Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween Stories by #OurAuthorGang

Happy Halloween

Toi Thomas
The ToiBox of Words
Growing up, my family loved the fall season, but Halloween not so much. Some years we’d observe it and some years we wouldn’t. It just depends on what we had going on. I grew up celebrating Harvest culture. We always decorated with fall colors and put out pumpkins, but we didn’t always dress up or do spooky things, though sometimes we did. One thing I do remember making a personal tradition was watching the DTV Halloween special each year. Even now, as an adult, I can indulge in this nostalgia by conducting a simple YouTube search. The quality isn’t great, but it’s still the best.

Erika M Szabo

The Halloween celebration was totally new to me after I moved to the U.S. as an adult. The six-foot-tall gorilla with a little girl in pink tutu showed up at my door demanding candy, scared me so much that I dropped the candy bowl and slammed the door. I knew about Halloween but I was expecting young children in superhero and fairy costumes, not a scary-hairy gorilla towering over me.

A few years ago my friend's five-year-old decided to be a witch for Halloween. Her mom went out to the drugstore to buy the facepaint and costume. When she got home, she had found her husband napping on the couch and her daughter had a bright green face and green magic marker in her hand. The little girl was happy to be the green witch for over a week until the marker wore off, but the husband didn't appreciate the long silent treatment.

Growing up, we didn't celebrate Halloween. Hallows Eve was to remember our loved ones, adore their graves with fall flowers and light up the cemetery with candles praying for the departed ones. Watch this short video.

Our Halloween themed stories in October
  October 1
by Ruth

October 5
by Joe

October 10
by Erika

October 14
by Toi

October 19
by Joe

October 23
by Tricia

October 30
by Nicola
 October 4
by Rebecca

October 9
Full Moon Dare
by Erika

October 12
Favorite Halloween children's books
by Tricia

October 13
I dare you to write, part 1
by Erika

October 18
Fair folk or deadly monsters
by Rebecca

October 20
by Alan and Sandra

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Magic and Mankind: Part Two - Witches and Witchcraft

Part two - Witches and Witchcraft
Nicola McDonagh
Image public domain

From prehistoric times some form of ‘witchcraft’ has existed, but then, unlike now, the casting of spells was more to do with the art of healing than any association with devilry. Most ‘witches’ were herbalists, wise women, or, ‘cunning folk’, who were adept at making potions to cure a range of illnesses. Often providing charms and offerings alongside incantations to protect livestock from predators by using these ‘blessings’ to keep them safe.
Image public domain (Wikipedia)
The belief in the power of magic has existed since mankind created social settlements where large numbers of people lived and worked. Fearing the forces of nature, inevitably, someone would try to make the unknown less scary by using rituals and spells to ward off evil spirits, whether natural or supernatural. Cave drawings often show people dancing wearing animal costumes alongside images of a ‘witch’ as seen in the photograph below.
Image public domain (Wikipedia)
Once, such ‘magical’ folk were revered, but as time went on people became wary of these magicians that could seemingly perform supernatural feats. From the 7th century, attitudes changed and terms such as ‘black magic’ spread fear into the hearts of god-fearing folk. With Christianity taking over from paganism as the main religion, it wasn’t long before the church found such powerful shaman a threat. Witch hunts in the name of God became a way to frighten people into turning against their own to preserve the status quo and get rid of annoying, possibly subversive women and men in the community. These poor people didn’t stand a chance against the prejudices and hatred from fanatics who turned communities against someone who was not quite like everyone else. So began the long centuries of demonising the innocent.
Image public domain (Wikipedia)
During medieval times being accused of witchcraft was a death sentence. Anyone who had a black cat, a mole, some kind of physical tick or blemish, and could conjure up an effective poultice for a wound or boil, would be suspected of being in league with the devil. The caricature of the old hag with a broomstick became the norm.  Wise women in a village were the subject of scorn and accused of evil deeds.

 In the UK, The Witch Finder General, Matthew Hopkins, made it his life’s work to seek out and destroy those accused of witchcraft. Through gruesome torture, he and his allies gained forced confessions from terrified men and women who would often be accused of the crime by friends or family. From the 15th to the 16h century over 100,000 people were hanged or burned at the stake for being witches.
Image public domain (Wikipedia)
This fear of sorcery lasted well into the eighteenth century when the cruel and unjust system of identifying a witch was abolished, courtesy of - The Enlightenment. A period in history which advocated the use of reason over superstition, and in 1736 the laws against witchcraft were repealed.

Witches and warlocks exist to this day but are no longer seen as dangerous. Often known as Wiccans, these people regard themselves as spiritual folk following pagan beliefs, incorporating mystical sorcery such as divination, herbalism and, Tarot reading. Casting spells not to summon demons or ghouls but to help find a true love, get promoted at work, or simply to engage more with nature and the universe.
You can read more about Wiccan magic in this article:

Image public domain (Wikipedia)
The idea of possessing supernatural powers is deep-rooted within our psyche. Whether it comes from a religious source or from the belief in our own need to connect with natural forces, magic and the casting of spells will never go away. Now, we accept it as part of our everyday world, whether it is reading our astrological predictions or buying Himalayan Salt Lamps, we need to believe that we are more than the sum of our parts, and can control the elements to do our bidding. Does it work? It might. The power is in the belief that it will.

You can go to this blog to find out how to cast spells for good luck here: 
Image public domain (Wikipedia)
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Monday, October 29, 2018

Black Speculative Fiction Month

Ruth de Jauregui

From The State of Black Science Fiction Facebook Group
As the month of October winds down, I want to talk about Black Speculative Fiction Month. It was born in 2013, when indie authors Milton Davis and Balogun Ojetade were discussing the Alien Encounters event with the Program Coordinator at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. The concept blossomed into reality the next day.

Available at MVmedia
While some science fiction and fantasy fans may wonder why a month is needed to celebrate Black speculative fiction, it is a sad fact that for many, many years publishers somehow thought that there wasn't a market for books by and for Black readers. And even more strangely, they believed that the rest of us wouldn't buy and enjoy books with Black (plus other POC and female) protagonists. Well, the creators are proving the major publishers wrong!

As Ojetade said in his blog post celebrating the first Black Speculative Fiction Month: "Why? Because every day we meet Black people who have never imagined Black folks writing and reading speculative fiction; especially science fiction. Why? Because a recent poll among young people found that the most popular genres were science fiction and fantasy. Why? Because every prominent scientist in the US listed that they read science fiction." From the Chronicles of Harriet blog.

Davis has his own publishing company and has put all the books on sale until October 31st. MVmedia, LLC features his own, Ojetade's, and the founder of the sword and soul genre, Charles S. Saunders' books, plus several anthologies. There's also a selection of graphic novels for comics fans. Personally, I highly recommend From Here to Timbuktu for older teens and adults and Amber and the Hidden City for tweens and teens.

As an avid speculative fiction fan and aspiring author, I simply can't imagine that anyone would think there isn't a market for books by and for Black fans! Yet, that's been a reality for far too long. Thanks to the indie market, the choices for speculative fiction fans have vastly expanded and caught the attention of major publishers. New books published by traditional publishers include Dread Nation by Justine Ireland (highly recommended by me!), A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney, The Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi and, of course, the award-winning books of Nnedi Okorafor.

Until recently, however, there was a serious lack of resources for a diverse audience of teen and YA readers. My own search through my personal library for a book for my youngest son led to the creation of Alien Star Books. Intended for teens and young adults of Color, it has room for all teen and YA speculative fiction books, both indie and traditionally published. My focus is on diverse protagonists. There's a page for each demographic, ranging from Black to Differently Abled to Non-Humans and Aliens. 

As we approach the end of October and Black Speculative Fiction Month, I invite you to check out the resources and books available to science fiction and fantasy fans. From zombies to steamfunk to outer space, there's a fantastic story for every fan!

Resources for readers:
Alien Star Books 
Chronicles of Harriet 
MVmedia, LLC 
The State of Black Science Fiction Facebook Group
The Black Science Fiction Society Facebook Group and Website 

Look for my next post on hummingbird magnets for fall and winter on Friday, November 2nd.

And don't forget to submit your flash fiction! They're due by end of the day tomorrow, October 30!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Guest Author: Patrick Moffett #OurAuthorGang

Our guest today is Patrick Moffett

Following a highly successful 35-year career in the IT industry, Patrick ditched his corporate life in the big city in exchange for a house in a coastal forest and followed his lifelong dream of writing a novel. Patrick lives with his wife of 47 years, two chows and an inherited poodle. In between penning his latest violent thriller, he enjoys the somewhat more peaceful company of his four adult children and eleven grandchildren.


When Adam's wife, Wendy, is murdered, he executes a series of vigilante killings and, as a result, is invited to join an organised covert operations unit, rather than face life in prison. Given a new name and a new identity (and a faked death to boot), Adam adopts the identity of Bataleur and commences his new life as a trained and lethal fighter and assassin, working directly for the government. Alongside his new colleagues, he works to take down prominent political players when requested, targeting businessmen and women alike to maintain national security and apparent order.

Taking place in South Africa, Inside Out explores crime, gang culture and politics using multiple narratives and various newspaper clippings to paint a vivid and action-packed story of lawbreaking and violence that is well-concealed from society.



From Afghanistan to Johannesburg, from Libya to London, a team of highly-trained undercover operatives is engaged in a race against time.

Martin Stevens, Eleanor Watts, Nombeko Tshivhase and Lukas Shabalala work for the underground agency IA3, under the command of Sid Blackman, Thabo Madonsela and Julius Mafere. When a child-trafficking ring is exposed, this team must enlist the aid of the CIA and the local police services in a dangerous mission to unearth the ring-leaders. But the tentacles of this evil gang extend far beyond the borders of South Africa and the team's investigation leads them deeper and further than they ever believed they would go.

What is the connection to the gangs of Soweto, and how is the nefarious and powerful Imam Abed Al-Kumein involved? What is one of the largest investment banks in South Africa's role and who is the mysterious hacker, Vladimir Al-Masri?

What is the most you would do, to halt the malevolent actions of powerful people? How many dots would you join, when they led you into unspeakable horrors and danger?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Books in the Spotlight #1 at #OurAuthorGang

In the spotlight today

No one ever said being married to a writer was easy…
Jacque has always struggled to get his business ideas off the ground. From photography to catering to publishing, his poorly-planned endeavors have put a serious strain on his finances—and his marriage. Despite his difficulties in turning his passions into a paycheck, Jacque has always considered himself to be an intellectual, an artist, and above all, a writer. 
Ever-reliable Cindy is always there to pick up the pieces when Jacque’s ventures go awry, but it’s getting harder and harder to keep things afloat. She wants nothing more than for her husband to find his way in the world, and she believes writing is his true path in life—until she reads his novel.
Every marriage has its problems, but when a shocking betrayal leads to vengeance, will their marriage survive? 


Is it possible that an ancient curse cast by a powerful witch sixteen-hundred years ago could destroy families in every generation for centuries?
Dark family secrets separated Sofia and Daniel when they were children, but fate brought them together years later. Jayden, Sofia’s brother, finds a leather book in his grandmother's secret room that was written in 426 by a shaman. Reading the ancient runes, they learn about their family's curse. If it remains unbroken, the curse will bring tragedy and ruin their lives as it destroyed many of their ancestors' lives. Could they find the way to break the ancient curse?
A glimpse into the lives of teenagers in present and past. How mental illness and the rejection of people who love differently effects families and peoples’ lives.
Suitable for young adults.

REDHAND by Tony Duxbury

It is the new age of barbarism, hundreds of years after the collapse of civilization. Most of the vast knowledge that mankind had accumulated has been lost. The once great cities are either piles of blasted rubble or crumbling ruins. After society imploded, humanity turned on one another. Decades of war followed. The survivors banded together in tribes and clans. All the bullets and bombs have run out. It’s back to edged weapons and blunt instruments. Technology has taken an enormous step backwards, and so has humanity. 

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Friday, October 26, 2018

Loki’s Animal Stories: Snakes in Toi’s house

Today in Loki’s Animal Stories, author Toi Thomas recounts a true animal adventure as told from the perspective of Loki, A Small Gang of Authors mascot. So, it’s a fake true story. Enjoy!
I think I’ve mentioned before how creepy I find reptiles to be, but now that I’ve met Betty, the turtle, I feel a bit more openminded. Still, snakes are an entirely different matter. Toi told me about a snake encounter she had when first moving into her townhouse. It was enough to give me chills.

Apparently, in the area where Toi lives, all the surrounding land used to be a swamp. In fact, just down the road a bit, there is a sign and entrance to a long trail taking you through The Great Dismal Swamp that remains. Finding wildlife and critters along the roads and roaming neighborhoods isn't a new concept for Toi, but when they end up inside your home, you can never quite prepare for that.

After her first night in her new townhouse, with her mattress still on the floor and boxes stacked all around, Toi woke to the sound of something slithering, slipping, and sliding along a wall somewhere… She couldn’t see it; only hear it. On full alert, yet still wearing her PJs, Toi began to crouch and crawl to the edge of the stairs leading down. That's where she saw the chain of black and white stripes slithering along the wall, next to the front door.
Toi crawled back to the bed and picked her cell phone off the stack of books serving as her nightstand. After calling all her family members and letting them know how much she loved them, Toi then had to decide whether pest control or animal control would best assist her at that time. Pest control charged a fee and animal control was free.

After waiting the longest 20 minutes of her life, Animal control arrived. The man dressed in kaki shorts and a safari hat picked up the snake like it was a dropped lolly-pop. Having a better look at it and clearly seeing that it was only about 12 inches long, Toi felt a little silly for overreacting but was still glad to be rid of the uninvited guest. Betty the turtle had watched the whole spectacle from her tank and looked at Toi suspiciously when the snake was carted off in a cardboard box, only to be released into the trees a few yards away. Toi tossed Betty a pellet and assured her, she was home to stay.  
Find out more about Toi Thomas, her work, and her inspiration at the following links:
Amazon | Goodreads The ToiBox of Words | YouTube | See a list of my other posts here.

#truestory, #funnyanimals, #ScarySnakes

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Today is my birthday

Today Is My Birthday

Christina Weigand

Today is my birthday. There is no need to share how many years it has been, although I do like to say its not the number that counts, but how you live those years. Needless to say I’ve been around the block a few times and have experienced a lot, a few changes in direction, a few crossroads and a few u-turns.

I’m at one of those crossroads, one that eighteen years ago I would have never expected. It was the beginning of a new century, my youngest child was due to graduate from high school and my husband and I were inches away from empty nest syndrome. We were ready to start traveling and enjoying life without young children in tow. Anyway, a couple things happened before my daughter could graduate. In 2001 I had another child, a daughter; a gift from God. Then in 2002 my older daughter dropped out of high school, months away from graduating and had my first granddaughter in 2003. No empty nest for us and one of those changes in direction. But this post isn’t about what happened eighteen years ago. Instead it is about, how like the ripples when you throw a stone into a pond those events have affected my current situation.

I am once again at that place where my youngest is due to graduate from high school and start on the next phase of her life, God-willing college. The chances of her actions being a repeat of her sister’s are slim, so I am faced with moving onto a new phase in my life and I’m scared.

My husband and I celebrated forty years of marriage this past July and for all but one of those years I spent raising children. I did take eight years and go back to school for a degree, and I worked outside the home for a few years, but my family has always been my main focus.

So here I am, not sure what I am going to do once she graduates and starts college. I’m feeling a little lost and waiting for a new door to open. As I embark on this new year, I do it with trepidation and excitement while I anticipate all the new things that await me.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

How Did We Survive Childhood?

How did we survive? Seriously!

Courtesy of Pinterest
I grew up in a small town in Hungary when we only had 2 channels on our treasured black & white TV and on clear days we could catch the Polish, Russian, Austrian or Check stations with the special antenna my dad built.

Seatbelt? Yeah, right! After I flew over the front seat when dad stepped on the break, my parents had me sit on a pillow, on the floor, behind the driver seat, until I was big enough to have my feet reach the floor when I sat on the back seat.
Courtesy of Pinterest
How did I survive without my smartphone? We had a landline phone that was used only for important calls. If I wanted to chat with my friends, my mom said, "Get on your bike and talk to her. No phone calls for nonsense!"
Courtesy of Pinterest
This is what my entertainment center looked like. When the player ate the cassette tape, we masterfully repaired it with a pencil, and when the tape broke, crazy glue did the job.
Courtesy of Pinterest
My mom let me go to the library only once a week, on Fridays, after school. She knew that if I brought home more than the allowed 6 books, I would spend every waking moment reading. On Fridays when I didn't show up at home by four, mom called the librarian to make it sure I was there. The librarian told her, "Yes, she's here, reading. Don't worry, I'll kick her out in half an hour and I'll let her take home only six books."
We did some dangerous and stupid stuff
Courtesy of Pinterest
Jumping off the bridge without a life jacket (we didn't even know we could use one)
Where were my parents? Well, they thought me how to swim and float when I was a baby, so they didn't worry. 
Biking with helmet on? Oh, no. We didn't have any safety device when we biked on the street or on dirt roads and even on the forest paths. When I bumped my head, mom asked how many fingers she was holding up asked if I was dizzy or nauseous. "You'll be fine! Put ice on the bump."
When I had a scraped knee, my mom's first aid kit contained diluted vinegar wash and a band-aid.

How did we survive to be kids in those dangerous times and reach adulthood? Well, although we did some crazy things, we didn't dare each other to eat Tide pods or sniff condoms through our noses. What were those kids thinking? It's a mystery to me.
The only drugs we knew were Aspirin and occasional antibiotics for infections.
Some of my friends tried alcohol when we were teenagers, I never did. I saw what it did to my father. How stupid he acted when he was drunk and how sick he was after years of drinking.

Yeah, we dared each other to do stupid, scary things, you can read why I thought a werewolf was following me HERE

I just opened my very own bookstore, click on this LINK and take a look. You might find an eBook or print you like.
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