Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A grisly gift for Hallowe'en!

Last year, I made an audio version of one of my ghost stories (Lilith's Story) available free on Soundcloud.

I wrote that particular story in the place where it is set, Innerpeffray Library here in Perthshire, Scotland. It was actually written on Hallowe'en itself, as I was "writer in residence" at the library that day. That experience led to an unexpected Hallowe'en adventure, as I have described in a previous blog post!

As last year's story seemed to be quite well received, I thought I'd make another one available for Hallowe'en 2014. You can find it on Soundcloud, here: Grauer Hans  - it can be listened to, shared or downloaded for a limited period (probably until November 7th, one week after Hallowe'en, unless there is a lot of demand for it!).

Grauer Hans ("Grey Hans" - and don't worry, although the title is German, the story is in English!) first appeared in Shades of Darkness, an Ash Tree Press anthology edited by Barbara and Christopher Roden. It has since been reprinted in The Sea Change & Other Stories, a collection of my stories published by Swan River Press in Dublin. The collection contains seven stories together with story notes, and if you are interested in reading all of them, copies are available to buy from Swan River's website.

This is what I said about the story in the story notes:

'The setting of Grauer Hans is never explicitly identified, but I had Bad Münstereifel in mind. I lived in the town, which is not far from Cologne, for seven years, and it inspired my first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, as well as providing the location. Bad Münstereifel is a place with a long and colourful history (plague, floods, war, witch trials) and a great many local legends. The figure of Grauer Hans himself was inspired by a tradition that a friend in Münstereifel related to me. In Germany, as well as other European countries such as Holland and Belgium, Saint Nicholas brings presents to good little children on the eve of 6th December. He is sometimes accompanied by a less amiable figure, personified as Knecht Ruprecht or Krampus, who punishes badly-behaved children. Allegedly this character was known locally as Hans and was supposed to abduct naughty children; the friend told me that in the past when someone dressed as Saint Nicholas visited the children of the town, he would be accompanied by someone called Hans who would put the naughty ones in a sack and shake them around to give them a fright. I have not been able to verify this story but over the border in Alsace, Saint Nicholas' companion is known as Hans Trapp, so who knows? At any rate, this folk tale made an evil impression on me and largely inspired my own "Grey Hans".'

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Book Week Scotland packs a punch!

I'm absolutely thrilled to say (for the benefit of those who haven't already heard my outpourings on Twitter) that I am one of the four Author Ambassadors for Book Week Scotland 2014! The other three are Paul Cuddihy, Shari Low and Ross King. We will be doing our very best to spread the word about Book Week Scotland and how brilliant books and reading are!

The 2014 programme was officially launched this week at a boxing gym in Edinburgh - a strange place for a literary event, you might think, but all became clear when some of Scotland's best-known book characters slugged it out for the title of "Favourite"! The question won't be settled, however, until the readers have voted too!

You can read all about the programme on the Scottish Book Trust's website here:

and you can vote for your favourite character here:

One of the fabulous activities taking place this year is the distribution of free books to every P1 schoolchild in Scotland. I'm very proud to be an advocate for this brilliant initiative, which will bring these books into thousands of homes.

You can hear me talking about my favourite library on the SBT's Audioboom page here:

If you're on Twitter, you can follow Book Week Scotland @BookWeekScot or me @helengrantsays for updates on activities and events.

Do think about making your own reading pledge for Book Week Scotland, which is 24-30 November 2014. Even if you don't actually live in Scotland, there's no reason you can't make one!
You could read one to your kids - the Scottish Book Trust website has some great lists of books including this one for 3-7 year olds:
Or, why not make this the week you finally get around to reading a book by Robert Louis Stevenson, Iain Banks or Christopher Brookmyre? As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, what could be nicer than to settle down with a wee dram (or an Irn Bru!) and plunge into a book? Go on, you know you want to...

(Photo of Hit Girl and Hermione Granger by Rob McDougall)