Are You Indie?

by Renee Miller

What Is Indie? Fuck if I know anymore. I used to think I knew, but now I’m not sure. (I see all of you clamoring to give me a definition. Go on. If you must.)

I guess I should explain what made me ask this question. You see, I’ve published books myself. I’ve published fiction with magazines and small presses as well. I’ve had people say things like, “But I thought you were supposed to be Indie,” when I shared links to stories published in online magazines. My take away from that was they felt not publishing books/stories myself somehow makes me not Indie.

What is Indie, though? What does it mean? Well, the term indie doesn’t include just self-published authors. I know some of you are confused by this. Hell, I’m confused. Has the definition changed? I didn’t get the memo, but then, I’m terribly disorganized, so it might be here somewhere.

My understanding of indie is that it means “independent.” So this means a self-published author or one published by an independent or boutique publisher. Small press. Not one of the Big Five or Six, or however many of those are out there. Someone who self-publishes but also has traditionally published work is called hybrid.

The thing is, in my head, I prefer to use the term “author.” I’m an author. I write books. I like people to read said books. How those books get to the readers is really not important to me, as long as they get read. Publishers are awesome, because they take care of the tedious shit I don’t like to deal with, like formatting, cover design and finding my mistakes. Self-publishing is also awesome, because I’m in control. We know how much I like my control.

I don’t like either label because there’s so much stigma and judgment attached to both types of publishing. On one hand, we have these indie pricks with their low-quality, cheap books bringing everything down and ruining the industry for everyone. On the other hand, we’ve got these elitist traditional fuckers with noses stuffed firmly up their own asses. They think their shit don’t stink. Am I right?

None of that is true, of course. Each side struggles with stereotypes. I’ve dealt with self-pubbed authors who basically feel anyone who goes traditional for any reason is a traitor to the indie cause. (I’ve never been quite sure what that means. The bloody battle for mediocrity perhaps?) Why would I give a cut of those two dollars to someone else? (Sarcasm) There are also hard-core traditional authors who will wash their hands of colleagues who try the indie waters. How dare they step down from the golden pedestal to slum it with the unwashed masses?

My point is, this is all stupid. Why do we need labels? Yes, so the reader knows how you published… Is that really important if you’re putting good work out there?

I’m not ashamed of being an indie author. I take great pride in the fact that I conquered my fears of inadequacy and failure and published myself. I find no shame in being a traditionally published author either. I’m proud someone else sees value in what I’ve worked extremely hard to produce and are willing to put themselves out on a limb (even a short one) to help me get it out there.

Is there a problem with just calling ourselves authors and leaving it at that? I guess there is, because we’re all special snowflakes, blah, blah, and a label gives us a “place.” It helps readers know what we’re about and… I don’t know. Labels just define things, which, apparently, is very important.

No thanks. I’d rather be undefinable, because I’m the specialest of all the snowflakes. (More sarcasm.)

What do you guys think? As a reader, is it important to know if a book is indie or not? As an author, is there a reason you’d prefer to be considered one or the other?

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July’s Deviant News and Books

 

We’ve got a few goodies coming in July, but first, let’s see what C.M. Saunders has going on right now. First, you can get Human Waste FREE from June 21st to June 25th.

human waste

 

Dan Pallister is a survivalist and prepper. Much to the annoyance of the people around him, he has been surviving and prepping since childhood. He just didn’t know what for. When he wakes up one morning to find the world overrun with bloodthirsty zombies it all becomes clear, and despite the fall of civilisation, he can’t wait to get started. He just needs to stock up on supplies from the local supermarket first.

But is everything what it seems?

Bonus Content:

Til death do us Part (short story)
No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches (exclusive extract)

WARNING: This book contains descriptions of graphic violence and/or sex, and is not suitable for children.

“A fast paced, disturbing read” – Amazon Reviewer

And he’s got a couple of new RetViews on his blog:

 

Thinner

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It didn’t exactly set the box office alight, either. In fact, it barely broke even. But this is another example of a film overcoming an indifferent initial reaction to slowly evolve into an underground cult classic.

 

 

 

 

 

Eyes Without a Face

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During its screening at the 1960 Edinburgh Film Festival, seven audience members reportedly fainted prompting director Franju to remark, “Now I know why Scotsmen wear skirts.”

 

 

 

 

 

And from Renee Miller, the long-awaited (not really, but she likes to be dramatic) weird horror novel, EAT THE RICH, will be released on July 13th by Hindered Souls Press.

Eat-The-Rich-Front-Cover

 

When Ed Anderson discards his life to become a homeless person, he has no idea of the shit storm about to happen. Almost overnight, the city’s homeless population spikes.

So does the murder rate.

Ed learns that aliens posing as homeless people are eating the city’s wealthiest residents. he tries to warn the police, but they think he’s crazy.

The situation is worse than Ed describes, though.

He’s right about the aliens. They’re here to free humans from wealth and poverty. The flesh of the rich is just a tasty reward for their hard work. And if humans refuse to embrace the utopia imagined for them, there is a Plan B:

KILL EVERYONE.

You can pre-order your copy now. It’s okay. We’ll wait. Oh, and this one will be available in audio book, so we’ll add those links to her books page as soon as that’s available.

And, because it’s Canada’s birthday next month, Renee’s put Sex, Peanuts, Fangs & Fur: A Practical Guide for Invading Canada on sale for just 99 cents from July 1st – July 7th. You can also get her bloody awesome short stories, HUNGER and KILLERS for free from July 1st – July 5th.

 

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And in case you missed it: This month, Michael Keyton announced his new release THE GIFT, which will be available on Amazon and such VERY soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Also new in June, Tony Bertauski released The Roots of Drayton: A Drayton Chronicles Novel, which is available NOW.

You don’t want to pass on this one. It’s a fantastic series.

 

 

 

 

The Green Monster

We don’t like to admit that we’re jealous of other writers’ success, talent, or any of that, but let’s be honest, the green monster invades our hearts from time to time. Even the Dolls struggle with envy, but it’s a good thing. Makes you work harder so you can be the object of someone else’s envy right?

So, we decided to share the books we wish we’d written, for whatever reason.

Katrina: A recent book I wish I’d written was The Hazelwood. It incorporates original fairy tales into the narrative, it’s dark and twisty and original.

Liam: I wish I had written my idea of an historical fiction book about the prisoners of Dunbar (1650.) The research involved is just so daunting, I will probably never start it… and just wish it was behind me.

Steve: It’s tempting here to steal the success of other authors, but often books capture the zeitgeist for reasons not just connected to their quality or ideas, but by being the right book at the right time. My taking them could leave them languishing in obscurity. So too, it’d be tempting to claim a work I dearly love for my own, but would it then be as magical? Would I lose something by not discovering it? Best to go for utility here, so I’d wish I’d written Donald Trump’s biography. I mean, it’d make a lot of money, and it’s not as if he’d ever actually read it.

Michael: Boneland by Alan Garner. The dialogue crackles and there’s an economy of language that hints rather than spell everything out. It demands more from the reader because each word is loaded and no word is wasted. Flabby books you can skim.

Christian: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It’s fantastic. I learned more about the mind of a woman from that one book than I did from half a dozen failed relationships. Also, it sold about a gazillion copies and the movie ripped up Hollywood. I’d never have to work again.

Renee: I was going to say Gone Girl, because it’s one of those books you just can’t get out of your head, but even more haunting was The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. I think I wish I’d written almost everything I’ve read by her. She’s brilliant.

Also, kind of wish I wrote Fifty Shades of Grey, but better, and only for the money.

What about you? Any book you’ve read recently (or long ago) that you wish you’d written?

 

Take Us Away

Christian had this idea that you guys might enjoy knowing a few of our favorite things. Maybe he was wrong, but we’re going to tell you anyway. Since it’s summer, when most people embark on holidays and gloriously awful family vacations, let’s all share our favorite holiday destination. Personally, I can’t afford a holiday, but let’s play along just the same.

Katrina: Hahahahahahahaha. Vacation? You’re hilarious.

Here’s a holiday destination for you: My living room, after the children have gone to bed, with a glass of bourbon sweating on the coffee table and something mind-numbing on the TV. Heaven.

Tony: Mountains. We like a good couple of days to day-hike and stay in a cabin with a view. Our current number one spot to visit next is the redwoods in California.

Liam: This one is easy… Okracoke Island North Carolina. Specifically, Howard’s Pub. The place isn’t what it was back when Buffy Warner, the original owner, was alive, but I still love the place. I will carry so many good memories of that most delightful spot for the rest of my life.

Peter: There are plenty of places I’d like to go, of course, but camping is a favourite. We go at least once a year and have a week in a field with food, drinks, and books. It’s also a great time to get some writing done (if you’ve read my story ‘21’ you may not want to go camping any time soon, though).

Christian: London is a great place to visit. Not such a great place to live, with all the noise, pollution, inflated prices and danger. I spent a long time in China, so I’m going to go for Pingyao, a little ancient village in Shanxi province not too far (in China terms) from Beijing. Most of the big cities in China have been modernised, which is probably a good thing, Pingyao hasn’t. It’s like walking through a film set. The whole place has a massive wall built around it, cars are mostly banned, and the local delicacy is Pingyao beef, which is a bit like corned beef. There’s even a beef museum there. A beef museum!

Renee: I don’t go on holiday, so I guess my favorite destination is right here at home. I’d love to go camping as often as I did as a kid. We’re in “cottage country” so there are a ton of great spots, some of which aren’t too touristy. But it doesn’t really matter where I go, as long as it’s quiet and relatively mosquito free. I’d rather avoid bears too.

You know what? I’ve never been to the Maritimes, but that’s on my bucket list, so while I’m not sure if it’ll be my favorite destination once I’ve gone, I’ll say it’s number one right now.

Mike: I’ve been lucky. Not everyone has walked down the Grand Canyon, and walked up again. More people have visited Pompeii, which is magical in a different way. There you swim through heat and stone into a deeper past. I’m usually not a fan of revisiting places, but Pompeii and America in general would tempt me. America especially. From early childhood I’ve fantasised about the early days of the ‘Wild West’. A lot of Liverpool kids did, to the extent of playing cowboys and Indians wearing World War II gasmasks found abandoned on railway sidings.  But first things first. The holiday destination this year is a cruise. Not because I’ve joined the pink jumper and cavalry twill brigade, fox trotting on giant floating cities. My dad was a Chief Officer in the Merchant Navy, and at fifteen I trained to become a ship’s cook intending to follow in his footsteps. Life took me by the scruff of the neck and threw me in a different direction, but I’ve never lost the urge to go to sea. Trouble is, I’m too old to be a ship’s cook now, and so the only way I’m going to ride the waves is via a cruise. During World War II he was on Atlantic Convoys, and several times did the Murmansk route. We’re off on a smallish ship to Iceland, which is somewhere between the two. A pilgrimage, you may say.

Your turn. Any holiday destinations you’d recommend? What about places you wish you never visited? We’d love to hear the story behind those.

June’s Deviant News and Books

What’s up with the Dolls this month? Well, it’s pretty quiet, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have something for you.

Last month, Michael Keyton released Anthony Trollope: Power, Land and Society 1847 – 1980

31154185_10156148952966777_2708272631576002560_nTrollope 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.

Get it here.

He’s also been busy spiffing up another new release THE GIFT, which will be available on Amazon and such VERY soon.

house, moody bkgrnd

Born in a Liverpool slum, Lizzie McBride is the daughter of an Irish seer who dies when Lizzie is barely twelve, leaving her in charge of two younger sisters and a grieving father. When her father commits suicide, Lizzie is caught between two worlds: An aunt and uncle who decide the three orphans would be better off with them in America, and her mother, who appears in a dream and urges her to stay. Just as they are about to board ship, Lizzie runs away and her life changes forever.

Pursued by her aunt, Lizzie cannonades into the young and charismatic magician, Aleister Crowley who takes her under his wing. He introduces her to Lady Gwyneth Morgan, daughter of the richest family in Wales and sister to the flamboyant occultist, Evan Morgan. At this point Lizzie doesn’t realise she has a gift; the ability to open Hell and control its greatest demons. When the occult world discovers this, governments and powerful individuals seek her out. Only one man can protect her: the magician John Grey.

Also new this month, Tony Bertauski will be releasing The Roots of Drayton: A Drayton Chronicles Novel on June 12. Pre-order now!

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Drayton can’t leave the Lowcountry.

He once believed he was a vampire when he terrorized villages and slaughtered for blood. Now he absorbs essence from the dying’s final breath and rarely stays in one place. He has been in the Lowcountry far too long.

Everything is about to change.

After witnessing an elderly man’s death, Drayton vows to protect his wife. He assumes the job of her gardener in Charleston’s historic district. But when a young woman named Amber enters the garden, he soon questions who he is protecting.

And from whom.

Drayton will finally discover why he has roamed the planet for so long. He will learn the purpose of his existence and why he has absorbed human essence all of his life. Before he uncovers his roots, he will return to his blood-thirsty days of old.

For the first time, Drayton will become the prey.

 

And in case you missed it, last month, P.J. Blakey-Novis announced the launch of Boxes of blood.

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Boxes of Blood, a new service, 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

And looking forward to July, keep your eyes peeled for Renee’s weird horror novel, EAT THE RICH, which will be released by the awesome Hindered Souls Press.

Eat-The-Rich-Front-Cover

When Ed Anderson discards his life to become a homeless person, he has no idea of the shit storm about to happen. Almost overnight, the city’s homeless population spikes.

So does the murder rate.

Ed learns that aliens posing as homeless people are eating the city’s wealthiest residents. he tries to warn the police, but they think he’s crazy.

The situation is worse than Ed describes, though.

He’s right about the aliens. They’re here to free humans from wealth and poverty. The flesh of the rich is just a tasty reward for their hard work. And if humans refuse to embrace the utopia imagined for them, there is a Plan B:

KILL EVERYONE.

And if you’ve been under a rock, you might not know that Steve Wetherell has re-released THE LAST VOLUNTEER with Falstaff Books, AND he was at ConCarolinas with his Authors and Dragons besties. For more details, and a few good laughs, check out the podcasts and the book.

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Fans of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – your long wait for a successor is over!

The fate of the world lies with one man: Bip Plunkerton.

Talentless psyentist and frequent drinker at The Empty Goat, young Bip Plunkerton will follow in his father’s footsteps as a Volunteer…footsteps that have yet to return from the wilds of the wide world outside.

Traverse the harsh weather of the formidable Ice Plains, navigate the Boiling Sea, and suffer the ravaging heat of the Bone Desert. Bip’s impossible task, continually thwarted by the semi-corporeal Mr. Random, is to warn the rest of the world of the coming doom of the Massive Ball of Death hurtling through space.

Will the last volunteer be any more successful than the first? Will Bip save planet Bersch from a fate set into motion millennia before?

Probably not, but we can likely drag this question out for a couple more books, though. Right?

Finally, Renee and Christian were both included in Digital Horror Fiction’s new collection, DIGITAL HORROR FICTION VOLUME 1.

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Inside you’ll find Renee’s horror story, WHERE THERE IS LIFE and Christian’s bloody tale, ROADKILL, along with a few other pretty awesome horror authors.

And that’s all for now. Stay tuned for next month’s news, and keep an eye on our Books pages for anything we may have missed here.

Internet Etiquette

By C.M. Saunders

I know what you’re thinking. Internet etiquette? It’s the internet, there is no etiquette.

But see, you would be wrong.

So wrong.

Because everything you post online, every snide comment, scathing retort, and misguided or misunderstood witticism, is there for all the world to see and it stays there until you delete it.

And even then there are ways to get it back, or so I’m told.

This means that past, present and future friends, colleagues, partners and employers can all see how you interact with people, and what kind of person lurks behind that cool exterior. Oh, and you can add the government to that list. Not just yours, but more than likely several, and even your great aunty Zelda. You didn’t think she used Facebook? Best think again. Even regular Joe’s who you don’t notice lurking online and don’t give much of a shit about anyway can pose a threat.

The DO’s are quite simple: DO use the Internet however you see fit, DO surf to your heart’s content, DO find some of its hidden corners, DO look up those old friends and flames, and DO find new ones. In short, have a blast. Just be aware of a few DON’T’s.

By the way, this (non-exhaustive) list is aimed primarily at indie writers and other internet marketers, but with a little improvisation, can be applied to just about anyone’s daily life. It is designed to help, not hinder.

DON’T post book links, or any promotional material, direct to people’s Facebook wall.

DON’T send book links, or any other promotional material, in the form of direct messages. This topic is particularly prickly amongst the Twitteratti. They fucking hate it.

DON’T tag people in political posts or rants about Lady Gaga, football, the environment, the refugee crisis, veganism, or anything else that could be construed as even vaguely divisive or controversial. The post likely reflects YOUR opinion, not that of the people you are tagging, and by tagging them you are associating them with your views against their will.

DON’T add people to groups without their permission, even if you think you’re doing them a favour. Just don’t.

When commenting on other people’s threads, DON’T see that as an opportunity to drop your book link. That, my friend, is spam, and it tastes like shit.

Similarly, when people ask for book recommendations, DON’T recommend your own book. Show some humility, you pretentious asshole.

Listen, I get that some people just aren’t very savvy. They might mean well, and just don’t know what they are doing is annoying the shit out of people. But the vast majority of social network users know exactly what they are doing. They know they are taking liberties and being annoying. They just don’t care. That’s just disrespectful.

Do yourself a favour, follow these unwritten rules, and make social networking less painful and awkward for the people who know you.

61yusXRXjwL X3, 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.

 

 

Has Being Offended Become Cool?

by Renee Miller

 

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First, let’s talk about words. All the words. Swear words, slang, regular words that the masses have decided we’re not allowed to use anymore, and their replacements. All the fucking words, man. I love them. Even the tricky ones like cunt, whore, and yes, even retard. While some of these words bother me for personal reasons, I can’t hate any of them, because each one is full of history, emotion and POWER. I’m a writer. I will use whatever word gives what I’m writing the proper emotion, and this means using the words I might choose not to use in real life.

Why shouldn’t this offend you? You have the right to feel how you want to feel, but think twice before publicly shaming someone simply because their choice of words bothers you. When I use a word you find offensive, and you scold me or worse for using it, you are giving ME your power. You’re giving the word you hate power. The only person not getting any power is you.

I like profanity, as you all know, and I use it frequently. People are offended by this sometimes. I don’t really give a fuck, but sometimes their offense at my language offends me. I want to tell them to fuck off. Get off their stupid pedestal, and join the real world. Sometimes I do tell them that. Usually I don’t, because fuck them. Why can’t I love all the words, including the nasty, dirty, messy ones? It’s not just words, though. In the book world, even ideas, thoughts, themes, etc. offend people. One of my besties, Katrina Monroe, experienced a bit of backlash for her book, Sacrificial Lamb Cake, which is a brilliant, witty, fun read that I will always love. Yes, it’s blasphemous, but that much is clear if you read the damn cover blurb. Yet, she’s received negative reviews (alas, I can’t find any of them now, so maybe the Goodreads cleaning crew has passed through?) because someone either didn’t read the blurb, or did and decided to read the book anyway, and their wittle feelings were hurt.

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Why would someone who is uncomfortable with subjects such as lesbians and/or heavenly bodies who are anything but what the Bible describes, read a book that STATES the messiah is a lesbian RIGHT ON THE COVER? Is it not pretty likely you’re going to hate this book? It’s not just her either. Another author friend, who writes deliciously disgusting horror , has received a slew of negative reviews because of the nasty shit her characters think and do. It’s horror! What do you expect? Another author, whom you all know well, C.M. Saunders, received backlash because in his book, Sker House, a male character used the term “friend zone.” And I’ve had folks refuse to rate books, or knock stars from their ratings, because they don’t like the “rough language.” It’s offensive. Oh, muffin.

I’m not whining about it. If you feel like you can’t review my books or can’t say anything positive because you were so upset by content and/or language, then that’s how you feel. I’m just saying I think it’s ridiculous, because that’s how I feel.

By the way, this post is intentionally offensive to anyone who is easily offended, so if you’re one of those people, stop reading. Or keep reading if you need your “I’m a self-righteous douchebag” fix.

Personally, I find it astonishing that we are all still offended by what is essentially a bunch of letters. I am always shocked when someone gets bent out of shape over holiday greetings, celebrations, phrases, etc. Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there! Now I’ve pissed off anyone who hasn’t had a child, can’t have a child, has lost a child, or doesn’t want a child at all, as well as the ones who hate their mothers, or were abandoned by their moms, or lost their moms. Shit, it’s all so exhausting.

Merry Christmas pisses off people who don’t celebrate Christmas, but Happy Holidays pisses off the Christians. And for the love of God, don’t you ever use “Xmas”, you lazy, insensitive motherfucker. Happy Chocolate Bunny Day pisses off the folks who know Easter isn’t about candy and bunnies. Well, it is in my house, because I’m not a Christian. So, um, yeah. You can wish me a happy Easter or a Merry Christmas. I’ll say thanks, even if I’m not religious, because I appreciate that the greeting came from a good place. You’re not trying to oppress me or convert me, or whatever… are you? Oh, you crafty little bitch.

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I did start a list of everything that offends people these days, but it was way too long to put in a single post, because you jerks keep adding shit every damn day. I can’t keep up. I should add that some of the things I read/hear online bother me too, but I don’t call the moral police to have the guilty parties arrested and flogged, because who the fuck cares? They have the right to say what they want to say, and I have the right to not like it. I don’t have to be a drama queen about it, and I don’t think I’m helping anyone by telling them their words hurt me. In most cases, that was their goal all along, so why give them exactly what they want?

I’m not entirely sure why being offended is a fad, but I’m thinking part of it is that we have become addicted to that wonderful self-righteous glow that being offended leaves behind. I mean, how awesome does it feel to knock some cocky prick down a peg or three, because he uses a word or phrase that causes us discomfort or pain? I don’t care the context he used it in, or even if it was meant to be offensive or not, I am going to rip that fucker a new one. Yeah, that shit feels good.

But let’s think about this: When you CHOOSE to be offended by what someone writes online or in a book, or even by something they’ve said in real life, (and make no mistake, it’s a choice) you also CHOOSE to be a victim.

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Hmm. Not so cool now, eh?

Yes, yes, I know that some words are emotional triggers for people. But if we have to stop using words because it brings back an emotional trauma for this person or that, then I quit humaning. It’s over. Might as well quit writing too, because the whole point of it is to use words to affect people on an emotional level. If that’s no longer okay, then what’s the point?

I am sorry if you have shit in your past that hurts. I’m sorry if it more than hurts. It’s awful that you’ve had to endure any heartache or trauma at all. I wish this world was fair or at least kind to good people, but it’s not. It sucks, but when you try to make other people change to alleviate your pain, instead of finding a way to prevent that pain from consuming you, you’re choosing to stay in the role of victim and you’re giving power to the words you’re trying to make everyone else stop using. The more power a word has, the less likely it’ll go away.

Before anyone asks who the fuck am I to tell someone how to deal with trauma, let me add that I’ve been victimized too. I’ve wallowed in a pit of misery, fear and self-doubt, and I let the trauma rule my life for too long. When I stopped giving certain words and actions power, I was free of all that shit. The rest of the world didn’t hurt me, so why should they pay for something someone else did?

And I know that some people online use certain words in an intentionally negative manner. They try to hurt you on purpose but hey, you don’t have to be their victim. Don’t give power to their words by being offended. People are going to say what they want. They’re going to like what they like. How do their preferences, be it words or actions, affect you personally in your day-to-day life? In most situations, it doesn’t affect you at all, unless you want it to.

If you don’t like violence, don’t read horror, crime, suspense, or any genre that generally includes violence.

Don’t like swear words? Don’t use them. If you can’t handle other people using them, you should probably leave the Internet. Bye.

If you don’t like the idea of Satan being a good guy, or Mary being a crack whore, or the savior of mankind being gay, then don’t read books that explore those themes. Read the cover before you buy. Easy.

I know some of you are having trouble getting behind what I’m saying here. It’s okay, I know I’m rambly. I’ll just make it real simple by sharing what occurred to me as I thought about all of this:

Finding reasons to be offended is actually kind of offensive. So, in doing the thing you think is cool, you’ve become not cool.

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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.

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?