Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It’s the Most Demonic Time of the Year…

Centuries ago, many people believed that demons roamed the winter darkness, and they filled the Yuletide season with light to keep the evil at bay.

Bitter Snow starts with the Running of the Demons on St. Nicholas’s Eve (December 5th), in the tiny town of Bremerton. I wanted to play with the idea of ancient superstitions and rituals that in modern times are just for fun, but that were taken more seriously in the past (like Halloween, which used to be All Hallows Eve, the night when the dead rise before All Souls Day).

Krampus demons parading through the streets on St. Nicholas’s Eve is a Central European custom, brought to America by immigrants.

In Bremerton, I took things one step further. The demons run from house to house, knocking on doors, and there’s a special ritual where the townspeople send them away. Legend has it that if anyone opens the door, the demons can enter, and spread evil through the whole town.  

Since my story takes place in modern times, the townspeople think  it’s all just a fun tradition. But I also wanted to get that feeling of something stirring underneath the surface—something dark and dangerous, ancient and powerful. Then, of course, my main character, Gilly, opens her door on St. Nicholas’s Eve. And evil is unleashed in Bremerton.

To set the scene in Bitter Snow, I created a ritual with darkness and fire:

At six o’clock the arc lights went out, along with every other electric light on the whole block. Everybody who still had a flashlight or lantern on turned it off. There was no moon, only the cold bright stars overhead and the smudge of the Milky Way.
All around us was primal darkness. The kind that made me understand why our ancestors had huddled inside caves and around fires. Anything could be out there.
Then there was one tiny flame in the darkness—a lighter. Four torches burst into flame, one after the other, held by four roughly dressed men. Demon Keepers. They formed a circle around the unlit bonfire.
From an unseen throat, away in the blackness, came a high, harsh, wordless cry. As one, the four Demon Keepers thrust their torches into the bonfire. The hay inside the stack flared up instantly, and we were washed in light. Light to keep the ancient horrors of the night at bay.
Behind the Demon Keepers, the illumination spread over the demon cage. And inside, as though they had sprung from the darkness, were the demons.

…I pictured medieval Austro-Bavarian villagers, huddled in their cottages while demons howled in the night. Settlers in their cabins, listening to Native American war drums in the distance. Vikings in their longhouses, alert for the sound of enemies poised to burst in the door and bathe their hearthstones in blood. There’s something about sitting in an island of light, surrounded by darkness, that makes the back of your neck prickle.

In honor of the most demonic time of the year, here are some of my all-time favorite demons:

- Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer – 
not just evil, but crazy too. She makes my skin crawl.

- The muppet demons from the “Smile Time” episode of Angel – demons disguised as puppets on an edutainment show, singing about self-esteem while sucking children’s life energy out through the TV. Genius.

- The Headless Horseman from the new show Sleepy Hollow – when something doesn’t have a head and you can still tell it’s staring at you with murder in its heart – that’s terrifying.

Do you have a favorite demon? 
Who (or what) is it?

Bitter Snow Series Description

“We are the rulers of Midwinter. In the most powerful cold of the winter, in the deepest dark of the year, we hold sway, and all of your hearth fires cannot stand against us. We are the winds that howl down the chimneys and extinguish your candles. We are the northern lights and the hungry wolves; the bitter crack of ice and the killing frost. The raging blizzard and the deep, soft, final sleep of those lost forever in the snow.”

Bitter Snow is a modern retelling of the fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” in nine novellas. It’s my all-time favorite fairy tale, about a girl’s quest to save her childhood friend from the evil Snow Queen, through her courage, determination, and the strength of her love for him. Each volume is about 80-90 pages (32,000 words). The next three installments are scheduled for release in spring/summer 2014, with the final three to follow later in the year.

Bitter Snow
Volume One
Lauren Sweet

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Date of Publication:  December 5, 2013

Number of pages: 85
Word Count:  32,000

Cover Artist: Jeanne Gransee Barker

Book Description:

Whatever you do, don’t open the door.

All Gilly Breslin wants for her sixteenth birthday is for her best friend Kai to see her as more than just the girl next door he’s known forever. So when she receives a mysterious, romantic invitation to meet him at midnight, she knows she has to go. 

But it’s St. Nicholas’s Eve, the ancient festival of Bellsnichol, when demons roam the dark winter landscape. Tradition demands that everyone in the tiny town of Bremerton stay inside, doors shut tight against evil.

Gilly thinks it’s just a quaint old superstition. She has no idea that a malevolent power has been unleashed in Bremerton—with Kai as its target. But when she answers her door at midnight, her romantic date turns deadly…and she’s drawn into an ancient web of fear and darkness that threatens everything she loves.

Amazon    BN 

Dark Solstice
Bitter Snow
Volume Two
Lauren Sweet

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Date of Publication:  December 21, 2013

Number of pages: 85
Word Count:  32,000

Cover Artist: Jeanne Gransee Barker

Book Description:

On St. Nicholas’s Eve, the festival of Bellsnichol, Gilly Breslin opened her door to an ancient evil. A demon queen who’s slowly destroying Gilly’s best friend Kai—the only guy she’s ever loved.

But it’s not just Kai. Every guy who falls in love with the Snow Queen turns evil—and every guy who sees her falls in love with her.

Gilly’s only hope is to enlist the secret guardians of Bremerton, who may hold the key to banishing the Snow Queen and her minions. But with the town erupting in violence and the demons’ power increasing as the winter nights grow longer, she’s in a race against time to stop them before it’s too late.

Twelfth Night
Bitter Snow
Volume Three
Lauren Sweet

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Date of Publication:  January 5, 2014

Number of pages: 85
Word Count:  32,000

Cover Artist: Jeanne Gransee Barker

Book Description:

Winter demons have invaded the tiny town of Bremerton, and sixteen-year-old Gilly Breslin is the only one who can banish them. The only problem is, she doesn’t know how.

Digging through the town’s historical archives, she and her friend Niko piece together clues to an ancient ritual to send the demons back to the dark realm they sprang from.

But the Snow Queen has plans of her own. Her power is greatest at the darkest time of the year, and her evil influence is spreading insidiously through the town, leaving Gilly wondering if there’s anyone left who can be trusted.

The demons must be banished by Twelfth Night, or the town will be lost. But to do it, Gilly may have to sacrifice everything that matters to her—including her soul.

About the Author:

I was born and raised in New Jersey, and books were a big part of my childhood. When I was about three and a half, I became obsessed with a Little Golden Book about a goat that gets a bucket stuck on its head. Since no one would read me the goat book as often as I wanted, I learned to read it myself—and haven’t stopped reading since. It was only inevitable that I turned to writing, so I could create more of the kind of stories that I like to read!

My favorite genres are mystery, sci-fi and paranormal/fantasy. I’ve always been fascinated by myths and fairy tales, and I love incorporating elements of ancient lore into modern stories. I have a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage, and I currently live near Portland, OR, where I am a freelance writer and editor. My other esoteric skills include astrology, figure skating, and the ability to do a perfect split.

Twitter: @writerlaurens

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Roxanne Rhoads said...

Fabulous post.

Did you see Krampus on Grimm?

Lauren Sweet said...

No, I missed it! (And I should be watching Grimm, too, 'cause it's shot in Portland, where I live.)

Now I want to go watch that episode online. :-)

Thanks so much for hosting me--hope you and all your readers have a fangtastic holiday!

Sara Backer said...

My favorite demon is Yuki-onna, the legendary Japanese snow woman, who kills her victims by breathing on them as her breath coats them with ice.

Singing puppets are way too scary for me!

Lauren Sweet said...

Ooh, Sara, now I want to use that idea later in the Bitter Snow series. I'm going to have to look up Yuki-onna!