Tag Archives: Mercedes M. Yardley

Apex Publications Acquires Shock Totem Book Line

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.

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Nameless: The Darkness Comes (The Bone Angel Trilogy, Book One)

Nameless: The Darkness Comes. the new novel by former Shock Totem editor Mercedes M. Yardley, tells the story of Luna Masterson, a young woman cursed with the ability to see demons.  It’s bad enough to know that demons exist at all, but in Luna’s world, they’re everywhere; walking down a city street, going to the store, even just looking out the window, she’s bound to run into demons anywhere she goes.  And it gets worse: much like Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense, the demons know that Luna can see them; they want to cause her trouble and pain–and they’ll never leave her alone.  In this novel, the first book of The Bone Angel Trilogy, Luna is seeking some kind of balance, or even happiness, in her haunted life; meanwhile, her unbelieving brother is fighting for custody over his baby daughter from his venomous ex, and Luna has just met a charming, mysterious man who doesn’t doubt or even question her unique ability.  With the demons restlessly clawing into Luna’s world, the big question is: will she ever be able to live a normal life?

I find myself often shying away from badass-chicks-versus-the-supernatural books, because more often than not, their synopses seem to spell out a cookie-cutter pattern reminiscent of a certain Vampire Slayer.  So it was that when I sat down with Nameless: The Darkness Comes, I was narrow-eyed with suspicion that it would be no exception to that phenomenon.  However, Mrs. Yardley had a few surprises up her sleeve, and what could’ve been a terribly cliché read was instead involving, suspenseful, and with a hefty dose of quirky thrown in for good measure.

With a good sense of description (vivid, yet not beating the reader over the head with exposition and/or detail), Mrs. Yardley keeps the narrative taut and fast-paced. Luna is (as one would expect) tough-as-nails, and always ready to flip the birdie at any foe, be they supernatural or more familiarly human.  More refreshing, however, is the fact that she’s vulnerable; and I’m not just talking about sympathetic feelings here and there; I mean she is capable of getting scared, sad, tired, and even…injured.  In fact, she gets her ass handed to her on a couple of occasions in this book, emotionally as well as physically; it took me by sheer surprise to see Mrs. Yardley not pull any punches, and it made a few scenes truly memorable, and even haunting.  (One particularly grisly sequence even made my heart jump up into my throat, but I won’t spoil it here.)

I do have to admit that there was one element at work in this novel which was a frequent issue for me, and that was the dialogue.  Now, I don’t mind characters that talk in hip dialect; even if it’s not mind-blowing prose, I can just write it off as a characteristic at work.  However, when I’m reading about terrifying supernatural forces, I don’t want to hear demonic entities speaking like snarky hipsters; and while it worked to an extent in a few some scenes of bickering between Luna and other characters, it was often a bit of a distraction for me, as it really took some of the seriousness out of some otherwise tense scenes.

As someone who isn’t really a fan of this subgenre/niche, I have to say that overall, Nameless: The Darkness Comes was a pretty fun, and sometimes surprising, read.  And if a series featuring a tough woman battling supernatural evil is your kind of bag, then you’re in for a real treat.

Available through Ragnarok Publications.

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Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu

When I read the title of the new novella by Mercedes M. Yardley, I itched to begin reading and find out what the two names meant and how the characters would find each other. “A tale of atomic love,” the cover promised, and that drew me in ever further.

Having read Yardley’s short story collection, Beautiful Sorrows, I thought Apocalyptic Montessa would be rich and sweet, like dense chocolate cake with a bitter, poisonous frosting. The opening was touching, a mother walking in a graveyard, naming her special child after a headstone that struck her—“Montessa.” Then the unborn baby grew up, and became a stripper named Ruby.

You’d think that’s where the sweetness stops, and to an extent, you’d be right. The beginning of this novella is heart-wrenching to read, although the pacing is so fast and engrossing that I had to force myself to put down my Kindle to do things like eat or sleep. Yardley’s use of language and imagery is unparalleled, and Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu brings that in spades, as well as a rhythm to the prose that kept me enraptured.

The characters of Montessa and Lulu are lovely, broken demons that both drew me in and repelled me at times. It takes true skill to make characters that do such terrible things sympathetic, and I tip my hat to that deft hand. Just when I thought I couldn’t take any more tension, the sweetness returns, and as a reader, I felt a bit guilty at the joy I felt for the two star-crossed lovers. Every second of that conflict is delicious.

Pick up a copy of Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu for yourself. It is available through Ragnarok Publications.

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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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Tales of Jack the Ripper

I was eager to get my hands on editor Ross E. Lockhart’s newest anthology, Tales of Jack the Ripper, and I was not disappointed when I did.

There is a definite “weird tale” edge to many of the stories (and poems) in the anthology, which in this reader’s opinion is a GREAT thing. It might even be expected from Lockhart, who also brought you The Book of Cthulhu and its follow-up, The Book of Cthulhu 2. This doesn’t mean you can pigeonhole Tales of Jack the Ripper.

When I cyberstalked Ross Lockhart, he had this to say (before slapping a restraining order on me): “With Tales of Jack the Ripper, I’m not only paying tribute to the 125-year tradition of Ripper literature, I’m also showcasing authors who bring a unique sense of voice and place to their craft. And who offer something new to the Ripper legend.”

You needn’t worry about reheated or threadbare Ripper tropes. Each writer took a fresh look at Saucy Jacky for the anniversary of the terror and fascination he wrought in London in 1888.

Though numinous dread is a thread throughout, there are plenty of “straight (razor)” thriller tales in shades of gothic or gritty noir, and don’t forget transgressive tales of psychopathery (my new word, you’re welcome). There were few spots where I felt certain authors fell into too much telling and bald exposition, but the good in this collection far outshines any such fumbles.

I had my particular favorites, and I know you will too. “Abandon All Flesh,” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, stands out with its knife-sharp writing voice, accentuated by a deft twining of Aztec symbolism with Ripper legend to deliver a masterful story.

In “Jack’s Little Friend,” Ramsey Campbell crafted a dizzying psychological downward spiral and showed us all how creepy second-person POV should be done.

Shock Totem’s very own Mercedes M. Yardley actually gave me toes-to-top chills with “A Pretty for Polly.” I won’t tell you any more about her haunting story, read it yerself.

In fact, you need to get up off your lazy duff and buy this collection. Pick your favorite story and come back to argue with me via the “comment” feature below. Go on, I’ll wait here while you click over to the publisher or Amazon and press BUY.

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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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Was I Just Sexually Harassed…Or Not?

We are a world of offense. A litigious society. Too sensitive. Or not sensitive enough. Or maybe both, who knows.

The buzz is on sexual harassment in the literary world lately, especially at cons. And I’ll tell you that, as a woman, I’ve been there. I had a well-known literary name grab my butt at a con last year, and I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to do. There weren’t any roundhouse kicks to the face, or firm dressing downs. My friends didn’t rush to my defense. There was just his hand. My body. And shock. Some shame. A whole bunch of confusion.

Was this the first experience? Of course not. Will it be the last? Sadly, no. I don’t expect it will be.

At the same time, I feel like we’re getting a bit reactive about all of it. It’s almost a battle to see who can be more affronted. Oh yeah? Somebody actually touched your body? Well, somebody just looked at me wrong, and I filed a report on sexual harassment. Therefore I am much more educated and proactive than you. If only you respected women or yourself more, you could be angry like me.

I’m nervous to even publish this essay, because it’s such a charged subject. I know the flack I’m going to get about it.

There are people out there who scare me. They push so hard to make sure that they never become victims that they actually come across as bullies. I’m terrified that I’ll get nervous, say the wrong thing and affront them. I would never intend to, but sometimes I think intent has very little to do with it.

Case in point: An author told me he writes erotica and sent me unsolicited links to his work. On the page was a picture of him that can never be unseen. NEVER. UNSEEN.

Friend One (female): You were just sexually harassed! Get a rope!

Friend Two (male): I think maybe you were just sexually harassed. Should I…do something?

My Mom: You knew better than to click that link, sweetie.

I think Mom is right. I knew he was sending me stories he had written. Did I expect to be blinded by boy bits? No, I did not. But it’s like the old folktale about the little boy who carries the snake (no pun intended) to the top of the hill: He knew what the snake was when he picked it up.

I don’t consider it sexual harassment. I had an idea of what I was getting into. I’m certainly not going to report him for showing me his, ahem, work when he had given me an idea of the kind of work it is. Sure, a warning of the visuals would have kept me far away from the link, but ultimately I believe the fault was mine.

But this made me realize that most of us don’t have a clue as to what sexual harassment is, especially on the Internet. A man (or woman, for that matter) corners me at a con and says suggestive things or puts their hands on my body, and that’s definitely harassment. I know it with every fiber of my being. But online? The lines become blurry. I’m not exactly sure.

This last week I blocked somebody on Facebook for making inappropriate comments. The conversation went very quickly from “Tell me about your work” to “You have beautiful lips. And hair. And eyes.” Uncool. Uncomfortable. Blocked. Ugh.

A while ago, three other women and I were at a horror con. When the picture came up online, there was immediately a conversation about our bust size. Yes, we’re busty. No, that doesn’t give you a pass to discuss it. More ugh.

These things were obvious to me. They made me feel bad. Uncomfortable. But what about the flirty friend you have to keep reigning in? Being sent unsolicited stories high in sexual content? Being sought out simply because we’re women? The Shock Totem staff often says, “Why did So and So approach you about this and not me?” Probably because I’m a girl. Because we’re seen as easier to approach and sometimes dominate. I’ve had people sweet talk me about getting in the mag when I know they aren’t doing the same thing to Ken or John or Tom. What about when women are invited to an anthology because “the antho needs women”? So does Mars. Is that a form of harassment? My body parts gave me a free pass? Then again, how many times have we been upset because an antho or “Best Of” or, heaven forbid I say it, the Bram Stoker Awards had a glaring lack of female participants and nominees? Is it true that there just aren’t any winners here?

Let me give you a completely opposite example that was actually comical in its intent. I was at WHC in New Orleans. My friends were all at panels, and I hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before. I found a nice, quiet person sitting in the lobby, who turned out to be John Urbancik. (Whether or not John is nice and quiet in real life is not up for debate. It was early in the morning and he was absolutely lovely.) :P

Me: Excuse me. I’m looking for a place to eat breakfast. Do you know anywhere?

John: Yes, I went to this bar the other morning and it was wonderful. It’s located AAFD@#$@#$ Blah blah Neeeeeneeeeneeeen wigawomp.” (This is how I understand directions.)

Me: I’ll never find it. But thank you anyway!

John: W…would you like me to show you?

Me (eying him mistrustfully): Yeeeeeees…

We were so afraid of being forward. Of putting off the wrong signals at a conference and a city known for debauchery. He walked me to the bar, hesitantly, wanting to be honorable and promising that he would drop me off when we arrived there, so I wouldn’t have to eat with a total male stranger. I was grateful, but felt stupid for asking. But more than that, I was really STARVING. So we made it. Waved farewell. I bellied up to the bar and had the best breakfast I had in New Orleans, by myself. And when I was nearly done? A man sitting at the bar next to me threw down a five dollar bill, said, “It was a pleasure watching you eat,” and left.

Ugh. Again. After the “I don’t want to be offensive in any way” dance with John earlier that morning. I could have had breakfast with somebody who turned out to be a friend, instead of being tipped by El Creepo at the bar. I throw my hands in the air. I’m defeated.

Hey. I’m a woman and I’m confused about the whole thing. I thought I was supposed to know what was going on.

Let’s go back to basics. Treat me with respect and as a professional. In return, I’ll treat you the same way. I won’t go looking for ways to be slighted if you don’t go out of your way to slight me. I think we all need to act better. Just because I have Bettie Page bangs, that doesn’t mean I’m your personal pin-up girl. And just because you hold the door open for me, that doesn’t mean you have an angle. I want us to give each other the benefit of the doubt, to assume that the other person meant no offense. Wouldn’t it be nice not to be on guard all of the time? Wouldn’t that be a relief?

I yearn for a world of courteousness and professionalism. That’s all. Being a writer…heck, being a HUMAN is tough enough. We don’t need to complicate things.

And even as I write this, the events of ComicCon were brought to my attention. My mind boggles.

Respect. Let’s try it.

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Sunday Reads: On Drugs, Zombies, and Creepy Children

Here are a handful of links from around the Internet that we found interesting this past week.

Artist Bryan Lewis Saunders takes several different kinds of drugs and then draws self-portraits. Drugs are bad, m’kay, but the results are interesting.

I’m sorry, zombie friend, but I didn’t quite catch that. One of the funniest things I saw this week was a Bad Lip Reading of The Walking (and Talking) Dead.

Zombies aren’t creepy. Children are creepy. Nothing exhibits this better than this very cool, very strange Reddit conversation about the creepiest thing your young child has ever said to you .

And after you’ve been chilled by little Jimmy’s prophecy of your death, or sweet Molly’s insistence that SOMEBODY IS RIGHT BEHIND YOU, you can finish freaking yourself out by looking at these hyper-realistic dolls…of you.

Knock yourselves dead, darlings. See something cool that should be in the roundup? Drop me an email, or leave a post on our forum. Let’s while away our time in the dark.

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One of Our Own Journeys North

We’re very proud to share that our great friend Robert J. Duperre, who also occasionally writes for Shock Totem, has just signed a three-book deal 47North, Amazon’s publishing imprint. The deal is for three books, all to be co-written with fantasy author David Dalglish.

The first book, Dawn of Swords, will be released in January 2014, with Wrath of Lions and Blood of Gods to follow.

Yes, these are fantasy novels, but we read widely here at Shock Totem HQ and are very much looking forward to these books. And you should as well.

If you want to sample some of Duperre’s writing and would rather something a bit closer to horror, check out his four-book Rift series—The Fall, Dead of Winter, Death Springs Eternal, and The Summer Sun. If you don’t want individual books, buy the entire series as a very affordable digital omnibus.

You can also check out The Gate 2: 13 Tales of Isolation and Despair, which not only features three stories by Duperre, but also a story by Mercedes M. Yardley and yours truly.

You can read more about this deal on Duperre’s blog, The Journal of Always.

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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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