Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 55 novels, eight novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements, 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 about the Western lifestyle, but she also lives it.
Thank you, George, for inviting me to your blog. The Pinch, book 5 in my Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series, was published on February 22nd. It is available for pre-order.
Dela Alvaro, a disabled veteran and head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino, is doing a security check for a casino on the Oregon Coast when a child is kidnapped and Dela’s friend is murdered.
The idea for this story has been in my head for many years. I usually plan two writing retreats a year at the Oregon Coast. I stay a week and get a lot of writing done because I’m not catering to the animals or my husband. There aren’t any chores, and I write, walk on the beach, and write more.
On one such trip, I was walking along the beach, enjoying the briny salt air and the mist of the fog and waves. I noticed an older man with a boy about four or five out at the water’s edge. The boy was splashing and digging with a plastic shovel. I continued walking and noticed a boat close to the shore, or closer than any I’d witnessed before. My gaze gravitated to rocks sticking up out of the waves a good thirty or more feet from where the water lapped at the beach. Watching the splashing waves and enjoying the moment, I thought I saw the head of a seal bobbing by the rocks. That seemed dangerous, but they are good swimmers. I continued on and eventually turned around, heading back to where I’d entered the beach.
The boat was gone, and the older man walked up to the hotel without the boy. I looked around and didn’t see him anywhere. That was where my imagination kicked in. By the time I was back at the place I was staying, I’d come up with a kidnapping, a premise, and how it would play out. My only problem is that I was writing romance books at the time, and I didn’t see how to use this in western romance.
However, the idea stayed with me, and when I started writing mysteries, I kept coming back to the idea, trying first to make it fit with my character in the Shandra Higheagle mysteries, but I didn’t see how I could make it work. Then, when I started writing the Gabriel Hawke novels, I thought, now, I can use that story. But even though I took Hawke to Iceland for a book, I couldn’t find a plausible reason for him to be on the Oregon Coast.
Then came the Spotted Pony Casino mystery series and Dela Alvaro, my disabled veteran who is head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. After four books where she has helped the FBI and Tribal Police track down killers, she has a reputation for running a tight security staff. She is invited to a Tribal casino on the Oregon Coast to help them tighten up security, and now I could finally see how my story and premise would play out.
When I decided now was the time to write the book, a friend and I went on a road trip to visit a casino on the Oregon Coast. I had planned to use that casino in the book. Still, when I started making fictional employees at the casino accomplices in the crime, I decided I needed a fictional casino. Then, my mind wasn’t tied to logistics anymore, either.
Even though I had visited the casino and talked to security staff, I kept running into things I hadn’t realized I’d need to know to write the story, and the emails I’d sent to the casino asking questions went unanswered. Having the epiphany to use a fictional casino as I do in the Spotted Pony Casino books freed up my mind to work on the kidnapping and murder rather than logistics.
This series points out the widespread danger that Indigenous people- mostly women, face. My main character lives with the fact that in high school, she left her best friend in a small town not far from the reservation because she didn’t want to leave when my character had to get back for basketball practice. She is found the next day murdered and sexually assaulted. In the first book where this character comes to life, Stolen Butterfly in my Gabriel Hawke novels, she helps find two women missing from the reservation and last seen at the casino.
In this book, she not only has to deal with a missing child but she is reunited with a best friend from her time in the military, only to have her murdered. One more slash to my character’s heart and one more spark to make her always find justice.
This book took a long time to come to fruition, but I believe it was worth it.
I published Christmas Chaos in October to give readers of my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series some closure. A short story with Dela and Heath characters in my Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series is available in the Windtree Press Whispers anthology.
Blurb / Long- Dela Alvaro, head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino, is asked to do a security check of a casino on the Oregon Coast. She no sooner starts her rounds at the casino than a child is kidnapped. The parents are a dubious couple. Special Agent Quinn Pierce of the FBI has been out to get the father for some time.
One of Dela’s best friends from the Army appears, and they catch up, only to find her friend strangled the next morning after having divulged to Dela she may have photos of the kidnapping.
As Dela struggles with the violent death of yet another best friend, her lover, Tribal Officer Heath Seaver, arrives, and the two begin untangling the lies, bribes, and murders.
In the end, as Heath carries the child to safety, Dela must face a cunning killer alone.
Blurb / Short – Dela Alvaro, a disabled veteran and head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino, is doing a security check for a casino on the Oregon Coast when a child is kidnapped and Dela’s friend is murdered.
Groups I belong to:
Crimescene writers loop
Sisters in Crime
20 Books 50
Book link for The Pinch – Universal book link- https://books2read.com/u/38Y787
Social Media Links –
TikTok – @authorpatyjager
Instagram – @patymjager
YouTube – @PatyJager
Facebook – Author Paty Jager
Twitter – @patyjag
website – https://www.patyjager.net
blogs – https://ladiesofmystery.com and https://writingintothesunset.net
Jennifer J. Chow writes cozies filled with hope and heritage. She is an Agatha, Anthony, and Lefty Award-nominated author. Her newest series is the Magical Fortune Cookie mysteries; the first book is Ill-Fated Fortune (February 2024). Jennifer’s previous series is the L.A. Night Market Mysteries. Death by Bubble Tea was reviewed by the New York Times, featured in Woman’s World, and hit the SoCal Indie Bestseller List.
Jennifer currently serves as Immediate Past President on the board of Sisters in Crime and blogs at chicksonthecase.com. She is an active member of Crime Writers of Color and Mystery Writers of America
Felicity Jin and her mother run a magical bakery in the quaint town of Pixie, California. Their life is charmed—until a prediction from one of Felicity’s handmade fortune cookies comes true in an unlucky, murderous way.
Researching the Fortune Cookie – Book research takes you down unexpected paths. When I first thought up my new series, I figured fortune cookies would be an excellent treat for my baker protagonist to make. I mean, what’s more Chinese American than a fortune cookie?
Turns out there’s a lot of interesting history (and some drama) behind the humble cookie. I’d grown up eating and serving a lot of fortune cookies. My family, after all, owned a Chinese restaurant. At the end of every meal, I’d be sure to bring a customer their check along with a free fortune cookie.
Little did I know then that in uncovering the convoluted history of the fortune cookie, I’d find Japanese roots. After online research and a thorough reading of Jennifer 8. Lee’s The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, I traced the cookie’s origin to tsujiura senbei. This wafer-like cookie from the Kyoto region of Japan also has an enclosed fortune, although it has a more savory flavor than the modern fortune cookie.
In America, California is definitely the birthplace of the fortune cookie, with entrepreneurs from San Francisco and Los Angeles claiming to be the original makers of the cookie. And around World War II, both Japanese and Chinese restaurants appeared to serve the treat. With the incarceration of Japanese Americans during that tumultuous period, though, the manufacturers of the cookies shifted. Chinese bakeries started making fortune cookies—and eventually developed a mechanized process to mass-produce them.
So, through my research, I learned that fortune cookies aren’t tied to my Chinese roots like I’d expected. I hint at this fact in Ill-Fated Fortune, the first in my Magical Fortune Cookie mysteries. However, they could be considered American—at least the sweet vanilla version. In the end, I guess that factoid accurately reflects my main character: Felicity Jin, the third generation in her family to live in the U.S.
Connect with Jennifer online and sign up for her newsletter at JenniferJChow.com
Ill-Fated Fortune released 2/20/24
Here’s a buy link: https://read.macmillan.com/lp/ill-fated-fortune/
FACEBOOK GROUPS (though I’m not really that active anymore):
Bruce Lewis graduated from California State University at Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. After completing the 36-week Copley Newspaper Training Program, working as a reporter for six California daily and weekly newspapers, he began a seven-year career as a general assignment reporter. During that period, he wrote over 5,000 stories and won six awards for best news and feature writing. He specialized in crime news, going undercover with cops and covering the courts, sheriffs, California Highway Patrol, and fire districts.
His post-retirement bucket list included writing one novel. That novel, Human Strays (published originally in November of 2021 under a different name and title), was intended to be his one and only. Like most writers, he got the fiction-writing bug. He wrote and published four novels in three years: 1-Angel of Mercy, 2-Human Strays, 3-Family Curse, 4-The Red Flock, and the novelette Love Storm. He is working on his fifth novel in the series, Bless Me, Father—For You Have Sinned.
After retiring and settling in Portland, Oregon, Bruce created a bucket list:
- Create a family genealogy (completed in 2020)
- Write a novel (completed in 2020)
- Kick the bucket (just joking)
“The idea for my first thriller, Human Strays, baked for a decade before I wrote it. The idea came from a pro bono project I took on to benefit the Mendocino Coast Humane Society (MCHS),” said Lewis. “One of my fellow Mendocino Rotarians, the chair of the Human Society Board of Directors, asked me to help promote The Ark, the Society’s thrift store, a major source of funds to support its mission. As president and co-founder of Lewis & Summers Public Relations (based in Lafayette, California), it was a natural extension of work I was already doing for a half dozen clients on the coast.”
Bruce toured the Humane Society to help plan his fundraising strategy to save and house stray cats and dogs. An hour later, Lewis was coming out of a supermarket in Fort Bragg, where a homeless man dug food scraps out of a trash can.
“Buy a sandwich,” I said, handing him five dollars. He looked at it, stuck it in his pocket, and continued his treasure hunt, swallowing a few ounces of leftover soda from someone’s fast-food lunch.
“That evening, it hit me: homeless humans are strays like the dogs and cats temporarily housed at the shelter. They sleep outdoors and scrounge for food to survive.”
The First Novel – Fast forward ten years to 2015, when Lewis retired: “My wife and I had moved to Portland, Oregon, where I began drafting Human Strays. The book’s theme is about veterinarian Jim Briggs’s effort to save a drug-addicted homeless woman by finding her a permanent home. If he could save one, Briggs figured he could save others.
Lewis said he wrote the book over two years, working primarily at Ovation, a busy coffee shop on the edge of Portland’s Field Park, under the Fremont Bridge.
“I’d walk a mile to the coffee shop with my laptop, write for an hour or two, then walk home. During these strolls, I thought of new characters, how to write scenes, and how to fix the organizational mess I created by using nifty author software to move chapters freely from one location to another. A steady diet of Moroccan Lattes and right-out-of-the-oven toasted coconut scones fueled my writing. The exercise walks didn’t hurt.”
“On any day at the coffee shop, I could be surrounded by a hubbub of cyclists getting their caffeine fix, women from a nearby yoga class gossiping about their lives, or a group of young mothers in hijabs giggling, and I could tune it out. That’s the beauty of being a newspaper crime reporter for seven years, turning out copy every day on deadline in a chaotic newsroom.”
Because of that experience, he says he can write for an hour, wash a load of clothes, eat lunch, read a book, and then come back and write more with no problem getting back into the story.
Writing What You Know – Human Strays is filled with unsheltered characters, primarily based on homeless people Lewis had observed on his daily walks, looking for ideas and photos for his blog, WalkingPDX. He often combined several homeless people he observed into a single character, careful not to make a person identifiable.
When he finished Human Strays, he pitched it to numerous agents and publishers before he found an independent publisher with more than 500 authors under contract.
Despite having written some 8,000 stories during his newspaper and public relations careers, he discovered he had much to learn about writing fiction when he turned in his manuscript. Six weeks later, the rejection letter said, ‘I’m sorry, we won’t be representing you. Our reviewer said the writing was good, but there was too much tell and too little show. It might be too much to fix. But good luck.’
“I laugh about it now,” said Lewis. “I had to Google show versus tell. I looked at some examples and rewrote the book in six weeks, adding about 20,000 words of show. The updated version of the manuscript was accepted two weeks after he re-submitted it.
The Writing Bug – Like most writers who publish a novel, Lewis got the fiction-writing bug. He wrote and published four novels in three years: 1-Angel of Mercy, 2-Human Strays, 3-Family Curse, 4-The Red Flock, and the romantic mystery Love Storm. He is currently working on his fifth novel in the series, Bless Me, Father—For You Have Sinned (Summer 2024).
Asked if he is a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of his pants) or a plotter (plots every chapter before starting), Lewis smiled and said, “I’m a plotting pantser.” I create a one-page outline—one chapter per line—and then write by the seat of my pants. I can visualize scenes and write them as if I were there. I believe that’s the result of covering hundreds of news events as a reporter.”
Asked how he could have a veterinarian as a protagonist in his books without having been one. “Easy,” he said. “I had dogs for 25 years, met many vets, and learned about dog care first-hand, including putting down our Beagle, Mac.” When in doubt, he visited the website of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Writing What You Know – “Of course, I make up stuff, but a good amount of my novels are sprinkled with lived experiences, like Veterinarian Jim Briggs saying goodbye to his dying mother in Human Strays:
Briggs leaned over and whispered to Susie, “I love you, Mom. I’ll miss you.” An instant later, her head flew off the pillow, her eyes bulging with terror, inches from Brigg’s face. He jumped back. Just as quickly, she lay back down, as inert as before.
Lewis confided, “This is just how it happened when I removed my Mom from life support on Mother’s Day 2004.
Bruce Lewis – Author
Joan Long is the author of the locked-room-style mystery THE FINALIST, which was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. She is a third-generation Floridian who earned a degree in English/Creative Writing from Florida State University and a graduate degree in Journalism and Communications from The University of Florida. She has written for universities, public television, healthcare corporations, a magazine, and more.
Joan was a finalist in a Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Mystery Novel Competition and was a short-listed finalist for a William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for Best Novel-in-Progress. Her short story “The Extra Ingredient” is published in the Anthony Award-winning anthology Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Absolutely! Joining writing associations is probably the best thing I’ve done for my writing career. I’m a member of Sisters in Crime and its Guppy chapter, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Authors Guild. Through these organizations, I continually learn the craft and business of writing. They also help me make connections with other authors. I’ve met some of my best friends through these groups.
How do you come up with character names? I use multiple sources—baby registries, online name generators, old phone books, and church directories. I try to begin each name with a different letter and vary the syllable lengths. As a reader, I find it confusing when character names are too similar. And because I want to be nice to audiobook narrators, my main characters’ names don’t end in s or th.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Outlining works best for me. I begin with a logline, followed by a brief synopsis and the outline. However, my outlines constantly change. They evolve as the story grows.
What kind of research do you do? Setting is an important element in my debut novel, The Finalist. Because the story takes place on a tropical island, I researched plants, flowers, local foods, charter boats, satellite radios, and—ahem!—how long it takes a person to dig a grave in sand.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I prefer fictional settings that are loosely based on real locations. Key Island—the fictional location of The Finalist—takes place on a private island in the Caribbean. My work-in-progress is set in Florida in a fictional community near the Gulf of Mexico. Obviously, I like to write about warm-weather places!
Do you have any advice for new writers? I recommend learning the craft and becoming active in a writing community. I also suggest keeping a “Happiness Journal” or something similar. Remembering the great things that happen can help on days when writing is a challenge. Did you receive a wonderful blurb or a five-star review? Did you find your book in a library? Has your word count increased? Whatever it is that made your day, write it down. One of my favorite moments happened when I was going up an escalator. A woman riding the down escalator recognized me and shouted, “I’m reading your book!” I smile every time I think about it.
Many thanks to George Cramer for inviting me to post on his blog.
My website is https://joanlongbooks.com.
Here is my buy info:
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-finalist-joan-long/1141005243
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-finalist/id1610738358
Lenore Hart is the author of eight novels and editor of the fantastic fiction anthology series The Night Bazaar. A Shirley Jackson Award finalist, she’s also published short stories in fantasy magazines and literary journals. She’s been a recipient of grants, awards, and writing fellowships from the NEA and arts organizations in Florida, Virginia, Ireland, and Germany. Her work has been featured on “Voice of America” radio and the PBS-TV series “Writer to Writer.” She teaches at The Ossabaw Island Writers Retreat. Her most recent release is The Night Bazaar London: Ten Tales of Forbidden Wishes and Dangerous Desires. (Northampton House Press, Dec.)
“A good horror has its place in literature.” – Thomas Hardy (Tess of the D’Urbervilles)
Mr. Hardy, how right you were. I write novels in horror and several other genres: historical, literary, contemporary, horror, and dark fantasy. I’m also the editor of a fantastic fiction anthology series called The Night Bazaar. Some writers consider it odd not to specialize, much less mix several genres in one work. I see no contradiction. Reality is certainly tinged with horror at times – from the personal sort to horrific events on the world stage. And, as a category, horror has been ubiquitous in both genre and literary works, including gothic works by 19th-century authors revered in the literary canon. The genre persists and travels well.
I began my writing career decades ago, tired of passive female characters in plots (mostly) conceived by men: warm bodies who said little and screamed much, hoping for rescue by a male protagonist. I first wrote gothic fiction to create the female heroes I’d wanted to read.
I expected this choice to be questioned, but hadn’t expected to be reviled or verbally abused. But one such encounter in the mid-1990s occurred at a crowded booksellers’ conference in Atlanta. I was talking to the owner of a regional press about my first novel, which was set in Florida, where he was based. “Oh, horror. I never read it. I wouldn’t tolerate it in my office. It’s not literature but despicable junk. Morally reprehensible,” he concluded, smirking at others in the booth.
I was suddenly conscious of the people around me, a silent, complicit audience to his contempt and intended shaming. I briefly doubted the wisdom of my choice.
But he’d said, I never read it. Then how could he intelligently judge? He wasn’t merely being sanctimonious but reveling in ignorance of the entire genre. Did he also consider Edgar Allan Poe’s works’ morally reprehensible’? Was Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, one of the purest examples of gothic fiction ever written, really ‘despicable junk’? If so, then Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, Sheridan Le Fanu, Ambrose Bierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Shirley Jackson must also be simply genre hacks posing as literati.
Is some genre work slipshod? Sure. As are some so-called ‘literary novels.’ I should’ve said, “Novels of horror, fantasy science fiction, or any other genre can be, and often are endowed with the same craftsmanship as ‘fine’ literature.” Over the years, this has remained the case in works by such writers as Vincent LaValle (The Changeling), Stephen Graham Jones (The Only Good Indians), and Jess Kidd (The Night Ship). But I was new to publishing back then, unsure of myself, and simply departed, fuming.
Reticence is no longer the default, though – for me or for horror. Several aspects of the new ascendance of the genre are thrilling. For one, it’s been widely recognized as not just worthy and legitimate but a desirable part of the literary conversation – as should’ve been the case all along. Also, delightful is the merging over the last few years of horror with some of my own lifelong interests – myths, folktales, and fairytales – in the currently popular subgenre of Folk Horror. Those themes are timeless. Every possible plot and character type inhabits these dreamlike, compelling, archetypal stories, whatever culture they originate from.
For human beings, it seems, a bit of fright is pleasurable. Aristotle claimed we could get fear out of our systems by indulging in it safely through the arts. This may be partly why horror’s popularity persists, but it’s more complicated. As children, we experienced fear and mystery daily, inhabiting a world we did not comprehend. One built to a larger scale than we could cope with, run by strange, sometimes threatening ogres called adults. We existed at the mercy of everything and everyone: the neighbor’s growling dog and needle-wielding nurses. The darkness in the closet and under the bed. Aware of our helplessness and the frequent, patronizing refusal of adults to help or even listen. No wonder children identify with the protagonists in scary stories!
I read at adult level by age nine, and my parents were not nearly as vigilant as those of today. Also, a Saturday afternoon horror double-feature was at a nearby rococo hole-in-the-wall called the Vogue Theater. Sometimes, I went with my little sister, at others with two boys from the neighborhood who were competing for my affection. I sat in the middle, and each held one of my hands while giant grasshoppers, leech women, or triffids loomed between the worn red velvet curtains.
At home, though, I read scary fiction in solitude. I craved the barely-glimpsed terrors of an ancient manor in a Poe story, the unseen but horribly perceived presence of ghosts in Shirley Jackson’s novels. Not the bloody, ham-handed slasher plots or the laughably obvious monsters in poorly crafted paperbacks. The stories that captivated me didn’t bludgeon their audience. Instead, they lulled the reader into a sense of safe but pleasurable anticipation, stretching taut nerves until they sang, then allowing one to emerge unscathed after savoring strong emotions and impossible fears without risk.
The most vivid, well-crafted chills have always been delivered by authors who mostly keep the horror just offstage, wisely understanding they could never create anything to outdo their readers’ personal ideas of ultimate terror. Often, they isolate the protagonist, physically or psychologically, much the way a child dwells alone in an oversized world, his warnings or cries falling on deaf ears. How much more satisfying it feels to get a handle on this fear later, after having already read and viewed it, experiencing intense dread for a limited time, yet emerging unscathed.
When I was nine, I liked being scared. Many decades later, I still do – by a well-crafted book or film. It’s cathartic. Far less frightening than the all-too-real threats of climate change, endless wars, and economic doom.
Horror fiction will endure, challenging us to safely consider the unthinkable, venture from our comfort zones, and challenge our preconceptions. There, we can confront and face down our greatest fears and yet survive. The horror authors will survive as well because readers will always need them.
I belong to the writers’ organizations below and, in some cases, serve on their boards:
The Connecticut Poetry Society
The European Writers Council
North Florida Writers
The Historical Novel Society
The Horror Writers Association
The Irish Copyright Licensing Agency (managerial board)
The Irish Writers Centre
The Irish Writers Union (executive board)
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
Society of Authors (Ireland)
Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (Fellow, member of Boxwood Collective)
Trade paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Night-Bazaar-London-Forbidden-Dangerous/dp/1950668223/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1703701296&refinements=p_27%3ALenore+Hart&s=books&sr=1-1
KOBO eBook: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-night-bazaar-london
INDIEBOUND/BOOKSHOP Trade paperback: https://bookshop.org/p/books/the-night-bazaar-london-ten-tales-of-forbidden-wishes-and-dangerous-desires-lenore-hart/20980323?ean=9781950668229