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
Like what you've read here or in the magazine? Please consider donating.
Tag Archives: Lee Thompson
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.
A Texas Senator and his wife go missing… On the same day, their son is slaughtered by an enigmatic killer on the lawn of ex-Governor Edward Wood’s residence. Sammy, Wood’s drug dealing son, suspects his father of the crime. After all, his old man snapped once before and crippled his wife with a lead pipe. But there’s something more to these events…something deeper and festering just beneath the surface…
In direct opposition to Homicide Detective Jim Thompson, Sammy begins an investigation of his own, searching for the truth in a labyrinth of lies, deception, depravity and violence that drags him deeper into darkness and mayhem with each step. And in doing so, brings them all into the sights of an elusive and horrifying killer who may not be what he seems.
A brutal killer on a rampage of carnage…a hardened detective on the brink…an antihero from the shadows…a terrifying mystery that could destroy them all…
Welcome to Lee Thompson’s A Beautiful Madness blog tour!
This stop is a special one since I love Shock Totem magazine and the people who have made it such a monumental success, which strangely enough is what this post is about. They’re beautiful people over at ST, and so are the stories they publish, and the covers that grace their issues.
Since I’ve been in two issues, in addition to one person winning a paperback copy of my novel, I’ll also be giving away two copies of Shock Totem! Issue #4, which featured my story “Beneath the Weeping Willow,” and issue #6, where I have a story called “The River” and was interviewed by K. Allen Wood (the publisher and sexy beast). Very neat, yes? To win, make sure you leave a comment and share the link on Shock Totem’s website, lovelies.
(Note: We will also be adding a hardcover copy (19 of 150) of Lee’s limited edition Delirium Books novella Down Here in the Dark.)
Ways to Measure Your Success (Expect and Accept Change)
There’s not much worse than for five years to go by and for you to look back over those years and feel that nothing has changed. Especially since it’s our responsibility to learn, adapt, and change things. No one else makes our choices for us once we’re an adult. But did you know what you wanted back then? Did you have a clear, specific goal? Did you have steps to carry yourself to that goal, or did you keep doing the things you were doing and expect to conjure such success from thin air?
If so, you’re not alone. But where have you succeeded? There has to be some area, doesn’t there? Look deep, look back, be objective. If you haven’t made strides, it might be time to start from scratch and rethink the way you’re approaching your writing career. You’re going to have to change for the better.
Expecting to succeed—to sell your first novel or first pro short story, or to get interviewed in the paper, or whatever—without studying the craft and just winging it, is like a guy swinging a golf club and expecting to be a pro golfer in five years. He can be doing a dozen things wrong in his swing and practice those wrong techniques ten thousand times, but only hurting himself.
A great way to measure your success is to pay a pro for feedback. (Tom Piccirilli offers an editing service.) Look at their feedback and go through it one point at a time, through your whole book, looking for the places they’ve marked as red flags and learn to understand why those things hurt your story instead of help it.
You can measure your success by comparing yourself to your peers. But it’s a trap filled with frustration. They can only write what they write and you can only write what you write. You might be a better networker but they might write better stories, or vice versa. They might be getting what appears constant praise while you can barely get someone to review your first novel. They might be single like me and have very few distractions while you might have a job and a family to dole out time and energy. There are too many variables, and comparing yourself to your peers isn’t very healthy. If you find yourself in this trap, it wouldn’t hurt to slap some sense into yourself.
You can measure your success by reviews. Reviewers read a lot of books so they can usually spot big flaws and what doesn’t work for them pretty quickly. They’re also passionate about the genre they’re reviewing. I like measuring my success this way. If someone loves reading they’re going to offer something useful I can use to improve.
You can measure your success by word count. I’ve never worried about this, but it seems to be a popular thing among writers. It seems a double-edged sword, though, telling yourself you have to hit a certain number, shifting, at least in the back of your mind, from writing a quality story to worrying about how many individual words you finished today. And then there is a lot of guilt in this approach too. I’ve seen tons of writers cry and beat themselves up because they fell behind on their word count that day or week or month. It’s a distraction, if you ask me, that doesn’t have many benefits. If you ignore the word count altogether and just write the story with as much passion and skill as you can, it will end up whatever length it needs to be.
You can measure your success by the project. Each novel you write will be different in critical ways. I like to experiment and break rules. When I began brainstorming A Beautiful Madness I knew I was going to break one of the big rules, and I did it, and knew it would and did work. The challenge each novel creates is fun to face. If you’re testing yourself on each individual story, to try new characters, new storylines, new ways to manage the POV shifts, and searching your heart for the little details that make the story familiar but fresh, there is a lot of satisfaction in that.
You can measure success by hitting deadlines. I like to set myself a deadline and have been doing so for years. (You’ll have to start doing that to be a professional writer, so why not start now?) I usually take a week to brainstorm the characters and the major beats of the novel and then write down the date I want to finish the first draft. Normally I have two deadlines. I set a high goal of six weeks. And then I set a more relaxed deadline of three months. Usually I hit somewhere around two months for a first draft but have finished some novels in two weeks. They’re all different.
You can measure success by copies sold. I’m setting a goal of moving 10,000 copies of A Beautiful Madness in the first year of its release, mostly because I want to gain a hefty new fan base and secure myself a position as a Crime writer to go to for a certain type of story.
With three years of publishing history, I can tell you that book sales spike and plummet if you have a small audience (there will be more on this in another guest post). Since there are such peaks and valleys, I’m shooting for the yearly goal of copies moved instead of a monthly one. If I’m six months into it and have only sold a quarter of what I want to get out there in readers’ hands, then I will have to get creative and up my game to hit my goal. It’s nice motivation. I think it’s doable too, with the publisher I have, and the fans I’ve gained over the last three years. And since A Beautiful Madness is my first Crime novel, it will always have a special place in my heart no matter how it’s received.
You can measure success by reader feedback. I’ve got awesome fans. They’re so warm and intelligent and funny. I wouldn’t move any copies if it wasn’t for them and my publisher because I’d rather be writing and reading than spending time online trying to pimp myself. A lot of them have become friends over the last three years too, although at one time they were complete strangers, opening one of my novels or novellas for the first time. It’s pretty cool. I measure my success in this way a lot, because it’s tangible, and if you ever feel down there are always people there shooting you an email saying they just finished your book and loved it and recommended it to their friends. They thank you, which is weird, but I get it because every time I read a great book I want to thank the author for taking the time to write it too.
You can measure success by professional feedback. I was fortunate the last four years to receive feedback from professional editors and agents and writers. I think it was important for me to have those people tell me I had talent and imagination and energy, but needed to work on characterization. Listening to them is what helped me start selling fiction.
You can adapt an attitude of I-don’t-give-a-fuck. Readers, editors, reviewers, some will love your work, some will hate it, some will never be more than lukewarm about it. You can just write for yourself if you want, like you probably did when you first started and you were thrilled by simply writing and finishing something. There’s no pressure in that. And it’s your life. Do what you want, what you feel is right, for you and your work.
How do you measure your success?
Buy A Beautiful Madness (Kindle): http://amzn.com/B00K36ITGS
Buy A Beautiful Madness (Paperback): http://amzn.com/1940544297
Lee Thompson is the author of the Suspense novels A Beautiful Madness (August 2014), It’s Only Death (January 2015), and With Fury in Hand (May 2015). The dominating threads weaved throughout his work are love, loss, and learning how to live again. A firm believer in the enduring power of the human spirit, Lee believes that stories, no matter their format, set us on the path of transformation. He is represented by the extraordinary Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary.
Visit Lee’s website to discover more.
There will also be a grand prize at the end of the tour where one winner will receive A Beautiful Madness and four other DarkFuse novels in Kindle format! Simply leave a comment on this blog and share the link.
Thanks to those who participate.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Lee Thompson’s work. He writes fast, he writes hard, and he comes up with beautifully tragic stories that are both engaging and soul-crushing.
Gossamer: A Tale of Love and Tragedy is no different. From the very beginning, we’re tossed into an uncomfortably unflinching look at love and loss. Dorothy is a little girl forced to watch her father denounce her mother as a witch. As the sentence is passed, Dorothy hardens her heart and promises revenge.
The main story has to do when Dorothy has lived several lifetimes. She resides in the small town of Gossamer, guardian of an area filled with people that she grows to care for. Then her loneliness puts the residents of Gossamer in danger, and everything changes.
Lee has a clean, easy prose that still manages to be beautiful. He’s especially gifted at writing women, which is rare to see from a male writer. His portrayal of Dorothy and her aunt are both strong and chilling. Later in the book, we are introduced to two more strong mother/daughter characters, and the ineffectual boyfriend. It’s interesting to see the spine and determination in these women, and how far Lee is willing to push them until they either push back or break completely.
This book is full of witches and vampires. It’s full of magical carousals. It’s also full of betrayal, love reciprocated and not, and cowardice. Lee takes the unlovely parts of real life and sets it in a setting so deliciously bizarre that you think you’re simply reading a story, when in fact you’re listening to a man sitting across from you and telling you all about pain.
Gossamer goes down easy and leaves a bitter aftertaste. It’s dark and lovely. I’d recommend it.
John Skipp has reviewed Shock Totem #6 on Fangoria’s website.
“[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.”
Shock Totem Publications is very happy to announce that our sixth issue is available for purchase!
Don’t listen to this guy. Tell everyone!
Shock Totem returns with its sixth issue, featuring stories that range from troubling tales of loss to chilling examinations of mankind’s dark side. In “Lighten Up,” four-time Stoker Award™-winner and Grandmaster of Horror Jack Ketchum gives us a dose of dark humor that still manages to be righteously menacing. “The River,” by rising star Lee Thompson, is a brutal tale of purgatory, wasted life, and regrets.
Soulmates connect through murder, love and revenge in P.K. Gardner’s “For Jack.” In “Orion,” a young girl who has only known darkness makes the ultimate sacrifice—in blood. “No One But Us Monsters,” by Hubert Dade, follows a man who is haunted and tormented by his own crippling fears. Mail hoarding, sin eaters, political horror, Shock Totem #6 runs the gamut.
Also included: Conversations with Lee Thompson and seven-time British Fantasy Award nominee Gary McMahon, as well as narrative nonfiction—a tale of true horror—by Ryan Bridger. An editorial about inspiration; the latest installment of “Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes,” which examines the connections between music and horror; plus reviews and much more…
Come see why Shock Totem is billed as “…one of the strongest horror fiction magazines on the market today” (Hellnotes).
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!
Right on the heels of our fashionably-late fifth issue, we are proud to announce that our sixth issue is primed and almost ready to go. I am doing the layout this time, so I’m making sure everything is perfect. It’s close, though.
For those who have yet to see it, here is the cover artwork:
Once again the cover art was created by the brilliant Mikio Murakami, who has done all our magazine artwork since issue #3.
Here is the official Table of Contents:
* The Spectacular Inspiration Suit, by John Boden (Editorial)
* For Jack, by P.K. Gardner
* Orion, by Michael Wehunt
* The Hard Way: A Conversation with Gary McMahon, by John Boden
* Ballad of the Man with the Shark Tooth Bracelet, by Lucia Starkey
* She Disappeared, by Ryan Bridger (Narrative Nonfiction)
* Strange Goods and Other Oddities (Reviews)
* No One But Us Monsters, by Hubert Dade
* The Cocktail Party, by Addison Clift
* Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes, Part 4, by John Boden and Simon Marshall-Jones (Article)
* Lighten Up, by Jack Ketchum
* Magnolia’s Prayer, by John Guzman (2012 Shock Totem Flash Fiction Contest Winner)
* When We Crash Against Reality: A Conversation with Lee Thompson, by K. Allen Wood
* The River, by Lee Thompson
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)
Yet again we feel this issue sits well apart from previous issues, though without straying too far from what readers have come to expect from us. We dig it, and we’re confident you will as well.
Look for it soon in digital format. Print will follow shortly after, and if interested you can preorder it here.
As always, thank you for your continued support!
Ellen Datlow just released her full honorable mention list for Best Horror of the Year Volume 4, and while there are a daunting 608 stories on that list, we’re very happy to say that seven of them are from Shock Totem authors.
Though none listed will actually appear on the list of 50 featured in the anthology itself, the recognition for our authors is hardly diminished.
You can read their stories in Shock Totem #3 and #4.
And before I end this, I would be remiss if I didn’t send a very big thank-you to Ellen for her time and consideration. Our appreciation is beyond words.
I first met Darrell Schweitzer a few years ago at Necon 29, where he was selling books in the dealer room. I bought a few things from him, including his book Living with the Dead, a collection of interconnected short stories set in the bizarre world of Old Corpsenberg. It’s a short little thing, presented as sort of a novella, but its impact on me was immense.
I have numerous old fantasy anthologies and magazines with Schweitzer tales in them, but I became a fan after reading Living with the Dead.
And so this past July, at Necon 31, I picked up two more collections, Transients and Other Disquieting Stories, Refugees from an Imaginary Country, and the novels The Shattered Goddess and The White Isle.
Transients and Other Disquieting Stories, to put it simply, is a fantastic little collection of darkly weird fiction. Not surprising coming from the longtime Weird Tales editor. My favorite story in the book is “Clocks,” a bittersweet ghost story about love and the difficulty of letting go. Other great tales include “Peeling It Off,” “Pennies from Hell,” “Transients,” and “The Spirit of the Black Stairs.” The rest are quite good as well.
Actually, I could have lived without “The Man Who Wasn’t Nice to Pumpkin Head Dolls.” It had a overly cheesy Twilight Zone feel to it—which, now that I think about it, was likely intentional as it first appeared in Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. Not a bad tale, though, just dated and kind of goofy.
In fact most stories in this set were published in the 80s, so a few others read a bit dated, too; but despite this they’re all done really well. Schweitzer’s use of language is smooth, succinct, and at times downright poetic. I’m amazed this guy isn’t more popular.
He should be.
And in parting, I should mention that the stippled illustrations by Stephen E. Fabian are, as always, fabulous.
This was my first experience reading William Ollie (unless you count the novel excerpt from KillerCon we published in our debut issue), and it was pleasurable one.
Into Hell is part of the Delirium Books novella series. The story follows two post-9/11 scenarios: a group of war veterans struggling to survive during and after a bank heist gone awry (present day) and the same group struggling to survive on the front lines in the Middle East (past).
It’s a fast-paced and fun read, with a slight supernatural element. Very well-written, though done so in a rhythmic staccato fashion with lots of short, two- or three-part sentences that tend to detail the same thing. That might bother people who want a slower, less in-your-face approach to character development, but with it being a novella, and one on the shorter side of things, I felt the quicker pace worked to its advantage.
My one complaint would be that I found it a bit confusing at times. Both story arcs mirror each other, and when a new chapter started, I found myself wondering if this was war or post-war until something distinct appeared on the page. (Though with the luxury of having finished it, I can tell you that the chapters simply alternate back and forth between present and past right till the end.) Either way, both scenarios are depictions of war, one being from without and the other being from within.
Complaint aside, Into Hell is a solid read. It’s too bad that, for now, only 150 copies are available.
I’ve been lucky enough to witness Lee Thompson grow as a writer. I’ve read a lot of his short fiction, from the not so good to the excellent, so it’s a no-brainer that I’m sticking with this cat. He’s got the chops and delivers them yet again with Iron Butterflies Rust.
This is a tale written close to home, I think, one of love, hate, failure and redemption, and the richness—the realness—of it all shines through even the darkest moments of the story. And it’s plenty dark.
There were a couple parts in the beginning that lined up too conveniently for me, and Frank Gunn can be a bastard of a character to sympathize with at times, but overall Iron Butterflies Rust is a fantastic and heartbreaking little tale.
As with Ollie’s Into Hell, this is part of the Delirium Books novella series, thus equally as limited in quantity. A shame. Hopefully this and future Frank Gunn tales (there are more coming) will be released together in a more widely available format at some point.
For now, though, pay attention to Lee Thompson. He’s the real deal.
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.