If Heyer did horror?

got ghosts frontGeorgette Heyer never did write horror, of course, but some of her more light-hearted crime novels came surprisingly close, and they’ve always been big favourites of mine.

So when I came to write Got Ghosts?, it was to those titles that I turned for some inspiration. To find out which books those were, and how they influenced my writing, pop over to Marlena Smith’s cheerful blog today and read my guest post there.

And do have a wander about while you’re there, because Marlena blogs about all things writing and authors and you never know what snippets you might find!

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Got Ghosts contest

PhotoFunia-1510852151I’ve just set up a brand new Facebook page for ‘Got Ghosts?’ and to celebrate I’m holding a daft little contest, with one free copy of the book to give away. All you need to do is pop along to the page, have a look at the photo I’ve posted there and come up with a suitably funny caption for it. The caption that makes me laugh the most wins the book!

To keep things easier to manage, please respond in the comments on the FB page post, otherwise I might miss seeing them. The contest opens today and the end time is 4pm UK time on Friday (8th December) – and I’ll announce the winner during the weekend.

Thanks, have fun, and the very best of luck!

 

Friday Five: inspiration for Greystones

There’s no such place as Greystones Hall, of course. The house, a rambling and terrifically haunted manor which features in my latest book Got Ghosts?, is a product of my own fevered imagination. The library, the chapel, the minstrels’ gallery, the attics, even the cellar, are purely fictional.

And yet… are they? Mostly the answer is still yes, but I did draw on my love of old English homes for inspiration. In particular, a group of ancient, fascinating, and sometimes haunted houses and castles that I’ve visited over the years, which include the following:

Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire

This wonderful old Cotswolds house gave me the idea of somewhere that’s been added to, piecemeal, over many centuries. It has two distinct ‘wings’ in very different styles, and looks either Jacobean or Georgian depending on which direction you’re viewing it from. In the early 20th century its owner, the eccentric Charles Paget Wade, filled it to bursting with his own collections of antiques, models, and historical costumes including an entire army of Samurai armour! Now owned by the National Trust, and worth a visit to poke around.

Muncaster Castle, Cumbria

P1000984Based around a fourteenth century pele tower, this atmospheric castle is reputed to be one of the most haunted buildings in Britain. Ghosts include the invisible Tom Fool, and a little girl heard crying, who is believed to be Margaret Pennington. The castle’s most haunted room (allegedly) is a bedroom which is rather stage-set these days: painted in cold dark colours and with noticeably less heating and lighting than the other rooms. However, during a visit a few years ago I noticed a very odd atmosphere in a downstairs room, so perhaps the rumours are true…

Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

P1020492Another wonderfully romantic and atmospheric castle dating back to medieval times, this home has been continuously occupied by the same family, the Stricklands, since 1239. It provided some of the inspiration for the feeling of Greystones Hall having been lived in ‘for ever’. It also has a couple of “secret” rooms and a chapel, built into the thickness of the pele tower walls.

Harvington Hall, Worcestershire

harvington_frontHarvington is an incredible survivor of the religious turmoil of Tudor and Elizabethan times, which housed a Catholic family during the reign of Elizabeth I, and was rebuilt to include an incredible set of hiding places for their priests, known as priest holes. At the last count I believe there were about ten – two for church vessels and the rest for the priests themselves. In Got Ghosts? I simplified this quite a bit, but the idea of having one priest hole leading into another came from Harvington. It’s still owned by the Catholic church and well worth a visit.

Greystones Hall?

greystones1

Bits of all these houses, and probably others too, came together in my mind as the whole of Greystones. However, individually they’re probably all too large and grand for what I had in mind, which was a low-built, rambling family home rather than something stately. For this reason, this photo (borrowed from the internet!) is probably closer to the “real” Greystones Hall. Sadly, in spite of researching extensively, I don’t know much about it, except that it’s probably set in the Cotswolds. If anyone recognises it and can tell me more, I’ll be delighted.

Being Me review

BeingMeThere’s a smashing new review of the ‘Being Me’ charity anthology over at Kimmer’s Erotic Book Banter. (If you’re put off by that word ‘erotic’, by the way, don’t worry – ‘Being Me’ isn’t a particularly erotic book and as the review suggests, would be suitable for YA readers as well as sensitive adults!)

I’m absolutely bowled over by the lovely comments on my own story, The Visitor, and delighted that I seem to have achieved the effect I hoped for.

But this isn’t just about me. There are also glowing mentions for at least seven of the contributors, all of whom have written stories that are full of emotion, understanding and acceptance.

If you’re looking for a collection of lovely, inclusive stories and a stocking-filler for Christmas, then you can find the book here. And you’ll be contributing to a really good cause in the process.

Mirror, mirror…

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the spookiest book of all?

Well, I don’t actually know the answer to that one, but I couldn’t help thinking of it when I saw the template for this picture on the photo editing site photofunia.com recently.

I just had to try it with Got Ghosts?, and this is the result. What do you think? It certainly puts the ‘fun’ in photofunia!

PhotoFunia-1510852151

 

Friday Five: time-shift novels

P1030049I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of different time lines, or time that moves in different ways in different places. So it’s hardly a surprise that some of my favourite books share this subject:

The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe: C S Lewis

I loved this book as a kid – the adventure, the talking animals, but most of all the concept that people could grow into adults in another world, then come back home and have only aged by seconds. The later book The Magician’s Nephew examines the whole subject in more detail but this was the one I read first and it remains a favourite.

Tom’s Midnight Garden: Philippa Pearce

Another classic, this time using the device of a beautiful garden as a kind of ‘time portal’ for a young lad to go back into the grand Victorian past of the house he’s staying in. I loved it as a kid and I still love it now – the descriptions of the past are vivid and magical and the explanation comes as a complete – but satisfying – surprise.

The House on the Strand: Daphne du Maurier

Not one of du Maurier’s better known works but it should be in my opinion! This time it’s an experimental drug which appears to send the book’s narrator into the past, based around the (real) village of Tywardreath in Cornwall. The medieval landscape and characters are brought to life so strongly it’s as though we’re walking the same paths and streets as Dick. Quite possibly my favourite book of all time, with a terrific knock-out punch of a twist.

The Time Traveller’s Wife: Audrey Niffenegger

A much more recent book that plays wonderfully with the concept of time, by having it passing in different directions for two characters who meet and fall in love, at totally different stages of their lives. For me, the violent ending spoiled the poignancy of the rest of the book, but I still loved the sheer originality and the deeply unusual romance.

Roses in December: Fiona Glass

*cough* One of mine included on the list. But given how much I loved most of the above, it’s hardly surprising I’d try my hand at a similar theme myself. Like Tom’s Midnight Garden, in Roses it’s a garden which acts as a portal for characters to slip between past and present, with shocking but ultimately heart-warming results. It’s currently out of print but I’m hopeful of getting it re-published at some point.

Most Haunted: real, fake, or somewhere in between?

Most-Haunted-Derek-Acorah-and-Yvette-Fielding-679x382I don’t know if anyone else remembers Most Haunted, the incredibly popular ghost-hunting show that was all the rage on Cable TV a few years ago? It starred (amongst others) former Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding and a well-known medium called Derek Acorah, and each episode visited a different haunted property or location to film the ghosts.

From that write-up you’ll guess that it provided inspiration for my own book ‘Got Ghosts?’. However, where the Got Ghosts? mob are a pretty dodgy lot, I’ve never entirely made up my mind about Most Haunted. But I do still have my doubts, and now you can read about those doubts over at The Spooky Isles magazine.

While you’re there, check out some of the other articles because they have a wide range of paranormal and supernatural stuff from Britain and Ireland: ghosts, history, TV and film reviews, folklore to name but a few.

Where there’s a ghost…

House Halloween Haunted Horror Demon Death Ghost…there’s often a crime. After all, ghosts are people who died, and not all those deaths are natural.

To read more about this rather weird subject, head for Ellie Sisson’s blog, where she’s been kind enough to lend me a soapbox and hand me a microphone for my latest “guest ghost post”.

This time it’s about the deaths, natural or otherwise, of some of the resident spirits in ‘Got Ghosts?’, and the whole issue of crime in paranormal fiction. I hope you enjoy it!

Bits and bobs

Just a quick round-up of various bits of writing news today:

The Being Me charity anthology is now fully available to buy on Amazon. With 16 stories from 15 authors (including my own time travel tale The Visitor) this is a great way of supporting a great cause. Do go and check it out!

Paragraph Planet have listed The Summons in their October archive. This ultra-short story with a creepy feel is based on a real Cumbrian legend of the church bells ringing under Thirlmere. Head for the archive page and choose 9th October from the drop-down list.

And my new book Got Ghosts? is already gathering some lovely reviews. You can find a selection over at Amazon – and why not treat yourself to a copy while you’re there? It’s the perfect size for an early Christmas stocking-filler!

Best of 3 horror

Halloween-Horrors-4-768x576If you had to choose your three (and only three!) favourite horror books of all time, what would be on the list?

Thanks to fellow author and friend Lucy V Hay, I had just this opportunity, and let me tell you it’s harder than it looks.

My first thought was that I didn’t actually read any horror. I’m not keen on splatter, gore or Stephen King and I don’t like things that involve suffering. But then I realised that there’s more to the horror genre than smears of blood and clowns. There’s also vampires, ghosts, paranormal, supernatural, and Gothic horror in general. And I like some of that very much indeed.

So I managed to pick my three books without too much difficulty, and you can see the results over at Lucy’s blog today.

I hope you enjoy the list – and the reasons why I chose those books – and feel free to drop a comment if you like them too, or even if you don’t!