QSFer Jana Denardo has a new poly holiday paranormal book out: “Ghosts, Gangsters And Garland.”
Zia, Dolores and Kane all possess the magic to fight monsters but all they want now is a nice Christmas break. Partners in life and at work as monster-slayers for a group known as the Clipeum, they’ve been risking life and limb keeping humanity safe. They’ve won their hard-earned vacation their boss has set up for them: a week in a small hotel in upper Wisconsin. Their boss mentioned in passing it used to be a gangster retreat in the heyday of prohibition.
Married for some time, Zia and Dolores were surprised to have Kane in their life, first at work and now in their hearts. They’re looking forward to their first holiday today as a threesome and the ladies can’t wait to see their first pagan Yule celebration with Kane. All they want is some quiet relaxation. What they get is something entirely different.
Gangster ghosts, would-be witches, over-enthusiastic children, animated snowmen and a century old former gangster moll who has a little spark still in her add up to a not-so-restful Christmas. Zia, Dolores and Kane trade comfy clothing and relaxation for spellcasting and ghost wrangling. Still they might just be able to rescue themselves a Merry Yule from all the chaos.
Zia stretched, getting out of their SUV. The north wind’s attack brutalized her after the long ride in the hot vehicle. The car’s temperature gauge had read eighteen degrees, which seemed optimistic. Dolores exited the SUV, stomping and huffing, immediately blowing on her gloved hands. Originally from Miami, Dolores’s Puerto Rican-Seminole ancestry seemed to prevent her from adapting to cold. That alone might doom this Christmas adventure before it began. Zia reassured herself that her wife had agreed to this, but she might regret it now.
“Damn, it’s cold enough to freeze your nuts straight off,” Kane groaned as he bailed out of the back seat.
“Luckily, Dolores and I have no worries,” Zia replied. Kane had started as their work partner a year and a half ago, but at Halloween, things changed. The affable druid had become their boyfriend. “You, on the other hand…”
“May become the third woman in our merry band of monster hunters,” Kane moaned.
Zia snorted as Dolores hurried to the trunk to yank her luggage out. She wasn’t waiting for them to get a move on. She hauled it at top speed to their hotel without stopping to appreciate their surroundings.
Zia, on the other hand, lingered, studying the building. It looked more like a colonial mansion than a hotel. Its columnated front had been festooned with real boughs of pine. Wreaths decorated three stories’ worth of windows, and pine trees ringed the building without crowding it. They were distant enough to allow sunlight to kiss the building but close enough to assure visitors they were in the north woods. A sprawling garden jaunted off from one side, heading around to the back of the hotel.
She looked forward to having the rest that was due to their little group. Working with the Clipeum—originally named ‘Shield’ centuries before, when Latin was more important—there was always another monster to slay or demon to exorcise. They didn’t take off for the holidays. Luckily there were plenty enough of the groups that did battle with them, so vacations could be had. The Clipeum had more applicants than they knew what to do with. Ever since a band of flying heads had eaten an entire colony in New York in the late 1600s, the Europeans had been forced to admit these things were real, and the age of Enlightenment, which had driven out belief in the supernatural, gave way to the Age of Awareness. They were forced to admit the rest of the world, which had always believed, were right. Later, Napoleon had harnessed an army of demons to conquer the neighbors. By then groups like the Clipeum had cropped up and become more important than ever.
Monster hunting was hard; sometimes it was just silly. What Zia hoped for most was that monsters and other craziness would be utterly absent up here in Wendigo country. Nothing would ruin Christmas faster than a ravenous, cannibalistic corpse monster like the Wendigo.
Zia dragged her luggage inside the lobby. With its open sitting room, the space wasn’t quite what she expected. Zia wasn’t sure why she anticipated art deco splendor other than this was once a gangster resort. Back in the prohibition days, Al Capone and his ilk came to the North Woods of Wisconsin for relaxation and to hide out. It was still remote today, but back then it had to have been very difficult to navigate to these resorts. There wasn’t a hint of art deco; just a lot of rustic wood, plain but pretty. A large stone fireplace dominated the sitting room, and along the wall opposite it, a fat Christmas tree sat unadorned.
“I’m ready to climb inside that fireplace,” Dolores said, and Zia snorted.
Jana is Queen of the Geeks (her students voted her in), and her home and office are shrines to any number of comic book and manga heroes along with SF shows and movies too numerous to count. It’s no coincidence that the love of all things geeky has made its way into many of her stories. To this day, she’s disappointed she hasn’t found a wardrobe to another realm, a superhero to take her flying among the clouds, or a roguish starship captain to run off to the stars with her.