How lucky have we been recently with the explosion of amazing self-published and small press horror releases? It feels like an amazing time to be alive and to be a horror fan. The releases from women and minority writers have blown me away of late. That was one of my reading goals for 2023 – read more from minority writers.
This is going to be a new series that aims to cast the spotlight clearly on Indie horror voices broken down into quarterly releases. It’s been a lot of fun researching and compiling – maybe I’m a bit of a data nerd.
1. Watcher of the Woods by Skyla Dawn Cameron
After eighteen months staying home under rolling pandemic lockdowns with her girlfriend Joy, artist Thea Palmer has decided the strained relationship has run its course and she’s ready to end it—right after the stress of her birthday has passed.
Unfortunately, her surprise party comes with a special gift from Joy that puts the breakup on hold: a week-long cabin rental in the tiny northern Ontario community of Hope Falls, for just the two of them.
No contact with the outside world.
Joy says it’ll give them the perfect chance to reconnect and maybe restore Thea’s creativity after pandemic stress wearing down her desire to paint. But the cabin creaks at night under invisible steps, and the woods have trees that seem to shift in the corner of her eye. Thea swears she sees a strange white figure on the lake beckoning to her and an empty boat that drifts by in the early morning mist.
And Joy…Joy seems to be becoming someone else entirely.
Release Date: 14 February 2023
2. The Rot by Stephen Cooper
Something sinister is happening in England.
A wave of horrific violence and depravity sweeps the country without warning. A Rot. An evil presence with no boundaries, causing carnage, chaos, and gore, wherever it manifests. An ominous voice, pushing people beyond their limits to commit extreme acts, while dragging their morals and ethics straight to hell.
The Rot feeds off hate, and it’s never been easier to manipulate and use that hatred for its own nefarious purpose. The Rot has a hold on the country; the country just doesn’t know it yet.
Due to the very nature of the story, this book contains extreme horror, disgusting language, and an array of trigger inducing situations. If you are easily offended, then maybe read something else, but if you think the world’s going to hell and want a gruesome vile time reading about it, then welcome to The Rot… You have been warned.
Release Date: 27 January 2023
3. Wasps in the Ice Cream by Tim McGregor
Summer 1987: Mark Prewitt’s only priority is to avoid his dad’s new wife and waste time with his friends, but idle nights are the devil’s playground. When his friends decide to pull a cruel prank on the reclusive and strange Farrow sisters, Mark regrets caving in to peer pressure.
Wanting to make amends, Mark is drawn into the mysterious world of the Farrow girls, finding a kindred spirit in the middle sister, George. She is unlike anyone he’s ever known; a practicing witch who uses folk magic to protect her family. They bond over books, loneliness, and homemade spells. She even invites Mark to join a séance to contact her dead sister, who died under mysterious circumstances.
Keeping their relationship secret, Mark learns that living a double life in a town this small is impossible. When the secret is exposed, and his friends plot to punish the witch sisters for stealing one of their own, Mark is forced to choose between these two worlds.
“Filled with evocative and captivating scenes, strong female characters, and an engaging narration, readers will become engrossed immediately, while the threat and fear at the heart of this story, satisfyingly, sneaks up on them.” —Booklist, starred
“This coming-of-age horror relies less on supernatural terror than combustible human elements, but features sympathetic characters and sharp plotting. Highly recommended.”—Library Journal
Release Date: 10 Feb 2023
4. Churn the Soil by Steve Stred
Two hundred miles north of the town of Basco sits The Border. It’s a quiet, off-the-grid settlement, where the residents have developed a tentative agreement with those that live on the other side of the clearing.
But things are about to change forever.
As night falls, a teenage girl is brutally murdered as she flees across the clearing.
Now, it’s up to Basco PD officers Brown and Reynolds to find her killer.
But the truth is far worse than they could possibly imagine, and the more the officers uncover, the bolder the things beyond the clearing grow.
‘Under an icy snowfall…’
‘Under a clear, blue moon…’
North of The Border lies a land unseen by man. A land where things are ready and waiting… to feed.
Splatterpunk-Nominated author Steve Stred, who brought you ‘Mastodon’ and ‘Incarnate,’ delivers a pulse-pounding, high-stakes story where if the cold doesn’t kill you, the Forest Guards will.
“‘Churn the Soil’ is a wonderful mix of mystery, creatures, and bloody horror,” – V. Castro, HWA Bram Stoker Nominated author of ‘The Queen of The Cicadas’ and ‘Goddess of Filth.’
“The sense of place is immaculate. ‘Churn the Soil’ has the bone-chilling atmosphere of a frozen arctic tundra.” – David Sodergren, author of The Forgotten Island and Maggie’s Grave
“Veteran readers of Steve Stred will know that nothing good ever comes out of venturing into the woods and encroaching forests! ‘Churn the Soil’ finds the prolific Canadian author up to his old tricks, focussing on a community which lives off the grid and has an uneasy alliance with the beings which haunt the forest. Stred is on a seriously cool hot streak, following the superb ‘The Window in the Ground’ and wild monster novel ‘Mastodon’ with another page-turning blend of intense supernatural horror where death lurks around every corner. Stred is going places and is a master of fast-paced, punchy, and easy-read horror fiction which will have you speed reading in a matter of minutes.”
– Tony Jones, Ginger Nuts of Horror & Horror DNA reviewer
Release Date: 17 Feb 2023
5. A Blackness Absolute: Short Story Collection by Caitlin Marceau
A Blackness Absolute is a collection of short horror stories by up-and-coming Canadian author Caitlin Marceau. The collection takes in uncertainties of perception, feelings of vulnerability—to the weather, the natural world, the tenuousness of sanity—and mixes these elements with a strong sense of history and folklore. From the title piece, which evokes the pure claustrophobic terror of becoming lost and disoriented in a cave-system, to the final tale, Doireann, where a woman performs unusual funeral rites in a starving community, each story layers ambiguities to create an unnerving effect that will get under your skin.
If you love great storytelling, creepy atmospherics, and stories that instil a sense of dread that will return to you in the dead of night, then you’re sure to find something to enjoy in this masterful collection. These stories will linger long after you close the book.
PRAISE FOR A BLACKNESS ABSOLUTE:
“Caitlin Marceau explores the familial bonds that tie us together and break us down like no other. Her work bleeds Canadiana like thick maple syrup and lingers long after you’ve left the page.”
— Lor Gislason, author of Inside Out
“In her latest collection, Caitlin Marceau continues to display her boundless creativity and inventiveness. With surgical precision, she cuts into the hearts and minds of her doomed characters, extracting gothic tales of ghostly betrayal, teenage revenge, cloying claustrophobia, statuesque sirens and more. Marceau understands the terror that waits in the dark places beyond the seemingly Everyday. Fans will not be disappointed, and new readers will find themselves falling deep into A Blackness Absolute.”
— Laura Keating, author of Agony’s Lodestone
“A sharp tongue stretching deep into the collective unconscious, like campfire stories, to divine a vast array of hells to chill you with. A Blackness Absolute stitches together Junji Ito-esque horrors that crawl into some atavistic part of your brain and take root there, shading your dreams with dread and uncertainty. Marceau has written a reflection on the terrifying ways in which time stains everything, unforgivably, into states of ruin. She cuts, with serrated edge, into the pure, disturbing imagination of nightmares, and sustains terror from start to finish. Creepy as hell. Utterly addictive and compellingly frightening. A remarkable ride I cannot recommend enough.”
— Sofia Ajram, author of The Arborglyph
“Another dark and desolate collection from a fantastic new talent; Marceau understands how to tap into the root of deep, inescapable fear, and applies it with calculated precision. The title of the collection functions as both a siren and a warning—there are no happy endings here, no last-minute saviours. Creeping, incremental dread unspools around you like cold rope, pulling you down into a dark and infinite void, and the last lines of these stories gut-punch hard, leaving you winded but wanting more.”
— Lindz McLeod, author of Turducken
Release Date: 21 Feb 2023
6. American Cannibal by Various Authors
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to (rep)eat it.
A mother and daughter negotiate the Oregon Trail with grisly results; an elementary teacher watches the carnage of The Challenger explosion spill over into her own classroom. A possible prospector traveling west is drawn to an isolated inn where no one walks away hungry; a 1950s housewife shares the gruesome repertoire of behavior expected of a proper lady. Prohibition and women’s suffrage, the Civil War and the Vietnam War, the JFK assassination conspiracy and the Y2K hysteria: the annals of American history are reimagined with a side order of cannibalism by twenty of the biggest names writing horror fiction today.
Forget what you read in the textbooks.
Everything you were taught about the Land of Liberty is about to be history.
With brand new fiction from
Brian Asman, Daniel Braum, V. Castro, Douglas Ford, Jeffrey Ford, Holly Rae Garcia, Owl Goingback, C.V. Hunt, Gwendolyn Kiste, E.V. Knight, Clay McLeod Chapman, Ronald Malfi, Elizabeth Massie, Jeremy Megargee, Bridgett Nelson, Candace Nola, Clint Smith, Jon Steffens, L. Stephenson, and Jeff Strand; Foreword by Wrath James White
Release Date: 7 March 2023
7. Wrath of the Land by Oli Jacobs
When the plumbing around the centre of West Crumb starts to overflow, everyone believes the problem is a series of badly blocked drain.
What they don’t expect is a fatberg the size of a double-decker bus.
Council worker Ronald Pile is tasked with clearing the horrible mass, but soon finds himself dealing with a bureaucracy that works deep behind the scenes of the local council. Meanwhile, student Laura Bennett begins to notice how the fatberg seems to be influencing those around town.
Then, the reality of what the fatberg contains is revealed, and it begins to sprout.
Author of horror titles such as Deep Down There and Wilthaven (Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Finalist 2021), Oli Jacobs brings another tale of everyday life being suddenly disrupted by the arrival of something out of this world. And as always, he hopes you enjoy…
Release Date: 7 March 2023
8. Nocturnal Liberation by Villimey Mist
Leia Walker has returned to Amsterdam to keep a promise: she wants to save the captured humans in the blood farm underneath Amsterdam’s Royal Palace.
After fighting ferals in Atlanta and defeating Adam six months ago, Leia infiltrates the farm along with her personal Sangue Lucy and a group of vampires from Amsterdam’s fallen faction. It’s her chance to prove to herself that she’s fine without her guardian’s protection.
But sleeping humans are not the only presence in the underground tunnels: ghouls and feral vampires prowl the area. They’re different. They’re cunning.
And they’re hungry.
It’s fight or die for Leia and her crew as they battle against a new breed of subterranean feral vampires. To make matters worse, Leia discovers horrifying experiments meant to elevate vampires and bring humanity to its knees.
Can Leia keep her friend and the imprisoned humans safe, or will the farm become her eternal tomb?
Release Date: 21 March 2022
9. Gothic by Phillip Fracassi
On his 59th birthday, Tyson Parks—a famous, but struggling, horror writer—receives an antique desk from his partner, Sarah, in the hopes it will rekindle his creative juices. Perhaps inspire him to write another best-selling novel and prove his best years aren’t behind him.
A continent away, a mysterious woman makes inquiries with her sources around the world, seeking the whereabouts of a certain artifact her family has been hunting for centuries. With the help of a New York City private detective, she finally finds what she’s been looking for.
It’s in the home of Tyson Parks.-
Meanwhile, as Tyson begins to use his new desk, he begins acting… strange. Violent. His writing more disturbing than anything he’s done before. But publishers are paying top dollar, convinced his new work will be a hit, and Tyson will do whatever it takes to protect his newfound success. Even if it means the destruction of the ones he loves.
Even if it means his own sanity.
“Not since The Shining has the descent of a writer into madness been so masterfully rendered on the page.” – Ross Jeffery, Bram Stoker-nominated author of Tome
“A high creep factor chiller with a sinister edge that had me reading well past my bedtime. Frightening and fun, and deliciously original!” — James A Moore, author of the Blood Red trilogy and Cherry Hill.
“Fracassi takes the familiar traps—love, obsession, power—and gives them new teeth. It’s dark fun twisted tightly around a story of human frailty…He’s doing for the desk what King did for the car.” – Jeff Terry, THE JEFF WORD
“Fracassi’s page-turning thriller offers unapologetic horror raised to the next level with strong characterization, great pacing, and visceral details that ensure we experience unspeakable dread alongside the book’s protagonist. I think I went a little insane while reading it.” –Norman Prentiss, author of Haunted Attractions with your Other Father and The Apocalypse-a-Day Desk Calendar
“Stylish, atmospheric, and chilling, GOTHIC is an affectionate ode to the horror greats, and an effective reminder that Philip Fracassi is destined to become one of them. One of my favorite reads of the year so far.”- Kealan Patrick Burke, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Kin and Sour Candy
“”GOTHIC is the literary equivalent of the abyss gazing right back at you from the hellish depths of its pages. Don’t lean in too close, lest you fall into this nightmarish novel and never find your way out again.” – Clay MacLeod Chapman, author of Ghost Eaters
“A diabolical novel! Fracassi pens this one with furious, devilish glee. Readers–and writers–of horror fiction will love it.” – Ronald Malfi, author of Come with Me and Black Mouth
“A dark and delirious journey into the unraveling of a mind, Gothic is the accursed 21st century bastard child of the 70s horror boom and John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness. Deadly, compelling, and pulls no punches.” – Brian Evenson, author of The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell
Release Date: 3 Feb 2023
10. The Shoemaker’s Magician by Cynthia Pelayo
A fabled lost movie. An increasing body count. How much do you risk for art?
Paloma has been watching the Grand Vespertilio Show her entire life. Grand, America’s most beloved horror host showcases classic, low-budget and cult horror movies with a flourish, wearing his black tuxedo and hat, but Paloma has noticed something strange about Grand, stranger than his dark make-up and Gothic television set.
After Paloma’s husband, a homicide detective, discovers an obscure movie poster pinned on a mutilated corpse on stage at the Chicago Theater, she knows that the only person that can help solve this mystery is Grand. When another body appears at an abandoned historic movie palace the deaths prove to be connected to a silent film, lost to the ages, but somehow at the center of countless tragedies in Chicago.
The closer Paloma gets to Grand she discovers that his reach is far greater than her first love, horror movies, and even this film. And she soon becomes trapped between protecting a silent movie that’s contributed to so much death in her city and the life of her young son.
Release Date: 14 Feb 2023
What horror books are you looking forward to this year? Is there a book being released between Jan-March not on the list? Comment below…