Tag Archives: Novella

Open for Novel/Novella Submissions

Shock Totem Publications is once again open for novel/novella submissions!

Please read our updated guidelines and submission requirements on our Submittable page prior to uploading your work.

If you have any questions, please e-mail us.

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White

White is a British Fantasy Award-winning novella by Tim Lebbon, originally published in 1999 and now the debut release under his very own Dreaming In Fire Press. The setting is Cornwall, where a group of people are holed up in a manor after the ostensible end of the world. Two of the characters have been stationed here to “keep a check on the radiation levels in the Atlantic Drift, since things had gone to shit in South America and the dirty reactors began to melt down in Brazil.”

The other characters are friends, lovers, or acquaintances who are now more or less trapped together. After losing contact with the outside world when television and radio go silent and the phones stop working, they spend their time dealing with the uncertainty of survival in their own ways. Meanwhile, it is snowing. It snows every night, and by the time they decide it might be in their best interest to travel to the nearest village for news and help, it is already impossible to get through the deep snow.

This is a tale that is grounded in the characters reactions, to their predicament and to each other. And as they find themselves confined to a small section of the manor that they can keep heated, living on the remains of food stored in the pantry, and uncertain of what is going on with civilization as a whole, they are handed another dilemma. There is something outside in the cold, something moving at the periphery of vision, only half seen and terrifying because of it. And then those who have spoken of seeing something out there in the snow begin to die. Ripped apart and left as red splatter in the pure white, they are a warning of what’s to come.

Included with this re-release of White is a short story, “Kissing at Shadows,” which first appeared in Cemetery Dance #36. This is another take on post-apocalyptic survival. Where White is definitely horror, “Kissing” is more of a love story and centers on a man who makes a solitary annual journey to visit his wife. Regardless of the obvious dangers, and the fact that his daughter begs him not to go, he has a promise to keep. A quick, immersive read, and yet quite touching.

I really enjoyed both of these tales, and would certainly recommend them. White is available through Dreaming in Fire Press.

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Hot in December

A thriller is supposed to thrill. It’s supposed to keep you flipping those pages. Make you ask, “What’s going to happen next?” Joe R. Landsdale’s Hot in December does all that. In spades. At 100 pages, the novella moves like a speeding bullet through the warm East Texas night.

Tom Chan has a dilemma. He’s witnessed a fatal hit-and-run and he wants to testify against the scum who turned his next-door neighbor into roadkill. Problem is, the driver’s a vindictive gangster who doesn’t believe in due process. Nonetheless, Tom doesn’t back down. But he’s not going to trust the cops to save his bacon. So he enlists two old war buddies, Cason and Booger—the type of ass-kicking, whacked-out characters readers have come to expect in a Lansdale story—to help him deal with the lowlife and his goons. What ensues is a tension-filled battle of wits and brawn leading to a bloody showdown between the good guys and the bad guys.

Hot in December has all the ingredients of a great Joe Lansdale story: break-neck plotting; honest, raw dialogue; colorful characters; and those amazing metaphors that only Joe can whip up. The story dovetails nicely with his Hap and Leonard stories (in fact the duo even gets a mention) and is sure to please any fans of that series as well as any fans of honest-to-goodness thrillers.

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A Conversation with Bracken MacLeod

I first met Bracken MacLeod at Necon in 2011. After a day of just noticing this semi-scary tattooed bald man with a ferocious goatee, he endeared himself to me with his untethered audacity…making fun at the newly dead Amy Winehouse within minutes of the announcement she had passed. I saw hearts.

So before we delve into the shortish interview he was gracious enough to allow me to conduct, let me tell you what I have learned of the man in the years since Necon. His name is Bracken…that’s exactly like the terrifying sea monster loosed by the Gods in Clash of the Titans, but with a B. B for Badass! He is a very smart and very humble man, a father, husband and former lawyer. He also writes gripping fiction, not always horror but quite often visceral and dark. I’d been lucky enough to read several shorts before Mountain Home arrived at Shiney Acres and I could already count myself a fan. Mountain Home cemented it.

With no further dithering, let’s talk with Mr. MacLeod…

John Boden: I just reviewed your debut novella, Mountain Home, and I wanted to jump right in to discussing it. One of the reasons this novella works on such a personal and chilling level, is that it could have been plucked straight from the headlines. A week doesn’t go by where there isn’t some sort of gun violence, rampage…or some horrific event. Was there one thing in particular that inspired this tale?

Bracken MacLeod: Novella? They all can’t be Under The Dome. You’re right though, Mountain Home isn’t what the big publishers call “marketable length,” even though at fifty-six thousand words, it’s technically a novel. Part of what gave me the freedom to keep it that tight was a conversation I had with one of my literary heroes, John Skipp (who also told me I should never name drop), about a project he was putting together at the time. He was getting ready to launch a line of short novels designed to be all chiller, no filler. Books you could read in the time it took to watch a (long) feature film. I took that to heart, cut all of the padding, and I think that’s what made the rhythm and pacing of this story pop the way it does. But that’s not an answer to your question.

I find real world violence much more frightening than any monster or demon someone can dream up. Right before I started this book, Anders Brevik shot up that summer camp in Norway. I wasn’t inspired by that, but I can’t say that it wasn’t in the back of my mind when I sat down to write. I wanted to tell a locked room story and needed a way to keep a disparate group of people together and under constant stress. Given that in the last thirty years there have been sixty-two different mass shootings in America, it seemed like the most plausible scenario—and one that scares me a whole hell of a lot.

(more…)

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Jack & Jill

I was quite excited to have been offered a chance to review Kealan Patrick Burke’s forthcoming novella, Jack & Jill. I’ll admit up front that this was my first read of Mr. Burke’s; but I’m happy to say that this will certainly not be my last.

The odds are good that you know the nursery rhyme of Jack and Jill. This novella is a darksome meditation on that, with a contemporary glimpse into how such a metaphor could play out in a familial setting.

From the outset, it is clear that the narrator, Gillian, has gone through some tough times in her life, and they are taking their toll on her home life. She spends so much time sleeping that she’s less and less involved with her family; her husband Chris is growing weary of how tired and unfocused she’s been acting, her 9-year-old son Sam is often left neglected, and her teenage daughter Jenny ungraciously rebels by keeping herself isolated from everyone.

Meanwhile, it is in these times of sleep that Gillian dreams—and in these dreams, she is visited by her dead brother John—and by an unforgettably creepy image of her father, wearing a plastic bag around his decomposing head and with rusty coat hanger hooks for hands.

On the surface, Jack and Jill is a moody tale of a woman haunted by her past, with some particularly vivid and hallucinatory dream sequences, but it’s also about the horrors that can stem from too much introspective reflection and miscommunication. As an occasional “intronaut,” myself, I could easily identify with Gillian’s pneumatic outlook on the world around her, and how easily the imagination can play with perception. Mr. Burke perfectly captures this mindset in his portrait of Gillian, and with it created an edgy, dark, and melancholic tale.

There was something else particularly noteworthy about Mr. Burke’s narrative. A writer friend once told me to stay away from opening a tale with a dream sequence, because it’s a clichéd hook; I would argue, having read this, that it should be avoided unless you know how to do it just right—which he clearly did.

Jack & Jill isn’t all familial drama, however; make no mistake about it—this is a horror novella, period. The dream sequences were literally nightmarish, and done with such frightful detail that there were times where I actually exclaimed aloud at what I, the detached voyeur, was helplessly witnessing. It’s also worth mentioning that there was one sequence toward the middle that, while I won’t spoil it, I’ll just say has got to be one of the most disturbing scenes to take place in a bathroom (this side of the Overlook Hotel or the Bates Motel). This novella was creepy, through and through.

I wound up finishing Jack & Jill with my cheeks puffed out and my breath escaping slowly. I’d had no idea where it was headed, much less with any idea of how I wanted it to end; because of this that, I was a little mixed about its ultimate destination, but I was more than a little satisfied with the journey there.  Jack & Jill was a harrowing read, riddled with emotion and elegantly told with dark beauty.

Jack & Jill will be published in e-book form this December. It was previously a print-to-order limited edition hardcover from Cemetery Dance.

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Diegeses

I’m no stranger to the deliriously literate bizarro offerings of D. Harlan Wilson. I even had the pleasure of interviewing the man, an interview which proved almost as difficult to navigate as his prose yet is so damned intriguing you can’t give up.

His newest, a short book that is split between a pair of novellas, is called Diegeses, a word that means a style of fiction wherein the narrator is telling or recounting, as opposed to showing and enacting. But you can rest assured that a simple structure like that would be bent and twisted in the capable strong hands of Mr. Wilson.

The first novella is entitled “The Bureau of Me” and concerns the strange plight of a man called Curd. Curd may or may not be entirely human. He likes to drink to excess, to clear his head for thinking and plotting. He likes to fuck his assistant, often, and in strange places. He trudges through a futuristic city where people are eaten, literally and figuratively. He attempts to find the agenda and faces behind the mysterious Bureau of Me, who have been harassing him to join their ranks. During his quest he encounters sex, copious amounts of alcohol, moth men, stuttering and strange realities…and then shit gets really weird.

The second half is the novella “The Idaho Reality.” Our main character is once again Curd, although in this tale he goes by the name and persona of soap star Seneca Beaulac. This second stage is much harder to decipher than the lead in. The words seem to want to leap from the page and gouge the eyes that don’t quite comprehend. A stranger and different animal than its predecessor. Still deftly intriguing.

Diegeses is higher brow than a lot of bizarro. It is a book that must be read and then re-read, some sections multiple times, and even then you may not fully understand what’s going on…but damned if it isn’t entertaining and interesting.

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Tribesmen

One of the greatest rewards that comes from publishing Shock Totem is being able to watch young writers evolve within—and sometimes beyond—their craft. Even when I read something less than great, there remains something special about it.

It’s in the knowing that they’re going to eventually come back with something that will knock my socks off, I think. There’s an it factor, involved—easy to see, but impossible to explain.

And Adam Cesare has it.

Tribesmen is Adam’s debut novella, and it’s a thing of bloody-good brilliance. Setting the bar even higher, it was published under John Skipp’s new imprint, Ravenous Shadows, which is quite a place to make a literary home.

The book centers around a cast of filmmaking misfits attempting to create a movie that is less an homage to and more of a blatant rip-off of the Italian exploitation horror films from the 80s. In the spirit of Ruggero Deodato’s feel-awful classic from 1980, Cannibal Holocaust, Cesare’s Tribesmen takes place on a small Caribbean island, where the indigenous people become much more than visual props by instead making their directorial debut.

This is a character-driven book fueled by fear, greed, lust, violence, and the blood-red lure of cinematic glory. Tribesmen is a smart, visceral, and poignant commentary on the ugly side of humanity. Which, in this case, is a beautiful thing.

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