Langley Hall – a ghostly tale of ancient evil

Intro

Ghost story Langley is a tribute to the writings of MR James and Daphne du Maurier, seeking to combine the classic ingredients of MR James and the romantic, intense style of Du Maurier. I’ve given the novel a modern setting but created a sense of isolation evoking the 1930’s. Our heroine Laura has her own demons to battle alongside the perils of Langley Hall as she strives to uncover its dark secret.

Reading the will

23-year-old orphan Laura Mortlock is in a mess. For one thing, she’s just killed her minder, Alex Abramov, with a bottle of Smirnoff. She’s on the wagon and mostly staying there. And now she’s going to inherit. Not much, obviously. Maybe enough for a little house with a garden. A place of her own where the neighbours will never guess about her past, and no one might recognise her. Somewhere she can be happy and secure and hold down a job. Maybe one day have a family of her own, if she doesn’t spend 10 years in Styal Prison. Laura will be correct about one of her wishes. Dead wrong about the others.

The letter comes from a firm of solicitors in Buckfastleigh, Devon, England.

‘You are invited to the reading of Virginia Mortlock’s last will and testament, where you will learn something to your advantage. It is a condition of the will that you must be in the dining room of Langley Hall at noon on Saturday, October 5. Your travel and subsistence costs will be reimbursed.

Langley Hall, Gibbet Coombe, Holne, Buckfastleigh’

Laura wipes her fingerprints before driving from Manchester in her rusting Renault, praying it won’t die on her, obsessing about police cars. Several hours later, Laura sees Langley Hall for the first time. The place is a vast rambling maze, like something from a horror movie. When she enters, Laura senses the house does not want her, but something compels her to stay and she needs a place to lie low, even if its a country mansion.

Also present for the reading are ancient and formidable Peggy Joint and randy gardener son Joe, dour housekeeper Mrs Jezebel Gibby, and a second cousin named Michael Handley, a retired teacher and historian from Totnes. The reading is about to commence and the dining room doors are being locked when there’s a late arrival. Laura discovers she has a cousin named Miranda Bale, a young and beautiful aspiring actress. At the reading, Laura is stunned to discover that the reclusive Virginia was her aunt, and she is the new owner of Langley Hall.

About Langley Hall

Langley is a gaunt, rambling 17th century mansion built in the shadow of Holne Moor from slave money, located on the eastern slopes of Dartmoor. The walls are covered with moss and all feels damp. There’s no heating other than draughty fireplaces and a vast ancient Aga range in the enormous kitchen. The eastern wing of the building remains derelict following a fire in the mid-18th century, and the staircase has been blocked off.

When Laura asks about the fire, Peggy tells that it was used to house sick children and the fire was believed to be a holy cleansing. A disused quarry lies half a mile from the hall. The dead children were buried there under the instruction of Sir John Mortlock and Anne Harvey on their return from San Domingue, on Hispaniola. There was great scandal when Anne Harvey moved into the hall, and there were rumours of a child. During Laura’s first night in Langley Hall, she dreams she’s on a slaver’s ship and witnesses terrible things.

Strange events at Langley Hall

Determined to succeed with her new life and forget recent events, Laura adopts a new identity and takes a temporary job in the local library. The initial feeling of hostility has gone, and at first, she’s very happy in the great house, although she misses James more than she realised. She becomes friends with Miranda, who overcomes her initial resentment and agrees to stay. In time, Laura feels she can confide in her new companion, the closest she has experienced to a family of her own. However, Miranda also has a secret she will not share.

Whilst Miranda is away chasing work in London, a series of strange events drives Laura back to her old addictions. A pale rectangle on the wall of the dining room defies redecorating and keeps returning, and she imagines herself in the missing painting. A disturbing incident involving rooks in the chimney leave her shaken. Laura alone sees a man and a woman gazing down from an upstairs window in the fire-damaged wing, and Mrs Gibby is a glowering presence. Worst of all, the man she killed is back.

Laura calls the police, saying she’s worried about intruders. Detective Sergeant Harry Smith visits and listens to her fears. Harry is an experienced detective in his mid-thirties, previously with the Met serious crimes division before the accident. He takes Laura seriously and tells her to call anytime, giving her his card. Laura does call him and they have coffee together. Harry is a troubled man with issues to resolve, but she likes him and she wants to know if anyone has asked about her. They haven’t.

Laura has another dream – this time about an outbreak of typhus fever. She is helping care for the children in the west wing of the hall, but she witnesses cruelty and sacrifice.

Laura falls in love

Laura meets David Vincent in the library, a film producer undertaking local research for a new project. The mutual attraction is instant, and she embarks on an affair with David. James phones. He tells Laura that he loves her, but she doesn’t want to lose him as a friend. She tells him about David, and he warns her to be careful. They argue and she tells James not to call again.

Later, David tells Laura he’s separated from his wife, and she’s happy to believe him. He wants to move into Langley with her, but Laura has learned not to trust people. Finally she agrees, but David must return to London, promising to return if she needs him. He later calls and sounds very distressed. He tells Laura his wife has died, and he must stay in London for the inquest.

There’s no mobile signal or Internet access. Strange events continue and Laura’s only solace is the companionship of a ten-year-old girl from the village, called Charlie. She likes to play in the orchard and reminds Laura of what a happy childhood should be like.

On the evening of November 12th, local villagers perform the Scowaging, a local ritual to drive out evil and bless the cider making. Laura watches as the flaming torches approach through the mists. The villagers wear bizarre headdresses with antlers, and clothes of fur and feathers. Morris Men with blue faces dance and caper as the two effigies burn outside the gates.

Witch trouble

David does not call, and Laura has another frightening experience as she hears a small child sobbing in the night. The sound seems to be coming from the door to the east wing. She asks Mrs Gibby the housekeeper, who relates that old houses contain many secrets. She also explains that the burned effigies represent Sir John Mortlock and Anne Harvey, a local witch. Both were fround guilty of murdering his wife in 1752 and sentenced to death by fire, despite Sir John’s power and influence. For the next few years, apples failed to grow and dropped from the trees, and a measles outbreak killed many children.

Laura visits the old orchard in search of Charlie but she doesn’t come. She finds a grave covered by bindweed, and a large black stone resting upon it. She moves the stone to read the engraving, but the letters have weathered off. Laura asks Peggy’s son to clear away the weeds, but he refuses. Later, Peggy finds her and tells her not to go to the old orchard. As Laura’s nerves fray, she searches for the drugs that Miranda left behind, finding a witch’s doll hidden in the chimney, and other manifestations follow. It becomes clear to others that she’s unstable and needs help.

In Laura’s third dream, she is trying to escape from Langley, pursued by Sir John and his hounds, but runs into Anne Harvey who has spun a giant web to capture her.

The truth will out

On David’s return from London, he’s not alone. He wants to re-enact the story of the hall and has given the leading role to Miranda. He’s invited her to stay at the hall to familiarise herself. Laura’s angry at David for not asking her. Laura detects hostility from Miranda, but David reassures her. Laura’s in trouble, and Miranda has brought cocaine with her this time. David arranges a dinner party, inviting all who were present at the reading of the will. During the dinner, David proposes to Laura and she gladly accepts. She realises her fears were groundless and she will be safe with him.

After several happy weeks, they marry in the old chapel in the west wing. Laura has managed to conceal her continuing addiction from David, believing her marriage will provide the stability she craves. Miranda continues to be a good friend, keeping her supplied whilst promising to help get her clean. The continuing deception takes its toll as Miranda and David spend time together with the new play, although he seems attentive, he is also troubled.

Michael Handley tells Laura he has something important to tell her in confidence. She arranges to meet him in Scorriton a week later. Michael crosses the road towards her but is hit by a black car, which fails to stop. As he dies, he gives her the papers he was carrying. She’s able to read them the next day, after giving her witness statement to Harry Smith. The papers concern the history of the great house and the curse laid by Anne Harvey, that the past would endlessly repeat on those living in Mortlock Hall.

Laura takes the papers to the old orchard. She learns how the murder of Sir John’s wife Hannah was witnessed by a local teacher as she was hurled into the quarry during a great storm. Their later executions are described in detail. Sir John was burned, but he was stabbed in the neck first to hasten his end. Anne was burned slowly and then decapitated to prevent her return. Their illegitimate child Charlotte was given away to a woman in the village to raise, in return for a small dowry. The body of Sir John was buried in the old Orchard, following the terms of his will. There was no mention of where Anne was buried. Harry finds Laura in the orchard and asks to read the papers. He doesn’t believe in the occult but he does believe in murder, and warns her again before he leaves.

The curse

Laura hears Charlie singing and soon after, the girl appears. She seems sad and tells Laura she won’t be able to play with her again. Laura now believes the girl she has befriended is Charlotte, and fears for her sanity as Charlie warns she’s in danger. A storm is coming, and the sky is blackening.

Laura returns to the hall as the storm breaks, needing to speak to David. The housekeeper opens the door. As Laura enters, she’s struck on the head and falls. When she recovers, it’s dark and she is in the boot of a car. She hears voices and realises that David and Miranda are changed. The car stops and David opens the boot. Laura is pulled out and realises they are not far from the edge of the old quarry, parked below one of the electricity pylons. Mrs Gippy is sitting in the car, watching them as Miranda beats Laura with the tyre iron, until David manages to stop her.

Miranda tells Laura that everyone knows about her drug problems and depression, and how she’s been obsessed with the dark history of the hall. It’s clear that Miranda is Anne Harvey, and David is John Mortlock.  David hesitates as Miranda drags Laura towards the edge. They freeze as a girl screams out. Laura sees Charlie standing in the rain with her arms raised as lightning strikes the pylon in a shower of sparks. A cable breaks loose and the end stabs David in the neck before he bursts into flames. The cable catches Miranda and she is enveloped in fire as she tries to get into the car. The live cable buries itself in the petrol tank as Harry appears, dragging Laura away. The car erupts and Miranda’s charred head lands in front of Laura as she staggers and falls.

Several weeks pass before Laura can speak to the police about the accident. She learns that Harry is hospital with burns, but does not go to see him. Peggy Joint has moved into the house at Laura’s invitation and is helping her recover. Laura finds the missing painting of Sir John, Hannah and Anne Harvey, who is standing behind him with her hand on his shoulder. Peggy takes her to the old orchard where she tells Laura that Charlotte won’t be returning and the curse has ended. She shows Laura the grave where Sir John Mortlock and Anne Harvey were buried together. The black stone is back in place and Peggy insists it must always remain as it’s a devil stone, keeping evil spirits at bay. When Peggy asks what she intends to do with Langley Hall, Laura replies it will become a wedding venue.

New Messiah Axel Cain – novel reaches second edit

Intro

So the good news first. The initial draft of this first New Messiah Axel Cain novel is done. The story-line held together as Axel Cain appears from the wilderness, speaking with the voice of Gaia (she’s the collective consciousness behind the biosphere, able to take tough decisions to sustain life). Including getting rid of us if needs be… Axel has been chosen to avoid a final tipping point for life on Earth, as Gaia decides whether to wipe the slate and start again without Homo sapiens. The first version (3 edits) is with with literary agent John Jarrold to review, and I’m already getting anxious.

Worries…

Why? The main character Axel comes from a village in the plague lands used to test new viruses. His people are fighters, Axel and his brother Wakiza are able to defend themselves and kill if necessary. but should Axel be a pacifist? He faces some dangerous situations where a pacifist would not survive, and being overly passive could be frustrating for the reader.

On the other hand, I don’t want Axel to be a kick-ass character. Who do I imagine acting him, were this new Messiah novel a movie? Definitely not Tom Cruise (too old anyway). Not Jason Statham, much as I like him – too violent, you just want to fast-forward to the fight scenes. A young Keanu Reeves, maybe. Cameron Monaghan – possible. So I need to refocus the main character to make him more vulnerable, but not a wimp. Less Statham, more Monaghan.

Then there’s Heidi, the female lead. Heidi Vorn comes from the dynasty that owns the plague lands, but she and Axel are drawn to each other as she discovers the truth about her family. Heidi needs to change more through this, have a bigger personal journey, and I feel she’s too passive. Whilst she and Axel love each other, there needs to be more spark and more anger from her. There’s a falling-out but I need to make it stronger.

Getting the right balance

The narrative more of less keeps to the original idea, although some new characters appear and other favourites die unexpectedly. Which is why writing is fun, obviously. Earth is in real difficulty by 2070, with a mass extinction event well underway. AI has merged with Biotech, leading to viral wars as the two federations fight for the last resources. At the same time, I don’t want this to take over the story, which is as much about love as the fate of an entire planet. New Messiah Axel Cain is as much a victim as everyone else, as Gaia chooses him to be the final messenger. We don’t really get to know Axel enough, looking back. I need to define him separately from the Messiah.

Is the world of New Messiah Axel Cain realistic?

Is this view of the future realistic? Will the global population continue to soar whilst doomed to pursue capitalism? Because we know that will fail as long as natural resources are managed as capital and not income. Will AI develop to such a level that it can take over the design and manufacturing of bacteria and viruses? I think that’s very likely, with quantum developments. And think of the timescales – fifty years (ish) to 2070. Fifty years back, the year was 1970 and computers were in their infancy. No internet, no mobiles. People had Filofax and one phone in the house if they were lucky, or a payphone. Now technology is advancing exponentially, whilst global warming is going to substantially exceed what’s seen as the maximum. We will have a world where everything’s connected, AI makes decisions, and humans are the liability…

A recent paper on global climate change by the National Academy of Sciences should be a call to action for Sci Fi writers, because it predicts a mass migration of up to 3 billion people. That’s the population who will find themselves in a new Sahara around the world. And the more fortunate countries will not welcome them. Thomas Malthus (of horsemen of the apocalypse fame) fell out of favour when people had faith in economic development containing population growth, but now that looks like a vain hope.

So adding all this up, I’d say that the setting for New Messiah Axel Cain is entirely possible, with vaccine markets, new forms of terrorism and a global population desperate for a new future. The novel makes clear that politicians can’t solve problems on this scale, and which they have largely been responsible for. But how would a dying world react to someone claiming to speak with the voice of the planet? Should I accept the inevitable and crucify Axel, or allow him to live out his life with Heidi Vorn as the world tries to change?

Covid 19 is the last warning- time for a new messiah

Latest novel New Messiah is going well – and whilst it’s set in a future world where global cabals battle for the last remaining resources, there is still hope for the planet. Despite the rather gloomy context and the dystopian themes, there is no mention of sodding Covid 19 in the novel and nor will there be, because I am sick to death of hearing about it every time I go on line or watch the news, as if nothing else matters (apart from football).

At the same time there’s a dread fascination in the numbers. And something insidious about an invisible enemy that leaps from one family member to another, or attacks you in the supermarket. And numbers don’t equate with the heart-wrenching stories and lingering deaths of young and old. 100,000 excess deaths in a UK population of 67 million or so doesn’t sound a lot (14% more than usual), but the emotional burden is crushing. The collective social and economic hardship and ruined lives from the lockdown only adds to collective misery.

The history of smallpox – light relief

Mind you, for light relief I’ve been reading an excellent book about the war against Smallpox. Written by Gareth Williams, it’s cheerily titled ‘The Angel of Death’. Even a ghoulish horror writer would struggle to describe the effects of smallpox, where survivors often wished they had died. With a death rate of 15% and hideous deformities commonplace, smallpox makes Covid 19 look on the meek side. The other astonishing aspect is the insane and obsessive opposition to early attempts at inoculation, and later vaccinations. Despite clear evidence of its effectiveness, opposition lasted for over a century before there was final acceptance that it was a good thing.

Opposition amounted to a religious crusade and was based on denial so deep that no evidence was trusted. Millions died terrible deaths because of this opposition, with evangelical leaders developing huge followings. We have the same today with Covid 19. There are also those who refuse to believe in global warming, including the previous US president – leader of the world’s biggest economy doing his bit for the planet.

Enter global warming

Covid 19 is a transient thing in historical terms. An evolutionary microbial war we have got caught up in. We may also have helped accelerate it as a side-effect of environmental destruction, disregarding the basic laws of nature. Against the behemoth of global warming, environmental loss and mass extinctions, this viral pandemic is just a nightmarish blip. It’s a foreshock before the earthquake. It’s akin to the tornados that accompany a monster hurricane. And we are ignoring the hurricane and leaving this unholy mess to the next generation. We’ve known about global warming for over 50 years now, compared to 1 year of Covid 19.

New Messiah

There are some universal themes here that are influencing my latest novel ‘New Messiah’. And yes, there are viruses and evangelists at work in there too. I just could not help myself.

In this dystopian (lovely word) future, two rival cabals struggle to control the fast-dwindling resources in a ransacked world. Here, viral wars are precisely targeted. The cabals have given up trying to save the planet. They believe that it’s a natural process to eliminate the weak and select the strong. Powerful AI controls the Internet, and no truth remains in the world. A new channel – TheTruth (or TT) – is flooding the Internet. The cabals are unable to shut it down as unrest grows. A stranger emerges from nowhere and he speaks with the voices of angels. Escaping imprisonment and torture, he joins forces with TheTruth and their following becomes a new global movement. Can ordinary people revolt against their oppressors to build a new world before the Messiah can be silenced? Can we do the same in real life?

Pangolin – a short story about greed and ignorance

Intro

A very short story about the plight of the pangolin, seen through the eyes of two-year-old pangolin Lucky. ‘Up to 200,000 are estimated to be taken from the wild every year across Africa and Asia, and the pangolin is critically endangered. Their meat is considered a delicacy by some in China and Vietnam, while their scales and fetuses are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat a range of ailments from arthritis to cancer. Pangolins are also used throughout Africa in traditional medicine’. WildAid.

Pangolin

I had my birthday yesterday and we ate ants. Mummy said I was two years old. She called me Lucky when I was born, I’m not sure why yet. Mummy knows a lot about pangolins. She said we always try to be helpful, and that’s important, isn’t it? And we mostly help humans, because they’re in a lot of trouble.

“How many people are there?” I asked, when we were looking for ants this morning.

Ants are hard to come by in the Nigerian forests these days. Partly because there are a lot less forests. But at least there are even less lions, so that’s an upside. Above all, there’s more people all the time.

Mummy licked an ant off her chin, although we don’t actually have chins. “About eight billion, I think. That’s eight thousand million, Lucky. There’s a lot. And there’s another eighty million each year. That’s a lot too.”

“Wow. And how many of us are there?”

Mummy frowned. Which is hard for a pangolin to do, not having any eyebrows. “No one knows, but it’s not a lot.”

“A million?” I had heard that was a big number. It felt big, anyway.

She sighed. “Maybe half that much. We’re very particular about what we eat and where we live, and we’re not very good at running away from people. We roll into a ball. Maybe It’s time for some new tricks.”

That sounded great. “Like changing colour or running really fast. Or being small, like ants.”

When she looked at me, she seemed sad. Although it’s hard to tell with pangolins. “Something like that, Lucky.”

I ate some more ants. That’s all we eat, but I always enjoy them. “Where’s Daddy?”

She sighed again. “So many questions. He’s had to go and help the Chinese.”

“Why?”

“They think we can help them get better when they’ve got aches and pains. That’s where most of our people have gone, which is why we’re all that’s left.”

“So will he come back, when he’s helped them?”

Mummy wiped her eye, although we pangolins don’t cry. “He won’t come back, Lucky. And he can’t help them, because we don’t make people better at all. We’re just pangolins. All we do is eat ants.”

I thought that was a shame. Surely there was something helpful we could do. “A lot of people are sick at the moment, aren’t they? Perhaps we can help make them better?”

She stopped eating and seemed thoughtful before she said, “It’s true that we’ve been linked to the transmission of Covid-19 to humans, and we do have an unusual form of immunity. But we don’t do well when we’re away from home, Lucky. Or when we’re sick. We can’t make babies when we’re with people, because we’re not happy. And because so many of us help people in China and Vietnam, there’s not enough left to do anything else. But I expect some of us will end up in laboratories being helpful.”

I followed her across the new road, watching out for cars, although I don’t really know what they are yet. I’ve seen their lights in the darkness and heard the roar they make, and the smell. There was a field on the other side of the road, with people working. But beyond the field there was a bit more forest. And in the forest there were a few ants. We found a ditch, and no one saw us until we were under the trees. There was time for one more question.

“What’ll happen, eventually? I mean, if we’re so helpful then will people help us in return, by making forests bigger and taking away the roads, and leaving us alone?”

Mummy didn’t answer the last question. I never found her again.

Do urban fantasy writers really make a difference?

A question for you

Is it just me or is this world getting increasingly crazy? Does the work of urban fantasy writers actually matter in the end, or is it just plain old escapism? I feel like we are heading towards a moment where the human race can choose between the traditional and unsustainable Trumpish values of greed, dishonesty, over-consumption, mink coats, palm oil, global warming, dictatorships and GNP (sorry to be a bit political here)…

…Or a new world order that people dreamed about in 1972.

That was when world leaders attended the Stockholm Conference. They agreed a new manifesto tackling – guess what – climate change, biodiversity, genetic engineering, social inequality and all the rest. 1972 FFS! I remember lecturing on the subject in my university days. That was almost 50 years ago now (giving away my age…). And now I have joined the ranks of urban fantasy writers instead.

Are we past the tipping point where ‘small is beautiful’ can achieve anything? Can writers and artists influence the deeper levels of how people see the world and open their eyes? Or are we just preaching to the converted?

Do all those urban fantasy books matter?

I think so, otherwise I would not keep writing them. I feel that writing and other forms of art can influence us at a deeper level than conscious thought. And being so bombarded by media of all kinds (especially now), maybe our weary minds need to be given a chance to work things out for themselves. So pick up an urban fantasy novel, and give yourself a break.

Dystopian Fantasy about a New Age Messiah

Background

This latest novel from John Frank Marshall opens in a future world fighting over ever-shrinking resources. New age messiah Axel Cain is born in Isoland – a vast, circular expanse of darkness, desert, storms and suffering. Isoland was created for research by biotech industries. Separated from the rest of the world (the ‘Outside’) by an insurmountable wall, test subjects are either convicts or captured from the villages scattered among the enclosed mountains. Axel Cain becomes one of the taken, but his gifts will eventually transform the world whilst endangering his life. This illustration by talented artist Greg De Wode seemed to symbolize Axel Cain for me, a man destined to free the world from imprisonment by materialism and growth.

Read the first chapters

Heidi Vorn

The Vorn Dynasty rules over Homested, the biotech farm at the centre of Isoland. Rebellious Heidi Vorn is the seventeen-year-old daughter of oligarch Maxim Vorn. She learns of a new age messiah who is uniting the Isoland tribes with golden words and magical deeds. Known as the Messiah, the boy appears to have other strange qualities, including resistance to the sickness controlling Isoland rebel forces. Preparing for leadership, Heidi travels with Maxim’s troops to capture the boy for research. Tragedy follows as many die, leaving Heidi deeply troubled.

Axel Cain

Axel grows into a resourceful and charismatic young man as three years pass. Forced to survive in the brutal conditions of Homested, his powers are growing. Heidi remains fascinated by him, but Axel blames her for his suffering and the death of his family. At the same time he can’t stop thinking about her.

Maxim is both curious and fearful of the new age messiah, and develops a strange relationship with him whilst trying to discover his secrets. Maxim tries to break Axel in every way he can, but nothing can silence the Messiah. Amica Bright, leader of the scientists also falls for the mesmeric Axel, but her love is cruel and his rejection of her turns love to hatred. In return, he tries to teach Maxim the truth of life, but the words and actions fall on deaf ears.

The Outside

In the Outside, the fight for remaining resources and viable habitats has led to war between the two confederations. Abandoning her family and her past, Heidi Vorn has joined a radical organisation with a new Internet channel ‘TheTruth’. Exploiting revolutionary quantum hyperchaos tech, TheTruth is able to piggy-back on existing networks to reach a global audience. TheTruth bases its blueprint for global survival on a book written a century earlier – Small is Beautiful – a Study of Economics as if People Mattered, written by E. F. Schumacher. Heidi is sent to London, where TheTruth is based. England is still an independent country, benefiting from its position as the world financial centre following the drowning of New York.

Maxim is given orders to find a new solution and turns to Axel, but his growing powers already divine what is intended and he escapes from Isoland. The threat of Cain falling into enemy hands is too great a risk and death squads are sent in pursuit, led by Amica, who has seized power from Maxim. 

Heidi wants to recruit Axel Cain to work for TheTruth, but cannot find him. As she continues her investigations, she begins to realise that TheTruth is not all it seems, and no one can be trusted. The new age messiah somehow travels to London as he searches for Heidi. The centre of global finance, London is the last free city in the world, and the only place where the truth can still be spoken. However, even that is an illusion.

The new age messiah revealed

Axel Cain finds a world being destroyed by greed and it is not long before many are following the new messiah. Everyone is talking about the mysterious stranger and the magic of his words. Heidi sees an advertisement for a television interview and attends, watching from the audience. He is asked if he is Christ reborn. Axel knows nothing of such things, but he does know that the interviewer’s daughter lies in a coma, and tells her the child will recover. Soon after, the child awakens. Axel also warns that danger is close, but they do not believe him.

At the end of the interview, a bomb explodes and kills many. Heidi escapes with Axel and persuades him to hide with her. During that time, she realises that she loves him, and begs him to stay with her. Axel cannot remain in hiding and leaves Heidi. He is able to cure children where others have failed, and his teachings are being listened to around the world. Soon, vast numbers of people are demanding change and sharing all that they have. Axel is a threat to the world order. More governments want to understand the source of his power, and Heidi cannot find a way to see him. It becomes clear to her that TheTruth has its own agenda, and Axel alone can save the world from itself.

The Finale

Axel Cain travels to the Amazon, determined to save the last few indigenous peoples, and to persuade world leaders how much they need to change. Heidi’s father makes contact with her, asking her to help save Axel. She joins with Amica’s squad and travels with them, but learns their true intent too late. Amica plans to execute the new age messiah as he gives a world address, broadcasting from within the burning forest. Heidi has one chance to save the man she loves, if she can persuade him to abandon his cause.

Read the first chapters

Demonic Tree – story of a major rewrite

Where did the idea come from?

It was time to visit an earlier effort, the fifth novel in the Drakul series. It had always felt that Tepesch Drakul was in some ways unwelcome in that narrative, which concerned a future London dominated and terrorised by a monstrous demonic tree that emerges from the Natural History Museum. The Cazash Tree is part fungus, part animate and needs to escape Earth to continue its expansion, but to do so requires the sporing, using infected humans as disseminators of male spores.

The demonic tree has an army of followers addicted to its deadly sap (‘kine’). The tree is an offence against Nature. Soon enough, nature goddess Annan resurrects a champion in the unlikely form of druid and mage Myrddin Wyllt. Myrddin must use ancient magic to defeat the Tree.

Enter the heroes…

Seven unlikely heroes will help him. These include Hama, the woman who originally caused his death at the hands of a fanatical monk, a hell-hound and a 17 year old blind gunslinger named Swift.

The Tree infects many of the Nature loving Edenists living in the forests surrounding London. They are doomed to become living spore-bearers and obey the Tree. They try to prevent Myrddin but will all die if the Demon Tree spores. Two ‘gifted’ children are Myrddin’s heroes – possessing powerful magic, the result of the earlier apocalypse.

Fortified towns hide within the forests, containing relict civilisations. The former city of Guildford is one such town, run by the De Veres. Obsessed with securing the Gifts, Gwynne De Vere kidnaps gifted children to experiment upon. Gwynne will follow Myrddin, alongside two bough runners (servants of the demonic tree). They comprise Swift, a blind gun slinger, and the mother who abandoned her.

The quest

Myrddin must secure the magical symbols to summon a demon capable of defeating the Cazash Tree. However, the demon in question is far more dangerous than that, and it does not come alone.

By the end of the novel, the planet faces a new future and must choose which direction to take.

Very topical these days.

Dragon Witcher Trilogy – 3rd book Ouroboros Finished!

I was really pleased with the way that this third and final(?)episode of the Dragon Witcher Trilogy played out, with the distant past and the present coming together to build a new future (hence the name Ouroboros, which I have trouble spelling btw). It stretched me as a writer, which what I was seeking.

A good novel seems to write itself and I was swept along in the narrative, which gave the primary characters scope for development as they faced new challenges. Leah Esvane realised her true Dragon Witcher powers in travelling back in time to change history, but in a good way. The biggest surprise at the end was the revelation that she was pregnant, and we can expect her to give birth to another girl, or possibly the first ever Dragon Warlock. But I was also sad to be leaving the planet Eco and the characters I have learned to love or tolerate, but that’s writing. I will wonder about the dragon witch lineage and the future world. Hopefully no more undersea cities appear and they can resume their sustainable lives.

Followed by…

When I completed Ouroboros, it gave me time to revisit an earlier novel and to give it a complete makeover (Demon Tree). The rewrite also changed the focus and tightened up the storyline, with wise direction from John (Jarrold).

Rewriting an existing novel turned out to be a bigger endeavour than taking an empty page, but it needed doing. And now I have no excuses for not getting stuck into latest idea Jon Darke, other than tinkering with this web site obviously.

Second Dragon Witch novel finished. Third underway

Second Dawn  ended up writing itself, which was great. But now the second dragon witch novel is completed, how does the trilogy end? How can witch queen Caia Esvane outwit the Scitha fleet, intent on reclaiming her planet for themselves?  The power of magic will not be enough this time, and she is not prepared to sacrifice the few remaining dragons. To do so would condemn the world to technology and greed, the way it was once before.

Leah Esvane, now twenty-three and as difficult as her mother Caia, wants new challenges. Her affair with one of the hated Centurions is not enough. But Leah is also the most gifted of the dragon witches, stronger even than her mother. Caia has to know how the first Scitha invasion was defeated, over seventeen thousand years ago. Leah is the only one capable of mind-joining across time. Her mission – to occupy the body of Leanne Ty, a fighter pilot in squadron leader John Mack’s team, sister to Simon, a scientist on the team developing the magnetic pulse. But when Leah makes the journey back across time, she finds that nothing was as she expected. To save the planet Eco, will she have to change the future and deny her own existence? This is the final dragon witch novel Ouroboros.

Thomas Budach – talented sci-fi artist

When I was looking for illustrations for my novels and starting to put this web site together, I came across the work of Thomas Budach (see https://pixabay.com/en/users/tombud-1908037/)  and was pretty excited by the touch points to my writing. Similar obsessions about dragons, UFO’s, haunted ships sailing the stars, vampires, dragons, witches – weird, I thought. So I got in contact with this modest and amazing creator and many of the images on this site are the result. Thanks, Thomas.

I would like to say some more about him, but this is all Thomas says about himself on Pixabay

I create digital illustrations with photographs, vector graphics and 3D models. If you prefer or need an individual illustration for your project, please contact me. You can also contact me on Facebook. Have a nice day, thank you 🙂 Thomas Budach

So there you are. A much better tribute exists on the Parts Per Million web site, by – who is a lot better at posts etc than I am.

[breaking news] just discovered Thomas has an Instagram account, with quite a few more of his creations. And also examples of several book illustrations. According to Yoast, I should write at least 300 words on this subject but I have nothing else to say for now…

There are other illustrators and photographers exhibiting their work on Pixabay who have helped me and I have put acknowledgements against images where possible. The amount of creativity and skill is astonishing and also humbling.