Tag Archives: John Skipp

The Devoted

A few weeks ago, John Skipp announced the demise of Ravenous Shadows. This was an offshoot imprint of Ravenous Romance for which Skipp was head wrangler. He sought out novellas that could be devoured in a single sitting. Long story short, I recently got and read one of those novellas, Eric Shapiro’s The Devoted.

The Devoted concerns the final day of a group of cult members. A suicide cult. Beyond that, I had no expectations going in, other than I knew I was in for a wild ride. Skipp doesn’t make empty promises.

Two hours after I began reading, I sat there, brow furrowed in thought as I tried to digest what had just happened. The lean prose is such that you literally feel like you’re there. My stomach ached, it’s that tense of a story.

The Devoted is a gritty, honest, and tense read. (I know I just used that word but hell, it fits!) Now that Ravenous Shadows is a corpse along the publishing highway, several of these books have found new homes. I’m not sure if this is one of them, but I would strongly recommend you track it down regardless. It’s a helluva read!

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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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Splatterpunk 4

I received the fourth issue of Splatterpunk last week, and wasted no time digging into it. I am a big fan of Jack Bantry’s nostalga-dripping DIY zine. He was also kind enough to throw me a copy of the larger size debut issue so I now have a complete collection.

But enough of that, let’s get our gloves on and dissect this bad boy, shall we?

Opening with a short editorial by Bantry himself, which gives way to a wonderfully witty essay by Jeff Burk on why he loves extreme horror, we then have our first story of the issue, “I’m On My,” by Shane McKenzie. This tale of accidents and bad choices made with the best intentions is raw and throbbing, like a fresh wound. We follow that story’s blood trail to a great interview with both McKenzie and John Skipp, which is both insightful and fun.

Next we have “A Bit of Christmas Mayhem” by the always wonderful Jeff Strand. This story made me laugh out loud. It is so darkly insane and funny as we follow the main character, Mr. Chronic Bad Luck, who finds himself in the most ridiculous of Christmas Eve situations.

We are then given a glimpse into the truly twisted and hardcore life of “Wicking,” a violent and twisted tale by editor Jack Bantry and Robert Essig.

We get a chance to breathe when we pull into the reviews column, where Bantry and Gambino Iglesias give us the scoop on some newish books we should check out. And rounding out the fiction is a story by J.F. Gonzalez, “Ricochet,” which is a frightening glimpse into the perils of Internet technology and secrets. After which we get a short interview with Mr. Gonzalez.

Overall, Splatterpunk 4 is another great issue of over-the-top horror stories presented and paired with great artwork. Splatterpunk is a consistent little zine and one that packs as much heart into each issue as some larger presses manage to do in a year’s time. If you like your horror fresh and bleeding and harder than heroin, give Splatterpunk a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

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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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Haunt

Everything you have heard about the crazy book is true.

Everything you have heard about the crazy book is a lie.

I could have easily ended this short review with the above statements and been one-hundred percent honest. Because Haunt is like everything and nothing you have read before. Laura Lee Bahr has created a unique beast of a debut.

On the surface it is a noir-shaded mystery which revolves around the possible wrongful death of a pretty young lady.

Deeper in, it is a story that features a flawed and heart-hurt journalist/detective/killer in his quest for the truth. If we can get all the portents aligned to discover just exactly what the hell that truth may be.

It is also the tale of a Dick. That Dick is you or me, the reader. And he/we are being haunted…maybe.

The lovely Ms. Bahr has taken those Choose Your Own Adventure books as her template and disemboweled it, turned it on its remaining ear (she tore the other off Van Gogh-style), and then set the thing on fire. When the ashes dried she used tears, sweat, and hard work to mold something ferociously original and quite bizarre.

With her adventure in seediness you can choose to drag a couch into your apartment from the curbside trash pile or give head for the clues you seek to solve the mystery. Nothing is what is appears to be, but the signs are everywhere. They’re written in neon signs and blood and jizz. They are as obvious and as fleeting as the turn of a page.

Haunt thrilled me. It also gave me a headache. High praise.

Bahr’s style is fluid and sometimes breathtaking. She drops pop cultural spatter amidst the backdrop of haunting slipstream existence.

She makes the characters strong and damaged—just how they ought to be.

She is one to keep an eye on.

Are you up for it?

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Fangoria Reviews Shock Totem #6

John Skipp has reviewed Shock Totem #6 on Fangoria’s website.


Shhh…listen!

“[Jack] Ketchum and I are in firm agreement that Shock Totem is living proof that we’re in a golden age when it comes to the short horror story. Some of the best stories ever written are being written right now.”

To read the full review, click here. Have you picked up your copy yet?

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Die, You Badass Bubbles, Die!

Earlier this year, Jan Kozlowski delivered her debut novella, Die, You Bastard! Die, via Ravenous Shadows, an imprint where every book is handpicked by John Skipp. This fact alone should be enough for most horror fans to take note, but if it isn’t let me up the ante: This book is hardcore!

Claire is a paramedic, and a damn good one at that, one who has spent her adult life trying to make up for and forget her childhood.

The novella opens with her and her partner answering a disturbing call: A little girl trapped beneath the body of a naked man. This case, coupled with a phone call, drags Claire back to the horrific events of her childhood and a lifetime of dark and dastardly suffering at the hands of her father.

Her father has been hospitalized, and in answering the call Claire is drawn into a warped scenario of revenge and double-cross and some of the most disturbing tactics ever committed to the printed page.

Ravenous Shadows debuted with a lofty promise of nearly forty titles a year, but sadly hit the wall after only five. Other than Jan’s, I have only read Adam Cesare’s wonderful Tribesmen, although I intend to track down and read the remaining titles.

Maybe after this unspecified hiatus Ravenous can get all oars in the water again and keep the line flowing. I truly hope so, but if not I am already grateful for being turned on to a pair of great authors I hope to follow for quite some time.

Dybbuk Press dropped this little collection, edited by Michael Stone and Christopher J. Hall, way back in 2006. Consisting of seven stories, all poised to slap you in the face and hopefully knock out a few teeth. It was a promise I found sadly unfulfilled.

We open with the tale “Pool Sharks,” by Gerald Brennan. This is more or less hood-heavy, thug drama with a simple ghost-story twist ending. Not a bad story, but not anything a veteran watcher of Twilight Zone would not have seen coming. Next up is Garry Kilworth’s “The Stray,” a strange little number that is heavy with metaphor and satirical symbolism. Quite clever at times and a little silly at others, I rather enjoyed it. Michael Hemmingson’s “Hardboiled Stiff” is an overlong exercise in noir and the undead.

Ronald Malfi’s story, “All the Pretty Girls,” is my favorite. What we get is a darkly strange and spiritual tale of a man working to appease his god—in a very sinister fashion. Gord Rollo gives us a standard evil-tattoo tale in “Moving Pictures,” while Davin Ireland delivers “The Essences,” a story with an almost-dark-fantasy vibe. Closing out the collection is Michael Boatman’s gory “Bloodbath at Lansdale Towers,” a morality tale with a knifey twist.

While I did enjoy Badass Horror, only Malfi’s made me stand and say, “Wow!” Overall I couldn’t help but feel there was not enough “badass.” But I was entertained and could not call the evening spent reading this a disappointment.

Before reading Black Bubbles, released by Thunderstorm Books, earlier this year, I was familiar with Kelli Owen only by name, having never read her work. After reading Black Bubbles, I can say that Owen is a very good writer of dark fiction.

Reliant on character over shock and awe, I found this collection to be good, with several stories hanging on the cusp of “Holy shit, this is brilliant!” There was, however, one story that floored me. So much so that I have re-read it at least five times since the initial read, and given the amount of stories I read a year, that is saying something.

I won’t go over all of the tales, but will touch upon a few that I dug. “The Tin Box” is a familiar theme but the angle and delivery are what makes this a standout. The passing of a grandparent opens up an atmosphere of reminiscence and love…until they find evidence of family secrets best left hidden. “Shadows in a Bowl of Soup” is a wonderful prose piece. “Dig the Hole” is a fantastic slice of dark reality. A groovy little violent satire on therapy and sociopaths comes in the name of “How’s That Make You Feel?”

But “Spell” is the one. THE ONE! This story punched me in the face, wiped the blood from my lips, and then drew a big L on my forehead for not having expected it. Simply amazing story. I’m not even going to mention its plot as that would be a disservice to it.

Black Bubbles is a solid collection. While some stories were very strong, and others seemed like they could have been a bit more fleshed out, I liked every one. I hope to check out more of Kelli’s work in the future.

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Shock Totem Invades Killercon

This coming weekend, at the fourth annual Killercon convention in Las Vegas, joining the likes of F. Paul Wilson, Wrath James White, Jack Ketchum, John Skipp, Adam Cesare, and more, the Shock Totem Five will be meeting in person for the first time ever. We will have a vendor table all weekend long. If you’re attending, we’d love to meet you.

We are hosting a party Friday night as well. I say party, but since everyone shot down all my great ideas–bouncy castle, Sumo wrestler outfits/matches, Andrew WK karaoke battles–I’m not sure how much of a party it’ll be, but it’ll be fun…because when it’s time to party we will always party hard!

Yeah, I went there.

In addition, we will be doing a special pre-release of our upcoming collection, Beautiful Sorrows, by Mercedes M. Yardley. Own it weeks before its official release. We’ll have fifty paperback copies available (there will also be a limited edition hardcover release) at a special discount price. Mercedes will gladly autograph your copy. She’ll be doing a reading from the book as well.

For more info, click here. Preorders for the official paperback and hardcover release will go up later today and tomorrow. If you have any questions, please let us know.

Hope to see you there!

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Psychos and the Appalachian Undead

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.”


[ click for full image ]

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.


[ click for larger image ]

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.

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A Conversation with Sarah Langan

As some of you may recall, I doled out a high-praising review of Sarah Langan’s Bram Stoker Award-winning second novel, The Missing. I knew it was a semi-sequel to her debut, The Keeper, but that had no bearing on my enjoyment of the novel.

Having recently found a copy of the debut, I excitedly went to work devouring it over a weekend. Upon its completion, I was shamed at waiting so long.

The Keeper tells the tragic tale of Bedford, Maine, a small town built on the back of a paper mill. The Mill, now closed, employed most of the townsfolk and paid for its existence. But as the story unfolds and its deeply textured characters are introduced, we find that this small town is quite unlike others. It is haunted. Haunted in a very unique way.

A thickly veined historical horror that begins when the town does and continues throbbing and festering until it culminates in the events chronicled in The Missing. I will not give away any details, other than to say this book is packed full of so many deeply disturbing visuals and delightfully surreal flourishes, that to call it a haunted-town story, or a nod to “Ancient Evil in a small town” books, would be a white lie, true at its basest level but highly inaccurate at the same time.

Recently, I was lucky enough to have the chance to ask Sarah a few questions and she was kind enough to answer them.

JB: First, Sarah, allow me to thank you for taking the time to grant this little interview. I will get the giddy fan boy stuff out of the way and say I love your work. LOVE, in all capitals. I read the first two out of order and it had no impact on my enjoyment of each; both are highly effective and greatly visual novels. I also read and enjoyed Audrey’s Door. That was actually the first book I bought of yours, solely on the fact that John Skipp told me to. Then, when I was interviewing Jack Ketchum, he dropped your name, and I decided I was missing out on someone special.

I was right.

Could you give us a short encapsulation of your work, what you have out there in addition to these three wonderful novels? What is on the horizon? Do you think you’ll revisit Bedford again?

(more…)

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