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.

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.

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.

Murmur: Collected Horror

And the next release

Summer Solstice Book launch!
My solo collection of 9 short stories, Murmur: Collected Horror — the paperback and hardback are available now, the eBook lands tomorrow, 21st June!
For an indie, I am generally pretty reserved about sharing and shouting about my work. It is a form of absolute introvert torture but I’m trying to work through that — it’s a slow process!
Some of the contents have been published previously, these are spliced with a few never been printed pieces.
Writers are often asked where ideas come from or what prompted a story, so each piece in the collection is followed by a few brief words about that. This little personal touch has been received positively by my pre-readers — I hope you enjoy that little insight too.
I would love to share a read from the collection in the coming weeks. So, if you read it and have a favourite story — let me know in a review and/or by dropping me a message here, on Facebook or Instagram and I’ll pick the reader’s favourite to share!
In time I would love to build on my ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) team for future releases, who would receive a free ARC of my books to read and review before public release. If you read and enjoy my work and this is of interest to you — please drop me a message. I want to hear from you!


My next (tentatively planned) solo release will be that of my debut novel, working title, Backyard Asylum, this may very well change. I’ve been swamped with other projects this year, so it hasn’t had as much attention as I’d hoped by this point. Projects with deadlines have taken president over the novel, but I hope to delve back into this come Autumn and at least have a completed first draft by the end of the year. Genre wise, it’s working out to be a blend of horror sub-genres, with definite elements of psychological and extreme. The working title may suggest the Asylum being a main (trope) feature but it is merely a backdrop at certain points within the story.

That’s a wrap for just now, if you pick up Murmur, I truly hope you are entertained! Thank you for reading and supporting this wee Scottish indie writer!

Natasha )O(

Update 23rd June 2021

As well as being available via Amazon, linked above, my new release can also be found on Smashwords, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Scribd!

Juicy June

A quick update on this busy month!

My solo collection, Murmur: Collected Horror, is up for pre-order. The paperback and hardback are set and will be available on 21st June! I am stoked that Kevin J. Kennedy, one of the UK’s most prominent horror anthologists, was kind enough to write the Foreword for the collection!

Pre-orders for several books that I have stories featured in have landed all at once, including Black Ink Fiction‘s first two books in their Legends of Night series — Infection and Bloodlust. I have ten drabbles between these two books, including my first time co-writing these micro-flash morsels with David Owain Hughes. How on earth do you go about co-writing a drabble?! Yes, I too wondered that — it was surprisingly fun and a touch addictive. Infection is officially released on 29th June, with Bloodlust at its heels on 13th July.

Next up to be available for pre-order is the highly anticipated, Gorefest from The Evil Cookie Publishing. This extreme anthology promises gross, humourous brutality — as a reader I cannot wait to read it! My contribution, Fuckin’ Maggots, is included in the line-up.

As the editor for KJK Publishing, I have also been working with Kennedy on finalising the next two The Horror Collection books, Ruby Edition and Extreme Edition. Some favourite contributors from previous THC books make the invite-only line-up, alongside some newer voices in the field. As always, Kennedy has his finger on the pulse of Indie Horror talent – if you’re a fan of horror and short fiction, these should absolutely be on your summer reading list! Release dates to be confirmed soon.

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.

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!

D&T Publishing – Interview

Interview for ‘Women in Horror’ month

Recently I was asked to interview with the wonderful D&T Publishing for Women in Horror (WIH) month – February 2021.
At first, I was, admittedly, taken aback because I live with a serious case of imposter syndrome — I mean ‘Women in Horror’, why would I be asked?! Why would anyone be interested in what I have to say? Then it dawned on me, Hey, yeah, I am one of those – a woman who writes horror!
Needless to say, I agreed happily, in support of a wonderful publishing house run by wife and husband duo, Dawn and Timothy, who do so very much for the indie horror community. They even warmly accepted one of my little dark tales, ‘Neighbours’, into their dark fiction anthology ‘After the Kool-Aid is Gone’ last year.

With a massive line-up of planned publications this coming year, they are a publisher to put on your ‘to watch’ list for sure!
Check them out by visiting their website and socials:

Home | D&T Publishing


You can catch my little interview, along with other WIH chat featured on D&T’s Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/DT-Publishing-105199147804217/

What’s Happening

It’s only heading towards the end of January, and I’ve too many ideas for this year! That being said, channelling one at a time and arranging my notes into some semblance of order is the (lifelong) personal challenge. Unless it’s for someone else my sense of organisation, with my own creative projects, can be chaotic.

On the well-organised side (the joy of the Gemini), I have opened the doors and made Word Refinery public! If you haven’t already, feel free to check out Word Refinery pages. I am opening up my editorial and proofreading diary to new clients. More info here:

Word Refinery: Editorial & Creative Support

Word Refinery: Terms & Conditions 

About 

Writing has been slow burn this month, with the exception of one completed short story – which, hands up, I love. It’s wicked — I can’t wait for folk to read it. It’s parked for an upcoming submission, but if it doesn’t make the cut (I really hope it does!), it will be published this year, I may even squirrel it away for my solo collection.

On that front, it’s been a year since I’ve personally published. In remedy of this I am collating some short stories with a couple of unpublished pieces to put out a collection this year – potentially in the summer, depending on editorial commitments, which take priority.