Tag Archives: short stories

Book Spotlight: Spine Chillers by Q.L. Pearce

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Spine Chillers by Q.L Pearce is a collection of spooky short stories. Are you brave enough to read them after dark?

In the house on Beech Street a terrible tragedy occurred. Now neighbors won’t look at the place as they pass. Those who live nearby draw their blinds and shutter their windows after dark. What are they afraid of?
Hale Hallow Woods seems sinister and menacing even in the light of day. Does a thirst for revenge beat near its dark heart?
The answers lie within these pages, just waiting to send a chill up your spine!

 

And a little about the author…

Q.L.Pearce is the author of more than 120 books for young readers, from picture books to YA, as well as film tie-in books. Her works have received several awards including a Carter G. Woodson Book Award gold medal from NCSS and a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award gold medal. Her fiction includes the popular middle grade series, Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs (Price, Stern, Sloan). Q believes strongly in the value of scary books for young readers. When asked what credentials she has which qualify her as an expert in this area she replies, “I was a child once. That was very scary.”

 

And now for a little taste of Spine Chillers.

 

 The House on Beech Street (Excerpt from Spine Chillers, by Q.L. Pearce
Copyright © Glass Apple Press 2016)

Jason stepped inside. The air within was tainted with an odor that made him gag.

“What is that smell?” he asked putting his hand to his face.

“What smell?” Mike responded. Thomas just shrugged his shoulders.

“Do you know the story of the Carlson’s?” The woman didn’t wait for an answer before she continued. “They were a typical family. The little girl, Anisa, took ballet lessons. The boy, Junior, played baseball. Some people said he had the talent to go far as an athlete … that is … if he’d lived.”

The group entered the kitchen. The table was set for five as if the family would be sitting down for breakfast any minute. Jason noticed a pitcher’s mitt on one of the chairs.

“He was a lefty,” he said to no one in particular.

“Mr. Carlson’s mother slept in the spare room. She was an invalid and needed a lot of care. Mr. Carlson and his wife had quarreled about it that fateful morning and he’d left early. When he came home he found his wife in that very chair.” She pointed to the one at the end of the table. “He’d brought her flowers and wanted to apologize. It took him a few moments to realize she was dead. It seems she had taken a handful of sleeping pills with her tea. The police found the rest of the family in the basement along with a cracked, bloody baseball bat.”

“What happened to the dad?” Mike asked.

“They found him two days later hanging from the tree in the backyard. He’d left a note that said he wasn’t alone in the house. The neighbors claimed they heard noises late at night … screaming. You’ll notice that the houses on both sides are now empty. No one wants to live near this place.” She paused and looked in the direction of the front entrance. “Sometimes I can’t wait to leave.”

Motioning for the boys to follow, the woman moved from the kitchen into a dimly lit hallway. She opened the first door on the left. “This was the grandmother’s room.” Jason was hit with a wave of a smell like rotting fish.

 

Prom Date (Excerpt from Spine Chillers, by Q.L. Pearce
Copyright © Glass Apple Press 2016.)

The Roller Grille was the real deal. An authentic drive-in restaurant with car hops on roller skates delivering trays of burgers and fries to people parked outside. It had been in business for decades. Other than a fresh coat of paint now and then it hadn’t changed from the day it opened.

Tyler, Andy and Jacob threaded around the cars and pushed through the glass doors to the diner. A hostess dressed in a fuzzy sweater and a poodle skirt guided customers to booths covered in red vinyl. A candy-colored jukebox blared from a corner. The laughter and chatter of the crowd was louder than the music. Tyler noticed Shay jammed into a booth with her friends. He raised a hand in greeting but she ignored him.

Andy pointed to the long soda fountain. “There’s room over there.” Tyler nodded and they each claimed a stool.

“What’ll it be?” Randy, the soda jerk adjusted his black bow tie and gave them a toothy grin. The boys ordered shakes.

Andy whirled around once on his stool and stopped to face Jacob. “So do they have any place like this in Phoenix?”

“No. This is pretty cool.” He looked around and his eye settled on a wall of photographs. “Who are those people?”

“Those are the prom kings and queens from the high school,” Tyler answered.

“Wow there’s like a hundred of them. What’s the deal with those two?” Jacob pointed to a black and white photo that was larger than the rest.

Tyler slipped into telling the story that everyone in town knew by heart. “That’s Johnny Tonnarro and his girlfriend, Samantha. He was like a rock star a long time ago. He got killed in an accident off Yetter Point.”

“It was a foggy night. He drove his car off the cliff and got squished like a pancake,” Andy added. “His girlfriend waited for hours in the cold for him to show up. She was all dressed for the prom and crying like a baby.”

Jacob gazed at Samantha’s sweet face. “That’s sad. What happened to her?”

Tyler lowered his voice for effect. “She drowned a year later on the anniversary of the accident. She was down on the jetty throwing flowers out into the ocean, those stinky white ones…gardenias. A wave swept her off the rock. Some people say they’ve seen her.”

“Seen her? What do you mean?”

Andy took up the story again. “Every year around this time her ghost waits out on Thorne Road near Highway One for Johnny to pick her up. Just standing there crying.”

Randy placed the shakes in front of the boys and joined in. “This time of year the evenings are usually foggy,” “They say she waits just off the edge of the road in the mist – lavender gown, white gloves, and gardenias in her long, blonde hair.”

Jacob’s mouth dropped open and his eyes grew wide. “Really? A real ghost? You’ve seen her?”

Taylor and Andy couldn’t hold back their laughter. “Nobody’s seen her,” Andy snickered. “It’s all made up. Not the accident part but the ghost part.

Jacob frowned. “So Samantha didn’t really die?”

“Oh, yeah. She died alright. She drowned. But only little kids and tourists swallow the ghost story. You have to be a real lamebrain to believe it. Last year the town newspaper offered a ten thousand dollar reward for anybody who could get a photograph of her. There were a lot of fakes but nobody’s earned the money yet.”

Still grinning, Tyler turned to take a sip of his milkshake and caught a glimpse of Shay. She was staring toward the entrance. If looks could kill, her eyes were lethal weapons. Tyler followed her gaze.

“Uh oh,” he whispered and his smile faded. His brother was holding the door open for Anilla Jacoby, Shay’s arch-enemy. Anilla beamed up at Lane and slipped her arm through his. The couple slid into a booth. Shay stood and stormed toward the door without looking at them.

“This isn’t good,” Tyler muttered.

A moment later his phone beeped. He read the text. Come outside now. We need to talk. Shay was waiting for him as he pushed open the door.

“I thought I would die of embarrassment. I can’t believe he would show up here in front of everyone with that airhead hanging on him like that. Now I know why he’s been avoiding me.” She turned on Tyler. “How long has this been going on?”

“Don’t ask me. This is the first time I’ve seen him with Anilla.”

“He needs to pay a price for humiliating me like that. I want to embarrass him in front of all of his friends!”

Tyler shifted nervously. “Shay I don’t want to…”

“Think of something!”

“Look, Shay. Maybe you should just let it go. He’s my brother. I can’t …”

“I’m not going to let this go, Tyler.” She leaned in and growled. “You’re with me or against me. And trust me, if you want to survive high school you don’t want to be against me. I can make your life miserable.” Shay turned and stomped away.

 

 

For more information about Q. L. Pearce and her books visit her website, Facebook page, LinkedIn, Amazon Author Page, Goodreads or on YouTube.

 

Guest Post: On Writing Short, Scary Stories for Children

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I love the world of children’s literature. Over the years I have written picture books, activity books, middle grade, YA, biographies, and nonfiction. My favourite genre is scary short stories for middle grade and YA. Picture book author, Mem Fox, once said, “Writing for children is like writing War and Peace in haiku.” I think that’s hilarious but true. A short story obliges the writer to develop characters and plot concisely, while still telling a tale that is fun to read.

When writing a scary story I’m careful to choose a theme that young readers can relate to, and to frame it from a child’s point of view. I usually begin by sketching out the plot beginning to end. Rules can always be bent, but in general, a short story has the typical structure of any work of fiction including the opening, conflict, rising action, climax and resolution, all in about 2500 words or less. The first step is to get everything on paper. The next step is to craft it.

Author Kurt Vonnegut suggested that a short story should begin as close to the end as possible. That’s good advice. A long, drawn out opening won’t hook a reader. The first line should immediately invite the child to enter the world in which the story takes place. Because economy of words is a plus, my goal is to use the most effective language to create the tone and mood quickly. In most scary tales the setting is a character in itself, but I try to find ways to show it without lengthy description.

Each sentence should move the action forward or reveal something about the characters. Still, short doesn’t mean simplistic. It’s essential to give the character a good reason to go into the creepy basement or sneak out to the amusement park at night! If his or her behaviour isn’t believable then the story won’t ring true. For young readers, the main character should succeed or not based on their own choices and decisions. No fair having someone or something else rescue them at the last moment.

Finally, good writing is rewriting so the last stage of crafting a short story is editing. This is the time to be certain that every sentence serves a purpose and every word is as precise as possible to deliver the spooky thrills and chills the reader is anticipating!


 

About the Author: Q.L. Pearce is the author of over 150 books for children, including YA and Middle Grade fiction and non-fiction. She specialises in scary stories, which is evident in her hit series Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the Carter G. Woodson gold medal and the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. Her multi-award winning book, Red Bird Sings received praise from Publisher’s Weekly, the School Library Journal, and the Library Media Connection.

 

Find out more about Q.L. on her

 

New Reviewers – Basil and Coco (and L)

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My ten year old daughter loves to read. She often supplies me with her opinions on books and suggests books for me to read. Over the last year or so, she has also become more interested in reviewing books. Rather than write her reviews up on the blog, we are trying video reviews. She’s a little shy though, so her reviews will be expressed through Coco Cat and Basil Bear.

We had a lot of fun making these videos! L is keen to make more, and is already working on her next review.

Have a look at our first two videos on YouTube, Introducing Basil and Coco and Basil and Coco Review Mudpuddle Farm.

More videos to come!

D is for Dudley & Other Nature Tales by Ron Chandler

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dudleycoverD is for Dudley & Other Nature Tales by Ron Chandler, paperback, 74 pages, published in 2015.

D is for Dudley & Other Nature Tales is a collection of short stories, mostly about animals and the environment.

The first couple of stories in the book were too short and lacked substance. This didn’t bode well for the rest of the book, but I continued hoping to find that the other stories were better. There wasn’t one I liked much until about half way through the book, with the title story, “D is for Dudley”. It was a little unbelievable, I would definitely be suspicious if my kids volunteered to do the washing!, but I liked the theme. Striving to protect the environment and animals it contains, is quite noble, and these kids do their best to save the extremely large terrapin from hunters within the bay.

The best story in this collection was by far “Chicken Feathers”. It is the story of a young girl who grooms a rooster for the county fair. She is competing against her much older and more experienced neighbour. Despite her young age, she believes in her ability to win, and even when her rooster is looking scraggly, she doesn’t lose heart, she tries even harder to get him in shape. This is a lovely lesson showing that determination and persistence are often rewarded. The only downside to this tale is a slight undertone of racism.

It states in the blurb on the back of the book that the stories “celebrate nature”, but these stories don’t so much do that as they do showcase humanity’s depravities. Throughout the book there were people behaving badly. There were alcoholic parents, bickering couples, dog fighters, hunters, and animal abusers. I found most of the stories to be very depressing and often distasteful. One story made an offhand comment about a twelve year old girl skipping meals to stay skinny. This is not only awful and inappropriate, it also had no relevance to the story. In another tale a boy looked a girl over from her toes to her shoulders in an appreciative way. Again, this was an unnecessary addition to the story, and it’s quite sexist, it’s as if she had no face. There are also girls being told that they will want to dress up and go to balls, instead of doing “tomboy” things. I found there to be a sexist vibe throughout the book, which was disappointing. I also felt that hunting for sport, which is something I’m opposed to, was condoned as a suitable activity for kids.

This book is aimed at kids aged 8 to 12, but I really can’t recommend it to anyone. Even aside from the sexism throughout the book, most of the stories weren’t particularly good. They all lacked description and depth, and sometimes even a clear direction. Since I was expecting a book full of the gloriousness that is nature, I found this to be very disappointing indeed.

 

*I received this book from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Willakaville: Baffling Ballads of Boisterous Braveness by Bald Guy (Mathew Heinecke)

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willakavilleBWillakaville: Baffling Ballads of Boisterous Braveness by Bald Guy (Mathew Heinecke), short stories, 124 pages, published in 2015.

Be chased by quicksand in Mexico, go on a quest in Snobbleland or eat candy in the sewer in this odd, yet funny collection of short stories. This is the second book of stories from Willakaville, where the weird and wacky happen often.

Overall I did enjoy this collection, the stranger the story, the better it was. There were gentle lessons through these stories, such as an anti-bullying message and believing in yourself. While all of the stories are unique and imaginative, there were a couple that stood out for me. “Souper Duper” was about a boy who gains superpowers by eating soup, and battles a supervillain, The Mad Milker. He used special milk from his cow as a weapon, which made me laugh. Another story saw a small girl go adventuring with a friendly snow monster that she created. This one really captured the imaginative ability of children. The exploration of the caves in Mexico was very exciting, and somewhat Indiana Jones-esque. I’d like to see more adventures like that in the future books.

The poems in this collection were good. There is one about scary things in the night, and another about making a big sandwich. These simple and fun poems are great for getting kids interested in poetry.

There were some spelling and syntax errors, nothing serious though. Except, in the middle of “Robot Insects”, when the main character Jerry is suddenly referred to as Jimmy for a few paragraphs.

These self-contained and easy to read stories are suitable for lower to middle primary school children. However, anyone can enjoy the humour of these stories. A third volume will be available from Willakaville soon.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

Dragons at Crumbling Castle and Other Stories by Terry Pratchett

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IMG_4945 (1)Dragons at Crumbling Castle and Other Stories by Terry Pratchett, paperback collection of short stories, 339 pages, published by Corgi in 2015.

This is a delightful collection of short stories written by Terry Pratchett when he was a young man working as a journalist.

I read Dragons at Crumbling Castle and Other Stories with my eight year old daughter. She has marveled at my complete collection of Discworld novels, and wondered why I like them so much, so I thought it was time she discovered Pratchett too. This was a good book to get her started, and we enjoyed reading it together.

My favourite story was “Dok the Caveman”. Dok was a caveman inventor, always inventing something new, and often creating havoc with his new invention, but I loved his enthusiasm. It was a very funny story! My daughter liked the tales of the Carpet People, with their adventures among the fibres of the Rug.

Most of the stories were funny, with insights into the kinds of stories that Pratchett would produce later, but these really are his early work, when he was developing his style and perfecting his tale-telling abilities. I far prefer the Discworld novels, but Dragons at Crumbling Castle is a nice, easy to read kids book. My daughter would like to try some other Pratchett now, which makes me very happy!

There are black and white illustrations throughout the book which to me looked like the work of Quentin Blake, who illustrated Roald Dahl’s books. I was mistaken in this belief though, the illustrator is actually Mark Beech, he just has a very similar style, I guess. None the less, I liked the illustrations, and thought that they complemented the stories very well.

Dragons at Crumbling Castle is suitable for primary school children and up. Many adult Pratchett fans will enjoy it too, just try not to compare it to the Discworld novels!

 

 

Willakaville: Amazing Adventures of Astronomical Awesomeness by Mathew Heinecke

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Willaka_frontcoverWillakaville: Amazing Adventures of Astronomical Awesomeness by Mathew Heinecke, e-book, 166 pages, published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform in 2015.

Willakaville is a fictional town where many strange things occur. This is the first collection of short stories from Willakaville. Adventure, time travel, a Tomatozilla, banana men, giant squirrels, even a toilet paper thief, it’s all happening in Willakaville.

Some of the stories are long and some are short, but all are rather odd! Many of them made me laugh, but there were a couple that I found a bit boring. Some of the stories are just ridiculous, and those were the ones that I liked the best. It was very hard to pick a favourite story, though I’m leaning towards the one about the magic mayonnaise that had a very interesting effect on all those that ate it! There were plenty of lessons being learnt throughout the book too, such as not to be lazy or play too many computer games. Most of the stories feature different characters from Willakaville, but there is some overlap. The main characters of each story arepredominantly children.

The book also contained a few poems. I’ve found it hard to get my kids interested in poetry books, so this is a nice way to slip a few poems in without them really noticing! ‘Wish from a Fish’ and ‘This is a Cat…’ were both funny rhyming poems, which I enjoyed.

With it’s simple language, self-contained and easy to read stories, this book is suitable for lower to middle primary school children. Teenagers and adults can still enjoy the humour of these short stories, but I think kids will like it best. There is a second volume of Willakaville short stories available now, and hopefully more to come soon.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Quirky Tails by Paul Jennings

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IMG_2805Quirky Tails by Paul Jennings, paperback collection of short stories, 102 pages, published by Penguin Books Australia in 1987.

Quirky Tails is a short story collection from Paul Jennings, an author that I read and re-read as a child. Now the time has come to introduce this amazing author to my eldest daughter.

Quirky Tails is a collection of nine odd tales, all of which will entertain, amuse and surprise the reader. Each story within the collection can be read alone, but I found it hard to stop at just one! The stories are strange with a good twist at the end. Some are very funny and some are a bit spooky, but I liked them all.

Suitable for middle and upper primary school children through to early high school students, this book can be read again and again.