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Arnzen's Weird Newsletter
+++ Vol. 5.04 | June 14, 2009 +++
That's a lot of Goreletter. And, yes, it's been almost a full year since the last issue. So it's an anniversary issue, of sorts, too! I'll try to be more timely in the future, but as of Volume Six – the Volume of the Beast – this e-newsletter will no longer be delivered as a steady Quarterly – it is now officially a “Whenevericannerly.” If you find yourself pining for another issue between now and next Whenevericansday, well, be sure to visit the NEW AND IMPROVED WEBSITE at http://www.gorelets.com/blog/ for updates, because I post a lot of news and entertainment there solely to assuage your profoundly unquenchable lust for goofy strangeness.
Blather. Wince. Repeat.
Classic Car Accident Ad Slogans
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Ponti*c. We Are Driving Excrement.
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Sa*b. Move Your Mind. Off My Lap.
B*W. The Ultimate Chicken Machine.
V*lkswagon. Drivers Haunted.
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C*dillac. When You Turn Your Car Off, Does It Return The Favor?
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B*ick. Drive Beautiful. Into Crowds.
The All New Ch*vy. Built to Last Breath.
H*nda. The Power Of Screams.
S*turn. Like Always. Like Never Before. Like Rotten Haggis.
L*coln. Reach Higher. We're Sinking.
I Hate What You Did To Me – T*yota!
NEW BOOK: SKULL FRAGMENTS
l'horreur! A sweet and petite bi-lingual (French and English) edition of my serial flash horror story, “Skull Fragments,” marks my debut publication in France! Translator Jerome Charlet did an excellent job on this book, published by Les Perseides as part of their “Art Bref” line of playing card deck-sized books. An early French reviewer calls Skull Fragments “a small gem to be consumed without moderation! It is short, strong, terrible, but – qu’est-ce que c’est – good!” See “Boo Coupons” for a way to get a copy free. Or learn more about these 'fragments de crane' here:
DARKNESS ON THE EDGE
PS Publishing is now taking pre-orders for the upcoming anthology, Darkness on the Edge: Stories Inspired by the Music of Bruce Springsteen. My contribution (which, incidentally, was also inspired by Poe!) is called “The Hungry Heart.” I tend to be quite literal, if you can't tell. Others in the book include Elizabeth Massie (“I'm on Fire”), Lawrence Connolly (“Murder Incorporated”), Sarah Langan (“The Rising”), Kurt Dinan (“Two Faces”) and about 15 others you'll recognize. You can tell just from the titles of the songs alone that this is going to be one dark, entertaining book.
IN THE HORROR LIBRARY
Current Bram Stoker Award-finalist, Horror Library III, is the latest in a series of knock-out horror story anthologies from Cutting Block Press, and it's one you won't want to miss. Released last Halloween, the collection features new work by notoriously good writers like Bentley Little, Gary Braunbeck, Matthew Warner, Kealan Patrick Burke, and a litany of others. My contribution is about the horror of going through those frustrating airport security checkpoints, called “Guarded.” Get it! http://www.cuttingblock.net/
“She Screech Like Me” now appears in the highly-sought-by-collectors book, He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson (Gauntlet Press, 2009). My story, a sequel to Matheson's classic “Born of Man and Woman,” features a spooky interior illustration by the phenomenal Harry O. Morris. Other contributors include Stephen King and his son Joe Hill collaborating for the first time, Gary Braunbeck, Nancy Collins, and far too many great authors to list. The book's finer editions have already sold out for hundreds of dollars, but I believe trade hardcover editions are still available from Gauntlet Press' website: http://www.gauntletpress.com
BARE BONE FINALE
The just-released issue (#11) of Bare Bone magazine is officially the last of the line. You should get a copy. My poem, “Switched at Birth” appears therein, but that's nothing compared to the great dark bizarro and avant horror stories by writers like Paul Finch, Steve Rasnic Tem, Cody Goodfellow, Kurt Newton, and Michael Kelly. Just ten bucks from Raw Dog Screaming Press: http://www.rawdogscreaming.com
GIVE THE HORROR BOOK OF LISTS A HAND
I hope you haven't neglected to add 'The Book of Lists: Horror' (Harpers, 2008) to your shopping list. If so, you've overlooked a current Stoker finalist that is getting rave reviews everywhere, including amazon.com, which features a clever excerpt from writer Sarah Pinborough:
tr.im/obN0 One of my contributions to the book got cut for space, but the editors graciously let me post it on my weblog. So if you'd like to read my list of “Classic Dismembered Hand Stories” go here:
“IN THE HORROR GENRE, YOU GOTTA GO OFF SCRIPT…”
Last Halloween I was interviewed in the studio by Doug Dangler at the Ohio University “Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing” for a spot on NPR. It turned out remarkably well. Visit their podcast archives for this and interviews with other writers you might recognize here:
“BECAUSE THE DEAD SPEAK AN INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE…”
Speaking of getting “cut for space,” I was also interviewed by Jonathan Maberry for his neat “forensics of the living dead” book, Zombie CSU, but our conversation got dropped from the final edit of the book. With Maberry's permission, this “lost interview” has been resurrected in the “weblog exclusive” department of The Goreletter blog online. http://www.gorelets.com/dept/weblog-exclusive/
TEACHERS OF TERROR
Dissections: The Journal of Contemporary Horror just released their May 2009 special issue on issues of teaching the horror genre in the classroom. Sure, I'm in there with a discussion of “learning objectives” in a horror course, but with essays like Doug Ford's “The Sublime Trials of Jack Ketchum: Teaching 'The Girl Next Door' in the Era of Torture P*rn” and poems about classic movie actors by Bryan Dietrich, you know you're getting something as fascinating as it is educational.
I'm now on the “MySpace for horror fans” web community called The Haunt. Haunted? Join us:
The Goofy Terror of Richard Benjamin
For your next movie night, rent:
Witches' Brew (Strock, 1980)
Love At First Bite (Dragoti, 1979)
Saturday the 14th (Cohen, 1981)
GORELETS 2.0 (well, 3.5, actually)
I have overhauled the design of my website, http://www.gorelets.com and I do believe it's easier to find your way around. New features include a brand new blog for my upcoming academic non-fiction book, The Popular Uncanny, a variety of rss feed updates, twitters, an updated gallery and biography, a sideblog of nutty tweets from twitter.com, and other hidden delights. Please come warm the place up by surfing around and leaving comments. E-mail me if you find an error or have feedback about the site. There's also a free book contest there, ending July 1st (see below)!
Or if you want to AVOID me, go to Facebook. I'm avoiding that place. But that's all the more reason you should all mob the fan group “What Would Mike Arnzen Do For A Klondike Bar?” and post something nutty since I can't respond!: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=21693239278
STOKER AWARDS ANNOUNCED!
The 2008 Bram Stoker Awards have been announced this weekend at the Horror Writers Association annual Award Banquet. Congratulations to all the finalists and winners alike! I've read almost all of them, and they quite commendable. As I learned live on twitter, winners this year include Stephen King (for both novel and collection), Sarah Langan (first novel), John Little (long fiction), and Bruce Boston (poetry). More info should be available here soon: http://horror.org/stokers.htm
Skin Can Crawl
she caressed my arm
but paid no heed
to the recoiling dance
of my terminal hair –
in the air
from wrist to sleeve –
a thousand daddy longlegs,
a thousand disturbed
I joined twitter ( http://twitter.com/MikeArnzen ), and keep posting weird things. Not really very profound things, but things I've reflected on and thought, well, maybe that's clever enough to keep. Not knowing what else to do with them, I'm pulling out the ones that I thought people might get a laugh out of later on, completely out of context, for a new segment of The Goreletter e-mail edition I'm calling…“Twitter Litter.”
#onceuponatime Advil Jones popped a pain killer and relieved herself to death.
It is unfortunate that the entire squad of Law and Order: Criminal Intent – superlative actors, all – look like vampires.
BEHOLD THE POWER OF CRAYOLAMAN. He shoots deadly crayons – 64 colors – from his nostrils (which double as sharpener).
Substitute “weirdo” for “auto” whenever possible. “I'm working on my weirdobiography” and “I drive a fancy weirdomobile.” “Weirdomatic!”
Car Accident or Rock Song?: “Saabbath Bloody Saabbath”
Just saw that our retractable tape measure is a “Slaymaker” brand. Heavy in hand. Sharp metal edges. Wound lengths up to 25'!
#zombiehaiku riding the coaster / zombies await down below / I throw up my arms
Are there any cities named “Cronenberg”? If not, there should be. Fly-men on subways. Mugwumps at Starbucks. Brood kids on playgrounds.
Snippet heard from the TV downstairs: “Enjoy the feeling of being vein free.”
The opposite of “practicality” ought to be “crapticality.”
Imaginary Anatomies and Astonishing Somatic Illustrations
It's funny: when I turn to my dollar-store dictionary for advice on the correct way to pronounce “offal” it says “awful”! I thought so. There's nothing wonderful about offal: it's all awful, even in its very utterance.
Offal is butcher's term for the “less valuable edible parts of a carcass” – which is another way of saying the “guts” that are left over after the “meat” has been cleaved into muscular, familiar chunks. But the important thing to remember is that while these aren't worth much, they're still “edible.”
I think horror writers often use the thesaurus to look up synonyms for gut-terms. I know I do, and end up spending hours giggling as I turn through the pages (“ocular jelly”…tee-hee-hee…or in the right circumstance, “BInocular jelly”…har-har-har…or given the right animal, “RHINOCULAR JELLY”…bar-rar-rah!). But if a writer says “offal” when they really mean “entrails” or “intestines” then you have to wonder: did they just yank that word from a thesaurus or do they REALLY intend to suggest that their character's bowels are edible? Or did they just lazily copy the word out of the thesaurus because there are only so many words for guts that sound as repulsive as “offal”?
Consider this test case from an imaginary story:
She swiped her sharpened plastic credit card across his belly and the line it cut proceeded to split open and charge his account with a massive withdrawal of blood and entrails. He scooped his arms around his waist to collect his offal but it spit and spooled out from his gashed abdomen like so many coins from a slot machine, and as the disemboweled man fell into the brackish puddle of his own innards, she chuckled to herself: “I told you: it pays to Discover!”
A-hem. “Offal” might sound like the right word choice in this context, but the term is incredibly out of place, because it refers more to food than currency. This murderer is not a crazy cannibal, just a crazy consumer. If she wants offal, she'll spend her Payback Bonus Award on a proper tripe dinner at a fancy restaurant (where the waiter better be nice).
But to be fair, my research, albeit scant, on the derivation of the term “offal” reveals that it comes from the Middle English “af vallen” which quite literally translates as to “fall off” – ergo, “afval” was the name given to anything that fell off the butcher's block. Thus, I stand corrected.
Fine: “Offal” can refer to any body parts that “fall off,” whether edible or not.
But with one caveat. The five-second rule still applies.
Evolving Your Monster
“Monster Evolution” is a clever online game from Nob Studio, in which you terrorize a city eating humans — and if you eat enough of them, you can “evolve” into creatures with special powers and take out the shooters and tanks that come after you.
It’s like Cloverfield meets John Carpenter’s The Thing. Almost.
Try “Monster Evolution” for yourself, and play God(zilla) for awhile:
POST YOUR PITH AND WIN!
Enter the new “Pithy Morbid Thought” contest! FIVE WINNERS will be chosen on July 1st, who will each get a free signed Arnzen book. If you have the endurance to read all the way through The Goreletter, then you know that every issue is capped off at the end with a “Pithy Morbid Thought” – a somewhat disturbing “quotable quote” from a person who is no longer among the living. This is the easiest part of the newsletter for me to write, because, well, I'm just quoting someone else! And now you can see how easy it really is. All you have to do is submit your own favorite “pithy morbid thought” for the chance to win. Only ONE entry per contestant. The contest has already begun on the weblog, where you can read all the rules (and must follow them, please) at
AND THE WINNER WAS…
Our previous contest asked you to come up with a funny caption to a really weird piece of original art by Proverbs for Monsters cover artist Matt Schuster. This was the most popular contest ever, and you can read all the HILARIOUS results here:
tr.im/ontA Congratulations to Kurt Newton, Steven Pirie, and Josh Byrnes, who all took away rare copies of books, free comics, and – for Josh – a signed print from the artist!)
Sorry for the length of this section, but I'm making up for lost time. This time around I offer four “flash” reviews of books that are quite effective because they inexplicably feel “autobiographical” in some way, despite being entirely, totally, and thankfully made up.
Chimeric Machines by Lucy A. Snyder
Snyder is a massively talented writer – the sort who knows how to make you take a gulp when you hit the ending of a story or poem – and this poetry collection made me gulp with awe on virtually every page. Although her poetry/fiction collection Sparks and Shadows remains the best introduction to this writer's work in print, Chimeric Machines is her best work of poetry to date, because it is the most personal and – as usual for her writing – profound in its observations of the emotional undercurrents and potential for fantastic transformation in everyday life. The title made me thing the collection would be rife with fantastical creatures but this is deep poetry; literary writing, much of it seemingly autobiographical, tinged with a fantastic worldview. In these poems, which often turn whismical – as in the poem where the narrator vomits a squid in an exceptionally visceral moment – even the squid carries weighty ominous meaning. Many are dark, such as “The Monster Between the Sparks” (which is the space you see between the stars), and chill you where you thought you warm. Others explore hopelessness – but with a tiny spark of hope underneath the snuff of the universe. With an introduction by Tom Piccirilli and collaborative contributions from Gary Braunbeck, many horror readers would enjoy the experience of this collection. This is not horror poetry, always, but it is something bigger, something simpler: just great poetry. Snyder's Chimeric Machines deserves to win a literary award. Available for about $10 from http://creativeguy.net/books/books/
Don of the Dead by Nick Cato
I read this novel in advanced form, and it should be out very soon from Coscom Entertainment. Cato is the man who had the audacity to bring my absurd novelette, Licker, into print, mostly because he is simply a huge fan of horror-humor. His upcoming novel (his first?), Don of the Dead, is clearly a labor that reflects that same love of comedy and terror, mashing together the mob story genre with the zombie genre into a concept story that seemed pretty fresh and original to me, despite the dripping saturation of the genre with zombie fiction and film these days. I recently sent him an endorsement for the book, so allow me to simply say “I laughed a lot” and reblurbitate it: “It's as if George Romero has eaten the brains of Mario Puzo, Martin Scorcese and Dave Barry and spit out fictional gold.” While this story is only likely to appeal to zombie and mob fans, I count myself among them, and recommend it to kindred spirits looking for a good Troma-styled romp. (And if you know what “Troma-styled” means, then you're one of them). Available shortly from http://www.coscomentertainment.com/webstore.html
Blankety Blank: A Novel of Vulgaria by D. Harlan Wilson
This disturbing read is a breakthrough work of fiction that deserves a spotlight on the literary landscape as one of the best works of experimental writing of the year, if not ever. The story is quite a mess, and difficult to encapsulate in a review, and this is fully intentional, yet beyond the sheer irreal humor that permeates every page there is one strong epoxy that holds it all remarkably well together: the palpable sense of liberation that Wilson surely must have enjoyed as he sets out to unlatch his own memoir from every rule and formula and stricture of narrative ever made, with fervent, violent, glee. He rubs the face of Truth into the doggie doo of Fiction, with outrageously successful and bizarro results.
It's a memoir but it's not. The title of this story refers to the name of a serial killer clown, stalking his victims in the McMansion-bloated suburb of Vulgaria, set somewhere just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan…just outside the borders of a parody of conventional reality…yet also somewhere inside of D. Harlan Wilson's own historical past (and present, too). The bizarre humor and deft wit in Wilson's writing makes for compulsive, compelling reading, and generates a lot of laughs along the way (I have a high affection for the passage where the narrator tries to grapple with the Freudian concept of Uncanny), but I have to warn horror fans that this book might challenge anyone who simply likes to escape into the world of a straightforward story.
The emotional thrill-ride of Wilson's writing is grounded in intellectual acrobatics more than character identification. His purpose, I think, is trying to reveal that there is no such thing as a coherent story in the first place and that history is a fiction, and that that's where the horror always lies, because we can't escape these fictions, these truths, this stuff called language. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves is a fiction that our lives are built upon, as post-structualists have argued for about as long as Wilson has been alive, and so “Mr. Blankety Blank” is a figure for the desire for erasure from history, compelled by a smattering of hope for anything but the banal. The storytelling attacks itself in this grand experiment of “avant horror” that might remind you of the work of a young Kurt Vonnegut (if the “gut” part of his moniker were literal), and though it helps to know your postmodernist theory if you want to understand a book like this, it's still a rip-roaring read. Despite it's persistent intellectalizing this remains a genuine horror story because, much like Danielewski's House of Leaves, it begs the question of its own capacity to capture something much larger and much more sinister than itself in language and narrative, and this is what Freud meant by “the return of the repressed.” Somewhere, somehow, the id is unlatched within this masterful work of historiography, and that's what gives this bizarro memoir its own unique and uncanny sense of horror. See if you can handle it. You'll probably laugh a lot. $15 bucks from: http://www.rawdogscreaming.com/
Latter-Day Cipher by Latayne C. Scott
It's not often that I read religious-oriented fiction, and I'm going to bet that most readers of The Goreletter haven't even heard of this book. But Latter-Day Cipher (Moody Publishers, 2009), the first suspense novel from Latayne C. Scott, strikes me as a very bold step into some very challenging and original waters: the shadowy history of the Mormon church. In Latter-Day Cipher, a journalist is assigned to cover a series of bizarre (and I mean bizarre!) and gory murders in Utah, involving strange symbolic carvings discovered in the flesh of the victims and a 19th century document written entirely in code with ties to the Latter-Day Saints. Along the way, the Church of LDS tries to silence the publicity (sound familiar?) while a madman seems to be following archaic LDS religious practices quite literally. Scott uses fiction to explore what would happen if the early rite of “blood atonement” was still carried out today, while also realistically exploring the spiritual crises of her characters.
In the book's afterword, Scott makes a case for the reality of “blood atonement” rituals, but I felt a little skeptical of >some< of this, given her own status (broadcast very clearly in the book) as a recent convert away from a long-held following of Mormon principles. The book seems to be constructing an argument against Mormonism in favor of Christianity as much as it is trying to tell a story that illustrates it. While Scott isn't to blame, this undercurrent is why I usually don't read books like these – because the writer's agenda or ideology seems so close to the surface of the text that I have problems suspending disbelief. But this book manages to transcend such matters by raising such intriguing and unique questions. I have to say that Latter-Day Cipher is such a compelling and scary story that it stands on its own two feet as a proper psychological suspense novel: Scott's deft and successful storytelling abilities – and her zeal for telling an original story while simultaneously investigating the historical realities of the Church – on top of all the weirdness that is everywhere apparent in the story – really won me over. I kept forgetting I was wearing my black skeptic's hat as I read it. So if you're tired of the usual serial killer fair, or if you want to see what Anne Rice really SHOULD be writing post-conversion, then this is a book you'll want to read. Take a look at the neat book trailer and other information at the author's website: http://www.latayne.com/
Fake Horror Movies I’d Really Like To See
The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon (Gale, 2008)
Gobstopper (Appel, 2009)
Student Death Camp Gore Massacre Part 13 (Hale and Pace, 1988)
+ Write a poem that draws language directly from all the song titles from a death metal music album.
+ Craft a story around a doctor, dentist, or other health worker who secretly uses one of the job's instruments for his or her own unhealthy pleasure.
+ Describe a mass hallucination in a surreal and dreamy manner, using first person plural (“we”).
You can post whatever this instigates – or news of any publication that results – here: http://www.gorelets.com/dept/instigation/
Here's a department where I recommend titles that have a similar appeal to my own work. (Oh, okay, I stole the idea from amazon.com, but why let a profit-based computer code decide what you read? Here you've at least got an egocentric writer doing the job!)
If you liked PROVERBS FOR MONSTERS …
you'll like AFTERSHOCK AND OTHERS: 19 ODDITIES by F. Paul Wilson
If you liked RIGORMAROLE: ZOMBIE POEMS …
you'll like ZOMBIE HAIKU by Ryan Mecum
If you liked LICKER …
you'll like BENJAMIN'S PARASITE by Jeff Strand
If you liked THE B*TCHFIGHT …
you'll like THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL by Adam-Troy Castro
If you liked PLAY DEAD …
you'll like THE GOOD HUMOR MAN by Andrew Fox
If you liked GORELETS: UNPLEASANT POEMS …
you'll like MORTICIAN'S TEA by G.O. Clark
If you are curious about any of the Arnzen books that I mention above, just visit the handy-dandy bibliography page at gorelets.com (which include cover art, contents lists, reviews, excerpts, ordering info, and more):
Here's some exclusive coupons and discounts on horror-related merchandise – your reward for scrolling down!
FREE SKULL FRAGMENTS!
Shatter your head with my cd, Audiovile, and you'll get free Skull Fragments! I'll bundle a free SIGNED copy of my new French-English chapbook, Skull Fragments, together with a sealed copy of Audiovile for just $15 (outside the USA, $20). That price includes shipping. Paypal me at firstname.lastname@example.org and don't forget to include your delivery address. While supplies last, and they're limited, so act quick.
Christopher Conlon is offering Goreletter readers an exclusive discount on his new book of poems, Starkweather Dreams (featuring cover art from 100 Jolts artist Matt Sesow). It's an amazing collection of verse. For just $6 you can get a SIGNED copy of this book (which usually goes for $10) with free postage, directly from the poet! E-mail him at email@example.com for ordering details. Offer expires June 21st!
GOING GOING GORE
The original chapbook to which this site owes its name, Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems, has gone out of print at Fairwood Press ( http://fairwoodpress.com ). The publisher is kindly offering a discount on his remaining in-stock copies – just $5 a pop (postage paid). That's a really good deal on this Bram Stoker Award-finalist piece of Arnzenalia! Mention the phrase “Gorebones” or “Gorelets” when you paypal him firstname.lastname@example.org or send your check to Patrick Swenson, Fairwood Press, 21528 104th St Ct E, Bonney Lake, WA 98391
DYING DYING DEAD
My funky “Martha Stewart Living” parody, Michael Arnzen Dying, has also gone out of print at Tachyon Publications ( http://www.tachyonpublications.com ). In order to clean house, the publisher is sneaking Goreletter subscribers their own special discount page to order the book at great 20% discount, with free media mail shipping. Visit this exclusive site before the deal expires on August 1st!:
All material in The Goreletter is © 2009 Michael A. Arnzen, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward the entire contents of this newsletter as a whole, without alterations or excisions. Direct links to articles in the archives or the weblog are permitted and encouraged, so long as credit is given to Michael Arnzen or gorelets.com. For permission to reprint individual pieces, please contact email@example.com.
Delivered free since Sept. 2002. Issues to date: 40. This newsletter is a past recipient of the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Alternative Forms from the Horror Writers Association: http://www.horror.org/stokers.htm
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With apologies to latitude 53,41667, longitude 27,91667.
Help spread the strange. Forward this issue to your weirdest friend! And if you'd like to link me, you can find bizarre buttons for your website here: http://www.gorelets.com/demos/goreletbuttons.htm
The Truth about Oozing
“Terror is as much a part of the concept of truth as runniness is of the concept of jam. We wouldn't like jam if it didn't, by its very nature, ooze. We wouldn't like truth if it wasn't sticky, if, from time to time, it didn't ooze blood.” —Jean Baudrillard (died 2007)
* Due to the temporary nature of internet URLs, some websites mentioned in back issues of the Goreletter may no longer be live, or may also point to unscrupulous web servers. I will denote these with overstrikes as I discover them, but if you encounter a dead, changed or unscrupulous link, please feel free to inform me.
* “Boo Coupons” are expired in all but the current issue.
* If you are seeking a particular book by Arnzen mentioned in The Goreletter, try http://gorelets.com/books/
* Arnzen's blog is now located at http://gorelets.com/blog/ Visit it for breaking news and extras not appearing in The Goreletter.
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