When imagination manifests in reality

March, 2022

When I was a child, I had a recurring dream – a nightmare, really – of hiding under a bed and hearing footsteps approach. I was terrified and would wake up shaken. I had no idea what sparked the dream, where it took place, or who belonged to the footsteps – until years later, when as a young teenager, I visited my paternal grandparents’ house. There I saw the exact same room — a basement laundry room with a cot in it. I can only assume that as an infant, I was set on the floor in a carrier, while my mother or grandmother did the laundry. My dream played out from the precise perspective an infant might have (looking upward) and no doubt, reflected the anxiety I must have felt when someone came into the room – only able to hear them but not see them. That moment of recognition, years later, was both eerie and enlightening. I never had the dream again after that.


Yesterday, I visited the wonderful Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA and had a similar, jarring experience. One of the exhibits focused on the witchcraft trials of 1692/93. Among the many fascinating items on display, was a wood, sealskin, and iron chest belonging to magistrate, Judge Jonathan Corwin.

Corwin’s son was supposedly ‘afflicted’ with witchcraft and Corwin’s mother-in-law was accused of being a witch. (She was not arrested, likely due to social connections.) History doesn’t reveal Judge Corwin’s thoughts about these trials because he said very little. His role was that of an ‘oyer and terminer’ – one who hears/listens and determines. As was typical of the time, he was a respected, educated, and affluent member of the community but had no formal legal training.

However, seeing this chest hit me like a bolt of lightning because I had written about a very similar one in Tory Roof. Although the letters on the Corwin chest are “JC,” (using the old-fashioned “I” for a “J”), at a glance, they resemble the “TC” I describe in my book. While I say “gold leaf” for the monogram, these initials are spelled out in nail heads, but in essence, this is the chest I saw in my mind.  I probably should have described it more fully as I now see beautiful detail, but here is the context in which it is introduced:

“As the trio approached the house in the mid-day light, it was easy to see that the east wing was almost as large as the main house. They entered quietly, respecting the silence of their surroundings, and walked down the east wing corridor. Sarah poked her head into one of the rooms, spotlessly swept and basking in the sun. Were it not for a spider web in the doorframe, the room was move-in ready.

There she saw an old trunk with a gold leaf ‘TC’ painted on the lid. ‘Thomas Covington,’ she thought, ‘or maybe his son Thomas II. Could even be his grandson, Terrence.’

After a leisurely tour, Sarah and her clients went their separate ways. That evening, she noticed a rosy glow on her left cheekbone, under her eye. ‘Strange,’ she thought, ‘Maybe a spider bit me.’ But, the sensation didn’t hurt. It felt more like a kiss.”

Look Inside Tory Roof.


I’m reminded that there are many theories about self-fulfilling prophecies and the law of attraction – encouraging us to envision positive things to help make them happen. But this experience was just the opposite. I wasn’t trying to pull from the universe to affect my life, but rather, I put my imagination out into the world, and the universe delivered the real thing. Not sure what this phenomenon is called, but it’s very intriguing.





When History Comes Alive

Fall 2021 — Maybe it’s the season, when the veil between the living and dead is said to be thinner, or maybe I was just in the right place at the right time to enjoy a flash from the past. Either way, as someone who writes historical fiction and likes to research, I find it fascinating when both collide.

So, there we were at the Colonial Faire and Fyfe & Drum Muster at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, MA, standing in our booth in the field. We were talking shop, selling books, and trying to determine if there was interest in framed illustrations from vintage publications. Such a wonderful collection of people stopped by — many with expertise in music, art, history, and education. Some were authors themselves; others were hoping to be. We talked about our personal book publishing journey and what services we could provide through Sudbury Publishing Group.


But imagine my surprise when I looked up and saw a fellow wearing a tee-shirt that said Edes & Gill . This Boston-based company was one of the earliest printers in Colonial America, publishers of the outspoken Boston Gazette. Today they operate a print shop along the Freedom Trail, where they use plates and processes employed by Paul Revere.

Why this thrilled me, is that I mention Edes & Gill in #ToryRoof, and my main character, Sarah Sutherland (in her former life as Sarah Covington) visits their establishment in the North End and ends up writing for them. If anyone checks, they will find Sarah’s words resemble actual language published at the time. To maximize authenticity, I located a digital archive of the Gazette from the summer of 1766 and positioned my character as writing anonymously, lending to the illusion that the words could be hers.

I soon learned that our booth visitor was Andy Volpe, an artist, engraver, and presenter in his own right, who is affiliated with Edes & Gill. He was gracious enough to pose next to our sign, then did one better: he held up his hand-engraved card with an image of an old printing press.

The serendipity of meeting him convinced me that history is alive and well.

*  * *

In keeping with this realization, I joined a tour of the Mt. Wadsworth Cemetery this weekend, coordinated by the Sudbury Historical Society. It was a wonderfully organized event, featuring reenactors and descendants who told tales of the deceased at their gravesites. We had a town founder (Mr. Goodnow), a Minuteman, a Victorian artist (Florence Hosmer), a Civil War soldier (Mr. Moore), the farmer (Mr. Browne) who had donated his land for the cemetery, and one of my favorites: a socialite named Jerusha Howe who is said to have died of a broken heart and now haunts Room No. 9 at the Wayside Inn. (If you follow me on Facebook at Sutherland Series, you can see videos of her presentation).

What I didn’t expect, was an unexplained blur in my last photo taken at Memorial Park. Was it just sun flare? Movement in the lens? Or something of a more spiritual nature? Whatever caused the aberration, it has fueled my imagination.



There’s Always More to the Story

As someone who respects words, I try to avoid phrases like “all” and “always,” but in the case of following a lead, I’m convinced, there’s no end in sight. Journalists and researchers are trained to recognize a good lead, knowing it can spark a story, uncover a wrongdoing, or reveal little-known facts. But sometimes an author finds herself on a path she hadn’t expected.

Such is the case of the many-tentacled story that took place close to my home, thousands of years ago, hundreds of years ago, decades ago, and still, today. The story concerns The Saxonville Mills, in Framingham, MA, developed in the mid-1800s by an entrepreneur named Michael Henry (Harry) Simpson. Simpson lived in Boston with his wife and five children, until she unexpectedly died in 1878.

Four years later, in 1882, at age 72, Simpson married Evangeline Marrs, 45 years his junior, and built her a mansion on a hill in the nearby village of Wayland. The mansion, constructed of brick, wood, and stone, spanned 200 feet and overlooked Dudley Pond, which served as a source for running water. The grounds included a stable and bridle paths because Evangeline liked to ride. Unfortunately, two short years after completion, Simpson died of heart failure, leaving Evangeline a $10 million estate.

But that is only part of the story. Evangeline Marrs went on to lead a fascinating life. A person of means, she engaged in charitable work on behalf of war refugees and Native Americans. She sold real estate and championed women’s rights. She eventually left Wayland, and in 1889, met Elizabeth Rose Cleveland, sister of President Grover Cleveland. Rose had served as First Lady for her unmarried brother and, as a poet and essayist, had become a prominent figure in her own right.

A new book, called Precious and Adored, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, details the romance between Evangeline and Rose through a series of love letters, following them on travels that took them around the world.

The connection to Minnesota derives from the fact that in 1890, Evangeline married Bishop Henry Whipple, the first Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota, who shared her interest in humanitarian work. Although he died in 1901, Evangeline remained in Minnesota for nine years following his death. In 1910, she reunited with Rose and together, they moved to Italy. They remain there still, buried side-by-side, in the town of Bagni di Lucca.

But the story diverges again, as good stories do, causing us to wonder what ever became of the mansion built by Mr. Simpson. One source says that Evangeline turned the building over to Simpson’s son, Francis, but does not state how long he maintained it. Other sources describe the building as becoming a “roadhouse” (and worse) at the turn of the century and a speakeasy during Prohibition. Some even claim it was the scene of a shooting.

I have yet to find the dates and changes in ownership which led to the transformation of the property, but one can assume that sometime after the Great Depression, the property was reclaimed and turned into the elegant establishment called “The Mansion Inn,” known affectionately by locals as “The Castle.”

The Wayland Historical Commission provides excellent detail about the post-War heyday of this Inn and its operation well into the 1950s.

The Wayland High School Project does an impressive job in providing photos and anecdotal input, and the Bryant Funeral Home website offers a similar account with additional details and images.

Wicked Local excerpts “Wayland A to Z: A Dictionary of Then and Now, edited by Evelyn Wolfson and Dick Hoyt, and reprinted by the Wayland Historical Society in 2009, which offers additional perspective.

Today, some older Wayland residents still remember The Castle. They tell of a dark, opulent interior, grand mahogany staircase, the statue of Venus in the heart of the Venetian Room, and a magnificent dancehall with a spring-loaded floor. Others talk of wrestlers who trained on the lawns and big bands that came up from New York City to entertain the guests.

There are those who recall childhood memories of sitting on the carved granite lions that graced the estate and being paid ‘real money’ to pull frogs from the pond, since frog’s legs were on the menu. In these quiet outskirts of Boston, the Mansion Inn became a destination for the upper echelon and a source of employment for locals, until a fire erupted on March 24, 1956. Impeded by a spring snowstorm, firefighters were unable to control the blaze that spread from the kitchen and eventually, engulfed the entire structure. The Inn was razed.

Although the owner considered rebuilding, neighbors voted it down as “too noisy.” Excavation began shortly thereafter, and by June 1958, developers were turning the soil. This is where the story takes another dramatic turn. It was then that layers of ash and artifacts began to surface – blades, bowls, and carved stone tools — thought to be of Native  origin. Local children and curiosity-seekers descended and removed these items before archaeologists from the R. S. Peabody Foundation in Andover could preserve the find. Vast knowledge was lost. Thought to be the site of a 3,000 to 4,000-year-old cemetery and crematory, D.S. Byers painfully describes the incident as “The Rape of Wayland.” By December 1959, it was too late. Bulldozers had leveled the land, dropping it 8 feet, to make room for modern housing.

Able to pin the location on a map, I decided to drive to the area which I’ve, unknowingly, passed hundreds of times. I found Mansion Road which took me on a scenic drive around the lake but not quite to the destination.

I retraced my steps and then saw Castle Lake Road, and upon entering, noticed the two stone pillars described in historical accounts. I drove down the road—it was a blustery day – and could feel the chill of history. While I have yet to locate the exact quadrants where the Mansion stood, there is no doubt I was in the right place. As I returned to the main road at the south entrance of the original property, I noticed the gateposts were carved, as documented, with the letters “H” and “Y” to commemorate Harvard and Yale, where Simpson’s sons and son-in-law attended school.

I sat there for a moment, imagining the glitterati arriving in highest style and feeling a sense of sadness for a landmark lost.

Now, I would never have pursued this story were it not for serendipity. I had been running ads at a small movie theatre which apparently caught the eye of a local author. She contacted me and we met at a coffee shop. She descends from prominent New England lineage and is writing historical fiction based on events that occurred in her family. In trying to suggest potential publishers, I remembered the book about Evangeline and Rose and sent her a link.

But there’s one last bit of the uncanny:  As I explore this story, I conjure up romantic nights fueled by liquor and money. I can almost hear the slow jazz and smell the smoke of cigars and cigarettes. There’s perfume in the air and a hint of prime rib. Women laugh. Men boast. This is the good life that makes people forget economic depression and war.

It dawns on me, slowly, that I’ve been here before – not to this exact place in this exact town, but to a similar venue in New York City – a club described in my third book, Absent, which was started long before I heard this story and which will debut shortly. You see, my main character, Carter, on one of his attempts at self-discovery, is regressed to the Roaring Twenties, where he hobnobs with the rich and famous and falls for a woman named Rose.





How Silver Line Came to Be


Silver Line is a tale by truest definition. It’s a simple story, an easy read that rolls along, combining folklore and a contemporary plot to connect modern day Boston with an 1860s mining town in Colorado.

That’s a stretch, you say? Not so much when you have the benefit of bending time.

Inspiration for the historical theme came many years ago, when traveling cross-country. In that trek, we discovered tangible evidence of the past — items discarded in forgotten towns, on well-worn trails, in trash heaps. The dry desert heat preserved much of it, and I use that premise to start the story.

[The photo here shows two separate finds – an old oil can and what appears to be a plaque from a Victorian photo album. In that Silver Line is set, in part, against the political climate of the Civil War and the gilded ambiance of the Victorian Age, these two items seem to be a fitting illustration.]

In our journeys, we also stumbled upon the legend of Silverheels that has rattled around my brain ever since. Silverheels was a beautiful dance hall girl who cared for the sick during an epidemic – but surely there’s more to that story. Silver Line does not attempt to retell the legend but uses it as a springboard for likely characters and timely adventures.

Somewhere in the process, I toyed with the expression, “Hindsight is a wonderful thing.” I also thought, “Foresight is as well.” And then I asked myself: “What if we could combine the two?”

How wild it would be if my young characters could benefit from the wisdom of the past and use it to shape their future. Sure, they could learn from grandparents and teachers, but what if they could learn from themselves? What if they could witness their former, older selves from the perspective of naïve voyeurs? That would surely complicate and heat up an innocent relationship.

This is what happens to Sarah Sutherland’s son, Jared, as he heads off to college, and to Alexa, the young woman who befriends him. Together, they not only experience the rigors of the western frontier but come face-to-face with a modern mystery:  the unsolved Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum heist of 1990, whose artwork has never been found. Jared, an aspiring journalist, is bent on finding it.

How could I possibly interweave the two? Wait and see.

I must admit, I did have fun finding links, lines, and coincidences… (some even surprised me!). I dared to connect dots and make assumptions. And like any character with extrasensory ability, I tried to see things that others don’t. I also drew on personal experiences — remembering the feel of wide-open spaces in the Rockies and the awe of strolling through dark museum rooms in the presence of Old Masters. Hopefully, you’ll experience and enjoy these vivid impressions through my words.

For those of you who ‘fell in love’ with Sarah in Tory Roof, fear not. She’s still here – just in the background. The timeline is 7 years later, and Jared is 18.

Ideal for the young-and-in-love (New Adult) … and for those who remember what it was like.