Category Archives: Blogging

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge: Not Living the Dream

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About five years ago, I’d just graduated university with a shiny new degree and a heart brimming with hope for the future. Unfortunately, I’d gotten my degree in creative writing. And more unfortunately, I’d done so right when a recession smashed every hope my generation had of an economically prosperous future. So like many great writers before me, I went into food service.

I spent my early twenties slinging lattes for the one percent, and doing a number of other odd jobs besides. Slowly, through careful saving and a lot of luck, I turned my joke of a wage into a living. I found a good apartment, settled in with friends that felt like family, and slowly came into my own as an adult. I was a twentysomething creative in New York City, AKA the plot of at least one sitcom a year for the past three decades.

…and then I turned twenty-four and left behind everything I’d built for myself by moving to Los Angeles. And as I started to rebuild my life from scratch—learning new streets, or remembering how the hell I’d made friends in the first place—I did it while taking stock of what I’d done with my time in New York. And as I thought and remembered, I started to write. And after twenty-two days of writing when I should’ve been looking for a new job, I had a book: the very first draft of what would become Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge.

My heroine, Bailey Chen, is essentially my thoughts and feelings on my early twenties, as filtered through the lens of my mid-twenties. Like me, she was a good student who spent her whole life being told great things were waiting for her after graduation day. Like me, she found her life being pulled in a different direction—in her case, bartending—which she didn’t particularly want. And like me, her biggest challenge was learning to see the worth in what she did, even if others didn’t.

Unlike me, though, her other biggest challenge was using alcohol magic to kick demons in the face until they exploded.

Last Call drew from my lifelong love of fantasy, but it also drew from my attempts to reconcile my dreams of adulthood with the reality I graduated into. When I page through it, I can still see past-me’s frustration lurking underneath Bailey’s. When she grumbles about the unreasonable qualifications needed for an entry level job (“five years experience, two Olympic gold medals, and a phoenix egg in your personal possession”), that comes directly from my hours spent filling in digital job applications. And when the world challenges Bailey to see the value in a job she hates, it’s because once upon a time I was challenged to do the same thing.

Paul Krueger is the debut author of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, published by Quirk Books, and is available from all good books stores in paperback, priced $14.99 (US) and £11.99 (UK). For more information, please visit www.quirkbooks.com, or follow Paul on Twitter @notlikeFreddy.

How my addiction for Urban Fantasy led me to Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?

So, I have to admit something: I am a fan of urban fantasy, there I have said it! I have been carrying around this secret for over a decade now and I am glad to get it off my chest.

It is all Laurell K. Hamilton’s fault! When I first began working in libraries in the UK (Thamesmead Library to be precise), I had a massive commute, and one evening as home-time beckoned I found myself in need of a book – nothing too strenuous as I like to relax on my train journeys so I picked up Guilty Pleasures by the aforementioned LKH as the cover looked suitably cheesy and fun. Rich in snark, witty repartee and lashings of human on monster violence I loved it and had finished it by the time I got back to work the next day.

I read all the Anita Blake books up to Narcissus in Chains where the increased raunch of the stories began overshadowing the elements that made me fall in love with the series in the first place – the books are still massively popular and I support anything that attracts people to reading but sadly I felt that they were no longer for me! I have recently read Dead Ice and mostly enjoyed it (I am tempted to tentatively pick up the series again when I have more reading time).

Post LKH I discovered the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher who remains one of my go to authors for fun action and adventure but (as many fans discover) waiting for the next book seems like an exercise in eternity!


Fortunately just before I was fully up to date with the adventures of Harry Dresden my buddy Shaun introduced me to Ben Aaronovitch at an all-day board-game session, Ben as many will know is the author of the best-selling Rivers of London series which became the next fix of urban fantasy that I was desiring (and The Hanging Tree is out in October – yay).white barrier

It was through Ben that I discovered the works of Paul Cornell, specifically London Falling; the first novel in the Shadow Police series.

white barrierLondon Falling was amazing, combining the grunt work of metropolitan policing with a team of the Met’s not-so-finest dealing with having unexpected and unwanted abilities to discern magic thrust upon them.

The follow-up Severed Streets was good but left me feeling as if something was missing and I was on the verge of giving the series a break when awesome PR person Jamie-Lee Nardone sent me a copy of Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? as I was unable to make the launch due to dad duty.

What can I say about Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? except that it gave me a new appreciation of Severed Streets and a greater respect for Paul Cornell as a novelist!

Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? tied together everything that came before in the first two novels and it made so much more sense! I realised that what bothered me so much about Severed Streets was a lack of understanding on my part rather than anything to do with the novel itself!

Opening with the murder of the fictitious ghost of Sherlock Holmes WKSH? drops us in the midst of an intricately plotted murder-mystery drawing in lightly fictionalised actors from the BBC’s and CBS’s television shows based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as giving the reader more insight into the revelations of Severed Streets while drip-feeding more information about London’s underground magical community while the team struggled to come to terms with what they have learned so far.

The only downside to being dazzled by such an intricately imaginative novel is waiting for book four*.

So if you find the need to get some of the filth of London under your nails and see how they cope with policing magical crime pick up London Falling, start the story at the beginning – you will not regret it, and you may just learn something new about London in the process!

*On the plus side I still have to catch up with Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus series…

An Article from the Archives: Volunteers and Libraries

I wrote this piece on volunteers and libraries for the Teen Librarian Monthly newsletter just over five years ago:

I have been a long-time fan of the idea of using volunteers in libraries, specifically using teens as volunteer assistants where possible. Due to a number of reasons, my work with volunteers has been limited but that is fortunately starting to change!

The recent and disturbing suggestion on having libraries run by volunteers has led to a bit of an outcry . Andrew Motion summed it up very well in a recent article in The Guardian which can be read here: http://bit.ly/akfWOx.

Libraries are currently facing uncertain times, as are many public services. With rumours of budget cuts and staffing cuts floating around it is an unsettling time for us all. I have attended a number of talks in local authorities about volunteer use in libraries and been involved in discussions on how to proceed with using a volunteer service in my previous library service. In all of these talks and discussions the role of volunteers was very clear, they were not permitted to perform duties that were usually run by paid members of staff.

In a time of staff and budget shortages we may become more reliant on volunteers to help us provide the level of service that we have always offered to the public. I would be interested in hearing from librarians that have had experience in working with volunteers and also anyone that has pro or anti-volunteer views.

World Book Day Idea: Songs and the Books that Inspired the Musicians

WBD takes place next week Thursday, and to celebrate I have been putting together a play-list of songs based on or inspired by novels.

You can listen to a partial list on Spotify



The songs and the stories that inspired them are here:

Elton John – Rocket Man
Book: The Rocket Man by Ray Bradbury
Nirvana – Scentless Apprentice
Book: Perfume by Patrick Suskind
The Rolling Stones – Sympathy For The Devil
Book: The Master And The Margarita by Mikhail Bulgarov
Klaxons – Gravity’s Rainbow
Book: Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Led Zeppelin – Ramble On
Book: Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkien
The Strokes – Soma
Book: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Gary Numan – Are Friends Electric?
Book: Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick
Radiohead – Dollars & Cents
Book: No Logo by Naomi Klein
Joy Division – Atrocity Exhibition
Book: Atrocity Exhibition by JG Ballard
Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness
Book: Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand
Book: Paradise Lost by John Milton
Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah
Book: The Bible
Rick Wakeman – Journey To The Centre Of The Earth
Book: Journey To The Centre Of The Earth by Jules Verne
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Yertle The Turtle
Book: Yertle The Turtle by Dr Seuss
Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights
Book: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Leonard Nimoy The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins
Book: Lord of the Rings JRR Tolkien
The United States of America – Cloud Song
Book: Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
Breathe – U2
Book: Ulysses by James Joyce
Frankenstein – Lenny Kravitz
Book: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
One – Metallica
Book: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
The Invisible Man – Queen
Book: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
Alt-J – Breezeblocks
Book: Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Metallica – For Whom The Bell Tolls
Book: For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Ramones – Pet Sematary
Book: Sematary by Stephen King
Wintersmith – Steeleye Span
Book: Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

A General Moan about Library stuff

When I saw that Ed Vaizey was the poster boy for the 2016 National Libraries Day I wondered briefly if he had had a Road to Damascus type conversion and thrown his weight behind the Save Libraries Campaigns.

Sadly no, I did post a flippant tweet (see below) that has become one of the most popular things I have said online for ages.

I understand that CILIP has to work with the Tory Party in Government (PIG) and needs to keep lines of communication open since Vaizey is now speaking to them again after the vote of no confidence against him in 2013 but it does leave a bit of a bad taste in the mouth.

Over the years CILIP appears to have made a habit of saying and (not) doing things that have upset a lot of members, former members and those librarians that have never joined. I have been a member of CILIP for well over a decade – since I came to the UK in fact and have been a relatively loyal supporter (although not completely uncritical) and have had discussions and arguments with friends and colleagues trying to see the positives in things that CILIP has done.

I will state for the record that I am currently on the CILIP Youth Libraries Group (YLG) London Committee as the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals Judging panel representative. Now the CILIP CKG Awards is an example of something brilliant that CILIP has run for donkeys years, as is the YLG and many of the other excellent Special Interest Groups that find a home in CILIP.

I have faith in Dawn Finch the new president of CILIP, but I do not know if one person will be enough to change things. That being said I do think that the new CEO Nicholas Poole has also been doing well!

2016 is probably going to be the year in which I decide to stay in CILIP or chuck it in and become a Library dissident.

My mood was not helped by this news:


Considering that I used to work in some of the Libraries on offer and worked with some amazing people in Enfield it was more depressing than these bits of news generally are.

Also what is up with Banks getting their claws into library users? Part of me thinks Barclays with their Digital Eagles is doing it to improve their frankly crappy image, as well as hook vulnerable people that do not know how to use computers or the internet. Plus why are is the UKSCL supporting Halifax and their Digital Friends scheme? I am not even going to mention the risk of internet banking on public computers, so there you go.

On the plus side this coming Saturday is National Libraries Day (thank you Alan Gibbons) and I have heard nothing this year about library staff members being prevented from celebrating it.

The Black Lotus Tour: Writing Books with Kids

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Kids like writing, but all too often the joy of it gets lost in the mountains of school and home work. Let a child write about something they’re interested in, something meaningful, and the difference will be huge. I discovered this recently in a letter writing lesson. My pupils were required to write an imaginary letter to someone. The results were a little dull. Soon after, however, I arranged a class pen pal swap with a school in America. Once the kids had real pen pals to write to, their writing became alive with personality and enthusiasm.

They say the early childhood years are the formative years of any person’s life, but is it really true? In my case – yes, and here’s the proof. When I was a kid, I wrote two books – one called ‘The Magic Sword’ and one called ‘The Samurai’. Thirty years later, my first novel is published and guess what it’s about? Magic swords and samurai! It’s about other things too, but the influence of my childhood writing cannot be ignored. Writing a book as a child allowed me to experience the thrill of creating new worlds and characters, as well as the thrill of seeing somebody else read about them. Perhaps if I hadn’t written those books as a child, I’d never have become an author as an adult.
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So when I became a teacher I decided to give other kids the opportunity to write a book, in the hope that it might influence their adult life. I started writing books with children in the pre-digital age, so we wrote and illustrated stories on sheets of paper and then stapled them together.

We then got involved with the ‘Write a Book’ scheme which was being run by education centres around the country. As part of this initiative, my pupils each wrote a book and then sent them off to be read and reviewed by other pupils. In return, we received a similar box of books. It was a fantastic scheme.

When computers came into the classroom, they took my book project to the next level. No longer did the child with the messy writing have to feel self-conscious about their handwriting. The printed word became the great leveller in the classroom. Sure, after reading the books, you could still tell which were better than others, but not anymore could you make this decision at first glance.
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The printed word made the books feel more like real books. But with staples and sellotape for binding, they were still a long way off being the real deal. Then along came the internet, and following closely behind it, Print-On-Demand (POD) publishers.

So here’s what my pupils do now: they spend the first term of school preparing for the biggest writing project of their lives by doing all the regular stuff kids do in classrooms across the world. But this time, with a difference. Because now the ‘pointless’ writing activities are no longer pointless, but are training for the book they will write after Christmas.

After having plenty of writing practice in different genres in both fiction and non-fiction, they decide what their book will be about. They spend their Christmas holidays thinking about it, and then return to school in January fired up and ready to start. Free software is downloaded onto the school PCs and pupils spend the next three months writing, drafting, editing and typing their stories. They then illustrate their books with their own artwork or photos. Each book is then uploaded to the POD publisher’s server in America, before being printed in the Netherlands. Once the child’s book is posted, we track the package across Europe until it arrives at the classroom door. Nothing beats the excitement of opening that parcel with your own printed book inside.
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Once all the books arrive at the school, we put away all class readers and use the pupils’ books as class reading material. Pupils read, comment on, and answer questions about each other’s books. Probably the only thing that beats writing your own book is seeing somebody else read and enjoy what you’ve written.

At the end of the year, when copies are thrown in the bin, and textbooks are discarded, these books are carefully brought home and proudly displayed on bookshelves for grandparents, uncles and aunties to see. And long after we’re all gone, some of these treasures will still survive, and hopefully will be picked up by some curious reader in the distant future.

My childhood creation led to what is now a passion in my adult life. I’m hoping it will do the same for some of my pupils.

The Black Lotus by Kieran Fanning published by Chicken House.

Follow Kieran on Twitter @kieranjfanning and find out more at www.kieranfanning.com and http://www.chickenhousebooks.com

All Sorts of Possible Blog Tour: Blurred lines between reality and magic – Why have this element in your stories?

All Sorts of Possible COVERI have only written two novels so it’s difficult to say precisely what sort of writer I am. Furthermore, who knows what I’ll end up writing next. But it is true to say that in my first two books I have grafted the magical and the supernatural onto the real world in which both stories take place. I’m not entirely sure why this is because it’s just been a natural process of storytelling for me, but I’ll have a go at trying to give you some reasons as to why I think it might be.

Certainly I have always been a bit of a daydreamer, a person who likes to imagine ‘what if’ and escape the confines of the real world in which we live. It has therefore seemed a logical step to do this in my writing too, where a blank page gives me the opportunity to imagine anything I want to and make it come alive with words. I have also been a big observer of people too, making me slightly detached from the real world. Perhaps a combination of these two traits adds a twist to the stories I try and write?

Or perhaps it’s just because I’m lazy, that I can’t be bothered to world build a huge alternative universe so I just take a few magical elements and graft them onto the ordinary world that I know and can describe. Or maybe it’s down to the things that I have read that influence my writing. For example I like poetry and this can be quite hyper real or even surreal sometimes, using heightened, powerful language as a lens through which to view the world. (I often think of reading poetry like looking through a child’s kaleidoscope and seeing lots of different things at once, such can be the power of the words sometimes). It could be that I haven’t really grown up and that my inner child is still quite strong and influencing the way I write, infusing it with a slightly magical view of the world.

I don’t seem to be very good at pinning this down!

So perhaps I should try a different approach and look elsewhere for an answer. After all whatever there is in my personal make up that makes me put the real and the magical together does not really make me unique because there are lots of writers who write novels in a similar vein, who write stories in ways that put a unique spin on the world we know. Some people define it as magical realism whilst others don’t. Regardless of what label to use, this type of writing seems to be a genre defined by the fact that it is quite difficult to define, flirting as it does with various other genres and where anything is possible in the story, limited only by a writer’s imagination.

Another notable trait of this form of storytelling is that to enable the magical element to resonate the normal world has to feel very real too. So magical realist writers, whilst being imaginative and off kilter, have to be very gritty realists as well, showing us the real world in a finely tuned manner. I think this realism is one of the key strengths of this type of work.

However, I think the best way to portray magical realism is by describing the feeling it engenders when read, namely a vague dislocation of normality, a slightly skewed vision of the world that can make a reader giddy, putting them off balance. In other words, books of this type can be constantly surprising.

So why is it such a popular genre for writers (me included) to work in? Well, I think it might be because writers are explorers, weighing up what they have been told about the world (what their brains have stored up through childhood, adolescence and beyond) and how it functions. Through the process of storytelling they are working things out for themselves about life without necessarily drawing conclusions.

For example, David Almond, whose work is often described as magical realism, talks a lot about the impact of his Catholic upbringing in many of the interviews I have read, and he is aware of how wrestling with it has impacted on his writing, namely that of negotiating the tension between rational and magical thinking, of what to believe:

When you are at a limit, you pray. At the end of rationalism that’s what’s left. My work explores the frontier between rationalism and superstition and the wavering boundary between the two.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/nov/23/booksforchildrenandteenagers.features

This idea that writers are working things out for themselves may be one reason why magical realism is popular in YA and also MG. Children and adolescents usually accept they don’t know everything about the world and are in the process of trying to work it all out too. There is, perhaps, a sense of collaboration between these readers and magical realist writers within the arena of storytelling. I like to think those adults who read magical realism – whether YA, MG or the literary stuff for grown ups – are ones who still have enough sense to realize they don’t know everything about the world either, that they aren’t overpowered by hubris.

So I think magical realism is a powerful tool for exploring and feeling one’s way in the world, allowing the reader and the writer the freedom to react to the odd, the strange, and the downright mysterious. I like to think this is one reason for why I have written the books I have so far. But I can think of another reason too.

One further spin off from this genre is that readers’ imaginations are given a work out. I know from my own experiences of writing that creativity is a muscle – it needs to be inspired to grow stronger – and if books that fuse the magical, the fantastical and the mysterious with the real help to inspire and fuel creativity in other people then that has to be a good thing. Maybe that’s the real reason I write the way that I do, to inspire readers and make them think and question and imagine for themselves…?

Rupert Wallis

Chris Riddell the Waterstones Children’s Laureate for 2015-2017

Each Children’s Laureate brings something new and amazing to the role, my personal favourite has been Malorie Blackman due to the frankly amazing work she has done in raising the profile of teen fiction and YA engagement in general.

When Chris Riddell’s name was announced yesterday I punched the air and whispered “Yeah!” (I was in the Library), I think he is a brilliant choice and has appeal from small children to their parents and grandparents as well as everyone in between.

I am a big fan of Chris Riddell’s work and after hearing his views on libraries, reading, illustrations and how he let his chidren draw in his sketchbooks with him, I have become a fan of the man himself!

At his unveiling as Laureate he released his Five Point plan for the next two years and School Libraries feature heavily:

five point plan

Chris Riddell on Illustration:

During my term I want to use the immediacy and universality of illustration to bring people together and lead them all into the wonderful world of books and reading

On School Libraries:

It’s bizarre that it is not a requirement for the very places where children will learn how to read, draw, think and create to have a space for books…

I want to help and encourage every school to do more for readers. If they have nowhere to read, create a space with a few books; if they have a bookshelf, have two; if they have a reading room, aim for a library.

I am looking forward to following what he does as Laureate and will be sharing it with the students in my school and encouraging them to pick up pencils and paper with their books.

Find out more about Chris, his plans and previous Laureates at the Children’s Laureate site here:

http://www.childrenslaureate.org.uk/

Follow his Laureate Log here: chrisriddellblog.tumblr.com

I am your toothless Carny… Michael Grant on Horror


So, Matt suggested a blog post explaining how I tap into the sort of horror that will affect both kids and adults and my first thought was that I hadn’t written enough horror to have a good answer. I’ve only written one thing that’s just straight-up horror: Messenger of Fear, with sales well into the dozens.

But then I scrolled back through my oeuvre (I’ve been waiting a long time to be able to deploy that obnoxious word) and on closer reflection, huh, I do write a lot of horror, I just tend not to think of it that way. BZRK is certainly scary but it’s sci-fi horror in the Alien or Event Horizon vein, so I sweep it into the sci-fi category. And there are certainly major horror elements in the Gone series, but that gets swept into the YA dystopia drawer.

Going way back, the Everworld series I wrote with my wife, Katherine Applegate, has a lot of horror, but also a lot of mythology so I sweep that into the category of, “shouldn’t we have hired Rick Riordan to write that?” That was back in the 90’s and he hadn’t done The Lightning Thief yet, and we probably could have hired him for minimum wage. The series would have sold better, and we would have contractually enslaved a future competitor. Everybody wins! Except Riordan.

I’m sorry, that was a bit of a digression. The point is yes, yes I would like to pretend to be an expert on how to write scary stuff. Let’s see if I know what I’m talking about.

There are two kinds of people: those who think death is the ultimate threat, and those who have a sick, twisted, deviant imagination and understand that death is actually the end of fear and suffering. The instant you are dead, you can stop worrying how you look, what you can eat, and how to weasel out of attending your high school reunion. All done! Candle snuffed out. You’re not just outta here, you’re just not. You occupy no position, neither here nor there. It’s not just Buh-bye! it’s Buh-.

Death doesn’t scare me, you know what does? Mutilation. The forcible removal of useful body parts. That’s why when I meet my daughter’s boyfriends, I’m never thinking “shotgun,” I’m thinking “hack saw”. To be specific, I’m thinking one could use a metal clamp to attach some portion of the young gentleman’s anatomy to the floor, set the room on fire and leave the victim a steak knife. The element of choice is important because it makes the victim an agent of his own mutilation, it transfers enough responsibility that the moment of decision, the moment when he decides to start sawing away rather than burn alive, that moment would be with him every day of his life.

What’s the point of inflicting suffering only to end it in death?

Now, what just happened in your head, blog reader, is also important. It’s useful that you started to wonder if there was something actually wrong with me. I mean, what kind of person thinks up something like that? And that concern is useful because it means I’ve laid down a marker in your brain signalling that we could be going to some very dark places. Look at it this way: two identical roller coasters, one operated by a team of costumed Disney droids, and one operated by a toothless carny with a skull tattoo.

I am your toothless carny.

(By the way, I just Googled the phrase, “I am your toothless carny,” and it has evidently never before been written or said. I could not be more proud.)

Wherever we are taking the story, whatever the specific horror, it’s helpful if you don’t trust me to behave. I don’t want you reassured, I want you nervous. So when I set out to scare people I lay down some early scene to knock the reader off-stride. In BZRK (spoiler alert) I set up what appears to be our protagonist and then kill him in as spectacularly gruesome a way as I can while working with a plunging jet, a football stadium, a flying brain and a cup of beer. In Gone there’s the baby who starves to death in his crib, and a girl beaten to death with a baseball bat. In Messenger of Fear we start with the corpse of a teenager who has shot herself in the head.

I want the reader to understand that I don’t even know what the rules are so I’m certainly not going to abide by them. You know that place you’re afraid to go? I’m taking you there. Get in the car, we’re going right now. You are in the hands of a disturbed individual.

So, I like to create uncertainty, then I want to keep pushing your boundaries, but only so far. You can’t get into the game of trying to top yourself each time because that pretty quickly starts to reek of desperation. And it’s unnecessary. The Stand is not scarier than Pet Sematary, it’s just a different scary. We don’t need to believe Stephen King will turn the scare up to eleven, we just need to know that he’s going to take us someplace darker than we are comfortable with. No one makes you more nervous and sustains it longer than King.

Dread is the thing much more than the thing is the thing. Wait, what? Okay, what I mean is that it’s less about the specific horror – mutilation, burning alive, dad getting crazy and chasing you around the maze with an axe, vampires sucking your blood so you can sparkle too — than it is about the build-up. In the build-up you want the reader unsettled, you want an element of choice, you want feelings of helplessness, and you want the reader to see him/her/their self in at least one character and then you get dread.

It’s not death we dread, it’s all the things leading up to death. In other words: life. Only the living can experience cancer, the slow suffocation of emphysema, Alzheimers, dismemberment, the guilt of committing homicide, loneliness, depression, locked-in syndrome, uncontrollable rage, frantic impotent desperation, or a cold sore on the side of your tongue where it keeps rubbing against your molars.

So, it’s simple, really. Think of something awful. Create a character to inflict that awful thing upon. Give that character some control. Signal that, oh yes, we are absolutely going to go too far. And then try to work in the word, “eldritch” at least once.

Chopstix by A.T. Raydan, Exclusive Extract


A lot was on my mind, happy thoughts, happy positive thoughts. I was enjoying college life.

As I walked closer to home, I felt another shiver shoot down my spine and tingling sensations throughout my body. This time they felt stronger and lasted longer. I was struck by a sense of panic. Then I heard the sirens and saw flashing lights in the distance.

I noticed the pale blue sky turning dark very quickly. Something had happened. Something very bad had happened.

I carried on walking. With each step, I felt the tingling sensations getting stronger and stronger. As I got closer to home, it hit me. The sirens and flashing lights were coming from right outside the House of Wu. It was on Fire!

The happy thoughts were gone in a flash…

The whole building was ablaze. Plumes of thick black smoke just billowed out across the sky and flames could be seen shooting from the windows and roof of the building.
For a moment, all I could hear was the loud thumping of my heart. I just froze to the spot whilst I took everything in.

I looked around and noticed firefighters carrying hoses everywhere. They were fighting what was quickly turning into a raging inferno. It was at that moment that I first noticed the strong acrid smell and the heat from the fire. It was unbearable.
There was a cordon around the parade of shops, yet crowds were still gathering, all gasping whilst watching the blaze. I heard someone mention that Beryl’s and Franco’s were also under threat from the fire and that firefighters were doing their utmost to save them too.

And then all of a sudden, there was an explosion followed by the sound of glass shattering. Things didn’t look good for the House of Wu.
My breathing became very strained and that acted as a trigger for me to run towards my home oblivious of my surroundings. Suddenly two individuals in uniforms grabbed me. It was the police.

“Stop! Stop! You can’t go any further!” shouted one of the police officers.
“That’s my home! My parents are in there!” I screamed.

“Calm down, calm down,” replied a police officer in a rather relaxed manner, as he took me to one side.

“My parents!” I shouted.

I became hysterical and started to scream. A policewoman approached me and put her arm around me. I knew something bad had happened.

“Come with me,” she said, as she took me towards a police van. She opened the side door and I was helped to sit on the floor with my feet on the pavement.

I was visibly shaking and tears were flowing from my eyes.

“My parents are in there! Have you rescued them? Did they manage to get out in time?” I screamed.

Chopstix by A.T Raydan is published by Unique Inspiration (paperback, £6.99). Available online from Waterstones here.

NEXT STOP: Addicted to Media concludes the official Chopstix blog tour with a spooky letter from Wendy Wu’s mother from beyond the grave…
YESTERDAY’S STOP: Death, Books and Tea hosted a guest post by Chopstix bad guys – ‘The Chi’