Good News and Good Spooks

We're a good third of the way into September, dear readers. I love this time of year. Autumn is a season to drink in the beauty of gold-scarlet-sienna leaves, to snuggle into sweaters and scarves against a pleasing chill. Sure, the weather in LA is predicted to hit ninety degrees on Saturday but that will not stop me.

Before I get any further, I have excellent news to share: in January of 2020, I will have a brand-new story in World Weaver Press's anthology "Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters." I've been working with Sarena Ulibarri, and I'm in terrific company. I can't wait to see my story "On the Contrary, Yes" in print, and I hope that you can't wait, either.

Now, for the present day... Halloween is coming (double double toil and trouble). Because LA won't oblige me with properly autumnal weather, I have to conjure up all the spooky atmosphere myself-- booklamp, flare, and cauldron, bubble!

So in October, I will focus on scary books-- novels of horror or the paranormal. I avoid horror movies and TV, but I do relish a good shiver up my spine. I describe my tastes as "macabre"-- things implied, unseen, ambiguous, rather than buckets of bones and gore and clear explanations. It's also more compact than explaining to people that I really imprinted on Pet Shop of Horrors and Sweeney Todd.

For the last three or so years, I've focused on horror reads for October. That way, I draw out the Halloween spirit as much as I can. The Haunting of Hill House and Rosemary's Baby were both stellar; I was very impressed by The Shining but had to speed-flip through the latter third, not because it was scary, but because Mr. King does rather ramble on.

For October 2019, these are the scary books I will be reading for the first time*

The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury. I found a beautiful copy at the Ten Dollars or Less Bookstore in Northridge, CA, a copy with a Leo & Diane Dillon cover, how could I possibly resist? The fact that it’s middle-grade fiction signifies little. Donna Jo Napoli, Neil Gaiman, and Holly Black have all been able to chill my blood while writing in the middle-grade age range.

Art by Leo and Diane Dillon, channeling Hieronymus Bosch.

Art by Leo and Diane Dillon, channeling Hieronymus Bosch.

White is for Witching by Helen Oyememi: Gothic horror is deeply interesting to me. In many ways, it's so domestic, a picture of what happens when the relationships of family and lovers grows corrupt. Also I've heard Oyememi's writing is excellent.

Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King: I've heard this one isn't scary, but it is creepy, a little eerie. Also, my mom loves it. I love how King constructs his scenes, from dialogue to the discursive but revealing narrative voice. I have a lot to learn from him.

Hungry Ghosts by Anthony Bourdain. A friend of mine with excellent taste has recommended this to me in the highest of terms. Food is another excellent horror riff-- starving, devouring, chomping, broiling; you need the nourishment, and you consumed the food and considered it destroyed, but now the food can destroy you.

* Since at least 2016, I've had this weird inability to reread most books, even books that I absolutely love, even though for most of my life rereading has been a delight. I start rereading a book, and suddenly I'm gripped by ennui, too bored to continue. I chalk this up to "my brain works in mysterious ways" and hope that someday I can reread my faves again.

These are bad times. It's hard to find something scarier to read than the morning newspaper (so to speak). It's nice to be scared silly by something that you can just close, set down, and walk away from. It's nice to read fiction that admits to the terrifying forces at work in life: the past that won't let go, the fate that you can't fight.

Well, grab a broomstick and snuggle your black cats as close as they'll let you. Enjoy autumn, my lovelies! Got any examples of macabre horror you'd like to recommend to me? Add them in the comments... and stay spooky...