First, I have a halloween short story out as of yesterday. JACK
Security guard Blake is pretty happy working the night shift at a factory, even if he is on duty on Halloween. He gets a little lonely sometimes, though, so he's glad to meet Jack, the extra man the company has hired to keep an eye out on the biggest night for mischief all year. He thinks Jack is the hottest thing going, but is Jack going to be more than Blake bargains for?
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Then, because it is November 1, the Day of All Souls, I thought I might give you a little teaser from my book BITTERSWEETS: A TASTE OF HALLOWEEN available through Torquere Press. The excerpt is from Sugar Skull, set in Mexico on the final day of the dead.
Things that go bump in the night abound in this Taste Test from James Buchanan. From summoning an ancient spirit to magical spells that go awry, these fours stories will chill and thrill you. Capturing folktales from Mexico to Russia, these steamy tales will have you jumping at every sound, and wishing you had more. Be careful what you wish for, though, for like the characters in these stories, you might get more than you bargained for! Give yourself a treat today!
(The dead have graves, the living have lives)
Mama’s house smelled of copra. Fermented coconut oil burned in small bowls throughout the rooms. The sweet, almost overwhelming, scent reminded mortals of death. It mixed with the heady perfume of chiles, almonds, and chocolate rising from the dishes of mole to sting Amado’s nose. Marigolds and baby’s-breath spilled over vases on a small table covered in a red cloth. A trail of them wound through the house and off toward the cemetery. The fragrant path would bring the dead home tonight. Tall candles flickered in their votive jars. The flames sparkled off beaten-tin frames holding pictures of grandparents, aunts and uncles gone for years. Tiny, skeletal children played with miniature toys amidst the flowers. Los Dias de los Muertos… today was for the dead children, tomorrow would be for adults who’d passed.
Threading his arms through his button-down shirt, Amado wandered into the kitchen. His short, black hair was still damp from the shower. He’d spent all morning scrubbing their family’s graves and painting the tombstones blue to ward off evil. His mother, round and happy in a flowered apron, was singing to herself as she put the finishing touches on a tray of alfeñiques. Row after row of foil eyed skulls peered from the trays. Mama and her sister owned una tienda de dulces, it had been in their family for generations. While the regular candies were prepared and sold at the shop, specialty items were often made in small batches at home. That way they could take their time and do it "right."
Although Mexican families bought the tiny meringue and sugar sculptures well in advance, there were still tourists who wanted them for souvenirs. Many of the skulls would not survive the trip. Cocking his hip against the rough wood table, Amado picked at icing drying in a plastic bowl. His mother slapped his hand. "Aye, Geme," she scolded him with his nickname, "you are such a little boy." Waving toward a batch of egg sized skulls behind her, "Los Pequeños are for you. One each." Like always, she’d made one set of twins and scribbled his name, Amado, and that of his twin sister, Amada, on foil tags pasted across the skulls’ foreheads. Reaching over the table, he grabbed the one decorated with ribbons of green and yellow frosting. Those were his favorite colors.
As he nibbled a little icing from the skull, Amada bounced into the room. Glitter jeans and a too tight t-shirt stretched across her body. At least she didn’t slather make-up on. She was too pretty for that, with full lips and large almond eyes. Her thick black hair was styled around a heart shaped face nearly the mirror of his own. When they were children, the resemblance had been so striking that if they switched clothes their parents could barely tell them apart. Ever since they’d hit puberty, Amado had been hit by friends who just wanted to get to his sister. Amada complained of a similar problem with him. He guessed it was fair.
"Geme," she squealed, "Just who was looking for."
He already sensed he was about to get hit up for a favor. "No."
Gloss shimmered as she pouted. "I haven’t even asked." He hated it when she whined.
"But the answer is no."
Their mother laughed, wiping her hands on her apron, "I need to get boxes for these." She brushed hair from her daughter’s forehead and pinched his cheek as she passed them. "Be nice to your sister, Geme."
Madi waited until there mother was out of earshot. Then she hit him with the pleading, "You have to help me. I’m supposed to take those to Tia’s, but Juan just called. He wants to go out." Juan was his best friend at work. He hated it when his sister dated his friends because their break-ups were hell on him. No matter how many times he asked, she wouldn’t stop using his friends as her date stable. "Please, Geme, for me."
Normally he didn’t mind doing favors for his twin sister, but she was supposed to be working today. She helped Mama and Tia in the family shop. It was so irresponsible, just like her. He headed toward the living room. "No!"
"Please!" The whining plea cut through the skin as she followed him.
Exasperated, he turned on her. "It’s my day off!" All he wanted to do was sit in front of the TV, watch telenovelas with Abuela for a while and then go grab a beer with some friends. It was one of the few holidays from the factory he’d had. He broke off an icing flower from the skull candy and sucked it to nothing in his mouth.
"Don’t make me beg, Geme." Arms folded across her chest, bottom lip stuck out, Madi was pulling the same doe-eyed pout she’d used since they were kids. "Please!"
Amado wanted to tell her to go jump from the church steeple. "Madi!" Something just nibbled at him, down in his gut, and he found himself saying, "Aye, damn, go. I’ll do it."
She kissed his cheek. "You know I love you, Geme." Waving as she trotted from the house. "Car keys are on the TV." Completely reckless and out to have fun, sometimes he wondered how they’d grown up so different.
He turned to find Mama staring from the kitchen. "Where is she going?"
"She and Juan are going out." He threw up his hands to stop the avalanche of questions he knew would follow. "I’m taking the dulces to Tia. I don’t know anything else, so don’t ask." Pushing past into the kitchen, Amado wrapped his little skull in a napkin and began packing boxes. Behind him, his mother snorted her disgust with his sister. There was no doubt in his mind that Madi was in for a scolding when she got back. Immature, the wild child, she got scolded quite often. Geme was the sensible one of the pair… they looked alike, but they weren’t the same person at all.
Row upon row of tiny skulls were packed snug into the boxes. It might be good going into the city. Maybe he’d call his friends and have them meet him in the Zócalo tonight. They could watch the fireworks, have some drinks and he’d miss the fireworks at home.