Debra’s Bio

Judge, author, litigator, wife, step-mom, mother of twins, and civic volunteer, are all words used to describe me. My life and writings are equally diverse. I’m the author of Kensington Press’ Sarah Blair mystery series. Sarah, like me, is a cook of convenience who might be scorched if she gets too close to a kitchen. One Taste Too Many, published in January 2019, was picked as a Woman’s World Book of the Week. The next three books, Two Bites Too Many, Three Treats Too Many, and Four Cuts Too Many were each named as Silver Falchion finalists. The fifth book in the series, Five Belles Too Many, releases on June 28, 2022.

Maze in Blue, my debut novel, set on the University of Michigan’s campus in the 1970’s, received a 2012 Independent Book Publisher (IPPY) Award and was reissued as a May 2014 selection by Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries. Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery, my second book, was published in April 2016. In August 2019, Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries released it as a mass market paperback. Even though my novels are murder mysteries, it is a safe bet that when it comes to my writing – and my life, “It’s Not Always a Mystery.”

I grew up in New Jersey and Michigan. After earning my BA in English and History from the University of Michigan, I moved to New York to pursue a job in publishing and become a Jeopardy contestant. Goals accomplished, I enrolled at Emory University School of Law to obtain a juris doctorate.

Initially I practiced corporate international tax law, but then focused on labor litigation. A high point of my trial work was receiving a U.S. Department of Labor Meritorious Achievement Award for Marshall v. Georgia Southwestern, a case of first impression addressing equal pay in higher education.

After twelve years of litigating, I was one of the youngest individuals appointed as a U.S. Administrative Law Judge. During the next few years I talked about writing a novel, but I concentrated on writing legal opinions and articles although my friends and four children challenged me to seriously pursue my dream. In 2009, my first attempt, a non-fiction essay entitled Maybe I Should Hug You, received an Alabama Writer’s Conclave Award.  A retooled version of that piece appeared in April 2010 in MORE Magazine online as More Hugs Less Fear. As my writing took off, I realized I had to make a choice between my legal career and my passion. I resigned my lifetime appointment.

Although I enjoy non-fiction writing, my main focus has been on novels and short stories. “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” my first submission and acceptance by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (May/June 2017) was named a 2018 Anthony and Agatha Award Short Story Finalist. “Pig Lickin’ Good,” which appeared in the Murder Most Edible – the 2019 Malice Domestic Anthology was a 2020 Derringer finalist. My short stories also have appeared in numerous other periodicals and anthologies (see Other Writings).

I am an active civic volunteer in Birmingham, Alabama and have served on the national boards of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, as well as being past president of the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and Sister’s in Crime’s largest chapter, The Guppies. 

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