Plotting or Pantsing?

This is a debate every writing group from forever has had, but I think we can all agree neither is right or wrong. Both are acceptable ways of crafting a story and it really depends on how the author works best. We decided to discuss it anyway.

Steve: Pants it, then plot it! Plotting requires a beginning a middle and an end, and they all turn up eventually. Ideas are what require thought. I’m not a clever man, so my higher mind rarely steers the ship in creative endeavours. A lot of books use my characters to explore and articulate the dark suspicions of my gut, the worrying questions of my dreams and the reflexive chauvinism of my drunken snarling. As such, sometimes I don’t know what I’m trying to say until I’ve said it. Then I have to edit it before people find out how terrible I am. Maybe replace it with a joke. That’s what people paid for, after all.

Renee: I do both. Some of my stories require research, and for those, I tend to make at least a rough outline of what’s going to happen. Sometimes I outline characters only, so I guess that’s not really plotting. I pants most of my short fiction, and some of my best work has resulted from that. However, I also have a handful of “novels” that aren’t finished because I wrote myself into a corner I can’t get out of, thanks to a lack of planning before I started.

Liam: Pantsing all the way. Why would I put limitations on my writing? Besides, I’d lose interest if I knew how it ended…

Katrina: Both? I plot the major events and then pants my way through connecting them. Knowing too much of the story ahead of time stunts the growth of the narrative for me. I have to let my subconscious do the heavy lifting.

Christian: I fully understand why some people prefer to have a plan when they start writing something. They are probably more organised than me in every other aspect of their lives, too. Me, I start off with a vague idea, or even just a single scene, and then let the story tell itself. I always found that when I plotted too much in the past, I would end up feeling restricted. Half-way through a story you might have a great idea for a plot twist, but you’ll be reluctant to go with it because you think it’s going to fuck up your grand plan.

It often shows if a book has been meticulously plotted. Things can become very stilted and emotionless.

Michael: I write the first chapter blind with little idea. That for me is the kindling wood. If it takes off and I want to know more, then I make a ‘misty’ plan, stopping every now and again to make more ‘misty’ plans. Bit like water divining. The thing is, I like to write books I want to read, and if I were to over-plan I would, in a sense, have read it and so lose interest in actually writing it. The exception is nonfiction – for example, ‘Cheyney Behave’ and my new book on Anthony Trollope. But here the fun lies in the research.

Peter: Pantsing, largely. This was certainly the case with my first book, (the sequel required a little planning but still pulled me in unexpected directions). Aside from these, I have two collections of short stories, none of which were planned out in any depth. One of my current projects has been planned out in detail, but I’ve drifted away from the plan quite far so I’m not convinced much plotting can save me from myself and where the story ends up.

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Where the M Comes From

By C.M. Saunders

 

I’ve been doing this for a while now, and you may have noticed I use different names for different kinds of writing. For academic writing and more formal or serious stuff, I use my full given name. It looks more official. For sport, lifestyle and comedy writing, I use the slightly snappier moniker Chris Saunders. And for fiction, I usually use the name C.M. Saunders. There are practical reasons for doing this. I like to keep different facets of my writing career separate because it’s easier to get my head around. Besides that, the people who read my horror fiction would probably be deeply disappointed if they accidentally picked up one of my travel books, or the one I wrote about Cardiff City FC, and vice versa.

Over the years, a lot of people have asked me why I use C.M. Saunders, especially since I don’t actually have a middle name, and so no middle initial. It’s kind of a happy coincidence that my boyhood nickname was Moony. Because I have a round face, apparently. I guess it could have been a lot worse. There was a boy in my street called Dickhead. Anyway, no. That’s not where the M comes from. It’s not as straightforward as that. But there is a very good reason for it and for the first time in public, I’m going to reveal what that reason is.

It’s for my grandfather on my mother’s side. Firstly, he’s probably part of the reason I grew up to be so into the whole horror thing. He was a big reader, and would go to the local library a couple of times a week. This was back when libraries had books. Whenever I went to visit him and my grandmother in his bungalow at the top of the village when I was a kid, he would always have the latest horror novels lying on the table next to his reading chair. I was too young to read them, or even remember much, I just loved looking at those covers. Stephen King, James Herbert, Graham Masterton.

A little word about my granddad, or Pop as we called him. His name was Stanley Martin. Like my other granddad on my father’s side, he was a coal miner almost all his life. Proper old school Welsh. Being a miner was a hard life. He would delight in telling me, my sister, and cousins horror stories. Some were things that really happened to him or his friends, some were local myths or legends, and he probably made the rest up just to entertain us. The man was covered in little blue scars where coal dust had got into his cuts when he was underground, and he was still coughing up black shit twenty years after he retired. He met and married a Welsh woman called Lillian and they had three daughters, including my mother. All three daughters grew up and got married. As per tradition, when they got married they took the names of their husbands so pretty soon, the Martin name vanished. I always thought that was a bit sad, and when I started taking fiction a bit more seriously and was looking around for a pseudonym to distinguish it from my journalism, I thought using the ‘M’ initial might be a cool way to keep the name ‘Martin’ alive. He died a long time ago, and when he did his surname died with him. Now, every time I have something published under the name C.M. Saunders, it’s a silent nod to the man who introduced me to horror. If there’s a heaven, I know he’s up there looking down with pride in his eyes. Cheers, Pops.

 

61yusXRXjwLX3, the third collection of fiction by C.M. Saunders featuring revised versions of stories taken from the pages of The Literary Hatchet, Siren’s Call, Morpheus Tales, Gore Magazine, Indie Writer’s Review and several anthologies, is available now. X3 also includes two previously unpublished stories, extensive notes, and exclusive artwork by the award-winning Greg Chapman. 

Meet the airline passenger who makes an alarming discovery, the boy who takes on an evil troll, an ageing couple facing the apocalypse, a jaded music hack on the trail of the Next Big Thing, the gambler taking one last spin, and many more.

 

Why Dark Fiction?

So, I get curious from time to time, and I force the other dolls to play along and answer my many questions. This week, we’re all going to share why we choose to write dark fiction. (By dark fiction, I mean speculative, dark comedy, etc.)

Michael: I don’t limit myself to dark fiction, though there is darkness in all of my books. I have three ‘historicals’ in the pipeline – two set in the twilight years of Roman Britain, and one in early colonial America. In these, as with the Gift Trilogy coming out this year, the speculative part lies in the interstices of historical fact. But to answer the question why do I like dark in the first place – in my case it might be a very traditional Catholic education where there was no light without dark and Hell was a real place.

Steve: Dying is easy and comedy is hard, or so it goes. I’ve never died, so I can’t really attest to it. But, of all the many jobs comedy and fantasy has, one of them is trying to make sense of the dark. And in doing so, perhaps see the funny side.

Katrina: Because realism is too hard to write and reality is boring anyway. Some people call speculative fiction “escapist” like an insult, but I think it’s the best part about it. Why wouldn’t you want to escape?

Christian: I wouldn’t know what else to write. At least ‘dark fiction’ is a big playground big enough to get lost in. When you think about it, it can encompass almost every other genre, from crime noir to sci-fi. It overlaps a lot. I used to call myself a horror writer, then I asked myself what horror was and I couldn’t come up with a satisfying answer. It means different things to different people. Besides, I wrote a love story once and nobody liked it.

Renee: I write in multiple genres, but “darkness” is a constant element in all of them. I enjoy writing dark fiction/speculative fiction, because it’s such a broad category. You can delve into almost every genre and writing it is like an escape that allows me to go to those places we all avoid, because we’re not maniacs.  Also, I find the best characters in the dark.

Peter: I write in a range of genres, but there is certainly a darkness to each of my stories (with the exception of my children’s book, of course!), and that darkness comes in different forms. I find there is a certain freedom that comes with writing speculative fiction; an opportunity to be more imaginative with events, giving greater range to the topics that can be covered.

Liam: Because it’s there.

What about you guys? Writers and readers, why do you write/read dark fiction?

 

News and Books Coming May, 2018

This month, C.M. Saunders released X3, and it’s already picking up rave reviews.

The third collection of fiction by C.M. Saunders featuring revised versions of stories taken from the pages of The Literary Hatchet, Siren’s Call, Morpheus Tales, Gore Magazine, Indie Writer’s Review and several anthologies. Also includes two previously unpublished stories, extensive notes, and exclusive artwork by the award-winning artist Greg Chapman.

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Meet the airline passenger who makes an alarming discovery, the boy who takes on an evil troll, an ageing couple facing the apocalypse, a jaded music hack on the trail of the Next Big Thing, the gambler taking one last spin, and many more.

You can pick up a copy here:
 

 

 

 

 

The promotion machine is running for this one, check out his appearances at Ginger Nuts of Horror where he talks about childhood fears:

 

 ginger nuts CHILDHOOD FEARS POLTERGEISTS, EARWIGS AND DEEP WATER BY C.M. SAUNDERS

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To celebrate the launch of his new collection of short stories author C.M. Saunders makes two stops at Ginger Nuts of Horror, here with his excellent article on Childhood fears  and with a…

 

And his interview on Kendall Reviews:

 

Horror & Splatterpunk author C.M. Saunders chews the fat with Kendall Reviews.

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C.M. Saunders is a freelance journalist and editor from Wales. His fiction and non-fiction has appeared in over 70 magazines, ezines and anthologies worldwide, including Loaded, Maxim, Record Collector, Fortean Times, Fantastic Horror, Trigger Warning, Liquid imagination, Crimson Streets and the Lit

 

By the time you read this, his latest short story, Those Left Behind should also be live here.

And don’t forget to check out his RetView series. This month, he looks at The Evil Dead

 retview RetView #9 – The Evil Dead | cmsaunders

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Title: The Evil Dead Year of Release: 1981 Director: Sam Raimi Length: 85 mins Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Hal Delrich I remember the first time I saw The Evil Dead.

In May, his RetView series takes in the 1960 French classic Eyes Without a Face, a movie so depraved that people fainted when they saw it in the cinema, and so cool that a quarter of a century later Billy Idol wrote a song about it.

And P.J. Blakey-Novis has something awesome happening as well.

 

THFLo2Dc_400x400May marks the launch of Boxes of Blood, a new service, which offers ‘mystery boxes’ of hand-picked horror books delivered to your door. Available in a variety of sizes, and including exclusive tote bags and bookmarks, Boxes of Blood is an essential service for horror readers everywhere. And with a library of almost one hundred books, and counting, no two boxes will be the same!

 

 

 

Stay informed about this awesomeness at;

www.facebook.com/horrortoyou

www.twitter.com/redcapepublish

www.instagram.com/boxesofblood

As horror fans, we’re pretty excited about this and you should be too.

In case you missed it, Renee Miller released CATS LIKE CREAM, with Unnerving Magazine on April 10th. It’s collecting a few pretty awesome reviews as well.

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“Renee Miller holds nothing back in her portrayal of the twisted protagonist at the center of Cats Like Cream. Elwin is unprecedented in terms of characterization, delightfully perverse, and genuinely shocking in his crimes, and Miller’s prose punctuates those crimes with machine gun-sharp rhythm. If you like your serial killers full of personality and voracious and unapologetic in appetite, then you have to check out Cats Like Cream. “
—Christa Carmen, author of Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked 

“Cats Like Cream is a punchy novelette featuring a real estate worker who is also a voyeuristic serial killer (aren’t they all?!). I’m not usually a fan of serial killer fiction but this tale is superb. We follow the dark path trodden by Elwin. Elwin is a vile, vile creature, a twisted, sadistic man who hides behind the curtain of his day job whilst living out his darkest fantasies. I love how Miller uses somebody working a regular job as a deranged murdering pervert. The casual nature of Elwin’s personality makes him even more twisted.” – The Grim Reader

Renee discussed Cats Like Cream, and other interesting topics, like sexy kitchen appliances and why birds are so terrifying on the Deadman’s Tome Podcast. In a few weeks, she’ll also be talking to William Marchese and Gary Buller on their podcast, Horror: with Marchese and Buller.

While all is quiet for a couple of months in terms of new books by Renee for the month of May (Eat the Rich will be released in July via Hindered Souls Press), you can get these titles for just 99 cents.

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SEX, PEANUTS, FANGS AND FUR – May 1st – 8th

 

 

 

 

 

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SMOLDER – May 4th – 11th

 

 

 

 

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MAD – May 11th – 18th

 

 

 

And finally, brand new from Michael Keyton, Anthony Trollope: Power, Land and Society 1847 – 1980

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Trollope was no deviant. He was though a writer and describes a world long gone. As such, there is much to learn from him. And if you don’t feel the urge to read all of his forty-seven books, you can read just this one. It may even persuade you to give him a go. Failing that, check out Alan Rickman’s first starring role as Obadiah Slope in The Warden – key snippets available on YouTube.

One of Trollope’s last books, The Fixed Period reveals his vision of the 1980’s; one still dominated by steam and landed power. The British Empire remains intact, ruling unchallenged in lieu of America, which has fragmented. It explains the title of this book. For Trollope, landed power and its politics controlled the future. He could not foresee—or didn’t want to—any alternative. The sci-fi aspects of The Fixed Period are risible. His exploration of Euthanasia is, on the other hand, profound.

Books on Anthony Trollope have tended to emphasise the biographical, social convention or else offer analyses of Trollope’s moral code. There has been little, if anything, written about Trollope as the literary expression of a landed society during a period of flux.

Anthony Trollope: Power, Land and Society 1847 – 1980 makes the argument that Trollope’s canon constitutes a profound exploration of Nineteenth Century landed society, providing insights into the cultural and political mores of great and small landowners, as well as the economic opportunities and problems they faced during a period of transformation; his characters, too, subtly illustrate the dilemmas, moral and social that so many Victorians encountered as economic circumstances changed.

We’ll update his books page with links and details as soon as they’re available.

And that’s all so far for May. Stop by the blog next week for a brand new post by C.M. Saunders.

 

What’s New for April? Books!

 

C.M. Saunders has been a busy, busy boy. Last month, he published a little something in Crimson Streets, and he continued with his Retro Review series. In April, not only is he continuing is Retro Review series (catch the latest on his blog), he’s also releasing the third book in his X horror collection series, X3. You can pre-order it now, and while you’re at it, get the first two books in this series for just 99 cents in April as well.

Our very own P.J. Blakey-Novis has also interviewed him for Indie Writers’ Review (Follow the Facebook page for book, review, etc. news and for opportunities to win books) and Christian’s stopping by Roadie Notes for another interview. You’ll want to check both out.

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Oh, and speaking of Mr. Blakey-Novis, keep your eye on this blog or his Indie Writers Review page next month for news about upcoming titles from him as well, including a little something called Boxes of Blood.

This month, Renee Miller released Splish, Slash, Takin’ a Bloodbath with Unnerving Magazine, and on April 10th, look for her twisted novelette, Cats Like Cream. And for the month of April, Renee’s got a little thing happening on her Facebook page. For the price of answering a question, you’ll be entered to win a digital subscription to Unnerving Magazine’s 2018 digital catalogue. That includes mobi, epub and PDF copies of all of the 2018 Unnerving releases below (not the magazine), plus a couple of more TBD titles, and/or a paperback copy of Eat the Rich, which will be released in July via Hindered Souls Press.

And Katrina Monroe fans, if you’ve been missing her lately, don’t fret, she’s been publishing a series of short fiction on her blog. The first, Liquid Innovations, Please Hold, appeared last month, and the most recent, Lost and Found, is available to read now. Stop by throughout April for more brand new fiction from her.

In case you missed it, Steve Wetherell also released brand new fiction in March. Check out his Shingles Series installment, The Monkey’s Penis. His comedic horror gem, Shoot the Dead, is also on Amazon Prime’s reading list for April (actually, its on the list now and will be for 90 days, which means it’s free for Amazon Prime members, so get on it).

Michael Keyton has been quiet, but tune in next month when we reveal May’s book news for more from him as well.

That’s all for now, kittens. Check our Facebook page for more news, and check back here next month to find out what we’ve got going on in May.

 

Clay Cross and #MeToo

by Michael Keyton (originally published on Record of a Baffled Spirit)

I’ve recently been working on a screenplay of Clay Cross – in fact I’ve just sent a sample off to a production company. I believe they’re called Spec scripts. Two things emerged from the process, one good, the other problematic. On the positive side, because a script focuses so much on dialogue, it highlights where the dialogue in the book could be sharper. The problem lies in the visual especially in the present climate of #MeToo.

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Clay Cross is a turbo-charged version of ‘Life on Mars’ and Alf Garnett, Micky Spillane and every Noir pulp/B movie rolled into one.

Clay Cross then, is a comic composite—comic because he is out of his time – no longer operating in late 1940’s LA but Newport Wales in the Nineties.  In this context, his misogyny, homophobia and racism – ramped up to an almost psychotic degree —are seen as laughable as opposed to something to emulate or admire. Cross—a monster in his world is comic in ours.

That is the theory, but does it work in his treatment of women, the saint or the whore syndrome. In the book, I think it does, because to noir aficionados the tropes are fairly recognisable, and words, too, allow the reader to distance themselves from the real thing. Words allow subtext and mockery.

film though. There is the problem. The two passages below for example. The words are taking the piss out of Cross. But seeing it on screen? Some have issue with this classic Lauren Bacall song in the Big Sleep, and she is just singing about it. So the issue is: do I cut those two scenes completely? Should I cut them, or is there a visual compromise?

Any ideas or feedback?

Source A

   “I’m no good for you, Clay, honey. Della Peach has a heart of stone.”

     What the hell, I thought. Prinz has taught her mind-reading!

     “She’s nothing but a good time gal, Clay. She’s not your type – kind, straight, honest…decent. Never was. But you knew that, Clay. Guess that’s why, mebbee, you found me interesting.”  She closed her eyes and exhaled a perfectly executed smoke ring that hovered momentarily between us.

So now I knew. Della became part of the greyness. Dead. Finished. But Prinz was still out there. This much Della owed me, and I gave it to her straight.

            “I want the low down on Prinz, baby!” I snarled. “And while you’re at it, what can you tell me about some punk brother of a one-time singer that worked here- name of April Dawn?”

            Della smiled, sphinx-like. “And if I open my mouth too much, someone a little less wholesome than you will be down it like a shot, asking me other questions -like where I want to be buried?”

            Time for the old Clay Cross treatment. I took her hands, warm, pale and smelling nice in mine. We stayed like that for some time. Somewhere in the distance music played. I gazed into Della’s eyes, wondering if they saw a world different from mine, gazed at her lips, warm red and lascivious with the untamed sensuality that dominated every treacherous ounce of her 36-22-35 inch frame. I studied a face that still shone with the unearthly beauty of a pale rose seen at dusk. My fingers ached to stroke once again the fine dusk of her hair which framed in wanton ringlets her poisoned pulchritude. Behind her beauty lurked the insatiable serpent that gorged on the desires of man.

            “It’s your eyes, Clay.” Della breathed. “When you look at me it makes me realise that I’m not only a lady, but…a woman.”  Long, dead, wasted years in the pen with just hardened hoods to practise on and the old C. Cross magic seemed as potent as ever it was. I smiled.

            And I punched her straight and hard in the face. Knuckles, teeth and lip coalesced in one cataclysmic sensation that meant one thing. Satisfaction. She staggered back out of her chair and into the corner where I wanted her.  She raised a wondering hand to ruined lips. Her eyes blazed.

            “You bastard!” she breathed. “You great, big, beautiful bastard!” I punched her again, keeping in time to the crazy music swirling around inside my head. As far as anyone else was concerned this was just part of the cabaret. I wanted to punch her for every stinking year I’d spent in nothingness, but I still needed Della’s mouth, intact and in working order.

            “Play it straight, baby.”  I snarled. “You know me. This is Clayton Z. Cross. We grew up together. Play it straight for once, Della. Play it smart.”  I was angry.

Della was learning the hard way. The way she liked it. She nodded, smiling faintly in the gloom.

Source B

I guess I owe the army for three things; like for training a killer; for giving me a partner in the form of a screwy left eyeball with a mind of its own, and finally for leaving me enough severance pay to set myself up in business as the best Private Eye in L.A.. And just now I was in business again.

            There I was reading the obituary column for fun, and then I guess my friendly eyeball came over slightly bored. It wandered… knowing my taste in dames… and struck gold. 36 . 23 . 36 carat gold. She was beautiful. She was woman. Hell she was dynamite on a very short fuse. My fingers made for the matchbox and squeezed tightly.

            Then I saw the dame was in trouble. Leastwise, some crazy ape was slugging her, and slugging her good. She was moaning, small soft animal noises that meant pain. And her head spun from side to side with every bestial punch he laid into her.

Something inside of me burned. Hell she was beautiful still, despite the savage red weals showing up like traffic lights on an otherwise rose soft complexion; lips split and bloodied and one eye slowly closing. Migawd! She was beautiful! And the punk doing the damage was as versatile as hell.

            A fist had grasped a bundle of her soft and darkly perfumed tawny hair, with flecks of gold, and now in wanton disarray. He was jerking, and jerking hard, forcing her head farther and farther back. Her lips writhed, foam-flecked and taut in understated agony; veins stood out on a delicately sculptured neck that seemed on the point of breaking.

            I eased a finger around my collar that had become just a little too tight, and I put the paper down and drooled. Her body was built for action… and it was getting plenty. I said the ape was versatile. He was a real bundle of tricks. A trouser clad knee jerked brutally upwards and honey-pie collapsed like just the most beautiful rag doll in the whole goddamned world.

Hell! That was no way to treat a lady, I thought.

You Don’t Always Have to Start at the Beginning

By C.M. Saunders

 You may wonder why I don’t blog more about writing and/or publishing. After all, I’ve been doing this a long time. Well, the answer to that is that I jealously guard any knowledge and information I’ve gleaned on my journey and file it away for my own personal use. Find your own knowledge and information!

I’m kidding.

Kind of.

I have written about some aspects of writing on this blog before, most recently writer’s block and I do so occasionally for various publications. But thinking about it, the reason I don’t do it more is because writing is such a subjective topic that it’s very difficult to impart any actual bona fide wisdom. What works for you, might not work for anyone else. I can give an opinion, sure. Maybe even an informed opinion. But at the end of the day, it’s still just an opinion, and as the saying goes, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.

Anyway, from an altruistic point of view, I probably should blog more about writing and publishing in the hope that someone somewhere might take something from it. So today I’d like to address what I see as one of many rookie errors, and that is the assumption that when writing a story, a novel, a novella, or even a feature or article, you have to start at the beginning and work steadily through to the end.

It’s bullshit.

That’s right. You can start in the middle if you want. Fuck it. If you have a killer final scene, write that first then work backwards. Obviously, I don’t mean write the words backwards. I’ve never tried it, but I imagine that would be ridiculously taxing. Plus, editors won’t appreciate it, and there’s also the danger that your nearest and dearest might assume that you’re possessed.

            Moving on…

It genuinely amazes me how many people start a writing project full of optimism and determination and with only the best of intentions, grind to a shuddering halt for some reason, abandon the project, then just moan about it instead. It’s easy to blame writer’s block but c’mon, you know that’s just an excuse. My advice is, if you are struggling with a particular scene, or have some plot issues to work through, or have just plain hit the wall, just pick up the story at a later point (on the other side of the wall) and continue from there.

For example, imagine you are writing a murder mystery and the victim has just been found dead in the kitchen with their own intestines stuffed in their mouth. Maybe you aren’t sure about the order of events leading up to the murder, or the weapon used, or even who the killer is. Maybe you can’t decide on the time frame, motive, or any number of other technicalities. Don’t sweat it, just let the story hang there for a while and move to another section. Nobody knows but you, and if they did know, nobody would care. Believe me, sooner or later things will fall into place.

Personally, I often start short stories with little more than a single scene in my head, then I write around the scene. If I’m lucky, I’ll have several semi-related scenes floating around. Then it’s just a matter of stitching them together. Sometimes the initial scene doesn’t even make a final cut. It’s there as kind of a sign post or marker, and when it has served its purpose I might pull it and throw it away, or use it in another story.

How you write is up to you. That’s the beauty of it. You are the master, and the page is your domain. Rule it. The important thing is the end result, the story, how you arrive at the destination is irrelevant. You don’t always have to follow convention, and you certainly don’t always have to start at the beginning.

C.M. Saunders is a freelance journalist and editor. His fiction and non-fiction has appeared in over 60 magazines, ezines and anthologies worldwide, including Loaded, Record Collector, Fantastic Horror, Trigger Warning, Gore, Liquid imagination, and the Literary Hatchet. His books have been both traditionally and independently published, the most recent being Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story (Uncut) and Human Waste, both of which are available now on Deviant Dolls Publications. He is represented by Media Bitch literary agency.

His latest release is out now:

human waste

Coming March, 2018

The Dolls have book news! Did you think we were talking about something else?

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Last month, C.M. Saunders’ first ever drabble, Coming Around, appeared in 100 Word Horrors: An Anthology of Horror Drabbles. He had fun drabbling, and it won’t be too long before you see some more from him, and maybe even a dribble or two.

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He also got in a fight on Facebook, which is nothing new, and published number seven in his RetView series, in which he revisits classic horror movies and views them through a modern lens. This month, the topic is the British cult comedy Severance from 2006, a fun little flick about Another Bloody Office Outing.

Next month 80’s shock fest Demons gets the treatment. RetView #8 is up on the 13th

On March 18th his short story Dead Man Walking is going live on Crimson Streets which, if you’re not familiar with it, is “An over-the-top homage to the pulp and adventure magazines of the 1930s through 1950s. Where the detectives are more hard boiled, the dames are leggier, the scientists are madder, and the horrors are more horrible.”

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Yeah!

On March 6th, Renee Miller has five stories in a collection that Unnerving Magazine is releasing, called SPLISH, SLASH, TAKIN A BLOODBATH.

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Eighteen gruesome, blood-dripping, gape-wounded tales of slashers, predators, final girls, perverts, cannibals, and otherworldly nasties from authors Mark Allan Gunnells (Companions in Ruin and Flowers in a Dumpster), Renee, and Eddie Generous (editor of Hardened Hearts). (This includes a couple of stories Renee’s particularly fond of, like DEVIL’S TRAIL and MAMA, and a fun story written by all three authors.)

From the classroom to the campfire to the cemetery, Splish, Slash, Takin’ a Bloodbath offers an outside view of what should be inside a body, be prepared to scream!

 

 

 

As part of her release day celebration, Renee’s novelettes, HUNGER and STOP CRYING will be free from March 6th to 10th. And her very first published thriller, IN THE BONES, will be just 99 cents from March 6th to 13th.

 

And finally, Steve Wetherell is proud to announce his latest, released on March 1st, THE MONKEY’S PENIS.

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Be careful what you wish for…

Chris doesn’t ask for much and he usually gets less, but a birthday gift of a disembodied monkey penis is about to change all that. Entering a world of mysterious powers and nightmarish consequences, Chris realizes the secret belief of every teenage boy- that his wang has the power to change the world.

The Monkey’s Penis is the third installment in the terrifying Shingles series, and once again readers with weak hearts or bladders are advised to read on at their own risk…

 

 

 

 

 

She had a yellow balloon… and green crayons

 

by Liam McNalley 

I have a confession to make. I don’t like the Beatles. This may sound strange coming from someone of my generation, but when a Beatles tune comes on the radio, I turn it off. This dislike has nothing to do with their music; I think they wrote some amazing songs, I just can’t listen to them.

It all goes back to when I was in the first grade.  This was back when the band was really becoming popular… all the screaming girls and everything.  I had no idea what all the fuss was about; my parents listened to the Kingston Trio, and Peter, Paul and Mary. However, I heard all about them at school.

There was a little, curly black-haired girl that sat next to me. Her name was Vicky. I can’t remember my teacher’s name, or the name of a single other person in that classroom, but hers is indelibly etched in my memory.

Ah, Vicky. That girl was some kind of bat-shit crazy. She told me everything about the Beatles… whether I wanted to hear or not. She apparently knew the lyrics to every single tune they did, and sang them (very much off key) constantly. She was yelled at by the teacher more than the kid that liked to pluck buttons off of other student’s shirts. Vicky was absolutely nuts about the Beatles, especially Ringo. The girl drew stars on her hands (and everything else that would stay still long enough.) I heard how she was going to marry Ringo when she grew up at least a hundred and thirty four times a day.

But that’s not the worst of it. You see, she had another obsession. Oh hell, I’ll just come out and say it… she ate crayons. Green crayons. No green crayon was safe when she was in the room. I never saw the silly wench that she didn’t have green wax stuck in her teeth. All those decades have gone by and the Beatles and the image of Vicky joyously chomping on a green crayon are inseparable in my mind.

To this day, every time I hear the Beatles, I get a little sick to my stomach.

 

Allow Me to ManSplain Woman in Horror Month To You, My Dear

 by Steve Wetherell

I don’t know why I write these things. I’m sure it’s just an earnest need to scratch an itch and make an argument I think is being overlooked, but some part of me suspects that I might just have a fetish for being beaten up by women.

 Either way, why don’t you womanfolk adjust your bras, take five minutes off from hitting punch bags while flicking your immaculate hair, and send your comically inept husband out of the room (did he walk into the door frame again? Ha! Idiot.)

It’s time for me to do what men do best, and explain things to you that you’re already fully aware of. So: Women in Horror Month, a time to focus on the great names in horror fiction who don’t have a dick.

I personally like the idea of Women in Horror Month. But many don’t. And no, not all those people are neck beard misogynists or women who have internalised the patriarchy, some of them are actual real people who have a justified opinion. Some might say; “Why do we need a special month? Shouldn’t we be supporting women writers all year round?” Other may say; “If women are the equal of men, and I believe they are, then why do they need special consideration?”

Fair questions both.

Here’s my take, just to clarify.

I’ve never looked at a movie poster and scanned the credits to see if the director is a woman. I don’t really care about the gender of the author of a book. I honestly think that most people don’t even consider it. Not consciously. But then… is it entirely coincidence that most of my favourite writers and directors are men?

There are proven gender conceptions in the genres. Is this because of the da man keeping the ladies down? It’s a little more complicated than that. For instance, a disproportionate amount of literary agents are women, yet women writers still find more acceptance when they use a male or gender anonymous name. Also, men find it easier to be accepted in romance and crime fiction when using a female pseudonym. The evidence is clear that, while no one is actively keeping women down in this instance, there are ingrained, perhaps audience driven, gender biases within the genres.

So why not have a Woman in Horror month? The status quo is a big, heavy, slow motherfucker and it needs a severe nudge now and then. If the evidence is there that the playing field isn’t level, then take some steps to level the playing field. That’s how you get quality of opportunity, which I don’t think any sane person is against.

It is, of course, not that simple. Nothing is. An acquaintance of mine who runs a much loved horror fan site in his spare time is not observing Woman in Horror month this year. The amount of abuse he got (from women) for observing it last year was too much for him. Predictably, he is already getting abuse for not observing it this year.

Deviant Dolls own Renee Miller recently blogged about her experiences of having a story accepted by a publisher, only to be told she was part of a conscious drive to recruit more women writers in the horror genre. Her response was predictably Renee, and I heard they never found the guy’s head. (I’m kidding of course. They found it eventually.)

It’s not simple and it doesn’t need to be. It’s an ongoing discussion and what is most important is that the discussion happens. I’ll put up with a lot of silliness in the name of equality of opportunity.

But what of equality of outcome? Here’s where things get a little fuzzy for me.

‘Thin-end-of-the-wedge’ is one of those conversational hand grenades, often used to take a hypothetical scenario to its most thrilling extreme. We say, “Sure we have Woman in Horror Month now, but what about when it becomes Woman in Horror DECADE? What if men aren’t giving a fair shake because publishers only want women? How is that fair?”

One might argue that there is room enough for all, and men will never be specifically overlooked in favour of women. I hope so, for my sake. One might also argue that straight white men have had it too good for too long, and taking opportunity from them is justified. Well, I believe in inherited advantages, but I also think that promoting punishment for original sin is darkly psychotic.

Maybe there is a thin-end-of-the-wedge. Maybe it compromises a lot of people’s ideals of fairness. Or maybe those people’s over reactions are holding back progress to a new and better kind of fairness.

I have to confess, I’m not entirely against thin-end-of-the-wedge arguers. I used to be, but then I saw what they did with Ghostbusters 2016. There is a real possibility that we’ll take any old shit just because it lives up to a political ideal, and when you start saying you have to like a soul-less, lazy, cynical piece of shit like Ghostbusters 2016 because it has women in it, you’ve stopped focusing on equality of opportunity and started focusing on equality of outcome- you’ve stopped believing that something should stand on its merits. I can’t go down that path with you, and I like to believe that most writers wouldn’t either, male or female.

But I get that there’s a struggle, I do. I’m a straight, white male, and probably Hitler, but if someone told me they’d only signed up my work because they needed a token fat guy I might just be outraged enough to spit out my flapjacks. I believe artists want to be judged on their quality, not their race, religion, gender or size.

However, I am of a certain generation, sandwiched between Xers and Millennials, and my beliefs may be old hat, deemed an unnecessary speed bump on the road to utopia. Maybe the youngers really do believe that artists should warrant special consideration purely for not being male or white.

Maybe it’s time for people like me to just back away and shut our mouths, while the old ideas of excellence are torn down and rebuilt into a colourful rainbow.

I won’t, though. That’s not how writers work.