Creating Book Covers by Paty Jager

Jet boating the Snake River

If all goes well, I should have a book out this month and one next month. I’m behind in getting my latest books written and out. I’ve been doing too much playing this year, but I think it makes me a better writer to experience things before I write a story.

The first book to be released is Freedom, book 3 in the Silver Dollar Saloon series. The background for the cover was easy. We use the same background on all the books. We just add the character the book is titled after. In this case, Freedom, a young black woman.

I spent hours going through photo galleries online where you can purchase photos to use on covers. I wanted a fresh face, not one with makeup, and she needed to have her hair a certain way. When I’d found four possibilities, I started looking for a body with a dress from the 1800s. I found the perfect one on Pinterest. It was from an auction house. I contacted them, they responded if I could tell them the numbers on the photo (auction date) they could send me a good photo. After I sent the date to them, I never heard from them again.

Which sent me looking elsewhere,and I finally found a dress online and purchased it. Then I sent the women I’d found to my cover designer and she began playing with putting the heads on the dress. After several tries we were both finally happy with the way it looked.

I now have to find a photo for Toxic Trigger-point a murder that takes place on a massage bed in a spa. I’m trying to decide if I want a body on a massage bed or a spa as the cover image. What do you think would make the better, more eye-catching cover?

Stereo Types and the American Indian by Paty Jager

On my quest to learn all I can to portray my American Indian characters as real and correct as I can, I attend any event that will help my learning.

This past week I attended “Savages/Chiefs/Warriors: the Language of Stereotypes” at the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute in Pendleton, Oregon.  The speakers were Dr. Phillip Cash Cash and Charles F. Sams III.

Dr. Cash Cash started the talk with a PowerPoint presentation that had a photo the Declaration of Independence and the words, “the merciless Indian Savages” circled in that very first American document. From the beginning, when all the American Indian wanted to do was protect their way of life, they were called names by those who didn’t understand them.

Included in the PowerPoint were photos of old westerns with most of the Indian parts being played by White actors. Then a slide with brand names that use or used unflattering Indian words or photos of Indian men in war bonnets, or an Indian maiden. He showed how the derogatory words had been used over the years without thinking about how it demoralized the First Nations People.

Another slide had four romance book covers with Savage in the book titles and a male Indian embracing a White woman.  Dr. Cash Cash said that not only was there stereotyping but a trope being used as well. Tropes were another way the American Indian has been “put down” over the years. Portrayals of drunken Indians, calling them Nomads when they are hunter gatherers and travel with the seasons.

His portion of the talk dealt mainly with how long stereotyping has been going on and how in the 70s & 80s when there was more of an awareness of treating everyone equal that the derisive words and advertising started to change.

Charles Sams III talk the second half of the program. He started off telling us how the Umatilla bands, specifically Cayuse came to this earth and how from the story, which he couldn’t tell in full story mode because stories can only be told in the winter, when there is snow on the mountain. But he told of the coming of the People. And how they came from the earth and how archeologists have discovered how long ago people lived on the earth by middens, the dumps or refuse that humans leave behind. He said he doesn’t believe that American Indians came from Asia. There has been no middens found along the path they have been presumed to have taken. As an Indian, he believes the stories of coming from the earth. As an educated person with a science background he knows there has to be an explanation. 😉

He said the biggest influence in getting the American Indian more respect was Richard Nixon pushing through The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. It gave the tribes a chance to better their lives and the generations to come.  The American Indian believes they are a steward of the land. They don’t want to own land, but will to make sure that the animals and land flourish.

The believe in the constitution because it is under the constitution that all treaties were drawn up and signed. If the constitution goes away, they could lose the lands that were given them by the United States government. It is this reason that Charles grandmother made her seven boys join the military during World War II. They didn’t understand why their mother would send them all off to fight for a country that didn’t give them the same rights as others. She told them because if the U.S. lost, they would lose their treaties and the land the land they had now. He said all seven came home from the war and went on to fight for the rights of the American Indian.

During the discussion at the end it was said, that Indians laugh at themselves to cope with the frustration they feel every day.

Here is a list of stereotypes or wrong assumptions that were listed:

And here is the Youtube video that was shown at the end of the event:

I’ll have another post on what was said about hunting and gathering.

Jet Boating My Way to a Book by Paty Jager

It seems like ages ago, when it was only about a month ago that I and four friends took a jet boat ride down the Snake River. When my friends mentioned they were going, I invited myself along because I had planned to do the trip as some point this summer for research for the next Gabriel Hawke book.

photo from Pittsburgh Landing

The only drawback was the trip was three days before I left for Iceland. That is why you haven’t seen photos or heard about the trip. 😉

I had planned to visit my dad in his Senior Living Center that same week and make a round trip by spending the night at my younger brother’s house on his birthday. So tossing in one more day and jet boating worked out perfectly!

Except, the weather! Because it was a cloudy and not very warm day, the clear plastic side awnings, I guess you’d call them, were down to keep use from getting too wet.

We put in at Pittsburgh Landing on the Idaho side of the Snake River.

I wanted to take photos of the terrain. The best place to do that was either in front on in the back of the boat. I chose the back. I have quite a few blurry photos because of the speed we were going but the photos will allow me to remember what I saw.

We stopped at a ranch that is now a museum. The old fruit trees that had been planted years ago had fruit beginning to show. There were a few wildflowers, but we were lucky to not see any rattlesnakes. When I’d participated in our Senior Sneak before graduating from high school, our senior class rafted a different part of the Snake. There was a raft for the boys and one for the girls. Several stops along the way the boys would catch a rattlesnake and throw it on the girls’ raft. Not cool! But ever the tomboy, I’d pick it up and throw it back at them. Then it wasn’t so much fun. 🙂

On this particular trip, we enjoyed wonderful cinnamon rolls made by a woman who takes the trip every year on her birthday. I have never had such delicious, light cinnamon rolls before! From there we watched a fisherman catch and haul in a sturgeon. He was large!

fishermen with a sturgeon

We also saw some rafters trying to right a raft that had capsized. I was glad I was rafting this time!

We rode the rapids, one a class 5, and had a great time. We stopped at the Hells Canyon Dam for lunch that had been packed for us. It was delicious. Then we checked out the visitor center and climbed back on the boat for our trip down stream to the landing where we put in.

Hells Canyon Dam

To me it felt like the rapids were trickier going back down then gunning upstream through them. I enjoyed watching our guide who had been doing this for nineteen years. When we were in the regular water, he’d relax behind the helm, crossing his ankles. As we neared the rapids, he leaned forward, both hands on the levers. His feet would uncross, and he would eventually stand as he guided the boat through the rapids. When the rapids were behind us, he’d settle back down and cross his ankles.

I guess you’re probably wondering, will Hawke be on one of these boats? At this point, I say no. Only because while talking to the boat’s crew, I learned that there are always boats going up and down this section of the river. If it’s not tour boats, it’s fishermen. The river is open year round. Which made me decide most of the action will take place up on the peaks and rocky sides of the canyon walls. And that is why I wanted to take the trip. To see the terrain and learn what I could about activity on the river.

Iceland Trip- part seven

A clothed pig statue that caught my eye.

Friday, my birthday! I didn’t tell anyone on the trip because they had made a big deal out of someone else’s birthday earlier in the week. I just enjoyed the day and being on a grand adventure!

We drove up to the Presidential residence of Bessastaoir, the President of Iceland. It was a large home with farm type buildings out in the middle of open ground. There was a large pond and some geese.

I loved the drive to Lake Kleifarvatn and could see my character Hawke bringing a tracking class out to this moon-scape type surroundings to learn to look for tracks that weren’t there. It had large volcanic rises, sifting ashy dirt, minimal plants, but a beautiful lake.

On the southern end of the lake our noses crinkled. Hot springs, mud pots, and boiling pools of mud and water were just beyond the parking lot. The sulfurous steam that came up from the earth needed to be kept down wind. But the mud, steam, and sulfur made for colorful rock features. Here I had the idea of perhaps Hawke could discover a body half in one of the boiling mud pots. The upper half, making it hard to discover who the victim would be.

Our “relaxation” for the day was an hour in the Blue Lagoon. It was a spa or sorts with geothermal mineral water. We all brought our swimsuits and entered the waist high water. The silt of the minerals was so think you could only see a few inches into the water. I don’t know what the minerals were but it made my body float even more than usual. I could barely stay seated on the cement bench along the inside of the pool.

After the Blue Lagoon we drove to the Viking World Museum. Here we walked on the deck of Islendingur (the Icelander) a Viking replica ship finished in 1996 by shipbuilder Gunnar Marel Eggertsson. They used information gathered after the excavation of a ship in Norway in 1880. They believe the ship excavated had been built around 870. Using the same tools that would have been used in 870 Eggertsson and a crew built the ship. After it was built they sailed in it from Iceland to North America.

We returned to Reykjavik in the afternoon and met a specialist on the Icelandic language. He told us about how they are trying to preserve the language using more of a Norse language than other Norse countries and sticking to the odd characters in the spellings. He said many of the Norse languages these days are adding in English words and dropping some of the sounds that make the language so distinctive.

After the talk, while walking back to the hotel, I spotted a jewelry store and popped inside. A pair of earring that looked like ice caught my eye. I inquired what the price would be in dollars and purchased myself a birthday gift that will remind me of this wonderful birthday trip.

Dinner our last night was in the Harpa. A concert hall we’d been staring at every day from our hotel. After dinner and a delicious dessert of berry sorbet, a caramel nougat and berry cream slice on a nut crust, we attended a play. Icelandic Sagas: The Greatest Hits. It was a two person show that quickly ran through many of the Icelandic Sagas in a witty and hilarious depiction. I left the theater laughing until I realized I had to get up at 3:30 am to catch the bus to take me to the airport.

I’m so glad I took the chance to go on this trip. I enjoyed the other nine participants and made friends. And I traded emails with the guide so I can contact him when I need information for the book I plan to set in Iceland. I hope the Authors Guild can come up with another interesting trip next year. It could become a yearly trip for me.

Thank you for reading my blogs about my trip to Iceland. Keep checking in as I post about my jet boat trip up the Snake River and other adventures in pursuit of research for books.

Iceland Trip – part six

The harbor at Reykjavik

The Saga Circle. Today we learned more about Icelandic Sagas. I do have to say the Icelandic Settlement Centre in Borgarnes could have been left off the itinerary. While I enjoyed the artistic license taken by whoever made the scenes on the audio tour, the information was repetitive of what we’d already heard several times. And I don’t have any photos of the carved masks people made from bits and pieces of boards, and the wild-eyed berserk Egill, an Icelander who would have been titled a psychopath in this time period.

We moved on to Reykholt and the home of Snorri Sturluson, a significant chieftain, poet, and historian of the Middle Ages. Here Pastor Geir Waage told the group of Snorri’s life and how the Icelanders who were pagans slowly came around to becoming Christians, even if it was only in the public to keep the King of Norway from taking over the island. But eventually, the king did get the island when a civil war broke out and no one could come to a consensus. They asked the king to step in and help them straighten things out. This was in 1262. Snorri was dead. Killed at the hands of the king’s men after he’d befriended the king for years.

Pastor Waage was an interesting and eccentric man. He had a Hercule Poirot mustache, a dramatic flair, and when he pulled a small horn out of a pocket inside his jacket, I stared in awe as he unscrewed the top, poured two small mounds of black powder on his hand above where his thumb attached and continued talking. He replaced the horn, walked some more holding his hand in front of him with the small black mound. Then he paused, inhaled the powder into his nose, whipped out a colorful handkerchief and kept on talking as he wiped his nose and shoved the cloth back into his pocket. I’m naive enough I had to ask our guide what he’d sniffed. “Tobacco,” was his answer.

After the saga of Snorri, we drove further inland to Hraunfossar and Barnafossar waterfalls. (Fosser means falls) These were pretty, but there was a sad story that went along with the Branafosser falls. There was a land bridge across the river. A farm was on one side of the river and the church on the other. One day a mother and father left three children at the farm while they crossed the rocky precipice across the river to visit the church. When they returned the children were not home. They followed their tracks and discovered they ended at the rocky foot bridge. It was believed the children tried to follow their parents and ended up in the river. The parents knocked down the rocky foot bridge. But as I wandered around taking photos, I saw a smaller foot bridge low in the river bed. Could it have been that foot bridge?

After the waterfalls, we visited the most powerful hot spring in Europe, Deildartunguhver. There were Danger signs everywhere and our guide suggested we stay back unless one of the boiling spots should spit hot water. I noticed a young woman dressed in a flowing blue dress, posing. There was a photographer behind a bush. I call her my water nymph but I believe she was posing for an advertisement.

The event I’d been waiting for happened at the end of the day. We visited with Yrsa Siguroardottir crime fiction and children’s writer. I’d listened to the first two books of her Thora Gudmundsdottir series. It was fun hearing her talk about why she chose the occupation of lawyer for her character and how even though she’d made her character the opposite of herself, her life and moved in a direction that correlated with her character. Because I was the only member of the tour who wrote mystery, Yrsa and I started talking about writing mysteries. I was excited someone of her caliber was so open to talking with me. She said she looked forward to seeing me at Bouchercon.

Yrsa signing a book for one of my tour mates.

Later that night at dinner, one of the other members said she enjoyed listening to Yrsa and I talk about the genre we both loved. I went to bed Thursday night a very happy writer!

Iceland Trip- part five

Wednesday was an all day literary tour. We started at the Arni Magnusson Institute for Icelandic Studies at the University of Iceland. We viewed ancient manuscripts with the tales of how the island was found, populated, and traveled from democracy to being part of Denmark and back to democracy.

Specialist Gisli Sigurosson showed us the manuscripts and talked about Icelandic folklore and storytelling. How it had first been written down using calf skins and ink. And how the letters and writing were formed.

We walked to the Nordic Culture House for lunch and then joined two men at the Reykjavik City Library for the Dark Deeds Literary Walking Tour. The tour took place in the old downtown narrated with Icelandic crime fiction and ghost stories.

We started at the library with the story, “A Ghoul’s Greeting” from folktales collected by John Arnason.

City Library

From there we moved to the government building which was formally the jail. There an excerpt from “The Black Cliffs” by Gunnar Gunnarsson was read.

Old Jail

At the Culture House “The Saga of Grettir” translated by Bernard Scudder was read.

Briet Square (which I found odd because it was a circle) we heard an excerpt from “Drapa” by Gerdur Kristny and translation by Rory McTurk was read. This story was even more creepy after learning that the square was a memorial for a woman who had died in similar circumstances.

An excerpt of “Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was” by Sjon, translation by Victoria Cribb was read in the Parliament garden. It was a beautiful place for so dark a story.

And last a poem by Benedict Grondal, “To Bother” was read on the street beside his former home that is now a tourist site.

After “Dark Deeds” A literary Walking Tour, we walked back to the hotel and climbed on the bus to attend a cocktail reception in our honor at the Gunnarshus, a house given to the Writers’ Union of Iceland. The director of the union, an assistant, and two authors greeted us. We had wine or sparkling water, appetizers and talks by the two authors and discussions. It was interesting learning how writers in Iceland can put in for stipends to help them live while they write books. That is all but the crime fiction authors. It is felt by the union that because crime fiction novels are popular that the authors don’t need financial help. Yrsa Siguroardottir, who we met with the next day, had a different take on it. And not for her, but for the up and coming crime fiction writers.

The house was beautiful. It had been the house of a famous Icelandic author who started by writing in Danish to have a larger audience for his books. Upon his death the house went to the government who gave it to the Writers’ Union. They hold meetings, signings, and literary events at the house.

After the reception we returned to a nearby restaurant for dinner. It had been the easiest day on the trip and also the one that had my brain soaking in the most about writing and literature.

The next post will be about discovering the Icelandic Sagas.

Iceland Trip- part four

This will finish off day two of my trip to Iceland. This was the longest day of our tour. After Gullfoss waterfall, we hurried to Frioheimer a tomato greenhouse and horse farm.

The weather is not conducive to growing very many vegetables and no fruit because while they may have almost 23 hours of sunlight in the summer months the temperature never gets much above 65 degrees which makes it hard to grow much of anything. However they have learned to use the geothermal hot springs that are nearly all over the island to not only provide hot water and electricity for towns but it also works for greenhouses.

At Frioneimer greenhouse we learned how the hot water not only heats the greenhouses but also provides the water for the plants. The tomato plants are started in intervals to have tomatoes ripening all year round. The roots seedlings are started and then transplanted into long rectangular dirt pouches that are placed evenly spaced to allow for new plants to be placed in between them as the older ones start producing less. The plants are trained to grow up with strings. Bumble bees are used to pollinate the plants. They were flying around as we were instructed on how the greenhouse ran and we were able to look into a hive box.

The greenhouse grows salad tomatoes, cherry or grape tomatoes, and plum tomatoes. They also had flowers, a dining area, and served us bloody Marys as well as gave us samples of the tomatoes.

From the greenhouse we were given an exhibition of the Icelandic horse. These horses are less than 14 hands high but sturdy, like a small draft horse or haflinger. They were brought to the island by the Norsemen and have never been bred with any other horse breed, so they are a pure breed. The Icelanders are very proud of their horse. While there are only 350,000 people on the island, there are 80,000 horses. They are used for meat, by farmers to gather their sheep from the upper country in the fall, and ridden for pleasure. They also have competitions showing off the 5 gaits. These horses are said to be the only horse that has 5 gaits. They walk, trot, gallop and have a four-beat lateral ambling gait known as the tölt. And on the upper end of the gaits they have what is called a pace or “flying pace”.  This is fast and smooth, with some horses able to reach up to 30 miles per hour.

While the horse that was ridden to show us the gaits had some spunk and personality, the ones standing in stalls in the barns appeared asleep and aloof. Visiting the horses was nice. They were the perfect size and while they are sold all over the world, once a horse leaves the island they cannot return. The horses are not vaccinated because they never leave and don’t com in contact with diseases.

After the horses we traveled on to Skalholt, a Church of Iceland cathedral that had a role in the history and literature of Iceland.

After the church we arrived at Hveragerdi and the Skygeroin skyr factory. We watched a video about skyr, how it is a national food. We were served skyr in its natural state, I thought it had the consistency of cream cheese but was sour. Then they gave us a thinner version with sugar and strawberry. It was good! And a third with the same type of skyr but with a berry liquor and a blueberry. Then we had dinner and returned to REykjavik. Day two was finished. It was a long day. We’d visited and saw a lot and were excited for the next day.

That will be in my next post.