What Else In September

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Writing Work

Finally hit the 20K mark on In Need of Luck. I did the arithmetic last night and realized that if I want to finish an 80K draft by the end of the year, I need to write 660-925 words a day, depending on whether I take weekends off. I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo because it just hasn’t worked out well for me the last few years. But, maybe the extra excitement would be a good thing. I’ll see how October goes.

Other Life Stuff

September has been cooler, but I’m totally ready for winter. Phoenix, AZ winter, that is.

We spent a long weekend in Omaha a few weeks ago. On one hand, I’m not a fan of being over-scheduled, and going to Omaha requires a certain number of things to be done. On the other hand, the bite-sized trip meant less interruption of schedule for everyone. Maybe we’ll manage to find cheap flights and do that more than once a year.

Fall League is in swing. Eric and I are on Pat and Marlena’s team again. It’s a low-stress team and I’m having fun. At least when my body allows me too. I bailed at halftime during the last game. So much of me ached and I had no energy. Luckily, all our ladies were in attendance and I left the game in better hands than mine.

Online, I’m trying hard not to do All The Things and save more energy for writing and reading and general living. October is a busy month in my corner of the internet. It’s been hard saying “no” to myself when I want to sign up for everything that sounds fun.

Deal Me In, Week 39 ~ “The Hand Puppet”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Hand Puppet” by Joyce Carol Oates

Card picked: Eight of Clubs

From: David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible

Comments: I wasn’t going to claim Deal Me In stories for R.I.P. XI because they’re random picks from anthologies that aren’t necessarily going to guarantee the required “peril.” The last two weeks though? Tales of the Impossible has taken a dark turn. I’m not complaining.

How strangeness enters our lives.

Lorraine Lake’s life suddenly feels strange. Her daughter Tippi, an unpopular eleven-year-old, has secretly built a gray, malformed puppet and developed a coarse voice and personality to go with it. Lorraine had hoped Tippi would grow out of ventriloquism, but doesn’t feel like she should discourage her daughter’s interest, no matter how uncomfortable it makes Lorraine. Lorraine is keeping a secret of her own–an appointment with a gynecologist, a follow-up concerning a tumor in her uterus. She avoids telling anyone for fear of distressing anyone with something that might turn out to be nothing. During the pelvic examination, Lorraine no longer feels like herself. “Someone makes me speak, too–”

In many ways, this is a story about aging and the passage of time. At some point, we all look at our lives and think, “How the hell did I get HERE?” We all make concessions to what’s expected of us. Near the end of the story, after she is told that she will have to have a hysterectomy, Lorraine thinks back about the young athletic woman she used to be and hears in her head the voice of Tippi’s puppet, a harbinger of mortality if ever there was one.

About the Author: Joyce Carol Oates is one of those writers that has totally tricked the literary establishment into acknowledging “genre” stories. She is the author I want to point out to every English professor who is grumpy and disapproving of speculative fiction proclivities. National Book Award? She’s got one. Norman Mailer Prize? She’s got that too. And, oh yeah, a couple Bram Stoker Awards and a World Fantasy Award. (Among over a dozen other awards…)

What I’m Doing and Not Doing in October

Continue reading “What I’m Doing and Not Doing in October”

R.I.P. IX Update #2 ~ Three Perilous Tales

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A quick round-up of three perilous tales that I recently read during my trip to Omaha a couple of weekends ago.

“A Burden that Burns” by Tim Prasil – The fifth of the free Vera Van Slyke mysteries, “The Burden that Burns” furthers the characters of Vera and Lida and is somewhat grander in scope than previous stories. It also introduces readers to the advertisement “Help for the Haunted,” the title of the forthcoming anthology. Vera and Lida investigate the property that repeatedly catches on fire. What has caused this pyromaniacal haunting? “A Burden that Burns” is currently still available at Tim Prasil’s site.

Witch's Bone“Between the Darkness and the Dawn” by Paula Cappa – A ghost hunter with a rather unique psychic sensitivity visits Nathanial Hawthorne’s Old Manse and witnesses the melancholic inspiration of one of the author’s tales. This story has a bit of a long wind up. I kind of felt like it could be part of a series of other stories. Still, a good read for R.I.P. “Between the Darkness and the Dawn” is available at Whistling Shade.

“The Witch’s Bone” by W. M. Hager & Cassidy Werner – “The Witch’s Bone” is a nicely constructed tale of witchery with, as far as I can tell, a unique element. This story is the telling of a tale and a lesson that a folklore skeptic cannot walk away from. Available at Amazon.

Review ~ The Broken Hours

This book was provided to me by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd via Edelweiss.
Cover via Goodreads

The Broken Hours by Jacqueline Baker

In the spring of 1936, horror writer H.P. Lovecraft is broke, living alone in a creaky old house, and deathly ill. At the edge of a nervous breakdown, he hires a personal assistant, Arthor Crandle. As the novel opens, Crandle arrives at Lovecraft’s home with no knowledge of the writer or his work but is soon drawn into his distinctly unnerving world: the malevolent presence that hovers on the landing; the ever-shining light from Lovecraft’s study, invisible from the street, and visions in the night of a white-clad girl in the walled garden. Add to this the arrival of a beautiful woman who may not be exactly what she seems, and Crandle is pulled deeper into the strange world of H.P. Lovecraft (a man known to Crandle only through letters, signed “Ech-Pi”), until Crandle begins to unravel the dark secret at its heart.

A brilliantly written, compelling and deeply creepy novel, The Broken Hours is an irresistible literary ghost story.(via Goodreads)

Lately, I’ve noticed a trend toward using speculative fiction authors as characters in novels. This isn’t a new phenomena, really, but it has struck me as more prevalent in the past year. I’ve reviewed two novels with Arthur Conan Doyle as a character and one with Shirley Jackson, all ARCs of works published this year. I’ve avoided many Edgar Allan Poe’s after realizing that he is my sacred cow. No author is going to write him in a way that will please me. Conversely, I have really no such opinion of H. P. Lovecraft. I’ve read a few of his stories and I’m peripherally aware of Cthulhu mythos, but I know little of the author as a man. (I’ve since read a bit about the controversy surrounding Lovecraft, his racism, and his likeness being used as the World Fantasy Award statue.) For me, knowing little about Lovecraft probably made The Broken Hours work better.

The Broken Hours is heavy on atmosphere. Baker starts us off in a cold winter rain storm. Any sun from there on seems purely coincidental. It is the atmosphere that powers this novel. This story is from Crandle’s first person POV. The narrative is dreamy and internal. All the dialogue is set off in italics rather than conventional punctuation, which keeps the story very much within his head. (A note about my ARC: The formatting of paragraphs and italics was occasionally messed up, causing me some problems. I’m sure this will be fixed in the final product.)  Crandle has his own secrets  and his past haunts him as much as the shadows in hallways or the little girl in the garden. There is a twist at the end of this novel that worked well enough, but did not surprise me.

Again, I don’t think familiarity with Lovecraft or his works are necessary in understanding this novel and ignorance may even be a help. There was one allusion, a beached giant squid, that seemed to have really no place in the book. Or maybe it is perfectly placed within the phantasmagoria. There are many aspect of The Broken Hours that don’t go very far, but I didn’t mind. It’s an enjoyable, creepy, seasonal read.

Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Publication date: 9/23/14
Genre: Horror


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Magic Monday ~ Happy Birthday, David P. Abbott!

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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.

Happy Birthday, David P. Abbott!

With Tea Kettle2
With his famous talking tea kettle.

Via WikiPedia:

David Phelps Abbott (1863 – 1934) was a magician, author and inventor who created such effects as the floating ball, later made famous by Okito. The best known of his books is Behind the Scenes with the Mediums (1907) considered to be one of the best exposures of the tricks used by mediums. One exposure being the “spirit portrait paintings” by the Bangs Sisters.

Though well-respected, David Abbott rarely performed in public, preferring instead to give private performances in his home in Omaha, Nebraska. I’ve been on-again/off-again working on a fiction project featuring Mr. Abbott.

Poking around the internet this morning I found that “Fraudulent Spiritualism Unveiled” has been given the LibriVox treatment:

SmallAce

What Am I Reading?

I’ll be finishing The Haunting of Hill House today or tomorrow. On the heels of the Golem of Prague’s cameo in Kavalier & Clay, I decided I wanted to read The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. Fortuitously, it was available via the digital library.

What Am I Writing?

I can’t say I’m burning up the pages, but work on In Need of Luck is going steadily if slowly.

So, what are you reading? Any magic, literal or figurative, to share?

Deal Me In, Week 38 ~ “Just a Little Bug”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Just a Little Bug” by P.D. Cacek

Card picked: Six of Spades

From: David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible

Comments: Well, that was disturbing. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. P.D. Cacek is a Stoker award winning author. I’m not super familiar with her work, but I know the name and I’m sure I’ve read a few of her stories in the past.

Kate’s young daughter Carrie has cancer. When first undergoing diagnosis, the doctor comments that her sickness is probably due to “just a little bug.” To avoid scaring Carrie, the comment turns into a lie –“Don’t worry, we’ll swat that little bug.” In typical kid fashion, as she grows sicker, Carrie becomes more convinced that what’s growing in her chest is not a tumor, but an actual bug. Kate starts to wonder if Carrie’s not wrong.

I’m not sure that adding a horror element on top of something as bad as cancer in a child really works. There’s also a very questionable act on the part of Carrie’s doctor that destroyed the realism that Cacek had otherwise carefully crafted. Still, it was nice to encounter a horror story, a rarity within these Copperfield anthologies.