PATY JAGER – Brings Westerns and Native American Stories

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.

Recent Projects

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
Niwa
Alli
Author’s Guild
20 Books 50
Links
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

10 Comments

  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Wow, George and Paty, this was a great post. It’s reassuring to know that the spark of an idea can last that long. It’s inspirational, really. Thanks, and best of luck with your launch of THE PINCH, Paty.

    Reply
    • Paty Jager

      Pamela, thank you! Yes, it was an idea that hung in there until the right book came along. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

      Reply
  2. Carl Vonderau

    It’s amazing where the stories come from. Your fiction writing mind is always at work. The books sounds great.

    Reply
    • Paty Jager

      Carl, Thank you. Yes, I have an active imagination and it keeps stories coming at me faster than I can write them.

      Reply
  3. Peg Roche

    Looking forward to reading “The Pinch”. I can picture the setting and am interested in your lead character. Those twice a year retreats sound like a great idea! Good luck with this new book. Thanks for the introduction, George!

    Reply
    • Paty Jager

      Peg, Thank you for stopping in and commenting. I do enjoy my retreats and get a lot accomplished when I’m there.

      Reply
  4. Kathleen Kaska

    I enjoyed reading about your latest mystery. You are such a prolific writer!

    Reply
    • Paty Jager

      Hi Kathleen, Thank you! I have fun coming up with the premises and hopefully enlightening people as well as entertaining them.

      Reply
  5. Michael A. Black

    Sounds like you use your powers of observation to come up with new plots, which is really neat. Your series sounds fascinating, but I have to ask…. did you ever find out what happened to the little boy? Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Paty Jager

      Hi Michael, No. I never knew what happened to the little boy. I never saw the older man again either. It is one of those mysteries that will rattle around in head and help me to come up with other scenarios for books.

      Reply

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DAVID POYER – Naval Officer – Adventurer – Author

Nearly fifty of David Poyer’s novels and nonfiction are in print with major publishers. He’s also published oral history, travel, biographical nonfiction, and collaborated on memoirs.  He’s been translated into Japanese, Dutch, Italian, Hungarian, and Serbo-Croatian, and rights have been sold for films. Writers he’s mentored have been taken on by major literary agencies, published by major houses, appeared on New York Times Top Ten bestseller lists, won the International Latino Book award and other prizes, and become college teachers. He currently teaches at the Ossabaw Island Writers’ Retreat.

His latest, The Academy, was published by St. Martin’s/Macmillan in December.

“The Academy, a profoundly human story, is a captivating and fitting finale to the Lenson series from David Poyer, a master in modern naval fiction.” – Quarterdeck Magazine.

“This long-running naval series continues full-steam ahead. . . [Poyer generates] top-notch suspense.” – Publishers Weekly

“The Lenson series is an intriguing alternate history saga […] Fans of the long-running series—will be well pleased.” – Booklist

David Poyer is set to captivate readers once again with THE ACADEMY, just published by St. Martin’s/Macmillan. Known for his gripping military fiction, Poyer brings to life a tale of courage, honor, and the complexities of life within the hallowed halls of a military academy. With high ethical stakes and a suspenseful past-and-present narrative, it’s Poyer’s capstone novel in the Dan Lenson series.

In his final tour of duty after a harrowing career at sea, Lenson is appointed Superintendent of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis. He begins at a difficult time: Congress is cutting military budgets in the wake of a devastating world war, calls for radical reform are upending traditions, and Dan himself faces legal jeopardy for his actions during the war. And when a Category 5 hurricane threatens to overwhelm the coast, Dan must fight to rescue the Academy itself.

Parallel to this narrative runs the dramatic story of Dan’s years as a first-class mid, many years before. A plebe he coaches commits suicide, and Dan is drawn into the investigation. The decisions he makes will shape how he comes to lead troops in battle and at peace.

What brought you to writing? I’m four years old, sitting on the porch with my mother. She’s reading to me, which she did a lot, and I’m grateful! But her stock answer for my questions, and I was full of questions in those days, was “God made it.”

Where did the moon come from? “God made it.” The sky? “God made it.” I ask her, then, “Where do books come from?” And she says – a sentence that changes my life – “Writers write them.”

I realized what I was here for.

Now, I didn’t start right away. I felt I had to go out, live, and see the world. In 1976, I was in the Navy when an accident dictated several months of leave in a cast to my waist. So I bought a desk and a typewriter and tried to write 50 to 60,000 words and have them all be different.

The result was The Hill, a YA novel about cross-country running and a small-town scandal. No one’s ever read it, though I’m thinking about publishing a limited edition. Maybe next year?

Tell us about your writing process. I believe waiting for inspiration is unfruitful and frustrating and a self-limiting strategy for a career novelist.

A group of contractors reports to a building site. Do they stand around waiting for inspiration as to what they will build? No. They have blueprints, lists of materials, timelines, and milestones. They may change a partition wall here and there, beef up a structure, or adjust to a new zoning regulation. But in general, they know where they’re going. They can work with a minimum of stress and uncertainty.

I operate the same way. My outlines run 10 to 15 single-spaced pages, organized by chapter. That charts my course, though I’m still free. When inspiration does strike, I’ll follow. But I modify the outline as I go. This synopsis becomes a sales tool for film rights or, sequels, or promotion.

How long did it take to write your first book? How long to get it published? As I said, I didn’t send out the first manuscript. The second, White Continent, is speculative fiction about a group establishing a technologically advanced colony in Antarctica. They declare independence and then have to defend themselves. It’s a Utopia, an Erewhon. I sent it out fifteen times and got it back fifteen times. So I put it away and started on another.

But if you persist, the Universe gives up on discouraging you. A newspaper editor persuaded me to pull the manuscript out and send it to a friend at Lippincott. Lippincott didn’t like it, but my editor’s friend’s secretary read the first page while it was in the mail room getting boxed up to go out. She liked that page, so she stole it and took it home. Read it and made her boyfriend read it the next time he came over. As luck would have it, he was an agent. He sold it to the first publisher he sent it to.

Do you ever kill a popular character? I have, though not without soul-searching. One of my recurring characters in the Dan Lenson books is SEAL Master Chief Teddy Oberg. He’s captured in a raid, tortured, sent to a horrific POW camp in Xinjiang, escapes, and leads a Uighur rebellion in Western China.

Over several volumes in my War with China arc, Oberg grew steadily darker. Eventually, in Violent Peace, he had to be terminated with extreme prejudice by a CIA agent, Andres Korzenowski. (A bow to Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad’s real name was Korzienowski.)  Some readers saw this coming. Others, who identified with Teddy as a fighter and overlooked his misogyny and ruthlessness, protested. But an author has to be true to the fact: governments feel no sense of loyalty when their tools outlive their usefulness.

Where do you place your settings – real or fictional locations? Saul Bellow says each writer has an “arcanum,” a milieu in which they can set any story. Mine is the Navy, the sea, and diving, with a sideline in Pennsylvania, where I grew up.

The Lenson novels are the most popular. The 22 books trace Dan’s arc as he begins in The Circle as an ensign and ends – in the final volume – as Superintendent of the US Naval Academy, a vice-admiral facing retirement.

The Hemlock County novels deal with the struggle of the people against the greed that’s historically plagued the Northern Appalachians: extractive industries, organized crime, and governmental corruption.

The Tiller Galloway novels are about a black sheep diver. Tiller joined the Coast Guard, served in Vietnam, then got tangled up with a cartel and went to prison. As an ex-con, he tries to make a living as a dive boat and salvage captain.

The Whiteness of the Whale and Ghosting are sailing novels set on the high seas.

So you can see how the settings of my books have reflected my arcanum!

Do you have any advice for new writers? This spring, I pulled together a group of articles and talks I’d published over the years. I rewrote and ordered them into chapters. Writing in the Age of AI came out from Northampton House Press in July. It explains how I approach writing how the process can be made easier, and advises writers on the best ways to deal with AI technology. Everything I know about writing is in that book!

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Finishing the Lenson series feels like retiring from the Navy, which I did after 30 years of active and reserve service. Like retiring from university teaching, which I did for 16 years. But I’m not going to stop writing. A day without writing feels like a day not fully lived.

There might be another Galloway. I may have one more sailing book. A memoir? Maybe. Right now, I’m taking a year off to mull things over. Digitize my photographs, overhaul the boat, and we’ll see what comes next.

Perhaps this account will inspire a few fans of your blog. I hope they’ll also pick up The Academy and enjoy the concluding – and, I hope, satisfying – chapter in Dan Lenson’s long, star-crossed career!

GROUPS:
Naval Academy Alumni Association,
Shipmate Magazine,
Authors Guild,
Surface Navy Association,
American Society of Naval Engineers,
Civilian Marksmanship Program,
Ossabaw Writers Retreat,
Writers Conference of Northern Appalachia,
Kevin Anderson Associates,
Eastern Shore of Virginia Public Library board,
Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Buy link: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250273086/theacademy

Contact: https://www.facebook.com/DavidPoyerBooks/

 

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    Your books sound fascinating , as does your life. Thank you for your service and good luck with your writing.

    Reply

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MICHAEL J. BARRINGTON – Whatever Happened to Punctuation?

Michael was born in Manchester, England. He lived in France and joined a French Order of Missionary priests. He spent ten years in West Africa, several of them during a civil war when he was stood up to be shot. He spent a year living as a hermit in Northern Ireland, was a teacher in Madrid, Spain, and as part of the British ‘brain drain’ taught at the Univ of Puerto Rico.

The owner of MJB Consultants, he flew all over the world monitoring and evaluating humanitarian projects and has worked in more than thirty countries. He is fluent in several languages, an avid golfer, and academically considers himself over-engineered, having three Masters’ Degrees and a Ph.D. On his bucket list is to pilot a helicopter, become fluent in Arabic, and spend a week’s retreat at Tamanrasset in the Sahara Desert.

Michael lives with his French wife, who designs and paints the covers of his books, and a Tibetan terrier in Clayton, California.

 I have just finished reading my third novel by Sally Rooney, followed by Cormac McCarthy’s latest,  Stella Maris, and I’d like to report the speech marks are missing! Punctuation goes in and out of fashion, and the marking of text with inverted commas to signify direct speech seems, in the current moment, is decidedly going out of fashion.

Cormac McCarthy called punctuation, “Weird little marks. I believe in periods, in capitals, in the occasional comma, and that’s it.” Since this was his first novel after a 16-year hiatus, I started reading it because I was intrigued by the subject matter, dedicated solely to a dialogue between two people, a woman who self-committed to a mental institution and a psychiatrist. It was a disaster. After twelve pages, I’d had enough and just couldn’t handle page after page with no italics. However, I was sufficiently intrigued to purchase the audiobook. And oh, my goodness, what a difference. I didn’t want to stop listening. I was enthralled by the female and male voices that gave color and texture to a dynamic, intriguing, and labyrinthine script.

But with Sally Rooney, not so. Why she has chosen to use this technique in her novels, only she can say. I found it gimmicky at best since her lack of italics didn’t enhance the flow of the story or blend with the rest of the text. But a greater irritant for me was her use in all three novels of another technique, the way she attributes the spoken word. No writer wants their characters to become disembodied, but attribution, clarifying for the reader who’s saying what, is key to maintaining good order in dialogue. It sustains the novel’s pace and orients and relieves the reader from unnecessary guesswork. As writers we shouldn’t have to send the reader window-shopping in search of a speaker to “assign” the script to! Distractions of that sort break the spell of the interactive flow, and are really an earmark of the inexperienced writer.

I’m speaking here, of course, of “she said” and “he said” the most common attributions, and their host of variants. When it’s evident who’s talking, the reader can readily do without them. Often enough, in a brisk exchange between two people once the talk gets rolling, it takes nothing more than a paragraph change, the customary tool for differentiating speakers, to make clear to the reader who’s saying what. Repeated attributions can serve to heighten the intent of the exchange two people are having. Beginning writers in particular are prone to suppose that “she said” and “he said” become too humdrum, are used too frequently, and need to be replaced by such alternatives as “she replied,” “he explained,” “he responded,” “she murmured,” “she protested,” and so on… all of which, when used judiciously, are useful.

Repeated indications as to who’s doing the talking can also be used for dramatic effect. And this is where Sally Rooney drives me crazy. A creative writing teacher advised, not to labor too much about attributions, “Go ahead and use “she said” and “he said” with little fear of over-use! They soon enough become mere transparencies for the reader, barely noted in passing as the reading proceeds.” If this is the case, why does it irritate and distract me from the story line making me want to stop reading? In Rooney’s Normal People on just one page I counted thirteen times her use of “he said, she said.”

An additional curiosity is Rooney’s point of view as she described her characters. In Beautiful World Where Are You much of its tension comes from the disconnect between the spare prose of the third-person sections, (I can’t remember seeing a semi colon in any of her books) with sometimes one paragraph filling an entire page, and the rambling soliloquies of the emails. Once they have been named, she ghosts her characters through page after page by simply referring to them as ‘she’ and ‘he,’ and given that she rarely fully develops them, I found it annoying and my attention flagging.

But there is a reason her books are bestsellers. In addition to her famous sex scenes, described as “the best in modern literary fiction,” she captures with unembellished, often plaintive prose, the angst of her millennium audience, albeit, her sometimes meandering chapters while reflecting the time and milieu, can be perplexing to those of us north of 40. But be that as it may, I still need my punctuation.

Michael’s latest book is No Room for Heroes: A novel of the French Resistance 1942-44.

Contact: majb7016@gmail.com

Books on website: www.mbwriter.net

3 Comments

  1. Harlan Hague

    Enjoyed the post and will welcome a discussion about the topic one of these days.

    Reply
  2. Mihael A. Black

    I totally agree. I refuse to read McCarthy’s books for exactly the reason you listed. I haven’t thought about an audio version, but I think I’ll pass. I remember struggling to get used to the James Joyce’s use of a dash instead of quotation marks in Dubliners. And what about the current “woke” trend of using the plural pronoun “they” in place of “he” or “she?’ It makes my blood boil. Writers like McCarthy corrupt the language by not following the basic rules of grammar, not that these rule can’t occasionally be ignored. Faulkner did the same thing in the long version of “The Bear,” but given his proclivity to tip the bottle, this was probably not totally intentional. Anyway, thank you for an entertaining and thoughtful blog posting. Good luck with your writing.

    Reply
  3. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    This post got me thinking, Michael. Very thought-provoking. Thank you.

    Reply

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JAMES L’ETOILE – Write What You Know—While You Can

James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his award-winning novels, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, and director of California’s state parole system. His novels have been shortlisted or awarded the Lefty, Anthony, Silver Falchion, and the Public Safety Writers Award.

Face of Greed is his most recent novel. Look for Served Cold and River of Lies, coming in 2024. You can find out more at www.jamesletoile.com

 There’s this old saw in literary circles that authors should write what they know. I don’t necessarily agree with that guidance because I often find it more interesting to write about what I want to know. If I’m interested, then maybe the reader will be as well.

But there was a piece of that advice that stuck with me as I wrote Face of Greed. Write what you know, but write it while you can. There is a plotline in the book dealing with the main character’s mother, who is struggling with the ravages of cognitive decline—dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Detective Emily Hunter is a hard-charging investigator working to solve a complex murder of a political powerbroker who has to balance that demanding job with acting as a caretaker for her mother.

Emily’s burden is something many of us with aging parents have experienced or might have waiting for us in the years ahead. It’s a scary thing, and for the purpose of the story, in Face of Greed, it keeps Emily off balance. She’s sure-footed in her role as a detective with keen instincts and a solid partner in Javier Medina to follow the clues and bring down the bad guy. But with dementia and Alzheimer’s, Emily struggles.

One day, her mother is living independently, and the next, she’s had to move in with Emily because her memory lapses had gotten to the point when she nearly burnt her house down, forgetting the stove was on. It’s an insidious disease. Emily has a conversation with her, and she seems “with it,” aware of what’s happening around her. Then, the next moment, she loses touch and thinks Emily is still in high school.

Emily has to balance her responsibilities to her mother as her primary caregiver with the demanding job of a homicide detective. She has no family to rely upon, and she’s not the kind of person to ask for help. Emily must step outside her comfort zone and not only ask for help to care for her mother but make critical decisions for her long-term care.

So where does all this come from, you ask?

I was once in Emily’s shoes. My mother had dementia in her later years. It crept in slowly, and, as I found out, those who experience dementia become clever about filling the gaps in their memory. They’ll invent an idea that fits, and they’re convinced it’s what really happened. For example, I found Mom dressed and ready to go to a doctor’s appointment when I went to her place. I picked her up, and halfway there, she forgot where we were going and decided we were going to the grocery store instead. Another sign was simple decision-making would cause anxiety, so she found a workaround common to people with dementia. At a restaurant faced with dozens of menu options, the deception is, “What are you having? Oh, that sounds good. I’ll have that too.” It’s a workaround so they don’t have to make that decision. All the sensory input from the menu can’t get through.

As a caregiver for an aging parent, the roles are suddenly reversed. You’re now the parent to the much older child. And that dynamic can create a great deal of friction. Emily experiences it, and so did I. The person living with dementia sometimes realizes their life, who they were, is slipping away. They feel lost, disconnected, and alone. Some experience Sundowner’s Syndrome, where they try to leave wherever they are to get “home.” Their perception of home may be a fragment of memory from the distant past.

Caregiving can be difficult for the caregiver as well. It’s exhausting and mentally draining listening for the next sound of an escaping parent or that phone call that they’ve run off or hurt themselves.

I wanted to bring this into Face of Greed for a couple of reasons. It makes Emily struggle to balance her life. She feels guilt and sadness over her mom’s situation. And she realizes she can’t do this alone. She must bring other people into her life and let them help. Asking for help isn’t something that comes naturally to Emily—wonder where she got that from?

But I also wanted to talk about dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease because so many of us have gone through this—parents are aging, and this is an unfortunate common experience. I’ve gotten feedback from many readers who tell me that Emily’s struggle in this area resonated with them. They’d felt similar demands and struggled to find the help their parent needed.

It makes Emily a bit more multi-dimensional, and as tough as she seems, she’s got a big heart. It opens her up to people coming into her life at the right time—as she’s the better for it. I guess we all need to be a little more like Emily. And we all need to write what we know while we can because we don’t know what the future will bring.

Visit Amazon to meet Emily: Face of Greed (A Detective Emily Hunter Mystery) – Kindle edition by L’Etoile, James. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

 

14 Comments

  1. Ana manwaring

    This is such an important topic. Thanks for tackling it Jim. I’ve got Face of Greed on the TBR list. My mom also had dementia and it was heartbreaking. She lived long enough to forget her family.

    Reply
  2. Marilyn Meredith

    I just finished Face of Greed, and really enjoyed it. Lots of surprises.

    Reply
  3. Joan Long

    I enjoyed Dead Drop and can’t wait to read this new novel. I just moved it to the top of my TBR list! Thank you, Jim, for sharing this story with your readers.

    Reply
  4. Thonie Hevron

    Thank you all for sharing this powerful post. Jim and Donnell, you have my heartfelt sympathy. When my mom passed unexpectedly, I found her hair curlers in the refrigerator. I took that as a sign that she went before experiencing the worst of dementia as you both did. Establishing a connection with the reader like this can be moving and inspirational if handled well. Thank you for your candor, Jim…and Donnell.

    Reply
  5. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    i fully intend to add Face of Greed to my list. I read Dead Drop, another Jim’s books and I have to agree he is a fantastic writer with wonderful characters and twists that are surprising and create more dimensions to the overall story. The fear of dementia or Alzheimers plays on the minds of many elderly persons, myself included. As writers we keep our minds active and pray for the best. My mother had dementia and it pulled at my heart strings. My wife and I are both 77 yr old orphans as our parents have passed. We relish in the visits of our six children, eleven grandchildren and eight great children. They keep us young and busy.

    Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    I’ve known Jim for years and can attest that he’s a wonderful writer. He’s able to utilized his vast experiences, and also create characters that you care about and want to root for. Nor does he shy away from difficult subjects, as Face of Greed obviously shows. I highly recommend his excellent books.

    Reply
  7. Craig KIngsman

    Thanks for a great book, Jim. My mom had Alzheimers too. I wasn’t her care giver but did experience some of what you mentioned when I visited. Thank you for taking us on the journey.

    Reply
  8. Karen A Phillips

    Thank you, Jim, for including the difficult subject of dementia in your book. It’s a wonderful way to depict the multi-faceted character of Emily. I use the word “wonderful” from a writer’s perspective, as dementia certainly isn’t “wonderful.” My parents are 87 and showing signs of cognitive loss. I am educating myself on how to best care for them. I’m thankful I have a brother to help. And people like yourself, who can share their wisdom and experience.

    Reply
  9. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Heartbreaking and touching. This post helped wake me up. Thank you.

    Reply
  10. Margaret Mizushima

    Jim, your book sounds fascinating and I can’t wait to read it. My mother also developed dementia before her death almost fourteen years ago but her heart and lung disease took her before it got too severe. You’ve illuminated a subject that so many face. And I always enjoy your books!

    Reply
  11. Marilyn Meredith

    I’ll have to get this one. Being as old as I am, when I forget or lose something it does make me worry a bit.

    Reply
  12. James L’Etoile

    Thanks for hosting me on the blog, George! Truly appreciated and I hope folks get something from this piece of Emily’s character.

    Reply
  13. Donnell Ann Bell

    Jim, my deepest condolences. I have Face of Greed on my TBR pile. Forgive me if I wait a few months; I’m proud to promote you and attest to your talent. I lost my mom to dementia in November so I’m afraid it’s wait too fresh. But this is such an excellent post and reminder.

    As a segue to your point, I met a woman who was doing her mother’s memoirs while she was fading. She found her mother had led a dual life while researching her background. There are some parts of history that will never be recorded. I have mother’s wonderful stories of growing up, nurses’ training and life afterward. Need to compile all these memories as fast as I can.

    Best wishes on a wonderful sell-through!

    Reply
    • James L’Etoile

      Donnell, I’m so very sorry for your loss. You’re in my thoughts. A collection of your mother’s stories would be a wonderful way to honor her memory.

      Reply

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JOHN SCHEMBRA – Veteran – Mentor – Friend – Award-Winning Author

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in 1969, I was drafted into the U.S. Army.  After basic training and military police school, I spent a year with the 557th M.P. Company at Long Binh, South Vietnam, in 1970. Upon completing my military service, I joined the Pleasant Hill Police Department. I retired in 2001 as a Sergeant after 30 years of service.  I was then hired as the lead Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) instructor for the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office.  I have earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration of Justice and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration through California State University.

My writing career began when another Sergeant at the police department, a fellow Vietnam veteran, and I swapped stories of our experiences in Vietnam.  The other members of the department would listen and began to encourage me to write down my stories.  They said it would make a good book.  So, taking heed of their advice, I started my first novel.  After two years, I began shopping for a publisher, choosing to go the small press route.  I was lucky enough to be accepted for publishing by Writers Exchange, and the Vince Torelli series was born with the publishing of M.P., A Novel of Vietnam.  

I continued my writing endeavors with my second book, relying on my 30 years of police experience for authenticity. I used the same main character as in M.P., Vince Torelli, now 25 years older and a homicide inspector with the San Francisco Police Department. I have written five books in the Inspector Torelli series, one stand-alone thriller with a paranormal element and a demonic possession horror story. I am currently hard at work on my ninth book, the first in the Detective Sergeant Louisa (Louie) Princeton, Richmond County Sheriff’s Dept, Georgia series.

All my life, I have been an avid reader.  I remember my mother taking my brother and me to the local library every two weeks so we could check out books.  Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes, and I have always admired authors who could spin a good tale.  As such, I get much more pleasure from hearing a reader say they enjoyed one of my books than the royalties from the sale.  By the way, my favorite author is Edgar Rice Burroughs.

I want to thank George for having me as a guest on his wonderful blog. He is an accomplished, award-winning author in his own right, and I am proud to call him my friend.

People often ask me what my favorite thing about writing is. I answer unequivocally—researching places, events, and the history of the locations where the stories take place. By making Vince Torelli a San Francisco PD homicide inspector, it is easy, and exceeding interesting, to research scene locations, like the 19th-century tunnels under the city utilized by the killer in The List, to landmarks like Mt. Davidson, where the climax of Blood Debt takes place, to extensive research into demonic possession and exorcism for An Echo of Lies. I have to say- that was VERY frightening!

When I’ve changed locations to places out of the San Francisco Bay Area and California— as I did in several of my books—to Tennessee, Atlanta, Augusta, Northern California, South Carolina, and others, it sparked my research gene to find real places—hotels, restaurants, streets, highways, etc. Most key scenes in the five Vince Torelli books are in those places. Even in my Vietnam book, a work of fiction based in part on some of my personal experiences, takes place in real places, and all the military units—American, South Vietnamese, Viet Cong, and North Vietnamese are actual units that were operating in the area at the time. Using real places, streets, and buildings in my books, I think, adds a touch of realism for the readers. I have received several comments that they recognized certain places and liked it very much. It adds a visual reference to the scene and drama being played out as they read.

As a fun thing, I’ve used the address of my childhood home in one of my books and the name and address of my best friend, a big fan of my books, in another, and knowing my friend will be reading the book, I didn’t tell him what I had done. I gave him a copy and awaited his phone call when he got to where he was mentioned. I also have dedicated a couple of my books to special people in my life, living and deceased. That is special to their families and me.

So, can you tell how much I enjoy writing?

In closing, If I could advise any aspiring writers, there would be two things. First—sit your butt down and write, write, write—the basic mantra for writers.

Second, have fun doing it! It will make your writing more enjoyable and the finished product better!

Please take a moment to visit my website—currently being updated— where the first chapters of some of my books are posted, along with a couple of short stories. And thanks for taking the time to read this.

www.jschembra.com

Follow me at my Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100023497601286

12 Comments

  1. Deven Greene

    Thanks for sharing your interesting story, John. It was very inspiring. You have many accomplishments in addition to your writing. I really enjoy your books and urge anyone who hasn’t read them to pick some up!

    Reply
  2. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I’ve several of John’s book and enjoyed them very much. Not only is John a great writer he never hesitates to help other writers. As a member of the Public Safety Writers Association, John has given me many tips to help my writing and he made a great president as well.

    Reply
    • John Schembra

      Thanks for the kind comments, Joe. Much appreciated, my friend.

      Reply
  3. Dave Wolf

    I first became acquainted with John when he reviewed my novel “Probable Cause for Vengeance” several years ago. Since then, I have read several of his books, beginning with “MP, A Novel of Vietnam”, also the Vince Torelli mystery series and most recently, “Sin Eater”. All are excellent reading and keep you eagerly turning the pages. He writes from experience and the way he tells the stories, puts you right there with the characters. John is an accomplished author and I look forward to reading many more of his captivating stories!

    Reply
    • John Schembra

      Glad you have enjoyed my books, Dave. I really like getting comments like yours, and thanks for your support.

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    I’ve been honored to know John for several years and can attest that he’s an exceptionally talented writer. I’ve read many of his books and I’ve enjoyed them all. He exemplifies the very best in what makes America so great. John, thanks for your service, both military and in civilian law enforcement. Stay safe, brother

    Reply
  5. Mysti Berry

    You’re a natural-born storyteller, John! Thanks so much for all you’ve given to the writing community!!!!

    Reply
  6. Nicholas Chiarkas

    Impressive story and excellent books. Welcome home, brother.

    Reply
  7. John Taylor

    Great guy & writer. Write a best seller, John!

    Reply
  8. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    This was an inspiring post, John and George. John, I love the researching bit too.

    Reply
  9. Lisa Towles

    John, Thank you for your Service and your series sounds wonderful 🙂

    Reply
  10. Camille Minichino

    What an impressive life of service, John. Thank you for all of that, and for sharing your stories through your fiction. And thanks, George, for highlighting a fellow author.

    Reply

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MARY KELIIKOA – Write What You Know – Maybe Not

Mary Keliikoa is the author of award-winning Hidden Pieces and Deadly Tides in the Misty Pines mystery series, the award nominated PI Kelly Pruett mystery series, and the upcoming Don’t Ask, Don’t Follow out June 2024. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World and in the Peace, Love and Crime anthology.

 

A Pacific NW native, she admits to being that person who gets excited when called for jury duty. When not in Washington, you can find Mary with her toes in the sand on a Hawaiian beach. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun, she’s plotting her next murder—a novel that is. www.marykeliikoa.com

There’s an adage that would-be writers often hear when working on their first pieces: write what you know. In fact, in the beginning, and even now, it was advice that I heard quite often. And I don’t disagree. There is wisdom to that. Among other things, when one is so busy making things up, as we fiction writers do, it’s nice to lean into some solid information that we have personal knowledge about. It saves on research, for sure. But let’s face it—one’s knowledge base can only go so far. And I believe that in addition to what you know, writing what you want to learn about, understand, or what fascinates you can add richness to a story.

When I wrote the first book in the Misty Pines mystery series, HIDDEN PIECES, I decided to set the series in a place I was familiar with. That’s why I chose the Oregon coast, where my parents moved our family when I was a toddler.

While I don’t remember much about those early years, by the time I reached the age of five, many things about the coast stuck: the mist and the cool weather that never seemed to end, and that saturated our clothes was near the top. But also the moss laden trees in the towering forests. The hum of the ocean waves reverberating in the air. The sheer rock cliffs and violent eddies at their base. The call of the seagulls overhead, the bark of sea lions on the rocks, and the brackish smell of seaweed.

I also knew the people that chose that area as home. The family-like atmosphere where everyone knows your business. That the worry lines on the face of a fisherman’s wife don’t soften until he’s safely back across the bar. That fish and chips, and beer are necessary fare when gathering to tell tall fish tales at the local gathering hole.

I know the intriguing items that wash up along the ocean beaches, which was an absolute treat for the treasure hunter in me. From glass fishing floats and sand dollars to various creatures in the tidal pools, I could spend hours running along the ocean shores.

Setting I knew. But I also wanted to explore what I wanted to understand. In the Misty Pines series, that is grief—and the desperate need for redemption. In Hidden Pieces, I focused on a true crime that happened in my hometown where two girls went out walking and a car stopped. One girl never made it home. Using that as a backdrop, I explored how an individual might cope with a tragedy like that in their life…or perhaps not cope so well.

In DEADLY TIDES, the second book in the series out now, I went in another direction. I was interested in a phenomenon that has occurred with some regularity in the Pacific Northwest: severed feet washing ashore. Crazy enough, that has been happening for over the past decade. As to who the feet belong to, sadly, many have been victims of accidents, and some due to suicide. However, I write mystery with a dose of suspense, so of course, I chose a more nefarious cause.

Which brings me back to why those feet washed ashore—and understanding what might drive someone to such a gruesome act. And that led me back to that element of grief and how it might change a person.

Sometimes, it takes them to the edge, questioning their own existence. Sometimes, it has them acting out in a way they would not otherwise. Sometimes, grief morphs into bitterness and erodes an individual’s very core.

I explore this in the Misty Pines series through my main characters because it is a subject that I am familiar with…but want to understand. And here’s what I’ve learned.

Grief is a pesky neighbor that shows up at one’s window unannounced and knocks insidiously until it’s let in. There’s always the option to hide—close the window shade and pretend not to be home. But at some point, you have to come out. And grief, like that neighbor, will be waiting. Sometimes, it’s best to just let them in because they aren’t going anywhere—and one might as well learn to live peaceably next door to it because the alternative could be dire…at least that’s the direction I take in my novels. Like those feet, which thankfully I never ran across, severed or otherwise, when out beachcombing as a kid.

Now that I have a better understanding of grief… I’m on the lookout for the next thing to understand that fascinates me and that I can weave into my next story. I have a feeling it won’t be a problem!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Mary.Keliikoa.Author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mary_keliikoa
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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20038534.Mary_Keliikoa

AUTHOR WEBSITE: www.marykeliikoa.com

 

4 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Mary, your rather spooky narrative about the Pacific Northwest and the feet washing ashore sent chills down my spine. Your writing talent is evident. And I used to groan every time I got a notice to appear for jury duty. I was a cop so they never choose me. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Mary Keliikoa

      Michael, I appreciate that! I had the same problem when I worked in the legal field. Thankfully, they didn’t seem as concerned when I was able to claim “mystery writer” on my information!

      Reply
  2. Donnell Ann Bell

    Mary, fascinating blog about your life and setting. Your memories of the Pacific Northwest are how I, an occasional visitor, remember it as well. I also get excited about jury duty 😉 Must be the need for unexpected and new material. Best wishes.

    Reply
    • Mary Keliikoa

      Thank you, Donnell Ann! The Pacific NW, and the coastal range in particular, really are characters all their own!! I think you’re right about the jury duty too, LOL. Always need that material!

      Reply

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