Welcome to Characterfest
Characterfest is a month long event where you’ll find a different character interviews written by the author each day. Each interview has a giveaway(s) make sure the giveaway is open to you and if so add a comment or question along with your email. I will close all giveaways at the end of the week and add the winners to the winners post on that Tuesday. Odds are if you won you’ll be hearing from me.
One thing I will ask is if you could please twitter or hit the facebook likes button on the post so that others can see the interview. I want to get these authors out to as much as I can and you’re my go between in this event.
I hope you enjoy each interview and please try to make it here each day to find out whom or what’s next. If this goes as planned I will be hosting this next year.
Dani Harper is the author of a new shapeshifter series from Kensington Brava. Changeling Moon and Changeling Dream were released this summer. Changeling Dawn can be pre-ordered and will be officially released December 27th. Check Dani’s website for more information at http://www.daniharper.com
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As the four Macleod brothers walk in, you immediately wish you’d gotten a bigger table. Maybe even a bigger restaurant. James is the tallest, but all of them are over six feet and broad of shoulder. You’ve met other shapeshifters of course, but Changeling men seem to be huge. Their ordinary clothes fail to hide extraordinary muscle.
You recognize James by his white-blond hair and piercing blue eyes. Small wonder that some people have said he looks like a modern-day Viking although he’s a highly successful organic farmer. Perhaps he ransacks and pillages at night? The others have dark wavy hair. Two are obviously twins. You peg the one with pure devilment in his expression as Culley, computer genius and known prankster. The more serious one appears somewhat distracted as if his mind is elsewhere – that must be Devlin, a physicist who researches multiple dimensions. As the others settle themselves around the table, the fourth is the first to extend an enormous hand. With pale gray eyes and a ready smile, he could only be Connor Macleod, the town veterinarian.
“Thanks for taking time for this,” you say. “I know you’re busy, so I’ll get right to it. Our readers want to know what Halloween was like when you lived in Scotland.”
“We’re talking almost a couple centuries ago,” pipes up Culley.
“I’m not sure my older brothers can remember back that far.”
“I remember just fine, thanks.” James sends a warning glare at his brother. “And we didn’t celebrate Halloween, not the way you do here.”
“Sure we did. There was plenty of pranking done—”
“And you did most of it, every day of the goddamn year.”
Ignoring them, Connor leans forward. “October 31st was a mixed celebration. First and foremost, we observed Samhain. That’s the Celtic New Year, separating the light half of the year from the dark half. There’d be enormous bonfires lit in every village.”
“And feasting.” Culley puts his hand over his heart and closes his eyes. “I still remember Aileen McGinty’s little mutton pies…”
Even James grins at that memory. “And the celebration of Samhain was three days long. Lots of games –”
“There were treacle-covered scones hung on strings,” explains Connor, using hand motions. “You were blindfolded and had to keep your hands behind your back while you tried to eat the scone.” He sees your confusion. “Treacle is a sugar syrup, sort of like molasses. They always used the darkest and blackest syrup they could find too.”
“Messy fun,” says James. “That scone would swing around and stick in your hair, smear treacle all over your face. Which is why the next game was always –”
“Apple dorkin!” laughs Culley. “That’s like bobbing for apples. Only they sprinkled white flour on the top of the water and the apples, so instead of cleaning the treacle off your face, the flour would stick to it. Our youngest sister, Kenzie, ended up looking like a ghost one year.”
“That’s because you pushed her,” said Devlin, speaking up at last.
“I did not!”
“Did too. I saw you.”
“The Samhain bonfire was symbolic,” says James, loud enough to drown out the twins. Heads turn in the restaurant and he shrugs and lowers his voice. “Everyone would put out their hearthfires, and then they would get a firebrand from the village bonfire to relight their homes. Each man would light a torch from the bonfire too, and then walk all the way around his home and his fields with it.”
“It was done to gain protection for the coming year,” adds Connor.
“The barriers were down between this world and the otherworld at Samhain and you didn’t want your land bespelled.”
“Bespelled? You mean like magic?” you ask.
Culley flashes a devilish grin. “At Samhain, ghosts, evil spirits and demons could wander freely, and they could interact with humans as they pleased.”
“Don’t forget the fairy folk,” adds Devlin, solemn-faced. “They were the most dangerous of all.” The others nod and he continues. “That’s why people went guising. It’s an ancient Scottish tradition to dress up in ragged clothes and wear masks – the idea was to convince the evil spirits and ghosts that you were one of them, so they wouldn’t bother with you.”
James grins. “Culley did too good a job with his costume one year. Old Maude Mullins was convinced he was the real thing – of course he jumped out at her from her bread oven when she went to light it – and she walloped the hell out of him with a hearth broom.”
“You wouldn’t think a little old lady could hit that hard,” mutters Culley, rubbing a shoulder as if remembering a long-ago bruise.
“So you said that October 31st was a mixed celebration,” you prompt.
Connor nods. “We always celebrated Samhain. And when it was too dangerous for Changelings to go into the village, we would celebrate it at home. But the Church was forever trying to give everything a Christian twist, so October 31st became known as All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day.”
“Things got pretty mixed up after that,” says James. “People would still go guising, but they’d go door to door asking for soul cakes – those were flat round buns made of oat flour – or they’d collect food and kindling for the poor. All the pranking still went on, and the feasting. The Samhain fires were lit just the same. And people still did things to protect themselves from ghosts and demons and so forth.”
“That’s where the jack o’lantern came from,” Devlin explains. “Only we didn’t use pumpkins. We had these really big neeps that we’d carve.”
“Neeps?” You’ve never heard that word before.
“Turnips,” provides Connor. “As far as I know, they still call them neeps in Scotland. Our mother used to make neeps and tatties – turnips and potatoes, fried up with onions. But on October 31st, we’d carve faces into turnips and rutabagas, sometimes even into big potatoes.”
“Then we’d put an ember from the fire inside, so the turnip would glow,” says James. “And it’s not called a jack o’lantern, it’s a tumshie. People would make lots of them and place them all around the house for protection from the unseen world. It was supposed to scare away evil creatures.”
“How about Changelings?” you ask. “Did they try to protect themselves from you too?”
The brothers exchange glances. “Wolves were pretty unpopular at any time of the year,” answers Connor. “And so were wulvers, which is the Scottish name for werewolves and Changelings like ourselves.”
“Of course they tried to ward off wulvers with magic, with different spells and talismans, bundles of herbs tied over doorways and so forth,” James explains. “But Changelings are natural creatures, not magical ones, so it didn’t work. And because we weren’t affected by those things, the villagers didn’t suspect what we were.”
“Not until later,” says Devlin. “But that’s another story and not a happy one.”
“Is that the reason you left Scotland?” you ask.
“A topic for another interview,” declares Culley and plunks something on the table in front of you with a thud. “We brought this for you.” It’s a tumshie – a big purple and white turnip with a dreadful gargoyle-like face carved in the side of it. James scoops up a tiny candle from the next table and pops it into the hollowed vegetable, which glows ominously through the tumshie’s nasty-looking teeth.
You would have preferred flowers but try to look appreciative. “So, you made this yourself?”
“For protection,” says Culley and winks at you. “To keep you safe over Samhain. And you can cook it with onions and tatties afterwards.”
Just what every girl needs.
Giveaway – one commenter will be drawn at random to receive a cute plush wolf, a signed copy of the second book in Dani Harper’s Changeling Series, CHANGELING DREAM and a Dani Harper book bag to put your goodies in! International entries are welcome, but will receive the book and book bag only.