Mostly Celtic and Scottish, these posts deal with old tales and legends.

Times the Universe Yelled at Me

Friday the 13th’s post is about those little jolts of synchronicity from Nature. The messages the natural world sends our way in the weirdest manners.

But first, I have a non-natural sign to share with you. Zoraida Grey and the Family Stones will go on sale on October 20 and stay that way until November 3. What can this mean, you ask. What does this portend?

Well, I’ll tell you. It means the release of Zoraida Grey and the Voodoo Queen is getting closer. No firm date yet, but the process is begun.

To get the word out about the sale, I’m running a Thunderclap campaign. I’d appreciate your support. Click HERE to lend your voice to the tumult! 

Portents and Omens

So many people are genuinely suffering in our world today. Echoes of their pain filter into my safe, warm home. A subtle dis-ease keeps me awake at night and disturbs my morning tea. Something prickles the hair on my neck, and I text my kids to make sure they are okay. Of course, they are. But the feeling that something just isn’t right persists.

I can’t explain it.

In difficult times, we humans look for patterns—shapes in the clouds, faces etched on our breakfast toast, order from chaos. Soothsayers and fortunetellers cast the bones or lay out cards or divine meaning from patterns in entrails or bumps on the head.

Who can say if they’re wasting their time or not? Who can say the old ways are dead?

If you live close to the land, you’ve heard the voices of birds and beasts, of soil and wind and rain, of trees and grass, herbs and flowers. You’ve sensed the wariness of a doe and her fawns long before the flick of a white tail in the undergrowth draws your eye. You’ve felt the intrusion of another person on an abandoned road long before they came into view.

It’s this connection with the natural world that brings order for me and it’s here where I look for signs and symbols, omens and portents. Am I wasting my time? Who can say? I sleep better when I see the orderly progression of stars and planets across the night sky. My day is more peaceful when a squirrel or woodpecker peeks in my window to say hello—to remind me the world still works.

Most of the time, that’s all it is. Just a greeting, an acknowledgement, a cautious connection with the strange noisy creature who lives in their woods. Maybe they’re as curious about me as I am about them. Maybe, to them, I’m a sign of disaster.

Every culture on the planet includes a collection of animal lore, superstitions, traditions explaining odd encounters. A black cat may mean bad luck or good luck. A turtle signals rain; a dog’s howl  death. Most of these bits of folklore are general and easily dismissed. But sometimes the event is so persistent or so odd, you wonder.

Below, you can read about some of my encounters with nature signs, but tell me—What messages has the Universe sent to you? Or do you think all of this sounds crazy? Leave a comment and tell me what you think!!

 

Times the Universe yelled at me

A black snake crawled down a tree outside my window. Not unusual, until he or his brother crawled onto my porch—three times. Not only that, but as I sat typing (coincidentally about a character who sometimes turns into a snake) there he/she was again—slithering across the tin roof outside my second-story window.

  • Snakes signal transformation, life and rebirth, healing. He also suggests grounding—focusing intention on the basic. But this guy was in midair nearly every time I found him so there’s that. Also, black is a color of protection.

I headed to town on a grocery (liquor) run but had to stop when a huge walking stick slide down the windshield. She scampered under the hood. A thorough search of my car’s private parts yielded no walking stick and I feared the worst. My shopping finished, I pulled into the gas station and what did I find crawling across the top of the car, but my walking stick. This time I secured her and got her home where I released her into the wild. As I put her on a tree, another walking stick ran up as if to say “Thanks the gods, you’re safe. We heard you’d been abducted by aliens.” For the next several days, walking sticks took every opportunity to make their presence known. They crawled up my legs, they dropped on me from trees, they appeared in the most unlikely places. And then they went back to being nearly invisible.

  • Walking sticks, stick bugs, Devil’s darning needle—their real name is phasmid. While they don’t sting people, they do spit caustic liquid into the eyes of their prey to blind them. Nifty. They suggest patience and again focus. Why are you yelling at me, Nature?  They are also experts at camouflage and indicate a need for serious reflection before taking action.

In the course of one full moon night, my house was assaulted by a band of marauding raccoons who crept in the cat door. Mom and two fuzzy nuggets of disaster made a complete tour of the house before they waddled out. At the same time, a cat caught a flying squirrel took the wee beastie upstairs where the squirrel escaped. I chased it into the sun room where it found a hiding place. I secured the doors, opened the window and took off the screen, hoping he would find his way out during the night. He did not. The next morning he did a flying leap from wherever he had been hiding, ricocheted off my leg and nearly came to a bad end before I got him safely stowed in a wide-mouth mason jar I keep for just such chores. I took him into the woods far from prying feline eyes and the last I saw of him, he was climbing a pine tree with a certain amount of alacrity.

  • Raccoons are curious and clever. Their presence may be about leaving no stone unturned in a quest but Raccoon is a trickster, too. They like to knock things out of balance and you can either go with that and enjoy the ride or you can resist which makes you frustrated and annoyed.
  • Squirrels advise to take yourself less seriously and have more fun.  Again with the yelling! To really relax, though, they remind that you have to take care of practical matters first. Squirrels encourage you to get rid of clutter and leave unimportant things behind.

 

via GIPHY

 

Don’t forget to leave a comment and/or weird sign you’ve gotten. Or feel free to add your interpretation of mine. I can use all the help I can get.

Vampires — Sucking for a Thousand Years

As a rule, I don’t do vampires. And when I do do vampires, I prefer this:

or even this:

Image result for dead and loving it gifs

Over this:

Image result for sparkly vampire gif

But Zoraida Grey and the Voodoo Queen took an interesting turn the other day which required a bit of research into the phenomena of blood suckers.

So let’s define terms. The history of the word goes back at least as far as the 11th century to the Old Russian word upyri but the idea of the blood sucking undead is older still. The Babylonians had Lilitu (which may or may not have been the precursor to Lilith–Personally, I think Lilith got a bad rap but that’s a whole other post.)

Our concept of vampires really started in the eighteenth century and was updated in movies. Before that, vampires took many forms and some of them are pretty weird.

  • The Zotzil people of Chiapas, Mexico, tell stories about Death Bats. Neck cutters, as they are affectionately known, also haunt secluded parts of Trinidad and Ecuador.

Image result for giant bat

  • Iceland reports two kinds of draugur–which means Ghost but not your normal Caspar who gets his kicks moving furniture and frightening ghost hunters by closing doors or touching their hair. Nope, these spooks have a lot in common with the undead. First, they are dead but not quite. Second, they tend to prey on the living. Though they don’t suck your blood, they will drag you back to their graves and turn you into apprentice draugur if you aren’t careful.
  • A great many stories are told about beautiful women vampires. The Celts have the Dearg Dhu–a beautiful woman who committed suicide rather than marry a brutish suitor. She came back from the grave for revenge.  This seemed to be enough of a problem that villagers got into the habit of putting heavy stones on the graves of young women to prevent their return.

Woman, Female, Young, Beauty, Vamp

  • The Malaysian Penanggalan are women who use black magic to obtain or restore  beauty. She detaches her head and the head flies around in the night looking for the blood of pregnant women.
  • Civatateo is a vampire witch in Aztec tales. She was a noblewoman who died in childbirth. She comes back and bites children who then die of a wasting illness. The living place cakes in the shape of butterflies on shrines at the crossroads to prevent an attack.

Daemon, Vampire, Zombie, Creepy, Horror

  • Tlahuelpocmimi is a vampire witch from Mexico. They can shapeshift into different forms, but always have a glowing aura which is a handy identifier. These vampires are born with the curse of vampirism which makes them testy.Vampire, Horror, Blood, Dracula, Dirty

 

These are only a few of the vampires who live–or unlive–in traditions all around the world. In Zoraida Grey and the Voodoo Queen, some sort of vampire is likely to show up.

Which creatures from fact or fiction scare you the most? 

Novel Magic: The Mythological Origins of an Epic Romance by Guest Author Anna Durand

It’s my pleasure to kick off a brand new feature on Sorchia’s Universe which I’m going to call the Novel Magic until I can think of something better (suggestions welcome.) Every now and then, I’ll feature one of the talented authors I’ve been privileged to meet and give you a sneak peek into their thoughts and their latest work. We’ll specialize in paranormal, fantasy, horror, medieval, and steam punk because that’s what we do here! 

Our first guest is  best-selling author Anna Durand with tales of the fairy folk. In Celtic legend, fairies are mysterious and often dangerous creatures wielding powers beyond understanding. Learn about Anna’s inspiration for her new book The Mortal Falls and read a captivating excerpt.

Be sure to leave a comment and/or a Like to let us know you’re out there.

The Mythological Origins of Epic Romance

by

Anna Durand

I love to write epic romances, the kind that unfold on a grander scale where the stakes are higher than normal and the payoff is all the more satisfying for it. I also love mythology and the paranormal, so naturally, I often incorporate these elements into my stories. My newest book, The Mortal Falls, combines many of my favorite subjects within a strange and wonderful world.

One of my all-time favorite books is The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries by W.Y. Evans-Wentz. This book, published by Oxford University Press in 1911, emerged out of the author’s journeys through the Celtic nations of Europe, during which he interviewed many locals and thoroughly documented their folk beliefs — and even their claims of eyewitness encounters with fairy folk. The Mortal Falls might never have been born if I hadn’t read Evans-Wentz’s exhaustive study of the fairy-faith.

In 2013, I made use of what I’d learned about Celtic fairy lore when I wrote a romance short story, The Falls, in which my human heroine meets a hot sylph and a snarky leprechaun. I loved the world I’d envisioned so much that I began writing a novel-length version of the story. Though Evans-Wentz’s book inspired my writing, I also switched things up a bit to make the already weird fairy lore even stranger and more alien — yet relatable, because my fairies essentially look like humans, with a few exceptions.

My leprechaun looks and acts like a snarky teenager, though he’s centuries old.  My sylphs are not airy spirits. They are sexy, humanoid beings with swirling eyes and metallic skin. Why not? It’s a romance, after all, and every romance needs a hot guy. An immortal being with seductive allure and the power to enchant women is even better!

One idea straight out of fairy lore that may not be well known to most people is the fairies’ affinity for water. Many fairy legends involve water, from rivers to lakes and everything in between. The Mortal Falls gets its name partly from this legendary affinity, which plays a vital role in the story.

Evans-Wentz described the existence of fairies as the Invisible World, a place humans couldn’t see but that existed in parallel with our world. I turned this into the Unseen, a parallel realm of reality accessed via magical portals. Into these intertwined worlds I dropped my logical heroine, Lindsey, and all the strange beings who complicate her life, including shapeshifters and elementals. In the second book in the series, The Mortal Fires (my current work-in-progress), I introduce even more beings derived from mythology who are tied to the elements, including a fiery incubus.

What better way to spark the fire of an epic story than via the rich and diverse world of mythology?

“Besides the stars that are established, there is yet another—Imagination—that begets a new star and a new heaven.” —Paracelsus

Excerpt from The Mortal Falls

My ears rang and I suddenly realized I’d forgotten to breathe. “What on earth are you?”

He clapped his palms on the tree, straddling my shoulders. His body radiated heat. It poured over me like liquid sunshine. I sucked in a breath. The scent of him devoured my senses — an earthy tang, underlaid with exotic spice and a sharp sweetness that evoked thunderstorms. His breath whispered over my lips. “What are you?”

“Uh…” I squirmed. “I’m a woman, a human being, like you.”

He chuckled. “We are nothing alike.”

His laughter twanged a nerve inside me, breaking the spell. I blinked three times and hauled in a deep breath, letting it out slowly, overcome by the need to clear my senses. I stared at his chest, desperate to banish all thoughts of the supernatural. I needed to get back to the interrogation. “A man is dead. You must’ve seen something. Don’t you care about that, or anything?”

“Another question.”

“Which you aren’t answering. Again.”

“I regret I’m unable to become involved in mortal affairs.”

“Mortal affairs?” I shook my head, dumbfounded. “How can you be so heartless?”

A strange expression flickered across his features and he bowed his head. “Because I am. You would do well to stay away from me and my kind.”

His kind? That implied he was—No. Oh-no-no, I would not go there. I cleared my throat. “You approached me.”

He looked up, but his shoulders slumped. “Alas, I don’t always do as I should.”

“Don’t you feel anything?”

“This has nothing to do with emotions.” He rubbed my hair between his thumb and forefinger, his attention riveted to the lock. “But to answer your question, I do feel. More than I should, in fact.”

I craned my neck to scrutinize him across the six-inch gap in our heights. A tightening around his eyes, coupled with a falter in his smile, led me to believe — or maybe hope — he did feel. He bent his head to peer at me. Those eyes. They smoldered from within. Shades of gold, bronze, and silver swirled inside the irises. No one’s eyes swirled. But heaven almighty, his did.

He dropped my hair. “Have ye lost the power of speech, love?”

“N-no. Why?”

His tone rife with amusement, he asked, “Don’t ye ever speak a declarative sentence?”

I snapped my spine straight, glared into his supernatural eyes, and said, “You’re an obnoxious twit. How’s that for declarative?”

“You astound me with your charm and slay me with your wit.”

Slay. The word plucked me out of this bizarre conversation and back to the reality of why I’d pursued this man in the first place. Someone was dead. My damn intuition, or whatever it was, refused to let me believe he had killed the shoplifter, but I must get an answer from him. A concrete, rational answer. “Did you kill him?”

About The Mortal Falls

 

A pragmatic human thrown into a world of magic…

Lindsey Porter fled from her traumatic past, determined to lay low, but now someone has framed her for murder. The quest for answers leads her into a parallel realm where magic reigns, and with a hostile sheriff and a shapeshifting assassin on her trail, she must place her life in the hands of a seductive, supernatural man who tempts her like no one else.

An immortal sylph enslaved by magic…

Nevan is trapped by a desperate bargain struck a century earlier, yet the beautiful, spirited Lindsey has enticed him to abandon his magically enforced duty. As forbidden passion flares between them, they’ll risk everything to uncover the truth and find what they both need the most — redemption.

When two worlds collide…

The fates of the elemental and mortal realms depend on the star-crossed lovers. As dark secrets from their pasts threaten to shatter the fragile trust between Lindsey and Nevan, a shocking revelation holds the power to deliver salvation or destruction.

Buy your copy of  The Mortal Falls at any of these links:

 

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

iTunes

KOBO

Google PlayStore

Who is Anna Durand?

 

Anna Durand is an award-winning, bestselling author of sizzling romances, including the Hot Scots series. She loves writing about spunky heroines and hunky heroes, in settings as diverse as modern Chicago and the fairy realm. Making use of her master’s in library science, she owns a cataloging services company that caters to indie authors and publishers. In her free time, you’ll find her binge-listening to audiobooks, playing with puppies, or crafting jewelry.

Connect with Anna at any of these sites:

 

Website: https://annadurand.com/

Spunk &
Hunks blog:
https://www.spunkandhunks.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheAnnaDurand

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnaDurandFiction

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/annadurand

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+AnnaDurandFiction/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/Anna_Durand/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/annadurand

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Spirits of Southeast Alaska by James P. Devereaux

By now you know my tastes–spooky or steamy or Scottish or all three–and when I find something share-worthy, I like to pass it along. This month’s selection falls firmly into the spooky category.

Spirits of Southeast Alaska came to me by way of my daughter who got it by way of a co-worker and friend who just happens to be the author. Anyone who loves a good ghost story will find this little book hard to put down.

From the ghostly wailings of shipwreck victims to shadow figures of long-dead villains to kindly spirits who oversee much-loved businesses, Devereaux’s book is filled with tales of paranormal activity. What makes this book stand out is the attention to historic detail. Ghosts don’t just grow on trees, after all. Every screaming banshee and moaning apparition tells a tale of a life lived and lost.

Violent and often barbaric, the history of Southeast Alaska probably wasn’t featured in your high school history books. In loving detail, Devereaux paints  vivid pictures of  the men and women who, sometimes for better but mostly for worse, sought their fortunes in the gold mines and boom towns of this wild region. Then he does a crack-up job of relating the experiences of the current Alaska inhabitants– chilling experiences which suggest  the former residents are still restless.

I guarantee you’ll find at least one story that lingers. You’ll recall it on a dark and stormy night when an Arctic wind howls out  of the North–a shivery little chill reminding you of tragedy, murder, and unsettled souls.

Now, as an editor and teacher, I have to say that I found a few overly lengthy sentences and a few missing Oxford commas–Oh, the Humanity! Seriously, I have to say that. Can’t help it. But these minor oversights didn’t keep me from shivering my way to the very end of this entertaining collection.

I highly recommend Spirits of Southeast Alaska to anyone who enjoys history and hauntings.

 

Grab a copy of the book HERE and be sure to let me know what you think of it. I’d also encourage you to post a review for the author on Amazon. We writers live for reviews. A few words and a few stars to let us know you’re out there keep us warm at night.