Shock Totem #10 (Jan 2016)
- 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
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 2
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Author Archives: Sheri White
Everybody wants the perfect mate. But how far would you go to make sure that happens?
Miriam Frederick is a university professor who has figured out a way to find that special someone with science. She uses her sexuality to lure three different men to her home, trapping them in rooms specially designed for them. The first man is a writer, and Miriam sets him up with all the trappings a writer would need. The second, an athlete, and the third, an Adonis. All have been given everything they could ever want or need—except their freedom. They also don’t realize they have been “wired” and everything they do is recorded by Miriam.
As Miriam plays with her lovers, trying to make them into the perfect man, she decides to add a woman to the mix. But can she compete?
Captured Souls, by Sephera Giron, reminded me a lot of John Fowles’s The Collector, updated for the Information Age. However, whereas Frederick in The Collector is more obsessed with his subject, he only wants Miranda to love him. Miriam, on the other hand, is not looking for love so much as she wants control over her subjects, and needs them at her beck and call.
I have read Sephera Giron’s books before, and enjoyed them. This is no exception. Erotic, yet creepy, Captured Souls is fascinating. Can someone be happy with everything they could possibly want if denied their freedom? Would a writer be able to thrive in that kind of environment better than an athlete or someone obsessed with their own beauty? How long could you conduct such an experiment before it crumbles around you?
I was hooked on this book after the first few chapters. I enjoyed the diary form of the story, and the characters were interesting to watch in how they dealt with their new lives. The professor’s growing stress and anger at her captives is palpable in the writing.
This is a book you don’t want to miss! Captured Souls is available through Samhain Publishing.
I loved Christmas when I was a little girl. Santa Claus, the tree twinkling with lights in my living room, the anticipation of presents and cookies. The enchantment waned in my teen and young adult years, of course, but once I became a parent, the holiday was exciting once again. I loved providing the magic of Christmas for my own kids.
Santa has been out of the picture for us for several years now, and Christmas these days is more a source of stress for me rather than joy. The cleaning, the cooking, shopping, spending money on stuff we really don’t need—I’ve unfortunately become rather cynical about the holidays. It’s always a relief when it’s all over.
So all the sappy, sentimental, feel-good TV shows, movies, and stories don’t do anything for me. I will admit to still enjoying Rudolph and Charlie Brown, and my favorite Christmas movie is The Santa Clause 2 with Tim Allen, but otherwise, I find myself rolling my eyes a lot during the months of November and December. And don’t get me started on the saturation of Christmas music for two months.
Then I was asked to review O Little Town of Deathlehem, edited by Michael J. Evans and Harrison Graves. Christmas horror? Yes, please! Stories that won’t warm my cold, black heart, stories that would make the Grinch smile.
Catherine Grant starts the ball rolling with “One of His Own.” If you’ve never heard of Krampus, do a quick Google search before reading the story; it will be a much more rewarding experience. Krampus and his half-brother Sinterklaaus travel the world together on Christmas Eve—Sinterklaaus is the kind-hearted, benevolent elf who leaves presents, but Krampus is just looking to feed on fearful children. They enter the home of a drug-addled mother whose little girl is neglected and abused. For the first time, Krampus finds himself wanting to take care of a child instead of eating her. He whisks her away with him. As she grows older, she helps him with his quest on Christmas Eve. But then she wants his help with something else.
“One of His Own” is a great story, perfectly setting the tone for the anthology. Although their roles as good and evil characters are clear, Krampus and Sinterklaaus aren’t that black and white. Very well written, and the author gave the characters depth you don’t usually find in a short story.
Chantal Boudreau’s “Deck the Halls” is a familiar tale of a man who resents his mother and wants his inheritance sooner rather than later. He takes care of her, in order to not lose his coming windfall to nurses and caretakers. But she lingers, much to his chagrin, so he takes matters into his own hands. Things don’t turn out as he planned.
This is a fun, nasty little story that is truly the embodiment of “be careful what you wish for.”
Do you prefer live Christmas trees to artificial ones? “With Their Eyes All Aglow” by Jeff C. Carter might just change your mind. Ray is fascinated with insects and spiders. He is looking for a rare, extremely venomous spider in Myanmar, but is ready to return home to his wife and daughter for Christmas. He actually finds the spider colony, but realizes it has infested a once-trendy Christmas tree called “Nordmann Firs.” They are being grown to ship to the States—and Ray realizes that is the exact tree his wife bought several days earlier.
I don’t like spiders at all. “With Their Eyes All Aglow” was creepy, and made my skin crawl. Thanks to this story, I now know that real Christmas trees carry usually harmless bugs into homes. I’m sure I’ve heard that before, but was in denial. No more live trees or plants of any kind in my home!
“A Christmas to Remember” by JP Behrens could be a peek into Charles Manson’s boyhood until he grew up and gained terrible notoriety. Ten year old Nathan’s parents are Christmas shopping for him and his brother, a difficult task since Nathan seems to be obsessed with all things dark and horrible. His mother caught him dissecting a mouse with glee, and now he’s drawing pictures of mangled and broken animals. After shopping, Nathan’s mom follows him into the woods, and discovers his horrible secret. Somehow the family gets through Christmas, but that night, Nathan’s mom discovers he has put his present to use in the most awful way possible.
This story could also be a look into Michael Myers’s childhood. JP Behrens has written a shocking story about every parent’s worst nightmare.
Twenty stories make up this anthology. You’ll find a Santa-werewolf (or would it be werewolf-Santa?), evil ornaments, Christmas in a zombie apocalypse, evil Santas, and of course, Krampus. What you won’t find are sappy, sentimental, ABC Family Channel stories. So if you’re tired of Christmas cheer, grab a copy of O Little Town of Deathlehem, and let the holiday dysfunction take you away.
O Little Town of Deathlehem is available through Grinning Skull Press. All profits from the anthology benefit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I love apocalypse stories. My favorite way to end the world is with zombies, but any disaster will do. I was under the impression that Rag Men, by Rocky Alexander, was going to be a zombie story, and it sort of was. However, I realized it concentrated more on the survival of one main character and the revenge seeking of the other.
Colin Ross is grieving for his wife, who became ill with the “QILU” virus while overseas. As the virus spreads throughout the world, turning normal people into savages, Colin at first contemplates suicide, then decides to ride out the end of the world at his uncle’s cabin. He just needs to get there in one piece. He grabs supplies from the gym he owns, and sets out with one of the gym kids, Andre.
Rooster has just gotten out of prison, and drops in on an old dealer friend, Timbo. Timbo is glad to see Rooster, until Rooster murders the rest of the losers in the house. He tricks Timbo into helping him get supplies, then takes off after killing Timbo as well. Rooster is on a mission just as Colin is; but he is after revenge where Colin just wants to survive the madness plaguing the world.
Rag Men follows these two characters as they make their way to their goals. They must do awful things to survive, but Rooster actually enjoys the brutality in the new world, resorting to it even when it’s unnecessary. Be forewarned—the violence in this story is graphic and disturbing. But it’s not gratuitous; Rooster would be a lesser character without it.
The “zombies” in the story are secondary; the apocalypse is just the background. But it works great. Rag Men is not your average end-of-the-world story, but it’s a great read. The two main characters come together in a way that is both satisfying and unsettling.
If zombies aren’t your thing, or you’re tired of the zombie apocalypse trope, you will definitely enjoy Rag Men. But zombie lovers will love it, too. The story is action-packed and quite the page-turner. Don’t miss it.
Billy and his friends are on vacation on a little island in the Florida Keys when they are attacked by a huge swarm of flies that bite. They run through the jungle and find a small hut where they take refuge. In the middle of the night, Billy’s girlfriend Casey realizes she can’t hold it until morning, and goes outside to go to the bathroom.
This time, hundreds of spiders attack Casey, tearing her apart with her teeth. Later, only Billy manages to escape.
Rachel has escaped her abusive husband Anders, and now lives in a small town in the Everglades with her son Eric. As they try to build a new life together, Rachel has no idea that the town she chose is about to be overrun by a plague that has never been seen before. Rachel and Eric becomes friends with Billy who, although nice, acts strangely at times. Tormented by terrible headaches he can’t explain, he gradually withdraws, until Rachel realizes it’s been quite some time since they had seen him. In the meantime, the townspeople are being bitten by an infestation of flies, sickening some and killing others.
Then the spiders come. Hatching from the larvae left by the flies, the spiders encase animals, people—even houses in their webs. Rachel and her new boyfriend Terry decide it’s time to get out of town, but run into trouble when her ex-husband Anders shows up. Soon after, all hell breaks loose, and time is running out to get out of town before the government shows up and annihilates the town along with the insects.
I love “bug horror,” and this is one of the best I’ve read. Fun, creepy, and gross, Violet Eyes, written by Bram Stoker award-winning author John Everson, made me squirm many times while reading. I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Sheriff Penny Miller is back! This time she and her zombie-fighting gang have made their way to an isolated town in the mountains, hoping to hunker down in a ski lodge and regroup. But nothing is ever easy during the zombie apocalypse, and their situation is made worse when the lodge owner steals their ride and all of their money, leaving them stranded.
Although they are not as exposed as they were before, they still aren’t safe from the zombies making their way slowly up the mountain. Penny and her friends must find a way to protect and fortify themselves, as well as convince skeptics that danger is heading for the town.
The previous books in the series—The Hungry and The Hungry 2: The Wrath of God—were fun and exciting, and The Hungry 3: At the End of the World is no exception. The entire series is great, and unusual in that a woman is the badass leader of a survival group. She’s not weak, but she does show her emotions in protecting and caring for her “family.” Penny is not someone to piss off.
Authors Booth and Shannon have once again drawn me in to their world, and kept me reading far into the night. I know that The Hungry 4 is in the works, and I can’t wait.
Marta is a bitchy ball-buster who knows Felix will do anything for her. Although unsure of Marta’s plan to cross into Mexico to film a documentary about illegal immigrants, he agrees to help her, as Marta knew he would. She is also hoping to find out what happened to her parents, from whom she was separated as a little girl.
She plans to wear a tiny camera, set into a crucifix, around her neck, which will provide feedback to Felix’s computer.
After one of their frequent fights, Marta takes off into Mexico, leaving Felix behind. But Marta, while tough, is no match for the crazy family that kidnaps her before she can cross back into America. Not only do they want her to mate with the mentally-challenged but insanely strong son, they have kidnapped others who will provide meat for their taco stand.
Marta realizes this and is horrified because she had eaten at the stand earlier that day—yet she is also craving the forbidden food when its aroma envelops the house. She also has to fight for her life against the giant son, who is a wrestler—but he doesn’t go up against other wrestlers. His opponents are Mexicans trying to get to the border, and are no match for the brutality they find themselves trying to survive.
Felix realizes Marta is in danger and does everything he can to get to her. But will he be successful or sautéed?
This is extreme horror at its best. It’s suspenseful, nasty, and completely disgusting. I loved it. Shane McKenzie doesn’t pull his punches; he lets his readers have it without one shred of remorse.
Muerte Con Carne is another literary knife to the gut from a great author.
Carol Gunderson’s ex-husband stalks her almost every day. If he’s not harassing her, then he’s got one of his creepy friends doing it. Finally reaching her breaking point, Carol convinces her sister Brenda to get out of town for a canoe trip.
But Carol doesn’t realize her ex knows where she’s going, and won’t let her get away that easily.
However, Mitch isn’t the worst that Carol and Brenda will encounter. An old man lives in a weird cabin deep in the woods. The old man has terrible thoughts, and acts upon them with the help of his unnatural dog.
When Carol and Brenda get lost after their canoe tips, they are drawn to the cabin in search of food and shelter. At first Meyer is very welcoming, and the women feel safe, knowing they will probably be rescued soon.
As the days pass, though, they realize something is very wrong with Meyer and in the cabin. And there is someone—or something—in the basement that doesn’t want them to leave.
Northwoods Deep, by Joel Arnold, is a great story, evil and frightening. The suspense will have you turning the pages, reluctant to stop reading until you find out what will happen to Carol and Brenda. There are a lot of twists and turns, and once you find yourself attached to certain characters, you may even find yourself yelling “No!” at times. The story will draw you in that much.
The last story I read by Arnold, Death Rhythm, was an ominous tale, but quiet, almost elegant. Northwoods Deep is different—nasty, scary, and relentless. I loved it.
One of the great things about reviewing is the opportunity to read new authors. You can tell if you’ve just discovered someone special to keep an eye on.
Will Ludwigsen is someone to watch. This collection of short stories is nothing short of riveting. Called In Search Of and Others because of the author’s fascination with the TV series of the same name that ran from 1976 to 1982, the stories themselves also feature people searching for answers to the questions in their mundane lives.
From the foreword to the story notes, this collection will keep you turning the pages. And don’t skip the introduction by Jeffrey Ford; it’s a great read in itself.
The first story, “In Search Of,” questions are answered—maybe some of your own—in a very satisfying way. I found it fascinating, and hoping some of the answers were true.
“The Speed of Dreams” has a little girl questioning if you can gain more time in your life through dreams. It was a really interesting premise with a breathtaking ending.
“We Were Wonder Scouts” reminded me a bit of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Surreal and creepy, the story will leave you wondering just what went on. But you are left to draw your own conclusions.
One of my favorite stories, “Remembrance is Something Like a House,” creeped me out in a great way. A house desperately needs to tell its story to a former owner, and searches for years until it finds him. It sounds out there, but after reading this, you will believe that this house did what it needed to do.
All of the stories in this collection are well-written and I enjoyed them all very much. If you like short stories, you will absolutely love In Search Of and Others. Definitely not your typical horror stories, there is a depth to these tales you don’t usually find in the genre.
If you’re looking for something that will grab your emotions, then this is what you are looking for.
The Horror Society is an online group where like-minded writers, artists, editors and other professionals meet to discuss their love of all things horror. Dangers Untold is an anthology conceived by Scott Goriscak and edited by Jennifer Brozek. This anthology does not contain the usual monsters; rather, the editor wanted unusual monsters and situations, and the contributing authors delivered.
The anthology starts with a great story, “Haunted,” by Erik Scott de Bie. A man sees his life in mental snapshots, conversations and interactions burned into his brain. He cannot escape them, or edit them; he constantly relives every embarrassment, every mistake he’s made. When his girlfriend tells him something he knows he’ll never be able to forget, he takes care of the newly-made memory in a horrific way.
If you’re afraid of flying, that fear will be reinforced big-time when you read Jason V Brock’s “Black Box.” Remember the episode of The Twilight Zone that featured William Shatner as an airplane passenger who saw a gremlin on the wing? In “Black Box,” that was based on a true story—and it’s happening again.
You wouldn’t think that cute and cuddly stuffed animals could be creepy, but you’d be wrong. In “Innards,” by Erik Gustafson, a little girl discovers that her toy animals come to life—but not in the cute, Disney kind of way. These plushy animals have TEETH.
The last story, “Man with a Canvas Bag,” by Gary Braunbeck, is gut-wrenching, especially if you’re a parent. I can’t really tell much without giving a lot away, so I’ll just say that this story is the best one in a book of great tales. It’s obvious what’s going to happen, but you’re powerless not to read it because it’s so gripping. Fantastic story.
Dangers Untold is one of the best anthologies I’ve read this year, put out by a little group a lot of people haven’t heard of yet. If you love anthologies as much as I do, this is one you definitely need to add to your collection.
I was quite honored when Graham Masterton asked me to review his new novel. And I’m so glad he did, because this is a great book.
This is a Sissy Sawyer Mysteries book, but don’t worry if you haven’t read any of the series before. This works very well as a stand-alone story, but it will make you want to read the other books in the series because Sissy is a wonderful character.
Sissy is a widowed fortune-teller who uses De Vane cards to help her solve mysteries. In The Red Hotel, Sissy is introduced to her step-nephew’s friend T-Yon, whose brother Everett has recently bought an old hotel in Baton Rouge and restored it to its former glory. T-Yon has been having disturbing dreams about her brother and the hotel and reaches out to Sissy to find out what is going on. In the meantime, Everett is dealing with the mysterious death of a hotel maid and other inexplicable happenings making the hotel’s grand opening a nightmare. Sissy and T-Yon fly to Baton Rouge to help figure out the goings-on and dispel any angry spirits that might be about.
The Red Hotel takes the reader along into a creepy hotel full of disappearing specters, gruesome murders, and voodoo. The malevolent spirit, Vanessa Slider, is pissed, and she is determined to see T-Yon and Everett dead. After T-Yon disappears in the hotel, Sissy must move quickly to find her before Vanessa exacts her revenge.
I enjoyed this book very much. This was my first Sissy Sawyer book, but it definitely won’t be my last. I’ve been reading Graham Masterton since I was a teenager, and this has become one of my favorite Masterton books. If you’re looking for a fun, intriguing mystery, look no further than The Red Hotel.