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: 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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Author Travel Guide: Creekside, Arizona

Author Travel Guide: Creekside, Arizona

Dreaming of a getaway destination with yummy food, a wide variety of entertainment, unique wine, boutique hotels, hiking trails, water sports, all encompassed in a small town feel? Creekside can make your dream come true.
Nestled beneath a mountain in Northern Arizona, Creekside boasts four distinct seasons, all of them mild. Surrounded by protected forests, family owned ranches and a vineyard the town is a throwback to another time while offering the amenities found in larger communities.

Top five must see and do when visiting Creekside Arizona – Home of Benevolent Spirits and Unlimited Opportunities.

Where to stay
Check in to The Palace Hotel by 4 o’clock. That will give you just enough time to drop your stuff in your room and return to the lobby bar, Victoria’s, for a pre-dinner libation and the inn’s famous snack mix. Popular with both hotel guests and locals, the bar offers a selection of beer and wine plus seasonal drinks- must try the raspberry sangria in summer and mulled wine or peppermint hot chocolate in winter. This intimate bar reminds me of an old fashioned private club, comfortable seating, outdoor patio in good weather and a library tucked next door complete with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and an electric fire. Do remember the hotel is haunted and, after a drink in the bar or dinner in town you may spot Victoria’s spirit keeping an eye on her hotel from behind the desk, beside or on the stairway or looking out at the community from the window of room 15.

Dinner on the Square
From The Palace it’s a five to 10 minute walk to an eclectic selection of restaurants for dinner. There’s pizza at Willies, Asian at The Happy Dragon, White table cloth at Wellington’s, steaks an seafood at The Station, and casual Italian at Rosa’s. Or if straight up American comfort food is your wish, check out the Bistro at The Hotel St. George or the Lone Star Café.

Night Time Entertainment
At 9 o’clock the Lone Star Café closes for a half hour while the staff moves the tables out of the middle of the floor and sets up for live entertainment and dancing. Suddenly it’s a country bar. Rather watch sports than dance? Check out Cody’s Pub, multiple TV’s, snack food specials, generous selections of drinks and a room full of sports enthusiasts – does it get better than this?

Picture Perfect Day Trip
After devouring the breakfast at The Palace, It’s time to:

Shop the art galleries and specialty shops around The S quare. The area boasts everything from paintings to glass art to sculpture to one-of-a-kind clothing. And of course there’s a tourist shop with a Creekside t-shirt and mug. Don’t miss Serendipity – Home of Fabulous Finds and Winter’s Gallery both located on Beatrix Street.

Hit the trail. Arrange a trail ride at Windsong Ranch. Perfect ride? The lunch ride, especially when the local police chief is leading the way.

Celebrate Happy Hour at the winery. Arranged in advance the happy hour pairing is worth the van ride out of town. Local wines are paired with international cheeses, meats, vegetables, fruits and chocolate. Yumm. Oh yeah, watch out for the old guy with twinkling eyes at the bar – he’s been dead about 70 years.

Outdoor Adventures
North Lake. A hidden gem nestled at the base of a mountain, North Lake Park is owned and operated by the town of Creekside. For an easy hike anytime, walk the lake’s perimeter. Like a little challenge? Take the sunrise or sunset hike up the mountain – the view is worth the trek and the hike is led by a park ranger. Into water sports? Rent a kyack or paddleboard at the concession stand. You can count on a special peace here as motors are prohibited.

Festival on the Square
Almost every weekend The Square hosts a festival – art, jazz, blues, antiques, literacy, all have a festival weekend dedicated. The Square fills with vendors selling everything and music. Some of the festivals include dancing in the evening. Dancing under the stars – Romance!

With so much to see and do 72 hours my not be enough!

Five things I love about Prescott, Arizona

  1. Christmas City. Prescott was the first Arizona city to erect a community Christmas tree (1916). Promoters used the tree to celebrate the county courthouse. They loaded the branches with toys and gifts for children and provided baskets of holiday food to families to insure everyone had a happy holiday. The events around the community have grown to include decorations on every business, parades, crowds of visitors, and musicians. Prescott’s holiday enthusiasm resulted in them becoming Christmas City. Learn more HERE 

2. Courthouse Square and The Gazebo. The Square hosts activities and events all year round. Events include art fairs, food festivals, concerts, outdoor activity days, antique fairs and evening entertainment. Arizona Beer week takes place in February. One of the largest book fairs which hosts authors from all over the globe takes place in March. Prescott Rodeo Days, the world’s oldest rodeo kick off in July. The Jazz festival plays to sold out crowds in the month of August. At the end of the year the city lights up as Christmas City.

3. The Hassayampa Inn. The original investors each contributed $1 per share to build the Inn because the community needed a place to relax and congregate. Today residents congregate in the lobby, pull out board games or playing cards, pick up a glass of wine from the Glass Door Bar or the Peacock Room and socialize. I wrote part of the first two books in the Creekside Dreams series in the lobby. The hotel boasts an antique elevator that requires an employee to operate. Though I’ve stayed there many times I have never met the ghost.  Learn more HERE

4. The Hotel St Michael. The very first elevator in Prescott (1925) still moves guests up and down the five floors in this hotel. The lobby is tiny, not a place to work or socialize, but the hotel is connected to the very own indoor shops.  The Hotel also hosts loveliest staircase from the second to first floor – I can see myself making a grand entrance! As author of paranormal romance I can appreciate the hotel’s other worldly guest who never leaves. The St. Michael also has a ghost – have not personally met her either.

5. The Elks Opera House. Located across the street from The Hassayampa Inn, the Elks Performing Arts Center started life in 1905 with the Opera House on the first floor, Offices on the second floor and The Elks Lodge on the third floor.  Though the building experienced several occupancies, it now has a fully restored venue on the first floor, performance studios on the second and large meeting or event rooms on the top floor. Included is picture of my date to a tribute band performance hanging out with an usher dressed in period costume.