I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of western Pennsylvania in a little stone house my father, a carpenter, built. The Shanksville-Stonycreek School District I attended was so tiny it had no kindergarten, and all twelve grades were in the same building. Incredibly, Shanksville became well known after September 11, 2001, when Flight 93 crashed about three miles away, after being hijacked by terrorists.
My writing career began before I was old enough to write–my dear mom patiently wrote down the stories I made up, and I drew pictures to illustrate them. But in elementary school I began writing my own stories. I’ll never forget the assignment to write an essay (“My Favorite Christmas Present”) or my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Lloyd, who told me when I read it in class that I would write a book someday.
My budding career as a mystery novelist took off when I was in seventh grade. I soon found out, to my extreme disappointment, that it’s a lot easier to read somebody else’s book than to write one. But after a lot of evenings and weekends, I did finish my first (handwritten) children’s mystery book–then went on to write the second book in the series (typed).
Those first books were of course never published, but writing was a passion that would be part of my life forever. I majored in creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh, where I met my husband Dave while Christmas caroling in a hospital corridor.
After graduation, I began writing and submitting stories for publication, but soon discovered stories are even harder to get published than to write. Since I needed to pay the bills, I worked at a series of different jobs, including as an assistant in a hospital’s medical library. (Yes, it was the same one where I met my husband while caroling!)
The hospital library was probably my favorite job, because I read medical journals and learned about various diseases and treatments in my spare time. In those pre-internet days, I particularly enjoyed helping doctors find articles for their research. (Weirdly, I found my research on brown recluse spider bites particularly fascinating, despite being thoroughly creeped out. I still shake out my shoes before putting them on!)
Owing to a youthful fascination with Erle Stanley Gardner’s lawyer-sleuth Perry Mason, I went on to attend Duquesne University Law School. Law is taught by reading and studying legal cases, which I liked, because each case was a story. Though I spent many years practicing law, I came to realize what I liked about it was the same thing I’d enjoyed in the medical library–the stories. I couldn’t let go of my desire to tell stories of my own.
In 1984, my husband and I traveled to Honduras, in Central America, to adopt our son Tony. It was an exciting trip and an exciting time in their lives. We made a second trip in 1986 and adopted our daughters, Kika and Maria. I spent four months total, living in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, and exercising my Spanish to its fullest capacity! I was busier–and more exhausted–than ever, working as a lawyer and taking care of my children, who were all under age three. But at night, after my family was asleep, I was busy writing my first published book, a mystery for young readers, The Secret of the Old Graveyard.
That first book was released by Herald Press in 1992 and was followed by two more books in the Dead-End Road series. I also began writing articles for magazines, newspapers, and daily devotionals. My stories appeared in many books for adults, and in 2004, I started writing many stories for the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including many for young readers, as well as for adults.
Our children are now grown, and we have a granddaughter. I volunteer with the Australian Cattle Dog Rescue Association, and often have at least one foster dog in the house, along with our own dogs and cats. I also help lead a weekly Bible study and sing with our church choir. My husband Dave sings with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and has helped develop and maintain the Montour Trail. The fun and satisfaction we’ve gotten from volunteering inspired me to create former lawyer/now hapless volunteer Mabel Browne and my cozy mystery, Mabel Gets the Ax.
I like walking with my dogs, especially in the woods and on the trails, and love reading and travel. Dave and I have been to more than forty US states, Mexico, Canada, and several Central American and European countries. We especially enjoy traveling by train, pulling into stations in the middle of the night, and peeking out to see where we are.