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15 Years of the Spook

We are lucky, we live in the grim, dark and spooky North. It's where legends were made, it's where ghasts, boggarts and all manner of unspeakable denizens of the Dark lurk and prey upon the feeble folk, the non Fey namely ordinaires.

Barring the fact there are fab audio versions, which DO speak of these devilish creatures, they needed writing about.

Joseph Delaney was born to it, he imbues the essence of storytelling about the Dark and who can possibly deal with it, very few, actually.

You do need to be born to... you need the inner power that brings to be a Seventh Son (or now readily accepted daughter).

So, only a few can even try and protect normality from the horrors of abnormality, the untold terrible things that do lurk in the dark, either the actual dark or more worryingly the dark within, the underworld, the hell...

We all have a fear of the unknown, it's been that way for aeons, what is it? what controls it? In Joseph's world, 'The County' it is an unnamed entity of essence of evil called simply 'The Fiend'. He or It is not someone to meet on a cold dark night or indeed anytime... but, there are those, here they are clans of witches that want him back to rule and give them freedom. So, he is coming...

Stand up and be counted then, enter the Spook, they are few and far, usually alone and getting past it and yet like any master of craft, they can deal with things, they have their skills and most importantly their knowledge, some stored mentally, most stored in the arcane past of all efforts to be and overcome adversity that is their books and libraries, how telling that this simple yet prophetic way of seeing is mirrored in modern life, where are the libraries, the masters of them, librarians... do they really need to only be ethereal these days, spooky versions of past reflected knowledge now stored in e form, surely reality is better.

Joe was born and bred in Lancashire, he loves it and supports it with his writing and efforts to bring it to life and keep it a vital force for good in his talks in libraries and schools and even prisons....

I was lucky too, I ran a small Indie in Formby, Lancashire (assimilated into a non entity called Merseyside, but to me and most, it is Lancashire).
So, 20 years ago we received a strange thing, an actual phone call it rang and we answered, Lauren Bennett a wonderful enthusiastic and supportive publicist who knew I loved trying to promote new books said... would you like to read a new book that's actually set near your shop AND the author can come and do a talk in a school and you can sell signed copies... This may seem obvious these days, but trust me 20 years ago it was rare.

I spoke with a local school, I drove down a dark and dank road and met Joe and Marie his wonderful wife in a pub car park and off we went, it was not necessarily a huge success, we all were new to doing this strange PR thing and perhaps hadn't prepared the children and teachers for the need to buy some books, but, we had them in the shop now and knew we would sell them and keep doing so.

I entered the book into the 2nd year of the Sefton Super Reads which was already a success, I genuinely hoped it would do well, it felt like the book that children should read and get and love, luckily they did, it won by a huge margin and Joe was able to come with Marie and receive his award and meet real fans, many are still real fans and have their own children just old enough to now read these magical and memorable books.

More books came, Curse was Joe said he hardest as he was still a full time teacher up in the wastelands of the Wyre or Blackpool as many call it.
He brought us Quisiters and the Bane, one of my fave creatures, one that originally was mute, but after a lucid dream maybe a nightmare, one over work and deadlines and plot methinks, he had Marie say, what were you mumbling about all night, 'I'm bound, you've got me bound proper' all of a sudden, the Bane was worse, it talks inside heads, it whispers and coerces you into coming near and entering it's lair, a gothic catacombs under Priestown Cathedral (St Walburgs in Preston, the lovely white spired church by the river), he's bound behind a silver gate and IF... you enter he will literally squeeze the life out of you and suck your soul into oblivion, he's always hungry and heaven help us if you left the gate open.... partly based on another true story, a neighbours cat was found by Joe totally stiff and flat.

The series was growing and selling the original books were superb designs, they looked and felt like old fashioned leather bound notebooks, ones passed down with notes of old and we the new Apprentices feverishly jot into, learning as we go nibbling Lancashire cheese. They did four and then market forces wanted gory covers to immediatise children's wanting, it did work actually they've sold over 3 million in the UK, and are sold in over 30 countries, huge in Brazil, France and Down Under.

Joe tours these places and was even invited to Romania where the Strigoi lurk, vampiric and thoroughly not nice, but he had a great time, he was on TV and treated like royalty, old tales are often the ones best loved.

We meet Lamias and are faced by a fallen Spook who is the one wants to end Master Gregory's life, he's the one teaching Tom Ward, the now Last Apprentice as with the Fiend being summoned, things are going to get messy. Alice is also along for most of the journey, she's a village girl with pointy shoes, Tom is her friend but the Spook is distrustful  and thinks she was trained a  witch by Bony Lizzie, so she is NOT to be trusted, but she helps Tom and maybe in time we will find out what she is. She is sharp as a pin and very resourceful and totally brave, she is a rock and roll superhero under the radar really.

When we toured Battle we were going places, full weeks out and massive sales, there was a WBD book and big events, then we heard... there was going to be a film... Tim Burton was the original director, but sadly there was a strike in Hollywood over scriptwriters pay etc and it moved to Kevin Lima, he made Gaiman's Stardust, he fell out with the backers sadly and eventually it was made by Sergei Bodorov, he did have 3 Oscar winning actors and a budget of 90 Million, but although it is a very watchable fantasy adventure it merely touches the surface of reality of plot and character and setting and is too Hollywood-ed really, well worth watching if you've not read the books, but then once you do read the books... you want the film that Tim or Kevin would have made... TV is in the offing and I think that is the way to go.... Maybe a year or two.

We received some sad news, Joe and Marie were enjoying his retirement and full time writing and obviously with the film some spare spends, she sadly died suddenly and things were as you can imagine quite downbeat, she still gets the wonderful dedication in every book  and those of us that knew her carry her in our hearts and minds as the books carry on.

The series was now racing along, two books a year, a dictionary and a collection of clever short stories to whet appetites, engage weaker readers and sate desires for more for the fans. A standalone classic ghost story, Ghost Prison came about with Joe's original editor the wonderful Charlie Sheppard doing a collection for Andersen Press and a lovely little HB of Joe's one. It is stylish and very scary and illustrated by Scott Fischer, the Bestiary is by Julek Heller and he is a true master of the dark stuff and David Wyatt adds the flourishes to the chapters and suchlike in the Spook's series. 

We go places, meet wonderful characters and follow the journey Tom and Alice are on as they grow up and become what they must, old Gregory is weakening and may soon be gone... we must mention... my fave... the ultimate dealer of death, the ultimate renaissance assassin, Grimalkin, she is pure poetry and you really wouldn't want to mess with her, she is silent and deadly and fearless and yet has a way with words, few though they be.

There is also Arena 13, a project Joe started before Spook's that has become a popular hit with those after dystopia and darkness with gore and gladiatorial combat with lethal machines, part Game of Thrones part Matrix like mind control and all massively readable and hopefully destined for TV.

There is another evil in the County, not in the same County, but more the one we live in, Lancashire itself, Aberrations, they come from within a mysterious all encompassing mist that moves slowly but ever on, and whatever it engulfs... it changes, think John Carpenter's Fog with Pied Piper overtones, it is sensational. We have Silver Gates with Gate Grubs working steampunk devices created by the boffins, we have the bog queen and the white lady and the grim ploughman and more. There is a real feel to the new series, friendships, peril and pure invention of plot from master of the area, the grandfather of gothic gruesome gore.

Joe has a new website www.josephdelaneyauthor.com go and join in...

He is able to be invited to schools and libraries and usually it's free. We tend to favour Y5/6 and Y7 but can do Y8 and very brave Y4 are allowed.

He's touring for 2 weeks in May, we recently went to Nottingham, Derby, Whitchurch and Widnes and had a fab time. We tweet stuff and he has an instagram.

If you are a librarian or teacher email me for the press pack etc  on tonythebook@live.co.uk

We usually do an hour which has plenty of input on background, writing and ideas and characters and places, we need a Powerpoint and we bring a PA system. The books are then able to be bought or ordered on the day or afterwards, we find the follow up sales are proving to be huge.

It really helps if the schools send information out and let parents/carers know that the actual buying and reading of the books is the best bit, not financially, but for growing minds and strengthening souls, we all need to be brave in the dark, it's scary otherwise. We very much want new apprentices not denizens of the fiend abound.

Joe's son Steve and his amazing team at Spook's Teaching do fab workshops around the books with hands on activities and acting and also on other stuff too, pop to www.spooksteaching.co.uk

This is the longest blog I've ever done and I think i could do more... I'll try and do one with some pix on and give you things to see too...

Joe is a true legend writing about legends, they are real in the County and it is where we live, we all need to know how to deal with life and all it throws at us. Good or Bad, they are paths and choices we have, we can be guided or bewitched. If anyone ever wants books signing and posting, just ask, £5 for Aberrations and £6 Spook's and Arena and Ghost Prison and £10 Bestiary.

I am a huge fan of Joe's writing, because he is a master of his craft and cares deeply about it being available to be read, there is something special about reading magical and scary books, they take you to places you would never go to, ones that are literally on the doorstep, or rather lurking just out of sight of it...

Never read in the dark, candles go out  and the creatures are there...
 Be Afraid, VERY... and then learn to deal with it by becoming a new Apprentice to the Spook.