How we leave our readers…

Before our family moved to Havasu in 1968, we spent summer vacations at the beach. It was either Newport or San Clemente. Each day there, I rode the waves on my canvas surf rider. The thought of sharks never entered my mind as I swam out to meet the waves. But then, when I was in college, I did something foolish. I read Jaws.

Jaws forever altered my relationship with the sea. Ocean waves became a scary, unsafe place. I suspect I’m not the only person changed by Jaws.

But, it isn’t just about sharks. Writers have been instilling fears—sometimes irrational, sometimes rational—into its readers—or movie goers. I imagine the fear of clowns came from creepy clown cinema. There are probably some people out there who cower behind a shower curtain, and no doubt the need for a child (or even adult) to check under the bed before going to sleep was probably inspired by some horror movie.

I’ve an active imagination, and I am fairly confident that if I wanted to—I could write terrifying books of horror. But, when I consider doing that, I ask myself, do I really want to inspire the type of fear that could possibly linger and prevent the reader from doing something he or she once loved? Like I once loved riding the surf.

A while back I received a fan letter from a reader, who told me she once had a fear of ghosts. The thought of ghosts—the possibility of ghosts—terrified her. But then she started reading my Haunting Danielle series, and she began seeing ghosts—even the possibility of ghosts—in an entirely new light. She was no longer afraid of them.

While it’s a writer’s job to stir a wide range of emotions in the reader—including fear—when the story is over, I rather like the idea of leaving the reader in a better, happier place.

Bedsheet Ghosts VS Walt

When any of the ghost-seeing-characters of Haunting Danielle encounters a spirit, the spirit typically looks like it did when he or she was alive—maybe a younger or older version. For a spirit with dramatic flair, like Eva Thorndike, mist or other ghostly special effects might be involved.

But of course, there is another type of ghost—the bedsheet ghost–that classic Halloween costume made from a white bedsheet, with two eyes cut out. I suspect the bedsheet ghost may have inspired the cartoonists behind Casper the Ghost.

But who inspired the bedsheet ghost?

According to an article on The Ghost Story, the white bedsheet ghost evolved from the custom of corpses in early Britain being wrapped in white cloth for burial—typically without a coffin. Therefore, one way to scare people into believing you were the departed—dress up in a sheet-like cloth.

An article on TVTropes tells a similar story, but credits the bedsheet adaptation (inspired by burial shrouds) as a way for an actor in the 1800s to be more easily recognized as a ghost when portraying one on stage.

A Daily Beast article, Who Invented the ‘Bedsheet Ghost’ tells a similar story, crediting the theatre for bringing us the bedsheet ghost.

Since burial shrouds aren’t really a thing anymore—at least not in this country—I’d suspect today’s ghosts would look more like Walt and the other spirits of the Haunting Danielle series.

Happy 125th Birthday!


Today Grandma Hilda turns 125. At least she would be, if she hadn’t passed away in 1978—a year before having a chance to meet my firstborn.

Grandma may have left this world almost 39 years ago, but I think of her every day. In my bedroom sits her old-fashioned dressing table. I remember sitting at it as a little girl, poking through its messy drawers, filled with random personal items like bobby pins, hair nets, and pop beads. Grandma didn’t wear pearls; she wore pop beads. Today women of my generation don’t use hair nets—at least not that I’m aware of, and the last time I saw a pair of pop beads was over a decade ago.

The set of apple Franciscan ware I have didn’t belong to her, yet it’s like her set—and a few of the pieces I got after my aunt passed away may have once belonged to Grandma. But it doesn’t matter. I think of Grandma whenever I use it. Even my painted kitchen cabinets—not quite white with a hint of soft yellow, were inspired by Grandma’s kitchen.

91A couple years before Grandma passed away she went into decline and my uncle put her in a nursing home. When my mother came into town we went to visit Grandma, and we were horrified at the home. They had Grandma drugged up and the place smelled. We made the split decision to kidnap her.  I can still remember the staff saying—“You can’t do that!”—we hadn’t been the ones to check her in.  We said, “Watch us,” and took her out of there.

We took Grandma to my aunt’s house. I was newly married and had recently graduated from college and didn’t yet have a job. So, each day, I drove from Covina, California to my aunt’s house in El Monte, to help take care of grandma. She got better and moved back home with my grandpa Pete.

When Grandma passed away a couple years later, she was ready to go. She told my mother, “I hope they won’t be mad at me.” Mom didn’t realize what Grandma meant until after she slipped off in her sleep.


In my Haunting Danielle series death is never the end. And who knows—perhaps it is the same way in the real world. I like to think Grandma is surrounded by all those who she loved—and have since departed.

A few years back I discovered altered books—where an artist transforms a hardback book into a work of art. As an author, I supposed I should be outraged at the thought of violating a book in such a way—making it unreadable—not as the original author intended. But the truth is—I found altered books utterly enchanting, especially how they stimulate the tactile senses.

For my Mother’s birthday one year, I created an altered book, wholly inspired by Grandma Hilda. As you will see by the posted pictures, it even has a little drawer filled with pop beads. What you can’t smell, is the package of gardenia fragrance wax chips—which when one opens the book, still gives off the scent of Grandma Hilda’s favorite flower.

Happy Birthday Grandma Hilda