Monday, 15 November 2021

3 Minute Santas is back for its fifth fabulous year!

Can you tell a festive story in just 3 minutes? Want to have your work played on the radio? Time to submit your festive flash fiction to be played on Hannah's Bookshelf this December! This Christmas, Hannah Kate is once again looking for festive (not necessarily Christmas) flash fiction from around the world for inclusion on Hannah’s Bookshelf, the weekly literature show on North Manchester FM.

On Saturday 18th December, Hannah will be playing a selection of her favourite 3 Minute Santas on the show (broadcast on FM and on digital). Want to be part of it? Submit a recording via Hannah's website of your holiday-themed story (maximum 3 minutes) by midnight on Monday 6th December.

All genres welcome – be they cosy, romantic, scary or sad. But ease off the swears – stories have to be radio friendly! All you need is a microphone and a story – the details of how to submit are on the website.

3 Minute Santas will be broadcast on Hannah's Bookshelf at 2pm on Saturday 18th December, on digital radio and 106.6FM.

Monday, 8 November 2021

My Year in Books 2021: October

I'm a bit late posting this one, and there are only two books on it. I had a bit of a busy October, and November's shaping up to be even more so, so I'm afraid I haven't had a lot of time for reading.

In case you're interested, here are my reviews for the rest of the year: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September

And here are the two books I read in October...

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix (2021)

As it was my big Halloween month in October, I thought it’d be appropriate to read some books from my ever-towering Abominable Books pile (which I’m still behind with – of course). Maybe it’s because I read and watch horror all year round, but not ever horror book feels Halloweeny to me, so I wanted to choose the right ones. The first one I picked was The Final Girl Support Group, because slasher films definitely feel Halloweeny to me! And Hendrix’s novel is a real love letter to the slasher subgenre. The book’s premise is that a group of women who have all survived horrific and media-grabbing massacres have formed a support group to deal with their trauma. The women and their respective battles – with possibly one exception – are modelled on characters from classic slasher films, and indeed within the world of the novel they have each seen their stories fictionalized into film franchises. Part of the fun of the early part of the book is working out which real-life franchise has inspired each of Hendrix’s characters, and how that has affected the women they’ve become in later life. But there’s a whole other story here as well… the book opens with the news that a member of the support group has been murdered in yet another massacre. When other members of the group start to be targeted, Lynette (the novel’s central character) believes that someone is trying to wipe out the final girls. It’s a great book – definitely recommend it.

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (2021)

I decided to carry on with the slasher theme. I got Jones’s My Heart is a Chainsaw in my October Abominable Books box, and it seemed like a good pairing with The Final Girl Support Group. But although they share a real affection for slasher films, these are two very different books. Jones’s novel focuses on Jade Daniels, a young woman obsessed with slasher films. Jade is half-Native American and lives with her dad after her mum walked out on them. She’s an outcast – considered a bit weird by most – and she works as a janitor at the high school from where she (only just) graduates. She spends a lot of time watching horror films, and a lot writing ‘extra credit’ essays about slashers for her history teacher. When a body is found in the lake, Jade convinces herself that a slasher is stalking their small town, and that her horror viewing has prepared her for this eventuality. She knows what’s about to transpire, and she knows she needs to find the final girl to defeat the monster. This appears in the form of Letha Mondragon, a beautiful and wealthy new arrival at the school. I should say, My Heart is a Chainsaw is much more than a slasher or a treatise on the slasher. Jade is fascinating and compelling character. Although the book’s in third person, we follow things from Jade’s unreliable (or maybe frustrating) perspective, and I loved this. Come for the slashers, but stay for Jade Daniels!

Monday, 1 November 2021

31 Days of Halloween: Day 31

It's the big day... and the finale of my 31 Days of Halloween. Today wasn't quite as full-on as yesterday, but we managed to do a few final spooky season things to mark the occasion.

Dracula: Prince of Darkness

Despite today being the first time for ages we could have a lie-in (with an extra hour as well), Rob and I woke up super-early, couldn't get back to sleep and so ended up watching Dracula: Prince of Darkness at breakfast time.

Samhain Nature Walkshop

This afternoon I went on a Samhain Nature Walkshop with Natalie Rossiter Wellbeing in Worsley Woods. It was a mindful activity so I didn't take any pics to share on social media. But after yesterday's hectic schedule, I very much enjoyed the change of pace - forest-bathing in the rain FTW!


We finished our month of Halloween celebrations in style. We rewatched Ghostwatch in full for the first time since it aired in 1992, and joined in with #NationalSeance2021 Twitter conversation!

Today's Tea

Today's tea - the final Halloween tea in my collection - was Wolfsbane from Monster Mash Teas. Fortunately, this tea isn't actually made of wolfsbane (aka aconite) because it's poisonous to both humans and werewolves. This was actually a rather pleasant mint tea.

And that's the end of my fire-walking, forest-bathing, haunted whisky-tasting, cocktail-shaking, ghost-watching, tea-sipping month of Halloween.

Sunday, 31 October 2021

31 Days of Halloween: Day 30

The big weekend is here! And today was a busy day, involving several costume changes and a little bit of performance (and some pumpkin pie!).

Litter-Pick in the Woods

In honour of the spooky season, the monthly Friends of Bailey's Wood litter-pick was a fancy dress this month. I went as an angel, for reasons that might become clear shortly!

Hannah's Bookshelf Halloween Special

The Hannah's Bookshelf Halloween Special was on North Manchester FM. I presented the shortlisted stories for this year's 3 Minute Scares competition and, as is customary, I presented the show in fancy dress (the other half of my two-part costume for the day).

Dinner with my Mother-in-Law

Rob and I were at his mum's tonight for a Halloween dinner tonight. We took the opportunity to show off our Cluedo costumes in person, and also to partake of her very special pumpkin pie. My costume was not the most comfortable, so I did change into a slightly less coherent outfit later in the evening (complete with Halloween headband, Billy the Puppet earrings, and an appropriately spooky dress).

Today's Story

Today's story - the final story (as my book of '31 Horror Stories' turned out to only have 30 in it) - was 'Corabella' by David Fletcher. A creepy-kids story with a great final line. A good way to conclude my Halloween story-a-day.

Today's Tea

Today's tea (the penultimate tea!) was Bram Stoker from The Literary Tea Company, a fruit infusion with morello cherries. It's blood-red, of course, and it tastes delightfully and dramatically of sour cherries.

Saturday, 30 October 2021

31 Days of Halloween: Day 29

My Halloween month is about to go up a gear as we approach the big day. I've got a few things planned for this weekend, but Friday was a pretty busy day as well.

Dracula Film Afternoon plus The Raven

Today was the annual Halloween Afternoon at Castlerea House (the care home where I volunteer on Friday afternoons). I kicked things off with the now-traditional dramatic reading of The Raven, complete with audience participation. And then the big event was the film. This year, the residents voted for their favourite Dracula and Bela Lugosi won! I think there might have been something wrong with my popcorn though.

Fancy Dress Cluedo

Every Friday, me, Rob and my mother-in-law play Cluedo together online. In honour of the spooky season, we played this week's game in fancy dress. We each picked our favourite character and dressed up as them for the night. I think we did pretty well too - my mother-in-law knitted a 7' scarf especially for tonight, and I learnt how to tie a cravat! Rob's mask was truly unsettling, though and I don't know if he should wear it again.

Ten Tales

The second series of Ten Tales, my series of seasonal (and local) ghost stories continued tonight on North Manchester FM. The second tale in this series is called 'Nocturne', and it's set in Crumpsall.

Today's Story

Today's story was 'Not After Midnight' by Daphne du Maurier. By far the longest story in the collection, this one builds up slowly with plenty of intrigue and suggestion. Oh, and a slightly obnoxious narrator.

Today's Tea

Today's tea was We Are the Weirdos, Mister from Tenacious Tea, rooibos with orange, ginger and star anise.

Friday, 29 October 2021

31 Days of Halloween: Day 28

And so... it's my last quiet day before the big weekend. And the last day when I won't be wearing at least one costume!

Today's Story

Today's story was 'The Terrapin' by Patricia Highsmith. This is the one story that I've found unpleasant to read, but then I don't cope well with descriptions of cruelty to animals in horror fiction. This one was a bit grim.

Today's Tea

Today's tea was Hubble Bubble from Rosie Lea Tea, a rooibos tea flavoured with caramel and apple. This is a tasty tea, nicely caramelly. It's got a lovely deep red colour to it as well.

31 Days of Halloween: Day 27

Another day in my month of Halloween... and the big day is getting ever closer. Today, as well as my usual story and tea, we were at the theatre!

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Rob and I were at Oldham Coliseum tonight to see The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (by Tilted Wig Productions). We really enjoyed the play. Excellent Halloween fun, and the staging and effects were impressively spectacular!

Today's Story

Today's story was 'The Question' by Stanley Ellin. This is the second Ellin story in the book, and it's an off-beat little piece about an executioner. The 'question' in question is a doozy as well.

Today's Tea

Today's tea was Victorian London Fog from Harney and Sons... one of my favourite names from all the teas this month! It's a rather nice Earl Grey (and I say that as someone who doesn't normally like Earl Grey).