Category Archives: Anthologies

Vicar on the Underground

I was commuting home from work one evening on the Northern Line somewhere between Goodge Street and East Finchley, when a vicar got on the tube. Seeing a vicar on the Northern Line wasn’t that unusual in itself, God knows I’ve seen a lot more weird shit than that, but something about the way the man carried himself was unusual. Even in the midst of rush hour chaos, he was the image of calmness and serenity.

Just as he got on the train, a couple of tourists got off and two seats opened up. Seats on the underground at that time of the day are as rare as rare as rocking horse shit, and the vicar swooped right in without even breaking stride. But even though the carriage was rammed and people were falling over each other as they fought for space, the seat next to the vicar remained empty, almost as if people sensed not to get too close. I watched him from afar for a while, as you do on, without ever approaching him. But later, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Vicar on the Underground and a few days later this story leaked out.

The whole process was comparatively easy. I wrote the first draft of the story in a few days (at 2,700 words it’s at the shorter end of the spectrum), revised and edited it over the next couple of weeks, then started submitting it to markets. It was picked up by Oscillate Wildly Press almost immediately. Something else that’s as rare as rocking horse shit.

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From the promotional material:

The monsters we have come to know and love take a backseat as we delve into the darkest, most hideous depths of a monster that has taken centre stage as of late–HUMANS.

The collected tales herein will take you on a wild ride into the monstrous aspects of humankind, revealing some of the scariest atrocities humans are capable of doing, the ‘demons’ lurking in their heads, the ugliness of the pure human soul. You’ll meet artists, handymen, grieving parents, desperate alcoholics, and the delightful Sally Burns.

This debut anthology features the work of a variety of talented writers, including a few of the award-winning and darkly imaginative authors writing today. When you are ready, settle down, lock the window, and remember…the only monsters to fear are ourselves.

– Claire Fitzpatrick, Editor, December, 2016.

You can check out the anthology HERE


X Sample

X Sample, my latest release through Deviant Dolls Publications, is available now at the special price of 0.99p/0.99c.

X Sample contains a trio of deliciously dark tales ripe for sinking your teeth into and as the title suggests, is designed to give new readers a little taste of my work, as well as giving my existing readers something ‘to be going on with’ until my next book drops in April.

x-sample-by-cm-saunders

Table of Contents:

The Devil & Jim Rosenthal: A new parent gets much more than he bargained for.
Date Night: A man’s wife visits the bathroom in a fancy restaurant, and doesn’t come back out.
The Delectable Hearts: A jaded music journalist goes in search of The Next Big Thing. Unfortunately for him, he just might have found it.

Bonus Content:

Afterword

Extract from No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches

X Sample is available now at the special price of 0.99p/0.99c

US Link

UK Link


X Sample – Cover Reveal

I intend to start 2017 with a bang, so I’m releasing the next instalment of my series of anthologies next month via Deviant Dolls Publications.

Actually, it’s not a new instalment at all. More of a supplementary offering. X Sample contains stories from both X: A Collection of Horror  and X2: Another Collection of Horror along with one or two others and will be priced at 0.99. As the title suggests, it is designed to give people a little taste of my work without asking them to invest too much of their hard-earned.

TOC and full details to follow, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak preview of the cover art, once again produced by the legendary Greg Chapman. We’d love to know what you think.

x-sample-by-cm-saundersX Sample is released on 6th January 2017, so write the date in your diary or scratch it on your bedpost. I know you want to. But if you can’t wait that long to guarantee your next nerve-shredding fix of slightly weird bizarro horror, it’s available for pre-order right now.

Thanks for your support!


As the Crow Flies included in QuickFic Anthology 2

I’m thrilled to announce that my very weird flash fiction story, As the Crow Flies, has finally found a home having been included in QuicFic Anthology 2: Shorter Short Speculative Fiction out now on DigitalFictionPub. This time out, I’m honoured to be sharing antho space with Lisa Finch, Liam Hogan, Greg Chamberlain, Tanya Bryan, Suzie Lockhart, Amy Sisson, Pedro Iniguez, D.J. Cockburn, and many others.

QuickFic Anthology_

“He remembered the stories his grandfather told him when he was a kid. The stories about how the devil himself, the original fallen angel, stalked these mountainous peaks under cover of darkness, preying on weary travellers. Granddad never elaborated much on what he meant by ‘preying.’ He never had to.”

– From As the Crow Flies

I wrote As the Crow Flies in 2011 or 2012. At about 750 words, it’s one of my shortest short stories. I submitted it to a few magazines and websites, nobody wanted it, so I dumped it in a folder on my desktop and moved on with my life. Fast forward a couple of years and I’m re-organising (okay, organising) my writing folders and I come across this again. I re-read it and remembered I had based it on a creepy old Welsh folk tale I read about in a history book. So yep, this story might be true. Equally, it might NOT be, but who the fuck knows, right?


9Tales at the World’s End #3

My apocalyptic love story, ‘Til Death do us Part, is included in 9Tales at the World’s End #3, out today.

There’s more to how the world dies than just a simple bang, or a horde of hungry, hungry zombies. This anthology features 9 visions of the Earth’s final days from 9 authors.

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The issue also includes:

ALL THE WORLD IS YELLOW by DJ Tyrer
THE LAST TO GO by Jeff C. Stevenson
THE FLIGHT by David J. Wing
RAPTURE by Luke Walker
BOTTOMS UP by Jack Campbell Jr.
THE ROAMERS by Grant Matthew Frazier
TRANSPOSITION by Craig Bullock
CODE OF THE DEAD by Sara Green

UK LINK:

US LINK:


King For a Year – Nightmares & Dreamscapes

Earlier this year I got involved in a project curated by Mark West, with the aim of discussing the works of Stephen King. Every week for 52 weeks, a different writer chose a different book. I chose Nightmares & Dreamscapes, and got a bit carried away. This is my unedited contribution.

Since 1980 or so, some critics have been saying I could publish my laundry list and sell a million copies or so, but these are for the most part critics who think that’s what I’ve been doing all along. The people who read my work for pleasure obviously feel differently, and I have made this book with those readers, not the critics, in the forefront of my mind.”

Among the highlights of any SK collection is the introduction, which often contains semi-hidden pearls of wisdom and unrestrained glimpses into the mind of one of the greatest writers of his generation. The above short passage is at once insightful, humble, witty, and scathing toward his perceived detractors. Elsewhere in the often brutally honest forward, he claims to have read (probably in Ripley’s Believe it or Not!) that people completely renew themselves every seven years, every muscle and organ replaced by new cells. He makes the point that it had been seven years since his last short story collection, Skeleton Crew (actually, it was eight, Skeleton Crew was issued in 1985, but who am I to argue with the Master?) and the first, Night Shift, was released seven years before that. Strange, then, that the first line of the first story (Dolan’s Cadillac) should be…

I waited and watched for seven years.

Or maybe it was deliberate. Who knows?

It goes without saying that I’ve always been a huge King fan. I am the Constant Reader who he addresses directly so often. I guess you are too, or you wouldn’t be reading this. And there was me thinking I was the only one. Still, at least we have some common ground to build on. One of the truly great things about literature is that it unites people of all ages and creeds and from all walks of life. King’s work has certainly done that. From the long-haired pulp paperback-buying hordes of the seventies, right up to the mobile phone waving, Dome-loving Gen Y, King speaks to us all. I plucked my first SK book from my older sister’s collection of scary paperbacks soon after I was mature enough to decide what I wanted to read. It was the seminal ‘Salem’s Lot. And since then I’ve been hooked. I’ve read the vast majority of his books at least once, and there are some I’ve read several times. Nightmares & Dreamscapes, originally published in 1993, isn’t one of them. It’s been at least 20 years since I last opened it, which is one reason I thought it might be cool to revisit for this project.

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The first thing I noticed is how different everything is. Obviously, the book hasn’t changed. The book will never change. I have. And I always will. When I first read this book I was in my early twenties, and still living with my parents in the Welsh valleys. I had a car, a girlfriend and a crappy job putting things in boxes. That was half a lifetime ago, and a lot has changed since then. I’ve lived in different places, changed jobs, relationships have come and gone, and I sold my Hyundai Sports Coupé years ago. SK has probably been the only constant. Him and punk rock. Time changes everything, not least your perspective on life.

I smoked a lot of weed in my twenties, which may account for the fact that I have no recollection of reading several of these stories whatsoever. I sort of remembered Dolan’s Cadillac, but it would be a huge understatement to say that I didn’t fully understand the complexities of it all back then. On the surface, not much happens, and it would be easy to dismiss it as a bloated, overlong diatribe about a man with a chip on his shoulder digging a big hole. But like so many other King stories, its more about the telling. The journey is more than half the fun. Other early highlights include The End of the Whole Mess, which is about two brothers, one of whom is so ridiculously intelligent that he winds up using that intelligence to do something really stupid. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, King claimed his own brother, Dave, was the inspiration behind it. We can only hope the real Dave King isn’t as batshit crazy as his fictitious incarnation. Suffer the Little Children, a little shocker about a teacher who may or may not seen going ever-so-slightly mad, is flat-out one of the most disturbing things in King’s locker. Originally published in a copy of Cavalier in 1972, it’s also one of the oldest here. One of the most interesting and noteworthy stories is Dedication, a tale of witchcraft and woe which is by turns heart-wrenching and horrifying, with an almost palpable undercurrent of edgy tenderness.

Some of these tales struck a chord and lodged firmly in my memory, for whatever reason. And reading them again gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Like having a chat with an old friend you haven’t seen for a while. Rainy Season, a creepy little yarn about a couple facing a sudden rash of murderous toads, and Night Flier, the story of a jaded newspaper hack on the trail of a serial killer, fall into this category. Both are so typically King that you would know who penned it just from reading the first few paragraphs. It’s quite weird (and often hilarious) as a British guy to read Americans writing about Britain. But the truth is, the odd cringe-worthy cliché (“Got a spare fag, mate?”) aside, King just about pulls it off in Crouch End, which was originally written for an anthology with the title New Tales of the Cthulu Mythos. That pretty much tells you all you really need to know. Thank God the real Crouch End isn’t quite as weird as the one described in the story.

A story I didn’t fully appreciate first time around is Home delivery. As it unfolds, it changes from a Delores Clairborne-style yarn about a young mother preparing to give birth on a secluded island, into a fully-fledged zombie story. The tale is expertly crafted, the textures and tones of the words King uses throughout adding to a hollow sense of isolation. Another tale that hits you harder after you have some years under your belt is My Pretty Pony. It’s probably the farthest thing from ‘horror’ in this entire collection, poignant in the extreme, it is a study on the nature of time and how it seems to move faster as you approach the end of your run. The story behind this story is just as interesting as the story itself. As everyone probably knows, King’s pseudonym Richard Bachman also had a pseudonym. Enter one George Stark.

In the early 1980s King was simultaneously working on a Bachman book called Machine’s Way, and a book (which began life as a lengthy flashback incorporated into Machine’s Way) by Stark called My Pretty Pony. The projects disintegrated, but Machine’s Way later morphed into The Dark Half while My Pretty Pony was buried in a file until 1989 when it resurfaced as one of those posh limited edition coffee table books none of us can afford.

Nightmares & Dreamscapes is a pretty weighty tome containing 24 stories and its pages numbering a grand total of 816. Included are five previously unpublished stories, the pick of which being the Ten O’ Clock People, a close relative of Quitters, Inc from Night Shift, which is set for an imminent theatrical release having been the latest of SK’s works to be given the Hollywood treatment. It has to be said, this isn’t his best book. It isn’t even his best collection. There’s a bit too much imitation and what can only be described as low-brow fan fiction for my liking. Derivative in the extreme, Crouch End is a homage to Lovecraft, The Doctors Case to Conan Doyle and Umney’s Last Case to Raymond Chandler. It’s all weirdly reminiscent of your favourite artist doing a covers album. It’s entertaining enough, but you can’t help but feel it’s lacking something, making this less of a Greatest Hits and more of an unessential B-sides collection. I can’t imagine even hardcore baseball fans being overly enamoured with long and tedious non-fiction piece Head Down. If you don’t know much about baseball, like most people outside the US and Japan, then you’d have no chance. Still, there’s enough decent material here to make the whole exercise worthwhile and as we all know, King at his worst still shits all over 99% of other writers at their best.

The King for a Year Project can be viewed in it’s entirety HERE:


Inside Harberry Close

A few months ago, the writer Gregory Norris asked me to contribute something to his website about my story, Harberry Close, which was included in the recent anthology Dead Harvest on Scarlet Galleon press alongside one of his.

Dead Harvest - Front Cover

Dead Harvest – Front Cover

I was more than happy to oblige, and here it is.

Until quite recently, I lived in east London and worked in the south-west. That meant a near two-hour journey through one of the busiest cities in the world, during rush hour, twice a day, five days a week. That journey used to drive me mad with all the pushing, shoving, and elevated stress levels. It wasn’t an easy route, either. A typical commute consisted of a 15-minute walk to the nearest tube station, the Central line to Bank, the Waterloo & City line to Waterloo station, an overground train, and a bus. I absolutely hated the Central line. It was slow, ponderous, and you invariably ended up squashed into someone else’s arm pit.

If the weather was bad, or if there was some kind of strike or other disruption, it could easily add half an hour or more to my journey, which meant I would arrive at work late, then have to stay late to make the time back. I’m sure you get the picture. Waterloo station represented the mid-point in my journey. As such it always filled me with a strange mixture of emotions. On one hand it was encouraging to know I was halfway to my destination, but at the same time it was a bit soul destroying to realize I still had some way to go. I actually quite like Waterloo. Despite always being chaotic and full of stressed-out commuters, it’s one of London’s nicer transport hubs. There’s quite a decent pub on the platform, and an excellent burrito place. Anyway, as I waited on the platform every morning, I often found myself wondering what would happen if I somehow got on the wrong train. Where would that wrong train take me. Maybe somewhere like Harberry Close?

I started thinking about worst-case scenarios, and couldn’t think of a better (or worse) one. I made the name up. There is no actual Harberry Close. At least, I don’t think there is. I wanted something that sounded quintessentially English, and very nearly called the story Strawberry Hill. That is a real place. My train sometimes goes through it. I’ve never got off there.

The original version of this piece can be found here.

http://gregorylnorris.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/behold-dead-harvest.html


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