Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that Halloween is my favorite holiday. I don't know why, really, except that it's a chance to be a kid again. To be silly, let loose and have a little fun. A time to get the adrenaline pumping a little, but still feel safe.

The house is all decorated, I've got eight bags of candy (ok, ok - I admit it! Seven and a half bags of candy... I'm eating M&M's as I write this!) But do you know what Halloween is really all about?

The early Celts called it Samhain (pronounced "Sow-wen"), meaning "Summer's End". One of their four main festivals of light, all tied to the seasons, Samhain was a joyous celebration of the harvest. A wild night of feasting and plenty around the bonfire, as the Celts enjoyed the fruits of their labor before the harshness of winter. The Celts believed it was a night when the veil between the living and the dead was thin, and for this reason, it was also a night to honor their dead. In one of my earlier, unpublished novels called DRUID MOON, I wrote about how I envisioned Samhain might be. You can read it here if you're interested. :)

Anyway, the idea that Halloween night is the night when the veil was thin has stuck with us through the years, though the emphasis has changed from honoring the dead into something much more spooky. Lighted pumpkins with leering faces were derived from the carved turnip lamps peasants used to make to frighten away spirits. Early costumes were worn to confuse any curious ghostly wanderers, so they couldn't follow a poor, luckless serf home.

It wasn't until the early thirties, and the advent of silent movies, that Halloween as we know it came about. The silver screen ushered in a new era of spookiness with classics like Nosferatu and Phantom of the Opera. The 40's and 50's gave us Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price even Abbott and Costello... creep shows were hot, and horror movies were at the top of their game. All of this fueling America's fire for a little ghoulish fun on Halloween.

Fun, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How About Another Ghost Story?

Halloween isn't here yet, and I've more ghost stories from my readers left to tell! Here's the story of a "ladies man" who still likes to peek, as told by Pam:

Years ago, I dated a man off and on for about 8 months and because he wasn't "special" to me, I never even mentioned him to my family. Unfortunately, he met a ghastly end. It seems he was quite the playboy in town and also came from a very well heeled family. Prior to my dating him, he'd dated a local woman who worked as a bank teller in one of the downtown Tampa banks. She was hopelessly in love with him and, in fact, left her husband for this man. This was sadly unrequited love on her part, however, as the man in question never had any intention of marrying her. She called him one day to ask him to stop by her house after work. What happened then shocked the very core of Tampa society. In the hallway outside her bedroom she shot the man and then took her own life.

Now, fast forward about 20 years. My sister and brother-in-law, newly married at the time, rented a small home in South Tampa prior to buying their home. Very strange things happened in this home from the time they moved in. My brother-in-law's daughter had a strange encounter whereby she was certain someone was in the bedroom or outside in the hallway when she spent the night with them. After that, and not knowing this story, I stayed at their home while my sister and brother-in-law went away for the weekend. After putting my nephews to bed, I took a shower and several times the bathroom door opened....I got out of the shower each time, grabbing a towel, thinking my nephews were playing tricks on me only to discover each time that they were sound asleep. I mentioned it to my sister later and she said her step-daughter had had some of these same strange things happen to her. After a while, my sister began to feel increasingly uncomfortable in the house and one day was mentioning to the next door neighbor that she felt strange in this house. The neighbor looked at her and said "well, you know there was a murder/suicide in this house, don't you?" She, in fact, did not know this and was stunned that the realtor hadn't revealed this morbid fact. Being the investigator she is, she went to the Public Library and looked up the microfiche on the story and discovered its ghostly roots. She called me at work to tell me about it and mentioned the "socialite's" name. I almost screamed! I told her that this was a man I'd dated many, many years ago and that I very much recalled when this took place as it was only about a year after I'd dated him. I had no idea that the house they were renting was the scene of the crime and she had no idea that the man murdered there was someone I'd dated!

This is a story I can vouch for, because I know the people involved in the story personally.

The sister who rented the house that was the scene of the murder/suicide? That was me. :)

We were out of that house ASAP, but I saved the newspaper articles I found on microfiche at the library. Creepy, sad and true story.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ghoulish Greetings From The Graveyard

I know I promised more ghost stories, but I wanted to share some shots from my Halloween party this weekend. We had such a great time, and some of my friends had such great costumes! A peacock, a Greek goddess, a Renaissance woman, a belly dancer, a nerd, some hippies, a Playboy bunny and the Queen of Hearts, even an alien skater rat (at least that's what Ed said he was).

Anyway, here's a quick slideshow of the fun:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Haunted Caboose - Ghost Story #2

I promised to share ghost stories with you this week, so here's ghost story #2, from Pamela:

I thought it would be fun to spend the last night of our Arizona road trip vacation, this past August, in a renovated 193o's motor court on historic Route 66. The place has cabins, plus an old caboose on the property for guests to spend the night in. The caboose is said to be haunted, and well, that sounded like fun so I booked it. Past guests have reported seeing the ghost of a conductor, hearing whispering voices, or seeing flickering lights. Sounded cool to me.

As soon as we got there, I was sorry I hadn't booked the Marriott. We were exhausted from our week on the road with 4 kids, and the caboose was a little on the creepy side. Since only 5 could sleep in the caboose, my husband took a regular room in a cabin across the driveway. The kids were given a choice: stay in the so-called haunted caboose with mommy, or the regular room with Dad. Only the eldest went with Dad. My youngest child slept with me in the main part of the caboose, and the two middle children were thrilled with their bunks built high up in the cupola.

A few minutes after midnight, I was sound asleep when out of nowhere a force slammed around my ankles and feet. My eyes flew open. The feeling was as real as if two powerful hands grabbed and held me. I could see the room--there was nothing there. My mind was spinning with shock and and honestly, a little bit of anger. Flickering lights are fine, but this thing was touching me! In that second I felt myself being dragged toward the end of the bed. I tried to pull away but I couldn't move.

Just as suddenly as it started, it was over. I jerked my feet up to the middle of the bed, and turned on the light and TV. More than anything I wanted to make a run for my husband's cabin, but I knew that waking up my three children for a ghost evacuation would terrify them, in ways that could frighten them at night for years. I'd also lose all credibility for ever helping them through "silly" childhood fears from that point on.

One of the hardest things I've ever done as a mother was to brave out the rest of that night in the caboose. I spent the next 4 hours sitting in bed with the light on watching Star Trek reruns, before allowing myself to drift off for a short hour's sleep just before dawn (with my feet tucked well up under me!) I got up at 5:30AM, woke my husband, packed up the kids, and we got a very early start home.

Spooky, huh? I think I'd stick with Holiday Inns from now on, Pamela! :) Thanks for sharing your story, and I hope others are enjoying it as much as I did!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Halloween Writing Contest with Romance Novel TV

I've been invited to be the "guest judge" this week in a month-long Halloween writing contest over on Romance Novel TV. If you haven't discovered this cool site yet, you need to get yourselves on over there! (Exclusive video interviews with your favorite authors, great contests, and a really fun bunch of crazy women who know how to keep things interesting.) Anyway, the contest is being hosted by Avon author Kathryn Caskie, and features a different guest judge each week. Being asked to be a guest judge this week means that I also got to choose this week's theme, so I chose to throw a virtual Halloween party! All week long, posters can post writing samples with a Halloween-related theme, Halloween pictures, Halloween recipes... you get the idea! It's really simple... all you have to do is post! Here's the official info on the contest from the Romance Novel TV website:

Each week the guest judge (this week that would be me!) will choose 2 winners. One winner will receive a box of Halloween chocolates (made especially for the contest by The Nut Shoppe), a Waldenbooks/Borders gift card and a selection of coverflats including Avon author Kathy Caskie's newest cover for How to Propose to a Prince! Our other winner will win a 10 page critique by our guest judge! (um... did I mention that would be ME?) :)

How to Enter: (aka the "fine print") Go to Romance Novel TV and leave a post under the thread called "Week 4 Contest~ Share your Halloween Stories to win!" If you post under this thread and tell your story, you are in the running to win the chocolates and gift cards. The most interesting, scary, unique, horrifying or funny story of the week wins. Just keep the weekly theme in mind.

If you wish to be considered for the critique of your first ten manuscript pages 1) you cannot already be published in book-length fiction, and 2) a release, supplied to each weekly winner, must be signed before the guest author will read or critique your work. Lastly, 3) at the start of your posts, please begin by typing AA to indicate Aspiring Author. (Note: Guest authors cannot be bribed. It's against the rules.) DARN!

Please keep to a word limit of 1000 words and content to a PG-13 level.


So there you have it. It's a contest, and all you have to do is post. If you're an aspiriting author, you get an extra added bonus in that you can post in the hopes of winning a critique. Come by and poke around on the Romance Novel TV message board. People are posting stories, Halloween memories, pictures of their favorite Halloween costumes. It's fun, and it goes on all week. The winners will be chosen on Saturday, October 27th. Hope to see you there!

Monday, October 22, 2007

October's Ghost Story Contest

I had a very difficult time choosing a winner for the 3rd Annual "Tell Me Your Ghost Story" contest, because the stories I got this year were just too cool! I get goosebumps every time I read them, so I had to choose based on the one that gave me the biggest goosebumps! I'll post the top three stories here on my blog over the next three days, so you can see for yourself how hard it was to choose.

However, somebody had to win - congratulations to Betty R., who will be receiving a DVD of the movie, "Ghost", and a yummy-smelling bag of Pumpkin Spice potpourri! Her touching story of a father who came back from the dead to see his newborn son was a 10 on the "goosebump meter".

Here's Betty's story in her own words, which she swears is absolutely true - judge for yourself!

I married Darrell in March of 1979. He was the sweetest guy I thought I'd ever met, curly bright red hair and eyes the color of the ocean. I was 16 ,he was 20. We celebrated our first anniversary together(and his 21st birthday) and less than a month later I was planning his funeral..he was in a fatal car wreck. Months before this happened he told me one night he had a feeling he'd never live to see 21. I didn't want to hear this and cut it short quickly. He said, if I die, I'll come back and when I do you will know it.

When he died I was 4 months pregnant. As bad as losing him made me feel, knowing my son would never know his dad, and his dad would never have the chance to hold his son made it that much worse.

Now on to my story.......Darrell Jr. was born on August 7th of 1980.. a beautiful little boy, with eyes the color of the ocean just like his dad.. but had just enough fuzz on his head to call it

I had recieved a little blue comb/brush set when he was born, as part of a gift pack, it sat on my dresser in our room. 2 weeks after me and little Darrell had came home, I was awakened one night by the light being turned on in the bedroom. I awoke not knowing what was happened but immediately looked over in the crib to check on my baby. He was lying there sound asleep, not bothered at all...while still wondering how the light turned on, I noticed something lying beside Darrell in the babybed.

It was the blue brush from the dresser (never used, Darrell Jr. had no hair yet),and it was full of bright red curly hair!

This was shown to numerous amounts of people in the weeks to really happened.. as he said months earlier, "I'll come back and when I do you'll know it"...he came back to visit his son...
Congratulations, Betty, and thanks for sharing your story. The DVD and potpourri are in the mail!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The American Title Contest

It's American Title time again!

Every year for the last three years, Dorchester Publishing has sponsored an "American Title" contest, a contest aimed with discovering the year's best new "previously undiscovered" writer. First prize is a book contract, and guaranteed publication of the winning manuscript. The idea is based on "American Idol", in that it's a competition that's open to anyone, narrowed down to the top ten entries by three editors at Dorchester, and then the winner is determined by a series of elimination rounds, all based on votes. This year's theme was paranormal, futuristic, time-travel and fantasy tales.

Each month until June 2008 (when the winner is announced), the contest is open for votes from the public on rounds like "Best First Line", "Best Hero and Heroine", "Best Plot Summary", etc. The authors get to present a very brief excerpt from the manuscript each month to put up for voting purposes. Voting has just begun on the "Best First Line" round. You can go here to vote for your favorite.

So do I have a favorite? Why, yes, thanks for asking. :) It's THE MAGIC KNOT by Helen Scott Taylor. I had the distinct pleasure of judging this manuscript in a contest last year, and I loved it - well-written, great characters, old legends beautifully woven into a modern-day setting - I definitely feel Helen has a great shot at winning this competition. So go vote for her! :)

The judges, actual editors Hilary Ross, Leslie Kazanjian and the anonymous "Flavia Knightsbridge" are loosely based on Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson (aka the good, the bad, and the ugly). Leslie's comments are always nice, Hilary's comments are usually neutral, and "Flavia's" comments are usually somewhat cutting. Helen's first line was excellent, and she got a thumbs-up from all three judges. Highly unusual, but well-deserved.

Good luck, Helen!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

C.L. Wilson and Lord of the Fading Lands

I went to see my friend C.L. Wilson at a booksigning yesterday. Cheryl's epic fantasy romance, Lord of the Fading Lands, is an October release from Leisure Books. It will be followed by a back to back release of the sequel, Lady of Light and Shadows, in November.

Lord of the Fading Lands debuted at 127 on USAToday

bestseller's list - first week on the shelves! Read about Cheryl, her road to publication, and learn more about her sweeping tale of swords and sorcery by visiting her website. Her reviews have been fabulous.

Cheryl belongs to my writing group, a group of fun-loving brats who got their start being kicked off a bigger loop for having too much fun. :) We call ourselves the Writing Playground, and over three years and a lot of successes later we still have way too much fun! Every time one of our members gets a book contract, the rest of us go to Build-A-Bear and have a bear custom designed to fit the hero or the heroine. Cheryl's hero is unique, in that he's a shapeshifting flying black panther. The black blurry blob in the front right of the photo is Prince Rain Tairen, crown and all. (I took it on my cellphone, what can I say?)
We also order a gorgeous fountain pen in the person's favorite color, and have it engraved with the title and the date of "the Call". The Playpal has to use it at her booksignings. Here's a picture of Cheryl signing Lord of the Fading Lands, using her specially engraved pen (it's purple, with silver lettering. Again, cell phone LOL).

Anyway, congratulations Cheryl! I'm glad I was there to see you achieve your dream!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Let's Do The Time Warp Again!

I just saw the most fabulous production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show! I've seen Rocky before, but only once, and it was an "audience participation" show backed by actual scenes from the movie. (Can you say crazy wild? Flying cards, toast, etc.) This was a live performance by the members of the Univ. of S. Florida's TheatreUSF ensemble, and it was incredibly good!

The set was gorgeous, and the cast was unbelievable. Dr. Frank N. Furter was played to perfection by Michael Titone, Jason Glass was ghoulishly gleeful as Riff Raff, and Devyn Simms was by the far the best Magenta I've ever seen. I was blown away by the talent of these young people - definitely not your average college crowd.

From the first moment of the opening scene, I smiled, laughed and clapped. The entire performance was stellar - fun, thoroughly professional, "blown-away" fabulous. My hands hurt afterward. :) Way to go, TheatreUSF!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

N.E.W. faces, N.E.W. ideas

I had a wonderful experience yesterday, when the Tampa chapter of the Network of Executive Women (N.E.W.) invited me to be the luncheon speaker at their monthly meeting. About fifty women, all executives from different companies here in the Tampa Bay area, get together once a month to network with each other, share a meal and share ideas.

Here I am at the podium, talking about how the skill sets that I learned in business (hard work, goal-setting and networking) are the same skill sets I now use as a writer. How important self-discipline becomes when you work at home instead of at the office. How confidence in yourself can put you on the path to accomplishing your dreams.

The women I was talking to already knew that, of course. That's why they were taking time out of their busy day to come to a networking meeting, and that's why they were already successful in their chosen careers.

I was very impressed with these women; a psychotherapist, a county judge, several lawyers, some financial advisors, CEO of a large construction firm, healthcare managers, event coordinators, consultants. Fifty women ranging in age from their thirties to their sixties, all committed to becoming better at what they do. And all of them so gracious and interesting!

Afterward, I signed books and chatted with many of them one on one. Very diverse group, committed to a common goal of excellence in business. It almost made me wish I worked in an office again. Almost. I'd hate to give up my pajamas. :)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tell Me Your Ghost Story Contest!

When people find out I write about the paranormal, I'm always surprised by how many of them immediately tell me about their own "brushes" with the supernatural. It seems like most people have either had - or know someone who's had - something strange and unexplainable happen to them. Like the cabbie who told me he saw his dead mother sitting in the front seat right after she'd passed away, and the woman who told me she couldn't go into her own attic because someone she couldn't see would poke her in the shoulder every time she tried.

Needless to say, these stories fascinate me. So for the third Halloween in a row, I'm holding my annual "Tell Me Your Ghost Story" contest! This year's winner will receive a DVD of one of my all time favorite romantic movies, "GHOST", and a bag of yummy smelling Pumpkin Spice Potpourri.

In addition, I'll print the top three scariest stories on my website and my blog (you can remain anonymous, if you wish). You can read last year's winning stories HERE. Visit my Website for more details, and tell me your ghost stories!

Monday, October 01, 2007

And The Winners Are...

September is over, and so is my monthly contest. I did something a little different last month and made it a "winner's choice" by offering two different prizes - one for those who wanted to indulge the darker side of their natures by choosing a super cool Skull & Roses wreath, and one for those who wanted to indulge the lighter side of their personalities by choosing an adorable book fairy. And then, because I'm such a softie, I choose two winners instead of one, and gave away both prizes. :)
Please join me in congratulating Lynn Littrell of Oregon, who is the proud new owner of this uber-cool Blood-Red Roses and Skull Wreath!

And then say "Woo-hoo!" to Wendy Hines of Indiana, who can now proudly show the world that "She is too fond of books, and it has addled her brain".
October's contest is one of my all-time favorites, the "Tell Me Your Ghost Story" contest. This is the third year I've held it, and I've heard some hair-raising stories. I'll post more about it tomorrow, but if you can't wait, just head on over to my Website to find out all the details!
Congratulations, Lynn and Wendy! Your prizes will be in the mail ASAP!