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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Guest Post by Paty Jager: How I Plot A Murder

I bet that title (How I Plot A Murder) got your attention. It's my pleasure to bring you Paty Jager, who will also be on my blog in April during Cozy Mystery Week.  
Welcome, Paty.

Hi, L.A., thanks for having me here. There are lots of people who sit around and contemplate murder. Some because they actually want to do away with someone, and others, like me, because we want to write an entertaining twist of events that keeps the reader guessing until the end when the real murderer is revealed.

The first mystery I wrote came about from years of reading mysteries by Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Tony Hillerman, Dorothy Gillman, Sue Grafton, and many other mystery authors.  The second catalyst to my writing that first mystery was wishing someone, who had wronged my family, dead.
I murdered that person in a book- twice. It was a wonderful feeling to have her strangled by her own, long hair. Then I ventured away from mystery, knowing I didn’t know enough about the genre to write a story that took the reader on the type of journey I enjoyed as a reader.

Years later, I decided I was now ready to write a mystery and had learned the necessary skills needed to do so. I came up with a character who not only kept me true to my branding of Cowboys and Indians, she had a unique occupation for an amateur sleuth. Shandra Higheagle is a potter. She digs clay on the mountain where she lives, purifies the clay, and uses it in her original art pieces. She lives in a small tourist community which gives her close friends and brings in unknown people for victims to my murdering thoughts. ;)

When I start plotting out a mystery, I come up with the person I want murdered, the reason why, and why my amateur sleuth would get involved in finding the real killer. Once I’ve established these three things, I make a chart with suspects. On this chart, I give the suspect a name, what they do, and how they are connected to the murdered person. Then I make up a motive and red herrings that I can use to draw the attention of the readers and the characters away from the real killer.

I would have to say, this process in writing a book is my favorite. I love coming up with the ‘what if’s’ and ‘maybe this person did it because.’ The only problem is, while at this stage, I circle one of the suspects as the one who murdered the victim. In most cases, as the story progresses, the killer ends up being someone else.

The coolest part about writing a mystery book is when I write a scene and add something in that seems out of place after I finish the scene, then several chapters later, that little clue my mind slipped into the story is the piece that connects who the killer really is.

My Shandra Higheagle mysteries have a bit of paranormal in them. In the first book, the reader discovers Shandra is returning from her Nez Perce grandmother’s funeral and seven drums ceremony. Then as she and her friend are thought to be suspects in an art gallery owner’s murder, her grandmother comes to her in dreams, giving her clues that she must decipher to realize who the murderer could be.

This twist not only gives a bit of paranormal/spirituality to the books, but it gives me another way to have readers guessing about the real murderer. There are the concrete clues that Shandra and Detective Ryan Greer dig up, and then there are the cryptic dreams Shandra has that also point to the real killer.

There are currently seven books in the series. Each one shows a progression of the relationship between the main characters. With some silly relief from Shandra’s pony-sized, timid dog, Sheba. 

You can download the first book, Double Duplicity as an ebook for free at all ebook
vendors, or you can purchase it as a print or audio book.

Book one of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series


On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene was just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever but just as determined to discover the truth. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Detective Ryan Greer believes in them and believes in her.

Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?
Amazon | Apple  | Website

If you sign up for my mystery newsletter you can also get book two, Tarnished Remains, for free and learn how to join my review team. Click here to join Paty’s Posse!

Book two of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series

Murder… Deceit… Greed…

Shandra Higheagle is digging up clay for her renowned pottery when she scoops up a boot attached to a skeleton. She calls in Weippe County detective Ryan Greer.  The body is decades old and discovered to be Shandra’s employee’s old flame.
Ryan immediately pegs Shandra’s employee for the murderer, but Shandra knows in her heart that the woman everyone calls Crazy Lil couldn’t have killed anyone, let alone a man she loved.

Digging up the woman’s past takes them down a road of greed, miscommunication, and deceit.  Will they be able to prove Crazy Lil innocent before the true murderer strikes again?

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 30+ novels, novellas, and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action-adventure. She has garnered a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award, the EPPIE Award, the Lorie, and the RONE Mystery Award. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. 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.”

Find Paty:
Blog | Website | Facebook | Paty's Posse | Goodreads |Twitter | Pinterest


  1. Thank you for having me on your blog, Leslie!

  2. Paty, I read your Shandra Higheagle mysteries. Very enjoyable. and I didn't guess who the murderer was. :))

    1. Hi Diana, I'm glad you enjoyed the Shandra Higheagle mysteries and I was able to fool you. ;)

  3. I'm reading it right now, so I'm glad you didn't spill the beans, Diana McCollum :)