A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

Halloween Round Robin DAY TWO

In yesterday’s instalment of our Hallowe’en Faerie Tale, Berni Stevens introduced us to Kalen and Faye. Today we have Rhoda Baxter picking up where she left off and we can’t wait to find out more! Remember to read on right until the end to find out how to take part in one of our special Halloween competitions :)  

Please note: To enjoy this story, you should read each part in order. Click HERE to read Part One by Berni Stevens first!

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part Two by Rhoda Baxter

It was fully dark now. I pulled my bag a little closer to me, as I hurried along. It wasn’t far to my place and I’d been down the road many, many times before, so why the sense of unease? I guess Kalen’s warning spooked me more than I thought.

I looked over my shoulder at the church hall. It was dark and still again. As though Kalen had never been there at all. I stopped and turned back to stare at it. Nothing moved. The light in the window was gone. There was only one road away from the building and I was on it. If Kalen had left, I’d see him. Odd.

I could go back and see what was going on … except, it was getting late. My stomach gave a little growl. Yep. Definitely getting late. I had leftover pasta bake waiting for me at my place.  I didn’t need to worry about Kalen. He looked like a guy who could take care of himself. Besides, there wasn’t anything to worry about. Was there?

I hitched my bag up a bit. There was approximately half a kilo of mixed sweets in there. Mrs Alden, my neighbour in the flat across the hall liked to put a pumpkin out, so we always got kids coming round trick or treating. They always tried knocking on my door after Mrs Alden had given them chocolates.

I lived in one of the old townhouses that had been converted into flats. The flats at the top were lovely and roomy, but down at the bottom, Mrs Alden and I had tiny little one bedroom places that barely passed the bedsit/flat divide. As I neared the door, I fished out my key and put it in the lock.

And something changed.

The hairs on the back of my neck tickled and they rose. I had the strangest sensation between my shoulderblades. As though, if I just turned round, I would find someone watching me. I turned the key in the lock, fighting the urge to turn. Just before opening the door, I looked over my shoulder. Someone was walking towards me from the direction of the church. Kalen?

I paused, my hand on the door-handle. Suddenly, the door flew open, wrenching me forward into the house. I would have landed face first if someone hadn’t put out a strong arm and caught me.

‘Woah. Are you okay?’ said the owner of the arm. A warm, solid, male arm, I noticed. Behind him, the door thumped shut.

I regained my balance and turned to thank him. The words fizzled out in my brain. Kalen. Against all common sense, he was standing in front me. Inside the house.

‘Hi.’ He smiled. ‘I’m Kalen. I’m visiting my friends upstairs for a few days. Are-’ he stopped. Frowned. ‘Is something wrong?’

‘You. But. How?’ I shook my head. He had been behind me. It’d just seen him walking up the road. There was no way he could have got in before me. The feeling of wrongness, of things out of place, returned in full force. I clutched my bag to me, although it wasn’t much use to me unless I was going to kill someone slowly with diabetes.

The new Kalen seemed concerned. He gazed at me, with intense blue eyes. ‘Are you okay miss … er … I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?’ It was question. An invitation.

‘Fay-… Fe-licity,’ I remembered Gran’s warning this time. ‘I’m Felicity.’

‘Pleased to meet you Felicity,’ said the new Kalen. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t realise you were trying to open the door at the same time as me. Are you okay?’

Behind him someone hammered on the door. He glanced back at it. My mind whirred. What else had Gran told me? Didn’t I have to invite them in … oh no, that was vampires … Iron. That was it. They didn’t like iron. I started to back away towards the door to my flat.

Did I have anything iron? Mrs Alden had an old iron skillet. She’d shown me once. And there was a horseshoe above the door to her flat. On the inside. Not much use to me now.

The hammering on the door grew louder.

‘You have very insistent trick-or-treaters around here,’ said the new Kalen.

‘Uh … yes. Yes. Quite frequent too.’ Should I try and get into my flat? I didn’t want whatever this weirdness was to follow me in there. My eyes flicked to Mrs Alden’s door. If I could get there … I could get hold of the horseshoe …

There was a soft pop, like one of those suction pads coming off a wall, and the front door flew open. The guy standing in front of me whirled round to face … Kalen. Great. There were two of them now.

They glared at each other. Weird and identical with their tawny hair and matching intense stares. They circled each other. This was creepy as all hell. And worse, they were in between me and the front door.

Oh wow! We were NOT expecting that. And now there are two Kalens – but the question is which one is good, and which one is evil? Maybe we will find out tomorrow when Christina Courtenay takes up the reins …

COMPETITION TIME!

If you enjoyed Rhoda’s writing in today’s Round Robin, you might want to read one of her novels – and this could be your chance! We have one copy of Please Release Me and some Halloween chocolate to give away. To enter, simply comment below and tell us what you think of the story so far :)

There will be a competition each day of our Round Robin and all winners will be announced 1st November.

PLEASE RELEASE ME_front150dpiPart Three by Christina Courtenay is now available to read, click HERE

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part One by Berni Stevens

Halloween Round Robin DAY ONE

 

It’s that spooky time of year again and what better way to celebrate than a Round Robin written by five talented Choc Lit authors? To start off our Hallowe’en Faerie Tale, we have our very own vampire expert Berni Stevens! Make sure you read right until the end for details on how to take part in a competition too – we’ll be giving out prizes throughout the week right up until Halloween!

A Hallowe’en Faerie Tale: Part One by Berni Stevens

I’ve always had a strange fascination for the abandoned church hall at the end of our road. It’s been lying empty and disused for years, shrouded in neglect and secrecy. I’ve never seen any birds in the trees that surround it, and I’ve certainly never heard a bird sing there. The place looks forlorn and unloved.  I think it’s quite sad.

The date engraved on the plaque above the old oak door, says ‘1750’, so I assume the building is protected. Hopefully that will keep greedy property developers at bay.  It has to be the only reason the hall’s still standing, and thirty ‘luxury apartments’ not put up in its place. Real estate in this part of London is valuable and much sought after. The church itself was turned into an academy for the performing arts some years ago, aimed at children aged between eight and sixteen. Know your market. There are plenty of pushy parents in this area, who want their little darlings to be famous. Actually, there’s probably plenty of little darlings who want to be the next pop prince or princess too.

I stopped by the crumbling brick wall that circled the hall. To my surprise I saw a light inside. A trick of the light reflected from the street lamps maybe?

Without thinking, I walked up the path to the front door. Stretching out a hand, I touched the rough wood. It felt strangely warm to my touch, and when the door swung open, I squeaked in alarm. A warm yellow light flooded out onto the path, and I stepped back, not wanting to intrude.

‘Come on in,’ said a deep male voice.

Yeah, like that was going to happen. Impulsive I may be, but I’m not stupid.

‘Who are you?’ Not the best line, but I couldn’t think what else to say.

I could hear someone walking towards me, and moved back to a safe vantage point closer to the pavement. A tall figure loomed in the doorway.

‘I’m called Kalen,’ he said. He sounded vaguely Irish, his voice lilting and pleasant. ‘And you are?’

‘Faye.’

‘Are you indeed?’ He sounded amused.

I vaguely remembered my grandmother telling me you should never give your name freely to strangers. I couldn’t remember why.

‘Kalen is an unusual name.’

Piercing blue eyes searched my face. ‘It means warrior.’ He said.

‘In what language?’

‘It’s Celtic. You are very inquisitive.’

I flushed with embarrassment. ‘I’m sorry.’ I turned away. ‘I should go.’

He was suddenly standing in front of me. His hand rested gently on my arm. ‘No, I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘That was exceedingly rude of me.’

He looked every inch a warrior, tall and lean with a mane of tawny hair that nearly reached his broad shoulders.  A  contemporary warrior in faded blue jeans and a navy shirt.

‘I shouldn’t be here.’ I made to move around him, but he didn’t move his hand from my arm.

‘I didn’t mean to make you feel unwelcome … Faye.’

The way he said my name sent a little shiver down my spine. Definitely time to go. I looked down at his hand on my arm and he moved it at once.

‘You should take care who you give your name to, especially on these dark evenings.’ He spoke conversationally, but his words scared me.

‘Why?’ I couldn’t help asking the question. Funny how his warning sounded the same as my grandmother’s.

‘You never know who might be listening.’ He glanced over his shoulder as if expecting to see a crowd of people. ‘Or who might be wanting to use it.’

‘For what?’

‘A person’s name is a powerful thing. If the wrong kind take control of it, they control the person.’

Wrong kind?

‘You gave me your name, Kalen.’

He gave me a mocking smile. ‘So I did. But there are not many would control me. Or try.’

I tried for a change of subject. ‘Are you renovating the hall?’

‘Perhaps.’

‘I must go.’

He gestured for me to go around him. ‘It was a pleasure to meet you, Faye. Remember what I said about your name. Be careful – especially on All Hallows Eve.’

‘Now you’re scaring me.’

‘Much better to be afraid than to lose yourself.’

I left him standing on the path staring after me, as I trudged home down the hill. I remembered the old stories of the Seelie and Unseelie courts that Gran used to tell. They had always fascinated me. The shining good faeries of the Seelie Court, versus the dark bad faeries of the Unseelie Court. All nonsense of course.  Even to someone called Faye. Although I wouldn’t mind bumping into Kalen the warrior again …

An intriguing start! But who is Kalen, and will Faye meet him again? We hope so! Find out tomorrow when Rhoda Baxter will be taking up where Berni left off. Can’t wait :)  

COMPETITION TIME!

If you enjoyed Berni’s writing in today’s Round Robin, you might want to read one of her fantastic vampire novels – and this could be your chance! We have one copy of Dance until Dawn and some Halloween chocolate to give away. To enter, simply comment below and tell us what you think of the story so far :)

There will be a competition each day of our Round Robin and all winners will be announced 1st November.

DANCE UNTIL DAWN_FRONT small

Part Two by Rhoda Baxter is now available to read, click HERE

Trick or Treat? Truth or Dare?

A week on from my debut novel, Truth or Dare? going ‘live’, I find myself wondering which of the risen dead will come knocking at my door and speak those immortal words: ‘Trick or Treat?’TOD_FRONT large

In my experience, it’s usually a skeleton no taller than my knees, an infant vampire in desperate need of his two front teeth, and a very cute, very round, padded pumpkin with arms perpendicular to its body.

My children are excited about Halloween – the moment the bell rings, they rush to the front door, ready to dish out to their friends jelly dummies, foam shrimps, and fruit chews that take a year to break down. It is an event with which I have only recently become accustomed, as trick or treating wasn’t as popular in England in my youth.

As children of the seventies, it’s unlikely Kate Blair and Rosie Jenkins, the two friends in Truth or Dare?, would have ventured out on a cold, October night on the off-chance of bagging free chocolate from their neighbours, and the thought of tricking an elder would have horrified and perplexed Kate to the point she’d have turned as white as a ghost – an upshot Rosie would have used to her advantage, given the chance.

Even as an adult, studious Kate wouldn’t dream of taking on a mystical persona and bang on the door of a poor, unsuspecting soul on All Hallows’ Even. But don’t be fooled. Should she choose to cast the spell, she possesses the magic to enchant Declan O’Brien.

Rosie, on the other hand, is a cheeky devil, whose charm bewitches and bewilders every unsuspecting soul in to dishing out all sorts of wonderful treats and delights, and should she choose to use it, she has the power to mesmerise computer wizard, Josh Willis.

Now, here’s spooky … Halloween falls the night before All Saints’ Day, and it is in All Saints’ church, at the beginning of 1989, where Kate and Rosie pledge to bury their past, unveil their true selves, and enter in to the spirit of a new life.

What does their future hold?

There are no crystal balls here, but my future is clear. It will involve sweets. And chocolate, which is the best defence against deflated car tyres, flour-bombed windows, and mummified trees, wrapped in a hundred miles of toilet paper.

So, as the ghastly ghouls and the walking dead come knocking on your door, here’s a thought with which to conjure: Trick or treat? Truth or dare?

Whichever you choose, take care out there. And chocolate.

Always take chocolate.

Laura.

 

Truth or Dare?

Love’s a dangerous game … 

Kate Blair’s sick of unrequited love. She’s quietly waited for Mickey for the past six years and finding a compass-carved heart, with their initials scratched through the middle, only strengthens her resolve: no more Mickey and no more playing it safe.

It’s time to take a chance on real love and Declan O’Brien’s the perfect risk. He’s handsome, kind, and crazy about her so it’s not long before all thoughts of Mickey come few and far between.

But old habits die-hard. Kate may have started to forget … but has Mickey?

 

Truth or Dare?  is available on Kindle now.

It has been nominated for the Festival of Romance Best Romantic Ebook, with the winner to be announced in Bedford on November 9th 2013.

 

You can follow Laura at www.lauraejames.co.uk and on Twitter @Laura_E_James and on Facebook.

Happy Halloween!

Last year's pumpkin

Last year’s pumpkin

Halloween is one of my very favourite times of the year. The fact it comes just before my birthday is irrelevant – honest! I can’t help that I love all things creepy and spooky, and I’ve always been drawn to the supernatural – books, films, legends –anything paranormal really.

When Halloween comes around, I want to carve a pumpkin, decorate the house, watch scary films – and eat chocolate! Bliss.

One of my favourite Halloween films has to be Hocus Pocus, and if you haven’t ever seen it – shame on you! Released in 1993, it starred Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson Sisters, a family of witches burned at the stake in 1693, in (where else) but Salem. Inadvertently resurrected by the teenage Max Dennison on Halloween 1993, the three witches set off in search of small children to kill in order to restore their youth. In spite of the storyline, it is a children’s film, creepy but very funny! My son loved it and watched it all year round – a lot.

So what is my favourite supernatural being? To anyone who knows me, that’s easy – it is, of course, the vampire. Ever since I first read Dracula when I was fourteen, I’ve read anything I could find with a vampire in. I do also have a soft spot for witches, werewolves and ghosts, although I’m not so keen on zombies! (Apart from Michael Jackson’s Thriller.)

One of my favourite urban legends, The Highgate Vampire, fascinated me so much that I set my own book,

The entrance to the West Cemetery, Highgate. (Official tours only sadly.) http://highgatecemetery.org/

The entrance to the West Cemetery, Highgate. (Official tours only sadly.) http://highgatecemetery.org/

Dance Until Dawn, in North London’s Highgate, so I could feature the famous Gothic cemetery and its legend. It’s not hard to imagine vampires are real when walking around the West Cemetery. The Victorian Gothic mausoleums and tombs were said to be responsible for Bram Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula, and it’s easy to see why.

The Highgate Vampire first made the news in 1968, with alleged sightings of a ‘ghost’ and various attacks reported. But on the 27th February 1970, the vampire made the front page of the Hampstead and Highgate Express, and ultimately the tabloids. A photograph of a young man scaling the wall of the West Cemetery armed with a wooden cross and several pointy stakes appeared in the national press later the same year. Several witnesses claimed to have seen a ‘tall man wearing a top hat and cloak,’ others said a woman in white had been seen staring through the bars of the gate, and one witness even claimed to have been bitten on the neck whilst sleepwalking along Swains Lane in the early hours of the morning. (Bear in mind we’re talking late sixties, early seventies here!)

If you look on YouTube you’ll find a clip of a programme presented by Anthony Head of Buffy fame. He walks around Highgate Cemetery, talking about the Highgate Vampire – and vampires in general.

According to legend, the vampire was eventually tracked to the Circle of Lebanon in the West Cemetery, where he was staked in his coffin and the tomb resealed with cement mixed with garlic.  Another ending has a body exhumed, staked and burned at a derelict house close to the Cemetery. (To my knowledge, neither has ever been officially substantiated.)

The story changes depending which book or website you read, just like any legend. Although most agree the main protagonists at the time were Sean Manchester and David Farrant. Both have written books on the subject, and Farrant was actually jailed in 1974 for damaging memorials in the Cemetery. At one point, the men were going to have an ‘exorcism dual’ on Parliament Hill, scheduled for Friday 13th, 1973 – it never happened.

I first read about The Highgate Vampire in a book called The Vampire’s Bedside Companion by Peter Underwood. The book comes complete with photos, including one of Elizabeth Wojdyla, the young Polish girl who claimed to have been bitten by the vampire.

Whether The Highgate Vampire is ‘faction’ or pure hokum – it’s a great story for Halloween.

Available in April 2014!

Available in April 2014!

Juliet on ‘The Way We Live Now’

union-jackThe Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope was published in 1875, and written after he returned to England from abroad and saw his native land through fresh eyes.

Trollope, of course, was talking about timeless human failings – whereas, since we arrived in the US last Thursday, the phrase ‘the way we live now’ has stuck in my mind for very different reasons.stars-and-stripes

Globalisation means that certain things are the same wherever we travel: brands of clothes and consumer goods, hotel chains, customs (it’s Hallowe’en season already) and TV programmes.

We’re in Ohio, staying with my sister and visiting our son who’s at the local university. As I write this, it’s Family Weekend and we’ve been with the parents of Will’s flatmates and other friends. They’re a great bunch of people!

What’s the same as England:

· I made a chocolate-based tray bake, a recipe from my mother, using typically English ingredients which I actually bought here, at the local Meijer store.

· I can watch BBC TV – yes, there’s now a Global iplayer, with a limited selection of programmes so far.

What’s still different:

· We went to a ‘college tailgate’, also known as a ‘party in the parking lot’ – BBQ and picnic activity done from the boot of your car. Not something I’ve seen much of back home.

· Ladies’ restrooms (can’t speak for the Gents) – the ones I’ve been in over here are generally big and clean, with plentiful supplies of soap and towels and plumbing that works. Wow!

halloween_pumpkin_0

What do you like best about being in another country – something you know you can’t find or do back home? At least, not yet …

Hallowe’en American-Style, by Juliet Archer

Just back from a holiday in the US – Ohio, where my sister lives and my son is studying (allegedly).

The fall colours were beautiful, although apparently past their best, and the weather unusually warm and sunny. But what struck me more than anything was the extent of the Hallowe’en celebrations!

halloween

At the local mall a whole shop – previously Borders, so you can imagine it was fairly large – was given over to Hallowe’en disguises and decorations. Outside there were pumpkins and scarecrows everywhere, even on the central reservations of suburban roads, and on the porches of almost every house. On Hallowe’en itself we saw lots of children going trick or treating, as I’d expected. But what I didn’t expect was that most of the outdoor decorations would still be in evidence when we left a week later!

I think the Americans are very shrewd. They make a big event of Hallowe’en at the end of October, then they celebrate Thanksgiving barely a month later, and finally Christmas a month after that. All the preparations must make the long winter nights pass more quickly – and keep consumer spending buoyant!