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Relief: Finally finished

I slept well last night. Perhaps because yesterday I sent off my latest manuscript to my editor at HarperCollins, my new true crime book on the Matt Baker case. Matt was a Baptist minister in Waco, TX, who's been convicted of murdering his wife, Kari, and staging it to look like a suicide. It's a heartbreaking case.

I admit it: there were times I thought I'd never finish! I've spent 17 months on this book, and it's one of the most difficult I've written. There were so many setbacks! At first hardly anyone wanted me to write the book. I found out later that they had their reasons, and I understood. Eventually, I think they realized that someone was going to write a book on this case and that I would work hard and do my best.

By the end, nearly everyone on all sides of the case talked to me. A few months back, I even drove north to Livingston, TX, and interviewed Matt Baker in prison.

It's been a long  Read More 
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True Crime Writing 101 -- Part One

I get a lot of emails from people who want to become true crime authors. Since I've been covering sensational cases for a quarter of a century - boy does that make me sound old - I've had quite a few experiences. As you may suspect, I can't answer everyone's questions in depth individually, so I've decided to tackle the subject here.

From here on out, I have my true crime not my mystery hat on, and I'm addressing those of you who want to write true crime.

First: Let's be honest; is this what you truly want? True crime writing isn't for the most part booksignings and giving interviews. Most of it's not particularly glamorous. And it's not easy. It's not simply a matter of showing up at a trial and writing a synopsis of the events, not if you want to do it well.

Many jobs are tough, and I don't mean to minimize how hard we all work at our professions. I truly don't. But I'm under the impression that some believe true crime writing is a piece of cake. Maybe I'm a bit slow, but that's not my experience.

I do go to the trials, and that's part of it, but for each book, I interview  Read More 
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Why Sarah Armstrong Hates Me

Okay, writing fiction isn’t a popularity contest. That’s true. So this shouldn’t matter, right? Especially since, it’s not really possible for a character in a novel to hate anyone, including the author, right? Still, I’m beginning to wonder.

You see, Sarah’s my heroine. I’ve written three books featuring this Texas Ranger/profiler, a woman I invented sitting at my computer one afternoon after deciding against a host of other protagonists, including a crocheting grandmother and a junior league hostess. I’d been thinking about Sarah for a long time, whittling away at the block of marble trying to uncover the statue inside. Maybe, since my books are set in Texas, instead of a Michelangelo analogy, I should have said, taking a chain saw to the trunk of a fallen live oak to reveal the roughly hewn armadillo? No, that’s all just bad. Let’s just move on.

Anyway, to her delight or dismay, Lieutenant Sarah Armstrong has become my heroine, the center of my fictional world, and since 2007, I’ve literally tormented this poor woman’s life. But then she’s not alive. I know that. But to write about her, she has to be real to me and, to some extent (I’m sincerely not delusional), she is. The result is that I drive through Tomball, Texas, where I’ve planted the Rocking Horse, the ranch Sarah lives on with her mother and daughter, and I sometimes surprise myself by looking  Read More 
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