Tag Archives: Mike Martin

Setting the Scene for Mystery

A wooden dock leads off to some sunset-illuminated water and the post title, "Setting the Scene for Mystery" is superimposed on the top.

The setting for the Sgt. Windflower Mysteries is not just a prop or a way to entice the reader to enter the realm of these books, although I certainly hope that it does. It is much more than that. For me the setting is the story, at least the beginning of the adventure. It is the only part of the story that I control. I get to start the story by setting the scene. Once I begin the journey the characters come and tell me the rest of the story and I just write it down.

It’s been like that from the very first time I sat down on the wharf in Grand Bank, Newfoundland on the easternmost tip of Canada and gazed out into the fog at the blinking lighthouse. Sgt. Winston Windflower almost walked out of that fog and introduced himself to me and started telling me his story. Sure, I get to limit some character’s voices from time to time and maybe I have a little say over the moral lines that I will allow the characters to play within. But once I have the setting, that opening scene, the story flows on its own.

So, for me, the bigger question is not how the setting affects the story, but rather why an author would choose a particular setting. Because once that choice has been made a lot of things flow from that including the physical environment, the weather and what the characters can actually do during the progression of the story line. I chose the Grand Bank area of Canada because it is located in my home province and I wanted to describe the physical beauty of the natural surroundings and tell some of the history of the area.

I have tried to capture the beauty of the ever-moving ocean and banks of fog that linger on the horizon, but words can barely touch the canvas that creation has revealed to us. That’s why I always put a picture on the front cover that illustrates it far better than my words ever could. Like the lighthouse in Grand Bank on The Walker in the Cape and the boardwalk in Burin on The Body on the T. Or the fishermen’s wharf and fishing stages or rooms in Fortune on A Twist of Fortune. All real places that I have visited and that a reader can too by looking at the cover or reading the book.

The setting by the Atlantic Ocean also makes the weather a real character in all of the Sgt. Windflower Mysteries. It is almost always windy and the potential for some form of precipitation is high at any time of day or in any season. Both of those force people inside, sometimes for a meal, sometimes for coffee, sometimes just for shelter from a storm. It allows me to show people in close quarters where their interactions reveal more of themselves, their true selves and their intentions. Maybe even their motives…. Plus, it’s always a great opportunity to show off the delicious cuisine of the local area and maybe even a chance for Windflower to get a piece of his favorite chocolate peanut butter cheesecake.

For me, I simply couldn’t set the Sgt. Windflower Mysteries anywhere but in Newfoundland. It gives it the touch, texture, smell and feel of the ocean breeze blowing in my hair. The salt air wind whipping the bedsheets drying on the clothesline. It makes the characters come alive and hopefully makes them real to the readers as well. Come back to Grand Bank and experience it yourself in the latest adventure, A Tangled Web.

Cover shows a coastal village with the name of the book "A Tangled Web" by Mike Martin, superimposed on the front.
A 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.”
Photo via Visualhunt.com

The Story Always Comes First

by Mike Martin, @mike54martin A Long Ways from Home is a Sgt. Windflower mystery from author Mike Martin.

In some ways it’s easy to write a series. You already have a frame in which to sketch your story. Usually, that means you have a general location or part of the country and you have a cadre of characters that accompany the main character on his or her journey. There’s a familiarity, a comfort in that. It makes both the writer, and hopefully the readers, want to come right in, sit in that nice, comfy chair and slide into the story.

I always have that feeling when I start a new Sgt. Windflower Mystery. Like I’m home. Then I start writing and all the characters come streaming into my head at once. It’s exhilarating and frightening at the same time as my brain tries to process both the story that is starting to unfold, and all of the voices of the characters who are asking for my attention. Sometimes it feels like the old woman in the shoe. So many characters, I really don’t know what to do. And mostly I just feel stressed and crazy. Continue reading The Story Always Comes First

Still Grateful to be an Independent Writer

by Mike Martin, @mike54martinCover

I have often seen articles that talk about the best and the worst aspects of being an independent writer. Usually their central theme is that we should stop whining and be grateful that we are allowed to write at all. And I usually end up agreeing with them. That doesn’t mean that I am going to stop complaining about having to do everything myself. Insert Big Sigh here. But it does remind me that I have been given a great gift and that there is a universal truth that says whatever we are grateful for we get to keep. Therefore I am grateful to be an independent writer.

I’m grateful to be a writer at all. I was grateful when I was a freelance writer and getting paid much less than less than five cents a word to produce keywords and SEO content. I was grateful when I was a ghostwriter and speechwriter and it meant that I would write and someone else would literally get the credit. I was grateful when I sold my very first piece for $25 and decided to quit my job so that I could focus on my writing. I wasn’t grateful to be very broke and very much in debt for the next three years, but now I’m grateful to have survived that experience. Continue reading Still Grateful to be an Independent Writer

Setting the Scene for a Good Story

by Mike Martin 

I know you are not supposed to, but I do judge a book, at least whether I am going to buy it or not, based on the picture on the front of the book. That’s not my primary motivation to buy a book, but it can get my attention, attract me, and draw me in. I don’t think I’m alone in that. The front cover gives me an idea of where the book may be set, and sometimes that’s enough to get me to check out the blurb at the back and a little bit about the author.

Everyone has their own personal attractions, but for me and I think a lot of mystery readers we look to the front cover as a way to see inside the book. In my first two books I choose pictures from the area in which the stories take place, small fishing communities on Canada’s east coast. Continue reading Setting the Scene for a Good Story