Category Archives: Books

Roach on Scare Street!

Roach, my ‘creature feature’ short story, is included in the new anthology, Night Terrors Volume 12 on Scare Street Publishing.

Here’s the ToC:

1. Cross Words by Peter Cronsberry
2. Hybrid by Justin Boote
3. Pipe Dreams by William Sterling
4. “For My Next Trick…” by Bryan Clark
5. Blood Debt by Susan E. Rogers
6. Smudge the Head by Kyle Winkler
7. See Me by Charles Welch
8. Half Larva, Will Travel by Andrey Pissantchev
9. Just We Two by Shell St. James
10. Caustic Whispers by Zach Friday
11. Roach by C. M. Saunders
12. Unarmed by Warren Benedetto
13. Gwen Speaks by Ron Ripley

I wrote the first draft of Roach in the autumn of 2019 when I was teaching at a college in Guangzhou, southern China. There are a lot of cockroaches in Guangzhou. The nucleus of the idea came from a news item I read about Chinese cockroach farms.

I ended up doing a ton of research and writing an article for Fortean Times magazine about it. fascinating stuff. These farms breed millions and millions of the little critters, the official line being that they are used in Chinese medicine. As a bi-product, they can also be used in waste disposal and even as a food source. Who knows? The whole thing, like most things in China, is shrouded in secrecy. This has led to speculation that these genetically modified insect armies could be weaponised, though probably not in the way described in the story.

As if cockroaches weren’t scary enough, right?

Night Terrors Vol 12 is out now on ebook and paperback.


X4 – Review

This could be my favourite review ever, so I copied it from Goodreads to share with you. Thanks, Bruce!

Getting this out of the way. I know C.M. Saunders can tell a good story. The X Omnibus is my bookcase. That’s a sign I’ve really loved what he wrote. He made the top 10 of books read last year from the GoodReads account. This is now volume #4 of stories which cover the mindscape of possibilities where individuals meet the weird/strange/terrifying. One is very short, and the others are short story length which you can catch in those brief moments the world allows you to think.

To help you understand how the stories run, think of this visual:

Two fireflies flitting around a central core, which is the story itself. One firefly is the character with who they are and their thought processes, as in how they think. The other firefly is the landscape they are connected to, the matte painting they become involved in. You get to know the character and landscape and it becomes a fun process in how they both mix together. Though it’s on the verge of the fantastic, something resembling an X File, it becomes a natural mix. And he offers an Afterword to tell you something of the background of the stories, good reader/writer connections. Good stories here.

Bruce Blanchard, March 4th 2020

You can find the original review HERE.

X4 is out now. 

X4


The Bookshelf 2020

As is customary, below is a complete list of all the books I read, from cover to cover (or from 0 to 100%, as is increasingly the case) in 2020. This list is a bit longer than other recent reading lists, we can blame being in self-isolation half the year for that. I won’t bother counting the books I gave up on. There’s been a few. I’m disappointed with myself for not finishing Infinite Jest, though proud of the fact that I made it to about 30%. From what I gather, it’s one of those books you either love or hate. I fell into the latter camp. Too wordy, dense, and pretentious. I deserve some credit for persevering as long as I did with it.

To compensate, this list also a couple of shorter books. The Craft Beer Textbook is only 38 pages long. But it’s still a book, and I still read it so it counts. I finally got around to reading the second Secret Footballer book, which I remember buying at Heathrow airport a few years ago. It was great until he started talking about literature and quantum mechanics in an obvious attempt to show us he’s more than just a footballer. I made a conscious effort to branch out a bit and sample some work by authors I haven’t read before, and generally speaking I made some good choices. Pick of the bunch was probably Nick Cutter’s The Troop which, fittingly, is about a rogue virus. Kind of. I don’t know why it took me so long to read it, but it’s epic. Stephen King, Amy Cross and Jason Arnopp were as reliable as ever, and Adam Nevill’s mini-anthology Before You Wake is well worth a look.

The Horror Collection: White Edition by Various Authors (2019)

Resurrection: A Zombie Novel (Book One) by Michael J. Totten (2014)

Ghoster by Jason Arnopp (2019)

Can I Say: Living Large, Cheating death, and Drums, Drums, Drums, by Travis Barker (2015)

Bloody London: A Shocking Guide to London’s Gruesome Past and Present by Declan McHugh (2012)

After: Undead Wars by Various Authors (2018)

The Institute by Stephen King (2019)

I Was Jack the Ripper by Michael Bray (2017)

Wales of the Unexpected by Richard Holland (2005)

Sex, Marry, Kill by Todd Travis (2014)

Mountain of the Dead: The Dyatlov Pass incident by Keith McCloskey (2013)

Test Patterns: Creature Features by Various Authors (2018)

Billy Joel: The Definitive Biography by Fred Schruers (2014 ed)

Logging off by Nick Spalding (2020)

The Craft Beer Textbook by Jonny Garrett (2020)

Sunbather by Frank Floyd (2020)

The Lighthouse by Keith McCloskey (2014)

If It Bleeds by Stephen King (2020)

Ten Chimes to Midnight: A Collection of Ghost stories by Amy Cross (2019)

Haunted World War II by Matthew L. Swayne (2018)

Stranger Than Fiction by Chuck Palahniuk (2004)

The Troop by Nick Cutter (2014)

Vampires, Zombies and Ghosts: Volume 2 by Various Authors (2019)

American Hoarder by Jason Arnopp (2016)

If Flies Could Fart by Justin Boote (2020)

Tales from the Secret Footballer by The secret Footballer (2014)

Walkers by Graham Masterton (1991)

The Haunting of the Lost Traveller Tavern by Cat Knight (2019)

Brewtality by Various Authors (2020)

Before You Wake: Three Horrors by Adam Nevill (2017)

The Ghost of Old Coal House by Amy Cross (2020)

My Christmas Story by Rayne Havok (2016)

You can read my 2019 reading list here.


Scary Mary & The Jester of Hearts

I am pleased to announce that my short story, Scary Mary, appears in the new anthology Jester of Hearts from Terror Tract Publishing.

TT, who use the slogan HORROR WITH ATTITUDE to great effect, are the same beautiful people who recently published my novella Tethered. As the title suggests, this particular anthology is a collection of dark stories which all have a spiky thread of humour running through them. I don’t know why, but to me, horror and humour are often interlinked. It’s the absurdity of it all; the way your mind becomes unhinged from reality when faced with the horrible, horrific or horrifying.

My contribution, Scary Mary, is a flash fiction piece I wrote in early 2020. It’s based on a popular urban legend called the phantom hitch-hiker, whereby a driver picks up a passenger one night on a deserted stretch of road only to discover that it’s a ghost. The set-up is a bunch of guys chatting in a pub, and the whole story builds to what I hope is a worthy mic-drop stinger at the end. It probably won’t win me many literary prizes, not that my writing ever has, but it might send a chill down your spine and then make you crack a smile, which is the whole point of this anthology.

Jester of Hearts is available now on paperback and ebook from Terror Tract Publishing.


Brewtality

My short story Grower is included in the new anthology Brewtality, out now on Evil Cookie, a new publishing company set up by the uber-talented K Trap Jones. All the stories in this book have a common them, which is something very close to my heart: alcohol.

Without giving too much away, Grower is about a guy who finds a tooth in his beer, and things just get weirder for him from there. It’s one of the most bizarre and flat-out surreal, stories I’ve produced in a long time. In fact, it’s probably one of the most bizarre and flat-out surreal, stories I’ve produced EVER. I wrote the original draft in the heady pre-COVID summer of 2019 whilst living in Guangzhou, and drinking far too much cheap Chinese beer. I was swigging on a can one night when I started thinking… what if?

This story was rejected by another prospective publisher I sent it to on the basis of being, “Too skin-crawlingly gross.” They also added, “The descriptions throughout this story were uncomfortably visceral and gruesome.” That’s a win for any horror writer, and I’m glad Trap wasn’t as squeamish and sensitive.

The original version featured a can of Budweiser as the vessel of doom, because I wanted to emphasise the discovery of something weird deep inside the ordinary and I hate Bud with a passion. Too gassy. But later I had a rethink, and decided it would be much more fun if I ditched the Bud in favour of a made-up brand of craft beer (just as I would in real life). Also, credit for that final killer line has to go to Trap himself.

Just look at this ToC!

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I am truly humbled to be in such great company.

Brewtality is out now on paperback and ebook on Evil Cookie publishing.


It Came From the Darkness

I’m proud to have been invited to contribute to It Came From the Darkness, an anthology put together by Red Cape Publishing and Philip Rogers to raise money for the Max the Brave fund.

Please follow the link to find out more about the cause.

(from the official press release):

“A huge number of horror writers, poets, artists, and film makers have come together to support the cause and offer the reader something special. Each piece of writing begins with the same five words, but the stories themselves are all wonderfully varied. So dig in, take each tale one bloody bite at a time, and beware of what comes from the darkness.

Includes stories from David Owain Hughes, Matthew V. Brockmeyer, Tim Lebbon, Lou Yardley, Cortney Palm, Lee Franklin, MJ Dixon, Singh Lall, and many, many more.”

The book is released on October 30th.


Sker House 2020

Like most other people, I am struggling to take any positives from 2020. One positive, however, is the fact that I’ve had more time to reassess things, and tackle some of those jobs I’ve been putting off. One of those jobs was revising my novel, Sker House, my attempt at the ‘Great Welsh Haunted House Story.’

I worked on it sporadically for five or six years, mainly because there was so much research involved because I wanted it to be as factually accurate as possible. Sker House, and many of the places I talk about in the book, are real, and so are some of the local legends I reference including that of Kenfig Pool and the Maid of Sker. Well, they are at least as ‘real’ as legends can be, anyway. The book also incorporates some documented historical events, like the awful practice of wrecking and the Mumbles Lifeboat Disaster, which didn’t actually happen in Mumbles, but here at Sker Point.

In 2016 I got to a point where I was just done with Sker House. I was so desperate to get it out there, I forewent the process of looking for a traditional publisher, commissioned my old mate Greg Chapman to design a cover (based on an old postcard I found of the original Sker House) and decided to publish it myself. Or more accurately, via a now-defunct writer’s collective I was then part of.

Sker House 3D

Though it became my biggest selling book and picked up some great reviews, truth be told, I’ve never been 100% happy with the version of Sker House I originally put out. The plot was a bit meandering and unfocused in places, and I slipped into using the passive voice a bit too much. The back end of the book felt a bit rushed, and there were a few silly grammatical errors and the odd missing apostrophe or comma. In places I forgot I was writing for an international audience, and referenced things like the Dissolution of the Monastries without actually saying what it was, or what the implications were and how it tied in with the story. From a more practical standpoint, the formatting was also a bit wayward. I was still learning the ropes then and experimenting with different techniques and software.

Some things seem fine the first dozen times you read them, but if you go back and read them a thirteenth time years later you’ll probably find some things you’d like to change. The beauty of self-publishing, apart from maintaining complete creative control, is that you can do just that. During this re-write I also added 4,000 words or so to the original. I’m not sure how that happened because my intention was to do the opposite, but there you go.

Helped largely by a succesful Bookbub promotion, the first edition is my biggest selling book which means a lot of my readers already have it. If you’re one of the few thousand who are in possession of the original (now substandard) version, get in touch and I’ll send you a free copy of the 2020 remaster.

If you still haven’t visited Sker House, why not take advantage of the special relaunch offer I’m running and do so now? It shouldn’t need saying, but THIS INVITATION APPLIES TO THE BOOK ONLY. NOT THE ACTUAL HOUSE.

I said something similar before and got a solicitor’s letter from the house’s current owner. I don’t want that to happen again. 

The revamped, revised, rewritten, and remixed Sker House is available on ebook and paperback.

Onwards and upwards


Tethered: A History

Tethered, my novella about internet rituals, is finally out on Terror Tract Publishing LLC. Yay!

Here’s a helpful blurb.

Craig, a journalism graduate trying desperately to get a foothold in a fading industry, is going nowhere fast. While searching for a project to occupy himself, he stumbles across a blog written by a girl called Kami about internet rituals – challenges undertaken by those seeking to make contact with ghosts or other supernatural entities.

Craig becomes obsessed, and when Kami suddenly disappears he goes in search of her. From there he is powerless to prevent his life spiralling out of control as he is drawn deeper and deeper into a dark, dangerous world where nothing is quite what it seems. A world populated not just by urban myths and hearsay, but by real-life killers.

He thinks he is in control, but nothing can be further from the truth.

And a look at the awesome cover by Becky Narron

Tethered

Tethered ended up taking on a bit of a weird structure, and is quite experimental in parts. It starts with a conversation between two flatmates, and the first half alternates between conventional storytelling and a mixture of mocked-up blog entries and news articles, while the second half returns to a more tried-and-tested format. I couldn’t help but get bogged down in the details, and the whole process took a lot longer than I wanted. The first draft resembled a pile of puzzle parts that I somehow had to piece together. I think they came together pretty well in the end. But I’m biased, obviously.

The title has a loaded meaning. In the traditional sense, ‘tethered’ means being being fixed or attached to something else (like reality), but a more modern usage it can be applied to using your smartphone to connect to the internet. Or something. This dual meaning made it the perfect choice, not just the respective definitions (both of which are relevant to the plot) but also because the title itself functions on multiple levels, which I hope the book also does.

After getting burned a few times over the years by rogue publishers, I’ve self-published my last few books, not just my X series which basically consists of fiction I’ve had published elsewhere, but longer original works, too, like Human Waste, Sker House and Dead of Night. There are many reasons why I do this, rather than go the traditional route. The process is much faster and I get to retain control over every aspect of the process from setting the price to the content and cover art.

The thing is, self-published authors get very little respect in the industry because there’s this attitude that anyone can do it, and you HAD to self-publish because your book wasn’t good enough to get published traditionally. There might even be some truth in that assumption, given the questionable quality of some self-published work out there. But without sounding too smug about it, I don’t think it strictly applies to me because my first half a dozen books were traditionally published. However, after a while out of the trad game, something approaching self-doubt crept in and I began to miss the competition.

Am I really good enough?

Is this book really good enough?

With the help of Terror Tract, I hope to answer some of those questions, and ask a few more.

Tethered is out now on paperback and ebook through Terror Tract Publishing LLC.


Unknown Pleasures – Post Mortem Press: The Early Years (Volume One)

One of the first short stories I had accepted after my return to writing fiction after a long hiatus was a story valled Curiosities, which was included in an anthology called Uncanny Allegories on Post Mortem Press back in 2010.

Curiosities, which was later included in X2, is about an antique shop on the south coast of England. It’s a shop with a difference, and more than a few secrets. The original plan was to write a series of stories about the same place and central character, but I never got around to it. I guess there’s still time. 

Anyway, Post Mortem Press has just compiled all the stories from Uncanny Allegories and many others into one handy, specially-priced volume called Unknown Pleasures – Post Mortem Press: The Early Years (Volume One).

unknown pleasures

The book contains over 1800 pages and includes over 80 stories and novellas, including ‘secret classics’ by Jack Ketchum and Jonathan Maberry, among many others. 

Check it out that awesome cover!

I think somebody over there must be a Joy Division fan.

 


Tethered is out now!

My new novella, Tethered, is out now on Terror Tract Publishing.

Tethered

Craig, a journalism graduate trying desperately to get a foothold in a fading industry, is going nowhere fast. While searching for a project to occupy himself, he stumbles across a blog written by a girl called Kami about internet rituals – challenges undertaken by those seeking to make contact with ghosts or other supernatural entities.

Craig becomes obsessed, and when Kami suddenly disappears he goes in search of her. From there he is powerless to prevent his life spiralling out of control as he is drawn deeper and deeper into a dark, dangerous world where nothing is quite what it seems. A world populated not just by urban myths and hearsay, but by real-life killers.

He thinks he is in control, but nothing can be further from the truth.

Tethered is available now on paperback and ebook from Terror Tract Publishing.


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