Monday, September 30, 2013

FrightFall Read-a-Thon: My reading plans #FrightFall

I'll be spending my FrightFall read-a-thon time here on Castle Macabre. It will fit in nicely with the kick off of Season of the Witch tomorrow. I actually have mostly scary reading lined up to read this week. I'm not aiming to finish a book, unless I just happen to. I'll be focusing on pages read, my goal being between 500 - 1000 pages.

Reading list:

Finish The Arrow Chest, Robert Parry (today)
Reading from...The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova
Starting Joyland, Stephen King
Reading from Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (need to finish this tomorrow)
This House is Haunted, John Boyne
Starting Season of the Witch, Natasha Mostert
Need to start Write-a-Thon, Rochelle Melander (prep for NaNoWriMo next month)

Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake

Are you joining us for the read-a-thon? You can still jump in HERE.


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Friday, September 27, 2013

Banned Books Week: "One of the most challenged authors alive," Stephen King

Reminder: The final check-in for The Arrow Chest read-a-long will be on Monday. Just wanted to remind you in case you were looking for it today. I had it on the reading schedule for the end of the month.

According to the American Library Association, Stephen King is one of the most "challenged" authors alive, meaning parents still want his books placed on special shelves in school libraries — or removed altogether.

Pretty much every book Stephen King has ever written has been challenged and/or banned at one time or other. According to this site, every SK book on their lists have even been burned in protest.

Considered dangerous because it "contains violence and demonic possession and
ridicules the Christian religion."
Challenged by Campbell County, Wyoming, school system, 1983.
Banned by Washington County, Alabama, Board of Education, 1985.
(all from gumbopages)

Stephen King wrote this article which was published as a guest column in the March 20, 1992 issue of The Bangor Daily News.

The book-banners: Adventure in censorship is stranger than fiction by Stephen King

"When I came into my office last Thursday afternoon, my desk was covered with those little pink message slips that are the prime mode of communication around my place. Maine Public Broadcasting had called, also Channel 2, the Associated Press, and even the Boston Globe. It seems the book-banners had been at it again, this time in Florida. They had pulled two of my books, "The Dead Zone" and "The Tommyknockers," from the middle-school library shelves and were considering making them limited-access items in the high school library. What that means is that you can take the book out if you bring a note from your mom or your dad saying it's OK.

My news-media callers all wanted the same thing -- a comment. Since this was not the first time one or more of my books had been banned in a public school (nor the 15th), I simply gathered the pink slips up, tossed them in the wastebasket, and went about my day's work. The only thought that crossed my mind was one strongly tinged with gratitude: There are places in the world where the powers that be ban the author as well as the author's works when the subject matter or mode of expression displeases said powers. Look at Salman Rushdie, now living under a death sentence, or Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who spent eight years in a prison camp for calling Josef Stalin "the boss" and had to run for the west to avoid another stay after he won the Nobel Prize for "The Gulag Archipelago."

When the news stories about my latest adventure in censorship came out, however, I didn't like the way that "the author could not be reached for comment" stuff looked. To me, that line has always called up images of swindlers too cowardly to face up to what they've done. In this case I haven't done anything but my job, and I know it's all too possible to make a career out of defending one's fiction -- for a while in the mid-1980s, Judy Blume almost did make a career out of it -- but I still didn't like the way it felt.

So, just for the record, here is what I'd say if I still took time out from doing my work to defend it.
First, to the kids: There are people in your home town who have taken certain books off the shelves of your school library. Do not argue with them; do not protest; do not organize or attend rallies to have the books put back on their shelves. Don't waste your time or your energy. Instead, hustle down to your public library, where these frightened people's reach must fall short in a democracy, or to your local bookstore, and get a copy of what has been banned. Read it carefully and discover what it is your elders don't want you to know. In many cases you'll finish the banned book in question wondering what all the fuss was about. In others, however, you will find vital information about the human condition. It doesn't hurt to remember that John Steinbeck, J.D. Salinger, and even Mark Twain have been banned in this country's public schools over the last 20 years.

Second, to the parents in these towns: There are people out there who are deciding what your kids can read, and they don't care what you think because they are positive their ideas of what's proper and what's not are better, clearer than your own. Do you believe they are? Think carefully before you decide to accord the book-banners this right of cancellation, and remember that they don't believe in democracy but rather in a kind of intellectual autocracy. If they are left to their own devices, a great deal of good literature may soon disappear from the shelves of school libraries simply because good books -- books that make us think and feel -- always generate controversy.

If you are not careful and diligent about defending the right of your children to read, there won't be much left, especially at the junior-high level where kids really begin to develop a lively life of the mind, but books about heroic boys who come off the bench to hit home runs in the bottom of the ninth and shy girls with good personalities who finally get that big prom date with the boy of their dreams. Is this what you want for your kids, keeping in mind that controversy and surprise -- sometimes even shock -- are often the whetstone on which young minds are sharpened?

Third, to the other interested citizens of these towns: Please remember that book-banning is censorship, and that censorship in a free society is always a serious matter -- even when it happens in a junior high, it is serious. A proposal to ban a book should always be given the gravest consideration. Book-banners, after all, insist that the entire community should see things their way, and only their way. When a book is banned, a whole set of thoughts is locked behind the assertion that there is only one valid set of values, one valid set of beliefs, one valid perception of the world. It's a scary idea, especially in a society which has been built on the ideas of free choice and free thought.

Do I think that all books and all ideas should be allowed in school libraries? I do not. Schools are, after all, a "managed" marketplace. Books like "Fanny Hill" and Brett Easton Ellis' gruesome "American Psycho" have a right to be read by people who want to read them, but they don't belong in the libraries of tax-supported American middle schools. Do I think that I have an obligation to fly down to Florida and argue that my books, which are a long way from either "Fanny Hill" or "American Psycho," be replaced on the shelves from which they have been taken? No. My job is writing stories, and if I spent all my time defending the ones I've written already, I'd have no time to write new ones.

Do I believe a defense should be mounted? Yes. If there's one American belief I hold above all others, it's that those who would set themselves up in judgment on matters of what is "right" and what is "best" should be given no rest; that they should have to defend their behavior most stringently. No book, record, or film should be banned without a full airing of the issues. As a nation, we've been through too many fights to preserve our rights of free thought to let them go just because some prude with a highlighter doesn't approve of them." (from

Reason: "sexual language, casual sex, and violence"
Banned and Challenged Books In Texas Public Schools

2002-2003 The Brookeland ISD reported that all Stephen King books were banned in all district schools.

The challenge was brought by a parent, and “…also brought to the attention of the Board of
Trustees.” This challenge was listed as one entry in our main report or our summary tables, since
it was not specific as to title and because of the large number of Stephen King titles in existence. (from ACLU Texas)

Considered "trash" that is especially harmful for "younger girls."
Challenged by Clark High School library, Las Vegas, Nevada, 1975.
Placed on special closed shelf in Union High School library, Vergennes,
Vermont, 1978.

Some may argue and say, "What's the big deal?  It's not like his books are classics."  To this I say...although his works are not considered "classics" in the normal sense of the word, King has a voice.  He has written about problems in our society such as school bullying (Carrie), spousal abuse (Rose Madder), political megalomania (The Dead Zone), racial prejudice (Bag of Bones), alcoholism (The Shining) and a myriad of others.  All this and being one of the best horror writers of all time.  Frankly, I would be HORRIFIED if I was prevented from reading his books!

(This post is a repost from The True Book Addict (in partiality), October 2, 2009)


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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Robert Parry, author of The Arrow Chest, talks about the importance of being Gothic

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING GOTHIC (or at least some of the time, anyway)
by Robert Parry, author of 'The Arrow Chest'

What do you think of when you hear the word 'Gothic?' For most of us it conjures up images of old buildings with pointy arches and tall turrets, old churchyards, or Halloween and witches' hats. We also think of ghosts and of death. But who really likes the subject of death in real life! For anyone who has been recently bereaved, death is not a nice thing at all. And none of us want to think too much about our own mortality. So why do we so enjoy 'the Gothic' in literature, fashion and movies?

The Victorians, who gave us what is called the Gothic Revival of the 19th Century, were surrounded by death - the consequences of the overcrowded and insanitary conditions of the cities of the Industrial Revolution in which diseases such as cholera and typhoid cut down innocent victims of all ages in their thousands. And yet the Victorians celebrated the Gothic like no other! Was it a way of expressing their fears and grief, of making an accommodation with death? Perhaps. There are lots of good reasons for being Gothic, though, even today. Here are some of them ...

It quickens the pulse, gets us excited and scared for a moment and reminds us that our rational, day-to-day world with all its commitments and pressures is not the sole, be-all and end-all of reality.

Through festivals such as Halloween (and this goes back a long way in one form or another) we get in touch with the passing of the seasons and therefore with nature, too. 

The Gothic allows us to communicate safely with the inner self - a landscape of the imagination which reveals the darker side of the personality, including the fears and anxieties that we all need to acknowledge sometimes. 

Exploring the Gothic is a creative experience. When we have a problem to solve and someone recommends we 'sleep on it' it really means we need to get in touch with the less-conscious parts of our selves. In our dark Gothic landscape of dreams and fantasy, all sorts of original ideas and creative solutions can be found.

Some of the fashions and styles associated with the Gothic are simply beautiful in their own right. Everything from clothing, to furniture, from architecture to the design of lettering has been touched by the Gothic to good effect.

So have fun this Gothic September! I will try to remember that not everybody will be quite so enthusiastic. Those who really have had to face bereavement in one way or another can seem a bit cool when presented with too much of the Gothic. That is perhaps why it is favoured by the young, by those who have not yet had too much death and dying to contend with. It's OK. No matter what our age, we should all still take a peep inside the Gothic box from time to time. It puts us in touch with who we are, where we come from and, of course, like it or not, that place to which we will all be returning one day. And that, as the title of this little article suggests, is the importance of being Gothic.

Robert Parry is a UK writer of historical fiction with special interests in Tudor and Elizabethan history, Victorian Gothic and Pre-Raphaelite art. His debut novel, ‘Virgin and the Crab’ appeared in 2009, and his 2nd, ‘The Arrow Chest,’ in 2011. He is currently working on a story set in the 18th century – entitled 'Wildish' - which, all being well, should arrive in February of 2013. His work spans the Tudor, Georgian and Victorian eras, and combines reality, dreams and the unconscious within a well-researched and vivid historical setting.

Details, plus news, competitions and more can be found at
Also, various articles by Robert Parry can be found at

Join me for my FrightFall Read-a-Thon at Seasons of Reading and you'll have a chance to win your very own copy of The Arrow Chest!

This post is part of....


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Monday, September 23, 2013

Gothic September and Banned Books Week

It's the final week of Gothic September. I hope you've been getting in some good Gothic reading. I've been enjoying our read-a-long of Robert Parry's The Arrow Chest. Such a wonderful book! I'll be sharing a guest post from Robert this week so stay tuned for that.

It's also Banned Books Week and I wanted to do some posts this week about books fitting to this blog's aesthetic which have been banned/challenged. Today I'm going to share what I would consider two of the most important titles in Gothic fiction and the reasons for their being challenged/banned in the past. But first, a little note on why challenged books are just as important as books that were actually banned...

"Challenges are as important to document as actual bannings, in which a book is removed from the shelves of a library or bookstore or from the curriculum at a school. Attempts to censor can lead to voluntary restriction of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy; in these cases, material may not be published at all or may not be purchased by a bookstore, library, or school district." (source)

Bram Stoker's Dracula has been challenged in the past for the following..."the book contains unacceptable descriptions in the intro, such as 'Dracula is the symptom of a wish, largely sexual, that we wish we did not have."

In 1955, the New York Times reported that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was banned by South Africa's Apartheid regime due to it being "indecent, objectionable, obscene."

I have not read Frankenstein yet, but have read Dracula. I think it's a downright shame to deprive anyone of the opportunity to read these classic novels. Would that we could hear the authors' thoughts on their books being challenged/banned.

To learn more about Banned Books Week, visit


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Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Arrow Chest Read-a-Long--Week Three

It's the third week into our lovely read of The Arrow Chest and I have to say that I'm enjoying it more and more as I keep reading. With the terrific insight of my reading companion, Eliza, aspects of the story have been brought to light and have opened up my understanding of the parallels to the historic figures of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII and other surrounding players of that era.

In this section, we are really beginning to get a more Gothic feel, as I can't help but envision the castle ruins at which Daphne and Beth bide their time waiting for Amos and his carriage rescue. Beth's story is so heart wrenching. We get the connection of her to Elizabeth I...the early mistreatment she faced when her mother was so maliciously disposed of and the subsequent danger she experienced on her path to the throne. Even Beth's relationship with her sister hearkens to the strained relationship of sisters Elizabeth and Mary Tudor. I'm loving the friendship that has developed between Beth and Daphne because I'm reminded of mother and daughter and perhaps the sort of relationship Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth would have had if Anne had lived. I find myself hoping that Beth has a triumphant future ahead of her, even though I'm dreading that Daphne's will be quite tragic.

We really are getting the gist in this book that the plight of women really has not changed much since the sixteenth century. Women are still expected to marry according to position, often without love. They are still expected to produce an heir. And if any impropriety is expected, there is no end to what can be done to them, from being set aside with a divorce, declared mentally unfit and institutionalized, or worse, perhaps disposed of in the worse way...murder. All this, while the man can philander wherever and with whomever he chooses without even an eyelash batted. It's all very outrageous to a woman of the twenty-first century!

What are your thoughts on this week's section and the book in general? Are you as outraged as I am by what is developing? Share your thoughts in the comments or post a link to your blog post.


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Monday, September 16, 2013

The Arrow Chest Read-a-Long--Week 2

I apologize for being so late with this. I got behind on the reading and then the weekend came and it always seems I'm so busy on the weekend (when am I not busy really). Anyhoo...time for some thoughts on week two's reading.

Can I just say again how much I'm enjoying this book!? It's so wonderfully Gothic with all the ghostly apparitions (or ghosts who seem to be real people until they suddenly disappear...delicious!) and mediums and seances. Honestly, while I'm reading I'm transported. I feel like I'm part of the story.

Shall I reflect on the pomposity and utter asshattery of Oliver Ramsey? He is a most intolerable character. I really think I would have to slap him if I had to be in the same room with him. As Eliza pointed out last week, definite parallels with Henry VIII, with Daphne being the Anne Boleyn in the story. The whole, "I need a male heir" and his attitude toward Daphne when she miscarries. Really the attitude of him and the entire staff is reproachable.

I found myself wondering how Amos inherited from his father when he was estranged, but I guess estranged doesn't necessarily mean disinherited. So, his fortunes have improved, but is he risking it all for the sake of love and truth? Perhaps. I'm really anxious to see how this plays out.

Another quick note...I'm loving the flashbacks via Amos's dreams, where Daphne is clearly Anne Boleyn, but who is Amos from that past? I hope we find out!

If you're reading along, feel free to share your thoughts here in the comments or link to your blog post. I'll be on time this week with the post...God willing!


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Friday, September 6, 2013

The Arrow Chest Read-a-Long--Week One

So, how do you fair so far in our oh-so Gothic read of The Arrow Chest? I am thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere and ghostliness of it all.

Observations so far...

Amos is quite a likable character. He's just as I'd imagine a young artist of the time to be. I like how he interacts with his maid, Beth, and I can't help but hope that there might be a future between the two. I know, I know...I should not hope for such things, but it seems I'm always for the underdog.

Lord Bowlend--Oliver--is quite a boar, is he not. I believe that Daphne has realized her mistake in marrying him. And what was that whole scenario in the study between Oliver, Amos and that Tommy character? That was quite a tense situation. It makes me wonder if there really is something very dark buried below Oliver's (somewhat) polished exterior.

Daphne is an enigma. She seems quite a smart woman and undoubtedly beautiful. I'm hoping that more of her character will be revealed as we continue reading.

What are your thoughts on the first section? Any insights or observations of your own? Please share in the comments or link to your blog post.

For next week, Chapters 7 - 12, concluding on page 167.


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Thursday, September 5, 2013

New Kindle Serial--McFall by Scott Nicholson plus {Giveaway}

A six episode serial...available on Amazon for $1.99.

A return to the haunted world of The Red Church and Drummer Boy, from Amazon’s 47North imprint.

When wealthy developer Larkin McFall moves to the small Appalachian Mountain community of Barkersville, generations-old tales of supernatural phenomena, sudden deaths, and odd disappearances resurface.

Your chance to win a Kindle Fire, a signed limited edition of The Skull Ring, or $20 Amazon gift card. Visit Scott's website to enter.


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Monday, September 2, 2013

It's Gothic September!

The first of September already! I can't believe how fast this year has gone by so far. So, are we ready to get into some good Gothic/scary reading this Fall? Have you started reading The Arrow Chest yet?
Our read-a-long has started. If you are planning on joining us, be sure to check out the reading schedule HERE. Our first discussion post will be up on Friday.

I'm still interested in guests this month...either a guest post or be a guest reviewer. If you're interested, leave me a comment with your contact info and I'll get back to you.

Along with The Arrow Chest, I might try to read The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill. It's only 145 pages long so should be doable. I'm also reading Jane Eyre this month and I've seen some refer to it as a Gothic classic so I guess it counts too. I'll be sharing some of Edgar Allan Poe's poems with you this month too.

What will you be reading this month? Leave me a comment.

Let's get Gothic!


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