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.

 

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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.

61yusXRXjwL

 

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

gingernutsofhorror.com

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.

kendallreviews.com

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

cmsaunders.wordpress.com

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.

cats like cream

“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.

spff

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Smolder cover idea 1

SMOLDER – May 4th – 11th

 

 

 

 

mad

 

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.

 

For the Love?

by C.M. Saunders

 There’s a worrying trend developing in publishing, whereby publishers (often individuals who just call themselves publishers, with about as much market knowledge as a used condom) snap up stories without paying the writer, compiles them into ezines or anthologies, and puts them on the market. They call themselves ‘For The Love (FTL),’ or ‘exposure’ markets. It’s nothing new, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. There’s been a debate going on over the viability of these markets since forever, the main argument in the ‘for’ column being that they provide platforms for emerging writers to break through. That may be true, but only because more established writers don’t work for free.

Generally speaking, there are two distinct forms of FTL market. The first is where the publisher invites submissions, edits and compiles the stories, sorts out a cover, then distributes a finished product in the form of a website, ezine, or ebook anthology, free to the public. This is a true ‘FTL’ market. Everyone works for free; the writers, the editor, the artists, using the publication as a platform to showcase their work. This is perfectly acceptable.

Then there is the dark side.

These publishers invite submissions, edits and compiles the stories, sorts out a cover, then distributes a finished product in the form of a website, ezine, or ebook anthology, and CHARGES the public money for it. They don’t pay the writers, or the artists, and they invariably charge for ad space, thereby creating two revenue streams (sales and ads) whilst incorporating virtually non-existent overheads and operating costs.

The publisher, who is also usually the editor, maintains he or she invests a lot of time in the project and should be compensated. That is true. But what about compensating the contributors who also invest a lot of time in their work? Not only time, but also money in the form of materials, hardware, software, electricity, etc. It actually costs money to write. The ‘FTL’ guff doesn’t cover it. Would you ask a workman to your house, ask him to build you a wall, which you then charged people to look at, and when the workman asks for payment (or at least a cut of the profits) you say, “Well, didn’t you enjoy building it?”

I don’t think so. Not unless you want a punch in the face. The same principal should be applied here. Otherwise, you are profiteering.

Of course, there is a wicked little sting in the tail here. These non-paying markets rarely attract writers of the calibre required to shift large amounts of product, because most of these writers have been around a while, quietly building their reputations, and know their worth. They aren’t about to work for free and stand by while someone else makes money off their hard work. Therefore, the only people who contribute to these publications are writers ‘on the way up.’

This isn’t a judgement of their quality. They might be, and probably are, very capable writers. The problem is they are yet to build an audience, so very few prospective readers know who they are. Obviously, submitting to FTL markets is part of the process of building that audience, but it does nothing for sales in the short term. Publications need a few big hitters in order to sell copies. But if you don’t pay, you won’t get those big hitters and you won’t sell many copies.

Catch 22.

Of course, you can flip that equation on its head and say that if a publication offered contributors even token payment, the quality of submissions would increase and so would sales. From there, the more money you offer, the better standard of writers would contribute and consequently, the more copies you sell. The more copies you sell, the more you can pay contributors, and so on.

If only more people recognized this, we would all be better off.

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

The Top 10 British Comedy Horror Films

By C.M. Saunders

That time of year again, eh? I was going to write about the history of Halloween and how it’s mired in ancient Celtic folklore. But all that stuff is freely available online and not very exciting. I wanted to do something special for you instead. So how about a Top 10 Horror Movie List? Not special enough? OK, how about a Top 10 BRITISH Horror Movie List? Still not good enough? Well, taking it to the next level, you know how us Brits are renowned for our unique, irreverent, occasionally wacky yet sophisticated sense of humour? No? Well, we are. Sometimes it can be as subtle as an autumn breeze. Other times it can be fast, bloody, and brutal. Like a good bout of period sex. So… how about a Top 10 British COMEDY Horror Movie List? Yeah, let’s do that.

 

10: I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle (1990)

vamp motorcycle

Once upon a time, in a faraway land called 1980s Britain, there was a very popular comedy drama TV series. Boon was its name, and it was about a courier service-cum-private detective agency. It was so popular that at its peak that a shrewd production company hired its two main stars, Michael Elphick and Neil Morrissey, to appear in a riotous low-budget horror romp in an attempt to capitalize on its burgeoning success. They only partially failed. In the beginning there are satanic rituals and rival biker gangs, climaxing in a motorcycle getting possessed and then purchased by an unsuspecting Noddy (Morrissey) who, coincidentally, is a courier by trade. And then, people start having terrible ‘accidents’ and it appears the motorcycle is to blame. This is like Boon with the gloves off and the volume turned up, with blood, gore, dismemberments, swearing, lewd behaviour and even a talking turd. I shit you not.

9: Inbred (2011)

inbred

This late-night Horror Channel stalwart sees a group of thuggish inner-city young offenders taken to an isolated Yorkshire town to do some community service. During a run-in with a group of local louts, one of their carers, Jim, falls and cuts open an artery in his leg. In a panic, the young offenders take him to a nearby pub to get help. Unfortunately, the locals (aka, ‘inbreds’) don’t like strangers in them parts. Not at all. They quickly decapitate poor Jim with a meat cleaver and lock the young offenders in the cellar, until they are taken out one by one to provide the village entertainment. Daft, disturbing and deeply offensive, the most puzzling thing about Inbred is just how far the makers managed to stretch a measly £109,000 budget, which is about half the cost of the average house in the UK.

8: Doghouse (2009)

doghouse

It’s got Danny Dyer in it, and it’s about a boy’s night out gone terribly wrong. Therefore, you just know it’s going to be crude, filthy and unashamedly misogynistic. What did you expect? At its core, it’s a parody of lad culture riffing on men’s supposed inherent fear of women. Luckily, it’s funny enough to compensate for all the Cosmopolitan schtick. Dyer, helped out by Noel Clarke, Stephen Graham and a few other less famous faces, head to a fabled town where women allegedly outnumber men 4-1. When they get there, they realize this is by no means a good thing as every female in sight has fallen victim to a biological toxin that turns them all into frenzied, blood-thirsty zombie types. It’s a battle of the sexes for sure.

7: Carry on Screaming (1966)

carry on screaming

Apparently, very few people outside Britain have heard of the legendary Carry On films. Quite frankly, this appals me. The films (all 30-plus of them, including such gems as Carry On Teacher, Carry On Behind and Carry On Doctor) are a British institution. Where else are you going to get fart jokes and edgy one-liners about hard-on’s and knockers on terrestrial telly at Sunday tea times? This particular outing is a parody of the Hammer Horror films, which were peaking in popularity at the time, and tells the story of a series of mysterious disappearances in the English countryside, which ultimately leads police to a mad doctor in a castle and a monster called Oddbod. Admittedly, the plot is a bit thin in this one, but the gags are timeless.

6: Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)

lesbian vampire

Before James Corden became a late-night TV host (or got his driving license) he starred in films like this. The critics hated it, with some bloke from the Times calling it an, “Instantly forgettable lad mag farce.” But that isn’t really saying too much. This was an era when it was fashionable to lamblast lad mags at every opportunity and besides, the Times don’t like any films. Even today it’s rare to see a film get more than two stars out of five, unless it’s an artsy fartsy French drama you need multiple degrees to understand. Personally, as far as low-brow humour goes, I thought this unofficial companion to Doghouse was a riot. When Jimmy (Mathew Horne) is dumped and Fletch (Corden), is sacked from his job as a clown for punching a kid, the duo decide to escape for the weekend to an idyllic village in Norfolk. A village which, unbeknownst to them, has been cursed, leading to a sizeable percentage of lesbian vampires. And you thought Eastern European immigrants were the problem.

5: Grabbers (2012)

grabbers

This is one of the more slick, big-budget entries on this list. Most of the time you just wouldn’t think it, which I guess is the point, as self-defeating as that is. Grabbers is essentially an alien invasion creature feature, the comedy aspect fueled primarily by the fact that alcohol is found to be toxic to the invaders, which encourages the inhabitants of a small Irish village to lock themselves in the pub and get rat-arsed as a defense mechanism. Think of this one as Father Ted crossed with the Blob and garnished with a liberal sprinkling of Cloverfield. It’s not a feckin’ lobster!

4: Severance (2006)

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Severance mixes humour, bravado, and some of the most brutal body horror this side of the Saw franchise to great effect, making it one of the stand-out Brit Horror films of the past two decades. The plot revolves around a group of office staff who are sent to Hungary on a team building exercise. As you would find in any office, the cast is made up of an eclectic and varied group of characters, all living up to certain long-held stereotypes. Danny Dyer pops up again, playing every-man caner Steve, who sees the getaway as the perfect opportunity to get off his tits. He’s munching magic mushrooms and puffing on a spliff in the toilet before the coach even stops (“Have I pissed meself?”). All in all, Severance comes off like a mash-up between Hostel and The Office. Brill.

3: Dog Soldiers (2002)

dog soldiers

There haven’t been many British horror films over the past decade or two more worthy of praise than Dog Soldiers. From the opening scenes, when a couple camping in the Scottish Highlands are ripped apart by a ferocious beast, you’re left in little doubt that this is a werewolf flick. If you like your horror bloody, funny, and gore-tastic, you can do a lot worse than this. You’re probably never going to see another northern bloke holding a flare aloft and singing, “Come and ‘ave a go if you think you’re ‘ard enough!” to a group of rampaging lycanthropes ever again. That man, incidentally, was played by an actor called Chris Robson, and he’s a French teacher in the north of England now. One of the few genuine, undisputed cult classics. Miss it at your peril.

2: An American werewolf in London (1981)

american werewolf

Some films you see during your impressionable formative years make an impression on you. Others scar you for life. For me, An American werewolf in London belongs firmly in the latter category. The subway chase scene gave me nightmares and years later when I first moved to London I remember going out of my way to incorporate Tottenham Court Road station (where the scene was filmed) in my daily commute. It never failed to give me chills, largely because the only thing about the station that has changed in the past 35 years are the fucking posters on the walls. The story goes that when director John Landis first started touting it, he had trouble securing finances with most would-be investors claiming the script was too frightening to be a comedy and too funny to be frightening. Eventually, PolyGram Pictures put up the $10 million, and were glad they did when it went on to become a box office smash and win an Academy Award for its special effects (Rick Baker went on to win six more from eleven nominations. A record). The story? It’s about an American werewolf in London, innit?

1: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

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Could any other film really take top spot in this list? Not on your nelly. This, the first instalment of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s so-called Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (the others films being Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) is a bona-fide modern classic. Whilst dealing with feuding housemates, a demanding girlfriend and a shitty job, Shaun (Pegg) wakes up one morning with a hangover to find he’s in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. We’ve all been there. Naturally, the only place to go to wait for the world to restore order is the local pub. Brilliant performances by the cream of noughties British comedic talent and commendable special effects, topped off by a hilariously witty script. The perfect introduction to a positively booming sub-genre.

Honourable Mentions:

Cockneys Vs Zombies (2012), the Cottage (2008), Sightseers (2012), Stitches (2012), Boy Eats Girl (2005), Horror Hospital (1973), Nina Forever (2015) Stag Night of the Dead (2010), The World’s End (2013), Ibiza Undead (2016)

Human Waste: A Short Splatterpunk Story by C.M. Saunders is out now.

human waste

 

 

And don’t forget to pick up a copy of our new anthology, ECHOES & BONES, which is dark, like Halloween, and sometime funny. You can also to enter to win a copy on Amazon. ‘Muricans only, because them’s the rules. Folks from other countries can go to our Facebook page for chances to win book goodies.

 

echoes and bones final kindle

 

The Great NYT Bestseller List Rip-Off

by C.M. Saunders

It is the dream of many would-be authors to get on the New York Times Bestseller list. It’s the kind of thing that can make or break entire careers. Keep that in mind when you consider the recent furor surrounding a little-known author called Lani Sarem, who allegedly bulk-bought her YA fantasy novel, “Handbook for Mortals” to the top of the famed New York Times bestseller list.

It shouldn’t happen, but it did, and the NYT were justifiably embarrassed about it. So much so, that they pulled the book from the list. Whether as a direct result of all this bad publicity, or just because it sucks, the book itself has been absolutely blasted by critics and reviewers. I thought the first order of business would be to find out more about the mysterious Lani Sarem who is either an exciting new name on the literary scene or a massive fraud.

In amongst all the name-dropping, on her social networks the self-styled rock n’ roll gypsy describes herself as a ‘writer and actress.’ She is indeed on IMBD, but the pinnacle of her acting achievements to date seems to be an uncredited role in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Over on Twitter, where she has less than 1600 followers, her bio describes her as a ‘festival expert.’ Checking out the book on Amazon (where it has attained a 2-star rating) the first thing you see is a forward written by one ‘Skye Turner’ praising Sarem and her considerable talents. The suggestion is that Sarem wrote this about herself. There is an active writer using the name Skye Turner who churns out low-brow erotica, but that’s obviously a pseudonym and the only other Skye Turner my search turned up was an Australian heroin addict who died back in June. Stranger and stranger. Finally, $9.96 for the Kindle edition? Really? Maybe I’m wrong, but all this smells a bit fishy to me.

Anyway, enough of the supposition. Let’s move on to some facts. For the record, writers bulk-buying copies of their own book under the pretence of selling them at events and signings is nothing new. It’s common practice for most indie authors, and has the dual-purpose of propelling their book a few places up the Amazon charts. I’m not defending Sarem, but that’s the reality of the situation.

Something that bothered me much more than her being accused of buying bulk copies was learning that the NYT Bestseller lists are, ‘Based on sales figures and editorial judgement. It is thought the team compiles a list of books they believe to be top sellers and asks a confidential group of several thousand retailers to provide sales data on those titles with the option to write in other titles that are selling well.’ (Source: The Times)

Wut?

Wait a minute, so… Some folk who work for the New York Times GUESS which books they think are selling well, then use ‘judgement’ to add extra credit where due? That’s bullshit. Obviously, this ‘judgement’ will encourage them to lean toward their favourite writers, or books put out by more the prestigious publishing houses, or even the ones backed by the most generous PR departments who take influential journalists and critics to the nicest restaurants. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that is what’s happening.

Why not base the list on sales alone?

At the very least, the system they currently have in place where so much credence is given to subjective ‘judgement’ gives a biased representation of which books indeed head the charts, and makes it doubly hard for new writers (or old writers with smaller publishers) to penetrate the bubble. Imagine if the Premier League table was decided in the same way as the NYT Bestseller list. You would have a group of journalists, all with their own biases, arguing that the club they support (undoubtedly one of the big guns) is the best in the country. Less fashionable clubs like West Brom, Stoke City and Burnley wouldn’t stand a chance.

Regardless of what Laini Sarem did in order to achieve it, the fact remains that during a specific time period, her book sold more copies than any other. In fact, she sold over 18,000 that week, while the average figure for most books hitting the top spot is more like 5,000. But she has been vilified just because some stuffy industry bigwigs didn’t like the way she sold them.

Horror Reviews with C.M. Saunders

Film Review: The Void (2016)

By C.M. Saunders

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It isn’t often a horror movie leaves me feeling as emotionally drained as this one did. Other worldly cosmic horror, body horror, splatter horror, this film is a mash-up of every kind of horror you can think of, and probably some you cant. It’s hard to know where to start talking about it. Dismemberment? Check. Pyramids? Check. Demon babies? Check. Hospital-cum-gateway-to-hell invaded by knife-wielding devil worshipers in hoods? Check. You get the picture. Possibly.

          It all starts innocently enough when sheriff’s deputy Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole, who excelled in 2012’s The Conspiracy) stops one night to help what he assumes is a drunk dude crawling down the side of the road. When it transpires drunk dude isn’t drunk at all, but severely traumatised, Deputy Carter takes him to the hospital where his ex-wife works. There, whilst going through the administration procedure, he finds one of the nurses cutting her face off and stabbing a patient in the eyes with a pair of scissors. She then attacks Deputy Carter who shoots her dead. Not a regular occurrence. But his shift gets worse when he goes outside to his patrol car to call in the incident and is confronted with the aforementioned knife-wielding devil worshipers in hoods. Back inside the hospital, things take an even more disturbing turn when the dead nurse transforms into a slithering, slimy, tentacled creature, which is the last thing anyone needs, and matters are compounded when a gateway to Hell (aka, the void) opens. There are numerous twists and turns along the way, which I won’t spoil for you, ensuring the plot moves along with pace. The downside of this is the fact that of you blink, you are liable to miss something important.

            A lot of reviews compared The Void (favourably) with the low-budget horror flicks of the 80s. I don’t see it myself, though there are certain similarities with Josh Carpenter’s The Thing. Some of the cartoon violence comes across as a little bit gratuitous and the cosmic horror aspect adds some trippiness to proceedings, but the package works well. I love the return to ‘real’ special effects, rather than an over-reliance on CGI which has become the norm these days. The Void made quite a splash on 2016’s festival circuit and currently holds a 76% approved rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is remarkably high for a film of this type. Definitely not one to aVoid. Sorry.

Reading Habits

by C.M. Saunders

 

Like a good little writer, I read a lot. You might say obsessively. All things considered, I guess I read between 2-4 hours a day. I read widely, across a lot of platforms and topics, but mostly in the sport, lifestyle, travel and paranormal areas. These are the areas I usually work in, so being knowledgeable helps me follow trends and keep my finger on the pulse.

Newspapers

Yeah, I know they are going out of style, but I’m keeping the dream alive. For me, The Times is the best newspaper out there. I don’t agree with all their politics. In fact, I usually skip those sections. But they have excellent writers and the articles are usually not only newsworthy but informative and often a bit quirky. There’s something quintessentially British about The Times, and I love how it treads the line between broadsheet and tabloid. My ‘happy place’ is a quiet pub on a rainy afternoon, with a pint of craft ale and a copy of The Times.

If I can’t get a copy of The Times, the Guardian will do, or the Observer on a Sunday. I never get The Sunday times because it’s like a metre-squared fucking Argos catalogue. My tabloid of choice is The Sun. It gets a lot of bad press (ho ho!) but it serves a purpose and the sports pages are outstanding. Wales on Sunday and the Western Mail are my regional newspapers when I’m in Wales but I rarely buy them these days. The quality of local journalism has nosedived. It’s largely due to less people reading newspapers and consequently their resources taking a hit, but you could argue that one reason less people are reading newspapers is because the quality of the product isn’t what it used to be. It’s the chicken or the egg scenario. My most hated newspapers would be the Metro, because it reads like it was written by a bunch of 6-year old’s, and the Daily Mail, because that’s why.

Magazines

Ten years ago, there were eight or more different magazines I bought religiously every week or month, depending on their frequency. Sadly, most of them are gone now. Of the few that remain, the only one I subscribe to (and I have done for twenty years or so) is Fortean Times. I like the crazy. I also buy Classic Rock almost every month, and either GQ or Esquire. Both are slightly pretentious, but they are the closest thing remaining to FHM and Loaded, and they make decent toilet reading. I also like going to large newsagents and impulse buying whatever catches my eye. I grab Kerrang! Empire, Fighters Only and Mojo semi-regularly, along with the occasional travel title or hobbyist writing magazine. One day I woke up hungover, fully-clothed in my bed, covered in about £35 worth of mags. What a glorious day that was. When in London, I make sure I pick up whichever free mag is being distributed that day, Sport and Shortlist being pick of the bunch, with Escapism and Red Bulletin third and fourth.

Websites

I spend a lot of time surfing the net, but there aren’t many websites I use on a regular basis apart from Facebook and WordPress. Does Wiki count? How about Bet 365? Otherwise, MMA Fighting, Louder Than War a and BBC News are probably my most visited. I habitually used Wales Online a lot until recently. But this outlet is suffering in much the same way as the print products Media Wales oversees is. In an effort to maximise profits, the quality of reporting has declined to laughable levels and the site is literally clogged up with advertising. It often takes several minutes to load, and when it finally does you are inundated with pop-ups. Sometimes you have to participate in a survey before you can even read the article you clicked on. I understand they have to (try and) make a profit, but that’s just intrusive. Life’s too short.

Books

I try to read widely, both fiction and non-fiction. I love sports autobiographies, travelogues, and rock memoirs, along with a healthy dose of true crime and the occasional tale of survival-against-the-odds.

The fiction I read is almost exclusively in the horror genre (as broad as that is). If there are no ghosts or zombies, or at least a demented serial killer on the rampage, I get real bored real fast. I’ve never been the kind of person to read one book at a time, but only when I wrote this post did I realize how bad things have got. I really should show some more composure, but there are just so many books and so little time. At the moment, I have no less than seven on the go. For the interested, these are:

Physical copies:

Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen

Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead, Neil Strauss

PDF’s on the PC:

DOA 3, various authors

Wild Talents, Charles Fort

And on the Kindle:

Sinister Scribblings, Matt Hickman

Unit 731, Craig Saunders

Battlefield, Amy Cross

 

 

 

 

Weird Writerly Things

Every writer has a process. Even if it’s only that they write in a specific room or at a certain time of day, we all have something that helps get us in the mood. I (Renee) forced everyone to tell me one weird thing they do to get in the zone for writing. Some of the Dolls didn’t disappoint. Liam, you need to get weirder. Just saying.

Anyway, here’s what they told me. Now they know the confidentiality thing I made them sign is useless.

Liam: Just daydream and type what happens.

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Hanna: Being in nature. I usually write best outside too.

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Oh yeah, sounds great, Hanna.

Steve: Smoking cigarettes and staring at the sky was a great way to zone out and run a chapter through my head. Unfortunately it’s not a good habit, lung-wise, so I can’t recommend it in good faith.

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(right?)

Michael: Cleaning the toilets usually does it, followed by strong coffee. Either that or a tomato sandwich.

(Did you say tomato sandwich?)

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Renee: Candy Crush. I wish I was joking, but I’m not. Playing a few rounds of that empties my brain of other things. I just play until I’m ready and then I write. If that doesn’t work, I take a nap, because naps are awesome.

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Katrina: Coffee and a swift kicking of everyone the hell away from me.

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(We had such high hopes for yours, Kat.)

Christian: I don’t have a weird thing that helps me get in the zone. Is that weird?

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(Yes, Christian. It’s weird. You’re weird.)

Writer’s Block

by C.M. Saunders

For better or for worse (usually worse), I’m involved in a lot of groups on Facebook, Linked In and the like, where writers of varying descriptions flock together to discuss various aspects of ‘the craft.’ The one topic that crops up more than any other in these groups is writer’s block.

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            The thing is, and feel free to fight me on this if you want, but I don’t think writer’s block exists. It’s a myth perpetuated by hobbyists with delusions of grandeur. The kind of people who sit in the corners of cafes and coffee shops with expensive tablets and a skinny latte because ‘that’s where they do their best work.’

            You’ll find these pretenders haunting most establishments. The trendier the better. They’ll sit quietly, smoothing their beards thoughtfully, adjusting their beanies, and making a single hot beverage last three-and-a-half hours. A smug half-smirk will be tugging at the corners of their mouths, and if you listen carefully, you might be able to hear their inner thought process.

            I am a gifted individual. People envy me. I write, therefore I am. My words will change the world. But wait, no I don’t want to write any more. Right now I’d rather be checking the Ted Baker website to see if the new knitwear collection is available for pre-order yet. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Must be writer’s block. I’m a tortured artist! The angst! Oh, dear creative God’s, deliver me from this hell!

            I recently remarked to one of the many ‘WRITER’S BLOCK. AAARGH!” comments that clog up my newsfeed most days that, in my opinion, writer’s block is something that separates the pros from the pretenders. It didn’t go down very well with the supposed victim. I wasn’t being pretentious. The point I was trying to make is when faced with adversity, pros will find a way over, around, or through the obstacle preventing them achieving their goals. Whereas hobbyists, who would just as happily be doing something else anyway, will just give up.

            But here’s the rub. They don’t want to admit giving up so easily. That would show weakness, and a lack of integrity. So they pin the blame on something other than themselves instead. Something intangible and unquantifiable, some mysterious ailment that only the supremely gifted can suffer from.

            Writer’s block is a luxury professionals can’t afford. If they don’t write, they don’t eat and they get evicted. Simple. Have you ever heard of plumber’s block? Dentist’s block? Estate agent’s block? No? That’s because there’s no such thing. Sure, sometimes they have days where they don’t feel like going to work. Just like there are times when you don’t feel like doing the washing up, or changing the bed. That’s when you put your head down, grit your teeth, rise above it and get the job done.

            Just to be clear, I have no problem with people writing as a hobby. Quite the opposite, in fact. Generally speaking, I think the human race in general could benefit from reading and writing more. Then maybe a higher percentage of people would be able to spell and punctuate properly and we wouldn’t be such a nation of fucktards.

            One acquaintance of mine who complained of suffering from writer’s block said the only thing that alleviates the condition is playing video games, so he did that for three months. Three fucking months. Wait a minute, are you sure you wouldn’t just prefer playing video games? Because it sure seems that way. Incidentally, this writer was unpublished, and it’s easy to see why. I’m not knocking his ability. Who am I to judge? The guy might be a very good writer. Hell, he might even be the best writer who ever lived. The thing is we’ll probably never know, because when the chips are down, he boots up Halo. How many dentists out there do you think take three-month sabbaticals where they don’t work, they just play video games?

            I understand that maintaining writer’s block doesn’t exist might be a controversial view.  Message boards and chat forums, even the odd serious article or academic paper, argue otherwise. But what’s really happening here is people misdiagnosing the condition. Writer’s block is an excuse to give up when things get tough. Or, in most cases, an excuse to not do something you don’t even have to do in the first place. Some writers like to blame their inadequacies on things that are beyond their control. It makes them feel better about being fucking lazy.

            I want to leave you with this thought. Real writers write. They don’t sit around pissing and moaning about how hard it is. Those that do it on a regular basis know it’s hard. It’s not the exciting, romantic existence some people seem to think it is. If you’re not enjoying it, or you’re struggling with your latest case of writer’s block, the one that stops you from ever actually writing anything, go find something else to do. Don’t take to social media to bare your soul every ten minutes. It’s boring.

            If you want to be a professional, or at least acknowledged as such, act like one. Grow a backbone. Learn about sacrifice, resilience and endeavour. I’m sure Stephen King, Dan Brown and Robert Ludlum would love to kick back and spend three months at a time playing computer games, or watching Friends, or whatever the hell else floats their respective boats. But they don’t. If they did, they wouldn’t have written all those books.

            You see? Pros and pretenders.