The man landed on his back in front of the double glass doors. His mouth gaped. He looked through to me in the foyer. His legs moved, the knees bent, and he sat up.  

A red ID badge fastened to the breast pocket of his dark suit told me he came from the restricted floor: Floor Eight. Now he sat outside on the rubber entry mats, a puddle of broken glass about him. 

The man lifted his arm and tapped at the watch on his left  wrist. My eyes flicked to the clock above the reception desk – 10.22am – and back again. 

I blinked, frozen in place as his eyes bored through the distance between us for long moments. I should move. I should help. I should do something. But I couldn’t. 

I stared.

He stared back, a look of resignation on his unmarked face. He gave me the briefest of nods and then his expression shimmered in and out of focus. The effect rippled down his body, juddering him like a seizure. His eyes turned frantic. His fingers clutched the air. He looked up.

As I watched, his body faded.

There was a tremendous crash from above. A man hit the ground hard in front of the glass doors. His head burst on impact. The face deflated; brain matter and blood the colour of the ID tag dangling from the breast pocket of his dark suit spread over a puddle of broken glass.

On the periphery of my vision, I caught a glimpse of the clock above the reception desk. I focused on it to block out the sight before me.

 I blinked. 

The clock flipped over to 10.22am.

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FLASH FICTION – The Oak of Witches’ Folly

This bit of flash fiction was inspired by a knot in the floorboards in my cousin’s house. I used it as a prop for a book photo but the idea of it stuck in my head.

Do you see what I see?

The Oak of Witches’ Folly – Katia M. Davis

The oak had stood sentinel at the edge of the clearing known as Witches’ Folly for over four hundred years. Then men came, bringing tools with teeth that bit and chains that wrapped and hauled.

The men took the oak to a place where machines shrieked and screamed. They split it, again and again, exposing its secrets and cleaving them open to the light. Knotted faces, ancient and dark, peered from their wooden prison with fresh-cut eyes.

Twisted lips whispered:

I see the sky.

The air is chill.

Release us. 

A flatbed truck jerked to a halt outside number fifty-two Harrowden Place. Up the drive, a squat man with a bushy moustache clambered down the two storey scaffolding.

‘Over here,’ the man waved to the truck driver with one hand while adjusting the utility belt slung low under his belly with the other. ‘I was expecting you this morning.’

The driver slammed the truck door. ‘Got a flat,’ he shouted across the lawn. ‘Where do you want them?’

‘They’re for the entry and hall, so dump them against the wall as you go through the front.’

The driver nodded his understanding and dropped the tailgate. He draped a piece of sack cloth over his right shoulder and pulled on a pair of rigger’s gloves he kept safe in his back pocket. 

Solid oak floorboards, bundled together in manageable stacks, filled the tray of the flatbed. The driver bent his knees and pulled the first load onto his shoulder. He straightened, bounced a little to settle the load, and slung his arm over the wood like it was a girl on his sofa. 

As he turned towards the house a whisper haunted his ear: 

I see the sky.

The air is chill.

Release us.

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Self-publishing: Why I Changed My Cover Design

a question mark written in white chalk on a blackboard

Self-publishing is hard. Sure, uploading stuff and hitting that publish button is easy, just about anyone can do it. Making sure the thing you are asking people to spend their hard earned money on is as good as it can be is another kettle of fish.

In comparison to many of the current covers, mine looked old fashioned and a worn around the edges. That isn’t a good thing. At first I thought it might have been because everyone was going solo and using Canva (I love Canva, I use it for a lot of my advertising graphics). But then a whole series of classic ghost, horror and creepy stories came out, all with bold colours and vector graphics. Even delightfully twisted authors like Neil Gaiman and Stephen King began sporting vector graphics on their covers. What was going on?

I decided I liked the new trend. To be honest, I much prefer to work with vector images because they are easily scalable, are clear, and can pack a punch. With self-publishing platforms asking for higher and higher resolutions, and Print on Demand turning into Disaster on Demand if your cover is not high quality, vector graphics are the obvious all round solution.

That is why I changed my cover design. It is still based on the inspiration for my original idea, but its simplicity draws the eye and is clearer.

My first collection of dark fiction short stories The Passages of Melton Hall and other stories, is available now for pre-order from Amazon. Click on the image below to check it out.

Click here to join the katiamdavis.com email list for info on upcoming publications and exclusive freebies or click on the image below to visit my website and find out more about me and my writing.

Writing and a Self-Publishing Journey

I’ve been writing for nearly thirty years. Many things have sown the seeds of inspiration and I’ve penned many a tale. But it was only several years ago I decided to do something with that writing and learned all I could about the craft. I did a creative writing course back in 2007, and I wrote, and I read, and I wrote, and I read some more to hone my skills.

I learned my writing style was best suited to shorter works of fiction. I also learned my muse is dark, and no matter how nicely I began a story, something untoward always happened. I embraced the darkness.

Finally comfortable with my level of knowledge, I sent a story off to a magazine. I got a personalised rejection saying, “Try us again”. Some people might have been disappointed, but I knew personalised rejections were rare, and to get one for the very first story I sent out, that was a sign. I realised I had reached “that point”. What was stopping me taking matters into my own hands and self-publishing? Nothing.

A new learning curve began. I learned about blogging (I need to blog more), what should go on an author page, cover design, layouts for PoD, how to create graphics for advertising, ISBNs, copyright, email lists, and how to make myself into a self-publishing business. I was fortunate to have a background in technical drawing from my archaeology days, and I have a qualification in Business Administration, so these things did not seem as daunting as they could have been.

I set up shop as a sole trader under the umbrella of Drop Hammer Publishing. I developed a five year business plan, and fostered ideas to expand still further in order to help new writers, especially those in minority groups such as my own (disability and LGBT). I’m two years in, and the plan is coming together. Check out my first collection of dark fiction below.

The Passages of Melton Hall and other stories is due for release through Amazon on the 13th May 2019.

The Stories:

The Passages of Melton Hall: Two Victorian women attempt to dispose of a corpse only to discover a horrifying secret.

Orcus – A Right to Die: Harold Reams wants to die, so he hires the friendly services of the Orcus Right to Die Company.

The Trunk: The trunk was gone, drowned in the lake forever. Now a drought has created the perfect opportunity for darkness to re-emerge.

Broomstick Wood: Beck is a killer, but his latest victim has a more pressing problem than death.

The Night Voice: Maria has learnt the art of meditation. She revels in the visual and auditory hallucinations such a state creates, writing down everything she sees and hears. Her most recent experience is different, overwhelming, and very real.

Tea for One: Something has been moving the fireside companion set in Eunice Hall’s living room from one side to the other. When a relaxing afternoon turns into a fight for her life, she finally understands why.

Old Mr Corrigan: A group of wayward boys gets more than they bargained for when one of them recites a rhyme beneath the old hanging tree.

The Donor: When Selma finds victim trophies hidden beneath the bedroom floor, she knows her husband has done dreadful things.

A Stranger in My Grave: A girl who looks like a boy floats outside little Alice’s bedroom window. The girl has a message for Alice’s Governess, and a warning she cannot ignore.

Nameless: In 1632, a woman is accused of dancing with the Devil. Condemned and shackled; will a trial expose her true nature?

Foolish: Septimus Hayes, prized Executioner for the town of Short Spire, is dedicated and meticulous. When he is called on to execute a young man for matricide, his dedication is stretched to the limit.

Click here to join the katiamdavis.com mailing list and receive information about upcoming publications and exclusive freebies. Or click on the image below to visit my website to find out more about me and my writing.

Writing: Inspiration for The Passages of Melton Hall

Thirteen years ago, I visited a small village in Derbyshire in the UK by the name of Foolow. It’s situated a mile down the road from Eyam, the village that shut itself off from the outside world in 1665 to stop the spread of plague. There is not a lot in Foolow aside from an 18th Century pub prized for its menu, and a duck pond. Beside the pond is a stone structure with a set of worn steps leading down to a lapping pool of water and a barred gate. The whole thing fascinated me. It looked like the perfect place to dump a body.

Using the structure as inspiration, I developed the plot for the title story of The Passages of Melton Hall and other stories. I did dump a body down there, hiding it temporarily until the characters could dispose of it. But there was something more sinister lurking in the darkness behind the barred gate.

The photo I took back in 2006 was fuzzy and had been taken with a two megapixel phone camera. It was good enough for me to look at and I used it to create a vector graphic for my book cover, but I couldn’t share it with an audience.

I was lucky enough to revisit Foolow on the 7th of May this year. I made sure I took photos with a much better camera from various angles. Someone had also cleaned the gate since I had last visited, so it was no longer covered in a veil of slimy things. This did take away from the spookiness of the place a little, but in its cleaned state, the gate also looked more prison-like.

Now, when people ask where my inspiration as a writer comes from, I can show them some decent pictures, like these below.

The Passages of Melton Hall and other stories is a collection of eleven dark and disturbing stories and is available for purchase on Amazon from the 13th of May 2019. I dare you to have a read to find out what twisted things my mind can conjure based on an innocent looking stone structure beside a duck pond.

The duck pond in Foolow looking towards the stone structure. Image © 2019 Katia M. Davis.
The entrance to the stone structure. Image © 2019 Katia M. Davis.
Looking down the steps towards the barred gateway. Image © 2019 Katia M. Davis.
Close-up of the barred gate. Is there anything lurking behind those bars?
Image © 2019 Katia M. Davis.

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Merchandising – A few designs

As the publication date looms for my short story collection of psychological horrors, The Passages of Melton Hall and other stories, I’ve been thinking about merch. I’ve said before that merchandising is a good way of engaging with readers by offering them something other than your writing. Not everyone wants ‘stuff’, but for those who do, sites like Teespring are a good option for Indie authors.

But what am I going to offer my readers? The secret, I think, is to have a few designs that work equally well on a variety of items, such as t-shirts, mugs, stickers, hoodies etc. I need a tagline to encompass my collection. Then I need to develop designs that reflect more than just the book as a whole. Since there are twelve stories in the collection, no doubt people will have their favourites. This means I will probably develop twelve designs (although perhaps not all available at the same time).

Having merchandise doesn’t simply mean an additional stream of income. It means I have access to items I can purchase myself and give away as promotional gifts or prizes. Some people might think this defeats the purpose of creating a revenue stream. I don’t. Which author are readers going to remember, the one sitting on Amazon doing nothing except sending a newsletter telling readers to buy their next book or the author who sent them a cool t-shirt because they won a reader raffle?

With this in mind, I’ve developed a preliminary design for my tagline and a couple of the stories. The story designs are not completely new, I created a version of them last year for website images. I simply tweaked them for merchandising purposes. I’ve got a while to go before everything will be up and running, but have a look below to see what I’ve come up with so far. As always, I’ve either drawn the images myself or they are CC0 from Pixabay.

the dark never dies

orcus promo logo

passages promo logo

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Visit my website at www.katiamdavis.com.

Click here to join my mailing list now for updates and bonus material.

Cover Reveal – Horror story collection

The Passages of Melton Hall and other stories

Another step in the publication process has been ticked off my to-do list. After many iterations, the time has come. The full cover design for The Passages of Melton Hall and other stories is done.

Thanks must go to my family and friends (both in person and through my Facebook page) who gave me feedback. Thanks also to the Fiction Writing group and Writers Helping Writers group on Facebook for the invaluable critiques. The cover was improved greatly because of everyone’s feedback. Who knew fonts could be so polarising?

So without further ado…

passages front and back 5.9.18

I believe it is important for self-published authors to share their trials and tribulations with other writers, particularly those who may be self-publishing for the first time (like me). This does two things:

  1. It shows new authors they are not alone. Nothing is spat out onto the page fully formed and perfect whether it be a cover design or the 1st draft of a novel. Every finished product has gone through dozens of changes, we just don’t normally see them.
  2. By showing others my mistakes or poor choices, I may help new authors avoid them during their own process.

If you are interested in seeing the journey the cover took on its way to finalisation, have a glance below at the failed designs and an explanation.

passages cover evolution

The top three designs were developed straight off the top of my head when I first started to write the collection back in February 2017. I had not done any research into the style required for the horror genre. Had I done the research, I would have saved myself a lot of time.

After I had created the initial designs I did a search on popular horror collections for comparison and realised I was well off the mark. I also read a few articles on cover design so my layout improved. I decided to put the yellow sticker on the front to give people a heads-up about what was inside. However, the feedback I received from my Facebook groups suggested this made it look a bit tacky and designed for children rather than the psychological horror I had written. Besides, my blurb would let people know what was inside so it was redundant. I was also told the font options I’d chosen were either unclear or did not fit the time period for the title story (Victorian era). The shading in the background was also too busy.

I took all this advice on board and realised the points were completely valid, so I changed things and came up with the final iteration you saw initially. It was an excellent learning curve and I feel a lot more confident and knowledgeable regarding cover design. In the final cover, all images are CC0 from Pixabay.

The Passages of Melton Hall and other stories will be available to purchase by the end of 2018.

What do you think of the cover? Let me know in the comments below.

Visit my website at www.katiamdavis.com.

Click here to join my mailing list now for updates and bonus material.