A Melding of the Paranormal Minds: Tonight! Live!

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Greetings you little elves and gnomes and hobgoblins, ye’ merry creatures of the night. Tune in tonight at 6 pm PST/9 PM EST for a delightful hour of the paranormal persuasion. I’ll be a guest on Paranormal Minds Radio.

Click here to listen live.

You never know where the conversation will lead, although I can guarantee you will probably want to double check your locks after. Varla Promo

Varla on Ghost Chronicles–Tonight, Wednesday the 24th!

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Greetings!

Tonight I am honored to be on Ghost Chronicles with hosts Ron Kolek and Anne Kerrigan. Ron has been a supporter of my books since lo’ those many years ago when The Book of the Bizarre came out, and he regularly includes a tidbit of Beyond Bizarre on his shows, so not only will you hear me tonight talking about Among the Mermaids and all manner of other things, you can hear me there week after week!

Ron is the head of the New England Ghost Project, and his own book A Ghost a Day, which he co-authored with Maureen Wood, is one of my go-to campfire reads. It’s a really wonderful book–a ghost for everyday of the year. I like to meet people and look up their ghost based on their birthday!

You can tune in here, from 7pm-8pm EST (tonight, and every Wednesday)

http://toginet.com/shows/ghostchronicles

I hope you can join us as we traverse the forgotten, the foreboding, and the utterly freaktacular!

Preston Castle

 

I Am an Android

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robot valentineAnd I’m a tablet, and an iPad and all kinds of other robotic things.

Freaky stories available now as apps for your devices! Including awesome bonus things like interviews with me!

 

My publisher just released the following information:

 

Dare to explore the dark side with this superbly disquieting collection of tales featured in our Paranormal Parlor, Magical Creatures, and Antiquarian Curiosity Shoppe apps!  Now available in iTunes, Android, and soon for Kindle tablets.

 

Enjoy this compendium of hauntings, seances, psychic investigations, magic, trickery, and more…at a great price!

 

Download the free BiblioBoard app for access to our anthologies.

 

For iTunes click https://service.biblioboard.com/featuredContent/refer/SEO/APPID-00000000483/Tp

 

For Android click https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.biblioboard

Ring in the New Year with Murderous Bells: A Very Happy Hour of Horrors

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the bells that committed murderThe usual gaiety of chiming bells ringing in the New Year might sound a little more sinister once you get through this short little eBook, selected by me from a collection of fairy and folklore by Welsh “Grimm” William Wirt Sikes.

Don’t walk into that churchyard or a schoolhouse without a hard-hat! There are more than just the usual hazards of daily life in rural Wales that could bring you harm. There are murderous bells afoot!

Bells on B&N 

Bells on Sony

Bells on Amazon  

You can grab your little e-reading device and buy the book, it’s less than $3, and then mix up a nice Champagne Cocktail. You’ll want to have a few before serving them to guests–to be sure they are as delicious as they sound, so you might as well test run them tonight!

If you want a nice list of other champagne and sparkling wine cocktails, check out Martha Stewart’s List HERE for amazing ideas like Blood Orange Champagne Cocktail and Lemon Drop Champagne Punch.

Bells on B&N 

Bells on Sony

Bells on Amazon  

This is Martha’s recipe, and I like it just the way it is, although I prefer just one or two drops of the bitters.

Ingredients

  • 3 drops bitters
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 ounce Cognac
  • 4 ounces chilled Champagne

Directions

  1. Drop bitters onto sugar cube; let soak in. Place sugar cube in a Champagne flute. Add Cognac, and top with Champagne.

Happy New Year! May it be merry, bright, and safe. And be careful where you walk, for the bells of towers may be chiming your own demise.

The Screaming Banshee~A Just-in-Time Cocktail for Thanksgiving’s Happy Hour of Horrors

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My Happy Hour of Horrors are usually late Friday themes but since this week is a madhouse of gluttony, joy, and frenzied family freakery, I’ll let you have a drink right now. (I always say drink early and often). But seriously, you know that over dramatic little sister that “can’t quite handle” the family gatherings and bursts into tears after a few too many? Right when you realize you’ve not had quite enough? Well, she’s probably more related to the banshee of folklore than to you, but you can’t very well prove that right?

So now, for the low-low price of just $2.99 grab your little nerdy device and buy one (or both!) of these banshee books, then rush out and get all the ingredients you’ll need for The Screaming Banshee. And when you are feeling very full and someone starts to discuss politics or religion in the post-turkey consuming haze, tuck yourself away in a corner, maybe with your coolest cousin, and drink up and read up to your heart’s content. I guarantee you the creatures in these books will make you feel a little better about those relatives you think are the worst. Your heart will grow two sizes, after being scared out of your wits.

The Malevolent Banshee by Varla Ventura and Elliot O’Donnell Amazon or B&N

Alleged Counterparts of the Banshee by Varla Ventura and Elliot O’Donnell (Currently available only on Amazon)

The Screaming Banshee

(I got this one from Good Cocktails, but as usual adapted it slightly)

Screaming Banshee Drink

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. Vodka
  • 1 oz. Banana Liqueur (seems a little gross but just try it!)
  • 1/2 oz. Crème de Cacao (White)
  • 1/2 oz. Cream / Half & Half/I like to use whipped cream straight from the can. And it’s nice on the drink too.

Instructions

Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. So easy!!!
It’s okay to put this in a plastic pint glass so everyone thinks you’re drinking soda. No garnish necessary, but you will need some alone time. Goes great with chocolate cream pie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sex on the Beach with Mermaids~A Happy Hour of Horrors

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As the cold of November settles upon most of us, sinking into the bones and sharpening our breath, even the most heavy-caped of us might find ourselves–even for just a moment–wanting the feel of sand beneath our toes and the lapping of warm waters against our flesh. So how can we achieve these sensations, even with a few inches of snow on the ground? It’s not as (ahem) hard as you may think. Just grab yourself a copy of one of my Magical Creatures eBooks on the topic of mermaids, mix yourself up a potent Sex on the Beach, crank up your heater (and maybe your humidifier) and get wild!

Available now for under $3 you can read these on your Kindle, Nook, iPad or whatever digital creation you’ve managed to procure. Just make sure you read them before you’ve had too many cocktails, as they don’t recover from sticky spills like hardcover books!

The Mermaid of Druid Lake by Varla Ventura and Charles Weathers Bump

Amazon

B&N

Among the Mermaids by Varla Ventura, T. Crofton Croker and William Butler Yeats

Amazon

B&N 

The Mermaid’s Prophecy and Other Stories by Varla Ventura

Amazon

B&N

And once you’ve had your night of wild fun, don’t forget to read my post on my forthcoming, full-length book (pre-order here) coming this next year. I’m still accepting submissions about your mermaid encounters. I know you’ve had them. Or if you’ve got some other sea-creature or water-beast hiding in your bathtub, I want to know! If you know pirates, scuba-divers, or oceanographers, please share the call for entries with them.

Sex on the Beach

I got this basic recipe from DrinkNation but I’ve made some notes on variation to really Horror-fy it.

  • 2/3 oz. Schnapps, peach (you can add peach juice if you’d rather, but the Schnapps give it an extra kick, thus insuring you’ll get drunker. I like to use a few frozen peaches as well, but the drink can get muddled–much like your mind when you’ve had a few!)
  • 1 1/3 oz. Vodka
  • 1 1/3 oz. Cranberry Juice
  • 1 1/3 oz. Orange Juice
  • Sometimes I add a splash of coconut rum here, if I have any leftover from my most recent romp with the pirates. Instead of juice you can use a syrup like Torani, and you can even sub raspberry for cranberry.

Mixing Instructions

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a highball glass filled with ice.

I like to add a mermaid swizzle stick or at minimum a mini-paper parasol. You can also serve this in a martini glass but once you’ve had your third one you might want to switch to the highball. It doesn’t spill as easy!

Trust me, drink enough of these and you’ll remember a mermaid encounter or two…

The Immortal Bram Stoker

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Born on November 8th, 1847  Bram Stoker would be 165 today if he were as immortal as his famous vampire. Though his name is synonymous with his 1897 novel Dracula, Stoker authored several other novels and creepy little short stories. As part of a series of digital books I’ve curated about Magical Creatures, I’ve included a gripping short story,  Dracula’s Guest, as well as the more obscure short story, The Burial of Rats. Both come from a collection of stories published by his loving widow two years after his death.
Stoker had plans to publish several short story collections, and these stories–part of the first collection–were yet to be edited. His widow chose to publish them as he left them on his desk. And if this is his “raw” work, any of us who fancy ourselves writers would be humbled by the notion. He is as stunning a writer in his shorter works as in his epic novels.

You can buy them now for you kindle, nook, or other e-reading device. Less than $3 and you can be the judge.

The Burial of the Rats by Varla Ventura and Bram Stoker (Amazon) (B&N)

Dracula’s Guest by Varla Ventura and Bram Stoker (Amazon) (B&N)

Who’s That Knocking on my Coffin Lid? Vampires, Magical Creatures Part Three

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Lovers of True Blood, Dracula devotees, and Twilight tweens: I offer you the ancient vamps of my Magical Creatures series!

These are the stories that Stephenie Meyer and Anne Rice read when they were but wee babes, suckling on their mothers (or the  neck of their mother). These are the groundwork stories about vampirism, both horrific, romantic, and psychic.

Currently available exclusively as e-books, these are found volumes of forgotten lore (many a quaint and curious tale!) and cover the realm of such creepy and cool beings as goblins, werewolves, vampires, banshees, mermaids, and phookas, to name but a few.

(If the response is positive on these little e-beasts, I’ll be expanding them into book form!!)

Horror devotees will recall the story of the infamous gathering at a lake house outside of Geneva, Switzerland in the summer of 1816 where a small party celebrated the settling darkness by reading ghost stories aloud to one another. Present were the host, Lord Byron, and his guests: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft (Shelley) and her sister, and Lord Byron’s physician—John William Polidori. At the prompting of Byron, pens were set to paper to write ghost stories of their own. Here the groundwork was laid for what would become Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a Modern Prometheus. Shelley himself wrote Fragments of a Ghost Story, and Byron wrote something called Fragment of a Novel. This “fragment” became the basis for Polidori’s The Vampyre, A Tale—the first vampire novel published in English, some seventy years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Also in the vampire collection, are two lesser known tales by Bram Stoker: Burial of the Rats and Dracula’s Guest. Both were part of a collection of stories that Stoker had been working on but never published. After his death, his widow decided they were fit for print and submitted them to his publisher in 1914. And Théophile Gautier’s Clarimonde is by far one of the most controversial vampire stories from the early 19th Century. A would-be priest begins to doubt his path and his God when he meets (by chance?) fair Clarimonde. I won’t give it all away but this is some necromantic romance at its best! And finally, George Sylvester Viereck’s 1907 short story The House of the Vampire was the first novel to introduce psychic vampires.

You can purchase these little digital gems following the links below:

The Vampyre: A Tale by Varla Ventura and John William Polidori (Amazon) (B&N)

The Burial of the Rats by Varla Ventura and Bram Stoker (Amazon) (B&N)

Dracula’s Guest by Varla Ventura and Bram Stoker (Amazon) (B&N)

Clarimonde by Varla Ventura and Théophile Gautier (Amazon)

The House of the Vampire by Varla Ventura and George Sylvester Viereck (Amazon) (B&N)

I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream Like Banshees! Magical Creatures Part Two

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When I asked readers of The Blog of the Bizarre to comment on their favorite magical creatures, a surprising number of you said banshee! Well, I have to admit the banshee is most certainly my favorite magical creature and with competition from the likes of werewolves and vampires that is saying something.

Banshees straddle the world of ghosts and magical beings, fairyland and nighttime haunts. They are beautiful, mournful, horrible things. And I’ll bet we’ve all encountered one or two in our lifetime, perhaps without knowing it.

Surely you’ve spent a lonesome night listening listening with trepidation to the howl of the wind. To the rattle of the windowpane and the thump upon the porch we say “’Tis only the wind!” To the squeak of the floorboards and the bang on the roof we declare, “This old house is settling!” But deep inside, and we have all likely felt it at one time or another, there is an uneasy understanding that something very supernatural is afoot.

And the odds are this feeling of uneasiness is very likely accurate.

Perhaps it wasn’t a banshee thought. There are many, many things out there clawing in the night, snarling in the shadows. Sinister beasts that make the sad Irish Banshee look friendly.

They possess a certain dangerous quality that make the humble phooka or hyper goblin look positively friendly. Some tales recount that banshees are the ghosts of women who have died in childbirth; others say they are the restless spirits of unrequited lovers.  They are almost always women, and they can and will invoke your sympathies when you hear their wailing. You could easily be lured into the dark of night, hoping to help the pathetic creature who sounds as if she is in mourning.

One of my favorite bands as a young, surly teen was Siouxsie and the Banshees, whose front-woman Siouxsie Sioux is a gothic chantress who howled like a mythological siren—luring you with her tales of travel and woe. So when I came upon Elliot O’Donnell’s works about banshees I simply had to dust off the old vinyl (for you youngins’ whose main experience with vinyl is the sheath you keep your iPod Touch in, I am referring to a vinyl record) and paint on some heavy eyeliner so I could have a good ol’ fashion Banshee Bash.

Elliot O’ Donnell was an Irish author who wrote more than forty books on ghosts, paranormal encounters, and creatures of the fairy race. Unlike so many authors of his time who conducted psychic experiments and who often take the skeptical or sensational point-of-view, O’ Donnell had a more authentic approach to ghost stories. He claimed to have numerous encounters himself, including with a ghost when he was five years old. He also reported having been strangled by a phantom somewhere in Dublin. He said, “I have investigated, sometimes alone, and sometimes with other people and the press, many cases of reputed haunting. I believe in ghosts but am not a spiritualist.”

Enjoy these selections of O’Donnell’s best works on banshees, as part of Magical Creatures collection. And let me know your own banshee tales! I expect there is enough material out there for several volumes.

The Malevolent Banshee by Varla Ventura and Elliot O’Donnell Amazon or B&N

Alleged Counterparts of the Banshee by Varla Ventura and Elliot O’Donnell (Currently available only on Amazon)

What Big Eyes You Have: Werewolves, Magical Creatures Part One

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For those of you who love a good scare and those of you who can’t quite shake that feeling that those creatures of myth and folklore are simply imaginary, I offer you my Magical Creatures series. Currently available exclusively as e-books, these are found volumes of forgotten lore (many a quaint and curious tale!) and cover the realm of such creepy and cool beings as goblins, werewolves, vampires, banshees, mermaids, and phookas, to name but a few.

If the response is positive on these little e-beasts, I’ll be expanding them into book form. And so let me begin my series of Magical Creature posts with one of my super-faves. The werewolf!

It seems that unlike the mindless zombie or the ancient mummy, or event the licentious vampire, we don’t fear the werewolf so much as feel sorry for the werewolf. It is a wild beast caught in a trap. We worry for him, we wish it could be another way. We don’t want to become werewolves the way we want super powers or immortality. We want the werewolf to be free of the curse that binds him. Free to be either beast or man, not tragically stuck being both.

Here are a few interesting facts about werewolves you may not know:

  • Werewolves are not always mean: In medieval romances, such as Guillaume de Palerme, the werewolf is not the terrifying creature of more modern tales, but rather benign, appearing more like a victim and less like the enemy. (True also of Harold in Eugene Field’s story).
  • Werewolves are not always male: The 1588 story from the mountains of Auvergne tells the tale of a she-wolf whose paw was cut off by a hunter. When he opened the bag where he had placed his prized paw he discovered instead a woman’s hand. It didn’t take long to figure out who was missing the hand (a nobleman’s wife) and she was burnt at the stake. That’s one way to end a marriage…
  • Werewolves are not always wolves: Were-creatures can be in the form of many beasts. In variations of lore from around the world we find examples of were-cats, were-sharks, were-bears, and even a were-dolphin.
  • Werewolves are not always fictional: There is a rare but very real disease now called clinical lycanthropy. Those diagnosed believe themselves to able to transform into a non-human animal, specifically a wolf.

For those of you who aren’t such fans of the werewolf you will want to avoid the darkest of woods at night, especially any woods that looks much like the one described above—full of ravens, vampires, and serpents—and you should never, ever go out on a full moon. You may fare well, as the heroine of our story does, but to hedge your bets you might want to keep a little satchel with you full of silver bullets (you’ll need a gun to fire them) on hand, or a silver dagger if you can’t get a gun. If you are a dead-mark a bow and arrow might do, but it is very risky. Oh, and make sure to stock up on wolfsbane. It will ward off wolves but it can also be an antidote to wolf bite, if taken within a few hours of contact.

Want more? Check out these e-books in my series on Werewolves:

The Werewolf by Varla Ventura and Eugene Field  (Amazon) (B&N)

Natural Causes of Lycanthropy by Varla Ventura and Sabine-Baring Gould (Amazon) (B&N)

The Werewolf of the North by Varla Ventura and Sabine Baring-Gould (Amazon) (B&N)