Monthly Archives: June 2016

Or, Meeting Ian Somerhalder

I can’t stop smiling after The Vampire Diaries convention in Burbank last weekend! I not only got to hear panels from stars of TVD and The Originals, but I actually got to meet and talk with Ian Somerhalder, Damon Salvatore himself! It was a dream come true.

Back when Buffy the Vampire Slayer was still on the air, I went to my first fan convention in Pasadena, CA and had my photo taken with Buffy’s bad boy vampire, James Marsters (Spike).

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Anna and James snapped back before cell phones were banned from the photo op room. 😉 Don’t you love his leather jacket?

Sunday, I ran into Damon and Stefan Salvatore (or their cardboard lookalikes). I wonder if they’re actually that tall?

 

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Before the show, Ian was spotted looking amazing. The photo caught him in the middle of a friendly, “Hello guys.”

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First up, Michael Malarkey (Enzo) and Chris Wood (Kai). They spent the entire panel making jokes, singing, and beatboxing. It’s too bad their characters never shared a scene on The Vampire Diaries because they were hilarious together.

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Finally, Paul Wesley (Stefan) and Ian Somerhalder (Damon) took the stage at the end of the day. Though they must have been exhausted, they remained upbeat as they answered fan questions they’ve probably answered a hundred times already (“Which season of the show was your favorite?” Ian => season 1, Paul => season 3, “What is your favorite ship on the show?” Ian & Paul => Stamon LOL, and “If you could only eat one food the rest of your life what would it be?” Ian => dark chocolate, Paul => vegan cookies.)

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Then, the highlight of the day (maybe the year)–cozying up to Mr. Somerhalder. He was so charming and polite, giving each lady in line (and there were hundreds) personal attention. He gave me a high five for being a writer and made us all, in the ten seconds or so we stood next to him, feel special.

Ian Somerhalder Damon

Afterwards, I was slightly euphoric.

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Attending the convention was so much fun. I’ve been a huge fan of The Vampire Diaries from the very beginning (I watched the pilot at Comic Con before it aired and attended the panel when Ian Somerhalder was famous for playing Boone on Lost and I didn’t really know who Paul Wesley or Nina Dobrev were. I adored the pilot, though, and immediately started reading the books in preparation for the TV premiere that fall.)

Here are my two bad boy vampires. I feel so lucky to have met them both. Their characters and storylines have definitely influenced my writing, including the Beasts of Vegas Series, and my career.

Vampire Collage

Anna with Damon Salvatore and William the Bloody–the original bad boy vampires.

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<3 Anna

Or, Our Offer Was Accepted

Hopefully (knock on wood), our house-hunting roller coaster is over because one of our offers has finally been accepted on a wonderfully weird ranch-style home in Apple Valley, California. I’m so excited and relieved to be moving forward and putting down roots after relocating back and forth across the country as a US Marine Corps family for the past fifteen years.

Our road to our forever home, though, has been a bit bumpy.

House #1

Gayhead

After our first round of searching and seeing houses with our shiny new real estate agent, this home was our absolute favorite. An investment company had gutted a 1950s home and remodeled it from the inside out, even adding a pool. It had two master bedrooms and an office with French doors leading onto the covered patio. I fell instantly in love.

The only problem was, the house was listed $20,000 higher than any other comparable home in the (not so nice) area. We’d be living in the nicest house on the block. For example, the yard next door was a junk and salvage yard. So, we made an offer for $15,000 below asking price. Though the home had been on the market for more than a month, the investment company refused to even acknowledge our offer. We had to walk away.

House #2

St Timothy

This gorgeous home we dubbed “the mountain house” because it sat under tall, rocky hills was our second (and more realistic) choice. It didn’t have a pool, but it was very well cared for and the acre lot was nicely landscaped from front to back. Bonus, it was in an excellent neighborhood.

We put in an offer for full asking price plus 50% of buyers’ closing costs. The owners verbally agreed. We were in!

Sometime that night, another offer came in. We were using a VA loan, which required the sellers to shoulder a bit more of the costs as well as a 45-day escrow. The new offer was a conventional loan. The couple accepted the other offer, and we were out of luck for the second time in one weekend.

House #3

US Hwy 18

This was my husband’s favorite. It’s a beautiful home, inside and out, with lots of clever design features that make it a superstar. Covered patios, wireless speakers in every room, and remote controlled security gates, for example. Plus it had a pool.

We made an offer for full asking price on Friday. That night, the sellers’ agent let us know they wouldn’t respond to offers until Monday. So, we waited. On Monday, the sellers’ agent said we’d have to wait until Tuesday in case better offers came in for them to choose from. On Tuesday, they said, “Oh, by the way. This wasn’t in the listing, but the sellers just installed new solar panels on the house and owe $40,000. The buyers will have to assume that loan on top of the home loan.”

We had to walk away. My husband is still upset about it.

House #4

Anoka

I admit, by this time I was feeling frustrated and disappointed. Three weeks of going out, seeing houses, making offers, and waiting on pins and needles had frayed my nerves. House #4 was no one’s dream house, but it was perfectly suitable. It had two master bedrooms, a family room, and half an acre of land on a corner lot. Also, it was about $50,000 cheaper than the first three properties. It had also been on the market for two months, so we assumed the owner would be happy to receive an offer.

We made an offer for full asking price plus 100% of buyers’ closing costs. The sellers’ agent got back to us the next day. Though it wasn’t mentioned in the listing, the seller would only sell the home “as is.” He refused to pay a cent, though our VA loan requires the seller to pay for certain reports and any lender-required repairs necessary to fund the loan. I was so desperate, I said we’d still buy the home if he simply agreed to pay for any possible repairs the lender required (with the chance there would be none), but he said no. We had to withdraw our offer.

House #5

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This was the first property we saw on our house-hunting trip that day, 3 and a half weeks into the process, and I fell immediately in love. We all agreed it was perfect for our family. It boasted an acre of land, two master suites, a covered patio, new windows throughout, and a living room the size of a skating rink. On top of all that, it was built in 1965 and has the strangest, kookiest interior of any house I’ve seen. It’s full of little nooks and cubbies, plus built in bookshelves, desks, and vanities unlike any I’ve seen. At each subsequent home we saw, we used House #5 as a measuring stick. After seeing five additional homes in our price range, this was still our favorite.

We made an offer for full asking price on Friday and crossed our fingers. Unfortunately, the seller was out of town and wouldn’t be available to consider the offer until Monday morning. So, we waited. On Monday, the seller gave us a verbal acceptance, but he is the executor of a family trust (that owns the house) and he needed to run the offer by his siblings to get their okay. He’d let us know Tuesday if he’d officially accept our offer or not. Another day of waiting and worrying and hoping this was finally it and we’d have a home to call our own.

Our agent called Tuesday afternoon with good news. The seller had accepted our offer, and we were in escrow! It’s still early in the process and I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’m starting to make plans for our sprawling ranch style home. The yard has no landscaping to speak of, so I’m considering fruit trees, shrubbery, and decorative rocks. The interior has wall-to-wall carpeting, but with the desert heat and sand I prefer tile. The kitchen is “dated” (the kind word our agent uses to mean old and in need of remodeling) and I’d like to install new cabinets and countertops. But I’m so excited to get started and make this home into our dream home!

 

If you have any remodeling tips or stories I’d love to hear them. Check out my Pinterest board for our home remodeling projects.

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<3 Anna

Or, Paranormal Investigators Take Closer Look

Click here to see the original article or scroll down to read the whole story.

Investigators Checking out Haunted Hallways at Manilla School

Written in March 2016

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In March 2014, the IKM-Manning School District made the tough decision to close the Manilla middle school, which had been a staple in that community since 1915. For the past two years, the building has been for sale and sitting empty—or has it?  A non-profit organization, Ventures Paranormal Investigations of Manilla, says there may be something otherworldly residing in the Manilla building, and they will be conducting their own investigation into reported activity on Friday, April 15. Ventures Paranormal has reported visitors have been able to capture doors closing on request, shadowy figures and humming on the second floor. Previous investigations have picked up and recorded electronic voice phenomena (EVPs) and electromagnetic fields with the K2 meter along with noises and other unexplained phenomena. The one session scheduled for 8 to 11 p.m. that evening was opened up to the public for a cost of $25 a person and has already sold out. Attendees will be allowed to bring their own equipment, including cameras, video and tape recorders and any other paranormal investigative equipment they would like. They are also allowed to use equipment provided by Ventures Paranormal. And for one night at least, whatever walks the halls at the Manilla school will not walk alone.

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<3 Anna

Or, My Spring Break Trip To The Grand Canyon

This was my second excursion to the Grand Canyon, but the last time I went my husband and I walked to the edge, saw it, and went back to our hotel room. So, this year I really wanted to enjoy the experience. Bonus–it was my daughter’s first visit.

We started our adventure in Williams, Arizona at the Grand Canyon Railroad Depot with a live cowboy shoot-out!

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The train ride was about 2 hours, but it hardly felt that long. We enjoyed live entertainment and a dining car, plus the passing scenery was one-of-a-kind. It was like a trip back through time to the American West of the nineteenth century.

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Disposable cameras used to be my only option for vacation pics. Now, they’re a clunky relic of a pre-cell phone world. My daughter thought turning the exposure gear and hearing each picture snap was hilarious.

After our arrival, I didn’t just want to stand at the edge, I really wanted to spend time in the National Park. I hadn’t planned far enough in advance for burro rides or anything like that (maybe next year!), but we did take the angel trail toward the bottom of the canyon. It was so early in the year, there was still snow on the ground, which made the trail slippery, but the cowboys on horseback we passed didn’t seem to have any problem with it.

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You can see patches of snow in the lower left corner.

The views were spectacular, and I’m so glad we slowed down and took our time.

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My favorite part of the trip, though, was finding the Native rock art along the Angel trail. I’m a huge fan of all things historical and archaeological, so I was definitely on a hunt for the artwork from the moment I heard it was visible from the trail. It took a while to find, but I did finally discover red animals, shapes, and humanoid figures on the canyon wall.

 

Rock Art Grand Canyon Collage

The Native rock art is red against the pale cream rock.

If anyone knows anything more about the rock art in the Grand Canyon, I’d love to hear about it!

train robbery grand canyon

Finally, on our way back to Williams our train was boarded by a nefarious gang of outlaws. Luckily, we all survived to tell the tale.

 

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<3 Anna

Or, Take A Peek At The 3rd Book In The Dark Caster Series

Teaser 19 SoV

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<3 Anna

Or, Ghosthunters Couldn’t Hack A Night In A Haunted House

Click here to see the original article or scroll down to read the whole story.

Ghost Hunters Rescued From Derry Haunted House

Written in March 2016

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Two ghost-hunters had to be rescued after becoming trapped in Derry’s best known haunted house.

A number of ghostly tales have for many years been associated with Boom Hall which was built in 1779 on the banks of the River Foyle at Culmore.

The historic building has been vacant for decades and has fallen into such a state of disrepair that the building and the area has been cordoned for a number of years because of fears that it could collapse.

However, it has emerged that the fences around Boom Hall have not deterred would-be ghost-hunters from having a look around the building.

Two men recently became trapped in the dilapidated building while on the lookout for ghosts in the dark of night.

A fire crew was called to the scene to help the two men to safety.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that the rescue operation had taken place.

A spokesperson said: “We received a call at 7:24pm to a report of an incident at premises at the Culmore Road area of the city on Saturday 13th February.

“One fire appliance from Northland Fire Station was deployed to the scene of two men requiring rescue assistance from a property in the area.

“Firefighters were able to rescue the two men using keys provided by the property’s keyholder. Both men were uninjured.”

The NIFRS said the rescue operation lasted for around one hour.

It is understood the two men told their rescuers they were interested in ghosts and that’s why they were within the walls of Boom Hall.

When built, the building was named after the boom which had been placed across the Foyle during the Siege of Derry in 1689.

The boom was broken by ships which relieved those who had taken part in the siege within Derry’s Walls.

Throughout its history, Boom Hall was home to some of the local area’s best known families.

However, for many years, the building has been neglected although there are plans currently being discussed for its regeneration.

In relation to the ghost stories associated with Boom Hall, number of them were outlined in a book by Madeline McCully called Haunted Derry which was published last year.

One story involved a girl who was a relative of the family who lived at Boom Hall at the time.

She had been sent to Boom Hall to remove her from the attention of a young groomsman employed in her own home in England.

However, the young man followed her and hid out in the stables where they had secret trysts.

When they were discovered the girl was locked in an upstairs corner bedroom but the young man got away.

The girl pined and a few weeks later the bedroom went up in flames.

The family frantically tried to get into the room but to no avail.

When eventually the flames were extinguished the ashes were searched for the body of the young girl but nothing was found.

Legend has it that the ghost of the girl can be seen walking along the corridor at the top of the house.

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<3 Anna

Or, Try The 1st Book In The Red Plague Series For No Cost

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The ebook edition of Elixir is still free on Amazon today. Click HERE, and try it today!

Blurb:

The red plague has devastated the human race, turning billions of people into zombies with red eyes and an insatiable hunger for human flesh.

The 212R virus sweeps through the population so quickly a possible cure is left to rot. Seventeen-year-old Maya Solomon may be the only survivor who knows where it is. But to reach the lab in Raleigh, North Carolina she will have to outrun the infected boy tracking her every step and cross into a city swarming with monsters.

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And don’t forget to pre-order a brand new Red Plague novella, Remedy. Click HERE, and pre-order today!

Blurb:

The red plague has devastated the human race, turning billions of people into zombies with red eyes and an insatiable hunger for human flesh.

Seventeen-year-old Callie Crawford is used to fighting. She was an all-star wrestler in high school, and since 212R destroyed her world, she hasn’t stopped fighting. When her high school boyfriend Levi caught the virus, Callie saved him by keeping him chained in a rural North Carolina barn, waiting for something to change.

Before 212R, Roman Duran was a computer nerd, but since the virus, he’s become a guard in the survivor enclave in Washington, DC. After volunteering for a rescue mission, Roman has been belittled, robbed, and left for dead. He hasn’t saved a single person.

Until he stumbles across Callie. Because she has a zombie on a short leash, and Roman is carrying a syringe full of zombie cure.

Callie and Roman will face soulless survivors and rabid zombies on their journey to save a single infected. Along the way, Callie will have to choose between her past and a whole new future.

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<3 Anna

Or, Take A Peek At The 1st Book In The Red Plague Series

Teaser 18 Eli

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<3 Anna

"A sizzling and sweet paranormal romance." 5 stars.
--Christine Rains, author of the 13th Floor Series

"A wonderful, suspenseful love story." 5 stars.
--Coffee Time Romance

"A great paranormal adventure with many twists and turns." 5 stars.
--Community Bookstop

"This book kept me on the edge of my seat." 4 stars.
--The Reading Cafe

Anna's bookshelf: Read

The Duke Is Mine
5 of 5 stars true
I'm not ashamed to say I cried at the end of this book, or that I read it in a single day because I couldn't stop.
Forbidden
3 of 5 stars true
The story started out a page tuner I could not put down, but by the middle I was skimming to the end just to see how it all wrapped up. I think the James' are wonderful storytellers, but this particular story didn't do it for me. I'd lov...

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