RA for All...The Road Show!

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Readers' Shelf: Halfway to Halloween- Horror Stories for All

On top of my article on helping horror readers in the May 1, 2017 issue of Library Journal, the April 15, 2017 issue saw the publication of my semiannual take over of Neal Wyatt’s Readers Shelf column. Every April 15th issue, she allows me to promote “Halfway to Halloween,” a holiday I am desperately trying to get to stick. For this issue, I can provide a list of suggested horror titles on any topic.  

This year, I decided to highlight short stories. These six titles range from literary fiction to science fiction to straight out horror.

Click here for the column on the Library Journal site, or read it below.

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Early Scares: Halfway to Halloween | The Reader’s Shelf

Short stories are alive and kicking when it comes to tales of terror. Here are some recent anthologies that will deliver just the right amount of chills and thrills. From household names to fresh voices, from psychologically terrifying to blood and guts, there is something here for every future Halloween library display.
In the critically acclaimed A Natural History of Hell: Stories(Small Beer. 2016. ISBN 9781618731180. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781618731197), Jeffrey Ford gathers 13 previously published stories into one collection that mixes fantasy and horror and shows his talent for distinctive sagas in which evil lurks just under the surface. Each installment relies on a dark and anxious mood with varying levels of speculative influence, outcast characters, and shocking conclusions. It opens with public exorcisms in the compelling and disquieting “The Blameless.” From there it ventures into vignettes as diverse as the “true” ghost story behind an Emily Dickinson poem and the sinister “Blood Drive,” in which every high school senior is required to carry a gun.
Richard Chizmar is the founder of Cemetery Dance Publications, working with the likes of Gillian Flynn, Justin Cronin, and Stephen King. The 35 stories in A Long ­December (Short, Scary Tales. 2016. ISBN 9781909640887. pap. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781596067943) offer a stand-alone volume of his own. Ranging from crime to dark fantasy to pure horror, the stories here all speak to a normal life turned upside down by terrible circumstances. The way Chizmar combines the dread and fear induced by his plots with a poignancy and kindness of tone makes them memorable. This is best showcased in the eponymous novella, where the protagonist is awoken one morning with the news that his best friend is a serial killer.
Laird Barron’s Swift to Chase (JournalStone. 2016. ISBN 9781945373053. pap. $18.95) perfectly encapsulates today’s literary genre-blend landscape. While terror is always at the center, cosmic horror, adventure, and even noir find their way into his writing. What sets Barron apart from the pack is how he crafts a wonderful sense of place—in this case, the beauty and menace of Alaska—and fills his settings with an oppressive atmosphere, great characters, original plots, and beautiful language. This anthology will play with readers’ minds in enjoyable ways, dragging them along for a satisfyingly scary ride and leaving them ­begging for more.
Editor Robert Silverberg gathers 21 works by a wide range of well-known authors, both living and dead, in This Way to the End Times: Classic Tales of the Apocalypse (Three Rooms. 2016. ISBN 9781941110478. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781941110485). He further enhances the volume with a preface to each story, providing context on the time period in which it was written and how it may resonate with audiences today. See how writers such as Jules Verne and Connie Willis have embraced the apocalypse and used it to tell chillingly prescient narratives that reach across time and space. Silverberg reminds us that while the end of the world seems to be a hot trend today, it is actually only a blip in a long tradition of dystopian storytelling.
What the #@&% Is That? The Saga Anthology of the Monstrous and the Macabre (Saga: S. & S. 2016. ISBN 9781481434935. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781481435000), edited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen, is among the best titles to focus on H.P. Lovecraft (1890–1937). Contributors were asked to write about a monster of their choosing, with only one rule: something must happen to make a character cry, “What the #@&% is that?” Accepting the challenge are 20 wordsmiths ranging from best-selling authors to up-and-comers, providing reading experiences from the utterly fearsome to the ­macabrely humorous. Playing along to see how the exclamation is employed gets more enjoyable the deeper one plunges into this ­Lovecraftian-inspired world.
The reigning sovereign of horror editing is Ellen Datlow, who is an acknowledged master of identifying and amassing the very best frights. Case in point is Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror (Tachyon. 2016. ISBN 9781616962326. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616962333). Beginning where her ­essential Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror ends and spanning up to 2015, Datlow has compiled 24 of the finest stories written over the last ten years. By arranging them in chronological order, she illustrates the evolution and breadth of the genre, while spotlighting its brilliant new voices. Read this to see what you have been missing and to identify important titles to add to your collection before ­Halloween hits.
This column was contributed by Becky Spratford, a Readers’ Advisor in Illinois. She is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror (2d ed. ALA Editions, 2012) and a proud member of the Horror Writers Association. Learn more about her at raforall.blogspot.com
Neal Wyatt compiles LJ’s online feature Wyatt’s World and is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers’ advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader’s Shelf should contact her directly at Readers_Shelf@comcast.net

Thursday, April 27, 2017

RA Ready: Making Horror Less Scary via Library Journal

Library Journal contacted me to participate in their May 1, 2017 print cover story about how to help genre readers. I wrote about the entire series on the main blog here. They cover many genres and each article is 100% worth your time.

But of course, they wanted me to address those of you out there who are a bit afraid of helping horror readers.

I think it is fitting that they released this series a few days early because today, I will be speaking at Librarians' Day at StokerCon 2017. Usually, I am helping library workers like the ones I am addressing in the article below-- those of you who are afraid of horror. But today, I am anticipating being among my fellow horror loving librarians.

While this will be a huge change for me, I do not think they are ready for what I am going to tell them, and that is this: It is actually much harder to help readers when you are a fan of a genre yourself.

I’ll let you know how it goes, but in the meantime, all of you horror newbies out there should rest easy. I’ve got you covered. Here is the direct link to the article, but also, since this blog is used as a reference source, I don't want a future broken link to get in the way of this article helping you to help readers, so below, you can also find the full text.

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Making Horror Less Scary | Readers’ Advisory


Welcome to the world of horror fiction, where monsters roam the streets, vampires attack at night, ghosts haunt every home, and mayhem is the norm. For many library workers, just the idea of helping a horror reader, let alone reading a horror novel, is a frightening proposition. Yet you can’t hide under the covers every time someone asks for a tale of terror. Readers of all persuasions are picking up scary books in mass quantities, enough to have multiple authors other than Stephen King regularly hit the best sellers lists.
It’s time to brush up your skills and step over to the dark side. But where to begin? The hardest thing for non-horror-loving library folk to understand is that horror readers want to be scared. More than any other type of literature, the horror novel’s ultimate objective is to scare by manipulating the reader’s emotions. It gives a voice to our fears, delivering feelings of panic, chaos, destruction, aversion, and disgust that we horror readers find uncompromisingly intriguing.
Your next step is to educate yourself as to how today’s horror novels elicit these bleak sentiments, moving from the page into the minds of readers. The best horror novels create an uneasy atmosphere that follows the reader off the page. This intense sense of dread starts immediately—something is slightly anxious or gloomy as these novels open. The story might pull back after the first few pages and try to mollify the reader for a few minutes, lure them back from the edge, but that sinister edge is still there, lurking in the background. This also directly affects pacing. While there is no standard pacing to a horror novel, the one constant is that as the anxiety and terror steadily build throughout so, too, does the pace. By the end, it becomes relentless, and readers can’t stop turning the pages to see what will happen.
Horror readers also want characters about which they can care. If we don’t like the protagonist, we will not care that he or she is being chased or stalked by an evil force. The main characters need to be relatable and sympathetic. That being said, we also can’t have only relentlessly building dread and constant horrific things happening to our main characters. That is why horror generally features flashbacks—both to serve as a break in the hopelessness of the current story line and to help underscore the grim tone by going back to a time when things were happier.
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BEYOND THE BEST SELLERS
That’s a quick primer on how the best horror novels ply their trade, but who are the authors you should be reading and or handing out to patrons? I assume you already know about King, Dean Koontz, F. Paul Wilson, and Peter Straub. In fact, I hope you have those authors on your automatic buy lists, but if you want to help more horror readers, here are authors whom you should also be adding to your collections and actively suggesting to patrons who want to feel the fear: Joe Hill, Jonathan Maberry, Christopher Golden, and Brian Keene. You’d be wise as well to recommend ­Stephen ­Graham Jones, Nick Cutter, Mary SanGiovanni, Ania ­Ahlborn, Kaaron Warren, Tananarive Due, and Victor LaValle, all of whom provide well-crafted tales of terror.
Here are five newer “sure bet” single titles that have proven appeal to a wide range of horror fans, from hard-core genre readers to patrons just looking for a good fright: Josh Malerman’s Bird Box, Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes, Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s HEX, Jonathan Janz’s Children of the Dark, and Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock.
FURTHER READING
Now that you have some key authors and titles in your arsenal, check out some additional resources to help you stay current and find even more great suggestions. My own book, The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, 2d edition, and its online home, RA for All: Horror (raforallhorror.blogspot.com) are filled with hundreds of lists, reviews, resources, and more. Twice a year (in the October 1 and April 15 issues), I take over Neal Wyatt’s long-running Reader’s Shelf column here in LJ, providing comprehensive, library-specific horror information for adult readers.
Any story collection edited by Ellen Datlow, who is universally considered the best horror editor, is worth your time. I use her collections to identify new authors of note.
The Horror Writers Association has an entire page of resources for libraries (horror.org/libraries), which includes a member-created reading list and easy access to current and past lists of Bram Stoker Award winners and nominees.
For more regular horror and dark fiction reviews of titles that are a good fit for collections, try LitReactor (litreactor.com/tags/bookshots) and This Is Horror (www.thisishorror.co.uk/category/reviews).
Now get out there, and use this road map to chart your own path down the not-so-scary road of assisting horror readers. Maybe you will even be brave enough to try one for yourself.
Becky Spratford is a Readers’ Advisory Specialist in Illinois. She is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror (2d ed. ALA Editions, 2012) and a proud member of the Horror Writers Association. Learn more about her at raforall.blogspot.com

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Updates to Blog- Including a TOP 5 List of Resources

I am doing some spring cleaning here on the horror blog and have updated every page.

Please remember that this site, unlike RA for All which publishes every day, is more of a portal for horror information geared toward you, the library worker. I don’t update it every day because it is not that kind of blog. I am compiling information for you to have at your finger tips when you need it, but I am also making sure it is current and easy to access.

I take my responsibility as your most trusted source for horror info seriously. I understand that there are thousands of points of entry into the world of horror fiction and that most are not useful to your work in a public library setting.

So in the right gutter I have a series of archives and pages that have things like my reviews, lists of publishers, and even old lists I have created. But today I want to draw your attention to my newly overhauled Resources page.

I have not only gone through and weeded out the dead links, but due to popular demand, I designated a top 5 to make your job easier.  Here they are in alphabetical order:
  • Ginger Nuts of Horror: One of the best independent places for all things horror. UK based. 
  • The Horror Writer's Association and specifically their page for Librarians.
  • Matt Molgaard's Horror Novel Reviews: reviews and interviews, but also great feature articles with useful lists. Good for both collection development and displays.
  • This is Horror: My favorite overall horror resource- podcast, reviews, features. Just go and look for yourself.
  • Tor.com: The online home for the Speculative Fiction publisher. This site is full of information about horror and not just from the authors they publish.
You can see a longer list of resources, including some print ones anytime on the Resources page.

Look though all of the pages and let me know how I can make those more useful for you too. You can leave a comment on the page or contact me.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

StokerCon Special Guest Interviews

As I have mentioned before, the Horror Writers Association has been making a concerted effort to work with libraries more. Back in 2015, they partnered with United for Libraries to promote  bringing horror authors to your library. Click here to read more about that program. They have also had a presence at the last few ALA Conferences. I know for a fact that they will be at this year’s in Chicago as they have asked me to help and I am working on setting up a few special events with them.

And this year, along with making ME the first ever Librarian Guest of Honor, they are also having an entire day just for us:

Click here for details
I realize that most of you cannot make it out to Long Beach later this month, but even if you cannot make it, there is a great resource I want to connect you with that will help you to help patrons right now. It’s the HWA’s YouTube channel featuring interviews with all of the special guest, including ME.

Yes, you can click here to see me explaining what RA is to horror writers. It was quite fun, and after we finished up I learned how “cool and interesting” all of the writers are going to think I am.

I am used to going to Library Conferences where we all know, basically, what each other’s jobs entail, but as I prepare to enter this world of the writers’ conference I am realizing that while I understand their world, they have no idea what we actually do. It will be an interesting 5 days, that is for sure. I am not only speaking to librarians at the conference, but I have also been asked to be on a panel for the writers about how to work with libraries.

I will be blogging a lot while I am there to share the experience with all of you.  In the meantime, I suggest you look at the interviews with some of the author special guests to learn more about their work and horror in general. Maybe make a display of the books of all of these writers along with the Bram Stoker finalists and put it up in honor of the Con at your library later this month.

Here are the direct links to a few of my favorites to get you started. All are short and worth your time. These are authors that you can find in most public library collections:

Monday, April 3, 2017

Horror on Audio is HOT

Most of you know that Audiobooks are one of the fastest growing segments in the book world, but the way you can tell it is really catching fire is when genre fiction starts seeing a huge surge in audiobook production.

Recently, I heard from Christopher Payne, the President of JournalStone publications and he wanted me to know that they were ramping up production of their own line of audiobooks. He is investing heavily in it, and along with their current stable of audiobooks you can find here, they are currently working on 7 titles by NYT Bestselling author Christopher Golden, some titles by Richard Chizmar including his new novella with Stephen King [review of the print coming to the blog soon], among others.

Brian Keene is also seeing a renewed interest in audio, and as he reported here, the backlist of some of his most popular books are being turned into brand new audio books as I write this.

The trend is gathering momentum when you see the smaller, independent presses investing money in producing their own titles. As Payne told me, it is surprising how expensive starting up a serious audio catalog can be.

But, since he is not the only one doing it, for right now, it appears to be a worthwhile investment.

You don’t have to wait to start being a part of this trend at your library though.

Click here to see what audio is available on Audible.

And click here to look at an general overview of the almost 1,000 titles Overdrive has available for horror in audio.

And don’t forget to check Baker and Taylor and Ingram. JournalStone distributes through both directly.

This is not a trend you want to be left out of. Order some horror on audio for your libraries right now. You won’t need much help getting the titles into patrons’ hands either. Readers are clamoring for it.