ALA Editions Webinar

Slides are here.

RA for All...The Road Show!

I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 29: Horror Graphic Novels

We currently have three horror related displays going at the BPL due to demand.

  1. Our general horror display
  2. A dystopian fiction display for the "not quite horror" bunch
  3. And this small quick display on horror graphic novels that John  threw together on Monday.
It got me thinking about how much I love horror graphic novels.  In fact, I love them so much that I somehow have used 2 different tags to catalog the posts here on the blog: graphic novel and graphic novels.

So today, I want to talk about horror graphic novels.  The history of horror comics is a tumultuous one.  In fact, back in 2011, I wrote review of an excellent book on that history, The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You to Read! 

But now, the modern horror comic has rebounded. I have argued in public that some of the best graphic novels today period, regardless of their genre classification, are horror comics [Locke and Key]

From an RA standpoint, however, you cannot simply give every horror reader a graphic novel. They have to be okay with "seeing" the horror in a visual format.  Also, while the story line itself may seem like a perfect fit to a specific reader, if they do not like the artist's style or how the story is laid out on the page, they will not be satisfied.

So, do not just book talk graphic novel options to potential readers, you also need to show them a a few pages too.

Besides the links provided above, here are a few more opinions for the best in horror comics:
In my book I also have a list of 10 Graphic Novels for Horror Readers (pg 133).

Don't forget to sign up for my horror webinar tomorrow.  It's free.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 28: Flashback to 2009

Today I am going to expound on one of my favorite topics when it comes to providing RA in a public library setting...the backlist.

Readers of RA for All and anyone who has ever attended one of my talks knows that I am a huge proponent of the backlist. In fact, here is a direct quote from my own lecture notes:
Promoting books, specifically the backlist those titles that are great reads, but out of the spotlight, and incidentally, filling most of your shelves just waiting for the perfect reader, meaning they are there right now for that reader who “has nothing to read,” is actually quite easy to do virtually.  The one thing the library has in stock that bookstores do not is the backlist.  We try to focus a large portion of our book promotion on the backlist.  That gem of the library; the thousands of great reads just waiting on the shelf to be matched with just the right reader.  In fact, backlist books are your best bet to target your virtual promotion of books, as I will show you.  The new books are all over the web on other sites, but your backlist is a great asset and it is unique to the library.  What do you do with your best asset?  You play it up people!
Publishers spend most of their time marketing the newest materials and trying to get you to buy the new (hardcover, so higher profit margin) titles.  Even to libraries their marketing is mostly about the newest books.  Once in a while there is some backlist marketing for book discussion purposes, but that is about it.
As I say above, there are thousands of options we can market to people at the library, options that are no longer easily available to browse at a bookstore, but we librarians have to create the buzz on our own.
To that end, as I am wrapping up the final week of this self imposed marathon of daily posts, I was day dreaming back to a time when I did not do a post a day during October because I did not have the horror blog. [Yes, back when I had time to do more than post, eat, and breathe during this month.]

Seriously though, back in 2009 I composed a three part series on the best horror of the year and posted it on RA for All.  I happened upon the post by mistake yesterday and was so excited.  There are a lot of good books here; books that I currently have sitting on my shelves at the BPL; books that I can put in the hands of readers RIGHT NOW, in time for Halloween. Because even I have a hard time finding enough books to meet demand each October.

So here is the link to the three part series.  Please note, I have not checked if all of the links still work, but the posts do include a short blurb about each book [with credit to where I got it if I did not write it myself], and the titles and authors did not change, so you could still look them up yourself.

But they are all excellent backlist options that will make your patrons happy.  And hey, that’s what I try to do on this blog...provide a timely resource that helps you help your horror readers.

You’re welcome.

Monday, October 27, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 27: How Are You Going to Celebrate Halloween?

This is a cross post with RA for All.

We are in the home stretch now. It is time for the Monday Discussion one last Halloween themed time.

Today's question is easy, how are you going to celebrate on 10/31/14?

Me first.

I have a lot planned this year.  Friends from out of town are bringing their 2 yr old to watch my 4th grader (who will be going as a zombie doctor) in his school parade. I love watching the 600+ kids trot by one after another.

Then after school, his friends are coming over for some gross grub and trick or treating with 2 dads supervising.  I usually make a very chunky and red chili for Halloween.  It looks gross but tastes yummy.  However, with 4 little boys over who may be picky eaters I am switching to a giant pot of macaroni and cheese with cut up hot dogs and broccoli chunks. Still looks gross, but will be better suited to a 9 and 10 yr old palate.

My 7th grader (going as a mime) will be out with friends trick or treating.  I am glad she still is getting dressed up and participating.  It helps that the Jr High threw a Halloween costume party this past weekend.

I will be answering the door in a scary mask with a witch hat thrown on for good measure, while drinking a zombie dust beer and toasting that I have made it through yet another crazy October.

Here at the BPL, we will also have trick or treating at all of the service desks available all day on the 31st.  Feel free to dress up and show off your costumes here at the library.

What about you.  Are you dressing up? What as?  Do you have special plans since it is on a Friday this year?  Share them here.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 26: Review of The Quick

Today I have a review of a book that is part Gothic novel, part vampire horror novel-- The Quick by Lauren Owen.

It’s Halloween time and even though vampires are not as popular as other monsters in horror these days, many readers still love the lore of the vampire. It is a go-to character for many readers at this time of year, and what is perfect about Owen’s debut novel here is that it is truly half Gothic, Victorian novel and half old fashioned vampire story. It is truly a Halloween read with wide appeal.

Set in a Dickensonian, Victorian England [a setting well known to many readers], The Quick is the story of a young poet who accidentally gets wrapped up in the complicated world of the secret Aegolius Club. The novel has the leisurely pace of the Gothic novels from the era in which it is set, but readers who sit back and take in the well drawn characters, intrigue, and intricate plot, are in for a great ride.  

We begin the novel meeting a brother and sister who live in a falling down estate. When their father dies, their Aunt takes them in. Then the two are separated as James, goes to the city and Charlotte stays behind in the country.

What follows is a story of Victorian London’s underground vampire world and James and Charlotte’s roles in it. It is important to note that James and Charlotte and their sibling bond is what ultimately drives the story here. In fact, the opening chapters are slower, but the reader reaps an excellent reward for reading through them as they set up the final chapter perfectly. The end of this novel is moving and satisfying because of the well crafted sibling bond and those slower opening chapters.

This is an extremely detailed novel that unveils its story through multiple points of view. We see life for different people on all of the vampire battlefronts. This changing perspective enhances the moody, atmospheric, and foreboding tone. It also allows the world of the vampires and those who fight them to be carefully and intricately built. Overall this leads to the satisfying nature of the novel as a whole.

However, this stylistic choice also makes this dense and intricate story move at a leisurely but compelling pace. One of the most striking things about this debut novel is how perfectly it embodies the story telling techniques of the era in which it is set. This Victorian style adds authenticity to what is a fantasy story. But readers must remember that Gothic novels unravelled at a much more methodical pace than today’s tales, even those of today that invoke the Gothic storytelling style.

While the world building of the Victoria era is realistic, I loved the vampire world building here too. It was all steeped in classic vampire lore, but the specific details on how they survived in the real world and the other side of the story, how the vampire hunters worked to track them and stop them, were both extremely interesting and compelling.

But don’t get me wrong here. It’s not all about the Victorian setting, There is some great vampire action here. These creatures are mean, nasty, and vindictive. There is an epic battle between the warring vampire groups that matches any vampire novel I have ever read. And again, it moves between points of view which was very satisfying.

Overall this is an excellent literary, Gothic novel that has enough about vampires to satisfy horror readers, but enough other frame to attract those looking for a seasonal read. It has its gross and violent moments, but it is nothing today’s average reader does not encounter already in bestselling suspense stories.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Gothic, Vampires,character centered

Readalikes: The Quick’s appeal is best described as Dickens meets Dracula. Both are excellent readalike options, and together they capture the novel’s appeal perfectly.

This novel also reminded me of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, although The Quick is much better in my opinion. I found the protagonist of The Historian whiny and weak. Charlotte is the exact opposite. Also, the vampire parts in The Quick are much better for horror fans.

For people who like the idea of The Quick, but find the 544 page count and leisurely pace a bit too slow, the novels of Matthew Pearl are a much better choice.  Click here for my reviews of some of Pearl’s mysteries.

Here is a great list of books people who liked The Quick also liked on Goodreads.  It includes a book I read and enjoyed this year, The Swan Gondola by Tony Shaffert. Click through to my review to see more on that fantastic Gothic novel.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 25: History of Halloween

So the Halloween celebrations have kicked in full throttle now.

My middle school kid attended an all school,  Halloween costume party last night, a few of my friends had to cancel afternoon plans to make last minute Halloween costume exchanges and/or accessory purchases, and someone told me that last night she had a trick or treater show up on her doorstep.  Okay, that last one was odd, but true.

Halloween is a big deal here in America; it is the second most commercial holiday behind Christmas.  In fact, when I was hosting two Norwegian libraries on Thursday, they asked me to drive around a bit more so they could admire all of the decorations.  They were especially tickled to see so many Halloween decorations in the libraries we visited.

I told them about Halloween in America and how it is a really big deal.  We talked about school parties and costume planning and treats.  They loved it all.  They said Norway is trying to get more into Halloween, but it is not taking off as well as some were hoping.  For sure, they do not have any decorations in their libraries, not because it isn’t allowed, but people would think it was a bit odd.

This got me thinking to how we got to where we are in America when it comes to Halloween.  Then I remembered, that last year Lisa Morton released a fantastic Nonfiction book entitled, Trick or Treat: The History of Halloween.  I had her write me a guest post about it here.

But you may not have time to buy that book and read it in the next 6 days [although it is worth a purchase for next year].  But we are all librarians and, as a group, we want to know WHY we do what we do, especially if candy is involved.

So I would highly suggest clicking here and checking out the video and article by all about the history of Halloween.  From that page you can also find videos about what happens to our brain when we are afraid, history of witches, and even a video on candy corn.

I know many of you have Halloween plans this last weekend before the 31st.  Have a hauntingly great time.

Friday, October 24, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 24: Free Horror Webinar for Librarians with ME!

 ALA Store

Today's post is to tell you about the FREE webinar I am doing in conjunction with my publisher, ALA Editions on Thursday, October 30th.  Click here for all of the details and to sign up for FREE!

I have reposted the important info with links below.  But here's what you are going to get:

30 minutes of me doing a prepared talk on WHY people love horror with a few author examples.
30 minutes of live questions from any of you asking me about specific books or horror related issues at your library.

Remember, this is sponsored by my publisher, so I am going to be pushing the hundreds of title suggestions available in my book, and on this blog, which is your FREE update to the book.

In fact, to get you excited for signing up and possibly buying the book, click here to get a preview of my slides which includes a coupon on slide 2!

I hope to "see" you there next week. It can be your lunch break! Well, only if you can handle talking horror while eating.  I can, but I know I am weird that way.


Horror Readers' Advisory for Halloween!
with Becky Spratford
Thursday, October 30, 2014
1:00pm ET | 12:00pm CT
11:00am MT | 10:00am PT 

60 Minutes
Halloween is right around the corner, and the demand for horror books is peaking! In this free webinar, horror expert Becky Spratford will teach you the basics of providing great readers'- advisory services for students and patrons of all ages.
You'll learn how to provide age- and community-appropriate resources for your readers as well as how to avoid potential problem areas. Don't miss this opportunity to learn! Becky Spratford has been a Readers' Advisor for patrons ages 13 and up for over 14 years at the Berwyn Public Library (IL). She has taught at the graduate level and trains librarians all over the world. Spratford runs two popular and critically acclaimed blogs, RA for All ( and RA for All: Horror ( and writes content for EBSCO's NoveList database. She is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror (ALA Editions, 2012) and is a proud member of the Horror Writers Association.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 23: Library Journal’s Reader’s Shelf Horror List

Library Journal posted my horror list yesterday.  You can enjoy it now in print or online.


Toil and Trouble: Spooky Halloween Reads | The Reader’s Shelf

It’s Halloween—time to get ready for the hordes of patrons who will begin to haunt the library and are in the mood for a good scare. From the hard-core enthusiast to the more timid bibliophile looking for a taste of terror, this list will help librarians arm themselves with some bloody-good suggestions.
            amity102214 Toil and Trouble: Spooky Halloween Reads | The Readers Shelf   thenewblack102214 Toil and Trouble: Spooky Halloween Reads | The Readers Shelf
Josh Malerman’s terrifying debut, Bird Box (Ecco: HarperCollins. 2014. ISBN 9780062259653. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062259677), immerses readers in a claustrophobic world in which the only way to survive an unknown threat is never to open your eyes. A young mother and her two children brave these strange horrors, piloting a boat downriver to a possible place of salvation and keeping their eyes shut. Told both in the present and via flashbacks to four years before when the known world ceased to exist, Malerman’s novel presents a deep and oppressive sense of dread.
On an isolated, uninhabited island a few miles off the mainland, a group of Boy Scouts and their leader embark on a survival excursion in Nick Cutter’s The Troop (Pocket. 2014. ISBN 9781476717722. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781476717753). The outing is interrupted by the appearance of a stranger, the Hungry Man, who is completely consumed physically and mentally by hunger. Now the scouts’ fight to stay alive really begins, and they are forced to face monsters both of this world and unearthly. The distress never stops, the panic keeps escalating, and the gore is bountiful in this fluidly shifting plot. However, there is more than just visceral fear at work here; there is also the desperation of these characters knowing that they are trapped, contagious, and doomed.
Haunted house lovers who find popular adult writers a little too intense can try the recent YA offering Amity (EgmontUSA. 2014. ISBN 9781606841563. $18.99; ebk. ISBN 9781606843802) by Micol Ostow. It purposely plays off the anxiety and trepidation associated with the infamous town of Amityville, NY, but do not mistake the homage of the title as a sign of a copycat story. Instead, Ostow weaves a distinct and unsettling tale of two families, living in a house called Amity, on two different time lines, ten years apart. As the evil of the house slowly reveals itself, people are corrupted, frightening events take place, and no one is left unscathed. Or is it all in their heads? Once inside Ostow’s dark, distinctive world, it is hard to be sure what is real.
What is a list of Halloween stories without some vampires? Lauren Owen’s debut, The Quick(Random. 2014. ISBN 9780812993271. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780679645054), introduces James Norbury, a shy young Victorian poet who accidentally gets wrapped up in the complicated and secretive Aegolius Club. Owen’s narrative has the leisurely pace of the gothic novels from the era in which it is set, but those who settle in and let the well-drawn characters, intrigue, and intricate plot sweep them away are in for a great ride. Think Dickens meets Dracula for a sense of what Owen’s textured novel has to offer.
Short stories are often a great bet during the season because they allow the casual horror fan to indulge in snippets of creepy fun. A superb and recent collection is The New Black (Dark Horse. 2014. ISBN 9781940430041. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781940430126), edited by Richard Thomas and with an introduction by Bram Stoker Award–winning author Laird Barron. Featuring tense, atmospheric, and twisted stories by acclaimed authors Benjamin Percy, Roxane Gay, Craig Davidson (who published The Troop under the pseudonym Nick Cutter), and more, these neonoir tales merge literary fiction with any combination of dark genres from crime and horror to fantasy and Southern gothic, with touches of the grotesque along the way. Those who are looking to dip their toes into the forbidden depths of chills and thrills should start here for a sampling of the best.
Finally, try one of the traditional titles of horror. The 40th anniversary edition of James Herbert’s iconic The Rats (Pan Macmillan. 2015. ISBN 9781447264521. $32.95; ebk. ISBN 9780330469203), which will feature a new foreword by Neil Gaiman, is set to be released in January 2015. But why wait? Most libraries likely already have an older copy of this backlist gem lurking on their shelves. Herbert’s grisly novel takes the ubiquitous, urban menace—rats—and unleashes a more intelligent and predatory version onto the populace of London with gruesomely petrifying results. You think zombies are scary? At least they don’t actually exist. (Right?) Get patrons in on the buzz that will certainly follow Gaiman’s contribution by recommending this disturbing classic.