Sunday, December 31, 2017

History of New Year's Celebrations

New Year's Day is tomorrow (Monday)…welcome to 2018.  This has become a traditional time of celebration.  We party on New Year's Eve and celebrate the moment the clock strikes midnight signaling the beginning of a new year.

And, of course, when the year 2000 arrived we celebrated for twenty-four hours as each time zone around the world welcomed the new millennium on live television broadcasts.

But why and how did the New Year's celebrations become part of our annual routine?  The earliest recorded account of a celebration in honor of the new year dates back four thousand years to ancient Babylon.  For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal (spring) equinox announced the arrival of the new year.  They celebrated this spring time event with a massive 11 day religious festival called Akitu.  It was during this time that a new king was crowned or the current ruler's mandate renewed.

Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed more sophisticated calendars with the first day of the year associated with an agricultural or astronomical event.  For example, in Egypt the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius.  In China, the new year occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice…a day they still celebrate.

The early Roman calendar had 10 months and 304 days with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox.  Tradition holds that it was created by Romulus, the founder of Rome, in the eighth century B.C.  Numa Pompilius, a later king, is credited with adding the months of Januarius and Februarius.  Over the ensuing centuries, the Roman calendar grew out of sync with the sun.  In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar used today by most countries.

As part of his reform, Julius Caesar declared January 1 as the first day of the year and Romans celebrated by exchanging gifts, decorating their homes, and attending raucous parties.  In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced January 1 as the first day of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 as the anniversary of Christ's birth and March 25 as the Feast of the Annunciation.  It was Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 who re-established January 1 as New Year's Day.

In many countries, New Year's celebrations begin on New Year's Eve and continue into the early hours of January 1st.  These celebrations often include specific foods that are said to bring good luck for the coming year—grapes in Spain, round fruits in the Philippines, suckling pig in Austria, soba noodles in Japan, rice pudding in Norway, and black-eyed peas in the southern United States.  Other customs that are common worldwide include making new year resolutions (a practice started by the Babylonians) and watching fireworks displays.
In the United States, the most famous New Year's tradition is the dropping of the giant ball in New York City's Times Square.  This event, first instituted in 1906, occurs at the stroke of midnight.  The original giant ball was made of iron and wood weighing 400 pounds.  A total of 7 versions of the Ball have been designed over the more than a century since the first drop of the ball occurred.

Today's giant ball is a brightly patterned sphere 12 feet in diameter and weighing nearly 12,000 pounds.  Each year, the 2688 intricate Waterford crystals that make up the skin of the huge orb are replaced with new ones.  This year's theme is Serenity. For this year, 288 new panels have been designed to look like intertwining butterflies. The ball was lit in place on December 27, 2017, ready for the New Year's drop.

The 2,688 Waterford crystal triangles are bolted to 672 LED modules which are attached to the aluminum frame of the ball.  The ball is capable of displaying a palette of more than 16 million colors and billions of patterns that create a spectacular kaleidoscope effect as the ball drops down a flagpole at the stroke of midnight Eastern Standard Time.

So, however you celebrate the arrival of the new year…whether you go out to a party, have family or a few friends to your home, or simply curl up by a cozy fire and watch the festivities in Times Square…I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2018.

And peace on earth.

Sunday, December 24, 2017


It's that time of year when people of all faiths gather together with family and friends in celebration, whether religious, spiritual, or secular.

It's a time of reflection on the last twelve months and speculation about the coming year.

For those traveling this holiday season, I wish you a safe trip. And for everyone, I wish you PEACE ON EARTH.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Ancient Roots Of The Christmas Celebration

Early Europeans celebrated light in the darkest days of winter.  They rejoiced during the winter solstice, the time when the worst of winter was behind them and they could look forward to extended hours of sunlight.

In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from the Winter Solstice on December 21 through January.  In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs and set them on fire.  The people would feast until the log burned out which could be as long as twelve days.

In Germany, people honored the pagan god Odin during the mid-winter holiday.  Germans were terrified of Odin.  They believed he made night flights through the sky to observe his people and then decide who would prosper or perish.

In Rome, where winters weren't as harsh as in the far north, Saturnalia was celebrated beginning the week before winter solstice and continuing for a full month.  It was a hedonistic time with lots of food and drink.  For that month the social order was turned upside down with slaves becoming masters and peasants in charge of the city.  Business and schools were closed so everyone could join in.

Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome.  In addition, on December 25 members of the upper classes celebrated the birthday of Mithras, the god of the unconquerable sun.

It wasn't until the fourth century that Christian church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday.  The Puritans denied the legitimacy of the celebration, pointing out that the Bible does not mention a date for his birth.  Pope Julius I chose December 25.  The common belief is that the church chose the date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.  By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia.

By the Middle Ages, Christianity had mostly replaced pagan religion.  Christmas was celebrated by attending church then celebrating in a drunken carnival type of atmosphere similar to today's Mardi Gras celebration.

In the early seventeenth century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe.  In 1645, Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces gained control in England and vowed to do away with decadence.  As part of their agenda, they cancelled Christmas.  When Charles II regained the throne, he restored the holiday.

The pilgrims who came to America in 1620 were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell.  As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America.  In fact, from 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston.  In contrast, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all in the Jamestown settlement.

Some Christmas facts:

Each year 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States.

Christmas wasn't officially a holiday in early America until June 26, 1870, when Congress declared it a federal holiday.

The first eggnog made in the United States was in 1607 in the Jamestown settlement.

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was created by Robert L. May in 1939 as part of an advertising campaign to help lure customers into the Montgomery Ward department store.

The first tinsel decoration was made from real silver and originally used to reflect light from candles placed on Christmas trees (in the days before electric lights replaced candles).  Tinsel came into popularity in 1610 in Germany.  Silver was hammered out and cut into thin strips to hang on the tree.  Real silver tarnished, so the tinsel rarely lasted more than one season.  Silver tinsel was used until the early 1900s and was seen as a status symbol.  Today's tinsel is made of PVC.  Due to its environmentally unfriendly nature, it has mostly gone out of style.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season.  And most of all—PEACE OF EARTH.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Legend of St. Nicholas

Saint Nicholas

Who is that man in red? The man who, every Christmas Eve, brazenly breaks into people's homes, helps himself to cookies and milk, and leaves things behind resulting in a mess of wrapping paper and ribbon for others to clean up the next morning. Reindeer and a heavily laden sleigh can't be good for the roof. Soot from a chimney tracked all over the floor…something else left behind for others to clean.

Yet every year we anxiously anticipate his arrival, track his progress through the skies, and welcome him into our homes.

Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father when he provided them with a dowry so they could be married. Over the course of many years, Nicholas' popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married. By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland.

Sinter Klaas Comes to New York
St. Nicholas made his first inroads into American popular culture towards the end of the 18th century. In December 1773, and again in 1774, a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of his death.

The name Santa Claus evolved from his Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas). In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society's annual meeting. The background of the engraving contains now-familiar Santa images including stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace. In 1809, Washington Irving helped to popularize the Sinter Klaas stories when he referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book, The History of New York. As his prominence grew, Sinter Klaas was described as everything from a rascal with a blue three-cornered hat, red waistcoat, and yellow stockings to a man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a "huge pair of Flemish trunk hose."

Shopping Mall Santas
Gift-giving, mainly centered around children, has been an important part of the Christmas celebration since the holiday's rejuvenation in the early 19th century. Stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, and by the 1840s, newspapers were creating separate sections for holiday advertisements, which often featured images of the newly-popular Santa Claus. In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size Santa Claus model. It was only a matter of time before stores began to attract children, and their parents, with the lure of a peek at a live Santa Claus. In the early 1890s, the Salvation Army needed money to pay for the free Christmas meals they provided to needy families. They began dressing up unemployed men in Santa Claus suits and sending them into the streets of New York to solicit donations. Those familiar Salvation Army Santas have been ringing bells on the street corners of American cities ever since.

A Santa by Any Other Name
18th-century America's Santa Claus was not the only St. Nicholas-inspired gift-giver to make an appearance at Christmastime. Similar figures were popular all over the world. Christkind or Kris Kringle was believed to deliver presents to well-behaved Swiss and German children. Meaning Christ child, Christkind is an angel-like figure often accompanied by St. Nicholas on his holiday missions. In Scandinavia, a jolly elf named Jultomten was thought to deliver gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. British legend explains that Father Christmas visits each home on Christmas Eve to fill children's stockings with holiday treats. Pere Noel is responsible for filling the shoes of French children. In Russia, it is believed that an elderly woman named Babouschka purposely gave the wise men wrong directions to Bethlehem so that they couldn't find Jesus. Later, she felt remorseful, but could not find the men to undo the damage. To this day, on January 5, Babouschka visits Russian children leaving gifts at their bedsides in the hope that one of them is the baby Jesus and she will be forgiven. In Italy, a similar story exists about a woman called La Befana, a kindly witch who rides a broomstick down the chimneys of Italian homes to deliver toys into the stockings of lucky children.

The Ninth Reindeer
Rudolph, "the most famous reindeer of all," was born over a hundred years after his eight flying counterparts. The red-nosed wonder was the creation of Robert L. May, a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store.

In 1939, May wrote a Christmas-themed story-poem to help bring holiday traffic into his store. Using a similar rhyme pattern to Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, May told the story of Rudolph, a young reindeer who was teased by the other deer because of his large, glowing, red nose. But, when Christmas Eve turned foggy and Santa worried that he wouldn't be able to deliver gifts that night, the former outcast saved Christmas by leading the sleigh with the light of his red nose. Rudolph's message—that given the opportunity, a liability can be turned into an asset—proved popular. Montgomery Ward sold almost two and a half million copies of the story in 1939. When it was reissued in 1946, the book sold over three and half million copies. Several years later, one of May's friends, Johnny Marks, wrote a short song based on Rudolph's story (1949). It was recorded by Gene Autry and sold over two million copies. Since then, the story has been translated into 25 languages and been made into a television movie, narrated by Burl Ives, which has charmed audiences since 1964.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season and PEACE ON EARTH.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Holiday Season—Mistletoe, Hunky Santas, and Santa School

Thanksgiving is over and now we're looking at Christmas and New Year's. I was going to say, "What's happened to this year? Where has it gone?" But I think I'll save that, might use it in my New Year's blog.  :)

It's hard to believe that Christmas is only three weeks away.  While Christmas seems to get most of the publicity—shopping ads, Mall decorations, movies, episodes of television series, and Christmas television specials—it is certainly not the only holiday at this time of year.

In addition to Christmas, we have the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the Muslim Eid holiday marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the week long African American heritage celebration of Kwanzaa, winter solstice and Yule.
Mistletoe Trivia:
Why do people kiss under the mistletoe?  After all, mistletoe is a parasitic plant you find in the forest attached to and gaining its sustenance from its host tree.  The entire plant is poisonous, especially the berries which are extremely toxic.  Ingesting the berries causes acute stomach and intestinal pains, diarrhea, weak pulse, mental disturbances, and the collapse of blood vessels.  Death has occurred within ten hours after eating the berries.  Not exactly what first comes to mind when you think of kissing.  :)

The tradition of linking mistletoe and kissing together started in Europe.  According to Norse mythology, Baldur, the god of peace, was shot and killed by an arrow made of mistletoe.  After the other gods brought him back to life, Frigga, the goddess of love, transformed mistletoe into a symbol of love and peace.  And to this day, everyone who passes under the mistletoe must receive a kiss.

Hunky Santa Show:
And for several years there was the Hunky Santa Show held each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through the Christmas season at the Beverly Center (an upscale shopping center) in Los Angeles.  Instead of a round tummy and big beard, these guys have buffed bodies with 6-pack abs and are probably more receptive to champagne than cookies and milk.  In 2015, after several years of featuring this annual event, the Beverly Center chose to not include the Hunky Santa Show as part of their Christmas season.
Santa School:
What about the place where Santas go to learn how to properly Ho Ho Ho?  The Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School is located in Midland, Michigan.  The non-profit school has been in operation since its creation in 1937.  It is the longest continuously running Santa Claus school in the world.  Students attending the school learn the history of St. Nicholas and Santa Claus, proper dress and use of make-up, experience for radio and television interviews, Santa sign language, live reindeer habits, practice Santa flight lessons, newest toys and gadgets on wish lists, and much more.

So, the next time you see a Mall Santa, remember that he's most likely not merely some guy who stuck on a false beard and climbed into a red suit on a whim.

Be sure to check back here next Sunday, December 10, for a look at The Legend of St. Nicholas and on December 17 The Ancient Roots of Christmas.

And for this holiday season, wishing one and all PEACE ON EARTH

Sunday, November 26, 2017

OPEN IN PRIVATE—A Conversation With Carli and Parker

It's four weeks until Christmas and by an incredible coincidence I just happen to have a Christmas romance eBook available.

OPEN IN PRIVATE by Samantha Gentry is an erotic Christmas romance novella published by The Wilder Roses, the Scarlet Rose line of erotic romance from The Wild Rose Press.

I was fortunate to be able to snag a few minutes with Charlene Vance and Parker Simmons who agreed to sit down with me and share a little bit about their Christmas story.

Thank you Parker and Charlene for taking time from your busy schedules.  Especially you, Charlene.  As a professional personal shopper, this is definitely your most hectic time of year.

Carli:  Thank you for inviting us, Samantha.  And please…call me Carli.

Parker:  (grins at Carli)  She's so well organized that even with this being her busy season she's able to make time in her schedule.  As for me, I'm happy to tackle any questions you want to throw my way.

Carli:  You're right about this being my busy time.  In addition to individuals, I have several corporate clients whose shopping lists include employees and business associates in addition to family and friends.

If I'm not mistaken, wasn't Parker one of those corporate clients?

Parker:  I still am.  In fact, that's how we met.  Carli had been doing all my shopping, both personal and business, for five years.  It had become a very comfortable and efficient working relationship.  We had also become friends during that time.  Then one day, everything changed.

That sounds ominous.  What happened?

Carli:  We had our Christmas shopping meeting just like every year—prior to Thanksgiving.  I gave him a list of everyone I purchased a gift for on his behalf the previous Christmas, what I bought and how much it cost.  The process was always the same.  He would go over the list, add and delete names, and approve a price range for each individual.  Only this time it was different…very different.  This year he hit me with a real shock that changed everything.

That's a very dramatic statement.

Parker:  (laughs)  It wasn't really all that dramatic.  I told Carli I had gotten divorced several months earlier, the previous April to be exact, and my ex-wife, all her family, and all her friends were off the list.

Carli:  I have to admit…once I got over the shock, I was elated.  (shoots a sly sideways glance at Parker)  I had secretly lusted after this man the entire five years we had worked together, but he was married which made him off limits.  Besides, he had never done or said anything improper. He had never given any indication that his marriage was in trouble or that he had any interest in me beyond our professional relationship.  Then suddenly he was available, but second thoughts reminded me he was a client.  I had always believed that it wasn't wise to mix business with personal, to possibly jeopardize an excellent working relationship for what could end up being nothing more than a short-lived fling—a momentary mistake.

Parker:  My marriage had actually fallen apart a year earlier, before the previous Christmas. Then last Spring I finally took that big step of getting a divorce.  I had trouble coming to terms with what I had originally perceived as my failure.  And during that year my thoughts had often gravitated to Carli, thoughts far removed from anything connected to business.  So, I turned our Christmas shopping meeting into lunch…

Carli:  Which resumed that evening as dinner…

Parker:  Which unexpectedly exploded into one hell of a night!  But the cool clear light of dawn also brought its share of doubts and concerns.  The thought of jumping into a relationship, of once again becoming emotionally involved, frightened me big time.  Commitment to another relationship was definitely not on my agenda.  Been there…done that…was very leery about trying it again.

Carli:  Everything happened so quickly.  I didn't know which way to turn or what to do.  I was so confused about what was happening between us.  Could I be content with the no-strings-attached situation Parker seemed to prefer?  I had been divorced for seven years and 'never again' for a serious commitment had been the constant in my life.  But with the passage of time and the prospect of developing something real with Parker, the concept of 'never again' began to rapidly slip from a priority position to no longer occupying an important place in my life.

It sounds as if the two of you definitely had some problems to work out.

Carli:  Smooth sailing it was NOT.  For a while, I thought it was over as soon as it began.  My pragmatic side also feared that I might have lost my best client.

Parker:  And I have to admit that I didn't help matters.  Everything seemed to be moving too quickly and I didn't know how to handle it.

I'm sure there are many couples who have had to deal with these same issues.  Could you share with us how you handled it?

Carli:  We certainly could, but…

Parker:  We won't.

What?  You're going to leave us hanging?  Or worse yet, let us think that everything suddenly and miraculously turned out okay?

Parker:  Nothing is that easy.  You don't wake up and discover that there are no longer any problems.

Exactly.  So…what happened?

Carli:  (smiles)  I'd love to tell you, but…

Parker:  (nods his head in agreement)  You'll need to read the book.

That's all you're going to tell me?

Parker:  (makes an exaggerated show of looking at his watch)  Oh no!  I think we're out of time. (laughs)

Well, I guess there's nothing left to say except thank you, Parker and Carli, for being with us.
As a personal shopper, Charlene Vance values her professional association with long time client Parker Simmons. But at the meeting to discuss the list for this year's Christmas purchases, she learns that Parker is divorced and the ex-wife is off his list. When lunch leads to dessert between the sheets, Charlene is eager to move their relationship beyond good business and incredible sex.

Parker Simmons doesn't want anything more permanent than what's on the menu for today. But Charlene's enthusiasm to experiment in bed satisfies his darker appetites and suddenly he's craving more. Parker might need her help with holiday gift ideas but he's got his own shopping agenda. On his list? Gifts only for Charlene—to open in private.

PG-EXCERPT #1: (publisher's excerpt)
"Everything looks so good. I think I'll have the shrimp salad." Carli closed her menu and set it on the table.

Everything looks good to me, too, and I don't mean the food. "I'm going to have the chicken carbonara…and a glass of wine with my lunch. Would you join me?"

"Well, I usually don't drink during business meetings, but yes," she extended a sparkling smile, "I'd like that. A chardonnay."

He placed their lunch order with the waiter, then returned his attention to her. "We've had a very nice business relationship for five years. You obviously know a lot about me from doing my shopping, but I don't really know that much about you personally, other than you have great taste, are very intelligent, and have a good sense of humor."

The waiter arrived with the bottle of wine Parker had ordered. After opening the bottle, he poured each of them a glass, put the bottle in the ice bucket, and left.

Parker raised his glass toward Carli in a toast. "Here's to another successful Christmas holiday season." He tilted his head and raised a questioning eyebrow. "And perhaps to an even closer working relationship?" Maybe something hot and naked in a big bed?

"I'd like that, too."

OPEN IN PRIVATE an erotic Christmas romance by Samantha Gentry from The Wilder Roses (the Scarlet Rose line of erotic romance at The Wild Rose Press)
Also available at Amazon for Kindle and Barnes & Noble for Nook as well as other online vendors of eBooks.

Be sure to check out my website for more excerpts from OPEN IN PRIVATE and information about my other books.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season and Peace On Earth.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Infamous Black Friday Shopping Day

What in the world has happened to our sacred Black Friday shopping day?  To the tradition that signaled the beginning of the Christmas shopping season?

Thanksgiving is this week and so is the traditional Black Friday shopping day—the day THEY say marks the moment retailers have covered their expenses for the balance of the year and are operating totally in the black with everything being profit.  Or at least that's what it originally meant…in days gone by.

Since U.S. Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday in November, for the majority of people that equates to a Thursday through Sunday four day holiday weekend.  In the past, the long holiday weekend has marked the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, commencing Friday morning.  It also signaled the time to drag out the holiday decorations, gift wrapping paper, and turn our thinking to the jolly ho-ho-ho mode.

But it seems that everything is different now.  Somewhere along the line Black Friday has become an almost bizarre ritual with all the trappings of an event type of display.

Rather than stores opening a couple of hours earlier than normal as it used to be, each year for the last few years they are opening earlier and earlier.  People waiting in line outside for hours in the cold so they could be the first ones to rush inside the moment the doors were unlocked at 3:00AM.  Television news crews would do live reports from some of the larger stores showing hundreds of people with their lawn chairs, sleeping bags, and some even had tents.  Earlier in the evening it's a party type of atmosphere.  By the time the store unlocks the doors, it's a lot of very cold and tired people all trying to crowd through the door at the same time.  I suspect they want inside from the cold as much as to make that race to their desired bargain.

Where I live, the temperatures are much warmer this week than this time last year (in the 70s just a couple of days ago).  However, the warmer temperatures are predicted to be accompanied by strong winds.  If those lawn chairs aren't anchored down, they will blow away.  Several stores opened their doors at midnight last year.  Then there were some that opened Thanksgiving morning and never closed.

Black Friday sales have now evolved to include shopping on the Thursday Thanksgiving holiday.  And you know how that goes…once it happens, it becomes tradition.

I think the biggest boost to the concept of Black Friday bargains has been the internet whose version of Thanksgiving holiday shopping is referred to as Cyber Monday.  Shopping via the internet rather than actually getting in the car and driving to the mall has been growing by leaps and bounds to the point where many long time established retail chains have been forced to close the doors on many of their stores.  And many internet shopping sites offer the same Black Friday sale prices as their brick and mortar stores and as their competitors including additional incentives such as free shipping or being able to pick up your online order at the local store.  No standing in line for hours in the cold in the middle of the night.  Now those bargains are only a mouse click away.  You get a good night's sleep and the Friday after Thanksgiving is available for pursuits other than elbowing your way through throngs of holiday shoppers.  I have a confession.  I don't like shopping.  Personally, I find internet shopping a preferable alternative any time of the year.  :)

So, who plans to brave the weather, lose sleep, and jostle your way through crowds to snag those bargain prices this year?  How many of you have already completed your holiday shopping?

And speaking of holiday shopping…how many of you noticed how early all things Christmas were out and on display this year?  I encountered Christmas items prominently displayed and Christmas promotions before Halloween.  Some as early as in September.  And I'm already hearing Christmas music on the radio.  And Hallmark's two cable television channels have been running nothing but Christmas movies since the beginning of November.

How many of you prefer to stay home on Black Friday, click the mouse, and enjoy all those Thanksgiving dinner leftovers while watching football?

And now I have a confession.  Last year I did venture out to a store on Black Friday about 7:30 that morning, but not for holiday shopping.  I had to go to the office supply store because I was out of printer ink.  There were a few people there, but not many.  However, 4 doors north of the office supply store Kohl's had a very full parking lot.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Those Naughty Pilgrims

With Thanksgiving comes stories of the Pilgrims taking up residence in the new world, landing at Plymouth Rock in what is now the state of Massachusetts.  The pious Pilgrims certainly have a reputation for being a rigid, hard-working, and humorless group.  But there are a few surprises to be found.  Even though drunkenness was discouraged, beer was accepted as a drink for men, women, and also children.  The daily ration on the Mayflower was a gallon a day for each individual.  It took 66 days for them to sail from England to their landing place in the new world.  Hmmm…66 days times 1 gallon per person times the number of people on the ship.  It seems that a lot of room on board the ship was devoted to storing the beer ration.

Even sex was not taboo under the right circumstances.  They had a matter-of-fact attitude about sex as long as it was between a married couple.  It's when sex strayed from being the exclusive right between a married couple that the stories get interesting.

Studies by a group of anthropologists at the University of Virginia found that the Pilgrims spent a great deal of time thinking about how to punish those with impure thoughts and actions.  Studies also discovered that in 11% of the marriages at Plymouth Colony the bride was already pregnant.  The same study estimates that as many as 50% of the Pilgrims engaged in premarital sex.  Definitely not an image that fits the stereotype of the staid Pilgrims.

But what about the actions and activities of those naughty Pilgrims?  As with so much in life, there's the façade and then there's the underlying reality.

Although not liberal in their thinking or lifestyle, the Pilgrims were not as uptight as history would have us believe and apparently not as uptight as their cousins, the Puritans.  Both the Pilgrims and the Puritans were English Protestants who believed that the Church of England was in need of reform.  Although both groups were strict Calvinists, they differed in their approach to how the Church of England should be reformed.  The Pilgrims were more inclined to separate from the church (therefore known as separatists), while the Puritans wanted to reform the church from within.  The Pilgrims were the first group of Puritans to seek religious freedom in the New World (thus separating from the church).  As strict Calvinists, members of both groups believed in original sin, predestination and the literal interpretation of the Bible as God’s word.

The Pilgrims tried to create a strict religious society, but had an understanding and mercy unusual for their time in history.  As time passed, however, intolerance grew and was reflected in their laws and clearly demonstrated by the notorious Salem witch trials.  Innocent people were convicted and put to death on evidence that later even the Pilgrims declared to be inadmissible (I saw it in a dream, the spirit of my dead grandmother came to me and said…).

According to the Mayflower Compact, the colony was to establish laws based on Biblical teachings "for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith."  The Old Testament book of Leviticus was the basis for most of their laws, a biblical source that definitely predated Christianity's teachings of love and forgiveness rather than reflecting those teachings.  Adultery?  Death.  A man has sex with his daughter-in-law?  Death.  Sodomy?  Death.  Bestiality?  Death.  Are you beginning to see a pattern?  :)

But interestingly, the Pilgrims did not typically enforce the death penalty for sex offenses.  There is only one known case in which the convicted offender was actually put to death for sex crimes.  It was the case of Thomas Graunger, a teenage boy apparently at the peak of his raging hormones who sought satisfaction from any and all sources available to him…those sources being the farm animals.

According to Plymouth Governor William Bradford, "He was this year detected of buggery, and indicted for the same, with a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey."

Even though Thomas was the only one executed for a sex crime, punishments were routinely severe even with far lesser sex crimes and usually meant whippings, being put into the stocks, and fines.

Men were not the only offenders in Plymouth colony.  The prim women weren't always so pious either.  Women were often caught since the evidence of their dalliances were babies.  The records of the times are filled with one out-of-wedlock child after another.  Babies showing up just a few months after marriage were also evidence of wrong doing.  Pre-marital sex was severely punished.  Fines were levied even for making passes, for appearing to have a lascivious carriage in public, or partying in mixed company at an unseemly time of night.

Sex outside marriage, even between two unmarried consenting adults, usually meant a whipping and fines.  If the woman became pregnant, the man had to either marry her or pay for the child's upbringing.  The man was usually placed in the stocks and whipped while the woman was made to watch.  Sometimes mercy was granted as in the case of a servant, Jane Powell.  Following years of hard servitude, she was destitute and had agreed to having sex in the hopes of marrying the man.  Apparently the court found her plea convincing and she went unpunished.

Even though the Pilgrims imposed strict punishment for crimes, they also understood human temptations.  In 1656, Katheren Aines and William Paule were sentenced for committing adultery.  William was whipped and forced to pay the costs of his imprisonment.  Katheren was whipped, imprisoned and forced to wear a letter on her shoulder designating her as an adulteress.  (Calling Nathaniel Hawthorne!)  However, Katheren's husband, Alexander, was also punished.  Alexander had left his family for some time and treated her badly during their marriage.  The Pilgrims viewed him as guilty of "exposing his wife to such temptations."  Alexander was required to pay for his wife's imprisonment, and sit in the stocks while William and Katheren were whipped.

This Thanksgiving as you sit down to your turkey dinner, it might be a good idea to take a moment to be thankful that you aren't a Pilgrim.  :)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Thanksgiving Myths and Facts

We all know the often told story of how the Pilgrims left England seeking religious freedom and finally settled in the New World, stepping off the Mayflower onto Plymouth Rock in what is now the state of Massachusetts.  And how in 1621 they invited the local natives to share a feast with them in order to give thanks for a successful harvest and surviving their first year.

From those humble beginnings have come many facts and just as many myths about the Pilgrims and our Thanksgiving holiday.

I have some Mayflower myths to share with you, followed by some Thanksgiving facts.  And next week…Those Naughty Pilgrims.

Myth:  The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and the Pilgrims celebrated it every year after that.
Fact:  The first feast wasn't repeated, so it wasn't the beginning of a tradition.  In fact, it wouldn't have been called Thanksgiving because to the Pilgrims a thanksgiving was a religious holiday when they would fast rather than feast.  That feast in 1621 was a secular celebration and would not have been considered a thanksgiving in their minds.

Myth:  The original Thanksgiving feast took place on the fourth Thursday of November.
Fact:  The original feast in 1621 occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11 and was a three day celebration based on the English harvest festivals.  In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the official date for Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November, a decision fraught with controversy.  The date was approved by Congress in 1941.

Myth:  The Pilgrims wore only black and white clothing with buckles on their hats, garments, and shoes.
Fact:  Buckles did not come into fashion until later in the 17th century.  Black and white were commonly worn only on Sunday and formal occasions.

Here's a list of trivia that could be called Thanksgiving-by-the-numbers.

3,000—the number of calories eaten during an average Thanksgiving meal.

12,000,000—the number of whole turkeys Butterball sells for Thanksgiving.

2,000 - 3,000—the number of people used to guide the balloons during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

214—the average number of miles driven for the family get together at Thanksgiving.

1939—the date the Great Thanksgiving Day calendar controversy began (when FDR declared the fourth Thursday of November to be the official date of Thanksgiving).

40,000,000—the number of green bean casseroles made for Thanksgiving dinner.

72,000,000—the number of cans of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce sold for Thanksgiving dinner.

Next week I'll contradict the belief that the Pilgrims embodied the very soul of purity and piety.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Halloween's Ancient Roots

Halloween Is Almost Here. The stores have been filled with candy packaged in special Halloween wrapping, spooky witch and ghost decorations, pumpkins waiting to be carved into Jack O'Lanterns, and costumes for both children and adults. These have now been picked over with what remains having been put on sale with retailers having moved on to Christmas.

I've collected several bits and pieces about ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night that I'd like to share with you—starting with the ancient origins of the Halloween holiday then a bit of Jack O'Lantern trivia.

The roots of Halloween date back 2000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in, rhymes with cow).  The Celts lived in what is now Ireland, United Kingdom, and northern France.  They celebrated their new year on November 1, the day marking the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark winter.  They believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead wasn't clearly defined.  On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, a time when they believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
To commemorate the event, the Druids (Celtic priests) built large sacred bonfires where the people made sacrifices to the Celtic deities.  During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes and attempted to tell each other's fortunes.  When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the winter.

By 43A.D., the Romans had conquered most of the Celtic territory.  During the next four hundred years, the Roman festivals of Feralia and Pomona were combined with the traditional celebration of Samhain.  In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV declared November 1 to be All Saints' Day.  It's believed today that the pope was trying to replace the Celtic festival with a church sanctioned holiday.  The celebration was also called All-Hallows.  So, the night before it, the night of Samhain, was called All-Hallows Eve.

In 1000A.D., the church declared November 2 as All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead.  It was celebrated similarly to Samhain with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes.  Together the three celebrations—the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls'—were called Hallowmas and eventually Halloween.

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic, and superstition.  It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends.  They set places at the table and left treats on doorsteps for these friendly spirits.  They also lit candles to help their loved ones find their way back to the spirit world.  Today's Halloween ghosts are commonly depicted as much scarier and our emphasis on customs and superstitions more horror related.

And speaking of superstitions…have you ever wondered about where these strange beliefs came from?  British author Harry Oliver wrote a book titled Black Cats and Four-Leaf Clovers where he explored the origins of superstitions and old wives' tales from around the world.  Here are a few of his observations.
Black Cats Bring Bad Luck:  black cats have been linked to black magic and the ancient concept of witchcraft through the centuries which is why many people think they're unlucky.  If a cat crosses your path, it's considered unlucky.  However, if a cat walks toward you, it's a good omen.

Carrots Are Good For Your Eyesight:  although studies have shown that the vitamin A in carrots is good for your eyes, the vegetable isn't enough to create 20/20 vision.  Many believe that it was a smart attempt by parents to get their children to eat their vegetables.  There is another belief that it started during World War II.  It was rumored that British pilots were eating huge amounts of carrots so they could see from high altitudes and in the dark.  The rumor was created to keep the public from discovering that radar had been invented and was being used against the enemy.

Wear Your Underwear Inside Out:  when you're having a bad day, superstition says that if you turn your underwear inside out things will get better.  No one is sure where this one came from, but it sounds like the result of a wild college fraternity party.

And then there's the Jack O'Lantern.  Making a Jack O'Lantern for Halloween is a centuries old practice that originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed Stingy Jack.  He played tricks on the Devil and made Satan promise not to take his soul when he died.  When the time came, God refused to allow him into heaven because he was an unsavory character.  The Devil wouldn't allow him into hell because Jack had made him promise.  With nowhere to go, Jack put a burning coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth ever since.  The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as Jack Of The Lantern which morphed into Jack O'Lantern.

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions by carving scary faces into turnips and potatoes, and in England they used large beets.  Immigrants from these countries brought the tradition with them to the United States where they soon found that pumpkins made the perfect Jack O'Lantern.

Do you have a favorite costume this year?  Are you planning on going to a party?  Leave me a comment about your Halloween plans.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

10 Halloween Superstitions

Superstitions flourish in all countries and all cultures.  Some of the origins are so obscured by time that no one knows when, how or why they came into being.  Friday the 13th always brings out superstitions and the rituals used to thwart them.

And then there's Halloween.

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic, and superstition.  It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends.  They set places at the table and left treats on doorsteps for these friendly spirits.  They also lit candles to help their loved ones find their way back to the spirit world.  Today's Halloween ghosts are usually depicted as scarier, as are our customs and superstitions.

Here's a list of ten superstitions that seem to apply specifically to Halloween.

1)  If a candle goes out on its own on Halloween, it is thought a ghost has come to call.

2)  A burning candle inside of a Jack-o-lantern on Halloween keeps evil spirits at bay.

3)  You invite bad luck into your home if you allow a fire to burn out on Halloween.

4)  A person born on Halloween can both see and talk to spirits.

5)  Seeing a spider on Halloween could be the spirit of a dead loved one who is watching you.

6)  If you hear footsteps behind you on Halloween, don't look back because it could be the dead following you.

7)  Don't look at your shadow in moonlight on Halloween night.  If you do, you will die within a short period of time.

8)  If a bat flies around a house three times, it is a death omen.

9)  Ringing a bell on Halloween will scare evil spirits away.

10)  A bat that enters a home may have been let in by a ghost.

Do you have any superstitions that apply to Halloween?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Most Haunted Cities in America

With the approach of Halloween, it's natural for thoughts to occasionally dwell on ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night.  This week I'm blogging about America's most haunted cities.

There are several lists of the most haunted cities in the United States, most of them basically naming the same cities in varying order.  Here's one list of 10 cities that recently came to my attention.

10)  Portland, Oregon:  Portland has a reputation for being the most haunted city in the Pacific Northwest.  It's a city of many haunts, both seasonal tourist attractions and historical happenings where the participants refuse to leave.  One of the most famous…or more accurately, most infamous…historical haunts are the Shanghai Tunnels.  We've all heard the expression of someone being Shanghaied, meaning to be abducted.  This is where it originated.  In the Victorian era (around the 1870s), ship captains would put into Portland on the Columbia River looking for fresh crew members.  Local middlemen drugged pub goers, dropped the bodies through trapdoors into the tunnels below where they were held captive until they could be carted to the waterfront and sold to the captain for $50/each.  These ships were quite often headed for China and the port of Shanghai, thus the term being Shanghaied.  Many of these drugged unfortunates died while being held in the tunnels.  Today, the Shanghai Tunnels have several ghosts, some menacing and others apparently confused.

9)  San Francisco, California:  A city of many haunted locations and happenings.  One of the most interesting is Alcatraz.  The island has a long history, first as a military prison during the Civil War.  It was used off and on by many different groups to house various prisoners from that time until 1933 when it was officially turned over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and used as a maximum security prison for the likes of Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. On March 23, 1963, Alcatraz closed its prison doors for good.  Over the one hundred plus years that the island housed prisoners of all types, many died in cruel and terrible ways.  Those spirits still inhabit Alcatraz.  Even today as part of the National Park system, tourists taking one of the park ranger guided tours report seeing and hearing strange things that can't be explained.

8)  Chicago, Illinois:  Chicago was the center of gangland activity during Prohibition, including the famous St. Valentine's Day Massacre.  Many gangsters of the era used Chicago as a body dumping ground.  There were also six thousand Confederate soldiers and sailors buried during the Civil War at Oak Woods Cemetery which has ongoing paranormal activity.  Chicago's most famous ghost is Resurrection Mary named for Resurrection Cemetery.  She was killed by a hit and run driver on the street in front of the cemetery and now is often seen hitch hiking along that street.

7)  Charleston, South Carolina:  The downtown area known as The Battery was an artillery installation during the Civil War.  The area is known for its ghost stories.  The Battery Carriage House Inn is the city's famous haunted hotel where visitors often see strange happenings.  The inn's two most famous ghosts are the gentleman ghost and the headless torso.  The gentleman ghost is thought to be a young man whose family owned the house in the early 1900s and, for reasons unknown, jumped off the roof and killed himself.  The headless torso is believed to be military from the Civil War.  There is no evidence that he intends any harm, but guests have felt threatened when he has suddenly materialized in their room.

6)  St. Augustine, Florida:  The nation's oldest city and the first permanently occupied European settlement on our shores, dating back to its founding in 1565.  Castillo de San Marcos is a star-shaped fort and is considered to be one of the most haunted places in a city filled with unexplained phenomenon.  The construction of The Old Fort began in 1672 and took twenty-three years to build.  Many strange sightings, including a Spanish soldier, have been reported.  It is not uncommon for individuals to capture on film strange lights, orbs, rods, spheres, and even distinct apparitions composed of strange mists.

5)  San Antonio, Texas:  The home of the Alamo is regarded as the most haunted city in Texas.  Prior to the Battle of the Alamo, the ground was a cemetery between 1724 and 1793.  It's estimated that about one thousand people were buried during those years.  On the morning of March 6, 1836, following the thirteen day Battle of the Alamo, one thousand six hundred Mexican shoulders lay dead along with the approximately one hundred forty-five defenders of the old mission.  The remaining buildings at the Alamo as well as the surrounding area is one of the most haunted places in the nation.  Tales of ghostly sightings have been reported for almost two centuries.

4)  New Orleans, Louisiana:  With a history of voodoo and slavery in its past, it's no wonder that New Orleans is considered a very haunted city.  Its most famous ghost is voodoo priestess Marie Laveau who was buried at St. Louis Cemetery #1, considered one of the most haunted cemeteries in the country.  New Orleans is well below sea level, so the dead are buried in above ground tombs or vaults resembling small architectural buildings.  Located on the edge of the haunted French Quarter, this oldest still in service cemetery has been the setting for many haunted New Orleans movies such as Easy Rider, Interview With The Vampire, and Johnny Handsome.  But its biggest draw is the tomb of Marie Laveau.

3)  Salem, Massachusetts:  This site of the infamous Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600s certainly makes the list of haunted cities.  Gallows Hill is believed to be haunted by the spirits of the nineteen women accused of being witches who were hanged there.  It also shouldn't be surprising that Salem has one of the largest Halloween celebrations in the country for people of all ages.

2)  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:  The Civil War battle at Gettysburg resulted in fifty-one thousand casualties.  It is believed that nearly all forty miles of the Gettysburg battlefields have paranormal activity.  Many of the ghosts show up in photos, including the ghost of Robert E. Lee.  In July 1863, Gettysburg's living population was out numbered twenty to one by the dead.

1)  Savannah, Georgia:  Savannah was named "America's Most Haunted City" in 2002 by the American Institute of Parapsychology.  The city was home to a Revolutionary War battleground as well as Civil Way actions.  Savannah offers several different haunted tours and is also famous as the location of the bestselling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that all of these cities offer ghost tours.  Have any of you ever had any first hand experience with hauntings?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

HIS MAGICK TOUCH—an interview with Devon and Raina

HIS MAGICK TOUCH an erotic witch romance available in ebook that tells us the story of Devon Bainbridge and Raina St. Clair. So, in honor of the upcoming Samhain celebration and it's more modern Halloween incarnation, I've invited Devon and Raina to be my guests today.

Welcome to my blog, Devon and Raina.  Thank you for taking time from your schedule to be here today, especially with how busy you are due to the special gathering of covens for the Samhain celebration.

Raina:  It's our pleasure, Samantha.  Thanks for the invitation.

It's my understanding, Devon, that as a High Priest you've been invited to open and close the special ceremony involving the gathering of many covens from various states at this year's Samhain celebration.

Devon:  Yes, it's a very special gathering this year.  I'm honored to have been chosen.

And isn't it that gathering of the covens that's indirectly responsible for bringing the two of you together?  Two people who had never met but each with your own agenda in seeking out the other?  And you first encountered each other at a Halloween party, of all places?

Raina:  (laughs) That succinctly describes it.  The uncomfortable situation of a witch of the bloodline at a mortal's Halloween party.

Why would you be attending such a party?  Doesn't it violate everything you stand for and represent?

Raina:  Even though I'm a witch and immortal, I still need to earn a living.  The man throwing the party, the one who invited me, is one of my best clients.  So, even though the party theme wasn't to my liking, I felt an obligation to put in an appearance.

Devon:  And it was due to Raina being at the party that I needed to be there.  I didn't know if I would be able to make a connection with her at the Samhain celebration, so I sucked up my personal feelings and teleported inside the country club to the party location where I waited for her to arrive.

So why were you each trying to make contact with the other?  You had no prior connection, right?

Devon:  A prior connection?  That's an easy answer. A definitive yes…and no.  (chuckles)  I had never met Raina but I had crossed paths with her sister, Miranda, a century ago.  Miranda and I had some unfinished business.  Since Miranda had been deftly avoiding me, my plan was to use Raina as a source to locate her sister.  I've always lived by the witch's credo of Harm To None (a quick scowl darts across his face), but my unfinished business with Miranda was in total violation of that honorable intention.

What kind of unfinished business?

Devon:  To put it as simply as possible, Miranda St. Clair misused and abused her witch powers and in so doing was responsible for the purposeful destruction of my brother.  I fully intended to make her accountable to the council for her misdeeds and personally see to it that she did not escape retribution.

And did you?

Devon:  I can't reveal that here, but it's all in the book.

(LOL) Fair enough.  How about you, Raina?  How did you discover the truth of Devon's agenda?  And what did you think when you found out what he really wanted?

Raina:  Devon voluntarily told me about trying to locate Miranda and why.  But his assumption that I could help him with that was mistaken.  Miranda and I…well, we've…(a look of sadness comes into her eyes, Devon reaches over and gives her hand a reassuring squeeze).  Well, it's all in the book.

LOL…It seems that you're both stonewalling me.  Let me try this. Raina, what about your agenda in wanting to make contact with Devon?  What was that all about?

Raina:  I had never met Devon in person, but knew his excellent reputation as a very powerful High Priest and the respect paid him by the members of the witch community.  I had planned to seek him out at the Samhain gathering and was quite surprised to see him at my business client's Halloween party.  Why was I determined to meet him?  Devon is an acknowledged expert in all facets of sex magick.  I wanted him to teach me…to school me in the proper rituals.

Was he surprised by your request and did he agree to teach you the rituals?

Raina:  Well, to quote something I heard recently—I can't tell you that…you'll need to read the book.

The two of you are telling me the same thing?  Neither of you will disclose the information about how you resolved your issues?  You won't tell me what kind of impact Raina's unexpected request about sex magick had on Devon's quest to find Miranda and seek retribution?

Devon:  (winks at me)  I believe you've grasped the core of the situation.

Raina:  In other words…that's right!  (LOL)

Fair enough.  The answers are in the book!  Thank you, Raina and Devon, for being with us today.

HIS MAGICK TOUCH  R-Adult Excerpt #1:

She grabbed a napkin from the bar and dabbed at her neck and upper chest, leaving most of the champagne to trickle between her breasts.

He set the half-empty glass on the bar, surprise covering his features. “I’m so sorry.” A sincere concern surrounded his words. “Are you okay?”

Just the sound of his smooth masculine voice sent a ripple of desire coursing through her body, headed directly for her pussy. She gave him her most seductive smile as she continued to dab the champagne from her skin. “I’m fine, no problem.”

He ran his fingertip along the edge of her plunging neckline. “Can I be of assistance?” A quick glance down the front of her dress noticeably quickened his breathing. “I can lick up the excess champagne…if it will help.” His voice and words teased and a sexy grin tugged at the corners of his mouth, but the glow in the depth of his eyes radiated pure passion and sexual magnetism. The kind that could melt the most determined woman’s defenses.

Her nipples puckered, partly from the cold champagne and partly from his obvious perusal of her body combined with the sexual energy that practically sparked from him. Her heartbeat increased. Being this close to him had her juices flowing and her desires running at full speed. She definitely wanted to experience Devon’s sexual prowess and learn the techniques of sex magick from a master, to discover and embrace the untapped potential of her sexuality.

She smiled seductively. “That’s a very gracious offer."

BLURB:  As the powerful High Priest of his coven, Devon Bainbridge lives by the witch's credo of Harm To None. Yet he is willing to sacrifice everything in his century long quest for revenge. He intends to use Raina St. Clair as a means of locating her sister, the witch who misused her powers to destroy his brother. But once he meets Raina, his plan doesn't go as intended, especially when he discovers her agenda. She wants to learn sex magick.

Is Raina the one woman who could save Devon from himself?

HIS MAGICK TOUCH, erotic witch romance is available in ebook at The Wilder Roses, the Scarlet Rose line of erotic romance from The Wild Rose Press:

Additional excerpts from HIS MAGICK TOUCH and information on my other books available on my website at

Sunday, October 1, 2017

5 Most Haunted Roads In The World

It seems that almost every country has a list of haunted roads, haunted towns, haunted houses/castles, and anything else that can be put into the category of a haunted something, with one or more entities attributed to the paranormal/supernatural condition.

I recently came across a haunted road list that claimed to be the top 5 in the world and I'd like to share that with you. I do not agree with this list. I've read about roads purported to be considerably more haunted than some of these.

5)  Belchen Tunnel, Switzerland:
It's claimed that the ghost of an old lady haunts this Swiss road. There was one specific report that said two women picked her up and she warned them that something dreadful was going to happen. Then she disappeared.

4)  Stocksbridge Road, UK:
This is also known as the Killer Road and has been home to many ghostly sightings. One report said some security guards witnessed children playing on the road late one night, but they disappeared before the guards could reach them. Numerous reports have been made of the ghost of a monk appearing on the road's bridge.

3)  Highway 666, USA:
Travelers on this haunted American highway (known as the Devil's Highway) have reported speeding ghost cars, packs of devil dogs, and a flaming demonic semi-truck that drives directly at the spooked travelers. Many people attribute these sightings to a biblical association between the numbers 666 and Satan. In 2003, the highway number was changed to Highway 491. There are still a few places where you can see the highway 666 sign (labeled as old) next to the Highway 491 sign (labeled as new).

2)  Tuen Mun Road, Hong Kong:
Local residents blame the high number of accidents along this road on the sudden appearance of ghosts in the middle of the road. It's claimed that a person suddenly appears, forcing the driver to swerve and crash. They say with every new car fatality that another ghost will haunt the road.

1)  Clinton Road, New Jersey USA:
If you find yourself on this haunted road, be sure to toss a coin into the river at the Old Boy Bridge. The ghost of a boy who drowned will throw it back. There have also been reported sightings of UFOs, mutated circus animals, and mysterious glowing eyes.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Museums…those public and private repositories of anything and everything that might be of interest to someone, collections open to the public to enjoy and that educate.  They encompass a wide variety of interests such as fine art, items showing the natural history of a region, or something as specific as a hair collection.

I recently found a list of 10 very specific museums/collections with a common thread—they are not open to the public.

CIA Museum
Needless to say, one of the most secretive agencies in the entire United States government (and the world) wouldn’t just throw the doors of their archives open for everyone. The Central Intelligence Agency’s internal museum is one of the most thorough collections of intelligence memorabilia on Earth with over 3,500 items. The collection includes documents from the OSS [Office of Strategic Services created in WW II, the forerunner of the CIA], spy weapons and equipment, and even an AK-47 rifle that belonged to Osama Bin Laden. The only public aspects of the Museum are three showcases at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. And that building isn't easy to get into, either.

International Museum And Library Of The Conjuring Arts
If you’re looking for a community of people who like to keep secrets, the CIA isn't the only place to look.  Professional magicians are right up there, too. Considering that their careers hinge on being able to fool people, magicians aren’t crazy about opening up to the public. David Copperfield has used his vast fortune to amass a collection of over 150,000 pieces of magic history from practitioners like Harry Houdini and hundreds of others.  It’s located in a 40,000 square foot Las Vegas warehouse that has a fake hat shop in the front. [I saw a television special about Houdini including an auction of items from his career with David Copperfield being one of the major successful bidders on several items]

MIT Museum Of Espionage [in Turkey, not the Massachusetts Institute of Technology :) ]
The United States isn’t the only nation that keeps its intelligence archives in a private museum. Turkey’s MIT spy group has been amassing an impressive collection of memorabilia from top-secret operations for years. Stored at the group’s headquarters in Ankara, the museum’s glass display cases contain such spy craft relics as a shoe wedge designed to store a hidden microphone, hollowed-out objects for secreting code books, and bugging devices discovered in Turkish embassies abroad during the Cold War. A Turkish newspaper requested access to the museum and was allowed in for one day, but that’s the only time the Museum of Espionage has ever been seen by the public.

Canadian Museum Of Making
It is possible to get inside the doors of the Canadian Museum of Making, which is located on a private ranch near Cochrane, Alberta, but it’s not easy. The museum’s owner, Ian MacGregor, is very picky about who he allows through the doors. From the outside, you’d never know that the 20,000 square foot museum is even there, because he constructed the complex entirely underground. Inside is one of the world’s most extensive collections of mechanical objects from between 1750 and 1920. Every once in a while, MacGregor will open the doors to select people, but it's a rare occasion.

El Museo del Enervantes
Intended for use in the training of military staff waging Mexico’s seemingly endless war against the drug cartels, El Museo del Enervantes, located in Mexico City, is a private museum that chronicles every aspect of the world of narcoterrorism. In-depth exhibits illustrate the manufacturing process involved in making cocaine, heroin and other drugs. A huge display case shows off dozens of handguns confiscated from drug lords, many encrusted with gold and jewels. There is also a plaque commemorating all the Mexican soldiers who died on duty since 1976.

The Honda Secret Museum
Many automakers rent out space to spotlight important moments in their history, but Honda defies the trend by making their history museum closed to the public. Assembled by company veteran Lou Staller, it’s a collection of almost 50 cars and motorcycles that commemorate Honda’s successes and failures. Included in the collection is a Honda N-600 from 1970—the first passenger car the company sold in the States—and the 1997 EV Plus, the very first electric vehicle to be marketed here. The museum is only accessible to Honda employees, and the vast majority of them have never been there, making it a treasure trove for car enthusiasts.

Musée d'Anatomie Delmas-Orfila-Rouvière
The Musée d'Anatomie Delmas-Orfila-Rouvière permanently closed its door to everyone—public and invited only—in 2005. Prior to that time, it was the largest and most complete anatomy museum in France. The Museum’s collection began in 1794 and expanded steadily over the years to include upwards of 5,800 anatomic items from humans and other animals. Some of the coolest stuff on display includes casts of the heads of executed 19th century criminals, comparative anatomy displays of reptiles and birds, and skulls of deceased mental patients. It occupied the eighth floor of the Descartes University’s school of medicine, and access was granted only to the medical elite.

The Black Museum
Scotland Yard, one of the most famous crime-fighting institutions in history, has amassed some serious items. If you want to see them, they’re kept in the Black Museum. Located at police headquarters in London, this collection of evidence from some of Scotland Yard’s most notorious crimes includes the pots serial killer Dennis Nilsen used to cook his victims and a taunting letter from Jack the Ripper. Also on display is a vast array of weapons used in the commission of crimes, including some cleverly disguised tools of mayhem. There is a current discussion about finally making the museum open to the public, but as of now it’s still police only.

The U.S. Secret Service Museum
It appears that taxpayer money is supporting a disproportionate number of museums that aren’t open to the public. Located in the nondescript office building that houses the Secret Service headquarters is a small private museum that’s only open to invited guests. Inside the one-room museum are artifacts from some of the most shocking crimes in American history—assassination attempts on Presidents. Among these artifacts is the bullet-scarred window from Ronald Reagan’s limousine on the day that John Hinckley attacked and the assault rifle that Francisco Duran used to spray bullets into the White House in 1994.

The Zymoglyphic Museum
The Zymoglyphic Museum in San Mateo, California, is open to the public—but only for two days out of every year. The museum's creator houses his collection in a small outbuilding off of his garage, down a nondescript suburban cul-de-sac. Inside is the world’s largest assemblage of animals and artifacts from the Zymoglyphic Era…a period in Earth’s past that never existed. The dioramas, housed in aquarium tanks, are well thought out and executed with incredible attention to detail.