RA for All...The Road Show!

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Horror Review Index Update

Here are the most recent reviews I have added to the index:

Monday, October 31, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 31 : The Problem With Major Publishers and Horror [aka Becky Has Another Huge Rant]

Those of you who regularly read RA for All know that I have been channeling my professional frustrations into my popular Call to Action posts.  They generally run on Mondays and you can read the archive here; however, due to my increased work load during this Halloween season, they have been on hiatus.

That hiatus has come with a price because between the lack of an outlet through those posts AND my annual anger build up with the big five publishers and their dismissal of horror as not worth their time, I am ready for a full blown rant today on Halloween-- my final day of the blog-a-thon.

Hold on to your hats. Here we go...

Look at this screen shot from the Penguin Random House’s main page.  What the what? Where is the horror? This is their main recommendation engine. Will they not even consider recommending any to me?  I don’t know why because I know they have published horror books. For example, Slade House by David Mitchell. It came out last year, it is set during Halloween, it sold well, and it is widely consider an excellent horror option for a wide audience. I wrote this review in Booklist. I would guess that at least 90% of public libraries in America have this book in their collection. They could even use that newer title to build off of other horror titles they have in their stable-- like House of Leaves-- another modern classic.

Instead of promoting that title, I got this email targeted to librarians promoting classic horror titles.  Come on. Give me something fresh and new. We are not stupid, we know about Frankenstein and Dracula. But thanks for insulting our intelligence and our desire to read and suggest modern titles.

This makes me so angry. I don’t mean to only pick on Penguin Random House. It is all 5 of the big publishers. Why do they hate us? More importantly, why do they ignore us?

Some may argue that the big five have imprints that do horror. That’s fine, but why didn’t they give those imprints the spot light leading up to Halloween?

Okay, maybe the answer is they need to focus promoting on the main pages on the newest hottest books. Fine. But what about the library marketing teams? The ones who say they are looking out for us. Really? Hmmm. I don’t think so.

Macmillan’s library team is consider one of the best. So they should be helping us get ready with lists of their awesome new horror titles. Since June of this year year they have had two, big selling, 100%, super scary, horror titles [neither of which they marketed as horror by the way] Pressure by Brian Keene [marketed as a SF thriller] and The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue [marketed as “a suspenseful tale of romance and enchantment”]. But have I seen anything about those two titles leading up to Halloween?

No. Here are the posts they had leading up to Halloween:

Really? Thanks for not helping. In the days leading up to Halloween our biggest requests at libraries are for scary books. You are the library marketing team. You should know that.  I shouldn’t have to tell you. So I get animals, cookbooks, and writers? Yeah, that makes sense. *sigh*


Now it comes back to me.

One of the reasons why I have to work so hard is because they ignore all of our horror readers and their needs. I have met the library marketing people from major publishers, multiple times. They always forget who I am. After their memory is refreshed-- you know I am the one covering your books all over the place only because I care about helping readers-- they ask how they can help me. I say, help by promoting your horror titles better. They respond by offering to throw books at me. I DON'T WANT YOUR FREE BOOKS. I want your help promoting horror. 

Part of the reason they always forget me is that I refuse to suck up to them. I won’t gush over getting free books. They will not get my respect until they stop thinking all library workers want are boxes of free books delivered to our doorsteps. What we want is to help readers. Help us help ALL of our readers.

I am a reviewer of horror for Booklist; my reviews are signed so they know who I am if they cared. I am THE library world’s most visible horror expert. I get 500,000 views a month [on average] on RA for All where I actively publish my regular Booklist horror reviews there. I have proven I can get the word out about their horror titles even when they don’t care. I’m sorry, is our library money not good enough for you?

I gave Slade House, Pressure, and The Motion of Puppets all great reviews!!! Macmillan quoted my star review on the page for The Motion of Puppets and for Pressure too! So they saw them. I did a spotlight interview of Brian Keene in Booklist and Pressure made the Top 10 Horror of the year in that same issue. I did the interview with Keene not through any help from Macmillan but only because Keene is a nice guy. I contacted him because I knew he had things to share with library workers. I even donated the money I was paid for that interview to Keene’s favorite charity as a thank you to him for his time. I did not profit from it in any way. I just wanted to connect horror writers with readers.

WHY AM I DOING MORE TO HELP THEIR HORROR AUTHORS THAN THEY ARE???

On the other hand, there are the horror authors. They know I am there to help them. They know that I put horror titles on library shelves. 

The Horror Writer’s Association-- the group representing the authors-- is honoring me as the FIRST EVER librarian special guest of honor at Stoker Con 2017. They are having an entire Librarians' Day to court all of us. This is a big deal. I am on a poster with George R R Martin. This is not a small thing.

The Horror Writers are flying me to California and putting me up in a hotel to help them get horror titles in readers’ hands. But the publishers.....they could care less. I don’t exist to them. And guess what, that means that by extension any of you who help horror readers don’t matter either. And forget your readers themselves. They might as well not exist.

The small presses are constantly reaching out to me. They want to know what I think. They want to know how they can work with library patrons who want horror. They want to get their books in your hands. They want to share their stories. And, their first instinct is NOT to send me piles of books. Their first instinct is to ask how libraries order books, what our patrons want, and if I can help them put the right books on library shelves.

If I didn’t have a platform that could help match books with readers, I wouldn’t be this upset. But my blog and my reviews in Booklist and my 2x a year horror column in Library Journal have proven that I help sell books. I have heard directly from authors that this is the case. Here is an example of a Tweet from author Brian Kirk whose debut We Are Monsters appeared in my 2015 Library Journal column. That is the tip of the iceberg on the thank yous I have received from authors for simply reviewing their books.



The hate that the major publishers have for horror-- and by extension-- its readers, runs so deep that they actively ignore me-- the person who could be their biggest ally, a person who has proven results putting horror books in readers’ hands, a person who accounts for many of the sales of their horror titles to libraries.

Thankfully I am devoted to you, the library workers and library patrons, and I ignore the obvious slight to work to find you the nest books for your readers. But if we only had a tiny bit of help from the major publishers, our job would be a lot easier.

Thank you for letting me rant. Unforntuatley, they all ignore me, so they won’t see this. Horror doesn’t matter to them even though we all know how busy we have been trying to find enough books for our readers this month. 

Now I am going to get ready to celebrate Halloween with my Bernie Sanders and Billie Joe Armstrong dressed kids, attend my last ever elementary school Halloween parade, and host a party for the kids and their friends later tonight.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. It was a pleasure to share this month with you and help you to help your scariest readers.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 30-- Halloween Eve Odds and Ends

I always save the post for the 30th as a catch all of all of the things I could not fit into the planned posts.

So here are a few odds and ends for this Halloween Eve:

Saturday, October 29, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 29-- Why I Love Horror the Extended Format Edition

Over the years of doing this blog-a-thon, I have chosen to focus on asking the people who create horror tales to share what they love about the genre so much. I have found that these posts have been extremely helpful at showing library workers more about why readers love horror than my essays and reviews. I now have a large collection of these posts from a variety of writers; writers who entice readers into their wicked worlds; writers who love horror so much they dedicate their careers to it; writers who are also fans of the genre themselves.

You can access all of the the Why I Love Horror posts using this link and see for yourself. Not only do you get a good sense of the appeal of the genre by reading them, but also you get a huge list of other authors who these writers like and admire. There are more reading suggestions in these posts than you could ever have time to suggest, and that is a good problem to have.

However, my posts are almost only from those who write novels [with a few librarians thrown in], but earlier this week, over at Paste Magazine they had this wonderful Why I Love Horror-esque post:
Our Favorite Storytellers Reveal their Most Chilling Halloween Scary Stories & Lore--
Paul Bae, Vera Brosgol, Cullen Bunn, Mike Dougherty, Aaron Mahnke, Terry Miles, Nicolas Pesce and Ti West Unleash their Spookiest Tales
What is so great about this collection of creepy storytellers is that it also includes movie directors, graphic novelists, even podcast creators.

I am posting it here today so you see it now, but I also want it to be a part of the entire Why I Love Horror archive here on the blog.

So check out the Paste post and the Why I Love Horror archive now because over the next three days, you are going to be tested as the hordes of horror hungry readers begin to shamble into your library, desperate for a scary read this weekend.

Friday, October 28, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 28-- Where to Begin?

Where should I start if I want to understand horror? 

This is a question I get all of the time from library workers. First, thank you to those who ask. It means you are trying to serve your patrons better. Well done.

Second, there are two ways to go about it:

  1. You can read ABOUT horror. A great place to start is by reading my book and this blog. In particular, in my book I have a chapter on the appeal of horror and one on the current state of horror fiction. Reading about horror also means reading reviews. Between the annotations in my book and the reviews here on the blog, I have hundreds of titles for you to read about in order to get a sense of the genre. But there are many other places to go.  For example, Academic Librarian and horror fiction expert J T Glover recently had this post on the best places to find critical reviews of horror. All of the sites he lists there are also a great place to begin as you read about horror.
  2. You can try a horror book out for yourself. Now, I know this is not always the best option for every library worker. Many of you have shared your stories of trying to read a horror novel and scaring yourself so badly that it was detrimental to your health. For you, please stick with option 1. However, for the rest of you, many of you have told me you just don’t know where to begin. So I am going to help you get started.
Tor.com has a great series of essays called, Where to Begin. Here they take major speculative fiction authors and explain why people like these authors and break down their major books. [Actually, these essays work for numbers 1 and 2 above.] Currently they have an essay on where to start with Joe Hill, Peter Straub, and even Weird Westerns (which are a hot trend).

In my book, I list the aforementioned Joe Hill and Jonathan Maberry as the reigning kings of horror, so I often also start people with them.  In fact, we talked about where to begin with horror at length in the horror boot camp I led for ARRT back in August. Click here for the notes which also include slide access. There are many great “start with authors” listed there.

But when push comes to shove and someone corners me asking for one book to understand why people want to be scared by a book because they cannot ever imagine liking a book that terrifies them, I tell them to read Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

I have yet to have an unsatisfied customer.

Finally, if you are one of my horror fan, library worker, readers I urge you to use this post as a primer to try out a genre you are scared of. That’s right, you are not off the hook either. Click here for an RA for ALL post about why it is important for all of us to get out there and read something we are scared of.

Back tomorrow and Sunday with a bunch of odds and ends posts leading up to a huge, no holds barred rant prepared to run on Monday-- Halloween. You will want to come back for that.

Party safely this weekend. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 27-- A Horror Loving Librarian in a Non-Horror Loving Town?

Today I am featuring a librarian I met on my travels this fall, Linda B. Adams [bio below]. She is a horror reader and writer who takes her RA responsibilities very seriously.  Below she talks about her love of horror, her feelings about providing the best RA Service to her patrons as possible [regardless of their personal reading preferences], and not assuming that readers aren’t willing to try something new...especially in October.

This piece is short, but packed full of general RA service and great horror authors who are perfect suggestions for public library patrons.

Before we get to Linda, this is a reminder that October is almost over. Halloween will be here in a few short days. Please, I hope you have tried to suggest at least 1 horror book this season or, even better, opened your mind to trying something yourself.

Now here is Linda...

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If, according to T.S. Eliot, April is the cruelest month, October is the coolest month.  At least for me.  As a horror aficionado, it’s the month that fits my soul.  I grew up reading H.P. Lovecraft, Gahan Wilson, and Richard Matheson and graduated into the darkness of Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum.  Always, of course, my reading was seasoned with a healthy dose of Stephen King.

As a reader and writer, it made sense for me to end up working in a library.  As a book lover, one of the best parts of my job is RA.  Clearly my tastes run to the weird, macabre, and horrific.  Even more clearly, that’s not necessarily what my patrons are looking for when they ask for book recommendations.  Still, what we want is the same thing—a book that pulls us in and makes us a different person than who we were before we read that book.  We come to the written word—fiction or nonfiction—for the experience.

Most of the time when I do RA I suggest books that I’ve never read and often don’t plan to.  Because it’s not about me and it’s not about what I’ve read.  What it is about is the business of books, which happens to be the business I’m in.  We ‘sell’ our product best when we give the customer what he or she came in looking for.  And if we do our job right, that person will be a repeat customer.

I work in a library whose adult patronage is not much interested in the horror genre.  However, once in a while I’ll recommend a Robert McCammon or a Joe Lansdale.  And my heart soars.

Now here it is October.  The time when even the most faint-hearted of readers is looking for something that will put some ice in their blood.  As librarians, one of our jobs is to stretch the minds of our patrons.  To help them discover new authors and new worlds.  In October, I can say, “Have you tried Dan Simmons?  Or Simon Clark?  How about Douglas Clegg?”  And then I gently suggest they keep the lights on and the doors locked.

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Linda B. Adams is the Director of the Reading Room Association of Gouverneur, NY and a member of the Horror Writers Association.  When she’s not at the library, she’s usually writing, teaching writing, or reading.  You can find her on Twitter @lindabwriter. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 26: Review of The Sleepless

This is the third and final installment of my series on African Horror. I will end with a review. I hope this is helpful to my primarily Western audience, so that you can see how easy it is to suggest this diverse title to a wide range of horror readers.

Today I have a review of The Sleepless by Nuzo Onoh.  In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive an e-ARC of this title from the author in exchange for an honest review. Here is the plot description via Goodreads:
An innocent boy is lured to his death by the one person that should have protected him. Someone knows the truth about his disappearance; his little sister, Obele, a child that hears a secret voice which tells her terrible things no child should know about. Obele knows too much and must be killed. Her salvation lies in the hands of her new friends, a group of giggling little girls she meets at an abandoned "cursed house." Except their friendship comes with a terrible price. And suddenly, Obele starts to ask herself who exactly...or rather, what exactly are her new friends. Worse, how can she free the tormented ghost of her dead brother, trapped by a witchdoctor's curse? Set amidst the Biafran War, "The Sleepless" follows one child's struggles against both the natural and supernatural forces that threaten to end her life before the deadly enemy bombs can do so. And perhaps, death from the skies is a better option than the terrifying alternative. "The Sleepless" - Another chilling tale about the restless and vengeful dead by the Queen of African Horror, Nuzo Onoh."
The seamless blending of a true life, horrific situation with supernatural “monsters" is the biggest appeal here.  As Onoh writes here, she has lives through the real life horror of the Biafran War and domestic abuse. She draws on her personal experiences with real life horrific events and writes about them with skill; however, it is in how she incorporates the supernatural monsters into the story where this book shines as Horror. The monsters-- real and otherworldly-- bring the fear in equal measures, so much so that as a reader, you start to believe that the supernatural threats are just as real as the human created ones.  As a result, the novel is permeated by an intense sense of dread that never lets up. [This is huge praise for a horror novel for those of you new to the genre.]

Much of this success is the result of Onoh’s ability to capture the place, Africa, and it’s dangers so effortlessly. Yes the woods have wild animals, but they also contain witches, ghosts, and ghouls that can and will insert themselves into the human world. Many writers have grown up in places where this folklore was a part of their every day life [the Southern Gothic tradition is an example], but not all can capture it for the outsider as well as she did here. It took me a while after completing this book to stop looking for witches around every corner.... in the Chicago suburbs! Talk about feeling the fear.

The pacing is also brisk. The novel covers about two years of actual time and a lot happens, but Onoh clearly knew where she wanted this story to go and moves the reader along swiftly, keeping the blood, the fear, and the plot twists coming. You will want to read this book in as few sittings as possible.

The characters here-- both good and evil-- are well developed. In the case of the protagonist this is wonderful, as we easily fall into her plight and want to follow her on her difficult journey. But writing a sympathetic, well developed protagonist is one thing, here Onoh is also able to craft terrifyingly realistic bad guys-- like Obele’s father-- with enough detail that they move beyond stereotype.

I also appreciated learning about the Biafran War by reading this novel. Although I had heard of this  war and knew a few surface details about it, I gained a larger understanding of its importance and devastating influence. So for that reason alone, many readers may want to read this novel.

I do want to mention that this book has two very big limiters-- the obviously mentioned violence against children, but more importantly, the book opens with a visceral scene involving a dead cat. If I have learned nothing else over my 16+ years of working with readers it is that when you kill a cat or a dog, people get angry. So I am passing that info on to help make your hand selling of this title easier.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Intense Dread, Fast Paced, Strong Characters

Readalikes: I already spent the last 2 days, here and here, writing about other African horror authors so I am not going to list any of those readalikes in this post.

Rather, I want to focus on readalikes that are a little more familiar to you.

Here are some books that also feature child narrators and monsters which are seamlessly integrated into  a true horror situation, making the terror feel all the more real:

Here are some other female horror writers who incorporate ancient evil into their terrifying horror novels:
If you are looking for other books that use a real life war as the backdrop to a horror novel, I would suggest:
Finally, if you are interested in a horror writer who draws off of African myths and themes but in a more familiar America setting, you NEED to read the work of Tananarive Due. I wrote about her work here on the blog back in 2011. Personally, I am a big fan of the African Immortals series which begins with My Soul to Keep.