Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts - Z is For Zing, Z?, Zennor

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Ghosts
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suitable for all
I can't believe we're on the final day of the A to Z! It's been one hell of a month. I've visited some great blogs and I've had some lovely folks visit me. so, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on my blog this month, and thank you to the great A to Z team who have made this blog hop possible!

So, the last day, and I'm talking about finishing your story with a zing, my author of choice is actually a random selection of those who didn't quite make it into the rest of the month, and I'm going to tell you about Zennor in Cornwall as my haunted location. Plus the final part of The Burning Web, where we learn the fate of Berwick House and its ghosts.

Z is for Zing
Okay, so I've talked about building tension, varying the mood and pace of a story and giving your readers a payoff in the climax of a story, so now, we quite naturally, come to the end of the road. How to finish your story. There are as many ways to end a story as there are stories, but I'm going to talk about one that is a particular favourite of the spooky genre: ending with a zing, a frisson of excitement that leaves the reader just a tiny bit uncomfortable, thinking about the story, not wanting to let it go.

Yesterday, I talked about tying up your loose ends and giving your reader satisfaction at the end of a story, and I am in no way retracting that advice when I talk about the zingy ending. However, you don't have to tie up every loose end in the end of your story. There can be a few threads left over to continue the arc of the story into a second story, or just make the reader sit up and take notice, in fact, most authors leave a few odd things whether by design or accident, since they are things to think about for the reader once the story has finished, even if there never is a sequel.

Evil Dead did this in every single film - Ash would beat the demons, but then there would be something supernatural left over, a classic nasty twist that a lot of horror movies go in for. Ghost stories and horror movies tend to rely on 'you can't kill something that's already dead'. ;P The Woman In Black, leaves us with a sense of menace in all guises of the story, because the supernatural continues, in fact, Hammer are making a sequel to their 2012 film version, The Woman In Black: Angels of Death, which is due for release in 2015.

So, whether it's a unexpected twist, a revelation, or just a little reminder that you can't kill death, if it's done well, that little burst of suspense at the end of your story may be what brings a reader back to read more of your work :).
by Sophie Duncan

First Part | Previous Part
The bulldozer pulled down the final wall of Berwick house and Tris relaxed against Xander, easing away the tension that had been between his shoulders since the night six months ago when he had watched the place burn. So much had happened since then it felt like a different world, an old nightmare, but not even selling the place to developers had quite dispelled Tris' nerves about Margaret's legacy.

"So that's it, the last stone demolished," Xander sighed, wrapping his arm round Tris' shoulders. "Happy now?"

"Finally over," Tris agreed. "A dozen new houses will be here soon and no sign of that place is left."

He shivered though, as the horrors of that night and its consequences came back for a moment.

"Are you alright?" Xander checked.

Tris looked down over the view that the house's removal had left and smiled sadly.

"Maybe now the media frenzy will end and we can get on with that life we've been promising ourselves."

Xander huffed and then laughed sourly.

"Yes, I could do without all the 'Psychic Cop' and 'Death Magnet Killer' headlines," his husband agreed.

"Next time I befriend an amiable older lady, shoot me," Tris scoffed, "and then burn all her diaries."

It had been lucky for him that Julienne had captured her thoughts about him and Margaret in her diary, since his claim that she had tried to kill him would have been much more difficult to prove for Tris otherwise. However, the diaries had been leaked to the press during the inquiry into the fire and Julienne's death and they had included Julienne's opinion on Tris' sensitivity to the supernatural. In fact, her observations had told Tris more about what had happened to him due to the aneurysm than he'd known himself.

"Deal," Xander agreed, then shrugged down, looked up at the sky and pulled the hood of his jacket up. "Now, can we go, it's about to rain."

Tris nodded and they turned together. That is when he saw him, Abdi, standing beside their car, and he tensed.

"What is it?" Xander asked immediately, looking around.

Tris appreciated Xander's trust in his senses now, but he always regretted that the one sighting they had shared of Margaret had been the only one. Still, Abdi was no longer a vision that worried him, well not in himself. He had no idea what Abdi actually was, part of his damaged psyche, or something more sentient, because the vision never moved, or spoke, but one thing he always was, was a warning.

"Abdi," he explained to Xander.

His husband frowned, but Tris knew he had to follow the direction of the boy's stare, which was over his own shoulder.

Tris turned back and looked through the gates at the pile of rubble that was all that was left of Berwick House. He drew in a hasty breath, chills running up and down his spine, and grabbed for Xander's hand as his attention closed down on a face he had hoped never to see again. Standing there within the heaps of bricks and broken masonry, his personal horror smiled confidently back at him, the sight of her made gruesome by the fact that half of her face was a mess of charred flesh, her teeth showing through curled, black lips and her eye burnt away to a shadowy hollow.

"Is she there?" Xander spoke with now practised enquiry, although his tone held significantly more disquiet this time.

Tris nodded dumbly, flexing his hold on his husband's fingers as he tried to keep himself separate from the ghoulish vision.

"What's she doing?"

"Nothing, she's just standing there, looking at us," Tris described what he was seeing, since it helped with the disassociation.

"Then let's go," Xander urged. "The house is gone, Margaret can't do anything else to us."

Xander turned and tugged him towards the car, but Tris did not move. He held on to Xander's hand more strongly and stared down the driveway at the horror there.

"No," he objected and Xander tensed, so he glanced back to his husband and explained, hearing the waver in his own voice, "not Margaret, Julienne."

The End

First Part | Previous Part

Author Info: A Selection of Authors
So, I don't have any ghost story writers in by book collection that begin with Z, and neither could I find one when researching on Google, so I thought I'd share some of the other writers and their stories I've read that didn't make it in on the other days :).

Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton is famous for the opening line 'It was a dark and stormy night...', among many other books. His story The Haunted & The Haunters, is a scary tale of a man spending the night in a haunted house in the hopes of discovering why it is so dreadfully haunted.

Thomas Hardy, more famous for the likes of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, also penned a ghost story called, The Withered ArmIt's a story about a love triangle and a woman looking for a cure for her withered arm.

Mrs Henry Wood writes a tragic tale of love, jealousy and shame called, Reality or Delusion?

Sir Walter Scott, also known for other works such as Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, wrote The Tapestried Chamber, a simple tale of a soldier visiting an old friend and put up in an old fashioned chamber where he spends a truly disastrous night, meeting the awful ghost of an old lady, as Scott puts it:
Upon a face which wore the fixed features of a corpse were imprinted the traces of the vilest and most hideous passions which had animated her while she lived.
These are just a few of the ghost story authors I have enjoyed over the years of reading such tales, and there are many, many more. Since many of the classic ghost story writers are out of copyright now, you can check out Project Gutenberg, or Amazon kindle for freebies and low-priced eBooks containing their stories.

Whether you want to be frightened, excited, unnerved, or even to cry, there's a ghost story out there for you. :)

British Hauntings: Zennor
There aren't a lot of places in the UK that begin with the letter Z, and even fewer of them have anything to do with the supernatural! However, Zennor, a village on the North Coast of Cornwall, has a famous link to the paranormal, a link that is even immortalised in the local church. On the end of a chair in St Senara's church is the carved figure of a mermaid. The mermaid of Zennor has become a well-known Cornish folktale and she has been immortalised in song and prose.

The tale goes that a mysterious and beautiful young woman appeared at the church, attending services and singing so sweetly that she enchanted the parishioners. She would come to the church infrequently, but returned over many years, never appearing to age. The mystery woman became enamoured of a young man, Matthew Trewella, and, one day, both she and Matthew disappeared. The villagers did not know what had happened to them until one day a ship anchored in the cove and a mermaid appeared, asking for the anchor to be raised since it was blocking her door and she could not reach her children. When the villagers heard of this, they concluded that the mermaid was their mystery woman, and she had enticed Matthew under the sea to be with her.

There is no suggestion in this story that Matthew came to any harm when he went to be with the mermaid, unlike other tales where ghosts and other supernatural creatures have been known to lure the unwary to their doom in the waves. In fact, I like this version of the story, since it suggests the couple found happiness together under the sea :).

I'd love to hear your own spooky stories, add them to the blog comments. :)

A few of us discovered that we all had supernatural themes for the AtoZ so we got together and did a mini list. If you also have a supernatural theme (ghosts, monsters, witches, spells etc), please feel free to add yourself to the list.

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  1. You're my first Z! How exciting...the end of the challenge. The story of Zennor is kind of melancholy. It makes me wonder what really happened to the couple.

    1. Z already! Time to raise a glass to a great month :D

      The Zennor story is a strange one - was there really a beautiful woman who inspired the rumour, did she perhaps elope with her young man - you do have to wonder :)

  2. yes! leave room for a sequel!! if people like your writing, they will want more! especially if you have good characters =)

    awesome job with the challenge!! looking forward to "normal" blogging!

    1. Always leave room for a sequel :D

      Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed my posts - I'm looking forward 'normal' blogging as well - I collected about forty new blogs to follow this month :)

  3. It would be good to think that poor Matthew had a happy ending and is busy having mermaid children :)
    I've enjoyed reading all your ghostly posts.

    Shelley Munro

    1. Yes, it would be good to hope when she took Matthew with her, they created a life for themselves under the sea :)

      Thanks for popping by this month, it's been good to read you posts as well :)

  4. How interesting to have a mermaid for local lore. So cool! I also like to think she and Matthew found happiness below the waves. And I'm totally going to check out Project Gutenberg. I've got a "to read" list five miles long, many of which are classical novels.

    Thanks for a great A to Z, Sophie! It's been lots of fun. :D

    1. Project Gutenberg has been a wonder to me - and the great thing is for me, since I have a Kindle, a lot of their books are available for free on Amazon too :)

      Thanks for popping by - it's been a fun month :D

  5. Zennor sounds very story me some ideas.

    THANK YOU for hosting the Supernatural A to Z with you sister. I got read so many great blogs and meet so many really cool people.

    Timothy S. Brannan
    The Other Side, April Blog Challenge: The A to Z of Witches

    1. Anything that generates ideas can't be bad :)

      It was you and Tasha that came up with the Supernatural A to Z, so kudos to you too - it was great meeting some other supernatural junkies like that :D

      Keep in touch :)

  6. Okay, but now I want to know about the rest of the Zennor story! Did anyone ever see Matthew and the Mermaid's kids swimming around? Did Matthew become a Merman? Too many questions! Oh, wait, is that the "zing" you were referring to earlier in the post? :)

    Happy Z Day!

    1. LOL - I suppose that is a kind of zing - I hope Matthew adapted to a happy life under the sea :)

      Thanks for coming over to my blog during the A to Z - great to meet you :D

  7. I love the Mermaid of Zennor! One of the first stories I learned to tell when I was a beginner storyteller. Such a great story :)
    Thank you for all the visits! I have really enjoyed your A to Z. And also thank you for the offer, I would definitely love to guest blog here sometime! Let me know what you have in mind. Cheers!

    1. How do you go about learning to tell stories? It's something I'm no good at - speaking my stories out loud - it's a skill I really admire.
      This A to Z has been such fun :D As for a guest post - I don't have too many stipulations, I just enjoy hosting folks, so if you have an event/book/skill you want to promote, or if you'd like to give my readers an insight into what you do - any, or all would be great :)

  8. Aw Sophie I love that story! Totally made me smile :) What a great way to end the challenge!

    1. Glad to end it on a high note for you :) thanks for popping by and making the month so much fun,

  9. A new Woman in Black? Yay!! I'd be doing a happy dance that the A-Z is over, but I don't have the energy -- I guess I'm all outa "zing." You did great though - your posts took a lot more research than mine. Thanks for all the info and entertainment. :)

    1. I'm looking forward to the sequel as well - although it's not based on a book, so I'm a little nervous about it.

      It's been a long month, I think we all need a little rest before launching on more blogging adventures ;P

      I loved your posts and thanks for stopping by mine :D

  10. What a sweet and lovely story to end your A to Z. It has been very interesting to read about all the ghosts and haunted places in England. And it has been great to get to know you.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the stories and it was great to meet you too. :D

  11. Best line: "Next time I befriend an amiable older lady, shoot me," LOL! Great series. :)

    1. I'm really happy you enjoyed it :D Thanks for reading!

  12. I do like a little zing at the end of a story. Adds a little excitement after everything seems all wrapped up.

    Congratulations on getting through the challenge. I had lots of fun reading your posts.

    ~Patricia Lynne~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, YA Author

    1. Thanks for coming by and commenting all month, it's been fun chatting :)

  13. Congratulations on making it to Z, I've loved your theme this month.
    I love the mermaid story, it's nice to read about a happy ending :)

    1. Thanks :) It's been a great month.

      The mermaid is a nice, sweet story to end on. Thanks for coming back again and again and joining in :)

  14. Well that's it, a great end to The Burning Web. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading every post and I'm pleased I discovered your blog through the A to Z theme reveal.

    You have enthralled us all with your haunted tales of the UK, and educated us with your book recommendations, thank you for your hard work and for sharing it with us. :)

    I never say never, and I will be returning even though the challenge has finished, and I would like to say a massive thank you for your daily visits and comments on my posts. So congratulations for finishing an exhausting but memorable month. Now go pour yourself a glass of whatever takes your your fancy and relax. :)

    1. I am really happy you enjoyed The Burning Web (even if you called all my twists ;P) I'm glad to have met you too :)

      Cheers! And here's raising my glass to a fabulous month - it has been a pleasure visiting your blog and finding out about Arlo and the others - you really have something there. I'm following your blog, so I'm looking forward to updates :)

  15. I also want to believe that the mermaid and Matthew were happy under the sea. I reviewed a lovely YA book earlier this year and discovered mermaids or sirens as they're called can live on land, and humans under the sea. I loved the finale of the fantastic Tris story. What a chilling twist end. It has also been a pleasure reading your posts and Natasha's too. You haven't seen the last of me:) Congratulations on completing an awesome theme!

    1. I'm an optimist, Matthew and his mermaid live happily ever after, I'm sure of it :)

      I'm glad you enjoyed my story :D

      Do keep in touch, it's been such fun reading your stories too :)

  16. Congratulations on reaching the end!

    The scariest thing that ever happened to me, paranormal-wise, involved not a ghost, but an alien. At eight years old, I completely freaked out over a Time Life commercial for a book about aliens, even though I quickly ran out of the room shortly after I saw the first images appear. All these years later, I still remember how the commercial began, "Somewhere, a woman has a funny feeling her daughter has just been in an accident." That night in my bed, which was under a tent with glow in the dark star and planet stickers, I saw a super-tall alien advancing towards me in the dark, and I screamed bloody murder. I don't think I've ever experienced anything like that since, so worked up and terrified that I saw something/someone that wasn't really there. I'm not even Catholic, but I was madly clutching the Rosary beads my mother lent me that night!

    1. Thank you.

      That sounds like a truly terrifying experience for a child to go through! Just shows our terrors come in all shapes and sizes. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Oooh! I got chills at the Julienne ending!! Great job!

    Wonderful atoz theme, Sophie! I'm so glad I found your blog!!


Thanks for stopping by - I'd love to hear from you. :)