An interview with Cheryl Bradshaw

Cheryl Bradshaw is a new acquaintance of mine and I am fascinated, both with her writing and with her approach to book promotion! She’s one you really need to read, and, if you’re an author yourself, you might want to follow her and see how she keeps those books moving!

 

PJ: Cheryl, how long have you been writing?

Cheryl: I’ve been writing full time for three years now.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Cheryl: I still don’t feel like I’ve peaked as a writer; however, 2012 has been my best year by far, and my hope is that it will continue getting better.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Cheryl: It’s constantly evolving, and I am always learning and growing.  It’s a process, one that has far exceeded my expectations.  I’ve learned there is so much more than the writing itself.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Cheryl: This year, yes.  But it ebbs and flows over time and depends on a lot of factors, such as having a new release and something that strikes a lasting chord with readers.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Cheryl: Yes.  My first novel in the Sloane Monroe series took over a year to write.  Now, with dedication, I can put out a novel in four to six months.  I’m more driven than ever before and have another series in the works as well as a novel I’d like to write in a different genre.

PJ: What made you decide to go the self-published route?

Cheryl: I have a friend who was chosen as one of Amazon’s top 100 authors in 2009.  She pushed me to give it a try, and I am glad I listened.  I would consider signing with the right publisher, and I do have one in mind, but it would depend on a lot of things.  Right now I feel good about where I’m at as long as the momentum continues.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Cheryl: Yes!  I would get an excellent book cover artist, proofreader, and editor at the beginning.  The good thing is I’ve been able to go back and rework some things so my books read a lot cleaner now than they did when I was first learning about the publishing process.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Cheryl: I have a set time I try to stick to during the week.  I am very driven, so I always know what needs to be done and find ways to do it.  With that said, it’s still hard to fit everything in!

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Cheryl: Two things actually.  A few months after publishing Black Diamond Death, the first novel in my Sloane Monroe series, I received an email from a famous director’s assistant inquiring about the film rights to the series.  I am still developing it though, so nothing has come of it—yet.

The second thing happened last month.  I was named one of Twitter’s seven best authors to follow by The Daily Dot.

PJ: Congratulations on both counts! What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Cheryl: It’s so embarrassing to admit it, but I will!  I accidentally uploaded the unedited version of a novella I wrote.  Big oopsies.  By the time I realized it, I’d received scathing reviews which were so disappointing.  But I fixed it right away and moved on, and the reviews that followed were much more complimentary.  Live and learn, right?

PJ: LOL I bet more people have done something like that than we know. I’m sure you’re not alone! What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Cheryl: I was watching a mystery series on television one day and heard a quote by Stephen King.  I thought it would be perfect in I Have a Secret (Sloane Monroe series #3).  Through a weird fluke, I was able to write Stephen King’s assistant directly to ask for his permission.  He had a few questions which she asked me, and then he said yes.  Best day of my life.

PJ: That is so cool! With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Cheryl: My characters and my settings.  Any author can write about a person getting murdered, but a story becomes unique when all the “extras” are added in.  I try to come up with twists that make the book my own.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Cheryl: Study the craft BEFORE publishing, and not because you’ve finished something and assume it’s ready.  I spent years reading every book I could on the process, and I’m still learning more and more each day.

Keep an eye on what your favorite author is doing.  How do they promote?  What do they do to promote?  What works for them that might work for you?  Read their books, and find out who writes in your writing style.  Don’t copy them, but learn from them.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Cheryl: Twitter.  But not because I promote my books on there all the time.  I’ve created relationships with people through general conversation which I love, and then when I have something important going on, like a sale on one of my books or a new one has just been released, I’m always amazed at how many retweets people give me just because they want to—it’s fun, and it works.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Cheryl: Promoting itself is hard because I’d rather be writing.  And the industry is constantly changing.  I could do something today that might not work a few months from now.  I find it’s very draining something to keep up with everything.

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Cheryl: There’s a bookstore called Busy Bee that sells my books in their store, although they are not on the internet.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Black Diamond Death (Sloane Monroe Series #1)

Sinnerman (Sloane Monroe Series #2)

I Have a Secret (Sloane Monroe Series #3)

Stranger in Town (Sloane Monroe Series #4, due out Fall 2012)

Sloane Monroe Series Boxed Set—Books 1-3

Whispers of Murder, A Novella

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

It’s been twenty years since PI Sloane Monroe has returned to her hometown of Tehachapi, California, but when a former classmate is stabbed and tossed overboard during the high school reunion cruise, Sloane isn’t about to allow a murderer to run free in her own backyard. But in a town where everyone is harboring secrets, how many more men will die before she discovers the truth?

Where can we buy it?

Right now it’s exclusive in the Amazon KDP Select program, but I might reinstate it during the holidays and make it available at Barnes & Noble as well as other places.

What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

Unless a person reads the dedications page in my novels, they’d miss the fact that I have a theme song for each one of the books in my series.  I don’t listen to music while I write, but there’s always a song playing in my head that relates to the novel I’m writing.

Cheryl, thank you for taking time to chat with me today! Readers, really, check out Cheryl’s work. She’s not only talented, she’s prolific and we all love finding a new series, right? Enjoy!

Reunion by Carl Brookins

Reunion

Carl Brookins

Echelon Press, 2011, 268 Pages

ISBN No. 978-1590806685

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

Jack Marston, a former investigator for the Navy, is now a student service director at City College in Minneapolis.  Jack is living with Lori Jacobs and Lori has just received an invitation to the reunion of the Class of 1989 in the town of Riverview. Lori isn’t too excited about going but Jack encourages her to accept the invitation.   Lori accepts but wants Jack to attend the reunion functions with her.

The couple travel to Riverview to attend.  There are some interesting sounding events set up for the attendees at the reunion.  Jack takes a walk outside on the first night and finds a dead body and this won’t be the first murder to happen during the reunion.

Lori didn’t expect things to remain the same in Riverview but it isn’t the town that she remembers.  It seems that there are a lot of shady dealings going on and certain people will go to any length to keep their secrets hidden.  Jack is using his investigator skills to attempt to figure out what is actually going on in this crooked town and Lori is helping with her knowledge of the people.

The couple’s investigations lead them to a discovery that puts their lives on the line.  Can Jack possibly figure out a way to save them both before they become the next victims.

Reunion is a book that I didn’t want to end and I was surprised when the complicated plot and the actual murderer was finally revealed.

Carl Brookins is a retired professor, author and reviewer.  I would recommend Reunion as well as The Case of the Greedy Lawyers, another Brookins novel.

The Prophet by Michael Koryta

The Prophet 

Michael Koryta

Little, Brown and Company, 2012, 432 Pages

ISBN No. 978-0-316-12261 0

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

Marie Austin was picked up on her way home from school, brutally attacked and killed.  The death of Marie had a profound effect on her brothers Adam and Kent.  The family was torn apart by the tragedy.  Both boys were outstanding football players.  Kent went on to become a coach at the high school.  Adam became a bondsman and private detective.  Adam felt responsible for his sister’s death.  He was to pick her up and give her a ride home from school but instead he picked up Chelsea Salinas and spent the evening with her.

Adam is still with Chelsea even though she is married.  Her husband is in prison.  Adam owns his parents house along with his brother Kent.  Adam has reconstructed Marie’s room to be exactly as it was when she was alive and spends many hours in Marie’s room.

Kent has married and loves his job as Coach of the local football team.  A championship is in sight and Kent is busy preparing his team.  Kent is also deeply religious and became involved in visiting prisoners.  Adam is furious that Kent has taken this road in life.  Adam still attends the games coached by his brother but there is no closeness between the two brothers.

This all changes when another girl dies.  A girl directly connected to Adam.  Adam vows that he will find her killer and avenge her death.  When a person connected to the young girl’s killing threatens Kent and his family, the two brothers join together to protect Kent’s family and stop the killer.  Although seemingly the brothers are working together, Adam keeps Kent in the dark about some facts in the case and strikes out on his own.

The Prophet is a very exciting book with characters that I loved.  As I neared the end of the book I postponed reading the final pages.  I just did not want this book to end.

An interview with Shelley Freydont

Shelley Freydont is the author of the Lindy Haggerty Mysteries series and the Katie McDonald Sudoku mysteries. Shelley also writes popular romance novels under the name Gemma Bruceis. She is a past president of the New York/Tri State chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, New Jersey Romance Writers and Kiss of Death RWA chapter. A former professional dancer and choreographer, she recently worked on the films Mona Lisa Smile and The Game Plan.I first worked with her through MWA. Hope you enjoy!

PJ: How long have you been writing?

Shelley: I’ve been a closet fiction writer since I was a child. This continued through high school and college and when I was a professional dancer.  I finally bit the bullet and submitted a mystery manuscript in 1998.  It sold and was published in 1999, and I’ve been writing openly ever since.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Shelley: I reach that place whenever a scene reads just the way I envisioned it, or when a scene I think stinks and I despair over, actually turns out to be good. As far as achieving “Success,” I think it’s too elusive to chase.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Shelley: Having been a professional dancer, it didn’t even occur to me was how quiet and solitary it is. Dance is communal.  You start every morning at class with a teacher cajoling, inspiring, and correcting your technique five days a week.  Then you go to rehearsal where the director and the rehearsal director give instructions and let you know if you accomplish it. At the theatre, the applause is a measure of your success. In writing, I go for days talking and listening to people who don’t exist except in my head. And months before even showing my work to others.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Shelley: I didn’t really have expectations.  I was at the end of one career, I chose another. I think it’s ironic that I found a career that often pays as poorly as dancing did. I do manage to scrape along.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Shelley: I worry a lot more.  Really. Waiting to get published the first time doesn’t prepare you for the nerve-wracking business of staying published, always trying to write a better, more compelling book, trying to juggle the writing, editing, marketing, and getting enough down time to let the brain fill up between projects.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Shelley: I was a finalist in the St Martin’s contest, I didn’t win, but I had spent the wait time researching agents. Within three months of submitting, I signed with an agent, and he sold three mysteries a couple of weeks later. A Cinderella story.  The rest hasn’t always been so easy.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Shelley: I tend not to look back and wonder.  It’s counterproductive for me.  I try to just look to the now and to the future and try to live by the “It is what it is” philosophy.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Shelley: It’s always changing for me.  I write in several genres: mystery, women’s fiction and romance. So I’m constantly shifting from one to the other. And it depends on where I am in each project.  I pretty much always have a new project in the works.  I try to give it morning priority while the brain is fresh. Though I confess I do start each morning looking at my email, but answering only the most urgent.  When I’ve done as much as I can do productively, I’ll switch to edits if I have any, write blogs, guest blogs and interviews, then to social networking.  I sometimes have to let the internet slide. So much of it’s chatter, so I try to use it for information and some sharing and go easy on the pictures of cats.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Shelley: Meeting other authors and talking about writing.  I love to hear ideas being dissected and put back together. So much talk is about marketing and the changing industry, I get a thrill when someone just wants to talk craft.

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Shelley: I had just started a series for Carroll and Graf when they were sold and eliminated.  I was really in love with my characters. My editor was perfect for the project. I think that sometimes losing anticipation and enthusiasm, having the possibilities of unwritten books thwarted, can be worse than poor numbers or a bad review.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Shelley: Well this isn’t good or bad, but it stuck in my mind. I was in Missouri working with the Kansas City Ballet, and they’d agreed to set up some book signings for me.  One of the signings was in a bookstore in a small strip mall surrounded by corn fields as far as you could see.  I was sitting at a table with stacks of books and no one stopping to talk or buy.  Then a man who looked very much like the man in Grant Woods’ American Gothic, came in.  He passed my table, giving it a wide berth, but he came back later and passed by a little slower.  This went on for several passes; he finally slowed so much that I said,  “Do you like to read mysteries?”

He said (from where he was standing).  “Is that what that is?”

I said “yes,” but he was already backing away. Then in a rush of words he said, “My wife’s in the car.  I think I’ll get me one of them things.”  He snatches a book and heads for the cashier before I could even pick up a pen.  He left the store without glancing my way.

PJ: How interesting! With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Shelley: I hope it’s because I hone my craft, I see the humor in life, and speak to the heart.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Shelley: Perfect your craft. Try to understand why you write.  So much of what you do and expect is out of your control, you’ll need the commitment to yourself and to your work to see it through.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Shelley: For me, it’s still the one on one, face to face appearance.  I was a performer after all.  I relate to people, and I care about them.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Shelley: The 140 character post. It’s too faceless for my liking or my comfort zone.

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Shelley:  I had two.  They unfortunately have gone out of business.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Women’s Fiction as Shelley Noble

Beach Colors

William Morrow/Harper Collins

A renowned designer loses everything and returns home to Crescent Cove, Connecticut, where she once knew love, joy, and family, three things she’s lost on her climb to fame.

Mystery as Shelley Freydont

 

Celebration Bay Mysteries

Manhattan event planner, Liv Montgomery and her Westie terrier, Whiskey, leave the city for the small town of Celebration Bay, Where Every Day’s a Holiday, and murder crops up in the strangest places.

Foul Play at the Fair

Berkley Prime Crime

The Katie MacDonald Mysteries

 

Puzzle museum curator and Sudoku champion, Kate MacDonald solves murder with the help of her teenaged near-genius assistant, Harry and her Maine Coon cat, Aloysius.

The Sudoku Murder 2007

Sudden Death Sudoku 2008

Serial Killer Sudoku 2009

The Lindy Haggerty Mysteries

Backstage Murder 1999

High Seas Murder 2000

Midsummer Murder2001

Halloween Murder 2002

A Merry Little Murder2002

Show Business Is Murder

Anthology edited by Stuart Kaminsky

 “The Dying Artist”

Nineteenth Century actor learns the meaning of the “Method.”

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

My latest title is a mystery, Foul Play at the Fair-A Celebration Bay Mystery (Berkley Prime Crime)

Sick of the bridezillas, the mad men, the anything but sweet sixteens, a burned-out Manhattan event planner takes a job in a small upstate town. But her dream job turns into a nightmare when an itinerant entertainer is murdered during the annual harvest festival.  Aided by two retired school teachers, a rebellious teenage farm girl and the handsome, but lazy, editor of the local newspaper, she must navigate lies, secrets and Yankee ingenuity to save her town and herself from Foul Play at the Fair.

Where can we buy it?

Anywhere books are sold.

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

Shelley: I’m not sure.  You pretty much put yourself out there when you write a novel.  But one thing I do, being from the theatre, is sometimes act out my scenes to see if they really work. It can also be pretty entertaining for your critique partners.

Shelley, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today! Looks like you’ve provided a wealth of books from which to choose. Happy reading everyone!

Skeleton Picnic by Michael Norman

Skeleton Picnic

Michael Norman

Poisoned Pen Press, 2012, 256 Pages

ISBN No. 978-1-59058-551-1

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

 

Roland (Rolly) Rogers is a retired Kanab High School teacher and an avid pot hunter.  He is anxiously waiting for his wife Abby to get home from work so the couple could begin their weekend searching for artifacts to add to their collection.  When Abby finally gets home the couple begin their last pot hunting adventure. The couple travel into Arizona and drive into a remote area that they discovered the previous fall.

When the couple fails to show up at church their daughter, Melissa, contacts Charlie Sutter, the Kane County Sheriff.  A missing persons report is taken when Melissa says her parents left on Friday and had planned to return on Saturday night.  Sheriff Sutter phones J. D. Books, a ranger with the Bureau of Land Management, and asks that he check out the Rogers residence since it is close to him.  Books is having coffee with Ned Hunsaker, a close friend and his landlord.

Books and Hunsaker go to the Rogers’ residence only to find that someone has broken in through the patio doors. When Books gets inside, he finds that the Rogers cat has been killed and is lying in a pool of blood.  The display case for the antiquities that Rogers has collected over the years is broken and the contents have been removed.

A search discovers the Rogers’ truck and trailer at an abandoned campsite near an excavated

Anasazi ruin.  Footprints and other evidence indicate that the Rogers couple had visitors at their campsite.

Inquiries bring to light the fact that law enforcement authorities in the area have identified several unsolved missing person cases involving pot hunters who have gone missing.  Books along with Sheriff Sutter and his young deputy, Beth Tanner, begin the investigation and soon find that they are treading on dangerous ground.

Skeleton Picnic is an exciting mystery with strong characters that keep the story flowing.