Happy Halloween! A Spooky Buffet of Links and Treats!

Halloween Night Ghost Avatar

Happy Halloween! I wish all of you the finest and spookiest of days. May your spine tingle, your ghosts haunt, and your day be full of portents and ominous signs. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooo!

And now for a few necessary announcements.

  • Don’t forget to sneak over to FlamesRising.com this week, for the site will fill you up with scary blog posts perfect for this time of year, like my review of Frankenweenie.
  • If you applied to become one of The Thirteen, check your e-mail. Today, you will find out whether or not I accepted your application.
  • NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow. Yes, that’s TOMORROW! Ack!
  • Want excellent chocolates? http://www.infusionchocolates.com/
  • Need something new, but you’re strapped for cash? Free spooky radio dramas from the Golden Age of sound. Visit RadioRelic.com and listen to a-mazingly scary tales!
  • Traditional? Believe Halloween is perfect for divinatory exploration of the tarot-reading kind? Free tarot readings are available at Facade.com.

And now for a witchy manicure demonstration. (The silver version is what nailpolish I’m wearing this week over orange-and-black polish!)

And now, to leave you with a curious look from one of my cats, Rimmon. (Appropriately named the god of storms. . .)

    Mood: I vant to suck vour blood.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Come to think of it, my victim’s blood did taste a little like Starbucks.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Practiced my swoops and creeps!
    In My Ears: Dark Desire by Nox Arcana from Dark Tower
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Origins
    Movie Last Viewed: The Raven
    Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
    Latest Release: “Fangs and Formaldehyde” from the New Hero anthology through Stone Skin Press

On This All Hallows Eve, For You a Free Tale

Provided just for you, dear Readers, is an atmospheric tale to get you in the mood for Halloween. May your trick-or-treating yield fantastic results, and may the spirits be kind. . .

A Different Kind of Treat

Written by Monica Valentinelli

Blood-red shafts of sunlight filter through a dirty cabin window, kissing a row of colorful glass bottles. One by one the bottles shine with anticipation as they reveal their grisly contents. Three eyes spin in a green flask; a pair of wings beats urgently in another.

“What’s that, Momma?” A child’s finger points to a jar of wrinkled entrails sitting high on a kitchen shelf. The boy, who stands about three feet tall, is covered in dust and flour. His skin is marred with muddy blisters.

Halloween Night | Courtesy of sxc.hu“Oh nothing special, Alwin,” Belinda replies airily as she pulls a frilly apron over her head. “Just something I cook with now and again. You hungry?”

“Want candy.” Alwin rubs his bloated stomach. “Chocolate, ‘specially.”

The witch flashes him a crooked grin and picks a small book off the burnished wood counter. Has it really been a year since she last made her favorite recipe? Lately, it seems like all of her time has been devoted to nursing Alwin. No matter what she gives him — cinnamon, tincture of licorice or willow bark roots — nothing seems to help him get any better.

“Maybe I missed something,” Belinda whispers as she scans through the book. Her gnarled fingers turn the pages gingerly, as if each leaf of paper is a cherished family heirloom.

“What’s this, momma?”

Belinda rolls her eyes. She has to concentrate and she can’t think if he keeps talking. Of course he’s lonely, but there’s nothing she can do about that. Born under a harvest moon, Alwin’s only friends were the ravens that often circled the skies above their cabin. His insatiable curiosity was the only thing the witch didn’t like about him. Still, empathy was never her strong suit. He was dying and she wasn’t sure her magic could cure him.

“What’s what, honey?”

“This.” Alwin shows her a fistful of waxy hair. “It’s from my head.”

Belinda’s paper-thin lips crumple into a disapproving scowl. She can’t afford to babysit Alwin while she mixes and measures the necessary ingredients for tonight’s confection. Either he’s going to help her in the kitchen, or she needs to find something else for him to do. Thinking quickly, the witch pulls a red bottle off a shelf. “Just put those strands in here and we’ll figure out where they belong later.”

Alwin ignores her and yanks more hair from his crusty scalp.

“ALWIN!”

Dark splotches bloom all over Alwin’s pasty neck; the witch now knows for sure what they mean. Her last spell was a total failure. Thinking quickly, she tries something else, and asks: “Why don’t you grab your costume?”

Alwin runs around the room in a circle chanting at the top of his lungs. “Trick-or-treat. Smell my feet. Give me something good to eat.”

Belinda crosses her bony arms and regards him sternly. She has to get him out of her hair, does she have the heart to kill him? The boy doesn’t have that much time left, but she still feels responsible for him.

“You can collect some firewood for the oven first.”

The witch knows the boy won’t stray very far from the cabin. If the trees and the corn fields don’t confuse him, the owls will. Just last night, Belinda had awakened to the sound of a screeching owl perched above his bed. It was as if the entire forest not only knew what Alwin was, they were eager to share the secret. Lost in her thoughts, Belinda barely hears her son’s whimpering plea.

“Outside, momma. Outside.” Alwin moans softly.

Leaning forward, Belinda looks at him straight in his copper-colored eyes. “Do you think you’ll back by supper?”

“Yes, momma.”

The witch knows Alwin won’t last that long. His skin is crumbling and his fingers are starting to dry out. If that isn’t bad enough — he’s beginning to reek of mold.

To take her mind off of Alwin’s predicament, Belinda turns back to her favorite recipe. She can’t help but smile as she gathers the proper ingredients and dumps them into her cauldron: tiny snails, fat slugs, pumpkin seeds, a virgin’s eyes.

Dropping a pulsing heart into the thickening dough, Belinda stirs it once, twice, three times. “This’ll turn out right this time, I just know it.”

Alwin pulls a rubber mask over his crumbling face. “Can I help?”

“Not this time, Alwin, but you can watch Berthold rise.”

“Who’s Berthold? Is it candy?”

“No, he’s a different kind of treat, Alwin. The kind that’ll stay fresh forever.”

“Sounds tasty, Momma.”

Belinda licks her lips. “Oh, I hope so, Alwin. I hope so.”

© Copyright 2010

Progress! Reward. Dragon Age: Origins Replay

Re-aligning my schedule means that I’m also plotting out free time and marketing-related activities. With the weather getting colder, my work-outs remain inside the house rather than outside, and time spent with friends and family is typically holiday-or-hobby related. I had a little slip-up last week, where I delved into Whiny Mc Whine Whine Pants once again, which is why I need to acquire and cross-stitch this sign as soon as humanly possible.

However, there was progress made and a direction forward. This, my friends, is the beginning of the slow ride back up to the top of my winding rollercoaster. Though the motor be broken, the wheels rusted or bent, and the cart a little wobbly — the important thing is that it *is* moving again after a period of required maintenance. The creative life is full of ups, downs, and sideways turns; some things are in your control, some aren’t. Understand that? And you’ll weather any storm. Seriously.

But life isn’t all about blue roses (that’s a blog post for another time, by the way), one also needs to balance out work with turning-off-brain-activities. So, I’m replaying Dragon Age: Origins as a male elf assassin named Thorsgaard. (And the Mabari hound is named Loki.) I like Dragon Age because there isn’t one path to interpersonal relationships with the other characters; some are extremely faceted and the female characters DO stand out in their own right. That’s important to me for a lot of reasons, because when you treat ANY gender/sex/etc. as its stereotype, whether that view originate from your own mind or not, it makes the game/story/whatever perpetuate older viewpoints that aren’t realistic anymore.

[Insert a lament of seriously missing Kurt Vonnegut.]

We’re experiencing, right now, a cultural evolution because we communicate faster together than ever before. This won’t last, sadly, if the economics of the internet outweigh the ability to express ourselves freely — something I do think will still happen down the road if technology and methods of delivering content don’t continue to evolve faster than businesses can keep up. Sooner or later, we’ll reach the point where the two converge. After all, we have seen this sort of thing before.

Anyway, apologies for the sidebar, but I feel contemporary game design plays into that concept. Dragon Age: Origins is a re-playable game for me because of its nuanced and complex storytelling approach. It’s not the linear story that draws me to the property; it’s the facets, split plot lines, multiple origins, and the way characters approach the different sexes/races. Even so, I have a lot of freedom to get out of the game what I’m comfortable with. I know some were appalled that a male character made some advances on another male (or vice versa) to which my response is: get over it. That’s realistic and could easily happen in real life. Have you ever been hit on by a member of the opposite sex you couldn’t stand? Yeah, that can happen, too. Why wouldn’t a storyteller provide that as an option in a game — especially one that’s meant for a large audience?

I should also point out, that the ability to save at any time during a game is a huge deal for me. After all, I can break out ye olde timer and gauge playtime accordingly. I foresee a lot of words in my future. Hee.

The only trouble is, playing Dragon Age: Origins has given me other ideas for dark fantasy stories of the original, sure, but also of the Dragon Age and Ravenloft varieties. What can I say? I like my fantasy to have a little necromancy. There are a lot of dead things in the world, not all of which are human.

    Mood: It’s the Eve of Halloween. What’s not to love?
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Must. Continue. Movement.
    In My Ears: The screams of darkspawn as I slay them mercilessly.
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Origins
    Movie Last Viewed: The Raven
    Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
    Latest Release: “Fangs and Formaldehyde” from the New Hero anthology through Stone Skin Press

Editor’s Afterword from Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror

Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly HororThis year, we’re celebrating the one-year anniversary of Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror. The anthology won a reader’s choice award and has earned a spot on many reader’s shelves of ghostly favorites. I was lucky to edit the anthology. I say “lucky,” because I worked with a group of very fine writers, indeed.

To celebrate, I am publishing the Editor’s Afterword here on my blog. I feel that, when I’m editing an anthology, I prefer the emphasis to be on the authors themselves. After all, they do a tremendous amount of heavy lifting and I’m more like a treasure hunter, helping them show their best faces. (And that, in my opinion, they did.)

If you’re interested in picking up this spooky collection, you can head on over to BarnesandNoble.com and DriveThruFiction.com.

Editor’s Afterword

Reading an anthology about ghost hunters is like meandering into a haunted mansion. As you wander through hallways covered in cobwebs, a chill goes up and down your spine when you visit each room. Something — whether it’s a ghostly flicker or a strange shadow — catches your eye. The temperature plummets. Then, the room spins and your heart is pounding. It’s strange, but after a few minutes, everything returns to normal. As your vision clears, you catch a few, grim details. Maybe you shudder as ghostly orb floats past you. Maybe you trip over a dead body.

Or maybe you’ve stepped in a pool of blood.

You open your mouth to scream when suddenly — out of nowhere — a team of ghost hunters rushes in around you. They tell you they’ve got it covered; they know what they’re doing.

And, if you’re willing, they’ll be glad to take you along for eleven, different rides.


For HAUNTED, eleven authors were asked to tap into their storytelling abilities and write a story about ghost hunting. My role began when I received their submissions and ended when I accepted their final version for the anthology. The end result of the writing and editing process is the spooky collection of stories you’ve just read.

The talented authors in this anthology are nothing short of amazing. They were all easy to work with and excited about penning and revising their ghostly tales. Each one sends a chill up-and-down my spine, not just because they haunt my laptop, but because I’ve had the unique pleasure of seeing these stories through from beginning to end.

I hope you enjoyed reading HAUNTED: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror and I encourage you to explore the depth and breadth of works by these exceptional wordsmiths.


Happy Hunting!

Oh, Glorious Pumpkins

I carve pumpkins, sure, but certainly not as well as Villafane Studios. This is one of my favorites, because it uses other fall-riffic elements in interesting ways to add texture and color. If you’re feeling so inspired, they sell video tutorials so you can create your own and master pumpkin carving kits, too.

Best Pumpkin Ever

There’s a huge gallery over that way, so drop by and check out the studio!

    Mood: Yesssssssssssss????
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: BCL: 4.57 That’s blood caffeine level for those of you paying attention.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Not enough. Feeling the need to jiggle and jive.
    In My Ears: Siren’s Call by Nox Arcana from Phantom of the High Seas
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Origins
    Movie Last Viewed: The Raven
    Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
    Latest Release: “Fangs and Formaldehyde” from the New Hero anthology through Stone Skin Press
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Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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