Today I Learned …

Lions cough up hairballs the size of hotdogs.

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Why I Keep Writing

This past weekend found me at Pekin’s Marigold Festival, enjoying the end of summer and watching the parade of people come past my booth. Some of them even stopped in to chat. That’s always my favorite part of the festival.

I’ll keep writing books as long as people want to keep reading them, of course. But every so often, I’m reminded of why I do what I do. Having someone come up to me and say, “Okay, I’ve read this one, this one, and … yeah, this one too. What have you got that’s new?” That’s a really powerful incentive to keep coming up with new books — and new ideas.

One woman came by with her young son. The kid was a bit distracted, running his fingers along the table and not making much eye contact. The mom bought the new book for the kid, and I happily signed it for him. She said, “Your books are the only ones he’ll read cover to cover.” Way cool!

Later in the weekend, another woman came up to the booth, and bought a book — this wasn’t her first experience with my books either. She confided to me that she has fibromyalgia. “Your stories just flow so beautifully; they really carry me along as I’m reading. Your book was the first one in years I’ve been able to sit with and read.” (I believe she was talking abut 44 Years in Darkness, if you’re interested in what title captivated her attention like that.)

It is such an honor to be able to touch people’s lives, and it’s a joy when they come up to me and tell me! Thanks for letting me share my tales with you all.

Today I Learned …

Paleontologists have long known about coprolites, or fossilized poop. But some sharp-eyed scientists have also discovered fossilized farts. We’ve all seen Jurassic Park — insects become trapped in tree sap, which hardens into amber. In their efforts to escape, the bugs would break wind. (Ever done situps? Tell me you haven’t farted once or twice with the exertion.) The amber preserved both the insect and the tiny bubbles it let loose during its unfortunate struggle.

My Garden Kicks Ass!

This spring, my wonderful husband put up a trellis — sort of a PVC pipe arch over the garden path covered with chicken wire — and boy oh boy, the butternut squash and the pole beans have been loving the extra leg room.

Here’s a picture of the biggest squash so far. I had to take it at a weird angle, so I look like I have Popeye arms, but you can see this bad boy is as long as my forearm.

I’m totally going to weigh it when I pick it.butternut

Lights Out!

Hey hey, it’s time for another Lights Out episode! I’ve got a special treat for you guys this time. It’s Episode #60, so there’s something out of the ordinary in store for the next hour or so. We’re goin’ to Vegas, baby!

Lights Out #60: Spooks of Sin City. Las Vegas: Sin City. Home to glittering neon, flashing lights, spinning roulette wheels, and clattering slot machines. But Las Vegas hides many secrets underneath the glamour and glitz. From Bugsy Siegel’s Flamingo Hotel to the Rat Pack to Howard Hughes, the spooks of Sin City are varied and plentiful. Let’s go on a tour of the Las Vegas strip, and discover what’s hiding in the shadows. https://youtu.be/F2_ttNrkG9Y

This is Why I Write

I’m so very lucky, as a published author, to be able to work at a library. Sometimes I get feedback from people who read my books. I’ve been very fortunate in that the people who tell me that they like my work really, REALLY like it. (I guess the people who think it’s crap just, you know, keep their opinions to themselves. Which is nice.)

Anyway, a patron came in the other day with her daughter, who was visiting from Texas. Both women had books of mine that they wanted me to sign, which I happily did. We got to chatting, and the older woman told me how proud she was of me for doing such a grand job with the books, and that she brags about me to her friends. And then she said something that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

“You’re doing what I wish I could do,” she sighed.

That stopped me in my tracks for a bit. I’ve published a few books, yeah. People have enjoyed them, I’m happy to say. Lately, I’ve been doing research for two upcoming projects, and kinda sorta dragging my feet on starting the actual writing of the next book. (I tell myself that’s because the research isn’t finished yet, but it’s really because it’s summer and my garden and my porch swing are both calling me with the siren song of long lazy warm evenings.)

But I am so ridiculously privileged to be able to do this writing thing for a hobby, and to have other people enjoy the work that I do. I forget that sometimes. But jeez, it’s a Big Deal. Not everyone gets to do this. Not everyone CAN do this. I can, and I am forever grateful for it. So thank you, Grace, for reminding me of this.

Today I Learned …

On August 6, 1945, Tsutomo Yamaguchi was a 29- year-old engineer on the last day of a business trip in Hiroshima, Japan. He was walking through a company shipyard when an American B-29 bomber dropped the nuclear bomb on the city. The shockwave tossed Yamaguchi into the air and nearly knocked him out. He had burns all over his arms and face, and his eardrums had ruptured.

After spending the next couple of days in the midst of unspeakable destruction, Yamaguchi boarded a train for his hometown — of Nagasaki. On August 9, he was in his boss’s office, telling him about the Hiroshima bombing, when the Americans dropped the second nuclear bomb.

Not only did Yamaguchi survive both bombings, he went on to live past the age of ninety.     (from Mind=Blown: Amazing Facts About This Weird, Hilarious, Insane World, by Matthew Santoro.)

Contest Still Going!

Hey hey, there’s still time to get in on this summertime contest that’s going on right now. I’ve got five free download codes to give away, for the audiobook of Double Double Love and Trouble. Just subscribe to my YouTube channel, then pop back over here and tell me that you did, and tell me the thing you like best about summer. That’s it! I’ll pick five lucky winners, and PM you if you’ve won.

Opposites attract – but sometimes it takes a while! 

Meet Selena Goode. She’s an herbalist, she runs a small museum in Salem, and she’s a practicing solitary Wiccan.

She likes her life, quiet as it is. Then Brian Gottschalk comes barreling into it with the force of an Atlantic storm. He works for a ghost-hunting TV show, and he’s in Salem to find a story. He’s witty, charming…and a total jerk.

Selena has no problem with ghosts. She does, however, have a problem with big-city Brian. It will take all his charm, plus the silent advice of a caring ghost, to make Selena realize that maybe, being big-city isn’t so bad after all.

Both laugh-out-loud funny and edge-of-your-seat suspenseful, Double Double Love and Trouble is a sexy, humorous romp from an author at the top of her game. Let it cast its spell over you.

The audiobook has several five-star reviews at Amazon, with comments like “Very entertaining!”, “This story is full of fun — a job well done!”, and “I absolutely LOVED this book!” I would love to give away five free download codes to five people, so get out there and subscribe to my YouTube channel, and tell me all about it!

DDLTCover

Happy Summer, Part Eleventeen

Last night I decided to put my firepit to even better use than just staring at the dancing flames.

One peach, one nectarine, and one apricot, cut into chunks

Twelve cherries, pitted

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I used chocolate flavor)

Stir it all together, then put it in a double thickness of foil and wrap it up. Toss it on the grill for, eh, ten to fifteen minutes or so, or until piping hot. Serve over homemade vanilla ice cream (which I also happened to have).

CampfireDessert

Happy Summer!

It’s summertime, and you know what that means — lemonade, porch swings, and beach reads! (Or reading on the porch swing, if you don’t happen to have a beach handy.) And I have the perfect beach read for you guys … and you can have someone else read it to you!

David Wilson at Crossroad Press has arranged for one of my romance novels, Double Double Love and Trouble, to be produced as an audiobook. And he has graciously given me FIVE free download codes, which is awesome of him, because he’s an awesome guy.

So here’s where you come in. To celebrate summer, and my first ever audiobook release, I’m going to pick five readers to give these codes to. All you have to do is pop over to YouTube and subscribe to my channel. Then comment on this post, and tell me what your favorite summer activity is. (And if you’re already subscribed, you get a gold star for the day.)

I’ll pick five readers at random, and I’ll message you privately to let you know if you’ve won. Let’s go … until the end of this month. July 31. That leaves us plenty of summertime for beach reading. So get out there, subscribe to my YouTube channel (please and thank you), and tell me what you love about summer! Aaaaand — GO!

DDLTCover

 

Lights Out!

It’s time for another episode of Lights Out, your virtual campfire. In this episode, we revisit tranquil Sugar Tree Grove Cemetery.

Lights Out #59: Return to Sugar Tree Grove. Sugar Tree Grove Cemetery, nestled in the farmland outside Monmouth, Illinois, is the final resting place of two players in a drama that took place over 180 years ago. William Martin was killed by a Native American brave, who was in turn killed by whites in retribution for Martin’s death. The two men are buried directly across from each other, in opposite corners of the cemetery. What happens when a ghost hunting team comes to the cemetery to help the two work towards reconciliation? https://youtu.be/bN2JV11sAZM

lightsout

I’m Famous! (Sort of)

While on vacation, I decided to do some long-overdue promotion for Spirits of Christmas. I called local libraries that already own my books, and pitched the new book for their collection. (I’m not very good at talking on the phone, so this was a Big Deal for me.) I have to have a script, which is this: I introduce myself as a fellow librarian, to get some common ground established, then I ask to chat with whoever orders their books. It’s a nice easy way to slide into the conversation.

When I called Washington Library, the conversation went like this:

Desk Assistant Who Answered the Phone: Good afternoon, Washington Library, can I help you?

Me: Hello, this is Sylvia; I work at Fondulac Library. I’d like to speak with whoever orders your books.

DAWATP: Oh, is this Sylvia SHULTS?

Me: …. Yes! Yes it is.

DAWATP: Well, when you say “Sylvia”, and then you say “new book”, I just figured it was you!

That just made my day.

Mics Uncut Show

Ghosts of the Illinois River, like every good revenant, keeps coming back for more!

In addition to being turned into an ebook (a steal at $2.99!) , it’s also popping up in other places. I recently filmed an episode of Mics Uncut with Ahavah Maure. We took a nighttime stroll along the river bank, and I had loads of fun scaring my host with creepy tales of the spirits that linger in the towns along the river. You can find the episode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5QqeVxV-OA . Enjoy!

And I am so excited to be part of the Mics Uncut Red Carpet premiere on July 12 at 6 pm at Landmark Theatre in Peoria. You won’t want to miss this — you’ll get to see me in a slinky dress. 😉 I’ll be chatting about the life of a paranormal investigator. Join us!

More Summer Fun

My library has a small art gallery (okay, an expanse of wall where we hang cool stuff), and as this year’s Summer Reading program theme is “Reading Takes You Everywhere”, we’ve collected vacation pictures from patrons and staff, and put them on display. And mine was one of the pictures chosen!

It’s the hand (my hand) holding the pebble up to the Atlantic horizon. I took that picture last June at White Horse Beach in Massachusetts. It took me three tries, if I remember right, lining up the line on the pebble with the horizon, and hoping desperately that I wouldn’t drop my phone in the water. But it worked! I’m not the world’s best photographer, but I’m pretty darn proud of that picture.

(And the best part about having this picture chosen for the display? I get to keep the framed photo when the display comes down. Cool!)ArtDisplay