Ghost Novelette for Christmas Giving: The Canterville Ghost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

With the advent of Christmas season, one’s thoughts naturally turn to sugar plum fairies. And ghosts.

Yes, ghosts.

What, Christmas doesn’t conjure spectral images for you? There’s a precedent. Think A Christmas Carol, now a standard eighth grade December read.

Since I was short of time this month–who isn’t?–I went searching for a shorter example of ghost fiction. Imagine my surprise when my quest turned up The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde, illustrated by Wallace Goldsmith. (The cover below is illustrated by Inga Moore.)

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Something you should know about me is that I’m an easy date. If you ever want to entice me away from hearth and home, just inform me that one of my lifetime favorite plays has hit town–The Importance of Being Earnest by, you guessed it, Oscar Wilde.

So it was with considerable joy that I loaded a free version of The Canterville Ghost onto my kindle. Hold that thought. We’re going to discuss versions shortly.

The story is gently satirical. From Wilde we expect no less. In this novelette, cultures bump (clash is too strong as all is oh-so-civilized) when the nouveau riche American Otis family buys an old English estate. The previous owners, an upper crust family headed by Lord Canterville, have fled to escape a ghost that has haunted the mansion for centuries.

With delightful hyperbole, Wilde depicts no nonsense Yankee practicality. The Americans don’t believe in ghosts, and even when facing the recalcitrant ghost himself, admonish him to oil his chains so as not to disturb sleeping family members. When the befuddled ghost becomes depressed, it is up to kind-hearted daughter Virginia to befriend him.

This is a delightful read and would make a great introduction to ghost literature for young people. And like the best young adult works, the adults will enjoy the experience just as much.  There are probably eight or ten different editions of this book, two of which are illustrated by Wallace Goldsmith. (The link above is to one of the Goldsmith versions.) For gift giving and even personal consumption, I recommend one of the illustrated editions. Definitely.

To give you a flavor of the book, I will end with a quote from the character Lord Canterville: “We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.”

Should You (or I) Self-Publish? Part One

I could always tell when Dad was going to make his four-hour spaghetti. He would haul out a metal contraption and bolt it to Mother’s bread board. Sporting primitive funnel and hand crank, it looked like a medieval torture device for dolls. Into the funnel Dad would drop onion wedges and celery stalks. Out of the bottom would slither glistening, pale green snakes.

Right now, that’s how my brain feels–my thoughts, like the onion and celery, twisted and inextricable.

The reason: I’ve been following the traditional vs. indie publishing debate. If you’re a writer, no doubt you have, too. And you’ve probably noticed there is no middle ground. There’s just the onion and the celery and the undecided.

I’ve been giving this so much thought these past few days in part because of a sobering blog post on the subject at Nail Your Novel. Even my subconscious entered the fray and now every night kindly wakes me up at 2 am to toss, turn, and ponder. I can tell you sleep deprivation messes with your writing!

I planned to merge the two camps (pro-traditional and pro-indie) into one post.

I failed. Where’s Dad’s food grinder when I need it? Collecting dust these many years.

Instead, we will look at the two sides separately. We’ll begin with traditional publishing–multi-layered like the onion.

First, the blog that started my mind whirring. Roz Morris of Nail Your Novel warns, “Indie publishing isn’t for people who couldn’t get published or represented. It’s for people who could.”

Egads! Sort of like when you go to the bank for a loan, but in order to score that loan, you must first prove you don’t need it. In other words, in order to be a successful self-publisher, you should have the product traditional publishers desire.

Talk about desire. Deep down I think many writers, maybe even most, yearn for that traditional contract with all the trimmings–or at least as many as have not been trimmed away by cost-cutting publishers.  Award-winning author and editor Susan Mary Malone will tell you that “though POD radically changed the business, and everything now is pretty much going e-books, traditional publishing is still the gold standard, and being published by a recognized house remains the Holy Grail.”

The quest for that Holy Grail is fueled by the one clear advantage of traditional publishers–support backed by distribution. And with that comes validation. And open doors and coveted reviews. Roz Morris explains that indies “are still regarded sniffily in most quarters.” (Irrelevant aside: When I write, I avoid -ly adverbs, but I couldn’t help admiring how spiffily Roz uses sniffily. Indeed, this may be my first encounter with the word sniffily, and I love it. You know the adage: a writer can break any rule she can get away with.)

So, what do you think? Traditional publishing–Holy Grail or cement boots?

Tune in for the next installment of Writer Unleashed for a discussion of the agent-author-traditional publisher triad. And after that, self-publishing. The celery.

Ghost novel review: Ghost Orchid

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The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman

Ballantine Books, 336 pages

Source: Pleasanton Library

 I read a favorable review of this book on the Haunted Travels website and decided to check it out. After I was thirty pages in, I realized I had read this novel before. Here’s the interesting part: I enjoyed it more the second time. I think it’s because I wasn’t trying to figure out what would happen, and I could just relax and enjoy the flow.

The protagonist Ellis Brooks has been invited to the historic Bosco estate, now an artist’s retreat, to finish a novel based on tragic events that transpired here more than a hundred years earlier. Ellis Brooks is writing about the original 19th century occupants, Milo and Aurora Latham, who had invited psychic Corinth Blackwell to Bosco to contact the spirits of their dead children. But Corinth unexpectedly encounters people from her past, and the séance request is not as straightforward as first appears. And then tragedy strikes again.

In an author’s sleight of hand, it turns out that the present day author Ellis sees dead people, one of whom leads her to uncover the mysteries of Bosco and Corinth. And if these plotlines are not enough, there’s Abenaki mythology braided into the mix. Confusing, huh? Rest assured, the author (the real one), leads you through the labyrinth with a sure step.

This is a book filled with lyrical language. Here’s a sample: “…she spears the death certificate to the muslin curtain, where it flutters like an impaled moth” (109). Lovely, yes? There is lush description to satisfy the most discerning landscape architects, especially those interested in fountains and statuary. The ghost orchid pictured above (isnt’ it eerily beautiful?) has its own mysterious place in the story.

As a writer, I enjoyed observing the angst-ridden fictional author write portions of her novel—both because of the derision of her colleagues and because of the ways she wove historical details into the text. Then, of course, we have the real author Carol Goodman juxtaposing in ingenious ways Ellis’s novel with the lives of the historical characters Ellis imagines. That wowed me the most, I think, this tight interweaving between what “really” happened (remember, this is fiction) and what the fictional author surmises.

In some ways, this sort of meta fiction reminded me of a Margaret Atwood book The Lady Oracle.  Lest you ask, no, I am not related to Margaret Atwood. Alas.

Recently, I read an interesting post by Roz Morris in which she discusses authors tying up loose ends at the conclusion of novels–as in how much is too much. If there is one flaw of The Ghost Orchid, it is that the author meticulously ties and triple ties (just to make sure) each of the multiple story threads. I thought if one more red-tipped blackbird feather fell from an overhead branch (reader beware: symbol alert) as it does in a triptych of conclusions,  I would expire. And then there would be one more forlorn apparition wandering the woods of Bosco.

Writer Resource: 55 Ways to Promote and Sell Your Book

It’s what we writers want, right? To have bright readers, well, flock around us?

For today’s episode of Writer Unleashed, I’m going to let you in on a handy dandy resource to help you gather fans. It’s a book called 55 Ways to Promote & Sell Your Book on the Internet by Bob Baker.

I came across an excerpt of this book as a free download promotion from BookBaby and liked it so well I bought the company.

Actually no, I bought the book. (How many of you are old enough to know that old Remington commercial with Victor Kiam? A commercial so old, you can’t even find it on the web. Yep, I tried.)

But I digress.

We were discussing 55 Ways to Promote & Sell Your Book on the Internet, which I heartily recommend. And no, I’m not getting a piece of the action. Would that I were.

It’s a fast read with clear, easy-to-follow objectives. (Another digression—speaking of it’s, the misuse of the word it’s/its in the text did drive me a little nuts. Also, you’re/your errors. Suggestion to the editor for the next edition, perform a search for these words and make necessary corrections. You’re or is it your? readers will thank you.)

So here’s the thing. I don’t yet have a published book to promote and sell. Soon, we hope. Still, as all authors and aspiring authors know, it’s never too early to put your name out there. Bob Baker’s book provides specific resources and no-nonsense advice.

Instead of the general instruction you hear on every street corner: Find like-minded bloggers and form connections blah blah, Baker tells you how to do that in tip #45.

Using the author’s links, I finally found some sites to follow and interact with. One of these, Stainless Steel Droppings, I have mentioned before, and I am now connecting both with the site and with others connecting with the site—a sort of inverted pyramid. The good news is that after taking this step, visits to my blog really increased—up 29 % in October. Of course, October is the month to read ghost novel reviews. But so far, November is not looking too shabby either.

Tip #51 provides more good information about generating traffic to your blog, including sending an email to anyone whose online work you reference. This one is a little hard for a self-deprecating-humble-good-girl such as myself, but I’m going to do it. In fact, I will write to the 55 Ways man himself. As soon as I sign off. I promise.

Those are just two of the 55 tips, leaving 53 more for you to explore. Who says writers can’t do math?

Check out this book. And get yourself flocked.