I’m sitting with my dad in his kitchen in Glasgow having just listened to the audiobook excerpt of my story. It was awesome!
When I wrote “The Audition Altar” I was thinking of John Waters films, and Anna Parker Naples, the voice actor, nailed the lascivious and sometimes hyperbolic tone of the text. I didn’t expect Ms Naples to do both the male and female voices, so it was a joy to hear her capture the gormless and naive Geoff as easily as the creepy and presumptuous Zoe Trope, and yet she made them her own. Even although I wrote the story, I was excited to hear what happened next!
As the Audiobook project for Twisted50 evolves (produced by the amazing Helen Lloyd), I am publishing short excerpts to share just how extraordinary the voice artists are, and how the stories truly come to life when read aloud, with a little music for mood.
You can see all the voice artists on their page HERE (we will add them as each story locks in).
As I get new tracks I will add them to this playlist here as it’s a great way to hear everything in one place.
I’m a scaredy-cat… when it comes to reading or watching horror - there’s no denying that. It probably stems from walking into the living-room, when I was about six, to tell my mam that I was
frightened of the dark, just as, on the television screen, a shadowy face emerged from the darkness and peered through the window of someone’s house. I’ve no idea what the film/programme was – it
probably wasn’t a horror – but it played out as a horror in my 6-year-old mind.
I’m all right now though.
I’ve written a few ‘chilling’ stories in the past but would never have described myself as a ‘horror writer’; indeed, I would have shied away from reading or watching something of this genre. I’d read Edgar Allan Poe, Dracula, and some Stephen King; The Ghost of Thomas Kempe is a favourite book I read as a child, about a poltergeist; one of my favourite films is Spielberg’s Poltergeist, but you wouldn’t find me watching anything gory.
Writers are obsessed with questions. Every story has at least one at its core: Can Regan MacNeil’s soul be saved? (The Exorcist). Who is the killer? (Every whodunnit ever). Will the cute alien trapped on Earth survive? (Species. Why, what did you think I meant?). So yup, we spend a lot of time on these – but the ones that really matter are the questions we don’t want anyone to ask. The ones that, come the end of the story, shatter the whole carefully constructed nonsense prose with something like: “Why didn’t Frodo just fly a giant eagle to Mount Doom and throw the One Ring into it?” We hate them.
To avoid having more egg on our faces than Humpty Dumpty when he fell off the wall, we try to anticipate these questions (usually after the first draft and before the second pint, whilst the memory’s still functioning), and fill in any pesky plot holes with quick-setting detail before anyone notices. When I kicked my short story out the door and told it not to return without lots of feedback, I was confident I’d done precisely that. Indeed, the only question that would be asked was the one I’d left deliberately unanswered, a nugget of detail hidden amongst the Faustian frivolities for the curious. And nobody gave it a second glance. Understandable really: my poor suffering readers were too busy climbing out of plot holes that some careless, egg-faced idiot had left lying around...
It’s Friday afternoon and I’m sat at my desk at work; a.k.a. bored and daydreaming about the weekend. And an email pings up on my computer screen. It’s from Chris Jones at Create50 saying the deadline for ‘Twisted50’ is that very weekend.
Hm? My interest is piqued. I read further and discover that Chris’s latest creative community project isn’t a film but a book. A book of short horror stories. He’s looking for writers, but to have a chance of being one of them I’ve got to get my entry in that weekend. With a 2,000 word limit I almost close my browser there and then. I can write 2,000 words easy enough in that time, but write them well enough is another matter. Then I notice how Chris says he’s happy to receive work that’s much shorter – a challenge to see if horror can be achieved in just a few words.
I don’t know about you but I find the writing bit often starts with a very little idea. So one day I thought of the words: ‘There was something to his left’. Now I may not be the only fan of MR James in the world but whenever I write something spooky I think, would he have approved? Have I over-egged the horror? Should I hide it somewhere? Because that was what MR James did. Sneaking the fear up on you.
He was also the master of the spooky title. ‘Oh, whistle and I’ll come to you.’ You don’t get more sinister than that. That’s why those six words got to me: ‘There’s something to his left’. And that’s why I wrote a story based entirely on that line.
Every writer suffers rejection and most have ways of coping with the pain which always feels personal.
There was a time when the support of a literary agent was not critical to a writer's career but when the Internet opened up the world, agents, producers, TV networks shut their doors to all but represented writers.
Panic ensued as writers scrambled to find representation.
I was represented by Curtis Brown but when my agent quit I was one of many writers that were culled from their books.
I received an email recently asking to submit a blog about my twisted journey, and I just thought “Wow, they want me to write a blog. What’s a blog?” So a quick internet search followed by a flick through on what the other “Twisted” writers had written led me to create what I think is a blog. But I’m probably way off track. I decided to start like all of my stories, with an end scenario, and then try to create a journey towards that end. So now let’s move forward to the beginning.
I was up until one year ago a “Closet” writer. Scared to tell anyone in case they laughed at my “Just another fantasy” approach to life. No one took me seriously as I had all of these fantastic ideas, but no proof in the pudding. So I kept my head down, fantasizing myself away from the mundane and repetitive world I inhabit.
At some point, every writer will likely be asked, “Where do you come up with your ideas?” Well, for most of us, I believe, the ideas come from straight from our
inner-selves: not from our heads so much as from our hearts and our memories.
When a writer sets out to write a story, he or she sets out to share something personal about him or herself. The message that comes out in that story - the
ethos, the logos, and the pathos of that tale - likely ties back to something
that the writer has either lived through or watched others live through (or perhaps wished he or she could live through). Stories, in that sense, are a bit like wish-fulfillment on the part of the author.
Twisted50 volume 1 will have an audiobook. How cool is that! You can pre-order your copy now (and please do as we need to sell 50 copies to cover the cost of making it). You can pre order a
digital download OR a disk version. You can get it on the Twisted50 store HERE.
Heading it up is experienced Audiobook producer and seasoned voice over artist Helen Lloyd, whose voice sounds like what a bottle of Baileys would if it could talk. Rather delicious. So we are in very good hands. Helen has agreed to write an Audiobook Diary as we go… Here is part one.
Thinking of deleting or shredding all those wasted competition entries which are clogging up your hard drive or files? Think again!
In early 2015 I entered a NYC Midnight Screenwriting Challenge. We were assigned a three ran-dom aspects, which had to be included in our story, and were given a time limit to complete the task. As the entrants progressed through the rounds, each task became more challenging with less time to complete the screenplay. In the semi-finals, I was assigned Horror - A Billionaire - A (spoiler) at Sea.
Horror! Really? Dayumn!
Twisted’s Evil Little Sister Topples Stephen King AND Clive Barker to Number 1 Spot in 3 hours!
We launched Twisted’s Evil Little Sister today and within one hour, we had knocked both Stephen King and Clive Barker from their number one and two slots respectively.
Such GREAT news for everyone involved in both Crate50 and Twisted’s Evil Little Sister volume 1.
We are all VERY excited to announce that our second book to come from the Create50 stable, ‘Twisted’s Evil Little Sister’, is released today. Thirty three stories from twenty eight writers… every single one demented, disturbed and a little bit unhinged.
Evil Little Sister came about because we could only publish fifty stories in Twisted50 volume 1 and yet the judges and everyone involved in the process felt there were way more than fifty stories worthy of publication. Also, this was down to a writer entering more than one very strong tale (they could only be included once in Twisted50). And thus Little Sister was created.
In the heat of the revolution, not only the Royals lost their heads. Many people who were seen as part of the 'establishment' were also despatched by the guillotine.
One of these unfortunates was a doctor. A very dedicated doctor as it transpired.
A guard was assigned to accompany the condemned man to his fate.
Amazingly, the doctor didn't want to waste a useful scientific opportunity.
He had a theory that a detached head could stay alive for quite a while without it's body.
I’m not a horror writer. Sure, sometimes my writing is horrific, but usually not on purpose. I normally write sitcom pilots, but I had enjoyed writing for the screen side of Create50, and wanted
to be part of the prose platform as well. But if I were to write convincing horror, I couldn’t fake my way through this. I had to write about something that truly scared me. So I opened up my
laptop and started a list:
THINGS THAT SCARE ME
-My mother’s cooking
And of course:
-My mother, dressed as a clown, cooking creepy children.
As writers new to the scene, were are forever being told, ‘show don’t tell’, ‘easy on the adverbs’, and ‘write what you know’.
It’s this last nugget of advice that provided the springboard for my Twisted 50 story, True Fear. When it comes to horror, which I had never written before, what I knew about fear came from being a parent. The opening line of my story, “You don’t comprehend true fear until you have your own children,” is a phrase that forever stuck with me. And it stuck because of its piercing truth. Naturally, as humans, we all fear tragedy befalling either us, our parents, our friends, or even a stranger. Ultimately, however, that fear is unmasked as mere disquiet compared to the thought of something happening to our children.
For everyone at Create50, having Twisted50 paperbacks ready BEFORE Christmas, so that we can give that extra special gift to one we love… (evil cackle) is SO important.
To that end I have personally underwritten a short run print of 300 books. I do expect these will all go, so I would act now if you want some.
This is a short run, and a first edition too, so if for any reason Twisted 50 becomes a hit success or gains cult status, this first edition could increase in value.
I just realized that all the stories I've written thus far for the Twisted series, despite having different story lines, different characters, and different "voices", share a common theme: the horrifying consequences of a person blindly fulfilling their needs at the expense of others.
The reasons “why” vary, too. In one of these stories, a mother is trapped in an addiction; in another, it's a producer's greed that sets off mass carnage; in a third, death and destruction result when a former friend fully indulges his sadism.
*** Possible Spoiler Alert ***
(Strongly advise reading this only after reading the story in Twisted 50: Evil Little Sister)
One of my screenplays is based on an horrific incident that happened on a warship while I was serving in the Royal Navy. Severe damage and loss of life were involved. A ship is like a living breathing animal. She will look after you if you look after her, but she could also kill you if you’re not careful. You have to respect her.
A year back, I had what most would describe as a breakdown. I ran out of juice and had too many balls up in the air at once. I can talk about it easily, because I had an amazing doctor who listened to me with genuine concern and the most supportive and patient wife.
Then I found someone that would take my money each week, in return for my demons (and we would make that exchange in a nice rural setting over a cup of tea). I took the usual pills prescribed to take the edge off and had a go at trying to create the headspace I needed, which was the hardest part.
It's not unique at all. Most of us, creatives especially, can't see what's coming to take us down, until it's too late.
Paper Cuts was a letter that had already been written in my mind some years ago and deposited in an envelope somewhere in a sorting office at the back of it.
I have suffered with severe ME/CFS since I was twenty-two, and it left me so ill that there were times over the years when I couldn't move, speak, or even write my own name. To distract myself from pain and nausea while I was trapped inside my body, I used to tell myself stories. Paper Cuts was one of those many stories. I had grown up in love with short fiction, especially horror and sci-fi. I was that cliché of a lonely only child: a bedroom recluse who wrote and drew. The idea that writing would be waiting for me again was a light at the end of the tunnel, keeping me going after I fell ill. I dragged myself back to a point where I was able to start doing small amounts again, and when I did, I wrote Paper Cuts a few days before the Twisted50 deadline, editing it until the last minute.
For me, truly horrifying tales involve a hidden evil within normal, everyday life. Imagine: there’s an unsettling spirit entity watching you read this RIGHT NOW. Can’t you feel it, observing you?
It’s right here, just at your shoulder, willing you to turn around… look. Look now. LOOK!
Nothing there? It doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist… and that’s how The Beholder arrived in my head. As a reader and viewer of horror I’m always at my most terrified before the ghost or monster presents itself. The prospect lurking deep in our imaginations is often scarier than what might really be there… and hints at how we see ourselves and our precarious place in the world. To feel watched can make us feel frightened, but also validated: we look around to reassure ourselves and to discover how we might be seen by someone… something… else.
For such a horrible story, the first version of Do Blastocysts Dream Of Foetal Sheep?
It was actually written to make my girlfriend at the time laugh.
We both shared the same strange (twisted?) sense of humor so I wrote as disturbing a story as I possibly could.
This was the result, so it's a wonder we're not still together!
I've always loved writing short stories. To me, a good short story is like a good joke - you build it up, set the scene, and then you reveal, you subvert, you twist. A good short story shouldn't
just end. The only problem with a short story is what to do with one when it's done. Sure, you can send it to your friends, show them how clever you are, blog it, whatever. It doesn't really go
I genuinely don't remember where I first heard about Twisted 50 from. I must have been on a mailing list. It doesn't really matter. What did matter was that it promised (if you were lucky enough) to do something with the story. All you had to do was write the thing.
I used to write a lot, every working day, cataracts of words, page upon ream. But that was dull Civil Service stuff.
It’s only lately that I stopped all that and started to write creatively, following a stroke and medical retirement.
Not so good, but it could have been much worse, so I’m very lucky. (Just prior to the stroke, I was pulling together information to see how feasible it would be to leave the bloody job.
As it turned out, events overtook me. Wishes can be very dangerous things.)
To me, ultimate horror is good people being driven to do bad things, and it’s vital that readers relate to characters and care about them. Stephen King is a master at managing the “How did THAT happen?” moment.
But when I saw the Create 50 “Can you write a horror story in a weekend?” message it was the reference to Pan Books of Horror Stories that first got me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. I devoured those as a teenager and some of the storylines have haunted me to this day.
Yet I’d never considered writing horror myself, till that moment.
I love wearing high heels. The power. The adrenaline pumping sexuality. The socially acceptable dirty pretty look every woman, and some men too, can use or better still, abuse.
For a transgender twist on the vampire story, high heels seemed an appropriate and powerful totem for the heroine in my story, Tatiana. Once a man, now a woman. So long as she stays on the right side of her Faustian deal.
What I love most about writing, is the way it can conjure evocative images in the mind of both the writer and the reader. Our thoughts are truly uncensored and that arouses something in me when I write. Our thoughts are true and honest. And for me, a wonderfully dangerous playground.
Entering stories into Twisted 1, was, for me, quite a leap of faith, not in the competition, but in myself. I’d done no creative writing since school, and that was a long time ago, but have always been an avid reader of fiction, including horror fiction, so thought it was time to try.
I am so pleased I did, because it’s fun! I wrote and submitted four stories in the final days of T1 – nothing like leaving it until the last minute – and with each one, I learnt something, through trial and error on my own part, or from the comments each story received once posted.
And the fourth story – the fourth I have written since my schooldays –was fortunate enough to be selected for Twisted 50 Volume 1.
I believe I’ve learnt a lot from the Create 50 site in the relatively short time since I joined, and for what it’s worth, here are a few observations:
Some years ago I visited an elderly relative who had just moved to a smaller house.
It was, of course, a tiring experience for her and I politely asked "This will be your last move?". "No", she responded and then said, with her wonderful (slightly wicked?) sense of humour, "Just one more, to my single floor flat". I looked confused to which she smiled and then crossed her arms over her chest.
That idea remained stored in my mind and as soon as the brilliant Twisted 50 initiative appeared, the idea rapidly surfaced.
Do you remember that George Harrison song?
♫ It's gonna take time,
A whole lot of precious time ♫
Turns out he was a bit of a prophet.
Often you hear writing gurus, mentors and lecturers preaching about how everything takes time in this writing malarkey. Things like, "it takes ten-thousand hours to become good at writing", or "it takes an average of X years for a script to reach the screen" (and of course, for the latter, only if it has gone through numerous rewrites and stages of rejection).
I seem to have a predilection for the fantastic that goes back as far as I can remember, which, I believe, stems from my early television viewing habits in the late 60s and early 70s. The shows that drew me in and set my imagination running were Mr Benn, Timeslip, and Marine Boy, which were clearly science fiction, and Scooby Do, Where Are You! (no, I don’t get the exclamation mark either).
Scooby Do approached things from a completely different angle to normal kids’ shows. The message was that while Mystery Inc. investigated horrific events, the only extant monsters were very human. That lesson, along with my non-belief in the supernatural, and my laid back nature about copious quantities of blood, possibly ruined the impact on me of most horror films ever made.
So I am sat here writing this and wondering how I ended up here. I mean I am a serial closet writer and as all closet writers know there is one rule – never take the stories out of the closet, never let anyone read them. Yet here I am with a contract to sign and an editor to work with because for once I let a story out of the closet and someone liked it enough for it to win a place in a book.
I don’t have a writing method, I tend to get bored and wander away halfway through trying to understand one. Stories just sort of tell themselves in my head. As I walk to the office, as I sit on the tram I am constantly letting the story tell itself to me and sorting out the words as I go. It is a bit like having a literary multiple personality.
Following his awesome press release, Nick managed to be the first of our authors to get into a newspaper (pic below)!
Here's his release...
Local author selected for bestselling horror anthology
Stamford author Nick Yates has hit the Halloween horror heights after his short story won an international competition to be part of a best-selling anthology.
The anthology, called Twisted, is the brainchild of Oscar-nominated filmmaker Chris Jones, who has published it via his media platform Create50.
I came to the party (the party being submitting my writing to competitions) later than many. Despite having worked as a writer professionally for over 30 years and having written little stories and poems since I could first manage a pen.
Once at the party, my writing partner and I thought surely the screenplay we were submitting to budget-busting competitions would have judges whipping out their cells, conference-calling A-list Hollywood producers, directors and talent, and screaming 'You've GOT to do this picture!'.
We quickly learned that it is incredibly difficult to get noticed, let alone produced.
Yes we did it, we officially knocked the King from his throne.
We nudged Stephen King from his number one spot in Horror Bestsellers and into the number two spot.
So congratulations to everyone involved in Twisted 50 and most of all the 50 Authors. YOU ARE BEST SELLERS!
Let that sink in for a moment.
What we have collectively achieved is extraordinary and we should pat ourselves on the back. But only for a moment.
Hi my name is Marie Gethins and I have an irrational obsession with dance reality shows.
It started with satisfying curiosity—what faded celebrities and sports stars were willing to do for a second bite of that fame apple. First the introductory stills were enough. Oiled and spray tanned in skimpy costumes, I relished the wave of shock, amusement, and a few times, the horror of the vision they created.
Then I moved onto GIFs the morning after each round of competition. Soon I wasted hours reviewing complete dance clips: rumba, jive, quickstep, cha-cha-cha, jazz, samba, waltz.
Towards the later part of 2015 I came across a competition. It was entitled Twisted 50, and they were looking for short stories in the horror genre. The fifty winners would be published in an anthology.
I’d never considered writing horror, although I’m a huge fan of horror books and films. I think it started when I was allowed to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street when I was eleven years old. I was hooked, that feeling of fear, of going to sleep and having someone kill you in your dreams! As I got older I wanted more, I wanted to push the boundaries of myself and my own fear, and I watched all of the ghastly films I could find. Ones that had been cut in order to comply with UK screening rules were always good ones, such as the uncut version of Human Centipede and A Serbian Film.
Twisted50 is now out and live on Amazon and getting great traction. If we want to fall into anyone’s shadow, Stephen King would be the person. But how sweet would it be to nudge him off
that top spot?
Some of you may have been wondering why we choose Kindle to launch on first, and not by printing a physical book? Here’s what our publishers said…
‘At the moment we are delaying the physical book so as to concentrate sales on the Kindle edition in order to achieve a high Amazon Bestseller ranking which will improve visibility beyond the Create50 community, allow access to special Amazon offers and boost sales and recognition even further, which is beneficial to agents, Amazon and of course, the authors too.’
It is a question I have been asked many times since I uploaded Sum of my memories to the Create 50 website and asked my friends and family to take a look.
In all honesty death fascinates me, or to be more precise the idea that death might not be the cut off, the complete cession of life and consciousness which is the societal norm fascinates me.
I have long been a collector of macabre stories, Victorian ghosts were my childhood preference and while my peers were engrossed in Enid Blyton’s halcyon endless summers, I was lost in a world of sunken eyed ghost children and terrified scratches on the inside of coffins. Although, ironically, I do shy away from gratuitous violence, gore and in your face horror.
I got lost driving home last year and ended up on The Broads. I loved the watery flat slightly-creepy-in-wintertime landscape, and had this idea of doing a short film there, though what, I didn’t know.
Then over Christmas last year I saw the Twisted 50 site. I don’t normally do hard-core horror, more psychological thriller, and supernatural, but I read a few stories and really liked the variety. I remembered the Broads, and asked myself “who would evolve out of that landscape?”
And that was it; there she was, pulling herself up out of the water. She had a really larger than life 70’s, 80’s voice that just kept yabering away.
Picture a wet Friday afternoon in late November.
Almost a year ago I was sitting at my desk on just such a day in need of creative inspiration. The proverbial waste paper basket was overflowing with balled up paper and a bruised forehead was all I had to show for it.
I had a bad case of writer’s block.
Then, as if my thoughts were being read somewhere, it popped into my life in the form of an email from a Chris Jones.
This trailer is an extended cut of the last one, featuring ALL 50 writers and their stories. Please share far with your family and friends and shout about it on your social media channels.
You can share this link for the trailer here...
For everyone involved, you can now setup and connect Author accounts in both Goodreads and Amazon. I suggest doing Amazon first (just Google Amazon Author Central) and setup a page and link the book.
You will need a headshot and bio for this. You can also embed the trailer on your Amazon Authors page.
Wooooo! Finally, the Amazon Kindle release of Twisted50 is online. The softback will follow very soon.
Here’s the link https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01M66RW8U/
What can you do now?
Numbers and reviews are now VERY important. We need a spike in sales and downloads and we need as many good reviews as possible.
These two metrics are essential for the success of Twisted 50. And of course, if you help you will feel all warm and fuzzy as well as truly terrified by the stories you read!
I wrote a story about things I didn’t know I wanted to say.
To me, it’s about the absurdism of the corporate adult world, how graduates are coerced into designing their lives in ways that are pleasing to companies, perhaps unknowingly sacrificing experiences that would bring them unique joy instead of trying to look good on paper, two pursuits almost exclusively at odds with one another. In “The Audition Altar”—my best alliterative copy of “The Casting Couch”, not that I’d know what that is!—university qualifications and work experience become fetishised, revealing how banal and unsexy they actually are.
An aside: I think Snapchat and Instagram, two things I don’t understand, are the equally horrific opposite of that, making people think that everything they do has to be entertaining, pretty and fun. Life is about half-sexy, half-dull—pretending it’s all sexy or all dull, or trying to make it so, is dangerous.
The idea for “Insects” came from a dream. Or should I say, a nightmare.
In the dream, I’m standing in the doorway of my kitchen, horrified. There are heaving, crawling piles of insects everywhere. I rush in and turn on all the flames on the stove to try and incinerate them. I turn the taps on full blast in the sink to try and drown them. But nothing works. They just keep coming back like the relentless sea of beetles in “The Mummy”.
When I was thinking of a story for Twisted50, I imagined two women in a room. That became an interview between a psychiatrist and a young girl. I added the insects and the nastiness grew from there.
Many of my stories are set in the woods near where I live, and my inspiration for ‘Witches’ came from the same place.
The clearing where I set the story really does exist, and just after dawn on a sunny morning shafts of light fall through the trees and illuminate it in a truly magical way.
One rainy morning I found the remains of a campsite there, and some of the trees had been marked with odd graffiti. It set my imagination off and running. What if there had been some sort of ritual? Who might have taken part? And what would they do if someone discovered them?
– quote from John the Christmas cracker who took 1st place at the Boys’ Brigade fancy dress comp 1988.
Okay, let's travel forward in time a bit...
On the evening of September 3rd, 2016, I found myself at the London Screenwriters’ Awards. My short story, Shenanigans, had been nominated for best story, and as I sat in a hall packed with incredibly talented people, some of whom I’d admired for years, I wondered for a moment, how the hell had I ended up here? And the honest answer is – I’m not smart enough to learn from my mistakes…
Ahead of the launch for Twisted50 the book, we have just launched this website dedicated to the book and the book series. We will share updates and behind the scenes stories via this blog, as well as posts from the authors.
So how can you contribute to the blog?
If you are a featured author in Twisted 50, why not share your personal story? Or maybe share how you write? Or the inspiration behind the story? We want to know.
If you have written for Create50, why not share your journey or experience?