Oct 21, 2011

Bruce Jenvey's Angela's Coven

Today, we have with us Bruce Jenvey, author of Angela’s Coven. It’s release day for his book and he’s very excited to tell us everything about it. Help me welcome Bruce to the MFRWA Blog.

This is the release date for my novel, Angela’s Coven. It’s the story of modern-day witches practicing olde world witchcraft in their attempt to save an aging rock star from his unfortunate deal with the Devil. This is a story of new beginnings and second chances within the setting of the battle between good and evil. You’ll meet Lucifer and his chief recruiter, Mr. Ajax as well as you will find Guardian Angels. But mind you, my Guardian Angels act more like a Secret Service protection squad and they carry Berrettas! This leaves our witches and our rock star caught in the middle. You will laugh, you will cry, you will question authority and tradition but in the end, it will cast a different light on anything you may have ever considered as faith. And it’s on sale, starting today, where ever E-Books are sold.
What’s different about Angela’s Coven, is there are no pointy hats, no magic wands, no spell books or bubbling cauldrons. It’s based on witchcraft as it was over a thousand years ago; it’s chemistry, herbology, and what we today would call ‘home remedies.’ Of course, being a work of fiction, I am assuming these poor witches have made some breakthroughs and advancements in their art over the past millennium, so yes, you will most certainly find the unexplained and unexpected. But that takes us into what I want to share with you today: What’s the truth about witchcraft and why do I know so much about it?
First, the truth about witchcraft is the image, the stereotype we have of what a witch is and does, was created by the Church during the Dark Ages. It’s true! Witches were actually midwives and healers, often widows or single women struggling to support themselves within the village or community. What passed for Physicians in those days were trained by ‘medical schools’ supported and controlled by the Church. A degree in medicine also required a degree in theology and doctors had to practice according to the Church’s laws of decency.
Now remember, this was a Church that in those days, burned people at the stake for saying the Earth was round and revolved around the Sun. Doctors were only allowed to examine a patient’s hand and forearm as it was extend through the bed curtains. Any diagnosis, any treatment had to be done with the same limitation. That’s where we got the treatments of applying leaches and bloodletting. But the midwives were allowed behind the curtains and could often see the true nature of someone’s ailment. It didn’t take long for word to get around that if you were really sick or hurt, your best chances of survival were with the midwife, not the Doctors.
The Doctors asked the Church to level the playing field but in their infinite wisdom, rather than allow more patient contact, the Church decided to make villains of the midwives. They labeled them witches, said all sorts of things about them like: If you let yourself be treated by a witch, you could risk your place in heaven. Witches are in league with Satan. Witches might well steal your baby and eat it. They have tricked you into thinking they’re young and beautiful, they are actually old, ugly, have hairy warts on their noses… some even have green skin. And that’s only the beginning of the rumors that were spread. But the really frightening part about all this, is that people believed it!
About the time they started burning them at the stake and hanging them in the town square, the midwives took their art of healing and herbal remedies and went underground where they have basically hidden for more than a thousand years. Occasionally the Church would launch a ‘witch hunt’ just to remind people of the danger of it all and how they were the people’s only salvation. They had roaming ‘witch courts’ that would go from village to village, set up a court, hunt down a few unfortunates, hang them, and then move on. As recently as the latter 1400s, when Columbus was discovering America, there were reports of one witch court that conducted trials in a small town in what is now Germany. When they were done, they had hung every female of every age in town.
It’s been only during the ‘enlightenment’ we have endured since the 1960s, that witches have begun to come out of the closet again. But now, there are two kinds of witches: There are those that can’t wait to tell you they’re a witch. They appear very ‘Goth’ and surround themselves with everything from black candles to enchanted objects. These are not witches. They are only playing witch and are busy living up to every stereotype and image created for them by the Church.
The other kind you have been living with perhaps your entire life and never knew it. They will probably deny it and some have even denied it to themselves, not seeing what they do as ‘witchcraft.’ These, are the real deal! She’s the woman in your neighborhood who seems to know every home remedy and every cleaning tip ever invented… and several you’ve never heard of before. She often has something simmering on the back burner of her stove that never seems to get included on the dinner table. Married, widowed or single, they will be very independent and even casually confident, often answering your question with yet another question. They don’t boast, and rarely even admit that what they do might be considered witchcraft.
So then, the next question is, how do I know all this? For a good number of years, I owned a travel and history magazine for the Great Lakes region aimed primarily at boaters. My staff and I visited countless small waterfront towns and traveled through even more burgs and villages along the way. Every year, we did a Halloween issue, mostly because I love Halloween, and we shared some truly unforgettable history and local legends with our readers over the years. I have seen and experienced some pretty fantastic things and reported about many, many more. I have gone Ghost Hunting in some of the most popular lighthouses, B&Bs and waterfront hotels from upstate New York to the shores of Lake Superior. I‘ve seen silverware rattle and jump at the Olde Angel Inn in Niagara On The Lake and I’ve seen Ghostly faces appear and twist in mirror at the old Seul Choix Lighthouse on Lake Michigan.
One thing I noticed right away, is that where ever you find reports of ghostly activity, talk of witches is never far behind. Sometimes, people blame a rumored, local ‘witch’ for bringing their paranormal problems. In other cases, I’ve had people quietly admit that they have tried everything to deal with their haunted troubles, even consulting the local ‘witch.
One of the many things that were shared with me, were ‘witch bottles.’ This is a practice, a tradition that seems to have been quietly used for centuries and while you don’t find it much in newer homes, I had no trouble finding people who knew all about them. A witch bottle is most frequently found in old homes dating back to the early 1800s and before. The most common usage was to create these ‘witch bottles’ and include them in your house at the time of construction. Often, they were an empty wine bottle, cleansed and then partially filled with ‘stuff.’ (What appears to be various powders mixed with leaves, roots, and other such organic things.) The bottles were then sealed tightly and often plastered into ceilings. Most all of them that I have seen were mounted in the ceilings of the parlor, one in each corner. The bottle was mounted vertically so that the bottom of the bottle extended into the room from the ceiling and the top of the bottle would extend into the attic above. Most houses had attic windows and you get some interesting light play in the parlor as the sun hit the top of the bottle in the attic. The idea being that these were protection against ‘witch attacks’ and by placing one in each corner of the parlor, you had in essence, created a ‘safe room’ where your family could comfortably and safely ride out the evil storm. Now remember, while I have seen these in some form where ever I have gone, most are in upstate New York… the land of Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle and other old American legends.
My only question ever: So, who made the magic witch bottles? Another witch? How would you know which one to trust? Maybe you were protecting your family against witches, or maybe you were giving them the master key to your house! It always sound to me like asking the Cat Burglars Union to design you next alarm system.
But there were also those things I stumbled across, or… were shared with me, that I was asked not to include but helped in my understanding of what I would write about. What struck me the most, was that everywhere I went, there were great similarities in the stories I heard and the practices I witnessed. Even though many of these ‘back kitchen witches’ thought they were the only ones in the world, they all did things surprisingly the same way. And this is the setting, the homebrew style of witches at work I have brought to life in Angela’s Coven. Please know, this is not a ‘how to’ book. Yes, it’s a work of fiction and I have embellished. But the processes are real and while I have changed the names of some of what was shown to me, it is very much the way they look at life and ‘their calling’ as so many put it.
Angela’s Coven is about a modern-day witch who risks all to save an aging rock star from his unfortunate deal with the Devil. You can learn a lot more about the book and the culture at our web page: www.covenbooks.com, you can see the trailer on You Tube (just search Bruce Jenvey) or go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZQerZ68UZ4. And of course, Angela’s Coven is now available for every Nook and Kindle where ever the best E-Books are sold or directly from our publisher: www.museituppublishing.com.
Thanks for having me today and I will hang around to post along with you if you have any questions or comments.

Bruce Jenvey

Here’s an excerpt from Angela’s Coven:

How fortunate they were to have yet another bright, warm autumn day, he thought to himself as he sat on the bench in Greenwich Village. Across the street, he could see the flow of customers come and go from Angela’s shop. Perhaps it was another good night’s sleep contributing to his take on the situation, but whatever the reason, he felt buoyant, eager, and filled with curiosity.
He was here to ask questions he hadn’t even yet formed in his mind. How do you ask someone if they were involved in the unexplainable?  Especially when they weren’t even there when it happened?  Maybe he didn’t really know why he was here. But here he was, in his hoodie and his sunglasses, sitting on the bench in the mid-afternoon light, anxiously waiting for the ‘Pointyhats and the Wannabes’ to thin out before he ventured across the street.
He must have lost track of those coming and going from the little shop among the other happenings and distractions on the street. He suddenly heard the shop bell ring and looked up to see her, standing in the open doorway with her hands on her hips. She stared directly at him as if to say, ‘are you coming in or not.’  Getting off the bench, he made his way across the street and followed her through the front door. Entering the shop he noticed they were alone, so he removed his hood and shoved his sunglasses into the sweatshirt pocket.
“See, I knew you’d be back,” she started as she took her place behind the counter.
“Well, I’m surprised to say you were right.”
“And you look well-rested, too.”
“Actually, I am. I’ve slept pretty well these past two nights.”
“The Dream Catcher hang in your window okay?”
“How do you know I hung it in my window?” he playfully challenged.
“Because you did. And because you’re well-rested.”
“Sure of that, are you?”
“Did the pounding wake you up?” The fact she knew about the pounding in the middle of the night suddenly unsettled him.
“Yes… But how do you know—”
“I said my customers were all Pointyhats and Wannabes… I never said I was…”
“Then, just what are you?” he asked with great interest.
“Me?  I’m the ‘real deal,’ as they say…”
“Now, come on. Do you really expect me to believe—”
“I don’t care what you believe, I’m just glad to see it all worked out for you…” And then she paused, as if lost in thought, and her expression changed to one of more concern. “Okay, back here.” She reached across the counter and lightly grabbed his sweatshirt. “Someone’s coming…” she said as she led him around the counter and back into the kitchen.
It was Reggie’s first opportunity to take in this behind-the-scenes glimpse into Angela’s life. Much as he had seen two days before, it was a very dated kitchen with aging appliances and fixtures, yet spotlessly clean. The twin stoves were still covered in various pots and pans all slowly simmering away on a low heat making the kitchen feel cozy, even on this warm, autumn day.
But to his left, along the wall, was a small breakfast table with two chairs completely out of sight from the shop floor. They were old, once painted white, but well-worn with decades of use. She guided him down into the far chair as it groaned slightly in protest under his weight. From here, he faced toward the shop, but he was concealed from view by the wall behind the counter and on his side, a refrigerator and a door he assumed led to a closet.
“I thought you didn’t care who found out I was here?” he asked with mild curiosity. “‘Good for business’ I think you said…”
“That doesn’t mean you want to be discovered. After all, you’re the one with the hood and the sunglasses. Besides, right now I want them buying things, not distracted by the great Reggie Sinclair. So, sit!”
“And what makes you think I’ll obey?” There was a good natured taunting in his voice. She looked at him with a great confidence.
“Because I’m going to give you a potion that immobilizes men,” she said as she reached into the refrigerator behind her and pulled out a long-necked bottle of beer. She twisted off the cap and set it in front of him. “It will also make you very susceptible to suggestion. Now, stay!”
“You are so full of it—” he said, starting to laugh. But she snatched up the bottle by its long neck, and with her thumb over the opening, she gave it a quick, single shake. As she set it back down, she released the pressure in his direction spraying him in the face. “Okay!” He instantly surrendered and picked up a dish towel off the table top, wiping the beer foam from his face.
“I’m sure they won’t be long, Reggie Sinclair,” she said with a smile as she hesitated in the doorway that led back to her counter.
“What do you say, we just make it… ‘Reggie’. I don’t go around calling you by your full name.”
“That’s because you don’t know it.”
“Even if I did…” he started, now realizing his disadvantage.
“Bradbury...” she interrupted. “Angela Bradbury, but Angela will be just fine… Reggie.” She smiled softly at him. And then, on cue, the bell over the shop door jangled as new customers entered. He could tell by their voices and footsteps on the wooden floor, there were at least three that had come in together. “There’s more potion in the fridge if that one starts to wear off…”
From where he sat, he could hear her greet her customers with the same ‘Welcome’ he’d received just the other day. And then after that, the women’s voices all started to mingle together, lost in words and phrases unfamiliar to him. But it gave him a chance to study his surroundings as he sipped on his beer.
The stoves intrigued him the most. They were old, a brand that probably hadn’t been produced since the 1950s. They were also electric, and there was just something that hit him odd about a self-proclaimed witch not cooking over an open fire… or at least with gas. But it even felt odder to think of her as a ‘witch’ for the very first time. A ‘witch…’  She was about as far as you could get from any preconceived notion he’d ever had of a ‘witch.’  But then, he’d never spent a great deal of time thinking about witches.
He tried to peer up from his seat into the pots on the stove to see what was simmering away, but being immobilized in his chair limited his view. From what he could see, it was all water, some with more foam and scum floating on top than others, and none smelled the least bit appetizing. His attention was suddenly drawn to the voices in the other room.
“Conjuring powder!” exclaimed one of the women. And then he recognized Angela’s voice responding.
“It’s something new I just got in from the Far East… still working with it myself.”
“Haven’t conjured up that perfect man yet?” teased a third voice.
“And who could be the ‘perfect’ man?” laughed another.
“Oh, I’d settle for a nice Wade Owens, quarterback-type,” came the first voice again. “Or
better yet, Steve Crosby. Love the way he sings!” And they all laughed.
“What about Reggie Sinclair?” came still another unfamiliar voice. “I always thought he was way cuter when I was a girl.” More giggling erupted.
“You know, I have all his records right back to the Spitfires,” came the first voice again. “And then I bought them all again on CD, too.”
“He still lives here in New York, you know… I get tweets from his fan club and he’s been seen a couple of times just this week!”
“Oh really?” he could hear Angela’s voice playing along.
“He was signing autographs in the Mid-Town FYE just the other day. That’s when he’s not running around in that sweatshirt and sunglasses pretending to be invisible!”
“You’re kidding, he really does that?” again, it was Angela’s voice playing along.
“Yes. In fact, he’s been seen several times lately right here in the Village. But the fan club says when he’s wearing the hoodie and the sunglasses he wants to be left alone, so we shouldn’t ask him for autographs then.” In the kitchen, Reggie pulled his sunglasses out of his sweatshirt pocket and looked at them with disappointment before tossing them into the wastebasket next to the stoves.
“But he’s still so hot. Even in that silly disguise. Anybody like that come in here, lately, Angela?  Or is that who you’ve been conjuring up with your new powder?”
“Why of course!” she said sarcastically. “What if I told you he was back in my kitchen right now, drinking a beer?” And they all hooted and giggled with the idea as Angela’s cash register began to ring.
When the shop fell quiet again, she stepped back through the doorway and smugly leaned against the fridge. From where she stood, she peered into the wastebasket at the discarded sunglasses.
“You sure Mr. Ed doesn’t want those back?”
“Ha! Ha!”
She reached into the fridge and grabbed two more beers, one for each of them, and then joined him at the table. She rested an elbow on the table top and cradled her chin on her palm as she looked into his face.
“So, tell me about the dream…”
Suddenly self conscious, Reggie looked away and put up his defenses. “Not much to tell, really… it’s gone anyway.”
“How did you know someone was sending you this dream?”
“You know, I never really bought into that whole idea—”
“You hung it in your window… you even heard the pounding… so what made you realize it wasn’t your own dream?”
He took a deep breath before answering. “The dream wasn’t right… I mean the memory is right, but that’s not exactly how it happened. It was… changed.”
“Bad memory?”
Very bad. But in the dream, it was different from what really happened… made me feel even worse—”
“More guilt…more regret?”
“A lot more…and it was the same God damned dream every night…exactly the same and exactly wrong the same exact way—”
“And seemed to wake you up at about the same time?”
“Every night.”
“That’s a ‘sent’ dream…classic signs…”
Reggie started to feel agitated by her prying, or was it just the pain of the memory opening the wound yet again. “Just what do you mean, sent?”
“People can send you a dream…good dream, bad dream, your dream, their dream… sometimes, they don’t even realize they’re doing it.”
“How can that be?”
“So a woman breaks up with her boyfriend…she goes through a period of vengeful thinking, wishing ill on him, reliving an important moment or two in the breakup…of course, her version of it…and probably altered to make her feel better, which of course, would make him feel worse. If she’s any kind of a psychic or a sensitive and knows it, she may deliberately wish these thoughts on to him. If she does that while he’s sleeping, it can manifest as a dream. Most people get over these vengeful feelings in a while, at least the worst of them, and that gives the other person’s dreams a rest. But if the person doesn’t even know they have an ounce of psychic power, they may not even realize they’re sending you this dream. I knew a man once who was plagued by the same bad dream about his ex-wife every night, at exactly the same time but on weeknights only, never on a weekend. Come to find out, after the divorce, she moved back to Europe to be with her family and every morning at the same time, she was getting on a train to go to work…which she hated. Of course, she blamed this on him and she would ride that train, every morning just steaming about their divorce. Of course, during her commute time, he’s trying to sleep back here in New York. So, bad dream, every night, same time, same place. It happens a lot more often than you think but people shrug it off. All it takes is some connection between those two people… and just a little bit of magical energy…that’s all.”
“Sounds like rubbish,” He tried to dismiss the whole idea.
“Said the man with the Dream Catcher hanging in his window.”
“Okay, but what can I do about it?”
“Well, you can sleep with the Dream Catcher until whoever gets over it all or gives up.”
“What if they don’t?”
“Either way, you could also send them a ‘Boomerang.”
“Boomerang?  What the hell is that?”
She took a deep swig off her beer before continuing. “It’s a reflector for negative energy. It’s a way of bouncing back to the sender the negative energy they’re giving off.”
“And that would work… how?”
“Well, the Boomerang would bounce the negative energy back to them and it could manifest itself in a bad dream of their own…something pulled from their own memories. If the dream is being deliberately sent to you, it’s kind of like punching the bully full in the nose…lets him know you’ll fight back if need be, and lets him know it’s going to hurt. If the sender doesn’t even realize they’re giving you a bad dream, one bad dream of their own is usually enough to distract them from thinking about you and more about themselves. Either way, you win. Think of it like the ‘star-6-9’ of the dream world.”
“And I’ll bet you have this Boomerang attachment to fit my Dream Catcher?”
“No, but I can easily make you one.” She got up from the table and stepped back into the other room. From there, he could hear her opening a draw or two, and the rattle of glass jars. When she returned, she had a small collection of interesting objects stacked on her clipboard. She set them on the table as she found her seat again. She started by opening a paper envelope and removing what looked like a small plant root, barely an inch long.
“What’s that?” he asked with keen interest.
“Oh, it’s got a lot of names, but I know it best as ‘St. Isaac’s Root.’  It’s just part of an herb plant.” She then opened the first of two jars, this one filled with a fine, gray powder, and began to rub the powder into the surface of the root, one pinch at a time.
“And what’s that?” he asked with even more anticipation. She paused a brief moment to look at him with a smile on her face.
“Patience, little boy.  It’s a mixture of other herbs, mixed, boiled down and then ground into a powder… I guess you’d call it a ‘concoction.’ There are more things like this simmering on the stove over there.”
“You mean, this didn’t come from the ‘Mysterious Far East?’”
“Some of it…part of it…but it’s what you do with it and how you combine it that makes it all work.”
“That’s what’s on the stove?”
“Among other things. It takes days, sometimes weeks, to make something like this. You have to simmer slowly, never boil. Sometimes, you have to simmer twice, down to nothing, and then grind what’s left into a powder you can combine with other powders. It’s all pretty complicated… really.”
“I was going to ask about the electric stove…”
“What?  You think I should be ‘bubbling, bubbling, toil and troubling’ in some big, black cauldron over an open fire someplace?  Well, this is New York City and they frown on open fires you know.” She was teasing him pretty hard as she continued to work the gray powder into the herb root. And as she did so, the root’s color slowly changed from off white to a bright yellow.
“It would fit the image…”
“You mean the stereotype. The misconception.”
“What would you call it?”
“Basically, it’s chemistry, that’s all.”
“And there’ll be no magic words or spells to cast?” He tried to hide behind his sarcasm and snicker.
“No,” she said casually as she closed the jar with the gray powder and opened the second jar filled with a nearly black powder. “When you go to your doctor for a flu shot, does he chant or dance around the room before he injects you?”
“No,” he said sheepishly.
“No magic words?”
“Other than ‘If you don’t cry, Reggie, I’ll give you one of the suckers I save for the children’?”
“Yes, other than those magic words.” She laughed.
“No, I guess not.”
“It’s all chemistry, and that’s what you’ll find here, too. Maybe a long forgotten chemistry, but simple chemistry just the same.” As she worked this powder into the root, it slowly changed its color again, this time, into a bright, emerald green.
“So, what’s in that jar?”
“Oh, you don’t want to know…really…and yes, I will be washing my hands before I do anything else.” And she laughed again. A really delightful laugh, too, thought Reggie.
When the root was sufficiently treated, she closed the jar and produced a small wire hook that was probably nothing more than one of those used to hang Christmas ornaments. She forced the small end through the root, much like baiting a fish hook, and then held up her finished work with a sense of pride.
“There you go. One Boomerang.” She gently dropped the root and its hook into a small plastic zipper bag and sealed it. “Just hang this in the center ring of your Dream Catcher between the Dream Catcher and the glass. That’s the important part, it has to be right next to the glass.”
“And what do I owe you?” asked the rock star, reaching for his wallet.
“Dinner!” she answered without hesitation. “Here, tomorrow night. I’ll cook.”
“Cook?” he said with reservation as he pointed to the stoves next to him. She laughed again.
“No…nothing from there. Upstairs. I live upstairs and I actually cook and eat real food, too. No roast Hansel, no grilled Gretel…I promise.”
“Well, that’s comforting…” he said with a genuine relief.
“Be here just before the shop closes at six, and you can tell me how this little thing worked as well,” she said, handing him the envelope.


Angela’s Coven

Books Coming Soon

The Great Northern Coven (Book 2 in the Cabbottown Witch Novels, October 2012)
“In the wilds of Alaska, a bush pilot, haunted by his past, becomes lost in an ancient prophecy. And the only one who can save them all has forgotten… she was born a witch!”


You Tube: Search: Bruce Jenvey


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