Best Books For Halloween

I read horror fiction all year round. I love the genre, and it’s so deep and diverse that it’s hard not to. But October is special. I want to find the stories that put me in that autumnal mood. I want to read about pumpkins on porches and a bitter chill in the air. I want to read about dead leaves and the darkness at the edges of the world.

So where do I turn? What books call out to me? All of these books (while not always tied to Halloween directly) are exactly the kind of things I look for. If you’re on the hunt for something to read in October, I hope this list helps. Let’s get started…

Dark Harvest

 

Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge

Ask any horror fan that’s worth their salt about Halloween reads, and Dark Harvest will be brought up. If you want a pure shot of All-Hallows-Eve terror, this book is where it’s at. It won the Bram Stoker Award, and it deserves it. Norman Partridge has conjured a Bradburyesque tale for the ages.

Poor October Boy… This poor town… You’ll recognize it. After all, you’ve been here before…


 

Robert AickmanDark Entries by Robert Aickman

This was almost a Robert Aickman appreciation post. He may be one of the most underrated authors in our genre. His stories are played so straight, so sterile. But in that formal quiet, horror resides. Aickman referred to his works as ‘strange stories’. It’s unbelievably apt. While his stories sometimes features common tropes (ghosts, haunted houses, evil towns) they are done with Aickman’s own unique style.

I selected Dark Entries because it’s my current favorite Aickman collection. While not Halloween focused per se, this is exactly the kind of unnerving short stories I crave. If you want something a little different, read Robert Aickman.


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Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem

I’ve spilled a lot of ink talking about Deadfall Hotel. There’s a reason for that. Not only is it one of my all time favorites, I think it’s a novel that deserves 1000% more attention. Told over a series of vignettes inside the very strange Deadfall Hotel, the novel focuses on a single father and his intelligent young daughter.

Deadfall Hotel is cold and weird, but it’s also warm and beautiful. Every chapter is a surprise. Every detail is a mystical wonder. It tackles complicated themes such as grief and fear, love and regret. While the book unfolds over many seasons, it just feels right for this time of year.


Dead LeavesDead Leaves: 9 Tales From the Witching Season by Kealan Patrick Burke

I wanted to include at least one more single author collection. I decided this one was perfect for multiple reasons: it’s short. It’s got variety. And it’s all about Halloween! A collection like this one is the perfect way to kickstart the season. While Dead Harvest feels classical, Dead Leaves is contemporary and grand, but somehow coming in under a hundred pages.

Kealan also includes a list of recommendations for the genre, books that he’s found are perfect for Halloween reading. It’s a good list, and it’s made my TBR just a little longer.


Haunted NightsHaunted Nights edited by Lisa Morton & Ellen Datlow

Let’s dig into some horror anthologies. There is an endless wealth of Halloween anthologies in the world, many of which have been haunting me from my TBR pile and may still be on there (looks over my shoulder nervously).

But not many people love Halloween more than Lisa Morton, and Haunted Nights is a tribute to the holiday. It’s co-edited by Ellen Datlow and filled with a list of horror fiction greats. It’s worth your time, and certainly worth the price of admission.


514VESaovlL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAutumn Cthulhu edited by Mike Davis

 I like it when my collections come with a whole heaping serving of Lovecraftian horror. Thankfully, Mike Davis put out Autumn Cthulhu back in 2016. If you enjoy your Lovecraftian horror a little quieter, this is the perfect collection for you. Over the course of 19 stories, the authors explore the cosmic side of autumn, and all the horrors hiding behind the colored leaves.

I just hope we get an Autumn Cthulhu 2 soon. I need more of that autumn chill in my life.


81zqDem9OvL.jpgSalem’s Lot by Stephen King

I wanted to include at least one Stephen King book on this list. After all, it is a list of horror books. So the question became: which book? Night Shift may be his best short story collection. It may just be my favorite novel ever. But they don’t quite belong on this list. No, I think the honor belongs to Salem’s Lot.

It’s a frightening vision of a regular town that has a truly rotten core. It’s eventual and gradual takeover by vampires is terrifying and ultimately tragic. It’s cold and it feels like it belongs on this list. And a good chunk of the book takes places over the autumn months. King has been good for a long time, and Salem’s Lot proves it.


That does it for some Best Books For Halloween. Have you read all of these already? What are some of your Halloween favorites?

 

My Summer Reads So Far!

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It’s summer time! The breeze is coming in off the water, the sun is out, and… I’m at work. Bummer. But don’t despair! I’ve had the chance to explore fantastic and horrific worlds from the air-conditioned comfort of my living room. I wanted to put together a post to share all the excellent books I’ve been reading this summer.

Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud


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When I was a kid, I spent a LOT of time in the local library. It was nice and cool for one, and for a very big two, it was filled with books.

So it seemed fitting that I start the summer off by borrowing Nathan Ballingrud’s newest collection. Wounds was truly impressive. It may be my favorite collection of the year. The world building and terror constructed here kinda’ blew my mind. I was sad to see it end.

A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson


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A Collapse of Horses has been in my TBR pile since late last year. When my wife and I visited Boston, we (of course) had to visit the Harvard Book Store. When I saw this fantastic cover, I knew I had to grab it.

With all the attention on Brian’s new collection, I figured it was time to unearth this book and dive in. I LOVED this collection. I find it hard to describe what I like best about Brian’s works. They are as cold as Aickman’s, but with the twisted logic of Ligotti. Maybe? Just read them. It’s sheer nightmare fuel.

Song for the Unraveling of the World by Brian Evenson


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And speaking of nightmare fuel… Brian Evenson has a new collection! While I think it’s not as perfect as A Collapse of Horses, Song for the Unraveling of the World is still an incredible read. Reading these back-to-back was like drinking some kind of sweet poison.

The Dream-Quest of Velitt Boe by Kij Johnson


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I decided to reread The Dream-Quest of Velitt Boe because it’s perfect for summer! It’s warm, interesting, and deep. It’s a short book about a long trek through H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. While I was never a fan of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, Kij has made them a mysterious delight. I want to hang with Velitt and the cat. Please.

The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey


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And now for the book I’m currently reading! Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim books are favorites of mine, so the promise of a new Kadrey creation made me take note. Though I’m only about mid-way through, I’m in love with this vile Steampunk fantasy world. Kadrey knows how to world-build and make it fun.


Those are my summer reads! Do you have any go to summer reads? Beachside or otherwise? Fill me in below!

Curious Fictions: Two Free Stories

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Note: No original article this week. I’m off visiting with family. But have no fear! I have two free stories for everyone!

Curious Fictions is the new hotness for authors like myself. It’s a website that allows us to post free stories and cultivate a followership. The website is clean and very easy to navigate. I’ve joined Curious Fictions to encourage me to write and get stories out into the world. I plan on using the platform to give attention to stories that I love, but may not be right for most markets.

I’ve put up two stories, both of which can be found here.

My first story, ‘The Eldritch Film Club’, is a weird little story written in the 2nd person. I love this thing to death though, so please take a look.

The second is called ‘Manifesto: Abnormality at Z33.1’. This story came about after I spent a couple of days outlining a novella idea. I saw the skeleton of a fun little story and this is what came of it. If this novella ever sees the light of day, this will serve as a perfect little prequel.

Author Interview: Gemma Amor

Chestnuts roasting over a horror fire…

Or something. It’s December, and that means it’s time for my final interview of the year! In case you’re new to the blog, every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month’s interview is with horror podcast maverick Gemma Amor!

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I’m very excited to be doing this interview with you today! I like to start my interviews off with an easy question: tell us a little bit about yourself! Why did you decide to become a writer? What other hobbies do you have in your spare time?

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. It was never really a conscious decision for me, but simply something I always did. I spent a lot of time by myself as a child, and writing was a natural byproduct of that and being a ferocious reader from a young age. Over the years I began to take it more and more seriously, and then, eventually, I realized I couldn’t live very comfortably without writing, and would feel anxious, frustrated and upset the longer I went without putting pen to paper. So it became my way of life, and is now my main source of income (which is why I only eat every other week).  All of this means I don’t really have many other hobbies, because I don’t get a huge amount of spare time. I am also a parent, which is tantamount to pouring any free time that remains into a vast, black hole. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You seem to have an affinity for spooky podcasts! I first discovered your work on a recent episode of the stellar No Sleep Podcast (the Halloween episode). I saw you’ve got pieces slated for several new podcasts in 2019! What can you tell us about your podcast work?

Podcasts are my addiction, and I found the podcast community to be an instantly welcoming and warm place full of like-minded people. I realized that although I love writing fiction, I also love hearing audio adaptations of my work. Once my first story was accepted by NoSleep, I was no sleep podcasthooked, and began writing more and more stories for audio. Writing for audio demands a lot of a writer in different ways to straight fiction, so I learned a lot as I continued to submit stories and reach out to other, similar shows such as Shadows at the Door, and the Grey Rooms. Most importantly, however, getting involved in podcasting meant that I built connections with actors, producers and mentors who possessed so much knowledge and expertise that I’m now producing two of my own shows, both of which are out in 2019. Calling Darkness is a horror-comedy show that I’ve co-written with NoSleep stalwart S.H. Cooper. It stars Kate Siegel, from Netflix smash-hit The Haunting of Hill House, as our narrator, and a whole host of other great voice talent from the world of audio-drama, including David Cummings, Graham Rowat, Dan Zappula, and many more. It’s an irreverent, female-led audio drama co-created by myself, Cooper and so many other talented people. Kate is just wonderful in it- I’ve listened to her raw audio for the first four episodes, and can’t stop smiling.

I’m also writing, producing and acting in forthcoming audio drama Whisper Ridge, which is again slated for release in 2019. It’s a serious audio-fiction series set in the post-gold-rush era of the American frontier, and follows the journey of a young Sheriff who comes to the town of Whisper Ridge only to encounter strange phenomena. It’s quite different to my other work, and I’m really excited to record the pilot, which will be out soon.

I saw your first collection, Cruel Works of Nature, releases in December of this year! I signed up for your newsletter so I can get eyes on it when it releases! How did this collection come about? What can we expect from the stories within?

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After buckets of blood, sweat and tears, it’s finally out! Which is so surreal, and it’s delightful to finally have something tangible and published that I can hold in my hands. I’ll be updating my mailing list very shortly with links to the book on Amazon. Cruel Works of Nature is a hand illustrated collection of short stories, some of which have been adapted by the NoSleep podcast, others which are exclusive to the book. Each story deals with some aspect of nature or the natural world that has gone horribly awry. I have a thing about the great outdoors, animals, flora and fauna, and skewed realities. I also have a thing about monsters, and so this book is a love-letter to the upside-down, as it were. Its been really well received so far, which is lovely, and has spurred me on to write the next collection, which I’ll release in 2019.

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

I’m reading so many books at the same time that I need to stop, and catch up. I have a collection of short stories by H.G.Wells to get through, and then I might revisit Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, which I try and read once a year simply because I love it so much.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

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 My advice would be not to give up. Even if you send one story to a thousand people, and it gets rejected each time, don’t give up. Do consider, however, getting beta-readers involved for constructive criticism, or a writing mentor who can help you learn and shape your words more effectively. There is nothing that cannot be re-written and improved upon.

And always, always, ALWAYS follow the submission guidelines, no matter who or what you are submitting to. Guidelines are there for a reason, and ignoring them will piss editors off no end.

You’re enjoying a cup of coffee in a crowded café when the door dings. Your favorite author walks in and asks if he/she can take a seat in the empty chair at your little table. You nod your head and they sit down. Who is that author? And what will you talk about? No subject is off limits.

Dear God, I could never choose one author, and I’m so socially defunct that I would never invite them to sit with me and make awkward conversation! But if I had to, at gun point, I would talk to the following:

Angela Carter, about female characters rooted in magic realism, about fairy stories, and about Bristol, where I live and she studied.

Stephen King, about anything he wanted, but primarily writing horror as a means of coping with your own personal demons,

Stephen Hall, about grief and allegory,

Hanif Kureshi, about short stories and love affairs,

Mary Shelley, about her utterly bonkers life,

Robert Jordan, about world building in the Wheel of Time series.

But it’s far more likely I would turn a deep shade of red, sweat a lot and mumble something incoherently about the weather!

 

Thank you Gemma! To find out more about her work, check out her website at gemmaamorauthor.com. This interview is the 6th I’ve done for my site, and I hope to continue going strong into 2019. Every writer/creator I interview offers a new perspective and excellent advice about their craft and lessons writers like me (or you) can truly learn from. Stay awesome everybody, and tune in next week for my end of year review.

Author Interview: Kelly Robson

It’s November 7th and that means it’s time for this month’s Author Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month’s interview is with Nebula Winner Kelly Robson.

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Kelly Robson. Photo Credit: Maxwell Ander

Hello Kelly! I’m very excited to have you here on the blog today! I like to start my interviews off with the ultimate softball question: tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you want to be a writer? What do you do when you’re not sitting at your keyboard?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. Book have always been the most important thing in the world to me. But I caught the short SFF bug when I was sixteen and picked up my first issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. Contemporary short SFF just blows my mind. It’s so powerful, so flexible.

I have a nine-to-five office job in downtown Toronto, which is only a fifteen minute walk from my apartment. I love not having a commute — it gives me time and energy for writing after work.

I discovered your writing through Tor.com late last year. It was ‘A Human Stain’ that drew me in. After I saw Sam Wolfe Connelly’s incredibly creepy art, I knew I had to read it. This story is a perfect example of how amazing speculative fiction can be. I think you must have performed some kind of gothic-magic to cram that much atmosphere and detail into 40 pages. Your story rightfully won the Nebula for Best Novelette. Can you give us some background on ‘A Human Stain’? What was it like to win that award?

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Isn’t that cover art amazing? I love it so much. Ellen Datlow edited “A Human Stain,” and she put me through FIVE rewrites. One of the great things about horror stories is the sensory detail — it’s not horror if you can’t feel it! The story wouldn’t have won the Nebula if Ellen hadn’t pushed me to perfect it, and at the end, neither she nor I could really tell if the story worked or not. So winning the award was a complete surprise. I really expected not to win, and my co-finalists are all people I know and like so I was rooting for them. Then at the ceremony, I was busy live-tweeting the results on my phone, and was poised to take a photo of the winner when my name was called. I sat with my mouth open for a full ten seconds before moving.

Your book ‘Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach’ landed on shelves in March of this year. Though I haven’t got a chance to read it yet (it’s in my teetering TBR pile) it looks like you’ve created a very unique world. How did you go about writing this book and managing all the demands that world-building requires?

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I go about world-building in an organic way, by reading a lot of interesting non-fiction and then synthesizing the best bits. I don’t really take notes, I just try to get an understanding of how the world works. So my Earth of 2267 is based on a lot of information from David Graeber’s terrific economics book Debt: The First 5000 Years combined with my own understanding of the professional services world to create a unique economic system. I really believe economics is the physics of world-building. Once you understand that piece, everything else falls into place.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

I tell new writers that the writers who make it are the ones who don’t quit, so to make it, you have to find the survival strategy that works for you. That’s going to be different for everyone. Maybe that means doing what I did: write a lot but not submit stories until I knew my stories were good enough to sell to the bigger SFFH markets. Other people find a way to enjoy the submission grind. Others go to a lot of workshops, and get tons of feedback on their drafts. So just do what’s right for you and don’t quit. If you never quit, you never fail.

What’s next for you? Any new books or stories on the horizon?

Right now, I’m working on a sequel to ‘Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach’. And I’m discovering that second books are really difficult.

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

I’m reading an arc of Caitlin Starling’s The Luminous Dead, which is an SF Horror and it’s simply terrific. It’ll be out next year. I’m reading a lot of horror right now. And I’m desperately looking forward to Annalee Newitz’s next novel, which I think should be out next year, too!

Last question: You’re stranded on a desert island with one historical figure from any point in history. Who’s it going to be?

Such a hard question! I think it would have to be Oscar Wilde, because I’d really like to collaborate with him on a decadent, epic space opera.

The Noble Horror Film Festival (2018)

A new Twitter challenge cropped up recently. Even though these are dime a dozen (favorite horror novels! Favorite horror movies! Video games! Music!) one popped out that I’ve never seen before! Here’s a link to the offending Tweet here.

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It’s an unique challenge: If you could craft an all-night horror film festival, what would it look like? It got me thinking. I recently saw John Carpenter’s Halloween on the big screen for the first time, and was so happy I could barely stand it. Seeing a classic like that on the screen not only reinforced its power, but it made me want to see more of my favorites up on the big screen. You’ve got your soda and your candy you snuck in is snug in your pocket. The lights dim. The first movie is starting…

7 P.M: The Nun (2018)

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“Why are we starting with The Nun!?”, you shout at the screen in rage. Why would Logan do this to us!? Okay. I want to kick off with something new, and something fun, and most importantly, something really stupid. Listen. The Nun is not a great movie. But it had some big scares in it and I love the creepy-monastery-in-Romania vibe. It’s the perfect movie to kick off this festival with.

9 P.M: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

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One movie down. You’re still primed. It’s almost Halloween everybody! And what better way to celebrate than with a little bit of Freddy in your life. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is as good as Freddy ever got. Sure, I love the original maybe more, but this is a long night of spooky movies. Let’s keep the energy high. That’s why this one gets a prime time slot.

11 P.M: Scream (1996)

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A real and true crowd-pleaser to take us through the Witching Hour. Scream is a favorite of mine for many reasons. It still feels fresh, the kills still feel brutal, and the script positively screams. Scream is a classic through and through.

1 A.M: Ghostbusters (1984)

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Cats and dogs, living together… You know the rest. This is your wake up movie! Let Ray Parker Jr. fill you with wonderful Halloween energy. Slimer. Stay-Puff! Ghostbusters is a stinkin’ classic man.

3 A.M: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

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Drew Godard and Joss Whedon do an old cliché so much good. The Cabin in the Woods is fun and meta. It’s a horror movie made for horror fans. From bargain bin versions of our favorite monsters (and one or two surprises) this one is a breath of fresh slasher air. We’re in the home stretch. Two to go. And they are some of the biggest of the night…

5 A.M: Suspiria (1977)

Suspiria

A stone cold weird classic. Giallo can be powerful, and this witchy, Alice in Wonderful marvel is everything you could want for a long October night. Suspiria would look absolutely break-taking on the big screen.

7 A.M: Halloween (1978)

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THE October movie. As vital to the season as apple cider and pumpkins. It’s the perfect ending to a night of new and old horror classics. You can see influences from this movie in every single one on this list (save for Suspiria). Let Carpenter’s perfect score end this night of frights.

The film festival is over. Stumble out to your car in the new daylight, tired but smiling. You’ve won. And now for the sequel…

Maybe next year?