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Tag Archives: Reviews
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.”
Marta is a bitchy ball-buster who knows Felix will do anything for her. Although unsure of Marta’s plan to cross into Mexico to film a documentary about illegal immigrants, he agrees to help her, as Marta knew he would. She is also hoping to find out what happened to her parents, from whom she was separated as a little girl.
She plans to wear a tiny camera, set into a crucifix, around her neck, which will provide feedback to Felix’s computer.
After one of their frequent fights, Marta takes off into Mexico, leaving Felix behind. But Marta, while tough, is no match for the crazy family that kidnaps her before she can cross back into America. Not only do they want her to mate with the mentally-challenged but insanely strong son, they have kidnapped others who will provide meat for their taco stand.
Marta realizes this and is horrified because she had eaten at the stand earlier that day—yet she is also craving the forbidden food when its aroma envelops the house. She also has to fight for her life against the giant son, who is a wrestler—but he doesn’t go up against other wrestlers. His opponents are Mexicans trying to get to the border, and are no match for the brutality they find themselves trying to survive.
Felix realizes Marta is in danger and does everything he can to get to her. But will he be successful or sautéed?
This is extreme horror at its best. It’s suspenseful, nasty, and completely disgusting. I loved it. Shane McKenzie doesn’t pull his punches; he lets his readers have it without one shred of remorse.
Muerte Con Carne is another literary knife to the gut from a great author.
Carol Gunderson’s ex-husband stalks her almost every day. If he’s not harassing her, then he’s got one of his creepy friends doing it. Finally reaching her breaking point, Carol convinces her sister Brenda to get out of town for a canoe trip.
But Carol doesn’t realize her ex knows where she’s going, and won’t let her get away that easily.
However, Mitch isn’t the worst that Carol and Brenda will encounter. An old man lives in a weird cabin deep in the woods. The old man has terrible thoughts, and acts upon them with the help of his unnatural dog.
When Carol and Brenda get lost after their canoe tips, they are drawn to the cabin in search of food and shelter. At first Meyer is very welcoming, and the women feel safe, knowing they will probably be rescued soon.
As the days pass, though, they realize something is very wrong with Meyer and in the cabin. And there is someone—or something—in the basement that doesn’t want them to leave.
Northwoods Deep, by Joel Arnold, is a great story, evil and frightening. The suspense will have you turning the pages, reluctant to stop reading until you find out what will happen to Carol and Brenda. There are a lot of twists and turns, and once you find yourself attached to certain characters, you may even find yourself yelling “No!” at times. The story will draw you in that much.
The last story I read by Arnold, Death Rhythm, was an ominous tale, but quiet, almost elegant. Northwoods Deep is different—nasty, scary, and relentless. I loved it.
One of the great things about reviewing is the opportunity to read new authors. You can tell if you’ve just discovered someone special to keep an eye on.
Will Ludwigsen is someone to watch. This collection of short stories is nothing short of riveting. Called In Search Of and Others because of the author’s fascination with the TV series of the same name that ran from 1976 to 1982, the stories themselves also feature people searching for answers to the questions in their mundane lives.
From the foreword to the story notes, this collection will keep you turning the pages. And don’t skip the introduction by Jeffrey Ford; it’s a great read in itself.
The first story, “In Search Of,” questions are answered—maybe some of your own—in a very satisfying way. I found it fascinating, and hoping some of the answers were true.
“The Speed of Dreams” has a little girl questioning if you can gain more time in your life through dreams. It was a really interesting premise with a breathtaking ending.
“We Were Wonder Scouts” reminded me a bit of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Surreal and creepy, the story will leave you wondering just what went on. But you are left to draw your own conclusions.
One of my favorite stories, “Remembrance is Something Like a House,” creeped me out in a great way. A house desperately needs to tell its story to a former owner, and searches for years until it finds him. It sounds out there, but after reading this, you will believe that this house did what it needed to do.
All of the stories in this collection are well-written and I enjoyed them all very much. If you like short stories, you will absolutely love In Search Of and Others. Definitely not your typical horror stories, there is a depth to these tales you don’t usually find in the genre.
If you’re looking for something that will grab your emotions, then this is what you are looking for.
The Horror Society is an online group where like-minded writers, artists, editors and other professionals meet to discuss their love of all things horror. Dangers Untold is an anthology conceived by Scott Goriscak and edited by Jennifer Brozek. This anthology does not contain the usual monsters; rather, the editor wanted unusual monsters and situations, and the contributing authors delivered.
The anthology starts with a great story, “Haunted,” by Erik Scott de Bie. A man sees his life in mental snapshots, conversations and interactions burned into his brain. He cannot escape them, or edit them; he constantly relives every embarrassment, every mistake he’s made. When his girlfriend tells him something he knows he’ll never be able to forget, he takes care of the newly-made memory in a horrific way.
If you’re afraid of flying, that fear will be reinforced big-time when you read Jason V Brock’s “Black Box.” Remember the episode of The Twilight Zone that featured William Shatner as an airplane passenger who saw a gremlin on the wing? In “Black Box,” that was based on a true story—and it’s happening again.
You wouldn’t think that cute and cuddly stuffed animals could be creepy, but you’d be wrong. In “Innards,” by Erik Gustafson, a little girl discovers that her toy animals come to life—but not in the cute, Disney kind of way. These plushy animals have TEETH.
The last story, “Man with a Canvas Bag,” by Gary Braunbeck, is gut-wrenching, especially if you’re a parent. I can’t really tell much without giving a lot away, so I’ll just say that this story is the best one in a book of great tales. It’s obvious what’s going to happen, but you’re powerless not to read it because it’s so gripping. Fantastic story.
Dangers Untold is one of the best anthologies I’ve read this year, put out by a little group a lot of people haven’t heard of yet. If you love anthologies as much as I do, this is one you definitely need to add to your collection.
Brian Sammons has reviewed Beautiful Sorrows over at the Hellnotes website.
“Pass up this feast of fancy and fear and you’ll have nothing left but famine and no one wants that. Beautiful Sorrows is beautifully done from start to finish. Consider it highly recommended.”
A fine fellow by the name of Bibliorex has reviewed Shock Totem #5 over at the Tales from the Bookworm’s Lair website.
“If the first four issues are anything like this one, Shock Totem is one of the strongest horror fiction magazines on the market today.”
Sheri White has reviewed Beautiful Sorrows, by Mercedes M. Yardley, over at the Horror Fiction Review website.
“One of the more poetic stories in the collection, “The Boy Who Hangs Stars,” reads like a fairy tale for adults. It’s beautifully written, telling a tale of a boy who hangs the stars in the sky, and the girl who loves him.”
Full Disclosure: Sheri White has recently become part of our extended staff of writers.
How important is a review? In today’s publishing world, especially on Amazon.com and its international sites, a good review (four or five stars) is worth quite a bit. Dozens of them are priceless.
Shock Totem does most of its sales—nearly 400 a month and rising—through Amazon. The bulk of which are digital sales. That’s a great thing, particularly for our authors. Readers are their lifeblood. Ours as well, but while readers keep us afloat on a pride level, we need revenue to sustain us for years to come. Priced at $0.99 (the magazine) and $2.99 (The Wicked), four hundred digital sales comes out to, roughly, $150 a month. We’ll take it. There was a time, after all, when we were making much less.
But each of our issues costs around $1,500 to produce. Upfront, out of pocket. As any business owner will tell you, we’d love to pay for an entire issue using profit from sales. Self-sustaining. That’s the goal.
Now, this post isn’t intended to come off so oh-woe-is-me. We knew all of this going in, and we’re committed to continuing to produce quality fiction in our magazine and other products. But you can help us. Greatly, in fact.
The debut issue of Shock Totem is our biggest seller. Thus far in August, it’s outselling all of our other releases three to one. This is typical for every month. On Amazon, where it matters most, our debut has 21 reviews. That’s twelve more than the closest second, which is issue #2, with nine reviews.
Why does this matter? Because Amazon has a ranking algorithm, among other things, that helps authors sell books. One of the biggest theories, and it’s a good one, is that the more four- and five-star reviews a book has, the more it is shown to potential buyers.
Again, our debut issue has at least a dozen more reviews than any of our other books. Signs point to Yes, the algorithm is real.
So how can you help? By posting reviews of our work. They don’t have to be long or have literary flair; they just need to be honest. (And preferably four or five stars.)
The more our sales increase, the longer we’ll be around. When so many publications are using Kickstarter to fund their projects, we’d like to earn people’s money. So if you’d be so kind, please consider reviewing anything of ours that you have read. We’d be very grateful.
In parting, and this applies to not just our books but any book, please note the difference in ratings between sites.
Three stars on Goodreads is not the same as three stars on Amazon. (There is another theory that any review given with less than four stars on Amazon seriously impacts a book’s rankings—kicks it right into the gutter, in fact. Again, this is a theory, but based on authors’ experience, it’s a good one.) For instance, a two-star review on Goodreads should be a three-star review on Amazon, as both mean it was “okay.” Therefore, a three-star review on Goodreads should be a four-star review on Amazon, which helps the author quite a deal more. Again, in theory.
And finally, thank you! This month marks the four-year anniversary of when John, Nick, and I started Shock Totem. It’s been a hell of a ride so far. Help us keep the wheels on!
There is nothing more pleasurable than becoming so engrossed in a book that, at the end, I look out the window and wonder: What happened to the sun? What time is it?
I consumed Wrath James White’s Sacrifice (Sinister Grin Press, September 2011) in one sitting. White is quickly becoming one of my new favorite horror writers, and for good reason. Known for his extreme take on the genre, this book has everything for anyone who enjoys that overwhelming feeling of uneasiness, like bugs crawling over your skin, and you can never seem to brush them off.
The story starts with a bang, and never relents. After a man’s eerie encounter with a young girl, his dog (along with nearly every other living creature around) eats him alive. Detective John Malloy, Las Vegas Homicide, hurries to the scene, only to find that there is little left of the man’s body. None of it makes sense. Weird cases like these are the ones he hates the most, and though this isn’t the weirdest he’s seen, it ranks right up there.
The bodies start piling up, each one attacked and eaten by animals, insects, and children. And, if he didn’t already have enough on his plate, he and his partner, Mohammed Rafik, are assigned to a series of missing persons cases involving little girls. When they hear about a voodoo princess named Delilah, who may have the power to remove people’s fears and anger, Malloy believes his cases are connected, and this woman might be the key to how.
With over-the-top gore and violence, White delivers a tale that will leave his readers begging for Delilah to come and take their fears away. Yet, when I finished the book, I felt strangely satisfied—a feeling delivered by only a handful of the contemporary horror writers I have read.
If you’ve got the stomach to handle the blood and guts of White’s extreme horror, this is definitely a book you want to read.