People often ask me why I am so obsessed with creepy stuff. It’s almost as if it isn’t healthy or something. I’ve thought about it a lot over the years, and concluded that raiding my big sister’s stash of horror paperbacks as a kid probably has a lot to do with it. I was also heavily influenced by my grandad. The main reason, however, is that I was brought up in a house where a lot of weird shit happened.
It took me a long time to process everything, but when I saw the submission call for Out of Time, a new anthology on Timber Ghost Press, I saw an opportunity to finally put everything down on paper and, er, exorcise the ghosts.
From the blurb:
Are ghosts real? The question has haunted us for ages. Almost every culture in the world has tales and stories of the unknown things that lurk in our periphery. Contained within are 26 true stories about ghosts, poltergeists, haunted houses, unexplained events, and possessed items. You’ll find stories about strange noises, objects that vanish and reappear in odd places, dolls that refuse to sit still, haunted battlefields, abandoned castles, and much more! But beware: after reading this anthology, you might just start believing in the things that are trapped out of time.
Featuring tales from Kristi Petersen-Schoonover, Errica Chavez, Judith Baron, Nat Whiston, Caryn Larrinaga, C. J. Hislop, Lisa H. Owens, Lehua Parker, Chris Tyroak, Amanda Cecilia Lang, Caillou Pettis, T. J. Tranchell, William Presley, N. A. Battaglia, Bryan Stubbles, Nathan Alling Long, Susan E. Rogers, Kelli A. Wilkins, John Stratton, C. M. Saunders, L. E. Daniels, Catherine A. MacKenzie, Rebecca A. Demarest, A. Morton, Brianna Malotke, and Nathan D. Ludwig.
I’m pleased to announce that my story The Hungry is included in Drabbledark II: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles, out now on Shacklebound Books. The anthology, edited by Eric Fomley, promises, “A ton of amazing dark horror, science fiction and fantasy drabbles.”
The Hungry was inspired by Dan Simmons’s The Terror, itself a fictionalized account of Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to the arctic. I’ve always thought they should’ve known better than to get on a ship called HMS Terror. They may as well have called it HMS You’re Fucked.
My short story Eeva is included in the new anthology Trigger Warning – Speaking Ill, edited by John Baltisberger and published by Madness Heart press.
From the blurb: “Through strange, terrifying, and disgusting horror, these 9 authors ensure that death is no safe space. No corpse will escape their due through death, but will instead be allotted the full measure of what our authors have in store.”
This is your trigger warning.
Eeva is ostensibly a story about getting a Facebook friend request from some murky figure in your past and all the memories that it might dredge up. That’s probably something we’ve all experienced. On a more personal level, its about a Finnish exchange student I met (who wasn’t called Eeva) at university who may or may not have been a vampire. Vampire or not, the bit about her inviting three blokes on a weird group date simultaneously really did happen. By the end it turned into a ‘last man standing’ scenario. Maybe they do things differently in Finland.
Writing for Horror Tree, Rebecca Rowland said, “For those readers trapped in the monotony of working “stuffed in a corporate box,” C.M. Saunders’ “Eeva” revisits the youthful excitement and nostalgic novelty of strange desires. The narrator receives a friend request from a woman he knew briefly in college. Most of his social media inquiries are from “obviously-fake catfish accounts made in the image of busty Russian beauties called Layla, or Filipino women who tell me they love me then ask me to buy them a new phone,” but this notification piques his interest, and that’s because Eeva isn’t a textbook case of lost love. Hidden beneath her bohemic façade was a primal nature that went deeper than the narrator ever could have imagined. To reveal any more would be to spoil the climax, but be warned: readers should go forth with a strong stomach.”
Cat’s Eyes, my disturbing little drabble about dating dangerously, is included in Heartless, part of the ‘Holiday Horrors’ series of anthologies published by Black Ink Fiction.
From the cover:
What happens when love goes horribly, gruesomely wrong? A red wedding, a sacrifice to Saint Valentine, blind dates gone amiss…there are so many ways romance can be twisted. This anthology, with over 40 international authors, is not for the faint of heart.
Season’s greetings, come all ye faithful and all that jazz. Christmas is supposed to be about giving, a sentiment that often seems to get lost in these capitalist, consumer-driven times. It just feels good to do things for other people. Sometimes.
Anyway, back last year, I was about 700 words into this cool little Christmas horror story I was writing about a dude that finds an old Santa suit, puts it on, and then finds he can’t take it off. It starts to grow on him, fusing with his skin. Not only that, but his behaviour starts to change. He’s not the man he used to be. For starters (sorry) he’s hungry all the time. No matter how much he eats, he’s still hungry. He eats, and he eats, and he eats. The story was going well. Right up until the point where I realized I’d subconsciously nicked the plot straight from the Eli Roth film Clown (2014) and just replaced the clown suit with a Santa suit.
I posted in a horror writing group on Facebook complaining about my wasted efforts, prompting Michael McCarty to PM me suggesting what he called a ‘quick fix,’ which between us we adapted into a killer twist. The resulting collaboration, Finders Keepers, can be found in The Colour out of Deathlehem, the latest charity release from Grinning Skull Press. By my reckoning, this is the eighth volume of holiday horrors they have published to benefit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
“We want Extreme horror stories,” the publisher said. “Think Wrath James White, Edward Lee, Shane McKenzie, or J.F. Gonzalez. If you can write a story that will churn our stomachs or make us fear what’s behind the shower curtain, send it in and we’ll read it and decide if it is Extreme enough for our anthology.”
And extreme they got. Check out the awesome cover art.
Sometimes when I finish writing a story I look back on it and think I might have overdone things a bit. It happened with Subject #270374 and it happened again with with Painted Nails, which is about a drug addict who wakes up to find a foreign object stuck in his dick. Don’t worry, it isn’t erect or anything, but it just get worse for the poor guy from there. Especially when he realizes that there’s something in his bathroom.
We’ve all woken up in the morning and not quite been 100% clear about what might have happened the night before. Painted Nails takes that to the next level. On reflection it explores some of the same themes as Grower, published last year in Brewtality, and I wrote both stories at around the same time. I have no idea what issues I was trying to iron out. Fun stories, though. Grower maybe traded on the humorous angle a bit more than Painted Nails which is flat-out brutal.
Painted Nails, wounded penis and all, is my 12th published short story of the year and is included in the anthology No Anesthetic (note the American spelling) out now on Splatter Ink publishing.
You can find my short story Eeva in Part 1 of the third Books of Horror Community Anthology. Books of Horror is one of the biggest and best-established horror-centric Facebook groups around, and it’s always a good place for readers and writers to hang out and get to know each other. If you take a glance at the tables of contents in this two-book set it’s like a who’s who of horror fiction, and I’m very proud to be included.
The Books of Horror Community Anthology Volume 3, Part 1 is out now.
I’m happy to report that my short story Hell-bent is included in the anthology Terror Unleashed 2 on Skywatcher Press, a new publisher specializing in, “Horror, thrillers, mystery and suspense, science-fiction, fantasy, and anything else that falls to the dark side.”
Hell-bent is about two friends, Leon and Gabriel, who go looking for war memorabilia in a forest in Belgium which saw some of the most fierce fighting in World War Two. They find an artefact, and then shit gets weird.
What they find is an old rotting gas mask, which ‘takes over’ anybody who puts it on and fills them with all the fury and bloodlust of a demented soldier hell-bent on revenge and destruction. Whilst this may sound terrifying, it might actually turn out beneficial for one of the boys who has a very dark family background.
I had fun with this story. I can usually point to something, a news item or an event, that provides the seed from which a story grows. But as far as I remember, Hell-bent is one of those that seemed to come from nothing. At least nothing I’m aware of. As macabre as it may be, war memorabilia is big business. People want to own a piece of history, so mass-produced reproductions just won’t cut it. Instead, they buy and sell knives and other weapons, spent cartridges, helmets, military badges and insignia, everyday items used by soldiers, literally anything you can imagine because there’s a story attached to everything.
Back from the Dead is a collection of zombie fiction featuring two complete novellas alongside several short stories previously published in the likes of Morpheus Tales and Crimson Streets, plus a brand-new novelette. Both paperback and ebook also include an exclusive introduction and artwork by the award-winning Greg Chapman.
Praise for the stories in this book:
“This is very well written and not to ruin anything but the ending is amazing! Definitely check this one out. I am now a fan!”
(Dead of Night)
“C. M. Saunders does a fine job here with these long-lost Confederate dead in the North Carolina Piedmont. He manages a winning balance between gory horror and interpersonal relationship, between splatter and genuine human emotions.”
(Dead of Night)
“It’s a zombie story with an original twist that I appreciated. It’s well written, flows nicely, and both of the (live) characters are well developed and believable. Let’s face it – The woods are a creepy place even in the daylight sometimes and thanks to CM Saunders I won’t be camping anytime soon.”
(Dead of Night)
“Dan Pallister woke up one morning to find the world had gone to hell over night. The zombie apocalypse has arrived without warning. But wait… there is something odd about these zombies. Why do some of them seem to be going about their usual human habits? Oh well, Dan doesn’t have time to ponder all the gruesome details!”
(‘Til Death do us Part)
“Awesome read, a great story with a huge twist which I shall not reveal. Very enjoyable, very entertaining for lovers of splatterpunk and a great tale that draws the reader in as we see through the eyes of the zombie killer… I’m saying no more, find out yourself.”
Every year when Halloween comes around, I wish I’d written a Halloween story. Obviously, it’s too late by then, so last year I surpassed even my own pre-planning capabilities and wrote one in January. Kaboom. That also gave me a few months to sell the fucker.
The story I came up with is called Misshapes & Rejects, and in a nutshell it’s about pumpkins. Not pumpkins in nutshells, that would just be weird. I’ve always thought there was something creepy about the treatment pumpkins get around Halloween. All the cutting and carving and stuff. I also wanted to make a bit of a point about isolation and anti-social behaviour, and like a perfect storm all these elements came together. It happened quickly, too. Once I had the germ of the idea, the story followed quickly and was finished in a single sitting. That feat isn’t as impressive as it might sound, in its entirety Misshapes & Rejects is less than 1000 words.
When I finish a story, I routinely go through it three, four, even five or six times, endlessly tweaking, polishing and modifying until there is nothing left to tweak, polish or modify. However, Misshapes & Rejects didn’t need much heavy lifting. Sometimes, you just know you’ve nailed it. It was accepted by the first place I submitted it too, a Halloween-themed anthology due to be released on [name redacted, like in the movies].
Then things got messy.
The would-be publisher refused to pay any contributors then eventually pulled the book from sale, but not before they pocketed funds they’d raised through crowd funding and pre-orders. Big scene. Long story short, the publishing rights on Missahpes & Rejects quickly reverted back to me and the dance began again.
Luckily, it soon found a new home, in the book Handmade Horror Stories put together by Frost Zone Press, the lovely people who just last year published my story Alone, Or… , and edited by the supremely talented MM MacLeod..
As the marketing material says, “Handmade Horror Stories is an anthology of art and craft-themed short horror fiction. From quiet horrors to chilling nightmares, these tales give new meaning to being creative.”