Campfire Dinner

Ah, summer! Time for dinner and a cold cider around the campfire. Or the fire pit, if you don’t have a huge yard.

The first sandwich was on soft 12-grain bread, smeared with spready port-wine cheese, with ham tucked inside.

For dessert, there was Camembert cheese slices inside Hawaiian bread, with fig jam on one side and a little smear of red pepper jelly on the other.

And grapes on the side, because even I can’t justify cherry hard cider as being in the Fruit & Vegetable group.


Lights Out!

It’s time for another episode of Lights Out, your virtual campfire. I’ve got something really awesome planned for you guys this time!

Come along on an investigation of the Borden House, in Fall River, Massachusetts. On August 4, 1892, Abby and Andrew Borden were brutally murdered in their own home, by someone wielding a hatchet. That someone may have been Lizzie Borden, Andrew’s younger daughter. Let’s see what the spirits have to say about it!

Now available on iHeart Radio

Lights Out!

Thanks for joining me for another episode of Lights Out. We’re going to have a blast with this one. Listen in on a conversation with Aaron G. Thompson and Nick Simons, members of the paranormal investigating team Ghost Crier.  Find out why Aaron likes the Spiritus app so much!


Now available on iHeart Radio

Thoughts on Neighbors

“If you think about something more than three times a week, you have to write about it.” — Louis CK

So something happened the other day, and I’ve been mulling it over long enough that I think I should post about it.

Readers of this blog will recall that our neighbors … well, they don’t think too highly of us, to put it mildly. I honestly have no idea why. (I wish she’d talk to me like an adult instead of just screaming or muttering under her breath; maybe I could try to fix whatever it is she’s been mad about for the past eleven years.) Anyway, I was sitting on the porch a few weeks ago (middle of May; prom season), when a car pulled up in front of the neighbors’ house. I was reading a book, and the dog was out on the porch with me. We were enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.

A moment after the car door shut, I heard a glorious voice say, “Well, look at you–aren’t you just gorgeous!” The voice was filled with love and pride and warmth, and I looked up from my book with a sense of pleasure. I honestly thought that whoever had gotten out of the car had looked over at my porch, had seen my dog, and was gushing over her. (She’s a Husky, and she is, I’ll admit, quite pretty.)

But I was completely and utterly wrong. When I looked up from my book, a smile already coming to my lips, I realized that the young woman who had gotten out of the car was Belinda’s granddaughter, all dressed up for prom. And she did look stunning in an emerald-green gown.

It was Belinda–the neighbor who hates everyone in this house–who was speaking to her granddaughter with such love and admiration. I did not recognize her voice … it was the first time I had ever heard her speak without screaming. (At me or at someone in my house.) I took one last look at Belinda, hugging the radiant girl in the beautiful dress, and I turned and went into the house. And I felt a bit sad, because I know that Belinda will never speak to me in that kind, happy, friendly tone.

Lights Out!

And it’s time for another episode of Lights Out, your virtual campfire. I hope you all brought s’mores fixings, because I could really murder some marshmallow right now.

This episode of Lights Out centers on Native American spirits. The peoples of the First Nations have a rich culture of folklore and supernatural stories. Join me for a taste of this fascinating heritage.


Now available on iHeart Radio

Lights Out News!

Okay, so you know how at the beginning of the year I said I would soon have a very special surprise for each and every single one of you? Well, here it is, because I just can’t wait any longer.

Lights Out is available on iHeart Radio! (It’s also, I think, on places like Spotify and, I’m told, a podcast app called Overcast. I’m such a technotard that I’m honestly not sure how it all went through, but I’m so glad it did, despite my best efforts.) I am the first to admit that I am NOT technically savvy at all. But just for you guys, I finally found a way to get Lights Out up somewhere else other than just my websites. I won’t bore you with details, but I will say that I am super stoked about Lights Out being available in more places than just YouTube. Hopefully I am able to make people happy with this news.

I do have to say that the monthly fee I sprang for turned out to be a shockingly small amount of data, so it will take me a while to get all of the back episodes up and running. But everything SHOULD be caught up by the end of this summer. Plus I’ll be posting one new episode a month, plus catching up on older stuff. So if you start following Lights Out on iHeart Radio instead of on YouTube, you WILL get new content along with older episodes.

So! This is just the latest facet of an ongoing effort to bring you all the best in true ghost stories. If you’re on iHeart Radio or Overcast, you can now get another podcast fix with Lights Out. And if you’re not yet a subscriber to my YouTube channel, go and sign up! You’ll get sound AND shiny pictures that way.

As always, thank you for your patronage. I do appreciate it.

Even more podcasty goodness!

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:

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.