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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What I’m Reading: Indie Picks January Column

Here are my reviews for the January 2018 issue of IndiePicks with added content.  Enjoy.
The flip of the calendar to another year is the perfect time to try something new. Why not start by diversifying your reading choices and give a new genre a try? This month I have some recent collections that offer a horror smorgaboard where readers can pick and chose the terrifying tale that is right for them, whether they are new to horror or long time fans.

How to Sculpt the Scares

Authors ranging from best-selling household names like Stephen King, Loe R. Lansdale and Clive Barker to genre mainstays like Richard Thomas, Lisa Morton and Jonathan Maberry and exciting up and comers like Silvia Moreno-Garcia contribute their advice on writing horror in WHERE NIGHTMARES COME FROM: THE ART OF STORYTELLING IN THE HORROR GENRE. In 28 articles, interviews, and essays, over 30 writers share the secret to their craft- how and why they take harmless words and masterfully string them together into sentences, that build the stories that scare the stuffing out of readers. While some pieces are more technical with advice on topics such as adapting your story to a visual medium or how to create better characters, others are more personal, like award-winning horror poet Stephanie M. Wytovich’s lyrical memoir pondering why she became the writer she is today or Mark Alan Miller’s “Why Horror?” a persuasive argument for the genre’s importance in all of our lives. This book is a must read for writers of any genre because the advice is from authors who have proven their chops both in the number of awards they have garnered and the millions of fans who read their every word. But for readers, fans and newbies alike, there is an even better reason to dive in as these essays and interviews break open the scary shell of horror and reveal its tantalizing secrets, demonstrating exactly why the genre has captivated readers since the dawn of storytelling. WHERE NIGHTMARES COME FROM will keep readers up for many nights to come as they will be frantically searching for more-- a book, two, or 10 by the authors who have contributed here.

Three Words That Describe This Book: genre secrets, essays, writers on writing

Readalikes: As I mentioned above, you can read the works of the authors included here, but there is an entire body of literature of writers on writing if that is something you are interested in. Here is a crowd sourced list of those books [in all areas] via Goodreads and for horror, here is a link to my posts on the horrorblog catgeorized as “Why I Love Horror” which features authors and library workers sharing their love for the genre.

Female Voiced Fears

Women writers, once noticeably left out of the horror conversation, are no longer lukring in the genre shadows, rather they are front and center, writing some of the most interesting and enjoyable tales of terror, tales that use the horrors, torment, and violence faced by women as they navigate a male driven world as their inspiration and emotional center. Damien Angelica Walters’ second story collection CRY YOUR WAY HOME is the perfect example. Featuring 17 stories like “Tongue, Tooth, Claw” which take fairy tales and twist them, blatantly acknowledging the violence towards women at the center of these “children's’” fables and deliver a satisfyingly dark twist at the end, and the engrossing and timely comment on rape culture in, “The Floating Girls: a Documentary” which looks back on an evening, twelve years before when 300,000 girls between 11 and 17 vanished- all over the world. This is a collection that is beautifully written, hauntingly realistic, and terrifyingly thought provoking. However, not to be outdone, newcomer
Kristi DeMeester’s first story collection EVERYTHING THAT’S UNDERNEATH takes the darkness and the weird a few steps beyond what Walter’s provides crafting nightmarish scenarios that draw readers in-- often so far as to feel like they are involved in the action, even somehow responsible for its horrifying twists, and then abruptly drop them at the tale’s conclusion, reeling, disoriented, and frightened, but also, reaching to turn the page to do it all over again. These are intense stories of body horror, abuse, and terrifying violence that will universally resonante with a wide range of readers despite their genre preferences. Either collection would make a wonderful suggestion to readers who found Carmen Maria Muchado’s stories in HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES after her National Book Award nomination and are now hungry for more raw, feminist driven horror.

Further Appeal: The hottest trend in horror right now is how awesome the work is by female horror authors. Best showcased in a National Book Award Nomination for Muchado mentioned above, but it is more than just her. I talked about this trend at more length here.

Also, both are from Apex Publications. I highly recommend their catalog of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Most of their titles seem to blur genre lines which is PERFECT for library collections. Also they put together a solid product that can stand up to multiple checkouts.

Three Words That Describe These Books: feminist horror, disorienting, twists

Readalikes: Other books I would suggest as similar to Walters and DeMeester [besides Muchado] are Emily Canteneo, Seanan McGuire, and Kelly Link.
Hardboiled Horror

Horror has never been a stagnant genre. It’s speculative tropes and terrifying tone have been blended with every genre, and in the anthology, HARDBOILED HORROR, New York Times best-selling author and editor Jonathan Maberry illustrates how the traditional PI novel can be livened up when you add a dash of monsters, mayhem, and even a little life after death to the mystery. The 15 authors included are veterans of both the horror and crime genres, such as Josh Malerman, Seanan Maguire, Max Allan Collins and Heather Graham. While their stories have a range of fears from merely creepy to hide your book in the freezer, they are all firmly grounded within the rules of the mystery presenting an investigator, a murder, and the puzzle of whodunnit. Readers may be familiar with the characters in Lois H. Gresh’s “Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Pin-Pricked Corpse,” in which the famed detective may have met his supernatural match; or Kevin J Anderson’s “Head Case,” which features his popular zombie PI, Dan Shamble. Other entries include“Sleep Debt,” by novelist Jacopo della Quercia, featuring a PI who solves crimes in his sleep, and “GasLight: Tampa Bay” by Nancy Holder an incredibly creepy and atmospheric tale set in Ybor City, the Cuban community in Tampa with a its own rich history and monsters. HARDBOILED HORROR is a great introduction to the chills and thrills of horror wrapped up in a well-tread PI package, making it a good starting place for those brave enough to give horror a try in 2018.

Further Appeal: I cannot stress enough now much this collection must be added to most public libraries. Not only are there hugely popular authors included, but these stories are good and so much fun. JournalStone is a larger small press so you can order this book easily through regular channels. And it is so easy to book talk- the title alone does it for you. Library patrons will LOVE this book.

Three Words That Describe This Book: mystery-horror blend, fun, surprising

Readalikes: This is done for you-- 15 authors to explore further if you are interested.

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