Category Archives: phantoms
On Saturday, June 24, 2017 at Herman Melville’s Arrowhead, Berkshire Historical Society, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, I had the privilege to present my supernatural mystery Greylock to local residents and readers.
Arrowhead lies at the foot of Mt. Greylock. Because my novel takes place on Mt. Greylock and is about the supernatural powers of music … of whales … and much more … Arrowhead was an ideal location for this book reading event and signing.
[Courtesy Berkshire County Historical Society.]
The Russian beluga whales in the novel Greylock are nothing near the size of Melville’s Moby Dick, and Melville didn’t write much about his singing whale, but in Greylock, the songs of the beluga whales are a driving entity for the character Alexei Georg, a classical pianist. Murder, music, mystery on Mt. Greylock is haunted suspense where music itself is a character.
Arrowhead is a place of inspiration. There is such a thing as ‘power of place’ in that Melville sought solitude for his imagination. Arrowhead provided that reach for Melville’s true creative powers to soar. Many thanks to Peter Bergman of the Berkshire Historical Society for his invitation to bring my novel Greylock to Arrowhead. Arrowhead opens a new exhibit this June. This month marks the 61st anniversary of the 1956 film Moby Dick. The exhibit is movie memorabilia and props used in the film.
Greylock in the Berkshires!
The Supernatural Power of Music
As part of my presentation of the story and characters in Greylock, I discussed the supernatural power of music. The account of violinist Giuseppe Tartini’s sonata “The Devil’s Trill” is a perfect example. Alexei’s cousin, Josef, knows all about this sonata and explains what powers lie in music.
So, I asked my audience …
“Do You Believe in Music Phantoms?”
If you don’t believe in music phantoms, this is the story that will test your resolve.
Greylock in the Berkshires!
Here are some quick images of my spectacular weekend in the Berkshires at Arrowhead. We stayed at Hotel On North in Pittsfield. Five-star accommodations. Their restaurant, raw bar, and quality service made the weekend spectacular. Highly recommended if you are visiting the Berkshires.
Cozy lounge for a champagne toast.
Naturally, the gift shop at Arrowhead carries Greylock, as well as the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, and, on the summit of Mt. Greylock at the Bascom Lodge. Local area libraries and bookshops too.
The Most Inspiring Mountain in Massachusetts
Mt. Greylock is inspiring for many writers, Thoreau and Hawthorne to name a few. J.K. Rowlings, author of the Harry Potter series, has claimed Mt. Greylock for her fiction too. Her new story (Fantastic Beasts) has Ilvermorny founded by an Irish witch who started a school for wizards at the top of Mount Greylock.
Here’s something Herman Melville wrote about reading:
“…the books that prove most agreeable, grateful, and companionable,
are those books we pick up by chance here and there …”
Greylock has over 60 reviews at AMAZON.COM
“Greylock is a smart, entertaining supernatural thriller. Think Stephen King meets Raymond Chandler with a score by Tchaikovsky. The author’s passion for both the arts and the natural world shines through on every page. Briskly paced and yet lovingly detailed, this novel was a genuine pleasure to read.” —David Corbett, best-selling and award-winning author of The Mercy of the Night.
U.S. Review of Books: “Cappa’s latest is nothing less than a mind-boggling mystery … always keeping an elusive edge to her characters’ personas—a plot replete with all the wonderful trappings of a romance-laced mystery with unexpected twists and turns.”
The Black Monk by Anton Chekhov (1894)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror June 7, 2016
Some think there’s a fabled connection between genius and madness. Van Gogh and Virginia Woolf come to mind. Poe too. Aristotle said that “no great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.” Anton Chekhov wrote The Black Monk in 1893 while living in the village of Melikhove. “I wrote ‘The Black Monk’ without any melancholy, in cold reflection,” he reported in a letter to his publisher. Chekhov said he had dreamed of a ”monk who floats over the field and when I woke up I wrote about him.”
This short story is about a young man named Andrei Vasilich Kovrin. A story full of realism, mystery, supernaturalism, sanity, madness. Kovrin is on the verge of a breakdown when his doctor advises him to live in the Russian country for restoration. He visits his childhood friend Tanya on her father’s estate. Long autumn walks in the garden, star gazing and conversation: Kovrin begins to relax and becomes enchanted with Tanya and his surroundings. One day, beyond the treasured garden, across a wide field, he sees the Black Monk. He becomes haunted by this odd creature who makes regular visits and chats with him. Their meetings are actually pleasant experiences, probably “a hallucination,” Kovrin decides about this Black Monk, born of legend. But nature has its way and plays a compelling role in this tale of the unexpected. Gothic. Fantastic. Romantic. And just a little bit slippery.
“What’s the harm in a hallucination?”
Read The Black Monk at Eldritch Press.com
Listen to the audio on You Tube.
Anton Chekhov is recognized as a master of the short story form, known for his lyrical and atmospheric qualities. His plays are still performed worldwide. More about Anton Chekhov at “How to Write Like Chekhov,” book review and commentary.
If you are a Chekhovian reader and love historical fiction, you might like The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson. Released May this year from HarperCollins, this enchanting story of Anton Chekhov’s summers at the Luka estate on Sumy where he meets a young blind woman and establishes an endearing friendship is a beautiful read.
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 other week! Comments are welcome.
Other Reading Web Sites to Visit
For Authors/Writers: The Writer Unboxed
READERS’ FAVORITE BOOK REVIEW of GREYLOCK.
Who is Readers’ Favorite?
… as well as countless independent authors and small publishers.
Lit Amri for Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews November 27, 2015
“Pianist and composer Alexei Georg is on a devoted quest to compose his next symphony of the beluga whales of White Sea in Russia. Struggling for emancipation in his career after much bad press, the murders in Boston don’t bother Alexei as much as the menacing appearance of a creature in the audience, in the aisle, and on the stage when a certain old Russian sonata is played. The dark entity clings tightly to Alexei’s soul. Can Alexei escape this dark force or forever becomes its prisoner?
There are some stories that you just can’t help but let them remain for some time in your mind. Paula Cappa’s Greylock is one of those stories, where music becomes its driving force. Occasionally there are scenes that are psychologically spine chilling to read. Cappa somehow reminds us that bad things happen to good people, bad people, and everyone in between. Her elaborate and skillful plotting is one of the strengths of the book. Whenever you think you know what is going on, something else appears to derail your expectations, and that holds good right up to and including the end.
In credit to Cappa’s beautiful prose, the story contains enough raw emotion to draw readers in. The characters are alive and vivid descriptions of the scenes make this haunting story easily imagined. In a story combining the elements of mystery, horror and the supernatural, no doubt fans of these genres can clearly enjoy this particular hallmark of Cappa’s work. Greylock will certainly not disappoint.”
Greylock is now featured on The Big Thrill.
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror October 13, 2015
Sneak peek of GREYLOCK … Opening pages (5-minute read)
Let me have music dying, and I seek no more delight.
“Endymion” John Keats, 1884
1987, Orange Street, Plymouth, Massachusetts
In the rising grey light, Marta lit another candle inside the bedroom of the Cape Cod house. Sunrise blinked at the windowed cliff beyond where the ocean rumbled. “I see the phantom of death near,” she said and placed the candle on the nightstand next to her brother. She turned. “Alexei, be brave, child, go make music for your father. This will soothe him. Hurry.”
Alexei backed away from the bedside. His father’s hard-veined hands no longer twitched on the covers. His mouth hung open in a sad curve releasing gasps against the pillow. Alexei wanted to close the cracked lips. He wanted to crawl into that bed once more and know his father’s kind voice.
“Hurry,” she said.
He obeyed his aunt. Nine years old, he knew to trust Aunt Marta for everything. He dashed to the studio and sat at the Steinway. Was Dad still asleep? Would he hear him playing?
“Play, Ah-lehk-SAY.” Auntie shouted from the bedroom. She sang his name as if to pitch him the first note.
“Auntie? Will he—?”
“He will hear your music. Begin.”
With trembling fingers, Alexei began Tchaikovsky’s Concerto Number One. He stumbled on the opening, failing to create the thundering chords, then stopped and began again. He hadn’t perfected the power of this concerto yet, but he knew his father loved it best. This will soothe him.
Soaring though the allegro movement, Alexei enjoyed the familiar thrill of the music. The splendid harmonies urged him on as his fingers jumped across the keyboard. His father’s voice repeated in his mind.
All the world is music, my Lexie. Go inside the notes.
The allegro movement would thrill his father too and make him open his eyes. What phantom? Auntie was just being Auntie. Tchaikovsky’s concerto would soothe his sick heart. The clear notes would send the phantom away. Dad would wake up smiling and say, Bravo, my boy, bravo.
Music filled the house up to its gables. Resplendent notes played like spheres before Alexei’s eyes. Chasing one after the other. Flashings. Blurs of light. A kaleidoscope.
Can you hear? Dad? I’m playing for you. Just like you play Tchaikovsky.
Vibrations spun over Alexei’s body. Lively sound waves pulsed through his hands, throbbed into his left rib, a pleasant tingling. He inhaled the concerto’s warm tones. He swallowed the bright rhythms, his belly filling. Every chord tasted smoky. Octaves evaporated into aromas of melting candy—razzes and dives and creamy crescendos.
A beat later the music jammed. Choked to a dead stop. What did he do?
Become the music, Lexie. Believe.
He hit the white keys. Nothing. He slammed the black keys. Nothing. What happened? A hammer stick? Again he pressed. Every key resisted. Demanding the piano to obey, Alexei struck the stubborn keys once more. “Come on. I believe!”
The keys held like bricks in mortar.
Why won’t it play? His fingers slid recklessly above the locked keys. “Please.” He fisted up his hands with a hard shake. “Play.”
Air flashed behind him. The concerto rolled forth. Sweeps and crescendos blasted. Glistening sounds broke over his head. He stared at his fists rigid above the piano keys. How was the concerto playing without him?
Rhythms hammered down. Vibrations shook the wood floor and wall paintings, nearly cracking the old plaster. The very air soared with music.
Unable to stand the thundering a second longer, he fled the piano. The concerto followed him to the bricked chimney corner where he crouched. Booming, the double octave passages surrounded him. Eyes squeezed shut, hugging himself, ribs knocking, toes curling, he covered his ears. “What did I do? What’s happening? Dad! Make it stop!”
The concerto halted.
Did something sigh just then? A voice? Sounded just like the bed creaked. He’s awake. He’s up!
Dawn flooded the studio, dusty rays humming with yellow light. “Dad?” A kiss misted against his forehead.
He listened. Silence.
Alexei burst into deep, quiet, sorrowful weeping. He let his hands drop, kitten-limp to his sides and lifted his head.
Footsteps padded the hallway—gentle and slow—like treading upon a path of wool. Auntie Marta appeared at the doorway, half a lit candle in her hand. She blew it out, sat at the piano, covered her face and sobbed.
Alexei watched her a moment, biting his lip, failing to hold his tongue. “Auntie, did he hear my music? Did he hear the concerto?”
She lifted her face. “Oh yes, of course he heard your music. Alexei, don’t you know, child? The ear is the way.
* * *
Chapter Two opens twenty-seven years later in Boston, Massachusetts, 2014. Alexei is 36 years old. After a conversation with his wife Carole Anne, the musician plots her murder.
* * *
Would you like to hear Tchaikovsky’s Concerto?
Pianist: Van Cliburn
Tchaikovsky, Piano Concerto No. 1, B-flat minor
Live Performance in Moscow in 1962.
In the audience is Nikita Khrushchev—don’t miss the Soviet leader’s smiles and applause during Van Cliburn’s bows at the end of the performance.
(30-minute listening experience)
... when the leaves fall
October 15, 2015
Authors would be nowhere without skilled and professional reviewers, especially ones who know how to park their egos in a back lot and be fair and honest. Generally, book reviewers are a mix of published authors, librarians, academics, and a glut of graduate students.
Here’s author Elisabeth Zguta’s review of GREYLOCK. Zguta writes stories of paranormal mystery thrillers sprinkled with history and romance. She grew up in New England, not far from Mt. Greylock. Her novels Breaking Cursed Bonds and Exposing Secret Sins are part of her Curses and Secrets series on Amazon. Highly recommended. I am honored to have her review.
Zguta’s post on “Developing Characters in Fiction” is one most writers won’t want to miss.
“Greylock’s unique horror style, explores the deep currents of human emotion and compulsion. Like in a Grimm tale, basic life lessons are fleshed out using surprising twists. How far should one go to pursue a dream? An individual’s definition of true happiness, acceptable behavior for the good of society, is explored using classic Goth style with an added modern flair.
“Paula Cappa merges old tales of Siberian witches and the other side of life’s river’s flow, with nature’s inexplicable wonders—the music of whales. Bleak settings at the fringe of nature—the eerie woods of Mount Greylock, and the frigid White Sea, keep the story’s tone of horror well defined. Bold characters, larger than life with the loftiest of dreams, lead the reader to jagged truths about humanity.
“The author draws the reader into the music world of Alexei Georg, a classical modern composer, who was born into a family with generations of musical history. Old family secrets are the tip of the iceberg. Alexei must dive in deep, not only with whales to write his composition, but also deep into the story behind his most successful piece of music to date. Alexei must choose the kind of person he wants to be.
“The protagonist [Alexei] loves Raymond Chandler’s character, Marlowe, which serves as a great correlation. The author also sprinkles in literary quotes and music, which keep the musical tone of the story floating throughout, like a refined brush stroke.
“The romance that develops between Alexei and Lia also sets a heated stage. Other relationships are also developed, and each character faces some sort of pivot and must choose their fate. Alexei, and his family and friends, each grow or change by the end. This is an excellent, moving story. Bravo!” —Elisabeth Zguta.
October 15 … when the leaves fall
Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (1911)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror September 29, 2015
In the kingdom of phantoms, ghosts, and the shadowy depths, The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux remains one of the most memorable and popular ghostly thrillers of all time. Even today this novel is still on the Amazon’s Kindle best seller list (#77 as of 9-27-15; buy here on Amazon.com for only 99 cents). Theatrical superstitions, ghostly apparitions, and the mystery of the music are a powerful combination for fiction. Published in 1911, Leroux was inspired to write this story after visiting a Paris opera house when a chandelier fell on the audience in 1896. Actor Lon Chaney starred in the film in 1924 and the life of this novel went on to film and Broadway audiences and is still running at full speed at the Majestic Theatre in New York.
Our story begins at the Paris opera house with the Prologue’s opening line “The opera ghost really existed. He was not, as was long believed, a creature of the imagination …”
Most of us know the story of the phantom hiding his face behind a mask and how he falls in love with the beauty Christine Daae. This singer is in love with Raoul, Vicomte De Chagny. A triangular love affair mixes with passion, jealousy, revenge, possession, and the pain of loneliness.
The New York Times Book Review called it “The wildest and most fantastic of tales.” And so it is.
Read the FREE novel Phantom of the Opera at the LiteratureProject.com.
Listen to the Librivox dramatic recording at Librivox.com
Leroux wrote other stories. His first story was The Mystery of the Yellow Room (1907). A “locked room” mystery. Mademoiselle Stangerson retires to bed in the Yellow Room. Suddenly revolver shots echo through the house and she screams for help. Her father and a servant run to the locked room where they find the wounded girl – alone. The only other exit, a barred window.
Read The Mystery of the Yellow Room at OnlineLiterature.com
The Secret of the Night (1914) is another short novel about a journalist in Russia who partly resembles Inspector DuPin (Poe) and Sherlock Holmes (Conan Doyle).
Read The Secret of the Night at OnlineLiterature.com
As a reader and a writer I love the idea of supernatural music, demons, angels, music phantoms. The idea of ghostly presences lurking among the melody and notes draws me in immediately. Many of you are aware my own supernatural musical mystery is about to launch in October. GREYLOCK has just a hint of flavor of Phantom of the Opera. Here’s an early review:
“Echoing notes of Phantom of the Opera, mixed with Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe, and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, Greylock is a thrilling musical tragedy steeped in lore, mythology, and the madness of composition, leading to a crescendo of epic proportions. Paula Cappa is a gifted author, and this book will have you swooning in the aisles.” —Richard Thomas, author of Disintegration.
More early reviews to come … when the leaves fall … GREYLOCK
Other Reading Web Sites to Visit
For Authors/Writers: The Writer Unboxed
Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic authors.
All images public domain from WikiCommons.org