Monthly Archives: March 2016

Trees Bathed in Blood

A View of the Woods  by Flannery O’Connor  (1957)

 Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    March 29, 2016

 

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We don’t normally think of Flannery O’Connor when we want to read a mystery. A View of the Woods is an ‘uncomfortable mystery’ and one that goes deep. Would we expect anything less from the queen of southern literature, Flannery O’Connor? This short tale is Christian-haunted, a human brutality with a demonic force. Characterization here is compelling and won’t let you close the book.

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Mary Fortune is nine years old. A cute spunky little girl and her grandfather’s favorite—because Mary is just like the grandfather. But this old guy, Mr. Fortune, is driven by so much pride and obsessed with progress, the result becomes bloody and tragic. There’s no supernatural elements going on unless you recognize a visionary moment by the grandfather. But there is a whole lot of symbolism going on. The woods are often places of fear and vulnerability. In this story, we see how a person can closed his eyes to the ‘hellish red trunks that rise up in a blackwood.’ Viewing the woods is not all the grandfather finally sees.

 

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The third time he [Mr. Fortune] got up to look at the woods, it was almost six o’clock and the gaunt trunks appeared to be raised in a pool of red light that gushed from the almost hidden sun setting behind them. The old man stared for some time, as if for a prolonged instant he were caught up out of the rattle of everything that led to the future and were held there in the midst of an uncomfortable mystery that he had not apprehended before. He saw it, in his hallucination, as if someone were wounded behind the woods and the trees were bathed in blood.

Watch for the color yellow symbolism here. O’Connor does this brilliantly.

Read the short story from Flannery O’Connor, The Complete Stories via PDF (scroll down to page 343).

 

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Flannery O’Connor, born in Savannah, Georgia in 1925, won a National Book Award for Fiction in 1972. She wrote over 30 short stories and 2 novels.

 

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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

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, literary horror, literature, mysteries, psychological horror, quiet horror, short stories, short story blogs, tales of terror

Cuban Crime Fiction

Cuban Crime Fiction

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror  March 22, 2016

 

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With this week’s news focusing on President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba, I thought it might be timely to take a look at who the crime and mystery writers are from Cuba. Reading what is fashionably termed ‘immigrant fiction’ (authors like Junot Diaz or Jhumpa Lahiri) has its values, especially if you want to expand your literary adventures beyond classic or contemporary American and European authors. The earliest crime stories in Cuba were written by Lino Novas Calvo in the 1940s, but you won’t find any in English these days.

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A contemporary author that is gaining popularity is Leonardo Padua. He writes dark noir detective stories with moody atmospherics: The Havana Quartet: Havana Gold, Havana Black, Havana Red, Havana Blue. Some reviewers compare his work to Raymond Chandler. In these stories, Lt. Mario Conde is the cop who prefers to be a writer. Here’s a sample of Havana Red:

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The heat is a malign plague invading everything. The heat descends like a tight, stretchy cloak of red silk, wrapping itself round bodies, trees and things, to inject there the dark poison of despair and a slower, certain death. It is a punishment without appeal or relief that seems ready to ravage the visible universe, though its lethal vortex must fall on a heretic city, on a district condemned to hell. It tortures mangy, forlorn street dogs searching for a lake in the desert; old men dragging sticks that are more exhausted than their own legs, as they advance against the summer solstice in their daily struggle for survival; once majestic trees, now bent double by the fury of spiralling temperatures; dead dust piled against the sidewalks, longing for a rain that never comes or an indulgent wind, presences able to upset their becalmed fate and transform them into mud, abrasive clouds, storms or cataclysms. The heat crushes everything, tyrannizes the world, corrodes what could be saved and arouses only the most infernal wrath, rancours, envies, hatreds, as if it intended to provoke the end of time, history, humanity and memory . . . But how the fuck can it be so hot? he whispered as he removed his dark glasses to dry the sweat dirtying his face and spat into the street a minuscule gob of phlegm that rolled over the parched dust.

The sweat burned his eyes, and Lieutenant Mario Conde looked up at the sky to clamour for a cloud that would augur relief. And then the shouts of glee hit his brain.

 

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Cristina Garcia is a well-known and prolific writer, Cuban-born American journalist and novelist. Her novel, a finalist for National Book Award Dreaming in Cuban, is described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “Remarkable … an intricate weaving of dramatic events with the supernatural and the cosmic … A rich and haunting narrative, an excellent new voice in contemporary fiction.” This is a family story reflecting elements of magical realism and the struggles of post-revolutionary Cuba. Here’s the opening of Dreaming in Cuban:

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Celia del Pino, equipped with binoculars and wearing her best housedress and drop pearl earrings, sits in her wicker swing guarding the north coast of Cuba. Square by square, she searches the night skies for adversaries then scrutinizes the ocean, which is roiling with nine straight days of unseasonable April rains. No sign of gusano traitors. Celia is honored. The neighborhood committee has voted her little brick-and-cement house by the sea as the primary lookout for Santa Teresa del Mar. From her porch, Celia could spot another Bay of Pigs invasion before it happened. She would be feted at the palace, serenaded by a brass orchestra, seduced by El Líder himself on a red velvet divan.

Celia brings the binoculars to rest in her lap and rubs her eyes with stiffened fingers. Her wattled chin trembles. Her eyes smart from the sweetness of the gardenia tree and the salt of the sea. In an hour or two, the fishermen will return, nets empty. The yanquis, rumors go, have ringed the island with nuclear poison, hoping to starve the people and incite a counterrevolution. They will drop germ bombs to wither the sugarcane fields, blacken the rivers, blind horses and pigs. Celia studies the coconut palms lining the beach. Could they be blinking signals to an invisible enemy?

A radio announcer barks fresh conjectures about a possible attack and plays a special recorded message from El Líder: “Eleven years ago tonight, compañeros, you defended our country against American aggressors. Now each and every one of you must guard our future again. Without your support, compañeros, without your sacrifices, there can be no revolution.”

Celia reaches into her straw handbag for more red lipstick, then darkens the mole on her left cheek with a black eyebrow pencil. Her sticky graying hair is tied in a chignon at her neck. Celia played the piano once and still exercises her hands, unconsciously stretching them two notes beyond an octave. She wears leather pumps with her bright housedress.

Her grandson appears in the doorway, his pajama top twisted off his shoulders, his eyes vacant with sleep.

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If you are looking for more in Cuban Literature, try this reading list from The New York Times, recommending authors like José Lezama Lima and Alejo Carpentier.

 

Obama’s Remarks on Cuba, March 22, 2016

 

 

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

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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Greylock Wins Chanticleer International Book Award

I’m happy to announce that my mystery Greylock has won a Paranormal Chanticleer International Book Award, 2015.  The category is Supernatural. This is a Blue Ribbon writing competition that has become a champion for emerging and talented authors around the globe. They are partners with the Independent Book Publishers Association, The Alliance of Independent Authors, and The Writer.

 

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Greylock on Amazon

Greylock on Barnes&Noble

Greylock on iBooks

GREYLOCK REVIEW: “If you’re looking for an imaginative, sophisticated read, you’ve found it. Five stars.” —Michael Schmicker, best-selling author of The Witch of Napoli.

 

The Witch of Napoli is also a Chanticleer Winner this year in the Historical Paranormal Category. I share congratulations with Mike Schmicker! Readers here who love the paranormal will find his novel to be one of the best.

Mike Schmicker is an award-winning author, an investigative journalist, nationally-known writer on scientific anomalies and the paranormal, and Amazon Top 100 author. He is the co-author of “The Gift, ESP: The Extraordinary Experiences of Ordinary People” (St. Martin’s Press (USA)/Penguin Random House (UK). His first book, “Best Evidence,” has emerged as a classic in the field of scientific anomalies reporting since its first publication in 2000. Michael began his writing career as a crime reporter for a suburban Dow-Jones newspaper in Connecticut, and worked as a freelance reporter in Southeast Asia for three years. He has also worked as a stringer for Forbes magazine, and Op-Ed contributor to The Wall Street Journal Asia.

urlThe Witch of Napoli is like an Italian opera full of charming melodrama. The plot, which takes place in 1899, moves forward at a fast pace with suspense that I found impossible to resist. This is a really good writer with a powerful voice. These characters are skillfully drawn, witty, and fun. I especially like how this story becomes visual with vivid descriptions of the history and the cultural adventures.

 

 

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Hauntings at Ockram Hall

The Dead Smile   by Francis Marion Crawford  (1899)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   March 15, 2015

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Let’s go to Ireland for the month of March as we near St. Patrick’s Day. Come to this Irish castle, ivy-covered, deep windows, a chapel, and a vault with the dead.

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Enter Ockram Hall and meet Sir Hugh Ockram.

‘Sir Hugh’s face seemed, at best, to be made of fine parchment drawn skin-tight over a wooden mask, in which two sunken eyes peered from far within. The eyes peered from under wrinkled lids, alive and watchful like toads in their holes, side by side and exactly alike. But as the light changed, a little yellow glare flashed in each. He smiled, stretching pale lips across discoloured teeth in an expression of profound self-satisfaction, blended with the most unforgiving hatred and contempt.’

I can write no better introduction to Ockram Hall than the above opening to The Dead Smile. Family secrets, the patriarch near death, his son Gabriel, and a beautiful young cousin, Evelyn.  One thing you need to know before reading this compelling story: the history of old Sir Vernon Ockram, an ancestor who lies within the family crypt.

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 ‘Sir Vernon was beheaded for treason under James II. The family brought his body back from the scaffold in an iron coffin with heavy locks and put it in the north vault. But ever afterwards, whenever the vault was opened to bury another of the family, they found the coffin wide open, the body standing upright against the wall, and the head rolled away in a corner smiling at it.’

 

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The writing and language in this ghost story is the best you’ll read, and I think rivals Poe. Author Francis Marion Crawford was born in Bagni di Lucca, Italy in 1854.

He is most famous for his short story The Screaming Skull.

 

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Read the short story The Dead Smile online at Gutenberg.net.au 

You can listen to a podcast about The Dead Smile at  H. P. Lovecraft Literary Craft (there are spoilers in this discussion but so worth a listen after you’ve read the story).

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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

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 classic horror stories, fiction, Hauntings, horror blogs, quiet horror, short stories, short story blogs

Quiet Horror, Charles L. Grant

Greetings!

If you are curious about the famous quiet horror author, the late Charles L. Grant (September 12, 1942 – September 15, 2006), stop by Lovecraft Ezine (Mike Davis) for a highly informative video about this genre. Grant won a World Fantasy Award for his novella collection Nightmare Seasons (on Kindle too).

http://lovecraftzine.com/2016/03/13/charles-grants-quiet-horror-chet-williamsons-sequel-to-psycho-and-more/

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Ghosts on Mt. Greylock

If mountains had eyes, what would they see?

Ghosts? Have you ever met a mountain ghost? Ghosts associated with Mt. Greylock are still the fascination of many hikers and nature lovers. And also for those of us who just plain love ghosts.  Here’s something from Mt. Greylock and the story of The Old Coot of Greylock on Bellows Pipe Trail.

As the Civil War began, a North Adams farmer named William Saunders left home in 1861 to fight for the Union. About a year later, his wife, Belle, received a report that her husband had been gravely wounded and was in a military hospital. That was the last she heard of him. Alone and in need of help, she hired a local man to work the farm with her; later she married the man and he adopted her children. In 1865, a bearded, ragged man, wearing a Union blue uniform, stepped off the train in North Adams. You can guess who had finally returned home. Saunders walked to his farm, and while standing outside he saw his wife and happy family, his children calling another man “daddy.”

Crushed, he turned on his heels and walked away, heading toward Mt. Greylock, where he built a shack in the remote Bellows Pipe. He lived the rest of his days there, almost a hermit, hiring himself out occasionally to farms, known to locals only as the “Old Coot.” War and time had ravaged his appearance and no one recognized him. It’s said that he even worked his old spread on occasion, perhaps sitting down to meals with his family, only he knowing the truth. Folks say the Old Coot was insane, but whether it was caused by the horrors of war or grief at losing his family, no one knows. One winter’s day, hunters came upon the shack to find the Old Coot cold dead. But they were startled to see his spirit fly from his body and head up the mountain. That was the first sighting of the Ghost of the Old Coot, but certainly not the last.

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To this day, his bedraggled spirit is sometimes seen on Mt. Greylock, always heading up the mountain, but never coming down. You might say you don’t believe it, but are you brave enough to walk the Bellows Pipe Trail after dark?  [Source: IBerkshires.com, article by Anthony Fyden]

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Are mountains haunted? They certainly possess mysterious powers.

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“Greylock is a stunning mountain, the terrain rolling like a series of

hunchbacks with secret clefts.

Makes one wonder what secrets are buried here.”

 Alexei Georg, Greylock.

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Watch for more posts here about the spirits that haunt Mt. Greylock.

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Method Writing, Jack Grapes’ Art of Creativity

Method Writing by Jack Grapes

Book Review and Commentary   March 2, 2016

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What is ‘method writing’? The term here may remind you of ‘method acting’ a technique created by Konstantin Stanislavsky (An Actor Prepares) for an actor to emotionally identify with a character that he or she plays. Jack Grapes, an actor, playwright, teacher, and author has been teaching method writing since the 1980s.  In his book Method Writing, he states that method writing is a way to find your deepest voice, and yes, it does sound like it can work effectively to empower fiction in any form from novels to poems to short stories to film scripts. I’m trying his suggestions out in my new short story. Very exciting for me so far.

Based on the idea that creativity is a process, “not a prescription for product,” Grapes says a writer needs to allow for the accident of genius in that first draft especially. Discovery has a big role to play here and getting lost is the path. Follow no maps. Fix on no destinations. Risk it and let process take you fast into that first draft.

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I am reminded of a marketing gal who said that too many writers don’t know their target audience before they begin writing a novel. She saw this as a deficit in the writing process, because of course she believes that for a novel to be marketed successfully, the book (product) must be written as pitched to the buyer/reader/genre. Grapes disagrees. He believes that writers need to ‘let go of the desire for product and commit honestly and sincerely to the creative process.’ So, no product, no target audience. There’s a bit of Zen here in the maxim that you get what you want by letting it go.

Grapes spends a lot of time on the invisible motor, Voice—the tone, the rhythms, the dynamic flow of energy. He devotes a whole chapter and more on finding that deep voice and identifying the four different voices. I liked his exercise in exploring what he calls the transformation line. Big self-discoveries here and it works a bit like therapy. This power tool feeds what is termed the image/moment concept. While I won’t describe it here, I will say the image/moment technique can crack open any writer to discover not only drama and description, but real time vs. psychological time in scenes.

Begin here: ‘voice creates character’ and ‘character creates plot.’ Every art has its method we are told, and I believe it too. You will find insights on disquieting muses, Surrealism, and giving space and taking space.  Method Writing is certainly a gem for any serious writer who desires more than the traditional path to creative writing. This is the unpath. Highly recommended.

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Visit Jack Grapes’ website.

Watch the YouTube 2-minute Video of Jack Grapes.

 

Next on my book review list is Writing Down the Bones, Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg.

 

 

wise_owl_on_booksMy Recommended List of the Best Writing Books I’ve Read.

Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury (Read Feb. 2016 book review here)

On Writing, A Memoir, Stephen King (Read Jan. 2016 book review here)

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
The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Second Edition, Ernest Gowers
Chicago Manual of Style
Words Into Type, Third Edition, Skillin & Gay

Comments welcome!

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