Deal Me In Lunar Extra ~ “A Journey”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

I was very indecisive when picking my Deal Me in Stories, so I added an extra “Lunar” twist.
For each full moon, I’ll be reading a horror story written by a woman. (I’m a day early this month. ;) )

“A Journey” by Edith Wharton

Card picked: A Three

From: The Greater Inclination, available for free at Amazon & Project Gutenberg

Thoughts: The physical titular journey is a train trip from Colorado to New York. Our travelers are a young wife and her very sick husband. They had moved to Colorado for his health, but the change in climate hasn’t helped.

On one hand, the woman is relieved to be leaving a place she didn’t care for and returning to her old life and friends. On the other hand, this means that her husband won’t be getting better and will soon die. The illness has been terrible, robbing them both of strength and youth. When her husband dies a day away from their destination, she doesn’t tell anyone for fear that she and her husband’s corpse will be put off the train.

Wharton writes the character of the wife in a very neutral way. She could be very unsympathetic as she contemplates the sacrifices she’s made in vain, but instead I can understand her concerns. She’s been defined by her place in society, first as a woman and then as a wife. Now, there is an uncertainty in her life she could have never predicted. I’m reminded of the character of Eleanor Vance in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Eleanor is relieved when her ill and demanding mother dies, but also feels deeply guilty about being relieved.

“The Journey”also felt rather Hitchcockian to me. The woman is keenly aware of being watched  and judged during the entire trip. It only gets worse when she’s keeping an actual secret from them all.

About the Author: I’ll admit it, I’ve tried several times to read The Age of Innocence and have never made it to the halfway point despite adoring the movie and enjoying Ethan Frome. I haven’t read many of Wharton’s short works/ghost stories.

I chose this story via Paula Cappa post about it last year.

What Else in February


What Else Did I Read?

Wow, the only non-Deal Me In/Gothic Reading Challenge short story that I read in February was Ray Bradbury’s “The Burning Man.” With its dust and sun, it was a nice contrast to winter weather, even Arizona winter weather. Jay @ Bibliophilopolis read it for his Lunar Extra and, since I have that anthology, I figured I’d give it a read too.

It was a pretty light reading month all in all. Due to more writing? I suppose, maybe.

Writing Work

With weekly updates, no need to rehash what I’m writing on a monthly basis!

Other Life Stuff

From the perspective of January 26th, it seemed like the first of February was going to be a very busy day. New Year Fest was scheduled for that weekend and Eric & I were invited to a Superbowl party for the afternoon. For me, that would have been a lot of people in one day. Sadly/happily, New Year Fest was rained out and, instead, I enjoyed a nice low-key party amid people I like and haven’t seen much of lately.

In other disc news, Spring League is well under way. I like my team. We play well when we play well. The season is somewhat abbreviated which is a shame.

The other thing taking my time is a Python class via Coursera. The title of the course is Programming for Everybody. It’s pretty low level. The first four weeks have been easy; we’ll see how the rest goes.

Writerly Writing ~ Update #3

What a crappy, backsliding week.

This past week, I didn’t Write First or Write Again. Therefore, 3000 words did not get written.

I managed 1354. Which wasn’t the worst week in February even though it had two days of no words written.

I could blame lack of sleep. I’ve been in one of those bad sleep stretches which hasn’t been helped by my noisy neighbors. I could blame having other work to do. I’ve been reading through Eric’s first completed draft of PHYSICa. I could blame a bad mood, but my bad mood was probably a result of not getting much done. (For example, I sat down this morning to write, banged out 500+ words, and I feel much better about the world.) I need to work on getting out of my funk more quickly.

This morning was pretty good. A nice reset before Monday.

Deal Me In, Week 9 ~ “The Tears of Squonk”


Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Tears of Squonk, and What Happened Thereafter” by Glen David Gold

Card picked: Three of Clubs

From: McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, edited by Michael Chabon


“The Tears of Squonk” is the sad tale of the Nash Family Circus. Under the utterly honest leadership of Ridley Nash (he inwardly winces when referred to as “Colonel” Nash since he never served in the military), the ragtag circus had traveled the US for 23 years before ending up in Olson, Tennessee in March of 1916. Olson is a quiet railroad town. Gold assures us “it was not at all a place for murder.”

Squonk is Joseph Bales, a European-educated clown and the trainer of Mary the Elephant. Mary and Squonk are the circus’s main draw, though Bales has always warned that Mary hates horses. Horses will send her into a frenzy. And this is exactly what happens when Mary spots Timothy Phelps atop his horse as the circus parades through Olson. Mary attacks and kills Phelps rather gruesomely. The town wants justice and Bales has a suggestion: hang Mary using the railroad yard’s derrick.

Nash knows his circus is pretty much sunk without Mary. In fact, he still owes $6500 on his purchase of Squonk and Mary’s contract. He also knows that this is the only thing he can possibly do to make things right with the town. They hang Mary the Elephant and Bales disappears.

The Nash Circus continues to limp along, but Ridley Nash is a changed man. He’s subtly less honest–he doesn’t even protest when the seal trainer, his newest act, insists that his charges are college educated. Nash heads to California alone to scout out new acts and is approached by an ex-railway detective. Mary and Bales may not have been who they seemed to be. Was Mary an insane elephant? Or was she just the tool of an evil man?

This story is based on a bizarre true event. Mary was an elephant who attacked and killed an inexperienced trainer during a parade through Kingsport, TN in 1916. The circus owner, Charlie Sparks, decided that public execution was the solution and Mary was hung in the Clinchfield Railroad yard. This might only be considered folklore if not for a photograph of the event. (via Wikipedia)

Previously: Carter Beats the Devil was one of my top reads a couple years back and a story by Glen David Gold was definitely a reason this anthology caught my eye. Gold seems to have a talent for setting historical fiction slightly askew to reality, which I really envy.

Review ~ The Writing Dead

This book was provided to me by University Press of Mississippi via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Writing Dead: Talking Terror with TV’s Top Horror Writers by Thomas Fahy

Cover via Goodreads

The Writing Dead features interviews with the writers of today’s most frightening and fascinating shows. They include some of television’s biggest names—Carlton Cuse (Lost and Bates Motel), Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies), David Greenwalt (Angel and Grimm), Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead, The Terminator series, Aliens, and The Abyss), Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica), Brian McGreevy (Hemlock Grove), Alexander Woo (True Blood), James Wong (The X-Files, Millennium, American Horror Story, and Final Destination), Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files and Millennium), Richard Hatem (Supernatural, The Dead Zone, and The Mothman Prophecies), Scott Buck (Dexter), Anna Fricke (Being Human), and Jim Dunn (Haven).

The Writing Dead features thought-provoking, never-before-published interviews with these top writers and gives the creators an opportunity to delve more deeply into television horror than anything found online. In addition to revealing behind-the-scene glimpses, these writers discuss favorite characters and story lines and talk about what they find most frightening. They offer insights into the writing process reflecting on the scary works that influenced their careers. And they reveal their own personal fascinations with the genre.  (via Goodreads)

This book of interviews has a great pedigree. If you’ve watched any “horror” television in the last 15 years, you’ve seen these writers at work. Unfortunately, the last 10 years has been hard on some of the periodicals, like Starlog and Fangoria, that often provided fans with this sort of longer form interviews. Thomas Fahy works from a certain set of questions (such as “What do you think are some of the biggest pitfalls in horror writing?” and “What is the best criticism that you’ve received as a writer?”) as well as asking more project- and writer-specific questions.

A few observations:

Many of these writers had very little “genre” experience before working on their horror show. Most rely on really good characters to carry them through. One of the exceptions is Brian Fuller (executive producer/writer of Hannibal and creator of Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me). Fuller’s interview was  the primary reason I requested this ARC. Fuller gives a lot of props to the horror literature and movie canon that has gone before him, something I was surprised to find lacking in many of the other interviews.

(Personally, I think Fuller is doing some of the best work in horror TV at the moment. I was also sad that his Mockingbird Lane didn’t get a mention.)

One thing that many of these TV projects have in common is that they are based on previously existing sources (examples Hannibal, True Blood, Dexter, Bates Motel). One of the great things Fahy asks each of these writers is how they deal with, as  Carlton Cuse puts it, “the long shadow” of the earlier work. Cuse, for example points out that Bates Motel removes itself from Psycho by setting what is technically a prequel in a modern setting, which is chronologically after the movie and its sequels.

I was amused by how many writers dodged the question of the best criticism they’ve gotten in their careers.

Publishing info, my copy: University Press of Mississippi, ARC, PDF copy. The Kindle version of this document contained wonky formatting. This book will be released on March 3, 2015.
Acquired: NetGalley
Genre: Non-fiction, television & film

Magic Monday ~ The Sphinx, February 1905


I like Mondays. On Monday, I am refreshed from the weekend and exhilarated by the possibilities of the week ahead. I also like magic. I like its history, its intersection with technology, and its crafty use of human nature.  I figured I’d combine the two and make a Monday feature that is truly me: a little bit of magic and a look at the week ahead.

William Ellsworth RobinsonThe English Notes column by Harry Whitley in the February 1905 edition of The Sphinx covered one of the seminal wizard wars of the 20th century: the squabble between Ching Ling Foo and Chung Ling Soo. Ching Ling Foo, a magician actually from China, wanted to expose Chung Ling Soo (William Robinson) to be a fraud. The press was less interested in that story and more interested in a head-to-head talent battle between the “Oriental” magicians. Though Ching Ling Foo had previously suggested such a contest, he failed to appear for the showdown.

Two notes:

I’m not the only one to often scramble these names. The event is retold twice in this issue of The Sphinx, but the first time the feud is between Ching Ling Foo and Chung Ling Loo though all the other details are the same. I don’t find any info on Chung Ling Loo, though Englishman Stanley Collins does take the performing name of Loo Sing in 1905.

Second, Wikipedia notes that Ching Ling Foo’s engagement at the Empire Theater lasts only four weeks and Chung Ling Soo remains at the Hippodrome for three months [1]. The implication that the stunt hurt Ching Ling Foo. Whitley notes:

The great Chinaman, Ching Ling Foo, also opened at the Empire, but his show contains nothing new or original, and his company of artists have a better reception than he has. [2]

  2. Whitley, Harry. “English Notes.” The Sphinx, Vol. 3 No. 12, February 1905, pg. 154


What Am I Reading?

I did a silly thing last week and picked up Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. I probably wouldn’t have if she wouldn’t have started it in Pound Hall. I lived in Pound Hall! I’ve also promised Eric that I’d read PHYSICa this week. Dead Wake is on the back burner.

What Am I Writing?

I didn’t get to my Writerly Writing update yesterday. Last week went well-ish. I wrote 3600 words. Didn’t do any rewrites, and started about half dozen scenes. I suppose I’ll have to finish one or two of those this week. The current plan is still going well. Starting in March, I might add a monthly goal in addition to my daily and weekly goals (300 words & 3000 words).

On the Blog

  • Review of The Writing Dead
  • Review-a-thon? Maybe.

So, what are you reading? Any magic to share?