Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Lore of the Jack O' Lantern

*Pics of some of past year’s Cinderella Pumpkins~

QuantcastDaughter Elise and I love our pumpkins, the goal each year being to grow as big a pumpkin as possible and revel in its great orange glory.  And, of course, to carve a ghostly grin in this triumph of pumpkinhood. Sometimes we win the battle with the vine borers and succeed.  Sometimes we don’t. Sadly, this year was a total bust, but we shall persevere. One of our favorite looking pumpkins is the wonderfully ribbed heirloom Cinderella variety.  But we like most anything that achieves an impressive size. Just wait, next year we will grow the biggest pumpkin ever. And have the most sincere pumpkin patch. And the Great Pumpkin shall rise from our pumpkin patch.

The following bit of Halloween lore is from the Pumpkin Nook, an online source of info for all your pumpkin needs: The Irish brought the tradition of the Jack O’Lantern to America. But, the original Jack O’Lantern was not a pumpkin.The Jack O’Lantern legend goes back hundreds of years in Irish History.

As the story goes, Stingy Jack was a miserable, old drunk who liked to play tricks on everyone: family, friends, his mother and even the Devil himself. One day, he tricked the Devil into climbing up an apple tree. Once the Devil climbed up the apple tree, Stingy Jack hurriedly placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. The Devil was then unable to get down the tree. Stingy Jack made the Devil promise him not to take his soul when he died. Once the devil promised not to take his soul, Stingy Jack removed the crosses and let the Devil down.

Many years later, when Jack finally died, he went to the pearly gates of Heaven and was told by Saint Peter that he was too mean and too cruel and had led a miserable and worthless life on earth. He was not allowed to enter heaven. He then went down to Hell and the Devil. The Devil kept his promise and would not allow him to enter Hell.

Now Jack was scared and had nowhere to go but to wander about forever in the darkness between heaven and hell. He asked the Devil how he could leave as there was no light. The Devil tossed him an ember from the flames of Hell to help him light his way.

Jack placed the ember in a hollowed out Turnip, one of his favorite foods which he always carried around with him whenever he could steal one. For that day onward, Stingy Jack roamed the earth without a resting place, lighting his way as he went with his Jack O’Lantern.

On all Hallow’s eve, the Irish hollowed out Turnips,  rutabagas, gourds, potatoes, and beets. They placed a light in them to ward off evil spirits and keep Stingy Jack away. These were the original Jack O’Lanterns. In the 1800′s a couple of waves of Irish immigrants came to America. The Irish immigrants quickly discovered that Pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve out. So they used pumpkins for Jack O’Lanterns.~

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Poltergeist In Our Old Farm House

Years ago, my son moved into the big white Victorian house on our other farm. We have two farms quite near each other in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and both homes are well over one hundred years old. Some of his guy friends moved in and everything was fine, then he and his fiancée (now wife) began remodeling the house. At first, no one thought much about the noises. Neither of them mentioned a thing to me. Then one night my son called, alone and uneasy. He was hunkered downstairs with the cat. His opening question was, had I said cats ward off ghosts?

No, I'd said they have a heightened awareness of them.

Oh. He informed me about the footsteps he couldn’t account for and an upstairs bedroom with a door that wouldn’t stay shut. No matter how many times he closed it, come morning it was always open. Earlier that week, his fiancé had been distressed when the bathroom doorknob turned and the door opened on her. No one was there. It freaked the cat out. Didn’t do her much good either. She was promptly converted from a disbeliever in ghosts to one strongly considering their reality.
Now, she’d gone away on a trip with her church and none of my son’s other friends were around. The last of his roomies had moved out. I suspected all the remodeling they’d done to the house had stirred something up. So, I went over.
Here, I’ll digress to say I’d dreamed earlier of a small grave plot way back in the fields behind the house and of a restless spirit associated with both. As it turned out there is just such a cemetery, an antiquated one. After I arrived that evening, my son and I went upstairs to the suspect bedroom and shut the door. I wanted to scream, and not just because I’m claustrophobic.
We held hands and I repeated the Exorcism prayer sent to my mother from an Episcopalian woman in England. She’d written my mother about visiting her church manse at the invitation of the new priest who was plagued by a poltergeist–one so violent, it had flung portraits down from the hall and hurled a saucepan lid across the kitchen. But the congregants, along with the priest, had prayed it out. As this was a Christian prayer, my son and I did the same. Never again did he or his fiancé hear footsteps or have any more trouble with doorknobs turning. That bedroom door remained as they left it and the chill feeling I had in the room dissipated.
Now, what do you think of that?
Here’s the Anglican prayer. Do not try this alone if the presence you sense is evil, only with a strong group of Christians, the more, the better. And join hands. Even if you think I’m nuts.

“In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, may this distressed soul be relieved of his obsession with this world and sent to where he belongs.”
I added, ‘go to the light,’ although a truly evil presence won’t, but a troubled, restless one may. Seems only right to offer that as an option.
This is one of the experiences that influenced the writing of my ghostly time travel romance novel Somewhere My Love.

Story Blurb for Somewhere My Love (Somewhere in Time series)

Fated lovers have a rare chance to reclaim the love cruelly denied them in the past, but can they grasp this brief window in time before it’s too late?

Two hundred years ago Captain Cole Wentworth, the master of an elegant Virginian home, was murdered in his chamber where his portrait still hangs. Presently the estate is a family owned museum run by Will Wentworth, a man so uncannily identical to his ancestor that spirit-sensitive tour guide Julia Morrow has trouble recognizing Cole and Will as separate. 

As Julia begins to remember the events of Cole’s death, she must convince Will that history is repeating, and this time he has the starring role in the tragedy. The blade is about to fall.

"A beautiful love story with plenty of suspense and mystery. With a murderer on the loose and a house haunted by the ghosts of the past, can William and Julia figure everything out and survive? Visit Foxleigh Hall and find out." ~Night Owl Romance, a Night Owl Top Pick

"As I read Somewhere My Love, I recalled the feelings I experienced the first time I read Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca long ago. Using the same deliciously eerie elements similar to that gothic romance, Beth Trissel has captured the haunting dangers, thrilling suspense and innocent passions that evoke the same tingly anticipation and heartfelt romance I so enjoyed then, and still do now." ~joysann for Publisher's Weekly

Monday, October 24, 2016

The McChesney’s Ghost

One of the scariest ghost stories ever, and it's true. 

Late Shenandoah Valley Historian and Author John Heatwole, much missed and a family friend, recorded a number of strange occurrences recounted by valley and mountain people in his fascinating book, Shenandoah Voices.  He says, “The beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is fertile and healthy ground for the sustenance of folktales…when they (the early settlers) filtered into the Valley from Pennsylvania and Maryland, they brought with them age-old traditions and superstitions. While the German-Swiss were considered to be greatly influenced by folk beliefs and superstitions, the Scot-Irish were not far behind.” Amen to that, but what if not all of these accounts are just stories? Some of them sound chillingly true and the valley and surrounding mountains are a hotspot of paranormal activity. Not every tale is imaginary, as I can attest.
The creepiest story is The McChesney’s Ghost, which I will relate from the book:
“In 1852, when Dr. John McChesney, his wife, family and their servants lived in pastoral tranquility near the village of Newport in southwestern Augusta County (***where my Scots-Irish ancestors settled–the McChesney’s among them.)
Dr. McChesney was esteemed and respected in the upper valley, and his reputation for honesty was beyond question. While deep in the winter months, the McChesneys were having supper one night, when a young slave girl named Maria burst into the house from the direction of the detached kitchen (our Augusta family home place, circa 1816, also had a detached kitchen). She was frightened and said an old woman had chased her in a threatening manner. The woman was described as having “her head tied up” which must have meant that she had her head bound with a scarf or cloth. The description did not fit anyone on the place, and the family passed off the incident as fancy.
In the next few days, however, Maria was seen to be fearful and easily startled. Dr. McChesney and the rest of the family began to take an intense interest in matters concerning the girl when stones started to fall from the roof from out of nowhere. This happened both day and night, and at times the stones were observed to be hot, as they scorched the dry grass when they fell from above.
The story of the strange happenings at the McChesneys’ became common knowledge in the surrounding countryside. It was said that hundreds of people would surround the house in the hope of witnessing a stone fall. It is not clear if they saw anything, for on some days nothing out of the ordinary occurred. Maria continued to be frightened and said that she was being chased by the old woman who remained unseen to others.
Dr. McChesney thought the girl might be tied to everything that was happening, so one day he sent her over to the home of his brother-in-law, Thomas Steele. Mrs. Steele and her children, a young white woman and a black washer woman were out in the yard doing chores that day, and Mr. Steele was away from home. Suddenly loud noises were heard from the house. It sounded like frightened horses were loose in the structure. The young woman ran to the door and called for Mrs. Steele to come look—all of the furniture was piled in a jumble in the center of the room. As if they weren’t startled enough already, stones then began to fall on the roof of the dwelling.
At that moment Maria was spotted coming toward them from over the hills. They ran to meet her and found the girl in terror of being pursued, although no one was to be seen behind her. Mrs. Steele immediately sent Maria back to the McChesneys.
Even after the girl was sent away, stones continued to fall at the Steele home. Some even entered the house and broke glass in the doors of a cupboard. Many plates and other dishes were broken, and some shards saved for many years as relics of the terrible incident.
Back at the McChesneys, strange things continued to occur as the weeks passed into early spring. One of the most singular episodes took place on a cool day as Dr. and Mrs. McChesney. Mrs. Mary Steele, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Steele and their young son, William, were sitting around a fireplace. All of the doors and windows were securely shut, when suddenly a stone seemed to fly from the upper corner of the room, hitting Mrs. Thomas Steele on the head. She was the only person struck. The wound was deep and bled profusely, and a lock of hair was cut cleanly off as if someone had used scissors. Her husband was enraged and took the invisible assailant to task by shouting that its spite should have been directed at him instead of a defenseless woman. He then sat in a chair near the door and was showered with missiles of sod and earth from within the room. His mother, Mary Steele, shouted that he would be killed and urged him to leave the room. He did so and was not followed by ‘the thing.’
It was decided to send the children of both families out of harm’s way, and they went with their grandmother to her home near the hamlet of Midway. Their error was in also sending Maria.
Soon Mary Steele’s home was in turmoil with stones flying about and the furniture in the kitchen being moved by unseen hands. One day a bench in the kitchen bucked like a playful colt. Only the children were present, and they were at first amused. Young John Steele decided to ride the bench, but the effort was more than he bargained for. He fainted and was taken from the room by the rest of the children who had become scared of the out-of-control object.
During the time the children were with their grandmother, her farmhands complained that tools and food they had taken with them to the fields were stolen—but the missing goods turned up later back at the house.
The little slave girl, Maria, complained to Mrs. Steele that she was being beaten. The kind old lady drew the child toward her and wrapped her skirts around her while she struck out at the air with her cane. Marie still cried that she was being hit and stabbed with pins. Young William Steele remembered when he was an old man that the slaps could be heard by all who were present. The child was tormented for many weeks.
Dr. McChesney, at his wit’s end, finally sold Maria south. When the child left, everything returned to normal, and Maria was not tormented in her new home. William Steele related in later years that an old black woman who lived in their neighborhood was rumored to be a witch. He described her by saying that, “She walked with a stick and chewed tobacco,” and whenever he met her on the road, he always yielded to her the right of way. William said that Maria had once spoken to the old woman in an insulting manner and was told that she would be punished for her disrespectful tongue.”
I add, apparently this punishment went on without ceasing and encompassed all those associated with Maria and any who tried to protect her. Now this is an example of a very bad witch. Exorcist, anybody?
***Royalty free images

Thursday, October 20, 2016

At the HallowRead Book Signing in Havre De Grace on 10-22-2016

I'm leaving my writing cave to attend HallowRead in Havre De Grace this weekend. If you're in the area stop by the new Havre de Grace Public Library on N. Union Avenue from 3:00-5:00 for the book signing. I will have a lot of books with me priced to sell, or bring your own for me to sign. I'm taking The Secret Warrior YA Fantasy Shifter Series, ghostly Gothic historical romance novel, Traitor's Curse, ghostly time travel romance novel, Somewhere My Love, para-historical romance novel with a Native American flavor, Kira, Daughter of the Moon, and Native American historical romance novel, Red Bird's Song, because I have extra and it's awesome, if I say so myself. I'll have copies of my Medieval herbal for gardeners and writers who want to know cool stuff about herbs and their fascinating lore.
Come one, come all. I don't get out much so this may be your only chance to see me in a long, long time. Most importantly, I will have chocolate.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ward Off Witches, Vampires, and Werewolves–Herbal Lore

Some highly esteemed herbs used throughout history to foil black magic, deflect spells, and ward off forces of evil.
archangel-michael, old stained glass window
(A fiery angel with a sword is also a mighty boon)
First up, Angelica:  Said to have been revealed in a dream by an angel as a cure for the plague. So sacred it's called 'The Root of the Holy Ghost' and was associated with the Archangel Michael. Angelica blooms near his feast day and is connected to the Christian observance of the Annunciation, the day the Angel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary to tell her she would be the mother of Christ. All parts of the plant were believed effective against evil spirits and witchcraft.
The juice of the roots are used to make Carmelite water, considered a ‘sovereign remedy’ and drunk to ensure a long life and to protect against the poisons and spells of witches. Garlands of the leaves were also worn.
Angelica plan
I've grown Angelia in the garden. It gets big, so allow plenty of space.
Winter beauty
The Rowan Tree has a wealth of ancient lore and many associations with magic and witches. The tree is thought to lend protection against evil and bad spells. Its old Celtic name, ‘fid na ndruad,’ means wizard tree. But it has many names. Ask an old Celt which they favor.
Rowan, known as the Mountain Ash in America, and Dogberry Tree in parts of Canada, is a familiar sight in the mountains surrounding the Shenandoah Valley. My dear grandmother who lived to be 99 and a half, and knew her trees, was fond of the beautiful mountain ash. She'd point it out to me in the Alleghenies. It’s gorgeous in autumn when covered with bright red berries, and particularly attractive to birds.
Red, the color of the berries, was thought to be the strongest color in battling the dark forces. In Ireland, rowan trees were planted near houses to protect them from the spirits of the dead; in Wales they favored graveyards for their tree plantings. In Scotland, the Rowan Tree is among the most sacred and cutting one down, or using any portion of the tree for any purpose other than spiritually approved rituals was taboo. The wood is seen as the most protective part. It's fashioned into sticks to stir milk to keep it from curdling, pocket charms (or amulets) to ward off rheumatism and bad mojo, and made into divining rods (for finding precious metals). Because the tree is associated with Saint Bridhig, the Celtic patroness of the arts, healing, smithing, spinning and weaving, spindles and spinning wheels were made of rowan in Scotland and Ireland.
Walking sticks made of rowan were thought to lend protection to the traveler on their journey, and from evil spirits. Rowan trees planted near stone circles in Scotland were thought to be favored by fairies who held their celebrations within the protective tree enclosed circle. Fairies are extremely cautious. But the fae can also get up to mischief, so the rowan would protect you from that as well. One of those multi-use herbs/trees. 
Rowan Tree, Mountain, Black Mount, Scottish Highlands
(Rowan tree in Scotland)
To the 17th Century Scots, however, practicing folk medicine was associated with witchcraft, which could include carrying a Rowan charm, a twig tied with a red thread for protection. A cross made of Rowan wood and bound with red thread was placed over doorways.
It's interesting to note that the rowan is also called the witch tree because they used it to increase their powers and spells and for fashioning magic wands, so there appears to be some disagreement here. Did it speed witches on their way, or empower them? These conflicting beliefs are often the way in herbal lore.
“Rowan tree, red thread, hold the witches all in dread.” ~ old herbal saying
Rowan was sacred to the Druids who believed in its protective powers and burnt it on funeral pyres, also in rites of divination and purification. The tree was associated with both death and rebirth. Because Rowan was thought to bring the gift of inspiration, ancient Bards called it the ‘tree of bards.’ I suppose all writers should have rowan.
Wood from the ash tree, in the form of ash outlining a building or circle, is showing up in paranormal TV shows with American settings, like Teen Wolf. Mountain Ash is used to ward off evil, so even if some of these characters are the nicest werewolves or witches you could ever want to meet, they cannot cross a barrier of ash.
Teen wolf
Agrimony:  Used from ancient times to treat many ailments and injuries, it’s also reputed to have magical properties.
The magic power of Agrimony is mentioned in an old English medical manuscript: ‘If it be leyd under mann’s heed, He shal sleepyn as he were deed; He shal never drede ne wakyn,Till fro under his heed it be takyn.’ (That’s darn useful to know.)
From The Scots Herbal by Tess Darwin: “The Gaelic name of this plant, mur-druidhean, may derive from the use of agrimony by healers to treat spiritual troubles. Ferquhar Ferguson, tried for witchcraft on Arran in 1716, admitted using agrimony to cure elf-shotten people.” (Apparently a common affliction). “Ferguson was guided in his treatment by a voice heard while sleeping, which instructed him to pull the plant in the name of the Holy Trinity.”
***Elf-shot are those persons or animals who have fallen ill after being shot by the arrows of malevolent elves. Hate it when that happens.
Agrimony is also recommended as the remedy for  ‘alle woundes’. One old writer recommends it to be taken with a mixture of pounded frogs and human blood, as a remedy for all internal hemorrhages. (Whose blood?)
Mistletoe: An herb steeped in lore from pre-Christian times.
Christmas Mistletoe Isolated
Because the plant prefers softer bark, it’s found more commonly on apple trees and is rarer on oaks which made mistletoe discovered on oaks greatly venerated by ancient Celts, Germans, and it was used in ceremonies by early Europeans. Greeks and other early people thought it had mystical powers and the plant gained a wealth of lore over the centuries. Sacred to the Druids, many wondrous attributes are accorded to mistletoe, including medicinal powers, properties to boost fertility, and ward off evil spells.
Mistletoe and werewolves: In some ancient lore, mistletoe is considered a repellent and protection from werewolves.
“Mistletoe was thought to be a remarkable and sacred shrub because it seemed to grow from the air and not from the earth. Mistletoe has been considered undesirable because it feeds off other trees; however it is also thought to have a symbiotic relationship because it provides nutrients when the host is in dormancy. It also provides food for a host of animals and birds who consume its leaves and shoots
Over time its folklore has grown to include the belief that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire, that it held the soul of the host tree and placed in a baby’s cradle would protect the child from faeries.
Kissing under the mistletoe is also cited in an early work by Washington Irving, “Christmas Eve," which tells of the festivities surrounding the Twelve Days of Christmas:
“Here were kept up the old games of hoodman blind, shoe the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob apple, and snap dragon; the Yule-clog and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the mistletoe with its white berries hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.”
Used as good luck charms to ward off evil, its sprigs were also put under the pillows of young girls who thought it would entice dreams of the husband to be.”
These are just a few herbal possibilities, but among the most esteemed.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

#NewRelease #ParaRomance Anthology by Linda Nightingale--Four By Moonlight

four-by-moonlight-romance-anthologySome inspiration behind the collection:
Azazel means “God strengthens”. In the Dead Sea Scrolls the name Azazel occurs in The Book of Giants, an apocryphal Jewish book expanding a narrative in the Hebrew Bible, which was discovered at Qumran. The text's creation dates to before the 2nd century BCE.
In Enoch I, he is one of the chiefs of the 200 fallen angels. Azazel taught men to fashion swords and shields and women the finery and art of beautifying the eyelids. (So girls next time we buy Cover Girl, we can thank Azazel!)
In the Zohar, the rider on the serpent is “evil Azazel.” Here he is said to be the chief of the bene elim (lower angels, “men-spirits”). Irenacus calls Azazel that “mighty but powerful angel.”
I wouldn’t like to bore you with a lot of religious myths, or facts—each much choose what to believe. So, I’ll switch to my latest release from Class Act Books, a paranormal anthology titled Four by Moonlight.
Blond girl walking alone at cemetery
Four by Moonlight – Blurb:
An anthology of love in the moonlight…in the paranormal realms...
Gypsy Ribbons – A moonlight ride on the moors and meeting a notorious highwayman will forever change Lady Virginia Darby’s life.
Star Angel – Lucy was stuck in a rut and in an Idaho potato patch. She’d seen him in the corner of her eye—a fleeting glimpse of beauty—now he stood before her in the flesh.
The Night Before Doomsday – All his brothers had succumbed to lust, but Azazel resisted temptation until the wrong woman came along.
The Gate Keeper’s Cottage – Newlywed Meggie Richelieu’s mysterious, phantom lover may be more than anyone, except the plantation housekeeper, suspects.
Looking for Linda? You can find her at:
Web Site: – Visit and look around. There’s a free continuing vampire story.
Blog: - Lots of interesting guests & prizes

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Autumn Inspiration Behind The Panther Moon #YA #Shifter #Fantasy #Romance

tree-from-autumn-drive-jpg1On a blustery October day last fall, Hubby Dennis, daughter Elise, and I took a drive through our vivid countryside. What we call 'dust devils' snatched up red and yellow leaves, whipping them around in mini cyclones.  Everywhere I looked, whirlwinds tossed and twirled, hopping from place to place. I imagined Morgan Daniel, the wolf shifter heroine of The Secret Warrior Series, further mastering her use of the elements. She's far more than a shifter, with other unplumbed powers. She'd already learned to use fire. Time she harnessed the wind, I decided. And that's how she got her start. As blustery as it is in the valley, the wind nearly always blows in the mountains, the setting  for The Secret Warrior Series.
And then there are the coyote shifters in the series. These were inspired by the toe-curling cries from the roving band of coyotes who visit the hills and fields on and around our farm. I thought, 'Why not?'  If wolves can shift, why not other creatures. I already had bearwalkers, from a story shared with me by a Shawnee sub-chief. More of a belief, really.
Inspiration is all around me. I never know from where it may arise, or when. But I am tuned in to all the possibilities. 
YA Fantasy Romance-Book 3
Excerpt from The Panther Moon:
One after the other, coyote shifters took shape around her and Jimmy. A whirl, and there they were—appearing without sound, camouflaged like chameleons. Not a wolf trick she’d mastered. Maybe she should. Fast. The devils slunk closer.
Corn silk hair like Eve’s blew in the stiff breezes, and various shades of red and brown. Males and females sported loose lengths flapping in the wind, dreadlocks, ponytails, and shaved heads. There must have been at least a dozen sinewy forms, dressed in earthen tones or shadowy black.
Cunning eyes fixed on Morgan, barely giving Jimmy a glance. Emboldened men and lean, mean women stalked nearer, their coyote musk obnoxious to her wolf self. They weren’t armed. ‘Go for the throat’ must be their attack mode.
Should she shift? Only partly. A wolf couldn’t use weapons or catch the next vortex. Not that she’d swirl away and leave Jimmy behind. Besides the need to protect him, she was a warrior. Her duty lay in defending Wapicoli territory.
How stupid to let herself get trapped in the first place! Hadn’t Jackson warned her a lone wolf was a dead wolf?~
Blurb for The Panther Moon:
Being the seventh Morcant has its perks: Morgan is learning to fly and wield magical blue fire. But the coyote shifters are growing bolder. Mateo and his panthers seem impossible to defeat. And vampires aren't real – are they? When the elusive and enigmatic Chief Okema disappears and the wards protecting the Wapicoli territory falter, Morgan and Jackson are forced into the role of leaders. Badly outnumbered and outgunned, do they have time to search for the secret of the Divining Tree, and will it help them in the final battle?
The Secret Warrior Series is available as a set at Amazon in Kindle:
Also available from all other online booksellers. Amazon has the second two books in the series in print. Book one is only in kindle because it's shorter.