This was my first Halloween with neither of my two kiddos at home. Wow, how fast it all goes by! Seems like it was just yesterday I was showing the little ankle-biters the proper way to decorate for Halloween. They didn’t listen at first; for the few several years they just wanted to play with the fake body parts and bleached bones. But by the time they were ten I figured they’d at least gotten the primary rules down, which I hope will stay with them long enough to pass down to their own dark and twisted offspring.
What are the Wilson rules for Halloween decorating, you ask? Well, they’re pretty simple, but it only works if every rule is followed.
- There has be a theme. Every severed hand and pentagram painted in blood has to serve the theme; if not, kill your darlings.
- The theme has to be changed EVERY year. So you spent $500 on last year’s Shining theme? Tough shit, this year we’re doing zombies.
- Finally on themes: it should go over the heads of the kids while still being creepy. Your goal is to impress the parents. You think a kid is gonna appreciate a life-sized shot-by-shot deconstruction of the shower scene from Psycho? Hell no, but that kid’s dad is gonna lose his fucking mind.
- Not too gory! No, I’m not saying that out of concern for the little ones, it’s just a lazy way to decorate. It’s boring. Remember: less is more, and nothing’s scarier than one’s own imagination.
- Have your main set fully enclosed (garage, blanketed front porch, etc.). This allows you to established a delicious sense of claustrophobia while limiting exits.
- Fog, fog, fog.
- Don’t overlook the power of sound. Really, fog and a creepy soundtrack gets you 75% there.
- Don’t try to scare as much as permanently invade the dreams of the kids. Sure, it’s fun to make a handful of trick-or-treaters cry, but more impressive is being sued for therapy costs ten years later.
- Buy shitty candy to hand out. You just spent all your money decorating, and now you’re gonna hand out full-sized Snickers to 250 kids? I don’t think so. Hope you like knockoff Jolly Ranchers, ya little bastards.
- Invest in high-quality blacklights. Those you can use every year.
- If you don’t have an animatronic connected to a motion sensor, you’re doing it all wrong.
- Finally, have fun. The reason you’re going to so much trouble is likely buried in some wretched past trauma you can’t even remember, but I say embrace it. After all, if we can’t celebrate the dead, what’s the point of living?
This year’s theme was Haunted Attic. The first video below shows the set up, and second showcases a representative screams. Enjoy!
New episodes of Making It Up are out! This month I chatted with Anthony-nominated novelist Heather Levy (Walking Through Needles), humorist Amy Weinland Daughters (Dear Dana: That Time I Went Crazy and Wrote All 580 of My Facebook Friends a Handwritten Letter), and we produced a LIVE episode on stage with three incredible authors.
What’s Entertaining Me
Unscripted: The Epic Battle for a Media Empire and the Redstone Family Legacy (James B. Stewart, Rachel Abrams, Penguin, 2023)
If you like true stories of horrible people, this one’s for you. Touted as a real life Succession, the book documents a painstaking investigation of despicable billionaire Sumner Redstone (Viacom/CBS) and all the despicable descendants and circling bottom-feeders surrounding him. Gotta say, this one was almost too much even for me—these folks are simply awful. Prepare to take a long shower by the time you hit the appendix.
The Fall of the House of Usher (Netflix, 2023)
Now we’re talking! Boy, did I like this limited series. From Netflix: “To secure their fortune — and future — two ruthless siblings build a family dynasty that begins to crumble when their heirs mysteriously die, one by one.”
And die they did! Horribly, creatively. The show’s creator is Mike Flanagan, who did other top-notch horror thrillers including The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, and much of the cast is (thankfully) recycled from those earlier series.
Dark and quirky, with beautiful sets and talented actors who know exactly how to perform with just the right amount of tongues-in-their-cheeks, what’s not to like? The major bonus is every episode has direct ties to a Poe short story. I was in heaven.
Photo of the Month
Have I shown this? I don’t remember. But these are the creepy ruins of an old farmer’s house about five miles from where I live.
Update from my Kids
The highlight of Ili’s month was meeting Zeke the Wonderdog, the unofficial and wildly popular Michigan State mascot who catches frisbees at halftime. What’s less popular at MSU football games is showing pictures of Hitler on the Jumbotron.
Update from my Pets
Hey, look, a photo of an animal other than Guff, Scully, or Tuli! Meet Benny, my kids’ dog at their mom’s house. He’s adorable and loving, unless Scully is within ten feet. Everyone loves Scully, but Benny is only one who sees through all her bullshit.
Humor of the Month sent to me by a friend
Really gets one in the Halloween spirit.
Coaching & Mentoring
In addition to my Gentle Novelist retreats, I also offer one-on-one coaching and mentoring on an hourly basis (discounted packages available). I work with writers at all levels to provide support, advice, and feedback based on my twenty years of experience.
Common topics include:
• Developmental editing (full novels and partials)
• Query-letter critiques
• Social media/web presence coaching
• Book-launch support
• Accountability partner
• Public-speaking training
• Getting to your why as a writer
And much more. Contact me if you are interested in a free, 15-minute consultation to see if one-on-one mentoring/coaching is a good fit for you.
That’s it for now! Until next month…