Halloween has always gone together with horror. The holiday gives many children their first taste of terror, and the discovery and overcoming of fears. For those who find they love a good scare, that first taste can grow into a voracious appetite.
That might be why you’re looking at this book right now. If so, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find the thrills you crave, packed into a collection of stories that are pure Halloween.
Carve your pumpkins and turn on the porch light, Halloween frights begin with the sound of Doorbells at Dusk.
What Are You Going to be for Halloween?
By Joanna Koch, Contributing Author to Doorbells at Dusk Anthology
One of my favorite things about Halloween is asking the question, “What are you going to be?” Halloween is the only holiday that opens the door to the possibility of experimenting with a new identity or exaggerating traits normally kept in check. Most holidays reinforce family and social roles, but Halloween invites alternate and outsider identities to come out and play. I ask both children and adults what they want to be for Halloween. I like hearing what character they choose from popular culture or what hidden selves they want to embrace beneath the mask.
There’s freedom in wearing a mask. Masks are worn during festivals so rules can be broken in the spirit of play. Halloween and Mardis Gras, the American holidays that invoke masks, hearken back to the festivals of old Europe where social status, profession and gender were erased for a day. Mardis Gras is the provenance now of exclusive clubs in the Deep South where I grew up, but Halloween remains democratic. Halloween is for everyone.
In the Halloween collection Doorbells at Dusk, my story “Offerings” uses dressing up to reveal character, to raise suspicions and to find some resolution at the end. Masks and costumes are transformative, and the story revolves around change. The overt plot is a paranoid fantasy about ritual and sacrifice cobbled together from The Golden Bough. The covert plot is a satire on our cultural demands for women to become nurturers at any cost. For me, the real story is in the dressing up. Which costumes are real? Who chooses them and why? Can the power of a mask change the face that dwells inside it?
The main character Blaine begins the story trapped in a mask of normalcy that doesn’t sit well with her. The trap grows more extensive as her story progresses. Blaine finds her way (out or in, you decide) through a sort of costuming or transformation. The ending wasn’t obvious to me, and I had to give up trying to find a solution and follow the logic of Blaine’s character to reach it. I feel like Blaine should get the credit rather than me.
I’m really proud of her. Blaine changes the rules and therefore the outcome. Faced with a binary system and no good choices, she invents her own option. Whether you approve or disapprove of her actions is a question of ethics. What I like most is that she reveals the potential for relative freedom and change within a rigid system. The world seems to be getting very rigid these days.
I don’t write fiction because I have a message. I write because it’s fun. I get to wear all the different masks, live all the lives I’ll never have the time or body or funds for, and commit as many cathartic crimes as I desire to keep me sane and grounded. If I have any goal in writing, it’s for the reader to have some fun with me on the way. Sometimes the fun gets uncomfortable or bloody. Sometimes fun doesn’t feel one-hundred percent good. And sometimes it just feels dirty.
So what am I going to be for Halloween? It depends. I might be a doll, a murderer, a syphilitic slut, a hostile artist, a gay werewolf or a middle-aged woman who can fold a fitted sheet. It all depends on which one of my stories you decide to pick up and read. “Offerings” is a good place to start, especially because it’s nestled in with so many other great stories by well-known authors and filled with both tricks and treats.
Joanna Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. She’s an artist, counselor, and a fan of folklore, fairy tales, and anthropology, all of which inform her work. Her short stories have been published in journals and anthologies, both in print and online.
Joanna holds an MA in Contemplative Psychotherapy from Naropa University where she participated in the Maitri Space Awareness program and studied within the context of a therapeutic community. She failed to bond with her meditation instructor until they absconded from the isolated Rocky Mountain retreat center and rented a VHS of The Evil Dead to share with the rest of the class. Reactions were mixed.
Joanna practiced as a women’s advocate for sixteen years in metro Detroit, where she still lives, writes and works. In the near or distant future, she plans to finish writing Flesheaters Anonymous, a novel about a twelve step group for recovering zombies.
If you want to see what else Joanna has written her bibliography is listed on her blog.
Other contributing authors include:
Sean Eads and Joshua Viola
Curtis M. Lawson
Doorbells at Dusk published on September 3 and is available on Amazon in e-book and print and at book retailers worldwide.