|The actress, that summer.|
“Hmm,” she muttered. “The image is remarkably clear. Someone is writing, always writing—a story perhaps, or a book. Are you sure you don’t relate to that?”
|The actress, that summer.|
by Shari Randall
|But you didn’t count on the doorbell interrupting—
from dusk right up until your bedtime.
Thunder rumbles. You shiver, pop a Snickers bar, and start reading the blurb . . .
by Bethany Maines
By Dru Ann Love
One of the things I love about living on the East Coast is we get to celebrate all four seasons. My favorite are Spring and Fall. It’s not too hot like Summer and it’s not too cold like Winter. Spring and Fall seasons give you the nice in between.
What I like most about Fall is the changing of the leaves. A walk in the part will have you staring at the lovely colorful leaves as they fall to the ground. When I was younger, I loved when they were all gathered in a pile and we got to jump smack dab in the middle of it. Did you do that as a youngster? Could I do that now, no way, first I couldn’t jump in in and second I would not be able to get up. But I do remember the freedom it gave me.
Fall is also good weather to sit in a chair, wrapped in a blanket and read the next scintillating mystery that have you in goose bumps, especially if it’s the latest thriller set at Halloween.
Speaking of Fall, there’s the two holidays: Halloween where there is no excuse for eating that Snicker bar, that Hershey kiss, that Dove bar, that jawbreaker (yeah, like that’s going to happen), that tootsie roll pop and especially Brach’s candy corn (accept no substitution, because Brach’s is the best). Best of all, you can also dress anyway you want and not be criticize…a mummy, sure; a superhero, sure; a Agatha Christie, solve that puzzle; a zombie, go for it; you can be anybody and have you fill of it.
Then there is Thanksgiving where you are given permission to eat all the food that the dieticians and/or nutritionist say you shouldn’t eat during the rest of the year. Want that turkey leg? Have at it. Want a thick slab of baked ham? Go for it. Want some dressing with gravy? Pour it over your food. Some macaroni salad? Put that scoop on your plate. Rice? Yep. Collard Greens? Put it right next to the white rice. Cranberry Sauce? Put it in that spot, right there. Candied Yams? Make sure to give me a slice of that pineapple. Baked macaroni and cheese? You betcha.
Then there’s dessert. Apple pie? Slice it up, please. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting? A thin slice, please. I don’t know where I have the room to eat it. Ice Cream? Right between my pie and cake. And don’t forget the pumpkin pie to go with my cup of hot beverage. And then Thanksgiving is over and now I can sleep for a week.
What’s your favorite thing about Fall?
I was talking to child #2, a rambunctious 12-year-old boy, about Halloween. He was stuck, not having any blessed idea as to what he could dress up as for his favorite holiday. I suggested my old standby, a hobo.
“What’s a hobo, Mom?”
“Well, it’s a guy who rides the rails with a pouch attached to a stick, his worldly belongings in the pouch.”
“Why is he riding the rails? And what are rails?”
“The railroad. He’s riding because he’s got the traveling jones. And no job.”
“So, he’s homeless.”
“Yes, I guess you could call him that.”
“Mom, that’s not very politically correct.”
Suffice it to say that we were in the car, on our way to Party City to purchase a costume before I could go into the politics of Herbert Hoover, explain what “Hooverville” was, or why the Great Depression created more hobos than any other historical event in our nation’s history.
We purchased a gladiator costume, true meaning of which child #2 did not know either. When he donned it, and I pretended to be a Christian hiding from the Romans who would surely throw me to the lions, he looked confused and singularly unimpressed by my acting performance. I was still bristling over the fact that we had to buy a costume and was trying to make the best of a less-than-stellar situation.
All of this talk of costumes got me thinking about my costumes of the past. Thanks to a very creative aunt and a genius of a seamstress across the street from my house, I had some pretty wonderful get ups. Here’s a sampling with only one picture. Very few pictures exist because…well, I could lie…but my mom got lazy with the camera. (Sorry, Mom!)
1. Rudy Vallee: My ingenious aunt found a size 60 beaver coat that had belonged to her Aunt May. I donned that, even though it was about three hundred sizes too big, was given a pennant to wave, a megaphone to carry, a hat to wear and sneakers to put on my feet and I was transformed into the megaphone crooner of the 1920s. So what that nobody knew who I was, this being the mid-70’s? I was dressed unlike any other trick or treater and was in my glory.
2. A Can-Can girl: My seamstress neighbor had made a dozen or so Can-Can girl outfits for a church show that was being mounted at St. Catherine’s (my home parish) and tailored one costume so that it fit my pre-teen body to a tee. Mom curled my hair and let me go crazy with the blue eye shadow and poof! Insta-Can-Can girl. I went to a Halloween party at the roller rink where I certainly would have won first place—even the cool girls thought so—but since I couldn’t skate and was unable to sashay around the judges, I wasn’t even entered. Another one of life’s shattering disappointments.
3. A Nun: No Catholic childhood would be complete without a few hours dressed as a nun or a priest. In my case, I was fully habited in a floor-length habit with a white rope around my waist. Think six-year-old flying nun and you’ll get a visual. A whole gaggle of us neighborhood girls—thanks to the creativity of the aforementioned seamstress neighbor—were transformed into a little squad of sisters, trolling the neighborhood for candy. The interesting thing? No one looked twice—maybe because there was a convent in our town?
Here’s a shot of the Can-Can outfit, my siblings, and the neighbor kids (the ones whose mom crafted most of our costumes). See, not a store-bought one among them. Those were the days, right?
It’s that time of year again, when many little children (except for the ones who have parents who think that Halloween is for pagans; I, myself, worship at the feet of the god of chocolate) don costumes and roam the streets, looking for candy. And thank goodness they do! Mama needs a 100 Grand bar to satisfy that sweet tooth.
It’s not like the old days, though, when we used to get up early, particularly if Halloween was on a Saturday like it is this year, put on our flammable costumes, and roam the streets in groups, hoping not to be picked up by a serial killer, get an apple with a razor blade in it, or worse. I remember my mother sending us out, me in charge by age seven, and going up and down every street in our development, hitting every house until our environmentally-unfriendly plastic bags were bulging with candy. The rule? When your bag was too heavy to carry, you went home. Nobody in the group was carrying your bag for you (and yes, I’m looking at you, Colleen) so if you couldn’t heft it, you were out of luck.
To illustrate just how different Halloween now was from Halloween then, I’ve brought along a few family photos. Captions will explain who is who. Enjoy.
1. This is my grandmother. She took us trick or treating this particular year; I think it’s 1968. She thought it would be funny to wear one of her dead husband’s suits and put a bag over her head. It wasn’t. She scared half of the children in the neighborhood, not to mention the grownups. We left her home the next year.
5. This one is from the “When Bad Costumes Happen to Good Children” collection, currently on display at the Smithsonian. Again, my sister and her friend, Janet, look far more sinister than I think either of their mothers intended. (Notice Tricia’s lovely bridal corsage; that definitely looks like it’s been underground for some time.) Let’s just say that my father knocked off of work from the police department early and came home only to see these two lovely creatures before they set out on their candy grab. He ended up running screaming from the house thinking that trolls had gotten loose from under a bridge.
I hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween!
On Oct. 30, 2009 at 8 AM, the 1st Annual Stiletto Gang Hallopalooza begins. Or at least we hope it’s going to be an annual event. Everything depends on you, our readers!
What is Hallopalooza? It’s an on-line mystery scavenger hunt. Twenty-three of the best, most interesting, coolest blogs on the net have agreed to participate. There will be lots of great prizes! Lots of fun! Lot’s of clues!
Yes, clues. The Stiletto Gang has written a short story – did I mention it’s a murder mystery – just for the event.
How do you play? Thanks for asking.
Let’s start with when you play – the Scavenger Hunt starts at 8 AM Eastern on Friday, Oct. 30, 2009. It ends at 5 PM Eastern on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009. Winners will be announced at noon eastern on Monday, Nov. 2, 2009.
What are you hunting? A killer! Okay, really you’ll be hunting clues to the killer’s identity and motive. You will move from blog to blog reading the mystery and gathering clues. Each blog will give you a link to the next blog in the Scavenger Hunt line-up. You will start here, at The Stiletto Gang, then move to the next blog. There are 23 blogs in the chain. The winner is not the one who finishes first, just the one who finishes by the deadline with the correct answer. So you can come and go as you please during the three days of the event. Go Trick or Treating! Toliet paper a house! Party with goblins and witches! Then come back and celebrate with us.
What are the prizes? The Stiletto Gang is offering a grand prize of a $50 U.S. gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice – on-line or bricks & mortar. If you’re not in the U.S., we’ll send you an Amazon gift certificate and let you figure out how to use it.
If more than one person qualifies for the Grand Prize, then all winners will be put into a drawing for the $50 gift certificate. Runners-up will win an autographed book from a Stiletto Gang author. We will award up to a maximum of ten books. If there are more winners than books, we’ll have a drawing among the Runners-up for the books.
And, here’s the special part – you can win prizes on the individual blogs during the hunt too! The participating blogs will have contests/drawings for great stuff! Autographed books, promo items, and other “I won! I won!” things to make all your friends envious.
There is no charge to play or win. You don’t have to buy anything. You just have to participate, solve the mystery, and tell us about it using the comment feature here on The Stiletto Gang blog site or by sending an email via the contact link to the right.
Watch for more details as Halloween draws near. If you want to map out your route ahead of time – check out the following blogs, in addition to The Stiletto Gang (that’s us):
1. Jungle Red http://www.jungleredwriters.com/
2. Marilyn’s Musings http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/
3. Meanderings & Muses http://meanderingsandmuses.blogspot.com/
4. America Comes Alive http://www.americacomesalive.com/blog/
5. Type M for Murder http://typem4murder.blogspot.com/
6. Boomer Chick http://www.overthehillchick.blogspot.com/
7. Yeah, But Houdini Didn’t Have These Hips http://sarahlynn.blogspot.com/
8. Ellen Byerrum http://ellenbyerrum.livejournal.com/
9. Nancy Cohen http://mysterygal.bravejournal.com/
10. Write It Anyway http://writeitanyway.blogspot.com/
11. The Blog Cabin http://www.timothyhallinan.com/blog/
12. Lipstick Chronicles http://thelipstickchronicles.typepad.com/
13. The Lady Killers http://theladykillers.typepad.com/the_lady_killers/
14. The Killer Coffee Club http://killercoffeeclub.weebly.com/
15. Lesa”s Book Critiques http://www.lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com/
16. Erica Ridley http://www.ericaridley.com/blog/
17. Fang Place http://fangplace.blogspot.com/
18. Morgan Mandel http://morganmandel.blogspot.com/
19. Mysterious Musings http://www.juliabuckley.blogspot.com/
20. Mystery Fanfare http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/
21. Poe’s Deadly Daughters http://poesdeadlydaughters.blogspot.com/
22. WOOF http://www.woofersclub.blogspot.com/
23. The Book Resort http://thebookresort.blogspot.com/
Gather your sleuthing clothes – Hallopalooza is coming!
We wave goodbye to another Halloween, although if you are like me, you’ve still got pounds and pounds of crappy drugstore chocolate in your houses. (Though I would wrestle you to the death for an Almond Joy.) We had a very successful Halloween around these parts: child #1 dressed as Charlie Brown and went trick or treating with a group of similarly-attired Peanuts characters; child #2 had the “best day ever” because his friend, B., despite being close to four years older than child #2, still trick or treats with him because as his mother says “it’s all about the candy for B.” At nearly 13, he doesn’t care about looking cool, or traveling with a pack of boys armed with shaving cream and silly string, or just being an all-around carouser. He wants to go house to house, charming the pants off of whomever is answering the door, and getting his fair share (or more) of candy. B. and my son know every house that gives out a full-sized candy bar, who gives out the bags of pretzels, and who will provide juice boxes to thirsty trick or treaters. They’ve got it down to a science.
If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, or if you know me personally, you’ll know that I’m a little neurotic and crazily over protective. Halloween, in particular, brings out the worst in me. It brings back memories of razor blades in apples (which by the way, I’ve never encountered), roaming bands of zombies (again, never seen), and haunted houses (and…never been to one of those either). B.’s mother suggested that the boys hit the Halloween trail on their own, being as they would be in the general vicinity for most of the night. Although I knew in my heart that child #2 would be okay with B. in charge, I felt better when my husband said he’d “ride along.” And I’m glad he did, because he offered more insight into the trick or treating rituals of these two boys, which B.’s mother and I found hilarious. If only the boys brought this kind of intensity and planning to their schoolwork. The boys had a brainstorming session prior to hitting up the first house and decided on a two-pronged approach. The first approach was called the “traditional”: in the “traditional,” you walk calmly up to the door and ring the bell, plastering on your best and cutest smile. When the door is answered, you say, in unison, “trick or treat.” Charmed by your cuteness and good manners, you are handed more than your fair share of candy by the homeowner. “Bowling,” on the other hand, refers to uninhabited houses whose owners leave bowls of candy on the front porch. In “bowling,” you approach the house as quickly as possible and fill your candy bag with as much candy as you can before Jim, your chaperone, reminds you that you are not the only people trick or treating on that street.
The girls on the other hand, were more of a rag-tag bunch, wandering aimlessly through town with no plan as to where they would go, which houses they would target. Truthfully, I think they spent most of their time talking, a concept that the boys found ludicrous. There’s candy to be had! Suffice it to say that they came back a little lighter in the pillowcase than the boys who sported at least six and seven pound bags of candy, respectively. They looked at the girls’ paltry haul and decided that they needed more guidance next year so that they could maximize their intake.
We didn’t have as many children as we normally do this year, and considering that Halloween was on a Friday, I can only assume that a lot of people had indoor parties. We also have a couple of neighborhoods in town where kids congregate to trick or treat and which were overflowing with costumed ghouls, from what I’ve heard.
How many trick or treaters did you have? Did they seem to have an orchestrated plan of attack? And most importantly, what did you do with your left over candy?
We know that the economy is in the tank and that it’s not just Wall Street Fat Cats who are suffering. The only thing grinning this Halloween may be the Jack-o-Lanterns. Our kids may see much lighter trick-or-treat bags. Gone are the days when neighbors distributed full-sized candy bars to the doorbell ringers. Look for mini-candy bars, one to a customer, but please, this is no time for raisin boxes. Chocolate-induced endorphins are definitely in order.
Until this economic downturn, Halloween has been a retailers dream. In 2007, Halloween-related merchandise sales were up 10 percent from the previous year, which had seen a record 22 percent growth from 2005. But now, we’re all tightening our belts and reconsidering our costume options. How about one of the fashion catastrophes from my closet, with a cardboard sign that says “Glamour Don’t”? Jackets with shoulders that could have rivaled any professional linebacker – whatever was I thinking?
One retail executive suggested that “consumers who have been anxious and uncertain for the past several months may be looking at Halloween as an opportunity to forget the stresses of daily life and just have a little fun.” I sure hope so, but frankly it sounds like wishful thinking to me.
I’m not suggesting that we dress our kids in costumes of sackcloth and ashes. Surely, we need some fun, especially under current conditions. But this is an opportunity to scale down a holiday that seems to be getting out of control. So let’s focus more on the highjinks, and less on the over-the-top decorations. Let’s encourage our kids imaginations and help them make costumes, instead of buying them.
The economy has played enough tricks on us; but we can put the treat back into October 31.
What are you planning for Halloween — and what kind of candy do you hand out?