Monday, December 31, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Supernatural Friday: Superstitions of the New Year

The New Year is more than saying goodbye to the old year and hello to the new one. There are superstitions attached to this time of the year. Of course, 2012 has something special, with the Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world.

But let’s talk about normal legends and myths. Open all doors at midnight, to let the old year escape without being stopped. Celebrate at midnight with as much noise as possible, for it’s not just for celebration, but to chase bad spirits away. Widespread superstition has it said that the Devil and other evil spirits hate the din and will run away. Church bells on a wedding day are rung originally for the same reason.

A kiss at midnight with those close to us and whom we hold in affection starts the New Year off right by making sure ties and affections stay the next year. If no kiss is exchanged, it will mean a year of coldness.

Bills must be paid off before midnight chimes to make sure the household does not start off in debt. Same goes for personal debt, as they must be settled before January 1 also.

It is said that the first person to enter your home after the New Year is the one who will influence how your year will go. It is best if the man comes bearing gifts in either silver coin, a lump of coal, a sprig of evergreen, some salt or a bit of bread. And he should be dark-hair, tall and good-looking to make it a good year. But if he’s a red-haired or a blond, well, he will bring nothing but a year of bad luck. As for a female first guest, she should be chased away before disaster hits the household. Hold the women off until a man cross your threshold. The first footer should knock and be let in, but never use a key to enter, even if he lives there. Then after he drops off his gifts and greets those within the walls, he should then exit by another door than the one he entered by.

Larders must be stocked and money in everyone’s wallet to guarantee prosperity.

Another thing about first footers, they can not have flat feet, be cross-eyed, or have eyebrows that meet in the middle (can this last one be a werewolf thing too, since a werewolf can be identified by having brows like this?).

Another thing in regarding to good/bad luck for the New Year, is not to take anything out the first day, not even the garbage. If have presents, don’t even bring them in, but leave in the car until the second. This means don’t shake a rug out or take out empties. Some people say that it’s okay to take something out, long as something else was brought in first, most likely a first footer.

Down South, people make black-eyed peas to serve New Year’s Day to get good luck and financial good fortune, especially to the diner. Other foods such as ham hocks, cabbage, and collard greens can be added, but there must be black-eyed peas as the key ingredient.

Other foods considered lucky are lentil soup (due to looking like coins), pork (pigs root forward while poultry scratches backwards and a cow stands still), and sauerkraut (I grew up with a Czechoslovakian mother, so I love this, as my husband is half Polish!). Definitely do not eat chicken or turkey the first day, since the birds scratch backwards, this means the diners will scratch in the dirt all year (meaning poverty).

Do a token amount of what you do at work (even if you’re off from your job and not near it even) on January 1st, but a small amount is enough, as to engage in a serious project that day is considered bad luck. Don’t even do your laundry or even wash dishes, as this may wash away you or your family members in the home (death) during the coming year.

Wear something new January 1st, to insure you receive more new garments during the year. Do not pay back loans or lend money or other precious items on the first day of the New Year, otherwise you’ll be paying out all year. Avoid crying too. That will mean that will be the tone of the next twelve months and do not, I stress, do not break anything the First, otherwise the rest of the year will a life of wreckage.

So far, sounds like your first day might be best spent in bed after letting in that dark-haired man. But you need to get up to examine the weather that first day. Yes, even the weather can make things bad or good. Like if the wind comes from the south, times ahead will be prosperous times and great weather for all year. But if the wind comes from the north, that means bad weather all year. Wind from the east brings famine and calamities with it while from the west, it brings milk and fish a-plenty, but will also see the death of an important person. No wind, a joyous and prosperous year!

As for babies born on January 1, they are insured luck always.

Now, what will you do to insure good luck for 2013? Or do you don't even care? 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bottled Spirits Nominated for Preditors and Editors Poll

My horror short story, "Bottled Spirits" is up at the Preditors and Editors Readers' Poll Voting Page.  

If you can, vote for it. If you want to read my story P&E has the link connected to my story. Please click the first one, with the link, not the second one that someone must have added. Thank you.
Link to the story:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Have a Scary Little Christmas

Enjoy my original short Christmas horror tale. It is copyrighted, so please just share the link with your friends so they can come and read it here.
By Midnight (Copyright by Pamela K. Kinney)

You better watch out, you better not cr. . . .

A strange jabbering woke her from her nightmare. Mrs. Piers sat up and switched on the lamp on the bedstead by her bed. Light flowed over her and the bed, banishing the darkness back to corners of her bedroom. The only other light came from moonbeams stretching fingers through the glass of the window .

Nothing. Must have been a revenant from the nightmare. She stared at the clock. Shoot! She’d overslept. The woman leaped out of bed, showered, and dressed in her custodial uniform.

It was Christmas Eve, but that didn’t matter, as she was scheduled to work tonight. It had proven to be the only way to get Christmas Day and night off. As she walked into the eat-in kitchen, her daughter, Jenny, brought their dinner, bowls of chicken noodle soup, to the table. Both sat and began to eat, though Jenny only ate a few spoonfuls of soup.

Mrs. Piers lost her husband a year ago and had to go to work to pay the mortgage on the house, besides to support both her and Jenny. Luckily, she saw the ad for someone to clean the local hospital during third shift and when she applied, she got it. That meant leaving her daughter alone in the house at night. A pretty teenage girl going through changes due to puberty could get into trouble, least what she had heard.

So far, nothing happened. Knock on wood.

Tonight though was Christmas Eve. Though Jenny promised she would go to bed early after watching It's A Wonderful Life on TV, as she admitted to feeling ill all day. Still, Mrs. Piers felt uneasy. Jenny handed Mrs. Piers her purse and bagged lunch, and followed her mother to the front door.

Mrs. Piers said, “I feel uneasy about leaving you alone tonight. Don’t know why either.”

“’Night, Mom.” Jenny threw open the door. “I’ll make sure the place is locked up tight, besides, I’m sixteen! Geesh!” She shook her head. “What do you think could happen?”

Mrs. Piers reminded her. “There have been those people that vanished.”

The girl snorted. “That was last Christmas and they were homeless people that disappeared from a shelter downtown, not teenagers. There’s been nothing since. The police even said they think the men just snuck out of the building and took off for parts unknown.”

Mrs. Piers needed to get to work, so she stepped out into the night. The moon and a few stars sparkled up in the black velvet of the sky. Many houses had Christmas lights and other decorations. The whole street was lit up. Some people strolled along the neighborhood, only stopping to view the lights. Everything looked innocent and Christmasy. Nothing scary.

She whistled to the Christmas music that sang from the radio as she drove to the hospital.


As Jenny turned to go back indoors, a tease of jabbering reached her from the darkened area beneath a tree on the side of their home. A squirrel? This late though? With a shrug as she heard nothing further, Jenny locked the door and ambled into the living room. Raps resounded on the glass of the sliding doors that led to the back yard. Her friends and the guys they brought were here. Thank God, her mother had left already. Unlocking, she let in two girls and three boys. They strolled past her into the house, carrying bags of snacks and drinks, along with stuff for entertainment. Jenny shut the door and stared as they began to set up. One of the boys put two bags in the living room, while Lisa and other set bags on the kitchen counter and began taking things out. Things like bags of chips, cans of nuts and microwave popcorn overflowed the counter. Jenny thought back to the last day of school, just before Christmas vacation.

Jenny’s friends, Lisa and Debbie, had approached her as she was taking things out of her locker at school and jamming it all into her bookbag.

“Hey,” said Lisa, leaning a shoulder against the ,locker next to Jenny’s. “Your mother works all night—right?”

Jenny slammed the door on her locker and slung her bookbag over one shoulder. “Yeah, but you knew that. So?”

Debbie grinned. “Well, our parents will be out at a party that night until two o’clock. Be kinda cool to have a party without adults staring over our shoulders. There are these three guys—”

Jenny finished for her, “and you two have the hots for two of them. Guess the third was dug up for me? An incentive to have the party at my house?”

Lisa shrugged. “Well, your mom is gone all night—”

Jenny sighed. The other girls looked at her. She nodded. “I don’t feel good about this, but all right.” She shook a finger. “Not all night, okay. Just ‘til midnight.”

Lisa grinned. “Of course, we don’t want to do it all night. Christmas is the next day and we want to be rested for that. Besides our parents will be home by 2 a. m., so midnight is great.”

Jenny had been worried about agreeing then. Wore, all day today, she had not been feeling good. Couldn’t eat and stayed in her room most of the day, as her stomach twisted into tight knots. Least the need to barf had calmed down. It was only until midnight. She could handle that. Surely?

She chided herself. It’s not as if there would be alcohol. . . One of the boys, a tall, gangling one, laughed as he lifted a six-pack of beer out of a grocery bag. Another boy, dressed all in black and sporting earrings in his big ears, nose, and even his lower lip, laughed too, braying like a donkey.

Jenny’s stomach boiled as she fought not to run to the bathroom. She stomped over to Lisa and Debbie who were opening packages of cookies and bags of chips as they gossiped.

She grabbed Lisa’s arm, snarling. “You didn’t say there would be alcohol!”

Lisa glanced with disinterest as the boy withdrew another six-pack of beer. “Wellllll. . .I never said there wouldn’t be. John’s adult brother got them for him at the liquor store tonight.”

Debbie piped up. “It’s not like we’ll all get drunk on twelve bottles of beer, Jenny.”

Jenny blinked. Debbie wasn’t the brightest girl in town. Remembering the incident with Debbie and the horse last year, well, not even in the whole world either.

She sighed. “All right, but be forewarned, first time anyone starts to act drunk, the party is over and everyone goes home.”

Lisa shrugged a shoulder. “Sure. That’s doable.”

Lisa popped in a DVD of a Christmas comedy she brought and both she and Debbie settled on the couch, a boy each nestled against them. Lisa got John, who was the tall, gangling type with the beer, while Debbie got Roy, plump and dumb. Jenny ended up with Spider on the floor. Spider was the goth who brayed like a mule earlier. She had thumped down in the chair that matched the couch, but Spider had slithered in like a snake about to snatch its next victim, sliding his arms round her so Jenny got down on the floor. Unfortunately, so did Spider, looping an arm over her shoulders.

“You know why they call me Spider?” he whispered into her ear. “It’s like I got eight arms.”

It felt like he had eight hands too. They slid up and down her body, searching for permanent places to nest. Like her breasts, and other unmentionable spots.

She hissed in his ear, digging an elbow into his ribs. “Hands to yourself. I don’t know you enough for you to do that. Honestly, in my opinion, that will be never ever. Understand?”

He glowered as he grabbed the bottle of beer beside him. “Your friends didn’t say you be a class A bitch.”

He took a swig of beer and ignored her after that, staring at the television. Which was fine with her. Jenny rose to her feet and headed for the kitchen to get herself a bottle of soda and some snacks.

Alone, she opened the fridge and peeked in when she heard a sound. Closing the door, she listened and heard it again. It sounded like someone saying something, except so slow that Jenny couldn’t catch the words. It came from the back of the house. Jenny stared down the shadow-dark hallway. A chill skittered up her spine. The only people in the house were her and her guests.

The jabbering grew a little louder. Now, it sounded like there was a crowd back in wither hers or her mother’s bedroom.

She jumped when something touched her shoulder. Her pounding heart slowed when she realized it was Spider. His bottle hanging limp from his fingers, the boy’s brow knitted together.

“What’s going on?” He peered down the hall. “I thought we were the only people tonight? Your mother working, right?”

Jenny rubbed her arms with her hands, as she felt cold. “She is. We are.”

“Hey, what’s going on? Sneaking off to do some neckin’?” Lisa and Debbie plus their guys joined them.

Spider pointed with the neck of his now empty bottle at the hallway. “No. Doesn’t that sound like people are talking back there?”

Debbie bit her lip. “Really?” She turned to Jenny. “Thought you said your mom was at work.”

Jenny spat out. “She is. We’re supposed to be the only living bodies in the house tonight.”

Debbie giggled. “Cool. Maybe it’s ghosts.”

Lisa snorted. “There are no such things as ghosts, dummy. It’s just Jenny playing a trick on us.” She merged with the darkness as she walked down the hallway. “I’ll prove it. Hey, John, coming?”

John asked, “You sure you want me? I mean, I doubt there’s anything back there.” He gave Spider a nasty glance. “Spider watches too many horror flicks, you ask me.” But when Lisa told him to come with her, he hustled to join her..

Jenny heard the rustling of their clothing, their footsteps barely audible on the carpeted floor. All sound quiet as even the voices stopped. She back stepped until she found herself against Spider’s front. His odor flowed over her. He stunk of sweat, some male cologne and . . . . fear? How would she know what fear smelled like?

Lisa called out. “Hey, there’s a glow coming from a bedroom back here. It looks like—“

Silence. Nothing from her or John.

Debbie said, “Lisa? Lisa?” Roy yelled, “Yo, John?”

Lisa didn’t answer. John neither.

More chills skittered along Jenny’s nerves. She was ready to turn around and get her cell lying on the coffee table in the living room, then dial 911. But she didn’t as Debbie, along with Roy and Spider tiptoed to where Lisa and John were. Spider hadn’t wanted to, but Roy dug his fingers into the thinner boy’s shoulder and forced him along.

Jenny called out. “Come back. I’m going to call the—“

Suddenly, screams and growls rent the air. Frightened, and not even looking back, Jenny bolted, snatching her cell phone and the house keys. She ran out of the house, not even shutting the door behind her.

Breathing heavy, she stopped in the street and stared back at the looming darkness of the open doorway. Nothing surged out of it, not the others or whatever had gotten them. With a shaking hand, she called her mother at the hospital. After she got off the phone, she felt pain wash over her. Smells rushed at her. Iron-like, like when there was bleeding. She drooled. Confused and still in agony too, she leaned against a car parked on the street. Until she realized it was Lisa’s car, then she stumbled across the street. She stayed there.

Thirty minutes later her mother drove up and after parking the car on the street, joined Jenny who hugged her, crying. “Mom, something’s in the house, and it got Lisa and Debbie.”

Her mother patted her back. “Did you allow them in the house?”

Jenny sniffed. “Yeah. I allowed them and three guys to have a party of sorts at our house. Now something has got them and it’s my fault.”

Her mother nodded. “It is, Jenny. Mine too.”

Jenny looked at her mother and noticed how strange her face looked in the light of the moon. A kind of blurring. “What do you mean?”

“After your father died, I was called back to my people. But they wouldn’t allow you to come with me. I couldn’t leave you. Oh no. They said you’re a halfling. That you couldn’t survive in my world. But I noticed you had some of my powers, something most Halflings never inherited from their few parent. So staying here, I had to get a job to support us, but still worried about leaving you alone as you were entering puberty and with puberty for a fey, the changes come. Some of my people came to stay with us.”

Jenny backed out of her mother’s arms. “What do you mean? I never saw anyone but us in the house since daddy died. And what’s a fey?”

Her mother sighed. “That’s because of the glamour. Like what I use to keep me appearing human to humans, like your father. A fey is another word for what humans call fairies. I am part of one race of the Sidhe. We can change shape with will, besides having other powers.”

Jenny saw with shock as her mother’s form shorted out like a television reception. Where her mother had stood, a tall, pale being with shimmering hair that fell to its feet towered over her. It gave a parody of a smile, revealing a mouthful of cannibal sharp fangs. “I saw your father from a distance when he was hiking with friends in the mountains and I fell in love with him. So I stepped from my world into his, changed my looks, and made him fall in love with me. I don’t need to feed most of the year on what my kind subsist on normally, but on Christmas Eve, before midnight, the hunger calls to me. So I would sneak out to hunt my prey as your father slept deeply due to enchantment. It grew worse when I became pregnant with you. I had to feed for two then.”

Her mother snatched her up and they flew to the house, entering. The door slammed shut behind them without a sound. Jenny was let go and she found herself standing over Spider. A crowd of beings like her mother surrounded them, blood on their lipless mouths and bare skin. Her mother pointed at the scared boy.

“You’re half fey, dear, and you must eat the right food tonight to survive. Just as our relatives had gnawed on your friends. Just as I fed on a dying person at the hospital earlier tonight. Your magic is growing stronger each day and if you don’t feast on human flesh before the first strike of midnight, you will burn up. Don’t you feel the heat in you now? It’s our particular type of fairies’ Christmas curse.”

Jenny did. It felt like a roaring fire centered in her. It hurt. She stared down at Spider and saw how large and rounded his eyes had become. Even smelled his fear like an overpowering perfume. The pulse at his throat drew her eyes. It teased her, begged her to take a bite. But his hands interested her more. Spider had wanted his hands on her earlier that night. She had said no then. Why not be in a place they should? Like her mouth? Yes.

With a smile, Jenny leaned over, her jaws popping to accommodate the feeding. She grabbed Spider’s hands as he tried to screamed, but couldn’t, thanks to the magic she used.

His hands tasted so good when they were in the right spot. Like down her throat and in her tummy.


                                                          the end.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Supernatural Friday: Who Haunts the Heights of South Mountain?

Welcome author Kathryn Hohmann, as she blogs about who haunts the Heights of South Mountain for today’s Supernatural Friday.

Remember that box-office smash, The Blair Witch Project? 
It’s the story of three students who set out in the darkened woods of central Maryland to investigate an old legend called the Blair Witch.  In the 1700s, a woman named Blair -- accused of witchcraft and cast out of a village -exacted her revenge by ritually murdering the village inhabitants.  In the movie, the hapless students go in search of the witch and after a night of paralyzing fear, they disappear, never to be heard from again.  Because the movie was portrayed as a documentary, fans were so determined to find the “real” Blair Witch that they swarmed to the town of Burkittsville, Maryland from as far away as London. 
 It’s no coincidence that the film makers picked the location around South Mountain, a region steeped in history and spooky legend.  Although the Piscataway Indians traditionally lay claim to these rich hunting grounds, the first white settlements date to the early to mid-18th century.  In those days, belief in the supernatural was common.  The area was likely considered a threshold between this world and the next, a “power spot” or “thin place,” where the barriers between past and present are permeable.   Ghost tales shared by settlers describe strange winged creatures that swooped down from the ridge of South Mountain to carry off inhabitants.  
 Then came the war between the states.   Being a border state, Maryland was divided so sharply between Union and Confederate that some families broke apart, brother fighting brother.  The conflict culminated on September 14, 1862, when armies faced off on the ridge of South Mountain in a clash that foreshadowed the battle at Antietam -- the single bloodiest day on American soil in the nation’s history. 
That was 150 years ago.  Yet even today, some visitors to South Mountain are frightened by hazy shapes in Confederate dress or claim to see misty lights and ghostly campfires burning on the old battleground, especially during the damp and dark September evenings.  During this year’s re-enactment, a few adventurous souls made the trek to the top of South Mountain, gathered at twilight,  lit candles and honored the dead.  There’s a marker that commemorates a regiment of Rebel soldiers who vanished in the aftermath of the battle.  There’s documentation about a Union burial duty that might have disposed of bodies, but no definite explanation for the soldiers’ disappearance.  Questions only lead deeper into the mystery.
Then there’s another phenomenon that defies explanation,  an eerie place called Spook Hill.  Local legend holds that -- at a certain juncture in the road--- vehicles can be stopped, put into neutral and simply drive themselves uphill.  Skeptics are quick to dismiss the phenomenon by explaining that the roadway is nothing more than an optical illusion and merely appears to slope uphill, but history says something else entirely.  On September 14, 1862, at the base of South Mountain, Union fire forced the Confederates to abandon their cannons and make a run for safety.   The giant weapons went rolling downhill, out of control and crushed the Rebels who had been fortunate enough to survive the sharpshooters’ bullets.  Legend says that Rebels killed during the retreat haunt this stretch of road, their souls forever tasked with the duty of pushing their cannons back up the mountain. 
Those drawn to South Mountain sense the imprint of the past on the present.  There aren’t definite answers, not about the Rebels who vanished without a trace on the mountain top or about the slant of the road below.  But one thing is certain:  It’s not a witch named Blair that haunts the hills of central Maryland, not even close.  It’s something, or someone, in blue or grey.

About Kathryn Hohmann:
Kathryn Hohmann is a writer from southwestern Montana.  Her newest book, Soldiers Rest, is a novel inspired by the true tale about Rebels who vanished in the aftermath of a Civil War battle. She is co-author of Why We Ride, about women and horses and a textbook on emergency response.  Kathryn can be reached at

Buy the ebook at AMAZON

A Season of Fear and Superstition

It's that time of the year to smooch under the mistletoe, shop for loved ones and go view Christmas lights on the Tacky Lights Tour. The season is full of good tidings and happiness, nothing scarier than you might get that special gift from Santa Claus. Right?

WRONG! People in olden days didn’t stay indoors due to the “frightful” weather, but more because it might have been cold and dangerous outside. They knew in their hearts that dark forces lurked amidst the shadows of the snow drifts. Winter Solstice (December 21) was seen as a time when the fabric between the mortal world and the world of malicious spirits became thin enough for things to snatch unwary victims. Though the fiends are lout all winter, still, this time prove to be the scariest. When many gathered together to celebrate, it was hoped that the dark spirits would realize with all that din that there were too many bodies inside or caroling outside to grab one person. Another custom practiced was doors were flung open at midnight to let out trapped evil spirits caught inside the building. A candle was left burning in the window all night to insure good luck for the family inside. Any candle that burned out before dawn was deemed a bad sign.

Another thing said is that those born on Christmas are apt more to see a spirit than those not. But they have nothing to fear from any ghost if they chance to encounter one. They are also protected against deaths by drowning or hanging.

Witches are a part of Christmas too—through our very own Christmas ornaments, or balls. In Scotland, people used to wear them around their necks to ward off witches. It was also believed in Scotland and Canada that if a witch touched one, her/his soul would be caught within the ball forever.

A witch ball is a hollow sphere of plain or stained glass hung in cottage windows in eighteenth-century England to ward off evil spirits, witch's spells, or ill fortune, though the witch's ball actually originated among cultures where witches were considered a blessing. Witches would usually "enchant" the balls to enhance their potency against evils. Later, they were often posted on top of a vase or suspended by a cord (as from the mantelpiece or rafters) for a decorative effect. Witch balls appeared in America in the nineteenth century and were often found in gardens under the name "gazing ball,” something that has come back, as I bought one last summer to place in my own garden. However, "gazing balls" contain no strands within their interior. According to folk tales, witch balls would entice evil spirits with their bright colors; the strands inside the ball would then capture the spirit and prevent it from escaping.

Witch balls sometimes measure as large as seven inches (eighteen cm) in diameter. By tradition, but not always, the witch ball is green or blue in color and made from glass. There have been others made of wood, grass, or twigs, instead of glass. Some are decorated in enameled swirls and brilliant stripes of various colors. The gazing balls found in many of today's gardens are derived from silvered witch balls that acted as convex mirrors, warding off evil by reflecting it away.

Because they look similar to the glass balls used on fishing nets, witch balls are often associated with sea superstitions and legends. The modern Christmas ornament ball is descended from the witch ball. According to an ancient tale, the ornament was originally placed on the tree to dispel a visitor’s envy at the presents left beneath the tree.

Besides the ball, mistletoe was also considered a powerful charm to be used against witches, along with lightening. The lightening? Is it connected, as maybe caused by a witch? Good question.

This time of year also has ghost stories told. Just as much as Halloween. Charles Dickens’ novel, the Christmas Carol, Is proof of that. Those Victorian people did more than go Christmas caroling or drank mulled wine by the roaring fires. There’s even that line in It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year song that goes "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmas long, long ago." There are novels and anthologies that come out this time of the year, ghostly fiction or horror stories. One book of fiction I found is Christmas Ghosts, edited by Kathryn Cramer and David G. Hartwell. I ordered for myself, a ghostly tale set during Christmas time for my Kindle, The Carousel by James Cessford. The eBook intrigued me to read it and it was not a bad price. Search Amazon or your local brick and mortar independent bookstore for other Christmas ghost stories to buy and read.

Besides, ghost stories, there are other dark myths and legends concerning with Christmas. In the olden days gone by in Finland, they believed in Joulupukki. Pagan people used to have festivities to ward off evil spirits. In Finland these spirits of darkness wore goat skins and horns. In the beginning this creature didn't give presents but demanded them. The Christmas Goat was an ugly creature and frightened children. It is unclear how this personality was transformed into the benevolent Father Christmas. Nowadays the only remaining feature is the name. The process was probably a continuous amalgamation of many old folk customs and beliefs from varied sources. One can speak of a Christmas pageant tradition consisting of many personages with roles partly Christian, partly pagan: A white-bearded saint, the Devil, demons, and house gnomes. Nowadays the Joulupukki of Finland resembles the American Santa Claus. This reminds me of Black Peter and the Krampus, both being Santa’s “evil twin.” In many areas of the world, it is said that St. Nicholas has a companion. This companion is Krampus, though another version is Black Peter, or Zarte Piet or Zwarte Piet. Black Peter is associated with the Netherlands and has dark skin. Krampus isn't a man though. He has horns, goat hair, hooves, and claws. Just like a demon. His job is to accompany St. Nicholas and to warn and punish bad children. He is said to carry a basket on his back where he will place the bad children and take them to Hell to be tossed into the pit. Puts a frightening twist on “have you been naughty or nice!” Krampus originates from Krampen--meaning claw. Young men dressed up in goat skins and masks they spend two weeks making and on December 5th go out to scare all and carry out "birching," mainly on young girls.

So, besides a season of “good tidings,” it is also a time of terrible fear. So get your children in at night and make sure they are good. And do the same for yourself. For you never know if that shadow moving along the street past your front yard is just someone looking at your Christmas lights, or something else waiting to get you! Happy holidays.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Facts

Each year, 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States alone. There are 21,000 Christmas tree growers in the United States, and trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold. The highest priced tree was displayed i the Emirates Palace in 2013. It cost $11, 026, 900.
Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger. In the Middle Ages, Christmas celebrations were rowdy and raucous—a lot like today's Mardi Gras parties.
From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston, and law-breakers were fined five shillings.
Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870. The first eggnog made in the United States was consumed in Captain John Smith's 1607 Jamestown settlement.

The U.S. produces 1.76 billion candy canes each year. Americans send 1.5 billon Christmas cards annually (I think this would include ecards).
Poinsettia plants are named after Joel R. Poinsett, an American minister to Mexico, who brought the red-and-green plant from Mexico to America in 1828. The Salvation Army has been sending Santa Claus-clad donation collectors into the streets since the 1890s.
Rudolph, "the most famous reindeer of all," was the product of Robert L. May's imagination in 1939. The copywriter wrote a poem about the reindeer to help lure customers into the Montgomery Ward department store.
Construction workers started the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition in 1931.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Join Me at Celebrate With a Book Author Book Fair in Richmond, VA. Saturday, December 15th

Join me and nineteen other authors at the Celebrate With a Book Author Book Fair at Regency Mall 1420 North Parham Road Richmond, VA tomorrow, December 15th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. First twenty get free gift bags of goodies.

Signed books make great Christmas gifts!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Supernatural Friday: Candy Cane: Myth and Reality

It is said that the candy cane came by a candy maker in Indiana who wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas candy cane. He took several symbols from the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy, which symbolized the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, It had to be hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the Church, and firmness of the promises of God.He formed the candy in the form of a “J” to represent the precious name of Jesus. It could also represent the staff of the “Good Shepherd.”
Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candy maker stained it with red stripes, using three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross.
These Jesus celebrating candies were then, the story goes, handed out to good children in church or used as a form of identification among Christians when they were persecuted. But none of this is true! Candy canes were not invented in Indiana, since the first reports of hard candy sticks (the precursor to candy canes) come from the 17th century.
Actually, white candy sticks were actually quite common at Christmas. One story says that they turned into J’s because one choirmaster bent them to look like a shepherd’s staff for children during the nativity scene. But there is no evidence that that’s true either.
In America’s introduction to Christmas candy canes can be traced to August Imgard, a German immigrant who’s credited with introducing the Christmas tree to Ohio in 1847. The National Confectioners Association makes a claim that Imgard “decorated a small blue spruce with paper ornaments and candy canes.” But an article from 1938 points out a ceremony that a different kind of sweet was used.
Ornaments were made of paper, festooned in long chains by the younger members of the pioneer community. Kuchen baked according to a recipe sent from Bavaria by Imgard’s mother, hung upon the tree and served both as ornaments and tidbits. The cookies were colored with brown sugar and the family spent weeks baking them in quantities for the guests. Gilded nuts were other ornaments and inside the gilded shells were warm messages of greeting.
Red-and-white striped candy didn’t show up until around the turn of the century in America.
Other myths concerning the candy cane:
A sweet treat made for children who behaved in church.
A way for Christians to identify each other during time of persecution.
Whether how the candy cane came to be, now they are as much a part of the holidays as Santa Claus.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Supernatural Friday: Secrets of the Supernatural: Guest Blogger: Paula Cappa

Welcome, my guest, author Paula Cappa, as she blogs about secrets of the supernatural for Supernatural Friday. Leave a comment to be entered to win a download of her book, Night Sea Journey. The winner has pick of the eBook in either PDF, Mobi, or ePub.

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”  Stephen King

We sure do love to read supernatural fiction. Some of us can’t get enough. Why is that? People have been reading supernatural stories forever. The bible is full of supernatural phenomena: talking serpents, sorcerers, revived corpses, even demonized swine. So lots of us have grown up with these ideas. When we read supernatural tales, what do we really want?  An escape into the fictitious unknown? Or maybe a road map into the unknown. Maybe the supernatural holds secrets we want to discover.

One of the greatest authors of the supernatural is Arthur Conan Doyle. Most famous for his Sherlock Holmes detective books, Doyle’s short stories are lesser known, but I can tell you that they still prevail as some of the scariest and disturbing stories out there. His descriptions are quite vivid, the writing wonderfully atmospheric, the plots detailed and fast, and he delivers satisfying endings. Because I am a short story writer, I especially appreciate this craft.

The Leather Funnel by Doyle, published in 1902, takes place in Paris in the home of Lionel Dacre. The house, walled with grey tiles stained with lichens and mildew, had a library filled with books on magic and psychic matters, and what else …  eccentric items of display, specifically a large leather funnel, brass rimmed, black and discolored with faded letters—likely from the Middle Ages.

Dacre insists that his house guest sleep with the leather funnel by his head, based on the idea that we can receive important information through dreaming.  And that this very old funnel might enlighten the dreamer as to its origin, use, and history. Dacre tells his guest, “You are yourself a psychic subject—with nerves which respond readily to any impression.”  The science of dreams is new to this house guest; his doubts prevail, but he agrees to the experiment. So, after the smoldering firelight goes out, the supernatural dream begins.

I must tell you this dream is so frightening, that I couldn’t read fast enough. The tension and descriptions were so compelling that I had to slow down if I wanted to truly savor the images and the haunting fear. When the house guest breaks through the bonds of the dream, he lets out a shriek waking Dacre and the servants.

I won’t spoil it by telling you the incredible nightmare and grisly revelation. I will just say that dark dreams in fiction have often been an exciting plot device.

Lovecraft’s Dreams in the Witch House is another you’ll find absolutely chilling as nightmares blur into reality for the character Walter when a witch named Kaziah and her sharp-fanged  furry rat prevail in his attic bedroom. The House of the Nightmare by Edward Lucas White (died 1934) is really creepy: the main character meets a boy with a hideous cleft palate, faded eyes—a monster-child who has a dream-beast. White was a writer who actually dreamed his stories before writing them, and in fact dreamed of reading each story in a book, recalling the actual words on the page, even the specks on the paper. He awoke and wrote them down. Not that is truly supernatural.

I just adore these kinds of stories and probably why I wrote my first novel, Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural, about an artist who dreams of a terrifying fire hawk that drags her beneath the sea. Nightmares have always been a part of my life and would haunt me for days—just like my character Kip Livingston.  Except for Kip, the dream doesn’t end when she wakes up. Not only is Kip haunted by her nightmare, but she has reason to fear that this raging fire hawk will break out of the dream realm into her physical world. What then?

I still debate why we so love these fantastic fictions that thrill us so deeply. Are horror stories a kind of metaphor for the ancient evil that lurks inside us? Is it because ghosts and monsters truly exist inside us as King says? Perhaps we do have  subconscious secret longings to be the angry ghost who haunts or the all-powerful monster who attacks. Gosh, that is a scary thought.

If you’d like to read the above-mentioned short stories, you can find them online at the following links (or if you’re like me and still enjoy real page-turning  of paper books, try your local library):

The Leather Funnel, Doyle:

The House of the Nightmare, White:

Dreams in the Witch House, Lovecraft:

My published short stories are links on my blog:          

My novel, Night Sea Journey (Ebook) is available at Amazon:

See below for a short excerpt:
Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural by Paula Cappa

“If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awoke—Ay! And what then?”  Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Horn Island, Rhode Island

The owl rises. A wrinkled blue spreads across the Atlantic. Above the brooding waves, winds blow to leave ancient face prints against the salt-caked windows in the house by the sea. Abasteron House is named for the angel who rules the fifth hour after sunset. A watchful creature, Abasteron can flash the air or whisper a note. She is known for her winter walks across the dunes in the tilting sun.
As angels go, Raphael rules the spring, Uriel the summer. Many know Duma as the angel-prince of dreams, blessed with spiky blond hair and shocking green eyes. The perfection of the universe requires these messengers who, on occasion, assume physical bodies or borrow them from nature.
From the rocky shoreline, all can see Abasteron House, a cream-colored wooden structure on a grassy hill. A fringed garden hugs the house bordered with sea lavender abandoned to run wild. Inside, the walls are painted oyster white. High bleached ceilings pitch into arches over the chimney room—named so because of the twin fireplaces set at each end. The wide floors spread with faded Carolina Ash: white wicker sofa, white stuffed chairs, and a bowl of yellow pears on the whitewood table.
In the bedroom, a woman sleeps under an iron headboard scrolled with delicate birds the color of eggshells. D. Kip Livingston clutches her pillow. Her coverlet is askew, bunched to leave a leg exposed, a foot to dangle on the edge. One hand grips a revolver beneath the lace trim of the sheets. Her night-bound eyes flutter.
Duma arrives. A chamber opens.
Pale light creeps over the ocean’s moaning verge. Kip stands on the beach, her ankles buried in spotted locusts. Thick bands of yellow nymphs and boat-shaped males with short horns swarm the shoreline like warriors on attack.
The waves advance. Battalions of quickened snakes shine the surface water. Above the grey sea, Kip sees a dark figure leaking streaks. It’s him. The firehawk.
He flies, full and fast, prowling the hump-backed crests. With a chest full of orange flames, the firehawk hooks his charred wings on a nest of stars. In a hot fit of pride, he races toward her.
A scream jams in her throat.
He hovers above her face, spewing ash, showing off one golden claw. He thinks himself full of beauty. What a plumage he has, all full of bone. The muscles on his neck bulge, lumpy veins galloping with blood. Greedy, his teeth plunge out. The beast lets go of his fire-tongue. From the open mouth, Kip hears his tumultuous heart.
He thinks himself a king.
Black snakes crisscross over Kip’s chest like a cage and propel her into the deepest waves pulsing with ice chunks. She twists and screams, but the high rollers crash over her, filling her mouth with foam. The firehawk soars in triumph. With his hairy ropes, he reels her out to sea like a thrashing trout. Blue arrows, boiling with fierce light, rip open the sky as she fights to keep her head above the freezing water.
A giant black-blue serpent swings up from the inky waves. It spreads its hood, expands its ribs to expose devouring jaws.
Kip bolted awake.
Shards of ice crashed the floor. She jumped out of the sheets before a chunk hit her. The black-blue serpent shot up from the mattress. His marble eyes darted just as he lunged at her like a sword.
Stunned, shaking, unable to draw a breath, she searched for the revolver under her pillow. Hurry! With slippery hands, her body dripping as if the sea were leaking from her flesh, her feet sliding on the wet floor, she found the gun. Kip tightened her grip on the metal, narrowed her vision into a pinpoint, and with razor-keen aim, she pulled the trigger. The serpent jerked and hit the floor, spurting filmy white liquid in all directions. Again, she pulled trigger, this time releasing a scream that knocked her back against the wall. She sucked in a breath, fists still clenched. Angel Uriel blew a clean breeze through the open window. Heart calming, refreshed, she rolled her head against the firm plaster wall. Steady. Awake. Safe in Abasteron House. Was it Tuesday? Wednesday?
 On the floor, the serpent twitched with spasms. There was no time to lose. She reached into the night table drawer and removed a hatchet. For leverage, she separated her feet, gripped the handle with both hands, raised her arms, and slammed down the hatchet.
What a cruel chop. The head flipped and landed at her feet. Another chop and she separated the tail. Again the hatchet came down. Methodically, Kip joined the tail at the serpent’s head, positioned the middle sections at both ends. It shook violently. With a close of its gleaming fangs, the serpent convulsed and finally lay dead.
Battle won. She gathered sheets soaked with seawater, sand, and slime and dumped the dead snake inside the bundle, then tied it with double knots. The eyelet hem of her nightgown hung heavy. She wrung it out, grabbed the sack, and headed outside.
        The Atlantic rolled forth; it reminded her of rhythmic wave trains. How everlasting the waves were, their sine wave patterns a muscular inexhaustible power. Perhaps only God was mightier.
She dragged the sack through the darkness to the far sand dunes and didn’t stop until she reached a wide expanse dotted with sea grass. With claw-like fingers, she dug a deep pit. Sudden winds blew her dark hair into her mouth—the strands tangled between her teeth. Salt stung her tongue.
With a groan, she heaved the sack into the pit. How many times had she buried the serpents? For how many weeks, these wretched dreams, night after night. Months now. Quickly she covered the hole with sand and sat back on her haunches. With a huff, she patted the sand into a hard surface and walked away. No, she wouldn’t look back. What for? The dream was dead and buried now. Until she dreamed again.
Kip walked home along the shore, sea spray on her cheeks. Full morning broke. Sun ablaze, gulls flapped at the chin of sky. Abasteron House appeared small with its evergreen shutters and peaked roof against the big sky. Was that a white crane soaring over the roof? Maybe she’d pick some fresh sea lavender and fill Abasteron House with shades of plum and violet. And she’d let the soft aromas act as a balm for her thoughts.
Kip climbed the hills to the beach path that lead to the house. The flagstones felt warm against the soles of her feet. At the porch, each step gave her pause. That white screen door stood ajar over a foot wide and hung perfectly still. But the hinges squealed as if the wind were batting the door back and forth. Her own shadow shifted. She watched it slip inside the doorway, yet she hadn’t move a single finger. Who’s there? She licked her thirsty lips, made a step back. Then another step. She grabbed the porch rail, a bad case of the shakes overwhelming her. Tears mounted. She swallowed them back.
Kip whipped herself around to face the sea. Her eyes wandered the soothing blues and greens. She swept her vision across the shoreline. Almost immediately, she spotted the sailor. “Good Morning!” Her voice cracked. She threw a wave even though he hadn’t seen or heard her greeting. Certain she was fully awake now, Kip saw this sailor as her guarantee she was back in the concrete world. Every morning, rain or shine, the man trotted the beach in his navy shorts and tee-shirt. That scoop of white sailor cap tilted perfectly to the right on his head. Some mornings he’d see Kip in the garden and give her a wave as he passed. What a smile. But not today. Today he was trotting up island, east to west, head down.
Oddly, the sky piled high with sudden clouds. Sailboats tossed on the horizon like twisted handkerchiefs. Even the beach seemed to retreat in the face of that ferocious surf heaving up sand and shells and driving the seabirds into fearful circles.
The shimmer off the sea swelled up like an old claw, long and suddenly greyed. Her tears surfaced but did not fall. Kip entered the garden and filled her arms with sea lavender.
Seven thunders rolled up from the sea, but she did not hear them.   

Author Bio:

Paula Cappa is a published short story author, novelist, and freelance copy editor. Her short fiction has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Twilight Times, Every Day Fiction, and in anthologies  Human Writes Literary Journal, and MysteryTime. Her writing career began as a freelance journalist for community newspapers in New York and Connecticut. Currently she has a novel, Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural, on  A second novel is planned for release by spring 2013. She continues to write every day.