Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An Extended Hiatus

Okay, so one month easily turned into two.

I missed blogging, but it was good to get caught up on everything. That, and October pretty much passed in a blur, literally. And, yes, literary agents who hate when writers use the word "literally" (as in, "I literally died!"), I'm using it correctly.

I had eye surgery in mid-October, and the blur lasted a lot longer than I'd expected. Regardless, it's behind me now, and life is clearer than ever. The surgery is actually quite magical. I can't remember a time when I saw clearly without contacts or glasses. I'm just getting accustomed to waking up every day and not having to reach for my glasses. It's beyond amazing.

By way of other updates, I've racked up a few more rejections to my tally, but there is hope as a handful of agents are still reviewing my work. I'm also hard at work on a new project that I'm not talking a whole lot about. In the past, I've talked my books to death, and I'm not making that mistake with this one.

This is a short reintroduction,but I'll be back soon...promise!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Farewell for now...

Aaaah October...

It's my favorite month. In Pittsburgh and most of the northeast, it's absolutely gorgeous with the changing leaves. My birthday is Oct. 11, so that's obviously key. And Halloween is my favorite holiday - scary movies and candy? I'm in!

But, I also have some bad news for the month of October. I'm planning to disappear.

Not physically, as in police reports, detectives, and a good mystery. It's with great regret that I'm closing the diner for the month. I hate to do this, but I really admire a writer friend, A.S. King, for taking a month off of blogging last spring to work on the draft for her next book.

To give you an update, there are still several agents reviewing my manuscript, THESE WALLS CAN TALK (formerly titled THE DINER ON THIRD). While I wait for news, I'm working on two other projects. They're competing for my attention, and I'm letting them. One will win out, and competition is good for the soul.

So, if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm closing the diner this month to write. I'll be back in November with some great author interviews, and if between now and then I hear good news from agents, I will certainly break the silence.

If I come across a hilarious video, I may post it for Rainy Days and Mondays, but for the most part, it's going to be pretty quiet around here. Thanks for stopping by, and hopefully, you'll stop back next month.

Happy Writing!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #19

Well, it's a rainy Monday in Pittsburgh, a day after the Steelers lost for the second straight time. That calls for some entertainment.

I'm reverting to some old favorites this week...

First of all - a very lovely musical snack!

And you can't watch this and not laugh...

Finally, the best fight scene ever!

Happy Monday!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #18

With my recent schedule, it's been hard to spend the time I'd like on writing. It seems to be time for some inspiration and advice from one of the greats.

From By-Line: Ernest Hemingway

Mice: How much should you write a day?

Y.C.: The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.

Mice: All right.

Y.C.: Always stop while you are going good and don't think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start. Once you are into the novel it is as cowardly to worry about whether you can go on the next day as to worry about having to go into inevitable action. You have to go on. So there is no sense to worry. You have to learn that to write a novel. The hard part about a novel is to finish it.

Mice: How can you learn not to worry?

Y.C.: By not thinking about it. As soon as you start to think about it stop it. Think about something else. You have to learn that.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Little Bits of Random

So, last night, I was watching Man vs. Food. That's a great show.

He conquered a Four Horseman Cheeseburger with four different kinds of peppers that only four others had ever dominated. Maybe four's a lucky word...

He also visited Pittsburgh and ate six atomic wings at Quaker Steak and Lube. More importantly, though, he visited THE Pittsburgh restaurant I take my friends to when they're in town. If you've been to Primanti's - if you like sandwiches - if you're ever hungry (um, does that include everyone now), watch this video!

Preseason's over folks. It's time for some football, and I think you've already realized a Primanti's sandwich and football go hand in hand. I want one so bad right now.

P.S. Go Steelers!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dining with Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The Dining with Authors series is back today with prolific author Lauren Baratz-Logsted.

Since 2003, Lauren has had 14 books published with at least 6 more to come. She has written for adults, teens, tweens and young readers. Before being published, Lauren was an independent bookseller, a reviewer, a freelance editor and a sort-of librarian. You can read more about her work at http://www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com/.

In addition to writing and reviewing good books, Lauren is heavily involved with several writing groups online. She is always generously offering writing advice and support to other writers (including me!). Her young adult novel Crazy Beautiful, a contemporary tale about a boy with hooks for hands and a gorgeous girl who meet on their first day at a new school, is being released this Monday!

Tamara: Welcome to the Girardi Diner. For this interview, imagine we are sitting across from each other in an adorable diner, sipping tea or coffee, enjoying a slice of our favorite cake or pie (mine's cherry pie!). It's much more fun that way!

Lauren: I’ll take a lime diet Pepsi and strawberry cream pie!

Tamara: If you could have dinner with any one of your characters, whom would you choose, and what would your character eat?

Lauren: Lucius Wolfe from Crazy Beautiful. Whatever he chose to eat, he'd have to eat it carefully, because he's still self-conscious about having hooks for hands.

Tamara: What's your favorite vacation spot?

Lauren: Because my daughter is nine, I'll say a cruise ship.

Tamara: What was your favorite musical group/singer when you were in high school?

Lauren: Led Zeppelin

Tamara: What is the funniest prank played on OR by you?

Lauren: Gack! How boring am I? I can't even think of one by or on me right now! The closest would be this past April Fool's. My nine-year-old short-sheeted my bed but only on my husband's side. He thought it was hysterical - that she even knew how to do it and that she chose to only prank him, not me.

Tamara: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Lauren: A psychologist or writer. One night at dinner, when I was around 12, I did mention that I might like to be a singer. Much laughter followed - kind of like in a Charlie Brown cartoon - so I realized that was probably out.

Tamara: What question do you get asked most often about your writing? How do you answer it?

Lauren: Q: "Where do your ideas come from?" A: "The Idea Fairy."

Tamara: Gotta love that Idea Fairy! Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?

Lauren: Surprisingly enough, given that I just confessed a belief in The Idea Fairy, I don't believe in ghosts. But that's because I've never seen any evidence of any. If and when I do, I promise I'll change my mind.

Thanks so much for stopping by the diner for this interview, and congratulations on the upcoming release of Crazy Beautiful!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Morning Coffee

What's entertaining about the new blog feature for Tuesdays is that I don't drink coffee. At all. Ever.

But most people do, and they usually like a bit of news with their coffee. So here are a few recent stories that caught my eye.

When I see stories like this, I ask exactly that - why don't they run?

Is the economy so bad that marrying for money is a good thing?

The economy wasn't that bad back then...can't be her excuse!

Talk about back-to-school blues! I'm happy to be teaching online this semester, especially since Pittsburgh is involved.

If a snake bites me, someone call this guy.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #17

As kids across the country are getting reacquainted with their classrooms, let's hope they're learning more than these people did.

So are you smarter than a fourth/sixth/eighth grader? Where did you rank? I hope it's good news!

Happy Monday!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Writer's Journey - Falling in Love

The road to publication for writer's, or so I've been told, is long and bumpy.

For the last month, I haven't really been making any progress along that road. At the end of July, I submitted THE DINER ON THIRD young adult manuscript to several agents. And although the response has been mostly positive, I feel like my car's broken down, and I'm waiting on the side of the road for one of the agents to call with the report of whether I'll get moving again.

This is not a good place to be.

After I submitted my manuscript, I knew the best thing for me to do was forget about it (in other words, don't sit in front of my computer, hitting refresh on my email 24/7, waiting for agent responses) and get to work on another project.

I reviewed my list of ideas for future books. There were a few good ones and a few that I had absolutely no idea what I was thinking when I wrote them down. After having lunch with a dear friend, I took her advice to combine two of the ideas into one.

I got excited about it and started writing the opening chapters. I considered character profiles. What are my characters' mottos, motivations, desires, etc? Who's the villain? Who cannot be trusted?

As I got deeper into the "whats" and "whys" the story began to form and became richer, but it wasn't until yesterday that I really fell in love with the idea.

That's really the beauty of writing. When that one detail pops into your head that you have to search for anything resembling paper and any writing utensil (pencil, crayon, eyeliner, or lipstick) to scratch down a few words - that's when you know you're in love.

Then, it happens again.

And again.

Soon, the lipstick details are adding layers, subplots, conflict, and the desire in you to tell the story is impossible to ignore. You lay awake in bed weighing plot points, writing dialogue in your head, and it's a beautiful thing.

Falling in love again feels good. It reminds me of how I fell in love with THE DINER ON THIRD. I hope the agents reading it are falling in love as well, but there's never a guarantee.

When it comes down to it, though, I got that beat up car on the shoulder of the road to publication running again on my own by working to create something new, something better.

With the new book on my mind, at the very least, I can stop hitting refresh in my email. I can walk away from the addictions of Facebook and Twitter. And I can experience the love of telling a story again, spending time with characters that are more like friends, and dreaming of teen readers holding copies of the book in their hands, loving it as much as I do.

"I hold it true, whate'er befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #16

Here's something to make you smile every Monday for the next few months, particularly if you're a parent of school-aged children. I'm not, but I still find it pretty entertaining.

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Writer's Journey - Rejection


Deep sigh.

It's part of the journey for sure. If you don't believe me, look at the two emails in my inbox in the last 24 hours that begin with "Thank you for allowing me the chance to view your manuscript. Unfortunately..."

Of course I knew it was the way of the world in publishing.

It's happened before. It will likely happen again.

In one of the Yahoo loops of which I'm a member, a writer recently said she received a rejection and was going to take the day to be miserable and then get back in there. Another writer in the group, one I admire dearly - Lauren Baratz-Logsted - responded to give nothing more than five minutes of sadness to any rejection.

I think it might take me longer than that to write this blog (which I'm offering as a sacrifice to the rejection gods in hopes they might be satisfied and leave me alone for a bit).

I've heard several writers and agents refer to an agent-author relationship as a marriage. If that's the case, I suppose I'm in the phase where I'm still looking for "the one." Now, I know what my unmarried friends are frustrated about!

If shopping around my manuscript to agents is parallel to premarital dating, then I'm in essence standing on the top of a building alongside I-95, completely naked, asking someone to take a chance on me.

Maybe not exactly.

And maybe that's not an image you anticipated when you started reading this post. My apologies.

As the rejections pile up, I'm holding onto hope. There are still several other agents reviewing my work right now. That said, if they all come back with "Thanks, but..." responses, I'm hoping my five minutes of depression goes slowly.

Heck, in five minutes, you can barely drink a glass of wine, let alone an entire bottle!

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it 'to the editor who can appreciate my work' and it has simply come back stamped 'Not at this address'. Just keep looking for the right address.” - Barbara Kingsolver

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Writer's Journey - Neglect

For the past week or so, I've been mulling over plans to write a string of blog posts on the writer's journey. However, what I've done is neglected my blog completely.

At first this frustrated me. Then I realized, it's definitely part of the writer's journey.

As a unpublished author, I have no one waiting for my work - no agent on my back nor publishing deadline to meet. In that situation, it's easy to take my time on a project or more likely let something else occupy my attention.

This week, Westmoreland County Community College is occupying my attention. Classes start Thursday, and although I was originally assigned late start classes that don't begin until Sept. 17, my assignment was changed and now my syllabus and lesson plans have to be ready by - tomorrow.

It's a legitimate reason to neglect my writing-in-progress. Yet, I wonder. Is it? Really?

Even with the confusion of how to turn my lectures into podcasts, couldn't I find fifteen minutes or potentially an hour in the day to write?

Am I behaving just like the students I'm about to teach in procrastinating my writing assignments until the very last minute? And why do students do that?

They tell me it's because they don't know what they want to write about. That's a nicer way of admitting they can't commit to something to write about.

Kind of how I can't commit to a controlling idea for my next book and how that's holding me back.

Other reasons?

They work better under pressure.

Hmmn. Is this ever really true? What are the chances this excuse is simply one that makes people feel better about themselves? It's admirable to be good under pressure. But what if it's not the pressure of the deadline (although I give in to the fact that helps)? What if the reason the writing got done is because the student did what so many writers insist others do?

Put your butt in the chair and just write.

Kind of how I didn't think I was going to write this blog when I opened Internet Explorer, but I just started writing, and voila - a simple blog post worth the Pulitzer!

The final reason I get from students rationalizing their last minute writing might be the most telling of all.

"Professor Girardi, I'm just not a good writer. I never was."

Deep breath.

What if it's true?

I thought I was the only writer who felt she could never put another worthwhile sentence together. Then I listened to published writers talk about the feeling after they sell a book.

The fear they might never be able to do it again.

Maybe as I face new students for the first time tomorrow, this lesson might be a good one to share with them. The insecurities with writing never completely go away. Building confidence is certainly necessary, but there will be times they question themselves.

The only thing they can do is learn how to deal with the insecurities because the essays, reports, proposals, memos, and releases will have to be written with or without confidence.

Maybe it's true that the greatest writing advice of all is to put your backside in the chair and just start writing.

"You just have to go on when it is worst and most helpless - there is only one thing to do with a novel and that is go straight on through to the end of the damn thing." -Ernest Hemingway, in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1929

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Happy Football Season!

Until they come out with the new version, which will include the line "Six-time Super Bowl Champs, this will have to do...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #16

On a Rainy Day, there's nothing better than hanging out with old Friends.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #15

I feel kind of bad posting this week's Rainy Days and Mondays video, but it's pretty funny. Besides, I think if this homemade dance video had gone according to the plan, it would not have attracted as many hits.

Since we're hanging with Beyonce today, if you haven't seen Justin Timberlake on SNL dancing to her song, check out this video too. I think you'll enjoy it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #14

It's been hot and sticky out there. Stay hydrated, and Happy Monday!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dining with Alyson Noël

The Dining with Authors series has been so fun for me. I hope you're enjoying it, too!

Today, we have bestselling YA author Alyson Noël. If you haven't discovered Alyson's Immortal series, stop reading this and go to the bookstore right now. Go ahead. We'll wait for you.

Alyson is the #1 New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling, award-winning, author of nine novels for teens and adults, including EVERMORE and BLUE MOON. Her books have won the National Reader’s Choice Award, made numerous top ten lists, chosen for the CBS Early Show’s “Give the Gift of Reading” segment, and selected for Seventeen Magazine’s “Hot List” and Beach Book Club Pick. She lives in Laguna Beach, CA where she’s working on her next book. You can visit her at: www.alysonnoel.com or www.immortalsseries.com

Tamara: Alyson, if you could have dinner with any one of your characters, whom would you choose, and what would that character eat?
Alyson: Well, I’d have to choose Damen—for purely shallow reasons of course!! He would sip a glass of elixir and gaze into my eyes while I’d try not to drip spaghetti down the front of my dress!

Tamara: What's your favorite vacation spot?
Alyson: Well, funny you should ask because I happen to have several. For lying by the pool/beach and reading—Hawaii, or more specifically Maui & Lanai. For big city fun (in the US)- New York- I love it there, though Chicago runs an awfully close second! For international big city fun- Paris- I love, love, love it there! For an exotic get away- Marrakech-it’s completely enchanting!

Tamara: What was your favorite musical group/singer when you were in high school?
Alyson: Oh, here comes the embarrassing part! Well fine, here we go, I, Alyson Noël once pledged allegiance to Adam Ant. I was ready to join his Ant Nation and listen to nothing but Ant Music. This was one of my shorter lived crushes, but still, there you go. Though I’m happy to add that I still had some small smidgen of cool left for the likes of David Bowie, U2, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, etc. Mind you, this all took place back in the eighties!

Tamara: What is the funniest prank played on OR by you?
Alyson: Well, I’m much more of a jokester than a prankster, but back when I was a flight attendant, I was performing the safety demo one day, and when we got to the part where we showed the “safety demonstration card’ that can be found in “the seatback pocket in front of you”—I didn’t realize it, but my fellow crew members, who were also good friends of mine, had attached a note to mine that said- “Date Me! Ask How!” When all the passengers erupted into laughter, I discovered what they’d done and I have to say, I thought it was pretty hilarious too!

Tamara: That is pretty hilarious. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Alyson: A princess, a mermaid, and an author. In that order.

Tamara: What question do you get asked most often about your writing? How do you answer it?
Alyson: “Where do you get your ideas from” seems to be the most common one—and my answer is always: Life! I steal from my own life on a regular basis.

Tamara: Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?
Alyson: I’ve no doubt that the soul or some form of energy lives on long after the physical body is gone. I’ve experienced way too many unexplainable phenomenons to think otherwise!

Tamara: Such cool answers. I'm really jealous about your travel hotspots. I wish I could teleport there now! Thanks again for participating!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #13

This succeeded in making my laugh out loud. I hope it does the same for you. Happy Monday!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dining with Marlene Perez

The Dining with Authors series is back today with young adult writer Marlene Perez. Her next novel The Comeback will be released August 1.

The book tells the story of Sophie Donnelly, who is one half of the most popular and powerful couple in school, until new girl Angie Vogel shows up and compromises everything. Angie steals Sophie's starring role in the school play, and, worse, her super-popular boyfriend. Sophie has been quickly dispatched to social Siberia, but not for long--she'll do anything it takes to make a triumphant comeback.

I fell in love with Marlene's "Dead IS" series over the past few months because of the great paranormal elements she includes in her fictional town of Nightshade where loveable Daisy Giordano lives amidst psychics, werewolves, vampires, and doppelgangers. The books are fun and romantic, without a doubt worth reading.

Marlene was born in Iowa and now lives in Orange County, California. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and her novels have been featured in Seventeen and Cosmopolitan. Her novel DEAD IS THE NEW BLACK was selected as an American Library Association Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.

Marlene, welcome to the Girardi Diner. For this interview, imagine we are sitting across from each other, sipping tea or coffee, enjoying a slice of our favorite cake or pie (mine's cherry pie!). It's much more fun that way!

Tamara: If you could have dinner with any one of your characters, whom would you choose, and what would that character eat?

Marlene: I'd have dinner with Daisy, my main character in the DEAD IS series. She'd cook and eat. Or we'd go to Slim's Diner for a cheeseburger. I'd say Sophie Donnelly, the main character in my upcoming release THE COMEBACK, but I'd probably somehow end up with food poisoning if I dined with her.

Tamara: Yeah, you'd probably want to avoid that. What's your favorite vacation spot?

Marlene: My favorite family vacation is a quick trip to Pismo Beach, Ca, but I'm dying to go to England to do research and soak up the atmosphere.

Tamara: What was your favorite musical group/singer when you were in high school?

Marlene: I can't name just one! I love music. If I had to pick one, I'd say David Bowie or Prince, but that makes me sound much cooler than I was. I also liked Rick Springfield and the Bay City Rollers.

Tamara: What is the funniest prank played on OR by you?

Marlene: Hmm. Funny pranks? When I was in college, I lived in a house with three other girls. We had a bunch of people over, but I left to do a quick errand. When I came back, all the furniture in the house had been moved to different rooms. So the sofa was in the kitchen, etc. That was pretty funny.

Tamara: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Marlene: A writer. Or someone who got paid to read all day.

Tamara: What question do you get asked most often about your writing? How do you answer it?

Marlene: Did I read TWILIGHT before I wrote DEAD IS THE NEW BLACK? And I answer that although I enjoyed TWILIGHT, I was more inspired by Anne Rice's VAMPIRE LESTAT books and two television shows, DARK SHADOWS, a television show featuring the vampire Barnabas Collins, which my older sister used to watch while she baby sat me, and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, which I absolutely adored. I honestly think paranormal writers who are already publishing today were more influenced by some of those cultural icons than by Twilight. It's the next generation of authors who possibly will be inspired by the Twilight saga, in my opinion.

Tamara: Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?

Marlene: Yes, I believe in ghosts. I've seen some very strange things. And besides, I like to keep an open mind.

Marlene, thanks so much for stopping by to answer some questions for us! Good luck with THE COMEBACK book release August 1.

Next week, we'll be dining with Immortals author Alyson Noel. See you then!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #12

Monday just about passed me by. Oops!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Freaky Friday: Mansfield continued

I hope the saying "Better late than never" applies here! Sorry for the delay, but as promised, in celebrating a rainy Freaky Friday, here are more details on Dracula's castle of criminals. To start it off, I'd like to share EVPs collected by Clayton and Trip, two investigators who traveled from Kentucky to Ohio for the hunt.

Both files are of the same moment, but they are from two different voice recorders. One was Trip's and the other was Clayton's. What do you hear after Clayton asks, "Terry? Do you want to say something, Terry?"

Picking up where we left off, after leaving the attic, the group traveled downstairs to the prison chapel, pictured above. At one time, members of the community would come there for service as well. They were elevated in a balcony above the prisoners. On their way back to their cells after the service, the prisoners would pass under them. One ghost hunter mentioned a feeling of sadness when walking that direction. Often times, people hear piano music in the area as well.

As you saw from the video clip last week, there are several ghostly tales from locals, former prisoners and guards, and current employees. Scott supervised our ghost hunt last week. He was an awesome tour guide and told some great stories.

The most notable story is probably when he actually felt something punch him in the kidney. He says he hit the ground and then worried about how he was going to get the two ghost hunters with him out of the building safely.

Personally, I don't really mind that something of that caliber didn't happen to me. I'm okay with it.

In fact, I didn't capture any undeniable evidence of spirit manifestation at the prison. I had some odd feelings in certain places. In the infirmary, for example, I quickly developed a sharp headache behind my left eye. It was the kind of headache that makes you a bit dizzy and begs you to close the blinds in your bedroom and dive beneath the covers.

A few others in the group felt something odd in the room including Rachelle, who felt nauseous.

When we left the room, the maladies left as well. I wish Tylenol worked that fast.

Several investigators reported spots of blackness, particularly in the East Cell Block. It came with a very eery feeling, but truth be told, moonlight coming in a certain direction could cause that area to be in deeper shadow.

We also had quite a bit of success with dowsing rods. Dowsing is an ancient skill used to find water, minerals, or oil deposits below the Earth. Some people believe that lines of high energy exist on Earth. The energy can contribute to several things including a sacred connection to God.
I personally had the opportunity use dowsing rods at Stonehenge in England. Amazingly, when I stood aligned with the stones, the L-shaped rods crossed. When I backed away from the imaginary line, they returned to their original position.

I love that we used them on the ghost hunt because it shows that modern investigators are using a combination of ancient practices along with modern equipment like infrared cameras.

Dom held the dowsing rods as we walked through the East Cell Block. When they crossed in front of a specific cell, we would take photos of the cell and ask a few questions with the voice recorders.

If you remember, a few investigators played a bit of a trick on us by throwing glass through a hole in the wall. Well, we returned the favor in the administration wing. We heard a group of investigators above us, so we sat quietly and Jami made a loud pounding noise. We stifled giggles for a few minutes as the group asked if anyone was around. Jami pounded again before we finally revealed we were there. Not exactly good ghost hunting etiquette, but fun.

At one point in the night, we heard someone screaming. Everyone stopped and looked at each other. In the silence, we heard the scream again. We backtracked to find out if anyone was screaming. There was a group behind us. One of them had opened a closet door, and the hinges screeched. False alarm.

Although I didn't catch anything impressive on my EVPs or pictures, the trip was overall worth it. We had a lot of fun, and there's nothing like that moment when your body freezes and your mind runs overtime questioning whether what you just encountered was caused by someone from the other side.

And, if you're looking to check out the evidence gathered by the other investigators, check it out at Spirited Ghost Hunting.

Here are a few more pictures from Mansfield:

Above: This is the cell where Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, spent his time in solitary confinement. Below: Feeling brave before the lights went out, I hopped into a cell, and Dom took my picture. The rest of the night, I couldn't muster the same courage to enter into a pitch black cell with an old rusty door that could close behind me.

Above: A look at how dilapidated the building is. These are stairs in one of the cell blocks. Below: You may recognize the room where Andy played the record over the loudspeaker for everyone in the prison to hear.

Above: The warden's office in the film, Shawshank Redemption. Below: Cell painted gold to be featured in Lil Wayne video "Go DJ."

Above: A look down the long hallway of the East Cell Block. Note the low railing to the left. Below: A closer view of the fine accommodations.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #11

I know I've been bad, promising more ghostly tales from Friday and then not delivering! But I have been writing, and that's what it's all about...

As a peace offering, though, I have logged on to deliver a Monday pick-you-up.

En route to Mansfield, Dom and I were joking about how we wished we had a Ghostbusters outfit, or one of those little boxes they slide across the floor and then stomp on the lever to open the box and capture the unruly ghosts. Now, by no means are we demeaning the passion of ghost hunters the world over, but we had a good laugh over it.

And it reminded me of the great movie and awesome theme song so many of us remember, so enjoy a piece of history...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Things I Learned about Myself on My First Ghost Hunt

1. I am nothing like Leia Angeletti, my brave, 17-year-old ghost-hunting heroine.
2. I am a big scaredy-cat.
3. Fear of heights and a cell block with a low railing do not mix.
4. I am not patient enough to hang out and wait for a spirit to manifest.
5. I'm a really bad ghost hunter!

The picture to the right is my favorite from last night. In it, you can see down the long hallway of the West Cell Block at the Manfield State Reformatory. If you notice the cells are on the right, and to the left is basically a cage.

The East Cell Block has no cage. There is simply a hip-high railing, and as you can imagine, several inmates were thrown to their death as a result.

The building itself is amazing. In the video posted here yesterday, a former prisoner compared it to Dracula's castle. That's an incredibly appropriate comparison for several reasons.

The exterior is spooky yet gorgeous. The architecture demands attention and fools new visitors into believing the interior could be palace-like. As you can imagine, though, that anticipation doesn't deliver.

Inside, paint is chipping from the cell bars, walls, and ceilings. Wooden floors in the former wardens' living quarters soften as you walk over them creating nearly as much fear and anxiety as the graffiti on the walls and the violent history the tour guide revealed, which plays in your mind throughout the night.

The Attic
As the stories go, an inmate was helping with work in the attic once upon a time. The guards left him, and he committed suicide by hanging. Although many of the members of Spirited Ghost Hunting have been to Mansfield several times, they had never been in the attic. It was too dangerous - because of the mess, not because of the ghosts.

But after scarfing some pizza, we headed for the attic above the East Cell Block in a group of 8 around 11 p.m. We wandered around in the dark, flash lights bouncing off the walls and lingering on massive holes in the ceiling where plaster was peeling and hanging low, feet shuffling against the mounds of dirt and dust.

Across the attic were what appeared to be shower stalls like this one, which brings me to our first point of investigation.

My husband and I were standing in this stall while other groups were in adjacent stalls. Everyone was doing their best to be still and quiet while we recorded some electronic voice phenomenon or EVPs.

Rachelle, Spirited Ghost Hunting's fearless leader, was asking questions such as why are you here, what year is it, and what is your name?

She asked if anyone was there could they give us a sign. We heard a bang on hollow metal. I recognized the sound immediately. A few minutes earlier another hunter Tonya and I had squeezed through a small door frame to find an old furnace and stairs to other aged heating or water devices. That area is on the other side of the wall from the shower stalls.

Rachelle asked more questions and again asked for a sign, a noise of any kind or movement in the room. At that moment, Dom moved next to me.

"Did you hear that?" he asked.

"Yeah, stop moving," I told him, fearing we were going to get yelled at for improper ghost hunting etiquette. We were supposed to be quiet!

"No, someone threw something at me," he said. I was standing in the doorway of the stall, so it didn't come from that direction.

The rest of the group came into our little stall. We flashed lights on the floor and found a piece of glass. Glass hitting the floor made sense with the sound both of us had heard. I assumed he stepped on something or dropped something, but he insisted the glass either fell through the hole in the ceiling of the stall or the hole on the wall.

Tonya and I insisted no one was in that room. We had just been back there. To investigate, we all filed through the doorway into the next room to find a few other ghost hunters enjoying the joke they'd just played on us!

A couple more things about the attic before we move on. The history in the building is obviously incredible. It was opened in 1896 and first housed youth offenders. They were taught trades and "reformed" before being released. Then around World War I, more serious adult offenders called it home. At one time, it housed Death Row. Although its capacity is 1,100 prisoners, the most it ever held was 3,600. Clearly, overcrowding was an issue.

That's one of the reasons why in the 1970s, officials were pushing to have it closed. The decision was made in 1978, and it took 12 years to transfer all of the prisoners before the doors closed to corrections in 1990. Now, it's privately owned and preserved as a historical landmark.

I'm not sure why so many prisoners were up in the attic or why the place hasn't gotten a paint job for 80 years. I guess it's always possible that someone got creative and jotted some notes more recently than that, but above, you can see one of the many "I was here" notes.

It's hard to make out the details, but it's from prisoner 30890, who was transferred from Cleveland to serve at Mansfield in 1933. Some of the notes included reasons for incarceration.

A number or name. A crime. A date. I guess in their everyday lives, those were the most relevant attributes.

The notes illustrate a desire similar to Brooks' need to be remembered in The Shawshank Redemption, which was filmed at Mansfield. The halfway house Brooks lived in when he left the prison was filmed in one of the prison's administration rooms.

But back to the attic. We had one more experiment for the spirits, if they were with us. Four people set their flashlights in the middle of the floor. We crowded around them.

We got our voice recorders ready, and Jami, a really nice guy and fun ghost hunter, started with the questions. The main request was for the spirit to use the battery power in the flashlights as energy, thus shutting the flash light off. A particular line of questioning yielded a flicker in one of the lights.

"Did your family not visit you? Were they ashamed of what you'd done?"

The flicker was very visible. Not groundbreaking research or ironclad proof of paranormal activity, but clearly visible. After a few questions, Jami went back to the family questions again, but no more flickers, and none of the lights were extinguished.

When you're hoping for something to happen, it's hard not to assume or conclude prematurely. For instance, take a look at this photo of Rachelle and Colleen in the attic.

If you look closely above both of their heads, you see orbs. You can see one to the left of Rachelle (who's in the brown shirt and black shorts) and one right above Colleen's head. Farther above them, you see a few other orbs floating around.

I'd conclude these are dust particles. The validity of orbs carries a heavy debate. Some people believe if there is any color to them, it means they are paranormal whereas colorless orbs are simply dust particles. Others rule them out completely. Some, still, jump at any orb in a photograph and are excited about the implications.

The night wasn't over, but this post is getting lengthy, so I'll cut today's post short and get back to you tomorrow with more details about the music videos and movies filmed at Mansfield, our experiences in the administrative living quarters and pitch black cell blocks. And of course, what's a visit to a prison without time spent in solitary confinement.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Freaky Friday: Today's the Big Day

First of all, congratulations to Robin for winning a copy of Tina Ferraro's How to Hook a Hottie! Thanks to everyone who stopped by for the interview. And Tina, good luck with the RITA next week!

So, most of my gadgets and gizmos are lined up on the couch in my office for tonight. I've charged all of my camera batteries, searched for my voice recorders and flashlights, and have stocked extra batteries. For the spiritual side of things, I have a protective crystal (at the suggestions of a Lily Dale psychic), sage (which is used for cleansing), and holy water (which my husband, who is joining me, suggested). Don't want to bring any ghosties home with me!

In other words, I'm all ready for my ghost hunt!

Tonight I'm heading to Mansfield Prison in Ohio with Spirited Ghost Hunting, a group of about 40 ghost hunters. From what I understand, we get a tour of the building with the lights on. Then they get cut, and we're free to wander with our cameras and voice recorders in the dark until 6 a.m.

6 a.m.! Those of you who know me know I like my sleep!

We'll see how it goes. Because it's the best video on Mansfield, I'm going to post the same video from last week. If you didn't watch it then, give it a go today. It's really creepy!

I'll blog all about it tomorrow! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dining with Tina Ferraro

I’m sooooo excited to kick off my Dining with Authors series today with Tina Ferraro, who writes fun, romantic tales for teens. In May, I read her book The ABC’s of Kissing Boys and loved it!

Tina is the author of three Delacorte Press young adult novels, Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress, How to Hook a Hottie, and The ABC’s of Kissing Boys. Her books have received many kudos, including a personal endorsement from Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, a 2008 American Bookseller Association Book Sense Award, and nominee status for the 2009 American Library Association Best Young Adult Book and 2009 Romance Writers of America for Best Young Adult Novel. Her fourth YA novel, When Bad Flings Happen to Good Girls, will be released in 2010.

How to Hook a Hottie is a Romance Writers of America RITA Award finalist for Best Young Adult Book. The book features Kate DelVecchio, who plans to be a millionaire before she's 21. When she agrees to go to a sports banquet with a hotshot baseball player, she stumbles upon a possible cash cow. The rest of the school is amazed that the no-nonsense Kate could hook such a hottie, and one by one approach her for help hooking their own. She doesn't know anything about getting guys, but for $100.00 a pop, she's more than willing to try, including inventing a 6-step-plan on How to Hook a Hottie. And how could that possibly backfire?

Tina lives behind a computer in Los Angeles with her rocket scientist husband, a cat who bites, and whichever of their three young adult kids happens to be home.

Tamara: Welcome to the Girardi Diner. For this interview, imagine we are sitting across from each other in an adorable diner, sipping tea or coffee, enjoying a slice of our favorite cake or pie (mine's cherry pie!). It's much more fun that way!

Tina: Oh, yes, coffee, please, and pass me some of that cherry pie! Yum...

Tamara: If you could have dinner with any one of your characters, whom would you choose, and what would that character eat?

Tina: Well, my heroine, Kate, from How to Hook a Hottie, is a cheeseburger freak. I am so-so about them... But I do love the Bleunami Burger at Island’s. So settle me a booth with Kate, order up two of those hot, drippy bleu cheeseburgers, some onion rings, two iced teas. We’re good to go!

Tamara: What's your favorite vacation spot?

Tina: We have a family home in northern Italy, and for years, we packed our kids up for summer vacations there. We’d be like the locals, cooking, taking walks and afternoon naps, and visiting with family. But we haven’t been back in a while now since our kids have gotten older and are, a-hem, less content to be without their friends and the internet.

Tamara (who’s so jealous about your last answer): What was your favorite musical group/singer when you were in high school?

Tina: If I had to name just one, I’d say The Beatles, although they were already broken up and into their solo careers by that point.

Tamara: What is the funniest prank played on OR by you?

Tina: I was in high school. My brother and family friend--both younger--poured themselves full glasses of milk with lunch, and me just a tiny drop in a plastic cup. I arrived at the table and they said, “Hey, let’s pour milk on our heads!” I tilted my cup, saw nothing, thought they were complete idiots, and said, “Sure.” I poured mine, they didn’t. I ended up with milk dribbling down my face. They screamed with laughter. And to this day, I STILL get teased by both of them. Yeah, yeah.

Tamara: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Tina: An author, wife and mom! And believe me, there were long periods where I didn’t think the right guy, a baby, or selling a book would ever happen, so they all feel like big accomplishments.

Tamara: What question do you get asked most often about your writing? How do you answer it?

Tina: Lots of readers ask how they can find a guy like my heroes. And I have to tell them that I’m no help there. However, as my kids and their friends can attest, I DO have an uncanny ability to denote secret crushes. I can often see subtle changes in people’s eyes and body movements that speak louder than words or overt actions. So some of the “tips” in How to Hook a Hottie on how to tell if you’ve got a chance with a person really DO have some weight, especially the one about the wristwatch. It works, people!

Tamara: Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not?

Tina: Interesting that you ask this because recently we did this theme at the Buzz Girls blog to celebrate the release of Marley Gibson’s Ghost Huntress series. I told the story about my first apartment and how “something” that felt like a cat used to press against me in my sofa bed. When I changed positions, it would pause, then settled back in at a slightly different spot. I never saw anything, though. And when I moved to a different neighborhood, never felt it ever again. So that said, yes...I am definitely open to the idea of the spirit world.

Tamara: Thanks so much for stopping by the diner for this interview! Good luck with the Rita Award, and keep writing, so we can keep reading!

Tina: Thanks, this was FUN.

***For a chance to win a copy of Tina’s How to Hook a Hottie, post a comment below telling us something you’ve done or seen done to hook a hottie! Be sure to leave your email address, so I can email if you win!

Learn more about Tina and her books by checking out these links:

Tina Ferraro
Buzz Girls Blog
ABCs of Kissing Boys
Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress
How to Hook a Hottie

Monday, July 6, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #10

Okay, there's nothing like this sound to make you smile.

Enjoy, and Happy Monday!

*Also, be sure to stop by Wednesday for a fun interview with author Tina Ferraro...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Fourth of July, everyone. Hopefully you're enjoying the day with hot dogs, hamburgers, pool parties, and fireworks.

For the holiday, I wanted to share with you a piece of writing that has always inspired me. It was written by the light of a campfire to boost morale in the Revolutionary War. It was copied and read to American troops at the request of then General George Washington. It succeeded in fueling the cause when soldiers stormed Trenton in a surprise attack on Hessian soldiers, which showed the British America wasn't ready to give up.

It's called the American Crisis, and it was written by Thomas Paine. Here's a snippit:

"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: 'tis dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated."

Reading this now, I'm impressed that it can be applied to so many situations, personal and political, even today. Like the best writing, it is universal and timeless.

Also, for my brother-in-law, Michel, who's serving in Iraq, all the men and women who have ever served or are serving in the military, and for my mother who loved this song:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Freaky Friday: First ghost hunt coming up...

If you've read the excerpts I posted, you know my book opens with a scene in a haunted, abandoned prison. My fearless
17-year-old ghost hunter Leia Angeletti is doing her best to catch an apparition on film to prove herself to the older investigators in her group.

I wrote this scene in mid-January. Weeks later, I located and visited with a local ghost hunting group, Spirited Ghost Hunting. They were putting their schedule of hunts together, and lo and behold, one of the first ones was a trip to Mansfield, a haunted prison in Ohio.

I believe in signs, and that was a good one!

Because of my work schedule, though, I was unable to attend, but they are going for a second visit next week, and I'm on the list! It will be my first ghost hunt. Deep breath. I'm a little scared. I'll admit it. I'm not quite as brave as my YA herione.

I'll of course tell you all about it next weekend. In the meantime, here's a bit about Mansfield. FYI - It may look familiar if you've seen the film Shawshank Redemption, as it was filmed at Mansfield.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Town that Talks to the Dead

As promised, time to talk about my weekend in Lily Dale, NY. My college roommate and dear friend, Rachida, met me there, and we had some interesting experiences that made us believers. More on that soon.

Lily Dale is a spiritualist community, boasting to be the oldest and largest in the country. It's a little gated village that charges $10 per person to enter and then allows you to attend healing and message services, ghost walks, town tours, and thought exchanges for free. There are other special events throughout the summer as well.

Rachida and I attended a healing service at the Healing Temple Friday night. Here's a look at the Healing Temple:

From what I've read about psychics and spiritual healers in my research for THE DINER ON THIRD, the mediums who were performing the healing that night may have been calling on healing spirits to help them. With my limited five senses, I'd describe the session as prayer. I sat in a chair, and the healer asked if she could touch me and if there were any health concerns she should focus on. I answered her, and she went to work.

She rested her hands on my shoulders, then my neck, then my head and back and arms before saying a prayer out loud asking for my protection and health. It was peaceful and relaxing.

Let me step back for a moment and describe Lily Dale a bit to you. I don't think I could do it better than Christine Wicker, who published a National Bestseller about Lily Dale in 2003:

"Lily Dale is sixty miles south of Buffalo, tucked off the side road of a side road to Interstate 90. It's easy to miss. Little Victorian houses sitting at the edge of a lake. A settlement of a few hundred people clinging to a religion that once had millions of believers and now has only a remnant. American flags flapping from screened porches. Fountains splashing in shady little pocket parks. Big-bellied cats strolling across streets as though they own them.

"Women set the tone in this lakeside community where houses are painted in pastels. During the height of the summer season, when twenty thousand visitors come to consult the town's mediums, it resembes nothing so much as a sorority sleepover for aging sisters...Tinsel stars and crystals hang in windows. Christmas lights twinkle from porches all year long. Stone angels stand sentry on walkways, and plaster elves march across lawns."

Among these streets of cats, crystals and Christmas lights are houses with the name of their residents written on the outside. "Janice Dreshman, Medium." The 38 registered mediums of Lily Dale (if they are registered, it means they have been tested and approved by the Lily Dale Assembly) hang signs revealing whether they are open or closed, in or out, taking appointments for the day or full. If they are taking appointments, many have a clipboard on the porch. You sign your name next to the slot you want and come back at that time. Many of the readings are 30 minutes long, although longer is acceptable.

Rachida and I both did an individual reading. Since so many people are incredibly skeptical and the readings are very personal, I won't go into details. I'll only say this. There were some points my medium made that I didn't understand. She gave names of spirits who were coming through that I could not place. She offered familiar information that led me to certain conclusions, and I realize I may have been coming to those conclusions on error. But there were three things that she said that were undeniably true and so specific there was no way I could misinterpret them.

The same was true for Rachida.

Another popular attraction for the day was the message service. If you've ever seen John Edward's TV show Crossing Over, then you have an idea of what I'm talking about. One medium would lead the service and invite other registered mediums from Lily Dale as well as visiting mediums to give two or three readings each.

The mediums all had different styles. Some would say, "I'm getting someone named Charlie coming through..." And from there other details would be given to determine whom the message was for.

Other mediums would say, "I'd like to come to the woman in the third row with the green sweater."

They asked for the person receiving the message to speak up, so they could hear their voices and then they began the message. The messages were diverse. Sometimes they were from one spirit. Sometimes there were three or four spirits around someone all coming through.

Sometimes, I believed the medium was right on, by their confidence and the expression on the face of the person receiving the message. Other times, and mostly this was with visiting mediums, I thought the medium wasn't a medium at all.

I was chosen from the crowd at one of the message services at the Forest Temple (below). Again some things made a lot of sense, and others did not. In all, though it was a really interesting experience and worth it for anyone interested in checking it out or connecting with someone on the other side.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #9

Like so many others, I was shocked to hear about Michael Jackson's death. He was incredibly talented, but his life was full of trauma and tragedy. Hopefully, he's now at peace.

Michael had his best days during my childhood, and I remember dancing to his songs in the living room. Another memory I have, though, is of a great spoof artist. You may have heard of him - Weird Al Yankovic. He satirized a few of Michael's songs, and from what I've heard Michael was a good sport about it.

When I saw Michael Jackson's video Bad on TV over the weekend, I had to laugh because I happened to know Weird Al's version better. They're incredibly similar though!

Take a look for yourself and have a laugh.

Michael's version.

Weird Al's version.

*Details on Lily Dale tomorrow...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Freaky Friday: Trip to Lily Dale

When I think back on my childhood, it's no secret I find myself writing about ghosts now. My mom was a big believer in spirits, psychics, the power of dreams, basically taking truth from things many people don't give an ounce of credit to.

Then there's my uncle. I don't think there was a weekend visit to his place that didn't involve a movie like Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Phantasm, Hellraiser, Puppet Master, Amityville and so on.

My grandmother was a fan of Poltergeist and Unsolved Mysteries, especially the ghostly cases.

See where I'm going with this?

But just as I started working on my ghost hunting tales in January, I discovered a few YA book series that I loved as well. One was the Lily Dale series by Wendy Corsi Staub.

Three Lily Dale books, Awakening, Believing, and Connecting, have already been released with Discovering coming out this fall. They tell the story of Calla Delaney, a teenage girl whose mother dies in their Tampa home. Her father is taking a job in California, but she doesn't want to go. Instead, she moves with her crazy grandma in Lily Dale, New York, a village for registered mediums and clairvoyants.

I'm not going to tell you any more about what happens to Calla, but I would recommend the books. Highly.

When I read them, I wanted to pack my car and drive the simple three and a half hours north to Lily Dale, but they were closed.

Not anymore.

Lily Dale officially opens this weekend, and I'm packing my bags when I finish this post. I'm really excited and promsie to report back any eerie happenings...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays #8

Happy Monday!

Enjoy some pet humor...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Excerpt #2

If you haven't read yesterday's post yet, read it first. Then come back to this one.

Here's where we left off:

Three men, wearing jumpsuits with the letters WSP followed by four numbers, pushed aside a washing machine and crawled into the wall behind it. They didn’t look up when I appeared in the doorway. It was as if I was the spirit intruding on their lives.

I wondered if they were residual spirits. That was something I would likely have known if our director allowed us to interview people who had reported ghost sightings in the prison before, but the Pittsburgh Investigators had a rule: We go in uninformed. We don’t care if Annie Atwood saw a floating woman wearing a white gown, or if Joey Jenkins came face to face with a Civil War soldier. Prior knowledge could taint the investigation. Instead, we go in blind. We record our findings and then compare them to other reports made over the years.

I would have loved to know something about these men, to garner some way to communicate with them. In my three short years of investigating hauntings, I’d never seen an actual apparition before, let alone three at once.

And they looked so real.

Let’s get this straight. I don’t scare easily. Or at all. Under normal circumstances. But seeing three apparitions so clearly they could be human – that’s not normal. It brought on symptoms I rarely experienced: heart beating fast, breath coming short and quick, knees weakening.

If there was a possibility to get more of this on film, I was so in. I unstrapped a walkie-talkie from my belt. “Hey, guys, this is Leia in the basement. Can anyone hear me?”

I tapped my toes and counted to five.

“Anyone up there? Zito? Connor? Monica? Something pretty crazy is happening down here. Anyone?”

All I got was static.

“Forget this.” I set the walkie-talkie on top of the washing machine while I shifted two motion detectors from my backpack to my belt. Monica would want to know about something like this, but if she didn’t answer, what was I supposed to do? I was already a few seconds behind the spirits, if they were even still around. Use your best judgment, Monica would say. I took a deep breath, made the sign of the cross, squeezed my small frame behind the washer and crawled into the wall.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A novel is born this weekend, Excerpt #1

Happy Friday, everyone!

I had plans to spend this weekend in a haunted campground with a local ghost hunting group. It would have been my first ghost hunt, but rainy days prevented that.

I was particularly excited because tonight, my main character, Leia Angeletti, goes on a very important ghost hunt in the world of fiction. In fact, when I started writing my book in January, I chose tonight's date for the opening chapter (technically it's tomorrow morning at 1 a.m.). It seemed so long ago, but now it's here!

For that reason, I'm going to share Leia's experiences with you this weekend.

These are the opening pages of my young adult book. Check back often to see how the scene unfolds!

June 20, 2009, 1:01 a.m.
Chapter 1
I held the voice recorder to my mouth and said, “June 20th, approximately 1 a.m., the former Western State Penitentiary. Hello? I’m Leia. Is anyone in the room with me?”

My voice filled the basement and echoed off the cement walls.

I waited.


“I bet some painful things happened down here. Wanna talk about it?”

According to my thermometer, the air around me dropped from 60 degrees to a chilly 48. The cold and its implication made me shiver inside my Pittsburgh Steelers sweatshirt.

“I know you’re here. Come on. Make a noise for me.”

Still, nothing.

“I guess you aren’t strong enough to make a noise.”

Metal crashing across the room proved me wrong. I smiled. Provoking spirits is a piece of cheesecake. That might have something to do with eternally being trapped between two worlds. That much solitude, and I’d be ready to communicate, too.

“Betcha can’t do that again.”

My provocation was rewarded by a series of noises at the other end of the basement. I switched on the night vision camera to see a mess of tools spread across the floor next to a workbench. A few nails were still rolling around.


The green light on my recorder dimmed, then faded completely. It was 1:08 a.m. Less than ten minutes in, and the batteries were already dead.

Using the light from my cell phone, I pulled two AAA batteries from my backpack, hoping the new ones wouldn’t fall victim to spirit manifestations. I brought backups to every investigation, but I wasn’t exactly a walking Radio Shack.

Across the room I heard footsteps. Looking through the lens of the night vision camera, I saw a dark figure turn the bend into what was once the prison laundry room at the end of the hallway.

I pumped my fist in the air celebrating victory, blew out a deep breath and followed, stepping lightly, but there was no escaping the loud pounding in my chest.

My family doesn’t care to understand the rush I get from “this stuff.” She’s only 17. She shouldn’t be chasing ghosts. She should be curling her hair and going to dances. If her mother was around, she would be a normal girl.

I’d heard it all. Of course my father and aunts didn’t know at that moment I was alone in the basement of one of the most haunted buildings in the state.

“And they don’t need to know,” I mouthed, so the camera didn’t pick up the words.

Instead, it hopefully recorded the sound of the boots pounding against the cement floor. They stopped in the laundry room. I could hear whispering as I approached. I stopped and coached myself through a few short breaths, but nothing could prepare me for what I saw around that corner.

More soon...

Monday, June 15, 2009

If that wasn't enough...

If Rainy Days and Mondays wasn't enough for you this morning, spend some time with the Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The parade was incredible, and seeing my personal favorite Evgeni Malkin and that gorgeous cup sparkling in the sunshine was worth the heat, the wait, the walk, and the crowd.

Above: A portion of the parade route on the Boulevard of the Allies. I love the crazed fans hanging off the parking garage! Below: Here comes the parade!

Below: The man who made it possible by saving the Pens twice - Mario Lemieux!

Above: Tyler Kennedy...Kennedy! Below: Jordan Staal came up huge, scoring a short-handed goal for the Pens in Game 4 of the finals.

Above: My number one Penguin, Evgeni Malkin with the Conn Smythe Trophy awarded to the playoff MVP. He's my personal favorite for league MVP! (Again, I may be biased). Since he's my fav, one more of Geno below...

Here comes the Cup!

Below: Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury hoists the Cup over his head with captain Sidney Crosby by his side.

Awesome team. Awesome season. Awesome parade. Thanks, guys.

Rainy Days and Mondays #7

Nobody could ask for a better weekend.

Really. It was the kind of weekend that keeps giving, even through Monday morning. But there are some people who read this blog outside of Pittsburgh who aren't feeling the exhilaration we are, and there are Pittsburghers who will be stuck in offices today during the Stanley Cup Parade for the victorious Pittsburgh Penguins.

For those, reasons, I'm happy to share the three amazing events that have me waking up happy today!


The New Kids on the Block concert was great. Kudos to Donnie for coming out on stage with a Penguins towel. He said Pittsburgh is one of the greatest cities to visit, and he's right!

I might be biased.

The New Kids sing a song called Dirty Dancing. Before they sang the song at the concert, they played a clip that made the crowd go wild. Here it is:


Wow. After listening to announcers and should-be fans saying the Penguins couldn't do it, Pittsburgh defeated Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals. And it came down to the final seconds, just like the Super Bowl.

I'm happy to have two championship teams in the city this year, but I might have an ulcer as well.

Congratulations to Talbot, Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and the rest of the Pens. What a comeback season. Here's a look back at Game 7.

By the way the crowd goes wild when Talbot scores, you'd think it was a home game for the Pens!


I took my niece to see the Broadway Musical Legally Blonde. It's such a fun show. And again, kudos to the lead, Becky Gulsvig, who plays Elle Woods for making her curtain call with a Sidney Crosby jersey on. Go Pens!

Here's a look at the opening number for the musical.

Well, I guess this is plenty to keep you from being productive today at the office. Happy Monday!