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.