RA for All...The Road Show!

I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Author to Know-- Jeremy Robert Johnson-- Including a HARDCOVER GIVEAWAY

Today I want to introduce library workers to an author who Bizarro fiction fans have known about for years, but whose work may not be in your library. Well that’s not 100% true. I would venture that those of you who have some Bizarro story collections will have a story or two by Johnson in your library, but a quick WorldCat search showed me that very few public libraries had his books until this one- Entropy in BloomFrom Goodreads:
For more than a decade, Jeremy Robert Johnson has been bubbling under the surface of both literary and genre fiction. His short stories present a brilliantly dark and audaciously weird realm where cosmic nightmares collide with all-too-human characters and apocalypses of all shapes and sizes loom ominously. In “Persistence Hunting,” a lonely distance runner is seduced into a brutal life of crime with an ever-narrowing path for escape. In “When Susurrus Stirs,” an unlucky pacifist must stop a horrifying parasite from turning his body into a sentient hive. Running through all of Johnson’s work is a hallucinatory vision and deeply-felt empathy, earning the author a reputation as one of today’s most daring and thrilling writers. 
Featuring the best of his previously independently-published short fiction, as well as an exclusive, never-before-published novella “The Sleep of Judges”—where a father’s fight against the denizens of a drug den becomes a mind-bending suburban nightmare—Entropy in Bloom is a perfect compendium for avid fans and an ideal entry point for adventurous readers seeking the humor, heartbreak, and terror of JRJ’s strange new worlds.
With this major publisher backed, hard cover edition of JRJ’s most popular stories PLUS a brand new novella, this is an author whose time has more than come to be added to public library collections. Many have already added this volume, but not enough in my opinion.

Bizarro fiction is really gaining in popularity because these genres are all about mashing up the speculative genres. The genre even has it’s own award, the Wonderland Book Award, which JRJ has won before. Click here to learn more about Bizarro. Or here for a list of top Bizarro authors which includes JRJ.

To hear a review of this collection by 2 fans, listen to this episode of the Booked podcast. The first half is a review and the second half is an interview with JRJ. [Also, keep the podcast bookmarked because I recorded an interview with them at StokerCon.]

This is a great title to add to your collections and allow Bizarro to have a presence in your library. If you don’t have any Bizarro authors in your library, you are already behind the curve a bit. Fix it by adding JRJ.

Need help booking this volume? Readalike authors who your patrons may already be enjoying are the legendary John Skipp, Paul Tremblay, Stephen Graham Jones, and Nick Cutter-- all authors I have talked about here on the blog more than once, all authors you wouldn’t think twice about adding to your collections.

To help get you excited, I have a brand new, hard cover copy of Entropy in Bloom, from the publisher to give away here on the blog to a public library worker in the US or Canada. Email me at zombiegrl75 [at] gmail [dot] com with with subject heading [Entropy in Bloom] and your library’s name to enter. Entries will be accepted until Wednesday, May 24th at 5pm central. I will reply to you that your entry has been received to confirm.

Good luck.

And if you don't win I would highly suggest finding a way to put a copy of Entropy in Bloom in your collection. I had only heard of JRJ before this collection came out in April. I had not read him before. I am happy to say I fixed that. I have read these stories and they are surprisingly, unsettling, well constructed, and highly original. Even this , “been there done that reader,” was entertained throughout.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Horror Review Index Update

I have added three new reviews to the Horror Review Index and cleaned up a few dead links. I have over 100 reviews of titles that you could suggest to your patrons. No need to read them yourselves, just tell them "Here's what Becky says about this title. " It is not plagiarism. This is why I write the reviews, for you to add the books to your collections and suggest them to readers.

By the way, the link to the Review Index does not include all of the books I have included in my Library Journal columns. Those are annotated for you to use to book talk titles to patrons also. Click here to access them all on my Becky's Original Horror Lists page.

Now for the three newest additions to the Index:

Monday, May 8, 2017

Shirley Jackson Awards Long List for 2016 Announced

I love the Shirley Jackson Awards because like their namesake, they don’t give a [BLEEP] about genre. As it explained on their site here:

The result of this recognition process each year has been a diverse group of “dark fiction” options.

Click here for the full list of this year’s nominees, but below I have also reprinted just the Novel finalists so you can see my point proven.

By the way, order and suggest all of these titles-- from this year and year’s past. This award always identifies some amazing midlist titles that could get forgotten, and if they did that would be a sad thing for all the readers who would have missed out on experiencing them.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Horror Training Update: New Webinar, an Academic Look At Dark Fiction in Libraries, and a Visual RA Training Tool

Happy Halfway to Halloween!!! [Yes, I am still trying to make that a thing]

Over on the main blog, I have this post with a brand new update to my very popular Horror RA presentation.  Click through for all of the details including why you should care, links to the slides, info on how you can watch the webinar, and a handout.

That is the primer though. It is the bare minimum you need as a public library worker to help horror readers. Thats why it is on the general blog.

But you came here, to RA for Allevil twin to learn more, and that is what I will give you.

Seriously though, this blog is for those wanting to delve further into helping horror readers and developing their horror collections so I have a bit more info here today.

I want to start by highlighting the work of J.T. Glover, a Humanities Research Librarian/Assistant Professor at VCU who looks at dark fiction from an academic perspective. Click here for his blog. Much of his research is very useful to our work in the public library world. I have added him as his own category in my Resources page.

I think this recent post, “Libraried and Under-Libraried Authors” which looks at some of the most acclaimed weird fiction authors and how their titles are represented on North American library shelves, is a great example of how much we can learn from his perspective.

Back in October, I also featured Glover in this post.

My second addition to today’s presentation for all of you brave enough to click over to the horror blog comes from me but it is via my Australian colleague Ellen Forsyth.  While I was at StokerCon last week, I set about on a mission to take selfies with horror authors who I felt libraries should make sure they knew about and, in a perfect world, add to their collections.

Since I was busy with the conference, I was putting them up as fast as I could, but was doing nothing to gather them. Thankfully, Ellen had all of our backs, and she put the entire series together in one Storify. You can click here to see this full visual training tool all in one place. Thank you so much Ellen. [Please also check out Ellen’s amazing work with Read Watch Play for another RA tool].

As you will see, there are authors in this Twitter project who do not appear in my updated horror presentation. That is because there is only so much room on the slides and only so much information people can handle being thrown at them in 50 minutes. But, if you put the presentation and the Twitter selfies together, you have a great example of the authors you should have in a modern horror collection. Again, it is not everything, but it is a great start.

So get to work. You have 6 months to get yourself and your shelves in tip top haunting shape. I have done all the prep work, all you have to do is click and read.

Monday, May 1, 2017

2017 Bram Stoker Award Winners and Nominees

Here is the full list via Locus:

2016 Bram Stoker Awards Winners

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) announced the winners for the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards on April 29, 2017 at a gala held aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach CA during StokerCon 2017.
Superior Achievement in a Novel
Superior Achievement in a First Novel
  • Haven, Tom Deady (Cemetery Dance)
Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel
  • Snowed, Maria Alexander (Raw Dog Screaming)
Superior Achievement in Long Fiction
Superior Achievement in Short Fiction
  • “The Crawl Space”, Joyce Carol Oates (Ellery Queen 9-10/16)
Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection
Superior Achievement in an Anthology
  • Borderlands 6, Oliva F. Monteleone & Thomas F. Monteleone, eds. (Samhain)
Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction
Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection
  • Brothel, Stephanie M. Wytovich (Raw Dog Screaming)
Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel
Superior Achievement in a Screenplay
  • The Witch
  • Penny Dreadful: “A Blade of Grass”
  • Stranger Things: “The Upside Down”
  • Stranger Things: “The Vanishing of Will Byers”
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane
Active and lifetime HWA members were eligible to vote for winners. For more information, see the HWA website.

Thanks to them for getting it out so quickly. We had barely wrapped up the ceremony and my head was still spinning from live tweeting it and then...*poof*.... the Locus link was in my Twitter feed.

Speaking of, if you would rather see the winners as I unveiled it live, click here.

Friday, April 28, 2017

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

Besides 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.


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.


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.
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.
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