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The Sirens of Suspense

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Cheryl Hollon writes full time after she left an engineering career 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 the house, Cheryl and her husband George design, create, and produce fused glass, stained glass and painted glass artworks.

 

Find Cheryl on Twitter and Facebook.

http://www.cherylhollon.com

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item1 From Flight Career to a item1
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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 for the National Cash Register Company in Dayton, Ohio. 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, and my wonderful agent, Beth Campbell. My original submission to them hasn’t yet found a home, but my proposal for Webb’s Glass Shop 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.

 

 

 

HAVE YOU HAD A MAJOR CAREER CHANGE? TELL US or leave a comment on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a copy of THE SEARCHER! (US entrants only, please.)

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