Merry Axemas from Meli!

christmas tales wallpaper

Merry Axemas! Well, perhaps I’m jumping the gun a bit, but I’m definitely in the Christmas spirit. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. In fact, I think I like it even more than (gasp) Halloween. It’s not just the shiny objects, sparkles, lights, cute little animals in Santa hats, and all the sweets people bring to work that I love; it’s the chance to reconnect with friends and family I haven’t seen all year. Of course, along with all the warm hot chocolate (or more likely eggnog) and cookies comes stress. For those who will be traveling like me, you have the headache of navigating through potentially dangerous weather conditions. Then there is the most nerve-racking part of the whole damn holiday, shopping! What the hell do you get for the mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa that have everything? What about your football loving brother-in-law? Do you get him gear marked by the logo of his favorite team, again? Or some cologne since he kinda smells funny? Well, I’m sorry, but I can’t help you with that. What I can do is tip you off to some lil’ goodies you can treat yourself to that will help eliminate some of that shopping stress. Isn’t rewarding yourself for navigating through crowds of evil shoppers to make your family and friends happy part of the fun of Christmas shopping anyway?

I’m going to break this out into a few different categories. While a horror fan is a horror fan, we are complicated people so I tried to include something nice (and maybe even something naughty) for everyone. Enjoy! Continue reading

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Meli & Jason Discuss ZIPPERED FLESH

As most of you probably know, we launched the Dreadful Tales Book of the Month Club, a book club for macabre maniacs hosted by The Mortuary, this past April with a reading of Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad!. This short story anthology was initially on my radar because it included “Paraphilia” by one of my favorite authors, Lisa Mannetti, but it turned out to be a perfect collection for a horror book club, wonderfully morbid with widely diverse content. Zippered Flesh, edited by Weldon Burge and published by Smart Rhino Publications, contains 20 short stories by genre veterans and relative unknowns, but all share one common theme: (as you may have guessed) body enhancements.

Undoubtedly, each reader has their own expectation of what constitutes body enhancement and how that will be presented in Zippered Flesh, but you will find there are more imaginative horrors to body modification than strangely placed tattoos, piercings, or plastic surgery for wannabe Barbies.

One woman tries to become the ultimate sex object in Graham Masterton’s aptly titled “Sex Object.” Don’t be fooled though, this story isn’t concerned with ridiculously large breast implants or liposuction; rather we are introduced to a doctor that “used his surgical genius to create such erotic aberrations…”

There are historical pieces, like the deadly delights on the high seas in Elliot Capon’s “By Hook” and P.I. Barrington’s “Independence Day.” A couple stories present frighteningly realistic psychopaths while others still exist in the supernatural realm of our darkest fantasies.

Zippered Flesh features psychological drama with an unbelievable twist like Charles Colyott’s “Comfort;” straight science fiction, for example in “Unplugged” by Adrienne Jones; and future worlds offering body modification to unbelievable extremes like Jonathan Templar’s darkly humorous “Marvin’s Angry Angel.” This is a truly exceptional collection of stories sure to hit the hot spot of any horror fiction fan. Almost every tale is burned into my memory and with 20 entries that is phenomenal.

I could go on and on about how wonderful this collection is, and I do along with Jason Darrick in our Zippered Flesh podchat.

Be warned, there could be cursing, bad grammar, mispronunciation of author names and just regular English words! Please send all hate mail or complaints to the head of our complaint department, Jason Darrick. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook. Direct all compliments to the head of the compliment department, me (Meli)! You can post praise and romantic flourishes here or here. We can also be reached at dreadfultales AT gmail DOT com.

Enjoy!

(If you are interested in joining the book club, we are currently wrapping up Greg Lamberson’s zombie road novella Carnage Road. This is a short one, so a great time to start. We’re discussing the book here.)  

Meli Interviews Horror Author Lisa Mannetti

Here it is, dear fiends, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the Dreadful Tales interview with Bram Stoker Award-winning author Lisa Mannetti! You wouldn’t believe the trouble Mannetti had trying to get this to us. The ghosts in her computer and Kindle Fire made it nearly impossible for her to relax on what was supposed to be a hassle-free retreat. After many hours of pain, anguish, hair-pulling, and tech support, Mannetti was finally able to respond to our questions. And boy did she ever, folks! As you will find in the interview below, Mannetti is quite thorough with her answers and revealing in the origins of her passion for writing, reading, and life! She was as dedicated answering our interview questions as she is in her fictional writing. It was a great pleasure to have this opportunity and I hope you all enjoy the interview as much as I do!

DT: Hello Lisa,
The weather was gorgeous here today! Hope you enjoyed the same.
Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview.
Let me know if you have any questions about what I am trying to ask,
sometimes I don’t make sense and have trouble getting to the point!
OK, let’s get to it.

MANNETTI: Thanks for asking me to participate in the WIHM series and let me just add, that as I am typing this, (at six a.m.) it’s a balmy (ahem) 24 degrees here in Springfield, MA where I’m visiting the talented Corrine De Winter—one of my great friends and favorite writers! Corrine won the Stoker a few years back (poetry) and she has a few books coming out shortly (short stories, graphic novel and novel) and I hope you two cool chicks have a chance to meet in cyberspace! Onward to the questions and my hopefully intelligible responses!

DT: Can you tell us a bit about your writing career? Did you always know you wanted to be a professional writer or did that come later?

MANNETTI: I was a voracious reader as a child and I had two “Aha!” moments when I was 8: the first involved a teacher who was reading the opening to Dickens’ Great Expectations, and our assignment was to tell what we thought came next in the story. I don’t remember what I wrote, but weirdly I somehow intuited the convict’s name was Magwitch. At any rate, my teacher read my “conclusion” out loud to the rest of the class.

In the second instance, (same year) I had been having night terrors and was pretty much driving my parents insane because (never one to keep quiet and suffer alone in the dark) I was waking them to explain the graphic details of each and every lurid nightmare each and every single night. A few weeks into this routine, they were not only sleep-deprived but, since my mother was a public health director, ready to send me to a psychiatrist—preferably one located, I’m sure, in some remote corner of the country so they could process the horrors my perfervid little brain was churning up at a distance and from the fresher perspective of an actual night’s sleep. (I always envisioned them reading the shrink’s reports at breakfast time, surrounded by coffee and sunlight, able to deal with my crises—much like people in the New Yorker cartoons who digest catastrophic events and mutter stunning quips from around the edges of the morning paper. It was a lot easier, I figured, to deal with atomic bombs and nervous breakdowns after the caffeine has been ingested and the orange juice poured.) Anyhow, just before this “last resort” was implemented, I wrote a short story in which the child heroine—in a less than startling denouement—reveals that actual monsters are not invading her room: instead, the kid reasons when Mom comes in to kiss her good night, it triggers nightmares of vampires bending over the bed and pouncing. Eureka! Thousands of dollars are saved; all proximate Mannetti family members are now deliriously happy and sighing with relief because the first night my mother skipped the June Cleaver act, I slept like a felled ox.

Actually, once they all turned in their insomniacs anonymous cards, not only was no one coming in to kiss me goodnight, they wouldn’t have tossed a teacup of cold spit against the door if my room was on fire. It’s hard to maintain a sunny disposition—or even one that’s acceptably surly—subsisting on eight hours sleep–a week.

Anyway, since I was blissfully unaware of the whole episode (that is, I didn’t know my mother was coming in to kiss me while I was asleep and I didn’t remember waking up every night) the “Aha!” moment for me was when my mother read the story out loud. My parents were decidedly not of the ilk who believe their kids need to be praised and coddled into being prodigies–they were more the kind who believed deflating egos was crucial and that children regularly need to be reminded just how many hideous faults they possess and worse, inflict on others; so when she read that story to my Dad, and I understood that unconsciously I solved the problem through writing, I knew that was what I wanted to be: A person who tortures others by sharing the misery of their horrifying dreams.

Speaking of which, I had a doozy last night, replete with lots of shouts and screams…you see, there was this strange police state, and the authorities were constantly using some kind of tracking device on kids and when they found the dear little innocents hiding, they took these menacing steel pliers and sharp-nosed pincers and pulled off bits of flesh and…

DT: Horror is a really broad term considering all the flavors of the genre. What is your preferred taste and why?

MANNETTI: I really have only one mandate: good, solid writing.

DT: DEATHWATCH was my first introduction to your work and I was instantly hooked. The companion novellas, Dissolution and The Sheila Na Gig, are dark, atmospheric, and psychologically haunting. What was the inspiration for these stories? Can you explain how they developed?

MANNETTI: As I recall, The Sheila Na Gig, started out as another work, but turned into what it is…the first scene I wrote was the sexual encounter between Tom and what he thinks is his beloved; except somehow I knew that wasn’t the opening…crazy as it sounds, when I “saw” the image of the milk dripping from Rose’s face, the book clicked. With Dissolution, I heard the opening in my head and I heard Stuart’s voice and just started writing. As the book developed I realized I owed a great deal thematically to Peter Straub and Edith Wharton regarding the isolating effects of harsh winters—a concept I’m still really caught up in.

DT: Both novellas included shocking erotic interludes, especially those between the doctor Stuart Granville and the young Siamese twins in Dissolution. How do you determine how far you will take scenes that deal with sexual content, especially of a sensitive nature?

MANNETTI: Boy, these are really hard questions, Meli…anyhow, I was worried with both novellas that the material was not only horrific and shocking, but too much. However, when I wrote them I was working just for myself (sometimes the best way a writer can work, I think) without regard to who might be put off, or whether they’d actually even be published, and with that little mental masquerade in the forefront, I just went for it.

DT: What do you think are fears people have that transcend time? What do you think are fears that are dormant, waiting to be reawakened? (Things we used to be afraid of, but perhaps aren’t so much anymore). In DEATHWATCH, I felt there was a combination of universal, timeless fears, but also fear we may have forgotten (like old medical experimentation). Was it your intention to blend the two?

MANNETTI: I think all fear is essentially related to the dissolution of self—though it comes in many guises; for example, the fear of abandonment (which leaves a shattered self that is too weak to stand alone); the fear of disfigurement (the self is unrecognizable and alien and possibly repugnant to others); or, say the fear of losing one’s job, status or home (the underpinnings of ego have been kicked aside leaving a self that has no sense of continuity)…well, you get the idea, the individual can no longer maintain control or a semblance of order, or the ‘fitness’ of things. Death, of course, is the ultimate destruction of self. We really can’t imagine we’ll no longer exist.

I’ve just mentioned a few fears, but really all of them can be seen (or reduced, if you prefer) to an obliteration of the self (which is mostly an imaginary construct) that we carry inside ourselves. From that perspective, terrors lurk everywhere and at all times.

While it’s true that situation gives rise to greater or lesser anxieties (I’m not, say, overly worried about being tossed into a pit with lions even though I’ve been baptized; I feel pretty sure I won’t  die of smallpox or in a caving accident—on the other hand, I could drown while vacationing on a cruise or from an infection—or (to play devil’s advocate—be an unlucky loser in the gardasil lottery or succumb to the havoc wreaked by tainted vaccines or recalled surgical implants….(And you thought medical experimentation was moribund…wink wink wink.)

DT: Your debut novel, THE GENTLING BOX, was a Bram Stoker Award-winner. Following that, “Dissolution” garnered a Bram Stoker nomination. That’s a pretty great start for any writer’s career and I’ve no doubt it was exciting, intoxicating, surreal, and all that. What was another moment where you remember thinking “THIS is why I write!”?

MANNETTI: That truly was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life, the culmination of a year’s work that was a madly joyous carousel ride. Conversely, if I’m not writing I feel deflated. Writing can be a tough slog like any other job—and there are good days and bad days and one just pushes through—but I’m not sure most writers really have a choice; they have to write. But on days when you’re flying along and you feel you’re there and not there and the words seem to reel themselves out and even without thinking about it you just know the writing is spot on—those days create their own special niches in your memory and for me, sum up the why of my writing.

DT: One of your short stories was also features in a free web anthology from the Italion Il Posto Nero Web Magazine. Do you speak Italian? Are you networking on some Italian horror enthusiast’s message board? How did these people find you!?

MANNETTI: Last spring I had a lovely surprise when Alessandro Manzetti contacted me on Facebook and asked if he could do a profile. He mentioned that other authors who he’d previously featured included Dan Keohane, Brian Keene and Michael Laimo; after that he asked if I’d contribute a story to a few of his webzines and as well as some e-publications. “Everybody Wins” which came out a few years ago and was made into a short film directed by Paul Leyden was translated (“Vincono Tutti”) for the dark webzine, Mama Brigitte. Subsequently Alessandro became the liason for the HWA in Italy and Il Posto Nero became the official Italian HWA blog. He’s been a huge supporter of my work and he’s fantastic to work with. I do speak Italian–but not well—so luckily for me Alessandro’s English is perfect.

DT: THE GENTLING BOX will be released in Italian this year. How did that come about? Where can your Italian fans find the release when it comes out?

MANNETTI: Toward the end of the summer, Alessandro approached me about the possibility that Edizioni XII might be interested in publishing The Gentling Box in Italian….much to my delight, they accepted the book and it will be out in 2012. Alessandro stepped into the role of publicizing it and introduced me to my wonderful Italian publisher, Daniele Bonfanti, and my truly incredibly talented translator, Luigi Musolino…it’s been a long-held dream of mine to have my work published in Italy for a couple of reasons. I have relatives who live there and also, I lived in Venice for 4 months (January to May 2000). I feel very alive when I’m there and for me, it’s a special place—and I was thrilled when Alessandro published my short story, “Castello, 985” which I wrote while living in Venice in the free-book, Arkana. At any rate, I hope when the book is released there, I’ll be going over to do signings and visit family and do a little sight-seeing. I’m really excited about this and can’t thank Alessandro, Daniele and Gigi, enough!

DT: I recently reviewed THE NEW ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER AND HUCK FINN. This is quite a departure from your horror fare. It’s more fantasy, but also a heart-warming tale of friendship at the core. Your respect and admiration for Mark Twain and love for the Tom and Huck characters is palpable in your writing. How did you prepare for the story? Did you re-read your favorite Twain novels? Did you keep his books close at hand?

MANNETTI: I had voice mail back then that allowed you to ramble on for a pretty good amount of time when you recorded your outgoing message; that turned into 90 second playlets featuring the voice (ostensibly) of my cat, Tom Sawyer, narrating the latest harum-scarum hijinks (which I concocted) he and Huck were perpetrating. I had to change the messages regularly (or friends complained) and honestly, solicitors would call…hang up…then call again and I’d get these messages, “Hello this is Bob Smith from Worldwide Insurance and I’m sorry to bother you, but I had to let my colleagues hear this…” and on the voice mail, you’d hear a whole office full of people laughing. The good part was, they never bothered trying to sell me insurance…So, I had the smartest cat in the world, Tom Sawyer and his sweet-natured brother, Huck Finn, right on hand, so to speak, and I was always re-reading Twain and one day a book just naturally erupted….and to tell the truth, it was the easiest book I’ve ever written, but the worst in terms of copy-editing with all those apostrophes and dialects—which is why even Mark Twain gave up and made William Dean Howells correct his manuscript.

DT: Even though I wouldn’t categorize THE NEW ADVENTURES… as horror, there were a few very graphic and horrific bits that might not be suitable for children. Luckily, a YA version is coming out in just a month and a half. What kind of changes, without giving too much away, were made for this version?

MANNETTI: Mainly I just cut down the rough parts and as you would imagine scaled down anything iffy for teenagers…it’s a tough call because that kind of thing always shifts—remember in ET when (then) five-year-old Drew Barrymore called her brother “penis-breath.” As I recall, Spielberg wanted the PG rating, because he thought adults would give the film a miss if it was G-rated.

DT: I don’t want to press my luck, because I’ve asked you this a couple times, but I’m gonna take a chance! Will Tom and Huck make a comeback soon?? I really miss those rambunctious little bastards! I bought a copy for my grandma for Christmas. She had twin black cats (before one passed away), she’s a cat lover, and she’s obsessed with ghost stories. While this isn’t a ghost story necessarily, I knew she would enjoy the supernatural elements. She read the story in one day!

Can you bring ’em back for grandma?? No pressure *wink*

MANNETTI: I’d love to return to this book and my beloved Tom and Huck at some point—and now that I have a couple more twinnies—Harry and Theo Houdini who are black mischief makers, they might show up, too…but I have two books to write before that happens…let’s hope all goes smoothly and the further adventures comes to light soon.

DT: THE NEW ADVENTURES… won’t be the first YA novel on your resume. As a horror fan, I am guilty of tunnel vision when it comes to my favorite writers, only focusing on their genre titles. So, I was surprised when I came across IRAN AND IRAQ: NATIONS AT WAR. What was the impetus behind writing that book? And why did you aim it towards grade 7 and up specifically?

MANNETTI: I don’t know what it says about the book on Amazon now (and by the way it was selected as one of the Child Associations Books of the year back then) but it was actually sold to high school libraries and intended for Advance Placement courses (the ones where kids earn college credits); there was nothing out there at all about Iran and Iraq and I was hired by an editor at Franklin Watts to write that book specifically (and paid well, too, I might add) along with a book (for a much younger grade school audience,) called Equality.

DT: You announced the start of your next novel, THE HUNGER ARTIST, recently via Facebook. Even though you made no confirmation of the release date, I quickly included it as one of Dreadful Tale’s most anticipated titles of 2012. Can you share any details about the book with us?

MANNETTI: I’m still researching, (not that I’ll really stop because I often research on the fly as I write, too) so I haven’t chosen the point of view, the setting, or the time period yet, but the background story is based on true events. Two wealthy young women at the turn of the century were hoodwinked by a woman who was an osteopath and a ‘licensed fasting specialist’ in Washington state. She killed lots of her patients, but these sisters were especially vulnerable and the woman clearly intended to rob them of their valuables, their properties. She essentially held them prisoner, but worst of all was how she manipulated them and those around her. Heartrending and horrific. Right up my alley, in other words.

Just to keep in mind how this kind of transition from real life to fiction is done, I’ve also been rereading books about the Indiana torture murders which Jack Ketchum turned into the brilliant The Girl Next Door, and the Pam Smart case, which Joyce Maynard re-imagined so magnificently in To Die For. So, I’ve set some pretty high standards for myself and am really hoping to be equal to the task. But just thinking about it gets me all fluttery and I feel that excited nervous tick behind my sternum and that’s a good sign.

DT: OK, last one. Vincent Price has invited you to the House on Haunted Hill and he wants you to pick the other 4 guests. Who do you pick and why?

MANNETTI: First I have to tell you that I watched this movie on TV as a kid and it scared me so much, I actually developed a fever….so it’s one of my all time faves and it’s a great question.

  1. Shirley Jackson—because she wrote one of the greatest haunted house stories of all time and since this film is definitely part of her legacy, I’d like to see what she’d do to change the course of events that Loren (Vincent Price) set in motion.
  2. Alfred Hitchcock so he can film the evening in black and white, edit it, and talk about the effectiveness of Psycho and what he’d change if he were remaking it so that modern audiences would be as terrified as those who watched it back in 1960.
  3. Vlad the Impaler—because I’d like to ask him what he makes of all the vampire myths and find out where he thinks real modern vampires are hanging out these days. Plus as Tom Sawyer would say, he’d probably liven things up noble good and bring a lot of gaudy execution-ware.
  4. Lizzie Borden—why settle for tricks and games (like those in the film) when you can have the real thing? Between Lizzie and Vlad they could keep any pesky ancillary personnel or curiosity seekers under control so the rest of us-serious minded types aren’t bombarded with whining and annoyances like gunshots and cold breakfasts.

In case you haven’t bookmarked Mannetti’s virtual haunts yet, be sure to add her Facebook, Twitter, author website, and The Chancery House webpage to follow everything the author is up to!

-Meli

Modern Marvel: Feature with Horror Author / Confectioner Lisa Mannetti

This is our second Modern Marvel feature this week, but I haven’t really explained what that means. I’ve declared women, like Elizabeth Massie, Modern Marvels because they are the best horror fiction writers in the genre right now. Keep in mind, I won’t be able to feature every Modern Marvel, I just picked my favorites. Modern Marvels create macabre lit of the highest caliber, but they also exhibit talents in other genres and often outside the world of writing altogether. Although Lisa Mannetti got her first Bram Stoker Award just a few years ago, her resume continues to grow rapidly, and each book has the staying power of a classic. Her writing talents aren’t isolated to horror either. Mannetti delves into supernatural fantasy, black humor, and even non-fiction educational books (at least one that I know of), so she fits in nicely here.

Mannetti shares a few commonalities with our Monday Modern Marvel feature, Elizabeth Massie. You can find both ladies in the phonebook under “Ma.” They each garnered a Bram Stoker Award for debut novel. Both have a sweet disposition that rivals the graphic violence and horrific content often displayed in their books – to look at them you would never think they write some of the most cutting edge *gasp* horror novels today. And both women have a varied and complicated catalogue, not always isolated to our beloved genre.

I have to give props to horror author and filmmaker Greg Lamberson for introducing me to Lisa Mannetti. He popped into the Rue Morgue Mortuary’s Grim Readers thread – once a horror fiction fan’s paradise – to tell members that Lisa Mannetti’s Deathwatch was coming out soon and we all had to read it. By this point, Mannetti had already acquired a Bram Stoker Award for The Gentling Box, so she was hardly obscure. Not surprisingly, I had missed that title. As I mentioned before, I always struggle to keep up with what the cool kids are reading.

I was a burgeoning Lamberson fan and had bantered back and forth with him on the board, so I trusted his opinion and knew he wouldn’t lead me astray. I set off on my journey into the mind of a mani…er, I mean, the mind of Mannetti with Deathwatch in hand and it was a disturbing, often uncomfortable trip – uncomfortable in the sense that Mannetti took me outside my comfort zone and this is a quality I crave from writers. I love to be shocked by a book and surprised by my own sensibilities.

What I expected to be a quiet horror was actually quite the opposite. Deathwatch collects two companion novellas, “The Sheila Na Gig” and “Dissolution,” the latter nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in the long fiction category in 2010. Both stories are distinct in tone, but share similar themes; psychological terror and sexual perversions that really get under the reader’s skin. She leaves a breadcrumb trail that cleverly leads outside the realm of normality and into the supernatural.

“Dissolution” was my personal favorite of the two, although “The Sheila Na Gig” was equally horrifying. The former takes the reader back to a time of horse and buggy, crude medical practices, and the desperate isolation of one tragic family. I think Lamberson was spot on when he said “Lisa Mannetti’s evocative prose is at once romantic and terrifying.” That describes both stories quite perfectly.

Mannetti is quite skilled at weaving intricate details into her stories to draw the reader in without bogging down the pace. The Gentling Box is another great example of her ability to bring an unknown world to life for the reader. Mannetti ensures she has tight footing on the historical context of her story and this plays an important role in its believability. Set in the 1860s and following a gypsy family through a terrifying and possessive grip of evil, every little detail is essential. Here’s the full synopsis:

The philosophies of the Age of Enlightenment create sweeping changes throughout 19th Century Europe, but to Hungary’s despised nomads, the gypsies, the world is still a dark and very dangerous landscape. Adversaries both mortal and supernatural lurk in the shadows, waiting to strike without mercy. Imre, a half-gypsy horse trader, understands the danger to his small family all too well.

Cursed with a hideously-disfiguring and fatal disease by the vengeful sorceress Anyeta, he watches those around him suffer and fall. Mimi, his wife, who is tricked into cutting off her own arm to create a powerful talisman. His friend Constantin, struck mute by Anyeta’s wrath. And Lenore, his and Mimi’s young daughter, who has been placed in the greatest jeopardy of all. With his health deteriorating and death imminent, his wife possessed by the witch’s ghost and Lenore being groomed for a fate far worse than death, Imre turns to desperate measures and a hellish memory from his childhood—to still the sorceress and end her reign of bloodshed. A presence even more powerful and terrifying to him than Anyeta: the gentling box.

Mannetti’s books aren’t popcorn horror, the kind of fast-paced novel you devour like a late night movie snack. Her stories are to be savored, digested with a nice glass of dry red, and pondered long after the taste has faded from your palate. I remember when I first read Deathwatch, I considered it “smart horror,” but it turns out there’s actually a word for that style – “literary horror.” I’m sure you already knew that, but I once commented at a wine tasting that my sample had a woody flavor only to find out that’s what you call “oaky,” so please forgive my ignorance. Anyway, if you want to hear Mannetti expound on what the “literary horror” classification means to her, there is an interesting interview on helluo librorum that is quite illuminating.

Mannetti has carved her own little niche in the genre and made herself quite at home. Her “smart horror,” “literary horror,” or whatever you want to call it is intelligently written and at the same time accessible. Her background in 18th and 19th century literature is apparent. Actually, I should say I’m not surprised she has a background in literature of that period because I probably would not have made that connection myself. Regardless, she uses her extensive knowledge of the written word to build an elaborate landscape unbound by the shackles of the present. She has the ability to take the reader anywhere she wants.

She shares an important characteristic with an old splatterpunk favorite, Richard Laymon; she boasts strong readability. Everyone here at Dreadful Tales, and the horror fiction fans in my extended reading circles, love Mannetti! I mention Laymon in the same breath because it seems like Laymon fans especially – people who will read Laymon exclusively for months on end – are particularly fond of this writer and it’s not hard to see why.

When discussing the meaning of “literary horror” with helluo librorum, Mannetti said “…the best “literary” works incorporate popular appeal and intellectual and emotional grace notes.” And I believe she has accomplished that fete in her own work.

While Deathwatch and The Gentling Box are dramatic horror tales, Mannetti has a couple stories in which she indulges her dark sense of humor.

For a taste of Mannetti’s black humor, check out 51   Fiendish Ways to Leave Your Lover. This Bad Moon Books release has illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne and the best tagline, “Revenge is the best revenge.”

Just released this past summer, The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn also shows a warm and humorous side to Mannetti’s writing. I recently reviewed The New Adventures… and I can’t praise it enough. Anyone who loves cats, Mark Twain, or both has to read this book! It’s a heart-warming tale of whimsy following Tom and Huck with Tom narrating. They are reincarnated as cat familiars to witch and get themselves into all sorts of trouble, just as they did in the famous Twain novels. There’s plenty of laughs and a few good scares in what is a true love letter to Mannetti’s own beloved favorite, Mark Twain. She still sneaks in a couple morbid parts to the story, but cut out a couple R rated bits and this is fit for reading to the kids. In fact, a YA version will be published in about a month or so. Dreadful Tales will let you know when it’s released because if you’re a parent, this is the perfect dark lil’ tale to share with your kiddies. Or your grandma! I got a copy for my grandma at Christmas and she absolutely adored it. Now she’s interested in reading more of Mannetti’s titles, but I may need to screen ‘em first because I’m not sure my gentle grandmother can handle the hard stuff… yet!

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention Mannetti’s YA educational book that I briefly mentioned earlier, Iran and Iraq: Nations at War. Her non-fiction book is for grades 7 and up and was published back in 1986, but I ask her about that in an upcoming interview, so you can get the scoop directly from Mannetti herself. Here’s a quick description:

Surveys the historical background and recent events of the war between Iran and Iraq and considers the resulting political and economic complications for the region and for oil-dependent countries.

As far as I know, Mannetti can’t rival Massie’s knitting abilities (Massie recently finished a Dr. Who-inspired scarf that’s almost 20’ long!), but she is an exceptional confectioner. You’ll have to take my word for it.

You can find Mannetti at all the usual haunts – Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Stay tuned to Dreadful Tales because we have an interview with the author coming up soon!

-Meli

Dreadfully Anticipated 2012

Dear Dreadful readers, we have a great 2012 ahead of us because there a frightful number of horror titles clawing there way to your bookshelves and e-readers this year. While our film-obsessed horror brothers and sisters discuss the state of dismal box office turnout and the exhaustive onslaught of remakes, reimaginings, and reboots, we’ll be celebrating the hard work and dedicated efforts of some of the best in genre literature as well as meeting some fresh faces to the scene. Every year seems to get better as my to-read list climbs to new heights and the outlook for 2012 is no different. Here is a list of the releases we are dreadfully anticipating this year, in no particular order.

The unfolding of Monica S. Kuebler’s online YA vampire series Bleeder

We’ve mentioned Bleeder a few times now, but it is timely to give it another shout because Chapter 2 just went live yesterday! If you haven’t been reading along, go back and check out the first two chapters in the series and buckle in for the exciting saga of Mildred “Mills” Millhatten as her life is turned upside down by a long dormant family secret. Monica S. Kuebler calls Bleeder “pitch-black urban fantasy/horror crossbreed” for teens, but I can assure you this will be enjoyed by adult readers too. A new chapter will go live every Sunday, so mark your calendars! Visit the Bleeder website here.

Jeff Strand’s Faint Of Heart (February 2012)

Jeff Strand just made an announcement this past Thursday about his upcoming novel Faint Of Heart via his website, Gleefully Macabre, with a very simple but enticing teaser followed by a peek at the cover:

Some of you prefer my funny stuff.

Some of you prefer the more serious stuff.

For those of you in the latter category, on February 1st there’s…

We are huge Jeff Strand fans here at Dreadful Tales. Hell, I even got dressed up like the guy and went strutting around town because I admire him so much! I like the funny, I like the serious, I’m just happy when he’s releasing new work! Faint Of Heart is due out February 1st, so keep your eyes peeled on Strand’s Facebook page and website for the deets.

The Hunger Artist by Lisa Mannetti (TBD)

Lisa Mannetti just announced via Facebook a few hours ago, at the time of writing this, that she is starting her next novel, tentatively titled The Hunger Artist, so I can’t say for certain that is will be published in 2012. Regardless, I am as pleased as punch to hear there is a new book on the horizon from this Bram Stoker Award-winning talent. I have no synopsis to tease you with or cover art to entice your eyeballs, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted as information becomes available. In the meantime, you can stalk her Facebook page and visit her website to stay abreast (stop giggling, Colum!) of everything Mannetti.

Everything Greg Lamberson is releasing! (April 2012, June 2012, October 2012)

Greg Lamberson has at least three books coming out in 2012! Yes, you read that right, three! And he may even have some super top secret book that he’ll squeeze in before year end as well, but we’ll have to wait and see.

First up from Lamberson is his zombie road novella, Carnage Road, out from Creeping Hemlock Press’ zombie line, Print Is Dead, in April. I scanned the aged wall postings of my Facebook to find the original blurb Lamberson used to describe this novella, but without success. If memory serves me right, he said it’s “Dawn of the Dead meets Easy Rider.” If that doesn’t sell you, read Colum’s glowing review that just went live yesterday. Lamberson also put together a book trailer where he puts that filmmaking experience to good use! Carnage Road is due out April 3rd, 2012, which is also my birthday, so plug that one in your calendar! Creeping Hemlock Press has an obvious eye for talent and they’re quickly becoming my favorite indie press, so stop by their their website to see the other horror titles they offer.

Second on the agenda is the long-awaited follow-up to Lamberson’s werewolf novel The Frenzy Way, The Frenzy War. Already available for pre-order, The Frenzy War is due out in June 2012 from Medallion Press. It’s been almost two years since we left our hero, Detective Tony Mace, and I am anxious to catch back up with this hunka hunka burnin’ love fearless protector of humanity. Tony, if you’re reading this, call me!

And finally, the third book Lamberson will release this year is the fourth installment in the action / horror mashup, The Jake Helman Files series, Tortured Spirits, due out in October 2012 also from Medallion Press. This is a truly epic series with a badass paranormal detective, Jake Helman, and a whole host of monsters. If you haven’t had a chance to read these books yet, make it your top priority! Otherwise, Detective Helman might come kick you right in the groin! Find out more about the fourth book here.

House of Skin by Jonathan Janz (Summer 2012)

I just recently finished Jonathan Janz’ first title published by Samhain Publishing, The Sorrows, and it really blew me away. I will be posting a proper review soon, so I won’t elaborate too much here now, but I will say all you children of Laymon out there will be pleased. The Sorrows is a turbo-charged, erotic horror that has passages to make the roughest biker dude blush and maybe even warm his heart! Samhain will publish his sophomore effort, House of Skin, this summer and I can’t wait to see what other sick and twisted monsters Janz will unleash upon the reading community. Read more about House of Skin and browse around Janz’ site here.

Corrupts Absolutely? anthology edited by Lincoln Crisler (March 2012)

Corrupts Absolutely? asks its readers what would happen if people had superpowers. People including the mentally unstable, social outcasts, and the regretful and bitter. Featuring work by genre favorites like Jeff Strand, Joe McKinney, Weston Ochse, and a dozen more, this anthology will undoubtedly be on everyone’s wish list this year, if it isn’t already. Corrupts Absolutely? will be available from Damnation Books March 2012.

Zombies vs Robots: This Means War, edited by Jeff Conner (April 2012)

Here is another title being released on my birthday! I don’t know who sent the memo to the publishing world, but THANK YOU! Zombies vs Robots: This Means War takes IDW’s comic book series, created by writer Chris Ryall and artist Ashley Wood, and promises it “expands it in ways that will redefine both zombie and robot fiction.” While I’m not familiar with the original series, I like a good comic and the lineup for this collection is promising which makes it worthy of an instant self-gift for my day of birth! Great concept, talented contributors, and a pretty badass cover too. You can preorder ZVR: This Means War, due out April 3rd, 2012, now at Amazon for a slight discount.

Wild 2 by Lincoln Crisler (September 2012)

Lincoln Crisler is gonna be a busy bee this year, buzzin’ all over the genre scene. Not only is he involved in the two projects mentioned above, but he’ll also be releasing the sequel to his weird western zombie novella Wild with Wild 2. There’s no cover art available to tease you with just yet because the book won’t be out until September 2012 (apparently he didn’t get the memo that all releases are due on my birthday!), but here is a peek at what to expect from the second entry.

While escorting Henry Waters to his new beginning at a Massachusetts prep school, Matthias and Juan uncover the reason for the school’s headmaster’s mysterious disappearance. Less cowboy. More questions.

Release of the film adaptation of Elizabeth Massie’s short story Abed (Spring 2012)

Abed, short story by two-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author Elizabeth Massie, has been called one of the most disturbing horror stories ever written. Now, the director adapting the short story for film, award-winning writer/director Ryan Lieske, has his sights set on making it the most disturbing zombie film of 2012. Until just last night, literally right before I went to bed, I hadn’t read Abed, but being a Massie fan I was still excited to learn that one of her stories would be adapted for film. Now that I have finished Abed, I can say undoubtedly that the short is one of the most disturbing stories I have ever read and I am very curious to see how this evolves from the page to celluloid. You can pick up a digital copy for just $0.99, so you should do that right now! And just wait until you find out what “abed” means. Production for this project is in full swing and due out in my most anticipated season of the year, spring 2012! Like Abed on Facebook and keep up with one of the hardest working writers in this gory game on Massie’s website. Below is a synopsis to get your blood pumpin’.

The dead have risen … and in one small, Midwestern town, the residents have learned to cope as best they can.

Meggie lost her husband, Quint, during the early days of the undead uprising. She now lives a life of quiet horror and desperation, for her mother-in-law will do anything to help the family adjust to this new world. Even the unspeakable …

NightWhere by John Everson (June 2012)

Ever since Colum gave me a copy of John Everson’s The 13th a few years back, I haven’t missed anything by this author. His blend of erotica and horror has been perfected into an intoxicating signature style that hits all the right notes. Everson revealed some details about this project in his interview with Dreadful Tales here where he assures his sixth novel, NightWhere, is a return to form. More blood, more sex, more mayhem! NightWhere centers on a swinging husband and wife who are invited to a floating sex club, the titular NightWhere, where anything goes. There is no cover art available yet, but we’ll keep you posted. NightWhere will be available from Samhain Publishing June 2012. Prepare yourself! Until then, visit Everson’s website and sign-up for his newsletter to stay in the loop on everything the master of sexy is up to.

So, those are the titles we are most anxious for this year. Tell us about your most dreadfully anticipated titles in the comments section below!

The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn by Lisa Mannetti

Lisa Mannetti evokes the spirit of the Great American Novelist Mr. Mark Twain and his most famous characters, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, in The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The reimagined classic has become a popular subgenre in horror the past few years, beginning with the release of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the other Jane Austin mashups that followed. Even Mark Twain’s mischievous young boys weren’t safe from parody in Don Borchert’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead and W. Bill Czolgosz’ Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim. While these novelty books are representative of their titles – the original classic simply horror-fied by tacking on “zombie” – Mannetti’s The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn is truly a work all her own. She weaves a beautiful, heartwarming, and humorous fantasy with the delectable Tom and Huck, but resurrects them with the love and care only a true fan and scholar of Twain could.

Mannetti reincarnates Tom and Huck as twin cat familiars to a witch, Lady Bastet a.k.a. Lady B, in The New Adventures…  Tom narrates this tale recounting their clever but often troublesome schemes to find Lady B true love; how they open a Bed & Breakfast called The Chancery House with her werewolf friends Ted and Earle; and their tribulations with the schemin Lily Blum, also a witch. Lady B conjures a spell to find her true love, so when the local veterinarian Peter reciprocates her interest, she worries that it’s not a love connection they share, but witchcraft that brought him closer to her. Tom and Huck try to help Lady out by putting her profile out on a dating website, in case Peter isn’t the one, but when that backfires they have a whole mess of trouble to clean up. Tom and Huck were in the habit of mischief-making as Twain’s human boys and now, with the help of their newfound magical powers, they are even more inclined to raise hell, all to help their beloved Lady B find happiness ‘course.

Mannetti uses her literary witchery to breathe life into Tom and Huck. One way is by honoring the vernacular of Twain’s original characters. You’ll be talkin’ like a regular country bumpkin after hangin’ around with these boys, usin’ “most” instead of “almost” and “warn’t” instead of “wasn’t.” Tom has a biting whit often using quirky sayings to teach a lesson or make a point, like his observation of Lily’s emotional frigidity; “…Lily had no more clue what love was than a toad had notions about pocket watches.” He is also the type to use humor to lighten up a dark situation while his “brother under the skin” has a gentle but worrisome disposition.

Language gives them personality, but Mannetti’s subtle inclusion of feline mannerisms and preoccupations has the twin cats leaping from the pages shedding soft white hairs in their wake. They glide through The Chancery House, avoiding the commotion of visitors – especially ornery children – to find prime nappin spots, swattin and chewin any loose string or strap that land in their path. Both are paranoid and suspicious as young boys, and cats for that matter, can be, always findin some nefarious meaning in the habits of adults. They also have the same aversions to loud noises, dogs, and vacuum cleaners common to a cat which is explored further throughout the novel. For instance, Tom enlightens the reader to the reason cats loathe vacuum cleaners explaining, it is “a cloven-foot creature straight out of hell.” He further argues that the contraption isn’t conveniently sucking up harmful dust and dirt particles, but in fact you’re saving Satan-sperm that multiplies to create more hell minions! Tom cautions that anyone with “one lick of sense… will go right now to the sacred shrine room where your vacuum cleaner is entombed, and you will douse its plastic body with holy water and take that vacuum straight out to the trash.” Tom’s full of wisdom and helpful tips like this!

There’s a reason this book is titled The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and not The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and Witches. Unlike the parody books that have become so popular, Mannetti didn’t just pepper some supernatural elements into an old classic. Tom and Huck remain in tact, but the story is completely fresh and inventive. Mannetti’s muses for this story were her real life twin cats named after the famous Twain creations because of their distinctive Tom and Huck-like qualities. Mannetti also exhibits a deep passion for classic literature, and of course Mark Twain in particular, which results in a very charming and personal story. Her respect and admiration for Twain is palpable in her treatment of his Tom and Huck characters. This is a magical tale of wonderment and a world of playful mystery that would make him proud.

The New Adventures… has an open ending, so hopefully Tom and Huck will be slinking back into our lives for another romp in the fascinating world Mannetti has created.

You can find out more about Lisa Mannetti’s projects past, present, and future at her website. Visit The Chancery House to meet Tom and Huck in the fur, sample exerts from the book, and hunt for ghosts! Learn more about the literary icon at The Official Web Site of Mark Twain.

Bloody Bytes: Digital Deals & Steals

It’s been a long three weeks since the last Dreadful Tales installment of Bloody Bytes, the column that’s dedicated to bringing the horror fan cheap digital deals. But now we’re back… with a vengeance!

Check out the digital deals and steals for horror fiction and more beyond the break.

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