Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween 2018

Every Friday since early April 2018 I have been doing a thing called #FreeFridayFrights.

This is where, on my website, I offer up either a free short story or a free non-fiction eerie/ghostly article read. I also do a Facebook live video that is often also posted to YouTube and other places.

For this past Friday (Oct 26, 2018), because it was the last Friday before Halloween I talked a bit about the origins and sources for Halloween customs as well as some trivia related to Halloween.

Since the Free Friday Frights articles only appear for a week and then are replaced by new content every week, I thought I'd share this past week's article here. If you'd rather see the video based on this written content, scroll down to watch it.

Friday Oct 26, 2018

NON-FICTION:  Halloween

A look at the tradition of All Hallows Eve (Halloween) as well as some interesting trivia associated with it.

Halloween appears to be a combination of traditions and folklore derived from Pagan, Celtic, ancient Roman and Catholic traditions.

Originally a pagan festival of the dead, All Saints’ or All-Hallow’s Day is November 1. The day is also known as All Saints Day, All Hallows Day, and All Souls’ Day. According to the original pagan custom, the celebration of the dead is meant to begin as the sun sets the evening before, and that is usually when the souls of the dead are said to begin to get up and roam around the earth. This original festival has, of course, survived to the present day in popular culture as Halloween, a night of trick-or-treating by children dressed up in costumes.


In the 17th Century, the catholic church used the same day as a way to honor and celebrate the known and unknown saints and martyrs of the church. It had originally been celebrated on May 13, but was moved to November 1st in the eighth century.

The ancient Celts refered to the festival surrounding this day as Samhaim and used it to celebrate the onset of winter and the begining of the Celtic New Year. Samhain translates to “end of summer.” In Ireland, the same celebration was known as Samhein, or “the feast of the sun.” In Scotland, the term Hallowe’en was used.

The act of children dressing up and going door-to-door to collect treats was likely adapted from the Gaelic practice of giving cakes to the poor (aka “soul-cakes”) in return for praying for a good harvest, prosperity and protection against bad luck. The concept of the trick is likely to have been derived from an English Plough Day custom where Ploughmen went door to door begging for gifts, and if they did not receive anything they would threaten to damage the grounds with their ploughs.

There are numerous folk customs associated with this festival. Here are a few Halloween related bits of trivia:
  • THERE IS NO ESCAPE: Harry Houdini died on Halloween. It’s true. I even wrote about it in Macabre Montreal (yes, that’s a bit of shameless self-promotion). One of the world’s most famous magicians died on October 31, 1926 in Detroit at the age of 52 in Detroit. He died of peritonitis, secondary to a ruptured appendix. It is commonly stated that Houdini died due to repeated or unexpected blows to the abdomen by a McGill University student in Montreal. This proposition might be partially true, as it is possible that the pain from the blunt force trauma Houdidi received might have masked the fact he was suffering from appendicitis, and, had he been treated earlier for that, he likely would have survived.

  • NOT SO HAPPY JACK: One of the traced origins involving the carving of jack-0-lanterns is believed to have come from Ireland with the carving of turnips and the legend of a man named Stingy Jack. The miserable old drunk enjoyed playing tricks on people. After playing a trick and trapping Satan, Jack made a deal to release him, so long as Satan promised not to take his soul. When Jack died, he was denied entrance to heaven, but also banned from hell. Satan gave Jack a single burning coal, which he placed into a hollowed out turnip. He then spent eternity wandering the earth with this lantern hopelessly looking for a resting place.

  • GIMME SOME CANDY:  According to the National Confectioner’s Association, one quarter of all of the candy sold in the United States every year is purchased specifically for Halloween. In addition, a majority of all candy given out on Halloween is chocolate. Three out of every 10 homes will pass out lollipops or other types of hard candy. Candy Corn was created in the late 1800s. The three colors are meant to look like the colors in kernals of corn. More than 35 million pounds of candy corn is produced each year. According to a 2017 Forbes article, Candy Corn is among the most hated of all Halloween candies (second to Circus Peanuts) and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups were the most favored

  • HALLOWEEN 2018: THE TRIVIA OF MICHAEL MYERS: Jamie Lee Curtis was considered for the heroine for the original 1978 Halloween by John Carpenter as a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock. (Janet Leigh, famous for the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho, is Jamie Lee Curtis’s mother. The movie, produced in 12 weeks, was shot on a shoestring budget of only $300,000 and went on to make $47 million. It was the most profitable independent film ever made until The Blair Witch Project in 1999. John Carpenter was paid $10,000 for the film, and Nick Castle, who played Michael Myers, was paid only $25 a day. The sound of slashing flesh was created by stabbing a watermelon. Myers mask was another side effect of a low budget. It was derived from William Shatner’s likeness because they purchased a Captain Kirk mask, peeled off the eyebrows and some hair, and spray painted it white.

This article was originally composed for Mark Leslie’s weekly #FreeFridayFrights

You can also watch the video on my Facebook page, where a fun POLL has also been embedded.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Oh Yeah, By The Way, I Wrote A Book, or Two

It's so funny.

I spend the majority of my time helping authors with gaining better visibility, maximizing their title and author SEO on various retail websites, enhancing and working on their author brand, and overall, attempting to sell more of their books. I quite love doing that. I find it extremely satisfying.

Then there's me. And my books.

Yes, I work hard at them. Yes, I love writing. Yes, I love publishing.

But I keep forgetting about mentioning or talking about my own books. For example, I published the eBook version of KILLING IT ON KOBO last week. But I was at a writing conference and was busy with engaging in the daily activities and with the writers there; you know, helping them learn more, helping them strategize for selling more. So I neglected to really do much to even mention that the new book on that exact topic was out.


No, I've never liked pushy "salesy" sorts of social media posts. And though I will, from time to time, mention something about one of my books as it relates to something else, I try my best not to be too in peoples' faces with pushing my books.

Sometimes I lean, too far, in the opposite direction.

Because in the past month and a half I have published two books about writing and publishing. And I realize that I haven't even mentioned them here on this blog.


It's funny, my friend, Joanna Penn, of The Creative Penn Podcast, sent me an email late last week asking if there was some sort of landing page for my latest book, KILLING IT ON KOBO because she wanted to recommend it. Joanna has done more to sell my book than I have.

I realized, of course, that I hadn't even added a listing of that book to my website. Nor did I add the other book in that same series (Stark Publishing Solutions), THE 7 P's OF PUBLISHING SUCCESS.


I have fixed that. I have those two books and the forthcoming one that's still a work in progress, listed under the bibliography/books section of my website.

Currently, only the eBook versions of these are out, but I plan on having the audiobook versions released by the end of November if all works out well.

Speaking of Joanna's podcast, her latest episode, Episode 400, is a great interview with Kobo's European Manager of Kobo Writing Life, Camille Mofidi. And I'm not just saying that because I originally hired Camille for that role. I'm saying it because she's awesome. And so is Joanna

Seriously, go check out that podcast interview for great free tips about selling more on Kobo. Listen to that. It's free. Then, if you want a "Reader's Digest" version of tips for Kobo (kind of like a significantly shortened version of the book I mention in this post), sign up for my10 day free email course from Reedsy called Kobo Hacks for Optimizing Sales.

Yeah, go do those two things. Don't buy my book about Kobo. Enjoy the free content/advice and tips.

See, there I go again, being an under-pushy salesperson.


Friday, October 26, 2018

On Flying and Firehoses

In the past week, I flew over Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas at 35 MPH on a zip line.

I also took in a firehose of information at the WMG Publishing, Inc. Business Master Class.

The overwhelming stimulation for each is somewhat similar. In the latest episode of the Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing podcast, I share how I plan on dealing with the information, inspiration, and ideas that can fill your head at the end of such a conference, which include:

  • A few key things to remember before setting out to try to implement the ideas gathered
  • The importance of first stepping back to take a breath and get perspective
  • A list of questions to ask yourself when looking at all of the ideas that you have jotted down or taken in
  • The importance not just of deciding on something, but deciding to act on that something
  • The concept of EAT, FEED, DRAIN
  • The FOUR-D way to update a to-do list
  • The importance of taking responsibility for your own career

These are just some ideas, and potentially useful strategies you can adapt in your own way whenever you attend a conference or workshop where you have so much information to process and never enough time to try to do it all.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

The Mysterious Little Boy Ghost at Indigo Montreal

This past weekend, I was in Montreal to launch Macabre Montreal, which I co-authored with Shayna Krishnasamy. We did two events at two different locations. Given that, at both events, we sold all but a single copy, I'd call the events a success.

THANK YOU to everyone who came out to see us, to hang out, to chat, and to get books signed. Thanks to the awesome staff at both the Chapters Pointe Claire and the Indigo downtown Montreal.

Our event on Sunday Oct 7th took place at the Place Trust Indigo in downtown Montreal and was followed by a mini ghost walk of three nearby locations from the book conducted by the good folks at Haunted Montreal. (Seriously, if you go to Montreal and DON'T check out their wonderful historic ghostly tours, you are really depriving yourself of some fun)

At the end of the mini-ghost walk, where we were all left with chills, our guide warned us to be careful when returning home in case a ghost might follow us back.

What she should have warned us about was the ghost that might have already been following us.

Let me explain.

When I returned home to Waterloo last night (Monday night) around 9 PM, I received a disturbing text from Shayna.

"Question about our signing yesterday." She wrote. "Who the hell is that in the mirror?"

She included a picture that her friend Naz had taken of the two of us and Barnaby.

Who is the mysterious child in the mirror behind us?

In the image you can see, in the reflection of the mirror of an Indigo display behind us, what appears to be the spectral image of a child, perhaps a little boy, with dark eye sockets whose disembodied head is overlooking the scene.

Zoom in on the mysterious child with sunken eye sockets staring out from the mirror

"That's awesome." I texted back. "Ha Ha. Who doctored the image to add the ghost kid?"

"Naz swears up and down she did nothing to the photo."

"Well, then, THAT'S a story to share!!!"

We messaged a bit back and forth while I showed the image to Liz. Liz was looking at the pic to determine if there was someone maybe standing behind Naz or off to the side whose reflection was appearing in the mirror. We couldn't find a match, nor did a little boy (I decided it was a little boy) who looked like that ever seem to have been around that evening.

Shayna and I joked about it possibly being Mary Gallagher, one of the most famous Montreal ghosts - a murdered Griffintown prostitute who allegedly returns every 7 years to look for her head.

Liz then asked if I had taken any other pictures that evening, reminding me of the selfie I had taken of a woman who we wished Happy Birthday to on Instagram.

When I looked at that photo I felt my face going pale.

The mysterious vampire-like child appears in another photo from different camera

Sure enough, the mysterious ghostly boy face appeared in that photo too.

"What the hell?" I said. I knew I hadn't touched up the photo, with the exception that I added an Instagram filter. So who the heck was that little boy with the haunted sunked eyes?

The ghostly image zoomed in

I wondered about contacting the store, to see if anyone else had spotted this little boy ghost? I was curious about it not just as an intriguing Montreal ghost mystery that we could share on our Macabre Montreal Facebook page, but also one for my Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries page too. Also, we had to call Donovan from Haunted Montreal to let him know about a new tale they could share.

My heart was racing.

My skin was continuing to get more and more pale.

And, a chill running down my spine, my phone ping'd

Another text.

From Shayna.

It read: "It kind of looks like Audrey Hepburn."

Then, a few minutes later. "The image is clearer here." And she sent me a photo.

And, finally: "This is indeed Audrey Hepburn."

Audrey Hepburn does possess a haunting beauty
Liz and I looked at the image. And we laughed. It was Audrey Hepburn.

It was likely part of the display of the mirror for the products Indigo had on display.

We laughed, but I still felt a delicious shiver over the experience.

And I love that Shayna and I approached writing this book with the same sense of open-minded skepticism. I'm the true believer. She's the skeptic. We did our best to balance that as we researched, read about and then presented the facts in order for the readers to decide for themselves.

Of course, in this particular case, the mystery is solved. It's not the ghost of a little boy. It's an image of Audrey Hepburn. Although, if one admits, she DOES possess a haunting beauty.

In the initial slightly blurry image, I saw a creepy dark shadowed boy staring at us with his eyes open; when in fact, it was the timeless classy beauty of Audrey Hepburn with eyelids closed or down-turned.

Evidence that sometimes you see what you want, or you see what you are looking for. Like one of those psychology/Escher style prints where you see either an old woman or a young woman, depending on how your eyes focus.

A mystery solved, but still a fun one nonetheless.