I have lived my entire life in a small Texas town northwest of Fort Worth, so while I can live the small town life, I have the big city just a few miles away.
Both of my parents were stay at home parents. Paul and Naomi went to beautician school and got their licenses while they built onto their house so they’d have a place to work and raise their children. They love to tell stories about how I climbed up the ladder onto the roof when I was two years old while they were putting on shingles. I grew up with the smells of hair dye and permanents, but I also had both parents anytime I really needed them. And let me tell you with two older brothers, all three of us needed them. Like when I set off the roman candle in the house, or when the huge snake chased us into the house. I'm amazed we made it out of childhood. My parents didn’t close the shop until Bruce, Arlon, and I were old enough to manage on our own. (Not that we didn't still get in trouble.) My father went back to work at General Dynamics and my mother went back to school to get her teaching degree. She then taught first grade for 26 years.
James Reasoner came into my life through my oldest brother, Bruce. They’d known each other since first grade, but they didn’t start hanging around together until they attended the same university. We started dating when I was a senior in high school. James was writing his own fiction even back then. I stumbled into the business after we married. While typing his manuscripts, I would see different ways the story could have gone. Writing has never come as naturally as it seems to for James. I'm more of a bang your head on the computer, writer. Our careers grew as our family did. We were blessed with two beautiful daughters. For almost 30 years we lived in a house we built ourselves with the help of family. We did everything from the pier and beam foundation poured with buckets, to shingling the roof. I found that I love carpentry and tools. James has it easy for presents; all he has to do is buy the latest tool I’ve been yearning for.
On January 29, 2009 we lost our home and studio to a wildfire started by a neighbor burning trash.
James was home alone while I was just a few miles away helping my parents. The winds were gusting at 60 mph, so it didn't take long for everything to burn to the ground. All he had time to grab was our little dog. The dog was recovering from surgery and was in a small pen next to where he was writing for the day. Our larger dog was able to get out of the fence and managed to save himself. We lost all our other pets. Two of the three cats we'd had since our youngest was in kindergarten. A parakeet and a dwarf goat couldn't be saved, either.
We lost all our computers, manuscripts, books, photos, well you get the picture. Both our daughters lived with us and were student teaching on the day of the fire. They also lost everything other than what they had with them. Also lost in the fire was a pretty white F-150. Since we were finally through paying for college, James and I had decided we could afford our first new vehicle. We'd had it for less than two months. The house and pickup were insured, but not for full value. Through out all of this we had to keep reminding ourselves that it could have been much worse. We were offered help everywhere we turned. Friends and fans started sending us books. It meant a lot to have books again. Our agent collected boxes of books in her basement until we had space. Our families are amazing. My parents let the four of us stay with them for a month with our two dogs. My brother Bruce worked with us to hook up the electricity and water and helped clean up. His wife and kids pitched in with cleanup, a bed, and more. James' brother Harold and his wife Jodie brought dishes, towels, tv's, office supplies, and more. My cousin, Ricky replaced the sewer that was busted by a firetruck. Brothers, sister, uncles, aunts, and cousins sent prayers and money. Neighbors we never knew came with helping hands. Western Writers of America collected money to help replace some of James' amazing library. Both daughters schools gave them money, clothes, and necessities. We are all touched at the kindness everyone has given us. We were able to rebuild our home and our library, and felt truly blessed that we had so many people who cared about us.
Going back to my writing history: My first story, "The Lord Will Provide" was published in 1980 in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. My first novel was published in '83 by Fawcett as by Livia James. In the eighties I had several westerns published in hardback by M. Evans, while I was writing mysteries for Tor Books under my maiden name Washburn. My first mystery WILD NIGHT was reprinted by Five Star Mysteries, and is now available as an eBook on Kindle along with the rest of the books in the series, DEAD STICK and DOG HEAVIES. WILD NIGHT is set in Hollywood during the 1920's, featuring Hollywood stuntman Lucas Hallam. WILD NIGHT was the winner of The American Mystery Award and The Private Eye Writers of America's Best Original Paperback Award.
This is also when both our daughters were born, and we became the stay at home parents. Our writing careers had progressed to the point we could both work full time. James and I wrote several historical novels as by J.L. Reasoner, one of which was nominated for a Spur, the Western Writers of America award. My first small town romance, MENDING FENCES by Livia Reasoner, an Our Town book, was published in January of '98 by Jove. Under the name Elizabeth Hallam, SPIRIT CATCHER was published by Jove, July '98 in their Haunting Hearts series and during the summer of '99 my medieval paranormal ALURA'S WISH, which is now available on Kindle, was followed by TIME PASSAGES: YESTERDAY'S FLAME, a time travel romance that came out in February 2000. THE VAMPIRE AFFAIR, a Harlequin Nocturne release came out in October of 2010.
It wasn’t until recently that I went back to my first love, mysteries with the October 2006 release of A PEACH OF A MURDER the first book in the Fresh-baked series. Following it was MURDER BY THE SLICE in October 2007, A CHRISTMAS COOKIE KILLER September 2008, and Killer Crab Cakes September 2009. THE PUMPKIN MUFFIN MURDER came out in November 2010, THE GINGERBREAD BUMP-OFF November 2011, and WEDDING CAKE KILLER November 2012. FRANKLY MY DEAR, I'M DEAD, a late October 2008 release, was the first book in a mystery series with a literary tour agency. It was followed by HUCKLEBERRY FINISHED in October 2009, KILLER ON A HOT TIN ROOF in late November 2010, and FOR WHOM THE FUNERAL BELL TOLLS came out February 2012.
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