Further to my last, ‘White Hill‘ also made No.1 in ‘Amazon Hot New Releases’ for ‘British Horror Fiction.’
Thank you all!
Further to my last, ‘White Hill‘ also made No.1 in ‘Amazon Hot New Releases’ for ‘British Horror Fiction.’
Thank you all!
Just a quick note to thank all my readers who either pre-ordered or have bought ‘White Hill‘ in the few days since its release. As I write this, it occupies the No.1 Best Seller slot for ‘British Horror Fiction’ on Amazon in the US (Amazon.com).
Since their stats are updated hourly and I’m relatively unknown, that won’t last long. However, it’s a nice feeling and I appreciate all of you. A special thanks to my fabulous American readers. You rock!
The title will revert to full price in the morning.
Best wishes and happy reading,
My eleventh horror novel, ‘White Hill,’ sees a return to my home county of Kent. It features a tale spun around actual hauntings attributed to a real life location and its surrounding woods.
We’ve several road ghosts in this part of the world. Bluebell Hill is by far the most famous, but White Hill comes in a close second. It was well known to colleagues during my police career, who periodically dealt with distraught motorists there. Panicked souls labouring under the honest assumption they’d killed somebody at night on that quiet, winding, wooded country lane. And yes, they collided with a smiling woman in white! For several years I had to drive up the hill after 11PM on a weekly basis. You can bet I kept my eyes peeled and a ready foot close to the brake pedal…
Nearby King’s Wood is home to countless tales of disembodied screaming women and pursued walkers. It’s a site known for ritual practice (the place described in the book actually exists). As a child I sledded there during winter snow and have walked the woods in all seasons throughout my life. Carpets of springtime bluebells along the ridge overlooking The Great Stour Valley are a joy and source of annual pilgrimage for me.
White Hill sits along The Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury. The section mentioned in my latest novel from Boughton Aluph to the eastern side of Chilham, marks a point where the North Downs Way runs in tandem with it.
I grew up in the area and attended school nearby. Chilham, Old Wives Lees, Chartham and Mystole have been part of my life, going on half a century. I took great pleasure in spinning a yarn linking White Hill with the atmospheric wonder of Julliberrie Down and its long barrow. Chuck some local history and folklore into the mix, add a visiting bereaved father who’s split from his wife, teenage friends attempting to contact a departed peer, and a rag-tag occult group seduced by entities drawn to White Hill, then bake well for 355 pages. Et Voila!
‘White Hill,’ will be released on 26th March in paperback and Kindle formats, including Kindle Unlimited for Amazon subscribers. The Kindle version is currently available for pre-order at a knockdown discount. This price will remain until the end of March.
I’ll include a few of my snaps below, relevant to readers of the book.
My tenth horror/supernatural thriller/suspense novel, ‘Dead Eyes,’ focuses on a jilted bride who develops the ability to connect with the victims of a murderous, deranged psychopath at the moment of their demise. She literally sees and experiences what they are going through. This unfortunate twist, combined with a fresh sensitivity to other souls left behind after death, overshadows her attempts at recovery from a true annus horribilis.
The character of Gillian Crane was a delightful protagonist to write. Born into privilege, yet from a down-to-earth family, she has struck out on her own to seek independence and build a new life. When that new life falls apart after her supposed wedding day, Gillian faces the challenge of returning home single with her tail between her legs. This adds to the inner turmoil caused by those aforementioned paranormal experiences.
Readers of previous works sometimes comment on how much they enjoy the ‘friend’ characters in my books. Deborah Rowling, Gillian’s bestie who she met after moving to Hampshire, will no doubt delight in a similar fashion. Banter between the pair buoys up what could otherwise sink into a morbid and depressing tale.
I usually write antagonists who are complex and multi-layered, rather than cartoon villains. Simon Sloane, AKA ‘Banjo,’ continues that tradition. This insane child turned adult serial killer spirals further into madness as the story rolls on. There were two specific challenges to address here:
FIRST: A key component in his unravelling life is the misremembered perception of past events. For a novel written in the third person, I had to take that classic device, ‘the unreliable narrator,’ and fiddle with it to offer the reader clues that what they are being TOLD happened during his youth, may not be entirely accurate. The important issue is to neither confuse people nor make them feel cheated once the truth is revealed. Hopefully there are sufficient giveaways to arouse suspicions that Banjo’s memory is skewed according to a false narrative regarding his sister.
SECOND: Because Banjo’s mother is also insane and treats him with constant rage and contempt, it was important the audience not develop too much sympathy for the guy. Like many ‘wicked people,’ he’s a mixture of light, shade, physiology and breeding. The sickening actions he takes against innocent victims in vicarious vengeance over his departed sibling, should be enough to distance anyone from the tormented aspects of his obvious and all-pervasive mental illness.
When it came to locations, Hampshire and Buckinghamshire provided ideal main settings. Gillian grew up in Great Missenden, the daughter of a self-made multi-millionaire father and society dame mother. After moving away, she sets up home in a rented garret above a gallery in Alresford, a short distance from Winchester. As with previous works, I’ve incorporated many real-life locations, some genuine businesses and events (albeit used fictitiously) plus local English history and culture. These are woven together around a plot that moves from the mundane and believable to switch gears and ramp up the tension.
From Halloween to Christmas, horror and heartbreak, to ghosts, gore, good friends, old souls in limbo, a warped villain and multiple mysteries (plus the world’s most adorable spaniel); you’ll find it all wrapped up with a neat bow at the end.
‘Dead Eyes’ will be available in Paperback and Kindle formats from 5th December. The Kindle version will release at a mega-discount price for the first few days. Anyone who pre-orders the title is guaranteed to receive this price.
Up until now, I’d resisted the urge to write a vampire novel. Not because I don’t enjoy them (I like them a lot), but because I’m neither an authority on the topic nor did I feel I had anything original to offer the genre.
While researching ghost stories from around the world, I happened upon two Asian vampires: the Krasue and Penanggal. I remembered the latter (also referred to as a penanggalan) from teenage role-playing games, so decided to dig further. What intrigued me about the penanggal especially, was her daytime mortal existence. Penanggals are women who meditate in vats of vinegar and are able to detach their heads and connected viscera, which float within a mist of lights. Malaysian Will-o’-the-wisp sightings are often attributed to them in folklore. Penanggals feast upon the unborn and children in ‘Kampung’ villages. Any pregnant woman who loses her foetus to a penanggal, wastes away to nothing. Anyone who comes in contact with the flesh of a penanggal, suffers horrendous open sores.
I liked the concept of a monster who appeared normal by day, because the scope for intrigue and an interesting backstory was huge. A penanggal could literally be the person sat next to you, and you’d have no idea.
Being an English horror novelist, I wanted the bulk of the tale set in the UK but still connected to the beast’s geographic and cultural roots. I opted to lean upon overseas missionary experience as a vehicle to launch the story. A minister returning on furlough from Malaysia with his new bride gave me a good springboard.
In Malaysia, penanggals are supposed to flit beneath stilted village houses, sniffing for prey. That’s a big ask in England, since we don’t have such structures. The massive network of caves under Nottingham provided an excellent solution. They pop up in cellars and back gardens right across the city and number more than five hundred. It also enabled me to incorporate popular local spots associated with the labyrinth, such as that wonderful, haunted inn, ‘Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem.’ Nottingham’s twin universities and cosmopolitan demography made it the perfect setting to include a resident Malaysian community of students and immigrants. Thus the Malaysian flavour of the myth is maintained, rather than nicking the monster and anglicising it.
‘Penanggal’ will be available in Kindle and Paperback formats like my other novels. The Kindle version is available for pre-order, ahead of its 23rd September release date. Once the paperback and Kindle versions are live, the Kindle page count will correct on Amazon to 360.
To mark the two-year anniversary of this journey into writing horror/paranormal/supernatural suspense fiction, I decided to give my backlist a much-needed do-over. Hurried, experimental design choices I made while establishing the ‘De’Ath Brand’ were no longer working. Plus, some of the covers just plain sucked!
While I’m delighted to have attracted many readers who buy book after book (you people rock), it was time to dispense with the old, heavy medieval script author name which limited my options. Also, I’d wanted to revise and fix errors in ‘Nevermere’ (still a popular book), so I knuckled down to caring for the portfolio.
The result is a tightened and tidied up text for ‘Nevermere,’ plus revised covers with updated graphics and typography for every title on the backlist. ‘Nevermere,’ ‘Caveat Emptor,’ and ‘The Shackled’ got a total cover redesign from the ground up.
At the time of writing, Amazon are in the process of updating their product images to reflect those changes. If you can’t wait, check the images below or click the ‘Titles’ page of this website. Goodreads already includes alternate cover versions of all books. BookBub will update to follow Amazon. Both Kindle and Paperback versions received cover updates for every title.
Now it’s back to finishing the outline for the ninth novel which I’m due to begin writing next week.
The title of this post is a nod to that classic 1915 John Buchan novel, ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps.’ A book that has seen more film and television adaptations than you can shake a stick at.
When I write articles at the time of a new book release, I often include one about featured locations. In ‘Pilgrim,’ a story that begins in Kent leads to a pair of wrongfully accused protagonists going on the run to avoid capture, clear their names, unmask a sinister cult and stop an impending atrocity via a vexing trail of desecrations. The trail follows nine specific locations visited by a shadowy, hooded figure with bizarre occult powers, performing a series of rituals. These rituals form a spiritual path to an ultimate wickedness designed to give fallen entities (masquerading as the pagan deity Baphomet) greater access to and influence upon modern society.
The only similarities with Buchan’s novel are a man and woman on the run, and a powerful group intent upon destabilisation. But, as I like to consider ways to answer the inevitable question: ‘So what’s your new book like/about?’ the reply: ‘A supernatural, occult suspense thriller akin to a metaphysical version of The Thirty-Nine Steps,’ gives people a clue.
The nine sites in ‘Pilgrim,’ are:
Temple Church, Dover, Kent.
Temple Manor, Strood, Kent.
Temple Church, London.
Cressing Temple Barns, Essex.
Royston Cave, Hertfordshire.
St. Etheldreda’s Church, Hatfield, Hertfordshire.
Temple Bruer, Lincolnshire.
Temple Church, Redcliffe, Bristol.
Lundy Island, Devon.
During my police career, I was licensed to train detectives in using communications data for tracking. There’s a lot of nonsense out there thanks to movies and TV, so it was a pleasure to write a story in which our heroes go on the run employing realistic considerations over what their pursuers can (and definitely can’t) do. All the places they visit, the train, bus and walking routes chosen, are also true to life. Should you wish to play at being Vicky and Bill, you can follow their trail for real.
The tiny island of Lundy, off the north Devon coast in The Bristol Channel, proved perfect for the climax and denouement. While no Templar ruins exist on Lundy, the island was gifted to the order, who maintained a fleet nearby because of its strategic importance. Incorporating popular tales regarding lost weaponry from the wreck of nineteenth century blockade-runner ‘Iona II,’ added gravitas and realism. It also offered a perfect excuse for firearms availability, when the story warranted them. I even squeezed in a dramatic appearance by the Royal Marines. Brilliant fun!
‘Pilgrim’ will be available in paperback and Kindle formats from 23rd June.
Inspiration for my latest novel, ‘Pilgrim,’ came from a situation I encountered twenty-four years ago while I was a minister and missionary.
At the time of the incident in question, I was living and working at a combined mission station and plantation in the densely forested hills above Montego Bay, Jamaica. During the humid mid-summer heat, several staff fell sick with a curious, cold-like illness nobody seemed able to shake. Weeks dragged on with more falling ill. We were getting short-handed and wondering at the cause as nobody in the local parish of St. James appeared affected.
One morning, an indigenous worker harvesting in our banana grove, spotted a strangely dressed individual crouching near a spot along the site boundary. It aroused his suspicions, so he went to check. The odd figure had planted an Obeah curse. For those unfamiliar, Obeah is a Jamaican form of Voodoo that’s still illegal to practise in the country. Our team scoured the site to discover an abundance of similar curses concealed around the entire plantation boundary. Being Charismatic Evangelicals, we set about destroying the curses and engaged in spiritual warfare through prayer, praise and Biblical declarations. Make of it what you will, but recovery came on swift wings to our afflicted comrades.
Fast-forward to the present, that encounter saw me toying with several story concepts involving a mysterious hooded figure on a diabolical UK pilgrimage to desecrate sacred sites in a form of inverted veneration. Ask any seasoned author and they’ll tell you story ideas are two a penny. Translating them into compelling, three act structures of novel length is the real challenge. I find ‘interrogating’ an idea the best form of ‘plot laxative’ to get things moving.
Who is the hooded figure?
Why are they desecrating sacred sites?
Which particular sites are they desecrating, and is there a pattern with some underlying meaning?
Is this person human, or something else?
Who will tie the threads of these desecrations together (protagonist/s), and for what reason?
How do the story arcs of protagonist/antagonist intersect?
Listing multiple likely answers to questions like that, quickly leads into a three act, plot point framework. From there, an outline with detailed scenes, character and location profiles flows with reasonable ease.
At the same time I’d been bashing around other story ideas involving a shadowy cult with powerful connections, shaping and influencing society behind the scenes. Making my hooded figure part of this larger group presented many more interesting possibilities. Once I looked into the concept of ‘Spiritual Magnetism,’ which even normally atheistic socialists consider a fusion of spirit and science leading to a perfect social order, I knew I was onto something. Another aspect of ‘Spiritual Magnetism’ is Baphomet worship. As a student of church history with a longstanding interest in militaristic holy orders like the Templars and Hospitallers (predating the time those topics became fashionable), I knew accusations of Baphomet worship formed a significant part of false charges levied against The Templars. Charges heralding mass executions and the destruction of the order.
Suddenly I had a spiritual focus for the hooded figure AND an answer to which places they were desecrating. In this case, former Templar sites to hoover up negative energies from wrongful association with the androgynous deity its cult worship. Throw in some human sacrifice, a blending of chaos and sex magic, an escaped former prisoner of the cult and a homeless man turned private investigator who become fugitives from the law, plus a ‘ticking bomb’ in the form of an upcoming atrocity that must be averted, et voila – things are about to get interesting.
Like my other novels, ‘Pilgrim’ will be released in both paperback and Kindle formats, from 23rd June. You can pre-order the Kindle version. Its page count will correct to 354, once both products go live and are linked on Amazon.
Earlier than the planned date of 25th March, I’ve decided to release ‘Scribe‘ today. Something to take people’s minds off all the virus doom and gloom.
The Kindle version will be available at 99c/99p (1/5 regular price) until 25th April. Please pass this information on to anyone you think might enjoy the book.
Enjoy, and keep well if you can.
Regular readers will know that I like to base the locations of my novels on actual places. There will – of necessity – always be some artistic license and pure fictional content. But, you’ll find plenty of genuine sites recreated and featured throughout the course of each story.
For my seventh horror novel, ‘Scribe,’ it was important to contrast the comfortable Suffolk life of protagonist, Michael Brooks, with a different setting as he seeks to recover from the loss of his wife. I opted for the windswept wildness of beautiful Northumberland, which plays a striking role as a character in its own right. Michael rents a converted watermill and former gamekeeper’s bothy between the rivers Coquet and Breamish. While the site of Shillmoor Barton (a manorial estate with clusters of farms) is a fiction, Shillmoor itself exists. I love the Breamish valley and the hamlet of Ingram, which also features in the book. Other iconic Northumberland sites make appearances, including Alnwick, Morpeth, Wooler and Lindisfarne. It’s a part of the world I’ve stayed in and explored many times.
On a similar note, Michael hails from Framlingham in Suffolk and lives in Woodbridge, where some old friends of mine reside. It was a delight to include several of my favourite Framlingham places, including ‘The Crown Hotel,’ Framlingham Castle and St Michael’s church in various scenes throughout the book.
For the spooky house in which the principal action takes place, I drew upon true inspiration. If you’ve read the interview on my ‘About’ page, you’ll be familiar with a house I once stayed in, which played out (in minor respects) like a classic ghost story. The converted watermill and former bothy exists in border country, though it lies on the other side of the Tweed, about forty-eight miles from Shillmoor as the crow flies. From the single-railed footbridge crossing a cascade, to the setting and interior furnishings, it’s real. There was little I needed to invent. It made such a perfect, remote location. I’ve placed a plunge pool beneath the cascade and amped the size of the woodshed a little. But the rest would be recognisable if you ever stayed there – right down to the loft hatch above the master bed.
As I write this, it was seventeen years ago that I rented the mill alone. It dropped off the radar for a while, but has been back as a popular holiday let for many years. If there ever were any genuine, strange goings-on, all seems well now. The house is beautifully decorated and sits in a breathtaking setting. Don’t blame me if you read ‘Scribe’ while holidaying in the house and experience uncomfortable dreams, though. Definitely don’t blame the owners! It’s a stunning retreat in a fabulous landscape.
‘Scribe’ will be available in Kindle format from 25th March at an introductory price for its first month of 99c / 99p. The paperback version is already available to purchase, with Amazon estimating delivery in time for the eBook release date.