Monday, August 31, 2009

Dining With Ghosts

For my husband’s birthday, our family decided to splurge on a night out at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Located less than 3 miles from our home, the restaurant is what was once the old Bellgrade Plantation built in 1732. To my children’s delight, it’s said ghosts of two past residents who died tragically on the property still linger and we couldn’t wait to see if they would make an appearance while we were there.

In 1840, a forty-three year old French bachelor named Robiou bought the plantation. In search of a bride, he met the fourteen year old daughter of a prominent attorney and wealthy landowner named Wormley who lived nearby. They were married shortly thereafter and moved into Bellgrade. A few weeks after their marriage, Robiou arrived home unexpectedly one afternoon to find his new bride in a compromising situation with her previous nineteen-year-old boyfriend Reid. Incensed by what he had found, Robiou threw his new wife out of the house and demanded a divorce.

Angered and humiliated, the girl’s father talked young Reid into helping him retaliate against Robiou. Late one evening, the two waited for Robiou outside his home. As he reached his porch, he was fatally shot. Both were arrested, but Reid was later released because he had been duped into the plot by the older and more cunning Wormley and he had not pulled the trigger. Wormley was tried for murder, found guilty and sentenced to be hanged.

Meanwhile, his now widowed daughter, who had been neither divorced nor disinherited, married Reid and moved back into the plantation. Within two weeks of her father’s hanging, she fell down the stairs and was killed. There are two accounts of how she died. One account is that she fell on a sewing basket and scissors punctured her heart. The other account is that she broke her neck. Since this tragedy, there have been hundreds of stories of sightings of the ghosts of Robiou and his young bride roaming the boxwood gardens behind the home.

After reading the account of the ghosts, our waiter informed us that our table sat just feet from the very staircase the unfortunate young girl tumbled down. We were allowed to do a little ghost hunting ourselves, exploring the stairs and a tiny dining room off to the side where she’s been seen on occasion.

The ghosts are said to be friendly but they are a little shy, usually only coming out once the restaurant is closed. And sometimes they can be a bit mischievous, turning on lights after everyone is gone and knocking over glasses when no one is around. The manager of the restaurant is a good friend of my husband’s and has had at least two close encounters with the ghost, describing it as a smoky shape hovering near the lobster tank before racing back up the stairs. Did we see any ghosts ourselves? Unfortunately not. But while we were talking to our waiter about the ghosts, my daughter’s Shirley Temple flew out of her hands, spilling a bright red stain all over the white table cloth. Accident or the ghost making herself known? You decide.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ghosts and other spirits

There are ghost stories everywhere, across the country, around the world. I know many people who have "seen" ghosts, felt them, hunted them, searched for them. There are people who have told me incredible stories, and I have my own experiences to share. Recently, I began watching the BBC show Being Human, which features its own cast of paranormal characters - a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire who share a house. The ghost's story? She was killed in the house by her boyfriend, and throughout the first season, she's tried to figure out why she stayed. Last night was the season finale - she knows why now.

These types of stories resonate with us and with our readers because there is always that thought below our surface: "What's really out there in the darkness?" It's a scary thought that we may co-exist with things we've only read about, heard about or watched a scary movie about. Because what if they're real?

The "what-if" is the basis of all storytelling. What would happen if ghosts were real? If werewolves were real? If vampires or any other supernatural creature were real? Does it scare you to think there are unseen things beneath your bed or outside your door? Writers like Stephen King, Laurell K. Hamilton, Dean Koontz and many others depend on it. They may have their own supernatural fears to fight, and they may do it in the pages of their books.

The supernatural, paranormal, whatever you want to call it, gives us hope, keeps our everyday fears manageable, makes us wonder and believe and have faith, all those things that make us human. We write about them because we love to explore those thoughts, ideas and feelings. We read about them because we want to find out how others deal with the same things. That's why we're here in the Otherworld Diner. That's why we hope you come visit.

That's why there are still things that go bump in the night.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thinking in the kitchen

Some people plot in the shower or driving a car. My best muse visits me in the kitchen, while I'm cooking - mostly baking, which I love, but cooking dinner as well. It's relatively quiet and since I don't have to read a lot of recipes because I retain well, I can let my mind play. It helps me a lot to fill the well by reading a book or magazine and then saying, what if? Like any good writer, that leads me down the path to amazing things that eventually might make their way into a story.

To help our members and guests, then, I decided since we are a diner, I might post some of our favorite recipes, and all of you feel free to jump in and post one of your own. Today's recipe is one I just found recently in an old cookbook of my mother's - you know the kind. They would sell them for a couple dollars at county fairs and church breakfasts, and the cooks who donated the recipes had been cooking for years and years, so it's all good. I challenge you to try some of these recipes without gaining weight!!

Banana Bread
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup butter
* 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
* 2 eggs, beaten
* 1 tsp vanilla
* 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas

1. Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan (I like to use small loaf pans to give away).
2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. In separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar, stir in eggs, vanilla and bananas. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Let me know how it turns out for you!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

So You Think You Know Romance #2

Last week the couple match-up was so much fun and you were so smart, I decided we should try again. Here’s a whole new list of lovers through the years. See how many you know.

Header from samulli

Thirteen Literary Paramours

1. Henry Higgins and ________.
2. Rose Sayer and _______.
3. Edward Rochester and _________.
4. Mr. Darcy and _______.
5. Marge Simpson and ________.
6. Dudley Do-right and_______.
7. Odysseus and ________.
8. Hester Prynne and _______.
9. Don Quixote and ________.
10. Mattie Silver and _______.
11. Popeye and _______.
12. Buttercup and _______.
13. Anna Karenina and _______.

Put your guesses in the comments. I’ll tell you which ones you got right and at the end of the day I’ll post all the answers in the comments. Thanks for playing.


Wikipedia, ;The Journal for Reporting and Captioning Professions, February 2004

Monday, August 17, 2009

Your Bedroom or Mine?

You already know that the gals here at the Otherworld Diner are all paranormal writers. But my paranormals tend to be historicals too, whether they originate as a historical or start as a time travel that take my characters from the present into the past, or vice versa. Therefore, I’m always interested in historical research along with the paranormal. This past week my family took a vacation into the past. Me, the hubster and our two kids spent three days touring historic Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. While there, I made some interesting observations about our ancestors and their sleeping arrangements. First, I’d like to make a side-note that I read just as many historicals as I do paranormals. I find in the majority of Regency books I’ve read, the aristocratic hero and heroine often start out in separate bedrooms with a door connecting the two. Obviously, since these are romances, that situation doesn’t last for long. But as I walked through the almost three hundred year old homes in Williamsburg and peered into how our ancestors slept, I wondered when that odd sleeping arrangement came about.

We toured the Jamestown settlement first where we could walk through several reconstructed mud and stud houses. No separate bedrooms there. In fact, you were lucky if the kitchen and bedroom weren’t one and the same. Even if the bedroom was its own room, often there were at least two, if not more, beds and/or pallets squeezed into the tiny space where the entire family slept. Privacy was not an option.

Williamsburg followed the next day. Our first stop was the Governor’s Palace. Built in 1722, then reconstructed in 1934, we saw that all nine governors who lived at the palace before it burned in 1781 shared the same bedroom with their wives. Next we toured Wetherburn’s Tavern, established in 1738. It was interesting to find out that there were public rooms and private rooms. In the public rooms, you slept in one large room with complete strangers. Quite literally. Mr. Wetherburn prided himself on putting no more than two people to each bed. Yep, if you were a weary traveler and stopped there for the night in the 1700s, you had to share a bed with a total stranger, who probably smelled of horse, dust, sweat, and who knows what else. Of course, the men were put with the men and the women with the women. If you could afford it, you could rent a private room. These had two beds in each room, meant for families or traveling companions who wanted to share the cost of a room but not a bed. The last stop on our tour was the Peyton Randolph House. Again, we found only one master suite, but this one had two beds – his and hers. The Randolphs had no children. With separate beds, you can guess why.

So when and why did married couples start sleeping in separate bedrooms? It’s hard to tell but through my research, the habit seems to have taken root in the 1800s and had more to do with a show of wealth than anything else. If you could afford to build a big house, you could afford to have his and her bedrooms. Plus, in a time when most marriages were made for social connections and status instead of love, connubial bliss was low on the list of priorities. Once the heir and a spare was provided, the married couple never had to sleep with each other again if they didn’t want to. Of course, since we write romances, those separate bedrooms don’t stay separate for long.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

So You Think You Know Romance. . . 13 Fictional Couples

So You Think You Know Romance (Chapter #1)

Literature is full of love stories and extraordinary duos—poignant pairs like Romeo and Juliet or Francesca Johnson and Robert Kincaid or silly like Donald and Daisy Duck.
Can you name the following duos? You’re invited to test your memory in this famous-couple match-up challenge.

Header from samulli

Thirteen Fictional Couples

1. Tristan and________.
2. Catherine Earnshaw and _________.
3. Bella Swan and ________.
4. Quasimodo and _________.
5. Robin Hood and _________.
6. Elinor Dashwood and _________.
7. Rhett Butler and ___________.
8. Becky Thatcher and ___________.
9. Cyrano deBergerac and _________.
10. Cinderella and __________.
11. Jay Gatsby and __________.
12. Sir Lancelot and _________.
13. Lara Foedeovna and __________.

Leave your guesses in the comments. I’ll check back and let you know if you’re correct. Then at the end of the day, I’ll post the answers. Thanks for playing.

Wikipedia,; The Journal for Reporting and Captioning Professions, February 2004

Monday, August 10, 2009

Do you write paranormal fiction?

Every so often, I try to blog links to help those of us who write paranormal fiction find more information on whatever their particular monster/hero/supernatural element is. Today is one of those rainy days when I feel like sitting here browsing the net instead of working, with an occasional bit of writing here and there, but looking around for new ideas or old information or something just generally creepy and/or helpful. So I'll share my travels with you.

The Virginia RWA webpage has a series of links for writers of paranormal, including vampires and werewolves, two of our favorite species! Their link page is here - wants more input on who writes paranormal fiction, so you can check them out here -

Kimberly Lorenz offers tips on worldbuilding at -

Science Fiction Link offers a set of links for writers of science fiction and fantasy, which can also be useful -

And don't forget Writer's Digest, who offer a note about BEA, but also have links to general writing info, markets and conferences -

These are just a few of the places you can go for help, inspiration or just to waste a few minutes before getting back to your writing. The point is, if you don't write it, no one will read it... so get busy writing!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Book Videos

Hi all,

I've been considering whether I want to create (or have created for me) some videos for my books. Whether you call them trailers, videos, peeks or whatever they are good marketing tools for books. I don't know if they really generate sales or not, but they certainly can generate interest.

I happened to get in contact with the talented author, Fran Lee. She also regularly posts on too. She agreed (after I begged pathetically) to create a video for me using a free service called One True Media.

I decided I wanted a different piece of music than what was available from OTM so I went hunting for sites for royalty free music. Not FREE music. Nor pirated music (piracy is a diatribe for another occasion). No, this is royalty free. Which means you pay a set fee for blanket use of the piece of music. I found a really great site called I really loved the options to listen to the demo of the music and their search tools were the best that I found out there. They are NOT cheap though. A single track costs around 29.95 (depending on the track) and you can get multiple tracks for slight savings.

Despite my pickiness, Fran Lee created a super book video for me - here it is... Please let me know what you think by posting a comment.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Something for our paranormal writers

If you're anywhere near Las Vegas, there is a dark fiction con called KillerCon from September 17 through 20, 2009. It's going to be loads of fun, PLUS I'm going to be doing the pitch sessions, and I've set up a couple of people who are specifically looking for paranormal fiction - Angela James from Samhain, and agent Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency. This is a relatively small con - low cost ($125) in a great place with great access to people you need to get your work in front of. If you haven't done a con this year or you want to do one that's right up your alley, this is the place to be. Sign up soon, though. And if you have questions, you can email me at - put KillerCon in the subject.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Out of this World

The paranormal world of publishing is ... well, out of this world. With the economy in trouble and people worried about every dime, we're finding out that supernatural sells. From various shows on television (Being Human, Supernatural, Warehouse 13) to movies (Orphan, Drag Me To Hell, Haunting in Connecticut) to books (Twilight - also a movie, Dragons Prefer Blondes, anything by Laurell K. Hamilton), the spooky is getting its props in a big way.

If you look back at another time in our history when the economy was at its worst - the Great Depression - it amazes me that the same things sold back then, when people barely had enough money for food. The Wizard of Oz is about as supernatural as you can get. People want to believe, and they want paranormal writers to make them believe. That's what we're all about.

So what makes it work? Well, I keep hearing vampires have been done to death, but I keep seeing books and movies (Twilight anyone?) about them. Harry Potter continues to bring in the crowds, and even movies like Transformers and Terminator, while not strictly supernatural, definitely have a weird factor that brings the money in.

People want to believe in magic when times are tough, so we can give them something to believe in. In the BBC's Being Human, the plot sounds like the beginning of a bad joke - a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost share a house. But I found the show very interesting, and I'll keep watching. Warehouse 13 is a show about unusual artifacts collected and kept by the government to keep people from doing harm or gaining unfair advantage. It's been done before, but they do it well.

It's the same with books. The books I've mentioned all have some unusual take on a "usual" creature, be it dragons, vampires or faeries. If you like to read about such things, there is so much out there. And we're hoping to bring even more to the table as we go.

So here's my question to you - can you name me your five favorite paranormal/supernatural books, movies or shows? Let's here it!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lori's Favorite Paranormal Websites

This week us gals at the diner will be blogging about our favorite paranormal research websites. Here's a few of mine:

Features of the Gothic Romance
Iris E. GarcĂ­a explains the elements of the Gothic novel.

Gothic Romance Forum
A community for gothic romance fiction and literature lovers.

How to Write a Ghost Novel
eHow article by Robert Vaux on how to write a ghost novel.

Monstrous Werewolves
Source of information about the wolfman or werewolf as a monster. Shapeshifters and were-creatures are described through history, mythology, art and popular culture study. Includes historical documents and illustrations libraries.

Notes on Writing Vampire Romances
Angela Knight's blog notes on writing vampire romances from the 2007 Romantic Times Conference.

Paranormal Romance: Secrets of the Female Fantastic
Discusses the themes found in paranormal romance.

Suburban Vampire
Catherine Karp's list of reference books for researching and writing the vampire novel.

Tips on Writing the Time Travel Romance
Eugenia Riley give advise on making a time travel romance believable.

Werewolves: The Myths & The Truths
An informative site exploring truths and myths around the werewolf legend from scientific point of view.

Werewolves -- Lycanthropy
The history of the werewolf legend, with a listing of werecreatures and shapeshifters from around the world.

What Makes a Time Travel Romance a Good Read?
Deb Stover discusses the time travel romance.

Writing Lycanthropy
J. Atlas Burke discusses how to write better werewolves.

Writing a Psychic Character
Marilynn Byerly's blog on how to write a psychic character.