Summer Scares 2019 Resources

Click here to immediately access the Summer Scares FAQ and Resource page so that you can add some professionally vetted horror titles into your reading suggestions and fiction collections for all age levels.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Becky's Top 20 Horror for Libraries of the 2010s

As part of the updated edition to my book, on which I am currently working, I have created a top 20 list of horror for libraries published from 2010-2019.

I want to be clear about the "for libraries" part. Those of you out there reading this from the general horror fiction world may have some disagreement with my choices, and I would say to you, you are absolutely correct.

This is NOT a list of the very best horror written by any person in these last 10 years, rather, it is a list of titles that are important to libraries for a variety of reasons, reasons I will expand upon in the book [I mean I have to give you a reason to buy it].

As the library world's horror expert, consider this a "must have" collection development list. If you have neglected your horror sections over the last decade, this list can help you get back in horror shape.

I will give a little bit of commentary on some of the titles and have comments about the overall state of horror over the last decade afterwards. Links go to my review where possible on Goodreads.

Finally, please note, I have no Stephen King listed here. He did have some great novels in the last decade, but you don't need me to tell you to buy his books. For the most part, they come into your collections automatically. I am here to help you improve and learn, not to tell you what you already know.

Here, from 20 to 1, is Becky's Top 20 Horror for Libraries of the 2010s

20. In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson
19. Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste
  • These are 2 important debuts from the last 2 years and it is why I put them at the start of the list. Davidson and Kiste are names that will continue to reverberate in the next decade. Get their books in your collections now. Davidson's second novel is out early 2020.
18. Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
  • Yes a YA title, but for libraries, this is the perfect entry zombie novel for adults who are curious about the trope but are also a little nervous about it being "too much." Also, this novel has one of the most beautiful endings to any book I have ever read. Seriously. 
17. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  • When writing the second edition of my book, I argued with one of my editors that horror was moving to include science fiction, and not just fantasy, as the speculative origin of the horror. I stood my ground on that change and I think it is safe to say, I have been proven right many times over the last 10 years. The Shining Girls is an excellent example. This is a terrifying serial killer novel, but the fear is increased and amplified by the time travel. 
16. Children of the Dark by Jonathan Janz
  • The title that got him into library collections. This decade Janz established himself as the new "King of Pulps," and libraries should carry every title he puts out to serve this readership.
15. The Hunger by Alma Katsu
  • Historical horror of the previous decade was dominated by Dan Simmons, but Katsu is now the leader in this subgenre, one that also happens to have a wide cross over appeal with those who do not consider themselves horror readers.
14. The Troop by Nick Cutter
  • A brilliant pulp horror modern classic, also with a SF origin to the monster. But also here because it is an example of well respected literary authors who feel the need to use a pseudonym in order to write horror. This is a trend that is still going strong. Cutter is actually Craig Davidson. Another title I loved this decade, The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell is the pseudonym for Joshua Gaylord. And in early 2020 a new title The Chill will come out by Scott Carson who is really Michael Koryta. In this article, Koryta shares why he thought he needed a pseudonym for a supernatural story. It's a sad state that I hope the next decade fixes. I hope people are loud and proud about the horror they are writing. But that doesn't take away the fact that The Troop is awesome pseudonyms or not.
13. Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
  • A short novel [technically a novella?] that reads exactly like the title says it will. You will read it in one or two sittings because you won't be able to stop. And it will never leave you.... Another title that pairs well with Fever Dream is The Grip of It by Jac Jemc
12. Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
  • Dutch horror master whose first novel in English was a huge hit. It came out of nowhere to claim the top spot on the 2017 RUSA CODES READING LIST for Horror. It used techniques from classic horror of the past and incorporated new technology very well. Also, looking back, it was one of the first examples of the reemergence of the popularity of the witch trope. And it is scary as heck.
11. Bird Box by Josh Malerman
  • If you work in a library you know this book needs to be on the list somewhere. It was a phenomenon both when it came out and then a few years later when it was a movie. Malerman is now one of the best known authors in the genre.
10. The Passage by Justin Cronin
  • Another example of the growing use of science fiction in horror during the decade. The first in a trilogy and, in my opinion, the best in the trilogy. When The Passage came out it was so different than anything that came before it. And it has since inspired many more like it, most recently, Wanderers. This is the big horror novel that began the decade and it is still having reverberations.
9. The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by Laird Barron
  • Barron's stories are technically brilliant and immersive for the reader. He is also one of the most influential writers for today's new voices. This is one a few story collection he released in the decade, but it is also his most accessible.
8. My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
  • Hendrix has to be on this list somewhere. Not only have his books been ubiquitous throughout the decade but he has also become on the the genre's spokespeople to the wider world. From his award winning Paperbacks from Hell to his essays on, on NPR, and all over social media, Hendrix proudly beats the drum for horror and its importance to all. I have chosen this title, his second because I feel like it proved that HorrorStor wasn't a one-hit-wonder. 
7. The Drowning Girl by Caitlin Kiernan
  • Kiernan is a horror master. One of the genre's greatest living writers. She is also one of its best practitioner of Lovercraftian and weird fiction. She has many novels, novellas, and story collections over the course of this decade but The Drowning Girl, is one of her best novels, period. It also is a great example of how she writes, both technically and the themes she explores.
6. Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones
  •  It's a werewolf tale yes, but it is also a coming of age story and about the underclass in America. This is the novel that brought Jones into libraries. 2020 will be his breakout year, but Mongrels foreshadowed this.
5. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
  • The best horror novella has put out in the last decade, and they have put out a lot of them [Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones is a close second]. LaValle is becoming one of the biggest and most critically acclaimed horror novelists of our time, but this novella is also an example of the trend of the reclaiming of Lovecraft by people of color and women. In this case, LaValle is retelling an actual Lovecraft story from the POV of a black man. As I like to say about this novella [you can hear me say it here too], it is as if LaValle is giving Lovecraft the middle finger while at the same time acknowledging his importance and influence.
4. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
  • Hill has to be on this list somewhere, and NOS4A2 was what he called, his "horror thesis." I know this book is divisive. Personally I love it, but that is not why it is so high on the list. It's here because it is THE epic horror novel of the decade and Hill is one of the decades biggest names. 
3. The Fisherman by John Langan
  • A near perfect example of cosmic horror. Universally proclaimed the best horror novel of the year when it came out. A great introduction to modern cosmic/Lovercraftian horror for both readers and writers.
2. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
  • I mean it was a finalist for the National Book Award and it 100% horror stories. Do I need to say more? This book was dark, weird, sexy, thought provoking, scary, and imaginative. 
1. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
  • While this novel came out right in the middle of the decade, I feel like it marks a HUGE turning point for the genre. It is a story that harkens back to the genre's classics [most obviously We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Exorcist, but also many other titles are referenced here] and yet is also completely new. The way Tremblay crafts a horror story is gut wrenching. He breaks you, the reader throughout the course of the story and yet, you are glad you read it. You also never know if what you read was 100% real or if there was supernatural elements, and that is on purpose. I charged myself with picking THE NOVEL of the decade by creating this list and I honestly didn't argue with myself on this one.
Some general commentary about the make up of the list and what is says about the genre as a whole; again most of these topics will be explored in much greater detail in the new book:
  • It is 30% women and 30% own voices. However, one of the biggest trends in horror that I am seeing is the rise of women and diverse voices producing some of the best work in the genre today. I predict that in 10 more years, these numbers will inch toward 50%.
  • There are 2 works in translation on this list [Hex and Fever Dream] and one foreign author who writes in English [Beukes]. American audiences are going to start seeing a lot more horror from all over the world.
  • Stories are still important in horror. As are novellas.
  • Lovecraftian/Weird fiction got its foothold in this decade and has only continuing to grow. It is the most common trope right now.
  • I will not use the term "literary horror" because it is a term that demeans all horror in its assumption that only select titles within the genre have literary merit, when in fact every single horror book has literary merit. Instead, I think it is important to note that the "literary" world is finally noticing horror as worthy of their esteem. This list contains multiple titles that have been nominated for or won national literary awards.
I will have much more about this list and the current state of horror in the new book. It will be done by the end of 2020 and out for libraries to purchase in mid 2021. But this is a lot of useful information for you to use right now.

Finally, I would also like to thank librarian and horror author Corey Farrenkopf, for giving this list the once over and giving me invaluable feedback that improved this list.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Reviews Index Update

Here is a list of the reviews I have recently added to the Horror Review Index:

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Becky's Top 10 Horror of the Year

This post lists my Top 10 Horror titles that came out in 2019 with the caveat that I read them. This means there are some great books from 2019 that I did not get to, books which probably would have made it on the list if I had read them.

I will include some commentary and include some also rans in my descriptions. But the top 10 itself was revealed by me in this thread as part of #LibFaves19 on Twitter from December 9 through 18.

All titles are linked to my longer review [click on the title] which also have more readalike options and I have included my "Three Words That Describe This Book" to make it easier for you to book talk each title.

10. The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher [claustrophobic, psychologically intense, found book frame]: this title is based upon a book that influenced Lovecraft and has aspects of the folk horror subgenre. It hits on a lot of trends, yes, but it is also a compelling and intense read on its own

9. The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz [unsettling, book about reading, thought provoking]: the best pulp horror I read all year. It is also a horror book about what a good book means to its reader. And it has an ending that is like a dream come true for hard core readers. If you love to read and can handle some gore, this book is for you.

8. A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs [cosmic, disorienting, thought provoking]: This is a volume of 2 novellas packaged as one book. Novellas are very popular right now, and these are two of the best of the year.

7. Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories edited by Ellen Datlow [full range of horror, modern ghost stories, coming of age themes]: A diverse TOC with 27 new stories and only 3 reprints, these are the best voices of horror today writing 21st century ghost stories as good as the classics we have recycled for years.

6. Tinfoil Butterfly by Rachel Eve Moulton [disturbing, character centered, beautiful writing about evil]: Every year I include at least 1 first novel somewhere in my list and this is it. I have a longer post with my top 15 debut horror novels in alphabetical order here.

5. Violet by Scott Thomas [awesome world building, steadily building terror, character centered]: A just about perfect horror story that is so original. Just read my review and then read this book.

4. Wanderers by Chuck Wendig [epic, intense, character centered]: a story so unsettling it makes you physically uncomfortable and yet, written in a way that you literally cannot stop yourself from reading just a little bit more. One of the best "End of a World" stories I have ever read.

And now my top 3, two of which are a little unconventional.

3. Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa [Orwell updated, character centered, thought provoking]: technically this is a dystopian SF title, but there is true terror here and much of it inspired by a significant body horror story line. I wanted to include this title in any best horror list precisely because many of you have seen it on more traditional "best lists" or on best translated lists already. It is being marketed [rightly so] to literary fiction readers, but this is also a horror book. Don't forget that. You could give readers who enjoyed this title, The Rust Maidens by Kiste, last year's winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel.

2. The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O'Meara [biography/memoir mashup, lost history, impassioned]: This is a nonfiction title, but it is all about horror, especially the beginnings of the horror movie industry. There is also the real life horror of being a woman in the genre film industry, both in the past and up to the current day.

1. Growing Things by Paul Tremblay [strong narrative voice, uncomfortable, thought provoking] two years in a row for Tremblay! This collection, like the novel Cabin at the End of the World, has appeared on many overall best lists. I was one of the first people to read and review this book professionally [Booklist review] and I will be honest, I was tough on it going in because how could he top Cabin? But I could not deny how perfect it is.  I think this screen shot from my longer review on the main blog sums up the reading experience of this collection:
I did want to mention 2 other story collections that were top notch this year, one you have heard of and one you haven't. Links go to my Booklist review:

I am sure you already have the Hill, but do yourself a favor, go order the Chambers. It is excellent. 

So that's a wrap on my Top Horror for Libraries for 2019. I will be posting my overall "Best Books I Read in 2019" over on RA for All and my best Horror Horror fo the Decade here on the horror blog both on 12/27, my last work day of the year.

In the meantime, go read a scary book. Goodness knows I have given you plenty of worthy options.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Previewing 2020 Horror via Nightfire

As I am still working on wrapping up all of the end of the year Horror lists for you, why not get a head start on 2020?

Click here for an excellent preview of the 2020 Horror titles that Nightfire is most excited about. I have read a bunch already and can concur. Overall, this is a great pre-order list for most public libraries.

Horror is only growing in popularity and you want to be prepared for the increase in readers and requests.

Click here for the full article

Monday, November 18, 2019

Library Journal's 2019 Best Horror

In my role as the new Horror Columnist for Library Journal, I was part of the team that got to pick the Best Horror of the Year 2019.

Last year was the first time LJ pulled Horror out from Science Fiction and Fantasy, but they only consulted me quickly for my opinion and they only picked 5.

This year, I was part of the entire process and they gave us 10 books.

These authors showcase what makes horror such a popular genre right now. These are stories dealing with important issues, making readers think about their world. These are tales that are terrifying, but that are also really fun and enjoyable to read.

This is also a diverse group of titles and authors, covering all types of scares from he subtle to the terrifying. You will find stories, novels, collections, and anthologies, from presses big and small.

Below is the list of titles we decided upon. I am very proud to present this list and highly suggest you add every title to your library. In fact, I bet you have many of them already.
Best Horror 2019
by Stephanie Klose, Kiera Parrott, Becky Spratford Nov 18, 2019 | Filed in Reviews+
Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories. ed. by Ellen Datlow. Saga: S. & S. ISBN 9781534413467.
Best-selling authors Richard Kadrey, Nathan Ballingrud, Joyce Carol Oates, Paul Tremblay, Alice Hoffman, and others offer up ghost stories perfect for a dark and stormy night. 
Iglesias, Gabino. Coyote Songs. Broken River. ISBN 9781940885490.
In this mosaic novel set on la frontera, various characters confront the darkness at the heart of modern America—evils both supernatural and all too real. 
Jacobs, John Horner. A Lush and Seething Hell: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror. Harper Voyager. ISBN 9780062880826.
Jacobs offers two novellas—both of which revolve around the discovery of hidden works—that mine the deepest, darkest reaches of the human mind. Lyrical, hallucinatory prose captivates and terrifies. 
Janz, Jonathan. The Dark Game. Flame Tree. ISBN 9781787581876.
Best-selling author Roderick Wells hosts ten aspiring authors at a writers’ retreat. Everyone has secrets and their host may be a madman. Janz uses a well-mined genre trope to craft something unique and gloriously twisted. 
Kingfisher, T. The Twisted Ones. Saga: Gallery. ISBN 9781534429574.
While cleaning out her deceased grandparents’ home, Mouse discovers a journal describing the diabolic creatures who live in the surrounding woods—and soon encounters them herself. A modern, menacing Lovecraft-inspired tale. 
McMahon, Jennifer. The Invited. Doubleday. ISBN 9780385541381.
Helen and Nate move into a new home in Vermont, adjacent to a bog. Things get weird after Helen begins collecting artifacts from the town’s past, including a beam hewn from the tree used to hang a witch. Meanwhile, neighbor Olive searches for the haged witch’s hidden treasure in the bog. A thriller inside a murder mystery inside a ghost story. 
Moulton, Rachel Eve. Tinfoil Butterfly. MCD x FSG Originals. ISBN 9780374538309.
An intense and chilling story of a troubled woman and a young boy as they face down their demons and a coming snowstorm in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Moulton crafts a violent yet beautiful exploration of love, guilt, and pure evil. 
Thomas, Scott. Violet. Inkshares. ISBN 9781947848368.
After the tragic death of her husband, Kris returns to the place she first experienced pain and grief—her hometown of Lost Lake. The town is decaying and something evil grows at its core. The sense of dread builds slowly in this atmospheric, character-driven tale. 
Tremblay, Paul. Growing Things and Other Stories. Morrow. ISBN 9780062679130.
Tremblay tackles a range of mysterious subjects in this collection, from the title story about two young girls “Growing Things” in their basement to a tale in which a novelist’s fiction become fact. Tremblay’s unnerving creations leave just enough room for readers’ own imaginations to fill in the gory details. 
Wendig, Chuck. Wanderers. Del Rey. ISBN 9780399182105. 
After a comet passes over the Earth, dozens—and soon hundreds—of people begin sleepwalking toward an unknown destination. Responses across the world range from religious zealotry to apocalyptic ravings. Wendig shatters the boundaries of genre and literary fiction in this deeply unsettling saga.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

31 Days of Horror: Day 31-- Summer Scares 2020 and Librarians Day!

Happy Halloween! Today marks the end of 31 Days of Horror and the beginning of Summer Scares 2020. Below is the official press release, but I wanted to pull out a few pieces from that release and add a few extra details for my readers ONLY!

First, we are excited to announce that 2019 Summer Scares selected author Stephen Graham Jones has agreed to join our team as the 2020 Spokesperson for the program.

This means that Jones will be working to help us select the titles and prepare supplementary materials for the program. You can read more from Jones about his involvement in the full press release below. It was a pleasure to work with him after Mongrels was selected for the 2019 program, and we are thrilled that he is able to serve as our spokesperson for 2020.

This also means that Jones will be appearing at the 4th Annual HWA Librarians Day, which is also announced in the press release below. That event will be a stand alone event this year because StokerCon is in the UK. As many of you know, their library situation is very different than ours, so getting library workers to attend would be difficult.

Instead, Librarians Day 2020 will take place on May 7, 2020 at the Naperville Public Library 95th Street Branch. Details and signups will begin in January, however, I can confirm that along with Stephen Graham Jones, Summer Scares Programming Consultant, Konrad Stump will be in attendance, as well as author Daniel Kraus, who has confirmed with his publisher that every attendee will receive an advance copy of his hotly anticipated, sure to be a bestseller, summer release, The Living Dead, which he co-wrote with the late George A. Romero [and his estate] from a manuscript that was left behind when Romero passed away.

Happy Halloween! We have definitely given you many reasons to celebrate.

I hope you have enjoyed the last 31 Days as much as I have. Remember you can relive the October glory from this year or any year by clicking here to access past 31 Days of Horror posts, and you can do that all year long, not only in the month of October.

Now go eat some candy and get ready for another year of Summer Scares.




Los Angeles, California, October 30, 2019
The Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Library Journal/School Library Journal, is proud to announce the second annual Summer Scares Reading Program. Summer Scares is a reading program that provides libraries and schools with an annual list of recommended horror titles for adult, young adult (teen), and middle grade readers. It introduces readers and librarians to new authors and helps start conversations extending beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come.

Award-winning author Stephen Graham Jones and a committee of four librarians will select three recommended fiction titles in each reading level, totaling nine Summer Scares selections. The goal of the program is to encourage a national conversation about the horror genre, across all age levels, at libraries nationwide and ultimately attract more adults, teens, and children interested in reading. Official Summer Scares designated authors will also make themselves available at public and school libraries.

“The first stories told around campfires forever ago,” Jones says, “were about monsters the hunting party had seen one valley over, and when the hunter describing this creature raised their arms to re-enact this scary encounter, the shadow the flames threw back from those upraised arms went for millennia. We're still cowering in that shadow. To be afraid is to be human. Horror gifts that back to us with each story, each book, each movie, each story told around all our many campfires.”

The committee’s final selections will be announced on February 14, 2020 — National Library Lover’s Day. Jones, along with some of the selected authors, will appear on a panel to kickoff Summer Scares at a special stand-alone Librarians Day on May 7, 2020 at the Naperville, IL Public Library. Details on the event and sign up materials will be available in January, 2020. 

Between the announcement of the titles and the kickoff event, the committee and its partners will publish lists of more suggested titles for further reading. Official Summer Scares podcasting partner, Ladies of the Fright Podcast, will also record episodes in conjunction with Summer Scares.

Look for more information coming soon in Library Journal, School Library Journal, and Book Riot, as well as from United for Libraries and at the HWA’s website: For more information about Summer Scares, contact JG Faherty, HWA Library Committee Chair (, or Becky Spratford, HWA Secretary (

In addition, this year the Summer Scares program is pleased to welcome Konrad Stump as the new Summer Scares Library Programming consultant. Konrad is the Local History Associate for the Springfield-Greene County Library District in Missouri. Library workers and authors who are interested in cultivating horror programming can contact Konrad at for free assistance.

Summer Scares Committee Members:

Stephen Graham Jones is a former library worker and the author of sixteen or seventeen novels—including Mongrels, a previous Summer Scares selection—six collections, some comic books and novellas, and better than three-hundred short stories. Next are The Only Good Indians, Night of the Mannequins, and Memorial Ride. Stephen lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he's a Professor of Distinction and the Ivena Baldwin Professor of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in fiction, the Bram Stoker Award, and four This is Horror awards.

Becky Spratford is a library consultant and the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, second edition, and is currently working on the third edition. She reviews horror for Booklist Magazine, is the horror columnist for Library Journal and runs the Readers’ Advisory Horror blog, RA for All: Horror. Becky is also a Library Trustee member of United for Libraries and is currently serving as Secretary for the Horror Writers’ Association.

Carolyn Ciesla is a library director and academic dean at Prairie State College in the Chicago suburbs. She has worked as a teen librarian and reference librarian, and reviews horror titles for Booklist Magazine. She’s currently enjoying providing all the scary books to her teen daughter, and revisiting a few along the way.

Kiera Parrott is the reviews director for Library Journal and School Library Journal, where she oversees the review of more than 14,000 titles annually. Before joining the Journals, Kiera was head of children’s services at Darien Library (CT), and began her career as a librarian at the New York Public Library. Kiera is a lifelong horror fan and loves nothing more than curling up with a blood-curdling read on a rainy day. You can find her on Twitter @libraryvoice.

Kelly Jensen is a former librarian who works as an Editor for Book Riot (, where she runs the bi-weekly "What's Up in YA?" young adult newsletter and cohosts the popular "Hey YA" podcast about young adult literature Her books include the award-winning (Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health and Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World, both from Algonquin Young Readers. She's also a well-known and long-time co-blogger at Stacked ( A life-long lover of all things scary, she finds herself eager to scream about horror reads for teens with those who love good thrills and chills.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

31 Days of Horror: Day 30-- The Final Word on Summer Scares 2019 with Grady Hendrix

Today is the final day of Summer Scares 2019! Tomorrow we announce the 2020 Spokesperson. But first,  I wanted to give our inaugural Spokesperson and true friend of libraries everywhere, Grady Hendrix one last chance to speak directly to all of you.

Thank you Grady for all you have done to help make Summer Scares a reality and to make it successful. For more of Grady's work on Summer Scares go to the Summer Scares Resource page. We have interviews Grady did with some of our authors, lists and essays he wrote specifically to help you help readers, and even a recording of the Circulating Ideas Podcast [recorded live from the PRH booth at ALA Annual] where Grady and I talked about the program.

But right now, here is Grady Hendrix with his take on my "Why I Love Horror" theme. And stay tuned tomorrow to find out who is going to be helping us get 2020 rolling.


Why I Love Horror
by Grady Hendrix

When I was eleven my mother enrolled me in cotillion. We lived in a suburb of Charleston, South Carolina and you enrolled your kids in cotillion because that ensured they were on the invite list for all the debutante balls that would take place when they were older, and the debutante balls ensured you had a foothold in Charleston’s social scene when you were even older and needed to get one of your clients off a DUI charge. 

At cotillion we stood in a ring and rotated from partner to partner, counting under our breaths while stomping out the Foxtrot and the Cha-Cha to EPs of Quiet Riot’s “Come On Feel the Noise” and Lionel Richie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” played at one-third speed. The girls wore white gloves because touching the bare hands of boys would get them pregnant. We met in South Carolina Sociey Hall, a former orphanage, which had no air conditioning, and we were sweaty little monsters. By the time cotillion ended the girls’ formerly white gloves were gray and dripping. Cotillion taught me that dancing in public should feel like being on a prison work crew.

Every year, I had a birthday party. My best friends came over and carpeted our garage room in wall-to-wall sleeping bags and pizza boxes. We’d get jacked up on Coke and once my mom closed her bedroom door at 9pm we’d sneak out of the house and play epic games of Capture the Flag, sneak through people’s yards, run from the police they inevitably called, then regroup for horror movies, then back outside for more mayhem.

We soaked up The Thing with its human bodies stretching and exploding, growing bundles of thrashing tentacles and fanged mouths. Videodrome with James Wood feeding a biorganic VHS tape into the gaping vaginal opening in his stomach. The gore-soaked splat-schtick of Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn. We craved the apocalyptic mayhem of Dawn of the Dead, the 80’s vampire murder party of Near Dark, the endtimes automotive apocalypse of The Road Warrior. We’d get pumped up on seeing human bodies folded, twisted, impaled, and mutilated, shot, and exploded, and torn into bits, then we’d rampage through our sleeping suburb on missions to steal lawn ornaments and moon passing cars. 

At school, our dress code stated:

“All attire must be clean, neat, and in good taste, Take pride in your personal appearance and in your school. Bizarre fads and fashions of shoes, clothing, hair, and behavior have no place. It is felt that ample, within school guidelines, room has been provided for students to express their individuality.”

Male students couldn’t have pierced ears or wear sneakers. No denim or camouflage allowed. No logos on clothes. Shirts had to have collars and button up. Female students couldn’t wear culottes or shorts. No bare midriffs. No bare shoulders. No bare legs. No boots. No heels. No above-the-ankle pants. All jewlery must be “simple and modest.” 

Our headmaster, vice-principal, and some over-eager faculty policed the halls and breezeways, dishing out demerits for hair that touched the collar, untucked shirts, pants that had no belt holding them up, running in the halls, or “Anything which draws undue attention.” Talking back to teachers earned you a trip to the front office, but the definition of “talking back” varied. Making an innocent joke during chemistry lab earned you laughs one day and a trip to Saturday school the next.

When we realized my annual birthday parties weren’t enough we began spending the night at Matt Gibson’s because his mom didn’t care what time we went to bed. We watched a professor at medical school get his head cut off and then sexually assault a student with it in Re-Animator. We made the mistake of thinking Evil Dead would be as funny as Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn and traumatized ourselves. We watched Ronald Reagan nuke St. Louis in a vain attempt to stop brain-eating zombies in Return of the Living Dead. Then we’d sneak out of Matt’s house and roam downtown Charleston playing Rehash, a game of tag that involved chewed-up food. It was disgusting, but in our defense, we were 14. 

For eight hours a day, from 7:30am to 3:30pm (or later on days when there was choir practice), and for five days a week (six when you had Saturday school), the lives we led were regimented and proscribed. We marched around in a circle at cotillion. We obeyed a byzantine system of pointless rules at school. We were expected to be obedient and respectful. We addressed our elders as “ma’am” and “sir”, we did our homework, we ate our vegetables, we drank our milk.

But we snuck Stephen King books into our bedrooms and read about a plague wiping out humanity and a few brave survivors who started the whole circus over again from scratch. We read about abusive dads with roque mallets trying to beat their kids to death. We read about small towns like ours overrun by vampires and the adults too stupid, venal, and morally compromised to stop it. We read Clive Barker. We read V.C. Andrews. 

It all made sense to us. In fact, horror looked more like the real world than the Disney movies and laff-tracked television shows we grew up on. We’d been sold a vision of a world that was homework and Saturday School and honor rolls and everyone marching around in a circle, but we suspected the real world was a lot more like those gray, wet gloves the girls wore. And the world we wanted to live in was full of mess, and chaos, and gleeful anarchy, and blood squibs erupting like an exclamation point out of someone’s skull. Tell John Carpenter that the Thing’s six foot long screaming head couldn’t wear culottes. Tell Near Dark’s hillbilly vampires their hair couldn’t touch their collars. 

To us, all those monsters and murders weren’t about hurting people. They were about taking Jason’s machete and using it to hack open a door in this wall. We wanted to slide down an escape chute greased with guts, ride to freedom on Godzilla’s back, take this world that had nothing to offer us but demerits and detentions and crack it in half so the mutants could scramble out and rule the earth. 

All of us loved horror, because horror loved us back. And you know what they say about first love. For the rest of your life, nothing else will ever come close.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

31 Days of Horror: Day 29- HWA Stars a Public Mailing List for All to Receive Horror News

I am taking a small break from all the Summer Scares info during this lead up to Halloween to let you know of a brand new service from the Horror Writers Association [which will also let you know about Summer Scares info too].

Click here to subscribe 
Quick Bites is a new, mailing list from the Horror Writers Association that offers notable new releases, upcoming events, tips, news and more, geared toward authors, readers, publishers, librarians, or just anyone interested in the literary world of horror.

This is the first time the HWA is offering a mailing list for anyone and everyone, no need to be a member to receive it. Members do, and will still receive, a monthly newsletter that is quite extensive, is compiled by an editor, and includes columns by members about the craft of writing. This Quick Bites, however, is focused on delivering more tangible informational quickly and to as wide an audience as possible.

We on the HWA Board are excited about this change and hope that with the increased interest in horror from the general public and our uptick in work with all of you in libraries this will make it easier for us to keep you informed.

It will be the go-to newsletter on all things about the world of horror in book form and who better than to give it to you but the authors of said books-- the Horror Writers Association.

I know other writers associations have these newsletters because as a RA Librarian I am subscribed to them in order to stay up to date on as many genres as possible. Now, you can add horror to the mix. And now is the perfect time of year to sign up because you already have the scariest of genres on your mind.

Subscribe to Quick Bites using this link. Sign up today!

Monday, October 28, 2019

31 Days of Horror: Day 28- 2019 Summer Scares Vetted Titles And Resources

As we keep counting down to Halloween and the Summer Scares 2020 kick off announcement, I wanted to remind everyone that they can use the materials we created for the 2019 program, you know, to help those last minute patrons who want something spooky. They will be shambling in like crazy for the next few days. We need to arm ourselves with suggestions.

As a reminder, the official Summer Scares titles selected by the committee in all three age groups were:

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones (William Morrow Paperbacks, 2017)
My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due (Harper Voyager, 1998)
Earthworm Gods by Brian Keene (Deadite Press, 2012)

Rotters by Daniel Kraus (Ember, 2012)
Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, edited by April Genevieve Tucholke (Speak, 2016)
Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow (Penguin Random House Publisher Services, 2015)

Doll Bones Holly Black (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2015)
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014)
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin Young Readers, 2016)

To help you book talk these titles, our podcast partner Ladies of the Fright Summer Scares covered each selections in detail with our committee members. They chatted about the appeal of each title, basic plot and most importantly, why horror is a good read all year long. Below is a list where you can choose the episode based on the reading level:
There are also readalike lists, interviews with many of the authors, including multiple authors from the YA story collection, and so much more on the Summer Scares Resource page.

Speaking of the YA collection, you can confidently suggest a book by any author who appears in that Table of Contents, giving you dozens more suggestions.

I know I have been pushing this resource page since last week, but now that we are about to begin year 2, I want to remind you that the resources available here will only grow. The compound interest of the work product we put together each year, will build upon itself, year after year. And here's the best part, you can keep using it, over and over again.

If I am being honest, that is the part I love most about Summer Scares. Yes, each year getting to announce the 9 vetted titles is exciting, but it is the prospect of the compound interest we are creating, that excites me the most. We are helping you to help readers enjoy horror all year long, but we are also ensuring you have a variety of options and choices that will serve you as you suggest horror, for years to come.

Can you tell I am excited for our year 2 announcement?

10/31/19 at 10am across multiple platforms....

Sunday, October 27, 2019

31 Days of Horror Day 27: Middle Grade Horror from School Library Journal

Today I have a link from the Summer Scares Middle Grade expert and editor at Library Journal/School Library Journal, Kiera Parrott
That should keep you busy this Sunday before Halloween.

Remember, Middle Grade Horror is a great option for readers of all ages, especially this close to the holiday. These are spooky books that are good even for adults who are a little to scared to try adult options, but still want to get in the Halloween spirit. 

Also, in general, I have been recommending Middle Grade titles from all genres to more and more adults. I feel like as YA gets more and more relationship focused, it is losing some of the depth it once had and spends too much time on the romance aspects. But Middle Grade, because it doesn't have any romance or coupling issues, has been expanding to be more thought provoking than ever before. Seriously, I am suggesting it more and more to readers of all ages.

Horror is no exception here.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

31 Days of Horror: Day 26-- Kelly Jensen on YA Horror

As I keep featuring the Summer Scares program and committee, today I have invited Kelly Jensen, an editor at Book Riot and our YA specialist on the Summer Scares committee on why she loves horror, but also why it is so appealing to teens in general too.


YA Horror: A Mirror of Adolescence
Kelly Jensen

I don’t remember the first time I picked up a horror book, nor do I remember the first horror movie I saw. What I do remember, though, is finding Stephen King when I was in middle school and falling fast and hard for his work through my teen years. 

On hot summer days, my grandfather would take me to the library in the town next to ours. They had a far better collection than the local library. I’d come home with stacks of books, which I’d read during those long afternoons. My mother worked second and third shift. She was single, and we lived with my grandparents, both of whom were also working.

The recent announcement of another King adaptation, this time for The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, took me right back to that time of my life. I read -- and loved -- that book, reading it every day on my bed, on my mother’s bed, on the couch, and most vividly in my memory, on the stationary bike in my grandfather’s bedroom. 

The love of horror followed me through college, though that came more in the visual format, as opposed to the literary. Stephen King fell off my radar a bit, but I wasn’t afraid to enjoy a good scary film or two. 

But entering my adulthood, post-library school, I rekindled my love and passion for horror because of YA books. And I think that’s, in part, because YA horror reminds me so much of those memories of discovering King. 

Although not all of Stephen King’s stories feature young characters, many do. Certainly, the ones I read did. The most fascinating aspects of even books like It weren’t the adults, even for me as an adult. It was the kids’ stories that kept me paging through the tome and deeply hooked on the new adaptation. I won’t likely skip the second chapter of the film, but I already know it won’t capture my attention the same way. 

The thing about being young is that being young is a time of utter uncertainty. You don’t know what your place is in the world. You don’t know what your body is doing as it grows and expands, shifts and changes. You’re not given the same latitudes to experiment or faulter the ways that adults are -- hell, you can’t even eat ice cream for dinner if that’s what you want to do. The world’s got its cards stacked against you, if only because you don’t know well enough to challenge them. 

YA horror is the story of being young and uncertain. Vulnerable and afraid. Whether the monster at the end of the book is a zombie or a ghost, a chainsaw-wielding murderer or a spell-casting witch doesn’t matter. Those are props in the bigger realities of what it’s like to grow up, to figure out who you are, what it is you want to be, and how you’re supposed to do those very things. 

Young adult horror brings me back to the scariest parts of my own youth: long stretches of loneliness, a deadbeat and absent father, the unbelievably responsibility thrust upon me to know what it was I wanted to do with my entire life by the time I was 18. I keep reading YA horror not because I find that return to the worst days of my life enjoyable, rather I keep returning to them for perspective -- and more, I continue to read and talk about YA horror because those books are comforting. It’s not a teen alone against a clown or a blood-thirsty werewolf though that brings ease. It’s the fact that those things are predictable, understandable. They’re bumps along the road of coming-of-age in a way that allows for escaping from whatever current reality is before me. 

A monster chasing teens on the moon? Sign me up. I know that at the end of the book, the teens will win or the monster will. That even when given the ultimate bad guy in the form of a serial killer, there’s something redeeming enough in that character to encourage me along for 200, 300, 500 pages, to see where it all goes. 

No matter what the conclusion, it’s a ride. A journey full of ups and downs. Twists and turns. Maybe even blood and bones. And that ride is the same ride we take during our young years. It’s intense. It’s lonely. It’s sometimes a straight-up shit show. But we get through the book, just like we get through adolescence. Through our messy, complex young years. 

And at the end of it, we have a host of spooky, spidery stories to tell.

Friday, October 25, 2019

31 Days of Horror: Day 25-- Horror Programming and Summer Scares Recap on Ladies of the Fright

In continuing the countdown to the announcement of Summer Scares 2020, Today I present our podcast partners, Ladies of the Fright, who interviewed Konrad Stump and me. You can refer to yesterday's post to learn more about Konrad and his involvement with Summer Scares, or just listen to him talk about it all below.

Click here to listen to LotF Episode 46. And thank you Ladies of the Fright for being our partner again this year.

Click here to listen