Friday 23 December 2022

Living with Ghosts, and Other Dark Observations

At this time of the year, what better than a ghost story? It's a tradition, isn't it? And how much better when that ghost story happens to be true?

I have often been asked (understandably, given the nature of what I write) if I believe in ghosts. I answer, ‘yes’. The next question is invariably. ‘Have you ever seen one?’ Again, ‘yes’ is my response. People want details. I tell them, but, of course such phenomena can be explained away by the sceptical. ‘A trick of the light’, ‘Your imagination playing tricks on you,’ or the incredulous look behind which lurks, ‘you’re weird’. All, of course, are quite possibly true (especially the latter), but I have seen and heard a lot of things I couldn’t quite so easily explain. 

For a number of years, we divided our time between a flat in North Wales and a house in Liverpool. The house in Liverpool contained nothing particularly ghostly – although I did once see the apparition of the cat I grew up with who, at that time, had been deceased for around four years. This was a happy experience that stayed with me for weeks.

The flat in North Wales on the other hand… Okay, I'm going to say it. We lived with a ghost. There is no getting away from it. In fact the building itself continues to be haunted by more than one restless spirit – and one of them was caught on camera!

The building dates from the mid-eighteenth century and has gone through many different configurations as shops and homes. The ground floor is now a social club with a two-floor flat above. This was unoccupied for many years until we moved in following extensive renovations. Almost immediately things started to happen. They were mostly homely, welcoming events as if our invisible ‘visitor’ wanted to make us feel comfortable.

We would sometimes arrive to find the TV and/or lights switched on, and, before you say we had carelessly left them on before we left a few days earlier, we hadn’t. We had checked that everything was switched off just a few minutes before we left. In the case of the TV, even if we had left it on, the set would have automatically switched itself off after a couple of hours of inactivity. And no, sorry, no-one else had access.

Meanwhile, in another part of the building, used by the club, other things were happening. In the Snooker Room, chalk was regularly moved, as were beer mats, and then, at around six one morning, my husband came down to our kitchen, whereupon he heard the distinctive sound of the club's upstairs gents’ toilet flushing. This is next to the Snooker Room and on the other side of our wall. My husband logged the time precisely, thinking that maybe the cleaners had arrived unusually early. 

When, mid-morning, he heard the sound of the barman arriving to start his shift, my husband, who was Treasurer, went downstairs to the club and asked to check the CCTV. Evidently the cleaners had arrived later, at their usual time, so who had been in the Gents? Fortunately CCTV was trained on the area immediately outside it. As my husband watched and, at precisely the same time as he had logged the flushing of the toilet, there was a distinctive, fast-moving, waft of white smoke across the camera. He continued to watch. Nothing else happened. Other staff watched it. I watched it.

No one has yet been able to explain it. There was no one there or we would have seen them. The cameras were installed to ensure no hiding place for anyone entering or leaving the building and they are motion activated. They were all in perfect working order when the incident happened.

Since then, things have continued to move from time to time in the Snooker Room and a couple of the bar staff have been so unnerved by the goings-on there that they have refused to go up there alone. One of the staff was certain he heard his name called one night when he was locking up after everyone had gone home. He was so sure of what he had heard that he answered. There was no one there.

A psychic-medium was shoved violently when she entered the room (with no prior knowledge of its reputation). I was pushed violently backwards and forwards before being thrown off the stair. The injuries I sustained were so severe, the doctors at the hospital couldn’t believe only one stair was involved.  I have never been in that room since.

Thankfully, the ghost in our flat was always friendly. My husband was often aware of her moving around when he was there alone, and there was the curious incident of the washing machine – the detergent drawer was mysteriously and impossibly pushed out when it was operating. For all the years we lived there though, neither of us ever felt threatened in that flat and now, three and a half years later, that flat is once again empty...

Or is it?

Now, if you want to be transported back in time to experience more ghostly and demonic goings-on, try this:

Eligos is waiting…fulfill your destiny

1941. In the dark days of war-torn London, Violet works in Churchill's subterranean top secret Cabinet War Rooms, where key decisions that will dictate Britain’s conduct of the war are made. Above, the people of London go about their daily business as best they can, unaware of the life that teems beneath their feet.

Night after night the bombs rain down, yet Violet has far more to fear than air raids. A mysterious man, a room only she can see, memories she can no longer trust, and a best friend who denies their shared past... Something or someone - is targeting her.

Dark Observation is available here: (where you can support your favourite local bookshop)

and at good bookshops everywhere (on the shelf or to order)

Thank you all for your support throughout 2022. Here's to a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year!

Nik Keevil and Flame Tree Studio

Tuesday 18 October 2022

The Crow Witch is Here - and She's Brought a Few Friends

Each story sucked me in immediately and I just couldn’t stop reading until the end. So be careful if you’re prone to telling yourself you’ll read just one more page…” – Erica Robyn Reads

"This collection is perfect for an evening as you await the witching hour or a banging on your door. Full of tricks but in itself a treat of good supernatural horror. Highly recommended for the season of the witch!" - Runalongwomble

If you love to relax on a cold and dark winter evening with a good spooky story, The Crow Witch and Other Conjurings by Catherine Cavendish has seven that will send shivers down your spine." - What's Good To Read

"The Crow Witch and Other Conjurings is a feast for fans of dark tales and adult-aimed fairy tales." - Daniel Robichaud, Considering Stories

“The gothic style of Catherine Cavendish takes you deep into an atmospheric read… Snuggle down in your cozy chair and spend some time with this author as she unfolds the spooky stories within.” – Book Nook Retreat

I've never had an entire fiction collection before, but now - thanks to the wonderful folk at Weird House Press - I do. What's more, it's just in time for Halloween!

As is the way with fiction collections, there may be some titles you recognize - one in particular - but this is a chance to meet some new... Well, maybe friends is stretching it a little. Some of these characters are evil. I mean evil on a scale where you wouldn't wish them on your worst enemy. Or then again, perhaps you would.

Collectively, they are called:

The Crow Witch and Other Conjurings

Come and meet them:

Marzana's Hut

A derelict cabin in the wood and a mysterious portrait that is far more deadly than oil paint and canvas

Sour Grapes

When the seeds of revenge are sown, beware the harvest

The Oubliette of Elie Loyd

A woman who seems to step out of an old Hollywood movie, and a castle with a murderous past

Euphemia Christie

It began with a gravestone...but where would it end?

The Lost Prophecy of Ursula Sontheil

The world would know her as Mother Shipton - a seer? A witch? Her predictions were many, but there is one more. One she hid away for a future generation...

Daft Old Bat

Some called her crazy, others feared her. Only the foolish would ridicule her, for this old woman knew the secrets of the land and how to harness its power

The Malan Witch

"Naught remained of their bodies to be buried, for the crows took back what was theirs."

Robyn learns the legend of a malevolent sisterhood—two witches burned for their evil centuries earlier. Once, both their vile spirits were trapped. Now, one has been released. One who is determined to find her sister. Only Robyn stands in her way.

The Crow Witch and Other Conjurings

As the nights draw in and the temperature plummets, beware the witch's curse. And stay out of the shadows, for far more lurks there than you could ever imagine...

Available here:

Weird House Press

(A limited number of signed editions are available from the publisher but hurry - there are not many left and when they're gone, they're gone!)

Weird House Press

Monday 10 October 2022

The Secrets of Wewelsburg Castle


My new novel, Dark Observation, centres on the occult and contains references to some sinister beliefs that found favour with the Nazis during some of the darkest days of the twentieth century. Indeed it could be said to be cursed with the horrors its walls have witnessed.

The unique and imposing triangular Wewelsburg Castle built in Renaissance style between 1603 and 1609 was intended originally as a residence for the Prince Bishops of Paderborn in Germany. It stands high on a rock with views over the Alme Valley and can be found in the village of B├╝ren.

Following its initial purpose, the castle changed hands a number of times until, in 1933, Hitler’s right-hand man, Heinrich Himmler, signed a 100-year lease for it at a nominal rent of one mark per year. He saw, despite its much decayed state, potential as a training ground for the soon to be infamous Schutzstaffel (SS), of which he was the commander.

Himmler, in common with a number of leading Nazis, including Hitler himself, was obsessed with old Germanic and Norse myth and legend as well as occult rituals with their roots firmly planted in the sort of Dark Arts that had so bewitched Aleister Crowley among others. In Himmler’s eyes, Wewelsburg was the perfect place to indoctrinate SS soldiers with these heinous beliefs. 

To Himmler, Wewelsburg was the Grail Castle. He believed that once the Nazis had conquered the world, establishing the Aryan reign that would last a thousand years, artifacts accumulated in the castle as well as the building itself would radiate magical powers.

 Included among these trophies was to be the Spear of Destiny, prized by Hitler as having shown him his future when he saw it on display at the Hofburg museum in Vienna. Himmler slept with a replica of it in his bedroom and was obsessed with acquiring as many of the actual holy relics as possible.

pictured: Himmler (left) Heydrich (centre)

Work began on restoring the Castle and moulding it into a centre of the universe for all Aryans. This included constructing a magnificent marble altar with the letters ‘SS’ engraved on it. A former cistern was turned into a crypt for ritual purposes where it was intended that the ashes of the most senior SS leaders would be buried and venerated, with an eternal flame burning to act as a focal point. 

Baptismal activities took place here – the children involved being products of the Lebensborn breeding programme designed to perpetuate the pure Aryan race. Himmler also intended to replace Christmas with a winter solstice festival based on ancient pagan ritual to supplement the main midsummer solstice which he also sought to establish. Elsewhere, a round table with twelve chairs, reminiscent of the mythical King Arthur and his knights, was also built.

Edward Bulwer Lytton

All in all, ‘Dark Camelot,’ as many in the Nazi Party came to refer to Wewelsburg, was to become a cathedral where senior ‘priests’ met to engage in worship of the dark and mythological world in which Edward Bulwer Lytton’s fictional work, The Coming Race, with its depiction of an alien super race dwelling deep within the earth, was accepted as fact. Those who worshipped at Wewelsburg were true believers in the most evil of fantasies and millions of innocent men, women and children would pay the price.

SS soldiers were carefully picked. They had to look a certain way and be malleable enough to be persuaded to believe what their leaders wanted them to believe. Not only that, they would be desensitized to such a degree that they could not only bear incredible suffering themselves, but also be totally oblivious to the suffering they inflicted on others. It was brainwashing with no room for conscience or compassion. Much of this happened at Wewelsburg, secluded enough to prevent prying eyes or unwanted leaks of information.

Himmler’s plans never reached completion although the renovation continued for twelve years under SS control. His ideas grew ever more grandiose including plans to create a circular fortification around the hill on which the castle stood which would have resulted in the eviction of the entire surrounding town, as well as flooding the whole valley around Wewelsburg.

SS Generals' Hall, Wewelsburg
Needless to say, with such vast schemes, he required a workforce of sufficient numbers to realize them. Accordingly, Himmler created his own private concentration camp comprising some 4,000 people, only around half of whom survived. The conditions were appalling and abuse by the SS was rife. Once it became obvious that Germany was not going to win the war, Himmler ordered the destruction of the castle. A fire was set which destroyed much of the interior but the sturdy stone walls - particularly of the North Tower - remained. It was in this tower that Himmler had concentrated much of his effort. Hardly surprising then that, seeing it still standing proud, among so much that had been destroyed, people began to wonder at how much of the occult had insinuated itself into its masonry.

These days, Wewelsburg is restored and open as a museum. But what secrets do its ancient walls retain? Relics and artifacts from Himmler’s time there are on show, amongst much else from the castle’s long history. It has been said that Wewelsburg shows more clearly than probably anywhere, how steeped in the occult the Nazi leadership became, and how dependent upon it they were in the realization of their vile dreams.

“A dark, disturbing thrill ride” – Publishers’ Weekly

"An engaging, multigenerational tale of dark magic and occult" - Booklist

“A wonderful eerie piece of historical horror” - Runalongwomble

“Drawing on magical realism and giving it a more nefarious angle, and then taking it one step further” – Cheryl M-M’s Blogspot

Eligos is waiting…fulfil your destiny

1941. In the dark days of war-torn London, Violet works in Churchill's subterranean top secret Cabinet War Rooms, where key decisions that will dictate Britain’s conduct of the war are made. Above, the people of London go about their daily business as best they can, unaware of the life that teems beneath their feet.

Night after night the bombs rain down, yet Violet has far more to fear than air raids. A mysterious man, a room only she can see, memories she can no longer trust, and a best friend who denies their shared past... Something or someone - is targeting her.

Click on the link below to see/hear an excerpt:

Dark Observation is available here:

Flame Tree Press

Simon and Schuster


Barnes and Noble

Waterstones (where you can support your favourite local bookshop)

and at good bookshops everywhere (on the shelf or to order)



Nik Keevil and Flame Tree Studio

Author's own




Tuesday 13 September 2022

"Have You Always Written Horror?"

People ask me if I have always written horror – or dark fiction if you prefer. The simple answer is ‘no’. In fact, over the years, I have written stories for children (the still unpublished The Adventures of Henry the Toad and All His Friends springs to mind) and light romantic fiction (until I got so fed up with the wimpy heroine that I left her stuck in a lift/elevator from where she hasn’t emerged in thirty-six years. That’ll teach her!). I have written historical fiction and crime, poetry, a comedy-drama about Neolithic henge builders (ah yes, The Beaker Folk. I remember them well. An agent told me the play would be good for radio. I’m still waiting to hear back from the BBC. It’s been around thirty-five years. Do you think it’s too soon to chase them up?)

Years passed, life happened and, having no luck in enticing a publisher or agent to take me on, despite some really encouraging feedback, I stepped back to take a long hard look at what I was doing and what I most enjoyed writing and it came down to…


I had always adored scary, ghostly stories, frequently set sometime back in history, in Gothic houses with creepy corridors where shadows moved and you were never ever truly alone…even though you were the only living thing for miles around.

Readers, I did it. I switched genres yet again and entered a competition with an American publisher of repute called Samhain. The prize was to be one of four authors whose novellas would be combined into an anthology of Gothic horror stories.

When I opened an email some weeks later from Samhain’s Horror editor in chief, Don D’Auria I expected the usual ‘thanks but no thanks’. I had to read it twice, then another twice to be sure I hadn’t misunderstood. Here’s the section that had me leaping around the room making rather odd ‘whooping’ noises:

‘Welcome to the Samhain family!

‘I've read through all the (many) submissions to the Samhain Gothic horror anthology, and I'm happy to say that Linden Manor was one of the very best. Congratulations! You beat out some pretty stiff competition. Linden Manor is a truly fine piece of work. And so I'm pleased to offer you a contract for the novella…’

Since then, I have never looked back. Linden Manor joined fabulously creepy stories, Blood Red Roses by Russell James, Castle by the Sea by J.G. Faherty and Bootleg Cove by Devin Govaere in an anthology (now, sadly out of print) called What Waits in the Shadows. Samhain became my publisher and, following their demise, the books I released with them were reprinted by Crossroad Publishing, including Linden Manor which is now available in ebook and audio versions here.

These days, I love writing Gothic, haunted house, historical horror stories and have also dabbled in a little folk horror. I am published by Flame Tree Press which means I am lucky enough to still be able to call the great Don D’Auria my editor.

As for my latest novel – Dark Observation is out in hardback, ebook and paperback.

“a dark, disturbing thrill ride” – Publishers’ Weekly

"An engaging, multigenerational tale of dark magic and occult" - Booklist

Here’s what you can expect to find:

Eligos is waiting…fulfil your destiny

1941. In the dark days of war-torn London, Violet works in Churchill's subterranean top secret Cabinet War Rooms, where key decisions that will dictate Britain’s conduct of the war are made. Above, the people of London go about their daily business as best they can, unaware of the life that teems beneath their feet.

Night after night the bombs rain down, yet Violet has far more to fear than air raids. A mysterious man, a room only she can see, memories she can no longer trust, and a best friend who denies their shared past... Something or someone - is targeting her.

Dark Observation is available here: (where you can support your favourite local bookshop)

and at good bookshops everywhere (on the shelf or to order)



Crossroad Press

Nik Keevil and Flame Tree Press Studio

Saturday 30 July 2022

The Cult of the Vril


In my latest novel, Dark Observation, my character Heather learns of a secret organisation that thrived in Nazi Germany. Known as the Vril Society, this all-too-real, strange, and sinister group had its foundations in, of all things, a novel called The Coming Race penned by British author, Edward Bulwer Lytton and published in 1871. In his story, Lytton writes of a race of super-beings who lived in caverns deep below the earth’s surface. They were possessed of a special force of energy known as ‘vril’ and called themselves ‘Vril-ya’. They possessed the ability to communicate with humans by connecting with them through various portals in the earth.

That supposedly intelligent adults would believe in this may seem incredible to us today, but we need to put these beliefs into the context of the time and circumstances in which such conviction could take root.

Germany and Austria suffered bitter humiliation and defeat at the end of the First World War. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up and the two countries who had fought on the losing side were crippled by impossible reparations extracted by the triumphant Allies. Everything was done to crush the spirit and any form of national pride in Germany and all that was left of Austria. The problem is that history teaches us that when a nation’s spirit is suppressed, it tends to retaliate with whatever means are available to it. Among the most common manifestation of this is that extremist factions are formed.

A certain Captain Adolf Hitler joined one of them. He was briefly a member of the violent ‘Soviet Bavaria’ group. In amongst the familiar communist, conservative, liberal and socialist groupings, the atmosphere was ripe for the emergence of such extreme and eccentric groups, offering apparently new and radical ideas to help restore German pride and see the proud nation rise again to take its place on the world stage.

By 1919, German playwright, Dietrich Eckart was a radical thinker. Like many of his compatriots, he came from the wealthy middle-class and he met Hitler in 1919 when the latter attended a talk at the German Workers’ Party on 12 September. Along with Gottfried Feder and Alfred Rosenberg, Eckart was impressed when Hitler stood up to speak. None of his ideas was especially new. He talked of the need to build a Greater Germany, incorporating Austria, Danzig and all German-speaking people. Essentially, he spoke of the German nation as one, superior race. At this time though, his ideas of a superior race, and anti-semitism were somewhat vague and a ‘work in progress’. Soon though, he would meet men who would provide the foundations of his future destiny.

Leader of the German Workers’ Party at the time, Anton Drexler, made sure he obtained Hitler’s address before he left that 12th September meeting and, the following day, Adolf Hitler became the fifty-fifth card-carrying member of the party.

Eckart knew that the German Workers’ Party in its present form could not become a mass movement without a charismatic leader - one with the gift of oratory. In Adolf Hitler he saw that man and became his mentor, grooming him carefully for future leadership. He incorporated a number of occult ideas and practices into his eager student’s curriculum and introduced Hitler to three magical orders: The Thule Society, The Armanen order, and The Vril Society. These groups – and others – provided the genesis of Nazi ideology and the emergence of the vision of an Aryan Super-Race. Of these three, it was the Thule Group (who believed in the old Norse myths of Hyperborea and Thule the descendants of whom were, according to Thule Group members, ancestors of the Aryan race) and the Vril Society.

The true origins of the Vril Society are disputed but it seems to have started its life outside Germany, possibly borne out of the Green Dragon Society in Tibet which believed it was possible to control all the forces within the human body and become time lords. Karl Haushofer was one of the main leaders of the Vril Society, along with Eckart. Both these men wanted to use vril power for political purposes.

At the age of 30, Eckart persuaded Hitler to join the Vril Society and, from then on, there was no turning back. The Vril Society had found its man, and now it could begin to construct a New World Order. Hitler began to emerge as a confident and powerful speaker, with unshakeable belief in his ability to direct the entire force of his personality (by harnessing vril power) in order to influence events

Mein Kampf illustrates just how closely he adhered to the beliefs and principles of the Vril Society. Over the next few years, other members came to include those in his closest circle, people such as Hess, Himmler and Goering.

 The Vril Society and its heinous adherents and offspring was founded on a bedrock of myth and legend and shows us how much devastation can be wrought when people are hungry, demoralized, desperate and searching for a leader to inspire them out of their sense of hopelessness.

All these many years later, radical organisations, owing much to the Vril Society and Nazi dogma, continue to thrive.

 Edward Bulwer Lytton died in 1873, so was spared the unedifying sight of his work of fiction adopted and appropriated as a kind of textbook for one of the darkest times in world history. However, even at the time, groups such as the Theosophists seriously mooted as to whether his science-fiction was actually fact. Had Lytton been contacted by the Vril-ya?

As a little aside to ponder on, Lytton originated a number of phrases we still stumble across today. gems such as; ‘the great unwashed’, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’, oh and lest we forget, ‘It was a dark and stormy night…’


Eligos is waiting…fulfil your destiny

1941. In the dark days of war-torn London, Violet works in Churchill's subterranean top secret Cabinet War Rooms, where key decisions that will dictate Britain’s conduct of the war are made. Above, the people of London go about their daily business as best they can, unaware of the life that teems beneath their feet.

Night after night the bombs rain down, yet Violet has far more to fear than air raids. A mysterious man, a room only she can see, memories she can no longer trust, and a best friend who denies their shared past... Something or someone - is targeting her.

Dark Observation is available here: (where you can support your favourite bookstore)

and at good bookshops everywhere (on the shelf or to order)


Nik Keevil and Flame Tree Studio


Author’s own

Monday 11 July 2022

The Woman Who Inspired Me To Write

Doris Buttery

 When I was a little girl and, okay, I'll say it first, that was a long time ago, one of my enduring memories is of my mother sitting at the dining room table, her pencil sharpened and busy as she transcribed memories of her childhood onto sheets of lined foolscap paper. 

These were her happy years, spent simply, living in a small rural village called Elford, in Staffordshire. Tamworth was the nearest town and Lichfield the nearest city. Birmingham, lying some twenty miles away, was rarely visited for pleasure. Besides, why would you want to go there when you had everything you needed in the village? Well, until you reached your teens of course, and became hungry for the bright lights and faster pace of life.

Doris with her parents 1930
While Mum wrote, I would play with my dolls or my cat, Penny. I would make up stories, read, let my imagination run free...

And day after day, Mum would write. She took a creative writing course and dabbled in short stories. They were fiction but always, somewhere, there lurked a grain of truth. Invariably set in the 1920s or 1930s - she was born in 1920 - there would be a character I would later come to identify in her memoirs. Sometimes she would write about a scandal that I would later discover had actually taken place - although the names and some identifying details had all been changed.

Doris with her parents and two brothers 1930
I can't remember exactly when she stopped writing. But for years, maybe a decade or more, the pencils and foolscap were put aside only for her to return one day and pick up where she left off. This became a pattern. Days and weeks of daily writing followed by months and years of none.

Meanwhile, I had caught the writing bug. Watching her may have been the catalyst, or perhaps it was simply because she enjoyed it. Whatever the start of it, I was the geeky kid at school who relished writing essays while my schoolfriends groaned at the prospect. Some of those essays grew into short stories, one eventually morphed into a novel. Mum encouraged me while my father considered my desire - at around eight or nine years old - to purchase a portable typewriter as a complete waste of time and money. I bought my typewriter, selling a number of toys in order to do so.

extract from the original handwritten foolscap
Fast forward to 2018. To March of that year to be precise. At the age of 97, my lovely and inspirational Mum passed away peacefully in hospital. I was by her side and she simply slipped away as she always wanted. At her funeral, we celebrated her long life. She wanted no tears.

I found those sheets of foolscap. She had added to them over the years and, reading them through, I knew I had to get them published, The result is An Elford Childhood by Doris Buttery. It is subtitled, Growing up in a Staffordshire Village 1920-1933

Minimal editing was required - to eliminate repetition, group certain events and locations together and a bit of tidying up. Apart from that, these are her words as she wrote them and show what a great storyteller she was - with a fine memory. As with her fiction, she had changed many names (almost all in fact) and, while she had created a sheet showing some of the main name changes for identification purposes, she had not extended this to all of them. Luckily, Elford resident and historian Greg Watkins was on hand to help decipher the mystery. Mum was a lifelong lover of crime novels and would have been highly amused at the detective work he and I undertook. I am indebted to him for all the fact-checking and general rooting and digging in archives, the 1921 census and Elford Parish records. I am also indebted to Umbria Press for doing such a fine job - especially with some ancient, faded photographs into which they breathed fresh life.

Most of all though, I am indebted to the author herself. Doris Buttery undoubtedly passed on a lot of gifts to me; her love of writing, reading, and cats being at the forefront. She also enjoyed a ghost story as well as her beloved crime fiction. So do I. Would I have got into writing if I hadn't inherited the love of it from her? We'll never know, but I somehow doubt it.

Doris on her 90th birthday
Doris's story, An Elford Childhood, is published by Umbria Press, available in paperback online and from retail bookshops either on the shelf or to order.

When Doris Buttery was born in the small village of Elford, King George V was on the throne. The First World War had ended less than two years earlier, and women had yet to achieve the vote on equal terms with men.

Growing up with her parents and two older brothers, worldly possessions were few and money was tight for most people in the village, but life was far from dull. With an array of colourful characters, scandals, long-held secrets and the changing seasons, there was plenty to keep an active, inquisitive young girl entertained.

Decades later, Doris picked up her pencil, grabbed some sheets of lined foolscap and began to write down her memories. Then she put them away. Only her daughter knew they existed.

After Doris’s death in 2018, her daughter found the neat folder, opened it and began to read. The years rolled back and the world of a rural community in the 1920s and early ‘30s emerged, fresh from those carefully written pages. It was a world far distant from our own and now it is here, as that young girl remembered it.

An Elford Childhood provides a tantalizing trip back in time to a life lived in a place where the milk came in churns, water had to be pumped and collected, few cars troubled the narrow lanes, and electricity had still to be installed in the house where Doris lived.

Available from:


Waterstones (where you can support your favourite local bookshop)

Tamworth Heritage Trust


Write Blend

and other High Street bookstores

Monday 9 May 2022

Dark Observation

 Eligos is waiting… fulfil your destiny

1941. Typist Vi Harrington works in the subterranean, top-secret Cabinet War Rooms, where Prime Minister Winston Churchill makes the key decisions that will dictate Britain’s conduct of the war. Above, the people of London go about their daily business, unaware of the life that teems beneath their feet.

Night after night the bombs rain down, yet, in that fateful spring, Vi has far more to fear than air raids.

She and her friend Tilly share a house with the strange and distant Sandrine Maupas di Santiago - a woman who doesn’t belong there; a woman who is hiding something. Where does she go at night – and what secrets lay behind that too-perfect exterior? But when they decide to dig a little deeper, Vi soon discovers some secrets are best left alone.

At home, and in her place of work, she cannot escape from the menace closing in on her. Increasingly isolated by events she cannot control, every day brings fresh fears. A mysterious man and a room that only she can see, memories she can no longer trust, and a best friend who denies their shared past... Something is targeting her.

Tragedy strikes and little by little the web is unraveled, but the truth is more extraordinary than Vi could ever have imagined...

Dark Observation is out on September 13th 2022 and can be pre-ordered here:


Flame Tree Press


Monday 28 February 2022

The Unexpected Woman in Horror

I recently had an interesting and fun chat with a group of fellow female authors (we share a mutual publisher) about the whole subject of women in horror. Perhaps not surprisingly there was a lot of common ground between us. Why aren't there more women horror writers? What can we do to attract more of them? Over half an hour, we debated the subject from many different angles. One conclusion we reached was that there is no single answer to either of the aforementioned questions but one thing is certain. The perception that horror is not something that nicely brought up young women should be writing is definitely still out there. Alive and kicking its sexist little claws.

We shared our own experiences of the reactions we had received when we told friends, family, or even strangers what we write. Speaking for myself, I have had many double-takes, raised eyebrows, quick changes of subject... I must look like a romance author, or maybe an author of children's books (well I did dabble once, many years ago) or perhaps my late mother's preferred option, "Why don't you write a nice crime story. Like Agatha Christie."

"Like Agatha Christie", eh? Now there's an interesting concept.

You see we all think we know what Agatha Christie wrote. Those wonderful, apparently simple but actually quite intricate stories featuring that nice old lady from St Mary Mead - Miss Marple. (Joan Hickson was by far my favourite screen version). And that funny little Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (David Suchet is my preferred performance). Let's not forget Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, Ariadne Oliver (said to be modelled on Christie herself), oh, and Parker Pyne. Then there's Harley Quin - but here is where we move into a somewhat different dimension.

Those who have read up on her a little will know she also wrote romance novels, under the pen name Mary Westmacott.

But back to Harley Quin for a moment (not to be confused with the DC Comics character Harley Quinn). Here we have an entirely different person. The mysterious Mr Quin appears as if from nowhere in a flash of coloured lights, just at the right moment so that he can lead his friend, Mr Satterthwaite, to solve crimes. Quin possesses uncanny insight, seemingly supernatural abilities. He was also, apparently, Christie's favourite creation.

Agatha Christie's fascination with the supernatural dates back to her childhood. Her mother, Clara, took such matters seriously. The young Agatha loved to read Poe (among others) and took to writing ghostly short stories at a tender age. It was a theme she would return to repeatedly throughout her writing career. The Sittaford Mystery features a seance and table-turning. By The Pricking of my Thumbs, a Tommy and Tuppence Beresford mystery, ranks as one of her creepiest and most macabre novels.

Her short story collection, The Hound of Death, first published in 1933, contains some wonderfully scary tales. Try The Last Seance, The Strange Case of Sir Arthur Carmichael, The Gypsy, and The Call of Wings. All of these would earn their place in any anthology of horror stories published today.

So, yes, Mum, I love to write supernatural, scary, Gothic, ghostly horror. Just like Agatha Christie!

Of course, back in the 1930s, 'horror' was not a 'thing'. In fact, until relatively recently, there were few categories - or genres as we now call them - and it seems some women writers would prefer not to be associated with that word as it often conjures up images of a male- dominated slash, torture, zombie-esque bloodfest of flying body parts and buckets of Kensington Gore. Ask your average person (who insists they don't read 'horror') if they read Stephen King and many will respond with an enthusiastic, "Yes!" But then, I don't think Stephen King describes himself as a horror author these days. Understandably, as much of his later work has moved into the realms of sci-fi, thriller, mystery, and coming of age territories. But his earlier books? The ones everyone associates with him? Carrie, The Shining, Salem's Lot, Pet Sematary, Cujo? They're horror, folks.

Ask anyone to name a female horror author and they soon run out after Mary Shelley and Shirley Jackson, with possibly the late Anne Rice gaining a well-earned mention. But there are many wonderful female horror authors out there writing today. Some prefer to describe their work as 'dark fiction' and, indeed many excellent female writers in the genre use descriptors such as 'suspense', 'speculative fiction', 'dystopian', in order to distance themselves from the overtly graphic horror which pushes itself well and truly to the fore.

I am going to apologise in advance for serious omissions here but if you are looking for some scary stories written by women, you will find a wide spectrum including Gothic, ghostly, supernatural, psychological, crime, paranormal, demonic, folk horror...the list is increasing all the time. Diverse authors such as: J.H. Moncrieff, V. Castro, P.D. Cacek, Somer Canon, Gaby Triana, Laurel Hightower, Megan Hart, Faye Snowden, Melissa Prusi, Stephanie Ellis, Marie O'Regan, Jennifer Soucy, Janine Pipe... The list is growing but we need more. 

Women can - and do - bring a different voice to horror. It's a fun genre where you can break rules, create worlds and scare readers in a delicious way - one where YOU write the rules. 

If you have a scary story in you, what are you waiting for? Fire up your laptop, write it, rewrite it, get feedback, and then, when it's ready, submit it to a publisher and don't let anyone tell you that nice girls don't write horror. After all, if it was good enough for Agatha Christie...

Now, click on the link below and find out what happened when four female horror and dark fiction writers - V. Castro, J.J. Moncrieff, P.D. Cacek and I - got together for Women in Horror Month: