Wednesday 17 October 2018

Dark Doings in Deepest Berkshire - with Shehanne Moore

My guest today is historical author Shehanne Moore. I love her books, which combine adventure with feisty characters, humour and a flavour of the Gothic:
    "As God is my witness, this property shall ne’er be inherited by two direct successors, for its sons will be hounded by misfortune." 

                                                                                By Shehanne Moore.

As God is mine I must say I was heartily glad to read the following….

‘Berkshire is a place of mystery, myth and legend. The county abounds with strange tales of ghostly phantoms, ferocious creatures, kings & knights, witchcraft, treasure and more.’

Why was I glad? Because it’s never easy coming to the wonderfully chilling blog of Gothic horror writer, Catherine Cavendish. Certainly NOT when you write romance,  even when it's slightly Gothic romance.  Thank you so very much Cat for inviting me. despite this.  

Not only is my recently re-released book Loving Lady Lazuli set in Berkshire - phew-there was a ton of tales to choose from. 

So it said online anyway which was why I was initially drawn to the ‘most haunted’ Shaw House but the most interesting thing there I could find was the true story of how the Duke of Chandos took as his wife, a beautiful chambermaid who was being sold off by her husband in an inn yard with a halter round her neck.  

Not just shades of Thomas Hardy’s, The Mayor of Casterbridge but proof that the business of dukes marrying what might be construed as women who were well below their social status….as happens in Lazuli and indeed in a lot of historical romance… is not as daft as all that.

 Moving on though, through covens of witches and headless men, I came to the story of Bisham Abbey...I guess apposite again as Barwych Hall in the book is based on Mount Grace Priory in Yorkshire.  However, the Bisham monks were so furious at Henry VIII for ‘dissolving them,’ they cursed the ancient building.  

And indeed…as in another follow through from the book, sort of anyway…the sons of Bisham’s many different owners didn’t just fall down dead, they were beheaded, they died young, they were killed in world wars—and, as in the case of young William Hoby, they had some help from their mother. In this case, the widowed Lady Elizabeth who had such high standards of education,  she not only beat young William to bits and locked him in the Tower Room to do his lessons all over again, she quite forgot, despite being so brilliant herself, that she’d done it, clearing off to Windsor for several days of dancing and banqueting. A very merry widow to all accounts.  After all, weren’t there servants for tiresome things like children after all? 

At least Lady Elizabeth thought so, so she was really quite astonished on returning home to find that everyone thought William was with her…. 

I think we all know what’s coming next.

But did William exist at all? There’s documented evidence for Anne, the Chandos' chambermaid bride. But William? 

Well, firstly the fact that there’s no genealogical evidence to show he did exist, doesn’t always mean a thing. Not all records survive.  And the Hobys had other estates where his birth could have been recorded. 

"Proof" of William’s existence is sort of provided by the discovery in 1840, during renovations, of copy books containing blots on every page, corrections by the ‘wicked lady‘ herself and the name, William Hoby. Alas, I say ‘sort of’ because these copy books sort of then disappeared. Maybe Lady Hoby stole them...? a bit like my jewel thieves in the book. 

However 1840 was the point where the son first became known as William. Till then he’d just been a nameless son, like you get these nameless, headless horsemen. Lady Hoby did indeed have a son…Francis…who died young in unknown circumstances, at the time she had remarried and her surname was then Russell. 

You pays your money you takes your chances, I’d say on truth and legend mixing to become one…or the other.

Whether or not Lady Hoby caused her son’s death as said,  the Abbey is known to be one of the most haunted houses in Britain, certainly the most haunted in Berkshire and that haunting is done by her apparently grief-stricken self, dressed in black lace and white, washing her hands  a la  Lady Macbeth.   She tears curtains, throws things. But mostly she just sobs and leaves lights up in the Tower Room. Some people think she causes the mists that wreath the Abbey and until 1936 she especially liked to come out for coronations.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little venture to the darker side and won’t be afraid to visit the Abbey… 

Talking ghosts… here’s the blurb for Loving Lady Lazuli.

A woman not even the ghost of Sapphire can haunt. A man who knows exactly who she is.

Only one man in England can identify her. Unfortunately he’s living next door.
Ten years ago sixteen year old Sapphire, the greatest jewel thief England has ever known, ruined Lord Devorlane Hawley’s life by planting a stolen necklace on him.  Now she’s dead and buried, all Cassidy Armstrong wants is the chance to prove she was never that girl. 

But her new neighbor is hell-bent on revenge and his word can bring her down. So when he asks her to be his mistress, or leave the county with a price on her head, Sapphire, who hates being owned, must decide...  

What’s left for a woman with nowhere else to go, but to stay exactly where she is?

And hope, that when it comes to neighbors Devorlane Hawley won’t prove to be the one from hell.

About the author

 When not cuddling inn signs in her beloved Scottish mountains alongside Mr Shey, Shehanne Moore writes dark and smexy historical romance, featuring bad boys who need a bad girl to sort them out. She firmly believes everyone deserves a little love, forgiveness and a second chance in life.

Shehanne caused general apoplexy when she penned her first story, The Hore House Mystery—aged seven. From there she progressed to writing plays for her classmates,  stories for her classmates, plays for real, comic book libraries for girls, various newspaper articles,  ghost writing, nonfiction writing, and magazine editing.  Stories for real were  what she really wanted to write though and, having met with every rejection going, she sat down one day to write a romance, her way. 

You can connect with Shehanne here:


Tuesday 9 October 2018

Why Does It Have To Be Snakes? With Russell James

I am delighted to welcome Russell James as my guest today. He writes brilliant horror stories, fast-paced and edge of your seat reading. I really love his series of novellas featuring paleontologist Grant Coleman and environmentalist Janaina Silva. Their latest adventure is out now - Curse of the Viper King. Here's Russell to talk about it:

 Why does it have to be snakes?

 So Indiana Jones laments in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the audience gets it. People generally do not like snakes. Maybe it’s the slit eyes. Maybe it’s the scales. Maybe it’s the creepy legless locomotion. Even the writers of the Bible, in Act One, human being Scene One, make the snake in the Garden of Eden Villain #1. It’s like we’re carrying a grudge or something.

My new novel from Severed Press is Curse of the Viper King. And, spoiler alert, it has a giant snake in it, but the cover might have given that away.

 In Curse of the Viper King, Professor Grant Coleman and activist Janaina Silva are lost in the Amazon. They come across a logging team and hope they can hitch a ride home through them. But workers discover the remains of a giant snake that send them into a superstitious panic. Then that night, giant spiders arrive. The survivors of the attack find that their only hope for salvation lies in the lost Aztec temple of the infamous Viper King. But they have to get there and back alive.

The snake’s universal ability to induce chills puts it at the top of my fictional monster list. But my giant snake isn’t completely fictional.

Titanoboa was an actual snake from about 60 million years ago. Fossils of it have been found in South America. It grew to an estimated 13 meters long (42 feet) and weighed about 1,135 kilograms or 2,500 pounds. It could coil around your car with a lot of snake left over. That’s a major snake. In my story it has survived in a lost pyramid in the depths of the Amazon jungle.

But this bruiser of a serpent likely killed by constriction, which is way too slow for an action story. Imagine three pages of “It squeezed him again.” So my snake is a cross with a venomous pit viper. These things are lethal as hell. How about being injected with a gallon of poison venom from a giant one? Definitely a mood killer.

But you say “How could a snake survive so long in the pyramid?” There’s an answer there in science as well. Snakes do go into periods of hibernation, called brumation, like the giant viper in the story. Garter, queen, and corn snakes specifically do it, just not for hundreds of years.
Sometimes it doesn’t take a lot of creativity to bring a monster into the fictional world. Mother Nature has already laid the ground work. Snakes are a great example.

You can find Curse of the Viper King here:

 Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching late night horror. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida. After flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales, including paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, Dreamwalker, and Q Island. His Grant Coleman adventure series covers Cavern of the Damned, Monsters in the Clouds, and Curse of the Viper King. His wife reads his work, rolls her eyes, and says "There is something seriously wrong with you."

Visit his website at, follow on Twitter @RRJames14, or say hi at