Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Roland Yeoman's Don't Buy My Book Blog Tour #AuthorLove

“Conversation is the duel of insecurity, curiosity, and the yearning to belong.”
– Samuel McCord

“Man is a riddle; his words masked evasions.”
– Meilori Shinseen, Empress of a shadow alien race and new bride of McCord

Isn’t Kathleen gracious to let me sneak into her blog to talk of my new book?

Thank her for this kindness by commenting down below, will you?
But what is this about not buying my book?

How many things have you bought over the phone from tele-solicitors? Yeah, me, too.
Rest easy. No arm-twisting from me. But aren’t those the words of every used car salesman?

Words. They are spoken to disguise in these times, not to reveal. Nature teaches us we survive by camouflage not by standing out.

Novels these days contain anywhere from 50% to 70% dialogue. Why is that do you believe? Let’s think on it, shall we?

There is internal dialogue and external dialogue. A good novel juxtapositions the two to provide tension and mood.

Dialogue increases pace and gives the narrative a sense of immediacy.
It provides texture and depth and provides a deeper insight into the characters.
The reader is able to interpret the kind of people they are through their dialogue and therefore determine what sort of personalities they possess.
Readers want to know about the traits and behavior of your characters. They want to know what makes them tick.
Good dialogue does just that.

Don’t be put off by my Steampunk genre. The characters, their hurts, their hopes, their struggles are what captivates us no matter what genre we read.
Sure, my book is a bit like PENNY DREADFUL meets JULES VERNE and H. G. WELLS.
A frightened young princess Victoria is kidnapped by cruel, bigoted Sidhe. A disgraced Texas Ranger braves eternal damnation by trying to rescue her, driven by the guilt of seeing his sister killed in front of his very eyes and being helpless to stop it.
Political Intrigue, famous figures from history tainted by a rare blood disorder.
Thirty year old Samuel Clemens learning what it means to be more than just a skilled writer but be one who sees through the eyes of the hurting.
A good man drawn to marry an immortal bad woman, not by her otherworldly beauty, but by the haunted loneliness he sees in her slanted eyes.
The immortal empress, unable to unleash the monster within in front of her loving husband, slowly becoming better because of it.
By them, we get to know a few of my cast of characters as they stroll to the Louvre in 1867:

Benjamin Franklin walked beside me, his calculating eyes peering at me through glasses he no longer needed. They were not bifocals, simply plain glass. He wore a furred hat, much as he had when he first visited France to bolster the image of the backwoodsman sage.

Image had been important to him all his life and undeath. What was important to the revenant now? Did he even know?
He said, “I tried to drain your wife of blood, turning her into a revenant like myself. I betrayed your trust, freeing your wife’s enemy, Empress Theodora. Yet, you have not struck me down but shown me mercy. Why?”
There were times you told your enemy the truth, and times you told him a truth. I decided to go for the latter option. “You were the only founding father who had a hand in all four of the documents that birthed America from the Bill of Rights to the treaty signed here in Paris that ended the war with England. You managed to forge a two-pronged Congress that was democratic yet balanced out the needs of the larger states.”
Franklin frowned, “You dissemble, sir.”
“And you are an object lesson to young Nicola Tesla here that even great inventors can lose their way … and their souls. Besides, it is for Meilori to avenge herself upon you not me.”
The breeze blew from behind Nicola, and his nostrils flared at the scent of the boy’s blood pulsing in his veins, and I said low. “But feed upon an innocent again ….”
“You told me I would become a grunting animal, bereft of intellect.”
“And so you would.”
“You promised to kill me should that happen.”
“But I didn’t say when. I might keep you in a cage with a trough full of blood for a month … or a year to make an example of you to my other enemies.”
He paled which was hard for a revenant to do. “But your promise ….”
“Would be kept … eventually.”
“You are a hard man, sir.”
“You have no idea.”
He eyed me stonily. “Abigail Adams hates you but does not fear you. She errs.”
“In what way?”
“She does not realize it is herself she hates for what she has become, and she should fear you very much. I do.”
He turned and strode to the Louvre alone. I sighed. He probably did most things alone. All who remembered him as a human were long dead. When living, he worked hard to always have like thinkers around him from his Junto to his apprentices. Now, he was alone and most like would always be … until the final death took him.
Nicola tugged on my sleeve. “But Captain, I thought he was a great man.”
“He was and could be again.”
I started as I felt the feather-touch of Meilori’s finger-tips stroke my cheek. “How you have lived so long in a vicious world and yet remained a romantic is a mystery to me, Beloved.”
Lucanus, the Greek physician who only a few knew was “Saint” Luke, muttered, “You are a fool.”
I looked after the shrinking form of Franklin. “There’s a lot of that going around.”

At the end of this novel is a complete short story given to you free as Lagniappe. Following that is a Readers’ Discussion Section for Book Clubs.
And it is only 99 cents! Ignore the name of my book tour and take a chance on my book, will you?
Step aboard the Xanadu, the first Air/Steamship, as it sails over 1867 Paris. You won’t be disappointed.

Roland Yeomans was born in Detroit, Michigan. But his last memories of that city are hub-caps and kneecaps since, at the age of seven, he followed the free food when his parents moved to Lafayette, Louisiana. The hitch-hiking after their speeding car from state to state was a real adventure. Once in Louisiana, Roland learned strange new ways of pronouncing David and Richard when they were last names. And it was not a pleasant sight when he pronounced Comeaux for the first time.

He has a Bachelor’s degree in English Education and a Master’s degree in Psychology. He has been a teacher, counselor, book store owner, and even a pirate since he once worked at a tax preparation firm.

So far he has written thirty-four books. You can find Roland at his web page: or at his private table in Meilori’s. The web page is safer to visit. But if you insist on visiting Meilori’s, bring a friend who runs slower than you.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Revisiting The Danvers State Insane Asylum

One of the things I love most about writing is weaving bits of history, folklore, legends, and mysteries into my work. I think it brings a feel of authenticity to my writing and it always provides me with a lot of entertainment. For pure color there is no setting more rich and mysterious than The Danvers State Insane Asylum in Hathorne, Massachusetts, a section of Danvers.
The Danvers State Hospital Main Building
  Built in 1874 as The Danvers State Lunatic Asylum, the building was vast and modeled on the design of Dr. Thomas Kirkbride, the supervisor of the Pennsylvania Hospital. Dr. Kirkbride was a progressive and compassionate man who believed that light, beautiful surroundings, and proximity to nature were critical to healing. Seen from the air, the building looked rather like a bird with outstretched wings. The idea was to offset sections of the building to allow for more windows, more light, and privacy.
Original Drawing
At the time of its construction the understanding of treatment for the mentally ill was fairly primitive. Doctors talked about balancing the senses but some of the treatments were mystifying by today's standards. Danvers proved to be an above average treatment center. In 1889 a training program for nurses was added and in 1895 a pathological research laboratory opened.
Abandoned Private Room
The hospital evolved over the years and finally closed in 1994. It quickly became a mecca for urban explorers and photographers. In 2007 it burned to the ground in a fire so enormous that it could be seen 17 miles away in Boston.
One of the many Common Rooms.
Glass blocks provided light without a view.
In 1988, newly arrived in Massachusetts, I took a temporary job in the hospital, at that time called Danvers State. I worked in one of the outbuildings in a ward for adolescent men teaching history and literature. It was always an experience to drive up that long, winding drive through the trees, into the shadow of the great main building, most of which was closed by then. Since my shift began in the early afternoon and ran into evening, it was usually dark when I left. I will never forget the sense of mystery and a little bit of terror that accompanied those rides. On the rare occasions when I had to go to the main building for a meeting or to pick up paperwork, my knees never seemed to work exactly right.
Locked rooms for solitary confinement
In my novel, Depraved Heart, one of the scenes is set in a dayroom in the main building. As a girl Rachel visited her mother—the beautiful but mad Rosalind. I found writing those scenes to be very evocative and, because I had not only a sense of the setting, but of the people who once inhabited it, words seemed to spill onto the page without my agency—but the scene turned out great.
Windows overlooking windows
In my soon-to-be-released, Ghost of a Dancer By Moonlight, Cleo meets her love interest, a photographer when he hires her to write the narrative to a book of photographs of the abandoned hospital.
Entrance to the main lobby
Much of the mystery of old hospitals like this is letting our imaginations run amok wondering about the people who were once confined there. The scariest place in all the world is the inside of the human head and people who are tormented by demons cannot help but terrify us. There but for the grace of God and all that.
Abandoned ward room
When I look at pictures like these, part of me just sees the sadness of a beautiful building left to ruin. But another part sees terror and torment, hears screams buried in the walls. I am glad I got to see the Danvers State Hospital before it burned and I hope I never have to go into a place like that again.
One of several cemeteries
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

T'on Ma by Magnolia Belle #AuthorLove

Magnolia Belle is a very interesting writer with unique stories, 
settings and characters. I hope you enjoy this excerpt.

T'on Ma 
by Magnolia Belle

T'on Ma is set in Texas during the 1850s, when Lana Cooper meets Two Hawks, a young Kiowa warrior, who gives her the name T'on Ma, Kiowa for Water Woman.

Lt. Liam O'Connell is a West Point graduate assigned to Ft. Worth. On a scouting mission, he meets the Cooper family. One look at Lana and he knows that he must pursue her.

Through adventure, captivity, betrayal, marriage, and death, these three lives intertwine as Lana tries to find her way between two men who she loves. Her choices cost them all.

This ebook is free, and is the first in a three part series: "T'on Ma," "Kuy Syan Joshua," and "Little Wolf Ranch".
Two Hawks watched the crawling Apache and, as soon as the man was in range, took careful aim with his bow, letting an arrow fly.  It found its target, sending the man leaping into the air, only to fall back down, dead.  At the sight of their fallen comrade, the rest of the band rose to their feet or rode on horses over the nearby hill.  Screams and taunts filled the air as bullets whined past the four desperate people or thudded dully into the dead animal. 
“What are you singing?” Lana asked Two Hawks as she lay on her stomach next to him.
“My death song.”
She whipped her head around, looking frightened.  “Your death song?  It’s really that bad, then.”
He only nodded as he took aim at a warrior. 
“I got one!” Lana crowed.  No one said anything.  They were all too busy. 
They fought for only fifteen minutes before her brother, Nathan, looked over at Lana.  “We’re almost out of powder.  Enough for two, maybe three rounds.”
Lana closed her eyes.  Now what?  She told Two Hawks the news.  He only had a few arrows left as well.
Lana reached for his hand.  “Don’t let them take me.  Please.” 
He nodded, his jaws clenching.
She turned to her brother.  “I won’t be taken alive.  Ceŋtas Yi will see to it.”
“Lana?” Nathan stared horrified at her.  “No!”
“Oh, yes, Nathan.  They might kill you and Ceŋtas Yi, but they will have a fate much worse for Christina and me.  Rape will probably be the least of it.”
Lana took careful aim with her last bullet, blinking back tears, and then fired.  Her target went down.  Two Hawks shot the last of his arrows and, not waiting to see how they landed, pulled her to him, holding her close as he lay partially on top of her.  It was time.
“Kiss?” he asked as he looked into her beautiful, trusting eyes.  She nodded and offered her lips. 
“I love you, Ceŋtas Yi.”  She touched his dark hair, his handsome face in a gesture of farewell.  “Thank you for this.”
“T’on Ma, wait for me.  I’ll be right behind you.  Then we can go to our new life together.”
“I’ll wait.”  She paused to take one last look at his eyes.  “Be quick,” she whispered. 
As he kissed her with longing and love and sorrow, he pulled his long knife out of its sheath.  He could feel her lips trembling against his as she rolled slightly away from him, offering him her breast.  Apache war cries filled their ears.  This would be last thing they heard.  He raised his arm straight up, the knife’s blade glinting relentlessly in the sun.

Short Bio:
I started writing in 2005 and have published nine novels to date. My favorite genre is historical fiction. Characters become very real to me, and I often find myself not writing, but rather taking dictation as they tell me their stories. That's also why I tend to write in series of novels. Those characters are a gabby bunch!  website:
Buy Links



Saturday, October 08, 2016

How I Found Halcyon Beach

I am the first to admit that I am an eavesdropper and am in no way apologetic about it. Some of my best stories have come from eavesdropping including the one I am about to tell you. This week I put the final touches on the third story in my Halcyon Beach Chronicles series. This one will be Ghost of a Dancer by Moonlight. I sent it off to early readers, one of whom has already read it, and gave it a big thumbs up. I love my Halcyon Beach stories because they are a little sexier than most of my stuff. Ghosts are sexy anyway—all that unrequited longing.

These stories are different than my other series stories because there is no central character or characters that occurs in each story. There are secondary characters—Darby McMahon, the artist/bartender/busybody, and the four Geezers. I love the Geezers, four older men, three of whom are retired, and one—Turtle—who still operates a tattoo parlor.  

No, the main character in these stories is Halcyon Beach. The town itself is the star. Halcyon Beach is a rundown, amusement park beach town on the Massachusetts coast that was once quite elegant with a grand ballroom and fabulous hotels. But now it is pretty shabby. In the off-season, post Labor Day, they roll up the carpets and few businesses stay open. Artists come to take advantage of cheap winter rentals. The only businesses open are the Snuggle Inn and Pub, owned by Old Fitz Connolly, an aging wise guy from Dorchester who originally used it for money laundering, and Dave's Drive-Thru, a combination gas station, convenience, and liquor store.

In all the stories a young woman arrives in town—Layla in the first one, Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter, Fleur in the second, Ghost of a Lighthouse in Autumn, and now Cleo—and begins listening to all the tales of ghosts that the Geezers spin in their daily Happy Hour at the Pub. Eventually, the ghosts enter their lives, always with disturbing results.

I am not a big fan of fantastical creatures. I have little interest in vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc. (with the exception of those created by JK Rowling—I love her characters.) But I do like ghosts. Ghosts are just like people except everything about them is more poignant and intense. My favorite part of these stories, though, is Halcyon Beach, my imaginary beach town.
Do I see Geezers on the porch?

This all started about 15 years ago when I was driving back from Maine one winter day. On this particular cold, cloudy afternoon I took the coastal route 1A. There are several beach towns lining this route—Salisbury Beach and Hampton Beach in particular. They were shut up tight and I was hoping for something, anything, to be open because I was famished.

I finally discovered a little luncheonette/deli and went in for something to eat. I had intended to get something to go but there were only a few people in the place and there were windows along the back with a great view of the ocean. So I stayed. As I waited for my food, I could not help but notice four older men sitting at a table together, drinking coffee. Maybe because I had a father who had a bunch of old geezer buddies he hung out with, I have a particular affection for crotchety old men. My dad would have fit right in with these guys.
This was my model for Fleur's cottage

This is the path leading through the dunes to Abe's house
Their conversation was loud—most old men are pretty loud, I have discovered—and uncensored. I kept my eyes on the ocean but I had an absolutely wonderful time listening to them. All four of them were locals who at one time had local businesses—restaurants or entertainment. They talked very openly about people they remembered and associated gossip and scandals, about how they once planned to sell out and move to Florida, but never got around to it. It was very enlightening and the seed began to grow.

When I started my first Halcyon Beach story I took a ride back up the coast stopping in various beach towns to take the pictures I'm including here. I keep them on my desktop as I write and I think about those four guys—my own Geezers.

Ghost of a Dancer by Moonlight should be out for Halloween. I hope you will give it a try and let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Once Upon A [Stolen] Time by Samreen Ahsan #AuthorLove

Welcome Samreen Ahsan, author of the very popular A Prayer Series
about paranormal events based on Islamic concepts. 
This is the first book in her new series.

Once Upon A [Stolen] Time 
by Samreen Ahsan

All her life, Myra Farrow has been obsessed with medieval castles—and the kings and princes who once inhabited them. Now, wealthy videogame designer Steve Bernard wants her to model for a princess character in his new game. Myra can’t resist his offer, especially when she learns that Steve plans to film inside the mysterious Hue Castle—a cursed, barren, colorless place forbidden to visitors for centuries. But unknown to Myra, her soul is bound to Hue Castle by blood and sorcery. When she enters its doors, she awakens dark powers that will reach through time—stealing her past, torturing her present, and rewriting her future.

Edward Hue, the last of the Hue royal bloodline, has never stood in the sunshine or held a living flower. Cursed from birth to live in darkness and bring death to all he touches, he is at the mercy of his cruel, tyrannical father, who will not rest until he shatters Edward’s soul and makes his son into a diabolical copy of himself. Edward’s one hope is the mysterious woman who haunts his dreams—who will either break his curse and bring him out of the darkness, or destroy him utterly.

For Myra and Edward, past and future collide in a tale of love, obsession, betrayal, and the hope for redemption.

She is standing in my courtyard. Everything in nature surrounds her—hugs her and is dazzled by her…including me.

Beautiful flowers of every hue and aroma are grown in this majestic garden. My eyes are burning; I’m simultaneously overwhelmed and awed by the colorful oasis. Never have I been so close to nature, to growing things. Her alchemy drives me mad.

She’s gifted me with all the colors, but I painted her with darkness.

As much as I crave feeling the sunlight and the flowers against my skin, I want her touch too. I am cursed and doomed to never experience the beauty of the natural world, for all eternity.

She watches me with extreme hatred in her eyes—her gaze throwing fireballs at me. She doesn’t know I’m already burning, but since she despises me so much, I can’t even dare to come close to her. I want to end this tortuous distance between us—but I was the one who created this hatred in her.

She was a beautiful tender rose—I stole her fragrance, crushed her petals and burned her in hell. If I knew the fire with which I was conflagrating her would come to engulf me—I swear I wouldn’t have done it. Her spell is too strong for me not to fall; her curse is too mighty for me to run away.

Her deadly yet magical existence haunts me, excites me and has thrown me into a pit of deep lust. She is my prisoner, but she doesn’t realize that I’m the one who’s already submitted to her slavery, when I first touched her.

Despite being her captor, I am still her captive.

She walks toward me, enthralling me with her grace and beauty, altering and accelerating my heartbeat. She has the power to throw me into hell as well as show me heaven. I’ve never been able to understand her witchcraft. I was warned to stay away from her sorcery—she was born and cursed with it—yet my heart kept running after her.

Now…there’s nothing left for me to survive on. She has my heart and my soul. Why is she here? What does she want from me now? Perhaps she wants to cut my heart from my body…just to see if it’s beating for her or not.

The distance between us closes and I lean my back against the giant tree trunk—the same tree where I tried to write her fate. She is holding my sword—my only weapon of protection—but it doesn’t matter now. She wants my life for her eternal peace—I will give it to her.

Her steel-grey eyes are much stronger than any armor or shield I’m wearing. She doesn’t need my sword to kill me…all she needs to do is place her hand on my heart. I will be undone…forever.

Praises for the Book:
"At the outset, I'd like to say I just love the premise of this book and think it would make an awesome movie; producers and film makers please check out this interesting novel." - Kristin Ravelle (Author of The Everlasting Spell)

"This book was hard to turn away from once you start reading it, it's that good. It should be made into a movie or tv series 5-Stars!" - Country Girl Bookaholic Book Blog

"It's impossible you will not love Once Upon A [Stolen] Time. 5-stars!" - Tine's Review Book Blog

"Author's style is magical in itself as she sets the past and present onto a direct collision course. 5-stars!" - Tome Tender Book Blog

"This book is amazing!!! This is the first Fantasy novel I've read in a while and I loved it." - ‎NerdGirlLola's Review

History, art and literature are my passions. I love digging out information about prophecies, divine miracles and paranormal events that are mentioned in history and holy books, that don’t sound possible in today's modern world.

Since childhood, I have been into reading and writing—and yes, it can’t happen without imagination, which luckily has no boundaries. Dance and music are also pastimes I enjoy, as well as reading romance fiction. I love to travel and explore historical cities.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US:
Amazon Canada:
Amazon UK:
Amazon Australia:
Amazon India:

Twitter: @SamAuthorCanada

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Beautiful Thacher Island: Anne's Eyes

When I first moved to Massachusetts, one of the first things I did was buy several books about the area lighthouses. Of all the lighthouses that dot the New England coast the ones I found most fascinating were the Twin Lights of Thacher Island, known locally as Anne's Eyes. Though the 54 acre island on which the Twin Lights are situated belong to the town of Rockport, they are visible from Gloucester's Back Shore and Good Harbor Beach. They are also the background for this blog and they have quite a history.
North Tower in the foreground, South Tower and Cottages in the background
In 1605 Samuel de Champlain wrote about the island and 10 years later John Smith dubbed the three islands along Cape Ann the Turk's Heads. Thacher Island was named for Anthony Thacher, who, in 1635, was traveling from Ipswich to Marblehead when a terrible storm rose. The ship rounded Cape Ann and its sails were shredded so the captain put in to Sandy Bay, but the anchor did not hold and the ship was swept out to sea. Anthony and his wife were washed ashore on Thacher Island. All five of their children were lost along with his cousin, his cousin's wife, and all eight of their children. The body of one of the children was washed ashore and is buried there to this day. Thacher and his wife survived and the colonial government, out of pity, gave him the island which he named Thacher's Woe.
Keeper and Assistant Keeper Cottages as they appear today.
The family never occupied the island and sold it some 80 years later to a man from Gloucester who used it to pasture cattle. In the early 1700s shipping magnate John Hancock petitioned the Colony to build a series of lighthouses along the Massachusetts coast and 2 lighthouses were built on Thacher Island. The first set of towers were only 40 feet in height and the first lighthouse keeper was assigned to the station by Alexander Hamilton. In 1861 two new towers were built. These were 125 feet high, made of granite with a brick interior and beautiful wrought iron spiral staircases. Fresnel lenses were added and the lights could now be seen from 22 miles away. Also, houses were built for the keepers and assistant keepers. There was a whistle house and wooden ramps with rails going to both towers to facilitate moving supplies between the towers and up from the dock.
The same cottages in the early 1900s.
There are a lot of legends that surround these towers. Probably the most famous is that of Maria Bray, the wife of lighthouse keeper Alexander Bray. A few days before Christmas in 1864, Alexander decided to take his assistant keeper to the mainland for medical treatment. A freak snowstorm blew in and he could not return. Maria, alone except for a 12 year old nephew staying with them, knew if she did not keep both lights lit her husband would never find his way back to the island. For three days and nights she and her nephew traveled back and forth between the two lighthouses—a quarter mile trip—hauling oil, climbing the 157 steps, polishing glass, and trimming wicks. Each light had to be tended every 4 hours. Her husband made his way home after three days thanks to her incredible work.
An early Keeper with his wife and children.
As many as five families of keepers lived on the island at one time.
The lighthouses now belong to the Coast Guard. The South Tower is fully automated and run with solar power. The North Tower has a light burning 24 hours a day but does not act as a navigation guide. When I first visited the island in the early 1990s a family of goats had moved into the North Tower and the entire island was a refuge for Black-Back Gulls and terns. They were so aggressive, protecting their nests, that we had to carry poles to ward them off.
Early Keepers raised their own livestock and kept their own gardens.
I climbed the North Tower and it is an experience I will never forget. The view was spectacular. A couple years later I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in the Assistant Keeper's Cottage with a group of other artists who had rented it for a retreat. We spent the entire weekend wandering the island, painting and drawing, and just reveling in the absolute beauty of the place.
At one time there was a Keeper's cottage for the North Tower but that is now gone.
In 1967 the island was host to a notorious guest. Mafioso Joseph “The Animal” Barboza was held there as part of the Federal Witness Protection Program.
I took this photograph out of a window in the North Tower, looking at the South Tower.
Notice the abundance of guano on the windowsill.
Perhaps the most amazing story about Anne's Eyes was told to me by Gloucester fisherman and my dear friend, Mark S. Williams. One of the lesser known things about the twin lighthouses is that they have been carefully constructed on an axis that can be used for navigation. If a ship approaches from the north and brings itself around to align the two lights to appear as one, that trajectory will bring the boat straight to Gloucester's Outer Harbor.
Today visitors arrive by kayak, motor boats, sailboats, and more.
Mark told me that he was returning from Nova Scotia bringing back his newly purchased boat, F/V Black Sheep, when he lost navigation. It was night and, while he knew he did not have far to go, he was sailing blind. He was mightily relieved when he spotted the twin lights of Thacher Island ahead and, remembering the old axis on which they were built, he maneuvered his boat into position and sailed right up to where he could see Eastern Point Light, round Dog Bar Breakwater, and bring his new boat home.
South Tower lens room. The original Fresnel lens is now in the Cape Ann Museum
Today Thacher Island is managed by the Thacher Island Association out of Rockport. They sponsor events throughout the summer. Check their calendar for visitor's information, transportation, and other news. There are also two web cams--one from the South Tower and one from the Keeper's house. Thacher Island will always be one of the most special places in the world to me and I highly recommend a visit there.
Sunrise reflected on rock
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Youthful Infatuation with Andy Warhol: A Confession

I'm not really sure when I first began paying attention to Andy Warhol. I was in high school and taking art classes with the notion that someday I might be an artist. I knew about classical art and had read Irving Stone's Lust for Life about Vincent Van Gogh, and watched the movie Moulin Rouge about Toulouse-Lautrec, so I had some very romantic notions about living in Europe, hanging out with all these depraved people, and being an artist. Somewhere in all of this I managed to read an article about Andy Warhol and it changed everything.

For awhile I resisted the notion that Warhol was a real artist—certainly no Van Gogh or Lautrec! I thought of him more as a celebrity, but I still found myself searching art magazines in the school library for articles about him. There was always much talk of the wild, drug-fueled denizens of Warhol's The Factory with his “Superstars” including Viva, Ultra Violet, and Candy Darling. The more I read about Warhol, the more he fascinated me, but over and above everything else, there was one spectacular fact about him that blew my mind. He was from Pittsburgh!
Triple Elvis
Pittsburgh. I'd been to Pittsburgh, in fact, quite a few times. My parents had taken me there to the Carnegie Museum and the Flower Show at Phipps Conservatory. Andy Warhol was an artist—a well-known New York artist—who was from Pittsburgh. Nothing could have astonished me more. This was the era of his soup can, soda can, and sneakers paintings, as well as his Hollywood icons. A lot of people mocked his work and more than once I heard people say, “hell, anybody could paint one of those things.” Maybe they could but he was the one who did it.

I remember reading back then that he made a statement to the effect that Coke was a cultural equalizer because the President drank Coke, Liz Taylor drank Coke, and a bum on the corner could drink Coke. I loved thinking about that.
Race Riots, 1964
I also saw some of his more political works, including his 1964 Race Riots which he painted in the wake of the Birmingham riots. It was with that painting that he began painting what he called “the dark underside of the American Dream.” By the way, Race Riots sold for $62 million at Christie's last year. Anyway, because of Warhol, I saved my babysitting money and bought a subscription to ARTnews. A new world opened for me.
Warhol's Sports which was stolen from a California gallery and has ever been recovered
In the early 1980s I moved to Houston, Texas, and, while there, I got to see my first Warhol exhibition. I loved it. Not long after that Andy died following gall bladder surgery, and I was sad. His body was taken back to Pittsburgh and he is buried there.
David Bowie as Warhol in Basquiat
I never met him though I would have liked to. Recently I rewatched the movie Basquiat in which David Bowie played Warhol and he was as good a Warhol as Warhol. Andy was a strange, peculiar, and brilliant man. And he gave me an incredible gift. He taught me that even someone from Pennsylvania could be an artist and a star. I will love him forever for that.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Baker's Island: A Seventy Year Old Mystery

In 1988 I moved to Marblehead, Massachusetts, to live in a house overlooking Salem Sound. The house was owned by a wealthy family and they needed someone to live there for awhile—“awhile” turned out to be seven years. From my bedroom window I could see three real lighthouses and the fake one in Manchester-by-the-Sea that was built as a watchtower during the Second World War. Another was Baker's Island.
Keeper's House and Lighthouse today
Baker's Island is a sixty acre island about four and a half miles off the coast of Salem to which it belongs. It served as my model for Hephzibah Regrets, the island home of the Ravenscroft family in my book, Depraved Heart. As early as 1630, Baker's Island was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and in 1660 it was granted to the town of Salem. Most of the coast is steep ledges but on the western coast there is a stretch of rocky beach. Sometime in the 1790s the federal government took control of 10 acres at the northwest tip of the island and built two lighthouses, one of which still stands. The rest of the land was privately owned.
View of the island from the north
In the nineteenth century a Dr. Nathan Morse from Salem built a large summer home for his family, followed by a 75 room hotel called The Weene-egan. Eventually another fifty cottages were built by affluent families from Boston and the North Shore to be used as summer cottages. A private dock was built and the property owners were very reclusive. No one who was not a resident was allowed to use the dock so access to the island was limited. The hotel burned to the ground in 1903, but the cottages remained.
Ariel view showing the ponds, pier, and rocky coast
The island has three land-locked ponds and numerous wells containing water suitable for bathing and cleaning but not for consumption. There are no roads. People use golf carts and four-wheelers to get around. The only power comes from solar panels and generators. There is a small store and a community center, but people have to go to one of the surrounding towns to buy water and groceries. For over seventy years the island was a mystery to anyone not fortunate to have property there. When I was living in Marblehead a friend and I took her boat out to the island, but there were numerous signs on the only pier warning non-residents to stay away. The natives were most definitely not friendly!
The hotel resort before it burned in 1903
During this time I met a woman who had worked as a caretaker on the island for a few years. The lighthouse was automated so she had no responsibilities there. She lived in the lighthouse keeper's cottage with just her dog and did some maintenance and repair work on a few of the cottages. She told me she was writing a book about the many strange things that had happened while she lived there. She spoke of fog horns that would suddenly sound for no reason and then go silent. She said she often heard voices, laughter, and the moaning and sighs of lovers as she went about her work. I asked if she was ever frightened. At first she said, no. Then she added that she was glad she had her dog with her at all times. I asked if her dog sensed anything and she nodded. She said she quit the job because it was starting to get to her.
A postcard when both lighthouses stood.
In 2003 the Essex Heritage Commission took possession of the ten acres on which the lighthouse is located. They wanted to start tours of the property but the residents put up a fuss. New residents for the lightkeeper's cottage were found and they set to work restoring the remaining lighthouse, the cottage, and grounds. Finally, in 2015, the Heritage Commission started taking tour boats out to their property but signs are posted warning tourists to stay away from the rest of the property. The residents maintain their privacy.
Interior of the remaining lighthouse
The trip to Baker's Island is not an easy one. The boat docks on the rocky beach below the lighthouse and visitors have to scramble over the beach and then climb a steep incline to the property but, once there, the views are spectacular. So far I have not heard any reports of ghosts.
Path leading to the private property and cottages.
A few cottages as seen from the water today
There is one more island I want to write about—Thacher Island, with its twin lighthouses. I have climbed to the top of one of them and will tell about that next time.

Thanks for reading.