Tag Archives: collection

Matt Hickman’s Sinister Scribblings

Matt Hickman has burst onto the UK horror scene in the past few years, gaining quite the reputation for both his collaborations with other authors (notably Stuart Keene and Andrew Lennon) and his solo efforts Amnesia and Jeremy. His latest release is the short story collection Sinister Scribblings, which also features bonus stories by the aforementioned Keane and Lennon, as well as Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason (aka The Slaughter Sisters), Daryl Duncan, Mark Nye, Dale Robertson, and myself. My contribution, Jumping at Shadows, is a previously-unpublished tale about the perils of the LDR. The long-distance relationship. I’m sure anyone who has ever tried it will agree they are never easy, even without the intervention of a supernatural entity.

Blurb:

From the vivid imagination of Matt Hickman comes a collection of thirteen short horror stories that are guaranteed to leave you feeling unsettled and disturbed. Featuring a foreword from Kyle M. Scott, Sinister Scribblings brings together a unique blend of stories, some of which have been previously published, others that are original pieces and only available within this collection.

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In this collection we meet a whole host of broken, deranged characters in a sequence of horrific circumstances, including a mother who is determined to seek vengeance upon the school thugs that are bullying her only daughter; a woman who’s lifestyle has spiralled out of control after finding her boyfriend in a more than compromising position; a man who once spent his life in the public eye, has fallen from the heights of stardom and is slowly rebuilding himself; a teenage boy, a daydreamer who enjoys chocolate eggs for breakfast, who finds himself unravelling a unique Easter gift; a cave dwelling creature who has a taste for young flesh; a mischievous young boy who finds himself upon the naughty list at Christmas; a man, who after recently losing his job, makes a compelling agreement with a strange figure in a bar; two twin sisters who battle it out in brutal style after a major misunderstanding; a group of friends on their friends stag night, who get more than they bargained for upon entering an abandoned hospital for a prank; a man who awakens in a terrifying situation, in a strange location following a party with his friends; a woman abandoned in her friend’s cabin at a picturesque lake during a thunder storm; a man who crashes his car whilst driving home and spotting the figure of woman in amongst the trees beside the road; a serial killer enduring complications whilst receiving the lethal injection.

Sit back, relax and immerse yourself in these Sinister Scribblings.

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Bazar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King (Book Review)

So, the Master’s sixth volume of short fiction, which normally appear in seven-year cycles, dropped late last year to the delight of his rabid army of Constant Readers. As with previous collections, it proved a weighty tome. A total of twenty stories comprise the 495 pages, including a revised version of the recent stand-alone ebook Mile 81, the fictional baseball-based novella Blockade Billy from 2010, two previously unreleased stories, and several assorted rarities. There’s even a poem.

King has championed the novella form for most of his career, and is arguably at least partly responsible for it’s current popularity. It’s no accident that Amazon turned to him when they wanted a big-name author to write something publicizing the then-new fangled Kindle. The result, UR, is one of the highlights in Bazar of Bad Dreams. Of the rarities, the most interesting is probably Bad Little Kid, a twisted little tale about a lawyer defending a child murderer. However, the case is far from straight-forward. Originally published only in French and German, this creepfest appears here for the first time in English, and is vintage King.

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In the introduction, King makes the analogy that with this book he is assuming the role of a street vendor, who only sells his wares after midnight. And it proves quite accurate. There are a few absolute gems hidden away here, some bang average items that barely hold your attention, and even a couple of stinkers. Just what you’d expect to find in a dodgy market. Several entries can barely be described as dark fiction, nevermind horror. Perfect Harmony is a study on what makes marriages work, and ‘Morality’ is about the state of affairs that could arise if someone accepts money to do something questionable, a la Indecent Proposal without the sex. But this isn’t really anything new. King has been stereotyped as the creepy bloke who wrote Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot and The Shining, since the seventies. A victim of his own success. In actual fact, relatively little of his output since those heady days have contained much in the way of extreme horror as we know it today, or even many supernatural elements. Indeed, this summer’s End of Watch will be the third and final book in a series about a retired cop.

One of my personal favourite stories in this collection, The Dune (originally published in high-brow British literary magazine Granta in 2011) is, on the surface, the story of a man on a never-ending treasure hunt. On another level, however, it’s about growing old, and facing up to one’s own mortality. Understandably perhaps, given King’s advanced years (he turns 69 this year), this has been a recurring theme in much of his recent work. The story ‘Afterlife’ goes one step further, and takes us to a place where a recently deceased man is given the option to live his flawed life all over again. Reviewing Bazar of Bad Dreams for the Daily telegraph, Sarah Crown says ‘Death hangs like a dark cloud over Stephen King’s latest collection of short stories,’ and she isn’t wrong. Elsewhere she makes the observation that the book is ‘closer to philosophy than horror.’ True, as King matures, his work not only seems to be developing more layers, but is becoming more intellectually astute. There’s usually still a reasonably high body count, but these days there are less monsters and vampires, and more real-life conundrums and existential crises. Interesting times for fans of the King.


Book Review – The Day the Leash Gave Way (and Other Stories) by Trent Zelazny

This isn’t actually a new release, but a re-release. The original came out in 2009, this new version comes with added content. As with most collections, it is a bit of an uneven affair. At it’s worst, one or two of the stories read like extracts from other works, as if the ideas are not yet fully formed. At it’s best, Zelazny sucks you in to the most uncomfortable, uncompromising situations you can imagine.

One of the stand-out stories is the one which lends its name to the collection, about a man who goes to inform a competition winner of his good fortune only to find a little boy eating the leg of a dead dog, and the man of the house keeping a rotting corpse for company in the living room. What the fuck? I hear you say. Don’t worry, it gets weirder. It is often said that when Zelazny writes, he bares his soul. You get that impression several times in the course of this collection, not least in Mourning Road, a compassionate little yarn about a driver who seeks out roadkill as a way to pacify his guilt and inner demons. Another stand-out is ‘Harold Asher and His Vomitting Dogs,’ a story which might make you giggle, then ask yourself what the heck is so wrong with your psyche that you find something so surreal and fundamentally disturbing funny. Even now, when I think about that story I don’t know if it was supposed to be funny or if I’m just a bit fucked in the head. If that’s the cease, then at least I can console myself with the fact that I’m not as fucked in the head as the man who wrote it. Probably my favourite story here is ‘Opportunity Knocks,’ about a man who takes over a family enterprise following a tragedy. But of course, it doesn’t go to plan. There is an edgy, underlying creepiness detectable between the lines long before the shocking truth comes to light by way of supernatural intervention.

If you can sense a loose theme emerging, you’d be right. Dogs. This ties in with the title, which I thought a strange choice at first. But thinking about it, what happens when the leash gives way? People get hurt, that’s what. Leashes are for keeping dangerous dogs under control. If they ‘give way,’ you’re in trouble. That’s exactly what happens in many of the stories here. The leash gives way, big time. You could argue this is a metaphor not just of the subject matter, but also for Zelazny’s approach to storytelling. It can be playful and goofy, but also unpredictable and dangerous. It has teeth and claws. In time, the wounds may heal but they will leave scars you will carry to your grave. Though on the surface of things the plots may sometimes appear a little thin, and more than once you’ll find yourself wondering where it’s all leading, the stories presented here have a way of burrowing under your skin, where they will crawl and fester.

The one constant throughout these 24 tales is Zelazny’s razor sharp writing style, often combined with a sinister undertone and some sophisticated wordplay. Most of the subject matter is best described as noir or crime fiction, elsewhere he veers off into subtle suspense, dark humour and even outright horror. What this collection does to great effect is showcase Zelazny’s considerable talent. One of his main strengths is his use of dialogue, which often puts you right at the heart of a scene and keeps you there. To summarize, this guy goes places few others are brave enough to go, and he takes you along for the ride. Weird fiction at its best.

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Check out my interview with Trent Zelazny in the Morpheus Tales supplement. Available here, FREE:

http://morpheustales.wix.com/morpheustales#!supplement/c14cx


X2: Another Collection of Horror

“A superb story teller, Saunders is well on his way to becoming a true master of the macabre.”

Mark Edward Hall

(Author of Soul Thief and Apocalypse island)

The sequel to 2013’s acclaimed X: A Collection of Horror features ten more slices of dark fiction from the blood-soaked pages of Fantastic Horror, Unspoken Water, Dark Valentine and several anthologies.

Also includes two previously unpublished stories, extensive notes, and original artwork by Greg Chapman.

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Come and meet the teacher who sees dead pupils, the ambulance crew who pick up a casualty who won’t die, and the childhood friends who spend the night in a haunted pub. Along the way you can encounter a man who refuses to accept his wife’s death and goes to extreme lengths to keep the flame of love alive, the boy who just likes to watch you sleep, and maybe even pay a visit to an antique shop with a deadly secret. If you dare.

Table of Contents:

Little Dead Girl
Curiosities
Intruder
The Night Visitor
Hero of the Day
Embracing Solitude
Treat Night
Handsome Jack
Tiny Little Vampires (Flash Version)
Roadkill
Afterword

WARNING: Adult content.

UK LINK
US LINK

Available for a limited time at a special price on DeadPixel Publications.


Adventures in Independent Publishing: Part 3

Launch Day

Market primed, you can finally hit ‘publish.’ The KDP service allows you to utilize various promotional offers, such as discounted pricing or offering your book free for a limited time. With X: A Collection of Horror, I opted for the latter.

Why would you choose to give the results of your hard work away for free?

To raise your profile, that’s why. You might also garner some favourable reviews from the buying (or free downloading) public, which will help boost sales in the long term. Some of them may like your stuff enough to swing by your blog, or even buy something else you put out.

Promotion, promotion, promotion!

I quickly learned that even if your book is free, you still have to promote it. Otherwise, nobody knows its available and it sinks like a stone amongst all the other free books. The obvious thing to do is bombard your Twitter and Facebook accounts with links and updates. This is a perfectly reasonable, but limited strategy, because unless you show a little initiative it’s quite difficult to reach beyond your existing circle of friends. A great way to make new friends (read: potential buyers) is to be active on Goodreads. This is the social networking site of the dedicated reader. And writer. So get involved – leave reviews, rate books, comment on threads. Engage potential readers. Of course, there are many other social networking avenues like LinkedIn and Instagram. Exploit these as much as you can but in my experience, they have limited marketing potential. The two biggest are Facebook and Twitter, so lets look at them in a bit more detail…

Facebook

A lot of people are very selective about who they allow on to their ‘friends’ list, often preferring to keep it to people they know in real life. That’s fine. Unless you are a writer, then you have to unlock the huge marketing potential of Facebook and use it to your advantage. At the last count I had 1,168 ‘friends,’ only around 15-20% of whom I would consider actual friends. The rest are other writers or publishers with whom I have loose relationships, friends of friends, and random people with whom I share similar interests. Plus, if a reader ever emails me directly to say they liked one of my books, I invite them to add me on Facebook. These are the people that make up my target audience, and probably the ones most interested in my writing endeavors.

Don’t rely solely on status updates. Be aggressive. And no, that doesn’t mean threatening to pull people’s heads off if they don’t be your Facebook friend. It means being proactive. Facebook is like a worldwide meeting place. A bar without the booze (unless you bring your own). It has literally millions of groups, places where like-minded people flock together to exchange views and opinions. Find the ones that apply to your chosen genre and live in them. They are not difficult to find, just run a few searches. If your book is about Teddy Bears with Uzi’s, there’s probably a group devoted to that. This is your audience. Talk to them. They won’t bite. After that, target the groups about Teddy Bears, then the ones about Uzi’s, then the ones about guns in general. You get the idea. A word of warning; don’t simply repost the same book link over and over again, or you might find yourself losing friends rather quickly. At least try be a bit creative about it.

Twitter

Building up a Twitter network is a long, laborious process that requires some level of dedication. Appropriate use of hashtags can help target specific groups of users, and some writers swear it has good marketing value. Others, like me, are yet to be convinced. It all seems rather disposable and lightweight to me. Whatever I think, with a reported 243 million worldwide users, its potential reach is immense. Utilizing it is another matter. Tweeting is very in vogue at the moment, especially amongst the celebrity fraternity. If you ‘follow’ anyone with large amounts of followers, especially other writers, it won’t hurt to send them a tweet asking for a retweet. Sometimes you’ll get lucky. I tried this approach when promoting X: A Collection of Horror, and was lucky enough to be retweeted by several notables with several hundreds of thousands of followers. My Twitter activity did garner me a few new followers but from what I could tell, this had absolutely no impact on sales whatsoever.

Blog Posts

If you take writing seriously, you should have a blog. If you don’t have one, get one. There are a lot who offer basic packages for free. I use WordPress. Presuming you already do, make good use of it. Post regular updates, and always try to include something of value instead of just random thoughts or book promos. If you are stuck for something to blog about, just write a simple book or film review. The best way to build on your blog following is to visit and comment on other blogs. You may also find that people you ‘meet’ in the blogosphere will very often add you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter.

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/

Listings

There are numerous sites that list free books, and even send out newsletters to their subscribers, which often number in the thousands. Some charge the writer a fee, others are free services that are presumably sustainable through advertising. A Google search will throw up dozens. Have a look around, and find out which ones work best for you. Here are two that I used:

http://thedailybookworm.com/

http://addictedtoebooks.com/free

My first indie offering, X: A Collection of Horror, is out now:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IGHTFC8

Part 2 of Adventures in Indie Publishing, covering advice on editing, cover art and priming the market, can be found here:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/adventures-in-independent-publishing-part-2/

Part 1, featuring an overview of the industry and an introduction to Kindle Direct Publishing, can be found here:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/adventures-in-independent-publishing-part-1/


X: A Collection of Horror

Ten slices of horrifying dark fiction. Seven previously published in magazines or anthologies, and three exclusive to this collection, along with an introduction and extensive notes. Featuring exclusive cover art by Greg Chapman.

This is what happens when you ‘wake up’ inside a dream, when the urban myth you heard turns out to be so much more, and when that hottie you pick up in a bar springs a terrible surprise. But what do you do when your wife gives birth to something not entirely human? When your past discretions come back to haunt you? Or when a serial killer moves in next door?

Click the cover for more info.

X: A Collection of Horror, by C.M. Saunders

X: A Collection of Horror, by C.M. Saunders

Table of Contents:

Introduction: That’s Entertainment
A Hell of my Own Creation
A Thin Disguise
Monkey Man
The Awful Truth
Mr. C
Fame / Infamy: A Deconstruction
Another False Dawn
The Night Everything Changed
The Devil & Jim Rosenthal
Club Culture
Afterword

Available now at a special price.

WARNING: Adult content.

“A superb story teller, Saunders is well on his way to becoming a true master of the macabre.”

Mark Edward Hall

This is a DeadPixel publication:

http://www.deadpixelpublications.com/cm-saunders.html


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