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Summer Sale this week!

Less of a blog post, more of a quick heads up that most of my back catalogue of books are on Kindle Countdown Sale this week (starting 15th July)!

That means the prices start low (99p/99c – one is even free!) and gradually increase to normal over the next few days. So if you fancy a ghost story with a shock, a zipping adventure mystery for teens, or some poems to quietly mull on the beach, head over to my Amazon page now.



Enough said, shipmates, you know the score… ⚓📚😉

Enjoy your summer!

The Origins of the Tirthas…

My new novella, Swift – The Story of a Witch, heads back in time to tell the tale of the mysterious origins of the Tirthas and of the even more mysterious woman who finds them…

The origins of The Secret of the Tirthas

So, for the first time in 4 years, there’s a new chapter in my fantasy adventure series, The Secret of the Tirthas! Here’s more on how I came to write it:

Creating a world…

Building a world with a supernatural element that can sustain a whole series of books is a complex process. This is true even when that world is mostly the same as ours, and involves only a few differences – in my case, the Astral Realm and Tirthas, or portals, with all the strange beings they contain. Before I began writing The City of Light, I wrote an intricate explanation of how the Tirthas were created, involving an ‘umbilical’ cord from the original landmass, Pangaia, to the Astral Realm, tectonic shift, and more ‘modern’ ideas such as ley lines.

I created a backstory going back centuries to how the demons and other supernatural characters were created in the mythical plane of the Astral Realm. From here, they could come down on to earth via the Tirthas and wreak havoc (or whatever else they felt like doing!) On top of this, there was the obscure ‘summons’ of the place known only as the Unknown Realms, which exerted its strange pull on these beings. (The Unknown Realms seemed a good metaphor at the time for the fading away of a more mysterious, religious view of the world – although I’m not sure that’s fading at all now!)

It all necessitated a long timeline involving the main characters and their ancestors, and explaining which had magical natures, and what it meant for them.

A mysterious woman appears…

One of the most interesting of these characters was Hattie Swift, a distant relative of Lizzie’s, who plays a small but vital role in the series. Hattie turns up out of nowhere at the village pub one night in a summer storm . She’s derided as a witch by the locals – but thanks to one man, a Quaker, she finds the safety and space to explore the magical woodland glade through which she entered the world. And soon Hattie discovers the fantastic portals that exist there, in what will become the garden of rooms Lizzie explores a century later. But alongside wonders, her discovery leads her into great – and potentially mortal – peril…

So grab your copy on Amazon now to read Hattie’s story and discover the origins of the tirthas…

Swift – The Story of a Witch: Out Now!

Swift - The Story of a Witch out now

I’m excited to announce that my latest book, Swift – The Story of a Witch, is out now!

It’s a double first for me – my first novella, and my first prequel. It’s the story of the mysterious woman who created the garden of portals that Lizzie explores in The Secret of the Tirthas. Here’s what it’s about:

When she materialises in a woodland glade, Hattie Swift knows she’s special, a witch from beyond this world. But why is she here?

A chance encounter with an honest man leads to marriage and a new life in the cottage by the magical glade where she entered the world. She begins to create a garden and uncover the mysterious portals hidden there.

But soon she finds the terrifying creatures that exist through the portals, including the fearsome Jiangshi and worse. Will she live long enough to discover her fate? And at what cost to her husband and family?

Swift – The Story of a Witch is an action-packed prequel to The Secret of the Tirthas fantasy-adventure series, in which the origins of the magical garden of portals is revealed…

Get your copy now!

Swift – The Story of a Witch: Cover Reveal

Today I’m revealing the cover of my forthcoming book, Swift – The Story of a Witch. It’s a prequel novella to The Secret of the Tirthas fantasy-adventure series and it’s… pretty different to most of what I’ve written so far.

Swift - The Story of a Witch: The Secret of the Tirthas prequel

Here’s a few facts about it:

– at just over 100 pages, it’s my shortest book yet – but that doesn’t mean it won’t pack a powerful punch!

– it takes place 130 years before Lizzie moves to Rowan Cottage with her mum in The City of Light (Book 1 of The Secret of the Tirthas)

– it’s told in the first person, from the point of view of a witch who materialises in a woodland glade – a place that is to become the magical garden of portals in the series

– it’s got some scary, non-human villains, a couple of whom you’ll have already met if you’ve read The Secret of the Tirthas

– it’s got a higher ‘magic setting’ than the rest of the series – this witch can throw a lightning bolt out of her fingertip!

– whilst it’s a prequel to The Secret of the Tirthas, it’s quite different in tone – the main character is a young woman, so it should appeal to older readers too (‘New Adult’ as well as ‘Young Adult’ and, in fact, pretty much any old ‘Adult’!) To draw a cheeky comparison, it’s a bit like the difference between the The Secret Commonwealth and His Dark Materials by one of my heroes, Philip Pullman

– it’s at heart a story about how fate can trick and doom love – and everyone loves a storyline like that, right?

Swift – The Story of a Witch is in final draft and will be out just as soon as I’ve received and checked the proof. Anything between 2-3 weeks!

If you want to catch up on The Secret of the Tirthas in the meantime, the whole series is now available as Box Set on Kindle! Check it out here:

The Magical Garden that inspired The Secret of the Tirthas

At the heart of my adventure mystery series, The Secret of the Tirthas, is a magical ‘garden of hedged rooms’, buried deep in the English countryside. What a lot of people don’t know is that the garden was inspired by a real garden in Herefordshire, owned for a while by my wife’s parents.

Designed and built by a former resident, the one-acre plot had 26 hedged and bordered rooms, filled with fountains and sculptures and themed around special places on the planet – as well as more obscure references such as ‘Miss Day’s Garden’ and ‘Akademia’.

My wife and I spent many happy weeks staying there in the little two-bed cottage, exploring the garden and the fabulous countryside around it. It didn’t take long before the idea for a cluster of portals in the gardens, connecting to the places they represented, came to mind. I copied a few – Easter Island Garden, Gothic Garden, Miss Day’s Garden – and added more of my own (Indian Garden, Rainbow Serpent Garden, Master-of-Nets Garden). And soon overlayered it all with a young girl’s voyage of discovery – of the world, its evil, tortured choices, her father’s true nature – and of herself.

Enjoy all five novels of The Secret of the Tirthas at a bargain price in a new Boxed Set on Kindle (click link below).

Plus… coming soon… a surprise prequel novella to the series, about a witch and the mysterious origins of the garden of rooms… Watch this space!

The Best Ghost Mystery Stories

So you don’t want to sleep tonight, do you?

My final list of books that I’ve prepared for Shepherd.com is the best ghost mystery stories.

best ghost mystery books

Why I love horror stories

We try and pretend the world is not mysterious, in the vague hope of exerting some control over our lives. But that’s a doomed endeavour. Everything will always slip away from our grasp, plummeting into a chasm that we can only fill with two human responses: awe or terror. Sometimes – perhaps most often – both.

This is why I’ve always preferred the gothic and sublime to the classical and ordered. Both are necessary, but the gothic like the church spire always points to the infinite, to the profound mystery that envelops us. That’s why I’ve liked horror movies and books ever since I was a kid. You’re forever clutching at a cushion, guessing – or rather fearing – what lies ahead, just around that corner…

And that’s why I started writing ghost stories, books that major in suspense and make you realise, as Stephen King’s narrator says in Bag of Bones, that “reality is thin, you know, thin as lake ice after a thaw, and we fill our lives with noise and light and motion to hide that thinness from ourselves.”

My favourite ghost mystery stories

So if you’re hankering after a shot of terror (often with a smidgeon of awe thrown in), check out my best ghost mystery stories here. And if you think I’ve missed a treat, let me know your favourite ghost story in the comments below. (You can also check out my other book lists for Shepherd, the best books with portals for children and young adults, and the best books with nature poems to make you think and feel.)

And while you’re here, why not take a look at my own ghost mystery stories, The Boy in the Burgundy Hood and The Girl in the Ivory Dress – the two standalone novels in The Ghosts of Alice series, about a young women who has a very strange connection to the dead:

The best books with nature poems

Is spring filling you with inspiration and making you want to discover some of the best books with nature poems? Then this post is for you!

I began writing poetry in my twenties when I was doing environmental studies at Stirling University. At the weekends I often went hillwalking in the Scottish Highlands with friends. Inspired by the majestic scenery, I picked up a copy of Wordsworth and began reading poetry for the first time since my English degree. Soon after, I began to write my own poems.

nature poems mountains

When I got a job in South Wales I started sending poems to magazines such as Orbis and The New Welsh Review. Coming downstairs one Saturday morning to find a letter accepting three poems in the latter – along with a payment of £60! – was one of the best moments of my life. It gave a massive boost to my confidence as a writer.

A few weeks ago, I was approached by new book recommendation website Shepherd to share my favourite books on subjects I write about. I created my five favourites for ghost mysteries, books with portals for children and young adults – and for poetry books with nature poems that make you think and feel. I write all kinds of poetry, but I particularly love poems about the nature and landscapes of Britain.

So why not check out my list here, which includes books by awesome poets including Ted Hughes, Alice Oswald, Sherry Ross and Barbara Lennox.

And you can always check out my own collections if you love nature poetry:

Photos that Inspired Books

Alice and the Devil photo inspiration

Alice and the Devil

Photos have a big impact on my writing. Often, they can inspire a scene that inspires a whole book. This picture of my son looking across a landscape has morphed into the opening scene of my current work in progress, Alice and the Devil, the third book in The Ghosts of Alice series.

Shortly after I took it, I set it as my wallpaper on my laptop. It was a few weeks before it began working its magic on me. Initially I had an idea for a wholly different book, a piece of speculative fiction, but then I realised it could fit with a ghost story. Who is the boy? Why is he on his own? What’s with the sheep in his backpack? And that barn to the right – doesn’t it look a bit like a pair of eyes, the dark, disembodied eyes of the farm? Just add a torrential rainstorm and the whole Alice and the Devil story came to life…

Here’s a few more photos that have worked their way deep into my imagination for other books:

#picsthatinspiredbooks – The Boy in The Burgundy Hood

This is the fabulous Ightham Mote, the fourteenth-century house that inspired Bramley Manor in the first Ghosts of Alice novel, The Boy in the Burgundy Hood.

As soon as I saw it, I knew that this medieval house was the perfect setting for my ghost story. I’d already been inspired by the strange story of a job interview that my wife had gone to at another old house (see here). It wasn’t long before I overlaid the two elements and started to evolve my plot.

The Boy in the Burgundy Hood photo inspiration
Ightham Mote #picsthatinspiredbooks

Pics that inspired The Secret of the Tirthas

Now here’s some photos of the amazing garden of hedged ‘rooms’ in Herefordshire that inspired my young adult adventure mystery series, The Secret of the Tirthas.

Many of the rooms had sculptures or statues, often from different religions. I thought it would be great if they were all secret portals to related sites across the world. Imagine just having to step outside your back door to go to all these fabulous places!

The discovery of these new places through the portals by Lizzie Jones became a ‘fantasy’ element in itself. That, plus the demonic killer also using the portals to prey on street children in the first place Lizzie discovers, Kashi, the Indian City of Light…?

The Tower, The Secret of the Tirthas
The Secret of the Tirthas garden inspiration
The Secret of the Tirthas garden of rooms

Photos that inspired The City of Light

Finally, here’s the incredible city of Varanasi, or Kashi, in India, which inspired the first novel in The Secret of the Tirthas, The City of Light. I went backpacking in my twenties and came down into India from Nepal. This was the second place I stayed and I was stunned.

I kind of knew straight away that this would inspire my writing. But it was only many years later, after discovering the hidden gem of a garden in Herefordshire, that I had the idea for The Secret of the Tirthas. And I decided on Kashi as the first place our hero Lizzie Jones would come after discovering the garden’s magical portals.

Here’s a taster from The City of Light, when Lizzie emerges from the portal:

“[She] stopped, stunned, finding herself looking at the most extraordinary sight she’d ever seen.

An ancient sun-bleached city sprawled before her, stretched along the bank of an enormous river. The city’s buildings were a bright, exotic mix of colours – red, ochre, sand, and white – and many had domes or intricate beehive towers. Some sat at the top of broad flights of steps that ran down into the water, whilst others were perched on the river’s edge. A few tilted forward precariously, appearing as if they were about to collapse into the swirling waters and be lost forever. And everywhere, on the steps and in the buildings and out in small boats, the city’s inhabitants went about their business in the soft, hazy sunlight.

Lizzie stood in awe, absorbing the view. If only all her dreams were as impressive as this…”

Kashi, inspiration for The Secret of the Tirthas
Varanasi, inspiration for The Secret of the Tirthas

My Year in Writing

So where am I at with the writing, you ask? (You didn’t? Click away now, no one will notice.)

2021 Review

2021 has been a big year for my writing. It was the first year I had a bestseller and the first year I sold over 2,000 copies of one book (nearing 2,500 now). The average book sells 250 copies according to my Gurus, Prophets and Market Analysts (Google), so I’m very happy.

The Boy in the Burgundy Hood #1 Bestseller

So what was the book? It was the first in my Ghosts of Alice series, The Boy in the Burgundy Hood. It’s been a strong seller since November 2019 when I published it. But it really took off in February 2021 after a promotion on Bookbub, which led to the #1 spot in Amazon’s Ghost Story categories in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. (If you’re a keen ebook reader and like good deals, I recommend signing up for Bookbub.) The reviews that followed were good so the sales continued. When you’ve been writing for a few years, getting that level of reader response is a real joy!

My next writing achievement in 2021 was publishing the second book in the Ghosts of Alice series, The Girl in the Ivory Dress. It follows on from the first, developing the relationship between Alice and one of her old school friends. The reviews have been almost all good so far (there’s always one…), with some saying they like it even more than the first. It reminded me of how enjoyable it was to write the second book in my young adult series, The Secret of the Tirthas. Whilst the first, The City of Life, was mostly fun, learning how to plot and integrate storylines, as well as setting up a whole new fantasy scenario, was challenging. There were many rewrites. It felt so much easier when the groundwork was done, when everything was already established. The Book of Life flew from the keyboard.

The Girl in the Ivory Dress - a year in writing

My third writing milestone just missed the end of the year. I finished a draft of the latest Ghosts of Alice book on the 3rd January. It’s working title is Alice and the Devil. It has a distinctive atmosphere and setting and I’m pleased with it. However, it’s going to need a few stiff edits because I wrote it without a plot, with only a few key scenes and characters in my head. It was my first time writing like this but it seems to have turned out well. I’ll probably find a lot of holes when I reread it, but for now I’m just pleased to have completed it.

2022 Writing Goals

My main writing goal for 2022 is to publish this third Ghosts of Alice book. I’m aiming for it to be out in the spring.

I’m also finalising a novella prequel to The Secret of the Tirthas. It focuses on the discovery of the tirthas and the creation of the magical garden of rooms at the turn of the 19th century. It’s called Swift: The Story of a Witch (I’m fairly sure that one’s going to stick). It might become a freebie to my email subscribers.

And finally, I’m going to start and – hopefully – complete another book! I’ve got a few ideas bubbling away already…

Whatever you’re reading, enjoy!

Wishing you a peaceful, happy Christmas!

The Christmas tree is up in the Griffin house and the boys are writing their lists for Santa! (Yes, it’s true, we’ve somehow managed to keep them believing in Father Christmas despite them becoming cynical about pretty much everything else in the world. I have no idea how, but I guess it’s something to do with believing what you want to believe…?)

So here’s a quick post to wish you as much happiness as possible throughout this festive season and to hope you leap any hurdles that might come your way.

Have a wonderful, peaceful time and I hope to see you next year,

Steve

Because Christmas isn’t Christmas without:

…a good ghost story – or two (click on images to go to Amazon book pages): 

The Ghosts of Alice series Christmas gift

…an exciting fantasy series for younger readers (11-14):

The Secret of the Tirthas series Christmas gift

…and a collection or two for the poetry lovers!

Poetry by Steve Griffin Christmas gift