Tag Archives: Richard Thomas

Paper Tigers

I have been excited to read this novel since before it was written. No, I’m not psychic…well, maybe a little. But I recall a conversation on our forum, probably more than two years ago, where Damien told me she was going to soon be working on a story about a haunted photo album. I was in from that moment and waited patiently for it to materialize. This year that finally happened.

Paper Tigers is the haunting and sad story of Alison, a young woman scarred by disaster and flame. She has retreated so far within herself there seemed no hope of coaxing her back. Her mother smothers her and the public looks at her (in her mind) as a monstrosity. She drags herself through the days and nights—until the night she goes out walking and visits an odd little thrift shop and finds the antique photo album that reeks of smoke and years. Upon taking the album home, Alison begins to see things, hear things, feel things. She is lured to the promises within the book and finds that the prices are high and contracts have a long and strong reach.

Damien writes with strong and elegant prose. Her words flow with an ease and beauty that adds to the already intriguing premise. The emotional depth here is staggering, and while it is very easy to dismiss this novel as another haunted thing tale, it is so much more. The characters are so realistic and hurting that you ache with them and for them. I’ve been reading this author since she first started entering stories in the flash fiction contests we used to host on our forum. And it has been a pleasure to watch her grow, releasing her first novel, Ink, and her collection, Sing Me Your Scars. I’ll gladly read whatever she puts out.

Paper Tigers is available from Dark House Press.

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Burnt Tongues

Transgressive fiction is just a spiffy gold badge for seriously fucked up and off-kilter stories to wear so they seem a bit more high class than they are. I love weird fiction. I like stuff that is dark and bleak and just plain strange. A taste that began when I first read the works of Robert Aickman and continued through to the heady waters of bizarro that we have around us today.

I must admit that I am not much of a fan of the work of Chuck Palahniuk. I find a great deal of his work a bit pretentious and overly obnoxious for no other reason than to be just that, but I hung in and accepted the challenge to review Burnt Tongues. All stories were hand picked by Palahniuk and all of them rabidly wild and unsettling—and like any good scar, they’ll itch and remind you of their existence long after you’ve tried to forget them.

“Charlie,” by Chris Lewis Carter, in which a lonely man brings an abused cat to a veterinarian who proceeds to tell a tragic story from his childhood, one that seems to have an all too tight noose around the present.

“Melody,” by Michael De Vito Jr., shows us a sweet love affair missing a side and a few other things. “F is for Fake,” by Tyler Jones, is the story of an imposter and the lengths he will go to prove a point. Phil Jourdan’s “Mind and Solider” is a deeply troubling tale of a crippled veteran and his encounter with a neighbor boy.

“Ingredients,” by Richard Lemmer, reads like an urban legend, woven around a twisted retail game and the grisly outcome. Matt Egan paints a tear-stained picture of a girl justifying her own tragedy with that of another in “A Vodka Kind of Girl.” One of my favorites from the collection is Brandon Tietz’s “Dietary,” is a gut-punching window into cubicle politics and reindeer games with sharper teeth and parasites.

My favorite of the bunch is “Bike,” by Bryan Howie. This one has stayed with me, so simple and brilliant, I can’t even give a synopsis for fear of draining any of its power. “Heavier Petting,” by Brien Piechos, is a gruesome tableau of relationship woes and secrets, with a little bit of dog-fucking thrown in.

The closer, “Zombie Whorehouse,” by Daniel W. Broallt, saunters up to you while you’re already weary from the others and smacks you upside the head and grabs your face to make you read it. A sick and brutal tale of a man undercover sent to expose a zombie whorehouse from within, and much more.

The collection is solid and while not all of the stories left me gobsmacked, quite a number of them did. But it left me feeling dirty and ashamed, like I’d just watched Gummo again. If you like your fiction left of center and brutal, unafraid to hurt you and unwilling to hide behind the flowery garments of literary trends, this is your shit. Embrace it.

Available through Medallion Press.

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Shock Totem #8.5—Now Available!

Shock Totem Publications is proud to announce that our second holiday issue is available for purchase!

Cover art by Mikio Murakami.

Love is in the air. Can you feel it? The most wonderful and diabolical emotion of them all, and we’re going to celebrate it. Ostensibly as a Valentine’s Day issue, but really…it’s all about love.

And horror, of course.

In this special edition of Shock Totem you will find “Clocks,” a beautifully tragic tale told by master storyteller Darrell Schweitzer. “Silence,” by Robert J. Duperre, is a gut-wrenching tale of love, war, and death. You won’t soon forget this one. In “Broken Beneath the Paperweight of Your Ghosts,” Damien Angelica Walters tells of a man and his tattered heart. Catherine Grant’s “Sauce” teaches us that sometimes things left behind are best left alone. Tim Waggoner examines the perfect lover in “The Man of Her Dreams.” “Hearts of Women, Hearts of Men,” by Zachary C. Parker, follows a battered woman struggling to free herself from an abusive relationship while a serial killer is on the loose. In total, nine tales await you…

Like our previous holiday issue (Christmas 2011), the fiction is paired with nonfiction, this time by Violet LeVoit, Jassen Bailey, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, C.W. LaSart, Bracken MacLeod, John Dixon, Brian Hodge, and more. True tales of first loves, failed relationships, misfortune, death, sex, and…meatloaf.

Love has its dark side, folks, and fittingly this issue has very sharp teeth.

Come see why Shock Totem is billed as “…one of the strongest horror fiction magazines on the market today” (Hellnotes).

Table of Contents:

* Clocks, by Darrell Schweitzer
* Lose and Learn, by Brian Hodge (Holiday Recollection)
* Hearts of Women, Hearts of Men, by Zachary C. Parker
* Unlearning to Lie, by Mason Bundschuh (Holiday Recollection)
* Sauce, by Catherine Grant
* Something to Chew On, by Kristi Petersen Schoonover (Holiday Recollection)
* Silence, by Robert J. Duperre
* Hanging Up the Gloves, by John Dixon (Holiday Recollection)
* Golden Years, by John Boden
* Akai, by Jassen Bailey (Holiday Recollection)
* She Cries, by K. Allen Wood
* The Same Deep Water As You, by Bracken MacLeod (Holiday Recollection)
* One Lucky Horror Nerd, by James Newman (Holiday Recollection)
* Omen, by Amanda C. Davis
* The Scariest Holiday, by C.W. LaSart (Holiday Recollection)
* Broken Beneath the Paperweight of Your Ghosts, by Damien Angelica Walters
* Everything’s Just Methadone and I Like It, by Violet LeVoit (Holiday Recollection)
* The Sickest Love is Denial, by Richard Thomas (Holiday Recollection)
* The Man of Her Dreams, by Tim Waggoner
* 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.

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.

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.

As always, thank you for the support!

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The New Black

The New Black is a collection of twenty neo-noir stories. That is the promise from the back cover of this new anthology put out by the fine folks at Dark House Press and edited by Richard Thomas. No, not the guy who played John Boy on The Waltons. This cat is cooler. Way cooler.

Now, full disclosure: I have no idea what neo-noir means. I don’t much give a flying fig about genres and sub-genres and their sub-genres. I like good stories, interesting stories. I love strange stories, especially. And I loved this anthology. Loved!

After a forward by Laird Barron, we get to the stories. Opening with a tragic and deeply troubling tale by Stephen Graham Jones, “Father Son, Holy Rabbit,” which stuck in my head for days! This is followed by Paul Tremblay’s “It’s Against the Law to Feed the Ducks.” Another gut-puncher of a story about loss and regret and fear…and love. I almost jumped ship after this one, as I was not sure I could troop through another eighteen tales of this caliber of heartbreak. But I soldiered on.

Lindsay Hunter’s “That Baby” is a sideshow freakazoid parental nightmare. “The Truth and All It’s Ugly,” by Kyle Minor, is a disorienting re-tooling of Pinocchio or Blade Runner. Kind of. Craig Clevenger’s “Act of Contrition” gives faith fangs and something sharper and deadlier. With “The Familiars,” author Micaela Morrissette delivers what is my favorite of the bunch, a stunningly beautiful and terrifying tale of a child and his imaginary friend. Really, this one will knock you out.

“Dial Tone,” by Benjamin Percy, is a tale of loneliness and loss of one’s self. Roxane Gay’s “How” is a unique and wonderfully odd little story told in short instructional blocks. Roy Kesy’s “Instituto” is about vanity and its ultimate price. Craig Davidson’s “Rust and Bone” concerns a boxer and revenge. “Blue Hawaii,” by Rebecca Jones-Howe, is a scathing diorama of a deeply flawed pair and their demons. Joe Meno’s “Children Are the Only Ones Who Blush,” is a stunning and strange drama about an ostracized and pained young man and his struggles with getting on in his world.

“Christopher Hitchens,” by Vanessa Veselka, tackles faith and loss and stars grief and dolphins. “Dollhouse,” by Craig Wallwork, is an effective haunted house story, and that’s a very simplified synopsis. Trust me. “His Footsteps Are Made of Soot,” by Nik Korpon, is a haunting tale of home surgery, resentment, and mortality. Tara Laskowski’s “The Etiquette of Homicide” is a how-to guide to being a killer for hire. This story has one of the best last lines EVER!

“Dredge,” by Matt Bell, shows us a twisted glimpse into the lonely and odd circumstances of a sad man and the dead girl he finds. Antonia Crane turns in the metaphorically titled “Sunshine for Adrienne,” wherein we wallow in the tragic misery of a very broken girl. Richard Lange’s “Fuzzyland” is a brutal excursion into denial and running from yourself. And then we hit the final story, Brian Evenson’s “Windeye,” a delirious nightmare about a house with an extra window.

The New Black is a great collection of incredibly unique fiction. I honestly liked every story in here, and I usually don’t say that about an anthology. It was also nice to encounter so many authors with whom I was unfamiliar. A strong compilation of talent. Very strong.

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