As I watch the little kids trudging along, their intricate costumes covered by practical rain ponchos, I grin in response. Children and teens alike walk door-to door, clutching plastic pumpkin head pails and shopping bags, grinning ear to ear in anticipation of the candy that will soon fill them.
As I watch them, memories surface. I'm reminded again how very strange it all seemed to me back then.
When I was nine, my school mates wore masks and costumes too. Their foil-wrapped cardboard swords looked almost real, and the rolls of gauze bandages their mom sacrificed from the first aid kit made my friend David look very mummy-like in a certain light ...
Like the children in my own neighbourhood, they deliberately scared themselves with spooky movies, clever pranks, scary costumes and fireworks, as they trudged along in search of candy at our neighbours's houses.
I dressed up too, gripped my plastic pumpkin-head pail and went along with the group, anticipating the candy, but not really looking for the type of adventure my friends had in mind. They laughed at David's impression of a "shambling mummy" and I probably screamed the loudest when Judy let off the first bottle rocket.
And so I tried to reconcile trick-or-treating with the twisted reality that existed at my house. I lived in a haunted house, and not the kind that charged admission or played a Monster-Mash soundtrack.
I didn't talk about it to anyone, but how could I? I was far too afraid of public ridicule to admit that my house was spookier than anything my classmates could dream up!
Writing Hauntingly Familiar helped me to deal with those childhood memories that I'd simply bottled up, and speaking with all of you through my Facebook and Twitter has empowered me to understand the paranormal in a way I never would have, had I not opened up and told the story. I've learned from all of you!
Now that I'm an adult, I can reason with myself. Public scrutiny happens all the time. As I scuff my feet through a pile of leaves, watching the light fade from the sky, I can breathe deeply and relax. It's okay, I tell myself. I'm not being ridiculed. I've told the story. Some believe as I do, some don't, and I'm okay with that. I never thought I would be, for sure, but I realize now that I didn't write Hauntingly Familiar to convince the world of anything. I didn't do it to tell people about my own personal gift. I did it for that little girl that still wanted an explanation, and somehow, even though I didn't have the answers when I started, I came to understand my past far better by the time the manuscript became a paperback.
It's weird how things work out.
Okay, so I'm different. So what? That's what makes me special. I only have to take an innocent holiday with my husband to understand that for whatever reason, I've been chosen as a lodestone for paranormal energy. Perhaps that sounds melodramatic, but that's only because you believe what I used to: things like that don't happen to people like me.
In telling my first paranormal story, I feel proud that it opened the door so others could tell theirs. As Hauntingly Familiar got into more and more people's hands, it seemed to touch off a very interesting, ongoing conversation that has brought me no end of delight. Initially, I just wanted to share something deep and mysterious that I had been struggling to understand since I was a little girl. I fought with myself over what character name I would use. Victoria, Veronica, Nancy, Jill ... none of them seemed to fit.
And then I realized why.
This was my story, so why was I hiding that fact? In time, I realized it was because deep down, I was still that little girl, afraid of ridicule.
It was a very nervous Virginia that finally offered Hauntingly Familiar in its current form, using my own name for the main character.
Crazy, attention-seeker, lunatic, fraud, the words piled up on top of each other and it was all I could do not to pull back and hide again. But in May 2011, the first e-book version was released.
I never imagined that this novel would appeal to my reader's hearts as much as it has, touching off debates, conversations and their own personal stories.
For those of you brave enough to admit that things like this have happened to you, I thank you for your openness and courage. It seems we are all somewhat afraid of public ridicule, even on a day when our social calendar reminds us we are supposed to take delight in being scared! :-)