Tag Archives: Halloween

The Ghost of Gosswater

These ghosts really belong to New Year and after, but would be just fine for Halloween as well. After all, heroines who go poking round graveyards on lonely islands in spooky lakes…

Anyway, it’s late December 1899. Lady Agatha’s father, the earl of Gosswater has just died, and Agatha – aged 12 – is about to be turned out of Gosswater Hall, her childhood home.

Her really very ghastly cousin Clarence kicks her out, sending her away to go and live with her father – her real father – in a humble cottage nearby. There is no explanation, as all the people she has known are sent away.

Agatha, or Aggie as she becomes, keeps seeing ghosts, and some people see a ghost when they look at her, too. As winter sets in around Gosswater, Aggie knows she needs to solve the puzzle of her existence. Hence the poking around graves.

Several unpleasant characters come her way, but so do a number of nice ones. After her new father is sent away, Aggie searches for the truth, with snow and ice forming a treacherous landscape for her to traipse through.

I found this a very relaxing read. Lucy Strange has a good way with characters, and the setting is cold, but attractive. Besides, ghosts can turn out to be better people than ghastly cousins.

The Canterville Ghost

Soon after I’d started at my new secondary school, the school hall burned down. This was unfortunate, but certainly nothing to do with me. In fact, we were quite lucky, since it happened on sports day, when nearly everyone was out, and only [I think] the choir was there to practise. And the head teacher, who might have attempted to put the fire out.

The hall was almost brand new, so it was a shame, but the replacement hall was – probably – even better. I can barely remember what the unfortunate first hall was like.

Nor can I remember for how long we had to go without a hall while it was being rebuilt. We had assembly first thing every morning, which meant the school had to come up with alternatives. In effect this meant that the teacher who taught the first period got to ‘entertain’ the class for fifteen minutes before starting on the real stuff.

My Favourite Teacher ended up doing most of my assemblies, as I had him for two subjects, which managed to cover several mornings of the week. He very sensibly read to us, and his first choice was The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde.

Despite having him for English, our teacher read the story in Swedish. Perhaps it was just as well, since this way everyone in the class could enjoy it. And I believe learning to enjoy a good story rather than making it be too educational is the best way.

We had a lot of fun with the ghost and the Otis family. In actual fact, I still consider the name Otis to be a fun name, so I guess it’s just this happy memory.

After Canterville we had other books/stories to listen to and they were all excellent. But I can’t remember what they were. I was sad to return to the new assembly hall when the time came. Those assemblies were generally also fairly good, but not quite up to Canterville standards.

Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost and other stories

(There’s a new Canterville Ghost out now, along with other Oscar Wilde stories. Enjoy some fresh blood stains for Halloween!)

The Dragonsitter: Trick or Treat?

Josh Lacey and Garry Parsons are back. This time their lovely dragonsitter has Halloween trouble. Edward needs to borrow the dragons from his uncle, because he needs to win a fancy dress competition, to win a computer because their old computer is very old and won’t live much longer.

Josh Lacey and Garry Parsons, The Dragonsitter: Trick or Treat?

And for once Uncle Morton agrees and is ‘helpful.’ Not that the man ever is entirely helpful, as he still thinks of his yetis and stuff. But there is romance and ingenuity and plenty of mishaps, just as you have come to expect from a Dragonsitter story.

Every time I begin a new one I can’t see how Josh can milk this dragons and mishaps thing any further, and every time I am proven wrong. There is always something you can do with dragons. This time it’s mainly young Arthur, and he needs to poo. But will he?

Not Arthur. He really can keep it in.

But it’s quite amusing what happens as we wait for the poo.

(Garry Parsons really knows how to draw dragons.)

The Episode of the Black Dog

It’s not every young teenage boy who has a grandfather quite as ancient as Alex’s. He might be old, but he’s cool. Practically a James Bond, even at his age. So Alex is more than happy to gallivant round Europe with the old man, again. After all, they survived their last adventure.

So, here they are, on a train across the Continent, bound for more adventures. Author Damien M Love has called this excerpt The Episode of the Black Dog, and it will eventually form part of Like Clockwork, Volume 2: The Old Man’s Back Again, which will be published some time next year. There is every reason to look forward to that. (And, you know, if you didn’t read the first one, now is a good time to remedy that woeful oversight.)

Damien M Love, The Episode of the Black Dog

Anyway, here they are, Alex and his grandfather, travelling rather like ‘The Old Man’ did with his father, back in, well, a frightfully long time ago, when the black dog adventure happened. They’re in Magdeburg, and there are funny goings-on. And a dog. A black dog. Excitement in the dark of night.

Damien is offering the extract for free on Amazon over the Halloween weekend. I think that’s a good deal.

The UK version if you want to pay £0. Or US version for $0.

Don’t be late

You could interpret the above suggestion as a ‘don’t forget to return your library books on time,’ but there is also a slight warning about being dead, i.e. the other kind of ‘late.’

I’d not previously connected Christmas with ghost stories, but after the Christmas anthology I reviewed yesterday, I’m beginning to realise that some people do. I’m obviously not ‘some people.’

It’s been a while since Halloween, but I shall treat you to the recording of Helen Grant reading one of three ghost stories at Innerpeffray Library on the evening of October 31st. (That’s mere hours before Helen succeeded in getting stuck in the mud in a graveyard in the middle of the night…)

Here is Lilith’s Story. And here‘s Helen on her blog, enthusing about ghosts and Christmas. Whatever happened to light and happiness? (You might also consider very carefully if you really think becoming a librarian is a wise career move.)

Innerpeffray Library

The #4 profile – Rhiannon Lassiter

I have alway been a little scared of Rhiannon Lassiter. I don’t know why. I met her briefly five years ago and she was really lovely, so I know I have no cause for worry. But how can you have a Halloween author profile without a good scare?

Maybe it’s because Rhiannon wrote a book while still at university? That feels so ultra-clever. Her books also strike me as ‘scarier than average.’ (Have you seen how she looks at us? And is that a graveyard?)

Over ttto Rrrhiannon:

Rhiannon Lassiter

How many books did you write before the one that was your first published book?

Although I’d started novels, the first one I finished was the first one accepted.

My first novel was accepted for publication while I was at university. Prior to that I’d submitted a draft proposal to a couple of publishing companies who’d said they were interested in reading more from me but that they didn’t think the idea I’d submitted (a fantasy story) was quite original enough. Then I started work on a science fiction novel, submitted a draft – and it was it accepted.

I know this is atypical and I feel fortunate to have got such a positive response so early on in my career.

Best place for inspiration?

I get ideas wherever I am. But I think some of my best have come on holiday and out of my usual environment. A house in the Lake District inspired Bad Blood. I began Waking Dream in Italy. Ghost of a Chance came from a weekend visit to a stately home.

Would you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Perhaps you already do?

I’ve sometimes thought about it because I like coming up with names for my theoretical other identity but I am too jealous of my ideas to assign them to another name. I want them all associated with me!

What would you never write about?

An experience I couldn’t identify with. If I couldn’t imagine myself into that identity or situation I couldn’t write about it.

Through your writing: the most unexpected person you’ve met, or the most unexpected place you’ve ended up in?

I was sent a photograph by a film producer of a teenage actress holding one of my books who was interested in playing the lead if it’s ever made into a film. I don’t think I can say who it was, though – sorry!

Which of your characters would you most like to be?

When I wrote Hex I wanted to be Raven. Since then I’ve put parts of myself into all of my characters so most of them are people who are like me or who I’d like to be. If I had to choose one it would be Poppy from Waking Dream because she’s a witch in a dream landscape.

Do you think that having a film made of one of your books would be a good or a bad thing?

I’d like it to happen. Although I know films don’t stick religiously to the written text, I’d like to see my characters brought to life. There’s been some film interest in Hex and it’s exciting to imagine that becoming a film. Because it’s science fiction, it’s the only way I’d get to see some of my ideas made real.

What is the strangest question you’ve been asked at an event?

Someone once asked me if I thought it was worse having monthly periods or uncontrollable erections. I said I thought being a teenager came with a lot of alarming side effects for everyone…

Do you have any unexpected skills?

I’m good at computer games. I don’t find that odd but sometimes teenagers I meet are amazed that I play GTA or SSX.

The Famous Five or Narnia?


Who is your most favourite Swede?

I don’t seem to have one, sorry. I checked and Lene Kaaberbole is Danish and Tove Jansson is from Finland.

How do you arrange your books at home? In a Billy? By colour, or alphabetically?

I keep a Billy in the attic which holds a heap of detective novels. The rest of my books are in built-in shelving and a few overflow bookcases. They are arranged by genre (picture books, junior, adult, SF and fantasy, graphic novels, non-fiction, myths and legends, cookery etc). They are all shelved alphabetically except the cookery books and non-fiction.

Which book would you put in the hands of an unwilling eight-year-old boy reader?

It depends why they were reluctant but either The Recruit (the first of Robert Muchamore’s Cherub series) or Ordinary Jack (the first Bagthorpe book) by Helen Cresswell.

If you have to choose between reading or writing, which would it be?

I’d choose reading.

But if I’m reading, I’m thinking – and my thinking tends to come in the form of making up stories. Even if I never wrote anything more via pen, pencil or keyboard I’d still be writing in my head.

Yep, I’m still scared. Take away Rhiannon’s keyboard and she will still write. Her books seem to be in perfect order, and as to the strangest question, well…

(Not a single Swede, either. It’s Halloween; let’s plump for pumpkins.)

Innerpeffray Library

Innerpeffray Library

You know when people share their favouritest place with you, and you’re afraid you’ll hate it and that it will cause problems between you and all that? Helen Grant has been going on and on about Innerpeffray Library – almost in the middle of nowhere in Perthshire – for so long, that I thought she might, just possibly, be deluded.

Innerpeffray Library - graveyard

Innerpeffray Library

Dear reader, she’s actually right. Innerpeffray is the place to go (especially if it doesn’t rain) for the library experience with a difference. (Pardon me if I sound like an advertisement.) It’s a beautiful old building, next to an old chapel – with graveyard – in the loveliest of settings; green fields with sheep in, a grassy ‘drive’ covered in tiny daisies, lovely plants along the path there, future nettle soup on the side, and a warm welcome when you arrive.

Innerpeffray Library

The librarian is called Lara, and I have rarely had such a fantastic guide anywhere. She talked history with the Resident IT Consultant and Helen, while I listened to these well educated, knowledgeable people, pretending I was too. For any little topic that came up, she found the book to illustrate it. (It’s almost as if Lara reads the books they have in there.)

Innerpeffray Library

She found me a Swedish book. They have two, but the other proved elusive when searched for. There was a book on witchcraft, which I gather is the vilest of crimes, trumping everything else. Hmm. This year’s exhibition is on crime, since that’s what we mere mortals like.

Innerpeffray Library

Lara climbs on the exceedingly tall ladder as though she was born to it. Apparently you have to go on a ladder-climbing course before you can work there. (Very relieved to hear that volunteers aren’t allowed to. So I could volunteer…)

Lara at Innerpeffray Library

They do events. Helen Grant did something spooky there recently, and has vowed to return for Halloween (which sounds great; if a little scary). Alexander McCall Smith is appearing at Innerpeffray to play very bad music. In fact, this coming weekend is full of fun sounding things to do. At one point Lara had to go off to see to some champagne. Later there was smoked salmon business needing her attention.

Innerpeffray Library

And even though it is now in a deserted corner of Perthshire’s lovely fields, when I asked that most commonly asked question ‘why is it here?’ I learned that when it started, it was a very busy part of the world, what with the river below, and all sorts of things.

Innerpeffray Library

People came to borrow books, and you can see the register of borrowers, which includes servants, and I found ‘a serf’ as well. This freedom with the books remains today. Unlike other museum type places where you can touch nothing; here you are allowed to. (Only not if your fingers are covered in clotted cream.) In the end I was frightened I’d tear one of the pages, so hardly dared to leaf through the witchcraft tome.

Helen Grant at Innerpeffray Library

So, I can totally identify with Helen who comes here a lot. She suffered over the winter when they were closed, and could hardly wait to pop over when the library winter came to an end.

Innerpeffray Library

And you know, somewhere that has a purple panelled toilet, as well as a chapel where you can get married, beats a lot of places you might visit. If you can find it. You go down that road, and then you take that almost invisible turning, and later on you go left, follow the winding road and at some point you turn down some other road, at the end of which you will find you’ve arrived.

Unless you approach from some other direction.

Innerpeffray Library

Only politeness made us leave when it was Lara’s lunch break. That, and the fact that we too needed lunch. We went back to Schloss Grant and shared bread and cheese and salad, with fresh strawberries (which were very nice), and after that we actually ate some Battenbergs too. We talked books and publishing. The cats were woken so they could say hello.

Helen told me something I mustn’t repeat, which I won’t, because not only am I nice (so so) but I have forgotten what it was. She gave me her new collection of short stories, which I hope won’t scare me too much (I’ll get back to you on that) and then she showed us the door. Very politely.

I would recommend this outing to anyone. Unfortunately, not all of you can do the last part, but Lara and the library are waiting for you. Perhaps get married there, and provide them with some essential, financial support!

Innerpeffray Library

(My apologies for the numerous photos. It’s the kind of place where you just can’t not take pictures. Besides, Adèle Geras has demanded them. I’d recommend going now. It’s sunny, and nature is at its prettiest.)


It was almost an orange Wednesday for the Resident IT Consultant and me, but when we weighed in the half term factor and the anonymous text message asking if ‘he could come Wednesday at one’ we decided against James Bond this week. There will, hopefully, be more Wednesdays. And once he knew who wanted him at one, he went.

There’s not even a pumpkin for Halloween, however. Just a container of sweets, past their date. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I used to faithfully get the Resident IT Consultant to wield a knife on some innocent pumpkin towards the end of October every year, but by 2011 I couldn’t see the point, and in 2012 I found to my surprise that the greengrocer went out of business while I was away for a few days.

No pumpkin at all. We do have some clementines and a few oranges. They are orange.


So are the books I’ve been reading lately. It’s as if certain things just gang up on me. In this case, orange books. My current read is both Halloween-coloured and written by a pseudonym. The Tobermory Cat is orange, and he has featured a lot recently.

The Sultan’s Tigers is an orangey sort of book. It also contains other coincidences, which I couldn’t help noticing as I read through my pile of travel entertainment last week, while the greengrocer disappeared.

The tiger book features two characters by the name of Trelawney. There was a Trelawney in Lady Catherine’s Necklace, which I read just before it. A helicopter landing pad on top of a tall building (Tiger book, not the Austen sequel) neatly mirrored the helipad in Angel Fire. Tiger is set in India, and after it, I just happened to move on to another book set in India.

Sometimes I pick books like that, according to a pattern. What is fascinating (what do you mean it isn’t?) is when several books in a row manage a pattern of their own.

Tigers are cats. Orange cats.

Perhaps a red read next?

Bookwitch bites #87

As you might have noticed, I have found Terry Pratchett’s horses. Go back to Thursday’s blog where the lovely horses, and the carriage, have been added. Oh, go on, I’ll put the horses here too.

Dodger's horses

While I’m feeling a bit Pratchetty, I’ll post this link to an interview Terry did in the spring, on the Late Late Show. Me being me, I thought of the American Late Show. Was very relieved to find it was an Irish namesake, because the quality of the interview was rather better for it.

My journey to Soho on Wednesday wasn’t quite in the style of Sir Terry’s, but it was OK. You know how I am a witch? I looked at the London train before mine (Is it only in the UK you worry so much about your connecting train being late, that you catch the one before?) and thought to myself I had never seen the 11-coach Pendolino. (Is this too geeky?) So, obviously my train when it arrived turned out to be an 11-coach Pendolino.

That means that coaches E and G no longer join together, but have coaches F and U between them. (Fascinating, isn’t it?) I sat in E. In case anyone is interested.

So that’s where I ended up assisting in the translating of a Danish press release about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and you-know-what. At the time I thought ‘oh, it will be some sort of homework,’ until I recalled the caller no longer is in a place where homework is handed out.

I’m going to have to find some sort of Danish-English dictionary if this is going to go on. (It has, already. Gone on.) I have done deeds, also in Danish. And I don’t even ‘get’ them in Swedish.

The travelling has been paused. I need a rest. Although, I am considering ScareFest 3 on Saturday 6th of October, in Crosby Civic Hall. At least if my horse and carriage will get me there. If it does, I will be entertained by Philip Caveney, Curtis Jobling, Jon Mayhew, Tommy Donbavand, Joseph Delaney, Barry Hutchison and David Gatward (who I don’t know at all).

Apparently it’s Halloween come early. You need to catch the little ones before half term.


Would you rather sleep well? If so, don’t do what I did. I read a short story every evening before going to bed. I thought it’d be a good way of enjoying this new anthology – Haunted – for Halloween. How wrong I was.


The stories aren’t bad. Not at all. Most of them do exactly what they are meant to do. Scare you, and make you think of ghosts, and possibly even make your pulse go a wee bit faster.

Who’d have thought there could be so many ghosts? There are bad ones and small ones and sweet ones (I think so, anyway) and funny ones and ones you wouldn’t want to meet in your friendly neighbourhood graveyard. Even in daylight.

Some stories end well (ish). Others don’t.

As I might have mentioned when Derek Landy guest blogged here the other day, his story is very funny. Doesn’t mean people don’t die.

And if you look in the mirror, is there someone there? Apart from your good self, I mean. Also, whatever possesses people – children – to go out late at night to some dark and haunted place? On their own. It’s just asking for trouble.

I have to take issue with Matt Haig over giftshops. At first I thought he’s a really enlightened man. Then I realised he’d got it all wrong. He could have done the umbrellas even by doing the giftshop the other way round.

It’s not just dark dungeons that are haunted. Sunny beaches aren’t necessarily any better. Sunnier, but not safer. And what are you most scared of; computers or dogs?

Anyway, don’t let me put you off. Joseph Delaney, Susan Cooper, Mal Peet, Jamila Gavin, Eleanor Updale, Derek Landy, Robin Jarvis, Sam Llewellyn, Matt Haig, Philip Reeve and Berlie Doherty have come up with some good stories. Best enjoyed with your elevenses, than with your bedtime snack, though.