Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Why Ghost Stories Persist

In THE NEW YORK TIMES Book Review, an essay by Parul Sehgal was published Oct. 22, 2018. The topic is  appropriate for Halloween: Why the ghost story persists. I found a lot of thoughtful comments and information in this piece and recommend it.

Sehgal observes: “Literature — the top-shelf, award-winning stuff — is positively ectoplasmic these days, crawling with hauntings, haints and wraiths of every stripe and disposition.” I myself have found much more of a demand for stories with a supernatural edge than those set in the verisimilitude of reality. Maybe people are looking for psychological escapes from the real world more than ever.

Many of the classics of literature such as Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw” or Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House” provide us with eerie ghost stories. Today’s ghost stories vary. They may be written in the classic mold or entirely unique. They may reflect our modern society or hearken back to the past. Sehgal observes: “ghost stories are never just reflections. They are social critiques…” 
He further observes that ghosts in the modern American novel protest the norms of social injustice. I don’t entirely agree with his statement.

However, in my novel DARK MOON RISING, there are two ghosts, women from two different centuries who haunt the family home of the men who wronged them. These ghosts seek justice via revenge.

Some of my ghost stories have been published in various anthologies and magazines. The ghosts remain earthbound because of unfinished business in their lives.

Sehgal comments that ghost stories are often drenched in sex and violence. But obviously that is not the only thing that makes them appealing to readers. I think that one strong appeal of ghost stories is the suggestion that there is life after death. What is your opinion? Also, are there any ghost stories that particularly have appeal to you?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Real History of Halloween

Ever wonder what the real deal is concerning this holiday? The paranormal aura and mystique surrounding Halloween connects to a series of beliefs, traditions and superstitions. What is the actual origin of Halloween?  It appears to date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.  By Celts we refer to the people who lived approximately 2,000 years ago in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrating their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer harvest and the beginning of dark, cold winter, a time of year often associated with human death.
Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, believing that ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future.  The Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

During these celebrations, Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they put out earlier that evening. This symbolic lighting was done from the sacred bonfire to serve as a protection during the coming winter.
By 43 A.D., the Romans had conquered a majority of Celtic territory. During the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.
By the 800’s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 as All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. The pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in 1000 A.D., the church designated November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils.
Tales of the supernatural are ever popular during the Halloween season. Black Opal Books recently published WITCH WISH, my YA novel with a supernatural twist. If you are a teenager or have one in the family, you might like to order this book:
This follows THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, available in 
all e-books as well as print.


Also available, DARK MOON RISING, Gothic romantic suspense from Luminosity for adult reading, available in all e-book formats and print as well.

Are there any books that you consider good Halloween reading choices? If so, please share with us.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

What Scares Us?

What are we most afraid of? According to the Answers Issue of TIME MAGAZINE, most Americans’ biggest personal fear—even more than public speaking—is walking alone at night. That would certainly rank up there for me. Do you feel the same?

In honor of Halloween, it seems only fitting to write on the subject of horror fiction. Why do readers want to read it? When people talk about horror fiction, they might let out an involuntary shudder. However, horror fiction isn’t just about the gruesome. It’s not just about the supernatural, ghosts, goblins, ghouls, gremlins, etc. No, it’s really about what we fear, what we dread most. These things may be ordinary, like a pit bull off the leash running toward us, or extraordinary, like meeting a vampire in a neighborhood bar at midnight. We have fears that are both usual and the unusual.

Horror fiction will not be going away any time soon because it is human nature to feel fear as an emotion. Horror fiction helps us handle these feelings, helps us confront our terrors, those within us and those in the environment around us. I have read Dean Koontz and Stephen King, Anna Rice and many writers of occult mystery and romance fiction with interest.

My adult novel DARK MOON RISING is a Gothic romance that features female ghosts from different centuries who haunt male members of an aristocratic family. The novel combines romance, mystery, suspense and paranormal horror. As I wrote some of the chapters, I confess I actually frightened myself.

                 My latest YA novel WITCH WISH has a supernatural edge.

THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, my prior YA, has a Faustian theme.


THE BAD WIFE, 4th mystery novel in the Kim Reynolds series, also has a paranormal edge. Kim, an academic librarian, is a reluctant clairvoyant who has visions which cause her to both solve and prevent crime.

Back to my initial question: what scares us? Global warming has me seriously concerned. It was the impetus for my novella THE BURNING which deal with the suffering experienced by a family and an entire community due to a coal fire burning underground. It’s reality based.

The New York Times recently published information on climate
change which supports the inferences of my factional fiction:

What are your thoughts and opinions? What frightens you?

Friday, October 5, 2018

Interview with Andrew MacRae, Publisher of Darkhouse Books

I have the pleasure of interviewing Andrew MacRae who has published numerous short stories, mostly in the crime and science fiction genres, and two novels, Murder Misdirected and Murder Miscalculated, both about a reformed pickpocket who keeps getting into trouble. A misplaced Midwesterner, he now lives in Northern California.
 As editor-in-chief at Darkhouse Books, Andrew has edited anthologies of stories, essays, and poetry, including Black Coffee, Stories from the Near-Future, Descansos. and The Anthology of Cozy-NoirDarkhouse Books’ fall releases are Sanctuary, Duck Lessons, and Shhhh… Murder!

Question: What is the title and genre of your most recent anthology?  Why did you select them?

Answer:ShhhhMurder!” Mostly-cozy crimes set in and around libraries. As for how stories were selected, I am easily seduced by a story with a great opening and with an ending to match. With regard to this anthology, we looked for stories that (mostly) celebrate libraries and librarians.

Question:   What inspired this book? How did it come about?

Answer: Date-stamp ink runs in my family’s blood, and libraries have always been our second home. Besides, what better setting for cozy mysteries?

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published books?

Answer:  We have close to twenty titles available now. They are mostly crime fiction anthologies and novels, along with a smattering of science fiction titles. We have recently added a literary side to Darkhouse Books with two anthologies, Descansos and Sanctuary, as well as a collection of short stories by James LeCuyer, and two collections of poetry due out in a few months.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  Developing themes and timelines for our next anthologies. There’s a surprising amount of planning that must go into such. We are also devising a strategy for publishing novellas, either as three to a book, or standalone.

Question:   What made you start publishing?

Answer:  The confluence of the invention of print-on-demand paperback printing and the widespread acceptance of eBook readers allowed me to fulfill a life-long dream, one that began with a toy rotary printer in the fifth grade.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing?

Answer: To paraphrase Robert Heinlein: Keep writing. Don’t stop writing until your story is done. Then send it out and keep sending it out until your story is published.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your book?

Answer:  (buy links)
Our catalog may be found on our website, as a rotating carousel.

Shhhh… Murder! is available now in paperback and eBook format. Bookstores and libraries may order it through their regular vendor, Ingram, via the name or the ISBN number. (978-1-945467-14-1).
Barnes & Noble paperback:
Amazon paperback:

 Andrew is available for questions and comment.