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!

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.

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!

Welcome to the Lillian’s Legacy Blog Tour and Giveaway!

Today, I’m sharing my blog with a friend and author, Carmen Peone.

Lillian’s Legacy is the final book in the Gardner Sibling Trilogy.

Lillian Gardner, a healer in the making using natural medicines, is certain she is the black sheep of the family. In an attempt to prove she is of value, she sets off into the wilds of Eastern Washington and Indian Territory with Doctor Mali Maddox, an elderly Welsh female physician whose husband has recently passed away. She hopes to marry her knowledge of herbal remedies learned from her mother and an Indian healer with new ways of western medicine. Will Lillian discover her true calling? Will she be respected as a female physician in training?

Book Launch Fun Facts:

Doctor Maddox introduces Lillian to an unusual medical instrument.

Have you ever listened to your heartbeat through a stethoscope? When I began researching Lillian’s Legacy, I knew the female Welsh medical doctor would not be using a binaural stethoscope in 1875. But I wasn’t sure what she would be using, so I did some research and came across… Read More Here

Carmen picked Maddox, or Madog, from her Welsh heritage for the female physician’s surname. The healer mentors Lillian as she finds her way around the medical field. Learn More Here

Learn more about the trilogy…

Hannah’s Journey

Delbert’s Weir

What are readers saying about Lillian’s Legacy?

“Ms Peone’s development of diverse and captivating characters adds depth to her writing and grabs the reader’s imagination in compelling and riveting ways.”

“I absolutely love the historical bits of the story because you are given a sense of what life was truly like back in those times.”

“I love this story. I would follow Lillian anywhere, into her next book if there is one. She is a sweet, brave, good-hearted, well-developed character. The writing is lively and detailed. I could see, hear, smell, and feel the land.”

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Lillian’s Legacy.

The winner will be draw on July 20th and can choose between a Kindle eBook or signed softcover copy.

Award-winning author Carmen Peone lives with her tribal husband, Joe, on the Colville Confederated Indian Reservation in Northeast Washington. She gathered cultural knowledge from family and elders and studied the language and various cultural traditions and legends under the late Marguerite Ensminger. She is a horse and photography enthusiast. With a degree in abnormal psychology, the thought of writing never entered her mind, until she married her husband and they moved to the reservation after college. She came to love the people and their heritage and desires to create a legacy for her family.

Lillian’s Legacy and the Gardner Siblings include a Literary Guide.

This is great for summer fun, homeschool learning,and historical knowledge in the classroom.

Find Out More Here

Purchase Lillian’s Legacy today on

Amazon

Add to Goodreads

Carmen loves to hear from readers. Follow her online at:

Website and Blog | Facebook | TwitterInstagram | Pinterest

Photos to Covers

I find the best feature on my cell phone is the camera. I usually have the phone with me every time I step outside or go on trips.

That means I always have a camera. I enjoy taking photographs of nature. A billowy cloud can have so many colors and textures in it that I want a photo. The blue of the sky can capture my attention. The way the grass is leaning in the wind. Dust swirling or hiding the hill across the valley. A lizard, snake, horse, cat, bird.

Taken at the Oregon Coast

I can find many things to photograph. Buildings, rocks, hills, fence posts. If I see something unique, I want to capture it.

When I go places to research settings for my books, I take a ton of pictures hoping one will work for a cover of the book. When I am researching, I also take along the camera featured at the beginning of the post. Using the photo I pick, my cover designer then places the added elements the story needs.

Waterfall in Maui

I used a photo I took while in Kauai, Hawaii for the cover of Abstract Casualty. We, my cover designer and I, are currently working on the cover for Capricious Demise. I’ve scanned through all my photos and have found a couple that might work and have given her some ideas of some that can be purchased.

My photo with bird added

On the Gabriel Hawke novel covers, we add the animal that is in the title of the book. And maybe take liberty of adding a trail sign that wasn’t in the photo but adds to the “story” the cover tells. This was Murder of Ravens. The cover for Mouse Trail Ends the cover designer took a photo of mouse prints in the dirt and added a backpack and mouse. Rattlesnake Brother is produced from two photos I purchased. The steps of a courthouse and a rattlesnake. My jet boat trip on the Snake River doing research for Chattering Blue Jay gave me many photos to choose from. Once I decided which one, my cover designer add a blue jay to the photo in a realistic way. And Fox Goes Hunting, the cover photo is a photo I took while in Iceland. It is of the Krysuvik boiling pools. I purchased a photo of an Arctic Fox that my cover designer inserted in the photo.

Sometimes finding the right cover art can be as much work as writing the book. Don’t be me started on coming up with a good title!

June Adventure

After visiting my dad on Father’s Day at the Senior Living Center in Wallowa County, (where my Gabriel Hawke Novels are set) I headed to the setting of the next Hawke book.

While riding with a State Police Trooper also working Fish and Wildlife when I had the Hawke novels in their conceptual stage, the trooper pointed out a site that had been deemed an accidental death, but he thought otherwise. After he explained the whole thing to me and I saw the spot, I agreed with him.

Griz Flat Camp area

Ever since that ride-along, I’ve known that would be the scene of one of the murders that Hawke would help solve.

So, on the sunny June Sunday, I made a 93 mile loop to get photos of the area and acquaint myself with the roads and area.

The drive from Enterprise, Oregon in the NE corner of the state is pretty just about any time of year, but this time of year… the greens, the wildflowers, the fields, it is a visual delight!

Flora, Oregon

From Enterprise, I went north and turned west onto the Flora Highway. Flora is a small community that was a town at one time. The remnants of businesses, the school, and houses can be seen among the buildings still in use.

After Flora, I traveled through farm land and started down the steep winding Redmond grade to reach the Grande Ronde River. I crossed the river and continued into Troy, OR. The small community has houses, a motel, store and other conveniences for fishermen and rafters. Troy is set at at the crook of the Grande Ronde and Wenaha Rivers.

A photo from Griz Flat road toward Troy.

After taking photos of the campground where the murder will take place, I headed back on another route that followed the Grand Ronde River for several miles. I took a photo of a group rafting. The colorful rafts caught my eye.

Rafts on the Grand Ronde River

Along the way I had to stop and wait for cattle to move off the road. I thought it was a funny coincidence that when I came upon the cattle with white and black faces a song by Sia, the singer who wears a white and black wig, was playing on my radio. That’s why I took the photos of the cattle. LOL

It was a great day. I captured the photos I needed for the book cover and saw what I needed to see to write the book. Now to sit down and make my suspect chart and start pushing around ideas for a title. On the way home I toyed with Fire Ant Bites- but I’m not completely sold on it. I’ll have to play some more with ideas.

The drive was 90% gravel roads, which didn’t matter, I’m used to driving those. I went slow and enjoyed the tall green grass, the wheat and hay fields and even some cattle on the road.