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5:54 PM Thu, Nov. 15th

Prescott Author – writes away –<BR>sentence by sentence!

A late-comer to writing, Prescott author Marlene Baird is nonetheless passionate about her new vocation.

She's up at 7 a.m. and at her computer in robe and slippers with coffee in hand, writing while the morning is still and her thought processes fresh.

"Your subconscious works on a story for you, and the next time you sit down at the computer, something is there," she said.

Baird doesn't write her books chapter by chapter, she said with a laugh, "but sentence by sentence. I just keep asking, 'what happens next?'"

Her first published book, "Murder Times Two," came out a few years ago.

She initially wrote it as a screenplay for a class at the University of California at San Diego.

"I thought converting it to a book would be easy, but a screenplay is only setting and dialogue … you don't have to know a lot about characters to write it because the actors flesh them out," she said. "A novel you have to do yourself."

So far, Baird has written five novels and a lot of short fiction pieces on a variety of subjects.

"I never have trouble coming up with stories," she said, and usually works on several at a time.

Her second published book, "The Filigree Cross," (subtitled: "The Salvation of Larry Broadfellow"), is a print-on-demand book recently released through 1st Books Library. It won first place as "Best Novel" in an annual nationwide contest sponsored by authorlink.com.

"It was a real thrill when it came out," Baird said. "You never know if it will take off, but I'm very satisfied to get it published. It's better than having manuscripts sitting in the drawer."

Writing is not a hobby for Baird.

"I call this a vocation – an obsession, really. It's all I've pretty much done for 10 years," she said. "Writing is so hard, some of us try giving it up, but can't. After two days I'm back at it."

Writing didn't call to Baird while she was busy raising three children and working outside the home, "but it seems the moment I was free, it came like a big rush," she said.

Baird wrote a bit in school and even had a poem published in Canada, but "took 30 years off," she said.

For the past decade, she has immersed herself not only in writing, but in learning about writing – taking classes at colleges and universities, participating in the Hassayampa Writing Institute in Prescott and going to writers' lectures whenever she can.

"I think it's important to absorb everything you can about the industry," Baird said.

The believes that life experiences are invaluable, too, in becoming a writer.

"It's helped me to have children, I was very poor for a while, I was ill … everything like that helps you understand people so you get your characters real," she said. "I welcome experiences that come along."

Being born and raised in Canada (she's now a U.S. citizen) also added to Baird's experience. Her hometown of Calgary is the setting for "Murder Times Two."

"I lived in the city (in my memories) while I was writing it," she said.

Though the location is part of her past, she said the plot is not about her life. None of her books so far are directly about her life.

"I don't recognize myself in these books, but they must come from my inner knowing," she said. "I can't make up some of the feelings."

"The theme of 'The Filigree Cross' (about a televangelist who has a crisis of faith) is about my own moral character," Baird mused.

Writing is like living in two worlds at once, she said.

"It is so involving of my mind that it totally takes you away from what's happening," she said. "That's the joy of it. Though I have a good life, I like living a different life, too."

Baird recently won a citywide writing contest sponsored by the Professional Writers of Prescott and Barnes & Noble Bookstore.

She will read her 2,000-word winning entry, along with the other adult and teen winners, at 6:30 p.m. March 25 at Prescott Gateway's Barnes & Noble Bookstore.

She is also the featured speaker at the Northern Arizona Romance Writers Association in June.

"The Filigree Cross" ($14.50, ISBN 1-4033-6377-3) and "Murder Times Two" ($13.95, ISBN 0-75966-499-4) are available by calling (888) 280-7715, or at www.1stbooks.com.

"I want to just continue writing. I'm hoping these books will at least gain me a local base – because I'm going to have more," Baird said with a knowing smile.

Coming out next year, for example, is a book about a female alcoholic struggling to get her life back: "My Name is Clair."

Contact Sandy Moss at smoss@prescottaz.com or 445-8179, ext. 2039.