Ghost Stories – That First Sentence

I am in the process of editing my ghost novel and was in need of some inspiration.  That very first line is particularly important as it sets the scene and mood of the entire story.

Here are some of my favourites;

* This House is Haunted by John Boyne (Book I am currently reading) – ‘I blame Charles Dickens for the death of my father.’

(Perhaps the most interesting start I have read in a while)

* Hell House by Richard Matheson‘It had been raining since five o’clock that morning.’

* The Ghost Writer by John Harwood ‘I first saw the photograph on a hot January afternoon in my mother’s bedroom.’

* The Séance by John Harwood – ‘If my sister Alma had lived, I should never have begun the séances.’

* The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – ‘No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.’

* The Turning by Francine Prose – ‘Dear Sophie, I’m afraid this is going to sound crazy.’

* Susan Hill

– The Man in the Picture: ‘The story was told to me by my old tutor, Theo Parmitter, as we sat beside the fire in his college rooms one bitterly cold January night.’

– Dolly: ‘An autumn night and the fens stretch for miles, open and still.’

The Small Hand: ‘It was a little before nine o’clock, the sun was setting into a bank of smoky violet cloud and I had lost my way.’

The Woman in Black: ‘It was nine thirty on Christmas Eve.’

* Charles Dickens

– A Christmas Carol: ‘Marley was dead, to begin with.’

The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain: ‘Everybody said so.’

English: Frontispiece of "The Haunted Man...

English: Frontispiece of “The Haunted Man” by Charles Dickens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose – A Review

Reading Like a Writer

Reading Like a Writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reading Like a Writer‘ was one of the most helpful writing guides that I have read thus far.  It is by no means a simple how to guide on how to be a better writer.  Instead Francine Pose guides you through extracts of well written literature and cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words.  She explains that a good writer makes sure that each and every word in the story has a purpose.

Although it is not an easy feat to attempt to write as well as the authors discussed in the book (even a bit daunting), Prose has inspired me to be a better writer and at the same time a better reader.

Notes & Quotes

* ‘You can assume that if a writer’s work has survived for centuries, there are reasons why this is so.’ – Prose highlights that reading or re-reading the classics is as beneficial as reading the modern novel.

* Skimming is not my friend.  Yes I have a lot of books to read in my life time but as Prose advises ‘Skimming just won’t suffice if we hope to extract one fraction of what a writer’s words can teach us about how to use the language’

* Telling Vs Showing – ‘don’t tell us a character is happy, show us.’  There are however still occasions when telling is far more effective and time saving.

* Paragraphs – ‘A new paragraph is a wonderful thing.  It lets you quietly change the rhythm, and it can be like a flash of lightening that shows the same landscape from a different aspect.’ – Babel

* Don’t leave out the details! – ‘Details are what persuade us that someone is telling the truth.’  We need to trust the writer is in control.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan – A Discussion (may contain spoilers).

20130724_16111720130724_161117I really enjoyed this book.  It was an interesting take on the old quest/de-coding tale. The integration between modern technology and old world knowledge was nicely interwoven and quite fascinating.

* The story takes place in a strange bookstore with barley any customers and shelves of books that reach the ceilings with ladders being the only means of reaching the top shelf.  This is my dream setting and I appreciated the way Sloan describes the bookstore.

Imagine the shape and volume of a normal bookstore turned up on its side.  This place was absurdly narrow and dizzyingly tall, and the shelves went all the way up – three stories of books, maybe more.’

* Clay Jannon is the narrator and hero of the story.  He is kind, honest and curious.  You want him to succeed in cracking the code, get the girl and of course get the employment he so truly deserves.

*  The Google references were a nice touch.  It is crazy how far modern technology has advanced in such a short amount of time.  Although there were a lot of mentions about technology that perhaps went a bit over my head, it did not affect my reading experience and was cleverly balanced with traditional books and research.

More Quotes

– ‘Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines – it’s hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.’

– ‘There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care. All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight.’

– ‘Your life must be an open city; with all sorts of ways to wander in.’

– ‘After that, the book will fade, the way all books fade in your mind.’

Joyland by Stephen King!

20130716_165658Joyland was a lot different from King’s usual horror novel.  For one it was a lot shorter and had no chapters. Instead there were cute little hearts to break up the passages which I actually found aided my reading experience.

You may think that a haunted Funhouse has been done to death & would be fairly predictable.  However, King being the master that he is, makes the story his own & keeps the reader guessing until the end.  The story consists of a murder mystery, unique and likeable characters and a ghost thrown in for added suspense.

Although it won’t be added to my list of favourite Stephen King novels, it was an enjoyable read and I am looking forward to his next masterpiece.


* ‘When it comes to the past, everybody writes fiction.’

* ‘Love leaves scars.’

* ‘You think Okay, I get it, I’m prepared for the worst, but you hold out that small hope, see, and that’s what fs you up. That’s what kills you.’

More New Books!

20130712_150618A teacher on holidays in a bookstore is a dangerous combination.  I need to get my read on!

New Purchases:

* Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion

* In The Shadows of Blackbirds – Cat Winters

* Reading Like a WriterFrancine Prose

* Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan

The Round House by Louise Erdrich – A Discussion (contains spoilers!)

the-round-houseThis book had such an interesting story line – A teenage boy’s (Joe) mother has been the victim of a brutal rape.  His family life has been completely turned upside down.  His mother refuses to talk about what happened and spends her days in a depressed and withdrawn state.  It is up to Joe and his young friends to find the answers that will put his mother’s attacher behind bars.


* I thought that the setting of the story (on a North Dakota Reservation in the 1980s) was particularly interesting.  I do not know much about Native American culture and thought that the author managed to convey the lifestyle of the characters through the setting extremely well.

* I loved the character of Joe.  Stories told through the eyes of a young boy are compelling.  The way interacts with his friends and his thoughts about his parents and justice made him a strong, believable character.

* The relationship between Joe and his father is quite touching.  Whilst all of his friends are either beaten or mistreated by their parents/family, Joe’s father is affectionate and treats him like an equal (when he shows Joe the case studies trying to find the mother’s attacker).

* Overall I really enjoyed the book – I found the ending quite abrupt, you don’t find out if the family ever repaired themselves or what happened to the minor characters.  However I do think that Joe & Cappy (Cappy is Joe’s best friend)  killing his mother’s rapist was a fitting end.

Favourite Quote from The Round House by Louise Erdrich

– ‘The ghost was standing at the edge of the yard, I said.  It looked almost like a real person.  Yes, they’re out there, my father answered.’