Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Bell Bottoms, Slade and Cadbury's Smash. It's the Seventies!

 I’m at that deliciously exciting stage of planning my next story. It’s far too soon to decide whether it will be a novel or a 30,000-40,000 word novella, but a couple of things are now firmly set in concrete:

 *It will be a horror story (now there’s a surprise!)

 *It will be largely set in 1972-73 in Leeds, West Yorkshire

A trio of other points are set in what could be best termed lumpy porridge:

  • The twist-in-the-tale ending (you don’t honestly think I’m sharing that with you now, do you?)
  • The main (female) character and her three room-mates
  • A working title – The Darkest Veil

As some of you know, I’m having medical issues at present and am not able to spend as much time at my desk as usual. This means I have to seek alternative ways to get on with my work. The horror and plot of the story will develop in due course when I am able to get back to my normal way of working. Right now, in order to ensure an appropriate sense of time and place for my story, I need to do some ‘set dressing’ – include authentic references to products in everyday use, events, fashions, music and the general day to day ingredients of the world my characters inhabit. So, blessed with an impressive collection of historical reference books, I’ve been saturating myself in early Seventies social history and the memories have come flooding back.

So, for those of you who remember the early 1970s, prepare for a splash of nostalgia. For those of you too young to remember, suspend your disbelief…

 Remember how we shopped for soft, flowing maxi dresses in Wallis, Dorothy Perkins, Richard Shops and C & A. And what about those horrible communal changing rooms, where you had to think carefully about whether you’d put on a bra that didn’t look as if it had been washed with a load of grey clothes! Not to mention whether you’d shaved under your arms in the last month. Never mind though, you could always Immac away that unwanted hair. I can still remember the stink of that stuff!

Make up. We applied it thickly. Eyeshadow creased within minutes, eyeliner caked, mascara dripped. Miners, with its bright colours. Gala, which was highly perfumed and used to sting. Good old Rimmel - still with us after all these years. When we walked into the room it was to the aromatic accompaniment of the rather insipid Tweed, Aqua Manda’s chocolate-orange, Mary Quant’s Patchouli or the floral tones of Blue Grass. We cleansed our faces with piles of cotton wool and Anne French Cleansing Milk, treated our spots with Clearasil and had a weekly facial with LemPak (which set like cement and cracked if you so much as blinked).

 We coloured our hair with Harmony or Sea Witch which conveniently washed out after 6-8 weeks (handy is you were experimenting and didn’t really want that bright orange hair). Actually it was 6-8 washes, but we only washed our hair once a week.

We fell off our increasingly high platform boots (which should have come with a Health and Safety warning), all looked the same with our identical midi haircuts (which took ages to grow out once the style had gone out of fashion), fell over our bell bottoms, and read Honey and 19 magazines.

 For many of us, our first taste of ‘exotic’ food came courtesy of a Vesta Ready Meal. These dried food packets came in a variety of flavours – Beef Curry, Chop Suey, Paella, Chow Mein, Beef Italienne and more. To those of us raised on a plain British diet of meat and two veg, with suet pudding for afters, this was an adventure. For those of us in bedsit land with no refrigeration, they were a godsend. And who remembers the Harvey’s Duo Cans? Beef or Chicken Curry in one end and boiled rice in the other. You just heated them up and tucked in. Delicious.

 Mashed potato also came as a dried powder, as did milk (remember Marvel? Coffee Mate?), and Surprise dried peas alternated with their dried runner beans to provide a dubiously nutritious accompaniment to our Fray Bentos individual steak and kidney pudding.

We bought our boyfriends Hai Karate aftershave for Christmas, because they were bored with Brut, and took our lemonade and cider bottles back to the shop to get the promised money back. Those few pence soon added up. That’s what I call a real incentive for recycling!

 We probably listened to the Bay City Rollers (I hated them!), David Cassidy, David Bowie, Rod Stewart and Slade (Abba would come along a couple of years later) and our transistor radios ate up the batteries (some things don’t really change).

In the UK, our TVs gave us the choice of three – yes THREE – channels. None of which were on all day and most went off around midnight during the week. Most of us watched on Black and white. Colour TV was still a novelty and very expensive. Even monochrome TVs cost so much most people rented them. DER, Granada, Radio Rentals and Visionhire all rubbed shoulders on every High Street and there was enough TV rental trade for all. Videos were still unheard of.

 Ah, yes. Those were the days!

For the first time, a generation of young women were leaving home and living in bedsits. They were leading independent lives and ‘going on the Pill’. They went down to the pub and drank lager and lime or Pernod and blackcurrant, worked in offices where they slaved over chunky manual typewriters or, if they were lucky, the slightly less chunky electric ones. Bosses were male and women were still largely expected to marry, get pregnant, leave work and raise children. The choice was still career, or marriage with children. Rarely both.

 In my case, I remember vividly my first job at the Midland Bank Trust Company in Leeds. I was bored and fed up of seeing males come into the office only to be promoted over my head and given more interesting work to do, when – all too often – I was given the filing. I looked for a job that would help me develop a real career and found one – working in newspaper advertising. I duly handed in my notice and all hell broke loose. Evidently, the Bank was trying to present itself as an Equal Opportunity employer (really?) and for me to resign placed a black mark against them in the eyes of Head Office. They did all they could to persuade me to stay, culminating in me being summoned to the Manager’s office.

From behind a cloud of Silk Cut cigarette smoke, the man I had been instructed to call, ‘Sir’ said, ‘Don’t you ever want to get married and have children?’

I stared at him, then replied, ‘I’m only 19 years old, sir. I want a career.’

He had no reply and I left – both his office and the Midland (ironically, it was called ‘the listening bank’ in those days!). I went onto develop a successful career, in a far less male dominated environment - with better pay and prospects. Oh – and no filing!

So while I’m enjoying my trip back to the Seventies, if I’m ever tempted to say I’d like to go back there for real, all I have to do is remember that bigoted boss - so typical of the time - and the rose tinted glasses fall off.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Of Witches, Vengeance and Supernatural Horror...

Don't hurt Jane - you may live to regret it

Bullied by her abusive father, Jane always felt different. Then the lonely child found a friend in a mysterious dark lady who offers her protection—a lady she calls her “angel”. But that protection carries a terrible price, one to be paid with the souls of those Jane chooses to suffer a hideous and eternal fate.

When Jane refuses to name another victim, the angel reveals her most terrifying side. Payment must be made in full—one way or the other.

"Dark Avenging Angel is a fantastic read. This novel will consume you and your free time. It is a standout story that reminds me why I love horror literature." – Jukko, Horror Underground

“I have not felt this excited by a horror since reading Susan Hill. I look forward to reading more from this hugely talented author.” – Ajoobacats Blog

"I would definitely recommend this book if you are looking for a scarier read." - Fictional Candy  

"Dark Avenging Angel is a beautiful and haunting horror story." - The Bibliographic Book Blog

Available from
 Samhain Publishing

 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.  

"The final act unfolds that is nothing shy of spell binding and is worth the price of admission alone. I for one look forward to embarking upon further reading adventures with this tremendously talented author" - Horrornews.net

"If you love a great story with witches and things that go bump in the night, you need to try this one!" - Long and Short Reviews

"The Pendle Curse is one of the best witch stories I've ever read." Majanka Verstraete, I Heart Reading

"It had it all, witches, cauldrons, spells, familiars, curses and more. I really enjoyed this one and ended up reading it in one sitting. I will definitely be reading more from this author in the future." - Scarlet's Web

"I would recommend The Pendle Curse, and any of Catherine's other books, to those who enjoy suspense and supernatural." - Saguaro Moon Reviews
Available from:
 Samhain Publishing

 Can the living help the dead...and at what cost?

When Alex Fletcher finds a painting of a drowned girl, she’s unnerved. When the girl in the painting opens her eyes, she is terrified. And when the girl appears to her as an apparition and begs her for help, Alex can’t refuse.

But as she digs further into Grace’s past, she is embroiled in supernatural forces she cannot control, and a timeslip back to 1912 brings her face to face with the man who killed Grace and the demonic spirit of his long-dead mother. With such nightmarish forces stacked against her, Alex’s options are few. Somehow she must save Grace, but to do so, she must pay an unimaginable price.

 "Prepare to be terrified! Prepare to be captivated!" -  Mallory Heart Reviews

If you love Gothic literature, Cat's the new author on the prowl... - Oh! For The Hook of a Book

"Wonderfully creepy" -  Reading the Paranormal
Available from

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

 Joint winner of the Samhain Gothic Horror Anthology Competition 2013

All her life, Lesley Carpenter has been haunted by a gruesome nursery rhyme—“The Scottish Bride”—sung to her by her great grandmother. To find out more about its origins, Lesley visits the mysterious Isobel Warrender, the current hereditary owner of Linden Manor, a grand house with centuries of murky history surrounding it. 

But her visit transforms into a nightmare when Lesley sees the ghost of the Scottish bride herself, a sight that, according to the rhyme, means certain death. The secrets of the house slowly reveal themselves to Lesley, terrible secrets of murder, evil and a curse that soaks the very earth on which Linden Manor now stands. But Linden Manor has saved its most chilling secret for last. 
 "A memorable ghost story needs two things: a chilling backstory and a terminally isolated setting. Luckily Linden Manor fulfills both requirements so well that I didn't want to stop reading." Long and Short Reviews

"There are some TRULY terrifying features, and characters, in this story. So I finished it this morning, in daylight - and I'm STILL scared!" - Mallory Heart Reviews

"Cavendish brings ghostly ancient legends of the land back with her gothic tale."-  Oh! For the Hook of a Book

Available from
 Samhain Publishing 

 and in the anthology - What Waits In The Shadows

Available from:


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Are You Ready for the End of the World?

I am delighted to welcome fellow horror author, Hunter Shea to my blog today. He has a fabulous new book out - Tortures of the Damned - and you can read my review of it later. For now though, it's over to Hunter:

Tortures of the Damned is not for the faint of heart. 
Hell, when you get down to it, Armageddon tends to favor the strong. I’m not talking big muscles strong. It’s the kind of strength that comes from the soul.

The original title of the book was Run Like Hell. And that’s exactly how it was written. Each small chapter is a fast-paced sprint to the finish line, except in the world I created for my characters, the finish line is always shifting, never in clear sight. They know what they’re running from – bombs, infection, rabid animals – but never exactly sure where to, other than anywhere but here.  

Each time I sat down to write Tortures of the Damned, I felt as if I’d done a fifty yard dash. I really, really got into my work.  My heart raced, my fingers flying over the keyboard so fast, the typos piling up like stacks of bricks. I talked out loud, making my cats look at me funnier than usual. I frightened myself by researching the types of weapons already out there, realizing how close we all are to a terrible end. Sometimes I had to get up and pace, pondering what awful obstacle to place in the way of the decent, honest characters I’d created. 

That was the hardest part – putting good people through the Devil’s wringer. The Padilla family is a close-knit bunch. They’re not perfect, but they’re also against typecast in today’s world because the parents love each other and the children aren’t runways or sneaking pot when they can. Yes, functional families do exist! And in my mind, that foundation is what gave them the fortitude to press on when everything around them has gone insane. 

The end times are brutal, and I didn’t want to skirt any of the tough issues the Padillas would have to face. I chose Yonkers because it’s close to a major target, New York City, has a very diverse population with its share of serious issues on the best of days, and most importantly, was involved with the parking garage bombing of the World Trade Center in the 90s. Fear and distrust are an underlying current there, no matter how hard people try to ignore it. It’s a big city, with all kinds of little pockets where anything can happen. The layout of the city plays a big part in how the horrors unfold. I know, the mayor of Yonkers isn’t giving me the key to the city any time soon. My wife did grow up with him, though. 

Killing dead things shambling about is easy. When the real shit hits the fan, we’ll wish for zombies. 


First, the electricity goes—plunging the east coast in darkness after a devastating nuclear attack. Millions panic. Millions die. They are the lucky ones.


Next, the chemical weapons take effect—killing or contaminating everything alive. Except a handful of survivors in a bomb shelter. They are the damned.


Then, the real nightmare begins. Hordes of rats force two terrified families out of their shelter—and into the savage streets of an apocalytic wasteland. They are not alone. Vicious, chemical-crazed animals hunt in packs. Dogs tear flesh, cats draw blood, horses crush bone. Roaming gangs of the sick and dying are barely recognizable as human. These are the times that try men’s souls. These are the tortures that tear families apart. This is hell on earth. The rules are simple: Kill or die.

“A lot of splattery fun.”—Publishers Weekly

“Harrowing, bloodsoaked.” —Jonathan Janz, Author of The Nightmare Girl

“Frightening, gripping.”—Night Owl Reviews

“Old school horror.” —Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author

I loved Tortures of the Damned. Here's my review:

"I love Hunter Shea’s books. His characters leap off the page. You suffer with them, fight in their corner, feel their fear – the whole package. The premise of this story centres on a post-apocalyptic, world where some cataclysmic episode has wiped out most of humanity and turned other living creatures into raving, rampaging killing machines. In this world, the lucky ones were those who were killed instantly. Those who survived, but were contaminated by the chemical cloud, become fatally sick – but death comes hard. Most of the main characters in the story were unscathed, because they took refuge in a fallout shelter. For them, the torture of fighting for survival with the odds stacked skyscraper-high against them, certainly earns them the title of this book, for they truly are the damned.

Suspense, terror and a plot that screams out to be filmed. Tortures of the Damned had me hooked from the first page and never let go until the end. And the ending was, for my money, well worthy of the story. Excellent."

Hunter Shea, Biography

Hunter Shea is the author of the novels The Montauk Monster, Sinister Entity, Forest of Shadows, Swamp Monster Massacre, and Evil Eternal. His stories have appeared in numerous magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Morpheus Tales and the Cemetery Dance anthology, Shocklines : Fresh Voices in Terror.

His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on. He lives in New York with his family and vindictive cat. He waits with Biblical patience for the Mets to win a World Series. You can read about his latest travails and communicate with him at www.huntershea.com.


You can purchase Tortures of the Damned in mass market paperback at more retail stores nationwide, as well as bookstores, both independent and chain.

You can also buy online at:


One signed book from Hunter Shea of winner’s choice (or e-book) and a bookmark.