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The Sirens of Suspense

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Still to come: Halloween guest-blogs from Berkley Prime Crime authors Heather Blake, author of the Wishcraft mysteries; Melissa Bourbon, author of the Magical Dressmaking mystery series; and Carolyn Hart, author of the Bailey Ruth mysteries.Comment on any of the blogs this week to be eligible to win the grand prize!

Because some readers have been affected by Hurricane Sandy I'm extending the deadline to comment on any of the blogs to be entered for the grand prize for another week. Please take a moment to visit The Red Cross and The Humane Society websites, both are accepting emergency donations which will go to immediate use for disaster relief, also find out where you can donate blood today HERE.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Bailey Cates believes there is magic all around us if we only stop and look. She is the author of the Magical Bakery Mystery Series: BROWNIES AND BROOMSTICKS released in May, 2012, and the second, BEWTITCHED, BOTHERED AND BISCOTTI will release December 31, 2012. She also writes the Home Crafting Mystery Series as Cricket McRae.

Find Bailey on Twitter and Facebook.

www.baileycates.com

www.cricketmcrae.com

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As an only child brought up in a series of small towns, I rarely went trick-or-treating with other kids. My parents would sometimes take me around to the houses of people we knew, but it was an abbreviated, dispirited affair. And candy? Not so much. My mother distained evil spirits and sugar in equal amounts.

One year when I was about nine I insisted on being a witch for Halloween. My mother reluctantly agreed to make the costume. I had visions of black flowing robes and a pointy hat. I could carry our old straw broom and wear my lace-up black boots (also useful for the pioneer girl outfit the previous year). I wandered the house practicing my cackle, often ending with, “my pretty!"

Okay, so my exposure to witches was pretty mainstream. At least I didn’t twitch my nose.

When Mom handed me the light blue gown trimmed with white daisies sporting cheerful yellow centers, I just stared. The hat, though indeed pointed, was also blue and daisified. If I was going to be a witch, I was informed, it would be a good witch. Then she stuck a stick of sugar cane in my bag (yes, a stick of sugar cane) to prime it for handouts, bundled me into coat and gloves and sent me out to visit the three neighbors within walking distance.

So much for the cackle. I never told her how disappointed I was. Until now, of course (Hi, Mom! I’m over it! And now I write about witches AND sugary baked goods!).

Since the second in my paranormal cozy mystery series revolves around Halloween, I thought a lot about how it’s typically celebrated. The backdrop for the mysteries is the Honeybee Bakery, and they’re planning a big Halloween party. So I played with ideas for recipes and decorations, gradually populating the bakery with garlands of candy corn and twinkly green and orange lights on the cutest black Halloween tree. Cornstalks showed up in corners and a not-so-spooky scarecrow suddenly crowded in next to the register. One day I’d add a fake severed hand behind the scones in the display case, another morning I woke up with the idea that oversized silhouettes of black mice should chase each other around the baseboards. Fuzzy spiders nestled into the floral arrangements on the bistro tables, and soon a cartoon graveyard scene decorated the windows. Add in goodies like salted caramel apples, spice cookies, miniature ginger bundt cakes glued together with frosting to look like pumpkins, spooky licorice rats and savory cinnamon raisin biscotti and it started to look – and taste – a lot like Halloween.

All in my head, of course.

But besides being a baker and planning the party, the main character, Katie Lightfoot, is a hedgewitch. A “hedgewitch” can mean two things – either it refers to the veil between this world and the next as a “hedge” which certain people are able to cross at will, or it refers to “natural” or “green” witches who traditionally were the village healers. These healers usually lived on the edge of town and used plants and herbs gathered from the open areas and forests beyond the literal “hedge” that surrounded the village.

When you’re writing about real witches – and I do strive to keep things more grounded in actual Wiccan and pagan practices than Hollywood fantasy – the holiday in question is actually Samhain (pronounced Sow-un), one of the traditional witches’ sabbats. Falling midway between the fall equinox and the winter solstice, Samhain is about the end of harvest, the darkening of days, and the chill of night.

It’s also the witches’ New Year, and a time when the veil, or other definition of “hedge”, is the thinnest. It can be a time to party in celebration of the harvest, or to honor and perhaps contact those who have already crossed the veil.

Not surprisingly, I found myself debating about witch costumes.

See, my main character always wanted to dress up as a witch for Halloween, but her mother wouldn’t let her (see what I did there?). However, her mom had a pretty good reason: After an unpleasant episode when a neighbor caught Grandma performing a fertility spell in the backyard, they didn’t want to remind the people in their small town that their young daughter might actually be a witch.

And now that Katie is an adult and planning to go whole hog on the kitschy witch costume, she’s stopped by her coven’s admonitions that it’s wrong to perpetuate the stereotype of black hats and warty noses. Maybe a ghost, then? The ol’ sheet over the head was the original Samhain costume, after all. People dressed as spirits and trouped to the edge of town after midnight, leading the otherworldly visitors for the evening back home (one instance when the real hedge around town and the spiritual hedge were pretty much the same thing).

The only problem with the ghost idea? Boooring.

Happily, Katie does figure out the perfect solution to her dilemma, and it doesn’t involve dressing as a witch.

Me, on the other hand? I’m hat in hand – black pointy hat, that is. And I’m going to scare the pants off those trick-or-treaters this year…my pretty!

 

 

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WHICH WITCH IS YOUR FAVORITE WITCH? Tell us, or ask Bailey a question by commenting below or visit us and share your thoughts on our Facebook page. and be entered to win Friday's grand prize of a book from each of this week's guest authors!

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