Some people love their St. Valentine’s Day. Others Easter. And certainly the winter holidays have loads of fans. But for me, the best holiday of the year is Hallowe’en. As a child, I loved the candy. As a young mother, I imposed mommy tax on the girls’ haul. I decorated the house with seasonal quilts when the grands were little. But my favorite part of all are the ghost stories.
Many writers have tackled ghost stories. One of my favorites is The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville. A former IRA hitman has been released from prison and is busily drinking himself to death so as to quiet the voices of the thirteen ghosts of his victims who follow him around screaming. It’s not just a supernatural story. It gives in inside peek into The Troubles in a way that Americans have no way of otherwise accessing in such a way whether the ghosts are real or Gerry Fagan’s imagination doesn’t matter. You be the judge.
I love how Tana French handled witchcraft in The Secret Place. She takes for granted that these schoolgirls are witches and can perform magic but the real story is a crime story. French’s writing evolves over time so whether this will be considered her best work remains to be seen but to date, it is my favorite.
So I’m thrilled that Ellen Byron asked me to host Haunted Louisiana: Fact or Fiction? A free Crowdcast event on October 11. I’m fascinated by Louisiana’s close relationship to the otherworld and have already dug into Ellen’s new book, Murder in the Bayou Boneyard. I can’t wait to hear from Chere Coen, the author of Haunted Louisiana, and Mark Bologna, Beyond Bourbon Street podcaster. And I’m brushing up on my Alaska ghost stories to share as well. Ghosts and giveaways, what more can you want? Here’s the link: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/haunted-louisiana
In parting, I want to share my gluten free dairy free Irish Barmbrack recipe that I recently perfected. In Ireland, this is traditional Hallowe’en (Samhain) fare. It’s tradition to insert small objects in the bottom of the cake. The lucky recipient is foretold his or her future depending on the object: a coin for wealth, a ring for marriage within a year, a bean for poverty, a pea for no marriage this year, a matchstick for an unhappy marriage, and a thimble for single for life.
Gluten Free/Dairy Free Irish Barmbrack
2 ½ cups of dried fruit. I used golden raisins but you can use anything you want or a mixture.
1 ½ cups of hot brewed tea. I used Earl Grey because that’s what Captain Picard drinks.
1 ¾ cups of brown rice flour
½ cup of potato starch – NOT potato flour. They are two different things.
¼ cup of tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xanthum gum
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups sugar – the real stuff. Honestly, what’s the point of substitutes? Fake sugar is like decaf coffee or pretending carob is chocolate. I’d rather do without than suffer disappointment.
¼ cup of orange marmalade
1 teaspoon of grated orange zest
1. Soak the dried fruit in hot tea for 2 hours, then drain and gently squeeze out excess tea. I ended up getting distracted and putting the entire concoction in the fridge for two days before I came back to it. The raisins were fine.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 9 inch Bundt pan. I sprayed mine liberally with canola oil spray.
3. Stir together brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, xanthum gum, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda. Set aside.
4. Beat the egg with sugar, marmalade, orange zest and tea-soaked fruit until well combined. Gently fold in the flour until just combined. It will be sticky. Pour into prepared Bundt pan.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed. My cake needed 1 hour and seven minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 2 hours before turning out. Continue to cool on wire rack. Press objects into bottom before serving.
My question to writers: have you tried your hand at a ghost story? I have not.
My question to readers: do you have a favorite ghost story?
My question to everyone: what’s your favorite Hallowe’en treat?
No ghost stories, but the spooky Medina, Ohio car wash experience is intriguing, with ghosts and goblins appearing while your car becomes squeaky clean.
I always loved Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Both novels are spooky, atmospheric, yet call into question whether the hauntings are real or only exist in the mind of the main character.
I haven't tried writing one, but it's a good season to try it!
Margaret, what fun!
Jenni, it'd be good to have a ghost story in the bank in case an anthology call comes up!
Some of my stories have a paranormal element. It makes for a fun stories. I usually don't go in for the horror aspects, although I recently finished one with a banshee.
What a fun bakery tradition! I'd love to try that when our family can get back together. Thanks for the idea and the recipe.
Though I've never seen a ghost, I find that a ghost appears in many of my mysteries. Always a friendly ghost with his or her own agenda.
I loved The Ghosts of Belfast. The sequel (Collusion) was great, too.
I also like the mysteries by Wendy Roberts in which the main character cleans up crime scenes and converses with the ghosts of the victims.
I have written several romance novellas with ghosts in them. The first one happened by accident -- the ghost just showed up as I was writing the story -- and that was so much fun that I wrote more ghost stories. In one, the ghost is a Roman soldier; in two others it's an English Cavalier from the mid 1600s. They are all secondary characters. I don't much like the idea of a ghost as a love interest, but as a protector/busybody/enabler/helper they can be great fun.
I toyed with the paranormal in Adrift, but I see a short story or two in my future. Oh, and I can’t think of a better reason to drink Earl Grey!
I've never written a ghost story, but maybe one day...
Thanks for sharing the recipe for Irish Barmbrack!
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