Category Archives: COMMUNITY

Guest Blog Post – Rachel Dacus

I am so honored a pleased to bring you a  guest post from author Rachel Dacus, whose time travel romance novel, The Renaissance Club, was released in January!

In this post, Rachel shares with us what got her interested in writing and how reading led her to her dream of becoming an author.

How I Began to Want to Write

Writing is nothing but wanting to tell a story so much you actually learn how to. I had that desire at age ten. I blame my mother, who took me to Acre of Books in downtown Long Beach, California and encouraged me to pick out books. I found my books by color: a row of colorful, clothbound books written by a man named L. Frank Baum. I remember the word “Oz” was stamped in gold on their spines. It was a short hop down the Yellow Brick Road to the Writing Wishing Well, my source of all inspiration and aspiration to tell a good story.

Next came the colored fairytale books, notably the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. The idea of a kingdom under my bed was so appealing that I began to imagine alternate kingdoms everywhere—in my back yard, down the block, in the ravine, over the hill.

Then came Nancy Drew. Mysteries! After all, everything in my world, and every kingdom I could imagine, was mysterious. At the age of ten, eleven, and twelve, there’s so much you notice and don’t understand. And the adults in your life are always telling you they’ll explain it all when you’re older.

My first novel was called The Prisoner of the Locked Room. It was 100 pages long! I can’t imagine what I wrote because I still didn’t understand that a mystery revolved around a murder. I don’t believe at that age I had yet heard of murders. I led a sheltered childhood. So, I wrote all around this mysterious locked room, with its nameless prisoner—why imprisoned? Who? I decided to figure that out later. But I also decided to better Nancy Drew, and devised twin girl sleuths! Double the fun, double the fancy clothes, double the mystery-solving! Now all I needed was an actual mystery.

I trace my love of literature to the lavish amounts of bedtime reading aloud my mother did. I learned to love words and stories so young. Hopefully, every child in the world can be read to. And I not only learned to love words, but to make them. I was the kid who brought a typewriter to fourth grade, so I could write a play for the class to enact. The Westward Expansion may never be the same, but the thrill of hearing my words and story spoken aloud is unforgettable. Thanks, Mom, for reading to me and teaching me touch typing—giving me a love of language and an important tool to write!

The Renaissance Club Media Kit

By Rachel Dacus

Fiery Seas Publishing

January 23, 2018

Time Travel Romance

May Gold, college adjunct, often dreams about the subject of her master’s thesis – Gianlorenzo Bernini. In her fantasies, she’s in his arms, the wildly adored partner of the man who invented the Baroque.

But in reality, May has just landed in Rome with her teaching colleagues and older boyfriend who is paying her way. She yearns to unleash her passion and creative spirit, and when the floor under the gilded dome of St Peter’s basilica rocks under her feet, she gets her chance. Walking through the veil that appears, she finds herself in the year 1624, staring straight into Bernini’s eyes. Their immediate and powerful attraction grows throughout May’s tour of Italy. And as she continues to meet her ethereal partner, even for brief snatches of time, her creativity and confidence blossom. All the doorways to happiness seem blocked for May-all except the shimmering doorway to Bernini’s world.

May has to choose: stay in her safe but stagnant existence or take a risk. Will May’s adventure in time ruin her life or lead to a magical new one?

Buy Links

ISBN: 978-1-946143-41-9  ~  eBook  ~  $6.99

ISBN: 978-1-946143-42-6  ~  Paperback  ~  $16.99

Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble  ~  Kobo  ~  iBooks 

~  Praise for The Renaissance Club  ~

Enchanting, rich and romantic…a poetic journey through the folds of time. In THE RENAISSANCE CLUB, passion, art, and history come together in this captivating tale of one woman’s quest to discover her true self and the life she’s meant to lead. Rachel Dacus deftly crafts a unique and spellbinding twist to the time-traveling adventure that’s perfect for fans of Susanna Kearsley and Diana Gabaldon. — Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author

The Renaissance Club is a beautifully written story about a woman torn between two worlds—the present and the distant past. This time-travel adventure kept me guessing until the end about which world May would choose, and if that choice would be the right one. Highly recommended for lovers of time travel fiction or anyone looking for a compelling story about a woman trying to find happiness. — Annabelle Costa, Author of The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend.

The Renaissance Club shimmers with beauty, poetry, and art. Author Rachel Dacus sweeps her readers away to Italy with her, lifting the senses with the sights, sounds, and tastes of that stunning country; imparting her deep knowledge of Renaissance and Baroque art while immersing the reader in a gorgeously romantic story. This book is time travel at its best! — Georgina Young-Ellis, author of The Time Mistress Series

About the Author:

Rachel Dacus is the daughter of a bipolar rocket engineer who blew up a number of missiles during the race-to-space 1950’s. He was also an accomplished painter. Rachel studied at UC Berkeley and has remained in the San Francisco area. Her most recent book, Gods of Water and Air, combines poetry, prose, and a short play on the afterlife of dogs. Other poetry books are Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau.

Her interest in Italy was ignited by a course and tour on the Italian Renaissance. She’s been hooked on Italy ever since. Her essay “Venice and the Passion to Nurture” was anthologized in Italy, A Love Story: Women Write About the Italian Experience. When not writing, she raises funds for nonprofit causes and takes walks with her Silky Terrier. She blogs at Rocket Kid Writing.

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The Power of Words

The power of words is a wonderful thing. How often do you get lost in a novel and some line or passage knocks the wind out of you and makes you want to read it again . . . and again?  Here are some of my favorite passages from some of my favorite novels. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do–and I hope you share some of yours with me!

Indigenous peoples in Brazil (Wikipedia)

“…The question is whether or not you choose to disturb the world around you, or if you choose to let it go on as if you had never arrived. That is how one respects indigenous people. If you pay any attention at all, you’ll realize that you could never convert them to your way of life anyway. They are an intractable race. Any progress you advance to them will be undone before your back is turned. You might as well come down here to unbend the river. The point then, is to observe the life they themselves have put in place and learn from it.” ~ Ann Patchett, State of Wonder.

“Babe could feel it as he wiped his bat down with a rag. He could feel all their bloodstreams as he stepped to the plate and horse-pawed the dirt with his shoe. This moment, this sun, this sky, this wood and leather and limbs and fingers and agony of waiting to see what would happen was beautiful. More beautiful than women or words or even laughter.” ~ Dennis Lehane, The Given Day

Robert Duvall as Augustus Mc Crae – Lonesome Dove (Pinterest)

“As was his custom, Augustus drank a fair amount of whiskey as he sat and watched the sun ease out of the day. If he wasn’t tilting the rope-bottomed chair, he was tilting the jug. The days in Lonesome Dove were a blur of heat and as dry as chalk, but mash whiskey took some of the dry away and made Augustus feel nicely misty inside–foggy and cool as a morning in the Tennessee hills. He seldom got downright drunk, but he did enjoy feeling misty along about sundown, keeping his mood good with tasteful swigs as the sky to the west began to color up. The whiskey didn’t damage his intellectual powers any, but it did make him more tolerant of the raw sorts he had to live with . . .” ~ Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove

“An old man’s palsy overtook his hands and they reached for her face. He kissed her forehead. In that extraordinary and unstoppable act he realized, not without a twinge of pride, that he loved her, and that he, Thomas Stone, was not only capable of love, but that he had loved her for seven years. . . Love so strong, without ebb and flow or crests and troughs, indeed lacking any sort of motion so that it had become invisible to him these seven years, part of the order of things outside his head which he had taken for granted.” ~Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

“And I pray one prayer–I repeat it till my tongue stiffens–Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you–haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul.” ~Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

Writing A Book: What Does it Take?

If you have always wanted to write a book but haven’t started yet, you might wonder what does it take?

One of the things you have to ask yourself is WHY you want to write a book. Is it because you have a good idea or have a message you want to share with the world? Is it because you want fame and fortune? Is it because you think it is easy and fun, but you just haven’t taken the time to do it yet?

Coming to terms with your reasons for pursuing such a time consuming task is important. As I mentioned in my article “Why Do You Want to Write?” writing is an emotional endeavor. “Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, want to educate or entertain, the end goal is to stimulate an emotional reaction or response from your readers. The fastest and easiest way to do this is to understand your own emotions and what brings you to the computer or the notebook to put your thoughts, emotions, knowledge and stories on the page.” []

Most successful writers write because they have no choice. It is a part of who they are, part of their identity. It is  their chosen way to communicate their ideas, messages, and dreams to the world. For most writers, writing is a PASSION. They pursue writing and a career in writing as a life-long commitment and cannot imagine a world in which they don’t write. Other people feel that they have a book in them and want to write and publish that one book. In either case, each type of writer’s reasons are not to be diminished or taken lightly because writing a book, and more importantly finishing a book, takes a lot of planning, discipline and commitment. To write a book and write it well, you must be completely invested in your project until it comes to fruition. Completing a book can take a few as several weeks (yes, I know people who have written and finished their books in a matter of weeks) to several years, even decades in some instances.

Whether writing is a passion for you, and you do it every day of your life, or if it is the means to an end for getting your particular story or message out to the world, writing a book takes a certain kind of fortitude that doesn’t come easily to everyone.

Most successful writers are avid and voracious readers. They have a love of the written word and can’t wait to get lost in a story or a message or a particular method or philosophy. They also know the importance of reading genres or books that are much like the book they want to write. Successful writers also know the value in reading and learning from books that are not in their particular genre, or even in books that highlight a topic they have no interest in—books that stretch their thinking, their learning, and their area of expertise.

One of the most important factors in writing a book, finishing a book, or pursuing a lifetime of writing books, is for the writer to give himself/herself permission to pursue their craft. A writer must first take themselves seriously as a writer and give themselves the time and space to work on their book.

Finding both physical and mental space to write is supremely important. Seek out a place where you can be undisturbed and focused. It can be a corner of your room, an entire office, the family’s dining room table, or your local coffee shop or book store. Pick a place that makes you feel good, inspired, and productive.

Finding mental space can be a bit more challenging. The writer must allow himself/herself time to write. Many writers write every day, but it isn’t always necessary. You must find time where you can, and I would suggest making a date with yourself to write or schedule a time in your calendar to write and treat that time as you would any other appointment. Canceling or not showing up would be rude, right? Don’t do that to yourself!

Sometimes it is too easy for us to put our writing on the back-burner or to make it the last thing on our to-do list. Until you become a professional writer, you generally aren’t getting paid to produce, so it can be difficult to make it a priority. But, to write and finish a book, you have to make yourself and your project a priority. You work hard at your day job, hard for your family and friends, hard at your volunteer efforts. Why wouldn’t you work hard for yourself? Treat writing as your reward for all that you do for others. After all, you deserve it!

So, what does it take? There are many components that go into producing a good book like understanding why you want to write the book and then allowing yourself the time and space to do so. In the next several months I will be writing more articles like this one to help you on your journey to writing and finishing your book. I hope you join me and I look forward to your comments!



Skyline Drinking

In my last blog post “Returning to the Past,” I wrote about attending  the San Francisco Writer’s Conference last week. I came across this post that I wrote after my first SFWC and visit to the Mark Hopkins Hotel in 2014. I hope you enjoy it!

First Posted February 21, 2014

A stay at the Mark Hopkins would not be complete without a visit to its penthouse bar, the Top of The Mark. While at the San Francisco Writer’s conference at the hotel, two of my writer friends and I decided to take in the views while sipping our wine and talking shop. Two of my favorite pastimes!

In 1939, George Smith, owner of the Mark Hopkins converted the large 11 room penthouse suite on the hotel’s 19th floor into a cocktail lounge. Famed San Francisco journalist Herb Caen wrote that while it was being built, Smith  said to his colleagues, “I don’t know what to call the top of the Mark.” They told him, “That’s it.” He asked, “What’s it?” They replied, “The Top of the Mark,” and that’s how the now famous bar got its name.

The Top of the Mark features gigantic glass panels that were designed to withstand the seacoast’s gales which can reach up to 125 miles an hour. The panels also offer a breathtaking 360 degree panoramic view. Visitors from all over the world come to enjoy the lounge whether or not they stay in the hotel. It is perfect for special events like birthdays, anniversaries, retirement parties or just to celebrate the end of the day — which shouldn’t be too difficult as the bar offers a menu of over 100 different martinis.

During World War II, San Francisco was a stop off point for soldiers going out to war in the Pacific. Servicemen would gather to share a farewell drink and take in the sunset before shipping out. A tradition of the “squadron bottle” was started. A serviceman would buy a bottle of spirits and leave it with the bartender so the next visiting  soldiers from his unit could enjoy a free drink upon their return. The only rule was that whomever had the last sip must buy the next bottle.

When it came time for the soldiers to depart, their families would gather in the lounge’s northwest corner where they could watch their loved ones in their ships sail out to sea beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. This corner became known as “Weeper’s Corner.”

Today, hopefully, there is not much sorrow associated with the lounge, only relaxation and celebration. If you are ever in San Francisco, a visit to the Top of the Mark should definitely climb to the top of your to-do list! I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Why Do You Want to Write?

Writing is an emotional endeavor. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, want to educate or entertain, the end goal is to stimulate an emotional reaction or response from your readers. The fastest and easiest way to do this is to understand your own emotions and what brings you to the computer or the notebook to put your thoughts, emotions, knowledge and stories on the page.

So, I challenge you: What is it? Why do you want to write?

dreamstime_m_17667455For me, from a very young age, I loved hearing and reading stories. Some of my earliest memories are of my father reading to my brother and me before bedtime. Once I learned to read on my own, my dad made sure I had a number of books to keep me occupied. The Nancy Drew Mysteries, The Orphalines, Black Beauty, and The Black Stallion were among many. I read biographies, books about art, history, and world events. I fell in love with immersing myself in another world, living other people’s experiences and realities, and traveling to different settings, either real or imagined. I found myself wanting to provide that kind of experience for others through my own creative imagination and started writing stories and poetry as early as the third grade.

My favorite things to write are historical and contemporary mysteries, along with my own blog, because I want to educate and entertain. I also want to lose myself in a world of my own creation with characters I’ve created from my imagination, or from people I have met and known, or from famous people in history.

My agent, the wonderful Paula Munier, once told me that people love to read and write mysteries because they love puzzles. They want to create and make order out of chaos. She also wrote this in her book, Plot Perfect. I had never thought of it before, but when she said it, it made perfect sense to me.

Once I started to understand what emotionally motivated me to write, my passion for it grew even more. Sometimes we need to sit down and think about what really makes us tick before we can take the big leap and commit to such an ambitious endeavor. Writing a book can be many things. It can be liberating or healing, it can be exhilarating and fun, and it can be daunting and overwhelming, all at the same time. But for whatever reason it is that you want to write, it helps to understand why you want or sometimes need to be married to a project for weeks, months or even years. I use the word “married” because writing takes the kind of commitment required for such an emotional experience and sometimes life-long journey.

In February, I am teaching an online course called, “So, You Want to Write A Book?” along with clinical psychologist Dr. Benjamin Perkus at The Aroma Freedom Academy. The class uses the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT) to help people break through the emotional blocks that are preventing them from achieving their goals and dreams. The course is presented as a workshop to help people who want to write a book but don’t know where to begin, or those who have started the process, but got stuck somewhere along the line, or for those whom, for whatever reason, have not achieved their goal of writing a book. The first lesson we will take students through is discovering why they want to write a book. We will also be working on a non-fiction book in conjunction with the course and are looking for people’s stories of transformation, either with writing or other life experiences, to include in the text.

If you are interested in the course, have a story of transformation, or just want to discuss why you want to write, please feel free to contact me!

I look forward to hearing from you!



Can Using Essential Oils Really Help You Write A Book?

dreamstime_m_41746526Oh, if only it were that easy—kind of like taking a pill to lose weight or making money without really working for it. Essential oils can’t do the work for you, but they can certainly help with the emotional process of writing a book.

Have you ever wanted to write a book? Many people do, but many people often don’t know where to start, how to go about it, or how to finish. Like anything else, the first thing you must do is educate yourself. Take writing classes. Do workshops. Go to writer’s conferences. Like playing piano or creating a piece of artwork, you aren’t going to sit down and create a masterpiece – no matter how much natural talent you have been blessed with. First, learn something about the craft.

Reading what you want to write is also paramount to becoming a good writer. If you decide you want to write an historical mystery, but only read romance and have never done any kind of research, you are going to have a problem. The same can be said for writing to the market. Paranormal might be selling well, but if you’ve never read one, why would you write one? Writing from the heart and from your passion is never a bad idea, and if you can find a way to make it fit to what is selling—well done, you!

dreamstime_m_63202754Once you have done your homework and know why you want to write, what you want to write and how you are going to write it, then you must face the music—or rather—the page, and sit down to write it. But what if you don’t know enough? What if you don’t know how to start? What if no one would want to read it? These, and more negative, useless thoughts are all thoughts writers have experienced at one time or another. This emotional tug of war between feeling like you are brilliant and have pearls of wisdom to share with the world and feeling like you are stupid and no one cares what you write, can be exhausting and defeating. That is where essential oils and the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT) can help.

What are essential oils? As I mention in my blog article “A Brief History of Essential Oils,” ( essential oils come from the liquid extracted from flowers, seeds, leaves, stems, bark and/or roots of trees, herbs, bushes and shrubbery that is also referred to as the “essence” or “life blood” of the plant. The liquid is steam extracted or cold pressed and then distilled to produce the oil.

Essential oils have been used for medicinal and religious purposes for centuries. Hieroglyphics and manuscripts found from the Egyptian, Roman, Greek, and Chinese cultures indicate that essential oils were used to heal the sick and promote health. There are over 150 references to essential oils and anointing oils in the bible. “Anointing” which means “to smear with oil” was to make a person sacred and elevate them to a higher spiritual purpose.

The aromatic properties of oils can be just as effective as absorption into the skin or ingestion through the mouth in treating many physical and emotional ailments. Our sense of smell is the most primitive sense we have and our reaction to smell is immediate and uncontrollable. The aroma of the oils penetrates deep and fast into the limbic system, the area of the brain where we process emotion. The sense of smell can also trigger memories, good and bad. As clinical psychologist, Dr. Benjamin Perkus, the creator of AFT, mentions in his book: “The experience is so well known it has been named the ‘Proust Phenomenon’ after the literary example given by Marcel Proust in Remembrance of Things Past.”

imagesIt is this integral relationship between smell, memory, and emotions that is the basis for the Aroma Freedom Technique. Through the 12-step process of strategically designed memory exercises and smelling a unique mix of oils, negative thoughts, belief systems and inner blocks are interrupted causing a shift in our mind set. You might be wondering how in the world this applies to writing a book. It can apply at any point of the process from coming up with ideas, to freeing up the creative process, to developing discipline and goal setting strategies enabling writers to actually finish their books. I often use AFT if I am stuck in a scene or trying to figure out how my protagonist solves the crime.

Essentially, AFT is one more tool that enables us to more effectively control our own destiny. Like the old adage says, “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.” The only person who is stopping you from living your dream of writing and finishing a book is you. AFT can help you find the courage, the drive, the discipline, and the direction for sitting down and writing your masterpiece. Dr. Perkus wrote his book The Aroma Freedom Technique, Using Essential Oils to Transform Your Emotions and Realize Your Heart’s Desire, in a staggering 15 days using AFT every morning before he sat down to write. It’s not something I would recommend, but it is certainly impressive and gives me great hope of becoming as prolific as I can possibly be.

If you have dreams of writing a book, what is stopping you?

If you’d like some help and like to learn more about the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT) and how it can help you live out your dream of writing and finishing a book, join me and Dr. Perkus at the Aroma Freedom Academy for our 12-week intensive course “So You Want to Write A Book.” You can learn more by clicking here:

C’mon, I challenge you to write that masterpiece! I look forward to seeing you in class.


A Brief History of Essential Oils

dreamstime_m_79528864This time of year makes me want to hunker down in my office with my essential oils diffuser, a delicious pot of loose-leaf herbal tea, my cats, and my latest writing project. Some of my favorite oils to use while writing are frankincense, lavender, and a blend from Young Living Oils called Envision that really helps me to focus.

I got into essential oils about a year ago. I learned about them through some of my equestrian friends who use them with their horses, their other animals, and on themselves. I started using the oils on my own horses and was so impressed with their reactions both emotionally and physically that I decided to take this new wave of essential oil popularity seriously, and of course, started to research the history behind the oils.

First, I wanted to know exactly what essential oils are and where they come from. The oils come from the liquid extracted from flowers, seeds, leaves, stems, bark and/or roots of trees, herbs, bushes and shrubbery that is also referred to as the “essence” or “life blood” of the plant. The liquid is steam extracted or cold pressed and then distilled to produce the oil.

dreamstime_m_18598290Pure essential oils are highly concentrated and very little is needed to reap the benefits. To produce 1 lbs. of rose oil–one of my absolute favorites–5000lbs. of rose petals are needed. It is no surprise that a 5 ml. bottle of pure rose oil can cost up to $200. In my research I have found that for inhalation, ingestion, and absorption of the oils into the skin, it is extremely important to use products that are 100% pure therapeutic grade. According to Cynthia Foster, MD ( many of the oils sold in grocery stores and health stores today are useful for aromatic purposes and perfume, but are commonly adulterated with solvents such as propylene glycol, acetate or alcohol. Only therapeutic grade oils are the purest and can help with physical, mental and emotional ailments, without harmful side effects.

Essential oils have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Hieroglyphics and manuscripts found from the Egyptian, Roman, Greek, and Chinese cultures indicate that essential oils were used to heal the sick and promote health. When the Egyptian Tutankhamen’s tomb (carbon dated 1500 B.C.) was opened in 1922, 50 alabaster oil jars were found. The oils had been emptied from the jars some time ago, thought to have been stolen. The fact that gold jewelry and artifacts had been left behind and only the oils stolen indicates the extremely high value of oils at that time.

dreamstime_m_70847963Oils have also been used for spiritual purposes throughout the centuries. As a practicing Catholic for all of my life, I’ve always enjoyed the aroma of incense during certain spiritual celebrations, and have participated in sacraments where oils were used, but never really understood why they were used or where the tradition came from. After researching I’ve learned there are over 150 references to essential oils and anointing oils in the bible. “Anointing” which means “to smear with oil” was to make a person sacred and elevate them to a higher spiritual purpose. Many religions use frankincense in its resin form and burn it to release its aroma to encourage deeper spiritual contemplation and liberation. Many cultures use oils for meditation to promote emotional and mental calmness and to reach heightened states of enlightenment.

In Christianity, the Bible tells a story of preparing a sacred temple with aromatic oils to help stop a plague that was infesting a city. In the New Testament the story is told of the three kings coming to visit the Christ child with gifts of frankincense and myrrh—both oils—and gold. “Gold” in this case, according to some historians, was actually balsam oil and was referred to as “liquid gold” during that time period.

In my own experimentation I have found that many of the oils are wonderful for physical ailments such as pain, allergies, sore muscles and skin irritation. I have also incorporated essential oils into my skin care regimen and diet. A few months ago I became a certified practitioner of the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT), a new energy technique that utilizes the aromatic properties of essential oils to release inner blocks and resistance we have built in our minds that prevent us from moving forward and realizing our goals and dreams. Since I have been using essential oils and practicing AFT on a regular basis, I notice that I approach life with a little more calm, a little more joy, and a lot more confidence. I’ve gained clarity in how I want to proceed in my career and with my relationships.

Essential oils and AFT will not cure all your ills or magically give you everything you want in life, but they can have an effect on how you see things, and can help you to be more proactive in your own health, career, and quality of life. If you haven’t already gotten on the band-wagon of using essential oils, you might give them a try. You never know what goodness life might offer you!


If you are interested in learning more about the Aroma Freedom Technique or essential oils, please feel free to contact me. Happy oiling!

The “Gentle Ghost” of Santa Fe

Halloween is again upon us and so closes my series of ghost stories for October. I hope you have enjoyed reading about some of the ghosts of Hawaii and New Mexico. I have saved my favorite ghost for last.

Julia Schuster Staab was the wife of Abraham Staab, a Jewish German immigrant, who came to New Mexico in 1846 to establish himself as a merchant on the Santa Fe Trail. After Abraham became a wealthy businessman, he went home to Germany to find a bride. He found Julia Schuster, the daughter of a wealthy merchant from his home village of Ludge. Having come from the same small village, it is thought that perhaps Abraham knew Julia’s family before he left to find his riches in America. With great expectations he brought Julia back to his new home in the high desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1865.

Young Julia Staab and Julia & Abraham

Completely out of place in the village of Santa Fe with its mud houses and arid landscape, Julia had been accustomed to more a more elegant lifestyle and grand home. Eager to make his wife happy, Abraham built Julia a beautiful white mansion. The Staab House, a Victorian masterpiece with a large ballroom on the third floor, suited Julia’s excellent taste.

Original Staab House
Original Staab House

The couple had seven children, but at the death of their eighth, Julia changed both physically and mentally. She became sad, depressed, chronically ill and inconsolable. It is said her hair turned grey overnight. Her grief took a toll on the couple and they slowly grew apart. This did not help Julia’s situation and some say she went insane. She spent most of her latter days locked in her bedroom until she died in 1896, under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Rumors of Abraham’s extramarital affairs and Julia’s possible murder or suicide were never proven.

In the 1920’s a fire burned through the Staab house, destroying the third floor. When the house was rebuilt as a stuccoed, Pueblo-style hotel, the builders simply built around the remains of the mansion and then added charming casitas across the 7-acre plot as additional guest rooms.

Although she died in 1896, Julia’s ghostly presence had not been reported until the 1970’s. A janitor at the hotel stated that he saw a translucent dark eyed woman in a white Victorian gown, with white, upswept hair standing near the fireplace. From that moment on, more sightings of the same woman were reported. Staff and guests alike saw her wandering the hallways, lounging in a chair in the downstairs sitting room or standing near the fireplace.

The excerpt below is from the book American Ghost by Hannah Nordhaus, great-great granddaughter to Julia Staab. The book is an enthralling read and I highly recommend it.

“Strange things began to happen in the hotel. Gas fireplaces turned off and on repeatedly, though nobody was flipping the switch. Chandeliers swayed and revolved. Vases of flowers moved to new locations. Glasses tumbled from shelves in the bar. A waitress, not known for her clumsiness, began droppings trays and explained that she felt as if someone were pushing them from underneath. Guests heard dancing footsteps on the third story, where the ballroom had once been—though the third floor had burned years earlier. A woman’s voice, distant and foreign sounding, called the switchboard over and over. ‘Hallo?’ ‘Hallo?’ ‘Hallo?’”

One guest decided to test Julia when he and his wife requested to stay in Julia’s room. Hearing that Julia’s ghost was very particular about things in her room, he purposely left the top dresser drawer opened. Later that night, he and his wife were awakened by the sound of the drawer being slowly closed.

Entrance to Staab House from La Posada lobby
Entrance to Staab House from La Posada lobby

I became fascinated with the story of the La Posada Hotel after our daughter decided she wanted to be married there last year. She, her fiancé and I took the hour long drive to Santa Fe to stay the night in the hotel and speak to the event planner who worked there. As luck would have it, the engaged couple was put up in one of the casitas, and I was assigned to a room on the second floor of the mansion—the room right next door to Julia’s. I had heard some stories that the hotel was haunted, but at the time, I didn’t know Julia’s story. Which is probably a good thing. Fortunately, the only thing that kept me up that night was the rowdy party in the bar at the foot of the stairs to my room.

La Posada Hotel today View from the garden
La Posada Hotel today
View from the garden

Months later, after our daughter and her new husband’s stunning wedding, I wandered into the lobby and saw Nordhaus’ book sitting on the concierge’s desk. When I asked the woman sitting at the desk about the book, she proceeded to give me the highlights and told me some of the fascinating stories other staff and guests had told about Julia’s ghost. I asked if she had any similar experiences and she said she hadn’t, although she wanted to. After her last chemo treatment, she and her daughter decided to celebrate with a weekend stay at the hotel. They requested Julia’s room in hopes they would get a visit from the familiar “gentle ghost” and sat up all night waiting for her. In the wee hours of the morning they fell asleep and slept undisturbed. The concierge believed that Julia was too shy to make an appearance when someone was expecting her. She said she’d rent the room again sometime.

That concierge is braver than I am. Now that I know the story, I’m not sure I’d request to stay in the main house again. In fact, I would definitely request one of the casitas.

If you ever get to New Mexico, a stay at the La Posada Hotel is a must. Even if you don’t get Julia’s room.

Ghosts in the Land of Enchantment

Having been born and raised in New Mexico, I grew up hearing stories of New Mexico’s history, its multi-cultural legends and its haunting ghost stories. Infused with lore from the Mexican, Spanish, Native American and Anglo cultures, I can tell you, New Mexico’s past is alive and well, even in the modern age.

Perhaps the most famous ghost of New Mexico is La Llarona (The Weeping Woman). We share her with many states in the southwest and even in parts of Europe and Latin America. Texas, Arizona and New Mexico all claim La Llarona as their own, and we will probably never know where she actually originated, but her story is no less haunting, no matter where she came from.


Some tales say she was an Aztec woman named La Malinche who became the lover of Hernan Cortes, the Conquistador who came to the Americas in the 16th century to help Spain gather new territories and build a new empire. La Malinche had two sons by Cortes and the couple was reputed to be very happy. However, as one story goes, the King and Queen of Spain feared that Cortes would attempt to build his own empire and they demanded he return to Spain. When he refused, they sent a very rich and beautiful Spanish lady to the Americas to seduce him and bring him back. The ruse worked, but Cortes would not leave without his sons. On the night of his departure back to Spain, La Malinche, crazed with jealousy and grief, took back her sons, stabbed them in the heart and threw them in the nearby lake. This particular story says she lived another ten years, but throughout that decade was seen on the beach of the lake moaning, “Oh, hijos mios!” (Oh my children)

The first documented appearance of La Llorona after La Malinche’s death occurs in Mexico City in 1550 where she is said to wander the streets in a white dress on nights with a full moon, wailing and looking for her children. Sightings of La Llorona spread throughout the Americas, with each town or city claiming she is local to their area.

Other tales claim that La Llarona was a woman named Maria who fell in love with a noble man of Spanish descent and had two children by him. When it came time for the man to marry, his family would not accept Maria, so he refused to marry her. He would often visit with his new wife to see his children, but he would pay no attention to Maria. Angry and jealous, Maria drowned her children in the river and then drowned herself, full of grief and regret for her act. Since then, she wanders the banks of the river crying for her children.

Acquecia near the Rio Grande
Acquecia near the Rio Grande

I grew up with the latter tale. Our house was built next to the main irrigation ditch that flanks the Rio Grande. When I heard wailing cries in the night, I’d run to my parent’s bedroom. My father would explain that the sound came from the packs of coyotes that ran the ditch banks, but to this day, I’m pretty sure it was La Llarona crying for her lost children.

Many of New Mexico’s old hotels are said to be haunted. One of the most famous is the St. James Hotel in Cimarron. The St. James, once the Lambert Inn, was built in 1872 by a Frenchman named Henri Lambert. Lambert, personal chef to President Abraham Lincoln, decided upon Lincoln’s assassination to move west in search of gold. He first settled in Elizabethtown, New Mexico, but ended up in Cimarron where he built the Lambert Inn, a saloon for cowboys, traders and miners. The saloon became so popular that Henri decided to add guest rooms and made it one of the most elegant hotels west of the Mississippi River.

Many famous guests came to stay at the hotel including Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, Pat Garret, Lew Wallace, and famous author Zane Grey. Other distinguished guests included Buffalo Bill Cody and, one of my favorites, Annie Oakley. The first three books of my Annie Oakley mystery series do not feature Annie Oakley in New Mexico, but I suppose there is always room for a fourth. Perhaps she could team up with Wyatt Earp to track down the notorious criminals and murders that were have said to stay at the Lambert Inn. Back in the late 1800’s law and order were in short supply in New Mexico. It is reported that over 26 men were shot and killed within the Inn’s adobe walls. When Lambert’s sons replaced the roof in 1901, they found more than 400 bullet holes in the saloon’s ceiling. A double layer of heavy wood prevented the guests upstairs from harm.

St. James Hotel, Cimarron, New Mexico
St. James Hotel, Cimarron, New Mexico

Many of those gunslingers are said to still haunt the place. In fact, the spiritual activity of the hotel is so well known, it has been featured on the television shows Unsolved Mysteries and A Current Affair. Psychics who have visited the hotel have identified the strong presence of at least three restless spirits inhabiting the hotel today. One of them is the ghost of Thomas James Wright who bled to death from a gunshot wound in Room 18 of the hotel. Reportedly, Wright had just won the rights to the hotel in a poker game and as he made his way up to his room, someone shot him in the back. He continued to the room and died there, but apparently he hasn’t left. One former owner said she often saw an orange light floating in the upper corner of the room and was once pushed down while cleaning the room. Room 18 now remains locked. Rumors have flown about a number of mysterious deaths occurring in that same room before it was permanently inaccessible to guests.

Henri’s second wife, Mary Elizabeth has been said to haunt Room 17 since her death there in 1926. Staff and guests have reported the aroma of Mary’s rose scented perfume and an incessant tapping on the window occurs if the window is open. Once it is closed, the tapping stops.

Objects from many of the rooms and the common areas have turned up missing only to be found in an area where they don’t belong. This is supposedly the work of a little “dwarf-like” man who has also been seen at the hotel. The staff have nicknamed him the “Little Imp.” Once while two of the former owners stood in conversation in one of the rooms of the hotel, he was said to have tossed a knife, it’s blade point landing in the wooden floor between them.

Cold spots, lights turning on and off, electrical equipment behaving strangely and items falling from walls and shelves have also been reported at the hotel. I have not yet been to the St. James, but now that I have potential plans for a fourth book in the Annie Oakley mystery series, I may have to investigate. I wonder if there is a Holiday Inn next door?




Hawaii’s Haunted Past – A Look Into Hawaii’s Ghosts

Last week I wrote about some of Hawaii’s ancient legends and the ghosts that haunt them in an article called “October and the Ghosts of Hawaii’s past.”  ( . The stories highlighted take place in village of Kailua-Kona, but this week I want to write about some of the ghosts a few miles south along the craggy shoreline.

Ancient heiau on the Kona coast
Ancient heiau on the Kona coast

The Big Island of Hawaii is an archaeologist’s treasure trove. Its past is filled with legendary battles, death penalties for crimes, and human sacrifice. Bones litter the Island in sacred heiaus and burial grounds. Human habitation of the Big Island is said to have dated back as early as 400 CE when Polynesians traveled there, over 2000 miles from their homeland of the Marquesas Islands ( None of Hawaii’s ancient dead were buried at sea, and the ground, all lava rock, made it difficult for deep underground burial without modern machinery. Generations of bones scatter the island.

There are so many bones littering the island that buying and building real estate can be challenging because so much of the land is protected. Archaeologists are continuously called in to assess properties for possible burials. No surprise that many island hauntings have been sited and documented by locals and tourists. The island is also a highly spiritual place and its people have strong traditions in folklore, mythical legends and old religions. In my book Bones of the Redeemed, soon to be completed, my protagonist, Annie Delgado, a doctoral student of Archaeology in New Mexico, must also deal with strong spiritual and superstitious beliefs when she encounters a secret religious society in an ancient land also infused with a mystical and magical past.

The site of the Sheraton Kona Hotel, formerly the Keauhou Bay Resort, and once called the Kona Surf (torn down 2004), juts out onto the jagged lava cliffs of the Kona Lagoon. A tranquil spot, it is no wonder the ancient Alii, or Hawaiian royalty came to this place to rest and play. Guests and employees of the old Kona Surf Hotel told stories of hearing two little girls running and playing in the hallways in the middle of the night. When security was called to investigate, no one could be found. There is an ancient Hawaiian legend that says that site was the dwelling place of twin sisters, ancient supernatural beings, who took the form of lizards.

Others have seen a ghost standing on the cliff in front of the hotel who disappears into thin air. The area is also the site of two ancient heiaues – platforms made of volcanic rock for spiritual rites and human sacrifice. When the Kona Surf Hotel was torn down in 2004, the heiaues were resurrected in hopes of appeasing the gods, and now, still stand. Walking upon the ground of these and all heiaues is greatly frowned upon, and the trespasser might well fall into unfortunate circumstances.

Hillside of Lekeleke where ancient bodies rest in peace
Hillside of Lekeleke where ancient bodies rest in peace

Nearby, at Lekeleke, also situated on the lagoon, is the site of the famous final battle fought on the island of Hawaii. The Great Kamehameha ruled the Islands under the Kapu system – an ancient, sacred code of laws that directed religious practices and a way of life for the Hawaiians.

Influenced by the Christian missionaries who landed on the island in 1820, Liholiho (King Kamehameha II), the Great Kamehameha’s heir, abandoned the Kapu system. To show his power, he committed the bold act of eating a meal with his mother, Queen Ka’ahumanu. Kamehameha I’s nephew, Kekuaokalani was outraged at the abolishment of the ancient way of life, and demanded that the Kapu system be reinforced. Liholio refused and the great final battle of Kuamo’o began. Three hundred Hawaiian warriors, including Kekuaokalni and his wife, died at the site, along with the ancient Kapu system. Today, terraces built into the lava cliffside still hold the bones of those warriors.


City of Refuge, Hawaii

One of the most magical places on the Island, in my opinion, is Puuhonua O Honaunau, or the City of Refuge, a tranquil spot on the coast in Captain Cook, HI, about 15 miles from Kailua-Kona.

The laws under the ancient Kapu system were strict. Standing too close to the chief, walking across his shadow, touching his possessions, or walking in his footsteps were some of the offenses worthy of death. Violating these kapus, among others like men and women eating together, were said to incur the wrath of the gods. If unfortunate enough to break the kapu for any reason, one would be hunted down and killed—unless they reached Puuhonua, the place of refuge. There a priest, or kahuna, could absolve the offender of his or her transgression, purify them and send them home. Puuhonua was also a place for defeated warriors or innocents in war time to take refuge during times of battle. Those who did not make it there in time are said to be spirits wandering the site in need of purification or rescue.

City of Refuge. View out to sea
City of Refuge. View out to sea.

I have visited three places in the world that have spoken to me in a deeply profound and spiritual way. Puuhonua, the City of Refuge is one of them. Whenever I visit the island, which is about three times a year, I always make time for that magical place. As I walk around the ancient ruins of the Alii palace, built behind a wall of the refuge, and look toward the tranquil bay on one side, and out into the sea on the other, I can feel the presence of lost souls searching for peace. I may not have seen the ghosts, but I have felt them. There is a tranquility and comfort at Puuhonua that I find hard to put into words. Not all ghosts are scary.

History is full of ghosts, and like the archaeologist in my book, I love to delve into the past of magical and mystical worlds. When I return home to the Land of Enchantment, I would like to share some of its past history and ghosts with you—for October is the time of year for ghost stories.