If you haven’t heard of the magazine, Shock Totem, go check it out. I’m on the fourth story in their latest edition, and every one has been worthy of my silly little series. The first story, by Mercedes Yardley, “Heartless,” will be a spotlight in the near future, but we need her to get feeling better before she reads a few stories for us. I spent nearly all my reading time this week finishing Justin Macumber’s debut Science Fiction novel, Haywire, so I was a little behind preparing for this week, and as a result didn’t have time to ask John if he’d like to read a story. That’s okay though; if he wants to in the future, he’s more than welcome. One of these days I’ll catch up… one of these days.
I’m a funny reader; I’m a hopeless romantic at heart, but I don’t read Romance. For the most part, I like action and stories that show people losing everything. There isn’t much action in John’s story, but every action evokes significant emotions of love and loss. “Tinsel” begins when a man first enters his house after losing his wife of fifty-seven years to a stroke. As the main character walks through the house, he connects what he sees to the memories he has of his wife. John gripped my heart with how he portrays the emotion of being with someone that long, and made me feel the enormous sorrow of what life would be like having that person disappear. I can’t remember reading such a short story that packed such a powerful punch of emotion–talk about “bang for your buck,” this magazine is only $.99 on Kindle.
I recently interviewed Mercedes Yardley,one of the slush pile readers for Shock Totem, for an AudioTim episode to be released 4/11, and she made an excellent point that the stories she accepts have to have an emotional impact. This story is a perfect example of that. It’s a little twisted too, but it makes so much sense that it’s twisted in the kind of way that makes you admit you might do the same thing in that person’s situation.
Mercedes also said that she loves reading horror for the times where it makes her want to run home and hug her children. This was the kind of story that made me appreciate the fact that my wife is still with me. As I read, I compared the main character’s stories with his wife with stories I shared with my wife. When people ask me why I read Horror, I want to point them to this story and ask them to tell me that they don’t walk away a happier person who is more engaged with the blessings of life.
You can find John at his author page on Shock Totem’s website, where he reviews books and stories and has the occasional interview (James Newman, author of Animosity, Midnight Rain, and The Wicked; and John Skipp, who edited the anthology, Demons, a Stoker Award nominee). John has numerous short fiction published: “The Worm Eaters” in 52 Stitches, Vol.2, an anthology with a few other Shock Totem celebs; “In the Morning” on the flash fiction site, Weirdyear; “Strange Yield” on the website, Everyday Weirdness; “The Pass” in Twisted Dreams Magazine; and “Peter Peter” in Black Ink Horror #7.