Wednesday, September 30, 2009

History of Halloween, Part One: Jack o’lanterns

Dear Readers,

I’ve found many different perspectives on Halloween, All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, Samhain, and All Souls Day. Having said that, I know somewhere along the line in this series of ‘History of Halloween’ posts, I won’t be accurate to every perspective and belief, so I’ve taken some liberty.

Out of the zillions of pages sitting in front of me right now, there was one particular story that stuck with me through the research. How many of you have ever seen a Jack o’lantern sitting on a porch Halloween night? Did you ever wonder why or how we’d ever come up with such an idea?

There are two roots to this practice I’ve found. In the first, the early Pagan Celtics hallowed out turnips, gourds or rutabagas to hold an ember from the sacred bonfire (actually it was called a bone-fire, but that’s a whole other story entirely). Then they would take these precious flickers of the grander flame to their own homes, and light their own fires.

The second was about an Irishman named ‘Stingy Jack’, who was said to be a swindler and a drunk. The devil himself stalked Jack for his soul, but the Irishman would have none of it. The first year of this predicament, Jack asked his tormentor to share a drink, but tricked him into becoming a coin to pay for it. Slipping the unassuming coin into his pocket right next to a cross, the nuisance was effectively trapped. He forced a promise from Lucifer. Either agree to leave him alone for another year, or in his pocket he would stay.

When the time came for the devil to return, Jack talks him into going up a tree to retrieve a piece of fruit. While up there, the clever Irishman carves a cross on the trunk to trap the devil, again. To get down, he must make yet another promise. But this time it isn’t just a year. Lucifer must agree not to seek his soul for ten years. What other choice was there, if an eternity in a tree didn’t appeal to him?

No matter the witty tricks he’d played, when Jack died before the deal had ended, none of it did a lick of good. Because of the same attributes that attracted Lucifer to him in the first place, the Irishman couldn’t get into heaven, and because of the promise, he couldn't get into hell either.

For whatever his reasons were, the devil sympathized with Jack and gave him an ember held within a hallowed out turnip to light his way through his forever-roamings on earth. He was just as trapped like devil had been in his pocket and in the tree. (I also read the devil sent him out into the world with nothing more than a piece of burning coal, that Jack placed in a carved turnip.)

In fear of him and the other wandering ghosts, the Irish and Scottish made Jack o’lanterns during the season to scare them away. In the mid 1800’s, when the potato famine struck Ireland and the people came to the North America, they brought such Halloween traditions with them.

Turnips were phased out in America, when it was found pumpkins were plentiful in the New World. They became the new face of the custom.

Until Next Time…

Kayden McLeod

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Day I Met Darkness

I want to share a story with you. One day I’ll use it in one of my works, but I just haven’t found the thread to weave it to yet. It’s been almost ten years since the night I will speak of and I still remember it as if it happened last night. I know that sounds cliché but it’s the truth.

For a short stent of time, I left active duty in an attempt to return to school. I never made it back to school; all I accomplished were numerous grave-yard shifts in conjunction with double-shifts or longer. There was one week in particular that I actually worked more than sixty hours and what was over sixty had to go on the next week’s pay.

It was during one of the overworked and stretched thin weeks that I meet someone I hope I will never meet both in this life and the one after.

Call “It” what you like (he, her it, Devil, Satan, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, etc.) but the fact remains, there is an embodiment of pure evil, the darkest of thoughts which has been pulled together, making a physical form and that is what walked into my store around 3am one morning. Feel free to call me crazy or tell me I’m reaching, it will never change my mind.
Most stores receive their shipments during the night shift. It’s probably because there is less foot-traffic the vendors have to compete with to drop off their goods. Regardless, it was a dead night and I had just signed the paperwork telling my managers the bread man made a drop off / pick up. The only other vendor I would be expecting would be the newspaper lady (it’s been years and her name escapes me). A short, slightly stout woman, the news lady would come in to drop of approximately 10 new newspapers and take what remained of the stack with her. During that time we usually discussed anything under the sun, or in our cases, under the moon.

It was close to that time when a man entered my store that was by far completely unremarkable in appearance. I know that sounds strange for someone I believe would be the devil, but the more I think of it, would the Devil flaunt his power and stature or would he make people believe he didn’t exist, like a stalking tiger? I choose to believe the latter. The man stood around six-feet tall with medium length, brown wavy hair. I’d tell you his eye color, but upon making first visual contact with him, something deep within my being screamed for me to not look him in the eyes and I’ve almost always followed my gut. He had semi-strong facial features, five-o’clock shadow and looked physically fit under his worn-out brown leather jacket.

Now that you have a picture of my unremarkable features, I will tell you that once he walked in, my nerves immediately became electrified with flight reflexes. Fight never once entered the equation. This would be easy to understand if I was a wimp or had no self confidence, but you have to remember, at the time I was a member of the Marine Corps Reserve, only 3-years since I graduated recruit training. Flight is not a reflex taught in boot camp! Yet I wanted to run to the swamps and hide in the trees.

Instead I stood my ground – a center island , raised three inches off the ground so the cashier can see the store and its occupants over the shelves – and watched as the man swayed through my isles. I say sway because he glided as if walking on air and acted as if he was bored by what the store offered, what the world offered. The entire time, each step, I felt that my soul was in peril, that one wrong word and the world would split beneath my feet and swallow me inside of its depths. I watched.

After what was only a short time of meandering, but what felt like an eternity to my heavily beating heart, the man chose a coke, paid and left my store. I know that during his time in the store he asked questions and I answered reluctantly, but for the life of me, I can’t remember one word spoken! I do know that once he left the store, my knees became weak and my legs shook as I sat in the small chair behind the register. I felt like I had after the very few fights I had been in while a kid. Blood began to dilute the adrenalin that had been feeding my cells during his time in the store.

I heard the bell ring tell me someone entered the store again and prayed it wasn’t him coming back to take me with his coke. Again I felt relieved when the news lady walked in with her waddle-like shuffle. She apologized for being late, and proceeded to tell me she didn’t want to come in with the guy in the store. That comment stuck with me. We both felt strange about the stranger. She even confessed she put a pistol in with her newspapers in case he came her way. A pistol she hadn’t touched in years, almost since its purchase.

Maybe I have a good soul and I like to believe I do, because I’m still walking the Earth and have never been confronted by the man or anything else that made me feel I would be stripped of my being forever.

Take it as you will, my mind is forever made,


Friday, September 11, 2009

A Different Breed Of Magic

Dear Reader,

In the world I’ve created, witches do exist, though their reason for being isn’t atypical to popular belief. Last time I told you a little about how vampires were created, but my witches are nothing more than a by-product of them.

To grow their numbers, vampires mated not only with each other, but with the humans they tried to ape. It took them a while to figure out they could convert these ‘new toys’ into something that resembled themselves. They bred, and those children were mortal half-bloods.

In those early days, before vampires had extensively diluted their blood by mixing so much with the humans and converted, the half-bloods had been almost as strong and powerful as their creators. They could bend the earth’s natural laws and manipulate energy however they saw fit.

Though there are still many thoroughly powerful witches among us today, their numbers as well have dwindled to near nothingness compared to what they used to be, but their lesser offspring run rampant. The thinned blood through the generations have sired a variety of different skills in humanity.

Sometimes it manifests as a singular power, such as telekinesis or a healing ability. Sometimes they are able to work with herbs and stones to focus with energy. Though on the occasion a powerful one much like their ancestors, emerges from the dredges. These half-humans harness terrifying power, and if they don’t have a guide to show them what they are, and how to manage their supremacy, the chances of madness skyrockets.

Most witches fear the vampires, and make a point of staying away from them. Even with the blood, they don’t fall under the Council’s rule, since their priority is their brethren and keeping the secrets safe. Though the establishment will not hesitate to kill a witch that endangers the secret.

There are many beings in my world, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Look forward to more!

Until Next Time…

Kayden McLeod

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Welcome Tabitha, and her new book Witch's Magic

Hello Readers!

My fellow Paranormal author at Eternal Press, Tabitha Shay, has just released her latest book in the Winslow Witches series, Witch’s Magic. I’m excited to present to you the prologue of this latest fabulous book. So, please read on!
Hint, hint….where to buy:

Disclaimer: Explicit Language….eighteen plus, please.
Until next time…


Prologue of Witch's Magic

We are in Transylvania, and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things.
~Dracula (Bram Stoker)

Anghel Crypt
Resting Place of Dracula
Mortal Realm

A Do Not Disturb sign swung from an old, rusty chain at the foot of his coffin. He knew it was there.
By the gods, he’d hung it himself before retiring at least five centuries ago.
So why am I being disturbed? Damned illiterates, can’t they read? How was a creature supposed to rest if…?
I said wake up! I need your help.

Annoyed at the rude intrusion blasting his mind and interrupting his most private thoughts, Count Dracula snorted. I hoped it was merely indigestion giving me heartburn or the wind rattling my chain, but truly, do I hear an upstart who dares to enter my sanctum? Go away!
He had not walked among his clan in many centuries. And there was good reason. The world held no surprises. No happiness. No romance. Chivalry was as good as dead. Buried. Well, dead, maybe not buried. He shuddered at the thought of being under all that dirt. And by the gods, he was the most chivalrous being he knew.
Still, it was downright depressing. There were no more knights in shining armor. No damsels in distress. No Rapunzels with thick ropes of hair to toss out a tower window and her one true love scale the wall to rescue her from the evildoer. No unicorns. The last dragon was slain right before he decided he’d had enough of the world.
He’d seen and done it all to the point of boredom; to avoid spending useless years with nothing better to do with his time than to suck and fuck, he took to his coffin centuries early. To be content a vampire needed challenge. Romance. Sex. Oh yeah, lots of the hot stuff.
Brutal honesty forced him to admit he was glad he no longer spent time with his clan, but he hadn’t exactly resigned his position of Ruler of the Ancient Tribunal. It was more like he’d materialized into a bat one night and winged his way off the job, leaving an abrupt message he’d had enough. He’d planned to spend the next several millennia in the sacred Sleep of the Druze, an ancient sleep, and one only the very eldest achieved.
He hadn’t obtained his goal…yet.
The only thing he craved was peace. Rest. Quiet. He had no need to feed, except when the hunger became too much to ignore. He was perfectly happy snatching a bothersome rat when one ventured too close to his coffin. Then he had a quickie snack and went back to sleep.
Rats were good. Dammit, they were!
They might not be hardy, filling or nutritious, but they contained enough blood to sustain life…for a few weeks at a time.
Being one of the Ancients, his need for rest was much more crucial than his need to feed. At his age, all he wanted to do was prop up his feet, so to speak. Yes, peace and quiet was all he craved now. Well, and the occasional female. Two. Three.
No one had dared to disturb him...until now.
So who was this, this person who called to him? A voice he did not recognize. Not surprising. It had been a long time since he’d mentally connected with anyone. He’d pretty much forgotten the sound of speech.
He stirred inside the raggedy satin-lined coffin hidden in a decaying old crypt, all but lost by the passage of time. The only ones who knew where he slumbered were the two other members of the Ancient Tribunal. So how had the upstart rapping on his coffin dug him up?
Get up!
Dracula cocked an ear. Nope, he didn’t have a clue who was silently yelling at him. It wasn’t an Ancient who summoned, but one of the Children, one of the Young Ones.
Annoyance surged through his veins, veins dried and withered to threads from lack of sustenance. Waking an Ancient who had not fed thoroughly for years was strictly forbidden to the Young Ones. It created a danger for all who came near him for several hours.
There were rules, and reasons for those rules. If awakened in a state of extreme hunger, he’d attack and feed until he drained the person dry; then he’d go for the next, and the next, until he was engorged.
Gluttony was a shameful act for his kind. He’d die from embarrassment if discovered devouring his food, that is, if the undead weren’t already in that precarious state.
It was imperative he be awakened slowly.
Nourished slowly.
Regain his strength slowly.
And it was extremely vital at least four females awaited him when he rose. Everyone knew a vampire who’d Druze-slept woke violently horny.
You dare break the laws of our people? Disobey my orders? Ignore my sign? Disturb my slumber?
Yes! Now, get up!
Stop knocking on my coffin! I’m at rest. I need my rest. Go away, upstart.
I need your help, your wisdom, your guidance.
Do I know you?
Don’t pretend you don’t know who I am, Grandfather. You might be Ancient, but there’s nothing wrong with your memory.
And don’t pretend you’re deaf. I know your hearing is acute. You can hear a pin drop three miles away.
Huh! Do you have four females waiting for me?
No. You don’t have time to fuck.
No time to fuck?
Incredulous, Dracula’s eyes popped open. Aw, shit! There are two spiders doing ‘it’ on the ceiling of my coffin! He shuddered. You know what that means? I’ll be sharing my sleeping quarters with hundreds of their little bastards. I detest the creatures. Always moving in and taking over a fellow’s home. I suppose that means I must give up my bed.
He cleared his throat. Son, listen to me very closely. One must always make time to fuck. Spiders do.
“Filthy vermin. Freeloaders. Go find your own house!” He slapped at the ill-mannered eight-legged arachnids doing the ‘nasty’ above his head.
I’m not your son. And no, there is no time. A war comes, a terrible war.
You woke me because of a lousy war? Pish! There have always been wars. There will always be wars.
Not like this one.
A sigh. What is different about this one? Nothing. Don’t you recall your bloody ancestor and all his wars? Do you have any idea how many people I impaled? Now those were the good old days. Chop. Chop. They got in the way, up on the pike they went. I made damn certain of it. Just thinking about it makes me tired. Let me go back to sleep. There will be casualties, son. There are always casualties. We live. Some die. Others do not. Our kind goes on…if we breed. To breed we must fuck! No time to fuck, my ass! I want to talk to the person who schooled you. He didn’t teach you a thing. Who was he?
There’s no time for sex, Grandfather. Not this time. There’s no time to waste. We are too few.

Uh-huh, that’s from not fucking!
For the gods’ sake, this war might see the end of our kind.
A snort. Why do you think such nonsense?
Because this war isn’t simply battles amongst our own, but one that will include the forces from all realms: Vampyre, Demon, Witch and Were. Only the gods know which other realms might become involved. I’m afraid it’s only the beginning. You must rise.
I don’t want to rise.

You’ve slept long enough, Grandfather. Get up. I can’t do this by myself. Get up. Now!
All right! Stop ordering me to get up. No need to get snappy. How do you know this war comes?
I’ve seen it in visions.

Visions? If you’ve seen it in visions, then when will it come? I could sleep until…
No. Get up. Now!

A drawn-out suffering sigh.
When will it begin?
It has already begun…