Monday, February 01, 2016

Left Coast Crime Conference

This month I'm headed to the Left Coast Crime Conference in Phoenix, AZ. I attended my first LCC conference last year. I like the relaxed atmosphere and panels by mystery authors of all the sub-genres.

The conference has nightly events. I signed up to have a table at:
The Blue Rooster Mystery Saloon - Readers Welcome! Cash Bar and Complimentary Light Appetizers  -- Friday, Feb. 26 from 7 p.m. until 9:30ish at the Hyatt Hotel. This event is open to the public, so if you live in the Phoenix area and aren't attending the event you can still come. It's free to attend! This event is sponsored by Chanticleer Reviews. My book Double Duplicity is up for their Mystery and Mayhem award.

I'll have a special on my Shandra Higheagle Mystery books during the event and will give away a mug to anyone who purchases two or more Shandra books that night.

Saturday will be a day of attending panels, meeting people, and the banquet that evening.

Sunday I'm participating in a panel with other writers whose books deal with other cultures. Some, like me, have Native American elements, one has stories set in Thailand, and the other in Greece. I'm moderating the panel and have been reading and enjoying their books and coming up with questions for each of them and a brief bio. I don't normally like being the one running a panel, but I'm excited about this one and the authors who will be part of it.

During the conference I hope to hook up with some Women Writing the West members and some of my Ladies of Mystery blog partners.

This should be a fun trip and a good time to connect with other mystery writers.

Do you like attending conferences?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Hat Etiquette- How to Find a True Cowboy




 Did you know hat etiquette was practiced mostly by cowboys? 

The practice dates back to the days of chivalry when knights would raise their helmet shields as a sign of respect. But it was the American cowboy who popularized the custom. 

John B Stetson started making hats in a small room he rented in 1865. Using $100 dollars, he rented the room, bought tools, and $10 worth of fur. A year later he was famous for the hats "Boss of the Plains" and "Hat of the West". They were durable hats that kept the sun off the cowboys faces.

According to the John B. Stetson Hat Company (founded in 1868) there are very specific rules to dictate when a man should tip his hat and when to remove it.

Tip your hat…
If a lady thanks you
After receiving directions from a stranger
If you excuse yourself to a lady
When walking with another man and he greets a woman you don’t know

Remove your hat…
During the playing of the national anthem
Upon entering a building
During an introduction
When attending a funeral
When initiating a conversation.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mystery, Mayhem, and Motives by Paty Jager

Starting the next Shandra Higheagle mystery. I love this part of the process.

Photo of Lostine River taken by me.
The "Suspect" chart is made. I list the murder victim, how he died and possibly why. Sometimes I know by who, but this time I'm leaving that to come out as the clues unravel. Next on the chart are the names of suspects, their motives, and the red herrings that will have the reader thinking it's one when it is someone else. (rubbing hands in glee) Yes, this part of mystery writing is the most fun. Laying the little tidbits that makes one character look more guilty than another. Yet, keeping all the clues believable so when the real killer is revealed in the end the reader doesn't feel like it was thrown in just to spite them. ;)

Motives. Those are as fun to come up with as the characters who have a reason to dislike and even want a character dead. Giving each secondary character a bit of back story with the murder victim helps to not only make their reason for "offing" the victim ring true it gives me, the writer, a clearer picture of the victim. Knowing the victim helps me to come up with the reasons a person or persons would want them dead.

Then it's making the motives, the clues, the actions of the characters all kind of like a sleight of hand as a magician would do. I dribbled out the truth but cover it up with misdirection and fluff that makes the reader forget the truth. Yes, writing a mystery book is a bit like a magic trick.

The best part about this murder...it happens on a ski slope, so now I'm off to figure out how the victim will die and what can be clues.

I can't think of a better way to spend a Monday. Can you?

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Kicking Puppies and Kissing Babies; The Life and Death of Peter French

My soon to be released book, Davis: Letters of Fate is set in Harney County, Oregon in 1880. At the time of my story, it's figured eleven families lived in the Harney Valley which at the time was part of Grant County and the closest town with law and supplies was Canyon City just under a hundred miles away. The closest railroad terminal was 200 miles away in Winnemucca, Nevada.

Into this under-populated area that had marshland and meadows for grazing cattle came Peter French in 1872. French was a man of small stature and depending on who you talked to either a generous, benevolent boss who loved children; or a thieving jack-n-apes; or crazy as a coot because his anger caused him to kick a dog or shoot his gun at someone who angered him. His employees and children loved him. Those who dealt with him in business and trying to homestead didn't like him.

He had the backing and cattle that belonged to Hugh Glenn a businessman in California. First French started a ranch at Roaring Springs, grazing his cattle along the Blitzen River drainage where bunch grass grew up to a man's waist. Eventually he brought his cattle to Harney Basin an eighty mile by eighty mile valley with several lakes. Some lakes are so shallow the water is alkali and not worth drinking but others that are fed by the rivers made a natural watering hole for his cattle. 

This area that Peter French brought his cattle to was had nearly three thousand square miles of valleys and range land. French set forth to claim it all for his cattle.

He had the Roaring Springs Ranch at the south end of the valleys, built the P Ranch where the Blitzen River  entered the valley floor from the Steens Mountains, and established Sodhouse Ranch at the north end of the valleys.

His vaqueros took care of the cattle and built the miles of wire fences he stretched from one holding ot the next, not bothering to worry that he was fencing in land he didn't own.

On Rattlesnake Creek at the north end of the valley sat Camp Harney and the Malheur Indian Reservation.
Peter French (photo from Wikipedia)
The camp was the most isolated camp of fort in the Army's Pacific Division. Two hundred infantry and cavalry soldiers called it home. It was a large facility, and as such, had barracks as well as a settler's store, commissary, sawmill, blacksmith shop, hospital, laundry, bakery and ice house.

As more people wandered into the area trying to make good on the 1870 swamp land act (land qualifying as "swamp" could be purchased at a rate of $1.00-$2.50 an acre.) it found homesteaders crossing French's fences to get to the marshland he had fenced in but didn't own.  In some cases, once those that had purchased the swamp land found they couldn't deal with the pressure of French, they sold their land to him for the same price they purchased it.  In some cases, local business men purchased the swampland at the low rate and then turned around and sold it to French for a small profit.

The Bannock and Paiutes were tired of the reservation life and started causing trouble in the region. Many locals and army men were killed before the tribes were contained and sent back to the reservation. The P Ranch suffered not only human lives but cattle as well. The Indians slaughter the cattle for food and for revenge.

After the Indians were controlled the cattle industry in the Harney Basin grew. French had 25,000 head of cattle and most of the land they grazed wasn't under title to him or Hugh Glenn.As French grew richer and his cattle herds grew, the homesteaders became more angry with him keeping them from good land with his fences.

After 1880, the time frame of my story Davis, there were nearly fifty homestead claims within the French fence lines. These were claims taken on land that French didn't own but had fenced off.  There were court battles and animosity toward Mr. French for twenty-seven years.

In December of 1897, one homesteader had had enough. Edward Oliver crossed French's land to get from his in-laws to his land. He was confronted by Peter French and after a confrontation, he shot French in the head.

Ed Oliver was released on $10,000 bail and local businessmen paid it for him. At the end of the trial the jury found Ed Oliver "..not guilty as charged in the indictment."  The case was closed. Peter French was buried in Red Bluff, California.

One of his oldest rivals, David Shirk said this about Peter French. "Thus ended the life of Peter French, a man of many admirable qualities of mind and heart, but whose tyrannical and overbearing temper brought about his own ruin. He lived a live of violence, and by violence he died."

Source:Untamed Land: The Death of Pete French & The End of the Old West by Mark Highberger.