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 the 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?

A Joke Turns into a Book

The one question writers get the most is: “How do you come up with your ideas?” My latest release has a funny story behind how I came up with the plot for Churlish Badger.

When my husband and I moved to SE Oregon 8 years ago, he decided we needed a backhoe. Before long I knew how to run it and helped out with putting poles in the ground for both the shop and the hay barn. Because rattlesnakes are prevalent here, he also gave me a pistol to carry when I walk to use if a rattlesnake appears aggressive. He taught me how to use the pistol and I’ve become a pretty good shot.

The first time he was telling a friend about teaching me to use the backhoe and the pistol, the friend, said, “If you come up missing I’ll know what happened.” Which started my husband telling everyone if he goes missing, it’s because he taught me to shoot and run the backhoe.

This joke has been mentioned off and on over the last 8 years. And finally, I decided to use it for a plot in a book. Though the murdered victim doesn’t get shot. It was fun to use a family joke as the basis for Churlish Badger.

An abandoned vehicle…

A missing man…

Oregon State Trooper Gabriel Hawke discovers an abandoned vehicle at a trailhead while checking hunters.

The owner of the vehicle never arrived at his destination. As Hawke follows leads, he learns the man was in the process of selling his farm over the objections of his wife who said he would only sell over her dead body.

Continuing to dig for clues, Hawke turns up two bodies buried on the farm. Who killed the two and why keeps Hawke circling for answers, backing the killer into a corner.

Buy link:

This will be available in print soon.

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.

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.

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

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?

Luck or Fate

I don’t know if it’s luck or fate.

Fate: the principle or determining cause or will by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do: Destiny

Luck: a force that brings good fortune or adversity- the events or circumstance that operate for or against an individual.

Over the weekend I was able to connect with a young woman who is part of the MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) movement. Through a series of emails to first authors I knew in the areas where my next Hawke book will be set, and then people who work in the domestic violence program at the reservation I was able to connect with this woman.

She filled me in on things I didn’t know about the movement. Yes, it is a movement and not an organization.

Movement: a series of organized activities working toward an objective; an organized effort to promote or attain an end.

Organization: an administrative and functional structure

These are family members of missing and murdered Indigenous people across the United States and in Canada. This has become an epidemic.

One of the things I didn’t know was how hard it is for families on Reservations to get law enforcement involved in looking for a missing woman or as they also started to use the acronym MMIP- Missing and Murdered Indigenous Person. There are also children and people of the LGBQT communities who disappear or are murdered.

My conversation with her was to help me get started on my next Gabriel Hawke book. In this book he is called to the reservation by his mother to help find the mother of a child she watches. When Hawke’s mother can’t get the tribal law enforcement or the Pendleton City Police to look for the woman, she calls her son who works for the Oregon State Police who has a dogged determination to always solve things that perplex him.

My contact is willing to help me in every way I need. She even has contacts on the tribal police and assured me she is as excited about my writing about this movement and why it’s needed in my book as I was connecting with someone who is so open and willing to help me make my book the best it can be with real facts.

I’m learning so much by writing this book and I hope I open the eyes of my readers while also entertaining them.

2021 is Here!

One of my goals this year is to try and remember to post here more often. I put it down in my date book, but then something else needs my attention and I tend to put this off and deal with everything else. I’m sorry!

With 2021 I am finishing up a murder mystery series. I hope my readers like the way I ease out of the Shandra Higheagle mysteries. I felt like it was time to do a graceful exit with the option to pick it up in the future. 😉

I’m starting a new murder mystery series which is requiring a LOT of research. I want to make sure the setting rings true and the stories are riveting. If you, or someone you know, works for an Indian Gaming Casino, I would love to visit with you. You can email me at patyjag(at)gmail(dot)com.

Hawke is set to get two new books this year. The one I’m starting on next week will also require a lot of research. I’ve been reaching out to people for help. Hopefully, a few will come through.

Right now you can get the first book of my Isabella Mumphrey trilogy, Secrets of a Mayan Moon for $0.99 through a bookfunnel event I’m participating in: Strong Women Leads. https://books.bookfunnel.com/strong_female_lead/rbrgaya5oy

My two horses and George, the donkey, had their hooves trimmed yesterday. George and my mare needed it done. Jan, the gelding, just needed evened out. If the ground wasn’t frozen with some icy spots, I could ride, but at my age, I prefer to ride in adverse conditions. 😉 We have had very little snow so far, but it is only January. There are still two months in which we could get snow. That’s the good and the bad of living in the high dessert. We do get snow, usually in small amounts that melt quickly. Or we get a foot and it stays really cold. And you never know when you’ll have either.

George and the horses

I hope you have a wonderful year and keep coming back here to see what I’m up to. I’m hoping things ease up and I can attend the three conferences that were cancelled last year. We’ll see!