The Genie Rings – Out Now!

A hat-trick of terror.

Achoo! Oh, goodness, please excuse me: it seems the dust of ages has been allowed to settle on this blog once again. But relax, dear reader, and do not fear, for the arrival of a brand new book warrants some words of celebration. Look upon the glorious cover below, and rejoice!

The Genie Rings is the third book in The Witching Hours series, but it feels like a first in a number of ways. It’s the first book in the series to be set outside of Europe (the story takes place in Iran), and it’s also the first book not to be inspired by European folklore. Instead, book three takes its cues from a very different source: the wonderful collection of Middle Eastern fairy tales known as The One Thousand and One Nights.

Now, I didn’t read all one thousand and one stories – I’m not sure an authoritative edition of that many stories actually exists – but I can report that taking notes on this book was an absolute delight. Some of the stories are already very famous (Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp; Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves) but as I scoured the text for mentions of genies, I found many hidden gems scattered throughout. The Fisherman and the Djinni tells the story of a poor fisherman who catches a copper jar in his net, and who unleashes from within a genie with a “mouth as wide as a cavern, with teeth ragged like broken rocks”; the genie from this story is so perfectly frightening that I quoted some of his dialogue in The Genie Rings as a sneaky homage. The Tale of the Second Dervish is even better, telling the story of a prince who makes an enemy of a wicked genie named Jerjees, and who ends up being transformed into an ape by the genie’s evil spell. The story is filled to the brim with magic, murder, and mayhem, and it even has a secret witch, which is definitely my favourite plot twist of all. Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you more about this witch in a future blog post, but for now, I’ll just leave you with the hilariously chilling scene where the princess finally reveals her abilities to her father:

“How do you know he is bewitched?” asked the King, turning to his daughter.

“Father,” she replied, “when I was a child I had an old nurse, a skilled enchantress deeply versed in sorcery, who taught me witchcraft. I have committed all its rules to memory and know a hundred and seventy codes of magic, by the least of which I could raze your city to the ground and scatter its stones as far as the Mountain of Kaf, turn your kingdom into a bottomless sea, and change its people into wiggling fishes.”

Yeah. She’s pretty cool.

And so, with all of those tales swirling about in my head, I set about composing a new adventure for Anna and Max to embark upon. At first I thought the book might be set in a city, as so many of the Arabian Nights are; but it soon became clear that a desert would be scarier, with the endless, empty plains extending out around a lonely campsite. I based the whole story around a riddle, because I like riddles, and I made sure to include some old stone ruins, because I like those as well. The hardest thing of all was writing a horror story without any forests: a deliberate challenge to myself, as books one and two had featured numerous descriptions of sinister trees and creepy wooden fingers. Luckily, poems like “Ozymandias” showed me that the desert can be Gothic as well, and I truly believe that readers will find this new setting just as frightening as its European counterparts.

Anyway: I finished writing the story. I sent it to my publishers, and they worked their magic, and then Dave Shephard came on board and drew us some of the scariest genies I’ve ever seen. You can find this spooky book in Australian bookstores right now, lurking amongst the darkest shelves, terrifying all of its neighbours. If you’ve followed Anna and Max this far, I really hope you’ll enjoy book three as well.

And that’s all for now. Happy witching!

(Actually, one more note! If you’re keen to read some of The One Thousand and One Nights, you can follow the links embedded in this post – but be aware that those are the old translations by Sir Richard Burton, which are slightly archaic. I recommend picking up the Penguin edition translated by N. J. Dawood – it’s much zippier!)

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The Troll Heart – Out Now!

A blog post worth waiting for.

Yes, I admit it – it has been way too long since I posted anything on this blog. We’ll address that later. First, let’s enjoy some excellent, marvellous, wonderful news.

MY SECOND EVER BOOK IS IN STORES NOW!!

The Troll Heart is the first sequel to The Vampire Knife, and is the second book in The Witching Hours series. It’s an extra special book for me because I based it on the first fairy tale I ever wrote – or at least, the first fairy tale I wrote that I thought was any good. The story came about in 2013, when I took a trip to England with my grandfather, Kenny, who had suddenly decided (at the age of 81) that he’d quite like to see the British countryside. We visited London and Brighton and Kings Lynn, and even met the Queen’s horses at Sandringham, which meant by the time we got to the city of Bath, poor old Kenny was feeling rather worn out. So I went for a walk on my own – and on this walk, I crossed a bridge.

Toll Bridge JPEG

It costs one shilling to cross the Batheaston Toll Bridge. Or rather, that’s how much it costs if you’re travelling in a motor lorry. If you’re travelling in a carriage drawn by two horses, it costs four pennies, and if you’re crossing with any sheep or pigs, it’ll cost you an additional six pennies per score. (And yes, I know what you’re thinking: how much does it cost to cross in a wheelchair drawn by a donkey? Answer: three pennies.) All of these archaic tolls are specified on a old sign at the start of the bridge – an old sign that left me utterly enthralled.

The concept of the different tolls sat in my head for the rest of our trip, and when I returned home I quickly wrote the outline of a fairy tale, about a wicked troll who controls the bridges surrounding a woe-begotten village. I didn’t end up using any of those wonderful tolls, but I still liked the story. It was the first thing I had written in a long time that I was really proud of.

Two years later, in 2015, I created the characters of Anna and Max, and after their initial tousle with the vampire, I knew just the adventure I wanted to send them on next.

And so that’s why I’m finally breaking my blogging dry spell: to announce the birth of my beautiful new book (and thanks again go to Ryan Andrews for the amazing cover). I’m sorry I was away for so long! Here’s the behind-the-scenes take: in the first half of 2017, I wrote more than 10,000 words for this blog, when what I should have been doing is writing 10,000 words for the third book in the series. Now book three has almost reached its final copyedit, and the temptation is to go blog-crazy once again… but the deadline for book four is also just around the corner. Hopefully I’ll be able to strike more of a balance between the two mediums going forward!

Either way – thanks a bunch for stopping by and reading all about The Troll Heart. If you like scary stories about mists and monsters and weird old magics, this might be the book for you. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it!

Happy witching!

Witches 17

The Vampire Knife – Out Now!

Happy ending not guaranteed.

IT’S HERE!

Today, on August 1, 2017, my first ever novel officially enters the world. It’s really, really, ridiculously exciting. You can find The Vampire Knife in bookshops, and in department stores, and on heaps of websites, too. It’s everywhere!

I wrote The Vampire Knife in the winter of 2015: the longest, coldest winter that Melbourne has experienced in my lifetime. I spun the novel out of a horror story I’d made up to scare my cousin Gypsy the year before, about a girl at a sleepover who hears a strange calling in the middle of the night. As I expanded on that initial idea, I filled the book with as many spooky and terrible things as I could think of: wolves and bears, castles and dungeons, knives and storms and prisoners and blood. Each night I sat at my desk and wrote another thousand words, trying not to feel scared as the wind and rain beat against my bedroom window, typing away until the sun rose once more.

When I was done, I sent the story away to Hardie Grant Egmont (a publishing house in Melbourne that specialises in children’s literature) and they agreed to turn my story into a real book. They found a brilliant artist called Ryan Andrews to illustrate the cover (and to draw some incredible internal pictures too), and they decided to publish the rest of The Witching Hours series as well. Now I get to write five more adventures starring Anna and Max, which is simply the best job I ever could have hoped for.

IMG_2292

You can buy The Vampire Knife at bookshops all through Australia; it’s recommend for all brave children aged 8-12. If you have a local bookshop, you should try and buy it there, but otherwise you can order it online from The Little Bookroom, or Booktopia, or Angus & Robertson, or anywhere else you’d care to Google. I really hope you enjoy reading it.

Got any questions? I’d love to hear them! Comment on this post and I’ll do my best to answer you. I’m currently hard at work finishing off book 3 in the series, but I’ll be back posting more blogs as soon as I’m done. The Year of the Witch must go on!

Thanks for reading – happy witching!

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