Friday, October 30, 2009


I was in New York this week for a few days and snapped this random store-front window that I happened to walk past one evening:

New Yorkers take their Halloween very seriously. I love that. Because it's something I can relate powerfully to.

I love Halloween. I love it for so many reasons. The most obvious of which is, of course, the costumes. As an actor, I can tell you, October 31st is pretty much the High Holiday for those of the thespian persuasion. We are, by nature, a bunch of shameless exhibitionists so there's that, sure -- but it's also a grand opportunity to do a kind of crazy street theatre. A whole evening of character improv, if you will. And you get to show off your costuming skills at the same time. Believe me -- I know some pretty hard-core Halloweenies; you know -- those utter nut-bars who start work on their costume ideas in February...

Even when I was a kid, it was never about the candy (no really!) it was about the chance to dress up like Indiana Jones or Pocahontas or Gene Simmons from KISS (hey - that costume rocked!) and skulk around in the dark, running from house to house, frost-crispy leaves crunching under your feet, following a secret, invisible path lit only by the eerie glow of pumpkin light. (Of course, I also grew up in Edmonton, where that awesome costume was routinely consigned to hidden oblivion beneath a puffy down winter coat -- oh, the tragedy...)

I remember the Halloween when our high school drama department built an elaborate "haunted house" tour that, years later, was still talked about in tones of hushed reverence. I spent three consecutive night perched precariously in an improvised rig as a hanging corpse -- and scared the bejeezus outta scores of friends and family. It was awesome.

As I've gotten older, my fascination with the holiday has deepened, not waned. If you've read WONDROUS STRANGE, you'll know this -- because the story takes place at this particular time of year. In fact, the climax of the story occurs on (and, indeed, because of) Halloween -- or Samhain, as the ancient Celts called it. To them it was a time when the walls between this Earthly realm and the realm of the Otherworld thinned and, in some places, disappeared altogether. The Day of the Open Doors. A transitional time. It was considered by the Celts to be the start of the New Year -- a twilight moment fraught with both peril and possibility. I love that.

I also love that it's a perfectly legitimate excuse for the best party of the year.

Happy Halloween! Merry Samhain! Trick or Treat!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Memories

For my Halloween post, I thought I’d share my favorite Halloween memories from my childhood. There are two things that really stand out. The first was going trick-or-treating with my best friend. She came to my house to go in my neighborhood every year because her house wasn’t in a development. We’d always be giggling the whole time and then, at the end of the night, we’d pour all our candy out on the living room floor, and go through it all and trade. There are photos from nearly every year of my childhood in one of my mother’s photo albums, of me and Monica dressed up in costume and standing in front of my parent’s fireplace (the scene of all important childhood photos, of course!). I love thinking about those days when it was still so exciting to dress up, and when eating candy was something that didn’t induce guilt!

My other favorite memory is the pumpkins. We lived just down the road from a farm that had a big pumpkin patch. And every year, on a perfect fall Saturday, we’d traipse through this patch looking for the perfect pumpkins to pick. My dad was big on helping us find ones that were a little unique, that had character. Then my dad would help us carve them – and this was something he always took very seriously. We never had your standard run of the mill jack-o-lanterns at our house. No, our jack-o-lanterns had personalities and lots of teeth – carved with precision by my engineer father.

These days, candy is really more my enemy than my friend (as in, I just finally lost all those extra baby weight pounds – please, stay away!). I don’t get excited about dressing up, and I don’t live near a pumpkin patch. But the fun for me in Halloween now is watching my kids enjoy it, seeing them in their costumes, staring wide-eyed at their big bags of candy, watching them as they decide on how they want their dad to carve their pumpkins. And maybe that’s why Halloween is such a great holiday – it’s a kids’ holiday, a holiday that makes us remember the joy in being kids and makes us stop and see the world through a child’s eye, if only for a night!

So what’s your favorite Halloween memory?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From Gummy Worms to Game Boys

I'm in the wonderful city of Montgomery, Alabama today. If any of our NG Followers happen to live in this area, I love to see you tonight at Capitol Book and News. I'll be signing books from 4:00-5:30 P.M.

But on to Halloween!

When my boys were little guys they would rather wear a costume than any piece of regular clothing. Will, my youngest, would wake up and slip into his Power Ranger suit one day, alternated by Captain Hook and Buzz Lightyear on the other days. By the time they turned five and seven I had bought every Star Wars costume on the market. So when October 31st rolled around, we were fully prepared.

Halloween is big in Franklin, Tennessee. On West Main Street, lined with blocks of antebellum houses, the residents transform their homes to resemble anything from Amityville Horror to a Charlie Brown Halloween. I’ve heard they have to spend close to $500.00 on candy to keep up with the vast number of children who prefer to Trick or Treat in their prestigious corner of town.

After filling their pillowcases full of every kind of chocolate and hard candy ever made we’d head home to count. The boys would head straight to the bedroom they shared together and dump out their candy onto the floor. Michael and Will would take great pride in meticulously sorting through their stashes and lining up each piece to create their own master candy collage. While my children were delighting in piling their Gummy Worms, Butterfingers, Kit Kat’s and taffy together, all I could see was my soon to be escalated dental bill and silver fillings dotting their beautiful little smiles.

That’s when I got the idea to offer up a barter.

The deal I struck was this: Eat all the candy you want tonight, brush your teeth really well, and then trade it all in for a brand new video game tomorrow. To me, the $85.00 for the newest video game was well worth the cavity prevention! And to them, the hottest new video game was worth any trade, Halloween candy and all! So at the end of the night, the boys handed me what was left of their candy, with the understanding that we’d head directly to Best Buy for the video game of their choice. The best part of the trade is by the time they beat all the levels of the new video game, they had forgotten all about the candy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I've already mentioned my love for the fall season, and part of the reason for that is Halloween. (It also helps that my birthday is the week before, but this year I turned 30, so we'll just forget about that, OK?)

As a kid, I'd always have a sleepover on Halloween night--a time for my friends and I to pool our candy together and determine who gave out the best loot. Of course, we'd also gossip and tell stories about the spooky house three doors down that never gave out candy. As we got older, we'd watch movies like Halloween and Fright Night and gossip about which classmate had the best costume.

As an adult, I've tried to maintain these traditions. My husband and I watched Halloween last night, and I'm planning on a scary movie marathon every night this week. But it is a bit different as you get older, isn't it? It doesn't come as naturally for some reason. I have to remind myself to go buy pumpkins, put up decorations and get a costume. But I think we need to hold onto some of those childhood traditions and excitement, if only to remind ourselves to not take life so seriously, and that having fun can come easily.

I think watching my two-year-old enjoy Halloween is going to be my favorite part this year. He's now starting to understand his role a bit. OK, he only really understands the candy part, but that's something isn't it? I still need to run out and buy him a costume, as the ones I've seen in stores so far have been, um, sub-par. (UPS man? I mean Seriously.)

No matter how everyone is celebrating good ole' October 31st, I hope you all have a safe, fun evening with a few tricks. And treats!

Monday, October 26, 2009

I've been TRICKED!

I cannot believe that this weekend is Halloween. Seriously. Part of my disbelief is due to the frantic rush of finishing A BREATH OF MAGIC and turning the book in. Because everything else in my life pretty much stopped during the last weeks of writing.

Part of my disbelief stems from the fact that I've been dealing with a miserable cold/flu for the past 12 days. Thankfully, I think I'm almost over it. But come on, who pays attention to the calendar when they're begging the headache gods to give them a little relief? Not me, that's for sure.

The rest of my disbelief lies in the fact that how can another year have sped by so quickly? I remember last Halloween like it was...well, like it happened yesterday. I remember taking the twins shopping for costumes, and I remember the argument over said costumes, and I remember explaining to them why they had to wear a coat for trick or treating.

It couldn't have been a year ago.

But apparently, it was.

So this Halloween has swooped in without me really even being aware of it. We haven't carved pumpkins yet--heck, we haven't even BOUGHT pumpkins yet, I don't have one bag of candy in the house to hand out, and I had to look up our local trick or treat date/times this morning. Because I seriously didn't have a clue. We have, however, taken care of costumes. So that's done, at least.

The thing is, because I sort of view Halloween as the opening number to the concert of winter holidays, I'm already feeling behind. In a few short weeks it will be Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, and then New Years. I am so not prepared.

So. Not. Prepared.

And I like to be prepared. Normally, by now, I know what we're doing on Thanksgiving, and I have already begun making lists for Christmas shopping. I've had the carpets cleaned and I'm thinking about when I want to drag out the Christmas decorations (yes, seriously, I really do like to plan ahead). But I've done none of this yet.

Even more to the point, I don't WANT to do any of this yet. I feel like I need at least two more weeks before Halloween. Which brings me to the point of this post. I feel like I've been tricked. That somehow, someone pressed a fast forward button, and time has zipped forward much faster than normal.

It can't be Halloween this weekend. But it is.

I'm not prepared. At all., I think that says it all.