Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Staccato House- latest novel published

I am very pleased to announce the publication of my latest novel, Staccato House. It is available to buy at Amazon as a paperback here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Staccato-House-Steven-Mace/dp/152276416X 

and also in Kindle format here: http://www.amazon.com/Staccato-House-Steven-Mace-ebook/dp/B019E88514


I started writing Staccato House a long time ago- as far back as 2004. The basic premise initially was about a central male character who was taken to a stately mansion and where various entertainments and staged theatre were being acted out for his benefit- while secretly he was being manipulated and could not trust a single person he met there. Just as those he encountered were 'puppets', so was he. The antagonist was the sinister 'puppet master' who was behind it all.

As the story and plot evolved over the years, I added 'thriller' genre elements rather than surreal 'fantasy' elements- for example the link to organised crime with a loan shark; I also introduced references to popular conspiracy theories and the occult, so it became an allusive piece of 'weird fiction'. 

I completed a novella version of Staccato House in 2011 which was short-listed for Contact Publishing's Page Turner prize for thriller fiction, before I adapted it into a novel. I suppose there are three main influences on this book: The novel The Magus by John Fowles; the film Eyes Wide Shut directed by Stanley Kubrick; and the website Vigilant Citizen with its periodic updates and explanations of popular conspiracy theories and secret cults. It's unlike Fowles' novel or Kubrick's film but nevertheless these shaped what Staccato House became. While being my own original work (the essential plot and the novella version was written in 2011 even before I discovered the Vigilant Citizen website, for example)- it would be impossible to deny these influences and inspiration, primarily in terms of these themes: secret societies and hidden cults, a narrator or central character manipulated by unknown mysterious forces.

On a surface level, Staccato House is about a freelance journalist who stumbles across a mystery, and when he investigates further, his life spirals out of control. The reader can enjoy the story and take it at face value as an occult thriller and mystery/psychological novel, and an entertainment. 

It's important at this stage to state that Staccato House is a work of fiction, based entirely on the imagination of the author, but that the 'logic' or 'structure' that is behind the workings of the plot, derives from numerous urban myths, conspiracy theories, and arcane occult knowledge that can be found in libraries or on the Internet. That's not to say they are universal truths- esoteric lore and arcane knowledge does not tend to be studied in schools or taken too seriously by most people, and such ideas or beliefs have of course not gone unchallenged. Staccato House is a novel that includes some of those concepts as plot elements. If you're interested in reading further for a richer understanding of my novel, then let me introduce some of them. Should this pique your interest, then here is a list should you wish to delve deeper- although it is not exhaustive by any means-but please do not assume the author subscribes to any of them, or is himself part of any such 'secret organisation'! I found these ideas and theories intriguing and simply used them to enrich the details of my fictional novel: 


The Illuminati and the 'Mothers of Darkness'; also the so-called 'Mothers of Darkness' castle, the Chateau des Amerois in Belgium: 
http://illuminati-bloodlines.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/chateaux-des-amerois-mothers-of.html I borrowed the name 'Amerois' and slightly altered it for the name of a character in my novel.

The Monarch and MK-Ultra conspiracy theories: 

The Kabbalah (discussed in my previous post): 

These will give you the main background, but here are more obscure references and allusions in Staccato House and links for starting points for reading further should you wish:



The Green Dragon Society of Japan=


Baphomet/ Goat's Head of Mendes= https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baphomet


The phrase 'Ordo ad Chao/Order out of chaos', the slogan of the 33rd degree of Freemasonry= http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/atlantean_conspiracy/atlantean_conspiracy49.htm

The phrase 'As above, so below'=



The Sacred Book of Liber Primus/ the 'Cicada' internet conspiracy/hoax= 
http://cicada3301.org/liber/ 
Also a reference to the usage of the word 'cicada'= 

The 'Nephalim' or 'Nephilim', various spellings= 

Antonin Artaud and 'The Theatre of Cruelty'=

The central character in my novel is a 'Gemini'=

"Weaving Spiders Come Not Here", a quote from Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Nights Dream' and motto of the Bohemian Grove=

The Denver International Airport conspiracy theories and mysteries=

"Energy never dies"- a scientific principle as well as spiritualist=

The Double-headed eagle in Freemasonry=

O.T.O, or Ordo Templi Orientis and link to Aleister Crowley= 

The Georgia Guidestones= 

The Alchemical process of transformation=

Khabarovsk war crimes trials= 

A few additional links as starting points about Nazi Germany, the Thule and Vril Societies and Nazi research into the occult=

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Coming soon

Watch this space...

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Urban myth: A Message from the future

You can find sources of inspiration for fiction anywhere. Sometimes even, amongst the trolls and supercilious commentators, on internet forums. I saw this interesting discussion about a so-called 'message from the future' while I was browsing online, researching conspiracy theories and I noted it down. It falls into the category of urban myth, or a televisual hoax that fooled people. I don't necessarily doubt the veracity of the person who is relating what he saw, it's just that most likely it was a advertising gimmick, a promotion for an upcoming television series or film. Nevertheless, it makes an intriguing story and perhaps the starting point for the premise of a separate work of fiction:


I remember this, at least I remember an incident such as this. This is what I recall.

It was on Channel 4 and it was an advert break. In the middle of one of the advertisements the television made a bizarre noise with interference, not like simulated interference but I recall the television itself making a low pitched buzz.

There was a woman in black standing on a platform with the camera panning in and out, and side to side. It was similar to when they have remote control cameras attached on ropes to four sides of a football stadium roof, that physically focuses in to where the action is.

I recall the last words she said was something like "We will leave you to your future", the television made the same strange buzz/interference and the broadcast resumed in the middle of an Audi advert.

I can understand the flippant replies as it sounds a far fetched tale but it had quite a profound effect at the time. I too had Googled for other people who had seen this or similar incidents and this is the first time I have found anything.


Regarding dates, I can't be precise but I saw this in a house that I lived in between 1986 and 1992.

Here is the original link for this post that intrigued me, and the forum thread: http://www.sciforums.com/threads/message-from-the-future.34713/

Friday, 4 December 2015

The Kabbalah

As part of the background research for my new book Staccato House, I undertook a great deal of research into the occult, and into conspiracy theories which related to occult knowledge and traditions. I was very interested in weaving these themes into my story (a work of fiction, of course). There is a great deal of esoteric and arcane knowledge which is available out there, but is rarely ever formally studied- this made it intriguing as a sideline hobby to explore while I was working on the plot elements of Staccato House and in the process of writing my novel. 

Central to much of Western occult theory is the Kabbalah. The Kabbalah, or Cabala is synonymous with Hermeticism or Hermetic occult magic. Our word in English, 'cabal' which means a secret organised group of people, derives from this name. The Cabala was Jewish-Babylonian 'magic', according to occultists. It began to get widespread notice in Europe after the Enlightenment period. The Great Pyramid according to the occult is a symbol of the Cabalistic Tree of Life- the branches of the tree form the four streams or lines to the base of the pyramid. Here are some pictorial representations of the 'Kabbalah': 





Here are various definitions and explanations of the 'Kabbalah' according to online sources:

The Jewish-mystic explanation of the Kabbalah: http://www.jewfaq.org/kabbalah.htm

This is the introduction to the Kabbalah as explained by the official Kabbalah Centre, a form of New Age-spiritual enlightenment: https://www.kabbalah.com/what-kabbalah 

The Christian-occult versions of the Kabbalah explained in detail here: http://gnosis.org/jskabb1.htm 

Occult description of the Kabbalah and its meaning/use: http://www.occultopedia.com/k/kabbalah.htm

Here is the dark conspiracy-theorist explanation of the importance of the Kabbalah to various popular conspiracy theories allegedly involving the Freemasons and Illuminati: http://www.texemarrs.com/012006/occult_magic_of_jewish_cabala.htm

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Publication News: "Fox-Curse" in The Stray Branch

My flash-fiction piece "Fox-Curse" has been published in the latest issue (Fall/Winter) of the literary magazine The Stray Branch, edited by Debbie Berk.


You can check out and purchase a copy of this issue from Amazon Createspace here: 

The Facebook Page for The Stray Branch is here: https://www.facebook.com/The-Stray-Branch-136553993096921/

Stray Branch website: http://www.thestraybranch.org/  

Editor Debbie Berk on Twitter: https://twitter.com/debbiedberk



Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Publication News- "The Vacancy" at KZine Issue 13

My horror-fantasy short story "The Vacancy" has been published in KZine Issue 13 (unlucky for some...) It's a sinister tale about an unemployed man living in an eerie, unknown city; he accepts a job offer at an ancient mansion and begins work for a peculiar organisation.

A few words about this story- "The Vacancy" was mainly inspired by the monochrome visions of the comics artist David Hine (see his blog here and here) and the writings of the notable American horror author Thomas Ligotti. As a child I first became aware of Hine's artwork and tales in the now defunct Revolver comic and 2000AD, and I was very impressed by Ligotti's work, notably his collection Teatro Grottesco. Ligotti was also a major influence on the creators of the American drama series 'True Detective'. I admire Ligotti's fatalism and ability to capture the eerie and surreal to a disturbing extent, and I hoped to emulate that with my own story.

'The Vacancy' has been published along with several other authors and fine stories in KZine Issue 13, which is available at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kzine-Issue-13-Maureen-Bowden-ebook/dp/B015B839OY

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Echoes and Exiles: available in paperback

Publication Update: It is now possible to buy my short story collection "Echoes and Exiles" as a paperback from Amazon:



Saturday, 9 May 2015

Echoes and Exiles- new short story collection

I'm very pleased to announce the publication of my latest book, Echoes and Exiles, which is a collection of my most recent short stories.

You can currently buy 'Echoes and Exiles' as a Kindle book from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Echoes-Exiles-Steven-Mace-ebook/dp/B00WSW0POE 

as an e-book from Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/538946


I hope to make a print copy at Amazon CreateSpace available very soon.

This is the cover artwork for Echoes and Exiles by Derren Toussaint, alias MonkeysvsRobots.

"Echoes and Exiles" cover artwork by Derren Toussaint

Derren's portfolio can be found here at his website: http://www.monkeysvsrobots.co.uk/ and Derren's Facebook Page is https://www.facebook.com/MonkeysvsRobots


The Background to Echoes and Exiles, and some words about the stories

I wanted to write a few words here about the background to each of the stories. Echoes and Exiles comprises short stories I've written between 2011-2014, some of which have already been published in various magazines and webzines. There are only a few exceptions from an earlier period in my writing career. 'The Prodigal' was an earlier story, one of the very first I ever wrote, back in the 1990s. 'Moonlight Bay' was rewritten in 2011 or 2012 from an earlier fragment of writing which also dates from the 1990s. There is one more early story- 'The Baron's Cheesecake', which is a children's story and is included in the final section.

Echoes and Exiles is divided into three sections: firstly, the short stories which are compiled under the 'Echoes' theme; secondly, the short stories with an 'Exiles' theme; and finally a bonus Appendix section which contains all of my unpublished shorter work which has been so far completed: children's stories, flash fiction, and script ideas. I wrote three scripts entitled 'Golem', 'The Dragon King' and 'Old Man Tanzagan' which were based on ancient myths, and which were intended for an animation project.

In 2011, when I first began preparing this book, I originally conceived Echoes and Exiles as a collection of plays, or scripts, rather than short stories. Many of the short stories began their fiction-life that way. For example, this is the case with 'A Marriage of Convenience', 'Casting Stones', 'Civilian', 'Here, Kitty Kitty', 'Pariah', 'Sharks', 'The Accidental Author', 'The Ballad of Leonard and Mary', 'This Machine' and 'The Astronaut's Audition'. They were plays, with staged scenes/settings and dialogue- or, in the case of 'This Machine', a monologue- and each one had a contemporary setting, apart from the futuristic 'Astronaut's Audition'. A third of the way through this project, my plan altered and I reverted back to writing short prose fiction, where I felt more comfortable. I then rewrote the original 'plays' as short stories. This is partly why this collection is so eclectic and varied in terms of genre. It contains contemporary fiction, urban fiction, fantasy fiction, speculative fiction, suspense fiction and horror fiction.

The stories are loosely bound by the respective dual themes of 'Echoes' and 'Exiles'. 'Echoes' might be consequences of actions; memories; delusions; or ghosts- real and imagined. 'Exiles' refers to banishment, isolation, imprisonment, wanderers, pariahs and those who are lost. The two themes are not mutually exclusive despite the division of the stories into two different sections, and indeed both themes do overlap in several of the tales.

Here are a few brief words about each of the stories in the collection:


'Echoes' section

Whispers on the Airwaves
A sinister SF suspense tale set in a remote Martian space colony. One premise for the circumstances of this story was based upon the concept of pareidolia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia
"Whispers on the Airwaves" was originally published at Darker Times (September 2013) and selected as a September competition runner-up, it was also included in the Darker Times Anthology Vol 5

The Astronaut's Audition
This is one of the stories in this collection which began life as a play. This SF story explores the idea of having an identical double, or doppelgänger, as a result of a teleportation accident.

The Foreshadowing
This is a weird piece of Twilight-Zone style shlock horror, about a flight attendant who accidently stumbles into a nightmarish parallel dimension.
"The Foreshadowing" was originally published in the 4th May 2014 (159th) edition of Schlock Magazine

Goat's Milk
A dark horror tale dealing with satanic echoes from the past. It wasn't so much the Wicker Man-style witchcraft in a remote community elements which inspired this, but the single image of a child lying awake in bed, frightened by mysterious etchings in luminous paint which are daubed on the bedroom wall.

The Alchemist's Dream
An SF story influenced by the writing of Isaac Asimov, describing the epic history of an alien planet's rise and fall in the short story medium.

Unlimited Shelf Life
This is a humorous SF/Fantasy story set in what I would describe as hyper-reality: an exaggerated version of the real world with fantastic elements, an alternate comic-book form of reality. This was influenced by the diverse sources of the TV series Mad Men, Marvel and DC comics and the works of Thomas Pynchon.
"Unlimited Shelf Life" was originally published in Aphelion Webzine, Issue 185, Vol.18 (June 2014)  

The Ice Castle
This is a short story about the theme of domestic violence and abusive marriages, with reference to this article: http://www.examiner.com/article/why-are-so-many-high-i-q-battered-wives-married-to-men-with-low-e-q This was additionally inspired by a true story related to me by a friend. My friend described someone she knew whose ex-husband drugged her and kept her as a virtual prisoner in their home.

Moonlight Bay
This is a weird supernatural tale set in Cornwall, about dark family secrets and a race of subterranean creatures. I wrote an earlier version or fragment of this story many years ago before re-writing and completing it for this collection.
"Moonlight Bay" was originally published in Hellfire Crossroads Vol.3 (July 2014)  

The Automatic Boy
This is an experimental story written in a style which I'd describe as 'dream-fiction'. At first this story appears to be a straight-forward nostalgic reminisce upon old schooldays before exploring stranger territory.

The Spy Glass
This is a supernatural fantasy tale about a mysterious spy glass, a device that seems to open a window between space and time while cursing those who are unfortunate to possess it.
"The Spy Glass" was originally published in Sanitarium Magazine Issue 023 (July 2014) 

Winter's Promise
Another supernatural horror-fantasy tale, about a woman trapped in a mountainside cabin during a snowstorm. Things start to go bump in the night. This one plays on the idea of Jack Frost, or some form of supernatural snow-entity.
"Winter's Promise" was originally published in the Blysster Press Crypticon Anthology (April 2013)

Casting Stones
This is about ghosts, purgatory and the afterlife. Although the last of the 'Echoes' stories, I suppose it's also an 'Exiles' story- a ghost in exile from life.


'Exiles' section

The Prodigal
This is the earliest-written short story in this collection. It's about a teenage runaway, his dark secret and his demonic pursuer. The changes to the original for the recently published version were minimal.
"The Prodigal" was originally published in InnerSins Webzine (Issue 18, Fall 2014)

This Machine
This is another of the stories which owes its structure to the fact that it was originally conceived as a play. Much of the original script version was a monologue. The 'exile' in this story is a man socially excluded and isolated, who has fallen into criminal behaviour. His personal situation brings out his hopelessness and personal darkness.
"This Machine" was originally published in full in Suspense Magazine (November 2012), and the Urban Story  website (online in abbreviated form, October 2012)

The Ballad of Leonard and Mary
Another story which began life as a play, with some similar themes to a previous short story I wrote, entitled 'Dignity', which appeared in my second short story collection The Splendour of Shadows. In this story, an elderly couple take in a mysterious and malevolent lodger.
"The Ballad of Leonard and Mary" was originally published in Suspense Magazine (October 2012) 

Civilian
This was just an excuse to wheel out the character Doreen Hawes, the Job Centre employee from Hell and scourge of all benefits claimants, who also appears in my short story 'The Vacancy'. This story considers the idea of the 'exile' in the form of an ex-soldier who deserted his regiment and faced court-martial, who is now ostracised by both the army and the system. Another story that was a play.

The Lonely Parade
This SF story was written as a grim, dystopian vision of a near-future Britain.

The Accidental Author
This is a playful, darkly humorous story about an aspiring writer who finds his work plagiarised, with both comical and tragic consequences.

Virtuatronics
A dark SF story about the dangers of consumerism and self-exile: in this case, seeking to escape from grim reality into a fantasy world.
"Virtuatronics" was originally published on the Five Stop Story website (online, November 2012)

Pariah
Another story which originally began life as a play exploring the theme of the exile. 'Pariah' is about a particular form of isolation, and the idea that appearances can be deceptive.

Sharks
Another short story that was originally a play. This is about a robbery at a city store, written from the point of view of the 'exile'- a character with Asperger's syndrome who is innocently caught up in a chain of violent events.

Trojan
Old fashioned space opera SF, about a team of galactic space salvagers who stumble across something nasty in deepest Space. The title is a double play on the 'Trojan horse' and the computer virus. I lifted the name of the ship captain from a famous real-life local Doningtonian: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Flinders

Walls of Glass
The exile in this story is a domestic terrorist- and his motivations and his fatal purpose are explored in this tale.

A Marriage of Convenience
A tongue-in-cheek, light supernatural tale written with humorous intention, which along with 'Unlimited Shelf Life' has the purpose of lightening the bleak, dark mood of most of stories in this collection.

Here, Kitty Kitty
A violent suspense story laced with dark humour. It is based around the idea of home invasion, and is about a psychopathic drifter who lives a vagrant existence, targeting isolated lonely victims.


Appendix

Children's Stories
Although they don't entirely fit in with the tone of the adult-oriented stories in this book, I decided to include a few unpublished children's stories in the book, to find a home for them and serve the purpose of collecting my work so far. The first of these, and oldest, is 'The Baron's Cheesecake', which dates from the 1990s and is a medieval fantasy/fairy tale about a quest to find elusive silver pears, which turn out to be not quite so elusive as first thought. The second is 'King of Towering Spires', which is about a giant talking mouse, the 'King Mouse' of the title. The last and longest story is 'The Countess and the Water Mill'. This is a grim fairy tale fantasy which is darker in tone than the other two children's stories here, concerning an evil, ghastly Countess and a water-sprite.

Flash Fiction
Three flash fiction pieces that I decided to collect in this book for similar reasons: 'Fox-Curse', which is about witchcraft, a poisoning and a live burial; 'A Hair's Breadth', which is about the dreary existence of the average office worker in the corporate world; 'In the Dead of Night', which is a horror piece with Nosferatu-style imagery.

Scripts
I wrote some scripts based on old myths and legends for animation or some other form of performance, and which I also decided to include here. 'Golem' is based on the Jewish myth of the supernatural creature: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golem

Original artwork for my script 'The Golem' by A E Mana
'The Dragon King' is a Chinese legend updated to a modern Middle Eastern setting, and 'Old Man Tanzagan' is based on an old Altai myth. These three myths were collected in a favourite book of mine, entitled Folk Tales and Legends, which I owned as a child: http://www.worldcat.org/title/folk-tales-and-legends/oclc/9305771.

I wrote my own Golem story, and updated the Chinese Dragon King myth into a modern version. 'Old Man Tanzagan' is very much based on the original myth, and I have changed very little.


Saturday, 28 March 2015

Coming soon

Watch this space...


Friday, 20 March 2015

The Splendour of Shadows (2011 short story collection)

Where you can buy The Splendour of Shadows:
Smashwords (eBook version): http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/295027

The cover artwork for The Splendour of Shadows: "Fear No More" by Janne Olkkonen

After Copper Moon Rising, Beyond Twilight, and The Pirate Princess were published in 2010, I had plenty of ideas for a new collection of short stories, entitled The Splendour of Shadows. All of the stories in this collection were written between 2010 and 2011, with the exception of 'Bloodlines', which I had an earlier draft for, but rewrote in this period. Many of the stories in The Splendour of Shadows were almost mini-novellas rather than standard modern short stories, with lengths ranging between 10,000 and 25,000 words.

Vortex
'Vortex' is my favourite story out of everything I have written so far, and is pure metaphysical/speculative fiction/fantasy. It's as original as anything I have attempted to write, but it has obvious influences such as demonic possession fiction; Clive Barker's metaphysical horror fantasies; and an important comic series which ran in the comic 2000AD during the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was called Indigo Prime, and was written by John Smith. Indigo Prime is really the starting point for the characters of Peregrine Lascombe and Victor Phalange, then I took it all in my own direction. I see 'Vortex' as part of a broader Cycle of stories, entitled the Arcadian Chronicles. These are about a universe where an organisation known as the Arcadian Vortex exist, controlled by a female triad with god-like powers known as 'The Matriarchy'. These include several stories published in this collection- most notably 'The Silent Path' and 'Bloodlines'- and many more still to be revealed in publication.

It was illustrated by A Mana, and her artwork captured the eerie feel of the story:







'Vortex' was published in Diabolique Magazine's Exhumation Collection in January 2014.


The Planet of the Dead
Zombies are now a very familiar theme in SF and Horror, and in recent years this trope/genre has been done to death if you'll excuse the pun, similarly so with vampires before it. Originally I had a video game-style concept in mind for this story which was written back in 2010- hence the entire premise for a planet full of zombies which need to be killed, the retrieval of a mysterious artefact, etc. The main opportunity for me in this story though was to revisit the Mortius Vendaker space salvager agency, who originally appeared in the short story 'Red', in Beyond Twilight. This particular story concerns a space salvager named Johnny Volta, a mysterious and precious artefact and...a planet full of flesh-eating zombies. I mean, what more could you want? It's all good fun in an exciting SF adventure tale with nasty surprises.

The Promenade
Derelict seaside towns are a setting which fascinate me, I'm attracted to the whole ambience and feel of bleak places which have seen better days; which seem to hibernate for half of the year and only come alive in tourist season. There is a contrast there, which you can imagine being like a fairground clown's mask which hides an unspeakable truth; or garish fresh paint applied to the chipped, worn wood of a guesthouse sign which has stood for decades. These towns seem like places ripe for stories: involving nostalgia, hidden secrets, romantic relationships, personal frustrations, reclusive natures. 'The Promenade' can best be summarised as a realist delve into melodrama and nostalgia. It's about a homeless girl and is a tale of unrequited love and tragedy.

Dignity
I had an idea for a story about some kind of conspiracy in a residential home for retired elderly people, tinged with dark humour. Then I started to think about whether the conspiracy existed at all, or if an elderly man's mind was playing tricks on him. There was a certain poignancy to that, and so the story is a blend of that sadness and black comedy. The central character in this story is an elderly man named Walter. His busy daughter can no longer cope with looking after him, so he has to move into a nursing home. There he succumbs to his demons of loneliness, paranoia and sadness while being treated dismissively by the staff. I wanted to write a story about how poorly our Western society sometimes treats elderly people, and this was my attempt at a sympathetic treatment.

Retribution, Repentance
I'm going all Guy Ritchie with this one, for want of a better description. It's Layer Cake meets Revolver I suppose, with a little bit of Stephen King influence. There were a couple of stories in King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes collection, 'The Fifth Quarter' and 'My Pretty Pony', which were on my mind. I wanted to explore the character of a hitman through the story's first person narrator: his childhood and beginnings, his introduction to the world of organised crime and aspects of his psychopathic personality. He is assigned to one last job before his retirement. He thinks back on his life and the series of events that have led him to that particular moment. Essentially it's the study of a psychopath on the verge of a breakdown, with a macabre twist.

The Goddess Tree
A monk must go on a search, both physical and metaphysical, to retrieve the elixir that will cure the terminal illness of his superior. The appeal of this story for me, which still lingers, is not the actual quest but the fantasy world it evokes. The Brothers at the Monastery of Sacred Truth and Destiny are religious, but their Earth Mother-style religion is not one we as readers are familiar with. There were lots of interesting little details in the story which I felt editors overlooked whenever I attempted to have the story published: for instance, the mysterious Book of Divine Providence (every religion has a sacred text); the Goddess herself, whom 'some called Aywah or Maia'; the haunted Forbidden Levels of the monastery; the nature of the substance called The Messenger and the visions the monks receive. It's a deceptively simple story rich with mysteries, which is why I am very proud of it, and although it was never taken by an editor I think it's superior to many other stories I have had published.

The Splendour of Shadows
I wanted to write a horror story in a late nineteenth century/early twentieth colonial imperialist setting, something with the flavour of H.Rider Haggard, Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling. This story was the culmination of that ambition. It's the tale of Robert Clifton, an English explorer, who leads an expedition into the African jungles and finds something strange and evil lurking there ... I think I have written before on this blog that this story was influenced by, firstly, Robert Silverberg's novel Lord of Darkness, set in Angola during the Elizabethan period; but mainly I was thinking of H.P Lovecraft in terms of theme, if not style. 'The Splendour of Shadows' has a definite Lovecraftian feel, but relocated to colonial Africa rather than New England. There is a sense of hideous evil lurking in the darkest, deepest depths of the jungle. The concept is also similar to another one of my stories, 'City by the Sea' (in Beyond Twilight).

The Bell Tower
A fantasy tale based on ancient mythology, as two young men from a tribe of nomads journey across the plains of their homelands to a remote mysterious tower and encounter supernatural creatures and evil magicians while attempting to unlock its mysteries. It is best described as an exotic fantasy tale of magic and strangeness, another Arabian Nights/classical myth-influenced story.

Shadow Play
This story could be described as The Lost Boys meets Club 18-30 holidays, Crete Uncovered or something like that. Vampires have become very familiar in horror fiction in recent times, but I just wanted to get back to the idea of them being dangerous, sinister and evil with this story. I prefer that portrayal rather than them being romantic, tortured figures (Twilight series of books/films) or harmless sidekicks like in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I wanted to update the myth to a very modern kind of setting: teenagers on holiday in the Med. I've often gone to nightclubs and seen a social phenomenon: girls on the dance floor with their friends, dancing round their handbags and men standing around, sometimes in the shadows, pint in hand, watching them... often just watching. Perhaps waiting until they have taken on enough Dutch Courage to approach them, or making sure there are no boyfriends lurking nearby. It's a very predatory scenario that is familiar to most people. These male suitors at your local 'meat market' remind me of vampires. Maybe that was the inspiration for this tale set on a Greek island. There are lots of gruesome moments in this one.

The Silent Path
This story connects to the first tale in the collection, 'Vortex'. The reader meets Anthony Nexus, who is mentioned in 'Vortex', and several other characters that had first appeared in that story. 'The Silent Path' is another of the 'Arcadian Chronicles'. Nexus is a dimensional agent turned rogue...and he is walking a lonely and dangerous path, with powerful enemies in pursuit.

The Fugue
An SF story involving time travel, time paradoxes and amnesia. Taylor Vector is a sexy heroine and the story takes some twists and turns before a macabre ending ...she is one of two time travellers on a special mission, who start to become affected by the horrific effects of excessive time travel.

A Special Boy
This is a grim, macabre and somewhat grotesque story about a boy who begins to suspect that his half-brother is a type of demonic creature, fathered by a mysterious individual who was having a relationship with his mother. The sinister turn of events is told through a child's eyes, much like 'The Fenland Witches' in Beyond Twilight.

Bloodlines
The third of the Arcadian Tales in this collection, although that is not made clear until the end with a tenuous link to the previous two. An early version of this idea was planned around the idea of genetic engineering and technological 'enhancement', but then I had an idea about introducing quasi-religious themes. The premise for this story is that scientists in the future discover Jesus Christ's 'genetic code'. I am interested in religious concepts within a science fiction setting.

The Visitor
This paranoid horror story focuses on a strange mental patient who speaks of being watched by mysterious beings who have compelled him to commit crimes. Although his claims are bizarre and he is considered insane, eventually his psychiatrist uncovers the truth...I didn't realise at the time, although I know it now, that this story is also part of my Arcadian Cycle.

'The Visitor' was published in SNM Horror Magazine (August Asylums issue 2013)


The Secret Summoner
This may not be the best short story I've written, but for some reason this is the one that unsettles me the most. I'm not sure why, but I think it's largely because of what is left unsaid in the narrative, rather than what is said explicitly. Also, it's mainly because even I'm still not sure who, or what, Daniel is. I don't know whether he was genuinely evil, or whether he was being used by something alien and terrible, or whether he attracted something that was dark, strange and powerful to him because of his abnormal supernatural gifts. As you will see, meeting Daniel has dark unpleasant consequences for those involved. The setting for this tale makes it a university campus-story, and so at first the tone is very similar to a previous story of mine, 'The Book of Witchcraft' in Beyond Twilight. In hindsight, the style and narrative structure of this story isn't quite right. I'm planning to rewrite this story as a novel and perhaps do it better justice in the process.



A common basic theme which binds the stories in this book together and makes their inclusion appropriate for the collection is the concept of Shadow, creeping into each narrative. Darkness and Doubles. The presence of Shadow, the sinister threat of Shadow, the lingering traces of Shadow where anything can hide. Shadow as physical darkness; shadow in the form of a presence; shadow manifested as some dark and malevolent double. Hence, the splendour of shadows, a vast collection of shades, lurking in the dark corners of our imagination.