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Monday, October 16, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 16- Bloodshot Books Take Over-- Why I Love Horror With Pete Kahle

Today begins the five day take over of the blog by Bloodshot Books. Click here to read my introduction to this series.

We begin with Bloodshot Books Owner, Pete Kahle who wrote one of the best “Why I Love Horror” essays I have ever hosted on this blog. 

I ask authors and contributors to tell me “Why I Love Horror” because it gives you, the library worker, a glimpse into the very different reasons of why people like horror.  You can see all of these features using the Why I Love Horror tag later, but right now, you can read Petes entry into the conversation.

A Confession for the Season by Pete Kahle

When I was thirteen years old, I stole an issue of Playboy from the basement bathroom of my next-door neighbor, Joey. His father had a stack of the magazines at least a foot high that he kept piled out in the open next to the toilet, and all the kids on our street knew about them. So, when nature called, Joey’s house was always the most popular choice for all the boys in the neighborhood to use, rather than head home to their own facilities. On the day in question, I distinctly remember sneaking out the back door with the issue—June 1983, to be exact—tucked down the back of my pants and covering it with my t-shirt, then rapidly cutting across several other back yards to get to my house with my plundered treasure intact. It’s not something I’m proud of having done, but the reason I mention it is this: I didn’t take it for the naked pictures. I took it for an article that I wanted to read.


If you’re still reading this, I’ll wager that some questions have crossed your mind. Primarily, what was the article? And secondly, what does this tale of my youthful indiscretion have to do with my love of the horror genre?

The article in question was the Playboy interview of Stephen King.

Though it may be cliché to state that Mr. King was my introduction to the genre, it is simply a fact. Like many others who came of age in the horror boom of the 1980s, King was… well, he was the King of Horror. 

I had been reading his novels since the previous summer when my grandfather gave me a stack of books that he had picked up at a flea market. Like me, he had always been an avid reader and he was quite happy that his precocious grandson had the same passion. Despite this, his initial suggestions of James Michener and John Jakes didn’t thrill me much, so he offered me one that he hadn’t yet read, but had heard was extremely popular. That book was ‘Salem’s Lot, and from the moment Danny Glick floated outside Mark Petrie’s window, I was hooked. Reading King’s tales became my addiction.

By the time I committed petty theft from my neighbor’s bathroom a year later, I had read all his other works—most recently Pet Sematary, which remains the one that haunts me the most—and I eagerly devoured anything by King that I could find. Once I was in my room, I locked the door and read the lengthy article in about half an hour. I can’t say for sure, but it was probably around that time that I first began to consider trying my hand at becoming an author. It would be over thirty years before that dream ever came to fruition.

So, like many others before me, Stephen King became my gateway drug to the horror genre. Although I made occasional forays into science fiction, fantasy and crime fiction, I always crawled back into its dark corners where I felt I truly belonged. After plowing through all his available novels and collections, I moved on to other authors: Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, Robert McCammon, and later on the Brians: Lumley, Keene, Hodge, etc... In the decades since, I reckon that I have read well over two thousand novels, the vast majority of which were horror.

Why horror, you ask? What is it about this genre that attracts me? Why do I enjoy tales that many others can’t seem to stomach? Many times, while reading my latest lurid-covered selection at a coffee shop or on a bus, I’ve caught strangers from the corner of my eye glancing at my book and grimacing in disgust, as if smelling something rotten or as if they had just seen me picking my nose in public. It’s undeniable that some people look down their noses at the horror genre, and that some consider it to be far inferior to so-called “literary fiction”.

Well over a decade ago, around the time that Leisure Horror closed its doors, Barnes & Noble eliminated their Horror section and mainstream publishers began re-branding much of the genre as Dark Fantasy or Thrillers, I started to hear people claiming that this was the death knell for such tales. Instead, vampires began to sparkle and serial killers became sexy. Long gone were radioactive inbred mutants, genetic monstrosities from secret military compounds, or ravenous wolfmen whose only hunger was for the entrails of their victims. No longer would anyone want to read about children possessed by demons or brain-eating zombie hordes. It was widely proclaimed that readers would become more discerning and selective. With a few exceptions, only award-winning, pseudo-intellectual titles would make it to the New York Times Bestsellers list. 

Yet that did not happen.

Rather, in the years since, due to the combination of this mainstream downsizing and the advent of e-books, there has been a resurgence of small press and indie horror. New and distinct voices in our genre that would most likely have been overlooked in the past have now been given an opportunity to be heard. I’d like to think that my burgeoning small press, Bloodshot Books, has contributed to this recent uptick.

But back to the original question—why do I read horror?

Some portion of society may never understand the attraction. “Why read about such awful things”, they may ask. “Isn’t the world dreadful enough?” 

Frankly? Yes, it is. 

In fact (you may think this is a contradiction) but I read about monsters and the end of the world, because the horror of everyday life is too much for me to take most days. Horror is an escape from the degenerate society that we experience every day. It’s cathartic. I would much rather read about an undead horde shambling across the countryside than turn on cable news and see the most recent atrocity that mankind has inflicted upon itself. 

Charlottesville… Katrina… Sandy Hook… Fallujah… Boko Haram. The ever-growing list of brutality numbs us with each new event. As I write these paragraphs, the news media is currently slavering over the Mandalay Bay massacre in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, gun sales skyrocket everywhere and the response of our eternally-impotent Congress is to send their “thought and prayers” to the victims. As a society, we have become numb to these monstrous acts.

So, I choose to retreat into another realm where the horrors described are supernatural and otherworldly. Yeah, we may be on the verge of a nuclear war with North Korea, but at least someone hasn’t cast a voodoo curse on me. A series of hurricanes may be leaving a swathe of devastation up the eastern seaboard, but it could be worse, right? A plague of mutated flesh-eating bacteria could have just infected your town. An army of subterranean mole-men could have risen from the Hollow Earth to conquer the unsuspecting surface world. Any number of scenarios can pull readers in and let them forget—just for a short while—that they just lost their job, or their dog just died, or their child is in the hospital…

But that’s not the sole reason I prefer Horror.

I read and write and publish in this genre, because in the end, I believe that most horror fiction is written with a message of hope. We always fight to survive. One of the most iconic figures in the genre (both film and literature) is the Final Girl, the desperate last survivor duking it out with the crazed killer in the climactic scenes. This is a trope of horror so well-known that it has transcended the cliché and is now often used in self-referential irony. 

There are some exceptions, of course. Some tales take a nihilistic approach and kill everyone off in a bloody finale, but in my experience most end with the Great Big Evil TM defeated and the survivors picking up the pieces and burying their dead with a glimmer of light on the horizon. Even in a fictional apocalypse, the remnants of civilization strive on… and I want to believe in this possibility—that even in the worst times, when everything seems to be lost forever, mankind has an ember of hope smoldering in the blackened core of its petrified stony heart.

That’s not too much to ask for… is it?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 15- Bloodshot Books Takes Over the Blog

Each year I reach out to someone to feature for one of the weeks on my month long blog-a-thon. Never do they reach out to me. I want to clear that up before we begin. This site is completely independent and every single person who appears as a “Guest” or is featured was chosen by me. I solicited them to participate and I told them what I wanted them to write about.

Case in point is the subject of this year’s feature-- Bloodshot Books.

I met the owner, editor, and publisher of this small press, Pete Kahle when he was the Jury Chair for my Bram Stoker Award jury last year. I knew Pete as the guy keeping our jury on track and in line. I honestly didn’t look him up to see his connection to the genre. I was so busy keeping up with al of the reading and making sure I was doing everything correctly and on the up and up that I never even thought about it.

I knew Pete had written a book, that’s about it.

And then, I was giving a program in MA and also in attendance was Anna Popp, a Consultant with Massachusetts Library System. This was not the first time I had met Anna, so we were just chatting during a break and she said to me, “Hey, you know, I know this guy who wrote a horror book. I’ve known him for years. I have no idea if he is any good as a writer, but would you mind if I gave him your contact info?”

Two days later I got a hilarious email from Pete. “Hey Becky, I guess we both know Anna.” We were only at the start of our year working together on the jury together, but that connection led to us learning more about each other and our work in the horror genre.

I am still volunteering on a jury for the Bram Stoker Awards but Pete had to drop out this year due to the fact that his press, now just over 1 year old, was going well enough that he thought he might have a chance to see a few books get nominated for the 2018 Stokers. He needed to recuse himself to be fair.

I was sad to not get to work with Pete again, but then I saw the authors and titles in his line up for 2017, and I was impressed: Tom Deady, who won the Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2017, the Sisters of Slaughter who were finalists for that same award and whose Bloodshot Books 2017 title I reviewed here, and some intriguing new comers.

Bloodshot Books is a small press that is making some noise, after only 15 months out of the gate. But more importantly, Pete is a publisher who understands libraries and the library market. He puts out a good paper product with professionally designed covers that will stand-up to multiple checkouts. And word on the street is that he pays his authors what he promises and on time. In fact, This is Horror recently featured Bloodshot Books in their Halloween Small Press Spotlight, where they said:
"Our spotlight spills its ghastly beam over Bloodshot Books. Run by Pete Kahle, a true horror fan, and a man bent on keeping the genre alive and kicking with his publishing company that puts out some very fine books. Pete is one of the good guys who spend many hours reading over submissions and contracting some very noteworthy novels to give you chills on these dark October nights."
Bloodshot Books deserves more notice from libraries, so, I asked Pete to gather up some of his authors to share "Why They Love Horror" here on the blog so that I could alert you to them, their talent, and this small press that you need to keep on you radar. Now, you may have to work a little harder to get these books. Pete does not have distribution through Ingram or Baker and Taylor, but you can order a paperback from Amazon.

Starting tomorrow, I will have 5 days of Bloodshot Books authors here on the blog to tell you why they love horror, beginning with Pete himself, because I want to highlight some of the "good guys" out there. Yes, even in the bloody, violent, and frightening world of horror, there are plenty of good guys. In fact, I would argue that in the horror world, we have more “good guys” than bad ones.

But that’s just my opinion. You can see for yourself over the next 5 days.

Finally, don’t forget that I keep an updated list of the best small horror publishers for libraries for you to use anytime.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 14-- Becky’s Favorite Halloween Themed Reads for Non-Horror Readers

Of course I am always asked about my favorite horror novels, but this time of year I am also asked for my favorite Halloween themed reads. This inquiry almost always comes from non-horror readers; people who want to embrace Halloween and all the spooktacular fun, but don’t want to be so scared that they will have to keep their lights blaring all month long.

So here are a few of my suggestions, many with links to reviews by me, but please note, this is not even close to all of the books that feature Halloween, rather, these are the ones that I think are best for the reader who doesn’t usually give horror a try. For example, one of my favorite horror series is Jonathan Maberry’s Pine Deep trilogy, but this is a bit too intense for non-horror readers. For a full list of Halloween themed tales, with reader reviews, head over to Goodreads’ Halloween Books page.
  • Hallowe'en Party: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie- This is a great read for your patrons who want to get into the holiday spirit but dont think they can take the intensity of atmosphere and dread of a horror novel. But, Halloween is only a very lose friend 

  • Lisa Morton’s Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween is THE book on the history of the holiday and an entertaining read.  This year also edited, with Ellen Datlow, this collection of Halloween themed stories, although I will warn non-horror readers, the stories have a wide range in terms of intensity and gore, but it is a collection you could easily skip around in. My review is here.
  • The Halloween Tree  or Something Wicked This Way Comes both by Ray Bradbury. The first is less scary than the second but neither is too much for the general reader who wants great writing, tense atmosphere, and chills without gore. They are also both excellent coming of age tales with or without the Halloween setting.
I made a section break here because the last two books I think are the best. These are stories for any reader who wants to experience the feeling of Halloween now, or anytime of the year.
  • Slade House by David Mitchell-- Some of you are probably saying No right off the bat because you think Mitchell is too literary for you. Stop that right now. This is an amazing haunted house/possession story, and it is dependent upon its Halloween setting. This is a book I read 2 years ago that I still think about often. Here is my original review from Booklist.
  • Dark Harvest by Norman Patridge is a must read. Patridge is an editor at Cemetery Dance and mostly self publishes. [He is a huge proponent of it. I spent half an hour begging him to do traditional publishing so more librarians could promote his books because they are so great, but he did not budge. His partner is also a librarian, and he told me I was wasting my breath because he had been telling Norman that for years. That being said, Norman is one of the nicest people you will ever meet anywhere.]  When this book came out in 2006, it was a HUGE sensation with genre and non genre readers. Most libraries own it, so check your shelves. This book needs to be read by everyone, it is that good. But because I dont trust you to click through for yourself, here is the full description from  Goodreads:
Winner of the Bram Stoker Award and named one of the 100 Best Novels of 2006 by Publishers Weekly
Dark Harvestby Norman Patridge is a powerhouse thrill-ride with all the resonance of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery." 
Halloween, 1963. They call him the October Boy, or Ol' Hacksaw Face, or Sawtooth Jack. Whatever the name, everybody in this small Midwestern town knows who he is. How he rises from the cornfields every Halloween, a butcher knife in his hand, and makes his way toward town, where gangs of teenage boys eagerly await their chance to confront the legendary nightmare. Both the hunter and the hunted, the October Boy is the prize in an annual rite of life and death.
Pete McCormick knows that killing the October Boy is his one chance to escape a dead-end future in this one-horse town. He's willing to risk everything, including his life, to be a winner for once. But before the night is over, Pete will look into the saw-toothed face of horror--and discover the terrifying true secret of the October Boy . . .
"This is contemporary American writing at its finest."--Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Dark Harvest
Yup, now you want to read it. I know. Go place your holds now.

Friday, October 13, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 13-- Even the Library of Congress Celebrates Friday the 13th and Halloween!

Today is Friday the 13th, and it is in October! If ever there was a day for every single library to celebrate the genre, today is it! This is a day that even the most stuffy and genre snobby amongst us lets down their defenses, just a little, to embrace the horror fun.

Heck, this morning I even heard the guys on sports radio discussing their favorite horror movies and why some things scare them and others do not.

So since everyone has horror on the brain today, I thought I would share a bit of the historical background on both Friday the 13th and Halloween, and who better to do that than the Library of Congress.

Yes, the LOC has a ton of information online and in the building on both. I hope you re not surprised by this admission.

Click here for the full article
Here is an article from their site, “Who’s Afraid of Friday the Thirteenth?” It explains the worldwide reaction [or not] to this date and what it means in different places. At the conclusion of the article there is a link to an article about other “auspicious” days on the calendar. Plus it has this great photo I have copied into my post on the left. Love the history part of this!

But that is just the tip of the horror iceberg at the LOC.  Click here to see everything Halloween related available through their online portal, including this great article from their American Folklife center on the history of Halloween.

You could spend all day going through all of these links, and why don’t you! Today is the best day for it. No, but seriously, the LOC is a great resource for Halloween and many other pop culture things as they collect Americana as well as knowledge.  Don’t forget that as you help patrons all year long.

And, finally, if you can make it to the building itself, the LOC is running a a month long, all ages, FREE party to celebrate all things scary. Click here to sign up. I have also included the details below.

Happy Friday the 13th all! Watch out for crazier than usual patrons today.

LOC Halloween: Chambers of Mystery
Pop-up Display
The Library of Congress’s latest pop-up exhibit tells the intriguing tale of Halloween and Día de Muertos through a dazzling range of treasures from across the collections. At LOC Halloween: Chambers of Mystery, you'll learn about the ancient and mysterious traditions behind these autumn holidays through a rich selection of books and archival special collections. Experience the spooky and solemn celebrations through sound and video recordings, prints and photographs, film scores and sheet music, chapbooks, and movie memorabilia. Guests are invited to attend in costume.
LOC Halloween: Chambers of Mystery

See and hear storytellers spinning yarns about ghosts and witches, and learn about "Trick or Treat" and the art of disguise. Engage in reflection and remembrance at an altar for Día de Muertos, and listen to ghostly ballads from America’s oral tradition. Be engrossed by classic film clips from "The Bride of Frankenstein," "Nosferatu," and "Carnival of Souls," and thrilled by old-time radio programs of mystery and horror. Confront and battle the Devil alongside the Brazilian outlaw Lampião, and sit in on spooky séances with the great Harry Houdini. Be inspired by the iconic artwork of Edward Gorey and the timeless poetry of Robert Burns. Enjoy collections and activities for kids, or snap supernatural selfies for social media! The folk customs, fine art, pop culture, and literature of Halloween and Día de Muertos are on display at LOC Halloween: Chambers of Mystery…only at your Library, the Library of Congress.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 12-- Guest Post by John Glover on Horror in Academia

John Glover is the Humanities Research Librarian at Virginia Commonwealth University. He presents and publishes on academic librarianship, literary horror, and the research practices of creative writers. He publishes horror fiction and related work as J.T. Glover.

John and his work has been featured here on the blog previously. 

This year, I asked him to share his academic perspective on the genre. Take it away John.

The Monster in the Ivory Tower
by John Glover

Once upon a time, horror wasn’t welcome on campus in America. Sure, you might be able to watch a classic film at the student union, or you could track down Dracula in the library, but sustained, meaningful study of our genre? There were precious few shudders to be found in seminar papers or Ph.D. dissertations, apart from chilling grades or screams of bloody murder when you screwed up a citation. Fortunately the situation has changed, whether you spend your days on campus or just want to read thoughtful takes on the films and books you love.

Want to dig deeper on “The Call of Cthulhu?” Looking for in-depth discussions of It Follows? Scholars and students have been writing about horror for decades now, and as prejudice against studying popular genres has faded, the essays and books have piled up. If you’re on campus, check out your library’s catalogue, or specialized electronic tools like MLA International Bibliography (stephen king—416 results) or JSTOR (“texas chainsaw massacre”—115 results in their “Film Studies” section). Nowhere near a campus? Check out Google Scholar ("it follows" film "david robert mitchell"—48 results).

Where do you start if you want to study more systematically? You could take a look at what people study in classes about horror, so check the syllabus. When you're ready to hit the books, you might find yourself reading a topical survey of the field, like Gina Wisker's Horror Fiction: An Introduction (2005) or Xavier Reyes' Horror: A Literary History, or more theoretical studies like Noël Carroll's The Philosophy of Horror: Or, Paradoxes of the Heart (1990) or Matt Hills' The Pleasures of Horror (2005). 

Many websites include incisive writing on horror, from Postscripts to Darkness to the regular "The H Word" column in Nightmare Magazine. Academic journals cover horror as well, from Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts to the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies. Keep your eye out for collections of essays, too, as those sometimes provide a focused take that might be of interest, from topical collections like The Gothic in Children's Literature: Haunting the Borders (2008) to author-focused collections like The Fictions of Stephen Graham Jones: A Critical Companion (2016).

Wondering what academics, independent scholars, and students will be publishing in years to come? Major genre conventions like StokerCon and Necronomicon Providence often have an academic "track" of talks, sometimes referred to as a "symposium" or "conference," where these people present ideas they've been working on, some of which ultimately become articles or academic journals or chapters in books of literary criticism. Beyond those, academic gatherings like the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts or the Popular Culture Association National Conference feature extended programming on horror and related topics stretching over many days. Smaller conferences, either local events or focused on narrow themes, may also have something to offer horror fans.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 11-- Guest Post by Jennifer of Book Den

I met Jennifer on Twitter. Jennifer is a Web Developer and a dedicated library patron. She also runs a fantastic book review blog, Book Den 

Below Jennifer adds her contribution to my ongoing “Why I Love Horror” series with an annotated list of some of her favorites.


Why I Love Horror by Jennifer

As a young girl, it was easy for me to fall in love with horror. My mom and my grandmother were (and still are!) big readers of horror. I grew up surrounded by book shelves filled with horror books, and I had no restrictions on what I was allowed to read. I read Stephen King and Dean Koontz long before reading Lois Duncan and Christopher Pike.

My mom was also an English teacher so there was a solid mix of horror and classic literature in our house. It's no surprise that my favorite book of all time is the perfect pairing between American literature and coming of age horror: Boy's Life by Robert McCammon.

My exposure to horror helped shape me as a reader, but "why" I love horror so much is harder to explain. I enjoy the adrenaline rush of a really suspenseful story, and I think being afraid and having someone to root for elevates the reading experience. My favorite elements in every fiction book that I read are imagination and suspense. Horror is a natural fit.

Some of the horror titles that I would highly recommend are:

Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs - Southern Gods is a fantastic novel that starts out Southern Gothic and ends up Lovecraftian horror. I highly recommend it for fans of Lovecraft, but it's such a well developed horror story, I would recommend it to any horror fan who's simply looking for something new.

In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson - I am unapologetic in recommending this book every chance I get.  In the Valley of the Sun is a perfect novel for horror readers like me who love a mix of literature and horror. It's also a great pick for horror readers who love crime novels.

Slade House by David Mitchell - Slade House is another horror novel I would recommend for horror fans who are looking for something new. It's a haunted house story, but it's unlike any other haunted house story I've read.

Seed by Ania Ahlborn - Seed is the perfect book for October horror readers who want that one scary story just in time for Halloween. It has plenty of traditional creeps and scares, but it also has an ending that will pack a memorable punch for their holiday.

The Five by Robert McCammon - I mentioned Robert McCammon earlier when I said Boy's Life is my favorite book of all time. Despite the fact that McCammon is well known within the horror community, The Five still seems to be one of his hidden gems. It's a beautiful book about the power of music. 

The Secret Life of Souls by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee - The Secret Life of Souls is a great read for horror fans who love psychological suspense. It has the added bonus of being a genre book that revolves around a dog.

The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett - The Last Harvest would be my pick for readers who enjoy young adult horror. It contains some of the best straight up horror I've come across in YA. Rosemary's Baby meets Friday Night Lights is an accurate description.

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace - Shallow Graves is another YA horror book that I really enjoyed. The main character wakes up in a shallow grave after having been murdered. The voice in this novel is really great, and the creepy factor is high.

If you would like to check out more horror books that I've enjoyed, you can find me on my blog Book Den, at Goodreads, or on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 10-- Kelly Powers on Horror’s Appeal Including Her Easy to Use RA Interview Flowcart

Today I have a phenomenal guest post by Horror Writer and School Librarian Kelly Powers. You can read more about Kelly and the work she does as a Junior High Librarian in California in this post from the general blog.

I gave Kelly free reign for her guest post, asking her to share something useful she has done with her students in regards to horror. Well, I am glad I didn’t tell Kelly what to do, because what I got is awesome and useful to every single one of you out there, no matter what age level you work with, and I never would have “assigned” this.

Below you will read Kelly’s post about trying to figure out exactly why “scary books” were so popular at her library. After working with students and colleagues she went through her collection, pulled out the best “scary” books they had, and made this flow chart allowing her to walk herself through the RA interview for a potential horror reader. She has included the questions, and then depending on the answer given, leads you to a possible title.

While these are all YA titles, they can also be enjoyed by adults. But more importantly, you can use this flow chart to help you to conduct your own RA interviews.

Use this link to download a PDF for your own use or see the embedded image below.

Here is Kelly to explain it all....

As a Junior High Librarian, the number one theme I get asked for is "scary books." At first, I wondered why this was. I'm in a fairly good sized library with fiction and non-fiction spanning all genres and subjects, but still, students of both genders seem to be drawn to the dark, scary, and sometimes gory stories. One day, I decided to ask a student about it. She’d blazed through Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series and was on book two of Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Her response was to say that she, "likes them because it helps her forget about other stuff.”

Now, that was a vague response, but it was just detailed enough for me to draw my own conclusions. My school's demographics is 85% Latino, 10% white, 3% African American, and 2% Asian. The school is in the heart of gang territory and we are constantly working to combat the cycle of drugs, homelessness, and violence these kids see on a daily basis. If I take a moment to look through their eyes, I see a world that is floating in a sea of uncertainty. That feeling is compounded if you take the current state of our nation’s administration into account. It is then I understand that for them, a work of fiction which deals with problems or villains much scarier than the ones that my students face every day, can and does work as a window to escapism.

In speaking with a former librarian and current English teacher, he said that the horror genre helps teens feel. Helps them emote and feel compassion. It is why they reach for both horror and “sad books.” They want to feel. They want to emote. Well written horror or drama invokes a deeper response which in turn leads to compassion and hopefully, a love of books.

With these understandings in mind, I set out to educate myself on the various levels of horror novels available in my library. We have quite a few. 170, to be exact, but quantity is not the same as quality when it comes to horror. And understanding the depth of the “scariness” involved is essential for getting the right book into the right student’s hands. For example, I don’t want to recommend A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand to a student who has nothing scarier (or gorier) than a Goosebumps novel in mind!

There are different themes in horror that make the reference interview challenging if you don’t know the genre well. With that in mind, I put together a flow chart of YA horror novels that are some of my personal favorites out of my collection. It is compiled of the questions which I ask students when I get the (daily) question, “You got any scary books?" I hope you find it useful too. The novels I used are:

  • Beware: R.L. Stine Picks His Favorite Stories by R.L. Stine and other authors
  • Scary Out There edited by Jonathan Maberry
  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz and Stephan Gammell
  • Under My Hat: Tales from the Calderon edited by Jonathan Strahan


  • Bad Girls Don't Die (Series) by Katie Alender
  • Anna Dressed in Blood (Series) by Kendare Blake
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Caroline by Neil Gaiman
  • Gone (Series) by Michael Grant
  • Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
  • Rot and Ruin (Series) by Jonathan Maberry
  • Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie and Alyssa Sheinmel
  • Ten by Gretchen McNeil
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • Fear Street (Series) by R.L. Stine
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Series) by Ransom Riggs
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Series) by Carrie Ryan
  • Unwind (Series) by Neil Shusterman
  • A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand
  • The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary
  • I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells 

Post by, Kelly Powers
Contributor to The Joe Ledger Companion

Monday, October 9, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 9-- Becky's #HorrorForLibraries Project

While I was a Guest of Honor at StokerCon back in April 2017, I set about on a fun Twitter RA project. I took selfies with authors who I thought you should carry in your libraries. It was a fun way to let the authors know that the library world wanted to connect with them AND to let library people know about more authors.

My Australian colleague Ellen Forsyth kindly combined the Tweets from the entire weekend into one Storify which you can access here.

While I was gathering the photos I realized this was something I could keep doing, but without the stalking authors and asking them to pose for pictures. So I started a hashtag on Twitter “#HorrorForLibraries.” These are books or authors that I tweet about or whose reviews I retweet that I think are worth the attention of library workers.

Both links are great collection development tools and can also be used to suggest books to readers. I have added them to the Horror Review Index to make retrieval easier.

I will keep using “#HorrorForLibraries” on Twitter but feel free to join in and identify horror titles and authors for others. As long as you use the hashtag, they will be included in the search that runs overtime someone click on the link in this post or in my Horror Review Index. Just 1 Tweet, and you will help me help library land and our readers.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

31 Days of Horror Day 8: Guest Review of Meddling Kids

Today I have a guest review of Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero, a great horror-esque read for fans of Stranger Things, Scooby Doo, or even John Scalzi, by one of my favorite library people and fellow ARRT Steering Committee Member, Bill.
At every ARRT Steering Committee meeting, we always leave time for people to talk about books they think the group should know about. Often these are off the beaten path title suggestions that one of us enjoyed, or had a patron who enjoyed it, and we want to make sure we pass it on, the old fashioned way, by book talking to each other. At our last meeting [September], Bill mentioned loving Meddling Kids and how it would be perfect for fans when Stranger Things Starts back up and for Halloween to give to patron who want a little bit of horror and its tropes but not the full blown thing.
Bill is an excellent book talker always [he is a former student so I know this first hand], but this time he particularly did a great job getting to the essence of why the group needed to know about this title. Meddling Kids is a book I have been meaning to read, but I know I won’t get around to it, so, enter Bill to save the day. Below is Bill’s review and I will be adding it to the Review Index so you can pull it up easily at a later date.
Take it away Bill...
July, 2017
Doubleday Books
On the surface, Blyton Hills, Ore. is a sleepy backwater burg identical to thousands of other small towns of little significance or occurrence. Yet its topography of mysterious lakes, swamps, caves, abandoned mines and decrepit mansions provide the perfect playground for enterprising amateur sleuths and adventurers. Enter the Blyton Summer Detective Club, a group of four plucky pre-teens (along with their elderly crime-busting canine, Sean), with a penchant for stumbling upon villainous plots hatched by shady creeps who invariably incorporate masks and costumes into their malfeasance (Sheep rustlers? Yes!). It’s 1977 and the Detective Club has just put the kibosh on their biggest caper yet: the case of the Sleepy Lake Monster. And while the case has brought them local fame and notoriety (picture-in-the-paper level fame!), it will also be their last as the four crime-stoppers go about their lives and eventually drift apart.    
 Fast forward to 1991 and we are introduced to the human wreckage that is what remains of the Blyton Summer Detective Club. Former intrepid tomboy Andy (don’t call her Andrea!) has emerged as a rough-and-tumble drifter wanted in two states, still grappling with the heartbreak from her unrequited love for Kerri, the Detective Club’s brainiac science prodigy. For her part, Kerri has ditched the science for booze, bartending and drinking her way through New York City. The one bright spot remaining in Kerri’s purposeless life is Tim, the not-nearly-as-bright grandson of the Detective Club’s original star pup, Sean. Meanwhile, diminutive tag-along Nate has spent his adult years in and out of mental institutions. Peter, the Blyton Summer Detective Club’s hunky, jocky, golden-boy leader was able to parlay that picture in the paper into a career as a Hollywood movie star, only to be found dead of a drug overdose while at the height of his fame. His ghost may also be haunting poor Nate. All three survivors are tortured by nightmares, leading miserable lives enveloped in fear, doom, and emptiness; all found themselves in this condition after the Sleepy Lake Monster. Unable to continue with the status quo, Andy decides the Detective Club must reunite, return to Blyton Hills, and try and uncover exactly what it was that happened to them during that last case of theirs that has made their lives in the years since the Monster so difficult and debilitating. Back in Blyton, the gang will convene with allies old and new, dig deeper in to the secrets of the town and its history, and ultimately face off with an alien evil from time immemorial.
 Okay, let’s confront the 800lb. Great Dane in the room that goes by the name of Scooby-Doo. Could a person read Meddling Kids with no knowledge of the kids in the Mystery Machine and still have a good time? Sure. At its core Meddling Kids is a solid action-horror story and a welcome addition from the School of Lovecraft. The language is salty (often to hilarious effect), the violence is slick with blood and gore, and the sex is, well, sexy. But to not embrace the loving homage to the pillars of childhood pop culture Cantero offers up is to miss the point (and heart) of the book. And it’s not just the Scooby gang that’s in the spotlight. Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, Tales from the Darkside, 80s horror movies, 70s Chopsocky, Buffy, and an army of others all get poured into Cantero’s giant mashup cereal bowl. To Cantero’s credit, he plays the story straight with no fourth-wall winks or nods from his characters and no overtly comic goofiness. Any irony or self-referentialism is spawned by the reader’s own nostalgia of Saturday morning cartoons and other youthful pop-culture anachronisms; and with that buy-in comes a heartfelt payoff provided by Cantero, who smartly skips the snark for affectionate wit. 
While the initial draw to Meddling Kids is the amusing, if not whimsical, concept of its backstory, the book really takes off due to the deftness of Cantero’s pacing and use of humor. After a reasonably brief character set-up, the team lands in Blyton and the sleuthing commences in full-throttle mode. As the Club unravels more and more of the mystery, the action accelerates accordingly (Big Thunder Mountain-esque ride through a mine, anyone?), climaxing with the very fate of the world on the line. Characters are few, but all serve the story well and are presented with appropriate depth. Is this book Literary? Nah. Is it a good time? Hell yeah! Every once in a while I encounter a book that seems to convey the blast the author seemed to be having while writing it (John Scalzi, Lauren Beukes, Ernest Cline—I’m looking at you lot). Meddling Kids fits that profile for me. Fans of sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, horror, YA, suspense, and humor can all come to this party and leave satisfied, as long as one can make the initial Scooby-Doo buy-in. Hmm. I could go for a snack.
Review by Bill Stephens, Bensenville Public Library

Saturday, October 7, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 7-- Guest Post by JG Faherty, Author and HWA Library Rep

I am an active member and volunteer for the Horror Writers Association, and although I am a professional member [as a writer of nonfiction about horror], I am very proud of the fact that the HWA actively courts library workers to join as members. They truly crave and appreciate our participation.

Each year I invite JG Faherty, Library & Literacy Program Director for HWA to tell you why you should know about everything the HWA provides for you, the library worker, for free but also, to encourage you to join.

Also, stay tuned because later this month I will have a special announcement about my involvement in some HWA-Library events.

But first, here’s JG Faherty...

Libraries & Horror Writers – The Perfect Match Any Season

By JG Faherty, Library & Literacy Program Director, Horror Writers Association

Writers and libraries go hand-in-hand, that’s no secret. So many writers talk about how their first exposure to books was through the local public or school library. And we all know that kids, teens, and even a fair share of adults love horror. There’s something about the spooky, the dark, the suspenseful, the spine-tingling, and yes, sometimes even the gory that attracts people. Maybe it’s escape from the horrors of the world, or a way to make themselves feel better about their own lives. Or perhaps they just enjoy being kept on the edge of their seats for a few hours. Whatever the reason, horror is popular, and it’s an excellent tool for libraries to use to get kids and adults to read more.

Since 2011, I’ve overseen the Library & Literacy program for the Horror Writers Association (HWA), an international organization comprised of more than 1,000 dark fiction writers who all have two things in common: we love to write stories, and we want more people to read. Which is great for libraries, because you all love to read and recommend good stories, and get more people to read!

Over the past six years, I and my volunteers have worked to create a variety of programs in conjunction with local libraries and library organizations, including the ALA and United for Libraries, focused on not only increasing readership among children, teens, and adults, but also developing new writers.

The most recent of these is our Young Adults Write Now program, which provides five stipends of $500 each year for libraries to develop and run genre writing programs for teens. This is a national program open to any public library. (Hint, hint – we urge you to sign up!)

But that’s not the only benefit for libraries of being involved with the HWA. Libraries can visit our website, which has a library-oriented page (www.horror.org/libraries/) where there are links to all sorts of useful information, such as our annual reading list, the Young Adults Write Now entry form and rules, past winners of our annual Bram Stoker Awards for superior achievement in horror, and much more.

And it doesn’t stop there! Librarians can join the HWA (there are a range of other benefits), in our Associate class. Please check out this page for more information: http://horror.org/joining-the-hwa/. We will make you welcome! 

What can libraries get from joining? Well, let’s take a look at some of our present and past programming geared specifically toward libraries and their patrons:

1. Listings of new releases from not only the big publishing houses but also the small press. There is a world of horror, including dark fiction, urban fantasy, YA, dark science fiction, dark fantasy, paranormal romance, dystopian, and more, that most libraries never are made aware of. Want to triple what you can offer your readers who love a good scare or thrive on suspense? Check out our lists!

2. Author events. In-library readings, presentations on creative writing, book signings, Skype interviews and presentations, holiday guest appearances – whatever you’re looking for, there’s bound to be an author or three near you who’s willing to offer their services. We have a database of authors by region that libraries can use to find local writers, and as partners with United for Libraries, our members are available through their database as well. 

3. Annual conventions with panels and educational programming. Members and non-members are all encouraged to attend our annual StokerCon event, which includes an entire day of programming for libraries as well as panels and classes throughout the weekend for writers. Topics include writer-library partnerships, current trends in fiction, horror non-fiction, and more. There are also book signings, giveaways, and special guest author meet-n-greets. Imagine all the new books and writers you’ll discover!

4. Dark Whispers. This is our popular horror-themed blog, which members can access. Our website (horror.org) also has pages devoted to young adult works and trends, plus special items such as our annual Halloween Haunts blog, with writerly musings and excerpts of upcoming works from our members.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The HWA is always looking to expand our outreach within the library community, and our members are always ready to do physical or virtual presentations/visits, not just at Halloween (although that’s a natural for horror writers!) but year-round. Imagine having a Jonathan Maberry or Nancy Holder or one of your local writers speaking to your book clubs or writing groups. Or having a guest author come in to judge a writing contest.

For me, it’s all about giving something back and letting people, especially teens, know that libraries can do more than just provide books to read. They are place to learn and grow. I do several speaking engagements per year at local libraries, some focused just on Halloween or genre fiction, others on writing fiction. Imagine my shock when, about seven years ago, I walked into a library and found out they had no idea of local authors, the HWA, or any modern horror novels outside of what their book sales representative told them to buy. Sound familiar? It’s a problem at too many libraries. Talk about a great opportunity for a writer. I began to offer myself to libraries to read short stories, tell tales of local haunted places, establish and judge writing programs. As an example, for the past two years I’ve helped our local library organization develop a program that has gotten teens from multiple schools to submit short stories and poetry, and each year a group of writers edits the book and it’s published throughout the county library system. The kids love it, it gets attention drawn to the libraries, and it’s fun for everyone involved. And, I have to tell you, I’ve read some amazing stuff! It makes me hopeful for the next generation of writers.

Libraries and writers—the perfect partnership. So, what are you waiting for? Visit www.horror.org/libraries and join today! You won’t regret it, and your patrons will thank you.