Engineer to Mystery Writer?
By Cheryl Hollon
I’m delighted to be a guest at Moonlight Rendezvous. Thank you, Jennifer, for hosting me on your site with the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour.
At every personal appearance, I’m confident the following question will be asked: how did you change careers from an engineer to a mystery writer?
My path to engineering was a long and twisty road. As a young girl, I was intensely interested in everything science and mathematical. My family was poor and without money for college, I enrolled in secretarial studies in high school and took a job as a cost clerk. I worked my way up the chain to become the Executive Secretary for the Engineering Research Department.
I typed hundreds of research papers, technical reports, proposal submissions, and design review presentations. Unlike many, I read and studied those documents to the extent that I pointed out logic errors and process omissions. Some engineers were insulted – some were grateful.
My bosses encouraged me to go to college, so I enrolled in night classes at Sinclair Community College and began my education – one class at a time. When an opening occurred for an Assistant Computer Programmer (basically punching cards and loading programs), I applied immediately. I was accepted but continued my studies. Luckily, I took to programming like a duck to water.
After years of work and study at a secure communications facility, I was given the formal title of Engineer through a promotion board even though I didn’t yet have a four-year degree. During a lay-off cycle, I applied for a position as a Computer Systems Analyst at a company that built military flight simulators.
I fell in love with the three-stories tall, six-degrees-of-movement, incredibly complicated devices that trained aircrew to save lives. My boss firmly encouraged me to finish my college studies – basically, as a condition of continued employment. Wow, that really worked. This was in the old days prior to distance learning, so I struggled to balance my family, travel for the job and time to study.
After graduation, I returned to reading for pleasure – not just mysteries, but science fiction, fantasy, westerns and biographies. And because I could write reasonably well (compared to most engineers), I was in demand as a proposal contributor on major contracts.
As our company began to win projects overseas, I started writing mysteries on the long-haul flights and during the extended site installation trips. Those trips ranged from a few days to as long as a year.
After several disastrous attempts at crafting a mystery, I joined a local writing group and became a member of the Sisters in Crime – by far the smartest move I made in my writing career. The next step was to join their Internet chapter, The Guppies. It is a nickname for The Great Unpublished. The on-line advice was at my fingertips, anytime, anyplace and any topic. The hive mind has over 500 writers, both published and unpublished, who helped me find the books I needed to study, find on-line classes to help me improve my craft, and find information on the best conferences to attend to meet agents and publishers.
Eventually, I finished a manuscript that I felt was ready for submission to agents. I doggedly sent out query after query until I had collected one hundred and eight rejections. I was a real writer, now. Yes, that’s more than a few. I’m stubborn that way. Several agents were interested and we exchanged correspondence – but nothing stuck. Close doesn’t feel very good in the publishing business.
While I queried, I wrote another book (more good advice from The Guppies) that was a stronger concept and it ultimately led the way to my current agency, Bookends Literary Agency. My original submission to them hasn’t yet found a home, but the proposal for Paint & Shine Mysteries sold to Kensington Books in a 3-book deal.
My engineering skills have served me well in managing the demands of a publishing career. It’s all about the scheduling – writing time, promotion time, revision time, and social media time. Just like any major project, breaking those tasks down into manageable chunks helps to make them doable and enjoyable. Writing full time is a dream come true.
Still Knife Painting (A Paint & Shine Mystery)
by Cheryl Hollon
About Still Life Painting
Still Knife Painting (A Paint & Shine Mystery)
1st in Series
Publisher: Kensington (June 30, 2020)
Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
Digital ASIN: B07W8VL149
Miranda Trent has set up a sweet life in a scenic corner of Appalachia—until she stumbles across the trail of a killer . . .
After inheriting her uncle’s Red River Gorge homestead in Eastern Kentucky—smack dab in the middle of the Daniel Boone National Forest—Miranda comes up with a perfect business plan for summer tourists: pairing outdoor painting classes with sips of local moonshine, followed by a mouthwatering sampler of the best in southern cooking.
To Miranda’s delight, Paint & Shine is a total success—until someone kills the cook. As the town’s outsider, suspicion naturally falls on Miranda. Murdering the best biscuit baker of Red River Gorge is a high crime in these parts. Miranda will have to prove her innocence before she’s moved from farmhouse to jail cell faster than she can say “white lightning” . . .
About Cheryl Hollon
Cheryl Hollon now writes full-time after she left an engineering career of designing and building military flight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, and India. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art. In the small glass studio behind her house in St. Petersburg, Florida, Cheryl and her husband design, create, and produce fused glass, stained glass, and painted glass artworks. Visit her online at http://cherylhollon.com, on Facebook or on Twitter @CherylHollon.
Review of Still Knife Painting
Review (4.5 Stars); Still Knife Painting was a charming start to a brand new series. I loved Miranda’s idea of having guests go on a hike and paint the beautiful landscape to take home with them. The scenery described sounded so breath-taking that I wish I was there with them. The murder mystery was very well-written and I loved how it kept me guessing. Looking forward to reading book number two and spending more time with Miranda.
June 29 – Brooke Blogs – CHARACTER GUEST POST
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