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GhoStory Guru: “Doors” by Pamela Painter

Looking to downsize? After reading Pamela Painter’s “Doors,” you might upsize instead.

“Doors” is a fine example of what extremely subtle ratcheting of tension can do: the situation seems normal. Then it’s normal but curious. Then it’s normal but slightly off…and so on. By the time the reader realizes what’s happening, it’s way too late to put it down—although the story’s subject and content are completely different, the way it was built reminded me of “A Rose for Emily”—and after I’d finished the last line, I felt that same “void.”

While many ghost stories ratchet tension well, I find this extreme subtlety not very common among the modern pieces, so for that reason, “Doors” is a must-own.

You can find “Doors” in Ghost Writing: Haunted Tales by Contemporary Writers, edited by Richard Weingarten, here:


The little houses were full of something...

Nil Desperandum, a fiction audio podcast that has featured public domain works like Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Markheim,” and Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” as well as new work by contemporary writers, will be producing my short story “Doors” as an audio podcast in the near future.

Stay tuned and I’ll let you know when you can give it a listen! In the meantime, you can head over there and enjoy some of their other terrific issues:


I’m thrilled to announce that Carpe Articulum Literary Review’s Fall 2010 Issue, which features my short story “Doors,” is now available.

This issue contains interviews with the former head of MGM Studios, Herbert F. Solow (if you’re a fan of the original Star Trek, he was the Executive in Charge of Production), and his wife, Harrison, a Pushcart Prize winner. What’s even more exciting for me is the presence of ghosts in this issue—Dr. James Ulmer presents a fantastic critical essay, “In Defense of the Otherworldly: A Discussion of the Ghost in Western Literature,” followed by his short story, “Covered Bridge Road.” For those of you who know I’ll soon be teaching a course on writing good ghost stories, you can see why I’m ecstatic.

And for those of you who know about my deep connection to the ocean and its creatures, you’ll understand why I can’t think of a more appropriate place for this special story—this issue’s theme is Mystery, and many of the pieces and artwork focus on the sea. Perhaps, as Editor-in-Chief Hadassah Broscova points out in her introduction, the most mysterious place on earth.

The Fall issue can be purchased at Barnes & Noble, Borders, I believe Amazon, and directly from Carpe here:


Carpe Articulum Literary Review has chosen “Doors” for its next quarterly issue published this Fall.

Carpe Articulum is translated into several languages—including Russian and Hindi—and features beautiful photography and artwork. Past issues have included interviews with writing and film industry greats, including Jodi Picoult, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Connie May Fowler, Pulitzer Prize Winner David E. Hoffman, Jeff Goldblum, Ray Harryhausen, and Steven Spielberg. “Mater Amabilis,” a story by Harrison Solow—who won the 2008 Pushcart Prize for Literature—took first place in the magazine’s most recent short fiction contest and appeared in the summer issue.

For more information on Carpe Articulum, you can visit its website or its listing at NewPages. To get a glimpse of the magazine’s Spring 2010 issue, click here; to read about Harrison Solow and her experience with Carpe, visit here.

Here’s the cover of their summer issue:

I’m honored and thrilled that “Doors” has found such a prestigious home, and I’ll let you know when the issue is available for purchase. I won’t spoil the story, but if you’d like to know what inspired it, you can visit .


I used to keep all of my journals and short stories in these battered suitcases. I find it interesting some stories of mine went all the way to India in suitcases, too!

Recently, a colleague went to India on business. She loves to read, and she asked if she could take several of my short stories with her. I was thrilled and promptly loaded two manila envelopes, thinking that she probably wouldn’t really enjoy them, that perhaps she was just asking to be polite.

Yesterday she came up to me and told me that my stories had saved her life.

Before she goes on any trip, her husband buys her a book to read. For this trip, he’d given her the latest novel by her favorite author, one he was sure she hadn’t read. Ecstatic, she decided to read the novel on the long flight and stowed my envelopes in her checked luggage.

After the plane was in the air, she eagerly cracked the new book—then got to the end of page one and realized she had read it. She could have read it a second time, she said, but frankly, she hadn’t really enjoyed it that much the first time.

When she finally arrived at her hotel, she was wired. “I thought, ‘what the hell am I going to do with myself?’ and then I remembered your stories and I was so excited!” She had her favorites—for those of you who are curious, she loved “Red Circle,”[1] “Crossing Guards,”[2] “Paisley Surprise,”[3] and “Doors”[4] the most—and went into detail about how they affected her, or what they made her think. “Every night at the hotel, I had them all spread out on the bed, and I’d pick one to read. Sometimes I read two, and some of them, I even read twice. I would have gone nuts over there if I didn’t have them.”

Although I was, of course, flattered by all these compliments, that’s not why I’m sharing this. I’m sharing this because during the course of the conversation I was struck by how many times I’ve doubted my career choice: as in, ‘why am I a writer? What’s the point of all this?’ I know other writers feel this way sometimes, too, although from sharing with my friends, most of us agree that it’s because we can’t not write—it’s born in us, something we have to do or we go crazy. This is usually followed by shop talk: what good writing is or is not, whether or not something we wrote is technically perfect, the minutiae of submissions, the state of the publishing industry or academia. We get all tangled up in the business, where we fit in it, and how it will judge us.

I had an epiphany when I was talking with Karen. That sometimes we forget the other reason we’re writing: our readers. Part of the job is providing them with an experience: we can allow escape, entertain, spark laughter, encourage thought, inspire change. It’s not all about us. It’s about others. Any piece of work we write—even if it’s not perfect—could heal someone, change his outlook, teach him something. That—not selling millions of copies at the bookstore or getting tenure in an English department—is the true measure of success.

Before we parted ways, Karen said she was going to pass the pile on to one of her colleagues.

I wonder what my stories will do next.

[1] “Red Circle” was first published as “The Red Circle” in The Adirondack Review’s Fall 2002 issue and is still available online for free here. It was reprinted in Mudrock: Stories & Tales’ Winter 2005 issue.

[2] “Crossing Guards” was published in Millenial Concepts’ Walls & Bridges Anthology in 2008. It’s available in both paperback and Kindle formats.

[3] “Paisley Surprise” will appear later in 2010 in Lame Goat Press’ Inner Fears anthology.

[4] “Doors” was just written while I was in Ptown in January and still has some minor clean-up to undergo before it gets submitted. If you’d like to read what inspired it, however, you can visit here.

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