Welcome to my Howloween Blog Hop post! Anyone leaving a comment here will be in the running to win a signed, print copy of Going For Gold, the M/M Olympic themed anthology from MLR Press, including my sport horse novella, Lightning in a Bottle (if you live in the continental US) or the reader’s choice from my backlist in e-book form (if you live outside the US). Comments for the contest will be considered up until Nov 1, then a winner will be selected randomly from among the commenters.
The contest is now closed and the winner is vitajex! I’ll be contacting you via email–thanks for playing along, guys!
When I was a child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. I didn’t care for the Fourth of July with the fireworks and the cookouts. It took far too long to get to the park where we could see the fireworks display, and even longer getting out at the end of the evening. Ditto with New Year’s. A lot of noise and the making of resolutions no one ever keeps. Valentine’s Day was usually a bust for me too; with me complaining loudly to all who would listen that V-day was a commercial holiday orchestrated by society to force us into buying flowers and dinner out at a fancy restaurant. Thanksgiving seemed like a lot of work for an hour’s worth of good dining (though the days of leftovers helped make up for it!). Christmas Eve, in which everything was still a potential, (and nothing yet had disappointed) was always my favorite over Christmas Day.
But when I was growing up, Halloween had a special kind of magic all its own. For starters, there was the dressing up and going Trick or Treating. I don’t know about you guys, but Trick or Treating was a Big Deal when I was a kid. My grandmother had made me a tiger suit when I was very small–and being a sickly child who didn’t grow much, I was able to wear this outfit year after year. I loved my tiger suit. It fit over my entire body, compete with tail and a hoodie with ears. My mom would draw whiskers on my face with her eyebrow pencil, and I would drape my tail over my arm as I headed out the door with my pumpkin basket to collect my candy.
Back then, Halloween was the culmination of my favorite time of the year. I loved going back to school when I was a child. I loved that first day in September when the temperature dropped by 20 degrees and you had to take a sweater with you, ‘just in case’. I loved the crackle of dry leaves underfoot–the scratchy sound they made on the pavement as you walked through them. Even the air was different–smelling of wood smoke and damp earth, cool and crisp as a Red Delicious apple. October was all red and yellow leaves, gorgeous afternoons with bars of light that lay in heavy bands of gold across the path in the woods. November is different. By the time November arrives, the trees are bare, the afternoons are cold and rainy. Halloween is the last, best week of the most glorious time of year.
But on Halloween, everyone would pull out the stops. People carved pumpkins and placed lighted candles within to indicate they were receptive to Trick or Treaters. We would wait, dressed in our costumes, until dusk, after which we would hit the streets. Back then, people knew their neighbors. My favorite house to visit belonged to Mrs. Hutchins–she made the most incredible gingerbread men–each individually decorated. Not to be outdone, my mother made popcorn balls and created little airplanes out of Popsicle sticks and Lifesavers–the tube of Lifesavers making the body of the plane, and two Lifesavers were used as wheels.
Somewhere along the way, Halloween changed. Pixie stix were found to be laced with cyanide, and candy was showing up with razor blades inside. My father insisted that our candy be radiographed at the hospital where he worked before we ate it, and my parents refused to to let us eat anything that was homemade anymore. I outgrew my tiger suit, and trick or treating in the neighborhood was replaced by Halloween parties. My parents were not big party throwers, so Halloween became something to set aside, as another part of my childhood that I shelved on growing up.
I noticed the other night that in the upscale neighborhoods near my house, homes are decorated for Halloween now as seriously as some people take Christmas, with colored lights and inflatable displays that go up at the first of October and stay up until Thanksgiving (when the Christmas decorations come out). Some are gorgeously and tastefully decorated with little orange lights and garlands of brightly colored leaves winding around the railings. Some are a little more out there…
Great. One more thing that I can’t keep up with due to lack of time. As it is, I no longer decorate for Christmas. I just can’t do all that work when half the time, I’m not even there. Decorating your house for the holidays is so that you can pull up at night and see the lights glowing in the impending dusk. It sort of dampens the effect if you have to go inside and turn the lights on first, you know?
I never lost my love of dressing up in costume, however. My mother, freed from the pressure of keeping up with the likes of Mrs. Hutchins, refused to acknowledge the day. One year, I’d come home from college for the weekend, only to find my mother heading out to a movie, house darkened, no candy available.
Well, screw that, I thought. After she left, I went to the store and bought some candy. When I got back to the house, I scrounged around until I put together an outfit that could have passed for a woman in Colonial Williamsburg–a floor length skirt, a long sleeved, high-necked blouse. I piled my hair on top of my head and picked up a camping lantern. I left the lights off in the house, and wandered through the rooms with the lantern, pausing in windows so I could be seen from the street. I have to admit, more than one car screeched to a stop when passing the house!
I decided that if anyone rang the doorbell, I would liberally hand out candy without speaking. I did get a few callers, though I suspect the lights being out discouraged most of them. I do remember one small child, leaning in with her basket to receive her candy, saying in a voice filled with awe, “You’re beautiful!”
I didn’t hear that a lot when I was young. It made an impression.
Somehow, I never let go of Halloween. Even with nowhere to go, I still wanted to dress for the day. There’s something about putting on a costume that is so liberating. I tend to dress as favorite characters from movies or stories, as opposed to the Sexy Witch, or the Sexy Vampire. Dressing as a favorite character imbues you with their strengths, and for a brief period of time, you are your hero. I’ve written about Walking like Beckett and what I’ve learned from that, but over the years, I’ve been Athena from the original Battlestar Galactica series, and I’ve worn my Star Trek Next Gen (science blue) outfit for years. I’ve purchased the short dress uniform from the Star Trek Reboot, and Starbuck’s uniform from the new Battlestar Galactica, too.
But making my own costume makes me happier than any pre-made one. There’s something about the hunt for all the right components that’s akin to searching the used bookstores for an elusive out-of-print book. Sure, you could probably find it online–but the treasure hunt is part of the fun. This year, I’ve decided to go as Peggy Carter from Captain America. My word, I love the feisty heroine! Take a strong female character (strong, not bitchy!), dress her in a WW II uniform and put lipstick on her, and I am your devoted slave. Peggy Carter is everything I would like to be–tough but feminine, purpose-driven but believing in heroes, and one helluva shot! I loved how–period not withstanding–Peggy was not simply the love interest in the movie, but out there in the thick of things fighting with everyone else.
So for months now, I’ve been putting together a costume. An authentic uniform (or as close as I can get). Olive military jacket and skirt (wool). A white shirt. An olive tie. Silver wings. Kick-ass shoes.
I mentioned to a friend that I needed to find just the right ‘wartime red’ lipstick to finish the outfit, and she surprised me with a package the other day. She discovered that the favorite lipstick of the day was Victory Red by Elizabeth Arden, and that they still make it! She sent me a tube, along with an era authentic compact (Stratton–what ALL the English women used), and the piece de la resistance, a pendant with the likeness of Captain Steve Rogers embedded in it!
Be sure to leave your email in your comments so that I can contact you if you are the winner!
Going for Gold is the M/M Olympic themed anthology from MLR Press! Ice skating, diving, equestrian eventing, competitive shooting and more! There’s something for everyone (especially if you like hot athletes in Speedos, or tight breeches and tall boots!)