Halloween Haunts: Making Halloween Mean Something by J.G. Faherty
Well, our favorite holiday of the year is fast approaching, and as always my writerly mind turns to thoughts of promotion. Or at least it did, back in August, when I started looking around for themed events in the local area where I could sign and sell books. I’ve done this before, appearing at fright fests and books stores, either alone or with other writers.
Then something happened that changed my focus.
I did a young adult reading at one of our local libraries. Now, at the time, I was just getting started in putting together some ideas for articles and blogs in my new role as Library Committee Chairman for the HWA. My research had shown that YA horror is one of the fastest growing literary genres for the YA crowd, encompassing everything from traditional supernatural stories to graphic novels, paranormal adventure and romance, and dystopian / apocalyptic horror. While speaking with the teens in attendance and the YA librarian, I found out the library was doing a big Halloween week event near the end of October geared towards the tween and YA readers. It involves decorating the library, snacks, and stories.
To my surprise, no local authors were involved. No one was reading stories by modern writers. And no one was doing any presentations on the haunted history of the Hudson Valley (I happen to live right across the river from Sleepy Hollow, in the heart of a region filled with Bigfoot sightings, historical ghosts, UFOs, goblins, and more). Right on the spot I offered to read a short story and then talk about the gruesome history of the area. The librarian took me up on it. When I got home that day, I called our other library (we have two near my town) and made the same offer. They accepted as well.
Talk about a great opportunity! Not only will I get to promote myself and my books, but I’ll also be able to talk about the HWA’s library and literacy goals and promote our authors and reading lists to these libraries.
Now just imagine if every one of our members did this just once during the Halloween season.
We have more than 780 members according to our website’s homepage. 780. All across the country and the world. If each of them were to do one Halloween reading or presentation at a library we would be spreading the word about the HWA championing literacy faster than any emailed information or promotions at American Library Association events.
And here’s the kicker: Not only would you be doing a good thing for the HWA, you’d be doing a good thing for yourself. You’d be grooming a new generation of readers to buy your books and keep horror going as a genre. You’d have the opportunity to promote – or even sell – your current books. And on top of that, many libraries pay a stipend for guest appearances. So you might just be earning cash in the pocket while setting up future sales.
Think about it, folks. It’s only one night, usually during the week. You’d still have the whole rest of the month for the other appearances you normally do at this time of year.
TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: J.G. Faherty is offering one digital copy each of Cemetery Club, Cold Spot, and He Waits. To enter post a comment in the section below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and put HH CONTEST ENTRY in the header. Winners will be chosen at random and notified by e-mail.
For Your Reading Pleasure:
For those of you who’ve read this far, here’s a sample passage from my upcoming book, The Burning Time, which comes out in January from JournalStone Publishing.
He brings the snakeskin in his hands,
He makes the river call the lovers,
He calls the howling of the dogs,
When the Stranger comes to town.
– The Stranger, undated Southern folk myth
The worst heat wave anyone could remember gripped the upstate New York town of Hastings Mills in a humid, heavy fist that had tempers flaring faster than beer and lemonade could douse them. Everyone agreed it was just a matter of time before either the sky opened up and finally gave them some much-needed rain or someone grabbed a gun and started shooting from the school roof, the way that fellow from the college did back in ’87.
Had they known what was coming, more than a few would have packed their things and headed out for a long vacation. Most folks would have stayed, though.
That’s just the way things are in small towns.
* * *
Christa Jennings closed her eyes, spread her arms wide, and listened. The warm night breeze carried the sounds of summer: frogs and crickets chirping, night birds calling softly. The distant sound of a car horn.
Thirty feet below the bridge, something splashed in the river – a fish perhaps, or maybe a frog.
Christa ignored the sounds and waited for the Voice, the one that had called her from bed and told her to go to the bridge.
The breeze washed over her naked body, tickling her nipples into tiny, hard peaks. She shivered. Her entire being tingled, like the time she’d let Jimmy Rollins put his hand down her pants. He’d gotten mad when she refused to let him go further, and the next day he’d broken up with her before first period.
That’s right, Christa, the Voice said. He left you because you weren’t good enough for him. But now he wants you back. You still want him, don’t you?
A tear rolled down her cheek. She did. Not a night went by that she didn’t think about him.
What should I do? she asked the Voice.
Look down, my child. He’s waiting for you. Just jump into his arms.
Christa smiled and stepped off the bridge.
Below the dark waters of the Alleghany River, deeper than the river bottom itself, something waited in hungry anticipation, its eternal craving for blood and flesh unquenchable.
* * *
Marla Jennings sat up in bed, her mouth open in a silent scream. Cold sweat beaded on her forehead and between her ample breasts. A nightmare. Something about her daughter. So horrible….
“Christa?” she whispered.
In the backyard, Max, their Golden retriever, let loose a terrible howl.
Marla burst into tears.
* * *
The man in the black shirt with the white and black collar jumped down from the cab of the eighteen-wheel truck and turned to grab his battered suitcase from the footwell. The hard, rough scales of the snakeskin leather reflected rainbow colors in the yellow afternoon sun.
“Here you go, Father,” the driver called down to him. “Sure you don’t want me to take you all the way into town? It’s hotter than Hell…heck out there.”
The man with the suitcase shook his head. He had straight, raven-black hair that seemed too long for a man of the cloth, at least in the truck driver’s mind. Young priests today ain’t nothin’ like the ones I grew up listening to. Too full of liberal nonsense.
“Thank you, but it won’t be necessary. My legs can use the exercise.”
“Well, you have a good day, Father. Glad I could help.”
“Bless you, and have a good day as well.”
He thought about telling the driver to make a last call home, because before nightfall he’d be dead, crushed in the cab of his overturned truck somewhere on Route 16.
Instead, he shut the door and waved as the truck pulled back onto the highway, the amplified goose-call of the air horn trailing behind as the driver headed towards his rendezvous with death.
He waited until the long-haul rig had disappeared into the hazy heat waves rising from the asphalt before turning north towards Hastings Mills.
A short walk brought him to a bridge that crossed the Alleghany River. To his right was Riverside Park, where a few children were tossing a baseball. To his left, acres and acres of corn, the stalks already five feet high, extended as far as the eye could see.
Instead of crossing the bridge, he made his way down the sloping hillside to the river itself. He climbed over the chest-high levee and down to the water. Overhead, a sudden gathering of dark clouds slid across the sky, dimming the afternoon light to gray. Kneeling on a wide stone so as not to muddy his pants, he dipped his hands into the water. Warmed from days of sun and lack of rain, the water barely cooled his skin as he dug his fingers into the mud, grinding the soil and grit in his fists.
“My Lords and Gods, hear my prayer. Help me bring your Words to these people, so they too may follow your path.”
The calm water reflected his face as he spoke. Against his pale skin, his coal-black eyes were bottomless wells. The image staring at him from the surface was that of a man about forty, with a thin, angular face and a long neck. Yet somehow it conveyed a feeling of great age, of knowledge well beyond his physical years. He spread his lips and then frowned at the yellowish, crooked teeth his smile exposed. It wasn’t the appearance he would have chosen for himself.
No matter. Time to begin.
Grabbing his iridescent suitcase, he climbed back up the hill with great ease, his long, thin limbs and body moving with same deliberate, silent movements as a praying mantis climbing a tree.
Fifteen minutes of walking brought him to the gates of Perpetual Hope Cemetery. The wide, neatly-groomed lawns, the ground gently rolling in a series of slight hills, extended all the way to the back lawn of the Our Lady of Perpetual Hope church.
The Reverend ran a hand along the wrought-iron fence as he walked down Main Street, treading on sidewalk now that he’d entered the city limits. When he reached State Street, the other main road in town, he turned left. Another hundred feet brought him to the entrance of the church. The wide staircase, twenty-five cement steps tall, rose up in front of him.
On the large sign by the sidewalk, someone had replaced the usual announcements with a greeting:
Welcome Reverend Cyrus Christian
Putting on his best smile, he started up the stairs, eager to get started.
Somewhere far behind the church, back where the only sounds were the whisper of wind through corn and the laughing calls of hungry crows, a dog howled.
Before long, several others had joined it.
* * *
The man with the silver hair stood at the outskirts of Hastings Mills and listened. Behind him, the sun descended through the rapidly thickening cloud cover in a riot of purples, reds, and oranges. He wore a black jacket of indeterminate style that was far too heavy for the tropical-level heat.
Over the faint sounds of music, shouting voices, and car engines coming from town, he heard howling and barking in the distance.
It could mean nothing. Dogs bayed all the time, especially farm dogs. Or it could mean he’d followed the right road, read the magical signs correctly.
Lifting a small, road-worn leather satchel that resembled the black bags doctors once carried, he entered Hastings Mills.
JG Faherty has spent most of his life living in the haunted Hudson Valley region of New York, an area populated by goblins, ghosts, legendary creatures, UFOs, ancient cemeteries, and more. Is it any wonder he writes horror? His novels include Cemetery Club, Carnival of Fear, and the Bram Stoker Award®-nominated Ghosts of Coronado Bay. He also has two novellas (He Waits, The Cold Spot) and more than two dozen short stories to his credit. Keep up with him at www.jgfaherty.com, www.facebook.com/jgfaherty, and www.twitter.com/jgfaherty. You can find all his books and novellas at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=jg+faherty His next novel, THE BURNING TIME, will be released in January 2013. His other credits include more than 2 dozen short stories.
Praise for the work of J.G. Faherty
“THE COLD SPOT is one of the best ghost stories I have read in a long time. If you love ghost stories you will love this one and I highly recommend it.” – Peter Schwotzer, Famous Monsters of Filmland
“CEMETERY CLUB is like a plastic pumpkin bucket filled to the top with all of your favorite candies. Loads of gory fun!” –Jeff Strand, author of PRESSURE and DWELLER.
“CARNIVAL OF FEAR is an outrageous journey into nightmare that’s equal parts Bradbury and Barker. From the opening page, this one rips into high-gear and takes you on a funhouse ride you’ll never forget.” – Thomas Monteleone, award-winning author of more than 36 novels.
(All books available at Amazon.com and select book stores.)