It started back when I was in elementary school in the early to mid 1970s. My teacher at the time, Mrs. West, if I’m not mistaken, probably enjoyed Halloween as much as I did. Of course I don’t know this for sure because I never asked, but upon reflection I’m thinking she was a closet Poe enthusiast and lover of all things scary. I remember in the late afternoons she would put a record on the turntable (yes, in those days the recordings were on vinyl and not CDs, which I think lent the readings more character as the scratching and popping tended to make the narrators’ voices even more menacing). Anyhoo, on most of the fall afternoons, when the classroom was decorated with bright orange pumpkins, green witches and paper mache ghosts, she would play stories from the Edger Allan Poe collection. And my love of reading Halloween themed books during this time of year was born.
Now, I do use that term loosely. The books themselves do not have to be set on or near Halloween, but have to contain an element of the darker paranormal – shifters, vampires, witches, banshees…you get the picture. There is just something about reading these tales around this time of year that makes me feel connected to my past and just feels…well…right. I love a good scary movie too, but I do have my limits there. Listening to one of the classic Poe tales being read as I’m doing something else, or reading a book with dark tales and a thin veil to the spirit world is much more satisfying to me than watching a movie where the blood, gore and dismemberment is front and center. Imaginations are wonderful things and I think what we paint in our heads is often worse than what Hollywood can concoct on the screen.
Last year I began reading the Midnight Breed series by Lara Adrian. I think I managed the first four books in the series before Halloween. Then I got busy with other things and different projects, so I put them away and read book five over the summer. Now, as we head into the fall, I have picked up book six to start my Halloween reading festival. They are good books. Well written. Gory in places and hot and sexy in others. A pretty good blend of what I’m looking for in a read.
I also find myself leaning toward wanting to write about paranormal creatures as the days grow shorter and night comes quicker. A few weeks ago I started an Edwardian-esque vampire story. Since it’s set in an alternate history I can’t really claim it is Edwardian, but it still has the feel of that time frame. However, my world is populated with vamps, fire horses and banshees. Can you imagine what the Londoners of the time would say seeing those creatures stalking their streets? As I got into the characters, I realized my short story might run into a slightly longer novella. But that’s fine, it gives me something fun to write in prep for Halloween– another side of my old tradition. You see, when my teacher would put the record on and my mind begin to absorb the words of Poe, I would take out a piece of drawing paper and sketch the stories going through my head at the time. Sadly, my skills with paper and ink did not evolve past that childish stage, but my work and love for words did. That’s how I paint my stories these days and I’ve never enjoyed a tradition more.