...for readers who love animals, and animal lovers who read!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Slobbers, Strays, and Murder

by Paty Jager

When I started conjuring up my Native American amateur sleuth, I knew I wanted her to be an artist. Shandra Higheagle is a potter. She not only makes useful pots but her vases are sought-after art items. To enhance her art, she lives on a mountain that has pockets of clay that she uses to make her vases. Living on a mountain makes her an earthy person, in my mind.

Earthy people love animals and that is true of Shandra. She has a dog. A Newfoundland, Border collie mix and you have Sheba. A large, black and white, shaggy dog. One would think a dog with this mix of breeds would be a good watch dog. Sheba is the exact opposite. She cowers at loud noises, hides behind Shandra when she’s scared, and then when she decides the newcomer won’t hurt her, she rolls onto her back for a belly rub. Most people fear her due to her size, but it doesn’t take long for them to realize she is meek and fearful. 
Sheba loves to ride in the back seat of Shandra’s Jeep, her tongue lolling out, slobbering on the door and seat. She also takes up half of Shandra’s bed. Which works well on the nights Shandra’s grandmother comes to her in dreams and leaves Shandra needing a big, fluffy hug.

Shandra bought the property on the mountain two years earlier. With the land, she also received two strays. One is a woman in her sixties who grew up on the ranch with her grandparents. The day Shandra moved into the cabin on the property, Crazy Lil, as the locals call her, had already set up housekeeping in the tack room in the barn. Lil is good with animals and helping Shandra in her studio. She wears purple clothes that don’t always match or fit well. Along with her purple clothes she can be seen wearing an orange fur around her neck in the form of Lewis the cat. Lewis was a stray that Lil took in. The feline keeps Lil company, like Sheba keeps Shandra company.

The two women also have horses. Shandra rides to the clay pockets and uses another horse with a pack saddle to haul the clay back down the mountain for her to clean and use.
Here is a sneak peek at book three in the Shandra Higheagle Mysteries, Deadly Aim.

Chapter 1
 After a two-week sojourn of teaching and displaying her pottery at an art show in New Mexico, Shandra Higheagle needed this leisurely horseback ride to get back in tune with nature. She breathed deep, inhaling the pine scent and undertones of decaying plant life. The changing colors and brisk autumn air energized Shandra.
Lil, Shandra’s Jill-of-all-trades, had suggested the ride. Every time Shandra spent more than a few days off the mountain she had to get reacquainted with her roots in order to re-submerge herself in her art.
Her bear-sized dog, Sheba, loped ahead disappearing through the huckleberry bushes. The dog loved lumbering over Huckleberry Mountain while Shandra rode her horse. 
It wasn’t just her time away that had Shandra’s mind wandering. Only one week and she’d be attending Ryan’s brother’s wedding to Ryan’s ex-girlfriend. Shandra and the handsome Weippe detective hadn’t made any kind of commitment to one another, but she did find his company pleasurable. And she had to admit, she was curious about his family and the woman who he’d set his sights on marrying in seventh grade.
“Woof! Woof!”
Sheba’s excited bark caught Shandra’s attention. It didn’t sound like her pursuing or scared bark. It had a mournful lilt to it.
“Where are you girl?” Shandra stood in the stirrups and scanned the area she’d last seen her dog. Her gelding, Apple, started dancing nervously and blew air in short snorts. Something had both animals on alert.
“Woof! Woof!”
She zeroed in on the sound and reined Apple that direction. Sheba’s head was down and the way her body shook, she was digging.
“What is it girl?” Shandra dodged a tree limb as Apple snorted and started to back up.
“Whoa. What has you spooked?” She ran a hand down the horse’s neck to soothe him and stared at the ground where Sheba pawed.
Her stomach lurched and her mouth went dry. Sheba dug at the ground next to a bloody, disemboweled body.

More about Deadly AimBook three of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series
Passion… Secrets… Murder...
The dead body of an illicit neighbor and an old necklace send potter Shandra Higheagle on a chase to find a murderer. Visions from her dead grandmother reveal Shandra is on the right path, but the woods are full of obstacles—deadly ones. Detective Ryan Greer believes Shandra’s dreams will help solve the mystery, but he also knows the curious potter could get herself killed. He’s determined that won’t happen. Until he’s blind-sided. Are Shandra’s powers strong enough to save them both, or will the murderer strike again?
Buy Links:Windtree PressKindle 

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. She recently returned to the genre of her heart- Mystery.

You can learn more about Paty at her blog - Writing into the Sunset;  her website - http://www.patyjager.netFacebook; her newsletter - Paty’sPrattle; Twitter @patyjag. 


  1. Thank you for having me here today, Sheila. I hope everyone enjoys hearing about Sheba and Shandra.

  2. I love having animals in my books. They are able to show a different side of a person's personality. Loved the excerpt and I could clearly see Lil from your description!

    1. Hi Melissa! I agree. How a character interacts with animals can give the reader a clearer picture of that character. Lil is my favorite secondary character to write. Thanks for stopping in!

  3. Hey, Paty! Not only did I enjoy learning more about your book, I discovered a wonderful blog and found books to add to my to-be-read list. :)

    1. Genene, I knew this would be a good fit for you! Thanks for stopping in.

    2. Hi, Genene! I hope you'll become a regular here at WOA. Glad you came!

  4. Hi Paty, enjoyed and looking forward to reading Deadly Aim.

    1. Hi Judy. Thanks! I hope you enjoy Deadly Aim.

  5. I loved the first two Shandra Higheagle Mysteries! Can't wait to read Deadly Aim!

    1. Hi Sarah! Thanks! I hope you enjoy the third as much as the first two.