Today I am going to showcase one of my favourite horror authors! Dawn is a fantastic author and she writes some of the creepiest books I have ever read. I read The Dead House last year and recently read The Creeper Man and I have to say-don't read these books at night or when you are home alone! They are so well told and you will just get wrapped up in these books. Perfect for Halloween!
Dawn Kurtagich is a writer of creepy, spooky and psychologically sinister YA fiction, where girls may descend into madness, boys may see monsters in men, and grown-ups may have something to hide.
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THE DEAD HOUSE is a psychological thriller like no other from a stunning YA talent, for fans of Rick Yancey, Kendare Blake and Stephen King. Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High School burned down. The blaze killed three and injured twenty, and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. For two decades, little was revealed about what became known as the Johnson Incident. Until now. A diary has been found in the ruins of the school. In this diary, Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly's twin, tells of the strange and disturbing sequence of events leading to the incident. But Kaitlyn doesn't exist. She never has.
When sisters Silla and Nori escape London and their abusive father, Aunt Cath's country house feels like a safe haven. But slowly, ever so slowly, things begin to unravel. Aunt Cath locks herself in the attic and spends day and night pacing. Every day the forbidden surrounding forest inches slowly towards the house. A mysterious boy appears, offering friendship. And Nori claims that a man watches them from the dark forest - a man with no eyes, who creeps ever closer..
So, if you're going to pick up one scary book this month then I recommend either of these!
Remember - don't read them at night time or when you're by yourself.
You've be warned.
Welcome to day 21 of Horror Month! Today I have the wonderful Sofi Croft on my blog with her top 5 halloween books!
Sofi Croft is the author of Eidolon, a story about a boy who is moved from a young offenders prison to a hospital for the mentally ill because he sees and talks to his dead sister. Things at the hospital are not what they seem, and it becomes increasingly difficult to determine what is real, and what is illusion
1. The Wrong Train by Jeremy de Quidt
I buy a new spooky book every year for Halloween, and this is my treat this year. It’s my current read and I’m absolutely loving it.
A boy rushes to catch a train and realises too late it’s the wrong one. He gets off at the next station to an empty platform. But then a stranger arrives and starts telling him stories to pass the time …
This is a book of stories within a story, and each one is fantastically spine tingling. A brilliant Halloween treat.
2. The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison
I recently read this with my pre-teen children, and we all thought it was fantastic. It’s certainly dark and spooky enough to thrill readers of any age.
One day Alice goes missing. When her brother Midge sets out to find her he comes across characters from one of her unfinished stories come to life; including Tabitha (a talking cat), Gypsy (a girl who looks almost exactly like Alice), and Dorothy Grimes (an utterly terrifying serial killer).
The Other Alice is a captivating story, beautifully told, and the parts involving Dorothy are perfect for chilling the blood on Halloween.
3. Darkmere by Helen Maslin
This book spooked me last Halloween and has stayed with me ever since.
It contains two narratives, and both are utterly absorbing. One follows Elinor, a nineteenth century bride, and the other Kate, a modern day teen off for a summer partying at a friend’s castle.
The story is perfect for Halloween; a haunted castle, a curse, dark and gothic, but with a brilliant modern feel.
4. Under My Skin by Juno Dawson
This is another book I read last year, but has stayed with me. I think of it almost every time I see a tattoo, and when I do it still spooks me.
Sally Feather is convinced by the owner of a tattoo parlour to get a tattoo of Molly Sue, a sexy pin up girl. Things get creepy when she starts hearing Molly Sue’s voice in her head, and even creepier when Molly Sue starts taking over her body. I loved this book for lots of reasons, but especially for the character of Molly Sue who is just fabulous. And the story is certain to make your skin tingle over Halloween.
5. Stores from The Edge by Savita Kalhan, Keren David, Sara Grant, Miriam Halahmy, Dave Cousins, Paula Rawsthorne, Katie Dale, and Bryony Pearce
I’ve just bought this short story collection as another Halloween treat. I mean, look at the list of amazing British authors all contributing to this collection.
The stories cover the perils of online chatrooms, doping in sports, racism and terrorism, gender and self esteem issues, love, life and death. They are frightening, funny, and honest takes on modern life. A great collection to introduce you to a whole bunch of fabulous British authors, and make you think about a range of issues over Halloween.
Paul is in trouble - moved from a young offenders' prison to a hospital for the mentally ill because he sees and talks to his dead sister. He knows she's real. And she has something important to say. The doctors' methods are painful and disturbing. As the treatments build up, Paul is increasingly confused about what is real and who he can trust. But he is not the only patient - not the only one who hears voices that seem connected to strange and inexplicable powers. When some of his friends are transferred to the mysterious Ty Eidolon, Paul becomes suspicious that they are destined for a sinister fate. As his grip on reality weakens, Paul must make a decision - whether to escape alone or help the others escape with him into an uncertain and dangerous future.
Indigo lives in the Lake District, and spends his time exploring the mountains he loves. An unexpected parcel arrives containing a first aid kit inside his grandfather's satchel. Indigo's curiosity is raised as he looks through his grandfather's notebook to discover drawings of mythical creatures. Strange things begin to happen and Indigo finds himself treating an injured magpie-cat, curing a cockatrice of its death-darting gaze, and defending a dragon. Indigo realises he must uncover the secrets his family have kept hidden, and travels alone to the Polish mountains to search for his grandfather and the truth. Danger looms as events spiral out of control, and Indigo needs to make choices that change him, his world, and his future forever...
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Today I have a guest post from author Veronica Cossanteli! She has a new book out called The Halloweeds which is perfect for all of the family!
Veronica grew up in Hampshire and Hong Kong with an assortment of animals, including an imaginary pet dinosaur who slept on her bed. She works in a primary school in Southampton, where she lives with three cats, two snakes, one guinea pig ...
Death – Not Such a Bad Guy
When other children my age were learning the words of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, my mother taught me the Hearse Song:
When you see a hearse go by,
Do you ever think that you will die?
They wrap you up in a long white shirt,
And cover you over with heaps of dirt.
The worms crawl in and the worms crawl out;
They crawl in thin and they crawl out stout...
Growing up in the country with predatory cats, a father given to shooting pigeons out of his bedroom window and a succession of small pets, I was aware, early, that life didn’t last. The proof that this applied to people, not just shrews and birds and guinea pigs, was my great grandmother’s death mask. On rare occasions this would emerge, shrouded in lace, from its drawer. In her day, Nonnina had been beautiful; you could still see it in the wax. Serene and benign, to me it was the face of Mortality.
The Victorians, squeamish about other matters, embraced Death. They made jewellery out of their loved ones’ hair and propped up their corpses for post-mortem family portraits. Even I, with a penchant for the macabre, find these photographs disturbing; it can be difficult to tell which, out of a row of pale, rigid children, is the one that isn’t there.
The Mexican Day of the Dead, with its merry skeletons and air of celebration, is a much more cheerful affair. Once a year, fireworks and marigold petals guide the departed souls home to join their families for a picnic in the cemetery, healing over the wounds of separation.
The Malagasy people take it one step further, bringing the bodies back up into the daylight and dancing with them. And why not? Who says that, just because you’re dead, you have to stop dancing?
Why has our own society become so twitchy about Death?
Part of the problem is that we’re control-freaks. We want schedules and agendas and technology that tells us what’s happening when. We like to feel we’re in charge – but we can’t put Death in the diary. He’s the sort of visitor who turns up on the doorstep, uninvited and without warning, when we haven’t vacuumed for a week and are still in our pyjamas.
And then what? We can arrange to have our physical remains turned into diamonds or frisbees or fired into space, but where does the thinking/dreaming/hoping/fearing part of us go? It’s a question that has occupied the human imagination for a very long time.
Excavation of prehistoric graves has unearthed skeletons strung with beads. Whatever sort of afterlife these early humans believed in, they clearly felt the need to approach it fully accessorized. Through the millennia, departing for the next world has necessitated some serious packing. How could you expect to be taken seriously without your dogs, your horses, your chariot, a few concubines and a good deal of bling? China’s First Emperor famously took an entire army with him. The Ancient Egyptians, worried about hunger pangs, buried their dead with poultry, plucked and oven-ready. (The giblets were sealed into a separate jar, in case the wandering soul had an urge for gravy.)
The bravest Ancient Greeks ended up in the Elysian Fields, where I’ve always pictured them being horribly bored: Homeric hordes of hulking, hairy heroes, with nothing to do for the rest of time but make daisy chains out of asphodel. Viking warriors were luckier; they could look forward to a roistering good time in Valhalla.
The variations on the Afterlife are endless. But not everybody’s willing to trade this world in for the next. In the Sumerian epic Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk craves immortality (spoiler alert: he doesn’t get it) in a story thread that rings as true today as it did 4000 years ago. We’re still resisting Death. But do we really want to live forever?
I already feel slightly out of place in a world very different to the one I grew up in. If the Grumpy Old Woman in me is stirring after a mere half a century, what sort of querulous old bat would I be at 1000? And I don’t want to miss out. If there really is a three-headed dog guarding the gates to the Underworld, or an Ancient Egyptian croco-potamus-ish thing waiting to devour the hearts of the unworthy, I want to see it.
Preferably not yet. I’m in no hurry to be separated from those I love (two legs or four), from blossom and birdsong and chocolate cake and the endless list of things that make me happy. But it’s not up to me, and that’s OK. I never remember to put things in my diary anyway. If Death arrives unannounced and finds me in my pyjamas – well, I’m guessing he’s used to that.
When he does come, he won’t be wearing a black hood and carrying a scythe. Not my Death. He’ll be wearing a Hawaiian shirt, with pink flamingos, and carrying a guitar.
The Halloweeds by Veronica Conssanteli out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House) Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com
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Dan promised he'd look after his siblings, but he hadn't bargained on his scientist parents dying on a jungle research trip. The children decamp to crumbling Daundelyon Hall. Horrible Aunt Grusilla reigns supreme, tending her mysterious graveyard garden. But why are Aunt Grusilla and her servants each missing a finger? What are the hungry 'Cabbages' in the greenhouse? As Dan struggles to solve the mystery he encounters one final question: what's the price of everlasting life?
Welcome to day 19 of Horror Month! Today I have Stephen Lloyd Jones on my blog with a guest post as part of The Disciple blog tour! And again, defiantly pick up this book this month. It is a perfect read and full of evil - defiantly Halloween material.
Stephen Lloyd Jones and grew up in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire.
He studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London, and now lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and far too many books.
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Raising the curtain – the suspension of disbelief in speculative fiction, and the importance of getting it right.
There’s a moment in most works of speculative fiction – especially those that contain a strong element of intrigue – when we reach the big reveal.
Finally, sometimes after hundreds of pages of suspense, the curtain is raised, the lights come up, and we’re rewarded with the explanation for all that’s gone before.
Done well, it offers us a moment of wonder and intense satisfaction, a sense that the world is either far more mysterious than we realised, or entirely as strange as we suspected. All the clues the author has fed us, all the nuanced little scenes we’ve witnessed, come together to show us something startling, terrifying, or beautiful. We find ourselves transported, our imaginations unlocked. We catch ourselves thinking – however briefly – about the universe around us, and our role within it.
Done badly, of course, and none of that happens. Our disbelief, previously suspended, crashes back. We feel betrayed, and a little foolish; how did we allow ourselves to be strung along? What on earth were we thinking? Why did we invest so much time in something that turned out to be such snake oil?
In my own books, I always approach this point with trepidation. From the first page, I’ve asked you to trust me: not just to suspend your disbelief, but to believe. This is where I need to make good on my promises. Will I be able to carry it off?
I find, in these situations, that it’s most effective to start early and reveal information gradually – handfuls of breadcrumbs sown throughout. I liken it to creating the tapestry of a mythos, and revealing at the start a tiny corner. I’m saying to you, ‘Hey, look at this thing. This is kind of interesting; kind of odd.’ Then, once you walk with me a little further along the path, I’ll show you a little more.
In doing so, I might just preserve your belief in a way I couldn’t have done had I revealed the whole tapestry all at once – because showing you that first tiny piece doesn’t just say, ‘Hey, this is interesting,’ but also, ‘Hey this little thing is credible. It could happen.’ Later, instead of taking a final leap together, we’ll simply complete the last of many small steps.
The second ingredient is to create believable, three-dimensional characters who react in believable ways when the curtain is raised. In real life – when faced with something inexplicable – one of the first things we do is seek reassurance from others. In The String Diaries, my 2013 novel, a few scenes take place in Balliol College library, as the protagonists attempt to learn more about the threat they face. They study journals, talk to experts, do everything they can to understand – as well as survive their situation.
In The Disciple, published this month by Headline, the main character, Edward Schwinn, takes a similar approach as he battles to comprehend the events overtaking him. We first meet Edward on the road at night, while he investigates a fatal five-car pile-up. In one of the vehicles he discovers the sole survivor: a woman, heavily pregnant, blindfolded and bound. As Edward learns more about her and the situation in which he’s found himself, we begin to see that he’s playing a small role in a much larger story – one that stretches back many generations. The Disciple’s historical links are fundamental to the plot, but they also help, I hope, to lend it some authority; the sense of a rich and authentic backstory powering current events. Whether I succeed is, of course, for the reader to judge. But the sense of excitement I feel as I gradually reveal the tapestry is one that sustains me through many months of writing.
On a storm-battered road at the edge of the Devil's Kitchen, a woman survives a fatal accident and gives birth to a girl who should never have lived. The child's protection lies in the hands of Edward Schwinn - a loner who must draw himself out of darkness to keep her safe - and her arrival will trigger a chain of terrifying events that no one can explain. She is a child like no other, being hunted by an evil beyond measure. For if the potential within her is realised, nothing will be the same. Not for Edward. Not for any who live to see it.
Today I have Katherine Howe back on my blog with an extract from her latest book, The Appearance Of Annie Van Sideren and a giveaway!!
It's July in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a seance at a psychic's in the East Village, he meets a mysterious, intoxicatingly beautiful girl named Annie. As they start spending time together, Wes finds himself falling for her, drawn to her rose-petal lips and her entrancing glow. There's just something about her that he can't put his finger on, something faraway and otherworldly that compels him to fall even deeper. Annie's from the city, and yet she seems just as out of place as Wes feels. Lost in the chaos of the busy city streets, she's been searching for something-a missing ring. And now Annie is running out of time and needs Wes's help. As they search together, Annie and Wes uncover secrets lurking around every corner, secrets that will reveal the truth of Annie's dark past.
I ’ve been having trouble with time lately. But I must have been thinking about her even before Tyler said anything.
“Would you tell her to sit down?” Tyler hisses.
He’s squinting through the eyepiece of the camera that we’ve signed out from the AV department supply closet. It’s a 16 millimeter, so it’s not like there was a waiting list or anything. I’m not even sure they’d notice if we forgot to bring it back. In fact, it’s possible Tyler’s not planning to bring it back. Pretty soon they’re going to be collector’s items. I wonder what one would go for on eBay? A lot, I bet.
“What?” I whisper back.
“Her. That girl. She’s blocking the shot.”
“What girl?” I crane my neck, looking, and the hair on my arms rises. At first I don’t see who he means. It’s too crowded, and I’m too far back in the corner.
“Her. Look.” Tyler gestures for me to come look with an impatient crook of his finger.
The room we’re in is not much bigger than my bedroom back home, and crossing it without accidentally groping somebody is going to be tough. It’s packed with, like, twenty people, all milling around and turning off their cell phones and moving folding chairs to get close to the table in the center. Red velvet curtains cover the walls. It should be bright, because the picture window faces the Bowery, but the window has a velvet curtain, too. Even the glass door to the town house’s stairwell is taped over with black construction paper. There’s a cash register on a counter off to the side, one of those antique ones that rings when the drawer opens. And there’s a door to nowhere behind the cash register, behind a plastic potted plant. That’s where Tyler’s set up the tripod.
The only light in the room comes from candles, making everything hazy. A few candles drip from sconces on the wall, too. Other than that, and a cheap Oriental carpet latticed with moth holes, there’s not much going on.
I don’t know what Tyler thinks is going to happen. We’re each supposed to make our own short film to screen in summer school workshop, and Tyler’s determined to produce some masterpiece of filmic experimentation that will explode narrative convention and reframe visual media for a new generation. Or else he just thinks using Jurassic format will get him an easy A, I don’t know.
I pull the headphones off my ears and nest the boom mike against the wall behind where I’m standing, in the corner farthest from the door. I’m worried something’s going to happen to the equipment and Tyler will find a way to make me pay for it, which I cannot under any circumstances afford. I’m disentangling myself from headphone cords and everything and accidentally bump the back of some woman’s head with my elbow. She turns around in her seat and glares at me.
Sorry, I mouth at her.
I keep one eye on the microphone, as if staring hard at it will prevent it from falling over, as I edge around to where Tyler’s waiting.
The air in here has the gross, wet summer feeling of too many people all breathing in a room with no air-conditioning. My hair is slick with sweat. I can feel the dampness in my armpits, too, a fetid droplet trickling every so often down my side. I really hope I don’t smell. I didn’t start wearing deodorant ’til sophomore year of high school, when one of the coaches pulled me aside for a talk so mortifying I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it.
It’s a more diverse group than I’d expected in this room. Mom types in khakis, a couple of panhandler guys in army surplus jackets and weedy beards, a girl with tattoos snaking around her neck and straight 1950s bangs, and at least one guy in a suit, like a banker. There’s a black guy in a Rangers jersey and saggy jeans. One really young girl with a hard-gelled ponytail, here with her baby. I’m surprised she’d want to bring a baby here, but there’s no telling with people sometimes. Some of them exude the sharp pickled smell that people get when they’ve been drinking for a very, very long time.
I’m climbing monkeylike around the room, trying and failing not to get in everybody’s way, and the woman sitting in the middle, who owns the place, gives me a sour look because I’m being so disruptive.
“The angle should be fine from where you are,” I whisper to Tyler when I reach his corner. “Yeah, no kidding, but she’s completely blocking the shot.” Tyler pops a stick of gum in his mouth, which he does whenever he wants a cigarette but can’t have one. Or so he says. I don’t think he really smokes.
“We’re going to begin,” the woman in the turban intones, and all the people start settling down and putting their phones away.
The camera’s on a tripod, angled down over the circle of heads, right at the center of the table. The table itself is like a folding card table, but everyone’s crowded around it, so at least a dozen pairs of hands are resting there. It’s covered in a black velvet cloth, and between the knotted fingers are a couple of crystals, one polished glass ball that looks like a big paperweight, a plastic indicator pointer thing from a Ouija board, a dish of incense, and some tea lights. The incense is smoking, hanging a haze over everything, like the smoke that drifts after Fourth of July fireworks.
It’s a total firetrap in here. I don’t know why I agreed to come. But Tyler was dead set on getting footage of a séance for his workshop film. I don’t know why we couldn’t have just staged one with some kids from our dorm. That would have been easier. And he’s not a documentarian, anyway.
Not like me.
“Spirits are fragile beings,” the woman in the turban continues in a fake-sounding accent, and everyone but us leans in closer to listen. “They can only hear us when they’re ready. When the right person goes looking for them. We must be very serious and respectful.” “Look,” Tyler insists, plucking at my T-shirt. The woman glares at him, but he doesn’t pay any attention. He comes down off the footstool that we brought and gestures with a lift of his chin for me to confirm what he sees.
“I’m telling you, man, I’m sure it’s fine,” I whisper as I step up on the stool and screw my eye socket onto the eyepiece of the camera. But when I look, a weird crawling sensation spreads across the back of my neck. It’s so intense, I reach up and rub my hand over the skin to get rid of it.
At first it’s hard to tell what I’m looking at. We’ve put a Tiffen Pro-Mist filter on the camera, for extra artistic effects or something, and my pupil dilates with a dull ache when my eye goes from the orange glow of the room to the softened pastel outlines in the filter. It looks like Tyler might have framed the shot too narrowly. He’s aimed the camera right on the woman’s hands in the middle, so it should be showing me her knuckles wrapped around a glass ball, next to a tea light ringed in halos of pink scattered light. But all I can see is what looks like a close-up of the black velvet tablecloth.
“Can we talk to, like, anyone we want?” the girl in the gelled ponytail asks at the same time that I say, “Dude,” while reaching up to readjust the angle. “You’re in way too tight. That’s the problem.”
“Bullshit I am,” says Tyler. “She got in my way.”
“Shhhhh!” One of the mom types tries to shush us.
“Who did?” I ask Tyler. I zoom out about 10 percent and then pan slowly across the tabletop, using the tripod handle like Professor Krauss taught us, expecting any second to stumble across one of the crystals magnified to the size of a truck. Tyler thinks he knows how to use this equipment, but I’m starting to have my doubts.
“I beg your pardon,” the woman in the middle interrupts us. “Are you boys almost finished?” “Just about,” Tyler says, raising his voice. “Thirty seconds.”
To me, he hisses, “Don’t screw up my shot, man. I’ve got it all set up.”
Like hell you do, I think but don’t say.
“Spirits who are at peace cannot be disturbed,” the woman goes on, trying to talk over our whispering. “Anyone we reach will have a purpose for being here. It’s our job to determine what that purpose is. To help them. Bringing them peace will bring us peace, too.”
“So we can’t just ring up Elvis, huh?” the banker jokes, and a few people laugh uncomfortably.
I’ve panned the camera slowly across what I thought was the velvet tablecloth, but I come to rest on a small satin bow. I pull my face out of the viewfinder and look up, squinting through the candlelight to find what the camera is looking at. But I don’t see anything. The table looks the same, crystals and Ouija thing and whatever. No bows anywhere. The person nearest the line of camera sight is the guy in the Rangers jersey, who’s bent over his cell phone and not paying any attention to us.
“But I, like, wanted to talk to my nana and stuff,” the girl with the gelled ponytail complains. “Huh,” I say.
“See her?” Tyler asks.
In the camera, outlined in eerie art-filter light, I find the satin bow again. I adjust the focus and zoom out very slowly.
The bow proves to be attached to the neckline of somebody’s dress, in the shadow of lace against pale skin. I adjust the lens another hairsbreadth. I inhale once, sharply, the way I do when jumping into the lake by my parents’ house for the first time at the beginning of the summer, when the water hits me so hard and cold that it makes my heart stop.
Tyler’s right—there’s a girl blocking the shot. A girl like I’ve never seen.
“I see her,” I say to him, covering my sudden irrational panic. “It’s not a problem.”
“We can reach her, if your nana needs to be reached,” the psychic explains with apparent impatience. “If she has something in this world holding her back.”
“Told you,” Tyler says to me.
“What, you saying my nana’s not at peace, and it’s my fault?” the girl’s voice rises.
“I’ll take care of it,” I say to Tyler.
“No, no,” the psychic backpedals. “That’s not what I meant.”
“You can trust Madame Blavatsky, sweetie.” One of the mom types tries to soothe the girl with the baby. “But you should let her get started.” The weird crawling sensation spreads across my neck again, but I can’t rub it away because I’m busy climbing back around the periphery of the room to reach the girl with the satin bow. She’s just standing there, not talking to anyone, looking down at her hands. My heart is tripping along so fast, I’m having trouble catching my breath. I don’t want to make her feel weird or anything. I also kind of hate talking to people. But more than that, she’s . . .
“Yes, we really can’t wait any longer,” the woman in the turban says. “Spirits only have limited time, once summoned, to resolve their unfinished business. If we don’t act quickly, we risk damning them to an eternity in the in-between.”
The medium’s starting to get pissed off. I’m not positive, but I think Tyler’s paid her for letting us film. Which we’re not supposed to do for workshop, but whatever. She sounds really annoyed. I don’t blame her. I’m kind of annoyed. At Tyler, mostly, for dragging me along to do sound when I could be working on my own film. Should be working on my own film, especially considering how much is riding on it. In fact, all I want is to be working on my own film. But I find myself pulled into other people’s stuff a lot. I get caught up.
“What do you mean, limited?” asks the guy in the Rangers jersey. “Like, they on the clock or something?”
Tyler thinks he’s going to be the next Matthew Barney. He’s doing an experimental film of people in what he calls “transcendental states,” using all different film stock and filters and weird editing tricks that he’s refused to reveal to me. I don’t think we’re going to see much in the way of transcendental states in a palm reader shop upstairs from an East Village pizzeria. But we already spent the afternoon with the AX1 filming drummers in Washington Square Park. I think he’s running out of ideas.
“Or something,” the medium says, and when she says it, a sickening chill moves down my spine.
The girl with the satin bow on her dress is standing on the opposite side of the room from the camera, not far from where I stashed the mike, looking nervous, like she’s doing her best to blend into the wall. She’s awkwardly close to the edge of the table. Nobody seems to notice her, a fact that causes my ears to buzz.
Now that I’ve seen her, I feel like she can never be unseen. She looks . . . I suck at describing people, and beautiful feels especially pathetic. But the truth is, I don’t understand how I haven’t been staring at her the whole time we’ve been here. As I edge nearer, my blood moves faster in my veins and I swallow, a fresh trickle of sweat making its way down my rib cage. I can feel her getting closer. Like I can sense where she is even when I can’t see her. She’s not paying any attention to me, her head half turned away, looking around at the walls with interest.
The girl is so self-contained, so aloof from all of us, that she seems untouchable. Watching her ignore my approach, I wonder how you become someone that other people make room for, whether they know it or not.
She’s wearing one of those intense deconstructed dresses they sell in SoHo. My roommate, Eastlin, is studying fashion design, and he’s got a sweet internship in an atelier for the summer. He took me to the store where he works one time and showed me this piece of clothing, which he said was a dress, which was dishwater-gray and frayed around the edges, covered in hooks and eyes and zippers and ribbons. I couldn’t really understand what the appeal was. To me it looked like something I’d find in a trunk in my grandmother’s attic. When he told me how much it cost I dropped the sleeve I was holding because I was afraid I’d snag a thread and have to take out another student loan.
I’m definitely afraid to touch this girl’s dress. Seeing how she wears it, though, I begin to understand what Eastlin’s talking about. Her neckline reveals a distracting bareness of collarbones. Her hair is brushed forward in curls over her ears in some bizarre arrangement that I think I saw on a few hipster girls in Williamsburg when Tyler took me out drinking there. She must sense me staring at her. Why won’t she look at me? But she’s finished her examination of the curtains, and if she’s noticed me approaching her, she’s not letting on. As I move nearer, near enough that I can practically sense the electrical impulses under her skin, she steps back, retreating from the edge of the table into the red curtain folds along the wall. I glance at Tyler, and he waves to indicate that she’s still in the shot, and I should get her to sit down already.
My heart thuds loudly once, twice. Up close, her skin looks as smooth as buttermilk. Milk soft. Cool to the touch.
I want to touch the skin at the base of her throat.
This thought floats up in my mind so naturally that I don’t even notice how creepy I sound. “Hey,” I manage to whisper, drawing up next to her. It comes out husky, and I cough to cover it up.
She doesn’t hear me. At least, she doesn’t respond. My cheeks grow warm. I hate talking to people I don’t know. I hate it more than going to the dentist, I hate it more than taking SATs or doing French homework or stalling a stick-shift car with my dad in the passenger seat. “When everyone is seated, we’ll finally begin,” the woman in the middle of the room says pointedly.
A few eyes swivel over to stare at me trying to talk to the girl, and my flush deepens. “Listen,” I whisper in desperation, reaching a hand forward to brush the girl’s elbow.
The instant my fingers make contact, the girl’s head turns and she stares at me. Not at me—into me. I feel her staring, and as the lashes over her eyes flutter with something close to recognition it’s like no one has ever really seen me before her.
Her face is pale, bluish and flawless except for one dark mole on her upper lip, and twin dark eyebrows drawn down over her eyes. As we gaze at each other I can somehow make out every detail of her face, and none of them. When I concentrate I can only see the haze of incense smoke, but when I don’t try too hard I can trace the curve of her nose, the slope of her cheeks, the line where lip meets skin. Her eyes are obsidian black, and when she sees me, her lips part with a smile, as if she’s about to say something.
I recoil, taking a step backward without thinking, landing my heel hard against the boom. The microphone starts to fall, and I fumble to catch it before it hits the girl with the gelled ponytail and the baby, and I nearly go down in a tangle of wires and headphones and equipment.
“Dude!” Tyler chastises me from behind the camera.
He’s laughing, and some of the people around the table are joining in. The guy in the Rangers jersey pulls out his phone and snaps a picture of me glaring at Tyler. The girl with the neck tattoo smiles at me out of the corner of her mouth and starts a slow clap, but fortunately nobody joins in and after a few slow claps alone she stops and looks away.
“It’s fine,” I mutter. “I’ve got it under control.”
“Whatever,” Tyler says, pressing his eye to the viewfinder and panning across the people’s faces. They’ve started to join hands.
Once I’ve gotten the headphones back on and the boom mike hoisted over my head, balanced unobtrusively over the table so I can pick up the soft breathing of all the New Yorkers in this second-floor room on the Bowery, I check to see if the girl in the deconstructed dress is still hiding against the velvet curtain.
I don’t see her.
The woman in the turban has blown out all but the candles in the sconces on the wall, plunging the table into an intimate darkness with everyone’s face in shadow.
In my headphones I hear Tyler whistle softly under his breath, and I imagine that the scene looks pretty intense through the softening filter.
“Now,” the woman breathes. “We shall invite the spirits to join our circle, if everyone is ready.”
I get a better grip on the boom, balancing my weight between my feet and settling in. The woman in the turban told us it would only take about forty-five minutes. But forty-five minutes can feel like an eternity, sometimes.
Katherine Howe is the New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, The House of Velvet and Glass, and Conversion. She has hosted “Salem: Unmasking the Devil” for the National Geographic Channel, and her fiction has been translated into over twenty-five languages. A native Texan, she lives in New England and upstate New York, where she teaches at Cornell and is at work on her next novel.
TWITTER - WEBSITE
Today I have the wonderful C.J. Skuse back on my blog with another interview and a giveaway of her book Dead Romantic!
1. Tell me about Dead Romantic.
Dead Romantic is best described as Weird Science for girls - with body parts thrown in. It’s about two teenage girls who try to build the perfect boyfriend using corpses, but it’s not as grisly as that pitch suggests. It’s a very black comedy with the emphasis on the comedy. It’s also a bit of a love story too. As the novel goes on the girls – Camille and Zoe - begin to understand that they’re looking in the wrong places for the thing they most desire. For both of them, the thing they really need is right in front of their eyes – not six feet underground.
2. Where did the idea come from?
I was writing my second book Rockoholic and reading a lot of Stephen King (who is namechecked several times in the book) and I learned he wrote a very early short story called I Was a Teenage Graverobber (which I trawled bookshops and the internet for but never found) and I became hooked on writing a story about teenage grave robbers. One day I was watching one of my favourite 80s movies Weird Science about two boys who create the perfect woman using their computer and I merged the two ideas together. I wanted to test whether or not a subject as abhorrent as grave-robbing could be made comical. The other obvious references to Shelley’s Frankenstein, H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West: Reanimator and Robert Louis Stephenson’s The Bodysnatchers are also in there too.
3. What are some of your favourite Horror/Halloween reads?
Anything by Stephen King and absolutely anything featuring serial killers. I prefer non-fiction serial killer books in general. I recently read Killing for Company: The Case of Dennis Nilsen by Brian Masters and that creeped me out for weeks. There’s nothing in fiction that comes close to the horrors of what some humans will do to others, in my opinion.
4. What do you love about writing this kind of genre?
I don’t think Dead Romantic offers anything new to the horror genre to be honest so I doubt I could make a living writing this kind of book! I enjoyed researching body snatching though – I found that really interesting. Death is an endless source of fascination for me and is a key ingredient to all my novels.
5. If you could choose any people to play the main characters who would you choose?
Well the people I picked originally when I was writing the novel would be way too old to play these characters if a film were to be made anytime soon, but in my head the characters have always been - Camille (Lisa Blackwell, aka Pandora from Series 3 and 4 of Skins); Zoe (Frances Bean Cobain with black hair); Damian (Jack O’Connell) and Louis (Josh Hutcherson as he looked in the movie Detention).
6. Who are some of your favourite authors?
There are so many to choose from I don’t know where to start. I’ve recently enjoyed both of Ruth Ware’s psychological thriller novels In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 and I’ve always loved YA authors Kevin Brooks, Melvin Burgess and John Green. I was introduced to adult novels by the books of Gillian White and I’ll always love Kenneth Grahame for his The Golden Age and Dream Days books (I was obsessed with them in my teens). I’m dying to read Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land which comes out next year and I can’t wait for the world to discover Amy, Chelsea, Stacie, Dee by Mary Thompson (2017), which is one of the best YA novels I’ve ever read.
7. Are you working on anything at the moment?
Yes, I’ve just handed in the first draft of Sweetpea, my adult thriller novel about a female serial killer which has been billed as Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Dexter, and this comes out next April 2017. I’m currently drafting up some ideas for the sequel.
Camille wants to find the perfect boy, with an athlete's body and a poet's brain. But when she's mocked at a college party, she knows there isn't a boy alive who'll ever measure up. Enter Zoe, her brilliant but strange best friend, who takes biology homework to a whole new level. She can create Camille's dream boy, Frankenstein-stylee. But can she make him love her?
C J Skuse, author of Pretty Bad Things, Rockoholic and Dead Romantic, was born in 1980 in Weston-super-Mare, England. She has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels, works as a freelance children’s fiction consultant and lectures in Writing for Children at Bath Spa University.
C J loves Masterchef, Gummy Bears and murder sites. She hates carnivals, hard-boiled eggs and coughing. The movies Titanic, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Ruby Sparks were all probably based on her ideas; she just didn't get to write them down in time. Before she dies, she would like to go to Japan, try clay-pigeon shooting and have Ryan Gosling present her with the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Enter here to win a copy of Dead Romantic!!
It is another Sunday which means another wrap-up for last weeks Horror Month posts! It involves guest posts, Q&As and loads of giveaways!!
Day 10 of Horror Month I had a guest post from author Peadar O'Guilin and about his new YA book, The Call-which is perfect for this time of year, really creepy and fantastic.
CHECK IT OUT HERE!
Day 11 of Horror Month was a Derek Landy giveaway! I have a Demon Road trilogy giveaway going on and it comes with some extra parts that you will love!
CHECK IT OUT HERE!
Day 12 I had an extract from Conversion by the wonderful Katherine Howe! And of course, a giveaway for this wonderful book.
CHECK IT OUT HERE!
Day 13 I have a giveaway up for The Nightmare Before Christmas new book! Illustrated and written by Tim Burton himself!
CHECK IT OUT HERE!
Day 14 I had an extract from The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey and a giveaway to win the first two books in the trilogy!
CHECK IT OUT HERE!
And for day 15 I had interviews with the author and illustrators of The Horror Handbook!
CHECK IT OUT HERE!
So that was it for last weeks post but stay tuned for some amazing post coming up in the next week!
Thank you to Alma Books, Rock The Boat, Penguin, Puffin, Darran at EDPR, Harper Collins for these posts and giveaways!
Welcome to day 15 of Horror Month! Today I have a Q&A that Alma Books did with author Paul Van Loon and illustrator Alex Scheffler!
They also have a competition for young writers! They are offering 5 young writers to have their monster story printed in a special edition - more information here!
What happens to a vampire when he dies? How does somebody become a werewolf? How can you protect yourself from witches? All of these questions and more are answered in this book, which will finally give you all the information you ever wanted to know about ghosts, zombies, monsters and all kinds of creepy-crawly creatures that give us the heebie-jeebies.Full of tips, anecdotes and trivia - and delightfully illustrated by Axel Scheffler - Paul van Loon's Horror Handbook is a fun andfascinating reference book for all fans of scary stories and things that go bump in the night.
A highly successful children’s author from the Netherlands, Paul van Loon is best known in the English-speaking world for his Alfie the Werewolf series (published by Hodder in the UK). Originally an illustrator, Paul became a writer by accident when he could find no one to put into words a story he had thought of. He is never seen without his dark sunglasses, which has led to rumours that he is a vampire.
Q. How old were you when you first started writing?
I was 22 when I wrote my first story. I had made a drawing and I thought it needed a story. I didn’t have any writer friends at that time, so I wrote the story myself. And so I discovered that I really liked writing. ☺
Q. What was the inspiration behind The Horror Handbook?
I had written several books about vampires, werewolves and other grisly characters and I thought that my readers would like to learn more about all this horror stuff...
Q. Out of every book for children you’ve ever written, which was your favourite and why?
Ooh, that’s a tough one! I've written eight books about a ‘horror bus’ (De Griezelbus). Together they sold over a million books and made me famous in Holland and I love them. The same goes for the books about Alfie the werewolf. I've written 17 books about Alfie. I've lived with him for 20 years now and he just won’t get out of my head. He just sits there and waits for a new story, so I guess he's my favourite character.
Q. If you were to recommend one of your children’s books for a child to read, which would it be?
Again, it‘s Alfie, I think. He’s a loveable little werewolf.
Q. What was your favourite book growing up as a child?
It was a book about a little gnome who lived in the woods and his name was Paulus (Paulus de Boskabouter). He had my name and I loved the stories about Paulus and his friends and foes, particularly the witch Eucalypta.
Q. What is your favourite book now?
I love ‘Where the wild things’ are from Maurice Sendak. I read this book when I was 18 years and it showed me the beauty of children’s books again.
Q. If you could give one piece of advice to a young writer, what would it be?
Read, read, read. Write, rewrite, rewrite!
Q. Do you have a special place where you write?
I have my own room full of books, guitars, film props from films that are made of my books, puppets and secret cupboards. It’s a bit like a museum. Somewhere in there is also my computer and an old desk. There I write my books, mostly at night, when the moon is full.
Q. If you could organise a dinner party to be attended by characters from books, which three guests would be at the top of your list?
Of course my little friend Alfie the werewolf and I would like to see Winnie the Pooh. And Dracula... I think that would be an interesting and a little dangerous combination. ☺
Axel Scheffler was born in Hamburg, Germany. He studied History of Art, before moving to the United Kingdom to study illustration at Bath Academy of Art in 1982. Since then he has worked as a freelance illustrator in London. He is best known for the children’s books he has illustrated through his partnership with author Julia Donaldson. Together they created The Gruffly, which has sold over 5 million copies, in almost 50 countries throughout the world. He lives in London.
Q. How old were you when you first started illustrating?
I can't remember when I first drew something – as a small child. It depends what you mean by “illustrating”. But if you mean illustrating a text, it was a bit later than that… I’ve drawn since I was a child, and I’ve been illustrating professionally since 1986.
Q. What drew you to The Horror Handbook?
The Horror Handbook was published in Germany first – about twenty years ago. I thought the text had a nice humorous touch and I enjoyed illustrating it very much.
Q. Out of every book you’ve ever illustrated, which was your favourite and why?
I don’t have one favourite book. I like some more than others – usually the more quirky ones like Highway Rat, Stick Man or The Smartest Giant in Town.
Q. You’ve illustrated books in many languages – do you have a favourite language to work with?
I’ve only illustrated books in three languages – German, French and English; although, of course, some are translated into many languages afterwards. I don’t really read French very well, so that’s a bit more difficult. To illustrate a text it doesn't matter to me which language the text is in – as long as I have some understanding – however, I think English is a great language for picture book texts.
Q. What was your favourite book growing up as a child?
I think my favourite was about a little bear called "Petzi" – it was originally a Danish comic strip (but without speech bubbles). The cover is on my newwebsite – Petzi is a bear with red dungarees with white dots and has many adventures with his friends which include a penguin and a pelican. This would’ve been my favourite when I was five or six.
Q. What is your favourite book now?
I don’t have one favourite book but many. Nowadays I tend to read less fiction, more non-fiction, in German as well as in English.
Q. If you could give one piece of advice to a young artist, what would it be?
If you mean an illustrator – I feel it's a little self evident but: draw lots, go to museums, be curious, look at lots of (good) illustrations.
Q. Do you have a special place where you draw?
I work from home, in a studio at the top of the house: there is chaos, and I wish there was order. Every now and then I tidy my desk, but three days later it looks the same again. It used to be even smaller – I bought a bigger one, but the mess just grows with the table surface. I have given up hope that it'll ever be tidy.
Q. Your most well-known project to date is The Gruffalo – were you inspired by anyone in particular when creating it?
I wasn’t inspired by anything – it’s not based on somebody I know! The Gruffalo is just a furry monster… he’s sort of how I imagine monsters, living in deep, dark woods, with a name like that.
Q. If you could organise a dinner party to be attended by characters from books, which three guests would be at the top of your list?
I’ve got no idea! I think I’d probably invite the three little pigs, so they can shelter from the Big Bad Wolf.
Welcome to day 14 of Horror Month and I have an extract from The 5th Wave and a giveaway! Want to win the first two books in this series? Then just enter the link at the bottom of this post to be in with a chance! The 5th Wave is great for this time of year and will have you guessing all the way through!
THE 1st WAVE Took out half a million people. THE 2nd WAVE Put that number to shame. THE 3rd WAVE Lasted a little longer. Twelve weeks ...Four billion dead. IN THE 4th WAVE, You can't trust that people are still people. AND THE 5th WAVE? No one knows. But it's coming. On a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs. Runs from the beings that only look human, who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan may be her only hope. Now Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death.
Taken from ‘The 5th Wave’ Copyright © Rick Yancey. Supplied by Penguin Books.
ALIENS ARE STUPID.
I’m not talking about real aliens. The Others aren’t stupid. The Others are so far ahead of us, it’s like comparing the dumbest human to the smartest dog. No contest.
No, I’m talking about the aliens inside our own heads.
The ones we made up, the ones we’ve been making up since we realized those glittering lights in the sky were suns like ours and probably had planets like ours spinning around them. You know, the aliens we imagine, the kind of aliens we’d like to attack us, human aliens. You’ve seen them a million times. They swoop down from the sky in their flying saucers to level New York and Tokyo and London, or they march across the countryside in huge ma- chines that look like mechanical spiders, ray guns blasting away, and always, always, humanity sets aside its differences and bands together to defeat the alien horde. David slays Goliath, and every- body (except Goliath) goes home happy.
It’s like a cockroach working up a plan to defeat the shoe on its way down to crush it.
There’s no way to know for sure, but I bet the Others knew about the human aliens we’d imagined. And I bet they thought it was funny as hell. They must have laughed their asses off. If they have a sense of humor . . . or asses. They must have laughed the way we laugh when a dog does something totally cute and dorky.
Oh, those cute, dorky humans! They think we think like they do! Isn’t that adorable?
Forget about flying saucers and little green men and giant mechanical spiders spitting out death rays. Forget about epic battles with tanks and fighter jets and the final victory of us scrappy, un- broken, intrepid humans over the bug-eyed swarm. That’s about as far from the truth as their dying planet was from our living one.
The truth is, once they found us, we were toast.
SOMETIMES I THINK I might be the last human on Earth.
Which means I’m the last human in the universe.
I know that’s dumb. They can’t have killed everyone . . . yet. I see how it could happen, though, eventually. And then I think that’s exactly what the Others want me to see.
Remember the dinosaurs? Well.
So I’m probably not the last human on Earth, but I’m one of the last. Totally alone—and likely to stay that way—until the 4th Wave rolls over me and carries me down.
That’s one of my night thoughts. You know, the three-in-the- morning, oh-my-God-I’m-screwed thoughts. When I curl into a little ball, so scared I can’t close my eyes, drowning in fear so intense I have to remind myself to breathe, will my heart to keep beating. When my brain checks out and begins to skip like a scratched CD. Alone, alone, alone, Cassie, you’re alone.
That’s my name. Cassie.
Not Cassie for Cassandra. Or Cassie for Cassidy. Cassie for Cassiopeia, the constellation, the queen tied to her chair in the northern sky, who was beautiful but vain, placed in the heavens by the sea god Poseidon as a punishment for her boasting. In Greek, her name means “she whose words excel.”
My parents didn’t know the first thing about that myth. They just thought the name was pretty.
Even when there were people around to call me anything, no one ever called me Cassiopeia. Just my father, and only when he was teasing me, and always in a very bad Italian accent: Cass-ee- oh-PEE-a. It drove me crazy. I didn’t think he was funny or cute, and it made me hate my own name. “I’m Cassie!” I’d holler at him. “Just Cassie!” Now I’d give anything to hear him say it just one more time.
When I was turning twelve—four years before the Arrival—my father gave me a telescope for my birthday. On a crisp, clear fall eve- ning, he set it up in the backyard and showed me the constellation.
“See how it looks like a W?” he asked.
“Why did they name it Cassiopeia if it’s shaped like a W?” I replied. “W for what?”
“Well . . . I don’t know that it’s for anything,” he answered with a smile.
Mom always told him it was his best feature, so he trotted it out a lot, especially after he started going bald. You know, to drag the other person’s eyes downward. “So, it’s for any- thing you like! How about wonderful? Or winsome? Or wise?” He dropped his hand on my shoulder as I squinted through the lens at the five stars burning over fifty light-years from the spot on which we stood. I could feel my father’s breath against my cheek, warm and moist in the cool, dry autumn air. His breath so close, the stars of Cassiopeia so very far away.
The stars seem a lot closer now. Closer than the three hundred trillion miles that separate us. Close enough to touch, for me to touch them, for them to touch me. They’re as close to me as his breath had been.
That sounds crazy. Am I crazy? Have I lost my mind? You can only call someone crazy if there’s someone else who’s normal. Like good and evil. If everything was good, then nothing would be good.
Whoa. That sounds, well . . . crazy. Crazy: the new normal.
I guess I could call myself crazy, since there is one other person I can compare myself to: me. Not the me I am now, shivering in a tent deep in the woods, too afraid to even poke her head from the sleeping bag. Not this Cassie. No, I’m talking about the Cassie I was before the Arrival, before the Others parked their alien butts in high orbit. The twelve-year-old me, whose biggest problems were the spray of tiny freckles on her nose and the curly hair she couldn’t do anything with and the cute boy who saw her every day and had no clue she existed. The Cassie who was coming to terms with the painful fact that she was just okay. Okay in looks. Okay in school. Okay at sports like karate and soccer. Basically the only unique things about her were the weird name—Cassie for Cassiopeia, which nobody knew about, anyway—and her ability to touch her nose with the tip of her tongue, a skill that quickly lost its impressiveness by the time she hit middle school.
I’m probably crazy by that Cassie’s standards.
And she sure is crazy by mine. I scream at her sometimes, that twelve-year-old Cassie, moping over her hair or her weird name or at being just okay. “What are you doing?” I yell. “Don’t you know what’s coming?”
But that isn’t fair. The fact is she didn’t know, had no way of knowing, and that was her blessing and why I miss her so much, more than anyone, if I’m being honest. When I cry—when I let myself cry—that’s who I cry for. I don’t cry for myself. I cry for the Cassie that’s gone.
And I wonder what that Cassie would think of me.
The Cassie who kills.
Rick Yancey (http://www.rickyancey.com) is the author of several adult novels and the memoir Confessions of a Tax Collector. His first young-adult novel, The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, was a finalist for the Carnegie Medal. In 2010, his novel, The Monstrumologist, received Michael L. Printz Honor, and the sequel, The Curse of the Wendigo, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. - from penguin website - TWITTER
To win the first two books all you have to do is go to Twitter and RT this LINK to be in with a chance of winning! UK only - ends 20/10/16
We all know The Nightmare Before Christmas and we all know it is not just a Christmas story. It is one of my favourite movies to watch each year and for today on Horror Month I have a beautifully illustrated copy of The Nightmare Before Christmas to give away to one of you! This beautiful book has illustrations done by Tim Burton himself and I wish I could keep it for myself ;D this would be perfect for anyone so, just follow the link below to be in with a chance of winning it! (Thank you to Sarah for supplying the prize!)
Jack Skellington is the most important figure in Halloweenland and for years he has delighted in organising macabre tricks and frights for Halloween. But this year he doesn't feel right - there must be more to life than scaring people? Then Jack stumbles upon a cheerful, colourful place called Christmas Town and he knows what he must do - he will bring Christmas to Halloween!
This beautifully designed commemorative edition celebrates the twentieth anniversary of this classic book, written and illustrated by the incomparable visionary Tim Burton.
So, does this sound like something you would love? Of course it is! The perfect book for Halloween!
Just click HERE and RT the tweet to be entered into winning a copy of this book. UK/IRE only - ends 23/10/16