Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I found two new blogs for book readers

Hundreds of thousands of books are published every year. Finding the ones you actually want to read requires some media monitoring. Like many other readers, I find that following a few select media channels will expose me to a good variety of titles. For readers looking for some fresh blogs to follow and learn about new titles I recommend these two:

Smashwords Books Reviewed

This is a fairly new blog published by Neil Crabtree author of Believable Lies where he selects titles from to review or recommend. His purpose is to provide publicity to independent writers. This blog was recently added to the Kindle blog system. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being interviewed for Smashwords Books Reviewed. Neil asked me some probing questions and really made me dig a thing or two out of my memory. This blog focuses on ebook titles, but some of them will be available in print as well.

Daniel L. Carter

Daniel L. Carter is the author of The Unwanted, the first book in a planned science fiction trilogy. His blog however is becoming a hub of author interviews, blog features, and an all around great place to surf around checking out new books, both fiction and nonfiction. He invites book authors and bloggers to interview with him, which I of course indulged in. Daniel and I discussed my blog Her Ladyship's Quest today.

Last weekend I downloaded the sample of The Unwanted and had a chance to peek at a few pages. I really liked it and plan to load the rest of the sample onto my ebook reader. His writing has a smooth flow and I can sense how comfortable he is with his chosen medium.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Review: Feng Shui for the Soul by Denise Linn

Author website: Denise Linn

I had been aware of feng shui in a very basic way for years. The concept is a fascinating one. Although I am hardly qualified to actually explain it, I can attempt to summarize feng shui by saying that it is the employment of purposeful methods to assess, enhance, mitigate, and/or harness the natural forces acting upon us in our environments. Mostly it is used to design, arrange, and decorate interior spaces but it is not limited to them. Gardens and landscapes can be designed with principles of feng shui. Also feng shui is about understanding the forces of the whole world and considering their interaction and our place in this dynamic flow.

Because I am slowly trying to revitalize my older home and make it a place of positive energy, I picked up with interest Feng Shui for the Soul by Denise Linn. This book is a treasure. I've already made a couple minor additions to my home based on Linn's advice and could feel the immediate and positive uplift in energy.

This book covers a lot of ground as Linn shares her extensive research and experience as a student and practicioner of feng shui. She has studied philosophies and ancient traditions all over the world, including her own Native American roots. In her own practice she blends traditional Chinese feng shui principles with her Native American spirituality to create what she calls Medicine Wheel Feng Shui.

Feng Shui for the Soul is packed with scientific and philosophical research. It teaches that much of the wisdom of ancient people is not just superstitious mumbo-jumbo. Earlier humans were aware of their intimate connection with the Earth and her forces. They studied their environment and worked to position themselves in beneficial harmony with the forces of Earth, water, air, and fire.

Linn explains how the majority of modern people are disconnected from the Earth and this has very negative influences on their health and happiness. She notes that many people go days and even weeks without even touching the Earth. They wear shoes and walk on pavement and get in cars and go in buildings. They never physically touch the natural parts of the all encompassing environment that gives us life. As a person who frequently runs about barefoot, I was struck by this true observation. Just Friday morning I patted the huge oak tree by my mailbox and told the tree how good it looked. But I realize most people aren't like me. I guess this is why people have consistently remarked over the years how "down to Earth" I am. This comment always puzzled me because where the heck else would I be? But now I understand better.

Because it cannot be good to structure your life counter to the forces of the living cosmos, applying feng shui principles to your living and working environments is exceedingly beneficial. The advice offered so convincingly by Linn can be used by anyone anywhere. The author is keenly aware that not everyone lives in ideal circumstances, and she always provides advice for connecting with Nature even if you live in a high rise apartment.

Feng shui is a huge subject and this book overflows with concepts and advice. The biggest takeaway from the guide is that feng shui must be used in conjunction with your intuition. You must apply feng shui principles in a way that supports you. Everybody is different and a color or symbol that uplifts your mood might be neutral or even annoying to another person.

Linn's book provides numerous instructions for meditations meant to help you seek visions from your intuition or invite beneficial energies into your home or workplace.

This book also contains extensive information about the energies that radiate from the Earth. Flowing water creates a subtle electrical field. Water flowing underground can effect the people in the buildings above it. For example, if your bed is positioned in one of these electrical fields, you will have trouble sleeping. Fortunately, the problem can likely be fixed by moving the bed a few feet. Also the electromagnetic fields radiating throughout the world from the poles impact people. Our highly technological society with artificial electrical fields radiating all over the place, scramble us somewhat, but feng shui can sometimes mitigate the effect.

I put Feng Shui for the Soul by Denis Linn in the mind-blower category. Having just read it, I plan on going through it and taking notes so I can better integrate myself into the world. Reading a book that embraced the fact that we are part of a living Earth was so refreshing. Too many people are unhappily oblivious to this truth.

DVD Review: The Shadow in the North starring Billie Piper

People who appreciate the actress Billie Piper would enjoy watching the television adaption of Philip Pullman's novel The Shadow in the North. Piper stars as the heroine Sally Lockhart in this 2006 BBC-WBGH Boston co-production for public television's Masterpiece Mystery! series.

This DVD caught my eye at my public library because Billie Piper was in it. Like millions of other people, I know her as Rose from Doctor Who, and I really enjoy her acting. She is able to convey both broad-shouldered courage and quavering vulnerability and show how both emotional layers blend into each other.

The Shadow in the North proved to be a charming story that was fun, heartbreaking, and politically serious. Then it was all wrapped up with bittersweet delight. The story is a bit complicated and trying to explain it all would give away too many spoilers. In brief, it is set in 1878 London and Sally Lockhart runs her own financial consulting business. The story opens with her meeting a new client, retired schoolteacher Miss Walsh, who has lost her retirement savings in what should have been a decent investment in the Anglo-Baltic shipping company. But the shipping line collapsed after numerous ships were mysteriously lost. Walsh points out that the insurance company refused to pay claims because of the strange losses, and she believes she lost her money due to fraud and not rough seas.

Sally begins her investigation and seeks assistance from her private detective friends, the pleasingly handsome duo Frederick and Jim. Frederick is Sally's beau but their relationship is rocky because Sally fiercely defends her independence in an age when it is not allowed to women. Sally, despite her stylish clothes, can run with the best of them on the London streets. She has a gun and lives with a marvelously intimidating Great Dane.

Their joint investigation leads them to a stage magician and psychic medium who have similar visions of a murder. The magician is pursued by baton-wielding thugs. Sally's inquiries about Anglo-Baltic meanwhile have irritated the Russian industrialist Axel Bellman, who has set up a strange machine works in England. An unsavory representative of Bellman warns Sally to leave him alone, which only proves to her that he is guilty of at least fraud.

The ensuing adventures of Sally, Frederick, and Jim take them far beyond what was a fraud case as they uncover murder and a plan to build a terrifying weapon. The story ranges from fun to frantic to deadly serious. A wonderful steampunk sense of fun punctuates the action, especially in the character of Frederick as he poses as a researcher of the paranormal and connects his electrodermatograph to the ankles of a psychic medium.

The Shadow in the North also blends its historical setting with paranormal aspects such as clairvoyance and ghosts. This mystery offers charming entertainment that fans of Billie Piper should definitely put on their viewing lists. Don't let the appallingly dopey introduction by the series host Alan Cumming prevent you from watching it. Even Cumming appears ashamed of his stupid lines. Trust me, it gets much better once the story starts.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Paradise Lost by John Milton set to be next big fantasy movie epic

Don't worry kids, epic poetry might turn out to be cool in 2012, if we're lucky.

The 1667 poem by John Milton that chronicles Satan's war with God, his expulsion to Hell, and his revenge upon God, achieved by corrupting humanity, has long been a source of good quotes for bad guys. The most famous quote by far is "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven." Late last year I had the pleasure of diving into this classic and found it to be very compelling reading, especially because I like the fantasy genre.

Paradise Lost is packed with:

<> Great battles among the angels loyal to God and those siding with Satan.
<> Lovely descriptions of the Garden of Eden
<> Clever dialogue as Satan corrupts Adam and Eve

I consider one of the most important conflicts in Paradise Lost to be the raging debate between obedience and free will. Does one actually have free will if one always chooses to obey? Also, is not the requirement of obedience itself subjugating? I expanded on these thoughts significantly in my earlier post about Paradise Lost.

As for the movie, Variety reported on Sept. 16th that Alex Proyas had signed with Legendary Pictures to direct the movie adaption of Paradise Lost.

Variety described the project as telling "the story of the epic war in heaven between archangels Michael and Lucifer, and will be crafted as an action vehicle that will include aerial warfare, possibly shot in 3D."

I'm hoping that, Christian prudishness aside, we'll also get some steamy scenes of Original Sin. Who's going to play Adam and Eve?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Writer's Digest October issue affirmed my life as an independent fantasy writer

I've read Writer's Digest for years. As a teenager I used to pour over its articles about how to write query letters and dream of having novels published. Then as an adult I would dutifully study the advice in the magazine about how to get published. Although I find no fault with the advice provided by the magazine. It is honestly provided by industry experts, but everything in the October 2010 issue was decidedly discouraging from the point of view of a fantasy writer.

Writer's Digest did not intend this, but the fact was painfully obvious in the article "The Hot List" that was about 27 agents who are actively looking for new manuscripts.

Of these 27 agents...

-- One actually stated an interest in fantasy.
-- Four asked for urban fantasy, which is popular but not what I write.
-- Two agents were willing to look at "light fantasy" or "fantasy that does not take itself too seriously" whatever that means.
-- Here's the heartbreaker: 7 agents specifically said they did NOT want any fantasy.

Judging from this article you would think selling a good fantasy novel is impossible. You'd think bookstores had purged their shelves of fantasy books and that George R.R. Martin was panhandling on a street corner instead of watching hot chicks act out his bestselling novel A Game of Thrones for HBO.

In reality I suppose that agents who work in the fantasy genre felt no need to be a part of the hot list article. They are likely deluged with queries from fantasy writers that need to be promptly ignored.

I don't know who gets to actually scout out new fantasy writing talent. But obviously only a mysterious few on the planet guard the gates of mainstream fantasy publishers. I suppose I'll never know who they are.

I realize it is not Writer's Digest fault that agents can't sell fantasy novels. Apparently only readers buy them. However, this hot list article certainly validated my decision years ago to stop banging my head against the closed door of literary agencies. I spent four years writing query letters. My only satisfaction was that 98 percent of them rejected me without ever reading my fiction. This means that my fiction was never given even a passing glace. Rejection is much easier to bear when you know it is not caused by an assessment of your work. I'll grant that maybe I'm not very good at writing query letters, but how am I supposed to explain in a couple paragraphs how someone can make money off an unknown writer of fantasy novels?

I'm so glad I now concern myself with marketing my fiction directly to readers because they are much more open to giving a novel a look.

More items in this issue of Writer's Digest confirmed my life as an independent fantasy author. Take these examples from the article "The Evolution of the Literary Agent":

-- Wendy Keller of said, "It's horribly true that advances are down and so are the number of books publishers are buying."

-- Richard Curtis of Richard Curtis Associates, after acknowledging that advances were holding steady for already successful authors, said, "Where we definitely feel the shrink [in advances] is in the resistance to new authors. The wall is far higher than we've ever seen it, and sadly that means we must turn more newcomers away than we want to."

I found these quotes to be very affirming of my business decisions as an author. Essentially the publishing industry has little interest in investing in new authors, and, when it does, the pay will be low. I can be treated like that anywhere without the bother of writing a novel.

Once again, I am relieved that I have already developed my novels for the market and have been selling them for years to readers. I guess the only way the publishing industry would become interested in my fantasy fiction is if I become wildly successful on my own. Well, I'm trying, but it's in the readers' hands.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What do fans of medieval fantasy get out of it?

Photo by David Ball, shared according to license.

I think very few modern readers can relate to laboring on rustic farms until marauders come and kill their guardians. And I'm sure it's the rare fantasy reader who actually gets to study with a swordmaster before facing supernatural beasts. Despite an obvious lack of real connections with the audience, the longstanding approach to fantasy storytelling that sets the action in a medieval-style world enjoys enduring popularity.

In such a setting, the technology is pre-industrial, the cultural inspirations are predominately of a Medieval European flavor, and the economies are feudal with some commercialism. High profile examples of Medieval-style fantasy worlds are The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and now Brandon Sanderson, and the Song of Ice and Fire saga by George R.R. Martin.

Because I expect that most readers of medieval fantasy are leading modern internet-connected lives, I am forced to consider what is truly appealing to them in these fantasy worlds. Why do millions of readers love to escape into these text-based Renaissance festivals? Why do I like them so much?

Someone unfamiliar with the fantasy genre might think that people enjoy the simplicity of an earlier form of society, but I don't think that is the only case. Fantasy worlds can be extremely complicated with many kingdoms, cultures, languages, secret societies, and detailed histories.

Here are some deeper themes to consider:

1. Characters struggling in a hostile world. Fantasies inevitably have their main characters facing deadly threats. Their homelands can be conquered. They can be driven into exile. They can be hunted by dark agents desperate to destroy their secret powers. This is exciting dramatic stuff, so readers will naturally eat it up with a big spoon. Readers are looking for entertainment beyond the tedium of daily existence. But what are we relating to? I suspect it is the struggle itself. Although most of our lives are not under direct assault by orcs, getting by ain't easy! Medical bills, getting dumped by your boyfriend, school exams, job loss, and many other things challenge people all over the world. At least in a metaphorical sense, we are all fighting for our lives, just probably not with a sword or the help of a wizard.

2. The chance for a small group to change the world. Fantasy characters are always laboring against the odds to complete some quest, save the world, avenge a father, rescue the princess, found an empire, and so forth. If readers are like me, they want to believe that an individual or a small band of rebels can topple a tyrant or something equally daunting. This is why I tend to admire activists in the real world. They are at least trying to do something big. They usually don't make much progress, but at least they are joining with the enemy. Fantasy readers are doing the same thing in their imaginations. They want to root for the courageous and imagine that they would act as bravely.

3. The knowledge of good and evil. In a mythological sense, we all ate the forbidden fruit long ago. We know that there is good and evil and many points in between. We know that most people are good, but there are evil forces acting against us. Fantasy readers want to delve into this concept. They want to explore what it takes to truly be good and do the right thing. They want to think about what makes evil tick. They want to see the good tempted by the bad. They may even want to see evil redeemed in a final act of goodness. There is an endless pile of narrative fodder here, and many readers can relate to it. In our real lives we are all drawn in good and bad directions. Reading fantasy literature is a way to explore our feelings and think about tapping into our inner heroes and fending off the villains that may be developing within.

I'm sure that there are many other elements that readers enjoy about medieval fantasies. This rich and robust genre has a lot to deliver to readers from whimsical details to lofty themes.

Now it's time to hear from more readers. What do you value in the medieval fantasies you admire?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I'm not the only one thinking about Halloween already

Yesterday, my husband told me that it was too early to put up Halloween decorations. I suppose I can concede that point, but it's not too early to start planning. Like me, other Halloween enthusiasts are gearing up for Halloween too.

One blog I follow called The Domestic Witch announced today a Halloween blog party. This online celebration will make her blog a hub for participants who post on Halloween or Samhain subjects. Because I had been planning to write on some Halloween subjects in October, I joined the party.

The Domestic Witch Halloween blog party will begin on October 1st and carry on for the whole month. Writers interested in participating should reference her Halloween blog party announcement.

For several years now I have maintained a small Halloween site - Making Fear Fun - that includes helpful information about planning Halloween parties, weddings, costumes, and decorations. As the days grow shorter in the Northern Hemisphere, I encourage everyone to distract themselves from the coming gloom by planning to have a splendid time at the end of October.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A brief history of my five years of selling ebooks

When I started publishing my writing, I did not plan on becoming an ebook seller. I was focused on how to get my books printed, set up a website, and list them in Amazon. Then I noticed an option on a menu in Adobe InDesign. I used that software to design my books, but it also had a choice that said "make ebook". This produced a PDF file with a resolution suitable for screen viewing and a clickable table of contents.

I remember looking at the "make ebook" option and thinking, "Who would want an ebook?" I then recalled a short exchange I had with one of my journalism professors in the late 1990s when the newspaper industry had officially begun wringing its hands over the internet but doing nothing about it. Ebooks were a part of the conversation about digital content even in the 1990s, and my professor Dr. Bleske said that ebooks would never happen. I piped up and said they could work if everyone had little reading pads like in Star Trek Next Generation. For non-Trekkies, the crew members in that show were always turning in their reports on little handheld devices for their superiors to read. Dr. Bleske of course quickly moved the conversation toward serious journalistic matters and did not waste time on my techno-dreaming.

With this little episode from my college days in my mind, I continued to look at that "make ebook" choice on the software menu. It was 2005. Ebooks after a brief and over-hyped flowering in the early 2000s were officially dead. The death had been humiliating and everyone working at paper mills had sighed with relief.

Naturally, I went ahead and made ebooks anyway. I'd like to credit this act to my bold rebellious nature, but truthfully I have to give credit to my inclination to do things despite all good evidence indicating that I should not do them.

Now that I had made ebooks, I had to figure out how to sell them from my website. Setting up PayPal for payment is simple but I needed some kind of automatic download service. I understood from the beginning that giving the reader immediate access to the content would be a powerful draw. I rejected out of hand the option of accepting payment and then emailing the ebook to the customer. That would be too slow and especially disappointing for customers when I was offline. So I started searching the internet for a download delivery service. I found PayLoadz. At the time it was mostly being used for selling mp3s and software, but ebooks were a category there, so I signed up. The service integrated easily with PayPal with copy and past generated code, which mercifully spared me the need to achieve proficiency as a software engineer.

Business was admittedly slow those first couple years, mostly because I had no idea how to promote myself. (I'm still working on that one.) But there were actual people out there reading and (gasp) paying money for ebooks. This was all before the Kindle, or Smashwords, or Nook, or Ipad. A niche group of readers who presumably had paper allergies were reading ebooks on their PDAs and desktop or laptop computers. Ebook sales consistently drifted into my website, and I loved the business. I did not care if someone only bought the ebook and not the paper book. I had begun to wish that I had never bothered with the whole book thing to begin with. The lower price points I could use with ebooks allowed me to attract readers.

Back in those early ebook years of 2005, 2006, and 2007 I still struggled to find any kind of mainstream distribution. The few existing ebook retailers like threw up stern barriers to anyone who had the audacity not to accept rejection from people who had not read their books. (This means self published.) A smattering of fly-by-night ebook retailers came and went that would let anyone list, sometimes for a fee and sometimes for free, but these companies never got any traction with the market. I would sell one or two ebooks and then never get paid. So, I continued to sell on my little hamster wheel website.

Then everything changed when the Kindle came out. All of the sudden ebooks were in the game plan for a major company. And why not? It's an awesome business. There's no wharehousing, no shipping, no un-used inventory. Of course Amazon wants to train its legions of people who actually read to switch to digital content.

The explosion of ebook retailing opportunities that suddenly opened up has significantly increased my sales. It is so wonderful to have my fiction available in mainstream ebook retailers like Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and Diesel. Amazon revealed the market, but it has been the digital publishing and distribution company Smashwords that allowed me as an independent creator to finally achieve the access to the market that I deserve.

After all of this I still get sales through my website. I am deeply appreciative of these sales because I know that I must always tend my own store and not rely on the big boys. I am not blinded by my inclusion in big retailers. They are fighting for market share now and some are discounting heavily, trying to squeaze the prices on content producers just like Wal-Mart squeazed manufacturers. I've got my fingers crossed that English-language fiction won't be outsourced to China. I think the market has room for several players so I hope there is no winner to the ebook retailing wars. I want to continue to be part of a dynamic marketplace that offers consumers choices and content producers reasonable terms.

Despite my presence across the ebook marketplace, my websites remain the core of my marketing efforts. I appreciate the sales that come directly from readers. I like being able to connect with my audience without having to pay a middleman. Except for the credit card processor, the transaction just involves the reader and the writer. It's like buying food at the farmers' market. Some of my readers also take the time to write me a nice email. Hearing how I was able to entertain them with my fiction encourages and uplifts me more than they will ever realize.

My little corner of the ebook marketplace is Brave Luck Books where readers can sample and buy my fantasy novels.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Spartacus: A favorite movie with an interesting history

If I had a time machine, one of the many things I would do is stop in 1960 so I could watch Spartacus on the big screen. This spear-and-sandle epic based on the novel by Howard Fast is one of my all-time favorite movies.

What do I like so much about Spartacus?

- Directed by Stanley Kubrick
- Starring Kirk Douglas (love that man!)
- The Roman Empire
- Passionate script
- Great acting
- Lavish spectacle with thousands of extras
- Lots of man flesh
- Multiple dramatic scenes that reduce me to tears
- And Jean Simmons is a delight as Virinia

I don't know how many times I've watched Spartacus. I used to have it on a double VHS set that was added to a landfill long ago. Now I just request it from Netflix when necessary.

The original Spartacus movie delivers thoughtful and exciting entertainment every time. My recent research informed me that the screenwriter of Spartacus was Dalton Trumbo, a notorious blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter. Trumbo was jailed in 1947 for refusing to give information to the House Un-American Activities Committee. In the aftermath of being blacklisted, Trumbo had to earn a living writing under pseudonyms. His talent is tremendously apparent in the script for Spartacus, and Trumbo was even able to put his real name on the movie due to the support of Kirk Douglas. This is just another reason for me to admire Kirk Douglas, whose acting always pleases me.

As for the movie, it opens with Spartacus, played wonderfully by Kirk Douglas, laboring as a slave in some broiling North African mine. He is purchased by a trainer of gladiators and taken to Italy. At gladiator school his spirit suffers within the wholly inhumane system that is shaping him to kill for the entertainment of others. During his training, he gradually falls in love with one of the slave women, Virinia. To torment him, the owner of Spartacus sends Virinia to spend the night with another man. This is punishment because Spartacus won't have sex at the bidding of his master who is interested in breeding more slaves.

Despite his simmering rage, Spartacus excels in his training. The day comes when Crassus, a wealthy Roman lord, visits the school with friends and they request to see gladiators fight to the death. Spartacus survives, but morale is abnormally low after the death matches. Unknown to Spartacus, Virinia has been sold to Crassus. When Spartacus sees her being taken away, he explodes and the whole gladiator school rebels with him. This is the beginning of a massive slave revolt that will threaten Rome. Legions are marshalled to fight the slaves, and Spartacus becomes the leader of a great slave army. The desperate plight of the slaves to escape the Italian peninsula drives the rest of the story.

Spartacus is full of great scenes. One that I call the "gay scene" did not make it into the original theatrical release because, of course, no one was gay in 1960. This brilliant scene is in current releases for the home market. The Roman Crassus played by Laurence Olivier has taken Antoninus (Tony Curtis) into his bath with him. As Antoninus washes him, Crassus explains in a coded way that he wants sexual favors and that Antoninus as a slave must submit to his Roman master. The scene is shocking, beautiful, and terrifying, and I love watching it every time. It is made even more entertaining because the next time we see Antoninus, he is joining the slave army.

The most tear-jerking scene for me is before the final battle between the slaves and the Romans. At this point Virinia is nine months' pregnant and she and Spartacus are sharing their last night together. Spartacus knows that he is going to lose the battle. He knows he cannot defend his wife. He knows that he will not see his child. They hold each other and proclaim their thanks for their brief happiness together.

They just don't make movies like these anymore!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What is Devil's Night?

Growing up in Michigan as I did, I have always regarded the night before Halloween as Devil's Night. True to its name, Devil's Night is a time of uncivil nonsense in which pranks are pulled. Doorbells ring. Bags of dog poop blaze. Toilet paper sails over the branches of mature hardwoods. Eggs in abundance crash against parked cars, leaving an unpleasant gooey mess for undeserving morning Angels. My Grandmother, who grew up in Chatham, Ontario remembered Devil's Night with a fond smile. When I was little she would recount to me how the moving of outhouses was a popular prank under the darkness of Devil's Night.

Devil's Night has also summoned fear in the good citizens of the land for darker reasons. Detroit, Michigan long held the infamous crown as the capital of Devil's Night. The culture of the region had always observed Devil's Night but from the 1970s to 1990s, more destructive and dangerous crimes occurred the night before Halloween. As the city disintegrated, arson became the norm for pranksters because the numerous abandoned homes and buildings offered unprotected targets. Scenes of blazing buildings across the dark city landscape made for shocking news footage. Property owners desperate because of their inability to sell their buildings took the opportunity to set a match to their problems and collect insurance money, adding to the fires on Devil's Night. Eventually in the 1990s patrols of citizens ended the chaos and changed the name to Angel's Night.

I also recall a shocking murder from my younger years that happened on Devil's Night. In Mid Michigan a man named Stephen King bludgeoned to death a coworker at the drugstore they worked at with a hammer off the shelf. This is strictly from memory because I could not find any information about the murder because it happened before the rise of the Internet. The horrid crime certainly happened though, and it added to the regional fear of Devil's Night.

Because people like a measure of fear with Halloween, Devil's Night persists throughout the Midwest, Northeast, and regions of Canada. It goes by different names sometimes. In New Jersey, October 30th is called Mischief Night or Cabbage Night. Ohio dubs the night Damage Night or Beggar's Night. Some Canadians call it Gate Night or Matt Night although my Canadian Grandmother called it Devil's Night. She did live very close to Michigan though and eventually emigrated to the state.

The Western and Southwestern United States has no tradition of Devil's Night. All the tricks are done on Halloween. I lived out West for 14 years and was at first surprised that Devil's Night did not exist. My first year away from my native land, I worked in a squalorous and crime-ridden neighborhood in Las Vegas, Nevada and I begged my coworkers to tell me what precautions I needed to take. I was invariably met with blank stares, and happily nothing happened to me or my car on Devil's Night.

Many years later, I'm back in a Devil's Night region. I'm not terribly worried, but I always enjoy that tingle of caution that crosses my senses when the sun sets on October 30th. I in no way condone the mild vandalism associated with Devil's Night, but I accept it as an almost harmless outlet for juvenile rebellion. With it gotten mostly out of the way on Devil's Night, the fun of Halloween can be enjoyed by all. I adore Halloween and love how it has become a major holiday to the American masses. It is a pleasant holiday, involving all ages, and requires no religious affiliations. I publish a Halloween website that offers articles about Halloween costumes and Halloween parties.

The pranks of Devil's Night are derived from the Irish tradition that blamed the mayhem on fairies and goblins. Because of the Irish diaspora, the concept spread to many regions. Although everybody knows that the supernatural tricksters are actually thoughtless teenagers, Devil's Night remains the night when unsightly pranks are wearily accepted.