Friday, February 17, 2012

Self-Publishing with R. P. Dahlke

by Jean Henry Mead

Rebecca Phillips Dahlke operated her father's crop dusting business in California during the early 1980s, and began writing her mystery series following the death of her son, a career aero agricultural pilot. Rebecca calls her books "murder mysteries with some laughter."

Rebecca will be featured in The Mystery Writers with Sue Grafton, Lawrence Block and a host of other well-known authors. The book will be released next month by Medallion Books.

Rebecca, how did you happen to take over the family business? And was flying part of your job?

I sort of fell into the job when my dad decided he’d rather go on a cruise than take another season of lazy pilots, missing flaggers, testy farmers and horrific hours. After two years at the helm, I handed him back the keys and fled to a city without any of the above. And no, I was never a crop-duster.

Tell us about your writing background.

A few short stories were printed in a now defunct magazine and I was hooked. They say you should write what you know and at the time, I was able to use what I’d gleaned from my own experiences along with stories my son, John, who was a career crop-duster, shared with me. When he died in a work related accident in 2005, I was unable to go back to it until 2010.

How important are organizations such as Sisters in Crime to a mid-list mystery writer?

SinC is like a big fat favorite granny. She’s warm and comforting and tells you you’re wonderful when everyone else tells you your writing is crap!

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you aim for a certain amount of words per day and do you outline?

Well. if I’m very very good, I can smack out 2,000 words a day… but then life gets in the way… like the Monument Fire this last week, and we were evacuated and living in our RV with two dogs and I was eating on nerves about our home burning to the ground instead of writing. I’m happy to say that the house survived and so did we!

What’s the most important ingredient in a good amateur sleuth novel?

I’m glad you asked that question because in A DEAD RED CADILLAC and A DEAD RED HEART, I write about a tall, blond and beautiful ex-model turned crop-duster who, to quote Lalla Bains, says: “I’ve been married so many times they oughta revolk my license.” I wanted to give readers a peek at the not so-perfect -life of a beautiful blond. Lalla Bains is no Danielle Steele character, she’s not afraid of chipping her manicure. Scratch that, the girl doesn’t have time for a manicure what with herding a bunch of recalcitrant pilots and juggling work orders just to keep her father’s flagging business alive.

Between a philandering famous Puerto Rican baseball player husband and her long time widowed father’s triple by-pass, Lalla is now content to run her dad’s crop-dusting business in Modesto, California, and avoid the paparazzi hounds who feast on the remains of those who aren’t famous anymore.

In A DEAD RED CADILLAC Lalla is once again brought into unwanted limelight and as she sees it, the only way she’s ever going to get her life back is if she can solve the mystery . And, as luck would have it, along the way finds the man who becomes the love of her life.

How do you promote your books? And how much time to you devote to online networking?

I believe that authors MUST use as many avenues as possible to promote their work. Branding is a term that comes from major corporations, like Pepsi and Ford and these companies understand that one ad in one magazine is not necessarily going to equal one sale. Your name over and over again, along with the name of your series; like A DEAD RED CADILLAC and A DEAD RED HEART gives you an edge on that branding.

Advice to aspiring mystery writers?

Self-publish because it encourages you to write instead of pinning all your hopes on that NY publisher. Besides, the more you write the better you get. And you’re branding your name, developing a fan base. Who knows, you may get an offer from that NY publisher—which you can then accept or not. Which reminds me; I gotta get busy and finish my latest book, a romantic sailing mystery set in exotic Mexico. I hope to have A DANGEROUS HARBOR ready for publication by the end of this summer.

Thanks, Rebecca.

You can visit Rebecca at her website: Facebook page:
and her Amazon page:

B&N page:


Mark W. Danielson said...

Thanks Rebecca and Jean. I was one of those crop dusting flaggers back in the day, huddled under and umbrella while the plane passed a few feet overhead. Perhaps all those chemicals explain why I write the way I do:)

Jean Henry Mead said...

In that case, Mark, maybe I should serve as a flagger for a while. :)

Earl Staggs said...

Rebecca, I learned what a "flagger" is from reading A DEAD RED HEART. I also learned that Lalla Bains is a fascinating character and look forward to reading more of your books.

Jackie King said...

Very interesting post. I have A DEAD RED CADILLAC downloaded and am looking forward to reading it.