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, December 27, 2013

Review: I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus

Over the 48 hours of Christmas Eve through Christmas Day, I found time to read the humorous, heart-warming(ish) zombie holiday tale, I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus [Herein, ISZESC] by S.G. Browne.  I previously sang Browne’s praises for his Rom-Zom-Com Breathers back in 2009.

Browne’s holiday tale continues the story from Breathers, three years later, but you don’t have to have read Breathers to enjoy ISZESC. Our narrator, Andy the zombie, fills you in on everything you need to know throughout the novel.

Andy is still a smart, zombie who wishes he could just be accepted for who he has become, but as the story opens, he has been held against his will and experimented on at a zombie research facility for almost a year, and during that time he has thought a lot about the family he lost when he rose from the dead.  After escaping, Andy goes on a journey, dressed as Santa to help a young girl get the Christmas she deserves and to teach a few adults the true meaning of Christmas, all while leading a rag-tag group of zombie Santas and elves on a quest to free his zombie friends.

Yes a few people are eaten along the way, but there is also depth here.  Andy and his zombie friends have touching stories to share about their lost lives and their undead existence in the shadows. The holiday angle is also heart warming and fun, but as you can see from my description, it is also a little askew, so it may not be the holiday tale for everyone.

ISZESC is also a short, fast paced book at just over 200 pages. The pages fly by. It made for a terrific Christmas read for me.

Three Words That Describe This Book: comic horror, askew Christmas tale, zombies [seriously, if these few words don’t interest you, this book is not for you; if these words get you excited, read this book]

Readalikes: I have an extensive discussion of comic horror here, including key authors and titles to check out.

But if you want to read other askew holiday tales, I highly recommend Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith which I reviewed here and The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore (one of my husband’s holiday favs).

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Reviews: Night Film and The Darkling

I read two not quite horror titles and recently reviewed them on RA for All.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl and The Darkling by R.B. Chesterton

Both, along with NOS4A2  and the dark fantasy debut The Golem and the Jinni, are all  making my best of 2013 list too.  It was a good year for dark books!

Happy Reading and Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Review: The Tormentors

Some of you may have remembered when I had this post about my fellow librarian, Jack Phoenix, and his new novel with proceeds set to go to help battered women.  Click here for all the details.

I had not read the book by that point, but wanted to plug it since I knew it was for such a good cause.  Well today, Friday the 13th,  I am here to report on The Tormentors after having read it, and I am glad that I did.

Let’s start with the first rule of any good horror novel: you have to set up the atmosphere of unease right at the start.  Jack succeeds here and then some.  The opening chapter describes an older man being pursued by some evil force.  He is tormented so badly that when he is forced to halt by a police officer, he would rather kill himself than wait for the shadows to catch up to him.  And then in italics we get this to end the chapter after a harrowing first 3 pages:

That was quite fun.”“Yes, but far too fleeting. This one didn’t last long.” “Nevertheless, his anguish was appetizing.” “Indeed. What shall we do now? On to the next?” “Patience, Sisters, we await our command.” “Perhaps the next will be even tastier.” 
We are  set up for some terrifying adventure now. I was intrigued, excited, and hopeful that Jack could make this awesome set up pay off.  He did.

What follows that opening chapter is a horror novel that understands the genre and uses its tropes and standards in a way that is not cliche, but rather, enhances the story and the horror fans enjoyment of the novel.

The plot follows the terrible marriage between Roderick and Elizabeth and in particular Rod’s descent into madness at the hands of a trio of evil demons (the ones talking in italics above). However, like all good horror novels, there is a supernatural evil equally matched by a human one engaged in an epic battle here.

Rod is an abusive husband, and an overall bad guy, but Phoenix manages to make him relatable enough, at first, so that we are compelled to keep reading and to see what will happen to him. As the story unfolds, it is Elizabeth who grows into our hero.  She is forced to confront evil head on and try to save herself and her daughter in the process. She is a typical horror hero herself as she is flawed [she married Rod for all the wrong reasons] but she must grow up and figure out who she is, what she needs, and fight the evil in her life along the way.

This is a fast paced novel that has you compulsively turning the pages.  Again, like the best books in the genre, Phoenix understands that after the initial anxiety inducing first scene you have to take a small step back and build up the terror, fear, and tension before allowing the last third of the book to unfold at a breakneck pace.

And, it has a traditional horror ending with the conflict resolved but the supernatural force moving on. Who will the trio stalk next?

By the way, that trio of evil monsters are vicious, and the book is bloody. But the overall message is positive because the demons will torment their victims until they confesses their sins.  Normally though the guilt of their sins, which is the force driving the monsters, is what ultimately kills the victim.

The writing here is impressive for a first novel.  As I have said, Phoenix is obviously a student of the genre and he used his knowledge as a starting off point.  It is a novel with a nod to horror’s traditions but without being rote or derivative.

And, the book’s proceeds go to help battered women, so you really can’t loose by grabbing a copy for yourself.

Three Words That Describe This Book: monsters, terrifying, madness

Readalikes: At times, Tormentors reminded me of the ghost stalking Jude Coyne in Joe Hill’s breakout debut, Heart-Shaped Box.  The whole idea of someone being tormented by a supernatural evil driven by its victim’s sins is a shared appeal here.

Phoenix’s writing style also reminded me of Bentley Little and Graham Masterton.  I would suggest anything by these men if you liked Tormentors.  All three write novels that move quickly, are generous with the blood and gore, juxtapose human and supernatural evil, and often deal with secrets.

If you liked the “driven into madness” angle, I also highly recommend Ghost Radio by Leopoldo Gout. However, please note, the pacing in Ghost Radio is much more methodical.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Goodreads Best Horror of the Year

Here is the link to the Goodreads users favorite horror books of 2013.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Annual Library Journal Horror Column

Click here to see my Horror Gems for the Haunting Season column.

And don’t forget to check out the archive of my Original Horror Lists; the link is always in the right gutter of the blog.

Monday, November 4, 2013

2 Sentence Horror

Oh, I am such a liar.  I am already back.  But I couldn't pass this link up from Salon, 12 novelists write scary stories in only 2 sentences.

Pretty awesome.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Day 31-- The Future of Horror


Today I want to end this year's blog-a-thon with a nod to the future of horror with a creepy story by my 11-year-old daughter, Sam. She wrote this story for school using a picture of an open window with a blowing curtain and an empty bed next to it as a prompt.  She was going to add a lot more “blood and guts” but decided that she liked the story the way it was.  For the record she got a 98% on the story with the only points being taken off for the ending being “too abrupt.” But as she said, “I wanted it that way.”
But before we get to the story,  I wanted to take a moment to thank you for following me all month. The horror blog is going to take a nap for at least 2 weeks, but you can always follow me every day on RA for All.


Take it away Sam....

*************************************************
The Third Floor Bedroom
by Samantha

Lucy, Lucy are you awake?” called twelve year old Amy Lindholm to her six year old sister, who slept on the bottom bunk.

“Well if I’m talking to you, what do you think?” snorted Lucy.

“Just checking,” said Amy. 

She climbed down the wooden ladder to the floor and looked at Lucy, who was playing with her favorite doll, Dolly. Lucy glanced up at her, then went back to playing with her doll. “Don’t you want to get dressed and have breakfast?” said Amy, “It is the first day of summer vacation, after all.” 

“It is?!?!?” screamed the clueless child, a little too loudly. She jumped out of bed and ran downstairs as fast as a speeding bullet. 

“Here we go,” Amy muttered to herself.

After Amy had gotten dressed, she went downstairs. Lucy had already finished breakfast and was sitting, impatiently, at the table. “There you are!” said Susan Lindholm, “I thought your sister was going to explode from waiting for so long. I have something to tell you guys.” 

Amy sat down next to Lucy at the kitchen table, her eyes on her mom. “Do you remember your Great-Grandmother Cindy, the one who lives in the mansion?” The sisters nodded their heads. “Well... her husband has just passed away, so the whole family will be taking a month long vacation to her house to support her.” They groaned. “Now don’t be like that! Your father will take you fishing. It will be lots of fun! We are leaving tomorrow at noon, so pack your bags by that time.” 

Amy was boiling mad inside, but she didn’t want to hurt her mother’s feelings. “Sounds like fun!” she said feebly. Amy’s summer was ruined! 

The next day the whole family piled into the car and hit the road for the three hour drive. Amy was bored. Between her sister complaining she had to go to the bathroom, and the seemingly endless highway, Amy had nothing to do. But eventually, the movement of the car lulled her frustrated body into a deep sleep.

“Amy dear, we’re here, we’re here!” her dad’s reassuring voice whispered to her. She sat up groggily, and looked around. An incredibly frail looking woman was hugging her exasperated sister on the front porch of a HUGE house. It had turrets on either side, and was AT LEAST four stories tall. There was a man on the porch too, along with her mother and father, who had just left the car. Amy climbed out of the SUV and grabbed her bag from the trunk. Maybe, just maybe, she might’ve been wrong about this place. 

After an overly long greeting from her great-grandma that consisted of the usual (“My you're getting big, I haven’t seen you in ages, Make yourself at home”), Amy went inside with Lucy and went upstairs to choose her bedroom. They looked in all the rooms, but they didn’t like any of them. The bedrooms all looked the same, with peeling wallpaper, rusty radiators, and beds with pillows that appeared to be made of bricks. Then on the third floor, a room caught their eye. It was small, but humble with an open window and lace curtains that were waving around in the warm summer breeze. But the highlight of the room was the king-sized canopy bed. They had made their decision. 

Amy and Lucy left their bags on the bed and walked downstairs to let their Great-Grandma know where they were sleeping. Expecting her to not care, they got a surprising reaction. “I’m sorry my dears, you can sleep in any other room, but that one. Don’t ask, just follow your elder’s advice,” she said with a wink. The sisters left the room, disappointed.

The man they had seen earlier was a butler, and he helped them carry their things to the room across the hall. This room had a clunky looking bed, but also had a bookcase filled with many interesting books, which Amy found intriguing. After they put their clothes away, the girls started discussing a plan.

That night, after a disgusting dinner of leftover takeout Chinese food that their mom had made them eat so as “not be rude”, the sisters lay in bed, exhausted. Amy and Lucy lay there awake until midnight, which was when their parents lights turned off, signaling that they were asleep. They were ready to bring their plan into action.

“The coast is clear,” whispered Amy.

“Got it”, said Lucy.

They climbed out of bed and, walking on their tiptoes, across the hall into the other room. They made it all the way to the canopy bed, but hesitated, both thinking the same thing.

“Why do you think Grandma didn’t want us to sleep in this bed?” said Amy

“Eh, probably just some made up ghost story that got her frightened of it,” said Lucy. They climbed into bed and fell asleep, the unusually cold wind for the middle of June howling through the still open window.

At precisely 3:13 am, they were punished for disobeying their Great-Grandmother Cindy. The wind blew in and picked them up out of the bed and flung them out the open window. As she fell, Amy screamed “I’m Sorry!!!!!” but her voice abruptly stopped without the mysterious force caring at all.

The next morning, their mother was getting worried about them. It was 12:00 pm and Amy and Lucy STILL hadn’t come out of their room. Becoming more and more stressed out, Susan Lindholm walked up the steps to where she thought the sisters had slept. She opened the door, and they were nowhere in sight. Searching all over for her daughters, she went to the room across the hall, thinking they may have snuck in. Before she opened the door, Susan got ready to scream at them, but they weren’t in there either! She went over to close the window, when  she saw the two deep holes shaped like humans in the red clay dirt on the ground below. One was of a taller child, and one was of someone younger. Susan screamed and ran downstairs. She was mortified!

When Susan got down to the kitchen, where Great-Grandma Cindy was cooking breakfast, she shrieked “Amy and Lucy fell out of the window of the third floor bedroom and died!” Susan then dropped unconscious on the floor. The Great-Grandmother then said, as if Susan could hear her, “If they disobeyed me its their own fault. But they WERE such good daughters. Its a shame, it really is. And to think it all started when somebody left the window open.”

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Day 30 Penultimate Thoughts and Last Minute Reading Suggestions

I have many things still to post, but alas, I am just about out of days, so today’s post is another catch all.

I also have 2 more tales of favorite scary books from BPL employees:
I still think that the scariest – not the most significant, not the most well written – but the scariest story I ever laid eyes on was written in 1798 by Charles Brockden Brown and is called Wieland, or The Transformation. It is the story of a seemingly normal man who slaughters his family in a fit of what he claims to be demon possession. The chapter devoted to his testimony of the killings is particularly chilling. He becomes, in essence, the narrator and rants in a madness that is awful and graphic to the point of dementia. The early American use of English compounds the impact. It is easy to see how the use of killer-as-narrator influenced later American writers like Edgar Allan Poe.  -John
[Note from Becky: You can read John’s suggestion for free right now by clicking here.]
When I was in middle school and high school, I loved Lois Duncan's creepy suspense novels.  Her characters were always normal kids who stumbled across something dark and dangerous.  My favorite was Down a Dark Hall. The main character Kit is accepted to an exclusive boarding school - so exclusive that she is one of only four students.  Though she can't quite put her finger on it, she knows instinctively that something is very wrong at Madame Duvet's Blackwood Boarding School.  Soon, Kit discovers the truth about why she and her fellow students were accepted to the school and what exactly Madame Duvet intends for them.  —Tara
An editorial note: I had a few book reviews I didn’t get to this month, both because I just didn’t write the reviews and because I am still reading the books.  So in November and December, I will be back with more reviews.

Look for 31 Days of Horror 2013 to end tomorrow morning with an awesome post that took massive will power from me to save it for the final day.

Have a safely horrific Halloween.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

31 Days of Horror Day 29: What to Drink on Halloween

Okay so for the majority of the month I talked about what to read this month, but yesterday I wrote about what to watch.  So I figured, why not go even further outside my mission, and talk about what to drink on Halloween. [Look it’s been a long month so I am going to take some liberties here.]

I also posted it 2 days early so you would have some time to go shopping if necessary.

There are many options, but my favorite Halloween themed drink is Zombie Dust, a beer brewed by Three Floyds out of Indiana.  I am not alone; it gets a near perfect score from beer snobs.  But it is very hard to come by.  I know only one restaurant in Chicago that always has it.

On Sunday night, my husband put the only 6 pack he could procure in the fridge for Thursday drinking.  And to get that six pack, he used luck and cunning.  He happened to be at our local Whole Foods on a day 1 single case came in [back in September], overheard the workers talking about stashing some for themselves, and butted himself into the conversation to get us 6 precious bottles.

But since my suggestion is so hard to come by, and it is alcoholic, I have a longer list below of a variety of beverages, some fit for all ages, to celebrate Halloween with.

Here are some other ideas:


I think Halloween is the perfect holiday to enjoy a cocktail since you spend most of the time either at home answering the door, or walking.  There is no need for a designated driver when you don’t get in your car all night.  Have some fun with it.  Even if all you are drinking is a diet coke, throw a gummy eye ball in it.  Trust me, it make the night more festive.

Back tomorrow with a catch all post/wrap up post and then a special original, never before published story on Thursday.

Monday, October 28, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Day 28-- Horror Viewing

We only have a few days left before Halloween.  Now’s the time to hunker down and add some horror movies and tv to your life.

I haven’t spent anytime this month talking about the AMAZING new seasons of both The Walking Dead and American Horror Story: Coven.  If you aren’t watching these shows, now is a good time to either catch up through Netflix or your cable’s On-Demand.

But I want to specifically point out American Horror Story: Coven.  I have been a huge fan of American Horror Story from the start.  It is not only an extremely well acted show, but it is also the scariest show on TV [and it isn’t even close].  As great as the first two seasons have been, this year is even better.  From the RA standpoint, what I also love about suggesting this show to patrons is that each season is a standalone story.  Yes, many of the actors reappear, but they stories are not connected in any way.  You can suggest Season 1 to haunted house fans, Season 2 to psychological horror fiends, and Season 3 to people who like witch stories, or all 3 to people like me who find them all great.  Seasons 1 and 2 can be checked out of the library. You don’t have to worry about watching the seasons in order.

If you are looking for a movie instead, but don’t want to pay, Flavorewire had this great list of 20 Horror Movies You Can Stream Online immediately.

So there is a little last minute Viewer Advisory assistance to get you in the haunting spirit.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Day 27 -- Lots of Horror Related Lists

I can't believe we are in the home stretch.  Halloween is almost here.  My kids have already broken in their costumes at parties yesterday and the pumpkins are being carved today.

I have been collecting some of the best lists from all over the web throughout the month and thought today, was a good time to run them.  These are great last minute options to get you into the scary spirit.

Also today is the last day for Halloween ComicsFest.  Click here to find a participating store near you.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

31 days of Horror: Day 26-- Love for Monster Librarian

I love working in libraries. There is very little competition; instead it is replaced by tons of collaboration.  Take the great people over at Monster Librarian, the only other resource out there specifically for horror in libraries besides this one. We have worked together in the past, guest posting for each other.

They have a site with tons of reviews and a useful blog.  Here is the link to their Halloween Horrors 2013 page.

On the blog this month in particular they have run a wonderful Horror related Teen Read Week series, and a great list of witch books (just perfect for those of you, like me, who are loving the new season of American Horror Story).

It is also important to note that Monster Librarian is focused on horror for ALL AGES at the library, while this blog is more focused on adult with a bit of YA considerations.

The editor over at Monster Librarian, Kirsten was also gracious enough to share her first "scary" book experience with me.

So remember RA for All: Horror and Monster Librarian all year long.  We are here for libraries during and beyond the Halloween season. Together we make a pretty terrifying team!

Here's Kirsten.....

*************************************************

The first book I remember as being truly scary is The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I first read it when I was five years old. There was the beautiful, terrible White Witch, and the disagreeable Edmund's awful betrayal, and the terrifying scene at the Stone Table, where the Witch and her evil companions foully kill the great Aslan. That first time, when I realized Aslan was truly dead, and evil had triumphed over good, it felt like the world was crumbling. With just a few words, Lewis permanently imprinted that in my head. I know it's the opposite of his intention, but it's the terror that stays with me,  not the story of redemption.

Kirsten Kowalewski is editor for MonsterLibrarian.com, a book review website devoted to helping librarians with reader's advisory and collection development in the horror genre, and helping horror readers of all ages find their next good book. 

Visit our blogs: 

Musings of the Monster Librarian (commentary and resources for reader's advisory and collection development)

Reading Bites (paranormal and horror fiction reviews for teens)

What's New (links to new reviews)

Or, get it all in one place and visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MonsterLibrarian 

Friday, October 25, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Day 25-- New Horror Books Suggested by the New York Times

Anytime the New York Times Book Review gives space to horror I am happy.  This past week's issue dedicated its weekly "The Shortlist" column to three new horror titles.

There were:
  • Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist
  • The Sleep Room by F. R. Tallis
  • The Black Spider by Jeremias Gotthelf.

For libraries, I highly recommend that you add the first two to your collection.  Lindqvist is becoming a must own here in America.  With each successive Nordic horror novel he releases in America, his popularity has grown, and deservedly so.  The Sleep Room also looks like a perfect creepy psychological horror novel, good for fans of all psychological suspense. I put a hold one it already myself.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Day 24-- Listen to Me Live Talking About Horror

Instead of reading my thoughts on horror today, you can listen to me talk about horror.  I will even be taking your calls.

All of this happens on the Wisconsin Public Radio Show, Central Time.  You can listen live anywhere using this link.

Central Time is part of the Ideas Network:
Co-hosted by Veronica Rueckert and Rob Ferrett, "Central Time" takes a unique approach each hour to cover a mix of topics.
Rueckert and Ferrett, joined by producers Amanda Magnus, Chris Malina, Galen Druke, and KP Whaley, find the latest news, cultural trends, and explore ideas big and small to find the best guests to discuss these thought provoking topics. "Central Time" can be heard weekdays on the Ideas Network from 3 to 6 p.m.
I will be on from 3:30-4.

I look forward to speaking to everyone.

After the segment airs, you should be able to listen to it in their archives.  But I will also post the specific link tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Day 23-- Dark Regions Press Kickstarter


There are a lot of horror based Kickstarter projects out there, but I wanted to point out this great one from Dark Regions Press featuring authors who are very popular in public libraries. All the details are in their official press release below.  The Kickstarter is going until 11/10.

You might want to pass this on to some of your patrons. For as little as $1 they can get to read the finished book.  For larger amounts an established author will kill you in their next book.  I would totally pick Joe McKinney.  Intrigued? Click here for more.

Also, I wanted to use this post as a reminder that there are some great small horror presses out there. I keep a directory here.  Dark Regions Press is one of my designated favorites too.

********************************************************************

This is where the boundaries between the innerverse and the outerverse recede

Dark Regions Press has launched a new Kickstarter campaign to support the creation of Black Labyrinth Book II: Joe R. Lansdale illustrated by Santiago Caruso. The campaign is currently live and can be viewed here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chrismorey/black-labyrinth-book-ii-joe-r-lansdale

Black Labyrinth is an imprint of ten psychological horror novels and novellas from the living masters of horror and dark fiction all illustrated by surrealist artist Santiago Caruso. The first book in the imprint, The Walls of the Castle by Tom Piccirilli has been met with wide critical acclaim and the hardcovers are considered some of the finest that Dark Regions Press has produced:

The new Kickstarter campaign will fully fund a new novella of psychological horror from Joe R. Lansdale, award-winning author of Edge of Dark Water, the Hap and Leonard series, Bubba Ho-Tep, The Thicket, Incident On and Off a Mountain Road and many other novels, novellas, short stories, comic books and screenplays. The campaign will also bring five original pieces of artwork from renowned surrealist artist Santiago Caruso to accompany the novella, including four B&W interior illustrations.

Dark Regions Press wants everyone who contributes to read the new novella. Any reward level in the Black Labyrinth Book II: Joe R. Lansdale Kickstarter campaign will get you a copy of the book. All editions are offered at planned retail price with free U.S. shipping included and discounted international shipping offered along with Kickstarter exclusive bonuses. Contributors will be regularly updated during the production of the book and many will be immortalized in the book itself.
Join the effort and help make Black Labyrinth Book II a reality: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chrismorey/black-labyrinth-book-ii-joe-r-lansdale

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Day 22-- Horror and Libraries Go Hand in Hand


Today's guest post is by friend of the blog, horror author, and huge library champion, JG Faherty.  

Pay attention, he wrote this one just for us...

*************************************************
Horror and Libraries Go Hand in Hand
By JG Faherty, Author & Library Committee Chairman for the Horror Writers Association

You may have read the title to this guest blog and thought to yourself, "Huh?" That's okay; you're probably not alone. Sure, during the Halloween season libraries decorate the walls with bats and pumpkins, host themed parties for the young 'uns, and probably see a spike in horror-related book and movie borrowing.

But I'm here to tell you that horror isn't just for Halloween, and, when marketed correctly, it can not only get more people into the your library, but also promote literacy among children and young adults. Consider these facts:

**Horror/Dark Fiction is the fastest growing, and most popular, genre of books among pre-teen and teen readers. It encompasses paranormal romance, dystopian adventures, apocalyptic fiction, urban fantasy, and so many other of the sub-genres our young adults are enamored with, in both books and movies.

**While pretty much all surveys show that people are reading the same or fewer books than 10 years ago, readership is actually up in the tween/teen age groups – primarily in the romance and horror areas.

**YA librarians who've been in contact with the HWA are constantly telling us that kids today aren't just reading novels, they're reading graphic novels and short story collections as well.

As the Chairman of the HWA's Library Committee, I've had discussions with many librarians over the past two years, not only via email but in person at libraries and at industry events, such as horror conferences and the ALA Winter Meeting. One thing I constantly hear is that the libraries can't keep up with the YA readers – they need more books, but they're not aware of any beyond what the big publishing houses recommend each year. 

That's why one of my first goals as Chairman was to create a set of resources for librarians. The HWA now has a special page (www.horror.org/librarians.htm) on our website where librarians can find recommended reading lists for each year, plus lists of award-nominated and award-winning novels, short stories, anthologies, graphic novels, and poetry. There are also links to our Young Adult Horror page (www.horror.org/yahorror/), which provides additional recommendations specifically for the under-20 crowd.

So why is this important to libraries, you ask? Well, the obvious answer would be libraries that offer more books for their readers will get more people coming in. But the benefits go beyond that. By getting kids to read more, and getting more kids to read, libraries are also grooming the adult readers of the future. A National Library of Congress survey last year showed that most high school graduates don't read for pleasure after graduating. The percentage of non-readers actually gets higher among those who've graduated college. So building strong reading habits in teens can only help increase those numbers. 

Where does horror come in? you might ask. It goes back to popularity. Kids love horror. The more horror there is on the shelves, the more they're going to read. The more they read now, the more likely they'll read later. It's a simple matter of giving the public what they want, instead of driving them away because of a lack of variety. 

But helping libraries fill their shelves isn't the only benefit the HWA offers. We also have databases of libraries and authors, so that librarians can contact us to find out what writers in their region are open to coming in and putting on readings or presentations. Writers can likewise find lists of libraries to contact for the same reasons. This is especially popular around the Halloween season, but most HWA members not only write in other genres, but are open to doing appearances any time of the year.

As someone who's done many a reading or Halloween appearance, I can attest to the fact that kids love to meet writers – possibly more so than adults. And they come armed with questions. Teens in particular love to talk about the latest zombie trends or hear about the ins and outs of writing. Some of them might be taking Creative Writing or Advanced English in school and can benefit from pointers. Others just think books and graphic novels are cool – and when kids think something's cool, they'll talk about it for hours. It's possible that at home, or in school, the adults they interact with aren't into horror, and might even by trying to suppress a child's interest in it. "Oh, it's all blood and guts! I don't want you reading that!"

Except horror is so much more than that. There is classic literary horror: Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll & Mister Hyde. Modern literary horror: the works of Stephen King, Peter Straub, David Morrell, Thomas Monteleone. And all the writers in between: Poe, Lovecraft, Bierce, Jackson, Lieber, Wagner, Saberhagen, Bloch.

"Hey, some of those aren't horror writers!" I hear you shouting. You're wrong. Many writers in the science fiction, fantasy, and adventure genres cross over into horror. Horror knows no boundaries; if there are elements of the dark, the fantastical, the creepy, it's horror. 

Kids are drawn to the things they like. And if they like horror, and your library stocks it, they'll come. In droves. And they'll be back, again and again.

Another perk the HWA is working on is introducing libraries to writers who aren't in their geographic area. Through Skype and other remote communication software, libraries can now arrange presentations with best-selling writers who are thousands of miles away.

And the benefits don't stop there. The HWA is working on ebooks that will be available to libraries. Each ebook will cover a different topic, and contain 10-20 articles culled from our official newsletter and Halloween Haunts blog. The first one in the series, due out this fall, will be, naturally, about Halloween. The content will range from informational to anecdotal, so librarians will be able to use the booklets for educational and entertainment purposes.

The HWA also has local chapters in many states, and each chapter has members who are not only ready and willing to put on presentations, but who are often subject matter experts in a variety of areas that would be of interest to libraries – Halloween, local legends, zombies, mythology, steampunk, science, you name it! And it goes without saying that writers usually make great story tellers.

One of the HWA's other programs involves getting popular culture figures to promote literacy to young adults and adults. Famed cartoonist Ray Billingsley created a poster for the HWA last year. This year we've got actress and author Amber Benson working with us on some literacy projects. In the future, we hope to have other actors and musicians involved. 

The Horror Writers Association is a global organization with more than 1000 members who write, edit and publish professionally in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, games, films, comics, and other media. We have partnered with the ALA and VOYA on projects, and will be doing more partnerships in the future.

The question isn't how can the HWA help libraries.

The question is, how could it possibly not help?

For more information, please contact JG Faherty at libraries@horror.org

***

JG Faherty is the author of THE BURNING TIME, CEMETERY CLUB, CARNIVAL OF FEAR, THE COLD SPOT, HE WAITS, and the Bram Stoker Award®-nominated GHOSTS OF CORONADO BAY, along with more than 50 short stories. His next novel, HELLRIDER, comes out in 2014, as do several new novellas and short stories. He writes adult and YA horror, science fiction, and urban fantasy. As a child, his favorite playground was a 17th-century cemetery, which many people feel explains a lot. A member of the Horror Writers Association for more than 10 years, he is the Chairman of the HWA Library Committee and oversees the Literacy Program. You can follow him at www.twitter.com/jgfaherty, www.facebook.com/jgfaherty, and www.jgfaherty.com.



Monday, October 21, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Day 21-- Leanne Suggests The Thirteenth Tale

Today we have Leanne:
I work at a small public library in the western suburbs.  Autumn is one of my favorite seasons because of the color changes, new beginnings, and the opportunity to refocus.  When I'm not reading, you can find me relaxing with family and friends, singing in choir, and volunteering with community groups like the Woodridge Jaycees.
Leanne wanted to learn more about what kind of horror she likes, so she used one of my resources to identify a possible title.  I am happy to report, she enjoyed it.

Take it away Leanne...

***********************************************************
I had never given much thought to the horror genre, but in the interest of expanding my tastes, I chose to read The Thirteenth Tale  by Diane Setterfield.  It came off a list from RA For All called "Horror for the Squeamish." My interest piqued when the temperatures dropped down, the days shortened, and I was hooked into reading this novel.

This gothic novel unfolds slowly, but ends with satisfying character development.  Young biographer Margaret Lea is commissioned by the great novelist Vida Winter to write a factual story of her life before her death.  At first skeptical, Lea verifies Winter's three facts before proceeding with the project.  After confirming the existence of the Angelfield estate, and that Vida Winter's real name was once Adeline March, Lea engages in her writing as Winter weaves together the story of her dark parentage, the decay and deaths within Angelfield, and the love she had for her lost twin, Emmeline March.
More questions arise as the months pass.  Why was the gardener Aurelius abandoned sixty years ago in a canvas bag with a feather inside? What happened to the one time governess, Hester Barrow, and the doctor with whom she conducted twin experiments? And what secrets is Margaret Lea carrying herself with the scar on her right torso?

Divided into three sections, Beginnings, Middles, and Endings, this novel requires a slow and deliberate reading pace.  When family secrets are finally revealed, the characters' lives fit together in an unexpected manner. There is not much blood or gore, but the psychological intrigue carries the reader to a surprising ending.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Day 20-- Where Stacey Shares Her Attempts to Read Horror

Today, it's Stacey's turn:
Stacey Peterson is the Adult Services Manager at the Batavia Public Library (www.bataviapubliclibrary.org) and the current chairperson of the Adult Reading Round Table.  (www.arrtreads.org)   You can find her, reading non-scary books, at the blog Unruly Reader. (http://unrulyreader.blogspot.com)  
Stacey bravely shared her experience with trying to read horror. I am sure some of you out there can relate.

********************************************************
Maybe I read too many books as a kid. Seriously, that could be it.  

My imagination? Way too vivid. 


So: scaring myself is ridiculously easy to do. Horror is available to me just about anywhere; I’ve literally scared myself with my own shadow. (Just last week, in fact.)

So seeking horror just ain’t gonna happen in my world. (Worst babysitting moment ever [and there are several to choose from]: I was in high school, and the middle school kid I was babysitting for the weekend decided it would be cool to watch Pet Sematary. Yeah. She watched with glee, while I stuck my head under a blanket.)

Even in my post-babysitting years, I find that horror creeps up on me, even though I try earnestly to avoid it. I live my sweet, simple little life, thinking (mostly) virtuous, pleasant thoughts, and still… still! horror finds me. 

In its most insidious form, horror stalks me when I’m reading non-horror books. In my reading life I can trace a long tradition of scaring myself witless merely by reading nonfiction alone late at night.

Here’s part of the trouble: I have a fondness for books about tragic events. (I’ll just say it: I love such books.) But...because often there’s untimely death happening within their pages, these books can freak me out, especially after dark. It’s like I’m haunted by ghosts. (I don’t believe in ghosts.)

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Exhibit A: High-school-age me, reading a biography of Edith Cavell, an English nurse executed by the Germans for having aided the escape of Allied soldiers during WWI. It’s late at night, and I’m alone in my room, the only person awake in the house. And I’m completely freaked out, thinking that if I turn out the lights to go to sleep, the ghost of the executed Edith Cavell will materialize.
(Repeating: I don’t believe in ghosts. Didn’t believe in them then, either.)

Exhibit B: High-school-age me, reading Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember--about the sinking of the Titanic. Again, it’s late at night, and I’m the only one awake in our house. I’m utterly terrified as I climb the stairs, because I’m convinced that the spirit of Captain Smith will be walking along the upstairs hallway banister, as though he’s patrolling the bridge of the ship. As though my reading had conjured him.

Exhibit C: College-age me, reading a book about the battle of Gettysburg. Same staircase, late at night. I’m quite certain I’m walking through a foggy field of ghost soldiers as I ascend the stairs. (I recall thinking of the book title In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead and nearly snorting when I realized that maybe that’s where the “fogginess” came from. Then I thought, James Lee Burke, you’re in trouble for making this vision worse than it already was, because even laughing at myself did not particularly relieve the terror.)

Exhibit D (oh, yes, there’s more): Young-librarian-age me, reading Norman Maclean’s magnificent Young Men and Fire for the first time. I stay up late reading, because I cannot put that book down. And this time the thing happens at the top of the stairs. (Different house, different staircase, same freak-out.) I swear, I was really scared that if I looked out of the corner of my eye, I’d see those men sidehilling down the hallway, to their deaths.

Exhibit E: Two-years-ago me, reading Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper. I knew, I knew! it was a dumb idea to keep reading this book late at night. I’m downstairs, all alone, and I (true-crime-o-phobe) am reading a book about a master criminal. Not a good idea, lady. So as I head upstairs, I turn on every light in every room as I walk through it, and I make it up the stairs without incident. I’m thinking maybe I’d conquered that old thing, and I’m feeling quite all right. Then, out of nowhere, I have the same fear that I’d had as a child (which used to cause me to leap—and I mean leap—across my room into my bed) that someone/something would reach out from under the bed and grab my ankle. D.B. Cooper might grab my ankle! I surprise myself with the crazed little hop I do as I get (let's be honest: launch myself) into bed.

This, my friends, this is why you won’t find me reading horror novels. Plain old nonfiction is scary enough for this one.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Day 19 -- The Graveyard Book by Elizabeth

Today's guest post is from Elizabeth:

Elizabeth is a recent MLIS graduate and an Adult Services Librarian at a public library in the Chicago-land area. Her interests include collection management, readers’ advisory, books clubs, and user instruction.  You can visit her online at: www.firstyearlibrarian.weebly.com

Take it away Elizabeth...


*************************************************************

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
I like to think that I’m a fairly broad reader. Young Adult, Romance, Psychological Suspense, Fantasy, Literary Fiction, Mystery, these types of titles can all be found stacked up on my nightstand (a stack which is getting embarrassingly high). But there’s one sort of book that has never, ever been checked out on my library card, and that, my friends, is a horror book. I’d like to provide you with some really profound story explaining this sizeable gap in my reading, but it really comes down to the simple fact that I am a total coward. Seriously. I blame my father for letting me watch the film version of King’s It when I was about seven years old. Totally turned off horror and scarred for life, thanks Dad. So when asked about my favorite “scary” book, I usually draw a blank (a readers’ advisor’s worst nightmare!) But while I refuse to read anything scary, I will read dark and eerie and sometimes creepy.
 So as Halloween approaches and patrons start to ask for some horror titles to get in the spirit of the season, I’m suggesting Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. This is an excellent suggestion for adults who, like me, are looking for something spooky but not overly terrifying. It’s also a great suggestion for, you know, kids considering it is actually a children’s/tween book. The Graveyard Book tells the tale of young Nobody Owens, a boy who escapes his home as a baby after his entire family is viciously murdered. Nobody seeks shelter in a nearby graveyard, and is quickly adopted by the community of ghosts whose bodies were laid to rest in this cemetery. Growing up among the dead does have its advantages as Nobody receives the Freedom of the Graveyard, which allows him to see his ghostly neighbors and adopt some of their otherworldly talents. These abilities include: fading out of sight, dream walking, and instilling terror in a chosen victim. As Nobody grows up in a world isolated from the living, he has many a supernatural adventure involving witches, werewolves, and ghouls. But Nobody’s happy existence among the dead can’t last forever- the sinister evil responsible for the murder of his family is still on the hunt for the baby who narrowly escaped a violent end. An engaging read that is both chilling and suspenseful, The Graveyard Book is an excellent “scary” suggestion for younger readers and grown up cowards alike.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Limbus Inc Winnner

Congrats to Jenny H. the winner of an advance reader copy of Limbus Inc. courtesy of JournalStone. 

31 Days of Horror: Day 18 --Guest Post by Bill Stephens

After a week of my posts, reviews and comments, we are back to more suggestions by my library colleagues who sent me posts on their favorite scary books.

Today I welcome former student, former intern, and now colleague Bill Stephens to the blog.  He would like to share a favorite scary book in the form of an open letter to the author of said book.

Take it away Bill....

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



In Praise of Orson Scott Card's Empire: A Very Scary Guy's Very Scary Book

Dear Mr. Card,

To celebrate this coming Halloween, some of us library types are expounding upon books we deem to be rather scary all throughout this month commonly known as Rocktober. When presented with the opportunity for my own little write up, I immediately thought of sharing some thoughts on your novel Empire, perhaps the most willies-inducing piece of literature I've yet to read. But first a brief plot synopsis to get everyone up to speed:

Major Reuben "Rube" Malich and Captain Bartholomew "Cole" Coleman are Special Forces veterans working for the Pentagon where Rube creates scenarios involved in how terrorists may someday attack the country. Horrifically, a daring plan Rube has concocted involving the Potomac, underwater divers, and rocket launchers has fallen into the wrong hands and is used to assassinate the President (ever the second-fiddle, the Vice President is crushed by a dump truck). While Rube and Cole are fortuitously in position to nearly thwart the attack, a suspicious public eye is immediately cast upon the military.
With the Executive Office out of the way, New York City falls under siege and is conquered by deadly and giant mechanized robots programmed to kill anyone in uniform, such as police, firemen, and the military (no mention is given regarding the fate of Manhattan's legion of doormen). This uprising is the action of the Progressive Restoration, an army of leftist radicals led by super-villain Aldo Verus (a cartoonish and thinly veiled portrayal of George Soros, who must be very proud). While relentlessly pursued by rebel mechs and hovercycles (kick-ass!!), our heroes call up some old Army buddies and attempt to put things right. While Rube is betrayed by his secretly leftist-radical secretary by way of a bullet to the eye, Cole & Co. are eventually able to corral Verus and quell the rebellion, opening the Presidential door for the brilliant, yet mysterious, super-historian Averell Torrent. (Phew!)

Now, I understand that me being an atheistic, borderline commie and you being a hard-line Mormon militarist leaves little common ground for us politically, socially, and theologically. That's fine. You know--diff'rent strokes and all that. And you are free to call upon whatever artistic and literary tools you feel are necessary for your portrayal of the Left: parody, satire, agitprop, hyperbole, jingoistic hate-mongering....it's all good! Let me explain what terrified me so about Empire and the brain that produced it.

In the afterward to your book you lament the state of our polarized nation and how tough it is for a Regular Joe centrist/moderate such as yourself to be heard over the red and blue din. In the same afterward you chastise the media for being unabashedly slanted to the left. You accuse "progressive" academia of a conspiracy to suppress and censor opposing views and blackballing those who would espouse them. 

In the novel, in a chapter entitled "Fair and Balanced", your heroes turn to Fox News (O'Reilly, specifically) to plea to the nation for sanity as it is the only outlet that would give voice to a military man. Your leftist villains, spouting slogans even the lowliest Soviet propaganda writer would deem clunky, exhibit a fanaticism that would make the Shining Path jealous while simultaneously acting so stoned and thick, you'd think there was a hacky sack-sized tumor in each of their pinko brains. And I won't even mention your views on homosexuality, marriage, and the Joseph Smith-inspired fatwah you declared on President Obama or anyone else who might try making the case for gay civil rights (Oops, I guess I just did. Sorry.)

While admittedly the product of shoddy 1970's parenting, I was at least able to learn at quite a young age that just because you say something, doesn't make it true. You are not a moderate. You are not a centrist. You are not a voice of reason. You are not unbiased. You are not mainstream. You are not a regular or normal guy. You are not persecuted. You have no claim to tolerance from those who criticize your wacky and hateful views. 

And yet, I am grateful for you, your writing career, and the bizarre things that come from both your pen and mouth. You are endlessly entertaining, truly the Mayor of Crazytown, and you completely scare the shit out of me. Happy Halloween!!!

Your pal,

Bill

____________________________________
Bill Stephens is an Adult Services Librarian at the Bensenville (IL) Community Library, and has recently been certified by Dominican University as worthy for bona fide membership in the Librarian Sisterhood. His duties at BCPL include everything and anything that needs to get done.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Day 17-- Review: The Devils of D-Day

Today's review is of an old out of print book by a horror master who is still writing today-- The Devils of D-Day by Graham Masterton. This novel is from 1978, making it one of Masterton's first books. He has gone on to become a modern horror master.  While The Devils of D-Day is currently out of print and not available in my library system (I bought a used copy for $4.50), we own many of his books at the BPL, and in fact, Masterton still has quite a following.  It's not Stephen King numbers, but he is more popular at our library than Bentley Little, for example, and just as popular as fellow Brit Ramsey Campbell.

Specifically Masterton writes fast paced, suspenseful horror with short chapters, lots of anxious tension building and great plot twists.  He tends to focus on ancient evil and demons.  His work does have gruesome violence but it also has a nice sense of humor.  Unlike a Joe Hill from today, who places his horror in a very realistic frame, Masterton's horror can be over-the-top and set in completely impossible situations.  But that is part of the fun and the charm.  Knowing this off the bat, allows you to enjoy the ride.

So why did I read this hard to find, old horror title.  Well, I have a very good reason.  If you follow RA for All, you would know that I will be interviewing Luis Alberto Urrea next week as part of the Fox Valley Reads programming.  A few weeks ago, Luis and I got to know each other during a very fun phone call.  During this conversation he told me that his next book was going to be "sort of a horror novel," and he mentioned The Devil's of D-Day specifically as an inspiration.  I told him I would give it a read before we met up on October 24th on stage.  So thanks Luis.

Everything I said about Masterton as a writer in general, holds true for The Devils of D-Day. Our frame is set in Normandy France about 35 years D-Day.  Of course the area is forever scarred by the real life horrors they have only recently lived through, but, in one town there are still some lingering demons--literal demons.  From the publisher:
ARMY OF EVIL...
At the bridge of Le Vey in July 1944, thirteen black tanks smashed through the German lines in an unstoppable, all-destroying fury ride. Leaving hundreds of Hitler’s soldiers horribly dead. 
Thirty-five years later, Dan McCook visited that area of Normandy on an investigation of the battle site. There he found a rusting tank by the roadside that was perfectly sealed, upon its turret a protective crucifix. Skeptical, he dared open it, releasing upon himself and the innocents who had helped him an unimaginable horror that led back to that black day in 1944. And re-opened the ages-old physical battle between the world and Evil Incarnate...
From today’s master of the occult thriller, here is a riveting, mega-chill novel of modern-day demonism. THE DEVILS OF D-DAY IS ABOUT A NEW SATANIC KIND OF WAR.
So what we have a a short, action packed horror novel with a WWII frame.  This book is clearly in the devil and demonic possession subgenre of horror.  So it is a sure bet for those fans. There is an old priest, cool incantations to the Devil to release the demons, and an awesome showdown between good and evil.

We have a dark and menacing tone from page one: abandoned tank, freezing temperatures, old farm house, mysterious illness that killed mistress of the farm.  It is all very atmospheric.  The addition of the legacy of the horrors of war and how they still ravaged these small European towns 3 decades after the fighting ended added an extra layer of menace.  I really enjoyed that angle.

This book has very little set up before the demons are trying to communicate with our hero; in my mass market paperback copy its on page 45.  I am not exaggerating about the fast pace. There is suspense, murders, blood, violence, congregations of demons, and a big climatic battle.  And it all can be read in a single afternoon.

Remember, this is a 1978 title, and it is set to its present day, so there is not the ambiguity that we see in much 21 Century horror.  So, the good guys are all good here, the bad guys are all bad, the ending is resolved and unambiguous.  Reading The Devils of D-Day was a refreshingly old school experience [without being cheesy] and  highly enjoyable too.

Three Words That Describe This Book: demons, fast paced, atmospheric

Readalikes: There are many "classic" horror authors who are still writing today whom I would suggest for fans of Masterton: Robert McCammon (love him), Douglas Clegg, and Ramsey Campbell.  All are discussed multiple times in my book. Like Masterton, you can expect a reliably well written and scary horror novel from them, each and every time.  There are very few stinkers in this group.  And all have a huge back catalog as well as new material coming out regularly.

Richard Matheson, who just passed away in June, is also a great choice.  As I saw on NoveList comparing Masterton to Matheson:
Both authors write fast-paced, plot-driven horror fiction about supernatural evils. Their clear, direct, and vivid prose and carefully-plotted stories make their books quick and fun reads for horror fans who don't like to wait long for chills."
I second that from personal experience.

Another classic horror novel with a WWII frame that I highly suggest is F. Paul Wilson's The Keep.

For a newer option, The Devils of D-Day reminded me of Coronation by Lee F. Jordan which was on the Bram Stoker Long List this year.  I also reviewed it here. In Coronation, our demons have been trapped on a sunken ship, not sealed in a tank, but the feel of both books, separated by 35 years, is strikingly similar.

Finally, if you really enjoy horror with a demonic angle, I have an entire chapter in my book on the topic with an annotated list of suggested reads.