Shock Totem Issue #5 Is Out!

Ken, the editor of Shock Totem and our lovely hand model, shows off the smoky beauty that is Shock Totem Issue #5.  Due to fluctuations in the universe, this issue is rather late, but she has arrived and she’s gorgeous!

This issue of Shock Totem is yet another eclectic mix of horror fiction and nonfiction, featuring previously unpublished stories from the likes of Ari Marmell, Darrell Schweitzer, Joe Mirabello, Mekenzie Larsen, and others. There is also a five-part illustrated microfiction serial, by Kurt Newton, which is something new for us; plus a conversation with horror legend Jack Ketchum, narrative nonfiction by Nick Contor, reviews and more.  I also contributed my first editorial, which was extremely exciting!

The full table of contents is as follows:

* Taking Root: An Editorial, by Mercedes M. Yardley
* In Deepest Silence, by Ari Marmell
* Girl and the Blue Burqa, by D. Thomas Mooers
* Digging in the Dirt: A Conversation with Jack Ketchum, by John Boden
* Hide-and-Seek, by F.J. Bergmann (Poetry)
* Eyes of a Stranger: An Essay, by Nick Contor
* Postmortem, by Kurt Newton
* Jimmy Bunny, by Darrell Schweitzer
* Strange Goods and Other Oddities (Reviews)
* Little Knife Houses, by Jaelithe Ingold (2011 Shock Totem Flash Fiction Contest Winner)
* Canon, by Anaea Lay
* Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes, Part 3, by John Boden and Simon Marshall-Jones
* The Catch, by Joe Mirabello
* Three Strikes, by Mekenzie Larsen
* To ‘Bie or Not to ‘Bie, by Sean Eads
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)

As of right now, you can order this issue—and past issues, which are all still available—directly from us or through Amazon, in both print ($6.99) and digital ($2.99) formats.

I hope you enjoy!


Sorry For Being So Awesome

There’s even a cookie that says it.  No joke! They’re made by The Bitter Baking Co and I actually won some of them from a blog contest ran on the 5StyleHigh blog. I won them a long time ago, actually, and ate them, and sent some to Ken at Shock Totem basically mocking him for his unpopularity.  Jen, from the blog, actually did a little write-up on me, which I thought was pretty awesome of her. And since I just, you know, was looking at old pictures and everything, and I thought that, hey, I might write a short little blog post on the cookies, and if you wanted to read the write-up of me, you can, by going here, and stuff.

An Interview! With Me! Hooray!

Remember the interview I mentioned a few days ago?  It’s live! Thanks to my new friend Timothy C. Ward for letting me stomp around his turf.  He also interviewed K. Allen Wood, as well.  Together, we make for a loooooooong podcast. You’ll want to listen to it in sections, or while cleaning, or while running a marathon. It’s worth it, though. Ken makes a Super Special Announcement that has me clapping my hands in glee. (And not the “Mercedes will slit your throat with a pie cutter” line.  Which was just AWESOME.)  More on the announcement later. You can hear the interview here.

Thanks, Tim! It was a lot of fun!

The Gate 2: 13 Tales of Isolation and Despair


Doesn’t that title alone make you want to pick it up?  What if I told you that one of the dark tales was mine?  What if I also told you that writing it inspired this post on writing the darkness?  It was a strange new world for me, but I love how “Black Mary” turned out.  Robby D. turns out a great collection, and Jesse Young did a fabulous cover.  I dig the illustrations that he did for “Black Mary”, too, and can’t wait to see the rest of them.

Let me show you the awesome Table of Contents!


Plastic by J.L. Bryan

The Indian Rope Trick by D.P. Prior

Night Night by Daniel Pyle

Dead Things by Michael Crane

Does Laura Like Elephants? by Steven Pirie

39 Days by Robert J. Duperre

The Candle Eaters by K. Allen Wood

Black Mary by Mercedes M. Yardley

Exhibit C by David McAfee

The Canoe by Joel Arnold

Destination by Benjamin X. Wretlind

The Ghastly Bath by Dawn McCullough-White

Worldwide Event by David Dalglish

2 Bonus stories by Robert J. Duperre

Traipsing Through the Dark: The Stories Behind the Stories


You can pick the Kindle edition here and the paperback comes out sometime next week.  Yay, despair!

Ho Ho Ho: Horror and Holidays

Shock Totem has gone digital.  You can now buy every dark, sexy issue in a digital format.  Hooray, yahoo! But even better, you can pick up a copy of Shock Totem: Holiday Tales of the Macabre and Twisted for 99 cents.  Take a look at this beauty.  Isn’t this a stunning cover?

This special holiday issue of Shock Totem features an eclectic mix of holiday-inspired dark fiction from K. Allen Wood, Mercedes M. Yardley, New York Times bestseller Kevin J. Anderson, Robert J. Duperre and more. Also anecdotal holiday recollections from Jack Ketchum, Jennifer Pelland, Mark Allen Gunnells, Nick Cato, and a host of others.
Celebrate the holidays with Shock Totem!

Also, Shock Totem has closed its doors for the holidays.  We will reopen on February 1st.  Check the guidelines and send us something then, won’t you?  Until then, may your holidays be filled with happiness and horror. 🙂


A Wicked Awesome Shock Totem Contest

Hey, everybody!  Shock Totem is up to some incredible things.  I mean, some really, really cool stuff.  I was so excited about Ken’s awesome cypher that I’m just going to post this in its entirety.  Give your brain a little exercise and join the contest! It’s all going on at  Ken will take it from here.

As some of you know, issue #5 has been delayeduntil July 2012. However, in March 2012 we will be publishing our first novel. In celebration of that, I thought we’d hold a contest.
The first person to figure out the cypher at the bottom of that picture will win the following:

  1. One copy of our upcoming novel (title to be revealed once the contest is won), signed by the author.
  2. One copy each of the first four Shock Totem issues.
  3. One copy of Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within, a massive tome edited by John Skipp and featuring our very own Mercedes M. Yardley, among other greats.
  4. A one-year (12 issues) digital subscription to one of my favorite publications, Apex Magazine.
  5. And because I have an extra, one old-ass (but in very good condition) copy of The Magazine of Fantasy of Science Fiction, from July 1970, which features the only appearance of Dean Koontz’s “The Mysteries of His Flesh,” the short story that would later be expanded to become his sixth novel, Anti-Man*.* Trivia: Dean’s preferred—and better—title was the same as the short story, “The Mysteries of His Flesh,” but the publisher thought it sounded “too gay.”

Obviously this contest is a bit tougher than most, but I want you to work for those prizes. That said, it’s not as hard as it looks. All the clues you need to lead you to the answer are in this post.

Post your answers in the comments below. First person to post the correct answer wins!

(Some of you are ineligible to win, as you know the answer. We know who you are!)

Amendment: If you guess right, I will ask how you got to that answer. A wild guess that happens to be correct will not count. If you have truly figured it out, you will have no doubt that your answer is correct.

In Which Ken Covers For Me

Hi again! Finally busted out of the hospital after a week.  Chances are very good that I’ll go right back in, but in the meantime I’m enjoying being at home and not having an IV stuck in my arm. Good spirits, everybody!

Ken, the editor at Shock Totem, called me yesterday.  After promptly hanging up on him (he sounded like a freakin’ weirdo) and after he fired me via text message, we got together and talked. He graciously updated everybody on what’s going on because I don’t have much energy at the moment.  You can see that here.  Also, he directs you to the interview with Jamal W. Hankins.  Who, besides being intelligent and likable, is some eye candy. Especially when he offers up his man card. Better read it and see what I’m talking about.

Thanks for the good wishes, everybody! I appreciate you!

The Ugly Side To “Write What You Know”

I’m not sure how I feel about the famous “Write What You Know” advice.  There’s an ugly flip side to it that says, “Hey, if you don’t know it, then you can’t write about it.”  I hate being limited like that, and it lights a dark fire in my skull that shrieks, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”  Fire in your skull can be amusing but unhealthy, so I approach this a few different ways. 

There’s the “Back off!” way, where you decide to write about space aliens and zoophycos ichnofacies just to spite the advice.  You may not know anything about these subjects, but everybody can go hang.

There’s also the “Well, I do know a lot about slaughter houses/crocheting/restoring furniture, so I could throw that element into my next novel,” approach, which I personally adore.  I’ve read a zillion books where people fall in love.  Ah, but if she falls in love with a soldier on active duty, that’s very different from the book where she falls in love with a widower with three kids, for example, or a farmer or guitarist.  The every day things in your life might be thrilling to somebody else. 

There’s also the “I know what loneliness feels like, so even if my story is set in 16th century France, it’s still something that I’m familiar with,” approach.  I received some very good advice once.  Agent Andrea Brown said that no matter what the genre is, if you focus on the classic things like love, betrayal, and death, almost anybody will be able to understand your book.

And, of course you can go out and learn the thing that you want to write about.  My motorcycle scenes fell a little flat until I actually went out there and *gasp!* learned to ride a bike.  Suddenly I realized that my main character’s motorcycle maneuver would have actually SNAPPED HER LEG OFF had she performed it as written.  Whoops.

There’s another approach as well: tap into your resources.   I wanted to write a scene about boxing, and I’m sure this will surprise you, but I’m not a hardcore boxer.  I kick box but I’ve never sparred with another person, and I don’t have the time right now to run out and sign up for a class.  So what did I do?  I ran to K. Allen Wood screaming, “Ken! Ken! You simply have to tell me all about boxing!”  He knows all about it.  Did it for years.  I was saved!

I just received a wonderfully detailed email describing exactly what I needed to know.  Ken also included several videos, and that was helpful, too.  Not did he tell me what was going on, but he showed me so I could understand it better.  Cool?  Cool.

So sure, write what you know.  Write what your friends know.  Go out and learn it so you can write it.  But never, ever let somebody tell you that you can’t write something because you don’t know it.  You’re just not familiar with it yet.