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Halloween drawing challenge: spooky creatures, made simple

Halloween’s a crazy time of year…the perfect time to scare yourself silly, if you choose.

Me? I’m an absolute chicken. I’m super-scared of things that go bump. I hate scary movies. I’m afraid to read scary books. I can’t even check on my kids in their beds if the wind is blowing and the doors are banging. I’M A TOTAL SCAREDY-CAT!

But for some reason, I write scary books. And around Halloween time, hits to this blog double. Lots of people searching for monsters, demons, scary stories and Japanese ghosts.

So here’s what I offer as a compromise.

If you arrived here because you’re too scared to do anything but read blog posts, try this: print these pictures out and challenge yourself to a drawing adventure. You might just like it! (And remember, it’s NaNoWriMo for writers in November, so illustrators need an adventure too).

And if you arrived here because you LOVE scary stuff and you want more: print out these pictures and practise the drawing challenge anyway. Then draw these creatures in random places, like under your desk or behind your ear. Yeah. That’ll freak them out.

Ganbatte kudasai! Give it your best shot!

You can draw the child-eating nukekubi head (illustrated by the fabulous Siku for Takeshita Demons), or the spooky green monster in your bathroom: the akaname filth licker (illustrated by Toriyama Sekien, 18th Century master of all things yokai).

The hungry nukekubi: draw it on your friend’s windscreen.

Who’s that lurking in your outhouse?

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Let the Book Week begin!

Takeshita Demons: The Filth Licker launches in Oz!

Woo hoo!

Childrens Book Week has begun! I spent this morning at Belmont’s Ruth Faulkner Public Library with students in Year 6 and 7 and it was terrific fun!

It’s SO GOOD to scare readers share with readers some of the legends behind the Japanese demons from my books.

The kids had heaps of great questions and did a great job answering librarian Edith’s questions in a pop quiz at the end.

And now I can rest at night knowing they are safe. Now EVERYBODY knows what to do when they meet a kappa, how to respond to the kuchi-sake-onna, and what food to serve when a fox comes to dinner 🙂

Phew! My work here is done 😉


The Filth Licker on Facebook! Share your akaname and yokai links…

Cover for Takeshita Demons: The Filth LickerHooray! Takeshita Demons: The Filth Licker is published today in the UK!!

Have you got your copy?



Any yokai or monster trivia you want to share?

Any cool filth-licker links to pass on?

Check out the Filth Licker on Facebook ( and add your questions and cool demon facts to our wall!


Akaname, lick your heart out: The Filth Licker is here!

Takeshita Demons - The Filth LickerWoo hoo!

Sometimes in this book-making business, I forget that we’re actually making a book.

And then — and it always comes as a surprise, even when I am kind of expecting it —

— a package arrives. Sits at my front door, all cardboard and plastic and customs declarations. I still don’t believe it until I’ve ripped it open and the precious innards are flicking through my hands.

Voila! We actually made a book!

For me this is Book #2, so only the second time I’ve had this enormous pleasure. It’s a pretty serious buzz. And still surreal, even though all along, I’ve known we were aiming to make a book.

And so here it is: Yee ha! The Filth Licker, part two in the Takeshita Demons series…

These books are a sneak peak. For the real thing, you can pre-order online, but you’ll have to wait another couple of weeks for your package to arrive. 🙂 🙂

The akaname emerges - Takeshita Demons The Filth Licker

I keep stroking the Filth Licker...he seems to jump out of the page. (Three cheers for Siku, the awesome artist)

One of Siku's great illustrations - Takeshita Demons The Filth Licker

One of Siku's great illustrations - our heroes run into the tofu kozo demon.

The Filth Licker advance copies

The Filth Licker arrives! Buzz, buzz, buzz


Reporting from the All Saints Literature Festival: it rocked!

Wheee!!!! I spent this week at the 2011 All Saints Literature Festival, surrounded by amazing writers and illustrators, blown away by the lovely volunteers and talented student helpers, and drooling at the beautiful grounds of the All Saints College (wow!). THANK YOU EVERYBODY FOR SUCH A GREAT FESTIVAL!

It was SO MUCH FUN!!!

If you saw one of my shows and laughed (or shivered): THANK YOU! You were such great audiences and really good sports (especially those who got wet!). Don’t forget to clean your bathrooms (the aka-na-me is waiting)!!!

Behind the scenes at LitFest 2011

My lovely colleagues have done a great job of writing about their time at the LitFest, so make sure you check out blog posts by:

Julia Lawrinson, who performed at the first LitFest with her first book (ten years ago!) and now has ten books to her name (and for those who aren’t super at maths, that’s one for every year!) (Impressive!) Julia was my mentor when I won a Young and Emerging Writer fellowship at Varuna House…she’s great!!

Susanne Gervay, who is a legend of Australian childrens fiction (Suzuanne includes some candid shots from the Green Room)(not any of me…heh heh heh!)

Shirley Marr, who was my Beautiful Roadie Assisant for one of my shows and did a fabulous job of making me laugh through the whole festivavl.

**If you’ve written a post about the 2011 All Saints LitFest and I haven’t found it…let me know and I’ll add it in…I want all the goss please!!


Yokai featured in Takeshita Demons

Cover for Takeshita Demons: The Filth LickerSubarashii! Yabai!
Takeshita Demons
Things are going super-well for Takeshita Demons at the moment.

The Filth Licker is ready for pre-order in the UK and Monster Matsuri is in its 50-millionth-draft-phase, so getting where I want it (YAY!).

If you have read Takeshita Demons you will know that Miku Takeshita and her pal Cait run into lots of mythological creatures from Japan, known as yokai (妖怪).

Below I’ve included a bit of historical info on some of them: is your favourite demon in Book 1? Or will you have till wait till The Filth Licker comes out to see what’s in store for Miku and Cait at school camp?

Happy reading!
And PS: You can pre-order The Filth Licker here and get free worldwide delivery plus 25% off: BARGAIN!

Amazake babaa (literally: Sweet sake woman) 甘酒婆
This yokai takes the shape of an old woman with a gentle voice, but don’t be fooled. If you answer the door when she knocks, chances are you’ll fall ill with chicken pox.

Ittan momen (Animated cotton) 一反木綿
Ittan momen are long bits of cloth that can come to life in the night. They love to tangle around your body and might even try to suffocate you, so keep an eye on your curtains.


Click on the noppera-bo to read about sightings of this demon in England!


Noppera-bō (Faceless ghost) のっぺら坊
Is the person sitting next to you really who you think they are? Noppera-bō are experts at pretending to be other people, and they love to cause trouble. Just when you least expect it their features can disappear, melting away to leave their face as empty as a blank page.

Nukekubi (Cut-throat) 抜首
During the day you might mistake this yokai for a normal person, but be warned. At night, while its body is sleeping, its head can detach and fly around hunting for delicious things to eat (like children and puppy dogs).

Nure-onna (literally: Woman of the Wet) 濡女
With the torso of a woman and the body of a snake, this fearsome yokai has wicked claws and a long forked tongue. She’s strong enough to crush a tree in the coils of her massive tail.



O-kubi (literally: Big Throat) 大首
If you’re ever staring up at the sky and spot an enormous head in the clouds, watch out! Spotting an o-kubi usually means something awful is just around the corner…

Sakabashira (literally: Inverted pillar) 逆柱
Did it happen by mistake? Or did someone do it on purpose? Whatever the reason, if some part of your house was built upside-down, your entire house is doomed to be haunted.

Yuki-onna (literally: Snow Woman) 雪女
Tall, pale and icily beautiful, this yokai is a spirit of the snow. She leaves no footprints, preferring to float above the ground, and she can disappear in a puff of cold mist.

Zashiki-warashi (House ghost) 座敷童
This mischievous yokai haunts houses and usually appears in the shape of a child. If your house is haunted by a zashiki-warashi, count yourself lucky, but don’t forget to take good care of it. If your house ghost ever chooses to leave you, your luck will quickly end.


The Filth Licker: what do you think?

YAY!!! Check it out: the brand new cover for The Filth Licker, the second book in the Takeshita Demons trilogy…

Cover for Takeshita Demons: The Filth LickerI’m thrilled to bits with it and can’t wait to see the other images that illustrator Siku has been working on. The Filth Licker was so much fun to write and this cover really reflects the exciting story and spooky adventures Miku and Cait get up to this time round.

So… What do you think?


I finished a second edit of The Filth Licker!

Woo hoo….   I’ve just send the latest version of Takeshita Demons II to my editor at Frances Lincoln Childrens Books, and I think it’s terrific! It was a rocking story even before Janetta gave me her feedback and ideas, and now, after a good going over complete with new exciting ideas, it’s even better than before.

What do you think? The Filth Licker
One major change, suggested by the sales team and prompted by Janetta, is the title. The working title was FORESTS AND FILTH LICKERS, but for reasons that will be apparent when you read it, we changed the title to THE FILTH LICKER. And I love it. Sometimes simple (if a little gross) is best.

And more great Takeshita Demons news:
, the artist behind the awesome cover for Takeshita Demons (and the manga-style art scattered throughout its pages) is working on more amazing art for The Filth Licker.  I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

And in techno-toy-joy news: We have an iPad!
And it’s soooooooooooooo cool. Fergus is already playing piano and flicking through photo albums. And his parents are pretty hooked too.

This, my friends, is more of the future than I ever thought I’d see. I had no idea things this cool already existed.

And guess what? I’d happily read a book or manuscript on this baby. They’re coming, people. The e-book, with all its  incredible potential (for rubbish as well as brilliance, just like the internet) is on its way. As writers and readers, we are so lucky to be around for this.

So what’s next?
Well, I have an itching. The first scene of Takeshita Demons III is an exciting one, and I can already see it unfolding. But first, some changes to the  plot outline are required, since some pesky characters (and yes, Alex and Cait: that means both of you!!) acted completely out of turn and didn’t stick to the script in The Filth Licker. Don’t you just love fiction!!


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Slime-licking demons, taiko drums, and a very wriggly baby


Thanks to Patrick Gannon for this awesome idea of what an akaname might look like. I think one thing becomes very clear from reading this: you need to clean your bathroom people!

So it turns out one of the big things about publishing is that it takes longer than I ever imagined. Apparently Takeshita Demons will come out in June 2010, after being “unearthed” late April 2009. Translation: a fairly straightforward book takes longer to brew than a baby! I sit here 37 weeks pregnant. My book is only 5 weeks into its 56-week gestation. I guess I’ll just have to learn patience.

Clean your bathrooms people!

Since I last met with publisher Janetta I’ve put together a wicked proposal for two more Takeshita Demons books, both of which are super-scary and follow Miku and her pals on further supernatural adventures. It’s really amazing how many cool demons are out there. This time I managed to include my favourite, the akaname (aka-na-me). He’s a groovy little guy who likes to lick the slime from poorly cleaned bathrooms. He comes out at night, when you’re asleep in your bed, so if you wake up needing to go to the loo, watch out!! Check the bathroom ceiling, check inside the bath. If it’s been a while since you cleaned your bathroom, chances are the akaname is cleaning it for you.

Kodo’s “One Earth Tour”

And in other news, Doug and I went to see Kodo, the world’s most awesome taiko drumming group, at the Southbank Centre. They were incredible! Tickets were less than ten pounds and theykodoekkyo only played two nights: we snapped them up just in time. Their flyer says that taiko “is felt in the body, as much as heard,” and that’s entirely true. Kodo is a full-body experience. When those drums are going, the whole place is fizzing, your whole body is humming. The baby was going mental…he wriggled through the entire performance and was pretty much asleep all the next day.

Seeing Kodo is as much theatre as concert. The performers are as much athletes as they are musicians. Their stamina and muscular strength leave me gaping. The skill and control required to pound those drums with such rhythm and unrelenting power…breathtaking. We were in the second-back row and I could see thigh muscles rippling, back muscles shining: that’s the kind of power I’m talking. This was the second time I’d seen them (the first was in Japan) and both times the audience has erupted into joyous, spontaneous applause, clapping along to the finale and standing to give the players an ovation they truly deserved. If you ever get a chance to see them—especially for nine pounds—do it. It’s magic.