Tag Archives: horror

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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On Writing. Fiction

On Writing. Fiction

Book Review and Commentary,  January 21, 2016

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41O3ebvsQSL._AA160_ On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King is #15 (at this time) on the Amazon Best Seller List in Reference/Writing Fiction paperback books. With over 2300 reviews (3% having 1- and 2-star reviews posted by disappointed and angry readers), I found this book to have little value in “how to” actually write, but great value in the thinking behind King’s writing processes. By reading this book, you will not learn to write effectively or how to write horror stories, but you will learn King’s perspective on how his stories emerge and what he values for his creative writing adventures.

I have over twenty writing books on my shelf—twenty-five editing books. I’m always reading and studying writing books on story, plot, characterization, themes, narrative, and the mechanics of creating stories.

So, what is writing? King says it’s telepathy. He believes that writing is the purest form of telepathy of all the arts. He advises not to “come lightly to the page.” Serious business? Absolutely. The act of narrative is a creation after all. King speaks of his Muse (and yes there are muses—believe). My own muse is unlike King’s who is a “basement guy” that inspires him. Mine is a woman and she exists outside my windows. I can’t see her but the light and the sky stream thoughts to me and without a window or a walk outside, I wonder if I can write at all without her.

It’s true that King addresses vocabulary, grammar, passive voice, nouns, verbs sentences, adverbs, description, and the mighty pace and beat of a story. Sure he recommends Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Most writers know these basics; what is more helpful is how King speaks about the seduction and magic of writing—about letting go of the fear and self-doubt.

I love that King is more of an “organic writer” than a planner and plotter. Probably because that’s how my writing process works as well. “Stories pretty much make themselves,” King says. I agree. He prefers the “situation” of the story to flow from his intuition. “The story is the boss. Write fast to outrun the self-doubt.”

King advises against writing out plotlines, story outlines, and all that predestination. In The Secret Miracle, The Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon, Stephen King is quoted as saying he “never” outlines. Some people believe the old axiom that ‘plotting and spontaneity of real creation are not compatible.’ For organic writers this is often true.

Another book on writing is Steven James’ Story Trumps Structure. Here, Steven James echoes King’s standard for organic writing. James tells us to ditch the outline and follow the rabbit trail. “Let scenes evolve … trust the narrative force to reveal the story.” Steven James believes that using “uncertainty” is an essential ingredient if you desire to make art.

On Writing is friendly and inspiring with common sense advice. I loved King’s philosophies and creative perspectives, but there wasn’t a lot new or progressive and was rather thin on character development. A favorite writing book of mine on creating characters is David Corbett’s The Art of Character, Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film, and TV.  “Without an intuitive grasp of the characters, you can all too easily fall into the trap of reducing them to simplistic automatons or “plot puppets,” acting in accordance with ideas or story necessities rather than behaving with the complexity of intention that real individuals possess.” That makes sense to me. King seems to agree with this approach when he says that he wants his characters “to do things their way.” I like that he lets go of controlling his characters to live and breathe themselves into the story.

The reason I read On Writing was because I thought there might be some insight about writing horror vs. suspense or writing horror vs. mystery. King had nothing to say on this. Author Steven James points to a difference between suspense and horror. James sees suspense as “always emotional” and makes the reader afraid to look away. “A murder is not suspense. An abduction with the threat of a murder is.” In horror, the reader is full of fear to look at the action but wants to see it (Do we really want to see this guy beheaded? Horror readers do and enjoy that fear. Interesting paradox ). A horror writer awakens the readers’ inner violence but within the safe confines of fiction.

I’m not a horror writer; my stories are supernatural suspense, ghost stories, and mysteries. And while I like the threat of murder, I don’t want to witness the bloody stabbing in gory details.

So, what did I get out of King’s On Writing? King’s prime rule is to read a lot and write a lot. Learn from the master storytellers. Not newsy advice, since most successful writers tell you to learn from the best writers and read, read, read and write, write, write. King emphasizes a writer must have razor-sharp honesty, discover your muse, and follow your intuition. Dispel self-doubt and run with your stories. Here is his most valuable point about writing in just two words: “getting happy.” I think the gift in this memoir of King’s is telling writers to discover your own true path to your stories and have fun doing it. There are no magic tricks to successful writing, horror or otherwise, but writing in itself is magic. King is famous for saying “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Clearly, if you as a writer are feeling the magic as you discover your stories and write them out, then your readers will too. Storytelling is an exertion of power, isn’t it? To write fiction is to allow characters to live in our psychic space. And then they live in the readers’ psychic space. Telepathy, as King describes.

I think the last word here goes to Ray Bradbury because it’s so true: “First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!”

Zen and the Art of Writing, Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury is next on my to-read list and review.

 

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My favorite list of the best writing books I read:

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

Chicago Manual of Style

The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein

 

Here’s the famous Rolling Stone Interview with King.

Ten Writing Tips from Stephen King, from MentalFloss.com

StephenKingOfficialWebsite, StephenKing.com

StephenKing.com/Library

 

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Rossetti: Pia de’ Tolomei

If you have a writing or editing book you’d like to add, please feel free to comment.

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Filed under Book Reviews, fiction, horror, horror blogs, literature, novels, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, Stephen King, tales of terror

Why Do We Love Horror?

In the words of Arthur Conan Doyle ( and as a companion post with this week’s featured author, 1-5-2016 Tales of Terror, “The Horror of the Heights”),

“Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.”

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So, let’s see now, why do we love to read horror stories and terrifying suspense mysteries? Why do we watch horror movies? Is it to stimulate our imaginations? Is it because some of us love gore-watching or identifying with killers? Or maybe it’s because we like to face the unknown safely in our reading chairs or comfy movie theater seats. As an avid reader, film lover, and writer of supernatural, mystery, and horror, I ask these questions all the time.

 

Below is a link to  FilmmakerIQ.com John P. Hess’ 15-minute vimeo on this very subject.  Hess explores the “Psychology of Scary Movies” theories from contemporary scientific professionals to Freud, Jung, Aristotle and much more. When I came across this vimeo some time ago, I found it  informative and insightful. I hope you do too.

 


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/77636515″>The Psychology of Scary Movies</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/filmmakeriq”>FilmmakerIQ.com</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

We could say there is no single answer to the question, but if you have a theory, agreement or disagreement, please post.

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Filed under classic horror stories, crime thrillers, fiction, Halloween stories, Hauntings, horror, horror blogs, literary horror, literature, murder mystery, mysteries, Penny Dreadful, Psycho, psychological horror, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, soft horror, Stephen King, supernatural, supernatural thrillers, suspense, tales of terror, weird tales

Looking for a Horror Blog?

We love to browse  for just the right horror blog to suit our tastes. I look for ones with substance and quality in this genre and have been reading HorrorAddicts.net lately and loving it. Check out my guest blog post on HorrorAddicts.net  “Where do stories come from?”

http://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/paula-cappa-on-horror-writing/

 

Lots of other great posts and recommendations on this highly rated horror blog!

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Are you a Stephen King Fan? “Revival” is his new novel.

Stephen King has a new novel out, Revival. There’s talk that this story is Lovecraftian. I’m dying to read it now.

Here’s an interview with King where he speaks about how fear of failure is still a struggle when he’s writing.

http://janefriedman.com/2014/11/11/stephen-king-still-fears-failure/

 

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Art by Oscar Oliva OA / DeviantArt

The Guardian’s Review of Revival : http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/29/stephen-king-religion-dangerous-god-exists

 

 

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Black Cups of Sleep

The Mummy’s Foot by Theophile Gautier (1840)

Clarimonde by Theophile Gautier (1836)

Tuesday’s Tales of Terror    July 29, 2014

 

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I have two stories for you by Theophile Gautier:

one to amuse, the other to terrify.

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When I first began reading The Mummy’s Foot by Theophile Gautier about the foot of a princess, I immediately settled in for an exotic fairy tale that would take me back to the amusements of my childhood readings. I was not disappointed.

Our narrator is a twenty-seven year old Frenchman who is looking for a paperweight in a curiosity shop. If you’ve ever browsed an antique store and fantasized about the objects and their histories, The Mummy’s Foot is a story that will fulfill all your imaginations. The mummified foot that our Frenchman is attracted to belonged to the 4000-year-old Princess Hermonthis, daughter of pharaoh. He purchases the charming foot, brings it home, and with great adoration sets it upon his desk.

images-3“The Dream of Egypt was Eternity: her odors have the solidity of granite, and endure as long.”

Do items from the past carry their own energies? Possibly their own force upon the mind … or even upon a life? Come meet Princess Hermonthis. She will kindle her torch and bring you into the subterranean tombs of Cheops, Chephrenes, Psammetichus, Sesostris, Amenotaph—all the dark rulers of the pyramids. By Oms, by the dog of hell, this story will enchant and charm you!

 

 

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Read The Mummy’s Foot at Gutenberg.net

Listen to the audio version at Librivox Recording, narrated by Dorothy Scarborough.

 

A Kiss Upon the Dead Lips

 

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Theophile Gautier was a dramatist, painter, poet, journalist, and novelist. His storytelling carries a great deal of entertaining qualities. He is skilled in blurring the lines of dreaming and reality, setting his suspense within the theme of eternity. He can pitch realistic settings against supernatural phenomena quite smoothly. He is quoted, “What I write is not for little girls,” although many of his stories have a fairy tale tone.

 

 

 

 

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One of his most famous short stories is La Morte Amoureuse, aka Clarimonde (1836) about a young and endearing priest, Romuald, who has the misfortune to fall in love with a mesmerizing woman of beauty on the same day he is ordained. Her name is Clarimonde. This is a bit like Sleeping Beauty but a far more twisted and dark romance. What evil lurks here?

 

Romuald opens the story: “Brother, you ask me if I have ever loved. Yes. My story is a strange and terrible one; and though I am sixty-six years of age, I scarcely dare even now to disturb the ashes of that memory… For more than three years I remained the victim of a most singular and diabolical illusion.”

Could a corpse be this ravishing?

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You can read it here in English  at Gutenberg.org under the title of Clarimonde

Listen to  audio, Clarimonde by Libivox Recordings, Parts 1  and 2 narrated by Joy Chan:

Part 1 Clarimonde

Part 2 Clarimonde

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Horror Novel Reviews   Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

 Lovecraft Ezine      Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

     The Gothic Wanderer   Sirens Call Publications  The Fussy Librarian

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic Authors.

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The Dark Mother: A Short and Most Hideous Horror Story

Graveyard Shift   by Richard Matheson (1960)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   July 22, 2014

What portal do we enter when we confront the dark mother?

 

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This short story by the esteemed Richard Matheson (1926-2013, author of I am Legend, Hell House, What Dreams May Come, Stir of Echoes) is a story that has all the elements of true horror, empathy, and shock. Matheson’s gift in this story is a perspective into the “dark mother.” Do you have one of these or know a dark mother who rules harshly, extolling her powers of fear and control? Have you witnessed the dark mother at her darkest, the woman who has the capacity to harm or neglect her child? She is the “shadow archetype” named by Carl Jung—who suggests that our negative emotions are part of the whole of the power we possess and part of our human experience (in order to appreciate the light, we must know the dark). The dark mother is taboo, of course; we don’t like to talk about mothers harming their children. I certainly don’t.

Nott_paintingHowever, I do like when horror stories get into the grit of a soul in order to enhance our understanding of our dark sides. And we all have a dark side somewhere, buried or not, and isn’t that why many of us love to explore horror fiction? Because we can dig up this dark side within the safety of fiction, recognize it, feel it, and do no real harm. I guess what I’m suggesting here is that if we didn’t read horror stories and enter this imaginary world, we might feel the need to act out our dark sides in the real world. Reading the news is an example of how many people actually do act out their shadow sides.

 

In Graveyard Shift, we have three letters (epistolary fiction) from Luke to his father Sam, from Sam to George and a letter from George to Sam. The widow Blackwell is found dead. Her little boy Jim is the only one alive in the cabin. To say more about this story would diminish its effects and Matheson deserves your clean eye and mind on the page … as you experience the shadowy portal of the dark mother.

 

The PDF link below may or may not be working. I think copyrights are still legal, preventing free reads. You can read it in the anthology “Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural,” selected by Marvin Kaye on Amazon (a fine selection of offbeat and rare stories), or likely borrow this book at your local library (try WorldCAT to locate in a library near you).

Try this PDF link to read Graveyard Shift (Scroll to Story #12):

http://ny.iadicicco.com/Finished/20,000%20Ebooks/Richard%20Matheson/Richard%20Matheson%20-%20Short%20Story%20Collection%20Volume%20I.pdf

 

 

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In literature/mythology, other dark mother themed stories are Lamia who was a child-eating demon (also the poem Lamia by John Keats in 1820), Medea, Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel, Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic, Bloch’s Norma Bates in Psycho, and contemporary Neil Gaiman’s novel Coraline. There are others, of course, and if you have a short story or novel in mind, please post it in the comments below.

 

 

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Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica.com

Horror Novel Reviews   Hell Horror    HorrorPalace

HorrorSociety.com

 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

 Lovecraft Ezine      Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

     The Gothic Wanderer   Sirens Call Publications  The Fussy Librarian

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic Authors.

 

 

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