Friday, June 20, 2014

What Defines You?

Monday I sat in the ninth circle of hell, waiting for my number to be called so I could get the process of changing my name on my license over with. When my number was called I was ready to deal with the stereotypical right to business, monotone worker. Instead, I was greeted by a bubbly college student with long braids and an infectious smile. I sat down, and we started to go through the rigmarole of the process.

Then we got to the part where I had to confirm my personal information, including my race. The girl asked what I was and the screen gave me a list of options. I chose white and she asked the next question to clarify: was I white, Latino, or other?

“Well I guess white applies most in this situation even though I’m a mixture of Norwegian and Irish,” I stated.

She replied with a comment that is forever ingrained in my head, “You know I like that answer. It actually makes me uncomfortable when people answer ‘just white.’ No one is ‘just white,’ you know? I’m not ‘just black,’ I’m Jamaican.”

We sat there for a few minutes discussing the concept of race in general and how in actuality the questions that were posed really have no merit. Turned out this girl was actually studying sociology and was working here over the summer for some extra cash. She went on to talk about how working here was actually a great way to understand more about people and how they interact with each other and how they define themselves. She turned what is normally a teeth grinding experience into a thought-provoking one. A few days later I got into a similar discussion about race and how it really has no weight is defining a person.

I’ve talked before about how in the anthropological world, the world “race” isn’t used. Ethnic backgrounds and regional boundaries are used instead to group people. The discussion the other day was about how the color of your skin defines who you are and what your future generations will become. This of course is not true. Grouping people by the color of their skin is purely a social construct, mostly used by western culture (and adopted in some other cultures as well). The only thing that the color of your skin dictates is where your ancestors came from, even then there are varying skin tones within each ethnicity. Facial and body features are the same way; it’s all adaptation (as shown in the image above). We humans are made to evolve and adapt to our environment. I use my ancestor’s example since I have that perspective.

My skin is pale because my ancestors come from Norway and Ireland; both places are far from the equator and don’t get a lot of direct sunlight year round. My nose is long and pointy because both places have lower temperatures. The long, pointy nose filters cold air better. Point is neither of these things define me as a person; they are biological traits that were used to adapt to my ancestor’s environment that I inherited.

Problem with this logic is many people in western society don’t see people this way. They see a person and put them into a category based on their skin color because that’s the first thing they see. It is unfair, and in reality illogical. Calling all people with dark skin “African American” makes no sense since there are many people that have darker skin who are from the Islands, or even South America.

What really defines people is their heritage and who they have become in the present, not simple make up of melatonin or lack thereof. Still, we see that racism is rampant still today which is appalling to me. Of course it’s hard for me to grasp what it really feels like because unfortunately the color of my skin has entitled me to privileges that someone with darker skin never had. It’s a sad but true fact that we as a society need to understand but also try to educate people to move past and focus on what we all are: human with different backgrounds, appearances, and qualities that define who we are as people, not race.

Image Courtesy of

Friday, June 13, 2014

Giveaway Winner and Return to Summer's Hollow Preview

Thank you all who entered the giveaway and/or spread the word about it around social media. The names of all who entered were put into a cup and one name was drawn. The winner of my “Horror Care Package” is…


Congratulations, Cate! The package will be mailed to you and since most of its contents are a surprise, I would love for you to take a picture of it when you receive it! Also, as promised, I have a little preview of the next part in the Summer’s Hollow series. Enjoy a taste of my current writing project: Return to Summer’s Hollow.

Sweat glistened on Rylie as she took the steps two at a time up to her apartment. It was times like this she wished they didn’t live on the fourth floor. After a three mile run the last thing she needed was more exercise. Still, she trekked along until she reached her apartment where she resisted the urge to collapse on the floor as soon as she got in the door. Instead, she stretched out her tense muscles and then journeyed into the bathroom to rinse off.

Jake would be home in less than an hour to pick her up and she was far from ready. She quickly peeled off her sweat soaked clothes and turned on the shower. While she waited for the water to warm up she looked into the mirror. The little make-up that she had one before running was smeared on her face so she splashed it with water and blindly reached for the washcloth. She patted her face dry and turned back to the mirror.

There was a cracking sound that echoed around the small bathroom. Her eyes drifted to the mirror to see a crack in the glass. Its edges started to grow like a spider’s web but with precision. The cracks continued fast and curled into what appeared to be letters of some sort.

The steam from the shower was causing the mirror to fog up so she no longer saw her face but still could see the cracks. She was frozen in fear as the cracks stopped and spelled out the phrase: NEVER FORGET. Terror gripped her body and she closed her eyes hard then snapped them back open. The words were no longer there.

“Not again, not again…” she said breathlessly as she started to back up from the mirror.

A stench then filled the room that caused her to clamp her hand over her nose as she now whimpered in fear. Her heart was pounding hard in her chest but was deafened by the shower pressure growing as well as the sink turning on. Both her pulse and her breathing quickened as she looked around incredulously at the scene. There was no way she was dealing with this again. She shut her eyes again, her hand still over her nose, opened them up but the scene was still going on.

Then all of it stopped. The shower curtain though then started to move. Her breathing stopped all together as she saw a hand curl around the edge of the curtain. Her heart was in her throat as she spun around and reached for the door. As soon as her hand touched the doorknob her flesh sizzled and she withdrew it from the hot metal. “This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening,” she said over and over as she shut her eyes.

That’s when she was aware of a presence behind her. She felt cold breath on the back of her neck and she let out a blood curdling scream as she was pulled around to face her worst fear.

“No!” she screamed loudly as she snapped open her eyes.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Friday the 13th Giveaway

It’s no shocker that Friday the 13th holds a special place in my heart. After all, it was on a Friday the 13th that I released Summer’s Hollow. The number 13 in general plays a big role in a lot of my stories, including Summer’s Hollow. In my next installment, Return to Summer’s Hollow, the number 13 plays an even bigger role and Rylie learns more about what that number really means to the town.

So in honor of this week’s Friday the 13th, I am doing a giveaway! The winner will win a “Horror Care Package” complete with some of my favorite horror books (including a signed copy of Summer’s Hollow) and some fun horror goodies. To enter, please comment below* about a weird superstition that you follow and why you follow it. Please include your email address in the comment so that you can be notified if you win. Each person will get one entry. You have until 12pm on Friday to enter, so spread the word! Winner will be drawn Friday afternoon. Good luck!

*If you are having trouble with blogger (I blame Mercury Rx) please leave your comment on my Facebook Author Page.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Attention to Detail

On Tuesday I posted about the emotions of the wedding: what I was feeling that day, etc. That is one aspect of what my wedding meant to me. As an anthropologist, I believe that weddings are all about bringing families together. Marrying for love is a very new concept; it used to be nothing more than a contract between two families for their children to marry one another for social, economic, and political reasons.

Cynical as that may be, I still think that. Of course I love Grant unconditionally but if it were just about us then I would’ve just had a small, private ceremony. This wedding was about our friends and family becoming one to celebrate our union. This meant that I incorporated a lot of details from friends and family that had personal, historical, or symbolic meaning.

First it’s important to point out that we got married in a church. Neither of us identify as Christian but it is a church that I adore, and a Pastor who I have the utmost respect for. The ceremony itself was very short (under 20 minutes) and it wasn’t too heavily religious. It was just the right mix of everything we wanted.

The reception took place at the Elkridge Furnace Inn: a historic manor house that played a role in the civil war (including part of the underground railroad). We had a tent outback so that guests had a view of the garden and of the river.

The history and beauty of the place was heightened by the gorgeous Spring day. The history didn’t stop there. As I mentioned before, our wedding was all about the melding of the different families. We incorporated a lot of different historical and personal items from various family members and friends. Below is the list of those items:

- Toasting Glasses: My parent’s that they used from their wedding, bearing a green stem and a Celtic knot
- Cake Topper: Bells from my parent’s wedding
- Engagement Ring: My mother-in-law’s grandmother’s ring from Germany
- Pendant: My Bestemor’s (Grandmother in Norwegian) opal
- My garter: My something blue with a Penn State logo, made by the lovely Renee over at Sosanna’s Closet

All of these things were essential, and though most people would not know the meaning behind them, it meant the world to me. The fact that we could incorporate all these different items really felt like a mix of all the great things in our families. Little details and rituals like this were important in capturing the true meaning of our union.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Pagan and an Agnostic Walk into a Church…

Sounds like the start to a bad joke doesn’t it? Actually, it’s sort of the tagline for these past two weeks because, drum roll please, I got married! Looking back on it now, it went by in such a blur. There were hiccups along the way but overall it was such a magical day that I will remember for the rest of my life.

When I was a girl I never thought about what my wedding would be like and even when I started dating Grant, I never really thought far ahead of what the “perfect” ceremony and reception would be. We had a short Lutheran ceremony in my Grandparent’s church (where I am also still a member) followed by a brunch reception at a local historical mansion house. We had gorgeous weather, amazing company, and delectable food.

My emotions were running very high that day. I am not a crier; unless there’s something incredibly tragic, I don’t cry. On the day of my wedding I cried perhaps more than I have in my life. It started with the walk down the aisle. Many of you know that my father has been sick; up until a few months ago he could barely walk. The fact that my Dad could not only be healthy enough to attend my wedding, but to walk me down the aisle and participate in the father/daughter dance, brought tears to my eyes. These tears lasted all the way down the aisle. I was quite the blubbering mess when I arrived at the altar.

The ceremony itself as was so surreal. As we stood up there, reading our vows to each other (pictured below) it felt like we were the only people in there (clich├ęd, I know). When the Pastor told us to “Kiss and Embrace,” we even both paused, not hearing him and not realizing we were that far along in the ceremony. However, it goes well with me not hearing Grant’s proposal. Our awkwardness continued throughout that day but hey, it’s us.

The reception was also a blur. It was amazing to see so many people that I love and care about gathering in one place to celebrate our special day. That also brought tears to my eyes. Then toasts started and yeah, I lost it both during the Maid of Honor and Best Man toast. Seriously, that day turned my cynical heart into such a mushy mess.

The honeymoon was heavenly. It took me about a day to get used to the fact that I had nothing to do but relax and enjoy the lake. We hiked a little, laid out in the sun a little, and just enjoyed the first few days of marriage. After that we returned home to our house. Last weekend we spent umpteen hours moving boxes, wedding presents, furniture, and all the rest of our worldly possession into our new home. We’re still in the process of settling in but of course I have the kitchen completely unpacked and have already made some wonderful dishes.

My life has started a new chapter. I am still the same witty, nerdy, dark, and sarcastic Sam but with a different last name (though I will be keeping Samantha Curtin for Author, Blog, and Non-personal Social Media Purposes). I’m looking forward to this summer where we get to enjoy our new house, our new marriage, and our new life together.

First picture courtesy of our wedding photographer, Jessica Eastburn.