Monday, 17 December 2012

Cambodia: The Kite Children

Today's post goes in hand with one from October: 'Can there be a Happy Meal for everyone?'. Both began as scribbles during my travels in 2008, and what follows here is from my visit to Cambodia.

Stepping into this country immediately changed me forever...

With barefoot Cambodians struggling as they push splintered-wheeled carts through turbid puddles, I stood there – feeling both dry and guilty – hailing a taxi. Pulling up, the driver eyed grey clouds over distant hills. Tucking my passport away and loading my rucksack into the boot, wedging that trusty bag alongside his belongings, I sank into the passenger seat and buckled in. My view, then, was through a broken windscreen; improvised surgery in way of a chunk of ordinary glass simply glued over the crack.

Grinding the car into gear, we were off along an incredible road, and it was my understanding that this was a commerce route between Thailand and Cambodia. The many trucks gave evidence to this. Leaving Poipet itself and the way was occasionally paved, though soon became nothing more than a dirt track. As sudden as that: from hard surface to soft, as wide as our Western roads… that was where the similarity ended.

The drivers kept – mostly – to the right, appearing to follow invisible lines and their own laws, driving on whichever side they feel like at the time; and with such an uneven surface I made a mental note never again to complain about the condition of the roads back home.

Soon it began to rain, the ground rapidly turning to deep mud. Scooters, cars, trucks and even 4x4s struggling to find traction, everyone's back-end swinging out; dangerously to and fro.

Once the clouds had succeeded in drenching the way before us, they parted for blue sky. With sunshine to brighten the flooded landscape, we carried on.

The sun-drenched scenery eventually opened onto a stretch of heart-wrenching sights. I saw a girl wearing a pretty dress sitting astride an adult’s bicycle, stroking a doll's hair whose arm was missing. The girl smiled, her head following our car as we slowly bounced past.

The cattle looked ill, their bones pushing against taut hide, tethered to trees at the side of that road. There were no intersections, nor road markings and certainly no need for any traffic lights. It was not really a road, yet still the hulks of trucks thundered along, cutting trenches into the mud. There was an occasional road sign in the form of a detour marker, taking us around a semi-constructed bridge.

There were many more children playing. One, on his own and holding a stick, in what I could only assume to be his garden, his house a corrugated shelter and its entrance open to the elements. He was sword-fighting, leaping and turning; defending an attack only he could see.

Further along, there were more children: one watched as the other pushed a toy truck through mud they both sat in. They were barefooted, with the illusion of wearing thick brown socks.

A mother sat on a pile of broken concrete, her clothes a dull brightness against the backdrop of her laundry and a doorway into a cold gloom. At her feet, her daughter gently knocked together a couple of pebbles. It was impossible, due to both distance and the taxi's roaring engine, but I fancied that I heard the clash of those stones. We lurched on by, rattling along the road that was not a road. With the girl out of sight, I could still hear the silent sound of those small rocks held in equally small fists, clacking together.

Next we passed a school, with a dozen children running about; a dog leaping at their feet wagging its tail. My attention was held by a young boy of about ten years. He was in a wheelchair. He had no legs, just an emptiness below the blue shorts he wore. His only arm pointing at the dog. There was no sign of his other arm: nothing visible inside a baggy t-shirt sleeve.

He was laughing.

His eyes shone.

We drove on.

According to the leaflet crumpled in my clammy palm, Cambodia is the most densely mined country in the world. Even though the reign of the Khmer Rouge ended thirty years ago there remains up to eight million landmines in the countryside. There are fifty thousand amputees, and a further two thousand mine victims accounted for every year.

I looked across the charming landscape and wondered how many rusted, quietly lethal demons were out there, just in that one direction, mere centimetres beneath the surface…

One generation later and I saw a child laughing, pointing at a dog as it ran between the legs of his peers. Feet and legs he will never feel again. He was happy. I read such gaiety in his eyes during those few seconds. He was laughing, enthused at the dog’s behaviour.

I left him though he does not – and will never – leave me.

It was the Kite Children I saw next: two of them, again barefooted and jogging together in the dirt. Both boys held crudely crafted kites of sticks and stretched plastic, string trailing behind them. They weren’t flying them, however their faces radiated a delightful glow.

I wondered who it was that made those kites for them. Have they ever – would they ever – play with a computer games console, or toys and merchandise from their favourite film viewed in a cinema complex just round the block? An edge of their world out of my periphery. For these children there is a world out of sight, and one which they will never see. This is their world; their life.

My eyes welled up at that moment, as I stared at those kites grasped in tiny hands. We drove on; my vision blurred.

On arrival at the hotel in Siem Reap and with my belongings beside me, it was a welcome relief from being shaken… and stirred.

There were other things that I witnessed, such as the trucks with absurdly coloured wheel-nuts. I saw a scooter carrying a scooter, tied to the back like it was shopping. I wish to mention my taxi, with tyres spinning arcs of thick sludge, as it manoeuvred around an over-turned truck; its cargo strewn across the road, with the driver sitting on a shattered crate, expressionless.

There are other sights I could mention, but they fail to come into the light, because on that journey I saw so many children who weren't flying their kites.

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

Twitter: @Mark_Cassell Facebook:

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing is a publicity program for authors. Essentially, the task is that we must answer ten questions about a work in progress, and then hand the same assignment to another five writers in the same, or similar, genre.

Mark Brandon Allen, author of Imagine Fantasy Science Fiction asked if I’d be interested in participating in this web ring. Mark, himself, was approached by Jace Daniel whose novel Under Angels is an Amazon bestseller.  I'm pleased to say Jace is a fellow horror writer.

The ten questions? Here I go then:

  • What is the working title of your book?

The Shadow Fabric. (Read the prologue).

  • What genre does your book fall under?

Supernatural thriller; supernatural horror.

  • Where did the idea come from for the book?

The title I’ve had knocking about for something like 20 years, but it began just over a year ago when I grabbed a notebook to scribble down a few word associations. Naturally, shadows and darkness was first, which led to reanimating the dead, and then to witchcraft. Ah, and also the Great Fire of London came up, too.

Once I’d jotted down a few plot ideas and created a couple of characters, the story began to unravel itself... like a roll of fabric. Throwing together a few random scenes, I soon came up with the first several chapters. Looking at my notes now, I can see how the story developed. And it’s quite amazing the little doodles I've found which strangely inspired me.

  • How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Balancing full-time work, the gym and general living, it's tough to get anything substantial written, but on most mornings I kick myself out of bed at 5 a.m. just to get something creative down (see Take the time blog post).

During the inception of The Shadow Fabric and once I'd compiled my scenes, sketching the plot took around a month. Actually writing the first draft? That was about six months... The hard part is always the editing – that’s where I am now.

  • What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

It’s a supernatural horror novel of sins, shadows and the reanimated dead – a story digging up a previously unknown history of witchcraft, and the true cause of the Great Fire of London.

  • Who or what inspired you to write this book?

There was never one specific moment, nor was there anyone in particular to inspire me. Having had modest success with short stories in the past, I figured that my brain's now ugly enough to write a novel – Certainly, I’ve had enough life experiences to fuel a much larger project.

I must add that completing the 2010 NaNoWriMo challenge helped immeasurably. It was a 55,000 word novel titled Heroes of Sol (admittedly it became an unpublishable mess, but an achievement none-the-less. Seriously, writing a novel in a month? Madness!). This proved to be the catalyst that super-charged my energies in the plotting and structuring, and ultimately the writing, of The Shadow Fabric.

  • What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

There’s no particular book The Shadow Fabric runs parallels with, although I believe it would sit comfortably between novels of witchcraft and the walking dead. My story, although isn’t actually about zombies, takes the dead and their footsteps a little further.

  • Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It's too early to tell, but I know I'll first be seeking representation with an agency.

  • Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I know this is a lame answer but I couldn’t imagine any actor playing any one of my characters. With the story set in the English countryside though, they’d have to be British.

  • What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Perhaps a more detailed synopsis:

Old sins cast long shadows.’ – early 20th-century proverb.

Two years ago Leo was involved in an accident, but before that he remembers nothing. Starting a job, desperate to begin a new life, he witnesses his boss murder his own brother. As if that isn’t bad enough, the Shadow Fabric takes the body and vanishes with it.

Leo is dragged into a world long since hidden from humankind, while his personal shadows follow him. And so chased by his past, as well as the Fabric, he starts to doubt everything and everyone around him... including himself.

The Shadow Fabric is a novel of sin, shadows, and the reanimated dead. Set in present day, it digs up a previously unknown history of witchcraft and reveals the true cause of the Great Fire of London.

~ ~ ~

Here are the tags for the other authors in the web ring, as well as their works in progress:

I'll be adding more as they come!

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

Twitter: @Mark_Cassell Facebook:

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Colour-Coding: Make your MS easier to edit

Whether you're in the middle of your fiction project or you've completed several drafts, you may notice there’s something wrong with the characters: they all sound the same. Their dialogue is similarly structured, and you realise each needs an individual voice. Possibly they already have a catchphrase or two, but they require much more.

During your first draft this is tricky to implement while your creative urges are charging forward and your inner-editor tries skipping backwards to characterise the dialogue you've just written. When writing The Shadow Fabric, as is often advised for any first draft, I just got on with it. I wrote it all with my inner-editor's door closed.

One of my follow-up drafts was to tune in to each character's voice; to make sure they didn't sound like me. Because I knew they would – I wrote it. I created them. That was when I thought about colour-coding my character's dialogue segments.

Not only having developed detailed Character Bios (even for the incidental ones) where I'd listed their catchphrases, I decided that colour-coding would be the easiest way to identify who says what and how they say it. Please understand that whilst writing the first draft of my novel, I did not stop mid-flow to change the font colour; I went through it on draft No.4. And yes, throughout the whole manuscript... all 100,000 words of it.

It was time-consuming and quite labourious, but entirely worth the effort.

My main character's dialogue was in red, the next blue, then green, etc. This really helped in viewing their speech objectively, and when I printed off a hard copy I could see – at a glance – whose voice was whose. With that, I easily removed the author's voice.

This also aided in getting the punctuation right and making sure there was a balance of gesticulation and scene interaction. Also, you can scan for overused dialogue attributes, and eliminate those neighbouring adverbs which can weaken your otherwise snappy dialogue.

It has certainly sharpened my editing eye, and I know I'll be doing the same for my next novel... when I've finished editing this one. In applying this colour-coding technique, you too can make your subsequent drafts a lot less painful to edit.

Here's an example, taken from The Shadow Fabric:

Goodwin’s door opened, and there he stood. Smoke plumed about his head like a deformed halo.
“How are you?” He waved his cigar into the room.
All morning I’d practiced some kind of speech, to get the story out; to tell Goodwin of Victor’s family visit. Of course, faced with the only family I had, my tongue wouldn’t move. My lips twitched pathetically.
Goodwin’s eyes widened, the cigar halfway to his lips. “What’s up?” 
I collapsed into a leather chair.
“You don’t look yourself.” He circled the desk and sank into his chair. It creaked.
The words in my head were as swollen as my tongue. Finally, I managed, “Victor.”
He jerked his head back. “Everything OK with him?”
“Last night,” I sputtered, “we went to see his brother… Stanley’s dead.”
“What happened?” It was the first time I’d heard the man raise his voice. He pushed the stub of cigar into the ashtray and lit another.
“Victor’s fine.” I dragged my hand from forehead to chin, squeezing my jaw. I’d forgotten to shave. “As fine as anyone can be after watching their own brother die. He killed him.”
“Victor had a knife and Stanley had some black fabric. It came alive, Goodwin. I’ve never seen anything like it… It moved and took hold of Victor’s hand. It made him kill him.”
Goodwin was nodding, suggesting he actually understood me; he believed every word. I was conscious of pulling my top lip down with my teeth.
“The Shadow Fabric took Stanley away,” I added. “Folded around him and took the body.”
Goodwin’s thoughts wrinkled his forehead.
My fingernails continued to rake the stubble. “Never seen anything like it. Stanley’s body vanished into the shadows!”
“Leo, everything’s going to be OK.”

Your comments are always appreciated, thanks.

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

Twitter: @Mark_Cassell Facebook:

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Considering Laser Eye Surgery? Seeing is Believing

It was certainly worth the gap in training when I could see Jeremy Kyle whilst I warmed up on the cross-trainer. The TV was, as always, on mute; but I could read the subtitles! Before this moment, the past was a blur – literally – and no longer would I be tripping over a barricade of discarded weights surrounding the bench press, or stumbling into the rack of dumbbells.

Laser eye surgery has changed all that. I knew that it was possible to have your eyes re-shaped by handing over your money to a masked stranger. We’ve all seen the adverts where having such surgery can help in riding a mountain bike through muddy puddles, or assist you in giving your child a piggy-back.

Curiosity landed much paraphernalia on my lap around the same time as golf champion Padraig Harrington was on TV claiming it had changed his game for the better. There has been a considerable amount of sports celebrities (and plenty of Scottish rugby players it seems!) who have gone under the laser. Furthermore, in Hollywood, to name a few stars: Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman, Courtney Cox and Cindy Crawford; and a few other ‘closer-to-home’ celebs have also opted to better whichever game they’re in, such as Coleen Rooney and Myleen Klass, and even a couple of our very own Knights, Sir Elton John and Sir Richard Branson.

There are various procedures, yet some not always suitable to each individual, and can treat a high number of short- and long-sighted prescriptions, and also astigmatisms (this was me, by the way.) With a free consultation, I was under no obligation – except to spend ninety minutes (no longer than a workout, sauna and a shower) of my life, undergoing a range of comprehensive tests.

After a lengthy discussion and explanation of why – and indeed, how – my eyes have always been a bane, my options were simple: standard (cheap) and advanced (expensive). I figured if I was going to get it done I’d get it done, and so the price would be whacked up considerably.

A week prior to surgery and I wasn’t allowed to use contact lenses and so had to wear my spectacles. Ah, the dreaded narcissus that is within us all!  Vanity is an evil demon… I hated those seven long days, and found it traumatic to even leave my house. In the gym (only once that week as opposed to my usual three times) proved to be awkward, as a sweaty nose and spectacles are not a great combination when doing press-ups!

The day came, and driven to the treatment clinic by my wife, I spent the journey wondering if it would work. Seeing is, indeed, believing; and I have always stood by that motto – even more so now.

On arrival I was taken into a room with a fancy bed amidst a bulk of machinery. Everything was white. Almost everything, come to think of it, for when I placed my spectacles to the side and laid my tense body into the bed, those trusty glasses glowed oh-so-bright; a familiar beacon glaring in the darkness of a daytime nightmare. Those spectacles: I’ll never forget the look in their eyes!

Anaesthetic drops were applied to each eye and I awaited the attention of the surgeon. Covering my left eye with a patch (playing pirates at thirty-three years of age!), I felt the pressure of activity on my right eye – no pain – and for just a second my vision went crazy: it was a hyperspace-thing, the rushing of colourful stars. Then followed the clicking of a laser while I focussed on a tiny red light in front of me. From somewhere behind me a nurse (I doubt their job description is indeed nurse) was counting down the seconds as the laser took away the imperfections of many years of hassle; taking away that reliance on contact lenses and those vanity-defying spectacles which were no doubt peering down at me that very moment with tears in their eyes. Ten seconds, twenty, thirty – no more – and that was it; time for my other eye.

With the procedure over, a little dizzy on my feet and no feeling what-so-ever in the eye area, I was led (spectacles apologetically held in a clammy palm) out of that white room and into a dark one. Those few paces from bright to effective night was a blurry one. It was like opening your eyes underwater, only with an immense light-sensitivity. In that room of hazy shadows my girlfriend joined me; I couldn’t see her, but I guess it was her holding my hand and not a nurse.

Cautiously, sunglasses on (I felt like an idiot wearing those indoors. Who did I think I was, Bono?), and I stepped out into such brightness! The only discomfort on the journey home was daylight, and so it seemed that I had gone from pirate to vampire in all of five minutes. At home, and I hid in a darkened room; unable to read or watch TV, and I was bored. I couldn’t do anything, so there I was: cross-legged in the corner of the dining room with curtains drawn, wearing sunglasses and strumming my guitar.

There was no pain, simply a dull ache and later in the evening – with noticeable improvement in vision – I could watch TV. Come bedtime I had to wear goggles much the same to those worn by Johnny Depp in his role of Willy Wonka (these prevented me from rubbing my eyes and dislodging those yet-to-heal protective flaps whilst I slept).

Morning came and, sleepily removing those goggles, I stared at the bedside clock: magic red digits! Everything was sharp, albeit with a measure of light-sensitivity which soon vanished entirely after a few days. A week passed – still without a gym session – all the while undergoing a course of eye-drops to aid healing and prevent infection. My vision continued to improve from month to month.

Overall, my new eyes are something I’ve come to call ‘super’ vision. Not quite as good as Superman’s, but pretty near to that which any human can achieve.

So, my suggestion to you, reader: with glasses off, next time you stagger from the shower only to grab the towel of the giant who bench presses 350 kilos, and when you smile apologetically at the dragon tattoo on his bicep because you mistake that flaming artwork as his furious face… consider laser eye surgery.

After years of wearing contact lenses and spectacles my life has changed.  Just like on the adverts and in the testimonials, I wish I had done it years ago. There is one drawback to the process however, and it only occurs when in the kitchen; only a minor inconvenience…

I now cry when cutting onions.

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

Twitter: @Mark_Cassell Facebook:

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Philippines: Can there be a Happy Meal for everyone?

What you’re about to read is something which began as scribbles during my visit to the Philippines in 2008. Not long after returning to the UK it became so much more than I realised.

Beneath the cruel heat of a midday sun I watched as a young Filipino child washed his face in the water leaking from a roadside fire-hydrant. Patiently he began collecting the trickle in a bucket almost as large as himself. Any later in the afternoon and this boy’s small form would be shadowed by the looming golden arches of a McDonald’s restaurant. With its proud white walls and polished windows reflecting the sunlight in a callous glare, its flags fluttering in the wind, I asked myself one question: is there a Happy Meal for this boy?

Not just here in the country’s capital of Manila, but across all the major cities and towns of the Philippines, there is the frequent Western mark of those symbolic arches. Like a taunting beacon, the red and yellow buildings stand tall, towering over the derelict and ruin of neighbouring structures.

Later, as I sat in my room, its cramped and stuffy confines shared with a cockroach and rising damp, my research led to an apt discovery behind the name of this capital city: musa textilis, a banana-like, broad leafed plant. Native to the Philippines, its fibres are used to make rope, fabrics and paper; commonly known as manila hemp, giving us what we know in our society as manila envelopes. But, enlightening as this was, it was the Latin link which captured my attention: based on the word manicula, meaning manacle. Interestingly enough in West Africa the word manilla is a metal bracelet traditionally used as a medium of exchange, yet here in the Philippines its definitive comparison remains poignant when likening it to the country’s shackled beggars and midnight dwellers.

Between the stunning stretches of miles, every major town reveals hundreds of children manacled to a life of poverty. Aside their pitiful stance before me, proffering dirty palms in that all-too-familiar gesture of the beggar, I saw little similarity with our own children. Viewing them as real people, existing, fending for themselves, and soon I was to witness them sleeping on the streets: naked, wrapped loosely in their mother's arms, whilst cockroaches scurry about their feet.

The nights were foul, where the smells seemed oddly accentuated come dark; chewed up with the stench of sewer and rotting waste, over-spilling bins and puddles curdled with unmentionables.

Taxis (with their crooked drivers, speaking of faulty meters so as to charge the gullible tourist three-times the usual fare), the jeepneys and trucks, the motorcycles and cars, all choking the already polluted atmosphere with tendrils of exhaust fumes; ghostly plumes making their way from the road to shroud the street-sleepers in a poisonous blanket.

There is a Filipino rival to McDonald’s – Jollibee’s – and inside one such restaurant I was amazed to see an armed guard opening the main doors to customers. He was dressed in a blue uniform, his pistol in a holster; its grip worryingly well worn. It was not this that caught my attention – however I did wonder of the need for such a weapon in a fast-food establishment – it was the fact that the guard looked so young. Had he, I mused, used that pistol more than he had a razor?

The display of weapons did not end there, fuelling the overall sense of negativity and near-paranoia, where on numerous occasions when entering shopping malls I found myself metal-scanned and bag-searched. Every security guard sporting a shotgun; again with a worn handle and a silvered barrel, shiny with over-use.

When it was time to leave the city, and to head north-west to the Spanish Colonial town of Vigan, I could not help but breathe a mental sigh to be making my way out of Manila.

During that five-hour journey, the coach made a brief stop at the roadside. I remained on the bus as a troop of children clambered aboard holding baskets of food to sell. Wide-eyed, those children, as they crowded around me; so happy with so much life, wearing their bright coloured t-shirts and equally bright smiles. For a while I entertained them with goofy expressions and they were enthralled, amused; their giggles like cheery music. Making a purchase of something possibly edible squashed into a see-through plastic bag, I handed over a few pesos.

A hint from the bus driver as the engine coughed into life and they soon left, however reluctantly. Their hands waving continuously on the end of enthusiastic arms as we gained speed down the hill. The contrast of the children’s happiness was a vivid polar opposite to the cloak of sadness in Manila.

Once in Vigan, I was greeted with locals proudly doffing cowboy hats, and kalesas (horse-drawn carriages) riding alongside the commonplace 4x4 and the motorbike. Here I found myself breathing both in and out freely, soaking up the quaint display of charms you would almost come to recognise in a 60s Western.

Narrow cobbled streets lined with antiquated houses, their wrought-iron balconies and wooden-beamed frontages a romantic slant surrounding me. The occasional jeepney and traysikel (motorbike and sidecar), cruising past giving each kalesa – and there are so many – a wide berth. Pedestrians carrying goods upon their heads, wearing smiles for this recently arrived tourist, move to and fro between the many shops and restaurants.

Very soon the veneer of pleasantries peeled back to reveal the occasional salivating horse, an unhealthily solemn hang to its head. Street corners and doorways sited beggars, and again those twin arches shone golden; sunlight lancing off that emblem of taunt, standing proud beside collapsing mansions and shut-down museums.

Vigan, it seemed, was not without its problems, yet still they had a McDonald’s serving Happy Meals.

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

Twitter: @Mark_Cassell Facebook:

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Take the Time

Have you ever felt as if time is intent in leaving you stranded? Suddenly you find yourself standing with so many pages of your diary fluttering behind you and with little of substance in hand... Life gets in the way; so much to do, so little time—all common complaints in a society with its foot on the accelerator.

Before I go on, I have to admit to stealing the title of today’s blog from a Dream Theater track, Take the Time. It’s an inspiring tune, and so very poignant in what I’m saying here.

Working full time is one pain in the arse, yet kind of necessary; just as sleeping is. And eating! Plus the other bits in between. But I have long list of other stuff that needs to be done, namely writing/editing The Shadow Fabric. Having recently completed my accounts for 2011-2012 I’ve apparently had the best year yet with regards to earnings (which is pretty cool, yes), during which I somehow managed to get through the first several drafts of my novel. Getting up ridiculously early helped, yet unfortunately something else suffered—and is still suffering: the gym.

There had been a time when I’d be hitting that gym three times a week. Eager to keep fit, and determined not to become a stereotypical driving instructor (sorry guys but it’s true, most of us are fat! We sit there, our brains constantly on that treadmill, but not our bodies). I know I won’t remain as one of the younger instructors out there (I’m 36, and have been doing the job for eight years) but still I intend on being one of the thinnest.

Neglecting my body to write words isn’t all that bad—I still eat healthier than most, but I don’t get enough exercise… and now Helen, my wife, can outrun (and outwalk!) me. A few days ago we walked from our house to a couple of local National Trust sites: a ten and a half mile round trip up and down some crazy hills I never knew to exist around here. Given the history of my knee complaints—not that this is an excuse—but I was actually crippled by the time I got home. No exaggeration, and it’s something I’m honestly ashamed of. Hence this post, I guess; just to get my thoughts down. I keep my fingers exercised at least.

Currently I’m in the process of editing my novel, and I wish I could give it more attention but those other things in life get in the way. I love cooking, and I hate sleeping; and naturally I love reading (often I feel myself drifting into a doze after only a few pages). Of course, between all that I enjoy most in life, I work pretty damn hard to help pay the bills. And of course, I can’t fail to mention the importance in spending time with Helen; just doing stuff together, you know? She’s cool though. It’s all good. But imagine how great it could be if we didn’t have to sleep? Just to plug yourself in and charge yourself, and still be able to function. To remain lucid—and coherent—and so gain an extra six, seven, eight hours in your day. Imagine what we could achieve… Damn, I’d get my novel finished! And more.

I did, in fact, issue a very long and loud sigh when I hit that last full-stop. And so, just as the intro to that Dream Theater song goes:

“Hold it now… wait a minute… come on… Just let me catch my breath.”

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

Twitter: @Mark_Cassell Facebook:

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Short Story: "Orange October"

Driving around in this October sunlight has reminded me of a short story I wrote back in 2005. It was short-listed in an international competition for the Writers' Forum magazine, narrowly missing one of the top prizes. So, given that the orange glare is making us all squint – that, and the cursed reflection from the wet ground – I thought I'd post it as a blog... Please enjoy.

Alfred opened his eyes and for a moment nothing would come into focus. He blinked, anxious, and moaned as his vision gradually sharpened. He inhaled the putrid smell of burnt rubber, and pain pulsed from somewhere inside his head; a cough burst from his throat. The sound of tinkling glass lanced his eardrums, and he tried to move. His seat belt restricted him.

It was then that Alfred remembered: seat belt. Martha hadn’t worn her seat belt.

Martha: still beside him, thank the Lord. Wide-eyed and pretty as ever – her senior years had been so very kind to her. Regardless of not wearing a seat belt she looked fine, if a little confused.

He had told her – had always told her – yet sometimes he just loved her too much to argue. She had never found seat belts comfortable, so she’d not bothered to wear one. More often than not she’d flatly refuse, whilst other times she would go along with it. Indeed, this went back to the mid-70s when a Road Traffic Bill was put forward in the House of Commons; coinciding with Jimmy Saville’s ‘Clunk-Click’ TV commercials which were frequently on the air. He remembered how much fuss she had made when finally it was announced that the seat belt would become compulsory to wear if the car had them fitted.

“What a silly idea!” she had said. “It’s like we’re being treated like babies. Being strapped in like children. How absurd!”

He recalled how he had shrugged off her comments. Being the law-abiding English gentleman that he was, he would of course wear one. From then on, without a second thought, he found himself clunking and clicking. Wearing the seat belt certainly didn’t harm anyone, least of all himself, and it wasn’t that uncomfortable as Martha made it out to be. Those commercials claimed that wearing one saved lives, and if that was the case then so be it.

A few years ago he read somewhere that on the 20th anniversary of Clunk-Click over 50,000 lives had been saved. He wondered what the tally was now, himself and Martha included in those numbers… Even if today she hadn’t clunk-clicked her own, they would both say she had done so.

The right side of his head ached like hell and his hand came away wet and red after patting his face. The rest of his body, however, felt fine; just a few aches here and there which was certainly nothing unusual. For a good couple of decades now his body woke up to all sorts of mild discomforts; such is the curse of old age. Mind you, for a gentleman of nearly 80 years of age he honestly could not complain. He was much more able-bodied than the majority of his peers and, moreover, his mind remained clear.

Fumbling to his left Alfred released his restraint and shifting to his side he looked at his wife.

“It’s okay,” he whispered, and he took her hand.

It was relatively easy to clamber from the wreckage, and even when they were both clear he didn’t once lose the grip on her hand. He couldn’t. He was too scared, yet oh-so-thankful to be alive.

Martha wasn’t saying much, nor could he blame her. He had been the one driving. He was to blame.

They had been cruising through country lanes at that time of day where the sun was getting low and orange. Martha had been talking about their plans for when they got back home.

“Don’t get me wrong,” she was saying, “I’ve truly enjoyed our weekend, it’s just that I miss having time away from home and I’d like us to book another break away. See a little bit more of the world while we have the chance. Further away and for longer. Not just one week, but maybe two. We need to make the most of these years, Alfred, while we’re still in good health.”

“I know precisely what you mean,” he said. “Maybe we could book something using the internet.”

To that she nodded.

“Now, that is a good idea,” she said. “But we’ll have to get Robert to do it. I’ve no clue and I know for certain that you haven’t either.”

He laughed. “You’re not wrong there.”

“I know we’re in good health but we really aren’t as young as we used to be and there’s not any point in having all that money sitting there in the bank doing nothing except gaining interest. Which, incidentally, we are never going to get round to actually spend.”

“But that money is there for security. Our security as well as Robert’s once we’re gone,” he said, but could see her point. As always.

“I’ve told you before: it’s no use being the richest person in the graveyard.”

He nodded. Again, he could see her reasoning. If only she could see his when it came to wearing that seat belt. Sometimes he annoyed even himself: he doubted that he would ever give up thinking of her safety when she refused to wear that strip of lifesaving fabric. “And anyway, even if we started to spend that money now I doubt that we would get through it all. Unless we had some really expensive holidays, that is. But even so...”

“Yes, you’re right dear.”

“Hastings was really nice,” she said, smiling. “I’ve very much enjoyed it, and we have been blessed with the weather considering the time of year. I really do miss having time off, away from the house and the garden.”

Now he was walking with her, away from the car wreck and with the sun blinking through the branches of the autumnal canopy overhead. They came to a small stream cut between the looming trees, and without pause they stepped into the water. Immediately the coldness soaked through his shoes to numb his feet. There was hardly any current and they soon cleared it. Mud sucked each footfall, and he stumbled slightly. Martha had no difficulty, yet still she said nothing. Again he caught himself unable to blame her for any ill feelings she may be harbouring towards him. Yet, after all, it was she who hadn't worn the seat belt. He had worn his, as always, and for that he was thankful.

They were both so very fortunate.

Over the last few years Alfred had taken to each day with appreciation. Life was for living; enjoying. It was sad there were those out there whom saw it necessary to end their own lives. What of the driver heading toward the cliff without any intention of braking? Did they, from their house to their final destination, actually bother to wear a seat belt? Were they at such an emotional low that they clicked the belt into place out of simple habit as opposed to an ironic view of their own safety during the oncoming journey? Maybe they wished to avoid any entanglements with the law, and if they considered such things with apparent lucidity then was it not possible to bring themselves out from their most desperate hour?

If only things were as simple as the pleasant stroll he and Martha were taking.

Thinking back to the accident Alfred squeezed tighter on Martha’s hand. Still she said nothing, nor did she return his small sign of affection. Was it that: affection? Guilt, most likely. The sun was low in the sky and spreading its orange glare across the countryside. He had reduced his speed accordingly, yet he should have seen the car. It emerged from a junction ahead without any regard for possible traffic on the main road. Unfortunately Alfred was that traffic, and as such had little time to react as the car pulled out in front of them in a squeal of rubber. He even had time to register the music that was thumping a rapid beat from within the car like some demon soundtrack. The next moments were lost to darkness and now he was walking with Martha. Walking away from that darkness.

It wasn’t that long ago, hours in fact, that he had been doing the very same thing on the edge of the south-east coast, enjoying the small warmth which had come with a strange October. The two of them appreciating both the weather and the other’s company. He was so fortunate to have found someone like Martha, all that time ago during those terrible years of the war. 59 years of marriage to his Martha. He was lucky. They were lucky... Both so lucky to be alive.

From behind them came a commotion. Two police officers were bounding through the trees, twigs snapping and leaves crumpling underfoot.

“Sir,” one of them shouted, “stop right there!”

Having already paused to look over his shoulder, all Alfred could do was let go of Martha’s hand.

One of the policemen had already come to a stand-still a small distance from him, whilst the other staggered to a halt even further away.

There was a pause, and the officer closest to Alfred was about to say something but was cut short by his colleague’s strangled words.

Alfred frowned and wondered what they both stared at. He followed their gazes, looking down at his feet.

A few splashes of blood covered his right shoe, and next to that was Martha’s hand.

“Martha,” he said, “you should’ve worn your seat belt.”

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

Twitter: @Mark_Cassell Facebook:

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Demonology - know your devils and demons

In writing my novel, The Shadow Fabric, research has taken me down a dark route – something which I cannot deny. A place of shadows, yes, and of demons, and other places beyond our mundane senses... and then there's everything dead that belongs with it. But it's the demon that has intrigued me, yet not one actually features in my book – well, not quite. So instead, I write about them here.

Demonology, a long-lost science involving the study of demons and witchcraft, evil spirits and the occult; a not so exact science that would be preferred these days. In a world of space travel and near-miracle cures to diseases so easily murderous five hundred years into our past, a lot of this mystical science is underlined with ambiguity. So, to any researcher, the knowledge and many words of Demonology remains shrouded with skepticism and leaving one somewhat reserved regarding any of its mysteries and claims, historical evidence and the like.

The term demon was not always understood to have the negative and somewhat evil annotation that it does today. Our current use of this term simply describes an evil spirit, and comes to us primarily from New Testament writers. However, there is still uncertainty as to whether demons are considered to be totally separate from Satan and his fallen angels, or exist as Satan's alter-ego, or his outer-personalities if you like. 

Here, I have buried myself in research and have discovered many interesting claims and significances dealing with Satan and his demons. Unfortunately, due to the inability to lay my hands upon primary evidence (which I believe to be impossible, apart from demon possession of course) we shall have to suffice with secondary: the words of others... 

In 1467 a Spanish Franciscan Cleric named Alphonsus de Spina (d.1491), an author of the earliest book to be published on the subject of witchcraft and demonology, categorised demons into ten separate species: 

    Those who alter and twist destiny. 

    Also called the duende de casa, who cause mischief like the removing of objects, pulling of bedclothes, etc. 

Incubi and Succubi 
    Both stimulate lust and perversion. An incubus is the male, whilst a succubus is the female. 

Marching Hordes 
    Those whom see to it that war defies Man’s reasoning. 

    Those which assist witches, and eat, live and lie with Man himself. 

    Those whom interrupt the mind of a sleeping man. 

Human Semen 
    Demons coming to birth amid the odour whilst man and woman are tangled in any sexual act. 

    Those demons whom disguise themselves as either man or woman. 

Clean Demons 
    The demons which victimise only holy men. 

Deceiving Demons 
    Those that pollute the minds of elderly women (called xorguinae or bruxae), and have them believing that they are bewitched and capable of flight. 

A demonologist named Peter Binsfield (c.1540 - 1603) in 1589 published a highly influential book of demonology entitled Tractatus de Confessionibus Maleficorum et Sagarum (translated as Treatise on Confessions by Evildoers and Witches. Within the pages of this book he drew up a hierarchy of devils in correspondence of the seven deadliest of sins: 

  1. Lucifer - Pride 
  2. Mammon - Avarice 
  3. Asmodeus - Lust/Lechery 
  4. Satan - Anger 
  5. Beelzebub - Gluttony 
  6. Leviathan - Envy 
  7. Belphegor - Vanity and Sloth 

No doubt you have heard of a few of these – at least two, I suspect – but you'll find a number of other demons listed below, the majority of whom I've not once come across before. Some I recognise from reading horror and fantasy, and certainly some from films.

  • Abaddon - The demon of the bottomless pit, identified as an ‘angel’ [Revelation 9:11]. Known also as Abaddan. The Greek translation is Apollyon.
  • Abigorr - A demon conjured for his powers of premonition and views into the future, providing military aid and other such warlike advice. 
  • Acham - The demon of Thursday. 
  • Ahriman - Demon of lies and deceit. 
  • Alrinach - A demon of shipwrecks. 
  • Alocer - The demon of astrology. 
  • Any - The presiding demon of Hell. 
  • Anamalech - The demon of bad news. 
  • Ancitif - Origin and details unknown... 
  • Andras - The demon of discord. 
  • Aquiel - The demon of Sunday. 
  • Arachula - A demon of the air. 
  • Ardad - Demon that leads travellers astray. 
  • Arfaxat - Origin and details unknown... 
  • Arioch - A fallen angel whose name derives from the Hebrew meaning of ‘fierce lion.’ 
  • Ascaroth - Demon of spies and informers. 
  • Asmodeus - Said to be the King of demons, although is actually third in rank from Satan himself, also known as Ashmedai, Hebraic for ‘Destroyer’. In Hebrew mythology he is known to ride upon the back of a dragon, and appears in the form of a beast with three heads (those of a bull, a man and a ram), the tail of a snake and feet of a goose. He is a demon of self-indulgence of luxury and sinful desire, and as a result assists Mankind with the Third Deadliest of Sins: Lust. His Queen is named as Lilith although there is speculation concerning this. 
  • Astaroth - Demon of idleness and sloth, accusation and inquisition, also known as Ashtoroth. He is believed to know all secrets and could be only be summoned on Wednesdays, and then only between the hours of ten and eleven at night, he would appear in the form of a half-white and half-black human male. He is reputed to be accursed with foul-smelling breath. Astaroth was once known as the nature goddess Astarte, although due to severe punishment he became a male demon. 
  • Azezel - A fallen angel cast from Heaven for refusing to worship Adam. His name was changed to Eblis, meaning ‘despair.’ In Islamic demonology he was said to be a Djinn, which were a fearsome species kin to Elementals.
  • Baal - Once an Egyptian God during the Eighteenth Dynasty he has become a Ruler of Demons. When this transition came about is not known.
  • Balberith - A demon of murder, arguments and blasphemy. 
  • Baphomet - This demon is named, either from the corruption of Mohammed or derived from two Greek words meaning ‘absorption of knowledge.’ It is said that this demon resides in the form of a cloven-footed goat-headed winged beast. 
  • Bechard - The demon with power over winds and tempests.
  • Bechet - The demon of Friday.
  • Beelzebub - A demon regarded as the leading representation of the fallen gods; in Matthew 12:24, he is mentioned as ‘Prince of the Devils.’ It is translated as ‘Lord of Flies’ represented inevitably as a giant fly, although it is said that his preferred form is that of a huge black-haired beast with two large horns, vast bat-like wings, webbed feet and the tale of a lion. Aside being known to the Cyreneans as Achor, his others names are Beelzeboul and Baalzebub. The latter translating as ‘Lord of the High House.’ He is next in rank to Satan himself, and assists Mankind with the Sixth Deadliest of Sins: Gluttony.
  • Behemoth - The demon of delights of the belly and over indulgence.
  • Belial - The Prince of card and dice, and a demon of the Sidonians.
  • Belias - The demon of arrogance.
  • Belphegor - Originally the Assyrian form of ‘Baal-Poer’, the Moabotish god associated with licentiousness and orgies. Legend proclaims that he was sent from Hell to Earth in order to discover whether there was such an emotional trait as married happiness. He is the demon whom assists Mankind with the Seventh Deadliest of Sins: Vanity.
  • Braathwaate - Demon of ignorance.
  • Bucon - The demon of hatred.
  • Byleth - One of the Kings of Hell.
  • Calconix - Origin and details unknown...
  • Carnivean - Demon of obscenity and shamelessness.
  • Carreau - Demon of heartlessness.
  • Cheitan - Demon born of Smoke.
  • Consague - Origin and details unknown...
  • Dagon - Origin and details unknown...
  • Demogorgon - Once a name to be feared, and never to be uttered, a 4th-century writer named Lactantius first wrote of him. Further details are unknown.
  • Elmek - Demon of sharp objects.
  • Glauneck - A demon with powers over hidden treasures.
  • Gressil - Demon of impurity and uncleanness.
  • Grongade - Origin and details unknown...
  • Haunt - A demon to have risen from the shadow of Man's first sin.
  • Iuvart - Demon of possession.
  • Lagasse - Demon of hypocrisy.
  • Lanithro - Demon of the air.
  • Leviathan - In Hebrew this demon’s name is translated into ‘that which gathers itself into folds.’ He is the demon whom assists Mankind with the Sixth Deadliest of Sins: Envy.
  • Lucifer - A name wrongly referring to Satan, which is most likely the result from a misreading of Isaiah 14:12 and is a totally separate demon altogether, although it is said that Lucifer was the original name of Satan before he fell from heaven. As the Prince of lies he assists Mankind with the First Deadliest of Sins: Pride.
  • Mammon - Although not originally a demon, the word ‘mammon. was known as ‘money’ or ‘riches’ in Syrian terms. From the words of Christ [Matthew 6:24] he entered the realm of demons. Once known as a Prince of tempters, he has become acknowledged as the demon of the love of money. He is the demon whom assists Mankind with the Second Deadliest of Sins: Avarice.
  • Mastiphal - A Prince of Darkness.
  • Mephistopheles - The demon to which Dr Johann Faustus sold his soul to. The Greek meaning of this demon’s name is ‘one whom detests the light.’
  • Merihim - A demon of pestilence.
  • Oeillet - Demon of the vow breaking of poverty.
  • Olivier - Demon of cruelty towards the poor and unfortunate.
  • Pan - Originally known as a Greek god, the spirit of lands and livestock, later became known as a pipe-playing, goat-hooved horned demon, aptly named The Horned God.
  • Phaeton - Origin and details unknown...
  • Putifar - Origin and details unknown...
  • Pytho - The Prince of the Spirits of lies.
  • Rosier - Demon of falling in love.
  • Saalah - Demon that entices into the woods.
  • Satan - The original angel to first fall from heaven, becoming God’s ultimate adversary, which in Hebrew is exactly what it means: Adversary. In Hebrew it means ‘Diablos’ meaning ‘devil.’ As Satan is the dark equivalent of light, the opposition of God, every religion knows of him: Ahriman to the Zoroastrian; Mara to the Buddha; Seth to the Egyptian.
  • Sonneillon - The demon of hatred towards enemies.
  • Tenebrion - Spirit of Darkness.
  • Verdelet - Demon who carries witches to Sabbath.
  • Verrier - Demon of disobedience.
  • Verrine - Demon of impatience.

Here I've named only a few demons, although according to Alphonsus de Spina in 1459 approximately one third of God’s angels became demons and that there were precisely 133,306,668 of them. A separate source claims that a total of 6,660,000 demons commanded by 66 princes, whilst another announces a number of demons totalling 7,409,127 beneath the command of 79 princes. During the sixteenth century an authority claimed that the number of demons active equalled to over half the population of the world.

As is commonly known, all demons were originally angels whom had rebelled and fallen, yet they maintain their rank as ex-angels. The angelic court had been invented sometime in the 4th Century, out of the writings of Paul by the Pseudo-Dionysius, and consisted of nine orders of angels (three hierarchies each of three orders): 

.HIERARCHY.............ORDER...............DEMON PRINCE

Any demon not written beneath any particular hierarchy exists as an Angel of the Third Hierarchy, and holds an equal rank with the next, all being commanded by the Prince Iuvart.

Despite my hard efforts in compiling this information, I am open to debate - or indeed correction - regarding its authenticity.

A Novel Extract

If demonology interests you, then perhaps you'd like to read the opening pages of The Shadow Fabric?

Unable to blink, I shot a quick glance around the dining room. My heartbeat stormed my head. I had to get out of there, I had to leave the other men to it. These brothers had a lot of hate to throw around.
       The black fabric draped across the table and chair, tracing every contour. It flowed over the wood like liquid. Hugging tight whatever it touched, it turned everything into a shadow, a silhouette, a featureless dark blot of its former self. The way it moved defied physics.
       My throat clamped around a cry that came out a whimper.
       I had no idea what Stanley intended. The strange fabric didn’t travel far from his hand, and where the material ended, it rippled and pulsed, pulling further away, yet unable to claim more of its surroundings. The more it unfolded, the dimmer the room became. My skin itched as it sapped the light.
       Victor and Stanley stood facing each other: Victor, with his eyebrows pushed together, the ornate blade clenched in a fist, and Stanley, with his jaw tight and a twitch at the edge of his mouth. In Stanley’s grasp the fabric quivered, its material reminding me of the way midday sunlight reflects from the surface of a swimming pool, the ripples a criss-crossing of movement. It was peaceful to behold, hypnotic almost. But this thing was dark and stifling to observe.
       There was nothing remotely tranquil about this.
       I wanted to leave them to whatever absurd game this was…yet my feet refused to move. The familiar ache in my knee rushed through my body, drumming in my skull, telling me I was useless. Since the car accident the knee often was useless. I couldn’t leave Victor, I knew that. The man looked as terrified as I felt.
       “I hate you, Victor.” Stanley’s nose was no more than a thumb’s width from his brother’s.
       “No,” Victor gasped. His hand shook, his knuckles whitening around the knife. “Don’t!”
       I didn’t know who or what Victor spoke to. Was it Stanley? The shadows? The knife?
       In a blur of darkness, shadows coiling his arm, the blade slammed into Stanley’s chest. Blood spread and he staggered back.
       Victor’s eyes widened. Clutching the weapon, he stumbled from the fireplace, away from his brother. The knife slid out, sucking at the wound. A jet of scarlet misted the air, and then oozed.
       I could only see darkness…so much darkness, and my lungs went tight.
       The fabric—the Shadow Fabric—closed around Stanley’s buckling legs.
       The remaining material swept from the table, away from the violin case. Black tentacles whipped and grabbed Stanley. The darkness enfolded him as his eyes glazed over. It dragged his body along the carpet a short distance and tightened its grip.
       My jaw muscles twitched as I clenched my teeth.
       The Fabric began to shrink. Still in its embrace, the last I saw of Stanley was his dead stare.
       “Vic…” I whispered, and gripped the back of the sofa.
       My boss dragged his eyes away from the retreating shadows and stared at the knife. Behind him, the mantel clock hammered out several seconds before the weapon slipped from his hand onto the carpet, where it bounced with a red splash.
       He fell to his knees. “Oh God.”
       The Fabric vanished.
       I dashed across the room as much as my leg would allow and staggered to a halt beside him. Sobs wracked his frame as I grasped his bony shoulder.
       On the table next to where Stanley had been standing was the violin case, still open like a crooked yawn.
       A million thoughts tumbled through my head, but I couldn’t find the words. I’d been Victor’s chauffeur for no more than a day, and already I’d witnessed him stab his own brother. What the hell?
       I don’t know how long I remained like that, holding him, with light creeping reluctantly back into the room. Victor shouldn’t have been surprised that the shadows had taken his brother. After all, those shadows—the darkness—are associated with all that is dead…or should be dead.
       Silence clogged the air like we were buried in a tomb.
       For some of us, there is a moment in our lives where all we’ve believed real is whipped out from under us and we’re left to survive in a world that’s a lie. All the things in life we’ve taken for granted are sheathed in a weak veneer, behind which stands the shadows.
       For me, this was one of those moments.

Mark Cassell's dark fantasy novel is available
from all bookshops and also Amazon.

Author photo (c)Christopher Shoebridge
Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines.

His debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is a supernatural story and is available from Amazon.

Twitter: @Mark_Cassell Facebook: