Here we are, in that second Ember Month, you know, Octember. It’s my favorite. It’s the weather, the colors, pumpkins, the smells, the clothes, pumpkins, candy corn, the festivals, the food, costumes, and pumpkins. Creativity abounds in decorations, costumes and food. You only have to look at the Pinterest boards dedicated to the fall season to salivate over the recipes, clothing, and décor.
My husband and I were guests last night at a fund raising dinner for the Art League. It was suggested you dress as your favorite artist or cocktail attire. It gets competitive when you consider putting together a costume, and competition here would be artists. So, I dusted my black shoes (I always wear flip-flops), and steamed my silk blouse. I was right. Picasso was there with head bandaged, blood splattered on his white shirt below that ear thing. Whistler’s mother showed up. Leonardo was there, escorting Mona Lisa in her portrait. Salvador Dali made an entrance. It was fun seeing all the creativity these artists put into their costumes. Just for the record, I would have been Frida Khalo, but I had just plucked my eyebrows.
When my children were young, this is the time of year we started talking about what they might be for Halloween. There are many memories in the photos of them dressed up, standing with the neighborhood kids ready to go out trick-or-treating. Some go to extremes with ghoulish decorations, skeletons hanging on the porch, and witches crashed into a tree.
This time of year is also the time we like to curl up with a book as the weather gets cooler. My daughter enjoys going to a horror movie and sitting with her hoodie over her head and her hand over her face. Some people enjoy being scared. Researchers say people enjoy being provoked into the anxiety because there is a hormonal release. Our heart rate increases, we breathe deeper, and feel on edge. It's certainly more pleasant if this occurs in a controlled environment, like a movie theatre or under a throw on the sofa.
Thrills and spirits from the afterlife are part of the appeal of the holiday in late October. It allows us to be someone we are not, scare ourselves and still be in control. I remember going to the old Rialto Theater in my hometown on Saturday afternoon to watch horror movies. The best were in black and white. Betty Davis and Joan Crawford were in some of my favorite. I’m not a fan of the current grotesque zombie, flesh-eating genres. I just want the suggestion of a horror, not in my face blood.
One of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced was an ancient Greek play by Euripides, Medea. Medea’s husband returned from war and was no longer in love with her. He had another woman. She was insane with jealousy, eventually murdering her children. That murder occurred off stage. Of course it would, too horrific to be seen. However, the production and sounds were deafening. The audience gasped and sat stunned in the silence following the scene, but we had seen nothing.
Reading scary stories is like that for me. The first novel I remember reading was Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier. I think I read it twice, because I went to that isolated mansion in my head. I saw the people and heard the waves crashing below the cliff. I wanted to whisper suggestions into Rebecca’s ear. I think this is why books made into movies are sometimes disappointing. The written word sparks our imagination and we can create a spooky character and an eerie setting in our mind that cannot be recreated on the big screen.
Some of my novels have eerie, paranormal, and mystical elements in surreal settings. Maybe they all do. Now, is the time, I’m most likely to take a book to the swing outside or on the sofa and get lost in a mystery.
When I think about my teenage years and our attempts to scare each other, I always think of Jackson Road. That’s why I called my collection of spooky stories, the Bridge on Jackson Road. It seems like there was always a low-lying mist or fog on the creek there. This anthology is filled with some of the things that could spook me, then and now.
Hauntings and spirits have always given me chills. In the Sabine Series, Sabine is an Indigo child coming of age in the home of her mentally ill, alcoholic mother. She can communicate with the spirits of her deceased family and longs to discover the source of the dysfunction of her mother and others in her family. I was so intrigued with Sabine that I couldn’t stop writing. I didn’t want to leave the characters. So there are three more books in the series and I’m considering following up on her missing twin sisters, Maude and Renata. We’ll see.
Opal’s Story is not spooky. In fact this is my most reviewed novel and the comments are “heart-warming, touching, exhilarating, and triumphant.” While it begins as a tragedy, it is a story of forgiveness and resilience. I consider it a story of fall because of the ages of the prominent characters and a Thanksgiving theme.
My new release should be out soon, The Ember Months. I’m interested to hear what readers think. It is also relevant to the fall months. My editor really liked it. She called it “refreshing.” It deals with a rare illness and a real person I knew in my early social work career.
So, get those pumpkins ready to carve, start planning your costume, break out those cranberry and pumpkin recipes, plan on a spooky story or two, and get comfortable with a book on a cool rainy day.