I grew up on a farm near Kirksville, Missouri, the fictionalized setting of my first middle grade/young adult novel, The Feedsack Dress. Like its main character, I attended a one-room school. During the summer I worked in the fields and garden, pumped water for the milk cows, suffered through 4-H sewing projects, and read books that carried me far away.
As soon as I Iearned to read, I wanted to create my own stories. Growing up, I realized many more people make a living writing nonfiction than fiction. I liked editing the Kirksville Senior High and Northeast Missouri State Teachers College (now Truman State) newspapers so much that I went on to a Master’s in journalism at the University of Missouri.
Longing for adventure and an opportunity to do something worthwhile, I joined the year-old Peace Corps. As a Volunteer in Dessie, Ethiopia, I taught English in the province’s only high school and helped build a school at a leprosarium. The experience taught me the value of my American heritage (despite ideals not reached), deepened my curiosity about and appreciation for other cultures, and established lifelong friendships. Coming home after two years, I expanded my world by traveling for six months in the Middle East and Europe.
My first editorial job, at the NEA Journal in Washington, D.C., taught me invaluable lessons about writing, editing, and planning. But I wanted to go abroad again. I joined the new United Nations Industrial Development Organization in Vienna, Austria. Here I watched colleagues from some sixty countries collaborate and enjoyed wonderful music, scenery, and friendships. The bureaucratic language and stiff technical editing, however, were damaging my writing. I quit. I returned to the States the long, slow way, through Asia and Australia.
Settling in Washington, D.C., I edited a national magazine on service-learning and, in 1982, became a freelance writer and editor. I wrote hundreds of articles (dozens on travel), four nonfiction books, and a variety of other nonfiction materials. I edited everything from calendars to conference proceedings. One specialty became national newsletters, most notably Writing That Works, a monthly “desktop seminar” for corporate writers and editors.
I revived my childhood dreams of writing fiction. In 2007 I moved back to Columbia, Missouri, to focus on historical novels for tweens and teens and contemporary mysteries for adults. The Missouri Center for the Book named The Feedsack Dress the state’s Great Read at the 2009 National Book Festival.
Five Star published my first two mysteries, Show Me the Murder and Show Me the Deadly Deer, in hardback and e-book in 2013. The Missouri Writers’ Guild gave Murder the Walter Williams Major Work Award in 2014 and Show Me the Gold the Best Book Award in April 2015. The fourth mystery, Show Me the Ashes, came out in 2016, right after Five Star announced it was dropping its mystery imprint. Cave Hollow Press published the last in the series, Show Me the Sinister Snowman, in 2017.
Harlequin Worldwide Mystery has published the first four books as mass-market paperbacks and will release the fifth in 2020.
Between the mysteries, I used my nonfiction skills to research the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes and my fiction skills to write Thunder Beneath My Feet, a story of how a teenage girl allies with strangers to cope with the ongoing destruction. The Missouri State Teachers Association selected both this book and The Feedsack Dress for its Reading Circle Program.
Writing remains a necessity. Currently I’m wrestling with a new manuscript focusing on a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who’s searching for a purpose as she writes a thesis about Jane Austen’s villains. She’s distracted by the death of a young Amish man while visiting a friend’s farm.
l’m also marketing a new mystery series in which a freelance crime reporter and her mother, a storyteller, endanger their lives to reveal the stories behind murders.