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Juliet Blackwell | Of Procrastination and Secret Passages

December 3, 2015

The Internet has made it difficult to be a writer.

In the olden days (ie, before the Internet), a person might come up with ideas for stories and then sit in her garret and write, while making a list of things to look up, *later*, in the library. And then, no matter how grand the research institution, the available information on any particular topic was limited due to shelf space and the librarian’s astute eye.

Not anymore. One of the easiest ways to procrastinate, as a writer, is to tumble into the abyss of the Internet. And I’m not talking about those known time-wasters like social media sites or cute films about cats. In this instance, I’m talking about legitimate research.

Case in point: in GIVE UP THE GHOST (#6 in the Haunted Home Renovation series), San Francisco contractor extraordinaire, Mel Turner, stumbles onto secret passages in the Pacific Heights mansion she’s renovating. Do you have any idea how much time a person can spend on the subject “secret passages in old homes”? Try putting the topic into your search engine – but if you’re anything like me, only do so if you have a few days to spend reading and checking out the photographs.

There are secret passages used to escape and hide, and others used to spy on and kill people – don’t miss the “Murder Castle”, if you have a strong stomach.

There are hidden bookcases (seriously, who among us hasn’t always longed for a secret passage in a bookcase?), trap doors, secret bunkers, smuggling tunnels, and hidden wine cellars. (here’s one or this one)

*Honestly*. How is an author supposed to decide which kind of secret passage to use for her novel? The possibilities are endless. Finally, I turned to the architectural era of the house Mel was working on, built in the late 1800s. Fancy Victorian homes built at that time often had simple “secret” panels that led to narrow interior hallways. Usually these stretched between ballrooms or reception areas and quiet reading rooms or cigar parlors, presumably so the owners of the home (the men, mostly) could slip away from dull gatherings or noisy soirees and enjoy a little peace and quiet.

Of course, sometimes the passages were built “to confuse the spirits”, as in the case of the Winchester Mystery House . But that’s a whole different web search, and another full day lost to pictures and articles, plus –in my case – a day trip to San Jose for a visit!

How about you – anyone secretly longing to stumble on secret passages every time you visit an old home? Have you ever seen – and dared to walk through—an actual secret passage?

If so, I’d love to hear about it. And if not – check out the Winchester Mystery House. They’ve got several!

About Juliet Blackwell

Juliet Blackwell is the New York Times bestselling author of the
Witchcraft Mystery series, featuring a powerful witch with a vintage
clothes store in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. She also writes the Haunted
Home Renovation Mystery
series, about a failed anthropologist who
reluctantly takes over her father’s high-end construction company…and finds
ghosts behind the walls. As Hailey Lind, Blackwell wrote the Agatha-nominated
Art Lover’s Mystery series, in which an ex-art forger attempts to go straight as
a faux finisher. She is currently working on a novel about a woman who takes
over her uncle’s locksmith shop in Paris, entitled The Paris Key. A
former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet has worked in Mexico, Spain,
Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France.





From the New York Times bestselling author of Keeper of the Castle, San Francisco
contractor and ghost whisperer Mel Turner must solve a murder mystery at a haunted mansion in the Pacific Heights…

San Francisco millionaire Andrew Flynt wants to sell his Victorian mansion, but ghostly music, the squeaking of a long-disappeared weathervane, and an angry
ghost keep running off potential buyers. After a famous psychic is called in, she informs the Flynts that their multi-million-dollar renovations to “update” the home have left its resident ghost extremely agitated. So contractor Mel Turner is engaged to track down and replace some of the original features of the house.

But when the beautiful psychic is found stabbed, it appears someone had a
very human motive for murder. Now Mel must use her ghost whispering gift to uncover the secrets of the haunted house on the hill, and her sleuthing skills to catch a killer.


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