Halloween Extravaganza: Evans Light: STORY: The Treat-or-Tricker

A Halloween story from Evans Light is almost a tradition now here on Halloween Extravaganza. In fact, he was the first author that gave me one in lieu of a guest post. Even though he spoke of having no more Halloween stories in him, he surprised me with this… and, as usual, did not disappoint. Make sure you read this one with the lights off…

It was nearly nine-thirty when the doorbell rang.

Awfully late for trick-or-treaters, the man thought. The last group had stopped by almost an hour ago, and the man had just gotten comfortable in his recliner and lost in a TV show.

Teenagers, he guessed, making their final rounds. Cleaning out leftover candy.

He set his remote down on the coffee table, grabbed the bowl of Halloween candy from the kitchen counter and headed for the door.

A little boy, about eight or nine years old, stood alone on the porch.

He was not wearing a costume.

“Treat or trick?” the boy said.

The man didn’t recognize the boy from around the neighborhood, and no car waited on the street.

The boy held a clear plastic bag full of candies. They were all the same kind, not the hodgepodge assortment one would expect a child to have towards the end of Halloween night.

A small cardboard box sat on the porch beside him.

“Treat or trick?” the boy said again.

The man laughed.

“’Treat or trick?’ Don’t you mean ‘trick or treat?’ Where’s your costume?”

The boy didn’t flinch.

The boy didn’t smile.

“No, I said what I meant to say. Do you want a ‘treat’ or a ‘trick’?”

The absolute seriousness of the child surprised the man. It was amusing, so he decided to play along.

“Well, let me think . . . no one really likes a trick, except the person playing it. So I suppose I’d rather have a treat.”

“You do know tonight is Halloween, right?”

“Why of course,” said the man.

“Then you should also know that you need to be wearing a costume. You do know that, right?”

“But I don’t have a costume.”

The little boy sighed, as though immensely burdened.

“I figured you wouldn’t. That’s why I’ve brought some with me.”

The boy unfolded the flaps of his cardboard box and withdrew two large rubber masks. One was a zombie head with an eyeball dangling onto the cheek. The other mask was some sort of tree monster with a very long twig for a nose.

“My, aren’t those frightful!”

“Please pick one quickly, I have many houses yet to visit,” said the boy, all business.

“You want me to wear a mask?”

“Yes, please. Halloween must be done correctly or else it’s not Halloween.”

The man scratched his head, puzzled. “I’ve got some candy left over. You can have the rest of it if you want,” he offered.

“I asked you first,” said the boy. “I asked if you wanted a ‘treat’ or ‘trick’ and you said ‘treat’. Now please pick a costume. As I said, I have the rest of the neighborhood to visit this evening.”

The man wondered where the boy’s parents were, why he was out so late all by himself. He considered dropping a candy into the boy’s bag and shooing him away. But the child was so earnest, he decided to play along. Doing otherwise appeared as though it might cause the boy great stress.

“Okay,” said the man. “I’ll be the zombie.”

“Excellent choice,” said the boy. He gave the mask to the man and waited for him to put it on. The man adjusted it until his eyes blinked out from behind cut-out holes.

“Arrggh!” said the man, extending his arms as though he’d joined the ranks of the living dead.

“Very nice,” said the boy. “You really scared me. Now, what do you say?”

“Thank you?” guessed the man.

“No, not ‘thank you’. At your age, I’m surprised you don’t know this. To get the candy, you should say, ‘trick or . . .”

“Oh right!” said the man. “Trick or treat!”

A broad smile spread across the boy’s face. The porch light reflected in his eyes, twinkling like a swarm of fireflies. The boy reached into his sack, extracted a single hard candy and handed it to the man.

“Happy Halloween,” the boy said.

“Happy Halloween to you, too,” said the man, his voice muffled inside the rubber mask.

“Well?” said the boy.

“Well what?” said the man.

“Aren’t you going to eat it?”

“Right now?”

“Yes, right now. I want to see if you like it.”

The man held the candy up to the mask’s eyehole to get a better look. It was red and round and individually wrapped. The man had eaten none of the treats he’d passed out that evening. He’d specifically purchased candies he didn’t like to avoid temptation.

One little piece of candy wouldn’t hurt. In fact, it looked like something he’d enjoy.

“You can eat it through the mouth-hole, if you want to,” the kid said, his voice suddenly bright and full of cheer. “It’s so funny to see a zombie eat candy.”

What the hell, thought the man. He popped the candy out of the wrapper right through the rubber hole, into his mouth. His tongue explored the raised ridge that ran around the middle of the confection. It had a strong cherry flavor that was thrilling and delicious.

“Thank you,” the man said. “It’s wonderful.”

“I’m glad you like it. Can I have the mask back now, please?”

The man pulled off the mask and returned it to the boy, who packed it neatly into the box, carefully folding each flap back into place. Once done, the boy collected his things and bowed slightly.

“Enjoy the rest of your Halloween,” said the boy.

“You as well,” said the man. He closed the door and headed back to finish his television show. What a weird ass little kid, he thought as he bit down hard, crunching the candy.

Foam filled his mouth as the sweetness of cherry gave way to caustic bitterness, causing him to gag. He jumped up from his chair and took two steps towards the kitchen. Then he fell down, dead on the floor.

At the house next door, the doorbell rang.

A man and his wife exchanged puzzled looks. She grabbed the bowl of leftover Halloween candy from the kitchen counter and headed for the door.

A little boy, about eight or nine years old, stood alone on the porch.

He was not wearing a costume.

“Treat or trick?” the boy said.

Evans Light is a writer of horror and suspense, and is the author of Screamscapes: Tales of Terror, Arboreatum, Don’t Need No Water, and more. He is the editor of the well-received anthology Doorbells at Dusk, and is a co-creator of the Bad Apples Halloween anthology series and Dead Roses: Five Dark Tales of Twisted Love. He most recently co-edited the new anthology series In Darkness, Delight, the first two volumes of which are now available.

Evans lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, surrounded by thousands of vintage horror paperbacks, and is the proud father of fine sons and the lucky husband of a beautiful wife.

Corpus Press ** Amazon ** Goodreads ** Facebook ** Twitter

Screamscape: Tales of Terror

Ten twisted tales designed to delight fans of modern horror.

Razor-sharp scares and Tales from the Crypt-style mayhem lurk within these dark stories of possession,obsession, deception and revenge… this is one collection you don’t want to miss.

In Darkness, Delight 1: Masters of Midnight

Midnight strikes like an invocation, clock hands joining in prayer to the darkness. After the twelfth chime, there’s no escaping the nightmare.

Fear reigns supreme.

In Darkness, Delight is an original anthology series revealing the many facets of modern horror—shocking and quiet, pulp and literary, cold-hearted and heart-felt, weird tales of spiraling madness alongside full-throttle thrillers. Open these pages and unleash all-new terrors that consume from without and within.

Midnight is here. It’s now time to find . . . In Darkness, Delight.

Featuring stories by:
Josh MalermanOne Thousand Words on a Tombstone – Delores Ray
William MeikleRefuge
Jason ParentViolet
Ryan C. ThomasWho Are You?
Mark MatthewsTattooed All in Black
Evans LightOne Million Hits
Lisa LepovetskyKruze Nite
Israel FinnThe Pipe
Patrick LaceyIn the Ground John McNee: Dogsh*t Gauntlet
Michael BrayLetters
Monique YouzwaRules of Leap Year
Billy ChizmarMirrors
Espi KvltPulsate
Paul MichaelsAngel Wings
Andrew LennonRun Rabbit Run
Joanna KochEvery Lucky Penny is Another Drop of Blood

In Darkness, Delight 2: Creatures of the Night

Predatory eyes flicker in darkness, a legion of abominations seeking human destruction. Slashing claws and gnashing teeth, hungry for flesh, eager to kill. Clutch onto hope and pray for dawn. Creatures rule the night.

In Darkness, Delight is an original anthology series revealing the many faces of modern horror— shocking and quiet, pulp and literary, cold-hearted and heart-felt, weird tales of spiraling madness alongside full-throttle thrillers. Open these pages and unleash all-new terrors that consume from without and within.

The creatures are here.
It’s now time to find . . . In Darkness, Delight.

Featuring stories by:
Josh Malerman: One Thousand Words on a Tombstone – Bully Jack
Jeff Strand: The Last Thing You Want to Be
Ray Garton: A Survivor
Richard Chizmar: Father
Mary SanGiovanni: The Giant’s Table
Tim Curran: White Rabbit
Chris Motz: Scales
Kev Harrison: Snap
Evans Light: Gertrude
Mikal Trimm: Infestation
Mark Cassell: River of Nine Tails
Mason Morgan: The People in the Toilet
Andrew Lennon: Silent Scream
Chad Lutzke: He Wears the Lake
Adam Light: Valley of the Dunes
Eddie Generous: The Newell Post
Frank Oreto: The Worms Turn
Gregor Xane: The Ugly Tree
Kristopher Rufty: Hinkles
Glenn Rolfe: Human Touch
Curtis M. Lawson: The Green Man of Freetown

Doorbells at Dusk

Halloween has always gone hand-in-hand with horror. The holiday gives many children their first taste of terror, the discovery and overcoming of fears. For those who find they love a good scare, that first taste can grow into a voracious appetite.

That might be why you’re looking at this book right now. If so, you’ve come to the right place. Doorbells at Dusk is a treasury of brand-new Halloween tales from both modern masters and rising stars of dark fiction, horror and suspense.

These are the thrills you crave, packed into a collection of stories that’s pure Halloween.

Carve your pumpkins and turn on the porch light, Halloween frights begin with the sound of…DOORBELLS AT DUSK.

Featuring stories by:
Sean Eads & Joshua ViolaMany Carvings
Amber FallonThe Day of the Dead
Charles GramlichA Plague of Monsters
Joanna KochOfferings
Curtis M. LawsonThe Rye-Mother
Lisa LepovetskyMasks
Adam LightTrick ‘Em All
Evans LightRusty Husk
Chad LutzkeVigil
Josh MalermanAdam’s Bed
Jason ParentKeeping Up Appearances
Thomas VaughnThe Friendly Man
Ian WelkeBetween
Gregor XaneMr. Impossible

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Jonathan Janz

Meghan: So, you’ve made it back for round three, Jonathan, where the questions get more and more difficult.

What are your go-to horror films?

Jonathan Janz: A few I’ve watched and rewatched are (of course) Jaws, which is one of my top-three films ever. I also love Ravenous, which I probably watched ten times over a few months back in the early 2000s. Another would be the original Halloween for the way it builds suspense bit by bit.

Meghan: What makes the horror genre so special?

Jonathan Janz: So many traits make horror special, but one of the ones I appreciate the most is its diversity of subject matter. It can be supernatural or non-supernatural, grounded or completely surreal. It can have creatures. It can be set in another time and place. The possibilities are endless.

Meghan: Have any new authors grasped your interest recently?

Jonathan Janz: Sarah Read really blew me away with The Bone Weaver’s Orchard. A couple others that are doing great work are Tim Meyer and John Quick.

Meghan: How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”? What do you listen to while writing?

Jonathan Janz: It’s integral to my process. I listen to Baroque music (usually played by Yo-Yo Ma) when I write, and it really gets my creativity flowing. It also drowns out the noise of my house, and with three kids and two dogs, that can be pretty important sometimes.

Meghan: How active are you on social media? How do you think it affects the way you write?

Jonathan Janz: Relatively active, though I’ve had to scale back. I simply don’t have time to be on there much. It doesn’t affect my writing much, though I do see interesting items there sometimes that pique my interest.

Meghan: What is your writing Kryptonite?

Jonathan Janz: My busy schedule. Everyone thinks he/she is busy, but I’d put my schedule beside anyone’s and give him/her a run for his/her money. I have two full-time jobs (teaching at one of the most demanding public schools in the nation, as well as being an author), a family to love and take care of, the entire business side of writing (every day I have a punch list of maybe seven or eight tasks I try to get done), my ninety-four-year-old grandpa to help, three different teams to coach (in three different sports), a house to maintain, my fitness to keep up, and… oh yeah, a wife I’d like to see a lot more often. I simply wish there were more hours in the day.

Meghan: If you were making a movie of your latest story/book, who would you cast?

Jonathan Janz: In my current work-in-progress, I’d cast Chris Hemsworth as one of the characters and Nick Offerman as another. Those two would play really well off each other.

Meghan: If you had the choice to rewrite any of your books, which one would it be and why?

Jonathan Janz: GARDEN OF SNAKES. It’s my one “trunk novel,” and I still love certain aspects of the story. I just didn’t know how to write it back then, and it showed in the final product.

Meghan: What would the main character in your latest story/book have to say about you?

Jonathan Janz: He’d tell me to breathe, to lighten up a bit so I could get more sleep.

Meghan: Did you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Jonathan Janz: I absolutely do. Writing is an intensely personal act, so some of the stuff would only be detected by people who know me well. Brian Keene does that a lot with my work, most recently in The Dark Game.

Meghan: How much of yourself do you put in your books?

Jonathan Janz: So much! Most of the time, though, it’s accidental, and I’m not even aware of it until I notice it later, or after publication, when someone points it out to me.

Meghan: Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into our novels?

Jonathan Janz: Many of the events in Children of the Dark are based on real-life occurrences. I lived in that house, on that street, beside that graveyard, and in front of that woods. That was my baseball field and my hometown. Those were my friends. It’s incredibly autobiographical, and I think that shows in a positive, poignant way.

Meghan: Are your characters based off real people, or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

Jonathan Janz: Some of both, though more of the latter than the former. I’d say my imagination is the food, and other people are the seasonings I sprinkle in.

Meghan: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

Jonathan Janz: I’ve grown much more confident. I now can look at something I’ve written and say, “That doesn’t work,” and go back and delete it or change it. That takes a strong stomach because you’re admitting to yourself that you made a mistake or that you were off track for a day or three.

Meghan: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Jonathan Janz: Letting go of a book. I edit and edit and edit and would probably keep doing that in perpetuity if I didn’t force myself to let it go at some point.

Meghan: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Jonathan Janz: Definitely both. I get so excited when I write something that works, but when I’m done each day I feel like I’m in a fog. I tell my wife and kids it’s like Han Solo unfreezing from carbonite.

Meghan: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones? Have you ever learned something from a negative review and incorporated it into your writing?

Jonathan Janz: I read them less and less, and there are people whose reviews I don’t even glance at because I know where they’re coming from, and it’s not a happy place. They have value, and I’ve read positive and negative reviews that have both helped me, but I simply don’t have the time to look at them much anymore because I’m too busy creating.

Meghan: Why are your ambitions for your writing career? What does “literary success” look like to you?

Jonathan Janz: Someday, I’d like to write full time. I’m in no hurry to get there, and if I could write now, I don’t think I would because I truly love teaching too much. But at some point that would be a blast.

Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories. His work has been championed by authors like Joe R. Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, and Brian Keene; he has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and School Library Journal. His ghost story The Siren and the Specter was selected as a Goodreads Choice nominee for Best Horror. Additionally, his novel Children of the Dark was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year. Jonathan’s main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children. You can sign up for his newsletter, and you can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Mark Cassell

Meghan: Hi, Mark! Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Thank you for stopping by. Let’s start with something easy: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Mark Cassell: It’s an honour to be here, thank you.

I’m a UK author who leans towards cosmic horror and the supernatural. My sci-fi, fantasy and steampunk work contains a splash of horror somewhere, though I am not one for a gore-fest. My dreams are often apocalyptic, and at 5 o’clock most mornings you’ll find me cradling coffee at my writing desk. I live near the sea with my wife and many pets, keep fit doing gym stuff but love pizza and chocolate (not on the same plate).

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Mark Cassell:

No. 1 : I suffer from tinnitus possibly due to the dozens of metal gigs I attended in the 1990s.
No. 2 : I breed mealworms.
No. 3 : I have only one dental filling, and swear it’s because I drink a lot of milk.
No. 4 : I once came second place in a Fancy Dress competition dressed as a toffee.
No. 5 : In my early 20s I occasionally worked as a spotlight operator for an Elvis impersonator.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Mark Cassell: Unfortunately I can’t remember either title or author, let alone how old I was when I read it, but the visuals have stuck with me ever since. The story featured a little girl whose strange friend, a gangly and mischievous creature, lurked in the shadows at the bottom of her garden. This peculiar companion would call her name “Eniiiiid, Eniiiiid…” and encourage the girl to misbehave. I’d love to know what book that was.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Mark Cassell: Simon R. Green’s fantasy novel Down Among the Dead Men. It’s a swords and sorcery tale, a simple read, and a nice break from my usual genre.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Mark Cassell: Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. A truly stunning novel that some may recognise as the 2012 movie directed by Ang Lee. It features an Indian boy on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Mark Cassell: At school when I was ten years old, I wrote something which later I’ve wondered what my teacher thought after reading it. The story followed a boy who discovers a treehouse in the woodland beyond his garden. He climbs up to find boxes filled with dead animals, and shelves stacked with jars containing human brains. When he goes back the next day, all that remains of the treehouse is a charred trunk from where a fire had ravaged it.

As for when I decided to “properly” write, I guess that was when I hit my mid-thirties. The weirdness hasn’t changed much during that gap of a couple of decades.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Mark Cassell: There’s a room in our house that’s dedicated to books. My desk is wedged in the corner next to a vivarium, the home of my little buddy, Arnie the bearded dragon. I’m not a writer who can sit in a noisy coffee shop, nor on a park bench. For me, I need to plug in to my tunes to crack on with the project at hand.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Mark Cassell: There’s a process I go through which probably isn’t anything special. I print out a hard copy and attack it with the Red Pen of Doom. No matter the length, I cannot let a story out of my sight until it’s gone through at least one round with the Red Pen.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Mark Cassell: Fighting the Procrastination Demon. He’s a frequent problem.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Mark Cassell: My Lovecraftian steampunk horror book titled In the Company of False Gods. It follows wheelchair-bound Attacus who’s commissioned to build a clockwork construct, though he doubts his abilities. Once powered up, his creation escapes and runs amok, destroying more than just the town he calls home. Hunting his deadly automaton forces him to confront his past. He had no idea his creation would take him to the threshold between worlds.

And I had no idea this book would remain one of my favourites. I really need to revisit that genre again. Yeah, there’s certainly a splash of horror in that one.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Mark Cassell: Back when I was a teenager, James Herbert kicked my love for horror into overdrive with his novel Magic Cottage. Also, Clive Barker‘s early work like Weaveworld and The Damnation Game, and later Imajica truly inspired me. Alongside Brian Lumley‘s incredible Necroscope series, I’d say these three British authors led me down the dark path I now tread.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Mark Cassell: For a novel there must be a spark within the first three pages, along with characters who carry that spark to the last page. As for a short story, the first paragraph needs to slap you in the face either with a genius hook or a character the reader will undoubtedly care about. I’m a tough nut to crack, and life is short, so when I read something it must grip me pretty damn quickly.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Mark Cassell: Characters need to be human and I love it when I can immediately relate. There must be a connection between character and reader. When I create my own characters, I try to emulate that. I want to make my readers immediately tune in. It helps using all the senses, so as to make the reader land on the page and see through the character’s eyes.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Mark Cassell: Undoubtedly it’s Leo from my novel The Shadow Fabric. As a debut, it was inevitable the main character would somehow reflect me. Not the tormented mysteries that unravel throughout the story. That’s all fiction, honest! I’m talking about his travels round the world, his knee injury, and his penchant for wearing combat trousers. Also, I know damn well he acts like me.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Mark Cassell: I’ve been lucky enough to work with three book cover guys, and they deserve a mention: Christopher Shoebridge, Redski Redd, and Paul Ashby. When it comes to reading I can be incredibly picky, as already mentioned, so there are many factors that could put me off. But I may let off a dodgy book cover – as long as it’s not too bad – however if a blurb begins with Inspector/Detective blah-blah-blah, I’ll drop it and look for something else. Call me unfair, I know, but that honestly puts me off. And I have no idea why.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Mark Cassell: It’s not an easy process. This writing thing is a hard game to play and I admit in getting bogged down in striving for perfection. To top that off, I find myself swinging between an existence as an introvert and an extrovert. There are days I simply wish to hide in a cave and write, while on others I’m happy to attend book signings at conventions. Marketing needs to be full on for much of the time, so yeah, it’s hard work. But equally rewarding.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Mark Cassell: In my book Hell Cat of the Holt, there’s a sad scene where the main character is utterly stricken with grief. At the time of writing, I was not in a good place and my life had turned upside down, so that particular scene was a tough one.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Mark Cassell: When I first came into the writing game, I was bored to death of detectives with drinking problems, each hunting vampires and werewolves and Hollywood-type evils, and I was incredibly tired of zombies and the like, all causing predictable havoc. With that in mind, I listed every cliché that made me yawn.

That list was long.

So when plotting my debut novel I stripped naked the old tropes of witchcraft and demonology. I recognised that I needed to be different and so had to lay my own foundations, to devise a new kind of evil, a fresh menace. Essentially a novel of demons and deceit, The Shadow Fabric became a tale of a sentient darkness and a 17th-century device. Based in modern day, it’s the story of one man’s struggle to unravel his past. As he learns more, he begins to mistrust all those around him. Including himself.

My short stories and subsequent books have followed that marker, and I’m proud to say that the reviews have often mentioned the fresh angle the story delivers.

Though there is one problem with this: it makes me far from prolific.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Mark Cassell: Sometimes a title comes first and other times last. For instance, I was once invited to write for a Christmas anthology and immediately came up with “Away in a Mangler.” After that, the story flowed. However, the title of my debut novel The Shadow Fabric came along in 1993 during my college years, though I didn’t begin writing it until 20 years later.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Mark Cassell: Novels are a long slog. Short stories are precisely that: short, quick and to the point. My brain is all over the place at the best of times, and so I’ve found I attack short stories considerably easier.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Mark Cassell: I’ve been lucky enough to meet readers at book signings and conventions, and so I’ve learnt what it is they enjoy about my books. It seems to boil down to two things: firstly, the subtly in which I explore the evil within us as a species, and also the evils beyond the walls of our reality (whichever genre I step into). Secondly, the extensive research I go into hasn’t gone unnoticed. I believe in order to create a solid story, no matter the length, it’s important to establish something that which is already grounded. It’s that what connects the reader.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Mark Cassell: Many deleted scenes have become short stories I’ve later sold to anthologies, and now feature in my collections, Sinister Stitches and my most recent release, Terror Threads. There’s always something left over, lurking in a folder somewhere. Or if not, they remain as scribbles in my notebook, awaiting just the right story.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Mark Cassell: A prequel to The Shadow Fabric, revealing the troubled history of a couple of key characters from the novel.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Mark Cassell: I’m neck deep in a novel titled PARASITE CROP, so I’m cracking on with that. Although at the moment I’ve set aside writing short stories, I do have a couple soon released by both KJK Publishing and Crystal Lake Publishing.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Mark Cassell: Website (and a free book) ** Twitter ** Facebook

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Mark Cassell: Often readers ask where I find inspiration, so I’ll answer that here.

Usually it’s desolation and ruins. Barren ground, an expanse of nothingness, empty places, void of anyone else, that kind of thing. I think what intrigues me is that there can be beauty and serenity in the way nature takes over, the way the elements tear down anything manmade. Think of the pattern of rust, the pockmarked sandstone from an assault by the wind, and the tangle of determined weeds. Relentless, often silent deterioration or even growth, and it will always be there long after we die.

I see through it and use it, injecting new life into that which is otherwise derelict. My stories have featured castle ruins and ancient rock, rusty machines and collapsed outhouses. Even a part of my novel was set in … um … if I told you, I’d spoil the twist … Incidentally, most of my dreams are apocalyptic and I think that’s why I’ve turned my hand to dystopian cyberpunk; a scorched landscape where my characters roam free.

Mark Cassell can label himself as author, artist, and actor, but his passion is clearly stamped in the written word. As the author of the best-selling Shadow Fabric Mythos, as series of books about demons, devices and deceit, he has a penchant for ignoring typical horror tropes, casting them into the void. Although best known for cosmic horror, he also writes steampunk, sci-fi, and dark fantasy, with work published in numerous reputable anthologies. More about Mark can be found at his website.

The Shadow Fabric

Leo remembers little of his past. Desperate for a new life, he snatches up the first job to come along. On his second day he witnesses a murder, and the Shadow Fabric – a malevolent force that controls the darkness – takes the body and vanishes with it. Uncovering secrets long hidden from humankind, Leo’s memory unravels. Not only haunted by the past, a sinister presence within the darkness threatens his existence and he soon doubts everything and everyone… including himself. 

Now Leo must confront the truth about his past before he can embrace his future. But the future may not exist. 

THE SHADOW FABRIC is a story revealing the unknown history of witchcraft and the true cause of the Great Fire of London. A supernatural novel of sins, shadows, and the reanimated dead.

In the Company of False Gods

When commissioned to build a clockwork construct, wheelchair-bound Attacus doubts his abilities. Once powered up, his creation escapes and runs amok, destroying more than just the town he calls home. Hunting his deadly automaton forces him to confront his past. 

He had no idea his creation would take him to the threshold between worlds. 

And soon he finds himself… 

In the Company of False Gods.

Terror Threads

Pull a thread… and you’ll be dead. 

Ten standalone tales in the best-selling Shadow Fabric Mythos. Each story of ghosts, of demons, of the occult, weaves the mythos tighter and proves we all have the power to see in the dark. Both an introduction to the Shadow Fabric and a companion book, this collection of horror stories contains the following: 

  • Dust Devils: When a driving instructor’s pupil fails to turn up for a lesson, he doesn’t just drive off. He investigates… things.
  • A Story of Amber: Two brothers and a grandfather’s secret. This is a story that begins in childhood and ends in adulthood.
  • Claimed: In Yellowstone Country Park things are black.
  • The Rebirth: A primary school teacher’s lesson fails to go to plan when a peculiar Easter egg lands in her possession.
  • Dead Lines: An artist learns she is not the only one holding the brush.
  • Pile of Dirt: After a serious accident, all you want to do is relax in your garden. But the mysterious pile of dirt that has appeared on your lawn bugs the hell out of you.
  • The Commission: A photographer’s commission proves to be a pain in the neck.
  • Diagonal Dead: It’s a shame that dead can’t stay dead, especially those who are discovered in a wall cavity.
  • Demon Alcohol: Staying at a bed and breakfast in a quaint harbour town, Tammy is not in the mood for uninvited guests. Especially when she’s hungover and the guests are demons.
  • A Sunset Companion: The low October sun can cause road accidents by blinding drivers… but perhaps there are other causes in the surrounding woodland.

Most of the stories featured in this collection have been previously published in anthologies.

Halloween Extravaganza: Jay Wilburn: Some of My Favorite Books of 2019

I love hearing avid readers talk about their favorite books, always looking for my next favorite book or my next favorite author, so when Jay Wilburn asked if he could write about his favorites so far this year, I quickly said yes. Especially because it was Jay. I’ve read other books he’s called his favorites and haven’t been disappointed yet. Get ready to get your credit card out… or just have your Amazon app open so you can add to your cart easily.

I try to read as much as I can. I grab up the new hot books and then eventually read them. I find some of the most interesting and surprising stories among indie writers. That’s no knock on the bestsellers, but there is a wider range in some of these releases that don’t answer to big publisher marketing departments.

I’ve made a new rule for myself that I can’t buy a book until I’m ready to read it. So, if I’m not going to read it now, I have to wait to buy it. It makes me read a little faster. It keeps me from buying up everything. Friends stare at me like I’m insane when I explain this rule to them.

I will go back and reread older books. I’m still in the process of rereading Stephen King’s books in order. I’m feeling a strong temptation to go back and read Swan Song by Robert McCammon which I haven’t read in years even though I can’t count how many times I’ve reread The Stand by Stephen King.

All that to say my reading habits are a little sporadic. I have managed to read a few things this year that I enjoyed and feel strongly about recommending.

CARNIVOROUS LUNAR ACTIVITIES by Max Booth III is easily one of the greatest werewolf stories I’ve ever read. It is a great book even outside the werewolf subcategory. The dialogue in particular is exceptional in this story. It is great when the story is confined in a location. It is great when it breaks out of that confinement. I’m a huge fan of this book and the writer.

For fun, I contacted each of the writers I included in this list and asked them what they saw as their strongest book, excluding the one I had read and reviewed. Max said the new book he has coming soon might be his best. It’s going to be called TOUCH OF NIGHT. I’m looking forward to that. Of the ones that are out, he said THE NIGHTLY DISEASE is probably his best. Having read that too, I’d have to agree. That book is awesome.

HOUSE OF SIGHS by Aaron Dries is another great book I’ve read this year. The chapters are done in a countdown format like The Running Man. The story barrels forward from beginning to a gut punch of an ending. The characters in the story could have easily been flat stereotypes, but Dries makes them full and interesting. It hurts when they are hurt. Even when you sometimes secretly want them hurt a little bit.

He was a little taken aback when I asked him to name his best book. I imagine he has a little trouble bragging on himself. He finally settled on THE FALLEN BOYS. Based on the strength of HOUSE OF SIGHS, I’m excited to check this one out, too.

A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS by Bob Ford and Matt Hayward was another great read. Two great authors making a great book is something to behold. This one feels like the story is crawling up out of the dirt and the trouble is building behind every turn. The story felt very tactile to me. Even when they weren’t specifically describing anything, I still felt like I could reach out and touch the scene and really feel the grit on the surface of things. The sequel is in the works and I’m looking forward to that.

When asked about best other books, Bob Ford said SAMSON AND DENIAL while Matt Hayward told me BRAIN DEAD BLUES is probably the best representation of his work. In the case of Brain Dead Blues, it is a collection of short stories which is the type of thing I love to read from a talented author. Short story collections sometimes make me feel like I’m getting a little bit more of the author and a wider range of work. Check out these two works, as well.

I also wanted to talk about a couple works on the way I’m looking forward to. In this case, both are nonfiction books. John Urbancik is a great writer. I’m particularly impressed with his short stories. He did a number of short story collections under the Ink Stains moniker. Now he has a nonfiction INK STAINS work on the subject of creativity in the offing. Review copies are out now and I’m going to grab it up as soon as it is available for purchase.

Tim Waggoner has a book in the works about the process of writing. There are a lot of this kind of book out there. I like the one Stephen King did. Others out there, I’m less impressed with. Considering the source on this one, I can’t wait to read this book when it is finished. From the classes he teaches, the information and questions he shares online, and the blog posts he shares on the subject of writing, his online presence alone contains so many pearls of wisdom on the craft. Having this compiled into a single work is a resource I intend to snatch up.

I feel strongly about the quality of the books mentioned in this article and believe you will likely enjoy them, too. Start reading!

Jay Wilburn is a full-time writer of horror and speculative fiction. His Dead Song Legend series follows music collectors during the zombie apocalypse. The Great Interruption follows and apocalypse of a different sort. He has coauthored The Enemy Held Near and A Yard Full of Bones with Armand Rosamilia. Follow his many dark thoughts at his website, his YouTube channel, and on Twitter.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Matt Hayward

Meghan: So, you’ve made it back for round three, Matt, where the questions get more and more difficult. [laughs manically]

What are your go-to horror films?

Matt Hayward: The Thing, Night of the Living Dead, Dog Soldiers, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Street Trash, Evil Dead 2. I go from classic to trashy in a heartbeat.

Meghan: What makes the horror genre so special?

Matt Hayward: Horror knows no limits. You can have a comedy, romance, thriller, or any other genre, all within a horror story. Horror has a way of tackling taboo subjects you might not find anywhere else. It’s unique in facing social / political situations head-on.

Meghan: Have any new authors grasped your interest recently?

Matt Hayward: Chad Lutzke is a new name on my radar, I’m embarrassed to admit. He’s a killer writer, and I’ve been floored by everything he’s put out. Jeremy Hepler, too.

Meghan: How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”? What do you listen to while writing?

Matt Hayward: I wish I could write to music, but, being a musician, it pulls my attention too much. That said, I listen to stuff before I write, soundtracks and bluesy stuff. Lately I’ve been on a Colter Wall, Blackwater Fever, True Detective soundtrack kinda kick.

Meghan: How active are you on social media? How do you think it affects the way you write?

Matt Hayward: It’s a necessary evil, unfortunately. If I could, I’d axe the internet and pull a ‘Bentley Little’.

Meghan: What is your writing Kryptonite?

Matt Hayward: If we’re talking what I hate when I read, I’d say stale prose. I don’t mind overused tropes – the haunted house, vampires, zombies – as long as I’m reading a fresh take and the writing remains captivating. On Writing books go a long way.

Meghan: If you were making a movie of your latest story/book, who would you cast?

Matt Hayward: The latest release was A Penny For Your Thoughts with Robert Ford, so… Aaron Paul as Joe, Dakota Fanning as Ava, and Danny McBride as Kenny.

Meghan: If you had the choice to rewrite any of your books, which one would it be and why?

Matt Hayward: I’d leave ‘em be, warts ‘n’ all. They’re a nice snapshot of where I was skill-wise, and I like the progression. I just want to concentrate on making the next one better. If I fix one, I’d fix the current one ten years down the road and so on. Let sleeping dogs lie.

Meghan: What would the main character in your latest story/book have to say about you?

Matt Hayward: Probably call me a sadist. I messed up his life pretty good. He had to use dental floss to catch a fish. Did you know that’s a thing? YouTube’s full of guys going floss fishing.

Meghan: Did you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Matt Hayward: Absolutely. I’ve dotted characters in the backgrounds of books (Henry Stapleton from Practitioners makes a brief cameo in A Penny For Your Thoughts, for example), surnames crop up here and there, and I have one person, a single name, mentioned in every book I’ve ever written. That’ll make sense eventually.

Meghan: How much of yourself do you put in your books?

Matt Hayward: Quite a bit. Brian Keene said I ‘bleed on the page’ and I accept that as quite a high compliment. I try and keep my social/political beliefs private, I’ll never be ‘preachy’, but a lot of my own experiences and perspectives are there. If there’s not a grain of truth to the work, I’ll feel like I’ve cheated myself, and readers by proxy. I’ve shelved three novels for that very reason.

Meghan: Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

Matt Hayward: Yup. As mentioned above, like a lot of writers, I mine past experiences. I won’t kiss and tell, though.

Meghan: Are your characters based off real people, or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

Matt Hayward: A bit of A and a bit of B. Sometimes, when the story or situation is based on something real, then the characters are, too. Occasionally, though, they’re purely speculative. Kenny from A Penny For Your Thoughts, for example, he’s completely made-up. Just a fun guy the story called for. Peter from What Do Monsters Fear? or Tony, the kid from my upcoming book, are very much real.

Meghan: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

Matt Hayward: I’ve learned to stop worrying and just write the next book. Now that I’ve taken a few punches and gone a few rounds, I know that some things I think are golden, people don’t like. And some things I’m unsure of, people really love. There’s no way to gauge it, so if you’re new to writing – don’t worry. Just keep putting your ass in the chair and pumping out the words. Have fun.

Meghan: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Matt Hayward: The most difficult thing about writing is having patience. A book I wrote two years ago is still doing the rounds, whereas I’m already three books ahead. When that sees the light of day, I’ll need a refresher when I speak about it – it’ll be entirely foreign to me. That, and back cover copy. Talking about my writing Kryptonite – back cover copy makes me need a drink.

Meghan: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Matt Hayward: Depends on the project. Some days it’s tiresome, I think any writer will admit that, but I always manage to plow through regardless. I’d feel much worse if I let the exhaustion overwhelm me and not work. Besides, no matter my mood, when I’m finished with a day’s writing, I always feel better.

Meghan: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones? Have you ever learned something from a negative review and incorporated it into your writing?

Matt Hayward: I try and leave reviews for the readers. That said, I was directed to a pretty funny review of The Faithful in which the reviewer was shocked to find so much blasphemy. It’s a novel about a religious cult written by an Irishman, I really don’t think they thought their purchase through. Even still, I’m grateful they read it.

Meghan: What are your ambitions for your writing career? What does “literary success” look like to you?

Matt Hayward: I’d like to have a core readership that gets what I write. I’ve had a couple of talks about movie adaptions in the past, but that side of the business is alien to me, and it’s a fickle beast. That said, I would like to see something transition to the big screen. I signed with an agent earlier this year, and we’re currently subbing to the traditional market, so I’m excited to see where that leads. All I can do is continue to sharpen my skills and try to surpass my last work. As long as people are reading them, I’ll keep writing them.

Matt Hayward is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated author and musician from Wicklow, Ireland. His books include Brain Dead Blues, What Do Monsters Fear?, Practitioners (with Patrick Lacey), The Faithful, and A Penny for Your Thoughts (with Robert Ford). He compiled the Splatterpunk Award-nominated anthology Welcome to the Show and wrote the comic book This Is How It Ends (now a music video) for the band Walking Papers. Matt received a nomination for Irish Short Story of the Year from Penguin Books in 2017. He is represented by Lane Heymont of the Tobias Literary Agency and can be found on Twitter or at his website.

A Penny for Your Thoughts (with Robert Ford)

Fresh from a stretch in prison, Joe Openshaw is living at home with his father and trying to get his life together again. He has let go of old habits, especially the ones that turned him into an addict and helped land him in prison.

On a hike along the Lowback Trail, Joe stumbles on one of the town’s oldest secrets–buried long ago, if not forgotten.

It’s an unusual but safe enough treasure–a jar of old pennies. What interests Joe isn’t the pennies themselves, but the pieces of paper taped to every coin–a child’s handwritten wish on each one.

When the first few wishes come true, they are simple things. Fun. Harmless.

Except as time goes on, Joe realizes they aren’t really wishes at all…they’re exchanges, and the bill was racking up.

Nothing is free in life. 

Sooner or later, you always pay.

Various States of Decay: A Collection

From the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of What Do Monsters Fear? and A Penny For Your Thoughts comes twenty new tales of terror!

Including the Irish Short Story of the Year-nominated Intercepting Aisle Nine

From a white doomsday crawling with abominable beasts to the bizarre case of a marketing company advertising within people’s dreams, these stories explore the extremes of Hayward’s prose–contrasting the heartfelt with the deeply disturbing.