Publisher Update and Giving Credit Where It’s Due

It’s been roughly three months since my last update  on new publishers, so it’s time to once again take stock of what’s new in the world of small press horror, suspense, and dark fantasy publishers. Before I do that, however, I want to briefly talk about a publisher who was covered in that last update — namely, Evileye Books, about who I wrote: “Features an interesting website design with different format options for viewing, but in a rather ridiculous turn, the most important page on the site — ‘Our Books’ — is empty save for a ‘Coming Shortly…’ message.”

Well, a few weeks later, I received a box of books from Evileye, with a note from press Editorial Director A.N. Ommus, who stated, “I’m sorry your recent experience with our website wasn’t the most pleasing. It seems you caught us with our pants down, as we are in the middle of an extensive reboot of our online presence. With some luck and hard work, we should be live with a brand new ‘magazine-style’ website early in the new year.”  I just checked in on Evileye, and while the entirely new site isn’t up yet, they’ve at least gotten their ‘Books’ page updated. Since I was quick to point out their earlier deficiency, I wanted to give Evileye credit for their follow-up.

Oh, and it’s also worth noting that some of the titles they sent look decidedly interesting. I’ll definitely at least be reviewing their Orren Gray title. And, just to give an idea of what else is forthcoming — we’ll also soon be posting reviews of several other publishers’ titles, including books by Benjamin Kane Ethridge, Matthew Warner, Brett McBean, and Ian Rogers.

Now, without further delay, let’s take a look at 15 more new (or newly-discovered) horror/suspense small presses…

Aklo Press – this UK-based publisher doesn’t have much of a web presence — basically a one-page site where you can order their sole title… or rather could have ordered, since despite said lack of website, or any apparent marketing, the title is already sold out. The book in question is the Lovecraftian anthology Aklonomicon, featuring work by Laird Barron, Simon Strantzas, Jeffrey Thomas and others — and it actually came out back in 2011, so despite that inaugural title’s success, one must question whether Aklo will be producing any more titles.

Alter Ego Books -published a single chapbook title, John R. Little’s Sarah’s Story, back in 2011, with no further website updates since then, so the viability of this press is in question from the get-go, and its time on this list may be short-lived.

Alter Press – doesn’t have a website, only a Facebook page and a message forum.  AP’s first title is the anthology The Exctinction Files, released in September 2012 in trade pb and ebook format, and four additional anthos have been announced.  The amateurism displayed so far does not bode well.

Angelic Knight Press – described on their website as “the brainchild of Blaze McRob and Quinn Cullen…authors who were looking for an acceptable alternative to traditional publishers and self-publishing,” AKP launched their first title in late 2011 and have published 8 ebook-only titles to date, including Armand Rosamilia’s Tool Shed and several anthologies. More anthologies are on tap, including the cleverly titled 50 Shades of Decay, which will feature 50 short-shorts, mostly by authors whose names are unfamiliar to me.

DHG Press – a new book line from the publisher of Death Head Grin online magazine, of which there have been 40 issues to date. Two anthologies have been published so far, in ebook format, featuring the likes of Michael Aronovitz, Jason Sturner, and many others, and four novellas have been announced.  DHG’s works definitely tip towards the amateurish end of the scale, but clearly there’s effort and enthusiasm involved.

Fedogan & Bremer – a most welcome return to the list — after publishing 28 titles between 1987 an 2005, F&B went dark due to personal troubles experienced by the publisher. When co-founder Philip J. Rahman died in 2011, it seemed unlikely that the press would ever open its doors again, but lo and behold, F&B re-emerged in late 2012 with publication of the hardcover anthology Worlds of Cthulhu, edited by Robert M. Price. Upcoming titles include the third anthology in editor Stephen Jones’ Innsmouth trilogy, and a collection of Rahman’s fiction. Now if only some of F&B’s comeback mojo would rub off on Arkham House…

Hazardous Press – an ebook-only publisher specializing in novellas and short novels, HP’s output includes fantasy and SF as well as horror. Nine titles have been published so far, comprising 4 novels, 3 collections, 1 novella and 1 anthology, with highlights being David Riley’s collection, His Own Mad Demons, Hollis Jay’s haunted-house novel, The Ever, and the zombie anthology A Quick Bite of Flesh.

Kraken Press – ebook publisher who launched a website in 2011 and finally published their first title — Adam Aresty’s novella Recovery — in early 2013.  A collection from Richard Thomas is forthcoming.  Looks to have a strong eye for captivating artwork.  I’m not clear on where Kraken is based, but the website is registered to an owner in Sweden.  Edit: Kraken responded to this post, informing me that the press operates out of the U.S., and their books are intended for the U.S. market. 

Morpheus Tales Publishing – UK-based publisher of the quarterly Morpheus Tales magazine, of which there have been 19 issues published to date.  When it comes to books, MTP has published Matt Leyshon’s The Function Room: The Kollection and two anthologies, although that fact was difficult to discern on their trainwreck of a website, which has a “Books” page that only partially loads, not to mention some very poorly written content.

Nightscape Press – launched in 2012, NP already has nine titles to their credit.  Publishing in both trade pb and ebook format, highlights include Benjamin Kane Ethridge’s novel Dungeon Brain, L. L. Soares’ novel Life Rage, Trent Zelazny’s novella Butterfly Potion, and Stephen Graham Jones’ collection Three Miles Past. Nightscape has apparently acquired Cutting Block Press (as announced by Cutting Block’s owner on a message board in December 2012), but what exactly that will mean for the two presses remains unclear, as neither’s website has any details yet, six weeks after the initial announcement.

Nodens Books – publisher of fantasy and horror, managed by writer and editor Douglas A. Anderson, a genre scholar and the editor of several fantasy anthologies. Nodens debuted in 2012 and has published four somewhat eclectic titles to date, including The Ghost in the Tower by Earl Reed and the verse collection Sable Revery by Robert Nelson, whose poetry appeared in Weird Tales in the ’30s.

Parallel Universe Publications – operated by longtime horror writer and fan David A. Riley, the UK-based PUP previously published the magazine Beyond during the mid-’90s before going dormant. The press recently re-emerged after more than a decade of inactivity, and their first new publication is the hardcover collection The Heaven Maker and Other Gruesome Tales, by Craig Herbertson.

Shadowfall Publications – aiming to be a publisher of both horror and paranormal romance, for both adult and young-adult markets, SP has published — depending on which area of their website you look at — somewhere between 3 and 6 titles to date, some only in trade pb format, some also as ebooks.  The highlight has clearly been Lisa Mannetti’s Stoker-award-winning debut novel, The Gentling Box. Rather disconcertingly, the “News” page on the SP site has only a single post, from almost a year ago; there is frequent usage of “placeholder” text throughout the site; and the registration/checkout process was broken when I tried to download Mannetti’s follow-up, Deathwatch.

Sinister Press – founded by M. Joseph Schuhler, Jr., Sinister Press has been in business since 2011 and has published two novels in trade paperback format — Peter Cumming’s The Neuropathology of Zombies and Steven Shiverdecker’s Morbid Testimony — with a sequel to the Cummings novel forthcoming.

Written Backwards – publishers of two anthologies, both of which are edited by, and include a story by, the press’ owner, Michael Bailey, so there’s a definite whiff of self-publishing here, but given that plenty of other authors have been published in the anthos Chiral Mad and Pellucid Lunacy, WB qualifies for inclusion here.  Some of those other authors are Gary Braunbeck, Gary McMahon, Gord Rollo, Jack Ketchum and Amanda Pillar. Both books are available as trade pbs and Lunacy is also in ebook format.

The following publishers have announced but not yet published titles, so they’re candidates to be added to the list in the future: Grey Matter Press, Screaming Spires Publishing  and War of the Words Press.

On the other side of the ledger — that is, presses being removed from the list — the only publisher that I could unequivocally confirm as being defunct is Bizarre Books, but I’m also declaring Darkhouse Publishing and Midnight Library to be dead (both their websites have been down for extended periods), and several others appear to be on life support. For example (and this is a random survey), neither Elder Signs Press nor Noose & Gibbet Publishing have made any news posts to their websites in over a year, which is usually not a good sign, but hopefully they’ll rebound.  Until next time…

Face the music with Mike O’Driscoll’s Eyepennies

Eyepennies coverFor the last few years, TTA Press has largely focused on publishing their top-notch horror magazine Black Static and their similarly elite science fiction magazine Interzone, but a renewed emphasis on their book line appears to be in the offing.  After essentially re-launching the line with Gary McMahon’s The Harm, TTA has now followed up with Mike O’Driscoll’s novella Eyepennies.  O’Driscoll, who contributes a regular column for Black Static, writes fiction far too infrequently, with his only prior title being the collection Unbecoming and Other Tales of Horror (Elastic Press, 2006).

As O’Driscoll explains in his Foreword, Eyepennies is a tribute to musician Mark Linkous, who recorded and performed five albums — including a song called “Eyepennies” — under the band name Sparklehorse, before ultimately committing suicide in 2010.  Accordingly, the protagonist of O’Driscoll’s story is a musician named Mark, who’s battling depression and, increasingly, glimpses of something dark and deadly.

In the wake of one of those visions, Mark retreats, going on one of his “regular disappearances” that his long-time partner Tess is all-too-accustomed to. His outlook is weary, bleak even, and when he makes the following observation, it’s clear that he’s talking about himself as well:

There are all sorts of truths and lies inside people. Everyone carries their own degree of darkness. It’s just a question of how deep it goes.

Related approximately half in flashback and half in present-day narrative, Eyepennies unfolds gradually, revealing key formative moments from Mark’s past. For example, we soon learn that said history includes a near-death experience, an event that took Mark months to physically recover from. Mentally and emotionally, he is, perhaps not surprisingly, unable to leave the experience behind him, and it has come to dominate his thoughts:

What he does know, what he’s never told anyone, is that when he died, only part of him came back. The greater part is still there, trapped in the darkness. That lost part of himself is all he has left to dread.

Mark has four prior albums to his credit, but when he listens to them now, they sound unfamiliar — alien, even. He hears strange rhythms and unfamiliar voices, all speaking of a past that seems forever out of reach and of regrets that can never be undone. He begins to work in semi-seclusion on his fifth album, convinced that it’s vitally important that he finish, not just for simple economic or commercial reasons, but for far deeper considerations:

“All the things I buried or lost, everything I was ever afraid of, they’re coming back. I have to put them into the songs and make a music stronger than the darkness.”

His quiet desperation is captured in a phone call to Tess, who he continues to avoid, supposedly for reasons of her own safety:

“I’m not the man you fell in love with. He died a long time ago. Only, he didn’t want to be dead and somehow he dreamed himself alive, dreamed that he really had escaped the darkness. But now he’s awake and he’s still dead and if you come to him, the darkness will take you too.”

As should be obvious from the above excerpts, O’Driscoll has expertly captured the voice and tone of his subject, resulting in a tale that’s deeply and darkly immersive. There’s a completely unnecessary scene of animal cruelty that detracts from the novella’s impact, but other than that, Eyepennies is a riveting, albeit gloomy, read.