Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oíche Shamhna Shona Dhaoibh

aka Happy Halloween!!

This is one of my favourite holidays, I think mostly because it reminds me so much of my childhood.

Although many people think of Halloween as an American holiday, it is actually of Irish/Celtic pagan origins. And funnily enough, a lot of the pagan practices described online connected with Halloween are still practiced (unbeknownst to many, I think ;) ).

Turnip Jack O Lantern, early 20th Century, Ireland
 As a child, Halloween was always a huge event in our house - with our friends and cousins coming to us for a party.

Surprising by today's standards, we had no fake cobwebs hanging from the ceiling or plastic skeletons or ghouls moaning in the garden. It was 90s Ireland - where kids still made their costumes from black plastic bags, masks from Kellogg's cereal boxes and had those glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth from the local pound shop.

The day was always filled with so much excitement, as we made our costumes and waited for twilight. Then, with some parental supervision (or a coerced older sibling) we would wander through our sparse neighbourhood trick or treating. I remember calling on older neighbours, who would comment on us 'souling' or 'guising' and make us sing a song, tell a story or even do a bit of Irish dancing - earning us a pound or two or in one case, some apples from their trees.

Bags full to the brim with apples, chocolate and fizzy bars, we then would wander home by torch/flashlight - telling our local ghost stories. The haunted room of the local castle, the lady who wandered the abandoned big house across the river, or of the headless horseman, an avid member of the local hellfire club, who wandered our road at night looking for victims. . .

With no street lights, we walked our road till we saw the glow of the jack-o-lantern, sitting outside our porch. I still remember my father cursing in the kitchen from earlier that day, as he tried to carve out the turnip to make it. I don't know when we started to use pumpkins - maybe there were none left that year or maybe my father felt nostalgic for his own childhood. I think that feeling was short lived though, going by the colour of his language and the lack of turniped jack-o-lanterns ever since.

Irish Barmbrack
Once inside, it was like a child's paradise. My mother never spared expense when it came to goodies and treats for occasions. The table was covered with chocolate ricekrispies, treatsize chocolate bars and of course, tayto crisps. In the centre of all this food, sat the Barmbrack, a fruity sort of cake which held a ring inside - guaranteeing marriage in the coming year. Somehow, whether through luck or pure guile, I always managed to get that ring.

On that one particular Halloween, I remember a scary film sounding in the background - but I know our focus was more on the old baby bath my mother filled with water. Apples floating on the top, money sunk at the bottom. My brother and cousins would dive for money, until they were utterly soaked. I preferred the drier option of trying to bite a chunk out of an apple which hung by a piece of string from the door frame.

For me though, the highlight of every year was the bonfire. Some years we had sparklers - my mother fearing bangers would blow our fingers off, but every year we had the bonfire. That year, my father had cut down our overgrown evergreens and had saved them to burn for this night. The bonfire was huge, crackling fiercely each time more rubbish and tree was added. We yelled and screamed, pretending to be witches, banshees and demons as we ran round and round the fire - leaping and dancing, sometimes barefoot - pretending we were those pagans from the past until my mother yelled from the backdoor to come inside, before we caught our death.

Years later, I still remember that night. The flames and our screams with our cardboard cut-out masks as we danced around like mad things under the frosty night sky.

Now that is my idea of Halloween.

So I'm curious, what does Halloween mean to you? How did you spend Halloween as a kid? Did you do any of these things or do you have different family traditions?

Published!!!

YaY! I've some excellent news!!

My short story, Eternally Yours, has just been published by new e-zine The Bohemyth!

I'm so pernickety I almost never submit my stories because I feel they are never up to proper standard so I'm thrilled that this actually got accepted! I know I've a long way to go as a writer but I'm so happy this story found a home :)

I would love if you popped over and let me know what you honestly think of it!

 The Bohemyth is a weekly online literary journal which is focused on contemporary short fiction with literary bent and also photography. Although based in Ireland, they are open to contributions from everywhere! They are open to submissions, so I highly recommend popping by and looking at their submission guidelines :)

I'm so excited and I feel its really serendipitous that this is happening on Halloween :) 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

To kill a Warlock, HP Mallory

BLURB: "The murder of a dark arts warlock. A shape-shifting, ravenous creature on the loose. A devilishly handsome stranger sent to investigate. Sometimes working law enforcement for the Netherworld is a real bitch.

Dulcie O’Neil is a fairy. And not the type to frolic in gardens. She’s a Regulator—a law-enforcement agent who monitors the creatures of the Netherworld to keep them from wreaking havoc in the mortal world. When a warlock is murdered and Dulcie was the last person to see him alive, she must uncover the truth before she’s either deported back to the Netherworld, or she becomes the next victim.

Enter Knight Vander, a sinfully attractive investigator sent from the Netherworld to work the case with Dulcie. Between battling her attraction to her self-appointed partner, keeping a sadomasochistic demon in check, and fending off the advances of a sexy and powerful vampire, Dulcie’s got her hands full. As the body count increases, Dulcie finds herself battling dark magic, reconnoitering in S&M clubs and suffering the greatest of all betrayals."

The one thing many people say about this series is "If you love the sookie stackhouse series, you'll love this!". Well I would say, if you love the sookie stackhouse series, you'll love this even more!

I downloaded the e-book of 'To kill a warlock' for free on Amazon.com. I then read the entire series, in a matter of days (of absolutely no sleep - but who cares!) and I can easily see why HP Mallory is a bestselling independent author.

Dulcie, is an independent and strong (fairy) woman. She has her issues like the rest of us, but she tries to battle them. What I especially liked about her character is that she is very in-control when it comes to men, she may get all weak-knees (especially around a certain Knight) but she still stays firm. She doesn't jump straight into things with men (which is rampant in other PR/UF books) - she's cautious, which is so much more realistic (and endearing). I really loved this character and totally got where she was coming from.

H.P. Mallory is certainly amazing at creating well-developed and charismatic characters. Even the villians feel very fleshed out - no black and white but plenty of grey as to motives etc. which I really enjoyed. In actually fact, I never saw the twist (which is saying something because I usually have it within a few chapters) so I was thoroughly shocked, but also delighted that, despite the twist, the characters stayed true to themselves.

This series is smart, fun and at it's heart - pure escapism in the best possible way. So I would highly recommend you read these books, if you want a bit of fun and Knight (yum!) in your life.

 I would usually say 'this book was money well spent' but this doesn't work for this series - the first e-book is free and the others are extremely reasonable! So go on to amazon.com and enjoy this fun read :)

I'm giving this book (and the series so far): 5 moons



Also book #5 Malice in Wonderland is coming out 19th November. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Can't touch this. . .

See that light in the distance my friends. . . that is the end of the tunnel!!

Just completed my final study (*cross fingers*) of my PhD.

Not to tempt fate or anything but I think this pretty much sums up my feelings. . .
 



Aw the roller-coaster that is the PhD - happy today, hysterical tomorrow :)

Here's hoping it doesn't go pear shaped !
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