Tag Archives: Tom Moran

Rockin’ and a-Shockin’

This weekend is the yearly Rock and Shock event out in Worcester, MA. Like last year I’ll be sharing a booth with Tom and Billie from Sideshow Press/Gallows Press. We’ll also be sharing space with author and owner of T.R.O. Publishing, Robert J. Duperre, and artist Jesse Young, who did the excellent cover art and illustrations for our edition of James Newman’s The Wicked.

There will also be some lesser-known celebrities in attendance, such as Jack Ketchum, Jason Mewes, Dee Snider, Robert Patrick, Michael Rooker, Kane Hodder, William Forsythe, and some dude name Robert Eggland…or something like that.

The convention runs from 5 PM Friday till 5 PM Sunday. So stop by, say hello, buy some books. It should be a great time.

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Shades of Lovecraft

Shades of Lovecraft collects eight tales that are competent and thoughtful tributes to one of the genres founding fathers, heavy on influence and tentacles.

We begin with “Dead City.” After a flood, a town resident refuses to evacuate with most of the populace, he bonds with a strange old man as they realize this flood is merely a doorway to bigger, beastlier things.

“Ensnared” finds the crew of a fishing vessel in haunted waters, hauling in a catch they would have done better to have cut loose.

“The Shimmering” is a wonderful old-school adventure into the more science fiction side of Lovecraftian tributes. A man is the sole heir of his missing uncle’s estate. Upon moving in he makes odd discoveries through reading the volumes in the library. Then he notices bizarre lights in the woods, and upon exploring them finds that there are things much stranger than the lights out there.

All the stories in this collection are strong and well-written. But as it is with a lot of Lovecraft’s original work, they can get a little tedious. Rather, they don’t all resonate. The stories that left an impression, I singled out above; and while I didn’t mention the rest, it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy them.

With Shades of Lovecraft, Paul Melniczek delivers a lovingly rendered homage to one of the true masters of modern horror literature. Recommended.

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From the Murky Depth

After the Mississippi river floods leaves a majority of southern Missouri underwater, good ol’ boy David Miller sets out by boat to see if he can “be of any help” to the neighboring communities. After making his way through flooded fields and soggy streets, he finds himself in the odd little burg of Clayton.

Consisting of strange shacks built on stilts and a boardwalk all above the flood line, it’s like the residents of Clayton knew the flood was coming. David shores up and pays a visit to the town, but the pale and unfriendly denizens, with their glossy fish eyes and strange postures, unsettle him and he leaves.

It’s then that he encounters a couple who fill him in on the town’s ungodly history and their diabolical plan to bring about something this world has never seen—and will never survive.

In From the Murky Depths, Brett Williams offers up a squirming sliver of modern Lovecraftian goodness. Well written and smooth, this novella is a fun, quick read.

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The Smell of Cherries

The Smell of Cherries, by Jeffrey Goddin, is a short collection of horror tales. The ideas within are great, but they all seem to suffer from the same malady: They could have used some extra fleshing out.

Starting off with the titular tale, “The Smell Of Cherries,” we have the time-tested “new security guard on the night beat seeing weird shit” plot, mixed with a bit of the “government experiment gone wrong” trope. It ends abruptly and with little luster.

“Year of the Serpent” finds a truck driver reconnecting with an old buddy and his new girlfriend…who reminds him of a past lover. One long dead.

The third story and my favorite of the bunch is “Night Shoot.” A pair of cops respond to the report of a body being found down by the docks. They find a lot of strange things that don’t quite add up and soon wish they had ignored the call. Even though this story is a bit of a mess—plot points are flirted with and then not ever really expanded on—the vagueness sort of works. It’s more like an episode of a cheesy horror-anthology series than a story.

“The Pacific Club” is the final and strongest story in the book. A nice mystery, but one that reads a little too compacted.

As I said at the start, I think the main issue with this collection would be the cramped feel of the stories; they all hint to larger aspirations that went unrealized.

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Hacks

The Serial Killer trope is a hard one to crack. I mean, we’ve all seen hundreds of movies that have had hundreds of imitators…it’s like a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox. With Hacks, Brian Knight delivers a gore-drenched love letter to the “stalker in the woods” corner or our horror estate. While not going above and beyond with originality, it makes up for it with strong characters and detailed plotting.

A fine young talent receives an invite to a prestigious retreat for writers. He is ecstatic and eager to attend, not only to hobnob with the elite of his field but to get away from the soon-to-be ex-wife and her unabashed bitchiness.

Once there, the body count starts to rise.

As I mentioned earlier, the plot is fairly cookie-cutter stuff. Where Knight shines is with his rich character portrayals—most of which are based on actual writers I would wager. The writing is strong and the pacing excellent.

Writing is about entertaining the reader. If you can do that, you can’t ask for more. Knight does that with Hacks, and he does it well.

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Bleeding the Vein

I had no idea what to expect with Bleeding the Vein. The back cover synopsis was cryptic and the artwork strange. I was also unfamiliar with author T.G. Arsenault.

So I shrugged and dove in.

Eddie Townsend used to be a Naval Officer who fell for a Filipino stripper on his first tour of duty. In exchange for sex, Eddie is drawn into an ever escalating quid-pro-quo, with her demands growing more and more bizarre. When he finally makes the discovery that this woman isn’t even human, he has to kill her.

Now, Eddie Townsend is an alcoholic and shambling joke in his home town, spoken of in hushed tones or behind cupped palms.

A vile stench begins to waft about the village. A smell of death and rot. Then strange things happen to the pregnant ladies of Shadow Creek. Things Eddie recognizes. Things Eddie thought couldn’t happen. Not again, anyway.

Arsenault delivers a truly original take on the “evil in a small town” trope, giving us a fresh creature to skulk in our nightmares. I’m not going to spoil it by giving it’s name or origins, but I was compelled to Google it after completion.

Bleeding the Vein is a good old-fashioned horror novel. A small town, its people, and an evil monster. Classic!

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Progeny

After reading Erik Williams’ chapbook, The Reverend’s Powder, I was sold. His lean prose and vicious brutality made me smile and wince at the same time. So when Gallows Press sent me a box of books to review, and I saw his name among them, his was the first to be read.

Progeny concerns sort-of-private detective Frank Baldwin, who does stuff for money. Not handjobs in the bus-station men’s room kind of stuff. He finds people and things for a fee. When he’s hired by a man to locate his missing daughter, a pop megastar, and return her to him for $100,000, it seems too good to be true.

Baldwin uses his familiarity with Tijuana to his advantage but soon discovers that this case is nothing like he expected. Nothing is what it initially seems. The missing girl seems tethered to a vicious death cult, nightmares that could be prophetic, and a terrifying arachnoid god.

A clean and razor-sharp story, Progeny reminded me a lot of William Hjortsberg’s Falling Angel, only in a modern setting.

If I had any qualms at all with this novel it would be that it’s too short. I wanted more. I hope to read more of Erik’s work. He definitely has the goods.

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Stokers, Flashes and Black Ink

Later this month, at this year’s Bram Stoker Awards™ banquet, to be held at the World Horror Convention in Utah, Mercedes and I do battle. To the death!

Okay, maybe not to the death.

And maybe it’s not so much a battle.

But we are both lucky enough to have stories included in an anthology up for a Stoker Award. That’s worthy of a battle roar or two!

Demons: Encounters with the Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, and the Possessed, edited by John Skipp, features Mercedes’s short story “Daisies and Demons”; while my story, “A Deeper Kind of Cold,” appears in Epitaphs: The Journal of New England Horror Writers, edited by Tracy L. Carbone.

Though some would call me biased, I think both anthologies are worthy of the nod. As I’m sure the other three anthologies up for the award are. So may the best one survi—win! May the best one win.

RAAAAAAAAWR!

In other news, John and I have had some very short pieces—by me, “Skipping Shingles”; by John, “Wishes” and “Always Never Enough”—published in Necon E-books’s just-released Best of 2011 flash fiction anthology.

This e-book features all winning and honorable-mention entries from their monthly flash fiction contests throughout 2011, plus a few additional stories from the cover artist, Jill Bauman.

As well, Sideshow Press has finally released the seventh installment in their Black Ink series of extreme fiction (i.e. not meant for children or the weak-stomached). This one features John’s disturbingly twisted “Peter Peter,” which he calls a “tender and sweet, family-friendly tale about the wages of sin.”

I also hear he’s selling bridges in New York.

If any of these books interest you, click on the cover images to purchase.

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Guest Post: Love of the End Product

Batten down the hatches, buckle your wigs, Lee Thompson is in the house!

If you’re unfamiliar with Lee or his work, I predict that will change in the near future. Steadily making his way up the small-press ladder, 2011 is shaping up to be Lee’s breakout year. Let’s do a quick rundown of the year thus far…

His debut novel, Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children, and the novella Iron Butterflies Rust were released through Delirium Books; a second novella, As I Embrace My Jagged Edges, will be available through Sideshow Press in the weeks ahead; his short fiction was published in The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1 (“This Final December Day”), Dark Discoveries #18 (“Crawl”), Shock Totem #4 (“Beneath the Weeping Willow”), and is forthcoming in the anthology Hacked-up Holiday Massacre (“We Run Races with Goblin Troopers”). Breakout year or not, Lee Thompson is making a hell of a noise.

Enigmatic, charismatic, and a genuinely good dude, Lee is hopefully destined for big things. Call me a fan.

As part of his 2011 Blog Crawl, he’s stopped by Shock Totem HQ to discuss his journey from dreamer to professional writer. Dig!

LOVE OF THE END PRODUCT

by Lee Thompson

I’ve hungered to make a career of writing. To get past my inadequacies and lay it all out there, the good and bad.

I was a horrible student. I think I’d have been deep into a writing career if I had cared about all of this when I was younger. But I didn’t even care about myself then. And I’m glad I didn’t find this passion until so late, because I got to live, I absorbed so much, and there are multitudes of emotions, hard-won lessons, regrets and shame, pride and rebellion that I went through and now get to draw from.

I remember being so poor (my own fault) those first five years before I’d published a single thing that I always had to use other people’s computers to write on. I was an inconvenience and they didn’t have to let me do that, but they did. I submitted a lot of stories on library computers and got a lot of rejections because I really wasn’t very good. But I was hungry to improve.

Then something happened last year where I turned a corner. It was like everything finally fell into place. I think it was that I learned so much from my buddies Shaun Ryan and Kevin Wallis, and I started studying novels I loved, hand copying them—in notebooks, on old printer paper, in legal pads—to learn more even though it was time-consuming, and I realize now that I stopped writing the first ideas that popped in my head. I started writing for me.

When I began this blog tour my first Division novel wasn’t even released yet and here we are with Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children out, as well as my second book Iron Butterflies Rust.

I think I’m very fortunate. I sold my first two books to Delirium Books, a publisher I love, one who has discovered rising stars and cares about the stories and a writer’s career. A publisher who has put out a lot of great material that first took shape in the minds of my heroes (Tom Piccirilli, Greg Gifune, Douglas Clegg, etc.) Not a bad way to lose my virginity. My publisher believes in me. He’s honest about what works for him and what doesn’t, but still asks questions that matter, and wants my input.

How awesome is that?

Very fucking awesome.

So, how does it feel to see your dreams coming true?

It’s wonderful. And it’s a little scary. And it’s very surreal. It’s still sinking in that I’m a professional now. I pour my heart and soul into my work. I use a lot of stuff from real life, from when I was stupid, when I was a kid, moments when I possessed that elusive quality called commonsense, when I was a drunk, dreams I’ve had, and memories and questions that torment me.

And I have friends like Shaun, Kevin, Jassen, Susan, Cate, Mark, Sam, Bec, Peter, Mike, Mercedes, Wanda, John, Nick, Doug, Ken, Neal, Glen, Jennifer, Kate, and so many others who support me, not because I have to beg them or bullshit like that, but because they care.

Any success I have is the result of all those people, and editors like Shane Staley, James Beach, Steve Clark, Adam Bradley, Tom Moran, Ken Wood and lots of others who encouraged me, and earned my respect because of their kindness, honesty, heart and passion.

I could fill pages with people who have helped me along the way these past few years. But that’s kinda frightening too. More and more people I feel I owe something: for putting down their hard-earned money, for spreading the word, for giving feedback, and most of all for their faith and their time. I’m more grateful than you might ever realize. So a huge thanks to all of you.

I never realized how much it would thrill me to get comments from people I don’t know telling me they loved this book or that short story. What an eye opener. It means a lot. It means, in some small way, I’ve connected with another soul (sometimes without ever sharing a conversation). I adore that beyond words.

Thanks to all those who have read and commented and spent time with me.

And a huge thanks to those kind souls who let me blog on their pages.

So much has happened in a short time, but hell, I’m just getting started.

For anyone who missed earlier guest blogs on this tour see them here.

Rock on, you bad mofos.

Lee Thompson

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