Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Devil's Serenade - Bringing you A Scary Spring!

My latest novel from Samhain - The Devil's Serenade - is coming soon...
To introduce the story, here's the blurb:
  Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she’s about to remember…

“Madeleine Chambers of Hargest House” has a certain grandeur to it. But as Maddie enters the Gothic mansion she inherited from her aunt, she wonders if its walls remember what she’s blocked out of the summer she turned sixteen.
She’s barely settled in before a series of bizarre events drive her to question her sanity. Aunt Charlotte’s favorite song shouldn’t echo down the halls. The roots of a faraway willow shouldn’t reach into the cellar. And there definitely shouldn’t be a child skipping from room to room. 
As the barriers in her mind begin to crumble, Maddie recalls the long-ago summer she looked into the face of evil. Now, she faces something worse. The mansion’s long-dead builder, who has unfinished business—and a demon that hungers for her very soul.

Here’s a brief extract:

A large flashlight rested on the bottom stair and I switched it on, shining it into the dark corners. There wasn’t a lot to see. A few broken bits of furniture, old fashioned kitchen chairs, some of which looked vaguely familiar, jam jars, crates that may once have held bottles of beer. 

The beam caught the clump of gnarled and twisted roots that intertwined with each other, like Medusa’s snakes. I edged closer to it, my heart thumping more than it should. It was only a tree, for heaven’s sake! The nearest one was probably the willow. Surely, that was too far away? I knew little about trees, but I was pretty certain their roots couldn’t extend that far.

I examined the growth from every angle in that silent cellar. The roots were definitely spreading along the floor and, judging by the thickness and appearance of them, had been there for many years. Gray, like thick woody tendrils, they reached around six feet along and possibly four feet across at their widest point. I bent down. Close up, the smell that arose from them was cloyingly sweet. Sickeningly so. I put one hand over my nose, rested the flashlight on the steps and reached out with the fingers of my free hand to touch the nearest root. It wriggled against my palm.

I cried out, staggered backward and fell against the stairs. The flashlight clattered to the floor and went out. Only the overhead bulb provided any light, and it didn’t reach this darkest corner. Something rustled. I struggled to my feet, grabbed the torch and ran up the stairs. I slammed the door shut and locked it, leaned against it and tried to slow down my breathing. A marathon runner couldn’t have panted more.

I tapped the flashlight and it flickered into life, seemingly none the worse for its accident. I switched it off and set it on the floor by the cellar door. Whoever came to fix those roots was going to need it.

The Devil’s Serenade is out on April 19th and you can find it here:

And other online retailers

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The Ghost of Room 333

Dating back to 1865, the luxurious Langham Hotel in London has enjoyed mixed fortunes. It started life as London’s first truly grand hotel, boasting some 500 rooms, but other, grander hotels came on the scene and its popularity waned over the years. In the 1950s, it was taken over as administrative offices by the BBC.

A number of ghosts have been reported, including that of a German prince who threw himself out of a fourth floor bedroom window prior to the First World War. His presence is heralded by a sudden drop in temperature as he moves through walls and closed doors. The spirit of Emperor Napoleon III has also been seen, strangely enough more in the basement than anywhere! On the third floor, a ghostly butler wanders the corridors but, on the same floor, a much more sinister presence is felt - and even seen - in Room 333.

It is believed to be the restless spirit of a Victorian doctor who stayed in that room with his bride. He murdered her and then took his own life in that very room and now seems unable – or unwilling – to leave. In 1973, when the building was still owned by the BBC, the third floor comprised overnight staff accommodation. The journalist, James Alexander Gordon, was staying in that room one night in October. He awoke to see a fluorescent ball of light which gradually began to assume human shape. It hovered around two feet off the floor and was dressed in extravagant Victorian evening wear. Curiously, it was missing the lower portion of both legs. Gordon asked what it wanted but it did not reply - just continued to stare at him, with vacant eyes. Then, it opened its arms and moved towards him.

 Thoroughly spooked, the journalist fled from the room and raced down to reception where he told the uninterested attendant. When he refused either to believe Gordon’s story or accompany him back to his room, the reporter returned by himself. The ghost was still there, but noticeably fainter than before. Other BBC staff reported their own disturbed nights in that room over the years – and their accounts matched Gordon’s.

The BBC sold the hotel and it underwent two phases of refurbishment. Today it is once again a luxury, 5 star hotel. In 2014, the England cricket team stayed there and had some unnerving experiences. Once again, room 333 featured heavily. Bowler Stuart Broad found the room stiflingly hot, and had such a frightening experience there that he demanded to be given another room. It seems the taps suddenly turned on full all by themselves. When he switched the lights on, the taps switched off, but on turning the lights back off, the sound of rushing water from both faucets signalled the end of his stay. 

 Other members of the team – especially those staying in the third floor – reported a variety of spooky, inexplicable events and at least one of the cricketers’ girlfriends refused to stay there.

In May 2003, a female guest staying in room 333 checked out in the middle of the night, giving no reason for her sudden departure. A few days later she sent a letter explaining that she had cut her stay short was because her sleep was interrupted by the ghost, who repeatedly shook her bed. 

 Langham’s certainly seems to qualify is one of London’s most haunted hotels. Staying there isn’t cheap, but for a truly haunting experience, it might just be worth it. Especially, so I am told, in October. That is when the ghostly activity – especially in room 333 – reaches its crescendo. Here’s a link to the official hotel website: Langham Hotel

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

2015 - A Rollercoaster Year

It’s that time of the year again when you reflect back on the past twelve months and, after saying, ‘I can’t believe it’s Christmas already’, you start to compartmentalise the good, the bad and the ugly events that have happened to you. For me, this year - more than any I can remember since 1995 - it has been a real rollercoaster.

There certainly have been some highs. In February, my novel The Pendle Curse was published while in August, my novella, Dark Avenging Angel came out. I also signed two more contracts for up and coming horror novels – The Devil’s Serenade, which Samhain will publish in April and Wrath of the Ancients, scheduled for December.

 Also this year I met one of my writing heroes for the first time – Ramsey Campbell. He did a booksigning, highly entertaining talk, and Q and A at my local bookshop, Write Blend in Waterloo, north of Liverpool. I then ran into him again (by design, not accident!) at the Liverpool Horror Festival in August – a thoroughly enjoyable event.

So, yes, there have been some ‘highs’ but, sadly, on the whole, I shall not be sorry to see the back of 2015. It has been a year which came in with serious health issues and is going out the same way. This year, I found out I had an extremely rare form of cancer. It eluded discovery for some time but at least it was still at the microscopic (as opposed to macroscopic) stage and was therefore removed – along with a number of internal bits and pieces I would rather have retained. But there have been complications. 2016 will arrive with another major operation on January 12th, followed by Radiotherapy. With any luck, I may make our planned holiday to Orkney in early June. I certainly hope so as it is a special one. My husband’s grandfather was on the HMS Hampshire in 1916 when it was sunk. Only 12 crewmen survived. 737 lives were lost. Lord Kitchener was one of the casualties, along with my husband’s grandfather. A special 100 year commemoration is to be held, together with the unveiling of a memorial wall and restored Kitchener Memorial, and that is where we are headed.

I must pause for a moment now to pay tribute and give thanks to the amazing team at the Liverpool Women's Hospital. This is truly an example of Britain’s National Health Service working at its best. From the incredibly talented surgeons (and three of them operated on me!), through to the hardworking, friendly and professional nurses and support staff, I was treated with understanding, dignity and the best of care. For some reason which completely baffles me, this hospital is under threat of closure. It’s all to do with money of course. Such high levels of care come at a price, but surely we – the patients – are worth it? Thank you LWH. Long may you continue to provide your excellent service.

Of course, I’m not the only one who has been hospitalized this year. So many people I know have had a traumatic time over the past twelve months, with serious health issues affecting them or someone close to them. In fact, as I write this, I am struggling to think of one person I know who has had a straightforward year! Is it something in the stars? Has a curse been put on us? Not that I would attempt to compare our problems with those in the wider world. Globally, this has been a terrible year for many thousands of displaced people. I’m sure all our hearts go out to them, along with our profound hopes that 2016 will see at least some kind of improvement – whether it be a cessation of hostilities, or some kind of workable solution to the crises that are causing so much misery, hardship and death.

So now my thoughts turn to the impending new year. What will 2016 bring for us all? This time next year, will we be looking back with happiness and reflecting on some brilliant highlights? I don’t make New Year resolutions but, if I did, I would resolve to beat my health issues into submission once and for all and get on with my life. I’d resolve to return to writing scary stories instead of living one!

My thanks and best wishes to you all. May you enjoy the festive season in whichever way appeals to you and may 2016 bring you all you wish for yourself and those you love.