Writing What I Don’t Know

Many naysayers would say I have no right writing Native American characters. And I admit, I have had little contact with the culture or the people other than what I’ve read or the people I’ve sought out to help me try to make my characters believable and the world around them believable.

My first foray into writing Native American characters was my Spirit Trilogy that I wrote 15 years ago. It is a portrayal of the Chief Joseph band of the Nez Perce living in Wallowa County. The county where I grew up. Because I empathize with the tribes and feel they have all been wronged on so many levels, I strive to show their side of things and how strong a people they are. When I started to write these books, I contacted an, at that time, yahoo group of Native Americans and asked if there was anyone fro the Nez Perce tribe who would like to help me make my books historically accurate. I had two people respond. One was a young woman who would ask her grandmother my questions if she herself couldn’t answer them. The other was a man who said he was a descendant of Chief Joseph. I never asked for proof, but he was direct in answering my questions and I felt he gave me good information. I also read books written by McWhorter who lived among the Nez Perce, went to tribal websites and read their history, and toured the Nez Perce museums.

I did all of this to make sure I had portrayed the people, their culture, and their beliefs the best I could.

As I came up with the idea for my first mystery series, I wanted a character in the arts and I wanted one that would stay true to my need to show readers that Native Americans, First Americans, or Indigenous people, however you wish to call them, are people who have been wronged and who are still here and growing stronger. I feel it is their beliefs and culture that has kept them alive and now that many tribes are bringing back their language, their customs, and their beliefs, they are becoming stronger and wiser than the rest of us.

As so, I came up with a woman who is a potter who makes her own clay and was kept from her father’s family, her Nez Perce roots. In this way, I can have her slowly learn customs and attend events with the same interest and wonder I have as I encounter things in the culture. Placing her Nez Perce family on the Colville Reservation in Washington, I was able to learn a lot from another author, Carmen Peone, who lives there. She took me on a tour of the reservation. We talked to people, and she helped me when I had questions about customs, events, and how people would react to things. I feel making this connection is what helps to give my books more authenticity.

My Gabriel Hawke novels are set in Wallowa County. He is also a Native American character, but his background has him living in the Whiteman’s world since he turned 18 and he is now 55. He still clings to his culture and is slowly going to more events and visiting his mother at the Umatilla Reservation. I’ve toured the reservation, talked with people who live there and would like to make more connections with people who live there. I need to do a face-to-face visit with one of my contacts there for an upcoming Spotted Pony Casino book. I even had a short volley of emails with the tribal chief of police while I was figuring out how the tribal police worked in regard to the reservation and working with State, County, and the FBI law enforcement. And a person who worked security at the casino explained some of the ins and outs of that job. Then I made up my own casino and have it work similar but in a way that works for my character.

I also read contemporary books written by Native American writers to learn more about how the past and present are meshing together to keep the culture alive. And to learn how the Indigenous people of today are coping with life on and off of the reservations.

I attended the Wild Horse Casino Powwow this year.

Whenever you see me post that I am researching, I could be reading, I could be interviewing someone, or I could be on a trip to see a place I’m going to put in a book. But one thing, is certain, I know that no matter how much research I do, I can never write a true Indigenous character. I just hope I write enough about them and their lives that my readers learn to appreciate their culture even half as much as I do.

If anyone reading this is from the Umatilla or Nez Perce tribes, I would love to connect with you. I am looking for a beta reader to help me make my books better.

A New Project

I ended 2022 finishing book 10 in the Gabriel Hawke series. It has been assessed by my beta readers and critique partner, and I have fixed their suggestions and read through it making some sentences stronger and now it is off to my editor. When it gets back from there I’ll send it off to a final proofreader and then it will be available to read.

But now, I get to plan out the next Spotted Pony Casino book. This is book 4 in the series and it’s titled The Squeeze. The best thing about this series is knowing what the title will be when I start. That’s because when I came up with the series, I decided to use gambling terms for the titles. Not long after making that decision, I participated on an online workshop and they discussed titles and how readers like catchy phrases for titles. I was so thankful that my subconscious didn’t lead me astray!

So far I have the title, the premise, and have filled out my Suspect Chart. This is my chart that names the victim and the characters who will be suspects in the book. While I don’t plot out my story, I use the chart as my introduction – when the victim is found. Then as I bring each suspect into the book it moves the story along. And as Dela and Heath work to discover the reason behind the murder, they come across the clues and tick off each suspect as whether they did or didn’t kill the victim.

Since I’m not a plotter or an outliner, this method works for me. AS you can see, I’m still working on the chart.

I’m bringing back a couple of characters from a previous book who are nasty people, and I’ll be introducing my readers to new characters who may or may not be seen in future books.

I enjoy writing my character Dela Alvaro. She’s tough but not as all together as she has people thinking she is. I tossed in several pieces of backstory that keeps her off center as well. That’s the fun part of being a writer, you can mess with your character’s lives and then discover how they handle it as you write. Sometimes these obstacles may mimic a writer’s life and sometimes they are something that the writer just says, “What if?”

The secondary characters mainly just popped into my head as I wrote them. All except Special Agent Quinn Pierce. I put a lot of thought into him, thinking he would become Dela’s significant other, but then in book two, SURPRISE, my fingers wrote in Tribal Police Officer Heath Seaver and that he and Dela had a past. Not as fiery as her past with the Special Agent, but significant enough that by book three Heath moves into Dela’s house as a roommate.

If you want to learn more about the books, you can hop over to my website and read the blurbs and decide if you’d like to read it in print, ebook, or listen to the books in audio.

A Summary of 2022

I don’t like to look back. I’m a look forward type of person. But when I come to the end of a year and find myself a book and a half behind schedule, I feel the need to see why.

I started January 2022 with high hopes. I’d purchased a new, larger planner to help me keep things straight for writing, marketing, and promoting. HaHa. That lasted one and a half months. I found it too time consuming to try and write down what I would do each day to keep things up to date and moving along. I do like the larger squares to write what I’m did or am going to do each day on the month calendar but the daily pages, that I had hoped would keep me on track, I gave them up. So I spent a lot of money and only used a quarter of the large planner. Story of my life… This month the author co-op I belong to decided to do an anthology of mystery stories. I volunteered to head it up and edit. So I began working on a short story for that project.

A cornucopia of ten cozy mystery stories that are perpetrated during holidays from New Years to Christmas. This collection explores unexplained disturbances, college pranks gone wrong, and almost always one or more murders around a holiday. Solve these spooky crimes that lurk beneath celebratory parties and help search for the murderers. Kick off your shoes, grab a warm drink and snuggle into a blanket before you get lured onto the sparkling snow for the next crime spree.

A Body on the 13th Floor by Paty Jager
Dead Ladies Don’t Dance by Robin Weaver
Took Nothing Left Nothing by Pamela Cowan
Busted for Bones by Dari LaRoche
Yuletide Firebug by Kathy Coatney
Starry Night Murder by Mary Vine
The Twelfth Night Murder by Ann Chaney
Blue Christmas by Melissa Yi
Two Turtle Doves by Maggie Lynch
Five Golden Rings by Kimila Kay

https://books2read.com/u/b6zYgp

I took an Amazon Ads class in January to help me better understand how to promote my books there. It worked for a while. ( I am currently taking another class because some things changed since last January) I highly promoted my book that released in February, House Edge, book two in the Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series.

At the start of February, I worked with a person from Facebook ads trying to get a handle on those. I found that harder to do. I had to be at a computer and on my phone. I have limited cell phone service in places in my house. At least in February with my old phone I did. It was a frustrating call. This month was mostly about starting the next book and getting House Edge published.

March I sat in on a couple of webinars about project management and marketing and worked at writing the next book. I also took two granddaughters and a couple friends with me to Rockaway Beach. We had a fun time! Then I had to book signings. One in Enterprise, OR and one in Clarkston, WA.

April I started attending our oldest granddaughter’s track meets and going to Senior meetings since she was living with us and graduating in May. I also had been traveling the 5 hours one way once a month to see my dad in his senior living facility. So between track meets and that, April had me on the road a lot. This month, I traded my Subaru in for a Jeep Cherokee. I saw it when we were driving by a car dealership. It is Spitfire Orange and I loved the way the color made me happy! We had been talking about getting a vehicle that sat higher off the ground that the Subaru for a while.

May started out with the hope of spring and warmer weather. It continued to be cold. My dad turned 90 on May 16th, he fell on the 19th and passed within days. He’d been saying he didn’t understand why he was still here when he couldn’t do anything., His arthritis had gotten so bad he just sat in a chair most of the day. He is missed but in a better place. After that was our granddaughter’s graduation and I was off to Sumpter, OR with author Mary Vine for our annual selling of books at the Sumpter Flea Market Memorial weekend. We had an excellent number of sales.

My favorite month was June! Another granddaughter graduated from high school. Then my sister-in-law and I went on a research trip to Montana. You saw posts on this blog about what we saw and did while on our trip. We had a fun time checking out antique malls and thrift stores along the way.

Bison at the Bison range in Montana

The following month I attended the Wildhorse Casino Powwow at the Umatilla Reservation. It was for research and because I enjoy attending these events. Then I spent several days with my two besties. We talked, drank wine, and shopped thrift stores. Do you see a pattern here? I like to go to thrift stores to pick up red dresses for cheap. Then I send them to a woman who uses them for an outdoor living art project that depicts the MMIW struggle to be a force in finding missing and murdered Indigenous women, children and men from all across this continent. Because it is a cause that I believe in, I send her red dresses and I give proceeds from my book Stolen Butterfly to the movement. I also attended a one-day event to sell my books in Homedale, ID. To end the month, I attended my hubby’s 45th high school reunion. Teh end of this month, I also brought home my new dog, a chiweenie I named Nia. Earlier in the year while I was on a trip, hubby had to have our elderly chihuahua/miniature pinscher put to sleep. She’d had a bad seizure or heart attack. The vet didn’t know which. She’d given us a wonderful 16 years. I hadn’t planned to get another little dog until we no longer had my dad’s large boxer/border cross. But I saw Nia and fell in love!

Nia looking out the window.
In my Oktoberfest outfit.

August continued to bring us lot of dry hot days and nights. The crops had finally taken off, but the cold weather earlier in the year and made for almost half the usual tonnage of hay. Then we had a family reunion at Wallowa Lake and my dad’s military graveside service in Enterprise followed by a barbecue at the lake. I spent most of August writing and editing. The short stories for the anthology were due to me to edit, though several had already been sent to me and edited.

The month of September started with Mary and I setting up our booth at the Labor Day Sumpter Flea Market. We had another good turnout of people buying our books. Mid-month, I attended my first NIWA (Northwest Independent Writers Association) book selling event. It was at the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest. We were asked to wear Bavarian looking clothing. I purchased a women’s Bavarian dress. It was fun to dress up and hang out with authors from the group and my friend Kimila Kay. From there I went to the coast to vacation with my younger brother, his wife, and their two kids’ families. It was a fun time! Poor hubby was holding down the farm while I was away playing. He’s a good man!

October means the slowing down of farming as the weather cools and we hope for rain and moisture. I stayed home the first part of the month clacking the keyboard trying to catch up on my writing. Then Hubby and I spent a weekend in Virginia City and Lake Tahoe with his sister and her husband and friends. You can also read about that fun on this blog. 😉 Later in the month I had a book signing in Clarkston, WA.

Ahh…November. I had a one-day Facebook party to show off my new covers for the Halsey Brother series. I talked with readers and gave away prizes. It was a lot of fun. Then I wrote. I wanted to have the next Gabriel Hawke book finished before I left for another NIWA event, this time in Portland. I didn’t make that deadline. I attended three days of the Portland Holiday Market event, hanging out with Kimila some more and when I wasn’t at the market, I was writing on my book. I wanted it finished by December so I could concentrate on the holidays and our granddaughter’s wedding coming up on Dec. 27th.

Four days into December, I sent the book off to my critique partner and beta readers. Whew! Now I could concentrate on decorating, getting a Christmas Tree, and setting up my books at the local Christmas Jamboree. I sold more books there than I had thought I would. So it was a great day. And my daughter had a table beside me selling fudge she’d made and boxes of her organic Rural Roots pork.

While this is posting the day after the wedding, I wrote this post earlier. So I’ll have to give you an update on the wedding in my next post.

That is a roundup of my year. It had fun times, some unhappy times, and lots of family time. I hope to continue having more family time in the coming year. But to also keep putting out book. I hope whatever holiday you celebrate that it was wonderful, filled with family and friends and that you have a awesome 2023. See you next year!