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.
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
2 Comments | tags: book, C.M. Saunders, ebook, fiction, ghosts, haunted House, history, Maid of Sker, mystery, paperback, paranormal, reissue, Sker House, supernatural, wales | posted in Books, dark fiction, fiction, History, horror, Wales, Writing
When people think of Welsh folk heroes, Twm Sion Cati and Owain Glyndwr invariably spring to mind, and rightly so. Not many people mention Will Cefn-Coch. In fact, I’d never heard of him myself until I recently read a book about Welsh murders. But his story is deserving of a much wider audience.
Until November 1868, plain old William Richards was an ordinary 28-year old bloke living a simple life in Cardiganshire. Times were hard in those days. There was a glaring gap between rich and poor, and lots of countryside folk took to poaching to feed their families. There simply wasn’t enough to eat, especially in winter. Although still technically a crime, most people considered sneaking onto privately-owned land to fish or hunt game a necessary evil. Except the rich landowners, obviously, who employed gamekeepers to combat the problem. These guys were not looked upon with much fondness by the locals, in much the same way I imagine Community Support Officers are these days.
One night, Will Richards (aka Will Cefn-Coch, that being the name of the village he was from) and two of his mates illegally ventured onto the estate of Trawscoed, the property of the Earl of Lisburne, to go hunting. Unbeknownst to them, gamekeepers were lying in wait. The gamekeepers, who were unarmed, tried to chase off the transgressors. The story goes that whilst running away, Will stopped and levelled his gun at them on three separate occasions. Each time, the gamekeepers begged for their lives, Will relented, ran off again, and the chase was back on. Eventually, a particularly determined gamekeeper caught up with one of the poachers and wrestled him to the ground. By this time Will had had enough, and shot the gamekeeper dead.
One of the poachers was apprehended and prosecuted, while Will made his getaway and melted into the community. Some sources say he was held in quite high esteem by some of the locals, who sympathised with the fact that all he had been trying to do was feed his family. There was a lot of resentment against the upper classes. The locals hid and fed him, while the authorities alerted every port and city in the country and put a £100 reward on his head (over £8,000 in ‘today’s’ money). A tidy sum, because now it wasn’t just poaching Will was guilty of, it was murder. He was on the run for months, going from house to house and farm to farm, always on the move. He had a few close shaves, but always managed to evade capture with a little help from his friends.
Eventually however, the net began closing in. If he was caught, Will knew he faced death by hanging, so drastic measures were called for. Wary of using transport he walked (yes, walked) to Liverpool, where he put the most audacious part of his plan into action. The authorities were on the lookout for a man fitting his description, so he disguised himself as a woman, complete with heavy make-up. It is likely he drew inspiration for this from the Rebecca Riots thirty years previously, when farmers dressed in drag and attacked toll gates placed on Welsh roads in protest against unfair taxation. In any case, Will must have made a convincing femme fatale, because he succeeded in boarding a ship bound for America and somehow made it all the way to Ohio, where he met and married an Irish immigrant and lived a long and prosperous life.
3 Comments | tags: crime, culture, history, hunting, murder, outlaw, poor, rich, wales | posted in Blogging, History, Life, Tribute, Wales
My new novella, No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches, is out now via Deviant Dolls Publications. July 1st 2016 marked the 100-year anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme in France between the Allies and the German Empire, which is still one of the episodes in human history. In the first hours, eight British soldiers fell PER SECOND and by the time it was over some five months later, there were a million dead.
The Somme Offensive, 1916. Harry Doyle is a young, overawed British infantryman struggling to come to terms with the insanity of war. His main objective is staying alive, and getting back home to his family in one piece. But his hopes begin to diminish as he realizes the full extent of misery and destruction around him. And the German war machine isn’t the only thing he has to worry about. Something else is preying on his friends and comrades in the trenches, picking them off one by one. Something no amount of military training can prepare him for.
This book contains descriptions of graphic violence and is not suitable for minors. Cover art by Greg Chapman.
Proceeds will be donated to Help for Heroes
No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches is available now, priced £1.99/$2.99:
Check out more great books from the Deviant Dolls HERE
7 Comments | tags: Amazon, book, books, dark fiction, ebook, fiction, history, horror, military, novella, publishing, reading, War, World War I, writing | posted in Books, dark fiction, fiction, History, horror, Life, paranormal, publications, Reading, Tribute, War, Writing
The result of over five years work, my new novel Sker House drops today!
It’s a contemporary ghost story with a distinctly Welsh flavour, featuring some great artwork by Stoker Award-nominee Greg Chapman.
Dale and Lucy are two students with a fascination in the supernatural. One weekend, they travel to Sker House, South Wales, a private residence with a macabre history which has recently been converted into a seaside inn. They plan to write an article for their university magazine about a supposed haunting, but when they arrive, they meet a landlord who seems to have a lot to hide. Soon, it becomes apparent that all is not well at Sker House. An air of oppression hangs over it, while misery, tragedy and ill-fortune are commonplace. Gradually, it becomes clear that the true depth of the mystery goes far beyond a mere historical haunting. This is a place where bad things happen, and evil lurks.
Little by little Dale and Lucy fall under Sker’s dark spell, and as they begin to unravel the mysteries of the past, they realize that nothing stays buried forever.
Welcome to Sker House, a place where past and present collide.
The book is already picking up some rave reviews, one of which, from the Horror cabin, you can read HERE
Sker House is available exclusively on Amazon:
9 Comments | tags: book, dark fiction, ebook, fiction, ghost, haunted, haunted House, history, horror, mystery, paranormal, SkerHouse, supernatural, thriller, wales, writing | posted in Books, dark fiction, fiction, horror, Life, National Identity, Reading, Wales, Writing
I have a new book coming out on March 1st (bonus point if you know why I chose that particular date). Sker House is a traditional haunted house story, with a contemporary twist and a distinctly Welsh flavour. Damn thing took over five years to write, though I was doing other things in between, obviously, like sleeping, eating, and the day job.
Out on DeadPixel Publications, Sker House will be available for pre-order soon. Further details will follow imminently. But first things first, I wanted to share the all-important cover with you. The cover and the blurb are probably the two hardest things to get right. Below is a collaboration between myself and my good friend Greg Chapman. I think it fits the bill, and sums up the mood perfectly.
Sker House is a real place, situated on the Welsh coast near Bridgend. It has a very long and chequered history, which I will tell you more about in a series of blogs after the book’s release. The cover is based on an old postcard I found online. There’s something about this particular image that I love. Looking at it, how can the place NOT be haunted?
7 Comments | tags: books, C.M. Saunders, fiction, Great Britain, history, horror, Sker House, wales, writing | posted in Books, dark fiction, fiction, History, horror, National Identity, Travel, Wales, Writing
A list of all the books I read last year. Not the ones I dipped in to then abandoned. If I made a list of those it would run to the hundreds. This is a list of the books I actually finished. Try not to be too judgemental, we all have our guilty pleasures!
Shadows by Sean A. Lusher (2013)
314 by A.R. Wise (2012)
Poisonous by Tommy B. Smith (2012)
John Dies at the End by David Wong (2011)
The Mammoth Book of Unexplained Phenomena by Roy Bainton (2013)
American Sniper by Chris Kyle (2012)
Waiting to be Heard by Amanda Knox (2013)
11/22/63 by Stephen King (2012)
Black Rain by Joshua Caine (2013)
Telling Tales of Terror edited by Kim Richards (2012)
Joyland by Stephen King (2013)
Guinness Book of Records 2014 (2013)
Debunking Ancient Aliens Debunked by Philip Coppens (2013)
The Cocaine Diaries by Paul Keany and Jeff Farrell (2013)
Desolate 2: Exposure by Robert Brumm (2012)
Sun Bleached Winter by D Robert Grixti (2013)
Rocking the Wall. Bruce Springsteen: the Berlin Concert That Changed the World by Erik Kerschbaum (2013)
The Lake by Richard Laymon (2004)
Haunted Wales: A Survey of Welsh Ghostlore by richard Holland (2008)
Splatterlands: Reawakening the Splatterpunk Revolution by various authors
The Bartender Always Dies Last by Joshua Caine (2013)
True Grit by Bear Grylls (2013)
Black Smokers by CJ Waller (2013)
Remember Senghenydd: The Colliery Disaster of 1913 by Jen Llewellyn (2013)
4 Comments | tags: Bear Grylls, books, fiction, history, hobbies, interests, non-fiction, publishing, reading, Stephen King | posted in Books, fiction, History, horror, Life, publications, Reading
Remember Senghenydd: The Colliery Disaster of 1913
Edited by Jen Llywelyn
(click the picture for more info)
Just after 8am on October 14th 1913, there was an underground explosion at the Universal Colliery in Senghenydd, near Caerphilly, south Wales. The disaster resulted in the deaths of 439 miners and one rescue worker, making it the worst mining accident in British history. Many others were trapped underground, the last being rescued more than two days after the explosion.
It is thought that the explosion was caused by a build-up of methane gas, which was ignited by machinery. Vast clouds of coal dust facilitated the fire. The cruel irony is that the disaster came just a decade after a similar accident in which a further 81 people lost their lives. After that first incident, the investigating authorities were highly critical of the safety conditions at the colliery. Yet evidently, nothing much changed. The general belief was that corners had been cut in order to save money. And then there was the hidden cost. The Senghenydd Disaster left 205 widows and 542 fatherless children, most of whom were turfed out of their colliery-tied cottages by callous officials when they were unable to pay their bills any more. Irresponsible mine owners were fined a paltry £24.
This remarkable book, painstakingly put together by Jen Llewellyn just in time for the 100-year anniversary of the disaster, serves as a permanent reminder of the fragility of human life, and the harsh realities of the industrial age. It collates a huge number of newspaper reports, memoirs, personal narratives, poems, photographs and various official documents, many never before published, to provide a poignant snapshot of a town reaping the benefits of an economic boom, and paying a terrible price for the privilege. But this isn’t just the story of a small town in Wales. What happened in Senghenydd on that fateful morning a century ago could happen in any one of a multitude of similar places throughout Wales, Britain, and the rest of the world. If there is one thing the era of capitalism has taught us, it is that flesh is cheap.
Like Aberfan, modern-day Senghenydd is a place stained by tragedy. Not only is the landscape physically scarred, but the fabric of the community has been ripped apart. This amount of suffering and sorrow leaves an indelible mark, which lives on to this day. At the same time though, this book is a triumph of the human spirit as it tells us how, on hearing of the explosion, literally thousands of local men, some working at other pits, rushed to the scene to help the rescue effort. Some even writing their last wills on the way in expectation of the absolute worst. If it hadn’t been for them, the death toll would surely have been higher.
Length: 176 pages
Publisher: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch
Leave a comment | tags: coal, colliery, disaster, history, mining, Senghenydd, the valleys, wales | posted in Books, History, Life, National Identity, Reviews, Wales