Monday, October 27, 2014

Spooky Stores #2 - Payne-Gentry House

Payne-Gentry House - Bridgeton, Missouri
I grew up living very close to a historical home here in the St. Louis area that probably every single kid had toured at least once during a school field trip. Over the years, I was fortunate to tour the Payne-Gentry House in Bridgeton, Missouri twice.

The home, built in 1870, is maybe a couple miles from Lambert Airport, and it sits in the middle of a really nice park. What makes this historic home is that it's the only site listed on the National Register of Historic Places with a doctor's office inside.

This beautiful home was built by Elbridge Payne, and was handed down to his son, William. William was a physician, and he practiced in his basement for 17 years. It's documented that many patients under Dr. Payne's care actually died in the house. In fact, there's a small cemetery in the back underneath a big tree where several children are buried.

The Payne-Gentry house is supposedly haunted by 23 separate entities, and most investigators suspect that most of them are the spirits of patients who died there. The most famous patient-haunting is that of a young woman who died during childbirth. Some have heard a baby crying in the house, and there are reports of people seeing the ghost of a woman holding a baby in her arms.

Interestingly, the most widely reported haunting is from a dog. Residents have seen a dog laying under a tree, only to disappear. During tours, people swear they felt a dog brush up against them and nuzzle against their legs.
The ghost dog has been seen by the cart

In fact, it was during one of my field trips that a parent-volunteer screamed right in the middle of the guided tour. She jumped up and ran out of the house. The entire fourth grade class exited the home along with her, and I remember the parent swearing up and down that she felt a dog rub up against her leg and lick her knee.

It was both funny and terrifying.

As a teenager, I played tennis quite a bit on the tennis courts at the park near the house. I remember one day, in broad daylight, me and a buddy of mine both saw a dog running around a tree. Fee Fee Rd. runs right next to the park, so we ran over there to make sure the lost dog wouldn't get hit by the many cars that drove by.

Lots of amputations during the Civil War
I saw - with my own eyes - what looked like a black and white shepherd dog of some kind. And when we approached the house, the freaking dog disappeared on the other side of the tree. There was absolutely NO WHERE for this dog to run off to and not be seen. It had just gone around the big tree, and *poof* gone.

Countless paranormal groups have investigated the Payne-Gentry house. Some have found nothing, but more often than not, they've seen moving shadows, heard strange voices, and they've felt the ghost-dog brush up against their legs. The doctor's office, which still has Dr. Payne's amputation tools on the desk, seems to be the most active.

If you ever visit St. Louis, maybe you should take a tour.

Unless you're allergic to ghost-dogs.

Have a great Halloween!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Survive and Thrive Bloghop


Survive and Thrive Bloghop: a blogfest meant to help bring awareness of disease prevention and
early detection regarding medical conditions that may be averted or prevented.

Thank you Stephen Tremp, Michael Di Gesu, Diane Wolfe, and Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting.

Early this year, I read a book that changed my life forever. Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. For years, I dieted and exercised, and I'd reach a plateau. No matter what I did, I couldn't break through that ceiling. So I'd get frustrated and go back to my old ways.

After seeing Dr. Davis on the Dr. Oz show, so much of what he said made perfect sense. Here's a cardiologist that sees so many patients who need to lose weight, take control of their lives, and often struggle with issues like diabetes and high cholesterol.

I had issues with borderline Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a belly I just couldn't get rid of. So I read Wheat Belly and tried it for one week. I felt horrible the first three days...then I felt amazing. I continued for two weeks, then three. Its' been eight months and 42 pounds later.

Here's the quick and dirty of Wheat Belly:

1) The "modern wheat" we eat today is genetically different from the kid of wheat we ate 50-100 yrs ago. Scientists have crossbred, intergrossed, and hybridized it several times in order to increase yield per acre. Modern wheat even looks totally different than more ancient wheat. It's short, but grows outwards. Ancient wheat is more robust and tall (remember the "heaven scenes" in Gladiator?)

2) Modern wheat has some dangerous components. Gluten is one of them, but GLIADIN is the real problem. It's the most abundant protein found in wheat. Gliadin releases exomorphins into your brain (crossing the blood-brain barrier) and produces an opiate effect. Yes, many of us are literally addicted to wheat and moderns grains. We eat, and we need to eat some more.

3) For those struggling with Type 2 diabetes, whole wheat bread has a higher glycemic index than a freaking candy bar. Dr. Oz even did an experiment proving this. Those products being marketed as GLUTEN FREE are even worse, as they're made with replacement flours that send your blood sugar levels skyrocketing!

4) High blood sugar = high insulin levels = visceral fat accumulation = lots of problems. It becomes a circle that's tough to break.

5) This is not Atkins. Nor is this Paleo (although it's got a lot in common with it this lifestyle)

*My vice: very dark chocolate (70% dark or greater). I have it every day.

I recently had blood work done. After the initial shock of my doctor seeing me, my A1C1 showed normal insulin and blood sugar levels and my cholesterol numbers improved (good is up and bad down). I've NEVER had such good numbers.

My blood pressure was perfect. I just bought new pants yesterday in a size I haven't worn since being a senior in high school twenty-four years ago.

This is not a diet or a fad. I'm eating more similar to how our bodies were designed. I don't feel like I'm starving myself or making crazy sacrifices. After that first week, the cravings stop. I no longer crave bad food or late night snacking - two things that made me pretty unhealthy. When I go out to eat, I do my best, but wheat still gets into my food. No biggie, although I can definitely feel it the next day. My stomach is upset and my joints get a little achy.

With my blood levels evening out, I can even fast for 24 hours and feel perfectly fine. Before, if I went six hours without eating, I got cranky and developed the "shakes." Signs that I was on my way to Type 2 diabetes.

I obviously was a major carb addict, and going wheat/grain free has made a huge difference in my life. If you or someone you know is struggling with weight loss, high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol and nothing seems to work, give Wheat Belly a good read.

* * * * *


Matt Shifley is one of my oldest blogging buddies. Okay, he might not be old chronologically, but we've been following each others blogs since 2005. His posts about his life always cracked me up, and he's finally compiled his ditties into a book.

Here's Matt...

Confessions Of A Dumb, White Guy: Tales About Life, Love And The Risks Of Wearing White, Thong Underwear

About the Book
Welcome to my world. My name is Matt Shifley (a.k.a. Mr. Shife) and for the past eight years, I have been chronicling my odyssey from a really dumb newlywed in 2005 to an even more mindless, married, stay-at-home dad in 2013. This book is a collection of short, distinctive anecdotes from my blog, Confessions of a Dumb, White Guy. A lot has happened over those years. Some of it funny like discovering that pleated pants can make you look like a sex addict. Some of it heart-warming like becoming a dad and holding my child for the first time. Some of it painful like dealing with the unexpected death of my mother and the aftermath: trying to recover from the worst moment of my life. And through it all, I’m still learning, discovering, laughing, writing, and enjoying life in my little corner of the world. I’m proud to share these tales with you, even the one where you learn exactly why white thong underwear can be a weapon of mass embarrassment.

About the Author

Matt Shifley is a stay-at-home dad but has been a sports reporter, copy editor, copywriter, marketing manager, marketing consultant, and Mountain Dew addict. When he is not being one of the most celebrated and sought after bloggers in thehistory of the world (Matt also particularly enjoys embellishing his own bio), he lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife, their two children, and Tank the basset hound. Matt’s eyes are blue and his relationship status is complicated with his favorite sports team, the St. Louis Cardinals. You can visit him at

The book is available at

Monday, October 13, 2014

Spooky Stories, 2014

Every single year since 2005, I've always done a series of posts during the month of October to celebrate Halloween. I love to share spooky stories with all of you, and this year, I'd like to share some freaky ones from my hometown of St. Louis.

But first, if you haven't signed up for my newsletter, I hope you'd consider signing up now. Most recently, I gave away a coupon for some free stuff. No SPAM, and I promise not to flood your inboxes with a bunch of crap.

I plan to only send out a quick newsletter with some exclusive stuff for my subscribers a mere four times a year. Just once per quarter. So please join the 21 people currently signed up (I know, that's pretty sad). For the love of Zeus, I promise to make your wildest dreams come true.

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Old bridge on Zombie Rd.
Here in Western St. Louis County, there's a road with quite a number of urban legends surrounding it. For as long as I can remember, this 2.3 mile stretch of country road in the middle of suburbia has always been a source of tales of the supernatural.

Also, cops hate it. Teenagers often go there seeking a thrill and end up making a ruckus.

The legends include stories of Native American ghosts haunting the road, Confederate soldiers' spirits making spectral appearances, and there's the one about the angry ghosts from the insane asylum that used to be there.

Lawler Ford Road, or "Zombie Road" as it's affectionately called by the locals, does have some real
history, however. It served as a path over the Meramec River for the Osage Indians. When settlers came to the area, the dirt road was often a site of intense fighting between the natives and the pioneers. A train went through the area, and a local woman was killed by being struck by the train back in 1876.

The Meramec River itself is known to be quite dangerous because of the deadly undertows that pull people down. Every year, there's at least one or two drownings that occur in the small river.

Zombie Road is deep set between high ridges, giving the area a really ominous feeling. It's also naturally cooler there because of its geography. Huge trees serve as a canopy over the road, blocking out any light from the night sky.

If you're ever in town, let's go!
I always scoffed at all the urban legends surrounding Zombie Road. But a few years ago, I was at a close friend's gathering, and a guy that I consider family started talking about his recent trip to Zombie Rd. My friend is a good ten years younger than me, so that would put him at around 17 years old at the time. Prime age for these stupid teenage stunts.

But his story was quite chilling. He and four of his friends, who he professes were not drunk, decided to go ghosthunting on Zombie Road. They drove a Jeep Cherokee, and they maneuvered through the dark, winding path. They had to go slow since it was so dark and pretty trecherous.

Something banged the side of the car next to my friend who was seated in the rear. They all jumped, but got a laugh out of it. It could have been a pine cone or branch falling from a tree or something. Another loud thump struck the other rear passenger side, followed by more blows against the SUV's body.

That's when everyone panicked, but and they all screamed at the driver to back up and get out of there. But all hell broke loose at that point. It sounded like their car was being attacked by at least ten people kicking and slamming all sides of the vehicle, but there was no one and nothing visible hitting it. The driver did his best to hit reverse and maneuver out of there without going over the cliffs, and they hardly spoke until they hit a McDonald's nearby.

All of them were shaken up by the experience.

Old ironclad in the Meramec off Zombie Rd.
So at the party, I asked if my friend would take us out there now to see if the same thing would happen to us, and his face totally blanched. He shook his head and gave me a firm, "Hell no."

Zombie Road might be mostly urban legend, but there's been A LOT of local and regional paranormal investigation teams who have scoured the area with their high tech equipment. I poo-poo on pictures of orbs, as I believe they are just insects or dust showing up on film.

However, once in awhile, I'll come across some evidence that maybe there is something strange about Zombie Road. And to this day, my friend professes that his experience was the truth. And no matter how many beers I give him, he refuses to return to Zombie Road.

Monday, October 6, 2014

My First Big Convention

My very first author event was in March of this year in Madison, IN. Since then, I've been to three local toy shows and an author's convention called Imaginarium in Louisville, KY. But all year, I had my sights set on one event...


Archon is St. Louis' biggest and longest-running science fiction/fantasy convention (38 years). Past guests of honor include George R.R. Martin and Stephen King. I actually attended this con last October just to scope things out, and I was determined to sell my books here in 2014.

So hopes were high, and I was nervous. I love selling in person, actually. I'm a natural extrovert, and I always engage with prospective buyers. At this convention, I felt like I was with my true audience. Steampunks and non-steampunks alike wanted to know more about my books.

I love meeting new people anyway, but I had so much fun getting to know my fellow book-lovers. This is why we do what we do, right?

So here's what I've learned this weekend:

1) Presenting your books to the right audience is crucial. The people attending Achon love science fiction/fantasy, so my genre was a perfect fit.

2) You need to ENGAGE with people. So many authors just sit behind their tables and passively wait
Me and G.P. Ching
for people to come up. I stood up the entire time to be eye-level with people. You need to connect with others. To me, I'm not just selling a book. I'm asking someone to go on a journey with me. Sounds hokey, I know. But people who give you money for your book deserve, at the very least, your time and your attention. Every buyer is more than a buyer. I made real friends who I hope will enjoy my stories.

3) Some people at cons are a little...weird. We all know this, but there's a certain segment of the sci-fi population who are socially awkward. I still tried to reach out to them. Some of them welcomed the opportunity to make friends, so much. And it was truly painful to see one of these awkward guys trying to talk to a girl. Crash and burn.

4) Visuals are key. Invest is a professional and sturdy banner and display. Don't go cheap. Save up your pennies and do it right. A 6 tiered book rack puts your books up at eye-level, and a banner with your kick ass cover art attracts attention.

5) Which leads me to #5. If our cover art is not eye-catching. It's worth it to spend the money to get one that will draw people's attention. People passing by stopped and looked at my cover art. Oh, and we did have a giant bowl of candy out too. That helped. (We went through 12 bags of candy). I lost count of the compliments and "wows" I got from my cover art. Thank you Enggar Adirasa.

6) The amount of dedication and skill it takes to be a cosplayer is mind-boggling. Tony Acree, author and CEO of Hyra Publications, took a ton of pics. We shared a table and we had an absolute BLAST. We were for sure the two loudest people there. Here's just a few of my favorite cosplayers:

She made this herself. Amazeballs!

Steampunk family. They bought my books!

This big dude saw my books and had to have them.

I'm not a Trekkie, but I got this one!

My #1 pick. These two were so darn authentic.
Of course, I had to dress up too.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group for October - Happy Anniversary. Publishing and Beyond!

Three years ago on September 3rd, IWSG was born. One year ago, the IWSG website and FB page were conceived. So happy anniversary, my fellow insecure writers!

I read many of the IWSG posts for almost two years until I decided to join in the fun. It's been a great way to vent, and it's been great getting so much support from everyone. The IWSG is a safe-zone for all of us to unleash our fears and insecurities without being judged or mocked. It's quite cathartic.

Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for starting this awesome group, and thanks to all the others who got the website and Facebook page up and running.

This month, many of us are contributing to an anthology of great ideas revolving around publishing and beyond. For the last several months, I've been REALLY working hard to collect marketing ideas. It's getting tough and tougher, my friends. I'm pretty sure just about every single IWSG post I've done all year revolves around marketing.

I wanted to find ideas that went beyond the typical blog tour and cover reveals. It seems these conventional marketing methods are losing its luster, so I sought other ways to spread the word. Some of these might or might not work for you, but I hope I at least got you thinking.

So in that spirit, I give you my contribution:

Creative Marketing Ideas

1) Create an author website. Not a blog, but a true author website to market your work, Include awesome EXTRAS you can't get anywhere else. Put up unique content like character sketches, copies of initial outlines, early first drafts, etc. Stuff YOU would want to see from your favorite authors.

Or, get Rocket to market for you
2) Creative contests. Go beyond the Twitter posts and FB likes. Hold a contest that's different. You could have readers name a character, create a book trailer, write a flash fiction piece in the setting of your book (like M. Pax did), or have fans post pics of actors who could play the part in a movie based on your book. Make it fun, but make the prizes worthwhile too.

3) Give! Donate copies of your books to your local VA Hospital, retirement home, local library, rehab centers, etc. Just get your name out there.

4) Sell books elsewhere. Try a local coffeehouse. Especially during Black Friday! Just set up a table, offer a discount if they purchased something from the cafe. Or maybe try a festival, craft fair, or gypsy caravan. Try something new beyond the typical conventions and such.

5) Try the other online book advertisers (beyond Book Bub). Check out: Book Gorilla, Kindle Nation Daily, E-Readers News Today, People Reads Story Finds, Ebook Soda, The Fussy Librarian, and Digital Book Today.