Tag Archives: books

X5 x 10 x 10

To mark the release of X5, my latest collection of short fiction, earlier this year I posted a line from one of the stories from it on consecutive days across my social media channels. Just for a laugh. As each of the X books contains 10 stories, that meant over the 10-day period I posted a total of 10 lines. I know that taken out of context they might not make much sense. The idea was just to give readers a deeper insight into each story than a standard synopsis would allow, and perhaps spark some morbid curiosity. Then I decided to collect all the extracts together here, because blogging.

Demon Tree:

“It looked like a giant moth/human hybrid, complete with a huge set of leathery wings folded behind it, and was covered in grey or black fur which had thinned in places to reveal skin so dry it resembled scales.”

Revenge of the Toothfish:

“Its yellowing eyes were way out of proportion and had realigned themselves so they were on opposite sides of the head. The nose had elongated and extended into a snout, and the mouth was ringed by a pair of bulging, dark grey lips.”

Surzhai:

“Their life force and vitality came from the blood of the vanquished, which they collected on the battlefield and doused themselves in or even drank, vampire-like.”

The sharpest Tool:

“Her head was full of abstract images offering a tantalizing glimpse of some other existence, a distant life full of meaning, colour and joy. But each day the images faded a little more and now she wasn’t even sure if what she saw were snatches of memory or some manufactured product of her fractured mind.”

Something Bad:

“If I stay long enough, shivering in the doorway, mouth hanging open and facial muscles twitching, I see the stringy black stuff on the bathroom floor begin to take shape.”

Down the Road:

“She couldn’t believe she was doing this. Picking up a hitcher? If dad found out he would kill her, if her passenger didn’t kill her first.”

Coming Around:

“He couldn’t see them, but he could hear them panting and snarling.”

Where a Town once stood:

“When Sam was a child, he remembered thinking someone had been drawing on his grandad with a pen and spent hours trying to rub off the ‘ink’. Only later did he find out that the network of deep blue scars carved into his granite flesh were the result of a life spent on the coalfaces.”

The Last Night Shift:

“Something dark was smeared around his mouth, and I noticed he was holding something in his hands. Gradually, horrifyingly, the full implications of what I was seeing dawned on me.”

Subject #270374:

“The guy in a white coat asked if I was getting sexually aroused. Just came out and said it. I mean, what the fuck? Who in this world could or would get turned on by pictures of mutilated bodies and severed limbs?”

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.


2021 in Review

Despite the unprecedented fuckery of 2020, it proved to be one of the most productive years of my writing career, certainly as far as fiction goes. I had to do something to fill those endless hours of lockdown. I like to see progress in the things I put my energy into, so while it was pleasing to have such a productive spell, I knew I had to maintain momentum. 2021 got off to a great start with the publication of my gross-out murder mystery Siki’s Story via The Splatter Club in January and my drabble (100-word story) Faces on the Walls appearing in the first anthology out out by Ghost Orchid Press. Alone, Or, a more traditional ghost story with a literary flavour, was included in the Spring edition of Frost Zone Zine on Cryoseism Press and shortly after the same publisher snapped up my Halloween-themed shocker Misshapes & Rejects for an anthology called Handmade Horror Stories.

I finished the first draft of the first Ben Shivers novel (working title: The Wretched Bones), about a paranormal investigator who lives in a mobile home with a cat called Mr. Trimble back in in 2019. The first draft of anything is always a mess, so I immediately set about writing a second draft and then a third in the first half of 2021. The intention was to bring the total word count down from 88,000 to a more manageable 80,000. However, that didn’t go to plan and after all the edits and rewrites, the final version ended up at just under 92,000 words. Life, eh? Whilst pitching the first book to agents and prospective publishers I wrote the first draft of the sequel and hope to have the second draft completed in the first quarter of 2022. I also put some time into finding a home for my Joshua Strange YA series, which is about a boy who inadvertently becomes a time traveller. That series, kind of my pet project, currently stands at three completed novels and a novella.

In 2021 I also completed a couple of novellas. Strzyga, about a warehouse worker on the nightshift who takes possession of a mysterious crate, stands at just shy of 10,000 which is a pretty weird length. Slightly too long for a short story, and not long enough for a novella. The other is a horror western called Silent Mine featuring a new character called Dylan Wilder who I like a lot, and might well involve in some more shenanigans in the future.

As the year progressed I had stories about genetically engineered giant cockroaches and a demon that sucks the eyeballs out of people’s heads while they sleep published in Scare Street anthologies, and a twisted little tale called Painted Nails in the extreme horror collection No Anesthetic on Splatter Ink Publishing.

Also on the extreme side, Eeva appeared in Books of Horror Collective Vol 3, Hell-bent was included in an anthology called Unleashed, and a reprint of Harberry Close was published in the the anthology Railroad Tales. In a bit of a departure, If You’ve Ever Eaten Toad, one of the few stories I’ve written where nobody dies, was published in the lit mag The Quiet Reader and I had other short pieces published in Every day Fiction, 101 Words, twentytwotwentyeight and Meghan’s superb blog, where I also did an interview. I did an interview with Willow Croft too, where we discussed everything from classic horror movies to eating brains in order to impress a date (hey, it worked!) and I also popped up on Dylan Roche’s blog. Most recently, reprints of earlier stories have appeared in the winter issue of Siren’s Call and the charity anthology The Colour of Deathlehem.

On the non-fiction front, I wrote about the Sai Kung mystery for Fortean Times magazine and podcasts, horror markets, alt fiction, and gothic fiction, for Writer’s Weekly. If you want to access my archive there, just search go to this search bar and enter Chris Saunders. Perhaps my biggest news of 2021 was releasing my latest book Back from the Dead: A Collection of Zombie Fiction which compiled half a dozen similarly-themed stories which have been published elsewhere, along with a brand-new novellette called The Plague Pit.

Surprisingly, my most popular blog post of the year was this one about live Bruce Springsteen recordings which got over 180 views in a single day. If you ever want to drive traffic to your blog, just say Winterland ’78 isn’t the best live Springsteen recording ever and post it in a fan group on Facebook where approximately 179 of those 180 people will disagree with you. Finally, my RetView series is still going strong, the most recent additions being Shutter and The Gorgon. You can access the entire archive of over fifty installments HERE. If you’re looking to explore some cult horror movies, that’s a good place to start. Lastly, you may have noticed I’ve updated this site and added a couple of new sections, including a place where you can purchase signed copies of my books and read some free fiction.

To summarize, I had 16 short stories published through various channels in 2021, which is a personal best. I also released a collection of fiction and finished a novel and two novellas, at least one of which will see the light in 2022. Also scheduled to drop very soon is the latest installment in my on-going X series and I have a few new short stories up my sleeve. A couple have already been commissioned.

And that’ll do it for one year. Remember, if you want to achieve your dreams you have to get out there and make it happen. Find solutions, not excuses.

Thanks for reading!


Introducing the Books of Horror Community Anthology Volume 3!

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.


The Promotion Experiment

Like most hybrid or indie writers, the most difficult things for me is making sales. Writing is the easy part. They say you have to spend money to make money, so for the past three or four months I’ve been doing an experiment; instead of spending all my spare dosh on booze and kebabs (can’t go out in the midst of a global pandemic anyway) I decided to put all the money I make from writing during that period back into writing. Or more specifically, into marketing and promotion.

As you may be aware, there hundreds of promo sites and services out there and most of them cost money. Bookbub is the undisputed king, which I wrote about before, but as far as the multitude of others are concerned, it’s hard to know which ones are truly worth the money they charge and which aren’t. Hence this little experiment. There is little scientific basis behind it. I didn’t do a ton of research, I just looked around to see how much various promo sites cost and what people were saying about them, and tried a few. I’m going to be completely honest and transparent with my figures, so don’t laugh. Believe me, I’m well aware that some people out there sell more books me.

It’s a sad fact that one way to grab new readers is to get on your knees and beg them to read your work for free. Though it’s not really free for them, they’re still giving up their time and energy. Giving away free books is a controversial marketing technique in itself. Some writers feel it devalues the product, and makes things worse for everybody in the long run. If readers get used to being given free books, why would they ever bother buying another book again?

I can see their point, but in my experience giving away freebies has been hugely beneficial. To clarify, I’m talking about free Kindle promos here which run for a limited time, one to five days, rather than permafrees or books given away on newsletter sign-up. For starters, people who would never normally read my books are given the opportunity to check them out, and if they like my stuff it might encourage them to pick up another one and pay for it. They might even leave a review somewhere. Plus, an increase in downloads, free or otherwise, improves your author ranking and skews various algorithms in your favour, all of which adds to your visibility. For obvious reasons, if you’re going to run a free promo on one of your books you’re better off making it one of a series, or at least having a healthy back catalogue.

CONFESSION: I also write rip-roaringly, thigh-slappingly funny travel books under a super secret pseudonym. It’s difficult to promote something when you can’t even put your own name to it, so because THAT GUY had a new release a while back (book 3 in a series), I thought I’d invest the lion’s share of my budget into giving him a little boost. The Fussy Librarian is one of the better-known services but they aren’t cheap, and some strategizing is required to make it worthwhile. The series is about China, so to capitalize on the Western media coverage I scheduled the promotion to run during Chinese New Year. I made the first book in the main series free, left book two up at normal price (1.99) and put book three up for pre-order at a reduced 0.99. Then I paid a whopping $48 for a spot on the FL site and in their ‘non-fiction’ newsletter blast, and waited to see what would happen.

By the way, spots in different FL newsletters have different prices, related to the amount of subscribers each one has. But if you’re a first-time user, you can input the code 10OFF at check-out to get $10 off the regular price, which for me knocked the fee down to $38. Not to put too fine a point on it, the results were incredible. On the day of the promotion, my book was downloaded 1016 times, and a further 258 times over the next few days. Okay, the pessimists might say that all I succeeded in doing was give away over £2500 worth of books. But if only 1% of those who downloaded it leaves a review or even just a rating (optimistic, I know) I’ll be more than happy. In addition, during the same time period the second book in the series sold a dozen copies and I picked up six pre-orders for the third which off-set the cost somewhat.

Verdict: Hit

EreaderIQ have a list of requirements almost as long as your arm. Novellas and collections are ‘unlikely’ to be accepted, your books should have at least five reviews and should be free or deeply discounted. A place in their email blasting in the ‘horror’ category which, according to the site, reaches 9,500 subscribers, costs $10 (other categories have different rates). I put my recently reissued and revamped novel Sker House forward for this, which was duly accepted. The day of the listing it sold 9 copies, and the day after it sold another 3. Not bad. But because I had to discount the book so much, I made a slight loss on my investment.

Verdict: Partial Hit

Readfreely are less particular. $6 (gold level, again there are different options) buys your book a spot in their newsletter and promotion across their social media platforms. It’s difficult to quantify how big their reach is, but as they have less than 4,000 Twitter followers, which is a great indicator, I’m guessing it isn’t great. I put X4, my latest collection, forward for this one at it’s regular price of £1.99 (though I said it was being discounted from 3.99. Shoot me). X4 sold one solitary copy on the designated date, which sucks, but over the next few days sales of my other X books increased and I sold several of each, which may or may not be related. I’m not convinced either way.

Verdict: Miss

Because this is one of the most cost-effective options, I repeated the process with one of my pseudonym’s rip-roaringly, thigh-slappingly funny travel books. The results were similar.

Verdict: Miss

There are two connected sites, Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy. One is for free books, and the other, surprise surprise, is for bargain (reduced) books. I opted for the latter, and paid $25 to have X4 included in an email blast to 77,000 subscribers. On the day of promotion, X4 sold a dozen copies and, mirroring the pattern in the last promo, my other x books also benefitted from a sales bump and sold another dozen or so between them.

Verdict: Hit

The last, and most recent thing I tried was Amazon ads. I’m a complete novice at this. You need an effing degree in economics and marketing just to work out which key words to use. Like most things it’s a case of trial and error. Basically, you set a daily budget, choose your settings, and are then billed per click. I set a budget of $5 per day for 5 consecutive days on my psuedonym’s latest release, which resulted in just five clicks at a total cost of about $3.40 and no sales. Then I ran a similar promo on X4 with a higher budget over a longer period of time and got similar results but for a bigger outlay (around $18). It was at this pint I realized I must either be doing something wrong or Amazon ads, like Facebook ads, were a complete waste of time. I hear stories about people making a killing from Amazon ads. I might try it again at some point in the future after I learn more about it but for the time being, I think I’ll lay off them.

Verdict: Miss

So, all things considered, it was a mixed bag of results. I must admit that in the back of my mind I’d hoped all this effort would at least give my Amazon ranking a lasting boost. But the moment I stopped actively promoting, my sales virtually flatlined. Turns out worthwhile promotion of any kind is expensive, but if you don’t promote you don’t get any sales and you throw money down the drain anyway. There are, of course, reasonably effective ways of marketing your work for free using social media and cross-promotion, if you have the time and the energy. Maybe I’ll write another post about that at some point. In the meantime, I hope other indie writers, who may be as confused and bewildered as me, can get a few pointers from this post. It all boils down to doing your research, knowing your target market, and choosing the right places to invest based on your budget and readership.

I think.


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.


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.

 


The Bookshelf 2019

As is now 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) last year. I gave up on more than a few, which I won’t bother to name. Life’s too short to read a shitty book.

I didn’t read as much as I would have liked in the first half of the year, but in my defence a couple of entries in this list are absolute monsters. I actually started the longest, Sleeping Beauties, weighing in at 702 pages, about eighteen months ago. I kept drifting in and out of it. All things considered, let’s just say that it was far too long and meandering. A good editor could cut at least 30% off the word count and not lose anything from the plot. I had high hopes for the Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, but I rolled my eyes so much reading it that by the end it was like a physical affliction. Amy Cross hit another couple of home runs, but probably the best book I read last year was Lost at Sea by British journalist Jon Ronson. A selection of essays and investigative reports, it’s not my usual thing but I found it both insightful and refreshing.

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I’ve been making a conscious effort to read more widely, which is why I gave some new writers a shot. At least, writers new to me. And I fell back in love with the short story and read a bunch of anthologies, the pick of which being Body Horror: Trigger Warning. And I’m not just saying that because one of my stories is in it. Ultimately, however, I returned to Dean Koontz after a long break. I actually forgot how good the guy is. At first, anyway. But then a dog and a demented serial killer turned up like they do in all his books and I had to suffer yet more preachy, religious overtones. Sigh.

 

Signal Failure by David Wailing (2016)

Private Number/claws by Derek Muk (2018)

Stranded by Renee Miller (2018)

The Lighthouse by Amy Cross (2015)

The Last Days of by Jack Sparks Jason Arnopp (2017)

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (2017)

Filthy Beast: Diary of an English Teacher in China by White Buffalo (2018)

Bad News by Amy Cross (2019)

Body Horror: Trigger Warning by Various Authors (2019)

Living After Midnight: Hard & Heavy Stories by Various Authors (2010)

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King (2017)

The Nowhere Men – The Unknown Story of Football’s True Talent Spotters by Michael Calvin (2014)

Room 9 & Other Stories by Amy Cross (2018)

Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson (2012)

The Neighbour by Dean Koontz (2014)

Take the Corvus: Short Stories & Essays by Luke Kondor (2018)

Strange Weather: Four Short Novels by Joe Hill (2017)

The Corona Book of Ghost Stories by Various Authors (2019)

The Taking by Dean Koontz (2007)

Zombie Punks Fuck Off by Various Authors (2018)

You can check out last year’s bookshelf HERE.

 

 


Vampires, Zombies and Ghosts, oh my!

I am pleased to announce that my short story, Down the Road, is featured in part two of the new twin-volume anthology on Smoking Pen Press entitled Vampires, Zombies & Ghosts.

Here’s a sneak preview of the breathtaking cover art by Elle Rossi.

Vampires, Zombies, and Ghosts Volume2

I first wrote Down the Road, an alternate take on the phantom hitchhiker urban legend with one of my customary twists in the tail, several years ago. It was originally accepted by another publisher for a proposed new horror fiction magazine, but financial problems meant that project was put on hold indefinitely. After about two years in limbo, I finally accepted the fact that the project was probably never going to get off the ground, withdrew my story, started submitting it again, and here we are. It’s one of my more subtle, thought-provoking offerings. I am excited that thanks to the good people at SPP, it will finally see the light of day. Or the dark of night.

Vampires, Zombies and Ghosts (Volume 2) is out now on paperback and ebook.


X: Omnibus – Cover Reveal

Greetings! I am excited to announce the imminent release of my next project. And this is a BIG one. Details to follow soon, but in the meantime I wanted to give you a sneak preview of the stonking new cover art designed by the ludicrously talented Greg Chapman.

What do you think?

X-omnibus

The ebook is available for pre-order, and through some strange quirk of fate, the paperback is out now.


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