I'm pleased to welcome Paty Jager to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Paty writes the Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series. Poker Face is the first book in the series and will be released July 1, 2021.
Kathy: A disabled veteran, Dela Alvaro now works security for a casino. Do you enjoy going to casinos?
PJ: At one time I did enjoy going to casinos. When we were first married with small children, my husband and I would go to Reno, Nevada for a weekend a couple times a year. It was mostly because it was far enough away if someone called with work for hubby, he couldn’t jump in his truck and take off. 😉
Kathy: I became a big fan of Texas Hold 'Em poker and enjoyed watching the professionals play on TV. Are you a poker fan? Do you play any of the casino games?
PJ: I’m not really a fan of poker or any of the casino games. One of our first trips to Reno, a roulette dealer showed us how to play that game. I play it from time to time, but I’m more of a people watcher than a gambler.
Kathy: Dela's predecessor was found to be working with a human trafficking ring. Is there a particular reason you chose this crime?
PJ: There is a reason I chose that crime. The story is in my Gabriel Hawke book #7, Stolen Butterfly, where my character, Hawke, is called to the reservation to help find a missing woman. I introduced Dela, and her boss, to my readers in that book.
Kathy: Your Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series takes place on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. Indeed all of your work has Western or Native American elements in them. Why choose this setting and these elements for your writing?
PJ: I have had a fascination and interest in the Native American culture since my teens. I have been researching and talking to people a good part of my adult life to learn more. I decided to put my curiosity to good use and write about the culture. All of my books deal with justice or injustice. How the first Americans have been treated is a great injustice. If I can shed a little light and compassion on their lives and how they are coping and striving to survive, then I’ve done my job as a writer. I don’t just rely on books and the internet, I have cultivated some wonderful friendships by connecting with members of the Nez Perce, Colville, and Umatilla tribes. As for the casino setting…Dela was in the Military Police in the army before she became disabled. She had planned on retiring and joining a civilian police force. With her disability, I had to give her job that was still like law enforcement but where she wouldn’t be limited because of her disability. And I wanted the story set on or near a reservation. Since I had researched and made connections from my Hawke books at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, and they have a casino that is right along an interstate, I thought that would make a great place to have a variety of people passing through the casino.
Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?
PJ: I have loved mysteries ever since my mom bought me the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys collections. As a young mother I read every mystery book I could check out from the library. While I’m not a person who likes to put puzzles together, I enjoy a good mystery that keeps me guessing and love it when the ending has a twist. I like how Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple talked to people and studied the lives of the people around her. I like having that aspect in my books as well. There is something about writing mystery that feeds my inner voyeur. I can have my characters studying other characters as I study the people I come in contact with.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
PJ: Yes. I have historical and contemporary western romance, historical paranormal romance, and an Action-Adventure trilogy as well as my murder mysteries.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
PJ: My Shandra Higheagle Mystery series: Shandra Higheagle is a Native American potter whose deceased grandmother comes to her in dreams with clues to help them solve the mysteries in a fictional ski area in Idaho.
Gabriel Hawke Novels: Gabriel Hawke is a Fish and Wildlife State Trooper guarding his ancestor’s homeland in Wallowa County Oregon. He is a master tracker, which is good when someone needs found, but his flaw when he becomes focused on the clues.
Spotted Pony Casino Mystery: Dela Alvaro, head of security at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, is trying to get her life back in control and keep her job at the casino. However, between murders, her mom, her new three-legged dog, and a pesky FBI Special Agent she doesn’t want to like, she may be balancing more than she can handle.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
PJ: I’m thinking you mean in the Spotted Casino Mysteries. My favorite in that series so far is Rosie. She is an Umatilla woman who works in the deli at the casino. She is as wide as she is tall, always smiles, and flirts with the men. I like that she has no problem saying things to a man she doesn’t know that I would never think of saying. Also, she is wicked smart. She can remember every face and a name to go with the face. She remembers what is told to her and is an excellent source of information for Dela.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
PJ: No. I had written Dela in a short story for a contest. But she was Indigenous in that story and the casino was in California. (Where the story had to be set) After I wrote the short story, I really liked the character and decided to move her north to the tribes and area I knew better and give her a series.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
PJ: Poker Face is my 51st book to be published. I have been trying to get published since the early 1990s. It took many writing classes, workshops, and critique partners to finally get a book published in 2006. The first 7 books I wrote never will be published. They were my learning tools. The next 10 books were published by a small press, and since 2011, I’ve been self-publishing and enjoying I can publish books that most agents and editors said they couldn’t figure out where to place them on a book shelf. I tend to mash genres and publishers are purists when it comes to genres.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
PJ: Tony Hillerman, Sue Grafton, Agatha Christie, LaVyrle Spencer. Sue’s alphabet series is what made me think I could write a mystery. I’d like to talk to Tony about writing Native American culture. Agatha just to talk character. And LaVyrle’s books were the first ones that showed me I could write real life situations.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
PJ: Roaming Wild by Tracey Devlyn – We’re going to be on a panel at Bouchercon in August. I’m reading books from all the panel members.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
PJ: When I’m not writing, I’m riding my horse, sewing, hiking, or hanging out with my grandkids and kids.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
PJ: Milk, eggs, cheese, chocolate
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
PJ: I have planned/titled 14 books for the Spotted Pony Casino series. The next one will be House Edge. I’m using gambling terms for the titles. I’m not sure how many Gabriel Hawke Novels I’ll put out. I’m up to #8 next which will have Badger in the title. Since Hawke is a Game Warden, I use wild animal names in the titles. I have a list of about thirty animals that I can use in titles. I doubt I’ll write that many books, but you never know. My Shandra Higheagle series ended at book #16.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
PJ: My favorite thing about being an author is talking to readers who have enjoyed my books. I sit down and write a book because it is a premise and/or character that intrigues me. When readers are intrigued and entertained by my stories it makes me happy. And if I can teach them a little about something that’s even better!
Poker Face: A Spotted Pony Casino Mystery
by Paty Jager
About Poker Face
Dela Alvaro is a disable veteran who grew up on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. When an IED in Iraq ended her military career, she came home to reassess her life and landed a job in security at the Indian run casino on the reservation.
Not even a year into being the assistant to the head of security, the head of security is found working with a human trafficking ring and Dela is promoted on a trial basis. When one of the casino employees is found stabbed and stuffed in a laundry chute, she knows she can kiss head of security good-bye if she doesn’t find the killer before the media gets hold of the story.
While she is in over her head, she can’t decide if the FBI Special Agent called in to help is a blessing or a curse. It’s a man she ran across in Iraq who overrode her authority. When a second casino employee is killed, Dela has to decide if she can trust the special agent with not only keeping her job but keeping the rest of the casino employees safe.
About Paty Jager
Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 51 novels, 8 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with 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 the western lifestyle, she lives it.
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