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…

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

2017 Horror Round-Up

By PJ Blakey-Novis

I read a lot of horror in 2017, way more than I used to, and so the following ten books are the ones which first came to mind. Of these, eight fall into the category of horror, with a mix of sub-genres. The remaining two were excellent reads of a different kind. They have all stood out, either because they were intensely gripping, shockingly disturbing, or at least had an element of originality.  So, in no particular order, my ten recommended reads are;

You Only Get One Shot by Kevin J. Kennedy & J.C. Michael

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I had been looking forward to reading this since listing it on my Halloween promotion in October, and I was not disappointed. You Only Get One Shot was a really enjoyable, original story. The authors had found a clever way of bringing a group of short stories together and adding a frightening connection between them all. A real pleasure to read.

 

 

 

 

 

Hades Gate by D.J. Doyle

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I was keen to read more from D.J. Doyle, after the fabulously disturbing Red, and Hades Gate did not disappoint. It was much less gruesome than Red, but carried an air of fear throughout. Hades Gate tells the story of a group of treasure hunters who find more than they bargained for in an underwater cave. Hades Gate is a short, action-packed, fear-filled ride that is highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

Hydrophobia: A Charity Anthology

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I was lucky enough to be gifted a copy of Hydrophobia at the end of October. I then spent the next few evenings reading my way through the 29 short stories that authors had provided to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Essentially, it’s a horror anthology, but each story varies greatly in sub-genre. The continued theme throughout is water. Some, such as the wonderful Bunny and Clyde by Lisa Vasquez, were genuinely creepy. Others, such as Beyond the Ocean by Lisa Lane, were beautifully original. The Dust by William Stuart was another of my favourites. Out of 29 stories and poems, I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed almost all of them. I have no hesitation in recommending Hydrophobia, as a fantastic book, and as a great way to discover new writers.

X: A Collection of Horror by C.M. Saunders

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A fabulous collection of short horror stories, spanning a range of sub-genres. Each story is uniquely fascinating; the author expertly builds up tension without the need for excessive gore. There was also a great introduction to the book, which reads as a conversation with the author, and really draws you in from the very start. This was the first of C.M. Saunder’s work that I have read, and will definitely be checking out more.

 

 

 

 

Red: An Extreme Horror by D.J. Doyle

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So, this book caught my eye a few months ago, when I was in the early stages of preparing for my Halloween promotion, largely due the use of the word ‘extreme’ in the description. It was the first story that I had read from the author, so I genuinely had no idea what to expect. Since reading it, which I did in one sitting on a cold evening, I have recommended it to several people. Now, in the case of Red, extreme means extreme! If you are remotely squeamish then this is not the book for you. It’s a short read, and I don’t want to give too much away, but Red is essentially a serial killer story. It’s a little different to most as the story is told from the killer’s perspective, and the author does a fantastic job of taking the reader into the killer’s mind, his background, and the reasoning he uses to justify his behaviour; he just wants to find his princess. If you’re fine with some gore, and want an unsettling yet pleasurable way to spend an evening, you can’t go wrong grabbing a copy of Red.

 

 

 

Triggered: An Extreme Horror by Justin Tense

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If torture and gore are what you look for in a horror story, then Triggered may be just your thing. It tells the story of a wealthy horror writer exacting revenge on the three police officers who abused him in his youth. The story is short, and straight to the point, with some very imaginatively gruesome scenes. Not for the weak of stomach, but very enjoyable nonetheless.

 

 

 

 

 

Pleasure Seekers by Mike Krutz

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Back in October, I ran a Halloween promotion to showcase a different horror story each day of the month, (You can find the list on my blog). Pleasure Seekers was one that stood out for me, and not just because of the bright, simplistic cover. It is a short story at 85 pages, but what an adventure it was to read! The story takes place over one night in a city, as the lives of a host of unusual characters intertwine. The story was well paced, and beautifully written. It was easy to envisage the scenes as each one unfolded. Pleasure Seekers managed to combine a fascinating set of individual tales and weave them into a story that I can honestly see becoming a cult classic.

 

 

 

Manchester Vice by Jack Strange

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I was lucky enough receive an Advance Readers Copy of Jack Strange’s fantastic Manchester Vice. It was a really enjoyable thriller, told from the point of view of Brad Sharpe, a journalist turned serial killer. The story was well-paced, with short chapters, and enough twists and turns to keep me guessing. At one point, I thought I had an upcoming twist figured out but I was wrong, which was a pleasant surprise. The ending was well thought out, and right up to the final chapter I did not know what to expect.

 

 

 

 

 

Noah Finn & The Art of Suicide by E. Rachael Hardcastle

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I was fortunate enough to receive an Advance Copy of Noah Finn and the Art of Suicide, knowing only that it dealt with delicate issues such as religion, death and the terrorist attack on September 11th 2001. As soon as I began reading, even by the end of the first chapter, I could see that this was something special. The story deals with Noah Finn, a janitor who had, up until September 11th, been trying to end his life. The story was complex enough to keep my interest, linking strings of incidents together as ‘The Universe’  played its role, with the help of Death, or Christopher Saint as he was called at this time. The connections between the characters were well thought out, and the writing was of an incredibly high standard. Overall, Noah Finn and the Art of Suicide was a thought-provoking, highly original, and sensitive story, with a splash of humour thrown in.

 

 

 

 

Holmes Volume 1 by Melvyn Small

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Firstly, a confession; I have never read any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories but, of course, I am familiar with the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. This reimagining of their adventures brings them into the modern day, in which Dr Watson is a psychiatrist and meets Holmes through this capacity. The book comprises of six short mysteries, all intertwined. The whole book was a pleasure to read; beautifully written, with clever storylines which kept me guessing throughout. The character of Sherlock was described perfectly, giving the reader a real sense of what kind of man he was. There were several laugh-out-loud moments, usually at points where Sherlock had to interact with a policeman by the name of Lestrade. Overall, it was hugely entertaining, and I look forward to reading Volume 2.

The War Against Verbosity

By C.M. Saunders

Definition:

Verbosity (noun)

“The fact or quality of using more words than needed; wordiness.”

I know. For years you’ve been hearing about wars against drugs, obesity and terrorism. The last thing you want is another war. But trust me, when considering the future of the written word, verbosity is just as much of a problem as any of these Real World issues, especially among young, inexperienced writers.

We all know those people who talk incessantly, dancing around whatever it is they want to say but lacking the confidence or courage to do so directly. Instead, they hope you connect the dots and do the dirty work for them.

It’s annoying, right?

Likewise, there are the people who hit the point right on the head with deadly accuracy. But then they just keep on hitting, saying the same thing over and over again, maybe using different words in an effort to give the impression that they’ve moved when in reality they are rooted to the spot.

Both these kinds of people waste our time, agreed?

In the literary world, verbosity has a similar effect. Consider this sentence:

“The skies opened, unleashing a slick torrent of rain which lashed against the dirty, lightly condensed window glass sounding like untold numbers of heathens banging their fists against the cold, unrelenting gates of heaven.”

Now consider this alternative:

“It was raining heavily.”

Or maybe:

“The rain lashed down.”

Granted, neither option is as evocative or spectacular as the first passage. But in effect they say the same thing, and move the story along to the same point in a fraction of the time. By comparison, the first sentence is dense and unfocused. You have to wade through a lot of padding to get the point.

You are probably wondering why verbosity bothers me so much.

Allow me to explain.

A lot of people send me samples of their work to read or critique, something I am usually more than happy to do. If you do this enough, certain patterns or traits begin to emerge. I can spot a novice writer because most of them take forty or fifty words to say something a more experienced writer would say in six or eight. It was raining. Got it. What more do you need to know? Anything else is just superfluous. Set the tone by all means, but know when you are entering ‘overkill’ territory. In the early stages of your writing career it is simply a matter of honing your craft.

Of course, there are times when a touch of verbosity is justified. Or even required. Especially at points in the story you want the reader to remember for maximum impact. Maybe a touching love scene, or the death of a leading character. But trust me, nobody wants to wade through three or four paragraphs of flowery prose describing in technicolour detail how much it’s raining outside and how wet the water is. What’s the point? You might think it’s the best thing ever written in the history of mankind, but it probably isn’t. Trust me, unless you keep things moving apace the reader will get bored very quickly. With so much choice out there, once you lose a reader, it’s very difficult to win them back.

Any good editor will tell you that you shouldn’t use more words than absolutely necessary. There was a time when you could have gotten away with it, but this isn’t the 19th Century anymore. Treat words as precious commodities, not something you have a surplus of. Get to the point with the minimum of fuss, and you’ll see marked improvements in your writing.

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:

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