Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Pendle Curse - From Beyond The Grave, Vengeance is Theirs

I am delighted to announce that my latest novel, The Pendle Curse, is being published by Samhain - in ebook and paperback.

Four hundred years ago, ten convicted witches were hanged on Gallows Hill. Now they are back…for vengeance.

Laura Phillips’s grief at her husband’s sudden death shows no sign of passing. Even sleep brings her no peace. She experiences vivid, disturbing dreams of a dark, brooding hill, and a man—somehow out of time—who seems to know her. She discovers that the place she has dreamed about exists. Pendle Hill. And she knows she must go there.

But as soon as she arrives, the dream becomes a nightmare. She is caught up in a web of witchcraft and evil…and a curse that will not die.
Much of the action in The Pendle Curse takes place on the windwept and stormy Lancashire district know as Pendle Forest. This is ironic as very few trees can survive the harsh conditions.

When I visited there, while I was researching this book, I was treated to typical Pendle conditions. Rain lashed down - almost horizontally owing to the gale-force winds. Pendle Hill itself loomed ominously ahead, dark, forbidding.

This countryside remains little changed since 1612, when ten men and women met their untimely end, enduring the cruel and infamous 'short drop'.

Small wonder they vowed to pursue those who had wronged them...


The Pendle Curse is available for pre-order now:


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Dark Servant - the Other Side of Christmas (And Prizes For You!)

While fathers, pretty much across the globe, are dusting off their Santa suits in preparation for the fast-approaching festivities, another - much darker - figure makes his annual, scary, appearance to act as a warning to badly behaved children in Germany Austria and other parts of eastern Europe.

Now, my fellow Samhain horror author, Matt Manochio, has written a scary story all about this demonic creature, whose festival is celebrated on December 5th - Krampus Nacht.

So who was this beast who had the power to frighten children? Krampus is a horned, cloven-hoofed monster who in pre-Christian European cultured serves as the dark companion to Saint Nicholas, America’s Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas rewards good children and leaves bad ones to Krampus, who kidnaps and tortures kids unless they repent. 

 So dark and scary was he that the government of Austria banned him in the 1930s and even today there remains a debate as to whether Krampus really is suitable for children.

Matt joins me here for a chat about demons, writing and his career in journalism:

Cat: The Dark Servant centres on a legendary character called Krampus. I know of him through my interest in Austrian folklore, but how did you come across him and why did you decide to feature him?

Matt: My boss in December 2012 asked me if I’d ever heard of Krampus. I told him I had no idea what he was talking about and he directed me to www.Krampus.com. I was blown away. I loved the idea of Santa’s darker side being a merciless chain-wielding devil who kidnaps bad kids—and what amazed me the most was I had never heard of him until that day. I instantly thought “How many other Americans have no inkling that this legends exists?” I found little commercially published Krampus fiction—one book, actually—available in the United States. There were some self-published offerings, too. (Compare that to the literally thousands of vampire, werewolf and zombie novels for sale at any given moment.) I contacted my editor, Don D’Auria, and pitched a story setting Krampus in present-day New Jersey. He liked the idea and told me to go for it. And I did.

Cat: How would you describe your brand of horror and who have been your major influences?

Matt: The interesting thing is I’m not a horror devotee. I’ve read Stephen King, but don’t have bookshelves devoted to him. (But Salem’s Lot is one of my favorite books, ever.) I’ve probably read more of the late Michael Crichton’s books than any other thriller writer. I enjoy almost any kind of thriller—be they horror, straight crime, or techno, among others. If anything, the American humorist, Dave Barry, qualifies as one of my favorite writers. So, with that being said, I try blending humor into my writing (when appropriate).  

 Cat:You were an award-winning newspaper reporter. Tell us a little about that. What were the highlights/challenges and why did you decide to move away from that career?

Matt: I wrote for the Daily Record, a New Jersey-based newspaper, for 12 years before exiting the industry for securer employment. The print newspaper business, like many other forms of print media, is struggling to exist in a digital world. I was recently married and my wife and I just had our first child, so it was time to find a new job in 2011, and I’m glad I did, otherwise I might not have heard about Krampus from my new boss when I did. (Digression over.) As for my career, the highlights were meeting and writing about rock ‘n’ roll giants AC/DC for my newspaper and for USA Today. The challenges were covering truly horrible stories—children, teenagers and adults dying in horrible accidents, being killed in war, or being murdered. Seeing it on the news is one thing. Covering the cases, meeting and interviewing the grieving friends and family, is quite another. I’ll never forget those people. One of the duties I enjoyed the most about my journalism career was covering the trial courts. It’s much more procedural and lengthy than what is usually depicted on one hour of television, but to me it’s much more fascinating because it’s real.

Cat: Where do you find inspiration for your work and what is your writing process?

Matt: I can’t really say any one thing inspires me. Sometimes the ideas find you, or you get an idea and mull it over to the point where you want to put something on paper and play around. I’ve experienced both. As for my writing process: I get a story in my head, formulate a rough idea for an ending, and then I sit in front of my laptop computer and just let it fly. I don’t outline. I equate it to getting into a car, knowing where I want to go, but not having any idea how to get there, and then off I go. The adventure is in the driving.

Cat: What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned related to your writing?

Matt: The waiting is tedious. There’s waiting to hear from agents who you want to represent you. Once you get an agent—or even if you’d submitting to publishers on your own—there’s waiting to hear from editors who you think might enjoy your stories. In publishing, you’re going to hear more 'nos' than 'yeses'. And more times than not, the wait to hear those answers can be excruciating. And then when you finally get a deal, there’s the long wait to actual publication. I received a contract offer for my book in May 2013, and learned soon after that the planned publication date was November 2014—roughly 17 months away! Part of that was because of my book’s Christmas theme, so it made sense to wait for the holiday season. Had it not been a season-specific book, it perhaps would’ve published earlier. Still, even then you’re looking at a year-long wait. Sometimes during those waits, disaster can happen—like your publisher goes bankrupt and your first-ever book deal falls apart and you have to look for a new house. This happened to me. And I know it’s happened to others. Waiting truly sucks.

Cat: Which book do you wish you’d written?

Matt: Not a single one. I’m pleased to have written my own book, my own characters, and to have found a publisher willing to take a chance on me.

Cat: What are you working on now?

Matt: By the time this goes live on your blog, I will have re-submitted a full-length manuscript to my editor with changes/additions he requested. Hopefully that will lead to my followup to The Dark Servant. It’s a supernatural thriller set in the southern United States during Reconstruction, seven years after the Civil War. 

Cat: Thank you so much for being my guest, Matt, I wish you all the best with The Dark Servant and look forward to reading your new book.

Now, find out more about Matt's latest:

The Dark Servant, Synopsis

Santa's not the only one coming to town ...
It's older than Christ and has tormented European children for centuries. Now America faces its wrath. Unsuspecting kids vanish as a blizzard crushes New Jersey. All that remains are signs of destruction—and bloody hoof prints stomped in snow. Seventeen-year-old Billy Schweitzer awakes December 5 feeling depressed. Already feuding with his police chief father and golden boy older brother, Billy's devastated when his dream girl rejects him. When an unrelenting creature infiltrates his town, imperiling his family and friends, Billy must overcome his own demons to understand why his supposedly innocent high school peers have been snatched, and how to rescue them from a famous saint's ruthless companion—that cannot be stopped.
The Dark Servant is everything a thriller should be—eerie, original and utterly engrossing!” — Wendy Corsi Staub, New York Times bestselling author 

“Beautifully crafted and expertly plotted, Matt Manochio’s The Dark Servant has taken an esoteric fairy tale from before Christ and sets it in the modern world of media-saturated teenagers—creating a clockwork mechanism of terror that blends Freddy Krueger with the Brothers Grimm! Highly recommended!” — Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor

“Matt Manochio is a writer who’ll be thrilling us for many books to come.” — Jim DeFelice, New York Times bestselling co-author of American Sniper

“Matt Manochio has taken a very rare fairytale and turned it into a real page-turner. Matt has constructed a very real and believable force in Krampus and has given it a real journalistic twist, and he has gained a fan in me!” — David L. Golemon, New York Times bestselling author of the Event Group Series

"I scarcely know where to begin. Is this a twisted parental fantasy of reforming recalcitrant children? Is it Fast Times at Ridgemont High meets Nightmare on Elm Street? Is it a complex revision of the Medieval morality play? In The Dark Servant, Matt Manochio has taken the tantalizing roots of Middle Europe’s folklore and crafted a completely genuine modern American horror story. This is a winter’s tale, yes, but it is also a genuinely new one for our modern times. I fell for this story right away. Matt Manochio is a natural born storyteller.”— Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Savage Dead and Dog Days
“Just in time for the season of Good Will Toward Men, Matt Manochio’s debut delivers a fresh dose of Holiday Horror, breathing literary life into an overlooked figure of legend ready to step out of Santa’s shadow. Prepared to be thrilled in a new, old-fashioned way.” — Hank Schwaeble, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Damnable, Diabolical and The Angel of the Abyss

“In The Dark Servant, Manochio spins a riveting tale of a community under siege by a grotesque, chain-clanking monster with cloven-hooves, a dry sense of wit, and a sadistic predilection for torture. As Christmas nears and a snowstorm paralyzes the town, the terrifying Krampus doesn’t just leave switches for the local bullies, bitches, and badasses, he beats the living (editor’s note: rhymes with skit) out of them! Manochio balances a very dark theme with crackling dialogue, fast-paced action, and an engaging, small-town setting.” — Lucy Taylor, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Safety of Unknown Cities

“A fast-paced thrill-ride into an obscure but frightful Christmas legend. Could there be a dark side to Santa? And if so, what would he do to those kids who were naughty? Matt Manochio provides the nail-biting answer with The Dark Servant.”— John Everson, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Violet Eyes

“A high-octane blast of horror. A surefire hit for fans of monsters and gore.”— Mario Acevedo, author of Werewolf Smackdown 

“Have yourself a scary, nightmare-y little Christmas with The Dark Servant. Matt Manochio’s holiday horror brings old world charm to rural New Jersey, Krampus-style.” — Jon McGoran, author of Drift

You can buy The Dark Servant here:

 Tour Giveaway!
Two ways to Win!
For everyone:

Step one - CREATE a PINTEREST board by choosing one of the following themes: 

Krampus, Old World Legends, Vintage Holiday, Old World Christmas, Christmas Around the World, Traditions and Legends,  Myths, Monsters, and Horror, or something very similar.

And a board about Matt:
Step Two: You must pin Matt's book cover and Amazon purchase link or Samhain Horror Purchase link. 

Step Three: Follow Matt Manochio and Erin Al-Mehairi.

Recommendation: Extra points for pinning extra things about Matt, such as tour page, articles, etc.

Your board will be judged on the above PLUS your creativity and effort in the project! Send Erin at hookofabook@hotmail.com your Pinterest page to enter by Dec. 8. Of course you can continue to use it through the Holiday if you wish!


 A "Santa Checked His List and I'm on the Naughty Side" package. This will include your choice of Krampus themed apparel (t-shirt or sweatshirt, men or women, visuals to come) and a signed paperback of the book*.

  Giveaway for Reviewers:

Anyone on the tour, or outside the tour, who reviews The Dark Servant on Amazon and GoodReads and sends their review link into Erin (Publicist for Matt Manochio) at hookofabook@hotmail.com, now through Dec. 31, 2014, will be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card.

Photo Credit: Eric Schnare
 Matt Manochio, Biography

Matt Manochio is the author of The Dark Servant (Samhain Publishing, November 4, 2014). He is a supporting member of the Horror Writers Association, and he hates writing about himself in the third person but he’ll do it anyway.

He spent 12 years as an award-winning newspaper reporter at the Morris County, N.J., Daily Record, and worked for one year as an award-winning page designer at the Anderson, S.C., Independent-Mail. He currently works as a full-time editor and a freelance writer.

The highlights of his journalism career involved chronicling AC/DC for USA Today: in 2008, when the band kicked off its Black Ice world tour, and in 2011 when lead singer Brian Johnson swung by New Jersey to promote his autobiography. For you hardcore AC/DC fans, check out the video on my YouTube channel.
To get a better idea about my path toward publication, please read my Writer's Digest guest post: How I Sold My Supernatural Thriller.

Matt’s a dedicated fan of
bullmastiffs, too. (He currently doesn't own one because his house is too small. Bullmastiff owners understand this all too well.)
Matt doesn’t have a favorite author, per se, but owns almost every Dave Barry book ever published, and he loves blending humor into his thrillers when warranted. Some of his favorite books include Salem’s Lot, Jurassic Park, The Hobbit, Animal Farm, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

When it comes to writing, the only advice he can give is to keep doing it, learn from mistakes, and regardless of the genre, read Chris Roerden’s Don’t Sabotage Your Submission (2008, Bella Rosa Books).

Matt grew up in New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and son. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in history/journalism.

See more about Matt and his book on his website: Matt Manochio 
and follow him on:
(*There might be shipping limitations. Check back to tour page before entering if you live outside the U.S. for updated information.)

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

They Walk Among Us...

...but witches and those who follow the Wiccan way are still misunderstood. 

Recently, I was in conversation with somebody about my new book, due to be released on February 3rd next year. The Pendle Curse centres on the Lancashire Witches. Okay, I write horror, so my Pendle witches are a right evil lot as you might imagine. In reality, they were most likely two families who hated each other and others who got caught up in the melee. Witches? Maybe, but probably in the old sense of being 'wise' - at least as far as the women were concerned.

"All witches are in league with the devil," my acquaintance said, mouth pursed, jaw set. "They worship satan."

I disagreed and stated my case, but sad to say, this person would not be swayed. Her opinions on the matter were set in concrete. Reinforced concrete at that.

But, you see, witches don't worship satan because the devil, as we know 'him' today, is a Christian concept. 


 Did you know that the 2012 census revealed 83 declared witches living in Wales? Apparently that puts Wales ahead of anywhere else in the UK and makes it, unofficially at least, the witch capital of Great Britain. I live (for the most part) in north Wales and I haven’t (knowingly) met one here yet. My neck of the woods is a small, semi-rural community where pretty much everybody knows everyone else and has done all their lives. But would they even know if any of their number practised witchcraft – whether for good or ill? Just because there are 83 witches in Wales, does that mean evil abounds?  Oh, and by the way, there are a reputed 93 satanists living in Wales. Different group of people entirely.
In 2010, Dyfed and Powys police reported 11 incidents involving alleged ‘witches’ over the previous five years (mind you, they also reported one alleged werewolf, two vampires, two zombies and a collection of ghosts). It seems some members of the public have vivid imaginations (possibly, or possibly not in direct proportion to the amount of alcohol or other substances they have consumed). 

At least one Welsh church minister - Rev Felix Aubel, who looks after five congregational parishes in Carmarthenshire – has claimed that a parishioner of his was cursed so badly by a witch he had to call in an exorcist. According to a Telegraph report a couple of years ago, the incident happened in 1994 and was a result of ‘envy that had turned to jealousy’. He claimed the witch had used a poppet – a doll fashioned to look like the intended victim - into which pins had been stuck. The services of an experienced Anglican exorcist were employed to remove the curse.

Rev Aubel also stated that he had himself been the victim of the ‘evil eye’ during his ministry and had also known of this practice being inflicted on a mother who had recently given birth. Evidently a spinster neighbour resented her maternal happiness and looked at her in an evil way. Soon after, both mother and baby were hospitalised owing to 'breathlessness', for which no cause could be found. Both recovered and the mother then placed a horseshoe amulet in the porch of her home to protect herself and her child.

The minister asserted that it was his view that belief in the dark arts escalated during times of hardship – such as the recent recessions. He was also quoted in the Daily Mail as saying he thought such practices “mumbo jumbo”, but they were dangerous because of the negative effect they had on people who believed in them. 

My issue here is not with the potentially harmful effects (whether psychosomatic or otherwise) of those who deliberately seek out to do others harm, but that they, along with those who might more accurately be termed Wiccan and those who prefer the term ‘white witch’, are all lumped together in one boiling cauldron of evil. Great for those of us who write horror fiction, but not helpful or fair on those who are merely attracted to the Old Religion based on nature and the seasons. Many witches subscribe to the law of threefold return, which means that if a witch does intentional harm, so will harm be visited on her threefold. Quite a deterrent! But that’s just my opinion. I am not a witch of any persuasion and I leave it to those who are to state their case far more eloquently than I could ever do.

 At around the same time as Rev Aubel was promoting his book, A Rebel’s Story, the Bishop of Monmouth was reported in ‘Anglican Ink’ as being concerned about “black magic” rituals allegedly being conducted in churches and graveyards by “devotees of Wicca in Wales”. Now, whether the Bishop (Dominic Walker) intended to include ‘Wicca’ and ‘black magic’ in the same sentence, or whether he was misreported, is unclear, but whichever is the case, it is another example of how wires become crossed - even in today’s supposedly more enlightened times. Black - or shall we say harmful - magic is anathema to a Wiccan. And, by the way, witches may or may not be Wiccan.

So why are there apparently more witches in Wales?

Author of Haunted Clwyd – Richard Holland - has said he believes the reason lies in history. While Scotland and England saw a frenzy of witch trials and associated burnings and hangings, Wales remained relatively unscathed, with a more tolerant attitude towards non-Christian/traditional religions and beliefs, possibly owing to the tradition of Druidry, There is something about the mystical in Wales. Never forget that arguably the most sacred of the stones of Stonehenge came from this country

 Not that Wales escaped the witch hunts entirely. One Welshwoman who did fall foul of the beliefs and practices of the times was Gwen fferch Ellis of Betwys-yn-Rhos near Conwy, She was accused of leaving a charm in the house of Sir Thomas Mostyn and was taken to Flint Castle. Neighbours claimed she had harmed them through her witchcraft and she was tried and convicted at Denbighshire Great Sessions in 1594. She was found guilty of witchcraft and sentenced to be hanged. The house she is supposed to have left her fatal charm in – Gloddaeth Hall– still remains to this day (although it is now known as St David’s College). Gwen was extremely unfortunate, being one of only five witches executed in Wales for witchcraft during the 16th and 17th centuries. The total Europe-wide for that period was in excess of 100,000, of which there were around 1000 in England alone.

It would appear that, generally, people regarded witches in their community as the ‘wise women’. The ones who knew enough about herbs to be able to create a potion to cure many maladies, not just in humans but in their valuable animals too. That had been pretty much the case for centuries in the rest of the UK as well, until the Middle Ages brought a change in attitude when the belief grew that witches had made a pact with the devil.

 Whether or not Wales really does have more witches per head of population than anywhere else in the UK is, in my opinion, irrelevant. Contrary to what some people might believe, they are not running rampant around the countryside desecrating churches and worshipping Satan. They don’t generally have hooked noses, wear pointy hats or fly around on broomsticks. They may or may not live alone. They may or may not have a cat. Black or otherwise. If so, their cat does not commune with the devil and his imps. A witch may be standing next to you in Sainsbury’s, sitting next to you as you commute to work. They may even be working with you. Right now. Because witches are just like anyone else, except they may have a more acute awareness of nature and the changing seasons - and they may celebrate these in a different way, but always with reverence and love. Never with desecration.