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?

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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.