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Halloween Reanimated by Tori Eldridge

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When I was a kid, the horror was mild, the giggling loud, and the worry left to a minimum. Gypsies and fairies roamed the neighborhood streets at night in unsupervised hoards, gathering sacks of candy, homemade cookies, and sticky popcorn balls wrapped in cellophane—eaten with glee and nary a thought of razorblades and drugs.

When I had kids of my own, Halloween became a time of bonding: school events, messy projects, family fun. The candy still played an important role but those home-baked treats disappeared. And parents, at least in our town, could be seen hovering at a discreet yet watchful distance.

Or maybe we did it to share in the fun.

There’s something delightfully contagious about the excitement of children. And since we didn’t have many kids living in the boonies of Malibu, I depended on our sojourns to the “good” neighborhood to get me in the Halloween mood—which is probably why I lost my connection to this holiday when our kids got older.

Then I started writing. And although much of what I wrote was dark and scary, most of the monsters in my stories were not of the gruesome, Halloween variety. They were harder to discern, hiding in our minds, homes, and communities—insidious, sinister, and destructive. They generated self-doubt and challenged perception. And, sometimes, they even told their own dark stories from a hero’s point of view.

The Hawaiian gypsy had grown into a badass ninja with a dark imagination.

Which brings me again to Halloween.

The excitement had vanished, and I wanted it back.

Have you ever tried to generate excitement from nothing? It doesn’t work. Everything that comes from the effort feels forced. So after buying decorations I never displayed, marking events I never attended, and dressing up for parties I didn’t really enjoy, I gave up.

One day, I came across an open call for a scary story campfire hosted by an indie bookstore, a couple hours down the coast. I marked it on my calendar because many of my HWA friends were scheduled to read and I wanted to support their efforts. But then I thought: Why not read something myself? There must be some story I’ve written that would fit the Halloween mood.

I had written a spooky tale about a Balinese witch doctor called “Ace of Wands” for the Never Fear: The Tarot anthology that, if cut down to its essence, would be the perfect length and tone for the event. It had a colorful cast of characters, exotic occult, and high drama—everything I’d need for an exciting performance. It would also, I hoped, get me in the Halloween mood. So I rehearsed for a week, drove down the coast, and spent an evening gathered around a campfire in a parking outside a tiny bookstore and soaked in the holiday vibe.

But, still, I needed something more.

So I put out a Facebook plea for suggestions on how to get in the Halloween mood, and the most helpful answer and inspiration came from none other than our HWA president, Lisa Morton.

Lisa recommended I pick up an anthology she had edited with Ellen Datlow called Haunted Nights. Oh, the wonderful stories I read! As the description says, “In addition to stories about scheming jack-o’-lanterns, vengeful ghosts, otherworldly changelings, disturbingly realistic haunted attractions, masks that cover terrifying faces, murderous urban legends, parties gone bad, cult Halloween movies, and trick or treating in the future, Haunted Nights also offers terrifying and mind-bending explorations of related holidays like All Souls’ Day, Dia de los Muertos, and Devil’s Night.” With stellar stories by Seanan McGuire, Stephen Graham Jones, Jonathan Maberry, Joanna Parypinski, Garth Nix, Kate Jonez, Jeffrey Ford, Kelley Armstrong, S. P. Miskowski, Brian Evenson, Elise Forier Edie, Eric J. Guignard, Paul Kane, Pat Cadigan, John Langan, and John R. Little, I guarantee this anthology will get you in the Halloween spirit! And if that wasn’t enough, Lisa also inspired me, by example, to pick up a fab Día de Muertos ceramic pot, which appealed to my decorating sense much more than witches, spiders, and caldrons. Gotta love our HWA pres.

Happy Halloween, my twistedly creative friends! I’m sure you’ll be writing, reading, and partying in style. As for me: We’ve moved into a new neighborhood, rich with children, that promises to be loads of fun. I’ll decorate the yard, put out a pumpkin, and buy way too much candy. And, although I’ll forgo the sticky popcorn balls, I expect it to be a wholesome and nostalgic event.

But I’ll also read scary stories and say a prayer for the dead.

 

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:  Tori Eldridge is giving away an e-book copy of Haunted Nights, edited by Lisa Morton and Ellen Datlow, the anthology that got her in the Halloween spirit! Comment below or email membership@horror.org with the subject title HH Contest Entry for a chance to win.

BIO:  Tori Eldridge is a Honolulu-born writer, 5th degree black belt ninja, and former actress, dancer, singer on Broadway, television, and film. She writes action-packed, culturally-rich thrillers and mystically intriguing suspense. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies and her screenplay, The Gift, was a semi-finalist for the Academy Nicholl Fellowship. She has taught ninjutsu and empowerment across the USA and authored Empowered Living: A Guide to Physical and Emotional Protection. You may read more about Tori and her books on her website: https://torieldridge.com.

EXCERPT: Read an excerpt from “Ace of Wands” by Tori Eldridge in the Never Fear: The Tarot anthology by 13Thirty Books:

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