Really. I mean, the woman started reading me Edgar Allen Poe when I was still too short to reach the kitchen faucet and get my own drink of water. She would often appear in our bedroom doorway with a book and share a snippet of poetry or prose that had grabbed her imagination, and it was usually something spooky. She talked about words and the usage of words, why things were better said this way than that. And she put into my hands at about age thirteen the most unlikely of English teacher favorites, The G-String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee.

She was a clever one. She knew that the idea of reading about strippers was irresistible to a girl my age. I know now, of course, that Gypsy didn't write the book herself, Craig Rice did, but I was thrilled with the idea of seeing inside the mind of a woman who took her clothes off for a living, to peer into a world both tawdry and exciting. And there was murder as well.

So that's what started the whole mystery thing for me. Although I too became an English teacher and studied all sorts of literature, and although I have wide tastes and read everything from Dostoyevsky to cereal boxes, it is the mystery that I seek out when I read for pure enjoyment. Understandably, it is mysteries that form in my head and beg to be written down to intrigue others.

As I said, it's all my mother's fault. And wherever she is, she's grinning like the Cheshire cat as she watches my writing career blossom.

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