Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Author Sam Baltrusis


We have a problem with the way that most modern 'ghost hunters' are disrespectful toward the dead.
Thomas O’Brien Vallor, Salem Witch
By Sam Baltrusis

When it comes to the twisted representations of the witch-on-broom stereotypes perpetuated by Salem’s tourism machine, Thomas O’Brien Vallor has seen it all. “I don't find it to be annoying or offensive like a lot of people do because I have seen the industry from the inside out,” the Salem-based Witch (capital W) told me.

   It’s the ghost hunters on TV that really stir his cauldron.

   He’s the first to point out why the city’s contemporary pagan population is wary of the typical “aggressive male approach” on programs like Ghost Adventures and formerly Ghost Hunters. “To a Witch, the paranormal is normal and the supernatural is natural,” Vallor said, paraphrasing a quote passed down by his elders.

   Vallor contends that the paranormal personalities featured on television don’t respect those who have passed. “We believe that the dead are around us at all times so the idea of ‘ghosts’ as the souls of people who are trapped on Earth doesn’t align with our beliefs,” Vallor explained. "We have a problem with the way that most modern 'ghost hunters' are disrespectful toward the dead.”

   As far as the ways paranormal investigators are being disrespectful, the Salem Witch Walk tour guide said it’s a long list. “First of all, they don't have the right intention in their heart,” Vallor said. “Some might not respect the true history of the area or understand who actually lived here or what happened here. They’ll needlessly focus on traumatic things and sensationalize people's personal lives,” he continued. “When a Witch communicates with the dead, it’s with the utmost respect.”
   Vallor has a point.   

   For example, paranormal investigators wanted access to the city’s Witch House, the last structure standing in Salem with direct ties to the witch-trials hysteria of 1692. Home of judge Jonathan Corwin, a magistrate with the Court of Oyer and Terminer, which sent nineteen to the gallows, the Corwin House dates back to 1675 and is an icon of America’s tortured past.

   Access to the house was denied for years. Members from the Park and Recreation Commission thought it would be in poor taste to investigate the Corwin dwelling. “We have to have respect for the gravity of the injustice that occurred in 1692,” responded board member Chris Burke. “This is sort of a touchy subject,” said Elizabeth Peterson, director of the house. “We want people to be aware that we’re not a Salem witch attraction.”

   In 2011, the governing board apparently changed their minds and allowed the crew from the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures to set up an overnight lockdown. When Zak Bagans, Aaron Goodwin and Nick Groff walked into the Witch House, all hell broke loose.

   “In broad daylight with [Witch House director] Elizabeth Peterson and talking to her, things got really weird,” Groff told the Boston Herald. “Zak was filming and the batteries on his wireless mic kept dying. There was some sort of energy causing his batteries to die. We felt something weird, felt cold and then the batteries died.”

   The Ghost Adventures team fought for years to gain access to the historic property. “We’ve already captured a voice and we just stepped into the house to start talking about history,” Groff continued. “I think we’re going to be in for a long night of finding paranormal activity.”

   The crew supposedly picked up a child humming and an EVP of Bridget Bishop, who named “Mary” as her accuser. She kept repeating the word “apple.” In Christian Day’s The Witches’ Book of the Dead, he claimed to have summoned Bishop’s spirit away from her usual post at the Lyceum. “I didn’t want anyone living or dead to steal the spotlight from the Witch House,” he wrote. “The team mentioned recording some strong activity on the second floor, but their machines really started to get going once we arrived. Real Witches are magnets for the dead,” he said, adding that he performed a necromantic blessing in the house, which included a blood offering.

   Groff, who left Ghost Adventures 2014 and is now featured on Paranormal Lockdown, told me that the Essex Street haunt was a historical goldmine. “The location, the Witch House, is just absolutely awesome. To be able to walk back in time, regardless of the paranormal activity that’s actually occurring there, it’s just cool to step foot on those wood floors and experience the environment of what it could have been like,” he told me. “You’re almost stepping back in time. Whatever paranormal stuff that happens there is a plus to me. It’s a cool place.”

   In hindsight, Peterson said she has mixed feelings about the investigation. “Personally, I was very uncomfortable doing it. I love this sort of thing, so it wasn’t the subject matter,” Peterson told me. “They were lovely kids, but I don’t think they were a good match for the house. When they were off camera, they were very different. When their camera started running out of batteries, they did pick up a child humming. My first response was shock. My second, as a mother, is that it saddens me that there may be a child’s spirit here that I wasn’t sensitive to or was unaware of in the house.”

   Peterson believes the EVP captured on Ghost Adventures was questionable. However, she’s not saying the Witch House is free of residual energy. “There were eleven deaths in this house up until 1719,” she said. “Enormous amounts of human drama unfolded in these rooms. My son thinks he’s seen things, and I think I’ve heard things.”

   When Wicked Salem questioned Vallor about Christian Day’s use of blood on Ghost Adventures, he bit back. “I don't think that Christian’s blood ritual was disrespectful at all,” Vallor said. “He has a lot of respect for Bridget Bishop and did a lot of work with her. If you think it's disrespectful, then you don’t have a misunderstanding of blood magic.”

   As far as Salem’s “coven of commercialism” disrespecting its past, Vallor believes it’s an underlying tension that has existed for years. “When it comes to what most people consider to be commercial or touristy in Salem, I see it more related to the culture and image that the city has had for centuries,” he said. “We were the Witch City long before we were a tourist town.”

   Along the way Salem transmogrified as a city known for its blood-stained history to a Halloween-themed mecca of magic. But how? In 1970, Laurie Cabot opened the city’s first “witch shop,” selling a few tools of the trade. Her underlying goal was to educate the public about modern witchcraft and dispel some of the misconceptions related to her path. Cabot flourished.  

   In response, Salem set up a bevy of  “museums” to educate visitors, including the Witch Dungeon Museum and the Salem Witch Museum, while offering a few scares along the way. However, it wasn’t enough. So, entrepreneurs set up the Haunted Witch Village, which later became the Haunted Neighborhood at the Salem Wax Museum.

   “People were walking away from Salem disappointed that they did not get the scare,” said Salem Wax Museum’s former spokesperson in North Shore Sunday. “Historically speaking, they were overly satisfied. But they weren’t coming here just for the history. They want a haunt—to get frightened out of their wits. So we’re going a different route. And there’s nothing historical about it.”

   Of course, the Haunted Witch Village faced some controversy when it opened in October 1995. “I recently visited Salem because the witch trials were the only thing I remembered from high school history,” said a New York visitor, adding that he was confused “that a town would make a tourist trade out of this horrible event. These are disasters, you don’t celebrate them.”

   The controversy quickly subsided and the Haunted Witch Village thrived. The debate, however, continued.

   A similar backlash swept Salem in 2005 when TV Land decided to unveil a statue in Lappin Park of Elizabeth Montgomery’s character Samantha Stephens from the ’60s TV classic Bewitched. “It’s like TV Land going to Auschwitz and proposing to erect a statue of Colonel Klink,” said a former member of the Salem Historic District Commission. “Putting this statue in the park near the church where this all happened, it trivializes the execution of nineteen people.”

   The statue was erected despite the minor backlash and has become an icon of sorts for the Witch City. Oddly, the statue’s hand is pointing in the direction of Proctor’s Ledge, the spot where innocent men and women were hanged for witchcraft in 1692.

   Vallor said he didn’t come to Salem for tourism or witchcraft. However, he stuck around because he loved the city’s Halloween-year-round vibe. “I moved here as a teenager and went to Salem High School,” he said. “I hung around downtown for years before I worked in the tourism industry or even knew I was Witch.” He started giving tours with various groups in town which eventually led him to the Salem Witch Walk. “In order to help explain witchcraft to tourists I began to educate myself,” he recalled. “That is when it dawned on me that I was a Witch.”

   The tour guide in his mid-thirties believes that the hysteria of 1692 somehow laid the foundation for real Witches three hundred years later. What are the lessons learned from the Salem witch trials according to Vallor? “Don’t believe everything you hear or judge a book by its cover,” he said. “And, most importantly, think for yourself.”

Photo: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zvAEkhKWoWcPec_dZS-dqJHUvHIPNzZ9/view?usp=sharing


Wicked Salem: Exploring Lingering Lore and Legends

Sam Baltrusis

Genre: Ghosts, Hauntings, Local History, Salem, Haunted History

Publisher: Globe Pequot Press

Date of Publication: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4930-3711-7
ASIN: 978-1-4930-3712-4

Number of pages: 264
Word Count:  61,500

Cover Artist: Globe Pequot Press

Tagline: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Book Description:

It’s no surprise that the historic Massachusetts seaport’s history is checkered with violence and heinous crimes. Originally called Naumkeag, Salem means “peace.” However, as its historical legacy dictates, the city was anything but peaceful during the late seventeenth century.

Did the reputed Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, strike in Salem? Evidence supports the possibility of a copy-cat murder. From the recently pinpointed gallows where innocents were hanged for witchcraft to the murder house on Essex Street where Capt. Joseph White was bludgeoned to death and then stabbed thirteen times in the heart, Sam Baltrusis explores the ghost lore and the people behind the tragic events that turned the “Witch City” into a hot spot that has become synonymous with witches, rakes, and rogues.

Amazon     BN    Globe Pequot Press


What is it about the sleepy New England city that engenders itself to history’s witches, rakes and rogues?

Salem, Massachusetts suffers a bit of an identity disorder. There are two versions of the so-called “Witch City” that have symbiotically etched itself into the collective unconscious. There’s the iconic, blood-stained Salem that boasted a sadistic sorority of witch-hanging zealots in the late 1600s. And then there is the modern, witch-friendly spectacle that welcomes thousands of supporters into its coven of commercialism every October.
   It’s a tale of two Salems.
  As far as the paranormal is concerned, the city is considered to be hallowed ground. However, based on my personal experience as a local historian and tour guide, Salem has a love-hate relationship with its ghosts. Why?
   "The city has a long history of not wanting to get wrapped up in commercializing its witch history," explained Tim Weisberg, host of the radio show Spooky Southcoast and researcher with Destination America's Haunted Towns. "It's something they've only really embraced over the past couple of decades. There's still a bit of an 'old guard' in the city that doesn't want to see anyone capitalizing on witches, ghosts or things of that nature.”
   As Salem’s on-air expert for the national Haunted Towns TV show, I helped Weisberg hunt for locations with ties to the witch trials of 1692. It was tough. “As they've let some of that guard down and television shows have come in, it's been my experience that the 'powers that be’ who control many of the allegedly haunted and historic locations have been disillusioned with the way productions have come in and treated its history,” Weisberg told me. “At least, that's what I heard in the rejections I received from certain locations when attempting to get permission to film Haunted Towns."
   Known for its annual Halloween “Haunted Happenings” gathering, it’s no surprise that the historic Massachusetts seaport is considered to be one of New England’s most haunted destinations. With city officials emphasizing its not-so-dark past, tourists from all over the world seem to focus on the wicked intrigue surrounding the 1692 witch trials.
  Originally called Naumkeag, Salem means “peace.” However, as its historical legacy dictates, the city was anything but peaceful during the late seventeenth century. In fact, when accused witch and landowner Giles Corey was pressed to death over a two-day period, he allegedly cursed the sheriff and the city. Over the years, his specter has allegedly been spotted preceding disasters in Salem, including the fire that destroyed most of the downtown area in June 1914. Based on my research, a majority of the hauntings conjured up in Salem over the city’s tumultuous four-hundred-year-old history have ties to disaster, specifically the one-hundred-year-old fire that virtually annihilated the once prosperous North Shore seaport.
Cursed? Salem is full of secrets.

About the Author:

Sam Baltrusis, author of Wicked Salem: Exploring Lingering Lore and Legends, has penned eleven historical-based ghost books including Ghost of Salem: Haunts of the Witch City. He has been featured on several national TV shows including Destination America's Haunted Towns, the Travel Channel's Haunted USA on Salem and served as Boston's paranormal expert on the Biography Channel's Haunted Encounters.

During the summer of 2019, he will be featured on the one-hundredth episode of A Haunting airing on the Travel Channel. Baltrusis is a sought-after lecturer who speaks at dozens of paranormal-related events scattered throughout New England, including an author discussion at the Massachusetts State House and paranormal conventions that he produced called the Plymouth ParaCon in 2018 and the Berkshire’s MASS ParaCon in 2019. In the past, he has worked for VH1, MTV.com, Newsweek and ABC Radio and as a regional stringer for the New York Times.

Visit SamBaltrusis.com for more information.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Author Alexis Sage

Without a doubt, my favorite spot to vacation is St. Martin. We go at least once every two years and have started loving it so much that we even managed to get a few families together for the trips. Having grown up moving around on a pretty regular basis, my family is spread out all around the globe and having a central area to meet everyone is a great way to stay in touch. It helps, of course, when that place is covered in beach and sunshine.

The tiny island of St. Martin is a lovely vacation spot but I would definitely recommend against an all-inclusive when going there. The best way to see St. Martin is by car since it’s so lovely but so very small (you can go around the whole island in about an hour). When we go, we stay at the Hilton on the Dutch side and travel to different beaches every day. One of the best, and slightly hidden, gems to look out for is Pinel Island. It’s a quick boat ride from the French side of St. Martin and is a jaw-dropping oasis. Sandy white beaches stretch the coast and there is a restaurant on site that will actually serve food and drinks in the water. My favorite part is going there for lunch time because that’s when they feed the large iguana population of Pinel. It’s amazing to watch!

We’ve gone to St. Martin so often that it has become our home away from home. I haven’t written the place into any of my books yet but we have plans to go back next year and I am on a recon mission to base a world around it! Stay tuned for a tropical oasis to be worked into the next series!



The Enuma Legacies

Book One

Alexis N. Sage

Genre: Young Adult/ Urban Fantasy

Date of Publication: April 1st, 2019

ISBN: 9781999019822

Number of pages: 258
Word Count: 50,640

Tagline: What if you could stop a war you never knew existed?

Book Description:

There is a world of deities living among us. What would you do if you were the only one who could see them?

Ruby Black, a photography student at Westerlake University, seems to have the typical life of an awkward college kid. She has average grades, does not make friends easily, and is secretly in love with her best friend. Ruby is content with her place in the world. In fact, she quite likes it. That is until a simple incident on a packed, rush-hour subway train shatters her entire reality.

Reluctantly, Ruby finds herself in the middle of a war that has been brewing for centuries. A battle between powerful beings that have been living in secret under Ruby’s nose this entire time.

Will Ruby go back to her familiar life or will she choose the brooding stranger who opens her eyes to a world far more mysterious than she'd ever imagined? A world where her own powers are far greater than she could have known to be true...

Literally the Worst Train Ride Ever

Ruby could feel sweat starting to drip at the base of her back, forming a miniature pool and staining her vintage leather jacket right through her tank. The train had been stuck between stations for twenty minutes and there was no sign that it would start moving any time soon. Ruby was beginning to regret her decision of not snagging the last empty seat when she got on. This is literally the worst train ride ever, she grimaced as she rearranged her camera bag. She cast an eye for another people-free pocket on the train without any luck. Looks like it’s standing room only for the rest of the ride.
Being just a smidge over five feet tall, Ruby could usually sneak by crowds of people without any issues, and on any other day this claustrophobic train would not affect her at all. Today, however, the weight of two cameras in her bag was starting to take a toll, and she could not wait to get a glimpse of the sun again. Her dark, brown hair was starting to get soaking wet from the heat and she was using the side of her arm to side-swipe it out of her eyes.
I think I live here now. Might as well get comfortable. She shifted her weight from left to right and almost knocked over the young girl next to her with the tripod. She had originally strapped it to her back in hopes of taking up less space, but it had since slid down her back and was now protruding from her waist like the end of a bulky musket. Twenty-five minutes and counting.
She lowered her bag to the ground and tried to reach for her camera without causing any harm to anyone in her immediate orbit but the intention failed immediately. As soon as she bent over, the tripod slid up her back, over her head and made a very direct landing on the lap of the older man sitting across from her.
“I am so sorry!” Ruby perked up, and tried to get the three-legged monster off his newspaper, “The stupid thing will not stay put!” Ruby’s usually somewhat pale cheeks were flushed with embarrassment. Her only thought now was a quick getaway.
“It’s no problem, dear.” The man she almost impaled folded his paper and handed her the tripod, “Do you want to take a seat? It might be a while longer, I’m afraid.”
Do I ever! She thought; and honestly, if he had asked her a few minutes later she would have accepted. Luckily for him, she was not yet so tired as to forget her manners entirely.
“Oh, it’s ok. I’m sure it will get moving soon. I should probably take advantage of this anyhow.” Ruby aimed her lens at the man and took a photo. Her airy giggle made him smile, it’s not often a pretty young girl takes your photo.
Ruby clutched her camera lens and started surveying the train. Her eyes darted through the crowd with sniper-like determination. If she was going to be stuck here, she was definitely going to make the best of it!
So far, Ruby’s photography had been, as her professors would call it, an introvert’s daydream. She kept to herself when working, and mainly photographed objects that could not talk back. Her most recent series of rotting fruit had even won her a trip to France, which would have been quite exceptional if she had not been expected to spend ten days with a group of strangers. Unlike her parents, Ruby had not inherited the social butterfly gene and had always preferred the company of books, movies, and photos to actual beating hearts. No one was surprised when she was accepted to the photography program at Westerlake University. If there was a career that would allow Ruby to watch life and not actually live it, she’d be all in.
Her first two years at Westerlake were great. Her professors unintentionally labeled her a “young Man Ray” and she was left to her own devices for the majority of assignments. But this year was different. She had begun to be complacent in her work, and her lack of passion and enthusiasm was starting to get noticed. After their last lecture before Thanksgiving break, her favorite professor asked to meet her in his office.
“Come on in, Ruby.” His tone was different than usual. There was no intrigue, no playfulness. Just a straightforward stare and a beckoning to unchartered scoldings. His pale blue eyes narrowed, and when he took off his reading glasses, she knew she was in trouble. Professor Tremblay saved that maneuver for his troublemakers.
“How are you, Mr. Tremblay?” She brushed loose pieces of hair out of her eyes. The trouble with having mouse-thin hair was in keeping it from looking like an oil-slick all day. Ruby had gotten used to having bangs in her eyes, but something about this moment seemed serious. She tried to look as carefree as possible, but her nerves were coming through every word, “is everything all right?”
Tremblay was leaning forward on his desk and staring directly at her. Despite being quite small in build, his old age gave him a sense of superiority, which was likely why Ruby valued his opinion of her work above all others. You can’t mess up when one of the country’s best is teaching you. “Everything is fine, Ruby. I just wanted to have a quick chat to see what your plans are for your thesis. It seems like it’s shaping up to be quite interesting.”
“It’s going good. I’m still trying to figure out the exact direction I want to take with it...” she lied. She had no direction. She actually hadn’t even thought about it yet.
“May I offer some advice?” He crossed his arms and continued rapidly without letting her answer, “It might be time to try something different. You seem fairly comfortable with your subject matter. I understand that it is easy to get sucked into doing what you’re good at over and over again. But this is a school. This is your one chance to try everything and see what sticks, without repercussions or consequences.”
“Ok...” she had no idea where this was headed.
“I have a little assignment for you for over the holidays. Photograph people. Photograph as many people as you can and forget about the fruit and antiques and abandoned buildings. Can you do that for me?”
Where was this coming from? Ruby had never photographed people. He knew she wasn’t comfortable talking to strangers. Why would he ask this of her?
“You look puzzled.”
“I am, Mr.Tremblay. I just...” she chose her next words carefully, “I’ve never been keen on portraiture, sir.”
“I know. That’s precisely why I’m asking you to do this.” Tremblay leaned back in his chair, his slightly more relaxed posture made Ruby breathe in deeply and lower her shoulders. He’s just trying to help, she thought.
“Are you worried my thesis will not be good enough?” Her hazel eyes started to take on a deeper shade as they filled with water. She might not have had any idea of what her thesis was but that did not mean she couldn’t get defensive over it.
“Not at all! I’m sure it will be as wonderful as the rest of your work! I just don’t want you to graduate without having learned it all. Do you think you can try that?”
How could she not try it? When your favorite professor asks you to do something for your own development, you don’t say no. Yet, here she was now, forcing herself to interrupt the train ride of the strangers around her, sweating buckets and regretting agreeing to this little project in the first place.
Just a few shots and you can put your camera away.
She ran her lens across the crowd. Focusing on each passenger’s face and trying to figure out why they were there. Where they were going? Were they in a hurry? Were they as uncomfortable as she was?
As she scoped the tin tube, her view landed at the back of the train on two men slightly older than she was. Are they fighting? She twisted her lens to sharpen the focus as one of the men leaned in closer to the other. He seemed to be whispering something, something that felt forceful and predatory. His scowling jaw locked tight and his eyes gleamed with pure hatred. He grabbed the man next to him by the shoulders. To anyone else watching it would have looked like a friendly pat on the back but Ruby saw better. She could see the fear in his victim’s face. Something was wrong here.
She tried to move closer to the two, but she was trapped in place by the crowd. She put up her lens and zoomed in. The attacker reached into his pocket. What was he getting? Ruby couldn’t see, there were too many people around. She aimed her camera at his hand as it moved out of his pocket and back towards his train neighbor. Something small. A ring maybe? Whatever it was, he quickly buried it in his palm and placed his hand on his neighbor’s chest. She could see terror forming on the victim’s face. His entire body convulsing with fear.
“Hey!” She screamed as loudly as she could. The entire car now shifted their gaze to the awkward, sweaty girl with the camera. “Stop it!”
She lifted the camera to her face again, what was he doing? Something flashed in the viewfinder. She zoomed in closer. What is that? There seemed to be marks on the attacker’s arms. Some sort of triangles and lines. Glowing blue like a propane fire. What the hell is that?
The train shook a bit as the engines started up again. Some of the lights that were lighting the advertisements across the top of the car flashed briefly and stopped as the train began moving out of the tunnel. Ruby heard a woman’s scream coming from the back of the car. She focused her lens at the crowd standing in a circle. Her gaze shifted down at the train floor. The man she saw being attacked was lying lifeless, face down on the ground. She moved her camera around the train trying to find the attacker. Nothing. How could he get off the train? Ruby lowered her camera to her side. She looked at the old man in the seat across from her who seemed more interested in the crossword in front of him.
What just happened here? What did she just see?
The train slowly inched towards a stop at the next station. The doors stood steady for a brief moment then opened to let air into the train. People rushed out, pushing each other aside. The crowd carried Ruby out of the train like a wave of water, a tsunami really. She stood on the platform and watched as two officers made their way into the car, with the doors shutting tight behind them.

“Attention passengers. This platform is currently closed due to an emergency situation. Emergency responders are on their way. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

About the Author:

Alexis N. Sage has spent most of her life waiting to meet a witch, vampire, or at least get haunted by a ghost. In between failed seances and many questionable outfit choices, Alexis has developed a keen eye for the extra-ordinary.

Since chasing the supernatural does not pay the bills, Alexis has dabbled in creative entrepreneurship, marketing and retail management. She spends her free time reading thrillers and binge-watching television shows in her pajamas.

Currently, Alexis resides in Toronto, Canada with her husband who is not a creature of the night.

She is a Scorpio and a massive advocate of leggings for pants.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Author Chris Stoneheart

First I have to figure out the definition of favorite. If it’s the place I’ve most enjoyed visiting, then the answer is easy — Guilin, China, and more specifically, the Li River (top right). However, if it’s the place I vacation to the most often, the answer is The Great Smoky Mountains (bottom right).

It takes two solid days of traveling on five planes to get to Guilin, and months of planning. However, I could walk out of my house, get in my car, and be in the Smoky Mountains in three hours — a little over two hours if I get the timing right and don’t hit traffic, but one should never plan for that.

Both places are magical, and I don’t use that term lightly. If a Chinese Shangri-la actually exists, it’s Guilin. Likewise, the Cherokee creation myth tells us the Smoky Mountains were the first land mass to be created on our planet. (Some scientists agree, most don’t. All agree that the Appalachians are the oldest on the North American continent, though.) The mountain range was once jagged like the Himalayas, but time has worn them down and softened them.

Within the Smoky Mountains, there are so many magical places. The Roaring Fork is possibly the most magical, though the trail past Grotto Falls and to the top of Mount LeConte is a close second. Also of note is the trail to Cataract Falls (interesting trivia: cataract is an old-world word for waterfall) where I’m pretty sure a hiking partner and I stumbled onto a faerie circle (and no, we hadn’t been drinking). On the southern end of the park, Mingo Falls (Big Bear Falls in the Cherokee language) formed on an ancient fault line, instead of through erosion as with most waterfalls. I once climbed two-thirds of the way to the top of the nearly two-hundred-foot tall rock face during a drought, when there wasn’t much water. I was young and possibly stupid at the time, but it was exhilarating.

And yes, if you can’t tell from the pictures, I’m a bit of a waterfall junkie, which brings me to Transylvania County in North Carolina. No, I’m not making this up. It’s real, and there isn’t a square inch of flat land in the county. There are more than two hundred and fifty waterfalls in Transylvania County, and I’ve visited at least fifty (I have a list, somewhere, but I don’t remember the exact number). Many are on private property, so it’s impossible to get to them all. I once hiked seventy-eight miles in eight days (these numbers, I remember) in this county, going from waterfall to waterfall to waterfall. Two days were over ten miles, the others were less than ten miles. All were grueling because, as I said, there isn’t a square inch of flat land in the county. Every mile was worth it.

Waterfalls are an important feature in my world, as some of them are a gateway to the Faerie realm.

Kaitlin doesn’t like to think in terms of magic, but instead prefers the term metaphysics. The old ones in her life call it magic, though. I hope I’ve managed to color my stories with the magic these places have given me during my visits.

The Chronicles of the Light is urban fantasy, but if you enjoy fantasy of any kind, I hope you’ll take a chance and dive in.


Unhuman Light 
Chronicles of the Light
Book One
Chris Stoneheart

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher:  Kaleidowords Publishing

Date of Publication:  2/7/19


Number of pages:  502
Word Count: 120,000

Book Description:

Chronicles of the Light, book one…

Bodies keep piling up, but Kaitlin O'Malley refuses to back down, even when threatened by someone once worshipped as a god. Training for a battle between good and evil, she teams up with the Dragon King and a powerful lion, and finds herself protected by a Master Vampire who wants her in his bed.

With a vile enemy ready to destroy her, the men in her life lock her up to keep her safe, but Kaitlin will never let other people fight her battles. She’ll have to break free and venture out on her own, wielding a powerful weapon to protect herself — a weapon her enemies would kill for. To face the enemy alone, Kaitlin must view the world in an Unhuman Light.

In a supernatural battle of magic and strength, can an unlikely human prevail?

Books2Read     Amazon     Kobo     iTunes

BN     Smashwords     Goodreads     BookBub

Chapter One

“Aery, I need a shot!” I screamed, holding back the energy pulsing at my fingertips until he was out of the way. The instant he maneuvered to give me a clear path, I unleashed the fiery red energy and watched it streak through the air and slice into the grotesque monster who’d been holding his own in a fight with Aaron Drake.
My power drained from me as it hit our foe in the chest, melting through skin, bone, and more. I lifted my arm a few inches and the caustic light streaking from my hand rose like a laser. When it reached the hideous creature’s throat, I moved my hand right and left until he was decapitated, and then watched in horrified fascination while the body seemed to evaporate before my eyes.
My gaze swung to my friend, and I checked to be sure he was okay. I was used to Aaron totally dominating, no matter the species he was fighting, and the fact he’d maneuvered to give me a clear shot told me the ancient dragonshifter wasn’t sure he could’ve won. My heart settled when I saw he seemed okay. He’s hard to kill, but I had no idea what we’d just fought.
As far as I know, I’m the only person who can get away with a cute nickname for the sexy, tough-as-nails, bad-assed owner of Drake Security, but I never do it around other people. I wouldn’t have said it today while battling an unknown monster, but it slipped out. No problem though, the bad guy seemed to evaporate and turn to smoke once the life force left his body. I usually want to cry after a kill — even when it’s a really bad guy — but not having to look at a body made it easier. Either way, I couldn’t give into the guilt and soul searching until the op was over.
“What was that?” I asked Aaron.
“Not sure,” he said, barely out of breath. “I used to see things kind of like him a few thousand years ago, but not since we entered the Common Era. I’ll send a sketch to a few friends and see if they have any ideas. I was about to shift into dragon form and see if my fire would work, but your laser did the trick.”
I took a breath and pulled energy in from the forest around us. I’d used almost all my reserves with that one shot, and I’d be useless if something else came along. I leaned against a tree and tried to relax in the crisp, autumn air. It’s easier to absorb energy when you’re at peace.
Aaron, of course, noticed. “I can top you up. You know I have plenty.”
I shook my head. “I’m not up for pain right now. Just give me five minutes with a few trees.” I could almost always find an old tree willing to give me energy. It might take a little time, but not as long as gathering it from the air around me. A waterfall would be faster, or even a creek or stream, but I didn’t hear running water.
“I won’t push more in than you can take, not during a mission.” Aaron said. “You used it to save me, the least I can do is top you back up.”
“Okay,” I relented, “but into my hands. I’ll route it to the right chakras.”
He didn’t argue, thank goodness, and held his hands out for me to grasp. I dropped my shields enough to let his energy flow out of his palms and into mine, and as it streamed up my arms and into my body, my heart seemed to need less energy to pump my blood.
I initially routed the power he gifted me to my first two chakras, since I primarily pull from those for my weapon, and then filled the rest. He truly does have plenty, but I never want to get used to depending on him.
During the few minutes Aaron’s energy filled me, I was at one with everything around me — totally at peace with the world, the universe, and perhaps even God. All energy is magic, but Aaron’s is a special kind of magic.
If we were romantically compatible, I’d be madly in love with him, but since we aren’t, he’s one of my best friends. I love him, but it isn’t the girlfriend kind of love.
When I was as full as I could get without feeling pain, I gently let go of his hands. When we do this as an exercise and he’s expanding the volume I can hold, he forces it in long past when I would choose to let go. This hurts about as much as I imagine a lightning strike would, and there’s a lot of screaming and crying involved on my part. I hate acting like a girly-girl, but he assures me he screamed and begged when his reserves were being stretched, too. Of course, that was thousands of years ago, so who could say how much he remembered of the pain?
Today, though, I felt warm and full and loved.
“Thanks,” I told him. Words couldn’t adequately thank him, so the single word would have to do. Besides, we were still on our mission and needed to focus, so I asked, “Do we circle back around and try the mystery cave, or try my idea?” I already knew venturing into the unknown cave wasn’t an option, but hoped he’d consider my Plan B. Aaron hadn’t liked it when I’d proposed it a few hours earlier, but we were running out of options.
He lifted his chin in agreement but showed no emotion. Aaron Drake totally rocks bad-ass. “Let’s pull Nathan in to help,” he answered. “I’m not comfortable using you as human bait with just me as your backup.”
I nodded and leaned against a tree, closed my eyes, and made Aaron’s energy my own while he texted Nathan our coordinates. Nathan wasn’t too far away, but was acting as lookout and would need to put someone in his spot before joining us.
We knew women were being kidnapped and taken to these woods just outside the boundaries of Prentice Cooper State Forest. Aaron is a weredragon and has an exceptionally good sense of smell, which had helped him find the women’s scents, but the trail had ended around ten feet from the cave’s entrance. I’d found narrow wheel marks leading towards the cave, and Aaron scented a few non-human male scents in the same area. Aaron couldn’t identify the species of the non-humans by smell, and wasn’t sure about them now that he’d seen one of them, either.
I theorized they might be putting the women into some sort of cart to get them into the cave, but Aaron didn’t want to go in without knowing what we were walking into. I understood the logic, even if it frustrated me. Still, Aaron was thousands of years old and hadn’t made it this far by being stupid, so I generally listened to his advice. Not always, but usually.
My Plan B had been to send me into the staging area as a bumbling, helpless female making a lot of noise, and hope someone showed up so Aaron could interrogate them and find out what was going on.
However, if we happened upon more of whatever we’d been fighting earlier, I wasn’t sure how we’d question it. Aaron and Nathan in human form and working together could probably subdue one of the creatures, but if more appeared they’d likely be forced to shift into their animal forms. Not a problem for Nathan, who shifted into a lion, but Aaron’s gigantic dragon form was hard to hide, as he tended to knock trees down and create a huge disturbance even when he didn’t take flight. He might’ve gotten away with it a hundred years ago, but with practically every American owning a camera phone today, he wouldn’t risk it.
The creature I’d killed had looked like an amalgamation of goat, ape, and the Incredible Hulk — minus the green. It’d been tan and brown, with long curved horns and vertical slitted eyes with flaming red irises where they should’ve been black. Creepy was an understatement, and he’d scared the bejeebers out of me even before I knew he was almost too much for Aaron to take on in human form.
As a human who can’t magically heal like the shapeshifters, I only use my metaphysical laser to kill from a distance. Attempting to wound a powerful supernatural creature would likely only get me killed, once they saw I was a serious danger. I could cut limbs off with my laser, or deliver a kill shot, but couldn’t do much else. However, we’d need to capture the next one so it could be questioned, which meant I could only act if I thought there was no other choice.
I was full of energy now though, and if I portioned it out I could probably kill two with what Aaron had given me.
Nathan, as always, startled me when he appeared in front of me. He walks as quietly in human form as when he’s a lion, and he’s just as ill-behaved, arrogant, and stubborn as any grumpy house-cat, so we didn’t exactly get along. I trusted him with my life on a mission, I just didn’t like being around him. Too bad he’s gorgeous.
Ignoring the fact he’d startled me, I told the men, “I need to hand off my gun and mags to one of you. The goat monsters will probably be able to smell them, and I’ll lose my helpless female vibe.”
Nathan held his hand out, choosing to remain nonverbal as usual when around me. I held my tongue, pulled my nine millimeter from the bellyband and handed it off, then the three extra magazines. He put my weapon in a zippered pocket on the side of his thigh, and slid my mags into slots on the inside of his military style tech-vest.
No matter how much of an ass he might be, he’s still built like my ideal man and I always have to work to keep from lusting after his more-than-perfect human body. He can smell emotions and physical reactions, and I endeavored to give him nothing. It was more likely he didn’t care what I thought or felt, but just in case he did, I wanted to keep as much feedback from him as possible.
We were about a half mile from the staging area Aaron had found, and I started walking to it, knowing Aaron would map out a plan with Nathan and they’d both be in position long before I arrived.

Walking away from them, through the woods, towards danger without my gun was terrifying, but I breathed through my fear and tried to keep my physiological reactions to a minimum. Both for my own pride, to keep Aaron and Nathan from smelling my fear, but also because it wouldn’t do for the goat-people to know I was terrified before I saw them. A lost human can be expected to smell a little scared, but not out-of-her-mind frightened.

About the Author:

Chris Stoneheart lives in a fifty-year-old house smack dab in the middle of The South, with what promises to soon be a full-fledged herd of retired racing greyhounds. Chris read The Hobbit in elementary school, and The Lord of the Rings in middle school, and has been addicted to fantasy ever since. (It’s probably best we don’t talk about what Chris read in high school.)

Chronicles of the Light gives us a world where weredragons, werewolves, werelions, three different species of vampires, and a variety of other mythological beings exist.

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