Fairy Tale Horrorshow

RJ Roles and Jason Myers of Crimson Pinnacle Press launched their inaugural CPP Anthology, Fairy Tale Horrorshow on June 4th!

This is a unique anthology of short stories, to say the least. Each invited author was tasked to contribute their twist on a beloved fairy tale.


The Table of Contents includes;


Piper — M Ennenbach
Midnight at the Glass Slipper — Ruthann Jagge
Always Time for Tea — Natasha Sinclair
She Saw Red: Once Upon a Crime part 1 — Jason Myers
Swine of Another Kind: Once Upon a Crime part 2 — RJ Roles
Pinnochio the Wooden Hoe — Matthew A. Clarke
The Vengeful Little Mermaid — Tara Losacano
What Goes into the Forest, Never Comes Out — Lance Dale
Tonight, Tonight — Denise Hargrove
It’s No Fairy Tale Out There — Kevin J. Kennedy

In celebration of the book launch, Crimson Pinnacle Press’ duo, along with a few of the contributing authors, are gathering for a blether live on Horror Talk Radio. It could be chaos — check it out on YouTube.

If you pick up the book, please leave an honest review!

A little bit about my contribution:

Always Time for Tea was inspired by Alice’s Adventures in wonderland.
While the inspiring story, by Lewis Carroll, is about the ‘normal’ turbulent journey of a young girl from childhood to adolescence, in whimsical, masterful, metaphorical prose.
Always Time for Tea only touches on that theme, along with some intolerance. Though at an older stage, as my MC’s story begins as a teenager and meanders through a journey of change — through a radically more alternative setting and situation. Led by the protagonist, Alicia Liddell’s adventure in a polyamorous, BDSM relationship and her subsequent initiation into the head table (the elite tea party) at a local fetish club. To which she was introduced to by one of her lovers (Red) and met the other (Chess).
This piece, as would be expected, does get rather trippy, thanks (in part) to the cornucopia of mushrooms served at the tea party and the eccentric host, Myrick Hatch — if readers get a mild Red Cap nod from him, you would not be wrong. He was a fusion character of lyrical eccentricity for sure, designed to create a little intense discomfort.
This story began with an idea I had pinned from a while back about tight-lacing. But almost reverting backwards from the modern use of steel boning to whalebone – though as opposed to whalebone, I considered how this could be fetishised and even cannibalistic in sourcing human ribs to restrain ribs. That was the original idea, but it became something else entirely when I returned to it for Fairy Tale Horrorshow. Nonetheless, it was loads of fun to write, and I felt freedom in writing this piece, thanks to the inspiring story and the awesome publishers who didn’t impose any boundaries on the submission invitation.

Murmur: Collected Horror

Earlier this year (and again this month), I shared that I aimed to release a short story collection this summer. Well, I’ve got major jitters — as always with publishing anything! Since I last posted about it, it’s progressed significantly — printed proofs have landed, and I’ve set up the eBook pre-order to force myself to suck it up and let it go!

The live date for Murmur is Summer Solstice – 21st June. The collection will be available in eBook, paperback and hardback. It consists of 8 short stories; 5 have appeared in print elsewhere, 1 has been published in an eZine, and 2 have never been published before. There is a Summer Solstice story in there to compliment the release date.

It’s been just over a year since I’ve published independently — Jumping back on that again has only heightened my gratitude to those who have accepted and published my work. Book building and formatting is a crazy business!

May Day

May has, so far, been a fairly empty month as far as writing is concerned. Consciously so, but I still feel like I should be, even with the lack of time — notes and scattered lines to come back to only.

Cover Consideration for ‘Murmur’ ©


I have been dipping into a collection that I was (semi) planning to release this summer and designing some cover-art options to help inspire the project and move it along. The collection (if I release it) will consist of previously published short stories, whose rights have reverted back to me, and a few pieces that haven’t been printed before. I’m still undecided on whether to release it or not when it’s complete. That project is still in the compiling stage.


Since my last post, two of my submissions have sold! Very pleased with those. My short stories, Collector’s Edition and Always Time for Tea, will be published this summer. These were both invite-only opportunities. Even with that faith from the publisher(s), the submission nerves are probably a little more pressurised than those from an open-call — so, yes! I am delighted the stories were each received well!
One is a horror fairytale twist inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and the other was (mildly) inspired by a documentary I watched a while back blended with the habits of a horror-fan collector. I’ll share more about those when the publishers have made their announcements and we have a release date.


Editing work has had my primary focus in May. This has been a good break from writing projects. Editing flexes a different creative muscle and is no less fun — especially when it’s not my own work! It’s nice to have a canoodle inside other creatives’ brains (words) and is an immense privilege, which I am always grateful to be entrusted with — especially developmental work.


Releasing this month is Mythical Creatures of Asia from INSIGNIA STORIES, in which I have three drabbles featured; To Be Unborn, Beneath the Mangoes and Seasoning Earth. I loved writing these little morsels. This eBook is available to pre-order now, dropping live on 10th May.

Beltane Creeps

Write, edit, send, wait…

This year, I vowed to drabble less and invest more time in short story writing and my two novels (in slow progress). In all honesty, with health and life’s curveballs I’ve struggled to find time, space and concentration. Running on empty as far as creativity is concerned, my general focus is pretty fragile and easily shattered — drowning in a sea of noise and clutter…
At least that’s how it’s felt, and I’ve beaten myself up about that. I didn’t want to respond to any drabble calls, but found myself veering over to that corner a fair bit since the start of 2021, with around 30 accepted drabbles in 2021 and a few blogged pieces. I’ve not yet decided if these are a comfortable micro distraction or kryptonite towards my brain’s ability to focus on bigger pieces. Regardless — if you enjoy micro-fiction, my little horrors will feature in upcoming publications from INSIGNIA STORIES, Black Ink Fiction and Raven & Drake, all to be released this year.

I currently have several short story submissions sitting in the hands of publishers, including two invite-only opportunities. Though that send button has been hit, I’m never nervous about rejections. If truth be told, I anticipate those more than acceptance — it’s the waiting that drives me slightly loopy! I hope to share more about these stories once responses are in, as the creation of each one was rather fun! For now, just a few of the titles in wait! 😉

Publishing; Which Way?

Indie April

Self-Publishing and submitting; what I’ve learned so far, which admittedly, may not be much. It is what it is.

I’ve never considered traditional publishing, potentially because I can be a bit of a control freak (I hate waiting) coupled with a (sometimes stubborn) passion for self-learning and autonomy. In my view, it seems that there’s a lot of faff down the traditional route to wade through; from finding an agent and/or finding publishers that align with your style/genre/concepts. Jumping through many hoops for potential (likely) repeat rejection. Not that rejection is a bad thing, that too can be a very useful, if not utterly essential, learning and evolution tool. Then there’s if you’re accepted, you may have to change your writing significantly to fit into someone else’s ideals and target audience — a form of censorship and creative dilution, absolutely. Of course, I’m sure when (if) you get through the hoops, the potential for higher earnings and being considered a reputable writer because you’ve been approved and accepted by a higher power may well be worth the faff and hoops. Personally, all that feels like an elitist, bureaucratic headache for the most part.

Self-publishing has a lot of stigma thanks to the structure and standards set by publishing powerhouses. It’s a reflection of many of the institutions of life; be approved by the institution to be accepted by the masses, or you’re worthless. Music is like that too right. I don’t buy it, do you? I’ve read my fair share of tripe churned out by traditional publishers (sometimes due to who the author knows more than what they write), I’ve worked with highly educated fools who think their PhD gives them superiority even with a gross lack of real-life or business experience. They got approved, though. Better than you off the bat, right? Nope, I’m not buying that either. It filters right down through parenting as well — inescapable — must tick the boxes. All a despicable institutionalised, ritualised validation process, a façade that ignores the real nitty-gritty and that thing again — autonomy, passion, grit and authentic nurturing, in life as indeed art. Like the paper, age does not always bring wisdom, especially when one is stunted in their sole path and idealised view, selectively dismissing poorer choices. Or indeed highly institutionalised, even when it comes straight from the patriarchy (or matriarchy in some instances).

To self-publish, there are more and more platforms arising to help support and facilitate those with the desire to do this. There’s a load of work involved, even with a decent host. One must consider the writing, first and foremost, then, of course, there is editing, cover design (eBook/audio/paperback/hardback), book design, formatting, layout (yes, there are some basic standards for that, in respect of front-matter, back-matter, copyright declaration and numbering), narrator/producer (if producing audio). Sure some make it appear easy, but it’s far more involved than many may expect – it’s seen as the easy route to publication after all, right? Wrong. All of this takes time, dedication, learning and money. Of course, corners can be trimmed, but that will affect the end product. And we cannot forget attracting readers and reviewers to the work once it is out there — marketing really is another beast in itself. No, self-publishing is not easy by any stretch. Accessible — yes, easy — no.

I started self-publishing to get to know the process, and while I do love it, I’ve found much value to be gained in submitting pieces to small press and indie publishers. Gaining contacts, connecting with different audiences and driving creativity by rising to challenges I may not have considered solely. I’m not driven by pressure, and much prefer to go with the proverbial flow. There’s no cut and dry Pro-forma of right and wrong when it comes to art, creating it, and sharing it. It comes down to trying different things, and seeing which one resonates and fits with your flow best. In dealing with other publishers, I have quickly established in mind traits that I like and those which are huge turn-offs for me as a (submitting) writer. It’s fair to say once you begin submitting, you’d be mad not to have a ‘list’. Here are a few things that have landed publishers on mine after submission, which ultimately boils down to etiquette and communication:

  • Poor communication. Submission guidelines are not only a way for publishers to outline what they want and specify the format, but it’s also a key component for publishers to manage writer’s expectations upfront. What I find massively disrespectful is publishers who don’t respond to a submission – it doesn’t have to be big; a quick ‘thanks but no thanks’ is better than zilch. That’s just rude.
  • I don’t like arrogance and indie publishers mimicking traditional publishers – if I wanted that, I’d chase traditional.
  • When a call says ‘No simultaneous submissions’ but a publisher holds a piece too long, only to reject it, thus removing opportunities for the work to be considered elsewhere. If ‘No simultaneous’ is stipulated – considerations and responses should be swift.
  • Editorial changes and queries – I’ve had pieces published with errors that were not present when I submitted, and the queries ignored. Again, poor communication adds to the uphill battle many indies (writers and publishers alike) face. Sometimes support is as simple as acknowledging and owning mistakes.

While I can’t speak for traditional from any sort of experience, other than a reader, it is clear that one size does not fit all — in writing, publishing and indeed life. Sometimes one has to stop dreaming and just do it. Leaving expectations at the door. Jump in, flail around a bit, get over the panicked shock of ice-cold and learn to swim — however that looks. Jump back out and watch by the edge for a bit if you have to breathe again.

But don’t be afraid to at least try. As a good friend of mine often says — fuck it!

The Junk of Magic

*Warning, this is a rant*

I was out walking this week with my children. Armed with bags and litter-pickers because rather than ignoring the problem and walking by in anger, we each have a responsibility to do something about it. And I’m not just talking about littering; I am a strong advocate in speaking up against injustices – whether to each other, other living beings or the environment. Keeping quiet and keeping the head down isn’t good enough. It’s cowardice, it’s weak, it’s a problem. There’s way too many of us that do that; if you are not proactive in becoming part of a solution, you are part of the problem; of that, I am a firm believer.

___

I recall an incident in early high school whereby a particularly nasty individual took it upon himself to verbally abuse and threaten me across a classroom of about 20 other kids AND a teacher. I stood up for myself, I was terrified, but I couldn’t wilt and cower as this bully wanted me to, even with the fear and terror coursing through my blood. I welcomed his challenge to action. This little dweeb loudly threatened to come after my friends (who were not in this class) and me after school. He threatened to stab me. In front of a teacher and class full of pupils – loudly – he said he would STAB me. The rest of the class sat silent. Witnessing and entirely inactive. The teacher sat silent – with her head down, the fear I could see coursing through her meek body. As my eyes pleaded at her to help in some way – she didn’t. I was a child, and I was appalled. If that mouthy Ned came at me in that room and stabbed me, as he threatened, I do not doubt that no-one would have ‘helped’. It would’ve just been a story they’d mouth off about after the damage was done. That’s only one highly snipped account of many from the glory days of childhood and the wonderful ‘safe’ public schooling system. If I had been attacked that day – every single student in that class and that teacher would have had my blood (or his) on their hands. Just as every one of us who walks past carelessly discarded rubbish, or ignores other acts of cruelty and abuse (for a quiet life, self-preservation, or because it’s not our business) — we carry the responsibility for the damage caused — especially if you choose to do nothing. The bird that chokes, it’s chicks that die, the domestic abuse victim murdered, the bullied kid that turns to suicide for an end.

It’s sad to say, for the most part, what I’ve witnessed in my time on this poor, messed up and abused planet – it’s all just talk and not enough doing. 

___

Anyway, when I was walking with my kids, picking up rubbish as we went, we passed through an abandoned fairy trail. Last summer (2020), in the midst of a pandemic, lockdown and folk rushing around to be seen to care, this fairy trail was one such endeavour. I have no connections to the creators. And I know my realist attitude to such things is ‘negative’ to superficial types. But, none the less, when I heard about this and saw it for myself last year — these little areas within some woodland were taken over with ‘cutsie’ painted signs and an absolute barrage of plastic toys. I did snort that this was someone’s ‘great’ idea of collecting and getting rid of unwanted toys, but dressing it up – you know for the ‘magic’, for the kids! I wandered through the wonderland of trash – I mean the delightfully lovely community fairy trail. I couldn’t help but think, I really hope they have a plan to collect and remove all the ‘decor’ which included glass items, tinsel, dummies hanging from trees, plastic blocks, plastic slides, dollies, lights etc…

Maybe I’m a pessimist, some would say, but I’ll stick to realist…

This was last summer, it’s coming up almost a year later; all of that junk is still there, and thanks to the elements, it’s strewn around the surrounding area – dumped, left, abandoned, trashed. My daughters and I collected and disposed of some little pieces that we could today, including a fair amount of broken glass, but couldn’t manage much given what we had with us – there is so much there – caught up in trees, polluting the nearby water. It’s utterly appalling.

It looked ‘good’ at the time, though, at least to the bright sparks who came up with this idea for ‘the children’. It’s a shame it wasn’t used as a follow-through learning opportunity about our responsibility to the environment and cleaning up after ourselves. Another half-baked idea. Broken glass, plenty of plastic to kill and injure the wildlife – it’s fucking magical alright. There’s obviously much more to this, but this really summed up the ‘community’ spirit littered through this pandemic year (for me) – all these fools rushing to appear to be ‘caring’ ‘do-gooders’ doing their bit to get a pat on the back but leaving a trail of mess behind for someone else to deal with. The neighbours banging on pots and pans, clapping for essential workers one night, then throwing get-togethers and making many non-essential trips between the applause. Hypocrisy at its finest. Creating magic and the pandemic buzz of positive ‘wellbeing’ in the community, for a quick-fix feel-good factor, then discarding it carelessly – the trauma and hazard left behind will far outlast the so-called magic. The fairies must be sleeping, indeed.

Mythical Drabbles: ‘Beneath the Mangoes’ by Natasha Sinclair

My drabble, Beneath the Mangoes, written for Insignia Stories upcoming Mythical Creatures of Asia anthology is featured on Insignia Stories site today! Original Post linked below.

Today’s Mythical Creatures of Asia drabble features the kapre, from Filipino mythology. Natasha Sinclair has three drabbles in this anthology, and is…

Mythical Drabbles: ‘Beneath the Mangoes’ by Natasha Sinclair

Marching

There’s been some writing and lots of editing on the go this month — one in which my home life has also hiked up the demands. Though that could be the cumulative effect of this year of, well, you know, it’s been mental for many of us! To say a balance has been tricky would be playing down how much of a riot things feel. The execution, thankfully not so much, but certainly my panster and parent brain are on the juggle, with at least one child jumping on top of it incessantly ringing the jester bells on the cap feels out of whack. Who am I kidding — it’s a shambles in there!

Moving on from that shambles ramble…

I was delighted to be enlisted by Kevin J Kennedy to edit his debut solo novella, Halloween Land. For which I also created some supporting promotional graphics and synopsis for the release.

Kennedy’s solo project has been a long time coming! Given how hard he works as an anthologist, engaging and gathering horror voices to present to eager horror fans – this solo piece is eagerly anticipated by fans of his writing.
The super cool cover art was created by François Vaillancourt, internal artwork by Mar Garcia and a closing poem written by James Matthew Byers.

He kindly asked me to write the foreword introducing the book, which I was taken aback by. To introduce such an important work in a writer’s career is a tremendous honour, I was delighted to oblige.

Halloween Land is out now and is available to download worldwide from Amazon, and the paperback will be available in the coming days. If you pick up a copy, please do leave a review! Kennedy loves engaging with readers and fans of the genre — you can reach out to him directly via Facebook, Goodreads or Instagram.

Writing — I have two short stories I’m working on with deadlines looming, which I can’t share much about yet. Both horror, one is extreme, which I am at the idea outline stage — this one will be sleazy and gore-filled. The other is further underway and is an adult-horror spin on a children’s classic. Though the inspiring story, I would debate whether it’s ‘children’s’ at all. Certainly, lots of coming of age issues addressed, particularly the challenges of girlhood and adolescence. The original story is heavy in bizarro / fantasy. If anything, there’s too much inspiration to play with for creating a new short piece. So I am keeping my distance and tipping my mad hat to this beloved literary classic only.

Being invite only opportunities, it’s imperative that they each fit their retrospective bills, which adds a little bit more pressure to the creative process. That time has been more of a challenge than I anticipated this month. It’s getting into the flow with it when batting different characters and plots around. All that being said, I shall get there with them; the engine is revving, I just need a clear stretch to slam down on.

Time being so restricted for longer pieces, I have ended up playing with another writer, David Owain Hughes, this month and co-writing some drabbles, as well as throwing a few solos down. March procrastinating at its finest! Productive down another road, at least. So there’s a bunch of these little bad boys being published with Black Ink Fiction this summer.

I’ve also shared a few free quick-fic pieces right here for those who fancy a gander! That’s it for now. The sirens are wailing, I better skedaddle!

The Flow

A Drabble

We fell in love; free-falling into some unknown abyss. Her eyes were like staring into the universe; secrets intrigued, inspired, ghosts whispered. I was entirely enthralled, spinning through the dazzling, cataclysmic void of her soullessness.

Shelley said she was different from the others. When she eventually came out of the metaphorical coffin, I was hardly surprised. She feasted on me for hours when I bled. Thinking it just a kink at first, I went along with the proverbial flow. There are worse things than being with a vegetarian vampire; Shelley loves eating out, I can only oblige, she needs me.