My first Netgalley request! I loved this one. The blurb pitches it as possibly a murder-mystery or paranormal thriller, and it is just that. All the way through you’re left guessing whether the events that pass are caused by people or by ghostly activity.
The whole story centres around the Gustafano House, a notoriously haunted house. At the beginning, a group of teenagers meet to hold a seance here. (This was right up my street as the house I grew up in was rather large, old and had an eerie air about it. Needless to say, seance were involved over the years and instigated my love of the unusual.)
Here’s something to whet your appetite: “The Gustafon house sat in the center of a small clearing, like some kind of silent queen on her throne. The powder blue paint was cracked and peeling, but she still seemed regal. Either Mother Nature seemed subservient to the house. No birds chirped. No squirrels chattered. The trees didn’t rustle their leaves in the breeze…”
The story alternates from narrating what happened at the house in the past with the group of teenagers and the ouija board to the present day, twelve years on when they are still trying to make sense of what happened that night. There is a lot of onus from the paranormal investigator, Pierce about finding scientific proof of ghostly activity, which is balanced by his twin brother’s strong belief that it exists. The play between the two and the other characters in the book mean that you are always left guessing whether to believe or not.
The characters are well crafted, with lots of buried emotions that are teased out as the narrative unfolds. Pierce and Haven’s feelings for one another were explored wonderfully, again retaining the mystery for so long as it was unclear for a while what had passed between them on the night of the seance and then later, how they had left off when they parted ways as teenagers.
I was hooked the whole way and devoured this in one sitting, really not wanting it to end and yet keen to find out how it did.
Relief from a carved funerary lekythos at Athens: Hermes as psychopomp conducts the deceased, Myrrhine, to Hades, ca 430-420 BCE (National Archaeological Museum of Athens).
CC BY 2.5
Thought I’d put a little piece up about some of the great publications I’ve been reading this week. Some discovered through competition submissions and deadlines I’ve completed this week and others just little gems come upon along the way.
Psychopomps magazine had a competition deadline lask week and so I’ve been devouring lots of stories from there past volumes, as well as getting my hands on a hard copy edition that I’ve been wanting a while (the one in question has Lovecraft’s The Shunned House in its, so enjoying the building sense of dread that ensues each time I open the cover). It’s an unusual style and genre in the magazine.Their fee-free submissions window is open until the 15 March, so still time to polish up your weirdest and most wonderful pieces. (Incidentally, a Psychopomp was a guide to the souls of the dead in Ancient Greece so this will give you an idea of its tone).
The other one I’ve subscribed to to take a look at as there’s a fast approaching short story comp. deadline coming up is Mslexia. I was pleasantly surprised with what a lot this magazine has to offer to its fm ale readers: competition listings, interesting articles about self-publishing, guidance on how to foster a writings comunity and keep up motivation in your writing, submissions calls for short stories, poetry and columns where extracts of work are critiqued, as well as a wonderful collection of short stories and poetry all on this month’s theme of ‘monster’.
The last I’ve been reading this week was The Coastal Zoo, a collection of short stories from the Exeter Writers and the prize winning entries from the last 5 years of the Exeter Short Story Competition. Thoroughly enjoyable and when reading the prize winning pieces you are struck by the reoccuring themes. All the work is uniquely beautiful, but you do start to notice a pattern: loneliness, love and loss time and time again.
Well, off to read some more dreadfully frightening stories!