Dark & twisty

New book announcement!

You might have spotted this on my Twitter yesterday, but just in case:

I have a new book coming out!

THE OPPOSITE OF YOU, a YA thriller will be published by Stripes in April 2017.

It’s a standalone (as opposed to, say, a sequel to SLEEPLESS, and it isn’t part of the Red Eye universe. However, there might be places where the two worlds touch, so if you pay attention when you read it you may well spot a familiar face or two…) and I’m really excited to be working with Stripes again.

 

There’s not much more information than that for now, as it’s still a little way off – although here’s an idea of what it’s about to whet your appetite:

 

Bex and her identical twin sister Naomi used to be close. They used to be able to finish each other’s sentences, used to know exactly what the other was thinking. They were a matching pair.

And then something changed.

But Bex didn’t even realise until it was too late. When Naomi walks out of the house the night before their last GCSE exam and doesn’t come back, Bex has to think hard about how to find her.

What happens next will force Bex to unpick their shared history and the memories, following Naomi’s trail through their family, their past and all the way to the blinding lights of the Hemisphere music festival. Everything she thought she knew is called into question.

With her worries dismissed by their parents and ignored by her friends (and with Naomi’s friends nowhere to be found) the only person Bex can trust is a stranger – Josh – as she tries to piece together a picture of the person she thought she shared everything with. Naomi’s been leading another life, one Bex doesn’t recognize… and it’s led her straight into the path of Max: someone else who is not what they appear.

As Bex chases Naomi, she realizes it isn’t just whether she can find her twin: it’s whether she knows her at all.

And whether she still wants to.

 

I’ll be updating details on The Opposite of You page in the ‘BOOKS‘ tab on the main page, so keep your eyes peeled!

 

(Probably) The Greatest Halloween Signing Ever…

Yes, it’s not quite Halloween, but what’s a couple of days between friends?

Come along to the Great Halloween Signing in the Forbidden Planet Megastore in London tomorrow (Saturday 25th October) and hang out with Actual Proper British Horror Writers (and me. Who will be basking in the reflected glory and trying really hard not to grin like a loon.)

We’ll be signing between 1pm and 2pm, and afterwards there’s a BFS Open Evening taking place in the nearby Bloomsbury Tavern.

I’m there as a contributor to ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! ENDGAME, the third of the ZA! series of mosaic novels.

9781472106421

If you’ve not come across the series – or any other mosaic novels before – think of it as a cross between an anthology of short stories and a novel in dossier form, with each contributor taking one aspect of it. (One of my favourites is the zombie-related app store, complete with developer comments.) My “story” is the diary of a teenager caught up in the zombie outbreak – the catch being that she wasn’t one of the lucky ones. So if you’ve ever wanted to know what goes through a teenage zombie’s mind…

 

Announcing… SLEEPLESS

I’ve been sitting on this news for ages, and – as you can imagine – for someone as gobby as I am, it’s been a real challenge keeping quiet. But I’m told I don’t have to keep my mouth shut any longer (and if it turns out I’m wrong on that then we’ll just carry on and pretend that nothing ever happened, m’kay?).

It’s pretty common knowledge that I love horror – and having grown up on Point Horror and Christopher Pike books, I’m a big fan of horror in YA and teen literature in particular.

So… I’m delighted to announce that my first YA horror book, SLEEPLESS, will be published by Stripes Publishing later this year as one of the launch titles for their new Red Eye series.

I’m incredibly excited by the idea of writing YA horror, as it’s an area where there are fantastic books which I love – books like ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, HOLLOW PIKE, DEPARTMENT 19… all of them properly frightening.  You can imagine how I felt about getting the chance to come up with my own.

And when Katie – my wonderful editor at Stripes – told me I didn’t have to worry about it being too scary… well. SLEEPLESS was the result.

SLEEPLESS

Don’t go to sleep…

With their wealthy parents and expensive homes in the exclusive Barbican complex at the heart of the City of London, Izzy Whedon and her friends at The Clerkenwell School seem like they have it all… but success comes at a price.

As the pressure of the upcoming exams gets too much, Izzy and the others resort to taking a “study drug” they find on the internet – and by the time they realise there are side effects, it’s already too late. When one of the group disappears, the others discover the horrifying truth behind their miracle pills.

Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, they learn there’s only one way out: to stay awake until the drugs are out of their systems.

If, that is, they can last that long…..

Writing SLEEPLESS has been a huge amount of fun, and although I’m embarrassed to admit it I even managed to creep myself out a couple of times (how does that even work?).

The team at Stripes are awesome, and I knew that I was in safe hands with Katie when we spent a whole morning going over ideas and talking about terrible B-movies from the 1980s (for which I have an unashamed passion).

It’s also given me the chance to do something I’ve liked the idea of for a very long time – using the Barbican Estate as the setting for a novel. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a hulking great Brutalist complex of flats, walkways, gardens, tower blocks and restaurants. It’s best known for the hub of theatres, galleries and cinemas in the Barbican Centre, but it also contains a church, a lake, a library, a girls’ school, the Museum of London, two residents’ gardens, several playgrounds and the Guildhall School of Music – as well as miles and miles of labyrinthine walkways. It’s an easy place to get lost in, put it that way.What better setting could there be for a book like this one?

I’ll be posting more details and more about the world of SLEEPLESS further on down the line.

Huge thanks go to Stripes and my fabulous agent Juliet Mushens for making this possible.

And in the meantime? Whatever you do… don’t go to sleep.

Roses are Red…

Waterstones have been running a Valentine’s-inspired feature on their blog and across Twitter: they asked some brilliant authors to come up with their own Valentine poems, all beginning “Roses are red”.

You can read the results here, and look at the poetry that everyone on Twitter has been posting by searching the #rosesarered hashtag (although as is always the way on Twitter, you’ll get a jumble of other stuff on there too).

And of course I couldn’t resist joining in…

Roses are red,

Your lips have turned blue.

I thought you’d gone quiet –

Now what do I do..?

 

Merry Crispmouse

Christmas is coming, and we all have that one person who’s impossible to buy for, don’t we? The one who already has everything, or always says they don’t want anything. That one.

Well, here’s the solution. The gift for someone who has everything.

A taxidermy mouse chess set.

(Failing that, why not try the taxidermy Pulp Fiction rodents, or the utterly terrifying monster pendants -not taxidermy, before you ask…)

 

Gravestones to die for

snow churchyardI was puttering around the internet this morning doing some research on the proper names for different types of gravestone (because that’s the cheery sort of person I am). I didn’t necessarily get very far, but I’ve come back with all sorts of eye-opening bits and pieces.

Like this…

How’s this for trivia: the sticky-outy bit on older, traditionally shaped stones are called the “shoulders” – or occasionally, the “wings”. How did I not already know that?

Trivia 2: “taphophilia” is a love of funerals or the funereal, including “tombstone tourism”. (So many thoughts, right there…)

Anyway, I also came across a few links that I thought were kind of cool, so.

– There’s the Urbanist’s piece on 10 Types of Tombstone to Die For… (just look at the Knights of Malta one!)
– CNN’s Most Scenic Cemeteries piece; and Departful’s take on the same idea
– How to read a gravestone using a mirror
– Twelve unusual tombs

And, if you’ve the good fortune to not have suffered through my ramblings for very long, there’s always the Resurrection Cheese

 

The Hidden Mother

I stumbled across this piece on the BBC News site earlier, and… look, I get the idea. It’s about keeping the focus on the child as the subject, isn’t it? But blimey, if you don’t end up with some hella creepy photos as a result…

In Pictures: The Hidden Mother

Take a look and see what you reckon. And then try to forget what you saw. Brrr.

Halloween in the Hall of Corpses

If you follow some of the Team Mushens (as in Juliet Mushens, our lovely agent. Yes, she has a posse. I know.)  group on Twitter, you’ll probably have heard about the Halloween Shorts thing we’ve got running, arranged by the marvellous @mygoditsraining.

I say “we”, because I’m kind of cheating on this one and going slightly off-campus. While the others have all been terribly good and clever and written proper actual new short stories for Halloween, I’ve not had time and am horribly disorganised and, well, me.

However, the other day while I was rummaging through my hard drive looking for yet another file that I’d managed to save to completely the wrong place and then lose (because – again – me) I came across this. Think of it as something from the catacombs.

Murderess Lane is an old story of mine… I must’ve written it around 2009, 2010 – something like that and it was published online by Hub Fiction magazine. I’m very attached to it, partly because it’s set in Smithfield and the City of London. This has long been one of my favourite places and I’ve both lived and worked there. It’s part of my history – which is probably why I feel an incredible urge to go back and mess with it. This is also the story which introduced the Hall of Corpses – which is the closest thing to a mythos I’ve got. It’s turned up (either alluded to, in disguise or flat-out as itself) in a couple of things I’ve done, for no other reason than my idiotic affection for the idea.

So, ahead of Halloween (and posted now because come tomorrow I disappear down the convention rabbithole for a week)… welcome to Murderess Lane.

 

MURDERESS LANE

 

I once met a man who had a habit of finding strange places. I say “habit” rather than “gift” although that’s what I’d call it, myself. He was a man who could be found next to a bar – no matter the time of day or night; the kind of man who, if asked the right sort of questions and given the right sort of drinks, would tell you anything you wanted to know. Just the kind I was looking for.

I met him in a pub in west Smithfield, where he was slowly but steadily working his way through the row of bottles behind the bar: he wasn’t especially pleased to see me, but I sat down beside him anyway and began by asking if he was the man who had found the Hall of Corpses. The question didn’t surprise him, and instead he squinted across at me, then laughed. “So you know about that one, do you?”

(more…)

Resurrection Cheese

Best. Name. Ever.

If you want to make cheese, you need a cheese press – but in 19th Century West Wales, not everyone could afford to buy one.

So, what do you do?

You improvise.

What’s big and flat and heavy, and easy to come by if you live in a semi-rural area…?

Yeah. That’d do it.

The full story…

Resurrection cheese is what resulted when, in the 1860s, a townsman of Llanfihangel Abercowyn, in the Carmarthen county of Wales, wanted to make cheese but didn’t have enough money for the proper equipment. He didn’t make a deal with the devil in exchange for a cheese-press; rather, he called upon his resourcefulness, made a trip to the abandoned graveyard in town, and with a few fallen headstones he fashioned his own cheese press.

Farmhouse cheeses were large — sometimes nearly two feet in diameter — and circular; and evidently, able to easily copy the inscription of a headstone. When this townsman sold his cheese at the market, with a clear gravestone inscription, one of his customers exclaimed, “You have resurrected this cheese from Llanfihangel churchyard!” From then on, its “official” name was resurrection cheese.

Green Fingers

A week or two ago, I found myself visiting a garden centre. Like you do. Except… I’ve never been in a garden centre quite like this one before. And unless your name’s either Percy Jackson or you’re a Winchester, there’s a good chance you haven’t either.

I’ll grant you that the very tail end of January isn’t the best time to visit a garden centre with its own nurseries. There were obviously lots of green things hidden behind screens, gearing up for the spring – but that wasn’t really the focus.

No. The focus was…

P rocking horse

… all the scary rocking horses.

Oh, and a frankly terrifying table:

P bear table

Seriously. Look at that table.

IT’S A RABID BEAR, READY TO HOLD YOUR MARTINI.

And that just about set the tone.

Well, that and the tangled heap of wheelchairs and pushchairs just inside the entrance to that particular shed. Were they there for visitors, I wondered… or were they all that remained of unwitting victims who’d met a sticky end while on the hunt for some begonias and a slice of cake in the cafe?

Speaking of which…

P snack booth

Uh-huh. Honestly, that’s one of the tables for the cafe. In there.

Gulp.

While you eat, you can listen to the slightly sinister bird-song piped through the whole garden centre (don’t ask me how it manages to be sinister. It just does, somehow. It’s a bit like the mist in the middle of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS) and you can gaze out at what can only be referred to as “PyroRhino”: an almost life-size bronze of a rhino, complete with gas can accessory.

Pyro Rhino

Or perhaps you’d prefer to take a moment to venture into one of the smaller sheds, where you’ll find a giant eagle swooping down on an alien band. Because REASONS.

P eagle and aliens

There was also a miniature Romany caravan, and a selection of reclining women with… shall we say “inadequate” clothing, as well as more animals and several temples.

I can’t even. I just can’t.

And in the middle of it all was an enormous, vaguely Wild West cactus garden:

P Cactus

I say “vaguely” because I’m not sure the two eight-foot tall bronze lions flanking it, nor the several life-size concrete dogs were really part of the whole Gold Rush. Nor was the twisty old olive tree, which must have been ancient, stuffed into a giant pot just out of shot.

The photos really don’t come close to doing it justice. Between the fact it was almost deserted, the creepy birdsong and the general air of… unease to the whole place, I was decidedly freaked out. But in a good way. Once you take a few minutes to adjust, you sort of sink into the crazy and go with it.

At the very back of the largest shed, there’s a heaped-up corner of sand and some benches (and a rusty speedboat in a tree. An actual speedboat. I was too startled to take a photo. And don’t even get me started on the rickshaw…) which is obviously used as a sandpit for visitors’ children.

As I passed, two women sitting on the bench (the only other people I’d seen so far, I should add) stopped talking, looked up and said: “Welcome to paradise.”

I didn’t run… but only just.