Monday, July 25, 2016


Are you ready for some pretties today? Pretty tattoos, pretty interesting information, pretty book cover art? And of course, the pretty miss Tamara Narayan. Please train your dead stare at the following narrative and fill your skull with intriguing facts about Día de Muertos, Halloween, and Tamara's upcoming release HEART STOPPER.

Colorful. Whimsical. Scary? Not exactly. Images like the tattoo above depicting skulls painted in bright colors and surrounded by flowers have become increasingly popular. You also see them in movies (The Book of Life), music videos (Prayer in C), and even children's toys (Monster High's Skelita Calaveras). Merchandise featuring these skulls shows up around Halloween. But what are they and what is their cultural significance? 

Image: Lynnsi

Sugar skulls are part of the Mexican holiday known as Día de Muertos, or The Day of the Dead. The purpose of this holiday is to welcome back spirits of the dearly departed and celebrate their lives with events occurring from midnight on October 31 through November 2. 

Altars to guide the dead back to their homes, called ofrendas, are decorated with pictures, candles, and flowers. Marigolds are used because of their vibrant colors and scent. (Source) Toys and candy may be added to an ofrenda for a child. Returning spirits of adults may find tequila, cigarettes, or other traditional beverages at their ofrendas.

Sugar Skulls, made in clay molds and decorated with feathers, colored beads, foils, and icing  (Source), also go on ofrendas along with the departed's favorite foods and pan de muerto, a sweet bread often in the shape of bones or skulls. 

Skulls in this context are not supposed to be scary; they are an Aztec symbol of rebirth. Death is seen as a "positive step forward into a higher level of consciousness." (Source

Halloween may occur at the same time of year, but this celebration's origins come with an entirely different vibe. 

Image: Deanna Wardin, witch moon tattoo

Like the Day of the Dead, Halloween also marks a time when spirits return, but these ghosts were feared, not welcomed as guests. During the festival of Samhain, ancient Celts “would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.” Food was left out on doorsteps to keep the spirits from “causing trouble or damaging crops”.  (

Image: Mez Love, pumpkins and kitty cat

Skulls were associated with physical mortality, the fear of death, danger, and the brevity of life. (Source) Halloween falls at the end of harvest time, the transition between fall and winter, which brings to mind the cycle of life and death.

In Heart Stopper, Dallas Radner is caught between these cultures. He grew up with jack-o'-lanterns and trick-or-treating, but his wife is from Mexico. When his daughter Tessa starts planning to bake pan de muerto and design her own ofrenda, he doesn't know quite what to make of it. The soul Tessa wishes to honor is Dallas's sister, who died when he was a boy in an accident he still feels responsible for.

In the days leading up to October 31st, random objects start disappearing from their house: ten plastic bags, nine ballpoint pens. As the odd countdown continues, Dallas is terrified that the last thing to vanish might be the most important thing in his life: his daughter.

Heart Stopper and Other Stories is a collection of four suspenseful tales, available now at

Halloween comes, and the Day of the Dead 
For one man this custom brings heartache and dread. 
As belongings disappear, a child makes her shrine 
Is it a ghost? Perhaps. Or a shattered mind? 

Are you familiar with Day of the Dead traditions? A fan of sugar skull art or make-up? Any tattoos to discuss?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Learned a lot about the Day of the Dead from that movie, The Book of Life. (I did go online afterwards and looked up real facts.)
Title story sounds chilling.
Big congratulations, Tamara!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Some of the sugar skulls are beautiful. They're quite the work of art.

Yolanda Renée said...

Congratulations, Tamara!
Quite colorful and frightening at the same time. Great story description!

No tattoos, I'm the kind of person who'd want to change it like one would change jewelry or clothes! :)

Pat Hatt said...

Sure quite that tattoos indeed, Book of Life was where I learned about it some. Sounds like a compelling story indeed.

cleemckenzie said...

They're colorful alright. I keep wincing, while thinking of that needle poking ink into my skin. Not my cup of tea, but for those who don't mind the pain, they're beautiful.

Tamara Narayan said...

I couldn't put up with the needling either, but there is a lot of artistry in tattoos like these. Since my family loves to go to a local water park, I get to see a wide variety of tattoos each weekend.

Valerie Capps said...

Interesting tattoo art; great color. I love your book cover. Heart Stopper sounds like my kind of stories. I'm off to Amazon to get my copy!

Denise Covey said...

Congratulations Tamara. Those tatts are amazing and great colours. Don't know much about the Day of the Dead.

Hi Donna!

Cathy Kennedy said...

Donna, good promo on Tamara's newest book. I did not know these facts about The Day of the Dead, but then again I'm not a huge fan of Halloween, except for the candy. lol The story line sounds intriguing and if I were a big reader, then I would read this book. Best of luck to Tamara!

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I am definitely a fan of tattoos :) and I love that cover. Sounds intriguing!

Stephanie Faris said...

Those are cool!!! I love Halloween, so I'd probably have to have a Halloween tattoo If I had one. I'm too fickle to have one...I can't stick with anything for long. But I used to get those tattoos that you pressed against your skin, then wet the other side of the plastic with water until they stuck. I'd have a different ankle tattoo every day. Then I got in trouble at work because there was a "no visible tattoo" policy. I said I could go wash it off in the bathroom in five seconds if it bothered them that much and that was the last day I wore it. People need to get over it!

dolorah said...

Alex: so cool to learn something from reading a book, or watching a movie :)

L Diane: yeah, I agree

Yolanda: they are beautiful. I have a couple tattoos; I forget about them mostly, and when I do look at them I'm like: awesome, thats on me. And then I want another one, lol.

Pat: it does sound interesting

cLee: depends on the amount of pain you can handle, lol. For me, it wasn't that bad.

Tamara: Thank you for the guest post - it is fabulous. I'm a tattoo voyeur myself :)

Val: thank for your visit, and purchase.

Dx: Hey partner *waves*

Cathy: Tamara did all the work :)

Ian: it does sound intriguing

Stephanie: I'm more a fan of Day of the Dead than Halloween. Its all interesting to me though.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of sugar skulls and tattoos. The book sounds very interesting.

DEZMOND said...

can't say I like tattoos, especially not the death symbol ones... you need to be a bit sick to put objects of death on you forever...

Crystal Collier said...

Can you imagine how many hours of work goes into one of those tatoos? Insanity. I don't know if I could sit still long enough.

Guilie Castillo said...

Sounds enticing, Tamara! Being Mexican, I'm a big fan of the Day of the Dead, and out of all the descriptions I've found of it written by non-Mexicans, this is the best by far—so kudos to you :) Much success with the book!
Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

Shannon Lawrence said...

That second tattoo is gorgeously colored! I've learned a bit about el Dia de los Muertos. I find it interesting that one culture feared the dead while another revered it (and, of course, lots of different cultures had variations on these beliefs).