Tag Archives: mystery


The Gift of Mystery

The Virgin Murders by Nancy Sweetland

Would You Care for Some Humor With Your Homicide, Madam?

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I’ve been addicted to murder mysteries since the age of six when I discovered the Nancy Drew series was far more intriguing than the adventures of Dick and Jane. My first manuscript, “Cindy Parker and the Haunted Mansion,” was written when I turned my third-grade spelling words into a sixteen page novella. If my mother hadn’t made me go to bed at 8:30, who knows what kind of masterpiece I could have created. When the teacher gave me an A plus, I was officially bitten by the writing bug. It’s somewhat similar to malaria. Once you’re bitten, it may go dormant for awhile, but it will never totally go away.

Although a corporate career, marriage, children, and divorce intervened, my personal anti-depressant has always been to read a mystery by one of my favorite authors, a group of writers who not only devised a puzzle for me to solve, but also kept me laughing. They could turn the gloomiest day or mood into pure sunshine. When I sat down to write my first novel, I had one goal in mind. To write an intriguing murder mystery that also provided plenty of giggles. Seems simple, right? NOT!

I discovered it wasn’t that easy to mesh the suspense of a murder investigation with those special laugh-out-loud moments. We can’t have our heroine blithely tripping over dead bodies, right and left. While the premise of mid-life dating itself can provide laughs (ah, the true stories I could share) there is still a definite fear factor involved. What if you don’t meet Mr. Right and instead meet Mr. Wrong?

It’s critical that readers identify with and root for the protagonist as she searches for the killer. She may be forced to do so to save her reputation or to stay out of jail. It definitely helps if your protagonist is relatable to her readers. In one scene in DYING FOR A DATE, Laurel McKay discovers that when faced with a gun, she didn’t want to flee, she just wanted to pee. I know I’m not the only member of the “hot flash” set who can relate to that.

There’s also the romance factor. How do you maintain conflict and tension between your protagonist and the investigating detective? Especially when he can’t decide if he should arrest the adorable soccer mom, or kiss her? We need to keep the audience engaged in the mystery but still provide those moments that sizzle and sparkle with laughter.

I would love to hear from both mystery readers and authors. Does anyone else enjoy a little slice of humor with their homicide? 

Although Cindy Sample’s initial dream was to be a mystery writer, she put aside her literary longings and applied for a job as a receptionist with a real estate office. Her career eventually led to President of a national mortgage banking company. After one too many corporate mergers, Cindy decided it was more fun to plot murder than plod through paperwork. Her experiences with on-line dating sites fueled the concept for Dying for a Date, a humorous romantic mystery set in the California gold country.

Cindy writes a column entitled Hot Flash for the Gold River Community Newspaper. She is a past president of the Sacramento chapter of Sisters in Crime and is the co-chair of the Left Coast Crime Convention, which will be held in Sacramento in 2012. If you’re interesting in volunteering, she’d love to hear from you. Contact Cindy at www.cindysamplebooks.com



Why I love Mysteries [Guest Blog: Nancy Lynn Jarvis]

I got hooked on mysteries at a tender age. Their logic and careful structure first began fascinating me when,  sworn to secrecy by my grandmother who worried my mother wouldn’t approve of such a young girl reading mysteries other than Nancy Drew,  I sat in Nana’s wicker rocking chair reading books by Agatha Christie.

I became quite good at figuring out who did it before Dame Agatha had Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot tell me, and I offered myself liberal congratulations for my cleverness. It wasn’t until I started writing mysteries myself that I realized  the masterful Christie probably knew on which page I could know, not just guess,  the villain’s identity before she even started writing her book.

Solving a mystery is like solving a logic puzzle—Sudoku on steroids— and if that isn’t fun enough, mysteries can give a reader, or me as a writer, an excuse to delve into a world of fascinating but unsettling things like decomposition, accidental mummification, and how ligature strangulation and death by hypothermia work. For me, researching those topics is akin to being a four-year-old playing with rubber dinosaurs: the game is enjoyable and I can control what might otherwise give me nightmares.  

Mysteries, at least the kind I like and write, let me fill the sleuth’s shoes for a time and, from the safety of my favorite reading spot, live in a more daring world than my own and outwit the murderer within about three-hundred pages.


Nancy Lynn Jarvis has been a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years. She owns a real estate company with her husband, Craig.

After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News.  A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager of Shakespeare/Santa Cruz.

Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. Writing is her newest adventure.

She invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. Details and ideas come from Nancy’s own experiences.


Buying Murder

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Murder gets personal when human remains are found in the beach cottage that realtors Regan McHenry and her husband, Tom Kiley, buy. The murder victim has been hidden away for sixteen years, and although the authorities quickly discover his identity, the trail to his killer is cold.

Regan has sworn off playing amateur detective, but when it becomes clear the police have to focus on more pressing crimes, she has to break her promise. As her policeman friend, Dave Everett, says, “Your house, Regan, your murder.”

Welcome back to Santa Cruz, the community whose unofficial motto is “Keep Santa Cruz Weird,” for the twists and turns of the third book in the Regan McHenry Mystery Series.

Beth Solheim: A Star on the Rise

Beth SolheimLike the main character in her Sadie Witt mystery series, Beth Solheim was born with a healthy dose of imagination and a hankering to solve a puzzle. She learned her reverence for reading from her mother, who was never without a book in her hand.

By day, Beth works in Human Resources. By night she morphs into a writer who frequents lake resorts and mortuaries and hosts a ghost or two in her humorous paranormal mysteries. 

Raised and still living in Northern Minnesota, she resides in lake country with her husband and a menagerie of wildlife critters. She and her husband are blessed with two grown children and two grandsons.

Now, on with the show… 

KS: Can you tell us a little bit about what is was like to get the word that a publisher wanted to publish your book? 

BS: Shock. Absolute shock and joy. Several months had lapsed after Karen Syed, publisher of Echelon Press, requested my manuscript, so I thought she must not be interested. Then, as I do every morning, I opened my email and there it was. Karen said her editorial board expressed interest and would I like to look at a contract. Would I? Are you serious? Of course! Acting like an adult was out of the question as I raced from room to room. I realize the real work has just begun, but I’m still riding that cloud of debut-author bliss. 

KS: How long have you been writing and what was the first thing you remember writing? 

BS: I’ve been writing for about ten years, six seriously. My first attempt at writing was a mystery. I knew nothing about plotting, characterization, or pacing, but I plodded through and thought it was great. A best seller. It wasn’t. It was horrible. I’m mortified by that first attempt, but also thrilled with what I’ve learned over the past six years. 

KS: What is a typical day like for you with regard to a day job and now a pending career as an author? 

BS: My full-time day job is in Human Resources in a hospital. My evenings are spent doing typical household chores, writing and editing, and occasionally drawing floor plans and processing paperwork for my husband’s construction business. Signing a contract with Echelon Press added another dimension—marketing. Over the past year I read books and surfed websites to learn what I could about marketing. I’ll format a plan to stay current with trends in marketing and writing. 

KS: How do you think your life will change once your book is published and available for sale to readers? 

BS: The pace will quicken, especially when both the eBook and print book are available to readers. Blog tours, book signings, speaking engagements and book fairs will be priority along with other marketing venues. I’ll keep my day job and most of all stay focused on writing and edits. 

KS: What kinds of things do you do to keep your focus when trying to write when life gets in the way? Do you use candles or music or meditation? 

BS: I park my butt and write. I have a nasty chat with a certain lazy writer if I don’t meet my goal. And, no chocolate! I also use Goals for Guppies, a Sister’s in Crime support group. I set a goal each week and have to report in on weekends. Shame on me if I don’t achieve that writing or marketing goal. If I’m exhausted when I come home from work, I enjoy a meal with my husband and then walk a mile or two with Il Divo, Celine Dion, or Josh Groban serenading me. Music is stimulating and makes me feel whole again. It triggers ideas. 

KS: Who in your life has been the most influential in your journey toward being an author? 

BS: A friend of my sister’s, Stephanie Sorenson, who is a publicist for Penguin Putnam, took the time to read my manuscript and made suggestions out of the goodness of her heart. No one in the profession had ever validated my writing or made constructive comments. That honest critique coupled with encouragement and counsel was the best thing that happened. 

KS: Tell us a little bit about book one of your upcoming series. 

BS: At Witt’s End is a humorous, paranormal mystery. Witt’s End is a bustling resort in Northern Minnesota with clients vying for one of the few remaining rentals, except Cabin 14, where guests never leave alive. 

Most sixty-four year old senior citizens aren’t expected to solve a murder while trying to prevent an unscrupulous sheriff’s deputy from shutting down their lakeside resort, but that’s exactly what Sadie Witt must do. 

When five guests arrive at Cabin 14, they’re stunned to learn that the flamboyant Sadie is their conduit to the hereafter. Clad in the latest fashion trends, fads that are typically reserved for those without sagging body parts and sporting hairdos that make bystanders want to look away but can’t, Sadie realizes one of the guests had been murdered and must work against the clock to untangle the web and prevent further mayhem. 

You can visit Beth at her web site.