Monthly Archives: January 2016

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Ghost: The Secret

“It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die,

but retire a little from sight and afterwards return again.

Nothing is dead.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nominalist and Realist Essays: Second Series, 1844.

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Many readers ask me why I wrote The Dazzling Darkness, a supernatural mystery that takes place in Concord, Massachusetts. The recurring question is about the famous transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).  “Is Emerson a ghost?” they ask.

Yes. And no. Mr. Emerson is not a ghost in the traditional sense. One of the first elements that sparked The Dazzling Darkness was a line Emerson wrote in his address Nature in 1849:

“Even the corpse has its own beauty.”

Kind of shocking, right? It certainly stopped me on the page. Oddly, this line of prose carries a certain passion, as if Emerson somehow connected to death. He points out that there is “no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful.” Of course, Emerson was being emblematic here as he did in so much of his writing. Or was he?

Haunted for weeks by this line of a corpse having its own beauty, I began reading more of Emerson’s writings. When I looked deeply into his personal life, I discovered that he did indeed have a strong connection to death.

 

Ellen TuckerEmerson lost his young wife Ellen to what was then called consumption. Driven by his intense grief over Ellen’s death, one day he entered the family graveyard and opened Ellen’s coffin to view her corpse. It was only a year after her death. What did he see? His journals say nothing more, except that he did this act. And then, some twenty-five years later, he opened the coffin of his little boy, Waldo, who died at 5 years old.

Could any of us view our beloved dead in the grave even once, let alone twice? Heart-wrenching to say the least. And yet, this experience certainly did connect him to death in a unique way.

For me, these images all connected. A story emerged. Images of a cemetery. A little boy named Henry appeared. Coffins began opening. The dead suddenly became physically visible.

A mysterious woman named Dorothea began speaking from the cemetery.

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The story unraveled and I met Elias Hatch, owner and keeper of Old Willow Cemetery in Concord. Elias is the last of modern-day transcendentalists. During the 19th century, Concord was the center for the new thinking of transcendentalism, and even today the town still carries all that transcendental history. The transcendentalists honored intuition, insightfulness, and creativity. As I wrote my modern story I began to see these themes emerging through the characters and especially in the mind of Detective Mike Balducci. Old Willow Cemetery and the statuary there began to haunt Mike and one day, he decides to dig up a grave of a woman known as the Weeping Woman of Old Willow.

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The idea of a corpse having ‘beauty,’ as Emerson said, crystallized in my mind. I didn’t know quite where I as going during the drafts but in the end, I had a ghost story, a supernatural mystery about the Brooke family, Antonia and Adam, who confront long-buried secrets of the dead while they endure a tireless search for their lost child Henry.

And the ghost of Mr. Emerson seemed to speak

from the very pages I was writing.

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A secret lies buried beneath the haunting statuary in Old Willow Cemetery. The surrounding woods are alive with the spirits of transcendentalists Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott. Elias Hatch can sense their presence. Does he know the secret power buried in Old Willow Cemetery? Would he ever reveal it?

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If there is a secret, that all things subsist and do not die, as Emerson wrote, that secret lies in Old Willow Cemetery.///////

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The Dazzling Darkness (print edition published by Crispin Books) hit the Amazon Kindle Best Seller List for 17 weeks in Mystery/Thriller ghost stories. The novel continues to sell in the top 150 in this category.

2014-bronzeBRONZE MEDAL WINNER, Readers’ Favorite International Book Award for Supernatural Fiction, 2014. “Beautiful and high standard writing style from start to finish.”

MIDWEST BOOK REVIEWS ★★★★★ “Paula Cappa is a master of the metaphysical mystery genre … an extraordinary and original storyteller of the first rank. Very highly recommended.”

GOTHIC READERS BOOK CLUB CHOICE AWARD “Dazzling sums up Paula Cappa’s paranormal/supernatural novel … an elegance and grace that seduces you.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson Organization Website

Transcendentalist Trail in Concord, MA

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, MA

The Colonial Inn, Concord, MA [Emerson is said to haunt Room 24  in The Colonial Inn.]

Ghosts in Concord at TheConcordWriter.com

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Ralph Waldo Emerson House, Concord, Massachusetts.

Visits and tours at NPS.gov. 

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Zuvembies and the Voo-Doo Man

Pigeons From Hell    by Robert E. Howard  (1938 Weird Tales)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror  January 26, 2015

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Come to the old south, to Blassenville Manor. Who doesn’t love a Southern Gothic horror story?  Blassenville Manor is long abandoned when two young men stumble upon this decaying mansion and decide to spend the night.

‘The old deserted house stimulated their imagination with its suggestion of antebellum splendor and ultimate decay. They left the automobile beside the rutty road, and as they went up the winding walk of crumbling bricks, almost lost in the tangle of rank growth, pigeons rose from the balustrades in a fluttering, feathery crowd and swept away with a low thunder of beating wings.

 ‘The oaken door sagged on broken hinges. Dust lay thick on the floor of the wide, dim hallway, on the broad steps of the stair that mounted up from the hall. They turned into a door opposite the landing, and entered a large room, empty, dusty, with cobwebs shining thickly in the corners.’

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I won’t ruin the suspense (and this story is truly high suspense), but  I will say the story includes a secret room, People of Damballah, and yes, a hatchet-stroke in the dark.

 

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In Danse Macabre, Stephen King’s nonfiction book about the horror genre, he writes that, Robert E. Howard’s Pigeons from Hell, is “one of the finest horror stories of our century.” See if you agree.

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Robert E. Howard fans favor his stories about explorer Solomon Kane and Conan the Barbarian. Weird Magazine fans revere him as one of the best in weird and fantasy fiction. At the age of thirty in 1936, he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

 

 

 

 

Read the short story (three parts) at Gutenberg.net.au.

Listen to the audio (1:19 hours) on YouTube.com

Watch the 50-minute film (adaptation), Boris Karloff’s Thriller Theater on YouTube.com

Visit the Robert E. Howard Foundation.

 

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

 This is a compendium of over 160 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories.

 Join me in reading one short story every week!

 Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

PulpFiction.com

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine     HorrorAddicts.net  

Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

February is Women in Horror Month.  Stop by for shorts stories by women authors for the entire month. And not just horror but mystery, supernatural, fantasy too.

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Filed under classic horror stories, fiction, horror, horror blogs, pulp fiction, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural, suspense, tales of terror

On Writing. Fiction

On Writing. Fiction

Book Review and Commentary,  January 21, 2016

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41O3ebvsQSL._AA160_ On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King is #15 (at this time) on the Amazon Best Seller List in Reference/Writing Fiction paperback books. With over 2300 reviews (3% having 1- and 2-star reviews posted by disappointed and angry readers), I found this book to have little value in “how to” actually write, but great value in the thinking behind King’s writing processes. By reading this book, you will not learn to write effectively or how to write horror stories, but you will learn King’s perspective on how his stories emerge and what he values for his creative writing adventures.

I have over twenty writing books on my shelf—twenty-five editing books. I’m always reading and studying writing books on story, plot, characterization, themes, narrative, and the mechanics of creating stories.

So, what is writing? King says it’s telepathy. He believes that writing is the purest form of telepathy of all the arts. He advises not to “come lightly to the page.” Serious business? Absolutely. The act of narrative is a creation after all. King speaks of his Muse (and yes there are muses—believe). My own muse is unlike King’s who is a “basement guy” that inspires him. Mine is a woman and she exists outside my windows. I can’t see her but the light and the sky stream thoughts to me and without a window or a walk outside, I wonder if I can write at all without her.

It’s true that King addresses vocabulary, grammar, passive voice, nouns, verbs sentences, adverbs, description, and the mighty pace and beat of a story. Sure he recommends Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Most writers know these basics; what is more helpful is how King speaks about the seduction and magic of writing—about letting go of the fear and self-doubt.

I love that King is more of an “organic writer” than a planner and plotter. Probably because that’s how my writing process works as well. “Stories pretty much make themselves,” King says. I agree. He prefers the “situation” of the story to flow from his intuition. “The story is the boss. Write fast to outrun the self-doubt.”

King advises against writing out plotlines, story outlines, and all that predestination. In The Secret Miracle, The Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon, Stephen King is quoted as saying he “never” outlines. Some people believe the old axiom that ‘plotting and spontaneity of real creation are not compatible.’ For organic writers this is often true.

Another book on writing is Steven James’ Story Trumps Structure. Here, Steven James echoes King’s standard for organic writing. James tells us to ditch the outline and follow the rabbit trail. “Let scenes evolve … trust the narrative force to reveal the story.” Steven James believes that using “uncertainty” is an essential ingredient if you desire to make art.

On Writing is friendly and inspiring with common sense advice. I loved King’s philosophies and creative perspectives, but there wasn’t a lot new or progressive and was rather thin on character development. A favorite writing book of mine on creating characters is David Corbett’s The Art of Character, Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film, and TV.  “Without an intuitive grasp of the characters, you can all too easily fall into the trap of reducing them to simplistic automatons or “plot puppets,” acting in accordance with ideas or story necessities rather than behaving with the complexity of intention that real individuals possess.” That makes sense to me. King seems to agree with this approach when he says that he wants his characters “to do things their way.” I like that he lets go of controlling his characters to live and breathe themselves into the story.

The reason I read On Writing was because I thought there might be some insight about writing horror vs. suspense or writing horror vs. mystery. King had nothing to say on this. Author Steven James points to a difference between suspense and horror. James sees suspense as “always emotional” and makes the reader afraid to look away. “A murder is not suspense. An abduction with the threat of a murder is.” In horror, the reader is full of fear to look at the action but wants to see it (Do we really want to see this guy beheaded? Horror readers do and enjoy that fear. Interesting paradox ). A horror writer awakens the readers’ inner violence but within the safe confines of fiction.

I’m not a horror writer; my stories are supernatural suspense, ghost stories, and mysteries. And while I like the threat of murder, I don’t want to witness the bloody stabbing in gory details.

So, what did I get out of King’s On Writing? King’s prime rule is to read a lot and write a lot. Learn from the master storytellers. Not newsy advice, since most successful writers tell you to learn from the best writers and read, read, read and write, write, write. King emphasizes a writer must have razor-sharp honesty, discover your muse, and follow your intuition. Dispel self-doubt and run with your stories. Here is his most valuable point about writing in just two words: “getting happy.” I think the gift in this memoir of King’s is telling writers to discover your own true path to your stories and have fun doing it. There are no magic tricks to successful writing, horror or otherwise, but writing in itself is magic. King is famous for saying “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Clearly, if you as a writer are feeling the magic as you discover your stories and write them out, then your readers will too. Storytelling is an exertion of power, isn’t it? To write fiction is to allow characters to live in our psychic space. And then they live in the readers’ psychic space. Telepathy, as King describes.

I think the last word here goes to Ray Bradbury because it’s so true: “First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!”

Zen and the Art of Writing, Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury is next on my to-read list and review.

 

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My favorite list of the best writing books I read:

Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway. All the basics of how to write: the writing process, show vs. tell, characterization, fictional atmosphere and place, story structure and plot, point of view, theme, and revision.

Story, Robert McKee

Story Trumps Structure, Steven James

The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass

The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (I reread this book once a year, it’s that good)

Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern

The Art of Character, David Corbett

Getting into Character, Brandilyn Collins

The Secret Miracle, the Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon

Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande

The Faith of a Writer, Life, Craft, Art, Joyce Carole Oates

If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland

Reading like a Writer, Francine Prose

Elements of Style, Strunk & White

 

Best Editing Books for Writers:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King

A Dash of Style, Noah Lukeman

The Grammar Bible, Michael Strumpf & Auriel Douglas

Line by Line, Claire Kehrwald Cook

Chicago Manual of Style

The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein

 

Here’s the famous Rolling Stone Interview with King.

Ten Writing Tips from Stephen King, from MentalFloss.com

StephenKingOfficialWebsite, StephenKing.com

StephenKing.com/Library

 

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Rossetti: Pia de’ Tolomei

If you have a writing or editing book you’d like to add, please feel free to comment.

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Filed under Book Reviews, fiction, horror, horror blogs, literature, novels, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, Stephen King, tales of terror

Killers, Cool and Slick

The Killers   by Ernest Hemingway (1927)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror,   January 19, 2016

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Human evil and violence prevail in this tidy little mystery, which is seedy and suspenseful. Gangsterism! If you are a Hemingway fan, you likely know the Nick Adams Stories. This is one of them. Two men walk into a bar … well, not exactly a bar, a lunchroom/saloon named Henry’s in Summit, near Chicago. We meet two hit men.  Did you ever know hit men to eat with their gloves on? You gotta love Hemingway.

In The Killers, male camaraderie, irony, and death are big themes for this noir. For our young and innocent protagonist Nick (the “effaced” narrator), he is initiated into the dark side of life.

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Hemingway, known for his ‘minimalist’ writing, who was greatly influenced by Gertrude Stein, wrote The Killers first draft in a frenzy of inspiration before he ate his lunch one day in May 1926. If you want to experience brilliant characterization through terse and clean dialogue, this is the story to read. I read it three times; it was that good.

 

 

 

 

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Want some insight on Hemingway’s thoughts on writing? Here’s one nugget: “The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day … When you’re still going and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work.”  [From With Hemingway, A Year in Key West and Cuba by Arnold Samuelson.]

‘Let your subconscious mind do the work.’ I like that a lot. Trusting that other side of your creativity.

 

 

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Read The Killers online at Liternet.bg

Listen to the Audio at YouTube.com.

Watch this full feature noir film adapted by Universal, starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassevetes, and Ronald Reagan (1.26 hours):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUSnxAA9qlU

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

This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories.

Join me in reading one short story every week!

Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Mysteries In Paradise   Sisters In Crime Blog  Crime Fiction Lover

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine     HorrorAddicts.net  

Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Stephen King Fans. Rankings From the Worst to the First

Wednesday, January 13, 2015

Many here at Reading Fiction Tales of Terror Blog are Stephen King fans, so I’m sharing a blog post from Horror Novel Reviews.  How would you rank his novels from the worst to the first, 50 to No. 1? Take a look at this fun video (6 minutes) on Horror Novel Reviews.

For myself, I’m not an avid King fan. To be honest, I think he overwrites his prose, but his early novels were far better structured than his later ones. I will say that King is certainly a master at creating stories with high suspense. I did love The Shining and The Dead Zone.

At the moment I am reading King’s On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft. Watch for my book review next month.

For now, hop over to Horror Novel Reviews blog at this link below, and see if you agree which novels are the top five.

http://horrornovelreviews.com/2016/01/13/ranking-every-stephen-king-novel-from-worst-to-first/

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Filed under crime thrillers, fiction, ghost stories, horror, horror blogs, literature, novels, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, Stephen King, supernatural, supernatural thrillers, tales of terror

Hunting for Smee in the Dark

Smee   by A. M. Burrage (1900s)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror,  January 12, 2015

 

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Picture this, if you will. The wind-blown English countryside. A peaked house with glossy windows. A party of twelve. You enter. Inside you see passages winding in darkness. The guests speak of hidden staircases. Most guests prefer to sit by the fire and play a friendly game of cards. This night, they decide to play a different kind of game. Hide and seek … in the dark.

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The game is called “Smee.” The person who is “it” is Smee. Everybody hides. The hunt begins. But you don’t know who Smee is. And Smee is a game of silence. So, even if you find Smee, he or she can’t tell you. Unless … the ghost says “It’s me.”

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This ghost story has a chilling feel to it. I especially liked the audio as it gave me an old-fashioned story-telling atmosphere. Turn out the lights and listen to A.M. Burrage’s most famous ghost story.

Read it at Scaryforkids.com

Listen to the audio of Smee, narrated by David Lewis Richardson on ChillingTalesForDarkNight.com.

 

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Alfred McLelland Burrage (1889 – 1956), a British writer of speculative fiction and ghost stories wrote two novels: Seeker to the Dead and Don’t Break the Seal. You can find more of his titles at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

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Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror.  This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery and supernatural.

Join me in reading one short story every week! Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine     HorrorAddicts.net  

Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Filed under fiction, Ghosts, Hauntings, horror, horror blogs, quiet horror, short stories, short story blogs, tales of terror

Why Do We Love Horror?

In the words of Arthur Conan Doyle ( and as a companion post with this week’s featured author, 1-5-2016 Tales of Terror, “The Horror of the Heights”),

“Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.”

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So, let’s see now, why do we love to read horror stories and terrifying suspense mysteries? Why do we watch horror movies? Is it to stimulate our imaginations? Is it because some of us love gore-watching or identifying with killers? Or maybe it’s because we like to face the unknown safely in our reading chairs or comfy movie theater seats. As an avid reader, film lover, and writer of supernatural, mystery, and horror, I ask these questions all the time.

 

Below is a link to  FilmmakerIQ.com John P. Hess’ 15-minute vimeo on this very subject.  Hess explores the “Psychology of Scary Movies” theories from contemporary scientific professionals to Freud, Jung, Aristotle and much more. When I came across this vimeo some time ago, I found it  informative and insightful. I hope you do too.

 


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/77636515″>The Psychology of Scary Movies</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/filmmakeriq”>FilmmakerIQ.com</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

We could say there is no single answer to the question, but if you have a theory, agreement or disagreement, please post.

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