For anyone interested in horror writing, this is a list published about a decade ago by the Horror Writers Association of must-reads in order to familiarize oneself with the genre. I must admit I have only read about a third of this list. It’s subjective, of course. I would definitely add Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Peter Straub and others. Shirley Jackson definitely belongs here, particularly and most egregiously since the list features only one woman, albeit in the most important, lead-off position. Hope this is stimulating, at least.
I’d like to offer a warm word of thanks to the very civilized folks at online literary journal “Bewildering Stories.” They’ve been friendly and communicative with me since generously agreeing to publish my very long story, “The Yellow Man.”
On top of that, their panel of review editors have granted me the further honor of including “The Yellow Man” in the latest quarterly edition of “Bewildering Stories,” their second such installment for 2016. Check it out: Bewildering Stories’ Second Quarterly Review of 2016.
If you haven’t read “The Yellow Man” yet, please do so, and let me know what you think. If you have read it, now’s your chance to enjoy some of the other eclectic offerings at “Bewildering Stories.”
From “The Yellow Man” by Philip Ivory:
“All you have to do is lift up that circle in the middle of the floor. Do you see it? And then go down there, under the floor, and get something. You’ll know it when you see it.”
Indeed, there was a circle in the concrete of the floor, about the size and shape of a manhole, and it seemed to be moving slightly.
That wasn’t right.
“No,” said Allan.
His heart was racing. Something about the circle made him uneasy. All his instincts told him to stay clear of it. When he tried to understand why, it just made the fear worse.
“You have to,” said the Yellow Man. “Or things will never get better.”
My first published novelette, “The Yellow Man,” is now available courtesy of the venerable online journal, “Bewildering Stories.” CLICK HERE to read it now. (Because of its length, the story’s been broken, like a dark wizard’s soul, into seven horcrux-like parts, all of which are now available to read.)
“The Yellow Man” is a puzzle box of a tale, dealing with childhood loneliness, identity and the shadow world between life and death. You may find it a bit sad and scary — but perhaps also touching and surprising.
For those interested in such distinctions, a novelette — something more than a story and something less than a novella — is a piece of fiction landing somewhere between 7,500 words to 17,500 words.
This is by far the longest piece I’ve had published yet. I’ve written one other novelette, yet unpublished, that’s about the same length as this one. And I presently have a novel in the works, but it will be a while before that one’s ready for public consumption.
“The Yellow Man” began last year in my advanced class at Writers Studio Tucson. My thanks to WS teacher Renee Bibby and my fellow class members for their encouragement and feedback, which were essential to this tale’s development.
“Bewildering Stories,” which features quite a dazzling smorgasbord of prose and poetry that you really should check out, has also posted an author profile about me. CLICK HERE to see it.
Please read “The Yellow Man,” and post your reactions here on the blog. Your feedback means everything to me.
Thanks for reading!
From “On Hyacinth Mountain” by Philip Ivory
He came across a boy, perhaps eight, blondish, crouched, examining ants in the dirt.
“Hello,” said Bradford.
Not looking up, the boy said: “They’re taking it apart.” Bradford leaned in to see a grasshopper, still writhing as ants partitioned chunks off to carry away.
“Are your parents here?”
“You think you’re smart. You shouldn’t have come back,” said the boy in a glum sulky tone. “One time too many.”
I’m pleased to announce that my story, “On Hyacinth Mountain,” has been published in the May 2016 issue of “Devolution Z” magazine.
“Devolution Z” is subtitled “The Horror Magazine,” which should give you a clue that “On Hyacinth Mountain” comes from the grimmer, scarier end of the story spectrum.
So yes, the story’s a bit grisly and depraved but, I hope, not bereft of literary quality.
I developed the story last fall while taking the Advanced Class at Tucson Writers Studio, taught by Renee Bibby. Renee and my fellow students provided excellent feedback to help me deepen the story. I only began sending it out in April and, after a rejection or two, “Devolution Z”‘s acceptance came rather quickly.
Sorry, this time you’ll have to buy the magazine to read the story. Follow the link to Devolution Z, which will take you to Amazon where you can order either a digital version for Kindle ($2.99) or a print copy ($6.99 cheap!).
It’s the first time a story of mine will be available on Kindle or in a physical publication, so I couldn’t be more excited. I’m really grateful to the dark, twisted minds at “Devolution Z” for welcoming me into their fearsome fold.
Two of my other fiction pieces continue to be on the schedule for publication in “Bewildering Stories” and “Mystic Illuminations.” I’ll let you know when they go online.
If you get a chance to read “On Hyacinth Mountain,” I’d love to hear your comments, so feel free to share here on the blog. Thanks, and don’t read it with the lights out!
Recently, the World of Horror blog held a cool challenge: Write a horror story in only two sentences. Well, a winner was chosen and it wasn’t me …. but my entry is below, just for the fun of it. After you read my entry, go and check out the others including the winner on World of Horror.
After having, in rage, bludgeoned Janie with a hammer until she’d finally staggered and fallen, he had then dragged her sticky, unmoving form to the woods, and was now grimly patting down the rocky soil that covered her in the grave he had dug with the shovel. Reaching for his phone to check the time, he found his pocket empty, and stood as still as death as he heard the eerie beep-beep-beep of a cell being dialed, the sound rising up from below the cold stony ground at his feet.
Source: Challenge! | World of Horror
“It came from the woods. Most strange things do.”
— from “Through the Woods” by Emily Carroll
As someone who likes moody gothic horror, I was drawn to Emily Carroll’s graphic novel “Through the Woods,” which offers five beautifully, gloomily illustrated tales.
These deliciously doom-laden confections are united by a preoccupation with the shadowy, often predatory and unwholesome things that come out of … and sometimes venture into … that most primordial and archetypal of locales: the woods. The pictorial style is pastoral, vaguely 19th century, sometimes rich with color; sometimes a subdued monochrome scene is enlivened by jarring swathes of red, as if an artery had opened out of the black ink of the page.
As a side note, I’m not a voracious reader of graphic novels. I dip into them occasionally. I’ve read a few significant ones such as Art Spiegelman’s unforgettable memoir of Holocaust survival, “Maus,” but I’m far from an expert.
I know that reviewing a graphic novel means you can’t approach it purely on a literary basis. You have to look at it as a package, a literary and visual experience in which the words and pictures go hand in hand, often with the pictorial component staking the greatest claim for our admiration and attention.
This might sound obvious, but I put it in writing as a reminder to myself: Don’t just talk about the words. Talk about the pictures! (In college, I got an A minus on a paper written for a music appreciation class about Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” The “A” part was because the teacher said my paper was well written. The minus was because I stayed in my comfort zone and wrote almost exclusively about the narrative elements. The teacher, whose grading was perhaps generous considering it was indeed a music course, commented: “You hardly said anything about the music.”)
“It was a tall man in a wide-brimmed hat, with a smile that showed all his teeth.
Back to “Through the Woods.” It begins with a tale, “Our Neighbor’s House,” about three sisters left to fend for themselves in an isolated house when their father goes off hunting. An ominous visitor, a tall man in a wide-brimmed hat “with a smile that showed all his teeth,” comes calling in the night, seeking out each of the sisters in turn.
A riff on the “Beauty and the Beast” motif follows in the form of “A Lady’s Hands are Cold.” (Carroll has a gift for titles that put a chill in the atmosphere from the start.) A young bride. A magnificent, lonely castle. A brooding mysterious groom, cold, handsome and remote. And a grisly secret hidden in the walls that suggests this young bride is not the first young beauty to grace this imposing home, and not the first to be wed to its master.
“She told her of the man-shaped thing that lurked in the cellar of her childhood home. How its bone-white face, with its piano key teeth and burnt-out eyes, would peer up from the bottom of the steps.”
“His Face All Red” is a story about brothers. One is shy, retiring, lacking in confidence. The other is handsome outgoing, blessed with a splendid cottage, a comely wife, and the respect and admiration of all in the village. Together, the two hunt the beast that is terrorizing the village. But what really happens? And why, afterward, is the popular brother glimpsed hanging out at the village pub … when he is supposed to be dead?
“My Friend Janna” is a young lady with, seemingly, a psychic gift … but her loyal companion Yvonne is the one who can really see spirits. Is the one she sees hovering over Janna a blessing … or a deadly curse?
In “The Nesting Place,” Bell, grieving for her mother, comes to live with her brother and his bride, a tall and elegant beauty named Rebecca. But Rebecca is not all she seems … or perhaps she is something more. Her secret has to do with things that squirm and crawl in a cave in the woods. Things that Bell overhears Rebecca talking lovingly to.
“There are wolves circling in the dark.”
The stories are united by themes of jealousy, distrust, familial loss and bitterness. All paths lead to and from the woods. There, wreathed in the fetid damps of the tree-choked forest, Carroll unveils the darkness of the human heart.
Carroll’s gift for character delineation is impressive. Sometimes they are dashing, full of life. More often, they are sulky, lumpy and non-prepossessing. Our attention is arrested by odd, disquieting details. Why does Bell walk with a brace? (Well, why shouldn’t she?) All of these characters are unique, living, breathing individuals. None will be deterred from the grim little journey destiny has mapped out for him/her.
Is this a novel, or a series of horror comics tied together with a thematic bow? The endings are not as twisty and pungent as the best of “The Twilight Zone,” certainly not assumption altering like “The Sixth Sense.” Rather than lean strongly on a sense of narrative resolution, they leave us feeling uncertain, haunted by questions and disquieting visuals that gnaw at the memory.
The images linger on. A grinning white face peering from a cellar’s dark recesses. Three sisters stretched out in a stuporous languor on a living room rug. A woman’s face transformed into … or is it revealed to be? … a sea of red spaghetti-like strands and teeth. Disembodied lupine eyes and fangs hovering in darkness outside the frame of a child’s window.
The woods, with its wicked secrets, awaits your pleasure.