In case you missed it, Halloween was the starting gun for blubber season. Nothing like ingesting bags of candy to get things rolling. If you were diet-conscious, bars of hyperactive-inducing sugar were available in “mini” sizes – an oxymoron if ever there was. Local stores stocked shelves in August, but those who waited until the first of October to purchase might have been disappointed. Space was needed to make room for Christmas decorations.
What happened to Thanksgiving? People already have their Christmas trees up before the turkey is bought. When did it become the norm to play holiday music before we’ve had a chance to scrape egg off the front door because we left the lights off on Halloween? I feel as if all three holidays have been smooshed together, with Thanksgiving wedged between the others as a wannabe.
Thanksgiving is the day we’re expected to watch a New York City parade with inane commentary and vintage cartoon characters nobody remembers. We see relatives that hadn’t graced our door for a year, then remember later why. It’s a sacred celebration where the arrangement of food on an individual plate becomes a science, and we gorge like our prehistoric forbearers when they felled a mammoth. Would you like leg meat or trunk?
Food offerings are as varied and quirky as our relatives. What is left on the plate when finished, like Aunt Mildred’s cranberry-scrapple gelatin mold, returns every year so everyone can hate it all over again. The meal is often mid-day, to allow for slumbering digestion to the spa-like sounds of slamming athletic helmets on TV, followed by an encore visit to the kitchen. Always lots of cranberry-scrapple gelatin left.
I put some of the blame on conscientious health fanatics who chagrin our tendency for culinary excess. We live in a time of Paleo diets and CrossFit training. Paleo is defined as what our prehistoric ancestors foraged before animal husbandry and agriculture, which to me, suggests anything that moved was fair game. CrossFit is defined as a conditioning program that employs “constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across broad modal and time domains.” I’ve always thought of the annual gorge as a high-intensity workout, but since it doesn’t occur across broad time and modal domains, I’m guessing it doesn’t count.
Maybe what we need is a different kind of Thanksgiving event that appeals to people like me whose exercise regimen consists of rolling out of bed. Let’s call it the Blubber Trot. Participants hop about with flabs of steel barely contained by Kevlar reinforced spandex. The first hundred finishers get to be first in line at the communal Horn-of-Plenty table. Those who don’t finish have to watch Hunger Games without popcorn. Paying spectators will be allowed to wander the leftover carnage and ask, “Are you going to eat that?”
As always, I’ll be flexing my Thanksgiving consumption with extreme prejudice. Once I’m done filling my gastrointestinal cistern with enough calories to heat a small city, I’ll need a solid concrete cap on that toxic well. I’m going for the pumpkin cheesecake.
Hats off to the intrepid writers immersed in NaNoWriMo. I hope your hard-working efforts don’t result in a take-out Thanksgiving meal or relegated to turkey sandwiches with a side order of cranberry sauce that retains the shape of the can it came in.
Happy Hallothanksgivingmas to one and all.
The full moon is my favorite lunar phase. Not because it helps me see better in the darkness—that’s never been a problem. It’s because moonlight infuses the evening with a special glow. It makes me swagger, and maybe take more chances than I should.
On this particular full moon, I am out and about by twelve-thirty; leggings, gray tunic, sensible shoes, my hair knotted atop my head. I think I look sleek like a cat without the whiskers or tail. Some accuse me of walking the streets, but that’s not why I’m out here. It’s hunger, really.
Nostalgia makes me head up Rush Avenue this night. I have memories of sweet drafts, sparkling with life. Ripe pickings, with little danger of getting caught. Part of me says to walk on by and follow my usual routine: Never the same place twice. With the full moon lighting the way, I am more visible than on other nights.
“Hey, girl,” a late stroller shouts from the other side of the deserted street. I ignore him. That is my first mistake. I’m not the only one dressed for inconspicuousness this night.
Another man materializes on my right. A big, muscular fellow, dressed in black.
“Why such a hurry?” he says, but softly, intently. He drifts closer to me, and during that action, I am aware that the late stroller has moved across the street toward me. I am flanked.
I should run—I could easily leave them behind—but the hunger emerges, as it always does when beating hearts are within range. I decide to see what happens if I stay. That is my second mistake.
“The place three doors up has a broken latch on a rear window,” I say. “Easy to enter and look around, if that’s why you’re out here.”
“Maybe,” the big guy says. “And maybe we’re here because we’re looking for someone like you.” His hand grabs my arm, and I can smell tobacco and sweat on him.
The late stroller takes my other arm, but his grip is lighter. He’s shorter, slimmer than the big guy. And his breath as he leans in tells me he’s been drinking. Maybe this duo isn’t out to make a quick buck on stolen goods.
“Nice night for a drive, Matt, don’t you think?” the late stroller says to the big guy as he leers at me. “Especially with the little lady here?”
Matt, the big guy, agrees by laughing, more of a guffaw, and grips my arm more tightly, as though I’ve made any move to get away.
Their car could be any parked along this quiet city block. I have a few seconds to decide on a plan, but I’m distracted by their closeness. Their pulses beat against my arms; even through the tunic’s sleeves I feel them and my hunger surfaces again.
I could sink my teeth into Matt’s hand, but his friend might be strong enough to pull me off.
I know how to avoid a third mistake. Moving swiftly, I bite deep, and the reaction is predictable. Matt yelps, letting go of me. I turn just as fast to the other man and draw blood.
“Fuck,” he cries. And I am free once more.
Just as predictable is their rage. No longer am I a target for their lust: They must hurt me because I have hurt them. But I am quick, and did I tell you that I think just as quickly?
Matt rushes me, but I sidestep, and his momentum barrels himself into his friend. They both go down, the friend striking his head on a concrete trash receptacle. He twitches a few times and lies still.
Pushing back to his feet, Matt readies for another assault and then slows. He stares at me. I nod. The venom in my bite has flushed through him.
“What are you?” he says, but the anger that drove him to action a moment ago has dissipated.
I smile. “Give me your hand.” Without hesitation, he complies, and I drink. I’ve had better, but this will do. He watches me, his eyes blinking languidly. “That’s enough for now,” I say. Placing my palm on his wound, the bite seals immediately.
“That was . . . nice,” he says.
“That’s what they all say.” I reach up and gently touch his cheek, his lips. “Sorry about your friend.”
He shakes his head. “Not really a friend. More of a jerk.” He seems unsure of what to do next. “Will I see you again?”
“I should think so,” I say. And then, because I’m fast, I’m gone before he sees where I’m headed, even under a full moon.
Today we are happy to spotlight Jennifer D. Bokal. Jennifer has a new release, AS ABOVE SO BELOW, featuring a witch, a vampire hunter, and a vampire lurking in the woods—just in time for Halloween. You can learn more about Jennifer on her website, Smart, sexy romance for smart, sexy women.
Jennifer D. Bokal penned her first book at age eight. An early lover of the written word, she decided to follow her passion and become a full-time writer. From then on, she didn’t look back.
She earned a master of arts in creative writing from Wilkes University and became a member of the Romance Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. She has authored several short stories, novellas and poems. Winner of the Sexy Scribbler in 2015, Jennifer is the author of the Ancient World Historical series the Champions of Rome and the Harlequin Romantic Suspense series, Rocky Mountain Justice and the connected series, Rocky Mountain Justice: Wyoming Nights. She is also the author of Coltons Secret History, Book 3 in the Coltons of Kansas series and Coltons Internal Affair, Book 9 in the Coltons of Grave Gulch series—also from Harlequin Romantic Suspense.
Happily married to her own Alpha Male for more than 25 years, she enjoys writing stories that explore the wonders of love. Jen and her manly husband live in upstate New York with their three beautiful daughters, two very spoiled dogs, and a kitten that aspires to one day become a Chihuahua.
Jennifer D. Bokal
Halloween, Romance, Paranormal
Wild Rose Press
A search for information about his grandfather’s mysterious death leads Army physician, Carter Balan, to the town of Ancient Oaks.
Fiona Moon has a secret. Her magical abilities have been fading since her 40th birthday and with Halloween only a week away, the witch fears that her powers are gone for good.
When Carter walks into her bookshop, Fiona knows exactly who he is—the first boy she ever kissed. Carter has no memory of Fiona or the fact he comes from a long line of vampire hunters. When a vampire is discovered in the woods, Fiona and Carter must work together to destroy the creature. Can Carter recover his stolen memories before it’s too late?
Will he accept his family history and pick up where his grandfather left off?
Can Fiona find a way to harness her powers and save the town?
Just in time for Halloween we have an author spotlight on Andi Lawrencovna and her soon to release anthology, WHO’s THE FAIREST? A Sisters Grimm Anthology. (October 20, 2020 and it is available for preorder, now.)
Andi Lawrencovna lives in a small town in Northeast Ohio where she was born and raised. She writes Fantasy with a twist, un-Happily-Ever-After-ing as many fairy tales as she can. And she’s not averse to looking at the odd nursery rhyme or ten when the mood strikes. Her Never Lands series is currently enamored with an ash covered assassin and a prince who’s not in the highest of towers. From ogres spouting poetry, to princesses toting swords, Andi’s stories aren’t quite like you remember.
For more, visit: www.AndiLawrencovna.com
Andi’s story in WHO’s THE FAIREST? A Sisters Grimm Anthology is called “The Snake’s Leaves” and we’re please to have an excerpt.
The clipper bobbed with the tide against the dock, rocking in the first waves as the storm blew in. Dark clouds churned the sky. Raindrops threatened to fall, but remained heaven bound for a moment more.
“It’s a bad omen.”
“There are no such things as omens.”
Reigner turned his head and stared at his prince.
Despite the response, Euridone’s voice held concern, and his face was stern with concentration and consideration.
Though the ship might not set sail during the midst of the storm, it would set sail eventually.
The waters whispered of hate and roiling death.
Rey did not think the voices beneath the waves referred solely to the tempest.
He might not have believed in omens before, but he wasn’t fool enough to ignore them when they stared him in the face. He opened his mouth to argue with his master—
“We should find our berth and get settled in. She’ll be along soon enough, and I’d rather be stowed away than have to deal with her.”
A call to action, and yet Rey remained still at Euri’s side, the backs of their hands touching where they stood together, neither of them wanting to move forward to whatever fate awaited them.
“I hate the sea.”
“It hates us too.” He replied and shifted the pack on his shoulder. A raise of his hand, the quick flick of his fingers forward, and the servants that lined up at their backs with the prince’s trunks moved towards the ship, and Euri followed their lead, Rey bringing up the rear.
The wind wailed as they walked the gangplank to the clipper’s deck.
Ware. Ware. You will die here.
Rey turned his face to the storm as the first drops of rain fell. “I’ve died before. I’m not afraid of my end.”
For only a moment, the wind stilled, listening to his words.
It screamed at his impudence when he smiled into its gale.
Prince Euridone Adavignlor, Hero of the Battle of Blackmore, Lord of the Southern Settlements, husband to the Princess Abrialla, wedded Heir to the Kingdom of Spinick, stood in the hallway outside the birthing suite and paced the cold stone floor.
His wife’s labor had slowed to a crawl somewhere in the tenth hour of the trial.
The healer said it was normal for a first birth to take time, and perhaps it was, but that was over a day ago when the pains first started, and now, at nearly forty hours, even Euri knew that something was wrong.
He was born a farmer’s son with nothing to his name but the clothes on his back and the dirt caked to his skin. Hock and hoof, field and plow, working the land and toiling beneath the sun, that was where he came from. He was a good farmer. A good and dutiful son.
And when the war came, and the king called all eligible men to battle, he traded pitchfork for pike and learned to wield a sword in place of the culling scythe.
He was a good soldier.
When his captain died, and he was chosen to replace the man, Euri discovered he was good at leading too.
He won the war with his tactics for King Ashwarth.
He should have died at Blackmore, but he’d somehow returned to the land of the living where the king took an interest in the man named champion.
A good soldier. A good leader. A good prince.
Words Euri never expected, nor wanted, to hear, especially when they were followed by a wedding decree, and the burden of what marrying the princess would entail.
For all his life, all he’d ever wanted was to escape his farm.
Now all he longed for was a chance to return to the quiet fields and the mooing of cattle and the mucking out of horse stalls.
He wanted to take his child away from the castle walls and show the babe the beauty of a simple life that Euri always took for granted with the man who he’d come to depend on more than his next breath.
A man who was not Euri’s spouse but her bastard brother.
Rey was more honorable than all the nobles put together in the palace halls.
And he was the only one Euri wanted, and that his vows demanded he never claim.
Not that Abrialla honored her marriage to Euridone.
For all the prince knew, the babe fighting to be born was not even his, some other of his wife’s lovers having whelped the child on the princess.
He should be angry at the knowledge, at the implication.
All he could feel was relief.
A small, childish, plaintive part of him prayed that if the babe proved to be another’s, he would be allowed to break his oath and be free of the witch.
The more rational part of his mind knew the unlikeliness of the same.
It wasn’t Abrialla who wanted Euri as a prince.
No matter that the king gave his daughter every other wish she desired, Euri was Ashwarth’s demand for the kingdom, and there was no escaping a king.
Abrialla would destroy the kingdom Euri fought a war to save.
Ashwarth chose a farm-boy to lead his country instead of his own spawn to keep the land safe.
And now, here Euri stood, outside his wife’s room, waiting for the birth of the child that would tie him eternally to the nation he called his own.
Knots tangled in his stomach.
Because the child was late in coming, and country or not, rule or not, the infant was innocent of his mother’s indiscretions or his father’s peasant desires. The babe deserved a chance at life, but Euri knew how frail new life could be.
The door to the princess’ suite opened.
A tired nursemaid stepped out of the brightly lit room into the dim hall where the prince waited.
“It is a boy, your highness.”
All along he’d known that she would bear a son that Euri would call his own.
He held himself still, one hand braced at the windowpane behind him, not sure if it was to hold him back from forging the room and looking at the child fresh from the womb, or if it was to keep him standing, that the birth was done, and the child was here. He was well and truly bound up in the fight for rule now with an heir of his own, blood or not.
Euri’s valet stepped forward to draw the maid’s attention when he could not.
“How is the prince’s lady wife?”
Rey stood with his hands clasped behind his back, anxiety showing in every line of his body. There was no love lost between princess and manservant. Where Euri might not abandon a bastard child, the king had no such proclivities when Rey was born and cast aside.
It was a mercy, in Euri’s mind.
If Rey was raised a prince, or a lord, or anyone of importance, they would never have met upon the battlefield. That Reigner was just a man, same as Euri, made all the difference.
Rey kept his eyes on the maid, and Euri tore his from the valet to watch a tear slide down the woman’s face.
“It was a hard birth. The healer,” her hand trembled when she raised it to her cheek. “He has asked the prince be admitted to speak his farewells.”
Wow! I recently read the most wonderful Autumn/Halloween read! Love Bites, by Annabelle Costa. This is NOT your run-of-the-mill vampire book at all! This novel weaves together two suspenseful, eerie, mysterious narratives. Tom Blake is a young man in 1905 who is falling in love when he gets his first job. Soon he’ll be out of his cruel father’s house and his life will truly begin … but why does he have such a craving for blood? When he is working at the butcher shop, and every time he gets close to his sweetheart Mary…
In present day New York City, Brooke wonders if adorable, reliable, all around good-guy Jamie might be more than a friend. When her gorgeous friend Sydney is murdered and strange things start happening to Brooke, she turns to Jamie and yeah … she’s pretty sure he’s more than a friend. But before she can act on her realization, Hunter T. Stone walks into her life and mesmerizes her. Brooke finds herself under his spell, but the closer she gets to him, the more it seems like he has something to do with Sydney’s murder …
OMG this book is soooooo good!!!! It hits the ground running and both narratives unfold with compelling grace and precision. The romances and the spine-tingling mysteries kept me turning the pages, ravenous to devour every next word! And the best part? As the story unfurled, I had NO IDEA what was going to happen – or even what I wanted to happen! I didn’t know who was going to end up being the good guy or the bad guy. I couldn’t guess who was going to end up with whom. Every new chapter offered another tantalizing piece of the puzzles, something else to consider. The stakes keeping getting upped and upped and upped! Even when you reach the climax, you still have no idea how it will all play out until the very last page. What an exciting read! Sex in the City meets Sleepy Hollow in an intriguing and unique book about vampires, murder, romance, and survival. A perfect Halloween read!
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