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.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Horror Reviews Index Update

I have added three new reviews from the December 2017 issue of Indie Picks Magazine to the index.

Click here to pull up only these reviews.

The Corpse and the Girl from Miami by John Urbancik
Spells and Oregano: Book II in The Secret Spice Cafe Trilogy

The Handyman

Meet John Urbancik-- Indie Picks Cover Story

As the horror columnist for Indie Picks Magazine, I not only get to review 3-4 independently published horror books a month, I also get to advocate for authors that your patrons would love if only you knew about them enough to add them to your collections.

As soon as the magazine launched, I started talking to Rebecca Vnuk, our editor in chief, about the first author I wanted to showcase, John Urbancik. She agreed and assigned me the cover story article for our second issue!

Below is the draft version of my interview with John and the sidebar we created with some of his key titles and popular readalikes for them. 

Urbancik could be a huge hit with your patrons, especially those who enjoy Neil Gaiman and China Mieville. In this issue I also reviewed Urbancik's current release, The Corpse and the Girl from Miami [posted on the general blog here].

Below is the draft version of my article. I hope it inspires you to order a few of his titles for your patrons. They will thank you.



John Urbancik writes lyrical, dark and creepy tales featuring fantasy and horror that are part Neil Gaiman, part China Mieville, with a dash of Salman Rushdie. These are beautiful tales, expertly crafted that would be hugely popular with a wide range of readers, if only more people knew about him. 

Urbancik began writing at a young age, creating one-page comic scripts in fifth and sixth grade, but his first published story came in 1999, “A Portrait in Graphite,” and since then, he has had so many stories, novels, and poems published that even he cannot keep track of them all.

He spent his youth in New York City and Long Island, leaving for upstate to attend college (where he studied video and audio production), but he eventually settled in Florida where he has lived most of his adult life, until a recent relocation to Virginia, although he did have the opportunity to live briefly on the other side of the world, Sydney, Australia. He happened to bring with him a very nice camera, practiced the craft while there, and got quite good at it. And so, Urbancik the writer, added photographer to his professional and artistic arsenal.

At first glance, Urbancik notes that his life does not seem colorful. As he likes to say, “No time in jail or in the armed forces, and no game show victories. However, I feel lucky to have been able to see and do all I have.” Among his several mottos for life: “Go everywhere, do everything.” And, “It’s all fun and games until someone gets eaten alive by a tiger shark.”

This world view is easily seen in Urbancik’s writing as his work is hard to classify into our current genre constructs. When I asked him if he set out to blend genres he talked about the amalgamation of genres as part of the natural progression of all literature, “...and it’s always been present. In the 70s and 80s, we had a lot of horror that was meant to terrify, but you also started to get things like Aliens, which is a science fiction horror, and The Princess Bride, which is as much romance as it is fantasy. I tend to blend genres because I don’t generally think of a specific genre when I write. I’ll include elements of crime noir, fantasy, horror, science fiction, romance, whatever’s appropriate for the story. My latest novel, The Corpse and the Girl from Miami, begins like a crime noir, then swings into full-tilt horror before shifting to over the top magic and mythology. Most stories don’t belong to a specific genre until the marketers get their hands on them.”

Urbancik writes like a reader. He sees a story and he does not let the limits of established tropes reign him in. He simply tells it how it needs to be told. I wondered if his work as a photographer, being a multi-media artist, shaped this unique vision at all.  “I don’t know that the photography influences the writing so much as the writing and photography have their source, in me, in the same place. I see cinematically, so I tend to write that way. In my first novel, Sins of Blood and Stone (2002), I have a scene where a demon crashes into a cathedral through a stained glass, rose window. Of course, even before I wrote the scene I was seeing it on a big screen in brilliant technicolor.”

After years of holding down a “day job,” Urbancik has recently taken the leap to being a full time writer. “ I’m older now than I’ve ever been, and I’m only ever going to get older. I reached a place where I needed to give up on the endless succession of no-future jobs – I’ve been laid off more times than I can count as companies restructure and consolidate – and pursue the thing I’ve always wanted to do. My heart, my soul are in my stories, and the day jobs only barely paid me enough to survive. They never made me happy. If I’m going to make a living writing, I need to spend all of my energy and resources in pursuit of that.” But Urbancik notes, “I didn’t actually make the shift until my partner finished… her Ph.D…[now together we can] buy me the time to focus on what I want – and love – to do.” 

One of those things that Urbancik loves to do is to take on large scale creative projects. His most recent one is InkStains where he challenges himself to write a story a day, everyday, with only one day off a month, by hand, with a nice pen and some paper. Some days John writes for only five or ten minutes and other days, much longer. As he explains, “In the past, I’ve done short-term challenges, like writing seven stories in seven days. And I’d done it with photography, too – my first year-long project was self-portraits. Then in 2012, I had a heart attack. I faced Death, and I came back, and realized I was letting myself down. I started the InkStains project after that as a means of making sure I was writing. The goal has never been quantity, but to continue to improve, to explore and experiment, and to get the creative wheels inside my head not just turning, but spinning like mad. And I believe I’ve done that. I’ve never been filled with more inspiration or more ideas. And I think I’ve improved immensely, as a writer and artist, from doing what are essentially practice stories. I freely admit that some of these stories don’t work, some are not interesting, some fail as stories even if they’re successful as explorations. But I also believe some of these stories are wonderful.”

After the first year of InkStains stories, Urbancik knew he wanted to share what he wrote with others, both readers and fellow writers, but he wasn’t quite sure how. “I started typing them, and editing (not for content so much as for grammar and spelling, and to clean up all the little errors I made by hand), and decided the best format was to self-publish monthly installments. ...That was a lot of work, but it gave me a chance to play with things like layout and design that I hadn’t had much experience with. I’m slowly getting the second set of InkStains published now, as I write the third set (I wrote in 2013, 2015, and 2017). The real question now is, will I do a fourth series in 2019?”

But even this multi-year project that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of words [the first year alone was close to 250,000] has not been enough satisfy his seemingly insatiable creative drive, so Urbancik recently found another outlet for both the stories he has created and the lessons he learned along the way-- Inkstains, the weekly podcast.
“I have friends who do interview shows and such, and I didn’t feel I could contribute to that. But I talked with Project Entertainment Network and pitched a show of me giving readings – from the InkStains stories – and also talking about writing, photography, art, and creativity. I want to be an encouraging voice for everyone who feels they have an artistic spark they’ve never been able to fully explore. I want to give people permission to experiment and make mistakes and learn from them. I want to help artists achieve success, however they’re defining their own successes, and the InkStains podcast seemed like the perfect tool to accomplish that.”
You can listen to Urbancik’s weekly musings on writing and even hear him read some of his stories on his InkStains Podcast [https://projectentertainmentnetwork.com/shows/inkstains/], and you can find all of his books, including the monthly InkStains installments on Amazon.

For more information and to follow Urbancik’s artistic adventures visit his website, http://www.darkfluidity.com, or catch him on Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/urbancik], Twitter or Instagram [@JohnUrbancik].

Pull out box for inside the article:
Here are a few recent titles by Urbancik, with a quick synopsis and readalike suggestions to help you pick a place for you or your patrons to get started:
The Corpse and the Girl from Miami [2017, reviewed in this issue] begins when a man wakes atop a fresh grave during a thunderstorm without any memory. The only clue he’s got is an address on the license in his wallet. When he gets there, they’ve been waiting for him. For fans of Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series who also like Seanan McGuire.

Stale Reality [2016] is a love letter to Sydney, Australia, where Urbancik had been lived ten years earlier. The premise is simple: what if all of reality shifted to accommodate somebody else, and you, who never existed in this version of reality, was left behind? Kevin, finds himself in a world where he’d never met his wife and their infant son was never born, and he wants to reclaim it. This is Urbancik’s darkest novel and is a perfect suggestion for fans of Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

Tales of the Fantastic and the Phantasmagoric [2012]  is a collection of novellas and vignettes which serve as an excellent introduction to Urbacik’s work. The title is cribbed from Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. The stories are a combination of fantasy, dark fantasy, and horror and will be enjoyed by fans of Neil Gaiman.

City of Glass [forthcoming] began as an InkStains story. A man is building a city of glass in the desert to show declare his love, but she’s unimpressed. She says it’s fragile. It can’t last. And it won’t. The city will exist for only 100 days, but 100,000 people move into the city and make it their home. Those who enjoyed China Mieville’s The City and The City will love this work about identity and secrets.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Barnes & Noble Best Horror of 2017

Very few main stream sites have horror specific best lists, but Barnes & Noble is one of them.

Here is their best Horror of 2017 and I have to say, I am quite impressed by the fact that the list is actually very good. Of course I think things are missing, but I do think they have an excellent mix of titles here.

Unlike a genre specific resource which may have some niche titles that aren’t going to work at every public library, this list is one you should be using at your library for collection development. These are books you should buy for your patrons.

Click here for access

Friday, November 17, 2017

Register Now: Librarian's’ Day At StokerCon in Providence, RI 3/1/18

This is a cross post with RA for All

As I have hinted at a few times here and on the horror blog, I was asked by the Horror Writers Association President, Lisa Morton, to organize the second annual Librarians’ Day at StokerCon 2018. Last year I was their special guest for the first annual one, but had no say in the planning. This year-- cue evil laughter-- they put me IN CHARGE! Seriously, they have let me loose on an entire day of conference programming....BWAHAHAHA

Thankfully, I have the necessary experience, having been part of planning conferences big and small. But I also knew that I couldn’t do this alone. The very first person I thought of to help me was local, had the necessary skills, and most importantly was a friend, a friend who I knew I would work well with- Kristi Chadwick. Kristi is not only a librarian who works as a consultant for the Massachusetts Library System, so planning and running programs and training sessions is literally her job, but she is also the SF/FSY/Horror columnist for Library Journal. And she said, YES!

Kristi and I have been hard at work behind the scenes and can now officially announce that registration is OPEN for this wonderful day of programming. [See below for the details and necessary links to the StokerCon 2018 Librarians’ Day page.]

Of course there are still many specifics to announce but I promise you this will be worth your time. And if you register before 1/31/18 you save $10. It is only $65 for a full day of professionally planned sessions with catered lunch and free ARCs.

What are you waiting for?!? I already have my plane ticket. Kristi and I doing this as volunteers, that’s how much we both believe in the importance of this day for you and your work with leisure readers.

This is the only 1 day horror conference in the world for librarians, organized by librarians. The entire day is completely about you and your service to your readers. I always talk about how the HWA cares about library workers; well with asking me to run this day for them, they have done more than just tell you that you matter to them, they are showing you.

Come hang out with us and dare to improve your service to your scariest readers. I can’t wait to see you all there.


Join Stoker Con for a special day-long program of panels and presentations for librarians!
Becky Spratford, author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, 2nd edition [ALA, Editions] and horror reviewer for Booklist and IndiePicks Magazine and Kristi Chadwick, Consultant, Massachusetts Library System and Library Journal’s Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror columnist are coordinating the event.

March 1, 2018, 8:30-4:30

Cost: $75—$65 with Early Registration Discount Code: PROVIDENCE.

Select “Early Registration” and enter the code. Expires January 31, 2018.

Lunch included!

ARCs for all attendees!

Programming will include:
  • 120 Years of Dracula, from Novel to Stage to Large and Small Screens, presented by Dacre Stoker!
  • Horror Programming at Your Library, a panel discussion with Christopher Golden, JG Faherty, and more! 
  • Lunch, featuring an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with Kristi Chadwick and Becky Spratford!
  • A panel discussion moderated by Becky Spratford with newer horror authors you need to know about right now!
  • A Book Buzz to end the day, featuring the very best upcoming horror titles, presented by publishers big and small, with ARCs and tote bags be given to all attendees!

Click here now...if you dare!!!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 31-- Lots of Me Talking to You and a New Celebration of the History of Horror Begins

Happy Halloween! It is finally here. [I lived through another horror blog-a-thon.]

Today I relax and rejoice in the holiday that makes you all want to give horror books and readers the attention they deserve. Now if only you did that all year long. [Hint, hint-- you should, and this blog is the place here I give you the tools to do that.]

But since I have your full attention for 1 more day I wanted to point you to 3 things you can do to celebrate the holiday and brush up on your horror RA skills all at the same time.

The first two involve your ears. I have recent appearances on 2 podcasts where I talk about horror and other library related things.

The first is a brand new podcast called Three Books produced by the Ela Area Public Library. Christen and Becca are bringing book people in to talk about their three favorite books and more. Since they were launching in October and because I've known Becca for years, they asked me to come in and be their first guest. You can click here to listen and subscribe. We talk about my current horror favorites, why the world NEEDS horror, and more.

The second is my 4th [!] appearance on Circulating Ideas:
Circulating Ideas facilitates conversations about the innovative people & ideas allowing libraries to thrive in the 21st century. Brought to you with support from the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science and listeners like you.
In Episode 120, which dropped today,  Steve and I talk about the the current state of horror, but also about the importance of libraries including self published/small press titles in their collections and how to stay on top of genre trends easily, even if you don't like the genre yourself.

After a month of reading my words, I am giving you a chance to learn from me in a different way. If you listen to both of these podcasts, you will quickly get a general overview of what is MOST IMPORTANT about horror right now [at least from the library worker perspective].

I have also added these two new appearances to my podcast appearance archive which is always available on the general blog's About Me page and that blog's Recent Presentations page.

And now, the third thing you need to do to both celebrate Halloween AND brush up on your RA skills-- today also marks the launch of much larger scale project, one that beginning today will be published every month, for free. One that all of you have to read:
Click here for the first chapter
Brian Keene and Cemetery Dance are going on an adventure to produce a definitive history of horror from the beginning of humanity to the present and all of us get to read it for free.

In this first chapter, Keene clearly notes the people [including myself] who have done more academic work on this topic, but he also knows as one of the top horror writers of our time and as a life long fan himself, no one has ever given the genre the respect it deserves. He is going to write the definitive history of one of the oldest and most popular genres in literature and I implore you to follow along.

I promise you will learn about horror, obviously, but you will also learn about readers, why people are drawn to any story, You will learn about writers, why stories are told in a certain way. And, you will learn to put that information together in a way that allows you to connect with your patrons better, no matter what genres they prefer.

Plus, all of the semicolons will be in the correct places [read the chapter and you will get the joke.]

Now go forth and celebrate Halloween.

Monday, October 30, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 30-- The State of Horror 2017

This is Horror has posted their annual State of Horror Address here. Every single one of you should read this because it talks about horror in the mainstream world and how it is doing overall. This is horror as seen through the eyes of your patrons, how they consume horror, and what they have been most interested in. It is the view of horror from above.

This is Horror is one of my favorite overall horror resources in general. They understand the genre in all of its incarnations, and you can trust them.

In this Address trends in horror are also discussed at length both right this minute trends and some suppositions about next year too.

As you can probably guess, the Address notes that the state of horror is very strong- especially in fiction and television. So that leads to my final plea for this haunting season for you-- the library worker:


This is one of the best things you can do to help your patrons.  Keep these displays up at least 1 week past Halloween because many people let the season slip by without nabbing a scary read, and on Halloween they will realize they forgot. Then a few days later when they finally have time to come in a get something, you will have taken the displays down. 

Leave them up for people who “missed the boat” to still find horror easily. They may be so embarrassed that they forgot that they won’t want to ask for help.

Just wait another week to take the cobwebs and creepy books down. And if your supervisor thinks you are slacking, send them to this post and said Becky commanded you to do this.

See you back here tomorrow for HALLOWEEN!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 29-- Books To Help You To Stop Being Scared of Horror

We are getting close to the end, but before I lose your attention I wanted to make one of my final plugs for Horror in months other than October.

Since librarians as a group are known to be “scared” of horror as this study from RUSA, Library Journal and NoveList found [see graph too], I know many of you are happy to wash your hands of horror after October 31st. Some of you are even my friends!

But hear me out right now.

You shouldn’t be SCARED of horror. You don’t have to enjoy it for yourself, but being “scared” of it is just silly. It’s not going to bite you. Neither are the readers. I like to say-- Horror fans are not monsters, they just like to read about them.

Scared just means you don’t understand it. That’s where today’s post comes in. There are two resources I am assigning you all to read AFTER Halloween to help you understand horror, how it works, why it exists, and what it means. Reading these books will educate you. You may not like horror still, but you won’t be scared of it anymore.

First is a classic and I know it is on the shelf at most of your libraries-- Danse Macabre by Stephen King, originally published in 1981. From Goodreads:
The author whose boundless imagination & storytelling powers have redefined the horror genre, from 1974's Carrie to his newest epic, reflects on the very nature of terror--what scares us & why--in films (both cheesy & choice), tv & radio, &, of course, the horror novel, past & present. Informal, engaging, tremendous fun & tremendously informative, Danse Macabre is an essential tour with the master of horror as your guide; much like his spellbinding works of fiction, you won't be able to put it down.
Danse Macabre is a little bit memoir but it is also a social science look at horror in media. It is fascinating and enlightening. I own a personal dogeared paperback. If you can’t wrap your head around why people like horror, this is the book to read to help you understand.

The second is new-- Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix which I wrote about back in June here. Hendrix has a snarky but well researched writing style. This book is all about the popular horror titles from the 70s and 80s-- all the stuff King writes about in Danse Macabre. He looks at these titles and authors with affection, yes, but also makes a compelling argument as to why these books did, and continue to, matter.

I particularly LOVE the appendix where he wrote interesting, fun, and useful bios for every author he mentions. George R. R. Martin’s is on of my favorites.

Come for the fun covers and the engaging narration, but stay for the educational aspects. Even the biggest fraidy-cat or horror cynic will learn here-- and enjoy the process too.

So now you have your marching orders for after Halloween. Read one, or both of these titles. I promise they will help you to understand horror and its readers in a way you didn’t before. Understanding means your fear will lessen. Less fear means you will try to suggest horror to the appropriate patrons outside of the 10th month of the year.

But first, get back to work. You still have a couple more days to press the flesh and put some scary reads into your horror craving patrons’ hands.