Tag Archives: novella

Inside Apartment 14F

My latest novella, Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story (Uncut), just came out. As the title suggests, it’s a partially re-written and expanded version of an earlier release. The original came out on Damnation Books eight years ago, and truth be told I was never really happy with it. By the time the publisher was absorbed by another company and consequently vanished off the face of the earth a few years later, our contract had expired and all rights reverted back to me. That meant, the story was free for me to do what I wanted with, and I felt a remix was in order.

So here we are.

I wrote the original version of Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story in January/February 2009, when I was living in the industrial city of Tianjin, northern China. Tianjin is like a Chinese Middlesbrough, only with much harsher winters. Yep, it really is that bad. I’d spent the year before in Beijing, where Apartment 14F is set, and had moved to Tianjin to be closer to my then-girlfriend. Obviously, the moment I moved there she dumped me for another dude, leaving me alone and heartbroken doing a job I hated (teaching English at a primary school) in a freezing cold foreign country far too close to Russia with no friends.

Like most teachers, during the Spring Festival period I had a long holiday. It was too cold to go out for any other reason than buying supplies and Chinese TV is a bit shit, so I decided to do something constructive. Though I’d had a few short stories published in the small press when that was a thing years earlier, I’d taken a long sabbatical from writing fiction to focus on feature writing for magazines (the money is better) and was just beginning to get back into the fiction side of things. To me, it’s always been more of a labour of love. I consider any money I make from it a bonus, but it’s so time-consuming and energy-sapping that I feel I have to justify it somehow.

 There’s a different skill-set involved when writing fiction. It’s a bit like opening a door into your mind, and I’m not always entirely sure I want people to see what’s in there. Subconsciously or otherwise, you write about some pretty personal shit. There’s a lot of my early-China experience in Apartment 14F. The sense of isolation, feeling like an imposter, or an alien, feeling strangely detached as lots of weird shit goes on around you. It all added to the loneliness and simmering resentment.

Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story started life as a short story called When Eyes Lie (Did I mention how bitter I was about the girlfriend thing?). I submitted it to Damnation Books, who were then a new start-up and had just put out a submission call. They loved it, but said it was too short and could do with being bulked up. It was good advice. There was a lot more I wanted to say, and I’d rushed through the short story. At over 17,000 words, the second version was almost twice as long as the original.

I’d hate to bite the hand that used to feed (they didn’t feed me much, but a little) but over time Damnation Books developed something of a reputation for being difficult to work with. I heard a lot of horror stories from other writers, and not the good kind. It’s not my place to air other people’s dirty washing. If you are interested, you can Google it. All the negativity came later. At the time, like most writers, I was just happy that someone liked my work enough to publish it.

In the case of Apartment 14F, there were a few things they wanted me to change. It’s not that I’m precious. I’m always open to suggestions from editors. It’s their job. But I don’t like making wholescale changes on the whim of someone who’s probably spent barely a few minutes skimming my manuscript, whereas I’d been working on it for months. I could have argued my case, but if you argue too much you get a reputation for being difficult and the publisher is liable to pull the plug on your book. I learned a long time ago to choose my battles. Some things are worth fighting for, and some things just aren’t.

Two key scenes came from different dreams I had. I had a lot of weird dreams when I was in China. Still do. It’s a fucking trippy place . The first dream I worked into the story is the hair in the bed scene. If you read it, you’ll know the part I mean. The second was the fortune teller with the inventive way of telling your fortune. That was one creepy nocturnal escapade, and luckily for me, the creepiness translated well to the page. I just described it as best as I could remember. The feelings, the sensations, the thoughts that ran through my head. That one scene has probably provoked more discussion than anything else I’ve written. Discounting the time I did an assignment for the sadly departed Nuts magazine and had the pleasure of telling the world what Lucy Pinder’s tits thought of the Southampton FC back four. But that was a different kind of writing in a different world.

Apart from being forced into making changes to the story, the other sticking points I had with Damnation Books were the amount of promotion they did for the book (none) and the price they set. Both the paperback and the ebook were on sale for over $7, that’s a lot for a novella-length work by someone you’ve never heard of.

Despite being overpriced, on it’s initial release Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story did extremely well. When Damnation Books imploded a couple of years later, it was still second in their all-time bestseller list. Okay, I know it’s not like being on the New York Times Bestseller list, but it means something to me. DB released A LOT of books. But like I said, I never really felt comfortable with it. I turned a corner with my writing not long afterwards. Must have been the 10,000-hour rule in effect. I went from being a part time writer to a full-time writer, and started doing a lot more fiction as a kind of release from the day job.

Whenever I went back and read the original version of Apartment 14F, some parts made me cringe. I think I have much more insight now. I lived in china another four years after I wrote the original story. I also like to think I’ve improved a lot as a writer since then, and maybe now I can finally do the idea I had back in ’09 justice. It also has a snazzy new cover…

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As an extra little sweetener, I’m also including a bonus short story, Little Dead Girl, which was first published in a short-lived publication called Unspoken Water (2011) and later in X2: Another Collection of Horror (2015). It’s a story written in a similar vein, ironically based on another deeply disturbing dream I had whilst living in the Middle Kingdom, and also featuring a teacher on the verge of a nervous breakdown as the lead character. You could probably say they are set in the same spooky-ass far eastern universe. The two stories kinda compliment each other well, I think.

This is an edited version of an essay which appears in Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story (Uncut). Available now on Amazon:

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Apartment 14F – Collected Reviews

I recently released a new, updated and uncut version of my novella Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story. Here is a selection of reviews of the first release.

“Christian takes you by the hand and drags you deep into a world that most of us will never experience and then thrusts you headlong into a mystery we are never sure will be solved. The climax is a twisted view of love and needs unsatisfied, which leaves you wanting to keep the light on. The surrealism within this story is something I haven’t personally experienced in literature since H.P. Lovecraft and Algernon Blackwood.”

– J.F. Taylor, The Monsters Next Door

“In this short story the author tries to illustrate what most humans are afraid of. We fear death and at times we are afraid of dying alone. Saunders also points out a belief of many, that when we die there is another side whether it’s good or bad. The author also great job does in showcasing the Chinese culture and their beliefs and traditions.”

– The Horror press

“Saunders has written a frightening tale full of thrills, chills and unabashed terror ready for avid horror readers to devour. The author shows amazing depth and realism supported by interesting and well developed characters as well as a plot that will require a night light after reading. You might also want to consider checking under the bed. For anyone interested in a chilling tale Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story is the way to go.”

-Bitten By Books

“Saunders needs to be credited for doing a professional and credible job in this short novella. His portrayal of China and its culture is top-notch.”

-Blood of the Muse

“I thoroughly enjoyed  Apartment 14F. It was a much more melancholy tale than I had expected going in, considering it was a ghost story. But this is not a bad thing. You won’t find any horrific slice’n dice special effects in this graceful and intelligently told tale; instead you will experience a story dripping with atmosphere, loaded with tension and just enough foreshadowing to shock you with its surprise ending.”

-Mark Edward Hall, author of the Haunting of Sam Cabot, The Lost Village, The Blue light series and others

“I liked that Saunders brought a little more depth to the classic Asian horror story. In a lot of Asian fiction, the story gets lost in translation, so the unfamiliar Westerner doesn’t see the whole cultural picture. Saunders kept the story clear and comprehensible.”

-Swamp Dweller Book reviews

“I quite liked Saunders’ writing – there is a slightly sarcastic sense of humour throughout, as well as a sort of modernity (one exposition scene is done through Facebook. It’s kinda cool. The future is now!) and real-ness. He doesn’t bull-shit around with unnecessarily complex weirdness, rather, the writing is straight and to the point, and the story is punctuated by some cool and accurate comments.”

-Sketchy Sketch Blog of Horror

“The way C.M. Saunders has written this book is pretty spectacular. I could almost feel myself in Apartment 14F.. The story gave me goosebumps and tears in my eyes. I give this book a 5 star review. Brilliant.”

-Amazon reviewer

“I first saw this book as a recommend in a magazine. I hadn’t read a book for a while and being a horror story fanatic, I was instantly intrigued by the write up. I read the whole book over 2 days. Quite an original story line, and for once I couldn’t double guess the ending! Well done. With a twist in the tale, I would even liken the style of writing to the master James Herbert.”

-Amazon reviewer

“ANYONE WHO LOVES ASIAN HORROR, NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK!!! EXCELLENT!!”

-Amazon reviewer

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Cover Reveal – Apartment 14F (Uncut)

Later this month, I am re-issuing a new version of my 2009 book, Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story. I’ll tell you more about why I re-wrote it and some of the back story another time, but for now I wanted to share the new artwork with you.

When the book was first released it did pretty well, and was nominated for several industry awards. This was mostly thanks to the great cover, which was designed by a very talented lady called Annie Melton.

This is the original:

apartment14f

As successful as it was, I was never truly happy with Apartment 14F. Long story short (pun intended), I had to make a lot of editorial compromises. So when the rights reverted back to me from the publisher last year, I couldn’t wait to release it the way it was intended.

I contacted Annie and asked if I could use the original artwork. She graciously agreed, but there was some uncertainty about who actually owned the rights and neither of us wanted to get caught in a legal minefield. After a bit of push and shove with the rather unhelpful publisher, I decided the best thing to do was to commission another cover. Annie has now moved on from doing commercial covers, so I called on my old friend and collaborator Greg Chapman, who I’ve worked with several times in the past, most recently on X SAMPLE and No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches.

I was interested to see what Greg would come up with. It’s always fascinating to see how other people process and interpret various things. He hasn’t let me down yet, so I gave him a blurb and let him loose. The result is very different from the original cover art, but equally as impressive. 14f

What do you think?

Released on April 14th, Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story (Uncut) is available for pre-order now.

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No Man’s Land – Horror in the Trenches

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.

No_Mans_Land-SMALL

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:

 Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com 

Check out more great books from the Deviant Dolls HERE


No Man’s Land – Cover Reveal

My new novella is coming out next month. More details to follow, but in the meantime I wanted to share this amazing cover by my friend and long-time collaborator Greg Chapman. Like it?

No_Mans_Land-SMALL

No Man’s Land is available for pre-order now:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

You can check out more of Greg’s work HERE

 

 


Dead of Night

 

Maggie and Nick, two suburbanites who long for a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, drive out to the rural Deep South for a camping trip. Everything goes smoothly, until they come face-to-face with a renegade band of long-dead Civil War confederate bushwhackers and are plunged headlong into a ruthless battle for survival.

(Click on the cover for more information)

 

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“The surrealism within this story is something I haven’t personally experienced in literature since H.P. Lovecraft and Algernon Blackwood. If you like being frightened by the bump in the night or the monsters that may lie in wait in the darkness then I wouldn’t read this story. For this story will only leave you believing they surely exist…”

 

 

(Review from The Monsters Next Door)

Dead of Night is out now on Damnation Books, available as trade paperback and ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most other online retailers.


Finding the Time

During Spring Festival 2012, which ran through January into February in China, I was an ESL teacher, which meant an extended break from class. One of the best things about being a teacher, especially at a university, is all the holidays.

Being a frustrated writer, I made it my first mission to submit everything I had lying gathering dust on my hard drive. Novels, novellas, short stories, articles, everything. As it turned out, it was a worth-while exercise. My love life might have been a perpetual mess, but writing-wise, 2012 was the most successful year of my career by far with a novel, a novella and eight short stories published in different places, along with a couple of articles and a bunch of reviews. Paradoxically, I didn’t actually write much more new material other than a new novella set in World War I called No Man’s Land, and a few short stories.

What I did do, apart from submit everything I had, was re-write the first book in my Joshua Wyrdd teenage adventure series for a publisher, who then rejected it anyway. Great start. After that I edited and re-edited the two books that did end up coming out last year, Devil’s Island (on Rainstorm Press) and Rainbow’s End (Flarefont Publishing). At the same time I worked on a screenplay for a client and a book I ghosted for a friend who recently had a stroke. I also kept up a steady stream of reviews for Morpheus Tales magazine.

I set up this blog in the summer of 2012 and set about trying to get a following, then I concentrated on trying to promote Devil’s Island. I sent out around a dozen review copies, and emailed around 50 horror magazines and websites offering review copies and/or a guest blogs, profiles, or interviews. In the interests of shameless self-promotion, I also updated my Amazon Author Central and Author’s Den pages, and did a lot of marketing on Facebook, etc. No sooner was the Devil’s Island promo stint over, then the whole thing began again with Rainbow’s End, only this time it was even harder as I was trying to break a new market, the subject matter not being what I usually write about.

No matter what else I’m doing, I always try to keep an eye open for any new markets and maintain my submission rate. That takes up a fair chunk of time. I keep other things up to date; my Duotrope tracker (when it was a free service), my professional log, where I keep notes on all my submissions, successes and failures, and various other things I have going at any one time, like my ‘Strange Communications’ file where I record some of the funnier or more bizarre verbal exchanges I have with (usually Chinese) people. Some weeks, that expands at an alarming rate. In addition, I read as widely as time allows.

I’m not complaining. I know nothing worthwhile is easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. Also, I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that generally speaking, people are selfish bastards and do what they want most of the time. Meaning that if I didn’t really want to do these things, I wouldn’t. I’d watch TV or get drunk instead. I don’t know what drives me, that’s a whole other blog – one I intend to write after the intensive therapy sessions. Joke. I just know that wherever possible, I do what makes me happy. In the words of the great Bruce Springsteen… It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive!

But damn it, I wish there were more hours in a day. I never feel satisfied, I always feel like I could have done more. I get the feeling I’m racing against the clock. Which is exactly what I’m doing, every day, in a sense.

And so are you.


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