Lisa Morton

Did you happen to catch my interview with Weston Ochse?  In that interview I talk about sitting with Wes at the HWA’s table at the Book Expo America convention, which remains one of my favorite events I’ve ever attended…for several reasons.

I’ll explain.

First off, I got to meet a lot of people I now hold as dear friends.  (I remember sitting in the little backseat of Lisa Morton’s short crew pickup, my knees crammed into my chin and a pile of boxes leaning against my head, talking with Gene O’Neill about his history as a boxer, for example.) It was my first introduction to major conventions and all that they can do for an author’s career; which is, believe me, an article all unto itself.

Secondly, it introduced me to life as a professional writer, which at the time, I’ll honestly say, I didn’t put in the same sentence with my own literary efforts.  But Lisa Morton helped to change that.  This was the woman who pulled me aside and said she thought I had a promising career ahead of me.  She was, in so many ways, the gatekeeper for my transition from interested hobbyist to pro.  I can’t thank her enough for giving me that early confidence.  I’ve often wondered how you can repay that sort of early helping hand up, and the only thing that comes to mind is mentorship.  Lisa was there for me when there was no formalized such thing as a mentorship, and I have tried to emulate that same voice of confidence and experience when I myself became a mentor.  I can think of no higher words of praise to say to a senior fellow than thank you; and to you, Lisa, I say a sincere and honest “Thank you!  You rock!”

She has won her share of Stoker awards.  She has turned out stories that challenge our view of how things should be (Don’t believe me, check out her story “Sparks Fly Upwards” – it’s one of my favorites.), written novels that reimagine our idea of the monster, and highlighted the fact that women deserve a bigger presence in the horror genre.  (To this day I would love to see Lisa Morton write the feminist take on the Last Girl trope.  I would stand in line for that short story.)  And in the course of becoming a leading voice in the horror community, she has also managed to become the leading authority on Halloween.  That’s not hyperbole, either.  She really is the world’s leading authority on Halloween.  (Check this out to see what I mean.)

But enough of that.  I can go on all day about Lisa Morton, because I love her so.  All you really need is to read her, and I’m presenting that opportunity now.  Please enjoy!

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre?

Lisa Morton:  I’m occasionally shocked to realize that I’ve written enough zombie short fiction to fill a book! Most recently I’ve been part of the two shared-world Zombie Apocalypse anthologies edited by Stephen Jones, and I’m currently working on a tie-in novel called Zombie Apocalypse: Washington Deceased.

Zombies are us, with our personalities scrubbed out and replaced by the most basic, most primitive of needs (to feed). They’re not sensual and intelligent like vampires, savage like werewolves, or mysterious like ghosts; they’re just blank. Because of the blankness, they’re like the horror equivalent of an erased blackboard that you can write anything on. Religious allegory, political commentary, social satire…the zombie story can easily become any of those.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

LM:  Sorry, but I don’t see us taking great care of the joint without zombies; they’ll just make the final fade-out happen a little faster. I might last a little longer than everyone else, but I have an unfair advantage (as do you!): We’ve spent more time thinking about this stuff than everyone else.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

LM:  I’ve got to go with Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead. I saw it in on opening night, when I was in my second year of film school. A teacher’s assistant who knew I liked horror insisted that we go; I’d somehow never seen Night of the Living Dead, and had absolutely no idea what I was in for. And yeah, it pretty much destroyed me. I didn’t sleep that night. I couldn’t get it out of my head. It took me a while to realize that what bothered me wasn’t even so much the idea of the hungry dead as it was the living survivors, sealing themselves away in a shopping mall. One of the great scenes in movie history for me is when Fran, the female lead, kind of wakes up and says, “What are we doing here?” Horror movie as rejection of consumer society…I’d certainly never imagined anything that subversive.

I also have to give a shout-out to the follow-up, Day of the Dead, which I think is an extraordinary and underrated film. The way Day suggests that the ultimate breakdown comes as the result of a battle between right (the military) and left (science) seems more and more prescient.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

LM:  Does it have to be a zombie being killed, or can it be zombies doing the killing? If it’s the latter, I’m going with the end of Day, when the zombies rip apart the military leader Rhodes who screams “Choke on it!” while he watches parts of himself being eaten. I even love the way Romero cuts back a couple of times to parts of Rhodes being dragged around the abandoned facility by listless zombies.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

LM:  That we fear we are being erased by the very culture that tells us to be unique, that sells us products by subtly preying on our fear that we’re really not different at all. That dread of conformity works two ways in the zombie mythos: By turning the dead into one big, indistinguishable hungry mass, and by suggesting that the living are nothing but walking meat lockers. It strips intellect, emotion, and self from all of us, and replaces it with nothing but consumption and gore.  Yeah, that’s pretty terrifying. 

Go here to buy Lisa’s books and go here to check out her website

JournalStone Publishing Announces the “Double Down” Book Series

Do you remember the old Ace Doubles?  I had a ton of them growing up.  Their distinctive white and blue spines and tete-beche formatting were instantly recognizable, and the works themselves the very model of everything that was cool about classic space opera science fiction.

Well, JournalStone Publishing is bringing the concept back…and I get to be a part of it!

Today, JournalStone Publishing founder and Editor-in-Chief Christopher C. Payne made public the launch of JournalStone’s Double Down series.  These books will feature a short novel from an already established author paired with another short novel from a talented up and coming writer.  I’m going to be working with my good friend, Sanford Allen.  (You can learn more about Sanford here.)  Sanford and I belong to a writing group called Drafthouse, and over the years I have watched Sanford’s style develop and his voice become stronger and clearer.  Part rocker, part reporter, part poet of the weird, Sanford tells one hell of a good yarn, and he has a passion for music that rings through every word he writes.  When JournalStone approached me with the concept, and asked me if I had a talented undiscovered writer I’d be willing to work with, I immediately thought of Sanford.  I’m a huge fan of his stuff, and I think the rest of the world will be too after they see the novel he’s going to be publishing.

Our book will be coming out in the Summer of 2013, but there will be others in this ongoing series.  Right now, JournalStone has signed six teams, and more will follow in the next few months.  For now, here’s the lineup:

Gene O’Neill and Chris Mars

Gord Rollo and Rena Mason

Lisa Morton and Eric Guignard

Joe McKinney and Sanford Allen

Harry Shannon and Brett Talley

Jonathan Maberry and a writer yet to be determined

JournalStone Publishing is a small press company focusing on Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, but they are large on quality and have a high level of commitment to putting out the best fiction available.  President and Editor-in-Chief Christopher C. Payne has led JS on a rapid climb to public recognition and respect within the professional writing community.  In fact, they were recently featured on the April issue of Publishers Weekly.  I’m excited to be working with them, and even more excited to be working with Sanford on what I think is going to be one of the best series in last two decades.  You can learn more about JournalStone here.

Rage Against the Night – An Anthology to Benefit Rocky Wood

Rage Against the Night – An Anthology to Benefit Rocky Wood

 

Under the onslaught of supernatural evil, the acts of good people can seem insignificant, but a courageous few stand apart. These brave men and women stand up to the darkness, stare it right in the eye, and give it the finger. These are the stories of those who rage against the night, stories of triumph, sacrifice, and bravery in the face of overwhelming evil.

 

Rocky Wood – Bram Stoker Award™-winning author, Stephen King scholar, and president of the Horror Writers Association – is one of the bravest men I know.  Diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Rocky has nonetheless set out to redefine the Horror Writers Association as the inclusive voice of the horror community.  From his home inAustralia, Rocky travels the world, attending many conventions each year, in order to foster that sense of community among writers, publishers, agents and other industry professionals.

 

I call him the bravest man I know because he towers above the obstacles in his way, not only the ALS, which is a mountain of an obstacle in and of itself, but also the headstrong egos and maddening politics that always seem to plague groups of creative people.  He is a model of teamwork, relentless energy, and above all, vision.  In just a few short years he has created a legacy in the HWA that will define the organization for decades to come.  Positive change and a spirit of renewed enthusiasm follow him everywhere.  For all those reasons, I am in awe of him, and for all those reasons, I am honored to call him my friend.

 

So, imagine my surprise – and pleasure! – when Shane Jiraiya Cummings contacted me about donating a story for an anthology to help Rocky Wood with some of his medical expenses.  I couldn’t say yes fast enough!  “What’s the theme?” I asked.  “How soon do you need it?”

 

Shane’s idea was a collection of stories showcasing good triumphing over evil.  He said it was the perfect testament to Rocky, and I agreed on the spot.

 

The story I sent Shane was “The Gunner’s Love Song,” one of my earliest.  In it, a young man comes home toEast Texasshortly after World War II to find his cousin, who has a heavy speech impediment and a reputation for being a little slow, suddenly villainized by their town because of his romance with a woman rumored to be a werewolf.

 

Fans of Manly Wade Wellman will undoubtedly see my influences shining through in this story; and believe me, I had a hard time resisting the urge to go back through the tale and “clean it up a bit,” to sort of buff out the obvious Wellman touches.  But I resisted because “The Gunner’s Love Song” has something special to it.  It has a lot of Wellman, to be sure, but it has a lot of me, too.  In fact, it was the first time I remember feeling my own voice surging through in the fiction.  The story is genuine.  It’s a little raw, perhaps, but it’s me, and I see in this story the elements that would take hold and grow in my later fiction: themes like a sense of optimism that’s been tested and tempered by trial and the importance of good guardianship.

 

In short, the story worked for me, and when I sent it to Shane, he agreed.

 

Apparently he really agreed, for he chose it as the lead-off story in a collection that features an amazing roster of creative talent.  Check out this table of contents:

 

The Gunner’s Love Song—Joe McKinney

Keeping Watch—Nate Kenyon

Like Part of the Family—Jonathan Maberry

The Edge of Seventeen—Alexandra Sokoloff

The View from the Top—Bev Vincent

Afterward, There Will Be a Hallway—Gary A. Braunbeck

Following Marla—John R. Little

Magic Numbers—Gene O’Neill

Tail the Barney—Stephen M. Irwin

The Nightmare Dimension—David Conyers

Roadside Memorials—Joseph Nassise

Dat Tay Vao—F. Paul Wilson

Constitution—Scott Nicholson

Mr. Aickman’s Air Rifle—Peter Straub

Agatha’s Ghost—Ramsey Campbell

Blue Heeler—Weston Ochse

Sarah’s Visions—Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

More Than Words—David Niall Wilson

Chillers—Lisa Morton

Changed—Nancy Holder

Dead Air—Gary Kemble

Two Fish to Feed the Masses—Daniel G. Keohane

Fenstad’s End—Sarah Langan

Fair Extension—Stephen King

Rocky Wood, Skeleton Killer—Jeff Strand

 

You can pick up the print edition here (Amazon) and here (Barnes & Noble), the Kindle edition here, the Nook edition here, and the Smashwords edition here.

Enjoy!

And to you, Rocky – you’re the best, my friend!

The HWA WIll Host the 2013 World Horror Convention In New Orleans!

The following press release was written by Rocky Wood, President of the Horror Writers Association and an all-around great guy!

HWA TO HOST WORLD HORROR CONVENTION 2013 IN NEW ORLEANS

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) and World Horror Society (WHS) are pleased to announce that the World Horror Convention 2013 will be hosted by the HWA. WHC2013 will be part of the stand-alone Bram Stoker Awards™ Weekend in New Orleans from 13-16 June 2013.

HWA also announced that the Convention will be held at the recently renovated and historic Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter. This Hotel, and iconic New Orleans destination, is a fitting venue for the conference as it is an official literary landmark (one of only three such hotels in America); and is reputed to be haunted!

Both WHS and HWA are very pleased that we are able to combine this event. Currently, HWA holds its iconic Bram Stoker Awards Banquet in conjunction with WHC in even numbered years and stages its own stand-alone Convention in odd numbered years, so combining the event in 2013 is seen as beneficial to the whole horror community.

The event will be billed as the Bram Stoker Awards Weekend incorporating World Horror Convention 2013, with a website at: http://www.stokers2013.org/ . The World Horror Convention (WHC) programming will primarily be held on Friday 14 June, with the normal WHC components including the Art Show, Artists’ Reception, Dealers’ Room, Mass Autographing (which is also a feature of HWA Weekends) and Grandmaster Award featuring over the weekend. The Convention membership fee covers both HWA and WHC events, excepting the Banquet and any special events such as writers’ workshops, which are charged separately.

HWA programming will concentrate on Saturday 15 June and will culminate with the Bram Stoker Awards Banquet that evening. Other HWA programming will feature on the Thursday and the Sunday. Guests of Honor will be announced as they are confirmed.

Greg Herren is Chair of the Organizing Committee for the Weekend and HWA will also shortly announce a Chair for the WHC component.

Membership sales will begin in the second half of 2012, as will voting for the WHC Grandmaster Award. Hotel bookings will be available shortly, and the Organizers have negotiated rates for extended dates before and after the Convention, so that attendees can enjoy some of the many benefits New Orleans has to offer.

HWA President Rocky Wood commented, “This is the first time that HWA has hosted a World Horror Convention and we are pleased that we are able to do so within our own convention, the Bram Stoker Awards Weekend, which we hold every odd numbered year. And of course in 2013 we are in the historic, haunted and literary city of New Orleans, Louisiana, affectionately known as NOLA. This is a win-win for the horror community if ever there was one.”

WHS spokesman, Mike Willmoth said: “The World Horror Society is pleased to be working with HWA on WHC2013 next year in New Orleans during the Bram Stoker Awards Weekend. We look forward to a fabulous combined event.”

The Horror Writers Association (www.horror.org), the peak group for horror writers, is a worldwide organization promoting dark literature and its creators. Started in 1985, it has over 700 members writing professionally in fiction, nonfiction, videogames, film, poetry, comics, and other media.

The World Horror Society was formed in 1991 by Maureen Dorris who was the Chair of WHC1991 and WHC1992 in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Since then World Horror Convention has been held annually in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. More history, details about bidding, and a current list of board members can be found at http://www.worldhorrorconvention.com

Queries to : president@horror.org

http://www.stokers2013.org

http://www.stokers2013.org

Bram Stoker Awards On the Web!

I just received the following press release from HWA president Rocky Wood. If you can’t make it to the 2012 World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City you can still catch the presentation ceremony for the Bram Stoker Awards on Saturday night. It’ll be like the Oscars, sort of, except, you know, without all the beautiful people.

For immediate release Contact Lisa Morton, HWA Stoker Event Organizer
March 22, 2012 vp@horror.org

Bram Stoker Awards™ to be webcast live on March 31, 2012

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) is proud to announce that it will again webcast the Bram Stoker Awards™ presentation live in 2012. The Banquet is being held in Salt Lake City and the event will begin live on the internet at 9 p.m. (Mountain Daylight Savings Time) on March 31. The ceremony will take about 1 ½ hours to complete.

The webcast will be presented at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bramstokerawards2012.

This year the Bram Stoker Awards celebrate 25 years as the leading writing Awards in the horror and dark fantasy genre: http://www.stokers2012.org/ . The Bram Stoker Awards Banquet is sponsored by Samhain Publishing.

Among the nominees are those for the Vampire Novel of the Century (a special Award to mark the centenary of the death of Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula) – they include Richard Matheson for I Am Legend, Stephen King for Salem’s Lot and Anne Rice for Interview with the Vampire. This Award is sponsored by Jeremy Wagner.

Lifetime Achievement Awards will also be conferred on iconic horror writers Joe R Lansdale and Rick Hautala, both of whom will be in attendance to accept the Award. And this year’s presenters include Robert McCammon (Swan Song), one of the HWA’s Special Guests.

Bram Stoker Awards for Poetry, Non-Fiction, Fiction Collection, Anthology, Screenplay, Short Fiction, Long Fiction, Young Adult Novel, Graphic Novel, First Novel and Novel will be presented. Among the nominees in these categories are Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Mike Mignola, Jonathan Maberry and Joe Hill. Episodes of The Walking Dead, American Horror Story and True Blood are nominated in the Screenplay category. A full list of the nominees appears at:

http://www.horror.org/blog/?p=2331.

More information about the Bram Stoker Awards may be found here:http://www.horror.org/stokers.htm .

The HWA is the leading writer’s organization for horror and dark fantasy and has nearly 800 members worldwide. More information here: http://www.horror.org .
Media enquiries to Lisa Morton via vp@horror.org.

HWA Announces the 2011 Bram Stoker Award Nominees!

I just received the following press release from the Horror Writers Association.  I am absolutely over the moon to learn that my novel, Flesh Eaters, was nominated in the Best Novel category!  There are so many great writers and works on this year’s list that I’m a little overwhelmed with the company.  My heartfelt congratulations to all the nominees.

Now, to cross my fingers and wait for the announcement in Salt Lake City…

From the Horror Writers Association:

For immediate release

February 18, 2012

Contact Lisa Morton, HWA Bram Stoker Awards Event Organizer    lisa@lisamorton.com

Horror Writers Association announces 2011 Bram Stoker Award™ Nominees Each year, the Horror Writers Association presents the Bram Stoker Awards™ for Superior Achievement in the field of horror writing, named in honor of Bram Stoker, author of the seminal horror work Dracula. Since 1987, the approximately 700 members of the HWA have recommended, nominated and voted on the greatest works of horror and dark fantasy of the previous calendar year, making the Bram Stoker Awards the most prestigious award in the field of horror literature.

For the first time in 2011, half the nominees were chosen by juries. The awards are presented in eleven categories: Novel, First Novel, Young Adult Novel, Graphic Novel, Long Fiction, Short Fiction, Screenplay, Fiction Collection, Anthology, Non-fiction, and Poetry Collection. The organization’s Active and Lifetime members will select the winners from this list of nominees; and the Awards will be presented at a gala banquet on Saturday evening, March 31, at the World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.

This year’s nominees in each category are:

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A NOVEL

A Matrix Of Angels by Christopher Conlon (Creative Guy Publishing)

Cosmic Forces by Greg Lamberson (Medallion Press)

Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi (Medallion Press / Thunderstorm Books)

Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney (Pinnacle Books)

Not Fade Away by Gene O’Neill (Bad Moon Books)

The German by Lee Thomas (Lethe Press)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A FIRST NOVEL

Isis Unbound by Allyson Bird (Dark Regions Press)

Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs (Night Shade Books)

The Lamplighters by Frazer Lee (Samhain Horror)

The Panama Laugh by Thomas Roche (Night Shade Books)

That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley (JournalStone)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

Ghosts of Coronado Bay, A Maya Blair Mystery by J. G. Faherty (JournalStone)

The Screaming Season by Nancy Holder (Razorbill)

Rotters by Daniel Kraus (Delacorte Books for Young Readers)

Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Candlewick / Walker)

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel (Simon & Schuster / David Fickling Books)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A GRAPHIC NOVEL

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol (First Second)

Locke & Key Volume 4 by Joe Hill (IDW Publishing)

Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen (Dark Horse)

Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine by Jonathan Maberry (Marvel)

Baltimore Volume I: The Plague Ships by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden (Dark Horse)

Neonomicon by Alan Moore (Avatar Press)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN LONG FICTION

7 Brains by Michael Louis Calvillo (Burning Effigy Press)

“Roots and All” by Brian Hodge (A Book of Horrors)

“The Colliers’ Venus (1893)” by Caitlin R. Kiernan (Naked City: New Tales of Urban Fantasy)

Ursa Major by John R. Little (Bad Moon Books)

Rusting Chickens by Gene O’Neill (Dark Regions Press)

“The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” by Peter Straub (Conjunctions: 56)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SHORT FICTION

“Her Husband’s Hands” by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed Magazine, October 2011)

“Herman Wouk Is Still Alive” by Stephen King (The Atlantic Magazine, May 2011)

“Graffiti Sonata” by Gene O’Neill (Dark Discoveries #18)

“X is for Xyx” by John Palisano (M is for Monster)

“Home” by George Saunders (The New Yorker Magazine, June 13, 2011)

“All You Can Do Is Breathe” by Kaaron Warren (Blood and Other Cravings)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A SCREENPLAY

True Blood, episode #44: “Spellbound” by Alan Ball (HBO)

The Walking Dead, episode #13: “Pretty Much Dead Already” by Scott M. Gimple (AMC)

The Walking Dead, episode #9: “Save the Last One” by Scott M. Gimple (AMC)

Priest by Cory Goodman (Screen Gems)

The Adjustment Bureau by George Nolfi (Universal Pictures)

American Horror Story, episode #12: “Afterbirth” by Jessica Sharzer (20th Century Fox Television)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A FICTION COLLECTION

Voices: Tales of Horror by Lawrence C. Connolly (Fantasist Enterprises)

Red Gloves by Christopher Fowler (PS Publishing)

Two Worlds and In Between: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan (Volume One) by Caitlin R. Kiernan (Subterranean)

Monsters of L.A. by Lisa Morton (Bad Moon Books)

The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates (Mysterious Press)

Multiplex Fandango by Weston Ochse (Dark Regions Press)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN AN ANTHOLOGY (EDITING)

NEHW Presents: Epitaphs edited by Tracy L. Carbone (NEHW)

Ghosts By Gaslight edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers (Harper Voyager)

Blood And Other Cravings edited by Ellen Datlow (Tor Books)

Supernatural Noir edited by Ellen Datlow (Dark Horse)

Tattered Souls 2 edited by Frank J. Hutton (Cutting Block Press)

Demons: Encounters with the Devil and his Minions, Fallen Angels and the Possessed edited by John Skipp (Black Dog and Leventhal)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN NON-FICTION

Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne (Pelican Publishing)

Reflections in a Glass Darkly: Essays on J. Sheridan Le Fanu edited by Gary William Crawford, Jim Rockhill and Brian J. Showers (Hippocampus Press)

Starve Better by Nick Mamatas (Apex Publications)

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies by Matt Mogk (Gallery Books)

The Gothic Imagination by John C. Tibbetts (Palgrave Macmillan)

Stephen King: A Literary Companion by Rocky Wood (McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A POETRY COLLECTION

How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison (Necon Ebooks)

At Louche Ends: Poetry for the Decadent, the Damned & the Absinthe-Minded by Maria Alexander (Burning Effigy Press)

Surrealities by Bruce Boston (Dark Regions Press)

Shroud of Night by G. O. Clark (Dark Regions Press)

The Mad Hattery by Marge Simon (Elektrik Milk Bath Press)

Unearthly Delights by Marge Simon (Sam’s Dot)

 

More information on the Horror Writers Association is at www.horror.org.

More information on the 25th Anniversary presentation of the Bram Stoker Awards is at http://www.stokers2012.org.

My Favorite Reads of 2010

This was one of the best years for books in a long time. There were no huge standouts, like Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel The Road, or Dan Simmons’ 2008 novel The Terror, but even still, of the 108 books I read this year, a surprisingly large number were of outstanding quality…so much so that winnowing this list down to just ten required a lot of purely subjective hair-splitting.

My list is made up entirely of books released during 2010. That meant that some of the 108 books I read this year weren’t eligible, even if they would have otherwise earned a spot here. Jeffrey Eugenides’ serio-comic epic novel Middlesex and John M. Barry’s haunting history of the 1927 Mississippi flood, Rising Tide, are just two examples of books not included for that reason. But beyond date of release, I was fairly open-ended on format, length and genre. Novellas released as a single work, such as Norman Prentiss’ Invisible Fences and Brian James Freeman’s The Painted Darkness got equal consideration with huge epic-sized novels, multi-author anthologies, short story collections, histories and biographies. Some of the books on this list I read in PDF as advance reader’s copies, or listened to on CD, or enjoyed as just plain old dead tree editions, and in most cases I explain that in each entry.

So, here they are, in no certain order…my favorite reads for 2010. Enjoy the list!

Horns by Joe Hill

Both a very funny book and at the same time a well-crafted one, Horns is far better than Hill’s first novel, Heart-Shaped Box. Heart-Shaped Box was a good book, mind you, and his debut collection, Twentieth Century Ghosts, was a great book, but Horns is a cut above either of those. Part Kafka, part Kurt Cobain, part Gallagher, Joe Hill is rapidly becoming one of America’s best novelists, and Horns will show you why. I listened to this one on CD, which helped the humor a lot, I think.

The Caretaker of Lorne Field by Dave Zeltserman

Like Horns, an extremely funny book. Zeltserman has made a name for himself as a writer of intense psychologically-driven crime fiction, making this rural horror story a bit of a departure…but I’m so glad he made it. I hadn’t gone twenty pages into this book before I knew it was going to make this list. Good old fashioned hardcover for this one, and worth every penny.

Pariah by Bob Fingerman

Zombies are big business, so it takes a lot of talent to rise above the crowd. Between James Roy Daley’s Best New Zombie Tales #1 and 2, Peter Clines’ Ex-Heroes, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Handling the Undead, Ben Tripp’s Rise Again, Greg Lamberson’s Desperate Souls, Patrick D’Orazio’s Comes the Dark, Craig DiLouie’s Tooth and Nail, Stephen Jones’ The Mammoth Book of Zombie Apocalypse, Chris Golden’s The New Dead and John Joseph Adams’ The Living Dead 2, 2010 brought out some of the best zombie stuff I’ve ever read. So the competition was extra tough. But my favorite zombie release of the year was Bob Fingerman’s novel Pariah. In addition to being a great zombie book, it was also a beautiful meditation on isolation and the stark, horrifying beauty of post-apocalyptic landscapes. Another good old fashioned dead tree read here, which helped a lot. I generally listen to audio books while driving to and from work, which makes it impossible to give a narrative your full and undivided attention. Inevitably, the idiot cutting you off is going to usurp some of your mental energy, regardless of how good the book is. Bob Fingerman’s description of his characters’ complex emotional states is so finely developed though it really merits the extra attention you have to give a printed book. Listening on CD would have frustrated me here.

Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett

Mr. Shivers is one of three debut novels on this year’s list. I was on a panel with the author at ArmadilloCon in Austin earlier this year, and I was so impressed with his comments on researching that I stopped off at the Barnes & Noble on the way home and bought his book. His story of hobos looking for revenge during the Great Depression was a delicious mix of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and Stephen King’s first Gunslinger novel. I flew through the mass market paperback in a single afternoon, and I can’t wait for his next novel, The Company Man.

Invisible Fences by Norman Prentiss

Besides being a genuinely classy guy, Norman Prentiss can write horror stories of such subtlety that you will find yourself going over the work three and four times just to see how he managed to do so much with so few words. He’s made a name for himself as a short story writer whose work more closely resembles the fiction found in the New Yorker than in the bulk of horror’s blood-soaked anthologies, but with his debut novel, Invisible Fences, Prentiss has written a short, but moving story that, to be honest, transcends any sort of attempt to pigeonhole it in a genre. I read this one in a limited edition trade paperback, and getting your own copy may prove difficult. Just don’t come looking for mine. You’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

In the Mean Time by Paul Tremblay

This was a great year for single author short story collections. I loved Michael Louis Calvillo’s Blood and Gristle, Jeremy Shipp’s Fungus of the Heart, John Little’s Little Things, Laird Barron’s Occultation, Scott Edelman’s What Will Come After, Harry Shannon’s A Host of Shadows and Lisa Mannetti’s Deathwatch, but Tremblay’s In the Mean Time just left me breathless. Calvillo’s work had more energy than Tremblay’s. Shannon’s collection had far better action and variety. Edelman’s had zombies. Mannetti’s had beautifully handled historical fiction. Each of those collections did something better than Tremblay did in his book, but the overall feel of In the Mean Time sold me on this work. It reminded me of a Pink Floyd album, the way it just fit together. I read this one as an ebook and found his apocalyptic visions to be so gut-wrenching that at times I had to go hug my kids just to remind myself that things were going to be okay. A tough read, but ultimately, one you’ll be glad you made.

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes

This is one of three non-horror books to make this year’s list. Marlantes’ debut was thirty years in the making, but it was worth the wait. I listened to this book on CD, and was simply blown away. I have a feeling Matterhorn will go up on the shelf next to O’Brien’s The Things They Carried as one of the best war novels ever written. Just be prepared for a very gritty, true to life description of war and all its horrors.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Like Bob Fingerman, I found out about Brenna Yovanoff through the table of contents of John Joseph Adams’ The Living Dead 2. Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin would have made this a good year for YA all by itself, but Yovanoff’s modern day tale of changelings told the age old teenage drama of fitting in with such originality and beauty that The Replacement transcended its YA field. Perhaps even more impressive is that this is a debut novel. There were some great debuts this year, such as Benjamin Kane Ethridge’s Black and Orange, Lisa Morton’s Castle of Los Angeles, Gregory Hall’s At the End of Church Street, and Lucy Snyder’s Spellbent, but Yovanoff’s book connected with me personally because I have two daughters about to enter that age where they will be trying to define their place in this world. Your mileage may differ, but this one is still highly recommended for anybody in the middle teens and older.

Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields by Charles Bowdon

I’ve been reading an awful lot about the Texas-Mexico border recently as research for an upcoming novel, and Bowdon’s book is one of the best on the subject. He doesn’t go into a great deal of depth about the political reasons behind Mexico’s drug war, but focuses instead on the personal stories of those caught up in the violence and tragedy that defines life in today’s Northern Mexico. After reading this book, I suspect that you, like me, will be furious with the U.S. government and the American media for directing so much attention on the other side of the globe, while one of the most immediate and verifiable threats to U.S. security is at a full boil right next door.

Selected Stories by William Trevor

William Trevor’s stories have been growing discernibly darker in tone over the years, and this volume, which brings together the Irish author’s last four short story collections, goes a long ways toward demonstrating that trend. But Trevor is also capable of writing intensely funny stuff, and you can still find that trademark humor here. William Trevor may very well be the best writer in English working today. His stories, which are always so full of sharp insights into love and ambition and power of major events, such as weddings or the end of an affair, to change many lives, never disappoint. This list isn’t in any sort of order, but if it was, this book would own the top rung. Well worth investing in the hardcover.

And finally, because I’m such a fan of Spinal Tap, I’m turning this list up to eleven and giving you one that almost made it.

Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue

Remember Plato’s Parable of the Cave? In the story, Socrates (pronounced So-Crates, according to Bill and Ted) relates the tale of a group of people who spend their entire lives chained to posts, facing a blank wall. There is a fire behind them that projects shadows on the wall. Because these people lack any other frame of reference, the shadows become their entire world, and their only idea of reality. If you’re familiar with the story, you must have wondered what would happen if those people suddenly got loose and joined the rest of us. Imagine the horror of that much reality crashing in on their minds at once. Well, Emma Donoghue did just that. She tells her story from the point of view of five year old Jack, who lives with his Ma in a single room, with the routine broken only by nighttime visits from a man named Old Nick. The prose is tricky, as it is meant to be that of a five year old, but nonetheless effective, and very frightening.

This Year’s Bram Stoker Award Roll Call

The inimitable Lisa Morton, writer and HWA powerhouse, has put together a great webpage for this year’s Bram Stoker Award nominees, including a short biography for each. Check it out here.

And if you happen to be the only person on the planet who has yet to see the list of nominated works, check out the full list here.

2009 Bram Stoker Award Final Ballot

I just received the following announcement from the Horror Writers Association’s webmaster. The final ballot for the HWA’s 2009 Bram Stoker Award is out, and I’m happy to say that my novel Quarantined made the list. Congrats to all the nominees!

Horror Writers Association announces
2009 Bram Stoker Award Nominees

Each year, the Horror Writers Association presents the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement in the field of horror writing, named in honor of Bram Stoker, author of the seminal horror work Dracula. Since 1987, the approximately 500 members of the HWA have recommended, nominated and voted on the greatest works of horror and dark fantasy of the previous calendar year, making the Stokers the most prestigious award in the field of horror literature.

Currently the awards are presented in eight categories: Novel, First Novel, Long Fiction, Short Fiction, Fiction Collection, Anthology, Non-fiction, and Poetry Collection. The organization’s Active members will select the winners from this ballot; voting will close on March 3rd, and the awards will be presented this year at a gala banquet on Saturday evening, March 27, at the World Horror Convention in Brighton, UK.

This year’s nominees in each category are:

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A NOVEL

Audrey’s Door by Sarah Langan (Harper)
Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Quarantined by Joe McKinney (Lachesis Publishing)
Cursed by Jeremy Shipp (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A FIRST NOVEL

Breathers by S. G. Browne (Broadway Books)
Solomon’s Grave by Daniel G. Keohane (Dragon Moon Press)
Damnable by Hank Schwaeble (Jove)
The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay (Henry Holt)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN LONG FICTION

Dreaming Robot Monster by Mort Castle (Mighty Unclean)
The Hunger of Empty Vessels by Scott Edelman (Bad Moon Books)
The Lucid Dreaming by Lisa Morton (Bad Moon Books)
Doc Good’s Traveling Show by Gene O’Neill (Bad Moon Books)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SHORT FICTION

“Keeping Watch” by Nate Kenyon (Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror)
“The Crossing of Aldo Ray” by Weston Ochse (The Dead That Walk)
“In the Porches of My Ears” by Norman Prentiss (Postscripts #18)
“The Night Nurse” by Harry Shannon (Horror Drive-in)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN FICTION COLLECTION

Martyrs and Monsters by Robert Dunbar (Dark Hart Press)
Got to Kill Them All and Other Stories by Dennis Etchison (Cemetery Dance)
A Taste of Tenderloin by Gene O’Neill (Apex Book Company)
In the Closet, Under the Bed by Lee Thomas (Dark Scribe Press)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN ANTHOLOGY (EDITING)

He is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson edited by Christopher Conlon (Gauntlet Press)
Lovecraft Unbound edited by Ellen Datlow (Dark Horse Books)
Poe edited by Ellen Datlow (Solaris)
Midnight Walk edited by Lisa Morton (Darkhouse Publishing)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN NONFICTION

Writers Workshop of Horror by Michael Knost (Woodland Press)
Cinema Knife Fight by L. L. Soares and Michael Arruda (Fearzone)
The Stephen King Illustrated Companion by Bev Vincent (Fall River Press)
Stephen King: The Non-fiction by Rocky Wood and Justin Brook (Cemetery Dance)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN POETRY COLLECTION

Double Visions by Bruce Boston (Dark Regions)
North Left of Earth by Bruce Boston (Sam’s Dot)
Barfodder by Rain Graves (Cemetery Dance)
Chimeric Machines by Lucy A. Snyder (Creative Guy Publishing)

2008 Bram Stoker Award Winners Announced

The Bram Stoker Award

The Bram Stoker Award

Well the awards are out, and some great titles won. Congrats to everyone who made it to the final ballot, and a big congrats to the winners! Way to go, folks!

Novel – Duma Key by Stephen King
Single Author Collection – Just After Sunset by Stephen King
Anthology – Unspeakable Horror edited by Vince A. Liaguno and Chad Helde
Poetry Collection – The Nightmare Collection by Bruce Boston
First Novel – The Gentling Box by Lisa Mannetti
Short Fiction – The Lost by Sarah Langan
Long Fiction – Miranda by John R. Little
Nonfiction – A Halloween Anthology by Lisa Morton
Specialty Press – Bloodletting Press (Larry and Debra Roberts)
The Silver Hammer Award – Sephera Giron
President’s Award – John R. Little
Lifetime Achievement – F. Paul Wilson and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

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