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My day with the TV crew

Monday was a big day for me. I left my office! Writers spend a lot of time locked up in our home offices, shutting out the rest of the world. But this past Monday, I departed my Houston home mid-morning for a drive to Katy, Texas, the location of the house where David Temple murdered his wife Belinda. The Temple case is the subject of my true crime book SHATTERED. The reason for my drive to Katy? A producer for the ID TV series DEADLY SINS wanted to interview me about the case for an upcoming episode.

What's it like doing television interviews about crime cases? That's what a Facebook friend asked when I mentioned my experience on social media. Well, it's usually pretty interesting. The process actually starts long before the day of the filming, when the producer, in this case a woman named Tania, conducts a pre-interview on the phone, asking  Read More 
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Fifty Shades’ Christian Grey: A Hero or an Abuser?

A few weeks back I wrote a post that ran on Forbes about the wildly popular book Fifty Shades of Grey, the first in the mega-hit 50 Shades series. My premise was that I find the book troubling because the main character, Christian Grey, reminds me of many of the abusers I’ve reported on over my decades as a crime writer. I’m concerned that women and men  Read More 
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The high point of Easter Dinner: Dessert

Hi, All!

We just finished Easter dinner, and it was so good, and I simply have to share another recipe with you. The high point was dessert. We made Bananas Foster ala Brennan's, the New Orleans/Houston restaurant that's synonymous with this amazing dessert. Oh, my gosh, so good. So whenever you're up for  Read More 
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One Little Girl: Caylee Anthony and why we care

Lately, I've had a hard time concentrating on work. I keep wondering what the heck is going on in Florida.

Of course, you all know what I'm talking about. I'd bet the majority of folks in the U.S. have at least heard of the tragic death of two-year-old Caylee Anthony. We first learned in July 2008 that this precious child was missing, when her grandmother, Cindy, called police, saying Caylee hadn't been seen in a month. For the past three years, we've been mesmerized by the search for the child, the discovery of her body, and the bizarre behavior of Casey, little Caylee's mom. Now our attention has turned to the courtroom drama as Casey is tried for her daughter's murder. A guilty verdict could bring the death penalty.

Apparently I'm not the only one  Read More 
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True Crime Writing 101 -- Part two

Last week my post addressed those of you who envision yourselves writing true crime books. If I didn't dissuade you from that endeavor, let's take this a step further.

Now that you've decided you're up for the research and the seclusion of sitting at your computer day after day, the first thing you have to do is pick which case to cover. I bet that sounds easy. In a sense, unfortunately, it is. There never seems to be a dearth of sensational murders in America, perhaps the world. That's a bad thing, obviously.

Unfortunately, we can't change the reality that murders do happen. We're just reporting what's already taken place. So let's talk about how to pick  Read More 
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Throw away the key

I read an article today about the man suspected of being the East Coast rapist, Aaron Thomas. According to police, he's assaulted seventeen women, beginning in 1997, in Connecticut, Virginia, Rhode Island, and Maryland. His bail is set at $1.5 million

Thomas has reportedly made incriminating statements to police, and a prosecutor has said that Thomas displayed a Jekyll and Hyde personality with women. "Why haven't you picked me up sooner?" he taunted police when he was arrested.

The case they're going after Thomas for is one in which he's accused of breaking into a woman's bedroom and assaulting her while her 4-month-old baby  Read More 
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What people ask me....

I just finished filling in some upcoming events on my calendar, and I've been doing phone-in discussions with book clubs. It's a lot of fun for me and, I believe, for the club members. I get to hear their theories on the true crime cases I cover and the plots and characters in my mysteries; the readers ask questions and hear the stories behind the books. So it's a win-win situation, at least from my perspective.

Over the years, I've found that when I talk to groups there are some questions that nearly always get asked. One is: What's it like to interview someone who's committed a brutal murder?

Well, I've been doing that for a very long time. I started out visiting prisons when I worked for magazines in the Eighties and Nineties. In fact, I have a Rolling Stone article out on Kindle right now called Blues & Bad Blood. The cost is a whopping $0.99. At 6,000 words, it's always been one of my favorite magazine pieces. I think it's the mix of music and murder that makes the case so fascinating.

When I worked on that particular case, I traveled Texas over a period of two weeks interviewing four men convicted of two horrible murders, Read More 
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I wish you'd been there!

Well, it's that time of year again. I've just returned home from three glorious days in the small town of Jefferson, Texas, ground zero for the Pulpwood Queens. The event: the annual extravaganza,Girlfriend Weekend. I stayed at the beautiful Alley-McKay house, and I had a blast.

It all started Thursday evening, with a dinner where the authors, including moi, waited on the PQs who gathered at the Jefferson Convention Center. The amazing Kathy L. Patrick, founder of this mushrooming book club (400 chapters and growing), fed the authors first, then we each claimed a table. I served dinner to the fine ladies from Southwest Louisiana's chapter. Wonderful women with ready smiles and good hearts who put up with my well-meaning if rather inept attempts at serving sweet and unsweetened tea, a barbecue dinner followed by yummy bread pudding. There were free autographed books and everyone went to their hotel or B&B with a smile.

On Friday, we were all back early, and the weekend kicked into gear with Kathy and her co host, the superb Robert Leleux (author of The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy) front and center. For the next two days, they moderated the panels, asking questions and keeping us all laughing. That morning, Mark Childress (Crazy in Alabama) was the keynote speaker, and he was so funny. I loved the reading from his new book, Georgia Bottoms. Lucky for all of us he gave everyone copies.

I won't attempt to list all the authors who spoke on Friday. There are simply too many, but here are a few: Helen Simonson (Major Pettigrew's Last Stand), Judy Christie (Goodness Gracious Green), Denise Hildreth Jones (Hurricane in Paradise), Janis Owens (Cracker Kitchen), Kathy Appelt (Keeper) and Melissa Conroy (Poppy's Pants). If I'm counting right, there were about 20 discussing their work and their lives on the stage that first day.

The talent show that night was great fun. So many imaginative acts. I heard Nashville's Marshall Chapman sing and play her guitar for the first time and loved it so much I sprung for a CD. Marshall also has a new book out: They Came to Nashville.

The following morning, Saturday, the great Fannie Flagg began the day with a rousing talk about dyslexia, writing, and the surprises live brings. She was charming and heart-warming, detailing the process that began imagining the ghosts that inhabited her family's dilapidated and abandoned homestead and ended in a beloved book: "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe."

Two more panels, including mine, followed her. Wouldn't you know that Kathy would name my panel "Stories that are Killer?" On the stage, I was a bit nervous. (There were lots of folks there. At least 300, my guess.) But BobKat(Robert and Kathy) put us all at ease, giving us the opportunity to discuss our books and answer questions. I read a short passage from THE KILLING STORM, the Pulpwood Queens' main selection for July 2010.

It turned out that my panel was the opening act for the inimitable Pat Conroy Read More 
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My New Year's Resolutions

Well, here we are. The final hours of 2010, and looking forward to 2011. Do you find this time of year is filled with not only excitement for the new year but regret for the things you missed or never got to in the past twelve months? I do. Perhaps that's healthy, a time to look back and then toward the future.

These are my five resolutions for 2011:

1) Relationships: I'm making sure I connect more often. Life just gets in the way. Do you find that? I do. I have good intentions, but the months fly. In the end, I'm wondering where the year went and lamenting that I've spent too few hours with family and friends.

2) The Net: I'm limiting access. This is a biggie for me. Writing (like many endeavors) takes concentration. I need to work, but it's way easier to surf to see what Snookie is up to, what the politicos are doing wrong, drop in at facebook for a quick howdy. Why not tweet a bit before figuring out that next plot twist? I do enjoy  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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