I Love A Mystery
by Paty Jager
February 1, 2022
Many, many years ago, the first book I wrote was a mystery. I take that back. The first book I wrote was titled Joey Jiggle and it was an illustrated book (by me) that was a take off of the Snoopy book “Happiness Is:” Only in my book Joey Jiggle who had a long pointy nose and rather large derriere had the saying Sadness is: and bad things would happen to him that were funny. This was written and illustrated while I was in junior high, I believe.
Then as an adult with my first child in kindergarten, I wrote first a story and then a book about Zero the Hero. As a room mother in my daughter’s class, I heard the teacher talking about zero and how the number was a hero because by adding him to a number made the number larger. Anyway, I wrote the story and the teacher loved it and wanted copies, so had a small book printed up, but couldn’t get any of the scholastic publishers interested. I did sell several of the paper copies to other teachers.
After reading all the mystery books in my local library as a young adult and new mother, I decided to try writing a mystery after watching a talk show where a wife talked about how she couldn’t afford a private investigator and decided to do some sleuthing after her husband on her own. After she did it, she wrote the book, “How to be Your Own Detective.” I purchased that book and had a woman using that book to prove her husband didn’t kill someone. That was the premise of the first mystery book I wrote on a typewriter and sent off to an agent.
Having been a fan of Sue Grafton, I’d written the book in first person. The agent wrote back, after taking money to look at the book (yes, that was back when I didn’t know they weren’t legit if they took money upfront) and said that first-person mysteries didn’t sell. I scratched my head. Half of the mystery books I read were in first person. I changed it to third person, and he didn’t want to see it again. By then I had already moved on to the second book with the same main character. I wasn’t sure what to do, but the writing bug had bitten me.
Now that the kids were all in school, I took college and community ed writing classes and worked to hone my craft. Then I read that romance books were the books selling the most. I switched to historical western romance and hooked up with RWA (Romance Writers of America) and after writing 7 historical western romance books, I finally had one picked up by a publisher. I went on to write 10 more for that publisher before going Indie in 2011.
After going Indie, the idea of writing mysteries kept tapping at the back of my mind. They were the books I liked to read and what I had originally wanted to write. I wrote an Action/Adventure/romantic suspense Secrets of a Mayan Moon, with an Indiana Jones/MacGyver female protagonist. The book won an award. I wrote two more in the Isabella Mumphrey Adventure trilogy and decided it was time to try writing mystery again.
Because of the way I’d been shot down so quickly early on, I spent a lot of time figuring out who my protagonist would be and how I wanted the books to blend in with the tagline I was using at the time. Western Romance starring Cowboys and Indians. Also, because I have always had a fascination with murder mystery, my younger brother who is an artist was telling me about a bronze statue that could be taken apart, and the spear in the statue could be used as a weapon and then put back on the large statue and no one would know. That got me to thinking about what profession my amateur sleuth would have that could bring her in contact with a statue in an art gallery.
That is how I came up with a Native American potter whose grandmother comes to her in dreams to help her solve murder mysteries. The Shandra Higheagle Mystery series was born. The first book of this series was a runner-up in a mystery contest and that told me I was on the right track. There are 16 books in the Shandra Higheagle mystery series. It has concluded with the caveat she might return to sleuthing when her children are grown. 😉
I started the Gabriel Hawke novels by having him help solve a murder in one of the Shandra books. I am currently writing book 9 in that series. I loved writing the Shandra books, but the Hawke books push me harder to learn more and write a male character through the whole book. He is a game warden, or officially, an Oregon State Trooper with the Fish and Wildlife division in Wallowa County, Oregon. The county where I grew up. It is an isolated area with lots of wilderness for Hawke to travel about and run into murdered people. He uses his tracking skills and common sense to solve the murders. My son-in-law is a lieutenant with the Oregon State Police and through him, I was able to ride along for a day with a game warden in the county. I learned a lot about the job and what they deal with.
When I finished the Shandra Higheagle books, I started another mystery series, The Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries. Dela Alvaro, the lead in Spotted Pony books, appeared first in a Gabriel Hawke book. She is a disabled veteran who is now the head of security at the Spotted Pony Casino. This is a fictional casino that I have on a real Reservation in NE Oregon. One of my beta readers for this series is a tribal police chief. So far this series is holding its own with reviews and sales.
I’m so happy that I am finally writing the books I wanted to write when I started this journey all those years ago. Did I say I love a good mystery?
Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. On her road to publication she wrote freelance articles for two local newspapers and enjoyed her job with the County Extension service as a 4-H Program Assistant. Raising hay and cattle, riding horses, and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story. Learn more about her at her website.