Monthly Archives: February 2014

X: A Collection of Horror

Ten slices of horrifying dark fiction. Seven previously published in magazines or anthologies, and three exclusive to this collection, along with an introduction and extensive notes. Featuring exclusive cover art by Greg Chapman.

This is what happens when you ‘wake up’ inside a dream, when the urban myth you heard turns out to be so much more, and when that hottie you pick up in a bar springs a terrible surprise. But what do you do when your wife gives birth to something not entirely human? When your past discretions come back to haunt you? Or when a serial killer moves in next door?

Click the cover for more info.

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

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

Table of Contents:

Introduction: That’s Entertainment
A Hell of my Own Creation
A Thin Disguise
Monkey Man
The Awful Truth
Mr. C
Fame / Infamy: A Deconstruction
Another False Dawn
The Night Everything Changed
The Devil & Jim Rosenthal
Club Culture
Afterword

Available now at a special price.

WARNING: Adult content.

“A superb story teller, Saunders is well on his way to becoming a true master of the macabre.”

Mark Edward Hall

This is a DeadPixel publication:

http://www.deadpixelpublications.com/cm-saunders.html

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Gig Review – A Day to Remember @ Alexandra Palace, London, 12/02/2014

A Day to Remember

W/ The Story So Far, Every Time I Die, Mallory Knox

@ Alexandra Palace, London, 12/02/14

ADTR 2014 UK Tour Poster

The older I get, the less new bands I can get into. Maybe it’s an age thing. The days of me sitting around watching MTV for hours on end are long gone so not much really sticks. The Story So Far are one band, however, that I did notice. After a succession of splits and EPs, the Walnut Creek punks hit the mainstream last year with their album What You Don’t See and a well-earned spot on the Warped tour. They play the energetic brand of pop punk championed by the likes of The Wonder Years and I couldn’t wait to see if they could cut it live. Unfortunately, I missed their set through my own ineptitude. Ditto Every Time I Die and Mallory Knox. Which is a shame, I was impressed with Mallory Knox’s debut and lets face it, any band named after a character in Natural Born Killers can’t be bad.

There are some bands that when you listen to their studio recordings, you just know you are only getting half the story. ADTR are one of those bands. They’ve been near the top of my ‘to see’ list since I first listened to 2009’s Homesick, still one of my favourite albums. I was less enamored with last year’s Common Courtesy, partly because of all the faffing about between songs. It’s a ‘window into the creative process’ that, frankly, I could do without. After ‘I Remember’ there’s about 6 minutes of it. Despite that, they remain a band notoriously difficult to define. Are they punk? Hardcore? Metalcore?

Does it even matter?

Anyway, bring it ADTR. Here is your chance.

They take the stage in a flash of pyro to the thumping strains of All I Want. They are much less poppy in a live environment. Surprisingly, a lot of their lighter material seemed to fall a little flat while the more hardcore songs went down a storm. Fast Forward to 2012 sequeing into 2nd Sucks was absolutely brutal. Mid-set they surprised everyone, and showcased their considerable skills in the process, by going acoustic for a song and a half. Surprisingly, the set was weighted considerably toward older material, highlights being My Life For Hire and You Should Have Killed me When You Had the Chance. The guitar interplay between Neil Westfall and comparative new boy Kevin Skaff was just as layered and complex as it sounds on the records, but live it has an added punchiness that powers the songs effortlessly toward their thundering conclusions.

I don’t know what the huge multi-level doll’s house stage set was all about, but the band made full use of it, jumping around with admirable intensity. At one point, somebody (it might have been Jeremy McKinnon, it might not have been) crowd surfed in a giant bubble. Haven’t seen that at a gig before. I was also stumped during the encores when the band brought out about 25 bemused-looking teenage girls to stand behind them. Maybe they were competition winners or something. Or maybe they were just a bunch of horny groupies. Who knows?

The choice of venue wasn’t ideal. As legendary as it is, the Ally Pally is like a gigantic cavernous shoebox stuck on the edge of north London. It’s not easy to get to, the acoustics are awful, and if you are more than ten rows from the front you can’t see shit. ADTR are at that awkward stage in the UK where they can’t decide whether they want to be an arena band or not. Personally, I wish they had either bitten the bullet and booked the 02, or done two or three nights in a smaller venue. Ally Pally is the worst possible choice. But what the fuck do I know?

Setlist

All I want
I’m Made of Wax, Larry.
Fast Forward to 2012
2nd Sucks
Right Back at it Again
A Shot in the Dark
City of Ocala
You Had me @ Hello
If It Means a Lot to You
Complicated
Homesick
Mr Highway’s Thinking About the End
Life Lesson’s Learned the Hard Way
My Life for Hire
Sometimes You’re the Hammer, Sometimes You’re the Nail
You Should Have Killed Me When You Had the Chance
Have Faith in Me
Plot to Bomb Panhandle

(Encores):

Violence
All Signs Point to Lauderdale
The Downfall of us All


Modern Publishing

books460

I’ve kicked around the publishing game for a while. In the past decade I’ve had two books published by traditional publishers, and four by digital publishers. On the flip side, I’ve collected more rejections than I can count. I’ve experienced the high’s and the low’s, and now I’m going to share with you some of what I’ve learned…

First of all, the phrase ‘traditional publisher’ is a misnomer. There is nothing traditional about publishing in the current climate. Now the term implies a publishing house which is a bit long in the tooth, maybe a little bit resistant to change. Traditional. Like antique furniture. They publish paperbacks, maybe even hardbacks, but have a very basic website and minimal internet visibility. They probably advertise in the classified section of the local paper, if they still advertise at all.

On the other hand, digital publishers specialize in, surprise, surprise, digital e-books for computers and reading devices. Even phones. Some digital publishers do distribute actual, physical copies of books. These tend to be Print on Demand (POD) and are so expensive, hardly anyone buys them.

The tricky part is the huge grey area between trad and digi publishers. This is filled in part by vanity publishers. They are a different proposition entirely, and one to be avoided. If anyone tries charging the writer money for any ‘service’ at any stage of the publishing process, they can safely be considered a vanity publisher of some description. Under no circumstances should the writer pay the publisher. It should be the other way around. They might tell you they like your book, that it will sell by the truck load, that you should pay them X amount of money to produce X amount of copies, and pay them RIGHT NOW to take advantage of this special limited offer they have going on. After you have paid for the cover design and editing, of course. If you are foolish enough to go through the process and pay the fees, you will end up with a room full of books you then have to sell on your own just to recoup some of your outgoings, which is virtually impossible.

Digital publishing houses (I use that term very loosely) hand out contracts like confetti at a wedding. Some even publish via Smashwords or KDP, something the writer can easily do themselves. Most ‘name’ authors are contracted to one of the larger publishing houses, who are very selective about who they take on. They are generally unwilling to take a punt on a ‘new’ author purely due to the costs involved, and because they have so few books to promote, they can afford the necessary investment and the books sell. Some sell very well.

But it seems the lower down the chain you go, the less selective the publisher becomes. The result is that smaller publishers often have dozens or hundreds of authors tied to contracts with dozens or hundreds of books to promote simultaneously. It’s the scattergun approach. Instead of having a hundred authors each selling a thousand copies of their book, they have a thousand authors each selling a hundred. Of course, with so many authors and books to promote, and with less staff and a smaller marketing budget, the publisher can’t actually do much actual promotion. If any. That is left to you, the writer. Right across the board, publishers now seem to be doing less and less marketing. Instead, they lean on the authors to generate sales. This strikes me as lazy, exploitative, and a bit tyrannical. In theory, the system works; get loads of people to write books then sell them on your behalf, handing you a hefty slice of the profit.

ipad-magazines

But in practice, it just doesn’t add up, and here’s why – most of their ‘clients’ are new authors who have no existing platform, and very little experience of marketing. That’s where it all breaks down. Being semi-pro at best, the vast majority juggle real-world jobs and responsibilities and have very little time to do any book promotion, or even learn how to do it. Nobody ever sits you down and tells you what to do. You are expected to just know how to market yourself. Even if you DO know what to do, securing reviews, doing interviews, blog tours, book signings, giveaways, competitions and the like, even utilizing social media, all takes time. Time that most writers would rather spend writing.

Now, if they are doing all the promo and marketing themselves, any author worth his salt has to ask what the publisher actually does to justify the percentage they demand from the writer’s sales (usually 40-50%). In most cases, they pay an in-house designer $30 to knock up a cover, do a rough edit of your book, then bung it on the internet and hope for the best. When the money doesn’t start rolling in, they send out abrupt emails to their writers asking what promotion they are doing. Which, of course, is code for, ‘I’m not making enough money from you. Make me more money!’

I had such an email from a publisher recently, and after explaining in detail what book promo I was doing/had done, I felt compelled to sign off the email with, “Now tell me, what promo YOU are doing?”

Of course, the publisher didn’t reply.

At times it feels like I’m doing all the work, and giving away a large proportion of my (very minimal) profit in exchange for little or no service. Not any more. I’ve had enough. I’m going solo. It’s the indie life for me. For fiction, anyway. Non-fiction is a little bit different. That way I can write what I want without editorial interference, set my own prices, and keep track of where the money goes. Who even needs publishers these days?

Get ready for X.

@CMSaunders01

The original version of this post first appeared on:

http://www.deadpixelpublications.com/

Copyright remains with the author.


Chinese Spring Festival Story

Or…

Weird China Experiences No. 11782327

A couple of years ago when I lived in Changsha, Hunan Province, I woke up early one morning during the annual spring Festival holiday to the sound of my then-girlfriend sobbing and complaining loudly of period pains. She didn’t want to take the Neurofen I had with me, having a natural aversion to western ‘drugs’ and instead insisted only a chicken would alleviate the pain. But not just any chicken. This had to be a black chicken ‘raised on corn and permitted to roam free,’ which I took as meaning free range. This is TCM. Traditional Chinese Medicine.

I’m not a believer. Personally, I think its success is mainly down to the placebo effect. But there was no way I was arguing about 5000 years of history with a girl on the blob. I’m not stupid. And who am I to judge? So, I gamely volunteered to go out and try to find a black chicken that had been ‘raised on corn and permitted to roam free,’ not having any idea where I was supposed to find such a thing.

When I set out on my quest it was a cold, misty morning, and the city seemed almost deserted. Yet by some weird coincidence, as I rounded a corner, I came across a black chicken tied to a lamppost with a piece of string.

black chicken

I stopped and looked around for the chicken’s owner, but there was nobody in the vicinity. The chicken appeared to have been left there for me to find. I was just debating whether or not I could get away with nicking it when suddenly, a little old lady appeared out of the swirling mist. She didn’t speak any English, and I only had very basic Chinese, so we communicated mainly through grunts and wild gesticulations. She asked if I wanted the chicken. At least, that’s what I think she said. I replied in the affirmative and money changed hands. Quite a lot of money. Around 60 RMB, if I remember correctly. That’s about £6. A lot of money for a scrawny chicken in China. No doubt the asking price was inflated because I was foreign. Normal practice in these situations is to haggle, but that only winds me up and often proves a big waste of time, anyway. It was cold, I was tired and a bit freaked out. I just wanted that fucking chicken so I could go back home. I handed over the money, and the little old lady untied the chicken and gave it to me.

Now I was stumped. What the hell do I do with it? Do I pick it up and carry it, or lead it home on a piece of string?

I started to walk off, giving the chicken some mild verbal encouragement. I have no idea why I did that, it just seemed appropriate. After I had walked for a couple of minutes, I realized it was still alive. I didn’t want to be the one to kill it. I’m no vegetarian, but I like a degree of separation between me and my meat. Even if my girlfriend was the one to do the deed, the short journey back to my apartment would be ample time for me to bond with it. I turned back. The little old lady was still in the same spot. Just standing there. When I approached she looked at me questioningly, said something in Mandarin, and took the chicken back. She made a chopping motion with a hand. I nodded, and she disappeared around a corner for a few moments, only to reappear moments later with the chicken in a plastic bag minus its head. It was still warm and twitching.

I proudly took the chicken home like a returning hero, where my girlfriend made soup with it. Despite our mini-bonding session, the black chicken that had been ‘raised on corn and permitted to roam free’ tasted pretty damn good. Weirdly, though, not only were its feathers black, but so was the skin. The meat was a kind of mottled grey, and even the bones were covered in a black chalky substance that came off on your fingers. I don’t know if the soup had any effect on the period pains, but at least making it kept her occupied for a while!

Chicken soup


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