horror

Bath Children’s Literature Festival 2015

Time’s a-wasting, so a quick shout about this year’s Bath Children’s Literature Festival. As usual, you’ll most likely be able to spot me zipping about the place (I’m going to a LOT of the talks this year, because there’s some absolute corkers on the programme) but this time I’m also taking part – and I’m very, very excited about the event I’m involved in.

On the second Saturday of the festival, I’ll be chatting to monster rockstars Charlie Higson and Darren Shan about their respective zombie series, The Enemy and Zom-B. We’ll be talking about zombies in particular, horror in general, reading, writing, books, apocalypses (apocalypsii?) – and I’ll be quizzing them on the body count they’ve amassed over the course of their stories.

It’s going to be a lot of fun, and both Charlie and Darren are brilliant authors. If you’re in the area, come along! There will also be a signing with all three of us after the panel, and we’ll be having a Q&A at the end of the session, so if you have any burning questions you NEED them to answer, now’s your chance.

If you’re not able to make it, but there’s something you’ve always wanted to know about either series – or author (or even me!) – then tweet your question to me (@LouMorgan) by Friday 2nd October and I’ll do my best to get it in…

 

 

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(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…

 

Start losing sleep…

new sleepless

 

If you’re in the UK, have a Kindle and 85p to spare, you can now get hold of the ebook of SLEEPLESS!

Come and meet Izzy and her friends: Grey, Tigs, Juliet, Dom, Mia and Noah – all about to sit some seriously scary exams. If they fail them, their lives are over.

At least, that’s what they think…

The paperback will follow (along with the rest of the Red Eye series) in January – but as it’s October and the nights are getting darker, why not get into the Halloween spirit a little early?

To celebrate, I’ve also unlocked a secret Pinterest board I put together while I was writing the book to give you an idea of what the world of SLEEPLESS looks like.

Enjoy – and whatever you do? Don’t go to sleep…

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.

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…)

The Road to the Tower

I joined Twitter a good while ago now (I suspect it’s about 3 years, scarily enough), and almost 12,000 tweets  (oh, god) later, I finally discovered what it’s for.

It’s for reading The Dark Tower.

I’ve been vaguely aware of the Dark Tower series for a while, in a-on-the-periphery, oh-I’ll-read-that-someday sort of way. And so, on a whim the other week and passing my local bookshop, I picked up the first book: The Gunslinger.

I finished it this morning – having stayed up late to almost-finish it, woken up early to even-closer-to-almost-finish it, and finally got to the last page over breakfast.

I should also add that in between the “waking up” and the “over breakfast” bit, there was the “trudging through the rain and wind back to Waterstones, where I dripped my way up to the second floor and bought the next two books in the series” bit. And then sloshed my way back home.

I’ve not been this immersed in a book in ages – and apparently I’m not alone in that.

When I mentioned I was reading The Gunslinger on Twitter, I got a deluge of Dark Tower-related tweets back. I had no idea how much love there was for these books – and if I’d brought it up before I read one, I wouldn’t have got it, not even slightly. Some people liked the first book most of all (and I’ll be honest, I’m pretty besotted with it at this point); others told me that it gets better from the second book… and several people knew it well enough to quote bits at me.

On the latter point, I’m not surprised. The Gunslinger has proved itself to be eminently quotable. I sat in the hotel at AltFiction at one point reading a section aloud to anyone who would listen, and have gone so far as to turn down the corners of pages to mark bits I’ve particularly liked. That’s quite a big deal for an ex-librarian, I can tell you.

Something that struck me while I was reading was the depth of the world – and the sheer ballsiness of King’s refusal to explain it. He expects you to pick it up as you go, following the trail he’s left. And he knows the way – it’s clearly a world he’s been carrying around with him for a very long time. How closely you follow – or, indeed, whether you do – is up to you. But he’s going on ahead with or without you.

I have a feeling I’m along for the ride. And that – despite reading being by its very nature a solitary exercise – I’m not alone.

World Book Night

I’m one of the book givers for this year’s World Book Night: I’ll be giving out copies of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let The Right One In, somewhere in Brighton.

I’ve got 24 copies, all neatly stacked up and ready to go. Each is labelled with a unique reference number, so if you get one (and this applies to any of the WBN books, anywhere in the UK) do go and register it on the website – it’s a bit like BookCrossing; the idea being to follow the books as they get passed on from one person to the next. I rather like the idea – and somehow, with vampire books, where themes are often contagion and transmission, it feels even more appropriate.

“Let The Right One In” is a vampire story, or it’s a coming-of-age story, or it’s a love story. Or it’s all three. It’s a story about abuse, and about friendship, and about fear and about freedom. It’s horrific and haunting and oddly sweet and beautiful. Whether you’ve seen one of the two recent adaptations of it, or whether you’ve never heard of it before… once you’ve read it, you’ll never forget it.

As an experiment, by the way, in one of the copies I’ve been given, I’ve hidden a quote from the classic Bela Lugosi version of “Dracula” on one of the pages. If you happen to find it, let me know what I’ve written (and which page it’s written on) either via the blog or Twitter. A quick tip: this is the book’s WBN insert page.

Look out for mini-Vlad in the corner, and you’ll know you’re in the right copy…

Happy feeding… sorry: *reading*!

British Fantasy Awards: voting now open

In case you hadn’t noticed – which by now, I highly doubt (but that’s me – always late to the party) – voting for the British Fantasy Society’s annual awards, the British Fantasy Awards, is now open.

This year sees an overhauled system with a view to creating more interesting and relevant awards: one which nominees are genuinely excited to be shortlisted for, and which the eventual winners feel proud to be taking home.

We want people to care about these awards. We want them to reflect the passion that so many of you have for genre literature – whether you come down on the horror or the fantasy side of the fence; whether your thing’s major publisher or independent press… or whether you love all of the above.

We want it to mean something when a book wins a BFA: we want it to be seen as an endorsement of quality, voted for by readers, writers, editors… anyone who loves genre.

We can’t do it without you.

Without your votes.

Without you shouting for the books you’ve loved; the books you think deserve it.

You don’t have to have read every single book out there. You don’t have to have read every genre book published in the last year. You don’t even have to have an opinion on every award category. All we’re asking is that you recommend a couple of books. That’s it.

You can recommend three things in each category (ideally giving us as many details, like publisher, as you can – it makes our lives easier and helps the team check that your recommendation is valid). You don’t have to recommend three, though: one recommendation in one category is enough, if that’s all you want to include. It still counts.

Don’t tell me you’ve not read at least one genre book in the last year that you think is worth nominating – I simply won’t believe you.

You will need to be a member of the BFS (or a member of FantasyCon 2011 or FantasyCon 2012) to be eligible to vote. If you don’t already fall into one of those categories, why not join the BFS? Or get your membership to FCon 2012 – I can guarantee you’ll have a great time.

And if you are already eligible, go and vote. Now. Use your voice. Thank the writers, the editors, the artists, the publishers… everyone involved in making the books, the stories, the art you’ve enjoyed over the last year.

This is your chance to champion them. Don’t waste it.

To the Shock of Miss Louise

I was never much into horror when I was a kid. My best friend, Becky, and her older sister were hugely into it – they’d seen every Stephen King adaptation going by the time we were 12, and I remember reading the copy of It she’d lent me… or trying to, anyway.

I think I got as far as page 24 before I had to close the book and put it in a drawer. On the other side of the room. Under another book. And then put a cushion in front of the drawer. Just in case.

I wasn’t exactly a robust child.

The aversion to horror evaporated soon after: literally, overnight, when I saw “The Lost Boys” for the first time.

I can’t remember quite why, but we (my parents and I) were staying with my aunt & uncle overnight. The house wasn’t that big, and my parents were sleeping in the spare room, while I had the sofa in the living room. I was 13, and my aunt put a video on.

No prizes for guessing what that was.

After everyone else had gone to bed, I remember opening the living room curtains and looking out of the window at the night. My aunt’s house was opposite a large area of open ground – a sort of common-slash-playing field – and I stared straight at the dark. To this day, I have no idea what I thought (hoped? feared?) I was going to see. And yes, I do feel like an idiot every time I think back to it. But I was 13. We’re all idiots when we’re 13.

The thing about “The Lost Boys” was how immediate it felt. As a teen horror-avoider, I was vaguely aware of vampires in the sense that they lurked in mansions wearing big black capes and… stuff. It wasn’t scary. It wasn’t particularly interesting, either.

But my encounter with these particular vampires coincided with my American phase. I had pictures of American landmarks stuck on the ceiling of my room, and was planning my roadtrip. Beyond that, even: I had it in my 13 year-old head that America really was the city on the hill (yes, not only was I an idiot, I was probably the only teenage girl in Wales to be obsessed by JFK). So suddenly, I was seeing vampires in a whole new way – a way that dovetailed with the stuff I did care about.

Blew. My. Mind.

I fell in love with the Frog Brothers’ comic shop; with Santa Carla’s boardwalk (my husband, all too aware of my love for the film, is convinced this is why I love Brighton’s pier as much as I do…).

I fell in love with the cave David & his boys carved for themselves, all candles and Jim Morrison posters (along with vampires, my love for The Doors was another infection that stemmed squarely from the film). I fell in love with the utter amorality and absolute freedom the Lost Boys stood for. And I was quite taken with the bikes, too.

I was completely oblivious to any subtext – there’s the usual vampire themes rattling around in there, but being a film of the 80s, and a West Coast one, there’s more than a hint of gang mythology in there (the dinner in the cave smacks of a hazing, and the attack on the Surf-Nazis on the beach is a gang initiation if ever I saw one). But that was what made it frightening – particularly so. Not because this was the first time you saw the vampires for what they were, but because you saw them through Michael’s eyes. These were his friends: the people he thought he belonged with… suddenly become truly monstrous. When you’re a teenager like I was, the idea of belonging is so important, the desire to belong so all-consuming that it made Michael’s dilemma even worse. Lose your soul or lose your friends… you’d actually have to stop and think about that, wouldn’t you?

“The Lost Boys” was my vampire gateway-drug. After that, I convinced my dad to buy me the first three of Anne Rice‘s vampire books. We were on a ferry, and the newsagent-slash-bookshop happened to have all 3 of them in the wire spinner-rack outside. I knew enough to realise that if my parents were to pick one up and really look at it, I’d never be allowed to get the rest… so I went for broke. I read them back to back through northern France. I still have those same copies, broken-spined and dog-eared and smelling of teenage rebellion.

I scoured bookshops for vampire collections (chief among them, Parragon’s 1994 edition of The Giant Book of Vampires, edited by none other than Stephen Jones… Sometimes, I wish I could go back and explain to my younger self just how amusing I find that. She wouldn’t get it: how could she?) and smuggled them into the house, under the nose of my by now disapproving mother. I watched every vampire film I could get my hands on – and even waded my way through a not-terribly-well-dubbed version of “Der Kleine Vampir“.

It wasn’t all bad: watching all those vampire films meant I eventually discovered Near Dark – which I maintain is the best vampire movie ever made. It’s better than “The Lost Boys”, I admit… but while I love it, it’s never quite managed to edge David, Marco, Paul & Dwayne out. Nothing has. In such appalling affection do I hold that film, I’ve bought it three times (once on VHS, when I wore out my aunt’s copy; and twice on DVD. It was the very first DVD I bought).

If it had been the film it was originally intended to be, complete with the tweenage, not teenage, vampires and the set-up for the sequel that never happened, “The Lost Girls”, I don’t think I could have loved it as much. Perhaps if I’d seen it at a different time, it wouldn’t have had such a hold on me – a hold that has lasted 17… 18 years thus far and shows no sign of letting up.

But these are moot points. I saw it when I saw it, and it was the film it was: noisy, snarky, silly, flashy, bloody in places and heavy on pop-culture. I’ve written about my love for it before, and a lot of what I’ve said here echoes that earlier article. I’m consistent, you have to give me that. This particular outpouring of Lost Boys love stems from two places: the wonderful article on Ghostbusters from the Guardian’s site, and Damien Walter’s piece on vampire novel, “Stainless” (as well as his referring on Twitter to “The Lost Boys” as “Probably [the] most influential vamp movie ever.”)

It certainly influenced me.