Tuesday, 15 September 2020

The Witches of Belvoir Castle



My new novella – The Malan Witch – centres around a haunted cottage – possessed by two of the most evil witches you could ever (not) wish to encounter. At the time these women were alive, witch hunts were in full swing.

At Belvoir Castle, near Grantham, in Lincolnshire, in the early part of the 17th century, the Earl and Countess of Rutland employed a mother – Joan Flower - and her two daughters, Philippa and Margaret. All three were known to be well versed in the art of herbal remedies. The Rutlands were in urgent need of extra domestic help as a visit from King James I was expected. The Flower family didn’t last long there though. They were dismissed amid rumours of theft and other misdemeanours.


Almost immediately after the women left, the Earl and Countess fell ill of vomiting and convulsions. Then their children suffered similarly. Their heir – Henry – died a few weeks later and was buried on 26th September 1613. Francis also fell ill but, thankfully, their daughter, Katherine, recovered. 

By 1616, the thirst for purging witches had reached fever pitch, and nine women were hanged in Leicestershire for crimes committed involving the Black Arts. They had been accused of bewitching a young boy who subsequently died. These witches owned animals, known as ‘familiars’, said to assist them in their devil’s work, casting spells and other mischief. The Flower women also possessed a cat – called Rutterkin – who was to play a significant role in subsequent events.


The Rutlands’ second son, Francis, died and, in 1618, a full five years after Henry had passed away, the Flower women were arrested on charges relating to witchcraft in connection with his death. All protested their innocence, but were taken away to be ‘examined’. Following this, they were sent to Lincoln Gaol, where they were due to be incarcerated until their trial. On the way there, Joan Flower, who did not attend church, requested a piece of bread, in lieu of Eucharist. She said it would prove her innocence, as surely no true witch would be able to eat something so pure and holy. She took a bite, choked on it and died.

Needless to say, the women undoubtedly suffered horrific torture. That era was notorious for the creativity employed in extracting confessions from people. A visit to any crime museum will reveal implements such as the boot (which crushed feet and ankles), the scold’s bridle (complete with spikes to pierce the victim’s mouth), needles to pierce nails and pincers to pull those same nails out. Food and sleep deprivation and beatings with chains added to the sadistic and horrific menu.

Margaret Flower eventually accused her - now deceased - mother of witchcraft. Philippa admitted she was a witch – and accused her mother and Margaret. The sisters both confessed to consorting with ‘familiar spirits’ to assist them in their schemes. And this is where their mother’s cat – Rutterkin- came in. The sisters said they stole the glove of Henry, the Rutlands’ heir and gave it to Joan. She dipped it in boiling water, stroked it along Rutterkin’s back and chanted incantations which caused the boy to fall ill. To ensure the Earl and Countess couldn’t have any more children and, therefore, remained without an heir, the women had cast a spell, using feathers from the Earl’s bed and a pair of gloves which they boiled and then mixed with blood.


The two sisters also accused others of being witches. Anne Baker, Joan Willimot and Ellen Greene were arrested, ‘examined’ and then, unsurprisingly, ‘confessed’ to practicing witchcraft.

Margaret and Philippa Flower were tried and found guilty. They were hanged in Lincoln Castle on 11th March 1619.

The Earl and Countess remained convinced - to their dying days - that their eldest son had been killed by witchcraft. On their monument, as part of the inscription, are these words:


There has been recent speculation that Joan Flower and her daughters were framed by none other than the infamous George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham and favourite of King James I. The story goes that Villiers had designs on the Rutlands’ daughter, Katherine. He planned to marry her and - with both her brothers dead - inherit the title. He achieved his ambition to marry the girl on 16th May 1620, much to her father’s disapproval.

Fortunately this unpleasant and arrogant man did not achieve his ultimate ambition. He did not become the next Earl of Rutland. He died in 1628, four years before his father in law. At least some justice prevailed in this sorry saga!


'Naught remained of their bodies to be buried, for the crows took back what was theirs.’ 

An idyllic coastal cottage near a sleepy village. What could be more perfect? For Robyn Crowe, borrowing her sister’s recently renovated holiday home for the summer seems just what she needs to deal with the grief of losing her beloved husband.

But behind those pretty walls lie many secrets, and legends of a malevolent sisterhood - two witches burned for their evil centuries earlier. Once, both their vile spirits were trapped there. Now, one has been released. One who is determined to find her sister. Only Robyn stands in her way.

And the crow has returned.

You can order The Malan Witch here: 





Tuesday, 25 August 2020

What Lurks in the Mind of a Villain - JG Faherty

I am delighted to welcome friend and fellow writer, JG Faherty to my blog today. He has some valuable and insightful thoughts to share on villains...

One of the first things writers are taught is that your villains need to be as well thought out and as complex as your heroes.

Think about some of the classic antagonists of literature. Hannibal Lecter. Dracula. Captain Nemo. Anne Wilkes. Tom Ripley. Randall Flagg. Norman Bates.

We find ourselves fascinated with these people not just because they’re evil and we want them to pay for their crimes, but because they are three-dimensional. We know them almost as well as we know the protagonists and victims in their stories. In many ways, those books—Dracula, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Red Dragon, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Psycho, The Stand—are as much about the villains as they are the heroes.

This is something I’ve always loved about fiction: getting into the head of the villain.

What makes him/her/it tick? Why do they do the things they do? Were they always evil or forced into it by fate, circumstance, or a supernatural power? Do they enjoy being bad? Do they even think they’re bad? Remember Thanos from the Avengers movies? He truly believed that wiping out half the population of the universe was not only necessary, but good. Because it would ensure prosperity for the remaining half by eliminating overcrowding, lack of resources, and economic disasters.

He was ruthless, he was evil, he was conscienceless.
But he considered himself a savior.

This is something that’s always in the forefront of my mind when I create the antagonist(s) for my novels. Who are they? Why are they the way they are? What do they think of the world, themselves, the people who are trying to stop them? Are they evil or misunderstood? Victims of circumstance or madmen?

I want my readers to identify with these villains, to believe in them as real people (or monsters), rather than just as props for the plot.

In order to do that, first I need to understand them. And that means putting myself in their shoes. It’s easy to do with a hero, but not so much with the bad guy.

And in Sins of the Father, it became doubly hard, because there are no traditional heroes or villains. Much like in real life, my characters are all painted in shades of gray.

Henry Gilman, the main character, is a man we can all identify with. He’s spent his life in his father’s shadow, and that has irrevocably shaped him as an adult. First following in the footsteps of a brilliant doctor and then dealing with the inevitable public humiliation when that same doctor commits a terrible atrocity and ruins the family name forever.

Henry struggles with money, as most of us do. He struggles to find love. He has hopes, dreams, goals. But life seems to put up obstacles at every turn, and happiness and success elude him. All of that is on the surface. But, like everyone, he is a product of his environment as much as his genetics. We are all shaped subconsciously by our upbringings. The idea of nature vs. nurture is, in reality, a false hypothesis. It is nature AND nurture that mold us, and in Henry’s case, neither has been particularly favorable.

As much as he refuses to admit it, he has inherited more than a few of his father’s personality traits, and more often than not finds himself making exactly the same mistakes as his father, for exactly the same reasons—even as he tries to do the opposite.

My goal with Henry was to create a sympathetic character so that as the story progresses, we not only feel sorry for him and root for him, but we understand (and perhaps agree with, in some cases) his actions when he slips off the path of righteousness he’s laid out for himself.

The secondary characters in the story were just as important to me, because all of them play significant roles in Henry’s actions and reactions. The friend who goes behind his back. The lover who leads him on but has her own ambitions. The police officer who is as dishonest as the day is long yet dedicated to keeping the town of Innsmouth free of crime. And, of course, Henry’s father. Cold, cruel, devious, yet at the same time proud of his son and wanting only the best for him.

In a way, Henry is a victim of several types of abuse. Physical, mental, emotional. Yet he’s an enabler of his abusers, to use a modern psychological term. He’s desperate for attention, for success, for wealth, and because of that, he doesn’t see the harmful traits of those around him. Or in himself.

This might seem like a lot of work to put into creating characters, but it’s absolutely essential. In many ways, reading a novel is like meeting new people. Except you not only get to know them through your interactions with them, you can spy on their private lives, see into their heads.

If the writer does their job right, you’ll come to know the characters of a book better than your own family.

Maybe better than yourself.


Sins of the Father

Henry Gilman has spent years trying to separate himself from his father’s legacy of murder and insanity. Now he has the chance – all he has to do is figure out who’s been killing people in Innsmouth. Then he’ll be a hero and win the heart of the woman he loves, Flora Marsh. But soon he’s caught in a web of danger, with the undead stalking the streets at night, a terrible monster lurking below the city, and a prophecy of destruction about to come true. In the process, his actions cause unwanted consequences and to save Flora he has to do the very thing he’s spent his life trying to avoid: follow his father’s footsteps into madness.

Available from:


and at other great bookstores - online and in your high street


A life-long resident of New York's haunted Hudson Valley, JG Faherty has been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award® (THE CURE, GHOSTS OF CORONADO BAY) and ITW Thriller Award (THE BURNING TIME), and he is the author of 8 novels, 11 novellas, and more than 75 short stories. He writes adult and YA horror, science fiction, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy. He grew up enthralled with the horror movies and books of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, and as a child his favorite playground was a 17th-century cemetery. Which explains a lot. His latest novel is SINS OF THE FATHER.

Follow him at:


Sunday, 28 June 2020

The Cornish Witches of Saveock

FOTOKITA/Shutterstock.com

My new novella – The Malan Witch – takes place in a remote coastal area not unlike Cornwall. It is peaceful, tranquil – except for the activities of two of the most evil witches you could ever encounter. The sisters were burned centuries earlier for their crimes, but the site of their former home is soaked in their heinous, demonic practices.

Mercifully, these two devil sisters never actually walked the earth, but the practice of witchcraft most certainly did – and indeed does – exist. Thankfully, in most cases we are talking about good or so-called white magic. Indeed, in centuries past, most (if not all) witches executed in various torturous ways were guilty of nothing more than being ‘wise women’ who knew a thing or two about how herbs and natural remedies worked. Then one day they upset one of their neighbours and, before you could light a candle, they would find themselves being poked and prodded for the infamous ‘witch marks’. Anything would suffice – a small mole, a wart, a tiny patch of eczema. Most of us have something the witch hunter would proclaim was a mark of the devil.

In Cornwall, a coven of witches managed to evade detection, maintain their secrecy and continue practising their benevolent craft from the 1640s until at least the 1970s. Archeologist Dr. Jacqui Wood discovered pits lined with animal skins, carcasses of birds and feathers which, it is believed formed part of a fertility ritual.

The site is in a tiny hamlet called Saveock near Truro where two unmarried women lived, practising their craft and passing on its secrets. They were believed to be part of that secret coven until they died in the 1980s. The most recent of the small pits used synthetic orange baler twine only used in Cornwall since the 1970s, while the earliest witch pit dates back to the 1640s and is lined with a slaughtered swan (the bird symbolizing fertility), which had been turned inside out.  Claws belonging to other bird species and a small pile of stones were also found in it. The killing of swans has been illegal since the 11th century.

Other pits are lined with the skins of cats and dogs along with bird’s eggs containing soon-to-be-hatched chicks.

Dr Wood believes the pits were dug by young women desirous of becoming pregnant and could be an offering to St Brigid of Kildare in Ireland – the patron saint of newborn babies.

All in all, carbon dating has revealed that the site has been in continuous use since the 1640s, and there are over forty pits – each one unique, but all roughly the same size, measuring 42cm long x 35cm wide and 17cm deep. Dr Wood believes it is highly probable that members of the coven are still active today.

That this coven has managed to continue to exist despite contravening laws of the land and the prevailing prejudices of the times bears testament to the determination of a dedicated group of women who, no doubt, passed on their secrets from mother to daughter – with not one weak link.

Naught remained of their bodies to be buried, for the crows took back what was theirs.’

An idyllic coastal cottage near a sleepy village. What could be more perfect? For Robyn Crowe, borrowing her sister’s recently renovated holiday home for the summer seems just what she needs to deal with the grief of losing her beloved husband.

 But behind those pretty walls lie many secrets, and legends of a malevolent sisterhood - two witches burned for their evil centuries earlier. Once, both their vile spirits were trapped there. Now, one has been released. One who is determined to find her sister. Only Robyn stands in her way.

 And the crow has returned.

 You can pre-order The Malan Witch here:

Amazon

Thursday, 20 February 2020

The Garden of Bewitchment - Released into the world!

It's official - The Garden of Bewitchment has now been launched by Flame Tree Press!

It's available in pretty much any format you could wish for, and here is what some early reviewers have been saying about the story:


Cavendish draws from the best conventions of the genre in this eerie gothic novel about a woman’s sanity slowly unraveling within the hallways of a mysterious mansion...Fans of gothic tropes will appreciate the atmosphere and intensity of this horror tale.” – Publishers’ Weekly


“Cavendish is a master storyteller” – ihorror
 
A brilliantly written, atmospheric and goosebumpy read. You’ll never look at a doll’s house in the same way again!” – The Bookwormery

“Well written, complex, satisfyingly nostalgic and darn right diabolical” – Brown Flopsy’s Book Burrow

“Seeped in Gothic imagery” – Horror After Dark

Atmospheric and rich in detail, Cavendish masterfully draws the reader into the slow-burning horror that makes well-crafted Gothic literature so delightfully addictive.” – The Nerd Daily

“When you sit down with a Catherine Cavendish story, you are guaranteed three things – a haunting atmosphere, a wild imagination, and fascinating characters.” – She Leads, He Reads

"If you are looking for a read that will remind you of Gothic stories past this is a perfect read for you."Nerdygirlexpress

 Totally creepy!” – Georgia_books

“Cavendish has a wonderful style of writing” Steel Rain Book Reviews

So, what's the story all about then?

Don’t play the game.



In 1893, Evelyn and Claire leave their home in a Yorkshire town for life in a rural retreat on their beloved moors. But when a strange toy garden mysteriously appears, a chain of increasingly terrifying events is unleashed. Neighbour Matthew Dixon befriends Evelyn, but seems to have more than one secret to hide. Then the horror really begins. The Garden of Bewitchment is all too real and something is threatening the lives and sanity of the women. Evelyn no longer knows who - or what - to believe. And time is running out.

Over the next week or so, I'm off on tour. It has actually just begun. Here are some of the hosts who have kindly agreed to review - or, in some cases, possibly even take over their blog. Here's the schedule:

The Garden of Bewitchment is available at your local bookstore (on the shelf or by ordering) or here - as well as other outlets: