It’s been a while since I posted on this site. I’ve been busy world building and creating a series of fantasy novels under the pen name, Jack Peregrine. If you’ve enjoyed my horror titles and also like fantasy stories, you can read more about ‘The Arisendia Chronicles’ here: www.Arisendia.world
Here’s a trailer for the series starter:
As we roll into the festive season during a tight financial time for many, I’m sure we’d all appreciate the odd bargain or saving. Readers in the UK and US can acquire all twelve of my horror novels on Kindle for 99p/99c each between now and 23rd December. Note: the deal for US readers will activate at 08:00 PST today (16th December). Not much as far as the world turning goes, but every little helps.
Feel free to tell anyone you think may benefit, or post a link to this blog entry.
I wish you all a warm, happy and peaceful Christmas surrounded by folk you love and with plenty of good things to eat.
21st June saw my twelfth and final (for now, at least) paranormal novel undergo publication. Almost three years to the day from when I started writing the first, ‘Maria’s Walk,’ it represents the culmination of a self-imposed summer 2018 goal: to produce 12 well written and edited full-length horror/supernatural suspense novels in paperback and e-book formats over a 36-month period on a negligible budget.
It’s been a manic three years in which my feet have hardly touched the ground, but represents another million published words and the craft boost that milestone brings with it. Truly an expansive learning curve, and one in which it has been my distinct pleasure to find enthusiastic readers for the hard work I’ve put out.
For my ‘Ultimum Folium’ (last leaf), I’ve pulled out all the stops in efforts to provide the key positives so many of you have mentioned in kind reviews: Detailed characters to empathise with, realistic settings that draw you in, creepy scenes to raise hairs on the back of your neck, plus twists, turns and a nice climax.
‘Underwood’ is set in my namesake county of Devon, at a fictional village near my favourite among the beloved country of the two rivers. The overarching theme of the novel is the power and importance of forgiveness, and the self-harm with which unreleased offences infect the unwary. Taking a leaf out of the Old Testament, it revolves around vengeance enacted by the wronged spirits of a deserted village decimated during The Black Death. Their retribution manifests against the living in the present day based on generational guilt.
Readers of my other works know I often portray modern British life as it stands; observed from different angles and character biases, without personal comment or judgement. Above all, I like to write engaging stories with interesting messages and ideas. I’ve no interest in preaching or putting over a socio-political agenda of any kind. That would betray my audience, looking to enjoy an escapist read. ‘Underwood’ is a ghost story about past wrongs brought up in the present day – nothing more. That its message applies to topical and newsworthy twenty-first century behaviour humans should have outgrown 6,000 years ago, is a sad indictment upon participants in such activities. Or as variations on the old quotation have it: ‘Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.’
So what happens next? Well, ‘Devon’s Dozen’ – as I refer to the novels – will remain. With twelve titles, eager readers have plenty to choose from. I haven’t ruled out writing another at a later date. But, now this initial goal has been achieved, my onward literary plans involve the long-term development of a series in a different genre. To avoid confusion, those books will be released under a Nom de plume and not linked with my British Horror Fiction.
If you’re new to my work but have enjoyed what you’ve read so far, please check the ‘Titles’ page for a look at what else is available.
Thank you so much, one and all. It’s been a thrilling – if fast paced – journey.
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.
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.
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.
I’d put off maturing the premise for my seventh horror novel into a full-bodied plot by two books. While ‘the written word made manifest’ is nothing new in fiction (or religion), I kept throwing out obvious branching concepts. They all seemed too predictable to my brainstorming mind. Like many writers, I ended up keeping the best scene ideas, though the story they occupy is a world apart.
‘Scribe’ opens with a man named Michael Brooks, who lost his wife, Julie, to a Cerebral Haemorrhage. A sensitive introvert, it doesn’t take long before the effects of his grieving energy impact the physical world around him. His bereavement counsellor recommends a change of scene and the act of journaling to process his grief. And so the stage is set to roll out a weird house full of restless spirits that play havoc with his isolated literary therapy.
During the process, I turn up the heat from random, unusual occurrences to undeniable supernatural encounters with mortal outcomes. Along the way Michael discovers a raft of ghosts, including those of five children who disappeared between 1885 and 1886. Michael and his wife could not conceive, yet desired a family of their own.
With a lot of horror/supernatural suspense novels, the antagonist remains a faceless beast, unveiled near the climax in a big reveal. While this is necessary for many plotlines, it can leave the villains feeling like undeveloped characters. One thing I found most enjoyable about writing ‘Scribe’ was the ability to have my (deceased) ‘baddie’ interact with Michael throughout. This occurs via paranormal experiences and the written word in his journals. By the time he makes a full-blown appearance near the end, readers know all they could want about this semi-religious, psychopathic child rapist and murderer. There’s a certain added satisfaction from that, when his plans are brought low.
Rape is an overdone and often cringe-worthy trope in the horror genre. I steer clear of it (as a general rule), with the notable exception of that mildly worded but heart-breaking scene in ‘Maria’s Walk’ where hired thugs abuse and kill Maria Belmont. It’s difficult to write without falling into classic pitfalls that trivialise a devastating act. It can also be lazy writing: i.e. we all know rape is horrible, so just roll out some rape scenes to keep the horror amped, right? Wrong! Awful though it is, reading rape scenes gets old quickly. Unless the device forms a pivotal part of the story, I wonder about the plot structure of a book that focuses on it. Throw children into the mix and you’re walking on eggshells with every word written.
However, for ‘Scribe’ it made perfect sense for the main story arc, though became a difficult cross to bear on occasion. The children all disappeared without trace in the Victorian era. Readers learn the truth behind those disappearances, the nature of their adversary and Michael’s part in the ongoing story through historic flashbacks, journal entries, and murderous manifestations affecting the supporting cast of characters in the present.
I’m of the firm belief that once you’ve established a clear character trait, reinforcing it with repetitious actions is pointless. This comes back to my earlier statement about reading rape scenes getting old. After the nature and appetites of the villain are rolled out in ‘Scribe’ with a teenage girl, I give subsequent incidents cursory mention. That, or hint at them without specific descriptions.
The first rape scene was the toughest in the book to write. I must have reshaped it a dozen times to strike a correct balance. A wobbly place between giving necessary information, sparking an emotive response and not going overboard with graphic details. Heaven forbid anyone read such an encounter and experience any kind of titillation. I opted for focusing on the girl’s traumatised mental state and physical pain, replaying certain aspects of the act with metaphor and simile. It’s like walking a tightrope in a hurricane, but the result advances the story with the right tone. A follow-on scene featuring twin victims (a boy and girl) includes just enough post-horror suggestions to show our rapist’s tastes extend to both sexes. Then things are kept to his written rantings, which blend a strict religious upbringing with depraved statements suggesting sexual imagery. In a classic example of psychological gas-lighting, he blames his victims for his own evil deeds.
Because of his grief, Michael doubts the evidence of his own senses at first. This is a mild nod to that other overused trope: ‘The Unreliable Narrator.’ As I prefer writing in the third person, this doesn’t get much more than lip service. But it helps mix things up while our suffering hero discovers what’s going on both inside and out.
Given the two heavy topics covered – bereavement and child abuse/murder – I couldn’t leave my readers without a heart-warming climax and denouement. ‘Scribe’ is also a love story. A tale about unconfessed affection finding a second chance at the right moment. If you read it, I hope it moves you. Ultimately, I hope you walk away with a positive experience.
‘Scribe’ will be out in paperback and Kindle formats before the end of March.