I hate trying to write a "bio."

Most writers, I think, are by nature observers rather than participants, which doesn't make for thrilling A&E Biography specials -- unless you're Hemingway. And... I'm not.

I could start at the beginning.  I was born and bred in a far distant galaxy known as Los Angeles. It's a good town for mystery writers, and many good mystery writers, including two of my all time favorites, Raymond Chandler and Joseph Hansen, lived and wrote here. L.A. is about style -- and so is writing, of course. Certainly for me it is. After all, whether you're talking hard-boiled PI novels or some cozy set in an English village that only exists in a writer's imagination, it's all equally unreal, isn't it?

I guess I could throw in some of that basic character sketch stuff.

"Diana loves autumn, antiques, Midori margaritas, chocolate almond ice cream and rainy days." Blah, blah, blah. I can tell you what she hates: lazy writing -- one obvious example: writers who depend on profanity for laughs instead of taking the time to write dialog that snaps, crackles and pops. This is not to say that I do not, in real life, resort to profanity when occasion warrants. But fiction is not real life, is it?

The other problem with a bio is you have to leave out the more sensational bits (assuming there are any) so that you're just left with the basics. Basically, I graduated from Pepperdine, Malibu about a million years ago, tried and failed at teaching and decided to give writing another shot.

That sounds like I had quit writing at some point. I've been writing and publishing since I was a kid. The first things I ever sold were a couple of poems to Seventeen magazine. This kind of thing:


Bits of broken stars

Crunching underfoot

As we walk in the moonlight.

I still love poetry, especially Amy Lowell and Sara Teasdale, but there's even less money in poetry than in mystery writing.They say the pen is mightier than the sword, but these days it's probably easier to earn your living skewering people than writing fiction. (Certainly more relaxing, I should think.) Recognizing at a tender age that it would be difficult to earn my keep as a scribe, I wandered through the world for a few years (making more than my fair share of left turns and several rolling stops) and finally decided to grow up and become A Writer. Not necessarily in that order.

Of course there are other basic biography-type questions that I'm skirting. I'm married. It still feels new enough that I forget to call when I'm going to be late. And who did a nice girl like me find to marry? Yep, the vicious rumors are true, I'm married to my old partner in crime -- the scourge of many a mailing list -- Kevin Burton Smith. Mr.and Mrs. Smith. It has a ring to it, don't you think?

I don't have children. I do have two nieces, two nephews, the original set of parents, two talented and beautiful sisters, a handful of terrific friends. I belong to two writing groups, a Celtic music band. I still have a day job. I use it to support my addiction to eBAY and to pay for "treatment" of a serious book-buying disorder. All of the above provide numerous distractions to writing.

That's one of the dilemmas about writing, isn't it? Writers must remain a little detached, but life demands engagement. And the best writers seem to be those who have lived a little. You can always tell when you're reading someone who has lots of theories and no practical experience of life and people. You see it a lot in Hollywood screenplays. As though ten years in Film School were indicative of anything but ten years in Film School. Whether it's riding a bike (or falling off a bike, in my case) or shooting a gun or kissing a boy, writers need to get their hands dirty. And then be able to translate the experience into words and paper.

Of course there's more to being a human than one's artistic gifts -- unless one is happy being a version of Waldo Lydecker from Laura.

But we may as well talk about writing, since that's how I define myself to myself (on those occasions that I need a definition). I guess I'm a traditionalist. I definitely prefer the mysteries of the 30s and 40s, partly because the world seemed a simpler, safer place then, and partly because the level of writing in the average "popular" fiction was far superior to what we consider "average" now. These days "average" and "mediocre" seem to be synonymous. That's a generalization, naturally, but then that's something true of me: I tend to generalize.

I read a great deal of romantic-suspense as well as Golden Age mystery when I was growing up: Mary Stewart, Phyllis A. Whitney, Patricia Wentworth, Agatha Christie, Ellis Peters, Ngaio Marsh, Elizabeth Peters, Georgette Heyer. But what I really loved were what I call "Chick Fic" writers. The less well-known women writers of the 30s and 40s. Or writers that have fallen out of fashion. Mabel Seeley, Leslie Ford -- women who wrote crackerjack mysteries about ordinary American women who managed to get their smart-assed selves involved in murder. I've devoted a few pages to these authors and what they meant to me in my -- er -- formative years. Just look under Chick Fic.

So I figure this should be enough about me.