Tag Archives: halloween

Halloween Reads: Local Author K.L. Kranes

K.L Kranes is a Virginia author debuting her first novel, The Travelers. This novel is about two Wiccan tribes and the love story between the two main characters, from opposite sides of the feud. I reimagined Romeo and Juliet story that takes place in the underbelly of our beloved state. I had the pleasure of speaking with K.L. Kranes about her experience writing her debut novel, a feat that took her 10 years to complete.
This book is an important part of K.L. Krane’s life. One scene is even based on one of her own memories with her husband. According to Kranes “[The Travelers] centers on this relationship between Marc and Dagny, who actually meet by chance on a plane. That chance encounter was actually based on how I met my husband, obviously without the witches and magic. But, many of the details in that meeting in the book are exactly what happened when I met my husband on a plane from LA to Australia. I had an editor once make a comment that the scene wasn’t realistic and would never happen like that and I could only think ‘but it did!’”

What is The Travelers about?
K. L.: The book follows Dagny and her family, who are Travelers. Imbued with magical abilities, they can transfer their souls from body to body, staying young forever. But it is not safe in the world for Travelers. For centuries, Dagny’s family has been pursued by an unknown enemy bent on their destruction. The only way to stay safe and hidden is to keep Traveling. But when Dagny meets Marc, everything changes. For the first time, she wants a future that doesn’t involve changing bodies. Despite the risk, Dagny vows to stop Traveling and be a normal girl. But as her enemies start closing in, Dagny starts to wonder if she can ever really be normal and if she can actually trust Marc.

travelers-cover-finalWhat makes The Travelers stand out from other fantasy novels?
K. L.: The Travelers isn’t just a standard fantasy novel about witches, where a girl meets a boy, falls in love and sinister forces try to tear them apart. My overall goal was to create a story about two groups of people who hate each other and, then, make the reader feel sympathy for both sides. Therefore, the book changes perspectives often. Although Dagny is the main focal point, it doesn’t just follow her character. The book takes a scene or experience and shows it to you from several different points of view. I hoped this approach would underscore the idea of trying to understand differences rather than judging with little information (i.e, “walk a mile in someone’s shoes”).

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? 
K. L.: Dagny is a Traveler, which means she is part of a group of witches that can move their souls from body to body and stay young forever. Travelers are rare and powerful, but also hated in this Wiccan world. Even among Travelers, Dagny is different. She is even more powerful than other Travelers. But, Dagny doesn’t want this power. She just wants to be a normal girl. I think that desire makes her special. Everyone wants to be a superhero. Here is someone who has great power and can stay young forever, travel the world with ease. Instead, she would rather grow old in one place and live a normal, peaceful life.

In a previous interview you describe her as “feisty.” Why is that?
K. L.: Travelers are hated in book and because Dagny is so powerful, her family fears even more for her safety. They keep her life strictly controlled. Unfortunately for them, Dagny is headstrong and impulsive. At the beginning of the book, she tries to be a good daughter and sister. But as the novel progresses, you see her rebel against her family, refusing to let their prejudices and fears become her own.

Where did the idea for this book come from?
K. L.: The idea started with the concept. I wanted to write a book about two people on opposite sides of a feud who’d been taught to hate each other and how they overcome that engrained hostility. I also wanted to turn the tables on the typical story often seen in YA fantasy books, particularly vampire novels where the older, wiser vampire falls for a young girl. And I didn’t want to write another vampire story, plenty amazing ones have been written already. So I came up with the idea of Travelers who move from body to body and stay young for centuries and made the main character a female Traveler who falls for a technically younger boy.

How much research did you have to do for this book?
K.L.: This may sound strange, but I tried not to do too much research. My fantasy novel is about magic and Wicca. However, I didn’t want it to be reflective of the actual Wicca religion. Sometimes I would research symbols or meanings for inspiration. But, in general, I wanted the witches not to be constrained by current convention.

What is the hardest thing about writing this novel?
K.L. I think the hardest part was actually showing it people. I spent 10 years writing this book, not because it took me 10 years to write it. But because it took me a long time to build up the courage just to show it to my husband. Then, it took even more years before I showed it any additional people. My parents and best friend only read it with in the last year during the publishing stages.

What draws you to the fantasy genre?

K.L. I’ve always enjoyed the dark, mystical aspect of stories. My first favorite books growing up were by R. L. Stein, Stephen King and Anne Rice. As a girl I wanted to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I like that fantasy takes you into a different and exciting world, but still reflects something about real life. In fantasy, novels you can explore issues and concepts through a different lens and I think, sometimes, that can be even more effective than showing people reality.

How long did it take to write your book?
K. L.: It took me about 10 years. However, as I said previously, I didn’t write it the entire time. I shelved the book for years on end at different points because it took me so long to build up the courage to show it to anyone, let alone submit it to a publisher.

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
K. L.: My best tip is to stop whatever you are writing and write something else. For me, it’s kind of like when you can’t think of a word or an idea, so you do something else and then it pops into your head. Writing something completely different, even it if it something mundane like an email, clears my head and helps me move forward on my other project.

klkranes-pictureWhy do you write?
K. L.: The simple answer is because I love it. I can start writing something and spend hours on it and it feels like only minutes have passed.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
K. L.: I wish I wrote a lot of books. However, I recently read Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I couldn’t help thinking as I read it how much I wished I could write something so unique and powerful. To me, it was like The Color Purple meets Gulliver’s Travels. I’d never read anything like it.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
K. L.: Don’t be afraid to show people your writing or wait so long before submitting it to publisher.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
K. L.: Probably the same advice I’d give my younger self. Don’t be afraid. Show your work to people. Feedback is critical and helps to shape you as a person and a writer.

Be on the look-out for this Virginia Native’s debut novel The Travelers paper back was recently released on June 23, 2016! It would make a great read for October or gift for the Halloween lover in your life! Also, be sure to check out her blog at klkranes.com/blog.

 

Written by Nicole Brobston

Stick to Your Diet

bellaweb2Halloween is almost here, followed by Thanksgiving next month and then (dare we say it?) Christmas! While many people find joy in the holiday season, for those trying to lose weight it can be the most miserable time of the year. Fortunately, it is possible to stay dedicated to your diet while surrounded by unhealthy food.

Colin Christopher, author of Success Through Manipulation, provides a few great tips on staying healthy in the face of tempting sweets and foods: 

  • Don’t skip meals this holiday season: Some people skip meals thinking they will be able to consume more goodies at Halloween, more turkey and stuffing at Thanksgiving and more of Christmas dinner.  This will guarantee your failure as it leads to increased hunger, binge eating and depriving your body of necessary calories to convert to energy.
  •  There’s no such thing as eating healthy now to balance out bad meals later: Many people think living on salads and fruit now gives them permission to indulge in whatever they want later.  If you’re trying to lose weight and eat right, salads and fruit are a good choice, but stuffing yourself full of mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie later on will still bring plenty of negative consequences. 
  • Have a plan: Bad food choices are going to be in abundance this time of year.  Have a plan in place so you don’t succumb to these negative choices.  Choose healthier options, drink plenty of water which is good for you and will fill you up, and stop eating when your body feels satisfied. 
  • Don’t compare yourself to others: Just because Aunt Mildred shows up to Thanksgiving dinner and she’s 100 pounds heavier than you, doesn’t give you permission to go on an eating spree.   
  • You are responsible: If you gain five pounds at Thanksgiving, it’s your fault.  Stop blaming the holiday, the Halloween candy, the turkey or the pumpkin pie.  It’s very possible to control what you eat this time of year but it’s ultimately your responsibility. 
  • Learn to say no: When Aunt Mildred insists that you try her world famous pecan pie, politely decline.  Explain to her that you are on a diet and very serious about getting healthy.  She will understand. Same goes for the kids or the neighbors with candy on Halloween. 
  • Exercise doesn’t give you the right to eat poorly: Many people think they can go for a long bike ride or hit the gym a few times during the holidays so they can indulge in the holiday feast.  Working out and exercise is great, but it’s never a pass to load up on bad food at the holidays. 
  • Let your clothes be a reminder: Don’t wear something that fits loosely and hides any excess fat.  Wear something that just fits your body and may not be the most flattering.  Let this be a reminder when you grab for that dessert, second serving or the Halloween bowl. This is also a great way to reinforce the idea in your subconscious mind that it’s time to get healthy. 
  • Traveling for the holidays is no excuse: A lot of patients tell me they indulged in fast food or a bag of chips because it was the only option at the airport.  When traveling, pack a healthy meal before you board your flight or hit the road this holiday season.   
  • Dig deep: Whether the temptation is Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pies or other holiday season food, dig deep and ask yourself how bad you want to see results.  If you really commit to the process, you can lose weight and get healthy – even at the holidays.  Being partially committed never works. 

Article contributed by Colin Christopher

No Tricks Here!

Treat guests to a hair-raising Halloween experience

Whether prepping for trick-or-treaters or hosting a party fit for Frankenstein, turning your home into a haunted house can be fun and easy. With these tips, before you know it, your home will be transformed into the spookiest house on the block.

  • Create terrifying tombstones. Set the stage before trick-or-treaters even hit the front door. Use wood, cardboard or thick Styrofoam to create tombstones that you can put in your front yard. After cutting out the desired shape, use a matte gray spray paint to cover the surface, and then use black paint to write creative epitaphs such as “Dare to Disturb” or “Happy Haunting.”
  • Get creative with pumpkins. Everyone enjoys a good jack-o-lantern, but why not choose to think outside the box when decorating with pumpkins this year? Instead of carving, try spray painting or using your favorite Halloween candy to decorate pumpkins in fun, spooky patterns. Plus, this is a project that even the littlest witch can enjoy.
  • Download a haunted playlist. Nothing is quite as spooky as the sound of doors creaking or ghosts shrieking. Put together a haunted playlist that you can listen to while guests arrive, or stick speakers near an open window to entice the nearby trick-or-treaters to stop by for some candy.
  • Serve spine-chilling treats. Use your free time on Halloween to make these simple but yummy treats designed to look like spiders. Serve them when guests arrive to kick-off the scary festivities.

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Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkin Spiders  (6 Servings)

6 Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins

1/4 cup Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Chips

Large pretzel twists (2 -1/2 to 3 inches)

12 yellow Reese’s Pieces Candies

Line tray or cookie sheet with wax paper. Remove wrappers from peanut butter pumpkins and place alongside each other on tray leaving 1 inch of space between each peanut butter pumpkin. For each spider, cut 8 matching curved sections from pretzels which will form the legs. Set aside remaining pretzels pieces.

Place milk chocolate chips in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at medium 30 seconds; stir. If necessary, microwave at medium an additional 10 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chips are melted and smooth when stirred. Transfer to small heavy duty plastic food storage bag. Cut off one corner of bag about 1/4 inch from the tip.

Attach pretzel legs and yellow candy “eyes” to spider with melted chocolate; place dot of melted chocolate on each eye. Allow chocolate to set before moving spiders.

For more wickedly delicious recipes, visit CelebratewithHersheys.com.

DIY: Creative Kids’ Activities for Fall

Each year autumn marks a time for change – leaves turn colors, the air becomes crisp and parents everywhere prepare for their children to return to school. The new season brings with it a shift in rhythms and patterns, including a new weekly routine for families as children go back to school.

For young children starting school, it’s important to maintain a learning environment even after the last school bell rings and they return home. Spend this time building family traditions and making learning fun by incorporating some of these fun indoor and outdoor fall activities into your seasonal routine.

EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS

* Set up a scavenger hunt with your kids to teach them about the differences between the tree; this activity allows children to run around the neighborhood learning about the wide variety of living things in their environment.
*Collect fallen leaves to create a beautiful fall collage. This is a fun activity for young children as they can use their imagination and creativity to design a unique image celebrating the fall season.
*Use a metallic marker so kids can write on the leaves, creating patterns or images, then place the leaves on wax paper and apply Mod Podge to keep the design in place as it hangs.
*Visit a local pumpkin patch: One of the most cherished fall traditions for families is spending a day at a pumpkin patch. Full of fun and games, the pumpkin patch is a perfect place for young children. Whether you’re making your way through the corn maze, interacting with the animals in the petting zoo, or enjoying a hay ride around the grounds, your family is sure to have a blast.

HALLOWEEN PREP

*Use the pumpkins brought home from the patch to design a spooky Jack-o’-lantern with your children. Let them design a face on the front of the pumpkin and cut it out for them.
*As Halloween approaches your little one will need a costume. Whether it’s shopping for the perfect costume or making one from scratch, use this time to learn more about your child’s likes and dislikes while encouraging them to express their creativity.

Make this fall season unforgettable and continue to help your children grow by introducing these lifelong family traditions.

Homemade Alternatives to Halloween Candy

Processed, sugar-packed candies are collected door-to-door every year at Halloween. This year, try a different angle with homemade sweet treats that parents can make with their kids for Halloween.

Chef Claire Menck from The Art Institute of Wisconsin loves making ghostly “gorp” wrapped in white parchment paper with her two children.

“Gorp is basically granola mixed with your child’s favorite treats like chocolate candies, peanut butter chips, pretzels, gummy bears, etc.,” she says. To make the granola, take oatmeal and toss with your choice of spices, honey and oil. Lay oatmeal on a sheet tray and toast on the lowest heat possible (usually 150 or 200 F). You can add sugar to the granola, but be careful to not add too much sugar as it can make it hard. Parents can also choose to substitute the sugar with agave or maple syrup. Mix the granola with the tasty treats. Take white parchment paper and draw two eyes. Place a scoop of the gorp into the opposite side of the paper and tie up top for spooky gorp.

Another of Chef Menck’s favorite treats is dried fruit roll-ups wrapped to look like candy. She recommends using local, seasonal fruit. “We always go apple-picking in the fall and come back with more than we need; and so we create dried apple treats.” Cut and peel the apples or your choice of fruit beforehand in half-inch slices. Then mix the slices with spices of your choosing such as cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, etc.

“Make it a tactile experience for your kids and allow them to mix all the ingredients together, maybe even with their hands,” she says. Lay the apples on an oiled cookie sheet, turn your oven on to the lowest setting and slow bake until dehydrated (about 45 to 90 minutes, depending on preference). Take colorful tissue paper or Halloween-themed paper and place under parchment paper. Once the fruit is dehydrated, place a small amount of the fruit on a 4-by-4-inch parchment paper. Then roll and twist the ends to look like a candy wrapper and tie the ends. You can also use dehydrated berries like cranberries for the fruit roll-up candy.

“Chocolate! Can’t have Halloween without the chocolate, chocolate spiders with pretzel legs that is,” says Chef Amy Carter, baking and pastry instructor at The Art Institutes International Minnesota. Begin by lining a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and spray with cooking spray. Melt chocolate chips of your choosing in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl, and stir every so often to make sure chocolate melts evenly. Add rice cereal or bran twigs, or your favorite crunchy grain and then add to the melted chocolate. Stir the mixture until well combined. Take half of a palm-size of the mixture and place on the baking sheet. Add stick pretzels for legs. Add two marshmallows or white chocolate chips for eyes.

“For a creepier spin on your Halloween treats, I recommend truffle eyeballs to liven up a kids’ party,” Chef Carter says. All you need is 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream and 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Heat the cream, pour over the chocolate, and whisk in the butter until nice and smooth. Pour the mixture in a pan and chill for 2 hours, or -overnight – just long enough to firm it. You can flavor with anything like vanilla, peanut butter or fruit puree. Then take an ice cream scoop or have the kids help by rolling the mixture into small balls with their hands and then roll the balls in powdered sugar. Top off with a chocolate candy and then take red, edible writing gel to make squiggly lines.

These creative, make-it-at-home-tips are just some fun ideas you can create with your kids as a Halloween project, and then tackle carving the pumpkin.