SpooksBlog

Halloween

Will there be another Spook book after ‘The Dark Assassin’ (to be published January 2017)?

The answer is a probable yes. I already have an idea for it. The central character would be Spook Johnson rather than Tom but Spook Ward and Alice would certainly put in an appearance!

 Spook Johnson featured in ‘The Seventh Apprentice’ as a boy. Now he is grown up and somewhat past his prime. Yet he is still a dedicated hunter of witches and has become a specialist with his own method of categorizing them – one that Tom and John Gregory would find strange. He is particularly obsessive about hunting down witches that use familiar magic.

Johnson lives just south of Salford near the southern border of the County and has never taken on and trained an apprentice. But now he needs a scribe and wishes to employ a boy for six months for a purpose close to his heart.

He feels that the locals do not value him. This is probably due to the fact that some of the witches he has dealt with were probably not true witches at all and they have family living in the area.

‘Better safe than sorry!’ is one of Will’s sayings even when he gets it wrong.

Then there are the screams that can be heard from his garden after dark. Rumour has it that he tortures his captive witches.

So that is probably the next Spook’s book. The problem is finding time to write it!

If you haven’t read ‘The Seventh Apprentice’, that’s the place to begin and it is really a prequel to the proposed new book. It’s published by Penguin Random House but is only available (so far) as an e-book. There is a short extract below. Enjoy Halloween!

Joseph Delaney

Extract from ‘The Seventh Apprentice’

The witch was back.

‘It’s time you met my little friend!’ she called out to us.

What I saw by the pale light of the moon was both strange and terrifying.

The witch’s wet snout and tiny piggy eyes were as hideous as ever, but as she closed the gate behind her and strode towards the dead pigs, I saw that she wasn’t alone. There was something following at her heels, clinging tightly to her long dark skirt, which trailed in the mud.

It was black and hairy and about the size of a small dog. Although it had only four limbs – two arms and two legs – it reminded me of a spider. For one thing, it was skinny, with thin limbs and a stick-like body. It certainly wasn’t the grunting boar that had stalked me in the mist – a creature I’d feared – but in a way this beast was even scarier. There was something about the way it twitched; something about its state of readiness. It was waiting for something, waiting to pounce, and soon, at a signal from the witch, I found out what it was.

Very quickly, she clapped her hands three times.

The creature began to climb up her skirt; by the second clap it was perching on her shoulder. No sooner had the echo of the third clap died away than it went into action, leaping from the witch’s shoulder straight onto the belly of the sow – the smallest of the dead pigs – clinging there with its sharp fingers and toenails.

It was ferocious and very fast. Teeth gleaming in the moonlight, it began to eat ravenously. I couldn’t believe the speed with which it guzzled the raw flesh. It gnawed its way right into the belly and disappeared. I could hear it biting and tearing from within, making the carcass slowly spin back and forth on its creaking chains.

I watched in astonishment as the creature emerged, having eaten its fill of the pig’s insides, and clambered up onto the sow’s back, giving me my first clear view of it in the moonlight.

It had a narrow face and teeth, and I saw that its nose was a triangle of sharp bone, which it used to cut and tear at the dead flesh it feasted upon. It had whiskers too, very long and thick; more like bristles than hair. Then I noticed that it had no eyes, just a hard plate of bone that served as a forehead.

As I watched, pink froth started to bubble from its mouth, and within seconds its whole face was obscured. Soon I realized the purpose of this.

It had by now eaten enough flesh to lay bare the white ridged spine of the sow; raw flesh and gristle still clung to it. The froth from the creature’s mouth soon covered the bone, and then the creature began to lick it off. When the spine reappeared, it was absolutely clean.

 

Seven Songs for a Seventh Son

Spooks Playlist

Recently I suggested a list of songs that an ARENA 13 combatant might listen to whilst preparing to fight! A reader suggested that I do the same thing for the Spook’s Series. So here it is in no special order of preference! These are seven songs to get you in the mood for reading spooky stuff!

1.  ‘Witchy Woman’ by The Eagles

A lot of my characters in ‘The Wardstone Chronicles’ are certainly witchy women: Alice Deane and Grimalkin are amongst my favourite characters. I also like the lyrics from this catchy tune:

‘Raven hair and ruby Lips

Sparks fly from her fingertips.’

 2.  ‘Love Song for a Vampire’ by Annie Lennox

I included this in my list for Arena 13 but feel compelled to include it again here. This has tremendous emotional power and generates atmosphere. It is also linked to one of my favourite films: ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Also many of my witches practise blood-magic and are vampiric.

3.  ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by the ‘Rolling Stones.

A lot of my witches certainly have sympathy for the Devil (although I call him the Fiend). However some witches, particularly Grimalkin, are opposed to him. He was the father of her child. But when that child was born flawless (it could have been an abhuman doomed to serve the dark) the Fiend returned and slew it. To say the least, Grimalkin never forgave him!

4.  ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Kate Bush.

This is a truly powerful song linked to an equally powerful book of the same name by Emily Bronte. It contains one of the most powerful and horrific ghost scenes that you are likely to read. A ghost in the form of a child visits a man and reaches through a broken window to grip his hand. (I’m Cathy – I’ve come home!) The only way he can break that cold grip is to rub the child’s arm on the broken glass. Was it all a dream? Believe that if it makes you feel better.

5.  ‘Mulder and Scully’ by Catatonia

This song really grows on you and I like the reference to ‘The X Files’. Of course Mulder and Scully are the modern equivalents of John Gregory and his apprentice, Tom Ward. The Spook does not deal with aliens but some of the creatures they encounter are pretty strange. In ‘The Dark Army’ (published in January) Tom once again faces a vartek (this time an army of them). He is certainly going to need the starblade!

6.  ‘Black Magic Woman’ by Santana.

I always refer to ‘dark magic’ rather than ‘black magic’ in my books. That’s probably because the former term always reminds me of the chocolates! In the ‘Wardstone Chronicles’ the dark battles the light but some characters have both in their souls (like most of us). A particular example of this is Alice. What will her final situation be? The story of her life isn’t over yet.

7.  ‘I Put a Spell On You’ by Nina Simone (or The Credence Clearwater Revival version if you prefer!)

Alice certainly put a spell on Tom Ward and it is still working. Has anybody managed to work out why Alice left Tom for Lukrasta? She had a very good reason and all will be explained in ‘The Dark Army’!

Joseph Delaney

 

 

Brazil

A few weeks ago I was in Brazil to attend  the Bienal Do Livro.

I was impressed by the scale of the festival, it occupied three large pavilions and ran from the 3rd of September to the 13th.   It was very well organised, appeared to be busy at all times of the day and was an interesting festival to be part of.  At my talk I wore headphones as did those in the audience who didn’t speak English. There was a translator in a booth at the back and when I spoke she translated into Portuguese and when I was asked a question she translated into English. It was very efficient and apart from me forgetting sometimes to take my headphones off so when I spoke I could hear myself in Portuguese it was a very seamless way of communicating.  “Just like the UN!’ someone said, and when I was escorted back to my hotel by a couple of body guards I did feel like a dignitary!  All authors who were presenting were asked to take a selfie with the audience behind them – it may come as a shock to many that I could reach 70 and never take a selfie but this was my first ever.   

My publishers Bertrand were great hosts and it was lovely to meet them.  Brazilian readers are very enthusiastic and I signed for three hours and took part in a lot of selfies ( I didn’t take these ones ) You can see the photos of the signing on my facebook page.  I met some lovely people and many of them had travelled a long way to be there, it is very humbling to be confronted with that level of commitment and I was very touched by it.  Later in the week I went to Sao Paolo, where I experienced rain equal to Lancashire rain, but despite this  many people turned up to meet me and have their books signed and again I was truly appreciative. 

Danny Mainzer who was the artist behind the Spook lego presented me with the original photo which I now have hanging on my study wall.

Maria Clara showed me the tattoo on her back .  What can I say, Grimalkins scissors seem made for this.   I was speechless! At a signing a few years ago I met a young man who had the Spook icon tattooed on his arm .

I had a couple of days at the end of my festival commitments to explore a little of Brazil, but as ever never long enough and I would definitely like to go back.  

The Dark Army

The release date for The Dark Army the second book in The Starblade Chronicles is  now January 7th 2016.  Here is the cover image, watch this space for an extract in a couple of weeks.

This weekend I am at the Bath Festival doing a panel event with Angie Sage on Sunday 4th October at 10 am.  Hope to see you there. 

I am still catching up with writing after my trip to Brazil but there will be a blog post about that next week.

best wishes

 

Rio de Janiero Book fair

Next week I am heading to Brazil to the Rio de Janeiro Book fair. It takes place at Riocentro from September 3rd to the 13th, with local authors and more than 200 international authors taking part. It is the biggest literary event in Brazil and I am honoured to be invited. Quite apart from the festival I am looking forward to visiting Brazil and am lucky enough to have a few days off around my festival commitments so will be able to soak up the sun and the atmosphere.  I am also looking forward to meeting some of my Brazilian readers.  They are great supporters of Spook's. My festival event is on Monday 7th as below and I have a book signing in Sao Paulo on the 8th. 

Monday 7th September

3:00 pm - Panel at Bienal do Livro do Rio
4:00 pm- Book signing for fans
www.facebook.com/events/1478985455745163/

Tuesday 8th September

6:00 pm
Signing  at Saraiva Bookstore
www.saraivaconteudo.com.br/Eventos/Arquivo/64103

 

Montreal

This is a very belated blog about my trip earlier this year to Montreal. I have been so busy with writing deadlines I haven’t had a chance to write about what I have been doing.  I wanted to share this because I made a note of some of the interesting questions I was asked. I will be taking note of unusual questions during the Arena 13 tour and will report those.

The Arena tour starts next week with school visits in Lancashire and then the following two weeks I am in Kent and then Manchester area. I had a book signing at Lancaster Cornmarket and King Street onSaturday 13 and in Carlisle on the 20th(1pm).  Hope to see some of you there.

The first day of the tour in Montreal began in -15 flumes of snow. After 15 minutes outside my nose was starting to freeze so luckily we were being chauffeured by Guy and Nicholas from Bayard Jeunesse. They treated us (me and my publicist who had just arrived from a New Zealand summer and was struggling to adjust to minus temperatures) to a hearty Montreal lunch (and a glass of red wine, I knew it was going to be a good tour ) at St Hupert.  From there we went to the first school of the tour, Poly-Jeunesse High School in Laval, to an audience of at least 500 children in total. I answered questions and Nicholas translated some very good ones. One question I haven’t been asked before “if I lived in the world of my books would I be more John or more Tom”. I had to think about this; it would be easier to be John, but Tom would be more fun and I would get to be young again. I would have more life ahead of me but how long would I live?

The next day started with a press conference in a very atmospheric bar which is normally the venue for heavy metal bands. Here I was asked questions by journalists and librarians again translated by Nicholas. I then had an audience with a very enthusiastic team at Bayard followed by a delicious middle eastern picnic, inside of course as outside were mounds of snow.  

In the warmth of libre Barbar  in Point Claire village I met with visiting children from Ecole Marguerite-Bourgeoys. They were good questions about the series and my inspiration and of course the film. I was very impressed with their English, I am not sure how they coped with my Lancashire accent. This was a first, Benjamin played a card trick, five of hearts was my card.  This is the first time I was asked if I am a seventh son – I am not, but I do have a few brothers.

We had the afternoon to explore Montreal which we did as much as the cold would allow although I must admit I spent more time underground in the shopping centre than above. It reminded me of being in Singapore although there I am avoiding the heat.

On Thursday I had an audience with 300 children at Frontanec library. As usual for this tour the questions were challenging and thoughtful and showed that the children had thought about the visit. Nicholas and I were getting good at the translation act - he even managed to answer a couple of questions without my help.

Was I ever locked in a cellar?  Good question. Maybe I should have been but I never was of course. This is though what featured in my recurring dream.

I had an interview with a librarian for Montreal. She asked if I was inspired by the children I encounter in my school visits. Of course I am, by their energy and enthusiasm and I have sometimes used their names. But I was reminded of the girl who told me once at a school in England that when it goes dark her mother turned the mirrors to the wall. I was already using the idea of mirrors and scryingbut this cemented the idea in my head. I never got to talk to her properly but she was from the Pendle area so perhaps there are many witches watching through their mirrors.

The week in Montreal ended with a special screening of Seventh Son, in French. I had already seen it in English in Paris in December so this was a new experience.  You can read my review of Seventh Son in a previous blog.

I had a great tour in Montreal courtesy of Bayard Jeunesse and I would love to return, in summer next time! 

Arena 13 Extract

Imagine a world where the bodies of those taken are sometimes found drained of blood; a world where those abducted in the night sometimes do return but without their minds.

Imagine a world where everybody knows who has done this and knows where the killer is to be found but nobody dare do anything about it.

This is Midgard the world of Arena 13.

After a cataclysmic war, defeated human survivors have been imprisoned behind a barrier of mist and fear by the myriad shape-shifting djinn who now rule the world. But one of these creatures, Hob, dwells in a citadel above the city and preys upon its inhabitants taking both blood and souls.

 Sometimes Hob visits Arena 13 and a human combatant is chosen to fight him. Everyone fears being selected because it means certain death – but one trainee, who is only just beginning to learn the skills necessary to fight in the arena, longs for the chance to confront Hob in combat.

His name is Leif and he seeks revenge for the death of his parents.

Arena 13

Arena 13 published June 4th

Last week I was in Colchester to sign books for a special Waterstones edition of Arena 13. It contains extra material: a short story about a character from the book and an interview.  It took me about 2.5 hours to sign 1,070 books but I was taking it easy.  I once had to sign 3,000 in one day. It took me over 6 hours to do that without stopping for a break.

It was the first time I had seen Arena 13 in print and it looks good. It has been a long time coming.  I first got the idea back in 1990. I had been learning to program in a language called Forth and got the idea of android-type entities programmed to fighting in an arena alongside humans. Then I wondered what would happen if one went rogue and started to prey on a city. That was just the crude beginning and I took the idea much further and wrote four books based upon that idea. They were intended for adults and did not get published but the first of those stories got me an agent and led to the eventual publication of ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’.

So it has been great to have a break from the County and go back and develop the idea that I had had all those years ago.  I am looking forward to a new presentation in my talks. I will still be talking about Spooks but it will be good to be able to introduce some new material. As I said in a previous blog I will be on tour in June and there will be several signings at Waterstones in Lancashire. I will put these on the website as soon as they are confirmed. 

Seventh Son screening

Spook Teaching brings you:
A Special Cinema Experience for Schools

“The Seventh Son” 
Followed by
“An Exclusive Talk and Q&A Session with Joseph Delaney 
Wednesday 20th May 2015
At Cineworld, Ashton Moss Leisure Park, Ashton under Lyne
9.30am Start, 10am Film Screening (102 mins), Ends at 1pm
Tickets £3.50 per child + VAT
Free Admission for Supervising Adults
To book please contact Steve Delaney on 07828153258
Hurry, limited number of places!
info@spookteaching.com www.spookteaching.com

May 2015

I have just sent Draft Four of the second book in ‘The New Darkness’ Series to my editor. It still needs some work and I don’t want to give too much away. However, Alice returns and plays a major part in the narrative. The book still hasn’t been named but here are a few possibilities:

The Final Winter

The Earth Witch

The Return of Alice

I will let you know what we decide. Once that decision is made work will begin to develop the cover.  The current release date is Feb/March 2016 and I apologise to those of you who feel that is a long wait.  However there is a new book on the horizon that I hope will help with the wait.  Arena 13 is the first in a new fantasy series out in June. 

I travel to the TBS warehouse near Colchester on Thursday to sign a thousand copies of a special edition. I still haven’t seen a copy of the book yet so I am looking forward to it. At present I am putting together the basis of a new presentation for schools. I will always spend some time talking about Spooks books but added to that will be information and images about Arena 13 – for example, when I wrote the first version and the source of the ideas. The book is published on June 4th this year and that month I’ll be very busy. The first two weeks will be spent visiting local schools and bookshops in Lancashire but later we go down to Kent and London. Once available we will publish a list of events on this site.

As well as all that I still have to carry on writing to keep up my two books a year schedule. Yesterday ‘A new Darkness’ Book Two Draft Four was finished; today I am working on Arena 13 Book Two.


Best wishes,

Joseph Delaney