Author Travel Guide: Prestby in Northumberland, England

Author Travel Guide: Prestby in Northumberland, England

Where to Stay
Top picks are the 19th-century Granger Hotel, which combines Victorian grandeur with modern luxury, and the budget-friendly, 18th-century bed and breakfast, The Green Man. Both can be found on the High Street, right in the heart of town.
Must-see Attractions
Prestby boasts two impressive ruins: Nihtscua Castle, high on a rocky hill overlooking the town, and Druid’s Head, the perfect example of a motte-and-bailey stronghold. Just outside of town is the better-preserved Ravenwood Castle. All three are National Trust properties and well worth a visit. Haunted Happenings The locals disagree on which castle is more haunted—Nihtscua or Ravenwood—but the same ghostly figure is said to roam both sites. He was an Anglo-Saxon thane named Aldred, killed by the sword of Sir William l’Orage, Lord Ravenwood, in AD 1101. You’ll get an earful about him and other prominent figures if you take the highly-rated Wary Walking Tour of Haunted Prestby. For the best fish ʼn’ chips in town, go to Something’s Fishy on Raven Lane, just off the High Street. They’ve been in business since 1933. If fried haddock isn’t your thing, try their Cornish pasties. Delish! Walk About If you walk nowhere else in town, visit the High Street. There are many quaint shops, selling souvenirs, gourmet candies, clothing, and more. You’ll see St. Peter’s Church, an 18th-century gem with a number of stunning stained-glass windows. Nearby, the Granger Hotel has an elegant ballroom and a colorful garden off the back terrace. The end of the street is where you’ll start the climb to Nihtscua Castle. Just before it, look to your right and up the hill, and you’ll see Nightshade Manor. The 17th-century mansion isn’t open to the public, but if you like Elizabethan architecture, its mullioned windows and multitude of chimneys are a feast for the eyes.
Return of the Raven Margaret, Lady Ravenwood, is trapped in a loveless marriage and firmly entrenched in the medieval world. Along comes Griffin Nightshade, a historian from the future whose soul resonates with hers. He persuades her to return with him to the 1950s, but heeding her heart means courting danger from a curse that could spell her doom. Haunted by his parent’s sudden deaths, Griffin knows all too well the pain born of love lost. He guards his emotions, but Margaret delves deep and goes straight to the soul. She’s hard to resist…and harder to set free. The heart’s desire and history’s demands don’t always agree. Yet true love is eternal.

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Author Bio
Judith Sterling is an award-winning author whose love of history and passion for the paranormal infuse everything she writes. Whether penning medieval romance (The Novels of Ravenwood) or young adult paranormal fantasy (the Guardians of Erin series), her favorite themes include true love, destiny, time travel, healing, redemption, and finding the hidden magic which exists all around us. She loves to share that magic with readers and whisk them far away from their troubles, particularly to locations in the British Isles. 

Her nonfiction books, written under Judith Marshall, have been translated into multiple languages. She has an MA in linguistics and a BA in history, with a minor in British Studies. Born in that sauna called Florida, she craved cooler climes, and once the travel bug bit, she lived in England, Scotland, Sweden, Wisconsin, Virginia, and on the island of Nantucket. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and their identical twin sons.

Author Travel Guide: Berkeley, California

Author Travel Guide: Berkeley, California

Berkeley, across the bay from San Francisco, offers better weather and a relaxed vibe.

It’s the home of the University of California’s jewel, its Berkeley campus. In a scene in my book Joyous Lies, I describe a campus rally to protest the Vietnam War fifty years ago, just before my characters Neil and Johanna flee Neil’s draft call-up to settle in the far reaches of Northern California and to found a hippie commune.

Today, Berkeley’s counter-culture still thrives. If you like your cannabis sustainably grown, from “small farmers, cooperative run farms, and independent collectives,” you can buy it from ten legal dispensaries in Berkeley.

“Organic” has gone mainstream here. Restaurants and many supermarkets offer carefully sourced sustenance, wellness in every bite. Boutiques sell fashion made from natural fabrics.

Let’s pretend the pandemic is over and restaurants, museums, and other attractions are actually open, and take a tour.

First, we’ll eat breakfast at Saul’s Delicatessen (1475 Shattuck). Famous for its pastrami and Israeli-inspired platters, Saul’s will refill your coffee endlessly. This part of town abounds with ethnic food of all types. It includes The Cheese Board Collective (1504 Shattuck), which carries cheeses from all over the world. A few years ago, this workers’ collective expanded next door to 1512 Shattuck and now serves fabulous pizza. There is always a line out the door.

The most famous dining establishment of all is Chez Panisse (1517 Shattuck). Fifty years ago, chef Alice Waters started serving dinner to friends, and so revolutionized American cuisine. Her meals emphasize local ingredients harvested or bought seasonally. We made a reservation for dinner so we’ll come back later.

Right now, we need to walk off Saul’s bagels and lox. We’ll head to 1518 Walnut Street,
where, in a tiny house, we will explore the only perfume museum in the USA. This is the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents. The museum is an olfactory and educational delight.

Now we’ll head up Hearst Avenue. We are about to enter UC Berkeley. Set at the base of Strawberry Canyon, the sprawling campus cover 1234 acres, from the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory up the hill to the recently earthquake-proofed football stadium (Go Bears!) to classroom buildings and fraternities. Reserved-in-advance tours by student ambassadors start at 10 am daily from the Campanile, which offers a fabulous view.

From the university, let’s proceed westward to some of Berkeley’s landmarks. If historic
buildings move you, download the app: Walks in 1K+ Cities; from iTunes App Store or Google Play and let your phone or tablet lead the way.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, the Arts & Crafts style of architecture and furniture developed a niche in Berkeley, its ethos of natural wood and materials echoing the tree-filled canyons. Architects for the wealthy such as Julia Morgan, Greene & Greene, and Bernard Maybeck built churches, halls and private homes, but the movement spread beyond to the middle classes, and the California Bungalow was born. These modest homes line the streets of the “flats” as Berkeley’s valley area is called, while the hills are adorned with substantial houses in this distinctive style. You won’t want to miss the Bernard Maybeck-designed First Church of Christ, Scientist. Now known as the Christian Science Society, the church at 2619 Dwight Way, is the only Berkeley building to be named a National Landmark. Now we are going to head further west to one of Berkeley’s more quirky attractions. At2982 Adeline Street we’ll visit the Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles. Berkeley has always been home to the arty and the inventive and here visitors can learn about the history of lace and textiles.

Time for lunch! You remembered to bring your shopping bag, I hope, because Berkeley, like many California towns, charges for a plastic bag at checkout. At the Berkeley Bowl, at 2020.

Oregon Street (there’s another at 920 Heinz Avenue), we’ll find a cornucopia of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and meat, cheese and pastries. Let’s buy goodies for lunch and we’ll head to the Berkeley Rose Garden (1200 Euclid) and find a bench to picnic.

This beautiful public garden urges us to learn more about plants. When researching Joyous Lies I spent much time at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. Situated on a hilly 35-acre site in Strawberry Canyon, the Garden houses over 10,000 plants from every corner of the globe, planted in sections that emulate their native growing conditions as far as possible. Here, talking to docents, I learned some of the amazing properties of plants that led to my character Maelle, a botanist. I also learned all about using plant dyes, a craft in which my character Johanna excels.

Exiting the Garden and traveling uphill, we’ll pass the Lawrence Hall of Science, where the parking lot is full of school buses. Continue up Centennial Drive to the top, turn right at Grizzly Peak Road, and we’ll will come across a viewpoint offering an incredible panorama of sea, sky, bridges, and the town of Berkeley spread out below. A little further on we’ll enter Tilden Park. A winding road leads to a petting farm, a smaller botanical garden devoted to Californian plants, and the famous merry-go-round. It’s a great place to hike and in summer, enjoy swimming at Lake Anza.

By now it’s getting on for evening. Let’s go south on Grizzly Peak Boulevard and drive carefully down winding Claremont Avenue to the Claremont Hotel and Spa. At this gorgeous hotel, white like a wedding cake, we’ll enjoy a drink overlooking the bay. Time to freshen up. We’re staying at the Berkeley City Club. At 2315 Durant Ave, this beautiful Julia Morgan designed building is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Finally, refreshed, we’ll make our way to our reservation at Chez Panisse. Bon appetit!

Joyous Lies released February 15, 2021.

About the Book:
Maelle Woolley, a shy botanist, prefers plants to people. They don’t suddenly disappear. Raised on her grandparents’ commune after her mother’s mysterious death, she follows the commune’s
utopian beliefs of love for all. Then she falls for attractive psychiatrist Zachary Kane. When Zachary claims her mother and his father never emerged alive from his father’s medical research lab, Maelle investigates. What she discovers will challenge everything she believes, force her to find strength she never knew she had, and confront the commune’s secrets and lies. What happened to love?   And can it survive?

To Buy The Book: Click Here

Author Travel Guide: Sacramento, California

Author Travel Guide: Sacramento, California

Ahhh, California with its sun, beaches and Hollywood. A fifth generation Californian, I’ve enjoyed every corner of the state and, though I now live elsewhere, it’s still one of my favorite places to visit. There’s another California, too; one steeped with history and this is the place featured in my new release, Spirit in Time. Sacramento figured large in the 1849 Gold Rush, as tens of thousands of people from around the world rushed in to capture their share. Practically overnight, the small swampy town grew to be a city and then the state’s capital. My story is set in 1882, so the rush is over by the time my character, ghost-hunter Jillian Winchester, arrives. Now, it’s the dawn of the Gilded Age, the time of railroad barons, but the city’s origins as a rough, western town cling tight. Brothel madams, saloons, and rough characters are all around. I lived in Sacramento for about fifteen years and loved exploring the region. There are soooo many interesting places that it’s difficult to focus on just a few. But I’ll give it a shot.

Haunted Happenings
My ghost story features a couple of spots where rumors of ghosts abound! The main setting for the story is the very real Crocker Museum, which was once part of a mansion estate owned by a prominent family in the nineteenth century. In a book written by Aimee Crocker, one of the daughters, she professes to have quite clearly seen a ghost and this shapes some of her later thinking about life. In more modern times, a museum guard once claims to have seen a ghost and it so frightened him, he ran out of the place and never returned. One other place was a restaurant we frequented downtown, a former brothel and bar. This was the inspiration for the brothel that makes an appearance in my story. Both the modern real place and the one in the story have a few ghosts on hand..

Travel back in Time
Since my story features a bit of time travel, with my modern-day character kidnapped back to 1882, this is a perfect topic. Old Sacramento is the place to start. This little pocket of time sits on the river’s edge and features numerous old brick buildings that date back to the nineteenth century. Today, this is a tourist spot that locals enjoy as well. There are some wonderful restaurants, shops, horse-drawn carriages and often, during special events, people in period

Day trips
Where do I start? San Francisco is a 90-minute drive to the west, or there’s Napa Valley’s wine area, or the beautiful oak-studded foothills area where you can visit Apple Hill and sip hard cider. My choice is the Delta region, just a half hour south where you can visit a number of tiny river towns. One of my favorites is Courtland, home of the annual Pear Fair, where we took our children every year so they could sample pear fritters and pear ice cream. There is also the unique town of Locke, with historic wooden buildings leaning precariously, and which once was a community where Chinese workers were “allowed” to live. Isleton is the home of the Crawdad Festival, which once was a raucous gathering and beer-fest, but these days has evolved into something much tamer. My favorite stopping spot is the Bogle Winery in Clarksburg, which you can do a little wine-tasting and have a picnic a stone’s throw from the vineyards.

                                               Walk About
There’s no doubt, Sacramento is a big metropolitan area and that means highways, skyscrapers and concrete. But it’ surrounded by wonderful, wild areas that have been preserved by regional leaders. I went frequently to the Cosumnes River Preserve, a protected wetlands area that is critical for migrating waterfowl. Boarded walkways and trails throughout provide a delightful break from  the city and viewing the thousands of birds that inhabit the area is a treat.

The American River Parkway is a walking and bike trail that meanders for miles along one of two rivers that run through town, providing wonderful and wild views. Once on the trail, it’s difficult to imagine you are in a large city. Downtown Sacramento provides shaded streets, with views of beautiful old mansions and Victorians. If you enjoy architecture that dates back a few eras, there is plenty to see here as decade upon decade offers its own unique touch.

Spirit in Time was released on Feb. 10, 2021

The story
Time travel isn’t real. It can’t be real. But ghost-blogger Jillian Winchester discovers otherwise when an enigmatic spirit conveys her to 1872 to do his bidding. Jillian finds herself employed as a maid in Sacramento, in an elegant mansion with a famous painting. The artwork reveals another mystery: Why does the man within look exactly like her boyfriend, Mason Chandler?
Morality and sin live side by side, not only in the picture, but also within her. As her transgressions escalate, she races the clock to find the man in the painting, and hunt down a spirit with a disconcerting gift.
But will time be her friend or foe?

Read “Spirit in Time” TODAY!

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Author Travel Guide: Penhallow, Midcoast Maine

Midcoast Maine is not perhaps as well known as the southern beaches or the Down East locales such as Bar Harbor and Acadia, but it has its own special charm. Towns like Bath, Camden, Rockland, and Belfast showcase the Maine of lobstermen, shipbuilders, and farmers, while towns such as Castine on the many small peninsulas that jut into Penobscot Bay offer gorgeous views.

Disclosure: Penhallow is a fictional town, in which The Penhallow Train Incident and my latest release, Mrs. Spinney’s Secret, is set. If you want to check out the town on which it is based, head to Belfast. Names have been changed to protect the innocent, but if you meander through the towns
you’ll easily find the places I recommend.

You could say Penhallow is caught in a time-warp—populated by farmers and rather dazed former hippies, it combines Mainer down-to-earth attitudes with a gentle flower child feel. It’s often missed because Route 1 bypasses it. However, if you do want to get off the highway, it’s a great spot to stay, and right on Penobscot Bay. Activities abound, including kayaking, sailing, dolphin and bird watching, and swimming. Or you can simply explore the rocky shore for sea glass, pebbles, and shells.

The place to stay

Waldo B&B is a cozy Main Street inn in the middle of the coast town of Penhallow. The hero of Mrs. Spinney’s Secret, Jasper MacEwan, stays there; that is, until he and Cassidy Beauvoir, denizen of Amity Landing, find each other.

Local hangouts

Most locals head to Durkee’s for lunch. It’s not far from the B&B. Or you can take your cooler of beer and coleslaw across the river to Childe’s Lobster Pound and pick your own lobster. You won’t have to worry about eating a bad lobster like Jasper did—unless someone is out to kill you too!

Want something a little less casual? Follow the Red Hat ladies to Fedora’s. The Red Hats are an institution in Penhallow. Their leader, Edna Mae Quimby, is the wife of the sheriff and a formidable presence. The group can often be found at the restaurant on High Street, where they can keep an eye on goings-on. Be sure to stop in afterwards at Mindful Books, Cassidy’s used book store on Church Street. She will help you look for Summer reading or books on Maine, her specialty.

Need something to while away the afternoon?

Five miles down the road is the picturesque village of Amity Landing. You’ll love climbing the hills, and walking down to the dock and sailing marina. It hasn’t always been so peaceful though. A few years ago Hollywood descended upon it. Black Brothers Studios decided to make a picture based on the Penobscot Expedition, the worst naval rout in American history. You can take a little tour. Be sure not to miss Mrs. Spinney’s house—where the action centered. If you stay after dark, you might catch a glimpse or hear the telltale whining of the resident ghost, Snookie.

Midcoast road trip                      

Why not head down East to the Blue Hill Peninsula and Castine. This was the place where an American fleet was soundly defeated by a much smaller English force in 1779. Castine is a beautiful town filled with Georgian and Greek Revival houses. It’s home to the Maine Maritime Academy. Check out Fort George, where the English built fortifications in an attempt to wrest Maine from the Continental Navy. Try Danny Murphy’s for lunch, or for something more elegant, the Pentagouet Inn.

Mrs. Spinney’s Secret was released January 20 from the Wild Rose Press.

Here’s the story:
What do you do when Hollywood takes over your tiny Maine village to make a movie?
Cassidy Beauvoir, chair of the board of overseers of Amity Landing, is ready to throw the bums out; that is, until she meets Jasper MacEwan, the director of American Waterloo: the Rout of the Penobscot Expedition. It’s instant attraction until a series of deadly incidents threatens their budding romance. Are the attacks directed at the movie crew or the townspeople?
As the two search for answers, the trail leads them to long-held secrets of the worst naval defeat of the American Revolution—including betrayal, murder, and a lost hoard of English gold.

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It will also be available on Overdrive, Indigo, and other online stores.