Monday, October 22, 2018

Celebrating Halloween (Noson Calan Gaeaf) in Wales


 
Available November 1st in paperback!
by Althea Twyst, Dowager Duchess of Chellingworth

Lovely of you to drop in as the last of the autumnal sun is setting on the estate here at Chellingworth Hall. Draw closer to the fire, please. I’ll ring for Edward to bring tea – or would you prefer a sherry? Ah yes, me too. Sherry it is.

I relish the chance to discuss our local plans for celebrating Halloween. I know it’s become something of a fashionable thing to do these days, but it’s been marked hereabouts in Wales, and across all Celtic cultures, for thousands of years. Christians decided to re-create the pagan festival of Samhain as All Hallows Day, something they did with many pagan observances. 

They chose November 1st, the day the Welsh marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter, to be the day when the dead would be remembered – suitable, I think, as Calan Gaeaf as it is in Welsh – was always a pretty somber affair, with those who lived off the land looking ahead to long, cold winter days, but at least having a day or two to rest after the harvest and the culling of the beasts for winter storage.




Masks were worn for Noson Calan Gaeaf – the night before November 1st – to ward off evil and, in a celebration called Coelcerth, children and women would dance around a fire – writing their names on stones which they placed in the flames. The children had to leave the fire before the flames died, for fear of being eaten by a terrifyingly grotesque sow called Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta, who roamed the countryside, accompanied by a headless woman. The children would chant, “Home, home, at once, The tailless black sow shall snatch the hindmost”, and they’d scatter to their homes. The next day the women and children would return to the ashes to see if all the stones with names on them were still there – any that had disappeared signified that person would die before the year was over. Delightfully grisly, don’t you think? And still marked across Wales, you know. 



Other traditions involved apples – and that’s something that’s also been passed down to modern times. Bobbing for apples, or twco fala in Welsh, is an ancient way of divining how much luck you’d have the following year – the bigger the apple, the greater the good fortune, and girls would toss apple peel over their shoulders to see what letter was formed…which would be the initial of their husband.

 There are many other traditions in these parts, but I think it’s fair to say only the main ones are still observed. Here? Oh yes, in the village of Anwen-by-Wye there are still those who won’t look into a mirror on October 31st for fear of seeing a hag or a demon, and when I first moved here – about sixty years ago – there were still girls in the village who would bake a mashed cake with nine ingredients, then walk backwards upstairs to bed, with their hands behind their back, knowing that they might dream of their future husband…or a coffin!

The Welsh used to carve turnips or swedes (rutabaga) but now often use pumpkins
 
These days people carve the odd pumpkin, indeed, we’ve been growing them here on the estate to give to the local children who will be carving them in the village hall as a group activity, with the Sunday School leaders overseeing them – it’s funny how Christian and pagan rites are still so closely intertwined here, but I’m sure it’s not a bad thing...we all need to remember we have ancient roots, and are also stewards of the future.

Cathy Ace writes the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (book #4 THE CASE OF THE UNSUITABLE SUITOR will be published in trade paperback on November 1st in the US/Canada), and the Cait Morgan Mysteries. Find out more about Cathy and her work, and sign up for her newsletter at http://cathyace.com/  

 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Fall at the Christmas Tree Farm #giveaway


By: Jakob Müller
From: No Grater Danger & Breaking the Mould
Series: Vintage Kitchen Mysteries
Author: Victoria Hamilton
Website: Victoria Hamilton Mysteries

Hey there... Jakob Müller here. I've never done this before. Usually my wife, Jaymie, does all the blogging. You might know her... she's kind of famous around Queensville and Wolverhampton for a lot of things, solving murders among them. You know, as much as I loved my life, it's all ten times better now that Jaymie is my wife. My little girl, Jocie, is ecstatic.

But right now Jaymie is deep in another adventure, as well as having to write her food column and work on the cookbook she's writing, look after our daughter Jocie, volunteer at the historic house and the hundred and one other things she does. Maybe that's the secret to our marriage... we're both so busy we love coming together at night and having each other and that little quiet time.

So she asked me to write this, about our Christmas tree farm.

I started it when I was in my twenties. Farming is in my blood. Growing up us boys always worked the farm, but most of them went off to do something else, though Dieter came back to live with my folks after his divorce and still works on the family farm. I stayed and started the Christmas tree farm on some land that won't grow much else.

Everyone thinks a Christmas tree farmer is only busy between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it's a year 'round occupation. There is tilling and mulching and pulling out stumps and planting... fertilizing, choosing the trees... a hundred and one things. But it's really rewarding, too. It's all worth it to see a family drive off with the perfect tree on their car roof, the one that will sparkle through their whole season, and then come back to us to mulch.

I love what I do, but I also love that quiet time between Christmas and New Years when I get to put my feet up in front of the fire and read a book with my kid, and this year, with my wife.


Do you have any memories of YOUR perfect tree? Or the seasonal holiday tradition you loved the most?

~::~

GIVEAWAY!

Breaking the Mould, #8 of the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries, will be coming out November 13th, just three weeks from now!

Jaymie's in a festive mood for her first Christmas with her new family. But she's also busy with Queensville's annual holiday festival, Dicken Days! Will a Scroogey local dampen her spirit, or will murder once again interfere in the festivities?

To celebrate in advance of the new release, I am giving away three (3) copies of No Grater Danger, Vintage Kitchen Mysteries #7, to celebrate!!

Just answer one of Jakob's questions, leave your first name and an email address (youremail (at) yourserver (dot) com) by Midnight, October 23rd, for a chance to win one of three EBOOK copies of No Grater Danger! There is now a sneak peek at Breaking the Mould tucked into the end!!

**Note: if you post your comment after Midnight of the 21st it will go into moderation, and I'll approve it before choosing a winner!

Good Luck, everyone, and look for more fun giveaways in November!! Find me at my website, listed above, where you can sign up for my newsletter, or on Facebook and Twitter!
Facebook: Author Victoria Hamilton
Twitter: @MysteryVictoria

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Mums the Word

by Lilly Jayne
from Pruning the Dead, the first in the Garden Squad series by Julia Henry

PRUNING THE DEAD cover with a picture of mumsI love my gardens. Some might say I'm obsessed with them, but I disagree. Planning, tilling, pruning, weeding and enjoying are my form of therapy. They calm me down, and help me focus when I'm mulling something or the other. My gardens suffered from benign neglect while my husband Alan was dying, but so did the rest of my life. The next spring they welcomed me back, and helped me through my grief.
My housemate, and my late husband's former grad assistant, Delia Greenway helps in the garden, but I know my style of gardening bothers her. Delia likes order, straight lines, and a process. My garden has many sections. Frequently I'll include a piece of art as part of them. There isn't a straight line in my entire backyard.
The front of my house, however? That's Delia's territory. Perfectly pruned hedges, our small patch of grass manicured, bushes balanced on either side of the front door.
The one area Delia and I agree? The marvel of mums.
I love these pops of color that are the last gasp before winter. I have several large pots that we haul out every fall to plant and decorate for the season. If we're lucky, very lucky, they may last until Thanksgiving, but here in New England we aren't usually that lucky.
Delia tells me that my gardens are the talk of Goosebush. I don't mind that, actually. Better my gardens than some of the other goings on in our small town.
***********
Julia Henry writes the Garden Squad series which debuts in January 2019. Pruning the Dead is available for pre-order now! JHAuthors.com

Friday, October 19, 2018

GIVEAWAY! GLITTER BOMB!


By Carmela Bertrand from the Scrapbooking Mystery Series by Laura Childs with Terrie Farley Moran

I am so excited to be visiting Killer Characters to tell you about my adventures in  GLITTER BOMB. My name is Carmela Bertrand and I own the Memory Mine Scrapbooking shop on Governor Nicholls Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, which is the most vibrant place to live and work. And NOTHING is more exciting than Mardi Gras. Of course, sometimes it can get a little too exciting. There I was with my BFF Ava Gruiex, we were dancing, and getting ready to catch beads being thrown by the krewe of the first float in the Pluvius Parade. And what a float it was! Pluvius krewe members were hanging off the decks and swinging from the sails of a galleon ship of olden days. They were yelling and tossing golden beads by the hundreds at the roaring crowd that filled Royal Street from curb to building line. On the top deck a resplendent King Neptune sat on a golden throne. Streams of gold glitter propelled out of the prongs of his trident and shot high in the air before scattering over the float and the crowd. Ava pointed out my ex-husband waving from the float. Oh well, I could just ignore him.

Suddenly there was an explosion. The float rocked and rolled. A rumbling noise grew louder. The float toppled and what looked like a thousand pounds of glitter flew everywhere, burying the krewe members who'd been tossed off the float. And when the explosion was over, one by one, the krewe stood up and shook themselves off. Much as I didn’t like being married to Shamus Meecham, I was glad to see him standing, albeit shakily. Then, I watched him walk over to a body that was lying on the ground perfectly still and covered with so much glitter that it was impossible to tell who it was. Ava and I ran over. We brushed away the glitter and the man never moved.

Then I heard the sirens…Well the last thing I needed was to have my long time beau Detective Edgar Babcock find me at the scene. But there I was when he pulled up and he quickly discovered that my ex-husband was there as well. Let’s just say, Babcock isn’t always as cool as he pretends to be when he thinks I am paying too much attention to Shamus. And I had my fingers crossed that this wasn’t a murder because Babcock practically accuses me of being at every murder scene he responds to and, you know, that is patently false. Maybe most scenes, but certainly not all.



I’m sure you are dying to know what happened next, so we are giving away a copy of GLITTER BOMB to one lucky commenter below. Just say a word about Mardi Gras. Anything at all. Don’t forget to include your email addy in this format: name (AT) server (DOT) com to avoid the spam bots. Giveaway closes at midnight Sunday, October 21st.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Arf. Er, Hi, Again.



by Biscuit, Carrie Kennersly's dog in the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries by Linda O. Johnston

Hi, it's Biscuit again.  I'm visiting Killer Characters more often now.  I'm a dog, and I supposedly belong to Carrie Kennersly, the human who's the subject of the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries.  What's the truth?  She belongs to me.  She takes care of me, doesn't she?  She lets me sample the good treats she sells in her store she calls Barkery & Biscuits, where she and her helpers bake all sorts of good dog treats.  And she's explained to me why she won't give me stuff from her other store next door, Icing on the Cake, since some of the treats she sells there for people could hurt me.  Stuff made from chocolate, whatever that is, for example.

Lots of her helpers and friends are nice to me, too.  Especially Dr. Reed Storme, who's not only just a nice human guy but also a veterinarian who works at the Knobcone Veterinary Clinic, where Carrie's also a part time veterinary technician.  Vets and veterinary technicians?  They take care of dogs, like me. 

The thing is, I'm supposed to at least pretend to obey Carrie's orders--which I often do, like when she tells me to sit or stay or beg.  And though she does listen to me a lot when it comes to giving treats and all, I still can't help worrying about her. 

Why?  Because Carrie's gotten into solving human murders.  When people get killed in our town of Knobcone Heights, Carrie's jumping in and figuring out who did it, darn her.  Sure, it's often her friends who are accused of doing it and she needs to find out the truth to help them.  Especially most recently, when Dr. Reed Storme was considered by the police to be the main suspect, or so Carrie told me.  I didn't believe he did it, and neither did his dog Hugo, who's my friend.

Anyway, Carrie told me that whole story was told about in a book called Pick and Chews, the most recent Barkery & Biscuits Mystery. She hasn't started reading the book to me, which is a disappointment since I can't read.  But you can read it...


PICK AND CHEWS, the fourth Barkery & Biscuits Mystery by Linda O. Johnston, was a May 2018 release from Midnight Ink. 




Wednesday, October 17, 2018

MARDI GRAS MADNESS!

 
By: Maggie Crozat
From: Mardi Gras Murder
Series: Cajun Country Mysteries, #4
Author: Ellen Byron
website: http://www.ellenbyron.com/

Hi! I’m Magnolia Marie Crozat - FYI, everyone calls me Maggie – and I’m super excited to be here. For those of you who don’t know me – and that’s probably a lot of you, LOL – I’m an artist. I moved from New York back to my hometown of Pelican, Louisiana – town motto, “Yes, We Peli-CAN!” – to help out at the family business, Crozat B and B. Crozat is a plantation that’s been in my dad’s family since it was built in the 1800s. I also work as a tour guide at Doucet Plantation, which belonged to my mother’s family but is now open to the public. (I’m about to get a promotion – so excited!)
I have lots to tell you but unfortunately, I’m short on time right now. I have to run to a meeting of the judges for the Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen contest. Ugh. Pageants are so not my thing, but my darling grandmere, who usually represents the family as a judge, is sick and I have to take her place. Three out of the four judges are pretty nice, but that fourth judge, the guy in charge of the whole thing, is a giant pain. He runs the Pelican Historical Society and is one of those people who’s obsessed with status and heritage to the point where he’s a total suck-up to anyone who’s family’s been around for a couple of hundred years. He kind of looks like Mr. Magoo to me. Remember him?

I really hate the thought of judging teenage girls, so I’m going to do whatever it takes to make them all feel like winners. I have to say, the queen’s crown is pretty dang cool. It looks a lot like this one…

Isn’t it gorgeous? This isn’t our crown, it’s the one the Festival of the Bonfires queen get to wear. (You can read all about the bonfires on the levee in A CAJUN CHRISTMAS KILLING which coincidentally is an Amazon Kindle Monthly Deal right now for $1.99!) But the Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen crown is pretty killer, too.

Speaking of killer, I can tell that the pageant judges are in for some ugly arguments about who should “wear the crown.” I just hope that ugly doesn’t turn deadly…
 
Readers, what do you think about pageants? I sometimes get totally caught up in Miss America. What about you?

And you can read all about Pelican's pageant, Mardi Gras celebrations, and the Louisiana Orphan Train in MARDI GRAS MURDER, the 4th book in the award-winning Cajun Country Mystery series. 





Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tandem Demise...

Evie Bloomfied here on Mackinac Island. Fall is in full swing with the leaves changing colors, horses taken off island on the big ferries to rest up for next year and the budgies are waiting till next summer to visit us again. All in all things are quite but...
there is trouble brewing. 

     After solving two murders, I thought life on Mackinac Island would settle into boredom until I found out Nate Sutter, island police chief and once-upon-a-time under cover cop is on the run. Some badass guys from Nate’s Detroit days think he stole money from them in a champagne smuggling operation and now they’re headed to the island to get their loot. 

     ​I’m determined to help Nate because he’s a good cop and I kind of got a thing for him,  Nate’s determined to keep me and the island locals out of harms way, and the crooks are determined to get their money.

     To add to the island’s problems there’s a dead guy on the dock and the new wedding planner around here is more interested in playing bedroom bingo than ordering bridal bouquets. 

      With the help of Fiona, my BFF and local newspaper editor, I’m going to prove Nate innocent if it’s the last thing I do, figure out how  champagne smuggling, bodies on the dock and a bad wedding planner are tied together and hopefully not wind up taking a long walk off a short pier myself.  

Wish me luck!

Smugglers on the hunt, a police chief on the run, lost loot and a dead wedding planner have the Mackinac Island regulars riding in circles 



Tandem Demise available November 5 on Amazon