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.

Travels with Chihuly

Before I begin my post today, thank you to everyone who commented on Letizia’s copyright page post last week. I am overwhelmed. It was wonderful to welcome so many great readers to this site, and I hope you’ll return often. But onward in the adventures of an aspiring writer . . .

Most of my life is spent working in the foundational levels of Maslow’s hierarchical needs, so, for me, it is a real treat to visit museums, zoos and other public places that nurture the mind as well as the body.

Chihuly InformationThis past weekend my wonderful niece treated me with a visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens, spending an afternoon in “girl time” amongst wonderful plantings, themed gardens and the world-renouned Dale Chihuly traveling art collection.

Wow! Up close or far away these sculptures demand attention. They capture sunlight in glistening reflections, they glow with bright colors, and they make you wonder exactly how you could go about making something like that.  Did I say Wow? These sculptures were amazing.

Picture of Perennial Fiori by Chihuli

Felt like I was walking amongst Truffula Trees.

One of the more common phrases I caught while walking about was that the sculptures reminded people of Dr. Seuss books.  As he’s still one of my favorite authors, I tend to agree, and think the creatives are the two poles that span a very strong magnet . . .

I don’t know how Mr. Chihuly would feel about being compared to a children’s book author.  He has a very serious background with honors and distinctions that go back to 1968 when he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship that allowed him to travel to Italy to study glassworks there. He incorporated his experience in team glass blowing into the work he’s continued through today, and co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington.

Monet Pool Fiori

And to think that I saw it at Denver Botanic Gardens

Theodor Geisel, on the other hand, had his first book rejected 27 times before he happened to bump into a friend who’d just become the editor of the children’s section of a publishing house. Mr. Geisel told his friend he was ready to give up.  Thank goodness the friend asked to have a look at To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

I wonder if Mr. Chihuly ever read that book?

Picture of My niece with Blue and Purple Boat

My niece with Blue and Purple Boat

Road Trip

We could have taken a plane to the wedding last weekend.  We could have gone through the hassle of trips to the airport (probably speeding because we would probably be late),  found parking (after 300 or more slips of the tongue into F-bomb territory).   We could have gone through security (a nightmare in itself). And at the other end of the ride we would have no car and no way to stop at Einstein Bagels for breakfast the next day.  Instead, my good guy and I decided to drive.

HotelBristol, Steamboat

Quaint and fun!

Road trip!  Whoo Hoo!  Denver to Park City Utah in about eight hours. How cool. Driving is a little different for us these days.  No big family van to haul kids, pets, and petrified french fries that had dropped “somehow” in the days and weeks before.  No fighting over which Disney video we would watch next.  No “are we there yet?” (well, except I guess I kept saying that to my handsome driver who politely ignored me).

Hubby and I drove his zippy little car, setting the cruise control and driving on and on.  What a wonderful way to go.  When you take a plane, it’s almost like being in some futuristic teleport. You step into a box and after a set of time, you step out of that box in an entirely new place.  But with a car ride you see everything.

First we stopped in Steamboat Springs for the night and stayed in a hotel that could have come right out of a Zane Grey western.  The halls were narrow, our room only large enough to hold the bed, and room keys that were real room keys (not the plastic cards that most hotels have these days).  I saw a few old-fashioned telephones and was charmed entirely by “old town” Steamboat.  The next morning I had to have had the world’s largest cinnamon bun.  I swear the plate was eight inches around and filled to the brim with pastry and sugary goo. Wonderful! Of course, I didn’t have room to each much else the entire day, but who cares? Sugar highs are the best, right?

World's biggest cinnamon bun

World’s biggest cinnamon bun

We drove through the day Friday and I have to say, I can’t believe I haven’t explored more of Colorado since we moved here so long ago.  The state is beautiful. Truly. Our trip had us drive through many small towns with quaint “Main Streets” and what seems like a quieter lifestyle. Simple homes dotted the landscape everywhere we went.

And what a landscape!  When we first moved to this part of the country, I couldn’t understand how people could tell one mountain apart from another.  But I promise you, if you’d been on this trip with me and my guy, you’d be hard put NOT to name the various mountains we saw.  Each one was unique.  Every five minutes we’d blink and see an entirely new vista.  Some were barren and looked almost like sand dunes.  Others were covered in a blanket of pine trees.

And then Utah took me by surprise as well.  Not sure what I’d been thinking before.  Something about deserts as far as the eye could see.  I guess I thought that with the border between Colorado and Utah, the mountains all belonged to Colorado and the flat dry lands belonged to that other state. Wrong-o!

Utah had a lot of cities along a scenic trip through many more beautiful mountains.  Many of those places were surprisingly large–not mining towns per se, but oil and gas cities with all of the chain stores you might ever want to see.  They were modern, clean, and bustling.

Then we arrived in Park City. My goodness, what a breathtakingly beautiful spot up in the mountains.  One thing that caught my eye was the “shoe tree” where apparently a few guys got drunk one night and threw their shoes into the tree. People had been adding their shoes ever since, and when we drove by, the tree looked like it was an apple tree with shoes instead of fruit. Hmm.

Fly Fishing with Park City on the Fly

Fly Fishing with Park City on the Fly

Over the weekend we celebrated my sister and new brother’s wedding, went on an adventure called a “ropes course” at the Olympic Village, and enjoyed fly fishing. Fly fishing!  No, it’s not just because I’m getting so old that this was fun.  It was great to stand in a river and feel the current pushing constantly against us.  I loved the casting (mostly, I think, because our guide kept telling me I was doing well). And yes, I caught a fish. Two even. But they were little guys and I felt mean. Jen, our guide, took them off the hook for me, we snapped a photo or two and released the little guys back into the river.  That’s the way fly fishing can work these days.  Most people don’t keep what they catch.  We just look at the beautiful creatures for a moment and let them go.

Kind of like special events. We dive into them completely, enjoy them tremendously, and then let them go, keeping only the memories.  My sister, after enjoying her wedding let her shoes go into the shoe tree.