Bouchercon and the Queen Mary

Hi Reading Friends,

I have to write this like a letter today, because I’m still so wrapped up in last week’s trip to Long Beach, CA and the Bouchercon experience.  But, just so that this doesn’t become too blah, blah, blah . . .

Contest Coming!

I ended up with some great stuff from the event, and I’d like to share it with you.  Please read my next few posts on Bouchercon, and you may win some of the SWAG (Stuff We All Get) from my adventure.

My Ghostly Adventure

Picture of My room on the Queen Mary

My room on the Queen Mary

At the conference I was lucky enough to stay on board the Queen Mary cruise ship. I only brought my phone for photos this time and didn’t do a great job of snaps, but my friend, Catherine Dilts, has some terrific shots on her blog this week.

The Queen Mary is permanently docked in Long Beach and acts as a hotel now.  The atmosphere has been restored to that of its glory years from 1936 to 1939, when she carried such luminaries as Bob Hope, Clark Gable, Winston Churchill, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The promenade decks have the original wood floors, there are life sized posters of photos from the grand era, and the main ballroom is an exquisite art-deco period room (yes, I got to see it on the tour). In short, if you have a chance to visit and don’t, you need to turn in  your historian of the year badge. This place is great!

View of the Queen Mary Grand Ballroom

In the day, you could track the two great Cunard liners with this map in the Grand Ballroom.

Anyway, the first evening on board I went on the Queen’s ghost tour.  Oh my goodness!  Our guide, Thomas, took us to places you can’t go to normally.  He told us wonderfully creepy stories of people being woken in the night by strangers holding wrenches and lights who shake them awake then disappear in the shaking of sheets. Then we went to a room that the hotel stopped renting out because people reported such frightening experiences they wouldn’t (or couldn’t) stay in it another night.  The room had been stripped bare even of the beautiful wood veneer that lined the walls of the ship. It was cold, dark and creepy. I was thrilled.

Needless to say, by the end of the  tour, I was whispering in the dark that the ghosts could skip visiting my room if they’d like.

Picture of Thomas, our Queen Mary ghost tour guide

Thomas, our Queen Mary ghost tour guide

The next morning, I started recording “ghosties,” my personal experiences with the “not-quite-normal.”  Here are a couple of them:

“6:15am – Just a moment ago, my alarm went off–for the second time this morning.  It is set for 5:15 and I had woken to the alarm an hour ago, turned the thing off completely, even acknowledging the “if you turn this off, it won’t ring again” warning. I rechecked and the alarm is indeed off.”  Ghostie!

“7:04 am – Well, not really, but odd.  I’m at the Passport Bus Stop waiting for the free bus to take me over to the convention.  A taxi pulls up and the driver asks if I called for a cab. I said no, and he says to me, “So your name’s not Lisa?” I replied, “Yes, I’m Lisa, but I didn’t call a cab.”  He rephrased his question saying that the front desk had called for me, but again I said no.  The cab drove off into the parking lot.  I looked down at my reading and thirty seconds later there’s no sign of him or the cab.” Ghostie!

Picture of Hallway on the Queen Mary

Would you walk this hallway late at night?

Whether or not these are true ghostly experiences, I had the thrill of a chill, and they may just make story sparks sometime.

And the locals seem to believe that the Queen Mary is truly haunted.  A couple of the bus drivers mentioned it and a special needs man was absolutely certain the ship is haunted. He said “everybody knows it’s haunted. It’s haunted all right.”

Do  you believe in ghosts?

Even though science has yet to prove the existence of ghosts and form after death, almost 50% of Americans believe in them. A CBS poll in 2005 had 48% of Americans believing and a 2013 Huffington Post survey confirmed 45% hold on to this thought.  Where do you stand?  Are ghosts a part of your life?  Do you like ghost stories?

Have a creep-free, but perhaps chilling week, my friend.

Pre-Travel Notes

Keeping things short today.  I’m off to California and need to finish packing.

First, thank you to everyone who posted remembrances of their special veterans yesterday.  I  hope the hard lessons of Viet Nam veterans’ treatment always stay in our minds as we learn to thank those who put their lives on the line for the rest of us in every situation–from peace keeping at our embassies, to sacrifices in the fields of war, to building hospitals and distributing food to areas hit hard by disease and natural disasters. All of our armed service personnel deserve our respect.  Thank you Sam and Uncle Jack–peace be with you.

Second, I have a few friends with book launches coming up.  Please keep these folks in your thoughts:

  • Donnell Ann Bell – Buried Agenda – November 7th.  This is Donnell’s fourth book, and is bound to be a success: “Diana Reid is an investigative reporter skilled at uncovering other people’s secrets. It’s her own that she works to keep buried. . .”
  • Bruce Most – Rope Burn – Book signing. “For those of you in the Denver area, I will be signing copies of ROPE BURN this coming weekend at the Colorado Authors’ League booth at the Junior League’s Holiday Mart.”
  • Mark Stevens – Trapline - Book Launch Party November 21, 7:00 at the Tattered Cover, LoDo — This is Mark’s third in the Allison Coil mystery series. “Allison’s third adventure (Buried by the Roan, 2011, etc.) combines a loving portrait of a beautiful area with an ugly, all-too-believable conspiracy that could have been ripped from today’s headlines.
    - Kirkus Reviews

Wishing you a happy, safe week.

Prophet does Halloween

Prophet is getting old for a dog.  He’s over eight now, and I’m spotting grey whiskers, discolored eyebrow hairs and a general slowing of his body.  You’d think he’d be done with all this Halloween nonsense. I mean, I didn’t trick-or-treat past seventh grade (and even then, I was allowed out only because I was collecting for UNICEF by then).  Grown ups like Prophet and me are supposed to be done with all that silly child’s play.

Front Door Halloween Wreath

This is as spooky as my house gets

But no.  No matter how hard I try to be all serious and calm, the bobbing pumpkins come out each year from my basement storage box, along with “Casper” my front porch ghost.  And I remember the extravaganzas my small family and I would make of Halloweens past.

I’ll never forget the year my elder daughter rigged up a skeleton to drop from the ceiling of our front porch as we opened the door to give out candy.  Or the costumes put together with sweatshirts, baseball caps and face paint.  I was never one for masks.

And the dog!  Whichever one we had always seemed enthusiastic either for the open front door (opportunity to escape), or the candy he’d inevitably get into.

Prophet's Ready for Halloween

Prophet’s Ready for Halloween

For the past couple of years, my good guy and I have been away from home on Halloween night, and I missed handing out the goodies.  I love seeing the small princesses and ninja “men” parade up to my door.  Even the “kids” who I had to tilt my head up to see in their ghoulish interpretations of “fooling the bad spirits” were fun.

So this year, Prophet and I decided to stay home and welcome the trick-or-treat-ers once again.  My decorations were kept simple–by now I realize exactly who has to box them all up again–and I didn’t precisely get dressed for the occasion.  In years past I put on a sweatshirt with happy ghosts and corn candy dancing all over the bright orange background.  This year I put on a Broncos sweatshirt and my guy said it was a perfect costume of a football fan (I wouldn’t know–I hardly watch football any more).  I sat in my living room with the drapes open and the lights on.

Five o’clock came.  I hoped I wouldn’t be eating dinner when the first little ones arrived. Nope. No doorbell rings.

Six o’clock came. Dinner was done and no one came.  We started to watch a recorded television show, then stopped.  Wouldn’t want to be interrupted with Halloween passing-out-candy duties.  I grabbed my iPad and began playing games.

At Last! Trick-or-Treaters!

At Last! Trick-or-Treaters!

Seven o’clock, three Sudoku, and four Spider Solitaire games later, the first ring came. Yippee!  I jumped up from the couch.  Prophet came racing in from the kitchen, all blasts of his vocal chords working well.  We just about scared the poor little Kermit and Miss Piggy out of their wits with our enthusiastic “Happy Halloween!”  Each child had to be thoroughly sniffed before giving the few pieces of candy out.  At least Proph stayed in the house–sort of.

By nine o’clock Prophet and I had gone to the door maybe four times.  The children this year were all in sweet costumes. No scary stuff. No big kids. No hordes driven in vans from neighborhoods far away.  It was quiet–except for the one occasion when I heard a light paper crunching sound and caught Prophet stealing a couple of candy bars.  Meanie that I am, I took that chocolate right away from him.  The witches caldron was still almost full.  I suspect Prophet was trying to help me feel better, by taking some of that nasty stuff I was pushing on unsuspecting astronauts and Snow Whites.

Hidden Treasure in the Pantry

Shhh!!! Don’t tell anyone, but I’ll have candy for weeks yet.

I saved the nasty stuff from Prophet’s care and for the past five days have lived in a sugar high that I know will be my undoing.  I finally hid the candy in my pantry, but I know where those goodies are.  Maybe next year we’ll have more trick-or-treaters, but if not, Prophet and I won’t be too sad.  We know how to fill and empty that witch’s caldron.