6

I Love a Good Ghost Story. . . by Samantha Hunter

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SpooktacularBOO! Welcome to our Chocolate Box Spook-tacular week, where we’re all sharing something Halloweeny and giving away prizes at the end of the week (check back on Saturday to see the post with all winners announced!)

I love Halloween, though I’ve enjoyed it more as an adult than I did as a kid. I don’t really remember much about Halloween from when I was little — I trick or treated, and my mom dressed us up, but I have no specific memories about it, actually. I do remember when my own son was little, and it was fun to dress him up — my favorite costumes of his were when we dressed him as Zorro, and then another time as a Bat. :)

As an adult, I also enjoy the more macabre side of the holiday than I did when I was kid. I was a total chicken when I was young, scared of everything — I would never even watch a Godzilla movie! But as an adult, while I still don’t like anything really gross or violent, I do like a good ghost story, or tales with an occult leaning. So much so that I was very drawn to write my own.

My self-pub  Sophie Turner mystery series is based on a tarot-medium, or a tarot reader who can communicate with ghosts through her cards — and she has to solve their deaths before she can solve the one in her own time. Before that, I also wrote an erotic novella about a woman who was on the brink of “crossing over” and she can only make her way back with the help of the man she loves — though she doesn’t think he loves her back. It’s not exactly a ghost story, but close — the title of that one is Barely There, and you can read it free, here on Amazon and on B&N. ghost-1990--03-630-75

There’s just something so romantic and eerie all at once about a ghost story. Of course, everyone loved the movie Ghost, and while I tended to stay away from scary movies over the years, even I gave in at one point and had to watch Poltergeist. And of course, there’s always Ghostbusters!

TV had Casper, of course, and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I absolutely loved the TV show The Ghost Whisperer, until they completely botched it up (those if you who watched know just what I mean). And one of my favorite Buffy episodes (which we always watch on Halloween) is aply titled “Halloween” when peoplpte become their costumes, and Willow ends up being a ghost!

Ghosts stories have been written by some of the greatest writers in literature, Poe’s Telltale Heart, Henry James’s Turn of the Screw and of course, where would we be without Charles Dickens’s Christmas ghosts? Some of my favorite recent ghost stories have been written by authors like Amanda Stevens, with her Graveyard Queen series, and I’ve just started reading Robin Owens’s series, Ghost Seer. Unlike a lot of other trends in fiction, I don’t think ghosts will ever go out of style.

What’s your favorite ghost story? What do you think makes ghost stories so popular? Share, and I’ll pick three winners to receive the first ebook in my Sophie Turner series, Past Tense (don’t worry, it’s not too scary!).

Happy Halloween!

15

I don’t like to be scared.

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I am naturally afraid of everything. The ocean. Driving fast. People who knock at the door. LOL I see a demon on every doorknob. LOL!!! So I don’t like scary movies. I can scare myself enough.

My husband, who is generally a great guy, thought that was just wrong. He said, “You cannot dislike horror movies. They are just movies. And you’re a grownup.” So he insisted I go see the second NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD movie with him. In one of the first scenes, somebody rips off a zombie’s arm, blood squirted everywhere, and I rose. “I will stand by the candy counter and eat candy all night,” I told him, and I left. He thought I was kidding…oh, heck…he loved the movie so much that he didn’t care that I was gone. LOL

At the end of the movie, he found me at the candy counter with an incredible sugar high. He married me anyway. :)

My kids, my husband, my mom, all love scary things. I’m the family misfit…But I do have two copies of my Christmas book to give away.THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS!  It releases November 1.Unfortunately, because of the price of postage I can only do U. S. entries. :( Sorry.

Comment below. :)

 

susan meier

 

 

 

8

Something REALLY scary by Fiona Harper

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Okay, this may not sound very scary to start off with, but bear with me…

I have a new favourite TV show – MTV’s Catfish. For those of you who haven’t caught it yet, and don’t know what ‘catfishing’ is (other than, you know, fishing for catfish in a pond), here’s the dictionary definition: to catfish someone is to “lure (someone) into a relationship by adopting a fictional online persona.”

The show is fascinating, chronicling the journey of a slightly suspicious ‘catfish-ee’ (can I even make that word up?!) finding out who it really is they’ve been talking to online with the help of Nev and Max, the cameramen/presenters/producers. One thing you can always be sure of is that who you think is behind that hot girl or guy you’ve been dating online and think you’re in love with, is nearly always someone else! And when their true identities are revealed, sometimes it’s truly shocking.

What’s even more interesting is finding out why these people created those fake profiles in the first place. For a few it’s for revenge, but for many there are other more complex reasons, often relating to self-esteem, the need to escape from their own lives for a bit, to get the attention and affirmation they’re lacking in real life. For a writer it’s truly lovely, meaty stuff about people and their motivations.

But what’s really scary for some of the people who’ve been catfished is how completely they get caught up in the lie, how even when little things don’t add up about their online love, they can’t quite bring themselves to believe it’s not real. These people are hugely invested in these online relationships and the fear of finding out it’s all fake is enough to keep them in denial sometimes.

Because what is more scary than that? Falling in love with someone and then finding out that, despite your very real feelings for them, you’ve been believing a lie? (See where I was going now?!)

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 17.12.59Anyway, to celebrate our spooky Chocolate Box week, I’m giving away a copy of The Little Shop of Hopes and Dreams, which deals exactly with this theme. It’s only out in the UK at the moment, so if you’re a non-British reader who wants to get your hands on it, now’s you’re chance.

While my heroine, Nicole, isn’t catfishing Adam, she is lying to him – about who she is and what she does – and very soon her house of cards is going to come tumbling down on top of her. Will their blossoming romance survive the fallout? You’ll have to read it to find out!

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment telling me what it is that your are most scared of! I’ll pick a winner at random. :-)

13

Pumpkin Loaf

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Spooktacular

 

To be honest, it doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, there’s no bad time to settle down with a cup of tea and a piece of pumpkin loaf. This recipe is courtesy of my Great-Auntie Ellen—a true country woman. :-)

Pumpk1

You’ll need a cup of cooked mashed pumpkin. I used butternut pumpkin (which I believe is called butternut squash in North America). My aunt often used Gramma, but I think that may be an Australian thing. Whatever kind of pumpkin you use, make sure to mash it really well (you could throw it in food processer, I guess, but mashing is kinda fun). So, cook and mash the pumpkin and then set it aside to cool.

Heat oven to 180C/350F. Grease a loaf pan and then line it with baking powder. Make sure it has an inch or so overhang on its long sides.

Cream 1/2 cup butter and 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar until pale and fluffy. I use an electric beater, but I suspect my Auntie Ellen didn’t. Add 2 eggs and beat really well. Stir in the pumpkin.

Sift together 2 cups of Self Raising Flour and 1/2 teaspoon of bicarb soda, along with the following spices. Now, my aunt used a variety of pinch sizes (generous pinch, good pinch, small pinch, dash etc, so I’ve translated those pinches to how I’ve interpreted them over the years :-) ) — 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp each of nutmeg and ground ginger, and a bare 1/4 tsp of ground cloves (I have been known to use 2 tsp of mixed spice instead ). Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mix and stir only until combined.

Spoon into the loaf tin and cook for 50 mins (or until a skewer comes out clean).

The smell while it’s cooking is divine. :-) Enjoy.

pumpk2


To celebrate the season I’m giving away this fun Harlequin Tote to one commenter. Just above Kiss Your Elbow is a subtitle: Murder in Grease Paint. It seemed to fit in with the week’s theme. :-) To go into the running, just tell me what your favourite pumpkin recipe is. :-) Happy Halloween, everyone!

HarlBag

 

www.michelle-douglas.com

23

Growing up in a haunted house by Kate Hardy

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SpooktacularAs part of the Halloween spooktacular, I can tell you a real ghost story – because I grew up in a haunted house.

I wasn’t actually supposed to know that the house was haunted. But one day an elderly researcher called to see my parents and told them them a bit about the history of the house (Mill House – so there was once a windmill in the grounds). As part of this, he told them about the legend of the mad miller.

Not long after, my parents thought I was asleep on a car journey home (um, no. I had my eyes closed and I was dreaming up some story or other, because the writing bug bit me very early). And then I heard them discussing it.

So the story went, there was once a miller who was very, very jealous of his beautiful wife. One day, when he found out that she was pregnant, he convinced himself that it was someone else’s baby. He murdered his wife, threw her down the well, and then burned himself on the bread oven. The wound turned septic and he died, raving mad. And allegedly his ghost haunted the house.

And here’s where it gets spooky. From my bedroom, I could see a shadow if someone walked up the stairs (as well as hearing the stairs creak). Several times I saw a shadow, heard a creak… and nobody was there.

The dining room (where the murder allegedly happened) was NEVER warm, not even after my parents put central heating in. The room was always cold.

There was an area of the garden where the dogs refused to go (and they say that dogs sense things that we can’t). If you threw a ball and it landed in that part of the garden, they’d circle it (quite a wide circle, too) and wag their tails hopefully until you fetched the ball for them.

And sometimes out of the corner of your eye it looked as if someone had just walked past the kitchen window to go to the front door – yet nobody knocked, the dogs didn’t bark, and our house wasn’t on the way to anyone else’s so the only reason why you’d see someone walk past was if they were coming to see us.

Was it the ghost? And did any of it *really* happen?

A few years ago, I wrote a book about researching the history of your house, and I decided to use our house as a case study. At the same time, I wanted to find out how much of the story was true. So. Mill – tick. (I found a fair bit of documentation about it in the county archives, including a very old map that hadn’t been touched for nearly 200 years – now, you all know how nerdy I am about history, so you can guess how exciting I found that!)

Murderer? Um. There was one murder in our village in the 1800s. And it had nothing to do with the mill, the miller, or anyone in their families.

There was indeed a well in the grounds of the house – but no skeleton was found down the well.

When I looked through the parish records, I found that none of the millers who worked at the Great Mill died while in service (or from septicaemia, for that matter). The business records and local newspapers showed me that there were a few bankruptcies – oh, and there was a crime in 1781, when (according to the local paper) ‘a black Breasted Duck-winged Cock, with white Legs’ was stolen from the mill and money was offered as a reward for information. But there was nothing about a murder.

Which means there should have been no ghost.

So why the dining room was always cold, why we saw shadows as if people had walked past when they hadn’t, and why the dogs refused to go in a certain area of the garden – well, that all remains a mystery…

Have you ever stayed in a haunted house? Or was there a house in your town with a reputation for being haunted? I’m giving away a copy of It Started With No Strings and some Halloween chocolate to one commenter, chosen at random :)

it started with no strings 500Kate’s latest release is her sixtieth for Harlequin Mills and Boon, It Started With No Strings. You can find out more about the book, and Kate, on her website (http://www.katehardy.com/) and her blog (http://katehardy.blogspot.com/) – or find her on Facebook

 

 

 

15

Halloween Reading Rescue — Stephen King

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Spooktacular

Happy Halloween!

This is the time of year when I gravitate away from romances toward some very chilling reading. My family wouldn’t allow romances in the house but they did accept the writing of a man named Stephen King.

And he’s been a big influence on my writing.

Not only does he know how to write a great book but he also knows how to scare the dickens out of the reader. Try reading It and you’ll steer clear of drainage systems or the simple drains that line streets for a very, very long time.

It

And, The Stand, all 1000+ pages is enthralling and very relevant even today. The virus that starts the journey toward a classic fight of good versus evil could still happen today. This summer, I got caught in the floods of Detroit, stranded on a highway with water rising toward me. Everyone kept telling me ‘Go West.’ Thoughts of The Stand stuck with me throughout my 5 hour journey to safety and home.

But, my favorite King novel is The Shining. Even though he was evil, I felt for Jack Torrance. I rooted for him to beat his demons. And I cried at the end.

I still have King’s time travel novel 11/22/63 and the sequel to The Shining — Doctor Sleep — sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read.

Stephen King is someone a writer can learn from – both from his writing and professionally.

I’m giving away a $15 gift card (Amazon or Barnes&Noble) to one random commenter. Tell me about your favorite Stephen King book or if you’re looking forward to one of the many new contemporary romances releasing tomorrow. Donna Alward, Sarah Morgan, RaeAnne Thayne, Lauren Layne and Jennifer Probst, just to name a few have releases.

Soooo many to choose from.

Abbi :-)

 

21

My first spooktacular Nora Roberts book – Donna Alward

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SpooktacularIt’s Halloween week here at The Chocolate Box and we’re going to be talking about all kinds of fun stuff. Of course the theme should be seasonal, and for some reason I instantly thought of the first Nora book I ever read. It was spooky! One of her romantic suspenses that just sucked me in and wouldn’t let me go until the last page.

I was living in Calgary at the time and was home to New Brunswick for a visit when I came upon a book at my sister-in-law’s house. I thought it looked good. She said I could have it so I opened it and started reading…yes, I was well into my twenties before I discovered Nora. The book was SANCTUARY.  (This is the cover I remember. It’s been reissued a ton since then).

Here’s the blurb:

Photographer Jo Ellen Hathaway thought she’d escaped the house called Sanctuary long ago. She’d spent her lonliest years there, after the sudden, unexplained disappearance of her mother. Yet the sprawling resort off the Georgia coast continues to haunt her dreams. And now, even more haunting are the pictures someone is sending to her: strange close-ups and candids, culminating in the most shocking portrait of all–a photo of her mother…naked, beautiful, and dead. Now Jo must return to the island, and to her bitterly estranged family–and, with the help of one man, learn the truth about her tragic past. But Sanctuary may also be the most dangerous place of all…

OMG RIGHT?

The tension is crazy good, and the island is isolated and beautiful and also atmospheric and then somewhat of a prison as the climax of the whole thing happens during a hurricane when no one can get on or off the island. WOW! I was hooked. I think the only book of hers that creeped me out more than that was River’s End. *shudders*

While my fave books of Nora’s remain her MacGregors and Irish trilogies, I still love this book to bits. TO BITS!

cb donnaI’ve always loved a little mystery in my books, and so today I’m giving away a copy of THE HOUSE ON BLACKBERRY HILL, which features a real haunted house!  I had a blast writing in that part, and drew the idea from personal experience. *eyebrow wiggle*

Just leave a comment and tell me which Nora book is your favourite – or if you haven’t read any of hers yet, say that too! Either one will put you in the running. 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

5

Thank You Readers by Barbara Wallace

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Warning: Schmaltz ahead.

I got a wonderful email from a reader this morning, thanking me for my book.  It was very sweet of her, but in retrospect, I should be the one thanking her.  Because if not for readers, where would I be?

The last few days, there’s been a lot of talk in the writing community regarding writers and their relationship with bloggers/reviewers.  This post isn’t about that.  Instead, I’d like to take this moment to focus on the other readers – the people who buy our romances because they enjoy a happy ending.  Who count on us to give them a few hours of escapism and without whom we wouldn’t have careers.  Oh sure, some of them may leave reviews, some may encourage their friends to check out our stories, but mostly, these readers simply enjoy reading. We may never hear their opinions or know their names.

giphyBloggers, reviewers, movers, shakers – they are important – but it is the average, under-the-radar reader who gives our careers sustenance.  Too often, in our drive to obtain five-star Goodread reviews and hit sales lists, we forget this.  We forget that these average readers don’t care if we’re a bestseller so long as we tell a good story.  And sometimes, we forget to say thanks for helping us live our dream.

So thank you readers.  Those I know and those who I will never meet.  Thank you for picking up my books, for giving my stories a purpose and for letting me spend my days writing about love.  I know I speak for a whole industry when I say we appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.

____________________________________________________________________________

Barbara Wallace’s latest book, THE UNEXPECTED HONEYMOON is out this month.

Larissa coverA holiday to remember… 

Widower Carlos Chavez manages La Joya del Mayan, the most romantic resort in Mexico. On good days, the romance passes unnoticed; on dark days, it only reminds him of his loss. 

But the honeymoon suite’s latest guest, Larissa Boyd, has rocked his steadfastness. Stunningly beautiful, she seems lost. And no wonder…she’s on a honeymoon for one!  

The chemistry is instant—and their similarities run deep. Could it be that the two loneliest hearts in Mexico have found love…in the most unexpected of places?

 

Amazon               Barnes & Noble                 Harlequin             Mills & Boon

 

12

It’s a boy!

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Baby Boy Shoes On A Black BackgroundI’m absolutely thrilled to be able to tell you all that my third grandbaby arrived last week. Etienne John, 9lb 5ozs, is a brother for Cora and Veda.

He was two weeks overdue and even then had to be given a hefty prod but he arrived wearing a smile!

Etienne

 

 

Needless to say very little writing has been done in the last day or so and I’m off for cuddle at the weekend.

Here he is!

12

Você fala uma língua estrangeira? by Samantha Hunter

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Do you speak a foreign language? That’s what my title asks (I hope) in European Portuguese, which I just started learning last week. So far, I can ask for help, tell someone I’m hurt, call a taxi, buy a loaf of bread, and — most important of all — ask where is a bakery? ;) (Onde fica a padaria?) :)

lisbonPart of this was motivated by a decision to visit Lisbon in the spring, and a desire to speak some of the language when we go. Though I’ve had a bit of a fixation on Portuguese and Portugal for a long time, though I can’t say exactly why. My husband bought me a Portuguese learning CD back in the 90s, but I never ended up using it much, and I think it was also Brazilian Portuguese, and the two are different.

I love language – the English language, of course, but I pick up language fairly easily, and enjoy it. I also studied several in high school and college, but lost them through lack of use. When we went to London this past September, I loved hearing all of the different languages being spoken on the train and at the restaurants, and wish I understood more. So, learning new languages is going to be one of the staples of my life as I get older.

One of the most popular reasons people don’t learn a second (or third) language is age – adults think they can’t learn well if they are not a child. Most research refutes that now, and shows that not only can older people (say, forties on up to whenever) learn second languages, but they actually have a lot of advantages in doing so. Consider this, from Pimsleur Approach:

Learners of every age set out to gain knowledge of a second language for various reasons; it’s common to discover benefits of becoming bilingual that you hadn’t even considered along the way. Take Samuel Beckett who, at the age of 40, began writing his first drafts in French instead of English. One unexpected result of this was inspiration for many of his best-known works including Waiting for Godot. An extreme case study this may seem, but it goes to show that language learning at any age can unlock new doors.

There is also evidence that learning a second language is healthy for your brain and can help slow down or affect the onset of mental decline in elder years.

“Learning a language later on in life might be more beneficial than learning it earlier, because it takes more effort,” Bak continues. “It has parallels with physical exercise – a stroll is good for your health, but not as beneficial as a run.”

But all of those things aside, it’s fun! It gives you new things to do and discuss with your spouse or family, it can help with your community and your travel, and it helps us all be citizens of the world.

Sometimes it’s difficult to find the right resources, but they are out there, from You Tube Videos to resources on Amazon, to formal language services like the one I am using, called Transparent.   I highly recommend it so far. (They have a free trial version, if you want to try it out, too).

I hope to be well-versed enough to use a decent bit of Portuguese when we go to Lisbon, but I know it takes years to be really fluent in a language — and I hope I will be in this one, and perhaps able to “get by” in several others. Do you speak a second or third language? Are you fluent, or are you considering learning one now? If you could pick one language you wish you could speak, what would it be? I say, go for it!

 

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