Adventure with us to Jessica B. Bell’s Wayward Home for Lost Characters

adventureswithD-final (1)D: Well, look who’s alive.

A: Really? That’s all you have for me? Not-very-imaginative-snark?

D: Well, it looked like you were in a hurry and I know you want to keep these ‘adventure with us’ guest blog notifications to half a page.

A: . . .

D: OK, fine. It’s been a while. I’m rusty.

A: Don’t worry about it, D. We both are – and while we get our groove back, please head over to the newly-christened dilettante factory, home of the sometimes-twisted, creative brain of H.K. Abell, AKA Helena Hann-Basquiat. It was my honor to write the very first guest blog for the factory – a piece reviewing the upcoming book, Singularity, and exploring just what happens to the stories and characters we don’t write.

D: Should I take what happened to your maybe-possessed, digging-his-own-grave with no memory character as a warning, A?

A: You could . . .

D: But (crosses fingers) . . . ?

A: . . . you could, but then you might get cautious and a cautious Druid is a boring druid. Stay snarky D. You’re not going anywhere.

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Revealed: Singularity

Singularity 6 x 9 coverThe time has come.

The time is now.

Singularity is the new novel from Helena Hann-Basquiat, with Sara Litchfield, Sandy Ramsey, Lizzi Rogers and Hannah Sears.

Singularity is the sequel to last year’s JESSICA — a metafictional look into Jessica’s possible pasts.

Singularity is coming August 1, 2015

Singularity is its own novel, and can be enjoyed all on its own, but if you haven’t read JESSICA, GO HERE to read the first chapter or GO HERE to purchase a copy in paperback or e-book.

 

 

 

Spotlight: Helena, the Memoirs & PubSlush, Oh My!

pubslushbuttonWhen we discussed the idea of Helena featuring some of her incredible work from the upcoming Memoirs of a Dilettante, Vol. 2 on the D/A Dialogues, I had no idea which piece she’d choose.

I knew they’d all be great – because, frankly, all of them are – but I can tell you right now, the one she chose is perfect.

I mean, perfect. A perfect read. Perfect for this blog, and perfect for me, your faithful author-who-talks-to-a-Druid-in-her-head (because before the Druid, there was Dorothy). So, without further ado, I present to you . . .

The Great and Terrible Countess of Oz

“It’s a twistah! It’s a twistah!” exclaimed the Countess Penelope of Arcadia, which is, in this instance, a county in Kansas by way of Oz. It wouldn’t be the last Oz reference made this weekend. The sky swelled black like a bruise, and the wind howled and threw things around in a poltergeist tantrum.

The cat-like but never cowardly Countess and I had driven through it, swerving to avoid minor debris like small tree branches, and once, a stray shopping cart blowing across the road. I kept my white-knuckled hands tight on the wheel, while Penny twisted and turned in the passenger seat, looking this way and that to see where the storm was coming from; where it was going. We drove right through the middle of it and came out the other side, like we’d gone through a car wash. The rain beat and battered us but did not best us.

When we made it safely home, I made sure to park far away from any trees, and when I saw the debris the next morning, I knew I’d made the right decision. We got out of the car and ran to our door, both of us getting soaked to the bone just crossing the street, and then locked ourselves in for the night, lighting candles and huddling on the floor in the living room, just watching our big bay window in terror as shingles blew off our roof and tree branches broke and fell.

The next morning, we woke up sans power, which means sans air conditioning, and neither Penelope nor I woke up with the cheery disposition of a member of the Lullaby League. I told Penny I was heading out, and asked if she wanted anything. She buried her head in her pillow and told me to go away and come back tomorrow.

“Why don’t you get your lazy butt out of bed and come with me?” I suggested.

“Pay no attention to the girl beneath the blanket! I am the great and powerful…”

“Okay, get up,” I said, pulling the blanket off of her. “If you’ve got the energy for snark, you can come to the store with me.”

“Oh, have a heart, Helena! Can’t you see the circles under my eyes? I didn’t sleep all night!” And then she gave me the most pa-thetic, pitiable look – which she knows full well I am helpless against.

“You know, I shouldn’t let your puppy dog face get to me! I should be on my mettle, and yet, I’m torn apart. Okay, darling, you win. What do you want me to bring you?”

“Bring me the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West!” She demanded weakly, still trying to sleep, before the humidity began to rise again, making sleep impossible. “Oh, and coffee. For the love of Oz, the great and terrible, bring me some coffee. I don’t care how many curly toed Munchkins you have to kill, fa la la la la, blah blah blah, just bring me some coffee.”

“Uh, bring me some coffee… what?”

“Now, bitches!” The Countess demanded mock-indignantly.

“That’s more like it,” I replied.

I went out to try to acquire coffee for the Countess and myself (as no one wants to live with an under-caffeinated Countess, dar-lings) and was confronted with debris the likes of which I’ve never seen. Tree branches had broken and fallen all over the place, and entire streets had been blocked off with yellow police tape. I had to navigate around a labyrinth of newly altered landscape, taking twists and turns, and more than once running into a dead end and having to turn around. There was one rather straw-headed guy trying to direct traffic, but when I asked him which way to go, it became rather clear that he didn’t know any more than anyone else.

“This way seems to be clear,” he said, pointing left, but before I could drive away, he pointed right and added, “but then I haven’t seen too much debris down this way, either.”

“Then again, people do go both ways,” I replied, and was given a confused look by the accidental scarecrow, who just waved me on, unappreciative of my witticisms.

As of this memoir missive, we are still without Internet (oh boo hoo, what a tragedy – do you want us to start an emergency fund, Helena?) and while your sarcasm is always appreciated, there is no need to be concerned for your favourite dilettante and her aristocratic accomplice – we are just fine, thank you very much.

Oh, but anyway, darlings, we’re home – home! And these are my memoirs – and you’re all here – and I’m not going to leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all! And… oh, darlings, there’s no place like home!

———–

If you want to read more, BECOME A FAN at PUBSLUSH and pre-order Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two and Penelope, Countess of Arcadia

Available now! image06 JESSICA image07

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettanteThe enigmatic Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has.

Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.

Last year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and is about to release Volume Two, along with a Shakespearean style tragi-comedy, entitled Penelope, Countess of Arcadia.

Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell. VISCERA, a collection of strange tales, will be published by Sirens Call Publications later this year. Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or and http://www.whoisjessica.com Connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat , and keep up with her ever growing body of work at GOODREADS, or visit her AMAZON PAGE

Spotlight: Helena Hann-Basquiat

pubslushbuttonBy now, everyone knows that Helena Hann-Basquiat is, by far, my favorite Dilettante. And it’s not just because I don’t know too many, either. I do, in fact, know quite a few, although they may not consider themselves as such (usually ‘raconteur’ is a word I hear tossed about, but whatever). But what makes Helena my favorite by far is her passion, her writing, and the creativity that pours out of every facet – and every identity – she owns. Because as we all know, Helena is a construct, just like the mistress of creepy, Jessica B. Bell, is a construct. The brilliance of that construct – and of the man behind it – astounds me every time Ken says, “Hey, get a load of this idea…”

So yes, favorite dilettante, and everyone knows it – but what I’m not certain of is whether or not everyone knows about Helena’s PubSlush Campaign, which went live on Monday.

What is PubSlush?

To use Helena’s own words, the PubSlush Campaign is a way for her to conduct her business and sell her writing direct to her readers and fans (like the Druid and myself) — like a musician selling CDs after the show, or like a street performer passing the hat after a performance.

It’s also the only way to get a signed/personalized copy of Memoirs of a Dilettante, Vol. 2. You’ll also have the opportunity to pick up deals with multiple books (signed and unsigned). There are all sorts of wonderful things to be had over there – so you should go. No, it’s okay, I’ll wait.

So, What’s this Dilettante been doing lately?

Vol. 2 of the Memoirs, Cover art by Hastywords

Vol. 2 of the Memoirs, Cover art by Hastywords

I think the better question is what hasn’t she been doing lately! Seriously, the Dilettante Machine is prolific in the extreme and I love it.

In the last two years, Helena has written and released Memoirs of a Dilettante, Vol. 1, written the sinister bayou serial, CHUK, and developed the short story collection, VISCERA, which will be available for purchase later in 2015. She also tried her hand at NaNoWriMo this November, completing the first book in the People of the Manatii Trilogy. Then there is much-anticipated Memoirs of a Dilettante, Vol. 2 and the Shakespearean-styled play, Penelope, Countess of Arcadia. Add to that the variety of creative endeavors she’s treated us to on her blog, Being the Memoirs of Helena Hann-Basquiat, Dilettante, and you have a body of work that is inspiring, to say the least.

Added Fun – More ways to get involved:

The #WhereIsHelena postcard hashtage social media extravaganza! Read more about it here. So long as those postcards keep moving, being Tweeted, etc., Helena will keep handing out prizes – maybe even an e-book of Memoirs, Vol. 2 or Penelope, if you’re lucky!

Bio of a Dilletante

helena-h-bThe enigmatic Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has.

She’s written cookbooks, ten volumes of horrible poetry that she then bound herself in leather she tanned poorly from cows she raised herself and then slaughtered because she was bored with farming.

She has an entire portfolio of macaroni art that she’s never shown anyone, because she doesn’t think that the general populace or, “the great unwashed masses” as she calls them, would understand the statement she was trying to make with them.

Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.

Earlier this year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and is about to release Volume Two, along with a Shakespearean style tragi-comedy, entitled Penelope, Countess of Arcadia.

Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell – VISCERA, a collection of strange tales, will be published by Sirens Call Publications later this year. Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or and http://www.whoisjessica.com Connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat

BECOME A FAN at PUBSLUSH and pre-order Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two and Penelope, Countess of Arcadia

Unmasked: A love letter to our favorite Dilettante

This is one of my favorite images of the Dilletante.

This is one of my favorite images of the Dilettante.

There’s a rumor going round that our dearest Dilettante, Helena Hann-Basquiat (not to mention her hair-raising alter ego, Jessica B. Bell) has been unmasked. And well, I think the title of the – ah – revelatory post says it all. Helena is the Goddamn Batman. She doesn’t need to be unmasked.

The name and gender of my writerly-friend matters not at all. There is brilliance that flows from that pen, whether it’s styled as Helena’s frank prose, which is at turns, hysterical and heartbreaking , Jessica’s creepy mastery, or Ken’s bitingly-aware vignettes of human nature. That said, I support Ken’s decision – I support Ken and his writing, because I believe in it. I read his words – even the ones I’m supposed to be editing (ha ha, who’s the lucky chick with her hands on CHUK?!) – and I stand in awe of his talent.

Allow me, for those who may doubt, to defend Ken and his decision – either to unmask himself or to write as Helena – before moving on to why it doesn’t matter. If the name and gender is more important than the writing, well, then you’ve come to the wrong place.  A and D are not always myself and the druid – sometimes the voices fail me, and I fall back on snippets of conversation I’ve heard, or the voice of those within my sphere. I’m a writer. So is Helena. It’s what we do!

Not convinced? One of my favorite authors – Barbara Michaels/Elisabeth Peters/Barbara Mertz – has been writing as three different people since the 60s, probably earlier. It’s just, as Helena says in her post, the weird manufactured intimacy of the internet, in which we expect people to bare their souls to those of us who are interested, makes shifting personas to meet a literary need questionable.  We’re just so damn accessible – and I’m a willing participant in forcing that accessibility (case in point, this Twitter post from last night, attempting to entice Richard Armitage to narrate Changelings…. still waiting, Mr. Armitage).

The fact remains: regardless of this amorphous concept of identity, we as readers have lived Ken’s world – in bits and pieces, in snatches of brilliance and outright terror. We’ve been there every step of the way, and who or what our favorite dilettante is matters less than the journey we’ve taken. I know many who will agree with me: It’s a great journey.

That talent that I crow about can take us from laughter to tears in the space of a few sentences – or to a shocked, but amused, gasp if he’s feeling wicked. A year ago, when I was happily promoting the Kickstarter for Memoirs of a Dilettante Vol. 1, I wrote the following:

Through her words, I see her world. Penny is as familiar to me as people I’ve known my entire life, because that’s how Helena invites you into her world. Some of the things you’ll witness there are raw. Some of them are painfully but beautifully honest and still others are downright silly and fantastic. And all of it will keep you captivated. Every last second. You’ll devour her words and in turn, they will devour you, spit you out and leave you satisfied they did.

Ken does a remarkable thing, which is to create intimacy where there could easily be none. The face and the name don’t matter because the writing connects us to a wider range of human experience – connects us to a raw, captivating nerve, which transcends identity because it has the ability to speak to all of us.

I decided two years ago the mastermind behind “Being the Memoirs of Helena Hann-Basquiat, Dilettante” and I were going to be friends. And my nerdy persistence paid off – even though I’m not the greatest friend out there. Nevertheless, Ken, in turn, has persevered, and trusted me with the information of who-he-really-is, and that is a gift I cherish from the bottom of my crusty heart to the ends of my tippy-toes. Furthermore, Ken has trusted all of us with this information. Treasure it. Hold this writer close to your heart and let him weave his magic over you. Because that, more than names, more than genders, is who he truly is, and that is what we’ve been privy to this whole time.

Vol. 2 of the Memoirs, Cover art by Hastywords

Vol. 2 of the Memoirs, Cover art by Hastywords

Now, Ken has a PubSlush campaign going live in 5 short days. If you’re new here and want to know what all the hubbub is about, check it out. Better yet, head over to “Being the Memoirs of Helena Hann-Basquiat, Dilettante” and read to your heart’s content. You will not be sorry you did. I know I never have been.

~ A and D – otherwise known as Katie Sullivan

Revealed: Memoirs of a Dilettante, Vol. 2

A: D! D! Check it out!

D: What, woman? Good gods, what is the time? I’m aware you keep the hours of owls, but the rest of us do not.

A: Oh, you’ll perk right up for this . . .

D: Is this more of your innuendo talk?

A: My innuendo–you’ve come up with plenty of innuendos yourself, Druid, and the lady we’re about to showcase has had more than a few to say to you as well.

D: Oh. . . OH! You mean Helena! Why didn’t you say so from the first, Mistress A? What news from our favorite Dilettante?

A: Instead of telling you, I think perhaps I’ll do what all writers are admonished to do, and show you!

Cover art by Hastywords

Cover art by Hastywords

COMING SPRING 2015

Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two is the second collection of reminiscences, following Helena Hann-Basquiat, a self-proclaimed dilettante who will try anything just to say that she has, and her twenty-something niece, who she has dubbed the Countess Penelope of Arcadia.

Speaking of Arcadia, this volume delves into Helena’s childhood, as she revisits what she calls the Arcadia of the mind — that place that keeps us trapped and holds us back from our potential. Some of her most personal stories are included here, interspersed with hilarious stories of misadventure. It’s not a novel, really, and it’s not a memoir, by the strictest definition. But most of what follows, as they say, is true. Sort of. Almost. From a certain point of view.

Discover Helena’s tales for the first time or all over again, with new notes and annotations for the culturally impaired — or for those who just need to know what the hell was going through her mind at the time!

Helena is going to be running a crowdfunding/pre-order campaign at Pubslush, a community focused solely on indie writers, and has set up a profile there to launch Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two.

For more information, and to follow the progress, Become a Fan at http://HelenaHB.pubslush.com

If you just can’t wait and you want a taste of Helena’s writing, follow her blog: http://helenahannbasquiat.wordpress.com/

If you just can’t get enough Helena, or you want updates on further goings on, release dates and miscellaneous mayhem, follow Helena on Twitter @hhbasquiat


About the Author

helena-h-bThe enigmatic Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has.

She’s written cookbooks, ten volumes of horrible poetry that she then bound herself in leather she tanned poorly from cows she raised herself and then slaughtered because she was bored with farming.

She has an entire portfolio of macaroni art that she’s never shown anyone, because she doesn’t think that the general populous or, “the great unwashed masses” as she calls them, would understand the statement she was trying to make with them.

Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.

In 2014, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, several e-books which now make up Volume Two, as well as a multimedia collaborative piece of meta-fictional horror entitled JESSICA.

Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One is available HERE in e-book for Kindle or HERE in paperback.

Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell.

Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or http://whoisjessica.com or connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat.

Changelings on Tour: Helena Hann-Basquiat

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettante

The one, the only, Helena Hann-Basquiat – everyone’s favorite dilettante

On the 8th * day of the blog tour, Helena gave to me . . . friendship, and time and the very best she has to offer: a voice.

*Of course, the 8th day was yesterday, but a combination of factors, an uncooperative scheduler and a visit to the doctor included, prevented me from posting about it until just now!

Helena Hann-Basquiat is someone you want in your corner. I’ve written about her before, but it bears repeating. She is a steadfast friend, and a writer of uncommon talent. Words, images, terrors, heartbreak and joy pour forth from her pen in ways many writers – this one included – only wish they could master. Add to that her adoration of all things musical (well, all *good* things musical), and Helena is in a word, fantastic. She is the author of several books and short stories, including Memoirs of a Dilettante, Vol. One (buy it!). You can check out all of them on her Amazon author page.

I actually met Helena through Andra – a random comment on one of Andra’s posts led me to “Being the Memoirs of Helena Hann-Basquiat” and after reading for just a short time, I decided that this lady and I were going to be friends. I think I was just nuts enough (I do talk to a character in my head, after all) that she went along with it for kicks.

Two years later, Helena is one of my sounding boards, a beta reader for Changelings, and a truly dear friend to boot. I was honored when into my hands she put CHUK, the Bayou Bonhomme serial from her blog. It is my pleasure to help shape her creation for publication. It is my pleasure, too, to be a part of the wonderful collaborative world Helena has created through her site and writings. It’s eclectic, supportive and above all, quite talented.

But words don’t just fall forth from Helena. Oh no. There’s another writer, formerly locked up in Helena’s basement, named Jessica B. Bell, and it is from her pen some of the most horrifying pieces man’s imagination can be host to are given life. And I say that with all the love and admiration I can muster. Her stories are fantastic.

A deliciously creepy collaborative piece of meta-fiction, the book born from the collaboration of several bloggers and artists, JESSICA, can be purchased on Amazon, and if you do, there are 50 additional pages to what erupted across the internet. I just finished my copy, and believe me, those 50 pages take a wonderful story and make it so much more!

You can read more about Jessica on her new site, Who Is Jessica? but be sure to stick around Helena’s site to see what she cooks up – there’s the second volume of the Memoirs coming and her diary postings this week hint at an amazing trilogy, the People of the Manatii. So, stop over at Helena’s and tell her I said hi – and Helena, thank you so much for your support, your ear and above all, for being you!

Being the Memoirs…

Life: Postcards from California

Music: The Prettiest Songs I know

Terror: Fear in a Handful of Dust

Fiction: Stardust

Just a taste: JESSICA, Part One

Campfire Tales

Jessica Promo 6D: So, you weren’t wrong.
A: We were suspecting I was?
D: . . . I always suspect you’re wrong – at least the first time, A.
A: Gee, thanks,D.
D: You’re welcome. But in this case, I’m happy to report that you were absolutely correct in stating that something fantastic – something incredible, which would feed off the collaboration of others to create a living, breathing, horror-filled wonderment really would go live on Saturday.
A: Um . . . I’m not sure those are my words, exactly–
D: No, they’re not. They’re better, frankly, but the fact remains. Jessica B. Bell went live with her own online space today, and every “bleeder,” as she so charmingly says, needs to head over to that space and follow it.
A: Indeed – and while you’re there, check out the “From the Editor’s Desk” introduction to Jessica, from yours truly!

Who is Jessica B. Bell?

“It was easily the most frightening moment of my life,” I began. The glow of the fire danced on the faces of the other women huddled around it – not for warmth, exactly, but to better hear the stories.

It’s all we seem to do these days. If you ever see a fire in the woods, chances are we’ll be there. Wherever one or two are gathered, you’ll find us. We love telling our own stories, but what we love even more is hearing the misery of others relived over and over again.

“The water kept rising, but I couldn’t move,” I continued. “Daddy told me I’d be safe in the storm cellar. I wanted to go with him, but he had to find my baby sister. It was my first tornado. We didn’t have them back home in New York, but Daddy’s company moved us out to Wichita, and…

View original post 700 more words

All Hallow’s Eve

I have to say, next to Christmas, Halloween is my favorite holiday. Having a Druid as a character in my head for over 13 years might have something to do with it, but honestly, I’ve always loved this holiday. I dress up every year – in some small way. Lately, I’ve been the Wicked Witch of the East before the house dropped on her. Because sparkly red (or silver – depends on if I’m channelling the book or the movie) shoes are one of the happiest things on earth.

This year, because it’s a Friday, and we have leave to wear jeans (I NEVER give up the opportunity to wear jeans at work), I’m going as a lumberjack.

Because it’s cold.

And because I’ve had this song in my head for days:

Right. So. Halloween. (I swear to the gods, D is groaning in the far corners of my brain. Like painfully. Sometimes torture is fun). Once the sugar-high has subsided, The Boy and I will be capping our month-long scary/Halloween movie extravaganza with the film that inspired it: The Shining. I’ve seen it once, and it’s a slow, creepy burn that still gives me the shudders, but I’m looking forward to seeing how he reacts. This marathon of sorts has been an eye-opener into how the kid’s brain works, and how he perceives things. It’s been amazing.

Jessica Promo 2And second on my Halloween to-dos, did you know there is this fabulously creepy and just plain wonderful serial going on over at casa de Basquiat? You need to check it out, because it is just the best compilation of writing I’ve read in a long time.

JESSICA: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven

Part Eight is going live today. If you do anything today, check it out. I mean it. And go follow Jessica B. Bell on Twitter, because there is something amazing going down on Saturday, and something tells me you’re going to want to be in on it from the start.

And finally, the reason I started this post in the first place – no, not to bombard you with my crowdfunding campaign (although if you haven’t pre-ordered Changelings, please feel free to click the link and do so now!), I had intended to write up a (softly) scary story for Halloween, but then the proofs for Changelings came in and – horror-of-horrors – I found even more typos (it just never ends), so that has been consuming my life for the last several days. Instead of making myself crazy (D: crazier), I decided to repost a story I wrote for a prompt at the Community Storyboard two summers ago. Headless is one of my favorite pieces of writing, and I hope you enjoy it, too.

* * *

Headless

I can't help it. I love those glasses.

I can’t help it. I love those glasses.

Izzie Crane was just this side of miserable. Tarrytown was a sleepy little place. She’d wanted some peace and quiet after divorcing Bob, sure, but this was ridiculous.

Oh well. Her contract at the school was only for a year, and there was no reason to expect that it would be renewed. As much as she disliked the town, so too did the town dislike her.

Well, maybe not all of them. Kat Van Tassel was good fun to hang around with – and the tales that woman could spin! If the upright matrons of this town only knew what their darling really thought of them. . .

She and Kat met for coffee every Thursday. Kat would give her the latest town gossip and a history lesson on the town that beat anything in Izzie’s textbooks. Sometimes Kat regaled her with recent history – dirt on the parents who seemed to live to make Izzie’s day a nightmare. Other times, the stories Kat told were practically ancient.

The Revolutionary War featured heavily in this area of the state and the way Kat told it, nearly every man who fell in that war had taken up residence in a forested hollow just outside Tarrytown. Izzie loved that spot, and she felt lucky that her small rented cottage was on the other side of it. Besides, the old covered bridge seemed like a lovely place for a romantic stroll, and she told Kat so.

“Sure, you say that now,” Kat laughed. “But just imagine walking home – after midnight, of course – and being stuck in that covered bridge, hemmed in by the restless dead. I haven’t even told you about the Headless Horseman, yet.”

Izzie rolled her eyes. “Kat, everyone has heard of the Headless Horseman. Wasn’t he some Hessian soldier who lost his head to a cannon ball?” She lowered her voice until it was just a whisper. “He roams the night looking for his head and woe to those who stand in his way!”

Kat laughed. “You tell a good story there, Ms. Crane, but I wouldn’t scoff at the undead. The Hessian still hasn’t found his head, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one he fancied.”

Izzie grinned. Kat wasn’t going to give it up, but was part of her charm. It certainly made for entertaining company every Thursday. And, her stories helped Izzie get into the spirit of the holidays.

Halloween was just around the corner. Kat and her boyfriend, Brom, were throwing a costume party, and in an effort to help the town accept Ms. Crane, Izzie was the guest of honor. It was Kat’s idea, of course. Brom had all-but spearheaded the effort to make Izzie’s year of teaching a misery. But, he was devoted to Kat, so when he answered the door to Izzie’s cloaked form, he plastered a smile on his face and let her in.

Scary-Jack-o-LanternShe hefted the grimacing pumpkin in her hands and thanked him. He waved her off to the kitchen, where Kat was putting appetizers on a tray.

“Izzie – what are you wearing?”

“I found the horseman’s head,” Izzie said through the cloak she’d rigged to cover her head. She lifted the lid off the pumpkin and pulled out the bottle of wine she’d stored there. “For my hostess.”

Kat shook her head and grinned. “So much for me trying to show you off tonight, Izzie. No one can see you.”

“But think of it this way, Kat – maybe they’ll consider it an honor. Besides, I’m not looking for dates, just a good time.”

“Well, then we’ll have it. Come on, I think I heard the doorbell. Let’s relieve Brom on door duty. I think you should greet the guests.”

Several hours – and glasses of wine – later, the guests were starting to leave. Izzie had delighted Kat by participating in their ghostly tales and revelry. The only one who didn’t seem impressed was Brom, who was now glowering at her from the bar.

Izzie couldn’t decide if he was jealous of her friendship with Kat, or if he was just a bad-tempered grump who disliked outsiders. Regardless, she paid him no mind as she bid her hostess goodbye.

“Be careful, Izzie. Are you sure you won’t let me drive you home?”

“You have had far too many glasses for me to even consider letting you drive me home. Besides, I have the pumpkin. He’ll scare off any ghouls – human or otherwise.”

Kat giggled and waved her off.

The night was cool but Izzie was comfortable in her cloak. The pumpkin was starting to get heavy in her arms, but she wanted it for her cottage. Besides, it was a talisman of sorts, and as the bridge neared, she irrationally felt it might protect her. It was after midnight.

She was happily recounting the night in her head and didn’t hear the sound of hooves on the pavement until a waft of heated air lifted the hem of her cloak. Dead leaves swirled at her ankles.

Izzie turned and nearly dropped the pumpkin. The black horse snorted inches from her face. She slowly, reluctantly, allowed her eyes to travel up the horse’s snout to its rider. He was caped, like she, and headless, too. However, the rider was not holding himself still with terror, like she. The tilt of his shoulders seemed confused. He appeared to be regarding her, wondering.

Izzie lifted up the pumpkin.

“A head for you?” she asked. Her voice quavered.

The rider urged his horse forward a few steps. He leaned down. The stench of brimstone made Izzie wrinkle her nose. She closed her eyes tight. She couldn’t outrun a horse, certainly not one with a rider such as this.

The horseman lifted the pumpkin from her hands. She opened her eyes, surprised, and peered out of the gap in her cloak. She watched with fascinated horror as he settled the jack o’lantern on his headless neck and roll his shoulders, as if adjusting the fit. She nearly fainted when the pumpkin-head turned and looked down at her.

“My thanks. It will do for tonight. May I give you a ride home?”

Izzie stared at the hand reaching down, offering to help her onto the horse. She wondered what he would do if she refused. Hell, what would he do if she agreed? She did notice though, that the smell of sulfur was beginning to wane. And his manner had been nice enough. Maybe all the horseman needed was a head . . .

She took his hand. Hadn’t she been complaining to Kat just the other day that nothing exciting happened in Tarrytown?

“So, do you like ghost stories, Ms. Crane?”

Who is Jessica B. Bell? Find out, if you dare…

Jessica Promo 6Who is Jessica? It’s the collaborative story taking the interwebs by its creepy storm. It’s a hashtag – heck, it’s a Twitter handle, and soon, it will also be a website.

Check out the ongoing serial over at Helena Hann-Basquiat’s internet abode. There are four parts so far for your reading enjoyment – but be warned: you’ll want to start at the beginning to fully appreciate the abyss you’ll be staring into in order to understand the question: who is Jessica B. Bell?

JESSICA: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

And, while you’re over at Helena’s, check out her exciting news on that upcoming website . . .