Author Archives: K. Allen Wood

About K. Allen Wood

K. Allen Wood is the editor/publisher of Shock Totem. For more info, visit his website at www.kallenwood.com.

Congratulations, Damien Angelica Walters!

The TOC for the Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume 1, edited by Michael Kelly and Laird Barron, has been released. We’re very proud to announce that Damien Angelica Walters’ “Shall I Whisper to You of Moonlight, of Sorrow, of Pieces of Us?” from Shock Totem #7 made the final cut. Well deserved indeed.

So a huge congratulations, Damien!

And though hers is the only Shock Totem tale included, she is not the only Shock Totem author. Also appearing will be A.C. Wise (Shock Totem #4) and Kristi DeMeester (Shock Totem #7). Congrats to you both, as well!

Here is the full TOC:

* “Success” by Michael Blumlein, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nov./Dec.
* “Like Feather, Like Bone” by Kristi DeMeester, Shimmer #17
* “A Terror” by Jeffrey Ford, Tor.com, July.
* “The Key to Your Heart Is Made of Brass” by John R. Fultz, Fungi #21
* “A Cavern of Redbrick” by Richard Gavin, Shadows & Tall Trees #5
* “The Krakatoan” by Maria Dahvana Headley, Nightmare Magazine/The Lowest Heaven, July.
* “Bor Urus” by John Langan, Shadow’s Edge
* “Furnace” by Livia Llewellyn, The Grimscribe’s Puppets
* “Eyes Exchange Bank” by Scott Nicolay, The Grimscribe’s Puppets
* “A Quest of Dream” by W.H. Pugmire, Bohemians of Sesqua Valley
* “(he) Dreams of Lovecraftian Horror” by Joseph S. Pulver Sr., Lovecraft eZine #28
* “Dr. Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron” by A.C. Wise, Ideomancer Vol. 12 Issue 2
* “The Year of the Rat” by Chen Quifan, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August.
* “Fox into Lady” by Anne-Sylvie Salzman, Darkscapes
* “Olimpia’s Ghost” by Sofia Samatar, Phantom Drift #3
* “The Nineteenth Step” by Simon Strantzas, Shadows Edge
* “The Girl in the Blue Coat” by Anna Taborska, Exotic Gothic 5 Vol. 1
* “In Limbo” by Jeffrey Thomas, Worship the Night Ranger“Moonstruck” by Karen Tidbeck, Shadows & Tall Trees #5
* “Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks” by Paul Tremblay, Bourbon Penn #8
* “No Breather in the World But Thee” by Jeff VanderMeer, Nightmare Magazine, March.
* “Shall I Whisper to You of Moonlight, of Sorrow, of Pieces of Us?” by Damien Angelica Walters, Shock Totem #7.

As you can see, a brilliant lineup! Congrats again, ladies! And to everyone else who made the final cut, of course. =)

You can read more about this collection here.

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Shock Totem #8.5—Now Available!

Shock Totem Publications is proud to announce that our second holiday issue is available for purchase!

Cover art by Mikio Murakami.

Love is in the air. Can you feel it? The most wonderful and diabolical emotion of them all, and we’re going to celebrate it. Ostensibly as a Valentine’s Day issue, but really…it’s all about love.

And horror, of course.

In this special edition of Shock Totem you will find “Clocks,” a beautifully tragic tale told by master storyteller Darrell Schweitzer. “Silence,” by Robert J. Duperre, is a gut-wrenching tale of love, war, and death. You won’t soon forget this one. In “Broken Beneath the Paperweight of Your Ghosts,” Damien Angelica Walters tells of a man and his tattered heart. Catherine Grant’s “Sauce” teaches us that sometimes things left behind are best left alone. Tim Waggoner examines the perfect lover in “The Man of Her Dreams.” “Hearts of Women, Hearts of Men,” by Zachary C. Parker, follows a battered woman struggling to free herself from an abusive relationship while a serial killer is on the loose. In total, nine tales await you…

Like our previous holiday issue (Christmas 2011), the fiction is paired with nonfiction, this time by Violet LeVoit, Jassen Bailey, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, C.W. LaSart, Bracken MacLeod, John Dixon, Brian Hodge, and more. True tales of first loves, failed relationships, misfortune, death, sex, and…meatloaf.

Love has its dark side, folks, and fittingly this issue has very sharp teeth.

Come see why Shock Totem is billed as “…one of the strongest horror fiction magazines on the market today” (Hellnotes).

Table of Contents:

* Clocks, by Darrell Schweitzer
* Lose and Learn, by Brian Hodge (Holiday Recollection)
* Hearts of Women, Hearts of Men, by Zachary C. Parker
* Unlearning to Lie, by Mason Bundschuh (Holiday Recollection)
* Sauce, by Catherine Grant
* Something to Chew On, by Kristi Petersen Schoonover (Holiday Recollection)
* Silence, by Robert J. Duperre
* Hanging Up the Gloves, by John Dixon (Holiday Recollection)
* Golden Years, by John Boden
* Akai, by Jassen Bailey (Holiday Recollection)
* She Cries, by K. Allen Wood
* The Same Deep Water As You, by Bracken MacLeod (Holiday Recollection)
* One Lucky Horror Nerd, by James Newman (Holiday Recollection)
* Omen, by Amanda C. Davis
* The Scariest Holiday, by C.W. LaSart (Holiday Recollection)
* Broken Beneath the Paperweight of Your Ghosts, by Damien Angelica Walters
* Everything’s Just Methadone and I Like It, by Violet LeVoit (Holiday Recollection)
* The Sickest Love is Denial, by Richard Thomas (Holiday Recollection)
* The Man of Her Dreams, by Tim Waggoner
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)

Currently you can purchase the print edition through Amazon or our webstore. More online retailers will follow in the days and weeks to come. The digital edition can be purchased here.

Interested in our back catalog? All past issues are still available digitally and in print and can be ordered directly from us or through Amazon and other online retailers.

Please note that all of our releases (except Dominoes) are enrolled in Amazon’s MatchBook program, so everyone who purchases a print copy gets a Kindle copy for free.

As always, thank you for the support!

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Shock Totem #8—Now Available!

Shock Totem Publications is proud to announce that our eighth issue is available for purchase!

Shock Totem returns with its eighth issue, featuring classic tales of hauntings, monsters, and clowns!

Cody Goodfellow and John Skipp, who as collaborators have penned numerous short stories as well as the modern-horror classics Jake’s Wake and Spore, provide “The Barham Offramp Playhouse” and “Depresso the Clown,” respectively. Carlie St. George’s “We Share the Dark” follows a woman struggling to leave her ghosts behind. “Death and the Maiden,” by David Barber, revisits a classic time and a classic character in horror fiction. D.A. D’Amico’s “Watchtower” and John C. Foster’s “Highballing Through Gehenna” both traverse surreal landscapes full of monsters and madness.

WC Roberts, last seen in our third issue, returns with another mindbending slice of poetry, while newcomer Harry Baker’s “Fat Betty” is a stark reminder that sometimes it’s better to give than to take. “Stabat Mater,” by Michael Wehunt, our flash fiction contest winner for 2013, takes parental sacrifice to a whole new level.

You will also find conversations with Cody Goodfellow and rising star Adam Cesare, narrative nonfiction by Catherine Grant, an article by Joe Modzelewski, reviews, and more…

Come see why Shock Totem is billed as “…one of the strongest horror fiction magazines on the market today” (Hellnotes).

Table of Contents:

* Nosferatu: The Origin of Vampires on Screen, by Joe Modzelewski (Article)
* Highballing Through Gehenna, by John C. Foster
* We Share the Dark, by Carlie St. George
* The Highland Lord Brought Low, by Catherine Grant (Narrative Nonfiction)
* A Conversation with Cody Goodfellow, by John Boden
* The Barham Offramp Playhouse, by Cody Goodfellow
* Whisperings Sung Through the Neighborhood of Stilted Sorrows, by WC Roberts (Poetry)
* Strange Goods and Other Oddities (Reviews)
* Watchtower, by D.A. D’Amico
* Death and the Maiden, by David Barber
* Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes, Part 6, by John Boden and Simon Marshall-Jones (Article)
* Fat Betty, by Harry Baker
* A Conversation with Adam Cesare, by K. Allen Wood
* Stabat Mater, by Michael Wehunt (2012 Shock Totem Flash Fiction Contest Winner)
* Depresso the Clown, by John Skipp
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)

Currently you can purchase the print edition through Amazon or our webstore. More online retailers will follow in the days and weeks to come. The digital edition can be purchased here.

Please note that all of our releases (except Dominoes) are enrolled in Amazon’s MatchBook program, so everyone who purchases a print copy gets a Kindle copy for free.

Interested in our back catalog? All past issues are still available digitally and in print and can be ordered directly from us or through Amazon and other online retailers.

As always, thank you for the support!

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And the January 2014 Flash Fiction Contest Winner is…

J. Kyle Turner

Kyle won with his story “Everybody Needs.” And on the one-year anniversary of his last First Place win!

The prompt for this month’s contest was this discovery of century-old negatives found in the Antarctic. For this contest, I asked the authors to tell us about one or more negatives from the past that, when found in present time, reveal something much more sinister. Though I asked that the setting be a “wintry” one, they were not required to set their tale in the Antarctic or 100 years in the past.

Second Place winner was Shock Totem #7 author Amberle L. Husbands, and Third Place went to Aimee Blume. Kyle’s story will now go into the running for the overall winner for 2014, to be determined later this year.

So a big congratulations to all the winners!

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Witch

When Witch’s self-titled debut dropped in 2006, the album caught me by surprise. Mainly because J. Mascis was in the band, as their drummer. Mascis, for those unaware, is the man behind the long-running legendary indie rock band Dinosaur Jr.—a longtime favorite of mine (those fuzzy solos are so nice). So when I heard he had once again set up shop behind the drum kit, it was unexpected.

Before Dinosaur Jr., Mascis bashed the skins in the punk/hardcore band Deep Wound and later, in the early 90s, for the doom-metal band Upsidedown Cross. With Witch, he not only traded in his guitar and wah-wah pedal for a drum kit, he also revisited a heavier, doomier metal style far removed from the musical style of the band he built his career on.

Joined by Kyle Thomas (guitar and vocals) and Asa Irons (guitar), both from the avant-folk/rock band Feathers, and Dave Sweetapple (bass), the result is pretty fantastic.

Witch play a slightly mixed bag of doom-metal styles: traditional, stoner, and psychedelic, though heavy on the traditional side of the spectrum with a good dose of 70s rock. The cabalistic lyrical content may remind some of Witchcraft, and fans of the legendary St. Vitus or Pentagram may hear musical similarities, but Witch groove with a more vintage rock swagger than those aforementioned bands—at least the latter two. This is consistently reinforced by Kyle Thomas’s vocals when his upper-range begins to sound somewhat akin to that of old-school Robert Plant. The guitar work throughout the album is excellent, rife with solos and dark grooves courtesy of the Sabbath-heavy riffs. Sweetapple’s bass runs and clear tone in the mix make his instrument more of a standout element rather than an unnoticed part of the rhythm section, the backbone of which is Mascis’s standard but solid drumming.

The album starts in epic form with the stunning “Seer,” a glorious doom-laden jam best suited for a funeral parade at the End of Days. The same formula is applied to other tracks like the stalking stomp of “Black Saint”—accompanied by riff-heavy two-and-a-half-minute closing jam punctuated by some fuzzy dual leads—and the mind-wearying ebb and flow of “Rip Van Winkle.” With the first six songs painting on coat after coat of heavy, doom-riddled texture you might find yourself scratching your head when the final song, “Isadora,” opens with acoustic guitars and subtle vocals wrapped in an eerie melancholia that lasts for almost four minutes. But then things veer back into familiar territory as the floodgates are opened to the down-tuned riffage and solo work that comprise the first six songs. The song ends in classic, plodding doom fashion and Kyle Thomas singing “Isadora” over and over and over again…

And this is generally where I hit play again.

In the years since this album was released, with newer bands like The Sword, Saviours, Blood of the Sun, Priestess, Dixie Witch and Early Man having imparted varying degrees of 70s-influenced stoner rock and doom upon our ears, the style began to feel a bit overwhelming, the scene saturated in mediocrity. Thanks, of course, to the labels who tried to exploit things and shove more and more similar bands down our throats, as they tend to do. Despite this, there will always be a handful of diamonds to be found within the deep, sucking mud of the mainstream’s latest go-to genre. Witch, and those aforementioned bands, are some of those diamonds.

This review originally appeared in Shock Totem #4, July 2011.

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Closed for Winter Break

Shock Totem Publications has locked the doors and barred the windows. It’s vacation time! Well, sort of; we still have nearly 400 submissions to read.

We will reopen for submissions on February 1, 2014. If you have a story with us now, expect a response soon.


[ Caption added. Original cartoon by Christopher Weyant. ]

We hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. Stay safe and keep writing. Until then…

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The Importance of (Good) Reviews

How important is a review? In today’s publishing world, especially on Amazon.com and its international sites, a good review (four or five stars) is worth quite a bit. Dozens of them are priceless.

Shock Totem does most of its sales through Amazon, the bulk of which are digital sales. That’s a great thing, particularly for our authors. Readers are their lifeblood. Ours as well, but while readers keep us afloat on a pride level, we need revenue to sustain us for years to come.

We’ve been around for five years and each of our issues costs around $1,500 to produce. They say most businesses take five years to become profitable. Thankfully, we’re almost to the point where we’re paying for each release with profit from sales. Our last issue, Shock Totem #7, cost $236 out of pocket, which is wonderful.

We’d love to get to a point where we’re not only paying for issues with profit but also making money, enough to expand, raise our pay rate.

And that’s why we still need your help.

The debut issue of Shock Totem is our biggest seller. This is typical for every month. On Amazon, where it matters most, our debut has 28 reviews. That’s eleven more than the closest second, which is issue #2, with 17 reviews.

Our latest issue, however, has just two reviews. And we’re having a hell of a time getting review sites to respond to review requests these days. Not sure if there’s so much self-publishing going on that they’re overwhelmed with review material or if we’re so established they don’t think we need reviews; but whatever the reason, the reality is, we do need reviews.

Why? Beside the obvious reasons, Amazon.com, where sales are highest, has a ranking algorithm (among other things) that helps authors and publishers sell books. One of the biggest theories, and it’s a good one, is that the more four- and five-star reviews a book has, the more it is shown to potential buyers.

Again, our debut issue has nearly a dozen more reviews than any of our other issues and it’s our biggest seller. Signs point to Yes, the algorithm is real and that issue is being put in front of more potential readers than our other issues.

So how can you help? By posting reviews of our work. They don’t have to be long or have literary flair; they just need to be honest.

The more our sales increase, the longer we’ll be around. When so many publications are using Kickstarter to fund their projects, we’d like to earn people’s money. So if you’d be so kind, please consider reviewing anything of ours that you have read. We’d be very grateful.

In parting, and this applies not only to our books but any book, please note the difference in ratings between sites.

Three stars on Goodreads is not the same as three stars on Amazon. (There is another theory that any review given with less than four stars on Amazon seriously impacts a book’s rankings—kicks it right into the gutter, in fact. Again, this is a theory, but based on authors’ experience, it’s a good one.) For instance, a two-star review on Goodreads should be a three-star review on Amazon, as both mean it was “okay.” Therefore, a three-star review on Goodreads should be a four-star review on Amazon, which helps the author quite a deal more. Again, in theory.

And finally, thank you! Five years strong. We’ve lost some staff along the way, but we’re still dedicated and committed to the long haul. It’s been a hell of a ride so far. Help us keep the wheels on!

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And the 2013 Flash Fiction Contest Winner is…

Stabat Mater
by Michael Wehunt


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.

This year’s judge was up-and-coming horror scribe Bracken MacLeod, author of the excellent Mountain Home. (Click here for our review of Mountain Home and here for our interview with Bracken.)

Of the five bi-monthly winning stories from 2013, Bracken chose “Stabat Mater,” by Michael Wehunt, as the winner. The contest prompt for this story was this Harlan Ellison quote from a Tor.com interview:

“In the introduction to this new edition of Web of the City, Ellison writes of a possible legend about Ernest Hemingway intentionally destroying his first novel. From the introduction:

“Yes, the story goes, Hemingway had written a book before The Sun Also Rises, and there he was aboard a ship, steaming either here or there; and he was at the rail, leaning over, thinking, and then he took the boxed manuscript of the book…and threw it into the ocean. Apparently on the theory that no one should ever read a writer’s first novel.”

The quote was referring to the reissue of Ellison’s first novel. For the contest prompt, I asked participants to write about tossing away their firstborn child and base it on the same theory Ellison describes above. I also asked that they not take the easy road and write something that involves sacrificial/religious offerings.

To read what Michael did with the prompt, check out “Stabat Mater” in the next issue of Shock Totem, due in January 2014.

Congratulations, Michael!

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Rockin’ and a-Shockin’

This weekend is the yearly Rock and Shock event out in Worcester, MA. Like last year I’ll be sharing a booth with Tom and Billie from Sideshow Press/Gallows Press. We’ll also be sharing space with author and owner of T.R.O. Publishing, Robert J. Duperre, and artist Jesse Young, who did the excellent cover art and illustrations for our edition of James Newman’s The Wicked.

There will also be some lesser-known celebrities in attendance, such as Jack Ketchum, Jason Mewes, Dee Snider, Robert Patrick, Michael Rooker, Kane Hodder, William Forsythe, and some dude name Robert Eggland…or something like that.

The convention runs from 5 PM Friday till 5 PM Sunday. So stop by, say hello, buy some books. It should be a great time.

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And the September 2013 Flash Fiction Contest Winner is…

John Guzman

John won with his story “Scene Stealers.” He previously won our May 2012 contest. That story, “Magnolia’s Prayer,” was then chosen as the overall winner for the year and was published in Shock Totem #6.

The prompt for this month’s contest was the following image:

The rules were simple: What is it for? Where does it lead to? What’s it’s like on the other side? Who—or what—is over there at the end of the line? Because obviously this isn’t a normal roller coaster.

Guzman had a very decisive win, but let’s not forget Second Place winner Paul Edmonds, who won with his story “My Father’s Construction.” And Michael Wehunt placed once again, with “Always Hold Your Loved Ones Close.” This is Michael’s eighth top three finish in nine contests, three of which placed first.

John’s story, plus this year’s four previous winning stories, will be judged by a neutral reader (someone who is not on the staff and has not participated in any this year’s previous contests), and the story he or she chooses will be published in issue #8!

So a big congratulations to all the winners throughout 2013!

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