If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

September Interviews

9/2 Dianne Freeman, A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder

9/9 Ellen Byron, Murder in the Bayou Boneyard

9/16 Marilyn Levinson, writing as Allison Brook, Checked Out for Murder

9/23 Rhys Bowen, The Last Mrs. Summers

9/30 Sherry Harris, From Beer To Eternity

September Guest Bloggers

9/19 Judy Alter

WWK Weekend Bloggers

9/5 V. M. Burns

9/12 Jennifer J. Chow

9/26 Kait Carson


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Connie Shelton Interview

Connie Shelton, now an Indie author, writes two popular mystery series. Yesterday, she released her fourteenth Charlie Parker novel, Buried Secrets Can Be Murder. You can access the trailer for this novel on YouTube. Work must not be a four-letter dirty word to Connie because she also writes the Samantha Sweet series, releasing seven novels in three years—much to my reading delight. In addition to writing, Connie is a commercial hot air balloon pilot, holding a world record in altitude. I thought Wonder Woman was a DC Comic, but Connie makes me believe otherwise.

Please welcome Connie Shelton to WWK.                 E. B. Davis 
The Author
When you started writing in 1985, it took two years to complete your first novel. I read on your website that you now write first drafts in 4-8 weeks. What has changed that enables you to write quickly? Plotting method? Established characters?

Hi Elaine! Thanks so much for the nice introduction and the warm welcome!

Yes, I definitely think that both of the things you mentioned—better plotting and using established characters—have contributed to honing my skills and being able to write faster. When I wrote that first book (it was never published) I started with no idea where the story would go. Each time I sat down to write, there was a long period of staring at the screen and wondering what would happen next. I’ve since developed a plotting method that gives me a solid beginning-middle-end. I usually work out a 3-5-page plot outline that keeps me moving smoothly from one story event to the next.

Probably the biggest change, however, has been in developing the discipline to write regularly. With that first book I wrote whenever I felt inspired. Now I sit down to write every day, whether I’m in the mood or not. Even if I only finish one scene, at least that’s something. More often than not, once I get a couple of pages done I find my stride and can meet my daily goal of ten pages. Some days I only get six or seven, but occasionally I’ll write as many as twenty.

You write six to eight hours per day, six days a week until you finish your first draft. Then, you let the manuscript rest for a month and revise with fresh eyes. How long does revision take?

I approach revision in stages. After I’ve been away from the manuscript for at least a month, I put on my editor’s cap and take one entire day to simply read it all the way through. I keep a notepad at hand and make notes—plot inconsistencies, unanswered questions, repetitive places where I hammered on a point too many times. The next day I’ll take these notes and start going through the printed manuscript to mark the spots where I need to make these big-picture changes, adding, changing or deleting entire scenes. It usually takes 2-3 days of flipping back and forth through the manuscript to get all these done. Then I’ll go back to the beginning and read through, sentence by sentence—fixing, rewording, moving paragraphs around. By this time I’m usually getting a bit fuddled because I’ve been through these same pages so many times. I put all the marked changes on my computer copy and send it off to my freelance editor. She will send it back with plot comments, as well as suggestions for sentence structure and simply calling to my attention places that might be confusing to readers. Once I get her comments, I review the entire book again, putting her suggestions to use and doing some final polishing of my own.

When I finally “think” it’s ready, I send copies to my copy editor (a different person from my content editor) and a couple of beta readers. That’s when I learn that I’ve become too close to my own work. They always find something—a missing word, a glaring grammar error, an inconsistency (did I call that character Jack in chapter 2 and Joe in chapter 7?). Having several proofreaders is important because I find that one will catch something the others missed. Depending on how quickly each of these editors gets back to me, the whole revision process usually takes a month or two.

The Business                                                                                                                       

A small publisher acquired the first ten Charlie Parker novels. What happened?

Intrigue Press was my first publisher and sales of both hardcovers and mass market paperbacks went really well in the beginning. But things change, editors come and go, and the vision for the company seemed to take a different direction. When their new editor no longer wanted new books in my Charlie Parker series I requested my rights back on all my backlist titles. As part of the reversion of rights agreement, I granted them five years to sell off their remaining stock (this ends in mid-2014). That’s why you may still see some of the older hardcovers on sale in places. Based on the sales that are being reported to me, the hardback market is very, very limited.

Once I had my rights back I proceeded to make all my backlist titles available in e-book formats, as well as setting them up for paperback editions through CreateSpace. I love the fact that I can now give my efforts to my readers, those who always wanted to know when the next book would be out. I can write as many books as I want each year, in whichever series I want to. Having creative control is wonderful!

Do you hire cover artists, formatters and publicists?

I use freelancers on an as-needed basis, mainly for editing. In a former career, I worked closely with typesetters, layout people and graphic artists, so I gained a lot of knowledge about the process. I also helped our local writers group publish several anthologies, which gave me good hands-on experience with book layout. Nowadays, I do nearly all of my own cover and layout work. Unless you have experience in graphic design though, I would definitely recommend hiring freelancers.

That said, be very wary of companies that are popping up and offering ‘publishing packages.’ These can be very expensive and the vast majority of writers will never sell enough to earn back the cost of these services. Instead, ask other indie authors for recommendations, read the blogs at Smashwords.com, and read Joe Konrath’s blog “The Newbie’s Guide to Self Publishing” for recommendations of freelancers to handle editing, cover design and book layout.

What is the difference between audiocassettes and audible audio edition?  

Audible brand audios are digital downloads (Audible.com is the trade name of an Amazon company). Currently, I have a contract with Books In Motion, an audio book publisher who produces my two series as both digital downloads and audio CDs (I think audio cassettes are long gone). Books In Motion markets both formats on their own website as well as through Amazon, Audible.com and other places.

The Books

Charlie Parker and Samantha Sweet are very different characters. Would you give our readers a character sketch of each woman?

Charlotte “Charlie” Parker is a 30-something accountant who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a partner with her brother Ron in a small private investigation firm, and although she is supposed to be the financial brains of the outfit she often finds herself getting pulled into the cases that come through the door. She’s got a soft spot for the underdog and that trait often gets her into trouble.

In the series opener, she is single and happy with her big old Labrador for company, but in the second book she meets a handsome helicopter pilot and they soon become a couple. It doesn’t take long for Charlie to add piloting skills and helicopter work to her adventures.
Samantha Sweet lives in Taos, NM, and she breaks into houses for a living, although her realambition is to take her skill with pastries and open her own bakeshop. I got the idea for her job from one of my writing students who actually did this—had a contract with the USDA to break into and maintain abandoned houses until they could be sold at auction. In the first book of this series, Sam is sent to a house and discovers that it isn’t yet abandoned. An old woman is there; on her deathbed the woman insists that Sam accept a carved wooden box, saying that Sam is meant to have it. Sam finds that the old woman was known locally as a bruja and that the odd, carved box has some mysterious powers. And, yes, Sam does eventually get to open her shop, Sweet’s Sweets. The books are a mix of mystery, romance, a touch of the paranormal—and lots of chocolate!

What prompted writing the Samantha Sweet series, which has a magical/mystical tone?

I think many writers begin to feel a little hemmed in when they write one, long-term series, so I guess it was natural that I would eventually dream up another set of characters and start a second series. As I mentioned above, the quirky career for Sam was a starting point. Neither Sam nor I knew, at the time, what types of magical properties the box would have but since that first book, the box has gained an ongoing role. I still don’t know exactly where that’s going to lead, but it’s been a lot of fun to include those elements.

Would you give us the jacket blurb of your newest release, Buried Secrets Can Be Murder?


It’s Christmas in Albuquerque; Charlie Parker and her family are ready for a quiet holiday at home. But right away, her hopes for that scenario fade when Charlie’s brother and PI business partner, Ron, brings in two new cases, one of which made national headlines.

Five years earlier, in a tide of media attention and despite public sentiment against her, Tali Donovan was acquitted of killing her two children and then she disappeared from the radar. Now, at the anniversary of the children’s disappearance, their father wants answers. Charlie realizes that the distraught man will not find peace until he knows what really happened. RJP Investigations digs up more than past history as Charlie and Ron work to find the mother and learn the true fate of the missing kids.

You released a Charlie Parker novella, Holidays Can Be Murder. Will you release other shorts featuring your characters?

The novella was written under contract with Worldwide Mystery (a Harlequin imprint), and I loved doing it, although I had a hard time keeping it within the required 25,000-word limit. I’m really a fan of the long-story form, so at this point I have no plans to write any short stories featuring Charlie or Sam. But then . . . I never say never!

The Person

What attracted you to hot-air balloons?

Wow—what’s not to be attracted to? If you’ve ever been around balloons, especially up close in a setting like the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta you know that they are colorful, mesmerizing, and totally addictive. One ride and I knew I wanted to get my pilot’s license.

You vary your settings. Do you set your books where you’ve lived and traveled?

Yes, my husband and I have traveled a lot and I love to use those places in my stories. Charlie has been to Hawaii, Scotland and England so far, in addition to getting around all over New Mexico and parts of Arizona. Samantha and Beau recently went to Ireland. I try to vary the locales so that the characters are at home for at least a book or two between trips to other places. I’m currently working out the plot details for a new story that will take Charlie to Alaska. 

Is Pedro a real person?

Sorry, no. Pedro and Concha are composites of several people I’ve known in the food service business. Pedro’s tiny restaurant in Albuquerque is entirely fictional.

Which do you prefer, beach or mountains?

Ooh—tough question! I love them both!!
Thanks, Elaine, for inviting me to your blog. This has been a lot of fun. Good luck to everyone with your current projects. Happy reading and happy writing!


Jim Jackson said...

I think I need to go back to bed to rest up after reading this -- and yet, when I "worked" I spent 50-70 hours a week doing that work, so if being an author were my full-time job, I'd expect to do the same.

As a retiree, I'm only a part-time writer and so now feeling better about my efforts. :)

It's great that you've found an approach that works well for you and my joking above aside, I do complement you on treating your writing as a business and continuing to hone your product and choose new distribution venues once the original publisher dried up.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

Yes, Jim, after reading the interview and knowing all that Connie accomplishes, it's no wonder I split the interview into four parts. She is Superwoman!

Warren Bull said...

Persistence and dedication are clearly part of Connie's successful approach to writing. She treats it as her business, which it clearly is. Very nice onterview.

carla said...

Connie has great grasp of the industry. Very helpful blog.

Shari Randall said...

Thank you, Connie, for stopping by - both of your series sound like great fun.
And thank you, E. B., for another terrific interview.

Gloria Alden said...

Welcome to WWK, Connie. Both of your series sound like good reads. I'll have to try them both out. Thanks for the good advice, too.

Anonymous said...

What an informative commentary! I'm sure we all appreciate hearing about Connie's experiences, and she has a lot to teach us.

I keep thinking some ambitious person with good business sense will set up a co-op (probably not a for-profit company) for people who are serious about self-publishing to handle print copies and distribution. As far as I can see, the major disadvantage to self-publishing is the lack of access to book store and library sales. The technical aspects--editing, cover design, formatting, etc--seem to have attracted competent people who one can hire to do a good job, but the actual distribution remains a problem.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Connie, it sounds as if both your life and your writing are fascinating. Thank you for stopping by WWK. Best wishes.

Polly Iyer said...

Good for you, Connie. As another person who has taken the same route, I applaud you for controlling your career. Looks like you've done a very good job of it.