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Distressed Damsels Inspire Hannah Howell's Latest Novel

Romance author Hannah Howell talks about how the ever-popular damsel in distress archetype inspired her latest novel, "If He's Daring." Plus, the author gives us an exclusive excerpt from the upcoming 2015 release,"Highland Guard."

If hes daringThe inspiration for If He’s Daring came from a news report about a missing child. As I marveled at the speed the Amber Alert went out (even to the electronic sign boards along the highways), I found myself wondering how people might have dealt with the theft of their child in earlier times, like say 1790. Lady Catryn Gryffin deWarrenne has the advantage of knowing who took her child and why when she sets out after the man who stole her son. When her horse falls lame, Lady Catryn steals Sir Orion Wherlocke’s carriage to continue the pursuit and he becomes a useful ally.

The unique Wherlocke/Vaughn family in this series came about after my long fascination with psychic gifts.  I chose the late-Georgian time period (part of The Enlightenment and The Age of Reason in Britain) because it was past the time of the worst of the persecutions against witches, but superstition was still strong enough to establish a need for families to be secretive and cautious, yet continuously battle disbelief and ridicule. It also made families tightly knit to protect each other even as the study of science and logic matured.

In If He’s Daring, Lady Catryn’s troubles require all of Sir Orion’s unique gifts and skills.  Sir Orion has a psychic gift, as do most of the members of his expansive family, and he believes himself eminently qualified to help her even as his interest in her deepens. He shares her determination to save her son from her late husband’s brother, who want’s the boy’s inheritance, no matter how many obstacles are tossed in his way.

Highland guardExcerpt from Highland Guard:


    Annys started at the shout from the door yanked her out of her thoughts and she stared at the tall, too-thin young man who had burst into the solar.  “What is it, Gavin?  Please don’t tell me there is more trouble to deal with.  It has been so blissfully quiet for days.”

    “I don’t think t’is trouble, m’lady, for Nicolas isn’t bothered.”  Gavin scratched at his cheek and frowned.  “But there are six big, armed men at the gate.  Nicolas was going to open the gates for them and said I was to come and tell ye that.”

    “I will be right out then.  Thank ye, Gavin.”  The moment Gavin left, she looked at Joan.  “How are six big, armed men nay trouble?”

    “If they come in answer to your message?”  Joan hastily tidied Anny’s thick braid.  “There, done.  Now ye look presentable.  Let us go out and greet our guests.”

    “Guests don’t come armed,” Annys said as she started out of the room, Joan right at her side.

    “They do if they come in reply to a lady’s note saying help me, help me.”

    “I didn’t say help me, help me.”

    “Near enough.  No gain on talking on it until we actually see who is here.”

    “Fine but I did nay say help me, help me,”

    Annys ignored Joan’s soft grunt even though she knew it meant the woman was not going to change her mind.  She stepped out through the heavy oak doors and stared down the stone steps to the bailey only to stop before she reached the bottom.  The man dismounting from a huge black gelding was painfully familiar.

    Tall, strong, and handsome with his thick long black hair and eyes like a wolf, he had been a hard man to forget.  She had certainly done her utmost to cast him from her mind.  Each time he had slipped into her thoughts she had slapped his memory away.  Writing him that message had brought his memory rushing to the fore again, however.  Seeing him in the flesh, looking as handsome as he had five years ago, told her that she had never succeeded in forgetting him.  Annys began to regret asking him for his aid no matter how badly they needed any help they could get at the moment.

    She fought to remind herself of how he had ridden away from Glenncullaich all those years ago without even a quick but private farewell to her.  It had hurt.  Despite knowing it had been wrong to want that private moment to say their goodbyes, despite the guilt that wanting had stirred in her then, and now, she had been devastated by his cold leave-taking.

    Harcourt looked at Annys and his heart actually skipped a beat.  He would have laughed if he was not so filled with conflicting emotions.  Such happenings were the stuff of bad poetry, the sort of thing he had always made jest of.  Yet, there he stood, rooted to the spot, frantically thinking of what to say and how to hide the tangled mass of emotion that was nearly choking him.  He nodded a greeting to her and watched her beautiful moss-green eyes narrow in a look that did not bode well for an amiable talk later.  Talking was not what he was thinking about, however.  He was recalling how soft that long blood-red hair of hers was, how warm her pale skin felt beneath his hands, and how sweet those full lips tasted.  That was a memory he needed to smother and fast. 

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Guest Post by Steve Robinson, Author of The Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Series

SteveRobinson_Interested in some amateur sleuthing? Steve Robinson author of the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical series, talks to Kindle Most Wanted about unearthing the mysteries lurking in your own family tree.

Almost everything we do these days leaves a trail, but that’s really nothing new. For centuries there have been records kept for businesses, records of employment, including apprenticeship records, travel records such as ships’ passenger lists and all manner of journals and other written material, all of which can help put the pieces of the puzzle together. When the idea of a genealogist using family secrets and history to fight crime came to me, I soon discovered, that the business of detecting and solving such cold cases using genealogical methods and resources required the kind of sleuthing that even Sherlock Holmes might have been proud of.

When I began writing my debut book, In the Blood, I already had the murder in mind. The idea started with a National Trust pamphlet that I was given while staying in Cornwall in southwest England. It contained a verse written by a local farmer in 1803 about the often tardy ferrymen who operated the Helford River ferry service at the time.  I thought it was such a damning verse that I imagined the farmer in question had been murdered for having written it – such is the mind of a crime fiction author. Here it is:

Of all the mortals here below

Your drunken boatmen are the worst I know;

I’m here detained, tho’ sore against my will,

While these sad fellows sit and drink their fill.

Oh Jove, to my request let this be given,

That these same brethren ne’er see hell nor heaven;

But with old Charon ever tug the oar,

And neither taste nor swallow one drop more.

To forever pull oars with Charon across the River Styx – the Greek mythological boundary between Earth and the Underworld – is damning indeed, although in the end, the motive for the murder turned out to be very different from how I first imagined it. The farmer remained as the victim though, which gave me the setting for my opening murder and the historical time period, but rather than writing a purely historical murder mystery, I wanted to solve it from the present day, so I had to find an alternative way to get to the past crime. That’s how my lead character, American genealogist, Jefferson Tayte, came along, because the idea of a family historian digging up the past seemed entirely logical to me – after all, that’s what genealogists do, isn’t it?

It’s a given that no crime mystery should be easy for the detective to solve, and that also makes genealogy as a means to solve the case ideal, because, as is often typical with the clues to a murder investigation, genealogical records are equally fragmented by nature. The genealogical detective cannot simply find one piece of information and wrap up the case, any more than someone researching their own family history can expect to complete their research by looking at a single archive. It is this need to find and connect the clues that forms the basis of any investigation, and for that reason, genealogy and crime fiction go hand in hand.

Newspaper archives can prove invaluable to anyone researching their family history, and if there’s a serious crime involved it’s almost certain that it will have been reported in the newspapers of the time. And when you consider that many crimes deemed to be minor today were serious enough to be hanged for in the past, it’s clear that newspaper archives can be used to reveal the details of a great many of our ancestors’ misdemeanours.

Old photographs are also a key component of genealogical research. They can prove useful in making connections between people, or in tying someone to a particular place and time – all of which could prove as useful to a murder investigation in the past as it can to police detectives today.

If you haven’t explored the world of family history before, you might think the subject stuffy and boring – something best left to classroom academics in their tweed suits and bow ties. I’d like to dispel that image, because while physical archives can be interesting places to visit – especially when you’re hot on the trail of a distant ancestor whose secret you’re about to bust wide open – nowadays, a good deal of research can be carried out just about anywhere you have an Internet connection. New archives are going online every week, meaning that the data needed to piece your own family history puzzle together has never been more accessible. The world of genealogy is full of intrigue. It’s a place where we all get to play private detective, and who knows what secrets we might uncover for ourselves?


Perhaps you have a family mystery of your own waiting to be solved – a dark secret no one wants to talk about. Whether you’re already into family history, or are planning to have a go, just be aware that some people will go to any lengths to keep the past buried. If your family history turns out to be anything like Jefferson Tayte’s assignments, maybe even murder. But don’t worry, that’s just fiction, isn’t it?

Guest Post by Charles Finch, Author of The Charles Lenox Mysteries

CharlesLenoxMysteries_Charles Finch author of the Charles Lenox Mysteries, shares with us his historical research process and how it's included in his mysteries.

The first thing to say about historical research is that any writer who claims not to use Wikipedia is a liar.  Don’t trust them alone with your valuables.

 I’ve written eight mystery novels set in Victorian England, all featuring gentleman sleuth Charles Lenox, and it’s true that I mostly draw the history in them from books about the period.  My favorite of the bunch is the fifth, A Burial at Sea, which also happens to have required more research than the other seven combined.  When I wrote it I was living in Oxford, England; every morning I went to the same carrel at the Bodleian Library, where the stack of books I’d left the evening before would be sitting there, patiently awaiting my return.  They had enthralling titles like The Navy in Transition and The Royal Navy: An Illustrated Social History, 1870-1982 – in that one the butler did it, as I recall – because A Burial at Sea is set on a royal navy ship bound from London to Egypt.  (I thought a shipboard murder would make a cool variation on the classic locked-room mystery.)  I filled three notebooks before I wrote the words Chapter One…

And yet, very little of that information actually made it into the book.  That’s because there are two ways for an author to give a reader history. The first is just to put it in. Example.

“I say, is that a corpse?” asked Lord Hoover.

“It is.”

Lord Hoover pondered this for a while, then said, “Did you know that there’s a seat in Parliament for a town that was washed away into the sea thirty years ago?  It has eight voters.”

“Rum, that.”

“Very rum.”

This is certainly an efficient method.  Not very elegant, though. To me, the second way is better – which is for a writer’s knowledge to suffuse the text, to be present everywhere, even if it’s invisible. For every fifty facts I learned about the navy, one made it into A Burial at Sea, but my knowledge of the Victorian navy was, I hope, lurking behind every word I wrote. The more confidence the reader has in the authenticity of an author’s world, the faster and more unconsciously they can slip into the story.

This gets to a larger point: in historical fiction, atmosphere is what really counts.  I love learning from books, but the facts in my favorite writers of historical fiction, Patrick O’Brian or Hilary Mantel for instance, are never obtrusive, never primary.

What matters, instead, is that a writer captures some of that ineffable quality that made a period of time itself – makes us believe that people lived back there, that it’s all more than a list of statistics.  When I start writing a new Lenox book these days, I tend to read the writers who inspired me to write my series because I loved their worlds so much, Anthony Trollope, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, George Eliot.  My next book, The Laws of Murder, took very little hard research in comparison with A Burial at Sea, and lots of this “softer” research.  As I wrote it, I was constantly thinking: am I getting the voice right?  Is this how they thought, how they felt?  Are these the words they would have used?

That was what I obsessed over, not dates, not street names.  After all: if I ever needed those, I could just run over to Wikipedia.

Rysa Walker, "Time's Edge" Author, on Her Time Travel Favorites

TimesedgeRysa Walker, author of Timebound and the new follow-up Time’s Edge, discusses her passion for time travel novels and recommends a few of her favorites.

When I read, I want to experience things I've never seen, could never see, and might not want to see even if I could. Science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, horror—those are the books that jump off the shelves and into my hands. Contemporary slice-of-life need not apply.

Time travel covers multiple bases for me which is why I'm drawn to the genre as an author.  Writing Timebound and Time's Edge, the first and second book in the CHRONOS Files series, gave me a chance to combine a splash of historical fiction with a healthy dollop of sci-fi and roll it all together. 

Sadly, I've had to avoid time travel stories since I began writing the CHRONOS Files, simply because I don't want tesseracts, time-turners, or DeLoreans sneaking into my scenes. But here are a few pre-Timebound favorites that grabbed my imagination and landed on my re-read and recommend list:

Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson My very first time travel book, I checked this out from the library in my early teens. No one else got a crack at it for months because I selfishly hoarded it. I later learned it was reissued as Somewhere in Time in 1980 and won a World Fantasy Award in 1976. All I knew back then was it made me cry buckets. 

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer didn't interest me. I grew up in the Deep South, and they were too much like kids I knew. Still, their presence on mandatory reading lists led me to this snarky bit of social commentary in a time travel wrapper. And this book pointed me toward Letters from the Earth. Those two alone earned Twain a spot on my list of favorite writers.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle A trip through the tesseract is Time Travel 101 for many kids but I didn't stumble upon this series until my late teens. I wish I had found it sooner as it might have helped me weather the conformity of high school.  

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling Hogwarts and time travel?? Yes, please.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver Most readers know Lauren Oliver for her Delirium series. I liked those books but I absolutely loved this earlier standalone that reminded me a bit of the movie Groundhog Day. You can't help but pull for Samantha as she struggles again and again to finally get a critical day right.

Guest Post: Alexandra Bracken, Author of “In the Afterlight”

AfterlightAlexandra Bracken discusses the importance of music in the Darkest Minds series. The final book in the trilogy, In The Afterlight, is out on October 28.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Darkest Minds series is made up of unlikely parts.

It was the product of circumstance, really. I had just moved to New York City after graduating from college and was unprepared for how rough of an adjustment it would be. That’s a polite way of saying that I hated it. My first job left me silently crying in a bathroom stall at least twice a week, I was horribly homesick, and I was subsisting on ramen noodles six days out of seven. If you’re thinking to yourself, Wow, this girl didn’t have an ounce of emotional grit…you are exactly right.

As a survival tactic, I coped by escaping into writing a story I filled to the brim with things I love: sci-fi, road trips, old minivans, teenagers with super powers, the state of Virginia, Waffle House, impossible romance, a “found family” of friends, and classic rock.

Would it surprise you to find out that, of everything element in the series, I get asked the most about the classic rock?

Throughout the books, you’ll find references to songs and bands from the 1960s and 1970s serving as a soundtrack to different scenes, starting with the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” We move through some fine Led Zeppelin selections, the Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” and Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” Some are mentioned by names, some are merely snippets of lyrics, but all were chosen for a reason.

There are number of layers to this. The first was that it was a world-building choice. The series is set in an America in which 98% of the under-eighteen population has died… meaning there just aren’t these young bands to create new music. The economy is shot, so even there’s a business around to produce and package the music, the customer pool is incredibly shallow. And, truthfully, in hard times I think we tend to turn to the comforting, the familiar, to feel something is stable.

More importantly, though, the majority of the songs referenced were written in direct response to times of political, social, and economic strife. They’re protests, accusations, and calls to action, many of which have lost some of their teeth forty years removed from the events on which they’re commenting. A younger generation reading the book might not know the back story that ties them to the Vietnam War, for example, but they’ve become classic because they are universal, and the struggles they depict are ongoing. They even apply to a fictional version of America that’s been ravaged by tragedy, poverty, and fear.

Then, there are the personal reasons: my own parents raised me on a steady diet of the good stuff. We debated bands on long car rides and were woken up by my dad blasting the Moody Blues’ greatest hits every weekend. There’s a feeling I’m always trying to capture, the one that comes when your favorite song is suddenly on the radio and you crank it up. The sunlight is streaming in through the windshield and you’re singing and singing and singing along. One character proudly declares the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man” is “the music of [his] soul,” not because it describes his life, but because he’s chasing the feelin--that all-consuming, lifting feeling that comes with hearing it.

And, as much as the book is about teens with dangerous superpowers, let’s face it: the Darkest Minds series is also one epic cross-country road trip, and no ride is complete without a good set of tunes.

Exclusive Q&A with Gerry Duggan

When Arkham Asylum is no more, where does Gotham keep it's most infamous and dangerous criminals? Writer Gerry Duggan talks about "Arkham Manor," and a new side of Batman in a new and different Wayne Manor. 618c0SXjJBL

Charlie Chang: You are writing what is arguably one of the most original and interesting stories happening in the Bat universe right now. What is your favorite thing about writing this book?

Gerry Duggan: My favorite thing is that I am able to play with these characters in a little bit of a different setting and...costume. Meaning they are the characters you know and love and some of them, Batman, in particular has a new mask. So he's had the Matches Malone disguise as an old character and his way of immersing himself in the criminal underworld. Well, he has a character now that will allow him to observe the criminally insane in Gotham. It might be a little overdue but the moment is right because there is a murder mystery now in the new Arkham. We don't know if an inmate is able to kill patients at will or whether it is a staff member. Something is going wrong in the new Arkham Manor. The great thing about the name Arkham is that when you hear it you immediately think, "uh oh, what's gone wrong?" It's an unlucky star-crossed name, the Arkham family has been doing this for the good of Gotham so in that way they are like the Waynes but they're the unlucky Waynes.

CC: Gotham in and of itself is already such a terrible place to live where terrible things happen and it feels like at the epicenter like a constant thread is Arkham (Asylum). When you bring that many bad people into one place, something is bound to go wrong right?

Continue reading "Exclusive Q&A with Gerry Duggan" »

Exclusive Q&A with Meghan Hetrick

Meghan Hetrick is one of the many artists bringing the Vertigo’s miniseries Bodies to life by taking the reader across four different time periods, with four detectives and four dead bodies. Meghan talks about what it’s like to work with so many different collaborators. 51WIfzgJ1iL

Charlie Chang: Bodies is such a beautiful book and you're there to contribute to one part of this book. It's got to be so cool to work with one writer but also alongside a bunch of really talented artists.

Meghan Hetrick: Yes!

CC: Can you talk about the early stages of conceptualizing this book?

MH: I really only had control of Shahara in terms of design but everybody really did their own work on this book. So they really came up with the look for their sections and the artists really really nailed what they were trying to do. Shelly (Bond) and Si (Spencer) could not have picked better artists. Not to toot my own horn [laughter] but the rest of the artists have done absolutely beautiful work.

CC: The whole book is great and even though each section is so different artistically, it all still works together.

MH: Thankfully! [laughter]

CC: Did you get to see what the other artists were doing or were you working in your own silo?

Continue reading "Exclusive Q&A with Meghan Hetrick" »

Guest Post: C.C. Payne, Author of "Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freakdom & the Challenges of Bad Hair"

Lula-bellIn honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, C.C. Payne, author of Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freakdom & the Challenges of Bad Hair, shares the books that helped her through some rough days in middle school.

Hey! I’m Lula Bell Bonner. That’s my picture right there on the cover of the novel, Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freakdom & the Challenges of Bad Hair—not that I think I'm cool or anything—nobody thinks that. I'm in the fifth-grade, where I'm trying desperately to fit in but (sigh)... it’s not going so well.

See, fitting in at school is a very delicate art form. For starters, it requires the right lunch, the right clothes, the right friends, and relatives who don't show up unexpectedly. I have none of those things.

My Grandma Bernice (who showed up at school this morning WITH HER CURLERS STILL IN HER HAIR!) says that’s okay, because we're not made to fit in; we're made to stand out. But she’s wrong. Standing out or being different in any way is bad—very bad. It causes other kids to make fun of you, laugh at you, and humiliate you until you no longer want to just “fit in”; you want to disappear.

C. C. Payne here. Like Lula Bell, I often wanted to disappear as a middle grader. Like Lula Bell, I was bullied—though there was no official word for it back then, no anti-bullying campaign, and no training for educators or parents on how to handle such situations. My teacher overlooked my torment under the heading of “Kids will be kids.” My dad told me it shouldn't matter if some people didn't like me. My mom’s solution was to “kill with kindness,” even going so far as to have me look up my bully’s phone number and dial it with trembling hands and with the intent of inviting her over (!!!). Thankfully, no one answered. After that, I never again complained. Instead, I silently swallowed my humiliation, pain, fear, and dread. But that was about all I could keep down. Since my stomach was constantly upset, I ate very little—I became even thinner. This caused rumors that I was anorexic—as if I didn't have enough problems. No one understood.

Except for Judy Blume. Her honest portrayal of the pack-mentality that often comes with bullying in the novel Blubber, let me know that I wasn't alone. Wanting to “fit in,” the protagonist, Jill, goes along with the other girls as they bully an overweight classmate, whom they've nicknamed Blubber. Thirty years later, I still believe that Ms. Blume is one of the best friends a middle grade girl—and her parents—can have.

Author Ellen Potter is another worthy friend. 12-year-old Owen, the protagonist of her novel, Slob, is an overweight genius. Naturally, Owen’s classmates—and his gym coach—find these traits unforgivable and Owen finds himself a victim of bullying. Even so, he doesn't feel sorry for himself. No, Owen copes exceptionally well—demonstrating intelligence, resourcefulness, and good humor.

Of course, bullying doesn't only affect those who are overweight. In Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Auggie is a fifth grade boy with severe facial anomalies, who, despite being different, dares to want the same things we all want: acceptance, friendship, and belonging.

All of these books provide understanding, comfort, hope, and courage—not to mention laughter—to those in need, to those who are different, to those who fail to fit in, because they're made to stand out—to shine.

Kelly Barnhill's Recommended Halloween Reading

Witches_boyWitches, wolves, and a very sharp knife--Kelly Barnhill, author of The Witch's Boy, shares her five favorite Halloween reads for middle graders.

When autumn drifts into the forests and prairies of Minnesota, it is easy to believe in ghosts: the shadows become long, all spindly legs and needle-like fingers; the desiccated leaves whisper in the darkness; the skeletal trees scratch at the thinning sky. When I was a young child I used to hunger for scary stories, but my hunger was never so great as it was in autumn. A terrifying tale leaves a peculiar mark on the soul. I recommend these unsettling stories for your late-night reading. They are sure to leave a mark. Possibly forever.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken Because the universe is cruel and capricious, I never managed to connect with this book as a child. It is a pity, because it has all the things that my dark little heart would have adored: evil governesses, malevolent men on trains, wicked schemes, bees, cruel twists of fate, resourceful children, orphanages, and wolves. Also: Mortal Peril. Which never gets old, really.

The Witches by Roald Dahl It is, when it comes down to it, very similar to several family vacations I remember from my youth: a hotel filled with child-hating witches who are concocting a scheme to turn the nation’s children into mice and subsequently setting the exterminators on them.

Well Witched by Frances Hardinge I read Well Witched as an adult, though it was the eleven-year-old version of me, still holding court in my brain, who insisted that I stay up deep into the night reading this sinister tale of kids who steal coins from a wishing well—and the witch who makes them wish they hadn’t. I would suggest starting this book during full daylight. And maybe leaving the lights on at night for at least a week.

Wizard’s Hall by Jane Yolen Now this is a book with odd similarities to a Certain Other Book about a wizard’s school, but Yolen’s slim volume came out several years before the first of the Potters, and both magical worlds are distinct and unique from one another. What sets this book apart is the terror of the dark wizard’s plot—attacking the wizard’s school with a terrible beast. And what’s worse is that the beast is a quilt. With teeth. And each square of the quilt is the soul of a wizard that has been devoured by the beast. I know, right? Terrifying.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.” And so begins a tale of a boy who escapes death—indeed his whole family has just been murdered—and finds safety in a graveyard, under the protection of a kindly vampire and a new family of ghosts. The macabre mixes with the mundane, allowing the journey of childhood to be seen as exactly what it is: a dark, dangerous road, fraught with peril, confusion, and pain, where those who love us will help us when they can, but we must be brave enough to face the darkness on our own. This is why children love scary books, by the way. Because nothing is as scary as childhood itself. Nothing at all.

R. L. Stine: "My Time of Year"

HauntedmaskHalloween provides plenty of material for R. L. Stine, creator of the Goosebumps series. The author discusses the inspirations behind his many spooky tales.

Halloween is my busy time of year. I'm always traveling to bookstores and schools and libraries, scaring kids (which is my job). I've probably written more Halloween stories than most authors. I've written about haunted masks and inhabited costumes, eerie pumpkin patches, parties that turn into screamfests,  and jack-o-lantern people who invade from another planet.

Weirdo Halloween. Headless Halloween. The Five Masks of Dr. Screem.

Yes, those are Halloween titles that I have to take credit for.

Perhaps the most popular of all my Halloween books is The Haunted Mask. That book—and the TV adaptation of it—comes up whenever I speak to groups of kids or adults.

Someone always asks, "Where did you get the idea for that book?" Strangely, it is one of the few books I have written that began with an incident from real life.

It was approaching Halloween time, and my son Matt was five or six. I was watching him from the doorway to his room. Matt was trying on a green rubber Frankenstein mask. He pulled it down over his head—and then he couldn't get it off.

I watched him tug and tug, but the mask was stuck. And I thought, What a great idea for a story.

I know. I know. I should have helped him pull the mask off—shouldn't I! I guess I didn’t win the Good Parent Award that day. But the idea for The Haunted Mask began to form in my head, and I couldn't wait to start jotting down ideas.

The story turned out to be about a girl named Carly Beth, who is tired of being bullied and teased and considered the biggest 'fraidy cat in school. She buys the most frightening Halloween mask she can find. Unfortunately, it turns out to be haunted.

It tightens around her face, sticks to her skin, becomes part of her. And then when she realizes the mask can't be removed, it begins to change her personality. It turns Carly Beth evil.

Often, people tell me how traumatized they were by this story. Many have told me they couldn't wear a mask for years after reading the book or seeing the TV show. So I guess I did my job well.

I'd like to tell you more about The Haunted Mask. But I have yet another  Halloween story deadline upon me.

Anyone have any good ideas?