Burnt Snow, my first novel, was released in 2010 by Pan MacMillan Australia. White Rain, the sequel, is due soon. As part of a trilogy about witches, earth magic, curses, love and revenge, this blog archives my research into the world of the witches - as well as my own magical saga as a new author.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Why, hello!
The book tour is coming to close and OH BOY: six weeks, four festivals, some school appearances, LOTS of interviews and incessant talking about myself later, I fly off to Japan TOMORROW for more lurking around sites of magical activity. Then it's back to London to finish writing the Burnt Snow sequel, White Rain. What better way to celebrate the amazing time I've had with this book than to say LOOKY-LOOK! I'm having a twitter competition - just in time for Hallowe'en!

In my dreams I am actually this hot.
The #31witch Competwition: Concept! Judges! Rules! Prizes!

Okay, so the competition is this: we're looking for the world's spookiest story in tweet form. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO apart from, you know, set up a Twitter account and post the tweet is:
a.) include the hashtag "#31witch" in the tweet (so we can find it). If #31witch isn't there, we won't know your entry *exists*. 
b.) be COMPLETELY ORIGINAL (anyone ripping off another writer's work will be professionally doomed hereafter) and
c.) make sure we get it by (wait for it!) THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT, THE NIGHT OF HALLOWEEN! (which is October 31, whichever hemisphere you are in). 
d.) no eye-gouging

We have made the rules so fantastically simple so you can devote all your magic mindpowers to composing spooky-story tweets.

There are FIVE prizes. First prize is a Pan Macmillan Australia SPOOKY BOOK PACK which contains an specially-inscribed copy of Burnt Snow amongst a selection of literary spooky treats. Four runners-up will receive a copy of Burnt Snow. All the winners will receive lifelong literary and Twitter glory and the ability to say "I was one of the winners of the Pan Macmillan Australia Spooky Story Competwition" for, like, ever.

Questions I Believe Will Be Frequently Asked:

I live in a strange and magical foreign country. Can I enter the competition even if the book is published in Australia?
YES, you can! This may indeed be an excellent chance to acquire a copy of Burnt Snow without having to mortgage your Nanna to pay postage.

Who are the judges?
The judges are way esteemed. They include ME (whahey!) and a crack literary evaluation team from my publishers, Pan Macmillan.

Can I enter more than once?
Yes, you can enter as many times as you like. Go crazy. Bring on the spooky. There are no fees, charges or obligations and your imagination is given free reign.

What is the history of Halloween, Van?
Well, funny you should ask. What we understand as the Halloween holiday had its origins in the Celtic "Samhain" or "Samuin" festival. In the Northern Hemisphere, the time it occurs marks the end of the summer and the conclusion of the lighter half of the year before the darker half starts - "Samuin" is an old Gaelic word that roughly translates to "summer's end". As a festival, Samhain celebrated the harvest at the end of summer, the storing of food to last for the winter and, as part of this, the slaughtering of animals. Perhaps because of the bloody (if practical) rituals of the season, as well as the transformation of the green summer landscape to the lifeless-looking winter, beliefs surround the holiday as being a time of the year where the wall between our world and others - like the realm of the dead - are particularly thin. The idea that the dead walk amongst us on this day found a cultural expression in dressing up as spooky things to either scare off the scary or blend amongst them. Some of the popular symbols of the holiday have a practical function: the Samhain bonfires were used to dispose of the bones of slaughtered animals, while, obviously, this time of the year in the North is the best time to harvest apples and pumpkins. Mmm... pumpkins.
"Halloween" is the name given to the Christian festival that was imposed to absorb the older pagan traditions: although the idea was to encourage people to worship all the Christian saints as part of festivities of All Soul's Day (on November 2nd), people just liked dressing up and dancing round bonfires way much more than a bit of appropriated ancestor veneration. Consequently, some evangelical Protestant denominations have incorporated the notion of a "Hell House" - like a walk-through diorama with staged scenes of the consequences of immoral activity - into their own Halloween celebrations so their flock still get to dress up in spooky costumes and light fires. So everyone wins. 
In Australia, although the Southern Hemisphere holiday should really be Beltane, or May Day (marking the passage of the seasons from winter to spring), Halloween traditions remain in place on October 31 because a.) people watch so much American television here and b.) see above points re: dressing up and dancing round bonfires.

See you in the #31witch competwition. While you're there, there's now a Burnt Snow news, events and surprises service running out of the handle @burntsnow. You DO NOT need to follow @burntsnow to enter the competition. :)

See you at midnight on Halloween! In the North! SO SPOOKY! Suggestions of fun places in the UK to go celebrate Samhain are gratefully received via the comments box below. 

xxx Van 

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