As each of the X books contains 10 stories, that meant over the 10-day period I posted a total of 10 lines. I know that taken out of context they might not make much sense. The idea is just to give readers a deeper insight into each story than a standard synopsis would allow, and perhaps spark some morbid curiosity. Later, I decided to collect all the extracts together here. Because blogging.
“It looked like a giant moth/human hybrid, complete with a huge set of leathery wings folded behind it, and was covered in grey or black fur which had thinned in places to reveal skin so dry it resembled scales.”
“Its yellowing eyes were way out of proportion and had realigned themselves so they were on opposite sides of the head. The nose had elongated and extended into a snout, and the mouth was ringed by a pair of bulging, dark grey lips.”
“Her head was full of abstract images offering a tantalizing glimpse of some other existence, a distant life full of meaning, colour and joy. But each day the images faded a little more and now she wasn’t even sure if what she saw were snatches of memory or some manufactured product of her fractured mind.”
“When Sam was a child, he remembered thinking someone had been drawing on his grandad with a pen and spent hours trying to rub off the ‘ink’. Only later did he find out that the network of deep blue scars carved into his granite flesh were the result of a life spent on the coalfaces.”
“The guy in a white coat asked if I was getting sexually aroused. Just came out and said it. I mean, what the fuck? Who in this world could or would get turned on by pictures of mutilated bodies and severed limbs?”
The fifth volume in my X series featuring ten (X, geddit?) slices of twisted horror and dark fiction plucked from the blood-soaked pages of ParABnormal magazine, Demonic Tome, Haunted MTL, Fantasia Divinity and industry-defining anthologies including 100 Word Horrors, The Corona Book of Ghost Stories, DOA 3 and Trigger Warning: Body Horror.
Meet the local reporter on an assignment which takes him far beyond the realms of reality, join the fishing trip that goes sideways when a fish unlike any other is hooked, and find out the real cost of human trafficking. Along the way meet the ghost which refuses to accept that death is the end, the office drone who’s life is inexorably changed after a drug trial, and many more.
Also features extensive notes, and original artwork by Stoker award-winning Greg Chapman.
My new volume of short stories, imaginatively entitled X5, is up for pre-order now! Dropping in a matter of weeks, it is set to feature ten previously-published pulse-pounding slabs of hoffific fiction, extensive notes, and original artwork from the Stoker award-winning Greg Chapman which I can show you right now.
Let me know what you think!
X5 will be available exclusively on ebook, and is up for pre-order now.
“We want Extreme horror stories,” the publisher said. “Think Wrath James White, Edward Lee, Shane McKenzie, or J.F. Gonzalez. If you can write a story that will churn our stomachs or make us fear what’s behind the shower curtain, send it in and we’ll read it and decide if it is Extreme enough for our anthology.”
And extreme they got. Check out the awesome cover art.
Sometimes when I finish writing a story I look back on it and think I might have overdone things a bit. It happened with Subject #270374 and it happened again with with Painted Nails, which is about a drug addict who wakes up to find a foreign object stuck in his dick. Don’t worry, it isn’t erect or anything, but it just get worse for the poor guy from there. Especially when he realizes that there’s something in his bathroom.
We’ve all woken up in the morning and not quite been 100% clear about what might have happened the night before. Painted Nails takes that to the next level. On reflection it explores some of the same themes as Grower, published last year in Brewtality, and I wrote both stories at around the same time. I have no idea what issues I was trying to iron out. Fun stories, though. Grower maybe traded on the humorous angle a bit more than Painted Nails which is flat-out brutal.
Painted Nails, wounded penis and all, is my 12th published short story of the year and is included in the anthology No Anesthetic (note the American spelling) out now on Splatter Ink publishing.
Every year when Halloween comes around, I wish I’d written a Halloween story. Obviously, it’s too late by then, so last year I surpassed even my own pre-planning capabilities and wrote one in January. Kaboom. That also gave me a few months to sell the fucker.
The story I came up with is called Misshapes & Rejects, and in a nutshell it’s about pumpkins. Not pumpkins in nutshells, that would just be weird. I’ve always thought there was something creepy about the treatment pumpkins get around Halloween. All the cutting and carving and stuff. I also wanted to make a bit of a point about isolation and anti-social behaviour, and like a perfect storm all these elements came together. It happened quickly, too. Once I had the germ of the idea, the story followed quickly and was finished in a single sitting. That feat isn’t as impressive as it might sound, in its entirety Misshapes & Rejects is less than 1000 words.
When I finish a story, I routinely go through it three, four, even five or six times, endlessly tweaking, polishing and modifying until there is nothing left to tweak, polish or modify. However, Misshapes & Rejects didn’t need much heavy lifting. Sometimes, you just know you’ve nailed it. It was accepted by the first place I submitted it too, a Halloween-themed anthology due to be released on [name redacted, like in the movies].
Then things got messy.
The would-be publisher refused to pay any contributors then eventually pulled the book from sale, but not before they pocketed funds they’d raised through crowd funding and pre-orders. Big scene. Long story short, the publishing rights on Missahpes & Rejects quickly reverted back to me and the dance began again.
Luckily, it soon found a new home, in the book Handmade Horror Stories put together by Frost Zone Press, the lovely people who just last year published my story Alone, Or… , and edited by the supremely talented MM MacLeod..
As the marketing material says, “Handmade Horror Stories is an anthology of art and craft-themed short horror fiction. From quiet horrors to chilling nightmares, these tales give new meaning to being creative.”
My short story Grower is included in the new anthology Brewtality, out now on Evil Cookie, a new publishing company set up by the uber-talented K Trap Jones. All the stories in this book have a common them, which is something very close to my heart: alcohol.
Without giving too much away, Grower is about a guy who finds a tooth in his beer, and things just get weirder for him from there. It’s one of the most bizarre and flat-out surreal, stories I’ve produced in a long time. In fact, it’s probably one of the most bizarre and flat-out surreal, stories I’ve produced EVER. I wrote the original draft in the heady pre-COVID summer of 2019 whilst living in Guangzhou, and drinking far too much cheap Chinese beer. I was swigging on a can one night when I started thinking… what if?
This story was rejected by another prospective publisher I sent it to on the basis of being, “Too skin-crawlingly gross.” They also added, “The descriptions throughout this story were uncomfortably visceral and gruesome.” That’s a win for any horror writer, and I’m glad Trap wasn’t as squeamish and sensitive.
The original version featured a can of Budweiser as the vessel of doom, because I wanted to emphasise the discovery of something weird deep inside the ordinary and I hate Bud with a passion. Too gassy. But later I had a rethink, and decided it would be much more fun if I ditched the Bud in favour of a made-up brand of craft beer (just as I would in real life). Also, credit for that final killer line has to go to Trap himself.
Just look at this ToC!
I am truly humbled to be in such great company.
Brewtality is out now on paperback and ebook on Evil Cookie publishing.
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.
The fourth book in my ongoing series of short fiction collections is available for pre-order now. Imaginatively titled X4, it mainly covers stories that were published in various markets in 2016 – 2017, slotting in neatly on the heels of X: Omnibus which collected the first three volumes.
More details will follow soon, including the ToC. In the meantime, I just wanted to share the spectacular cover art with you, designed once again by the irrepressible Greg Chapman.
Another one ‘in the books,’ so to speak. And time for another quick review.
2019 kicked off in a high gear for me. In January I finally finished the final edits of my novella Tethered and started punting it around carefully selected publishers, and placed drabbles in 100-Word Horrors volumes 2 and 3, to follow-up my appearance in the first volume.
Saunders for the hattrick.
I also finished compiling X: Omnibus, a collection of all three of my short story collections to date, plus some other odds and ends. I’d already commissioned a cover from the sublime Greg Chapman, but even though most of the stories have been published before in various places, many of them still needed a bit of spit and polish. That process complete, I then had to format both the paperback and ebook versions and set about the task of marketing the sucker. I try to do a couple of guest posts at horror blogs and sites around every release. I find it beneficial, as well as fun. Most notably, this time around I popped up on Kendall Reviews discussing why I write horror.
In the first quarter of the year I had a couple of ‘quiet horror’ stories accepted into anthologies. Specifically, Down the Road appeared in a two-volume anthology on Smoking Pen Press entitled Vampires, Zombies & Ghosts, and Where a Town Once Stood was included in the Corona Book of Horror Stories. Obviously, I couldn’t stay ‘quiet’ for long and indulged my wild side in Trigger Warning: Body Horror from Madness Heart Press which included my surrealist skit Revenge of the Toothfish. Tiny Little Vampires was in a similar vein, and that was published by Tell Tale Press and elsewhere, The Bell showed up in Dark Moments.
With seven (count ’em!) new short stories being published, 2019 was probably my most successful ever calendar year in fiction. I also wrote seven or eight more shorts of various lengths and made a start on a new novel about a P.I. (Paranormal Investigator) and his cat I’ve been planning for a long time. For the most part, my fiction has taken a slightly surreal turn. There have been disembodied fingers poking through plugholes, giant cockroaches, and assassins with supernatural abilities. Still, most of the time, I’ve been living in China and writing non-fiction under a pseudonym. There are a lot of good reasons why I use a pseudonym when I write about my adventures and misadventures in the Middle Kingdom, which I won’t go into here. Let’s just say what happens in China is often best left in China, and written about by some other dude with a fake name. But it’s no big secret. If you want to know who this guy is, PM me and I’ll probably tell you, as long as you’re not the thought police.
I’m quite excited about this coming year. My RetView series of blog posts where I re-visit classic horror movies is picking up more readers and going from strength to strength, the latest installment of my X series of short fiction (imaginatively entitled X4. I like to keep things simple) is set to drop soon, and I’ve already had a couple of stories accepted into anthologies penciled in for 2020 releases. Hopefully, I’ll also have some new material which I’ve been working on for a while out in the second half of the year, so watch this space!