Category Archives: The Ghosts of Alice

Favourite books – a little self indulgence…

OK, this post is a bit indulgent, but have any of you writers out there ever thought about which of your own books you like most? I spent half an hour the other night thinking about just that. I ended up rating them for ‘Best Beginning’, ‘Best Ending’ and ‘Overall Favourite’. And here’s what came out tops:

Best books: The Girl in the Ivory Dress

Best Beginning: The Girl in the Ivory Dress – after the relatively slow build of the mystery in The Boy in the Burgundy Hood, I wanted to hit the ground running in the second book. In the opening scenes, Alice finds herself having to deal with a woman on fire, rescue a priceless heritage collection, and handle not one but two ghosts!

Best books: The Unknown Realms

Best Ending: The Unknown Realms – the conclusion to my 5-book Secret of the Tirthas series gets pretty high stakes at the end, with a final battle involving demons, Lizzie and her friends and – yep, an elephant! If it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye – well, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to.

Best books: Black Beacon

Overall Favourite: Black Beacon – close to my heart because of its inspiration from my family history – but still I reckon a neat plotline and taut supernatural thriller.

This was a difficult selection and even now I find I’m changing my mind – but you have to stop somewhere!

If you’ve read my books, do you agree with my selection? And if you’re a writer, which of your own books do you like most and why?

Click here to find out more about these books on Amazon.

The Ghosts of Alice series sells 5000 copies!

The Ghosts of Alice series – three of my books starting with The Boy in the Burgundy Hood – chalked up 5000 sales this week!

The Ghosts of Alice 5000 copies sold

I never thought when I began indie publishing my stories that I’d sell anything like that number. I was always happy just to know people were able to find and read (and hopefully enjoy!) what I’d written. So this has been the icing on the cake, especially during the couple of periods when The Boy in the Burgundy Hood hit bestseller status on Amazon.

If you like ghost stories, and want to read about an unusual hero with a mysterious connection to the dead, why not give the series a go?

What readers say about The Boy in the Burgundy Hood:

***** ‘The perfect modern day ghost story with a grisly twist’
***** ‘Impossible to put down’
***** ‘Creepy and satisfying’
***** ‘A compelling and spinetingling read’
***** ‘Too scared to sleep… extremely good book, I read it in one day!’
***** ‘Turn the screw it does, right up to its terrifyingly dark finale.’

Check out the books on Amazon here.

The Ultimate Ending

I’ve been thinking recently, how often does the ending of a film, book or TV series exceed your expectations? How many times have you been blown away – either devastated or thrilled – in those closing moments?

Sixth Sense - the ultimate ending

(Alert – there are plenty of spoilers in this post, so proceed with caution…)

For me, there tend to be two, linked things that lift a story above and beyond the norm. Sadly, one of them is the death of the main character. As a young boy, I was forever imprinted by watching The Alamo with John Wayne, filled with feelings of horror, loss, admiration, and above all disbelief as Davy Crockett pitched himself into the magazine store with a torch in one last act of defiance. I felt similarly about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Saving Private Ryan (such a horrifyingly impersonal but cinematically astute way to pick off a character we’ve come to cherish), The Green Mile, Million Dollar Baby, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. The ending of Night of the Living Dead is horrific, on both an intimate and a broader, social level. (Incidentally, that film was released a month before the US MPAA film rating system came into place, so was first watched by stunned kids and teenagers in a Saturday matinee in Pittsburgh). Everyone remembers the final episode of the First World War series of Blackadder, in which the sharp-as-a-tack Captain Blackadder is sent over the trenches with his hapless brothers-in-arms to certain death.

Wicker Man - ultimate ending

I think the ultimate story ending can also be linked to death, but doesn’t need to be. It’s more to do with a surprise twist that transforms or reframes all that’s gone before. The Wicker Man is one of these – what, no, it can’t all have been… and what’s going on now… surely he’s going to get out of there… Other films with great twists include The Others, The Usual Suspects, Get Out. But I think the best of all, and thus without doubt my favourite film, is The Sixth Sense. How many stories require you to retrace the whole course of an already gripping narrative right from the start?

I was thinking about all this because I’ve strived for those big twists that turn the whole story around in some of my own books. Particularly The Boy in the Burgundy Hood, The Girl in the Ivory Dress, Black Beacon and, probably most dramatically, The Man in the Woods. Because I love it. And want to do more of it. And most of all, because I want to make sure it works for you, the reader!

Tell me a book, film or TV show that’s made you sit up in your seat or burst out into tears. Endings that were devastating or breathtakingly thrilling, that took you somewhere above and beyond all the rest. I’m looking out for my next watch, and my next read.

The Haunted House

haunted house

What image comes to mind for you when you think of a haunted house?

I’ve been writing ghost stories for 5 years now and I’ve realised that the houses I have haunted have become progressively more ‘everyday’ with each successive story. As if you don’t need heightened melodrama of a setting to chill – fear can come to you in the most mundane of places.

In The Boy in the Burgundy Hood, the red-hooded boy and the wounded woman haunt an old medieval manor with sprawling grounds and a creepy stumpery. Bramley Manor is a stately medieval hall with a grand fireplace and a Tudor section.

The haunting in The Girl in the Ivory Dress takes place in a Victorian guest house in a remote spot on the Welsh coast. The house is quite old, but it’s been completely renovated and has all modcons.

Alice and the Devil focuses on a rundown Victorian rectory on the moors in the Peak District, although much of the action takes place on a curious set of giant, wooded rocks nearby that are filled with caves and strange features.

My latest ghost story Black Beacon, however, is set in an ordinary 1930s house – although it is isolated from civilisation up on the Sussex Downs. And even more so, after a rare Christmas snowfall.

Do you prefer your ghost stories set in a classic, decaying country house – or do you think the spook can happen anywhere?

You can check out all my books on my Amazon page – perfect for the festive season!

The Ghosts of Alice: Spectacular Spooktober Sale!

Later this week I’m starting a (thinks fast) Spectacular Spooktober Sale (!!) on The Ghosts of Alice series.

The Ghosts of Alice: Spooktober sale

Running up to Halloween, each of the three titles will have a week on sale on Kindle at the discounted price of 99p/99c.

If you haven’t discovered The Ghosts of Alice yet, it’s a series of standalone books that feature Alice Deaton, a young woman with a mysterious connection to the dead. In the first book, the bestselling The Boy in the Burgundy Hood, Alice lands her dream job to open a medieval house to the public – only to find when the ghosts start appearing not all is as rosy as it seems…

Here’s the dates when each title will be on sale:

  • 11-17 Oct: The Boy in the Burgundy Hood
  • 18-24 Oct: The Girl in the Ivory Dress
  • 25-31 Oct: Alice and the Devil

Have a totally spooky month!

Here’s links to buy on Amazon:

“Ghost Stories” reading event – Saturday 13 May

Really looking forward to this event organised by the fantastic people at Ghost Walks Surrey and Explorers Events Ltd!

If you’re nearby, why not come along and join us? A spooky ghost tour of the town will be followed by me doing a reading and Q&A. Plus there’ll be an opportunity to buy signed copies of my books.

See below for more details, reposted from Ghost Walks Surrey Facebook page:

A new and exclusive event in collaboration with local author Steve Griffin.

Steve is the author of the bestselling ghost stories of the Ghosts of Alice series, beginning with ‘The Boy in the Burgundy Hood’.

Following a one hour Ghost Walk visiting the most haunted hotspots in the town, we will meet Steve in The Narnia Room within the Old House on West Street where he will read to you some excerpts from his novels. You will have chance to ask him questions and to buy signed copies of his books.

Tickets are VERY limited. This really is an exclusive event.

Saturday 13th May 2023
Meet 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start outside Dorking Halls on Reigate Road RH4 1SG.

Tickets cost £15.

The event will last for approx 2 hours and will finish at the Narnia Room.

https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/explorers-events-ltd

What I’m writing now…

The few months since I published my latest Ghosts of Alice novel, Alice and the Devil have flown by. I’ve been very happy with the reviews (averaging 4.5 stars on Amazon!) – and wanted to let you know the things I’m excited to be working on next.

What I'm writing now

A Christmas Ghost Story

I’ve loved reading Shani Struther’s Christmas ghost stories (link below), so on the runup to Christmas I started on my own festive ghost story. It’s set on the South Downs of England and it’s a departure for me in several ways:

(1) it’s a completely standalone novel, not part of any series;

(2) it’s set in the 1970s – the heyday of the Christmas single! – and

(3) it focuses on a married couple, Theo and Nat, whose haunted, complex pasts are about to come crashing into their seasonal plans.

I did have what I thought was the perfect title for it, but unfortunately it’s been used elsewhere recently and would cause a bit of a clash – so X👻?🤔X will be out later this year. Most likely in the autumn, to tie in with the build up to Christmas.

The next Ghosts of Alice story

Whilst I’m editing this book, I’m also excited to be working on the plot of the next Alice novel. For those of you who’ve read my books, you’ll know I like to mix things up a bit and play around with expectations. So, whilst there’ll be all the essential spooky ingredients, this is going to be quite a different tale, in a very different setting. Although, for those of you who have read my young adult series, The Secret of the Tirthas, some things might be familiar…😉

The Man in the Woods

I’m also revisiting one or two pieces of older writing, short stories and novellas that I really liked but for one reason or another never completed. One of these is The Man in the Woods… who is that lonesome figure our narrator comes across whilst cycling out in the forest? What’s he doing, camping out there in all weather? It’s a creepy, psychological suspense novella with a big twist. It’s definitely one of my most sinister stories. I hope it gets to see the light of day!

Time. That’s all I need. More time…

Author redundancy alert!

I was playing around with the new AI language tool, ChatGPT, recently. I wondered how it would do if I asked it to generate an author bio for a ghost story writer. That’s all the detail I gave it and at once it produced this, which I’ve tailored with my name and books only. You can see why UK universities are currently scrambling to work out how to assess students, when it produces reasonable essays on pretty much anything ranging from the causes of WW1 to Brexit.

And, whilst a bit wonky, it sounds relatively human. I asked it to write me a poem about wrens and it was reasonable – not brilliant, probably not even good, but not doggerel either. I checked it wasn’t plagiarised on Google and of course, it wasn’t.

So, how long before it’s writing a 60,000 long ghost story full of creepy twists and turns? Not long, I suspect. Especially with a good human (at least for now) editor. This thing is learning fast, helped by useful free fodder such as myself, helping it with the nuances of language. And that really is the key – I suspect it’s rapidly learning things that take novelists years, if not decades, to discover and refine.

My hope is that human creativity will always pip AI. We know the world, we experience pain and beauty unmediated by all except our senses. And we use that to innovate. I like to believe Nick Cave’s response when a fan sent him ChatGPT mimicry of his lyrics.

But I’m no technologist. It’s possible that in a few decades, whilst ChatGPT will never know who we are, it might well be able to replicate books that we’re unable to distinguish from those written by real people. The first article I read about ChatGPT was by a seasoned journalist who was seriously discomforted by its attempt to produce something similar to her writing. 

Have you tried ChatGPT yet? What are your thoughts?

In the meantime, remember that horror helps build your resilience, always useful when we’re faced with a future straight out the Terminator – so why not grab my latest ghost story, Alice and the Devil, now?

Alice and the Devil

Click below to view on Amazon:

Alice & the Devil – a reading: Ben finds Alice

Time for another reading. Here’s a short extract from my new ghost story, Alice and the Devil – the perfect read for Christmas!

Alice is working in her boss’s house in the Peak District. There’s a storm outside on the moors. Suddenly, a young boy appears, drenched through, at her door. She soon finds out that he’s on a strange mission. A VERY strange mission…

While you’re here, I wonder if I could ask a small favour? I designed the cover of Alice and the Devil myself and it’s through to the second round of the All Author December Cover of the Month competition! Could you spare a moment to vote for it by clicking here? (Note – there are only a certain number of readers who can vote without registering – so don’t worry if it won’t let you!)

You can check out Alice and the Devil by clicking the icon below:

The Mysterious Rocks that inspired Alice & the Devil

Alice and the Devil - Jackson's Rocks

Alice and the Devil, my third ghost story in The Ghosts of Alice series, is set in the Peak District in the English midlands. Alice is working remotely in her boss’s cottage on the moors, hoping the peacefulness and distance will help her recover from the trauma of Peacehaven. But then a boy arrives and pleads for her help, claiming his grandfather is being terrorised by the Devil. Everything is going to take a big turn for the worse…

As a writer, I’m always rooting about for inspiration. For the last few years I’ve been holidaying in the Peaks with my family. I knew it was just a matter of time before the bleak moors took their place in one of my ghost stories. But it was the discovery of the ancient and mysterious Rowtor Rocks that finally sealed the setting for Alice and the Devil.

Alice and the Devil - Clay's cave inspiration
Alice and the Devil - Jackson's Rocks inspiration

Metamorphosed into Jackson’s Rocks in the book, I drew on the story of Thomas Eyre, a Reverend who was fascinated by local tales of witchcraft and pagans doing rituals on the rocks. Eyre had a band of workers carve features – seats, symbols, entrances – into the ancient slabs of limestone.

In Alice and the Devil, the Rev. Horace Clay has similar features carved on to Jackson’s Rocks, including a small amphitheatre. And he takes his occult practice one big step further into darkness – with devastating implications for Alice two centuries later…

Alice and the Devil - Clay's cave escape passage!
Rowtor Rocks

Rowtor Rocks is a special place. I urge you to visit if you ever find yourself in the Peaks.

Click here for more about Alice and the Devil on Amazon.