If you’re already done plowing through the scary books in your Christmas gift pile, fear not — here comes a terror tome to benefit not only your desperate reading needs, but also masters of the writing craft in general.
The just-released “Winter Horror Days”, which collects stories by the Los Angeles chapter of the Horror Writers Assn., will devote all its profits to the HWA hardship fund — and send 22 of its writers to descend upon Burbank’s Dark Delicacies store on Sunday, Jan. 10.
“The HWA does such a great job helping authors at every level of their career that we wanted to give something back,” says the book’s co-editor, Kate Jonez. “The anthology is published through a small press I run: Omnium Gatherum [which] publishes dark fantasy, weird fiction and horror. We donated cover art, book design and formatting so all the proceeds from the anthology could go to the charity.”
The stories in “Winter Horror Days,” she says, “all address the theme of a winter holiday in some way. It contains tales about families gathering for all sorts of celebrations, past present and future.
All with some touch of horror or the supernatural. A few with a great big scary dose.” It’s the second holiday-themed anthology from the HWA, which published “Halloween Tales” in 2014.
Dark Delicacies’ proprietor, Del Howison, is himself a former officer and trustee in the HWA, and maintains an active writing career, having most recently co-edited the Clive Barker spin-off anthology “Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.”
He tells us it’s fairly normal nowadays for group members to have day jobs. “Lisa Morton, who is a writer and the current term president of the HWA, also happens to work at the Iliad bookstore in North Hollywood,” he says. “It’s like most actors. I mean how many in the Screen Actors Guild are actually working; what’s the percentage there?”
So then what, you may wonder, defines a “hardship” that would qualify an author for charity? Not something as simple as losing a job. “The hardship fund is to help professional writers and people associated into the field who have fallen on hard times or something as a temporary stopgap measure to pay that one month of a house bill, or cover that medical thing or whatever, when they’re in a position that they can’t do that,” says Howison.
“It’s really for, ‘Oh, guess what happened, last night Stephen King’s house burned down.’ I’m just throwing in the name Stephen King, but you know, it’s that kind of deal. Can we help him with two weeks in a hotel, where we can put the family up when they’re trying to get their act together with the Red Cross or whatever. It’s truly a hardship fund.”
Also unique about the fund? When the writers recover from the setback, they pay back what they received, under a variety of payment plans that can be tailored to their needs.
Established in the mid-’80s by Robert R. McCanmon (“Boy’s Life”) and Joe R. Lansdale (“Bubba Ho-Tep”), the HWA was formally incorporated in 1987, and subsequently grew to include all the greats like Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Richard Matheson and Ramsey Campbell.
In a remarkably forward-thinking move, they allow not just authors and screenwriters to be members, but writers of video games as well. And they’re not hard and fast about what counts as horror, either.
“People get a narrow view, thinking, oh, if it’s horror, that means it’s slasher, which is such one tiny component,” says Howison. “I don’t think things are as cut and dried, black and white as people want it to be … I’m just not gonna be putting in ‘Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm’ or something, but horror is much wider.”
He cites the group’s lifetime achievement award given to Edward Gorey, whose work may not be “scary” per se, but definitely deals in the macabre. As for the line between “horror” and “thriller” that so often confounds when defining works like “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Psycho” — well, there’s a Thriller Writers Assn. as well, and authors can basically self-select which one suits them best.
But you don’t need to buy “Winter Horror Tales” just as an act of charity. You can also buy it because it contains stories (and four poems) which, per Jonez, “range from dark and disturbing to light and humorous to lyrical and poetic.”
They’re written by the likes of David Gerrold (Star Trek’s “The Trouble With Tribbles”), Eric J. Guignard (“After Death…”), Terry M. West (“Confessions of a Teenage Vampire”), Ian Welke (“End Times at Ridgemont High”) and more.
Plus, on the other side of the store, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” actress-turned-author Amber Benson will be signing her new book, “The Last Dream Keeper.”
“We like to put a couple people together because of the cross-pollination that occurs a lot of times,” says Howison, who originally planned to pair Benson with Chelsea Quinn Yarborough before hearing about “Winter Horror Days.” (“Instead of two people, it turned out I’m having 22 people!”)
And if all goes well, says Jonez, “We may have more holiday related anthologies to come.”
LUKE Y. THOMPSON is a Los Angeles-based writer.