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

What a Month!

Every May I talk about the same thing, but you know what? It’s because May is a wonderful month for me!

Forty-two years ago, I married my always entertaining husband in May. Which makes this an anniversary month.

It is also the anniversary month of my first published book. In 2006 Marshal in Petticoats was published by Wild Rose Press.

And now 15 years later, it is my anniversary month of publishing my 50th book! Stolen Butterfly, book 7 in the Gabriel Hawke Novels series is book number 50. I’m please to say that it is available for pre-order and is publishing on May 18th. Here is the information about the book and pre-order/buy link.

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.

https://books2read.com/u/baZEPq

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.  

Because of my 50 books, I am hosting a 50 Book Bash event at Facebook all month. You can come join the fun and maybe win one of the daily prizes. Here is the link to attend. https://www.facebook.com/events/887343232080078

I love May not only for it being an anniversary month but also because it is when all the wildflowers start popping up. I enjoy my hikes on the hill to capture their beauty. Here are a few photos.

Desert paintbrush
Bluebells

Showy Larkspur

May is Coming!!

And you might ask why am I excited about May. Well… Let me tell you!

  1. it is the anniversary month for my marriage to my always entertaining husband and of my first published book.
  2. This May marks the 15th year I’ve been published and my 50th published book!

That’s right, I have 50 published novel length books. If you added up the novellas and short stories I’ve published it’s more. I’m just talking about 50-90k word books- novel length. To celebrate this achievement, I’m hosting a month-long Facebook event.

You can join the fun here: https://www.facebook.com/events/887343232080078 You can hop over there now and see some of the prizes and click you are “going” to be sure to see all of my posts. At the event we’ll talk about books, my life, and anything writing related you want to know. Everyone who comments will have a chance at the prizes I’m giving away.

Also in May, I’ll be back at the Sumpter Flea Market in beautiful quaint Sumpter, Oregon. I’ll get to hang out with my author friend Mary Vine and sell books.

May will also be the release of my 7th Gabriel Hawke Novel, Stolen Butterfly. The book deals with missing and murdered Indigenous women and proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the cause.

Stolen Butterfly

Gabriel Hawke Novel #7

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.

I will be engaging in many book related activities in May. What will you be up to?

Starting a new Writing Project

Beginning to figure out the first book, Poker Face.

Last month was the end of my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series. After 16 books in that series, I had come to know the characters well. I’ll miss them, but I’m excited to start the new Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries.

The new mystery series has been on the back of my mind since last spring when I wrote a short story for a contest. The more I became invested in the short story and the character, I knew she would be the main character of the next mystery series I wrote. Over the year, she has popped up in my mind many times as I start to fully realize who she is and what she wants out of life.

Dela Alvaro is a disabled veteran who in the latest Gabriel Hawke book is the head of the night security team for the Spotted Pony Casino and helps Hawke solve the mystery of a missing Umatilla woman.

I also drove through the Umatilla Reservation to set the area and roads in my mind. That way when my character travels about, I can mention a real place or thing.

Old Agency building on the reservation

Starting a new series is more than visualizing a main character. I spent a day just drawing up the blueprint for the casino. It is a make believe casino, but in a spot where there is a real Indian owned casino. I had to go online and learn as much as I could about the casino that exists so I could make sure I put in the amenities that are needed for a casino of its size and the working parts of the casino as well. The staff, laundry maintenance, dealers, cashiers, security, restaurants, the works. How they are owned. How the games work. It has been a learning curve for someone who might frequent a casino once a year and most of those were at casinos in Nevada, not on reservations. There is a different set of rules for Indian casinos. Something else I had to read up on.

After I drew the casino layout, I came up with some of the characters who worked there that my character would be dealing with or have for friends. The statics for the casino I’m miming has 2/3 of the staff being from the reservation. That is good to know for coming up with secondary characters.

Because this casino is on a reservation, which makes if federal jurisdiction after the tribal police, I will also have an FBI agent as a secondary character. Guess what? That means I am also digging into what the FBI deals with on reservations and how the workflow goes, as well as reading up on the whole FBI process. I also gave Dela and FBI Special Agent Quinn Pierce a backstory from their time spent in Iraq. And,,, that meant digging up info from military police in Iraq seven years ago.

I do tend to go overboard with my research but I hope it helps to make my make believe characters, believable.

That is what I’m doing in my writing. Waiting for my beta and sensitivity readers to get back to me on my last Hawke book, I wrote, and gearing up to write the first book in the Spotted Pony Casino mysteries. What are you up to this month?

Exploring New Cultures Through Reading

I have always been interested in other countries and cultures. Reading has been the way I learn about them. As a teen I read a lot of what is called Gothic Romance. These were set in England, India, Northern Africa. The places where the English ruled because the books were usually about an English governess. I enjoyed reading about the places and the people.

That could be the reason I write Native American characters and culture into my mystery books. They aren’t another country. They are right here living on the same continent as I am, yet their culture is different and they have been treated poorly. The one thing you will always find my books showcasing is injustice. I have deep need to show injustices.

Diwali or deepavali photo with female hands holding oil lamp during festival of light

Back to exploring new cultures through reading. I have read two books in Sujata Massey’s 1920s Mysteries set in India. I’m learning so much about the different cultures and castes that lived in that country at that time. Earlier in the year, I’d read a self-published book that was set in India. I hadn’t realized how badly some men treat their wives and it is normal. Glad I don’t live in that country. And I feel for the women who are trying to get equality in life, work, policies, and laws.

After those books, I moved on to one that I thought would be interesting and indeed it probably would be but I got tired of all the bantering back and forth between the two main characters and not getting into the meat of the mystery.

Now I’ve started a book set in Hollywood, not another country, but it’s in the view of a black woman who has fallen down the actress list. I’m seeing a different view of things through not only her losing her looks and trying to stay afloat but how she interacts with others.

I’ve also read many books written and about Native Americans to try to help me write my characters who aren’t ensconced in the life every day but I want them to reveal tidbits of that culture to my readers and help them see they are just as human as the rest of us.

Are you reading books about other cultures? Do you enjoy learning new things and understanding people better?