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We asked Author Mary Burton what her writing day was like:
A Writer’s Day
6:00 a.m. Rise/Coffee
6:30 Head to the gym, shower
8:00 a.m. Read email. Check daily horoscope, weekly horoscope and reread monthly horoscope to see if any of it has come true. Make sure my miniature dachshund is in her chair by the fireplace (so she doesn’t whine). Feed the cat for the third time (she’s 15 and forgets she’s just eaten). Read more email. Quick check of Facebook. Let my dog Buddy outside. And then back inside. Do a little research.
9:30 a.m. Write 3 pages
10:15 a.m. Repeat 8 a.m. schedule
11:15 a.m. Write four more pages
12 noon Eat Lunch
1:00 p.m. Feed the cat again and give Bella and Buddy chew sticks so I can make the final push to finish the afternoon pages. Bella gets the big chew stick and Buddy gets two small ones (he hides the first in the backyard and then finally settles to eat the second)
1:00 p.m. Start a marinara sauce for dinner (or put a chicken into the oven to roast)
1:30 p.m. Burst of energy to finish the last thirteen pages. (My children are in college but I still can’t help but forget the elementary school bus arrives at 2:35 and I feel a need to be finished by then)
Despite many lofty promises, my writing day rarely is super-efficient. I always manage to write my 15-20 pages, but the journey is never as smooth as I hoped.
I used to worry over the inefficiency of my system but have come to see that while I’m feeding a cat, walking a dog or stirring a pot of marinara sauce, I’m mulling the story over. The plot may be on the back burner but it’s still perking. And after a forced break story pieces that don’t connect more often than not find a way to work.
It was much like this when I wrote THE SEVENTH VICTIM. I’d chosen a location (Austin, Texas), had selected my hero (Texas Ranger James Beck) and sketched out my heroine (Lara Church). I felt great about the synopsis. But there’d be days when I gladly got up to tackle a household chore so that I could mull over motivations and conflicts and character traits. Over the years, I’ve stopped trying to understand the system. Somehow it works and that’s good enough for me.
(Got to go, Buddy just stole Bella’s chew stick.)
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR MARY BURTON “DELIVERS ACTION-PACKED TENSION”*
IN THE SEVENTH VICTIM, THE STORY OF A COLD CASE GONE HOT WHEN A
SERIAL STRANGLER EMERGES FROM THE SHADOWS TO KILL AGAIN
Burton’s Latest Suspense Novel is Published by Zebra Books as a
Mass Market Paperback Original on Sale January 29th
“Burton (Before She Dies) delivers action-packed tension…the blooming love
interest between Beck and Lara, the number of red-herring suspects, and
the back story on the victims make this a compelling romantic thriller.”
“Dark and disturbing, a well-written tale of obsession and murder.”
—Kat Martin, New York Times bestselling author
EXCERPT FROM MARY BURTON’S THE SEVENTH VICTIM
The fact that Sergeant Beck had shown up on her land suggested that his case, and especially that Ranger, weren’t going away.
Even without the hat and the badge, Beck would have put her on edge. A six-foot-six frame coupled with broad shoulders and a lean, muscled body intimidated without a single word spoken. Cutting ice green eyes combined with steel under his Texas drawl had had her struggling not to lock herself inside her cabin.
She shoved out a breath and straightened. Just because two women had been murdered within thirty miles of her didn’t mean the Strangler had returned. Those two women, like most, probably had known their attackers. She’d read all the statistics. Random acts of violence, as she’d suffered, were indeed rare. Most women were killed by men they knew or, worse, loved.
The man who’d attacked her was not in Texas because the odds that he had come to Austin were astronomical.
Beck’s extremely male appraisal had her smoothing nervous hands over her jeans. Worse still, a deep, deep part of her had been intrigued and pleased.
There’d been a time when she’s loved the scent and feel of a man. Confident and self-assured, she’d never been afraid to ask a man to dance of to join her for a cup of coffee. But for the last seven years, she walked wide circles around males. And most who showed interest were easily dissuaded by anger, sarcasm, and humor. Her shields. God, she wanted to love, wanted to be held, but behind each new male lurked the fear that he was her attacker.
The lingering unknowns and lost memories no longer sent her into hiding as they had after the attack. These days they drove her to her camera.
Though she needed to finalize details for her gallery opening, the need to create overrode practicalities.
Lara’s upcoming show, Mark of Death, featured murder scenes from around the country that she’d photographed with her one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old bellows camera. Since only a handful of people knew about her attack, many considered such subject matter odd and more than a little quirky in one so young. But it didn’t take a shrink for her to know why she took the pictures she took. In each new image she searched for the spark that would trigger her memory.
“Come on, Lincoln, let’s get our lunches packed so we can hit the trail and shoot some pictures before class this afternoon.” She thought about yesterday’s murder scene. As it was only twenty-four hours old, the cops would still have it roped off. She’d not get close for days.
But the first crime scene that Beck had mentioned was well over a month old. That scene would be open now. She made herself a cup of coffee and toast and headed to her computer.
Lincoln followed and lay down at her side, keeping a careful eye on her toast, just in case crumbs should fall to the ground. Since he was a small puppy she’d never been able to eat in front of the dog without sharing. He’d had her number since day one. She tossed a piece of buttered bread his way, grabbed her reading glasses, and searched San Antonio, Woman’s body found, April.
She got a hit almost immediately. The woman Beck had mentioned had been in her twenties. She’d worked in a bar and, according to the articles, been liked by friends. She’d been a student. She’d been months shy of graduation.
The murder scene was off I-35 north of San Antonio. The articles did not mention that she’d been wearing a white dress or that she’d had a penny in her hand. But then the Seattle cops had not released many details at first. They’d been guarded about giving specifics until the fourth victim had been discovered. That’s when they’d mentioned the white dress. There was no label in those dresses, but the hope had been that someone might come forward with a description of the man who’d commissioned the dressed. But the tips, from what the media had reported, had led nowhere. The fifth and sixth victims had been wearing the same dress and when she’d been found, she’d been wearing the same dress.
She ran her hands over her arms, remembering the feel of the dress’s cotton sleeve. She couldn’t recall wearing the dress during the attack, but one of the shrinks had convinced her to put on the dress, hoping she’d remember. The dress had smelled of sweat and the backside of it had been stained with grass. She’d stood in the doctor’s office for over an hour willing her brain to release one single detail that would help catch this killer. Nothing had come that day or the next or the next.
Inwardly, she’d begun to crumble under police questions and the constant talk in the media about The Unidentified Victim. Who was she? How had she crossed paths with the killer? One reported had offered a bounty to anyone who could identify her.
Fear of discovery coupled with not knowing her attacker had simmered to boiling until finally she’d fled Seattle.
She’d not had a plan when she’d left the West Coast. All she’d wanted was to get away. And so she’d bounced around aimlessly for months, working odd jobs that kept her gas tank filled and food in her belly. She’d been aimless. Lost. And about nine months after Seattle she’d wandered into a pawnshop and spotted a digital camera. On a whim she had spent what little savings she’d had and bought the camera. That precise day she’d started snapping pictures and almost immediately a sense of peace had eased the tension gripping her body. The world made a little more sense when she saw it through the lens of a camera.
Her subject matter had been varied and scattered until she’d read an article in the Baltimore paper about a murder scene. A woman had been stabbed near the Inner Harbor. Pulled by forces she could not articulate, she’d gone to the murder scene and started snapping pictures. Later when she loaded the images onto her computer, she’d studied them so carefully, hoping to see just one element that would explain the violence that had claimed a woman’s life.
No answers had surfaced that night, or the next. But the need to keep shooting remained. Her cameras got fancier, more sophisticated, but none gave her the feel she needed. And then she’d visited a Chicago auction house selling old photographic equipment. The trip had been more of a curiosity than a mission until she’d seen the hundred-and-fifty-year-old bellows camera. Instantly drawn to the camera, she’d bid high enough to win the camera and drain her savings.
The digital camera had forgiven her amateur photographic skills, but the bellow camera had no patience for novices. She’d found a photographer in Pennsylvania who taught her how to prepare her glass negatives, shoot her images, and develop the smoky, moody pictures that so suited her subject matter.
ABOUT MARY BURTON
New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Mary Burton is the author of nineteen novels including her latest thriller, THE SEVENTH VICTIM. Her highly praised books include Before She Dies, Senseless, Merciless, Dying Scream, Dead Ringer and I’m Watching You.
A Richmond native whose family’s roots run as deep as the nation’s, Mary still lives there. She attended Virginia’s Hollins University and began a career in marketing. Eventually, she decided the stories buzzing around her brain really did deserve her attention. She left her job and wrote her first novel, a historical romance published in 2000.
Mary wrote eleven more romance novels and three novellas before embracing the dark world of suspense. She even brought danger to her novella Christmas Past, which appears in the New York Times bestselling holiday anthology Silver Bells. Her story, Snow Maiden, was featured in the USA Today bestselling collection A Hero’s Kiss.
Research led her to both the Henrico County Citizens Police Academy and the Richmond FBI Citizen’s Academy as well as Sisters in Crime’s Forensic University program and the Writers Police Academy in Jamestown, North Carolina, where the focus was on undercover work, autopsies, and the theories behind why people kill.
Mary writes full time. When not killing people, she spends time in the kitchen, practices yoga, enjoys her family and her miniature dachshunds, and completes courses toward her Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate at the University of Richmond’s Culinary Arts Program. She has just completed her next novel, NO ESCAPE, which will be published in November 2013.