Category Archives: Books

Finally Out of Time

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.

Out of Time is out now on paperback and ebook.


Dead of Night (Extract)

Greetings!

Just in time for Halloween, below is an extract from Dead of Night (Revised edition).

At some point, Nick dropped something, Maggie heard it hit the floor with a soft, hollow thud. She didn’t know what it could be, but guessed it must be pretty important because the moment it fell, Nick stopped in his tracks. They didn’t have time for this shit, they had to find cover. Now. It wasn’t safe outdoors, and Nick was fading fast. If he collapsed out here in the open, she would never be able to move him. They would be sitting targets for whatever prowled these fucking woods after dark.

She instinctively reached down to pick up the object Nick had dropped, then immediately put her hand to her mouth to stifle a scream. It was Nick’s severed hand. Pale now, almost translucent in the moonlight. It felt clammy to the touch. He’d carried it with him all the way from the camp.

It was still warm.

Dear God.

It doesn’t matter, she told herself. Pick it up and get going again. It’s just flesh and bone, just flesh and bone…               

Grimacing, she tucked the bloodied appendage into the waistband of her sweatpants, took Nick by the remaining arm and resumed the journey.

Bizarrely, cruelly, in her fractured state, Maggie found that she couldn’t stop wondering how the hell they were going to carry the tent and all the rest of their stuff back to the car if Nick only had one hand. It would definitely be a struggle. They might have to make two trips, or even leave some stuff behind. She started mentally listing all the things they had taken with them, and then the things they could afford to leave behind. Anything to keep her mind working, keep it sharp and focused. If she stopped to think about the nightmare they were in, she would go to pieces.

Under normal circumstances it would only have taken a couple of minutes to get to the cabin, but in the dark and with Nick the way he was, it would probably take three times that long. At any moment she expected to see movement in the trees, or feel an arm reach out of the undergrowth and claw at her feet.

Things were going too well.

It was almost too easy.

But if she remembered correctly, Nick had put a tent peg straight into that thing’s eye. And didn’t it only have one eye to begin with? In that case it was probably still walking around in circles a mile or so away.

Maggie could feel exhaustion setting in. The muscles in her back and arms were screaming in protest from shouldering Nick’s extra weight and her second wind had come and gone. Probably her third and fourth winds too, if such things existed.

With grim determination, she pushed on. No time to stop, not here, not even for a second.

Finally, they arrived back at the cabin.

Dead of Night is available now on paperback and ebook.

dead-of-night-reissue

Dead of Night is available now on ebook and paperback. If you’re interested in the book’s background and publishing history, check out this post I wrote about it.


Dead of Night – Reviews

When it was first released back in 2010, my splatterpunk novella Dead of Night picked up some pretty awesome reviews. I’ve gone back through my files and dug up some highlights. Loved the bitch slap at the end of the last review.

“In his zombie-infested novella Dead of Night, C. M. Saunders draws a picture of horror and desperation for his readers as he unleashes a band of undead Confederate bushwackers on an unsuspecting and innocent couple. As I read, I found myself pulled into the action, rooting for the young hero and heroine to make it through the night.”

“This story is not just hacking and slashing and eating brains; there is a fair share of suspense in Dead of Night that I found to be quite effective. Mr. Saunders gives his readers a chance to get to know the hero and heroine before plunging them into mortal danger, and this makes us care about their fate. Dead of Night contains a sense of urgency that will definitely get the blood pumping. Mr. Saunders brings us into the minds of his two protagonists; we share their terror, their pain, their despair, and their hope for survival.”

  • Book Wenches

“Dead of Night is an obvious product of a great many horror films. The departure from realism, the horrendous injuries inflicted on the hero, the coincidences and lucky breaks – all lead directly from the late night horror screen. Evil Dead in particular seems to be a strong influence, especially with the besieged-in-a-cabin sequence.”

  • Dark Fire (UK)

“Although it has lots of gore, it isn’t all about the blood and guts. Instead it is suspenseful and atmospheric. The scene where Nick wakes up in the middle of the night and first spots a zombie is tense. And being in the middle of nowhere, disconnected from the rest of the world with no one to turn to for help, added to the creepiness.”

“At the beginning, C.M. Saunders takes time to establish the characters, and although some may find that part slow, I found their relationship and discussion of Michael Jackson interesting. Since Nick and Maggie were well-developed I cared about them and found the story more interesting.”

  • Little Miss Zombie

“If you are craving a zombie novel that deviates away from the typical “movie-style” theme – this will satiate your hunger. There are the normal horror elements: new love, remote setting, fight for survival, mass burial. However, C.M. Saunders’ Civil War zombies are intelligent; able to work as a team; possess fine motor skills; and cannot easily be killed. In fact, these “bushwhackers” peaked my curiosity. Would the psychological, mental, and physical aspects of fighting in a war end upon death? It is possible that these zombies are unaware that it is no longer 1861 – 1865. If this is the case, it would mean that they are denied the peace and solace they so richly deserve. The plot was very creatively written and flowed efficiently. I did not experience a single dull moment as I read the novel. Many of you will agree, a vast majority of horror novels have at least one character lacking a bit of common-sense. As others so eloquently state, “too stupid to live”. I feel that C.M. Saunders tried to weed the “stupidity factor” out, and he did a great job of it. The zombies were even spared this humility.”

  • Buyzombie.com

“I have this horrible OCD quirk. It’s doesn’t matter how boring a story is, I have to finish it. Fortunately, that didn’t kick in with Saunder’s Dead of Night. This is a fun, short read that carries on with the latest trend of zombie soldiers. While Saunders doesn’t really bring any new to the table, it’s a cool chapter in the great big scheme of zombie stories. This is a great story. It’s a quick read with great cover art, and I do have to say, it’s MUCH better than Saunders’ first novella from Damnation Books.”

  • Swamp Dweller

dead-of-night-reissue

Dead of Night (Revised edition) is available now on paperback and ebook.


Drabbledark II

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.

Check out the amazing cover art:

Go here for the full ToC.

Drabbledark II is out now on ebook and paperback.


Trigger Warning – Speaking Ill

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.”

You can read the rest of her review here.

Trigger Warning – Speaking Ill is out now.


Heartless Cat’s Eyes

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.

Heartless is out now on ebook and paperback


The Plague Pit

So… my latest book Back from the Dead: A Collection of Zombie Fiction recently dropped. It contains two complete novellas (Dead of Night and Human Waste) alongside several short stories that were previously published in Morpheus Tales, Crimson Streets and the anthology Digital Horror Fiction Volume 1. You can read a review by Ginger Nuts of Horror HERE.

The centre piece of Back from the Dead, is a new novelette called The Plague Pit. When I wrote it a couple of years ago, the original intention had been to sell it to a magazine or anthology as I do most of my stuff, but at around 8000 words it was just a bit too long for most markets. Then, I planned to publish it myself as a stand-alone, but wouldn’t you know it, at around 8000 words it was just a bit too short for that. Rather than ask readers to pay for what amounted to little more than a short story, I decided to package it with some other similarly-themed stories.

During the Black Death which swept through Europe 14th Century, people were dying at such a rate that they were often disposed of in mass burial sites. These burial sites, which were usually located away from town centres for obvious reasons, were colloquially called plague pits. Local legend maintains that there’s one such plague pit situated near an abandoned chapel somewhere in the hills overlooking main character Owen’s home town and one summer’s afternoon, he sets out on a hike to try to prove or disprove the myth. What he discovers is far, far beyond his imagination.

Incidentally, the town in the story is Wood Forge, a fictitional place loosely based on my own home town of New Tredegar which I’ve used as the setting for several of my stories over the years including What Happened to Huw Silverthorne, What Happened Next and Never Go Back. Some of these stories are interconnected, while others just reference each other or some past work, the ultimate goal being to compile all the Wood Forge stories together into one book some day. I guess you could say Wood Forge is my version of Castle Rock, kudos to you if you get the reference.

Back from the Dead: A Collection of Zombie Fiction is available now on paperback and ebook.


X5 is OUT NOW!

The fifth volume in my X series featuring ten (X, geddit?) slices of twisted horror and dark fiction plucked from the blood-soaked pages of ParABnormal magazine, Demonic Tome, Haunted MTL, Fantasia Divinity and industry-defining anthologies including 100 Word Horrors, The Corona Book of Ghost Stories, DOA 3 and Trigger Warning: Body Horror.

Meet the local reporter on an assignment which takes him far beyond the realms of reality, join the fishing trip that goes sideways when a fish unlike any other is hooked, and find out the real cost of human trafficking. Along the way meet the ghost which refuses to accept that death is the end, the office drone who’s life is inexorably changed after a drug trial, and many more.

Also features extensive notes, and original artwork by Stoker award-winning Greg Chapman.


Table of Contents:

Demon Tree

Revenge of the Toothfish

Surzhai

The Sharpest Tool

Something Bad

Down the Road

Coming Around

Where a Town Once Stood

The Last Night Shift

Subject #270374

Afterword

WARNING: Graphic Content

X5 IS OUT NOW!


The Bookshelf 2021

It’s that time of year again, when I humbly present to you a complete list of the books I read this year. Or last year, by the time you read this. I’m sure there’s a few missing. This list seems pretty short! In my defence, there are a few 600-page beasts. The pick of the long-form fiction was Stephen King’s Later. I read most of his books, and it can be hard to tell when his form dips because the overall quality is so high. It’s only when you read something as good as Later and then compare it to his existing arsenal that you realize he isn’t called The Master for nothing. I deliberately read some books last year by writers I’d never read before, the pick of which was The Book Club by C.J. Cooper, a thriller my mother urged me to read. I also read a Richard Bachman book for the first time in 20-years, that brought back some memories and reaquainted me with the word ‘rump,’ and A LOT of anthologies. By the way, that isn’t my bookshelf in the photo. It’s just a photo of a massive set of bookshelves I stole from Google. Sorry to disappoint.

The Greatest Survival Stories of All Time by Cara Tabachnick (2019)

Outpost H31 by Sara Jayne Townsend (2020)

Welcome to the Splatter Club by Various Authors (2020)

You Should Have Seen Her by Amy Cross (2020)

Jester of Hearts by Various Authors (2020)

Later by Stephen King (2021)

The Newspaperman by Sal Nudo (2018)

The Chill by Scott Carson (2020)

Dark Places, Evil Faces Volume II by Various Authors (2018)

Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates (2014)

Moth Busters – Freaky Florida Mystery Adventures 1 by Margaret Lashley (2019)

Nang Tani: She Takes her Vengeance in Blood by Lee Franklin (2020)

Watched by Iain Anderson (2021)

It Calls from the Forest by Various Authors (2020)

The Book Club by C.J. Cooper (2019)

Railroad Tales by Various Authors (2021)

Savage by Richard Laymon (1993)

Terror Tales of the Scottish Lowlands by Various Authors (2021)

JonBenet: Inside the Ramsey Murder Investigation by Steve Thomas (2000)

The Legend of the Dogman by David C Posthumus (2022, ARC)

Handmade Horror by Various Authors (2021)

You can read my 2020 list here.


X5 – Cover Reveal!

My new volume of short stories, imaginatively entitled X5, is up for pre-order now! Dropping in a matter of weeks, it is set to feature ten previously-published pulse-pounding slabs of hoffific fiction, extensive notes, and original artwork from the Stoker award-winning Greg Chapman which I can show you right now.

Let me know what you think!

X5 will be available exclusively on ebook, and is up for pre-order now.


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