Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Farewell Samhain - and These Editions - So Hurry!

The end of this year also marks the end of the horror line for Samhain Publishing which, over the past five years, has brought you fantastic horror storytellers such as Ramsey Campbell, Richard Laymon, Russell James, Hunter Shea, Ronald Malfi, Sephera Giron, Glenn Rolfe, David Bernstein, Jonathan Janz, Brian Moreland, Somer Canon, Maynard Sims, Quinn Langston, Brian Moreland, J.G. Faherty. John Palisano, Megan Hart, Greg Gifune, W.D. Galiani, Frazer Lee, J.H. Moncrieff, Brian Pinkerton, Eric Red...and so many more, I've barely scratched the surface of the illustrious library of talent that has graced their catalogue.



Back in 2013, an excited, ecstatic, over-the-moon newbie joined their ranks. Yes, that was me, with Linden Manor which had just become one of four winners of the Gothic Horror Anthology competition. It was also my first experience of working with a legendary editor. his name? Don D'Auria. Many big name horror authors on Samhain's books followed Don from Leisure Books. Over the years, he amassed a reputation second-to-none. Writers wanted to work with him. I am certainly proud to have his name on most of my books for Samhain.



Until the end of 2015, Don edited Saving Grace Devine, The Pendle Curse and Dark Avenging Angel. Then he and Samhain parted company and many of us in the horror stable felt dark shadows descending. When, earlier this year, we received the news we had feared, it wasn't a total shock but it was - for people like me - a bitter blow.



I want to thank Cristina Brashear and all at Samhain Publishing for the opportunities you gave me and I want to thank all my fellow writers for their unfailing support and friendship. Many of you know I experienced some pretty dark days of my own in 2015-16 as a result of serious health issues - now resolved. So many good wishes came my way from the fantastic brother/sisterhood which is the horror community. Thank you all so much.

I want to give a special shout-out to Tera Cuskaden - my editor on my last book for Samhain, The Devil's Serenade. Edits for the story were in full swing and I was about to be hospitalised, but Tera ensured everything ran smoothly, giving me one less thing to worry about. I shall always be grateful. Fortunately, I get to work with her again - at Kensington-Lyrical - where the first in a trilogy set in Vienna and Egypt (Wrath of the Ancients) will be published late in 2017.



As for my Samhain titles, they will have a new life with Crossroad Press in 2017 and I am looking forward to working with 'The two Davids'. I also get to meet up with some former Samhain authors there and at Kensington-Lyrical.

Thank you to everyone out there for your support. The Samhain titles will start to disappear from the beginning of January and I'm not sure of future dates of publication for them so, if you're missing a little horror in your life, pop on over to Amazon, Barnes and Noble or your favourite bookseller. To see the soon-to-be-lost collection of Samhain Horror, go to Samhain Publishing  but you need to do this now -BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!



All the best to Samhain as they move forward as a romance-only house and very best wishes to all my fellow Samhain authors. Catch you in a different location next year!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Ghosts Galore at The Ancient Ram



npower/REX

Built on the site of an ancient Pagan burial ground, The Ancient Ram Inn, situated in the village of Wotton-under Edge in Gloucestershire, England has something for every ghost and lover of all things devilish – although if you want a pint, you’ll need to find a local hostelry. It last functioned as a public house in 1968 when the brewery sold it to John Humphries for £2600. He has made it his mission to save the building (dating from 1145) from rack and ruin. Today, in his 90s, he is still there and maintains his enthusiasm for both the building and its spirit inhabitants.

He claims he is regularly visited – and even attacked – by the spectral co-habitees and there have been sightings of previous owners of the inn, including a former innkeeper and his daughters. There is also the ghost of a woman known as Elizabeth who is believed to have been murdered and buried beneath the bar.

John welcomes ghost hunters and organised overnight ghost hunts. He is happy to share the wealth of information he has amassed about the legends and stories connected to the Inn. Child sacrifices, devil worship, witchcraft and even a link to Stonehenge are just some of the links that make this ancient place so fascinating.

There is a room in the Inn known as the ‘Witch’s Room’ for very good reason. It would appear that during the 1500s, a woman accused of witchcraft took refuge there but was eventually captured and burned at the stake. She is said to return to her former place of sanctuary.

Another legend has it that, at some time in its history, the water course was redirected, causing a portal to open. Unfortunately this was not a desirable turn of events as it allowed some pretty nasty demons to pass through. John Humphries recalls that, on his first night in the property he was forcibly dragged from his bed by a demon and flung across the room.

The present owner also found evidence of devil worship and the skeletons of a woman and child buried under the stairs. Broken daggers were found embedded in them.

The ‘Bishop’s Room’ is reputedly haunted by a woman hanging from the ceiling and by monks, who terrified guests when the Inn was a Bed and Breakfast establishment. Many would refuse to stay in that room. Others would flee in the middle of the night.

Outside, the old barn has played host to unexplained dark shadows which have frightened guests rigid.

In the second half of the twentieth century, the former Bishop of Gloucester – Rt. Rev. John Yates – is reported to have attempted to exorcise the Inn, but failed. He called it, "the most evil place I have ever had the misfortune to visit" (Western Daily Mail).
The Inn was used many centuries ago as a keeping house for slaves and workers who built nearby St Mary’s Parish Church. No doubt their spirits add to the general melee.  A high priestess has been seen sitting on a bed and a young girl’s screams have chilled unwary visitors. Add to this a ghostly centurion on horseback and a succubus who scares the life out of guests by pinioning them down on their beds, and you can see that the Ancient Ram Inn serves up a heady cocktail of supernatural fare.

As for the Stonehenge connection: This depends a lot on whether you are a believer in the power/ phenomenon of ley lines. Those who do state that the Inn is built on the intersection of two of them which connect directly with the centre of Stonehenge some seventy (or so) miles away. Legend has it that the power from Stonehenge floods into the Inn making it the conduit for supernatural activity that has given the Ancient Ram its unparalleled reputation.

A number of operators hold haunted nights at the Ancient Ram and these are usually booked up well in advance. One of these is Haunted Happenings.

I'll leave you with the incomparable Yvette Fielding and the Most Haunted team who held a vigil there. Enjoy - and a very merry Christmas/Festive season of your choice to you all

 


Thursday, 8 December 2016

The Ghosts of Christmas


The logs crackle, the flames dance, and we curl up, safe and warm in our cozy armchairs while, outside, the wind howls and sleet slashes against the windows. We drink warming GlΓΌhwein or hot punch, spiced with cinnamon and ginger, and revel in our favourite ghost stories. Maybe it’s the Collected Short Stories of M.R. James – that master of the creepy tale. Or maybe a film. A Christmas Carol? The Canterville Ghost? The Uninvited? The Haunting? All excellent choices and there’s room for every one of them. But for sheer British scares that thrill and chill, one series of adaptations has stood the test of time and I’ll certainly be digging out my collection again over the festive season – to watch in the dead of night, when all is quiet and only the ghosts walk…

 A Ghost Story for Christmas was a tradition maintained by the BBC for seven years, from 1971-78. It consisted of an adaptation of a classic short story, shown on Christmas Eve. Wonderful chilling tales by M.R. James (The Stalls of Barchester, A Warning to the Curious, Lost Hearts, The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, The Ash Tree), Charles Dickens (The Signalman), Clive Exton (Stigma) and one of my personal favourites, The Ice House by John Bowen. 
 M.R. James originally established his own ghostly Christmas traditions by reading his stories to friends and students at that time of the year, and the British tradition of sitting around the fire telling scary stories at Christmas undoubtedly influenced the idea for the series of films. In 1968, a one-off – Whistle and I’ll Come To You, adapted from M.R. James’ short story – set the scene for more to come. There have been some attempts to revive the tradition in recent years and I hope that will persist. Christmas isn’t Christmas without a ghost, is it?


 But what of the stories themselves? These are not hardcore horror tales. The creepiness comes from the heavily laden atmosphere suggesting a lingering, looming presence of evil. Shadows move. Something forms under the bedsheet – a monster? We don’t know. We don’t physically see it. We don’t have to.

A lonely and bleak seashore. A solitary figure battling against the elements. A railway official who tells of a ghostly figure that beckons and foretells calamity. A remote country house in the middle of an ancient stone circle, where a dark force hides and waits. A strange flower growing outside an old icehouse. Where has it come from and what secrets does it hold? A lost crown found by an amateur archeologist in a remote seaside town. Perhaps he should have let it lie. A sinister black cat and a hooded figure that haunt a cathedral’s choir stalls.


 Just some of the elements of these timeless tales I can watch – and read – time and again.

There is something so much more satisfying about a story that lays all the trails, but allows your own mind take over and fill in the details. It then falls to your own imagination to create the ‘monsters’ and we know what scares u better than any writer could predict. Each of us will put our own interpretation on what exactly was lurking in those shadows. The skill of the writer has been to give us all the clues we need to finish the story our own unique way – and that’s what keeps us listening for any creaks or bumps in the dark after we’ve turned the TV off or put the book down. It’s what makes our hands hover over the bedside lamp. On? Or off? On tonight, I think. Because it’s just possible… well, maybe, we’re not alone. Perhaps that…whatever it was…has followed us up to bed. It’s waiting for us to close our eyes. And then it will pounce. We squeeze our eyes tight shut and wait. The only sound – our own heavy breathing.


 What’s that?

Something moving around the room. Clutch the bedcovers. Tight as you can. Mouth dry. Hardly dare breathe. Something still moving. Then a thump.

There’s something on the bed. Oh why did I watch that film tonight? Oh no. It’s moving closer. I can hear it.

A low rumbling sound.

A cold, wet nose.

Do ghosts have cold, wet noses?

“Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”.

Don’t have nightmares, but do have a happy festive season – and may all your ghosts be benevolent spirits.