Goodreads Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck

     I didn’t realize this at first, but this is actually a parody of another self-help book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo (which, full disclosure, I have also read). (What? I read self-help books. If only to find out what I’m doing wrong.) The original was about keeping house. The parody is about keeping sane. In the original, Marie Kondo suggests taking a look at every one of your possessions and deciding if it does indeed bring you pleasure to own it. If not, thank it for its service, then discard it. In the parody, Sarah Knight takes much the same approach — only this time, it’s people, habits, obligations that are under the microscope. If there is a relationship that is no longer working for you, get out of that relationship! If a bad habit is dragging you down, change it! The author tells us that it is, in fact, quite all right to just not CARE about the things society tells us we SHOULD care about, things like, oh, attending graduation parties or baby showers when we really would rather stay home and do something else, perhaps something productive. The author argues that it is in our best interest, for our own mental health, to concentrate on doing things that bring us joy, pleasure, and sanity, rather than suffering through things that we don’t … well, that we don’t give a darn about.

     The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck was, in my opinion, a much more useful book than the original. Sure, we all have those evenings (especially this time of year!) when we’d rather stay home and snuggle on the couch with our cats or work in the garden than go out and subject ourselves to karaoke with people whose company we don’t particularly enjoy. It is so freeing to be told — in black and white! — that this is perfectly acceptable, and even something to be encouraged. The book is presented in a light-hearted way, of course — with a title like that, you know the author’s not going to take herself too seriously — but it really does have some pertinent advice for our overscheduled, obligation-filled lives. The book’s message is that it is okay to bow out of doing things you don’t want to do. The further message is to find things that DO excite you — things about which you do give a … darn, and turn your attention and energy to them, instead of wasting your energy on doing things that really don’t bring you joy. We can giggle with guilty pleasure about skipping out on our grade-school reunion. But the book’s real takeaway is this … find things to do that bring you fulfillment. And go out and DO them.

Brain Weirdness

Last night, in the middle of the night sometime, my brain decided to wake me up. I don’t know if it wanted to chat, as it does sometimes, or if it simply wanted me awake while it obsessed about things … but somewhere in the blackest hours of the night, my brain blasted a doorbell sound in my ear. No kidding — “DING-DONG!”, the classic doorbell sound, just exactly like that.

I came bolt awake, then relaxed with a sigh and an inward grumble at my EVER SO HELPFUL and INVENTIVE brain. I knew the sound hadn’t been real. My husband slept peacefully next to me, so obviously he hadn’t heard a thing. Also, the doorbell sound my brain chose to wake me up with didn’t even sound like our actual doorbell. Smooth move, brain — I know you’re fibbing.

So yeah, it took me about half an hour to fall back to sleep. Thanks, brain ….

Exciting Publishing News!

Boy oh boy, we live in the most wonderful times. I recently got a very interesting email from one of my publishers, David Niall Wilson at Crossroad Press. They’re the outfit that puts out Fractured Spirits for me, as well as taking care of all my fiction backlist.

Crossroad Press is partnered with a nifty company called Espresso Book Machine. Get this — you can pull up to one of these kiosks, and have a book printed on the spot. How freakin’ cool is that? This even beats Amazon Prime for speed. And it’s green, so very green, because the books are being printed right there, just when you ask for them, and not sitting in a box in a warehouse somewhere. You can find locations here . Go follow the link — there’s a map of the WORLD there. Someone in Botswana could print out one of my books. Or all of them, pretty much. But you don’t have to be in Botswana, just sayin’. There are loads of pretty orange “you are here” pins in the United States.

So if you’ve enjoyed my true ghost stories and you’d like to see what led me to this point, take a chance on some fiction. Double Double Love & Trouble  is a fun, light-hearted humorous romance, with several ghostie characters. And one of my favorite horror novels, The Dreamwatcher , is about twins, ghostly possession, and illicit love. Fun stuff! Or if you’re in the mood for something bite-sized, try Timeless Embrace (four romance novellas) or The Dark at the Heart of the Diamond (a collection of horror short stories).

And if your heart still lies with nonfiction, Fractured Spirits  is also a title carried by Crossroad Press, available now through Espresso Book Machine. So join the technology revolution!

How My Brain Works

So I had another work-related dream last week. I say dream, but I actually do consider it a nightmare, because there is no redeeming value in any of this.

I have these nightmares on a regular basis, and they are very often about work. And they follow a pattern, so I KNOW I’m in the middle of yet another soul-sucking work dream. If I’m dreaming about my current job, the program we use to check out books isn’t working, and the computer screens are filled with arcane symbols. (Usually pertaining to some sort of weird game, which is strange, because I do not ever ever play computer games at work, so I don’t even know why my brain would associate those two things.)

I worked a job years ago in which I worked only for tips. I still have nightmares about that job too. In those dreams, I’m working away, getting “paid” … until I realize that everyone who’s supposed to have been giving me money has actually been giving me hand-drawn coupons for worthless crap on blank pieces of paper. Oh boy. Yippee. And the coupons are all expired.

And oh yes, I do still have school nightmares too, oh, you betcha.  College, high school, even grade school. And each one of THOSE follows its own pattern.

The only thing in my life that I DON’T have nightmares about is writing, and getting up in front of audiences to speak about the Peoria State Hospital. Considering the attitude most people have about public speaking, I think I’m doing pretty well with NOT having nightmares about that.

But seriously, I’ve never (knock on wood) had anxiety dreams about writing, or about doing presentations on the PSH. I must be doing something right!

Busy, busy!

My goodness, this past week has just flown by! I kept myself busy, as I always do.

On Monday, I had a lovely chat with Matt Jesso, of Paracave Radio. You can listen to it here .

The very next day, I talked with Tony at Authors First Radio. This is a program out of Ohio, and this was a pleasure because I was speaking to an audience of just readers, not necessarily paranormally-oriented folks. It was a change-up for me, but it was good to do. You can listen here .

And on Friday, I was overjoyed to talk with some of my favorite people in the ghost hunting world, Nick Sarlo and Liz Nygard of Shadow Hunters. We had a blast catching up, and things were made even better for me by the knowledge that other Shadow Hunter friends of mine were listening in on the live show. Renowned investigator Ursula Bielski even stopped by in the comments. We were chatting about bucket list places to visit, and we got onto the subject of haunted Chicago museums. Ursula confirmed for me that people do get EVPs in German when visiting the U-505 at the Museum of Science and Industry. I shared the story of the screaming mummy at the Field Museum — one of my favorites ever since I first heard about it as a kid from my dad — and Ursula went me one better … well, two better, I suppose. She said that people at the museum after-hours have seen the Lions of Tsavo stalking the hallways. And someone who was spending the night at the museum, sleeping very near a stuffed wolf, awoke during the night … to find that the wolf was gone. Now I wanna go on an overnight with Ursula and the Shadow Hunters at the museum soooooo bad!

There was more behind-the-scenes stuff happening too, things that you’ll find out about later. I recorded an episode of Lights Out with another wonderful guest, and did some work on the next book. You’ll find out all about it soon. Have a great week!

New Year, New Stuff!

Okay, okay, I know this post is coming a little late to the party. We’re three weeks into the New Year, so why am I blathering about New Year stuff? Well, back before I had pets and was actually able to have a Christmas tree in the house, it would stay up until Martin Luther King Day. So you could argue that I’m actually a day early on this.

But I’m not in an arguing mood! I’m in a celebrating mood! Which is why I’m tying this (tenuously, I’ll admit) to New Year’s!

There’s a whole bunch of wonderfulness in store for fans of Lights Out, and for people who dig my writing in general. Take a peek at what’s coming up:

— For folks in the Peoria/Pekin area, 44 Years in Darkness and other books can now be found at even more local bookstores! These include Maurie’s in Pekin, I Know You Like a Book in Peoria Heights, and Lit. on Fire in Peoria. And of course you can find them at Barnes & Noble in Peoria. They had sold out of the massive order they got in October, but they have re-ordered, so the books are back on the shelves.

— I’m really thrilled, and so very grateful, to tell you that I have found a narrator for the audiobook version of 44 Years in Darkness. Sarah Baker has a magnificent reading voice that I believe will bring Rhoda’s story to brilliant life. I’ve gotten to hear the first chapter of the book, and I can’t wait to hear the rest. There are going to be parts where Sarah has ME in tears! I’ll let you all know just as soon as the audiobook is available through Crossroad Press. Together, we’ll bring Rhoda Derry’s story to an even wider audience.

— Very soon, I’ll have another announcement to make regarding Lights Out. I’m going to save that for another post, as this one is getting a bit long. But it will be worth the suspense!

— After a short break from writing (mostly spent doing promotion, but it WAS a break), I am back at the writing desk, working on a book that will be released in November 2017. More on that as we get closer. You guys are gonna love it!

Look, we’re all sort of holding our collective breath, waiting to see what 2017 has in store for all of us. All we can do is keep on living our lives — and part of that, for me, means bringing you all the very best true ghost stories I can. Thank you all so much for your support and your friendship in 2016; it means everything to me.

Let’s go wrestle 2017 into the ground and rub dirt in its hair!

Engrish, Anyone?

I made a trip into Peoria last night, and stopped at the Asian market for tea and noodles, mostly. I also like wandering the store to see if anything else catches my fancy. (I avoid the freezer section, though. In an Asian market, if you stare too long into the freezer … the freezer stares back into you. Thanks, Kafka.)

I did also spring for some wheat germ powder — not only because I enjoy a sprinkle of it on my oatmeal and in my morning smoothie, but also because I just could not resist the fractured English I found on the cheerful yellow package.

“THE GREAT GENUINE TASTE! Eating is a simple action to human beings. But choosing something to eat becomes a hardest subject for modern people. Not only sale products to customers, but also provide delicious foods to people. Rich in flavors, delicate natural foods expands the outstanding target of new generation for this world. A perfectly balanced of combining delicious and nutritious. We take it for granted that strictly select each raw material and control quality for every single time. Preservatives, pesticide and artificial elements should stay away from kitchens. We concern what you care. We care what you haven’t aware. Take it, enjoy the best moment of lovely world. Be a chief at home easily and freely.”

Isn’t that just wonderful? It’s so earnest — and there are no misspellings! Fractured English, sure, but  hey, they spelled everything right. And it’s just so, so, … they really really want you to enjoy this stuff. “We concern what you care. We care what you haven’t aware.” I don’t even know what they’re trying to say, but gosh, they’re so sincere about it! And I adore the delirious enthusiasm of the last lines: “Take it, enjoy the best moment of lovely world. Be a chief at home easily and freely.”

Easily and freely. Isn’t that something for which we all should strive?

So There’s Nothing Wrong With It, Really…

At the library, we have 3 by 5 cards in each of the CD and DVD cases, for people to write on if something is wrong with the disc. This lets us know if we need to clean the disc, or replace it. Sometimes, though, people are … unclear on the concept of what is meant by “please tell us if there’s anything wrong with this disc”.

I found the following note written on the card tucked into the case of River of No Return, starring Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe:

“Not as good as I was expecting. R. Mitchum played it as if he had a chip on his shoulder the whole time no matter who he was talking to. He was new at acting at the time I suppose. MM was OK as you can see.

“Disk is v. good.”

Ummm … glad you enjoyed it? 😀

Ewwww…

One of my jobs at the library is to process the magazines as they come in. Oprah Magazine (the July-August 2016 issue) had a recipe in it that apparently came from a new cookbook.

The recipe? “Vietnamese PB&J”.

Now what would you expect to find between two slices of bread, with that descriptor? No no, don’t even strain your brain. I’ll tell you. The Vietnamese PB&J consists of chunky peanut butter, mint jelly, and 1/4 cup cucumber salad. On bread.

PBJ = WTF???

The recipe goes on to say merrily: “Save the rest of the salad for a second sandwich. Because you will definitely want another.” Ha ha ha nope, I don’t think so. Plus? This so-called cucumber salad involves fish sauce, which, eww.

It’s all there in the title, really: the book from which this recipe was taken is A Super-Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches, by Tyler Kord. Can’t judge a book by it’s title? Oh reaaaallly…

I showed the recipe to a friend of mine, who pointed out, “At least they’re honest about it.” Then she quoted the perfect line from Jurassic Park: 

“You were so busy asking if you could, you didn’t stop to think if you should.

So how about you? Are there any food combinations you find abominable? Or that you find awesome but other people find abominable? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Mother

A while ago, my friends Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross mentioned something on their WordPress blog about their book MOTHER, which is an awesome read if you’re into at least a Stephen King level of weirdness (or higher). I posted a response letting them know that I have an aloe plant that I’ve named Claire, in honor of their story. Claire (the plant) has her name because she is descended from an aloe plant named Mother. (If you’re lost, read the book. All is explained.)

I visited the apartment where Mother lives over Christmas, and took a picture.

She is a formidable beast, isn’t she? Now go read MOTHER, by Thorne and Cross.

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Lights Out #33: Ophelia Julien

Welcome to another episode of Lights Out, your virtual campfire! Join me for a conversation with YA fiction author Ophelia Julien. We’ll hear stories of growing up in a haunted house, and we’ll learn why you shouldn’t ask an architect to take too close a look at the floor plan of your home. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-J8AfXE9RNg

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Christmas Spirits?

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A ghostly Christmas visit? Read and decide for yourself! Thanks for sharing this, Autistsix!

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A few days before Christmas I was wrapping presents late at night.  The children were all asleep and behind a closed door, my husband had stepped into the front room.  I saw a grey shadow unmoving in front of the closed door.  I knew it was a man although I cannot describe any features.  I was completely unafraid and after watching for less than a minute I looked down to put down the gift I was in the middle of wrapping.  In that moment my husband came in and the shadow was no longer there.

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On Christmas afternoon I was putting some presents on the shelf next to my bed.  Someone was clearly sitting on the other side of the bed.  Pillows pushed up against the wall, her back against the pillows & her legs on the bed, not flat but relaxed.  She appeared to be reading or at least looking…

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Lights Out! Christmas Chills

Welcome to another episode of Lights Out, your virtual campfire. In today’s episode, we ring in the holidays with a true tale of holiday creepiness. Enjoy! https://youtu.be/Alg6AOjuQvE

And don’t forget, if you have a true story of haunted happenings, please leave me a message here. Your experience could be featured on an upcoming episode of Lights Out.

When you watch the episode, take a moment and click the Subscribe button on YouTube, if you like. That ensures you’ll be the first to hear of brand-new episodes. Remember, not listening to Lights Out is like not having chocolate cake for breakfast … the true richness of life will elude you.

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What I’d Like For Christmas …

Well, it’s that time of year again, time to answer the age-old question …

“What do YOU want for Christmas?”

This year, I have a good answer.

A couple of years ago, I started up a little podcast, called Lights Out. For the multitudes who haven’t heard of it, it’s a place for people to share their true ghost stories — kind of a virtual campfire. Basically, people share their experiences with me, and I put them on the show. It’s my job to listen to the strange tales people have to share. Can’t beat that!

Anyhoo, here’s what I’d really like: right now, my YouTube channel (which can be found here ) has 27 subscribers. I’d be thrilled to bits to get more. So click the link, become a subscriber, and get ready to listen to loads of fun true ghost stories.

And remember, not listening to Lights Out is like passing up chocolate cake for breakfast — the true richness of life will forever elude you.

Strange Dimensions

A while ago, I had the distinct privilege of being a guest on Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s radio show Strange Dimensions. Rosemary and I had crossed paths at several paranormal conventions, but this was the first time we had ever had the chance to really sit down for a chat — and we weren’t even face-to-face! But it was a wonderful conversation. We talked, of course, about Rhoda Derry and 44 Years in Darkness. Rosemary asked some very insightful questions, and it was a true pleasure to be invited to appear on her show. You can listen to it here: Strange Dimensions: Sylvia Shults

Book Review: Pharaoh, by Wilbur Smith

It’s always fun to read a Wilbur Smith book. These books are … well, they’re SET in ancient Egypt, but I’m beginning to think that’s just to give the author a jumping-off point. They’ve developed into “fantasy that happens to be set in ancient Egypt”. Which is fun, because Smith has given us the somewhat unreliable narrator of Taita for six books now, spanning three generations. Taita, we discovered a couple of books ago, is actually divine, which is why he never ages and is perpetually young and strong (and, according to him at least, drop-dead gorgeous). It’s fun stuff, and we get to follow Taita’s adventures throughout many more books than if he was merely human.
This book follows the adventures of Taita as he drives the last of the Hyksos from Egypt (he was there for their invasion of Egypt too, which makes him VERY long-lived). The main characters here are Prince Rameses and Princess Serrena, the granddaughter of Queen Lostris, Taita’s mistress from the very first book. So we get, essentially, a family saga, with one character (who never ages) escorting us through the whole story. I recommend this for anyone who likes a historical novel — but isn’t too bothered about historical accuracy.

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Lay Your Weary Head to Rest …

We have a pillow problem at our house. Rather, Husband does. My pillow is a lovely down dream that I got as a present from my sister years ago, and which still holds a considerable amount of heft, if fluffed properly. Husband’s pillow, though, is a sad, deflated wisp of its former self.

Seeing as how the holidays are coming up, I thought it would be to my advantage to go out and price pillows. I figured I could surprise Husband with a nice new pillow for Christmas, if not before. I strolled innocently into The Mattress Doctor, a store in Pekin that holds the record for the most deeply annoying commercial jingle EVER. (“The Mattress DOC-tor … delivering dreams … to yooooou!” Warble this in a cloyingly sappy sing-song tone of voice for the full effect.)

This store is … weird. It’s been open for as long as I’ve lived in Pekin, and probably for lots longer than that. But I’ve never seen anyone actually in the store. This evening was just the same. I strolled innocently through the doors, intending to have a quick peek at the prices of pillows. I know they’d be a bit spendier than, say, Wal-mart, but I wanted to have a basis for comparison.

The first price tag I saw was $139. For a PILLOW. For reals. Granted, they were having a “buy one, get one” sale, which is the other reason I stopped in. But jeezum crow, that much for a freakin’ pillow?

I turned on my heel, but it was too late. A saleslady, who had been chatting on her phone (and from whom I thought I was safe), quickly ended her call and came striding over to me. Chirpily, she pointed out the sale they were having — buy one get one! For over a hundred bucks!!!!

I said, “Thanks, but I’m really just looking.” She actually made me lie down and try one of the pillows. Then she said, “Have you ever been fitted for a pillow?” Like a dork, I said, “Umm … no.” She flitted off, while I was still trying to get the runaway pillow under my head. (This sounds easier than it actually was. Picture a naked pillow, on a naked mattress, with no headboard. Everything’s … slippery. With no headboard to stop the slidyness.)

I had just gotten myself extricated from the slick bed and pillow, when another salesman trotted up. He, too, pointed out the sale they were having on pillows! (Criminy, the cheapest one they had started at $79!) I said, “I’m really only just looking…” and headed for the door. I hate disappointing sales people … but I hate spending money even more.

So I went home and made a pillow. I had some fabric sitting around, and I found an elderly pillow in the basement. It wasn’t at all musty. I discovered that it was, in fact, a down pillow, which pleased me a great deal. I sewed up the fabric, stuffed the old pillow inside, and there ya go — an old pillow has a new lease on life, and Husband has a new pillow.

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