More Adventure

While my sister-in-law and I were on the research road trip in Montana last month, we discovered a wonderful museum. Ninepipes Museum of early Montana History. The museum was fun and filled with both Flathead Indian history as well as information about the people who settled in Montana.

Ninepipes is a nonprofit museum built by Laurel and Bud Cheff Jr. You can wear headphones as you walk through the 11,000 square foot building. Bud Cheff is the voice you hear telling you about both the equipment and day to day items used by the settlers and the tribes of the area. Photos weren’t allowed. Otherwise, I would have them here for you to see the wonderful exhibits and displays.

There were so many items we went through the museum twice. The displays were nicely set up with easy to read signage.

Besides the museum with the exhibits there was also one large room with stuffed Montana animals and birds in their habitat. It was a unique site after looking at regalia, western wear, and saddles to step into a room of life-like wildlife.

Also in the building were beautiful items handcrafted by Native American artists. I fell in love with several items but since it was early in our trip, I refrained from going crazy and buying everything I would have liked. 😉

Outside, there was a buffalo wagon. It was built in 1906 so the U.S. Government could haul buffalo from Flathead Indian Reservation to make room for settlers. They hauled 700 buffalo to the railroad Ravalli to ship them to Canada. These wagons hauled the buffalo, one male, or two females or small bulls 30 miles to the railroad station in Ravalli, Montana. A crew of men were kept busy repairing the wagons.

Buffalo wagon

Before the museum we stopped at the St. Ignasius Catholic Church in St. Ignatius, Montana. The church was built in the 1890s on the Flathead Indian Reservation. It has 58 beautiful paintings that are made even more spectacular by the colors and detail work that surround them.

altar

The nod to the people who lived in the area first is seen in the two life sized paintings at the back of the church. They are Christ as an Indian Chief and the Lord’s Mother an Indian mother with a baby in a cradleboard.

The woman working in the gift shop at the mission answered my questions about Jocko Road, the next destination on our trip. I’ll have that adventure for you on another blog post.

Cool Off with a Book

With the warm weather of summer, you might be interested in reading a book where the characters are battling a snowstorm to help cool you down. Book #9 in the Gabriel Hawke novels, Owl’s Silent Strike, is now available in ebook and print and soon in audio.

This book was fun to write and took a bit of research. It is set in the Wallowa Mountains of NE Oregon in December. An early snowstorm hits the mountain as Hawke is helping his friend Dani travel up the mountain on horseback to retrieve her helicopter at the Lodge Resort she runs during summer and fall.

I had to read up on frostbite, do an experiment on blood drops in snow, learn about setting a facture, and my retired LEO explained some police procedures and protocol after reading the first draft, which meant I had to change three scenes. 😉 But that’s why I have beta readers. My daughter also had me changing up things in my scene where Hawke set Dani’s fractured leg. They both had excellent information that made the book better.

Then I had to contact a person who is my go-to for aircraft information. I wanted to know if Dani could still fly the helicopter with a broken leg and if the radio in the helicopter could be used to call for help. He was very informative and answered my questions with added information to make my character sound like a pilot. That is always a plus!

Here is the blurb, cover, and buy link if you are looking for a “cool” read this summer.

Unexpected snowstorm…

Unfortunate accident…

And a body…

What started out as a favor and a leisurely trip into the mountains, soon turns State Trooper Gabriel Hawke’s life upside down. The snowstorm they were trying to beat comes early, a horse accident breaks Dani Singer’s leg, and Hawke finds a body in the barn at Charlie’s Lodge.

Hawke sets Dani’s leg, then follows the bloody trail of a suspect trying to flee the snow-drifted mountains. Hawke is torn between getting the woman he loves medical care and knowing he can’t leave a possible killer on the mountain.

Before the killer is brought to justice, Dani and Hawke will put their relationship to the test and his job on the line.

https://books2read.com/u/bw19DG

I Love Powwow Music and Atmosphere

June was a full month and July is even fuller!

On July 2nd I attended the Wildhorse Powwow at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla outside of Pendleton Oregon. I had hoped to talk to three people I have been corresponding with at Umatilla via text, email, and phone.

One person was one of the emcees for the event. He was kept busy the five hours I spent at the event. Another one had been spending time with his family, and the other wasn’t attending the powwow until the next day. Since it had been a spur of the moment idea to attend, I hadn’t asked them ahead of time if they would be there. That’s on me.

beautiful beadwork on the regalia

When I arrived the vendor booths were just opening. I wandered among the booths ogling the pretty jewelry and I did go home with a pair of studs with various colors of stones. I also brought home a beautiful rain/wind proof jacket that was designed by a family from the Warm Springs. I had a nice chat with the gentleman selling the coats. I liked the bright colors, but it was the paint brush flower on the back that pulled me into the sale. That wildflower is my favorite.

I finished looking at the vendor booths and they had started a singing competition. The contestants could us a hand drum if they wished and could only sing two verses of a song. They sang in their language and then the translation in English. I thought some of the songs were prettier in their own language. There were two young boys about seven and eight who sang. The emcee kidded with them they were a bit young to be singing such a sad love song. The emcees with their witty comments and introductions were fun.

After the singing the dancing began, with first the flags and Grand Entry where all the dancers enter the dancing area. Wow! So many people and beautiful regalia!

The start of Grand Entry

While I like the traditional dances, my favorites are the women’s fancy dance where they dance with more energy and use a shawl like wings of a butterfly. These dresses and shawls are colorful.

Women’s Fancy Dance

I like the men’s chicken dance. This dance the men where elaborate regalia of feathers. They squat and bob their heads like a bird. Each has their own little movements that defines them individually.

I also like the jingle dancers. Their dresses have rows of cone shaped metal jingles that make noise as they dance.

Jingle Dancers

The dancing starts with the children and then the elders. It is wonderful to see families during the procession and when the children were dancing, many parents were by their sides to make them comfortable.

The men’s fancy dance is an array of flying colors! My video is not very good and I couldn’t figure out how to edit it. But here it is:

The beat of the drums feels like a heartbeat. I find the music soothing and enjoy it as much as the dancing. The comradery of the dancers, the grandmothers, mother, and fathers helping the young dancers with their regalia, and the overall feeling of joy and gratefulness that they are here and can dance as their ancestors is why I enjoy watching the dancing. And is one of the reasons I like to have Native American characters in my books. Their resiliency, adapting to technology but not losing their sense of self and their people, and their wit all show that they will be here long after many other cultures have been absorbed into a mix of many cultures.

Roaming

So far this month I’ve been to the Tamastslikt Museum outside of Pendleton, Oregon at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Then over to Orofino, ID and the Dwarshak Fish Hatchery and Dam. Then I went to the St. Ignasius Mission on the Flathead Indian Reservation. After that, I took photographs of the area around Salmon Lake in Montana, and then I spent several days with my cousin and her husband.

It’s good to be home but most of my travels had to do with making my Spotted Pony Casino mysteries and Gabriel Hawke books better.

I was on a research trip. Though a few of the things I researched aren’t for the book in progress.

At Tamastslikt Museum, I wandered through the exhibits, reading and trying to connect myself to the characters I write who live on this reservation. I enjoyed the videos that played at some of the exhibits. The voices of the people and their thoughts helped me to understand a little more about the Umatilla people. I’m slowly making more and more contacts there and reaching out to be able to portray my characters in a realistic way.

A display at the Tamastslikt Museum

At Orofino, I spent the night with my brother and sister-in-law. My brother works for Dwarshak Fish Hatchery. They were getting ready for a ceremony at the hatchery that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland attended. While there we took a walk up to the dam. I visited when there had been a lot of rain and the Clearwater River was running over its banks.

normally 1700 cubic ft of water per second comes out- this was 25,000 cubic ft per second

My sister-in-law (SIL) and I drove to Missoula, Montana where we had an Airbnb for two nights. The next day we drove north to check out the St. Ignasius Mission and the Flathead Reservation. While investigating the routes we would take, I noticed a gravel road that went from Highway 93 to Highway 83, near Salmon Lake that I also wanted to check out. At the church we asked the volunteer guide if she knew anything about the road. She said it was navigable and it would be a pretty drive.

She was correct! The drive was gorgeous through timber, brush, and many overflowing streams and waterfalls. The best part of the drive was seeing a black bear not thirty feet from the road. My SIL rolled down her window and talked to him while taking pictures.

By the time we reached Salmon Lake we had traveled through rain and snow and it was raining. We circled back on the highways to our Airbnb. The following morning we took the highway back to Salmon Lake and with overcast skies and no rain, I took photos of the Island Resort that will be a setting in my next Gabriel Hawke book. I had wanted to get on the island, but I couldn’t as only guests (and I couldn’t afford the price for a night) were allowed. I tried to talk to one of the staff who arrived at the boat house on the land side of the resort, but he blew me off. I took photos from the boat house and then a road up higher and more north on the highway to get as many angles of the island and the resort as I could. There was a smaller island not far from the resort island that may play into the story as well. I’m hoping the scenario I had in mind for the beginning of the book will work once I do a little more research.

Island Resort

Once I had all the photos I wanted, we continued north and spent two nights with a cousin in Lakeside, MT on the north end of Flathead Lake. Our second day there, our hosts took us to the National Bison Range. There we saw deer, elk, antelope, bison, and grizzly bears. We spent the most time watching a young sow grizzly grubbing. She was up a hill from the road where we had spotted her. She rolled a piece of log to get the bugs underneath and the hunk of wood that appeared to be about two feet around and three feet long tumbled down the hill, jumping and rolling! It was a fun thing to see. Up around a corner of the road we were on, there was an even younger grizzly, also grubbing, in a more hidden spot.

Young Grizzly sow

I would say my research trip was very successful. Now I need to get the Spotted Pony Casino book I’m writing finished so I can start on the Hawke book set in Montana!

Stay tuned as I will be going more in depth in several of the places we visited on this trip in future blog posts. I wanted to get something up as I am late this month with this post.

My Current Writing Project & Road Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George

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

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

Fun with Fishes

At the end of March, I had two book signings which led me to Orofino, Idaho where my younger brother and his wife live. My brother works for the Dworshak Fish Hatchery.

He was on call for the weekend and asked us if we wanted to go with him on his evening rounds.  I’m always up for a visit to the large facility. There are so many interesting places a person could lurk should he or she have murder on their mind. 😉 And there are some interesting tools that would also make for an interesting murder method, but I digress…

Following my brother along, he told us what each building housed and why it was important to the whole hatchery process. You can go to this hatchery during the day and get a tour of the facilities. It is fascinating.

My brother had to check the temperature of the water in the egg hatching room. He pulled one of the trays out and I tried to get a photo of the hatching eggs.

Then we moved on and he checked the water in the tanks that held over 30,000 one-inch-long baby salmon in each tank. Moving by all of those tanks there were tanks with week-old salmon that would soon be put in the outside holding tanks to grow until they were old enough to be let loose to make their way to the ocean.

The startling thing is that my brother said only 1 percent of the hatchlings make it to the ocean because of predators. Cormorants and seagulls were already congregating along the Clearwater River in anticipation of the salmon being released in the next week or two.  And lower downriver on their journey, the seals and otters await their arrival into the ocean.

The money and knowledge that goes into hatching out so many fish seem futile when you learn that only 1 percent of them will even make it to the ocean. And then they have to make the trip back up the rivers to spawn and start the process all over again.

I guess it is nature’s way of saying, “Never give up.”

House Edge Released

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

March 2 – Lady Hawkeye

March 2 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

March 3 – I Read What You Write 

March 3 – MJB Reviewers 

March 4 – FUONLYKNEW 

March 5 – Celticlady’s Reviews 

March 6 – Brooke Blogs 

March 7 – Literary Gold 

March 8 – Mysteries with Character 

March 9 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews 

March 10 – Nellie’s Book Nook 

March 11 – Baroness Book Trove 

March 12 – Maureen’s Musings 

March 13 – Girl with Pen 

March 14 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews 

March 15 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book 

Zealous Environmentalists

Greedy Power Companies

…and a body

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

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

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

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

Research is Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!