GUEST POST: Somer Canon

The Halloween Mood

It’s that time of year again. Summer has come to an end, the days are getting shorter, and the color orange is starting to saturate our world of capitalistic vice and consumption. There’s pumpkin spice, well, everything and the general cozy feeling that comes with the season, and then we have the people who are annoyed with the deliriously evangelical followers of the autumnal cult of joy. Fall is the favorite season of many, and the favorite punching bag of others. Personally, I’m a big fan of the season and the mood it sets. I haven’t even touched on the best day of the season, in my opinion at least: Halloween.

I sit pretty comfortably in the opinion that Halloween is one of the best holidays. I’m not even close to being alone in that belief. In 2019, almost 70% of Americans celebrated Halloween. It dropped a bit in 2020 and looks like the downward trend may continue this year, thanks to the pandemic. But still, more than half of Americans, pandemic or not, are going to be indulging in the spooky, in the morbid, and in the deliciously decadent delights that horror can give. Children and adults alike love Halloween. Horror fans and otherwise love Halloween. The love of Halloween spans various belief systems and religions. How is this so? Why is Halloween such a hit?

I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that it happens at the end of October, just as fall is getting into full swing. Like Christmas, we start celebrating Halloween before the actual day with trips to pop-up stores for new costumes and goodies for our homes, visiting haunted houses and hay rides, and scary movies play on the television every night. Summer is the season that we spend mostly out of our homes, away on vacations and with school being out, mostly on a relaxed or nonexistent schedule. Fall begins with school going back into session, the return to routine and to the end of the vacation season. We’re home, we’re settling in, we’re getting cozy, and we get to do that as the lush beauty of nature prepares to wow us one last time. In the autumnal season, nature proves that she saves the best for last. The sweet smell of dead leaves and their lovely crunch under our feet as we walk, it romances us. Death woos and charms us. Pumpkins start appearing everywhere, flanked by decorative baskets of chrysanthemums. But alongside that magazine-cover pretty picture, there are skeletons, spiders, black cats, corpses, vampires, bats…all of the ambassadors of the decidedly spooky. And they go together wonderfully. I put a seven-foot werewolf on my front porch, but I’ve also got mums and pumpkins. I put out a small cemetery in my side yard with zombies and skeletons climbing out of the graves, but they’re surrounded by beautiful falling leaves from the large tree. The beauty of nature’s death pairs nicely with the human macabre.

Halloween also has the distinguished position of being a holiday that normally doesn’t come with family obligations. Every season comes with a holiday that carries some sort of requirement that can stress us out. Halloween has no such demand. It stands as one of the special days on the calendar that is set aside purely for fun. Obligations are minimal, usually, and having to eat a big dinner next to your judgmental aunt is still at least a month away. Halloween is so much more casual. I know the history of Halloween and I know the pagan-held beliefs of the day, but it has become a day of laughter, fun, sweets, and ridiculousness. It has a few songs, it has a lot of movies, and it has costumes. Halloween is an absolute delight, and I know that I start looking forward to it every August. I sometimes hold out through September before bringing out my spooky and corny decorations, and sometimes I don’t. But, at the very least, the month of October is dedicated to Halloween in my house. My giant porch werewolf and the many other outdoor decorations pale in comparison to what I have inside of my house. A disassembled skeleton hangs from my dining room chandelier, I drink my coffee from Halloween mugs and have my evening tipple in Halloween glasses. For crying out loud, I have Halloween bedding and bathroom hand towels! I love every stitch of it. All of it.

The U.S. is an enormous country with many different regions and not all of them necessarily have four seasons, and yet, they still celebrate Halloween. I live in Eastern Pennsylvania where we certainly experience the full four seasons, but Halloween is pervasive in this country of ours regardless of whether autumn happens or not. Again, why? I’m not an academic and I have no deep philosophical answer for you. What I do have is my observation, and my knowledge of both your average person and the horror community. Halloween is popular because it’s fun. Being scared is fun. Horror carries a stigma of being sick and taboo, and yet I rarely meet a person who doesn’t have a favorite scary movie. People tell me all the time that they don’t like horror, but they love Halloween. Yes, it’s the day for the horror-lovers, but it’s also the day for the “normies” to take a walk on the spooky side and it turns out, they have just as much fun as us horror folk. It’s fun! That’s not a deep answer, but it is an obvious one, and a truthful one.

So, if you’re like more than half of us and celebrating Halloween, enjoy it. Have the fun. Watch the movies, eat the treats, put up the decorations, and do it with people that enjoy it as much as you. Do a Halloween night recitation of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” and eat some apple dumplings. But could you do this horror author a favor? Pick up a scary book from an author you’ve never read. Give a smaller name a chance. Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree is a terrific book and everything by Stephen King can be appropriate at this time of year. But there are so many horror authors out there who are putting out works that will surprise you with the imaginative takes and amazing storytelling and it’s a shame to only read the biggest names, or only a few names. Try something new, someone new, and allow yourself to be surprised and delighted. After all, ‘tis the season!

I’ll start you off. I’ll throw some authors at you, and you pick what thrills you most.

If you love monster books, authors Hunter Shea and Mary SanGiovanni write some of the best monster-based fiction out there. Wile E. Young is really climbing the ranks here as well.

If you love a good haunted house book or gothic horror, check out Catherine Cavendish.

If you like really strange, creative horror that takes unexpected turns, Wesley Southard, Stephen Kozeniewski, and Armand Rosamilia deliver.

If you like it spicy and want your horror a little sexy, check out Sephera Giron and Jessica McHugh. But don’t be fooled by the erotic bent of these works, they are every bit as brutal and horrifying as any other horror book, just with an added bonus.

Do you like horror that doesn’t really fit into a category but can be emotional and somehow beautiful? Robert Ford and John Boden belong on your shelves, then.

Grab a short story collection from a new author. As a reader, I find the best authors out there put together amazing short story collections. Most of the authors I mention here have short story collections in their bibliography. Also, try one of Matt Wildasin’s Horrors Untold volumes. They’re wonderful and varied fun.

Lots of authors write Halloween-themed works. Ronald Kelly, Kevin Lucia, Douglas Clegg, and yours truly have Halloween works out there.

I’m barely scratching the surface here, and could spend all day pointing you to terrific authors, but if you start here, and do a little digging of your own, I guarantee you’ll find your new favorite author. Happy Halloween!


Somer Canon lives in Eastern PA with her husband, two sons, and three cats. She loves to read and write and although she is polyamorous when it comes to genres, horror always seems to be her favorite.

Boneyard
Halloween is a night of spooky fun…at least it is for the living. What about the dead? What kind of fun do they have? Read and find out how the no-longer-living entertain themselves at the expense of very much alive and disrespectful people!

A Fresh Start
Still hurting from her divorce, Melissa Caan makes a drastic life change for herself and her two young children by moving them out to a rural home.But the country life came with some extras that she wasn’t counting on. Doors are slamming, she and her children are violently attacked by unseen hands, and her elderly neighbor doesn’t like to talk about the murders that happened in the strangely named hollow all those years ago.Ghost hunters, witches, and a sassy cancer survivor come together to help Melissa fight for the safety of her children and herself.All she wanted was a fresh start, will she get it?

Slaves to Gravity (with Wesley Southard) —
After waking up in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the waist down, Charlie Snyder had no idea where life would take her. Dejected, broken, and permanently bound to a wheelchair, she believed her life was truly over. That is…until gravity no longer applied.It started out slow. Floating from room to room. Menial tasks without assistance. When she decided to venture outside and take some real risks with her newfound ability, she rose above her own constraints to reveal a whole new world, and found other damaged individuals just like her to confide in.But there are other things out there, waiting in the dark. Repulsive, secretive creatures that don’t want Charlie to touch the sky. And they’ll stop at nothing to keep her on the ground.

Halloween Extravaganza: Hunter Shea: The Ghost of Halloween Present

After reading this guest post by the amazing Hunter Shea, all I can say is… I wish I lived closer to him because he’s definitely a house I would stop at on Halloween.


It used to be, I was happy when a Halloween consisted of me dressed up as either a hobo or vampire (I remember being a hobo, complete with packed bindle, was all the rage – not so PC now), a couple of hours to trick or treat, a visit to my grandparents, and a few mom inspected and approved candies before bed. If I was very lucky, my trick or treat bag wasn’t laden with old pennies and unwrapped circus peanuts.

For once in my life, I don’t long for the days of yesteryear. Halloween today in the Shea dungeon is a day long affair filled with indulgence and wicked fun. I tell people what our Halloweens are like and they don’t believe me… until they come and see for themselves. And once they do, they come back for more year after year.

We have the distinct pleasure of having become part of a kind of trick or treat alley. It consists of one suburban block where kids and adults from far and wide descend. On this block, the houses are decorated (One family sometimes changing the entire front façade of their house for that year’s theme. Last year it was a rocket ship. The year before, the bow of a pirate ship). Music drifts along the chilly air. You might hear some creepy horror movie tunes, or maybe some riotous Rob Zombie, and always, always, the soundtrack to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

We prep for the night by loading up the cooler with lots of beer. It used to be just pumpkin ale when it was hard to find, but now that it’s everywhere, the allure has worn off. First beer can be cracked open at any time, be it morning or night. Well, we never wait until night. My daughters will dress up, as will the adults, all the way to grandma and grandpa. Sometimes, if my creative daughter gets the urge, she’ll pull out her makeup effects kit and adorn our necks with bloody slashes and wounds. She’s been known to do it for random trick or treaters, too.

A carved pumpkin sits on the table, spewing massive chunks of green. That would be homemade guacamole and it’s delicious. With extended family and friends present, the first trick or treaters start to trickle in. It’s always the very young ones at first with their moms and dads. At our house, everyone gets a juice box – because trick or treating is thirsty business – and a bag of treats. Once night falls, the neighborhood is transformed into a spooky Mardi Gras, the sidewalks and street packed with people of all ages, shapes and sizes. There have been flash mobs, wedding proposals, screeching when people are scared by one of us, and even the occasional flash for a drink, which makes it all the more feel like we’ve been transported to New Orleans. By the time the night is done, we’ve usually handed out treats to over 600 kids. Adults will get beer and cigars. And a hangover to come.

One year, I dressed up as a trailer park version of Elvira. I called myself Elmira and talked like Wendy Williams, asking everyone who came by, “How you doin’?” Don’t ask me why. It was all inspired by Patron and Sam Adams. People loved taking pictures with the often lewd Elmira. Last year, I bought a giant crying baby mask from Five Below. Slipping into a pair of footie pajamas, I walked around looking tres disturbing. Turns out, moms like to hug crying babies, even if they are almost 6 feet tall and dancing around like a serial killer in his basement.

People we see just that once a year come by to hang, pizza is delivered, and the party doesn’t stop until the treats and booze run out. When all is said and done, I always vow to watch a horror movie, something special I’ve saved for this moment. Inevitably, I pass out before the first act is over. It sure beats the Halloweens of my youth. It may be why I look forward to it more now than ever. So if you ever need a juice box or something a little stronger on Halloween, come on and join the party.

Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books, and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Crytpozoology Museum. He’s a bestselling author of over 25 books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. You can find him each week on the Final Guys podcast, as well as the long running Monster Men video podcast. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hot dogs when the craving hits. Become a true Hunter’s Hellion and follow him at his website.

Slash

Five years after Ashley King survived the infamous Resort Massacre, she’s found hanging in her basement by her fiancé, Todd Matthews. She left behind clues as to what really happened that night, clues that may reveal the identity of the killer the press has called The Wraith. 

With the help of his friends, Todd goes back to the crumbling Hayden Resort, a death-tinged ruin in the Catskills Mountains. What they find is a haunted history that’s been lying in wait for a fresh set of victims. The Wraith is back, and he’s nothing what they expected.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Hunter Shea

Meghan: Hi, Hunter! Thank you SO much for agreeing to be on Meghan’s House of Books today. [insert fangirling here] Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hunter Shea: I’m a horror obsessed guy married longer than most of your readers have been alive with two amazing daughters who share my love of all things dark and scary. The fact that I got to turn my passion into a career that has allowed me to meet a lot of my horror heroes is still, I believe, the Matrix messing with me.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Hunter Shea: Oh boy. I’m a huge fan of Shania Twain. I once wrote a romantic comedy. I went to school with P Diddy. My all-time favorite job was as a stock boy in a supermarket. I actually like the taste of vegemite.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Hunter Shea: As a kid, I loved The Little Red Lighthouse. I read that book until it fell apart and needed a new copy. The actual lighthouse is underneath the George Washington Bridge in New York. I pass by it all the time. My very first ‘adult’ book was Stephen King’s Night Shift. That explains it all.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Hunter Shea: Riley Sager’s The Last Time I Lied. I’m halfway in and digging the hell out of it. I loved Final Girls and his latest is right on par.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Hunter Shea: I read anything I can get my hands on. I was gifted some romance novels last year by a friend and they surprised the heck out of me. Truly enjoyable. I can see why people love them.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Hunter Shea: I’ve always loved reading and the horror genre especially. My friend Norman Hendircks (also an author) infected me with the writing bug when we worked together in hell, aka the phone company – in the 1990s. Once I started, I was hooked. As he will tell you, it’s a compulsion with me.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Hunter Shea: It changes from book to book. Right now, I prefer the back yard. Before that, it was the kitchen. Who knows, next book might find me in the attic.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Hunter Shea: Just plant my butt in a chair and get to tapping keys. Although, when I think about it, I usually go to the bathroom before I write. Weird, right?

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Hunter Shea: I’m not alone when I say it’s finding the time to write all of the projects I want to take on. I’ve published 27 books in 8 years, and it seems harder and harder to carve out the time I need. So many stories to tell.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Hunter Shea: Wow, that’s a tough one. The Montauk Monster was my most commercially successful novel. One of the things on my bucket list was having a mass market paperback, and that took care of that. But I think Creature, which was very autobiographical and difficult to write, might top the list. The fact that I made it to THE END still amazes me. It took a physical and mental toll on me.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Hunter Shea: I once met Elmore Leonard who taught me the two rules of writing – read and write… a lot. I started reading more of his work and loved his lean, mean style. It was so much an extension of how Hemingway wrote, and I’m a huge Hemingway fan (despite his personal shortcomings). They above all others taught me how to trim the fat and just tell a good story.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Hunter Shea: Simple – good characters that engage the readers. If you have compelling characters, you can put them in any situation and it will work.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Hunter Shea: I grow to love certain characters. I’ve yet to experience love at first write. 😉 Sometimes they just get in your head and you become one with them. Their voice rattles around your brain all the time. And yes, I’ve killed my loved ones when the story calls for it.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Hunter Shea: Definitely West from We Are Always Watching. I mean, that’s just me when I was 14, though he’s much better behaved.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Hunter Shea: Absolutely. A bad cover screams amateur. Most times, you can judge a book by its cover. But there are some that surprise you. As for my covers, sometimes the artist will ask for some input, but I trust them as artists to knock it out of the park.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Hunter Shea: That writing is the reason I was put on this blue marble. All I want to do is create and entertain people. This world can really suck sometimes. Everyone needs an escape.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Hunter Shea: That would be the inner thoughts and turmoil of Andrew and Kate in Creature. I may have overshared what my wife and I go through, but it was crucial to put it in the book. SO many people with similar medical conditions have written to me thanking me for letting them know they’re not the only ones going through similar trials with similar thoughts. Totally worth it.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Hunter Shea: On one side, I’ve carved out this little niche as the cryptid guy. So if you’re looking for cyrtid monsters, I have a book for you. On the other side, I’ve been told that my books have made quite a few people tear up. I love to write characters with heart… and then shatter them, of course.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Hunter Shea: I learned long ago not to fall in love with my titles. Odds are, your editor will change it or ask you for another one. Some titles you get I think don’t always convey what’s between the pages, but I feel I’ve been fortunate so far. I’ve only changed one title for my book, Ghost Mine. It was initially called Hell Hole when it was published by Samhain. We changed it when it came back out this year with Flame Tree Press. The former was too Spinal Tap-ian for me.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Hunter Shea: Definitely a novel. I loved getting lost in my characters. A novel gives you room to explore and experiment.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Hunter Shea: My books run the gamut, from ghosts to monsters, killers to demons, urban legends to B movie madness. You don’t have to just love horror. There’s action, romance, adventure, gore, flighty books, weighty books, you name it.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Hunter Shea: Funny thing about deleted scenes, they’re always deleted for a reason. But for my book Tortures of the Damned, I had prewritten 5 different endings. When I actually wrote the last chapter, it was something entirely different. In one of the endings, all of the children were murdered and the parents basically went feral.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Hunter Shea: I wrote the first book in what I hope to be a middle grade series. Think Goosebumps, but with a recurring character who lives in a very unique place where she encounters everything that goes bump in the night.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Hunter Shea: I’m going old school slasher this October with the release of my next book from Flame Tree Press, Slash. I came of horror age in the 80s and I wanted to finally add my take on the slasher genre. There’s an abandoned resort in the Catskills that harbors a mysterious killer called The Wraith. The fiancé of a final girl goes urban exploring, looking for answers, and gets more than he bargained for.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Hunter Shea: Best place is at my website. You’ll find links to all of my social media there, podcasts and more.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Hunter Shea: I believe the past decade has been the true golden age of horror. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books, and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Crytpozoology Museum. He’s a bestselling author of over 25 books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. You can find him each week on the Final Guys podcast, as well as the long running Monster Men video podcast. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hot dogs when the craving hits. Become a true Hunter’s Hellion and follow him at his website.

Slash

Five years after Ashley King survived the infamous Resort Massacre, she’s found hanging in her basement by her fiancé, Todd Matthews. She left behind clues as to what really happened that night, clues that may reveal the identity of the killer the press has called The Wraith. 

With the help of his friends, Todd goes back to the crumbling Hayden Resort, a death-tinged ruin in the Catskills Mountains. What they find is a haunted history that’s been lying in wait for a fresh set of victims. The Wraith is back, and he’s nothing what they expected.