job but keeping the rest of the casino employees safe.

Universal buy link:

https://books2read.com/u/brPxxw

This book is available in ebook and print. I am currently working with a narrator to get it made into and audiobook.

I am gathering swag and putting together a booklet of first chapters of my mystery books to take to Bouchercon in New Orleans in August. Yes! I will be attending my first ever Bouchercon. It is one of the largest mystery fan conferences in the U.S. I will be doing Speed Dating with 200 fans. Whew! I am going to be on a panel: Empathy: The Art and Practice of Relating. I’ll have books there and I would love to connect with anyone who wants to meet up. I will be at the New Orleans Marriott from August 26-29th.

Half of a Prophesy

I had an epiphany this week as I stood in the shop petting our male cat, Cautious.

Over forty years ago, in high school our English teacher asked us to write about what we would be doing in, I think, ten years.

I wrote about my barn renovated into a house that I lived in on the coast. I was a writer and I had a tiger for a pet. Tigers have always been one of my favorite animals. The stripes, regal heads, intelligent eyes… They have just been a favorite, right up there with horses and dogs.

As I stood there, petting Cautious I noticed he had striping like a tiger, intelligent eyes, and a tail that liked to sway back and forth.

Cautious

And that’s when I remembered the English assignment and thought, “I am living half of my prophesy. I am a writer- 50 books published. I have a cat that looks like a tiger. And that’s where it ends. I live in a house that my husband and I built and we are a six hour drive from the Oregon Coast.

The interesting part about that assignment written so long ago, at the time, I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do as an adult. I grew up in a small community before the internet and more than a few channels on the TV. There were few careers that I thought would be even close to what I would like to do. I had wanted to be an artist, but my dad told me I’d never make a living at it. That I needed to go into the medical profession.

If you know me, you know I am not a good fit for the medical profession. I don’t deal well with wimpy, whiny people. But I wanted out of the community where we live and my dad was willing to pay for me to go to college. I signed up to be an x-ray technician. Long story short, it didn’t work out and I ended up moving in with a friend from school and worked many odd jobs until my marriage.

As a young mother, I read voraciously. As I had all through school. I was always reading a book or two. 😉 When the kids started school, I took a writing and art classes at the community college. It was through those classes I began to think I could be a writer. That and the English class I had in college when I went off course of my objective. Anyway, I had an inkling to try writing. I’m not sure how I knew back in high school that was what I would end up doing, but I’m glad half of what I’d dreamed of back then has come true.

I’m pleased with my newest release, Stolen Butterfly, book 7 in the Gabriel Hawke Novels. Here is the info and cover for that.

The proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the non-profit Enough Iz Enough. This is a community outreach organization that advocates for MMIW on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation.  

Stolen Butterfly

Gabriel Hawke Novel #7

Missing or Murdered

When the local authorities tell State Trooper Gabriel Hawke’s mother to wait 72 hours before reporting a missing Umatilla woman, she calls her son and rallies members of the community to search.

Hawke arrives at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation and learns the single mother of a boy his mom watches would never leave her son. Angered over how the local officials respond to his investigating, Hawke teams up with a security guard at the Indian casino and an FBI agent. Following the leads, they discover the woman was targeted by a human trafficking ring at the Spotted Pony Casino.

Hawke, Dela Alvaro, and FBI Special Agent Quinn Pierce join forces to bring the woman home and close down the trafficking operation before someone else goes missing.

Universal Book Lnk:https://books2read.com/u/baZEPq