I fell in love with books before I learned how to read, fascinated by the rows upon rows of words. At chapter breaks, I thought the white space was there for me to finish the story. I grabbed a crayon and had at it: YES NO ZOO. I signed my name with the Ns backwards. Then I got scolded for writing in books.
Thus began my writing career.
At eleven, with my Christmas gifts of a desk and a nifty Smith Corona portable typewriter, I was on my way, hunting and pecking out stories, poems, and letters to pen pals. A high school typing class sped up my output. The quick brown fox jumped over the laxy dgo. Oops.
At fourteen, I decided to write a novel. I rolled in a fresh sheet of paper and began typing away about a girl named Buffalo who was nicknamed Buffy. I cranked out a paragraph and a half before I got stuck. I set it aside.
Weeks passed. That page remained in my typewriter, looking like a kid’s tongue making a big, wet raspberry.
Thus I encountered the dark side of the moon.
I kept writing letters and in my journal, but years passed before I attempted another novel. Until then, I lived my life.
I was born and raised in a hilly neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles called El Sereno, in a house that was built by my father and uncle at the top of a steep hill. Those last yards walking home from school were pure misery.
My parents were from large Texas farm families and settled in L.A. after WWII. My father started a machine shop business manufacturing nuts, bolts, screws and such, mostly for the growing defense and aerospace industries. My siblings and I all worked in “The Shop,” making little ones out of big ones, growing up with machine oil under our fingernails. When I got my driver’s license, I delivered parts all over L.A. County in my used 1964 Ford Falcon 4-door. Bought it for $200. Great car.
My blue-collar childhood was full of simple pleasures. Tree houses and backyard vegetable gardens. Home-grown peaches made into cobblers and folded into hand-cranked ice cream. Sunday dinners of fried chicken and cream gravy. Skate boards, roller skates, and bicycles. Box-sliding down the dry wild wheat on the hillsides. Drive-in movies. Aluminum Christmas trees. Lots of skinned knees.
I went to public schools where I was a solid student, but not a star. Even though I was raised in Los Angeles, my life was provincial. Going to the beach, 20 miles away, was a big deal. Going across town to attend UCLA on the Westside was a revelation.
Consumed with the “big questions,” majoring in Philosophy made complete sense to me. I also studied French. I spent my junior year at the Université de Bordeaux in southwest France and traveled through Europe.
College graduation, then work and chasing around with friends. Then back to UCLA for my MBA, then work—at higher pay. And chasing around with friends at better places.
I had no burning career ambitions other than to write, which I never dreamed I could do for a living. So I held down day jobs and brown-bagged my lunch. My jobs included: polling place recruiter for the Registrar of Voters, complaint handler for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, department store management, clothing boutique buyer, egg and poultry industry marketer, software company sales and support manager, and technical writer.
Through all the years that I supported myself with bi-weekly paychecks, I held onto that long-deferred dream of being a writer.
All my crazy friends started settling down and I did too—to seriously writing. I took a creative writing course at UCLA at night. For years, I rose at 4:30 in the morning to write for two hours before I went to work. I kept writing and, at last, publishing.
Late in the saga, I married my wonderful, long-suffering husband.
Being a crime writer is my last and best job. I still write in books (mine!) and sign my name. Sometimes, I screw up the “N’s.”