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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Dominoes—Now Available!

Shock Totem Publications is proud to announce that Dominoes, by John Boden, is now available!

Dominoes is a Little Horror Book, the perfect bedtime read for strange parents and bizarro children, a book not only meant to be read but also experienced.


Click for full-size images.

Cover art and interior illustrations were once again handled by the amazing Yannick Bouchard, who also did the cover art and illustrations for Beautiful Sorrows.

Praise for Dominoes:

“Now for something strangely different: death falls like a hellish deck of bruised songs through the lives of old and young in the unexpected flow of images screaming in Dominoes by John Boden.” —Linda Addison, author of the Bram Stoker Award-winning How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend and Being Full of Light, Insubstantial

“Strong stuff. Strange, incantatory, and speaking of things that might already have come to pass. This is some seriously weird shit.” —Gary McMahon, author of Tales of The Walking Wounded, Pretty Dead Things, and The Concrete Grove trilogy

“Equal parts evil and beautiful, John Boden has created a prose poem that reads like a bedtime story that would work best if told right before the apocalypse.” —Adam Cesare, author of Tribesmen, Video Night, and Bound By Jade

“Boden is a master of the surreal. His language is lyrical and haunting, and he packs each sentence with more emotion than other writers manage to accomplish in an entire novel. Dominoes is a wonderfully off-kilter apocalyptic tale of madness and misery.” —Mark Allan Gunnells, author of Asylum, The Quarry, and The Summer of Winters

Dominoes is available in paperback format (no digital version for this release) from our webstore or Amazon.com (for other regions, see your specific Amazon website) for $6.99.

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Staff Spotlight: The Exquisite Death Audiobook

Several Totemites make an appearance in the Exquisite Death audiobook, which was released by In Ear Entertainment on August 13, 2013.

The book features “Ray the Vampire” and “The Exquisite Beauty of Death” by Mercedes M. Yardley, Shock Totem staff member and contributor to Shock Totem #1.

Cate Gardner, featured in Shock Totem #2, is represented by “Opheliac” and “Reflective Curve of a Potion Bottle.”

Also included is “The Plumber,” by Anthony J. Rapino (interviewed here on the Shock Totem blog) and Benjamin Kane Ethridge’s “Chester” and Todd Keisling’s “Radio Free Nowhere” complete the collection.

What’s even better? Using the code TearsOfBlood will get you 15% off the purchase price, making the audiobook less than $5.

Click here to purchase in GBP (£). 
Click here to purchase in USD ($).
Click here to purchase in Euro (€).

Enjoy.

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Announcing the Shock Totem Holiday Series…

Shock Totem Publications is proud to announce a new holiday series of books.

Back in 2011 we released something a little different: Shock Totem: Holiday Tales of the Macabre and Twisted 2011. It featured fiction from Shock Totem Publications staff members as well as the wonderful and insanely prolific Kevin J. Anderson, all based on the end-of-the-year holiday season. It also included anecdotal nonfiction pieces from a wide variety of authors.


Our sharpest cover to date. Ba-doom tssh! I’ll be here all week, folks.

The release was a hit. It sold well and continues to do so. But it was only released as an e-book, and since then many of you have asked for a print version. That is finally coming in late November.

Looking beyond that, we have a Valentine’s Day issue planned for late January 2014 and a Halloween issue planned for October 2014.


This is a cover mock-up. Listed authors are subject to change.

As with the first holiday issue, these releases will feature fiction based on their specific holiday themes. Nonfiction will come from not only authors but the artists and publishers whose talent and contributions to this field are all too often overlooked.

Look for the print version of the debut holiday issue in late November (or download it now), followed by the Valentine’s Day issue in late January 2014 and the Halloween issue in October.

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Announcing Shock Totem #8…

Shock Totem Publications is excited to announce the upcoming eighth issue of Shock Totem magazine.

We do not have cover art finalized at this time, but it will once again be created by the amazing Mikio Murakami.

Here is the unofficial Table of Contents:

* Article (TBD)
* Highballing Through Gehenna, by John C. Foster
* Death & the Maiden, by David Barber
* Narrative Nonfiction (TBD)
* 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 David D’Amico
* Fat Betty, by Harry Baker
* Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes, Part 6, by John Boden and Simon Marshall-Jones (Article)
* We Share the Dark, by Carlie St. George
* A Conversation with… (TBD)
* Depresso the Clown, by John Skipp
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)

We will fill in the blanks as we draw closer to release. Look for it in January 2014!

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Announcing Dominoes…

Shock Totem Publications is proud to announce Dominoes, by John Boden.

Dominoes is a Little Horror Book, the perfect bedtime read for strange parents and bizarro children, a book not only meant to be read but also experienced.


Click for full-size images.

Cover art and interior illustrations were once again handled by the amazing Yannick Bouchard, who also did the cover art and illustrations for Beautiful Sorrows.

Praise for Dominoes:

“Now for something strangely different: death falls like a hellish deck of bruised songs through the lives of old and young in the unexpected flow of images screaming in Dominoes by John Boden.” —Linda Addison, author of the Bram Stoker Award-winning How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend and Being Full of Light, Insubstantial

“Strong stuff. Strange, incantatory, and speaking of things that might already have come to pass. This is some seriously weird shit.” —Gary McMahon, author of Tales of The Walking Wounded, Pretty Dead Things, and The Concrete Grove trilogy

“Equal parts evil and beautiful, John Boden has created a prose poem that reads like a bedtime story that would work best if told right before the apocalypse.” —Adam Cesare, author of Tribesmen, Video Night, and Bound By Jade

“Boden is a master of the surreal. His language is lyrical and haunting, and he packs each sentence with more emotion than other writers manage to accomplish in an entire novel. Dominoes is a wonderfully off-kilter apocalyptic tale of madness and misery.” —Mark Allan Gunnells, author of Asylum, The Quarry, and The Summer of Winters

Dominoes will be released in paperback format this coming October.

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