Sunday, 22 December 2013

Linden Manor - The Perfect Cover That Reveals So Much...

Question: What's the best Christmas present your new publisher can give you?
Answer: The perfect cover for your new book.

Happy dances were much in evidence a couple of months ago when I logged onto my email account and found a message from someone called Don D'Auria. The name seemed familiar. I opened it. I scanned the contents. Not believing what I'd read, I peered more closely.

I squealed. I jumped up and down (a lot). My husband dashed in. Had I fallen over? Hurt myself?

For goodness sake, woman, tell me what's happened!

I waved the iPad in the air ( a little dangerously I think).

"I've won! I've won! The Samhain competition! I'm one of the four winners!"

And that's when the happy dances started.

The competition was the first to be run by Samhain Horror, but promises to be an annual event. This year, the theme was Gothic and my novella joins Blood Red Roses, by Russell James, Bootleg Cove, by Devin Govaere and Castle by the Sea, by J.G. Faherty. All will be published as individual novellas in the usual e-formats in May 2014, and will then form the anthology, What Waits In The Shadows, to be published in trade paperback in October. Don D'Auria is the executive editor of Samhain Horror and I count myself privileged to be working with him.

Now - I invite you to take another look at that amazing cover. The artist has captured so much of the essence of my story and, as is so often the case, the devil (oh yes!) is in the detail.

First we have the Gothic facade. Linden Manor is indeed an old house- although the present building is simply the latest in a long line of grand houses to have stood on that ground. But take a closer look at the figure. Ghostly, ethereal. She appears as a bride. A beautiful bride on her wedding day, dressed in her fine white gown and veil. But...something's wrong isn't it? Look at her face. Look closely. 

Oh...wait. No, I shouldn't have told you to do that. I really shouldn't. I...

But it's too late now isn't it? You've seen it.You've seen her ravaged face. May God have mercy on your soul...

Here's a little taster of the storyline:

Have you ever been so scared your soul left your body?

All her life, Lesley Carpenter has been haunted by a strange nursery rhyme – The Scottish Bride - sung to her by her great grandmother. She decides to find out more about its origins and her research brings her into contact with the mysterious Isobel Warrender. She is the current hereditary owner of Linden Manor, a grand house steeped in centuries of murky history.

When a visit transforms into a nightmare, Lesley sees the ghost of the Scottish bride of the gruesome rhyme. Worse is to follow when she witnesses a brutal murder from ancient times and discovers a curse that soaks the very earth on which Linden Manor now stands.

Linden Manor will be published on May 6th 2014. 

I wish to thank Julia Kavan for providing so much valuable advice (and a few strategic kicks where necessary) at the draft stages of Linden Manor. She showed me the error of my ways and made sure I produced a story I could be proud of. Thank you, Julia!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Watcher of Worlds - Riveting YA Paranormal from Brinda Berry

 Released this week, the latest in Brinda's compulsive Whispering Woods series will keep you turning the pages. Here's a taster of what to expect:
Senior year should bring fun, friends and happiness. Not portals, treachery, and murder.
Seventeen-year-old Mia Taylor, gatekeeper to an interdimensional portal, wants nothing more than to heal from her romance gone wrong. Illegally falling for her co-worker Regulus had been a huge mistake. But when Regulus goes rogue to hunt down a murderer, Mia must forget her broken heart and use her unique abilities to save him. Traveling across dimensions, she enters a strange and hostile world where a rebel faction holds the key to their escape. Her gift of synesthesia is in high demand, and a secret organization of the otherworldly kind has her in their sights. But sabotage and murder may be the least of her worries. Her ex-boyfriend wants a relationship. Her dad wants her to act normal. Her friends want her to stop moping. Who knew faking happy would be the easiest part of senior year?

Jingle Bells

I detested planned surprises.

I could read the expectation in the air from the shimmery orange vibe that glowed like a Cheetos binge gone bad.

A few months ago, my friends had discovered my secret. The secret I’d hidden so teachers and doctors wouldn’t treat me like an amped up sensory perception freak. So friends wouldn’t ask.

Synesthesia. The condition sounded like the name of an electronic punk band. I’d made the full round of emotions about my sensory perception and being able to find portals. First, I’d hid it like you hide an ugly rash. Later, I’d learned to trust my friends with my secret. I’d even embraced it.

Now, I was back to wishing for normal.

Working with Regulus and Arizona was like playing Pop Goes the Weasel—a surprise around every corner. And did I mention I hate surprises?

Give me predictable any day. Then I could be ready. It’s why I made sure I knew the contents of every box under the Christmas tree. 

You can buy Watcher of Worlds here:


Brinda Berry is the author of The Waiting Booth (Whispering Woods #1),Whisper of Memory (Whispering Woods #2), and  Watcher of Worlds (Whispering Woods #3). She also contributed a short story to the anthology, Wild at Heart, Vol II.

Currently working in higher education administration, she spends her days thinking of ways to improve education for college students. Brinda spends her nights devising exciting tales that involve teens who might be saving the world.

Connect with Brinda on the Web:


Friday, 13 December 2013

M.R. James - Master of the Ghostly Tale

On a stormy day last week, with the wind howling and the rain battering the windows, I settled myself down in the warmth and snug comfort of my living room, and picked up The Collected Ghost Stories of M.R. James.

I can't remember the last time I read one of his stories. They are short - sometimes only a couple of pages - but he packs more into those few pages than many authors manage in an entire novel. He has been the inspiration for many a writer of Gothic, ghostly and horror stories and it's easy to see why. Many were written with an eye to being read aloud, in small intimate gatherings, with the candlelight flickering and the fire crackling. His style is in keeping with that of an author writing in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century, yet is perfectly accessible to us now. His stories are original, lacking the cliched settings of some of his contemporaries. He puts ordinary people (man of them academics like himself) in extraordinary situations and sets the scene around them. 

Rather than presenting graphic descriptions of the 'monsters', he evokes terror with just a few words and lets us, his readers, give vent to our imaginations:
It stood for the moment in a band of dark shadow, and he had not seen what its face was like. Now it began to move, in a stooping posture, and all at once the spectator realized, with some horror and some relief, that it must be blind, for it seemed to feel about it with its muffled arms in a groping and random fashion. Turning half away from him, it became suddenly conscious of the bed he had just left, and darted towards it, and bent and felt over the pillows in a way which made Parkins shudder as he had never in his life thought it possible. In a very few moments it seemed to know that the bed was empty, and then, moving forward into the area of light and facing the window, it showed for the first time what manner of thing it was.

(from 'Oh Whistle And I'll Come To You, My Lad')

Montague Rhodes James was born on 1st August 1862. He was an academic - medieval scholar, provost of King's College Cambridge (1905-1918) and subsequently of Eton (1918-1936). He grew up in Suffolk, which he subsequently used as a location for many of his stories. To this day, he is widely respected for his academic work.This included his discovery of a fragment of manuscript which led to excavations of the ruins of the abbey at Bury St Edmunds, where the long lost graves of a number of twelfth century abbots were discovered. He also catalogued many of the manuscript libraries of the colleges of Cambridge University and translated the Apocrypha of the New Testament.

But the wider world remembers him for those wonderful short stories, which were originally published in four collections: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904), More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1911), A Thin Ghost and Others (1919), and A Warning to the Curious and Other Ghost Stories (1925). In 1931, they were first collated into one volume: The Collected Ghost Stories of M.R. James from which the above extract was taken.

The stories cry out to be filmed and many adaptations have been made - both for screen and TV. One of my favourite films, Night of the Demon is adapted from Casting The Runes. But probably the most famous adaptations, certainly in the UK, were provided by the BBC between 1968-1978. These half hour episodes were broadcast late at night on Christmas Eve and became a 'must-watch'. While not exclusively M.R.James stories, the series could hardly have existed without him. They are now collated into a 5 DVD collection with some fascinating extra features: Ghost Stories for Christmas.

I am looking forward to February, when we have tickets to see Oh Whistle And I'll Come To You, My Lad in a stage production at Venue Cymru in Llandudno , where it is presented in tandem with The Signalman by Charles Dickens (also included as one of the Ghost Stories For Christmas - and very chilling it is too!)

M.R.James died 8th June 1936 in Eton and is buried in the town cemetery. His work lives on - perfect examples of the British ghost story at their most chillingly entertaining.

Now, click on the link below, sit back and enjoy A Warning to the Curious:

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Shine On...A Sunny Award On A Dark December Day

With many thanks to the ever-generous Shehanne Moore the sassy and fine Scottish author of some of the best historical fiction around (you mean you haven't read The Unraveling of Lady Fury yet?), I have been awarded a lovely bright shining light to brighten up the darkness of a murky December day.

It's call the 'Shine On' Award and it looks like this:

Of course, such a prestigious award doesn't come without strings attached. Oh no. I have to reveal seven facts about myself that you may not already know. Now, I've done this kind of thing before, so I have had to dig a little deeper this time. Here goes:

1. I always wanted to be an archaeologist. Couldn't handle the science, so that was never going to happen. But I love ancient ruins, mysterious places and Neolithic standing stones, long barrows and stone circles. I'll search for miles just to find a single megalith. And Skara Brae is a must-visit every time we visit Orkney. To discover more about its history, click onto Orkneyjar
2.  I have a bucket list of places I haven't been to yet. Right up there in my top three are the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum and, guess what? We're going there next year! Can't wait...
 3.  My favourite Stephen King novel isn't actually a horror. It's his bestselling timeslip 11:22:63. Unputdownable.

4.  A few years ago, my husband treated me to an amazing two night stay at Claridge's Hotel in London. We had a lovely surprise when they upgraded us to a suite, and the whole experience was just stunning. Each member of staff makes you feel as if you are the most important person in their lives and the attention to detail means that nothing, but nothing, is skimped. This is luxury in the traditional style and, I can tell you, I could easily get used to it, so I'd better write a bestseller pretty quick! To top it all off, we ate in Gordon Ramsay's Restaurant at Claridge's on both evenings.Sadly, he has since closed this restaurant, but we had an unforgettable holiday.

5.  I am enjoying the latest series of American Horror Story: Coven. I loved the first series, but couldn't get into the second - Asylum. I think Coven has benefited from the additon of the always excellent Kathy Bates. Remember her in Misery? One scary lady!

6.  I love a drop (OK, a few) of a really decent red wine and my favourite (strictly for special occasions as it doesn't come cheap) is Chatean Margaux. When poured into crystal and held up to the light, it sparkles like a priceless ruby...doesn't taste half bad either!

7.  I love doing research for my books. My current work in progress - with a working title of The Medusa Tree - involves ancient magic, tree spirits and the like. It also takes place in the same small town where I set The Demons of Cambian Street (Priory St Michael) although it isn't a sequel. One or two of the same characters appear though.

Right, that's me done. Now I shall present this award to four writer friends who are all noted for their ability to scare, chill and entertain with their riveting dark horror stories:

Friday, 6 December 2013

From Michigan to Tel Aviv - Yael Politis

 I recently reviewed  The Lonely Tree by Yael Politis, and described it as 'the most moving story I have read in a long time'. Now she is back with a stunning new series, and the first two books -  the award winning Olivia, Mourning and The Way The World Is - have just been published on Kindle. 

Yael's life has been something of an epic in itself. Today, she is my guest and I'm delighted to welcome her:

Toward the end of my freshman year in Ann Arbor my roommate dropped The Michigan Daily on my bed and pointed at an ad. For $400 the Israeli Students Association would arrange your flight to Tel Aviv and place you as a volunteer on a kibbutz for the summer. 

“You’re forever talking about Israel,” she said. “Why don’t you go?” 

So I did. Back then when an El Al flight landed in Tel Aviv its audio system blared the Theme from Exodus. I felt ridiculous when it brought tears to my eyes and even more so when I got off the plane feeling as if I had come home. 

I know the next question. Why? Reincarnation? I have no rational explanation and never spent much time searching for one. The feeling was simply too strong to ignore and I accepted that Israel was where I was meant to be. And the older I get, the more I believe that none of us are as rational as we would like to believe. The important decisions - who we marry, where we live, how we make a living - are often leaps of faith, based on feelings we can’t ignore.

I grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, a city that enjoyed exceptionally good schools and city services -- and was infamous for having the most segregationist mayor in a northern state. One of his oft-repeated quotes: "I’m not a racist. I just hate those bastards". When I went back for my 12th high school reunion one of my former classmates confessed to being Jewish. While she was growing up in Dearborn her mother had strictly forbidden her to reveal that fact to anyone. 

So, yes, it was an eye-opening journey from Dearborn to Tel Aviv.

Since coming to Israel I have had many jobs, lived in a lot of different places (cities, kibbutzim, and moshavim), and been married to and divorced from two husbands. Life was seldom easy, but I have never regretted making my home here.

The place I lived the longest - and where I raised my children - was in the Katif Bloc in the Gaza Strip. It was there I started to write, on an old Smith-Corona typewriter. I knew the tragic story of what had happened decades earlier, on the eve of Israel’s independence, in a similar bloc of settlements - the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem. No one had ever written a fictional account of it, but I felt it was “too big” for me to attempt and turned to other stories. 

Then the first intifada broke out and we were - like the settlers of Kfar Etzion - attacked on the roads and under constant threat. But I felt fairly safe; the IDF was there. It made me think again about the people who had chosen to live in Kfar Etzion - and hundreds of other settlements like it - when a Jewish state had seemed like a wild dream. How could they have lived like this but without an army, protected by only a few men and youths with little training and not enough obsolete weapons to go around, and so soon after the Holocaust had made it all too clear that threats of intent to wipe a nation of the face of the earth are not empty? That’s when my first novel, The Lonely Tree, was born. I don’t agree with its heroine, Tonia Shulman, but I understand her perfectly.

I have always kept a strong connection with my family and in writing the Olivia Series am revisiting my roots in Michigan. My ancestors were savers and I finally sifted through the big red box of diaries, letters, deeds, marriage certificates, etc. that for decades had moved with me from apartment to apartment but sat neglected in the corner.

The next book in the series will take me back to Dearborn and I know I will have a great time writing it.

So that’s my schizophrenic life - from the Midwest to the Middle East and back again.

Thank you Yael. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the Olivia series and can't wait for the third. Here's the cover description for Olivia, Mourning :
Olivia wants the 80 acres in far off Michigan that her father left to whichever of his offspring wants to stake a claim. As Olivia says, "I'm sprung off him just as much as Avis or Tobey."

The problem: she's seventeen, female, and it's 1841.

Mourning Free knows how to run a farm and Olivia has complete trust in him.

The problem: he’s black, the orphaned son of runaway slaves, and reluctant to travel and work with a white girl. He especially fears the slave catchers who patrol the free states, hunting fugitive slaves.

Not without qualms, they set off together. All goes well, despite the drudgery of survival in an isolated log cabin. Incapable of acknowledging her feelings for Mourning, Olivia thinks her biggest problem is her unrequited romantic interest in their young, single neighbor.

Then her world falls apart.

Strong-willed, vulnerable, and compassionate, Olivia is a compelling protagonist on a journey to find a way to do the right thing in a world in which so much is wrong.

2013 Quarter-Finalist ABNA
2010 Book of the Year YWO

You can buy Olivia, Mourning here
 Barnes and Noble

Now here's the cover description for The Way The World Is:

Detroit Michigan, 1842  -  After the devastating trauma she suffered in Olivia, Mourning and finally knowing the reality with which she must deal, Olivia strives to rebuild herself – emotionally, socially, and financially.

She starts a new life in Detroit, the young and exciting city on a river where she has come to feel at home. New friends help the healing process, while she continues her search for the two people she loves, who have disappeared from her life. She finds the greatest solace in helping fugitive slaves escape over the river to Canada. She believes, as one of her new friends says, “In this time and place it is the most worthy thing a person can do.”

Olivia remains a compelling protagonist on a journey to find a way to do the right thing in a world in which so much is wrong.

You can buy The Way The World Is here: Amazon

You can find out more about Yael HERE

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Massacre Magazine Launches Today! Meet The Team...

Today sees the launch of a brand new magazine – an absolute treat for all horror fans. The much heralded Massacre Magazine is finally here and issue 1 is a real chiller-fest. I am delighted to be joined by Julia Roberts - who you will know better by her pen name Julia Kavan - and Steve Emmett – Joint Managing..well, we’ll find that out.

They’ve brought along their own special home brewed wine. I must say it is extremely red…quite an unusual consistency…and an unusual aroma. Hints of, well, iron if I’m honest. Almost like…No. Couldn’t be.

Anyway, down to business. Welcome Julia and Steve. I must say, I’ve been looking forward to this first issue ever since I learned that you were planning to launch Massacre Magazine. So, go on, spill, what can we expect from it? No, actually, first can you clarify your roles in this exciting development?

Julia & Steve: Thanks for having us along, Cat.

Steve: Do you want to explain, Julia? I daren’t risk putting my foot in it at the start.

Julia:*Sighs* Okay. No doubt you’ll be hard to shut up when you’ve finished that red...erm…beverage. As you know, Cat, Steve and I are very different people with a shared interest in horror and the dark side of things. In many situations I guess we wouldn’t be able to work together because he can be so disorganised I’d probably drive a stake through his black heart—

Steve: If I didn’t snap your broom handle and shove that—

Cat: Children! Don’t fight, or I’ll send you out to the cornfield.

Julia & Steve: Sorry.

Julia: Ahem! His good points are that he has so many ideas and is really multi-talented (much as it pains me to say it)—

*Cat looks daggers at Steve*

Julia:— as he’s got a lot of experience in business. But he does remind me of a headless corpse on speed at times. Steve and filing are about as compatible as oil and water.

Cat: And you’re the organised one?

Julia: Well, don’t sound so surprised! I’ve been teaching creative writing for local colleges for more than ten years and that requires organisation, I can tell you! So, Steve whizzes about like a Duracell Zombie, and I remain calm, catching all the good bits and gradually sticking it all together. Then he sweeps in and takes all the credit! NO! JOKE! I don’t mean that really!

Steve: Laugh if you want. See if I care. I’ve got the bottles, remember?

Cat: Are you on the second one already? *holds out empty glass* So, are you saying you don’t have strict roles?

Julia: Not really, no. We both write of the dark side, we can both edit and we both know how the other will react to something, so there is quite a bit of overlap. And despite his enormous ego we do consult each other on everything. So we came up with job titles that aren’t exactly the norm for the publishing industry. Steve is the Curator of Concepts, and I’m the Catcher of Souls.

Cat: *drains glass and gulps* I see.

Steve: It isn’t just us, either, but our Keeper of the Keys is by nature more secretive than the head of MI5 so you’ll never catch sight of him, not even at 3am in Highgate cemetery.

Cat: So, what made the two of you decide to create a magazine in the first place and how did you decide on the format?

Steve: Remember we come to this as horror writers with some modest publishing success, and we are both determined to push our writing to the limits. At present the publishing industry is in a mess. Over recent years we’ve noticed how horror has almost been forgotten. Personally, I blame sugary vampires like you see in Twilight which, of course, is not horror by any stretch of the imagination. Even some publishers who claim to be dark fantasy/horror seem to accept only horror light – or women’s fiction with a djinn added to the doylies. This is not horror.

Cat: Too true.

Julia: And this means there are lots of talented horror writers not getting published—

Steve: Which means that readers of horror are as hungry as caged werewolves.

Cat: I see. And the format?

Steve: Our first idea was to publish novels and novellas, but we really feel very strongly that there are too many digital publishers about who may make enough money for themselves but their individual writers are getting a rough deal. We did not want to join this club. In my former incarnation I built up a business over 25 years based on reputation. I am not the least interested in quick bucks and pissing people off. Our reputation means everything to us.

Julia: And even if this means we are regarded as old-fashioned, we really believe that a good author deserves a good agent and a good publisher. A deal that gets real books in genuine stores as well as the digital retailers. Yes, digital is massive and is growing, but if you are serious about your work and want to get your book to the biggest audience you do need to get noticed by the likes of The Guardian, The Times and even Richard and Judy. An eBook only release with some print-on-demand paperbacks will not get you there.

Steve: So we changed our plan and came up with the idea of a magazine that we can produce relatively cheaply, therefore sell cheaply, and get the authors some exposure and experience as a step towards that eventual big book deal. So we are not saying Massacre will make the authors rich or famous (nor us!) but that being in it just might be another piece of the complex puzzle.

 Cat: What would you say makes Massacre Magazine stand out from the crowd?

Julia: Well, what Steve said really. But add to that the fact that we are very selective, very particular about what we will publish. We’d rather miss an issue than put out something that doesn’t pass the horror test.

Steve: And we edit. No sticking a load of unedited stories together and pushing the button at Massacre, I can tell you.

 Cat: You invite contributions, but what are you looking for – and how should writers contact you?

Steve: The easiest way to contact us is via the contact form on our website. It’s here:  And there is a section on the site explaining what we are looking for and how to submit here:

Julia: Anyone thinking of submitting should think of the reader. We are filling what we see as a gap in the market, so we want short stories that push the boundaries. Forget ‘safe’ fiction. Make us recoil and tremble. Poetry also, and we will look at non-fiction articles for our Point of View section.

Cat: What sort of submissions don’t you want to receive?

Steve: Horror light, paranormal romance, women’s fiction, sparkly vampires, kind zombies.

 Cat: Your company is called ‘Massacre Publishing’, do you have any plans to branch out into other areas?

Julia: Well, we are not a ‘company’ just yet. But no, not immediately. I have a really heavy chain which I have to restrain Steve with from time to time when his head bursts with expansion plans. Right now we want to make Massacre Magazine the best of its kind. We have launched first on Kindle and will soon have print versions available, as well as adding other retailers.

Steve: But once we have two or three successful issues out there and have ironed out any problems – I do have some exciting ideas that will take this to a whole new—

*Julia sticks broom handle in Steve’s mouth*

Cat: So, how do readers sign up for the magazine?

Steve: Mmph, gmph, brgh.

Julia: We are working on a subscription package but that’s one thing we haven’t cracked yet. The best thing is to sign up for our newsletter to avoid missing an issue and you can do that via the site here  SIGN UP

Cat: Thanks for coming, guys. Wish you all the best with it.

Julia: Our pleasure, Cat.

Cat: You can get your Kindle copy of Issue 1 now here:

Julia: And we will announce other outlets shortly, including the print version.

Cat: Thanks. Now, if you keep that broom in his mouth we might be able to get another drink.