Friday, October 31, 2008


Sorry folks, I was so busy shoveling candy into my maw that I forgot to post the winner for the Kelly Meding prize. As a refresher the prize is a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card and a copy of DARK DELICACIES.

The winner is:


Congrats. Email me at jayewells(at)gmail(dot)com with your snail mail address and I'll make sure Kelly gets your info.

Hope everyone's having a spooky Halloween filled with tricks and/or treats!

Geek's Halloween

Would it surprise any of you to learn that some of my fondest memories of Halloween are of hiding behind pillows with my middle-school friends while we watched wildly inappropriate horror films? After trick or treating or G-rated parties, we'd all gather in my bedroom and turn on some gorefest we'd found at the video store. And shriek at the scary bits until my mother came upstairs and told us to shut up and go to sleep.

Ah, memories.

Here are my top scary moments (inspired by Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments). Feel free to jump in via comments!

The Exorcist
Not the vomiting scene or the scene where the priest's mom starts talking through Satan/Linda Blair. No, the thing that got me in Exorcist is when Father Merrin makes a tape (reel-to-reel, baby) of Regan's voice to be analyzed and finds out poor lil Devil Child is speaking English...BACKWARDS!

Evil clown doll + girl who hates clowns = AIEEEE!

The Watcher in the Woods
As a disclaimer, I was six when this happened, but the possession scene where the little girl starts screaming "There is no Karen! Karen's dead!" and flipping her shit and using telekinesis on everyone...scarred me for LIFE.

I wasn't expecting Halloween to be scary-scary, just 1970s John Carpenter scary, so when Michael Meyers comes out of the back seat and kills the crap out of a hapless high school girl--I yelped and grabbed my boyfriend, who was pretending he hadn't just yelped and grabbed for me. Men.

The Ring
Already primed to hate creepy little girls by Watcher in the Woods, The Ring freaked the crap out of me. The first time I watched it, I completely lost it when Samarra crawls out of the TV...inexorable, unstoppable, EVIL. And then I switched off the DVD player at the end of the movie and MY SCREEN REVERTED TO STATIC. I vividly remember whipping my head around to check for evil little girls coming to kill me with evil little hands.

There's my top five...what are yours?

Miriam Kriss: Vampire

And now, a special guest post from Miriam Kriss, uber-agent from the Irene Goodman Literary Agency:

Halloween in New York City is a big deal, the nearest thing we have to Marti Gras. Everyone, from the free-wheeling and scantily-clad Village Halloween Parade partiers, to the more innocent parade of young princesses, pirates and superheros that clog Brooklyn's Seventh Avenue, to the bag lady who hangs out on my friend's Alphabet City stoop, gets in on the act. So even in my poor college days I felt I had to make an effort for my first NYC Halloween.

There's a great costume shop on Broadway, just down from the Strand Bookshop, that's a block deep and I went in there to find something fun. Most of the costumes were out of my price range and the ones that weren't looked it. Finally I settled on a pair of fangs, really nice ones that had plastic molds you melted then fitted to your eyeteeth, where they sat suspended as though they grew there. At twenty bucks I could swing them and I figured paired with a little black dress I already owned, some white face powder and dark lipstick, they'd make a costume, without eating up any extra storage space in the dorm. After I did my little chemistry experiment of boiling water and shoving the plastic into the fangs, then molding them to my teeth, I looked in the mirror. The fangs looked great. They were ivory colored, not a glaring white, looked very natural and were surprisingly comfortable. They were a big hit that year and at the end of the night I stuck them in an old Altoids tin.

The next Halloween I pulled them out again. Since they were so comfortable I thought I'd wear them around during the day as well, not the full on vamp getup, just the fangs (ignoring cheerfully the whole vamp in daylight paradox), getting into the spirit of the holiday. I was riding the 5 train uptown, yawning at the injustice of 9am classes, when I noticed a good portion of the car's passengers staring. I glanced behind me to figure out what they were staring at, then with a rush I remembered the fangs. They were comfortable enough I'd forgotten they were even in and I'd just flashed them at the car. I gave a little boy who was getting off a quick toothy smile, and laughed as I heard him tell his mom there was a vampire on the train.

A Treasury of Halloween Smart-asses!

Halloween wouldn't be complete without a few tricks, so I invited three of my most serious literary author-type friends to share their favorite holiday memories...


I love Halloween night. Maybe it's the crispness of the winter air, the fantastical costumes, the freaky faces in carved pumpkins, or the joy of whacking zombies with your cricket bat or shotgun. (I always go with the shotgun.)

Okay, okay.

I love Halloween because of the free candy. Well, the chocolate. Honestly I don't understand the point of handing out non-chocolate treats. SweeTarts? Might as well eat a piece of sugarcoated chalk. Candy corn? Blech. Licorice? Are you kidding me? And those pixie sticks are evil incarnate! Satan must sell those at a discount or something.

Let's review. On Halloween, chocolate good. Everything else, bad.

I know, I know. Zombies only rise from their graves once a year, but c'mon, would you rather go to the graveyard and waste your bullets or go through your kid's collected candy and snag all those Milky Way Midnights?

~Michele Bardsley :-)


Here is my Hallmark-quality poignant memory:

Barrio Halloween

Every Halloween, Lalo the bully would beat me up and steal my candy. When I was in the fourth grade, I got caught ditching class. I was hiding in the bathroom and washing what was left of a Hershey bar off my fingers. I wouldn't tell the teacher what I was doing so I was sent to the principal's office. I didn't get much attention because the school staff was running around in panic. Lalo had gotten real sick and was throwing up. Seems he had eaten a chocolate-covered urinal cake.

~Mario Acevedo


So I was asked to write about something scary in honor of Halloween.

I got nuthin'--seriously.


Nothings scary's happened to me on Halloween. However, the young girls dressed as princesses and wearing tiaras who ring my doorbell might "think" I'm scary because my attempts to snatch the bling-bling off their heads can be interpreted (used loosely, of course) as well, aggressive...

Oh, and to the mom of said faux princess who whined that her little girl was only five, and I was a monster for trying to snatch that tiara off her head. I say, suck it up, princess! First, I haven't seen a tiara in more than 25 years--so step off and give an old woman a break. Second, I have seniority. Third, if you ring my doorbell and you got something I want, and I got something you want--we barter or I jack you up for it. I'm simply trying to teach the little diva that wearing a tiara comes with responsibility, and sometimes even an all out blood-fest to stay on top.

I don't see the problem--it is, after, all, my civic duty as an ex-tiara wearer, yes? LOL

~Dakota Cassidy


What's your favorite Halloween memory?
(hint: if you don't have one make some shit up)

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Rardin

Happy Halloween! Today we have Jennifer Rardin in the clubhouse helping us celebrate. Jennifer is the author of the kick-ass Jaz Parks urban fantasy series. I love me some Vayl. For realz. Anyway, Jennifer's given us a treat to nibble on today. Enjoy!

Zombie Jamboree
by Jennifer Rardin

Rindall Hunt leaned against the tallest tombstone in Browen Cemetery. Naturally the name carved across the base of the obelisk spelled BROWEN. Herbert John, born 1825, died 1899, slumbered on the south side of the plot. As far as Rindall knew, he'd never risen on Halloween, called or not. Neither had his second wife, Deborah Jane, on the opposite side of the stone. But his first love, Elizabeth Marie, who'd died in childbirth at the age of twenty-four, moved around so often that nothing grew on her grave but weeds.

Rindall slammed his hand against the monument, wincing at the clacking sound that reminded him his digits hadn't quite fleshed out yet. He bellowed, "Rise and shine, Bets. We've got work to do!"

"What's taking her so long?" Josh Payley paced the length of her grave. His stride was barely a shamble because he'd been dead the shortest time, which meant he pulled himself together faster. The only gaping hole left on him was his nose.

Rindall shook his head. Josh had to be reminded of everything at first. It was like that skull fracture had killed part of his memory for eternity. Rindall said, "She's old, which means it takes her brain longer to re-form."

Plus Bets liked to look her best when she emerged. Almost as good as the day she'd died. Josh, on the other hand, had been aboveground within five minutes, spitting beetle larvae and shaking worms out of his cracks.

"So what's the plan?" Josh asked as he hopped to the top of a nearby monument and teetered across its rim.

"A big failure if you fall," Rindall snapped. "How many times do I have to warn you about your reckless risks? I mean this; you break it, you dangle it."

"Dude, tell me you weren't this big of a wuss when you were building skyscrapers."

Rindall snorted. "Not until I took a dive off one. Now get the hell down. Seriously, I'm not taping anymore of your parts back together tonight."

"This is why your wife hired that dude to kill you. You know that, right? Although," Josh paused, giving Rindall the once-over, "it might also have something to do with those threads. Even if it was the seventies, you should've known better than to buy a powder blue suit."

Rindall threw up his hands. "Can't we get through one invocation without--"

A stirring at Rindall's feet brought them both to the head of the stone. Just like in the horror flicks Josh had devoured in life and relentlessly retold in death, Elizabeth Marie Browen's hand punched through the earth as if it was furious that somebody had allowed the crabgrass to spread so far. The second fist emerged quickly after, its fingers rising to give the guys a ladylike wave.

But it wasn't just a premature hello. Bets was signaling. Get me out! I have business to attend to! Also, my feet are stuck in the coffin again!

They each took hold of a hand and heaved. But gently. Bets would be beside herself if one of her arms popped off this early in the festivities. Luckily she'd already wound new flesh around her old parts, and everything stayed together for the extraction. She heaved out of the earth, shook her hair to release the extra soil, and then flung it back to reveal huge brown eyes in a Tinker Bell face.

"You are so pretty." Josh said this every time they rose, but Bets never tired of it.

She smiled. "I know. It comes of dying young. You are mighty handsome yourself." She poked him with a finger, the tip of which was still bony. "So how is my drunken cuss?"

Josh sighed. "One DUI and I'm stuck with a crap nickname for eternity."

Rindall shrugged. "Well, you did wrap yourself around a telephone pole."

"Can we not talk about me? We've been invoked, people! So where's the party?"

"Follow me."

Rindall led them to the corner of Browen farthest from the gravel road that wound past it. A thick wood full of shadows and night-creature noises walled them in on two sides, making for what the ghost hunters liked to call a spooktastic experience. But that was in the dark. Tonight, squint-till-your-eyes-water lights had been set up around a long table covered in red silk. Two television cameras and a long, fat microphone manned by bored looking union men faced the table from different angles.

"There you are!" A sexy young thing dressed in Armani and black pumps tiptoed up to them, trying not to get her heels stuck in any of the mole runs that dominated the Yard. "You're late!" she snapped, her glossy red lips folding in on each other, threatening to leave a stain on her unnaturally white teeth. "Contestants are supposed to arrive half an hour before the show. What happened to you? By the way, I'm Holly. But you knew that." She motioned to three chairs lined up on one side of the table and bustled off to talk to a tiny man wearing a headset and carrying a clipboard.

Rindall, Bets, and Josh exchanged thoughtful glances. The Caterers Rindall had summoned had already turned Holly's real contestants away at the gate. It hadn't been hard. One look at the Caterers' skeletal outlines (the youngest had passed in 1789, so it would be hours before the flesh began to form) had sent the publicity-hungry hounds baying in the opposite direction. Until now, Rindall had never considered the idea of replacing them.

"Oh, why not?" Bets finally whispered. "What's a party without a game of charades?"

Rindall shrugged. Josh grinned, scratching the tip of his completed nose. And they took their seats.

The hostess joined them, taking so long to adjust her clothing, hair, and microphone that Bets forgot her good intentions and reached for the woman's arm with a meat-raking claw.

Rindall slapped the back of her hand. "Cut that out. You know the rules!"

"I'm hungry!"

Josh said, "For such a little thing, you eat way more that I ever would have guessed."

The hostess barked out a laugh. "Well, we have plenty to offer you tonight." She nodded to Clipboard man. "Our director, Tony, has found some . . . interesting edibles for you." Another chuckle, but the hardness in her eyes robbed it of humor. "Of course you know how it works on our show. We couldn't call it Scared Stiff if we didn't ask you to subject yourselves to some . . . icky moments."

"We're comfortable with icky," Josh informed her.

She raised a perfect half-moon eyebrow as she eyed his fancy black suit. "But none of you seems to have dressed for it. And what's this?" she asked, fingering Bets's long blue skirt.

"My Sunday best. And a sight more presentable it is than yours," she declared. "You do realize if you lean forward any farther those girls of yours may fall clean out of your blouse? Then where will you be?"

"On the cover of every magazine in America," Holly said with a smirk.

"Thirty seconds!" called Tony.

Holly raised her hand, like she expected time to stop until she was ready to continue. "We need some napkins here. Otherwise our players might ruin their fancy clothes." She touched a long, red-tipped finger to her straight, blonde hair. "How do I look?"

Rindall grinned. "I'd say you look good enough to eat, but Josh keeps telling me that these days comments like that will get me slapped."

"She does look yummy," Bets agreed.

Holly lowered her eyes to half-mast, pleased that the peons were suitably awed.

Tony delivered the napkins and began a short countdown. After which a light went on in front of one of the cameras and Holly sailed into her introduction.

Ignoring the jabber, Rindall checked their perimeter. Vague, misty movement told him that their client and the Caterers were in position. Nodding briefly to his companions, he tuned back in to Holly's spiel.

"So the first game is always a tough one for our contestants." She gave them a friendly smile. Rindall decided he liked her better when she was acting. "But that's why you were chosen for our show. Because you believe you have the guts to meet our challenges."

As she spoke, Tony brought out three covered, plastic bowls and set one in front of each of them. Rindall peered into his and saw a mass of small black spiders. Josh had slugs, and Bets was shaking a container full of maggots.

"What do you want us to do with these?" asked Bets.

"In order to stay on the show, you're going to have to eat them," Holly said brightly. "But if you're Scared Stiff . . ." she paused to give the red-light camera a significant look. "You'll be forced to take the walk of shame."

She pointed out to the Yard, inviting the second camera to look as well. What they all saw was a path lined with the glowing crosses the grieving buy to decorate the graves of their lost ones.

"Now, Holly, that's just tacky," said Rindall. While the hostess worked to keep her smile in place, he went on, "I think we should institute different rules. Starting with freeing these poor, defenseless creatures." Rindall, Josh and Bets popped off their lids and dumped the creepers onto the table. They all immediately crawled to the opposite side, moving in such concert that Rindall wouldn't have been surprised to raise a magnifying glass and see the lead spider waving a flag and playing the retreat on a tiny bugle.

Holly's cheeks blazed. "What? What?"

"I'll show you what." Rindall crooked his forefinger and the Caterers moved forward, easily overpowering Holly's crew and setting them in a manageable bunch at the foot of one of the lights.

"What?" she screeched, digging her fingernails into her cheeks at the sight of nearly thirty skele-men moving like the well-trained regiment they'd once been.

Josh tapped Holly on the shoulder, making her jump and scream. He grinned. "I move quiet for a dead guy, right?" He pointed to his bare feet. "Best sneakers in town! Good enough to turn the tables on you, Miss America. Yeah," he nodded vigorously as her eyes widened, "we're playing a new game now."

"What do you mean?" she croaked.

Josh grinned. "Now, Holly, we've heard that people say you eat interns for breakfast. But we've also been informed you gotta be tough to survive in this business. So instead of shredding you like road kill, we're giving you a choice. The Caterers will offer you three plates of food. Two have been laced with enough arsenic to empty the voting booths in Dubois."

As Josh spoke the Caterers stepped forward, setting a rose-patterned china plate in front of her. It contained three items: a paste made from flour, water, and the ashes of the cremated woman in row nineteen; the deep-fried eyeballs of her newly buried neighbor; and a dead frog that had been gutted and stuffed with wild greens.

"All right" Bets said cheerfully. "You turn, Holly."

Rindall watched her decide, wondering if vanity had anything to do with her choice of the frog. He was sure it would pack on fewer pounds than the other two. And, according to the report, she had personally made a new food group out of diet pills. But no. It probably just seems harder to poison.

She struggled to swallow. And was clutching her severely cramping stomach within five minutes. She jerked forward, nearly hitting her head on the table as pain wracked her. Rindall was amazed that her hair didn't move the entire time. It must be glued with one of those gels Josh had once described. He wished he had some now as he shoved a heavy lock of hair out of his eyes.

"Help me," she gasped.

"Of course. That's the whole point of invocations," said Rindall.

"What do you mean?"

Bets sat her up in her chair so she could gaze into the girl's watery eyes. "We have a cure. But you should know that it comes with side effects."

"I don't care. Give it."

Bets turned to Josh. "You heard the girl."

Josh grinned and knelt at Bets's side. She pulled a paring knife from her skirt pocket. "Just enough," Josh warned.

"Of course."

He turned to Rindall. "Would you do it tonight? You're always quicker than me."

Rindall nodded, stepped forward and clutched Josh by the hair, which grew in straighter and thinner than his. But it still worked as a handhold. "On three," Rindall said. "One. Two." He felt Josh brace under his hand just as Bets reached over to cut off Holly's earlobe. "Bets!" he roared as he yanked. He wasn't sure who jumped the highest. Bets, who hid her hands and sat up straight in her chair, like a kid who's been caught passing notes in school. Or Josh, who could feel the back of his skull coming free in Rindall's fist, the sound of sucking skin and running juices making even their stomachs turn.

Screams from the crew. Followed by a mass escape attempt. For a minute all Rindall could see were scrambling bodies chased by relentless skeletons. Then the caterers snagged the living and dragged them back into the light.

Holly stared with horror as Josh turned to give Bets better access to his wet, eel-sleek brain. Bets sliced off a sliver and put it on her plate.

"Eat it," she said.

Holly shook her head.

Rindall leaned on the table. "If you eat it, you'll be a star."

"Why?" she whispered.

Josh jumped to his feet and pushed the plate toward her. "We've been invoked tonight because your mom's afraid your career's going to go down the toilet if you do another season of this piece of crap show. And she knows that eating my brain will download a sort of aura in you that others will find hu-hu-hot. You'll be on your way, baby. Of course, after you die you'll rise occasionally, just like we do. But that's such a small price to pay. Especially compared to what your mother's paid to invoke us in the first place."

Holly's eyes widened as someone new stepped out of the shadows, adjusting her shiny black jacket as she noted one of the cameras was still recording.


"It's what we always wanted, Holly. You'll be bigger than Angelina Jolie! Can't you just see it? Brad Pitt for a husband? Houses all over the world? Cameras in your face morning, noon, and night?" The lust in Holly's face said she could. Her mom went on, "It'll be worth it. I swear. I had the procedure done a couple of years ago and look at me now!" She held out her arms. "I've lost forty pounds. I look ten years younger. And I've sold every house the market has thrown at me!"

Rindall settled Josh's skull back into place and nodded at two Caterers. Who stepped forward, carving knives in hand.

"What . . . what's that?" Holly swallowed as more Caterers surrounded her. They lifted her to the table as Rindall, Bets and Josh tucked their napkins into their collars.

"Don't worry," Holly's mom said. "It's worth the pain." She smiled as her daughter began to scream. "You'll see, honey. I'm gonna make you a star."


Hey, it's Jaye again. Jennifer has graciously offered an autographed copy of Once Bitten, Twice Shy--book one in her Jaz Parks series. In comments, tell us the weirdest thing you've eaten. Winners will be drawn on Monday.

Samhain Fires

Why do we associate Samhain/Halloween with fire? With orange and black?

Our ancestors didn't worship fire, but there's no denying the incredible importance of it. Fire was life; it was heat and light. Without it there was only darkness.

So it makes sense that fire would be a very important part of all celebrations, particularly the two most important one. Beltaine, May 1st, and Samhain, Nov. 1st (note: The feasts were celebrated on the eves of these dates, thus giving us April 30 and October 31).

As I mentioned in my previous post, these dates were considered the points where the wheel of the year turned; from spring to summer, and from fall to winter. On these nights danger lived; when time turns it creates a thinning of the veil (there's a reason why midnight is called "the witching hour"), and through tha veil all sorts of things can slip. Is it possible that the reason those festivals were celebrated with bonfires was in an attempt to use light to drive away the forces of darkness? In some parts of Scotland this was spelled out pretty clearly; boys went from house to house collecting peat to use as fuel for the fires, with the words "Give us peat to burn the witches." (It was recorded in 1845, on the Isle of Man, that the "Sauin" fires had been lit "till a late period, to fend off the faeries and witches.") In some places villagers set fire to brooms and ran around the outside of their homes or the two with them, then threw them in a heap to make their bonfires.

Fire rituals and superstitions on those nights are well-documented. Sir James Frazer tells in the indespensible The Golden Bough of such rituals; every house with its own bonfire, each village with one in addition. Imagine in the darkness of the night, while the cold wind blows, the brilliance of dozens of fires like jewels against the black sky.

But the fires weren't just for light and heat. They had other uses as well. After collecting their peats and building their fire, the boys used to lie on the ground, as close to the fire as they dared, and let the protective smoke roll over them.

The fires were also used for divination, a traditional Samhain activity--for Samhain is the Celtic New Year, and what better time to look into the future and past?

Fire divination was a serious thing, and a scary one. Each family in the vllage would toss a stone, marked with their names or other identifying characteristic, into the flames. In the morning, if a stone was missing, it was understood that the Fae had taken it; death would touch the family by the next Samhain. This form of divination was widespread; examples of it seem to exist everywhere across Europe.

In some parts of Wales, the village men would watch the fire all night, waiting for it to burn down; when the last spark extinguished itself they would run as fast as they could away, shouting, "The cropped [tail-less] black sow seize the hindmost!"--an early and much more terrifying version of "Last one in is a rotten egg!", it seems.

And it is still a traditional night for divination, and it is still, in some ways, a traditional night for bonfires. Although very few villages actually do Samhain bonfires--and Bonfire Night, November 5th, is something of a carryover, yes--if you walk through any neighborhood on Halloween you will see candles. Candles placed in Jack o' Lanterns on porches, their fearsome faces glowing and glowering to protect the people inside. Candles in windows. Even flashlights in the hands of children, little sparks through the night.

So tonight, as you prepare to hand out candy and appease the little ghouls and goblins, think for a moment about the history of the holiday you're celebrating. Stand outside and close your eyes, and listen for the sound of the Wild Hunt over head. Samhain has its own energy, exhilarating and scary and free. Let yourself feel it; you'll be glad you did.

And don't forget to leave out a little milk or honey for the faeries. Just in case.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Guest Blog: Molly Harper

My Halloween Guest Blog, or How I Got The Crap Scared Out of Me By An Inkblot

Never ever trust your college friends around Halloween.

Just expect those lovely people you bonded with during freshman orientation screw with you at some point during the last week of October. When asked to guest blog on a scary experience, I immediately thought of the many, many horrible things my college friends and I did to each other in the name of spooky fun. Like my girlfriends taking yours truly, the haunted house weenie, to a "haunted dorm experience" and telling me the actors weren't allowed to touch me. When a zombie reached out from under the bed and grabbed my ankle, I punched some poor guy dressed as Freddy Krueger in the stomach and ran out the emergency exit. Or take my friend, Scott, who went into his sleeping roommate's bedroom after they watched the Blair Witch Project, stood in the corner a la Russell Parr, and whimpered until said roommate woke up screaming in terror. And the spooky prank calls... oh, the spooky prank calls. I'm so glad Scream came out while I was in college.

By my junior year at Western Kentucky University, I'd learn not to trust anyone around Halloween, not to believe anything I read, heard, saw, etc., because it was probably just one of my friends messing with me. It was about a week before and my friends were unsually subdued. I had almost convinced myself that I would live through Halloween unscathed that year, when I went to visit a classmate, Jen, to work on a class project. Jen lived in one of many decrepit old houses around town that had been gutted and turned into cheap student apartments. I knew people who lived there and I'd never liked the building. It smelled like damp, old shoes- well, it smelled like my little brother's room. And there was always a heavy feeling in my stomach while I was there, like I was afraid to go around a corner because I was afraid of what might be there waiting for me.

Jen got stuck at work. She wasn't home when I got to her place, leaving me to sit on the rickety staircase and wait. The house was unusually quiet, considering who lived there. I didn't even have the thub-thub-thub of bad late 90s rap filtering through the wall to comfort me. The little entryway was freezing, but it was an old building and I guessed the landlord didn't want to waste money heating the hall. I pulled out a textbook and tried to read, but I immediately felt that heavy feeling. I felt like someone was watching me. I kept glancing over my shoulder, expecting to find someone standing on the stairs. I heard a long, slow creeeeeeeak, like someone was stepping on the landing behind me and my stomach clenched. In the back of my brain, I hoped that maybe it was one of my friends sneaking up behind me. I turned around. Nothing.

I was done. Jen and I could work on the project some other time at a nice well-lit library. I had to get out, get away, get to other people. As I was slipping my bag over my shoulder, I happened to glance up at railing above my head... and dropped my bag. For just a flash, I saw an inky black, coiling shape leaning over the railing toward me. It was only there for a blink of an eye, like a sunspot left behind by a camera flash.

I didn't stick around long enough to see if it showed up again. I grabbed my bag and ran out of the front door. When Jen came home, she said she found my textbook on her stairs where I'd left it. I asked her to bring it to class. I would not come back to her building to get it. I didn't tell her or any of my friends what I saw. Because in the end, it could have been a shadow from a passing car. It could have been the onset of an aneurysm. Or just my over-active nerves looking for a reason to be scared. And I didn't need my friends to know I could scare myself worse than they ever could.


When children's librarian and self-professed nice girl Jane Jameson is fired and handed $25 in potato skins instead of a severance check, she goes on a bender that's sure to become Half-Moon Hollow legend. On her way home, she's mistaken for a deer, shot and left for dead. And thanks to the mysterious stranger she met while chugging neon-colored cocktails, she wakes up with a decidedly unladylike thirst for blood. And if all that wasn't enough, it looks like someone in Half Moon Hollow is trying to frame her for a series of vampire murders. What’s'a nice undead girl to do?

Nice Girls is the first of three contracted books, keep it in mind for March, y'all or preorder it now. (I'm reading it now, so I'm doing a little pre-pimping, because I'm peeing myself laughing). - Mark

from The Flyting of Mongtomerie and Polwart, c. 1580

The following are lines from the poem The Flyting of Mongomerie and Polwart, by Scottish poet Alexander Mongtomerie; written c. 1580, it is an account of Samhain Eve's Wild Hunt (Samhain is one of two nights a year--the other being Beltaine [May 1]--when the veil between the world thins, and the Fae roar through the dark sky looking for trouble.)

I have modernized the language somewhat.

At the hind-end of harvest, on Hallowe'en,
When our "good neighbors" ride if I think right
Some mounted on ragweed and some on a bean,
All tripping in troupes from the twilight;
Some saddles on a she-ape arrayed in green,
Some riding on hempstalks rising on high,
The King of Faerie with his court and the Elf-Queen
With many an eldritch incubus was riding that night.


Hanging out with Penis Head--YA Zombie Author Stacey Jay

Once upon a time, in junior high, just after I'd finally finished growing out my huge early 90's mall bangs, I watched the movie "Coneheads" for the first time. And OMG, did I love it. I was instantly obsessed, quoting lines from the movie constantly, the whole bit. The only thing cooler to my 14 year old self was "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".

So, when Halloween came around that year, it was a hard choice. Conehead? Or victim of the Rabbit of Caerbannog? I had a friend whose dad used to be a taxidermist and had access to a pretty lifelike looking bunny, but I decided the pink eyes freaked me the hell out and would probably freak the rest of the eighth grade out as well, so I'd better stick with the Conehead if I hoped to preserve my moderately cool status.

And that's how I ended up dressed as a giant penis.

Of course, in my relative innocence, I had no idea I looked like a giant penis until I got to school and the giggles started. No, I proudly walked into class on Halloween dressed in my stuffed skull cap, with my gold scarf wrapped around my forehead to hide the place where skull cap met head. I think I also had on some sort of gold cape and an alien spacesuit. Thankfully, however, my mind has largely supressed the memory in the interest of preserving my sanity.

My reputation eventually recovered but...the Halloween scars remain. I never took such a giant leap with a costume again, and I refuse to write about Junior High. Killer zombies are nothing compared to the trauma of being called penis head for an entire semester.

Stacey Jay
author of "You are So Undead to Me"
A Megan Berry Zombie Settler novel
January 22nd, 2009 from Penguin Razorbill
Learn more at

Haunted houses

Do you like going to haunted houses? Because I don't!

I'm not talking about a spooky rustic tour to a supposedly haunted locale. I'm talking about the kind of haunted house that you're supposed to go to for the purpose of being scared for Halloween. Usually its in a converted community center or legion hall, some such place. I hate them.

Why? First, I'm not a pussy. Yes, I like figure skating and Days of our Lives and musicals, but I'm no pussy. I'm not afraid I'm going to wet myself when people jump out at me. But I don't like the type of peeps that tend to work at them. I find peoples day to day activities horrifying enough which is why I have elements of horror in my writing and characters anyway... I don't need to amp that up with the unpredictability of local funsters jumping out at me, fighting to get a scare out of me for my ten minute tour through a spook house. I'm more likely to punch them or knee jerk defend myself than take it in the spirit it was intended. I fear these haunted house volunteers the way I fear the local toothless prison population that work in my hometown Wal-Mart.

That said. I LOVE going to the Haunted Mansion in Disney World... but it's predictable and on a track, so apparently that makes it okay in my book.

Also, I was that kid who showed up at eight dressed as D'Artanian with sword, cape and cheesy French mustache at one of them, as they said to dress up. I was the only one dressed up... that's a deeper psychological discussion than I'm willing to get into right now...

Trick or Treat, Smell my...Costume

So the cat peed on Tax Deduction the Elder's Halloween costume.

Yeah, that's pretty much the whole story right there.

(Yes, I was supermom and I saved the costume and didn't even kill the cat, although that last was a close one. This is a costume that can't be washed -- in fact, it specifically says on the label in all caps DO NOT WASH, DO NOT DRY CLEAN. So I soaked it in a sinkful of soapy water and I scrubbed it, and then I rinsed it and rinsed it and rinsed it, then wrung it out and draped it out to dry. Today it's dry and it smells fine. Which is good, because we bought the damn thing a month ago, and if we first had to get a new Halloween costume the day before the holiday, no one would have been happy.)


Indulge me, this is actually funny

What Happens on Halloween

as told to me by my almost-four-year-old daughter

Faery (this is her codename): Mommy, Halloween is scary. Because the aliens always come to earth, and they come into my room and go into my closet. And they steal my underpants.

Me: Oh, is that what they do?

Faery: Yes. They go into the closet and they take my underpants to space!

Me: Well, we'll have to keep watch then, won't we?

Faery: Yes. Because I want to keep my underpants.


A Ghoulish Tale from Phaedra Weldon

As the Halloween guest madness continues here at the League, we have a cool short story from Phaedra Weldon's Zoe Martinique Investigation series. It's called Ghoul and in it, Phaedra takes a break from the more spectral side of things depicted in Wraith and Spectre to lets us all have a peak at how vampires work in her world.


Phaedra Weldon

Jason heard the soft patter of her bare feet behind him as he stood on the roof's edge, the October wind toying with his dark hair, his long coat billowing out behind him. Below, children moved along the street in the dusky light, dressed in dark costumes--witches, goblins, bats and yes--vampires. They carried treat-filled orange bags, escorted by parents seeking solace in numbers.

"Jason," she said on the wind.

He heard the anger in her voice, felt the hunger echoing in her soul. 'You don't love me,' she'd accused him when he'd denied her his blood, denied her the fulfillment of the fantasy she'd created, to become like him.

She hadn't listened to him then. Would she listen now?

"What's wrong with me," she hissed at him. "What am I?"

He closed his eyes and sighed, feeling the demon inside of him stir. The creature that saved his own life over fifty years ago and irrevocably changed it. It smelled blood in the air. But not her blood. The blood of a recent victim.

"Look at me," she said.

He didn't move.

"Look at me!"

It was there--an echo of the power she thought she could take from him. Her soul called out, searching for peace that it would never know. Jason turned slowly, the wind at his back, as he faced her.

His lover.

His abomination.

"What's happened to me?"

His Ghoul.

Jason expected the worst at seeing her--having recalled all the memories of the ghouls his demon had created over the centuries. Whether on purpose or by accident. In comparison, Rene had handled herself admirably when it came to appearances. Ghouls--once the madness took them--usually allowed themselves to wither, no longer caring about outward appearances--succumbing to the hunger churning inside of them. It was a hunger that only two things could slate.

His blood--or the ghoul's true death.

For Rene there would be no reprieve for her crimes, no blood to ease her pain. There would be only death.

"I tried to tell you what would happen if you took my blood. I can't turn you into-"

"You did this to me..." she said as she pointed at him. Her eyes had the tell-tale gleam of red.

"Your foul blood. I can feel it inside of me. Damning me. Slowly killing me-"

She didn't understand she was already dead.

"Don't do that, Rene," he said as he took several steps closer to her. She was too close to the children below. Too strong now. And he knew she could smell their blood, sense their living souls just as he could. "Don't blame me for your greed. I warned you. I tried to protect you-"

"You kept it from me. You tricked me," her voice grew low as she bent down in a crouch. Again he was amazed at the newness of her dress. Her make-up. Her cheeks were plump and ruddy-she had recently fed. But that satisfaction would last only for a few hours before the hunger would strike again and again.

And she would kill. Again.

Rene had been an aging model. She'd lost two well paying contracts because she was 'too old.'
At twenty-three.

And then she'd met Jason. In her he'd found a companion, for a while. He was always looking out for a suitable lover--one that he could share his secret with--and if he were dealt a wrong hand--someone who could replace him and be the host for the demon.

"You refused to give me immortality."

"I can't give you immortality, Rene," he put his hands on his chest. "This isn't an immortal body, Rene. It won't last forever. Two or three hundred years--maybe. It's not like in the movies--my blood isn't the elixir." Jason gave a long sigh and lowered his arms. "I didn't drink blood from another vampire. Mephistopheles gave me this life. And in return, I give him blood and he experiences life. With me. And I have all those memories of all the other humans he's inhabited--"


He stared at her. "I never lied to you."

"You left me--abandoned me--"

"You wouldn't listen to reason, Rene. I had no choice."

He let his guard down and she was on top of him before he could react. This body was still young, and still unsure of its power. Though he--Jason Lawrence--had lived in it since birth, the demon that now dwelled within his soul was still adjusting, still testing his physical prowess. Another hundred or so years and perhaps the two of them would meld.

Her nails--the demon blood within her veins sharpening them, thickening them into talons--raked across his neck and chest, ripping away his clothing. He screamed out, pushing at her with a strength that still amazed him. She flew backwards--landing on all fours like a cat.

A large dangerous cat.

Careful, Jason.

"I know, I know," he said aloud to his demon and mentor. The wounds across his flesh would heal--though not as quickly as legend would have one believe. Nothing was going to stop the agony but medical treatment. But he'd have to get home for that and let his new lover Christina sew him up. "I didn't expect her to attack."

She's rabid. She must be put down now or more innocent people will die.

But Jason had backed away. He stared at Rene--a tiny part of him wishing--hoping--searching through Mephistopheles' memories of one time or one instance where a ghoul could be saved.
You know it's never been done, Jason. Once they go mad, there is no turning back. I never lied to you.

No. His mentor had never deceived him. Not intentionally.

"Is he there, Jason?" Rene said as she inched her way closer again, a cougar stalking its prey. He knew she could smell his blood, what her body craved. "Can you hear him--this demon inside of you?"

She'd never believed him. That the demon, Mephistopheles, was there. Inside of him. Changing him as the decades pass. He knew on the outside he still looked the same as the day he died--a man of thirty. But on the inside--he had lived for over eighty years.

Jason had been honest when he'd confided his secret to her--much to Mephistopheles' dismay. That being a vampire wasn't what she'd read in books, or seen on TV or in the movies. Blood had not transformed him. Blood had not saved him. Blood had not give him immortality.

His transformation had come in the form of a nightclub singer--fatally shot in an alley on the docks of Manhattan in 1928. He had been in the right place at the right time.

"Yes Rene," Jason moved back from her. His wounds burned but he continued to stand straight, pulling from the centuries of combat memories his demon gave to him. His weakness was that he was still young and hadn't yet mastered how to integrate the experiences into his own body. "He is always with me."

"You still expect me to believe that?"

"It's the truth."

She actually hissed at him as she tried lunging again. But this time Jason was ready and moved away, putting himself behind her. He thought for a second she would go over the edge of the roof, but stopped herself gracefully on the ledge. She continued to stare over the edge--and he knew she could smell the life beneath her and he was worried for the helpless trick-or-treaters below. And if the blood demanded to be sated—she would be a slave to that monster again. But then--to his surprise--she turned slowly and looked at him. "You fear for these children, Jason? You? The real monster?"

"Leave them alone, Rene."

The corner of her mouth lifted into a half smile. "Would you trade their lives for the truth?"

It was no use. She would never believe him. "Come to me, Rene. I can ease the pain."

"So you would give me the truth?" She glance back at the ledge. "But the children tonight would taste as sweet as the Halloween candy they eat, wouldn't they?"

"You will not kill another innocent child, Rene."

She straightened up. "Then what about Christina? She's not innocent. What about me dropping in on her while she waits up for you?"

Regardless of what the legends said his heart still beat. Strong and healthy. But at that moment it broke. He thought he'd been careful to keep Christina hidden from Rene. All thoughts of her were hidden from the ghoul--kept masked from their connection.

But somehow she'd known--

Jason stumbled back as he took another look at her. He knew now why she was in better shape than he expected. Why her make-up was perfect. Her teeth cleen. The dress un-marred. He'd seen it earlier that day--worn on the body of another woman.

Oh no. Oh Jason...I am so sorry.


In that instant as Rene began to laugh he knew. He realized the scent of blood he smelled was his lover's. Rene had gone to his home--probably to find him and finish the job she'd started a week ago--when she'd come to his home and stabbed him before stealing a pint or so of his blood. Only she'd found Christina there.

He pulled his hands into balled fists. "You killed her!"

Rene put her hands behind her back, bent her knees and tilted her head to one shoulder. " Jason mad now?" She moved a hand around to her front and licked at each of her fingers. "She was good, Jason. Delicious."

She's baiting you!

But Jason didn't care. Anger burned deep inside of his stomach and he felt the stirring in his upper and lower jaw. Strength surged through his muscles, poisoning them even more than the toxins Mephistopheles' presence released every year. He crouched low as the animal instinct of his ancestors ascended--but she met him in the middle--attacking him at the same time.

Without fangs she used her talons, slashing at him again, barely missing his jugular.

He knocked her arm away, his strength nearly tearing it from the socket. She screamed out, startling the trick-or-treaters below as she skittered across the roof's tar, her arms and legs scrapping and bruising. And Jason was over her again, straddling her, pulling her up by her head. Her arms lay at her sides, and he realized they were both dislocated. Broken.

And she was laughing at him. Her breath wreaked of old blood, spoiled and dead.

"I have my revenge..." she laughed up at him. "I have my revenge."

"You think by killing my lover you have control over me?" He could drain her. Take every last drop of Christina's blood back. But she was ghoul--her blood fouled.

No, there was a more fitting way for her to die. He leaned in close to her, allowing her to see the demon through his eyes.

Her eyes widened and her mouth opened into a perfect O. But there was no scream. Mephistopheles wouldn't allow it as the demon connected with her mind and burned it out.

Once he knew she was brain dead he twisted her head quickly to one side.

He let her head fall back on the roof, her eyes opened wide, her mouth parted in an eternal scream.

It was several minutes before he could catch his breath. The adrenaline that kind of power pumped throughout his body was sometimes draining and he eased himself off of her. He could hear the voices below--who made that noise? Was that a scream? Is someone on the roof. He needed to go. It was time to disappear.

Mephistopheles spoke to him as he pushed up on wobbly legs. She didn't kill Christina.

He nodded, again amazed at how easily they could connect thoughts, and yet how their thoughts often remained separate. "I know," he said breathlessly. "She forced drink blood."

You could see it?

He nodded again. "Yeah...while you were looking. I could actually see some images this time."

Ahh... and he could feel the demon's satisfaction. We are truly merging now.

But this wasn't the time for a celebration. He'd seen enough to know that Rene's revenge had not been to kill Christina, but to turn her into a ghoul, like herself. Only she'd done something worse.
Rene had put Christina on a plane. Within a few days without Jason's blood, the hunger would come, and then the madness.

Then the killings would start.

"I didn't see..." he stumbled to the opposite edge of the roof. The building was only four stories--but still--his human side still suffered from acrophobia. All he had to do was jump down, and the demon's will would lower him gently to the ground. "Where."


He could hear footsteps on the stairs. Soon there would be people on the roof. Jason found it was often better not to think about jumping when he did it, and felt the familiar rise in his stomach as he half-floated to the ground in the shadow. He moved behind a tree and watched as a police car and ambulance arrived, lights flashing.

Touching his neck and feeling the tattered puckering of his skin as it tried to reconnect to rendered flesh, he turned and began to shadow-walk away from the building to his BMW, parked several blocks away. He pulled the iPhone from his pocket and dialed a number.

"What kind of trouble are you in now?" said the voice of Nick Shay, Jason's personal assistant.
And ghoul.

"New ghoul. On a plane to Atlanta."


He sighed. "Christina Bergstrom."

"Aw shit, Jason. I'm sorry. Did Rene do that?"


"Damnit...I should have stayed at the condo with her."

Jason slipped from shadow to shadow. "I told you it would be okay. It's not your fault."

Nick was quiet. Then, "You want me to call our contact there?"

"I'll call her. She might be less grumpy if it's me."

"She really needs to get over me eating the chicken, Jason."

He smiled. "Normal people cook it first, Nick. Oh and have the salves ready. I'm afraid I got a little damaged."

Nick made tsk-tsk noises before hanging up. Jason held the iPhone out in the darkness and touched the screen. He found the number and checked his watch. It was just after eight o'clock.

She should still be there.

He hoped.

After two rings, "Nona's Botanical and Tea Shop, Zoë speaking."

"Hello. I know it's late, but is Rhonda Orly still there?"


:) For those who've already read Phaedra's books, you know exactly who Rhonda is (not to mention Zoe) and why she's the right person to call.

If you'd like to know more about Phaedra's work, be sure to check out her website or go ahead and zip on over to Amazon and snag yourself a copy of Wraith and Spectre. Thanks for the story, Phaedra! Everyone make sure to leave a comment to let her know how much you enjoyed Ghoul. Plus... if every comment were being tracked for some secret give away... Oh never mind. I'm sure none of us over here at the League are that sneaky.
** Did I mention that Phaedra will be giving away a copy of Spectre to one lucky commenter? Comment away folks; there's a book to be won!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Movies I Can't Wait For: #5

It warms the cockles of my heart.

Jeanne Stein Makes a Halloween Funny...

Our next little tidbit comes from recent guest, Jeanne Stein. A Halloween joke if you will...

A man is walking home alone late one foggy night...

When behind him he hears:


Walking faster, he looks back and through the fog he makes out the image of an upright casket banging its way down the middle of the street toward him.


Terrified, the man begins to run toward his home, the casket bouncing quickly behind him.



He runs up to his door, fumbles with his keys, opens the door, rushes in, slams and locks the door behind him.

However, the casket crashes through his door, with the lid of the casket clapping


on his heels, the terrified man runs.

Rushing upstairs to the bathroom, the man locks himself in. His heart is pounding; his head is reeling; his breath is coming in sobbing gasps.

With a loud CRASH the Casket breaks down the door.

Bumping and clapping toward him.

The man screams and reaches for something, anything, but all he can find is a bottle of cough syrup!

Desperate, he throws the cough syrup at the casket...


(Dramatic Pause...)

Are you ready?

The coffin stops!


Anyone got a halloween joke they can't keep to themselves?

Another Halloween, come and gone--with Liz Scheier, Senior Editor, Del Rey

A typical Halloween in the life of a glamorous NY editor:

The rundown:

Excellent costumes worn: 1

Last minute seams stitched: 4

Minutes of frantic stapling employed when ran out of stitching time: 2

Profanities used when accidentally stapled costume to own underwear, while wearing it: 7

Men who made obnoxiously loud comments in favor of quality of legs: 17

Number of them slapped: 0 (although it was tempting)

Number of friends pickpocketed: 1

Zeitgeist costume: bees and ladybugs (???)

Best costumes: Shaun of the Dead, Dumbledore's Facebook page

Past awkward dates seen: 1

Ideas for next year: 0 (thus far)

(Y'all, I also have an incredibly silly picture of Liz--which she claims is her in a Halloween costume, but I'm not so sure--which I am saving for a later date. Or possibly using for blackmail purposes, should such become necessary. Muahahahaha!



My costume this year will be the same one I've worn for the last six years--an old witch's hat. Most of my creative energy on Halloween is focused on Spawn's costume--Darth Vader this year-- and pumpkin carving. I long for the days when I had actual parties to attend on All Hallow's Eve. Like the time I dressed up as a Green M&M and everyone thought I was a scallion, but that's a story for another time.

If you're still trying to figure out your own costume, check out Check out Costume Idea Zone or this site for costumes for your four-legged children.

Inquiring minds want to know, what are you dressing up as for Halloween?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Movies WE Can't Wait For, #s 2 and 3, Supernatural Edition

No one said J-squared had the kind of star power that could carry actual GOOD movies, but still come January Caitlin, Caroline and I will be sitting in some Regal Stadium theater feasting on this cheesefest...

...and figuring we'll need to throw Jared a bone, I guess we're on board for this one, too.

Though--c'mon--does it not look like it's taking itself too seriously?

Smart Bitch Sarah risked her life and virtue for all of us

When I asked the very awesome Sarah from the even more awesome Smart Bitches, Trashy Books website, I imagined she would give me a funny little piece on Halloween, a memory or anecdote, or whatever.

Little did I know that Sarah's connections in the romance world go far deeper than I imagined. How she got this transcript I don't know, and I'm not sure I want to, but suffice to say...we owe her a big thanks for this top-secret information, a League of Reluctant Adults exclusive!

Scene: The Manley Lounge
International Consortium of Heroes
The Organization of Romance Novel Heroes in All Their Various Archetypes

Established 1811

Vampire Support Group Meeting
Attendance: 14,576,934, give or take a few
Time: Twilight. Duh.

Chair: Vladimir Pouftahl
Director, Undead and Bloodsucking Division

The meeting is now called to order. As usual, Halloween is our night off, since all those pesky mortal males can indulge their alpha fantasies and dress up as one of us. I'd like to thank you for eschewing any number of easy snack opportunities to join us this evening. Our meeting should be a productive one, as our full membership appears to be present, in one form or another.

Let it be said that the next bat who shits on my head will learn about alternate definitions of the word "bat." Am I making myself clear?

At our last annual meeting of the full membership... and yes, thank you to those who chuckled at the word "member," thus solidfying those undecided voters who waffled on the question of outlawing the vampiric turning of males in puberty. As I was saying, at our last annual gathering, we questioned whether our fame had reached a pointy apex, and clearly, it has not. Despite the griping from romance readers, the genre continues to sell, and we continue on pace to remain the most popular for yet another year.

I would like to give thanks to those werewolves who could join us tonight. Certainly our alliance has proven most effective, though I must remind you that we will be playing our VampHair Rugby Match this weekend, rain or shine. I do hope for rain, though. Makes the fur easier to grab.

Sorry, you're right. I shall save it for the field. Where you will go down in ignominious bloody defeat.

As I was saying, in the past year, despite reports of gloom and doom from various sources, our numbers as heroes have only increased, as has our fame. While some insist we've jumped the shark, we find that our continued health in terms of heroic opportunities remains such that many a female finds us eternally toothsome.

We are all, of course, thankful for this growing audience, and in order to properly thank those of you who have gone above and beyond in terms of elevating our fame as the current Perfect Manly Hero, we've created an award. Given that our group has been victorious over the others for the past five years, we've decided to acknowledge those heroes whose book sales put us over the top in total points accumulation. We'll be accepting nominations immediately, and the winners will be announced at our half-year gathering during the new moon closest to the spring equinox. Stan is looking up that date now on Google. Yes, I know...dial up sucks, Stan. So do you.

The Edward Cullen Award will go to the vampire whose fame has so eclipsed that of any other heroic archetype in our membership, from the Wounded Lord to the Navy SEAL, we are once again victorious in the ICH House Cup. This year's winner will be nominated from amongst the membership; Mr. Cullen himself, obviously, is out of the running, but the gentlemen from "True Blood" is eligible, as are any of the approximately 45,657 vampire heroes on the shelves for the 2008 calendar year. Get your fountain pens ready, lads, and we'll take your suggestions following the meeting.

If no one has any other items for the agenda, we'll adjourn. And now, as Dawn is breaking, and Lord what a racket she makes, we proceed to our festivities. Someone tap the keg. It's party time.

Thanks Sarah, for risking everything to bring this valuable information to our readers.


Is there a secret contest in the works for Halloween week? Many League readers are speculating that something is up. Are shenanigans planned? Are ALL comments being gathered for some larger as of yet unspecified prize?

I can neither deny nor verify the presence of such tomfoolery, but just in case...

Grim Grinning Ghosts by Kelly Meding

Hello, Leaguers! Kelly Meding's debut urban fantasy, THREE DAYS TO DEAD, will be released in Fall 2009, from Bantam Spectra. Today at the League, she's exploring the question on everyone's mind: Where do ghosts go to party?


I'm very excited to do my first guest blog here at the League. They're a great bunch of peeps, and Halloween is the perfect time of year for those of us who write in the paranormal genre.

My day job is in a corporate retail store, and every two months or so they send us a new music compilation to play. This month's had five Halloween-themed songs mixed in with standard "popular" music, and one of the songs is "Grim Grinning Ghosts" by Barenaked Ladies.

Barenaked Ladies Lyrics
Grim Grinning Ghosts Lyrics

The theme behind it always sounded familiar (and frankly, it took me until Googling for this post to realize it was from a Disney theme park ride), but the basic chorus ("Grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize") keeps getting stuck in my head. Very stuck. Like songs from the Broadway show "Rent" usually get stuck, and it's sort of annoying.

Apart from "grim grinning," I keep pondering the part of where these ghosts might actually socialize. Sure, if you keep with the theme of the Disney ride, it's a Haunted Mansion. Or a graveyard. But that's sort of cliché. If you're looking for a ghost, you're either going to look in a haunted house or a graveyard. Duh.

But where might a lonely ghost go to socialize? A bar? A ballroom dance hall? A rugby game? A hospital emergency room? And with whom is s/he socializing? Other ghosts? Living people? Vampires? Demons? Angels? All of the above?

Ghosts are often portrayed as either vengeful spirits (the film The Ring, for example), or bumbling apparitions that really can't affect anything without help from the living and are stuck (Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series). There are fewer examples where ghosts are leading characters (Casper), or have more of an ability to affect things (Ghost) around them. One of my personal works-in-progress deals with ghosts, which means I'm thinking about this more and more as I sketch out the world in which it takes place.

So here's where I ask for recommendations. What are some of your favorite books that feature ghosts? Either as lead characters, or as important secondary characters? Where are the gems I've missed among all of the fangs, fur and fey stories?

In addition to a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card, and in keeping with the Halloween theme, Im including a copy of the horror anthology "Dark Delicacies," edited by Del Howison and Jeff Gelb, with stories by Clive Barker, Nancy Holder, Ray Bradbury, and more. Leave a comment to win. We'll announce the winner on Friday, so be sure to check back often to see if you've won.

Candy Corn Floats

**Adapted from Pillsbury's "Halloween recipes"**

1 gallon softened vanilla ice cream
1 can frozen concentrated orange juice, thawed
3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla
red and yellow food coloring--to make orange, y'see (optional)
2-liter bottle ginger ale
whipped cream
lemon zest, cocoa powder, or candy corn

In a large bowl mix the softened ice cream, OJ concentrate, water, vanilla, and food coloring (if using).

For each serving, scoop heaping 1/2 cup or so of ice cream mixture into a glass. Pour about 1 cup ginger ale over each.

Heap whipped cream on top, if using, and sprinkle with cocoa powder, lemon zest, or candy corn to decorate. Serve with black straws (available at most party supply stores).

If you like, you can add one or two shots' worth of ice-cold mandarin, vanilla, or plain vodka. Or you can turn them into frozen fuzzy navel floats by adding peach schnapps.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Movies I Can't Wait For, #1...

Halloween guest amongst the tombs with Seressia Glass

One of my personally spooky experiences happened on a trip to--where else?--New Orleans. It was May, and we'd just come back from a cruise and decided to spend the weekend in the Crescent City before heading back home. One of our must-see sights was St. Louis Cemetery #1. (You can see a map of the tombs here.) It was a beautiful day, robin's egg blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds. We went by the official resting place of Marie Laveau (tomb #347), saw all the coins and other gifts left for her, and the triple X's decorating the tomb. Then we went into the rest of the cemetery, following the guides' advice to follow the arrows on the ground.

Somehow I got separated from my friend and pretty much everyone else and ended up in a back patch. I tried to retrace my steps and that's when the hair started standing up on my arms and the temperature seemed to drop and my stomach got all twisted. Obviously I was not supposed to go against the direction of the white arrows but I didn't want to go further into the cemetery-- not realizing I was already in the back corner which explained why I couldn't find any arrows going in the direction I thought I needed to go. Eventually I did find my way back to the main avenues, never so happy to see people in my life. I didn't breathe easy until I went out the front gate and shook the heebie-jeebies off.

But what freaked me out more than going the wrong way was finding a tomb, #410, for a family named Leger. After I'd sold the first book in a series about a family named Legere, who pass down psychic abilities mother to daughter and has their roots in the free people of New Orleans.

**Seressia Glass is the award-winning author of numerous erotic paranormal and/or contemporary interracial or African-American romances.**

Ch-Ch-Ch-China Doll

What's more fun than traumatic childhood experiences? Nothing, that's what.

Here's Michelle Rowen's entry into our Halloween of Horrors and therapy bills...


When I was a kid I went with my friend to visit her relatives for a weekend in Quebec. They were very nice but they had a whole roomful of creepy-looking china dolls. One of them had a very pale white face, black hair and a black dress on and while it was a beautiful doll, it looked very sad. I was looking at it when the husband of the collector decided to tell me that it was because the doll had lost her husband in the Second World War, she was in mourning, and she'd slit her wrists because she was so distraught over her loss. Now her spirit haunts the doll and the room I stood in. Then he turned around and shut the door behind him leaving me in the dark holding the scariest f*cking doll in the history of the universe. I freaked out, started bawling my eyes out and ran about three blocks away until they lured me back and the dude apologized for being a dick and scaring the beejeezus out of me.

To this day I hate collectable china dolls. HATE THEM. I am still TRAUMATIZED by this experience. *shivers* However, I don't have a problem with Ouija boards which have given me hours of fun over the years. Just dolls. I only collected teddy bears as a kid after the above experience.


Thanks Michelle!

Anyone else feel like going down to the toy store with me? Christmas is only a couple of months away and we do love us some Michelle.

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...


Oh yeah. It's gonna get crazy up in this bitch. Tons of people are dropping by the League Lounge starting today and stretching through the big event on Friday, maybe longer. There'll be cocktails and scares from some of the biggest names we could dredge up, contests and giveaways and...well...just all kinds of Halloween whoring. So come often and leave a comment, you never know what you might go home with. I'm not saying it could be V.D., but you never know.

Let's get the ball rolling with Uncle Tim...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Save This Show!!!

Okay people. Serious business here.

It's come to my attention that Pushing Daisies, the most consistently entertaining, visually stunning and wholly magical show on television, in my not-so-humble opinion, has taken a tragic dip in the ratings. I'm mortified.

You should be, too.

Please be mortified. Enough to tune in. I'm begging here.

How can I be expected to go on without a weekly fix of Olive Snook? Kristen Chenowith injects some serious haha into the lovelorn and snoopy Olive. Not since Gladys Cravitz has a busybody been so fun to watch.'ll be supporting urban fantasy and paranormal romance on TV. You want that, don't you? Sure True Blood got bought up for another year, but according to insiders, that's only because HBO didn't have anything better coming down the pipe. I'm not kidding, I've heard that the higher-ups are not impressed with the show or its ratings, so that's another show that may not be long for this world, if we don't act. And in case you thought that Supernatural was indestructible, you'll be surprised to know that it barely survived for a season 4. It's budget is dwindling. Funds harvested for crap shows like the rehash of 90210. Dear God, help us. Or at least that's what I've heard.

What can you do to help me not grow sour with the human race?

Watch. Hell, check out the first season from the library (you don't even have to buy it). Tell everyone you know. Blog about it. Shout it out your front door. Let's restart the buzz this show had when it first popped up.

Can you tell I'm nearly fanatical?

Thursday, October 23, 2008


So, last week, in addition to posting my very great sadness about the divorce of Madonna and Guy Ritchie*, I posted some reviews. One of those reviews was for Personal Demons, and I noticed, when reading it, that it sounded rather familiar.

So I saw the name of the reviewer was Lisa, and remembered that the League's good buddy Lisa, who also posts and reviews at Urban Fantasy Land, did some work for Bitten by Books, the site I quoted last week on my blog. It was the same review she posted there. (And by the way, I see UFL is looking for some new team members as well; I'm sure we have some readers at the League who would be of great value to the site. We love UFL here [AND Bitten by Books, and all the sites in our sidebar], and think it's awesome, and you should visit it several times a day and help it grow! Sorry, just my little plug there.)

Anyway. I forgot to mention in my lj post that it was the same review, and it gave Lisa quite a start. Oops.

But it reminded me of something. Once before I got a review which seemed to me, at least in one particular line, to be very similar to a review I'd gotten elsewhere; I hunted around until I found that one, and compared them, and looked at a few others, and decided that it was simply an innocent similarity (I noticed several review sites used the same sort of line: This is an excellent book about [subject A] and [subject B]; the A and B being something like "vampires and love", or "demons and love"; or whatever.)

Am I the only writer who does this? I kind of feel like it's my duty to; I'm the one who sees all the reviews, after all. While I imagine most reviewers also check other review sites, I'm also sure that they write so many reviews they're not necessarily going to remember exactly what they said about every book; they would recognize their own words, of course (as Lisa did) but they may not recognize a similarity with a review they wrote months before, especially as I believe most of them read a LOT, write a LOT of reviews, and quite possibly have their own writing projects they work on as well.

What do you guys do, in this case? If a line in a review strikes you as familiar, do you hunt around for others to compare? What would you do if you found outright plagiarism in a review?

I assumed what I would do would be first to not post the review on my blog, and next to contact the site administrator and copy both reviews, and let them see what they think and handle it as they see fit. If it was really, clearly a case of plagiarism I would contact the original reviewer as well. But beyond that...what? And how clear a case would it have to be, especially as some reviews are simply more formulaic than others, which would necessitate similarities like those? (Note: I'm not saying reviewers are formulaic or implying anything, just that some review sites have particular rules about how reviews should be written and what they should contain, for the ease of their readers--which is perfectly acceptable. It's not meant in any way to say that sites that do this aren't good or their reviewers are hacks or anything of that nature, at all, so please don't take it that way.)

Just as I would hope a reader who spots what appears to be another writer stealing from me would email me and let me know, I would think the reviewer would need to be informed. But at the same time, just because a review uses the same phrases, doesn't mean it was stolen; there are only so many ways to say "This is a very sexy book", for example.

What do you guys think? Do you look for this sort of thing in reviews, is it a concern for you? How would you handle it if you noticed two matching reviews written by different people?

*And by "my very great sadness", I mean: It was just something to blog about, and I couldn't give less of a fuck about Madonna or Guy Ritchie and his lame movies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's Almost Halloween...

And you know what that means. Horror movies.



Here at the League, we all write about some weird stuff. Some of us weirder than other--you know who you are.

But the truth is weirdness surrounds us. The old saw says truth is stranger than fiction. I think that's true. For example, this weekend, I was at the state fair and ran across a breed of sheep with four horns.

It's a bad picture, but trust me, those sheep were horny. I'd never heard of such a thing, but apparently Jacobs sheep have anywhere from two to six horns. Whodathunkit?

Sheep aside, writers are constantly taking real life influences and twisting them for our nefarious means. Some of it we just make up. But usually, we're the ones who notice oddities when our companions would walk right by.

An example, I was in Charleston on a girls' weekend once. We were sitting in a restaurant called Poogan's Porch. I'd just taken my first sip of iced tea when I looked out the window and spit it out. A seven-foot tall fallen angel was standing in front of the church next door. He had tall black wings and horns. He also wore a black loin cloth. I slapped my friends' arms and pointed. Pretty soon the entire restaurant was standing with our faces pressed to the window to gape at the hottie dark angel.

Eventually, we realized he was there for some sort of photo shoot. Hey, a fallen angel has to make money somehow, right? But the point is, because we rely so much on our powers of observation, writers notice some weird shit. Or maybe weird shit is attracted to us. Either way, all these experiences get put into a mental savings account, ready for withdrawal should our imaginations get overdrawn.

What's the most random weird experience you've had?

Monday, October 20, 2008

So...just out of curiosity...

How would a person kill themselves by swallowing, like, a big piece of fabric? Is it possible to do that?

I'm not having a lot of luck with Google...

(This is purely for research purposes, guys. I'm not planning my own untimely demise or anything of that nature, I promise.)

400 League Posts and No One Said Nothin'!

I'm back from the 3rd world, sunburnt (let's just call it a base), dehydrated ( should be a rule that alcohol can't turn your skin to dust, let's vote) and still sloshy from the cruise (I could fall over at any second, where's my Dramamine?). And what do I come back to?

A new League.

We hit 400 posts yesterday with Jackie's superhero saga (check it out). We're changing things up, if you haven't guessed and things are going to be pretty crazy all fall long. Some new members will be joining us (NEW LEAGUERS! That's plural bitches!), as well as some special guest stars--think Charo and George Hamilton, if they wrote paranormals and didn't have skin cancer. Clearly we've done away with the scheduled day thing, so stop by frequently and oftener. You never know what's going on around here.

Make sure to mark your calendars 'cuz next week is our Halloween Spectacular! Lots of guest blogs, scary stories, and all-around weirdness.

What can I say?

It's good to be home.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Women In A Super-Powered World

So I've been thinking about superheroines.

Sure, a good part of this is because Caitlin and I wrote Black and White, and we've begun work on the next in the series, Shades of Gray, and when you're writing about superheroes in a dystopian world, it's a bit difficult not to think about superheroines.

But part of it also is because I have two Precious Little Tax Deductions who are very into superheroes. I've been sitting through episodes of Super Friends and Justice League Unlimited and Ben 10 and Batman and The Batman (really--two completely different shows) and Superman and Voltron ("...and I'll form the head!"). And seeing all this spantastic action has made me think about the role of women in a super-powered world.

[Note: This is specifically about television versions of superheroines; comic books and novels are another topic. I believe that the medium in which a story is presented makes a difference in terms of impact--reading a book or a comic book about a superheroine is a different experience than watching the adventures of that superheroine on television. As Marshall McLuhan said, print is an active medium; television is a passive one. (Holy cats, grad school is coming back to haunt me!) Experiencing a medium actively is different than doing so passively. But the battle of the media is another topic completely. Anyway, my point here is that this blog post is about T.V. superheroines.]

Before anything else, I want to make it clear that I'm talking specifically about television heroines who have some sort of power or ability that sets them apart from other television girls and women (and heck, men). Wendy Harris from the original Super Friends (1973 - 1975) doesn't qualify. But Jayna from the later version of the Super Friends (1977 - 1984) does ("shape eagle!"). Catwoman does because she dresses up in a costume, has spiffy gadgets, and goes toe-to-toe with Batman.

Watching shows from the 1970s and early 1980s with super-powered women (or, in the case of Cheetara, females) is a real trip. Look at Wonder Woman in the Super Friends * -- she is super strong and has a fantabulous magic lasso, and yet again and again, she is captured and wooed by the bad guy of all bad guys, Darkseid. Ditto Princess Allura on Voltron (1984 - 1986), who for the first season is constantly pursued by the villainous Lotor. Allura is a princess, same as Diana (Wonder Woman, of course) of Paradise Island. Even without their super strength or Blue Lions, these ladies wouldn't be helpless. And yet, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it seemed to be en vogue for these super damsels to continue to be in distress and get saved by the superheroes.

Not so in more recent cartoons. Look at Diana in Justice League Unlimited. This princess is no porcelain doll to be protected. She's a warrior as well as a woman. And she loves to flirt with Batman, apparatenly just to annoy him. Even by the mid 1980s, female super-abled heroines were becoming less dependent on their male counterparts to save them, as Princess Allura makes way for Princess Adora, also known as She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985 - 1987). Yeah, she gets knocked around and captured and whatnot, but she's also the one doing the knocking around as well as the saving.

And then there are the super-powered television heroines of today, like Gewn Tennison in Ben 10 and Ben 10: Alien Force. She's smart, confident, easily annoyed by her cousin (the titular hero), and wields phenomenal magical power (or alien ability to manipulate energy, but whatever). Gwen doesn't put up with Ben's crap, and she gives as good as she gets, whether she's 10 years old (in Ben 10) or fifteen years old (in Alien Force).

Superheroines on television: evolving to finally be just as self-reliant as their male well as still be team players. HUZZAH!

* Turns out, Super Friends had other heroines during its long run: Rima the Jungle Girl (1977 and 1980; Hawkgirl (1977, 1980 and 1983). I don't remember these characters, but man, I would love to compare Hawkgirl from the Super Friends with Shiara from Justice League Unlimited. I bet that Shiara would bash the SF Hawkgirl with her mace.

OKAY, CONTEST TIME: The winner of last week's contest is...
MarnieCollette! Congratulations, Marnie! Please email me at J A X aht J A C K I E K E S S L E R daht C O M with your postal addy, and I'll send you a signed copy of HELL'S BELLES, plus two all-new BLACK AND WHITE buttons!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Green Pencil of Salvation

There you are, working on the new WIP. You've just gotten the check for your manuscript's acceptance. The world seems like a brighter place. Birds are singing in the trees and the tune they're singing is you favorite song. Desserts have less calories just because the weight of the world is no longer on your shoulders...

And then you get the package. Maybe it's a yellow-orange DHL package. Maybe it's FedEx or UPS, but you know that contained within is a force that will execute those singing avians (or at least alter their tune to something horrid and off-key). It will dim the light of the universe by no less than twenty percent and almost certainly cause you to lose sleep (possibly hair) and it will absolutely cause those vanished calories to return... with reinforcements.

It's your manuscript. Your darling little perfect manuscript. Only now it has been exposed to the light of truth. Now, it has been copyedited and this, my friend, this is the last chance you'll have to make things right.

All the accidentally repeated words, the logical errors, the jumps in scene... the flaws you thought you'd polished away, stand out in sharp relief, exposed in tones of brilliant red and blue. Now, there may even be questions in the margins. Good questions. Vital questions, that must be answered. There is hope, though.

Hope comes in the shape of a green pencil and time. Maybe you get a week. Maybe you get two or three, but the time is vital. All questions must answered and all plot points fixed, because after the green pencil is laid to rest and the manuscript is sent back to your editor, your final opportunity to make substantial changes to your baby, to alter its literary DNA in such a way that it evolves into the best book it can be... is gone.

Oh, you'll see your book again one last time and you'll be able to correct typos. You might even be allowed to rewrite a sentence here or there, but that new chapter that you always meant to write is unlikely to ever grace the page unless you fix it now.

Or am I the only one who feels that way about copyedits?

Who the HELL Do We Think We Are?

We're a bunch of paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors who occasionally blog, make filthy jokes and prowl the halls of conferences and conventions with switchblades!

Current roster: Mario Acevedo, Michele Bardsley, Sonya Bateman, Dakota Cassidy, Carolyn Crane, Molly Harper, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Stacia Kane, Jackie Kessler, J.F. Lewis, Daniel Marks, Richelle Mead, Kelly Meding, Allison Pang, Nicole Peeler, Kat Richardson, Michelle Rowen, Diana Rowland, Jeanne C. Stein, K.A. Stewart, Anton Strout, and Jaye Wells