Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Curious History of Halloween

The paranormal aura and mystique surrounding Halloween connects to a series of beliefs, traditions and superstitions. What is the actual origin of Halloween?  It appears to date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.  By Celts we refer to the people who lived approximately 2,000 years ago in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrating their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer harvest and the beginning of dark, cold winter, a time of year often associated with human death.

Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, believing that ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future.  The Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

During these celebrations, Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they put out earlier that evening. This symbolic lighting was done from the sacred bonfire to serve as a protection during the coming winter.

By 43 A.D., the Romans had conquered a majority of Celtic territory. During the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

By the 800’s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 as All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. The pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in 1000 A.D., the church designated November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils.

Tales of the supernatural are ever popular during the Halloween season. Right now, publisher Clean Reads 
is offering THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, a paranormal novel, for just
99 cents through Halloween, October 31st, on Amazon Kindle.

You can check it out here:

Also available, DARK MOON RISING, Gothic romantic suspense from Luminosity, available in All e-book formats and print.

Are there any books that you would like to recommend as good Halloween reading choices?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Why Speculative Literature Continues to Draw Readers

In honor of Halloween month, it seems only fitting to write on the subject of speculative lit. Why do readers consistently want to read fantasy, science fiction and horror and their various paranormal subdivisions? Why does speculative fiction remain popular with all ages of readers?

When people talk about horror fiction, they might let out an involuntary shudder. However, horror fiction isn’t just about the gruesome. It’s not just about the supernatural, ghosts, goblins, ghouls, gremlins, etc. No, it’s really about what we fear, what we dread most. These things may be ordinary, like a pit bull off the leash running toward us, or extraordinary, like meeting a vampire in a neighborhood bar at midnight. We have fears that are both usual and the unusual.

Horror fiction will not be going away any time soon because it is human nature to feel fear as an emotion. Horror fiction helps us handle these feelings, helps us confront our terrors, those within us and those in the environment around us. I have read Dean Koontz and Stephen King, Anna Rice and many writers of occult mystery and romance fiction with interest.

My latest adult novel DARK MOON RISING is a Gothic romance that features female ghosts from different centuries who haunt male members of an aristocratic Southern family. The novel combines romance, mystery, suspense and paranormal horror.


There has always been a fascination with magical worlds. Many of the readers and writers of fantasy escape the negativity of the real world through fantasy worlds which are often more satisfying. Reality is readjusted. Lev Grossman in his excellent Time Magazine essay observed: “Fantasy holds out the possibility that there’s another way to live.” Certainly there are many fans of C.S. Lewis, T.H. White, J.RR. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin—just to name a few of the popular fantasy writers.

Much fantasy world has a sense of times past. THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, a fantasy romance published by Clean Reads is set in 1985 and has a Faustian theme.


THE BAD WIFE, 4th and final mystery novel in the Kim Reynolds series, also has a paranormal edge. Kim, an academic librarian, is a reluctant clairvoyant who has visions which cause her to both solve and prevent crime.


Fantasy as part of our poetry literature is not at all new. Remember ”Kubla Khan” a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge? How about his “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner “?  

Science fiction continues to have a strong appeal. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines this type of literature as: “dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component.”

Fantasy deals with imagination, unreal worlds, and magical realms. Some of these bear similarities to past societies such as medieval times. Science fiction, on the other hand, looks to developments in science or imaginative notions of future worlds. However, all embrace aspects of the speculative or paranormal.

For one of my science fiction poems that can be read for free on the internet, you can go to Kansas University’s “Ad Astra” site:

Are there any authors of  horror, fantasy or science fiction that you particularly admire or enjoy reading? Ray Bradbury remains one of my favorites. Are you a fan of the Harry Potter series?  Have you read Ursula K. Le Guin or Octavia E. Butler? What about fantasy/paranormal romances such as those written by Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle?  Are there new writers of horror, fantasy or sci-fi that excite your interest? Please share with us.