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This issue of Shock Totem is yet another eclectic mix of horror fiction and nonfiction, featuring previously unpublished stories from the likes of Ari Marmell, Darrell Schweitzer, Joe Mirabello, Mekenzie Larsen, and others.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!


Shock Totem Issue #2

Issue #2 of Shock Totem is coming out on July 1st.  I can’t tell you how excited I am!  It will be the first issue out since I was on staff, and I can’t wait to see it.  Here is the illustrious TOC:

* To Be Titled: An editorial, by K. Allen Wood
* The Rat Burner, by Ricardo Bare
* Sole Survivor, by Kurt Newton
* The Spooky Stuff: A conversation with James Newman, by John Boden
* Sweepers, by Leslianne Wilder
* Rainbow Serpent, by Vincent Pendergast
* Strange Goods and Other Oddities (Reviews)
* Abominations: Hide the Sickness: An article by Mercedes M. Yardley
* Pretty Little Ghouls, by Cate Gardner
* Messages From Valerie Polichar, by Grá Linnaea & Sarah Dunn
* Return From Dust, by Nick Bronson
* Leave Me the Way I was Found, by Christian A. Dumais
* Upon My Return, by David Jack Bell
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)

Rock on!

“Be Mysterious: Writers In Masks” Features Kurt Newton

by Kurt Newton

When Mercedes first came up with her mad cross-promotional scheme to showcase writers and artists wearing masks, I admit I thought it was a bit silly, a variation on the child’s game of dress-up.

But as the weeks unfolded, and Mercedes’ blog presented people in gas masks, clown masks, masquerade masks, even a World War II deep-sea diver’s helmet, I began to realize just why I was reluctant to participate.

Masks scare me.

These blatant misrepresentations of oneself, ironically, exposed for me the subtle, near-invisible masks we all wear on a daily basis.  None of us are truly who we present ourselves to be…

The church-going family man who goes hunting with “the boys” every other weekend, in reality belongs to a private militia preparing for the believed impending race war…

The next-door neighbor who politely waves from his well-groomed lawn, but behind closed doors eyes your children with unnatural intent…

The woman who lies next to her husband at night, the memory of her lover still fresh between her legs, the mask of her fidelity carefully affixed…

What scares me isn’t the lie or the falsehood.  What scares me is the truth behind that lie, the face behind the mask.

But not all masks are hiding something evil.  The truth is we wear many faces, many masks.  The mask we wear at our workplace is not the same as the one we wear at home.  There’s a mask reserved for loved ones and one reserved for those whom we despise.  Masks to hide our excitement, our nervousness, our sadness, our grief.  All are necessary if we are to navigate through this society we live in.

But I couldn’t bring myself to slip a mask over my face and take a picture.  The safety, the comfort — the freedom — of that simple act might have brought forth something perhaps I did not want to see reflected in my eyes.
So I chose a photograph of myself instead.  I manipulated the shading, colors and contrast to produce four images.  At least, that way, my eyes could not change.
Or so I believed.

If you look closely (something which I now refuse to do), you will see four different sets of eyes staring back at you.  One of which is me…the other three I do not recognize.


Check out Kurt’s website at and his blog at

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Guest Post By Kurt Newton

Literary Horror and Other Unnecessary Labels
By Kurt Newton

Whoever said horror fiction had to be crude? Whoever said you can’t have horror without art? Somebody must have said it because it’s all I see when I read blogs discussing the current state of the horror genre. You’d think there are only two types of practitioners vying for supremacy in the horror world. In this corner…with their wine and cheese meet and greets and their intellectual discussions…the highly educated, the well-read…the Highbrows! And in this corner…with their blood and guts and their sexual excesses and their aversion to multisyllabic words…the self-professed, the self-published…the Lowbrows! The Highbrows shout: “You’re ruining the genre!” The Lowbrows growl: “Shut your piehole you uppity-assed dick-twittlers!” The Highbrows glower condescendingly with eyebrow raised (as only a Highbrow can do). The Lowbrows hawk and spit and flip them the finger.

I mean, come on. Literary Horror? We actually need a label now to define what’s been around in popular fiction since Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein first bowed in 1818? From Edgar Allan Poe to Hans Christian Anderson to Bram Stoker to H.P. Lovercraft to Ray Bradbury to Richard Matheson to Shirley Jackson to Ira Levin to Stephen King to Clive Barker to Phil Intheblank …we’ve been blessed with literary horror and now suddenly we need to distinguish between what’s literate and what’s not? Shouldn’t that be the job of the reader? When a reader picks up a book (either physically or virtually), won’t a quick skim of the inside cover or the first paragraph of the first page of the first chapter be enough to tell them what they’re in for? If not, then shame on the them.

The Highbrows want to “save the genre”. Save it from what exactly? The inevitable revolution taking place in the publishing industry? The fact that more and more readers are getting their fixes online? The fact that twenty years ago desktop publishing opened up reading, writing, publishing and art to a segment of the population that would otherwise not have had the means or the access? The Greeks believed certain knowledge should be accessible only to those intelligent enough to understand it. Could the Greeks also have been uppity-assed dick-twittlers? And how much does monetary compensation play a roll in determining what is good and what is not in the eyes of the elite? (That’s a whole other essay.) Could it be the Highbrows are nervous they’ll one day find themselves on the same tiny island with Lulu-published Neanderthals? Does the genre really need saving? Or is it simply in transition? Once the dust settles won’t the fight really be about the words and not each other? Won’t it be about producing the best example of what you’re rallying for, instead of wasting time and energy on what you’re rallying against?

A hundred years from now there will be a revised list of horror writers who made a difference, and it will include those who let their work do the talking, not just their mouths. The size and shape of their brows will be merely a footnote.


Hey, Mercedes here.  I simply adore this man. Keep up on his work by following him here. You’ll be glad that you did.

So I Won Some Chocolate!

And I cannot tell you how excited I am! The very charming Eisley Jacobs ran a contest on her blog, and there are some really sweet and heartwarming comments on there. You can check it out here.

Also, once upon a time Kurt Newton and I had a writing challenge going on, and I emerged the victor. As a consequence, he graciously agreed to guest blog over here on A Broken Laptop.  He wrote a fantastic essay, and I’ll run it on Monday. Believe me, it’s something to look forward to.

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