a bibliography of sorts: the reference library
Kira's reference library collects the non-fiction titles she uses to improve her writing, expand her understanding of the material she works with, and offers context into some of the subject matter she's exploring in her fiction. Includes books on writing, the occult, and strange history.
Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer, this special edition of Stephen King’s critically lauded, million-copy bestseller shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work.
“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Scribner, 2000. Print.
There’s more to writing a successful fantasy story than building a unique world or inventing new magic. How exactly is a plot put together? How do you know if your idea will support an entire novel? How do you grab reader attention and keep it? How do you create dynamic, multi-dimensional characters? What is viewpoint and do you handle it differently in urban fantasy than in traditional epics? What should you do if you’re lost in the middle? How do you make your plot end up where you intend it to go?
Chester, Deborah. The Fantasy Fiction Formula. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2016. Print.
This all-new definitive guide to writing imaginative fiction takes a completely novel approach and fully exploits the visual nature of fantasy through original drawings, maps, renderings, and exercises to create a spectacularly beautiful and inspiring object. Employing an accessible, example-rich approach, Wonderbook energizes and motivates while also providing practical, nuts-and-bolts information needed to improve as a writer. Aimed at aspiring and intermediate-level writers, Wonderbook includes helpful sidebars and essays from some of the biggest names in fantasy today, such as George R. R. Martin, Lev Grossman, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Catherynne M. Valente, and Karen Joy Fowler, to name a few.
VanderMeer, Jeff. Wonderbook: An Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. New York: Abrams Image, 2013. Print.
In On Writing Horror, Second Edition, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Harlan Ellison, David Morrell, Jack Ketchum, and many others tell you everything you need to know to successfully write and publish horror novels and short stories.
Edited by the Horror Writers Association (HWA), a worldwide organization of writers and publishing professionals dedicated to promoting dark literature, On Writing Horror includes exclusive information and guidance from 58 of the biggest names in horror writing to give you the inspiration you need to start scaring and exciting readers and editors.
Castle, Mort. On Writing Horror: A Handbook. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest, 2007. Print.
This remarkable and monumental book at last provides a comprehensive answer to the age-old riddle of whether there are only a small number of ‘basic stories’ in the world. Using a wealth of examples, from ancient myths and folk tales via the plays and novels of great literature to the popular movies and TV soap operas of today, it shows that there are seven archetypal themes which recur throughout every kind of storytelling.
But this is only the prelude to an investigation into how and why we are ‘programmed’ to imagine stories in these ways, and how they relate to the inmost patterns of human psychology. Drawing on a vast array of examples, from Proust to detective stories, from the Marquis de Sade to E.T., Christopher Booker then leads us through the extraordinary changes in the nature of storytelling over the past 200 years, and why so many stories have ‘lost the plot’ by losing touch with their underlying archetypal purpose.
Booker analyses why evolution has given us the need to tell stories and illustrates how storytelling has provided a uniquely revealing mirror to mankind’s psychological development over the past 5000 years.
This seminal book opens up in an entirely new way our understanding of the real purpose storytelling plays in our lives, and will be a talking point for years to come.
Booker, Christopher. The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories. London: Continuum, 2004. Print.
The Writer’s Journey explores the powerful relationship between mythology and storytelling in a clear, concise style that’s made it required reading for movie executives, screenwriters, playwrights, scholars, and fans of pop culture all over the world. The updated and revised third edition provides new insights and observations from Vogler’s ongoing work on mythology’s influence on stories, movies, and man himself.
Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions, 2007. Print.
When it comes to writing bestsellers, it’s all about the plot. Trouble is, plot is where most writers fall down–but you don’t have to be one of them. With this book, you’ll learn how to create stories that build suspense, reveal character, and engage readers–one scene at a time.
Celebrated writing teacher and author Martha Alderson has devised a plotting system that’s as innovative as it is easy to implement. With her foolproof blueprint, you’ll learn to devise a successful storyline for any genre.
Alderson, Martha. The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2011. Print.
The Making of a Story is a fresh and inspiring guide to the basics of creative writing—both fiction and creative nonfiction. Its hands-on, completely accessible approach walks writers through each stage of the creative process, from the initial triggering idea to the revision of the final manuscript. It is unique in combing the three main aspects of creative writing instruction: process (finding inspiration, getting ideas on the page), craft (specific techniques like characterization), and anthology (learning by reading masters of the form). Succinct, clear definitions of basic terms of fiction are accompanied by examples, including excerpts from masterpieces of short fiction and essays as well as contemporary novels. A special highlight is Alice LaPlante’s systematic debunking of many of the so-called rules of creative writing. This book is perfect for writers working alone as well as for creative writing classes, both introductory and advanced.
LaPlante, Alice. The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007. Print.
Why do some stories work and others don’t? The answer is structure. In this IPPY and NIEA Award-winning guide from the author of the bestselling Outlining Your Novel, you will learn the universal underpinnings that guarantee powerful plot and character arcs. An understanding of proper story and scene structure will show you how to perfectly time your story’s major events and will provide you with an unerring standard against which to evaluate your novel’s pacing and progression.
Weiland, K. M. Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story. Scottsbluff, NE: PenForASword, 2013. Print.
A truly memorable antagonist is not a one-dimensional super villain bent on world domination for no particular reason. Realistic, credible bad guys create essential story complications, personalize conflict, add immediacy to a story line, and force the protagonist to evolve.
From mischief-makers to villains to arch nemeses, Bullies, Bastards & Bitches shows you how to create nuanced bad guys who are indispensable to the stories in which they appear.
Morrell, Jessica Page. Bullies, Bastards And Bitches: How To Write The Bad Guys Of Fiction. Cincinnati, OH: F W Media, 2008. Print.
In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Lynne Truss, gravely concerned about our current grammatical state, boldly defends proper punctuation. She proclaims, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. Using examples from literature, history, neighborhood signage, and her own imagination, Truss shows how meaning is shaped by commas and apostrophes, and the hilarious consequences of punctuation gone awry.
Featuring a foreword by Frank McCourt, and interspersed with a lively history of punctuation from the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to George Orwell shunning the semicolon, Eats, Shoots & Leaves makes a powerful case for the preservation of proper punctuation.
Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. New York: Gotham, 2004. Print.
Writing a paranormal novel takes more than casting an alluring vampire or arming your hero with a magic wand. It takes an original idea, believable characters, a compelling plot, and surprising twists, not to mention great writing.
This helpful guide gives you everything you need to successfully introduce supernatural elements into any story without shattering the believability of your fictional world or falling victim to common cliches.
Piziks, Steven. Writing the Paranormal Novel: Techniques and Exercises for Weaving Supernatural Elements into Your Story. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest, 2011. Print.
This text describes the practice, theory, and underlying rationale of black magic in all its branches – the summoning and control of evil spirits, necromancy, psychic attack, devil worship, witchcraft, evil charms and spells – as well as other branches of occult theory.
Cavendish, Richard. The Black Arts. New York: Penguin Group, 1983. Print.
Part III is titled “Magick in Theory and Practice”, and is perhaps the most influential section within Book 4. In this part, magick (with the terminal -k) is defined in Crowley’s now famous “Introduction”, which is the source of many well-known statements, such as “Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” “Magick is the method of science and the aim of religion.” “Every intentional act is a Magical act.” “Magick is the Science of understanding oneself and one’s conditions. It is the Art of applying that understanding in action.” “Magick is merely to be and to do.” It contains many influential essays on various magical formulae, such as Tetragrammaton, Thelema, Agape, AUMGN, and iao. The section also addresses fundamental magical theorems, essential components of ritual, and general practices (e.g. banishing, consecration, invocation, divination, etc.).
Crowley, Aleister. Magick in Theory and Practice. New York: Dover Publications, 1976. Print.
From Abracadabra to the now famous spells of the Harry Potter series, magic words are no longer confined to the practices of pagans, alchemists, witches, and occultists. They have become part of the popular imagination of the Western world. Passed down from ancient Babylon, Egypt, and Greece, these words and the rituals surrounding them have survived through the millennia because they work. And as scholar Claude Lecouteux reveals, often the more impenetrable they seem, the more effective they are.
Analyzing more than 7,000 spells from the magical traditions of Europe as well as the magical papyri of the Greeks and recently discovered one-of-a-kind grimoires from Scandinavia, France, and Germany, Lecouteux has compiled a comprehensive dictionary of ancient magic words, phrases, and spells along with an in-depth exploration–the first in English–of secret magical alphabets, including those based on Hebrew letters, Kabbalistic symbols, astrological signs, and runes. Drawing upon thousands of medieval accounts and famous manuscripts such as the Heptameron of Peter Abano, the author examines the origins of each word or spell, offering detailed instructions on their successful use, whether for protection, love, wealth, or healing. He charts their evolution and derivations through the centuries, showing, for example, how spells that were once intended to put out fires evolved to protect people from witchcraft. He reveals the inherent versatility of magic words and how each sorcerer or witch had a set of stock phrases they would combine to build a custom spell for the magical need at hand.
Lecouteux, Claude. Dictionary of Ancient Magic Words and Spells: From Abraxas to Zoar. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2015. Print.
Hailed as “a feast” (Washington Post) and “a modern-day bestiary” (The New Yorker), Stephen Asma’s On Monsters is a wide-ranging cultural and conceptual history of monsters – how they have evolved over time, what functions they have served for us, and what shapes they are likely to take in the
future. Beginning at the time of Alexander the Great, the monsters come fast and furious – Behemoth and Leviathan, Gog and Magog, Satan and his demons, Grendel and Frankenstein, circus freaks and headless children, right up to the serial killers and terrorists of today and the post-human cyborgs of
Monsters embody our deepest anxieties and vulnerabilities, Asma argues, but they also symbolize the mysterious and incoherent territory beyond the safe enclosures of rational thought. Exploring sources as diverse as philosophical treatises, scientific notebooks, and novels, Asma unravels traditional
monster stories for the clues they offer about the inner logic of an era’s fears and fascinations. In doing so, he illuminates the many ways monsters have become repositories for those human qualities that must be repudiated, externalized, and defeated.
Asma, Stephen T. On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.
In this beautifully illustrated and well-researched book Professor Curl has rescued much fascinating material from undeserved oblivion, and his work fills a genuine gap. From humble working-class exequies to the massive outpouring of grief at the State funerals of Wellington and Queen Victoria herself, The Victorian Celebration of Death covers an immense canvas. It describes the change in sensibility that led to a new tenderness towards the dead; the history of the urban cemeteries with their architecture and landscapes; the ephemera of death and dying; State funerals as national spectacles; and the utilitarian reactions towards the end of the nineteenth century. Combining wit with compassion, Curl wears his learning lightly, and his taste for the eerie is delicately balanced by this literary personality. He has resurrected many valuable and extremely interesting aspects of nineteenth-century attitudes to death and the disposal of the dead; Curl’s achievement is as well-ordered as any sumptuous funeral, and is lucid as well as entertaining, with many surprises and associated delights.
Curl, James Stevens. The Victorian Celebration of Death. Detroit: Partridge, 1972. Print.
Drawing on extensive historical and anthropological research, personal accounts, and interviews with people who work in the funeral industry, Penny Colman examines the compelling subjects of death and burial across cultures and societies. The text, enriched with stories both humorous and poignant, includes details about the decomposition and embalming processes (an adult corpse buried six feet deep without a coffin will usually take five to ten years to turn into a skeleton) and describes the various customs associated with containing remains (the Igala people in Nigeria have a custom of burying people in as many as twenty-seven layers of clothing). Intriguing facts are revealed at every turn; for example, in Madagascar winter was considered the corpse-turning season.
This comprehensive book also includes a list of burial sites of famous people, images in the arts associated with death, fascinating epitaphs and gravestone carvings, a chronology and a glossary, and over a hundred black-and-white photographs, most of which were taken by the author.
Penny Colman writes with compassion and intelligence and humanizes the difficult subjects of death and burial. The result is a powerful look at an inevitable part of life–death.
Colman, Penny. Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts: A History of Burial. New York: Henry Holt, 1997. Print.
Increasingly, contemporary scholarship reveals the strong connection between Victorian women and the world of the nineteenth-century supernatural. Women were intrinsically bound to the occult and the esoteric from mediums who materialized spirits to the epiphanic experiences of the New Woman, from theosophy to telepathy. This volume addresses the various ways in which Victorian women expressed themselves and were constructed by the occult through a broad range of texts. By examining the roles of women as automatic writing mediums, spiritualists, authors, editors, theosophists, socialists and how they interpreted the occult in their life and work, the contributors in this edition return to sensation novels, ghost stories, autobiographies, séances and fashionable magazines to access the visible and invisible worlds of Victorian life. The variety of texts analyzed by the authors in this collection demonstrates the many interpretations of the occult in nineteenth-century culture and the ways that women used supernatural imagery and language to draw attention to issues that bore immediate implications on their own lives. Either by catering for the fad of ghost stories or by giving public trance speeches women harnessed the metaphorical and financial forces of the supernatural. As the articles in this book demonstrate the occult was after all a female affair. This book was published as a special issue of Women’s Writing.
Kontou, Tatiana. Women and the Victorian Occult. London: Routledge, 2011. Print.
From Cleopatra to Mary Ann Cotton, from cone snails to cocaine, this lavishly illustrated book will take you on a fascinating journey through the mysterious world of potions, magical herbs, and psychoactive preparations-substances at once alluring and terrifying. Poison captures them in all their complexity, describing the many roles they have played in history and culture, science and religion, medicine and murder.
Levy, Joel. Poison: An Illustrated History. Guilford, CT: Lyons, an Imprint of Globe Pequot, 2011. Print.
The Victorian period has been described as the ‘Great Age of Death’. The customs of death, notably burial and mourning, were taken very seriously and elaborate rituals of commemoration were part of everyone’s lives. As demand grew for hygienic and dignified burial places, the humble parish graveyard – unable to cope – was joined by a newcomer to the landscape, the garden cemetery. Sarah Rutherford tells the story of Victorian cemeteries in their many guises, of the variation in their size, design, planting and monuments, and how most of them survive to this day. Some, having been neglected, taking on a gloomy Gothic character, while others remain an oasis of rest and contemplation. All are tangible reminders of the Victorian approach to death, and the author helps to remind us of the importance of their visual and architectural qualities.
Rutherford, Sarah. The Victorian Cemetery. Oxford: Shire Pub., 2008. Print.
The Victorians were, were relatively at ease with death and there is much in this book to interest social historians, those interested in historical costume and transport enthusiasts, as there is a section on the development of the horse-drawn hearse.
May, Trevor. The Victorian Undertaker. Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire: Shire Publications, 1996. Print.
items of interest
The resources section offers links for writers of dark fiction and horror, authors looking to better market their work, and fans of the curious, strange, Fortean, obscure, and occult. Kira collects the articles she's found helpful in her own work, and shares them here with the hope that they'll help others too.
frequently used verbiage
A glossary of terms frequently used on this website, at the blog, and in Kira's books and short stories: an ever-growing list of oddities and curiosities drawn from folklore, urban legend, myth, history, cryptozoology, paranormal research, fairy tales, and Fortean studies.
Occasionally, Kira runs a giveaway, a contest, or supplies the horror community with interesting tidbits of useful information that she’s collected. She likes to curate the weird and wonderful, but is a real stickler about who gets that information first. Subscribing to her newsletter is the golden ticket.