New Author Webpage



Meanderings and Muses isn't going anywhere.

BUT -

I do have a new webpage which will focus mostly on my writing.

If you're interested in reading more about my books, anthologies, and events, please click over to

There are a few videos of me reading from "Whimsey: A Novel," and from other favorite authors' work.

With more videos still to come.

The new page is a work in progress with plans for still more to come
- I'm just still trying to figure out exactly what that might be -
so check back from time to time, please.

See you there!


Monday, October 31, 2011

Messages

We find messages in many places
We find them in words, of course.
And in images.
We all "know" words  -  lots and lots of words  -  but only a handful know how to use words so beautifully that the message reaches out to us with a lightness of spirit that conveys feeling, and image, along with the message.
Too many think the more words they toss at us, the clearer the message.
Wrong.


I was touring through some of my favorite blogs the other day and read a message at Murderati from JT Ellison.  JT is going to take a little hiatus from Murderati.   Hopefully she'll be back next April.  In the meantime, I wish her well in all she does.  And I'm willing to bet we'll be seeing her accomplish some pretty incredible things.  I should say - "more" incredible things.   JT Ellison is a doll.  She's generous, smart, funny,  and one hell of a writer.  I love her to bits.  And I felt like she was talking directly to me with this piece she left us with.

I'd like to share it with you as I look out my window over these gorgeous mountains that I share my life with, and that bring me incredible peace.

Advice From a Mountain

Dear friend,
Reach new heights
Savor life's peak experiences
There is beauty as far as the eye can see
Stand in the strength of Your True Nature
Be uplifting
Follow the trails of the Wise Ones
Protect and preserve timeless beauty,
silence, solitude, serenity,
flowing rivers,
ancient trees
Rise above it all
Make solid decisions
Climb beyond your limitations
Leave no stone unturned
Never take life for granite


Get to the point
Patience, patience, patience
Life has its ups and downs
Let your troubles vanish into thin air
To summit all up
It's the journey step by step


Rock on!

~Ilan Shamir

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sharing

I love this - Enjoy!

Windchime

She goes out to hang the windchime
in her nightie and her work boots.
It’s six-thirty in the morning
and she’s standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,

windchime in her left hand,
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she’s trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.

She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it—the wind blowing
through the sound the windchime
wasn’t making
because it wasn’t there.

No one, including me, especially anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving—
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands upon the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth
with the nail in it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Plan B by Louise Penny



 No, this is not the picture you were expecting.

Not Louise Penny.

But, I'm betting most of you do know who it is.

Louise's own beloved Michael.

If you don't know their story, you can read it here, and I promise - 'tis a lovely one, indeed.

As is her latest contribution to Meanderings and Muses - 




Plan B
by Louise Penny

I’m a big believer in having a Plan B.  A fall back position.  ‘Just in Case’ could be my motto.  When I get into a plane I always scan for the ‘nearest exit’.  Just in Case.  When I get to a hotel I find out where the stairs are.   When I drive and am passing a big truck I look at what’s on the side of the road.  Grass, a ravine, trees.

Just in Case.

Michael, my husband, describes it as ‘living in the wreckage of my future’.

I, of course, disagree and argue that it’s only sensible to have a fall-back position.  I’m not actually expecting these bad things to happen, but if they did….  And if he wants me to lead him out of the burning building he’d better get on side.  But the truth is, he’s quite right.  My brain is a near continuous factory of worry.  This doesn’t mean I’m not generally at peace.  I am.  But only because I have a Plan B.

Once I know what I’d do if…. Then I can relax.  Totally.  With confidence.  (however illusory)   

With one exception.  I’ll tell you first what my Plan is. 

It’s a community of close single friends.  I can see it all.  We’d live in the countryside, in a sort of village.  There’d be a communal kitchen – with a big stove and a walk-in fridge.  And a long pine dining table.   There’d be a wall of cookbooks with colorful and luscious illustrations.  It would smell of wood smoke, from the open fireplace and wood stove, and herbs from the kitchen garden, and fresh ground coffee. 

There’d be another, separate, building with comfortable armchairs, and tables for quiet games of chess or backgammon or cribbage.  Games of bridge or poker.  Sofas would be grouped around the stone fireplace, for conversation or reading.  There’d be books and magazines and jigsaw puzzles. 

In another building there’d be a cinema.  Not huge, but big enough to get us all in for movie nights.   In the day it would be used for exercise and yoga classes.

There’d be a small chapel, for prayer or meditation.  

We’d each have our own, separate homes.  Small cottages.  With a bedroom, and living room.  A small kitchen area and lovely bathroom. 

Each friend would be able to cook for herself.  To spend the evening at home, watching television or reading, or painting, or writing or blogging.  Walking the dog, or watching the cat, curled in front of her own fireplace.  Doing whatever she wanted, in privacy and solitude.  Or the friend could go to the communal kitchen and help prepare the meal for the night, and sit at the table with anyone else who craved company that night.  They could then spend the evening play crib by the fire.

Or not.

It would be a community of friends.  Of like minds.  Not a community of debaters.  Of intellectual folk arguing over politics or religion or philosophy.  Over how best to chop a carrot, or whether women should have cosmetic surgery.   Not a bossy community. 

I’m tired of arguing and arguments.  Of debates.  What I long for instead, and have found with close friends and Michael, isn’t complete agreement, but complete open-mindedness.  A desire to understand a different opinion without the need to convince.  Or belittle.  Or dismiss. 

This would be a community where people don’t all think alike, but we all respect and love each other.  And accept those differences.  A community of friends who listen. 

That’s my Plan B.   The biggest, ‘In Case’ in my life. 

And that’s the problem.  In case of what…  You might have already guessed.

In case something happened to Michael.   My Plan A is to go before him.  But on the off-chance I don’t get to decide, there is some comfort in having a fall-back position.

My Plan B offers comfort in that is assumes life really would go on.  And a life of friends and love and company.   A community of other older people who find themselves alone. 

But the real comfort is in realizing that I have never needed any of my Plan Bs.  They’ve gathered dust, as the plane arrived safely, the train stayed on the tracks,  as, against all odds, the hotel did not burst into flames and the car made it by the big truck. 

Far from being a wreckage, my future has only ever proved more beautiful than I could have imagined.  And that, finally, is what offers comfort.  Nothing I’ve feared has ever happened. 

But still, I design my village, in case.  And when I imagine that little community of single friends I try to see what’s there, and not what’s missing.




Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Cliffhanger by Vicki Lane

Vicki Lane is the author of the just-released Under the Skin, the fifth of the Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries (Signs in the Blood, Art's Blood, Old Wounds, and Anthony-nominated In a Dark Season,) as well as of the stand alone The Day of Small Things. Vicki draws her inspiration from rural western NC where she and her family have lived on a mountainside farm since 1975.  Visit Vicki at her daily blog, her website  or go HERE to learn more about Under the Skin.









The Cliffhanger
by Vicki Lane


When you’re writing a series, the temptation to end a book with a bit of a cliffhanger is almost overpowering. After all, you want the reader to look forward eagerly to the next book. Notice I said a bit of a cliff hanger. You also don’t want to alienate those readers. And though I grew up watching serialized movies at a local theater on Saturday mornings, I’ve resisted ending a book with Elizabeth tied to a railroad track as a train is bearing down on her. I’ve totally not left her tied up in a dark cellar with water pouring in and rising slowly. Nor have I abandoned her to the vile clutches of the Emperor Ming and his minions. (Flash Gordon was my favorite of said Saturday morning serials.)

That said, I admit to having ended several of my books with the suggestion of some challenge on the way and that’s seemed to work well.  So I blithely closed In a Dark Season, my fourth Elizabeth Goodweather novel, with an unresolved thread – a puzzling message on the answering machine that suggested that Elizabeth’s lover might not be what he seemed.

There was no imminent danger – but a definite possibility thereof. And when the book ended, Elizabeth hadn’t even checked that answering machine so she was in the dark as to what the future might hold.

It didn’t seem too terrible to ask readers to wait a year. I had a new, two book contract and I’d already written the beginning and the end of Under the Skin, the book that would, for better or worse, explain that puzzling message.

Then my editor suggested that I write a spin-off /standalone. First.  Before Book 5 of the Elizabeth series. I agreed and, as Dark Season was still in the editing process, I suggested that maybe I should go back and change that cliff hanging ending so that readers wouldn’t have to wait two years for a resolution.

“I like that ending,” was my editor’s reply. “They can wait.”

And wait, alas, is what they’ve had to do. Dark Season came out in 2008 and, whether because of, or in spite of the cliffhanger, was nominated for an Anthony. But the standalone took longer than a year to complete and it didn’t come out till 2010. Which pushed Under the Skin back to . . . well . . . now. And all these three years, I’ve had readers emailing or grabbing me in bookstores, just to let me know how impatient they were to find out about that dratted phone message.

“What,” I began to think, “if I’m hit by a car or a tree falls on me and I never finish that last book? All those nice folks waiting to find out what happened . . . and I do have that part written already…”

So I wrote a really touching blog post that included the resolution to the cliffhanger and put it in the drafts folder on Blogger. And I penned a note to my family, asking that in the event of my demise, they follow the directions to put up my farewell blog post.

The only thing was, I just never got around to telling anyone about this. It just felt a little  . . . odd. I left the note under my mouse pad and pretty much forgot about it till I was in the airport, getting ready to fly to Bouchercon 2009.

As I sat in the waiting room, I suddenly remembered that note. What if the plane crashed? How long would it take my family to clean out my work room and come across that touching note?

I decided I needed to tell someone and not wanting to worry anyone in my family – who would likely laugh at my silliness -- I decided to call my agent.

Ann picked up at once and I launched into my explanation of how, in the event of disaster befalling me, she should call my family, tell them where to find the note, and ask them to post the resolution to the cliffhanger.

When I finally finished talking, there was a silence -- a very long silence. Then Ann spoke.

“That’s the weirdest damn phone call I’ve ever gotten,” she said.

Then, without missing a beat, “Do you want me to wait till after the funeral?” 

Obviously, the plane didn’t fall down and at long last, the book is out. I’m happy to say I’ve erased that blog post and thrown away the touching note. But I’ll think long and hard before writing another cliffhanger.




Saturday, October 22, 2011

Speak the truth . . . .

I just love Facebook.

If you hang out there a lot (like me), catching up with what's going on with friends, family, old classmates, fellow bloggers and favorite writers, during the course of connecting and sharing you see a lot of photos.  

We share photos of practically everything - our own friends, family and pets.  Some very cool, very old, photos of ourselves and our families that bring back memories.  

Photos of the new babies in our families. 

Birthday and anniversary celebrations.  

Photos of our homes and yards.  

Our vacations.  

We even share pictures of what we're cooking and what we're eating.  Shoes we love, and our new dress.

A lot of these make us go "awwww."

Some make us cry a little.

And - we post pictures of signs.

Signs which loudly and proudly declare our beliefs and philosophies. 

And some signs that don't do a thing but make us laugh out loud.

And then, every once in awhile, we'll spot one solitary post that, in its pure simplicity, will touch us. 

Like this -



source:  http://www.facebook.com/Girlfriendology






Friday, October 21, 2011

What I've Learned From Reading Over All My Years by Gina Gilmore

Artist, teacher, reader, fly fisher...some of the labels I wear. And, of course, much, much more.







Follow me at my Blogs:








What I’ve Learned From Reading Over All My Years
by
Gina Gilmore
 

When Kaye first asked me to write a blog for her, I was honored and slightly bewildered – what could I possibly have to say that was worthwhile – particularly when I looked at the list of other bloggers! Wow…I felt like a very small minnow in a very big pond! Still do…but I’ll try to share with you some of what I’ve learned from reading over all my years..:)


History – I’ve learned a lot of history over the years from reading historical mysteries – particularly medieval history. Starting with reading the Brother Cadfel mysteries, I’ve moved on to reading Roberta Gellis’ series, then Adrianna Franklin’s series. In between, I picked up and read many non-fiction books on the middle ages in England. Then ended up getting a cd series on the history of the middle ages. I just finished a biography of Eleanor of Aquatine. I’ve become quite fascinated with this amazing woman thanks to many of the historical novels and mysteries I’ve read featuring her.

While not a mystery, I read Connie Willis’ BLACKOUT and ALL CLEAR – as a result, I’ve become fascinated with the life of the English during the blitz and I’ve started looking for more non-fiction books about this subject.

I love it when authors include a bibliography at the end of their works – I usually try to find one or more of their sources to follow up.

Right now, I am reading a book about Issac Newton and learning more about physics and calculus than I had ever thought of learning. Being a math teacher, I’ve taught calculus and taken calculus, but this is a history of both physics and calculus that gives me a much deeper appreciation for both subjects. And the book is a mystery – NEWTON AND THE COUNTERFEITER by Thomas Levenson.

But even more important than the facts and knowledge I’ve gained from the curiosity that many of these books have stirred in me, I’ve learned so much from the connections with other people - both those who read and those who write.

DorothyL has opened a wonderful world where I’ve come to appreciate authors and readers so much – over the years, I’ve developed online friendships with many of these people. I’ve celebrated and cried with them..become facebook friends with them…read their blogs..

And I’ve been truly blown away by how generous the authors are. I’ve come to realize we really do have an interdependent relationship. I have been surprised to find notes from authors in my inbox thanking me for some comment I’ve posted on DorothyL or a review on Amazon. Wow..that they even thought my saying anything was important – that they took the time to say thank you!

But the most important thing I’ve learned over the years is as a teacher. I have taught history, math, art, and computer graphics over my long career. Most of my educational career has been in schools where the majority of the students are from the lower socio-economic bracket – those who qualify as high risk. Many see little hope in their future- they come from broken, dysfunctional families that most people can’t even imagine.

For the last five years, I’ve taught in my district’s discipline and alternative school. And what I’ve found is that while many of these kids are totally messed up in so many ways, and have experienced so much academic failure that they now refuse to even try, I can usually establish a bond with them through books.

We don’t have a library at our school..but we do have a book cart. And I’ve contributed the Hunger Game series, Harry Potter, Lightening Thief, and Michael Scott’s series - which combines mythology with historical characters. I also read the entire Twilight series so I could have conversations with my students who were into that series.

I figure that even if a kid won’t do math, refuses to open a history book, snarls at the English teacher, if we can at least get him to read – we have opened a world for him that was previously closed. I can open conversations by having discussions about what he is reading, asking him questions, drawing him out – and then we began to establish a rapport. And that rapport then, sometimes, allows me to develop a relationship where I can begin to get him to want to find out more – to begin to research Greek mythology, to try to find out more about the literary and folk history of vampires, to try to find out more about the characters in Michael Scott’s books. One student was exhilarated when he found a picture of Nicholas Flammel’s house on the internet! He couldn’t wait to show it to me.

Just recently we had a student return to us who is going to finish his credits and graduate high school this next week. He started with us in the discipline section several years ago as a ninth grader. He wouldn’t do any work, slept most of the time. But I got him hooked on Michael Scott’s series. Every year, he comes back to us several times for getting in trouble at the high school. He moved to the alternative side of the school last year – and was not successful and dropped out before the end of the year. He was resentful, surly, and completely unmotivated. However, I was still able to reach him – a little – through our continued discussion of the series.

This year, he returned to us – sober, clean, motivated. And one of the first things he did was to ask me if I had read the newest book in the series. No, I hadn’t. Sadly, I had let this series lag after he left – I had kept up with it as a bridge to connecting with him. However, this past week, I picked up the newest book in the series and presented it to him as a graduation present.

Did this connection change his life? No – he changed his life. However, it did establish a connection between us – it let him know that there was at least one teacher who saw him as more than “just another screw up” – and that is what I’ve found reading does – it makes connections between some of the most unlikely groups of people.

The reading experience has enriched my life in ways too numerous to count – knowledge, armchair travel, ability to go back in time, but most important, it is has allowed me to make those truly amazing connections with people I’d never have known otherwise.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Peace, Love & Healing: A Celebration of Community in Honor of Mary Anne Maier

Dear Writer Friends - If you would care to donate an autographed book for the silent auction being held at this event, please let me know! Thanks much!!!!


 
Mary Anne Maier, friend, neighbor, and a long time Boone resident was seriously injured in a car accident on July 19, leaving her with severe injuries that required fourteen surgeries & a lengthy stay at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. It is uncertain when she will be able to return to her work as there will be a long recovery with extensive rehab.


A benefit concert will be held Thursday, November 3, at the High Country Press building, Depot Street, Boone, N.C.


There will be music, food & beverages, a silent auction and door prizes. Doors open at 6pm.

Performers include Melissa Reaves, Lisa Baldwin & Dave Haney, Klee Liles, Lost Faculties, Black Sheep Theatre & more!

To donate items or volunteer, contact Kirsten Tiedemann @ kirstenmosaic@gmail.com

(or those of you who are a part of the Meanderings and Muses community - feel free to get in touch with me if you have something you would like to donate to the silent auction)  

Many Thanks!!!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Cozy Cupcake by Jenn McKinlay

When did I decide to become a writer? Funny story. True story. I was a teenager and went to see the movie Romancing the Stone. I don't know that I decided to be a writer so much as I decided to be Kathleen Turner. Yes, that would be quite a stretch for me, but living in an apartment in New York City, writing romance novels for a living seemed like a good gig and so the dream began. One problem: I really stunk at writing romance and after struggling for several years, I decided I was much better at killing people than I was at making them fall in love (a fact that really doesn't help my husband sleep at night). And so, a career was born. I'm working on three different series presently, and I couldn't be happier even though I don't look like Kathleen Turner, live in New York City or write romance novels. Sometimes you just have to trust the path your feet land on and follow it to the end.
















The Cozy Cupcake
by Jenn McKinlay

A lot of people ask how the cupcake bakery series came into being. Well, I’ll tell you it was just one of those serendipitous sorts of things. In the course of one week, I listened as a soon to be married coworker agonized over what flavor cupcakes to have in her wedding cake tower, then my agent blogged that when she traveled she always checked out the local cupcake bakery, and finally, a dear friend stopped by my house to tell me that a cupcake bakery had opened nearby and that they sold shots of frosting. Seriously, shots of frosting! It was the rule of threes and just like that I knew I had to set a mystery series in a cupcake bakery.


Another thing that helped me with this series is that I love to bake and experimenting in the kitchen is one of my favorite pastimes. I am known for not measuring anything and I never follow a recipe exactly but love to mix it up and change things just ‘cause.

I like to call these experiments the “research and development” portion of my writing adventures. Luckily, I have a family that is fearless about food and always willing to try one of my new concoctions. Now you may ask, how do I come up with the flavors that make it into the books. Well, the Mojito Cupcake came to me after a particularly grueling writing session where I would have welcomed a mojito or two. I thought of the Choco-Pom Cupcake when I looked out my office window and saw my pomegranate tree was heavy with fruit, and so it goes. Inspiration is everywhere!



Today, I’m going to share with you one of my favorite recipes from the series. It is called the Tinkerbell: A lemon cupcake topped with raspberry buttercream! Yum!






The Tinkerbell:

Ingredients:


1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened

2 c. granulated sugar

4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 c. grated lemon zest (3 to 4 large lemons)

3 c. flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 c. buttermilk, at room temperature

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract



Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar until fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Use an ice cream scoop to fill paper lined cupcake pan. Bake 20 minutes. Makes 24.



Raspberry Butter Cream:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened

4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

1/2 cup fresh raspberries



Directions:

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter. Add raspberries (should be washed and thoroughly dried). Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides of bowl often. The raspberries give the icing an amazing pink color. But I like to sprinkle the cupcake with a little pink decorating sugar for pizzazz.



ENJOY!



Oh, and lastly, from Oct 10th -31st , I will be holding a contest on my website www.jennmckinlay.com to name Cupcake Mystery #5 to celebrate the release of Death by the Dozen! The winner gets a $40 gift card for cupcake swag at Johnny Cupcakes!!!



Thanks for having me visit, Kaye! I love Meandering and Musings!



Jenn McKinlay

New York Times bestselling author of the Cupcake Bakery mysteries and the Library Lover’s mysteries!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Boone - Hard to get to, but not impossible

I've often thought it would be fun to plan a mystery fiction event in Boone, NC

But, several things get in the way.

Number One being the fact that Boone is not the easiest place to get to.  

There used to be service into a small airport just down the mountain in Hickory, but it's now closed.  The other options are Greensboro, Charlotte or Asheville - all a couple hours away.

But, Hey - If President Obama can get here, what the heck - it might be something to think about after all!  What do you think?!



President Obama visits The Mast General Store in Boone, NC 10/17/2011 (Photo from The Mast General Store Page on Facebook)       

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Caves, Karate, & Haunted Insane Asylums by Krista Davis




Krista Davis is the author of the Domestic Diva Mysteries.  Her most recent release, THE DIVA HAUNTS THE HOUSE, inched up to number 27 on the New York Times Bestseller List.  Her first book, THE DIVA RUNS OUT OF THYME, was nominated for an Agatha award.



















Caves, Karate, & Haunted Insane Asylums
by Krista Davis

So you’re at home curled up by the fire, a cup of steaming tea by your side, your cat and dog snoozing nearby.  You savor the silence and dive into a new mystery.   Before long, the protagonist is on a rope, swinging across a pond inside a cave or drives a car with her hands tied to the steering wheel!  You smile to yourself.  Those authors have such vivid imaginations -- no one would really do that.  Oh no? 

Authors do all sorts of fascinating things in the name of research.  Sure, they look up a lot of information, but sometimes they’re as adventurous as their characters. 

Ellery Adams, (who happens to be tall and gorgeous) thinks nothing of subjecting herself to experiments.  She underwent Botox injections so she could write about them with authenticity!  (Note to self: if my Natasha character gets an eyelift, can I tax deduct that expense if I research it?)  But don’t be jealous of Ellery’s flawless face.  Poor Ellery also subjected herself to tanning spray that turned her pumpkin orange.

Author Sheila Connolly writes about apple orchards.  Sounds so cozy, doesn’t it?  She went on a tour of an abandoned apple orchard where everyone happily helped themselves to apples, only to learn afterward that a murder had occurred on the farm.  Gee, could that be why it was abandoned?  Once, no one had the time to give her a tour of a medieval church.  They gave her the key and she ventured in on her own.

Leann Sweeney has undertaken way too many adventures to list them all.  My favorite was when she had her husband tie her hands to the steering wheel to see if she could still drive the car!  Fortunately, Leann,  husband, and car survived.  It turns out she could still drive, but shifting was a problem.

Crochet mystery author, Betty Hechtman claims she didn’t shoot herself in the foot (or anyone else for that matter) on her research trip to a gun range.  But watch out -- two weekends ago she was asking an ATF agent how to make a silencer.

Mary Jane Maffini didn’t commit any crimes, yet she was voluntarily locked in a cell at the Ottawa Police Station.  If the Chief had known about her little visit to his office, her incarceration may not have been voluntary.  Shh . . . .

I admit that I was very jealous when Julie Hyzy attended a seance.  Apparently a bit of coaxing was needed to persuade her husband to accompany her.  She very thoughtfully sent me a long description of the night’s events.  I was writing the seance scenes in THE DIVA HAUNTS THE HOUSE at the time and was fascinated.  Of course, my seance was different from her experience because it needed to fit the story, but Julie’s fabulous research helped me write it. 

Everyone is jealous of Avery Aames’s research tasting cheeses.  Her learning doesn’t stop there, though.  Avery went on a police ride along in Los Angeles, and regularly works out karate moves for her characters.

Kate Collins may win the prize for being brave.  She took her children underground, quite literally, on a scary spelunking trip through narrow tunnels where they had to crouch-walk. Her intrepid guide had only a flashlight hat and two candles.  They climbed a rope ladder to get up into the cave, and then swung on a rope that dangled over a pond at the end to exit the cave. Her ten-year-old daughter dropped off the rope and into the cold, muddy water!  Kate assures me that it was an adventure they will never forget or stop laughing about.  Did I mention the hundreds of bats?

I am not quite so daring.  Yet when friends were visiting last fall and some of them wanted to go to a football game, I didn’t have to beg too hard to convince my friend, Amy, to visit a haunted insane asylum with me instead.

Calling it an insane asylum is a stretch for me, although the definition fits.  My father worked there for a time when I was a child, so to me, it was simply St. Albans Psychiatic Hospital.  The large and elegant building was originally built as a boys’ school in 1892.  Located high on a hill across the river from Radford, Virginia, it operated as a psychiatric hospital until the 1980s.  



Today the original building is in a sad state of disrepair but the graceful bones are obvious in spite of peeling paint and broken windows.  In an interesting twist, it was purchased by a former patient.  The current owner was sent there as a child and has surprisingly fond memories of being the center of attention.  Since he was usually the only child on the premises, the other patients doted on him and doled out candy.  He told us that he once intentionally ran into a coke machine at full speed so they wouldn’t make him go home!

My only prior experience with St. Albans may be the source of my tiny bit of claustrophobia.  My dad needed to pick something up and took me inside with him.  When we stepped through the front door, it clanged shut behind us and locked.  The doors in front of us hadn’t opened yet.  The few seconds that we were caught caged between them seemed far too long to me.  My dad laughed it off, obviously used to the procedure, but I never forgot it.

If ghosts exist, then it wouldn’t be particularly surprising to find them haunting a mental hospital.  St. Albans has been the focus of a number of paranormal investigations, some of which you may have seen on television.  It even has its own Facebook page  Twitter page! and

Seven Hills Paranormal Society says St. Albans is the most active site they have investigated.  They specifically mention shadow people and unexplained noises.  Investigators from Seven Hills, as well as many other individuals, have reported that someone touched them when no one else was there.  Hearing voices and footsteps is not uncommon.  Assorted paranormal investigators have recorded eerie electronic voice phenomenon and have seen apparitions.



Alas, I have to confess that Amy and I didn’t experience any weird moments on our tour of the facility.  Instead of being scared, we came away distressed about the deterioration of such a lovely building.  I will say that it’s huge, much bigger than I ever suspected.  Stairs twist and turn, and it would be easy to get lost on the many levels and various wings.  We visited during the daytime, but there were plenty of rooms that required flashlights.

If you happen to live near the New River Valley of Virginia, St. Albans is offering haunted house tours in October, as well as public paranormal investigations from 1 AM to 5AM on October 22nd.

This amazing video was taken at St. Albans by Grave Concerns Paranormal





And now for the scary part.  When Amy and I returned from our haunted asylum adventure, we showed our photos to our friends who had gone to the football game.  It wasn’t until a year later when I was writing this blog and going through the photos carefully that I noticed this!  Apparently we weren’t alone . . . .  Eeek!


Surprise!  A wispy spot around 11 o'clock near the middle.


I haven't done anything to the photo.  This is an enlargement.  You 
can see that the wisp isn't a spot on the wall because it's visible in 
front of the open cabinet door.