The Importance of Horror From a Young Age

Hey guys! Today is my first day hosting a tour for the lovely Tomorrow Comes Media. These tours will always feature unique, interesting authors with prompts from myself so I really hope you read and enjoy them! Today, I’ve invited L. Andrew Cooper to the blog to promote his dark fantasy novel, Burning the Middle Ground. I’ll begin with my question to Andrew followed by his response. Enjoy. :)

My academic self has taught a few classes centered on this question and addresses it at some length in my book Gothic Realities, but my creative-writer self looks at the questions differently, and might even have different answers. Here, I’ll make the academic shut up (it’s tough) and let the creative writer answer.

At four, the Count was my fave on Sesame Street. At five, when I would wish on a dandelion, I often wished for a widow’s peak hairline (I didn’t know Christopher Lee’s name, but I knew that look). I was eight or nine when a short story I wrote for class gave a classmate nightmares, and I felt… exultant. My own nightmares weren’t fun, but they fascinated me as much as they made me cry and shake. At age ten, I taped popsicle sticks to my fingers, pretending to be Freddy Krueger.

It was a battle with myself, I guess. Some aspect of my psyche didn’t want to deal with this horrific stimuli, but some aspect did, so game on. And that part that did, won. The can-do side. The there-ain’t-no-child-eating-alien-keeping-me-up-for-a-month-ever-again (X-Tro, unfathomably, scared the bejesus out of me) side.

So I conclude the genre is important for children because it provides a threshold upon which to fight our psyche’s battles, most important the battle between what dangers we will recognize and regard as real and dangerous and what dangers we will not. Some people are really scared of vampires and aliens. I’ve negotiated those fears via the movies, and short of actual encounters, they are not insecurities that add significantly to my sum total of worry.

And therein also lies the answer to the question about why the genre is more important generally. It’s not just kids who can negotiate their fears through horror’s tropes, perhaps more easily than through the nightly news or through realist fiction. Burning the Middle Ground uses powers right out of dark fantasy, but it’s really about people manipulating others’ beliefs to gain political power, beliefs about everything from gun control, which featured largely in the book before it again took a front seat in the media, to education. Watching evidence of that on the news makes me feel way sicker than reading one of my gorier scenes of limbs being torn off (or something). The horror genre is, oddly enough, a cushion. The necessary and often predictable violence and gore (suspense is about when, not what) seem less like things happening to real people than spectacular devices that may or may not have other symbolic value. They soften the blow of the real horror, which is that people really treat others like objects, like means to ends, and people really are capable of being manipulated by those who would treat them so.

So horror lets me deal with that kind of horror while using violent conventions of the genre as a cushion that softens the blow. It makes the brutal nastiness of political machinations softer enough, but it still calls attention to the horribleness of this everyday human practice, no matter how hyperbolic the supernatural narrative makes it—and in that way, the horror genre is the purest form of critique.

I talk critique, and a few people start to yawn, because they think the academic took over, but nope, still the creative writer here. Creative writing is great for two reasons: 1) You get to tell fun stories, and 2) You get to point out what sucks and what’s great. My point was about number two, as “critique” here is really about suck/greatness, but I haven’t forgotten one. One’s the real deal. You see, the horror genre provides this territory for negotiating fears, and it’s a territory where pretty much everything is under negotiation: life and death, present and absent, history and future, innocence and guilt. Rod Serling had a name for this place. Cool stories come from there.

What we have to fear and what we don’t is very similar to the question of what is real and what is not. That’s the ultimate negotiation, and that’s ultimately the line that horror gets to do flips across until people exit the story territory and go one way or the other. Horror turns your own negotiations of fear and reality into a heck of a show.

L. Andrew Cooper thinks the smartest people like horror, fantasy, and sci-fi. Early in life, he couldn’t handle the scary stuff–he’d sneak and watch horror films and then keep his parents up all night with his nightmares. In the third grade, he finally convinced his parents to let him read grownup horror novels: he started with Stephen King’s Firestarter, and by grade five, he was doing book reports on The Stand.

When his parents weren’t being kept up late by his nightmares, they worried that his fascination with horror fiction would keep him from experiencing more respectable culture. That all changed when he transitioned from his public high school in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia to uber-respectable Harvard University, where he studied English Literature. From there, he went on to get a Ph.D. in English from Princeton, turning his longstanding engagement with horror into a dissertation. The dissertation became the basis for his first book, Gothic Realities (2010). More recently, his obsession with horror movies turned into a book about one of his favorite directors, Dario Argento (2012). He also co-edited the textbook Monsters (2012), an attempt to infect others with the idea that scary things are worth people’s serious attention.

After living in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California, Andrew now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he teaches at the University of Louisville and chairs the board of the Louisville Film Society, the city’s premiere movie-buff institution. Burning the Middle Ground is his debut novel.

You can find him around the interwebs:

Website & Blog - Facebook - Twitter

Burning the Middle Ground

Burning the Middle Ground is a dark fantasy about small-town America that transforms readers’ fears about the country’s direction into a haunting tale of religious conspiracy and supernatural mind control. A character-driven sensibility like Stephen King’s and a flair for the bizarre like Bentley Little’s delivers as much appeal for dedicated fans of fantasy and horror as for mainstream readers looking for an exciting ride. Brian McCullough comes home from school and discovers that his ten-year-old sister Fran has murdered their parents. Five years later, a journalist, Ronald Glassner, finds Brian living at the same house in the small town of Kenning, Georgia. Planning a book on the McCullough Tragedy, Ronald stumbles into a struggle between Kenning’s First Church, run by the mysterious Reverend Michael Cox, and the New Church, run by the rebellious Jeanne Harper. At the same time, Kenning’s pets go berserk, and dead bodies, with the eyes and tongues removed from their heads, begin to appear.

So tell me, dear readers, did you spend your childhood trying to scare yourself silly or were you more of a duvet safety kid? Do you believe horror to be an important genre or do you think we could live without it and why? Leave your comments below!

[Review] Pretty When She Kills by Rhiannon Frater

Rhiannon Frater is the award-winning author of the AS THE WORLD DIES zombie trilogy and the author of several other horror novels. She was born and raised a Texan and presently lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and furry children (a.k.a pets). She loves scary movies, sci-fi shows, playing video games, cooking, dying her hair weird colors, and shopping for Betsey Johnson purses and shoes.

You can find her online at:

Website: &
Email: rhiannonfrater at


Warning: The following review contains spoilers for book one in the series, Pretty When She Dies but do scroll down to the bottom for a giveaway and links.

Author: Rhiannon Frater
 Pretty When She.. #2
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Horror
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: 220
Published: 7th September 2012
Source: Review copy from author
Goodreads | Amazon (UK/US) | Book Depository

First Sentence
The girl stood drenched in blood in the center of the graveyard.

Amaliya Vezorak never believed in happy endings…

When Amaliya harnessed her necromancer powers to defeat her greatest enemy, she believed she had finally found a happy ending with Cian, her lover and the master of Austin. That happiness is short-lived when the vampire ruling over San Antonio attempts a takeover of Austin in order to capture Amaliya and use her power for his own devices.

To make matters worse, Samantha, Cian’s ex-fiancée, is seeing ghosts, the untested vampire hunters of Austin are running scared as a supernatural war looms, a mysterious man is hunting Amaliya with the help of her one time lover, Pete, and Rachoń, the Summoner’s favorite progeny, appears to be out for revenge.

When Amaliya’s grandmother, a powerful medium, experiences terrible visions that reveal there is another necromancer vampire and she is crying out for help, Amaliya realizes happy endings do not come easily…


This series is a fantastic example of indie authors who do it right. It feels as polished as any traditionally published novel. Oh and if you’ve been wondering what happened to all the dirk and dirty vampiric urban fantasy after the Twilight implosion – here you go.

Pretty When She Kills begins with the resurrection of Bianca, another of the Summoner’s progeny, and Rachon’s (the Summoner’s most loyal offspring) need to kill her before she wreaks too much havoc as a newborn vampire. Except when she finds the ghostlike girl has Necromantic powers she can’t bring herself to do it and so decides to bind her to her. Already we find ourselves glued to the pages as it starts with as much of a bang as Pretty When She Dies.

There is a lot of character growth in Pretty When She Kills, which might well be why I much preferred it a little to Pretty When She Dies. The major player in my opinion being Samantha who I found incredibly annoying before. She’s just a little lost and afraid and I just want to hug her! She has her own stuff to deal with now and relationships of varying types to entangle, romantic and non, and I really respected her and the way she embraced how crappy life can be and decided to kick it’s arse. After despising her so much before, she has definitely become my favourite character. How’s that for character growth? Amaliya, as well, had some growing to do. As we already know she has a tendency to want to run when things get hard and she hasn’t changed, but she also embraces a few things and I felt even more sympathy for her than before. She’s still very human at her core.

“It really is different for you, isn’t it? Being what you are?”
Amaliya gave her a brief nod.

We also meet a few new characters in Pretty When She Kills who provide even more interesting side stories and funny quips but I shan’t spoil these for you because they’re fun to meet on your own.

Even the bad guys are intriguing. Some are just straight-forward nasty, like the Summoner in Pretty When She Dies, but some have another side to them which really leaves us questioning: how bad are they? This is an aspect of Rhiannon’s writing that I adore. The fact that nothing is simply black and white. This along with her fab way of setting up an atmosphere that really puts you in the moment. And there are a few twists in the story. You know, just to keep it interesting. Not once did I find the novel getting ‘samey’, I pretty much loved it throughout. It’s freaking epic and book three is only going to be better.

Pretty When She Kills is a definite improvement on Pretty When She Dies which I thoroughly enjoyed, I just adored this one a little more. It felt more polished and was fast-paced throughout. If you’re not sure whether or not to pick this one up – do. I promise it’s worth it. Ooh, and we meet a few new supernaturals in this one..

The Pretty When She.. series:

1. Pretty When She Dies
2. Pretty When She Kills
3. Pretty When She Destroys

A Giveaway

Want to read the Pretty When She.. series but haven’t gotten around to getting hold of copies yet? You can win ecopies of both Pretty When She Dies and Pretty When She Kills. Internationally! Just fill in the Rafflecopter and watch your emails.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And if you happen to be in the US or Canada (maybe even both!) then make sure you check out Ashley’s epic giveaway over here. This also includes Ashley and Rhiannon’s video interview which is a bit of fun too.

♦ 1 autographed trade paperback of PRETTY WHEN SHE KILLS
♦ 6 bookmarks (2 autographed bookmarks)
♦ A fang earring and necklace set.

[Review] American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Another guest review from Angelya! This may well be the last one she writes for Once Upon A Time but I can’t be too sad about that as it’s because she is starting her own book blog which I’m very excited about. She’s still setting up at the moment but do make sure you say hi and follow her at The Oaken Bookcase!

Author: Neil Gaiman
Series: None
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 656 pages
Published: June 2001, 10th anniversary edition published June 2011
Source: Bought copy for Kindle
Goodreads | Amazon (UK/US) | Book Depository

First sentence:

Shadow had done three years in prison.


After three years in prison, Shadow is looking forward to getting out, taking a long bath and making love to his wife. As the big day approaches, however, things start to go downhill. Once he is actually released and meets a strange old man called Wednesday, things really start going… sideways.

Thus begins a strange, nightmarish journey across the United States, rallying old gods to the cause against the new, younger gods of Media and Technology. The story weaves in around fragments of tales of the peoples who brought their gods and beliefs to America, populating a country that is no place for gods.

My thoughts

This is an amazing book, but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. It won plenty of awards, including Hugo, Nebula and Bram Stoker awards, and a few people have remarked to me that it’s one of their all-time favourite reads.

Neil Gaiman is a brilliant writer, with witty turns-of-phrase and an unrestrained imagination. This was the first of his books I’ve read and I’ll definitely be reading some of his other works.

The stories collected in it about different peoples coming to America and bringing their gods and beliefs are fascinating, some horrible, some hopeful. I loved the idea of the story, that gods exist because people believe in them and they feed on worship and sacrifices and fade away if they are forgotten. I liked the little blessings that the gods gave to Shadow along his journey. I thought the coin tricks were a little odd at first, but they grew on me as the story went on. I also liked the character of Laura. She seemed optimistic all the time, which is admirable in a corpse. I also liked that Shadow never wavered in his love for her.

So why didn’t I particularly enjoy American Gods?

The story was very dark and disturbing at times and generally depressing, which occasionally made me reluctant to continue to read. It depressed me that humans have always made sacrifices to gods – food, time, money, children, animals, sometimes even themselves, in the belief that this will make theirs or their people’s situation better. I was constantly reminded of this with every fragment of story and it cast a gloom over the whole book to me.

I felt that even though the individual characters were well-written for their part in the story, it wasn’t obvious enough who some of them were intended to be and there were a lot of vague references to what I can only assume are ancient gods or mythical figures. They were written as though the reader should know them – it made me feel sometimes as though there was an inside joke that hadn’t been shared.

The story meandered a lot, as the main characters traveled around the country, which made the story feel like it wasn’t moving towards anything. It didn’t really start ramping up until close to the end, and even then the final showdown was a bit of a fizzer. The ending, while it did resolve in a satisfying way, left me feeling that not much had actually changed.

I found it strange that there is very little mention of the other stakeholders who have something to lose to the likes of media and technology – the deities of major religions such as Christianity, Islam or Judaism, and only a small mention of Hindu gods. Perhaps the author was just playing it safe, or perhaps those deities aren’t worried about being forgotten and were sitting back in their churches while the storm was gathering, fat and happy. Who knows?

American Gods is being made into a television series, to be aired in the United States during 2013. I have mixed feelings about watching it on the screen – the story was depressing and disturbing enough when I was reading about it, but I’d be morbidly curious to see how they put it together. It could end up being one of those adaptations that will be quite difficult to understand unless you have some idea already of what is going on.

The book is, and certainly the TV series will be, definitely adults only – plenty of messy violence, graphic sex and bad language. You have been warned!

I know it sounds like I really didn’t like this book but while I did not particularly enjoy the process of reading it, it is a fascinating and extremely well-written book and I would encourage you to read it and form your own opinion.

[Review] Pretty When She Dies by Rhiannon Frater

Author: Rhiannon Frater
Pretty When She.. #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Horror
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: 384
Published: 2008
Source: Personal Kindle copy
Goodreads | Amazon (UK/US) | Book Depository

First sentence:

When she began to stir from her deep slumber, she had no idea she was buried under several feet of moist, dark earth.

Amaliya wakes under the forest floor, disoriented, famished and confused. She digs out of the shallow grave and realizes she is hungry… in a new, horrific, unimaginable way… Sating her great hunger, she discovers that she is now a vampire, the bloodthirsty creature of legend. She has no choice but to flee from her old life and travels across Texas. Her new hunger spurs her to leave a wake of death and blood behind her as she struggles with her new nature. All the while, her creator is watching. He is ancient, he is powerful, and what’s worse is that he’s a necromancer. He has the power to force the dead to do his bidding. Amaliya realizes she is but a pawn in a twisted game, and her only hope for survival is to seek out one of her own kind. But if Amaliya finds another vampire, will it mean her salvation… or her death?


Pretty When She Dies follows the protagonist, Amaliya, as she fumbles her way around after being crudely thrust into the world of vampires and left to fend for herself and work out exactly what is happening to her and how to control it. You have most likely seen me blogging about this book on recent Fridays as I was taking part in the read along for it and it was a lot of fun. Not only was it an opportunity to discuss your thoughts on a book with likeminded people but it also meant that I was able to read it slowly, savouring every moment of the story. Sometimes that’s a nice way to read. This is my non-spoilery review for those of you who might be curious.

Rhiannon paints a vivid picture of Amaliya’s life and surroundings. It is a tense and dark horror, with just a sprinkling of subtle humour, and nothing particularly scary so I wouldn’t be too alarmed. I managed to read it and I’m scared of the dark so you’ll be fine. What makes it a horror is how the vampires are portrayed as the predators, though I feel inclined to call it an urban fantasy, it is a bit of both really. And the sex, as odd as it comes across, is pretty hot, if a little… weird. You’ll just have to see for yourself on that one. All I shall say without spoiling it is that I wasn’t as freaked out as I felt like I should have been.

I liked the use of different character perspectives throughout the story. They not only provided a better overview, but made us as the reader feel more in tune with characters that we otherwise might not whilst remaining most sympathetic towards Amaliya who really just needs to catch a break. The best thing about her is how real she feels. The emotions she goes through are so very human and so not, and she is also flawed which if anything gets her into more trouble than she is already in which only livens the book up further for us, but she is also resourceful, so she has her own unique way of getting out of sticky situations.

I personally felt that towards the end it dropped off a little and I had to really push to finish, but I was damn glad I did. There are some things towards the end that were just too awesome to miss. Those of you who have read Pretty When She Dies will definitely know what I mean. And though sometimes the writing feels a little clunky, it didn’t bother me so much because usually it was amazing.

All in all, Pretty When She Dies is a fantastic read which I found myself really able to get into. If you’re a fan of the more traditional vampire, the vicious predator rather than the unpopular-human lover, and also of urban fantasies, then seriously, Pretty When She Dies is a must read. It is both compelling and dark. And the Kindle version is only £1.99! And $2.99 in US, I believe? Get it!

The Pretty When She.. series:

1. Pretty When She Dies
2. Pretty When She Kills
3. Pretty When She Destroys

Jo Fletcher Short Story Competition

Hey guys, just a quick one to let you know about Jo Fletcher’s awesome competition. It ends at midnight (GMT) on Sunday so you’ll need to get your entries in soon but it shouldn’t be too difficult because the goal is to write a 140 word horror, science fiction, or fantasy short story in conjunction with National Short Story Week. Easy, right? The details and entry form can be found here.

This contest is open to UK residents only but if anybody outside of the UK fancies trying their hand at writing a 140 word story and leaving it in the comments you would be very welcome! I don’t have any prizes, sadly, but it’s a bit of fun. And hey, you can always count it towards your NaNoWriMo word count if you’re taking part.

As for the UK entrants, there will be 3 winners with the chance of winning A Book of Horrors and The Emperor’s Knife, which both look amazing! Winners will be announced on the Jo Fletcher blog the following week.


Good luck!

[Review] Eat Slay Love by Jesse Petersen

Author: Jesse Petersen
 Living with the Dead #3
Genre: Horror/Humour
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 261
First Published: 2011
Goodreads | |
Received for review from Simon & Schuster.

Another quick spoiler warning. I don’t plan to put in any spoilers but as this is a review for the third book, I might briefly mention things that spoil the first two as relevant to this review. If you don’t want the first two spoiled, I’d avoid this review.

First sentence:
Have you ever felt like you were on a treadmill, but no matter how fast or far you ran, you never dropped those pesky last fifteen pounds?

A further month after the events of Flip This Zombie, Eat Slay Love details life after Dave’s zombie bite and subsequent cure. It worked. Dave is still in one piece, he’s just a little.. different. And people are starting to notice. In particular, one stalkerazzi reporter, Nicole, who they meet. She ends up being a little more useful than expected on their way to the Midwest Wall to share the cure with somebody who could do some good with it and of course, finally, safety.

Now that I’ve read the series up to date, I can happily say that the best thing about these books for me is how quick and easy to read they are. I read all three in about a week and I’m a pretty slow reader. They’re just fun little reads and it’s so easy to pick them up for half an hour inbetween other things, and because of that they have a great re-readability. And it’s very easy to immerse yourself while reading these, which isn’t as bad as it might sound considering it’s set during a zombie apocalypse because that’s generally what you look for in a good read, though I say that and a few days after I’d finished reading them I had a zombie dream. That was pretty scary, because unlike Sarah and Dave, I don’t kick ass!

Despite the same fantastically placed obstacles that we saw in the previous two novels, I didn’t feel like this story was quite fast paced enough for me, though it was a little better than Flip This Zombie in my honest opinion. There were new characters and tight, barely-escaped from situations, but it didn’t feel like the story was really moving along very much for most of the book. And I despise the McCray character. Not because of who he is (a drug-addled rockstar), but because I really don’t enjoy the American depiction of typical Brits. There was actually a part where he picked up a baseball bat and called it a cricket bat. Those two things are nothing alike! Cricket bats have a flat-ish surface, if he was going to confuse it with anything then perhaps a rounders bat but being a rockstar known in the US, I’d imagine he knows what a baseball bat is. Brits aren’t stupid, and if the idea was that his drug-addled brain couldn’t tell the difference, that wasn’t presented very well.

I found the story picked up a lot towards the end, however, and it finally went somewhere. In fact, Eat Slay Love definitely had the most gripping ending of any of the books in the series so far (I’m assuming Jesse is writing more, it was left open for a sequel), leaving you on the edge of your seat.

The little notes at the beginnings of chapters in Eat Slay Love read like advice from a self help book for the zombie apocalypse. These don’t quite beat the zombie marital advice from Married With Zombies but are nevertheless just as light-hearted and hinting at events to come in the chapter. It makes me wonder what other kinds of advice Jesse might give us – perhaps travel advice for the zombie connoisseur?

To read Eat Slay Love, you will really need to read Flip This Zombie first just so you know what the heck is going on from the get go. I wouldn’t recommend doing so but you could maybe get away with reading them without Married With Zombies, even so I would still recommend reading all three. Jesse Petersen is clearly a massive geek and for that I will love her eternally.

The Living with the Dead series in order:

1. Married With Zombies
2. Flip This Zombie
3. Eat Slay Love