Cancelled!

I wrote my first short story of 2022 and submitted it to a publisher at the weekend.

My aim this year was always to pull away from short story writing (and submitting) to focus on longer works, my coursework and editing.

And I’ve stuck to it pretty rigidly, even when declining offers is painful! But spreading oneself too thin degrades everything.

I’m not going to go into the details of this short story, but I will say that its content, along with recent conversations with other writers, got me thinking; If I had a higher readership, I’d be cancelled.

I know there are many faux pas and taboos that change over time, and my work constantly bears the weight of uncomfortable themes. Horrifying right? One of the reasons I now include content warnings is to support readers sensitive to particular themes. It is not a poor taste marketing strategy. It is genuinely to deter readers that could feel hurt by my work. If I’m doing my job correctly, my work (in horror particularly) should be uncomfortable.

Over the last few years, there has been a notable request for ‘diversity’ from publishers demanding representation from marginalised groups — in a writer’s personal circumstances and in the characters we create to tell our stories. In this quest, many are outright discrimination, the very thing they claim to be trying to ‘correct’. ‘We demand diversity and representation unless you’re a cis white male’ being the most prominent. How dare they! On top of that, these diversity thumpers are dictating the presence of character archetypes in a creative’s work! ‘No LGBTQI+ representation? Better squeeze one in there, to keep everyone happy.’

Well, quite frankly fuck that! I don’t fall in line with any dictatorship! And it has zero place in art of any kind!

I am anti book banning.

I am anti art burning.

I am anti-censorship.

I am anti-dictatorship.

If you don’t like an artist’s material — don’t buy a ticket, don’t read their work and don’t dictate how anyone else should feel about it! Such arrogance is deeply misguided and kills art. It doesn’t promote it; it doesn’t promote equality or diversity. You’re foolish if you think that it does. The great tapestry of creative output is the very definition of diversification and multicultural without a pre-set dictated agenda!

Clan Witch on Etsy

A couple of years ago, I put in the work and opened an Etsy store. However, I closed it quickly — before doing any marketing — due to other commitments that took priority over maintaining a wee shop.

This year, I’ve rejuvenated the storefront and opened the doors. It’s a far more efficient way for customers to access books that I have in my stock and other specially designed book merchandise available only via Clan Witch. So rather than posting availability on the socials, Etsy will be the go-to place. Books will still be available across the usual retail channels such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Waterstones etc. But Etsy is the place for merch, out of print versions and signed stock.

Clan With on Etsy.

ClanWitchShop

TBM Horror

Interview: Horror and upcoming release chat

Have you visited TBM Horror lately? Well, it’s a phenomenal platform created and hosted by a dynamic and passionate creative force, lover of all things horror 💀 and metal 🤘, owner of Disturbing Drawings (you MUST check out her artwork), Mar Garcia!

Mar kindly had me over in her space for a blether, shared on TBM’s YouTube channel.

Scoot over to TBM Horror to check out great (regularly updated) content on Horror in creative industries, from articles, books, movies, bands, video games and art!

If you fancy checking out my natter with Mar, the YouTube links are here:

Part 1 / 3
Part 2 / 3
Part 3 / 3

Writing and other such Beasts

A revisit to what’s on the cards for release and writing this year. First up, is the imminent release of my debut horror novella, Asylum Daughter; this psychological horror hits the shelves on May 8th! The date is significant to the story — I wonder if any of my readers will spot it!

See what one early reviewer had to say about the book over on Erica Robyn Reads.

I was also invited to interview with Candace Nola, mother of Uncomfortably Dark for her 2022 Women in Horror feature. We chat about writing, the horror industry, and I share a little insight about influences of the upcoming release. For those who want to have a gander at the chat, head over to Uncomfortably Dark.

Cover for Natasha Sinclair’s ‘Asylum Daughter’. Cover art by Don Noble, Rooster Republic Press.

Next up, I’m working on a collaboration with another fierce horror author, my sister from across the pond, the formidable Ruthann Jagge! This is special to me as we have shared many pages within the indie horror scene, and we seem to have similar draws to particular elements! When I read her debut novella, The New Girls’ Patient, I could’ve been blown over by a feather with the striking similarities in some of her delightful, diabolical plotting! Have you read it yet?

Ruthann Jagge, author of ‘The New Girls’ Patient’. Photo from author’s Instagram @ruthannjaggeauthor

Our blend of horror will be a magical one for readers! I would love to share a teaser, but my lips are sealed for the time being — maybe come Summer, I’ll spray some of that sweet, irresistible elixir your way. I’ve got the feeling that when our novel is done, we’ll be cooking up something else!

Another compilation of horror shorts will launch later this year. Some stories have been published, and some will be brand new to print! Given my chosen title, Incesticide (yes, the title is a homage to a particular grunge band), I’m aiming for the 14th December release! And, Yes, like the title and cover, the date continues the ‘nod’ — 30 years since that album of B-sides. I will include at least one short inspired by one of the album tracks — which one would you like to see? Feel free to drop me a message with your vote!

Cover for Natasha Sinclair’s ‘Incesticide’. Cover art by Natasha Sinclair, ‘Clan Witch’.

I am publishing an exquisite poetry collection, written by Rafik Romdhani, The Crash of Verses. The collection is up for preorder now and releases July 22nd! It’s no secret that I was reluctant to have this much responsibility for another writer’s work, but Rafik is a persuasive wordsmith! And I’m honoured to support another writer in sharing his talent with the world! I’ve read a couple of his pieces over on my YouTube channel. If you fancy getting a feel for his work (which I encourage you to do!), please hop on over to check those out. And, of course, preorder his book!

Cover wrap for Rafik Romdhani’s ‘A Crash of Verses’. Designed by Natasha Sinclair, ‘Clan Witch’.

I have another collaboration scheduled later in the year, with another force of indie horror energy, this one much closer to home, with KJK Publishing’s gaffer, author of Halloween Land (another novella you horror delinquents should read!), Kevin J. Kennedy — more on that when work is underway!

Kevin J. Kennedy, owner of KJK Publishing. Photo from author’s Instagram @kevinjkennedyauthor

Mental Health and Writing

This may get heavy…

Bear with me. This will be a bit of a concoction — I am, at this time, rather raw, discombobulated and emotionally disfigured. I am feeling uncomfortably challenged. Feel free to look away from the car crash while you have time.

You staying?

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Let’s dive in.

Admittedly I have not done as much writing as I had hoped by this point in the year. January felt like I was playing catch-up to wrap up a few things from 2021 before my degree course started and I could channel writing energy into larger projects. I have also been heavily working on my novella release — finalising the manuscript(s), getting bonus content nailed, finishing covers, developing marketing materials, contacting reviewers, supplying ARC’s and all the other ‘back-office’ that goes into putting out a quality book. As I’ve shared before, so much unseen work goes into getting a book into the hands of readers, writing and editing is only a part of the machine. All in all, Asylum Daughter is feeling pretty pleased with herself. I’m proud to share this debut horror novella with readers and delighted with the positive feedback from early readers. It takes the edge of the nerves (a smidgen). And, of course, working with Word Refinery clients on their projects.

As part of February’s internationally celebrated ‘Women In Horror Month’, I was invited to interview with D&T Publishing. You can read the feature here.

I also participated in a panel for a podcast series about ‘Hidden Voices in Horror‘. The focus of the episode was on Mental Health in Horror. I had some technical hitches (as if my nerves weren’t already showing)! But the wonderful and inspiring creator and host was professional and understanding. It didn’t hold back the conversation between the host, myself, and the other awesome panellists of independent horror writers who stepped up to the plate. When I can do so, I will share more specific details when this airs and where to access it. I’m not in the position to share much yet. This panel was one in which I was nervous about taking part because of my mental health issues and reservations about talking so publicly about those, but I was keen to be involved because it’s a critical discussion that should be far less hidden.

‘Mental health’ can be a buzz phrase, along with the interlinked ‘wellbeing’ and other such sentiments. I always worry about the lack of substance behind so-called ‘awareness’ and ‘support’. My experience has proven such reservations to be true. As a writer, mental health issues come up regularly in my fiction and non-fiction work. Honest discussions without shame and judgment do not happen enough to break the discomfort of getting to the nitty-gritty about ill-mental health. I feel a profound responsibility, as a mother too, to strip any stigma from ‘real talk’. So here I am going to share some of that with you. 

I’m going to ‘talk’ and feel free if the notion takes you to do the same.

I’m ‘coming out’. Emerging from between the lines, out of my shoddy poetic disguise. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with mental-ill-health — yes, childhood, (very) pre-adolescence. I actively covered it up and felt shame. The shame was most definitely linked to nurture and not nature. However, it has felt like nature in parts of my life due to its early, deep infusion. I like to thank some of that to those good old Christian’ values’ washed in through family and catholic schooling and, in a small part, my nature to consider things literally, which was misunderstood and shut down my voice from early on. The hypocrisy in those organised religious roots was (and is) blaring. Not the best of foundations. That’s my perspective anyway.

I secretly self-harmed (pre-teen — no, it was not cool, and it was not for attention). I hated myself. I had zero self-esteem, I struggled with friendships and social dynamics. I was bullied — inside and outside of the home. Every day was hard. And as a child, when I struggled to sleep, I begged inside my head to whatever’ higher power’ there may be to let me not wake up. I wanted to cease existing. I felt my existence was a mistake. I longed to die. I was a pre-adolescent child. I was entirely alone in my deep depression. Children often get ‘fobbed off’, talked down too — how could a child have such complex feelings? This was the ’80s and ’90s; maybe I should cut parents of that time some slack for that?

On the outside, attitudes towards the complexity of the human experience of all ages may have evolved. But I fear (as a mother) that it is not enough. I left school and home sharp to escape my terrible relationship with my mother, which fed into my ever-dwindling mental health state. I had to escape. I was ridiculed, blamed, threatened, the emotional punchbag. I had no choice but to get a job — any job, and leave. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens and had moved out from the parental home that I sought professional support for my ill-mental health (too ashamed to try to deal with it while I was there when I had little privacy. I was desperately suicidal and had planned it down to the finer details when I sought that help.

It was rough.

I didn’t want to take drugs.

I didn’t want to ‘talk’ to a therapist (I’m not one of those Americans on TV?!) I’m British, even harsher – Scottish! We don’t talk about those things.

I didn’t want to admit my shame.

My weaknesses.

I didn’t want to be seen.

I was desperate.

In short, and let’s be honest, these things are never short in ‘real conversation’ terms — I have Major Depressive Disorder. I’ve also struggled with Post Natal Depression (much later than one would expect) and interlinked Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Of course, mothers who have a history of depression are more at risk of PND. That’s another thing with mental health. Women are often not heard — ‘hormones’ takes much of blame, which does little to support solutions — for many folk with mental health problems beyond that. My lifelong depression has undeniably manifested in physical ways; insomnia, chronic headaches, chronic pain, chronic tiredness, anxiety and panic attacks (which can be separate — being in many ways depression’s opposite) and nausea. Depression does that; it’s an all-consuming beast.

Solutions?

I’ve gone through therapies, tried different medication regimes, mindfulness techniques. I’ve written and utilised art and nature as my therapies for as far back as I could pick up a pencil and make shapes with it and walk on my own two feet. I’m insanely self-aware. I will never be without this illness; I have accepted that and understand when a spiral is snaking in and darkening my days. I’ve been spiralling lately, though it’s easy for me to pinpoint the whys on this one — when triggers are circumstantial, it’s easy. I have coping mechanisms in place — boundaries where they need to be for my survival. I know what helps (sometimes) and (with certainty) what doesn’t. I still struggle. I still require prescription medication. Depression and ‘recovery’ is a selfish illness in many ways. Another thing that brought me ‘shame’ — I was never ‘allowed’ to be ‘selfish’.

This is still uncomfortable.

Is it the same for you?

So, I’m a writer, and such related posts are the prime focus in this space — why am I droning on about my mental health here?

Well, I was inspired by the candidness of my fellow writers in the horror community (which is bloody fantastic) on the podcast recorded recently. And I’ll share a little of how the subject links with some of my published work. A debatable move, and trust me, I am an over-thinker of everything. To compartmentalise or not? Eeeeek! To try to maintain a ‘brand image’ or be authentic and real?

Well, fuck it — this is straight-up raw, and you chose to keep reading.

The first book that I published in 2018, my mental health was a dominant feature during a specific window of time when one of my daughters was born and fighting to live in neonatal intensive care.

That experience taught me more than I ever imagined. It taught me how resilient and strong I am, through family estrangement on top of baby loss and having one (then another) in NICU and going through isolation and a troubled, strained relationship. I also (alone) dealt with the loss of my grandmother. I love her deeply and couldn’t physically be with her due to my circumstances, having a baby in another hospital. Winter has been heavy for so many years now. 

So many highly underestimate the HSP; I, like many, am very thick-skinned. Sensitivity is not necessarily weakness — a common misconception. Nor is my boundaries a ‘cold heart’. My heart is guarded for my protection. The cold reputation couldn’t be further from the truth.

I learned that to be the best mother to my children, I had to respect my boundaries (finally) and provide an example to them as they grow. Part of parenting is sorting out your own shit so you can be right for them. Brushing real stuff under the rug wasn’t a path that I was willing to fall in line with — not good enough for my children.

My honesty, protecting my boundaries has alienated me from the majority of my family. How dare I right? 

Trust me when I say my decisions as far as my family go were the last line when all else had been exhausted. Nothing was changing. I had no choice but to draw my last line of defence.

Mental health isn’t recognised as a thing — I wasn’t physically abused, unlike some, so it was all rosy as far as some saw. Emotional abuse is entirely dismissible. I imagined if someone treated my children as I had been. Suppose they had gone through snippets of it. If they had felt as hopeless, unsupported, unloved. No, it’s not good enough. It’s not easy being the one to break the cycle, but when my priorities were lined up — it was a quick, decisive cut. My inner child needed my support to protect my own brood. 

I’m mostly at peace with that, the alienation — being the ‘bad egg’. I’ve had to be. I know I’ve been the subject of gossip. There’s no love lost in that. I’m happy about the dilution of that blood. Opinions based on little to zero facts are meaningless idle static.

My skin has thickened, and that is no bad thing. It’s survival. Responsive to experience.

Back to that book, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back — a condensed, diluted snapshot of my reality in my early motherhood. I shared it for my children and in camaraderie with other families struggling through that particular trauma — a little to take the edge off the isolation, perhaps for someone who may read it when going through or reflecting on their NICU journey.

The reception of that book was interesting — predominately supportive. I was inundated with messages of support, many from the staff we had been supported by in the unit. However, the flip side was a few nasty reviews, several who hadn’t read the book but jumped on the attack bandwagon to try to discredit me and ‘defend’ what they viewed as an attack on the nursing staff. You spend every day for 106 days in a ward — trust me, mistakes and lapses in care are made. NHS staff are human and make mistakes. My grandmother’s death mentioned earlier was also the victim of such a mistake. My baby, like many other people and loved ones, are on the other side of mistakes and oversights. I was expected to overlook these and paint a rose-tinted picture since my child survived. Gratitude only. My honesty doesn’t negate my gratitude for those that did their work well and saved the lives of my children. To not mention (some) of the bad would’ve been disingenuous to the book and painting that honest view as a NICU parent. The irony of direct attacks (on a mother who had gone through trauma) by care professionals didn’t go unnoticed. This is a reality that I’ve faced in person when I’ve opened up about my mental health struggles — and trust me; it’s been rare that I talk about this thing that is embedded into me, my everyday war. My demon.

The second book was fiction, published later that year; a trio of short stories all with the central theme of one character’s suicide; A Life of Suicides. Fiction, yes. But it’s not gratuitous, exploitative or designed to shock. No, I will admit here, publicly to you despite my deep discomfort. I have sat on that rock, stood on the windowsill, waded into the loch to my knees. I’ve played out those suicides and many more of ‘my own’ in graphic detail. I’ve done it all but the execution.

I am a survivor of suicide — a survivor of myself. In many ways, ‘Rebecca’ is me. I admit it, and I am not ashamed. The subject of suicide is another riddled with shame and ignorant judgement. I’ve heard it all — it’s for the ‘weak’, it’s the ‘easy way out’, a ‘sin’, it’s a ‘coward’s way’ — is it?

Try it?

It is no coward’s way. Nor is it the easy way out or any other ignorant sentiment. Something that cut a little deeper than it should was some reactionary comments from ‘friends’ who couldn’t read such a piece because it would be too uncomfortable, too ‘triggering’. Honestly, being so intimate, this was akin to “You can talk to me” then being shut down cold if ever attempted. Talk, but not about that!

This struck me again as to how ill-equipped many are to genuinely support someone who is deeply depressed or/and suicidal. It’s easy to say ‘reach out’, ‘I’m here for you’, ‘you can talk to me’, until someone does… again, I know this from experience.

A number of my short stories have been published since then. I enjoy the freedom of frolicking in the horror field. Not all of my work is steeped in these notes, but there are crumbs here and there, no doubt. Writers so that we scatter pieces of ourselves — blood spills into each story, even the more extreme, fantastical and unlikely of places, sometimes just a light aroma, but it’s there.

Moving on again to Asylum Daughter. The novella — the events, the characters, the entire story is fiction. But themes sprinkled through this horror are strong elements of mental health, stigmatism, abuse, matriarchal control, and corruption. 

True horror has nothing to do with gratuity and shock value. True horror is born of reality.

It’s March now, and I have some serious writing to do with a vivacious and magical red-headed horror queen. More blood to be spilt, and I have a phenomenal accomplice. And academic assignments to tackle — it turns out that I still love essay writing after all these years. They excite me.

I’m spiralling, but I recognise it, and I’m clinging on for dear life instead of planning my death today. I have to be strong for my family. They need me. And I realise that I have to be strong for myself too, even when I don’t always like her and it feels too selfish — mental health matters.

If you read this all the way… what is wrong with you?

Hahaha! 

No, I actually mean — thank you.

Natasha )O(

— The misunderstood, depressed, arty type. Such a cliche! The Clan Witch.

Your Heaven is a Lie

A Poem

The poignant print
Has pressed itself
Upon my cerebrum
Sepia ink bleeding
The cells we share
Scream in anguish
Silenced, winded
Controlled by them
Another whisper
Her Faint voice 
Only heads his own.
Him
There’s always
A him
First under
Their skins
Like they belonged
To him
And each after
Many faces
The same demon
Chancers
Gypsies
Faux gentlemen
Had his way
Abusing bodies
Manipulating minds
Like no crime
Captive strangled
His God-given right
Blind eyes
Sightless
Mindless
The perverse
Protected
It’s the mad
Talking
No one hears
Gibberish
Gobbledygook
Drivel
Swept under
Bulging rug
Give it a wide-berth
The unstable
Weave weathers
Fraying weakening 
The boards
Beneath creak
Like her voice
Cognitive dissonance
Ignorant until
It’s too late…
Another coffin
How many now?
Hold hands
Ersatz repentance
Hypocrisy reigning
Sins of the
Self-righteous
Self-proclaimed 
Unchallenged patriarch
The worst of them
Self-made god(s)
Bitten tongues
My open eyes
See through
The shoddy charade
That he parades
With every dial
Every smile 
Clink of glass
The heart haemorrhages
In silent solitude
There’s no truce
With these
Truths
Your Heaven is
A lie and your
Hell awaits
When you
Fucking die.

Summer 2022 Release

Asylum Daughter, my novella is bouncing off the padded walls to escape!

I present the cover wrap! The blurb was written by the utterly enchanting Author of The New Girls’ Patient, Ruthann Jagge, and the cover image is from the wonderful Rooster Republic Press. What do you think?

Print Cover

Thanks to everyone who has supported the project so far and those who have preordered — I love you, big time!

The eBook can be preordered. Paperback and Hardback editions will go live upon release.

Digital Cover

Fancy a little peek inside?

I recorded reading the preface of Asylum Daughter. You can tune in on YouTube. I promise the book is more polished than my awkward speaking!

I was invited to interview with the ever-inspiring D&T Publishing for their Women in Horror Month feature in other writing news. You can check out the interview here.

Asylum Daughter

Upcoming Novella

My upcoming psychological horror novella, ‘Asylum Daughter‘, is scheduled for release this summer! The Amazon eBook preorder is live, paperback and hardcover editions will be available upon release. Currently, the release date is set for Summer Solstice 2022 (June 21st); however, there may be an advance on this. More on that in due course.

I am beyond excited to get this one out. It’s a piece of work that’s been in the making for quite some time. The novella was the victim of a long pause while I focused on editing work and short story submissions through the end of 2020 and 2021.

But finally, she’s here (almost)!

The fantastic Rooster Republic Press created the cover image, the forwarding words will be from the wonderful word weaver, author of ‘The New Girls’ Patient‘, Ruthann Jagge!

To say that I am delighted to have these folks share their art and words with my project is an understatement!

Expect some teasers and such over the coming months. I cannot wait to share this one with you!

YouTube Readings

Playing with another platform

I’ve considered doing some reading videos for a while now but only recently began sharing a few online. So far, I have shared a handful of poetry and short stories over on YouTube. Only one is a reading of one of my pieces. The rest are shares of other writers work that I enjoy.
All are welcome to drop by, subscribe, share. Open to requests too, if you have a piece you’d like me to read, drop me a DM. I can’t guarantee I’ll do it or when, but I’ll be in touch nonetheless.

Masters of Horror UK

Just a quick share. I was invited to interview over on Masters of Horror U.K. by David Kempf. We chat about writing inspiration, the popularity of horror, publishing and current projects. You can check that out by clicking the link.
Apparently, I can be a bit of a blether! Much thanks to David Kempf, and those who take the time to check it out!