Nov 1, 2014

Book Tour : Judgment by Carey Baldwin ~ 11/1 – 11/6 (Thriller)


Judgment CoverJudgment:  A Cassidy & Spenser Thriller
Author:  Carey Baldwin
Genre:  Thriller
Publication Date:  November 1, 2014
Publisher:  WitnessImpulse, a division of HarperCollins
Event Organized By:  Literati Author Services, Inc.

~ Synopsis ~

Carey Baldwin, author of the thrilling novel Confession, returns with a new story featuring two of her most beloved characters. Fans of Tess Gerritsen and Lisa Gardner will devour this riveting story of rivals caught in a killer’s twisted web. When a coed falls prey to a sadistic murderer, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin “Caity” Cassidy and Special Agent Atticus Spenser are called in to testify–one for the defense, one for the prosecution. With warring approaches to justice, these two rivals have been butting heads for years–both inside the courtroom and out. And at first, this case appears to be no different.
But when a brutal attack leaves the accused man dead and Caity in critical condition, petty differences take a backseat to saving lives. As the lone survivor, Caity knows too much, and the killer–a madman calling himself the Man in the Maze–is coming back for round two. Now Caity and Spense must join forces to uncover the killer’s identity before Caity’s time–and luck–runs out.

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Click Here to Read an Excerpt 

About the Author

Carey BaldwinIn real life I’m a mild-mannered brunette. A very nice doctor who happens to write edgy romantic thrillers. Oh, and before I became a doctor, I used to be a clinical psychologist. I guess that’s why writing about psychopaths comes naturally. I still haven’t decided precisely what I want to be when I grow up, so you can expect to see me serving up a genre mix. Here’s my favorite recipe:   A dollop of romance + a dash of medicine + a cup of crazy. Fold into a story. Bake until it rises, and voila, you’ve cooked up a delicious thriller!

Connect with the Author

 Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


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It Takes a Spy by Sheridan Jean Book Blitz

RDL It Takes a Spy by Sheridan Jeane

It Takes a Spy
Publication Date: November 1, 2014
Genres: Historical, Romance
Cover It Takes a Spy by Sheridan Jeane
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In 1851, Cecilia Paring has serious reservations about marrying her fiancé, Devin Montlake. Gone is the boy who could capture her heart with a word or a glance and in his place is a man who has made it clear that to be a proper barrister's wife, the exciting and impulsive Cecilia must change as well.

Although Devin Montlake loves his orderly life as a barrister, he's determined to follow his roadmap to achieve his goal of becoming a judge. His biggest obstacle seems to be convincing his headstrong fiancée to fulfill her social obligations with a modicum of propriety.

But when the jewelry collection belonging to Cecilia's family is stolen the night before it is to be auctioned off and Devin is framed for the crime, he discovers that following his much-loved rules won't solve this particular problem. He'll need the inventiveness of his irrepressible fiancée to catch the thief.
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“Have you known Montlake long?” Raven asked.

“Almost since I was born,” Cecilia said. She glanced across the room, trying to find Devin again, but since she and Mr. Raven were waltzing, they had traveled to the far end of the ballroom, and she couldn’t spot Devin. “Our country homes were near one another, and we frequently attended the same social events while we were growing up.” He’d always been the one to come to her rescue and pull her out of her many scrapes. He’d been her hero. Her champion. She tipped her head back to glance up at Raven. “And you? Did you first meet him in London?”

“No, at Oxford.”

“You were a student there?” That startled her. Mr. Raven had never impressed her as being the studious type.

“Yes,” he said with a chuckle. “Don’t sound so surprised. We were both in Balliol College. We had some law classes together. Montlake was brilliant. The best in the class. He’s an amazing barrister, and he’ll make a fair and just judge.”

A flash of pride flared within Cecilia. She admired Devin, she always had, but she couldn’t help feeling pleased that Mr. Raven held a similar opinion. “And you? Are you a barrister as well?”

“No, I’m a solicitor. I prefer working with people to arguing points of law in court.”

“I would feel the same way,” she replied, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “Although I don’t see that drawing up legal papers would be much of an improvement over debating the law.”

“Ah, yes, but at least I have the opportunity to work with many different people from all walks of life. Poor Montlake only has judges, solicitors, and other barristers to associate with. Take my word for it, they’re a stodgy lot.”

Cecilia laughed. “So I’ve noticed.”

“You’re sure to liven things up once you become Mrs. Montlake. Those humdrums won’t know what to make of you.”

Cecilia’s smile fell. “That’s exactly what worries me. I’m not entirely certain I’m cut out to be a barrister’s wife.” She fixed her gaze on his lapel, not wanting to see the agreement she knew would be on his face.

“Don’t talk that way,” he said, tightening his grip on her hand. “You’re bound to liven up those bores. They need someone like you to keep them from putting each other to sleep.”

She tried to meet his gaze, but couldn’t. “I hope you’re right.”

“I know I am. You’re good for Montlake. I see the change in him when you’re around.” He lifted his gaze as he sought out something across the room. “Did you know he hasn’t taken his eyes off us since we stepped onto the dance floor?”

“Trust you?” She narrowed her eyes in mock suspicion. “I don’t trust anyone who says ‘trust me.’ Aren’t you the boy who put frogs in my teapot when Evangeline and I were having a tea party at Sir Timton’s lawn party?”

The knot in Devin’s stomach eased at her bantering words. “Your memory is faulty,” he said, using a teasing tone that mimicked hers. “It was his daughter’s birthday party. And if you’ll put your mind to it, you’ll recall that you said you planned to kiss one hundred frogs in order to find your prince. I was simply trying to help you on your quest.”

The childhood fantasy had suited her. She’d always looked like a princess to him, with her pale hair framing her face like a shimmering crown of gold. Even though her hair was darker now, when he looked at her, he could still catch a glimpse of that child.

His princess burst out laughing. “I’d forgotten about that plan. How did you even know about it?”

“It was common knowledge.” He recalled his half-thought-out plan to appear when she’d kissed her one hundredth frog. Well, perhaps it had been more of a daydream. She’d kiss her last frog and then look up to find Devin waiting for her. The daydream ended there. After all, he’d been five years her senior.

Of course, he’d been more whimsical back then. At least, he’d tried to be. Being around Cecilia seemed to have that effect on him. She leached the rigidity from him, making him feel unconstrained and free to be himself.

Even now he was amazed at the way fate had thrown them together. Would he have even met her if she hadn’t lived so close to him? Would he have fallen in love so irrevocably? He knew Miss Cecilia Paring. He knew her deep down to the tips of her toes and the corners of her soul. He’d seen her splashing in the rain puddles after a storm until her dress was soaked all the way through. He’d seen her caring for an abandoned baby bird, allowing it to perch on her shoulder all day, leaving white droppings on her dress. He’d even seen her slamming her hand against the piano keyboard with frustration when she couldn’t move her fingers fast enough to master a new piece.

“Did you ever make it all the way to one hundred frogs?” he asked. He would have missed it, since he’d left not long after that party to attend Oxford.

She didn’t respond for a moment, and he began to think she wouldn’t, until she finally said, “Of course I did. I found my prince, didn’t I?”

“I’m Sergeant Emil Jolicoeur,” he said to the Lord Babbage, his voice stiff. “I’m afraid there has been a theft, and a man’s been seriously injured.”

“Will he recover?” Cecilia asked in hushed tones.

Jolicoeur shrugged. “It’s too soon to tell. He’s of one of the guards here at the hotel.”

“Do you suspect one of the guests?” Devin asked.

“I suspect everyone,” Jolicoeur replied curtly.

“Th-the theft,” Lord Babbage said, his eyes wide. “You want to talk to us about the theft, don’t you?” He paled considerably. “Were the jewels stolen?”

“I’m afraid so,” the sergeant replied.

Lord Babbage swayed on his feet, and Devin reached out and grabbed his elbow to steady him. When it became obvious that the man was too stunned to speak, Devin glanced at Jolicoeur and asked, “How much was taken?”

“Everything. The thief left nothing behind.”

Lord Babbage yanked his arm free of Devin’s grip and staggered back. He dropped heavily onto the chair his wife had just vacated. “Everything?” he asked, his voice shaking.

Sergeant Jolicoeur didn’t reply, but waited silently as Lord Babbage absorbed the news.

The man aged ten years before Devin’s eyes. Lord Babbage reached out a trembling hand to clutch at his wife, and she sat down next to him. They both appeared stunned. Lord Babbage’s eyes had an unfocused look, and Lady Babbage had turned deathly pale.

Cecilia stepped forward, filling the gap left by her father. “Do you know who the thief is?”

The policeman narrowed his eyes. “We don’t reveal that sort of information. Do you know why?”

Cecilia blushed at the rebuke. “If the thief were to learn you suspected him, he could escape.”

“Or,” said Devin, “you don’t have a clue as to whom it might be.”

About Sheridan Jeane

Sheridan Jeane writes exciting and emotion-packed historical romances set in the Victorian Era that confront issues of trust and conformity.

With the advent of the industrial age, life was changing. Many people tried to hold on to the old ways of life while others embraced the new opportunities open to them.

Join Sheridan as she explores the clash between the old and the new.

Sheridan has always loved books, history, and stories about amazing people who blaze new trails.

Despite naming their daughter Sheridan because they thought it might someday look great on the cover of a book, Sheridan's parents urged her in a more practical direction for college. Sheridan earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science with a minor in English.
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Oct 31, 2014

Cursed by Evangeline Anderson book blitz

by Evangeline Anderson
(Brides of the Kindred #13)
Publication date: October 31st 2014
Genres: Adult, Romance, 
Science Fiction

This is a plus length novel–over 153,000 words long.
Commander Stavros Rii of the Kindred is a Sin Eater–thick black lines cover his back and neck causing him to feel the pain of others. It is a curse that threatens to shorten his life and makes him unable to bond with a female–not that he’s ever found one he wants to bond with. Until he meets Charlie.
Charlie Sayers is an agent with the Earth Protection Bureau– and anti Kindred agency dedicated to ridding the world of the big aliens. Charlie joined the EPB out of a sense of patriotism but she has her own reasons to hate the Kindred.
But she has bigger problems than the Kindred at the moment–the Enhanced Ones have come to Earth and they’re planning to take over the planet, enslave the inhabitants and strip them of all emotion. Charlie can’t have that so she agrees to go undercover with Stavros to find the Heart of Love–an artifact which can destroy their mutual enemy forever.
On their dangerous and difficult mission, Charlie learns that going undercover with your worst enemy can rapidly turn him into your best friend…or your lover. Can she hold on to her beliefs and stay true to herself, or will she lose her heart to Stavros? And even if she gives in to desire, will Stav be able to bond her to him?
Or are they Cursed to be apart forever?

Excerpt #1

“You can put me down now.” Charlie’s heart was pounding—she wasn’t sure why. “I mean, I really am fine.”

“No you’re not. You’re wounded. And I must heal you.”

The look in his eyes was beyond intense as he cupped her cheek.

“But…” Charlie started to protest, her heart pounding.

“Open to me.” His voice had gone deep and soft and commanding. “Open and let me heal you, Charlotte.”

“I…” But further words of protest seemed to die on her lips as he bent her over his arm and sealed his mouth to hers.

Charlie gave a little gasp as she felt his lips press gently but firmly to hers. Then his tongue was there, tracing the seam of her lips, seeking entrance. She wanted to pull away and cuss at him—tell him he had no right. Instead she felt her lips parting, allowing him in when she knew she shouldn’t.

He’s just healing me, she told herself desperately. It’s not really a kiss. But it certainly felt like one, especially when his tongue entwined with hers and he sucked gently, as though inviting her to explore his mouth as he was exploring hers.

Charlie gave a helpless little moan and took his unspoken invitation. God, his mouth was so warm and he tasted like cinnamon—cinnamon and some exotic mint she’d never had before. She could feel the edges of his fangs but this time he somehow managed to keep from cutting her with them even when the tip of her tongue danced dangerously over their razor-sharp points. The kiss went on and on and his dark, spicy scent filled her senses until Charlie felt like she was drowning in him, being completely consumed from the inside out.

Excerpt #2

“Never you mind. The point is just because I looked the part doesn’t mean I acted it. In fact, I think we need to set some boundaries right here and now.”

“All right.” Stavros was beginning to be a bit irritated but he held on to his temper. “You’ve already kissed me, sat in my lap and put your hand down my trousers—what further boundaries do you wish to set that you are not willing to cross?”

She rounded on him suddenly, hands on her hips, eyes blazing.

“I was under the influence of drugs when I did all that. Well except for putting my hand in your britches but I couldn’t help that because I didn’t want a mess on my granny’s quilt.”

“True.” He nodded. “But you cannot deny that you enjoyed the healing kiss that we shared and you were completely lucid then.”

“I most certainly did not,” she protested, a bit too quickly.

Stavros stopped in the hallway just outside the entrance to the vast docking bay.

“I scented your heat, Charlie,” he said softly, searching her eyes with his own. “Kindred have an incredibly sensitive sense of smell. You cannot lie to me about what you were feeling when I healed you.”

Excerpt #3

“What is wrong with the female?” the male face boomed. The creature strode towards them, glaring at Charlie.

She backed away—all she could see was the two-faced monster that had terrified her so long ago. The recurring dream so dark and horrifying it made her afraid to go to sleep unless her sister was right there beside her. But Missy was gone now…had been gone for years…

Suddenly her back bumped into something hard and warm. She looked up to see Stavros standing behind her, looking down at her with obvious concern.

“Charlotte?” he said softly. “Are you well?”

“I…I…” The old fear robbed her of speech and she could only shake her head.

A sudden impulse struck her—the desperate urge to turn and bury her face in his broad, bare chest—to seek safety and shelter in his arms until the nightmare was past. He was so big and strong…clearly he could keep her safe!

Somehow she managed not to do it. She hung onto her dignity by a thread and stood her ground. But she didn’t try to shake off his hands when he placed them firmly on her shoulders. Instead, she huddled back against him, feeling his big body like a comforting wall, radiating heat and safety that surrounded her.

“Well?” The monster was getting closer and closer. Charlie couldn’t bear to look anymore—she closed her eyes.

“Step back.” Stavros’s voice was soft but it had an edge of steel in it. Pressed as she was against him, Charlie could feel it rumble through her entire body.

There was a little gasp from Nar’sa. “You must not speak so to a Joined One!”

“I will speak however I feel necessary,” Stav growled. “You are distressing my mate. Now step back.”

Evangeline Anderson is a registered MRI tech who would rather be writing. And yes, she is nerdy enough to have a bumper sticker that says “I’d rather be writing.” Honk if you see her! She is thirty-something and lives in Florida with a husband, a son, and two cats. She had been writing erotic fiction for her own gratification for a number of years before it occurred to her to try and get paid for it. To her delight, she found that it was actually possible to get money for having a dirty mind and she has been writing paranormal and Sci-fi erotica steadily ever since.

1. For those who aren't familiar with you or your work please introduce yourself.
Hi, my name is Evangeline Anderson. I'm a registered MRI tech, a full time mom to a twice exceptional little boy and a full time writer as well. I live in Tampa, FL with my wonderful husband of 17 years. I love writing, cooking, baking, making jewelry, and volunteering at my son's school. I've been writing since 2003 and was first published in 2004. I started self publishing the Brides of the Kindred books in 2011 and the series took off quickly. Readers seem to love the idea of a hot, muscular alien man swooping down to take them away from it all. I wonder why...? ; ) Anyway, I am about to publish the 11th book in the series this coming Friday and I'm very excited about it. Thanks for having me here to talk about the Kindred and my writing.

2. What inspired you to begin writing? Why did you choose to write within the sci-fi/fantasy genre? Once you caught the writing bug, how long did it take before you realized you couldn't juggle your love of writing and a full-time gig?
What inspired me? Hmm, I guess it's that I've always had a dirty mind. I used to write explicit love scenes as a teenager and then burn them in the fireplace so my parents (who were both ministers) wouldn't have a heart attack.

I chose sci-fi fantasy because that is what I love to read. Plus, Sci-fi is unique in that it lends itself to any plot situation I wish to write. If I want to write a planet where all the males are slaves so my hero and heroine have to go undercover as Mistress and slave, I can. And I have, along with many other ideas that wouldn't work in contemporary fiction.

As for giving up my full time job, I wasn't able to do that until the Kindred really took off in 2012. And to make it work, I have to put out a book every 2-3 months. Because everything I write is over 100,000 words long, that translates to some serious keyboard time. But I love it! I feel so blessed to be able to write for a living.

3. Let's talk about the Brides of the Kindred series! How on earth did you come up with this concept?
Thank you so much! When I started the Kindred series, I had never really written a series before but only stand alone books. I wanted something with infinite possibilities--something I would never get bored with. When I sat down to outline the series, I envisioned only the first four books. I'm as surprised as anyone else that my muse keeps coming up with more but I'm very grateful. Thanks to the Kindred I'm able to be a full time mom to my son.

4. You decided to cross over not only into writing interspecies pairings in this series but interracial pairings as well. Was it difficult to write these particular pairings? Lauren and Xairn in particular come to mind, which is why I inquire.
I credit my good friend and fellow author Lena Matthews for getting me into writing I/R pairings. She opened my eyes and made me see that I/R readers are a very under-served audience. Also, I don't see why skinny white virgins should get all the love. I adore writing women of all different cultures and body types.

5. Do you find it difficult to write LBGT fantasy vs. M/F fantasy?
I have to be honest, I don't write much LBGT anymore. The Kindred series is all M/F and I have to be in a very specific mindset to write M/M. Since I started the Kindred, I haven't been in that mindset and I have to go where the muse takes me.

6. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I think right now everyone wants to jump right into self publishing. My advice would be to work on your craft first. Take a writing class at your local community college and find a writing group to critique your work. Unless your name happens to be Jane Austen, your first novel is almost certainly going to be dreadful. (Mine was!) Get the first one out and move on to the second. See if you can find a publisher who is interested. By starting with a publisher you build a readership because everyone that comes to their website sees your book. Once you have a readership, THEN you can self pub and quit your day job. But it takes a little while unless you just happen to hit the right idea at just the right time in a 50 Shades kind of way.

7. What do you feel has been the most challenging thing you've encountered as a writer?
Getting published by a New York publisher was challenging. I got a three book deal with Kensington when I was just starting out in my writing career. But it turns out that those books don't make nearly the money that my self published books do. The other challenge is finding time to get my books written and out there in a reasonable amount of time without neglecting my family. My son has been diagnose with ADHD, SPD, and is on Autism spectrum as well. I have to take him to therapy 6 times a week so I just bring the laptop along. But it can be quite challenging getting everything done without cheating either my readers or my family.

8. Do you ever read your reviews? If so, how do you deal with the negativity?
Honestly, not anymore. We writers are fragile creatures. I have found that reading a terrible review, whether justified or not, can kill the book I'm presently writing and send me under a rock for at least a week. That's bad for business so I generally don't obsess over my reviews. Good ones are always nice but mostly I just try to keep my head down and write for myself. If I like a story I'm writing, chances are my readers will too.

9. What are you currently working on? When can fans anticipate your next release?
Well, my next release is Cursed, the 13th book in the Kindred series. And I'm currently working on Enslaved, which will be the 14th book in the series. Here's a little blurb about Cursed to give you an idea.

Commander Stavros Rii of the Kindred is a Sin Eater--thick black lines cover his back and neck causing him to feel the pain of others. It is a curse that threatens to shorten his life and makes him unable to bond with a female--not that he's ever found one he wants to bond with. Until he meets Charlie.

Charlie Sayers is an agent with the Earth Protection Bureau-- and anti Kindred agency dedicated to ridding the world of the big aliens. Charlie joined the EPB out of a sense of patriotism but she has her own reasons to hate the Kindred.

But she has bigger problems than the Kindred at the moment--the Enhanced Ones have come to Earth and they're planning to take over the planet, enslave the inhabitants and strip them of all emotion. Charlie can't have that so she agrees to go undercover with Stavros to find the Heart of Love--an artifact which can destroy their mutual enemy forever.

On their dangerous and difficult mission, Charlie learns that going undercover with your worst enemy can rapidly turn him into your best friend...or your lover. Can she hold on to her beliefs and stay true to herself, or will she lose her heart to Stavros? And even if she gives in to desire, will Stav be able to bond her to him?

Or are they Cursed to be apart forever?

10. What are five things your fans would be surprised to learn about you?
Wow, five? Okay, I'll try. Hmmm...

  1. My parents were ministers and I was raised in a very religious household. I was forbidden from reading anything questionable which of course, made me want to read it even more. I think that's one reason I became an author of erotica.
  2. Despite what I write, I am a Christian and attend church regularly. I think of my stories as marital aids--I try to make my heroes and heroines monogamous and the sex they share causes a deep spiritual connection between them. I have gotten many e-mails from readers thanking me for "improving" their marriage. As someone who as been married a long time myself, I know that sometimes you just need a little help to get in the mood. It makes me happy if my books can do that.
  3. I don't read romance. (Don't shoot me!) I didn't grow up reading Harlequin because my mother wouldn't allow it. I was raised on sci-fi and fantasy and those are still my favorite genres. So I write what I like to read, only I add some romance and sex to the mix. Some readers have said that my writing is unlike a lot of other romance and I think that's the reason why.
  4. I still work one day a week as a MRI tech even though I don't have to for the money. I want to keep my skills sharp in case something should happen. Also, I am NEVER going to take the MRI registry exam again. Had to study for six months to pass it the first time and I have heard they've made it harder since then. I like to keep my options open so I keep my MRI license active.
  5. This may be TMI but I have never been with any man but my husband. So many readers think I must have lived a wild life to write the things I do. The truth is, I just have a wild imagination.

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Crossing the Veil: The Pre-Christian Origins of Halloween and Samhain

Symbols of Samhain and Halloween – fire, the dead, lanterns, harvest

Halloween, or the ancient Samhain, is considered the time of year when the veil between our world and the spirit world is at its thinnest. As darkness falls and families light their pumpkin Jack-o'-lanterns, they are, perhaps unknowingly, repeating the ancient traditions of honoring the dead and marking the beginning of the ‘dark half’ of the year.
Halloween is an annual celebration held largely in the western world on October 31st. Starting in the evening, children, and sometimes adults, dress in masks and costumes, traditionally as ghostly figures, witches, or the undead – vampires, zombies, skeletons. They go knocking door-to-door, requesting treats, or else threatening a mischievous trick upon the household. Typical activities of the modern observance can include costume parties, pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, lighting bonfires, playing pranks and more.
Hallowe’en, a shortened form of "All Hallows' Evening" is the echo of Celtic harvest festivals of pre-Christian Europe. Observed now in several countries around the world, it is the evening before ‘All Hallows Day’, when saints (hallows) and martyrs are remembered by people of many Christian denominations. This ritual, however, coincides with (and some scholars suggest co-opted) the ancient observance of Samhain.
Samhain (pronounced sah-van or sow-in) is the traditional Gaelic festival marking the change of seasons and the approach of winter. Wikipedia describes this pre-Christian custom: “Many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. As at Beltane, special bonfires were lit. These were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers and there were rituals involving them. Samhain (like Beltane) was seen as a liminal time, when the spirits or fairies (the Aos Sí) could more easily come into our world.” Fires, and later candles, were lit to mimic the sun and hold back the dark of the oncoming winter.
A bonfire, ancient tradition at Samhain
A bonfire, ancient tradition at Samhain (Source)
Dead and departed relatives played a central role in the tradition, as the connection between the living and dead was believed stronger at Samhain, and there was a chance to communicate. Souls of the deceased were thought to return to their homes. Feasts were held and places were set at tables as a way to welcome them home. Food and drink was offered to the unpredictable spirits and fairies to ensure continued health and good fortune.
The idea that souls return home on a certain day of the year is repeated across many cultures around the world. Día de Muertos, or the Day of the Dead is a similar holiday in Mexico celebrating and honoring family members who have died. Similarly, this falls on October 31st, and November 1st and 2nd.
Samhain saw a metamorphosis due to the early church. In The History of Halloween or Samhain, Jack Santino writes, “As a result of their efforts to wipe out ‘pagan’ holidays, such as Samhain, the Christians succeeded in effecting major transformations in it. In 601 A.D. Pope Gregory the First issued a now famous edict to his missionaries concerning the native beliefs and customs of the peoples he hoped to convert. Rather than try to obliterate native peoples' customs and beliefs, the pope instructed his missionaries to use them: if a group of people worshipped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to consecrate it to Christ and allow its continued worship.”
In the 12th century, holy days of obligation across Europe involved town criers dressed all in black, ringing mournful bells and calling on Christians to remember the poor souls of the dead. Special ‘soul cakes’ would be baked and shared. This custom of “souling” was shared in England, Germany, Belgium, Austria and Italy, and is thought to be the early precursor of trick-or-treating.
Eventually, mumming and guising (going door-to-door in disguise and performing in exchange for food) was taken up in a depiction of these ancient customs. Pranks were a way of confounding evil spirits. Pranks at Samhain date as far back as 1736 in Scotland and Ireland, and this led to Samhain being dubbed “Mischief Night”.
Painting of a Halloween party in Ireland
Painting of a Halloween party in Ireland, 1832. By Daniel Maclise. (Wikipedia)
Many of the modern practices for Halloween date to 19th century England and North America. Fortune telling and divination played a part in celebrations. Games were played intending to divine one’s future. Nuts and fruit featured in the eating and drinking games, and soul cakes were prepared.
For Halloween, pumpkins are hollowed out, and spooky faces are carved into them, creating Jack-o'-lanterns. Candles are then lit inside the pumpkins, creating eerie lanterns, and serving as signals that a household observes Halloween. Pumpkins are frequently used today as they’re easier to carve and a symbol of harvest, but the original lanterns in Ireland and Scotland were carved from turnips. These turnip lanterns were used to frighten off evil spirits by guisers, and were a motif of the Irish Christian folk tale of Jack, a wandering soul, who was denied entry into both heaven and hell.
A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-lantern
A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-lantern from the early 20th century. (Creative Commons)
Observing Halloween is not without controversy. Some religions discourage participation, suggesting that it trivializes Samhain, it has satanic associations, or it is inappropriate tribute to paganism or the occult. However, the modern practices heavily influenced by commercialization and popular culture differ appreciably from the ancient traditions of Samhain and All Hallows’ Eve. Still, the connection exists and the history is clear - when you light a Jack-o'-lantern and brighten the darkening season, you’re carrying on an age-old tradition that bridges cultures around the world and reaffirms our connection to our departed loved ones.
Featured image: Symbols of Samhain and Halloween – fire, the dead, lanterns, harvest (Image Source)
By Liz Leafloor   

**STALKING THE DEMON by Ciara Ballintyne** Highlight

Title: Stalking the Demon

By: Ciara Ballintyne

Series: The Seven Circles of Hell #2

Six months ago, the disgraced wizard, Alloran, sacrificed his hand to rescue the woman he loves from his traitorous friend, Ladanyon. Despite saving the city from a demon, his reputation remains tarnished, and the council of wizards has penalised him severely for the practise of banned magic.

Now he learns his desperate efforts to stop Ladanyon led more to damnation than salvation. Finding a solution compels him to breach his sanctions and venture into forbidden places at risk of his life and freedom.

Alloran must choose between saving himself and everything he holds dear.

Book #1

Chapter 1


Alloran rushed through the citadel halls heedless of the rich carpets crushed beneath his heavy boots. Gisayne hung limply in his arms, and her black hair trailed over his elbow. A few people watched him pass, but none offered assistance. Over the past six months, Gisayne collapsed often enough to blunt the urgency and the panic. The faces turning in his direction bore only mild curiosity, oblivious to the fact that this time was different.

Her chest barely rose and fell beneath the thin cream silk of her night gown and robe, and blue tinged the edges of her bee-stung lips. Seven hells, was she dying? As he raced onwards, he clutched her against him and her cold skin pressed against his. With no left hand, he had no way to check for a pulse. A choked-back scream of desperate frustration tightened his chest until it squeezed the breath out of his lungs.

While juggling Gisayne, he fumbled with the latch on the door to the citadel’s hospice. Damn his missing hand to the first hell. When the door finally gave, he shouldered it open and backed into a long room lined with starkly made beds. The few occupied by sick or injured had curtains drawn for privacy. Breidmar, dressed in the red-trimmed white robes of a citadel doctor, bustled over at their entrance.

Orange brows pinched with concern over her violet eyes. ‘Again?’

‘She’s…’ The lump in his throat choked him. He swallowed hard. ‘She’s hardly breathing.’

‘This way.’ Pointing to an empty bed, Breidmar called out and strode to a door at the far end. Before she crossed halfway back, an unfamiliar girl in acolyte’s white appeared in the doorway.

Alloran placed Gisayne on the bed with gentle care. Her slack body slid from his arms, her skin pale. When he let her go, her eyelids fluttered but did not open. Nausea knotted his gut. The last time she’d fainted, the recovery was quick. Now, she looked as if death hovered over her, waiting for the moment to snip the thread of her life.

As Breidmar began checking Gisayne’s vitals, she waved Alloran off. He hesitated. What would he do except wait, patient, and idle while Breidmar tried again to determine what illness affected her? She would try and fail, most likely.

‘Are you sure this is not the falling sickness? It’s supposed to get worse with each successive bout.’

‘She’s not got the right symptoms. No seizures,’ Breidmar responded in precise, clipped tones.

Alloran frowned. He wasn’t an idiot. ‘Then what? These collapses are getting more frequent and more severe! Seven hells take you, tell me. Whatever the illness, it can’t be too complicated for me to understand.’

With her severe lips curving down, she sniffed. ‘No amount of genius can assist you to comprehend a malady I cannot explain. While you’ve made any number of miraculous discoveries, you have no particular expertise in medical matters. Leave this to me.’

‘The title of doctor is reserved only for those who have studied in the citadel, and yet you say you don’t know? After all this time, you must have some notion.’ Wisps of his black hair hung about his face, torn free of their bindings in his haste. He pushed them back with a rough motion. When they slid back into disarray, he tore the leather thong free and began tying his hair back with short, sharp motions.

The doctor scowled at him. At her nod, the acolyte whipped the curtain around the bed in a rattle of rings. The cloth brushed Alloran’s nose; he jerked his head away.

A heartfelt sigh escaped his lips before he retreated to a waiting area that comprised a group of chairs. No, sitting still would be intolerable. He changed direction and paced the length of the room, passing the rows of identical empty beds. His boots echoed in the open space. Sterile and odourless air filled his nostrils.

Apparently, Breidmar shared the sentiments of many people in the citadel. Some blamed him solely for the demons that plagued the city of Ehsan six months earlier, and others accused him of working with the renegade wizard, Ladanyon. Although Alloran wasn’t subjected to a disciplinary hearing, the council’s public announcement that they were banning him from all forms of magic involving the hells only reinforced the blame.

Seven hells, the councillors banned him because some of them felt the same as the other citizens. Those residents who lost loved ones in the battle against Ladanyon’s first-circle demon were the most damning. Councillor Valgon’s wife died, and he made no bones about believing Alloran to be a public menace. I just can’t prove it, was what he said.

Ciara Ballintyne was born in 1981 in Sydney, Australia, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, one masochistic cat, and one cat with a god complex. She holds degrees in law and accounting, and has been a practising financial services lawyer since 2004. She is both an idealist and a cynic. 
She started reading epic fantasy at the age of nine, when she kidnapped Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings from her father. Another two years passed before she began her first attempts at the craft of writing. Confronting the Demon is her debut book.

She enjoys horse-riding, and speculation about taking over the world. If she could choose to be anything it would be a dragon, but instead she shares more in common with Dr. Gregory House of House. M.D.


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