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Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Trick or Treat


     In a few days, doorbells across America will ring incessantly for one evening. Adults inside the dwelling will answer the call, opening their doors. Charming (usually) children dressed in costumes of various descriptions – and sometimes winter coats - will greet them with expectant expressions and the familiar chant, “Trick-or-Treat.” The youngsters will hold out open shopping bags, pumpkin-shaped buckets or whatever vessel they have brought along to carry the bounty they collect. The inhabitants of the home will offer candy, cookies, fruit or even money, which the young callers will accept before quickly moving on to the next mark.

     Most of us have grown up with this strange, commercially lucrative, but usually benign, Halloween tradition. But did you know its roots go back to the Middle Ages?

     It all started in the eighth century when Pope Gregory III declared November 1 to be All Saints Day. Derived from Old English, the word ‘Hallows’ means ‘Saints.’ The night before it was the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion. It came to be known as All Hallows Eve and many Celtic traditions were incorporated into the celebrations.


     One of those traditional rituals was dressing up as evil spirits at year’s end. The Celts believed that the dead and the living overlapped at the change from one year to the next and that demons roamed the earth during the transition. People dressed in costumes to trick the demons into thinking the humans were also evil spirits and, consequently, would not harm them. This practice moved to All Hallows Eve.

     In England, this custom was incorporated by poor people who would visit the homes of the wealthy where they would promise to pray for the souls of the rich peoples’ dead relatives. As payment for the promise, the poor received pastries known as ‘soul cakes,’ and the practice became known as ‘souling.’

     By the sixteenth century, young people in Scotland and other parts of Britain and Ireland had taken up the practice of donning costumes and moving from house to house. Instead of promising prayers, they would briefly entertain whoever answered the door with a brief ‘trick’ such as reciting a poem or singing a short song in order to earn their ‘treats,’ which were usually nuts, fruits or coins. Sometimes the visitors would threaten to inflict misfortune if they did not receive a treat. This tradition became known as ‘guising.’

     Over time, the term ‘All Hallows Eve’ was shortened to ‘Halloween,’ 

     In the 1840’s, large numbers of immigrants fleeing the potato famine in Ireland helped to spread the celebration of Halloween throughout the United States and by the early twentieth century the practices of guising and souling were common in areas where Scottish and Irish people had settled.

     Unfortunately, by the 1920’s pranks such as soaping windows and egging houses had become popular on Halloween. During the Great Depression, these ‘tricks’ devolved into acts of vandalism such as overturning outhouses and other property damage, physical assaults and other violence. To counteract this problem, in the 1930s many communities organized events in which costumed visitors would be given sweets by participating homeowners during specific hours on Halloween night.

Photo by Jill Wellington via Pixabay

     The United States’ involvement in World War II brought sugar rationing with it. This put a damper on the tradition as there were few sweets to hand out. But after the war, the troops came home, married, and initiated the baby boom. With it, Jack-O-Lanterns, trick-or-treating and Halloween parties became extremely popular. Many costumes of the time were homemade, but candy companies launched extensive national advertising campaigns to popularize the holiday and eventually created smaller versions of best-selling candies to take advantage of the lucrative market they had created.

     The tradition became prevalent throughout the United States. The origin of the term ‘trick-or-treating’ is not well documented, but in 1951 it appeared in a Peanuts comic strip and the next year Disney released a Donald Duck cartoon called Trick or Treat.

     In the years since, the popularity of Halloween and demand for costumes, candy, decorations and related items has continued to grow. The holiday is second only to Christmas in dollars spent on the celebration. According to the National Retail Federation, $8.05 billion was spent on Halloween in the U.S. in 2020—even in the throes of the COVID pandemic. The Federation is predicting that spending this year (2022) will reach $10.14 billion.

     With expenditures that high, it’s hard to determine whether the Halloween holiday is a Trick or a Treat.

 Ann Markim




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Monday, October 24, 2022

The Restless Dead in the Middle Ages - ghosts who return. A blog for the Halloween month

The restless dead in the Middle Ages

Did people in the Middle Ages believe in ghosts? They certainly believed in restless spirits, which they called revenants, from the Latin meaning ‘to return’. It was believed that the unquiet dead, particularly those who had died by violence or by reason of a grudge, or those who would not give up strong passions and carnal pleasures, would return to haunt the living. These revenants might appear within a graveyard or in a particular area, known to them in life, and terrorize the living.

In 'Dark Maiden' I have a woman who is tormented by a lusty revenant who comes to her bed and tries to lie with her. Yolande, my heroine, learns that in this case the restless dead is the woman's husband. As an exorcist, Yolande takes certain steps to ensure that his widow is no longer plagued. You can find out what she does in the novel.

In my "Dark Maiden" we learn what revenants are, plus the dangers of being a black, female exorcist in a time of suspicion and plague.


“Revenants are spirits who will not rest,” Geraint said before the reeve’s wife had another objection. “They are departed souls who will not leave, because they wish to have revenge, or justice.”

“Or they cling to a place they loved in life, or to their beloved,” added Yolande quietly.

In an echo of the large-breasted goodwife, the reeve’s wife folded her arms across her middle. “Is this not a matter for our priest?”

“But Godith, Father William is so old, and consider what he says concerning the rest,” Michael pleaded.

“That all trouble is the girls’ own sins.” Godith crossed herself, while Yolande sighed and stared into the fire.

“One of those priests,” she remarked softly in Welsh.

“Now we know why he did not summon you, or come out of his house or church to welcome you,” Geraint answered in the same tongue. “A black female exorcist will be a great evil to him.”

“And Father William has often taken to his bed this past ten days.” Michael shrugged his drooping shoulders in a gesture of hopelessness.

“No priest here, and at the darkest time of the year, when spirits and the dead gather,” Yolande said in Welsh. Geraint wished he could tip the priest out of this village and drag in another. The Archbishop of York should be able to help her and would do very well.

“What are you saying? Are you talking about me?” demanded Godith’s youngest daughter.

“No, my lovely.” Geraint snapped his fingers. The girl drew a new blue ribbon from her hair and exclaimed with delight.

Yolande cast him a look. “Still up to your old tricks?”

“You will not wear the ribbons I bought for you, so why should I not give them to these girls?” The three lasses, chattering like magpies, tugged more new ribbons from their hair.

“How do you do it?” Yolande inquired as the tension in the hut vanished like a burst soap bubble.

“You have the secrets of your trade and I have mine.” He wanted to give her more, of course—bright ribbons, bright tunics to suit her sultry looks—but so far she had smiled at him very prettily for his ribbons but not worn them. And as for tunics…she had told him, quietly, that an envious spirit or demon would be tempted to tear such clothes off her and he could not argue with that. She was the exorcist.

Their eyes met, she still in drab sage-and-mud-colored  clothes, he in his tattered motley. What would it be like to kiss her again, really kiss her? He need only lean forward to find out…

His fragile dream was shattered by the reeve, who pushed himself up from the family’s low sleeping platform and said to Yolande, “I have something to show you in the lean-to.”

Geraint gave the rest of his bowl of porry to the twins and leapt to his feet. “I will come too.”

If Michael Steward was about to confess anything, he wanted to hear it. And he was not about to let Yolande out of his protection, whatever her skills.

She may be the exorcist but by the pricking at the base of my neck I would say there is danger here, a practical, knife blade kind of risk. My kind of danger.

* * * * *

She knew she and Geraint had been betrayed, even before Michael Steward broke into a ragtag run outside the lean-to, galloping and gasping into the night. She knew even before the torches bloomed into fire and a stink of anxious, stale bodies crowded into her nostrils. She knew by instinct as Geraint knew. She could feel the tension in his body as he stepped straight behind her, shielding her as so often in these past few months.

Yolande had her bow, her sacred bow of Saint Sebastian, but no room to draw it. And she could do better by far than make these fearful people her unrelenting enemies.

The instant before the torches were lit in the dying garden plot of the reeve’s house, she had made her plan and acted on it.

She raised her fist and called out, “I have a mandrake here and the seven herbs of Christ. If you do me or mine harm, the herbs will change into spears. The mandrake will turn into a man and you will die.”

She paused, allowing her pity for the villagers’ fear to drain away. “You will die badly, believe me.”

“Believe her,” hissed Geraint out of the gloom, keeping out of range of the flickering torchlight. “I have seen the mandrake-man and it is terrible.”

“That proves you are a witch!” shouted a woman, and one of the torches swayed as she lost her footing on the damp ground.

“No witch may touch the seven herbs of Christ and live,” said Yolande calmly. Glimpsing a flash of white as another villager moved an arm, she stooped, plucked a pebble from the earth and threw it all in a single movement. The woman howled and dropped her dagger, where it lay gleaming.

“You are black as Satan!” called another woman, and others in the circle echoed her cry.

“Or  Saint Maurice or the Magi,” Yolande replied.

Godith came to the door. “How do we know you came in answer to the reeve’s call?”

“I came, Godith, because that is my Christian duty. You need my help here.”

“But you are black,” mumbled Godith. Encouraged by shouts of agreement, she joined the crowd.

Mother of God, I grow weary of this complaint. For so many, I am either a luck-charm or an evil. And Geraint is blacker-hued than me, at least in the summer. “I have touched relics of the saints that are darker.” She grinned, knowing her teeth and eyes would show very white and bright against the torches. “Come, shall we say the creed together?”

“But Godith  is right. How do we know you are not sent by them?” protested a third voice, high as a shrilling bat.

“By Christ, they are all women here,” muttered Geraint, and Yolande caught the strain in his voice. He would fight any man but females he revered.

“Fear not, honeyman,” she whispered. “Not one is possessed, and I can deal with the rest.”

To Godith and her cohorts she made the sign of the cross and recited the first line of the Lord’s Prayer in Latin. In English she said, “No demon can do that, believe me.”

“And believe me, my heart, when I say you should convert these women quickly,” said Geraint beside her. “Before we are burned to a cinder or torn limb from limb would be best.” He switched to Welsh. “You have never used mandrake in your life.”

“You are not the only one who can make a feint,” she replied in the same tongue.

“Take care you do not do so with me, cariad, is all I ask.”

She chuckled, keeping her laugh fat and easy while she scanned the big eyes and fluttering fingers that hovered round the crackling torches. 

#DiverseRomance #Romance DARK MAIDEN



Ghosts, revenants, incubi , vampires and demons haunt medieval England, as Yolande and Geraint must use their love to survive.

Lindsay Townsend

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Easy Halloween Costumes for Book Lovers

 Easy Halloween Costumes for Book Lovers

C. A. Asbrey

It's that time of year again. The mists gather, the fruits mellow, and the nights draw long and dark. After so much turmoil, we can only hope that we can finally get together again in parties and trick-or-treating to enjoy the season. And what better inspiration than the world of books and literature to inspire us? I'm going to try to keep to easy DIY outfits that can generally be created cheaply at home, without the need to be a genius with the needle to create them. I've chosen only especially easy costumes to make. I'm going to avoid the Harry Potter universe and Where's Wally, as I'm sure you've seen every possible twist on that 

The Addams Family

The Addams Family
Not exactly literature for the purists, but this group is a goldmine for people looking for easy costumes, especially if you find one of them fitting your colouring or build. 

Not keen on costumes, but don't want to be accused of not playing? have a partner who is reluctant to dress up? Find a box or cushion with a hole in it, put your hand through, and there you have 'Thing'. A bit of manual terpsichorean theatrics whenever anyone asks what you've come as, and you have the easiest costume at the party.     

Gomez is another easy one for men. And dark suit, a ruler and some tailor's chalk to create the stripes, and greased down hair and you're almost there. Draw in the moustache, and there you have it. An easy Gomez. Crepe paper is easily run through a sewing machine to make a Morticia skirt to add to a black top or leotard.

For the children: Wednesday needs a dark dress, pigtails, paper collar and cuffs, coupled with pale makeup, while Puglsey needs dark shorts and a striped shirt. The addition of a torturous toy like a dagger or plastic stick of dynamite complete's the look. 

Fifty Shades of Grey is about as easy as it gets, and another one for the reluctant guisers. Cut along to your local DIY store and pick up a range of the grey cardboard colour swatches, then stick then all over a T-shirt - any colour will do, but grey is best. Voila! You're done. 

If you have dark hair, slip it back into a French roll, slip on a black dress and adorn it with numerous sets of pearls and make a cigarette lighter out of cardboard. Sunglasses are optional—and there you have your very own version of Truman Capote's Holly Golightly

Got a toddler to dress up? Put them in a onesie, add a tail, paper claws, and a paper crown with a furry trim - and you have your very Max from Where the Wild Things Are. How easy is that?

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland have a raft of easy characters to dress up as. A blue dress and a white apron gives you an Alice, while a cardboard sandwich board over black clothes can easily be painted to look like a giant playing card. A cardboard spear and helmet turns the wearer into one of the Queen of heart's guards. If you can stick a feather in the helmet, so much the better. 

Want a simple Cheshire Cat? Dress all in black, with cat tail and ears. Use face paint to put a huge cat grin on your black-painted face so that the smile 'pops' from the shadows. It is the last visible manifestation of the Cheshire Cat, after all.

The same sandwich board idea can be extended over your head to create a picture frame encasing the upper part of the body, where make up gives a ruined and dissolute appearance for The Picture of Dorian Gray.

A cardigan, a plaid skirt, and a magnifying glass gives you a basic Nancy Drew, while the more mature ladies can add a hat to a skirt suit, and carry some knitting to create an easy Miss Marple.

For men, a smart suit, oiled hair, and some wire formed into a monocle gives us Lord Peter Peter Wimsey. For the perfect literary villainess, dress all in severe black, and pull your hair into an equally serious style. All you need is a pale face to be the vindictive Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca. Another iconic character to create is Alexandre Dumas', Man in the Iron Mask. The Iron Mask, can be created by applying papier mache over an inflated balloon. The trick here is to ensure that you create two distinct halves, that can then be easily joined together with masking tape painted to the same colour as the iron mask, to act as hinges so the mask can be donned and removed without too many problems.

The same balloon and papier mache method can create a Phantom of the Opera mask, or a Whale hat for Moby Dick (just wear blue to represent the water). It can also be used to create gigantic buttons to dress up as one of The Borrowers, or multiple squid, fish, and prawns to be stuck all over any dark blue outfit to give the impression that you are 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. 

However you spend the Halloween holiday, I hope you have a wonderful time, and that I've give you some ideas to run with. Creating things with the children can be an especially rewarding way to pass time, and make special memories to last a lifetime without it costing a fortune.

Happy Halloween!


A firm hand grabbed his shoulder as a hoarse voice whispered in his ear. “Git your hands up and come with me.” 

Nat’s hands rose along with his hackles. “Why?” 

“’Cause I’m robbin’ you, you idiot. Why d’ya think?” 

Nat heaved a sigh of relief. Robbery was way better than the law. “You’re kidding. You’re robbing me? This is a joke.” 

“What’s with the questions? I’m robbin’ you, now git into that alley where we can work in private.” 

“We? What’s with the idea we’re a team? You can’t rob me.” 


“Never mind why. Just go away.” 

“No, gimme your cash. All of it.” 

Nat’s Irish rose to the fore. “Sod off.” 

“You ain’t listenin’, mister. Git over to the alley and hand over your valuables.” 


What d’ya mean, ‘why’? I want your money.” 

“Oh, I understand, but why do I have to go in an alley? You can take it right here.” 

The robber’s irritation seeped into the tense voice. “Fine. Give me your money here.” 

“No. Go away.” Nat felt the hardness of a revolver in the small of his back. ”You realize that if you shoot me now, people will pour out of every building the minute you pull the trigger. You won’t get ten feet before you’re cut down.” 

The robber paused. “Get in the alley.” 

“Now you’re repeating yourself. You haven’t thought this through. How do you know I’ve even got any money?” 

“Because you’re hangin’ around the best hotel in town.” 

Nat turned his head but the robber whacked his shoulder. “Stay still.” 

“You’re hanging around the best hotel in town, too. Give me your money.” 

“I ain’t got no money. That’s why I’m stealin’.”

“Well, neither have I. None I’m handing over to you, anyway. Maybe we should split what you’ve got?” 

“What kind of a robbery is this? You’re the most annoyin’ victim I ever met. I’ve got a good mind to shoot you for the hell of it.” 

“A good mind doesn’t do stupid things like hold up men in the street without a plan.” Nat could detect the growing uncertainty in the man’s thin voice. “Am I annoying enough to die for? That’s what’ll happen.” 

“I want your money. Hand it over or I’ll—” A dull clang cut the man off mid-sentence, followed by a thump as he tumbled to the floor. Nat swirled around, his eyes lighting with delight at the sight of the woman he was here to see not only wielding a spade, but raising it once more to slice at the robber’s right hand as it reached for the gun which had tumbled from his grasp. Nat drew his own weapon and pointed straight at the man’s head. “You’ve lost your gun, friend. Get out of here before you lose a hand, too.”  The skinny figure shimmied over the boards of the sidewalk before clambering upright and scampering off as fast as his feet could carry him. Nat grabbed the discarded weapon and thrust it into his waistband, tilting his head to keep his face in the shadow of the brim of his hat. “Thank you, Miss…? Sorry, who do I thank?” 

“You’re welcome. Don’t you want to go to the sheriff?” 

I don’t think so,” Nat holstered his own gun. “They might want to know why you were taking your shovel for a walk in the dark. It’s all a bit funereal isn’t it?” 

Her laugh tinkled through the chilled night air. “Funereal? Now, there’s a word I didn’t expect to hear in a cowtown,” she put the blade on the boardwalk and leaned on the handle. “The spade was over there. And I saw you were in trouble and stepped in. It’s none too clean.” He found the way her nose crinkled adorable. “I think someone has been clearing horse droppings with it.” 

He grinned. “So you thought you’d clean up the town? Hang around and they might give you a star to wear.” 

“A woman in the law? How ridiculous.” Her slim brows knotted in curiosity. “Where have we met before?”



Sunday, October 2, 2022


 Post by Doris McCraw aka Angela Raines

The author's motto: "keep on going".
photo property of the author.

A post about marketing. Hopefully the information I glean from the marketing department where I work, or other sources will be useful to some of you.

I am starting with what we call a content calendar. I try to begin with a calendar that lists holidays for that month. The one below was available online. I also note if the month has significance. For example, March is National Women's History Month. These pieces of information are the baseline I will use as I schedule the various posts, both blog, and other social media.

Once I print the below calendar, I fill in the days where blog posts are scheduled. Next, I will note the days for social media. If I have a bookversary or new release coming soon, I will tie those pieces in with the holidays for that month. 

I do not post 'marketing' pieces, ie. where I ask people to buy my book. Instead, I work to develop relationships or followers who like what I share. Most know my passion is history, women's history, Colorado History, the Old West, philosophy, and of course, Authors. Therefore, if it is an original post, it will usually be one of the above subjects.

I also started a newsletter where I share my thoughts, tips, quotes, and photos. I felt it was time as blog readings and posts have been ebbing lately. I don't worry, for everything is ebb and flow, but I wanted to have something that would be in addition to other social and blog platforms.

Hopefully some of the above will help you out. If you have ideas please share them in the comments.

Doris McCraw