Harvest Time

The weather here was gorgeous on Saturday, and yucky on Sunday. I wanted to enjoy a fire in the firepit Saturday or Sunday evening, but alas, that was not to be. Saturday night was far too windy, with the change in the weather coming, and on Sunday night, the wood was wet. Blah.

But I did get out in the garden Saturday afternoon, and look what I found hiding in the dirt — sweet potatoes!

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MOS2017 – Ghost Stories With Sylvia Vol 3

Ron's Amazing Stories - The Blog

Welcome to week three, “Part 2”,  ofThe Month of Spooky 2017!

I hope that you enjoyed Tuesday’s podcast because we are going continue with the Ghost Stories. Since ancient times, ghost stories?tales of spirits who return from the dead to haunt the places they left behind?have figured prominently in the folklore of many cultures around the world. A large amount of these tales seem to involve historical figures ranging from queens and politicians to writers and gangsters, most of whom died early, violent or mysterious deaths.

In 2014 I was introduced to whom I believe is the finest, funniest and best ghost storyteller there is. She has a way of making you feel fear and see the humor in that.Sylvia Shultshas spent years in the pursuit of the weird and the strange. She now shares those experiences telling true ghost stories and has five books on…

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It’s Okay. It Really Is.

Ever have words of wisdom show up just when you need them the most?

So I’m getting ready to start promoting Spirits of Christmas, and I’m thinking back to just about a year ago (exactly a year ago yesterday, how ’bout that?), to when 44 Years in Darkness came out. I’m thinking about the hopes and dreams I had for that book when it came out. Man, I was gonna take over the world!

I was at work today, covering books, and I came across a book called The Self-Love Experiment by Shannon Kaiser. In it, she described her “real life” ( as in, “as soon as I accomplish XXXX my “real life” can start … we’ve all been there): sitting next to Oprah, with Elizabeth Gilbert heaping praise on her book, standing on the stage for a TED Talk and getting a standing ovation. This is pretty much identical to the hopes and dreams I had for 44 Years, I’m not gonna lie. Of COURSE I wanted to do a TED Talk on Rhoda Derry’s life. (I still do.) And I really, REALLY wanted to get onto NPR with Rhoda’s story, on Weekend Edition or The Diane Rehm Show, before she retired.

Well, none of that happened.

But another book had more words of wisdom for me. In the book Code of Trust, by Robin Dreeke, I happened upon this little gem:

“Dreams don’t always come true. Sometimes they don’t even come close. But falling short of your ultimate goal can be fine, if you come close enough to savor most of its rewards.”

That is really, really what I needed to hear. And I DO get to savor most of the rewards of the goals I set for myself. So maybe I’ve never been reviewed by Publishers Weekly. So maybe I’ve never been interviewed on NPR. So maybe I’ll never get to sit next to Oprah. Instead, I get to do one of the things I love best in all this world. I get to stuff myself silly with true ghost stories, and cherry-pick the best of them and share them with you guys.

(I still want to do a TED Talk on Rhoda Derry, though. Someday…)

Something Very Cool To Share …

I’ve just hit a personal milestone.

I wrote a book that’s over 100,000 words long.

I’ve never written anything this long. Most of my books come out to around 75,000 words–78,000 if I’m really smokin’. But this? This is something else entirely. And I’m not yet done typing!

Seriously, I cannot wait to share this book with you guys. It’s gonna be awesome!

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Schedule Update

Okay, so, you know how I said I was going to be at Lincolnland Community College in Springfield on Halloween? Well, that’s where I was last year, and I thought we’d be doing that again. But I just found out last night that plans have changed.

For the better! I’m going to be partnering with the awesome Loren Hamilton for a presentation at Jacksonville Public Library (201 W College Avenue, Jacksonville) at 7 pm on Halloween night. It’s going to be a blast … Loren will be talking about ghost hunting, and I’ll get to talk yet again about my beloved Peoria State Hospital. So change your plans, stay flexible, and join us! (Or not. But if you go out trick-or-treating instead of coming to see us, you owe me some candy. And the good stuff, not the Double Bubble.)

October’s Here!

Hey, it’s October, and that means extra-crunchy ghostie goodness!

Here’s a fairly complete list of where I’m going to be during the month, and when:

— This Saturday, October 7, I’ll be in Galesburg for the afternoon. At 2 pm I’m doing a program on Fractured Spirits for the Galesburg Women’s Club, and at 3:30, I’ll be at the Galesburg Library (40 E. Simmons Street) for a talk on 44 Years in Darkness. Then I’m driving up to Chicago for the Chicago Ghost Convention, which will be at Brauer House in Lombard.

— Next weekend is a doozy! On Friday, October 13, I’ll be doing a program on Fractured Spirits at Lake Villa Library (1001 E. Grand Avenue, Lindenhurst) at 3 pm. Then on Saturday October 14, I’ll be giving another talk on Fractured Spirits at Gail Borden Library (270 N. Grove Avenue, Elgin), then shooting on over to the Barnes and Noble in Crystal Lake (Bohl Farm Market Place, 5380 US-14, Crystal Lake).  Wheee! (Good thing I have Weird Al to keep me company as I drive.)

— On Monday, October 16, I’ll be at work at Fondulac Library (400 Richland Street, East Peoria). But! At 6 pm, I’ll join with GUARD Paranormal to bring you guys a fun look at the life of a paranormal investigator.

— On Saturday October 21, I’ll join several other authors for a book signing at the Book Nook (6944 N. University Street, Peoria).

— On Thursday October 26, we’re switching things up a bit. It’s a Thursday night, and at 6 pm I’ll be at Salem Township Library (101 N. Burson Street, Yates City) to do a presentation on Hunting Demons.

— And on Halloween night, Tuesday October 31, I’m planning on being on a panel with other paranormal nonfiction authors at Lincolnland Community College (5250 Shepherd Road, Springfield). We’ll talk about ghosts, what else?

— Oh, and while we’re on the subject, I’ll be doing two author fairs the first weekend of November, too. On Saturday November 4, I’ll be at Peoria Public Library’s North Branch (3001 West Grand Parkway, Peoria) from 2 to 4 pm. Then on Sunday November 5, I’ll be at Bloomington Library (308 W. Olive Street, Bloomington) from 2 to 3:30 pm.

— And holy cats, I’m going to be a recurring thing on the radio! Ron Hood, host of Ron’s Month of Spooky, has invited me back for my third appearance on his show. And he’s doing replays of the first two shows. So if you missed it, tune in to Ron’s Month of Spooky here . Volume 1 (2015) will air October 17, Volume 2 (2016) will air October 19, and the brand-new show (2017 — duh) will air October 24. Download it on iTunes, or stream it here . Or you can go old-school and find your closest radio station here. Ron will also be a guest on an upcoming episode of Lights Out, so keep an eye out for that.

So! That’s the schedule so far. Good thing the book’s done! (Did I mention I have a new book coming out in November?) A moving target is harder to hit, so I’ll be moving all through October. Hope to see you out and about!

 

SPIRITS OF XMAS

So What’s the Book About?

Yes, I’m still typing.

Those folks who saw my “yay, I got to 55,000 words typed” post last week may have seen a few of the titles of stories that will be included in the book. That’s sort of a sneak peek for you, if you’ve got sharp eyes (and can decipher my chicken-scratch scrawls to myself).

I was going to post a Table of Contents about now, to whet people’s appetites for what’s coming for Christmas. But geez, by the time I was done, there were over 120 stories in the book! And I refuse to bore you with a list that long. So instead, here’s what you can look forward to in the pages of Spirits of Christmas.

The book is divided into seven parts.  “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” takes a look at the Victorian tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas. “We Wish You A Merry Christmas … Or Else!” outlines some of the stranger Christmas customs over the years. “He Sees You When You’re Sleeping” is a rogues’ gallery of Christmas demons and monsters. “In The Bleak Midwinter” tells of strange happenings in the dead of winter, not just in December. “The Darkest Midnight in December” is about tragedies that happened during that cold month. “‘Tis The Season” is for ghost stories and spooky experiences in December. And “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” is for ghost stories that happened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

So that’s what’s on tap for the book! I had a blast writing it, and I truly can’t wait to share it with you guys. And keep an eye out for special Christmas-themed episodes of Lights Out in the next couple of months too. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good fright!

SPIRITS OF XMAS

An Apology of Sorts … And News!

Okay, so I know I’ve been sorta kinda MIA from Facebook for a good long while. (Sorry about that. And thank you so so so much to everyone who was still kind enough to post birthday wishes on my wall, like [mumblemumble] three weeks ago. I love you guys!)

But there’s a really good reason for the recent radio silence. I am THISCLOSE to finishing the new book! I expect to have it done by the end of this weekend. And to celebrate, I have yummy pictures for your enjoyment.

So here’s the story: my publisher wants my books to be at least 55,000 words long. So for encouragement, I went to Pandora’s Box in Pekin (hi Lori!) and picked out fifty-five lovely little stones, things like hematite and rose quartz and maybe there’s some citrine in there and a bunch more I can’t remember, but they’re pretty. These are all supposed to have qualities like, oh, inspiration, creativity, FINISHING PROJECTS, things like that. And every time I write a thousand words, I get to move a stone from the “To Write” jar over into the “Words Written” jar. Which is now full! So that’s an awesome milestone.

But here’s the very best part, guys: I have a LOT more typing to do, which means that lovely word count is going to go up up up in the next couple of weeks. I’m a slow typist, because I only use two fingers. And they’re not even mine. So I write everything out longhand, then type it up. That means you guys can look forward to waaaaay more than 55,000 words. That’s just what I’ve got typed up so far.

Stay tuned for lots more book news over the next few weeks, including a cover reveal this weekend to celebrate getting the writing done!

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Lookit the empty “To Write” jar! And the full “Words Written” jar! And the badass dinosaur!
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Ah, that beautiful beautiful word count …

Well This Is Nice!

It’s always fun, since I work at a library, to stroll past a book display in the course of my day and see something familiar.

In other news, I’m going to be at work today when the eclipse is at totality. Bleh. My boss assures me that we’ll all have a chance to go out to look at the sky, but it may not matter. When I got up this morning, the sky was overcast, and it’s just gotten gloomier since then. It’s like living inside Tupperware. So all this fuss over eclipse glasses may have been for naught. We’ll see around one!

So what plans do you guys have for eclipse-watching? Any parties planned? (I know, a party in the middle of the day on a Monday, kinda weird, but hey.) Does anyone else have to (gasp) be at work today?

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A Little Background

This marketing crash course has been a week’s worth of interesting. The prompt generator is … well, it’s not reeeeealy set up for what I need to do. It’s geared more towards business applications, I think, which makes for some interesting prompts.

So after a couple of false starts (“What are some tips for saving time with ghosts?” “What is the #1 WordPress plugin for ghosts?” “Which tasks should be outsourced when it comes to ghosts?”), I finally landed on “How long did it take to get where you are with ghosts?”

Well, I figured THIS was a question I could take a stab at answering with a straight face. So here goes.

I blame my dad for starting me down this dark path. JK, I’m really super glad I grew up with a dad who loved to tell ghost stories. I grew up in the Chicago area, and so did Dad, so he was the one who passed down all the local Chicago ghost lore to me. I grew up enthralled with tales of the monks of Saint James-the-Sag, the screaming mummy of the Field Museum, and all the lovely spots on Archer Avenue. (He never mentioned the Grimes sisters case, though. Dunno if he wasn’t familiar with it, or if he wanted to shield me from that particular ugliness.)

Growing up steeped in ghost stories was wonderful, but I reached my adult years believing that ghosts were something that happened to other people. I didn’t grow up in a “haunted” house, so I figured that ghost stories were something I could enjoy, but at arm’s length. I started writing horror fiction, keeping the monsters safely on the page.

In 2009, though, I got a very interesting phone call — at work. My coworker came up to me and said, “Hey, I took a phone message for you. It was a publisher. I put the message in your mailbox in the staff room.” I almost thought she was pulling my leg, but sure enough, there was a pink phone message slip in my inbox. I called the 800 number on the paper, and got Bruce Carlson of Quixote Press.

Turns out Bruce was a publisher of true ghost story collections, and he had tapped me to write a book called Ghosts of the Illinois River. I couldn’t believe my luck; here I was, a struggling fiction writer, being asked — no, invited! — to write a collection of true ghost stories, about the river that flowed almost through my own backyard. It was a childhood dream come true.

While doing the research for that first nonfiction book, I started going along on investigations with different groups. That, in turn, led to the Lights Out podcast, and all those wonderful true experiences people have so graciously shared with me. But first, foremost, and always, it has been the writing of stories that has driven me forward. Ghosts of the Illinois River led directly to Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, which led in turn to 44 Years in Darkness. Now I’m working on Spirits of Christmas, and I am happy as a pig in … well, I’m exceptionally satisfied with the path my writing career has taken.

And it all started with my dad telling ghost stories around the supper table.

Marketing Challenge Continued

Okay, okay, yes, I suq. I was supposed to be doing a whole week’s worth of blah blah marketing things, buuuuut I work full-time, so, that didn’t happen this week.

But I had fun looking at the writing prompts. The second prompt was “What’s your favorite book about ghosts?”

Well, I thought at first that would be a pop fly, an easy question to answer. My favorite book about ghosts? Pfft — all of them! I’ve been reading true ghost story books, and filling my porous little brain with ghost stories, ever since I was a little kid. When our cousins would make a summer visit down from Madison, Wisconsin, as soon as we giggled over my cousin Karl’s latest batch of dirty jokes, we’d get down to the serious business … scaring each other silly with ghost stories. I read (and loved) them all: The Thing at the Foot of the Bed, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, all the lovely dark books the library and Scholastic Magazine had to offer.

But then I grew up, and Scholastic Magazine just wouldn’t cut it anymore. Luckily, I have met and become friends with many wonderful authors of ghost stories. So I can, with complete confidence, recommend books by Troy Taylor, Michael Kleen, Dale Kaczmarek, Jamie Davis, David Youngquist, Ursula Bielski — because I KNOW these people. I know their integrity. And I know that if their name is on the cover of a book, what’s inside those covers is going to be a great story.

And then — and then! — I discover new authors day by day. (That’s the totally awesome part of working at a library. I’m surrounded by books. Plus they PAY me to be there!) I recently discovered a new author (well, new to me), Stephen Lancaster.

I’ve been reading ghost tales for YEARS. And nothing has spooked me more than Stephen Lancaster’s writing. If you’re looking for good spooky stories, his books fill that craving admirably. And if you’re a paranormal investigator yourself, or if you just believe solidly in supernatural phenomena, then Lancaster’s books are a real treat. They’ll either have you cowering in bed with the covers pulled up over your head, or yelling out loud, “DANG, I wish I could go ghost hunting with this guy!” There was a bit in his second book, Dark Spirits, where I actually yelped out loud with surprise and terrified delight. Marvelous stuff!

I’m pleased to say that Lancaster has a new book coming out in April 2018. It’ll be called Norman: The Doll Who Needed to be Locked Away. (Now, how could I possibly resist a title like that? I ask you…) And for fans of Lights Out, be on the lookout for an episode early next year where Stephen and I will be talking ghosts, paranormal investigation, and hopefully, this doll Norman!

More Lights Out Goodness!

There’s more podcasty yumminess that’s fresh just for you on iHeart Radio and other venues. (I think we may now be on iTunes, too.) So if you’re into it, go check out the latest episodes, including an interview with horror writers Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross, what it’s like to live in a haunted house, and the 2016 Halloween show. Enjoy!

 

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Monday, Yay!

I am on the first day of a “marketing challenge”. I signed up to get five posts this week, one a day, giving me marketing prompts. It’s kind of fun, so far–of course, I’m only one day in!

The program is neat, in that you can keep hitting the “refresh” button until you get a prompt that resonates with you. The first one I got had something to do with, I dunno, pimping a consulting business. Which is SO not what I do. I do me, and I don’t presume to tell other folks what to do, unless they ask really nicely.

But the second prompt made much more sense. It was, “What is your background with XXXX?”

Okay, now THAT I can work with. It may come as a surprise to people, but I did not grow up in a haunted house. I don’t see dead people (much as sometimes I’d like to). Someone could be following me, carrying their own severed head, and I’d be completely oblivious.

My personal draw to ghosts is this: I have always adored true ghost stories. It’s that delicious combination of history, real people, and the unknown that melts my butter every single time. I love the power of story, and I truly believe, with all my being, that telling ghost stories is the oldest and purest form of storytelling there is. Humans have that unique gift of wondering what comes after death, for ourselves and for the ones we love. We’ve been sharing those ideas around campfires for millenia.

THAT is why I write these books.

In other news, I spent much of this weekend typing, and Spirits of Christmas is now up to 33,000 words typed. I have loads more to type, and SCHLOADS more to write. But it’ll get done. I’m working on it for you guys, because I love you, and I want you to have the Best Christmas Ever.

Stay tuned for more posts this week!

Lights Out: Table Tipping

Oh, those crazy Victorians! Always with their seances, and their creepy spirit photography, and their table tipping. Yes, it’s a thing. Just like putting your fingers on the planchette of a Ouija board, it is possible to make a table move (okay, a small table, but still) just by putting your fingertips on it and concentrating really hard. There’s some help involved from the spirit world, of course, because it’s the Victorians we’re talking about here. Listen in as your hostess with the mostest ghosties helps lift a table … with her fingertips.

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Small World

The place: work. The time: last Friday, about twenty minutes before I was done for the day.

A patron came up to me as I was pulling books from the New Shelf, right as you come in the front door of the library. He caught my eye, and held out a book of mine. He’d bought it on Amazon, and wanted me to sign it for him.

Now that, to me, would have been a good story right there. But wait–it gets better.

It turns out that that very book–an older version of a collection of short stories (Voices in an Empty Room, as opposed to The Dark at the Heart of the Diamond, which came out a few years later and had twice as many stories in it), had actually come off of the library’s shelves. OUR library’s shelves.

The patron sheepishly pointed out our barcode in the front cover of the book. “I don’t want you to think I stole it off the shelf!” he said. I could clearly see the red Discard stamp on top of the book, so I wasn’t worried. But I thought it was funny that the book made its way from our shelf, to the book sale when it was discarded, to someone snapping it up, to someone ELSE buying that copy on Amazon.

I always threaten to sign my books “To the lucky eBay winner…” I guess this time it really would have been prescient of me to do just that! No, for reals, I signed it to the patron, and thanked him for sharing the story.

New Book News!

Why, yes, I’m working on a new book.

And it’s going quite well, thanks for asking.

As a matter of fact, I had another author offer to write a foreword for it. Which is super cool.

I relax by reading. I read omnivorously and voraciously. Just last night, I read all five books in the children’s series Phoebe and Her Unicorn (think a middle-grade Calvin and Hobbes), a book on paranormal investigation called Ghostly Tales, and finished up a YA novel called Such a Good Girl.

A couple of weeks ago, I read a really wonderful book on paranormal investigation by an author named Stephen Lancaster. His first book was True Casefiles of a Paranormal Investigator, and I just devoured it. There was a story in that book–in the first chapter, as a matter of fact–that captured my attention immediately. Not only was it a real doozy of a terrifying true story, it happened in December.

Now, any author who can tell me a true ghost story I haven’t heard before is aces in my book. And speaking of my book, if you haven’t yet heard, it’s going to be about haunted Christmas … and there’s a whole section in it about true stories that happen in December.

It took a bit of digging, but I found contact info for Stephen Lancaster, and I wrote to him. I told him how much I enjoyed his book, and asked very politely for permission to share his December story in my own book. He was very gracious, and wrote back nearly immediately.

Long story short: not only did he give me permission to share his story (yay!), he also offered to write the foreword to Spirits of Christmas.

So come November, you guys are in for a treat. The new book will have a thoughtful  foreword written by a fellow investigator, a real professional in the field. (He has a new book himself, that will be released in April 2018, about–get this–a haunted doll. I’m hoping he’ll agree to a guest appearance on Lights Out, so look for that in the future too.) I’m pleased to take Stephen up on his offer, and I think you’ll find it a good addition to the book.

Now I’m off to write some more!

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.

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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!

https://youtu.be/4KzW6wNHt1U

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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! https://youtu.be/NiiWc3UztYo

 

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