It’s that time for ghoulish, haunting and frightening stories. Here are some that always give me the chills.
Ghost Story – Peter Straub
The first time I read this book was back around 1980 (it first came out in 1979) and I will never forget it. I’d had a couple of nerve-racking, ghostly experiences and was very open to the possibility of other-worldy beings. What am I saying? I still am. Anyway, reading in bed, alone, not only could I not put the book down, I grabbed all the garlic I could find in the kitchen to ward off the evil spirits I became convinced were trying to penetrate my psyche.
Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill
Whether you’re a fan of Stephen King or not, this story by his son Joe will convince you that bizarre and freaky run in the family. It’s the story of a man who collects macabre memorabilia but gets more than he bargains for when he buys a dead man’s suit on the internet.
The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
You’ll know Edith Wharton for such classic novels as Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence. You may not know that she penned a number of ghost stories. Wharton, who died in 1937, wrote her supernatural tales for publication in magazines of the day, but you can read The Lady’s Maid’s Bell, The Eyes and other ghastly creations in this finely wrought collection.
“No matter how long you’ve been at it, you’ll always start from scratch.”
Recently I came across that quote from Jeffrey Eugenides. You may know him for his book, Middlesex, one of Oprah’s featured readings. That’s not why I’ve put it here, though.
As an author it struck me that’s true not only for every book, but for every chapter; even every word. I mean, consider this snippet from the beginning of my first Elka Dahl, private eye series, Deceit:
…the prostitute put her lips to the man’s ear and his head whipped around, eyes searching the darkness where she cowered. He grinned, then his mouth opened wide in full-throated laughter, and that’s when the blonde snatched open the door and bolted back inside.
What if I’d written this instead?:
…the prostitute put her lips to the man’s ear and his head whipped around, eyes searching the darkness where she stood firm. He gasped, then his mouth opened wide in a full-throated roar, and that’s when the blonde slammed the door and strode toward him.
Do you see what I mean? One change of word and I have to start from scratch again – it changes the whole story. That’s why I love words; they’re so incredibly powerful. And I’m really mindful of that in my books…and in my life.
This pretty much sums everything up.