Tag Archives: ghosts

Seriously Spooky Month: Guest Post – R.L. Stedman

As part of my Seriously Spooky Month I asked some of my favourite spooky authors to write a guest post for My Best Friends Are Books.  Today I’m joined by R.L. Stedman, award-winning author of A Necklace of Souls, A Skillful Warrior, and her new book, The Prankster and the Ghost.  She joins me talk about the inspiration for her great new book.

Perhaps places have memories. Like an old camera, or a computer. They fill up with fragments of the things that have taken place inside them. I don’t know if that is right or not, but I used that idea when I was writing The Prankster and the Ghost.

Most of the spooky things in Prankster are totally made up: the ghost school is not real, nor the Inspector. And the secret government agency she works for (BUMP) is, as far as I know, total fiction. But there is actually a real ghost story in Prankster.

I based this story on something that happened to a lady I worked with. Let’s call her Belinda. This is what really happened:

Belinda was on holiday in Scotland, and like lots of visitors, she went on a tour of Edinburgh Castle. She was enjoying herself, looking at the old rooms and the armour and so on. Until she reached the Great Hall. Then, quite suddenly, she felt weird. It was a hot day, and the room was crowded, and something was just not right. Beside a piano stood a woman in a long woolen dress. She looked at Belinda out of dark eyes. Belinda felt sick.

‘What is it?’ asked her husband.

Belinda pointed. ‘That woman, over there. By the piano.’

Her husband looked around. ‘What woman?’

‘In the black dress. We have to get out of here.’

Once they were outside the sickness faded and her husband laughed. ‘You’re imagining things! There was no one there.’

The tour guide came over. ‘Are you okay? You looked really pale.’

When Belinda told her what she’d seen, the tour guide nodded. ‘Plenty of people see that lady. I’ve never seen her myself. But yes, usually they don’t like it.’

‘Who is she?’ Belinda asked.

‘Oh, just one of the ghosts. There’s lots of them here.’ The tour guide made it sound like Belinda had seen something quite ordinary, like a chair or a table.

But Belinda had never met a ghost before – and she never wants to again.

Stories like the one Belinda told made me think that ghosts are maybe just part of a place: like a memory. So who knows – perhaps, one day in the future, people living in my house might see me typing on a computer keyboard. They might think I’m a ghost! I’ll have to try not to scare them.

Boo!

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Chris Priestely’s Tales of Terror

Chris Priestley is one of my favourite seriously spooky authors.  He specialises in spine-tingling short stories and has published several collections of his Tales of Terror, which are absolutely terrific.  These are definitely stories that you want to read with the lights on!  Chris has also written several novels, including Mister Creecher, The Dead of Winter and Through Dead Eyes (which I reviewed here on the blog).

To find out more about Chris’ books take a look at his website – www.chrispriestleybooks.com

Check out the book trailer for the Tales of Terror series and make sure you grab one of Chris’ seriously spooky books.

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The Prankster and the Ghost by R.L. Stedman

I’ve been a fan of R.L. Stedman’s since I read her debut YA novel, A Necklace of Souls, when it was first released.  I absolutely loved her dark, gripping fantasy story and it reignited my love of fantasy.  You can read my review of A Necklace of Souls from 2013 here on the blog.  Since writing A Necklace of Souls, R.L. Stedman has gone on to write a sequel, called A Skillful Warrior, and a standalone YA novel, called Inner Fire.  She has just released her new book, aimed at younger readers, called The Prankster and the Ghost and it’s a terrific read.

Stuck in a hospital bed, unable to move, Tayla decides to leave his body. But floating around intensive care is kind of boring, although being invisible means he can do some cool practical jokes…Until the inspector arrives, that is. Jamie, newly arrived from Scotland, is lonely. No-one can understand his accent and all his practical jokes are going wrong. Plus, his new school is seriously weird. Perhaps it’s haunted.

The Prankster and the Ghost is a fun, spooky story, packed with ghosts, practical jokes, and a whole lot of heart. It’s also a story about friendship and how good friends can help you through tough times, whether it’s moving countries to live on the other side of the world or grieving for a loved one. Young readers, especially boys are going to lap up this story, with all the pranks that Tayla and Jamie like to play.

The story starts off with a bang (literally) when the car that Tayla’s dad is driving crashes and Tayla wakes up in hospital to find himself floating over his body. As Tayla is coming to terms with the events of the crash a strange woman called Mrs Myrtle Mannering (or the Inspector) turns up at the hospital looking for him.  She is an inspector from the Bureau of Unexplained and Malicious Phenomena, or BUMP, and she tells Tayla that he is stuck between his body and death.  Mrs Mannering explains that the best thing for Tayla to do until his mum gets better and his body heals is to go to a special school, a school of ghosts. This is where he meets Jamie, a boy from Scotland, who has just moved to New Zealand with his parents and two annoying sisters.  Jamie loves pranks just as much as Tayla and luckily he can see ghosts (or boys who are in between life and death).  With the help of Jamie and some ghostly children Tayla tries to get his old life back.

I especially loved the ghostly elements of the story.  I really like the idea of BUMP and  I could imagine Jamie growing up to have a job in BUMP, helping other ghosts just like Tayla.  The idea of a school for ghosts is really cool too.  There are ghost children from different periods of time and an old fashioned ghost teacher who becomes obsessed with modern technology.

One of the cool added extras in this book is the list of jokes from the story that R.L. Stedman has put in the back of the book. There are jokes involving cling film and a toilet, itching powder and stink bombs. She challenges readers to find all the jokes that happen in the book, but suggests that if you do try them you might want to tell an adult first.

Grab a copy of The Prankster and the Ghost in paperback or eBook now.  Check out Rachel Stedman’s website for details about where to buy the book.

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Seriously Spooky Month: Guest Post – Jack Heath

As part of my Seriously Spooky Month I asked some of my favourite spooky authors to write a guest post for My Best Friends Are Books.  Today I’m joined by Jack Heath, author of the seriously spooky Scream series.  Jack joins me today to talk about why he loves scary stories and what led him to write books about spider armies, venus fly-traps and haunted books.  Thanks for joining me Jack!

The weirdness makes it seem real

When I heard Scholastic was looking for someone to write a horror series for kids, I stuck my hand up so fast that I ruptured my rotator cuff. I had loved scary stories since I was in nappies (which is a very convenient time to discover the horror genre, by the way).

My life as a reader began with picture books like Monster Mama by Liz Rosenberg and Stephen Gammel, which led me to The Scarecrow Walks At Midnight by R. L. Stine, which in turn led me to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. After that I discovered Crew’s 13, an anthology of horror stories (edited by Gary Crew) which included The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe and The Monkey’s Paw by W. W. Jacobs. After falling in love with Frankenstein I later discovered Stephen King, and…

Pardon me. I got lost down memory lane for a second there. Where was I? Oh yes, the Scream series. I was told to write four books.

‘About what?’ I asked.

‘Something scary,’ I was told.

I’m not a brave person, so it wasn’t hard to find four things which frightened me. I started with the obvious – spiders. Big ones. I thought about the zoo in Singapore where I was invited to hold a tarantula, and I channeled all that skin-crawling terror into The Spider Army.

the-spider-armyI remembered having a Venus flytrap in my room as a kid, and uneasily watching it sit, perfectly still, mouth open, fangs wide, just waiting for an unwary fly to make one false step. This became the tingling spine of The Human Flytrap. (I was delighted to discover that the first edition literally screamed at readers when they opened the cover.)

I thought back to a holiday in Queensland when my brother and I found ourselves surrounded by lemon sharks. Being immersed in dark water, unable to scream and too frightened to move as these otherworldly creatures whipped past gave me the inspiration for The Squid Slayer.

But my favourite of the four books was a bit meta. The horror stories I loved had something in common – the monsters weren’t based on existing myths. There were no werewolves, no witches, no vampires. Instead they unleashed something completely new and bizarre, and paradoxically, the weirdness of the creatures made them more believable.

I remembered all the times I’d been reading a scary book and I’d started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, the terrifying events depicted within might actually be true. I tried to capture this sensation in The Haunted Book.

People have asked me if it’s appropriate to expose a nine-year old to the frightening stuff in the Scream series. I tell them that I read books just like these as a kid, and I turned out all right.

Then I go home to write more disturbing stories and then sleep – with the lights on.

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Seriously Spooky Month: Guest Post – Rebecca Lim

As part of my Seriously Spooky Month I asked some of my favourite spooky authors to write a guest post for My Best Friends Are Books.  Today I’m joined by Rebecca Lim, the author of sixteen books for children and young adult readers, including The Astrologer’s Daughter and Afterlight.  Rebecca joins me to talk about why she writes ‘slightly freaky young adult novels.’ Thanks for joining me Rebecca!

In the opening of my latest novel, Afterlight, a little girl is lying in bed, about to fall asleep, when she looks up to see a man standing over her in the dark. He’s very tall. She can see what he looks like, even with the lights out, because he’s shining. And this is how she remembers feeling:

But he was real. Real as you. And I was terrified. But all he did was look down at me, lying with my blankets pulled right up to my eyes, looking back up at him.
Then I breathed in—just a trembly, choky flutter, the tiniest sound—and he was gone.

I write these slightly freaky young adult novels filled with archangels and demons, Norman knights, wronged ghosts and parentless children. In them, I try to make sense of questions like: Why do bad things happen to good people? What happens to human energy, human consciousness, after death? Are we ruled by fate or by our own free will? How does one bad past act reverberate into the future?

In order to do this, I’m quite happy to throw the “extraordinary” into the narrative mix because—even though I consider myself a very rational and logical person—I do believe there are things in this world that can’t be explained by known science. And, often, the worst monsters in our world are not supernatural, but decidedly “human”. So having a paranormal or supernatural narrative foil brings our humanity into sharp relief. Plus, as readers, who doesn’t want to believe that magic exists?

And I don’t often talk about this—2015 is probably my year for bringing this out in the open, finally—but the scene where the little girl sees the “shining” man actually did happen to me. I was about five, and I don’t think it was a case of “sleep paralysis”. I can quite clearly recall him looking down at me looking up at him, and I remember how terrified I was as I inched my hand towards my bedside lamp: because I knew that if I turned on the light, he would go. And he did. He looked like no one I knew or had ever seen on television. But, to this day, I can still remember what he looked like. And I’ve never thought it was a dream.

So that one tiny thing from my childhood has enabled me to walk with archangels along city streets and mountain switchbacks and follow the insistent spirit of a murdered woman down the alleyways and walking tracks of Melbourne. I never discount anything anyone tells me, and I read voraciously across all genres, because what do we really know? Not enough. Never enough.

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Seriously Spooky Month: Guest Post – Sue Copsey

As part of my Seriously Spooky Month I asked some of my favourite spooky authors to write a guest post for My Best Friends Are Books.  Today I’m joined by New Zealand author Sue Copsey.  Sue is the author of the Spooky Adventures series, which includes Young Nick’s Head and Ghosts of Tarawera.  Sue joins me today to talk about why she writes spooky stories for kids. Thanks for joining me Sue!

Here’s a question for you. Do you like scary books and movies?

Did you answer “yes”? Next question: Why do you like them?

Weird, isn’t it, how we enjoy being a little bit scared. The sort of scared when you can hug a cushion or the cat and know you’re not in any actual danger. Where you stick your fingers in your ears and squeeze your eyes shut … then open them just a tiny bit, or put your hands over your face but peep between your fingers.

05_Ghost of Nicks Head reduced

When you look over your shoulder and take a deep breath before turning the page of a ghost story.

Or maybe you’re reading a spooky story in bed, and you pull the covers right up to your chin, and keep glancing at the bedroom door to check that dark shadow really is just your dressing gown hanging on the hook. And before turning out the light, you make sure there’s nothing under the bed (except your dirty socks, and … oh, missing maths worksheet!).

When Zac asked me the question “Why do you write spooky stories for children?” I realised that the question I really needed to answer was, “Why do I love ghost stories so much?”

I grew up in England, where every town and village has its spooks, and I was always fascinated by these stories. On Halloween, my friends and I would dare each other to walk through the local churchyard, which was said to be haunted by the Grey Lady. We never saw her, but I won’t forget the terror of walking amongst the gravestones, eyes straight ahead and fixed on the far wall of the churchyard, muttering “it’s okay it’s okay” to myself. Once we had all walked the walk of terror, we would make our way to the village chip shop for a bag of hot chips (the end of October in England is cold – so cold) before making our way home down the dark, empty lane. (This was before trick or treating was a thing. Okay yes, that makes me quite old.)

But for me, it didn’t stop there. I wanted to know, who was the Grey Lady? Why was she haunting the churchyard? What was the story? And so it began. Behind every haunting is a tale of days gone by, of unsolved murders, revenge, tragedy, and slips in time. Rich pickings for an author!

So another question for you – do you like history? Are you yawning? Well you can stop that, because history is the coolest of subjects – really, it’s just another name for stories, and it should never be boring! I don’t think there’s enough history taught in New Zealand schools, so I like to include plenty of it in my stories. But how to make it interesting for you guys? Just add spooks!

GoT cover

There are plenty of ghost story opportunities in New Zealand history. The first book in my Spooky Adventures series is set at Young Nick’s Head on the East Coast. Interesting name don’t you think? Any idea why it’s called that? See – history can be intriguing! The second book was inspired by the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886. Did you know that a phantom waka warned of the eruption? And that local legend says it will appear again if the volcano reawakens? How could I not write a story about what would happen if two modern-days boys, out kayaking on the lake, happened to see the phantom canoe?

So I guess the answer to the question, why do I write ghost stories, is to give New Zealand kids a delicious scare – just enough to thrill, not enough for nightmares – and to teach them some of our history in such a way that it is fun, never boring.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Be sure to visit Sue Copsey’s website for more information about her books and ghostly facts and jokes – www.suecopsey.com

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The Ghosts of Tarawera by Sue Copsey

I love ghost stories, adventure stories, and stories set in New Zealand.  Sue Copsey has combined all of my favourite types of stories in to her explosive new book, The Ghosts of Tarawera. 

On holiday near Rotorua, Joe and Eddie are fascinated by the area’s bubbling mud pools and boiling geysers. Local volcanologist Rocky tells them about the Pink and White Terraces that existed on the lake where they’re staying, and how they were destroyed in the cataclysmic 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera. But Joe’s fascination turns to unease when strange sightings on the lake and dark rumblings from the Earth hint that the volcano is reawakening. Can he persuade Rocky, who puts his faith only in science, to sound a warning?

The Ghosts of Tarawera is an action-packed adventure with a good dose of spookiness.  Much like the pressure building inside a volcano, the suspense builds until it reaches its explosive conclusion.  There is a sense of impending doom right from the start which made me want to keep reading to find out how it all ended.  The front cover (which I love) suggests that an eruption will occur, but when, where and how you just don’t know.

The story is set around Rotorua in the modern day and follows Jo and Eddie who are on holiday with Jo’s family.  It reminded me of Elsie Locke’s Canoe in the Mist (which was set in 1886 at the time of the huge eruption of Mount Tarawera).  The ghostly waka that warned of the 1886 eruption appears in The Ghosts of Tarawera to warn Joe of the trouble that is brewing below them.  Sue also looks at how ghosts might use other ways to communicate in the age of smart phones.  Not only does Jo see the ghostly waka, he is also sent strange text messages and Facebook messages that are trying to tell him something.  I loved this idea!

Sue really emerses you in the setting.  There is a real sense of place in this book – you feel like you are there at Lake Rotomahana and you can almost smell the sulphur, hear the mud bubbling, hear the birds singing in the bush, and feel heat of the hot pool.  Sue made me want to visit Lake Rotomahana and see everything for myself, even with the fictional eruptions of the story.

I really like Sue’s characters.  The kids are very relatable and the adults are role models that the kids look up to. I especially like Rocky and Buzz, the two cool GNS geologists who are camped beside the lake investigating the Pink and White Terraces. They take Jo and Eddie under their wings and get their help with taking readings around the lake.  Thanks Sue for giving boys some great positive male role models in Rocky and Buzz!

This is something for everyone in Sue Copsey’s books.  They are perfect for fans of Des Hunt or anyone who just loves a good adventure story.

Make sure you check out Sue Copsey’s Seriously Spooky Guest Post about why she likes scary stories.

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13 Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt

When I was a kid there weren’t many books about ghosts available for my age.  As a 12/13 year old I wasn’t ready for Stephen King and there weren’t many other scary books to choose from.  Thankfully there are more and more ghost stories for kids and teens being published and it’s always good to read a different and exciting take on ghosts.  Leo Hunt gives readers a good helping of ghosts in his new book, 13 Days of Midnight, about Luke and the 8 murderous ghosts he inherits.

Sixteen year old Luke Manchett has a pretty ordinary life living in a small northern town with his Mum. Until one day, a letter informs him that his celebrity ghost-hunter Dad is dead and Luke is the sole heir. But this is no ordinary inheritance – Luke finds himself in charge of eight horrendous ghosts, his Host, with his life and that of his Mum, loyal dog Ham and new friend Elza all in terrible danger. It’s up to Luke to open the Book of Eight and find a way to stop the Host destroying everything at Hallowe’en. Even if it means stepping into Darkside…

13 Days of Midnight is a deliciously dark, creepy read that will make you want to keep the light on at night.  It’s a genuinely scary story that creeped me out in several places. Much like making a deal with the Devil, you don’t get quite what you expected with this book.  Just when you think the story is taking off in one direction Leo pulls you in a completely different direction and he certainly keeps you on your toes.

Leo introduces us to some seriously creepy ghosts in 13 Days of Midnight!  Luke inherits his Host of eight ghosts from his father – the Vassal, the Shepherd, the Judge, the Heretic, the Fury, the Oracle, the Prisoner and the Innocent.  As Luke has just inherited them he doesn’t know how to control them, so they are trying to break free.  They’re violent and unpredictable, and even though they can’t kill Luke, they find other ways to hurt him and the ones he loves.  There were moments in the book when each of them sent a shiver down my spine but I think the one that scared me the most was the Prisoner with his shears.

The splatter on the front cover boldly claims that ‘If you like Skulduggery Pleasant read this!’ and I totally agree with this.  Leo has a great mix of spookiness and humour that will appeal to fans of Derek Landy.  Whether you are looking for the book to fill the whole that the Skulduggery series has left behind or you just want a really good scare grab a copy of 13 Days of Midnight now.  Leo leaves us with a sense of impending doom at the end of the book.  You know that something big and scary is coming, but what that is I have no idea.  I can’t wait for the sequel, 8 Rivers of Shadow coming in 2016!

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Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

I love a good ghost story, something that will scare me a bit.  Children’s horror is one of my favourite genres and I’ll snap up anything new that comes along.  When I first heard about Jonathan Stroud’s new series, Lockwood and Co., I knew that it would be exactly the sort of creepy ghost story I would love.  The first book in the series, The Screaming Staircase takes you inside the world of the ghost-hunters of Lockwood and Co. and once you’ve entered you won’t want to leave.

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.
The Screaming Staircase is one of the most exciting books I’ve read this year. Jonathan Stroud had me on the edge of my seat, anticipating a ghost to jump out at me around every twist and turn of the plot.  Jonathan has created such a chilling atmosphere in the book that you hear the creaks and groans of the old houses and almost feel the temperature drop in the room as the characters get closer to the ghosts.  You get caught up in the mystery of the lives of the living and the dead and Jonathan keeps you in suspense.
I love the world that Jonathan has created in the book; one much like ours but one plagued by ghosts of all sorts.  There are different types of ghosts, from a Type One Shade to a Type Two Wraith.  There are Physic Investigation Agencies (of which Lockwood and Co. is one) which specialise in the ‘containment and destruction of ghosts.’  These are run by adult supervisors but rely on the strong physic Talent of children.  It is only children who can see and hear the ghosts so it is up to them to capture them.  There is no mention of when the story is set (which I think just makes the story even better), but there is a mixture of both old-fashioned clothes and weapons, and modern technology.  The ghost hunters’ kit includes an iron rapier, iron chains and magnesium flares, all of which prove extremely necessary when facing the spectral threats.  Jonathan has even included a detailed glossary of terms and types of ghost, which I found really interesting to read after I had finished the book.
The three main characters, all members of Lockwood and Co., are all fantastic characters who really grew on me as the story progressed.  They each have their quirks, especially Lockwood and George, but they make a brilliant team and have each others’ backs when it counts.  There’s no love triangle here, just good old-fashioned camaraderie and getting the job done (if it doesn’t kill them first).  Lockwood, George and Lucy are building their relationship in this book, so there are some tense moments between them (especially George and Lucy) but Jonathan’s dialogue is brilliant.  I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationships develop in the further books.
I can’t wait for more Lockwood and Co.!  If you want a book that you won’t want to put down, that you’ll want to read with the lights on, then Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase is perfect.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Jonathan Stroud talks about his new series, Lockwood & Co.

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .
For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again.

The first book in Jonathan Stroud’s new series, Lockwood and Co., The Screaming Staircase, is one of my most anticipated books of 2013.  It sounds absolutely fantastic!  I loved Gareth P. Jones’ Constable and Toop and The Screaming Staircase sounds like a similar sort of story.  Ghosts and supernatural detectives – what more could I want?
The Screaming Staircase is due out in NZ on 20 September 2013.

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