Thursday, 24 July 2014

One Man's Clumsiness Brings About the Apocalypse

Quite often my dreams are apocalyptic, or evolve with a dystopian backbone. Several months ago proved no different and I scribbled one down. Here I am, finally sharing it. And there's not a Sean Bean in sight.

Tiny threads inevitably make it into my fiction, somehow, somewhere, yet this particular dream must remain untouched...




My cousin, Dan, wanted to take a short cut through a village and so broke into a Japanese guy's house. It was three storeys and fairly large. I'm not sure why he wanted to take this short cut, but I followed him. I was curious.

Running through this house from downstairs to up, he saw no one—not even knowing I was behind him. In his haste, he failed to realise he'd knocked over a beautifully crafted glass bowl. Its intricate designs glinted in the sunset that pushed through the window Dan just escaped through.

I saw it tumble. It shattered. The pieces that broke off were numbered...in fact, they were dated 14th January 2024.

Dan sprinted across the smooth sand of a beach and the sky turned black. Darkness pushed down on us.

And fire rained from billowing clouds. An aeroplane arced overhead, its engines on fire and from behind me, over the hill, a train collided with the house. Fire tore through its carriages.

It seemed Dan's clumsiness had brought about the apocalypse.


* * *

In response, during the height of the Bitstrip craze, Dan made this for me: 




Have you ever considered a dystopian future where books are burned, and if caught in possession of such illegal artifacts then your home is torched?

Imagine it here...



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: www.facebook.com/AuthorMarkCassell

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Horror Bites Challenge #8 - "Face to Face"

I'm starting to find these Horror Bite challenges addictive. Here's the eighth Bite, but this is my fourth contribution.



The challenge is a simple one: write a bite of flash fiction (200-350 words) inspired by the image above. More info can be found on Laura Jamez's Office Mango blog. All she asks is: "Try to scare me, or at the very least create a little bit of darkness".



Face to Face


By Mark Cassell
(280 words)

         “Annabel?” The name dribbled over his lips.
         Bernard’s wife lay on the sunlounger. She couldn’t reply because she didn’t have a mouth, nor could she look at him as her eyes had also vanished. Midday sun speared through the parasol and bleached her flesh. Sweaty, it glistened, taut like it had been pulled over a balloon. Traceries of purple veins throbbed beneath.
         Her head tilted and although faceless, begged for help.
         His breath snatched on the hot air and he dropped the margaritas. Someone’s heartbeat—his own—smashed between his ears, louder than the shattering glass, louder than the buzz of other holidaymakers.
         The ground shook and he staggered on jellied legs. His brain floated; all he saw was that faceless head staring without eyes. Someone screamed…and the swimming pool exploded in a torrent. A geyser corkscrewed into the air. Waves crashed, soaking everyone. More screams, shouts. Children cried.
         Bernard fell and jagged glass sliced his hands. Agony lanced through him. Spitting, he gaped at the pool as something heaved up through the frothing water. Some giant fish or squid or…what the hell was going on? The stink of sewer and wet vegetables washed over him. His stomach churned.
         Water slid from the thing’s mottled bulk. Limbs flopped and it spread outwards. Too many arms, legs, tentacles, whatever they were, thrashed. Tiles and paving cracked, and parasols flew. Loungers and sunburnt bodies spun through the air. Screams echoed.
         Looming on a swaying neck, a head arched downwards. Bloated, pulsing, ugly.
         Wiping his eyes, Bernard stared into the face. His wife’s lidless eyes shone. Her mouth twisted into a too-wide smile.
         “Join me for a swim, darling?”






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: www.facebook.com/AuthorMarkCassell

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Art of Procrastination - A Writer's Guide

As a writer, I know about procrastination. It haunts us. Even as I tackle this post, I have itches: just this moment I've aimlessly surfed the internet, checked emails, and tweeted... Now I'm considering tidying the stack of letters that somehow levitates in my periphery (yep, I'm not thinking of actually dealing with them, just tidying them).

Following the release of Cogwheels: Ten Tales of Steampunk, author and editor Rayne Hall has given us an insight into procrastination. It's a fantastic portrayal of this demon we all share.



Cartoons are by Hanna-Riikka


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: www.facebook.com/AuthorMarkCassell

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Horror Bites Challenge #7 - "The Donation"

Once again I'm here to attack the Horror Bites Challenge. But first, I must announce the release of my novelette, "Hole in the Sky", which features in Rayne Hall's recent anthology, Cogwheels: Ten Tales of Steampunk.



The Horror Bites Challenge is simple: write a bite of flash fiction (200-350 words) inspired by the image above. More info can be found on Laura Jamez's Office Mango blog. All she asks is: "Try to scare me, or at the very least create a little bit of darkness".



The Donation


By Mark Cassell
(350 words)

From a crouch, I fell backwards and my arse thumped the floor. I kicked the sack away. Red flecks spotted the carpet as a pair of women’s shoes tumbled out. The stink leapt up my nose. The sound of those severed ankles as they knocked together… Dead. Final.
         Still in her chair, Dot peered around the counter. “What on Earth is wrong with you, boy?”
         I dragged myself backwards and my spine smacked a shelf. Something rattled. Our only customer shot me a glance through looming clothes racks. He clutched a paperback. His eyes washed over the sack, and his brow creased without revulsion. Didn’t he see those shoes? Couldn’t he see the splintered bone and curl of pallid flesh? And what about the blood?
         “That—” My tongue stuck to my teeth.
         Dot said, “They’re a pair of shoes.”
         Blood pooled, soaking the carpet, as my own blood rushed into my ears. Like someone else’s limb my arm floated before me, finger rigid. “That!”
         Leaning forwards in her chair, Dot snatched the shoes. Crimson splashes peppered her trousers. She ran a finger along leather seams, streaking blood. “These are nice.”
         “Stop!”
         “Like a pair I used to own.” She scratched her face, leaving a red smear across a cheek.
         “Seriously…” My heart thundered. It was as if she couldn’t see it either. Was I hallucinating?
         She pushed her wheelchair forwards, trousers flapping around the area where her own feet should be. Leaving the shoes on her lap, she reached down and began rolling up her trousers.
         My vision whirled.
         Dot revealed the aged stumps where once her feet had been—working at the charity shop for over a year and I’d never summoned the courage to ask how she’d lost them.
         Now holding a shoe in each hand, she pressed the bones up into the wrinkled flesh of those stumps. Something cracked and snapped as she twisted the shards in place. The sound echoed. Dead skin flapped like soggy paper, and fresh blood oozed and dribbled over her knuckles.
         “Just like the pair I used to own,” she whispered.





         

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: www.facebook.com/AuthorMarkCassell

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Cogwheels: Ten Tales of Steampunk - contributor reveal

Rayne Hall's next anthology, Cogwheels: Ten Tales of Steampunkwill soon be released. It features my first venture into this fantastic genre. For more about Steampunk and a behind-the-scenes peek into my story, "Hole in the Sky", please read a previous blog post: On Writing Steampunk.



To celebrate the tenth book in the Ten Tales series, this issue contains two bonus stories in addition to the regular ten. This makes twelve great stories, each told in a different style, each representing a different facet of the Steampunk genre.

Here are the writers whose stories are featured in the book:


LIV RANCOURT is a writer of speculative fiction and romance. She lives with her husband, two teenagers, two cats and one wayward puppy. She likes to create stories that have happy endings, and finds it is a good way to balance her other job in the neonatal intensive care unit. Her fiction includes A Vampire's Deadly Delight and Forever And Ever Amen, as well as contributions to Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, and Scared: Ten Tales of Horror.

Liv can be found on-line at her website and blog (www.livrancourt.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/liv.rancourt), or on Twitter (@LivRancourt).


APRIL GREY's urban fantasy novel, Chasing The Trickster, is published by Eternal Press. The sequel, St. Nick's Favor is also available through Amazon. Her short stories have been published in many anthologies including Demonmind's Halloween 2010, The Best of Everyday Fiction 2, Northern Haunts, Ephemera, Love Hurts, Darlings of Decay, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Seers: Ten Tales of Clairvoyance, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies,  and Terrible Beauty, Fearful Symmetry. Many of these stories can be found in her story collections, The Fairy Cake Bake Shoppe and I'll Love Your Forever.

She is also the editor of the anthology, Hell's Garden: Mad, Bad and Ghostly Gardeners.

She and her family live in Hell's Kitchen, NYC in a building next to a bedeviled garden. Gremlins, sprites or pixies, something mischievous, lurks therein. Someday she'll find out. Find her on www.aprilgrey.blogspot.com and www.aprilgreywrites.com.


BOB BROWN writes from his estates in Kiona Washington with his goldfish, koi, chickens, pugs, cats, and wife.  He is the author of numerous short stories as well as the children's book "The Dragon, the Damsel, and the Knight," and the "The Lost Enforcer," with Irene Radford.  In his day job, Bob is a scientist at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State.

Bob can be reached at Kionadad@aol.com or at his website www.Bobbrownwrites.com.




NIED DARNELL aka Beth Daniels, J.B. Dane and Beth Henderson, describes her writing identity as “a very split personality”.  A published novelist since 1990, she has tallied 28 published books, a handful of short stories and writing related articles as well as presented online workshops on writing. Tucked in the American Midwest in Ohio, she is currently hammering the gears in place on a Weird West trilogy.

Visit her at www.WritingSteampunk.com or on Twitter @BethDaniels1.


DAY AL-MOHAMED is author for the novel Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn: A Steampunk Faerie Tale, written with Danielle Ackley-McPhail.  Day hosts the multi-author blog “Unleaded: Fuel for Writers”, and in addition to speculative fiction, she also writes comics and film scripts.

Her recent publications are available in Daily Science Fiction, Crossed Genres anthology Oomph - A Little Super Goes a Long Way, Sword & Laser, and GrayHaven Comics' anti-bullying issue You Are Not Alone.  Two more comics are due to be released this year, as well as several short stories, and the anthology “Trust & Treachery” for which she served as co-editor.  Her two film shorts were recently shown on local Virginia cable television, and two more are in pre-production. She is an active member of the Cat Vacuuming Society of Northern Virginia Writing Group, a member of Women in Film and Video, and a graduate of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop.

When not working on fiction, Day is Senior Policy Advisor with the U.S. Department of Labor.  She has also worked as a lobbyist and political analyst on issues relating to Health care, Education, Employment, Disability, and International Development.  She is a proud member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, loves action movies, and drinks far too much tea.  She lives in Washington, DC with her wife, N.R. Brown, in a house with too many swords, comic books, and political treatises.

She can be found online at www.DayAlMohamed.com and Twitter @DayAlMohamed.


MARK CASSELL often dreams of dystopian futures and peculiar creatures. He is a horror and SF author with stories in several anthologies including Rayne’s Dragon: Ten Tales of Fiery Beasts. A few zines have snatched up his work, and most recently he has been commissioned to write for Future Chronicles where his "Chaos Halo" series is a regular feature.

He lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals, and will soon release his supernatural horror novel, The Shadow Fabric.


You can read his blog at www.beneath.co.uk and find him on: Twitter @Mark_Cassell or Facebook www.facebook.com/AuthorMarkCassell


KIN S. LAW describes himself as “Anachronistic Writer. Cook. Thinker. Origami Folder. Minimalist. AFOL. Gadfly. Unreasonable Man. Atheist. Misanthrope.”  This is his first appearance in a Ten Tales book.


MORGAN A. PRYCE is a writer and academic based in Bangkok who has published both fiction and non-fiction, mostly in Southeast Asia. Morgan shares her thoughts and the occasional story at www.morganpryce.wordpress.com and on Twitter under @morgan_pryce.


JONATHAN BROUGHTON lives on the south coast of England. He has written many short stories that range from the paranormal to the urban which he has compiled into one volume, Dark Reunion: Twenty Short Stories.

Many of these stories have appeared in other Ten Tales books - Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Dragon: Ten Tales of Fiery Beasts and Haunted:  Ten Tales of Ghosts.

In 2014 he published his first crime thriller, Running Before The Midnight Bell which is set in Hastings and St Leonards-on-Sea, England. In 2012 he won the Death Throes e-zine flash fiction competition.

You can follow Jonathan on Twitter: @jb121jonathan. Or join him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/jonathan.broughton.5.


KEVIN MCLAUGHLIN can usually be found in his home near Boston when not practicing hobbies which include sailing, constructing medieval armor, and swinging swords at his friends,  His award-winning short fiction is now available in digital form at all major ebook retailers. His urban fantasies By Darkness Revealed and Ashes Ascendant are available in ebook and print. His latest effort, the Starship series, is ongoing.


RAYNE HALL has published more than fifty books in several languages under several pen names with several publishers in several genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction.  She is the author of the bestselling Writer's Craft series and editor of the Ten Tales anthologies.

Having lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, she has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England where she enjoys reading, gardening and long walks along the seashore. She shares her home with a black cat adopted from the cat sanctuary. His name is Sulu and he's the perfect cat for a writer – except when he claims ownership of her keyboard.

You can follow here on Facebook www.facebook.com/RayneHallAuthor and Twitter @RayneHall where she posts advice for writers, funny cartoons and cute pictures of her cat.


JOANNE ANDERTON lives in Sydney with her husband and too many pets. By day she is a mild-mannered marketing coordinator for an Australian book distributor, by night she writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Her short story collection, The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, won the Aurealis Award for Best Collection, and the Australian Shadows Award for Best Collected Work. She has published The Veiled Worlds Trilogy: Debris, Suited, and Guardian. She has been shortlisted for multiple awards, and won the 2012 Ditmar for Best New Talent.

You can find her online at www.joanneanderton.com.



UPDATE!


Cogwheels: Ten Tales of Steampunk
is now in these online bookshops:

Apple (itunes/ibooks)

Barnes&Noble (Nook)

Amazon (Kindle)

Page Foundry (Inktera)

Scribd







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: www.facebook.com/AuthorMarkCassell