New Release…

On the 08/08/21 my anthology, The Unfamiliar & Other Stories, will be released.

Creating an anthology is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but never got round to. Thanks to lockdowns and short bursts of inspiration that came with them, I’ve finally put together a collection of ten bite-sized, dark tales for your reading pleasure.

Can’t wait to share them with you!

Posted in Uncategorized

Viking Warlords & A Spooky Tunnel in the Woods – The Ideas & Inspiration Behind The Cundy

As with Emergence and Cribbins, I brought the horror back to my hometown in my fourth supernatural suspense novel, The Cundy.

But first thing’s first, what is the cundy?

It’s a water conduit. A concrete tunnel that runs beneath Horden’s coast road. In the thick of the dene, it’s surrounded by nature and wildlife. I used to play inside the cundy as a kid, scaring myself silly because its innards are beyond dark.

Since I began writing horror, I always thought the cundy was too good of an opportunity not to create a story around. I briefly mentioned it in Emergence, but kept coming back to the idea that it needed a full story of its own. Cue The Cundy.

But what could I do to flesh out a story about a spooky tunnel in the woods? It needed something more. Something unexpected.

As it was, I’d been reading some local history and discovered that in the 900s, the pagan Danish King Reignwald descended on our northern shores and took over most of the land. He awarded Scula, one of his Viking warlords, East Durham, which includes Horden.

Now I do love Norse mythology and I thought this could make a really interesting link. Scula the ferocious warlord and his ancient gods tied with a man-made tunnel that sits in the dene which was formed millennia ago. So many possibilities to explore.

Perfect!

The Cundy centres around main character Sullivan Carter (some of you might have noticed that his name was mentioned in Cribbins, as was John Gimmerick’s from Emergence) – but more on that later. It’s a brooding, yet nostalgic coming-of-age tale set in the 90s, which sets the scene and explains why Sully is the way he is.

As I set out writing, I knew The Cundy would open the door for an entire series – even though I’d vowed never to work on a series again! Straight away I just felt like I was onto something really special with Sully, and that his story would span the length of multiple books. And it was this excitement for the project that made me throw caution to the wind and write ‘Book One’ on the cover.

The Cundy can absolutely be read as a standalone novel, though. There’s no cliff hanger ending. You’ll be pleased to know that each subsequent book in the series will be a fully formed, individual story too. 

I pointed out that Sullivan Carter from The Cundy and John Gimmerick from Emergence were both mentioned in my third supernatural suspense novel, Cribbins. The idea behind this was that since Sophie Harrington from Cribbins is also from Horden, it created a perfect opportunity to link all three characters so they might feature together in a future story. How cool would that be?

It might not be for some time yet, however, as I have quite a few projects on the go already, including the follow-up to The Cundy.

The Weeper is based a year after the events of The Cundy, and sees Sully battling against ghosts, as well as something even scarier that lives in the woods and has been preying on the residents of Horden, killing them in the grisliest of ways. I can’t wait to share it with you. If you enjoyed The Cundy, you’ll love The Weeper.

The Cundy is currently on promotion for 99c / 99p. Grab it now if you haven’t already.

AMAZON * KOBO * APPLE * BARNES & NOBLE * GOOGLE PLAY

Posted in Uncategorized

The Night the Wall had a Heartbeat – The Ideas & Inspiration Behind Cribbins

Ronnie Cribbins is the ghostly antagonist in my novel Cribbins. But who is he?

A fictionalised blend of two men I knew in the past. You don’t need to know who. Would it matter if you did? Let’s just say they were both highly unpleasant people. The kind of men who would spit at you and leer before blowing their nose on the twenty-pound note you’d dropped, and they’d picked up before you had a chance to. I amplified and exaggerated their combined unpleasantness, rolling all their nasty traits into one person. Voila, Ronnie Cribbins.

But I didn’t arrive at the creation of Ronnie Cribbins till I’d had the idea for the story itself. And that came at a particularly tough time. But then, isn’t that how these things often happen?

Here’s a bit of brief backstory that’s essential to the narrative. I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis in 2016. MS is an incurable neurological autoimmune disease that can cause a multitude of symptoms and damage. It’s when the immune system mistakes the myelin sheath (the protective cover) around the nerves as a foreign body and eats it away, exposing and damaging the nerves. It can be painful as hell. Or utterly numbing. Or both at the same time. Because believe me, that’s a thing.

I feel lucky that all the relapses and flare ups I had were sensory, and I wasn’t left in any way disabled. When it’s too hot or if I’m feeling unwell, it’s not unusual for various parts of me to tingle like pins and needles, because heat and inflammation pokes and prods at old nerve damage. But the great news is, I had a mild form of chemo in 2016 and again in 2017, and since then I’ve been in remission. No more relapses, no progression.

Now back to Cribbins. Let’s go to March 2015, before I’d been diagnosed (though MS was already suspected). I was in the grip of an aggressive relapse, and my neurologist sent me for IV steroids. My husband was working away, and since I couldn’t do much of anything because most of me was numb and hurting, I went to stay with my folks for a few days.

I slept in my old bedroom. Well, slept isn’t exactly correct. The steroids had left me feeling wired, and I couldn’t switch off. My folks live in a terraced house. Growing up, I was used to hearing the comings and goings of next door, both ways, through the walls. That night I didn’t hear any sounds coming from next door, but as I lay with my feet pressed against the adjoining wall, I thought I could feel a heartbeat. Probably my own pulse. But this sparked the initial ideas for Cribbins.

What if there was a horrible old man who used to live next door? An old man who died and his ghost remains. His ghost is so strong I can feel its heartbeat.

What if this malevolent spirit attacks my new protagonist (let’s say Sophie, because Sophie is a nice name) so aggressively it sparks an autoimmune response in her, thus causing MS? Because no one really knows for sure what causes MS.

Yes! Immediately this idea excited me. It felt like an original concept and so very close to home. I could take everything that was happening to me, along with all the uncertainty and fear, and do something creative with it.

Cribbins became a hugely cathartic project. I applied anthropomorphism to MS and made it a human monster. And in doing all of this, I made some sort of peace with my own diagnosis.

As a side note, my neurologist, Dr Petheram, read and enjoyed Cribbins. In fact, during my annual review each year, she always asks if I have any new book releases that she can buy and read on her next holiday. I reckon that’s a pretty cool endorsement. Who else can say their neurologist is a fan of their work?

Cribbins is currently on offer for 99c / 99p. So if you want to find out how much of an evil old bastard Ronnie Cribbins is, check it out in the following places:

AMAZON * KOBO * APPLE * BARNES & NOBLE * GOOGLE PLAY

Posted in Uncategorized

Women Horror Writers Need Love Too: Part 2

One of my favourite writers is Shirley Jackson. I won’t go into a lengthy description about her or her works, though. WIHM has to be much more than the obvious choices like Shirley Jackson and Mary Shelley, after all. It’s about digging deeper and discovering and celebrating books by current, lesser known authors whose as-yet-unread work will hopefully make our souls weep with joy.

What I will say, however, is that Jackson’s style resonates with me. I love her writing style. It has an almost dream-like quality, which I find utterly addictive. Her characters, usually misunderstood females, are quirky and delightful. I guess you could say my preference is for subtle, unnerving horror, which Jackson did so well. Her stories are filled with ambiguity and you end up thinking about her books long after you’ve finished them.

Last year I discovered The Grip of It by Jac Jemc. It’s a haunted house book that feels totally Jackson-esque. It was an absolute delight to read, and I’d go as far as to say I felt haunted while reading it. The prose was stunning and the storyline compelling. It went straight onto my list of favourite books.

As well as Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It, some of my other favourite books by women authors include:

Come Closer (Sara Gran)

Dark Matter (Michelle Paver)

Dear Laura (Gemma Amor)

Ghost Wall (Sarah Moss)

Monster, She Wrote (Lisa Kroger & Melanie R. Anderson)

Pine (Francine Toon)

Thin Air (Michelle Paver)

The Coffin Path (Katherine Clements)

The Hunger (Alma Katsu)

The Three (Sarah Lotz)

The White Road (Sarah Lotz)

Wakenhyrst (Michelle Paver)

This year I hope to discover more books by women I’m not yet familiar with to add to my favourites list. So if you know of any women who write horror in a subtle, creeping-around-barefooted-in-the-dark style, pleased let me know. Extra points if they’re indie authors!  

Rachael

P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day 🖤

Posted in Uncategorized

How Many Ravens Are in a Storytelling? – The Ideas & Inspiration Behind A Storytelling of Ravens

A Storytelling of Ravens began with the title.

I’d bought a new handbag with illustrated ravens on the front. When I opened the flap, I was delighted to see the words ‘A Storytelling of Ravens’ printed in quirky type. It was such a lyrical sentence and gorgeous collective noun, I decided that’s what I would call my next book.

I contemplated going all-out James Herbert’s Rats style, only with ravens. But quickly decided against it, because I wanted the horror to be more psychological than gory. A story that would be filled with characters who rub each other up the wrong way, feel increasingly claustrophobic, hide secrets, spread rumours and perhaps deceive one another. Oh, and why not stick them in a cabin in the middle of a spooky old wood that’s said to be the home of something terrible?

Yep. So far, so good.

But what about the characters? Who would they be?

Not long after buying the handbag, I went to a local restaurant one evening. Next to the table my friend and I were sharing was a strange painting on the wall. It showed a redheaded girl on a small boat surrounded by what looked like ravens – attacking her! Completely random, in a nightmarish way, it spoke to me on many levels. The palette, dark and moody, appealed to me. But there was no signature or other identifier to let me know who the artist was. So I had no way of finding out about the painting’s backstory. Which made it all the more intriguing. Because who was the small girl, and why was she alone?

Enter, Pollyanna.

Pollyanna isn’t the main character in A Storytelling of Ravens, but she’s an interesting cog in the overall workings. And from her, I quickly and easily filled the other roles in my new line-up.

What about ravens? There are ravens, right?

Yep, of course. They live in a tree right next to the cabin.

How many?

I dunno, there are too many to count. But they’re noisy as hell.

Are they evil?

That would be telling.

In horror fiction, I love the fear of the unknown. The mere suggestion of evil, no matter how subtle, is enough to make us uncomfortable, at the very least, or downright scared. Sometimes, even though we’re not really sure what it is we’re afraid of, all it takes is a hint of something not quite right for our imagination to go wild. At least mine does. And as a horror writer, the most genuine and best way I can write my stories is to play up to the uncanny things that frighten me most.

I can’t really say too much more about A Storytelling of Ravens without being spoilerish. So I won’t. I’ll leave it there and let you decide if you dare to enter Whispering Woods.

It’s still on promotion for 99c / 99p till the end of the week.

AMAZON * KOBO * APPLE * BARNES & NOBLE * GOOGLE PLAY

Where it all started: the handbag and painting.
Posted in Uncategorized

A Decade in Horror: Part 2

What I’ve learned in my decade in horror is that horror is nowhere near as popular as I’d first imagined. Don’t get me wrong, it has a large, passionate fan base, just not in the same league as, say, thriller or romance.

Dunno if you’ve noticed, but libraries and bookstores (online bookstores, too) don’t always have dedicated horror sections. Too often I’ve had to rummage for horror novels amongst sci-fi and fantasy, or sometimes in general fiction – which isn’t ideal when you want to browse some blurbs and discover an author you’ve not heard of before. It’s like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. On the rare occasion I find a horror section, I always feel saddened to find it’s mostly filled with Stephen King and urban fantasy.

I’m a huge fan of King. But I like variety better. I’m not knocking urban fantasy either, it’s just not what horror readers expect or hope to find on their already-puny shelf space. Not this horror reader, in any case. Sometimes I see Dean Koontz, James Herbert and Graham Masterton alongside King on those shelves. But where are any of the books written by women horror writers? Because contrary to how it often appears, we exist.

I believe social media is crucially important in giving women writers a platform from which to be seen and heard, which is why Women in Horror Month’s hashtag is such a great tool. So please get searching for and sharing some #WiHM posts.

Let’s change things up and give women in horror more shelf space.

And if you have room on your own virtual bookshelf, my novel A Storytelling of Ravens is on promotion this week for 99c / 99p.

AMAZON * KOBO * APPLE * BARNES & NOBLE * GOOGLE PLAY

It’s kind of like if I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! coincided with the apocalypse.

Kidnapped actress, Callie Crossley, wakes up confused in an isolated cabin in the woods. There are two other captive guests. They tell her they’re surrounded by Whispering Woods and there’s no way out and sometimes the trees talk.

When a man from Callie’s past joins the group, Callie begins to hear things the others cannot — terrible whispers that are filled with death and madness.

Who can she trust?

Posted in Uncategorized

Women Horror Writers Need Love Too: Part 1

Are there any women authors on your list of favourite horror writers?

If not, why the hell not?

Perhaps it didn’t occur to you to notice. Because here’s the thing, two years ago I decided to make a list of all the books I picked up and read henceforth, thinking it would be cool to have a record (along with my thoughts on each book) by the end of each year. But by the end of that first year, as I glanced over my list, I was absolutely stunned, and horrified (!), to see that around 90% of the books I’d read were written by men.

90%!

It wasn’t a proud moment as I let that figure sink in. How could I have been so blinkered to my reading habits? And how long had this frustratingly unfair habit been left unchallenged?

Needless to say the following year, I changed my ways. Now I read a book by a female writer, followed by a book by a male writer EVERY time (because, like I said, I want to make it fair, and we aren’t bashing male writers here because their voices in horror are awesome and important too, we just don’t want to forget about or overlook the ladies!)

This is the second year I’ve been using this reading method, and my reading experience has completely transformed and become so much more enriched. I would urge you to try doing similar if you don’t already. I cringe at how many wonderful books and authors I’ve missed out on in the past because I didn’t dig deeper and seek and support my fellow female writers. But the important thing is, I’m rectifying this now.

Incidentally, my 2020 reading list comprised 26 books. You guessed it, 13 by women and 13 by men. Would it surprise you to know that in my top 10 reads of those books, 8 were by women? It’s crazy to think that if I hadn’t changed my reading habit, I might have missed out on discovering those absolute gems!

I’ll discuss some of my favourite books next week, but for now, here are some of the ladies (in alphabetical order) whose work I’ve been reading. Please check them out if you haven’t already.

  • Ania Ahlborn
  • Gemma Amor
  • Catherine Cavendish
  • Katherine Clements
  • Sarah Denzil
  • Sara Gran
  • Susan Hill
  • Shirley Jackson
  • Jac Jemc
  • Alma Katsu
  • Beverley Lee
  • Sarah Lotz
  • Sarah Moss
  • Sylvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Michelle Paver
  • Laura Purcell
  • Anne Rivers Siddons
  • Shani Struthers
  • Francine Toon
  • C. J. Tudor
  • Sarah Waters

My list should be way more extensive than that, I realise (and I’m actually embarrassed about the fact that it’s not), but I’m playing catch up and will keep building on it. In fact, in Part 3 of Women Horror Writers Need Love Too, I’ll list all the female authors I have on my ‘TBR list’ and hopefully persuade you to check them out too.

Till next time, pick up a book by a woman writer and spread the love. I guarantee she’ll be eternally grateful.

Also, let me know about your favourite female authors. If they aren’t on my radar yet, I’ll be sure to add their work to my ever growing ‘TBR list’.

Stay safe,

Rachael

Posted in Uncategorized

Ghosts of a Broken Old Village – The Ideas & Inspiration Behind Emergence

Location played a big role in Emergence. Before I’d even figured out what the story was going to be about, I knew it would be based in Horden; the ex-coal-mining village on the northeast coast of England in County Durham; the place where I grew up.

Edged by the cold North Sea and displaying many a graffitied wall in its streets, you’d be forgiven for thinking Horden is a grey, dismal place. Especially on days when it’s not favoured with sunshiny weather – which seems more often than not. But if you overlook Horden’s hardened facade, you’ll see it has impressive traits, too. Particularly its beach and connecting woods, which are great for exploring.

Horden is rich with history, but also deeply haunted by the demise of its coal mining heritage. When Horden Pit closed in the 1980s, the village took a massive blow. Since then, it’s never recovered (nor forgotten), and has, over the years, become somewhat socially and economically troubled. It seemed, therefore, a wholly appropriate setting for my protagonist, John Gimmerick.

Gimmerick. Bit of an odd name, isn’t it? It came to me in a dream. Sort of. After wrapping up the last book in The Reluctant Vampire Trilogy, and during the stages of making preparatory notes for Emergence, an inner voice said to me one night while I slept: ‘Hey, this next book you’re going to write will be about a man called Gimmerick John. It’ll be the best book you’ve written yet. So remember, Gimmerick John, okay?’ But Gimmerick as a first name seemed a bit too outlandish, my waking self thought, so I swapped the names round and honoured my subconscious’ wishes.

So what happens to John Gimmerick? I wondered.

He’s a young widower who rather reluctantly comes back to Horden, the place of his youth. He brings his little girl along, too. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, upon returning to his childhood home, his presence awakens something evil that had lain dormant inside the house for years.

Yep, I thought, good starting point: John’s homecoming turns into a scarefest.

And because I no longer live in Horden myself, I felt I could easily step into John’s shoes. I went on several field trips – seeing, feeling and breathing it all just as he did – thus giving the story depth and believability.

Ghosts and haunted houses have always been my favourite horror subgenre, and that was definitely the driving force when I thought about which direction I wanted to take Emergence. One thing I didn’t want was for the story to be filled with categorical monsters and gore. I wanted something far subtler than that. Something ambiguously dark and unnerving, where you’re afraid to turn off the lights in case something’s waiting in the shadows, watching and breathing.

There’s a huge dose of supernatural at play, and I wanted to pair this with John’s decline into questionable madness as he battles to put past wrongs right. And whether or not he’s to succeed, I wanted him to evolve throughout the book, so that by the end, good or bad, he’s a totally different person.

As for the ghosts? Let’s just say two friends of mine who are retired nurses inspired me greatly with creepy tales of the wards and corridors of the local old maternity hospital. The place I was born.

Intrigued?

Well, you can take advantage of my current promotion and grab a copy of Emergence for 99c (99p) to find out what evil John Gimmerick finds himself up against.

Oh, and check out the new 2021 cover, too! 🖤

AMAZON * KOBO * APPLE * BARNES & NOBLE * GOOGLE PLAY

Posted in Uncategorized

A Decade in Horror: Part 1

It’s February, which means it’s Women in Horror Month (WiHM).

But what is WiHM?

It’s a time to show our support and encouragement to women in all areas of the horror industry. Sounds crazy because this should happen all year round, right? But sadly, this isn’t always the case. February is about reminding folk not to forget or overlook the female creators amongst us – be they writers, artists, actors, film-makers or any other creatives within the field.

Can you remember the last time you read a horror novel/novella/short story by a female writer? If not, I urge you to remedy that right away and show us lady wordsmiths of dark and dangerous prose some love! We’re every bit as competent as our male counterparts and have stories to tell that are just as terrifying.

I’ll be listing some of my favourite writers on Friday, so watch out for that. For now, I’m going to discuss where it all started for me (mistakes, bad covers and tongue-in-cheek vampires). But first, since I’m a woman and it’s WiHM, I’m going to stand up and give a shout out to myself.

Because who else will if I don’t?

I don’t have a massive following and am pretty much beaten into obscurity by complex online algorithms, which are enough to make me feel like I’m having an aneurism whenever I try to figure them out. It probably doesn’t help my cause that I’m introverted and find it exceptionally hard to sell myself. I have so much self-doubt it’s crippling at times. But then I look at reviews and testimonials for my books and am reminded that I MUST believe in myself because others do.

2021 marks the tenth year since I took up writing seriously. In 2011, I undertook a comprehensive writing course for which I received a certificate of competency within ten months. The first three novels I published, over the subsequent three-year period, were part of what became The Reluctant Vampire Trilogy – a paranormal fantasy based at the seaside. (Who even knew there was such a thing?)

Did I know what I was doing? Hell no. I was learning processes from scratch and making stuff up as I went along. But each challenge that confronted me was extremely important to aid me in my journey. I needed to make mistakes (and holy shit, did I make lots!) in order to progress. All of it was a steep but beneficial learning curve – from plotting to finding target audiences.

These first three books of mine (Slippery Souls, The Forgotten Ones & Tattooed Gods) were very much trial and error. Even down to the covers, which I got tragically wrong in the first instance. They portrayed stories for a much younger audience than the books were actually intended (and were a bit naff, in all honesty). But when I realised I’d fucked-up (having listened to feedback) I made the necessary changes.

Here’s how the original covers looked:

And here’s how the covers ended up:

Was the trilogy a success? It depends how you look at it. Financially? Not especially. But learning how to plan and write a novel, then edit, format and publish it, these aspects were absolutely priceless. And Slippery Souls, the first in the trilogy, was short-listed for the UK’s Writing Magazine’s Self-publishing Award 2012, which was pretty damn cool.

I like to think of The Reluctant Vampire Trilogy days as my apprenticeship. I gained valuable skills and knowledge, which then enabled me to become the writer I am today. Stylistically the books are far from my best work, but they are vibrant, quirky and a whole lot of fun. By the time I’d wrapped up the last book in the trilogy, I knew I was ready to take on my ultimate passion – supernatural horror fiction. 

Cue, Emergence, my debut horror novel. And oh man, did I have fun writing it! It allowed me to dig deep and visit some really dark places. The characters were more evolved and my prose more grown-up. I felt by this point I’d found my real voice.

For this week only, to celebrate WiHM (and to entice you to take a chance on me, if you haven’t already), Emergence is on a promotion for 99c (99p).

It’s a ghost story about a young widower who takes his daughter to visit his childhood home. It’s kind of like if The Shining was based in a family home that’s haunted by ghosts and visited now and then by Succubus. Would you dare turn off the lights?

Emergence is available on Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble & Google Play.

Rocking red nails for WiHM ❤️

Posted in Uncategorized

Happy New Year!

Exciting news! The insanely cool horror site Tales to Terrify have featured my story ‘The Hole in the Wall’ on their podcast today!

What a great way to kick off the new year! 😁 You can listen to it here: https://talestoterrify.com/episodes/466-r-h-dixon-roy-bishop/

All the best to everyone for 2021!🥂

Posted in Uncategorized