Archive for 'Halloween'

Happy Halloween!
by Jessa Slade on October 31st, 2011

Currently working on: Revising sci fi novella
Mood:  Spacey!

The idea of demonic possession freaks me out. I know that’s kind of strange, considering my Marked Souls series is based on my characters being possessed by demons. But I write romance, not horror, so my demons learn their lessons — thanks to true love — and everyone/thing lives happily ever after*, I promise.

I’ve decided I can’t watch American Horror Story, the new FX series about an evil house, because there isn’t the promise of goodness and light winning out anytime soon. (‘Cuz then the series would be over.) I need my horror in manageable doses. I have to read Dean Koontz only when I have a full day to read the whole book in one sitting because I have to get to the ending where evil loses and goodness overcomes.

I don’t know if demons are real or if evil is “just” another angle of humanity’s many-faceted expression, but as my dad once told me as he handed me money to put in a Buddhist prayer jar, “It’s good to cover your bases.”

Most people know that pumpkins — and in older days, turnips — carved into scary faces were meant to ward off evil that was able to more easily move around our world at this season. Pictured is our blue hubbard squash, carved earlier this year. Stars are often used as a symbol of protection and good luck.

Other instances of apotropaic magic (apotrope being Greek for turn away or avert) include charm bracelets, the gargoyles on the peaks of buildings, painted eyes, and scattering salt.

My personal favorites, though, are old horseshoes, mirrors, and hag-stones — river pebbles with natural holes worn through them.  I picked up almost a dozen new hag-stones walking at Ruby Beach in Washington earlier this month, so I have extra wards for this Halloween. What are you using to keep the ghosts and goblins away? (Besides turning off your porch light and scattering empty candy wrappers in the driveway?)

For all the warding, though, it IS Halloween, and while I am freaked out by wandering unrepentant demons, I don’t mind a good evil movie (that ends in 2-ish hours with me rushing out of the theater on a sugar high and preferably with at least ONE of the characters alive). I don’t know how many characters survive in the upcoming movie The Devil Inside, but the preview certain freaked me out.


Wishing you a safe, sugary, as-many-scares-as-you-like Halloween!

* They live HEA if they deserve to, that is.

Nothing to fear
by Jessa Slade on October 10th, 2011

Currently working on: Shiny new idea!
Mood: Squawky

October here is the darkening month, heading toward Halloween when spooks and specters and Pixy Stix come out to play. I find Halloween very interesting because on the one hand, it is so child-oriented, with Disney princess costumes and reminders to trick-or-treat with a flashlight so cars don’t squish you on the street — emphasizing safe and fun — while on the other hand, ghastly monster masks hang next to fake blood in capsule size, spray can “for covering larger areas”, and gallon o’ blood, presumably for the buffet table.

laughing scared

Researchers suspect people like to be scared because of the emotional thrill of “surviving” a dangerous encounter. The mingled “happy plus horror” experience is on wild display at Nightmares Fear Factory photo stream.

This haunted house takes pictures of people at the heights (depths?) of their fear. And a surprising number of times, they are smiling. And you get the feeling that all of them are giggling wildly when they finally escape.

Fun and fake fear seem to go together like… um, Halloween candy and running around wildly. Maybe that’s why blood and gore and belly guffaws appeal to me. One of the most fun mixes I’ve seen lately is the new movie Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. The movie takes a classic horror scenario — murderous hillbillies stalking innocent college students — and flips it all around.

I don’t know what my biggest fear is. I mean, I’d be scared if I was audited, and I wouldn’t want to be chased by a grizzly, but I don’t think those are unnatural fears. I like spiders well enough, pitch darkness doesn’t frighten me, and I can speak in public without throwing up (although I do sweat a little). But even though it might be useful to have a personal experience with terror to apply to my writing, I don’t think I want any real fears. I’d rather stick with the fun fear where I can giggle afterward.

Do you have any truly terrible fears? And if you’ve ever experienced anything horrifying, did that change your tolerance for fun fear?

Cobwebs and Candy
by Annette McCleave on October 27th, 2009

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. My mother rarely bought candy, so bringing home a pillowcase full of goodies was a dream come true. Yeah, those little pumpkin containers with handles are for weenies. Pillowcases are the best.

Eventually the lure of the candy faded, though.

Halloween became a holiday for kids…until I got my own place. Then, I began to notice the aisles and aisles dedicated to Halloween in my local hardware store. In Canada, where I live, any holiday celebrated before the ice and snow arrive has an edge over Christmas. You can put up lights without freezing your a** off, and because of that, the guys are much more willing to help.

I started small—just a few cobwebs and signs planted in the garden saying Beware! But as I really got into it, I added rats with bloody teeth, Frankenstein coming out of the ground, and a vulture on the front porch. I put flickering orange lights in the windows, warning tape across the porch railings, and a motion-activated ghost that shook and wailed when people came to the door.


But by far the best addition to my spookfest was the sound track. I bought the Martha Stewart CD of Spooky Scary Sounds for Halloween. As the heartbeats and eerie cackles wafted out into the night, it actually stopped a few people from walking up the driveway to the door. Their loss. I always give lots of candy. :-) Honestly, though, I try not to scare the little kiddies too badly. They are my favorite part of Halloween–seeing them all dressed up in their costumes.

Some folks really get into the spook factor and compete to make their houses the scariest on the block. Smoke creeping along the ground, ghoulish figures that rock in a chair on the porch, spiders or flagstones that move. As a bystander, I love them for it–who doesn’t enjoy walking by a detailed haunted house display? Do you enjoy the decorating aspect of Halloween? How far do you go?

Costumes & candy: A holiday to sink your teeth into
by Jessa Slade on October 26th, 2009

Currently working on: Book 3 of The Marked Souls
Mood: Eager

I’m not sure my household can top last Halloweens high point.  We always decorate the front porch for trick-or-treaters.  I put out luminaria along the driveway plus a couple hollowed gourds or a pumpkin on the porch railing.  We have a strobe light kicking, and a nice severed arm pointing to the door bell.

We also have a 3-foot plaster voodoo mask that I don for answering the door, and the chorus girl scream from “The Phantom of the Opera” soundtrack is cued up on the stereo with my XY’s finger on the play button.

pumpkinLast year, about midway through the evening, the bell rang, I picked up the mask and opened the door, XY hit play… and the seven-year-old boy on the porch dropped his plastic pumpkin full of candy and ran as if all the demons of hell were after him — and could be bought off by a fairly impressive haul of Hershey’s products.

Well, I chased him down to return his candy (probably could have caught him quicker if I’d taken off the mask) and gave him a big double handful of Twix, Milky Ways, Pixie Stix, Smarties, and Reese’s PB cups (no off-brand candy bars from me) to make up for my burst of cruel delighted laughter.

In our defense, I think we taught him a valuable lesson about thinking even free candy comes without potential risk.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays because, honestly, it’s low prep and high payout.  I can recycle a costume from a previous year, and nobody expects a freakin’ turkey with multiple side dishes and baked goods, yet I get a monster truckload of candy at the end of the night.  (Admittedly, this is because I over-purchase for the children who for some reason don’t come to our house anymore.)

But pragmatic reasons aside, I love Halloween because of the costumes.  I wish more days of the year involved pretending to be something we’re not — and somehow, through that disguise, revealing something deeper about ourselves. 

(I always wondered what it revealed about the studly jocks in high school that they seemed to gravitate to costumes involving pantyhose and high heels.)

I’ve been a princess, an alien, an overdosed starlet, a peacock, the planet Saturn, the last-minute ghost (who hasn’t?).  So often, it seems like we’re hiding who we are anyway.  At the day job, in front of the in-laws, around the neighbors.  Wouldn’t it just be more fun if we were always wearing costumes?

My boss:  Jessa, can I see you in my office?
Me:  Argh, sorry, matey.  A pirate can’t be constrained by four walls.  I’m off to plunder the treasures in the office supply room!

With enough candy bars, we’d all have the high fructose courage to be ourselves — or anyway, be the ourselves we were meant to be.

If you were picking a costume to reveal the real you, who would you be?