An automaton ghost and the Reality Gun

During a recent brief hospital confinement, I randomly selected to read two steampunk short stories from my copy of Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant.

The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor by Delia Sherman shares the legend of Mistress Angharad Cwmlech, daughter of Sir Owen Cwmlech who went into battle and secured her in Cwmlech Manor.


The Manor House At Jas De Bouffan by Paul Cezanne (1870). Romanticism style, watercolor landscape on paper. Impressionist period. Retrieved from on January 5, 2017.

The tale is told from the perspective of Tacy Gof, filial daughter of a smith and a former kitchen maid of the said manor. She grew up with a passionate admiration for Mistress Angharad Cwmlech who hid well her family treasure and confronted a large group of enemy soldiers with a sword.

The night the Roundheads broke into the manor, they found her on the stairs, clad in her nightdress, armed with her grandfather’s sword. They slew her where she stood, but not a gold coin did they find or a silver spoon, though they turned the house upside down with looking. (Source: The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor by Delia Sherman)

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Reading 52 short stories in 2017

EDITED – Why do I read short stories? When you can explain to me how a great short story writer manages to tell a complete tale by a few paragraphs, each meaningful and bewitching, I will pull you aside and tell you not the reason but the reading experiences, each unfeigned and memorable, which draw the entire picture of my reason.

I am a relatively new short story reader, having only patronized the fruits of this challenging craft less than five years ago. While I cannot remember the first short story I read or the first that left a distinct impression on my senses, I know that one short story just led to another, from one writer in America to a writer in India, from gothic genre to social development issues.

Then my feet would drag me to book sales and my heart would easily flutter at the sight of a short story collection whose writer I haven’t even heard or read about until that time. The books naturally start to pile up.

short stories

Reading A Story. Realism Painting by James Tissot (1878-1879). Retrieved from on December 25, 2016.

Short stories are, to me, addictive, taunting me to read a few provocative lines until I would realize I have read the entire composition. They lend a glimpse into events that could have unfurled around the writer at the time of writing the story and offer me the chance to see and understand them through the writer’s lens.

Briefly yet satisfactorily, these good short stories would introduce me to various teasing scenes: the kaleidoscope of a curiosity shop; a corpse’s advanced stage of putrescence; long hair as black as coal, cared for like one would for a child; and the chattering neighbor’s attention and concern that is often, or perhaps rightly,  dismissed as gossip.

The appetite for discovering new scenes from worlds beyond my boundaries, as depicted in the short stories written with tremendous skill, encourages me, after careful thought, to join Deal Me In 2017: Short Story Reading Challenge created and hosted by Jay of Bibliophilopolis. It is the sort of challenge that reinforces my reading habits and nurtures my love of short stories.

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Quite a long hair in exchange for a Christmas gift, and a star named Billy Jackson

The following is a repost, but edited and improved, of an old piece of musing I wrote for my previous and now defunct blog:

I’ve read the biography of O. Henry and I knew I just have to read his works.

Henry, William Sydney Porter in real life, is a simple American who bore a lot of heartaches. He was born in North Carolina in 1862. He stopped his formal education at 15 but he pursued his love of reading and writing. How (figuratively) rich he was, for the world had turned into his school. He went through a lot of odd jobs—working in a drugstore, in a ranch, in a general land office, and in a bank.

As a teller, O. Henry began to show signs of poor money management. His accounts showed irregularities, but it was only later, after his wife of 10 years with whom he has two children died of tuberculosis, that he was prosecuted and convicted. He spent more than three years in prison where, with enough time on his hands, his short stories (and his pen name) were born. He purposely made O. Henry, after Orrin Henry the prison guard, as his nickname as a way to keep his identity a secret. He wanted it that way.

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A strange case and a mummy

When searching for short gothic fiction to read while on bed rest, I found recommendations for The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe and The Mummy’s Foot by Theophile Gautier. I also read Two Doctors by M.R. James, although I learned later that it is more antiquarian than gothic. But I’ll talk about it just the same.

The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar tells of the process by the narrator in mesmerizing a patient who is very near the end of his life. Mesmerism, I just learned, is a form of hypnotic induction theorized by German physician Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer.

“The aim of mesmerism was to rediscover that central point so that the individual might recover the total of his or her psychic energy and the unknown riches within.” (Source:

Edgar Allan Poe

Photo: A practitioner of mesmerism. Source:

Poe himself was considered among the creative geniuses who practiced mesmerism, alongside Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas.

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Espeleta: Estrella D. Alfon’s Tips On How To Care For Your Neighbors

How long is the street you are living in? Do you know your neighbors, greet them beyond a passing wave of the hand and a simple hello, or do you prefer to know them behind the blinds, looking on people throwing their trash or passing by your front lawn, which can awkwardly put you at the risk of being called the weirdo next door?


Can you find where Espelita Street is? (Image is a screenshot of

In Cebu, and in the rest of the Philippines, many streets are thriving, living macroorganisms. This is best illustrated by Filipino writer Estrella Alfon in her short story, Espeleta, who describes with nostalgia the Espelita Street in Cebu City:

“You could walk its whole length to where it ends by stopping humbly at the very gate of the San Nicolas churchyard; you could walk that whole unwinding length, as I say, and experience no shortness of breath, no dampness of perspiration (3).”

How would you describe your street? There are many short streets in Cebu City, each with a name after a political leader or a person with significance in history. One of them is Ballesteros Street in Barangay Tinago, Cebu City. One end connects to Lopez Jaena Street where I used to work and the other to A. Bonifacio Street where I would wait to hail a taxi just around the corner, in front of a rusty bakeshop interspersed with an equally rusty musty old house. Because it is very short, I could cover the street in just about 40 to 50 steps while, when going home, enjoying the front view of the well-conserved Casa Gorordo Museum to my left side and old houses to my right.

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