Sunday, October 23, 2011

This wicked little holiday known as Halloween...some little known facts.

Halloween is a favorite holiday of many. It is a holiday when costumes and candy rules… a time when witches are reputed to be in abundance…a time when zombies, princesses and the latest popular mask craze can be seen, without installing fear, strolling down the sidewalks.

But, how did all this begin?

Halloween can be traced back to the 16th century. It has Scottish origins and is associated with All Hallows Day, the night before All Hallows Eve (originally called Even, referring to evening), and was a mass day for all saints. Basically, in a nutshell, it is considered to be a Pagan holy time.

Was the Jack-O-Lantern always associated with the holiday?

No. The Jack-O-Lantern stems from turnip lanterns, which were extravagantly carved in a ritual called souling, a remembrance tribute toward all the souls lingering in purgatory.

Where did the words “trick or treat” get their start?

Originally, “treat or treat” wasn’t part of the holiday. The treats were usually some sort of food that was given (to the poor) in exchange for them praying for the dead. Trick or treat began in Scotland as children would dress up (known as guising) and go door to door in search of treats. However, usually the child would have to earn the treat by performing a trick. i.e. dancing, singing, the telling of a scary tale, etc…

Was the treat always candy?

Not at all. With Halloween being in the fall season and typically considered to be a harvest time, apples (candied and caramelized), roasted pumpkin seeds and even roasted sweet corn were the usual offerings. In Ireland, there was also a customary baked cake called barmbrack too. This fruitcake typically had something such as a ring or a coin baked within it and the ring is reputed to indicate that true love is on the following year’s horizon.

When did costumes appear?

While there had always been costumes involved with the holiday from the beginning, it was through immigration that the holiday took hold in the U.S. However, it wasn’t fully grasped until the 1930’s, when costumes started being mass produced. Afterward, the holiday’s popularity soared with both children and adults and the tradition of the Halloween costume party evolved.

Speaking of Halloween parties, what is one of the little known games involved?

While most everyone is familiar with bobbing for apples and the telling of ghost stories, there are some traditions that remain unknown in popular culture. One such tradition is Scottish in origin and is called divination. This is where a person carves a long strip of apple peel and tosses it over their shoulder. The landed peel is reputed to take the shape of and offer the first letter of the first name of the person’s future spouse.

Was the holiday always associated with spooks?

Not actually. It is thought that the holiday’s association with the Pagans and the occult has created this “fright” persona, stemming from Christianity’s negative attitude celebrating Paganism. It is probably due to this misconception that today the holiday is widely considered to be a night when witches and boogeymen travel freely. With this notion having been ingrained into our psyche, the holiday is now tightly associated with monsters and fright and allowing a robust monetary gain opportunity through scary movies and haunted attractions. 


Just the other day, I was pondering how good it is to be alive. Enjoying the point of very existence. Through the wind and the sun and the rain, it is been both invigorating, as well as pleasantly inviting. As a matter of fact, I can say I enjoyed every minute of it.
I have watched the neighborhood children run and play and I have seen lovers embracing in the dusk. I have watched young hatchlings becoming mature, only to soar away, never to be seen again. And…I have seen more than my share of horrendous storms that literally terrified me. Through it all, I’d have to admit that it truly has been both a wonderful and serene life filled with mostly joy and happiness.
However, in more recent days, my feelings have grown somewhat darker and frightening. They were subtle changes, but changes no less. These eerie changes are not normal, at least not the normalcy I had once known. It is excruciatingly painful at times, and I so desperately want to cry out, simply to aid and assist in eliminating it. I know there has to be millions of us that feel this way. But, no one will listen to our pleas. Our cries will never be heard. No, no one will care whether I pass on, disappear, and am completely gone. It is a loneliness that has festered, and I suppose it will continue to do so.
For, and its been getting more and more frequent, I am now forced to endure the horrible fact that the ones I have known my whole life, are now disappearing. The very ones that I have watched grow and blossom. It began occurring one by one, but is now to the point that it is unpredictable how many will be lost?
Call it a premonition if you will, but I know someday soon, I’ll be forced to succumb to the very same exact demise. I too will disappear into the oblivion. It is rather disheartening and certainly discerning. But, I know its coming…I can feel it!
It began as just subtle changes, but has become more and more prevalent. I am unable to move as I once was and now am somewhat stiff. It is discouraging and even down right depressing at times. I do my best to contend with it and consol myself.
However, no one will ever know and in there eyes, is probably considered by many to be a meaningless existence. I would wager to say that from most points of view, the plight I harbor, outside my personal point of view, is not worthy of caring about, or even considering for most. They don’t care. I do have this wild notion that many believe it to be a wonderful and glorious thing. Of course, I don’t find it to be all that glorious. On the contrary, I don’t want to die and find it quite horrible and maybe even despicable. I have grown to often wonder why, myself and many others, have inadvertently become the chosen ones, and therefore, are forced to endure and confront such heinousness? Why must I suffer with something that others find joy in? It doesn’t seem fair.
Today I finally may have come to grips with the potential inevitable that besieges me. I have closely contrasted and compared the symptoms. My terrifying conclusion is that they are one in the same.
I will consol myself, and accept the wind rustling past to be both invigorating and frightening, as it becomes cooler. And, it is nowhere near inviting. Nights are increasingly becoming worse. It is a time that at one time I relished but now am completely fearful of. And, each day’s warm glow is increasingly apparent to be a false fa├žade that I can no longer feel or appreciate. It is as though the grim reaper is chronically standing nearby, yet completely out of sight, and simply waiting. He is, much like most others, neither understanding nor sympathetic.
I scream out in indescribable horror. Yet not a sound will be heard. I flutter, aimlessly down, across and with, the cold fall breeze. I know it is to my inevitable demise and death. I can feel it coming quickly now and gaining speed. I tumble, over and over, across the invisible force, constantly falling.
I’m fading in and out rapidly now. The glowing Jack-O-Lantern I’ve landed softly beside, and come to rest partly against, feels inviting…as I lie amongst my kind.


This week I have been interviewed by Nishi Serrano for posting on her Wandering Hallows Night Blog. By the way, Nishi is also a wonderful writer. Stop by and check out her tales. You may be surprised.

And...I've updated my main website a bit. Check it out.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The fine line between reading and writing.

In recent days I haven’t updated my blogs as often as in the past and I am truly sorry for this. I would like to say that it was due to procrastination, but that wouldn’t be true.
Since being laid off from engineering in the middle of 2008, I have simply accepted any and all menial forms of employment, most of which were considered part-time, paid little to nothing and more than once I found myself working two jobs in order to obtain 40 hours.
Regardless, while being a cashier or a stocker or a meatcutter (no, even this one paid less than 10 dollars an hour, a product of corporate greed), each did have two things in common. They aided me with keeping my financial head above water and they offered the opportunity to extensively write. Well, times change for both good and the bad and those days now appear to be gone forever as I am now back on track, utilizing my technical knowledge, receiving a good salary, having a future and no longer having to juggle a two job schedule. But, there is a dark side. Along with this job came the need to substantially cut back my writing hours. Therefore, you could say it’s a catch-22.
At first, this turn of events troubled me. Sure, I was certainly grateful for gaining more than adequate employment. I just resisted giving up my writing timeframes.
Stephen King has been quoted as saying if you don’t have time to read then you don’t have time to write. Another of my favorite writing adages is to write, whether it is a page, paragraph or sentence, at least once per day. Both of these adages really hits home with me. However, King has been the only writer, as far as I know, that combines reading and writing in the same sentence. I considered this when I began to form a battle plan, dead set on making it congeal with the extensive working week. It took a little bit of time, adjusting along the way, but I have figured it all out. Of course I had to sacrifice quantity a bit. None-the-less, each day now includes both reading and writing.
How did I do it?
In recent days, I have been commuting and working in and out of a large metropolitan city and traffic can often be rather trying. This is where the daily reading comes into play. Did you know that the Kindle will read to you? I simply plug it into my stereo and let the words take me to another world as I inch along bumper to bumper. By the time the traffic breaks free, I am usually knee deep into the tale and listen for the 80 mile ride home. When I get there, most of the time, I find it rather hard to turn off the story and find myself oddly looking forward to the morning commute so I can read again.
As for the writing, I fit this in on evenings and weekends. As mentioned earlier, my quantity of writing was forced to decrease, but there is writing none the less.
Life can be a rat race. Bills need paid, food needs put on the table and little luxuries are desired. Well, these things take money and unless you are a King, Clancy or any of the numerous other bestselling writers able to afford to simply write, the only way these things can be achieved is through employment.
Therefore, choices must be made. Either you can attempt to fit it all in, or you can simply give it up, being content with placing that writer dream on the back burner. Well, giving up is not within my spectrum and so I’ve incorporated, tightened and pursued. Self-discipline is a key word here. Believe me, after working 10+ hours, the last thing I want to do is work some more. But, I am a writer. That’s what I do and it requires endless hours of dedication. So, I persevere.
Although, when it comes to certain things, I’m no different than many others and do have my own little unwavering quirks. And with tonight being the premiere of the second season of The Walking Dead, you can bet I won’t be writing…

You may have noticed that the tales from my series The Daily Death are no longer available on Staying Scared. This is because I am in the process of final edits and intend to publish an ebook called The Daily Death: How I Killed My Co-Workers in 30 Days on Amazon. It will include all the tales plus a special tale that will not be available anywhere else…my very own death: The Death of Thomas. I’m also considering adding a few previously published pieces that pertain to the death genre. I hope to have it available soon. Here’s the cover…

Also, watch for my tales in these books:


And Twitch is still available at Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble dot com for only 99 cents.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Exorcising My Deepest Fear...a special guest blog by Hunter Shea

As a kid growing up in the 70s, there were two things that scared the hell out of me. One was thieves breaking into our house in the middle of the night. I grew up in the Bronx and the decade of the 70s was not kind to New York City and its suburbs. Fear was everywhere. The Son of Sam was only a mile away, haunting our days and nights.
                Number two, hands down,  was ghosts. I could have cared less about monsters under the bed, or demonic possession like I had recently seen at a very tender age in The Exorcist, or your everyday werewolves, mummies or vampires. They were all make believe, and some of them were downright silly. But, being a good little Catholic, I believed that everyone had a soul, and when you died, your soul was free to roam, at least if you were unfortunate enough to miss the stairway to heaven or lucky enough to avoid the trapdoor to hell. So it was entirely plausible that ghosts did exist, and when you thought about all of the people who had lived and died over the ages, they were probably everywhere!
                Things got worse for me when we moved out of our apartment, where we were surrounded by lots of nice, living folks, to our first house. The vastness of the rooms, the empty corners and silence were a little overwhelming for me. Every creak and groan was a ghost. I’d never heard the concept of a “house settling” before, and I was convinced that something lived in the attic. It didn’t help that my mother would joke about it, even going so far as to name my imaginary ghost Harry. Wonderful, now it had a name, making it all the more real. “Hey Harry, can you please keep it down up there?”
                Nights were often spent in tense anticipation under the covers, every little sound sending my heart and imagination racing. They were especially bad if I had just watched an episode of In Search Of, more so if it had been about ghosts. Leonard Nimoy was and is the narrator of my night terrors.
                Of course, I grew up and out of my fear of ghosts in our house, but my belief never wavered. I’ve had instances as an adult, with corroborating witnesses, that have only solidified that belief, at times resurrecting the little Hunter holding his breath because I had just heard the step outside my room creak. When it came to the point where I could no longer bottle up my feelings on the matter, I took to my computer and started writing. I spent years conjuring up a fictional story about a man hunting for ghosts, putting myself in every page. It was like letting steam escape from a boiling kettle. Oddly enough, now that it’s complete, I feel like I’ve only just begun. Because I still very much believe, and I’m left with more questions than answers. Only now, I run to the odd sound or sight, ever curious, spine still tingling. Guess it’s time to head back to my computer.

Hunter Shea’s book, Forest of Shadows, is available through Samhain Publishing and all online book sellers.
Here's a little about the book, Forest of Shadows:
The dead still hate!
John Backman specializes in inexplicable phenomena. The weirder the better. So when he gets a letter from a terrified man describing an old log home with odd whisperings, shadows that come alive, and rooms that disappear, he can’t resist the call. But the violence only escalates as soon as John arrives in the remote Alaskan village of Shida. Something dreadful happened there. Something monstrous. The shadows are closing in…and they’re out for blood.

Forest of Shadows is Hunter Shea’s first full-length horror novel, but his short stories have appeared in dozens of magazines and he is also the author of the critically acclaimed novella, Father Exorcist.  His second novel with Samhain, Evil Eternal, will be out next spring. Hunter Shea is the dark alter-ego of an ordinary man who happens to write children’s books, the first of which will be published by a division of Random House in 2012.

He lives in New York with his family and savage rescue cat, where he’s working hard on his next novel.  Visit -- he’s always happy to hear from you.
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