“Hi. This is detective Jason Morgan of the Spokane Police
Department. We have an attempted homicide. Are you available for a
Thus might begin my day as a forensic artist. A call like
that will easily throw my carefully planned schedule out the window.
For the last twenty-six years, I’ve worked as a freelance artist out of
my rural mountain home in North Idaho. When not on call the surrounding
agencies, I might be traveling with my artist-husband to law
enforcement departments teaching forensic art. Or working on fine
art--mostly watercolors. Or writing. Or showing my Great Pyrenees dogs.
Every writer is faced with the balancing act of family,
home, work, church, social life (ha!,) and working on that manuscript.
Don’t even mention those deadlines. Before I share my
maintaining-my-sanity techniques, I’d like to share my writing journey.
Christmas 2003 was coming up and I had nothing to give my
girlfriend, Barb. I usually kept an eye open for something unique to
bring to her, or some art supply for her budding watercolor interest.
This Christmas, nada. So I wrote a story about two friends who had an
adventure. She seemed pleased, and over the next few days she read the
story to her husband. He thought I might have some writing potential,
so he came over and offered to mentor me. I accepted, and spent the
next few years learning to write from the NYT bestselling author, Frank
I worked hard at learning the craft, took on-line
classes, entered competitions, cried at the results, took more classes,
attended writer’s conferences, and read books. Two days a week, I’d
drive over to the Peretti’s house, sit across the table from Frank
while Barb plied us with lattes, and read my story. Frank would laugh,
frown, groan, and occasionally draw happy faces on my work. Slowly,
slowly I improved. I finished the first manuscript, wrote a second, got
an agent, and found a home at Thomas Nelson. That first book finaled in
the Selah, Christy, and Carol awards. Thank you, Frank!
I wrote what I knew: forensic art. As I traveled to teach
forensic art classes all over the US and Canada, I’d use the time at
the airport, or on the plane, or in the hotel to write. I’d jot notes
on different ideas if my computer wasn’t available. The classroom was
great for information. I would use my students, law enforcement
professionals, as resources. They’d be drawing away in class while I’d
be thinking of ways to kill people. I’d ask questions like, “what kind
of a gun would I use to shoot someone if I didn’t want a big mess?”
“What do you look like if you’re dead for 24 hours in humidity?” The
students loved it. Many of them became beta readers. Most became good
At home, mornings are my writing time, and as long as an
art, class, or dog show deadline wasn’t looming, I would write. So
that’s it, that’s my secret. My career is my story.