Monday, December 18, 2017

20 Ghost Romance Plot Ideas & Writing Prompts

'Tis the season for Ghosts, and I'm in the mood for some Christmas Spirits. How about you?
The days are shorter and the nights longer, colder and the perfect time to cuddle up with a ghost story.

Nothing rends my heart than that of love stories, a love that transcends everything even death. The euphoria of falling in love and being consumed by it only to find out you can't be with that person you love because of a myriad of ghostly reasons; they're a ghost, you're a ghost, a ghost doesn't want you to be together and might kill if you are. Let the devastation and heartache ensue. I'm talking about Ghost Romance.

Ghost Romance usually falls under the genre Paranormal Romance, but also could be Gothic Romance. Which means that the story needs to follow the Romance genre's conventions and not written with the main intent to scare, as it is in horror. That is not to say your story can't be creepy or scary. I much prefer the ones that are. But the driving force of a Ghost Romance should be the love story. You know, two people meet, they fall in love and ain't love a bitch. The one hard and fast rule for romance is the HEA, or the happily ever after ending and therein lies the challenge for the author, finding a way for it all to work out and making the HEA believable. Sometimes it truly takes a Christmas miracle. 

So, Night Writer, if you up for the challenge here are some Ghost Romance Plot Ideas and Writing Prompts for some inspiration.

  1. Her marriage is on the rocks and while preparing to put her childhood vacation home up for sale she is visited by her old dead flame.
  2. As a medium, she is no stranger to ghosts but there is one who has visited her on and off throughout her life. Like a guardian angel, he’s gotten her out of some sticky situations. Then one day he comes with news that she is going to be murdered or some other evil is going to befall her and he doesn’t know if he can save her this time. 
  3. She’s finally committed to him and said yes to marriage, but she may not make it down the aisle because of his dead ex-girlfriend.
  4. She’s been dead for decades and no one has ever seen her until now and he isn’t easily spooked. But their romance might be short-lived when an exorcist is brought in. 
  5. He has a reoccurring dream of a woman’s demise only to find evidence that it really happened and now she’s come to him for help.
  6. After surviving a catastrophic event, i.e. train wreck, airplane, a couple find solace in each other only to find out that one of them didn’t actually survive.
  7. She died from a seeming accident, and now she must warn her boyfriend before he comes to same fate.
  8. She’s loved that old house for years and finally buys it only to find it already inhabited by a gentleman who says he’s been waiting for her return.
  9. An evil curse keeps his soul trapped inside that house but she may be the one that can set him free.
  10. He’s given a second chance at life only to be haunted by the one that gave it to him.
  11. Attending an addiction recovery group in the basement of an old church, she becomes drawn to and connects with another member only to find he died years prior from an overdose.
  12. On a business trip, he acquires a 100-year-old antique watch, ring, etc. and its original owner has returned to reclaim it. 
  13. Cleaning out the attic she comes across centuries-old letters or journals. As she falls in love with the words, the man who wrote them comes for a visit.
  14. A deal with the devil or a spell can bring the one he loves back but at what cost and how she has changed.
  15. He’s made the ultimate sacrifice, but as a ghost, he regrets it until he meets a descendant of one he’s saved.
  16. An archaeologist digs up a long-forgotten tomb to find it inhabited by a ghost who now feels indebted/resentful.
  17. The angry residences of a ghost town are out for the developer who is determined to bring it back to its glory days, but one dead cowboy comes to her rescue or is he just a distraction.
  18. She was saved at high sea by a swashbuckling pirate, but when the ship ports she was the only one alive on board.
  19. Stuck in the Underworld he finds one who can help him escape, but now he’s not sure if he wants to if it will mean he’ll have to leave her behind.
  20. While visiting a fountain, mirror, painting, etc. she hears a voice call to her through it. Is it possessed or is it something else?
Read any good Ghost Romance stories lately? Leave me your recommendations in the comments, I'd love to hear about them if you have. 

Wishing you the best this Holiday Season!🌟

Stay Beautifully Haunted!
♥ Shadow.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Dark Fiction.

Dark Fiction, let's define. Fiction that is dark in both setting and themes which explore the more grim side of humanity. It may contain elements of Horror, but it isn't written with the sole purpose of scaring the reader. Since Dark refers more to a story's mood and themes it can be applied to a variety of different genres. Herein lies the confusion, for me anyway.

So, if you write Dark Fiction and have a difficult time deciding which genre your story falls into, know you are not alone. Several genres have similar elements, and then there are like a bajillion sub-genres and sub-sub-genres that it is hard to decipher. Okay, I might be over-exaggerating, but still, there is a ton to wade through, and why does it matter?

Well, besides telling booksellers where to shelf your book, genres are also about readers expectations. Each genre has its own set of conventions that a reader expects to find when they pick up that book and if it doesn't meet those expectations, then you can expect some scathing reviews and a myriad of other unfavorable things could happen. Needless to say, it behooves an author to do their research and pick a suitable genre for their work. A good place to start researching genres, in general, is at They also have examples of books for each category which is very useful.

To help decipher the different Dark Fiction genres, I created this cheat sheet which focuses on the main element/s that drives a particular story. While it by no means covers every possible genre and sub-genre it focuses on those which tend to cross elements and can be the most confusing.

What do you think, Night Writers, are there other Dark Fiction genres that have crossover elements you find hard to determine? Are there any other unique identifiers that should be added to these genres? Let me know what think in the comments.

As always, Night Writers, stay beautifully haunted!

❤ Shadow.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Night Writer - Kathryn Hills

Romance author, ghost hunter, and lover of things that go bump in the night.
Kathryn Hills ~ Hauntingly Romantic

I am about to give you a treat. It's Thanksgiving and I'm so thankful to have been introduced to the Hauntingly Romantic Author, Kathryn Hills and her book Haunting Highland House. I think you will be too.

About Kathryn

The rich history and many mysteries of New England are the perfect backdrop for Kathryn’s books. Winding roads lined by old stone walls, forgotten cemeteries, grand homes with shadowy pasts... All sparks for her imagination. Whether it’s a quaint seaside town or the vibrant city of Boston, it’s easy for this “hauntingly romantic” author to envision the past mingling with the present.
Taking it further—to have her characters experience the past or present, opposite to “when” they belong—is the fun part. No surprise, some of Kathryn’s favorite stories involve time travel. And ghosts! Sprinkle in some magic, and you’re off on a great adventure.
When not writing, she’s exploring history and taking photographs of the beautiful landscape that surrounds her. Kathryn shares her colonial home with those she loves most—her wonderful husband, daughter, and three crazy dogs.

Haunting Highland House

She’s looking to escape her man troubles. Instead, she finds the man of her dreams.
There’s only one problem. He’s dead.

Living in a haunted house and uncovering a gateway in time were not in the job description when Samantha Merrill agreed to be the property manager of Highland House. Old photos of the reclusive master of the manor captivate her, yet she’s terrified when he appears out of nowhere. How can Robert Pennington be making love to her by the parlor fireplace when he died over a century ago? 
Robert Pennington is a powerful industrialist charged with caring for an ailing father, a meddling mother, and two wayward siblings. Weary of his burdens, he longs for change. Is he ready for a woman from the future? His disciplined world turns upside down when the mysterious Samantha Merrill crashes his sister’s birthday ball. He is wildly attracted to this intriguing beauty, but is it magic or mischief motivating her? When Sam vanishes before his eyes, he knows only one thing for certain.  He wants her back.

Dressed in the same clothes she remembered—tight pants and boots, a billowing white shirt—tonight the shirt was open exposing his chest. And what a chest. Thick muscles tapered down to well-defined abs. Dark hair trailed into a thin line, disappearing beneath his waistband. She swallowed hard, redirecting her stare to his profile. His hair was longer, more unruly, his jaw darkened by a beard. It had only been one day since she’d seen him, and yet he looked weary and worn now.
Summoning all her strength, she stepped into the light before him. Her heart pounded as if it would explode right out of her chest. “Why are you haunting me?” she demanded in her bravest ghost hunter voice.
“Haunting?” He gave a bitter laugh though he still did not look at her. “Is that what I am doing? I believed you to be the spirit, sent to torment me.” Vacant eyes traveled up her body and then widened. “Samantha!” He jumped to his feet and snared her wrist. “Dear God, where have you been?”
“Let me go,” she cried, twisting in his grasp.
“But Samantha, it’s me.” He pulled her close.
“Help!” She yelled, though no one would hear.
“I’ll not harm you, I swear.” His arms encircled her. “How could I hurt the woman I love?”
“No,” she cried fighting with renewed strength. “I don’t know you.”
“You do, Samantha, remember. Remember me,” he commanded. He captured her face, forcing her to look at him. His voice dropped to a pleading whisper. “It’s just the doorway working its evil. You know me. You must.”
Sam went still. She dared to meet his gaze. He was sinfully gorgeous, like some dark fallen angel. Golden firelight flickered across his features. It was madness. She was alone in a far off mansion with a stranger, and yet…
Sanity fought for a toehold. “I’m not who you think I am,” she rasped barely able to speak.
He caressed her cheek. “I know everything about you.”
“Don’t,” she warned, looking away. She squirmed against him until he released her with a tortured groan.
“Then all is lost. There is nothing more.” Wavering as if about to collapse, he sank to the couch. “You are only a dream then, another hallucination. Fool doctors with their laudanum.” He shook his head as if to clear it. “I’ve longed for you, night after night, alone in the darkness. Prayed you would come back to me.” His gaze roamed over her. “I remember everything. Your hair falling over me, the smell of your skin, your sweet lips parting. How can you not?”
Mesmerized, Sam was powerless against the dark magic he wove. Solid ground crumbled beneath her feet. Her body pulsed where they had touched. The very air around them seemed electrified.
With a low growl, he pulled her down into the space between his legs and wrapped his arms around her again. This time, she didn’t fight. “You knew me once, took me deep into your body. Let me love you. If only we could travel back in time.”

Book Trailer

What’s next from Kathryn?

Hellfire and Handbaskets – A Time Traveler’s Journey (Book 2), published by The Wild Rose Press, is set to release in early 2018.

Here’s a teaser...

Hellfire and Handbaskets

Halloween night is the wildest shift anyone can pull. It’s hell in the ER. Dr. Rick Hauser wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s an Army veteran, a hardened combat medic, who thinks he’s seen it all. Until she storms into his life.

What’s left of Hauser’s heart is still on the battlefield. Last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a mystery woman. But when Rick finds Amelia on the streets, he ignores the warning shots, firing off in his head, and takes her home. In less than twenty-four hours, she’s upended his self-protected world. Even his dog, Rocky, is in love.

Amelia Pennington is not just a pretty face. She’s a time-traveler. A medical student from 1895, forced to flee a madman. She’s been in trouble before, but this time everything she loves is at risk. Can a reluctant hero be the key she’s searching for?

Q & A:

Was there anything specific that drew you to this genre?
It was a dark and stormy night. Funny, I know. And oh so cliché, but for me those words always spark interest. A heroine (hero, or both), alone in a haunted mansion or scary castle. Unknown dangers. The weird, mysterious, and frightening. Strange things, lurking around dark corners. Shivers, and goosebumps, and I love it!
My affair with gothic romance started early. While others in elementary school were reading babysitting adventures, tales about animals, and biographies of famous people, my favorite books were spooky. Kids versions of Dracula and Frankenstein. My poor mother. Makes me wonder if she had to sit through teacher conferences, hearing about my odd taste in reading material. Although, she never said. Probably because she loved a good story as much as me.
In my teen years, I discovered mainstream romance. I became a big fan of the romance genre overall. Historicals, contemporaries, mysteries, and later paranormals as they grew in popularity. Far-off lands, grandiose adventures. Plus, the guarantee of a happily-ever-after made romances my go-to reads throughout college, and still to this day. Yet I’ve never forgotten my roots as a gothic reader.

What is your favorite Dark/Gothic novel?
I have so many, it’s hard to pick just one. They span centuries. But, as I mentioned, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817) Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820), Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) Daphne de Maurier’s Jamaica Inn (1936), Ann Rice’s Interview With A Vampire (1976) and The Mummy or Ramses the Damned (1989), and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian (2005) make my list of all-time favorites.
I’ll share one more—a favorite because my mother introduced me to it—The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle (1942). Here’s the teaser from my old book’s tattered jacket…
One exuberant April morning Roderick Fitzgerald and his sister Pamela were exploring the famous cliffs of North Devon in search of a house. An alluring gorse-lined smuggler’s lane led them to the derelict but beautiful Cliff End, untenanted for fifteen years. The owner spoke vaguely of “disturbances” the last tenant had experienced…
Yup, hooked! There’s also a 1944 movie version, starring Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey, if you enjoy black and white cinema.

What is your favorite Gothic motif/theme/element? Any particular reason why?
Hands down, the haunted mansion. I love exploring great homes with troubled pasts. Haunted settings, for me, are especially exciting when characters can’t escape the conflict unless they work together, face their worst fears, take on the ghosts, slay the monsters. Mysterious, secluded, abandoned, often diseased, or decaying destinations… Step it up hero and heroine if you want your happy ending!

Which resource/s helped you the most in researching for or writing your series?
I rely heavily on personal experiences, many of which are paranormal. Exploring haunted locations is a regular thing for me. Living in New England, there are ample opportunities. Once impressions are set in my mind—my muse kicked into overdrive after a spooky adventure—I set about researching the history. For example, Haunting Highland House was inspired by a Victorian mansion on Cape Cod–Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA. It’s a real place. You can visit. The history surrounding the time-setting (the late 1800’s) is something I explored later, through countless books and in every form of research material I could find. Facts meld with my imagination and personal experiences to create a book world.

Do you have plans to continue writing in this genre? If so, is there anything you would be willing to share about it?
Absolutely! These types of stories, inspired by paranormal investigations and haunted history, are a huge part of what I’ve got coming up. Book 2 in my Time Traveler’s Journey series (Hellfire and Handbaskets) lures readers deeper into the frightening world of time-travel and the dark magic that created it. The setting is the city of Boston, a modern-day hospital, and a medical school in 1895. And, the “Lair of Lucifer” a.k.a. America’s first subway system. An ominous place, under construction beneath the teeming city streets.
These books also explore woman’s issues—aspirations, sexuality, and their inevitable clashes with the values of society. Central themes of Gothic romance, going back to stories like Dracula. I challenge the notion of a “woman’s place,” both in turbulent Victorian America and today. Whether she’s a modern woman traveling back in time, or a lady from the 1800’s stuck in our present day, it’s tough for my heroines. But their heroes get dragged along for the ride, so it’s all good. 😊

Any advice or insights for other Gothic writers?
Write what you love. And if possible, experience first-hand what you’re writing about. A wise man—renowned paranormal investigator John E.L. Tenney—told me something inspiring. Paraphrasing here, he said… “If you can visit a haunted house, explore the mysteries of the universe, experience the paranormal safely, then do it. Your life will be richer for it.” Obviously, don’t put yourself in harm’s way or break any laws, but get out there. Visit a place, hear the sounds, smell the air. Feel it.
I hope my writing is enriched by my personal experiences. I know my imagination skyrockets when I hunt ghosts or stumble through history’s mysteries. I also hope I’ve inspired you (the reader and/or writer) to explore that “dark and stormy night.” You never know what you’ll discover. Maybe the best, new story. One I’ll put on my “favorites list.”

Where you can find Kathryn. 
Like, Follow, do what you must to stay connected, you will not regret it.


Twitter:  @AuthorKathrynH

Thank you so much for sharing, Kathryn!

And Thank You, Night Writers, as always, Stay Beautifully Haunted!

♥ Shadow

Monday, November 13, 2017

3 Tips for Writing Creepy Sounds + A Haunting Playlist

Writing Gothic fiction has so much to do with setting the atmosphere. While using all of the senses are important to creating this, sounds are a powerful emotional vehicle.  Not only do they evoke emotion they also can symbolize a character's internal environment.

I'm always challenging myself to find different ways to describe sounds that will bring that sense of foreboding or create a dark atmosphere. While there are certain words that incite an immediate eerie sense, sometimes it can feel clique, overused and readers may be desensitized to them. And meh, is never the reaction I want when writing dreadful things. Now, I'm by no means suggesting to never use these, but if every door creaks and there is a crash after every lightning flash, it might be time to switch it up a bit.

So, here are 3 tips for writing creepy sounds.

1. Add a sound description that one doesn't normally associate with the thing making the sound. For example, the birds barked from the treeline to warn us of what lay beyond. Or, the fire cackled mocking my attempts to concoct the perfect brew. You get the gist. Providing a sound that isn't expected naturally puts one at unease, consciously or unconsciously.

2. Use onomatopeia, by writing the sound itself. An example would be writing tick, tock as the sound of a clock. It places the reader deep within a character's experience. It is also a nice way to zoom in tight on a sound, silencing everything else. This a cinematic approach but can be just as powerful in the written form.

3. Use metaphors and similes. For example, the storm growled where it crouched on the ridge ready to pounce, and the floorboards moaned like an old woman beneath his feet. Sometimes attaching a creepy image to a sound can enhance its spookiness.

How do you approach writing eerie sounds? Let me know in the comments.

My Haunting Playlist for Writing.

Not all writers write to music. I am one that does. Music and sounds are both powerful in conveying emotions and immediately put me in the place I need to be to write a specific scene.  So, I thought I'd share the link to Shadow's Haunting Playlist on Spotify, my playlist of haunting tunes for writing. Enjoy and let me know if you have other tunes to add. I love to discover new haunting music.

As always, stay beautifully haunted,

♥ Shadow.

Monday, October 16, 2017

5 Podcasts for Gothic Writers

I find podcasts to be really useful in voids of time, like commutes and shuttling my spawn around. From informative to entertaining, they can turn empty moments into more productive ones, and they certainly beat staring aimlessly at brake lights.

So, in no specific order, I've compiled 5 useful podcasts for Gothic writers.

1. Helping Writers Become Authors

This podcast, by award-winning author, K.M. Weiland, gives a lot of great information on the craft of writing in general and all the episodes are worth checking out. But, here are a few episodes that are particularly helpful for writing Gothic fiction.

2. Writing Excuses

This is an award winning podcast for writers, and there are a lot of fantastic episodes as they are in season twelve. Before you break out into a sweat over the volume of episodes, these podcasts are short, about fifteen to twenty-five minutes. And here a few places to start.

  • Season 11 - Elemental Genres. This was a really great season with a lot of information on genres and there are podcasts dedicated to Horror, Mystery and Thrillers, with information that can be applied to Gothic Fiction, but there is a bonus podcast in this season that is a real gem called, Horrifying the Children with Darren Shan.
  • Mystery Plotting: Discusses plotting principles for any discovery and revelation plot and is not just for the Mystery genre.
  • Horror: Discusses what makes a story scary and tools for writing tension.
  • Lovecraftian Horror: More great writing tools for Dark Fiction.

3. This is Horror

This is a podcast dedicated to Horror fiction, writers and readers. While I don't define Gothic Fiction as being synonymous with Horror, there are a lot of tools within this genre that are applicable to Gothic Fiction. A great episode to start with is TIH 123: Writers’ Craft Talk: Writing Suspenseful Scenes with 16 Writers 

4. In Our Time

BBC Radio runs this podcast hosted by Melvyn Bragg and it has a wealth of information from Gothic Literature to Victorian Culture. A great source for research and insights into the Gothic classics. I would start with this episode, In Our Time: Gothic

5. Lore

If you haven't heard about this award winning, critically acclaimed podcast about true life scary stories, you shouldn't waste another minute missing out. I can't say enough about how much I love this podcast. It isn't a podcast on writing but will definitely give you all kinds of story ideas and inspiration.
The storytelling is beautifully done by writer, host and producer, Aaron Mahnke, who is also the author of many supernatural thrillers. A lot of the music is composed by Chad Lawson whose haunting music is often on my writing playlists.
Episodes to start with is ALL OF THEM. Hurry, go now, don't walk, run.

Bonus podcast: A Gothic Story : A podcast by the British Library to accompany an exhibition they held called Terror and Wonder: the Gothic Imagination. It wonderfully chronicles the birth of Gothic Fiction and all of its monsters.

How about you, Night Writers, do you listen to podcasts for inspiration and techniques? If you do, definitely share which ones, I'd love to add them to my list.

As always, stay haunted!

♥ Shadow.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Gothic Elements: Snakes and Toads


Forked tongue, venomous fangs and sinuous coils of sleek scales. What's not to love? The serpent is a beautiful and at times deadly creature and a darling addition to any dark storytellers bag of tricks.

Ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes, is #2 on top ten list of most common fears according to So, if your purpose is to fill your audience with dread, add a snake and your chances of accomplishing this increases, exponentially.

While the Snake has many meanings, I feel its key Gothic meanings are Immortality, Death, Secrets, and Deception. Volumes have been written on snake symbolism and it's made multiple appearances in mythology and folklore, too many to reference here. But, if interested you can visit here to learn more about snakes in mythology and here to learn more about their symbolic meanings.

However, I've chosen a few of my favorite snake associations to share with you. I'd love to hear yours.

Snake and Skull: "Dead men tell no tales" is the line that jumps immediately to mind when I see this symbol. The snake meaning knowledge, secrets, immortality and the skull representing death, the association here to me is the secrets we take to the grave or the knowledge we carry beyond it. It also speaks to life after death, whatever that form might take. We may slough off the mortal coil, but the spirit remains. One of my favorite uses of this imagery is in the Harry Potter books, as the Death Eaters sign is a skull and snake.

Medusa: The Greek creature, a Gorgon (meaning "dreadful"). And whether it is the beautiful woman turned Gorgon after being raped in Athena's Temple or born as one of three Gorgon, she is ultimately beheaded and to me a tragic figure. Medusa is many things, but for me the snakes on her head represent deception. Self-deception, feminine deception, deception of evil or against evil as her head was depicted on shields and doorways to ward of evil and for protection. Carl Jung also refers to her as the devouring mother, which is a theme I'm fascinated with. If you are interested as well, more on that can be found here.

Growing up Medusa ©Shadow Leitner

Serpent and Eve: Another form of deception is the temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden by none other than a serpent. It wasn't a cow or bird that tempted her, it was a serpent. This is where the forked tongued is relevant, its dual nature, but mostly what fascinates me about the symbology of this particular serpent is that everything the serpent has ever represented can be rolled up into this one. Deception, Death, Immortality, Knowledge, Secrets, Poison, Chaos, and the list goes on, this snake bears it all.  It may not be the first time in mythology and folklore that snakes are associated with evil but it has cemented our association of snakes with the Devil.

Ouroboros: The snake or dragon eating its own tail is a symbol that means infinity or the cyclic representation of nature, as well as life and death. Its most notable Gothic association is the use of this symbol in magic, from Ancient Egyptian to Renaissance magic. It is also a prominent symbol used in alchemy. Another example of the Ouroboros is Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent of Norse Mythology. A serpent that grew large enough to surround the world and bite its own tail.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Damballah (Voodoo Loa): A common element in Southern Gothics is Voodoo or Voudoun. The common loa (intermediary between "God" and "Man") depicted is Damballah Wedo (Li Grande Zombi) one of the most important loa and is characterized by a snake or serpent. Damballah represents balance, creation and water/rain and has its origins with the African creation deity, Nzambi. Snakes are often used in rituals invoking this loa who can possess a human and speaks with hisses. More on serpent worship and Li Grande Zombi can be learned here.

Photo by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash


Toads as a Gothic element usually pertain to magic, magical folklore, and superstitions.  I'm sure we've all heard that rubbing a toad on your warts can cure them. Some accounts state you have to impale it on a tree rubbing it on your warts and leave it to die, only then will it cure your warts. Poor frogs. Don't do that, neither rubbing or impaling said toad will cure you of warts.

Though, many a witch's spell call for frog parts. And modern science has confirmed that some frogs do have medicinal properties. However, some botanicals have the word frog in their common name. For example, when the witches of Shakespeare's Macbeth call for Toe of Frog it may actually be a variety of buttercup with the common name of Frog's Foot. Okay, that may be a stretch, but you get the gist.

Many ancient cultures viewed the frog and toad as positive symbols of luck, fertility, and protection One such example is the Ancient Egyptian Goddess with a frog head Hekt, who was associated with fertility and protection. Frogs were so sacred to Egyptians that they were often embalmed after death. The toad was sacred in other cultures, as well, because they either held the souls of dead children, as told in some European myths or were responsible the cycles of life and death and rebirth.

It wasn't until the Middle Ages that the toad fell from its sacred toadstool, as it were and become an element of evil. This is when they became known as witch familiars, doing the devil's work and were a common ingredient in witches brews and spells, according to the witch hunters of that day. Most accounts of their evilness describe their filthy habitats, cold and slimy skin, calculating eyes and harsh croaking. Hmm...sounds like some of my old boyfriends.

Anyway, I'd love to hear your favorite serpent or toad references or if you've used either in your stories. Let me know in the comments.

Also, if you are on Instagram, be sure to post your snake and/or toad images this week, using the hashtag #DarkInklings for a chance to be featured across my social media channels on Friday. They can be old or new images.

@shadowleitner on Instagram

As always, stay beautifully haunted!

♥ Shadow.