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Final Crossing

Yeah, that's right. I don't just mean your kids. I mean all kids, big and small. The key? Make your house really scary for Halloween. If you do it right, you can get tears from at least a handful of them. Aim for two or three, be satisfied with four or five. Don't get greedy.

More on that and my book giveaway in a minute (depending on how fast you read).

Happy fall, everyone. It's my favorite time of year. Crisp air. Changing leaves. Football. New fall TV lineup. And, of course, Halloween. With a general spookiness in the air, it's a perfect time to pick up a copy of FINAL CROSSING, if you haven't already. What's more spooky and satisfying than a good old-fashioned serial-killer-who-crucifies-people story, after all? You can find it in most Barnes & Noble stores and online at all book retailers. And, because it involves crucifixion, might make a darn good Christmas gift as well. Just sayin'.

What I'm Reading:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It's dark, funny, depressing, and highly original. Some of the best writing I've seen in some time. Nearly finished with No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer. The writing is a bit clumsy but this book isn't about the writing. It's about the story, and what a story it is. Check it out. Also, my friend Sean Eads is coming out with his debut novel The Survivors on October 3. Sean's one of the strongest and most imaginative writers I've had the pleasure to know, and I highly recommend his book. You can read more about it here.

What I'm Watching:

Time seems tighter by the day, so I'm not squeezing much new into my fall TV. Might stick with J.J. Abrams's Revolution (NBC) for a few episodes; shows some promise, if not as captivating as the first season as Lost. Lots of movies I want to see, but sadly I'm far behind. E-mail me the best movie you seen in the last few months. I want to know.

Where I'll Be

I'm happy to be heading to the Bouchercon Crime Fiction Convention October 4-7. If you're going, check out my panel on Friday, October 5 at 11:30am. "Ex Libris: It's Balderdash for books. 5 authors, 6 first lines. Guess which one is correct." Looking forward to seeing my fellow panelists Marcia Clark, Jan Burke, Maddee James, Julia Heaberlin, and James L. Conway.

OK, onto the kid scaring:

Every year for Halloween I make a point to do my house up right. It's a bit of a necessity, since I actually designed my house to look creepy. Here it is:

Washburn House

I start in late-September, and the first things to go up are the burlap layers to cover the porch. Once the porch is enclosed, I deck it out, sticking to whatever the theme is each year. Animatronics are a must. Themes have ranged from The Exorcist (shaking bed with vomiting Reagan doll), to Psycho (shower scene, fog machine, jumping Norman Bates), to massive spider infestation.

Preparing the porch
Preparing the front porch for the annual theme.

My house regularly gets 300-350 trick-or-treaters, and we've become known as "that house" on my street come October. But it doesn't take much to scare kids. Just make a little effort, something beyond just a carved pumpkin. Have a leaf blower? It makes a lot of sound, can be concealed, causes quite a fright. Just hook it up to a long power cord that you can toggle on when kids approach the front porch. That's how I started. Now I've evolved to motion sensors, PVC air-compressor props, and lots of dummies. But for the best, old-fashioned guarantee for tears, simply dress yourself up as a prop and scare the bejeezus out of the little ones as they come up to poke you. One of my favorite moments was jumping out from behind a wall while wearing a freaky clown mask, causing a pudgy little kid dressed up as an M&M to drop his candy and go running down the street, screaming. Oh, how we all laughed.

And now the contest:

I'm giving away a signed copy of my book to the two most interesting Halloween decorating/haunting/trick-or-treating stories I hear from you all. What have you done to decorate your house? What's your most frightening trick-or-treating memory as a kid? The winning entries will also be posted in my next newsletter (with your permission). Entries due to me by the end of October.

That's it. Now go out there and let's see some tears.

Happy haunting!

Fall. My favorite time of year.

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