A Dark Covenant – A Gothic Novella especially for Women in Horror Month 2020

I’m delighted to announce that I finally got my act together and published my small piece of Gothic Horror – A Dark Covenant just in time for Women in Horror Month 2020. And I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s just a rather long, short story that I feel I encapsulated all the things I love about Gothic Horror in one neat little package. We have the Victorian setting, a remote mansion, a mysterious dead relative, an inheritance and one very long night spend in vigil. There is plenty of suspense, foreshadowing and things that go bump in the night and I hope a little terror interspaced with the plot. One thing’s for sure, I had great fun writing it. So, I’m just going to include a little excerpt below to tantalise you and hope that if anyone is interested in downloading it from one of the links below, that they have fun reading it and that it might encourage them to discover and read more Gothic Fiction.




A Dark Covenant by F.B. Hogan

i shivered in my shirt, feeling the draught that seemed to surge from the locked bedroom door to curl about my stockinged feet and pull itself up my body by way of my naked legs.  When had it got so cold? Only moments earlier, I felt warm and even cosy, lying atop the bed sipping the brandy. But now, it was as someone had left all the doors and windows ajar and summoned the north wind to do its worst. I hastily grabbed my night shirt from the wardrobe and wrapped my threadbare, quilted banyan around my trembling frame. I poured the last of the brandy and threw it back in one gulp, relishing the burn and warmth it provided. Then and only then, did I return my gaze to the object on the bed.
I picked it up and turned it over in my hand. Heavier than it looked, it was as if it was made of iron instead of the silver the stamp on the inside declared. A simple design, more of a man’s pinkie ring than something to decorate the hand of an old woman. It looked solid and powerful, yes, that was the word that sprung to mind – power. A stately ornament. I touched the onyx circle inset in the front, black as the darkest night, it felt smooth and pleasing to the touch as if my finger wanted to stroke the surface, lingering on the star shape carved upon its surface. A curious symbol – more of a starburst than traditional star. My mind flashed an image to my brain and a memory immediately surfaced of the same image hanging in my line of vision, and I remembered the day I visited with my mother, my aunt bending low to face me, a heavy silver chain upon her neck with a pendant that swung out from her blouse. The same star shone brightly in the hallway, pleasing to my childish eyes, eyes that loved the sparkle of jewels and later the glint of coins changing hands.
 
It must have been some coat of arms, perhaps of one of her husbands’, now long gone, mouldering bones in the family sepulchre. Cheering thought. Without a second thought I placed the ring upon my finger. It fit as if made for me. I rubbed the onyx face and my finger traced the star as I lay back once more across the covers and sleep overtook me.

 

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Women in Horror Month 2020 – Birth of a new horror baby

And here we are again. My favourite month of the year, not least because it is in fact, my birthday month and I like to think that the organisers of Women in Horror Month had me in mind when they placed this awesome celebration of Women writers of Horror in February. Well, I’m going to continue in this belief.

Not, that I need any excuse to celebrate horror. My horrorfest is never ending. I live and breathe, watch, read and write horror on a continuous basis.

And for the last two years, I have spent my Februarys in a whirlwind of blogs and facebook posts celebrating the many awesome women writers I have had the fortune to come across and with whom I am in frequent contact online. The horror community is a brilliant, supportive and creative hub and I am very lucky to have found my place amongst such stalwarts.

However, this year I decided to give the time over to getting my own horror offering, A Dark Covenant ready for its first outing into the world. I’ve only been writing it for the last two years. When I actually sat down and wrote the first draft, it was completed in a matter of days, then of course, came the revisions, the usual hatred of the story. I left it for a good six months or so and then revisited and decided, hell, it’s actually not that bad so I gave it another chance and began the polish. Now I am just waiting for last edits before I begin the dreaded formatting and uploading to Amazon.

Looking forward to seeing it out there in such good company. And looking forward to starting some new story ideas, and of course, maybe finishing off my first horror novel. Wouldn’t that be nice.

Watch this space.

Out With the Old Bed & in With the New

I’m going to Kilkenny on Tuesday to buy a bed. It’s not a new bed, it’s an antique iron frame. I’m quite excited about this trip, it’s been something I’ve wanted to do for an age, three years in fact – not the trip to Kilkenny, I go there quite often as it’s not far. I mean the bed-buying part. You have to understand that this excursion marks a kind of final step for me.

The bed that had resided in my room for the last eight years was a king-sized behemoth, a mahogany sleigh type that took up all the room in my smallish room. It was a necessary purchase back then as I was sharing with a rather tall individual who took up all the space.

Post marriage break-up, the bed seemed to cast a gloomy shadow across the rest of the room and it didn’t matter how I moved things around or whether I painted the room a different colour, it still remained the focal point. It wasn’t really the bed’s fault, it had been a very comfortable piece of furniture, with a great mattress that had cost the same price as the frame. No, it came down to what the bed symbolised, the last dark mark remaining, a shadow of the blackness that covered me after my marriage imploded and I was left behind with the children, all the responsibilities, hard decisions and the challenges of funding our life as a single parent.

It had to fucking go.

But for some reason I fought the decision, prolonged it. After all it was too much of an effort, how was I to get such a sizeable object out of the room? Who would want it? Would I ever sell it? And how would I advertise it? And so, it remained; the first thing I was aware of each morning and the last thing I was in contact with each night.

Then suddenly as if by magic, it was gone. Following a conversation with a good friend (one of the best people I know who always has the solution to life’s problems) I got in touch with the husband of a mutual friend who sells furniture – he arrived that evening and the bed was dismantled and gone within an hour. Quite miraculous.

I felt as if a huge weight had lifted. Freed. At last the room belonged to me, it looked different, it felt different. I had successfully exorcised the demon and was now at liberty to move on with my life.

So, on Tuesday morning, myself and my old trusty car will travel to Kilkenny city to pick up the pieces of my new bed, my own lovely, quirky, iron bed. The bed that just happened to appear for sale after I had placed the call to have the old one removed. Serendipity or synchronicity? Whatever – I would put it together myself and when I move it will move with me.

New bed, new dreams, new happier ever after.

Photograph by DeMorris Byrd.

Magical Midwinter

December, the final month. Yule. Christmas and the holiday season. Dark nights and icy mornings. Frost bitten fingers and red noses. Grass that crunches underfoot and trees etched in stark relief against startling bright sunsets.

A beautiful month, the red of the holly berry against the shining, moist leaves, the bejewelled fallen leaves on the tufted grass. The dart of colour as the cheeky robin flies from post to window ledge, his inquisitive beady eye peeping at me from the deck. Snow on the far mountains, glinting in the morning light, mysterious and aloof. And the light; cold and clear, diamond bright.

We clothe ourselves in warm, woollens in a multitude of bright colours, from hats to long sweaters, gloves to thick socks and I imagine what life must be like in Norway and dream of the Northern Lights.

We dress the house in winter greenery, evergreen finery, with strands of ivy, holly and mistletoe. Two trees sparkle and glow; one, in the living room is a nod to the Victorian décor of old with strings of golden balls, white lights and crystal ornaments. The second tree in the kitchen is a riot of baubles and multicoloured fairy lights. Both are wonderful treats for the eye.

Flames dance in the cast iron fireplaces and we gather around on the cold nights, to enjoy the warmth and the joyous spectacle of the open hearth.

December is a time for contemplation, for reminiscence and gratitude for me. Invariably, I cast my mind back to years past, when I was a child and later to when I was married with young children of my own. There is always a little sadness mixed with sweet memories, thinking of the lengths my mother (now passed) went to make each Christmas special, from the home cooking to the bulging stockings discovered at the end of our beds on Christmas morning. For the past few years, it has been a stressful time for me, as a single parent, trying to pull out all the stops, forgetting what the season was about. And now, having made peace with the changes in my life, I embrace the freedom I have been granted to celebrate the end of the year, the solstice and coming together of my family in love and joy.

I relish the cooking, the celebrational food, the trimmings, the house decorated and inviting. I love the anticipation of Christmas morning and the excitement and fun of present giving. My heart is filled with gratitude for all the wonderful Christmases I have had with my family, my lovely Dad and my children.

This coming week I shall journey down the country to visit with my father and share a Christmas night with my siblings and their families. On Christmas Eve, my daughter and her little family; husband and baby son, join us to begin some new traditions and holiday rituals.

My life, whilst still a rollercoaster of change, is never dull and I am happy and grateful to have this lovely, wintry few weeks to sit and contemplate the joy that was 2019 and look to the future with bright eyes.

The Gift of a Rainy Saturday

It’s two days past Hallowe’en. The rain drips from the eves, soggy orange and brown leaves litter the drive and fill up the gutters, and the smell of kerosene wafts from my hands to my nose. I’ve just spent the last half hour filling my outside tank with enough heating fuel to keep the boiler running for the next week. Of course, I spilled copious amounts on my coat, my jeans and it seems to have seeped into my very pores. But, it’s quite alright, I like the smell, always have. In fact, I was quite proud of the fact that I managed to stand on a wonky, plastic, outside-chair in the torrential rain without slipping, managed to hoist the can up and get it all into the tank without falling flat on my arse. And for bonus points, I bled the boiler to start the heating without flooding the back kitchen, too much. Don’t you just love Saturday mornings?

A wet, dark, moody Saturday. Lovely. I foresee time spent by the fire reading. I foresee comfort food with a glass of wine. My daughter is coming down later with little Peter and we’ll all be together; all my five children under the one roof.

Perhaps I will write a little of my novel, the rain always helps. It adds focus, each drip down the pane, a shiver down my spine at the possibility of creation. Hence my posting today. I wanted to post in the days up to Hallowe’en, creepy excerpts of my own horror, I wanted to post on the day itself – poetry and pictures of the house dressed for the season but time was not my friend. So, today I found the time, I was up early with car drops, and later I go out again to shop and generally stockpile what I need for the coming week; such is the commuting life.

But for now, as the rain falls and I sip coffee and type, joy flows. Joy that I am finally giving words to my thoughts, I am finally writing instead of thinking of writing. I’m doing something for myself, drawing something from myself. Freeing my spirit.

I’m grateful for this gift of a rainy Saturday.

The Coffee Consuming Zombie

I am not a morning person. I am the type of person who loves the silence when everyone sleeps, when the words flow, or a book calls to be finished. I like to linger at the end of the day and watch the moon rise high in the sky. I’m a creature of the night. Well, I used to be.

Three weeks ago, I joined the great mass of the undead – sorry, I mean commuters travelling in droves towards the city. In other words, I got a new job. Yes, a respectable office position in a Government division in a lovely old Georgian part of Dublin near Stephen’s Green.

I had been struggling for a while financially, my business never really took off and although I was privileged to work on some amazing books and with some extremely talented creatives, it didn’t pay the bills and with a house full of teenage girls and a car on its last legs I made the executive decision to seek full-time work.

Dublin had the best opportunity for me with my skill set and although it seems a million miles away at 5.30 a.m. when my eyes are crusted over with sleep, I plan on moving up in the next year so it really was a step that had to be taken.

But man, it’s hard, it’s extremely hard. Before working from home, I worked evenings for a number of years enabling me to be at home with my children. I haven’t worked in an office for an aeon and while my new colleagues are lovely and very helpful, I still find routine to be an abstract concept.

But the lack of sleep, the peeling myself from the covers when the alarm rings, that is the most difficult. I caught a glimpse of myself in the bedroom mirror one morning last week – a stork, the hair standing on end, bleary-eyed and confused and actually felt sorry for myself. Poor, poor un-caffeinated me.

Luckily, I have the option of flexi-time, which means I can arrange my hours, or rather my bus trips to get home a little earlier but there is still a round trip of four hours daily. The idea is to use this time for writing, for finishing off the novel I have been working on for the last two years. In theory it’s a great idea. But tell it to my body, to the eyes that close as soon as I plonk myself down on the coach seat. Perhaps, one day when the adjustment period is over.

Perhaps.

So, I guess what I am trying to say is – sorry for the neglect at Unusual Fiction, bear with me, I haven’t given up on writing, I just have to allow the changes to occur and roll with it. I will find my bearings, my groove and carve a writing path around these unsociable hours. But it’s going to take time and lots of coffee.

On Not Writing

Blog posts are hard to come by these days. Like a toothache, the idea of writing niggles away at me, occasionally rising to a mixed crescendo of pain and irritation before easing and then disappearing again.

I want to sit down and write, I feel the urge, the desire but I suppress the words – half-formed sentences flash in my brain at the strangest of times; as I’m buckling up in the car, waking me up in the early hours of the morning, when I brush my teeth. Some days words assault me mid-conversation and I have to stop momentarily to gather my thoughts. It’s no wonder people view me as distracted, scatterbrained for that is what my brain is – scattered with words and phrases.

I just haven’t had the energy to sit and force these words into any sort of cohesive arrangement. I seem to be operating at very low power, have been for a while now – perhaps it’s my age, I am , after all, a grandmother now, gray hairs don’t even have the grace to hide from sight, appearing to take pleasure in growing out like antennae from the top of my scalp. My face has taken on a perpetually pinched look as if I’ve just arrived in the door from a five day music festival. There are no creams to deal with this.

My soul is tired, I believe it needs a holiday.

Scandinavia would be nice, I quite fancy seeing the Northern Lights. Fur, ice and fire. Someplace steeped in old legends, gods and bloody battles. Someplace to sort me out. Space, I need space. A place to breathe, to create, to untangle the coiled wires and set down the words. I need to pour them into the purple hardback that mocks me for the half page once or twice a week that has been masquerading as a first draft for the better part of two years.

Still, procrastination, writing about not writing is a step in the right direction, I suppose. One must work with what one is given.

More coffee is required.

Historical Novelist, Pam Lecky leaves No Stone Unturned with the First Book in her Lucy Lawrence Series

I love a good historical detective novel, and always find a Victorian setting adds a gothic darkness that makes the pleasure of reading more intense. Today I’m delighted to welcome author of romantic and historical fiction, Pam Lecky to Unusual Fiction. I loved her last novel, The Bowes Inheritance and greatly look forward to getting my teeth into her new series.

A suspicious death, stolen gems and an unclaimed reward: who will be the victor in a deadly game of cat and mouse?

London October 1886: Trapped in a troubled marriage, Lucy Lawrence is ripe for an adventure. But when she meets the enigmatic Phineas Stone, over the body of her husband in the mortuary, her world begins to fall apart.

When her late husband’s secrets spill from the grave, and her life is threatened by the leader of London’s most notorious gang, Lucy must find the strength to rise to the challenge. But who can she trust and how is she to stay out of the murderous clutches of London’s most dangerous criminal?

†

Pam Lecky is an Irish historical fiction author, writing crime, mystery, romance and the supernatural. Pam is represented by the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency in London. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Society of Authors and has a particular love of the late Victorian era/early 20th Century.

Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion; shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; and long-listed for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award.

Her short stories are available in an anthology, entitled Past Imperfect, whichwas published in April 2018.

Question 1
What prompted you to write your latest book?

No Stone Unturned has been bubbling away at the back of my mind for some time. My first book was romantic suspense and although I really enjoyed writing it, I wanted to write something a little darker. The initial idea was the prodigal daughter returning home only to be embroiled in a crime, but I also wanted to create a series in which I could develop the characters over time. Initially, Phineas Stone was to be the central character as the private investigator who specialises in insurance fraud, but the more I wrote about Lucy, the louder her voice became. Eventually, the entire book was rewritten from her point of view and the Lucy Lawrence Mysteries were born!


Question 2
Why do you like to write in your chosen genre?

From a young age I was hooked on historical dramas on tv and devoured historical fiction books. As a teen, I developed a taste for crime, too, and read mostly Dorothy L Sayers and PD James. I guess it was inevitable I would end up combining these two loves and to write historical mystery/crime.

Question 3 Who is your favourite character in No Stone Unturned?

Gosh, that’s a difficult one to answer but if I have to choose, it has to be Lucy. We are starting out on a journey together and I can’t wait to see how she develops over time. By the end of No Stone Unturned, she is already finding her feet and relishing her independence.

Question 4
Which actors would you have to play the main characters in the film version?

Another difficult one, Fiona! Ok I’d love someone like Laurence Fox to play Phineas and perhaps Rachel Redford or Keira Knightly for Lucy.

Question 5
Can you please share one of your favourite passages from the book?

This scene takes place early in the book. Lucy is about to be reunited with her family for the first time in ten years.


The murmur of voices grew louder as Lucy neared the blue salon. The pretentious designation made her smile for it had always been just the drawing room when she lived here. Her curiosity about her sister-in-law was increasing by the minute. Could she be a sensible woman? Tonight would give her the answer.
The door stood ajar.
“Have you taken leave of your senses, Richard? It’s the only possible explanation for taking her in to our home.” The strident female voice halted Lucy in her tracks, and she stood motionless with her hand on the fingerplate of the door.
“Sibylla, please! There is no need to discuss this again, I have an obligation—”

“Pooh! What has changed? And I thought she wanted nothing to do with us. I tell you, Richard, you have been taken in. You are far too soft. Before we know it every waif and stray of the county will be presenting themselves.”
“My daughter belongs here with us,” a gentler lady’s voice interrupted. But Lucy could detect the familiar steely undertone in her mother’s voice. It brought to mind the last time they had spoken. And that wasn’t a pleasant memory.
“With all due respect—” Sibylla said.
“How I detest those words,” Lucy’s mother cut in. “Somehow they are always a precursor to the most disrespectful comments imaginable.” There was a pause, then she continued in a firmer tone. “With the death of Charles Lawrence, Lucy is alone in the world so it is only right she return here to her family home.”

“I knew it! This is your doing,” Sibylla exclaimed, her voice trembling. “We will entertain a house full of guests in a few days, and Mrs Hughes has given her one of the best rooms on your instructions. I do not understand why my wishes were ignored.”
“Do you not, Sibylla?” Lucy’s mother asked, her voice silky smooth. Lucy’s ears pricked up; all was not well at Somerville, it seemed.
“Mother and I discussed it at length. Lucy must be treated properly for I will not have it said I shirked my responsibilities to my sister,” Richard said.
“What right has she to expect anything from us now?” Sibylla asked. “Her behaviour has brought nothing but shame to the family. What are we to do with her? Indeed, Richard, I must ask if she is to live off us indefinitely.”
“That is enough! Lucy is recently widowed. Have you no compassion?” Richard demanded.
“Yes, Sibylla, how can you be so hard-hearted towards your sister-in-law?” exclaimed Lucy’s mother. “To err is human.”
“Oh, for goodness’ sake!” Sibylla exclaimed.

Someone cleared their throat and silence reigned for several moments. Sibylla’s crass comments hung in the air, and Lucy’s face began to burn. At that moment she wanted to return to her room and pack her bag.
“Richard, who are we waiting for?” A voice Lucy did not recognise piped up.
“My sister Lucy, Uncle Giles. I explained it all to you earlier,” Richard answered.
“Do I have a niece, Charlotte?” Uncle Giles asked. Lucy’s mind was whirring, trying to place him. She had a vague memory of hearing of a Giles Bradshaw, her mother’s youngest brother, but she had never met him.
“Yes, Giles, you do,” she heard her mother answer.
“Are you sure, Charlotte? I don’t remember her.”
The conversation was taking a bizarre turn, and Lucy couldn’t risk loitering outside any longer in case a servant appeared. Feeling far from confident, she entered the salon as the clock struck the hour.
At one end of the room, which was indeed very blue, sofas and chairs were arranged around the marble fireplace. Two women sat facing each other. Both heads swung around on her entrance and stared as she advanced. Her mother had aged; now silver-haired, a trifle gaunt about the face and in widow’s weeds, her pale blue eyes held little promise of affection. Nothing had changed there. Across from her, a younger woman with red hair regarded her with open hostility. Elegantly dressed in green silk with a delicate fringed shawl draped around her slender shoulders, she was certainly fashionable but not particularly happy, her mouth forming a thin line of disapproval.

A little outside the group at the fireplace, in a wingback chair, an elderly gentleman with white hair and beard sat apart. As Lucy advanced, he struggled to his feet.
Richard came forward to greet her at once. “Good evening, Lucy. I hope you are rested?” he asked, taking her arm and bringing her towards the ladies.
Her mother rose stiffly to her feet and stepped forward, arms wide. “My dear Lucy,” she said, smiling broadly, “You are very welcome.” To Lucy’s surprise she sounded sincere and embraced her, the scent of violets almost overwhelming. Lucy was at a loss for words for Mother had never been demonstrative. Instantly, she was on her guard.
“It is wonderful to have you home. I do hope you will consider staying with us longer than a few weeks?”
her mother said, tucking a possessive arm through hers. Lucy did not miss the significant glance towards the younger woman.
“Thank you, Mother,” Lucy said, fighting hard to control her disappointment. Clearly, she had strayed on to a battlefield.
“And this is my wife, Sibylla,” Richard said.
“Delighted,” the woman said, sounding anything but, as her critical gaze swept over her. A limp handshake was offered. The woman’s comments moments before still rang in Lucy’s ears, and she was determined to dislike her.

As Sibylla’s eyes lowered to take in her unfortunate dress, Lucy pasted a smile on her lips. “It is lovely to meet you at last, Sibylla. Thank you for inviting me into your home for Christmas. So kind and so generous of you.”
Sibylla stiffened and glanced at her sharply.
“Would you do the honours, Richard?” the bearded gentleman asked, as he moved towards them. “Who is this pretty wee thing?”
“Lucy, this is Captain Giles Bradshaw, your uncle,” Richard explained. “I don’t believe you have ever met.”

“No, we have not,” Lucy said.
“Royal Navy, my dear, since I was a lad,” Uncle Giles explained. “HMS … oh, what was it again?” he asked, looking towards her mother.
“Gallant, dear.”
“Ah yes. What a beauty!” he said, his eyes taking on a dreamy quality. “They don’t build them like that any more. It was an honour to be her captain.”
“Retired Navy Captain,” Richard said with a hint of exasperation. “You must forgive Uncle for his memory
is a trifle unreliable. He will probably demand to know your name at breakfast every morning for the next week.”
Soon her hand was enveloped in a crushing handshake as she made her how-do-you-do.
“Nonsense, Richard, nothing wrong with being a little forgetful at my age, eh, my dear?” Uncle Giles asked, smiling warmly at her.
“No indeed, sir,” she said. “One of the privileges, I dare say.”
This appeared to please him. “What a clever young lady you are! I shall take you into dinner. I think you and I will become staunch friends.”
When the second bell sounded, Richard offered his arm to his mother and, much to Lucy’s delight, Sibylla was left alone to trail behind them to the dining room.


No Stone Unturned is available in ebook and paperback and Kindle Unlimited – Amazon
worldwide.
Book Buy Link:

Question 6
What would you say is the hardest thing about writing a book?

For me the first draft can be quite difficult. I work part-time so my writing time is precious and doesn’t always coincide with feeling creative!
Writing a mystery novel was much more demanding than romance (but also more enjoyable for me). There are so many threads to the story and you have to ensure all the loose ends are tied up neatly. But, at the same time, you have to leave the ending open slightly so that the characters have room to grow and develop along with the series. Hopefully, I have managed that.

Question 7 What do you have in the pipeline?

The sequel to No Stone Unturned is in its second draft and I hope to publish it before year end. The next instalment is entitled, Footprints in the Sand, and is set in Egypt. Lucy finds herself embroiled in the machinations and professional jealousies of rival English and French Egyptologists. When a prominent member of the profession is found murdered, Lucy must keep her wits about her to solve the case and avoid meeting a similar fate.

I’m also in the developmental stages of a new project for my agent. I can’t give too much away at the moment other than the setting is most likely England just after WW1.

Find out about Pam’s work :

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