Thursday, 28 June 2012

Harry Potter and the Vampire of Alnwick Castle




Alnwick Castle, situated right in the centre of the historic town of Alnwick, Northumberland, is probably best known these days as the backdrop for the exterior of Hogwarts in a number of scenes in the Harry Potter films. It's seriously large, seriously interesting, and was once seriously haunted by a vampire.


Still home to the historically important Percy family - hereditary Earls of Northumberland since the 14th century - this vast castle has seen plenty of action over the years and some of it has undoubtedly left its mark. In some cases, in grim and grisly ways.


One of these has come to be known as the Alnwick Castle Vampire, documented by the chronicler William of Newburgh, who, in the twelfth century, made it his business to record accounts of vampires throughout the land. At Alnwick, he wrote that a man he called the Lord of the Estate, reputed to be a wicked philanderer, suffered the supreme irony of having a wife who was unfaithful.  Deciding to catch her in the act, he hid on the castle roof, in order to peer down at her bedroom, but was startled by the appearance of a young man from the castle. Losing his balance, he fell to the ground and died the next day.


But he didn't stay dead. Soon, his stinking, rotting corpse was seen (and smelled) by the villagers as it wandered the streets at dead of night, attacking anyone it met and drinking their blood. People became scared of encountering it and began staying at home and locking their doors at night. When it was also said that it caused an outbreak of plague, this proved too much for the villagers and, on Palm Sunday, some of the leading men were led by the local priest to the cemetery where they dug his body up from its shallow grave.


They were horrified by what they saw. The body appeared engorged with fresh blood and, when it was hit with a spade, this gushed out in a mighty flow. 

The villagers dragged the body out of the town where it was burned to ashes. Soon after, the epidemic ended and all was peaceful and quiet again.

Until...
It is said that beneath the castle and the town lie a warren of underground and secret passages. Strange, unearthly creatures are said to live down there and some are so dangerous, Enochian* magic seals have been used to prevent them escaping. But what if one has got out?


Not too long ago, the sight of a hunched man has been reported roaming the castle grounds at night. Sinister, as yet unexplained, there are those who wonder...


Only time will tell...


*Enochian Magic is a form of ceremonial magic based on the writings of Dr John Dee, adviser to Queen Elizabeth I. In it, powerful spirits are summoned. For more information, see Enochian Vision Magick

Want to visit Alnwick Castle? Click here for more information: Alnwick Castle

Friday, 22 June 2012

Just Published! The Devil Inside Her

I am delighted to announce publication of my latest horror novella:

The Devil Inside Her

Elinor Gentry’s world collapsed when her husband and only daughter were killed in a car crash two years ago. Her recurring nightmares have left her exhausted and her debts are crippling her. Then, for no apparent reason, the nightmares turn into pleasant dreams and she can start to take back control of her life.

But then a string of horrific and unexplained suicides and a horrifying discovery about Elinor lead her best friend, Marnie, to seek help from the one person who has seen all this before. Hazel Messinger knows that Elinor’s newly found wellbeing is not what it seems.

A demon is at work here and it is a race against time to save Elinor’s soul...

Here's an extract: 

Marnie looked around for any larger windows but they were all the same. “Hang on, I’ve just thought. I’m sure Elinor keeps a spare front door key in the kitchen. In one of the drawers. I’ll go and check.” She scurried into the hall.

And stopped, halted by the chill.

What was that? A faint, whooshing sound. Where from? Her palms were sweating. Her breath coming in short, shallow pants. She couldn’t delay now. She must find that key. To the left of her was the living room and to the right, past the stairs, the kitchen. Straight ahead was the front door. Maybe she would be in luck, and Elinor would have just locked theYale. She hurried down the short hall and tried it. She lucked out. Locked with the mortise, just as she’d guessed.

She turned back to see something creeping down the stairs, black and amorphous, serpentine in its movements.

She froze, horrified. Heard a scream. Hers.

She rushed into the kitchen and at the side door saw another mortise lock, with no key.

The thing on the stairs must be closing in on her. She wouldn’t be able to get past it to the conservatory. Pray God Elinor kept all her spare keys together.

Marnie frantically rummaged through drawers filled with tablecloths and tea towels, heedless as they spilled onto the floor. Hearing the whooshing sound draw near, she fumbled through the cutlery drawer. On one side of the cutlery tray lay a bunch of three similar keys, all for mortise locks. “Lucky,” she murmured. The side door was closest. She could open that and call to Hazel from there.

But by then, Hazel was banging on that door. Yelling something Marnie couldn’t make out. Behind her, the sound was almost on her.

She dashed to the door and jammed key after key into the lock with shaking fingers. The third key worked, and Marnie turned the handle, wrenched it open and was met with a white-faced Hazel on the doorstep. But she wasn’t looking at Marnie.

By the angle of her head, Hazel was looking into the house. “Marnie, get out here now. And whatever you do, don’t turn round.”

The Devil Inside Her is published by Etopia Press and is available, as an e-book, from Amazon.co.uk Amazon.com   Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Waiting Is Hell - Peter Giglio

Today, I am delighted to hand my blog over to PETER GIGLIO, whose novella, A Spark In The Darkness is published with my story, Cold Revenge in the two author anthology, Cold Sparks

Peter is a bestselling Horror writer and active member of the prestigious Horror Writers' Association. Here he shares his thoughts and experiences concerning the rocky, often fraught road to publishing success. Over to you, Peter:
Peter Giglio
You’ve probably heard it said, “Good things come to those who wait.” But, especially for writers who are looking to get published, that platitude often rings false. Fact is, one voice seeking the same literary real estate that hundreds and thousands of others are is more likely to meet with rejection than acceptance. It’s easy to let that rejection get you down, scar you, make you prone to impulse: self-publishing or giving up your dream. But don’t give in. Regardless of the changing marketplace, everyone needs to be edited, and—this isn’t going to be popular—everyone needs to be rejected. 

About a year ago, I brushed off old manuscripts that were passed over for various reasons. At the time they were given the dreaded “No thanks,” I was mad, certain that politics had kept my little masterpieces from print, suspicious that they hadn’t even been read. With detachment, I read them. And I was shocked. They were terrible! Not bad ideas, but the execution was all wrong. It became clear that I had been rushing, trying too hard to hammer out all of my ideas, sure that publishing was a simple numbers game: submit often enough and you’re bound to hit the occasional acceptance. As someone who has now edited two anthologies, I ask myself, “Would I have accepted these stories?” The answer in each case is not only no, it’s a resounding “Hell no!”

Whether waiting in line at the grocery store or for a package I’ve ordered or for money I’m owed, one thing is always true: Waiting is hell! For some of these stories I waited upwards of eight months just to get bad news. But here’s what I was missing, and what, I suspect, so many others commonly overlook. I hated waiting so much that I didn’t exercise patience with myself. I rushed to the bank, then waited for the teller. I rushed to the grocery store, then waited on the cashier. And I was rushing my words, then waiting for praise. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? 

So I made an active effort to change my outlook last year, became more patient with myself, took my time, not only with writing but with all aspects of my life, and the results have been astounding. In the last year, I’ve sold three novels, two novellas, and a slew of short stories, some of them to pro-paying markets. I’ve never been happier or more productive.

People often ask me what advice I have for other authors, particularly those who are starting out. I’ve shared a lot of the old chestnuts: read widely, write often, and get people you don’t know to read your work. I stand by all those tidbits of conventional wisdom, but the most important thing anyone can do, even those who don’t write, is take your time, smell the roses, and don’t be in such a hurry to get where you’re going. More conventional wisdom? Perhaps. This nugget of truth, however, granted me a level of self-awareness that has expedited my dreams. As always, results may vary.  

Much love,
Peter Giglio


About the author:

Peter Giglio lives in Lincoln Nebraska and is Senior Editor of Evil Jester Press. He is the author of three novels (Anon, Beyond Anon, and, with Scott Bradley, The Dark) and two novellas (Balance and A Spark in the Darkness). Peter and Scott have also written a currently unproduced feature-length screen adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale's classic short story "The Night They Missed the Horror Show."

You can find several of Peter's short stories in anthologies, including Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beast Within, edited by John Skipp, and Live and Let Undead, edited by Hollie Snider. Peter is also the editor of two horror anthologies: Help! Wanted: Tales of On-the-Job Terror (featuring stories by Stephen Volk, Joe McKinney, Jeff Strand, Lisa Morton, Vince A. Liaguno, Eric Shapiro, Amy Wallace, and many more) and Evil Jester Digest Volume One (featuring stories from Rick Hautala, David Dunwoody, Gary Brandner, Tracy L. Carbone, and many more). 
 (Cold Sparks is available in paperback and e-book formats) 


Peter is delighted to welcome readers to his website: http://www.petergiglio.com
 

Friday, 8 June 2012

400 Years Of The Pendle Witches

On August 18th 1612, eight women and two men were found guilty of witchcraft at the summer assizes in Lancaster. They were all hanged two days later.

Three of them - Elizabeth Device and her teenage children, James and Alizon - were convicted, in  part at least, from evidence supplied by Elizabeth's daughter, Jennet, variously thought to be somewhere between the ages of nine and eleven. So small was Jennet, that a table had to be brought in for her to stand on so that she could be seen. Whether she could be heard or not was a different matter, as the courts were notoriously rowdy places in those days.
 For such a young child to be brought in to testify was questionable at best, but she spoke out against her mother, sister and brother and identified others of the accused who allegedly attended a Sabbat on Good Friday of that year, held at her grandmother's house, called Malkin (or Malking) Tower. She spoke of witches' familiars, clay images and curses and appeared calm and collected. As she accused her mother, the poor, wretched woman screamed abuse at her.

Included in this motley bunch of suspects were two feuding families. Anne Whittle (known as Old Chattox) and her daughter, Anne Redferne hated the Devices. The feeling was mutual. It seems they were only too ready to accuse each other of various damning acts of witchcraft. The origin of the bad blood between them is unknown, but it certainly proved fatal for both families.

One of the most interesting characters in this story is Alice Nutter, who ranked far above the others in social status and wealth but was nevertheless identified by Jennet Device as having been at Malkin Tower on that fateful Good Friday. Alice refused to say one word in her defence - possibly because, far from participating in witchcraft, she was a practicing Roman Catholic, a dangerous pursuit in the intolerant Protestant England of James I.
Between them, the unfortunate ten were convicted of no fewer than sixteen murders, along with a catalogue of bewitchings, curses and dark deeds. Their principal prosecutor was the local Magistrate, the ambitious and ruthless Roger Nowell. His methods, along with those employed by the jailkeeper of Lancaster Prison, Thomas Covell, were highly suspect. Although illegal except in cases of suspected treason, there is little doubt that torture was used on at least some of the suspects, in order to illicit confessions. It is also likely that Nowell tricked some of his prisoners into accusing others.

The Trials of The Lancashire Witches in 1612, have been kept vividly alive as a result of a detailed account made at the time by Thomas Potts called The Wonderful Discovery of Witches in the County of Lancaster. He was commissioned to write this by 'his Majesty's Justice of Assize in the North Parts'. Not that his account could ever be accused of avoiding bias!

The conduct and methods employed in Lancaster were drawn upon eighty years later when a magistrates' handbook, used at the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts, 1692, cited Jennet Device's evidence as a perfect model for the use of child witnesses in trials for witchcraft.
Visitors to Pendle today will find little remaining of the buildings significant at that time. Malkin Tower is long gone and its location hotly disputed. Only Pendle Hill remains, brooding over hilly landscape which has changed little over the centuries. The wind whips over the grass, gunmetal clouds swirl and rain lashes down. It can be harsh living up there even today.
Lancaster Castle, which houses the former prison and the court (still in use), is open to visitors. On the eastern side is the infamous 'Witches Tower', properly called the Well Tower, which is rarely opened to visitors. A flight of steep stone steps leads down to a grim dungeon, in the depths of which are two large metal rings secured into the stone floor. Here it was that the accused were chained, possibly for up to four months, awaiting their trials. Here the mother of Elizabeth Device, the notorious Old Demdike, died before she could be tried. The walls of this place drip with water, allegedly still contaminated by enzymes belonging to bodies buried nearby.

It's not hard to imagine.



Friday, 1 June 2012

Vampire Clan Wages War In The Highlands

Hot off the (electronic) press. Vampires, terror and passion in the Highlands.  
'Temptation in Tartan' is the first in the Kilburn Vampires series from bestselling author, Suz deMello and it's published today (June 1st)
 Here's the blurb:
She had to marry a monster…
Rumors had followed the chieftains of Clan Kilborn for centuries. Said to be descended from the Viking Berserkers, they were ferocious in battle, known for tearing off the heads of their enemies and drinking their blood.

But English noblewoman Lydia Swann Williston would marry Kieran, Laird Kilborn, to bring peace to the Kilborn lands after the horror of Culloden and the brutal pacification. A widow, she also brought needed wealth to Clan Kilborn. For her part, eighteen-year-old Lydia wanted children. With her husband killed at Culloden, she would make a new life in the Highlands.

The old chieftain of Clan Kilborn also died in battle, and she hoped that the new young Laird would lack his ancestors' ferocity.

She was wrong.

Here's an excerpt:
 “The Kilborns are great warriors, rumored to be descended from Viking berserkers.” Colonel Swann paced the drawing room, his boots soundless on the thick rugs.
Lydia’s belly clenched and she drew a frightened breath. “Berserkers! The savages who raided our shores, murdering monks and, er…attacking women?”
The colonel stared at her as though a potted plant had decided to speak. Not surprising, since Lydia had always been known in their family as the quiet one.
“The same,” he said. “And the Kilborn clansmen have intermarried for generations. Animals.” He tugged at his tight cravat. Out of uniform, dressed as a town gentleman, Lydia thought her cousin lost some of his edge. Scowling, he continued, “By this marriage we seek to dilute the Kilborn blood and weaken the line.”
“Weaken the line, sir?” Lydia’s mother, Henrietta, raised a brow. “Do you suggest that my daughter’s lineage is flawed? Ours is one of the noblest families in the kingdom.”
“True,” he said. “By adding Lady Lydia’s noble blood to the Kilborn line, we will civilize the wild Highlanders.”
Lydia tried to look civilized and noble, but couldn’t stop twisting the handkerchief in her lap. She rubbed its black edging, a reminder of her status as a widow. “You want me to marry an animal. A barely civilized wild man.”
“The Crown would take your selflessness as a particular favor,” her cousin said.
She lifted her brows. “Indeed.” As a general’s daughter, duty pulled at her blood.
“‘Tis a perfect solution. ‘Tis easier to pacify by marriage than by the sword. All parties will benefit.” His glance strayed to the bodice of Lydia’s gown. In half-mourning, she wore gray muslin trimmed with black piping. “You must desire children. The Highlander is doubtless, uh, lusty.”
She pursed her lips. She’d loved William, but hadn’t grasped why others made such a fuss about marital relations. But she did want children and had planned to have several. “You want me to marry a warrior who may have killed my husband at Culloden Moor,” she said. “I can’t do that.”
Colonel Swann remained silent but looked uneasy as Lydia’s mother crossed the room. “Your late husband,” Henrietta said and sat on an ottoman next to Lydia.
When her mother took Lydia’s hand, she couldn’t control the trembling. At eighteen, she knew she simply wasn’t brave.
Unlike her mother, who now peered into Lydia’s eyes. “Child, what else will you do? Of course, as a widow, you can refuse. But another marriage may make you happy.”
“Do I have to marry a wild Scotsman? Leave my country and everything I know?”
“Of course not. But you are already acquainted with all the other eligible males of our class, and chose William over all.”
“That’s so.” Lydia remembered her days of attending parties and balls in London a scant three years ago. She sighed.
“You’ll bring great wealth,” the colonel said. “And by your marriage, Kilborn will be spared the pacification efforts that other clans and chieftains suffer. You’ll be valued and honored.”
“I have my portion and William’s, but I am not particularly wealthy,” Lydia said.
“Not by London standards, but for an impoverished Highland chieftain, you are a rich prize.”
“Lovely.” Lydia stood and walked to the window, her voluminous skirts rustling.
Below in the garden, she could see her brother playing with one of his sons. She watched George pick up Andrew, toss the giggling child into the air and catch him before they collapsed in a laughing heap together on the sunlit lawn.
Her heart tripped. She might never see George and Andrew again. But she might become that happy parent, could have babies of her own to enjoy.
She turned to face her mother. “I’ll do it.”

Kieran, Laird Kilborn, strode along the upper wall-walk of his castle, his mood as dark as the midnight sky above. Below him, the sea crashed with the threat of a storm. His retainers scattered at the sight of their new laird’s frown, for Kieran was known to show his temper. His own father had borne a scar on his forehead from a tankard a young Kieran had thrown when the princeling had been but four.
Kieran pinched the bridge of his nose, staring out over Clan Kilborn’s crofts and lands, lit only by moonlight. His lands, now, following the deaths of his father and older brother at Culloden. An unexpected burden—his lands and his responsibility.
“Ye could look forever, but nothing will change.” Euan’s soft voice intruded upon Kieran’s dangerous mood. “That is, nothing will change unless ye marry the Sassenach lassie.”
Kieran turned, remembering to soften his frown. No one else would dare to disturb his thoughts, but Euan was different. The castle’s steward, he’d been old when Kier was born.
“Aye, the reprisals are cruel.” Kieran rubbed his hand over the sturdy stone battlement.
“They will only get worse. The Sassenachs are determined to break all of the Highlands and to destroy the clans who supported the bonny prince. ‘Tis a stroke of luck that the Swan wants you to wed the lassie.”
“Why, though? What’s the benefit to the Sassenach colonel?”
The smaller man shrugged. “We are a remote holding. ‘Tis easier to pacify us by marriage than by war, and far less costly.”
“I’ll never give up tartan or sword.” A thin, chilly breeze lifted Kieran’s dark hair off his shoulders. He drew his plaid, vividly patterned in red, yellow and two shades of blue, more tightly around him.
“Wed the Swan’s cousin and ye willnae have to.”
“I had not thought to wed yet, with everything so…unsettled.”
“Truly? There’s a certain lassie who’s set her cap for ye.”
“Grizel?”
“Er, I was thinking of Moira.”
“Oh, that one.” Kieran dismissed Moira with a wave of his hand. “She must know that Culloden changed everything, including her expectations.”
“Ye must secure the succession.” Euan’s dark, haunted eyes searched Kieran’s face. “I promised your father that I would see to it.”
“And would he have wanted me to marry outside our blood?” Kieran asked. His grand-uncle Euan knew more of the secrets of his family than did Kieran himself.
“Possibly not.” Euan looked troubled. “But marriage to the Sassenach lady will provide money, safety and heirs.”
“And what shall I do when the dark thirst takes me? Succor myself at my lady’s throat?”
“There are other ways.” Euan’s eyes were hooded and unreadable in the moonlight. “Other women—”
“No! ‘Tis like unfaithfulness. What of my honor?”
“There is no honor when the dark curse seizes us.”
“I must find a way, for the clan.”
“Then ye’ll marry the Sassenach wench?”
“‘Tisn’t so simple. The laird’s consort isnae merely a juicy quim or a fertile ewe. She must be more.”
Euan shrugged. “She’s a widow, managed her own household.”
“Hmm.” Kieran took a deep breath of the midnight air, scented with the tang of the nearby sea and the crofters’ hay. “Aye then, I’ll do it.”

  Like what you read?

                                              
About the author:  

Best-selling, award-winning author Sue Swift, a.k.a Suz deMello, has written over fifteen novels, plus several short stories and non-fiction articles. She writes in numerous genres including romance, mystery, paranormal, historical, contemporary comedy and erotica. She’s a freelance editor who’s worked for Total-E-Bound, Ai Press, Liquid Silver Books and Etopia Press. She also takes on private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in PW, Kirkus and Booklist, attained the finals of the RITA and reached the top ten on a bestseller list.

A former trial attorney, she resides in northern California. Her passion is world travel, and she’s left the US over a dozen times, including stints working overseas for many months. Right now, she's working on her next manuscript and planning her next trip.

Her blog is at http://www.fearlessfastpacedfiction.com. Find her reading picks @ReadThis4fun on Twitter, and befriend her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SueSwift


Congratulations Sue. Another bestseller for sure!