Category Archives: flash fiction

Baba-Yaga and Vasilisa: Creative Fires

Vasilisa the Beautiful, Russian folktale (1860s)

Tuesday’s Fairy Tale      January 14, 2020

 

Baba-Yaga lives in a hut made of chicken legs with a fence of skulls on sticks.  Magical words can make the hut turn. There are variations of this fairy tale over the years (Vasilisa the Wise, Vasilisa the Brave, Vasilisa the Beautiful, Vasilisa the Fair), but  in most versions Baba-Yaga is known to eat people, especially children who smell of Russian flesh.  Some versions have Baba-Yaga as benevolent, in others, she is wicked. This is a story about fear, strength in adversity, wit, wisdom, and what we commonly define as witches. The word baba refers to babushka, or grandmother.

Vasilisa is a child who lives with her nasty stepmother and stepsisters. The ugly stepsisters send Vasilisa to the visit the witch Baba-Yaga, so she can fetch her magical fire and bring it back to light their house. But the sisters are hoping Baba-Yaga will devour Vasilisa the beautiful.

The frightened little girl spends days walking through the dark woods to Baba-Yaga’s hut.

 

Once Vasilisa meets Baba-Yaga, she discovers this crone is a wild and untamed woman. She is cruel to Vasilisa and forces her to perform unending tasks every day, promising no firelight to bring home. In desperation, Vasilisa calls upon her secret doll that her mother had given her before she died.

“Please help me. Baba-Yaga has given me an impossible task to do and if I fail she will eat me.”

What happens? Vasilisa defeats her opponent with truth, integrity, and a secret power.

This story is actually a reflection of maternal wisdom and feminine intuition, full of symbolism of light, darkness, and the feminine face of power. One might call it a dark goddess story because it identifies the blessings of all mothers (including Baba-Yaga archetypes) who came before us to achieve our strength, liberation, and independence. Sophia Wisdom is here too. We fear aging and death. The interaction of Sophia Wisdom (within Vasilisa) with Baba-Yaga is a force that assists Vasilisa in confronting her highest fear, death.

 

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés interprets the story of Baba-Yaga in her seminal work on fairy-tales, Women who Run with the Wolves. Estés writes:

“To my mind, the old Russian tale “Vasalisa” is a woman’s initiation story with few essential bones astray. It is about the realization that most things are not as they seem. As women we call upon our intuition and instincts in order to sniff things out. We use all our senses to wring the truth from things, to extract nourishment from our own ideas, to see what there is to see to know what there is to know, to be the keepers of our own creative fires, and to have intimate knowing about the Life/Death/ Life cycles of all nature – that is an initiated woman.”

“Within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women.  The Wild Woman is both magic and medicine.  Fertile and life-giving, it is a psychology of women in the truest sense, a knowing of the soul.”

From Caitlin Matthews author of Sophia Goddess of Wisdom,  “Sophia, Holy Wisdom, came into the Russian soul never to leave it. She is deeply associated with the native images of Vasilisa and others.”

If you are tempted to read this 10-minute story, take the path through the woods with the little girl Vasilisa and meet Baba-Yaga. Read it here at SurLaLunefairytales.com :

http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/babayaga/index.html

 

Another version is here: Listen to the YouTube.com audio of A Story of Baba-Yaga

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

 

Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month.

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Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

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Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine    HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

   Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian       The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Literature Blog Directory   

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Dashiell Hammett’s Brave Earl Parish

An Inch And a Half of Glory  by Dashiell Hammett

READING FICTION BLOG

 Tuesday’s Mystery Tale    May 28, 2019

Mystery writer Dashiell Hammett said “What I try to do is to write a story about a detective rather than a detective story.”

Oh that Dashiell, he’s a a good one. This week, May 27 is the anniversary date of Hammett’s birth. He is most famous for The Thin Man and Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, so let’s remember this talented writer by reading his An Inch and a Half of Glory.

Hammett wrote a good number of short stories; this is the only one I could find free to read online. Not a detective story, but certainly a suspenseful psychological yarn about a man named Earl Parish who saves a little boy from an apparent house fire. What is really intriguing is the personality portrait of Earl and the sense of irony in the story. Good suspense and a fascinating quick read.

Read the short story here at the New Yorker magazine:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/06/10/an-inch-and-a-half-of-glory

 

 

Did you know that Hammett spent his early twenties as a detective in San Francisco? His first story was published in a society magazine The Smart Set. But everyone knows he got his real literary start in the magazine Black Mask when they published his crime story Arson Plus. He wrote five novels, but many remember him as a devoted left-wing activist. In his later years he settled in Katonah, NY, in a small rural cottage, before passing away in New York City. He remains one of the most influential writers of our time. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

 

 

And didn’t we all romanticize his 30-year love affair with Lillian Hellman (in the 1977  film Julia with Jason Robards and Jane Fonda).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

 

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A Kingdom of Spirits

Napoleon and the Spectre by Charlotte Brontë (written in 1833, published in 1925)

[From the manuscript the “Green Dwarf”]

 

Tuesday’s Tale   April 30 2019

“Besides this earth, and besides the race of men, there is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits; that world is round us, for it is everywhere.”  From Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Did you know that a fragment of Napoleon’s coffin was given to  author Charlotte Brontë?

[Napoleon’s coffin aboard La Belle Poule. The coffin was covered by a black velvet drape decorated with golden bees, eagles, and silver cross. At 8am on Sunday 18 October la Belle Poule set sail.]

Lots of legends are out there about Napoleon’s ghost haunting people. The Museum of The Black Watch has a letter describing a British soldier’s encounter with Napoleon’s ghost during the removal of Napoleon’s remains from St. Helena to France in 1840. Napoleon was said to be highly superstitious: lucky starts, omens, lucky dates, and he frequently saw a phantom he called the Red Man who appeared at the Battle of the Pyraminds, at Wagram, at his coronation, and on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo.

Perhaps because Charlotte possessed a part of Napoleon’s coffin, she was inspired to write a short story about Napoleon, not as a gallant emperor, but as a haunted emperor.

The story opens with Napoleon ready for sleep when …

A deep groan burst from a kind of closet in one corner of the apartment.

“Who’s there?” cried the Emperor, seizing his pistols. “Speak, or I’ll blow your brains out.”

This threat produced no other effect than a short, sharp laugh, and a dead silence followed.’

 

This ghost story has a bit of verbal irony, ghostly setting and mood, and the atmospherics are amusing. Not Charlotte’s best work but an enjoyable 10-minute read by one of our most beloved authors. If you are a Charlotte Brontë fan, you really must read this one.

Read the short story (10 minutes) at Gutenberg Australia

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0602171h.html

Listen to the audio on YouTube.com (8 minutes)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuJ6QCdTwtQ

 

Charlotte Brontë was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters Emily and Anne. Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre under the pen name Currer Bell. She began writing poems and ghost stories at the age of twelve. Raised in the village of Haworth in Yorkshire, the sisters were dreamy if not lonely children. Their brother Branwell made up stories of an unreal world, writing them in tiny handwriting on small sheets of paper, which they stitched together to look like real books. The image below is by Branwell, with himself painted out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bronte Parsonage Museum

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Click-Clack the Rattlebag, Neil Gaiman

Perfect Darkness

Click-Clack the Rattlebag  by Neil Gaiman (2014)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    March 12, 2019

Are you afraid of the dark? Are you afraid of where creaking attic steps might lead you? Or what you’ll find up there? Do you like bedtime stories? An old house, a little boy, and the sister’s boyfriend. Do you believe in monsters?

 

Come along with Neil Gaiman and discover Click-Clack the Rattlebag.  Deep, dark, and delicious! A quick read at 15 minutes, flash fiction, you won’t forget.

Turn out the lights and read it here:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/11603446/Neil-Gaiman-Click-clack-the-Rattlebag.html

Listen to the audio (12 minutes) by Neil Gaiman at NPR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imLja6Emezo  

 

NEIL GAIMAN is the bestselling author of books for adults and children, winner of Newbery and Carnegie medals and Book of the Year by British National Book Awards. You may know his novels Coraline, American Gods, or The Graveyard Book.  Born in the UK, he now lives in the US and is Professor in the Arts at Bard College. Visit his website: http://www.neilgaiman.com/

 

If you are interested in Neil Gaiman’s creative process as a writer, here is an interview that is well worth the time: http://www.theliteraryreview.org/interview/neil-gaiman-the-creative-press/

Here’s a snippet:

“Do you start with a theme that you then want to find characters for? Or do you start with the character?”

NG: “Both of those things, and sometimes more. What I start with is enough, enough to get going. With American Gods, I had an idea about characters. Somewhere in my head, I had the idea about a couple of people meeting on a plane. One of them seemed to be an old drifter, and the other one had just gotten out of prison, and that was all I knew about them.”

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month.

Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

 

 

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When I Was a Witch

When I Was A Witch  by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1910)

Tuesday’s Tale of Witches    February 19, 2019

Women and their identities have long been a theme in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s fiction. This short-short is a cunning little story about when wishes come true. If you are an animal lover of cats, dogs, horses, and fascinated by the power of witches, you’ve got to read this one!

 

“The thing began all of a sudden, one October midnight–the 30th, to be exact. It had been hot, really hot, all day, and was sultry and thunderous in the evening; no air stirring, and the whole house stewing with that ill-advised activity which always seems to move the steam radiator when it isn’t wanted. I was in a state of simmering rage–hot enough, even without the weather and the furnace–and I went up on the roof to cool off.”

 

 

Read the short story (30-minute read) here at Fantasy-Magazine:

http://www.fantasy-magazine.com/fiction/when-i-was-a-witch/

Listen to the audio (21 minutes) on YouTube:

Librivox  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3XDqr7H3rc

 

Many of you here at this blog know Gilman for her ground-breaking, bestselling The Yellow Wallpaper (read it here). She was a member of the prominent Beecher family of Connecticut, author of novels and nonfiction, 200 short stories, plays and thousands of essays, a poet, philosopher, and Utopian feminist for social reform.  Suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt called Gilman “the most original and challenging mind which the (women’s) movement produced.”  Gilman was inducted into the National Woman’s Hall of Fame in 1994.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman took her own life in 1935 after learning she had inoperable breast cancer.

 

“It is not that women are really smaller-minded, weaker-minded, more timid and vacillating, but that whosoever, man or woman, lives always in a small, dark place, is always guarded, protected, directed and restrained, will become inevitably narrowed and weakened by it.”  – CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Catherine Wells’ Ghost Story

The Ghost by Catherine Wells (wife of H.G. Wells), 1928

Tuesday’s Ghost Tale, February 5, 2019

 

 

A big old house. A lonely young woman bedridden in the sick room with grapes and lemonade. Uncle Timothy and cousins are at a party downstairs. The mysterious and romantic Mr. Percival East enters. And then a leaping lamp flame, creaking paneling, and a fallen fire.

 

The joy and romance of ghost stories are everlasting fiction. Catherine Wells, wife of H.G. Wells (his second wife, Amy Catherine Robbins, also known as Jane), wrote this fiction sometime in the early 1900s. This is an obscure little story that has been long buried and forgotten over the past decades, nearly 100 years. No print version is to be found online—only an audio version available. I love discovering forgotten stories by an author I didn’t know existed. If you are an H.G. Wells fan, you might enjoy Catherine’s story. I have to say this audio is lovely fun—a 15-minute ghostly adventure sure to please.  I like to imagine Catherine writing this story at her desk in her home at Spade House.  Today we resurrect her fiction. Perhaps her ghost will stir as we listen.

 

Listen to the Audio of The Ghost here at YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_XsiSZk8D0

 

 

The Book of Catherine Wells is a collection of short stories and poems. Contents: The Last Fairy; The Beautiful House; The Dragon-Fly; May Afternoon; The Ghost; Winter Sunset; The Oculist; The Emerald; Fear; Cyanide; The War: Spring 1915; June 1916; and Red Cross Workroom; The Draught of Oblivion; In a Walled Garden; The Kneeling Image; Robe De Boudoir; Everymother; April in the Wood; The Fugitives; Two Love Songs; Music Set to Words; and Night in the Garden.

 

 

 

 

H.G. Wells at Spade House in 1907

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

 

Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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2019 A New Year Celebration: Creativity

Happy New Year, 2019  January 1

 

We are celebrating 2019 today. We are celebrating Creativity! To my followers here at Reading Fiction Blog, as of this month this blog has over 100,000 views. To the readers, writers, and artists who come here because they love the fictional world, thank you for participating in the joy of story. The creative art of fiction surely can transform us if only for  an hour or two. Stories have the power to dissolve the boundaries between us and connect our minds and hearts, sometimes our very souls.

We live inside this star-studded universe, but let’s remember that the universe lives inside us.

Carl Sagan said that like all creatures on this planet, we are made of starstuff.  William Blake saw the universe in a grain of sand. I wish you all abundant creativity. Stay inspired.

To all the creative spirits here, I share this poem Artist’s Prayer by Alex Grey to celebrate 2019 and all you endeavor.

 

Artist’s Prayer

Creator of the Universe,
How infinite and astonishing
Are your worlds.
Thank you,
For your Sacred Art
And sustaining Presence.

Divine Imagination,
Forgive my blindness,
Open all my Eyes.
Reveal the Light of Truth.
Let original Beauty
Guide my every stroke.

Universal Creativity,
Flow through me,
From my heart
Through my mind to my hand,
Infuse my work with spirit
To feed hungry souls.

by Alex Grey, The Mission of Art

 

 

May this new year be abundant every day.

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