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.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Nick Cutter: "The 10 Best Horror Books You Never Read."

One of my favorite horror books last year was Nick Cutter's The Troop.  He is back with a new novel, The Deep, that is also getting rave reviews. Our copy is already checked out!

Publisher's Weekly asked him to name some lesser known horror favorites.  I love his list. Most of these should not be too hard for you to find at your local public library.  Click here for the original post, or see below:

Nick Cutter's The Deep is The Shining meets The Abyss--something is happening at a research station at the bottom of the Pacific, and horror fans will relish every frightening page. Cutter picked 10 of his favorite off-the-radar horror novels.

I’ve been reading horror since I was a kid. I was a lummox, you see, and my parents were pleased to see me readinganything. They weren’t too fussed about what may have been sandwiched between the covers of the books I carted around. If they had looked at those covers, they would have seen the odd skeleton cheerleader, plenty of blood-dripping knives, and fangs. Lots of fangs.

Having read a great deal of horror books, I thought: Why not share some of the littler-known horror gems I’ve stumbled across? I’ll assume you’ve read the old standbys that usually make lists of this sort, your Shinings andHaunting of Hill Houses. Those are great books, their place in the hierarchy unassailable. These are books by—in some cases—writers who are not yet well known, or perhaps earlier books by well-known writers who could use a little shine. The list leans towards the more . . . erm, visceral side of the horror ledger. No excuses there. I likes them how I likes them—raw.

1. The Light at the End by John Skipp and Craig Spector - Vampires aren’t really my bag. Which is strange to say, seeing as there are two vampire books on this list. John Skipp and Craig Spector were the enfant terribles of nineties horror—they started a groundswell movement in the genre known as “splatterpunk,” which was basically a casting off of the moody, bloodless breed of narrative their predecessors of the Shirley Jackson ilk trafficked in. Splatterpunk was about being extreme, over the edge. This is the best of the six books the duo wrote together. A vampire tale that is rough, brutal, funny, and boundary-breaking in its way.
2. Swan Song by Robert McCammon - McCammon is a marvel. He began his career writing fireballing horror books, morphed in midcareer to writing realist tales with dark overtones (Gone South, the masterful Boy’s Life) and now is writing historical fiction. If the name is not familiar to you, it ought to be. I’ve chosen Swan Song—a slobberknocking 900-pager concerning the aftermath of a global holocaust—but it could as easily be a half-dozen others. They’re all gold. He makes you care deeply about his characters, takes huge risks, and writes with a ton of heart. One of my favorite writers, period.
3. The Elementals by Michael McDowell - McDowell had a varied and very interesting writing career. He scriptedBeetlejuice, the Michael Keeton starrer, and had an enormous output of novels in several genres before dying too young of an AIDS-related illness. The Elementals concerns a rich, dandyish southern family’s sojourn at a vacation spot deep in the south: a trio of old houses at an isolated beach, one of which is haunted. Never could I have imagined that sand—drifting, cresting, ceaselessly moving sand—could be terrifying. Well, McDowell manages it. Beyond that, he gets the members of his southern clan exactly right: you may not like them, but still, you sense them as real and vital people and as such are moved by their trials.
4. Every House is Haunted by Ian Rogers - This perfect little spider’s web of a debut story collection knocked me out of my boots a few years ago. Rogers had placed his stories in venues like Cemetery Dance, places where keen horror readers are always attuned for the next big breakout writer. So when Chizine press collected Rogers’ work in one handy-dandy volume that fairly pulsated with bad intentions, well, I was sold. The standout novella, The House on Ashley Avenue, has been optioned for TV; I would love to see it hit the small screen someday.
5. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum - Ketchum is a horror writer’s horror writer. He is adored by the cognoscenti, and has a large readership outside of that, too. Perhaps not as large as his talent deserves, but that’s partially a product of his own interests and outlook. He is . . . intense. He might be a puppydog in real life, but his books are strong medicine. There are horror books that scare you while you’re reading them, but that fear doesn’t travel off the page. Ketchum’s work, man, itfollows. It’s a lost, hungry hound—it’s going to dog you, track you, scratch and claw inside your heart and head and make a home. You can’t unread a Ketchum book, okay? So fair warning. The Girl Next Door is 100-proof horror. I don’t know what else to tell you. But it’s brilliant, too. It’s real-life horror, so believable and psychologically astute that it might just change you in a profound way. If you’re in need of that kind of a change, well, fill your boots.
6. The Damnation Game by Clive Barker - Barker’s the second head of my own personal horror Cerberus, the other two heads belonging to Stephen King and McCammon. The Damnation Game is his first novel, after his genre-altering Books of Blood series. It’s brilliant. It’s got everything that clearly fascinates and repulses Barker in equal measure. It’s got the sex and violence co-mingling that he’s practically stamped a patent on. There is no better pure writer, sentence by lush sentence, in the horror cosmos than Barker. His imagination beggars imagination . . . yeah, I just wrote that.
7. City Infernal by Edward Lee - Like Ketchum, Lee’s a writer who horror nuts know and generally love—and if they don’t love him, well, at least they know what they’re going to get. Lee issplendiforously profane. He doesn’t just step over the line of bad taste: he hurdles it gleefully. If I were a real jerk I’d recommend some of Lee’s more riotously offensive work like The Bighead orHeader, but because I am generally benevolent and don’t want the headache of multiple lawsuits, I will steer you towards City Infernal. It’s tamer Lee, where he envisions hell as a city. Quaint, by his standards.
8. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn - You’ve seen this book on a lot of “best of” lists, perhaps. It deserves it. It’s not straightforward horror like some of the other books here. It’s horrific, but it’s the horror of a certain kind of familial love, you could say. There are books that create a world and pull you in and it’s like slipping underwater: you’re deeply entrenched with those characters, that story, until the book ends and you can surface for air. Geek Love is one of those rare books. Take a deep breath.
9. Enter Night by Michael Rowe - This is the other vampire book. You don’t know me, I’m just some schmo writing a list, but trust me on this: if I like a vampire book, it has to be one hell of a read. And this one is. Rowe pulls the reader in slowly and uses his remote Canadian setting to great effect. There is nothing gory or outrageous on display—Rowe wants to scarethe reader, that is clearly his express mandate, and he is so well-versed in the trappings of fear, the slow accumulation of dread, that you will likely have to take breaks while reading this to unkink your tensed-up muscles.
10. Ghost Story by Peter Straub - I hesitated to put this on, only because I’m not sure anyone could label Straub or his masterwork “little known.” Straub is a titan of the genre. He’s probably the most purely literary horror writer we have, along with Ramsay Campbell. And Ghost Story—which Stephen King famously called “a tiger tank of a book, made of iron and well-nigh unstoppable”—is, I suspect, quite well known outside of the horror genre. It’s one of those exceptional works that, while written primarily for horror readers, is so wonderful that it breached its containment and ran roughshod over the general populace. But it’s been out for decades and maybe some newer horror readers don’t know about it, so hell, I threw it on the list. Sue me! It’s one of the very best horror books you will read in your lifetime.

Friday, October 31, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 31-- Entry Points for Horror

Our Trick or Treat Greeter
Happy Halloween!  Phew, I made it to Day 31.  Well, I still need to make it through tonight with four, 9 and 10 yr old boys sleeping over our house.  Thank goodness there is plenty of candy!

I had a great time talking to everyone about horror, yesterday.

As I discussed in the presentation, my specialty is helping librarians feel more confident as they help horror readers, but there are plenty of you out there who don't usually read like horror and want to give it a try.

How do you help the horror newbie?

One answer to that question can be found here in a post by my fellow ALA Editions author and Genre blending expert, Megan McArdle.

The post is appropriately titled, Horror for Beginners.

Don't forget to keep using this blog as a resource all year long.  Horror fans read scary books all the year through.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

31 Days of Horror-- Day 30: Time for a Halloween Pep Talk

As I posted a few days ago here, today is your chance to hear me talk about why reader's love horror...for FREE. 1pm Eastern/Noon Central. 

I have planned 30 minutes of talking and am willing to take questions for 30 more minutes, so bring your tough horror questions.

The presentation with the live links is available here, or just click on the first slide below.

Can't wait to give you the Halloween pep talk!

Use the slides to find a way to contact me.  I don’t hide in the shadows.

Click the slide to go right to the presentation

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.