Monday, October 31, 2011

Bonella Bombs

I can't believe Bonella blew an opportunity to come after me. Guess she's not so tough after all. I sure hope someone found Butch, Pops and Jinx.  I have a feeling Bonella did something with them.

Maybe now that October is over and she's going back underground, she'll release them.

I really expected more out of bag of bones this year. After all, she had a whole year to plan. Of course, she had a few more Musers to contend with this year. Gail for one. I think she realized she finally met her match.
Of course, she did threaten to kill me.

On the other hand, maybe Slim finally got through to her and sweet talked her into doing something special. After all the ladies gave him a few ideas. Maybe he took her away on a long vacation. Do creatures from below go on vacations?

Whatever happened to our bony friend, she seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. At least for this year.
Good bye, Bonella, we'll see you next year. I knew you wouldn't get the best of me.
I didn't know if I'd be back in town in time to post but I made it! Today is Halloween and I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the TRUTH about witches before Bonella takes the floor for her evil roast later today:

The Truth About Witchcraft
Why Witches Are Considered Evil
By Bruce Jenvey
Author of Angela’s Coven

Please note, Angela’s Coven is NOT a book for ‘Pointyhats and Wannabes’ as Angela herself would say. This is based on Witchcraft as it was practiced in the dark ages. There are NO magic wands, no pointy hats, no spellbooks and no magic words. It’s chemistry, herbology, natural cures and what we would today call ‘home remedies.’ However, there was a time when these were very dangerous practices.

There’s a bit of history here, and while I personally LOVE history, I know there are others that don’t, so I promise to make it brief and as absolutely interesting and fascinating as I can. Now, while I tell you about this, picture yourself in this time, stuck in these unreasonable ruts created by people (yes, mostly men) who know far less than you do. It will frustrate you beyond belief!

When the Roman Empire collapsed near the end of the 3rd century, it left a tremendous power vacuum. After hundreds of years of authoritarian rule, suddenly, there was no one in charge. There were barbarians, disease, robber barons… it was literally the Dark Ages and it took a thousand years for us to lace some form of civilization back together (and we are STILL working on it!) In this dark and lawless time, the only organization that survived and had any kind of influence was the Roman Catholic Church. (Remember, the Roman Empire changed from Pagan Gods to Christianity around the year 300 under Constantine.) In a very short period of time, the Church began to call all the shots and set their own rules for society. And that’s the rub!

Back in those days, most of the healthcare givers (Healers) were Midwives. These were often older widows in small villages trying to support themselves and had learned about herbal cures and natural medicines from their mothers and grandmothers. They could not only deliver your baby, but they could treat festering wounds and unknown diseases.

Now, remember, there was a lot of fear in these times, if the barbarians didn’t get you, the plague or some form of it probably would! So the Church helped organize, and supported the training of what we have come to call DOCTORS. Now, to be a Doctor in this age meant not only a degree in medicine, but one in theology, too. It was required. And that meant compliance with the laws of the Church, especially those concerning decency. So Doctors literally had their hands tied. It also meant that you were most definitely a MAN. Higher education for a woman? Get real!

Doctors Vs Midwives

If you were sick enough to need a doctor, this probably meant you were bed-ridden and he would have to come to you. Under the laws of the Church, to gaze at you in your bed was not decent! So, as was the practice, the patient was in bed surrounded by bed curtains and would extend ONE ARM out from under the covers and between the curtains. THIS was all the Doctor got to examine. Your hand and your forearm… AND any treatment he provided he had to do in the same way which led to the practices of blood-letting and attaching leaches. That was about all they could do.

But Midwives were women. They were allowed behind the bed curtains and they could see things the Doctor never got to see like: “OMG! You have an arrow sticking out of your shoulder! That’s your problem! Here, I have some herbal salve that will draw out the infection.”

It didn’t take long for word to get around that if you were really sick or hurt, your odds of survival were MUCH better if you called a Midwife rather than a Doctor. This pissed off the men and they went to the Church asking to somehow level the playing field. In its infinite wisdom, the Church’s choice was not to allow more in-depth patient contact, but instead, to label Midwives as Witches, evil beings who were in league with the Devil. (Many lived on the fringe of the society and were still Pagans or Druids anyway.) If you allowed yourself to be treated by a Midwife, terrible things could happen to you now, and it could jeopardize your spot in the afterlife. I’m certain this was best for everyone and made all feel a lot better!

Keep An Eye On Those Witches!

Midwives (Witches) were often accused of killing babies among other atrocities. But remember, this was a time of high infant mortality. In reality, many considered it an act of kindness to quickly bury a stillborn child in the woods to spare the mother the agony, and this was something the midwife often did. “She killed our baby!” “Where is it?” “She… ate it!” (hence, the Hansel and Gretel fairytale). Or, “I saw her, she carried the baby as she flew off on her broom!” (Notice that so many women had brooms close at hand. Suspicious, eh?) “She must have taken it to some secret ritual in the forest where they did terrible things to the poor soul… probably naked and most likely involving public sex acts!” (Or anything else terrible the Church could think up… I think they were just wishful thinkers, myself!)

Things went downhill for the Midwives (Witches) from this point forward and it wasn’t long before they were being burned at the stake, drowned in lakes, or just hung in the town square. There was a book in circulation even in the early Renaissance Era that guided Witch Hunters in proper, Church-Approved procedures. One of the first directives was never to ask a woman IF she was a witch as certainly she would deny it. Instead, ask a woman HOW LONG she had been a witch! This was considered far more productive and saved a lot of time determining guilt. There was no way, once accused, that a woman had any hope of proving her innocence.

There was an instance of a town in what is now Germany, I believe it was the 1400s, when the Church Inquisitors came to town (they often roamed like a circuit court). They set up for an investigation that became trials and when they were done, every last female, EVERY FEMALE in town, regardless of age, had been hung! Then, the Inquisitors packed up and moved on confident they had done the right thing and saved these now, very lonely men.

Obviously, this drove the practices of herbology and natural healing underground (“Are you a witch?” “Not ME!”), where it has stayed for many, many years only now starting to resurface in this ‘dawn of new enlightenment’ we have endured since the 1960s. But the Witch is still a cultural icon we tend to celebrate at Halloween.

My Kinda Witchcraft, Reprise:

This is why, in MY books, The Cabbottown Witch Novels and Angela’s Coven, there are no magic wands, no pointy hats, no mystical spells or magic words… well… that anyone admits to anyway! I have taken the basic premise, mixed in a little of the strange and the bizarre that I have had the good fortune to experience, and then made a very important assumption: What if, while out of the public view, this skill, this science, continued to evolve and advance? What then might be possible? How would it be viewed?

Think of it this way: The very first time you saw a DVD player, did you think it was an impressive technical breakthrough? Or did you consider it the work of the Devil himself and try to burn the Best Buy guy at the stake?

So, as you celebrate this Halloween season, remember that green-skinned old ladies with warts and missing teeth who laugh in madly hysterical cackles, are only stereotypes some man wanted you to believe. The truth is, witches were the first healers and capable of what appeared then, to be magical miracles. They were, the most powerful women there could be. They are still among us today, the question is, who are they now? And what have they been up to?

Bruce Jenvey is the author of Angela’s Coven published by MuseItUp Publishing and available where ever quality E-Books are sold. You can also visit the author’s webpage at

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Halloween Tale - The Burberry Scare

Happy Halloween!

I love a good ghost story. As a child I was the one everyone looked to as we sat around the campfire. Blessed with a most active imagination, I would spin a scary tale sure to keep everyone up all night.

As we prepare to celebrate yet another Halloween, I’ve written a short little tale, in hopes to shock and scare your muse and force you to check over your shoulder as you venture out to ‘trick or treat.’ Enjoy! And Happy Halloween.

The Burberry Scare
By C.K. Volnek

Eugene eased his make-shift hoe next to the large round pumpkin, careful not to snag anything he shouldn’t. He clipped the stray weed invading his patch and leaned back, his chest puffed out with pride, thumb hitched in the frayed rope he used as a belt. Any time now, the Governor was bound to drive by.

He spat at his hand and smoothed the greasy black shock of hair down against his head. “I must remember to thank Maeva for the special pumpkin seeds,” he said to himself, swiping a dirty hand across a mouth full of discolored teeth. “Josiah will be one jealous lout this year after I win the prize for the most bountiful pumpkin patch.”

Eugene could almost feel the jingle in his pocket—accolades from the Governor for tending his field so well. It was a bumper crop, thanks to Maeva. Five times as large and four times as many as last year. Yup, the Governor would be most pleased.

A scream cut through the still evening, followed by the crashing of tree limbs. Willow Harrison charged toward the patch like a scared rabbit, her eleven-year-old face white as a ghost, her long skirt billowing about her legs.

“No! Stop!” Eugene yelled and threw up his arms. She was rushing right toward his pumpkins. No telling what kind of damage she’d do.

Willow continued running, staring back into the trees lining the patch. She shrieked again, but her voice cut short as she crashed to the ground, her black boots entangled in the prickly pumpkin vines.

“You darn, fool brat,” Eugene raged, running down the narrow trail he’d maintained in the center of his crop, stepping gingerly through the creepers. He gasped as he gazed down at Willow, her elbow pierced right through the thick rind of a pumpkin. A thick orange liquid puddled on the ground next to her leg. Eugene’s mouth gaped open and closed like a mud-loving catfish, his face turning beet red. “Lookee here what you done! You dang no-good monster.”

Willow jerked to stare at Eugene. “What?” She pushed herself up, staring back at the woods. “But something is...” With a sickening crack, she stepped on a thick pumpkin vine, breaking it in two.

Eugene shrieked and grabbed her arm. “You’re gonna pay for that,” he sneered, pushing his face in front of her so their noses almost touched. “I done told you dang kids to stay outta my pumpkins. And now, you’re gonna pay. The Governor’s gonna to want his due.”

“I, I don’t have any money,” Willow croaked, trying to pull her arm free of Eugene’s vice-like grip, her eyes still flitting about the trees.

“Well, you’re gonna get it,” Eugene hissed. “You’ll get it or I’ll be takin’ in from your hide.”

A loud screech echoed in the dark trees and Willow’s eyes widened even more. “There’s a monster in there, Eugene.” She pointed a shaky finger the way she’d come. “It chased me clear from Nathanial’s”

Eugene stared up at the inky blackness within the heavy branches. He shook his head. Crazy fool kids. Just like their parents. What was it with the people of Burberry spinning all these crazy stories of some durn monster terrorizing the hills? They just wanted to make trouble for him, prevent him from providing the Governor with the best crop of pumpkins ever.

“You’re such a scaredy,” Eugene scoffed, waving a pointy finger at Willow. “It’s All Hallows Eve. Those fool boys are just playing a prank on you.” He rolled his eyes and pushed her to the edge of the patch. “Now, you git on home, and make sure you git me my money.”

Willow took one last look at the woods and dashed off, heaving through the tall grass and jumping over the small creek at the edge of the meadow.

Eugene watched her disappear around the bend in the dirt road, her long hair streaming behind her like a flag. “Stupid girl,” he spat and returned to his pumpkins, fussing over the crushed leaves, trying to splint the broken vines. It just wouldn’t do for the Governor to see this.

He raised a bushy eyebrow at the orange goop surrounding the broken pumpkin. At least she’d managed to destroy a spoiled pumpkin. He turned is so the Governor wouldn’t see.

Branches rustled from within the trees. Eugene looked up, expecting a gang of ruffian Burberry boys to come blaring out, a hooting and a cackling. No one appeared. Only the oak’s leaves quivered in the hush of the nearing dusk.

“Dang hoodlums.” He’d give them what-for. “Come out here, you durn kids,” he yelled at the trees, shaking his fist.

Still no one appeared.

The trees rustled again followed by heavy breathing. Eugene peered harder but the forest revealed nothing. Dread crept into his stomach. His heart pounded as a shiver raced down his back.

“George? Lucas?” he called, the hard edge gone from his voice.

A growl drifted out from the trees.

“Come on out, boys.” Eugene cleared his throat, trying to hide the shaky vibrato.

The talk of the townsfolk skittered through his head. A demon. Flying monster. Dragon. Eugene swallowed. It couldn’t be. There was no such thing. Was there?

The growl came again. Louder. Closer.

Eugene stepped back, cringing as he snapped a pumpkin vine with his heavy work-boot. The shadow shifted in the trees, even darker as the sun waned beyond the horizon, bathing the patch in an orangey glow. Red eyes appeared from within the trees, staring harshly at Eugene. The shadow moved again, the ground trembling. Eugene’s knees quaked and he leaned against his hoe to keep from falling.

Eugene jumped as a terrifying screech filled the evening air, like a thousand cats being skinned alive. The smell of sulfur and smoke stung his senses, singeing his nose and burning his eyes. He glanced about, but there was no place to hide. His shed stood a good quarter of a mile away. The only thing between him and safety was his pumpkins.

In a flash, he jumped behind the closest pumpkin. It hid him easily. As big as a cow, it was. Eugene peered over the top as the beast broke into the golden glow of twilight. It was horrid. Black and deformed. Shoulders like an elephant, claws like razors, wings like a giant bat, the tail of a lion, and its head…a grotesque square with red eyes, fangs and horns. As gross as it was, it was strangely familiar.

Eugene’s heart quickened. The monster was coming…straight toward him. He’d be sliced to ribbons and chewed up like a lamb chop. He rested a hand against the pumpkin to try and stop his trembling. Was he not to see his award for his pumpkins?

His pumpkins! He glanced back to the beast. It would easily crush his crop. And the Governor would pass him by again for Josiah. Eugene’s blood boiled at the thought. Gripping his hoe, he burst out from behind his pumpkin and charged toward the creature.

The beast screamed and reared up, raking at the air with sharp claws and flapping its massive wings. It gnashed its teeth, its red eyes glaring with hatred. For a second, fear clawed at Eugene’s belly again…until the beast slashed at the closest pumpkin, ripping it open, from top to bottom. That was all Eugene could take. He raised his hoe, and rushed the monster, swinging the sharp edge at the beast’s throat. The monster screamed as the blade connected with its neck, slicing the black skin, spattering dark purple blood across the pumpkins and vines. The creature staggered backward, swinging its grotesque head from side to side, its cry echoing into the growing night. With the sound of a tree falling, it collapsed at the edge of the pumpkin patch, the red glow fading from its eyes, frame stiffening to a hard gray.

Eugene watched the beast with disbelief. Inching toward it, he tapped its horrible head with the hoe, muscles poised to jerk back if it moved. The beast was dead. Turned to stone. He’d killed it. A warped grin spread across his face. The whole town was sure to profess him a hero! The Governor too. Smiling, he examined the monster’s head, searching his memory for where he knew it from. As if struck by lightning, it hit him. He’d seen this creature on top of the Magistrate’s. It was the stone gargoyle.

“But how could that be?” Eugene muttered to himself. How could the gargoyle come to life? And what was it doing in his pumpkin patch? He gazed at his prize pumpkins and made his way to the one the gargoyle had sliced open, wondering how he was going to hide this split from the Governor. A cracking sound filled the night and the pumpkin burst open. Eugene jumped back. More cracking erupted from all corners of the patch as more and more pumpkins shattered, opening to the full moon just cresting over the trees. In the soft silver glow, baby gargoyle heads rose up out of the pumpkins, red eyes staring at Eugene, fangs gnashing, screaming out their hunger...
The End.

If you liked The Burberry Scare, I hope you’ll check out my ghost story, Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island. It’s a tween ghost story with a twist of Native American folklore and based on the true life mystery of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. It’s available on Amazon, MIU Book Store, Smashwords and other fine on-line book stores.

Have a happy, and hauntingly great, Halloween!

C.K. Volnek

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I THINK this is my day to post Spooked

If it isn't, please let me know and I'll pull it! Anyway, here is a short story I wrote for the occasion:
Heather Haven

Cliff adjusted the eye-patch and scrutinized the perfect but expensive pirate’s reflection in the full length mirror. From black leather boots to golden earring, he looked real enough to sail the seven seas. And just as lusty. Women liked that.
“You’re one handsome SOB, Cliffy Boy, if I do say so myself.” He let out a raucous laugh. “Especially now that you’re a widower.”
The doorbell rang. He grumbled about early trick-or-treaters as he went to the door. He wanted to leave momentarily for the Halloween party, hoping to score big with that hot Jocelyn, from the life insurance company. It was so nice when employees from the very company paying off for your wife’s demise also put out. Two short months of her being dead and he’d never seen so much action. All those babes just waiting to comfort him.
“Ahoy there, matie!’ He flung open the door, posed then looked up and down the hallway. There was no one. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a small creature scurry across the threshold and into his apartment.
“Damn it to hell,” he bellowed and turned around to see his dead wife’s black cat run through the living room and out onto the terrace, the terrace from where he’d helped his wife to her untimely but necessary death. After all, she’d been cramping his style.
That day he would have tossed the beast over the railing, too, if he could have caught it. But right after the ‘accident,’ it ran out into the hallway meowing at the front door of their nosy neighbor, who’d scooped it up and took it inside. Ever since then, anytime he would step into the hallway to go to work or out on a date, the cat would be there, staring at him from the other side of the neighbor’s transom.
Now the cat leaped onto the ledge of the terrace railing and turned around. It crouched, tail lashing back and forth, black fur rippling in the wind off the Hudson River. Sharp green eyes glared at Cliff in an accusatory way.
“Damn it to hell,” Cliff repeated, crossing over and onto the terrace. He closed the sliding glass door, trapping him and the cat outside. The Manhattan skyline was darkening and the feline’s ebony-colored fur blended in with the on-coming night. But its emerald eyes glittered more intensely than any light in the city’s panoramic view behind.
“So you want to play, do you? Well, you’re dead meat, cat. I’m sick of dealing with you.”
The cat growled and hunkered down atop the cement railing of the barrier separating the terrace and the earth 42-floors below.
Cliff moved forward, unsheathing the large plastic sword from his belt. “I don’t have to come near you,” he yelled, raising his arm and preparing to strike. “Just a couple of swipes with this –“
“Now, Cliff,” a feminine voice chastised. “That’s hardly fair.”
“Who said that?” Cliff dropped the play sword and staggered back, banging into the closed glass door. He felt his heart thud in his chest. “Who’s out here? Show yourself! Who are you?” But he recognized the voice.
“You know who I am.” The tone was melodious yet firm, dripping with venom. “It’s one thing for you to do away with me, but an innocent little animal? That’s too much, Cliff, even for you.”
He looked in the direction of the voice and saw a small shimmering cloud, hardly more than a vapor, forming into the features of a face, his wife’s face.
Cliff let out a short shriek, turned and scratched at the handle of the sliding glass door. It slid open and he fell back into the room. He wheeled around to see his apartment, nothing more. Sounds of his heavy breathing filled the empty room.
It must have been the curry he had for lunch or the spicy lamb shish kabob! Well, never again, he vowed, with a shaky laugh. Time for that party, he thought, and stepped forward. An icy wind raged on his face, so cold his eyes began to tear.
“Where do you think you’re going, Cliff?”
The countenance was now in front of him, drawing closer, more solid, emerald green eyes flashing. Pushed back by the vision, Cliff found himself outside again, panicky steps taking him along the perimeter of the elegant, plant-laden terrace.
He neared the cat still on the handrail. It reached out, swiped at his hand, and drew blood. Thrown off balance, Cliff tripped over one of the potted plants his wife so dearly loved. He heard the cat screech, felt talons and fangs strike, and saw two sets of flickering green eyes, as he fell backward. He surrendered to the toppling over and the drop 42 stories to the pavement below.
On the way down and in between his screams, he thought of something odd. He’d never noticed before how his late wife’s eyes and those of the cat looked one and the same.

Spooky Sounds, Blood, and Halloween...What could be better?

BOO! That just doesn't have the same impact as someone jumping out of the shadows and shouting it loudly into the night. It is amazing how simple sounds can deliver fear, tension, and dread. Think about how your nerves get wrecked as you lie in bed at night listening to the continuous drip from a bathroom faucet. What about the wind whistling through the trees or over an empty bottle at night? Nothing makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up faster than the mysterious creaking sound of someone or something walking behind you down a dark hallway. Yes, sounds convey emotions unlike anything else but we are authors and book lovers so sounds are not exactly something we can readily use.

We write and through our craft and skill we paint visual pictures in the minds of readers. This is equally amazing. The words we use and the way we use them deliver these crisp, vivid description that dance behind the eyes of readers. Before you know it a movie is playing out in their mind. This is what we do and it is a great gift to have and share. It is a gift that I continue to shape and work on. Which brings me to my next portion of this post. Below you will find the debut of my very first book excerpt from - Born of Blood.

Born of Blood
Excerpt 1

“You’re late.” Drake’s calm, smooth voice cut through the silence.
“I had to make sure no one followed me. You got my cash?”
Drake turned, his lips a straight line on his face, and speared him with a cold, hard stare. Trey stepped back.
“Did you forget my instructions, Trey? They were rather simple, don’t you think?”
“Nope, I did what you wanted. You said to scare her real good, and I did that. You saw how that ho ran to your arms just like you wanted. Right?”
“Yes, but I distinctly remember telling you to scare her without harming one hair on her head.”
Trey shivered from the instant cold that seeped into the alley, even though sweat built under his shirt. He stepped backward another three steps, but Drake matched him step for step. Tray lifted his hands to his chest, palms facing out.
“Hold on, man. I didn’t know she would fight back so hard. I had to defend myself.”
Drake shook his head.
“Defend yourself? How weak you must be. People are so soft in this day and age. They do not have anything to live for, but expect to be handed everything. Like you — all you want is money. You do not understand the value of living. Do you understand, Trey?”
“What the hell are you talking about, man?”

In an instant, Drake’s intense red eyes filled Trey’s vision. He tried to turn away, but was held in place by unseen hands.
“Let us try this again, my dear Trey. I am going to give you a command, and you are going to follow it.”
“And if I don’t?”
“Run, Trey. Run as if your life depended on it. Run now.”

Trey stared at Drake long enough to realize the truth of the situation, and took off down the alley, turned the corner, and ran harder. He refused to stop until he felt safe again, and then collapsed against a dumpster and inhaled. His heartbeat thundered in his chest as he pulled out his cell phone and dialed.
“Come on, pick up the phone,” he begged.
“Sam, it’s Trey. I’m in trouble, man, and I need your help.”
“Man, I told you I wasn’t bailing you out of jail again.”
“No, you don’t understand; I’m not in jail. It’s that creepy dude I told you about. He is…”
Keep running, Trey, he heard whispered in his ear.
He turned from side to side, but saw no one.
“Sam, I think I’m going crazy. That chick ain’t worth all this. I need your help.”
“All right. Where are you? I’ll come get you.”
I said, ‘Run, Trey,’ the whisper repeated.
Trey jumped off the dumpster and searched the deserted alley, dropped his phone, and ran toward the street.
* * * *
“Trey, Trey…where are you? Are you there? Can you hear me?”
“I am sorry, but Trey will no longer be available.”
“Who is this?” Sam shouted.
“A friend.”
A loud clatter sounded in Sam’s ear. He looked at his phone, closed it, and stared out the window.
Should I call the police? What will I tell them? I don’t know who that was or where Trey is. Maybe he’s just playing more games with me.
Sam locked up his apartment and went to bed.
* * * *
The street light’s glow was a welcome sight as Trey pushed himself to make it clear of the alley’s darkness. Halfway to safety, he was knocked hard against the wall. His back cracked, and tears built in his eyes. Through the haze of his blurred vision, Trey saw a pitch-black shadow separate from the shadows of the wall. A cold hand snapped out of the blackness, wrapped around his throat, and choked off the air to his lungs.
“I told you to run, Trey. People just do not know the worth of life.”
With a quick twist, a grotesque sound echoed off the walls as Trey’s neck snapped. Drake materialized from the shadows, bit deep into his neck, and drank.

Perhaps you found this excerpt eerily enjoyable and wish to learn more about Born of Blood and The Blood Chronicles. If so I invite you to my website. Here is the link - On Monday, Halloween, I plan to release my second teaser trailer for Born of Blood on my site and other social networks. I promise more details have bleed out of the story onto the trailer.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

How I Plan A Novel

Although there are many excellent books on ‘How to Write a Novel’ I decided to share how I plan mine.

Once I have an idea, I don’t plot my novels in detail, chapter by chapter, but I do have a plot in mind.

It is said that every plot can be found in classical fairy tales, folklore and mythology. The hero or heroine goes on a journey, a pilgrimage or a quest and encounters obstacle after obstacle. So I consider which of seven basic plots suits my idea for my new novel.

Romeo and Juliet. Opposition to true love.

The Eternal Triangle. Making a choice.

The Spider and the Fly. A siren luring a male or vice versa.

The Fatal Flaw. A weakness in the hero which causes his or her downfall.

Faust. (Faust sold his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge.) A debt that must be paid. Something that catches up from the past.

Candide. An inexperienced, naïve hero or heroine, who makes the reader re-evaluate society.

Cinderella. Goodness triumphs.

Next, I consider the theme. Is it duty, greed, jealousy, honour, love, revenge or something else?

With the plot and theme in mind I consider my characters. What motivates them and what are the stakes? What do they have to lose or gain?

Before I begin a novel I must name my main characters – I can spend hours chopping and changing before I decide. I also need to get to know them really well. So I complete an analysis which details their physical appearance, their clothes, accessories (jewellery, fragrance & luggage), health, personality, religion and education.

Having sorted out the above, I fill in the details about their background, address, family home, how long they lived there, do they rent or own their home, the décor, the garden, and the importance of their home.

Finally I create their family, their nationality, class, and income and their family tree which lists births, deaths, names and ages. Only the tip of the proverbial iceberg emerges in the novel but knowing who my characters’ antecedents were adds a sense of reality and usually has a bearing on their lives.

It’s fun getting to know my characters, where they went to school, how they see themselves, their relationships, friends, hobbies, employment, the qualities my hero or heroine seeks in a wife or husband and anything else I think of that will breathe life into them and engage my reader’s interest.

Finally, I switch on the computer and begin to write in the first or third person – usually third person. I introduce my novel to my reader by answering the questions who, what, when where and how in the first few paragraphs. Then, with a little bit of luck and a strict routine I write the first draft.

Rosemary Morris
Historical Novelist

New Releases.
Tangled Love set in England in Queen Anne’s reign. 27.01.2012
Sunday’s Child set in the Regency era. 06.2012


Halloween Ghosts and Shenanigans

Many years ago when my family lived in Lansing, my husband and the neighbor across the street wanted to give the trick-or-treaters a scary treat. The two men spent a day climbing a huge maple tree in our yard that hung over the sidewalk and street to place a pulley high up in tree's branches that connected with the neighbor's roof. They rigged a guide rope between the tree and the house across the street so that a ghost could swoop down out of the tree and over the heads of the children and across the street to the neighbor's house. It worked great! There was more screaming and laughing that night than even Halloween deserved. Of course kids came from all over, and the guys were careful to prevent small children from being unduly frighten out of their wits.

As the evening wore on the guys noticed a car kept coming down the street. This was a typical urban neighborhood street. There was a grocery store on the corner, and our house was next, about seventy-five feet from the corner with houses setting cheek by jowl down the street. This car kept hitting forty-five or more as it passed our place at the height of trick or treat activities. Numerous children were still walking the sidewalks and crossing the street between parked cars. The third time the car passed, the trickster guys recognized the car and dropped the ghost on the windshield. Brake lights flared and brakes squealed, but by the time the car had slowed down it was two houses down and the ghost had disappeared up into the tree. The car's driver took a much slower trek down the rest of the street. Two wives demanded the ghost and the ropes guiding it disappear immediately and permanently. That, of course, was not the end of it. About thirty minutes later a police car slowly crept down the street, light beams flashing over our house, the neighbor's house, and the trees lining the street. When he found nothing, he slowly crept traveled down the street. A year later we moved out of state, ending the Halloween madness two neighbors regularly cooked up.

A few years ago we received a box in the mail. It seems the city decided the old maple was a danger and had to be cut down. Our former neighbor sent a section of a huge branch bearing a pulley. That tickled my partner no end. I was just glad the statute of limitations had long passed.

Halloween Then and Now and In-Between

Probably the most telling feature of Halloween is the fact that it isn’t celebrated world-wide. According to Wikipedia, Halloween is primarily celebrated in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, New Zealand and (more recently) Japan. Sometimes Halloween, which is also known as All Hallows Eve, Samhain, Hallows End and Noche de la Brujas (Night of the Witches), is recognized in Sweden, Australian and many Latin American countries. So what is the history of Halloween, a strange holiday replete with costumes, Jack O’ Lanterns and candy?

Halloween, as a holiday celebration, is over 2000 years old, beginning with the Pagan Celts in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales. It designated the beginning of the Pagan New Year, a time to give thanks to the sun god for a rich harvest. They called it Samhain, which in Gaelic means November, in celebration of the lord of death who gathered the spirits of those who had died. They were allowed one day each year to revisit Earth.
The Gaelic calendar year was split into two — a period of light and a period of darkness. This “dark half” began with Samhain, and was rife with many symbols we continue to associate with our modern version of Halloween — apples, bonfires and even honoring the dead.

The pagan belief was that on that one day each year the dead could return to be entertained with food. If food and shelter were not provided, the spirits might become angry and vengeful and could cast spells or do evil deeds to the living. Sacrifices were then offered to appease the spirits.

In the 7th Century, the Roman Catholic Church integrated Samhain into what they called All Saints Day Eve/All Souls Day. Originally, this was celebrated May 13 known as All Hallows Festival, but later moved to November 1 to coincide with Samhain, beginning October 31 and called All Hallows Eve.

The word “Halloween” does not have roots in Celtic traditions, however — but Catholic. The original name of the holiday was “All Hallow’s Eve” and was used to describe the “eve” (or evening) before All Saints’ Day which occurs on November 1st. The word “hallow” means “to sanctify” (to purify or set aside for purification in Old English. So, breaking down the meaning of the word “Halloween” further, it might be translated to mean “evening before all are blessed.”

This hybridization of celebrations resulted in unusual festivities. For example, the returning spirits were souls in Purgatory returning as witches and toads to abuse those who had wronged them in life. Halloween fires had new meaning, now meant to comfort souls in Purgatory while people prayed, waving burning straw in the air.
Even the idea of trick-or-treating by evil spirits took on a new concept with costumed children going house to house on All Souls Day offering to fast for the departed souls in return for money or an offering.

As the Celts absorbed the new religion into their culture, they also wove their Pagan festivals into their new lifestyle. The origin of the carved pumpkin, for example, began as a carved turnip with flickering candle within that when placed around the countryside was supposed to chase away the spirits of the dead. The term Jack O’ Lantern comes from Jack of the Lantern. In the Irish legend, when Jack tried to play a trick on the devil, Satan tossed him a burning coal from hell which Jack caught in his turnip lantern and was condemned to walk the earth searching for rest.

One Celtic rite that transferred over was that of the fire rite was practiced in many areas around the world on the night before the new year. The old fire was allowed to go out and a new one was kindled—usually a sacred fire from which the fires of the village were relit. The fires were thought to rejuvenate the waning sun and aid in banishing evil spirits. Druids built hilltop fires to celebrate important festivals. Ghosts and witches feared fire, it was thought, and so fire became the best weapon against evil spirits. Witchcraft was punished by burning at the stake, fire being used as means of purification. The light that fires gave off was a sign of sacredness.

The skeleton is a form of the god of the dead, the witches' "horned god." The Dictionary of Satanism by Wade Baskin says this about skulls and skeletons under "skull worship": "Skulls play an important role as sacred relics and as objects of worship among primitives. Among Polynesians and Melanesians, skulls of ancestors are worshiped in order to establish connections with the spirits of the dead. Like the head of Osiris in Egypt, the skulls of ancestors may also serve as tutelar deities. The head or its parts, each of which may stand for the whole, can be used as magical food or as a means of increasing the fertility of the soil." Under "Skull," the Dictionary of Lore and Legend says, "Symbol of death, often with crossed bones beneath."

A pagan practice that was not eradicated upon the coming of Christianity was witchcraft. The word "witch" comes from the Anglo-Saxon Wicca, or "wise one." Witches were thought to be possessors of magic. Witches, who worship the deities of nature, have living talismans or symbols through which they derive their powers. They invoke spirits to enter the bodies of their talismans. Some have dogs, owls, snakes or swine for their talismans, but the most common are cats. Cats have been closely associated with mystery religion from the Egyptians to the Norse. But the Celts had a particular fear of cats, believing they were humans who had been changed into feline form by evil powers. The black cat particularly was connected to demonic powers. Black cats are the chief idol of the goddess of Wicca, Diana. In legend, she turns into a black cat to commit incest with her brother, Lucifer. Eventually the Druids themselves came to be regarded as witches. Witch hunting during Halloween became almost a national pastime in the colonial years of our nation. But that was yesterday. Halloween is regarded as the high "Sabbath" for practicing witches today.

Today vs Originally
So how has Halloween evolved over the centuries? If you are a parent, you probably have fond memories of white sheets with eye-holes or hula girls, gypsies and hobos running from house to house joyfully calling out trick-or-treat for a pillowcase full of candy. And when you got home you delved straight into that plunder without picking through it for hidden razor blades or needle marks.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Young women believed that, on Halloween, they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings, or mirrors. –SOURCE: History Channel’s History of Halloween

Today? That has all changed. Halloween has lost a lot of the fun magic and lightheartedness it had fifty years ago. Take a look at the costumes for sale in any Halloween store. While there might be an occasional cat or cowboy, there are more sexy French maids or Vixens and Jason the murderer costumes.

Halloween has become a celebration of gore and violence. Television channels sponsor a month-long festival of gore in horror movies. Even everyday television programming has pushed the envelope of gore and horror to what is surely the brink…right? How about the new show An American Horror Story? Or Grimm? Even the reality shows demonstrate the worst of human nature.

According to Leanne Italie in her article at, Halloween has gone to the dogs.
Halloween has morphed into a gore fest that has kids as young as 6 unleashing their inner monsters in ultra-violent costumes - blood-smeared chain saws and spiked killing gloves sold separately.

Options include Leatherface ("Texas Chainsaw Massacre"), Jason ("Friday the 13th"), Freddy ("A Nightmare on Elm Street") and Michael Myers ("Halloween"). Costume sizes can run so small that many wearers might be too young to have seen the slasher movies under film industry guidelines.

Fanged creatures feasting on brain stems. Possessed babies chomping on arms. Not all parents think it's OK for the holiday second only to Christmas in the minds of many kids to be a celebration of the most deranged characters pop culture has to offer.

"Bloody, sadistic, nightmare-inducing Halloween costumes are indeed being made and marketed for kids, and no one seems to care," said Joel Schwartzberg, a parenting writer and Montclair, Essex County, dad of a 10-year-old boy and twin 7-year-old girls.

Schwartzberg is fighting back at, which he hopes will raise awareness about how Halloween has strayed from "sickly sweet to just plain sick." No puritan, he said he loves a good horror flick and has even written some himself. But what's the point of all the realistic gore - for the very young, anyway?
"I think wearing these costumes and being exposed to human depravity, even in a 'fun' context, doesn't scar kids so much as desensitize them to brutal violence," Schwartzberg said. "Kids are less able to distinguish between real world and fictional brutality than grown-ups."

Some schools are also concerned, toning down Halloween celebrations or banning them altogether because of complaints about the gore factor, along with religious objections and concerns about too much candy and potentially dangerous props such as pointy toy swords and vision-impairing masks.
But it's Halloweeeeeeeeeen, costume companies and other parents argue, urging the bothered among them to exercise the privilege of saying "No" to violent, realistic gore.

"It's one night a year - let them have fun as long as it's something that's not dangerous or putting their life in jeopardy," said Big Lake, Minn., mom Cindy Chapman, who has a 9-year-old daughter. "I also have a rule: No store bought outfits, so that truly forces my daughter to be creative and it cuts down on a lot of the commercial gore."

Marilynn A. Wick, founder and CEO for one of the largest costume distributors, Costume World, said the company relies on customers to "use their best discretion in selecting costumes and makeup for young people." She added that children are inspired by films and video games and "Costume World has a responsibility and a mission to supply our clients with the most up-to-date costumes and accessories, many of which are inspired by these visual stimuli."

Many "too scary" costumes are elaborate affairs, including a child Doctor Zombie available in size small with a "highly crafted" mask of a rotting face, a blood-splattered lab coat and "fully detailed" exposed and rotted rib cage, intestines and protruding knee bone.

Other costumes chase a "brand," such as the tattered, shredded "Freddy Krueger Child Sweater" available in extra small (sizes 4-6) at Costume World's online store right next to "Flannel Curious George."

Denver mom Tracy Kinner said her two kids, 5 and 7, were "literally scared of Halloween and trick-or-treaters until last year," adding: "We'd have to find something else to do because they didn't want strange, scary, gory trick-or-treaters coming to our door. I, personally, am OK and somewhat relieved that they saw this as scary and aren't desensitized already."

Lori Liddle, a former executive for American Girl and Lands' End, got a fright of her own at how the costume industry has changed since her three grown children were young when she started wandering trade shows to stock her Wishcraft Halloween line at

"We were really kind of shocked at how scary and gruesome everything was," she said. "There were aisles too scary for me to walk down."

So she set out to "bring the magic back to Halloween" through more than 150 "kid-friendly" costumes that include dreamy little sultans and genies, smiling spider queens and playful bat capes, along with brave but blood-free medieval knights and gladiators.

Liddle suggests making Halloween a family affair through nonviolent group themes and simplifying the fun through personalized costumes and accessories.

"The fact is there are so many unhappy, scary things in the world," she said. "While Halloween has its roots in scary, it really is about dress-up and imagination. At the end of the day, kids really don't want to be scared."

Enough said? Now you understand why I wrote the YA Seraphym Wars series and the MG Stardust Warriors series. It's time for our younger generation to become aware that evil is insidious and is quickly escalating in our daily lives.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


A Cautionary Tale
By Mike Hays
In the days when Haddenfield was still a sleepy Midwestern town, when Camp Crystal Lake was a fine, upstanding youth summer camp and when nothing but sweet dreams permeated life on Elm Street, a curse cast itself upon an unwitting young boy and his three older siblings.  A curse so horrible, so horrendous it still terrifies to the bone, still cuts a deep chasm into the soul some forty-plus years after that fateful stormy, chilled Halloween night on Cernech Road.
It was a great day for the Boy #3, that special fall day when the leaves first began to show yellow, red, and brown, the natural changeover which triggered the opening of a secret vault in the hall closet of the family home, when out of thin air on the upper shelf, the orange plastic jack-o-lanterns would appear along with one of the most wonderful sights in the world, THE HALLOWEEN BOX.  The Mom would remove the box and the plastic jack-o-lanterns from the shelf, totally and completely of her own volition without any prodding by the youngsters of the household.  Boy 3 was hypnotized by the box as The Mom placed it on the coffin in the living room (Yes, the family had a coffin in the living room, sitting right under the picture window. It was the most valuable TV-watching spot in the room.  A hand built/hand carved coffin on loan from crazy Priest/Uncle who was traveling abroad at the time studying religions).
The children, Boy 1, Boy 2, Girl, Boy 3 and the very young Boys 4 and 5, watched with bated breathe as The Mom would open the top of the large, white, JC Penney's coat box.  A glow, as if she opened a treasure chest of gold doubloons, reflected off the faces of the kids.  Joyful expressions not surpassed by any other occasion other than Christmas morning spread from child to child, a real Rockwell moment that soon crashed back into reality as the little hands tore for the decorations.  Out came the cardboard decorations; the fold-up, jointed skeletons, the black cat, the witch, the pumpkins.  All were grabbed and gone in six different directions.  Boy 3 was able to grab his favorite, the skull decoration, without losing an appendage in the scrum.  The skull decoration was old and worn, but a classic.  One could tell its exact age by counting the layers of yellowed Scotch tape, like rings in a tree trunk, placed at strategic locations on the top of the skull and the chin.  Boy 3 received his allotment of two pieces of new Scotch tape from The Mom and she pointed him in the direction of where the skull was to be taped onto the picture window.  Amidst the scramble for space on the coffin pad, Boy 3 pressed the skull to the window, crawled off the coffin and admired his work for a brief second before scrambling back to THE HALLOWEEN BOX to dig out the one thing he'd anticipated for months, the store-bought, hand-me-down Jolly Roger Pirate costume.
 The Jolly Roger Pirate costume, with its one piece suit and plastic mask, was a thing of beauty.  This was Boy 3's highly anticipated first go round with the Jolly Roger.  The yellow pants, the blue sleeves, the pirate ship with the words “Jolly Roger” scripted across the chest.  And the mask!  Never had a more fearsome visage been molded into plastic than this fellow.  With a real, actual black felt 5 o'clock shadow beard, wry smile, and furrowed eyebrows, this was no pirate to be dealt with lightly.  This was a man of the high seas, a man whom men feared and women swooned over.  Boy 3 admired the mask, and then slipped the rubber band over his head.  It fit his large head very tightly, but such detail didn’t matter as he drifted off to his pirate ship.  He could feel the wind as it bellowed the main sail; he could taste the salt water on his plastic lips as he chased the Queen's merchant ships off the coast of Spain.  This was going to be one great Halloween!
But, alas! As Boy 3 squeezed himself into the body of the costume, reality set in.  Boy 3 was not good at hand-me-downs.  His stocky build, even in early primary grade years, did not mesh with the things being lent down from Boys 1 and 2.  But, Boy 3 was not going to allow a small detail such as a two size too small costume ruins this chance.  This Halloween would be memorable, one way or the other.
Halloween came, finally, and the weather turned cold, damp and drizzly over the course of the afternoon.  The family ate the traditional beef stew Halloween feast and occasionally answered the front door to give candy to a small child trick or treating.  The family’s Halloween plan was set.  Boys 4 and 5 and The Dad were in charge of candy distribution at home base.  The Mom would take Boys 1-3 and Girl out for trick or treating.  Boy 3 could hardly wait any longer.  He had survived school with all the grace and patience of one attempting to cross the Sahara desert in the midst of a sandstorm.  The school day was like pulling teeth with pliers; long, drawn out and painful.  To make the day worse, The Mom would not allow Boy 3 to sport the Jolly Roger at school for fear of the seams busting out during the course of the classroom festivities.  Instead, she fell back on the requisite mummy costume of gray sweats with gauze bandages wrapped around his head.  But Boy 3 did not care, school Halloween was minor league, the Big Show was trick or treats on Halloween night.  Never in a hundred years would the shy Boy 3 walk up to a stranger's house, knock on the door, and actually speak.  But, behind the pirate in the Jolly Roger costume, he would be able to charm his way into a bagful of candy by night's end.
The wind howled as they moved from house to house.  The Halloween weather had taken a turn for the worse as the temperature plummeted, but, fortunately, the rain had died to an occasional mist.  The family was prepared, The Mom with her flashlight, each kid dressed properly for the conditions, and carrying their full size brown paper shopping bags.  Much to Boy 3's dismay, the sudden drop in temperature forced him to wear his gray sweats as an additional layer of clothing for warmth.  The Mom insisted Boy 3 reconsider the mummy in place of the Jolly Roger, since he was barely able to squeeze his stocky frame into the suit even without the added layers of clothing.  Logic, bribery, intimidation, all well-honed tools in The Mom's arsenal, failed her that night.  So, under much duress and verbal abuse, Boy 3 trudged in constant catch-up mode employing a Frankenstein’s monster gait due to the constrictive grip of the costume.
Beside the difference in the body build with the other siblings, Boy 3 also uniquely prescribed to Poor Richard’s “Early to bed, early to rise” credo.  Many an ire did he draw from his night owl siblings for asking The Mom if he could go to bed at the un-Godly hour of 8:30 PM, because they knew they would soon have to follow.  Circadian rhythms know no holidays, so around the witching hour of 8:00 PM, as the leaves flew in their path and the tree branches bent in menacing fashion, Boy 3 began to tire and fall behind. The further behind he lagged, the more upset the rest of the crew became with him.
Finally, The Mom had enough and made the announcement “This is the last block.  We are turning around for home at the end of this street.”
Three sets of demon eyes shot daggers at Boy 3.  He felt their anger burn through the pirate mask.  He tried to smile at them.   He tried to charm them with the power of the Jolly Roger, the power that had turned men’s souls to jelly for hundreds of years on the seas, but it did not work.  Boys 1&2, along with Girl, turned on their heels and stomped away to the second to the last house on the block.  Boy 3 was toast.  At least he thought he was toast. Little did he know he had only stepped into the frying pan, but had yet to feel the wrath of the fire.
They thanked the owners of the second to last house on the block for the candy gift.  They were an elderly couple Boy 3 had often seen walking their dog in front of his house.
“Watch out for that step, little pirate!  It’s a little tricky in the dark.” the man said.
Boy 3 grabbed the chin of the mask and lifted slightly up to see the step.  SNAP!  The rubber band on the pirate mask snapped!  Oh, no!  What was he going to do?  He couldn’t just walk up to stranger’s houses and talk to them just as him without the mask!  But, he also couldn’t say anything to The Mom or siblings without drawing more anger his way.  Boy 3 quickly formulated a plan.  He discovered he could hold the mask on his face by sticking his tongue through the mouth hole and hooking the end around the plastic.  It would take great concentration and will, but he could do it if it meant avoiding any more sibling venom.
“Twhwicko tweet.” He said at the next house before the turn around to home.
Sister elbowed him in the ribs. “Don’t be rude!”
“Ayem nwot.” He answered.
So began the long walk home.  They had hit both sides of the street and planned on making a U-turn on the next street over on the way back home, but that was all nixed by The Mom.  “Straight home, now” was her decision.  Boy 3, tired, wet, walking like a re-animated corpse, holding a pirate mask on with his tongue while using both hand to carry a giant sack of candy, struggled to keep up.
The Halloween euphoria had worn down as did the number of trick or treaters on the road.  It was time to switch to the second phase of Halloween; Candy Inventory and Testing.  Along the walk back to the house, Boy 3’s mood brightened.  Everyone would forget their anger with him when the candy was spread out in each of their divided sections on the dining room table.  With the candy properly separated, counted and sampled, everyone’s mood will brighten.  The weather seem to warm a bit, the drizzle stopped and there were even a few stars shining through the clouds.  The costume seemed to loosen a bit, the mask virtually stayed on by itself and his candy bag seemed light as a feather.  Things were looking up.
“Everyone, drop their bags in the kitchen and change out of those damp costumes, immediately!” came the orders from The Mom as they walked through the back door.
The kids rushed to their bedrooms to changed clothes while The Dad poured cups of warm apple cider for each of them.  Boy 4 was asleep on the sofa, still in his Winnie the Pooh costume, and Boy 5 was fast asleep in his crib.  Boy 2 fought past Boy 1 in a dead sprint for their candy bags, wrestling and jockeying for position.  Girl calmly walked over, grabbed her neatly folded sack and went to her spot at the table.  Boy 3 walked out with his pajamas on, the Jolly Roger pirate mask still attached to his face by his tongue.  He picked up his candy sack.  Something did not feel right!  Something was dreadfully wrong!  His sack had no weight! Panic struck!  He lifted the sack up off the ground and looked inside.  Empty!  Empty, save for a hole in the bottom of his paper sack!  Candy lost!  Oh God in heaven, say it ain’t so!  The horror!  THE HORROR!
Tears began to streak down his face; the sobs grew until he was crying.  Boy 3 doesn’t remember much after that except for consolations promises of candy replacement from The Mom and The Dad, nobody would let him go searching for his lost candy...all hope was lost.  Boys 1 and 2 and Girl paid no attention to him; they avoided eye contact at all cost.  He was like a leper nobody wanted anything to do with.  Nobody in that house wanted to imagine the unimaginable, a candy-less Halloween.
But, at that moment, when Boy 3 thought things could get no worse, they did.  The Curse of the Jolly Roger kicked in its full force and power.  The Curse tossed the boy from the frying pan into the fire when The Dad announced. “You three older kids need to split off a third of your candy and give it to your little brother.”
The groans were deafening!  Disaster had struck!  Boy 3 sat and felt the glare from the previous owner of each piece of candy as it was being forced to change ownership.  Each glare stung Boy #3 like a dart.
The ramification of the Curse of the Jolly Roger has festered for decades.  The losses incurred have yet to be forgiven.  What should have been a dream Halloween has become a forty plus year nightmare.  
Lord, have mercy on our souls.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Slim opens up.

GROUP WHISPERINGS: Psst...Buzzz...Blah...Blah...Psst....

SLIM RIBBER: Nah...she's not that bad...honest.

BONELLA: WTF!!!...Exqueeze me, but Slim...what the heck are you doing with those humans? Those GAL humans...ON THE FREAKING GRASS NO LESS!!!

SLIM RIBBER: Ah, honeykin--

BONELLA: otstay with the oneykinhay...What's wrong with you? ARGHH!! You smell like them now!!

SLIM RIBBER: But I was just--

BONELLA: Shush, just shush...I chase that stupid dog, squirrel, and hamster and you're 'a bit of tea, dahling' with those...those...

SLIM RIBBER: ladies.


SLIM RIBBER: Listen, honeykin...

BONELLA: I told you to just SHUT UP!

Slim excuses himself and walks closer to Bonella

SLIM RIBBER: No, YOU SHUT UP! I've taken as much of your crap as I can stomach. Now you listen up, and you listen up good, Bonella. These ladies were simply giving me tips on how I can impress you because lately it seems you care more about Bonella than me. 

Bonella touches his forehead.

BONELLA: Slim...I don't think you're going to come from down under next October. Think this climate is affecting you.

SLIM RIBBER: No, Bonella, it's not the weather that's affecting me but a broken heart. You have no idea how much you mean to I guess I better sing it in a song...

Stay tuned for the next segment! Will Bonella change her ways? Will she boot Slim out of her life? Or will she kill Roseanne Dowell thinking she conspired with these ladies to turn Slim's head against Bonella? What do you think will happen? What do you want to happen? 

GRINCH: May I ask a stuuuupid question? Where is the dog, the squirrel, and the hamster?

BONELLA: Well I didn't eat them that's for sure...then again...too many things on my mind to remember.

Brody's Banshee

Brody’s Banshee
by Pat McDermott

Some years ago, on a late autumn day, my mother asked me to accompany her to Ireland to visit her elderly parents. She said no more, except that we must waste no time. As I am a dutiful son and well versed in the ins and outs of travel, I gently guided the dear lady from Boston to Shannon on the next available flight.

Throughout the journey, she sat in silence, locked in some private distress. Black clouds greeted us on the other side of the Atlantic, though the wind-driven rain subsided as I drove our rental car south. The sun’s reappearance cheered me. My mother, however, brooded during the entire drive. After several unsuccessful attempts to learn the cause of her anguish, I resigned myself to a quiet ride.

We reached Killarney an hour later. I slowed the car to negotiate the narrow streets, taking in the colorful shop fronts and horse-drawn carriages. Then I drove on to the house my mother left when she married my father thirty years earlier.

The family homestead sat in solitary splendor on ten County Kerry acres. A circular driveway took us past well-landscaped grounds to the front door. Despite the lovely setting, My mother stared at the dwelling with unmistakable dread.

My nimble grandmother greeted us with her customary warmth, yet her lilting accent held no cheer. The pleasant aroma of pipe tobacco announced my grandfather’s presence. Sure enough, the old fellow emerged from his study and greeted us with hefty hugs, adding an arm-wrenching handshake for me. He didn’t seem to notice my grandmother’s solemn demeanor.

“Come in, Nora!” he bellowed. “Come in, Brody! Get those coats off and we’ll have tea!”

My mother’s eyes glistened; her lip trembled. I had lost patience with her reticence and resolved to learn what was afoot if I had to bully it out of her.

“Right after we settle in, Pa,” I said.

Hefting our luggage, I led my mother upstairs. As always, she claimed her childhood bedroom. I set her bag on a chair. “What’s happening here, Mum?”

She closed the door. “I didn’t want to tell you before, Brody. You wouldn’t have believed me, and I couldn’t bear your teasing.”
“I won’t tease you. I’m listening.”

She held her breath before she continued. “Your grandmother heard the banshee.”

I didn’t tease, but I couldn’t keep my eyebrows down. “Has she? What about Pa?”

“He hasn’t heard it. The one the banshee cries for never hears it. I know you don’t believe it, Brody, but I’m afraid for my father.”

I thought of the burly man downstairs and smiled. Even at his advanced age, he was stronger than most men I knew, including me. “You’re worrying for nothing. Let me put my bag away and we’ll go down for tea.”

I chose my favorite guest room, a small but well appointed suite that overlooked the front entrance and afforded spectacular views of the gardens. Pulling the red velvet curtain aside, I enjoyed the scenery until the rain abruptly returned in raging torrents. The wind howled and moaned, as it would in such an open area. I understood why my grandmother believed she had heard a banshee.

According to legend, the eerie wailing of these spectral females supposedly heralds death. My mother often said she had heard one the night my father died. Such superstitions—peculiar weather omens, outlandish remedies, and charms that guaranteed spouses and wealth—had always amused me. My mother, however, believed in such things. On her kitchen wall, a horseshoe still hangs “points up” to keep the luck from running out, for all the good it has ever done her.

My own beliefs were centered in science. After earning a business degree, I joined a high tech firm and traveled often to visit its worldwide branches. My level-headed logic would help calm the ladies’ fears during this gloomy visit. I released the curtain and went downstairs.

In Ireland, they call supper “tea.” The housekeeper had set out the simple meal in the dining room, where a gas fire danced in an ornate hearth. We chatted our way through scones, salad, ham, and potatoes. My grandmother had just called for dessert when a loud knock sounded at the front door.

The women froze. Pa, however, seemed oblivious to the rapping. He continued telling a favorite story of his boyhood. As I had heard the tale often, I permitted my attention to drift. Why would someone use the knocker rather than the doorbell? When the housekeeper failed to answer the knock—no doubt she couldn’t hear it from the kitchen—I set my napkin on the table, strolled down the hall, and opened the door.

No one was there. I returned to the dining room and stated my opinion that the wind had caused the rapping.

Pa was lighting his after-dinner pipe. Through his initial puffs, he said, “That’s what I think, Brody. We old folks don’t hear so well anymore, and the wind plays tricks on your grandmother.”

He resumed his tale. His old briar pipe was well-fired now. He held it by the bowl, waving it to emphasize the key points of his story. Outside, the wind still howled.

Without warning, the howling rose to a ghastly shriek that burst into pitiful, piercing cries. The women grew pale, but Pa continued his narrative, clearly deaf to the paranormal screams that gripped his wife and daughter in breathless horror. I must confess that an unknown terror chilled me as well.

The hideous lamenting ceased just as Pa concluded his yarn. He chided the women for fearing the wind and weather. Soon we all rose and retired for the night. Despite the mysterious keening—whatever it was, I doubted any supernatural visitation had occurred—jet lag had left me exhausted. I fell straight to sleep.

Several hours later, I awakened to the clip-clop of horses and the rumbling of a rolling carriage. The bedside clock read three a.m. Who would be coming at this hour in a horse-drawn cart? I stole to the window and pulled back the velvet curtain.

Outside the front door, not one, but two horses stomped the ground before an old-fashioned carriage set on high wheels. A coachman in antique attire sat in the driver’s seat. The brim of his top hat hid his face. Thinking that the window glass might be distorting whatever was really down there, I lifted the sash. Cold air blew away the last remnants of sleep. I decided I was witnessing a costume drama.

I watched spellbound as two men attired like the coachman carried a shapeless black mass from the house. The carriage door opened. With calm efficiency, they hauled their burden inside.

The door snapped shut. The coachman cracked his whip and shook the reins. He glanced up. Our eyes met. His skeletal face contorted into a hideous, mocking smile. He touched his whip to the brim of his hat and cried, “Come aboard, sir! There’s plenty of room!”

Too shocked to speak, I made no response. He let go a high-pitched titter and drove off into the starless mist.

I paced my shadowy room until I convinced myself that I had experienced a nightmare. The lingering horror crumbled away. I found my bed and fell into a dreamless sleep.

Just past nine o’clock, I prepared for the day and went downstairs. The sound of strange voices surprised me. In the kitchen, my weeping mother and grandmother sat with uniformed emergency personnel whose calm demeanor belied any emergency.

My mother stood and hugged me. “Your grandfather is gone, Brody. He died in his sleep and suffered no pain.”

I didn’t believe it. “Why didn’t anyone call me?”

I raced up the back stairs to my grandparents’ room, where doctor and priest conversed in low tones. The shell of my grandfather lay on the bed, his hands folded on his chest, his forehead glistening with the holy unction of last rites. I knew then that a death coach had stolen away my precious Pa.

For months, the events of that night haunted me. I never mentioned the costumed coachmen. My level-headed logic eventually convinced me that some trick of the imagination had deceived me, that the death coach had been a dream after all.

A year later, I was in Boston when the news came that my grandmother had followed my grandfather to eternal rest. No wailing banshee accompanied her passing, at least not on this side of the ocean, and not because the banshee couldn’t cross the sea. I convinced myself that the banshee only existed at all because legend and the mysterious Irish landscape had joined forces to plant her in generations of imaginations.

Twenty years have passed. I am president of my own electronics company now. A year ago, I established a division in Dublin. After several transatlantic trips to oversee the startup of my new branch, I visited Ireland’s capital to attend the theater festival.

A howling, wind-driven rain greeted me when I arrived at Dublin Airport that autumn afternoon. I had a flat in the city center and carried only an overnight bag. I waited at the stop for the Dublin shuttle. The minibus pulled up. The door opened, and the passengers shifted politely to make space for me.

“Come aboard, sir!” called the driver. “There’s plenty of room!”

My half-raised foot stopped in midair. I looked into the same eyes I had seen in Kerry twenty years before. The same skeletal face with its hideous, mocking smile stared back at me, as it had then.

“Thank you,” I said. “I’ll wait for the next one.”

Was I the only one who had heard his high-pitched titter?

Transfixed, I watched the shuttle drive away. It stopped before turning out of the airport and onto the main road. Just as it pulled out, a speeding fuel truck slammed into it. Both vehicles burst into flames.

No one survived.
* * * * *
I hope you enjoyed Brody's Banshee. Keep an eye out for Glancing Through the Glimmer, my soon-to-be-released young adult adventure set in Ireland. It's due out from MuseItUp on November 11th!

Happy Halloween,
Pat McDermott
Glancing Through the Glimmer'Facebook Page

(Brody's Banshee is based on an old story by the late Shane Leslie. Pictures courtesy of Photobucket.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Zombie Love

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I always thought it would be great to be born on or even married on Halloween. Weird, I know, but I love weird. This year I took my family to a charity event called the Zombie Walk. For a few cans of food, we got painted up like zombies, even my four year old, though he insisted on no blood. Everyone else loved getting sprayed with blood that tasted remarkably like corn syrup. I even opened my arms wide, closed my eyes and said hit me. Sometimes you just have to embrace the bizarre. I adore my little zombie crew. Aren’t they cute in a strange, walking dead kind of way?

The only thing I didn’t account for was that a Zombie Walk actually included walking. It was fun at first joining the hundreds of zombies marching around the village and watching the reactions of all the people driving by or gawking through store windows wondering what the heck was going on. Had the Zombie Apocalypse come at last? Mostly there was a lot of zombie love. People leaning out of their car windows to take photos of the zombie hoard, including my children and especially my youngest who heard thrilled cries of “Zombie baby!” like that was a good thing. The adults who had done this before really hammed it up, dressing like prom kings and queens and construction workers with screwdrivers and saws stabbing through their hard hats. The zombie who did my own make up gave new meaning to pencil neck geek. About half way through I was looking for a short cut back. I know I’m a cheater, but I was tired and all the brains were spoken for.

Later that night there was a zombie feast and zombie prom. I can’t really tell you about the prom because my little zombies aren’t drinking age, so we bailed before then. What I can tell you about is the zombie wedding. A couple who met at last year’s Zombie Walk got hitched for real at this year’s event. Isn’t the bride beautiful? The snow white dress makes a perfect foil for her decaying flesh and I thought the black roses were a nice touch. She gives Bonella a run for her money in the creepy department. The groom even more so. He’s the guy in the back behind another gruesome member of the wedding party.
I wonder what they’ll tell their kids one day when they find the wedding photo album? At least they’ll know their parents knew how to have fun. Writers live in their imaginations all the time, spinning stories about zombies, witches, werewolves and vampires and readers love to visit there, but only in October can you see zombies on parade in the real world. At least for now.  Halloween isn’t just about kids and candy, not if you don’t want it to be. Only one week to go. Enjoy the month before it’s over.
Jolie Pethtel                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
Author of ‘Painted Jezebel’