Tag Archives: reviews

Getting Naked

Vector Cartoon Character – Young Man in White Underpants

As anyone who knows me reasonably well will be aware, I write a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, and a lot of stuff in between. It varies, but until I started working on a trade magazine last year, around half my time (not including the time I spend researching, marketing, and submitting) was spent on articles for various magazines or websites on everything from Chinese media censoreship to chili pepper farming, or movie or book reviews or something, and the rest was spent writing short stories and novellas. Novels, not so much, because they take years and I don’t find the pay-off so satisfying, either emotionally or financially.

I’ve always found non-fiction both more profitable and easier to write. There’s a science to it. You get the green light from the commissioning editor, do the research, find an angle, familiarize yourself with the house style, and away you go. You become a small cog in a big machine, and all you have to do is your job. Your work appears under the masthead of whatever publication you are writing for, and most of the time readers don’t even know, or care, who actually wrote it. Your name is out there, and you are still eligible for criticism, but it’s not front and centre. It’s kinda like parading yourself around in front of a bunch of strangers wearing a uniform. This uniform is something people are familiar with, and used to. They have expectations of how someone wearing it should act, and how you should walk. If anyone has an issue with you, they’ll take it to your boss and you’ll probably never have to deal with it.

Fiction, though, is a whole different ball game. Unless you write under a pseudonym, you are right there, front and centre. It’s your choice, but really you HAVE no choice. Self-promotion is everything, and there is nowhere to hide. Even if your fiction is published in a magazine, anthology or journal, its usually the names of the contributors prospective readers look for and whatever the publication is called becomes secondary. There is nothing to hide your modesty. That uniform has been removed and there you are in all your pale, quivering glory, stark bollock naked and waiting for people to throw tomatoes at you.

Some people like being in this state; vulnerable, exposed, there for the world to not only see, but judge and critique. Which is fine. Each to their own and all that. Most of us, however, are not so comfortable with it and we wish there was another way. But there isn’t. Every time we put our work out there, we effectively strip off and lay ourselves open for criticism. Not only that, we even bend over and invite a multitude of total strangers to shaft us and then walk away giggling to themselves.

Now, some people might love that naked body on display. Whether it’s male, female, fat, thin, black, white, whatever. But there may be some elements you, as an audience, might find less attractive. Maybe you’d like slimmer thighs, or fatter thighs. Maybe you dig tattoos and body art, maybe you don’t. Who knows? One of the greatest aspects of being human is that we don’t all like the same things. Life would be pretty damn boring if we did. Most rational people acknowledge that nobody is perfect and accept each other, warts and all.

But a small minority will be put off by the paleness of our skin, our wobbly bits, that weird mole on our left thigh, or even just by the fact that you’re naked. It’s easy for these people to make their disapproval known. We even egg them on. “Whaddya think? Tell me! Write it down and post it in a public forum to ensure that as many people as possible know how hard you think I suck!”

By that, I mean there’s a good chance they might take one fleeting glance at our exposed flabby bits then run off to leave a bad review on Amazon or Goodreads, or they might pause and take a real long, detailed look, and THEN run off and leave a bad review on Amazon or Goodreads.

We can all accept criticism. Or at least, we should be able to. It comes with the territory, and it’s all part of being a creative. Not everyone is going to like everything we do. We take the rough with the smooth and don’t expect blanket praise.

Still, some empathy would be nice. Ask yourself how you would feel if you were out there, naked, being ruthlessly judged by faceless critics who fire their wounding shots then duck back down behind the parapet where it’s nice and safe? I often wonder about these people who hide behind fake names and leave a trail of one and two star reviews in their wake. Does tearing people down make them feel better about themselves? Does it fill some void in their lives? Do they think they are doing some kind of public service?

Be honest, by all means. Tell us what you think. What you really think. But next time you leave someone a bad review, or even worse, drop a one-star rating without even explaining why, spare a thought for the amount of work that has gone into the book you just shat on. The time, the energy, the hope the writer has invested. It might not be to your liking, their naked body might be so damn ugly it makes you throw up in your mouth a little, but at least they have the balls to risk everything and put themselves out there. That alone has to be worth more than one star.

If you really want to see me naked, you can do so HERE.

Dead of Night – Reviews

When it was first released back in 2010, my splatterpunk novella Dead of Night picked up some pretty awesome reviews. I’ve gone back through my files and dug up some highlights. Loved the bitch slap at the end of the last review.

“In his zombie-infested novella Dead of Night, C. M. Saunders draws a picture of horror and desperation for his readers as he unleashes a band of undead Confederate bushwackers on an unsuspecting and innocent couple. As I read, I found myself pulled into the action, rooting for the young hero and heroine to make it through the night.”

“This story is not just hacking and slashing and eating brains; there is a fair share of suspense in Dead of Night that I found to be quite effective. Mr. Saunders gives his readers a chance to get to know the hero and heroine before plunging them into mortal danger, and this makes us care about their fate. Dead of Night contains a sense of urgency that will definitely get the blood pumping. Mr. Saunders brings us into the minds of his two protagonists; we share their terror, their pain, their despair, and their hope for survival.”

  • Book Wenches

“Dead of Night is an obvious product of a great many horror films. The departure from realism, the horrendous injuries inflicted on the hero, the coincidences and lucky breaks – all lead directly from the late night horror screen. Evil Dead in particular seems to be a strong influence, especially with the besieged-in-a-cabin sequence.”

  • Dark Fire (UK)

“Although it has lots of gore, it isn’t all about the blood and guts. Instead it is suspenseful and atmospheric. The scene where Nick wakes up in the middle of the night and first spots a zombie is tense. And being in the middle of nowhere, disconnected from the rest of the world with no one to turn to for help, added to the creepiness.”

“At the beginning, C.M. Saunders takes time to establish the characters, and although some may find that part slow, I found their relationship and discussion of Michael Jackson interesting. Since Nick and Maggie were well-developed I cared about them and found the story more interesting.”

  • Little Miss Zombie

“If you are craving a zombie novel that deviates away from the typical “movie-style” theme – this will satiate your hunger. There are the normal horror elements: new love, remote setting, fight for survival, mass burial. However, C.M. Saunders’ Civil War zombies are intelligent; able to work as a team; possess fine motor skills; and cannot easily be killed. In fact, these “bushwhackers” peaked my curiosity. Would the psychological, mental, and physical aspects of fighting in a war end upon death? It is possible that these zombies are unaware that it is no longer 1861 – 1865. If this is the case, it would mean that they are denied the peace and solace they so richly deserve. The plot was very creatively written and flowed efficiently. I did not experience a single dull moment as I read the novel. Many of you will agree, a vast majority of horror novels have at least one character lacking a bit of common-sense. As others so eloquently state, “too stupid to live”. I feel that C.M. Saunders tried to weed the “stupidity factor” out, and he did a great job of it. The zombies were even spared this humility.”

  • Buyzombie.com

“I have this horrible OCD quirk. It’s doesn’t matter how boring a story is, I have to finish it. Fortunately, that didn’t kick in with Saunder’s Dead of Night. This is a fun, short read that carries on with the latest trend of zombie soldiers. While Saunders doesn’t really bring any new to the table, it’s a cool chapter in the great big scheme of zombie stories. This is a great story. It’s a quick read with great cover art, and I do have to say, it’s MUCH better than Saunders’ first novella from Damnation Books.”

  • Swamp Dweller


Dead of Night (Revised edition) is available now on paperback and ebook.

Coming Soon… RetViews!

Regular visitors will know I post (or have posted) about whatever takes my fancy. In the past I’ve written about topics as diverse as Bruce Springsteen gigs and animals that shit coffee, but most of my posts are in some way related to teaching, sport, China, horror fiction, music or films. Sometimes, two or more of those categories bleed into each other, which makes me happy. What all these topics have in common is the fact that they’re all important to me. They make my world go around.

I realized some time ago that as our lives trundle on and we get ever older, our perceptions change, as well as our tastes. As our reserves of life experience swell, we come to see things in a different light. This logic applies to a lot of things. You could probably argue that it applies to everything. But it is especially noticeable with regards to music and films, these being the spheres where fads and fashions are most prevalent. For example, how many people were into Johnny Hates Jazz or the Christians in the late 80’s? And how many of those people still play Shattered Dreams or Harvest for the World? Probably not that many. Let’s not forget, the arts also serve as open forums for social commentary, which makes them especially relevant.

This is just one reason why I thought it might be interesting to revisit some classic cinematic moments, and take another look at them in a ‘modern’ context. Or at least, with the benefit of knowing some stuff I probably didn’t know before. Older movies have also generated more academic research, comments and opinions, which I can draw upon as I endeavour to provide some valuable insight, rather than a simple ‘It was rad!’ review.

I’m going to call this my RetView series. Short for Retro Review. See what I did there?


I’m starting with films. Horror films, to be precise, and have earmarked such classics as An American Werewolf in London, the Evil Dead, Eyes Without a Face, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Thing and one of the Alien films (haven’t decided which one yet) for the RetView treatment. I will also re-visit some more modern examples, like the Blair Witch Project, Train to Busan and [REC]. In time I might branch out into other genres, or even music. Hell, I might even dig out some cassettes and fire up my old Sony Walkman. I might leave Johnny Hates Jazz and the Christians out of it, though.

I am well aware that this site needs some structure, so I am going to be aiming for a new a new instalment every month. On the 13th, to be precise, in keeping with the horror theme. Each RetView will contain essential information such as the year the film was released, who directed and starred in it, and a synopsis. Where possible I’ll also scratch beneath the surface to provide a bit of context, make observations where appropriate, and uncover a bit of light-hearted trivia to make the whole thing more slick. The fun starts next week with Lost Boys, one of the greatest 80’s films ever made.

I hope you read my RetViews and take something from them. Like I said, for one reason or another, these are all films that deserve some recognition. Comments, likes, shares and blow jobs are always very much appreciated, and don’t forget to sign up so you never miss an installment.

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


-Amazon reviewer




2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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