Category Archives: Halloween

Oatlands Plantation: A Halloween Tea & Haunted History

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Oatlands Plantation, Leesburg, VA

If you ever find yourself in Leesburg, VA, head south on Route 15. A few miles down the old Algonquin and Iroquois route, turn left into Oatlands Plantation. Oatlands Plantation was founded in 1798 on 3,408 acres. Once owned by the Carter and Eustis families, it’s now operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It’s also listed on the National Register for Historic Places. The mansion, which wasn’t completed until 1804, is one of the best examples of Federal estate architecture in the country.

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Statue in reflecting pool garden.

Now claiming 417 acres of farmland and gardens, it’s a refuge in one of the fastest growing counties in Virginia. Besides the mansion which can be toured daily, there’s a carriage house with a gift shop and a wonderful open area where they serve weekend teas. The estate also houses one of the country’s oldest, still-in-use greenhouses and a sunken, walled garden in the Colonial Revival style (including a bowling green, rose garden, kitchen and herb garden, reflecting pool, and numerous dependencies) that rivals anything in Charleston or Savannah.

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Carriage House with the gift shop and tea room.

There’s so much history that I won’t even try to put it into a blog post. But I will say that my favorite things about the property are the interpretive tours and weekend seasonal teas. The annual Witches Brew Tea and the nighttime Paranormal tours are two the things my daughter and niece look forward to every year in the fall.

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Parterre garden and late autumn hydrangeas.

This year, due to the stress of my book deadline (Dec 1) and my kids’ college application deadlines (Nov. 1), I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to make either of the these events. But this past Sunday, we put away our computers and books and headed west. One of the best decisions I’ve made in months.

So instead of boing you with more history, I’ve included a photographic tour of our weekend at Oatlands. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

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Oatlands Plantation, back of the house.

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Memorial garden.

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Kitchen garden and dependencies.

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Entrance to the sunken garden.

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Pump house.

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Reflecting pool.

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Reflecting pooi statue.

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Autumn touches.

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One of the original wells in the parterre garden.

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One of the many water features found in the sunken gardens.

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Front exterior of the mansion.

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Entrance to Oatlands Plantation.

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Late autumn herb garden.

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Fish pond.

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Mrs. Eustis’s tea garden.

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Bachelor’s cottage.

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Entrance to the kitchen garden.

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Entrance to sunken gardens.

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One of the many sets of staircases leading down to the rose gardens and reflecting pool.

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Witches Brew Tea at Oatlands Plantation.

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Last of the hydrangeas in the parterre garden.

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I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween with few tricks and lots of treats! And remember, if you’re ever in Northern, VA, try to make time for Oatlands. You’ll be so grateful you did!

Word Wars! Twelve Shades of Midnight Authors Share Their Most (& Least) Favorite Things

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Twelve Shades of Midnight, an anthology of 12 all new paranormal novellas is out today! My novella, Midnight Sun, is included and I’m thrilled to be part of this amazing lineup of authors for my first foray into the paranormal.

I’ve had a blast working with the other authors in the making of this anthology! From brainstorming titles to coming up with Easter eggs hidden in the stories, the messages between the members of the group have been hilarious. How lucky am I to be in this amazing anthology?

Twelve Shades of Midnight

The stroke of midnight ushers in many things. From hijinks and mischief to danger and evil, romance is the magic that binds these paranormal novellas together. Join 12 bestselling and award winning authors as they explore the different shades of midnight in exclusive, never-before-released stories.

Liliana Hart – THE WITCH NEXT DOOR
Darynda Jones – A LOVELY DROP
Shea Berkley – DARK SECRETS: STONE COLD DEAD
Dakota Cassidy – WITCHED AT BIRTH
Claire Cavanaugh – MIDNIGHT RENEGADE
Rachel Grant – MIDNIGHT SUN
Trish McCallan – SPIRIT WOODS
Angi Morgan – BODYGUARDS IN HEELS: HIT & RUN HALLIE
Robin Perini – NIGHT OF THE JAGUAR
Robyn Peterman – SWITCHING HOUR
Ann Voss Peterson – THE SCHOOL
Jenn Stark – GETTING WILDE

Watch the Twelve Shades trailer: Facebook | YouTube

We’re celebrating the launch tomorrow with a Facebook party with lots of games and prizes. This is your opportunity to find out what I mean when I say how funny these authors are! Click on the image to RSVP.

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Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Barnes & Noble

Because I love exploring the similarities and differences in the answers, I subjected the Twelve Shades of Midnight authors to the Inside the Actors Studio quiz.

What is your favorite word?

Dakota: Serendipitous Robyn: Yes
Angi: Conundrum Rachel: Necropolis
Shea: I’m a writer. It’s nearly impossible to whittle it down to one…but I do love my name being said by someone who loves me. Jenn: Kabillion. Except that’s not a word I don’t think.
Robin: Cacophony, just because it sounds cool. Claire: Happy
Ann: Fabulous Liliana: Dude

What is your least favorite word?

Dakota: Can’t Robyn: No
Angi: Procrastinate Rachel: Racial and homophobic slurs
Shea: Snot. It’s just one of those words that sounds gross and refers to something gross. Jenn: Disappointed
Robin: Moist…just ’cause, well, yuck. Claire: Anything prejudicial
Ann: Ensconce Liliana: Moist

What turns you on?

Dakota: Serenity Robyn: Humor and a nice ass
Angi: Being shown love Rachel: Captain America
Shea: Kisses on my neck…soft, slow kisses. (sigh) Jenn: The eyes have it: If a glance is intentional, intense and interested (from the right guy), I’m in.
Robin: Slow dancing and swaying to the music Claire: Eagerness and humor. Cleaning my house doesn’t hurt either!
Ann: Coffee Liliana: Brains, baby. Followed closely by the ability to make me laugh like crazy.

What turns you off?

Dakota: Whiners Robyn: Negativity and lack of humility
Angi: Talk Talk Talk and More Talk Rachel: Rudeness
Shea: Hypocrisy and arrogance. They often go hand in hand except the person demonstrating these qualities rarely knows they’re doing them. Jenn: Abuse of any sort–mental, verbal, physical–no matter the scale. If you don’t choose your adversaries nobly, you suck.
Robin: Unkindness  Claire: Stress
Ann: Running out of coffee Liliana: Bad hygiene

What sound or noise do you love?

Dakota: Laughter Robyn: My kids laughter
Angi: Ocean waves and puppies playing Rachel: My children’s laughter
Shea: A drumline. It’s all about the beat, baby! Jenn: The gentle crash of ocean waves
Robin: A baby’s laugh Claire: My granddaughter’s magical laughter
Ann: Wind chimes Liliana: Rain and thunderstorms

What sound or noise do you hate?

Dakota: Sloppy eaters Robyn: My alarm clock
Angi: Leaf blowers Rachel: My husband’s alarm clock
Shea: My cat hacking up a hairball. Why is it always in the middle of the night? And does he clean up his mess? Nooo. He tries to bury it in the carpet, and I’m the one who’s got to clean up the nastiness he leaves behind. Jenn: My cat demanding breakfast at 4:15 a.m. Every. Morning.
Robin: Telephone ring Claire: A dentist’s drill
Ann: My alarm clock Liliana: Teeth scraping against a fork

What is your favorite curse word?

Dakota: Dicknuckle Robyn: Fuck
Angi: Damn Rachel: Fuck
Shea: Arse, but only when British people say it. It makes me giggle. Jenn: Fuck. Such a multitasker.
Robin: I don’t have one. Claire: Damn, and any variation thereof
Ann: Fuck. Really, so versatile! Liliana: Douchecanoe

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Dakota: Supermodeling Robyn: Chef
Angi: Photography Rachel: Travel writer who gets paid to go everywhere on vacation (Rick Steves, I want your job)
Shea: A falconer. Hunting with a bird would be fun. Jenn: Artifact Hunter
Robin: CIA Analyst, because I think it would be fascinating, and it would bring me that much closer to the books I write. Claire: FBI agent in my dreams. Travel writer as a possible reality.
Ann: Horse trainer Liliana: Professional shoe shopper and cheese fry eater

What profession would you not like to do?

Dakota: Porta Potty maintenance Robyn: Computer programmer
Angi: Anything with math Rachel: Wearing a hot dog costume and passing out flyers.
Shea: Sewage worker. Does anyone actually want to be a sewage worker? Jenn: Social worker. My heart would break or I’d want to seriously beat up people every day.
Robin: Sewer Maintenance. Self explanatory 🙂 Claire: Anything involving strange smells. I have a weak stomach.
Ann: School teacher, way too tough Liliana: Anything dealing with poop

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

Dakota: “Your castle with a turret, high on a hill, with all your family members and pets inside is to the right.. :).” Robyn: “It was a close one, but I was owed some favors. I was in the middle of a Scrabble tournament before you arrived, would you like to join me?”
Angi: “Welcome home.” Rachel: “I’ve decided to make an exception for you.”
Shea: “It’s about time you got here. You did good. There’s an all you can eat chocolate section next to the sushi bar and steaks grilling on the barbeque. And the mashed potatoes are so creamy…and fully loaded.” (yeah, the way to my heart is to feed me comfort food) Jenn: “Good job.”
Robin: “There really is a reason for everything, and if you’ll come with me, I’ll explain it all.” Claire: “You really gave your guardian angel a work out, but I’m glad to see you made it, Claire.”
Ann: “Everyone you love is here or on their way… eventually.” Liliana: “Your family and friends are waiting for you. And there’s an all-you-can-eat buffet.”

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And the winners from last week’s post are:

Kieran Kramer won Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann’s Night Sky

and Kim K. won Heather Ashby’s Never Forget.

Congratulations, ladies! Please use our contact page to claim your prize.

Thanks to everyone who commented!  ~ Sharon

Happy Halloween and Grave Danger Winner!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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To celebrate Halloween we thought we’d share pictures showing how some of us here at Kiss and Thrill dress up our homes for trick-or-treaters.

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The first two photos show Sarah Andre’s romance-themed decorations.

Next up is Sharon Wray’s graveyard for the undead.

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IMG_8440The witch will greet visitors at my house.

My husband just finished making the coffin, which is on the other side of the front door. Inside are eyes that will light up, make noise, and shake the box when you make a noise.

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This week’s featured Kiss and Thrill title is Manda Collins’ WHY DUKES SAY I DO.

“I’ve been a Manda Collins fan since I first read her work, but I think Why Dukes Say I Do is the best thing she’s written yet.”

Read the full review here.

Grave Danger 72dpiThe winner of a print copy of GRAVE DANGER and a Walker-Ames House magnet is…

Sasha Bell!

To claim your prizes please use the contact us page within 10 days and be sure to include your US mailing address.

We have a great week coming up at Kiss and Thrill. On Tuesday Carey interviews Carla Neggers and on Thursday Julie Ann Walker returns for a guest blog!

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jack-o’-lanterns carved by C. and J. Grant

The Walker-Ames Haunted House – Rachel’s Inspiration for Grave Danger

IMG_8412I recently attended a ghost tour of the historic logging town Port Gamble, Washington. The town was the inspiration for the setting of my book, Grave Danger, and I was particularly excited that as part of the tour, we were able to enter the Walker-Ames house, which was my model for the Montgomery Mansion. This was my second tour of the house, but the first late at night, with a group of people hoping to run into a ghost or two. Sadly (or thankfully, depending on your point of view) we didn’t meet any specters, but I was able to take some pictures of the interior of the gorgeous old house.

IMG_8416The house was pitch-dark during the tour (since we were looking for ghosts) so I couldn’t actually see what I was taking a picture of–had no idea how bright the wallpaper was, and objects will be off-center in some shots. The daylight shots of the exterior were taken at another time.

In the book Libby stands on the porch and looks over the town, imagining how Lyle felt when living there. Later, Mark has a conversation with Jason on the porch.

IMG_8378Upon entry into the house, there is an enclosed vestibule and then an interior door into the front hall. This second photo is the interior door, taken during the ghost tour.

IMG_8422IMG_8376Next is the entry hall, with center hearth. The stairway shot following is to the right of the hearth. In Grave Danger, this is the first room Libby enters and is disappointed to take in the cold, empty room, which could be warm and inviting, given the stained-glass windows above the stairs and rich woodwork of the staircase.

IMG_8371The curved windows are in the round room to the left of the entryway, and the next photo is of the hearth in that room. This is the room where Libby interviews the elder Montgomery family members.

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The house is utterly gorgeous and it would be wonderful to see it fixed up in all its glory, except then people would live there and I wouldn’t get to go on ghost tours and take pictures, and be inspired.

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So, tell me, have you ever been on a ghost tour? Or is there a particular tour you’d like to go on? I’m giving away a print copy of Grave Danger and a magnet with a picture of the Walker-Ames house to one commenter.

Freaky Friday Ghosts and Giveaways!

(Stop #2 – see JustRomanticSuspense for stop #1)

Since Halloween plays a critical role in the plot of my romantic thriller, FIRST DO NO EVIL, I wanted to do something special to celebrate the holiday.

At first, I thought about re-telling my favorite ghost stories from childhood. But we’ve all heard them before. Then I thought, what if….

What if – I poll my friends and find out if they have had some sort of TRUE paranormal experience. Wouldn’t that be fascinating?

It turns out several of my author friends have had paranormal encounters, and they were willing to share. The stories I have for you today may seem less dramatic than those childhood tales and urban legends…but these stories are TRUE.

I’ve got more stories posted on the other blog I’m doing today over at JustRomanticSuspense so be sure and drop by there to read more true life ghosties!

Samhain author Carey Baldwin (that’s me!): Blue-eyed Brown-eyed Girl

I make no warranties that someone else in my family may not have a different version of this story. Everyone seems to have his own way of telling it. But according to family lore, my grandmother, Bessie Baldwin, was clairvoyant. This much I know is true because I remember: She was a beautiful woman with very unusual eyes. One of her eyes was blue. The other eye was half green and half brown. Like a magical marble.

According to family lore, she frequently knew when trouble was about to befall someone near and dear, or had a premonition before someone passed. Only once, that I know of, did she have a vision that was not directly related to family members.

When I was a little girl, a python escaped from the Ft. Worth zoo. Everyone was hunting the python. Where had it gone? Was it injured? Would someone harm the snake or be harmed by the snake? The whole community became caught up in the human interest story of the lost python. Day after day news reports came in that the python was still missing and feared dead or lost forever. After a few days, my grandmother turned to my grandfather and said, “Call the zoo and tell them the python is curled up in the grasses behind her cage.”

My grandfather did what any sensible person would do- he refused. So my grandmother called the zoo herself. Sure enough, the python was there behind the cage, just as she’d predicted!

Three-time Golden Heart finalist Sharon Wray: Baboo the Friendly Ghost

I grew up in a haunted house with a real imaginary friend- a ghost -named Baboo. Although no one in my family believed me, ever since I was a small child I could sense when Baboo was around. My room had once been an attic, and every night at 3am, his pacing would wake me up. I’d tell him to please stop, and he always did. Eventually I learned to sleep through it. Every once in a while my dad would ask me why I was walking around at night. I’d just shrug and say I couldn’t sleep.

Baboo wasn’t an active ghost who moved things or tormented me, but he did have one habit which used to drive my parents crazy. Baboo liked to turn all the locks in the house. My dad would lock up the house every night, but some mornings all the deadbolts were unlocked. I used to try to tell my parents it was Baboo, but at an early age I realized no one believed me.

This went on for years – since preschool until I went to college.

But one day in middle school I came home early. I had a key just in case my parents weren’t home, and that afternoon I went into the house through the front door. Except every time I turned the key, it would relock.

The key would turn, open, then immediately relock as if someone were on the other side of the door turning the lever. I got so frustrated, I went to the side door. Four times I’d unlock the deadbolt, four times it would relock. Finally, I went to the lower basement door and it opened. As I went in, I heard noises upstairs. I just assumed it was my father who often came home for lunch and I’d missed him walking around the house. So I yelled, “Hi, Dad!” as I went up the basement stairs.

Just as I said that, the door ahead of me slammed shut and locked. I was about to pound on the door when I heard two male voices speaking – and I realized neither one was my father. A moment later, I heard a crash, a few curses, then a door slam.

I stood there shaking, not sure what to do, when the door in front of me suddenly unlocked and opened. I could barely walk, I was so scared. But I also realized that Baboo wouldn’t have opened the door if it wasn’t safe – so I went into the house. A few things were knocked over, some things broken, but the back kitchen door was wide open. Someone had broken in and I’d interrupted. The police found the two men later that night, trying to break into a neighbor’s house. Both men were carrying guns and knives.

Many, many years later my father asked me about that day. He asked me if Baboo had kept me out of the house. I said yes. He nodded and apologized for not believing me. He then admitted that he’d had an incident with Baboo the day before he sold the house, but he wouldn’t tell me what happened. Maybe he still didn’t believe it. My parents moved out of the house nine years ago, and I often wonder if the new family has met Baboo or if he finally found his way home.

Avon Impulse and Harlequin Intrigue Author Lena Diaz: Grandma’s Favorite

Most of my family comes from Kentucky. Since my dad was in the Navy, we traveled a lot, and we were living in Florida when my oldest sister woke up in the middle of the night and saw my grandmother standing at the foot of her bed – my grandmother who lived in Kentucky at the time. My grandmother didn’t say anything, but she smiled sadly and reached out as if to pat my sister, then disappeared. It totally freaked my sister out. She got up and ran into my parents’ room. My mom and dad tried to console her, and then the phone rang to tell my dad that his mom – the grandmother my sister had just seen – had just passed away. My sister was always my grandmother’s favorite grandchild and my sister has always believed that grandma came to her that night in spirit to say goodbye.

 

Dr. Skylar Novak: Halloween Havoc

Okay this story is not true and it is not a paranormal story, because Sky Novak is the heroine of my romantic thriller, FIRST DO NO EVIL. But it is a great read for Halloween!

FIRST DO NO EVIL opens on a Halloween morning. Halloween is the worst day of the year for Sky, the anniversary of her father’s murder. If you want to know more about Sky’s story, I’ve pasted the blurb below:

 

FIRST DO NO EVIL

One killer is in her blood. The other is in her house.

There’s a killer lurking in Dr. Skylar Novak’s family tree: the gene for breast cancer. That’s why her brilliant brother invented the Bella vaccine. But even if the miracle drug protects her from the cancer that took her mother’s life, it can’t save Sky from the flesh and bone evil stalking her in secret.

When the killer strikes, detective Daniel Benson finds himself in the wrong place at the right time. The bold detective manages to save Sky’s life…just in time for her to return the favor. Survival leads to seduction, and Danny risks everything—his career, even his life, to keep Sky safe. But will the buried sins they uncover cost him her heart?

Danny’s strong arms may hold her close, but only Sky can stop the terror that’s coming next…

Warning: Contents include: One heart-melting hero—good luck getting this delicious detective out of your head. One reluctant heroine—wielding a Glock was never on her to-do list. One crazed villain—an entire flock of baa baa black sheep won’t be enough to put you to sleep. And a lifesaving vaccine with one deadly side effect—murder. 

Commenters : We’ve got PRIZES GALORE! So please read carefully.

One grand prize, consisting of the following books, will be awarded to one lucky commenter: FIRST DO NO EVIL by Carey Baldwin, (Nook or Kindle copy); SIMON SAYS DIE, and HE KILLS ME HE KILLS ME NOT by Lena Diaz (winner’s choice of electronic or print), HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE by Manda Collins (winner’s choice of electronic or print copy). Leave a comment here, on Kiss and Thrill, to be eligible to win this grand prize.

But wait, today only, EVERYONE’S A WINNER

Are you the kid who never, ever, won the cakewalk, no matter how many tickets you bought? Well, not on my watch. Today I’m also blogging over at JustRomanticSuspense and everyone who leaves a comment by midnight tonight on this blog, AND my Just Romantic Suspense blog will win an electronic copy of FIRST DO NO EVIL for kindle or nook. Remember, you must comment on both blogs to automatically win FIRST DO NO EVIL.

So tell us please, do you have a favorite Halloween memory?

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