Monday, February 27, 2012

Local Legends

I love a good local ghost story.  Not an urban legend where you can find the same tale with minor variations almost anywhere (though those are fun too), but a legend that’s linked to your local area.  When I first moved to Southern Maryland, I had no idea how far back the history went.  There’s a small village nearby, Port Tobacco, that became the county seat back in 1658. 

Since it was located on the Port Tobacco River, it became a seaport and the 2nd largest town in Maryland until they were upstaged by the coming of the railroad to another town.  The population moved, and the town dwindled back to a village, but quite a bit of local legends and history remained.

Dr. Gustavus Brown's house, near where Sims was killed.

One of my favorites is the ghost of the blue dog.  Back when Port Tobacco was a busy seaport they had many waterfront taverns.  Following the American Revolutionary War, a soldier, Charles Thomas Sims, and his blue tick hound had come to one of the taverns on February 8.  He boasted of having gold and a deed to an estate. 

When he left the tavern and headed down Rose Hill Road, he was followed by a local man, Henry Hanos who murdered Sims and his dog and buried the treasure.  When Hanos returned the next day to recover his stolen treasure, he was confronted by the ghost of the blue dog, and died. Ever since then, the ghost of the blue dog has been seen up and down Rose Hill Road, guarding the treasure of his slain master.

The first written account of this story came from Olivia Floyd, confederate spy, and the owner of the property where Sims was killed.  She told the Port Tobacco Times that she had seen the ghost of the Blue Dog. 

The first time I heard the tale I was coming back from a play at high school and we were taking Rose Hill Road home.  Beautiful country road during the day and damn dark at night.  I’ll never forget the shiver that went through me as I searched the trees, hoping (and not hoping) that I’d catch a glimpse of the dog.  What made it so scary, was the legend claimed that if you saw the blue dog near the rock where his master was killed, you would die soon after.  Supposedly, you can hear him on the anniversary of his master’s death.  I haven’t been anywhere near Rose Hill Road on February 8th, let me tell you.
Now whenever I pass Rose Hill Road and the Blue Dog Saloon named after the legend, I point them out to my son and tell him the tale of Charles Sims and his blue dog and how the dog howls and mourns for his slain master.  It’s usually at night and we both shiver and watch the road, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghost dog.  One of these nights, I'm sure we will.  Please tell me some of your own local legends.  I love hearing about them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Paranormal TV by Marie Sexton & Heidi Cullinan

Part of what makes paranormal stories so fun is how seamlessly they blend the supernatural/fantastical into reality. While it’s hard not to love outright fantasy like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, there’s a special thrill to a story that blends the world we know with a world that might be. It’s fantastic in books, and both of us write and read stories with paranormal elements. But when we need to recharge our paranormal batteries, one of the best places we’ve found to go is paranormal TV.

Heidi: I love the show Medium. I just recently found it, but it’s become an obsession I’m in no hurry to shake. The writing is superb, to start. I almost always know the solution before they do, but that isn’t why I’m there. I love seeing how prophetic dreams can weave into reality. I love it best when the dreams initially seem to make no sense when stacked against the crime the DA is investigating and I have to be patient to see how it all shakes out in the end.

What I love most, though, is how heavy the reality component is to the show. How it’s less about Allison’s ability and more about her struggle to find “normal” within her unique gifts. How the show deals with the children showing increasing signs of the same psychic powers and the family’s wrestling with how much to explain to them and when.  I love Joe and his calm, constant support and heavy yanks back into the practical, keeping Allison grounded. And Bridget. Man, I love Bridget. I can’t wait to see her grow up.

Marie: To this day, my favorite paranormal TV show is still The X-Files. I love Scully constantly arguing that there’s a scientific explanation for everything, and Mulder flying off the handle at the most absurd possibilities. My very favorite episode is Bad Blood, where Mulder drives a wooden stake through a kid’s heart, resulting in a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the FBI. Mulder and Scully each get to tell their version of what happened and not surprisingly, their tales are radically different. It’s a fabulous demonstration of how point of view can change a story (and I’m a nut for point of view). And I’m also a big fan of just about any kind of good monster story.

What about you? Are you a fan of paranormal TV? Tell us about your favorites.

Heidi and Marie are co-owners of a naughty little blog called Coffee and Porn in the Morning. Stop by for some NSFW pictures, ebook giveaways, and 25 free short stories from some of your favorite m/m authors!

Marie Sexton lives in Colorado. She’s a fan of just about anything that involves muscular young men piling on top of each other. In particular, she loves the Denver Broncos and enjoys going to the games with her husband. Her imaginary friends often tag along. Marie has one daughter, two cats, and one dog, all of whom seem bent on destroying what remains of her sanity. She loves them anyway.

Her most recent release is Cinder, a sweet and sexy novella from Silver Publishing about a young man’s adventures in finding (and keeping) his Prince Charming.

You can find out more about Marie at

Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there.  When she isn’t writing, Heidi enjoys knitting, reading, movies, TV shows on DVD, and all kinds of music.  She has a husband, a daughter, and too many cats.

Her most recent release is A Private Gentleman, an early Victorian m/m historical from Samhain about a book-loving whore, a stammering gentleman botanist, and a terrible secret.

Find Heidi on the Web: Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and her website.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Djinn in the Tree

Djinn or Genie, are supernatural beings that are neither angles nor the traditional ‘fallen angel’ demon. There are good and bad djinn, male and female, and some are said to grant wishes or make deals with us mere mortals but woe betide the man (or woman) who breaks a deal with them.

The mythology has Islamic root and some believe that they were created by Allah while others believe they came before humans. Of course, if you’ve read 1001 Arabian Nights, many of the stories in there features Djinni, the most familiar story being, Aladdin’s Magical Lamp.

My story is not nearly as fantastic, but interesting nonetheless.

I was 13 years old and we had move into a rundown duplex that we rented for cheap if my dad would do repairs on the place. Whoever had lived in the place before us had done a serious number on the place. There were holes in the walls, cabinets had been torn down and the yard was nothing but bare dirt and a gnarled old tree in the front yard.

The tree was twisted and old, and being a mesquite tree, didn’t really provide much shade and gave more of a creepy feeling to the front of the house.

Over the next few weeks, odd things began to happen in the house. Things would come up missing, there were strange noises and my dad began to have serious headaches. Fights became common place in the house and some of the objects reappeared near the tree outside. My sister was convinced something strange was happening. She called it a ghost, but she’s always been easy to scare and I ‘might’ have added to her fears, because, well, it was fun to mess with her. (Yes, it might have been mean, but hey, I was 13.)

My dad however, took it seriously, and began to study the tree. After some time, announced that there was a djinn in our tree.

I have to say, I didn’t really believe all that nonsense. I made a point in saying as much. Anyone of my younger siblings could have put the things under the tree, or dropped stuff outside. The house had sat for a while; the sounds could have been mice. But my dad insisted it was a djinn and went about the task of ridding the tree of the spirit.

A few days later, I was on my way home, my sister met me at the bus stop when I got off school. She was very excited and was babbling about the djinn-tree and that our dad had made the djinn leave.

I was skeptical, but as I rounded the corner to our house, there in the front yard the tree was dead. A main branch was broken and lying on the ground and it looked as if it had been dead awhile and the sparse leaves were gone.

Whether there was really a djinn in the tree, I will never know, but there are a lot of things in this world that make you wonder. It’s quite possible my dad killed the tree to put my sister’s mind at ease and get rid of the eyesore. Or maybe it really was a djinn. Either way it made me think, left me curious, and drove me to look into the supernatural and paranormal and for that, I’m glad there was a djinn in my tree.

Angelics Part 2

So, where was I? Ah yes – angels.

Who are the big names and what are they usually associated with? If you pick up an angel dictionary or a book on Angelology, they’re cram packed with hundreds of ‘angel names’ and what they do. It’s interesting to see that many (though not all) angel names end in ‘-el’ – why is that? 

El is one of the names of God. I could say it’s Hebrew but there are those who could argue it stems from a proto-Hebraic language or even the language of the angels themselves that humanity spoke before the Tower of Babel was destroyed and the language of man confused (but that’s another story entirely – I’ll try to keep on topic). Having ‘-el’ at the beginning or end of the name denotes a reference in some way to God or being ‘of God’, ‘from God’, or a function of God. 

You may dislike the idea that angelics stem from God or gods that perhaps you don’t believe in even though you do believe in angels and that’s okay. There’s always a way around these things but for the moment I’ll get back to...

There aren’t just individual angels bouncing around them there heavens – oh no. For many traditions there isn’t even just one heaven – heavenly realms – plural. Shamayyim – Hebrew often translated as heaven is actually a plural meaning heavens (Deut 10:14 – heaven of heavens, highest heavens). Paul speaks of the third heaven in the New Testament (2Cor 2:12). The Gnostics speak of many aeons surrounding the planetary realms before getting anywhere close to the Treasury of Light. Within these layers of intelligence there are Orders of angels with specific functions.

Open for your interpretation is the possibility of billions upon zillions of intelligences that are entirely aside to the whole angelic buzz that’s going on for the traditionalist. The Father's House has many rooms and all that. Think pantheons, Rome, Greece, Norse and Celtic gods and goddesses? In the Old Testament we’re told to have no other gods but God. Why, what were the choices? But ahem, I digress and wanting to avoid a stoning… moving along…

There are realms of angels with precise energy signatures (after all that’s what a name is, isn’t it?) and then there are the guys that hightailed out of heaven on Lucifer’s coat tails. The fallen angels, often times referred to as demons, we met in Mary’s post the other week.

The most commonly recognized Orders – Hashmalim, Malachim, Seraphim, Cherubim, Elim, Ishim, Ophanim, Hyos Ha Koidesh, the Twenty-Four Elders (not a conclusive list) – overseeing everything from inspiring music and art to ruling and security; bringing down fire, communication and my favourite – singing – yay for the party in the heavens. 

Then we have the Michaels, Gabriels, Uriels, Raphaels, not just one Archangel but whole hosts of angelics operating within that vibration, busying themselves with protecting and healing, announcing and bringing forth, uh…stuff. Throw in all the other angelics you can think of and that’s one hell (oops – heaven) of a gathering.

This fabulous rendering of Michael binding Lucifer (and oh the plot bunnies that throws up) by Guido Reni shows an androgynous beauty and whoa – that is some tight and well-crafted body armour he’s got on there – leather, Lycra or Kevlar? He’s famous in certain scriptures for standing up for humanity, for binding Satan/Lucifer and generally being an all-round good guy.

Now Lucifer, here’s an interesting character. The most beautiful of the heavenly beings, the Morning Star, (not looking very pretty in the picture above mind you), cast into the fiery pit because he didn’t like the new kid on the block, Adam. Not quite how it went but artistic license and all that. Actually, for those of you that like to delve a little into the old scrolls I recommend digging out a copy of The Apocalypse of Moses and The Slavonic Adam and Eve. They are both Apochryphal/Pseudepigraphal and are sometimes lumped together as The Books of Adam and Eve. The texts give an expanded version of the rebellion in the heavens over the creation of the Adam/Adam Kadmon (depending on personal interpretation). If you delve into the Books of Enoch the Prophet, you’ll even find a list of some of the fallen angels that set up an alternative creation with Lucifer in order to whisper quietly in humanities ear. 

Angels. You gotta love ’em and to each of us they have a particular meaning or none at all. And what a muse they make. Good boys, bad boys, never sure which way to hedge their bets boys. And girls, of course. Or maybe not. Asexual, pansexual, anything you want sexual, angels can do it and be it all and there is no shortage of authors exploring their own interpretations of heavens, hells, angels and demons.

Perhaps you have a favourite or one that really didn’t work for you at all? I’ve certainly come across books that fall into both camps. I keep thinking that one day I’ll write about angels but there’s something about solidifying them into words that doesn’t gel with my muse. I’m happy to leave it to the many authors that do it well and let the closest I come to the concept be Reeve, my paralemptor

And boy is he going to have fun when he tries out the human life…and all to sample the taste of lurve.

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Bloody Valentine

It's all about the blood. From the mutated DNA strands that bring the animal to the surface in shapeshifters to the diseased cells that create zombies, it's always coursing through our veins. Is there anything more intimate than sharing blood? Before you say "Gross!" and click away, think about it. You are literally giving your life force to another person. You are trusting someone to know how to keep you safe while they fulfill their desires, or even their needs. There is so much more to it than just preventing the spread of diseases from donor to drinker, although that's always a consideration.

Blood is most commonly associated with The Big 'V'. Vampires. We love them. We know all about them, right? The shapeshifting ones, the emo ones, the Viking, and the sparkly.

But what about vampyres? The real ones? The ones who consume blood or energy regularly? They're out there, keeping their compulsions hidden from society at large.

Blood fetishists use blood for sexual arousal. The sight of it, the taste, the smell, the feel. Bloodplay is usually kept within the confines of a 'scene'. It gets them off. It's mostly sexual, but the trust and bond cultivated between the parities is undeniable.

Sanguinarians (sang) have a need to feed on blood. They do it because it nourishes their physical being and replenishes their emotional energy. Without it, they can develop migraines, weakened immune systems, depression, and even joint pain and rages. It's a part of their nature, not some image they wear, and it's not a sex game to them. Some of these sangs have suffered these symptoms for years only to have ingesting blood provide nearly instant relief, leaving the sang relaxed or energized. Is it medical, or a psychosomatic response? Does it matter? 

There are several medical conditions which may have contributed to the myth of vampires. Porphyria can cause a sensitivity to UV light and tightening around the gums, making the teeth seem longer than normal. Garlic can exacerbate the symptoms. Noticing any vampire myths yet?

Xeroderma pigmentosum causes severe photosensitivity. Exposure to the sun can cause blistering, and sometimes even death.

Some sufferers of catalepsy, a disorder that causes muscle rigidity, may have been buried alive. When they recovered from their symptoms, they might have attempted to dig themselves out of their graves. Exhumation of these bodies found bloody hands and mouths. The traditional method of driving a stake through their hearts to kill these vampires most likely simply released gasses trapped in the abdominal cavities of these corpses, leading superstitious villagers to believe they had killed a member of the undead.

These undiagnosed, misunderstood conditions probably gave birth to the myths we see propagated by movies and books today. Is it any wonder why these vampyres prefer to stay in the coffin?


Monday, February 6, 2012

Dynamically Paranormal Relationships

The dynamics of a relationship really shouldn’t be all the paranormal. It should just be normal. Unfortunately, that is most often not the case. In normal life we all experience relationships, most we’re forced into, either a birth family or co-workers. We search for years for that true family that we choose, the people we love because we can, not because we have to.

We all laugh about those in our family who are the black sheep, and maybe some us are those fluffy dark critters. But we’re all ingrained with this horrible need to belong. Not just in work, school, or public society, but to our families too. People get married to try to create that secure family unit, only to divorce later when they realize it’s not something that can be faked, forced, or fooled.

Writing a good story, especially romance, isn’t just about the main couple. Sure we all know they will get together, probably have hot sex, and end up happy ever after, but where’s the family to the equation? We all know that often times a lover is just not enough for support. Slash writers really get this idea, often twisting the dynamic relationship even further to create a romance that originally wasn’t intended.

 In the real world we have children to try to fill that need. They have us so they have to love us, right? We all know in truth, that’s the wrong reason to have a child. After all, a lot of us have horror stories about growing up with parents who really didn’t want kids. To this day, my own mother claims I owe her tons of money for “raising me”.  However, her failures helped shape who I am today. And while I dream wildly of paranormal relationships I don’t have, I know what to do whenever I find one.

This is the building block of the dynamic relationship, the desire to rise above the forced family and create one of true support and love. Romantic love or otherwise, relationships are the key to any good writing since most of us read to escape our own problems for a few hours.

What does that have to do with paranormal writing, you ask? The best fiction isn’t about one or two characters. It’s about a cast of them. The supporting actors and actresses, who shape the main characters, nudge them in the right direction, and lecture them on bad decisions are just as important as your hero and villain. Paranormal relationships are the core of good writing, and the key to keeping a series alive. Would my protagonist, Seiran be his growing self without Jamie following him around and trying to protect him? Or Gabe’s quiet but unshakeable love? Of course not.

Any genre would be lost without the paranormal relationship dynamic. Would Harry Potter be anything without Ron Weasley or Hermoine Granger? Bella without Jacob?  Frodo without Samwise?

So how do you create that dynamic relationship? The answer is simple of course. And no it’s not to add more characters. It’s to make the ones you do have more personal. How to do that? Well all your characters should have flaws and strengths, something that is helped by knowing the other character. For example, Jamie’s biggest flaw is that he needs to take care of someone. Seiran is insecure and really needy, so he fills this role for Jamie. Gabe’s biggest flaw is that he likes to be in control. Seiran fulfills this by letting Gabe control most everything.  All of the characters should pyramid each other with flaws, a bit like a puzzle.

So while I don’t have a big brother who is willing to put up with my crap, and my sisters and I could live on different moons and still never talk, I do write my characters to have that paranormal relationship. I build my from the inside out, flaw to strength, until the network is complete. So what is your favorite paranormal relationship dynamic?

Friday, February 3, 2012

A demon with your book?

When I was a junior in college I took a class on John Milton. Instead of seeing them as horrible and bad and deserving of contempt, I thought they were cool. I mean Book II of Paradise Lost where Mammon, after listening to first Moloch who wants to get his sword and go, and Belial who thinks they should just suck it up and live, decides that they could build there, sure, I sort of fell in love with them. John Milton would have a seizure, that was so not the point he was trying to make. The whole speech from Satan in Book I where he says that it's better to reign in hell than to serve in Heaven, is just empty words. But they are very romantic ones. When we discussed it in groups, in class, I thought, uh-oh, my moral compass is way off here because I'm feeling sorry for these guys. But the more I thought about it, the more I started to understand.

The same way that Michael Corleone is romantic in The Godfather, the fallen angels, now demons, had my interest. At first I thought, big red warning sign that something was seriously wrong, but it's just like falling for the bad boy instead of the squeaky clean guy, it's not really about the evil, it's about the possibility of good. It's about the kernel of redemption. The ultimate bad boy, is a monster, and what could be worse than a demon? Think about a guilty pleasure like the show Charmed. Even if you didn't watch it when it ran originally, like me, (because I'm old), you've caught in on TNT at some point. The hottest couple ever, Phoebe and Cole. Why? Because he was a demon. If she could redeem him, make him good...swoon. Piper had the angel, and he was cute, but he was not sexy Julian McMahon.

If love can redeem an evil vampire, that's very romantic. But a soul-sucking creature from the pit, if love can turn him around, that's ten times hotter. All the strength and power of being evil is still there, the loyalty is refocused for good and he's possessive and protective because demons are selfish and keep what they treasure close. Suddenly, you have a hero where there was only darkness just a little while ago. Turning evil into good, nothing better, and a little wicked thrown in with the nice is always appreciated. Like Kahlil Gibran says:
Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.
For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?
Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters.
Yeah, like that.