Possessed and Obsessed

I have been immersed in creativity while juggling the craziness of everyday life and spanners. Over on Brazen Folk Horror, Ruthann Jagge and I have been actively sharing updates with readers weekly for five months now. With only three pre-release updates left to go, our novel launch is imminent!

My adrenaline is at full whack. We have joked about being possessed by our characters, but it’s most definitely an obsession at play too.

For readers who may not yet have picked up a title from either of us and you’d like a sample, then a great place to start before our collaborative novel lands is our debut novellas released just last year.

The New Girls’ Patient, Ruthann Jagge

Jamie Carver is an inexperienced young woman eager to change her life.
Recently certified in nursing, she’s the new girl working at a facility for the elderly.
When her favorite patient dies, the frail woman leaves her a handwritten recipe book as a final thank you.
Dark secrets of Elizabeth’s life hide between the pages.
One evening, a pair of dangerous men intent on learning Elizabeth’s secrets to steal her fortune brutally abduct Jamie and two of her girlfriends.
They trap the women deep in the cellar of a crumbling mansion, where their survival depends on each other. They must unravel a shocking family history before sunrise or die.
Can Jamie rely on her friends, or will she resort to calling on unnatural forces to help overcome her captors and stay alive?

Asylum Daughter, Natasha Sinclair

Bella Mills survived the brutal slaughter of her family by a madman.
Only 11-years-old, she was assaulted and left for dead.
Twenty-three years later, the past returns in the form of her devil, free of his chains.
A disturbing family history full of dark secrets and seduction unfolds as Bella seeks answers.
When she discovers the truth about her mother, locked away without mercy in the notorious Lochwood Asylum, Bella realizes that terrible ghosts of the past hold the key to her future.
Can she escape their power over her?
A novel of psychological horror, and poetic intrigue, sprinkled with the supernatural.
Bella Mills is “The Asylum Daughter.”

From those and those who are already familiar with us as individual writers, you will see that we are wildly different in style. You’ll be amazed how we’ve come together to create our co-written Brazen Folk Horror debut novel with Delevan House. We each brought something new out in the other, creating a collective voice we hope our readers will enjoy. It’s all for you!

The work has been constant, and neither of us has been able to ‘switch gears’ for long from our feisty cast. The anticipated release of Delevan House is only just the beginning.

Now, I really should study! Badb village has unleashed a storm in my head. It needs tae haud its wheelset! Just for a wee while.

In the meantime! Read! Follow! And if you are inclined, please share your thoughts in a review.

Much love and a bit of mayhem!

Natasha )O(

Trust, Value, Editing

I will admit something that, like so many independent writers, can be torn apart. And I also acknowledge there can be pitfalls – some gatekeepers regard this audacious move as career suicide regardless of experience or qualifications.

Not only do I professionally edit works for other writers, businesses and publishers, but I do something else regarded as a grave sin.

I, as a writer, self-edit, and I publish it!

I must be insane, right?

Imagine an artist controlling their art! Ensuring every stroke of the brush is theirs. The absurdity!

Editing is an independent skill in writing. This is a fact. With that, it is true that an editor isn’t necessarily a skilled storyteller and vice-versa. These can be common misconceptions. I have read poorly self-edited work and work edited by so-called editors who were glorified spell-checkers and saw themselves as prescriptive grammarians, thus stripping a piece of style and substance. Editing (in the independent writing and publishing world) is a highly sought-after skill and grossly undervalued.

I have spent much of my life writing and editing across many forms, and when I began publishing books in 2018, I honestly did not consider passing them through an external editor’s desk. Ignorance at the time was perhaps in part to play. I, admittedly, did not consider hiring an editor as part of the process. And now, with a couple of years of publishing experience where I have learnt something new with every title and even when working with others, would I change it? Personally, no.

Why? Well, I’ve worked with editors and writers who take prescriptive approaches, and in such methods, so not hold a place in creative writing. I’ve also been ‘edited’ by terrible communicators who have ignorantly ‘corrected’ spellings of Celtic or Scots words to a form of English, thus destroying critical seeds of the story and publishing their mistakes in my work under my name. An editor’s job is to polish and enhance, to bring out the best in a writer’s work, not diminish their voice and make them look stupid. I’ve learned many lessons from both. In my writing and skilled self-editing, I’d rather make my own mistakes that I can correct than have someone else do it and not take responsibility and rectify their shortcomings.

Rigid, prescriptive processes can have their place when writing for a corporate audience and developing educational materials, in which I have much experience. But artistically, a prescriptive approach to editing has no place; one size does not fit all.

My choice to self-edit is not one I take lightly. As a freelance editor, I am not ignorant about the depth of such a task, and as with any other piece of written material that crosses my desk, I consider, correct and develop: punctuation, spelling, syntax, morphology, overall structure, make cuts of redundancies, tautologies and lines or passages that don’t drive the story forward, and of course, consider developmental opportunities, and the author or publisher’s specified needs and style which I always discuss prior to working with them. I consider the narrative voice and those of the characters to ensure they read authenticity. And another vital component is style — a piece of creative writing should have rhythm and motion, like a great painting or music. If it’s rigid and static, as it would be following a prescriptive approach, it would be stale.

Even with such vigorous attention to my work and my clients, I am not infallible. No editor is, and I don’t trust anyone who portrays themselves as so. Neither should you.

2022: The Year of Birds

Hogmanay nears, as does what can barely be avoided — the annual consolidation, the ‘review’ as we step over the next threshold.

It’s been another year of tumultuous news and events stabbing the air in-house and in close proximity. Health issues have arisen in many, some near and dear, some farther but no less dear to me—several with fatal implications, where time somehow runs faster on the clock. My heart has shattered a few times. Such is the way it goes.

Covid hit my house with a bang. I was pregnant, and the baby, Averey, died inside my womb when I had the worst symptoms. Since our second bout in July, long Covid symptoms have persisted, including with my young children. The year that we hoped to grab some social normality has demanded much push.

One of the many benefits of home educating (not home-schooling) is that the pressure and stress on children not to ‘fall behind’ on a prescribed curriculum and being ‘marked’ by ‘poor attendance’ due to health issues beyond control is absent, avoiding undue pressure on my kids’ mental health, to which almost anyone who has been schooled and has health issues can relate. All public services in the U.K., including schools, seem to be on a steep downward slope, faster than ever before. The unrest is palpable. That being said, home educating isn’t all skipping through the daisies! Many days have their challenges, and being the literal full-time parent and educator is tiring — and that was before the long-covid fatigue. Still, we get each other through, and the alternative isn’t an option.

As always, writing has been a constant. Separate from my creative writing, it’s been my introvert-central-management system since childhood. Sketching is too.

Professionally, I have had the pleasure of editing works by some fantastic writers this year — some serious jaw-dropping, inspiring talent. One of the last short stories I edited had me reaching for my inhaler! That author painted a vivid anxiety, paranoia-ridden piece in their protagonist — I felt it all! The subversive angle of the work while playing off the backdrop was skilfully moving. I was in awe. In the massive catalogue of literary genres, the immense skill some horror writers portray is hugely underrated, all due to that simple label ‘horror’. You’ll find the asthma attack-inducing story in KJK Publishing’s The Horror Collection: Sapphire Edition.

This year Ruthann Jagge and I joined forces and created Brazen Folk Horror to share our collaborative works. We have been sharing weekly updates there and have many more ideas for the future. As with this site, readers can subscribe to receive those updates directly in their mailbox. The debut collaborative novel under our exclusive in-house imprint, Delevan House, releases on the 1st of February 2023, and the second book in that series is underway. I’ve shared before about how I adore working with her. We’ve each had much to contend with this year. At times, we’ve both been swimming against a ferocious tide, but we have prevailed and have created something unique from Scottish and Celtic folk inspiration. You better believe my girl and I are indeed Brazen as fuck.

Getting back into academic study has been challenging to make space for, but somehow It’s been working out, in sacrifice of sleep! I passed my first module and started my second towards my English Language and Literature degree. The second part has been immensely inspiring. I am enjoying it far more than I anticipated. It’s ignited old and new passions for my own language, those that I’ve been surrounded with and the broader scope of the world. I’ve been evaluating how this entwines cultural and individual identity. This leg of the course has lit a few fires.

Onto the books published under Clan Witch this year:

Asylum Daughter — my psychological horror novella set in Glasgow, Scotland. I’m proud of how this piece turned out. I loved writing it and got to exorcise the asylum.

The Crash of Verses by Rafik Romdhani — this is Romdhani’s second published collection. His poetry is among my favourites of recent years. If you have not read him, pick up this book. He is an exceptionally skilled modern poet.

Incesticide: Collected Horror — my second collection of short horror fiction. It includes nine stories featuring urban folk horror, a touch of splatterpunk and fairytale horror twisted with BDSM, among other assorted flavours for those who enjoy a taste of different things.

Clan Witch: Found Shadows, my collection of free verse poetry and drabbles. This brings together small pieces scattered with other publishers and some never before published poems. Not all truth and not all fiction.

There have been other written pieces published throughout 2022 in the form of short stories, poetry, articles, forewords and copy for other titles.

What about the birds? Birds have been a significant and symbolic component in my year. Before the baby was born, magpies started frequenting my garden. They never had before. In truth, I was never a fan of the species. (Largely due to a childhood memory or a magpie killing sparrow chicks in a neighbour’s garden. It was such a brutal attack, not for a meal or anything. It seemed to enjoy causing the suffering and instigating horror in the flock of sparrows screaming at the beautiful beastly creature.) Other corvids, such as their cousin, jackdaws, yes. But never the magpie. Of course, going through pregnancy and loss again, this felt strikingly symbolic. For the longest time, there would be one—a dark omen. One for sorrow… as the months have passed, groups of them now frequent the garden along with the smaller birds, which have their daily routines flying in for a feed and natter. Adopting ex-commercial laying hens scheduled to be slaughtered has been tremendously healing. We brought them home less than two weeks after our loss. Building for them and supporting their transition to domestic retirement felt like a productive and helpful use of grief energy. Then the hens have taken in robins. The birds have been inescapable and have become a significant feature of Delevan House too.

Life and creativity can be inseparable, at least elements of each. Twisting tendrils that reach out to be touched and woven into new patterns.

I am wrapping up, as I didn’t intend on doing this kind of update this year! There you have it, a wee mixed-bag summary of 2022. I best be off again, I’m currently hauled up with an unwell small. Her feverish chattering dreams spill out into the dark in a torrent, and I wish, as many parents do — I wish I could soak up the fever and take all the pains away, for always. But life has so much more of that in store. I will have to be content with holding her for as long as I can and as long as she needs.

The darkness is drawing in, approaching the longest of nights, and I wish for what I always do here and the world over, peace.

Natasha )O(

Editing Software

Author Advice

In times when the costs of everything are skyrocketing, and artists have a hard enough time as is. I implore my fellow writers, even if you’re commanding the mammoth task of editing your own work, do not rely on editing software. It’s a mistake that your work and reputation will suffer for. Can your career afford that? Even premier-rated software is a poor substitute for the human eye and mind. This is especially true of fiction works.

I repeat: Editing software is not a substitute for an editor. It cannot take the place of an editor.

As a freelance editor, I often take on projects where I am the sole editor. Many independent writers, independent publishers and small presses can only afford one editor, whether in-house or by hiring another independent like Word-Refinery. This makes the process different to large house publishers, where multiple rounds are passed through multiple eyes, which incurs greater costs.

In the business of freelance editing, this is where, as an independent, editing software can be a helpful tool. To act as another pair of ‘eyes’ for the independent editor after they have completed their edits.

This is how I utilise such software – as a tool at the end of the more critical manual edit.

This software does not understand tone and the expansive varieties of Englishes. These softwares lack awareness of genre targets. They lack the ability to support the development of a text so that it reads in a way that leaps from the page and is not ‘flat.’ These softwares often apply sensitivity alerts which can strip a piece of its integrity, style and diminish the author’s voice.

Even if you cannot afford to hire an editor, editing software is not a substitute for an editor, even at a premium rate.

Balanced Discrimination?

In this world of hyped-up political correctness, labelling and the push for artists to emotionally support, woo, and pamper the egos of a (potential) audience even before they have set foot in an exhibition, opened a book or hit play on that movie. Direct Discrimination thrives loud and proud with every cry for mythical balance through forced diversity.

Charades masquerading as ‘discussions’ that only bend one way do nothing but deepen discrimination such cryers profess to want to correct.

I wonder, once the arbitrary scale tips, what would they go for next?

Honestly, in the real world, there are far more significant problems to be concerned with. Still, my little blether to the void here will focus on the area that prompted my little rant- horror literature – eventually.

Before that, though, be warned, according to an online stranger who was ignorantly assumptive, judgmental, sexist and racist towards me, I was also thrown the mighty slur of the day with regard to my input in a ‘discussion’ (see point above. I know better, but we all fuck up sometimes) about female horror authors. The insult that screams (of the thrower) a lack of discussion skills and intellect… a ‘Karen’.

Yes. Because I disagreed, I’m a Karen….

First time I’ve had that one. Which made me ponder, was this nameless individual compounding the sexism they had already expressed? A Karen? Is it like calling someone a Cunt as a slur, specifically for a female? And female to female, that reeks of anti-feminism. Somewhat backwards for folk screaming for ‘progress’.

Anyway, I decided to ‘look it up’. Since it’s slang, I had a wee look on Wikipedia. Given the context, I really had no desire to do any real academic research with this, even as a student of linguistics. Wikipedia describes ‘Karen is a pejorative term for a white woman perceived as entitled or demanding.… The term is often portrayed…depicting white women who use their white privilege to demand their own way.’ It goes on, ‘the term increasingly appeared in media and social media as a general criticism of middle class white women,’ – so racist, sexist and classist! A bit much, eh?

If my name was Karen, I might be extra peeved at this derogatory and discriminatory slang. Since this person made assumptions about my race, class and gender that had the nameless sharpen their pitchfork and wield the mighty ‘Karen’, it says far more about them than it does me.

The insult also reeks of that well-documented American arrogance and ignorance — one that seems indiscriminate of gender, race, socioeconomic status, political and religious affiliation. Breaking news to those that fall into that bracket: your country is not the centre of the universe, the world is bigger than your echo-chamber. Funny, apparently those that disagree must “do better”. Being from one of the most deprived areas of Scotland, where poverty, crime, gang and drug problems flourish and the lifespan of the female is lower than anywhere else in the U.K. Having fought and lived through prejudice and discrimination from both ‘my own’ and beyond, and that’s only a tiny peek of the tip of the iceberg. Well, to say I scoffed would be an understatement. And I’m not going to go into the rest concerning the cultural and sexual trials. Because none of the personal anecdotes should matter in this context, none of it makes one person’s viewpoint more or less valid than another’s when it comes to how we choose art. Such blatant judgment and ignorance certainly detracts credibility; the nameless ‘wordsmith’ made a right fool of themselves. But hey, that’s the majority of social media, right. Hmmm, a scale that needs correcting?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m overly sensitive to name-calling. My history has ensured my thick-skin. I am just a bit of a wormhole thinker. As I mentioned, another term often used in the U.K. is – Cunt, another pejorative. As a slang word for vulva, it naturally wields strong female connotations that are intended to be derogatory. I used to cringe if I read or heard the word ‘cunt’. But that was a long time ago. My consideration and view has changed; being a woman, a feminist and sexual, I can’t see anything derogatory about the female anatomy. It’s a marvel. The cunt is a damn mighty and beautiful piece of our biology. The cunt is to be respected. She is a place of many wonderful things — life’s most intense pleasures and, indeed, a gateway to life itself. In other words, All hail the cunt!

I can’t deny that my turn on the word was also influenced by seeing the Vagina Monologues in Edinburgh many years ago.

The following is a post I shared on social media that echoes the points fuelling the anti-feminist, racist, classist and sexist ‘insult’:

More often than not, when I view a painting — I see the painting BEFORE the artist who created it. This applies to photography, sculpture, literature, music etc.

I want to see what someone is portraying with their art first. Then I may be intrigued to want to know more about the creator behind the art – information that they choose to make available. As a consumer of art, I’m not entitled. None of us are.

I don’t look for the personal details of the creator before deciding if they are worthy for me to look at their art. Most folks don’t. Hell, imagine if we all ‘researched’ every creative involved in a movie before hitting play…

I am not going to seek out an artist based on what they look like, their gender, sex, cultural background, beliefs, heritage, politics, religion, who they fuck…

Now, I’m not saying that these things don’t filter into what is created, but none of those details makes a person’s art ‘good’! Nor does knowing them make you a ‘better’ consumer or person, even if it feeds your ego to think that it does.

Oh, and I am ‘part’ of several ‘marginalised’ groups; I will never use any of that to get eyes on anything I create because not everything is public property.

Now it’s an opinion, a fact of how I consume art. Life is extremely short. When reaching into something such as horror fiction for fun, leisure, enjoyment, and escapism, why is there this sudden expectation to ‘balance my reading list’ for personal attributes of author ‘diversity’ sake? I want to be entertained. Perhaps if I wanted to fuck them, I’d be more concerned with their sex, gender and orientation. Then it would hold relevance.

Perhaps art and artists need anonymity to thrive in a world that feels increasingly entitled to more personal details to feed this absurd mythical ethical balancing act for little egos.

The Making of Delevan House #15

Converging Paths BrazenFolkHorror I share many old and new stories at home. As a family, we love to read aloud together. A habit I’ve shared and …

The Making of Delevan House #15

Incesticide: Collected Horror

NEW RELEASE

Incesticide: Collected Horror has almost emerged! Due to some interruptions within the industry and the panic rumour mills spinning, I decided to get things placed early to ensure the print edition launched in time with the digital. Well, this strike was swift, and the print editions are now (quietly) available ahead of the official release of December 14th.

The collection features nine unique short stories, each followed by a few words on how they came to be.

I painted the artwork for the book. Taking loose inspiration from the book’s namesake – Nirvana’s Incesticide cover art by Kurdt Cobain. I was delighted with how the painting turned out, and have created some exclusive products featuring the print available on my Etsy store.
Thank you to everyone who had preordered. I hope you enjoy my little morsels of horror.

If you fancy a listening to me reading a story from the book, Fuckin’ Maggots is featured on my Youtube.

Fuckin’ Maggots

A splatterpunk short Story

Content Warning: Contains graphic violence, crass language, swearing, and sex.

An imprefect reading of ‘Fuckin’ Maggots’ by Natasha Sinclair. Originally published by The Evil Cookie Publishing, in their extreme horror anthology, Gorefest. Reprinted in Incesticide: Collected Horror.

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November

—Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night.

It’s been little to do with politics for a long time.

When it once celebrated the failed gunpowder plot — where Catholic Englishman Guido Fawkes was found guarding the explosives intended to assassinate King James VI (and I) and members of the House of Lords on 5th November 1605.

This is the socially acceptable night to light fires and set off explosions into the sky! As effigies of Guy Fawkes are set upon bonfires and burned in commemoration.

As a child of the 20th Century, I simply didn’t get it. Kids knocking on doors collecting for ‘The Guy’. While it’s cited that the commemoration is for the failure of the Gunpowder Plot. I’m not sure that that’s entirely true everywhere, given the general feelings towards the English parliament (extending far beyond the 17th century) and King James VI (and I) — who was in many ways a tyrant.

This acknowledgement in either regard is simply an excuse for a night of careless mayhem. Where folks can legally purchase and let off explosives without direct repercussions. Well, I say that, but the emergency services are always under heavy strain during these pointless and reckless (even when ‘organised’ festivities).

In a world of hypocrisy and contradiction, it’s a time I can’t abide. I do not involve my children in the ‘fun’. Not when innocent wildlife are burned alive, as they seek refuge or places to hibernate safely for winter within the pyres. Not when we have heart attacks and panic in nests from the booms, the lights, the smoke — the terror! Not when domestic animals straying or lost fall victim to maniacs who think it’s funny to stick rockets inside of them are tie explosives to their tails. Not when those at home are cowering from what feels like a war raging just outside their homes.

A nation of animal lovers?

Are we ahead of the game in caring for the environment?

Minimising our environmental impact and emissions?

I fucking well think not!

The month of Samhain 2022

Witches’ New Year approaches. With that, I’m Autumn cleaning, creatively speaking, at least. Washing away the dust of the summer fires, sweeping this germ-ridden circle clogged with ash. I say this with every positive intention, which in the current climate of my sick house, it’s not so simple. Some things are outwith control, but I try flow with, around, through it. (I may have recited ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ a few too many times).
Starting with the writing. I’ve taken part in only a few invite-only opportunities. This year, it has been difficult to say no, but something I’ve had to learn to do fast. It’s been challenging; each opportunity offered has been for a great project, and I am profoundly grateful to be asked. Short fiction writing has been on the back burner, which was always this year’s plan to invest in my degree studies and researching/writing longer works. Moving on, a quick recap of my own books released and scheduled to tie up 2023:

Asylum Daughter
Novella
5th May 2022

Incesticide: Collected Horror
Short Fiction Collection
14th December 2022

Clan Witch: Found Shadows
Poetry and Drabble Collection
31st December 2022

There has been lots of work going on in Brazen Folk Horror, which I launched with Ruthann Jagge this year. Here we share regular updates on ‘The Making of Delevan House’. We have many plans to execute, so it’s a great space to follow. You are cordially invited! We expect you to put in some effort—get tight-lacing, break out the good cloak, your best finery, and you better buy an extravagant hat while you’re at it. It’ll be one hell of a ride! You will want to be watching for that pre-order date as soon as we announce it. In the meantime, come enjoy the brazen tease and seduction.

Well, it’s been tumultuous and stable on the homestead with no middle ground— a seesaw over starving shark-infested waters more than a rollercoaster. The pendulum never stops. My kids and I have been struggling with fresh ongoing health issues since the start of the year when we contracted that virus. It then came in for a second hit in July, which haven’t recovered from. Between chronic coughs requiring prescription medications, chronic fatigue and opportunistic germs that keep jumping on board because of compromised immune systems, it’s been a royal shitshow. With medical support services (the NHS) being abysmal. My family (I) also suffered another pregnancy loss. During the second bout of that virus, my baby’s heart stopped beating, and I gave birth four weeks later. We were (are) devastated.

Grief so intimate is a profound journey we carry with us throughout our time on the rock. Lives that were given a second chance coincided with the loss of my last baby, Averey. My family adopted a small flock of ex-commercial layers (Hens) from The British Hen Welfare Trust. I have shared little updates on their settling-in and shenanigans on social media. The ladies (our little Queens, as we call them. On account of naming them after Drag Queens: Jinkx Monsoon, Bimini bon boulash, Raja and Ginger Minj) are so very full of stories and have settled in as though they’ve always been part of the family. They are part of the clan. Some things are meant to be, and these Queens were never meant for slaughter.

Something about coming from 2021 into 2022 held promise and a thirst for change. More than a thirst, it was a drouth of dry agony. So many I know felt it—a need for rewiring, redirection, reinvention, or simply getting back on track. The year hasn’t quite lived up to the promise. Instead, it’s been more like treading water. Trying to stay afloat, and more, fighting to survive. I guess that’s life for the most part. An ongoing battle, with Jack-in-the-box obstacles springing forth at any given moment. Damn clowns. Tomorrow will be better.

The veil is thinning as the gears continue to cycle. There’s much reflection as we dare to lift the veil and step through the shadows, opening locked doors to visit with ghosts. This season welcomes the shadows, where the light and dark dance. It’s almost Samhain. Listen… whose voice can you hear calling from the ether?

Sweep the circle, burn the candles, lay out the feast, and set out coveted photographs and letters from the dead. They’ll be here soon. )O(