Category Archives: literary short stories

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.

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

  

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

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   

Blog Collection

Blog Top Sites

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Happy New Year, 2020, Let’s Read! Becoming Supernatural

Happy New Year, 2020!

What is your passion? Mine is books, reading, writing, discovering new authors and new stories. And, to dive into the imagination of good fiction.

 

 

Author Charles Lamb said that “books think for me.”

If you are an avid reader, you’ll likely find books that prove this true.

 

 

 

 

 

Goethe believed that “every reader reads himself into the book and amalgamates his thoughts with those of the author.”  Sometimes, yes, I can agree with that.

 

 

 

 

 

You might like what Emerson thought about reading:

“One must be an inventor to read well.”

This is absolutely true if you read fiction.

 

 

Fiction is not just amusement to disengage us from ourselves for a short escape. Reading fiction can illuminate life experiences. We all need to clarify the life’s mysteries and challenges in a dramatic way. Sometimes fiction can be transcendent. If you delight in the study of human nature and all the relationships, you will delight in the reading of novels, mysteries, literary, fantasy, and detective fiction at the top of your list.

This is one of the reasons I love to read and write about the supernatural—to enter that world beyond our mortal and earthly limits.  There is a wisdom in the supernatural that is not sourced from human intelligence or science.  The supernatural has magical realities, spiritual forces, and even mystical religion can bring us beyond our earthly limits.  How is it that the presence of a vase of bright flowers can bring a moment of beauty in just a glance? Why does a sunset streaking gold and purple create a feelings of awe and warmth?  At dawn, a hot pink sunrise is powerful to draw us to the window to encourage our day ahead. Conversely, have you ever seen a shapely fog arise to streak through the streets, and for some reason you can’t take your eyes off the path it’s making? Or a bird land at your feet and look at you for the longest moment as if it’s speaking to you. Little hauntings like these happen all the time. Why? Because we are instinctively drawn to the supernatural, to the language of the heart and soul, to the mysteries, secrets, and messages. So, let’s read the supernatural.

Here are a few classic supernatural novels you might want to read:

The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) by Anne Radcliffe. The quintessential Gothic romance.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson. Split personalities, science gone wrong, an inquisitive friend, and a trampled young woman.

Frankenstein; Or, The ModernPrometheus (1818) by Mary Shelley. This is the standard for the Romantic genre in science fiction.

The Shining by Stephen King. A classic winter ghost story that chills us from the other side.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This timeless haunted house story will bring you into the world of spirits and desire.

Ghost Stories by M.R. James. One of the best writers of ghost stories in our literature.

The Woman in Black, a Ghost Story by Susan Hill. A chilling tale about a menacing spectre haunting a small English town.

If I may, I’d like to remind readers and followers here at Reading Fiction Blog of my own supernatural mysteries:

The Dazzling Darkness. A haunted cemetery, a little boy missing, and the transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson in Concord, Massachusetts. Discover the dazzling faces inside the darkened air of Old Willow Cemetery. BRONZE MEDAL WINNER, Readers’ Favorite International Book Award, 2014.

Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural. A firehawk invades the dreams of artist Kip Livingston on Horn Island, where she finds romance with a priest struggling with his own demons. An Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner, 2015.

Greylock. Do you believe in music phantoms? Composer Alexei Georg is haunted by a music phantom who pursues him from Boston, to Russia, to Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts. Classical music, whale songs, and the mysterious power of  nature make this a “romance-laced mystery with unexpected twists and turns.” U.S. Review of Books. Chanticleer Book Award Winner 2015 and a Best Book Award Finalist 2017, American Book Fest. 

You can click on the tabs above for more information on each title (reviews too) or click the book covers in the right column on this page to  link to Amazon.com.

Many here know I have had several short stories published in literary magazines and journals over the years. These shorts are also available in the right column book covers, on this page, linked to Amazon.com. I will have four more short stories to come on Amazon in 2020.

Meantime, thank you all for reading my blog, commenting, and clicking LIKE. I hope you will continue to be a friend here at Reading Fiction Blog and keep this page as one of your literary hubs.

I will leave you with the thoughts of poet Rainer Maria Rilke (who is the subject in my next supernatural mystery that I am writing now. More on this in 2020!)

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

 

I wish you all a happy and successful 2020 and many reading adventures.

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Ye Olde Christmas Grace

Old Christmas by Washington Irving (1875)

Tuesday’s Tale for Christmas,  December 10, 2019

Well done, Mr. Irving! If you are looking for a mite of wisdom and the blessings from old-time Christmas  to spark your holiday spirits, Washington Irving’s Old Christmas is a charming read that will warm you from your nightcap to your jingle toes.

 

Old Christmas is a series of short stories about a young man who travels to a companion’s family mansion, The Bracebridges. Our narrator describes the mansion as “thrown in deep shadow and partly lit up by the cold moonshine … heavy stone-shafted bow windows jutting out and overrun with ivy, from among the foliage of which the small diamond-shaped panes of glass glittered with the moonbeams. The grounds about the house were laid out in the old formal manner of artificial flower-beds, clipped shrubberies, raised terraces, and heavy stone balustrades, ornamented with urns, a leaden statue or two, and a jet of water.”

Can you see this setting? Of course you can. Irving was an American original in his prose style of lighthearted but dramatic, exemplifying the writing style of the Romantic era. He set the bar quite high for all short story writers.

[Frontispiece of Old Christmas]

 

We begin with an beautiful introduction of Christmas, and then in Yorkshire, we take The Stage Coach ride with our narrator. If you’ve ever wondered what it is like is to go bumping along in horse-laded coach, this ride is a witty jaunt through village and countryside.

The third story is Christmas Eve. Voluptuous fires in the hearth, friendly neighbors, snowy sky, plums and spice, sweets and cider. There is a harmony going on this Eve.

“The family meeting was warm and affectionate … old uncles and aunts, comfortably married dames, superannuated spinsters, blooming country cousins, half-fledged striplings, and bright-eyed boarding-school hoydens fully engrossed by a merry game; and a profusion of wooden horses, penny trumpets, and tattered dolls, about the floor, showed traces of a troop of little fairy beings, who, having frolicked through a happy day, had been carried off to slumber through a peaceful night.”

They feasted on wheat cakes and mince pies, danced to harp and violin and even recited poetry—”Night-Piece to Julia”—when not admiring the romance of the young women in long lace dresses.

Christmas Day opens with “When I awoke the next morning, it seemed as if all the events of the preceding evening had been a dream, and nothing but the identity of the ancient chamber convinced me of their reality. While I lay musing on my pillow, I heard the sound of little feet pattering outside of the door, and a whispering consultation. Presently a choir of small voices chanted forth an old Christmas carol.”

At Christmas Dinner “The dinner was served up in the great hall, where the Squire always held his Christmas banquet. A blazing, crackling fire of logs had been heaped on to warm the spacious apartment, and the flame went sparkling and wreathing up the wide-mouthed chimney.”

 

And at Christmas day’s finish our narrator discovers what is likely the true benevolence of this celebration: “I was in a continual excitement, from the varied scenes of whim and innocent gaiety passing before me. It was inspiring to see wild-eyed frolic and warm-hearted hospitality breaking out from among the chills and glooms of winter, and old age throwing off his apathy, and catching once more the freshness of youthful enjoyment.”

 

In our modern fashionable Christmases, we desire to break out from the chilly glooms of winter. We need to throw off the apathy of old age. We long to awaken, to catch at least one day fresh with youth to become wild-eyed and warm to our family and friends. In these stories Irving captures not only the beauty and community of olde Christmas cheer, but also the Christmas Grace of  sharing human love, kindness, and generosity.

 

Wishing you all the sacred joys of Christmas!

 

 

Read all five short stories here at Gutenberg.org:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1850/1850-h/1850-h.htm

Famed 19th century American author, Washington Irving is known for his biographical works (most famous the five-volume Life of George Washington), stories  Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Considered to be the first true American writer, Irving fought for stronger laws to protect writers from copyright infringement.

 

 

 

This book would make a lovely Christmas gift! Find it on Amazon. This edition has some of the sketches you see here on this blog. https://www.amazon.com/OLD-CHRISTMAS-Washington-Illustrated-Stage-Coach/dp/170749696X

 

 

 

 

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” or post a Christmas cheer.

  

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

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   

Blog Collection

Blog Top Sites

PEACE TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT.

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Believe in Fairies? Yes!

The Faery Handbag  by Kelly Link

Tuesday’s Tale of Fairies   November 26, 2019

 

Today, let’s believe in fairies.  Flower fairies, fish fairies, tree fairies, beach fairies to name a few. We should believe in everything until it’s disproved, right? And no one has disproved that fairies exist. Nightmares and dreams are not part of our waking daily activities yet they exist in everyone’s night life. So, let’s believe in fairies.

Fairy stories always bring me back to my childhood, but this one by Kelly Link brings me beyond my childhood. The Faery Handbag opens with Genevieve and her friends shopping in the Garment Center. She is in search of her Grandmother Zofia’s faery handbag—who are said to live inside it. Here is how Genevieve describes it.

“The faery handbag: It’s huge and black and kind of hairy. Even when your eyes are closed, it feels black. As black as black ever gets, like if you touch it, your hand might get stuck in it, like tar or black quicksand or when you stretch out your hand at night, to turn on a light, but all you feel is darkness.”

A chilling moment, yes? This story is mostly about Grandma Zofia who claims to be over 200 years old.  Do you know the difference between a horrible liar and a wonderful liar? What fun, and because this little adventure is so well written, I’m sure you will not be able to stop reading. The story won Nebula, Locus, and Hugo Awards, and was originally published in the anthology Faery Reel: Tales From The Twilight Realm, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. It is also in Kelly Link‘s second short story collection, Magic for Beginners.

You can read the short story by Kelly Link here at SmallBeerPress.com

https://smallbeerpress.com/free-stuff-to-read/2005/07/01/the-faery-handbag-by-kelly-link/

Kelly Link is an American author who writes magic realism, fantasy and horror. She has won several awards for her short stories, including the World Fantasy Award in 1999 for “The Specialist’s Hat”, and the Nebula Award both in 2001 and 2005 for “Louise’s Ghost” and “Magic for Beginners.” Link  is the founder of independent publishing company, Small Beer Press, along with her husband, Gavin Grant.

 

On the same subject of fairy tales but from a classic perspective, if you’ve never read The Tale of Tales, Giambattisa Basile’s 17th-century book of fairy stories, you might enjoy these very odd and magical tales that are more for adults than children. On Amazon:

 

The FaeryReel by Ellen Datlow has a variety of short stories by such authors as  Charles de Lint, Delia Sherman, Tanith Lee, Neil Gaiman, and Hiromi Goto, and more. On Amazon.com  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0142404063

 

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

Literature Blog Directory

Blog Collection

Blog Top Sites

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Jasper Peacock, Mystery of the Unknowable

Jasper Peacock by Paula Cappa

READING FICTION BLOG

Published at Coffin Bell Literary Journal of Dark Literature

Tuesday’s Tale of Mystery    September 3, 2019

 

 

What is the mystery of the unknowable? Is it the inner realm of consciousness? And might there be a ghost residing there?

Come meet Jasper Peacock, a famous artist, who knows how to make the darkness conscious.

 

 

Click on this link at Coffin Bell   https://coffinbell.com/jasper-peacock/

to read my newest short story online. If you love dark fiction, I encourage you to read the other shorts published in this literary journal as well.  And don’t be shy about LIKING or SHARING! Thanks to everyone who reads this blog regularly, reads my novels and short stories, and supports my work!

 

Coffin Bell is a new quarterly online journal of dark literature, which reaches readers in 104 countries.

Editor-in-Chief Tamara Burross Grisanti is a writer, editor, and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her poetry and fiction appear or are forthcoming in New World WritingEunoia Review, Chicago Literati, Former Cactus, Corvus Review, Pussy Magic, The New Mexico Review, and The Literary Hatchet. She lives in Buffalo, New York, where she spends her summers dreading the winters.

“Coffin Bell publishes new and emerging voices alongside established writers. I’m a believer in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s assertion that “fiction reveals truth that reality obscures. We [at Coffin Bell] nominate for the Pushcart Prize, the Best Small Fictions, and the Best of the Net Awards.”  —Tamara Burross Grisanti

 

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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Go Boldly Into That Other World

The Dead  by James Joyce  (1907)

READING FICTION BLOG

 Tuesday’s Tale   August 27, 2019

You’ve probably heard this line, variations, or parts of this quotation:

“Pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

James Joyce at his finest! He has many lines in his writings that haunt us, which never seem to die or fade with age.

Our story opens with a dinner party—everyone is chatting, dancing, observing, judging. We are knee-deep in the ritualism of ordinary life of middle-class people living in Dublin, Ireland. Gabriel Conway, a man with personal anxieties, worries about the social norms of the time, is full of self-doubt as a writer. There’s not much plot, the action slow, and we do meander quite a bit. But, we are brought into layers of human behavior, and that is the wave of intensity that keeps you reading. The writing holds you with an emotional grip and with Gabriel’s drama. The characters are fascinating, especially his wife Gretta, who can wring out your heart.

As with all James Joyce’s work, this is serious literature. You do not have to be a literature major to enjoy The Dead. The story has several gut-punches along the way. At the finish, we witness two epiphanies, and they couldn’t have been more beautifully written.

If you want a short story that contemplates mortality with the experience of living, death, and the dead, this one will bring you there deeply.

Some of the most haunting lines that  got me …

“He asked himself what is a woman standing on the stairs in the shadow, listening to distant music, a symbol of. If he were a painter he would paint her in that attitude. Her blue felt hat would show off the bronze of her hair against the darkness and the dark panels of her skirt would show off the light ones. Distant Music he would call the picture if he were a painter.”

“In one letter that he had written to her then, he had said: Why is it that words like these seem to me so dull and cold? Is it because there is no word tender enough to be your name?”

The final page has one of the most astonishing moments of a winter night you will ever read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read the short story here at Ebooks.Adelaide.edu

https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/j/joyce/james/j8d/chapter15.html

Listen to the audio by AudioBook https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9tMtsSW1HY

James Joyce ( 2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941  ). Ernest Hemingway was Joyce’s drinking buddy among the Paris bars and a major champion of Ulysses. “Joyce said to me he was afraid his writing was too suburban and that maybe he should get around a bit and see the world.”

In 1941 Joyce was admitted to a Zurich hospital and slipped into a coma after surgery. His last words were  “Does nobody understand?”


James Joyce’s Grave, Zurich

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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