Meli’s Women in Horror Month Book Haul

The amount of money I spend on books is a regular point of contention between me and my husband. Actually, it’s not cash flow he’s concerned about, it’s valuable real estate. Shelf and cabinet space to be precise. While my honey, my sweetheart fills his side of the room with vinyl records, the shelves on my side runneth over with books and they’re starting to creep into his territory. It’s hard for my patient and understanding life partner to understand why I continue to buy books when I haven’t read all the ones I have. After all, it only takes him a half an hour or more to listen to an album. It could take me a couple days, probably more, to read a novel or anthology. Still, I can’t stop buying books.

Yeah, I have an Amazon.com wish list, but what if I can’t–or don’t want–to get the book in question from Amazon? What if it’s published by a small press? What if I later forget that I even wanted it? What if it sells out? I can’t take that chance! That’s why I have to get it while the gettin’ is good. To the chagrin of my husband, one book leads to another in an endless cycle of seek and destroy.

For example, my favorite author may reveal in an interview that he/she is heavily inspired by so-and-so and I got another book to add to my to-read list. Then, I read that book by so-and-so and in the introduction they mention a fellow peer whose work has motivated them to pursue writing seriously (or something like that). I add that to my to-read list. Now, with social networking I have a non-stop influx of recommendations from my favorite authors, readers, publishers, bloggers and even strangers, so I may not be able to finish one book before I’ve got five other titles on my shelf!

I have many titles collecting dust while I continue to buy new books. This is precisely why I started The Dreadful Attic, a review section here at Dreadful Tales that is for the sole purpose of getting those books read!

Even though I’m making a concerted effort to finally read some of the lost and forgotten, I struggle to resist alluring novels, collections (my biggest weakness), and my favorite writer’s new releases. Sometimes books that just have cool cover art.

Women in Horror Month proved an irresistible temptation to that feat. I had the opportunity to interview several women throughout February and of course I had to pick their brains about their favorite writers and personal influences. This elicited a number of additions to my wish list.

Every once in while you get in a slump where everything in the scene kinda feels stale and nothing seems to grab you and demand you take notice. Other times, the times I live for as a horror fiction fan, you have the exhilarating realization that the well was never dry to begin with; you were just tapping the wrong vein. With my shopping cart full and my bank account empty, I felt that rush of excitement for the state of horror fiction this past month and I want to share it with you all!

Beyond is the list of books I purchased before and throughout February, and I’ve included some titles I will buy soon also.

Before WiHM kicked off, I was soliciting genre fans for their favorite female horror writers and it was Ron McKenzie, artist and man of exquisite taste, that first mentioned the name Gina Ranalli, a name new to me. Many people joined in to second, third, and fourth that recommendation and in particular the title House of Fallen Trees. I picked up that book along with Brainfused Colorwheel, just because the title sounds trippy. You can browse Ranalli’s titles here and visit her website here.

I’m on an Elizabeth Massie kick lately and I love vampires. Pre-WiHM I snagged a used copy of The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women edited by Stephen Jones and featuring work by Poppy Z. Brite, Nancy Kilpatrick, Gemma Files, Elizabeth Massie, and a dozen other high caliber writers. I picked this up more for my rabid vampire obsession, weakness for anthologies, and Massie fandom than the celebratory month of February, but a fitting title to include here. Used copies are available rather cheap, you just gotta look around. Visit Elizabeth Massie’s website to follow her work and find out more about the multi-talented author.

There were a few titles I added to my collection as a result of my interview with Maria Alexander. Right about the time I was reading (or just finished) Maria Alexander’s short story contributions to Dark Arts Books 2008 anthology Sins of the Sirens, the preliminary Bram Stoker Award nomination ballot was announced. Included among that bevy of talent is, now officially, Maria Alexander’s poetry collection At Louche Ends, published by Monica S. Kuebler’s Burning Effigy Press. Alexander struck a nerve with me, as did all the Sins writers. I had to have At Louche Ends. So I headed over to the Burning Effigy shoppe to pick it up. I figured there was no point just buying one lone title, so I grabbed Ian Roger’s Black Lands novellas Temporary Monsters, The Ash Angels, and Black-Eyed Kids as well. You can get all Burning Effigy Press titles here. Visit Ian Roger’s website here and Maria Alexander here.

After reading Maria Alexander’s At Louche Ends, I was motivated to introduce more poetry to my diet. Not through a direct recommendation, but perhaps subliminal messaging I recalled Wrath James White’s poetry collection Vicious Romantic, which was also nominated for a Stoker last year. I’m anxious to read the most hardcore horror writer’s take on this format which, interestingly, is in traditional Japanese and Korean formal poetic structures. You can pick up Vicious Romantic here and follow White’s projects on his website Words of Wrath.

Another title I snatched up in an effort to get better acquainted with the poetic form is Rain Graves’ Barfodder: Poetry Written in Dark Bars and Questionable Cafes out from Cemetery Dance Publications. As the title suggests, Graves’ poems were written in the shadowed corners of establishments through her travels and is praised by genre icon Neil Gaiman; Rain Graves writes really nasty poetry. She is a mistress of creating images that stick, the kind that you cannot get out of your mind—not even using steel wool and a small, extremely sharp knife.” Even though this collection was published in early 2009, it’s still available from Cemetery Dance Publications here. You can also check out Rain Graves’ website here.

Another author’s name that came up quite a bit during WiHM was, unsurprisingly, Daphne du Maurier, most famously known for her works adapted by Alfred Hitchcock, like the short story “The Birds.” While browsing the Cemetery Dance website, I came across The Doll: The Lost Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier. This collection includes eight stories originally published in the now out of print Early Stories, and five stories from periodicals published during the 1930s. With du Maurier on the brain, I had to have it. The anthology is currently available from Cemetery Dance Publications here, but this is a one-time only run so get it while you can.

While Sins of the Sirens writer and Bram Stoker Award nominee Maria Alexander has inspired me to expand on my knowledge of poetry, the other Ladies of Sins have sparked my interest in a number of books as well. Loren Rhoads created the magazine of weird true stories Morbid Curiosity and collected her favorite published entries from 10 years as editor in Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues. This anthology of unusual tales includes an entry from fellow Sins writer Mehitobel Wilson, “Thanksgiving at Bel’s.” Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues is morbidly cheap and you can pick that up here. Also, stop by The Daphne du Maurier website for everything du Maurier.

Speaking of Mehitobel Wilson, I am now on the hunt for her short horror fiction collection Dangerous Red. From what I can tell this early in my search is the book, originally published by Necro Publications in the early 2000s, is only available used. Prices don’t look unreasonable ($20 or so on ebay), but I’ll keep searching. If you have a good lead, please give me a heads up! (edit: Dangerous Red is available at Amazon.com here There are typically only 5 copies in stock, so if they’re out check back again later) Get to know more about Mehitobel “Bel” Wilson on her website.

There are a few other authors I’m seeking out and books I want to pick up - suggestions from authors and fans - but those are the titles I have on deck or books that are in transit to my mailbox as we speak!

So, what did you get last month (WiHM-related or otherwise)?

-Meli

Durham DarkLit Fest ’11 – Report from Oshawa

Where: Oshawa Public Libraries McLaughlin Branch
When: December 3, 2011

Colum and I were fortunate enough to be in attendance at the 2nd (hopefully annual) DarkLit Fest, which featured authors from Mystery/Crime, YA (mostly Paranormal) and of course, our beloved Horror genre. Hosted by the unflappable and endlessly smiling Joel A. Sutherland, this event brought together publishers, authors, aspiring authors and one agent. Before I continue, you all know that we here at DT pride ourselves on horror for all ages, thus we’ll only be discussing the Horror and YA events. No disrespect intended to anyone involved in the Mystery/Crime events, just not our thing.

We began the day with the first panel: Terrifying Tropes: The State of Today’s Horror-ific Literary Landscape. Moderated by Enter, Night author and former contributor to Fangoria, Michael Rowe, the dais was rounded out by Dreadfully Approved author and honorary Canadian Gregory Lamberson, Beneath The Surface scribe Simon Strantzas, DarkLit co-organizer and Undertow Publications head Michael Kelly, and author of Things Go Flying, Shari Lapena. Topics discussed included the proliferation of “prime time” monsters, where it was agreed that TV has sterilized zombies and vampires, and even went as far as to say that what’s out there (True Blood, Walking Dead, Twilight) aren’t horror but rather corporate machines that are using monsters as a brand. Other topics included the rise of the small press “renaissance”, indie/self publishing, Christian horror and my personal favourites: zombie and werewolf sex. The audience questions led us through topics like desensitizing, 9/11, the somewhat puritanical attitude of TV, sub genres and a healthy bashing of Stephanie Meyer. Quote of the panel goes to Greg Lamberson: “Team Edward doesn’t care if Twilight is horror.” Other than a bit too much focus on television and Twilight, the debate and insights were an impassioned start to our day. Wanna see for yourself, you know DT has you covered. Look below for the exclusive videos.

We were then treated to brief readings from Greg Lamberson, Shari Lapena, Simon Strantzas (not shown) and ChiZine Publications co-owner Sandra Kasturi. Greg and Simon read from new/upcoming works, while Shari and Sandra read from their existing bibliography. I have to admit that I listened more than I wrote, please watch the videos for the titles and descriptions.

The day rolled into the next panel, one that offered help and insight regardless of genre. Deal Or No Deal: How To Sell Your Writing to Publishers, Editors and Agents was moderated by Sandra Kasturi. Panelists included Burning Effigy Press founder/editor Monica S. Kuebler, Scholastic Canada’s Jennifer MacKinnon, Carolyn Forde from Westwood Creative Artists Literary Agency, and the other half of ChiZine Publications, Brett Alexander Savory. The discussions centralized on best practices of landing an agent or publisher, traditional vs self publishing, the real vs perceived downturn of traditional publishing, roles of agents, the importance of self-marketing, and the absolute worst things authors have done while trying to sell themselves. The audience questions ranged from ebook quality, even more advice about pitching a story and the supreme “don’ts” of pitch letters/sessions. It’s a three-way tie for quote of the panel: from Sandra, “You could get a great indie film, or you could get badger, badger, badger.” From Carolyn (regarding a visitor to her agency) “Turns out he was a mafia informant looking to shake us down.” From Brett (regarding an author he’d met at an event) “He fell in the trash. Not over the trash, in the trash.” I was glued to this one as these folks didn’t hold back, and each one was genuinely happy to help any newbie authors out (of which there were quite a few in the audience). You have to watch this panel if you’re at all interested in publishing. You can do that below.

The day flowed into more readings, this time from Monica S. Kuebler, R.J. Anderson, Erin Bow, Megan Crewe and Alyxandra Harvey. Once again, I listened intently as YA is something I haven’t been familiar with since I was a YA, please allow the videos below to bring you into the experience.

While the next panelists took the stage, Michael Kelly took the opportunity to announce World Fantasy Con would be coming to Richmond Hill (suburb of Toronto) next November. Go here for all the details.

Our panel coverage wrapped up with a discussion geared toward our Kinderscares and slightly “older-scares” crowd. Why YA, Eh? How to Write Books for Children and Teens with Cross-Over Appeal featured moderator and author of Plain Kate, Erin Bow, Ultraviolet scribe R.J. Anderson, Give Up The Ghost author Megan Crewe, The Drake Chronicles‘ writer Alyxandra Harvey and multi-award winning author Richard Scrimger. Topics included reasons for writing YA, issues that arise when characters are put into adult situations, how parents should broach reading with their kids, morals, and the elusive “how does a book cross-over?” The audience asked about books being challenged due to content, sub genres, the cyclical nature of genre popularity, and a hearty dose of gratuity to Harry Potter. Richard Scrimger easily wins quote of the panel with his quip: “Apparently, teaching kids about cougars is too difficult.” He wasn’t referring to the animal. Now you know that you need to watch this.

Wanna know why Richard has won multiple awards? Check out the video of his reading.

That concludes Dreadful Tales’ coverage of DarkLit Fest. A Dreadfully huge “thank you” to Joel A. Sutherland, Michael Kelly, and Ian Rogers for bringing the event to life, and for allowing us the exclusive video privileges. Thank you to all of the authors, publishers, editors, and agent for dedicating yourselves to this, we Dreadfully Salute you. Another huge thank you to Joseph Sansalone and the Oshawa Public Library for letting the creatures of the night invade during the day.

For more information about any of the authors, click their names to be taken to their website.

To keep up with Dreadful Tales, make us your homepage, follow the site through WordPress, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. You can also check out our YouTube page for move videos. To interact with us personally, find us on Twitter: Colum, Shelagh, Meli, Jason.

Burning Effigy’s: An Evening With The Authors

Burning Effigy Press is unabashedly one of our favourite publishers here at DT, so when we found out about this event, we jumped at the chance to attend. This was an evening of wonderful people, conversation, and literature. An Evening with the Authors was an incredibly immersive experience, so please feel free to read the article and watch the video embedded below.

We began the evening as Burning Effigy founder/owner Monica S. Kuebler took the stage and thanked us all for attending, as well as expressing a very sincere gratitude for having made 2011 Burning Effigy’s best year ever. Monica hinted at new releases in 2012 from both Ian Rogers and Tobin Elliott, both of whom were featured performers this evening along with comedian/playwright Jeff Cottrill. Monica then recounted all of the books that B.E. had published in 2011 in chronological order:

THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE – Nate Southard
VANISHING HOPE – Tobin Elliot
AT LOUCHE ENDS – Maria Alexander
GROUCH ON A COUCH – Jeff Cottrill
BLACK EYED KIDS -  Ian Rogers
7 BRAINS – Michael Louis Calvillo

Monica then introduced us to our first author of the night, performing a scene from the hilarious one-man play GROUCH ON A COUCH, Jeff Cottrill. The scene is from the middle of the play, and rather than spoil it, please watch the video below and be on the lookout for my personal favourite scene – trash angels! Also, keep en eye out for a full review on the site in the coming weeks.

Upon completion of the scene, Monica joined Jeff on stage for a Q&A session. We begin with the obvious:

  • Why a play? Jeff has always loved theatre but had an affinity for numbers and was forced into things like math and business, until he admittedly failed himself out of York and begun to live for his passion.
  • What would he do differently? “Don’t listen to shitty advice.” Many people told him what he needed/didn’t need and he ended up getting conned, as a result he’s resolute to listen to his gut.
  • Will he ever do another play? Jeff will definitely write more plays, but is rather hesitant to perform again.
  • What is the backstory to GROUCH? Jeff wanted to mesh Avenue Q with Z Story. He also took elements of his personal life to apply to the character.
  • Current projects? Jeff is currently studying sketch comedy at Second City, where he’s nearly completed the course and will have his sketches performed live. (Please watch the video or listen to the audio for exact dates.)

After a brief intermission, Monica introduced us to VANISHING HOPE scribe, Tobin Elliott. Initially, Tobin hired Monica to edit NO HOPE but, after reading the manuscript, Monica decided that she wanted to publish it. She requested that Elliott write a sort of ‘teaser’ chapbook for quick release, and the author obliged, producing VANISHING HOPE in response. The novel, NO HOPE, will be available sometime in 2012. Tobin thanked Jeff, Ian, DT’s own Colum and Monica for their support. Before the reading, Elliott noted that the cover model lives in Russia and recently reached out to him via Facebook. Her name is Natalie. (Those who’ve not read VANISHING HOPE, the protagonist’s name is Talia.) Tobin’s reading begins on page 39.

After the reading, Tobin is joined by Monica for his Q&A which Monica begins with a burning question:

  • What took so long to break in? Tobin cites a lack of confidence in his work and his unwillingness to admit that he is a writer as his main reason for not pursuing horror fiction sooner.
  • Are there any stories yet to be told? The novel, NO HOPE is still taking shape, and Tobin does have preliminary ideas for a follow up.
  • How did VANISHING HOPE come about? The “squirrel scene” was originally a short story, and he expanded on that.
  • What can we expect from NO HOPE? Set in 1981, there will be new characters, a broader world, and more antagonists. Set in a school, Tobin exorcised some high school demons through the actions of his characters.
  • Why is a child (Talia) the protagonist? Tobin wanted to explore a loss and perversion of innocence, the character of Talia gave him those opportunities.
  • Did any research or medical study go into VANISHING HOPE? Absolutely none, Tobin happily admits that he “faked all of it.”
  • Will Talia be in NO HOPE? Only in cameos.
  • Current projects? Tobin is working on a murder mystery that he was asked to write, and has made one of his characters a writer working on a murder mystery.
  • Other appearances? None in the works, though Tobin will be at Darklit Durham as a fan.

After another brief intermission, Monica once again took the stage to present the final reader. She explained her love of long stories and epic series and the stark contrast between that love of long stories and the admittedly novella-favouring nature of Burning Effigy. When introduced to the Felix Renn series, Monica felt they’d be a perfect addition to the lineup. Ian Rogers then took the stage and read from BLACK EYED KIDS.

Prior to the reading, Rogers paused to explain the back story of Felix Renn and his world. Ian was once asked if the feel of dread in the books were a metaphor for 9-11, to which Ian understands the correlation, but did not write the books for that purpose. Ian then picked up a stack of printed pages, and read an excerpt of a completely new, unpublished Felix Renn story! Watch the exclusive footage of that reading below.

Ian remained onstage while once again Monica moderated the Q&A, which began with:

  • Where did Felix Renn come from? Ian loves to read detective, noir and horror stories, penned by the likes of J. Russell, Robert Parker, Jim Butcher and felt that the genres could meld quite nicely. Ian has coined his genre “supernoirtural”, where supernatural things exist as a matter of fact. Ian also believes that Felix is a “wiseass, like me.”
  • How did you build the world of the Black Land? The world is left very open and in the background, as Ian wanted to avoid over-describing the world and concentrate on plot, character and other fundamentals. Ian stressed that the world needed to be practical in order to maintain a suspension of disbelief.
  • How many Felix stories can there be? Ian noted that he has 3 or 4 novels outlined, and a spinoff brewing for another character. He believes that Felix’s world is centralized in Toronto, which will eventually come to an end, but the spinoff has the potential to go nation-wide.
  • Where else can readers find Felix? The story MY BODY can be found in Chilling Tales, while MIDNIGHT BLONDE will be found in and upcoming edition of British magazine Supernatural Tales. Ian mentioned the upcoming Felix Renn collection to be published by Burning Effigy will have at least 50% new material in order to keep readers sated.
  • From the unpublished story, who is the dead person? The interior decorator, though she’s not dead.
  • Tobin Elliott jumped in with a humourous request that Ian stop copying Tobin. “Kovac” is an integral character name in both BLACK EYED KIDS and VANISHING HOPE (though spelled slightly differently). The covers of both books feature creepy children. Monica chimed in stating that Tobin’s cover came first and the rights to the picture were purchased before Ian submitted his idea. Monica also assured us that Ian enjoys surprising her with plot details, and the initial drafts of both covers were virtually identical.
  • Where else will Ian be? Like Tobin, Ian will be attending Darklit Durham, but as an organizer along with Michael Kelly and founder Joel Sutherland. Ian also has a signing of his weird west novella DEADSTOCK coming up in Peterborough and he will be a guest at Wizard World Con in April.

After the Q&A with Rogers, Monica mentioned that, in addition to new offerings from Ian Rogers and Tobin Elliott, Burning Effigy will be publishing a novella by Gemma files in 2012. She then announced that her YA serial novel, BLEEDER, will begin on January 1, 2012 with the cover and synopsis being revealed exclusively at Dreadful Tales on December 1st. Monica thanked us all for coming, thanked the Black Swan for having us, and the show closed.

Colum and I personally would like to thank Monica S. Kuebler, Ian Rogers, Tobin Elliott and Jeff Cottrill for a wonderful evening, and for chatting with us afterward.

For more on Burning Effigy Press, visit their website and follow them on Twitter. Monica S. Kuebler can be found via Burning Effigy, on her website, and the BLEEDER website.

For more information on the Felix Renn series, visit The Black Lands. Ian Rogers can be found at his website or via Twitter.

Tobin Elliott maintains a blog here, and you may also find him on Twitter.

Jeff Cottrill can be found and contacted via his website, and he also keeps a Twitter account.

To keep up to date with everything Dreadful Tales, bookmark us, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Deadstock by Ian Rogers

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Ian Rogers’ Felix Renn/The Blacklands series, so when I got the opportunity to check out his first foray into Weird West territory (a favorite genre of mine), I jumped at the chance like my life depended on it.

No one knows who or what is killing the cattle at Groom ranch, but Sam Dryden, with his supernatural greenwood gun, and Raisy, with her ‘deck’ of knives, are determined to find out. What they discover is more horrifying that either of them ever dreamed, and the secret may be one that takes them to their grave.

Where Temporary Monsters, The Ash Angels, My Body (a short story), and Black Eyed Kids are supernatural/detective stories told with an old school style, they’re unmistakably modern and steeped in today’s reality. In the case of Deadstock, the narrative is very much a throwback to western fiction where Rogers does away with every bit of modernization completely and instead shoves the reader into a literary time machine, making them feel the terror by the flicker of old west fire light. The back copy says that Deadstock is “Seasoned with a dash of horror and a pinch of sci-fi…” and I couldn’t agree more.

Rogers is in fine form, crafting a tight little story around two of his strongest characters to date. Sam and Raisy are quintessential western heroes hell-bent on righting a wrong in the name of loyalty and familial bonds. The mystery surrounding their back stories is ample enough to warrant full attention, just in case the author may divulge “a little bit more”. Unfortunately the author doesn’t fulfill this unspoken request, and we’re left with what he’s given us. Not that it’s a bad thing, though. Almost as is to make up for the lack of back story, it feels almost as if Deadstock is a set-up for a longer piece, and I for one can fully admit to being more than a little stoked for that prospect.

Proper setting and placement are absolutely essential to the well being of a well crafted Weird West novel. If these things aren’t handled properly, the author stands on the precipice of another genre altogether, namely Steampunk. Rogers handles this task brilliantly and expertly, keeping the realism directly steeped in a properly historical context, and limits himself to that time perios alone. Add the weight of a supernatural element and BAM! what you have in your grubby little hands is one of the best Weird West pieces you’ll ever read.

Not only does Rogers do an excellent job setting the scene, but his two main characters, supporting cast, and his ‘bad guys’ all work together to create one of the biggest teases I’ve come across in a long time. If Deadstock were to become anything, I’d wish that it headed into a series, and not a one-off novel/novella. There’s obviously a lot more to cover in this world, and I have faith that Rogers is up for the task.

Now, as much as my little love fest here is fun, I do have to mention that I felt a little let down by the length of the piece. There’s so much that can be done with this story that I, for one, have been left salivating for more. The prospect of having to wait for a prequel or sequel to this story is harrowing and I know that, once it comes, I’ll be chomping at the bit for it.

I’m a huge fan of Weird West fiction (even though I have a healthy fear of horses), and welcome Rogers to my collection. This is ‘Grade A’ fiction from a phenomenal author, folks. The Weird West genre is lucky to have a new addition to the stable, as Rogers’ attention to detail and original ideas will no doubt help bring more notice to what I think is a treat in the literary world.

C.

Dreadfully Approved: Canadian Writers…

Welcome to the little corner of our library where we keep all of our favorite reads. It’s here you will find the folks who carry the Dreadful Tales stamp of approval – a label we bestow upon some of our favorite dark/horror fiction and non-fiction writers.

Now, keep in mind that these are OUR favorites. You may have your own choices and we encourage you to share your favorites with us in the comments. In fact, it’s that kind of action that will get you noticed, and help your fellow genre fiction fiends find the authors that they may come to cherish.

Take a look around. See if you can find anything you like. Our library is open all day long, come rain or shine. Just make sure to close the door on your way out. Wouldn’t want any of these beasties making their way out into the world…

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