Thursday, 12 November 2015

The Devil's Serenade - Revealed

 The Devil's Serenade

 Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she’s about to remember…

When Maddie Chambers inherits her Aunt Charlotte’s Gothic mansion, old memories stir of the long-forgotten summer she turned sixteen. She has barely moved in before a series of bizarre events drives her to question her sanity.

The strains of her aunt’s favorite song echo through the house, the roots of a faraway willow creep through the cellar, a child who cannot exist skips from room to room, and Maddie discovers Charlotte kept many deadly secrets.

Gradually, the barriers in her mind fall away, and Maddie begins to recall that summer when she looked into the face of evil. Now, the long dead builder of the house has unfinished business and an ancient demon is hungry. Soon it is not only Maddie’s life that is in danger, but her soul itself, as the ghosts of her past shed their cover of darkness.

 My new novel will be released by Samhain in April and sees me return to the theme of a sinister Gothic house. Here, the evil owner - Nathaniel Hargest - has left a vile and deadly legacy, involving a seemingly innocuous wartime melody, and an impossible tree. Why is it impossible? Well, here's an extract (as yet unedited):

Its gnarled bark looked knotted in parts and, in others, wrinkled and even stripped away. The center of the massive trunk was half hollowed out, scorched and withered from the lightning strike that no one could remember even when I was a child. Thick branches curved downward, interweaving with each other, some striking upward, others merely inches off the ground; one or two lay almost flat. It was a miracle tree in some ways. With such awful damage, it really should have died, but its will to live had proved too strong for that.”

It had spawned its own branches which grew horizontally, entwined with each other and disappeared into the lush undergrowth behind the tree. Indian mallow and clinging ivy grew here in profusion.”

 The above photograph shows the inspiration for this tree - albeit, as any writer would, I have played fast and loose with it for the purposes of telling a scary story. A good friend of mine told me willows are unique. They have a heart. Maybe that is why, whenever I sit on that long branch, I can feel some kind of power surging through it.

On a warm summer day last year, I was sitting on that very branch, musing, listening to the excited babble of the river when it shuddered beneath me - a strange kind of rippling - even though there was nothing to cause it. Certainly no strong gust of wind. At that moment, an idea formed in my mind...and from nowhere, I seemed to hear the strains of Glenn Miller and his Orchestra playing Serenade in Blue...

  The rest? You will have to read it for yourself! Next spring. When the birds are chirruping... bees are buzzing...butterflies dance from flower to flower, and all seems right with the world. Unless you dig below the surface and find the evil that lurks beneath.

The Devil's Serenade will be available in the usual ebook formats and also print.

Huge thanks to the amazing cover artist, Scott Carpenter for - once again - reading my mind, interpreting my ideas and getting it spot on. Take a bow, Scott!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Don D'Auria - The Editor Who Changed My Life

“Welcome to the Samhain family…”

I stared long and hard at those words. They danced around the ipad screen as I turned it one way, then another. But, whether vertical or horizontal – or on their way in between – those magical words flashed across my stunned and disbelieving brain.

“Welcome to the Samhain family...”

The first sound I managed was a sort of squawky yelp that sent my cat diving for cover under the nearest chair and my husband dashing into the room to find out what on earth I’d done to myself.

Incoherent, I jabbed my finger at the screen and thrust the ipad at him. He read the email that had just changed my life.

“Oh, well done,” he said, giving me a big hug and kiss. “I knew you could do it.”

So, what had I done to create all this excitement?

Well, “Samhain” referred to Samhain Publishing – who are celebrating their 10 anniversary this very week. Happy Birthday Samhain! The person who had written the lifechanging email was in sole charge of their entire horror line, Don D’Auria. Don’s editorial pedigree would rival any in the business and outclasses most – certainly in horror - if truth be told. He has worked with many of the greats – including one of my heroes, multi-award winning master British horror author, Ramsey Campbell.

 And Don D’Auria, of all people, had picked a story I had written to be one of four winners of the Samhain Gothic Anthology Competition.

I had to remind myself how to breathe. In…out…in…out… I swear it was a real effort in those first few heady minutes.

My winning novella – Linden Manor – was specially written for the competition. When I saw the details, I knew I had to enter. Gothic, ghostly, creepy houses, with dark corners and mysterious, sinister histories have always been the stuff of my favourite reading and writing. The anthology was called, What Waits in the Shadows, and within a day or two I had the germ of a storyline. It grew organically and virtually wrote itself, the way some stories do. 

 I was further stunned when I read the other winning entries – Blood Red Roses by Russell James, Castle by the Sea by JG Faherty and Bootleg Cove by Devin Govaere. Fabulous, creepy. Scary and Gothic. Each one original and individual. I was in esteemed company.

Coincidentally, a day or so before I received the stunning email from Don, I had submitted a full length novel manuscript – Saving Grace Devine – a ghostly horror tale with a timeslip. I mentioned this in my ecstatic reply and within 24 hours, Don had come back to me. He loved it. He was offering me a contract!
 All my Christmasses and birthdays had arrived at once.

Working with Don is such a pleasure. He never tries to imprint your work with his stamp. As a result, Samhain has benefited from having some for the most original, daring, entertaining and diverse modern horror writing around. Over the past four years, he has built up an amazing body of work from a hugely talented bunch of authors, including some of today’s hot new names.

I have had the privilege of working with him on a further novel – The Pendle Curse – and a novella – Dark Avenging Angel. In both cases, his suggestions were always spot on and he never once tried to alter, amend or in any way change my ‘voice’.

 Sadly, joy turned to shock yesterday with the news that this will be Don’s last week with Samhain but, wherever he moves onto, his knack for finding talent, nurturing it and letting it grow and bloom will, I am sure, continue - I hope for many more years to come. I certainly trust that I will again have the pleasure and the privilege of working with him. Indeed, I look forward to it.

Whatever happens in the future, I shall always be able to point to four works of mine and turn to the page that reads, ‘Edited by Don D’Auria’.

As a horror writer, I can’t say better than that.

Thank you, Don. I know it sounds over-dramatic, but to have someone with your reputation believe in me has been, for me, truly life-changing.