Happy Halloween. Fellow Professional Authors' Group member Mark Cassell is the perfect person to help celebrate this spooky weekend. We're changing to back to Eastern Standard Time this weekend, and the darkness will come earlier and stay later. It's good for dark fiction writers, but bad for those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Twelve horror stories weave truths you do not want to hear. The collection includes:
Intensive Scare – Three teenagers dabble in the occult and learn there's a good reason to be afraid of the dark.
Red, White and Black – When a clinical trial goes horribly wrong, a lone survivor finds herself fleeing from a sentient infection.
Meeting Mum – Introducing a new girlfriend to your parents has never been so problematic.
Midnight Clay – An otherwise pleasant homeward journey is interrupted by a demon with a particularly grotesque skill.
Each story binds the Shadow Fabric mythos tighter, revealing that everything around us is entwined with a deep-rooted darkness. And sometimes that darkness — the fabric — tears.
From the story collection, Sinister Stitches, here’s an excerpt from “Midnight Clay”.
As though the moonlight pushed him along, Owen freewheeled down the hill. The wind bit into his face, froze his knuckles. Often summer nights were like this, especially with a cloudless sky. If only he hadn’t left his coat back at Jimmy’s house.
A rumble in the distance, almost a howl, snatched his attention to the bend up ahead. He steered closer to the edge of the lane. He and Jimmy had an awesome evening; the new Dungeons and Dragons role-play game had stolen the day away. Before they’d realised it, night had fallen and Owen was late. Jimmy had beaten him with some lucky dice rolls.
The next game, Owen thought, would be war.
The rumble intensified; a vehicle approached at speed, still unseen. Perhaps a truck or lorry. Having cycled this route many times, he knew the lane was wide enough even if he did meet something that large. Still, he kept close to the grass verge.
Once more, his thoughts wandered to the game. Luck or not, next time he’d outsmart Jimmy.
Further ahead, along the winding road and through the trees, headlights forced back the darkness. Air-brakes hissed. A lorry, definitely, and it approached the bend without slowing.
Owen jammed on the brakes, the back wheel whirring on the tarmac.
He jerked to a halt.
The vehicle tore into the bend. Tyres screeched and juddered and groaned in protest. The trailer tilted, jack-knifed, and tipped. Something sleek, a silhouette against the night sky, leapt from the roof with what looked like enormous wings and too many limbs. Whatever it was, Owen had the fleetest glimpse as he threw himself sideways, dragging his bike. He rolled into the bushes, twigs and branches raked his hands and face. The lorry cleaved the tarmac, roaring like a metal dragon and uprooting trees and foliage, mud and earth.
His heart pounded in his throat.
After that there was silence, save for the creak of a buckled trailer wheel. And voices. Faint echoes on the wind from somewhere in the darkness. Not near the lorry but further away in the fields. Imagination surely; adrenaline from witnessing the crash. Imagination, too, had made him see that great…creature?
Entirely in his head.
He pushed himself up and staggered onto the road. The underside of the metal hulk loomed over him. A clump of mud and tangled brambles fell from the buckled wheel. Tiny glass beads covered the road, each one glinting moonlight.
If only he hadn’t left his phone in his coat pocket, back at Jimmy’s.
“Hello?” he called, heading for the cab.
No one answered…
Welcome Mark! Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
I’m a British horror writer and live in a sleepy village that often inspires my sinister stories.
Do you write full time?
Not quite. Always a storyteller, it wasn’t until I became a driving instructor that I found the time to learn the craft of writing. Once established as an instructor, I began to take my stories much more seriously. These days though, I write more than I instruct.
What are your writing inspirations?
Open spaces inspire me, whereas tower blocks give me writer’s block. I am most definitely happy when surrounded by trees, and after I moved to the countryside The Shadow Fabric unravelled.
How did you come to write this story?
The title had been with me for 20 years and by the time my short fiction gained success, I knew I had to tackle a novel. I was ready.
Is this book part of a series?
Absolutely. The mythos has expanded, and that struck me entirely by surprise. After The Shadow Fabric was published, my leftover scribbles weren’t only the frayed ends I’d suspected but had potential for growth. One tale recently won a competition with Dark Chapter Press, but most became stories for Sinister Stitches, a collection I set for release on Halloween.
Tell us a bit about the characters.
Leo, the main character from The Shadow Fabric, stars in a short story from the collection. Always driven by a determination to learn what in hell is going on, he’s also desperate to uncover his own roots. The Shadow Fabric itself, a sentient force that controls the darkness, is at the core of every mythos story and I guess you could say it’s a character in itself. A malevolent one at that.
What project will you be working on next?
2016 sees the expansion of the steampunk universe that began as a short story for Rayne Hall’s Cogwheels anthology. I’ve already posted a few teaser flash fiction pieces on my blog.
One surprising or interesting fact about yourself.
A family tradition from my mum’s side, the Harmers, is to enter a fancy dress competition as a toffee. At about the age of nine it was my turn. I couldn’t walk up on stage because of the costume’s awkward design, and so my dad had to lift me up the steps. I came second place to a robot. My Sci-Fi stories featuring Alpha Beta Gamma Kill may suggest I harbour a deep-rooted resentment.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself or your writing?
My work, whether steampunk or fantasy, is always dark. Sure there’s blood but the horror I write isn’t mankind’s horrors, not the hack’n’slash type, but the supernatural, the paranormal, anything on the other side. It’s the unknown horrors behind the veil that has always fascinated me.
That's my favorite kind. I can't wait to read the collection. I hope to meet up with you, Jonathan and Rayne on my next trip to the UK.
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, dark fantasy, and Sci-Fi stories have featured in several anthologies and ezines. Rayne Hall has included his work in three of her Ten Tales anthologies: Fiery Beasts, Cogwheels, and Fiends, and also a Shadow Fabric mythos story can be found in April Grey’s Hell’s Garden anthology. His flash fiction often features in the popular ezine, Sirens Call, and he writes a series for the Sci-Fi ezine, Future Chronicles, in which we follow the adventures of Alpha Beta Gamma Kill. His upcoming short story collection, Sinister Stitches, is only a fraction of an expanding mythos that began with his debut novel, The Shadow Fabric.
The Shadow Fabric: www.TheShadowFabric.co.uk
Sinister Stitches (pre-order): http://amzn.to/1SuHihP