Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween & Samhain!

Graveyards and Portals and Spells – Oh My!

Me and my family of zombies
Halloween, 2011
Halloween is my absolute favorite time of year! I grew up in the Midwest where October meant a chill in the air, fallen leaves, hot chocolate and football.

Now I live in the desert where it has been known to be in the ‘90’s on Halloween. Now, instead of worrying if our costumes will keep us warm, we consider if it will make us sweat!

But I’ve found the Halloween spirit flourishes in the American desert southwest. Adults and kids alike don costumes, trick-or-treaters come in flocks of faeries and vampires, ghosts and Harry Potters. Our neighborhood is like Mardi Gras carnival, a giant block party with food, wine and happy kids running and swirling, hyped up on sugar.

The fantasy writer in me loves the opportunity to be someone else for a night. Each year I ponder – Will I wear a saucy, sassy, sexy costume (leaving my frumpy shorts, T-shirt and flip flops in the closet)? Or will I go for the scare factor with some spooky contacts, fake blood and face paint?

While writing Emily’s House (Book 1 of the Akasha Chronicles), I researched ancient Celtic myth and lore. For the ancient Celts, the holiday that we now call Halloween was known as ‘Samhain’ (pronounced SAH-win). The Celts believed that the end of October/beginning of November was the best time to commune with the spirits of the dead and to go to the “other” worlds. The Celts had a strong belief in the existence in worlds parallel to our own. The legends are full of hapless souls wandering into the “Otherworld,” and when they found their way back – if they found their way back – those they had loved had long ago perished.

It was believed that around Samhain, the ‘veil’ between the worlds was at its thinnest, thus making it easier to slip between the worlds. So be careful on Halloween not to accidentally walk into a portal!

Day of the Dead Festival Goers
Tucson, 2011
Isn’t it weird that other cultures around the world have a similar belief? I live less than a hundred miles from Mexico, so my hometown of Tucson is enriched by its Mexican-American roots. In Mexico, they celebrate the “Day of the Dead.” In Tucson, there is a parade that ends in a festival with Mariachi bands, Mexican dancers and a festival atmosphere. It is a time when families visit the graves of their deceased family and friends, leaving offerings of food and flowers. Isn’t it strange that a half a planet from each other, two different cultures have a belief that around the end of October is the best time to converse with the spirits of the dead?

Do you think it’s coincidence? Or is there something to it?

Whether fact or fiction, the spookiest time of the year is just too fun not to use in a story! In Emily’s House, Emily and her friends have to poke around an ancient Irish graveyard at night, looking for a magical object. Then they end up at the Sacred Well – a portal to the Netherworld – on Halloween! Perfect time to ‘pierce the veil’ and travel to another dimension.

In Emily’s Trial, Emily once again has some portal hopping to do. Lucky for her, Halloween is near! And what better place for a teenager and her friends to be on Halloween than a cemetery, complete with a full moon and crypts. What will happen when she opens a portal to another world in a graveyard, surrounded by the dead? Will the spooky energy of such a place affect her spells?

I had a blast writing Emily’s Trial! I hope you enjoy reading it :-D

Excerpt of Emily’s Trial:

The Apocalypse didn’t start with four horsemen, harbingers of the horror to come. It didn’t start with a plague, or pestilence, or even zombies rising from the dead.
It came slowly and without warning. It crept up on people in the shadows, no more than a vague darkness that spread like an unseen cancer.
And it wasn’t set into action by a divine hand. A teenage girl was the catalyst for the End Times.
I should know. I’m the one that started it.
I didn’t plan to. I didn’t want to start the End Times, and I’m not evil.
Madame Wong taught me to tell the truth, and so here it is. I’m the one responsible for the Apocalypse. And this is the story of how I unwittingly unlocked the door to the darkness; of how a Priestess of the Order of Brighid, entrusted with powerful magic that was supposed to be used for the benefit of all humankind, unleashed a force that would destroy it instead.
And it all began with desire.


  1. I still live in the midwest, and as I covered up half my costume with a coat yesterday I remembered Halloween's as a kid wearing a puffy winter coat over my costume. No fun!

    "I should know. I’m the one that started it."

    Great line. If I were of the editing mind I'd suggest moving it up a line or two, but you know, this is a fun Halloween post! Either way, great line!

    1. Ah yes, the puffy coat over the costume - I remember it well. It shall be in the mid-80's today at the start of my Halloween festivities, and I shall be dewing beneath my velveteen Lady Stark costume! Wishing for a bit of the cold. Winter is NOT coming to Tucson.
      Thanks for stopping by and for the comment :-)

  2. Happy Hallowe'en, Miss Natalie :D
    I'm with you in commiserating the 90-degrees All Hallows' Eves! Growing up in San Diego, adding in my penchant for velvet, leather and wool capes, this holiday has always been mt fave ... roasting, but a fave. This year's no diiferent: 90 on the beach. Ick.

    Hurricane Sandy cancelled my Salem festivities; but no worries, my Viking (Ozzy Osbourne this year) and I are headed to Napa for a little wine country celebration. Fortunately, it's a wee bit cooler up North and, to boot, no leather or velvet this year: just a lab coat ... Abby Sciuto :)

    Plus, ABCFamily has the sweetest Hallowe'en Day lineup!! No such thing as too much Addams Family or Hocus Pocus!


    1. Oh, too bad you weren't able to go to Salem :-( But nice that you may find some cooler weather north. I am indeed wearing a long, red and gold velveteen frock this year in honor of Lady Stark. I wish that winter were indeed coming, but alas, it shall be mid-80's as we commence our evening of revelry.

      Enjoy my friend, enjoy!

  3. Sorry for commenting here, but I just read your post on Bransford's blog (Nov 5), where you mentioned the quality of traditionally-pubbed books seems to be going down. I thought I was the only one who noticed. Sometimes I think editors must be overloaded because there are gaping plot holes, under-developed characters, bloated backstory, and general sloppiness in books being pubbed in the past few years. Reviewers complain about it, anyone can see it -- why didn't the editor require more revisions?

    New follower. Pleased to meet you! :-)

    1. Nice to meet you too, Lexa.
      I totally agree with what you said. It seems like, when I go to industry conferences, all the editors on the panel are sooo young. Now there's nothing wrong with youth! But these editors are babes - lacking in the breadth of experience that editors used to have.
      And when looking for a freelance editor, the ranks of freelancers are swollen with editors that were let go or nudged to retire during all the downsizing. I'm no industry insider and I have no hard facts for this, but I've wondered if some of the problem is the lack of seasoned editors in NYC these days. Add to it that there are just less editors, so they're really overworked, and it's no wonder we're seeing declining quality.
      So as I writer, I chose to go Indie b/c as I see it, if I'll get little or no editing AND no help with marketing, why should I fork over 90% or more of royalties? As a reader, I'm less and less willing to fork over $10+ for a book when it is no better quality than the books I pick up for $2.99 or less.
      The way I see it, big publishing has not adapted in a meaningful way to the speed-of-light changes in the industry.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


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