A Wicked Welcome to Connie Berry

By Julie, waiting for spring to arrive in Somerville

It is always such a thrill to know someone from conferences and then get to celebrate their debut. A wicked welcome to Connie Berry, and a huge congratulations on A Dream of Death!


by Connie Berry, author of the Kate Hamilton Mystery Series

hang in there
In exactly seven days—one week—I will see the realization of a dream I thought might never come true. My debut mystery, A Dream of Death, will find its way to actual readers, who will enter a world I created, the fictional Isle of Glenroth in the Scottish Hebrides.
I hate to tell you how long it took me to wrestle a shapeless blob of a story into publishable form. Way too long. But along the way I learned valuable lessons I’d love to pass on to others. Some lessons must be learned the hard way, by making mistakes and correcting them; but other lessons can be shared, saving time and energy for those who are willing to take them to heart. Here are my top two:

1. Take time to learn the craft of writing.

Writer's BookshelfWhen I first sat down at my computer and typed Chapter One, I thought I knew how to write a mystery. How hard could it be? I had a Master’s Degree in English Literature, after all. My writing skills had always been my strong suit. I’d read countless mysteries and understood basic things like planting clues and ending chapters with something to keep the reader turning pages. I dreamed that *somehow* [insert magical thinking here] my work would dazzle. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. My first clue came with a manuscript critique at Sleuthfest with Neil Nyren. “Well,” he said, his eyes glazing over, “this needs some work, doesn’t it?” I’d seen that look before—on the face of a long-suffering middle-school band director. As deflated as I was, that critique jerked me into the real world and sent me to as many classes and books on craft as I could afford. I learned things I needed to know—like weasel words, head-hopping, POV, show-don’t-tell, pacing, story structure, less-is-more, story and character arcs, and so much more. I’m still learning.

2. Develop relationships with other writers.

One wintry Ohio day years ago, I attended a meeting of writers at the main library. That meeting was the local chapter of Sisters in Crime. There I met the wonderful Amanda Flower, whose first book was about to be published. She was so encouraging and down-to-earth that I decided to join the group. That led me to Sisters in Crime National, Guppies, Mystery Writers of America, and eventually conferences such as Malice Domestic, Sleuthfest, and Crime Bake. I’ll never forget the day I stood in the mystery section of our local Barnes & Noble and realized I had actually met most of the authors on the shelf.

As encouraging as friendships are, though, the greatest benefit in developing relationships in the writing community is the opportunity to get real help and constructive criticism from people who know what they’re talking about. If you want someone to tell you how amazing you are, have your mother read your stuff. If you want the truth, ask another writer. The mystery writing community is incredibly generous. I don’t know who said it first, but I love the quote: “No one must fail in order for me to succeed.” Ask someone to read and comment on a chapter or two. Swap manuscripts. Join your local SinC chapter. Attend writers’ workshops. Listen. And, of course, reciprocate. Give back. Help someone else succeed. Celebrate their successes and commiserate when the inevitable rejections come. We’re in this together.
Who in the writing community has helped you become a better writer—and how?


Author Photo 2

Like her main character, Connie Berry was raised in Wisconsin by charmingly eccentric antique collectors. Besides reading and writing mysteries, Connie adores cute animals, foreign travel, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable dog, Millie. She can be found at www.connieberry.com.

A DREAM OF DEATH (Crooked Lane Books):

FinalADream of DeathAutumn has come and gone on Scotland’s Isle of Glenroth, and the islanders gather for the Tartan Ball, the annual end-of-tourist-season gala. Spirits are high. A recently published novel about island history has brought hordes of tourists to the small Hebridean resort community. On the guest list is American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton, Kate returns reluctantly to the island where her husband died, determined to repair her relationship with his sister, proprietor of the island’s luxe country house hotel, famous for its connection with Bonnie Prince Charlie. The next morning a body is found, murdered in a reenactment of an infamous crime described in the novel. The Scottish police discount the historical connection, but when a much-loved local handyman is arrested, Kate teams up with a vacationing detective inspector from England to unmask a killer determined to rewrite island history—and Kate’s future

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GKIYmL
Barnes and Noble: https://bit.ly/2WUJeFn
Indiebound: https://bit.ly/2BzjPb1


28 Thoughts

  1. Welcome, Connie! I’m so excited for you and can’t wait to read A Dream of Death. Enjoy the ride – you’ll never have another first book. Those two tips are the most important (other than actually writing the book).

  2. Ooh this looks interesting! (and blast it my finger slipped on the pre-order button :D)

  3. Can’t wait to read the book, Connie. And I can’t count the number of people who have helped me. That’s partially why I try to do the same for others.

  4. So many aspiring writers when told their manuscripts need work will give up. Congratulations on accepting the challenge and doing what you needed to do to make it better. Your hard work has paid off—it’s a wonderful book.

  5. Congratulations, Connie! The writing community is able and willing to help new–and old–writers, but you have to be open to the experience. Good for you that you were and are!

  6. Congrats, Connie! That SinC chapter has a great bunch of folks.

    Like Barb, I can’t list all the people who have helped me. Hopefully, I have helped (or will be in a position to help) others.

  7. Congratulations, Connie. I can think of few things more exciting than getting your first book published. You are right about the generosity of other writers, especially those in the Crime Writing Community. The friendships I’ve made through Crime Bake, Sisters in Crime, and MWA are treasured far beyond my interest in writing. Other than my wife who reminds me that I should be writing instead of doing other things, my writing group has been my greatest source of encouragement.

  8. I’m the lucky one who has already read A Dream of Death. Our writing journeys are so similar Connie that I’d just have to change out Monterey for Ohio and I could have written this. I’m so very happy for you.

  9. I just finished this book a couple of days ago and I can assure you that the time and work has paid off. It’s great!

    1. That means a lot coming from you, Mark! I knew we were kindred spirits when we sat next to each other at the Malice banquet a few years ago.

  10. Hi Connie, and welcome to the Wickeds..

    I’d actually rephrase that adage to, “The more those I’ve mentored succeed, the more successful I become.” I’ve been involved with the traditional mystery writing crowd for more than a decade now, and I can say without hesitation that there isn’t a more welcoming, open, friendly, helpful, and encouraging group of people anywhere. And the five hosts of this blog are prime among them.

    In all that time, I’ve only run across a single person who didn’t embody that ethos. Obviously, I won’t name that writer, but I suspect that his ego was a reflection of his insecurity because his work really didn’t match his reputation.

    I think every writer has had the experience of sharing work that you’ve slaved and slaved over. And now it’s absolutely perfect. So you show it to someone you respect (fully expecting them to respond with instructions for putting it in front of the Pulitzer committee). And as you scrape your severely damaged self-esteem off the floor, the real work begins.

    Be warned, though. Now that you’ve been published, be prepared for your non-writer friends not to understand that writing is a JOB, and a full-time one at that. You’re not spending your days drinking mimosas, eating bonbons, and watching soaps. You have deadlines and editors asking where your chapters are, and writing is WORK, not a hobby.

    But what a thrill to actually see your first book actually in print. Personally, I can’t wait to read it. The synopsis makes me eager to do so, so I’m heading over to Amazon right now.

  11. Connie,

    I’ve waited for this and am so happy that the event is here! Wow! You have an excellent story and a great setting, and I am so excited about the book being published.

    1. You’ve been there from the beginning (well, almost!). Thank you for your good wishes. Best of everything to you in your new ventures. See you at Malice?

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