Why Christians should celebrate Halloween

Yesterday, I got on Wikipedia and was reading the kids about the origins of Halloween, and why it’s a holiday.

I found out some interesting stuff.

Pumpkin and Gourd Display, via Wikimedia Commons by Sdwelch1031
Pumpkin and Gourd Display, via Wikimedia Commons by Sdwelch1031

Halloween or Hallowe’en a contraction of “All Hallows’ Evening”, also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve,or All Saints’ Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It initiates the triduum of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. Within Allhallowtide, the traditional focus of All Hallows’ Eve revolves around the theme of using “humor and ridicule to confront the power of death.”

So, really, the Christianized version of Halloween really amounts to a Day of the Dead kind of thing. Honoring and remembering the dead, all that jazz. But what really got me was the thing about using humor and ridicule to confront the power of death. As Christians, we know that Jesus’s resurrection has taken away the sting of death. So why not take the mickey out of death once in a while? Why be afraid of Halloween?

Of course, there are the Celtic origins:

Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while “some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain”, which comes from the Old Irish for “summer’s end”

Samhain is what usually gets Christians’ panties in a twist, and here’s why:

Samhain/Calan Gaeaf marked the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or the ‘darker half’ of the year. Like Beltane/Calan Mai, it was seen as a liminal time, when the spirits or fairies (the Aos Sí) could more easily come into our world and were particularly active.

Most scholars see the Aos Sí as “degraded versions of ancient gods […] whose power remained active in the people’s minds even after they had been officially replaced by later religious beliefs”.

The Aos Sí were both respected and feared, with individuals often invoking the protection of God when approaching their dwellings. At Samhain, it was believed that the Aos Sí needed to be propitiated to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink, or portions of the crops, were left for the Aos Sí.

So it was believed to be a time of year to placate the malevolent spirits and mitigate a harsh winter.

What I find amusing are the myriad “harvest festivals” that churches put on to offer as alternatives to that eeeeevil trick or treating. These festivals are closer to the original Celtic harvest festivals and Samhain than trick or treating is!

So don’t be afraid of Halloween. Jesus has broken its power. Just be aware that by going to a harvest festival, you might actually be closer to the pagan customs than you think.

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Sanctuary book tour

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Title: Sanctuary

Author: Pauline Creeden

Genre: Apocalyptic/dystopian, clean NA

In a heart-racing thriller described as Falling Skies meets The Walking Dead, Jennie struggles to find a safe place for what’s left of her family. But it seems as though there is no place sacred, no place secure. First the aliens attacked the sun, making it dimmer, weaker, and half what it used to be. Then they attacked the water supply, killing one-third of Earth’s population with a bitter contaminate. And when they unleash a new terror on humankind, the victims will wish for death, but will not find it…When the world shatters to pieces around her, will Jennie find the strength she needs to keep going?

Kessie’s review: I was a beta reader for this book, and it was rough. I’d get sucked into the story and forget that I was supposed to be watching for typos.

This is an apocalypse book. Aliens are invading and turning people into zombies. The sun is dim and the air is cold. Society is beginning to collapse. The apocalypse is seen through the eyes of four characters, and their core personalities and values are brought to light by how they handle the aliens and zombies.

I had to keep getting up and checking to make sure the sun was shining and there were people outside. That’s how engrossing this book is. And I was only a beta reader!

I’m excited to see the new cover, and I hope the book continues to do well. It really is one of those remarkably scary books with nothing really gory about it. Well, actually, the part in the hospital is kind of gory. But you expect that kind of thing with a zombie apocalypse book.

Purchase:
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About Pauline

In simple language, Pauline Creeden creates worlds that are both familiar and strange, often pulling the veil between dimensions. She becomes the main character in each of her stories, and because she has ADD, she will get bored if she pretends to be one person for too long. Pauline is a horse trainer from Virginia, but writing is her therapy.

Armored Hearts, her joint effort with author Melissa Turner Lee, has been awarded the Crowned Heart for Excellence by InDtale Magazine. It is also the 2013 Book Junkie’s Choice Winner in Historical Fiction. Her debut novel, Sanctuary, won 1st Place Christian YA Title 2013 Dante Rosetti Award and 2014 Reader’s Choice Gold Award for Best YA Horror Novel.

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Book review dump: The Great, the Okay, and the Meh

Without further ado, here is the roundup!

October2014-booklist

First off, the two Aster Wood Books:

I grabbed these pretty much entirely because of the cover art. When I busted out the first one, I didn’t expect much–but then the worldbuilding got me. Imagine a bunch of planets as dots on paper. Now crumple that paper into a ball. That’s the worlds of the Fold, and they’re in danger, because somebody has screwed with the Fold itself. That’s Aster Wood’s family legacy, and he has to fix it before all the worlds die–especially Earth.

The way the world-teleporting works, the way the magic works, the fun of running around a science-based plot while dealing with spells and swords–it’s great fun. Sure, it has problems with odd word usage, or parts that drag, but the worldbuilding kept me reading. I’m looking forward to the next books in the series.

The kids and I have been following the Troubletwisters books for two years in a row, and this is the last one. The proper title (which seems to be the European one) is Missing: Presumed Evil, which fans of the series would understand immediately. Unfortunately, American readers are way too dumb for a title like that.

This was a great ending to the series–the big bad is dealt with, all secrets are revealed, and the twin heroes triumph at last. The kids enjoyed it a lot. There is a part lifted straight out of the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie (the white sand desert Hell with the stranded ship), but apparently that scene was so iconic, lots of authors have copied it. I’ve seen it in at least one other book. So if that doesn’t put you off, pick up the series. It’s a fine, middle of the road juvenile fiction fantasy (otherwise known as middle grade).

Torn

This is book 2 in a series about people who turn into tornadoes. I had to read it just to see how it happened. Take werewolves, who turn into monsters at the full moon. But make it people who turn into killer tornadoes during thunderstorms. But keep the “savage beast within” thing. And that’s these books.

The first book, the heroine gets turned. This second book, she’s dealing with becoming a monster–it’s getting worse–and also dealing with a fierce love triangle. It’s Young Adult to the hilt, but also edge of your seat thriller. This series and author needs way more attention than they’re getting.

Last but not least, the Meh of the collection: a Christian allegorical fantasy. A girl gets sucked into a storybook, where she’s immediately forced to assume the role of one of the missing princess. But she runs away to try to find the real princess, and winds up far outside the boundaries of the Plot.

The book had some pretty good ideas, like the book changing every time someone reads it, and the centaur army and stuff. But the Author was Aslan with the name changed, and–let’s face it–when the owl gritted his teeth, I about threw my ipod across the room. The romance was forced and flat, and the ending was unsatisfying.

So that was the books I’ve recently read! Kind of an eclectic collection, but I’m trying to read tons of different things these days. Especially indie books, to kind of give a hand to indie authors. Everything except The Missing was indie. 🙂

Warning: this post contains affiliate links. By clicking on one of these books and possibly buying one, you may give me a couple of cents. Federal Guidelines require me to notify you of this, so you can make sure to never click anything, lest you accidentally benefit someone.

Can we serve God with our stories if nobody reads them?

I’m in a group of serious indie authors who are all writing, going through the mill of editing and publishing. All of us are debating how, exactly, one gets sales.

One of my friends said this on Facebook:

“The notion that we in the arts have often reduced Christianity to a brand is really on my mind. May I be primarily concerned with making art I believe God would like, and the human audience can come as it may.”

Then I was reading an interview with Mark Coker, of Smashwords, and he said this:

Dynamics of the Power Curve – In publishing, a few books sell well and most sell poorly. The distribution of these sales is typically referred to as a Power Curve. In the 2014 survey, we took a closer look at the sales distribution curve, shared numbers behind different rankings, and explored how authors can use the power curve to inform their decisions. The nature of curve underscores the importance of the rest of our 2014 Smashwords Survey findings.

The survey details things like price points and book length (people want their fiction about the same price as a loaf of bread, and they want it long–300 pages or more–and they want it in a series).

Which got me thinking. How can we serve God with our writing if nobody reads it? Sure, we can write whatever we want and languish in obscurity–or we can study the market and climb that Power Curve, get our books out there, and possibly get a few people thinking.

(I’m not personally writing Christian fiction, but I’m all for countering the negative messages out there with positive ones–and good writing!)

One thing I think we writers get hung up on is the book we’re writing now. We forget that in the years ahead, we will write lots of different books. Did you know that George R. R. Martin started writing Game of Thrones in the 1970s? It took 40 years for it to take off. This is a really, really long game.

I think we can totally serve God by writing the very best book we can. And then writing another one. And another one. But they have to be books that people want to read, otherwise, what’s the use of bothering with publication?

Edit: My friend clarified her point:

To be clear, this statement doesn’t mean to me that I don’t care whether I have a human audience–I certainly write to be read. However, what I will not do is write in a formula that is prescribed by the Christian Publishing Industry so that my books can wear the Christian Sticker on their covers. I believe that if we write things that are beautiful and honest, and can’t help to point to God’s nature because of he way he indwells us, that there will be readers. Both inside the church ranks and outside.

In the end, I want my stories to be both powerful on a gut level and entertain. And when I stand before the throne, I want to be able to lay them at God’s feet and say, “I made these the best I could because I believe any shred of talent I have is from you.”

In the meantime, may the life people discover of the author behind those books be the tool of witness.

Which I heartily agree with. It’s no fun writing under the umbrella of the Christian publishers–the list of things you can’t do is miles long (one publisher memorably banned the use of “For Pete’s sake”, for Pete’s sake).

So glad it’s Friday (and kid pics!)

So glad it’s Friday! Some weeks are more exhausting than others. I couldn’t tell you what I did, though. (Food was cooked and math pages were done.)

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Here’s the youngest, already almost a year old, sitting in the toy car. She was very proud of herself.

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A and H posing for the camera and possibly being distracted by the computer.

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Same as the above.

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The girls being silly for the camera.

Inktober, first week

There’s a fun meme going on this month called Inktober. Basically you draw something with an ink pen every day of the month, then show it around online.

I didn’t feel like doodling on paper when I have a perfectly good tablet. So I just drew with pure black and no erasing.

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Okay, I erased a few things on the first three. I was rusty.

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No erasing here! Just pure scribbly goodness.

I think I’ll post a compilation of drawings every weekend and see what drivel I churned out. 🙂