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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Snow on Postcards

"I like my snow on postcards," says hubby. He really means it, too. Not I. Well, okay, I like snow on postcards, but I really love honest-to-goodness, cold, wet snow.

When weather forecasters started warning us of a potentially heavy snowfall for the weekend before Christmas, I checked my pantry for cookie ingredients, canned food, drinking water, and, of course, toilet paper. Satisfied that we had what we needed if the power went out, I asked for two feet of the white stuff. Hubby didn't want a single flake. I pointed out the beauty of heavy snow, how clean and pure snow makes everything seem. He argued that walking becomes treacherous, entry ways messy, and doggies get a little too creative when going outside to potty. And shoveling snow hurts his back.

When the snow ceased on Saturday, 15 gorgeous inches blanketed our wonderland. Everything looked unspoiled, beautiful. The lake sparkled. Two pairs of ducks swam across the cove. If not for the dark green pines and the brown oak leaves, you'd think you were in a totally black and white world.

And then I heard hubby's 1953 Ferguson farm tractor crank up. He worked on our driveway and several others on our street for hours. He claims he hates snow and all the work involved. I believed him when we had horses and had to get water and feed to them, but that was years ago before hubby became allergic to hay and we had to give up our horses. (It broke my heart, but it was the horses or Ron. I chose Ron. I'm glad I did. But I still miss my horses.) Deep down, I think he likes to get on his tractor, show Mother Nature that she can't stop him. But please don't tell him I said that.

Today, deep, crusty snow still covers the ground, makes crossing the yard a dangerous feat for my 45-pound, 18-year-old dog Angus. He slips and falls easily; I worry that he will break a leg or a rib. Yellow Dawg handles it okay, but at 60+ pounds, he's taller and heavier than Angus. I heard yesterday that there's a chance of freezing rain. Hubby and his tractor do not like ice. Neither do I.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Jonathan Still Remembered

It's hard to believe, but today my precious grandson Jonathan Stephen Joseph would have been six years old. And if I close my eyes and think of Jonathan, I can feel his little arms wrapped around my neck, can picture his silky blonde hair, his huge brown eyes, his smile that promised never-ending love.

But tragedy struck our family on January 12, 2006, and Jonathan left us the next day. He was two years and 17 days old when he died. None of us had any idea that Jonathan was born with arterial venous malformation of the brain, that his life would be so short. And maybe that's good. Because we didn't know, all who knew him spent his time on earth loving him, playing with him, enjoying him, teaching him--and learning from him. Even though losing Jonathan still hurts like crazy, I'll never regret the earthly time I spent with him.

I wish he could have known his sister Johanna, born eight days after Jonathan died. The two of them would have enjoyed each other so much. He would have loved his baby brother Josiah, born September 5, 2009, too. Jonathan would have been a great big brother.

Happy Sixth Birthday, Jonathan! Grandmother loves you.


Monday, December 07, 2009

Signing Books in Lynchburg

My most recent book signing was at Givens Books & Little Dickens in Lynchburg, VA, on Saturday, November 28th. I had so much fun! One of the great things about book signings is that old friends often drop by for a book and to chat. At this signing, lots of good friends came. We chatted, laughed, even cried a little. And they bought books.

Photo by Martin Tolhoek

Until we moved to the lake in 2000, I did most of my shopping in Lynchburg. Most of my friends lived in Lynchburg. We attended church in Forest, which butts up to Lynchburg. I don't get there as often now. I told my husband later that signing at Givens was like going home.

Photo by Martin Tolhoek
Author Jeri Watts, Me, and friend Kay Tolhoek

Meeting and signing with other authors is also a plus, and on the 28th, I met and signed with Dr. Jeri H. Watts, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Learning at Lynchburg College. She was delightful, and I hope to see her again.

Photo by Lisa Roseveare
Grandson Matthew, Granddaughters Emily & Nicole
And yes, I see the bunny ears.

Givens Books & Little Dickens, located at 2236 Lakeside Drive, Lynchburg, is a family-owned store and is a favorite place for me to purchase birthday and Christmas gifts for my grandchildren. Not only is the store packed with books, there are educational toys, fun toys, teaching supplies, and a coffeehouse and cafe. The staff is polite and helpful. In my opinion, this would be the perfect book store for Becky Mushko's book Ferradiddledumday which will be coming out in January. You can read more about Givens Books & Little Dickens at

Photo by Martin Tolhoek

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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Book Review of Ferradiddledumday

The first time I read a draft of Becky Mushko's Ferradiddledumday was three or four years ago. Immediately I liked her Appalachian version of Rumpelstiltskin and thought it should be published. Then Bruce Rae created the delightful illustrations, making the book even more inviting. When Cedar Creek Publishing wanted to publish it, I was ecstatic. If I told you that I clapped and clapped, and then clapped some more, you wouldn't believe me. But I really did. Honest.

This past Thanksgiving Day, I sat on our sunny deck with several of my grandchildren and started reading aloud Becky Mushko's advance reading copy of Ferradiddledumday, An Appalachian Version of Rumpelstiltskin. The children were hooked as soon as I read the catchy title and showed them the cover. Each time I turned a page they insisted I show them the illustrations by Bruce Rae.

"Look!" one granddaughter said as she pointed to page eight. "This page has a rattlesnake AND a copperhead!"

I nodded and smiled. I, too, liked Bruce's illustrations.

Even though I had read Ferradiddledumday in it's infancy, I read slowly, savoring again the delightful superstitions of Appalachia, enjoying the Appalachian dialect woven throughout the pages. From page 15:

"Ay, well," said her pa when the skies cleared and they could go outside, "the garden weren't hurt too bad. The cornstalks ain't been flatted and the bean vines ain't tore up."

Can't you just feel it, see it? Mushko is a true story teller, and this latest book is honest Appalachian literature. And to top it off, there's a study and discussion guide that draws me in, makes me want to follow it. More importantly, it will appeal to kids, get them interested in researching Rumpelstiltskin, Appalachia, leprechauns. They will learn that research can be fun.

Because I was reading slowly and taking time to show everyone the illustrations, my kitchen buzzer went off before I could finish the book.

"Don't stop now, Grandmother!" one said. "We want to hear the rest!"

But the turkey and sweet potatoes called, and suspecting that 21 folks didn't want to wait much longer before chowing down, I hurried to the kitchen, knowing I'd disappointed my grandchildren. And I smiled, knowing how excited they would be when they received their very own copy of Ferradiddledumday when the book comes out in January 2010. You, dear reader, should buy it, too.

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Seven Virginia Authors

Seven Virginia authors gathered at The General Store in Moneta to sign books on November 21st. We talked, laughed, examined and traded books, and enjoyed chatting with folks who dropped by to shop and buy our books. Owners Vicki and Rita and their fine staff provided us with coffee, juice, and delicious goodies. I bought something, of course. Seldom do I leave that shop without a purchase in my hands.

Two of the authors were ladies I had never met. I liked them instantly, and I'm looking forward to reading their books. B. (Barbara) R. Roberts lives in Lynchburg, and has published a children's book entitled "What A Christmas!" I'm sure my grandchildren will enjoy it. Barbara sent me the picture below which was taken by Susan Dittler. Debra Cheehy from Northern Virginia has written "I Like Dogs," which, in my opinion, is a must-read for any family thinking about getting a dog.

Back Row, L to R: Bob VandeLinde, Sally Roseveare, Barbara Roberts, Curtis Nester, Rodney Franklin
Front Row, L to R: Debra Cheehy
Photo by Susan Dittler

If you've never shopped at The General Store, stop in, grab a cup of hot coffee, and browse awhile. You'll find just about something for everybody on your gift list. And if you sew, don't miss the fabrics and sewing notions downstairs.

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