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Writer and Word-Wrangler

The first time Dixie collected a real paycheck for her writing was as a reporter for Waco Tribune-Herald and then as a political correspondent for the Austin American-Statesman, covering all manner of shenanigans at the Texas Capitol.

Dixie later taught writing at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University in Upstate New York. While there she published a book, along with colleagues, on the communication practices of small organizations, Thinking Big. Staying Small.

After 25-plus years in public communication jobs, Dixie will still engage in heated debates about pros and cons of AP Stylebook verses Chicago Manual of Style. And don’t get her started on commas, Oxford or otherwise. She found that the problem with jobs in  journalism and public affairs is that they leave no wiggle room for literary license.

She’s not sure when she began to daydream about murder most foul and the possibilities of a fictional universe where she could rule omnipotent, bending the weather and the facts to her will. Perhaps it was that winter in Syracuse when the snowfall record hit near 110 inches. Or maybe it was the mental agony of producing dozens of academic papers with heart-stopping titles such as: “A Salience Scale to Enhance Interpretation of Public Opinion.”

What she does know is that it was around then that she teamed up with Sue Cleveland and they sold a screenplay treatment to a Hollywood producer. Although the movie was never made, they used the seed money to found ThirtyNineStars, their publishing company, and to map out the Crispin Leads Mystery Series.

They also produced a second screenplay based on the life of a Waco schoolteacher who was imprisoned in World War I because of his German heritage and his work with early radio broadcasting. That screenplay, Wireless, was a finalist for the Chesterfield Writer’s Film Project in 2003. Their writing partnership has lasted for more than three decades through projects that included a post-Christmas trip into a prison to interview an octogenarian bank robber. Dixie only tells that story if you’re buying the drinks. Bombay Sapphire is preferred.

Over the years Dixie has won awards for her news reporting, academic research publications, speech writing, public relations campaigns and university teaching, but none of them made her as happy as when she and Sue were notified that Shrouded, the first installment in the Crispin Leads Mystery Series, was a finalist in the 2017 Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest.

*Photograph of Dixie by Sam Bond Photography