Finding My Voice
I entered this world backwards – feet first and left-handed – and according to my mother, have done most things backwards ever since. My father was a heavy equipment operator and my dependent, submissive mother stayed home and fulfilled her responsibility as wife and mother.
At seventeen, I married a local boy and became the “pastor’s wife” while a senior in high school. After graduation, we moved to Fort Worth where my then husband attended seminary, and then later to several small towns where he pastored local Baptist churches. After being appointed as foreign missionaries to the Caribbean island of Trinidad, we lived and worked there for six years (along with our three children) before returning to the U.S, and settling in El Paso, Texas.
At 41, and after having a fourth child, I found the courage to take my very first freshman class and within five years fought my way to a BA in Sociology and a Masters in Educational Psychology, all while raising four children, and still serving as the pastor’s wife, and missionary.
My years in college opened my eyes to a whole new world that I had never known existed. I learned to question, to doubt, to seek, to ask, to explore and to learn. As you might expect, by the time I graduated with the master’s degree, my marriage came to an end and my young son and I struck out on our own.
My employment included working in non-profit and for-profit organizations within the human services field. I managed a sheltered workshop that provided employment to adults with mental disabilities. I was regional director of long-term care facilities. I conducted private practice as a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist. I provided interpersonal skills training to corporate mid-managers. I led therapy groups for sexual offenders on parole, adult survivors of sexual abuse, and assertiveness classes for women. I taught graduate classes in counseling. I conducted psycho-social assessments for psychiatric hospital patients. I served as a vocational expert witness to administrative law judges in Social Security Disability hearings.
For two years, I studied spiritual warrior training under a shaman in New Mexico. I have studied taro card readings, and am particularly attracted to the culture of the gypsies. I am a trained hypno-therapist, dream therapist, Strategic Family Therapist. I have studied Jung, Freudian, Frankel, Skinner, Carl Rogers, and any number of other psychological theories.
I am task-oriented, and can jump from one project to another without taking a breath. My mother used to say I was the only person she knew who could stop right in the middle of housecleaning, sit down and read a magazine. I have a high degree of patience and understanding with others, but do have that point where I walk away.
Like my dad, I never meet a stranger. I talk to people everywhere and in all situations, from bikers to priests and prostitutes. I delight in watching the expression of a weary checker at the grocery store turn from gloom to a big smile when I ask how they are and genuinely listen and respond to their answer. I cannot carry a tune and do not have a good sense of rhythm. I love music, but when I write, I must listen only to instrumental arrangements since my mind can’t shut out the lyrics.
I am moved by the beauty of nature and I love seeing animals in their natural habitat. I enjoy the laughter of a baby. I grow frustrated with people who only complain and never take action to make their lives better. One of the most beneficial things I’ve learned is clear, direct communication. I believe in paying my bills on time. I work hard to achieve my goals and do not settle for failure. Rejection makes me dig in my heels and work harder. I regret not having a healthy enough self-esteem when I raised my first three children to teach them about it earlier. I am proud of the mother I was and am. I am proud of my children and who they are. I didn’t learn how to give firm no’s until I was middle-aged.
Five years after my divorce, I married William M. Smith, a retired full-bird Army Colonel, and we eventually relocated to the Austin, Texas, area. I retired three years early and kept talking about writing a book. A friend told me to quit talking about it, sit my b… in the chair and write. I did. Starting from scratch, I taught myself first, how to write, then how to write fiction, and then mysteries.
When I decided to set my first mystery in Orange, and began conducting research on the area, I soon discovered that a rich history awaited me. The more I studied, the more I learned to respect the folks who live there, folks with an iron strength and determination to survive wars, plagues, hurricanes, and mosquitoes as big a horseflies (almost). I also formed a new sense of awe and respect for the meandering Sabine River once plied by Paleo-Indians, pirate schooners, steamboat captains, Confederate Cottonclads, and then WW II destroyers.
The result of this research led me to weave the past with the present in my mystery series with Sidra Smart and later, the historical novel, A War of Her Own, set during World War II. The focus of my writing is to first, tell a great story, and second, to help women pave their way to finding their voice.
Between us, Bill and I have five children and fifteen grandchildren. Besides writing, I enjoy cooking, gardening, movies, and reality television.