10 Indie Holiday Horror Reads
You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why...
'Tis the season to be scary, and what better way to celebrate the holidays than with some spine-chilling tales of nightmare-inducing terror? When it comes to holiday horror, there are certain storytelling aspects I look for that are critical. There needs to be some sense of opposition between the bliss we feel during Christmas and the evils that are looking to fulfill their own fiendish festivities. An appearance from an iconic character which is in no way limited to you-know-who in the big red suit. There are so many traditions from around the world that I am curious about. If an author adds a dash of shock and awe, I am invested. Lastly, atmosphere is everything. The reader needs to feel the crisp chill of the air on a cold winter night, the sound of laughter from gleeful children, or the smell of cookies in whatever fresh baked hell the writer conjures up. This right here is the only list I'm concerned with this year. Forget about who's been naughty or nice, let's see who's been creepy or frightening.
"A Tree Lighting in Deathlehem" edited by Michael J. Evans and Harrison Graves
Deathlehem is a series of seasonal publications for charity from Grinning Skull Press. These stories offer unrelenting and malicious yuletide terror that is perfect for an annual Christmas readathon. With every book benefitting the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, you can feel good about spending a little money on yourself this holiday season.
"Invitation to Death" by Bryan Smith
Bryan Smith is a prolific writer in extreme horror and his works have been known to be revered by the squeamish. Although Invitation to Death is on the lighter side in comparison to Smith's other works, this story still delivers. In this murder-mystery, we find the characters at an exclusive Christmas Day event that could yield them a million dollar prize or a sinister end to a game most alluring.
"The Visitor" by Sergio Gomez
I am a big fan of Sergio Gomez, and when I heard he was releasing a Splatterpunk sci-fi horror novella called The Visitor set at Christmas time, I was all in. This story has a great concept, a gripping cast of characters, and is an absolute bloodbath. We find five strangers taking shelter in a diner during a harrowing winter storm. As the weather escalates, so does the tension as the group encounters a dangerous entity that is foreign to our planet. This visitor does not come in peace, they come for blood.
Get The Visitor at Amazon
"Collected Christmas Horror Shorts Vol. 1" edited by Kevin Kennedy
Collected Christmas is a series of horror anthologies by Kevin Kennedy brimming with the best writers in the indie horror circuit. Overall, these might be the absolute best multi author collections with a Christmas theme. Every book in the series is stacked with top shelf horror stories and boasts a massive variety of authors. There is something for everyone, and if you're anything like me, this makes for an engaging read.
"Halldark Holidays" edited by Gabino Iglesias
The Halldark Holidays collection from Cemetery Gates Media is such a fun read, full of twisted Hallmark-esq movie reimaginings. Those horribly cheesy movies are incorporated in this collection in a fashion most obscene and monstrous. Gabino Iglesias is accompanied by Brian Keene, Alan Baxter, Cynthia Pelayo, Bev Vincent, Mark Allen Gunnells and more to bring you something wicked for Christmas. Don't miss this one during the season of giving.
"Of Doomful Portent: An Advent Calendar of Grotesque Horrors" by Matthew M. Bartlett
This one is a mouthful. A book of 25 flash fiction stories accompanied by incredible illustrations. This is something special. I was new to Bartlett's fiction and now I am determined to read any and all works available. Every tale that haunts the pages of this book will forever dwell in my subconscious. I recommend this for anyone looking for a book that will truly scare the hell out of you.
"Horrific Holidays" by Aiden Merchant
Horrific Holidays by Aiden Merchant isn't exactly exclusive to Christmas, but it has all the elements I want and more. Sure, we're talking Valentines Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving as well as Christmas, but the stories are so damn good I just had to include it here. Something very unique in comparison to the other books is the flawed and intimate cast of characters that readers are bound to connect with before their brutal demise. Cannibals, cultists, and lovers overcome with violent jealousy are just a few elements present in this gruesome book full of the ooey-gooey good stuff fans of horror desire.
"Christmas Horror" edited by Dark Regions Press
Dark Regions Press is one of my favorite specialty publishers. They put together a fantastic series called Christmas Horror. Not only are you getting a high quality product, the stories are written by the biggest names in the biz. To give you an idea of what I mean, amongst these pages you find Joe R. Lansdale, Jeff Strand, J.F. Gonzalez, Richard Chizmar, Lisa Morton and Stephanie M. Wytovich. And if that's not enough, the limited edition comes with fifteen amazing illustrations by Zach McCain. There are several options available including ebook and paperback as well as various bundles that will make for a great stocking stuff for that special someone this year.
"Gothic Blue Book: A Krampus Carol" edited by Cynthia Pelayo and Gerado Pelayo
This book has a TOC featuring some amazing writers, including Laurel Hightower, Hailey Piper, Austrian Spencer, Sarah Tantlinger, Nicole Bell, Shane Douglas Keene and so many more fan favorites in the indie horror community. I am a massive fan of folklore. It is often a compelling read, casting a spell on me, engulfing my attention from beginning to end. That is certainly the case with this book as well. This collection is a must have.
"Season's Creepings" by Ronald Kelly
Ronald Kelly is simply the master of holiday horror short fiction, unmatched by anyone I've read. In these terrifying tales, Kelly crafts a vividly descriptive and atmospheric collection that conjures deep feelings of nostalgia and wonderment. Included are ten spectacular stories by an author who I feel executes with terrifying precision. Season's Creepings will have readers completely submerged from the moment ol' Jingle Bones spreads his holiday cheer to the time the Peddler makes his long awaited visit.
For all those who find solace in horror fiction, I hope this list finds you well and offers a little bit of comfort this holiday season. I know it helped me. Surprisingly enough, there is a lot to choose from, but it's important to remember that our indie writers need the support, especially around this time of the year. Please, give the gift of holiday horror this year and support those who really need it. Merry frightmares to all and to all a spooky night.
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