Proper English

I adore the creativity and diversity in language.

English particularly causes such passionate debates. Many folks have definitive rules in their minds—especially those of us working in literature—regardless of which wrung we stand.

I am a massive fan of dialects in life and literature. It’s something that took me a long time to appreciate. As a child, I was taught that regional dialects were a bastardisation of English—they were regarded as dirty. And my young brain felt this to the core—I was stupid or dirty to speak it. This conditioning ran deep, to the point my ears winced towards hearing my own tongue spoken. Growing up in east Glasgow, I was in perpetual horror about how we spoke—our nature, our dialect and culture. I hate that I bought into this attitude hammered in by teachers from such a tender age—devastatingly poor teaching. It prompts self-hate that poisons roots. It’s archaic; the flogging for the so-called incorrect use of English has created ruin in countries like my own. It’s wiped out beautiful languages, demolishing roots of nations and cultures that should have been embraced. The Celtic nations around England have felt this deeply.

In writing, clever use of dialect, particularly in dialogue, adds character authenticity—showcasing communicative repertoire as displayed in real-life. And I am not against it in the narration either, if it fits the work, showcase that diversity with confidence.

Not all readers will ‘get it’, unless it’s a dialect they have experienced. Here, there is a preference for proper English, i.e. Standard British, American or Canadian English. Where the use of non-standard variants, dialects and colloquialisms are branded as errors and bad English. This labelling displays a lack of understanding, ignorance and/or prejudices, or simply the increased reading challenge can create a defensive attitude in a reader. People often feel stupid when they don’t understand something they think they should, so instead of putting the work in, the go-to is to attack the writer for their use of improper language. I’ve struggled too but taking in a piece that incorporates real-life diversity colours literature in a way that standardising the use of English can never do. Writing, storytelling, communication is an art-form — it’s not a flat pack piece of furniture that must be constructed one way. This is especially true of fiction writing. Embracing linguistic diversity is how we can travel the world together without leaving the reading nook. This is how we learn. And no one is above that. Language and how we communicate are ever-changing, and why shouldn’t they?

Gatekeepers of English, who respect and guard the practice of Standard English only, don’t understand or appreciate the beautiful complexity of diversity in language.

Co-conspirators

The thing about finding a partner to share the intricate and often messy process of life and or creation with is that there has to be a level of mutuality that bends and blends with something that could be conflicting but ultimately becomes complimentary to the other’s process. We come together to share and intertwine ideas to make new colours in life and in art. Colours that would never be without the other. The coalition becomes a new entity separate from the singular. And it thrums to its own drum, which exists inside each of us. Sending electrical impulses of ideas that invade our dreams as we (attempt to) rest and seize our minds at the most unexpected moments. We have much work to do, and the muse grows each day.

I’ve always been fiercely private when I’m ‘creating’. Yes, I was that child in nursery who would hunch quietly behind the easel with one arm hiding my recycled, crunchy foolscap paper. I didn’t want or be copied, ridiculed or questioned. What if they saw something through paint strokes that I don’t want to share? What if someone took a piece I wasn’t ready or willing to give up?

I’m not original. We’re all just unconscious copies, in a way. I know many of us have that feeling I had back then and carry it somewhat into adulthood, especially if we continue on or rediscover a creative path—a fear of being unpicked and someone else discovering something or disappointment of there being nothing. Exposure or emptiness?

With my BFH sister, Ruthann Jagge, I have found that I’m no longer anxious and scared of either of these things. I share my creative process with her as if we cohabit the same space. (I’m not embarrassed by the mess I make as we build.) Because of this, we are creatively bound for as long as that mutual muse whispers and screams—and oh, the muse certainly does that! Sometimes I can’t get the words down fast enough. Honestly, I never thought I could do that with anyone. It’s an intimacy that supersedes the distance—the sharing of minds, passions, drives, triggers, ideas, and art!

It’s still new, and it’s all so exciting! For updates on our first release and those that follow, tune in to Brazen Folk Horror.

Peace & Love—Natasha )O(

Delevan House, Ruthann Jagge & Natasha Sinclair

Clan Witch: Found Shadows

I’m sweeping the circle. The bones and remnants of word fusions are being expelled to make way for new spells. This collection is set for release in Hogmanay 2022. The preorder is live now.

Digital ARCs will be available well in advance of release, if you are a reviewer who’d love a first look at Clan Witch: Found Shadows, my mailbox is open for enquiries to be added to my priority early reader list.

Clan Witch: Found Shadows, releasing December 31st 2022

Synopsis (subject to tweaking)

Do readers buy poetry from undead poets?

There’s nothing quite like picking the prose and verses of the dead like vultures. There’s freedom in that unpicking, with no one alive to contest, at least not the mind which birthed them.

Sinclair consumes written and spoken as she does in its lyrical form, dressed in music and paint. Dancing to the beat or screaming into the voids of despair. Here, Sinclair presents Clan Witch: Found Shadows, no music, no paint, just words. A mix-tape of drabbles and anarchic free verse poetry..

The writer still lives. Perhaps you’ll read her unruly verse before the witch is dead.

Cover image from Christy Aldridge of Grim Poppy Designs

Mid Year Update

Talk about curveball 2022! Another year of madness! There were plans. Big beautiful plans! And while those plans still exist, there has been movement because of those unexpected transitions life has her way of throwing. Personally, I’ve had some family upsets which I predominantly have to deal with and process alone (my partner, of course, has supported as much as one can). I’ve angered, been frustrated, hurt, grieved, run myself in circles, hurt some more, and accepted. Because sometimes that’s all we can do. Accept to find crumbs of peace and carry on. It just takes a little time. It’s a process many are familiar with. It’s been heavy.

Following the acceptances of a triple-pronged hit, I’ve another unexpected ‘bump’, who made himself known in a dream. My kids are excited about another sibling to teach and get up to extra mischief with. Since I have complicated pregnancies, and this one has already given us some wobbles, I’m (again) doing everything within my control to keep this little one inside until late 2022, ideally early 2023. My cervix needs a mantra, and this is the last! The instant physical hit means I’ve been heavily fatigued, and as of that wasn’t enough, I’ve been hammered with mine and the kids’ second bout of Covid of 2022. Because I wasn’t wiped enough by the heavy graft underway in my uterus, I am zapped because my lungs are in battle, and my body feels like it’s been used as a punchbag.

Moving in from all of that, onto the writing front update:

My novella, Asylum Daughter, released on 8th May 2022.

Redesigned the cover art for Murmur: Collected Horror.

Launched Clan Witch Etsy store for book related merchandise and signed copies.

My short story collection Incesticide: Collected Horror is available for preorder, releasing on 14th December 2022.

My sassy, immensely talented, and inspiring co-author, Ruthann Jagge and I launched our website, BrazenFolkHorror.com, for our upcoming 2022 release, Delevan House and future projects. Ruthann also released her fantastic solo debut novella in January 2022, The New Girls’ Patient; if you haven’t read her, this is an excellent example of her extraordinary work that should be on any horror fan’s reading list.

I’ve still been editing work for other writers and publishers via Word Refinery and also published poet Rafik Romdhani’s collection, The Crash of Verses.

I am working on my degree course too.

The latest developments has zapped my study schedule. I hope to recover enough to make up for that soon. Deadlines are looming! Anthology wise, unlike in the previous two years, I have not responded to any open calls. My dance card has been packed. I have gratefully received several invite opportunities but unfortunately had to decline several. One that I was able to submit a piece to was with KJK Publishing’s The Horror Collection: Nightmare Edition, which has just been released. It’s the biggest collection of the twelve-book series and worth picking up for a good flavour of many popular independent horror authors currently putting our new materiel.

More still to come for 2022, and 2023 is also beginning to fill up with a couple of accepted invites, continued work with my brazen co-author in crime and at least one (hopefully two) solo release(s). One of which will be a collection of poetry and drabbles, Clan Witch: Found Shadows.

The Crash of Verses

Rafik Romdhani

This week welcomes the release of Rafik Romdhani’s second poetry collection, The Crash of Verses. A hearty congratulations to this exemplary wordsmith on his newest release! Working with the author in developing his manuscript to present digital and print editions to the public was a pleasure.

The book is available to purchase via this universal link.
Early reviews have been shared on Goodreads, which have been excellent so far (and well deserved). If you pick up the book, please consider leaving an honest review on your prefered platform. These are incredibly valuable to other readers and independent creators alike.

About Rafik Romdhani

Rafik Romdhani was born to Salah Romdhani and Mbarka Romdhani in Rakada Kairouan, Tunisia in 1981. He grew up on a large farm, where like many Tunisian children, he undertook years of heavy, back-breaking work. He is a poet by nature and an English teacher by profession. He studied English Language and Literature in the Faculty of Arts, University of Kairouan and started teaching in 2006 in Tunisia. From 2012 he taught English in the Sultanate of Oman before returning to work again in Tunisian schools in 2016.

Romdhani began writing poetry in 2000. His influences include Charles Baudelaire, Herbert Zbiginiew, T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Seamus Heaney, and Sghaier Aouled Ahmed. His debut collection, Dance of the Metaphors, released in 2021, represents an authentic outpouring of his long-suppressed desire to share his poetry with a wider audience. His second collection, The Crash of Verses, hits global audiences in 2022.

Romdhani’s work tackles themes from his observations of nature, politics, culture, society and humanity. His prose is exquisitely conceived and presented in a form as elegantly classical as it is strikingly modern. In his prose, readers are guaranteed a journey never to be forgotten.

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!

Writing to Music

Music is such a profound part of my writing process and always has been. With the imminent release of my novella, Asylum Daughter, I wanted to share the music that formed the soundtrack to the writing of this piece.

Art influences art, and I couldn’t create without music. Every piece I write has its own playlist. Sometimes, those playlists are unexpected and not my taste, but the characters have their styles. I can’t argue. The soundtrack to Asylum Daughter was ‘80s heavy and all good by me.

I can’t wait to hear what you think! And feel free to check out some of the early readers thoughts on Goodreads.

Soundtrack to writing Asylum Daughter:

Tears for Fears – Head Over Heels

Tears For Fears – Shout

Tears For Fears – Mad World

Tears For Fears – Sowing The Seeds Of Love

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights

Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill

Placebo – Without You I’m Nothing

The Jam – Down In The Tube Station At Midnight

The Jam – Going Underground

The Jam – Town Called Malice

Depeche Mode – Strange Love

Depeche Mode – World In My Eyes

New Order – Blue Monday

New Order – Age Of Consent

The Cure – Pictures Of You

The Cure – Prayers For Rain

The Cure – The Hanging Garden

The Cure – Lovesong

The Cure – Fascination Street

The Cure – The Same Deep Water As You

The Clash – Rock The Casbah

The Cure – A Forest

Blue Oyster Cult – Shooting Shark

Blue Oyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper

Dave Navarro – Hungry

Dave Navarro – Rexall

Dave Navarro – Slow Motion Sickness

Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust

Bauhaus – She’s At Parties

Bauhaus – Dark Entities

David Bowie – China Girl

Patti Smith – Birdland

Patti Smith – Because The Nighy

Patti Smith – Smells Like Teen Spirit

The Lemonheads – My Drug Buddy

The Undertones – Teenage Kicks

Mortiis- Sins Of Mine

Korn – Coming Undone

Pixies – Here Comes Your Man

Garbage – I Think I’m Paranoid

A Flock of Seagulls – Space Age Live Song

Sonic Youth – Teen Age Riot

Mazzy Star – Into Dust

The Psychedelic Furs – Pretty In Pink

Urge Overkill – Girls You’ll Be A Woman Soon

New Cover Art

Murmur: Collected Horror

I have a collection, ‘Incesticide: Collected Horror’, releasing later this year, which borrows an album title (much like my first collection in that hat-tip). I deliberately designed the cover for the upcoming with an indie-artsy feel in homage to its namesake.

Murmur: Collected Horror‘ felt a little out of place since that cover didn’t reflect the feel to the same extent as the newbie. I decided to redesign the jacket. This is what I do when I procrastinate!

Updates are processing with immediate effect on ‘Murmur: Collected Horror‘. I have a small stock of paperbacks (I’ve no hardbacks left) with the original cover. Once they are gone, they are gone! That makes them extremely limited.

Once I check what I have, I’ll update on Facebook and on Instagram — if you want one, you can drop me a DM on one of the socials once posted — first come, first served.

Apologies, for the paperbacks I have remaining in stock it will be UK postage only.

Previous eBook cover, 2021 (left), New eBook cover, 2022 (right)
New print cover wrap, 2022, Murmur: Collected Horror

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

What If I Can’t Decide If I Need An Editor?

Or what type of editing service would benefit my manuscript?

As a writer, I empathise with this. With so many variances to choose from and the difference in pricing, it can be tricky to decipher if an editor would benefit your project and for what type of editing service you should fork out hard-earned pennies.

To support this decision-making process, at Word Refinery, I offer clients the option of an Editorial Evaluation.

What should a client expect from an Editorial Evaluation?

For £0.01 per word, clients can submit their complete manuscript or a sample for Editorial Evaluation. The prose will be thoroughly analysed, considering: plot, setting, characterisation, voice/style, dialogue, and marketability

The Editorial Evaluation provides a writer (or publisher) with a solid understanding of what work a manuscript requires before publication through a detailed report. The client can utilise this advice and develop the manuscript independently or appoint a dedicated editor to support this work. This exercise helps clients present the best piece possible to the market confidently. Sometimes we need fresh eyes to iron out the kinks, refine the author’s voice and deepen the story.