Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Magickal Samhain: Wands at the Ready!

The Magickal Samhain Reader Event will be held October 27 to 31. You can join us on Facebook at for author hosted events…pop in anytime! My spot will be on Thursday October 27th from 10:30am to 12 noon, EST. I hope you'll stop by for some book-filled holiday fun…

While we count down the days waiting for the spirits gather, I thought I'd get us into the mood with a post of a magickal nature…

I have a wand collection.

Not surprising, since I'm a collector by nature. I started with stamps when I was nine. Moved on to stickers in the 80s because, hello? Lisa Frank!
Then it was books…then boots…coins…skulls and ravens…then wands, pretty much in that order.

I hadn't been seeking a new treasure to hoard when I started stockpiling wands. It just sort of happened. I had one wand, a black-and-white prop wand left over from my son's first magic kit. Kept it on my desk just in case. I wasn't obsessed, or anything.

But then, Harry Potter. Need I say more?

Suddenly, everyone had a wand. Kids everywhere were swishing and flicking their wands through the air like they just didn't care. Wands became common place, everyday things.

That was when I started collecting. That first trip to Universal Orlando did me in—we visited Hogsmeade and, during a show at Olivander's shop, y son was selected to play the part of a first year wizard. I think he blew up a flower pot and when he turned to look back at me, holding that wand in his hands, I knew it was coming home with us.

So did three others because my daughter, the hub, and I all had to get our own wands. On the trip back home, I knew—I knew—that all of them would be mine, mine, mine.

But it didn't stop there, with art replicas. I found wands everywhere I went. At the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. At the new age shop in downtown Gettysburg. On South Street in Philly. And, God bless it, all over the Internet. Every size and shape, color and design. It got to the point where, for the sake of space and sanity, I had to proceed to virtual collecting. (Check out my Pinterest page, btw…)

(Stuttgart, Germany)

While my wands are mainly for admiration and creative inspiration, wands have been in use for millennia by countless cultures. The ancient Egyptians included them in burial goods. The Greek God Hermes carried a wand called a caduceus. Nordic shamans used them.

They were symbols of leadership and power: a queen's scepter. They were a mode of communication and command: the orchestra conductor's baton. They are an element of worship for practitioners of several religions, such as Wicca and Neopaganism.

They were also used by those who practiced ritual magic, by historically famous Magi such as Aleister Crowley or Dr. John Dee. Because of them, wand became widely known as conduits of magical power, and their fantastical uses found their way into legend and lore, onto page and screen.

In CHARM CITY, exorcist mage Simon Alliant has a lot of tricks up his sleeve—and one of them is his wand.

He's definitely not a swish-and-flick kind of guy. He's more about getting the job done because there's no room for flashy acts when you're trying to send a demon back to Hell. Magic is his juice, his power, his addiction. Hard not to get hooked on the stuff that lights you up…

Several years ago, Simon apprenticed with an English mage, a scholarly old gent who'd once had to put up with the ghost of Aleister Crowley (yep, that one.) Professor Kent was well-versed in the art of ritual magic and had introduced Simon to the wand.

No swishing and flicking, though. Unlike stage magicians or high priests, Kent took a very utilitarian approach to wand craft. He devised a unique charm, tailor-made for our boy Simon.

The wand was used to activate Simon's strongest amulet, which was inked into the skin on the bend of his left elbow: his runic tattoo.

And when Simon took a wand hit, it was like mainlining the purest of magic. Oh, the trouble he could get into when he hits the juice…

CHARM CITY on sale October 27-31 only 99 cents!

You can find out more about Simon and the demons he faces in CHARM CITY: The Demon Whisperer #1. (It will be on sale for only 99 cents October 27-31 but you can grab it FREE anytime on Kindle Unlimited!)

I really enjoy exploring wand lore (and fantasy) when I'm writing this series. So, if you ever stop by and find me fooling around with one of my wands, at least you'll know why. Definitely not floating feathers :) Just wondering where Simon's wand will take him next.

Stop by the Magickal Samhain Facebook page to RSVP...that way, you'll get a reminder when the event is about to start...and you won't miss a blessed thing.

AND DON'T FORGET! The October Giveaway page is loaded with goodies...check it out HERE!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Holy History of Halloween (I laugh just writing it)

Hi! Welcome to another stop on the Haunted Halloween Spooktacular blog hop!

I'm Ash Krafton and I'm a writer of all things speculative fiction. I especially enjoy writing novel-length urban fantasy…and recently I celebrated the release of the first book in a new series. CHARM CITY is about an exorcist mage living in Baltimore. Simon Alliant sees it all—angels, demons, and those who may be a little bit of both. On top of everything else, he gets to play with magic. Now, if only it didn't feel like a drug to him…

The story can be a little bit dark at times, but it's not horrific or hopeless. I like the dark. I like the shadows. Why wouldn't I? I'm the girl who thinks the ideal fictional boyfriend is Jack Skellington. (Makes trips to Disney fun for the whole family ;^) )

And it's all because I adore Halloween.

My enthusiasm for Halloween is long-established and well-known (just check my Instagram). I'm the neighbor who keeps Halloween decorations up year 'round, has a life-sized toy skeleton (named Napoleon) who accompanies me on long car rides, and who lives every day like it's Edgar Allan Poe's birthday. Halloween isn't a one-day celebration (or, in the case of someone who works in retail, a six-week event.) It's a philosophy, an attitude, a way of life.

 photo desk_zpsfidwzi7s.jpgI love scary movies and love being scared silly. I know 90% of it is in my head but I'm in my forties and STILL can't look in a mirror in a darkened room. (You know why. Her first name is Bloody and her other name is NO I WON'T SAY IT) My desk has, among other things, a skull in a jar on it (with pretty LED lights. It's festive) and I own more than one Tarot set.

But not a Ouija Board. Nuh, uh. That's bad juju.

I suppose my guests are a little confused by my office d├ęcor (and the Grim Reaper mannequin in the basement) especially since there is another theme prevalent in my home: Catholicism. I'm an Irish-Polish Catholic and for every macabre knick-knack there's a Crucifix or a saint statue or other blessed item.

I'm pretty sure it aggravates my mother, who has learned to choose carefully where to look when she visits and tends to stay in the kitchen. (No skulls in there. Not good kitchen aesthetic.) But she knows me. She knows how my brain works and knows that when I call and say "I have a new book coming out!" odds are it's going to be something she doesn't think a good Catholic girl should be reading. But she accepts it, in that way moms love even the goofiest of their children. I love Halloween. She loves me. It's just the way it is.

I've dealt with anti-Halloween prejudice all my life. In high school, I owned a vampire cape, and I'm talking in the pre-Lost Boys eighties. Nobody got it. In college, I discovered Anne Rice and assumed a safe place for people like me existed, after all, since the Humanities Dept. pretty much sanctioned vampires, right? Wrong again.

By the time my kids were old enough to attend the local parochial elementary school, I had just decided I was going to let my vampire flag fly. Too bad for the kids on Halloween. They could Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle all they wanted but the lady who ran the PTO Halloween party dressed like a vampire and wouldn't make them feel better by insisting it was a just costume. (I also had cultivated a rich throaty Mu-hahahahaha laugh that made first graders scurry out of the room real fast. It still makes me laugh all these years later. Mu-haha.) In fact, I still say they were lucky I limited it to Halloween. I could have dressed like that every Monday when I ran the school bookstore.

The teachers gave me a lot of side eye and probably thought, Oh well, she's a volunteer. Buy cheap, get cheap.

But that was their anti-Halloween prejudice talking. If only they knew just how Catholic Halloween really was.

Halloween's Nativity
Many people associate Halloween with pagan practices, but that's really not where it all started. In fact, the connection people make between Samhain and Halloween is actually an historically recent development.)

Halloween began way back before the ninth century as an association to All Saint's Day, which Catholics observe on November 1. It is a Holy Day of Obligation which remembers all those who have been blessed in Heaven.

Way back then, they used the word hallow for saint. November 1 was, accordingly, referred to as All Hallows. That made the evening before, October 31, All Hallows Even… or, you guessed it…hallowe'en, for short.

November 2 was celebrated as All Souls Day, a day to remember those in purgatory (a time-out for those souls who hadn't behaved enough to go directly to Heaven.) But what about those not in Heaven or Purgatory? If there is to be a Day of the Damned, it needs to find a different spot on the calendar because one thing's for sure: it's not Halloween.

Oooh, Spooky
What about all the occult aspects of the holiday?

The idea of the occult is Catholic, too, as it's based on our belief in the afterlife. During Hallowtide (October 31-November 2) it's thought that the boundary between the living and the dead was thinned, and ghosts or other communications from the "other side" were more likely to occur. Whether we want to admit it or not, we Catholics are a massively superstitious bunch. Those beliefs may have led to the practice of dressing up like ghoulies on Halloween.

Culture may have grown to associate Halloween with scary, dark, or even evil things but it's really just a way to observe and recognize our own mortality. Consider the Danse Macabre: an ages-old artistic rendering of the truth that beggars and Kings, and all between are united by Death. Danse art decorated cemeteries and churches, and was performed in verse and in dramatic performances. Writings from the fifteenth century proclaimed:

Wer war der Tor, wer der Weise,
Wer der Bettler oder Kaiser?
Ob arm, ob reich, im Tode gleich.

Whether foolish or wise, beggar or king, rich or poor, all are equal in death.

Perhaps modern man lives too lush and comfortable a life to believe we are conquerable by Death. Maybe we all believe we're a little bit immortal. Reminders of the inevitable end are considered an interruption to our lifestyles, a thing to be abhorred.

But let's face it: there is a skeleton walking around inside each and every single one of us. Where is the evil in that? It's just life.

So, to all the holy Hallow-haters, I say: relax. Halloween is an expression of my Catholic faith. I don't need a novena to save me from the dark side, even if I do wish every day was Halloween.

My stories are a reflection of my beliefs. Yes, I write about vampires and demons and the fight between Light and Dark, good and evil. I believe that fight is real, and is present in each of our lives to some degree. But I also explore the element of faith and the hope of redemption. Art imitates life, right?

And, while I may not wear my cape much these days (thanks, pharmacy day job, you party pooper, you) the sweet shadows and macabre poetics will always fill the corners of my heart.

Don't be afraid to let them fill yours, too.

Ash Krafton (@ashkrafton) is an author of speculative fiction. She's an unrepentant Ultimate Sinner who once guest-hosted a radio show on Sirius XM Radio channel Ozzy's Boneyard (and proclaimed Alice Cooper to be "dead sexy.") She also writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance, stories that seek to find redemption for her characters. Vampires, demons, reincarnation…you name it, she writes it. Currently, she's celebrating the release of the first in a new series of magic and mayhem: CHARM CITY (The Demon Whisperer #1) is available on Kindle Unlimited now.

I'm giving away three print proofs of CHARM CITY (The Demon Whisperer #1), each with a unique handmade charmed bookblade. (She loves the shiny things!) Want to try your luck? Enter now!

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bewitching Haunted Halloween Spooktacular! Oct 19-20

Welcome to the Bewitching Book Tours Haunted Halloween Spooktacular! Tomorrow our Facebook Party kicks off at 10 AM EST...with you-know-who!

(Okay, not You-Know-Who...Voldemort's been destroyed. Duh. I mean me.)

Join us for Halloween fun and games. Enter to win tons of prizes.

Be prepared to show off your Halloween and cosplay costumes for the costume contest.

We have over 20 authors participating, they'll be here to discuss their love of Halloween, talk about their books and offer fun and games to all who drop by.

You have to participate to win, so come by often.

There's also a special giveaway make sure you go all the way to the end of the post.

Here's the author schedule, times are listed in EST...
Wednesday October 19th

10-11am Ash Krafton1am-12pm Sam Baltrusis
12-1pm Natalie Nicole Bates
1-2pm Catherine Winters
2-3pm Jill Archer
3-4pm Rayna Noire
4-5pm Laura Diamond
5-6pm Jennifer Windrow
6-7pm Kelex
7-8pm BA Tortuga
8-9pm Constance Burris
9-10pm Jamie K. Schmidt
10-11pm Lexxie Couper
11pm-12am Vanta Black

Thursday October 20th

10-11am Erzabet Bishop
11am-12pm Sam Crescent
12-1pm Roxanne Rhoads
1-2pm Lily Harlem
2-3pm Marcella Burnard
3-4pm Traci Douglass
4-5pm Catherine Stine
5-6pm Krista Carlson
6-7pm ND Jones
7-8pm Kirsten Weiss
8-9pm Marsha A. Moore
9-10pm Julia Talbot
10-11pm Angelique Voisen
11pm-12am JC Andrijeski

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