Tag Archives: short stories

Death on a Bridge

 An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce  (1890)

Tuesday’s Tale of Mystery  August 7, 2018

 

 

‘A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck.’

 

 

What greater opening of a story is more compelling than an execution? Not much, and this mystery will hold you all the way through to the last lines. The time is Civil War era. Our character, a young man named Peyton Farquhar is about to be hanged. What goes through a condemned man’s mind in the moments before he knows his life will end? Is it possible Peyton could escape and return to his wife and child?

Author Ambrose Bierce is at his finest writing as this story is rich with symbolism and foreshadowing and not without its twists. The imagery is high quality in a tale well told.

 

What is your take on the ending? Were you shocked? Please feel free to comment!

Read the short story at AmericanLiterature.com:

https://americanliterature.com/author/ambrose-bierce/short-story/an-occurrence-at-owl-creek-bridge

Listen to the audio by Librivox: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lgCO_l-pgQ

Watch the YOUTUBE film (23 minutes):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHqnSX4SJ_A

 

 

Ambrose Bierce was an American journalist, satirist, and short story writer, many stories about death. He is famous for his The Devil’s Dictionary.  He disappeared in Mexico in 1914 and his final fate is recorded as “unknown.”

 

You can find more of his short stories here at Reading Ficiton Blog  in the INDEX under Ambrose Bierce.

 

 

 

 

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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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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Virginia Woolf’s Suicide Letter. Anniversary of Her Death, March 28.

March 28 (1941) is the anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s death, the day she drowned herself in the River Ouse.

“Dearest,

I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that — everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer.

I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.”

 

You can read more about this suicide letter at Brainpickings.org.

Do you think there’s a relationship between loneliness and creativity? Read about it at Brainspickings.org.

 

If you’d like to read one of her short stories, a ghost story, “The Haunted House,” enjoy this lovely but spooky very short read in her memory today. Listen to the audio (6 minutes) at Librivox.com.

 

Columbine surrounds the bust of Virginia Woolf, sculpted by Stephen Tomlin. Beneath are buried the ashes of Virginia Woolf.

 

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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

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Steering the Craft of Fiction

Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story  by Ursula K. Le Guin

Book Review and Commentary  May 17, 2016

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Are you a storyteller? Have you been writing for a while now? Steering the Craft is a comprehensive but short guide for writers who are not beginners, but those who need direction about their narrative prose. Ready to target some of your writing weaknesses?

Filled with lots of exercises (I’m not big on writing exercises but these are better than most), this book can function as you own private writing workshop. There’s a wealth of examples of writing achievements by authors like Alice Walker, Jane Austen, Dickens, Grace Paley, Virginia Woolf.

In Chapter One, Le Guin asks you to listen to the sounds of your writing. Listen to the forward movements, pace, rhythms, the silences. How does the changing sentence rhythms express the emotions of the characters? The examples here are breathtaking.

Of course, she touches on punctuation and grammar, but more importantly she touches on the ‘fake rules.’ Yes, she recommends breaking the rules. Every grammar bully should read this book.

“Craft enables art.” Learn how to bring deeper understanding to your craft. Le Guin goes beyond the mechanics and execution and shows you how to elevate your writing. On page 46, Le Guin discusses the famous F-word. When will that word strengthen or weaken the prose? When will it trivialize or invalidate? Good advice here. If first person vs. third person, passive voice vs. active voice has you in a jumble, these chapters will set you straight. What is “pathetic fallacy”? What is the skeleton of a sentence?

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Do you know the difference between story and plot? When I think of all the writing I’ve done over the past 20 years in fiction, the difference between story and plot is always a fascination and so important to understand.  Is story plot? Is story action? Aristotle addressed it and so did E.M. Forster in Aspects of the Novel (1927): This is the famous example of the King and the Queen. In Chapter 9, Le  Guin gives us a counterweight opinion.

Le Guin says “The story is not in the plot, but in the telling. It is the telling that moves.”

Le Guin’s Steering the Craft is a “story boat, magical, and knows its course. You, as writer, will help it find its own way to wherever it’s going.” Come aboard!

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Ursula Kroeber Le Guin is an American author: novels, children’s books, and short stories. She writes science fiction and fantasy. She has won the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards.

 

If you are interested in learning more about Le Guin’s thinking about breaking the rules of writing, see About Writing, On Rules of Writing from her website: http://www.ursulakleguin.com/AboutWriting13-OnRulesofWriting.html [Photo credit: Copyright © by Marian Wood Kolisch].

Paris Review, The Art of Fiction, interview with Ursula Le Guin.

Famous quote: “Listening is not a reaction, it is a connection. Listening to a conversation or a story, we don’t so much respond as join in — become part of the action.”

 

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

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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 book on my list to review is

How to Write Like Chekhovedited by Piero Brunello and Lena Leneek.

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A Wave of Whispers, Truman Capote Style

Miriam by Truman Capote (1945)

 Tuesday’s Tale of Terror,  December 29, 2015

Let’s bring in the New Year with a ghost story. Or is this really a ghost story?

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Mrs. H.T. Miller lives alone, a routine and dull life since her husband passed away. She’s gray-haired and friendless, smokes occasionally, and has a pet canary named Tommy. One night, with nothing to do she goes to the movies. There, Mrs. Miller meets a little girl named Miriam.

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Mrs. Miller offered a peppermint. “What’s your name, dear?”

 “Miriam,” she said, as though, in some curious way, it were information already familiar.

 “Why, isn’t that funny—my name’s Miriam, too. And it’s not a terribly common name either. Now, don’t tell me your last name’s Miller!”

 “Just Miriam.”

 “But isn’t that funny?”

 “Moderately,” said Miriam, and rolled a peppermint on her tongue.

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It snows all week. Mrs. Miller loses track of time in her empty days, until one night the doorbell rings persistently and sends Mrs. Miller into a panic. She opens the door.

“Hello,” says Miriam. “I’ve waited so long, you could at least let me in.”

No sugar ‘n spice here. Try sinister n’ saucy.  There are roses and almonds and a beautiful French doll. And a child who won’t go away.

Author Truman Capote is well-known for his darker tales; most readers know his most famous book In Cold Blood. While some readers might read Miriam as a ghost story, others will find it dreamy with psychological aspects: grief and abandonment themes or self-reflection and disappointment struggles … or a woman gone mad. Once you read this very short story, and enter Capote’s uncertain and eerie world of Mrs. Miller … you’ll know.

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Miriam won an O.Henry Award in 1946, and was one of Capote’s first short stories. He was known as the “tiny terror” and a childhood friend of author Harper Lee.

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[Truman at 23 years old. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Van Vechten Collection, Reproduction number LC-USZ62-118429 DLC. WikiCommons.]

 

Read the short story Miriam at LiteraryFictions.com.

Watch the 12-minute film (posted by YeseniaBaygorriaH). Produced by Rowena Riley and Lilianna Greenfield-Sanders.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/b9Z7xMQPKmM“>

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine     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

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

Happy New Year to all my blog followers here!

This blog was viewed 15,000 times in 2015, spanning visitors from 118 countries,

with over 200 followers.

All time views since 2012 is just shy of 40,000. Thank you!

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Blood and Thunder Tales

A Long and Fatal Love Chase by A.M. Barnard (published in 1995)

The Mysterious Key  by L.M. Alcott (1866)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    June 23, 2015

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If you are not familiar with the term “blood and thunder tales,” it famously refers to Louisa May Alcott’s thriller short stories, which she wrote under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard. Most Concord literary fans are acquainted with Alcott’s darker side of fiction, sensational adventures that were published in magazines to support her family’s income. The historical value, of course, is one of the attractions, but these stories are quite entertaining (with vintage melodrama) and crisply written.

Louisa May Alcott bedroom and study, Concord, MA Orchard House

Louisa May Alcott bedroom and study, Concord, MA Orchard House

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It’s well known that Alcott wrote with both left and right hands—perhaps an insight to the two sides of her creativity. Not only was this American literary icon skilled in writing about domestic  adventures in Little Women, but she wasn’t shy about psychological suspense and Gothic mystery.

The Mysterious Key is family intrigue. A locked room that is thought to be haunted, a sudden death, romance, a blind girl, and secrets.

Read The Mysterious Key here at Gutenberg.org.

 

You can read more of Alcott’s blood and thunder tales and other short stories at Gutenberg.org.  Pauline’s Passion and Punishment; The Abbot’s Ghost; Behind A Mask or A Woman’s Power.

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A Long and Fatal Love Chase begins with this line “I often feel as if I’d gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom.”  Murder, a deal with the devil, an obsessive lover, and a Catholic priest.  Published in 1996.  Available on Amazon.

 

 

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A Whisper in the Dark. Published in 2015. Available on Amazon.

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Here is what Boston publisher James T. Fields said to Louisa May Alcott in 1853. “Stick to your teaching, Miss Alcott. You can’t write.”

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In 1855 her first published book was Flower Fables. Little Women was published in 1868 and became an instant best seller followed by Little Men in 1871. She wrote over fifty works of short stories, novels, and plays.

Alcott died at the age of 55, just two days after her father died in 1888.

 

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