Connie Shelton has been writing for more than twenty years and has taught writing (both fiction and nonfiction) since 2001. She is the author of the Charlie Parker mystery series and has been a contributor to several anthologies, including Chicken Soup For the Writer's Soul.
"My husband and I love to do adventures. He flew helicopters for 35 years, a career that I've borrowed from in my Charlie Parker mysteries. We have traveled quite a lot and now divide our time between the American Southwest and a place on the Sea of Cortez. For relaxation I love art -- painting and drawing can completely consume me. I also really enjoy cooking, with whatever ingredients I find in whatever country we are in at the moment. We walk every day and love watching and photographing wildlife."
When did you first start writing?
Writing was something I always enjoyed in school but as far as serious writing with a career in mind, I didn't really start on that until I was in my thirties. I began with no knowledge of the process other than what I'd read in a how-to book on writing romances. I'm not sure what I was thinking....I really didn't read a lot of romances at that point, but I knew that I wanted to write.
I began with a family saga that ultimately ran over 500 pages long. I entered the first three chapters in a contest and took third place. That, I think, is what gave me the confidence to keep writing. I did a second book, another saga of nearly 400 pages (it would take me awhile to figure out that family sagas were about fifteen years out of date at that point!). Neither of those first two books were ever published, but that's okay. Looking back on the quality of my writing that that point---it's really a relief that they never made it to print. Anyhow, while those manuscripts were making the rounds of NY I turned to my first love in reading....mysteries.
I attended a lot of writers conferences in those days, meeting some of the big names in mystery like Tony Hillerman, Mary Higgins Clark and Sue Grafton. I began to see that writing is a learned craft that takes a lot of practice, not something that most people can dash off quickly and hope for publishing recognition.
Tell us a little about your path to publication.
I finished two mysteries and noticed that my rejection letters were getting more complimentary. I ran into the same things that so many writers today are saying. Editors would say, "I love the characters, but--" or "The writing is really good, but--" There were always too few slots and too many manuscripts under consideration at any given time.
After I'd been at the game for nearly ten years (I did a LOT of writing during this time, really practicing and honing my craft) I decided to take a big risk. These were the days of print-only publishing and a time when self-published was a dirty word. I made the leap and invested a lot of my savings and started my own publishing company. I guess you could say that I was indie when indie wasn't cool (to paraphrase the country song). Pretending it really wasn't me at the helm, I published a few of my own books in hardcover, picked up other authors, and built the press into a thriving little house, one that gained the approval of some fairly stodgy organizations (no names shall be mentioned) and we garnered good reviews in nearly all the prestige publications, such as Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal.
We got enough attention that about six years into the venture I got an offer and sold out to a larger company. Suddenly, I was being traditionally published---hardcover, paperback, book club deals, audio and movie rights. While I missed working with my authors, I was very appreciative of the additional time to write my own books.
A few more years went by, and then things began to slip. My editor and publicist moved on and no one seemed to be taking over their jobs. I had a manuscript ready to go but no indication of when I might see it published. It was deja vu all over again, except this time I had fans of my mystery series who were repeatedly asking me when my next book would be out. When a series of shakeups occurred at the publishing house I requested and received my rights back on my older titles. At last I owned my whole series and could do anything I wanted. This was 2009 and you can guess the rest of the story. Amazon initiated its Kindle Direct program . . . Smashwords came along. Suddenly, indie actually was cool!
I immediately republished all my backlist, along with the new manuscript-in-waiting. I started a second series, sales were picking up and now whenever a fan asked about my next book I had an answer for them. From ten books that were barely scratching out enough for lunch money, I've gone to twenty-two titles and am approaching sales of a million books total. Mostly, I'm making a decent living at what I love to do. Every time I get a letter from a fan, my gratitude meter pings---I feel very, very lucky.
Revenge is often a cold dish, but in the tiny northern New Mexico town of Sembramos emotions are running decidedly hot. When two men convicted of murdering a
local girl are released from prison after serving only a few years, their convictions overturned, the town’s old pain rises and tempers flare. Samantha Sweet and Sheriff Beau Cardwell get right in the thick of it, with three deaths to solve.
Investigator Charlie Parker and family are ready for a quiet Christmas at home but along comes a new case which made national headlines. Five years earlier, Tali Donovan was acquitted of killing her two children and then she vanished. Now, at the anniversary of the children’s disappearance, their father wants answers, knowing he will not find peace until he knows what really happened.
In this seventh book in Connie Shelton’s bestselling mystery series, Samantha Sweet learns that an Irish great-uncle left her an inheritance. Will the gift be something lavish and wonderful, or is there no pot of gold for Sam?
Meanwhile a local charter boat is found adrift near the rocky Irish coast, its occupants missing, and Sam and Beau find themselves on the trail of another mystery.
Samantha and Beau are ready for their autumn wedding. Dealing with the family may turn out to be the least of Sam’s problems when an unwelcome visitor walks into her shop—Sam’s old heart-throb, the charmer, Jake Calendar. Jake wants money for a Hollywood get-rich-quick scheme and he wants Sam to finance it. Can Sam convince him that the answer is ‘no’ or will he sabotage the plans for her wedding?
Charlie returns from her Hawaiian vacation to discover that her brother Ron is in love. But the younger woman, Vicky, seems manipulative and full of secrets. Meanwhile, Charlie offers to help a friend whose business partner apparently committed suicide. But did he? The questions get tricky as Charlie starts to investigate financial fraud and finds her own life on the line.
It’s the wedding season at Sweet’s Sweets and Sam scrambles to stay ahead of the rush of bakery orders. Her side job—breaking into houses—isn’t allowing much time off either. Not to mention that her mother is pressuring Sam and Beau to set their wedding date.
When two older women suddenly die and Sam and Beau begin to investigate, they suddenly realize Beau's mother may have been a victim too.
An enigmatic letter from her namesake aunt, a trip to England, and Charlie is seeing ghosts in the medieval Suffolk town of Bury St. Edmunds. But it isn’t only slightly-eccentric Aunt Louisa’s beliefs in the occult or her spooky “haunted sites” tours that pique Charlie’s interest. Something sinister is brewing and Charlie finds herself drawn into an investigation of crimes that are far too real.
Samantha Sweet is planning her wedding to Beau Cardwell, coping with record Valentine sales at her bakery, and she takes on a new mystery when a dying woman begs Sam to find her missing son before it's too late. And if life weren't complicated enough, an ex-girlfriend of Beau's shows up to announce that she plans to win him back. Midwest Book Review: "Connie Shelton gets better with every book."
In this third installment in the Samantha Sweet mystery series, it's Christmas and a chocolatier shows up at Sweet's Sweets, offering to create a special line of hand-dipped chocolates for Sam's customers. But she learns that he has connections to the wooden box that seems to give Sam her mystical powers, and discovers that certain evil people will do just about anything to take it away from her.
It’s a terrible case of mistaken identity when a gang of bank robbers think that Charlie is a famous movie star. Disappointed with their take from the bank, they decide that a hefty ransom will be their ticket to riches. But what will happen when the real star steps forward? Charlie knows that only her wits will save her from this band of desperate men.
Samantha Sweet is realizing her dream of opening her pastry shop, Sweet's Sweets. But she still has the obligations of her other job, breaking into houses. When a blood-soaked garment shows up among the discards at one of Samantha's properties, and when a friend makes a shocking confession, Sam finds herself in the midst of a complex mystery.
"Connie Shelton has another winner." The Book Report
New series from bestselling author Connie Shelton! Samantha Sweet breaks into houses for a living. When she finds an unmarked grave, Sam calls the authorities. A small mural in the abandoned house provides clues--add a fortune in artwork, a bogus will, and a wooden box that gives Sam powers she never dreamed she possessed and it's a dynamic paranormal mystery.
"Another winner!" The Book Report
Charlie is invited to a plush Santa Fe spa by her friend Linda Casper. The massages and spa treatments sound great, until she realizes that there is something darker going on at the mountain resort. Meanwhile, Drake has his own concerns as an expert witness in a helicopter crash case. The two cases overlap and dangers abound, from all sides.
"Charlie is just what readers want."--Booklist
Charlie & Drake just want a getaway, a weekend in a lakeside cabin. But within hours Charlie has found a new mystery. A showplace home near the small town of Watson's Lake blew sky high a few years ago, a woman died, and the home's owner went missing. The case was never solved and Charlie discovers a complex web of deceit. "Another delicious read for the beach." –The Pilot, Southern Pines, N.C
It's time for the famous Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and Charlie is hired to protect a lady balloonist who will attempt a world altitude record on the final Sunday of the Fiesta. Rachael Fairfield has been receiving threats and believes they came from her father, a man she sent to prison 15 years earlier. But Charlie isn't so sure and the investigation gets tricky. "Another winner!" The Book Report
Charlie and Drake are off to Scotland to fly a helicopter contract at the offshore oil rigs in the North Sea, where they find that the helicopter operators are embroiled in an ongoing battle with boat owners. Meanwhile, at the castle where they are staying, Charlie finds herself helping the lord of the manor when his grandson is kidnapped. "Tension is fast paced..." --Midwest Book Review
Charlie isn't thrilled when a forceful female attorney comes into the office demanding that RJP Investigations locate her missing father in time for an upcoming family reunion. Willie McBride had told people that he was going prospecting for gold in the mountains of southern New Mexico, and now Charlie suspects foul play. She's determined to find him, dead or alive.
"A good bet!" –Booklist
Charlie and Drake get a dream honeymoon--three months in a secluded mountain cabin near the famous Taos Ski Valley, while their home in Albuquerque is under construction. Drake will operate his helicopter for skiers and Charlie finds herself drawn into a case that combines the Taos art world, stolen religious artifacts, and murder.
"a delightfully complex mystery." Romantic Times, (4-stars)
It's a New Mexico Christmas. The lights are strung, the luminarias are set along the sidewalks. A hint of snow is in the air and goodies are abundant. Charlie's mother-in-law is coming for a visit, and the preparations are nearly done. But when murder comes to the neighborhood, Charlie's holiday plans suddenly take a turn for the dark.
Bonus: Two New Mexico holiday recipes included!
Cleaning the attic Charlie comes across a small cryptic notebook that belonged to her late father, a top scientist at Sandia National Labs during the Cold War years. She never remembered much about that time, but now the questions are coming at her like crazy. When she learns that the plane crash that killed him was no accident she has to find out more. "The best of the series" Midwest Book Review
Charlie and Sally Bertrand visit Sally’s hometown of Valle Escondido, New Mexico. An unexplained series of miscarriages among the local women has the recently-pregnant Sally worried. She asks Charlie to look into the death of one of them.
Meanwhile, Drake Langston is back, wanting a commitment from Charlie. But she isn't sure she is ready. NPR called it "A good story and a challenging puzzle."
Off to Kauai for a much-needed vacation, Charlie takes a helicopter tour with a gorgeous and fascinating pilot, Drake Langston. But partway through the tour they spot a body lying on the rocks below. When Drake's boss, Mack, is accused of murdering the victim, Charlie finds herself with another mystery to solve. Romance is in the air, too, as Charlie and Drake work together to find the answers.
Charlie Parker is a reluctant detective. As a partner in RJP Investigations, with her brother Ron, she really only intends to keep up the financial end of the business. He's supposed to be the investigator.
But Stacy North, Charlie's former best friend, shows up and wants help in locating a missing watch, so Charlie agrees to help. When people start dying, Charlie knows she's in deep trouble.