Tag Archives: mystery

Introducing C.D. Jarmola

One of the reasons to attend conferences is the talented people you meet at them. I am always humbled by the people I meet and their talent. Today’s interview is with Christine who I met at Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc. (OWFI), an annual conference my critique group attends. She is not only an author but a director who puts on productions at a local university. Her delightful mystery is a fun trip down the cozy trail.

murder book coverTell us about Murder Goes to Church.

Murder Goes to Church is a fun, cozy murder mystery located in a South Georgian vacation Bible school. Chrissy Chronister, an unwilling amateur sleuth  is thrown into a murder investigation when the victim dies in her arms. What makes this mystery different from the billions out there, is all the clues are uncovered by Chrissy because of the mischievous things her eleven month old son, Lukas, gets into. Whether it is tipping over trash cans or crawling under church pews, his antics get Chrissy in situations that normal people with normal manners never would, and there she finds the secrets that someone has killed to keep quite.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Not as a child. Not as a teenager. It wasn’t until after I had my son, Darku, who by the way is the inspiration for Lukas, that I decided to write a book. I loved reading cozy mysteries and felt that would be such a fun life. Maybe I watched too many Murder She Wrote episodes. So I wrote a book. Sent it to an editor. She said no, and I put it on the shelf. Some fifteen years later, I picked it up and read it again and thought, hey this is actually pretty good. So I rewrote it. And then wrote some more.

Do you write in one genre or many? How do you pick the genre for your books/stories?

I originally planned to write murder mysteries as they are one of my favorite genres to read. But then I started reading YA books and then they were my favorite genre. So my second book to write, Do-Overs was to be a YA book. It wasn’t until I had finished it and was working through it in Bill Bernhardt’s writing workshop that it was pointed out to me that Lottie, my main character was over 18, so it wasn’t YA. Fortunately the publishing industry recently invented a whole new genre, New Adult, just so Lottie Lambert would have a place on the bookstore shelves. My most recent story, Jairus’ Daughters, is YA.

What’s the toughest thing about being an author? The best thing?

The toughest thing is not losing my motivation when all I seem to get is rejection letters. We’ve all heard famous authors say how they received hundreds of rejections before they sold their first book, but still with each rejection it’s difficult to not give up on the writing career all together and go get a real estate license. But then there is the best thing and that is when someone says they read something of yours and they loved it. Just this morning the receptionist at the doctor’s office introduced herself and told me she loved Murder Goes to Church. And last week I got an email from a man in Saudi Arabia telling me he was touched by my story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels Among Us. That was the highlight of my month.

Tell us about the story you placed in Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Finding My Way is a very short, but true, story of my first trip to Europe by myself. I was young, very naïve and very lucky that God was watching out for me.

What is your next book project?

I just finished the first draft of Jairus’ Daughters. It is a YA book about Brenna Birdsong who finds out on the day she gets her first period that she has the ability to heal one person even from the brink of death. The problem is she can only heal one and how does she decide who. The idea started as more a sentimental book, but it didn’t stay that way. It turned into an espionage adventure with hostage situations, spies and all sorts of counter intelligence working to but keep Brenna safe and exploit her power.

Do you have a character you can’t let go of? One you know you will have to write about again?

I must confess, I have a crush on Al Dansby from Do-Overs. There will definitely be a sequel on that one. Did-Overs? Maybe I need to spend a little more time working on a title for that.

Are you a plotter or a seat of the pants kind of writer?

I’m a here’s a problem now what would happen if that really took place kind of writer. With both Do-Overs and Jairus’ Daughters I started with a problem. In Do-Overs it was what would happen if I could instantly redo a mistake at anytime? How would that affect my life? With Jairus’ the thought was if only I could heal one person I’d never ask God for it again. Or would I? From those questions I invented characters to “act out” the stories. Instead of an outline I attempted to write a one-page synopsis before writing the book. Just as if I were telling a friend about a book I read. Then I write by the seat of my pants. Many things from the original synopsis don’t appear in the book. But one thing I most definitely have to have before I start is the ending. It’s like my plot point on the horizon that I have to know where I’m to drive the story to.

Last two–just for fun…

Favorite chocolate?

Any and all. Especially with nuts. Oh, and white chocolate is not chocolate.

Flip flops or bare feet?

Flip flops in every color imaginable.


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Demons, Monsters, and Mayhem


Ever since I picked up my first Nancy Drew when I still rode a dinosaur to school, I have loved mysteries. Wilkie Collins, Moonstone was one of my first after Nancy. Soon, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Ellery Queen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie joined the party. In high school, noir fascinated me, Raymond Chandler, specifically. Later, I developed a love for thrillers and suspense novels which share common factors, crime, tight plotting, but are uniquely different as well. In suspense/thriller the point is not usually whodunnit but will they get away with doing it?

Edgar Allan Poe introduced me to horror in print and Alfred Hitchcock scared me silly with his films. My favorite horror story doesn’t lean on blood and gore or serial killers but takes me to a dark place in my heart. That place where all humans can go when pushed to the limits of their endurance, that breaking point. For me too many times horror hinges on the visual gore or the one-upmanship of being more far out than the one that came before. I love horror that is all the more scary for its understatement. The horror that slips up behind you, when the world appears completely normal and at peace, and guts you in seconds. A good example of this for me is Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.

Mystery stories are tightly plotted, and one of the attractions for me. There are specific rules of this genre that the writer must adhere to in order to “play fair.” As a reader, I like this. Tropes of this genre are well-known; the murder weapon, clues, red herrings, the now interesting CSI effect – follow the DNA, the crusty detective or cop, the fem fatale, the gathering of the potential perps for the big “reveal”. Huge rule in mystery, if you draw emphasis to a scarf on page ten, you better plan on strangling somebody with it by page 30.

Horror stories include tropes such as the mad scientist, the ‘invention’ that overcomes the master, monsters and creatures of our nightmares. Horror has the quality of being able to manipulate the reader into believing that his own fears are coming to life. It can elicit the same physical reactions as experiencing it in reality. For me horror has to walk a fine line to avoid missing the suspension of disbelief. Today’s horror films have disillusioned my sons because they find them funnier than scary. This is the risk with horror. When you go too far, the reader or viewer disengages.

All writing requires attention to detail and foresight. Mystery, however, requires more planning than some genres if you hope to have 2 + 2 add up to the required 4 at the end. Horror, I believe, requires insight into a place few people want to go. If the worst were to happen, what am I capable of? The answer to that question, when pursued honestly, is horrific.

Talking genre is a lot of fun. Be sure to check out Natasha’s post on the paranormal genre here. L.L. McKinney’s post on Sci-Fi and Fantasy can be found on Tangynt. And pop over to Novel Clique to take a poll on genre.

What are your favorite tropes for mystery? Horror?


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As I spend the day in the doctor’s office with Dad, I wanted to take a minute to share something interesting. It’s from Jane Friedman’s newsletter and as someone who does not write romance but knows many people who do, it caught my eye. Romance sells. Check out her newsletter for more information.


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