I’m pleased to announce that my story The Hungry is included in Drabbledark II: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles, out now on Shacklebound Books. The anthology, edited by Eric Fomley, promises, “A ton of amazing dark horror, science fiction and fantasy drabbles.”
The Hungry was inspired by Dan Simmons’s The Terror, itself a fictionalized account of Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to the arctic. I’ve always thought they should’ve known better than to get on a ship called HMS Terror. They may as well have called it HMS You’re Fucked.
Season’s greetings, come all ye faithful and all that jazz. Christmas is supposed to be about giving, a sentiment that often seems to get lost in these capitalist, consumer-driven times. It just feels good to do things for other people. Sometimes.
Anyway, back last year, I was about 700 words into this cool little Christmas horror story I was writing about a dude that finds an old Santa suit, puts it on, and then finds he can’t take it off. It starts to grow on him, fusing with his skin. Not only that, but his behaviour starts to change. He’s not the man he used to be. For starters (sorry) he’s hungry all the time. No matter how much he eats, he’s still hungry. He eats, and he eats, and he eats. The story was going well. Right up until the point where I realized I’d subconsciously nicked the plot straight from the Eli Roth film Clown (2014) and just replaced the clown suit with a Santa suit.
I posted in a horror writing group on Facebook complaining about my wasted efforts, prompting Michael McCarty to PM me suggesting what he called a ‘quick fix,’ which between us we adapted into a killer twist. The resulting collaboration, Finders Keepers, can be found in The Colour out of Deathlehem, the latest charity release from Grinning Skull Press. By my reckoning, this is the eighth volume of holiday horrors they have published to benefit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
My 16th short story of the year, the Night Visitor is published and free to read in the latest edition of Siren’s Call, those purveyors of edgy fiction. This is one of the first stories I remember writing, though it didn’t see the light of day until 2010 when it was included in a magazine called Fantastic Horror. I later included it in X2: Another Collection of Horror.
This is what I said about it in the afterword of that book:
“The idea for this story also came from a dream I had once when I was staying at my parent’s house in New Tredegar, South Wales. In the dream, I was the one sneaking into people’s homes at night. Not to steal anything or inflict harm or anything, but just to watch people sleep. How creepy is that? I knew there was a story in there somewhere. The challenge then lay in developing that flimsy concept into a something with a beginning, a middle, and an end.”
I was writing a lot of trippy, subtle fiction at the time, and this is a pretty good example. I’m delighted to see it find a whole new audience courtesy of Siren’s Call.
My latest short story The Wailing is now live, and free to read, on the literary website twentytwotwentyeight, who you may remember published another of my stories, Those Left Behind, a while back. This is, I think, my tenth published short story of the year with a couple more scheduled to come before 2021 is out. That’s something of a landmark for me because I don’t think I’ve ever got into double figures before. Let’s call it a pandemic perk.
The Wailing is a re-working of a folk tale someone told me when I was living in China, so I can’t take complete credit for it. As far as I’m aware it’s a bona fide chunk of folklore and as we all know, folklore usually contains an element of truth.
I was working at a university campus in Xiangtan at the time, a beautiful place deep in the countryside of Hunan province which looks a lot like this:
The funny thing is, one night after I first heard this story I remember being in bed at night and hearing the sounds of a baby crying somewhere off in the distance. That was especially strange because as I said, I lived on a uni campus and there weren’t any babies there as far as I know. Weird.
I’m happy to report that my short story Hell-bent is included in the anthology Terror Unleashed 2 on Skywatcher Press, a new publisher specializing in, “Horror, thrillers, mystery and suspense, science-fiction, fantasy, and anything else that falls to the dark side.”
Hell-bent is about two friends, Leon and Gabriel, who go looking for war memorabilia in a forest in Belgium which saw some of the most fierce fighting in World War Two. They find an artefact, and then shit gets weird.
What they find is an old rotting gas mask, which ‘takes over’ anybody who puts it on and fills them with all the fury and bloodlust of a demented soldier hell-bent on revenge and destruction. Whilst this may sound terrifying, it might actually turn out beneficial for one of the boys who has a very dark family background.
I had fun with this story. I can usually point to something, a news item or an event, that provides the seed from which a story grows. But as far as I remember, Hell-bent is one of those that seemed to come from nothing. At least nothing I’m aware of. As macabre as it may be, war memorabilia is big business. People want to own a piece of history, so mass-produced reproductions just won’t cut it. Instead, they buy and sell knives and other weapons, spent cartridges, helmets, military badges and insignia, everyday items used by soldiers, literally anything you can imagine because there’s a story attached to everything.
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.
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.”
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.
So… now I can tell you all about my latest, ahem, release. X4 includes ten horror/dark fiction stories, all of which have been published before in the likes of Liquid Imagination, Terrors Unimagined and several anthologies. I’ve given them all a bit of spit and polish, but the stories are all otherwise untouched. It’s tempting sometimes, but I’m reluctant to change up the plot or anything substantial. As far as I’m concerned, once a story is published it’s done and dusted and I move on. Otherwise, it’s easy to get caught in a vicious circle of constantly reviewing, editing and updating. You have to know when to say enough is enough.
In my humble opinion, this is the strongest of my X books to date, not least because this writing lark is hard and it took me a while to get my head around it. Truth be told, I still haven’t got my head around it. I’m not sure if that’s even possible. It’s a learning process. But I’m definitely a better writer now than I was 23 years ago when I first started.
The X books are released in rough chronological order. The first volume collected all my early stories, and this latest addition brings us up to 2016-17, which was an especially prolific period for me. I lived in London at the time, so that was the setting for most of the stories. I’m very proud of some of them, and I’m elated to be able to share them with you.
I am pleased to report that my 6th short story of the year, Where a Town Once Stood, has been included in the Corona Book of Ghost Stories on Corona Books, UK-based independent publishers of the “brilliant, innovative and quirky.”
I’m not sure which category Where a Town Once Stood belongs, probably the third one. It’s a pretty straight-forward ghost story with a dash of social commentary based on a period of my life when I was trying to break into journalism. I was still working full-time in a packing factory, so I did a few voluntary shifts at a local newspaper called the Merthyr Express in my spare time. I just wanted to see what went on behind the scenes at a newspaper. Suffice to say it wasn’t exactly Fleet Street. In fact, it was far more boring than I thought possible, and while I sat in the office fielding phone calls about fetes and community meetings I yearned for something exciting to happen. A real-life ghost story would have been the dream, but there were times when I would have settled for a giant cucumber story.
Reading it now, Where a Town Once Stood would be a perfect addition to my series of stories set in the fictional Welsh village of Wood Forge. For some reason however, I named the village Tref y Meirw which (I think) means ‘Town of the Dead’ in Welsh.
A little private joke there.
By the way, to give credit where it’s due, I appropriated the title Where a Town Once Stood from an Alarm song about the decline of post-industrial Wales from the seminal album Change.