Feature: My Top Ten Scary Short Stories Written by Women

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Boys and girls of every age
Wouldn’t you like to see something strange?
 Come with us and you will see
This, our town of Halloween
 

This Is Halloween – Tim Burton

It’s that time of year again. Put on the witch’s hat and bat wings – Halloween is here! And here are our top ten scary short stories. 

So if you’re of a more nervous disposition and tales of horror and gore are really not your cup of tea, look away now. If not, read on… But perhaps make sure the doors are locked first!

Click on the above link to read my second feature written for the wonderful For Books’ Sake.

Recommended Reads for Dark Nights

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“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”

– John Green – The Fault in Our Stars

The clocks have changed which – once we got over the absolute joy of an extra hour in bed – can only mean one thing: long, dark nights and an imminent descent into winter.

Now I am not a winter hater. Unlike my poor Dad – who is very disappointed with the current temperature despite this mild Autumn we’ve been having – I quite like the cold (which may seem strange coming from a girl who is most definitely chasing the sun on her travels next year).

I can’t think of anything better than being snuggled up on a sofa: slippered feet, snuggly winter knit, sipping on delicious hot chocolate. The only thing that can improve this image for me (apart from the presence of Ryan Gosling and/or Joe Manganiello – although the latter is probably far too big to fit on my sofa) is a really great book.

I am such an unapologetic book worm and, while I’m saving up for my travels and unable to spend cash, can currently be found secreted away in my parents’ house (my current abode) devouring a good novel (and endless packets of crisps).

So what great books have I been demolishing recently?

Vivian versus America by Katie Coyle.

I read Coyle’s debut YA novel, Vivian versus The Apocalypse, last year and I’d finished it within a few short days. It was utterly brilliant and I am not surprised the novel was the winner of the 2012 Guardian & Hot Key Books Young Writers Prize.

Vivian versus America is the second in what I believe is going to be a three part series (hurrah) about Vivian Apple, and her best friend (and my favourite character) Harp, as they continue to take on the world post-Rapture.

 “For Vivian Apple, the end of the world was just the beginning” – Hot Keys Books

The second installment finds Vivian and Harp stranded in a city verging on complete and utter social breakdown, clutching a secret about the recent ‘Rapture’ and the shady workings of The Church of America, the so-called religious movement causing all this furor.

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Why YOU should read this:

Well, you should really start with VVTA first, since the backstory is integral to the novel (plus it is fab) but my main reasons for recommending this novel are:

1) Road trips stories are always fun

2) Harp and Vivian are brilliant, feisty, hilarious teenage girls that will remind you of why you love your brilliant, feisty hilarious friends. Even if you are now older than time itself and no longer sprightly teenage girls. Sigh.

3) Coyle is an immensely talented writer and her prose had me laughing and crying hysterically

 

The Girl with all the Gifts by M R Carey

Now this is not my usual cup of tea. It was recommended to me by my Kindle (which kind of creeps me out when it does that, especially when it gets it so right. It like its lurking in my brain or something) and the blurb sounding interesting. I had just finished reading Slave (the next book on my list) which was so emotionally draining, I needed something a bit more action-y and more of an easy read. Well, I was kind of wrong about the easy read part!

What surprised me about Carey’s novel was the tenderness. In a world over-run by Zombie types (Hungries who pretty much make up the whole of the UK and have no thoughts, feelings, and awareness bar an insatiable bloodlust for raw human flesh) the main crux of the narrative is a tale about parental love and human nature.

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Why YOU should read this:

I’d assumed this novel was another zombie-fest and, while I’m partial to a Zombie fest if it’s a film or on the telly (and not too gory), it’s not what I want from a book. But I was wrong. And I love it when a book makes me feel like that. You should also bitch slapped by this book because:

1) Its well written. At times the action scene stuff was a bit boring for me but there are so many great observations, asides, descriptions and the characters are really well thought out and well rounded.

2) 10 year old Melanie. She’s just a great character and you really can’t help but want her to survive

3) Because it’s more like old classic ‘horror’ without even really being a horror at all. And that makes no sense at all.

Slave: The True Story of a Girl’s Lost Childhood and Her Fight for Survival by Mende Nazar

This book was thrust upon me by a friend. “Have you read it?” she’d enquired, waving this mammoth looking book under my nose. “No,” I replied. “You must!” she said at once and I promised because she looked bewildered that I had never even heard of the book.

Its non-fiction which, although I don’t shy away from, it’s not high on my list of things to read (unless you count travel writing) because I love fiction, but this book was utterly captivating. Again, I read this one quickly, although some chapters were so harrowing I was left in tears during my lunch break at work and found it hard to focus.

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Why YOU should read this:

I am not going to sugar coat it. This is a harrowing story and, at times, quite graphic. But it is also beautiful and ultimately positive. You need to read this because:

1) Mende. She is just…wow. What an inspiring woman. Read the book. Then google her like I did. You will just be in absolute awe.

2) It is beautifully written – the scenes depicting Mende’s memories from her childhood home are so evocative, it’s almost as if you are there and you can smell the forest, the fire, and the flowers.

3) It is a really really important subject that is still prevalent in our society.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Now I knew of Karen Joy Fowler from The Jane Austen Book Club which I absolutely loved, and which WAACBO is absolutely nothing like. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the novel. The blurb didn’t give much away which immediately made me want to read it (I dislike being told what the character is like and what is about to happen – don’t you?!) and I am really glad I did.

This was another book that made me cry on my lunch break. I can’t tell you why as I will give away the twist but it took me a while to read this novel (and I kept telling my colleague not to read it and then changing my mind repeatedly that I think he might have been concerned for my wellbeing).

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Why YOU should read this:

1) The writing. I think KJF is a great writer. She is descriptive without being flowery and I love how she plays with memory and guilt and childhood.

2) The twist. It’s really good. It comes early on and I didn’t see it coming. I was pleasantly surprised because prior to the introduction of the twist, I was really not feeling this book.

 

What about you lovely lot? Any good book recommendations for the cold wintery nights when heading to the pub is far too much effort? What books have had you spell bound or in tears? What can I add to my ‘To Be Read’ pile?

Stuck in the Middle?

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“When you’re lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. For the longest time, you can convince yourself that you’ve just wandered off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and it’s time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don’t even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

 

Ever get that horrible sinking feeling where you realise you’re a bit stuck?

Not stuck on a hard maths problem or a work-based dilemma – but properly stuck. Mired in the trappings of everyday life.

Stuck hard down like chewing gum.

It’s a horrible feeling, like a persistent thud at your temple. A restlessness. The inability to sleep easily. A nothingness – but not quite because it’s not as bleak as that. You’re perfectly happy but it’s all a bit meh.

But when did it start being like this?

When did meh raise its apathetic head?

Something happens, I think, between childhood and adulthood that just sucks away the enthusiasm out of everything.

Being “an adult” brings with it worries: money, relationships, jobs, and friendships. We start pitting ourselves against others in the rat race, worrying why we haven’t had a promotion or a proposal or children. And we’re so busy worrying about all this stuff that we forget to stop and enjoy ourselves.

We’re on this endless countdown to something: six weeks until that holiday, three weeks until a long weekend, 5.5 hours until the end of the day – we are all wishing away our lives.

I am guilty of doing this!

In my eagerness to get going on the big trip, I’ve been counting down the weeks, days, hours, minutes until I can say aurevoir. I am such a clock watcher, waiting for the hands to strike 5:30 and you don’t see me for dust (…well, not until the next day, anyway).

But I am getting annoyed with myself. Life is really short. This is something I know all too well.

Life doesn’t care about your plans. It doesn’t care that in two weeks, three days and seven hours you’ll be heading to Greece or whatever, because it’s going to do as it pleases.

Like me, you might feel a bit stuck at the moment. Its Autumn, the weather is starting to suck, we’re all saving for something, and most of us have already had our holiday for the year, but its time to be a bit more excited about things. Its time to stop looking at it as being “stuck” and more of a “hiatus,” a time to rethink things and come up with a better strategy for achieving our goals.

So, yeah. I’m trying to look on the bright side of feeling a bit stuck by kicking meh to the curb, and replacing it with actually getting stuff done and making the most of what I’ve got.

Here are a few things I’ve been up to recently:

  • Writing – blogging, writing features, working on the novel – anything I can get my grubby little paws on really. I really looking to write as I travel so if you know anyone who is interested, or open to submissions and pitches, I’m all ears.
  • Going on journeys in the UK – with the Big Trip looming, I’m trying to snatch as much time with my favourite people while I still can. I’ve just organised a trip to see my little London family in December, particularly my old housemate and my childhood best friend (plus this little fella).
  • Reading everything I can get my hands on – On the reading list at the moment:

Vivian versus America by Katie Coyle

Lonely Planet – New Zealand

Lonely Planet – North America

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

  • Planning the Big Trip – visas, insurance, itineraries, flights … there’s just so much to sort out!
  • Celebrating big birthdays
  • Hanging out with old friends and celebrating my – gasp – 29th birthday! 12 months until the big 3-0. So looking forward to making the last year of my twenties an unforgettable experience
  • Spending time with The Rents
  • Changing my shopping habits – swapping heels for walking boots and pretty dresses for waterproof jackets. As much as I really want to buy cute winter boots and endless woollen jumpers (to which I am drawn like a moth to a flame), T-shirts, bikinis and travel essentials are high on my shopping list.
  • Learning to Drive – well, trying to anyway. I am 29 years old and cannot drive. As it turns out, I’m not a “natural driver.” Not one bit. But I suppose there are no surprise there though! If I manage to take my test before the end of January, it will be nothing short of a miracle (and will make my parents very very happy because they are sick of me cadging lifts when I’m living in The Shire).

Do any of you suffer from the dreaded Meh? Do you feel stuck? Are you sick of the never-ending countdown? Have you got any handy tips for eradicating boredom? What are you lovely lot doing to make things happen for you?

Let me know here, or drop me a tweet @emmayatesbadley! You can also come see me on facebook/emmaiswritinganovel

With a Little Help from my Friends.

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“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”
― Elbert Hubbard

I try not to write soppy posts like this – although a writer friend of mine did tell me that my blog sometimes sounded a bit “Bridget Jonesy” so I suppose I must do occasionally – but with all the travel prep that I’m doing at the moment, and the moth-like nerves that keep fluttering around my tummy, missing my friends – and leaving them behind – keeps playing on my mind.

I know you might all accuse me of bias, but I think I have quite possibly the best friends in the world. I consider myself to be a very lucky person to know and love this motley crew.

I’ve just spent a great weekend celebrating a milestone birthday (I won’t say which one) for one of my best friends. We spent a few days in a huge cottage in the Peak District. It was so much fun and so peaceful, that I could have quite happily started some sort of commune and stayed there forever.

Now the birthday girl is also my birthday buddy, having just turned the tender age of 29 myself last week – gulp! As we were exchanging gifts the first night, huddled around the kitchen table nursing glasses of red or tumblers of gin, she handed me a really thoughtful present: a Lonely Planet essential guide to Travelling (there are some great tips in here if, like me, you’re setting off on your fist solo expedition) and a small disc etched with a compass on one side, and “stay safe on your travels,” engraved on the other. “It’s to keep you safe,” she said and I swear it took everything I had not to burst into tears.

I’ve been feeling a bit emotional about leaving friends and family and heading off on my own for a minimum of six months. Although I am really excited and can’t wait to get going, I am really going to miss familiar faces, not to mention the fab support network I have, including my mum and Dad. Thank god for Skype and free Wi-Fi!

But I think it’s seeing friends and family excited and supportive of my little solo trip that keeps the excitement bubbling and stops me from crumbling into a big mess of nerves and emotion. I recently went to visit a very good friend (and ex-housemate) of mine who, when I left London for The Shire, told me that it was the perfect opportunity to go and explore the world. We headed out for dinner and gabbed for hours about what an amazing time I would have. She basically told me I should grab the opportunity by the balls, such is her way, and use it as a chance to write, write, and write about everything and anything.

So, as much as I would quite like to stash my amazing friends in my rucksack and take them along for the journey, its time to brave it on my own. Although, by the sounds of things, I will be getting a few visitors along the way!

I text another friend the other day and said I was going to miss them all and she replied, “You’ll meet a whole bunch of new friends and never come back.” Well, for one thing, my friends cannot be replaced because of their general awesomeness and brilliance!

I think I’m just nervous about not meeting people along the way and for missing things at home.

If you scrape back the wobbles, deep down, I think that’s what I am most excited about – seeing these beautiful places and navigating my way completely alone. I’ve never done anything like that before and I’d like to see if I’m up to the challenge.

And anyway, going-away is such a great excuse for another big party really, isn’t it?

Is anyone else feeling a sudden attack of nerves after planning a solo trip? Do you have any handy tips to overcome anxiety? What are your tips for meeting new people along the way, and keeping in touch with loved ones back home?