First a little housekeeping..
Thanks to Between Dreams and Reality for the review of Susannah Sandlin’s Storm Force yesterday! Stop by if you get a chance.
I also have an announcement over at my Susannah Sandlin website…Penton 4 has a name! And congrats to Steph F, who was the first one to suggest the name that my editor and I agreed on. It’s perfect for Cage’s story.
Now, please help me welcome my friend Betty Bolté back to Preternatura. Betty’s latest book is Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure, a collection of historical fiction tales based on the lives of 19 girls living in the 1800s in America. These stories were inspired by the fact that each of these girls have a landmark dedicated to them in America as a result of their efforts.
Betty lives on a farm in Tennessee with her husband, three cats, and two dogs, and tons of books. She is also the author of several nonfiction books.. In the works is a contemporary paranormal romantic women’s fiction novel set in a haunted plantation home in Tennessee. By day, she works as a consulting technical editor supporting NASA’s Space Launch System Program. You can learn more about her at her website, on Facebook, on Goodreads or follow her on Twitter (@BettyBolte) or Pinterest. Betty’s also a member of my local (Birmingham) RWA chapter, so give her a warm welcome.
And now let’s hear from Bettty…
Telling tales around a campfire on a chilly fall evening still evokes memories of my childhood. When I was a kid, the thing to do when camping out was to sit around the campfire after dark and try to scare each other with spooky tales. During these infrequent but memorable evenings, the stories ranged from mildly eerie to downright chilling, depending on the teller. I remember one storyteller bringing props to add to the effect.
Once it was a surgical glove, filled with icy water and tied off, which was then passed around so you couldn’t see what it was, telling us it was the hand that had been chopped off in the story. Another time it was cold, slimy marbles in a bag that stood in for the eyes of trespassers.
While I remember the props, I don’t really recall the stories. To me, it wasn’t the actual tale that intrigued but the way the story was told. And even more important, the time with family and friends as we shared our stories together. This early introduction to the spectral and spooky fueled my interest in and desire to write tales with ghosts and the unexplainable.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the original Sherlock Holmes detective stories, wrote an entire book of tales “concerned with the grotesque and with the terrible” which he called Round the Fire Stories. As an undergraduate English major in the mid-1990s, I studied all of his writing, and these stories were the most fun part of that endeavor for me. In fact, it’s telling that I still have the collection in my personal library. This time of year is the perfect time to pull out that book and re-read his first-person tales of the inexplicable. Even the titles intrigue: “The Man with the Watches”; “Playing with Fire”; “The Sealed Room”; and “The Brazilian Cat” to name a few.
Oh, and don’t forget “The Brown Hand” which is about a doctor who promised to keep the severed hand of a man from India until the man died and could be reunited with his hand per religious custom. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the man’s hand but at the time the doctor didn’t feel that it mattered. Until he found himself haunted by the angry man looking for his hand every night. The Indian searched the house, especially the room where other specimens were kept in jars, every night for years, disrupting the doctor’s sleep and causing him to grow increasingly more feeble. Then one night a friend who specializes in the paranormal stays the night, observes the ghost, and determines how to rid the doctor of the haunting. His first attempt fails because the friend provides the wrong hand and that enrages the ghost who attacks and breaks things in the house. The next night the friend tries again, this time with the correct hand. By supplying a “nearly identical” hand from the morgue, the ghost is satisfied and stops haunting the doctor.
When I read a story like this, the first thing that strikes me is that the solution is almost as gruesome as the original ordeal: handling a hand severed from a body. After I stew on that for a few minutes, I rarely want to deeply consider the remaining aspects of the situation. In this case, the array of other body parts and animals kept in preservative in the doctor’s own house. It makes me shudder every time!
How about you? Do you tell spooky tales while making smores around a campfire? What’s your favorite kind of spooky tale?
A little aside:
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Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!
Thanks, Betty. No better way to put us in the Halloween frame of mind–’tis the spooky season, after all. I have honestly never been camping. Never sat around a campfire telling stories, spooky or otherwise. I’m feeling kind of deprived! But I read Stephen King as a teenager, and reading IT scarred me for life–mostly in a good way unless it involves clowns 🙂 Leave a comment to win a box of mystery books (could be a mix of sci fi, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, fantasy, steampunk, historical fantasy, or other genre bender). Minimum three books, but might well be more!