A Ghost Story for Christmas: M.R. James

The Tractate Middoth   by M.R. James (1911)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   December 16, 2014

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Shadows, cobwebs, spiders. If ghosts have any presence in our world, these images will conjure up a few shivers. Every Christmas Monty James, as his fans know him (Montague Rhodes James), presented a new ghost story for the holiday at King’s College in Cambridge. James is probably the master of craft when it comes to ghost stories. He beguiled his readers with his scholarly expertise of medieval manuscripts and his clear understanding of fear.

images-1Antiquarian libraries are always mysterious and this story opens with Mr. John Eldred—who wears Piccadilly whiskers—inquiring in a library for a book titled The Tractate Middoth (The Talumud). Our main character is Mr. Garrett, an assistant librarian, who attempts to locate this book for Eldred. Garrett is a book lover and in his search for this book labeled 11334 (note the number) he encounters a frightening experience. So frightening that it causes him to become ill. But that doesn’t stop Garrett.

 

 

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Noticing an odd smell of dust in the library stacks, Garrett does not find the book at first but he does find something else among the stacks: “ … His hat was on the table, and he had a bald head. I waited a second or two looking at him rather particularly. I tell you, he had a very nasty bald head. It looked to me dry, and it looked dusty, and the streaks of hair across it were much less like hair than cobwebs…”

 

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A death, a will, a puzzle, family greed, a ghost, and a little romance for Mr. Garrett, this tale is perfect for a Christmas ghost story.

Read The Tractate Middoth it at Ebooks.Agelaide.edu.

Listen to the Librivox recording (scroll down to The Tractate Middoth)

 

 

 

 

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Watch the BBC adaptation of The Tractate Middoth on Youtube, produced by Mark Gatiss.  This 36-minute film is well done!

Listen to A Podcast to the Curious, 2-hour discussion (with excerpts) of The Tractate Middoth (scroll down to stream button).

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica       Lovecraft Ezine     HorrorAddicts.net  

Horror Novel Reviews    Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com       Sirens Call Publications

 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

 Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic Authors.

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Do you like 100-Word Flash Fiction?

Some of you may remember that I entered a 100-word short story competition for horror at Horror Novel Reviews. While my story did make the top ten finalists, it did not win. As I am always happy to connect readers to new contemporary talent, I am  pleased to present to you the winner, Ross Baxter’s Body Art. Congratulations to Ross!

Body Art

by Ross Baxter

After seven solid hours of drinking Emma finally had enough courage to get the tattoo she’d always wanted. The other girls cheered as she staggered from the bar, happy she would have a lasting reminder of the hen party.

“You can be as creative as you like,” she babbled to the proprietor of the backstreet shop as he silently led her into the dark musty basement. “Just make sure it doesn’t hurt.”

In her drunken haze she didn’t worry when the old man strapped her into the chair. It was when he started the chainsaw that she started to panic.

 

ross-baxterIf you are interested in reading more of Ross Baxter’s short fiction, you can visit his web site at http://rossbaxter.wordpress.com/ .  Ross’ work has been published  by a number of publishing houses in the US and the UK such as Bonté Review, Romantic Ruckus Anthology, Cover of Darkness magazine, and others.

 

 

AND … just in case you missed my 100-word shortie published with the ten finalists on Horror Novel Reviews, here it is again.

 

Varlok

by Paula Cappa

© copyright

 

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The ninth hour. Julietta carried her violin up the darkened stone bridge. “I seek glorious Varlok, the blind angel of the ninth chorus.”

She played her sulky étude to the vale of sky, squeaking such discord she feared the music angel would flee. “Dearest Varlok, I give you my perfect eyes. Please grant me your immortal sonatas.”

The black falcon flew the Dusha River. He pecked her eyes, releasing glittering harmonies. Julietta breathed in the triumphant notes, grew dizzy, splashing into the river like a coin. Varlok soared the stars, consuming her lustful soul like a tasty fish.

 

 

I would love to hear comments! Please don’t be shy. 

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Hawthorne for Christmas: A True Ghost Story

The Ghost of Dr. Harris   by Nathaniel Hawthorne  (1850s)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   December 9, 2014

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Ghost stories for Christmas are as traditional as mistletoe and roast turkey. This ghost story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Ghost of Dr. Harris, is reportedly not fiction and his original handwritten copy is not dated. The story was published as one of his “sketches” (scenes from daily life); this genre was in the fashion of the British essay. If you know anything about Hawthorne, you know he had fascination with the supernatural. The thumbnail backstory is the curse on the Hawthornes. Nathaniel’s great-great grandfather Colonel John Hathorne (different spelling) condemned over 100 women to death as witches in Salem, Massachusetts. He was famous for riding out to Gallows Hill to watch the hangings. One of the witches, before her death, put a curse on the Hawthorne family. Nathaniel is said to have carried the guilt of this family curse his whole life. Did it influence his writing? Certainly. Did that make him susceptible to believing in ghosts? Seems so.

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During Hawthorne’s years in Boston, he frequented the Boston Atheneaum, a reading room, on Pearl Street. It is here that Nathaniel encounters his first ghost. He writes about this experience in Tales & Sketches, The complete writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1856). 

images-1I love Hawthorne’s clarity of voice and how real this ghost is presented while still creating a dreamy atmosphere. What is more impressive is that it was not just a fleeting ghostly moment. There is a subtext of communication here that reaches deep.

Hawthorne does not express much fear in this story, but it leaves a lasting impression. What a perfect ghostly tale to read while sitting by a fire, Christmas tree, with a cup o’ hot spiced cider. I can tell you that the prose works magnificently as a read aloud.

 

 

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Dr. Thaddeus Mason Harris

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Read The Ghost of Dr. Harris as a PDF at Anibalan Files.wordpress.com

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Or, you can read this published account in the original Tales & Sketches,  The complete writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne (1856) In Google Books page 244.

 

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Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica       Lovecraft Ezine     HorrorAddicts.net  

Horror Novel Reviews    Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com       Sirens Call Publications

 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

 Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic Authors.

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Lovecraft for Christmas

The Festival   by H.P. Lovecraft (1925)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    December 2, 2014

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No one but Lovecraft could bring you to the dark and dreary yuletide of the season. Come to Kingsport, an old fishing town in Massachusetts. Willow trees. Graveyards. Crooked streets … “antiquity hovering on grey wings over winter-whitened gables and gambrel roofs; fanlights and small-paned windows one by one gleaming out in the cold dusk to join Orion and the archaic stars.” There are black gravestones in Kingsport that stick up “through the snow like the decayed fingernails of a gigantic corpse.”

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Not exactly glistening angels and the merry sparkles of Christmas trees. Charles Dickens’ gave us cranky old Scrooge on Christmas Eve, but Lovecraft brings us  into subterranean rituals. Are you ready for the opposite of merry, merry? Gloomy, gloomy. Our narrator tells us that four witches were hung in Kingsport in 1692. Lonely and far from home, he is looking for his relatives for the merry season. He finds his relative’s home on Green Street. A man answers the door, a man with a face like wax and eyes that do not move. Invited in, our narrator enters the house. No one speaks. All he can hear is the “whir of the wheel as the bonneted old woman continued her silent spinning, spinning” before the fireplace.

He participates in a procession through the streets to the Festival, led by voiceless guides to a church and yard. When he looks back, he finds there are no footprints in the snow of these night marchers … nor his own. What does this festival bring? And how does he survive it?

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imagesThe power of Lovecraft’s language here touches deeply into fear, not an emotion we associate with holiday time. Fear, loneliness, displaced from home can harbor its own madness. As Lovecraft tells us in Latin at the beginning of his story: Demons have the ability to cause people to see things that do not exist as if they did exist.

 

 

 

 

Creature Sketch Art by Jason Thompson: MockMan.com

 

Read the full text at H.P. Lovecraft.com

Listen to the audio version on YouTube with visuals. Turn out the lights and listen to this one!

Audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjcM_sIDfUs Part 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62ICpQs9aac Part 2.

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5 STARS for Night Sea Journey from Readers’ Favorite

Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural

Readers’ Favorite gives 5-Star Review,  by Jack Magnus

“Reading Paula Cappa’s metaphysical mythological fantasy, Night Sea Journey: A Tale of the Supernatural, was a profound, vibrant and intensely moving experience for me. I was, quite literally, caught up in the spell Cappa weaves as her characters navigate their ways through mysteries and dreams manifested in the real world. Raymond, Garcia and the artist Kip Livingston are marvelous characters, especially Livingston whose world is recorded in her paintings; the paints she will use in her works instantly determined as she faces the horrors and turbulent landscapes of her dream-states. Cappa masterfully evokes the wild and natural world where the exiled Raymond finds himself — you can see the waves breaking over the rocky shoreline, smell the salty, humid sea air and hear the cranes and shorebirds as they fly in formation overhead. Night Sea Journey is lovely, atmospheric and, oh, so very, very good. It’s most highly recommended.

Wow…so marvelous. A monumental achievement. Brava!

Night Sea Journey: A Tale of the Supernatural is a metaphysical literary fantasy by Paula Cappa. Father Raymond Kera is having doubts about his calling; if he ever had indeed been called. His friend and fellow priest, Garcia, lives a different life than Raymond does. He’s sworn off the clerical collar he refers to as a noose, and he’s been secretly married by a compassionate superior to his beloved, with whom he has a child. Garcia is an at-large priest who preaches in the inner city, sponsors needle exchanges and is considered by some to be a prophet. Raymond is less flashy, and his superior has frequently called him to task for his uninspired sermons and generally lackluster performance. Raymond has petitioned the Vatican for laicization, release from his vows, which was not granted him. Instead, he is sent to a remote island off the Rhode Island coast where his dubious skills as a carpenter will be used to complete construction of the St. Gregory of Nyssa Church.”

 

On Amazon.com

On Barnes&Noble.com

5star-shiny-webCappaNightSeaJourneySept

 

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Beyond Castle Frankenstein: Ghost Story About Mary Shelley

“The ascent was precipitous, my journey a melancholy one to the ruins of Castle Frankenstein. The rough-hewn rock mansion of the turrets and towers perched on a craggy hilltop over the Rhine in Darmstadt, Germany …”

 

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This is the opening to my newest short story Beyond Castle Frankenstein, published in Journals of Horror: Found Fiction, a premier anthology, published by Terry M. West and Pleasant Storm Entertainment. These short stories are inspired by the mechanics of the found footage films, and the first anthology of “found fiction” in literature, breaking new ground in the short story supernatural genre.  It is a collection of some new voices in dark fiction as well as  authors who you might know haunting the horror genre:  Todd Keisling’s Human Resources, who won Kindle Book Review’s Best Indie Book Award of 2013 for  THE LIMINAL MAN; Glenn Rolfe’s Killing Jessica, his ABRAM’S BRIDGE and BOOM TOWN, soon to be published by Samhain Publishing; Wesley Thomas’ There’s Something In My House; Lori R. Lopez’ The Devil’s Irony; and of course Terry M. West’s Bagged, Tagged & Buried, esteemed author of numerous short stories and novels, filmmaker, artist, and finalist for the 1997 International Horror Guild Award for THE NIGHT OUT, and 1999 Bram Stoker Award ballot nominee. Lots more authors and stories in this anthology that thrill and kill.

Beyond Castle Frankenstein is a historical ghost story about Mary Shelley. The chapel pictured below is the site where an old painting (named Casa Magni) hung for years and is found by art collector Robert Beauclerk. Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley lived in a house named Casa Magni in 1822 in Italy. What Beauclerk discovers in this painting is more than phantom art and more than the ghosts of the past.

I based the story from Shelley’s biographical notes and letters: Mary and her husband had visited the Castle Frankenstein while boating down the Rhine. Some biographers believe the Castle Frankenstein was the inspiration for her novel Frankenstein.

 

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Journals of Horror: Found Fiction is available on Amazon (ebook), on sale at 99 cents now through December 1st (29 stories for 99 cents!).  At this writing, you can find Journals of Horror: Found Fiction on the best seller list at No. 7 in Kindle horror anthologies.

 Buy it here on Amazon.com.

 

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Bad Sex in Fiction Writing

05789387_SexyReading_xlargeReading is sexy, yes? Reading sexy scenes is even sexier. What are your favorite sex scenes in books? No trash, no erotica, now, I’m talking just sexy scenes between two characters (or three?) that relates to the story and flow of plot, that entertains and deepens the characterization.  While there probably is no such thing as good literary sex (hmmm, what would that be exactly?), there is bad sex in lots of books out there. And you pretty much know it when you read it.

This blog is a supernatural mystery/horror fiction site with lots of classic shorts, but many of these stories have little or no sex in them. As a writer, I am always on the lookout for good examples of sex scenes in literature, modern and classic. I’m not finding many these days.  So when I found “Bad Sex in Fiction Award,” I had to explore. Today, I’m sharing with you what Literary Review Magazine has to say about bad sex in fiction.

Because my own novel Night Sea Journey on Amazon has a couple of very mild sex scenes, and because in my current work-in-progress (Greylock) there’s several sex scenes leaning into the hot zones, I really need to see how other authors are writing their sex scenes—who is doing it well? who is doing it badly?

Here is a list of critically acclaimed authors cited for writing bad sex scenes.

From The Literary Review Magazine:

“The 22nd Bad Sex in Fiction Award for the most egregious passage of sexual description in a work of fiction will take place on Wednesday 3 December 2014. [Can’t wait!]

The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them. The prize is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature.

The 2014 shortlist includes:

  • The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham,  Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan , Man Booker Prize winner
  • The Hormone Factory by Saskia Goldschmidt
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami , Nobel Prize Winner
  • The Age of Magic by Ben Okri
  • The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd
  • Desert God by Wilbur Smith
  • Things to Make and Break by May-Lan Tan
  • The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh
  • The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark

Last year the prize was won by Manil Suri for The City of Devi, published by Bloomsbury.

Last year’s list: http://www.theguardian.com/books/poll/2013/dec/03/bad-sex-awards-extracts-poll

For a confessional account on Bad Sex judging by Literary Review‘s senior editor Jonathan Beckman, read his piece in the Financial Times. You will also be able to read a more detailed report on this year’s shortlist in Literary Review‘s December / January double issue – subscribe now. For snippets from the shortlist, follow Literary Review‘s twitter account, @lit_review. The tweets are tagged as #BadSex.”

Read more (with a video) at Literary Review.

From Wikipedia: Winners of the Bad Sex in Fiction award include:

Here is the Guardian’s choices for Best Literary Sex Scenes: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/jul/06/best-literary-sex-scenes-writers-favourites

How to Write a Sex Scene: http://www.utne.com/arts/how-to-write-a-sex-scene.aspx#axzz3K1u2SHVX

If you’ve read a sex scene that you think is quality in nature, please post the story or novel title and author. Have a Happy (and sexy) Thanksgiving!

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