Wellington mystery writer on her way

“Stalking Ground,” Margaret Mizushima’s second mystery, will arrive on your local bookshelf in September. It follows “Killing Trail,” her debut mystery, published in December.

I’m not a big reader of mysteries, but after a visit with Mizushima, I asked if I could borrow her book, thinking I’d be better able to know where this Wellington resident is coming from. There followed a time synch. I finished this book in two sittings, not able to put it down. How could I, until I learned “who dun it?”

It’s no surprise to me that Mizushima’s book was named Library Journal’s debut mystery of the month, that she’s one of four up for an award by RT Reviewers Choice Award and that fiction writers group Killer Nashville has asked her to write a guest blog. She’s also been invited to speak at the new authors breakfast for Left Coast Crime, a fan-based crime novel readers’ group.

Mizushima grew up on cattle ranches in Texas, Kansas and Colorado, ending up in the tiny San Luis Valley town of Saguache, where she graduated from high school. “It’s the place that felt most like home to me,” she said.

After earning degrees in speech therapy from Colorado State University and University of Northern Colorado, she became the first speech therapist hired at Poudre Valley Hospital. After nine years there, she started her own business, Community Rehabilitation Services, providing occupational, physical and speech therapy in Fort Collins for 10 years.

Since that time she has worked part-time with her husband, Charles, a large- and small-animal veterinarian based a mile west of Wellington. They also have a herd of Angus cows.

In addition to raising two daughters, Mizushima made time to indulge her passion for writing by seeking out classes and conferences and becoming an active member of Pikes Peak Writers Conference and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. “I knew I wanted to write and I had a lot to learn,” she said.

“The characters came first,” she explains after making the decision to write a mystery. “I knew I wanted to write about a veterinarian, and a woman police officer who was a canine handler.”

Through the efforts of an agent, Crooked Lane Books in New York showed an interest in her work. An editor there loved her characters but felt that the plot needed some tweaking. In a period of three months, Mizushima rewrote about two-thirds of the book. “I’d already revised it about 10 times so that wasn’t easy,” she explained. “But I trusted the editor’s opinion and went with it.”

In the end, it is the characters Mizushima created that endeared me to this book. She makes you care so much about them that you find yourself with a vested interest in seeing how they fare.

She credits people who assisted her in research from several K-9 officer/trainers to a police chief. Her husband offered real-life details of veterinary practice and brainstormed crime fiction with her over the kitchen table. Daughters Sarah and Beth read several drafts of the manuscript and offered valuable input as did her writers’ group.

In an acknowledgement of her talent and potential, Mizushima recently signed to write two more books in the series. It looks like her character, Officer Mattie Cobb and Robo, her faithful canine partner, have a bright future.

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