A Soccer Playing Mom Who Solves Mysteries with Judith Arnold

Romance author Judith Arnold has given writing mysteries a try and she likes it so much that happily for readers like us she’s going to keep doing it.

Judith ArnoldI was going to use a line about kicking balls in the title of this episode but thought better of it. 😉

Judith’s amateur sleuth, Lainey Lovett, is a middle-aged teacher, a widow, a mom, and a ball-kicking soccer player.

Literally.

She uses her soccer skills to remain a member of her beloved Rockettes team, and also to take down the bad guys in these cozy mysteries.

In the intro, I mention that It’s A Mystery Podcast will be on hiatus for a few weeks while I pick up my microphone and move across Canada, back to my home province of BC. I plan to be back with the show in early November. Until then please enjoy this interview with the lovely Judith Arnold.

And happy reading!

You can find out more about today’s guest, Judith Arnold, and all her books on her website JudithArnold.com. You can also find her on Twitter @Judith_Arnold.

Click on any of the book covers to go to Judith’s books on Amazon

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
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What Makes a Good Mystery Novel?

What are the elements of a mystery novel that are most important to you? It is pace? Or setting? Or maybe the plot twists and turns.

And what makes your very favorite mysteries hold that space in your heart? This is a question I ask myself frequently. Why do I love the books I love?

What makes a good mystery novelToday, mystery author Mike Martin (who was my guest on episode 45 of It’s a Mystery Podcast) shares what he believes to be the essential elements of a mystery novel.

For me, the mystery genre has always been a comfortable fit, as a reader and as a writer. I enjoy most crime fiction, but my tastes do run towards the more traditional and the lighter side of mystery. No hard-boiled noir or graphic descriptions of coroner’s steel tables for me. But that’s just a personal preference. Regardless of the sub-genre, I believe that what makes a good mystery is a good story.

Maybe that is the basic element of any book in any genre, even in non-fiction. The story has to get our attention and make us want to read more. For mystery books, there has to be some element of the unknown that we are promised will be revealed if only we hang around long enough. Or even if we figure out ‘whodunit’, how the perpetrators are brought to justice may be enough to hold us fast to our seats and keep us turning the pages.

How the story is told and the definition of the main characters are close behind in terms of factors that make up a good mystery. Style, pace and plot development are keys to ensuring that we are not just entertained, but engaged along the way.

The sub-genres of mystery start diverging here, particularly around style which tends to involve detailed and sometimes flowery descriptions in cozies or technically detailed forensic talk in police procedurals. But they all come back together when it comes to the flow of the story.

Good mysteries in all forms have a rhythm that somehow just seems right. Great mystery writers have the ‘Goldilocks’ touch: not too fast, not too slow, just right!

Great characters are another key to great mysteries. We all remember the giants like Poirot or Miss Marple or Rebus or any number of great cozy writers. But I find that it is actually the sub-cast of characters that separate the great from the good.

And it’s not usually the person or persons who get killed that are the most interesting. It’s the Corporal under the Sergeant, or the old friend who always shows up with advice or a bottle of scotch at exactly the right time.

What really sets the mystery category aside from all other writing is the added characteristic of surprise. Every mystery book has a few twists and turns but a great mystery book has an absolutely brilliant surprise. It may be that the butler didn’t actually do it, but he was certainly involved in helping the less than legitimate heir bury the bodies. Or an unheard-of relative who surfaced just after the will is read or… you get the picture.

Reading a great mystery book is like having a candle to light the way down a dark and unfamiliar hallway. You don’t know what you are going to find down there, but you just have to go and see for yourself.

***

Mike Martin Tangled WebA Tangled Web is the latest book in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery series set on the East Coast of Canada. The previous book in the Series A Long Ways from Home was shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Award as the “Best Light Mystery of the year”.

“Life is good for Sgt. Wind­flower in Grand Bank, Newfoundland. But something’s missing from the Mountie’s life. Actually, a lot of things go missing, including a little girl and supplies from the new factory. It’s Windflower’s job to unravel the tangled web of murder, deceit and an accidental kidnapping that threatens to engulf this sleepy little town and destroy those closest to him. But there’s always good food, good friends and the love of a great woman to make everything better in the end.”

Buy the book on Kobo
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Mike Martin is a long-time freelance writer and the author of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series. The series is set in Newfoundland and features Cree, RCMP officer, Sgt. Winston Windflower who solves crime and discovers the natural beauty, food and culture of Newfoundland along the way.

Call the Midwife to Solve the Mystery with Victoria Thompson

Edgar nominated mystery author Victoria Thompson has written twenty (!) books in her Gaslight Mystery series set at the end of the 19th century in New York City.

58 Victoria ThompsonThis is an author who knows her history! I was slightly intimidated to talk to Vicky, because I’m very new to the historical mystery genre. But she was a joy to chat with. You’ll hear us discuss, among other thing, the parallels between the historical period we both write in and the present era we’re all living in and experiencing today.

If you’re wanting to sink your teeth into a series that will provide you weeks of reading pleasure, you’ve come to the right podcast today. 😉 And even better news, Vicky has a new mystery series that recently launched with City of Lies.

You can find out more about today’s guest, Victoria Thompson, and all her books on her website VictoriaThompson.com. You can also find her on Twitter @gaslightvt.

Links and resources mentioned in this episode

  • Click on any of the book covers to go to Victoria’s books on Amazon

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
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The Book That Almost Wasn’t

It’s a Mystery Podcast guest Nancy Jill Thames offers us a guest post today about the origins of her latest book in the Jillian Bradley series.

Nancy Jill Thames guest postWhen I first started publishing books in 2010, I could produce two books a year – no problem! Never mind two weddings, the birth of another grandchild, and taking multiple trips to visit loved ones from sea to shining sea as I did so.

And then my husband retired and sold our home. We downsized and moved to a new town. So far so good on the writing front except for the fact that now we had to make the adjustment to new life together. Every day.

Nancy Jill Thames at the Met
Nancy Jill Thames at the Met
Meanwhile, I was writing short stories for Happy Homicides anthologies and at the same time working on Book 11 which I originally titled “Murder at the Met.” The only problem with that title was the met also referred to the Metropolitan Opera and a baseball team.

“The Death of Amanda Corbin” made sense since she was the victim so I changed the title. Didn’t work for my collaborators, so I changed the title again to the current title “Museums Can Be Murder.”

And then I ran out of steam. I did not care if I ever finished the book. My husband retired, why not me?

If it hadn’t been for the constant nudging and encouragement via emails from Brenda Burke Johnson, a fan from the beginning and my major editor, I don’t believe I would have completed the project.

The other reason to publish this book was the person mentioned in the dedication, my sister-in-law Gayle Elaine Biggs was the inspiration for one of the characters, Paige, Jillian’s sister-in-law. Sadly, Gayle passed last November.

It feels good to complete a project, but having Gayle’s memory live on, for me, is the best reward.

Thanks for letting me share my heart,
Nancy Jill Thames

Nancy Jill Museums can be MurderThe Christmas holidays get a morbid start when Jillian Bradley’s neice Kaitlin Romero discovers the body of her boss at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. An envelope containing rare Charles Dickens illustrations is missing, and Detective Mickey Wells must reluctantly rely on Jillian’s help to solve the crime.

The case goes international when the vendor of the illustrations is murdered and linked to possible fraud.

As always, Jillian’s Yorkie companion Teddy helps solve the case by discovering an important clue.

Afterward tea included!

Click on the book cover ↑
or click here to find this new release at Amazon.

Click here for the book’s page on Nancy Jill’s website, plus the list of all 10 of the other books in the Jillian Bradley series.

Paying Homage to Sue Grafton with Bevan Atkinson

Bevan Atkinson is a mystery author who has made a huge, and exciting, commitment to the mystery genre.

57 Bevan AtkinsonListen to my interview with Bevan to find out how she was inspired by the great Sue Grafton and how she’s come to model her Tarot mysteries after Grafton’s Alphabet series. Bevan has put an interesting twist on the idea of using an alphabetical structure to guide the process of writing a mystery series.

During our conversation, we even touch on the subject of cults (something I’ve written a memoir about) because Bevan’s third book in this series involves a cult.

You can find out more about today’s guest, Bevan Atkinson, and all her books on her website TheTarotMysteries.com. You can also find her on Facebook.

Links and resources mentioned in this episode

  • Click on any of the book covers to go to Bevan’s books on Amazon

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
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Finding the Mystery Genre with the Help of Greek Gods with Shannon Baker

Shannon Baker has written two very different female sleuths for her mystery novels.

56 Shannon BakerIn this episode she introduces us to both solitude-loving Kate Fox, and rolling stone Nora Abbott.

We touch on the way that the landscape around a character can be a metaphor for their state of mind, and also on history and geography in this wide-ranging conversation.

The day I spoke to Shannon, she had just arrived back home from the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ conference where, for the second time (!), she received the writer of the year award. If you’re looking for strong, confident female heroines in your mystery novels, you’ve come to the right place when you sit down with a Shannon Baker book. 😉

You can find out more about today’s guest, Shannon Baker, and all her books on her website Shannon-Baker.com. You can also find her on Twitter @sbakerwriter.

Links and resources mentioned in this episode

  • Click on any of the book covers to go to Shannon’s books on Amazon

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
Keep reading →

Co-writing Police Procedurals with Frank Zafiro and Lawrence Kelter

Writing a book is hard enough. Writing one with someone you’ve never met? I would have said that was impossible, until I met Lawrence Kelter and Frank Zafrio.

55 Frank Zafiro and Lawrence KelterTwo very experienced and prolific writers have come together to write a gritty, New York City police procedural that one fan says, “…has it all: a solid mystery, action, suspense, humor, sex appeal, gripping drama.”

You’ll hear me ask Frank and Larry how they managed to make this collaboration work, because collaborative creative projects are something that fascinate me. They mention that one key to their success for The Last Collar was worshiping at the alter of the creative project rather than bringing a lot of ego to the project. In other words, they always did what was right for the project itself.

I think you’ll enjoy hearing from these two lovely gentlemen about the book they’ve brought to life together. Luckily for their readers, they enjoyed working together so much that they’re doing it again! Stay tuned for the next Kelter / Zafrio collaboration in 2019.

Today we talk almost entirely about Larry and Frank’s co-written book, but both authors have other mysteries available. Below are the links to their websites where you’ll find more information about those books.

You can find out more about today’s guests, Frank Zafrio and Lawrence Kelter, and all their books on their websites FrankZafiro.com for Frank, and My-Cousin-Vinny.com for Lawrence. On Twitter, Frank is @Frank_Zafiro and Larry is @LarryKelter

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
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Minnesota Mysteries and Writing as a Form of Healing with Jessica Lourey

Jessica Lourey is my first guest who is a writer and a full-time writing teacher.

54 Jessica loureyIn this episode of the podcast we talk about her Murder by Month mysteries, and also about her non-fiction book, Rewrite Your Life, an amazing book, which I am currently pouring through.

I use writing every day to keep myself sane. I journal each morning, which helps me to work though some of my garbage, and it also sometimes helps me to know what I’m thinking. I wrote a memoir about ten years I spent in a cult in the 1990s, and writing that book was incredibly healing. And, of course, I also write fiction, which makes me happy, keeps me sane, and hopefully brings a little more light into the world.

If you have any interest in writing at all, I encourage you to listen to my chat with Jessica. We have a lovely time discussing writing, reading, healing and more.

You can find out more about today’s guest, Jessica Lourey, and all her books on her website JessicaLourey.com. You can also find her on Twitter @JessLourey.

Links and resources mentioned in this episode

  • Click on any of the book covers to go to Jessica’s books on Amazon

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
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Louisiana Legal Thrillers with Global Themes with Michael H. Rubin

Not every author can combine history, mystery and legal issues in one book.

Michael H. Rubin, and his co-author Ayan Rubin, accomplish just that with their Bayou Thrillers set in the historical melting pot of South Louisiana.

Michael and I discuss how he and his wife manage to share the task of writing compelling, page-turning legal thrillers, which seems to include no small number of very early morning walks.

You can find out more about today’s guest, Michael H. Rubin, and all his books on his website MRubinBooks.com. You can also find him on Twitter @MichaelHRubin.

Links and resources mentioned in this episode

  • Click on any of the book covers to go to Michael’s books on Amazon

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
Keep reading →

Solving Mysteries and Dodging Bullets Way Off Broadway with Cindy Brown

Cozy mystery author Cindy Brown is slightly silly, but also very serious about writing stories that matter to her.

50 Cindy BrownIn this wide-ranging interview, Cindy mentions some great writing advice she got from a Star Wars screenwriter and how that has informed her Ivy Meadows mysteries.

She also shares some fascinating facts about Annie Oakley. When Cindy was researching her latest book, Ivy Get Your Gun, she discovered that Annie was not only a cracker-jack shot, she was a determined and brave business-woman who was reportedly kind and generous despite her fame in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This reminded me of how much fun it is for writers like Cindy (and me) to weave real life events, people and places into our fictional stories. And of course, we sincerely hope it is as much fun for our readers when they get our books in their hands!

You can find out more about today’s guest, Cindy Brown, and all her books on her website CindyBrownWriter.com. You can also find her on Twitter @friendlybrown.

Links and resources mentioned in this episode

  • Click on any of the book covers to go to Cindy’s books on Amazon

Press play (above) to listen to the show, or read the transcript below. Remember you can also subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts. And listen on Stitcher.

You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
Keep reading →