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Specialty Press, Holiday Titles

By Denise Dumars     December 08, 2000

Victims of the Year

Lots of people feel sorry for themselves around the holidays, but hey, does anyone out there truly care about Robert Downey, Jr's problems? Well, if not, there are plenty of other folks to feel sorry for. U.S. News and World Report reported in its Dec. 4 issue on the winners of the Victims of the Year competition. Here are my two favorites from the list: (1) People who don't like to hug: two 8th grade girls in Euless, TX, were told by the principal that they could not share even a friendly hug in the school hallway since others who don't like to hug might then be expected to do so. (2) Canadians, especially those named Kenny: A Canadian woman says her son Kenny is victimized by the weekly killing of the character Kenny on South Park and wants the show banned. She didn't mention that the show also slams Canadians at every opportunity, as with the Oscar-nominated song Blame Canada.

Nobody loves me, everybody hates me...think I'll eat some worms.

Specialty Press Spotlight

What to get that person on your Xmas list who has all the bestsellers? Well, the specialty press has been filling the needs of genre hounds for some time now. I regularly report on such specialty publishers as Dark Tales Publications, Cemetery Dance Publications, and Gauntlet Publications. Today I'd like to mention a couple others.

Delirium Books has hit on something I like a lot: short story collections. Charlee Jacob writes extreme horror, often of a sexual nature so don't say I didn't warn you. Her collection Up, Out of the Cities That Blow Hot and Cold is now available from Delirium. Gerald Houarner's collection, I Love You and There is Nothing You Can Do About It contains his usual mix of suspenseful, often very dark horror. And I guess Delirium really likes long titles. You can reach them at www.deliriumbooks.com.

The Design Image Group I've mentioned before; they've published the first-ever anthology for Affiliate Members of the Horror Writers Associationthese are members who have not yet made professional sales. Well, now they have! Bell, Book, and Beyond is a collection of witchy horror stories edited by P. D. Cacek and published (quite beautifully, I might add) by Design Image. Expect a review and predictions on who the break-out newbies in this collection might be.

Design Image Group publishes what they call 'traditional' horror novels; that is, those that deal with subjects like ghosts, vampires, etc. A good example is Gothique, a vampire novel by Kyle Marffin. Reach them at www.designimagegroup.com.

Fiction Fracas

Timeline by Michael Crichton is out in paperback now; in fact, it's at the top of the Los Angeles Times' paperback bestseller list. It's a fun historico-sf-thriller (I think I just made up a genre) that I reviewed when it came out in hardcover. Something to read while you're standing in line to let your pet see Santayes, they were actually doing this recently at a big pet store chain here in SoCal.

John Sandford, who gives us the scary Prey series (which for some reason I could never quite get excited about), has a new book out featuring his previous-to-Prey hero, Kidd. The Devil's Code is a suspense thriller, and Kidd sounds pretty cool as an antihero type. He's an artist, a computer hacker, and a Tarot card reader, among other things. Fans are saying that this book is better than the current Prey novel so check it out.

In the Country of the Young looks like a literary ghost story. Author Lisa Carey has an MFA, but we'll try to ignore that and see how well she does with this dark story of Irish immigrants in New England. In the novel, a recluse meets the ghost of a little girl on Halloween and we can be sure there's some great Irish-American gothicness at the heart of this. We have the Irish to thank, by the way, for bringing Halloween with them to the New World.

We can't avoid holiday titles this time of year, so I suppose I'll have to mention Deck the Halls by Mary and Carol Higgins Clark. The mom-and-daughter team of mystery-suspense writers give us a tale of a kidnapping that takes place three days before Xmas. Lottery winner and amateur detective Alvirah Meehan, a character from some of Carol Higgins Clark's novels, is featured. Could be a hoot.

More retelling of old stories: The Knight of the Sacred Lake is the second in a trilogy by Rosalind Miles. The first book, Guenevere: Queen of the Summer Country, introduced us to the Arthurian mythos from the perspective of Guenevere as coequal ruler of Arthur's kingdom. In this current volume, her other love, Lancelot, has gone back to the goddess, or at least her representative, the Lady of the Lake. I think we get a lot of the pre-Christian Arthurian stuff in these books. They look really good.

George R. R. Martin is a very versatile writer who appears to write horror, SF, and fantasy equally well. Now he has a big ol' fantasy series that the fans are raving about. A Storm of Swords is one of those doorstop fantasy novels (800 pp.) that is apparently Book Three in the series A Song of Ice and Fire. It features magic and dragons and all that good fantasy crap, and draws its references from the 14th century War of the Roses. True to Martin's vision, it also includes some truly creepy gore and some military-political stuff. Get this for the person on your list who is already working on next year's RenFaire costume.

This next book seemed to leap off the shelf at me. Maybe it was the bemused-looking, anthropomorphic bats and rats on the cover that made me pick up Rats, Bats, & Vats by Dave Freer and Eric Flint. This book takes place in 'a future world forgotten by the rest of the universe,' and features cyber-intelligence enhanced bats, horny rat people, planet-eating maggots, comedy, space opera, and even recipes. Looks funny as hell.

Finally, something for the whole family. A Midsummer Night's Faery Tale by Wendy Froud and Terri Windling is approved for ages 8 and up, but rest assured that most grown-ups would enjoy it too. Dollmaker Froud and fantasy author Windling bring us the adventures of a faery named Sneezle who has a great adventure while trying to obtain the Midsummer crown for King Oberon. Froud's doll representations of Sneezle and friends are arranged and photographed to illustrate the narrative. A truly lovely and charming book.

Nonfiction Nibbles

OK, let's get the holiday tie-in title out of the way first. The Gifts of the Magi, by Caroline Vaughan tells the story of the Magi and explains the significance of the three gifts they brought to Bethlehem. The book is illustrated with plates from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Medieval and Renaissance art collection, and with the books you get a little vial of gold dust, and some frankincense and myrrh resin in little bags. You can use the resins as incense, burning them on charcoal, or, as we learned from Dr. Bob Brier last Sunday night, use them in the embalming process the next time one of your dead relatives needs mummifying.

Not to be outdone by The Complete Idiot's Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft (mentioned I think in Vault #9), David Daniel Kennedy brings us Feng Shui for Dummies. Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese practice of placement, putting things in the home, garden, or office in harmonic arrangements according to I don't knowley lines or crystals or some such thing. All I know about furniture placement is that, like a Wild West gunslinger, I never sit with my back to the door.

While I was poking through the home and garden section looking for, who knows, a book on Gothic Horror decorating (don't worry, there aren't any), I came across another interesting tome. Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy by Eric Hansen tells us more than we ever wanted to know about the international orchid trade. Now I know where the lust comes in: the word orchid comes from the Latin Orchis, which means testicle. The flower has a lower petal that, well, sort of looks like one. Anyway, Hansen supposedly spent seven years traveling the globe, looking for weird orchids and their weirder growers. There's a thriving black market in orchids; there are orchids big enough to kill you if they fall on you, and the Federal Government has agents that will bust in on illegal orchid operations with attack dogs and Tech 9's. I am not making this up; read the book.

The most controversial title on the Metaphysical bookshelves isn't some posthumous collection of Anton LaVey's witticisms or a tome 'proving' that the ancient Egyptians were aliens; in fact, it's an extremely benign little title called The Teen Witch Kit by Silver RavenWolf. Containing a book of spells, rituals, and the Wiccan code of ethics as well as charms, a crystal, and a pentagram to wear, this kit has riled up more Wiccans than Dubya's contention that 'Witchcraft isn't a religion.' Some Wiccans believe the kit is essentially a good thing, simplifying the Craft and presenting the correct view of the practice to curious teens; others think it's a gimmick by Llewellyn, trivializing the Old Religion in order to cash in on the popularity of Wicca among young people turned on to it by the media.

I stand with the former. This is harmless stuff. Some kids will look over it and grow tired of the fad; those that stay will eventually seek a deeper understanding and, ergo, deeper books. As for trivializing something serious, well, one could say the same thing about what the Chicken Soup books do for more mainstream spiritual practices.

Other People's Recommendations

Inscriptions is an excellent online newsletter for writers. You can subscribe for free by emailing the editor at Editor@inscriptionsmagazine.com. If you need even more book suggestions than my own, check out their Books of the Year section at www.inscriptionsmagazine.com. There are both fiction and nonfiction titles on the list. These include some genre books I must have missed this year, such as Magnificat: A Novel of the Millennium by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro; The 8th House by Wendy Jensen; and Oracle by Katherine Greyle. The site is definitely worth a look.

Well, I went on too long again. Before I eat those worms I'll see if there's a recipe in Rats, Bats & Vats.

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