Ladies and gentlemen, Halloween guest blogger Amber Benson!

We have a very special treat for this spooky, spooky season, folks. Please give a warm League welcome to our guest today, the lovely and talented Miss Amber Benson.

Amber is known for a variety of things. Number one reason for her fame, of course, is that she is a SUPERFAN of my Simon Canderous series, which proves both her wit and intelligence. She even gave me a keen quote for book three. She is also remarkable in that she and I share a pub date for our urban fantasy series. The second book in her Calliope Reaper-Jones series , Cat's Claw, comes out on February 23, 2010, which gives you plenty of time to run out and get book one in it, Death's Daughter. She is also a director, producer, and actor best known in our paranormal little corner of the world as Tara Maclay from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

What I found out earlier this year, and it should come as no surprise, is that Amber is also one of the sweetest people I have ever met. Ridiculously so. When I asked her to guest blog about Halloween and how it figures into her life, she jumped at the chance with her usual charm. So read on, true believers. Feel free to give her some love in the comments and we'll see if we can coax her out of her writer hole to speak up in the comments. Without further ado, here is Miss Amber Benson and her tale of a Halloween long ago.

Why Plastic Jack-O-Lanterns Suck
(all names have been changed to protect the not so innocent)

I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama in a suburb called Mountain Brook. It was the place where all the doctors and lawyers and other white-collar professionals lived with their big houses and their Mercedes convertibles and their tennis courts––and this whole suburban wonderland was overseen by a giant wrought iron sign that read: Dunbarton.

Which was our subdivision.

Anyway, I think I was six the Halloween that the orange, plastic, Jack-o-Lantern buckets got mixed up.

Upper-middle class suburban Halloween time:
A bunch of high-strung, neurotic Jewish father’s taking their easily excitable progeny out trick or treating in the windy––and usually wet––autumn night.

Of course, when I say ‘night’ what I actually mean is like 6:30pm–– when the sun has just set and twilight is still lingering.

In my neighborhood there were tons of trees and tons of land between each house. That meant there was a lot of walking just to get a handful or two of candy. As we made our way through the neighborhood we saw that a few houses here and there had been decorated for the occasion, but mostly these new monstrosities just sat in the dark, unadorned, as if it were any other night of the year.

My dad, a psychiatrist who loves to make absurd jokes and harass (his word, not mine) his children and the friends of his children, was saddled with my little sister and me for the evening. I was dressed like a witch with a black pointy hat that had impotence issues, a black dress, green face paint and a putty mole on the end of my nose––don’t ask me why I went green because I don’t know why. I guess I was just channeling the Wicked Witch of the West that year. My sister, who was one and a half, was dressed as Charlie Chaplin in a pink onesie, white pancake make-up, back eyeliner eyebrows and mustache and a tightly curled black wig––if you’re thinking mini-baby afro with a Hitler mustache then you’re halfway there.

Accompanying us was my best friend, Carla, her sisters and her dad, a dermatologist and, also, my dad’s friend. Carla was Raggedy-Ann that year, I think. (There’s a picture of the two of us from that night––pre-Jack-o-Lantern mishap––floating around out there somewhere, but I’m too lazy to call my mom and verify this piece of information.)

Let me state now how idiotic it was that instead of individualized bags and other candy collecting receptacles, we all had the same orange, grinning plastic Jack-o-Lantern buckets. You’d think if everyone was gonna have the same thing then someone would’ve been smart enough to put names on the damn things, but no, there was absolutely no way to tell anyone’s Jack-o-lantern apart from anyone else’s.

Remember this fact as we continue:

Things proceeded normally for the first hour or so, but as it got wetter and we kids got cranky from the walking and sugar consumption, the mood turned. Instead of excitement at each house, there was complaining and pissed-offness as our rag-tag assemblage trudged (seemingly) forever onward.

My dad had to carry my sister cause she didn’t really walk that well, so he was getting tired––and his bad back was starting to twinge––from the extra baby Chaplin poundage. I was giddy with sugar and the freedom of being out at night where all the scary things were supposedly happening. As the night wore on and these scary things did not appear, I became agitated.

I have no idea whose house we were hitting up for loot when everything came to a head, but it had a long red brick walkway and an impossibly large set of red brick stairs bordered by what seemed like acres of very green lawn.

In the heat of the moment, my friend, Cara, and I, as we approached the front door and fought over the doorbell, got our Jack-o-Lantern buckets mixed up as. I don’t know how these things happen. One minute, everything is fine and then suddenly the crap had hit the fan and everyone is freaking out. There were tears, recriminations, calls of cheating, etc, etc. It seemed that we both wanted the same Jack-o-Lantern, regardless of whose it actually was––for some reason one of the buckets had become defective and was now lesser than the other bucket in absolutely no discernible way.

My friend and I, it seemed, were going to come to blows over this Halloween mix up. I was getting really riled up and I had only in the past few years given up my penchant for biting, so things might’ve gotten really crazy if my dad hadn’t taken it upon himself to pluck both plastic Jack-o-Lantern buckets from us, put them behind his back and switch’em all around until neither of us knew which was what anymore. Finally, after much deliberation, we each picked a hand and that was the Jack-o-lantern we got to keep.

My dad was considered a hero for his quick thinking and the evening moved on, only a little worse for wear.

Now, I could say that we were both satisfied with what we got and that we stayed best friends from that day forward forever more––but that wouldn’t really be the truth. Life doesn’t work that way, as everyone knows. Friends come and go, as does the need to dress up and ring your neighbor’s doorbell and demand that they give you candy.

That night, we just both knew we had been outfoxed by my dad––with logic, no less!––and, therefore, we had no leg to stand on, nothing with which to protest the injustice we had both just suffered.

We were screwed.

Still, I learned a very valuable lesson that Halloween. One that to this very day I have never forgotten:

Plastic Jack-o-Lanterns suck.


Anonymous said…
My sister and I had those same pumpkins. Eventually, Mom just started dumping all the candy into one pile, at home, and having us take turns picking our spoils from the combined haul. Otherwise, there was the chance said pumpkins became blunt objects.
-Kelly Meding said…
I had those plastic pumpkins, too. They do, indeed, suck. :)
Jo-Anne Kenrick said…
Aww bless your cottons. I went through a similar situation -- although plastic Jack-O-Latterns weren't around in the UK when I was a kid. you were posh if you had a canvas shopping bag! Mostly, we used carrier bags, you know, the cheap supermarket ones.

Now, my kids both have very different trick-or-treat bags. My daughter a Halloween Biscuit the dog bag, and my son has a glow in the dark skeleton one. Both brought from the UK and neither of their friends, here in MN, got the same thing! AWESOME -- their bags never get mixed up so hopefully I've helped my kids avoid that awful trick-or-treat bag mix up torture!
BreiaB said…
I hated those stupid pumpkins. I preferred a pillowcase, it was bigger and I knew it was mine.
japmap said…
sweet story! we had those, too, but my big brother never worried about which one was his. He took what he wanted anyway. LOL

BTW, where's the photo of little Amber in a costume?
Ronnie_ASA said…
Hilarious tale Amber :) Being from Scotland when I grew up we had a very different take on Halloween. We dressed up and went door to door and all that but we had to sing a song or tell a joke or a poem to get any treats. Sadly for me, the treats were traditionally wither unshelled nuts (monkey nuts) or apples (either plain or toffee covered). now as i liked neither apples nor monkey nuts it meant I spent most of my evening getting treats for other people. Talk about bored. Still, it was an evening out.
Anton Strout said…
I was okay with plastic pumpkins if I had like five strapped to me like giant orange grenades ready to explode with candy goodness.

I did prefer the pillowcase, and I learned early on to use the uber long body pillow ones for maximum efficiency...
Kirsten said…
I too had the Jack-o-Lantern. Which was then dumped into a pillowcase. I lived in a rural area so there was a bunch of driving so we could hit houses of friends and still be in bed on time. The pillowcases were stored in the van and were all in different spots. Invariably I got something my friends did not so it wasn't too hard to tell. I also got my father's candy. So it all got dumped out at the end of the night to determine fairness and trade out the candy we did not want.
DarkLightDM said…
Brown paper grocery bags were the way to go. Especially as a really small kid there was a sense of accomplishment to be walking in an awkward costume, reaching your entire arm into the bag trying to fish for one specific piece of candy, and not falling flat on your ass. I never had a plastic pumpkin, so no story to tell, but you have my sympathies, Amber.
Anonymous said…
1) We had Wal-mart bags--& envied the kids that actually had a specific tool to use for the night! And all my cousins (which I went trick or treating with) had the same bag so we were constantly bickering over bag swapping.

2) Love'd you on Buffy :o)

3) Adding your books to my to-be-read list--can't wait!
Rowan said…
I come from a Wiccan family, which in turn means I come from a superstitious family. I wasn't allowed to go trick or treating until I was about 7 (which is the age I was when I demanded to go). Well, it turns out I didn't like it very much. Not only was it a ton of walking, but my family had hyped up the superstition so much that I spent most of the night running away from the people dressed in scary costumes. Very traumatizing. Oh, and I had to use the damn pumpkin bucket too...and my handle broke.
Celene said…
I don't know who to feel more sorry for, little Amber or the poor plastic jack-o-lanterns, after all they were dropped and fought over.
Loved the antecdote though :) We just always used bags.
Anonymous said…
Strangely, I had one, and I don't remember it sucking. My kids love theirs but we have never had to worry about them getting too full (Halloween isn't as big in our town as I would like). I love Halloween so much I got married on the day!

Loved the story, Amber, and you on Buffy. :) I really enjoyed Death's Daughter (I reviewed it for Night Owl Romance) and I can't wait for Cat's Claw!

Joe aka AmberAddict said…
Hey Amber thanks for sharing your tale of Halloween misadventure it made me simle. I wish I'd gone trick or treating when I was a kid! That way I might have a story or two that I could tell!
RKCharron said…
Hi Amber :)
Thank you for the great nostalgic Halloween post. I had that plastic pumpkin too. They were too small & the handles hurt when the pumpkin was full. I used a pillow case after that one Halloween using it.
Loved your story,
Thank you for sharing,
All the best,
Karen W. said…
Hi, Amber,

Great to see you here! I enjoyed your Halloween story. :)

I recently talked to you (& Adam, my fellow Long Islander) at the "Mini-Megaconvention" in Orlando, and I can't wait for more books from you!
dorkchops said…
Oh my dearest Amber,

This is the exact reason why every year since as far back as I remember that when Halloween rolled around the pillow case came right off the pillow on my bed and was used to carry my candy, it had strawberry shortcake on it and I had second back up one that had crayons and coloured pencil leds on it and was very distinguishable. No one ever got my candy but ME. And well my Mom and Dad got their share of the reject candy. Junky plastic buckets are for two year olds who don't know any better.

Now go call your Mother for that picture! :P

-Love Mel.
JD said…
Thanks for a really entertaining post, Amber! Although, it's not really fair of us to garner enjoyment from what was obviously a harrowing experience for you as a child.

Oh, who am I kidding? It was a funny story. Fairness be damned!

And stupid little plastic pumpkin buckets too, apparently. :)
Thom said…
What a great story.

I am sorry that what could have been a life long friendship was destroyed over the suckage of plastic jack-o-lanterns, but look on the bright side. No matter how traumatic that night may have been, at least you weren't a toddler dressed as Kabuki-Hitler.

Just trying to keep it in perspective for you :)
Carol said…
Great story, amber. Thanks for stopping by.

Looking forward to book two...
Anonymous said…
DaddyCatALSO says:

No great dramas for me; I never did much trick-or-treating. and the kids in my town used bags; I always thought those plastic jack-o'lanterns were just decorations. But I see the usefulness otherwise, never had problem with them.

My father sometimes created drama for the kids in my hometown. Trick or treat nights (we had two) tended to fall on my mother's bowling nights and he usually turned out all the lights so we wouldn't be bothered. But sometimes he dressed up in an old red sweatshirt and really mean-looking bum's mask we owned and terrorize them (and I mean that literally;it wasn't fun-scary except maybe for him) when they rang the doorbell, before he gave out the candy.

My daughter sometimes used one of thsoe plastic jacks; she fortunately never had any great dramas, except maybe the time my ex trheatened to keep her home from trick-or-treat to guilt- punish me, fortunately changing her mind once she cooled down.

I'll always be grateful to Amber; at a cynical time in my life, she and Aly reminded me certain good things stille xisted. I jsut can't figure out how she gets cuter every year. (then again, being well into late youth myself it just means she's getting closer to the age I was when I first saw her.)
Anonymous said…
Welcome to the blog, Amber. I'm a huge fan.

It's good to know I'm not the only person to be traumatized by Halloween paraphernalia. There was a guy in our neighborhood that used to dress as a scarecrow dummy and sit in a lawn chair on his porch. He'd put the candy bowl in his lap. (Which now that I think about it, is sort of creepy in itself.) And he would pretend to be a dummy with the full facemask and everything until the kids came to the get candy and then he would jump up and scare them.

It was horrible. The first year he did it to us, I screamed and dropped my candy when I ran away. The moms begged him to stop. But only after a six year old punch him in the junk did he end this tradition.

Why do so many of my childhood stories end in someone getting a crotch injury?
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