Shock Totem #10 (Jan 2016)
- Shock Totem #11—Available Now!
- The State of Shock Totem Publications, or We Are Not ChiZine Publications
- Closing for Submissions
- Shock Totem Returns!
- Apex Publications Acquires Shock Totem Book Line
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 8
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 7
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 6
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 5
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 4
Like what you've read here or in the magazine? Please consider donating.
Author Archives: K. Allen Wood
This Saturday, August 8th, at 8 PM EST, we will once again be hosting our bi-weekly flash fiction challenge. The challenge: You have just one hour to write, edit, and post your story.
This is a “prompted” challenge, meaning your story must be based on the prompt, which will be revealed just before 8 PM. The challenge takes place here on our forum, so you’ll need an account if you want to participate.
The purpose of the challenge is to force you, the writer, to clear your mind of all distractions and write a complete 1,000-word-or-less story within the allotted time. You’ll have to not only write the story, but also edit it, and then post it by 9 PM EST.
For those interested, here are the rules:
Unlike our bi-monthly flash fiction contest, the bi-weekly one-hour flash challenge is just for fun. The challenge will be held every other Saturday, officially beginning at exactly 8 PM EST. There are no prizes! And the rules are simple.
1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within one hour, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.
2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.
3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.
4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.
5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and hosts the next contest.
And that’s it. Simple and fun.
Think you can do it? Join the forum and be present this coming Saturday at 8 PM EST. More information can be found on the forum.
Charlene over at Horror After Dark recently interviewed me and John. Charlene is great and it was good fun!
Check it out here.
Shock Totem’s roots stretch back to August of 2008. When John Boden, Nick Contor, and I began this journey, we had big ideas and no publishing experience. We’ve come a long way, to say the least, and it’s been a hell of a ride. I am extremely proud of all that we’ve done through Shock Totem Publications, and I’m grateful to all those who have contributed along the way.
That said, as we enter a new year, there are a few changes coming. Some good, some not so good.
First, there will be no flash fiction contests in 2015. I know this will be disappointing to many, as the contest has been extremely popular since we began running it in 2010, but if you’ve participated in past contests I’m sure you’ll understand why I’ve made this decision.
The next issue of Shock Totem, number ten, will be our last issue for a while. The reasons for this are many, but the biggest reason is simple: kids.
Our first child arrived in October of 2013. From that moment on, life changed in ways I could never have imagined. All parents understand this. Last year was difficult for me. I work from home, so I was basically a stay-at-home dad who also works a full-time job and is a publisher/editor/writer. Suffice it to say, life has been chaos since our son arrived, as wonderful as he is. All parents understand this as well.
I need organization, crave it. I function best when things are organized. As such, I struggled in 2014, was way behind the curve. In the past, authors have told me I was the best editor they’ve ever worked with, particularly with communication. That’s the kind of editor/publisher I want to be. No author published in issues 8 or 9, or our two holiday issues, will tell you that. Each issue was late, e-mails were few and far between, promises were made and not kept—and quite frankly our authors deserved better than that. My staff as well.
I mentioned “kids” above. In late February, or possibly sooner, my wife will give birth to our second child, a girl. (Yes, pushing the elderly ages of 37 and 40, we wasted no time.) Knowing what I know now, knowing how much time and energy just one kid requires, this hiatus is necessary.
As of right now, the goal is to take a complete break from publishing the magazine in 2015 and reopen for submissions on January 1, 2016, with a new issue scheduled for July 2016. That’s the plan. Yes, I know this sort of thing is often a death knell for publications, and I am well aware that it might signal the end of Shock Totem, as I cannot predict what the next year will be like. I certainly do hope to publish more issues of Shock Totem in the years to come. And if I feel that I don’t want to lay her to rest but do need to extend the hiatus, I will do so. Only time will tell…
But that’s just the magazine. We have other plans as well.
In the next few weeks we will begin accepting novel and novella submissions. (Before anyone asks, editing and publishing a novel is infinitely easier than publishing a magazine. And I will have help.) That’s the big one. We have smaller ideas, one-off “fun” projects that we’d like to do, like a zombie collection (trust us, it’ll kick ass), some chapbooks, maybe another holiday issue…
Either way, we’re not going away, not completely; we’re just scaling back for a time so I can be a father. I’d like to read a lot more, too (I read just 13 books in 2014). And I have many stories to finish writing. My DRAFTS folder is overflowing! But most important, I need to first learn what it’s going to take to be a great father to two children. If ultimately that means laying Shock Totem to rest, so be it. We’ve had a wonderful run, right?
But don’t worry. We’re not dead yet.
Happy New Year!
There’s a Tongue in the Drain
by Roger Lovelace
As many of you know, throughout the year we host a bi-monthly flash fiction contest on our forum (not to be confused with the bi-weekly one-hour flash challenge). From those bi-monthly winners, an overall winner is chosen by a neutral judge, to be published in the next issue of Shock Totem.
by Roger Lovelace
This year’s judge was our good friend David G. Blake, author of the excellent “A Kite for Sarah” (Nature, Mar 2014) and “Night in the Forest of Loneliness,” which we just reprinted in our Halloween issue.
Of the five bi-monthly winning stories from 2014, David chose “There’s a Tongue in the Drain,” by Roger Lovelace, as the winner. The contest prompt for this story was a simple photo:
I asked participants to answer two questions with their story: Who is this person? What’s up with the grate? You’ll be able to read what Roger came up with in Shock Totem #10, due in early 2015.
Congratulations, Roger, and all our other top three finishers this year!
Our good friend Steven P. Bouchard has written a classic-style holiday poem for Thanksgiving, and we’re very pleased to share it with you. We hope you do the same.
Late after dark on All Hallows Eve,
After mischievous tricks and collecting of treats,
Skeletons chattered, dead things were screaming,
And sugared-up children were twitching and dreaming.
Deep in the woods in a leaf-covered clearing,
The foxes were gathered, the time was a-nearing.
In the fog that transitioned the night to the day,
To the keening of fox-calls, formed a frisky, dark shape.
And out of the haze stepped a fox-headed mum,
Who quieted her troop with the snap of her thumb.
Her name it was Frixxa, the Matron of Foxes,
She gathered her children to sit upon rockses.
With fog rolling slowly, and moonbeams aslant,
She lifted her arms and she started to chant.
The troop circled in and joined in her song,
With chatters, and wooing, and barks short and long.
Then beyond the darkness came gobbley noises.
The foxes gave chase, unleashing their voices.
And when the Fair Frixxa’s song came to an end,
Turkeys aplenty were corralled in the glen.
Now unearthly birds summoned back from beyond
Were squabbling all dazed from a year being gone.
So henceforth the foxes would fatten and feed them.
For soon the Fair Frixxa would certainly need them.
The night’s work all finished, the matron stood up,
And gave out her blessing to each kit and pup,
And as morning broke she dispersed with the mist,
A long silhouette as the sun’s rays first kissed.
A fortnight and half having passed in the glen,
Darkness fell early, the troop called again.
And out of the mist-shrouded night came the matron,
Wearing an orange- and brown-colored apron.
A week it then took them to ready the flock,
As feathers were scattered and blood soaked the rocks.
But once preparations were fully complete,
The clearing was cleaned and the foxes were neat.
Then hundreds of thousands of plump burlap sacks
Were tied up and hoisted on strong foxy backs.
And as the night fell on the Evening of Thanks,
With a word from Fair Frixxa, the foxes broke ranks.
And over the land they did carry their gifts,
With joyous yip-yapping, on feet running swift.
At each house and shanty they stopped at the door,
And with a quick pause left their offerings poor.
Frixxa, the mischievous maiden of foxes,
Took her own path and dissembled some lockses,
She entered the dwellings on silent fox feet,
To gaze at the children in beds all asleep.
And those she found worthy, or needy, or right,
She left a small gift under pillows that night.
To some she left wishbones, and some pretty pennies,
But to most just a blessing, and some didn’t get any.
And to those very naughty and evilest of kids,
Which is so very seldom (but sometimes she did),
She would leave a fair warning to send them a shiver,
Like wattles, or giblets, or eyes, or a liver.
And back to the clearing when all this was done,
Fled Fair Matron Frixxa, and her troop, every one,
To await the slow breaking of the sun’s early rays,
As each gift is discovered on Thanksgiving Day.
As people all over give thanks and then feast,
The fox-headed mum gives a nod to the east,
Then Frixxa Fair gets one last autumn trick in,
Transforming into a reindeer named Vixen.
About the Poem: I’ve always wondered why Thanksgiving gets a bum deal, blowing right by and being overshadowed by Christmas. I thought about it and realized that Thanksgiving doesn’t have any figurehead like Santa or the Easter Bunny—the turkey is not a herald of the holiday: its dinner.
Also, kids don’t really have anything to look forward to on Thanksgiving–not like Easter Eggs, Trick-or-Treating, or presents from Santa. There are not many holiday movies or TV specials with Thanksgiving in the foreground. So, “Fair Frixxa” is in response to that, giving the holiday an icon to follow, and a more tangible give/receive motif like the more popular holidays. While I don’t usually write poetry, this just begged to be written as a pastiche to the traditional “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” This is my attempt to bridge elements of Halloween and Christmas together, and to firmly plant a Thanksgiving legend in its proper November place. Now, if I could only get Boris Karloff to narrate it…
About the Author: Steve lives in Maine with two kids, two dogs, two guinea pigs, and one wonderful wife. This is his first published work.
Our latest holiday issue is now available!
Cover art by Mikio Murakami.
Treats abound, in this special edition of Shock Totem are seven short stories, one poem, and five nonfiction pieces. Of the fiction, John Boden and Bracken MacLeod venture into dark and weird neighborhoods in “Halloween On…” In “Out of Field Theory,” Kevin Lucia gives us a shadowed glimpse of what lurks beyond the frame. David G. Blake’s “Night in the Forest of Loneliness” smells of autumn and the beautiful death she brings.
Learn why sometimes it’s better to stay home on Halloween in “Tricks and Treats,” by Rose Blackthorn. Kriscinda Lee Everitt’s “Howdy Doody Time” is a poignant nod to the past. The shadows come alive in “Before This Night Is Done,” by Barry Lee Dejasu, and in my story, “The Candle Eaters,” I explore faith and hope and a darkness that haunts us all.
In addition to the fiction, Sydney Leigh provides a very fine poem, “Allhallowtide (To the Faithless Departed).”
Authors John Langan, Lee Thomas, and Jeremy Wagner, as well as filmmaker Mike Lombardo and the always wonderful and brusque Babs Boden, provide anecdotal Halloween recollections.
No tricks, all treats.
Table of Contents:
* Halloween On, by John Boden and Bracken MacLeod
* Night in the Forest of Loneliness, by David G. Blake
* Kore, by John Langan (Holiday Recollection)
* Out of Field Theory, by Kevin Lucia
* Tricks and Treats, by Rose Blackthorn
* Witches and the March of Dimes, and Mike Warnke, by Babs Boden (Holiday Recollection)
* Howdy Doody Time, by Kriscinda Lee Everitt
* When I Scared Myself Out of Halloween, by Jeremy Wagner (Holiday Recollection)
* Before This Night Is Done, by Barry Lee Dejasu
* The Mansion, by Lee Thomas (Holiday Recollection)
* Allhallowtide (To the Faithless Departed), by Sydney Leigh (Poetry)
* Flay Bells Ring, or How the Horror Filmmaker Stole Christmas, by Mike Lombardo (Holiday Recollection)
* The Candle Eaters, by K. Allen Wood
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)
Learn more about our holiday issues here. And as always, thank you for the support!
Please note that if you buy the print edition through Amazon.com, you will also receive the Kindle edition for free.
We are very proud to announce the release of our ninth issue!
Click for larger image.
In this ninth issue of Shock Totem you will find not only a brand new, previously unpublished tale by Stephen Graham Jones, but also an interview with this modern master of words. Kathryn Ohnaka presents “Buddy,” a twisting, slithering serpent of a tale. The words are pure poetry, with fangs. “Saturday,” by Evan Dicken, follows, creeping and crawling and filled with Things that whisper of doom.
Similar whisperings can be heard in Bracken MacLeod’s “Thirteen Views of the Suicide Woods” and most of you will know the voices. Tim Lieder’s darkly rhythmic “Hey Man” will get you toe-tapping and “in the mood.” With a touch of science fiction, Emma Osborne’s “The Box Wife” is sure to leave you uncomfortable. The box wife is one and many, but you’ll recognize all.
Stephen King once called Jack Ketchum “the scariest guy in America.” What scares the scariest guy in America? Karen Runge. And you’ll know why after reading “Good Help.” Peter Gutiérrez provides the poetry with his outstanding “Anteroom.” Closing out the fiction in this issue is S.R. Mastrantone’s “Alan Roscoe’s Change of Heart,” a tale that chips away at a well-mined vein–the near-death experience–but manages to produce an untouched gem.
In addition to the previously-mentioned conversation with Stephen Graham Jones, F. Paul Wilson is also interviewed. The seventh installment of our music-meets-horror serial, “Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes,” tackles the 80s and Catherine Grant provides the editorial, a scary piece that hits close to home for creators and readers of horror.
All that and more!
Here is the official Table of Contents:
* Unacceptable Content, by Catherine Grant (Editorial)
* Buddy, by Kathryn Ohnaka
* Saturday, by Evan Dicken
* Morning Books and Evening Books: A Conversation with F. Paul Wilson, by Barry Lee Dejasu
* Thirteen Views of the Suicide Woods, by Bracken MacLeod
* Anteroom, by Peter Gutiérrez (Poetry)
* Strange Goods and Other Oddities (Reviews)
* Hey Man, by Tim Lieder
* The Nightmare Rolls On: A Conversation with Stephen Graham Jones, by Zachary C. Parker
* You Are Here, by Stephen Graham Jones
* The Box Wife, by Emma Osborne
* Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes, Part 7, by John Boden and Bracken MacLeod (Article)
* Good Help, by Karen Runge
* Alan Roscoe’s Change of Heart, by S.R. Mastrantone
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)
As always, thank you for your continued support!
Please note that if you buy the print edition through Amazon.com, you will also receive the Kindle edition for free.
Every other month we host a flash fiction contest on our forum. The next contest begins on Tuesday, September 1. This will be the last contest of 2014.
Participants have one week to write a story based on a prompt that we provide. The prompt must be integral to the story. This requirement, we hope, forces writers to pen a brand-new tale rather than submit some previously written or reworked story.
When the week is up, the stories are anonymously posted in the hidden contest forum. The entrants then have three weeks to read each story and vote on their top three. Additionally, most give feedback on each story, thus ensuring everyone gets something out of the contest.
The final contest of the year is in September. Once that winner is announced, all five individual winners throughout the year will be given to a neutral judge, who will then pick his or her favorite. That story will be published in the next issue of Shock Totem!
If interested, sign up here. It’s a good time.
UPDATE: We are extending our summer break by one month. We just sent out our final batch of submission responses, which means my staff got no break at all. So I am giving them the next month off from reading slush. We will reopen on September 1. I appreciate your understanding. Thanks!
Shock Totem Publications has locked the doors and barred the windows. It’s vacation time! We will reopen for submissions on
August 1. If you have a story with us now, expect a response soon.
“No more slush. NO MORE SLUSH!”
A Texas Senator and his wife go missing… On the same day, their son is slaughtered by an enigmatic killer on the lawn of ex-Governor Edward Wood’s residence. Sammy, Wood’s drug dealing son, suspects his father of the crime. After all, his old man snapped once before and crippled his wife with a lead pipe. But there’s something more to these events…something deeper and festering just beneath the surface…
In direct opposition to Homicide Detective Jim Thompson, Sammy begins an investigation of his own, searching for the truth in a labyrinth of lies, deception, depravity and violence that drags him deeper into darkness and mayhem with each step. And in doing so, brings them all into the sights of an elusive and horrifying killer who may not be what he seems.
A brutal killer on a rampage of carnage…a hardened detective on the brink…an antihero from the shadows…a terrifying mystery that could destroy them all…
Welcome to Lee Thompson’s A Beautiful Madness blog tour!
This stop is a special one since I love Shock Totem magazine and the people who have made it such a monumental success, which strangely enough is what this post is about. They’re beautiful people over at ST, and so are the stories they publish, and the covers that grace their issues.
Since I’ve been in two issues, in addition to one person winning a paperback copy of my novel, I’ll also be giving away two copies of Shock Totem! Issue #4, which featured my story “Beneath the Weeping Willow,” and issue #6, where I have a story called “The River” and was interviewed by K. Allen Wood (the publisher and sexy beast). Very neat, yes? To win, make sure you leave a comment and share the link on Shock Totem’s website, lovelies.
(Note: We will also be adding a hardcover copy (19 of 150) of Lee’s limited edition Delirium Books novella Down Here in the Dark.)
Ways to Measure Your Success (Expect and Accept Change)
There’s not much worse than for five years to go by and for you to look back over those years and feel that nothing has changed. Especially since it’s our responsibility to learn, adapt, and change things. No one else makes our choices for us once we’re an adult. But did you know what you wanted back then? Did you have a clear, specific goal? Did you have steps to carry yourself to that goal, or did you keep doing the things you were doing and expect to conjure such success from thin air?
If so, you’re not alone. But where have you succeeded? There has to be some area, doesn’t there? Look deep, look back, be objective. If you haven’t made strides, it might be time to start from scratch and rethink the way you’re approaching your writing career. You’re going to have to change for the better.
Expecting to succeed—to sell your first novel or first pro short story, or to get interviewed in the paper, or whatever—without studying the craft and just winging it, is like a guy swinging a golf club and expecting to be a pro golfer in five years. He can be doing a dozen things wrong in his swing and practice those wrong techniques ten thousand times, but only hurting himself.
A great way to measure your success is to pay a pro for feedback. (Tom Piccirilli offers an editing service.) Look at their feedback and go through it one point at a time, through your whole book, looking for the places they’ve marked as red flags and learn to understand why those things hurt your story instead of help it.
You can measure your success by comparing yourself to your peers. But it’s a trap filled with frustration. They can only write what they write and you can only write what you write. You might be a better networker but they might write better stories, or vice versa. They might be getting what appears constant praise while you can barely get someone to review your first novel. They might be single like me and have very few distractions while you might have a job and a family to dole out time and energy. There are too many variables, and comparing yourself to your peers isn’t very healthy. If you find yourself in this trap, it wouldn’t hurt to slap some sense into yourself.
You can measure your success by reviews. Reviewers read a lot of books so they can usually spot big flaws and what doesn’t work for them pretty quickly. They’re also passionate about the genre they’re reviewing. I like measuring my success this way. If someone loves reading they’re going to offer something useful I can use to improve.
You can measure your success by word count. I’ve never worried about this, but it seems to be a popular thing among writers. It seems a double-edged sword, though, telling yourself you have to hit a certain number, shifting, at least in the back of your mind, from writing a quality story to worrying about how many individual words you finished today. And then there is a lot of guilt in this approach too. I’ve seen tons of writers cry and beat themselves up because they fell behind on their word count that day or week or month. It’s a distraction, if you ask me, that doesn’t have many benefits. If you ignore the word count altogether and just write the story with as much passion and skill as you can, it will end up whatever length it needs to be.
You can measure your success by the project. Each novel you write will be different in critical ways. I like to experiment and break rules. When I began brainstorming A Beautiful Madness I knew I was going to break one of the big rules, and I did it, and knew it would and did work. The challenge each novel creates is fun to face. If you’re testing yourself on each individual story, to try new characters, new storylines, new ways to manage the POV shifts, and searching your heart for the little details that make the story familiar but fresh, there is a lot of satisfaction in that.
You can measure success by hitting deadlines. I like to set myself a deadline and have been doing so for years. (You’ll have to start doing that to be a professional writer, so why not start now?) I usually take a week to brainstorm the characters and the major beats of the novel and then write down the date I want to finish the first draft. Normally I have two deadlines. I set a high goal of six weeks. And then I set a more relaxed deadline of three months. Usually I hit somewhere around two months for a first draft but have finished some novels in two weeks. They’re all different.
You can measure success by copies sold. I’m setting a goal of moving 10,000 copies of A Beautiful Madness in the first year of its release, mostly because I want to gain a hefty new fan base and secure myself a position as a Crime writer to go to for a certain type of story.
With three years of publishing history, I can tell you that book sales spike and plummet if you have a small audience (there will be more on this in another guest post). Since there are such peaks and valleys, I’m shooting for the yearly goal of copies moved instead of a monthly one. If I’m six months into it and have only sold a quarter of what I want to get out there in readers’ hands, then I will have to get creative and up my game to hit my goal. It’s nice motivation. I think it’s doable too, with the publisher I have, and the fans I’ve gained over the last three years. And since A Beautiful Madness is my first Crime novel, it will always have a special place in my heart no matter how it’s received.
You can measure success by reader feedback. I’ve got awesome fans. They’re so warm and intelligent and funny. I wouldn’t move any copies if it wasn’t for them and my publisher because I’d rather be writing and reading than spending time online trying to pimp myself. A lot of them have become friends over the last three years too, although at one time they were complete strangers, opening one of my novels or novellas for the first time. It’s pretty cool. I measure my success in this way a lot, because it’s tangible, and if you ever feel down there are always people there shooting you an email saying they just finished your book and loved it and recommended it to their friends. They thank you, which is weird, but I get it because every time I read a great book I want to thank the author for taking the time to write it too.
You can measure success by professional feedback. I was fortunate the last four years to receive feedback from professional editors and agents and writers. I think it was important for me to have those people tell me I had talent and imagination and energy, but needed to work on characterization. Listening to them is what helped me start selling fiction.
You can adapt an attitude of I-don’t-give-a-fuck. Readers, editors, reviewers, some will love your work, some will hate it, some will never be more than lukewarm about it. You can just write for yourself if you want, like you probably did when you first started and you were thrilled by simply writing and finishing something. There’s no pressure in that. And it’s your life. Do what you want, what you feel is right, for you and your work.
How do you measure your success?
Buy A Beautiful Madness (Kindle): http://amzn.com/B00K36ITGS
Buy A Beautiful Madness (Paperback): http://amzn.com/1940544297
Lee Thompson is the author of the Suspense novels A Beautiful Madness (August 2014), It’s Only Death (January 2015), and With Fury in Hand (May 2015). The dominating threads weaved throughout his work are love, loss, and learning how to live again. A firm believer in the enduring power of the human spirit, Lee believes that stories, no matter their format, set us on the path of transformation. He is represented by the extraordinary Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary.
Visit Lee’s website to discover more.
There will also be a grand prize at the end of the tour where one winner will receive A Beautiful Madness and four other DarkFuse novels in Kindle format! Simply leave a comment on this blog and share the link.
Thanks to those who participate.