Happy Hallowe'en 2020

This, as I'm sure you can see, is my Master Painter t-shirt from the inaugural 1987 Golden Demon Awards. Strangely, there exists no photographic evidence of me wearing this prestigious garment, which is probably just as well. I was 17. The word 'gawky' may have been coined especially for the occasion. Nor is there evidence of the miniature with which I won the regional heat that earned me this, but I can picture it clearly: it was a dark-elf archer armed with a crossbow, and I spent bloody HOURS shading those knife-edge cheekbones. Presumably it was fairly decent for the time but compared to what I've seen in the cabinets of Games Workshops today it wouldn't even merit a glance, and that's as it should be. Standards improve. Each new generation raises the bar for the ones that come after.

Look, I know we're only talking about painting gaming miniatures, okay, but like I say, I was 17. It was a big deal. My family had moved to the windswept wastes of the Cumbrian Borders from Australia barely two years earlier and like a lot of nerdy and socially maladjusted teenage males who weren't into sport (or in the case of the Borders, chasing tractors and wrestling highland cattle) gaming was a both an escape and a lifeline.

Which is kind of why getting a story published by the Black Library is also a big deal now that I've blossomed into a nerdy and socially maladjusted middle-aged man. The gawky 17-year old is still inside (believe me, there's room for him, and a few of his mates), and he's currently bug-eyed with happiness.

Have a great Hallowe'en season, everyone.


His First Change

 Okay, we're past the dead of the moon. I think it's safe to post this now.


Youngest was of age and the time of his change had come upon him, and he was excited but also afraid.

Will it hurt? he asked his mother, and Mother said yes it, will hurt, but you will learn to bear the pain. Eat well and make yourself strong. So he ate well to strengthen his flesh and bones. Will I hurt others? he asked his father, and Father said yes, you will hurt others, but only if you are careless. We have a place, far away from the others, where they know not to go and from which we cannot escape while the change is upon us. His father showed him the place, far beyond the forest on an island in the middle of a fast flowing river. When will it happen? he asked his brothers and sister, for he was Youngest and they had all been through their first change. They said Watch the moon. So he watched the moon as it dipped from the bright glory of its fullness, becoming a little darker each night. When it was three nights away from full dark and nothing more than a claw’s edge slicing the night sky, Father gathered them together and said It is time now for us to hide away from the others that they may be protected from the curse of our affliction.

So for the first time Youngest went with his family far beyond the forest to the island in the middle of the fast flowing river, where they waited as the moon died.

When his change began he thought Oh this isn’t so bad. There was an itching in his limbs that was easily cured by some vigorous scratching, but he found that the scratching took not just the itch but most of his fur with it. Soon it was falling out in clumps on its own until it was entirely gone and he was naked and pale as a worm from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail. I am cold! he howled to his brother Eldest, who just barked a laugh in reply, as naked as himself.

Then his flesh filled with fire and the spasms began, and he screamed. His limbs convulsed as they twisted, sinews snapping, bones elongating with his muscles stretched and spasming along them. His tail retreated and the pads of his paws became long, squirming, grub-like things. His muzzle shrank back into his skull with a horrific grinding of bone and his entire head swelled until he was certain that his brain was about to explode. Through his torment he watched Mother and Father and Sister and his brothers all change, and totter up onto their hind legs to laugh and jabber at each other with their blunt round faces. He tried to stand on his hind legs too, but could not get his balance and fell like a newborn deer, clumsy and wet.

Mother smiled and placed something large and flat and soft and warm over him. He thought it might have been a bear’s hide but he couldn’t smell it to be sure. He could smell virtually nothing! His hearing was muffled too, and he could see little more than shadows in the dark. Blind, deaf, and bereft of the glorious rainbow scents of the world, he whimpered ‘What has happened to me?’

‘It is your change,’ said Mother, using the jabber of her mouth.

‘Let him lie and find his strength,’ said Father. ‘There is work to be done and not much time.’

Youngest lay and and watched them crack stones together and fire flowered. He had only ever seen it in the dry summer storms, and it had terrified him and he had run from it, but here he found its warmth comforting. He watched as his family took long sticks and went into the woods of the island’s interior, and come back later with a deer that they threw down by the fire – but instead of falling upon it with teeth and claws they took it apart with sharp rocks, and he found himself marvelling at their skill. He flexed the long grubs that grew out of his paws – hands, he must remember to call them hands – and wondered if he would be that skilful.

Then Sister passed him a large, flat stone, a smaller and rounder and harder stone that fit comfortably in his hand, and one of the deer’s long bones. ‘Here,’ she said. ‘As long as you’re lying there you might as well make yourself useful. Get the marrow out of that.’

Ordinarily he would have seized it in his powerful jaws and cracked it open with his teeth, but his teeth were just square, blunt pegs, useless for anything like the rest of him – except for those hands. He placed the long bone on the flat stone, took the hammer stone in his fist and brought it down hard. The wet bone splintered with a delicious crunch! and he was rewarded with the ooze of sticky pink marrow. He dipped a fingertip in it and tasted, and his mouth came alive. He laughed and pounded again and again and again, pulverising the bone, crushing it to fragments, loving the sound and the force of his blows vibrating up through his arm.

After the meal his family turned to the work that Father had said they had little time for. Three nights of the dead moon each month was not much with which to make progress on the large structure that they dragged out from the protective cover of leaves and bushes. It looked like a bundle of tree trunks tangled together with twisted vines and he couldn’t understand how such a thing had grown until he saw his family working on it and he realised that it had not grown this way but had been made with the cleverness of hands. Father called it "boat" and told him that when it was finished they would use it to cross the fast flowing river to the wider forest where they would be able to hunt whatever they wished and use their stones to smash the world into shapes that pleased them. They laughed and sang as they worked, and on the second night, when Youngest was feeling stronger and had got his balance, he joined them.

And the wolves of the deep forest, hearing their laughter, cowered deeper in their dens, afraid.

Here's One I Prepared Earlier

Hello, what's this?

(Blows dust off lid, opens it. Hinges creak. Something falls off.)

Cripes, I haven't been in here for a while. Look at the state of this place.

(Clears cobwebs out of the corners. Something small and scuttery scuttles away.)

Sorry about that. Let me offer you something by way of apology for keeping this blog so badly. How about a free scary story for the Hallowe'en season? Here's one I prepared earlier.

Taken from the website: A Hundred Amazing Activities to Put a Spook in Your Hallowe’en!

What you will need: the cardboard tube from inside a toilet roll (microwave it for 30 seconds for hygiene’s sake); a disposable glow stick, the kind you snap and shake to activate; scissors; tape; somewhere to hide your fiendish creation!

How to make it: cut two spooky eye holes in the side of the cardboard tube. Activate a glow stick and put it inside. Seal both ends with tape. Now place it somewhere it is sure to be seen in the dark, such as beneath a bush or, if you don’t have an outside space, under a bed.

Take your Hallowe’en party guests on a tour of your haunted house, telling them to beware of the bloodthirsty creatures lurking in dark corners!


Mary shut the back gate behind her and walked up the garden path towards the house, enjoying the damp chill of the October night. Around her the silhouettes of trees and bushes were dimly visible in the streetlight from the alleyway, and scattered amongst them were dozens of slitted, glowing eyes. They gleamed at her from behind the swing set, underneath the decking, and even halfway up the hedge. She chuckled. Jon and the boys really had done an excellent job.

She unlocked the back door and stepped into the kitchen, then stopped, puzzled.

‘Jon?’ she called. ‘Why are all the lights off in here?’

She flicked the lights on, dumped her bag on the breakfast bar and crossed to the sink to fill the kettle.

‘You guys are amazing!’ she called. ‘It looks fantastic! Really spooky out there!’

It had been a late shift at the hospital so she’d left them to get on with it. As a stay-at-home dad, Jon was always good with the boys when it came to craft activities, but this year he had excelled himself. It was odd, though – normally Ed and Tim were throwing themselves at her knees by now. Mary left the kettle to boil and went through into the living room, expecting to find them glued to Paw Patrol, father included.

The lights were off in here too.

Maybe they were upstairs. Still, the standing lamp behind the settee should be on.

‘John?’ she called. ‘Timmy? Ed?’

A small whimpering noise came from the direction of the dining table.

As her eyes adjusted she saw the table covered in loo rolls, packets of glow sticks, scissors and tape. Crouched underneath, safe behind a cage of chair legs, were her husband and sons, their eyes wide with terror. It looked like Jon had a hand clamped over each of their mouths.

Mary laughed. ‘Oh sure, right, nice one. You almost scared me, you lot.’

Jon shook his head violently. ‘Shh!’ he hissed. ‘Keep your voice down! And turn the bloody lights off!’ It was hard to tell, but it looked to her like little Ed was actually crying.

‘This isn’t funny any more,’ she told her husband. ‘You’ve had your fun, made your spooky things, now get out from under the table and stop sodding around.’

‘You don’t understand,’ he whispered hoarsely. ‘We haven’t made them yet.’

Mary ran back into the kitchen and looked through the window again, but the bright glowing eyes – the ones that she had walked straight past only a few moments ago – were gone. The only thing she could see was the reflection of her own fear-stricken face staring back at her, swimming in the dark. Then she heard the cat flap rattle and bang, and They swarmed into the house.


PS: You can actually make these. Here's the link. It seems only fair since I nicked their picture.