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.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Our first full day at sea began with a way-too-huge breakfast. Because there are so many different food stations in the cafeteria, we browsed, taking a muffin or sweet roll from one, bacon or sausage and an omelet from another, mounds of fresh melons, strawberries, pineapple from another. One station served pancakes and waffles smothered in butter and any type of syrup you desired.

Thick clouds and fog rolled in, and the Captain said, "It was a dark and stormy. . . ." I'm just kidding; he didn't say that. But he did warn us that we wouldn't see much of Hubbard Glacier-- the largest tidewater glacier on the North American continent--because of weather conditions.

But the fog cleared! Straight ahead of us (photo below) loomed Hubbard Glacier standing at 11,000 feet above sea level.

We cheered. Our joyous Captain cheered. I'd heard so much about Hubbard Glacier while researching our trip that not being able to get close would have disappointed me a lot.

Navigating these icy waters is dangerous. Icebergs become bottom-heavy and can tip over at any time. And where icebergs are concerned, what you see is NOT what you get. Only 10% of an iceberg is above water. Usually large ships like ours get no closer than three-quarters of a mile to Hubbard Glacier.

Our Captain took us to within one-quarter mile of the glacier, and because conditions were perfect, we stayed two hours instead of the usual 30 minutes. The glaciers creaked and groaned.

When air gets in the ice, it turns blue (top of above photo) and is ready to calve (break off). Many sections calved while we watched. The chunks sounded like vibrating cannons when they crashed into the water.

About an hour after we arrived a smaller ship joined us, but didn't venture as close to the glacier as our ship.

I marveled at the brilliant blues in this scene as we left Hubbard Glacier and steamed toward Juneau. What a perfect day.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011


I like everything about The Phoebe Needles Center in Callaway, Virginia, so when I was invited to speak there on May 10th, I was thrilled. And the fact that I would be in the company of two other authors whom I admire--Becky Mushko and Dan Smith--made it even better. We were the May program for the Center for Lifelong Learning for adults 55 and over which focuses on education and fellowship.

Located in a "you-can't-get-there-from-here" place, I discovered that it's fairly simple when you travel with Becky, who knew an easy way. Dan followed Becky and me from the Rocky Mount Wal-Mart to Route 40 past Ferrum College where we turned onto Turner's Creek Road and drove straight--well, uh, "crooked" is probably a better word--to Phoebe Needles. I was driving, so I couldn't take pictures or gawk a lot. Becky snapped this one and others. If my hubby were not allergic to hay, which is the reason we had to give up our horses, this would be a place I'd like to live. And, folks, it's for sale!

It's worth visiting Phoebe Needles for numerous reasons. The drive along the twisting ribbon of road provides you with gorgeous scenery, and the lunch served at the Center is always delicious. To me, however, the best part about attending their monthly programs is the people you meet. I liked re-connecting with The Rev. John Heck (Executive Director of Phoebe Needles), people I met when I spoke there in 2009, and meeting nice new folks.

The huge room above is arranged for dining in the rear, and a program area in the front. By the time our "Four Writers: Four Viewpoints" program (although only three writers came) began, only a few seats were left. The kitchen is to the right, and there are large porches to the left and end of the building.

Dan read from his memoir Burning the Furniture and his children's book Saving Homer.

Becky ready from her recent novel Stuck and from Ferradiddledumday, an Appalachian version of Rumplestiltskin. Because Phoebe Needles attendees had heard me read from my first novel, Secrets at Spawning Run, in April 2009, this time I read only from Secrets at Sweetwater Cove, my second novel in the "Secrets" series. We could not have asked for a better audience! They were attentive, interested, and asked excellent questions.

Before we left, John Heck showed Becky and me what used to be the Episcopal School's bathrooms. They were outdoors, and you had to walk down steps to a small, dark, creepy area. The daily use "contents" ran out a pipe onto the ground. Yuck. All the plumbing was removed years ago, the bathrooms converted to storage areas.

John Heck at the bottom of the steps.

I'm surprised that the next photo even came out because of the absolute darkness below. Guess I have a better flash on my camera than I realized. Anyhow, after seeing these creepy areas, plots started running through my head.

I took the below picture of a local farm from the porch at the Center. I could live here, too, if hubby weren't allergic to hay. I'd want horses, lots of horses, but horses eat hay, so. . . .

If you're interested in the programs offered, click on Phoebe Needles. You'll be glad you did.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Downtown Spring Fling

On May 7th, Mike Davis and I shared a booth at the "Downtown Spring Fling" Arts & Crafts Show in Rocky Mount, Virginia. Mike arrived around 8:00 a.m. to begin setting up. I joined him at 8:15. Mike and I had shared a speaking event at the Franklin County Library in Rocky Mount once, so I knew we'd have fun. Plus, he's a nice guy.

Mike (above) is the author of 12 novels--romantic suspense
and science fiction.

Because of concern about being set up on pavement with a blazing sun overhead, friend Amy Thomas loaned me her tent/canopy. Then the weather forecast the night before said the high temperature at noon would be 60 degrees, so Mike and I decided not to take the canopy. Bad idea. We nearly fried. But we survived and had a great time.

That's me wearing hubby Ron's red North Carolina State
baseball cap.
At one point I had TWO caps on with one bill facing
one facing backwards. The sun was HOT!

Mary Wray, owner of "The Artisan Center along the Crooked Road" and organizer of the Spring Fling, took excellent care of the vendors (around 30, I think) who were selling their wares, provided a clean bathroom indoors for us, helped with anything we needed. Mike and I met some nice, interesting people and sold some books.

Several painters, photographers, pottery creators, woodworkers, jewelry makers, and other artisans had items on display and for sale. I bought two pairs of earrings from wood turner friend Hugh Key.

Usually when I speak to groups or do book signings, I bring my stuffed black Labrador retriever King. Don't worry, he was never a real, honest-to-goodness live dog. He's stuffed like a child's teddy bear. I bring King to events because both my novels have a real "King" in them. Children love King, enjoy patting his head, rubbing his back, climbing on him. Most other dogs like him, although they always give him the sniff test. Asa, a German Shepherd at this event, accepted King immediately.


If there's another "Downtown Spring Fling" next year, you should go. But if you can't, know that The Artisan Center has most of the vendors' works throughout the year. And there's lots of other stuff to do in Rocky Mount.

At 3:00, Mike and I loaded up our vehicles and left--hot, tired, and happy.

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Fred First, Nature Author and Photographer

I first met Fred First, a Floyd County resident, as we trudged up a hill in Rocky Mount to hear noted Civil War historian Bud Robertson speak. As we huffed and puffed our way to the lecture, I learned that Fred and his wife were restoring an old house, that he liked nature, was a photographer, and that he loved his dog--a Labrador retriever, I believe. And because I like all those things, I immediately liked Fred.

On Thursday, May 5, Fred delighted a large crowd at the Moneta/SML Library. Fred read some of his essays and selections from his two books. A nature writer and photographer, he inspired me to stop and look at the treasures nature has given us.

Fred First in the photo above and the one below.

Now I want to sit on the ground, study the insects, learn more about the plants I previously tried to eradicate. If my yard has more "weeds" than normal, blame it on Fred! And if I collect more ticks than usual, it's Fred's fault.

Yesterday I took some pictures of a few wildflowers, tried different settings with my camera. Remember to click on the pictures to enlarge.

This wildflower and the one below are the same. I think it's gorgeous, just don't know what it is.

I've been seeing the weeds below (or wildflowers--which is it?)
for years, usually plucked them from the earth.

This plant was trailing off a leaf-covered bank.

I don't know my wildflowers. I have only one wildflower book, which I perused a little while ago. I couldn't find any of those pictured above. Guess I need to invest in a good wildflower book. Any suggestions, y'all?

Fred's first book, Slow Road Home: a Blue Ridge Book of Days, ". . . invites the reader to join him on a field trip through time and place." I read this one several years ago, thoroughly enjoyed it.

What We Hold in Our Hands: a Slow Road Reader,
". . . directs our vision back for a closer look at the where and when of our lives." I'm looking forward to reading Fred's second book. By the way, did you know that Fred is Fred First the second?! I think that's so cool.

Below is one of Fred's breath-taking photos. Besides his two books, he has photo-notecards with this picture and many other equally gorgeous ones for sale.

Be sure to visit Fred's blog and book web site

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