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.

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.

Penumbra

Shadows engulf mother Earth, shade and still-cold stretch through half the globe as Batara Candra embraces her most impossible love, Batara Surya. Two halves of a singular coin. Coming together only briefly once every eighteen years. A passing lingering embrace that ripples waves of darkness, causing tides to threaten to turn, waves of anarchy and torrents of cold panic; what if they never let go?

Doomed love or doomed planet by total eclipse — an impossible love where no-one truly wins. Love must pass through the penumbra, saving this world from suffocating darkness or burning light.

Until next time, my love.

NaNoWriMo — Not this Year

This year, my first attempt at NaNoWriMo didn’t hit the goal. Winter always seems to be a time of heightened drama, in opposition to the slower, warmer, more reflective side I long for at years end. Quieten the noise, slow down the pace.
It doesn’t seem to matter the ingredients placed in the cauldron; there’s no slow and steady blending and simmer, it’s a sporadically exploding bomb — spewing shrapnel into the eyeballs and the roof, and right now it’s barely holding up. With that my focus was and still is in tatters, December may be more about finding all the pieces again and trying to fuse some sanity and peace.
Anyway, my Backyard Asylum novel project only reached 14k – quite a distance from the 50k goal! I beat myself up throughout November with exhaustion and lack of creative time to drive into it. That’s been quite prevalent this entire year more than just the month, but it did feel more saturated. Such is life; she likes her curveballs and depression likes to wrap her fingers around my throat for periods of total torment. She’s a cruel demon indeed. So, it’s been a case of prioritising basic practical needs over desire. Although creativity is certainly a need, when it’s embedded deep, which fuels desire — without the sparks of passion there is little will to trudge through the more mundane, life has to be more than that — the fight continues. I’m rambling now, this slump shall pass!
So, while Backyard Asylum is written in my head, I have to sacrifice some sleep, muster some energy from the ether and hit the keys — though maybe without the daily word-count pressure, which did me no good this first time around.
Regardless, I am happy with what’s down for this WIP novel — its bones are horrific in a promising way. There’s a lot to work through and develop, but I’m confident it will in time progress so I can nail this first draft and go deep into sculpting and editing through the rough edges. The characters have meat, and there’s some strong scenes pinned already. I spiralled off into research more than physical writing a little more than planned, such is the ‘panster’ way.
As much as I tried to avoid the temptation, I have my eye on a few open-calls for short stories. Nothing new and substantial has been written on the front yet, but there are some ideas stewing, so I’ve some snippets of poetry to go back to and work on to develop into a full-blown piece.

In summary, my first NaNoWriMo died in week two. But, the story itself will come into being, I am pleased with what’s been written so far, it’ll just take a little longer to get there. It’ll be a priority for 2021.