Down In The Tube Station at Midnight…

So here’s a short horror story I wrote this afternoon that’s been rattling around in my brain for the last few weeks. I was pretty proud of it, so I thought I’d share!


The tiled walls of the tube station shifted and swirled uneasily as Alicia tried deep breaths to steady her equally swirling stomach. As per usual, the after work “couple of glasses of wine” had become a couple of bottles, and now here she was again, unsteady and nauseous in the stifling stagnant air of Holborn station. Minutes crawled past her, marching steadily towards midnight, and a sense of regret came with them.

She breathed heavily, ‘Future Alicia is going to be super pissed in the morning… Saturday morning a write-off.’ her words echoed off the curved, dirty white walls. She was alone. Fortunately, respite was approaching – or the promise of a seat at least. The pressure change and blowing hot rush of air that indicated the imminent arrival of a train washed over her like a dusty desert wind, accompanied by the steady crescendo roar from down the tunnel. Alicia gathered her bag from where she’d let it slump to the floor, and turned to meet the pulsing of red and white that slowed steadily to allow passengers on and off. As it came to a rest though, it was obvious that inside the train was as empty as the platform. The doors slide open, and she stepped inside, wobbling slightly, but thankful to be able to escape balancing against gravity for ten minutes. So long as she didn’t fall asleep, she was fine. Sitting down, she even started to feel a lot less drunk than she had, and she surveyed the empty tube carriage around her. The light was searingly bright, and intense white that knifed through her skull like lightning, and it felt cramped and uncomfortable, but other than that it was a haven for her throbbing feet. The rows of seats stretched back from her towards the next carriage, but not a single one was occupied, except for a dog-eared newspaper that sat next to her, an unpleasant musty odour coming off it.

‘Solo tube Selfie, methinks’, she concluded after her inspection, noticing her words slurring into each other slightly, like a slow-motion car pileup, ‘what’s the point of being shit on for being a millennial if I don’t get to at least document my debauchery, after all?’

She pulled out her phone, already latched automatically onto the Tube’s Wifi, and opened up the camera. She pulled a suitably ridiculous face, all exaggerated pout and crossed eyes, the empty train carriage seeming endless behind her. It reminded her of when she was little, and she used to open two doors on the bathroom cabinet at the same time, enjoying the strange infinity of the door mirrors reflecting each other back and forth into eternity. She shivered slightly, despite the stuffy warmth of the tube, and took the photo, immediately opening to share it on Twitter.

“Solo Dork Adventures on the Underground” she tapped out, sending the tweet away with a wry smile.

‘Self deprecation is my favourite,’ she muttered to no-one, pushing her headphones in and firing up some music to drown out the toothless roar of the tube as it pulled into the next station. No-one got on. She pulled her phone out of her pocket again, feeling restless, the tiredness of alcohol making her yearn for bed. Her photo had garnered a few likes, as well as a couple of comments of “creepy!” from her followers. Her friend Adrian had replied, “Wow, cool shot! How’d you set that up?” which was an odd question. She told him that she’d just got on the empty tube – that it must have been good luck to get the whole train to herself, before sinking back into her music. She let her eyes droop, shielding her from the harsh buzz of the florescent light, but was careful not to let them drop completely. Last thing she wanted was to fall asleep and end up in Sheffield. After a minute or two, Alicia felt the train slowing down for another station, but it was once again empty, filled with litter and echoes. She checked her phone again. Adrian had replied saying “Haha, very funny – true dedication to the joke” which was even stranger than his first comment. She flicked back up to her original tweet, and felt the blood in her run ice cold. She was sat in the photo on her screen, in the same seat she was sat in now, pulling the ridiculous face she’d pulled earlier. The rows of vomit brown seats stretched away behind her just like she remembered, but sat twenty places or so behind her was a little boy. His black hair hung greasy and dank into his cold, black eyes. He was staring right at her.

Alicia pulled her headphones out and shot to her feet, spinning, her heart hammering double time, to look down the train. It was completely empty. She could see over the seats from standing, and there was no-one hiding behind them.

She called out anyway, ‘Hello? Is someone there-’ she caught herself mid-sentence when she realised she was uttering the dying words from every horror film ever made. Shakily, she held her phone up and took another selfie, her skin clammy and pale, but the alcohol purged from her system by adrenalin and fear. When the picture flashed up on screen, the boy was closer. Only ten or so chairs away this time. His eyes looked back at her through the phone, horrifyingly deep pools of black that sang hunger and sadness. Alicia screamed, and checked behind her again. Nothing was there. The carriage suddenly felt unbearably claustrophobic, the weight of tonnes of rock and London city crushing down on her. The air had gone from a stagnant heat to crackling with malevolent energy. She raised her phone to her face again, terrified of what she’d see when she took another picture, but more terrified of not knowing where the thing that was stalking her even was. When she tapped the shutter button gently, the picture showed just half of her face, cut off by the edge of the camera. There was a pale, mottled grey hand grasping her shoulder in the picture, the fingernails cracked and peeling away. The second she saw the image, she felt the pressure of a tiny but unbelievably powerful grip on her shoulder, sending a spider web of cold pain and abject horror through her. Her legs buckled, but she didn’t quite fall, instead stumbling with a wordless moan of primal fear towards the door of the tube. The train was slowing for another stop – not hers, but there was no way in hell she was going to stay trapped underground with some invisible child-shaped abomination. The slowing wasn’t fast enough, the seconds stretching out impossibly to long minutes of cold terror. Alicia was certain she felt tiny hands grasping at her hair, and jerked this way and that as though spiders where crawling up her body.

Finally, the tube shuddered to a stop, the doors swung open, and Alicia flung herself onto the unmoving concrete of the station floor. As she sucked in lungfuls of dry air, she just caught the glimpse of the boy stood behind the glass of the door behind her. He looked at her with those painfully yearning black holes, his mouth opening impossibly wide in a scream that sounded like a dying cat’s yowling. A thick, inky black fluid spilled out of his mouth in heavy, dripping ropes, and in response to his otherworldly howl, thin arms ending in long, grasping fingers snaked their way out from the dark gap between the train and the platform edge. They snatched blindly at Alicia, the desperation and starving need to have her coming off them with an animal lust. One grabbed her ankle, the fragile looking fingers exerting an impossible pressure on her skin, ice and agony knifing into her bone. It was pulling her towards the dark space beneath the tube as the it began accelerating away from the station again, moving with a heavy certainty that promised a messy death if the hands had their way. Alicia summoned all the strength she had and kicked her free foot at the hand that held her, and connected with enough force to shock it into releasing her. Driven by a pure and thoughtless survival instinct, she ran lopsidedly from the station, her crushed ankle screaming with agony as her broken bones ground against each other beneath the skin. Finally, when she reached the cold, fresh and freeing air of the world above, she allowed herself to collapse into a sobbing wreck, the pain becoming to much for her to bare. She passed out, the echoing black void of the child’s eyes swallowing her consciousness.


So that’s it! Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment if you liked it!

D

Lockwood & Co. – The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud

The third instalment in Stroud’s creeping spectre splashed ghost series is one that I’ve been waiting on tenterhooks for ever since book two, The Whispering Skull, ended with such an explosive cliff-hanger. These books are everything I ever dreamed of reading when I was about nine or ten, and even in my late twenties I devour them eagerly in a few short sittings, staying up into the small hours to try and get as much read as my brain will allow.

I need book four RIGHT NOW.

I need book four RIGHT NOW.

The Hollow Boy picks up a little after the events of The Whispering Skull, and a huge area of Chelsea has been cut off from London, due to an unexplained and deadly outburst of ghosts – hundreds roaming the area, leaving many ghost-touched and leaving London’s biggest and best agencies baffled. There’s no obvious source, so all that can be done is teams of agents sweeping the cordoned off zone on a nightly basis, dealing with the overwhelming number of smaller apparitions. London’s smallest agency, Lockwood & Co., have not been requested however, deemed too small to be of any use, much to the annoyance of brightly talented young Anthony Lockwood and his two assistants Lucy Carlyle and George Cubbins. As they continue trying to deal with the void left in the rest of the city by the other agencies prioritising Chelsea, the strained relationships between the highly talented young agents begin to reach fraying point. Lockwood’s cold distance is becoming increasingly more frustrating for Lucy, who is still trying to work out her rapidly expanding skills with hearing ghosts and spirits. But Lucy doesn’t just hear ghosts and death echoes, she can talk and communicate with the dead, a skill that is entirely unique as far as she knows. Eventually the stresses and pressures of overworking cause shifts in the structure of the tightknit Lockwood & Co., driving the wedge of uncertainty further between Lucy and Lockwood. When they’re finally asked to come into the Chelsea outbreak to help, the team are no longer operating with their usual haphazard synergy, and there’s something lurking underneath Chelsea that feeds on fear and distrust…

I cannot recommend this series enough.

I cannot recommend this series enough.

I think it’s no small thing to say that this might be one of the best series to come out in the MG age bracket since a certain bespectacled boy discovered he was a wizard. That’s right – Lockwood & Co is a series I just compared to Harry Potter. Not just that, but Percy Jackson, Skulduggery Pleasant – Stroud really stands with the big names. Lockwood’s chilly Sherlock-esque unflappable nature, George’s grubby but brilliant mind and Lucy’s emotionally charged narration all work perfectly to create a warm, diverse cast of characters that I genuinely care about so very much. Each book in the series stands alone superbly as a chilling ghost story, as well as a historical mystery, against a brilliantly realised world of paranormal darkness and a Victorian sense of melancholy, and they’re continuing to build a deep sense of history and mythology in The Hollow Boy. I yearn to know more and more about this universe after each chapter, dreaming of rapiers and rawbones. It balances creepy atmosphere with quirky, wry humour and intelligent plots, and this third instalment contains some of the most haunting moments of the series yet (crawling on all fours… *shudders*)

If you’ve got a strong reader with a love of clever, twistingly sophisticated ghost stories rooted around three vibrant characters then I cannot recommend the Lockwood & Co. Stories enough – they really are one of the greats.

Thanks for Reading…

D

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

I’ve mentioned on multiple occasions that horror is probably my favourite genre – Ghost Stories more than Zombies – but I tend to find that it’s done badly an awful lot, which upsets me greatly! A good horror should be subtle and building, and full of atmosphere. When I was sent a proof of Amy Lakavic’s debut novel, the people at Simon & Schuster described it as “Little House on the Prairie meets The Excorcist”, and so obviously I was very interested.

UK Cover

UK Cover

 

Last Winter, Amanda saw something in the snow from her family’s tony cabin on the mountainside. Her parents are convinced it was nothing more than the result of intense cabin fever, the six of them cooped up in the winter snow drifts, but Amanda knows that she saw the Devil himself, and his festering evil has never left her soul since. This Winter, with a new sickly baby, her Father decides it’s time for the family to move from the isolated mountain to the flatter, less treacherous prairie. It could be a chance for Amanda to escape the hellish evil that she feels stalking her in the forest. When they arrive at their new cabin, though, they find it covered in stagnant blood. Has Amanda brought something with her, or is there evil everywhere?

US Cover

US Cover

Wow, Daughters Unto Devils gets horror perfectly. It’s character driven, evocative and so powerfully atmospheric and it builds with a slow, deliberate sense of dread. Amanda is a torn, realistically written girl, full of darkness and hope – I love how much more flawed she is than her sister, Emily, and her self-doubts help build her into a character and narrator that we really root for. The strict, overbearing religious parents are also painfully twisted, all pure upfront but with layers of aggressive, hateful misery beneath them.

The atmosphere is where the book really shines, though, with a real sense of bleak isolation and hopelessness. The horror is unfolded gradually, using Amanda’s unease and slow descent into paranoia to build it up to staggering proportions. It twists everyday events and throws in some deeply unsettling one shots – particularly the baby standing in the long grass of the prairie. The final few chapters though are horrifically gripping and I raced through them with wide eyes as the levels of violence and awful, horrific events ramped up to make every page an exploration in dark, twisted imagery that sticks in the reader’s brain.

I also really like that Lukavics explores some really important issues in this book, including the ideas of teen pregnancy, miscarriage and guilt, and I found it so brilliant that it’s a story driven by a decisive, emotionally articulate girl, and her friendship with her sister is so powerful. Like any good Horror story, it’s all about show, not tell, and it uses its character’s psychology to get the creepy feel right into our brains.

Thanks for Reading, as always,

D

P.S. The book does contain some potentially upsetting scenes, and so it definitely requires a Trigger Warning.

The Shadow Cabinet (Shades of London book 3) by Maureen Johnson

Hello! I’ve been reading Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series since book one, The Name of the Star hit UK shelves back in 2011. I was emotionally devastated by how she chose to end The Madness Underneath – book two in the series, and so I awaited the arrival of book 3 with bated breath. The story of American exchange student Rory and her ability to see the dead has been one of my favourite YA series for ages, and it’s one of the rare supernatural series in the Teen market to not include generic forbidden romance and other clichés. When The Shadow Cabinet finally arrived in my shop, it didn’t even hit the shelves, I bought it right away… Perks of the job, after all.

Bless Hot Key for keeping the jacket pattern going, even though this is their first published.

Bless Hot Key for keeping the jacket pattern going, even though this is their first published.

WARNING. This is the THIRD BOOK in the Shades of London series, and so my review will contain some spoilers for the first two books. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

The Shadow Cabinet picks up exactly where The Madness Underneath left off, with the supernatural police squad of Stephen, Callum and Boo shattered and lost. They may have rescued Rory from the clutches of the nefarious therapist turned occultist Jane, but at what cost? And they still have no idea what Jane’s end game is, or where Rory’s missing schoolmate Charlotte is. With their leader Stephen trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead, the squad have no direction and no leads. Under the instruction of their direct superior, the elusive and ever professional Thorpe, Rory and the squad decide the best course of action is the most immediate one – track down Charlotte and find out what Jane has in mind that she’s willing to drug and kidnap school students to achieve. As the team begin to unravel the trail left behind, they stumble upon a thirst for power and knowledge older than them, older than civilization itself, stretching back to the very beginning of humanity when the worlds of the living and the dead and the magic that weaves between them were better understood. They stumble upon the legend of Sid and Sadie and the murders they committed to try and live forever, only to be trapped in the in between of the worlds, and eventually they realise what Jane plans to do… And the dire consequences that it will have not just on London, but on the world. But it might also offer the only chance to save Stephen from his fate too. Sometimes the biggest victories require equally big losses.

Book one, the Ripper themed The Name of the Star.

Book one, the Ripper themed The Name of the Star.

Once again, Maureen has managed to perfectly blend a feeling of sticky, oppressive southern American gothic atmosphere with a chilling, ancient and dour English one, creating a unique feeling in the Shades of London universe that oozes with melancholy. At the centre of all this is the series main protagonist, Rory, who is back on perfect form with her mix of sarcastic humour and passionately emotionally driven behaviour. She’s a girl who thinks and acts with her heart, and it leads to some dark, but ultimately necessary places. One of the main things I love about these books is the way Rory relates to the strange, ghostly English world around her using anecdotes and flashbacks to her Louisiana childhood, which includes big, brash and eccentric family members that she recalls with a fondness that always makes me smile. All the old favourites from the first two books are back, much like the start of a new season of a TV show you look forward to so much. I think I’d have liked more from Callum and Boo, but I think their absence lends The Shadow Cabinet it’s broken and desperately lost feeling. The new editions to the cast are fantastic though, with the enthusiastic and staggeringly knowledgeable Freddie being a great breath of fresh air into the downbeat and dejected characters. Sid and Sadie shine through though, for me – they’re the epitome of Crowley inspired occultism, all dreamlike spirituality with an unspoken undercurrent of menace and a lethal streak that comes out with sudden unexpected bursts of violence.

Book two, the emotionally devastating The Madness Underneath.

Book two, the emotionally devastating The Madness Underneath.

I loved the way the plot opened straight up into the driven climactic chaos of book 2’s ending, before losing momentum and choosing to give way to an almost dreamlike shift in tone, completely derailing the reader and creating a great sense of unease despite with the unexpected path change towards the unknown. It allows the book to study the main characters of Rory and Stephen in a separate environment, where the focus is very much on them, before ripping them back into the urgency and harsh nature of reality, building up the tension and action once more for a brief climax – perhaps too brief? I wanted more, but then I always do. Maureen also begins to touch upon the more ancient mythology of the Shades series, moving towards Greek mythology and some esoteric, unknowable ancient evil that I always love, and I look forward to it being a bigger focus of the next book.

Speaking of the next book… When, erm… When could we expect it? I need it because reasons.

Thanks for Reading!

D

You can buy The Shadow Cabinet here.

You can follow Maureen on Twitter (if you dare) here.

Lockwood & Co: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

Last year, I read the first Lockwood & Co book, and was pretty much swept away in a world of fog-bound streets, creeping miasmas and murderous ghosts. Crackling with intelligence, and shivering with cold dread, it was a book I would’ve been obsessed with at ten years old (and still was at twenty-six). I even posted to the Waterstones Blog when the paperback edition was our July Children’s Book of the Month, and worked my little cottons off recommending it to as many people as would listen to me. So, how does the difficult book two stand up to the rip-roaring debut? Pretty superbly, I’d say…

Another Creepsome Cover

Another Creepsome Cover

The Whispering Skull takes place several months after the events of The Screaming Staircase, and the success of the Combe Carey Hall incident has helped raise the profile of the smallest team paranormal investigators in the country – Lockwood & Co. They’re hardly drowning in work, but the increase in acclaim has helped put them firmly on the map. However, when the high profile case of the Wimbledon Wraiths is snatched from their grasp in an embarrassing failure, by Quill Kipps’ expertly trained and expensively armed team from the Fittes Agency (the largest Paranormal Investigation Agency in the country), Anthony Lockwood, Lucy Carlyle and George Cubbins are finally thoroughly sick of being shown up by less skilled agents with expensive toys to help them muscle in on the good jobs. When an unknown body is unearthed from an unmarked grave and a horrifically powerful and terrible artefact is stolen, Inspector Barnes sets both Lockwood & Co, and Kipps’ team on the case, to try and increase the odds of finding the object before it falls into nefarious hands – and the rivalry between the two teams finally has a solid way to be settled: The best team is the team that returns the artefact first, and the losing team has to place an advert in the paper admitting their superiority. The mystery is thicker than a Type-Two Spectre’s miasma, though, and the team are sucked into the dark, unholy works of the nefarious Dr. Bickerstaff, a scientist who experimented with the Otherside and tormented the dead even before The Problem swept the nation and ghosts began to plague the living. Bickerstaff was an evil, unrelenting man who created something so powerful and unspeakable that it was buried in an unmarked grave with him, but there is one person who remembers what Bickerstaff did – Someone who was there: The Skull that speaks only to Lucy, from the first book. The Whispering Skull…

My shiny, fragile bound manuscript!

My shiny, fragile bound manuscript!

Yay! I was immediately sucked straight back into the haunted realm of Stroud’s series, it was almost like I’d never been away. The book opens with our three protagonists already in the middle of an overwhelming investigation, and the plot stays at that level of pace throughout the rest of the book, constantly twisting and turning. It’s brilliant to see all our favourite characters back in action, and Lockwood and Lucy are on fine form as a Holmes and Watson style sleuthing team. It’s George who has the great character arc in book two, though – His slow obsession with the Bickerstaff history slowly drives him to distraction, and his friends are so busy searching for the missing artefact, that they don’t notice just how lost their friend is. He becomes distant and haunted, but eventually comes out on top as a truly courageous character, and it’s a slow burning change in him that we as readers are tapped into, even where his fellow agents aren’t. Kipps’ team also show new, less arrogant and more professional sides to themselves towards the second half of the book, making them feel less like the “Karate Kid” style rivals this time. And the introduction of Joplin works as a great parallel to George, but as an adult, demonstrating the same bookish obsessive nature that gets darker throughout the story.

The Paperback Jacket for book one.

The Paperback Jacket for book one.

As for the atmosphere – it’s back from The Screaming Staircase, but with more impact than ever before. The way Jonathan manages to create a creeping sense of dread is fantastic – there’s real nods to the classic ghost stories in his writing style (especially M.R. James), and the way he describes the unknowable horrors of Bickerstaff’s experiments really sent a chill up my spine. The history is steeped in a sinister, oppressive feeling that drips from the words, and the mystery is slow and dread filled as it builds throughout the story. Still, just like book one though, The Whispering Skull has great moments of action and genuine humour that snap through the darkness and keeps the characters relatable and fun to read about. I love the entire team at Lockwood & Co, and I always feel compelled to delve into their misadventures. They truly are an ensemble cast on the same footing as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, and The Whispering Skull is proof that this series is gripping, fun, chilling and so much fun.

Now, Jonathan Stroud sir, WHERE IS BOOK THREE?! You can’t leave me on *that* ending!!

Thanks for Reading, and keep your rapiers to hand, Agents.

D

YALC: Books, Authors, Warmth and Joy. – DAY 1

So, this weekend, I happened across that most rare and elusive beasts when working in retail – A Weekend OFF! And because I’m a painfully disorganised human being, I decided last Monday that I would grab a train down to London for a chance to drop in at YALC, the UK’s very FIRST Young Adult Literature Convention, and a smaller subset of the London Film & Comic Con. I was super excited (as I often am when it comes to YA books), and in a hectic rush to get down there, so I grabbed the first train to London on Saturday morning (5:29am, a sickening time of day to be a functioning human being), burdened with a holdall filled with books, clothes and the bare minimum of essentials. In total, I took 16 books, with the intention of getting as many signed as physically possible.

Because I had decided to attend at such short notice, I was forced to buy tickets for the event on the door, which required standing in a queue of Wookies, Judge Dredds and Vulcans for two or so hours, under a punishingly cruel sun, with no water or food (I’d like to thank the random lady I shared the queue time with, she stopped me losing my sanity), before I managed to even step foot into the gargantuan Earl’s Court 2. Once I made my way in, I navigated the staggering crowds, past some stunningly elaborate (and just plain awful) cosplays, to the back where YALC was taking place. The very first thing I did was head over to the Waterstones stand to check in on the super shiny Teresa and Jenn, who had kindly offered to look after my bag of books (I couldn’t check in to my hotel, so I had ALL of my books with me for the weekend), a kindness that I don’t think I could ever repay – that bag was SERIOUSLY heavy, I think I dislocated both shoulders by Sunday night. With that dealt with, I wandered around for a little while, briefly bumping into Patrick Ness (literally bumping), and his lovely publicist Paul Black, who I’d previously met when I interviewed Mr. Ness in Waterstones York. Much to my shock, both remembered me, and even introduced me to Department 19 author Will Hill as “ShinraAlpha” from Twitter. That was pretty shiny.

We Were Liars Board.

We Were Liars Board.

After that brief brush with authordom, I took myself over to the first talk of the day, “It’s the end of the world as we know it: the ongoing appeal of dystopia”, with a panel of Malorie Blackman, Patrick Ness and Sarah Crossan, chaired by James Smythe. As a massive fan of the dystopian genre, I was really excited to hear the authors take on why it’s so successful, and on how dark is too dark for teen fiction. Some brilliant discussion was generated, about how dystopia reflects the world teenagers feel they live in sometimes, and how the tension and drama of dystopia lends itself to gripping storytelling and paced writing that immediately catches attentions. It was while I was stood at this talk (all the seats had been nabbed) that I was ushered to one side slightly, and as I glanced across to my left to see what was happening in the queue for one of the photo events, I was stood level with the legendary STAN LEE, who was on his way to sign photos with fans all day. It was pretty startling, I didn’t process it until he was already whisked away to do his days work, but I’m never going to forget that. The panel was superb, with the passion of Malorie Blackman being a superb highlight, and all the authors taking their time to answer questions from the audience with intelligent, direct and satisfying answers. I stuck around for the following panel talk (managing, thankfully, to grab a seat) – “Going Graphic: From novels to graphic novels” with Ian Edginton, Marcus Sedgewick & Emma Vineceli, chaired by the wonderfully eclectic Sarah McIntyre, which was a fascinating insight into the struggles and freedoms that the change in medium allows a writer, something I’d not really considered before. Ian also revealed he was working on a graphic novel adaptation of Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman, which I’m looking forward to!

The Dystopia panel!

The Dystopia panel!

After the first two panels, I swanned off for a bit, with the intention of getting some books signed. I joined the queue to meet Jonathan Stroud, who signed my copy of Lockwood & Co, and we had a great chat about horror and how much we loved anything creepy as kids. He was absolutely lovely, passionate and engaging, and we discussed the idea of doing some events in the North – so watch this space! After that, the queue for Malorie Blackman was far too intimidating, and the crowd for the next talk, “Superfans Unite” featuring Rainbow Rowell prevented me from seeing or hearing anything – the queue for her signing afterwards was a mindboggling snake of human beings that went on for what felt like hours, so I never did get a signed Fangirl for a prize at work… I got chance during this lull to meet the lovely people on the Hot Key desk once again (I’ve been annoying Hot Key ever since they started up), and managed to get my copy of Fearsome Dreamer signed by the fantastic Laure Eve, AND bought the sequel, The Illusionists. She was a total delight, despite clearly being so busy.

Laure says I'm AWESOME! I'm not.

Laure says I’m AWESOME! I’m not.

I can't wait to start reading.

I can’t wait to start reading.

Once the Superfans panel dissolved, with no real interest in the next panel (“Regenerating the Doctor”), I made a beeline for the signing for Andy Robb, the author of Geekhood, and a long time lovely Twitter friend of mine, who I always seemed to miss at events in London. After he encouraged me to hop the signing desk, I was sat chatting away to him for about an hour, while he signed books. At one point, a lady took my picture, clearly assuming I was an author myself… So if I show up tagged as Andy at some point, I’ll take that. I also caught up with Laura of SisterSpooky blog, who gave me what was left of her Sprite, making her a complete legend. It was the best thing I’ve ever drank. After Andy, I popped to the next panel, “Bring Me My Dragons: Writing fantasy today” and enjoyed a great discussion chaired by Marc Aplin with authors Frances Hardinge, Amy McCulloch, Jonathan Stroud & Ruth Warburton, about the difficulties of creating a brand new universe from scratch, as well as the freedoms that come with it.

Andy and Darran: A Discussion of the Universe.

Andy and Darran: A Discussion of the Universe.

Me being a pretender to the Robb.

Me being a pretender to the Robb.

After the Fantasy panel, I shuffled forward for one of the panels of the weekend I was most excited for – “Heroes of Horror”, featuring Charlie Higson, Will Hill, Derek Landy & Darren Shan (chaired by Rosie Fletcher). I was treated to a very excitable, engaging and hilarious panel of authors, discussing with relish the gore and violence they weave, and how much fun they have doing it. All of them shared a love for the genre that stemmed from leaping from Children’s Books straight into Adult Horror books, which I can completely relate with myself. Derek Landy was a particular delight, giggling with glee about the characters he’d killed in increasingly violent ways, and at one point telling a fan “Everyone you know will die – Your parents, your friends. I’m just preparing you for the worst” in his singsong Irish accent, which was much funnier than it sounds written down…

WHAT a panel!

WHAT a panel!

Afterwards, I managed to catch Will Hill, who was more than happy to chat about Vampires as they should be, and sign my copy of Department 19 – The first proof I ever got in bookselling!

GREAT book.

GREAT book.

The day was exhausting, and after finally grabbing some food with some old Uni friends, I crashed into a hotel bed and was asleep before I even saw 10pm.

– D

LieToMeLieToMeLieToMe

LieToMeLieToMeLieToMe

YALC – Books, Authors, Warmth and Joy. – Day 2

Another Day, Another Lie.

Another Day, Another Lie.

Sunday was a much less queue filled affair, getting into Earl’s Court just after 9am, to wander. Once again, I was lucky enough to be able to drop my bag behind the W stand, thanks to the generosity of some very nice peoples. I wandered for a while, stopping to say hi to various people I know from Twitter but have never met in real life. As the first panel rolled round, I grabbed a seat right near the front, as I was pretty interested in hearing it – “How to get published” featuring authors Sally Green & Phil Earle, chaired by Penguin’s own Ben Horslen. It was a genuinely interesting, helpful, frank & honest discussion of the difficulties debuts face in publishing right now, and Phil’s drive and passion (coming from bookseller, through publishing, to being a published author himself) really did inspire me a great deal. Phil’s comment of how he finds adult books dull, compared to Children’s books was excellent – “I don’t wanna read someone else’s views on the world, I just want a really great story.”, and his admittance to reading some rather odd looking books on the tube as a 26 year old Children’s Bookseller rung OH so true with me.

I'm TOO Sexy for this book!

I’m TOO Sexy for this book!

The NEXT panel was one that blew me away. The innuendo laden laughriot that was “I’m too sexy for this book”, a talk about the presence of “sexy fun times” in books for teenagers, and why it’s considered so taboo, chaired by the wonderful BRAND NEW Queen of Teen James Dawson, and featuring the talents of Cat Clarke, Non Pratt & Beth Reekles. The talk was fun, even while touching on difficult or controversial subjects, the difficulties of dealing with religious Americans, prudish parents, and why violence is okay for kids, when sex isn’t. The amount of giggling by the audience and the panel, as well as out and out roaring laughter made it probably the most fun panel of the entire weekend, with highlights being Non’s discussion of “the Alternative Hole” and everyone cracking up at the idea of her “Hammering it Out” when it comes to writing love scenes. “Trickle Down Effect” was also pretty hilarious.

After that panel, I managed to get off to more signings, meeting the eternally wonderful, genuine and down to earth Mr Phil Earle, who I’ve met before, but never with a book to be signed. He also reminded me of the time I got drunk and left a proof of his latest book in a pub in London. I’m never ever living that down. He was very excited about a lot of upcoming titles that he’s been reading, and just so passionate. It was infectious!

Just... Such a great book.

Just… Such a great book.

I had chance to pledge allegiance to (and receive a hug from) Boy Queen James Dawson, and get my copy of Say Her Name signed, after a good chat about the brilliance of J-Horror and subtle, supernatural horror. The man also has a fantastic beard. I met Non Pratt as well, who I keep missing whenever she’s in the North, and got her to sign my book with the two most hilarious phrases of the entire weekend… (Sorry Non, I know you’re not proud).

Bloody Mary...

Bloody Mary…

HAMMER IT OUT. ALTERNATIVE HOLE. AMAZING.

HAMMER IT OUT. ALTERNATIVE HOLE. AMAZING.

After that, I wandered back over for the panel on Heroines in Teen Fiction, “Sisters doing it for themselves” with a brilliant panel of Tanya Byrne, Isobel Harrop, Julie Mayhew, Holly Smale & Sara Manning, discussing the trend for female lead characters being forced to be “strong” like men, or perfect and flawless. It was a very interesting talk that highlighted some of the best ladies in literature, and where we need to be looking next for allowing fictional girls to be rounded, realistic and flawed characters. As I dashed away from the panel, I was lucky enough to be last person to get a signing with the legendary Meg Rosoff, who when I apologised for being awkward, told me “it’s okay, because you’re cute” and I have no idea what to make of that. I’ll take it as an ego boosting win, I think. I also got to have a quick chat with Tanya Byrne about Buffy the Vampire Slayer love, and get my copy of the FANTASTIC thriller Follow Me Down signed, and caught the gracious Carnegie winner Sally Gardner, who was delighted to see my battered old Hot Key proof for Maggot Moon, and took my blog name too!

Yay!

Yay!

I am a STAR.

I am a STAR.

After all that, I chatted with more booksellers, publisher types, bloggers and even debut author of Solitaire Alice Oseman, until I finally had to admit defeat – 48 hours of standing, sitting in uncomfortable chairs, craning to see and hear talks, wandering round London with 16 books in a bag and a lack of sleep had taken its toll on my poor, fragile body, so I hopped an earlier train than I planned back up North, wrapped in happy memories and kind words from the hugely successful first celebration of all things YA. I’ve met some fantastic people, some lovely authors and made some great friends, as well as catching up with old ones. It was absolutely physically destroying, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

‘Mon the YALC 2015.

Plus free goodies, like my TAPE (Steve Camden) bracelet.

Plus free goodies, like my TAPE (Steve Camden) bracelet.