Category Archives: psychological horror

Ghost by Moonlight, Anniversary of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Death

“A ghost seen by moonlight; when the moon was out, it would shine and melt through the airy substance of the ghost, as through a cloud.”  

Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

 

Friday, May 19 is the anniversary of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s death in 1864. Hawthorne was 59 years old. On the evening of May 18 inside the Pemigewasset House hotel in Plymouth, New Hampshire, Hawthorne retired early after a dinner of toast and tea. During the night,  former U.S. President Franklin Pierce (who had traveled with Hawthorne to the White Mountains) awoke to check on his friend in the adjoining room. The former president placed his hand upon Hawthorne’s forehead. He found that Hawthorne was dead.

Some think Hawthorne is the least remembered author from Concord, Massachusetts compared to Thoreau, Alcott, and Emerson. The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables of course are his most famous  novels. But if you ever read his Blithedale Romance, you’ll likely never forget the drowning scene. Or his short story The Haunted Mind, which will certainly haunt your mind even after you’ve finished. The Ghost of Dr. Harris is another fascinating read and not exactly fiction—the story is one of his “sketches.”

Because Hawthorne is an author I admire, I’m taking this week to remember this American novelist and  read one of his forgotten “sketches” that he wrote while living  in Concord: The Old Manse. Please join me in remembering a diamond in our literature.

The Old Manse (1846) From Mosses from an Old Manse  by Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

Between two tall gate-posts of rough-hewn stone (the gate itself
having fallen from its hinges at some unknown epoch) we beheld the
gray front of the old parsonage, terminating the vista of an avenue of
black-ash trees.

 

 

Read the full sketch at Literature.com/Hawthorne.

 

 

 

 

Visit the Old Manse website (now a national historic site open for tours) in Concord, Massachusetts, where Hawthorne lived for seven years with his wife Sophia. Sophia (a transcendentalist) often referred to the home as their “beloved old house.”  Click here at TheTrustees.org.  And yes, there are ghosts at the Old Manse. Tourists, tour guides, and others will tell you so. I’ve visited there several times for research for my own novels and stories.

More about Nathaniel Hawthorne at HawthorneinSalem.org. 

 

 

[The Old Manse, modern view from Concord River, MA]

[Sleepy Hollow, Concord, MA]

If you are looking for a ghost story with historical flavors about the Old Manse, try Between the Darkness and the Dawn, originally published by Whistling Shade Literary Journal.

This short story is now a Kindle Single, FREE for you this week on Amazon.com.

 

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Do You Believe in the Mysterious?

‘It’s night.

It has been night for a long time. Hours pass— yet it’s the same hour. I can’t sleep.

My mind is fractured like broken glass. Or a broken mirror, shards reflecting shards. I am incapable of thinking but only of receiving, like a fine-meshed net strung tight, mere glimmerings of thought. Teasing fragments of “memory”—or is it “invented memory”?—rise and turn and fall and sift and scatter and rearrange themselves into arabesques of patterns on the verge of becoming coherent, yet do not become coherent.’

Want to read more? This is from Joyce Carol Oates’ blog Celestial Timepiece.

https://celestialtimepiece.com/2017/04/09/the-collector-of-hearts-new-tales-of-the-grotesque/

 

This is her latest collection of short stories. Twenty-five Gothic horror tales.

 

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“We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have.

Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”  

Henry James.  This quote hangs above Oates’ writing desk.

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Twisty Tale on Island of Nethescurial

Nethescurial  by Thomas Ligotti  (1991)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    March 21, 2017

 

Are you in need of reading a wild yarn? The real and the unreal, swirling freely and madly about. Take a ride into darkness. Be brave. If any author can satisfy these desires, it’s Thomas Ligotti. Some critics say that Ligotti’s work requires re-reading. I can attest that my second read of this tale dug deeper and I enjoyed it all the more. Some might prefer to read this as non-literal. One thing I can promise is that Nethescurial will hold you to the spot. Maybe it all psychosis (no explicit violence) but it’s undoubtedly a jolt to the consciousness with lots of philosophy. The emotional effect is shock. The psychological impact, mesmerizing. You will be unnerved in full Ligotti style.

The story is framed from four narratives: the ancient cult of the Nethescurial; Dr. N.; Bartholomew Gray; and the narrator.

Here is the lonely island of Nethescurial in the northern hemisphere.

contorted rock formations; pointed pines and spruces of gigantic stature and uncanny movements; the masklike countenance of sea-faring cliffs; and a sickly, stagnant fog clinging to the landscape like a fungus.

Our narrator is recounting a story (epistolary writing) of a manuscript he found that was written by a Mr. Bartholomew Gray during his visit to Dr. N, an archeologist who was living on the island. Dr. N lived in a primitive house built of leprous stones and no windows. Dr. N has excavated a buried treasure on the island—a piece of a dismembered hand-carved religious idol from the Nethescurials.

Gray’s goal is to reassemble the idol to wholeness and revive its powers. Only one more piece is needed. And Dr. N possesses the last piece. Ancient cults (Lovecraftian style), dark truths, murder, visionary intrusions, a secret door, apocalyptic, a dash of madness, this story is twisty horror. Do you believe in transcendent evil?

Remember this chant:

In the rooms of houses . . . across moonlit skies . . . inside each star and the voids between them … within blood and bone, through all souls and spirits. . . behind the faces of the living and the dead …

 

 

I  normally don’t rate my featured short stories here, but this cosmic adventure is a 5-star literary achievement.

Click to read the short story at Ligotti.net.

Click to listen to the audio at YouTube.

 

 

Thomas Ligotti is a contemporary American author. He writes “philosophical horror” with nihilistic themes. His works have received high praise from NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post, and The New Yorker.

Visit The Thomas Ligotti website. 

Interview with Ligotti at TeemingBrain.com “I Was Born to Fear.”

The Horror of the Unreal. The New Yorker.

  

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Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of 200 short stories by over 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, crime, ghost stories, sci-fi, and horror.

Follow me in reading  two short stories every month!

Comments are welcome.

 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

 The Kill Zone

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

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

EZindiepublishing

Thriller Author Mark Dawson http://markjdawson.com/

Dawson’s Book Marketing site: http://www.selfpublishingformula.com/

Greylock

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Gaiman’s Black Cave Truth in a Mountain

 The Truth is a Black Cave in a Mountain  by Neil Gaiman (2014)

 

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   January 17, 2017

 

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Are you a dark fantasy or speculative fiction fan? Dark fantasy is not horror, not ghostly, but explores dark emotions, the psychological, and often paranormal worlds and creatures.  Fantasy is the language of dreams. It has become a popular frontier in storytelling these days. Game of Thrones comes to mind, right? And of course, The Odyssey full of mythical creatures, sirens, and witches.  Today, prepare yourself to shift into another realm in this short story The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains.

Mountains hold silence, silver skies and green earth. What a vast splendor. To stand on a mountain is to stand apart from all men and be inside the heart of nature. I felt that way when I climbed Mt. Greylock to research my novel.  As if I could climb skyward on the ladder of clouds, I wanted to feel its power.  John Muir says “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.” But there can be darkness too, spiky-edged shadows and brooding whispers. And unawakened eyes.

 

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Two men embark on a journey in what appears to be the Scottish terrain. There are secrets here. And magic. And a skull. Come into the dark fantasy world of Neil Gaiman.

The truth is a cave in the black mountains.  And maybe gold is hidden here too. There is one way there, and that way is treacherous, and if you choose the wrong path you will die alone on the mountainside.

The two walked on and into the Misty Isle. The mountains were black and grey against the white of the sky. Eagles circled.

“I see death in your past and death in your future.”

“Death waits in all our futures,” I said.

Something was there. Something was waiting.

 

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The part fable and part fairy tale brings you shadows,  regret, vengeance, and, ultimately love.

 

Read the FREE short story here at FiftyTwoStories.com

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Neil Gaiman  is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere (1995), Stardust (1999), the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning American Gods (2001), Anansi Boys (2005), and Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett, 1990), as well as the short story collections Smoke and Mirrors (1998) and Fragile Things (2006).  His The Graveyard Book  won the UK’s Booktrust Prize for Teenage Fiction, the Newbery Medal, and the Hugo Best Novel Prize.

His first collection of short fiction, Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions, was nominated for the UK’s MacMillan Silver Pen Awards as the best short story collection of the year.

 

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness.”  Neil Gaiman.

 

 

 

MORE TALES OF TERROR

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Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of nearly 200 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

The Kill Zone

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

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

EZindiepublishing

Thriller Author Mark Dawson http://markjdawson.com/

Dawson’s Book Marketing site: http://www.selfpublishingformula.com/

 

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House of the Dead Hand

The House of the Dead Hand by Edith Wharton  (1902)

Tales of Terror  August 9, 2016

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We all know the novel The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde as the most famous story about a painting that has supernatural powers. In Edith Wharton’s The House of the Dead Hand, we have a Leonardo masterpiece owned by a possessive doctor named Lombard and his daughter Sybilla who live in Sienna Italy. A young man Mr. Wyant comes to their home to view the painting. Of course, there’s much more than just observing a work of art going on here. The painting is a mesmerizing beauty, but we all know that beauty without spirituality is an empty vessel.

This story sneaks up on you, is psychological and supernatural, and has a twisty ending. Edith Wharton was known as a skillful social commentator especially in her fiction. In this short story, we find a mystery of a young woman trapped by her father, a forbidden romance, and the atmosphere full of dark descriptions and subtle spirituality.

The House of the Dead Hand

The name comes from an antique hand of marble which for many hundred years has been above the door … The hand was a woman’s — a dead drooping hand, which hung there convulsed and helpless, as though it had been thrust forth in denunciation of some evil mystery within the house, and had sunk struggling into death.

The mystery here is written in classic Wharton style. Her stories are realistic of her times and culture. This story is a bleak message about a father-daughter relationship and typical male dominance of the early 1900s. While Edith Wharton was known as the dark prophetess, she was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize—in 1921 for Age of Innocence.

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Read the short story at EastOfTheWeb.com.

 

 

 

 

 

THE MOUNT, LENOX, MASSACHUSETTS

Recently I toured Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts. At The Mount, there are reported ghosts who float the passages, linger in the bathroom, and occupy chairs. The house is magnificent but I didn’t sense any ghosts as I toured the rooms, no footsteps or chills, no desperate whispers at my back. Because the reality of ghosts fails logic and reason, some of us believe in them because we sense them emotionally. The house has a quiet imperious air and reflects the stately Wharton as I imagine her.  Here are a few images of my moments with Edith Wharton on a Friday afternoon in Lenox.

 

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My view as I sipped iced tea on Edith’s stone and marble veranda.

Lush green everywhere.

 

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No ghosts lurking but the shadows at the window had shapely images of distorted heads looking in from the green boughs at the glass.

WhartonMountWindowchair

Edith’s window lounge. Can’t you just see her reclined with a book in her hand? An unidentified flower-scent hovered in the air.

Read more about the ghosts at The Mount.

My favorite image for The Age of Innocence by Victor Gabriel Gilbert,

“An Elegant Sioree”

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The Mount, Lenox, Massachusetts (1900s)

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free short stories and ghost tales. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

  

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

 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

EZindiepublishing

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The Annotated Dracula, A Close Reading Strategy

Dracula by Bram Stoker, Annotations by Mort Castle (Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics)  [And The Annotated Jane Eyre]

Book Review and Commentary  July 5, 2016

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If you’ve never read an annotated novel, that is a close and intimate read of the story, you’re missing out on a highly instructive look inside the mind of the writer. In this case, Bram Stoker.

Annotated novels are like a mini course in storytelling and create a deep understanding of fiction from all aspects. Mystery, suspense, and horror writers, this annotated version of Dracula explores the clever structure, techniques, themes, characterization, plot, setting, and dialogue of the most famous and esteemed novelist of our time.

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Mort Castle, a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award and recipient of the Black Quill Award has been in this writing business for some fifty years and has published novels, short stories, articles in the horror genre. So his expert analysis of Dracula is not only a formidable task but a comprehensive one.

I began reading this annotated version because I wanted to get into the head of a mystery writer of the occult. Who better than Bram Stoker.? Some readers today find Dracula (written in 1897) to be melodramatic, overwritten, and dry at times. When I first read it many years ago, I did find some of that to be true.  So, what will you as a writer gain from reading this annotated version? Or as a reader?

Begin here:

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In epistolary fashion, Stoker opens the story almost in medias res.  Mort Castle points out where and how Stoker seeds the suspense elements into the opening narrative. It is a skilled use of understatement and linking of the supernatural into the real world. And I didn’t see it until Castle discusses it in his marginal red notes.

Castle goes on to isolate the layers of the suspense within the text, identifying the pace as it picks up, and how Stoker slows it down to heighten the suspense. The chapters, as they wrap up, are enlightening in how Stoker chooses to end certain chapters on an up or down note, or on a neutral tone but still gives the reader enough pulse to make you turn the page. The patterns in Stoker’s writing were a surprise to me and in a novel this long, it really illustrates the intricacies of how he weaves them into the plot, and, Castle points out how best to use these patterns.

Characterizations of Harker, Mina, Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, and Renfield are iconic.  They all have a unique role to play and yet Dracula himself becomes the center of the narrative. Part of the trick is balancing all these characters’ points of view and their evolutions, including Dr. Seward’s hero’s journey that is paced into the subtext. Very smooth.

If you know the story, you could read only the red annotations in themselves and still get a rich insight to the writing. Some of Castle’s remarks are witty and precise; others are a little corny and too cute. I can tell you this, the book is a literary tour for vampire fans and devoted horror writers.

Bram Stoker wrote 11 novels in his lifetime.

To be totally honest, though, I preferred the Annotated Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Annotations by K.M. Weiland for a superb analysis into storytelling.

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Weiland gets quickly into the “dramatic question” and how Bronte weaves and bobs this question throughout the story and flows it into the soul of the character Jane. A series of seamless moves by a master writer. Foreshadowing? Bronte uses everything from the five senses to weather as a mirror to the settings, and Weiland’s remarks are highly instructive on how Bronte crafts it. I especially like how Weiland handles “the lie” that all characters believe at the beginning of a story. Narrative arc, doubt, false peace, curiosity all play into the suspense to address this lie.

Bronte’s “Three Plot Points” are really clear from the annotations: First plot point is the catalyst that rocks Jane to react. Second plot point is the centerpiece where Jane gets knocked down. Third plot point is the highest point of crisis for Jane and she must go forward.

Want to learn how Bronte creates suspense in five steps? Weiland gives you this: 1. Something happens or will happen. 2. Withhold explanations. 3. Tease the readers with hints. 4. Promise you will tell the readers, then stall with logical delays. 5. Raise the stakes that will put the character at risk.

Literary analysis is an adventure in itself. If you are a writer like me, a writer who is always looking to improve your skills and write the best novel you can with memorable characters, annotated novels is one way to go. An annotated novel pulls a story apart at the seams to expose the separate pieces and puts it back together so you can view the whole masterpiece. And all for under $25.00.

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Do leave a comment!

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

How to Write Like Chekhov, Advice and Inspiration, Straight From His Own Letter and Work. Edited by Piero Brunello and Lena Lencek  (book review here)
Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing
     the Sea of Story, Ursula K. Le Guin (book review here)
Writing Wild, Tina Welling (book review here)
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg (book review here)
Method Writing, Jack Grapes (book review here)
Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury (book review here)
On Writing, A Memoir, Stephen King (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 StructureSteven 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

 

NEXT WRITING CRAFT BOOK ON MY LIST TO REVIEW IS

Dialogue, The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, and Screen

by Robert McKee  

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Filed under classic horror stories, fiction, Fiction Writing, horror, horror blogs, literary horror, psychological horror, Reading Fiction, short story blogs, supernatural, vampires, werewolves

Dark and Deep. Joyce Carole Oates’ Big Momma

Big Momma  by Joyce Carole Oates  (2016)

 Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   June 14, 2016

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Have you met Violet? A thirteen year old who weighs just 90 pounds and is desperate for love and attention. Aren’t all teens? But Violet is especially vulnerable. In the neighborhood where she lives, children are disappearing. Gobbled up by God-knows-who would do such a thing. This frightens Violet’s mom who warns her to be extra careful but leaves her home alone with mac ‘n cheese in the fridge one too many times. One day, when walking home from school, Violet takes a ride from a friend’s dad and he brings her home to meet Big Momma.

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Remember the story of Hansel and Gretel? I won’t say another word.

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Joyce Carole Oates, a literary powerhouse of an American writer, 5-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, nominated for the Nobel Prize, National Book Award and Pen/Malamud Award winner, and too many more to list here has written over 100 books and over 30 collections of short stories. Few modern authors have her prolific and acclaimed reputation.

Oates believes that “Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.”  Yeah, her stories go very deep and into inner worlds that leave a reader haunted.

 

 

Big Momma, part of The Doll-Master collection, is a story of evil, a subject that Oates writes about frequently. What does she really think of evil? “Evil is not always repellent but frequently attractive; that it has the power to make of us not simply victims, as nature and accident do, but active accomplices.”

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Read the short story at CelestialTimepiece.com.

 

Other titles by Oates …

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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 other week!

Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine    Parlor of Horror

 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

EZindiepublishing

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Filed under fiction, horror, horror blogs, mysteries, psychological horror, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs