Author Bio

C.J. Carter-Stephenson is an English writer of fiction, poetry and drama. He was born in the county of Essex and currently lives on the Isle of Wight. He holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Southampton and was a finalist in the second quarter of the 2015 Writers of the Future contest. He has had three books published by Bonito Books and a play published by New Theatre Publications. Other publication credits include stories or poetry in the following magazines: Aesthetica, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, Dark Horizons (the former journal of the British Fantasy Society), Murky Depths, Möbius, The Willows, The Fifth Di..., Hadrosaur Tales and Legend: Worlds of Possibility. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators, and is the narrator of Back of the Bookshelf, a monthly podcast of classic genre fiction.

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You are cordially invited to a distant galaxy for an action-packed space adventure...
In a forgotten corner of a distant galaxy, a crystal escape pod drifts through space. Inside this escape pod is the beautiful Princess Sky, who has spent the last thousand years frozen in time. When King Axor hears the tragic tale of her life from a mysterious stranger, he decides to hold a contest to find a champion to rescue her. To his surprise, the winner is a lowly farmer's son called Tik. What strange adventures await Tik in the void of space? Find out in this action-packed adventure from the pen of C.J. Carter-Stephenson...

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Skull & Crossbones  W A R N I N G  Skull & Crossbones

Dark denizens of the night waiting to infiltrate your dreams!
Drink deeply of their adventures and they will open your eyes to the darkness inside yourself. A disembodied spirit fighting to be reunited with his vampiric body… Two vampires braving the wilderness of space in search of a new home. A vampire with no recollection of his mortal life… All this and more you will find in these pages - six variations on the vampire theme, bound together by their protagonists’ burning lust for blood. Drink deeply of their adventures and they will open your eyes to the darkness inside yourself.

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Seeing Spirits

Horror. Originally published in Sinister Tales, Volume 3, Issue 2.
A piercing scream echoed around the room. Lee Robinson shook his head and turned off the TV in disgust. The only thing frightening about this film was that there was anyone twisted enough to have made it. He tossed the remote control onto his bedside table and glanced at his watch...

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Picture This

Science Fiction. Originally published in Hadrosaur Tales, Volume 17.
Amy Vermont watched with relief as a faded welcome sign loomed out of the darkness announcing the arrival of the Greyhound bus at the small town of Seven Springs. She gazed out of the window at the rows of picturesque Colonial houses. It had been a long trip and she couldn't wait to get to her hotel...

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And Justice For One

Horror. Originally published in Seasons in the Night, Volume 4.
Danny Cooper jerked backwards as the bottle came crashing down onto the table and shattered into a thousand glittering fragments. He grimaced as a slither of glass embedded itself in his cheek.
"You goddamn, stinking cheat!" exclaimed Snakebite McFarlane...

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Living on Borrowed Time

Horror. Originally published in Title Goes Here, Issue 4.
Crash went the trashcan as it tumbled over. Mark Wiss watched it roll into the nearby wall, ignoring the twitching curtains in the windows above. Kicking it over probably wouldn’t cure him of his writer’s block, but it had certainly felt satisfying. It was just a shame he hadn’t picked a better target. As it had fallen, the can had scattered garbage in all directions, and being a responsible citizen, he felt obliged to clean up...

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Different Worlds

General. Originally published in The Bracelet Charm, Volume 5, Issue 41.
Joshua McSween pulled his coat tighter around him as he strode across the deserted parking garage towards his car. It did little good. The wind was like winter personified, wrapping its icy tendrils around his fingers and face, and scorning his attempts to keep warm. Not for the first time, he wished he was on a tropical beach somewhere, far away from the rows of concrete pillars...

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A Space Pirate in Love

Erotic Science Fiction. Originally published in Daily Flashes of Erotica Quarterly, Issue 1.
“You like her, don’t you?”
Captain Kinster looked up in surprise, the star chart he’d been studying momentarily forgotten. It wasn’t the sort of question you expected from a computer, even LAA with her advanced artificial intelligence chip. “Sure,” he replied. “I brought her here to repair the ship’s engines and she’s doing a damn fine job. What’s not to like..."

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The Animal Inside

Horror. Originally published in Eastern Iowa Review Dark Fiction, July 2018.
"Dr. Hunter settled himself in the vacant chair at the centre of the interview room - a windowless box lit by a single pendulous light bulb. The prisoner eyeballed him across the table as he opened his notebook, her mouth taut with hostility. Powerfully built with matted mousy hair and a number of prominent tattoos, she looked like she was ready to take on the world. Once upon a time, being alone with a convicted murderer would have made Dr. Hunter nervous...

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The Fashion Victim

Horror. Originally published in Writer’s Muse, Issue 20.
Nobody could explain the rise to fame of Francisco Valentino. One minute, he was just another wannabe; the next, he was the most respected designer in the fashion world. There was no question that he was talented, however, envisaging unique designs with unerring regularity. These were not clothes inspired by the work of others or rooted in the trends of the past. Each item was a veritable work of art - a perfect blend of vivid color in a cut that worked in harmony with the human body as though it were part of it...

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Into the Pit

General. Originally published in La Fenêtre, Issue 5.
"As far as I'm concerned, Margaret Thatcher can rot in hell," Pete Brodie exclaimed with undisguised fire. The hapless tourist took a few steps back and Pete made an effort to moderate his tone as he continued, "It's thanks to her that the English mining industry went down the pan. We can't compete, that‘s what they say, but I don't buy it! We have everything we need - plenty of coal, and trained miners who would begin digging tomorrow, given the chance! Bloody politicians don't know what they're talking about..."

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The Boat

Originally published in Aesthetica, Issue 9.
Cradling the boat in his callused hands,
His mind flits back to happier times,
Before the shadow of death fell on his son
And he plunged to the bottom of a pit of despair.

Crude and simple, he treasures the boat
Not for its lines or inspiration,
Not for the hours he put into its making,
But for the memories its presence invokes...

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Voyage to Nowhere

Originally published in The Fifth Di..., September 2013.
A mechanical beast,
In the void of space,
Seal sleek scout-ship
Back from its mission.
Firing its boosters,
It throws itself clear -
Clear from the clutches
Of a fiery explosion.
Battered and buffeted...

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House of Dark Dreams

Originally published in Back Roads, Issue 3, reprinted in Dark Metre, Issue 21.
This is the road to the lonely cabin,
Bending, wending like a meandering river.
This is the road to untold evil,
Paved in stone, christened in blood.
Beyond a ditch, it enters a wood,
Where leafless trees pierce the sky
Like the gnarled fingers of a coven's hands
Poised to protect some sinister secret...

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The Souls of Those Lost at Sea

Originally published in Möbius, September 2007.
The paper bag dances
Along the gloomy beach,
Like a lonely spirit
Searching for meaning.
It speaks to the sea
In whispered rustlings
And the song of the waves
Is the sea's reply...

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A Vision of the Future

Originally published in Möbius, September 2006.
Darkness descends
Over a dreary street,
Where weary crowds walk
With apathetic feet.
Their minds are stifled,
Their souls are numb,
They are on intimate terms
With pain and defeat...

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New Shoes

Originally published in Blinking Cursor, Issue 5.
They whirl around the club
Like dancing flames,
Each one shimmering
With radiant youth.
In couples or groups,
Their bodies gyrate
With the wild abandon
Of liquor fuelled mirth...

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The Illusion of Immortality

Originally published in Eclipse, Issue 29.
Beneath the light of a pallid moon,
We walk the path arm-in-arm.
The wind is still, the stars serene,
Instilling us with an unearthly calm.
In time, we near a poignant scene,
Where shards of glass glitter like tears -
One for each of the countless years
It has been since last you spoke my name.
Memories stir, emotions bloom...

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Lost Love

Originally published in The Stray Branch, Volume 2, Issue 5.
A whirling demon
With a heart of fire,
An emotional vampire
That feeds on desire.
Enticing him
Her love to try,
She then proceeds
To drain him dry...

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The Ritual

Originally published in Harlequin, Issue 11.
The moon was an orb of incandescent glory.
The ceremony began, filling me with its fury.
I ran like the wind in the midst of the hunt,
Until the power of the god brought me to the front.
I reached a clearing by a shimmering lake
And sighted the stag, whose life I was to take.
The mighty beast stood in the depths of the trees,
And understanding passed between us on the wings of the breeze...

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Full list of publication credits with comments by the writer.

The Statuette

Monas Hieroglyphica, Issue 13 - 2002.
The first short story I ever wrote, and by a strange coincidence, the first to be published, though I'd actually written a number of others in the meantime. When I sat down to write it, I was in the middle of reading the collected works of M.R. James, and the influence this had me on me is very evident. Looking back on it now, there are things I would have done differently, but this isn’t unusual, as any creative endeavour cannot help but be a reflection of your thoughts and emotions at a particular moment in time. 

The Fashion Victim

Writer's Muse, Issue 20 - November 2002.
Short horror story. Based in the modern fashion world, it is about the stripping away of illusion and the modern obsession with appearance. As we all wear masks of one sort or another, I think it resonates strongly with people. Writer's Muse ceased publication shortly after the story appeared, though I am pleased to say it has since been resurrected and at time of writing is still going strong.

Michael Steele is Dead

New Theatre Publications, 2003 - ISBN 1-84094-391-2.
I have always been keen to try out out different mediums and this was my first foray into drama - a two act play about a blind author's struggle with disillusionment. Yet to be performed, but received a very positive review in the February 2006 issue of Amateur Stage. Sadly the publisher has ceased trading, so the script is no longer available for purchase.

The Illusion of Immortality

Eclipse, Issue 29 - April 2003.
My first published poem, inspired by my interest in ancient civilizations. Written early on in my writing career before I turned my back on traditional rhyme schemes.

The Heart of a King

Legend: Worlds of Possibility, Issue 7 - Spring/Summer 2003.
Athurian fantasy. The story behind this one is pretty simple really. I have always loved tales of Camelot and the Round Table, so decided to have a go at writing one myself. Published in the final issue of LEGEND: Worlds of Possibility alongside a fascinating interview with Storm Constantine.


Night to Dawn, Issue 3 - Winter 2003.
Short vampire story that grew out of a fragment I had written many years before. Inspired by genre classic Varney the Vampire, it has a traditional feel to it and explores the idea of identity. It was republished in 2012 in my short story collection Bloodlust Variations.

Picture This

Hadrosaur Tales, Volume 17 - 2003.
Dark science fiction story, set in small-town America and written very much with the U.S. market in mind. I have always felt that stories which depict something horrific encroaching on normality can be far more disturbing than pieces based in more traditional horror environments, e.g. haunted houses, and like to think that this piece is a case in point. It was influenced by the TV series Twin Peaks, and at the risk of sounding less than humble, has a slightly Lovecraftian feel to it.

The Oldest Profession On Earth

Scared Naked, Volume 2, Issue 2 - March 2004.
Erotic horror story. More explicit than my usual style, but a piece I am proud of with a good twist at the end. The sad truth is that we do not live in a perfect world and if a particular idea requires a writer to explore the seedy underbelly, then it is his duty to do so as accurately as possible. I regret to say that the magazine the story appeared in - a quarterly journal of "warped sexuality and feral fantasy" - has long since ceased publication.

A Tale of the Major Arcana

Waxing & Waning, Volume 3, Issue 10 - May/June 2004.
Another early story, which was inspired by M.R. James and my interest in the tarot. The question of whether it is possible to look into the future has been a constant source of fascination for the human race, so it is probably not surprising that I would come to write about it at some point. The story was published in a now defunct magazine called Waxing & Waning, which was a godsend (or perhaps that should be goddess-send) to anyone interested in Pagan or Wiccan lifestyles.

Of Body and Soul

Night to Dawn, Issue 4 - Summer 2004.
Slightly unusual vampire story in that the vampire stays primarily in the background and it is the other characters who take centre stage. Where the idea came from, I cannot recall, other than to say that I wanted to explore the vampire experience from a different perspective. This is another story that was republished in Bloodlust Variations.

The Gorgon

Dark Horizons (the journal of the British Fantasy Society), Issue 46 - Autumn/Winter 2004.
Short horror story inspired by a metal sculpture on the Greek island of Spetses. The sculpture was very striking and positioned in a prominent position in the harbour, yet the only thing I could find out about it at the time was that it was called 'The Gorgon', so I decided to make up a story of my own. Naturally, it was rooted in Greek mythology, but also drew on my passion for traditional twist in the tale horror.

And Justice For One

Seasons in the Night, Volume 4 - March 2005.
What do you get when you cross a horror with a western? The answer in my case was a story which was great fun to write and easy to get published . My main consideration in writing it was to take things in a completely new direction from my previous story and I am very happy with the way it turned out. I suppose it isn't really surprising that the two genres complement each other so well, because if ghosts really exist, then a place like the Old West, where so many people died violent deaths, would have been full of them.

The Boat

Aesthetica, Issue 9 - March/April 2005.
A personal favourite out of all my poems inspired by an experience I had with my grandfather and dedicated to his memory. The key themes are relationships and the pain of loss. At the time, this was my most prestigious publication credit. I can still remember how exciting it was to walk into Foyles Bookstore on Charing Cross Road in London and see the magazine for sale on the shelf.

The Rock Medium

Thirteen, Volume 2, Issue 4 - April 2005.
I have been an avid fan of rock music from an early age, so not suprisingly, it finds its way into my fiction from time to time as was the case here. Written during the idle hours of 2001 to the stirring melodies of some of my favourite musicians, it is a gothic horror story, which deals the theme of insanity. The editor of the magazine where it was published was highly complimentary about it, saying it was a lot like Robert B. Parker's work in style, and I am quite taken with it myself, though it sounds a little dated now with its references to cassette tapes and the like.

The Ritual

Harlequin, Issue 11 - 2006.
Another of my early rhyming poems. I was reading Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon when I wrote it and would definitely cite this as an influence, though the main driving force behind it was a long-standing interest in ancient Pagan religions. It is a piece I have always been quite fond of as I like the rhythm of it. I think it would be quite easy to set it to music, though sadly, this is a little outside my area of expertise.

A Vision of the Future

Möbius, September 2006.
Science fiction poem which grew out of my concern about the detrimental effects of pollution on the environment. The message is clear, but I think it's the imagery that really drives it, and I can remember spending many happy hours coming up with this. I am planning on incorporating the poem into a piece of art as soon as I have finished thrashing out the ideas, so watch this space.

Creature Once Divine

Calenture, Volume 2, Issue 1 - September 2006 (Webzine)
Having recently discovered the narrative poetry of Lord Byron, I started dabbling in the form myself and this was one of my early efforts. It is a fantasy piece, which takes its cue from Greek mythology. My aim was to emulate the ballads of old, so I gave it a rigid rhyme scheme and devised a simple melody to drive the rhythm. It can be taken literally or as an allegory about why it's a bad idea to be drawn into a relationship with someone you know is going to end up hurting you.

House of Dark Dreams

Back Roads, Issue 3 - March 2007 & Dark Metre, Issue 21 - April 2013 (Webzine - Reprint).
This was my first attempt at a poem in the horror genre. It was inspired by the many slasher films I have seen over the years (Halloween,The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc.) and follows the time-honoured tradition of slowly building tension, before rushing forward to a gory climax. As you might expect, it is packed full of eerie images and will hopefully stay with you long after you have finished reading it.

Destination Earth

The Literary Bone, Volume 1, Issue 1 - Summer 2007.
Short science fiction story written in homage to Guy De Maupassant's The Horla, which I had read a number of years earlier and which had a profound effect on me. Like The Horla it is an exploration of what happens when a solitary mind becomes fixated on a particular idea and then works itself up into a frenzy. Another influence was the Alien movies, as will no doubt be apparent from reading it. The story was reworked extensively and underwent two changes of title before eventually being published. It was later reprinted in Bloodlust Variations.

The Souls of Those Lost at Sea

Möbius, September 2007.
Even before I moved to the Isle of Wight, I was always fascinated by the sea, and in this poem, I explore the duality of it. How strange to think that this elemental force can be both the source of life on earth and a ruthless killer, responsible for approximately two deaths every minute. It is the ultimate expression of the Jekyll and Hyde idea - a rampaging monster hidden beneath a thin veneer of tranquillity and restraint. The poem was published almost immediately after it was written, so I suppose the ideas and images must resonate strongly with people.

Love in a Cemetery

Sinister Tales, Volume 2, Issue 3 – Fall 2007.
My second foray into the world of erotic horror. The idea popped into my head as I was roaming the ivy-wrapped tombstones and mausoleums of Highgate Cemetery in London. I should probably make it clear, though, that whilst I enjoy exploring rambling old cemeteries as much as the next man (okay, I admit it - a lot more than the next man), they aren’t one of my venues of choice when it comes to you know what. Anyone out there who feels differently, might want to bear this story in mind before they rush into anything - “a warning to the curious” in the words of the illustrious M.R. James.

Into the Pit

La Fenêtre, Issue 5 (Reflections) - 2007.
One of my few literary works, which I wrote on a whim to enter into a competition. In marginalising the genre elements, I was able to concentrate more fully on the characters and their relationships. Indeed, it is these that drive the action forward. The story was inspired by a trip to a mining museum. Whilst there, I was able to visit part of the pit, and immediately recognised the emotive power of this world of eternal darkness. The main character was mildly influenced by the tour guide - particularly in terms of politics - but the finer details and the life saga are pure invention.

All By Myself

Twisted Tongue, Issue 8 – December 2007.
Short horror story which grew out of a vague idea I had while writing something else. I wasn't sure it would work, but was pleased with the results. The story is unusual for what I was writing at the time in that it is told in the first person. My reasoning for this was twofold. Firstly, I felt it was important to create a sense of intimacy between the main character and my readers, and secondly, it made for a more dramatic ending. Also notable for being one of my first attempts at flash fiction.

In Pursuit of a Castle

Static Movement, April 2008 (Webzine).
There are few better ways to while away the hours on a warm summer’s day than clambering around the ruins of an ancient castle. It was while I was doing this in Rhodes that the idea for this story occurred to me. The castle in question is situated on a desolate mountaintop, and although the walk up to it is a little on the arduous side, it is well worth the effort. I wrote this one in the space of about two hours and my main influence was Edgar Allen Poe. Like me, the main character decides it would be nice to pay a visit to a ruined castle, but things turn out a little differently for him.

A Puzzle in the Churchyard

The Willows, Volume 2, Issue 1 - May 2008.
Another very early story, which was adapted from a creative writing assignment at school. Our mission (which we had no choice but to accept) was to write a story using the famous M.R. James title There was a Man Dwelt by a Churchyard as the first line. I abandoned that first line during one of the many subsequent rewrites, but I think it's still very evident it was the starting point. It is an epistolatory piece, heavily influenced by James himself and other writers of similar ilk - subtle horror with a twist ending.

They Come From Below

Ethereal Tales, Issue 1 - October 2008 & Insurgence: A Fae Rebellion - November 2020 (Anthology - Reprint).
Hidden beneath the streets of London, there is a sprawling subterranean world, consisting of everything from defunct tube stations to a former telephone exhange. I have only glimpsed it myself, but that was enough to inspire me to put pen to paper, and They Come From Below was the result. I had been reading some of Neil Gaiman's work shortly before, and the story was definitely coloured by this, as Stanley Riiks picked up in his review for Morpheus Tales, but more than anything else it was a doff of the hat to William Shakespeare. The story was also released in audio format with yours truly narrating.

Seeing Spirits

Sinister Tales, Volume 3, Issue 2 – Fall 2008.
A fairly traditional ghost story which focuses on inequality in modern society.It was written fairly early on in my career and went through a number of rewrites before finally seeing the light of day. One significant change was the title, which started out as Preternatural Adventures on the Nocturnal Highway. Apart from being less catchy, this earlier title didn’t really say anything about the story, unlike Seeing Spirits, which neatly ties together two of the key themes - ghosts and alcohol.

The Threat From Within

Twisted Tongue, Issue 12 – November 2008 (Part 1) & Twisted Tongue, Issue 13 – October 2009 (Part 2).
Ever since I read the Sherlock Holmes stories as a child, I have been partial to short story cycles, and some time in the mid noughties, I had a go at creating one of my own. The basic premise was to base it on the legend of King Arthur, but to keep the more familiar characters on the periphery, and focus on a lesser known knight called Sir Degrevaunt. In terms of style, I opted for fast-paced action, while trying to stay true to the traditions of Arthurian fantasy. The Threat From Within was actually the second story I wrote for the cycle and introduced a new romantic element into the mix.

All I Want for Christmas

Murky Depths, Issue 6 - December 2008.
Another landmark moment in my career. Not only was it my debut as a writer of graphic fiction, but it also gave me an opportunity to see something I had written for sale in the famous Forbidden Planet chain alongside Batman comics and Star Wars figures. The strip was a twist-in-the-tale science fiction piece with artwork by Mark Chilcott. It was originally written as a Future Shock submission for 2000 AD, but I can't say I'm sorry it ended up where it did, as it couldn't have been better quality. At the time, it seemed like Murky Depths was going to be the next big thing, so I was quite surpised when it ceased publication a few years later.

Meeting Charon

Ethereal Tales, Issue 2 - January 2009.
Another short horror story inpired by my interest in Greek mythology. The basic idea was to play with reader's expectations about a well-known character. It is unusal for my horror work in that it is laced with humour. I wrote it as a bit of light relief from a mammoth project I had undertaken, so I delilberately kept it short. It is usually available in pamphlet form at public appearances for a nominal fee, but for anyone who doesn't want to wait for one of these, there are back issues of the magazine it was published in on sale at the publisher's website (see here).

Kiss of Death

Macabre Cadaver, Issue 7 - March/April 2009.
A traditional ghost story, which was adapted from a play I had written. The reason I decided to adapt it was I felt it would be interesting to explore some of the ideas from a different angle. Obviously, the overall concept is the same, but there are a number of differences in the plot, resulting from my desire to let the new version grow organically. As with a lot of my writing, M.R. James was a key inspiration here, though the story is set in the modern day. A combined edition of the story and script is available to purchase in paperback and Kindle formats here.

Moonlit Rendezvous

Lucrezia, March 2009 (Webzine).
My most explicit story to date. It was written for the Bournemouth Literary Festival Erotic Fiction competition and was inspired by my interest in masks and the masquerade. Sadly, the first prize in the competition eluded me, as did the second prize, and indeed, all the other prizes, but I sold it to Lucrezia soon afterwards, so it must have something going for it.It has a nice twist at the end, but if you are easily offended, you should probably steer clear, as it's more than a little kinky. Lucrezia still has a web presence at time of writing, though sadly, my own story is no longer accessible.

Different Worlds

The Bracelet Charm, Volume 5, Issue 41 - Fall 2009.
As will be evident from some of the content on this website, I have a keen interest in art and from time to time, this will find its way into one of my stories, as was the case here. The story revolves around the burgeoning relationship between a married business man and a talented young painter. The main themes are love (obviously) and disillusionment. Written for a Glimmer Train competition, it was a rare departure from genre fiction, and although it failed to win a prize, it served me well as a writing sample when I was applying for MA courses.

A Costly Wager

Mystic Signals, Issue 4 - November 2009 & Sorcerous Signals, November 2009 to January 2010 (Webzine).
Yet another story which was partly inspired by Greek mythology, though in this case, Tolkien and Robert Jordan were also big influences. I was aware when I was writing it that the market for so-called high fantasy tends to be saturated, but I've always had a soft spot for it, so I figured what the hell. The story was released in both print and electronic format, though sadly, neither version is currently available. Perhaps in the wake of the success of George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones property (which I love, by the way), it's time to resurrect it.

The Crystal Ship

Bonito Books, 2010 - ISBN 978-1-4457-1369-4.
My first published novel aimed at the tween market. Essentially, it was an attempt to combine the style and sensibilities of a fairy-tale with the excitement of a science fiction story. My influences in writing it ranged from the fairy-tales of the Grimm Brothers to the Star Wars movies. Not long after finishing it, I commissioned some illustrations from an artist called Mauro Vargas. This turned out to one of the best decisions I have ever made as the work he came up with has to be seen to be believed. If you are interested in finding out more, visit the dedicated webpage here.

Lost Love

The Stray Branch, Volume 2, Issue 5 - Spring/Summer 2010.
Lost Love was originally envisioned as a an epic poem à la Homer's Iliad, but because of other demands on my time, I ended up scaling it down. Even so, it is still the longest piece of poetry I have written. I suppose the title is suggestive of a lost lover, but it's actually about the loss of love itself. The love in question has been stolen by a nebulous female with vampiric qualities, and because of this, the poem was included in my Bloodlust Variations collection. Madness and nature are also key themes.

Living on Borrowed Time

Title Goes Here, Issue 4 - Summer 2010.
Dark fantasy story inspired by a piece of artwork featuring female heavy metal vocalist, Doro Pesch. Since the story probably wouldn't have existed without her, it seemed apt to incorporate her as a character. The chances of her ever reading it are probably slim, but it's the thought that counts. The story also features a strange goblin-like creature with a disconcerting appetite for living flesh, and lashings of dark houmour. It was fun to write, and hopefully, is equally fun to read.

A Space Pirate in Love

Daily Flashes of Erotica Quarterly, Issue 1 - January to March 2011.
Short story straddling the genres of science fiction and erotica. 2001: A Space Odyssey was a key influence here, though I opted for a lighter tone, so the twist at the end would pack a greater punch. Instinct told me that too much world-building would be distracting, so it ended up being considerably shorter than a lot of my science fiction stories. It's also notable for being my first piece of work to feature a pirate.

New Shoes

Blinking Cursor, Issue 5 - Spring 2011.
After a long period focusing on the darker side of life, I went through a phase of writing poems about everyday situations and this was one of them. It had its roots in my own personal experiences of buying boots or shoes and having to break them in, but ended up being a fairly comprehensive exploration of the subject of new footwear. Truly, a poem with sole - I know, it's a terrible punn, but I couldn't resist.

A Walk in the Park

Blinking Cursor, Issue 6 - Summer 2011.
Another of the poems I wrote during my everyday life phase. As the title suggests, it's about someone going for a walk in the park and was inspired by the many hours I have spent eploring the countryside with various family dogs. Any dog walkers out there will doubtless find things they can relate to, and if you don't fall into this category, I hope you'll be inspired to try it. As anyone from Byron to Babe Ruth will tell you, the compansionship of a dog is one of life's greatest treasures.

Bloodlust Variations

Bonito Books, 2012 - ISBN 978-1-4716-5980-5.
Considering how often I have written about vampires over the years, it was perhaps inevitable that I would gather the work together into a book, though the decision to do so was very much spur of the moment. The idea was to give the stories (and poem) a more permanent home than the small press magazines where they originally appeared. I have always striven to explore the vampire theme from new angles rather than just retreading old ground, so there is a lot of variety in the book. It will take you from the dim and distant past into the farthest reaches of space. Click here for the dedicated page.

The Last Centurion

Tales of Old, Issue 28 - January 2012 (Podcast).
Historical story written for the Bridport Prize competition and influenced by the work of Marion Zimmer Bradley, which I was heavily into at the time. Once again, the judges failed to pick me out, though considering how competitive the competion is, I suppose that isn't surprising. The story takes place shortly after the Romans abandoned Britain - a period of history I am particularly interested in - and is about the friendship that develops between a young native and an elderly centurion who has stayed behind. Sadly, Tales of Old, the podcast where it featured, has long since folded.

The Experiment

AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, Issue 10 - Spring 2013 (Webzine).
A second science fiction comic strip which started life as a 2000AD Future Shock submission. I spent a little time trying to sell the script to someone else after it was rejected, but most comic publishers are only interested in completed work, so in the end, I decided to get it made myself. As luck would have it, I was able to find an artist who was perfect for the project via the Digital Webbing Forums - the prodigiously talented Marcello Abreu. The finished product was better than I ever hoped, and once Brant W. Fowler had added the lettering, it quickly found a home. It's a dystopian tale with a bleak ending, but the ending of the story behind the story couldn't have been happier.

Voyage to Nowhere

The Fifth Di..., September 2013.
I have often wondered what it would be like to be forced to abandon your planet by some terrible cataclsym and venture out into space in search of a habitable alternative. It's nice to think there would be a coordinated exodus with everyone working together to achieve a common goal, but in such a terrifying situation, I supect the pillars of civilisation would collapse and there would be anarchy. It is this idea that my science fiction poem,Voyage to Nowhere, explores. One key influence here was Robert Duncan Milne's short story, Into the Sun, which I had stumbled across in an anthology a number of years before I wrote it (along with Maupassant's masterful The Horla).

Hobz Gobbling

Bunbury Magazine, Issue 6 - October 2014 (Webzine).
I wrote Hobz Gobbling to use for my MA applications, as the writing sample word counts tended to be quite low and I felt a fully realised flash fiction piece would be preferable to an extract. It is a semi-fictionalised anecdote about a trip to Malta, which actually took place a couple of years earlier, but is presented as a childhood experience. It has an impromptu style, which was influenced by a book I had recently read by Ali Smith, and is told in the first person to create a sense of intimacy between narrator and readers. Shortly after my MA submissions were completed, I stumbed across a submission call for memory themed stories, and decided to send the piece off, feeling it was a good fit. It was accepted immediately and the rest is history.

Through the Eyes of Another

The WiFiles, December 2014 (Webzine).
Short story inspired by and based at Highgate Cemetery. It is about a young girl called Raven who sneaks into the cemetery and has a frightening encounter with the supernatural. My intention was to write a gothic horror piece which would appeal to both adults and teenagers, and I drew heavily on the work of Neil Gaiman for inspiration, as I feel he has a special gift for this kind of fiction. Like Gaiman’s work, the piece is very much character driven and relies on suggestion and suspense rather than gore to create the mood. At the time of writing, it is still available to read online for anyone who is interested - see here.

The Bournemouth Triangle

Story Places, October 2016 (Web App).
While studying for my MA in Creative Writing, I agreed to take part in a project to develop an App to host interactive, location-aware narratives. The brief was to write a story for the App based in the town of Bournemouth and inspired by the collection at a local museum. The exhibits at the museum gave me numerous ideas, but in the end I decided to write about a model of a bakery scene from ancient Egypt. I used the history of the model as a starting point and built what I described in the promotional blurb as 'a time slip tale of love and disharmony', calling it The Bournemouth Triangle in reference to the area of the town where it takes place. It is a story that is driven forward by the choices made by its readers and I have tried to make it as interactive as possible, incorporating pictures and sound files to enhance the text. It was launched at the Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival in October 2016 along with six other stories and remains accessible today. If you ever find yourself in Bournemouth, why not try it out. You can access the App here.

The Timeless Dance

Youth Imagination, Issue 57 - February 2018 (Webzine) & The Night's End Podcast, Season 2, Episode 1 - January 2021.
Another horror story written with the young adult market in mind, but intended to appeal to older readers as well. It is about a magic mask which steals faces and has a surrealist sensibility rooted in my love of the paintings of Salvador Dali and other artists of that ilk. My writing influences were many, but names that particularly spring to mind are Neil Gaiman, Isak Dinesen and Tanith Lee. If you're a fan of the old Point Horror books, then this is one you will hopefully enjoy. You can read it here or listen to it here.

The Army of Stone

Illumen, Volume 14, Issue 4 - Summer 2018.
Statues have long been a fascination of mine. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could talk to them. They witness countless changes in the evolution of society and the environment and keep company with generation after generation, so would surely have some fascinating insights to share. It was these kind of musings which inspired me to write my poem, The Army of Stone. It's set in the real world, but has fantasy overtones, and I was lucky enough to find a home for it in acclaimed speculative poetry magazine, Illumen. The issue in question also features work by multiple Nebula winner Mary Turzillo, so is worth a look.

The Animal Inside

Eastern Iowa Review Dark Fiction, July 2018 (Webzine).
Short story written for one of the modules on my MA course, meaning I had the benefit of some useful feedback from a tutor and my fellow students. The plot revolves around a prison psychiatrist's attempt to treat a woman with apparent dissociative identity disorder. Needless to say, things don't go entirely smoothly. My biggest influence with this one was S.P. Somtow's Moon Dance, which if you are into werewolves and haven't already read it, is definitely worth a look (Twilight it ain't). At time of writing, my story was available to read here.

The Interdimensional Megastar

The Colored Lens, Issue 28 - Summer 2018.
Twist-in-the-tale sci-fi horror, which explores the idea that our own universe is one of many and that in each parallel universe, there may be an alternative version of ourself with an entirely different life. This is another story where I owe a shout out to my classmates on my MA course, as I did an extensive rewrite of my initial draft based on their feedback, which really helped it come together. A lot of my speculative fiction ends up being dystopian, but this a light-hearted piece which I very much enjoyed writing. It found its home in The Colored Lens shortly after the rewrite was finished.

The Decision

Jitter, Issue 7 - October 2018 (Webzine).
Written in a single sitting, this is my shortest story to date. It falls under the broad umbrella of horror, but draws its inspiration from the world of fairy-tale. It was originally intended to be the opening of a collection of my fairy-tale inspired work (of which there is quite a lot), but as I ended up abandoning this project for various reasons, I started submitting it to magazines and quickly found a home for it in Issue 7 of Jitter alongside seome great work by Les Bohem and Ann Christine Tabaka.You can read it here if you are so inclined.

Insect Inspiration

Quatrain.Fish, December 2018 (Webzine).
While experimenting with different poetic forms for my MA course, I wrote a seies of haikus and Inspect Inspiration was one. If you have ever sat outside at night listening to the incessant chirruping of crickets, I won't need to explain what it is about. The market for haikus is somewhat limited, so publication proved elusive at first, but evenutally I stumbled across a webzine which specialises in them and sent it off. The editor liked it, and within weeks, it was in situ. Click here to read it.

Angel or Dragon?

Quatrain.Fish, December 2018 (Webzine).
Another of my MA haikus. This one was inspired by conversations I have overheard in museums when people have drawn conclusions about the exhibits without taking the time to read the information panels. One such discussion which particularly sticks in my mind involved a young mother confirming to her daughter in all earnestness that a narwhal tusk had come from a unicorn. I kid you not! Again, the poem found favour with the editor of Quatrain.Fish and at time of writing is available here. Like all the poems in the webzine, it is formatted and presented exactly as it was submitted.

The Ether Existence

The New Accelerator, Volume 2, Issue 9 - February 2019 (Webzine).
Epic space opera inspired by my love of the pulp sci-fi magazines of the early twentieth century. The story is about a space pirate called Captain Deno, who belongs to a race of feline humanoids and spends her time roaming the universe, carrying out daring robberies. The latest of these robberies promises to be her greatest success, but this time she may have bitten off more than she can chew, as hidden among the spoils is something unexpected... something which could mean big trouble for her and her crew. The story was published in Volume 2, Issue 9 of online magazine The New Accelerator, which sadly appears to no longer be available.

The Mind Minder

Serial Magazine, Issue 5 - March 2019.
Sci-fi murder mystery set on Mars. This one was inspired by my musings on the future of the care industry and briefly went under the title of A New Kind of Care, before I eventually decided to rename it The Mind Minder, which felt punchier. Two key influences in writing it were Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick. I wrote this story shortly after I completed my MA course and entered it in the Writers of the Future contest, hoping the knowledge and experience I had gained might give me an edge over the competition, but nothing came of it. It was published very shortly afterwards, however, so I can't complain.

In the Mirror

Breaking Bizarro: An Anthology, September 2019.
While studying for my MA, I stumbled across Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis and decided to write a story about transformation myself. In the Mirror was the result. I built the narrative around a man who is changed into a doll and pulled into a warped mirror version of reality. On the face of it, it is a horror story, but the shift in power between the lead character and the little girl who is the catalyst for his transformation make it also a metaphor for the role reversal which occurs between parents and their children with the onset of old age. The story was also influenced by the work of Isak Dinesen, Angela Carter, Rana Dasgupta and Milan Kundera, and incorporates fairy tale and surrealist elements.

Freeing the Flames

Scary Snippets: A Halloween Microfiction Anthology, October 2019.
One of several horror stories which I wrote in quick succession fairly early on in my writing career. This particular one is a flash fiction piece about a man who has a terrifying encounter with the supernatural when he buys a decorative candlestick from an antique shop. Does he survive? You'll have to read it to find out. The haunted object trope crops up a lot in horror fiction and its most famous proponent, M.R. James, was undoubtedly a key influence with this one, though the ending is a little more lurid than anything you will find in James' work. I found it interesting that the story should have been published so soon after In the Mirror, as although it was written a long time before, it features a similar surrealist warping of reality. If you're into punchy little nuggets of horror, then this is one you will hopefully enjoy.

Jungle Secrets

Utopia Science Fiction, Volume 1, Issue 4 - February 2020.
Speculative poem about a crashed spacecraft from another planet. It's a non-rhyming piece, but with a traditional structure. I often incorporate narrative elements into my genre poetry and this one is a good example. As we move through it, layers are peeled back in a slow reveal of the ship's backstory. I included a bit of world building and ended it with a horror story type twist which I hope will catch readers by surprise. As the title suggests, it is very much concerned with secrets, but nature, death, disease, exploration and ancient cultures are other prominent themes. It's a poem I very much enjoyed writing and I was quite pleased with the way the different elements came together. Utopia Science Fiction picked it up not long after I wrote it and even saw fit to mention it as a highlight in the introduction to the issue it appeared in, which was a pleasant surprise.

The Apparition

Frost Zone Zine, Issue 2 - December 2020.
Another story inspired by the many hours I have spent immersed in the melancholy ambience of cemeteries and graveyards. Written on a whim in the space of a few hours, it's a flash fiction piece about an old woman who pursues a little girl through a graveyard after she vandalises one of the graves with unexpected results. Like a lot of my work, it was inspired by time-honored horror writers like M.R. James and J. Sheridan Le Fanu and has the requisite twist at the end, but the setting is contemporary. I did a bit of tweaking to it over the years and eventually placed it in the second issue of Frost Zone Zine, which you can find here.

Dog Woman

Page and Spine: Fiction Showcase, January 2021.
Experimental story which grew out of an MA writing exercise. The remit was to choose a picture and then expand on one aspect of it using the prompt 'what you don't see', but I decided to take this a step further and write about a succession of things you don't see in a multi-layered piece. My starting point was Paul Rego's painting Dog Woman, which was in turn inspired by a Portuguese fairy-tale, though I didn't do any research about it at the time, as I wanted to come up with my own interpretation. I set my story in a Victorian freak show and used a slow-reveal to progress the narrative and widen the focus. It was a bit of a hard sell, because of its unconventional style, but eventally found a home in the online magazine Page and Spine, which has sadly now ceased publication.

The Cat's Tale

Speculative North, Issue 4 - February 2021.
The first of my Arthurian fantasy stories about lesser known knight of the Round Table, Sir Degrevaunt, and his wily, but socially unacceptable squire, Balgair. In this installment, King Arthur asks Sir Degrevaunt to escort a Gallish princess' cat and other belongings to Dubris. The story is very much in the same vein as The Threat from Within, combining comedy and fast-paced action, and has a twist at the end which I hope will take people by surprise. I was quite pleased with the way it turned out, so decided to commission some illustrations from artist extraordinaire, Mauro Vargas, who I had collaborated with previously on The Crystal Ship. These greatly augmented the text and appeared alongside it in Speculative North. My only regret is that it wasn't published before The Threat from Within, since I wrote it first and it precedes this story chronologically, but such is life.

The Rise of the Machines

Radon Journal, Issue 1 - May 2022.
An early speculative poem about mankind's reliance on technology. Ostensibly it is about the many benefits of machines, but there is an undercurrent in the refrain at the end of the verses which hints at the possible threat they might pose in the future. I felt this duality worked well and always liked the rhythm of the piece, though I did end up making some last minute changes to it based on feedback I received from the editors of Radon Journal after they accepted it for publication. Like a lot of my poetry it has a fairly conventional structure, but keeps the rhymes to a minimum. Apart from the obvious, the themes include change, friendship, loneliness and isolation. At time of writing, it is available to read for the bargain price of nothing here

She Talks of the Past, I Think of the Future

The Fifth Di..., June 2022.
As time marches on, the human race is increasingly coming to accept that the pollution we generate is having a detrimental on our planet. Efforts are being made to curb harmful emissions and repair the damage which has already been done, but how successful these will be remains to be seen. Personally, I fear it may be too late, and I decided to explore this idea in my poem She Talks of the Past, I Think of the Future. Set in the not too distant future, it takes the reader on a tour of an Earth which has been so ravaged by our actions it is no longer capable of supporting life. Given the subject matter I suppose it was inevitable it would have a cautionary note to it, but I am hopeful it doesn't come across as preachy. My favourite thing about it is the imagery. It was the second of my poems to be featured in the illustrious pages of The Fifth Di...


Black Hare Press Patreon Monthly Challenge, October 2022 & Dark Moments and Patreon Year Four, January 2023 (Anthology)
Another short story written for my MA course. This one was very directly inspired by Isak Dinesen's story collection Winter's Tales. It has a similar fairy-tale sensibility and centres on a transformation, like many of the offerings in Dinesen's book. Another influence with this one was Tanith Lee (who in my humble opinion is criminally underrated in the modern literary world). The story is about a man who has a surreal encounter with a supernatural creature while stuck in traffic during a snow storm. I named it Stranded for obvious reasons, though it occurred to me afterwards that this is also the name of a song by the group Heart and I can't read the title now without having this song pop into my head. As with my other MA stories, I received some useful feedback about the piece from my module tutor and classmates, which helped me realise my vision for it.

Do You Really Want to Know?

Witch Wizard Warlock, August 2023 (Anthology)
Short story about gang culture at a university of magic. The main protagonist is a student wizard, who decides to use a forbidden spell to exact revenge when his best friend is murdered. I wrote the piece in the early part of 2001, but it took over 20 years for it to make it into print. I can't say for certain why this was, but I think part of it was timing. The problem I had was I was trying to sell it just as Harry Potter was becoming a phenomenon. I can say categorically J.K. Rowling's work wasn't an influence when I wrote the story, as I hadn't read any of her books at the time and the first movie hadn't even been released, but editors kept rejecting it because it deals with similar subject matter and they felt the market was already saturated. In any event, the delay worked in its favour, as I took the opportunity to do some extensive reworking, which I think benefitted it greatly.

Rising Death

Little Blue Marble, September 2023 & Little Blue Marble 2023: World on Fire, December 2023 (Anthology)
A poem about climate change and the reluctance of politicians to confront the problem, or in some cases, even acknowledge it. If you’ve been working your way down this list of credits, you may have noticed that my previous published poem was about climate change as well, which probably suggests I write about the subject a lot. The truth is I don’t; it just happened to be at the forefront of people’s minds at the time, so work about it was a relatively easy sell. In a way Rising Death is very much a companion piece to She Talks of the Past, I Think of the Future, as it explores the kind of present day folly which could lead to the desolation we witness in that other poem. Once again, this piece had its roots in one of the writing exercises I was set for my MA course. The remit was to write a single sentence short story, which I duly did. When I revisited it later, however, I decided the rhythm and aesthetic would be better suited to a poem and rewrote it accordingly.

The Leech

HWA Poetry Showcase Volume X, November 2023 (Anthology)
Horror poem about a nebulous entity which roams the New York City subway devouring the souls of anyone unfortunate enough to cross its path. It was written for inclusion in a speculative poetry collection I'm working on called The Mind Reader: A Day in the Life. As the title suggests, this collection centres on a man who is able to read thoughts. Each poem represents the stream of consciousness of one of the people he encounters as he travels around New York, and they are written in different forms and styles to give a sense of the individual voices of the characters. The Leech was inspired by the dark places between stations on the various underground services I have travelled on. I decided to submit an abridged version of it to the HWA Poetry Showcase Volume X anthology, as I thought it would be a good teaser for my collection, and was delighted when it was selected for publication. The anthology was released on 7th November in honour of Bram Stoker, as this was his birthday.

Fine Art Photography

by C.J. Carter-Stephenson

C.J. Carter-Stephenson Fine Art Photograph 1.
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C.J. Carter-Stephenson as baby with dad.
C.J. Carter-Stephenson as baby with mum.
Another baby shot of C.J. Carter-Stephenson with mum.
C.J. Carter-Stephenson as baby with mum again.
C.J. Carter-Stephenson with mum and Henry the dog.
C.J. Carter-Stephenson in cot.
C.J. Carter-Stephenson as a policeman.
C.J. Carter-Stephenson holding baby sister.

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