Smith Mountain Lake Mystery Writer

Contemplations from a quiet cove on Smith Mountain Lake.

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Location: United States

I'm a Southern gal who loves life, my husband and our family (which, to date, includes 13 grandchildren). I enjoy being with friends and family. But I also like being alone and thinking up plots for future books. I've published two novels, both mysteries, and I'm working on my third. For more about my books, visit me at If you ever hear me say, "I'm bored," please get me to the ER immediately! Paddling my kayak and snapping pictures of the critters I see relaxes me. Beach music has the opposite effect--when I hear those old "doo-wops" I want to dance.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Who Am I?

Okay, I know my first blog post wasn’t what one would expect. What you needed was a post about who I am, what I’m about, and what I do. What you got was a post about my newly acquired bookcases and the books I rescued from The Closet. So now I’ll remedy that; you’ll probably learn more than you want to know. Plus, I'll tell you about my book.

Born in Washington, North Carolina, I grew up 21 miles west in Greenville, home of East Carolina University. I enjoyed my childhood. My mother was smart, gorgeous (I didn’t get her looks), and lots of fun. An enlisted marine in World War II, Daddy included me in his life and taught me how to use a bow and arrow, shoot a .22, and use my right knee. I can still remember him saying, “Sally, God gave you a right knee to defend yourself. Don’t hesitate to shove it where it counts.”

I remember the first day of the ninth grade. Friend Libby Keel ran up to me in the hall and told me about the “new boy” in school. “He’s sooo cute!” she said. “Watch for him in the halls; you can’t miss him.” Libby was right. Ron’s blond hair was combed in the “duck tail” style unheard of in innocent, small Greenville. He wore a leather kidney belt and kept a pack of Marlboro cigarettes rolled in his shirt sleeve. He looked like movie star James Dean. I played hard to get for a year and a half; our first date was in the summer before our junior year. We dated through high school, married two years after graduation, and I worked to put him through N. C. State University. Five years and two adorable sons later, Ron graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, accepted a job with DuPont, and we moved to Wilmington, Delaware. In 1971, we moved to Lynchburg, Virginia. By then our family had expanded to include a precious daughter.

Throughout the 70s our family used the recreational facilities Smith Mountain Lake offered. Ron and I built a house and moved to Smith Mountain Lake in 2000. Our three children all graduated from Virginia Tech, married, and blessed us with a total (so far) of 11 grandchildren. I enjoy spending time with our family and friends, reading, kayaking, traveling, playing bridge, cross-stitching, dancing with Ron, and dreaming up new plots for future books. Chocolate meringue pie and grits swimming in melted butter are my two favorite breakfasts. I love dogs, horses, humming birds, and great blue herons.

I’ve been creating stories from as far back as I can remember, just wasn’t putting them on paper. When I was very young, my doll carriage became a stage coach; my baby dolls were the passengers. I pulled the carriage behind me and galloped—whinnying—through the neighborhood. A couple of years later my silver blue bicycle became my white stallion, and again I whinnied through the neighborhood.

In 1996, while in Lyon, France with husband Ron for a three-month job assignment, I started my first novel. I love mysteries. And I can make a mystery out of almost anything. To date I’ve published one mystery novel, Secrets at Spawning Run, which takes place at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. In the book, protagonist Aurora Harris returns to her childhood home at Smith Mountain Lake for her mother’s funeral, and is quickly caught up in a web of deceit, theft and murder. With her black Labrador retriever King by her side, Aurora attempts to solve the mystery and save her husband’s life. I’m working on my second and third novels now.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New Bookcase

I never intended to move books today. After all the nagging from my Lake Writer friend and published author of several books Becky Mushko, I figured I’d start my blog. (Becky has nagged me for months. “It’s easy,” she said. “Just do it.”) Instead, this morning I walked Angus the dog, folded three loads of laundry, read e-mail, cleaned the kitchen, and washed a load of sheets and a load of towels. Not together, mind you. Sheets don’t take nearly as long to dry as towels, and I’m a good steward of energy. And I googled blogs of other folks I know and admire, i.e. Becky, Fred First, Fran Nielsen, Colleen Redman, Jack Rupert.

But last week hubby Ron and I acquired two large, just-right-for that-spot bookcases from our neighbor Grace. And after my third cup of Maxwell House this morning, I noticed the bookcases were not full. Horrors. Whatever would my ten grandchildren think? And there was space to put books presently residing for eons on shelves in The Closet. Two and two make four . . .

Stuffed in The Closet I discovered a book I bought when I was in the 12th grade in Greenville, North Carolina. I’d not thought about it for years. W. Frank Landing was my 12th grade English teacher, and he wrote a book, War Cry of the South, about the adventures of Confederates during the building of the iron-clad “Albemarle.” War Cry of the South was required reading in his class. Today I tried to google Mr. Landing. No success. I’m, well, 39 years old? Not really, but my mother always said—and I will never forget her words—“A woman who will tell her age will tell anything.” That would make Mr. Landing how old? I wish I’d been able to tell Mr. Landing what his class did for me, and that as an author I realize and appreciate what he went through in getting his book published.

Other books I discovered/rescued from the dank innards of The Closet were California, A Romantic Story for Young People by J. Walker McSpadden, illustrated by Howard L. Hastings, copyright 1926 by J.H. Sears & Co., Incorporated; Camille by Alexandre Dumas, Fils, by The Modern Library New York; Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (one of my favorite authors), copyright1935 by Whitman Publishing Company, Peyton Place by Grace Metalious, published by Dell Publishing Company, Inc. by arrangement with the original publisher of the work Julian Messner, NC, 1956. In what my daughter Christine calls “Grandmother Books,” I also found a 1972 paperback of Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel, Mary Stewart’s 1973 The Hollow Hills, and several hardbacks by Southern writer Inglis Fletcher.

I want to curl up in a corner and re-read these unearthed treasures, but I need to work on my second mystery novel. And company will arrive this weekend, so beds have to be made and the house cleaned.

Hey, this is kind of fun. Maybe Becky was right.

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