In Defense of The Changling

It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day - Time for an Irish story!

Brief History: Instead of focusing on a single story, I’ll just give a broad history of the Changeling legend. The general myth is that elves and fairies kidnap beautiful human babies and replace them with their own horrid children or with a piece of faeryland like a branch or log. Sometimes they also kidnapped grown women, creating beautiful mothers to care for the fae children. In order to bring back the kidnapped, you had to make the changeling laugh, treat it with love, or say the right prayer.

Analysis: The idea of having a child who did not seem “right” was a fear of all mothers in the time before psychological or scientific reasoning. The belief that such a child could be saved through simple magic must have been too great of a hope to let go of, which is probably why questioning the belief in changelings lasted until the 1800s in some countries and cultures.

Blame It on the Victorians: In 1895, Bridget Cleary was burned to death by her husband in front of a group of witnesses. Why did the townspeople of Ballyvadlea, Ireland stand by while this man allowed his sick wife to catch fire and burn? Well, because Bridget Cleary had been spirited away and this imposter had to die in order to bring her back? Due to this belief, Michael Cleary was only charged with manslaughter instead of homicide. In Ireland, this true event inspired more nursery rhymes and new fairy tales in which Bridget was a witch.

 Last Thoughts: A good way to make a changeling baby laugh is to boil and cook within an eggshell. Yeah… not really sure how that works, but best to try that before setting someone on fire.


Writer’s Critique: The Possible Benifits of Gothic Novels

I was re-reading Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. For those who don’t know the British Regency satire, Austen’s first written and last published work, is about a young woman obsessed with Gothic novels and how that leads her to rather embarrassing misadventures. This was a nod to the popular novels of her day, novels that Austen herself read. I’m not sure if Austen ever tried to write within this genre and decided it just wasn’t for her or if she knew she just wanted to give some recognition to what was considered the “buy at the airport trash novel” of the age.

The point is that you can’t read just your own genre when preparing to write.  I know this sounds like tired knowledge, the “if you want to be a writer you must read, read, read” advice which is always the first given in any class, workshop, or panel. The reason why you always hear it is because it’s good and true advice. So I’m just adding to it. You need to read more that simply the genre you want to write.

“But I only like romance which I why write romance,” I hear you say. That’s good, but you aren’t experiencing as much that could help you grow as a writer. 

For example, within Northanger Abbey Austen purposely mimics the adjective laden style of Anne Radcliffe, a popular Gothic author. She does this for the parts where the heroine is allowing her imagination to run away with her, added suspense that makes the reader wonder if something shocking might in fact be about to happen. Then, as truths are revealed she goes make to her normal style. 

I’m not saying use precious time reading things you hate, but broaden your scope just a little. Maybe start with a non-fiction book on a topic that interests you. Just don’t start with Anne Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho. That book is long or at least it felt long. 

In Defense of The Disobedient Daughter who Married a Skull

This month I want to do one more non-fairy tale in defense of (because I was reading random folktales and this one caught my eye). 

Brief History: This story was written down by Elphinstone Dayrell, the District Commissioner of South Nigeria in the early 1900s. This Nigerian tale is about Afiong, the most beautiful girl in her town, who rejected all of the young men asking for her hand. Her beauty was told of in the spirit wold where Skull convinced his friends to lend him legs, arms, a body, and a handsome head. He went to the market of Afiong’s town and she was instantly in love with him. She brought him home where her parents were (understandably) super weirded out that she wanted to marry a complete stranger she had met in a market. Still, eventually they gave in and their daughter was taken away by her new husband. Once arriving the spirit world, Aifong discovered that her new husband had borrowed his good looks and was really just a literal skull. Still, she tried to be obedient and helpful to her new mother-in-law. The old woman was so grateful, she started to like Aifong and worried about their neighbors eating her (because apparently that’s a thing). So, she used Juju (aka magic) to summon a wind that took Aifong home to her parents. From then on, the town passed a law saying that their daughters could not marry strangers from far away lands.

Analysis: I tried to read more on the cultures of the Efik-Ibibio peoples (a joint language between two cultures that Dayrell was collecting the stories from) in order to better help my analysis. It didn’t. I think internet failed me. This has left me so shaken, all I can leave in defense of this story is - Be nice to your mother-in-law. If she sides with you the divorce can be made that much easier.

Blame It on the Victorians: Victorian England was busy being imperialistic, destroying culture and ignoring what Belgium was doing in the Congo, to pay attention to folklore for another continent. Don’t get defensive. You know it’s true.  Still, this story was written down in the early 1900s within a book with an introduction by folklorist Andrew Lang. I’m not going to lie. I spent a good amount of time on the internet looking for information about Elphinstone Dayrell and. . . yeah. I know he died in 1917 and that’s about it. His books of Nigerian folklore was published by the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland so… there’s… that… I guess.

Last Thoughts: All I can think of is Bob the pervy skull in Jim Butcher’s the Dresden Files.

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Seriously - Can anyone tell me more about this guy?


Random Arizona Facts

Last week, I did a Valentine’s related post on Valentine’s Day instead of my normal Arizona’s Birthday post. But you did not escape - muwahahahahaha. But I also have little time this week, so I’m phone this blog in as a list. Here it is, a list about random things in Arizona that even sometimes Arizona residents don’t believe:

  1. London Bridge (the one from the song) is here. It was brought brick by brick by someone with too much money and time on their hands.

  2. A David Hasselhoff movie with filmed at London Bridge over Lake Havasu where he had to battle the ghost of Jack the Ripper. You know you want to look it up now.

  3. The squirrels at the Grand Canyon carry plague, but we have a cure for that now so … I guess it’s okay?

  4. Donkeys can’t sleep in bathtubs. It’s the law, man. Actually, it’s not any longer, but no one ever bothered to really have it disputed.

  5. Women had the right to vote in local elections before Arizona even became a state (that’s right, it used to be slightly more liberal here).

  6. Dick Van Dyke lives here.

  7. It’s not illegal to refuse someone a drink of water - but it should be and most people think it’s the law so let’s just keep it that way.

  8. The Gunfight at the OK Corral was super short and didn’t even happen IN the corral (it was in a nearby vacant lot). But Doc Holiday can still be your huckleberry.

  9. The first college in the U.S. built on a reservation was Navajo Community College.

  10. A group of German-Nazis being held in Papago Park in 1944 tried to escape down a river, then discovered it had no water and were re-captured. Suck it, Nazis!

In Defense of Eros and Psyche

Fine, society! You win! It’s Valentine’s Day, I’ll do something Valentine-y. So here’s very, romantic and, surprisingly hopeful, Greek myth of Eros and Psyche. 

Brief History: Originally written down in the 2nd Century CE (Common Era) by a Roman philosopher, this myth is the tale of how Aphrodite’s jealousy caused her to gain a daughter-in-law. The Goddess of Love ordered her son Eros (also known as Cupid, before he was drawn as a Cherub with a diaper) to make certain a young beauty named Psyche married the most hideous man Eros could find. Instead, Eros was careless (meaning he did it on purpose) and scratched himself with an arrow, resulting in his own love and marriage of Psyche. However, being a stuck-up god, Eros believed that a marriage between himself and a mortal could never work with 100% honesty. So, he only met with Psyche in the dark, informing her that if she ever looked upon him in the light he would leave. As always happens in this story, she is manipulated into holding a candle over Eros. Seeing that her husband was hella hot, Psyche got careless and dripped wax on him. Eros left her and in order to win him back she had to perform a series of tasks. The last task, a trap set by Aphrodite, resulted in Psyche’s death. Eros, having seen how sorry, brave, and determined his wife had been, appealed to Zeus to grant her immortality. And so Psyche was reborn as a goddess.

Analysis:  So Eros is the embodiment of love (real love, not the mind games his mom played on men) and Psyche is the embodiment of the soul. The story is literally the marriage of heart and soul. It’s not just a jazz song the middle school kids learn at piano lessons.

Blame It on the Victorians: Victorians loves literature where women are punished for being curious or independent. Have I mentioned this before? I feel like I’ve mentioned this before. Although really it was the poets of the 19th century who felt the need to retell the story over and over again. Instead of the Victorians, it’s actually medieval monks who got their (I’m sure) grubby hands on this story and tried to turn it into a tale about punishment for (gasp) physical love. Psyche being seduced by her husband is the loss of soul in women instead of redemption of the original myth. 

Last  thoughts: This might have been a bit of a ploy to advertise an upcoming FSF project… just saying.


Character Study - Talking Animals

Stories of fantasy and science fiction often utilize a speaking creature as a plot point. This tradition goes back to ancient mythology. However, there’s a distinction between the wise owl of the ages and Mr. Owl taking your sucker. When does the mystical being become the Disney sidekick and when are either appropriate?

First off, anyone who knows my Funko pop collection is aware of my weakness for Disney sidekicks (as well as Universal film monsters, but that’s a different story). But even the animators of these family movies have to make the decision between simply cute or human level communication. For example, in Moana and Tangled the animals show a higher level of emotion and comprehension without talking. This fits well into the fantasy realms in which the stories take place. They provide humor, warmth, and even some plot points, but do not detract or make the main ideas feel silly. Where as in Cinderella, the mice talk in ridiculous broken English, acting as both comic reliefs and talking heads for the audience.  

The trouble is when your creature serves no purpose other than aesthetic value. You think “Kids like spiders. I’m writing a kids book so I’ll add a spider.” Unless you’re Mercier Mayer, that isn’t really how it works. Character Osidekicks should always serve a role and have point. They should not just be an excuse to sell plush (I’m looking at you Barbie movies). 

A good modern example of an animal sidekick who cute, cuddly, and can be used as a plot device is Mouse, the Temple dog from Jim Butcher’s the Dresden Files. He checks all of the boxes and I would totally buy him as a plush. 

National Do All the Things!

January 28th is listed as a number of strange observances. There’s Thank a Plug-in Delevoper, Daisy Day, National Bluebearry Pancakes Day, Rattlesnake Round-up, National Kazoo Day, Data Privacy Day, Better Business Communication Day, and, best of all, Bubble Wrap Day. So many choices for celebrating! I say forget whatever adulting you needed to do and do all of that stuff instead. Pop bubble wrap while you plant daisies! Check that your identity hasn’t been stolen while you buy blueberry pancakes for a plug-in developer! Use a kazoo to communicate to your business associates that there’s a rattlesnake in their office! Actually, don’t do that last one. Rattlesnakes don’t like kazoos. 

Shelfie Time!

We all have the one friend, the selfie addict. All parts of life must be recorded by having the person with the longest arm hold a phone/camera out to capture the tilted up faces of all people involved. I bet you never thought about just how complicated taking a selfie is until you read that sentence.

But there is something easier to still express yourself and visually show the world who you are - the shelfie. No, that is not a typo.

A shelfie, for those of you who are overthinking this and needing clarification, is defined by Urban Dictionary as “A picture or portrait of your bookshelf. Showcasing literature IN ALL IT'S GLORY!
(This term was originally defined by author Rick Riordan)”. And before any of you jump down my throat, yes, Urban Dictionary is a legitimate source in this instance.

Yesterday was National Library Shelfie Day (which falls on the fourth Wednesday of every January), tradition started by New York Public Library as a way to show diverse holidays through books on the subject. In case you didn’t notice, yesterday this unofficial holiday was celebrated on social media by myself, Kira Shay, and Sidney Reetz. But I want to take it a step further. What would the titles on the shelfies of some of the great heroes and heroines of literature looks like?

Jane Eyre: Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, The North York Moors: A Walking Guide (Cicerone British Walking) by Paddy Dillon

Susan Penensie: A Lion Called Christian by Anthony Bourke and John Rendall, 10 Steps to Declutter Your Wardrobe: Organize Your Closet in a Snap by Carrie Foster, Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel, Growing Up: It’s a Girl Thing by Mavis Jukes

Frankenstein’s Creature: Paradise Lost by John Milton, A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer, The Terror by Dan Simmons, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson

Tarzan: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Harry Potter: The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble, On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells,  The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynn Reid Banks

Hannibal Lecter: Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West by Ethan Rarick, Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Mind Hunter by John Doulas and Mark Olshaker



Book Publishers Day

Apparently, yesterday was Book Publishers Day and although I saw this come up on several "unusual holiday calendars” I can’t find out what exactly it is. As a book publisher, I had decided to come up with my own definition, or three definitions as the case may be.

  1. Just like Administrative Assistants Day, this could be a good time to take the book publishers in your life out to lunch. Might I suggest in a place dark and not too-crowded in case the book publisher you are treating is also a writer and, therefor, prone to anxiety in certain social situations.

  2. Read through a guide about how a book is published. This will give you more appreciation to the work that goes into your favorite novel or self-help book and make you less critical of typos. Might I suggest our guide found on this and Sidney Reetz’s websites.

  3. Write a review of an independently published work. In fact, forget definitions one and two. Do this! A review is the most helpful thing you can give on this very vague of holidays.


Writer’s Critque - Annie

For the first time in a long time, I watched the 1982 film Annie, a favorite in childhood, and for the first time noticed a great many character, pacing, and dialogue issues. This probably can be attributed more to my supposed adulthood than my writing abilities, but I’m still going to try to make this more about the writing. 


The dialogue is hokey and stereotypical, probably because much of it was written in as replacements for musical numbers. That having been said Carroll Burnett is still fantastic.  Not to mention the racist undertones of Punjab and the Asp, Mr.  Warbucks bodyguards. Also, despite having the look of the Great Depression,  the adult conversations in the movie are very 80s. If you listen, most of the background information, which is meant to just go over Annie’s head, is all about capitalism, the economy, and communism. All of these ideas were everywhere in 1982, where as a kid in 1935 is only worried about where food is readily available. The writers may have been sticking to a “write what you know” rule. 

Pacing wise, what the heck is up with that entire scene in Radio City Music Hall where they spend about 15 minutes watching dancers on some very 70s looking sets followed by huge hunks from the film Camille. As a kid, this part bored me. As an adult it baffles me. I feel like it would make sense if the movie on screen had some kind of connection to the story and characters of Annie. Just a quick summary for those who don’t know, Camille is a 1936 drama adapted from an Alexandre Dumas book. Greta Garbo stars as a socialite deciding between love, money, and sacrifice before (spoiler alert) succumbing to tuberculosis. First of all, it’s not a kids’ movie! Why would Daddy Warbucks even take her to that? Second, there was no reason to show hunks of this tragedy in the midst of Annie and the adults supposedly bonding. The scenes shown from Camille have nothing to help move the plot of Annie forward or, other than Grace crying, reveal anything about the characters.  

 The character development (which I know was based on a Broadway play but still) could have been more involved for such a long kids movie. Annie really only spends the painfully long Camille scene and some time in the pool with Daddy Warbucks  and, suddenly, they have a father daughter bond. She actually spends more time with the secretary and the two bodyguards then she does with a man who adopts her.

Well, I think I picked that apart enough. Childhood ruined or just slightly tarnished? At least the dog was cute.

Twelve Days Of Xmas

For those of you currently arguing with relatives because you have yet to stop watching Christmas Hallmark movies, I have good news for you. It’s still technically the holiday season! 

You know that aggravating. . . I mean traditional song the Twelve Days of Christmas? That is actually a dozen days starting on December first and ending on January 5th, according early Christian traditions. Twelfth night was once for caroling, a festival with a king chosen by a pea in a cake, and leaving out your festive wreaths. 

So why am I sharing this information? Because I’m too lazy to take down my holiday decor yet. But clearly I don’t have to for two more days. Haters can choke on a pear. . . tree. 

In Defense of the Willful Child

I’m picking this one in case anyone’s kid had a case of the gimmees this holiday season. Enjoy.

Brief History: In this German story, a stubborn and disobedient kid (sometimes a boy and sometimes a girl depending on who translated it) falls ill and dies. After being buried, the kid’s arm refuses to stay under the ground, popping up like a daisy each time its re-interned. Finally, the child’s mother comes to the grave and beats the arm with a switch. After that, the child rests in peace.

Analysis: Um… I feel like I shouldn’t actually have to analyze this one. You guys get it, right? Because the child didn’t want to be disciplined in life, mom still had to do so after the kid was gone. That’s just how willful this mythical child was. We should probably keep in mind that when this was first told, child mortality rates were high and so just hoping your kid had a restful afterlife must have been the best you could hope for, even in a fairy tale.

Blame it on the Victorians: When the Grimm Brothers wrote this one down, they added that God had made the child sick as punishment for being so awful to his/her mother. Then, the child didn’t get well because he/she still would not be sweet or obey. So, you could tell your kid when they were sick that if they didn’t do what they were supposed to, God would literally smite them with Scarlet Fever. This same idea is in Carlo Collodi’s Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) where the Blue Fairy, annoyed with Pinocchio’s refusal to take medicine, summons undertakers and tells him he’ll just have to die then.

Last Thoughts: Why hasn’t Disney made this into a movie? The animal sidekick could be a cute mouse. . . a cute, decomposing mouse who can talk.

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Local Business: Some of Our Favorite Local Artists

This final local business blog of the year is going to focus on local artists and artisans.

Scott P. “Doc” Vaughn

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Scott P. “Doc” Vaughn is a local illustrator, pin-up artist, and comic artist. Beyond his prints and commission work (ahem - Fair to Middling), Doc is one of the creators, with Kane Gilmour, of the web-comic Warbirds of Mars. Beyond the comic, the diesel punk tale of aliens and Nazis has spawned two radio/podcast specials and an anthology book which featured vast local talents.

Check out Doc’s work here:


Keith Decesare

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Also known as KAD Creations, Keith has been a hard working and talented member of the art community for many years. Beyond his own prints and beautiful work, he has been commissioned for book covers (ahem - Emerald Door), personal artwork, and more. He has also delved into sculpture and performing arts.

Check out Keith’s work here:

Kylara Griffis 

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An up and coming talent, Kylara is both a talented and unique sketch artist as well as an amazing make-up artist. She has recently been commissioned on a project with Kira Shay that we will be excited to present to you. 

Check out Kylara’s work here:

Small Business Saturday and Beyond

Thanksgiving is here and you know what that means - Shopping. Horrible, crowded, unnerving shopping. Before you venture out into retail Hell, consider shopping locally first.

Start with Small Business Saturday, the much calmer, saner, and more economically helpful version of Black Friday. Check out what smaller artisans and shops have to offer.

In honor of this, our blogs will feature some shout-outs to some of our local Phoenix businesses for your consideration.

Help your community thrive.

In Defense of the Legend of John Alden, Priscilla Mullins, and Myles Standish

Brief History: First of all, I know this isn’t my usual fairy tale/folk tale blog, but I thought I’d try something more Americana in honor of the football season. . . or something. Second, I promise that since this blog is about the group known as the Pilgrims I won’t get on my many colonial America soapboxes such as the difference between the strict, hypocritical Puritans and the religous-diverse Plymouth colonists or the broken agreements with the Wampanoag people or the lack of cultural acknowledgement for Tisquantum (a.k.a. Squanto) who is the only reason why we have Thanksgiving. Nope. Nor will I go into the history Thanksgiving not being celebrated in U.S. until the Civil War as a morale booster and really had nothing to do with the Pilgrims and Wampanoags. [Deep breath] Now, on to the story.

In 1858, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the king of historical inaccuracies (i.e. The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere), wrote a long poem called The Courtship of Miles Standish. In the midst of battles against the indigenous people and bad harvests, Miles Standish had an eye for the young, pretty Priscilla Mullins. As a military leader, Standish naturally was not a romantic (as according to the big book of stereotypes) so he asked his friend, John Alden, to speak on his behalf. However, John and Priscilla grow close and by the time he tries to propose for Miles, Priscilla says, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?” So, they get married, Standish gets over it, and they all eat turkey.

Analysis: Everyone likes history better when it has a love story involved. Case in point - Titanic. (And they could have both fit on the door. Just saying.) In reality, historians don’t know if there really was any triangle between the political assistant, the military advisor, and the daughter of a shoemaker. This is what is known:

  • The major events from the poem like the Nemasket raid really did happen, but over many years instead of a few months.

  • Myles (correct spelling) Standish really did remarry when his first wife died after arrival in Plymouth, but he married a woman that came over on a separate ship about three years later. His first wife died very shortly before Alden and Mullins married so if he really did want Priscilla for his wife, he must not have waited long.

  • John Alden originally joined the colonists as a barrel mender and became a part of the standing military and a secondary governor. He sounded more ambitious than his literary counter-part.

  • Priscilla Mullins was one of the only members of her family to survive the voyage on the Mayflower and married John Alden when she was about 19 years old. They had at least 10 children, one of whom grew up to be accused during the Salem Witch Trials.

Blame It on the Victorians: Longfellow was a descendant of the Aldens and claimed the story of the love triangle was a family legend passed down through generations. An upside to all of the fame his poems gained by being more dramatic than historical is that Longfellow used some of his fame towards his support for the abolitionist movement. Focusing on a positive here.

Last Thoughts: “Didn’t it reeeeeeeeally happen that way, Grandpa?” Ever seen the Elmer Fudd cartoon where he’s John Alden? Huh. Huh.


Reviews: The Perfect Gift For Your Favorite Indie Author

You want to get something for that special someone whose book you bought from a local festival or convention. You loved this book (or even just kinda enjoyed it) and wish could give back to the person who put so much time, blood, and tears into telling a story. Good news: you can without spending money or even having to creepily stalk said author.

Write a review.

Reviews are how independent authors get traffic to websites, recognition from peers, and interest in their future work. You might not think that writing a review is really important if it was something you liked. Look at Yelp - most people just go on their to complain. But in a social media obsessed society, you need to record the good with the disappointing.

Below is a list of places for book reviews are that helpful because its where other people go to read about a book they are curious about. Even if you only liked a part of the book, say there was a character you loved, but a scene you thought was too slow, then write the truth. Help out the local authors in your community by giving them a voice online.

Amazon and Barnes and Noble - These 2 seem obvious, but indie author books are available on these platforms, but can get less notice without a community behind them. That’s where reviews come to the rescue.

Goodreads - This is the ultimate in book recommendation websites. You can write whole summaries, send book links to friends, and, of course, write reviews.

BookBub - If good reads is overwhelming with its massive database, this new website for primarily ebooks is not just good for reviews, but also if you are looking for new book samples to read.

Online sources of your local newspaper - Sometimes, the local news will want the opinions of the people posted on their message boards or in response to editorials. At times, especially in the midst of gift-giving holidays, this can include the work of independent authors and artists.

Your Own Personal Social Media - If you are comfortable, post on your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blog, or whatever social media outlet you are currently addicted to. A review or book recommendation doesn’t have to be long to help an independent author.

All Saints' Day

In the Southwest, Mexico, and some Latin American countries, today is best own as the first day of El Dia de los Muertos, but November 1 also has it’s background in All Hallows Day or Hallowmas.

In Medieval Europe, Halloween lasted three days - All Hallows Eve on the 31st of October, All Hallows Day on November 1, and the Feast of All Souls on November 3 - which were all meant to be days to honor the death and keep one’s own morality in mind. Halloween was part of a Pagan day of harvest. What started as Samhain, a day when the veil between the spirit world and the mortal world was dangerously thin, became a Christian holiday of remembrance. The recently deceased were the most cared for in these celebrations, hoping their souls weren’t lost in Purgatory. All Saint’s and All Soul’s days are for visiting graves, feasting in honor of the dead, and, of course, remember all of those obscure Catholic saints who died in very creative ways.

So what’s with the history lesson, you may ask? I just wanted to point out that, even if you aren’t Catholic, your Halloween celebrations do not need to end just yet. Sacrifices aren’t just for on Halloween, you know. The powers that be need to know that you are serious about your tributes.

So, make a pretty wreath from the bones of your enemies and place it on Grandma’s grave. She will like to know you’re thinking of her even after Halloween is over. And while you are at it, say a prayer to St. Dymphna. Her story sucks. Look it up if you dare.