Spirits of the Dead – Character Insight

Spirits of the Dead – Character Insight

I was recently asked who my favourite character is from Spirits of the Dead. It is always hard to pick a favourite character that I have written about. Part of the fun in writing, is coming up with lovable or evil characters! If I write well, I hope to enjoy each and every one of them.

My lead kid, Christopher is pretty cool, and his friend, Jason too — who is the standard sidekick and comedic relief. I actually really like Jason, as I had a friend just like him when I was young. I really enjoyed remembering him and letting him be such a big part of my story.

Another character that sort of moved from the background to the foreground was a chap called Dr Tabernacle. This is one interesting guy. He is a combination of a few people that I know. He has some good qualities and reminds me of gentlemen of a bygone era that naturally emanated manners and etiquette — a sorely missed attribute in this day and age. Whether his outward manners mask any darker intentions, one will have to see as the series progresses.

But in this book, my favourite to write was actually the utterly evil local priest, Reverent McBride. He has some wonderful characteristics that were just so much fun to create. Actually he is a composite character based off a few stories that I have heard, and people I have met.

Writing for a dark and twisted soul was always going to be great to get my teeth into. These fellows are somewhat complex, in that they are also the driving force behind the main characters pitfalls and terrors. They have their own mental reasons for doing what they do, and the darker they have fallen from a place of morality, the more it tends to show upon their face and in their actions.

I find that evil characters are the glue that provide the excitement, the apprehension and the reasons not to go out late at night for both our main characters and my readers!

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Spirits of the Dead – My Inspiration
Spirits of the Dead – My Inspiration

Spirits of the Dead – My Inspiration

My initial inspiration for this book came from a real ghostly building in my local town. The high street here contains many preserved buildings dating as far back as the 14th century so it has many old and unusual locations.

One foggy morning, at 3am, I was out walking along The High Street, trying to shift a rather nasty migraine. I remember stopping in my tracks as an unexpected pressure upon my chest caused me to take in a deep breath.

I looked up at an old bicycle shop, where a big period bike sat gathering dust in the window. Everything about the shop display was grey and lost in the past. There was a pull to the top floor windows, where I felt the presence of someone looking down at me from behind the blackened windows. It was a very odd sensation. As I stared up I got the impression that the person was a young girl who had been stuck up there for over a hundred years.

I remember thinking how that poor girl had died up there so many moons ago. I of course, immediately questioned where on earth that feeling had come from. Being late, I tried to dismiss it and press on with my walk, still determined to shift the migraine. The seed of a story, however, had been planted in my mind.

What really made it real for me was that over the next few weeks, I happened to walk past the same shop with two different friends. On both occasions when I asked them what they thought of this practically invisible shop, they too raised a hand to their chest and mentioned that they suddenly felt an odd constriction there. They were both bowled over when I told them of my earlier experience and agreed that the place gave off a dark sort of foreboding.

The seed of this story blossomed into what became the short story, The Ghostly Penny Farthing, and now the full-length story, The Spirits of the Dead.

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September Newsletter – Christopher Daring – No.1 on Amazon

September Newsletter – Christopher Daring – No.1 on Amazon

Finding my new book: The Forest of Riddles at a number one slot on Amazon last Saturday really made my day!

The book, set for release on the 21st of September, will be accompanying its sister book in the Christopher Daring series: Spirits of the Dead.

On Thursday of this week I also had some amazing news, with Spirits of the Dead hitting number ONE in its category. So as you can imagine it has been a pretty good week.

 

To find out what all the excitement is about, and find out more click on the links below:

Spirits of the Dead: UK & US

The Forest of Riddles: UK & US

It’s certainly a busy month! To add to the current buzz, the on-line giant BookBub will be featuring Spirits of the Dead on the 29th September.

BBC Radio Surrey, also requested an interview with me to discuss the new launch. So I had the chance to chat with presenters James Cannon and Lesley McCabe on Tuesday around 9:15am on 11th September. It was a great interview, wherein we talked about the two new books and the series overall. If you missed it and want to have a listen to the chat, just let me know.

 

And speaking of radio interviews, I have another on Wednesday 26th of September, where I will be talking to my local presenter Samantha Day at Meridian107 FM. I will be in the studio at 10:15am chatting about the books.

If you miss it and fancy a catch up over a cup of tea, you can find it here: http://www.meridianfm.com/listen-again/

 

The Magical Video Trailer

To put you in the mood for the feel of the new books, you can watch my updated video here:

Don’t forget the book signing of both books will be on the 6th October 2018 at The BookShop, at the top of town in East Grinstead, West Sussex, England.

~ 

Earlier Incarnations

Now, I’ve spoken in the past about the illustrators that have worked on my most recent Christopher Daring books— whether for the covers or for the inside illustrations — but I don’t believe that I have mentioned the first graphic designer that jumped on board in the early days.

Jesse Reuben Wilson, of BeyondMedia, was the first person that I discussed the idea of branding with. Now Jesse, apart from being an excellent music producer and the editor of the on-line Bandit music magazine, is also an incredible designer. He is one of the few people I know who is just amazing at whatever he does.

I approached Jesse a few years back with my original Christopher Daring short stories, and he was keen to get the book covers just right. He has a natural eye when it comes to creative design. And not just that, he also tends to underpin his talent with some pretty clever intelligence.

 

So if you are looking for an amazing graphic designer, then contact his company here: www.beyondmedia.co

 

Below are the original Christopher Daring book covers that he created. They are no-longer available, as these two short stories together are what is now the new full-length book:The Spirits of the Dead. It is a shame to let them go…

 

Christopher Daring Insights

Christopher Daring Insights

Christopher Daring Sweets

Writing an adventure series had been on my mind since I was around 14 or 15 years old. By the time I was 17 the first real adventure story was finally forming in my head as I would take my dog Brandy around a particular park in Hertfordshire, England. The story I wanted to tell seemed so big and so involved that I did not feel remotely ready to write it — nor did I know where to start. But now with the aid of Christopher Daring I can finally tell it!

Unfortunately, my early teen writing aspirations were heavily crushed at school by a nosy school kid and a cruel teacher. Wherein they jointly whipped up a frenzied insinuation, in a class full of students, of my having psychological issues because I was writing a small horror at the time. Looking back is was a very nasty thing to do — especially as the teacher, of all people, is supposed to be an opinion leader, and one who inspires children. Needless to say, their unprovoked actions definitely introverted me on the subject and I promptly stopped writing for about 17 years after that. So please don’t follow in my footsteps there, and never-ever give in to negative or critical abuse!

Christopher Daring Series History:

I think the main reason I have continued writing is because people have kept asking me to. It is rather quite touching when you are asked to write another book or another in the series! And so it was with the Christopher Daring books. I’d written the first book, ‘The Ghostly Penny Farthing’ years ago as a one-off ghost story, based off a derelict building in my local town centre. Before it was finally given its long-awaited facelift, the shop and upper floors gave off some seriously dark vibes to passersby. 

The book, although fairly short, had a lasting twist at the end that upset a good few people. Although you never saw it coming, it did leave the reader wanting to know more. I had various people and kids alike, asking for me to resolve the mysterious twist. I even had one kid I know call me up — way past his bedtime — demanding to know what happened to the person in the story. His mother said that he would not rest until I could reassure him that the second book would provide him with the answers he wanted. Which it did — and it spurred him to start reading for himself!

Anyway, I then created the second book ‘The Golden Pocket Watch’ which, apart from resolving the twist in the first book, was a ghost story in its own right.  Now I had two books under the new branding of ‘The Christopher Daring Adventures’. But then of course I was asked for the next book in the series — and so it began… 

The ‘Ghostly Penny Farthing’ and ‘The Golden Pocket Watch’ are what together have been heavily beefed up into ‘The Spirits of the Dead’. The sequel, ‘The Forest of Riddles’ — a brand new novel — is coming out on the same date.

I actually had other books already in the pipeline — that were separate stand-alone novels, but I finally decided to overhaul the entire series and incorporate these other books as well. If I did this I could then also merge them with the main story I had always wanted to write as a kid — when I used to walk my dog. 

So there you have it, a brief history of Christopher Daring. Once this release is completed and I have my book signing done, I shall be excited to return to the series and continue Christopher’s adventures.

I have been having some fun creating a promotional gimmick to give out to kids for FREE during my book signing and physical launch. I did some hunting around and came across these sweets which you can add your own labels to. So I contacted Andrew Gaia — the amazing artist who works on my Christopher Daring book covers — and as usual he came up trumps with a great design.

Let me tell you, having someone as professional, artistic and competent as he is, is worth their weight in gold! So I put his original design below, and you can see the final effect at the top of the article.

 

So just to remind you, Books 1 and 2 — Spirits of the Dead and The Forest of Riddles will be launched on-line on the 21st September. So pre-order now to get your copies as soon as they are released on Amazon!

AND, there will be a book signing of both books on the 6th October 2018 in East Grinstead, West Sussex, England. 

I shall be at the BookShop all day signing and chatting away to anyone that would like to pop in for a chat. And thankfully, they also have their own tea lounge on the ground floor if you fancy a spot of refreshment and slice of cake.

You can find them  at www.eastgrinsteadbookshop.co.uk 

They are a delightful book shop so if you are ever passing, feel free to visit!

Signs, Symbols & Mystic Codes

Signs, Symbols & Mystic Codes

The Coat of Arms for James Bond

Signs, symbols and mystic codes have always fascinated me. They also appear to be more popular now than they ever were.

The brilliant writer Dan Brown is a doyen of such, and effortlessly weaves them into his exciting thrillers. Even James Bond, the British secret agent has his own brand of associated insignia with his very own Coat of Arms1. The Latin words below the shield translate to: The World is not Enough — also the title of the film in which it was famed.

Various groups: be them underground sects, devil-worshiping cults, secret societies or just your run-of-the-mill social club, all like to be associated, one way or another, to some influential symbol or emblem. This practice appears to go back to the dawn of time.

Sometimes I find that by adding occasional symbols or cryptic images, it can add a certain degree of mystique or depth to a storyline. Not that I would want to use this all the time mind.

That said, here is a sneak-peek at a symbol designed for a book I am currently working on.

It is known as an ambigram, which basically means that this design of the word can be read from various angles, so look at the word upside down and see how it fairs. It is a wondrous style of artistic wording.

For me, the masters of applying quality symbolism, and embedding or associating hidden pictographic narratives within their art work, are to be found at The College of Arms2 in London.

For those of you who are not familiar with The College, it is the official heraldic3 authority for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and much of the Commonwealth including Australia and New Zealand.

As well as being responsible for the granting of new coats of arms, The College maintains registers of arms, pedigrees, genealogies, Royal Licences, changes of name, and flags. Besides having ceremonial duties, they advise on all matters relating to the peerage and baronetage, precedence, honours and ceremonial as well as national and community  symbols including flags.

They can be found at: www.college-of-arms.gov.uk

This is their very own Coat of Arms

They are situated at the heart of the city of London, and if you are interested in heraldry, then do stop by for a visit.

Underpinning the College of Arms is the ‘The White Lion Society’ whose sole aim is to support the college in all its various activities. To find out what these are and for all other things heraldic visit them at: http://whitelionsociety.org.uk

It might also interest you to know that I was very fortunate a few years ago to be introduced to Robert Noel at The College, who has the grand title of Lancaster Herald. This title is for someone who is an English officer of arms at the college, appointed by a sovereign or state. He has a tremendous mastery of the English language and has been a stalwart member at the college for many years now. Those of you also familiar with my Wolfdog thriller, may even have noticed that Mr Noel very kindly wrote the foreword. His generous words can be found in the book, or indeed on my website.


Coat of Arms1: a visual design created on a shield, depicting various achievements, traditionally unique to individual persons, families, states and organisations. The coat of arms usually includes a shield, helmet, and crest, together with any accompanying devices, such as supporters, badges, heraldic banners, and mottoes.

The Collage of Arms2: a royal corporation consisting of professional officers of arms with jurisdiction over England, Wales, Northern Ireland and some Commonwealth realms. Since its re-incorporation on the 18th July 1555 the College’s home has been on the same site in Queen Victoria Street in the City of London.

Heraldic3 (or Heraldry): a broad term encompassing design, display and study of various past achievements unique to these said individual persons, families, states and organisations.

To Persist or not to persist — that is the question? 

To Persist or not to persist — that is the question? 

An insight into American Riverdale actress,
Marisol Nichols’ rejection letters:
Image Credit: Marisol Nichols

To Persist or not to persist — that is the question?

Persistence is an interesting quality in a person. Every once in a while, I get asked why I keep bothering in the arts. Such an odd comment to make, I still cannot quite get my head around it. It is like someone is trying to invoke a state of failure or apathy. It’s almost like asking: why do you bother to keep putting your shoes on every morning? The answer applies to both; if I don’t, I won’t get to where I want to go.

But when is enough, simply enough? How do you judge when you want to stop or to even slow down? Well, only you can decide on that. But you can be sure on one thing, that if you decide to stop — to cease persisting — it is a cinch that you will NEVER make it — in anything!

If I had a pound for every one that told me that I would never get anywhere in the arts, I really would have a large bonus added to my bank account.

Believe it or not, before leaving school, I had a chat with my careers teacher. She informed me that I would never make it onto TV in the acting world, which was my first choice — but I actually did — by being persistent. She also told me not to get into computers as they would never take-off and that it was just a passing fad! What great vision she had! So, the lesson here is: you should always keep your own counsel and follow your heart. Sprinkle that with some persistence and boom, you are over halfway there!

Now, I also had the good fortune to hang out with my American friend and TV actress, Marisol Nichols the other week. Our chats got me thinking on the subject of persistence.

We spent the day wandering around London, where I had the chance to take her to some of the key sights. I took this arty photo below of her outside Buckingham Palace.

Here is what she had to say on her Facebook page about persistence:

A note about success. I’m so grateful for a Season 2 of #Riverdale and even more grateful to be on a show that so many fans have embraced. I’ve been acting for quite some time and had my share of ups and downs within the “business.” Pilot seasons where there were so many auditions and opportunities that I couldn’t see straight. Some resulted in shows, some resulted in heartbreak. I don’t think there’s a secret really, to Hollywood. I think it just takes persistence. And not giving up. Just like anything in life. Wanting something enough that you’ll never stop working hard for it. And no matter how many “No’s” you get no matter how many stops that get in the way, you just don’t give in. You don’t give up. And you keep going for it. I don’t know what the future is beyond Season 2 of #Riverdale but I know I’m damn grateful to be able to go to work and do what I love with people I love. I saved all the auditions I went on in between my last series and this one. And each audition, I tried….hard. And for whatever reason…it just didn’t happen. So I took this picture (at the top of the page) of all my auditions when Riverdale got picked up for its first season…as a reminder. And I think it applies to anything in life, any job…any goal. Never take it for granted and never stop believing hard work and persistence pays off.

Here we are at the end of a long Bank Holiday Monday:

So until next time, I shall persist with my next book… ????

Stephen.