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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Tag Archives: Apex Publications
Last week, on Halloween, to the surprise of many, we announced the return of Shock Totem magazine after a relatively long hiatus.
When I put the magazine on hold a few years ago, I was certain we’d return someday. The amount of time and work it took to produce the magazine had become something I couldn’t continue to manage at that time, but I was committed to bringing it back. And though the magazine was on hold, we forged on with the book line, releasing Michael Wehunt’s outstanding Greener Pastures, which quickly became our bestselling book, and had future releases by Kristie DeMeester (Everything That’s Underneath) and Kirk Jones (Aetherchrist) on deck and pretty much ready to go.
Then things changed…
In a nutshell, at some point I realized that, despite my best efforts, I had become incapable of performing the duties required to be the honest, respectable, hardworking publisher I once was—or hoped I was. And that led to my dissolving our book line, which effectively laid Shock Totem Publications to rest.
That hurt. Especially since it was my fault. I killed something I love dearly.
Then things changed again…
On February 23, 2017, a little over a month after transferring most of our books to Apex Publications, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, from which, it became clear, I’d been suffering for years.
But all of a sudden, after I got over the initial fear of dying and losing everything, there were potential answers to the massive questions that had been casting shadows over my life. A few months later, with a new diet and my health on track, all those questions had been answered. I was no longer constantly tired and moody, I was motivated, positive, my mental game was on point, I was sleeping through the night. All of the things that I had previously attributed to simple parental exhaustion, work, burnout, and so forth, had become non-factors. I had been sick all along, and I didn’t know it.
Nearly two years have passed since that day. I am no longer on any diabetes medication—metformin, Invokana, insulin, etc.—and my blood sugar levels remain in the normal range thanks to a new diet and a greater understanding of nutrition and my overall health. I could certainly lose some more weight, but that’s a much slower process and will come in time. The important thing is, I’m good, I’m ready to roll, I’m committed once again.
Out of respect for our past authors, I will not resurrect our book line.
The magazine, however, is different. I put the magazine on hold when I wasn’t as sick as I would become, and now is the right time to bring it back.
John Boden, who’s been with me from the start, is of course on board, as is my wife, Sarah. Mercedes M. Yardley is back as well, and we brought some fresh blood to the table for this new chapter: Chad Lutzke, who I’m sure you’ve heard of, and Tom and Billie Moran, both of whom ran the outstanding Sideshow Press and Gallows Press before taking a break years ago. Together, we make a fine team, and I hope you’ll agree.
We’ll unleash our eleventh issue in 2019!
Cover art by Mikio Murakami.
If you want to be a part of it, please check out our guidelines here.
Thanks for sticking with us all these years!
Shock Totem Publications was born in 2008. With the help of John Boden and Nick Contor (and many more in the years to follow), we created Shock Totem magazine, of which there have been a total of thirteen issues to date. Eventually we branched out into books. We produced some great ones, written by equally great authors.
Then my wife and I had kids, and everything changed.
I’ve discussed all of this before, so I won’t bore anyone with the details yet again. The bottom line is, I’ve tried to keep it all together, but certain things have slowly fallen apart despite my best efforts. The reasons are many, but mental exhaustion is the biggest, I think. I have struggled greatly.
At some point in the past year, I stepped back and realized I was slowly but surely becoming a bad publisher. Royalty payments were late; e-mail replies weren’t sent in a timely manner if they were sent at all; promotion was non-existent; and the distance between me, Shock Totem, and our readers was growing. Worst of all, my relationship with our authors—all of whom I respect greatly and consider friends—suffered because I was not present to perform my duties as a responsible publisher.
Because of this, I have put an end to the Shock Totem book line.
Instead of simply dumping all of our authors and leaving them responsible to find a new publisher, I reached out to Jason Sizemore at Apex Publications. I have great respect for Jason and what he’s done with Apex (the original Apex Digest was the biggest inspiration for Shock Totem magazine, after all), and so I asked Jason if he was interested in acquiring our books, a simple transfer of rights (and cover art, illustrations, the whole nine).
Thankfully, he was. And so very soon the following books, including two that were forthcoming from Shock Totem Publications, will have a new home at Apex Publications:
Beautiful Sorrows, by Mercedes M. Yardley
The Wicked, by James Newman
Ugly As Sin, by James Newman
Shine Your Light on Me, by Lee Thompson
Greener Pastures, by Michael Wehunt
Everything That’s Underneath, by Kristi DeMeester
Aetherchrist, by Kirk Jones
Adam Cesare has decided to self-publish Zero Lives Remaining under his own Black T-Shirt Books. John Boden’s Dominoes will remain with Shock Totem.
As much as I regret having to make this decision, I have no doubt Jason and Apex Publications will do right by our authors and present greater opportunities for them in the years to come. They deserve at least that much.
Shock Totem Publications is not dead. We will carry on and focus on one-off limited editions, special projects, and Shock Totem magazine, things I can work on in fits and starts, as time permits. More on that soon…
For now, we sadly say goodbye to some fantastic authors and books.
I have been excited to read this novel since before it was written. No, I’m not psychic…well, maybe a little. But I recall a conversation on our forum, probably more than two years ago, where Damien told me she was going to soon be working on a story about a haunted photo album. I was in from that moment and waited patiently for it to materialize. This year that finally happened.
Paper Tigers is the haunting and sad story of Alison, a young woman scarred by disaster and flame. She has retreated so far within herself there seemed no hope of coaxing her back. Her mother smothers her and the public looks at her (in her mind) as a monstrosity. She drags herself through the days and nights—until the night she goes out walking and visits an odd little thrift shop and finds the antique photo album that reeks of smoke and years. Upon taking the album home, Alison begins to see things, hear things, feel things. She is lured to the promises within the book and finds that the prices are high and contracts have a long and strong reach.
Damien writes with strong and elegant prose. Her words flow with an ease and beauty that adds to the already intriguing premise. The emotional depth here is staggering, and while it is very easy to dismiss this novel as another haunted thing tale, it is so much more. The characters are so realistic and hurting that you ache with them and for them. I’ve been reading this author since she first started entering stories in the flash fiction contests we used to host on our forum. And it has been a pleasure to watch her grow, releasing her first novel, Ink, and her collection, Sing Me Your Scars. I’ll gladly read whatever she puts out.
Paper Tigers is available from Dark House Press.
Some staff news, ya’ll! Cue banjo!
This coming October, if not sooner, Apex Publications is set to release Appalachian Undead, a new anthology dedicated to the walking dead. I contributed a quirky tale called “Long Days to Come.”
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The brilliant artwork was created by Cortney Skinner. Quite a lineup, too: Elizabeth Massie, Jonathan Maberry, Tim Waggoner, S. Clayton Rhodes*, Maurice Broaddus, Bev Vincent, Tim Lebbon, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Skipp* & Dori Miller, and Gary A. Braunbeck, to name a few more than a few.
If you’d like to check out the full table of contents, click here.
You can also pre-order via the above link (and get 5% off if you tweet the link), but before you do, check out this groovy contest they’re running for those who do pre-order.
As always from Apex Publications, you can expect quality.
Not to be outdone, Mercedes and John each have stories—“Murder for Beginners” and “Intruder,” respectively—in Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane, the latest slab—and I do mean slab; these things are massive—in an ongoing series edited by the inimitable John Skipp which has thus far included Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead, Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within, and Demons: Encounters with the Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, and the Possessed.
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Psychos is due out in September via Black Dog & Leventhal, and features new and classic fiction from the likes of Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale, Lawerence Block, Neil Gaiman, Leslianne Wilder*, Violet LeVoit, Weston Ochse*, Kathe Koja, and many more.
If you order now, Amazon has it for $10.07. That’s 608 pages for $10! No-brainer.
We hope you’ll buy both!
* Shock Totem alumni.
As some of you know, issue #5 has been delayed until July 2012. However, in March 2012 we will be publishing our first novel. In celebration of that, I thought we’d hold a contest.
The first person to figure out the cypher at the bottom of that picture will win the following:
- One copy of our upcoming novel (title to be revealed once the contest is won), signed by the author.
- One copy each of the first four Shock Totem issues.
- One copy of Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within, a massive tome edited by John Skipp and featuring our very own Mercedes M. Yardley, among other greats.
- A one-year (12 issues) digital subscription to one of my favorite publications, Apex Magazine.
- And because I have an extra, one old-ass (but in very good condition) copy of The Magazine of Fantasy of Science Fiction, from July 1970, which features the only appearance of Dean Koontz’s “The Mysteries of His Flesh,” the short story that would later be expanded to become his sixth novel, Anti-Man*.
* Trivia: Dean’s preferred—and better—title was the same as the short story, “The Mysteries of His Flesh,” but the publisher thought it sounded “too gay.”
Obviously this contest is a bit tougher than most, but I want you to work for those prizes. That said, it’s not as hard as it looks. All the clues you need to lead you to the answer are in this post.
Post your answers in the comments below. First person to post the correct answer wins!
(Some of you are ineligible to win, as you know the answer. We know who you are!)
Amendment: If you guess right, I will ask how you got to that answer. A wild guess that happens to be correct will not count. If you have truly figured it out, you will have no doubt that your answer is correct.
Amendment #2: If you think you have the correct answer, please post it in the comments section below like others have been doing, that way your answer is time-stamped. But also send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org explaining how you came to that answer.
The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1 is the first anthology published through the new Apex Publications imprint, The Zombie Feed Books. It features zombie-fried fiction from seventeen authors, of which I am one. Recently, contributing author Maggie Slater offered up her blog for a series of three-question interviews with several of the anthology’s authors, so I am returning the favor.
Below you can read Maggie’s interview as well as those interviews hosted on her blog.
And if you’re interested, check out The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1. You can pick up your copy from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, or from The Zombie Feed directly. Get it on your Kindle or your Nook (or in any e-format from Smashwords) for just $2.99! Seventeen kick-ass zombie stories for $2.99! Can you dig on that?
1. The Writing Question: If you could sit down with one author, from any time in history to today, to get a writing lesson, who would it be?
I had three answers for this initially—Samuel R. Delany, Edith Wharton, and Roald Dahl. If I had to narrow it down, though, I’d pick Samuel R. Delany for several reasons. First, I’d love to just talk fiction with him—I’m about 90% through Dhalgren, and reading it as a writer is a little Twilight Zone-esque. All of Kid’s thinking and working and pondering the process and experience of creating a work of writing feels so intimately familiar, even as his process is different. I’ve also read Mr. Delany’s book About Writing which is hands-down the best book about the writing process I’ve ever read. It’s not an instructional manual, but almost a treatise on the creative endeavor. His discussions about the inner editor were very influential on me, and his emphasis on care when drafting, of really visualizing the scenes, works much better for me than the mantra “just write the first draft as fast as you can” which seems to work very well for others. His essays feel very close to a one-on-one discussion, as do the letters in which he’s critiquing a work sent to him, but it’d be great to get a few pointers in person!
So that’s one part. The other part is that whenever I read a novel by Samuel R. Delany, it reminds me of what writing can be. Not just in terms of style and poeticism, but in the sheer vividness of imagination, both in content and in execution. Reading his work always reminds me that I can push my own boundaries and play in realms that aren’t common in the books you’ll find on the bookstore shelves, that not all stories have to be told the same way. I can lock myself into tunnel vision pretty easily when it comes to “how you’re supposed to write”, so reading a good Delany novel can kick me out of that and set me on better paths.
2. The Horror Question: What used to scare you the most as a child?
Funny story: zombies, actually. Back in fifth grade, I went to a Halloween party a friend of mine was having, and they showed Night of the Living Dead Returns, which completely freaked me out. (I mean, it didn’t take much back then: I was terrified of ET, also.) Needless to say, after watching about thirty minutes of NotLDR, I left the room and couldn’t watch any more. For a month I didn’t sleep unless my mom was in the room, I closed my eyes whenever we passed any kind of structure that looked like a medical warehouse, and it seemed like ages until I could hear the word “paramedics” without feeling queasy.
That experience actually set me back probably five years: I actively avoided horror movies (or even not-so-scary PG-13s, like Jurassic Park) until I was about fifteen. Then I saw The Sixth Sense, and fell in love with it. I’d always loved ghost stories, but the film format always made me nervous. After that, and after realizing that I could watch certain spooky movies without getting horribly vivid nightmares afterwards, I started pushing my limits of tolerance bit by bit, until in college I finally watched Shaun of the Dead, and thus my fear of zombies was…well, not quite over—they’re still creepy as hell—but at least resurrected as a fondness, rather than abject terror!
3. The Oddball Question: If you could be friends with one fictional character, who would it be and what kind of venue would you meet at?
Oh, hands down (and this is rather like using one of my three wishes to wish for more wishes): Nero Wolfe. We’d meet at the brownstone, of course, on West 35th Street in New York City, and have a delightful meal (perhaps game hens) prepared by his brilliant chef, Fritz. Of course, Archie Goodwin would have to be there too, and (don’t tell my husband) I’d definitely let him take me dancing once in a while, just to keep my footwork sharp, of course. I certainly wouldn’t protest if Saul and Orrie and Fred joined us, and if Jackie Jaquette or Lily Rowan wanted to stop by, I wouldn’t mind at all! Then, after dinner, Wolfe would show me his most recent breed of orchid, and we’d discuss potting material, plant genetics, and books, of course. It’d be the perfect evening!
Maggie Slater writes in Maine, where she lives with her husband and two old, cranky cats. She has seen her work published in a variety of venues, such as Dark Futures: Tales of SF Dystopia, The Zombie Feed Anthology Vol. 1, and most recently in Leading Edge Magazine. She currently moonlights as an assistant editor for Apex Publications. For more information about her and her current writing projects, visit her blog at maggiedot.wordpress.com.
And if you’re interested in the rest of the Three Questions interviews…
I love me a good zombie tale. Dawn of the Dead is my favorite movie of all time, Romero is a god to me, and my first book is about those meandering, rotting corpses. So when I was sent The Zombie Feed, the new compilation put out by Apex Publications and edited by Jason Sizemore, for review, I was more than pumped to dive right in.
Inside this volume are 17 tales of zombies in all of their various forms. At first I expected a grouping of run-of-the-mill apocalyptic, undead stories. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered how different the collection is, with how many various directions the authors took what very often are clichéd tropes and plot devices.
In order to adequately break down this fantastic collection, let’s look at The Zombie Feed story by story.
Not Dead by BJ Burrow: A woman wakes up on her deathbed, questioning if she’s still alive. A touching story of the nature of faith and what really defines humanity.
Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs by Monica Valentinelli: An original, if somewhat clunky, take on the origins of the outbreak and the privileged nature of the wealthy. It could’ve been spectacular given the original premise the author came up with, but it falls flat. A little too “Ah, gotcha!” for my taste.
Cold Comfort by Nathaniel Tapley: What is this? A zombie tale without a true zombie? A fantastic story dealing with the undead that only exist in the narrator’s head, as a Russian mortician whose wife is cheating on him communes with his recently-departed patients. Ironically enough, in this particular tale it isn’t the dead who should be considered zombies.
The Final December Day by Lee Thompson: This one follows more along the lines of a traditional zombie tale. A lone cop, searching for his long-lost partner on his last day on Earth, runs across a young photographer. An interesting take on the apocalypse where the zombies are simply drug-addicted, insane humans, and aliens roam the earth. I enjoyed the message, but it fell a little short. This is one short story that begged to be longer.
Broken Bough by Daniel I. Russell: A particularly heartbreaking tale of the end of the world, told from the point of view of a young family of three struggling with the ultimate decision. Truly sad, it makes you wonder what you might do should the unthinkable happen. Would you be able to take the actions necessary? Haunting.
The Sickness Unto Death by Brandon Alspaugh: A somewhat convoluted tale of the recently departed rising up, remembering their pasts and able to act as human, though they’re no longer living. A bit confusing, and written in a way that I think might seem like the author is trying to “put one over” on the reader. I’m all for an original, inventive story, but this one seemed too clever for its own good.
A Shepherd in the Valley by Maggie Slater: Now this one was creepy. A man, all alone and living in an old airport, has figured out a way to “tame” the dead. A heartening examination of a parent’s love and the sacrifices one must make in the face of absolute terror.
Twenty-Three Second Anomaly by Ray Wallace: Eh, I could give or take this one. The story of human experimentation and how exact science can be. Interesting, but the punch isn’t punchy enough and the emotions seems forced. Not bad, but could be better.
The Last Generation by Joe Nazare: Another very interesting and not-quite-zombie story. All people have fallen over and entered a state of non-death, and only a few wake up, albeit minus their memories and sense of self. An inventive story, but lacking in some important information (such as how do they remember pop culture references and not their names or pasts) that could have made the story much more affecting. Decent nonetheless.
Bitten by Eugene Johnson: One of the few standard zombie tales in the whole collection. A very short story of a bunch of folks trying to protect a house at the end of the world. It is what you’d expect.
Lifeboat by Simon McCaffery: A very entertaining story of a group of people surviving the apocalypse by sailing the ocean on a cruise ship. Intriguing and imaginative, the narrative takes twists and turns I never expected, coming out at the end in an intense, hell-bent-for-leather climax. One of the best in the bunch.
Rabid Raccoons by Kristen Dearborn: Now this is what I call taking a genre and flipping it on its head. A teen girl does her friend wrong, only to be assailed (possibly mystically) by zombie raccoons. A stupendous job of telling a story from the viewpoint of a young adult, this tale captures the sense of seclusion and fear beautifully. Great story.
Zombies on the Moon by Andrew Clark Porter: Another short tale, and while the imagery of a moon cluttered with zombies has stuck with me since I’ve read it, this is another example of a story that could use some fleshing out to be perfect.
The Fare by Lucian Soulban: The absolute best story of the bunch. A lonely man in the aftermath of the world’s end hires a mysterious cabbie to help him obtain closure for his past sins. A tremendous study of the human condition, of how guilt can guide our actions after a traumatic event, no matter if we were in the right or not.
What’s Next? by Elaine Blose: This is the only story that I don’t think belongs in this collection. It wants to be campy, describing a world where aliens bring about the zombie apocalypse, only to have monster after monster appear in their wake, but it comes off as amateurish. The rest of the stories in this collection are so strong and insightful, it seems entirely out of place.
Goddamn Electric by K. Allen Wood: Another ingenious story, imagining a “different” sort of zombie, when the skies open up during an apocalyptic storm and fry everyone who wasn’t smart enough to find shelter. High on anxiety and even (surprisingly) emotion, this story follows an old man who’s lived a long life and isn’t quite ready to give it up.
Hipsters in Love by Danger_Slater: This is the oddest story of the bunch. I absolutely hated it until I was a couple pages in, when I went back to the beginning and re-read the title. This is a complete farce of a tale, a satire poking fun at a certain segment of our modern culture, complete with kids and their ironic t-shirts worrying about obtaining some Pabst Blue Ribbon in the face of the undead. A highly funny romp, it’s the perfect choice to end this anthology.
So that’s it! In all, I’ll say this is well worth the read, and the best zombie anthology to come out in years. Congrats to Apex and to Jason Sizemore. You’ve collected something highly entertaining and even touching. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves this genre of story.
As mentioned here before, Jason Sizemore, owner of Apex Book Company, has released volume one of a new anthology series under his The Zombie Feed Books imprint. The anthology, simply titled The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1, features fiction from issue #4 author Lee Thompson, Daniel I. Russell, BJ Burrow, Monica Valentinelli, Simon McCaffrey, and many others, including yours truly.
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So how about a free copy?
Head on over to Jason’s website and check out the “bad-ass” contest he’s set up where two lucky—and creative—people will win autographed proofs of The Zombie Feed. You can find the contest here.
(Tip: Pick me!)
Dark Faith, edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon, is one of the newer anthologies put out by Apex Publications. It features 26 short stories and five poems that attempt to tackle the intricacies of faith. I haven’t read much of it, and as it is with most anthologies, I won’t finish it all at once; but I look forward to slowly picking its bones clean.
The first story in Dark Faith is “Ghosts of New York,” by Jennifer Pelland. I will sing praise for this woman until its borderline creepy. (I’m harmless, I assure you.) Her anthology Unwelcome Bodies is one of the best I’ve ever read. Sure, some stories didn’t blow me away, but many floored me. Read “The Last Stand of the Elephant Man,” and you’ll understand. “Ghosts of New York” is not equal to that tale, but it is quite good.
The story revolves around the World Trade Center tragedy, particularly the ghosts of the jumpers, those victims that chose not to perish in fire or the collapse of either tower. The ghosts are forced to relive the terrifying free fall and final impact over and over again. It’s a heart-wrenching tale, one of horror, tragedy, and discovery. And its beautifully written.
Since originally writing this for my blog some months ago, “Ghosts of New York” has been chosen as a Nebula finalist. In celebration of this, Apex has put the story online for free. You can read the haunting tale here.
Next up in Dark Faith is Brian Keene’s “I Sing a New Psalm.” My first experience with Keene’s writing was his short story collection Fear of Gravity. I wasn’t blown away. I loved the final story, “The Garden Where My Rain Grows,” it more than lived up to the praise bestowed upon him, but the other stories just didn’t have the same impact with me. Decent, but maybe my expectations were too high. “I Sing a New Psalm,” however, is a very good tale if a bit obvious.
The story is told in 44 short bursts and follows a man of uncertain faith through his ultimate acceptance and subsequent denial of God. It’s a story that explores the puzzling contradiction of cruelty and selfishness from a so-called loving, omniscient god. Something we’ve all questioned. Keene does it justice.
Though I haven’t read it completely, Dark Faith is worth buying. Anything Apex puts out is worth buying. Dig it!
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The Zombie Feed Vol. 1, edited by Mr. Sizemore.
It should be noted that this anthology features my story “Goddamn Electric,” the first—and currently only—zombie story I’ve ever written. I’m excited. And I want you to own it.
In addition to this, if chosen, your question will be answered by all sixteen authors featured in the anthology. Should be interesting…
So go here, read the rules, and ask away. Good luck!