Friday, November 28, 2014

How the Polish Used to Bury People to Prevent Vampires

(NEWSER) – To make sure certain people didn't rise from the grave to feast on the living, villagers in 17th- and 18th-century Poland buried them with sickles across their throats or rocks in their jaws, and researchers think they now know why.
According to a study published in PLoS ONE, the suspected vampires were not immigrants to the area but locals who probably perished in the cholera epidemics that swept the region at the time. Ancient lore says being the first to perish in an epidemic is one of the things that can turn a person into a vampire, study co-author Lesley Gregoricka tells LiveScience.
"People were up close and personal with death at this point, but didn't have a good way to explain what was happening," she says.
"People of the post-medieval period did not understand how disease was spread, and rather than a scientific explanation for these epidemics, cholera and the deaths that resulted from it were explained by the supernatural—in this case, vampires," says Gregoricka, a bioarchaeologist at the University of South Alabama, in a press release.
Dying a violent death or being an outsider also put one at risk of becoming a vampire, according to lore, but the bodies bore no signs of violence and testing revealed they were from the area. The sickles were in place to decapitate the body if it tried to rise, and rocks or bricks were placed to prevent them from feeding, the study says — though strangely enough, the "vampires" weren't segregated in the cemetery but were buried among other villagers.

Read the Best Vampire Short Stories for this time period.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Nab 30% Off My Books at Amazon and Barnes & Noble This Thanksgiving Weekend

Forget fighting the holiday crowds this weekend and save 30% off Andrew Barger's books at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The savings applies to regular books, not ebooks.

At Amazon checkout use code: HOLIDAY30
At Barnes & Noble checkout use code: BFRIDAY14

Got a sci-fi fan on your holiday wishlist? Mesaerion:  The Best Science Fiction Stories 1800-1849 will impress by the fire. I researched forgotten journals and magazines of the early 19th century to locate groundbreaking science fiction short stories in the English language. In doing so, I found what is possibly the first science fiction story by a female (and it is not from Mary Shelley). I located the first steampunk short story, which has not been republished since 1844. There is the first voyage to the moon in a balloon, republished for the first time since 1820 that further tells of a darkness machine and a lunarian named Zuloc. Other classic sci-fi stories include the first robotic insect and an electricity gun.

Classic Science Fiction Stories in the Anthology
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar - Edgar Allan Poe
The Aerial Burglar - Percival Leigh
A Visit to the Lunar Sphere - Captain Frederick Marryat
Glimpses of Other Worlds - Thomas Charles Morgan
Hilda Silfverling, A Fantasy - Lydia Maria Child
Rappaccini's Daughter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Rival Mechanicians - Lydia Maria Child
A Descent Into the Maelstrom - Edgar Allan Poe
The Artist of the Beautiful - Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Iron Shroud - William Mudford

So mechanical has the age become, that men seriously talk of flying machines, to go by steam,--not your air-balloons, but real Daedalian wings, made of wood and joints, nailed to your shoulder,--not wings of feathers and wax like the wings of Icarus, who fell into the Cretan sea, but real, solid, substantial, rock-maple wings with wrought-iron hinges, and huge concavities, to propel us through the air. Knickerbocker Magazine, May 1835

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Get 15% Off My Books at BN This Weekend!

Just in time for the holidays, score 15% off my books this weekend at Barnes & Noble. Use code 2MEEK9Q4PEVR8 when checking out online.

Also get 10% off my books this weekend at Books-A-Million. Use code 3DYS4LE during checkout online.

A best bet is the recently released classic literature anthology of Leo Tolstoy. This Tolstoy anthology is edited by Andrew Barger, award winning editor of LEO TOLSTOY'S 20 GREATEST SHORT STORIES ANNOTATED. After reading "War & Peace," Fyodor Dostoevsky put the book down and said, "The fool hath said in heart there is no God." Yet, Tolstoy's shorter novels (i.e., novellas) are filled with all the war, adventure, comedy, religion, tragedy, and Russian tradition that inhabit the longer novels of the Russian bear of literature. But there is much more to this anthology. Andrew has included a short biography on Tolstoy and a chronology of his life and publications. Read these fascinating novellas today: 

1) The Invaders - A Russian team moves against Shamyl and his Islamic army in the Caucasus, which is based on Tolstoy's military experiences in the 1850s. 
2) The Death of Ivan Ilyich - When a man who has done good his entire life is stricken with an illness, it makes him question everything. 
3) Two Hussars - When a hell-raiser takes lodging in a small Russian city, debauchery is inevitable but will it be matched years later by his son? 
4) Father Sergius - The taboo subject of a priest being subjected to physical temptation is explored in one of Tolstoy's most scandalous stories. 
5) Master & Man - By the end of this snowstorm adventure, you will be asking yourself, Who is the master and who is the servant? 

What do some of the world's greatest literary minds have to say about the works of Tolstoy: 
"A second Shakespeare." Gustave Flaubert 
"No English novelist is as great as Tolstoy." E.M. Forster 
"The greatest Russian writer of prose fiction." Vladimir Nabokov 
"The greatest of all novelists." Virginia Woolf 

Read the shorter novels of Leo Tolstoy today.

Review of The Stand by Stephen King

I’ve just spent the last three months reading The Stand Uncut and I want Stephen King to know that I forgive him.

I took up "The Stand" for two reasons. First, I like the stuff King wrote in the 1970s and second, the novel is widely believed to be his best book.

"The Stand" is an apocalyptic novel that quickly turns into a post-apocalyptic novel when the world dies off from a very bad cold. Only a few hundred survive, or at least those are the ones who make an appearance, however brief, in the novel. You have your standard good guys (and gals) and bad guys (and gals) once the world has ended. A few trade sides. A woman gets pregnant. A ragtag government is formed. This was the first decade of king’s novels and way back then he was smart enough to keep his political beliefs out of his text unlike now, which he does in such an overhanded way. That is one bright point in The Stand. And so it goes . . . on and on and on until somewhere around page 600 (or was it 800?), we meet the really bad guy—Randal Flagg. Before that we meet the bad guy’s underling—Trashcan Man. Yes, that’s right, he has the nickname of a Sesame Street character, only not as artful. Then you get to experience the hundreds of paid-placement mentions of products throughout the nearly 1200 pages of pop horror. One gets the feeling that King was told by his agent back then that he was publishing too much, so he just kept writing The Stand until the coast cleared and he could publish again. There you have it in a nutshell.

“But wait,” you say, “there has to be more. What about the huge post-apocalyptic standoff between good and evil? Why else would it have been named ‘The Stand’?” Why do we have people in the world named Moon Unit Zappa? Who really knows?
I am sad to say there never is a battle of the good survivors and the bad ones. I kept waiting and waiting. Instead, around page 1000 King decides he should start wrapping it up. So the bad people get what they deserve and the good people mostly live.

If it is well-done horror you are after, you will get much more in a single episode of The Walking Dead. Pick any episode you want. If it’s a tight, well-written story you are after, pick a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. Pick any story you want.

And if you want a much better King novel, try "Misery" or "Carrie." 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Did Edgar Allan Poe Have a Favorite Play?

Nathaniel Parker Willis

Edgar Allan Poe spent time in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. All of those cities were showing plays by American dramatists. Poe's parents were theatre actors in Boston and both died while Poe and his brother Henry and sister Rosalie were young.

When in Philadelphia in 1839, Poe saw "Tortesa; or, The Usurer Unmatched," which Nathaniel Parker Willis wrote. Poe called it "the best play by an American author." Poe was, however, only 20 at the time at and was perhaps trying to gain favor with Willis, a well-known editor. He would go on to help Poe and was one of his biggest supporters.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Get a Scary 15% off my books through Sunday, October 26th at Barnes & Noble

Get a scary 15% off my books through Sunday, October 26th. Online use coupon code: JP4KGWP3JPAGF  A best bet for Halloween is 6a66le: The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849.

An anthology finalist award winner in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and a Gothic Readers Book Club Choice Award WinnerThe Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849 delivers 12 of the greatest horror stories for the first half of the 19th century.

Andrew Barger, author of the award winning Coffee with Poe: A Novel of Edgar Allan Poe's Life as well as Edgar Allan Poe Annotated and Illustrated Entire Stories and Poems, read over 300 horror short stories to compile the 12 best. At the back of the book he includes a list of all short stories he considered along with their dates of publication and author, when available. He includes background for each of the stories and author photos. A number of the stories were published in leading periodicals of the day such as Blackwood's and Atkinson's Casket. Read 6a66le:The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849 tonight!
  • 1836 The Old Man's Tale About the Queer Client by Charles Dickens (1812 -1870)
  • 1817 The Deserted House by E.T. A. Hoffmann (1776 - 1822)
  • 1836 The Minister's Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 1864)
  • 1843 The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)
  • 1830 The Mysterious Mansion by Honore de Balzac (1799-1850)
  • 1828 The Severed Hand by Wilhelm Hauff (1802 - 1827)
  • 1826 The Lighthouse by George Soane (1789 - 1860)
  • 1842 The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)
  • 1832 The Executioner by Honore de Balzac (1799-1850)
  • 1832 The Thunder-Struck and the Boxer by Samuel Warren (1807 - 1877)
  • 1845 The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849)
  • 1839 The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849) 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination by the British Library

The British Library is doing what hundreds of other libraries around the world should be doing this time of year. It is hosting "Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination" that focus on the literary Gothic.

The exhibit contains rare manuscripts of fragments of the literary Goth over the past 250 years. It is running now until January 20, 2015. If you are near London, you have to pay it a visit!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Morrissey Uses Title of a Cure Song in Quote

On The Cure's 4:13 Dream album there is a peppy song titled "Sleep When I'm Dead". Morrissey, perhaps unknowingly, used the phrase (or pretty darn close to it) this week in an interview about the state of his cancer:

"I'll rest when I'm dead," he said.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Score 15% Off Books Today Only at Barnes & Noble

Score 15% off books at Barnes & Noble--today only! A best best is Edgar Allan Poe's Complete Stories and Poems Annotated. Online, use 4XUZ4X3V8S46L at checkout.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Tea Bag Error in "Coffee with Poe"

This week it was astutely pointed out to me that I made a mistake in Coffee with Poe. In the novel about Poe's life, there is a scene where Poe meets Charles Dickens in Philadelphia. It was a lot of fun to write, but I got one of the details wrong. In the scene I mentioned that Dickens was using a tea bag. A gentlemen named David, who is reading CWP, pointed out to me that the tea bag was not invention until the early 1900s where it was introduced to a skeptical British public.

It is tough to get all of the details right in historical fiction, but that is no excuse. Thank you, David, for pointing out my tea bag boondoggle (and excuse me, Boz).

Sunday, September 7, 2014

New Annotated Book of Tolstoy's Best Novellas Published

I am happy to announce that Leo Tolstoy's 5 Greatest Novellas Annotated is now published in both ebook and print formats. The cover is not too shabby, either.

After reading "War & Peace," Fyodor Dostoevsky put the book down and said, "The fool hath said in heart there is no God." Yet, Tolstoy's shorter novels (i.e., novellas) are filled with all the war, adventure, comedy, religion, tragedy, and Russian tradition that inhabit the longer novels of the Russian bear of literature. But there is much more to this anthology. I have included a short biography on Tolstoy and a chronology of his life and publications.

1) The Invaders - A Russian team moves against Shamyl and his Islamic army in the Caucasus, which is based on Tolstoy's military experiences in the 1850s.
2) The Death of Ivan Ilyich - When a man who has done good his entire life is stricken with an illness, it makes him question everything.
3) Two Hussars - When a hell-raiser takes lodging in a small Russian city, debauchery is inevitable but will it be matched years later by his son?
4) Father Sergius - The taboo subject of a priest being subjected to physical temptation is explored in one of Tolstoy's most scandalous stories.
5) Master & Man - By the end of this snowstorm adventure, you will be asking yourself, Who is the master and who is the servant?

What do some of the world's greatest literary minds have to say about the works of Tolstoy:
"A second Shakespeare." Gustave Flaubert
"No English novelist is as great as Tolstoy." E.M. Forster
"The greatest Russian writer of prose fiction." Vladimir Nabokov
"The greatest of all novelists." Virginia Woolf

Read the shorter novels of Leo Tolstoy today.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Did Edgar Allan Poe Write a Ghost Story?

Edgar Allan Poe is America's forefather of Gothic literature and responsible for its most popular poem, "The Raven." I have argued in a past post that Poe did not (unfortunately) write a vampire story. But what about a ghost story? Poe had a mostly pitiful life where he suffered through poverty (much of it self-inflicted for his art) and the deaths of his mother, father, foster mother, foster father (John Allen), wife (Virginia Poe), former fiancee (Sarah Helen Whitman) and close friends. Who better to write a ghost story than the forefather of Goth who had lost so many relatives?

In my view he wrote at least four ghost stories:

1835 Morella;
1838 Ligeia;
1842 The Mask of the Red Death (Included in The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849); and
1842 The Oval Portrait.

Arguments have been made (spoiler alert) that the revived sister in The Fall of the House of Usher is a ghost, and I get that. She is either someone who was laid to rest by her brother when she was near death (ala The Premature Burial) or locked away, which explains Roderick Usher's nervous condition. Anyway, yes Poe did write a ghost story or two or four. All are fantastic and worth a slow read.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Night with Morrissey

Morrissey. The former lead singer of The Smiths. I have to make a quick comment about the guy who called Robert Smith a whinebag and who has garnered many pointed jabs in return over the years. The most recent of which was Robert saying he would never published a book about himself ala Morrissey's recent autobiography.

On May 27, 2014, on a rainy night in Memphis, Tennessee at the historic Orpheum Theatre, I got to see Morrissey perform with an excellent band assembled from across the country. He sang a few of his older tunes ("Every day is like Sunday") and launched into a few new ones before assaulting the senses of everyone in the audience with "Meat is Murder." Many horrible pics of animal torture were flashed on the screen in an attempt to make everyone in the pork barbecue capital of world a raging vegetarian. I guy in my section kept yelling out "I wanna eat some ribs!" during the theatrics.

I admit it was fun to watch Morrissey prance across the stage, angular chin raised, as he sang with his remarkable voice. He is, after all, the new wave crooner of the 80's generation. Most of time he had the annoying habit of snapping the microphone wire off to the side as though a matador in training. But that was only a minor annoyance to a mostly enjoyable concert.

When Morrissey strutted off the stage, he tore off his shirt to many perplexed looks from the crowd at the mid-fifties guy leaving the stage half-clothed.

The Divine Dantes: Squirt Guns in Hades (Infernal Trilogy #1) Ebook Free


"[A] lively and good natured work." -- Publisher's Weekly Reviewer

To celebrate the launch of The Divine Dantes: Paella in Purgatory (Infernal Trilogy #2), I have dropped the price of The Divine Dantes: Squirt Guns in Hades (Infernal Trilogy #1) to only $0.00.

Divine Dantes at Apple iBookstore
Divine Dantes at Barnes & Noble Nook

But wait, there's more. If you download today, you will not only be getting a comedic novel for free, you will also be getting a finalist in the "Best second novel" category of the Indie Book Awards.

"The book is also printed on gold paper. Naw!" Edward T. Nad.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Did Edgar Allan Poe have a Favorite Poem?

Nearly 200 years after Poe penned "The Raven" it is still one of America's most popular poems. Personally I like his "Ulalume" because it is about his personal life and (perhaps) a child he has with Frances Osgood, which I explain in Edgar Allan Poe's Entire Stories and Poems Annotated.

Which ever Poe poem you like the best, it is clear he knew a lot about great poetry. Not only how to write it, but how to read it in a way that drew out true emotion, the hallmark of all great poems. The question becomes, did Poe have any favorite poems that he enjoyed reading?

Fortunately, we know of at least one. It was published by an Englishman named Richard Horne. The title is "Orion" and here is what America's first poet had to say about it:

“It is our deliberate opinion that, in all that regards the loftiest and holiest attributes of the true Poetry, ‘Orion’ has never been excelled. Indeed we feel strongly inclined to say that it has never been equaled.”

While Charlotte Bronte said, “there are passages I shall recur to again and yet again - passages instinct both with power and beauty.” Written in 1843, Orion is the greatest epic poem you have never read and you get it for $0.99 on Google Books.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cover Reveal - Tolstoy's 5 Greatest Novellas Annotated, which is on Pre-Sale Now!

Back in 2009 I edited the 20 greatest short stories of Tolstoy anthology, which included thousands of annotations of difficult terms and turns of phrase. Not being one to leave well enough alone, I have given the same treatment to Tolstoy's novellas.

The ebook is available for pre-sale now and it goes live the end of August. I hope you enjoy the cover and the great short novels of the Russian bear of literature.

Tolstoy Novellas on iTunes

Tolstoy Novellas on Nook

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Did Edgar Allan Poe Have a Favorite Ghost Story?

Poe was a connoisseur of the supernatural. As the author of Coffee with Poe: A Novel of Edgar Allan Poe's Life, I am sometimes asked if Poe had a favorite ghost story.

Truth be told, Poe was quite clear on his favorite ghost story--or at least his favorite by an American, which I believe is a dig at Charles Dickens and his bias toward British literature. The pick is also, perhaps a dig at Washington Irving whose "The Legend of  Sleepy Hollow" and "A Tale of the German Student" (both included in the best ghost stories anthology for the first half of the 19th century) branded him the best American ghost story writer during Poe's day.

The ghost story is by William Gilmore Simms and is titled Murder Will Out. It was published in The Gift during 1842. I don't, however, agree with Poe since I placed it in spot 35 in my Top 40 countdown of the scariest ghost stories from 1800-1849. This is what Poe had to say about it in his review (published posthumously in 1850) of Simm's collection of short stories: "The Wigwam and the Cabin."

     All the tales in this collection have merit, and the first has merit of a very peculiar kind. “Grayling, or Murder will Out,” is the title. The story was well received in England, but on this fact no opinion can be safely based. “The Athenæum,” we believe, or some other of the London weekly critical journals, having its attention called (no doubt through personal influence) to Carey & Hart’s beautiful annual “The Gift,” found it convenient, in the course of its notice, to speak at length of some one particular article, and “Murder Will Out” probably arrested the attention of the sub-editor who was employed in so trivial a task as the patting on the head an American book — arrested his attention first from its title, (murder being a taking theme with a cockney,) and secondly, from its details of southern forest scenery. Large quotations were made, as a matter of course, and very ample commendation bestowed — the whole criticism proving nothing, in our opinion, but that the critic had not read a single syllable of the story. The critique, however, had at least the good effect of calling American attention to the fact that an American might possibly do a decent thing, (provided the possibility were first admitted by the British sub-editors,) and the result was first, that many persons read, and secondly, that all persons admired the “excellent story in ‘The Gift’ that had actually been called ‘readable’ by one of the English newspapers.”

Now had “Murder Will Out” been a much worse story than was ever written by Professor Ingraham, still, under the circumstances, we patriotic and independent Americans would have declared it inimitable; but, by some species of odd accident, it happened to deserve all that the British sub-sub had condescended to say of it, on the strength of a guess as to what it was all about. It is really an admirable tale, nobly conceived and skilfully carried into execution — the best ghost-story ever written by an American — for we presume that this is the ultimate extent of commendation to which we, as an humble American, dare go.

The other stories of the volume do credit to the author’s abilities, and display their peculiarities in a strong light, but there is no one of them so good as “Murder Will Out.”

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Literary Quote by Franz Kafka

To me, at least in his later years, Franz Kafka was our whiny man of literature. This is never so true as when he berated his family during the time of Metamorphosis and his portrayal of his family's treatment of him in the story. Where is the thanks and gratitude?

One of the best things about Kafka, however, are his quotes on literature. Consider this one he wrote when 20 years old to his friend Oskar Pollak in January of 1904:

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What was the first out of body experience in a short story?

Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845)

One of the first short stories in the English language to feature an out of body experience is A Singular Passage in the Life of  the Late Henry Harris D.D. The early horror story was published in Blackwood's Magazine by Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845). This is little surprise given the many early horror tales Blackwood's published by authors mostly in the UK.

Without giving too much of this excellent story away, the protagonist finds her "spirit" teleported to another place where she does not want to be with people she would rather avoid as they practice their dark arts. Published in 1831, this story is ranked 35th in the Top 40 horror short stories from 1800-1849. Still, it is well worth a read to learn about this dark secret.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

What was the first physical time travel short story?

"Edge of Tomorrow," the new Tom Cruise flick, has the protagonist waking up over and over to get a chance to destroy the sci-fi monsters he failed to kill the previous day. Think of it as "Ground Hog's Day" for science fiction minus the Bill Murray comedy and with a lot more explosions. This well-tread idea of going back in time to right one's wrongs harkens all the way back to Charles Dickens's novella, A Christmas Carol, of 1843.

But was the first science fiction short story that involved physical time travel? Well, as usual, we have Edgar Allan Poe to throw into the mix. In 1844 he published A Tale of the Ragged Mountains that is now contained in Edgar Allan Poe's Complete Works Annotated. In the short story the protagonist, Bedloe, claims to have been transported back to the 1780s. While we can debate whether this is really a science fiction story due to the lack of "science" in it, many believe this to be the first short story involving physical time travel.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Score Book #1 of the Infernal Trilogy for $0.99


"[A] lively and good natured work." -- Publisher's Weekly Reviewer

To celebrate the pre-sale of The Divine Dantes: Paella in Purgatory (Infernal Trilogy #2), I have dropped the price of The Divine Dantes: Squirt Guns in Hades (Infernal Trilogy #1) to only $0.99. Now is the time to get caught up in the series before book #2 launches on June 27th.

Divine Dantes at Apple iBookstore
Divine Dantes at Barnes & Noble Nook
Divine Dantes at Amazon Kindle
Divine Dantes on Google Books

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Best Gothic Songs by The Cure and Videos

What are the top 10 Gothic songs by The Cure? The answer is open to much debate. The Cure have no shortage of darkly atmospheric and brooding songs, just as Edgar Allan Poe had no shortage of Goth poems. The band captures the essence of Gothic like no other and their back catalogue continues to grow with an entirely new album to be launched this year. In no particular order, here are my picks for the band's top Gothic songs and their associated Cure videos.

1. A Forest - Seventeen Seconds - "Running to What's Nothing . . .."

2. The Hanging Garden - Pornography - "Creatures kissing in the rain . . .."

3. The Figurehead - Pornography - "And sleeping less every night . . .."

4. Fear of Ghosts - Disintegration (Deluxe) - "The further I get from the things that I care about, the less I care about how much further away I get . . .."

5. Fascination Street - Disintegration - "To kick the last nail in . . .."

6. Charlotte Sometimes - Faith (Deluxe) - "All the face, all the voices blur . . .."

7. The Wailing Wall - The Top - "And I circle, like a vulture . . .."

8. Prayers for Rain - Disintegration - "I deteriorate, live in dirt . . .."

9. Edge of the Deep Green Sea - Wish - "Watched the sun come up from the edge of the deep green sea . . .."

10. The Same Deep Water as You - Disintegration - "Kiss me goodbye . . .."

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Divine Dantes: Paella in Purgatory (Infernal Trilogy #2) Can be Pre-Ordered Now

Big news for fans of The Divine Dantes trilogy! Book #2, The Divine Dantes: Paella in Purgatory, will go live on June 27, 2014 for $3.98. It is available for preorder now on:

Divine Dantes on iTunes

Divine Dantes on Barnes & Noble (Nook)

Book 2 of The Divine Dantes's Infernal Trilogy finds Eddie and Virgil in Barcelona, Spain. Eddie, the young rocker with an active mind, thinks they are there to get on a cruise. Virgil, however, has tricked Eddie and arranged for Bea to secretly meet them. Meantime, Virg and Eddie visit famous Barcelona landmarks (La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, La Rambla Street, etc) as Eddie adds his trademark commentary. Will Eddie speak to Bea when she arrives? And if he will, does their two-person band get back together?

It's time to rock on again.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Score 15% Off My Books at Barnes & Noble This Weekend Using My Coupon Code

Score 15% off my books at Barnes & Noble through Sunday, May 4th by using coupon code: MJ64ACYYD36YS at checkout.

A best bet is the best ghost stories book, Phantasmal: The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849, the classic ghost short story collection I edited.

Or, if you are not in the mood to be scared, try out Tolstoy's short stories book, Leo Tolstoy's 20 Greatest Short Stories Annotated. You can't miss.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sweet Short Film Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

Check out this artistic interpretation of ?Goth? that was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and created by Saskia Kretzschmann.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Cool Review of Tolstoy's Short Stories Anthology

A cool review of Tolstoy's short stories anthology that was posted this week on Amazon. Here's a bit about  the book:

"Anna Karenina" and "War and Peace" branded Tolstoy as one of the greatest writers in modern history. Few, however, have read his wonderful short stories. Now, in one collection, are the 20 greatest short stories of Leo Tolstoy, which give a snapshot of Russia and its people in the late nineteenth century. A fine introduction is given by Andrew Barger. Annotations are included of difficult Russian terms. There is also a Tolstoy biography at the start of the book with photos of Tolstoy's relatives.

New Poe Statue in Boston

Any attention brought to Poe is much needed in this country, over two hundred years after the birth of one of its greatest and most mysterious authors. That's why I was glad to hear about a new Poe statue.

The Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston has commissioned a statue of Poe that is shown in their photo above. It features poe in his trademark cravat, carrying his valise that oddly has a heart spilling out the back of it in remembrance of "his most famous short story" The Tell-Tale Heart. In my view The Fall of the House of Usher is Poe's finest short story, but hey. In the foreground of the statue is, of course, a raven modeled after his famous poem that is still read today in schools throughout the world.

Read more about it in the Boston Magazine.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Coldplay's New Album--Ghost Stories--Drops in May

Coldplay's new album is called "Ghost Stories"and it drops in May. Let's hope some of the yet to be released songs draw from some of the best ghost stories in the English language. The first song is called "Magic" and you can watch the first video from the album below.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

First Vampire Short Story Set in France - Pepopukin in Corsica

Arthur Young (1741-1820)

What was the first vampire short story set in France? In the English language it appears to be "Pepopukin in Corsica," published in 1826. It was in a British rag called The Stanley Tales. The author was only attributed to A.Y. and in The Best Vampire Stories anthology I edited, I give reasons why I think the author was Arthur Young who was an English writer that travelled extensively in France. He died in 1820, so it had to be published posthumously.

"Pepopukin in Corsica," was published for the first time in 175 years in BlooDeath: The Best Vampire Short Stories 1800-1849. It tells of malevolent vampires having claws and crushing bones. There is a nice review of the vampire tale over at the Taliesiin Vampire Blog.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Why the Captain America Movie Harkens Back to a Science Fiction Story from 1845

The new movie Captain America: The Winter Solider is out, but it is the first installment from 2011, Captain America: First Avenger that shows him waking up after being frozen in Arctic ice for 70 years. How does this possibly relate to a short story from 1845?

The first cryptopreservation sci-fi story is "Hilda Silfverling"by Lydia Maria Child, republished for the first time in over 100 years in Mesaerion: The Best Science Fiction Stories 1800-1849. In the groundbreaking tale, a chemist has found a way to "suspend animation in living creatures and restore it at any time" after they have been frozen.

Sometimes what's new in science fiction movies is old again!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Review of The Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad

"The Secret Sharer," which is one of the two short novels in this bi-novel package, taps into that classic theme of a person hiding in a room who does not want to be found. It was first published by Joseph Conrad in 1910. The writing is topnotch, though the means of building suspense by having someone in a room who does not want to be found out handled (much better) by Honore de Balzac in his short story "The Mysterious Mansion" published in 1830 that can be found in my Best Horror Short Stories anthology. Because of this I suggest reading Balzac's classic instead of Conrad's seafaring regurgitation.

On to Conrad's crowning achievement: The Heart of Darkness. The hunt into the heart of a depraved jungle for Mr. Kurtz is one that had few equals up to its publication in 1902. It drew on Conrad's own experience in the Congo and what he saw there. His style of writing is uncomfortable and heated, mimicking the way a person feels on a sultry day. That much is genius and so is one of the first quests in literature for a crazzzzzy person. Francis Ford Coppola got it right in Apocalypse Now and Apocalypse Now Redux:

I need to study this novel, but unfortunately have little time for it at the moment. Sigh. Perhaps when my writing schedule slows down, but there is no end in sight like the darkling jungles as Charles Marlow and his band of sailors troll up the Congo in search the their greatest fears.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Comment on "The Black Vampyre" Worth Checking Out

There is a fine commentary on "The Black Vampyre" short story over at the Taliesin scary vampire blog: that I included in The Best Vampire Stories anthology.

I liked it so much I left a comment. Check it out.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cover Reveal for The Divine Dantes: Paella in Purgatory - Book II of the Infernal Trilogy

The northern hemisphere is pretty sick of winter right about now, so I thought I would warm things up by revealing the cover for The Divine Dantes: Paella in Purgatory, book II of the Infernal trilogy. Queue the Purgatorial music!

Watch for more exciting news about DDII next week. Meanwhile, keep your feet propped on the fireplace grate and get caught up by reading the first book in the Infernal trilogy that follows Eddie and Virg on their quest to find Beatrice in Europe. The Divine Dantes: Squirt Guns in Hades.

[A] lively and good natured work . . .. Publisher's  Weekly

Buy Divine Dantes book I at Amazon

Buy Divine Dantes book I at Barnes & Noble

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Review of The Resurrectionist

Rarely do I buy a book because of its cover, but I have to say that this Goth cover suckered me in and parted me from $15 of my hard earned money. I want the marketing department of The Resurrectionist: The Lost Works of Spencer Black to know that I forgive them.

If you are seeking out bone structure illustrations of mythical creatures (And who among us is not?), this is the book for you. Open wallet, extract $15 and enjoy. On the other hand, if you want a good Gothic story about a mad resurrector who finds mythical creatures and reanimates them--which is what this book should have been about to match the illustration--you are out of luck (and $15 bucks). This is two books sandwiched into one. The first part is a drawn out short story with poor character generation and stilted dialogue. The back half contains the fore-mentioned illustrations.

I give The Resurrectionist two stars as a result.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Review of Mesaerion: The Best Science Fiction Stories 1800-1849

A great 4 star review of Mesaerion: The Best Science Fiction Stories 1800-1849 was recently posted on Amazon. Check it out.

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This review is from: Mesaerion: The Best Science Fiction Stories 1800-1849 (Paperback)
The editor of this anthology honors the authors in this collection with his research, wonderful annotations illuminating arcane vocabulary and references, and most of all his respect and enthusiasm for the works themselves. I like to think of science fiction as the most important genre of literature because, by examining the future or other dimensions, it opens a window to the anxieties of the present. I especially love dated sci-fi not only for its quaint imaginings of "modern" technology, but because here we can see how people long past expressed their fear and awe of a future that is in our distant past.

Barger's archaeology of science fiction traces these tales to the origins of science fiction itself. Here, we have uncovered the first imaginings of suspended animation, robot insects, laser guns, flights to the moon via hot air balloon. Alas, the historical significance of some of these tales surpasses their redemptive value as works of art. I found A Visit To the Lunar Sphere and Glimpses of Other Worlds ponderous, full of superfluous detail and bogged down by stuffy, professorial narration mingled with scant character development. Very stoic without any sense of fun. A common flaw of some of these stories is that the narrative focus takes the reader away from the action, presenting the imagined world from the distant vantage point of being on the outside looking in, without really engaging with it.

My favorite pieces ended up being stories with more traditional elements of literature: characters, substantive theme, a plot, and conflict, in other words--a story to tell. Perceival Leigh's The Aerial Burglar presented a dystopian fantasy world in the clouds that was like Bladerunner combined with the Jetsons.

Lydia Maria Child's Hilda Silfverling, A Fantasy was the crown jewel of this collection, combining chemistry (alchemy, really)suspended animation, crime and punishment with fairytale to create what must be the most charming story about incest ever written. Child's other story included here was also wonderful. The Rival Mechanicians provides a nuanced, artfully wrought depiction of binary contrasts in human nature, artifice versus nature, delicacy versus durability, and aesthetics versus utilitarian value. Child asks the question, much as in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, can we overcome the vicissitudes of nature with the ingenuity of humankind.

At times, Child's philosophizing borders on the grace and eloquence of the Greeks: "In grand conceptions, and in works of durability, you would always have excelled Florien, as much as he surpassed you in tastefulness and elegance. By striving to be what he was, you parted with your own gifts, without attaining to his. Every man in the natural sphere of his own talent, and all in harmony; this is the true order, my son; and I tempted you to violate it p.166."

The other story that transported me was Nathaniel Hawthorne's Rappaccini's Daughter, a tale that delves into the subject of chemical transmutation of the human form, alienation, amoral experimentation, with a Romeo and Juliet-like twist. I would recommend this collection on the strength of these four visionary tales alone, though the other six certainly contain points to recommend them as well.

While the depictions of "modern" technology were indeed quaint and silly at times in these stories, I was most struck by the ethereal, dream-like narratives, the elements of fable, fairytale, and magical realism found sprinkled like pixie dust liberally throughout these works. For the sake of identifying the origins of a genre, Barger's logic in placing them in this science fiction collection makes sense. However, many of these stories belong equally to the world of fantasy. If these tales are any indication, it seems that the early Victorians were most concerned with the ability of technology to change nature, and to replace morality with utility. The stories dealing with trans-human metamorphosis and the construction of artificial beings remind us that when we transcend the limits of human nature, we irrevocably alter it, and sometimes not for the best. Ultimately, these stories seem to impart the message that life and love are fleeting, and when we tinker with the "mechanics" of either, we are destined to lose both.