Thanks to the gang at Paranormal Romantics for allowing me to blog about my Halloween release, THE STRAW MAN, available at Liquid Silver Books.
Halloween has always been just about my favorite holiday. As a child, I loved the theatricality of dressing up in costume, the chill of the macabre, the suggestion of death right around the corner and, of course, the candy. Like the Mexican Day of the Dead, I think Halloween is a great way for people to act out some of their fears about the Grim Reaper who is eventually coming for us all. Shroud those fears in a party atmosphere with exotic costumes and delicious treats and suddenly it doesn’t seem so horrible.
A little heavy perhaps, but that’s my take on why Halloween is such an intriguing holiday that we connect with on a visceral level. Add in the fact that fall is just about the most beautiful season what with the colored leaves, the cool, crisp days and wild windy nights and you have a winning combination.
Quite a long time ago when I first began writing, there was a Halloween call for submissions from a publisher. They wanted stories featuring paranormal hotties. I wanted my story to stand out from the crowd of vamps, shifters, ghosts and demons I was sure they’d be bombarded with. I pondered what other iconic figure of Halloween I could write a story around and came up with the mysterious figure of the scarecrow. There’s something truly eerie about a stuffed dummy caught from the corner of an eye, sending a jolt of fear through you before you remember you created the thing yourself.
What if a scarecrow were to come alive, not in the horror film slasher way, but in a “let’s make whoopee” kind of way? I pictured a lonely woman on an isolated farm, longing for love, and what might happen if she wished hard enough for her desire to be fulfilled. Perhaps some Halloween spirits might grant her wish and bring her a magical lover.
With the short story format there wasn’t time for my lovers to share more than one night so I’d have to make that night count. My assignment was to make readers believe Marie could fall head over heels for a stranger who wasn’t even a “real” man. She must fall hard enough that she couldn’t bear to let him go when the magic spell was over. And she must care enough to find a way to win his mortality permanently.
THE STRAW MAN has since been expanded and rereleased in an anthology at Liquid Silver called BOUNDLESS. Now it is being released yet again as a stand alone short story. I hope you enjoy this Valentine to Halloween from me, Bonnie Dee.
Here’s an excerpt to entice your sweet tooth…
At last her candy stash ran dry and her patience wore thin from answering the doorbell all evening. She flipped off her porch light and changed from her witch’s dress into a stretched-out tank top and sweats. She washed off her age makeup to reveal her own smooth, oval face and brushed the snarls out of her shoulder-length, honey blonde hair. She had just stretched out on the couch to watch the black-and-white, classic version of The Fly, when there was another knock on the door.
“Christ. Get a clue,” she muttered. “No light mean no candy, stoopid.”
But the knocking went on and on. Steady and even, in perfectly spaced intervals. Knock... Knock... Knock. It was kind of creepy. The hair on her arms prickled. She sat up straight, trying to remember if she’d locked the door. The knocking grew louder, more insistent.
Marie stood up with a sigh. This had better not be some stupid teenage practical joke like a flaming bag of poo. On the other hand, flaming poo would be preferable to being raped or murdered, she thought as a tingle of unease tickled her spine. Flipping on the porch light, she opened the door a cautious few inches, ready to say, “I’m closed for the night. No more candy.”
Standing on her doorstep was a tall, lanky man in a long dark coat. His face was angular and broad across his high, prominent cheekbones. His glossy black hair was straight and ended shaggily at his collar. A lock of long bangs fell across his forehead and over his straight, dark eyebrows. Slanted, almond eyes gazed at her intently as if he knew her.
For a split second she felt she knew him too, but she couldn’t place the face. “Yes? Can I help you?” She closed the door a half-inch, ready to slam it shut if he did anything weird.
“May I come in?” His voice was low and husky and sent an unexpected shiver of lust through her body. It vibrated from her belly to her crotch like tickling fingers.
“Um, no, you can’t. Do you need something? Is your car broken down? Lost a trick-or-treater or something?” She scanned his body.
He was wearing an old-fashioned, long coat at odds with his threadbare navy pants and the scuffed work boots on his feet. “No.”
“Look, I can call a wrecker, a friend or family member ... the police.”
“No, thank you.” He shifted from one foot to the other as if uncertain of his balance and continued to gaze at her with an expectant look in his eyes. Was he waiting for her to ask him in?
Marie felt a creeping sense of déjà vu as she met his gaze then scanned his body once more. It wasn’t until her eyes focused on the fedora hat clutched in his hand by his side that the light flashed on. Her eyes widened. He was wearing her scarecrow’s clothes. Why was he wearing her scarecrow’s clothes? Maybe he was a wandering vagrant, a bum who had exchanged one set of rags for another.
“Well, what do you want then?” She closed the door even farther, talking to him through a scant few inches of open space.
A puzzled frown knit his straight, dark brows, as if the answer was obvious. “I’m here for you,” he said simply.
As if on cue, the wind rose, sweeping through the door and blowing through Marie’s thin top, raising gooseflesh on her arms and bringing her nipples to two sharp peaks. Her crotch clenched and released in a hard spasm that wet her underwear. “You’re ... here for me,” she repeated. “Oo-kay. Bu’bye now.” She shut the door quickly, blocking out the stranger and the errant wind. She turned the lock.
For a moment, she stood with her hands pressed against the solid wood, listening to the ominous silence on the other side, then she turned and dashed across the house to the window overlooking the fields. The moon’s pale glow, glimmering through scudding clouds, lit the round curves of the pumpkins on the ground and the ragged corn stalks waving in the breeze. She focused on the ‘T’ made from two boards nailed together. It was empty of the straw mannequin she’d made. Her heart pounded. This guy was a loony. Who took scarecrow clothes and wore them?
Marie jumped as the steady, insistent knocking started up again--Knock. Knock. Knock--in evenly spaced intervals that seemed like they might go on all night.
“Stop it!” she yelled. “I’m calling the police. They’ll be here in, like, two minutes, so you’d better run!” She went to the phone and lifted it to dial 911, but paused with only two of the digits dialed. Her finger hovered over the one as she thought about what had happened earlier that day. Her earlier portentous feeling was back full force. The something that was coming was now here for her.
Standing in the field, she’d wished for a lover like the one in her imagination. She had looked up at the scarecrow and voiced her desire, “I wish you were alive,” then that weird wind blew up from nowhere. If her life was a movie, it would add up to magic.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she muttered, but set down the phone. Walking slowly back to the door, she stood on her side of it and listened to the repetitive thumps for a moment. “Stop! Stop it!” she yelled again, and the knocking instantly ceased. “What do you want?”
The muffled voice on the other side of the door replied, “You.”
“Do you know how fucking creepy that sounds?” Her voice was shrill and hysterical in her ears. “Go away!”
“I can’t,” came the calm reply. “Not yet.”
“What do you mean, you can’t? Turn around and walk away. Now, or I swear I’ll call the police!”
“I’m supposed to be here. You asked for me.”
Marie was stunned. Horror and an awful excitement coursed through her. She thought about the classic story, The Monkey’s Paw with its “be careful what you wish for” motif. She pictured the man’s angular, vaguely oriental face and realized who ... or what he looked like. After all, she’d drawn the primitive image herself.
“That’s crazy,” she murmured then raised her voice and said haltingly, “What am I, uh, supposed to do with you?”
There was a long pause then that delicious, warm, rough voice answered, “Whatever you want. I am made to please you.”
Marie felt a hot blade of lust stab through her at the suggestive words. All reason and logic fled and only erotic images tumbled through her mind. Her crotch tightened and released wetly. She laughed aloud. “No, no, no, no, no. This isn’t happening. Nuh-uh.”
“Please let me in. It’s already getting late.” He sounded urgent.
“What does that mean?”
“There’s not much time.”
Marie frowned. She opened the door and peered through the crack. “Not much time?”
He stood on her porch, broad-shouldered and rawboned, looking at her with those exotic, soulful eyes. “You only asked for one night.”