Shock Totem #10 (Jan 2016)
- 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
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 3
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Author Archives: Mercedes M. Yardley
I just finished Joseph Mead’s debut novel, Aleera: Tainted Blood. Aleera, the daughter of a demonic warlord and a succubus, is being tormented by a serial killer who leaves behind charred bodies. While trying to track down the killer, she is constantly battling her own dark urges. Will she be able to control the demon inside her when her life is at stake?
The book reads like a mostly complete novel rather than a completely finished one. I was easily distracted at first by the numerous typos and what I felt was rather contrived scenarios. Aleera manages to get a knife pulled on her not once but twice in the first 13 pages. That seemed extreme to me and hey, I live in Las Vegas.
Oh boy, I thought. This is going to be a long read.
Only it wasn’t. I quickly grew to appreciate the interesting and diverse cast of characters. There’s someone for everybody here. The group includes a sexy half-succubus, a shy best friend, an older mentor and his feline familiar, among others. I also enjoyed the physical manifestations that took hold when Aleera slipped into bloodthirsty demonic mode. Sharp claws protrude from her hands, wings sprout from her back, and her eyes glow red. The action scenes are fast, vicious, and engaging. It was also fun to see how she navigates changing relationships with her friends. After all, otherworldly or not, she’s still a teenager.
Aleera: Tainted Blood isn’t to be confused with the earlier version of this story, which is simply known as Tainted Blood.
While I would suggest to Mr. Mead that he go through and give this book another round of polishing, I found it entertaining. I also enjoyed the easily sustainable world that he created. If he were to write a sequel to Aleera, I would most likely pick it up and follow the characters on their other misadventures.
Dark, sexy, and bloody, this book delivered on what it promised.
I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I was on the short list for theEric Hoffer Award. Woo!
While the very worthy “Peep Show,” by Louise Beech, won the award, I made it into their Best New Writing 2012 anthology.
When I was in college, their Best New Writing collections were part of my class curriculum. I actually had to go out and buy a copy to study from. I was introduced to some delightful stories that way.
And now? Who knows, maybe somebody will read my tale, “Stars,” and find something of worth in it.
Come by and say hello!
Podcaster, writer, and all-around good guy, R.B. Wood has released his debut novel, The Prodigal’s Foole. If you’re looking for a fun, fast read with a strong creep factor, this might be the book for you.
For the last ten years, Symon Bryson, a hard-drinking, snarky Irish anti-hero, has turned his back on his friends and his…uh, rather unique set of skills. Suddenly he receives an urgent message regarding his old mentor, and he grudgingly decides to come back, bringing his baggage with him.
First off, Symon is a likable protagonist. He has the ability to use magic but hates every second of it. I dig the scathing sarcasm that hides a lifetime of secrets and pain, and some of the dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny. Symon’s constant reference to a mysterious incident of ten years ago was equal parts intriguing and at times a little frustrating until the reader is let in on the secret. I was interested in each of the characters. Wood built a world filled with the demonic, bitter ex-best friends, mystical old lovers, and—my favorite part—priests in Kevlar. The relationships between the characters are delightfully painful and intricate, and unfold throughout the novel, giving me several “Oh, cool!” moments.
All in all, I’d suggest that you pick up The Prodigal’s Foole, if you want some fast, funny, dark fiction that doesn’t cross into the world of horror. It’s an enjoyable read with a satisfying conclusion.
I can sum this book up in one word: wonder.
When this book rolled in, I couldn’t believe my luck. The cover itself was extremely striking; a vintage girl with a crown levitating above the ground. They say that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what happened with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. “Hmm,” says I. “This cover is attractive. Interesting. Ghostly and slightly disturbing. I wonder if the contents are the same.”
They are. And they are delicious.
When Jacob’s grandfather dies a grisly and mysterious death, Jacob is left to wonder about the tales that his grandfather told about his childhood. They are tales of an old house, peculiar children, and monsters. The language in this story is beautiful. The old pictures, actual found photographs, are charming and gave me the impression that I was reading a picture book for adults. The entire presentation of the book was quite stunning, actually.
After the mystery of his grandfather’s death was solved, the narrative slowed dramatically. I read on for the sweet burgeoning love story and the charming descriptions of the children, but not necessarily for the plot. Still, this is an enjoyable read.
This isn’t a book for a waiting room or while you have a few brief minutes to spare. It’s meant to be read when the house is silent and you can savor it one chapter at a time.
I have to be honest when I say that I was a bit baffled when I set out to read Halloween Night Fever: End of the Long Walk, the first release in a planned five-part series, though, oddly enough, chronologically the third book in the series.
Dan Graffeo’s book, with its rather bizarre superhero cover, sounded like an unintentionally off-the-wall novel. Several people in the town of Sleepy Owl begin having similar dreams and pull pieces of caribou skin out of that dream into real life. They form a secret society called the Pniese and spend each Halloween night keeping an eye on the dark things that cross over to the land of the living.
It sounded juvenile. Then I started reading it, and realized that it was, indeed, written for juveniles. And in that vein, I was pleasantly surprised.
What young’un doesn’t want to read about a group of kids who secretly keep the town safe right under their parents’ noses? The characters were diverse—perhaps even a little too obviously diverse—and had fun, different modes of transportation. Willy Hynes, the protagonist, is a smart-aleck kid who spends more time mouthing off than anything else. And he is funny. The dialogue made me smile several times and is the strongest part of the book.
Best of all, this is a book that will engage that hard-to-reach niche: boys. There’s action. An undead villain. Older mentors, secret names, and typical Halloween creatures shown in a different light. I’ve already suggested this book to a few boys who struggle with reading.
Halloween Night Fever: End of the Long Walk is engaging without being too difficult, and is just a fun read all around. Silly, sure. And that was half the charm of it.
I was instantly hooked by Cole Alpaugh’s The Bear in a Muddy Tutu. You can’t read the first sentence and not know that you’re in for a trip. The opening character, Billy Wayne Hooduk, leaves his morbidly obese mother and his timid life behind as he sets out to be God and start a happy cult of his own. After a traveling circus act goes horrifyingly wrong, Billy Wayne shoots a dangerous tiger, declares that he is God, and takes charge of the circus. If this doesn’t give you a taste of the delight in store, nothing else will.
I was enchanted by the sometimes distasteful but always likeable characters that populate this book. We spend time with cult-leader wannabe Billy Wayne, a broken journalist who is searching for his missing daughter, a gentle dancing bear who delights in delicious smells, and the traveling pesticide guy who unknowingly played an important role in Billy Wayne’s life. Each character manages to have their own unique voice without losing the continuity of the narration. The chapters are creative, interesting reads and I didn’t find my attention flagging. That’s always a good sign.
The writing itself was a joy. The winding narrative was sometimes a little difficult to wrap my eyes around, and at other times it was almost painfully beautiful. Either way that it ran, it was interesting and full of quirky whimsy. In fact, that’s how I would sum up this entire book. Quirky whimsy. Joyful heartbreak. A story of broken people who find a way to hold themselves and each other together.
I’d recommend it if you want a charming, bizarre tale with a satisfying, fate-driven ending. It reads a little like Christopher Moore but with more heart. If you are annoyed by flights of fancy, then you’ll want to stay away from The Bear in a Muddy Tutu. It’s fanciful, beautiful, and escapist to the core.
I like ghost stories as much as the next girl. Hey, I probably dig them more than the next twenty girls you’ll find, so I was delighted to get my paws on A Ghost a Day: 365 True Tales of the Spectral, Supernatural, and…Just Plain Scary! by Maureen Wood and Ron Kolek. Wood studied metaphysics for more than 25 years, Kolek is the producer and host of a ghostly radio show, and they both work on The New England Ghost Project. All in all, this sounded like a fun and somewhat campy book to curl up with on a dark, stormy night.
Well, it isn’t. While I was intrigued by the premise of what I thought sounded like an ambitious overture, I was quickly disappointed when the tales came down to, “There was a man who was mysteriously killed on a country road. To this day you can hear him pacing and wailing outside!” In order to cover 365 days of paranormal tales, this book picks up its skirts and races right over each story. The average tale consists of two or three paragraphs that quickly gloss over the major highlights of the alleged haunting. Even familiar stories that had already garnered my interest (such as Bobby Mackey’s Music World, for example) were tedious in this form. Simply put, it was impossible to flesh out so many stories in a satisfactory manner without turning this average-sized paperback into a giant tome.
On the plus side, it’s an attractive little book that might make a great gift for somebody who is wetting their toes in the paranormal pool. The lack of detail, while frustrating to me, would actually delight my friend who is drawn to ghost stories but doesn’t want to deal with “any of the dark stuff.” There simply isn’t time to delve into any of the dark stuff. Also, each day of the year is significant to it’s assigned story. It’s fun to look up your birthday and see what tragedy unfolded. Many of the tales were unfamiliar to me, and while most seemed to be set in America, many came from across the globe. These tales in particular piqued my interest. I also enjoyed some of the Terrifying Tidbits, brief ghost-related facts, that were sprinkled throughout the work.
A Ghost a Day is a sanitized primer of all things ghostly. Think of it as Ghost Stories 101 and use it as a reference book to turn you on to tales that you might not currently be aware of. Then research those incidents on your own, because you’re certainly not going to find enough information here.