Category Archives: publications

Coming Around (drabble)

Last year I was invited to contribute to an anthology of horror drabbles Kevin Kennedy was putting together. A drabble is a 100-word story. No more, no less. The antho was a huge success, and I thoroughly enjoyed branching out into another form of writing.

I’ve kindly been granted permission to share my contribution with you, so here it is.

Coming Around

By C.M. Saunders

He was being chased down a long, dark tunnel by a pack of dogs. He couldn’t see them, but he could hear them panting and snarling. They were gaining on him. His chest burned. Couldn’t catch his breath. Shooting pains.

Then the tunnel and the dogs began to melt away, and Duncan’s world was spinning into focus. That was a dream?

Where the fuck was he?

Then he remembered. The operation. The heart surgery. He tried to open his eyes. Couldn’t. Too soon. But he could hear noises, like someone tuning a radio. Voices.

“Too bad we couldn’t save him.”

Get it?

There was a lot to fit in, so let me explain a little. It started with hell hounds, who according to mythology, turn up to drag the evil to hell when they die. Then there was a tunnel, so often reported by people on their death beds, the heart surgery (chest pains), and finally the right hook at the end. Yep, our hero is dead. He died during the operation, hence the hell hounds and the tunnel. But I also tried to pose a question. If he’s dead, how can he still hear the doctors talking? Does that mean he’s a ghost? Or do your senses continue for a short while after your vital signs fade?

You decide.

In her review of 100 Word Horrors, Erica Robyn said of Coming Around:

Absolutely terrifying!! This one is a straight up nightmare! 5/5

Thanks, Erica!

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Review of X3 by Bloody Good Horror Books

Review of X3 by Renier Palland at Bloody Good Horror Books:

“X3” by author Christian aka C.M. Saunders is a short collection of short horror stories he had published over the years. He begins his anthology with a piece called “Introduction: The Final Curtain” where he muses over death and mortality, and how it permeates everything, including literature. It’s what Friedrich Nietzsche called the “Death Drive”. Oddly enough, this rather obtuse opening led to some rather interesting short stories. The first story, “‘Til Death Do Us Part” is zombie fiction without the zombies. It’s primal, brutal and asks us what we’d do to survive for one more second on this godforsaken planet. Saunders brought the point home with this valiant line: “They were fighting and fucking everywhere like animals”. This matter-of-fact method of writing immediately piqued my interest. I knew I was onto something good.

Throughout the good short stories – not the bad ones – Saunders weaves a tapestry of horrifically fun humour and below-the-belt madness. There’s even a short story about a troll, with a sequel to the short story about the troll! As with all short story writing, each piece has to end in a solipsistic finale, a final twist to end all twists. I liken it to twisting the knife in a piece of meat. It’s an extremely difficult, well-documented feat. There are essays written about how a short story should be structured, compiled and created. If a writer lingers on a paragraph for too long, the short story is ruined and ends up in the tried-and-failed dustbin. Aside from poetry, short story writing is the most difficult literary art form. When an author gets it right, he or she really gets it right. But a short story can also turn into a bizarre, self-indulgent and experimental freak show. My point being, Saunders’ short story anthology has a touch of Bipolar, with extreme lows (“Gwraig Annwn” and “Slots-a-Pain”) and manic, thrilling highs (“The Delectable Hearts”, “Switchblade Sunday” and “The Elementals and I”).

He is an extremely friendly guy who wrote exactly what was needed to get our attention for an immediate review. He is also an excellent writer, but I don’t agree with putting all of your eggs into one basket, i.e. Putting short stories together from over the years into one volume. He should have been much more careful with his choices. I understand what it feels like to have that specific short story you wrote, the one which didn’t get the recognition it deserved, finally published. I’m also an author and I understand that inherent need. However, as a reviewer I have to follow extremely harsh guidelines in order for my review to have any merit or credibility in the real world.

Saunders failed with some of his short stories. I wanted more. I needed more. But there was nothing except an experimental foray into death literature. The stories which did work were extremely well done, brilliant even. I can easily say that “‘Til Death Do Us Part” will stick with me (no pun intended – look out for the ending) for a very long time. It was interesting, tragically beautiful and filled with a post-apocalyptic essence akin to “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy. “The Delectable Hearts” was a curious and interesting meta-commentary on the entertainment industry. I used to be a writer and reviewer for a worldwide entertainment media group, so I understood the character’s journalistic instincts to get the scoop on a new music band. The ending, as with the former, was both unsettling and optimistic – an awkward, albeit exciting paradox. I enjoyed every second of the better short stories in the anthology, but much like a music album, an anthology has to be structured in a specific way to maximise the audience’s interest. This was not the case with “X3”. It felt haphazard and loose, as I went from a high to a low. Perhaps Saunders intended for the anthology to read like a rollercoaster? It’s possible, not wise in my opinion, but possible.

The anthology was fun to read. I think Saunders’ dark humour played a role here and he managed to save several of the shorts by using the gallows’ humour literary mechanism. Technically, some of the shorts were ravaged by editorial oversights, e.g. “twist in the tail” instead of “twist in the tale”. Malapropisms shouldn’t be left untreated as they can easily infect a literary wound. However, for the sake of this review, I am willing to overlook the technicalities because everything else was written perfectly. Saunders didn’t make many mistakes. His tempo was fluid, his narrative structure was constrained enough to allow the short stories to develop on their own, and his literary mechanisms were used correctly.

Saunders is definitely a great writer with unparalleled potential. His shorts were good enough to make me seek him out when I’m looking for my next read-of-the-day. Imperfection is sometimes more beautiful than perfection. This is true in Saunders’ case.

And the fact that he knows how to truly imbed subtle humour into his work – something most writers are completely unable to do.

RATING: 4 out of 5

X3 is available now. Check out more from Bloody Good Horror Books HERE.

X3


The Bookbub Experience

People have reported mixed experiences with the book marketing company Bookbub. There are both success stories and horror stories. For what it’s worth, I’m going to share mine.

First, a bit of background. Bookbub is a service which provides readers with free or heavily discounted books. Writers pay to have their books included in ‘Featured Deal’ email blastings which can reach hundreds of thousands of potential customers. The details vary, depending on the genre and package you select (which again varies according to your selected territories and size of discount you are offering).

Lots of other book promotion companies use a similar model, but with Bookbub being the biggest, it represents the best results. It’s also the most expensive. But most writers look at the fees as a necessary expense. You have to spend money to make money, right?|

To even qualify for a Featured Deal, your book also has to fulfill certain criteria like have a set number of reviews and a professionally-produced cover. It also has to undergo a quality check. It isn’t easy to be accepted. My book Sker House was rejected several times before finally being selected a few months ago. Upon acceptance, I chose my package, paid the exorbitant fee, and waited anxiously to see what would happen.

At first, things didn’t go to plan. It was entirely my fault. Long story short, when I dropped the price of Sker House to qualify for the Featured Deal I misjudged the currency conversion rates in the US, Canada and Australia, which resulted in the book not being the price I said it would be on the dates I said it would. Bookbub rightly pulled my promotion for not adhering to the rules. To their credit, they were great about it, and after I emailed them to explain my mistake and did a bit of begging, they reluctantly agreed to reschedule my promotion at no extra cost.

Phew.

As an indie writer with a dozen or so books out there, unless I do some kind of promotional activity, I consider myself lucky to sell a handful of books a day. I am under no illusions. I know a lot of writers sell more than me. Some sell less. You can imagine my surprise when I got up the morning my Featured Deal went out to Bookbub’s subscribers, checked my KDP account, and found Sker House had sold close to a hundred copies in just a few hours. Every time I hit ‘refresh’ it showed more sales. At its peak, I was probably selling around a book a minute. Sker House has done reasonably well since it came out. I did a successful blog tour to help it along, and it picked up some decent reviews. But nothing I’d done previously came close to this.

I logged into Author Central and checked my author ranking to find I was suddenly sitting pretty at number 71 in the ‘Most Popular Horror Writers’ category. By some strange twist of fate, I was also number 72, because Amazon evidently thought C.M. Saunders and Christian Saunders were two different people.

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The sales kept coming, and my alter-ego and I kept climbing the charts. Later that evening, a couple of hundred sales later, I peaked at numbers 37 and 38. I might have gone even higher. I like to think I took the Number one slot from some befuddled old bloke called Stephen King at some point whilst I slept.

Of course, it couldn’t last.

After the initial sales flurry subsided, Sker House continued selling in double digits for a few days afterwards. By then, it had gone back up to full price, so I received a higher royalty percentage. By my calculations, taking into account the reduced promotion price and the associated royalty percentage in each territory, I needed to shift around 800 downloads to cover my costs.

That’s a lot of books.

I didn’t really expect to sell that many, and I didn’t. At the final reckoning I got close, maxing out at just over 600, but there were other benefits. On average, my daily sales remain higher than they were before. Over the promotion period I also sold more copies of my other books than I usually do, which I didn’t factor in, and my KU ‘pages read’ went through the roof. I usually get several hundred a day, but since the promotion that has increased to several thousand and has remained consistent ever since. One day, I had over 7,000, probably my highest ever. Over a month later, and those numbers are still holding. I’m optimistic that all these sales and reads will translate into a couple of new reviews in the not too distant future. Also, my blog hits increased exponentially, more people have followed me on Twitter and my Facebook author page, and then there was the small matter of cracking Amazon’s Most Popular Horror Writer list for the first time. I feel like I’ve finally reached then next level.

So the all-important question everyone wants to know, did I make a shit load of money?

No. All things considered, I’ll probably just break even. But I certainly don’t regret doing it. Between the hundreds of sales, the extra exposure, and the thrill of it all, it was a worthy investment.

Long live Bookbub.

sker house cm saunders cover 1

 


Terrors Unimagined

I’m thrilled to announce that my latest short story, Lakeside Park, is included in the new anthology Terrors Unimagined, edited by Karen T. Newman and out now on Left Hand Press.

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Lakeside Park is an old-fashioned creature tale about a down-on-his-luck, ex-alcoholic custodian who agrees to take a job looking after a remote caravan park deep in the Welsh valleys during the winter.

Suffice to say he doesn’t get the anticipated peace and quiet.

About the book:

Far beyond what you can imagine lies a dreamscape full of the unexpected and the unexplainable. The supernatural, the paranormal, monsters, demons, magic, witches, and inconceivable horrors reside in a world of Terrors Unimagined.

An international cadre of authors, both new and experienced, lead you down a path to the other side of the unbelievable with stories unique and thought-provoking. This anthology of supernatural and horror-inspiring short stories drags us screaming into a world of creatures and nightmares undreamed of. Prepare to ponder your nights away.

Sleep is no longer an option.

Check out the trailer HERE

See HERE for full details and Table of Contents.

Incidentally, you can check out the rest of my fiction HERE.

 


For the Love?

There’s a worrying trend developing whereby publishers (often individuals who just call themselves publishers, with about as much market knowledge as a used condom) snap up stories, compile them into ezines or anthologies, and put them on the market hoping to make a fast buck. They don’t pay contributors, instead calling themselves ‘For The Love (FTL),’ or ‘exposure’ markets. It’s nothing new, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. There’s been a debate going on over the viability of these markets since forever, the main argument in the ‘for’ column being that they provide platforms for emerging writers to break through. That may be true, but only because more established writers don’t work for free.

Generally speaking, there are two distinct forms of FTL market. The first is where the publisher invites submissions, edits and compiles the stories, sorts out a cover, then distributes a finished product in the form of a website, ezine, or anthology, free to the public. This is a true ‘FTL’ market. Everyone works for free; the writers, the editor, the artists, using the publication as a platform to showcase their work. This is perfectly acceptable.

Then there is the dark side.

Other publishers invite submissions, edits and compiles the stories, sorts out a cover, then distributes a finished product in the form of a website, ezine, or anthology, CHARGES the public money for it and keeps the profits. They don’t pay the writers, or the artists, and what’s more, where possible they charge for ad space, thereby creating two revenue streams (sales and ads) whilst incorporating virtually non-existent overheads and operating costs.

The publisher, who is also usually the editor, maintains he or she invests a lot of time in the project and should be compensated. That is true. But what about compensating the contributors who also invest a lot of time in the project? And make it possible for them to take their cut? Not only do writers invest their time, but also money in the form of materials, hardware, software, electricity, etc. It actually costs money to write and submit. The ‘exposure’ guff doesn’t cover it. Would you ask a workman to your house, ask him to build you a wall, which you then charged people to look at, and when the workman asks for payment (or at least a cut of the profits) you say, “Well, didn’t you enjoy building it?”

I don’t think so. Not unless you want a punch in the face. The same principal should be applied here. Otherwise, you are effectively profiteering. The publisher will probably maintain that they can’t afford to pay contributors. But in that case, the project isn’t economically viable and shouldn’t even have left the ground. Would you start building that wall if you couldn’t afford to buy the bricks?

Of course, there is a wicked little sting in the tail here. These non-paying markets rarely attract writers of the calibre required to shift large amounts of product, because a lot of these writers have been around a while, quietly building their reputations, and know their worth. They put their hearts and souls into their work, and aren’t about to give it away for free (apart for the odd charity contribution), and stand by while someone else makes money off them. Therefore, the only people who contribute to these publications are writers ‘on the way up.’

This isn’t a judgement of their quality. They might be, and probably are, very capable wordsmiths. The problem is they are yet to build an audience, so very few prospective readers know who they are. This doesn’t sell books. Obviously, submitting to FTL markets is part of the process of building that audience, but it does nothing for sales in the short term. Publications need a few big hitters in order to sell copies. The paradox is that if you don’t pay, you won’t get those big hitters and you won’t sell many copies.

Catch 22.

Of course, you can flip that equation on its head and say that if a publication offered contributors even token payment, the quality of submissions would increase and so would sales. From there, the more money you offer, the better standard of writers would contribute and consequently, the more copies you sell. The more copies you sell, the more you can pay contributors, and so on. This might be a very simplistic way of looking at it, but why can’t it work? If only more people recognized that you get what you pay for, we would all be better off.

This post was first published on the Deviant Dolls website.

And don’t forget, you don’t always have to start at the beginning!


You Don’t Always Have to Start at the Beginning.

You may wonder why I don’t post more about writing and/or publishing. After all, I’ve been doing this a long time. Well, the answer to that is that I jealously guard any knowledge and information I’ve gleaned on my journey and file it away for my own personal use. Find your own knowledge and information!

I’m kidding.

Kind of.

I have written about some aspects of writing on this blog before, most recently writer’s block and indie publishing and do so occasionally for various publications like Writer’s Weekly and Funds for Writers. But thinking about it, the reason I don’t do it more is because writing is such a subjective topic that it’s very difficult to impart any actual bona fide wisdom. What works for you, might not work for anyone else. I can give an opinion, sure. Maybe even an informed opinion. But at the end of the day, it’s still just an opinion, and as the saying goes, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one. You like the way yours smells, but everyone else’s stinks.

Anyway, from an altruistic point of view, I probably should blog more about writing and publishing in the hope that someone somewhere might take something from it. So today I’d like to address what I see as one of many rookie errors, and that is the assumption that when writing a story, a novel, a novella, or even a feature or article, you have to start at the beginning and work diligently through to the end.

It’s bullshit.

That’s right. You can start in the middle if you want. Fuck it. If you have a killer final scene, write that first then work backwards. Obviously, I don’t mean write the words backwards. I’ve never tried it, but I imagine that would not only be ridiculously taxing, but satanic as fuck. Plus, editors won’t appreciate it.

Moving on…

It genuinely amazes me how many people start a writing project full of optimism and the very best of intentions, only to grind to a shuddering halt for some reason, abandon the project, then just moan about how hard it was instead. It’s easy to blame writer’s block but c’mon, you know that’s just an excuse. My advice is, if you are struggling with a particular scene, or have some plot issues to work through, or have plain hit the wall, just pick up the story at a later point (on the other side of said wall) and continue from there. When it’s finished nobody will even notice, much less care.

For example, imagine you are writing a murder mystery and the victim has just been found dead in the kitchen with their own intestines stuffed in their mouth. Maybe you aren’t sure about the order of events leading up to the murder, or the weapon used, or what day of the week it was, or even who the killer is. Maybe you can’t decide on the time frame, motive, or any number of other technicalities. Don’t sweat it, just let the story hang there for a while and move to another section. Believe me, sooner or later things will fall into place.

Personally, I often start short stories with little more than a single scene in my head, then I write around the scene. If I’m lucky, I’ll have several semi-related scenes floating around. Then it’s just a matter of stitching them together. Sometimes the initial scene doesn’t even make a final cut. It’s there as kind of a sign post or marker, and when it has served its purpose I might pull it and throw it away, or use it in another story.

How you write is up to you. That’s the beauty of it. You are the master, and the page is your domain. Own it. The important thing is the end result. The story. How you arrive at the destination is irrelevant. You don’t always have to follow convention, and you certainly don’t always have to start at the beginning.

This post first appeared on the Deviant Dolls website.


Digital Horror Fiction, Volume I

I’m pleased to announce that my short story Roadkill is included in the new anthology Digital Horror Fiction, Volume I alongside a host of stellar names including Aaron Gudmunson, James Dorr, Gregory L. Norris and my fellow Deviant Doll, Renee ‘Twisted Bitch’ Miller.

Digital Horror Fiction

Roadkill was inspired by a feature I did for Nuts magazine back in the day about rogue ambulance crews in south America. They patrol the roads, listening in to police scanners, looking for accidents. Then they ferry the dead and injured to hospitals and pick up their payment. Of course, the system is wide open to manipulation, and makes a great backdrop for a horror story. I started thinking, what if, one day, a rogue ambulance crew picked up a casualty who really should be dead, but wasn’t? In fact, what if he flat-out refused to die?

And what if he had a score to settle?

It’s probably fair to assume that heads will roll.

I had a lot of fun writing this story. It probably represents one of my first shambling steps into splatterpunk. It’s a bit over the top but hey, it’s fiction! If it makes you crack a smile, as well as turn your stomach, then my work is done.

Roadkill has been previously published in the anthology Fading Light and was also included in my collection X2.


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