Sunday, October 25, 2015

Soul Cakes for All Hallows’ Eve by Christy Effinger

Everyone welcome our guest, Christy Effinger. Take it away, Christy.

I adore Halloween and autumn in general. I relish the wildness in the wind, the shifting light, the trees aflame with color. Mellow days soft as s’mores. Nights clear and sharp as cut glass. I watch flocks of migrating geese and remember what’s like to be pulled instinctively in a new direction. I see combines gobbling fields of corn and rediscover my own hunger for harvest food: baked squash, sweet potato soup, and anything flavored pumpkin (I am one of those people, yes I am). Most of all, I love that once a year on October 31 people unlock their front doors, come out of their houses, and speak to each other. As if we need a reason.

One of my Halloween traditions is to make soul cakes for my family. Traditionally, soul cakes were baked on All Hallows’ Eve in England and Ireland during the Middle Ages. These little cakes were distributed to children and beggars who wandered from door to door in an early version of our modern trick-or-treating. Soul cakes are delicious with autumn ale or apple cider. Here’s a link to the recipe I use: (I press raisins on top before baking and omit the powdered sugar.)

In honor of Halloween, the digital version of my paranormal novel Say Nothing of What You See is on sale for $0.99. This sale ends October 30, 2015, so pop over to Amazon and download a spooky e-book to read while you eat all that leftover Halloween candy.

When her aunt steps off a grain elevator into the emptiness of a prairie evening, Mira Piper loses her one protector. Chloe, her flighty mother, impulsively drags her daughter to Bramblewood, an isolated spiritualist retreat in northern Michigan, run by the enigmatic Dr. Virgil Simon.

Chloe plans to train as a medium but it's Mira who discovers she can communicate with the dead. When her mother abandons her, Mira discovers a darker aspect to Bramblewood: the seemingly kind doctor has a sinister side and a strange control over his students.

Then one winter's day Troy Farrington arrives, to fulfill his mother's dying wish and deliver her letter to the doctor. But calamity strikes and he finds himself a captive, tended by a sympathetic Mira. Haunted by her dead aunt and desperate to escape Bramblewood, Mira makes a devil's deal with Dr. Simon. But fulfillment comes with a steep cost...betrayal.


“You are absolutely stunning, Mira.”

I stole another glance in the mirror. The material was a rich, shimmery gold that fell from my shoulders in folds of liquid light. It looked like something a Greek goddess might wear. Oh, how I wished the girls from Amberville High School could see me in this dress!

“When you came here,” said Dr. Simon, “I had a vision of you like this. I looked at the girl before me, but I saw the woman you are now.”

“Thank you,” I murmured, gesturing toward the piles of clothes on my bed. “You’ve been so generous. I know you’ve spent a good deal of money on me—”

“Money means nothing,” he interrupted abruptly. “I have more than I could ever spend, more than I know what to do with. Don’t consider the cost.”

His tone was brusque, and I wondered if I had offended him.

But the next moment Dr. Simon smiled. “I think of you as my charity case. You were like a doll thrown out in the garbage. I simply rescued you from the trash, cleaned you up, and dressed you in something decent. But the beauty was present all along.” He touched my cheek. “Here.” Then he touched my forehead. “Here.” Then he touched my chest. “And here.”

I knew he was referring to my heart, but even so, his hand on my chest made my face warm with discomfort.

“You blush so easily,” he laughed. “You’ll never be able hide anything, Mira, with such a transparent face.”

“That’s all right,” I said, taking a small step back. “I don’t have anything to hide.”

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Christy Effinger said...

Thank you for featuring me on The Roses of Prose!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Welcome, Christy. What an appropriately creepy excerpt for Halloween! Best of luck with your latest title. BTW - that recipe sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Welcome, Christy. What you write is perfect for Halloween. I'm in Seville, Spain, where Nov. 1 is celebrated (All Saints Day), by placing flowers on graves and giving the gift of flowers to live folk. Not so much focus on the dead as in Mexico. Not seeing much creepy around here during this American holiday. No tricks/ I said, lots of flowers. Thanks for the recipe and good luck with sales.

Christy Effinger said...

Margo--thank you! Rolynn--I like the idea of flowers on November 1 for All Saints Day. I hadn't heard of that tradition.

Jannine Gallant said...

Soul cakes sounds like a lovely tradition! Thanks for the recipe and best of luck with your sale this month!

Christy Effinger said...

Thank you, Jannine!

Leah St. James said...

Hi, Christy! Really interesting about the origins of trick-or-treating! Can you imagine if the kids today really did start singing that when you answered the door? Yikes! Great book excerpt as well. I would have been tempted to slap that creep's hand away! Best of luck with it.

Christy Effinger said...

Thanks, Leah. Yeah, the old tradition of going door-to-door sounds a bit like trick-or-treating and caroling combined. I've always been intrigued by the origins of our modern celebrations.