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.

Another Lost Blog

‘I should be writing’

I haven’t written much lately and only have a few short story sub decisions outstanding.

Writing (with a specific purpose) has taken a backseat to everything else. Considering I’ve only been actively submitting work since the tail-end of 2019, this probably shouldn’t be as bothersome as it is (to me). This lull, this deeply uncomfortable, gut-churning, head-aching, creaky death-rattle vibe of a damned lull has created a fracturing within; what’s the harm in another one?

A couple of weeks ago, I could’ve screamed if I wasn’t so agonisingly audio sensitive — which hasn’t resolved yet. I’m sure the screaming would’ve shattered my pain riddled spine. I pictured the exploded shards; the bone shrapnel ripping through muscle and skin. My head hurts. I thought that maybe I needed a hit; a rejection, an acceptable, anything that might kick the cogs into motion — at least that’s where I was last week. Maybe something outward was needed to push a tangible, create type locomotion into motion. Even with that, time is a merciless taunter, and with too much else going on, there’s never enough of it. Though, writing is air. I am dependant on its ability to quench and quell things that nothing else can. I’m co-dependent on the pen even when words are just scrawled onto old paper and shut in a drawer. This digital tapping is a placebo. They say there’s a form of eternity in the code of numbers; to me, the figures are a mirage that melts away like ghosts.

I’ve not been writing (much) — it doesn’t mean I’ve been out of contact with the words. We’ve been serenading in other ways. Ways that should benefit the stories when they get their time again.

Figment

Pressing, softly through the cracks
Fragments of consciousness
Piston hissing speckled the dead-night

Moving electricity aside
She slips in like butter
Melting and reforming to what I once knew

She was melancholy like my heart
Sullen of soul
My scion mirror

The tunnel formed
Attuning the station
Between pre and post mortem
A hollow in this verse
A meeting place

We spoke about mortality
Not with words
It was all there, though
Moths fluttering in the air
It’s been a while…

Since we shared space
Since we shared time
She keeps reminding me, though
Those are figments...

Of faux comfort
Fool’s restraints
Flimsy, weak cortex
It’s not everything
Not even close

The cat’s body is in the next room
Upon the pink bedspread
His marbled fur of coppers and black
Still as the void
I can look if I want, she tells me
He won’t stir yet
But I can’t leave
Paralysed in the serenity
Permeating from her form

There’s so much more to that cat

The sun seeps in
Glimmers strain against the sides
Dagger sharp
Fragments tear the space asunder

I’m here again…
She’s gone.
© Natasha Sinclair

Clownhead

A Drabble

She was the most beautiful burlesque dancer to join their travelling freakshow; mesmerising. Clownhead couldn’t believe his luck when she reciprocated his sleazy advances.

As he drove his shaft in and out of her moistening pussy, his balls began that familiar thrum. Twin clown-heads hardened inside his sack, swelling and stretching skin; teeth chitter-chattered.

As his orgasm built in the pit of his rolling jelly-belly, with every enthusiastic thrust of his hips – electricity. The sharpening, lengthening teeth tore through his slop sodden sack. Clownhead’s weight pinned her as the twins erupted to enjoy their long-awaited meal in vivacious violent victory.

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!

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!

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.