Monday, 28 April 2014

Alpha Beta Gamma Kill - Greek Letters and their Names

The Chaos Halo series has begun, now published in the Sci-Fi ezine, Future Chronicles. Already there's been an amazing number of people contact me regarding the introductory story, "Alpha Beta Gamma Kill", and they all want more.

I've just finished the final draft of the next story in the series. It's titled "Patient Zero" and we'll see Abigale (aka Alpha Beta Gamma Kill) getting her hands dirty.

This blog post is kind of related to the story, honest.


Al-phuh Bay-tuh Gamm-muh Kill.

Remember all that gumph back in school when we had to deal with geometry and trigonometry? Indeed, some of you guys may still be dealing with it! Whilst doing a bit of homework for the Chaos Halo series, I came across the chart below and thought it helpful to know how the names of certain letters are spelled and pronounced.

(What animal is that?
It's a "LAMB -- duh"!!)
piy (Like apple "pie".)
roh (Like "row, row,
row your boat".)
(final) sigma
tow (like the first syllable of "towel")
fiy (Like "fee, fie,
fo, fum")

As far as I understand, the Greek letters that are most likely seen for angles are α (alpha), β (beta), γ (gamma), δ (delta), and θ (theta). Apparently you'll be using π (pi) all the time, but that's where I start to go cross-eyed.

All that aside, when it comes to reading my Chaos Halo series in the Future Chronicles ezine, be sure to pronounce it correctly otherwise Abigale will not be impressed.

She's already held the barrel of Toothpick against my forehead, insisting my pronunciation was perfect...

Al-phuh Bay-tuh Gamm-muh Kill

αβγ - Abi - Abigale... And she demands respect.

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, 26 April 2014

Reflections on Authorship - Guest post by Alex Binkley

Reflections on Authorship

By Alex Binkley

There are few events that match the rush of holding your own book for the first time. All the hours of writing, editing and incorporating friendly suggestions and helpful hints into the final product are in your hands.

Yet this is just one step in a long process. Throughout the writing process, the author encounters wise advice about how completing the book is just the beginning of the adventure. Ahead lies marketing it and that process is just as time consuming and challenging as writing, the sages said. A few months out from the release of Humanity’s Saving Grace, published by Loose Cannon Press of Ottawa, I can only say they were absolutely right.

Unless you have a big publisher and or a brand name, the author is his or her own marketing director. The launch is a good start followed by signings at book stores and participating in large sales like the ones we have several times a year in Ottawa. You have to be prepared to talk up your book at any opportunity in case a potential customer is present. You need to have a couple of copies of the book with you all the time. Then comes looking for ways to talk about it to potential readers through the Internet. That’s no small task because of the thousands of books always coming on the market. It’s one that I certainly have to work on.

There are personal web pages and author pages where you can promote it. They all take time and finding a fresh angle. You have to listen to any suggestion for the book including the local artist who is considering it for a graphic novel. That’s something I wasn’t expecting.

Another aspect of marketing is reviews. In the past, I periodically wrote them for books, but it was never top of mind largely because there weren’t many places to post them. The Internet, especially social media, has changed that. Now I know about and other review sites such as Amazon. And whenever someone says they finished my book, which I take as meaning they enjoyed it, I ask them to consider writing a review in hopes that enough positive comments will convince readers who have never heard of me to buy the book. Hopefully, they will enjoy it enough to tell their friends and write reviews. So reviews matter a lot.

Especially the ones that come out of the blue and clearly show how much the story clicked with the reader. Suggestions for a sequel have been very motivating even when it wasn’t part of my writing cycle plans. I do have four other novels in varying stages of development. However, an outline for a sequel set 30 years after Humanity’s Saving Grace is under development. And for those who’ve read the book, the Biot Genghis Khan plays a major role.

Humanity’s Saving Grace is a science fiction novel which isn’t nearly as big a genre as crime and mystery or romance and their many sub categories. That means I have a smaller pool of potential readers. So I try to appeal to their sense of curiosity. The story is really about humans admitting that climate change has so badly disrupted Earth that they really have no choice but to agree to aid an embattled alien species, which has the technology to reverse the environmental damage to our planet. As well, readers would probably enjoy meeting the Biobots, the biological robots that serve as helpers to the aliens and finding out why the Biobots convinced the aliens to seek Earth’s help. And the mysteries the humans encounter in space that will inspire some of them to a life of research and discovery.

While I don’t remember my first newspaper byline, the memory of seeing my book for the first time will always be with me.

Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist in Ottawa and author of Humanity's Saving Grace, published in 2013. He has several other Science Fiction and Fantasy novels out in submissions or in progress.

You can find him on:

Twitter : @alexbinkleywrit
Tumblr : alexbinkley writer

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:

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Horror Bites Challenge #2 - "Evil Inside"

I could not resist the Horror Bites Challenge, but first...

Recent news is that my Steampunk novelette, "Hole in the Sky", has been accepted for inclusion in the Cogwheels anthology, and also the feelers of The Shadow Fabric are reaching out.

Before I start another large project (it'll be Sci-Fi Horror, I know that much already)here I am again attacking flash fiction. Always a pleasant stepping stone between longer pieces.

The Horror Bites Challenge... I love that. Say it: "Horror. Bites. Challenge." Doesn't it play nicely between your tongue and your lips?

What is the Horror Bites Challenge?

More information on Laura Jamez's Office Mango blog, but the challenge is simple: write a 200-300 word flash piece on the image above. She adds the special request of, "Try to scare me, or at the very least create a little bit of darkness".

Hmm, darkness? No problem, Laura.

Evil Inside

By Mark Cassell
(300 words)

I have no happy memories of her when I was a little girl. The woman broke my doll. That had been, what, thirty years ago? She wasn’t even a relative—just one of those people you referred to as “Aunty” out of respect. That sweaty chin, her jowls swaying as she bent down, insisting on a kiss…only ever in front of mum. Once we were alone, she had a bear-like grip. I’d be dragged, thrown to the floor, always bullied by a glance; a spear of blatant irritation. Her voice, like a shovel dragged over gravel, and that heavy stink of body odour, cabbage, damp. Breath like something rotten.
         I resent my mum for always leaving me with her, and perhaps you could blame mum for what happened last week. What’s that? Yes, I suppose this is a confession. She broke my doll, I told you.
         The crunch of her bones wasn’t as loud as the crack of my doll’s head as it smacked the kitchen floor all those years ago. Aunty still has the same floor, funny enough. Yes, I still call her “Aunty”, even now.  And her head didn’t bounce like my doll’s did. I remember the way those little plastic eyes broke loose and shot inside the head, the rattle as they settled, the darkness within. Black, like my Aunty’s soul.
         Of course, I had to do the same to Aunty’s eyes. When my thumbs pushed into her sockets, that wetness oozing, popping, there wasn’t any darkness there. Even if, as I truly believe, her soul is black, there was nothing to suggest the evil inside her. I guess you could say I’m disappointed. There was a gooey redness. So much, it spurted. No black. Just red.
         Oh look, I think there’s still some under my fingernails.

Did you enjoy the flash fiction?

Here are 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: