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, August 21, 2011


Whenever possible, I like to paddle my kayak around the small coves to snap critter pictures. Yesterday was not a good day for phographing birds or animals, however. The prolonged drought we're experiencing is responsible. I almost always see green herons, but this time I saw only one small bird.
Click the picture to enlarge or you'll never see the bird!

In normal times, the area where the bird is standing would be under water. Below are more pictures showing how much Smith Mountain Lake's water level has receded. We live on a deep-water cove, so we have no trouble getting our boat out of the boat house and into the lake, but some folks in shallow water are probably unable to launch their boats.

 Thirsty roots reach for water.

Even though I'm worried about our plants, animals, fish, crops and our water supply, I momentarily forgot when I saw handsome Prince, our next door neighbor, stretched out on the rip-rap that's usually covered with water.

Thank you, Prince, for making me smile.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011


The word "Skagway," the next port on our cruise, evoked visions of a rough, don't-dare-go-there town. I was wrong. I really liked Skagway, another bustling tourist town with about 17 jewelry stores. The gateway to the Klondike gold fields in 1898, now only 825-860 hardy citizens live there year round.

Skagway was not what I had imagined.

Saloons still abound--there were about 80 during the gold rush days.

This building fascinated me. Click to enlarge photo. 

A public toilet next to main street. Hmm. Interesting.

We scheduled our tours for the day: a sight-seeing bus ride of Skagway and up the mountains to the Canadian line in the morning; a three-hour train ride on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad (narrow-gauge rails) in the afternoon. The bus tour was nice. The train ride was spectacular! If doing it again, I'd skip the bus tour and take the train, maybe even the five-hour train ride instead of the three-hour one.

In the picture above, we're chugging along the river in Skagway toward steep mountains and the Canadian border. We traveled across the White Pass and the trail gold seekers followed in 1898. My pictures don't begin to do justice to this majestic and rugged territory.

Once mid September arrives, the weather turns frigid. Unlike Skagway, many towns close down. The trains, with a heater in each car, are the lifelines to those hardy folks who live way back in the mountains. No roads exist in this wilderness, so if a mountaineer needs food or other supplies, he must contact the railroad and arrange for his goods to be dropped off at a pre-arranged location. Trains must push deep snow off the rails in order to keep the trains going. The railroad, originally used to haul ore from the Yukon Territory mines, closed in the 1980s but re-opened in 1988. It now carries over 430,000 visitors a year.

 A shot of the train ahead of us. I stood between the cars to take it and the one below.

I braced myself against the side railing to shoot this and many more. Even though I didn't feel comfortable when I was between cars, I would have been sorry if I hadn't done it. Besides, I figured it would make an interesting obituary.

Can it get any better than this?

A rushing river.

Almost back to Skagway.

An unidentified passenger watching us cast off.

What a day! When I awake in the morning we'll be at Icy Strait Point. I'm so glad we took this cruise!

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Lots of time has elapsed since I last blogged about my love affair with Alaska and "visiting" Hubbard Glacier. After leaving Hubbard, our ship chugged toward Juneau, Alaska's capital. Below is just one of the shots I took along the way. Nice scenery, huh? Be sure to click to enlarge the pictures.

A touristy town, Juneau is clean and interesting. Bald eagles seem to be everywhere. We learned that the only way in and out of Juneau (except for the local roads) is by air or boat. Because Juneau is landlocked, several years ago Alaskans voted to move the capital to Anchorage. The legislature approved the move, but when folks realized how much that would cost they decided Juneau would remain the capital! Smart people, the Alaskans; they pay as they go.

A shot of Juneau before we docked.

 Flowers abound in Juneau.

Juneau is loaded with jewelry stores.

 A view of the docks.

The next morning we rode a tour bus to Mendenhall Glacier, the most easily accessed glacier of the Juneau Icefield. Mendenhall receives over half a million visitors a year, and offers several trails to explore the area on foot. Mendenhall receives over 100 feet of snow annually. Because our time was limited, we chose to take advantage of the visitor center for a quick education on glaciers, vegetation and wildlife. I'd like to re-visit it some day. Actually, I'd like to re-visit Alaska!

Mendenhall Glacier. Note the gray color of the water.

At Macaulay Salmon Hatchery's visitor's center, we learned much about salmon and the corporation called Douglas Island Pink and Chum, or DIPAC, founded in the 1970s "to sustain and enhance the valuable salmon recources for the State of Alaska. . . ." We also tasted some of their delicious salmon products.

Macaulay Salmon Hatchery

Sunset aboard ship in Juneau.

Picture above is of Juneau just before pulling anchor and cruising all night to Skagway. I really enjoyed Juneau. Skagway was just as much fun. But that's another blog.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Authors and Adorable Little Girls

I much prefer to do a book signing with at least one other author, and on Saturday I joined fellow authors Tom Howell, Mike Davis, Becky Mushko, Linda Sturgill and Sue Coryell for a book signing at Diamond Hill General Store.

Becky Mushko, Linda Sturgill, Sue Coryell, and me

 Tom Howell and Mike Davis

 Quinnae hugging King, my stuffed Labrador Retriever

I don't think you can get any more precious than Quinnae.  I'm so glad she, her brother, and her dad stopped by. So is King.

Saturday, August 06, 2011


I bet you think the mud puddle you see below is just, well, a mud puddle. Nope. It's a tiny oasis in a hot-hot summer for two--rat-a-tat-tat (think drumroll, please)--FROGS! Click on the picture to enlarge, see if you can find them.

When Amy Thomas fills her 34-year-old quarter horse Skip's trough, a leaky hose drips water in deep tractor tire ruts outside the barn. During the spring when we had lots of rain, the ruts stayed full of water. Two frogs moved in, and they peeked at Amy when she did her chores. But the drought came, the oasis dried up except for the small drips, and one day Amy saw just one frog. Distressed, she started watering the ruts in order to keep her one remaining frog happy, and she asked Kevin not to drive the tractor through this oasis without first checking to see if Frog was there.

Now Kevin will have to contend with Frog and Frogette, maybe even tadpoles. If that happens, the family will need a larger oasis. Amy has a huge kind heart. I can picture her standing in the broiling sun with a shovel and pick as she enlarges the present oasis to a small pond. I get tired just thinking about it.


Wednesday, August 03, 2011


A couple weeks ago, Ron and I drove to Raleigh to have lunch with my Aunt Lyle, and Elizabeth, my cousin, and from there to visit my cousin Ross and his wife Angie in Mebane. On our drive along Rt. 86, a back country road between Danville and Hillsboro, I saw the most original flower bed I've ever seen. I didn't have my camera out of the case soon enough, but hubby said we could come back that way. (That was really sweet of him because he doesn't like to go the same way twice!) We memorized landmarks so I'd have my camera available. You ready for this?

Be sure to click on the picture to enlarge.

What ingenious people! I wanted to stop, ring their door bell, introduce myself, get to know them. I didn't, but maybe I will the next time I pass their yard. I bet they would be fascinating. So if these flower-bed folks happen to read this blog, I'd love to hear from you.