Many years ago, after years of reading mystery books, I decided to try my hand and brain at writing a mystery. I didn’t have a clue how a book was put together. I just knew what I liked to read and after a friend, figuratively, stabbed me in the back, I used my thoughts of murder to kill her off in a mystery novel.
Shortly after I’d crafted the first mystery on an electric typewriter, my children’s grade school added a computer lab. They were looking for parent volunteers to help with the classes. I was the first to volunteer and between the school classes the computer instructor gave me lessons on using a computer. Before long I had my own computer and was blissfully writing and making much easier edits to not only the first murder mystery, but because I was still fuming mad at the person who’d wronged not only me but my family, her family, and another friend of mine, I killed her off in a second mystery. (If you learn nothing else about me today, you have learned I carry a grudge a long time.)
But as I wrote these books I was constantly looking for help with the craft of writing and the craft of writing a mystery. I purchased books and tried, without any luck, to join mystery groups. Back in the 1980’s there weren’t as many online groups and many establish organizations were still dithering on whether or not to jump on the computer band wagon. Everywhere I tried to get into a mystery group I was ignored.
Feeling a bit discouraged and having read all the mystery books in the local library, I turned to reading and writing historical western romance. At a writer’s workshop, I was connected with RWA (Romance Writers of America). They welcomed me with open arms and through their groups, workshops, and conferences I learned craft- plotting, character arcs, goals, motivation, and conflict. I wrote and published historical and contemporary westerns and a Native American historical romance trilogy with a small press and eventually went out on my own self-publishing.
It was after I tackled self-publishing and drifted into online mystery writing groups that I decided to get back to my first reading love–mystery. Keeping with my cowboy and Indian branding, I came up with a half Native American female sleuth who helps solve mysteries through dreams brought to her by her deceased grandmother.
The setting is a small ski resort village in Northern Idaho. While I based the county police and the county after similar ones in Idaho, I made a fictional county, placing towns where I wanted them and making up Huckleberry Ski Resort and village. This is the small community where Shandra Higheagle’s friends live and work. She owns a ranch on Huckleberry Mountain where she digs the clay she uses in her pottery. As a world class potter, she travels to give classes and to participate in symposiums and art shows.
I currently released book 7 of the Shandra Higheagle Mystery series. Yuletide Slaying involves Shandra’s dog and gives glimpse at her tight-knit group of friends in Huckleberry. When I started this series, I had ideas for 6 books. As I write each book, something will pop up in one of the characters’ background that gives me yet another idea for a book. At this point I have ideas for a dozen books.
My daughter told me to be sure and stop the series before it gets stale. What do you think? Is there a time when a series gets stale? Is it because it reads like the author doesn’t care anymore or because you are tired of the characters?
Leave a comment by the end of Friday, November 18th and I’ll pick one person to win an ebook copy of Yuletide Slaying.
Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western historical romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award, an EPPIE Award, and a Lorie Award. Her mystery, Double Duplicity, was a finalist in the Chanticleer Mayhem and Mystery Award and a runner-up in the RONE Award Mystery category. This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”
All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
You can learn more about Paty and her books at her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.
Paty Jager says
L.D. Masterson, you are the WINNER!!
Maggie Lynch says
I LOVE your mysteries! But then I love all of your books. I doubt Shandra Higheagle mysteries will become stale because you write strong, realistic characters. By keeping the relationship good it is almost like writing a second series with the hero and heroine solving mysteries together. Who knows, maybe they’ll have kids and then the kids will start solving mysteries. 🙂
Paty Jager says
Hi Maggie! Thanks for your kind words about my books! I like the idea this mystery won’t get stale. I love writing them.
Hi Paty! May years ago I heard Diane Mott Davidson at a conference describe a bad experience with an annoying clerk who gave her a hard time. We knew exactly what she meant when she said she looked at the guy and thought, “You are so dead.”
As a reader, I also have trouble staying with mystery series that go on too long. These days I tend to read more standalones than series, and my writing has gone that way as well. My own “series” lasted for only two books, and I like that just fine. 😀
Paty Jager says
That’s funny about Diane Mott Davidson! I think a series stays fresh if the writer isn’t bored with it.
Thank you for having me!
LD Masterson says
I wonder how many mystery writers got their start because they had someone they wanted to kill off. I think if a series goes long enough, the author can run into the problem of working key character/relationship information from the earlier books into the latest one. Or an unresolved relationship issue can get old. I loved Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books but stopped reading them because of the ongoing Joe verses Ranger.
Paty Jager says
Having met many writers, I would say half started writing to get rid of an irritating person. LOL That’s what I hope to avoid. I’ve made enough situations where Shandra can move around and not always be solving a murder in her community. She will be monogamous with her relationship with the detective. I know what you are saying about Joe and Ranger. I gave up on that series about halfway because I was frustrated with her indecision. Thanks for stopping in and commenting.
Alex J. Cavanaugh says
Seven books in the series – congratulations!
Shame you were ignored by the mystery groups early on.
A series gets stale when the author’s writing grows stale or the stories begin to repeat. Or they become frustratingly never-ending. (Wheel of Time anyone?)
Paty Jager says
Hi Alex, Thank you! This is a fun series to write. In a way they did me a favor. I would never have learned as much from them as I have from RWA and all the writer’s I’m friends with. So far I love this series, but I am going to be cautious about keeping it fresh or ending it so it doesn’t become never-ending. Thanks for commenting!