Women in Horror Month: Mama’s Boy and Other Dark Tales

Title: Mama’s Boy and Other Dark Tales
Author: Fran Friel
Publisher: Apex Publications

We are wrapping up Women in Horror Recognition month with a book that exemplifies what women bring to the genre. Mama’s Boy and Other Dark Tales by Fran Friel is a collection that in one light is very diverse, is also tied together by recurring themes and ideas you don’t see much in horror.

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One Buck Horror

A tough economy will impact all forms of entertainment. When it comes to the horror genre, it could be lethal. In fact, a number of markets for the genre have gone under since the recession started. But there is one that has started recently that is taking advantage of the all the current conditions in publishing. One Buck Horror is a ebook digest of horror short fiction. As the name implies, it costs a dollar ($0.99 to be exact). If you check the ebooks that are the same price, both the quality and quantity is very inconsistent.  One Buck Horror contains five stories that are well written and, sometime a rarity in, edited and formatted.

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Women In Horror Recognition Month Poll Winners

Just thought I would let you all in on who going to be spotlighted in a few weeks for Women In Horror month.

Coming in a dubious first place, Morbid Curiosity by Deborah LeBlanc:

It seemed like the answer to Haley’s prayers. The most popular girl in her high school promised Haley that her life would change forever if only she performed certain dark rituals. And if Haley can convince her twin sister to participate, their power will double. Together they will be able to summon mystical entities that will do their bidding, some more powerful than they ever dreamed possible.

But these are uncontrollable forces, forces that can kill—forces that demand to be . . . fed.

From Deborah LeBlanc’s Website

Next up is Spellbent by Lucy Snyder:

Jessie Shimmer’s roguish lover, Cooper, has been teaching her ubiquemancy, the art of finding the magic in everyday things. But things go terribly wrong when the couple try to call a rainstorm in downtown Columbus. A hellish portal opens, and Cooper is ripped from the world. Worse yet, a vicious demon invades the city. Jessie barely manages to slay it, but she’s gravely wounded and the capital’s center is destroyed. As if losing an eye and a hand isn’t bad enough, the city’s ruling mage, Benedict Jordan, brands her an outlaw. With only her ferret familiar to help her, Jessie must find the dimension Cooper’s trapped in and bring him back alive before sinister machinations make both of them vanish for good.

From Lucy Snyder’s Website

In a close third, the classic, The Haunting of  Hill House by Shirley Jackson:

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers-and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

From the Penguin Website

Rounding out the month will be Mama’s Boy and Other Dark Tales by Fran Friel:

The Bram Stoker Award-nominated novella “Mama’s Boy” is the cornerstone of this 14-story collection from author Fran Friel and Apex Publications. A man whose mother’s demented love for him has turned him from an innocent boy to a serial killer to a near-comatose mental patient opens his world to a psychologist determined to reach him as a way of dealing with her own mother’s battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But is she helping, or is there more damage to be done?

In “Mashed,” a son’s simple request for potatoes with his birthday dinner opens up a world of past fears and childhood torments for his mother, while the flash fiction story “Close Shave” presents a horrifically funny solution to an everyday women’s issue.

From mother and son to broader family ties, Friel explores the bonds of human connection into every dark turn. The humorous yet wickedly creepy “Under the Dryer” begins as a tale told by the family dog and ends in a bloodbath; “Special Prayers,” perhaps the most disturbing offering in the collection, exposes a family secret of abuse and power; and the tragically soft and beautiful “Orange and Golden” explores the purest form of the human-animal bond as the sun sets on a natural disaster.

From the Apex Publications Website

Ante Mortem

Title: Ante Mortem
Editor: Jodi Lee
Publisher: Belfire Press

Ante Mortem is a good collection of authors that are the newest guard of the horror genre. All the stories are about the those last moments before dies, either physically or metaphorically. I’m sure there are many out there that think that this would be mostly characters getting killed my some kind of murderer or monster. While those are in there, I have to give credit to the number or ways that theme was used that weren’t. Stories like “Tiny Fingers,” “Hit the Wall,” and “Fetching Narissa” are probably the favorites for that reason. In “Tiny Finger,” Aaron Polson writes a classic ghost tale, but with an ending that could only happen modern times. It is also an ending that you would not expect in most tales of any genre, for the most part. David Dunwoody’s “Hitting the Wall” creeps into that lovecraftian realm of cosmic horror (not “outer space” cosmic but “large and unknowable to human perception” cosmic) with the antagonist being Nature itself. But I would say top billing would go to “Fetching Narissa” where David Chrisom wrote the only story without a physical death in it. I think it is a more chilling and stronger story for it.

There is good cross over appeal in some of these stories. For instance, “Hitting the Wall” is a dark sci-fi story with its Mother Nature antagonist. “The Dubious Magic of Elliot Prince” could easily be read and enjoyed by the Urban Fantasy audience. It, along with “Beauty Ritual” are also stories that deal with gay characters.

What they all have in common is interesting new takes on many classic conventions and tropes of horror that seem original and not just rehashes. You like zombies? Gina Ranalli is your woman to read. Werewolves? “Territory” is your story. I’ll leave the rest for you to discover.

All and all, the highs and lows of the book even each other out, leaving a fairly even reading experience in the end. A solid anthology collection that an horror or non-horror reader can enjoy fully.

Horror Reader Level:
“Tiny Fingers” by Aaron Polson: Beginner
“The Good Friend” by Natalie L. Sin: Intermediate
“To Serve the Beginning” by Gina Ranalli: Intermediate
“Hit the Wall” by David Dunwoody: Intermediate
“From the Bowels” by Benjamin Kane Ethridge: Fan
“The Dubious Magic of Elliot Prince” by K.V. Taylor: Intermediate
“Hunger Pains” by Myrrym Davies: Beginner
“Fetching Narissa” by David Chrisom: Beginner
“Beauty Ritual” by John Grover: Intermediate
“Territory” by Kelly M. Hudson: Intermediate
“A Little Help in the Kitchen” by Jeff Parish: Fan

Average Reader Level: Intermediate

Memorable Bits with Michael Bracken

With over 900 short stories under his belt, Michael Bracken has joined us for the next Many Genres, One Craft interview. While better known for his mystery and women’s fiction stories, don’t let that fool you into thinking he doesn’t know his horror. But he does give an important “outside” look to horror that readers and non-readers of the genre can learn from.

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