My Favorite Reads of 2020

These are my top reads of 2020 (released in 2020). They’re sort of in order, the top three (Magpie/Survivor/Ring) being too close for me to choose. It was probably the best year in horror fiction that I can remember. There’s always a bunch of good books, but this year was super packed. If you don’t own these books, make a list and start grabbing them! And I strongly believe this year is going to be just as freaking good.

As I always do, here’s the list of other great books just outside of my Top 11:

MISFITS by Hunter Shea, TOMB OF GODS by Brian Moreland, TRUE CRIME by Samantha Kolesnik, THE BELL CHIME by Mona Kabbani, MYSTERY ROAD by Kevin Lucia, and THE INVENTION OF GHOSTS by Gwendolyn Kiste

Other books that I enjoyed Best non 2020 reads WHERE THE CRAWDAD’S SING by Delia Owens, DECEMBER PARK by Ronald Malfi, DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone

Favorite Non Fiction: AMERICAN PREDATOR by Maureen Callahan (not from 2020) END OF THE ROAD by Brian Keene

Favorite Anthology: Bludgeon Tools edited by K. Trap Jones and Survive With Me edited by Kenneth W. Cain

Feel free to check out my GoodReads page for my reviews.

If you haven’t read my 2020 release (UNTIL SUMMER COMES AROUND) check it out. Definitely for fans of 80s/coming of age/vampire stories.

Stay safe, stay positive!


SURVIVE WITH ME: 5 Questions with Heather Herrman

SURVIVE WITH ME features sixteen of my favorite writer buds. Each of them gave these stories to me for this charity anthology. ALL proceeds go to the American Indian College Fund. You can order your eBook or paperback copy HERE Or discover more about this wonderful cause here: AMERICAN INDIAN COLLEGE FUND

Tonight, we welcome in Heather Herrman. I met Heather online after reading her excellent Bentley Little-esque novel, CONSUMPTION. We’ve kept in touch ever since and she has some pretty big things on the horizon. I’m so happy to have her and her wonderful story in this special anthology.

Heather Herrman

What inspired your story in SWM, “Hold Still”?

I am so interested in the idea of secret places. When I was a kid, I’d constantly be on the lookout for secret doors (who am I kidding, I still am). This story was a “what if” you accidentally found one of those pathways to another world and took it? Beyond that, it’s always fun to turn gender tropes on their heads.

What causes would you like see get more attention?

Adult literacy. I used to work for two fabulous organizations that supported this and would love to see both of them get more attention. The Minnesota Literacy Council and The Loft Literary Center, both located in Minnesota. All adults deserve and need access to the opportunities literacy brings, both on the professional and personal levels. Beyond that art/literature should be a right, not a privilege.

I loved your novel, Consumption. Will we see a paperback edition released?

Thanks so much! I’d love to see Consumption out in paperback, and fingers crossed someday that will happen. Right now my publisher is keeping it strictly in ebook format, but who knows what the future holds? 

2021 promises to be a good one for new releases. What can we look forward to from you?

 I’m so excited to announce that my Young Adult debut, The Corpse Queen, will be out from Putnam in Fall 2021. It’s a macabre murder-mystery featuring a serial killer loose in 1850’s Philadelphia and a young grave-robber, Molly Green, who must become an anatomist in a male-dominate industry to stop him. I love the characters so much and can’t wait to introduce them to the world! 

Give me three aromas that lift your spirit. 

Creosote after a desert rain

Burning piñon

Coffee. Always coffee.

You can read Heather’s story, “Hold Still,” in SURVIVE WITH ME.

For more, check out her website:

SURVIVE WITH ME: 5 Questions with Kristin Dearborn

SURVIVE WITH ME features sixteen of my favorite writer buds. Each of them gave these stories to me for this charity anthology. ALL proceeds go to the American Indian College Fund. You can order your eBook or paperback copy HERE Or discover more about this wonderful cause here: AMERICAN INDIAN COLLEGE FUND

Tonight, we welcome someone from my neck of the woods, Kristin Dearborn. Kristin and I attended the same school together back in them 90s. She has been published by Dark Fuse, Raw Dog Screaming Press, Crossroad Press, and more. Her short fiction has appeared all over the place, and I’m proud to have her with us in SURVIVE WITH ME.

Kristin Dearborn

What inspired your story in SWM, “Mrs. Cleaver”?

“Mrs. Cleaver” was inspired in part by all the true crime podcasts that tell us about missing women, but in particular the podcast COLD, which details Susan Powell’s disappearance. Her story–or rather the story of her husband Josh (we know his end; Susan’s remains a mystery but I can’t imagine it’s good) is one of manipulation and a descent into a hellish marriage with a controlling partner. 

 What causes would you like to see get more attention?

An average of 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a single year. As horror fans, we consume these stories as entertainment, but I think we have a responsibility to be aware of the reality behind the fiction. I love horror, and enjoy true crime, but would love to live in a world where it was all in the past or fiction. Intimate partner violence is one of the scariest things I can imagine: it’s a theme that reappears in my work, and I like to shed light on the reality behind it when I can.

 It’s been a bit since we’ve gotten a KD novel or novella. What’s coming from you in 2021-2022?

With Covid, the release schedule has gotten a little snarled up, but the next project coming from me is a rip-roaring creature feature about an airboat ride in the swamp gone terribly wrong called “The Amazing Alligator Girl.” This novella will be out from Bloodshot Books sometime next year and involves a lot of chemically enraged alligators.

 Your book, Woman in White, is awesome. What’s another legend you’d love to write about?

As for legends, I’m a sucker for cryptids. I’m working on shopping a novel featuring the Skunk Ape AKA Florida bigfoot. I dream of someday writing a yeti book set in the Himalayas, but the right story hasn’t come to me yet. Did you know Aleister Crowley attempted to summit K2 in 1902? There’s gotta be a yeti story in there somewhere!

 What are three things that warmed your heart in 2020?

Three things that warmed my heart in 2020:

Getting to spend more time with my favorite dog friend Tali as I spent more time at home.

Helping clients at my day job (I’m a financial advisor) weather the ups and downs of the 2020 stock market.

Watching my in-person community shift to a virtual one with very little loss of impact. It’s not impacted my monthly book club, has enhanced my weekly Dungeons and Dragons game, and helped my weekly business networking meeting!

Discover more about Kristin at her website: HERE

Survive With Me: 5 Questions with Lucas Mangum & Hunter Shea

SURVIVE WITH ME features sixteen of my favorite writer buds. Each of them gave these stories to me for this charity anthology. ALL proceeds go to the American Indian College Fund. You can order your eBook or paperback copy HERE Or discover more about this wonderful cause here: AMERICAN INDIAN COLLEGE FUND

Tonight, we welcome two more contributors and authors I consider friends. Lucas Mangum and I met at World Horror Con in Portland, Oregon back in 2014. We were just two fresh faced weirdos that felt out of place among hallways walked by such giants as Jack Ketchum, Gord Rollo, Wrath James White, and the recipient of that years Bram Stoker Awards Grandmaster of Horror Award, Brian Keene. Here we are six years later, and I’m happy to see the success Lucas has is having with his works, and to have him included in this anthology.

Hunter Shea is a man that needs no introduction… but he’s one of the people in this industry I’ve spoken with the most, so I have to say something. He’s such a cool, laid back dude, and he knows his hair metal! (Tesla, man.) Hunter has written tons of great monster books for publishers big and small. I’m grateful to have his new story included here. I’m also grateful for his friendship and his advice whenever I seek it out.

So, let’s talk to the boys…

Lucas Mangum

What inspired your story in SWM, “The Hand of Violence”?

I always wanted to write a proper slasher, and I thought SWM’s theme was perfect for that. As far as the narrative itself, I think my best short stories tend to be as fast-paced as possible. We all know the slasher genre and its tropes, so I set it during the final showdown and used  brief glimpses of backstory to show what made my story different.

What causes do wish would get more attention?

I don’t have a specific charity in mind, but anything that addresses mental health is going to have my support provided it’s run by honest people. I’ve stayed in a psych ward, and I’ve been on more meds than I can remember. And I know there are people out there with struggles even more frightening than mine. We need the resources to find help when we look for it, so I’m all for anything that helps in that department. 

Who are some of the authors you’ve interacted with that have helped you out the most?

I’ve had a lot of writers help me over the last ten years. Most recently, I’ve gotten a lot of support from Max Booth III, Autumn Christian, Ryan Harding, Shane McKenzie, Wesley Southard, and Wile E. Young.

How do you work your writing around family and your day job?

I’m very fortunate right now, because I work part time. I do a lot of my writing in the morning before my kid gets up and some more before I go to bed. Throughout the day, I just get it in where I can.

Give me three things that made you laugh this week.

Three things? Let’s see… first, a line I wrote in my collaboration with Wesley Southard that I won’t spoil here. Second, the many twists and turns of the Fritz Lang movie, Scarlet Street. Last, pretty much anything that comes out of my four-year-old’s mouth is comedy gold. When he counts to twenty, he almost always skips thirteen. Not sure what that’s about, but it makes me wonder if triskaidekaphobia can be innate.

Hunter Shea

What inspired your story in SWM, “Into the Night”?

 I love all things alien and abductions. I’ve written several other abduction stories in the past but they’ve never seen the light of day.  This was an opportunity to explore the true horror of the alien abduction experience, but with a little tongue in the ol cheek. Not to mention, I know we share this particular interest, so it only seemed right. 

What cause do you wish would get some more attention?

My wife and one daughter both suffer from a rare auto immune disease called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Depending on the type of you have, it can be either mildly irritating to life threatening. It has some similarities to lupus, and some people, like my wife, have both. I remember coming across doctors who had never heard of it, but that’s starting to change. More research needs to go into treating and possibly curing this disease. Unfortunately, I don’t think enough people have it (thank God) for it to warrant the time and money that will take. 

When are we gonna get a Bigfoot v. Mothman book from you?

 First, I have to write a Mothman book. I have about five story ideas for a Mothman story. One of these days, I’ll settle on one. 

I loved your novella, The Waiting. Are there any novellas in the works?

Thanks Glenn. I’m actually looking to get that back out soon. I’m currently working on a new bigfoot book for Severed Press that should be out in 2021. It’s going to be a ton of fun. 

Give me three movies that people might be surprised to find out you love.

OK, I guess it would be She’s the One, Bring it On and True Love (not to be confused with True Romance). 

Survive With Me: 5 Questions with the great Ronald Malfi

SURVIVE WITH ME features 16 of my favorite writer buds. Each of them gave these stories to me for this charity anthology. ALL proceeds go to the American Indian College Fund. You can order your eBook or paperback copy HERE Or discover more about this wonderful cause here: AMERICAN INDIAN COLLEGE FUND

Tonight, we welcome one of my very favorite authors in the horror business. Three of his novels are contenders in my all-time Top 10 list (Bone White, Floating Staircase, The Narrows) and the rest are just as stellar. When he’s not writing, you can also find him rocking out with his band, VEER. He’s also one of the nicest, coolest dudes to have a beer with. Bone White is in the works at Amazon, so he’ll be adding movies/tv to his already impressive resume. Let’s catch up with Mr. Ronald Malfi.

Ronald Malfi

What inspired your story in SWM, “Discussions Concerning the Ingestion of Living Insects” and its crazy title?

I wrote “Discussions Concerning the Ingestion of Living Insects” for a Raw Dog Screaming anthology called Sick: An Anthology of Illness, back in 2003 or so. In hindsight, it was sort of shoehorned into that anthology because it has nothing to do with illness and everything to do with survival, which makes it a nice fit for Survive With Me, of course. The main protag is laid up in bed, in an abandoned hospital during some nameless war, reliving the terrible deed that wound him up in that place. Unlike his dead compatriots, he refuses to surrender to death, so he continues to survive in a very unorthodox and stomach-churning way. I mean, the title of the story kinda says it all, right?

What other causes would you like see get some more attention?

We live in a time of causes, and that’s good, although some remain overlooked while others have become part of the fabric of our culture. I’ll twist your question to suit my response here, which is that I commend you for choosing to benefit Native American education, because I feel that is a cause wholly overlooked. 

You do winter horror/thrillers so well (Snow, The Ascent, Bone White), what is about that setting that gets your juices flowing?

I mean, the winter is just so suitable for horror, no? The cold, the desiccation, the bleakness of it all. Plus, what better time to read? A good book, a glass of scotch, and a roaring fire–is there anything better?

You love to rock. What does 2021 hold for VEER?

As you can imagine, COVID crushed the band’s ability to tour and play live. Our last show was in January, which seems like a century ago now, before all this madness hit us. However, we’ve been blessed with excellent fans who continue to support us, purchasing T-shirts, CDs, and all manner of merch from our website,, to keep us afloat during this time. Meanwhile, we’ve been recording new music for our sophomore album, and will be releasing a new single and music video very soon. We’d love for anyone to subscribe to our YouTube channel, where we’ll be releasing new material, included a behind-the-scenes web series, which will mostly be us arguing, I imagine. (YouTube channel: )

Give me three songs you’d be willing to do at karaoke that might surprise people. 

Excellent question. Maybe not complete surprises, but:

    1) “The Warrior” by Scandal

    2) “Round Here” by Counting Crows

    3) “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper

    4) “Mysterious Ways” by U2

    5) “A Nightmare on My Street” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince


SURVIVE WITH ME: 5 Questions with Brian Moreland

SURVIVE WITH ME features 16 of my favorite writer buds. Each of them gave these stories to me for this charity anthology. ALL proceeds go to the American Indian College Fund. You can order your eBook or paperback copy HERE Or discover more about this wonderful cause here: AMERICAN INDIAN COLLEGE FUND

Today, I’m talking with my fellow Flame Tree Press stablemate, Brian Moreland! Check out Brian’s latest, TOMB OF GODS, and he also wrote my favorite novella of all-time, DARKNESS RISING.

Brian Moreland

1.What inspired your story in SWM, “Abby’s Best Role” ?

My love of horror movies and especially strong leading heroines who don’t back down from monsters. I enjoyed 70’s exploitation horror, like I Spit on Your Grave and Ms. 45, as well as the slashers and monster flicks of the 80s. My story “Abby’s Best Role” is about a final girl who strives to defy stereotypes, while also trying to stay alive. She’s an actress who finds herself in a terrifying role she’s prepared her life for.

  1. What other cause do you think deserves more attention?

I’m very proud to have contributed to an anthology that donates to the American Indian College Fund. My niece is half Chickasaw, and a similar college fund helped her with tuition and books. It makes such a difference. Another cause I’m fond of is Books for Soldiers ( Years ago, I got the opportunity to travel to Kuwait and Iraq with the USO on two separate trips. Each time, I spent a week in Baghdad on the military base. I got to dine with the soldiers and see how they worked and served our country so far away from home. I donated one of my novels to their base library and later was happy to see that you can donate books to their charity. Then Books for Soldiers ships boxes to wherever soldiers are stationed.

  1. A lot of your books have that historical element. if we had the capability, what’s one historic moment you’d like to be present at?

I was born in 1968, so I missed the hippy movement of the late 1960s and early ‘70s. I’ve always been fascinated with the hippy movement. If I could time travel back, I would take a road trip in a VW van with a bunch of friends and travel across the United States. We would stay at communes and camp out wherever the road takes us. We would avoid the area where the Texas Chainsaw Massacre happened, of course, and stay out of the desert regions of New Mexico where the Hills Have Eyes. We’d catch a Doors concert along the way. Our free-spirited road trip would culminate at Woodstock where we’d jam to Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin and many others who made that moment so historical. I’ve written about that time period before and would love to revisit it again. In my short story “Girl from the Blood Coven” I wrote a supernatural mystery about a fictional hippy commune in Texas that turned murderous, inspired by the Manson Family. The back story from my “Girl from the Blood Coven” sets up the horrors in my novella The Witching House.

  1. What’s the most fun you ever had with another writer?

There have been so many instances, it’s hard to pick one. I’d say it’s the multi-author book signings I’ve done at various horror conventions, especially back in our days when Samhain Publishing sponsored several horror cons a year. World Horror Con in Austin, HorrorFind in Gettysburg, Horror Hound in Cincinnati and Indianapolis, and Killercon in Vegas stand out as some of the best times. It was a blast spending a weekend with fellow horror authors and autographing books alongside them. Then we’d go out to dinner afterward and visit over food and drinks until midnight. I enjoyed the laughter and camaraderie and made some dear friends.

  1. Texas gets a rough rep sometimes. Give me three things about the state that you consider beautiful.

Texas is so vast that we have a variety of beauty from the evergreen forests of East Texas to the hill country around Austin to the beaches of Galveston and South Padre.

The women are absolutely beautiful.

Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes grow wild here and offer a floral sea of colors when you drive down a highway or rural road.

Survive With Me: 5 Questions with Somer Canon

SURVIVE WITH ME features 16 of my favorite writer buds. Each of them gave these stories to me for this charity anthology. ALL proceeds go to the American Indian College Fund. You can order your eBook or paperback copy HERE Or discover more about this wonderful cause here: AMERICAN INDIAN COLLEGE FUND

I’m asking each contributing author 5 questions as part of the promotion for the book. Today, I am so happy to welcome one of my former Samhain Publishing stablemates, Ms. Somer Canon. She’s the author of Vicki Beautiful, Killer Chronicles, and her latest, Slaves to Gravity (with Wesley Southard).

Somer Canon

What inspired your story in SWM, “Sick Burn”?

My story is about a parent reacting to a rebellious teenager and her bad, horrible decisions.  Right now, I’m the parent of a brand new 13 year-old teenager, and although we’re having our moments that come along with that, my son is a very good boy and I can’t complain.  No, my inspiration came from my reflections on what I was like as a teenager and some of the hell I put my poor mother through.  This story is my current self reacting to my teenaged self, and it’s not a pretty confrontation.  

What other causes do you think deserve more attention?

I love that we’re donating to a Native American cause because I think that the plight of the Native tribes gets overlooked.  The problem is, we have so many groups in need in this country.  As a first world country, how is that?  We need to be better about taking care of our own, no matter the categories under which they fall.  I’m happy to donate both my words and my money to these causes, but I can’t help but wish that there weren’t a need for it.  Animals, women, LGBTQIA+, immigrants, children, elderly, minorities, the Native American people, veterans, the differently abled, those living with terminal illnesses…there are so many causes that need our attention and the mercy of our higher selves and I’d urge anyone reading this to consider looking into charities to support because every little bit helps.

You have your own podcast. What are some podcasts that you love horror and maybe non horror?

I really like horror podcasts that deal with introducing the listener to horror creatives.  I loved The Horror Show with Brian Keene (RIP), but I also really like Arm Cast Podcast, which doesn’t rely solely on horror creators, but you are introduced to creators you might otherwise not have known.  I like the Ink Heist a lot for the same reasons.  I really love Cosmic Shenanigans because it’s a horror podcast that takes an intellectual look at the cosmic horror genre and I’ve been introduced to the genre in many different iterations like movies, and video games.  I think the only story-based horror (and it’s more bizarre/comedy than horror) is welcome to Night Vale, which has some of the most imaginative storytelling out there.  I listen to a lot of comedy, history and true crime podcasts because they help to take the edge off of every day drudges for me.  I love Unobscured, You Must Remember This, My Favorite Murder, Historical Blindness, History goes Bump, and Myths and Legends.

What was the last movie or tv show that made you cry? 

The Good Place made me bawl my freaking eyes out once or twice when I binged it recently.  

Name three things, big or small, that have happened during Covid 19 that made you feel hopeful.

The staying at home thing has been really hard, socially speaking, for a lot of people.  But hearing those same people, who are very much struggling mentally, say that they wouldn’t dream of possibly infecting another person really made me remember to look for the good in people.  When the people behaving badly are sucking up all of the attention, it did me good to see the people in the back, the quiet ones, retaining a semblance of altruistic humanity that, for some reason, doesn’t make the headlines like it should.

SURVIVE WITH ME: 5 Questions with Bram Stoker Winner, Gwendolyn Kiste

SURVIVE WITH ME features 16 of my favorite writer buds. Each of them gave these stories to me for this charity anthology. ALL the proceeds go to the American Indian College Fund. You can order your eBook or paperback copy HERE

I’m asking each contributing author 5 questions as part of the promotion for the book. Today, we welcome Bram Stoker winning author Gwendolyn Kiste!

Gwendolyn Kiste

  1. What inspired your story in SWM, “The Princes She’s Forgotten”?

GK: I’m a big fan of fairy tales, especially ones that are very much in the vein of horror and dark fantasy (because really, most of the original fairy tales were absolutely horror stories themselves). For “The Princes She’s Forgotten,” I wanted to explore the archetypal fairy tale villainess from her perspective and specifically what it would be like to deal with all those so-called valorous princes who come after her. Playing with narratives, in particular familiar ones like fairy tales, can be such a fun thing to do as a writer, and this story definitely gave me that opportunity.

  1. What causes do you think deserve more attention?

GK: So many! I’m very enthusiastic about nonprofits that focus on animal conservation and also ones that focus on the arts. I try to regularly support the National Aviary in Pittsburgh and the Good Zoo in Wheeling, WV; they’re both doing amazing work for wildlife. As for arts organizations, I adore the Edward Gorey House in Massachusetts, which preserves the legacy of the awesome and macabre artist Edward Gorey. Another wonderful program is the Big Read, which is part of the National Endowment for the Arts and brings communities together through a focus on literature. Truly, though, there are so many incredible organizations out there doing their part to make the world a better place.

  1. Where are your Bram Stoker Awards?

GK: My Stoker awards are sitting on the top of a bookshelf in my living room. It’s a rather petite shelf, but it’s got a nice story behind it: my husband’s grandmother gave it to him many years ago. She was the one who first got him into horror as a kid—they used to watch Godzilla and Hammer movies together every Saturday when he was growing up. Years later, he and I met and bonded over our shared love of horror, so it seems like a nice homage to his grandmother, the woman who in her own way ultimately brought us together thanks to her love of all things spooky.

  1. Where did your love for Bob Seger come from?

GK: Oh, wow, I haven’t thought about this in a long time—it almost feels like I’ve always loved Bob Seger’s music. It probably started with the songs, “Hollywood Nights” and “Night Moves.” My dad had made a mixtape with those Bob Seger songs on it, and I remember listening to them over and over on road trips, which are very fond memories.

I’m also a huge fan of songs that tell complete stories, and Bob Seger has always been quite a master at that. He paints such vivid pictures of the worlds he’s inhabited, and that takes strong storytelling skills to do. His songs definitely remind me of the industrial landscapes of my childhood, so when I went to write my first novel, The Rust Maidens, which is based in Cleveland in 1980, I could imagine no better soundtrack than Bob Seger.

  1. What are three things that make you smile?

GK: It might sound really cliched, but acts of kindness always make me smile. Just seeing people be kind to one another, even seemingly small acts of kindness, can go such a long way to making the world a better place. Nature also tends to make me smile a lot. My husband and I live out in rural Pennsylvania south of Pittsburgh, and getting to watch the change of seasons, especially in the fall, is just so awe-inspiring and exciting. And finally, my cats make me smile every day with their silly antics. They’re both so curious and at times devious, but that just makes life with them that much more interesting!