Busy Weekend — Let’s Start It Off With a Bang!

Hey all! I’m about to start a whirlwind weekend, and of course it starts on Friday! At 2 pm today, I’ll be giving a talk at Warren County Library in Monmouth on the Peoria State Hospital. I’m really looking forward to this, because it takes me back to my old stomping grounds at Monmouth College. Then from there, I’ll go to the Quad Cities for a book signing at the Barnes and Noble in the North Park Mall from 6 to 8 pm.

The weekend continues in Dubuque, where I’ll be sharing a booth with author Ophelia Julien at the Psychic and Paranormal Expo at Grand River Center. I’ll be giving another talk, again on the Peoria State Hospital, at 11:45 Sunday morning.

If you can make it out to any of these things, I’ll see you there! If you can’t, please to enjoy this lovely article that appeared in the Daily Review-Atlas: http://www.reviewatlas.com/news/20170519/author-happy-ghosts-roam-halls-of-bartonville-asylum

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you all next week!

Some Thoughts

Every so often, because I have the great good fortune to both work at a library and write books, I get to see a book of mine on the shelf, or returned in the book drop, or in passing through Interlibrary Loan. Whenever this happens, part of me says, “Of course! I write books; it’s only natural to see them in the library, in good company.” A bigger part of me, though, is still taken by surprise, then absurdly joyful. “Hey, that’s my book there!”

I’ll never forget the phone call I got in 2000, from a squodgy little POD company I paid to publish my first book (which is now mercifully out of print, and should really have been bottom-drawered in the first place). Yes, it’s true: the first few books of fiction I wrote before finding my groove, I paid to have published. Don’t judge.

But in 2006, I came to a realization. Early in that year, I said to myself, “Hey look, you’ve been writing, and wanting to get published, since 1986. That’s twenty freakin’ years.” And I made myself a promise, that if I didn’t get a book placed with an indie press by the end of the year, I’d pack it in. Twenty years is long enough to try at something without any measurable success. If I didn’t make my own dream come true, at least I would have given it a good solid try.

Fortunately for me (and for all the wonderful fans I’ve collected over the years), my horror book The Dreamwatcher was picked up by StoneGarden Press. And then I got a romance deal with Linden Bay, for Timeless Embrace. I was inspired to keep going. Eventually I landed in paranormal nonfiction, and I am blissfully happy doing this.

I am so very grateful to all the people who have stood by me for all these years — relatives, friends, and people I’ve never even met in person. And no, this post isn’t in acknowledgement of any special anniversary or anything like that. I just wanted to say thanks.

Lights Out!

It’s time for another episode of Lights Out, your virtual campfire. I’ve got a treat for you this time! I’m posting three episodes in a row this time, because they all go together.

These three episodes feature the Ghost Head Soup lab. The lab is at an undisclosed location somewhere in northern Illinois, and it is outrageously haunted. When I visited, we started getting activity while we were sitting in the basement of the building just talking, well before we even began the investigation. It was an amazing experience, and it is my privilege to share it with you, the Lights Out audience. Enjoy!

Now available on iHeart Radio 


Lights Out News!

Great news for fans of Lights Out, your virtual campfire! The show is now available on iHeart Radio. Just visit this link, and you’ll be connected to the show that brings you the best in true ghost stories.  Real people, real experiences–it’s all here. And remember, if you’re not listening to Lights Out, it’s like not eating chocolate cake for breakfast; the full richness of life will elude you. So tune in and enjoy chills, laughs, and great storytelling!

Now available on iHeart Radio

Star Talk

I just finished reading Star Talk, with Neil deGrasse Tyson. Fun stuff–the book discusses everything from deep space to time travel to clean water to zombies. It’s a wonderful look at, among other things, the science of what it means to be human.

There’s a great quote in the book by the musician Moby, that I thought I’d share. It was in an article called “What makes music so seductive?”

“Music is so ubiquitous, it’s such a normal part of our lives–but it can do so much. They play it at funerals. They play it at weddings. People play music to have sex. They play music to cry. People play music when you’re trying to get armies to march in to war. And what’s amazing about music to me is, it doesn’t exist. All it is, is air moving a little bit differently. But somehow, air moving a little bit differently can make someone weep, can make someone jump up and down, can make someone move across the country and cut their hair … I don’t want to figure it out. I just love that it has this power.”

Star Wars Day!

Today is Star Wars Day at the Fondulac Library. It’s so much fun just to be here in the days leading up to this–you can feel the excitement in the air. The whole library is dressed up for the occasion.

SW boba standup
Life-size cutouts are scattered around the library.
SW lobby
The view from the checkout counter — my station. Welcome to the library!
SW display
Endcaps help patrons find great reading material.

SW movies

SW posters
Looking for a good book? We can help…

SW read

SW cart
Even the book carts get dressed up for Star Wars Day.

Why yes, I do have culture…

I just got home from a Bach concert. It was a cover band, but still, it was pretty cool.

Seriously, though, it was magnificent. I actually found out about this because I got to put up the poster at the library. One of the piano soloists is a patron of the library, and I knew he was a musician of some repute, but I’d never heard him perform before. Wow, what a treat!

This was a concert for orchestra and two pianos. It was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Peoria, so the acoustics were lovely. In the background were four violins, two violas, a cello, and a bass. In the foreground, of course, were the two grand pianos. The program was simple but elegant; four pieces, three movements each. A duet first, then a solo. Intermission, another solo, and they wrapped it up with another duet.

Now, I’m not a musical illiterate by any means. But I am not good at recognizing a piece just by a number (unless, duh, it’s Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Or his Seventh or Ninth Symphonies). So a glance at the program when I sat down was fairly useless to me. All I could tell going in was that these were concertos by Bach, not his religious pieces. I’m always down for a good bit of Bach, so I settled in for an evening of great music. With the first few notes of each piece, I recognized them as old familiar friends, and I listened to the concert with a smile. (For those of you who are more eddicated than me, the pieces were Concerto for Two Klaviers and Strings in C minor; Concerto for Klavier and Strings in D minor; Concerto for Klavier and Strings in D Major; and Concerto for Two Klaviers and Strings in C minor. See? Doesn’t tell you much until you start listening. Doesn’t tell ME much, anyway.)

I’m always impressed with how Bach manages to be intricate and muscular at the same time. I was sitting in the very first row, right next to the aisle, so I was quite literally front and center for this evening of exquisite music. During the last concerto, the second duet, I was in a position to watch the female soloist as she performed. I was mesmerized by her hands as she played the slower second movement, the Adagio. Her fingers danced over the keys with the sinuous moves of a cat–it was amazing to see.

I closed my eyes and lost myself in the music at some parts. I thought of how marvelous it is that humans get to make music–I mean, really, how cool is that? I grew up singing, and I had lessons on several instruments, but I could never get the hang of anything that took more than one hand to play (which is why singing was the only thing I ever got any good at–you don’t need ANY hands for that). I am in utter awe of musicians who can draw such fierce, tender, thrilling sound from their instruments. And I am moved beyond words that there were people in this world who composed this music, this wonderful Baroque intricacy, and three hundred years later we are still sharing it with each other and honoring and enjoying their work.

Next month, it’ll be Vivaldi’s Gloria. I can hardly wait!

The Funnest Reference Question of All Time

We’ve been at the new library for three and a half years now, so people are slowly getting used to the phone system. They still sometimes push the button for the front desk when what they really want is the Children’s Room, but that’s okay–that’s why we’re here, to direct them where they need to go.

Sometimes, though, I’ll get a call that turns into a reference question, and rather than sending it to the Reference Desk, I’ll just take care of it myself. I’ve answered questions like, “How far is it to Chicago from here?” and “How do you spell cappuccino?” Something like that happened a while ago, and I turned out to be almost giddily glad that I stuck around for the question. This turned out to be my favorite reference question of all time.

Me: This is the library, how can I help you?

Patron: Hi! So, um, I read in one of those trivia things in the newspaper that summer on Uranus is, like, 34 years long.

Me (listening; can hear only sincerity in the patron’s voice when they mention “Uranus”; decide they honestly want to find out the answer to a question): Uh huh?

Patron: Has anyone ever gone to Uranus? Like astronauts or someone?

Me (still monitoring patron’s voice for giggles; finding none; deciding to be professional and answer the question): No, NASA hasn’t sent any manned spacecraft out that far.

Patron: So no one’s landed there?

Me: No, it’s too far, we haven’t sent humans there yet. Besides, it’s a gas giant; there’s really nowhere TO land a spaceship.

Patron: So if no one’s there, what does it MATTER if the summer is 34 years long?

Me: ….    …..     …. Well, I suppose that’s a question everyone has to answer for ourselves, don’t we?

The patron was perfectly satisfied with this. I was quietly delighted, and I got to (sort of) answer a reference question. Everyone wins!

Things That Make You Go Hmm…

Today, I saw a library patron coming out of the Children’s Room, accompanied by her husband and child. She was wearing a beautiful white finely woven hijab.

She was also wearing a shapeless black tshirt. Splashed across it, in hot pink letters, was the opinion “You don’t know SQUAT”.

I would have thought that wearing a hijab would preclude the wearing of rude tshirts, but perhaps I’m wrong. (It’s happened before, me being wrong.)

But it’s kind of nice to know that snark knows no discrimination.

Today I Learned …

So I was listening to NPR on the way to work this morning, and they were airing a piece about online lenders. Apparently, these lenders look not only at your credit score, but at all KINDS of other things, before they decide to loan you money.

For example, they have a way to look at your phone, and see if the texts you send are punctuated correctly, or if they have any punctuation at all. It’s an interesting example of using education as an indicator of your credit score. And they don’t stop there.

I didn’t quite catch this part, as I was driving, and had to pay attention to the road. But these companies also have a way to look at whether you pay at the pump when you buy gas, or if you go inside to pay. The theory is that people who go inside are more likely to be smokers, on their way to get cigarettes! How crazy is that?

Of course, they don’t figure in the fact that some people just prefer to use cash. I don’t smoke, but I also tend to go inside to pay for my gas purchase. It’s folks like me who screw up their algorithms.

Today I Learned…

Today I learned that Edward Elgar, the composer, once held a job at a lunatic asylum.

At age 22, in 1879, Elgar (who is probably best known for his work “Pomp and Circumstance”) took the post of conductor of the attendants’ band at the Worcester County Lunatic Asylum in Powick, also known as Powick Hospital. The doctors at the asylum had started up orchestral concerts in the 1870s, as well as Friday night dances for the inmates. Elgar played violin in the band starting in 1877, then took over as Band Instructor in January 1879.

Elgar enjoyed his work with his “eccentric orchestra”. He composed the Powick Asylum Music for the band to play. He got around 30 pounds a year for doing the job — which was 4 pounds less than his predecessor got for the same job, mostly because of Elgar’s inexperience. He made a bit of extra scratch by publishing the music, though.

Here’s another fun fact for today: It was at Powick Hospital, in 1952, that Dr. Ronald Sandison started pioneering British work in the psychiatric use of LSD. It was used for treating severe depression and schizophrenia. Dr. Sandison called it “Psycholytic Therapy” (literally, “mind loosening therapy”, for those who remember their biology classes). The LSD treatment unit at Powick was established in 1958, but was disbanded in 1966, due to problems of illicit recreational use.

So from classical music to tripping, there are your trivia facts for today!

Lights Out!

And it’s time for another episode of Lights Out, your virtual campfire.  Join me, your hostess with the mostest ghosties, for a visit with Nick Sarlo, of Shadow Hunters. I met Nick and the rest of the Shadow Hunters crew at the Chicago Ghost Convention a few years ago. They eventually made it down to Bartonville for a visit to the Peoria State Hospital, and they brought friends — ESP and Archer Paranormal. All of us had a complete blast doing a two-day investigation of the Pollak Hospital. Two of their sensitives, Lisa and Liz, actually had experiences with Rhoda Derry, and were kind enough to share their stories with me. (You can read them in 44 Years in Darkness.)

That wonderfully active investigation became the premiere episode of Shadow Hunters YouTube Series. Check it out here .

And here’s a great story you won’t see on the episode, because unfortunately, we had the camera facing the other way. Some of the girls from ESP and Archer decided to turn themselves into trigger objects by dressing in lab coats and putting stethoscopes around their necks. Thus attired, we went down into the basement, and sat for a while in the electrical room off of the morgue. We were doing an EVP session, when suddenly Lisa yelped and jumped like a scalded cat. Scared the paste out of me, because I was sitting right next to her. Turns out that while we were sitting there, someone slipped the stethoscope from around Lisa’s neck.

That weekend was one of the greatest experiences of my ghost hunting life so far. I look forward to more exploration of the unknown with Shadow Hunters, ESP, and Archer Paranormal. You can enjoy my conversation with Nick Sarlo here .

Even more podcasty goodness!

Read an eBook Week Continues!

There’s one more day to save BIG on ebooks from Crossroad Press, including, well, every ebook they carry! March 5 through 11 is Read an eBook Week. And to celebrate, Crossroad Press is running a humongous sale. Just follow THIS LINK to get half off — half off! — on every single ebook put out by Crossroad Press. That includes titles like Fractured Spirits, The Dark at the Heart of the Diamond, and The Taming of the Werewolf. So whether you want romance, horror, or true ghost stories, Crossroad Press has got you covered, with 50% off ebooks all week!


Celebrate Read an eBook Week With Me!

It’s Read an eBook Week, all this week from March 5 to 11. And to celebrate, Crossroad Press (purveyor of such fine ebook titles as Fractured Spirits, The Taming of the Werewolf, and Double Double Love and Trouble) is partnering with Smashwords to offer 50% off ALL ebook titles!

Just follow THIS LINK to score ebooks at half off all week long!

How Does 50% Off Sound?

Hey guess what? One of my publishers, Crossroad Press, is running a yuuuuuge sale this coming week!

It starts today and runs through March 11. If you like ebooks, you can get almost ANY of my books through Smashwords, which is one of Crossroad Press’s suppliers of ebooks. Just follow THIS LINK to get ebooks for half off. Half off! Seriously! They have all formats, too. So visit the link, and type in the title, or my name, or Crossroad Press to discover other authors.

Salem Township Library

So this week, I got to drive to the smallish burg of Yates City, to do a presentation on Fractured Spirits at the Salem Township Library. Small town libraries rock, you guys, seriously! I had a full crowd of appreciative folks who came to hear me speak about the asylum. One of the ladies in the audience was the librarian at nearby Maquon Library. She told me that she had closed her library early so that she could jet to Salem Township to hear my program. How cool is that? And the evening ended with Denise, the librarian who had invited me, asking if I had any other programs on offer. So mark your calendars, because I will be back at Salem Township Library on Thursday. See ya there!

Oh, and check out the display the library had up in their foyer. Can you spot the cover of Fractured Spirits? Pretty nifty of them to tie in the book display with the program!

salem-twp-displaySaelm Twp Sign.jpg

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!