What Books Influenced You?

I acquired my first library card when I was four, and I knew that this was something. I had the power to choose books and take them home to read. My grandmother always said that books were your friends. I have a lot of friends. Just ask the movers. The majority of the boxes from the last move were filled with books. I was thinking about all the books that have influenced me as a person and a writer over the years, and I started making a list on one of my long commutes. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far…


  • Bible Stories

  • The Monster at the End of the Book (Grover is still my favorite Muppet.)

  • Green Eggs and Ham (I checked this out of the Woodstock Elementary Library as often as I could.)

  • Charlotte’s Web

  • The Biography of Walt Disney

  • The Wind in the Willows

Elementary/Middle School

  • The Crooked Banister (and all the other Nancy Drew books)

  • The Hardy Boys series

  • Agatha Christie’s books

  • The One-Minute Mysteries (There’s definitely a pattern here.)

  • Stories by O’Henry

  • Alfred Hitchcock Mysteries

  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

  • Anything by Edgar Allan Poe

I started reading scary or woo woo stories in middle school. I read Jaws one summer and avoided the beach. Then I checked out The Amityville Horror from the library and started it. I woke up in the middle of the night, and the cover was glowing. I threw it out in the hall and promptly returned it to the library. (I think the light was bouncing off the foiled cover, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I still don’t know how it ends.)

High School/College/Grad School

  • The Great Gatsby

  • The Sun Also Rises

  • To Kill a Mockingbird

  • Animal Farm

  • Hamlet

  • Gulliver’s Travels

  • The Great Gatsby

  • The Bell Jar

  • Pride and Prejudice

  • Jane Eyre

  • Wuthering Heights

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God

  • Poetry by Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Gwendolyn Brooks

  • The Scarlet Letter

  • The Call of the Wild

  • Oliver Twist

  • Moby Dick

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I have a BA and an MA in American literature. (I got to go to school to read books. The perfect setup.) The best class I ever took was Dr. Magnuson’s “Detective Fiction.” He introduced us to the literary conventions, the genre, and a variety of authors. And that’s where I fell in love with hard boiled, detective novels.

I also took children’s literature as an undergrad, and it was fun to see how things had changed since I was in that demographic. By then, Nancy Drew had undergone a makeover, and she now drove a Mustang and dated boys other than Ned Nickerson. YA was just starting to evolve then, and it has exploded over the years.

What’s your favorite genre? What’s on your list?

What I Learned from Starbucks and Joseph Michelli

My niece landed a job recently in a Starbucks, and it was interesting to hear about life as a new barista. Coincidentally, I finished Joseph A. Michelli's Leading the Starbucks Way: 5 Principles for Connecting with your Customers, Your Products, and Your People. Check out his website and blog.

1. Love, Humanity, and Humility should be your performance drivers.

2. If you don't have passion for your product or service, why should your customer?

3. Your customer service behaviors should include anticipating, connecting, personalizing, and owning.

4. You need to cherish and challenge your legacy. It's not just today's sale.

Michelli's book focuses on customer service and leadership, but the advice works for writers who are trying to market their work.

What Snow Days are Good for...

We got socked with another snow storm. I'm a beach girl. I consider it cold if it drops below sixty-five degrees. These storms that dump six to ten inches of snow are too much. Schools and work are closed, so it's a great day to read, write, and edit.

I'm working on the second round of edits for Virginia is for Mysteries. I also sent out some submissions. Now, the JRTs and I are going to enjoy the white stuff from inside next to the fireplace. I'm reading Ellery Adams' Murder in the Mystery Suite. What are you reading?

Nov. 21 Lethal Ladies' Lunch Break - Fountain Bookstore

Join the Lethal Ladies at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA from 12:30 - 2:30 on Friday, November 21. Signed mysteries make great holiday gifts.

Come out and see Sisters in Crime members Mary Miley, Donna Andrews, Mary Burton, Lyndee Walker, Vivian Lawry, and me. We'll have signed copies of Virginia is for Mysteries.


David Baldacci's KING AND MAXWELL

I took a break from writing to read David Baldacci's King and Maxwell. I like his series about the former Secret Service agents.

This one begins during a storm on a dark road. King and Maxwell find a young man running in the rain with a gun. This rescue leads to a new case where everything is not as it first seems. The boy's father and a lot of money have disappeared during a secret mission in Afghanistan. The private eyes learn that the scandal goes all the way to the White House.

King and Maxwell battle a paramilitary group and multiple government agencies with all kinds of letters in their acronyms to solve the crime and find out what happened to the missing man and the money.

This is my favorite of Baldacci's series. I love that parts are set in Virginia. Baldacci is a good storyteller with strong male characters. His female characters are often caricatures. It reminds me a lot of how Hemingway portrayed females in his work.

King and Maxwell is well worth the read. There are enough plot twists to keep the reader guessing all the way to the end.

What I've Been Reading...

I just finished Claire Cook's Must Love Dogs: New Leash on Life. This is the sequel to her fun book about dating, life, and dog ownership.

The crazy Hurlihy family is back for more adventures. This time, the narrator and preschool teacher, Sarah is in a new relationship with a dream guy who has just one problem. His dog doesn't like her. If that wasn't enough, her home has been invaded her brother Michael who is recently separated. He moves in with Sarah and moons over his loss as he tends to stalk his wife in her new husbandless life.

The adventures begin when the ex-wife takes the kids to her parents in Savannah and cuts off all contact. The Hurhihy kids jump in with a spontaneous trip to help Michael woo back his ex-wife. Chaos ensues. But there is a second (or third chance) for everyone.

Claire Cook's books are great summer reads. Add this one to the beach or pool bag.