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Friday, October 20, 2017

31 Days of Horror- Day 20- Bloodshot Books Take Over- Why I Love Horror by Tom Deady

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

Today I am welcoming Tom Deady, whose novel Haven won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel this past April. I gave the novel a star in Booklist when it first came out and it made the Top 10 Horror of the Year in the annual Booklist Spotlight issue this past August.

Tom’s second book was published by Bloodshot Books earlier this year and so, here he is today talking about his love of, maybe obsession with [?], Halloween, the movie.

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 Tom's entry into the conversation.

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Halloween, 1978 by Tom Deady

Halloween means something different to everyone. For some, it’s watching the kids dress up in their favorite superhero or princess or monster costumes to parade through the crisp autumn streets. For others, it’s symbolic of fall itself; changing leaves, the first fires in the wood stove, and pumpkin-spiced everything. For me, at least since my trick-or-treating days ended, it’s been about Haddonfield, Illinois, and the night he came home.
I was fourteen years old when I went to Malden’s Granada Theater and took my place near the back, a brown paper bag full of penny candy in my hand. When the red curtains parted and that music began, and the flickering jack-o-lantern filled the black screen, slowly growing larger until I was staring into its somehow dangerous orange eye, I belonged to Michael Myers.
I can’t say that I’ve watched the movie every year since, but I’ve watched it a lot. To me, Halloween is the perfect horror movie. It predates CGI (computer-generated imagery) and doesn’t rely on any glamorous special effects. The mood is created by the brilliant score, the acting, and the story itself. Halloween is also credited with being a pioneer, inventing what are now staples in the horror genre. Such common tropes as the faceless killer, the final girl, the killer who won’t die, and theme music for the villain (although you could argue this was done a few years earlier in Jaws) can all be traced back to the film. 
While Hitchcock’s Psycho may be the first true slasher film, Halloween spawned a wave of knock-offs in the late 70s and early 80s that defined the genre. Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play all became successful franchises, but there were scores of others that came and went in those years. Prom Night and Terror Train both starred Halloween’s Jamie Lee Curtis. The list goes on with such campy titles as The Slumber Party Massacre and The Dorm that Dripped Blood. My Bloody Valentine and Silent Night, Deadly Night played on the theme of holiday horror, with the latter sometimes credited as the end of the “Golden Age” of slasher films due to its box office failure and poor public reception.
John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece is often compared to its predecessor, Psycho, and the two movies share a few connections. First and foremost, Jamie Lee Curtis is the daughter of Janet Leigh, the famous shower scene victim in Psycho. The young Michael Myers displays a voyeuristic tendency at the start of Halloween, as does Norman Bates in Psycho. Much of the shifting POV camera work in Halloween can be tied back to Psycho. Finally, Donald Pleasance’s character is named Dr. Sam Loomis, also the name of Janet Leigh’s lover in Psycho. In fact, many conspiracy theorists have taken it a step further to claim they are the same character.
A few other fun facts about Halloween
  • Michael’s mask was made from a cheap Captain Kirk (William Shatner) plastic Halloween mask spray-painted white.
  • John Carpenter created a “fear meter” for Jamie Lee Curtis to use during filming.
  • Both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing turned down the part of Dr. Sam Loomis due to low pay.
  • The entire film was shot in just 20 days on a $300,000 budget, and went on to gross $47 million at the box office.
  • The original title was The Babysitter Murders.
  • Carpenter developed the Michael Myers character from his memory of a college tour of a psychiatric ward where he met a child whose stare terrified him.
  • Myers’s body count in the entire movie is just 6; his sister, a dog, the truck driver, Lynda, Bob and Annie.
  • Michael’s middle name is Aubrey.
Okay, so maybe I know a little bit too much about the movie. But it’s the movie with which I compare and judge all horror movies. It shaped me as a horror fan the way Stephen King’s book ‘Salem’s Lot helped shape me as a horror writer, right around the same time, in fact. The film contains such a sense of menace and creates a quiet tension that has rarely been matched since. There isn’t an excess of blood, and there are no over-the-top gore scenes at all. It is a slow boil of terror that culminates in the famous showdown between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers. And I love every minute of it.
Image my delight when it was announced earlier this year that Jamie Lee Curtis will once again play Laurie Strode in a Halloween film next year, forty years after the making of the original. If this news wasn’t enough, John Carpenter said the new film will ignore all the sequels and only recognize the original Halloween when telling the story. It will be as if the sequels never existed. Maybe it would be better if they didn’t? Other than Halloween II and Halloween H20, would anyone really miss them?

I’ll probably be in the theater for the new Halloween film on opening night, but I doubt it will have the same impact the 1978 film had on a much younger version of me. That long ago night, forty years ago, in a darkened Granada Theater. The night he came home.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 19-- Bloodshot Books Take Over-- Why I Love Horror by Morgan Sylvia

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

Today I am welcoming Morgan Sylvia whose debut novel Abode I featured in the October 1, 2017 issue of Library Journal. It’s not up online yet, but here is the draft version of what I said:
That being said, there is nothing wrong with a good, old fashioned, violent, haunted tale of monsters wreaking havoc, especially when it is as solidly constructed and compelling as Abode by Morgan Sylvia. It’s a setting you think you know-- an old house in Maine, off in the woods, a new family moves in and bad things start happening, but it is in how the terror is revealed where Sylvia reveals her skill at crafting a satisfying horror tale. The opening chapter sets the unsettlingly scene perfectly: an urgent email, from someone mysterious, addressing “you” about the terrors that have already come, even if “you” cannot fully remember them. The action, terror, and bloodshed only ratchet up from there. The unique frame and voice create an extra “found footage” layer of fear and suspense to a story that will have you alternating between covering your eyes and compulsively turning the pages.
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 Morgan’s entry into the conversation.
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Oh, The Horror by Morgan Sylvia
For those of us in the world of horror, autumn is a busy time of year. Fall and horror go hand in hand, and with good reason. They are both associated with death: the passing of summer and the approach of the cold dark months certainly mirrors the lifespan of a human being. Autumn is also a great time for telling—and reading—scary stories. The long, dark nights remind us of all the things that could be waiting in the shadows. 
Humans tell stories because that is how we learn to understand the world around us. Many of the tales we hear as children have elements of horror: witches and goblins and dark magic certainly permeate quite a bit of children’s fiction. But why do we enjoy horror so much? Why do we watch movies that give us nightmares, or read books that make us squirm? Why on earth would we want to delve into the darkest corners of the universe? Isn’t it much more pleasant in the sunshine?
Because of fear.
A good scary book or movie has the power to invoke true fear, on a very visceral level. When horror does it right, we get goosebumps, we shiver, we get queasy, we jump. We get that sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs. Fear may not be the most pleasant emotion, but it is both powerful and necessary. Our strongest survival instincts are drenched in fear: fear of pain, fear of death, fear of loss. Horror allows us to experience those fears, and can terrify us on a level that most of us will—hopefully—never experience in reality, without exposing us to any danger. 
What is the greatest fear of all? 
For many, the answer to that question is death. 
Death is the common thread between most, if not all horror books and movies. We’re a bit obsessed with death, as it turns out. Joseph Campbell once noted that the human being is the only creature in the world that knows it’s going to die. And we all dance with death, long before we let it lead us into the night. We die hundreds, if not thousands, of little deaths throughout the courses of our lives. We experience the deaths of loved ones, as well as the deaths of acquaintances, the deaths of pets and celebrities and distant relatives. Through art, we process and react to the losses of characters we love, characters we hate, and characters we just don’t care about. 
As compelling as the fear of death is, I suspect that there is a stronger one: fear of the unknown. Just like a goofy cartoon character casting an ominous shadow on a cave wall, or a scene in a play where off-stage noises tell the tale of a gruesome murder, it seems the monsters in our imagination are always infinitely more terrifying than the ones in front of us. 
Horror is the realm where these two fears meet. It is the Ouroboros of storytelling: an endless cycle of tales and questions about death and the unknown beyond it. As with any other good piece of art, the best works of horror evoke emotions. It makes us think, makes us care, makes us ask questions. But it goes a step further. It brings us to the line between life and death, and offers countless options for what may lay on the other side. But it doesn’t stop there. It opens that gate and lets some of our fears slither out into the light of day. It drags those monsters—the grotesque, the beautiful, and the mundane—from the shadows, and puts them in the spotlight, so we can get to know them.
If we were to divide all of horror’s monsters into categories, we’d no doubt find that certain ones—witches, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, demons—appear again and again. Many of the archetypes we find in the horror genre have been crawling into our collective consciousness since the dawn of civilization. The oldest epic tale known to man, Gilgamesh, involves witches and a descent into the realm of the dead. Vampires, or vampire-like creatures, appear in myths from Mesopotamia, ancient Greece, and ancient India, long before Bram Stoker put pen to paper. These monsters likely haunted the shadows outside of the first cities, and will probably follow us to other planets, if we somehow manage not to blow ourselves up first. 
Why are they still here? 
These archetypes serve a purpose. They are pieces of us, bits of our subconscious. They are the denizens of our nightmares, with names and faces and histories. When they speak, we are hearing the bone-dry rasp of voices from beyond the grave. When we see their faces, we see the faces of death, of hatred, of violence. The monsters of horror are the embodiments of our fears. They are death and they are the unknown, and they are everything in between.
The worst of them are ourselves, transformed. 
Part of the power of classic horror archetypes, and of characters like Dracula and Frankenstein, is that they were once human. Zombies, mummies, witches, werewolves … all of these terrible monsters started out as people. I heard a quote recently—I forget where—which said that horror takes an ordered world and throws it into chaos. These are the beings that we have, in one way or another, chosen or identified as the lords of chaos. We both fear and despise them, but we just can’t get enough of them.
Why?
It turns out that when you can filter your fear through the lens of a book, painting, or movie, while staying safe and sound in your seat, something exquisite happens. You can touch the void, the realm of death, the beyond. Or you can turn inward, and look into the darkest recesses of your own soul. But horror doesn’t just hold a candle up to a dark night, or shine a flashlight into tombs. It also holds a mirror up to the human mind.
We peer into the night, we listen to the wind howl, we look up at the stars and into the darkest shadows, and we imagine what could be waiting out there for us. We wonder what we become in the void, in the dark. Every piece of horror out there, whether film, art, or fiction, asks those questions. We’ve answered it again and again, in innumerable stories. Yet we will keep asking it, because these questions and these fears are primordial, abstract, and important, and, well, because no one really knows. In ABODE, I offer one option. Other writers have offered thousands, if not millions, of other possibilities. There are countless more monsters still dwelling in our collective nightmares and subconscious, waiting for their turn in the spotlight. And there are many more lurking in the shelves of your library.
The lifeblood of horror is, at the moment, flowing through the hands of small independent publishers, such as Pete Kahle, the (very nice) evil genius behind Bloodshot Books. If you enjoy horror, if you like being scared, autumn is a great time for you to explore not just the classics, but also the works of smaller presses and indie authors.

Reach into the void . . . reach for a new title.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 18-- Bloodshot Books Take Over- Why I Love Horror by The Sisters of Slaughter

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

Today I am welcoming Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, otherwise known as The Sisters of Slaughter.  I recently reviewed their Bloodshot Books title, Those Who Follow for IndiePicks Magazine.

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 The Sisters of Slaughter's entry into the conversation.

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Horror kids by Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason
Many might wonder as to how we came to love horror, all the frightening and dark things, our answer is quite simple…we were born to. From a very young age when other children dreamed of becoming astronauts, princesses, and pirates, we pretended to be monster-hunting archaeologists. We would wander the dusty stretches of our parent’s two-and-a-half acres in Arizona and play like we were digging up ancient civilizations and fighting the ghouls living in those forgotten cities. We had no idea what an archeologist was at that time, only that Indiana Jones seemed to have a good time exploring hidden temples and fighting bad guys. We wanted to enact the same adventures, but with creatures as our foes. Our minds were always drawn to spooky things, we fixated on witches, werewolves, zombies and vampires, and so all those imaginary monsters played roles in our little games of pretend. Our imaginations conjured up armies of them, dug them up, and brought them to life among the Creosote bushes and Palo Verde trees.
Our first Horror influence came from our mother. She loved old black and white horror and sci-fi movies and reading us scary stories from the library books we got to bring home from school. We are children of the desert and fall always meant so much to us being that it signaled the end of the dreadful summer days. Every year we anticipated Halloween more than Christmas because the weather would finally be cool enough to play outside and our mother always made us the best costumes and sweets. Some of our fondest memories came from Halloween celebrations at our house when we felt the seasons changing and the nights growing longer than our shadowed imaginations dared to venture.
We were drawn to storytelling by listening to our father tell ghost stories around campfires at night, the magic of his words and how they constructed worlds in our young minds was a power that never left us. We would also listen to our older brother read to us, usually Goosebumps books or Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark, it wasn’t long until we decided we wanted to write stories of our own. We were eight when we wrote our first book together; it involved a ghost and a werewolf on the moors. It was like opening a door for us, a portal to worlds uncounted, a place where anything was possible. 

We continued to write, story after story, all of them dealt with monsters and darkness, and each one guided us through the turbulent times of growing up. Our taste in movies and books matured as well, stretching beyond the childish flicks like Ernest Scared Stupid and the relatively safe horror of childhood that Goose bumps offered to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, American Werewolf in London, Stephen King and Clive Barker. The library became our temple, its tomes revealing to us both fictional and non-fictional accounts of darkness, mythology, lost civilizations, heroes and villains, it was our sanctuary of shelved doorways to other places and times. The years passed but our escape through writing remained just as strong as when we were little girls and here we are today, grown women, passing our love of horror to our children and glimpses of our imagination to those who pick up our books. We are proud to call ourselves Horror Kids and truly honored to have connected with so many others around the world.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 17-- Bloodshot Books Take Over-- Why I Love Horror With Jeremy Hepler

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

Today I am welcoming Jeremy Hepler to share why he loves horror. Native to the Texas Panhandle, Jeremy now lives with his wife Tricia and son Noah in a small rural community in the heart of Texas. A member of the HWA, he has had twenty-four short stories published in anthologies, periodicals, and online. His debut novel, The Boulevard Monster was published by Bloodshot Books in April 2017. Other than writing suspense and horror novels, he loves to read, garden, draw, and repurpose old furniture. For more information, hit him up on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

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 Jeremy's entry into the conversation.

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Why I Read and Write Horror by Jeremy Hepler
My love for reading horror started when I was eleven years old. 
Since no one was a reader in my home, I grew up with limited access to reading materials other than ones provided by the public school system. When I was in the sixth grade, my reading teacher Mrs. Close had us read "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson as our first assignment for the year. I had never heard of Shirley Jackson or the story and had no idea what was coming. I remember the moment I realized they were about to stone Tessie Hutchinson like it was yesterday. I was blindsided. Shocked. Intrigued. Excited. I had never read a story with such a traumatic, unsettling ending. Up until then a majority of the stories I'd read in school were happy-ending, good-prevails, cookie cutter stories, stories I found most of which didn't relate enough to my world, to the chaos and tension that was my home life. Personal experience had taught me that sometimes situations in life end badly. Sometimes you get the short end of the stick whether or not you deserve it. Sometimes the world seems to want to hurt you. Sometimes people want to scare you. Sometimes the bad guy wins. "The Lottery" connected with me on those darker, visceral levels. It was the first story I read where I felt like the characters lived in the same world I did—a twisted, troubled world—and I wanted more. 
As I grew into a young adult, I consistently chased the high I received from reading "The Lottery." I hunted for other pieces of dark literature and soon discovered the works of Stephen King ("Carrie"), Jack Ketchum ("The Girl Next Door"), Dean Koontz ("Watchers"), Anne Rivers Siddons ("The House Next Door"), Peter Straub ("Ghost Story"), Thomas Harris ("Silence of the Lambs"), Joyce Carol Oates ("Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?"), etc. Their works and countless others showed me that there was a whole community of people out there who not only understood that horror is a universal emotion that comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms (werewolves, serial killers, diseases, ghosts, hallucinations, aliens, and on and on), but that is also normal and good to express and explore it. Many people like my mom spend their entire lives trying to hide themselves and the ones they love from the horrors of the world, telling only half truths. They find solace in denial.  But I found solace and felt more content knowing I wasn't alone, knowing that these authors understood my fears and that it was okay to talk about them. Over time, I also began to see the bigger picture many of these horror authors painted. They not only showed me it was okay to discuss fear and explore horror, but better yet, they showed me the benefits of feeling and then facing it. They showed me that you have to feel fear in order to defeat it, and that confronting it manifests hope and builds courage—two of the greatest enduring heroic human traits. And even if outright defeating fear proves impossible in some instances, persistence in battling it and helping others battle it never is.
Around the same time I read "The Lottery" (and first started reading many of Edgar Allen Poe's works thanks to Mrs. Close) I was spending many nights home alone, and one Wednesday night, I stumbled across "Unsolved Mysteries" hosted by Robert Stack. It both frightened and intrigued me, and would later influence my writing horror in a similar way as Shirley Jackson's tale had. Every Wednesday after that first night I would heat up a TV dinner, turn off all the lights, and watch "Unsolved Mysteries" alone in the dark. Whether it was a ghost story, or an on-the-loose murderer story, or a kid-disappearance story, once the show was over I would pace around the house, terrified, making sure all the doors and windows were locked. With my limited knowledge of logistics, I just knew the murderer was close by. Or that the ghost would haunt me next. Or that I'd be the next kid taken, my mom coming home to an empty house. An unsolved mystery. At the time, I didn't know if it was the adrenaline rush of the fear itself, or the high that came the next morning when I woke to find I'd lived through the fear, but I became addicted. Like many of the author's stories I'd been reading taught, a part of me knew that I needed to acknowledge fear in order to progress as a person. 

When I began crafting my own stories in my late teens, I usually wrote for others first. I wanted to impact readers, relate to them, to make them feel the fear, anxiety, or intrigue that "The Lottery" and "Unsolved Mysteries" had me feel. I wanted to connect with people who needed to know that someone else saw the imperfect, unfair, horrific world the way that they did. I wanted to entertain people who loved the adrenaline rush of being scared or those who simply wanted to escape into someone else's world for a while. I wanted to give people hope and courage the way others had me. But as time passed, I realized my best writing comes when I write for myself first. I realized that as my fears evolve and shift over time, I can use my writing (and reading of other's works) to express, explore, and deal with them. For example, as a husband and father now, one of my deepest general fears has morphed from fear of my own horrific torture or demise, to fear of the same fate befalling my son or wife. And that fear is the core fear reflected in my debut novel, "The Boulevard Monster," where my protagonist Seth Fowler must prove he will go anywhere, face anything, sacrifice everything including his own moral standard, to save and protect his loved ones from a ruthless, bloodthirsty villain. His realized fears were my imagined fears. His hopes were my imagined hopes. Though some would consider it backwards, spending six months with Seth, learning and telling his story, gave me a greater sense of hope that if I ever face a seemingly insurmountable obstacle or evil that I will be courageous enough to do what I have to in order to protect those I love.

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.

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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.

Seriously.

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.