Wednesday, October 24, 2012


With one week left before my beloved Halloween, it's time to post about the religious side of my favorite holiday. It's not all fun and games for the Happy Hippie Witch because in addition to the night of October 31st being dedicated to frolic there is also a very serious side to this night, the aspect of it that was celebrated by the people of Europe centuries ago, the aspect of it that lent to the mainstream holiday most of its symbolism that we see today. Halloween in its religious form is a night to honor those who have passed on to the other side. It is a night to celebrate and remember those you have loved who are no longer physically with you. It is believed by many cultures and religions that on this night the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest and because of this, the night is dedicated to the dead. (That explains the skeletons and ghosts all over the place in our decorations for Halloween, doesn't it?) This night is also the Wiccan new year and the third and final harvest celebration.
My usual routine on this night is to decorate my altar with pictures of my loved ones who are no longer here, to take stock of the spiritual progress I have made (including accomplishments and things I want to work on or focus on in the next twelve months), and I usually burn all of my altar candles down completely on this night and start fresh the following day in honor of the New Year aspect. However, like Beltane, many celebrate this holiday from dusk on October 31st to dusk November 1st and I think I am going to try something new this year and go with that. In addition to this, I have also recently come across a week long honoring celebration from October 24th-October 31st that was posted on facebook and taken from Margie McCarther's book Wiccacraft for Families. I think I am going to try it as well because I liked the idea of it as soon as I read it. I've been doing the same thing for the past fourteen years. I think it's time to spice it up. (For any interested readers out there, I am going to post info on Samhain from the website and the list of who to honor on what date is included there.) is some details concerning this interesting night of the year taken from the above listed site:

Samhain: October 31/November 1 for Northern Hemisphere; May 1 for Southern Hemisphere
Samhain Lore Researched and Compiled
by StormWing, Copyright © 1996 - 2007
Samhain (pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne) is one of the Greater Wiccan Sabbats and is generally celebrated on October 31st, although some Traditions prefer the date of November 1st. The various names for this Sabbat are Samhain (Celtic), Shadowfest (Strega), Martinmas or Old Hallowmas (Scottish/Celtic), as well as Halloween, Hallowmas, All Hallows Eve, Halloween, Day of the Dead, Feast of Spirits, Third Harvest, Samonios, All Saints Eve, Celtic New Year, Samhuinn, Celtic Winter, Samana, Festival of Pamona, Vigil of Saman, Vigil of Todos, and Santos. Though this Holiday is celebrated on October 31st, All Hallows Eve falls on November 7th, and Martinmas on November 11th.
The symbolism of this Sabbat is that of The Third (and final) Harvest, it marks the end of Summer, the beginning of Winter. It is a time marked by death when the Dead are honored - a time to celebrate and "study" the Dark Mysteries. "Samhain" means "End of Summer". Its historical origin is The Feast of the Dead in Celtic lands. It is believed that on this night, the veil Between the Worlds is at its thinnest point, making this an excellent time to communicate with the Other Side.
Symbols for representing this Sabbat may include Jack-O-Lanterns, Balefires, Masks, The Besom (Magickal Broom), The Cauldron, and the Waning Moon. Altar decorations might include small jack-o-lanterns, foods from the harvest, and photographs of your loved ones who have departed from this world.
Appropriate Deities for Samhain include ALL Crone Goddesses, and the Dying God or the "Dead" God. Samhain Goddesses include Hecate, Hel, Inanna, Macha, Mari, Psyche, Ishtar, Lilith, The Morrigu/Morrigan, Rhiannon, and Cerridwen. Key actions to keep in mind during this time in the Wheel of the Year include return, change, reflection, endings and beginnings, and honoring the Dead. Other meanings behind this Sabbat celebration include the Wisdom of the Crone, the Death of the God, and the Celebration of Reincarnation.
Samhain is considered by many Pagans, Wiccans, and Witches (especially those of Celtic heritage) to be the date of the Witches New Year, representing one full turn of the Wheel of the Year. This is the time of year for getting rid of weaknesses. A common Ritual practice calls for each Wiccan to write down his/her weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment and toss it into the Cauldron fire. Other activities might include Divination, Past-Life Recall, Spirit Contact, Meditation, Astral Projection ("Flying"), and the drying of Winter herbs. It is considered "taboo" by some to travel after dark, or to eat grapes or berries.
Spellwork for protection and neutralizing harm are particularly warranted at this time of year, because Samhain is considered to be a good time to boost your confidence and security.
Many Witches use their own personal Besom, or Magickal Broom as a part of their rituals. Some Besoms are structurally different in shape from the flat ones sold today, being round on the end and having a smaller sweeping surface. They can, however, be fashioned flat or however you personally desire. These Magickal Brooms are commonly used for cleansing and purifying Sacred Space, but can be used for many other things... such as using one in place of a Wand, Athame, or finger to project your personal energy when casting your Circle.
Here is a simple way to create your own, quoted from one of Edain McCoys wonderful books:
"Making a Besom"
If you would like a Besom of your own, they are fairly easy to find in craft stores, country markets, or folk art fairs. You can also invest your energies into making one, a good idea if you wish to use it in place of a Wand or other ritual tool.
To make a Besom you will need a four-foot dowel one inch in diameter, a ball of twine, scissors, and straw or other long strands of pliable herbs.
Take the straw, or another herb you have chosen for the bristles, and allow them to soak overnight in warm, lightly salted water. The water softens the straws to make them pliable, and the salt soaks out former energies.
When you are ready to make your Besom, remove the straws from the water and allow them to dry a bit, but not so much that they lose the suppleness you will need to turn them into your Besom.
Find a work area where you can lay out the length of your dowel, and begin lining the straws alongside the dowel. Starting about three inches from the bottom, lay the straws, moving backward, along the length of the dowel. Begin binding these to the dowel with the twine. You will need to tie them very securely. You can add as many layers of straw as you wish, depending on how full you would like your Besom to be.
When the straw is secured, bend the top straws down over the twine ties. When they are all gently pulled over, tie off the straws again a few inches below the original tie. Leave the Besom overnight to allow the straw to dry.
The dowel part of the Besom can be stained, painted, or decorated with Pagan symbols, your Craft name, or any other embellishments you choose. Dedicate your finished Besom in your Circle as you would any other ritual tool.
(The above "Making a Besom" is quoted directly from Edain McCoys book “The Sabbats: A New Approach to Living the Old Ways”, page 36, Llewellyn Publications, 1994.)
The most common colors associated with Samhain are Orange and Black. However, Red, Brown, and Golden Yellow are also appropriate colors for this Sabbat. Altar candles should be black, orange, white, silver and/or gold. Stones to use during the Samhain Celebration are Obsidian, Onyx, and Carnelian. Animals associated with Samhain include bats, cats, and dogs. Mythical beasts associated with Samhain are the following: Phooka, Goblin, Medusa, Beansidhe, Fylgiar, Peryton, Erlkonig, and Harpies. Plants and herbs associated with Samhain are Mugwort, Allspice, Sage, Gourds, Catnip, and Apple Trees.
The traditional Pagan foods of Samhain include beets, turnips, squash, apples, corn, nuts, gingerbread, cider, pomegranates, mulled wines and pumpkin dishes. These are all appropriate as well as meat (especially pork) dishes (if you are not a vegetarian - if so, tofu seems ritually correct).
Some Wiccans leave a plate of food outside the home for the souls of the dead. Placement of a candle in a window and burying apples in the hard-packed Earth is believed to guide them on their journey to the lands of Eternal Summer.
According to Margie McArthur, in her book “WiccaCraft for Families”, the following dates are celebrated by many for the entire week preceding October 31st, called "All-Hallows Week":
October 24th - Festival Prelude and Night of Seers - decorate and remember those who have seen the future.
October 25th - Night of Heroes and Martyrs - honoring members of families who died in war and peace, those who have died for their faith.
October 26th - Night of Artists - for remembering those who speak of the Old Ways through the arts.
October 27th - Night of Nurturers - those who keep the home fires burning, caring for those in need of care.
October 28th - Night of Remembrance of Family Pets, recalled and cherished.
October 29th - Night of Remembrance of Forgotten Ancestors, heritage, and origins.
October 30th - Night of the Recent Dead - trip to cemetery.
October 31st - Family Fire Festival

If you are interested in learning more, books like Halloween by Silver Ravenwolf, Seasons of Witchery by Ellen Dugan, and Sabbats: A Witch's Approach to Living the Old Ways by Edain McCoy are great options for building your own Samhain traditions. Book of Shadows by Silver Ravenwolf also has a great Samhain ritual in it. This is the one I've used as part ofmy celebrationsince 2003. I see this as perhaps the most personal holy day of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year so my only advice if you are new to the religion or to solitary rituals is to create something that feels right to you. You are honoring your loved ones. Do it your way, whatever that way may be. :) 

A link to a chant for your ancestors that is really simple yet powerful:

I will leave you, my blogger friends, with  Samhain Benediction by David Norris. This can be added to your ritual as an ending and it can be found on the last page of Halloween by Silver Ravenwolf. Have a blessed and wonderful week, all.

Samhain Benediction
-David O. Norris

It is time to bid farewell
As this Samhain passes slowly
Soon the dawning will embrace us
And the sunset portal close
Until the turning of the year
We must part for just a while
Yet I know there is no ending
And the golden thread spins outward
To that place where you are going
Until I travel there to meet you
Or you return upon the autumn
On the sacred night of Spirits
When we shall meet again.
Blessed Be!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ten Songs to Get Your Halloween Party Going

And what would Halloween be without the music to get the party started? I'm not talking about the incredibly cheesy crap you get on those store bought Halloween CD's either (sorry...I despise that stuff). I am talking about the good stuff from the movies, shows, and books that make Halloween great. So get ready to groove with me. 

1) The Monster Mash by Boris Pickett
What would this holiday be without The Monster Mash? It has been a beloved part of Halloween since the early 1960's ('62 I believe but I'm not sure) and it's such a fun song that I can't imagine anyone not loving it.
2) This Is Halloween-The Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack
Yes, I am partial to this movie and everything related to it, I know. But this song is absolutely great and because of its title and lyrics it has become like a Halloween anthem for my generation. 
3) I Put A Spell On You-Hocus Pocus Soundtrack
I love CCR and I love Marilyn Manson and both versions of this song are great but for me, if you want the best Halloween version of it, the Sanderson Sisters have you covered. It's Bette Midler. How could anyone not love it? haha
4) Jack's Lament-The Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack
This is the last one off that soundtrack, I promise. lol Everything I said about This is Halloween could be said again for Jack's Lament. The King of Halloween's woes over his job has become a favorite this time of year for all of us who love the movie. With lines like, "With the slightest little effort of my ghost like charms I have seen grown men give out a shriek  With the wave of my hand or a well placed moan I have swept the very bravest off their feet." it's no wonder. 
5) Come Little Children-Hocus Pocus Soundtrack
I advise playing this as you pass out candy on Halloween night. I can almost guarantee you will soon become the most talked about house on the block. This song was my favorite from the movie when I was little because I thought it was enchanting. Since Sarah Sanderson is singing it to lure children, I suppose that is fitting. I couldn't imagine Halloween without this dark tune. 
6) Skin and Bones
My music teacher in elementary school first introduced me to this song and I absolutely loved it as a kid. It took me years to find it again and last year on youtube I finally found two versions of it. The first was recorded a very long time ago, possibly on the Victrola records they had decades ago, and it is sang by an unknown woman. It sounds very creepy and the video has a slideshow of the pictures that people once took of their dead in various poses so it's more for the grown up's. The second version is more like the one I remember from my childhood. 

7) The Hearst Song
I know this song from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and all of my friends do too. It's a gory little tune but kids seem to love it and I must admit, I am still entertained by it as well.
8) The Ghost of John (Traditional)
I remember this song from childhood but I had forgotten all about it until I stumbled upon a singer who actually does Halloween carols. She did a version of it that I really enjoy and I like that she did this song because it's so old no one knows where the hell it came from (like Skin and Bones) and if people continue to sing it, it can survive for future generations. 
9) Thriller-Michael Jackson
I don't personally think of this as a Halloween song but many people do and it is easy to see why. I mean, that video has been scaring the shit out of kids since 1983. Just about everyone I know from my generation has a story concerning the fear they felt once upon a time because of the video and Vincent Price's creepy part in the song. I personally used to play it to scare my little brother because he was terrified of the song itself and our rooms were side by side so if I turned it up loud enough he could hear it. (Yeah, I am chuckling just remembering that...) So...without further ado...THRILLER
10) The Addams Family Theme Song
Last, but certainly not least, we have one of the greatest theme songs of all time. The Addams Family was goth before there was a name for it. They are the first family of dysfunction, they embrace the macabre, and they are absolutely loveable to everyone but their neighbors and such. Play it once and it will be stuck in your head all day. But it's worth it, right? Get ready to snap your fingers....
That completes my Halloween suggestions. I hope it was as fun for you as it was for me. As I've said before, this time of year is magical for me and it always has been. To me, Halloween is a day where kids can be whatever they want (and adults who choose to believe can too) and anything is possible. So hang your ghosts, stick your tombstones in the ground, and hug your local witch. Because the most wonderful time of the year is upon us again.

Five Great Books/Series For Halloween (And The Raven)

To me, curling up with hot apple cider and a good Halloween-themed book is one of the best things to do on a cold October night. If you agree with me, than this is the list for you. Here are five books (novels, series, and one author) that I must have to set the mood of the month for me:

1) Halloween by Silver Ravenwolf
Yes, this book was written by a Pagan author BUT it is not just a Pagan book. This fun book tells of the history of Halloween from a serious religious time to its modern form as a night of fun and frolic. It also includes recipes for the holiday and for those of you who are Pagan there are ritual suggestions included. But if you are not Pagan you can still enjoy the majority of the book and you can easily skip the small section that includes rituals if you choose to do so. This book can be enjoyed by anyone who loves Halloween regardless of their religious beliefs.

2) Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (The Series)
If you are a 90's kid like me, you know these books and you might know them well. They were very popular back in our day. Why? Because they were fucking awesome! Now that I am grown up I will still read them to the children I love in my life or by myself because they bring back great memories and they continue to be fun ghost stories even after all of these years. So read them to your kids (and don't forget...when the book instructs you to do something like scream, do it. Scares the hell out of the kids, then they always laugh, and that will make you laugh. It's great fun for everyone.) or read them by yourself. 
3) The Haunted Ohio Series
To me, this is sort of like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark for grown ups. I don't know if they are available outside of Ohio...I assume they are. Maybe they are best enjoyed by Ohioans because we know the places that are talked about in the book (it's that whole 'Oh my god...I always knew there was something off with that damned house' thing) but the stories surrounding the ghosts are the main focus and they can be enjoyed by anyone. I've read the books every October since I was about 17 and I continue to read them every year.
4) The Widow's Broom
When I was a little girl I loved...loved...LOVED this book. Not only was the story great, the pictures were amazing. At 25 years old I still love this book and most of the kids who have been around me have heard the story because I will use them as an excuse to read it. (I'm shameless, I know.) The story is about a widow who finds a witch who has crashed in her garden. The woman ends up with the enchanted broom of the witch and her neighbors are none too happy about the diabolical thing that sweeps floors and carries water by itself. Want to know what happens to the woman and her magic broom? Well, then, you have to read the book. :) Gather the kids, heat up some cider or cocoa, and read them this great story. Don't forget to show them the pictures. 

5) Almost Anything by Stephen King (for you) and The Berenstain Bears Halloween Books (for the kids)
In my opinion, there is no one in our modern culture who does horror quite as well as Stephen King. I think of him almost like the Poe of our time in that aspect. So it seems fitting that books like Pet Semetary, The Shinning, and Bag of Bones should be a part of this list. The man is a master in his genre and for some his books may give you nightmares but it's worth it. And even if you are harder to scare like me, his amazing style will keep you up long into the cold October night. 

The Berenstain Bears has kept two generations entertained so far and I have no doubt that the stories of the most infamous bear family will continue to stand the test of time because they are fun, they are educational, and the adorable bears are sort of hard to resist. When I was little my favorite book from the series was Trick or Treat. I believe they have a couple of Halloween books but that was the only one I ever read and, true to my nature, I got it from a book fair when I was seven and I read it every Halloween until it got lost in a move when I was twelve. Again, these are books that the whole family can enjoy.
Edgar Allan Poe isn't officially on the list (because I am going for 31 items with the movies, the books, and the songs...Type A personality, ya know?) but how can I leave him out? He should really be number one. The Black Cat, The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart...his stories (and some of his poems) were horror before there was really a genre for it. In many ways, he is the father of the horror genre. And October would not be complete without his literary genius, twisted as it was. And speaking of Poe, The Raven is out on DVD. Add it to your fun this month. It was one hell of a movie. :)
And because I adore you all, here is The Raven in its entirety. (Just like I said when I posted The Black Cat, I mean no copyright infringement and I am confident that Poe doesn't mind if I post his beloved poem.) Taken from

The Raven

[First published in 1845]
horizontal spaceOnce upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Happy Birthday, Anne Rice

The Queen of the Vampires turns seventy-one today and of course I believe she deserves a blog post here to commemorate it. She did change my life with her words, after all. My first experience with Anne came in the form of Interview with the Vampire...the movie. I was seven the first time I saw it and I was absolutely amazed. No one told me vampires could be like that. I was madly in love with Lestat, I related to Claudia, and I went around the house drinking cherry Juicy Juice out of a wine glass for a month or more because it looked like blood. I watched the movie every chance I got from that point on. And I always wondered about the woman who spoke at the beginning of the original film. I don't know if anyone remembers that introduction but Anne had on her black dress, her hair was black, and she was sitting in this ornate room (I think it was in her house in New Orleans). Who was she? And what was it like to be inside her mind?

      Fast forward five years. My great-grandmother gave me twenty dollars completely out of the blue. It was the first and last time she ever gave me money (we were not close the way I was with my grandmother's mom) and I tried to give it back because I didn't feel right taking it. But she insisted and she said something along the lines of, "Do something special with it." That evening I went to Kroger's with my grandmother and I had that money in my pocket. I planned to blow it on candy bars and Dr. Pepper until I found myself in the book and magazine aisle. There was the book Interview with the Vampire alongside The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned. I had seen the movie to Interview with the Vampire and it was Lestat that I loved. So I figured I would know enough from the movie to know what was going on if I bought his tale. I spent a week that summer (1999) reading the words of our beloved Brat Prince, completely absorbed in it even though there were parts I didn't understand. 

      I still have that book. It is lovingly held together with a rubber band now just like the copy of Interview with the Vampire that Lestat reads at the beginning of The Vampire Lestat. One day I will have to replace it. It's been through hell. But I will never ever part with it. Because that hot steamy week in my room with the words of Anne Rice gave me direction. I always knew I wanted to be a writer (well, since the third grade) and I knew I wanted to write novels but I had no idea what I would write novels about. From that book I got my inspiration. Vampires. Not Dracula-style vampires. Not cheesy dorks with black and red capes who slept upside down. Hell no. Vampires with souls, vampires with hearts, vampires who had to deal with eternity in the dark...and feeding off the blood of the living. I started writing my first "book" two months later. It's terrible. I mean, really terrible. If I ever decide to have that thing published it will have to have a completely overhaul. Same goes for the second book I started a year later. But they were a start. A good start considering I was only twelve. And without them, without The Vampire Lestat, without Anne...I don't know that I would be here now querying agents for two books while writing what is technically my fifth. My vampire version of Beauty and the Beast. 

      I will never compete with Anne, published or unpublished. I will never reach her greatness. She has the sort of writing style that Stephen King has. They can write ANYTHING and keep readers enthralled. I don't have that. But even if the day came when each vampire novel I wrote went to number one (and that, by the way, is highly unlikely indeed) I wouldn't want to compete with her. There is only ONE Queen of the Vampires. There is only one Anne Rice. And no one will ever replace her and what she gave to vampire fiction with her work. You cannot top a pioneer. Frankly, any good vampire writer that will grace the literary world from here on out (yes, that definitely excludes Stephanie Meyers, my friends) will only be building upon the foundation she laid out almost four decades ago with Interview with the Vampire. 

Anne had an unusual life from the moment she was born. Her birth name is not Anne at all but Howard Allen O'Brien. Yes, she was named after her father. No, she was not born a man. But she was one of four girls and there were no sons. Even though she isn't the youngest, her mother must have had a premonition. At the tender age of six Anne renamed herself (headstrong much?) and I suppose that was the beginning of her journey as the woman we know and love today. Anne started querying agents before she hit high wayyyy before. Her first queries were written in long hand and sent out with short stories. Her mother died when she was quite young after a battle with alcoholism that touched Anne's early years in many ways. Anyone who has read Violin can see the biographical touch that was added to it and you can see the effect that her early years had on her. Eventually she borrowed money from her sister Alice and she left her beloved New Orleans. She married her high school sweetheart, Stan Rice, and they moved to Berkeley, California where he became a teacher at the university there. They had a little girl, Michelle, and the young family was like any other happy little family at the time for a while. And then the unthinkable happened.

At six years old Michelle Rice was diagnosed with Leukemia. Anne and Stan both started drinking heavily to deal with their daughter's illness as she slipped away and when she passed away, Anne did what many parents do in that situation. She lost her mind for a little while. From this Interview with the Vampire was really born. It started out as a short story but when she started working on it a few years after Michelle's death, it turned into her place to get it all out. Lestat was Stan, Louis was Anne, and Claudia was the child they had lost...immortal forever on the page. Writers would understand this, I think. Writing is how we deal. Writing is how we work out life. It's our therapy. In Anne's case, her therapy changed her life completely. At first she couldn't get anyone in the literary world to take Interview so she said that she actually thought about binding it herself and selling it on street corners. But an agent eventually grabbed it up. And the rest, as they say, is history....

Anne has had her share of heartbreak, losing Stan almost ten years ago to a brain tumor shortly after he was diagnosed with it. Her son, Christopher, has followed in his mom's footsteps and he has become a literary force in his own right. Her life, like most, has been a series of ups and downs but through it all Anne always found her way on the page. The way that she has overcome challenges is as inspiring as her work. She remains upbeat, she keeps in touch with fans every day on facebook, and she is always down to earth. She is an inspiration. So here's to many many more birthdays for the amazing woman who has touched so many. We love you!

Monday, October 1, 2012

My Favorite Halloween Movies (Kicking off October)

It is officially October, folks. And I am kicking off my month-long celebration with sixteen of my favorite Halloween movies. Some of them are scary, some are fun, but all of them, in one way or another, inspire the spirit of what is the most wonderful time of the year for me.

1) The Nightmare Before Christmas
For years I have loved this Tim Burton masterpiece almost to the point of obsession. Jack and his boredom, Sally and her angst, and Zero, the coolest friggin' dog in the world, are often relied on to entertain me all year long but when it comes to Halloween movies, Nightmare is number one for me. As soon as I hear the opening notes of 'This is Halloween' I know the season has officially begun!

2) Hocus Pocus
Winnifred, Mary, and Sarah Sanderson are three witches hanged in 1693 who are accidentally brought back thanks to Winni's quick thinking at the gallows and a virgin who couldn't resist lighting a candle three hundred years after the ladies saw their last sunrise. I was about seven the first time I saw the movie and I absolutely loved it. Especially Winnifred. She was the one with the guts and the attitude and...well...I appreciate that in a woman and/or in a witch. ;) Like Nightmare, Halloween isn't Halloween for me without this movie. Although it has lost just a little bit of the magic it once held for me because now I am grown up, I still watch it and love it shamelessly. 

And speaking of witches I loved even before I rode a broom myself...

3) The Witches of Eastwick
I honestly don't remember a time in my life without this movie. My mother was obsessed with it and because I idolized Cher, I was ok with her watching it over and over again. She would often rent this with Hocus Pocus so to me the two sort of go hand in hand and what better time of year is there than October to watch Hollywood witches who, in the case of these three wonderful women, actually have no witchy attributes, Hollywood or otherwise, going for them? Well, besides their intimate relationship with Mr. Van Horn of course. the words of the ladies themselves...
"If we're going to have it, let's have it all." Classic case of be careful what you wish for and a great Halloween movie. 

4) Interview with the Vampire
I could honestly do an entire post on this movie because I have so many memories of it and it changed my life so completely in a way...but I won't subject you to that today. I will say that as far as vampire movies go, it does not get any better than Interview for this self-proclaimed vampire snob. It has the blood, it has the violence, but it also has the heart and the loneliness that even the hardest bastard would feel after walking the earth for a small eternity. Scratch that. Lestat doesn't feel it after all. But that's what makes him our beloved Brat Prince, right? haha It isn't Halloween without these creatures of the Undead and Anne Rice's vampires are the best of the best. 

"Louis, Louis...still whining, Louis? I've had to listen to that for centuries!"

"Don't be afraid. I'm going to give you the choice I never had."

Tied for number 5:
The Crow and The Crow-City of Angels

Of course, The Crow is better than The Crow-City of Angels. You just can't top the original. But the second movie was good. Now, every Crow movie that came after it? Forget about it! They were just terrible and a little painful to watch. But we're not talking about those are we? Brandon Lee as Eric Draven was perhaps the best thing to happen to the Undead (no, he wasn't a vampire but yes, he does still count as one of the Undead...he is just a different breed) since Lestat even now...18 years after The Crow was released. To me, aside from the violence and the death, there is a truly beautiful (dark) story of complete and total love there. He didn't let death stop him from avenging his death or his fiance Shelly's death and he didn't let death stop him from loving her totally. This is how I do romance this time of year, ya know? You can't leave out the love in the holiday. lol
As for City of Angels, it is little Sarah all grown up and again finding herself face to face with a man who has come back from the dead with a crow as his guide. This time the man in question, Ashe, is avenging the deaths of his son and himself and Sarah is trying to help him by relying on what she remembered from the two nights that her beloved Eric came back years before. Again, it is no where near as good or intense and Ashe is no Eric by any means...but it's not bad and I watch it every October.
"Buildings burn and people die but true love lasts forever...."

6) The Addams Family & The Addams Family Values


I would like to start this off with a confession: Everything I know about fashion I learned from Morticia Addams and half of my personality was influenced by Wednesday. haha If you want a great Halloween movie you can watch with your kids or if you happen to be a '90's kid like me and you view Halloween as a great time to regress, spend some time with the First Family of Goth. You will be very glad you did. :)
( the theme song playing in your head now? lol)

7) Sleepy Hollow
Johnny Depp is in it. Do you need a better reason than that to add this movie to your holiday to-do list? :)
This is another Tim Burton film and it is, in my opinion, the best re-telling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that has been made to date. Between the brilliance and the darkness of Burton and the amazing acting of Depp (No, he's not just a very pretty face) the story of the incredibly awkward  and, at times, down right dim witted Ichabod Crane trying to save the village of Sleepy Hollow comes to life. Like his work on Alice in Wonderland, Burton took a story and he put his own touch to it until he made it his own. The plot, the headless horseman, and the sinister plans of certain folks in the quiet little village make it a Halloween must.

8) Pet Sematary
Would I leave my beloved Stephen King off this list? Of course not. This was the last movie that ever truly scared me. I was about six years old the first time I was able to talk my mother into letting me watch it (I was obsessed with scary movies as a small child and by that point this movie had become like the Holy Grail to me) and it wasn't all of the burying the dead to make them come back to life stuff that got to me. No. It was Rachel's...fucking...sister. Now that I am all grown up and I no longer get scared by scary movies...that scene still gets to me. haha I love this movie unconditionally (although it was child's play compared with the book) and I couldn't imagine a single Halloween without it. 
"First I played with Jed...then I played with I wanna play with youuuu!" 
Don't leave poor little Gage hanging this October. :)

"Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!"
(And if you remember the cartoon as well, you get ten bonus cool points. Congrats. lol)
Yes, I know, it's another Tim Burton movie. But that is not my fault. I never told him to be so damned great at making amazing Halloween movies. :)
This movie is perfect for those October nights in with the kids. I honestly have yet to meet a small child who didn't like it and it sure beats watching Spongebob. Everybody wins. :) 
When Barbra and Adam take a drive that their bodies don't return from, they call in the completely insane "bioexorcist" (he is for the dead what a Catholic Priest is for the living) to get the new people out of their house. But in the process of trying to evict their living house guests they end up discovering that Beetlejuice can be quite a pain in the ass and that Olivia, the family's teenage daughter, is just what they needed to make their own family complete. Heartwarming, huh? 

10) Insidious
If you love scary movies and you have found that somewhere along the way scary movies just stopped...scaring you...this is the movie for you. I do not jump over horror movies anymore. I haven't in years. I literally jumped while watching this. The way that they did ghosts in this movie was completely different from the way they are typically shown in movies. Not their physical appearance ( some cases, that too) but in the way that they show themselves. This is a new Halloween addition to my tradition but I absolutely love this movie for me a little taste of the old thrill that scary movies used to give me once upon a time.

11) A Nightmare on Elm Street
I know that there was a slew of Nightmare movies made but to me the only one worth watching is the first one. This was the first horror movie I ever watched and the begging and pleading I had to do in order to talk my mother into that one (I was all of four...maybe five...) was really incredible. But I wanted to get my hands on this movie that everyone was talking about., damn it! And I did. For months I wouldn't take a shower without covering our heating vent in the bathroom because I was afraid that Freddie was going to stick his sharp appendages right up through that vent and gut me as I came out. However, while I stood in the shower I couldn't cover the drain and he was so crafty...what if I was actually dreaming and not showering at all...then he could come up through the drain and...
Yep, that was the way my brain worked back then. And I loved it. I had my first taste of horror movies, I had the shit scared out of me, and I wanted more! Of course it's not really that scary. But if you are like me and you can remember a time when it seemed like Freddie was lurking in every corner waiting to strike, why not relive those beautiful moments this month?
12) The Haunting in Connecticut
This is another somewhat recent addition to my Halloween movie marathon that I have every night in October. I absolutely loved this movie. Why? Well, let me ask you this...if you moved into a very old house, could you be one hundred percent sure that there were no bodies in the walls and no tormented souls walking the halls? If you just said yes, you lack imagination and I am just...*sigh* disappointed in you. I usually get nothing out of slasher movies. They don't scare me. They don't make me wonder 'what if' and I tend to be bored by them. But a movie like this? Right up my alley, my friend. I have no doubt in my mind that ghosts exist, I don't doubt that a very sick person who is in between life and death could become a target for spirits, and I think anyone who has ever lived in an old house knows that they have decades of history you know nothing about. Was there a morgue in your basement once? Seances held in your dinning room one hundred years ago? Some madman who lived where you are now that refused to give up the house or his insanity long after death? The Haunting in Connecticut is just the sort of movie to make you wonder...
13) Rob Zombie's Halloween
I actually don't have too much to say about this one except that I normally dislike Rob Zombie's movies, slasher films, and the entire Halloween franchise BUT I watched this movie last October and I actually enjoyed it. I was shocked. So, by my logic, if you do like Zombie's movies or Halloween you will probably really enjoy this movie.
14) The Amityville Horror
I hated the original Amityville...all of them, actually. I mean, the dramatic hell in the basement bit in the first movie, the creepy incestuous bit in the second movie...the one with the replica house...or was it a haunted clock...I can't even remember anymore...the point is, I hated them. So were my hopes high when they re-made The Amityville Horror? Not quite. But it's amazing what thirty years and a new perspective on the whole thing did for that movie. Did it scare me? No. But at least it was interesting. And it's great to watch with the lights out just days before Halloween. 

15) Casper
Again, if you remember the cartoon you get ten additional cool points. I wasn't alive when the cartoon was on the air originally. However, I was fortunate enough to grow up without cable and stations like the WB showed old shows when I was little. It is because of that that I first became acquainted with everyone's favorite friendly ghost. When they made this movie I could not wait to see it. And I have loved it ever since. It is another one of those movies that might seem a bit cheesy if you are not a small child or if you do not have amazing childhood memories of it, but if you find that your kids want to see it and you watch it with them sometimes an amazing thing happens. You see the movie through their eyes. And that? Well, that makes you realize how fun this film really was.
16) The Exorcist
This movie actually belongs higher up on this list of mine but I sort of forgot about it and I thought it might be easier to just stick it down here. Go with it. lol Ah, The Exorcist...scaring the shit out of people for nearly forty years. Now, I must admit, I think I waited too late in my life to watch this because I have never been frightened by it. I was eleven the first time I saw it and my reaction has been the same each time I've seen it in the fourteen years since. I think it is pretty hilarious. Except for the highly disturbing crucifix scene(Let god fuck you indeed...what the hell?), the demon/devil/whatever was hysterically funny. I mean, yes, he was evil. But his sarcasm was impeccable.  Despite the fact that it is a horror movie that makes me laugh, it is still a damned good movie and one that I think everyone who is old enough to handle it should watch around this time of year. What is a Halloween Movie Marathon without this classic that so changed the genre of horror. Oh, you don't agree that it did? Think about movies like The Blob or the original Night of the Living un-horrific (Yes, I think I just made that word up) they were...and then imagine that we had not had the last four decades of newer, scarier, crazier horror and you were sitting in a dark theater watching it when it premiered. That would have been quite a jolt to the psyche I believe. So while I may not find it scary today, I can certainly see how it changed the way that Hollywood did horror. Which is something to be thankful for. Imagine what a life it would be if The Birds was the scariest movie you had ever seen. Truly frightening indeed....

The few videos I added are full movies, by the way. Enjoy them while they last because stuff like that tends to be jerked off of youtube quickly. 

I hope you have enjoyed this cinematic trip through the journey we are on this month. Next week? It's on to books. Yes, I am such a dork that I even have books for Halloween. If you are around my age, you will most likely recognize at least one from our delightful youth. lol 
In the meantime...HAPPY OCTOBER!!!! Break out your pumpkins and your scarecrows, your black cats and your ghosties...and don't...forget...the witches. :) And if you find yourself searching for something to do one night this month, heat up a glass of apple cider, grab a caramel apple (better yet...grab one for each hand), and kick back with one of your favorite Halloween movies.