Tag Archives: C.M. Saunders

Eyeless on Scare Street

A couple of months ago one of my short stories, Roach, about a cockroach farm in China (it’s a thing), appeared in the anthology Night Terrors 12 via Scare Street Publishing. I’m pleased to announce that as Scare Street continue their all-out assault on the world of horror fiction, this month sees the release of Night Terrors 14, which includes my creepfest Eyeless.

Eyeless is a gruesome little tale about an elderly gent who is moved into a care home where the residents receive visits from a mysterious supernatural entity after lights out. My intention with this was not just to write a straight-forward horror story, but also a dressed-up disquisition on life and the slow-death ageing process that we all have to endure, if we’re lucky.

Also in this volume you will find a realtor desperately tries to sell a haunted house before it consumes her body and soul, a young couple’s vacation at a campground takes an ominous turn when something menacing lurks nearby, and a haunting melody leads a curious girl to a bittersweet tale of love and loss. Because when night falls, a dance of death begins. And once the music ends, the only sounds you hear are your own screams of terror.

As always, Scare Street have assembled a killer cast of authors, including my old buddy and peerless sick, twisted bitch (she likes it when I call her that), Renee Miller, the full table of contents reading something like this:


1. Marshmallow Murderer by Melissa Gibbo
2. Organ Manipulator by Justin Boote
3. Camping with the Carnival by Jason E. Maddux
4. Serenade by Craig Crawford
5. Sold by Renee Miller
6. Gram’s Garden by J. L. Royce
7. The Gift that Keeps on Giving by Peter Kelly
8. The Womb by Edwin Callihan
9. Eyeless by C. M. Saunders
10. Dark Home by Simon Lee-Price
11. The Wooden Box by P. D. Williams
12. The Limb Farmer by Caleb Stephens
13. Ouroboros by Melissa Burkley
14. Crow’s Books by Ron Ripley

Night Terrors 14 is out now on paperback and ebook.


If You’ve Ever Eaten Toad…

People often ask me why I don’t write more love stories. I’ve tried it once or twice and people still died, which is probably down to my intensely nihilistic interpretation of love. It’s supposed to hurt, right? It’s supposed to be destructive, or else it isn’t real. Right? Anyway, when people start dying I get confused about whether it’s a love story or a horror story. This particular effort, however, is (or was) my dirty little secret. A love story where nobody gets killed. Who would’ve thunk it? I was so embarrassed by it that I refused to put my name to it for years, and how it came about is a story in itself.

I wrote the first draft back in 2011 or so when I was an English teacher in Xiangtan, China. One day, one of my students asked to see me after class. I agreed, thinking she had a test and wanted some advice or a pep talk or something. But nope, she wanted to tell me about something happening in her life which would change it forever, and made me promise to share her story when she was ‘gone.’

She was ‘gone’ barely a few weeks later, packed off against her wishes to marry a doctor in Germany who had the financial ability to give her family a good life. I never saw or heard from her again. Her story was equal parts touching, sad, and tragic, and I hope I did it justice. At least I kept my promise to her.

The student’s story makes up the core of If You’ve Ever eaten Toad, You Would Know, which is told from her perspective, but the title comes from something the girlfriend I had around the same time told me. This is another sad story, so get ready.

When she was growing up in rural China her family were very poor. She said she knew when times were especially hard, because that was when her mother made chicken soup. Not so bad, you might think. Only years later did she realize the chicken soup wasn’t made from chicken, but from toads her parents caught in the countryside around their house. Even then, most of the meat went to her elder brother, boys being traditionally more valued than girls on account of their higher earning potential.

The title became a multi-layered metaphor for enduring hardships, sacrificing your own hopes and dreams to appease others, and making the best of things. Having eaten a lot of toad myself, both metaphorically and literally, I can tell you it really does taste a bit like chicken. If you’ve ever eaten toad, you would know.

One of the editors at new online lit mag The Quiet Reader called commented the story is, “A lovely insider’s look at Chinese culture loaded with detail and nuance.”

That was nice to hear.

If You’ve Ever Eaten Toad, You Would Know, is available to read FREE in Issue 3 (May 2021) of The Quiet Reader now.


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


Frost Zone Zine #3

I’m happy to announce that my piece of flash fiction Alone, Or, is included in Issue Three of Frost Zone zine, a Canadian quarterly zine of horror, speculative, and literary fiction, and poetry.

Writers often draw from real-life experiences and incorporate them into their fiction, such is the case with Alone, Or. When I was a student, I worked a bar at Southampton Football Club. Like any pub, we had regulars who would come in before or after games. One day, a guy I knew well came in. I’d been serving him for a couple of years. He looked upset. I asked him what was wrong, and he said his best friend had died, “You know, my drinking partner, the guy I always come in here with?”

The thing was, I could’ve sworn that whenever I saw this guy, he’d been by himself. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the guy he was referring to. I’ve thought about that episode a lot over the years. It always makes me feel a bit weird. Was the regular confusing me with someone else? If not, why can’t I remember the guy who died? Was it all some kind of perverse practical joke? So many questions. Eventually, this story came out of the experience. Writing can be cathartic sometimes.

You can read Alone, Or, free HERE.

Oh, and I nicked the title (almost) from this Damned song.


Faces on the Walls

I’m excited to announce my story Faces on the Walls has been included in the first anthology released by Ghost Orchid Press, entitled Home. It features one hundred stories and poems of exactly one hundred words each, all riffing on the theme of “Home.”

As the blurb says, “These tiny terrors run the full gamut of horror, from body horror and blood-curdling fear to atmospheric, lyrical Gothic tales. You’ll find haunted houses, burrowing parasites and suburban nightmares aplenty to delight, amuse and shock—all in an easy bitesize format.”

Faces on the Walls is based on a real-life paranormal incident I first read about when I was a kid. In 1971, strange stains began to appear on the kitchen floor and walls of a house in Belmez de la Moraleda, a small village in Spain. Soon, the stains began taking on the likeness of faces, sparking a decades-long interest in the ‘Belmez Faces.’ This story is a homage to one of the most terrifying things I have ever read about.

Home is available now in paperback and e-book.


Siki Goes to the Splatterclub

In that gloriously decadent pre-covid world, when I was working in Guangzhou, southern China, I met a girl through a dating app called Tantan. It’s a bit like a Chinese Tinder. The girl’s name was Siki, and she was fucking mental. That’s not an insult. She knows she’s mental. She takes medication for it, which doesn’t work. One way this mentalness manifests itself is through an addiction to extreme sex. It’s not quite as extreme as the sex I describe in the story which grew from that experience. At least, there were no beer bottles involved. But it was extreme enough for me. I had no idea I was so vanilla until I met Siki. She opened my eyes to a whole new world.

YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT??

An addiction to extreme sex combined with mental illness AND being the first and only Chinese satanist I’ve ever met was always going to make lively fiction fodder. Throw in a ghost that didn’t exist (thankfully) and an unsolved murder that didn’t happen, and you have the makings of what I hope is a pretty good, though definitely X-rated short story. The Splatterclub kindly agreed, and put their wholesome reputation at risk by using it on their website. It’s free to read, so you have nothing to lose except your respect for me and possibly your lunch.

In case you’re wondering, Siki’s cool with me using our brief fling as the basis for a horror story. She gave me her blessing, and didn’t even want me to change her name. It’s not her real name, anyway. It’s an ‘English’ name, which a lot of Chinese people take because most Westerners can’t pronounce their Chinese names. It’s typical Siki to take an English name that isn’t an English name.

This isn’t the first time I’ve drawn on my relationships for material. Last year I wrote about one of my exes who kept seeing massive animals dressed in ‘people clothes.’ So be warned that if you ever have a relationship with me, the odds are you’ll be immortalized in a story some day. Especially if you’re weird. If a writer falls in love with you, you can never die, as they say.

Here’s the real Siki, just to prove that she’s alive and well and the tattoo I talk about in the story is real. Picture shared with permission.

A lot of my fiction isn’t suitable for people who are easily offended. This time I really mean it.

Siki’s Story is live now at the Splatterclub. Try not to worry about her. She’s going to love it there.


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.

 


Surzhai in ParABnormal magazine

My short story Surzhai, about an ill-fated meeting between modern day sex traffickers and a bunch of ancient Chinese warriors with supernatural powers and an axe to grind, has just been published in ParABnormal magazine.

parabnormal

I wrote the story in the summer of 2019 after returning from a road trip through the Guangdong countryside with my then-girlfriend. We saw a lot of little isolated dwellings, and I began to wonder what life was like in those places, largely removed from the trappings of modern life. I’d read a news report about young girls being kidnapped in rural China and being sold into the sex trade, and as we all know, at least in fiction, you can’t have evil without good. Everyone loves a revenge story. Somehow, all these things became intertwined in my mind, and Surzhai emerged.

The Mandarin words ‘sur’ and ‘zhai’ combined mean something close to ‘Death Cult’ in English, at least colloquially, though I know it isn’t a direct fit. My Mandarin is awful, and I was scrambling to find something authentic sounding which had some kind of relevant meaning. It was a balancing act. You can send complaints to the usual address.

ParABnormal Magazine is a print digest released by Hiraeth Publishing which publishes original stories, articles, art, reviews, interviews, and poetry.

From the writer’s guidelines…

The subject matter of ParABnormal Magazine is, yes, the paranormal. For us, this includes ghosts, spectres, haunts, various whisperers, and so forth. It also includes shapeshifters, mythological creatures, and creatures from various folklores. If your story also has science fiction or fantasy elements, we regard that as a plus.

One last word on language and linguistics. Hiraeth Publishing are based in Iowa (like Slipknot!), but interestingly enough, ‘Hiraeth’ is an old Welsh word. There is no direct English translation but it means something close to ‘homesickness’ or a sense of yearning/regret. As a proud Welshman, that struck a chord with me.

The latest issue of ParaABnormal is available now…

 


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