Things I ‘Should’ Be Doing

The End of 2021 is Beckoning

Instead of ploughing into the to-do list, which has a terrible habit of expanding, I am writing this. It helps to organise the brain, maybe. I opened up my submission spreadsheet and there’s hardly any writing submissions outstanding! It’s almost dry! This gave me a bit of a ‘must write, must submit’ moment. No, I shouldn’t. I’ve enough to keep going and hope to tie it all up to start 2022 with key priorities from which I will resist deviation. I will resist. I must resist! My wandering eye needs reigned in!
Wrapping up 2021, so far, I’ve had stories published with Black Ink Fiction, Books of Horror, Crimson Pinnacle Press, Horror Sleaze Trash, Insignia Stories, Iron Faerie Publishing, KJK Publishing, The Evil Cookie Publishing, The Macabre Ladies, Sirens Call Publications and have published my collection, Murmur: Collected Horror. And I have a few pieces of work pinned — don’t we always?!
Writing aside, I’ve been studying, proofread several titles, completed developmental editing work, created promotional materials including written copy and graphics, written forewords, completed interviews, edited KJK Publishing’s 2021 releases (The Horror Collection: Extreme Edition, The Horror Collection: Ruby Edition, The Horror Collection: Yellow Edition and Halloween Land) — with another two scheduled for release by the end of the year, and it’s not over yet!
So, I’m back to trying to pull focus into what I MUST tie up, on top of editing before 2022, which includes finishing up a couple of writing projects. With less than three months left it’ll be over before we know it.
I am going in firmer in 2022 with what I take on. My novel (that I had hoped to finish this year) didn’t get much attention due to other projects swaying my eye and life doing its curveball of mayhem routine, so that will be at the forefront of my list. I am starting a degree course in January, which will require much attention. I will be collaborating on two projects, one with another (damn talented) woman in horror, Ruthann Jagge (who, if you haven’t, you MUST check out) — I cannot wait to see what we create together. And another exciting collaboration with the one and only Kevin J. Kennedy, another indie story weaver who should be on your reading list. There’s more pencilled in, but the priorities are in bloody ink!

2022 Collaboration Tease.
2022 Collaboration Tease.
Landing in 2021.

City of the Dead

Twisted Legends: Crimson Pinnacle Press

When propositioned to create a story based around an urban legend, I was keen to offer a Scottish framed piece for consideration to this popular anthology theme. With an abundance of folk tales around Scotland and its many isles to inspire, I decided to dip into what I’m more intimately aquatinted — Glasgow. The central belt is brimming with inspiration. Three urban legends immediately sprung to mind. However, when I began drafting a story, I hopped, unfocused between tales and my first attempt got pinned as I had a stronger pull towards another.

Children playing in Glasgow’s Southern Necropolis. Circa early 1950’s

Much can spiral from classroom whispers and the imagination and zest of children. The inspiring legend of The Gorbals Vampire (or Ir’n Jenni), which spawned hysteria, climaxing in September 1954, and Alexander Anderson’s poem, Jenny wi’ the Airn Teeth, led the way for my creation. The Gorbals Vampire incident brought much debate about censorship of literary material (from poetry in the classroom to imported American comics) to impressionable children, and the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955 was passed through the House of Commons. Censorship is an area that is still very much debated today through the arts, worldwide — and not just with children in mind — this deepened my draw to this particular event.

Sunday Mail article 26th September 1954

My story, City of the Dead, was created as a nod to the notorious child vampire hunt of 1954 in Glasgow’s Southern Necropolis and Alexander Anderson’s poem from 1870. I love a good cemetery setting (typical goth, I know), so taking on The Southern Necropolis — which is home to over 250,000 buried souls was a lot of fun. I enjoyed writing this one. It’s always satisfying to weave regional dialect through a piece — bringing authenticity to the characters and reverence to the urban legend’s roots.

I won’t share spoilers beyond the base inspiration for my own story, as City of the Dead was submitted and subsequently accepted by Crimson Pinnacle Press for their Twisted Legends anthology!

The book received a high volume of submissions of twisted takes on urban legends from around the globe. The editors chose the top 13 offerings, and I am thrilled to have made the cut, alongside; Thomas R Clark, Lance Dale, Lance Harkers, Stephen Johnson, Ruthann Jagge, Jae Mazer, Jason Myers, Pamela A. Parish, Chris Puzak, RJ Roles, Vic Kerry, and Robb T. White.

Graphic created by Lance Dale.

Having been published in Crimson Pinnacle Press’ (invite only) inaugural anthology, Fairy Tale Horrorshow, I am ecstatic to be accepted into their pages once again! The duo who run the press, RJ Roles and Jason Myers, certainly have the eye for unique, quality indie horror, I promise you that! You’ll have to pick that up to read my take on this urban legend from Scotland and the 12 other twisted legends, launching October 25th. The eBook pre-order is live.

Thanks for reading!

In addition, if you’d like to listen to me reading Anderson’s poem the video is below.

Yes, My Kids are Vegan

I’m not particularly vocal about some things I care deeply about, especially not online. My personality has reactions built on trauma.
Speaking up has opened me up to attack (from childhood) so, I clam up tight, retreat inward — standard trauma response.
The everyday injustices towards our fellow earthlings is one such horror that I often wish I had the nerve to speak up about more.
I stopped consuming the flesh of murdered animals when I was 7 years old. I still feel guilty for the dead on my fork to that point, even if I was just a child raised to be ignorant to their suffering.
As a child, the hypocrisy was (is) taught through family, friends, society, schooling, and religion plagued me — how can one preach and teach of love and respect while dining over the mass slaughtered, butchered bodies of other living beings?
It made me soul-sick. I despise how much we, as a society, deceive our children. I was deceived.
Dairy was the last to be eliminated when I was 30 years old. Much of that was, again, ignorance. I am ashamed; the guilt of the suffering I paid for runs deep.
I paid for so many deaths, countless brutalities; I am responsible — the coward who didn’t hold the knife.
No single life is worth so many of theirs, especially when one does not depend on their deaths to live.
The brutal, bloody, unjust, inhumane, unnecessary deaths of children — of innocent fellow earthlings cannot be justified. Industries built on the systemic enslavement, rape and murder have much to answer for, and it seems never will because the atrocities are too widely accepted. With a blind eye and habits ingrained in children.
I can’t take back my part in it; none of us can. All I (we) can do is do better.
I’m raising vegan children. I’ve seen parents, such as myself, challenged by general ignorance on the matter. And I’ve had the quizzical looks when this fact has come to light. Why would I raise them any other way? Knowledge is power, right? So then, why wouldn’t I instil in them the truth from the onset? I know it makes society uncomfortable; we’re expected to fall in line, not disrupt the hypocritical peace, not be an inconvenience. That’s it right there; the truth of animal agriculture and the moral imperatives that the word ‘vegan’ rouses in consumers of animal products is that those truths are inconvenient. I don’t care for that. I care for justice and a moral compass that aligns with actions — isn’t that what we should be teaching children and ourselves?
Forget the (many) positives of a healthy, vegan lifestyle (because it’s not just a dietary choice) and consider the absurdity of the animal agriculture industry. If I was farming puppies in my garden to kill, skin, gut, and chop up and feed my children, I’d be deemed as evil, cruel, heartless, an unfit parent.… The accepted state of animal agriculture is far worse than that. Consider the proven decline in human health due to the consumption of products from that sector, not to mention the desperate climate crisis — to which this type of production and consumerism holds much of the responsibility. Every action, even when small, everyday ones — every action against this industry matters. And the choice to remain ignorant to it is unforgivable, surely.
Yes, my kids are vegan — it is not a choice.

Undertow City

Strolling through the city of ghosts
Mine and others
Life lessening; remnants many
The only commodities exponentially growing
The less-ness and the dead
Faces curl by, mighty and mellow
Jesting jesters
Secret stalkers
Smooth and lined
Chiselling the face of ages
Charcoal sketches in a dusty book
My neck cranes from the tarmac
To sandstone stretching skyward
Behind blacked shades I hasten a look
Faces carved into stone statues
Corrosion of time changes their masks
And I see you there
Dancing among the gargoyles
Faces I’ve known
Faces I’ve kissed
Faces long dismissed
Echoes of ancient conversations
Undertows hidden behind music
Soothing ears and fears with every pluck and stroke
Muffling hyper consternation
Rapid beats in the throat
Lost words imprint the atmosphere
Bare toes curl into the black cracked pavement
They keep remaking it
Covering the splits
The old tracks; spectre paths
Undertows ripple underfoot
Soon only remnants shall remain
Ruptured
I’m one of them; a mere echo
In this Undertow City.

Another Lost Blog

‘I should be writing’

I haven’t written much lately and only have a few short story sub decisions outstanding.

Writing (with a specific purpose) has taken a backseat to everything else. Considering I’ve only been actively submitting work since the tail-end of 2019, this probably shouldn’t be as bothersome as it is (to me). This lull, this deeply uncomfortable, gut-churning, head-aching, creaky death-rattle vibe of a damned lull has created a fracturing within; what’s the harm in another one?

A couple of weeks ago, I could’ve screamed if I wasn’t so agonisingly audio sensitive — which hasn’t resolved yet. I’m sure the screaming would’ve shattered my pain riddled spine. I pictured the exploded shards; the bone shrapnel ripping through muscle and skin. My head hurts. I thought that maybe I needed a hit; a rejection, an acceptable, anything that might kick the cogs into motion — at least that’s where I was last week. Maybe something outward was needed to push a tangible, create type locomotion into motion. Even with that, time is a merciless taunter, and with too much else going on, there’s never enough of it. Though, writing is air. I am dependant on its ability to quench and quell things that nothing else can. I’m co-dependent on the pen even when words are just scrawled onto old paper and shut in a drawer. This digital tapping is a placebo. They say there’s a form of eternity in the code of numbers; to me, the figures are a mirage that melts away like ghosts.

I’ve not been writing (much) — it doesn’t mean I’ve been out of contact with the words. We’ve been serenading in other ways. Ways that should benefit the stories when they get their time again.

Gorefest!

Gorefest is one of the most anticipated projects I’ve been part of this year. From The Evil Cookie Publishing, 14 authors carve their path through the muck and grime to celebrate the art of gore!

The book is still with the editor, but I cannot wait to get stuck into reading this extreme anthology soon! My contribution was written specifically for the Gorefest call. To say that I was keen to be considered would be an understatement. I called upon one of the most beloved music venues in my hometown of Glasgow to set the scene and ambience for a literal gorefest in my story, Fuckin’ Maggots. I was listening to a lot of Slipknot when I wrote this. The line, ‘and the rain will kill us all,’ from their track, Psychosocial was looping in my head, driving me nuts, my brain can get a touch obsessive — Fuckin’ Maggots helped purge the loop! I am sure other metal fans will note various nods to the scene within the piece. One of those — if you know, you know! I had a blast writing this, I hope readers enjoy it as much as I did.

Gorefest can be pre-ordered now via Amazon at a lower pre-release price. Given the talent in this line-up, I am confident this will be one book that fans of e//xtreme horror will be buzzing about this year. Get it now! \m/

*Update 29/08/2021*

It’s out and to further add to the excitement of this release, an EXCLUSIVE — GOREFEST GODLESS EDITOR’S CHOICE EDITION is also available ONLY at GODLESS! This edition features handwritten commentary and doodles throughout the book from the editor, K. Trap Jones! It’s an absolute must buy!

The Horror Collection: Extreme Edition – First Review

First review is in! Check out Lisa Lee’s thoughts on KJK Publishing’s The Horror Collection: Extreme Edition!

THE HORROR COLLECTION:Extreme EditionKJK Publishing Extreme Horror Fans Only . Synopsis The Horror Collection: Extreme Edition, KJK Publishing …

The Horror Collection: Extreme Edition

Collector’s Edition

Collector’s Edition is a short story written specifically for The Horror Collection: Extreme Edition, featuring a character who appears in another piece of mine releasing later this year. This one introduces Lexie in the setting of the parent story, which readers can delve into in October. Being Extreme, readers can expect graphic sex and a fair amount of bloodshed.
The inspiration for Collector’s Edition was ignited by a documentary I had seen about a porn actor suspected of (knowingly) transmitting an STD to a string of professional and personal sexual partners.
With that spark, I went down a more alternative path with what was being transmitted and the motivations. Horror buff collectors can be somewhat out of the box in how they cumulate their pieces, and Dave has his kink to feed. I had fun with this one.
I tend to stick to the U.K. as far as locations. This is the first published story that’s taken place largely overseas (I think)! Though my reoccurring character, Lexie, is from Glasgow, which is where this one opens. If you’re a gig-goer in Scotland, maybe you’ll recognise the venue?
I don’t want to give much away, so I’ll leave it there – check out my story along with extreme horror helpings from my fellow TOC buddies in The Horror Collection: Extreme Edition. Featuring all-new original works from; Nic Brady, Matthew A. Clarke, David Owain Hughes, Kevin J. Kennedy, Kyle M. Scott, and Matt Shaw.

‘Horny Dead Fucks’

FILTHY FREE FICTION

Live and free over on Horror Sleaze Trash today is a new filthy little flash story, Horny Dead Fucksfrom Natasha Sinclair and David Owain Hughes.

This is our second story to be featured by HST — we both had a blast writing this one. Check it out for a free fix of sexy, sleazy horror fiction. As with our last one, Milked — tissues and lube are appropriate condiments to have on standby!

The Spiralling Pit

The Creative Mind & Depression

Let’s consider that the creative mind and depression are synonymous. This is not a new idea — even if depression is regarded as a disease of modernity. It doesn’t take much to cast back to common references of such stereotypes as the ‘mad scientist, ‘tortured artist’ throughout human history — there has to be some inherent truth in the link.
Personally speaking, there’s a maddening synchronicity to weaving art through mental ill-health. I loathe embracing this affliction as an illness; it’s an evil twin that’s attached itself to my core. But there’s no wavering — it is an illness. Maybe one of the soul as much as the brain. It torments the creative mind like a captor. For some of us, the relationship becomes a sort of Stockholm syndrome, an inescapable symbiotic horrorshow.
I abhor it, maybe as much as I was conditioned to despise myself. Then I wonder if that instinctual over-analytic contemplation, the drive to understand and develop answers and solutions — a catalyst of change, a fuel of creation has some essence that fills a need — even when it leads to nowhere on the external. With depression’s tightening hands around life and art’s (those too are synonymous) throat and no words, shapes or colour come in any sort of sense, with the abandon of insanity. And the heavy, sticky, tar-like stuckness of it. With maddening, head-bursting introspectiveness and reactionary to stimulus, even of a thoughtless kind. Those stimuli can be hardest to shake — that processing of depression, like art, can be sickeningly narcissistic to an observer. Beneath that appearance, it can be more from an altruistic nature, one that can never find peace from being consumed by so much needless suffering for deplorable reasoning. An internalised, ever-raging war of sadness, anxiety and frustration and their armies.
There’s a kindred spirit amongst those who suffer (I’m not keen on that word too, though it is accurate) at the hands of this demon. Depression; the stalker. It certainly tortures and bates like one. Of course, I point the finger at depression itself, but maybe that creative drive is too a demon of sorts; a need, compulsion, addiction. That need, that drive can be as desperate as the most basic needs to survive. Creativity is the thirst of the soul that demands quenching.
While there’s no hard, scientifically proven link that I know of (I could be entirely wrong), its long-running prevalence cannot be denied. Some of the most cherished artists have made their afflictions known; undeniable tales slithered through brush strokes and words and musical notes, pouring blood through ink. Van Gogh, Plath, Woolf, Fitzgerald, Cobain, Staley, Cornell… there’s an endless parade of those who’ve broken into utter submission to their affliction, how many more unknown names bound together alone? Scattering pieces of themselves before their demise, with vultures pecking at the bones for generations after, or they blow away ashes to the wind… forgotten. There is a desperate need to live in some form of immortality living in loops and repeats, words cascading through eyes in minds; breeding and living on when that mind has long ceased being. Depression when it dances with suicide and for those whom it jumps into bed with, it’s an oxymoron in a creative who scatters seeds that, for some outlive, that immortality craving, notes from the grave, the cry for help or the declaration of: this is just how it is, beneath it all.
Many years ago, a doctor (or therapist) remarked how maybe there was no way out for me, that my deep dark maddening downward spirals of self-torment and heavy sadness, the depression and suicidal ideations and (at times) planning, were a part of me… Victim blaming? Professional incompetence? She (like several) didn’t know how to help. I’m a hopeless case. Miraculously, therapy didn’t push me straight off the tightrope. I embraced that message to a degree, though. Therapy (for me) was utterly useless. (For some of those, the mentally unwell are fodder to their ego-mania of saviour, even if just in prescribed works, it lines their bellies enough.) More than that embracement, it added to the weight of hopelessness — even with professional intent, sometimes there’s no one to help but oneself — in that, I’ve had no choice in the toughest of times.
I sometimes lull around the button. The whisper has never ceased, it bides its time; the one that says, “you’ve fought long enough”, “waited long enough”, “it never gets better for long”, “just give up!”, give in”, “finally, make the pain stop….” Lifelong mental health battles have steeped into my bones, I’m almost convinced it’s the culprit for a multitude of ailments. Dancing with physical pain like a lover, spawning one chronic pain to another.
I have my tethers, strands that force my nostrils just above the murky water, choking and gagging with that whisper, taunting to submit to the deep.
It’s interesting, though — I mulled over this recently whilst amid a major dip. It’s funny the terms we use for mental ill-health, there’s a flippancy that almost minimises this beast’s brutality. When I hear the buzzword ‘wellbeing’, I feel the same way — it’s wishy-washy, a platitude coined by the utterly clueless desperate to appear to care. A painfully overused marketing ploy. Along with the flippancy, there’s still such stigma for when mental ill-health is discussed sincerely and from places of genuine life experience — not just a mere observer. Not that I dismiss the validity of good, unbiased observations! As a highly sensitive introvert type, I’m an observational questioner — constantly to the point of unbearably annoying.
Back to the point — yes, I’m almost sure the creative brain (certainly, my own grey-matter) is in an ever-constant dance-off with depression and her tormenting sisters… I’ve never been a good dancer, they toss me around like dead meat.