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 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 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)?


Suicide Girls in the Afterlife by Gina Ranalli

Where do we go when we die?  Is there a heaven?  Will there be a ferocious battle between good and evil that will determine the fate of our soul? We have all asked ourselves these questions during our most intimate bouts of self reflection and I’m sure we have assumed that no one will ever get the desired answers to these very important queries. Well, Gina Ranalli is here and she has given us all of the answers in her novella, Suicide Girls in the Afterlife.  When we die, we will end up in a hotel inhabited by singing pies, aliens providing room service and an elevator with a mind of its own.


What if you killed yourself and discovered that the “Afterlife” might actually suck? Pogue Eldridge is a woman who does just that, and she starts to realize that this Afterlife stuff isn’t at all what she expected.

Ranalli crafts a tale with a very unique interpretation of the afterlife.  In Ranalli’s world the recently deceased occupy a hotel where the lower floors are reserved for the “seedier” members of society and the lofts are dedicated to the morally wholesome.  It is a very interesting take on the age old question of, “Where do we go when we die?”. Ranalli is even able to slip in some social commentary where she discusses the intrinsic connection between wealth and perceived morality.  Hell, Ranalli even has a very fresh take on God’s only son and the Prince of Darkness.  See, Jesus is a carefree stoner who would prefer playing video games to saving souls and Satan is a whiny little Goth who is a tad bit too sensitive.  Together, these two characters provide the bulk of the laughs and originality found within the story as they attempt to guide the wayward souls to their preordained destination.  These extremely strong and undeniably unique characters are the strongest aspect of Suicide Girls in the Afterlife which is good because the story, although extremely inventive, tends to lose some steam as the book progresses.

The story is fun and cute and whimsical but it is also a bit anti-climatic.  There is a misconception with bizarro- people think that the genre exists as a vehicle for authors to indulge in the weird with little regard for literary conventions.  This is not the case at all.  One could argue that bizarro authors have to work well within the confines of traditional literary trappings because their settings and situations tend to be so outlandish.  In order for a bizarro piece to be successful it must be comprised of  well defined characters and an incredibly tight plot . Unfortunately Ranalli’s story comes up just a little short in the second act.  Sure, it was original but once all of these interesting characters arrived at the hotel things got, well, a little stagnant.  Luckily for the reader, the strength of this novel lies in the characters and they are vibrant enough to propel the audience through any lulls that may arise in the story. 

The other aspect of Ranalli’s story that really stood out was the small smattering of grotesque horror she included in this otherwise  innocent tale. Amidst the character banter and bizarre situations, Ranalli sporadically intersperses some truly horrific and unsettling images that will leave your mouth agape.  Let me give you this example: the main characters are trying to escape the dung demons (yes they are exactly what the name would suggest) and they seek sanctuary in an unlocked hotel room.  In this particular room there are dozens of bloodied baby limbs strewn about and in the middle of the gore is a man.  This man is making some truly unsettling noises while he violates the decapitated head of an infant in the most disturbing way possible.  These quick images of horror keep the reader completely on edge and make the overall impact of the novella that much more powerful.

This is a book that certainly will be enjoyed by veterans of the bizarro genre as it contains many of the classic elements that we, as lovers of all things bizzaro, have come to expect and embrace from the genre.  With that said, if you are looking for a nice introduction to the genre and are a fan of well established characters, well, Suicide Girls in the Afterlife might just be the book for you.