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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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The truth about slenderman, puppies and noppera-bo…

Slender crossed with a nukekubi yokai

A cross between a nukekubi, a nopperabo and slenderman?

And now you’re scaring me!

As part of Children’s Book Week I spent today in the City of Stirling, where I was amused to hear the scary story of Slenderman is alive and well.

All week, whenever I mention a noppera-bo, kids have been sticking up their hands to ask: ” Have you heard of Slender?”


Well. I hadn’t.

But then, it turns out, he’s virtually a home-grown spooky story.

In fact, he appears to have been photographed at City of Stirling Libraries (see the photo of kids on the slide),  which is hilarious, but also spooky!

The truth about Slender?

The story goes (according to Roger, City of Stirling librarian) (Hi Roger!), that the photograph is a kooky fake that just happens to have ripped off the City of Stirling logo.  Apparently people from all over the world have been writing in to ask permission to reproduce the image. (Pity no one asked permission to use their logo in the first place!)

Still. It is funny. And it goes to show: you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet. (Especially since anyone who saw me this week will know: it’s not slender. It’s a yokai cross-hybrid-thingy, part nukekubi, part noppera-bo. And it probably likes to eat puppies.)





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.

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More Takeshita Demons coverage

Over a weekend of sunshine, shopping (bought a celebratory bag full of cute things from Baby Gap) and great food (Brick Lane curry!), there’s been even more coverage of the Frances Lincoln award and Takeshita Demons...YAY:

– This great post from terrific writer and wonderful mentor, Julia Lawrinson. Julia mentored me (and still does :-)) while I was re-writing my first manuscript, One Weekend with Killiecrankie. We’re still looking for a publisher for this: perhaps Frances Lincoln will be interested? Thanks Julia for being such a support over the years!

ryoi_nopperabo1“First Diverse Voices Winner” at Write Away. The short list “included stories set in the Thai community in Sydney, a Polish extended family in the West Midlands, a Shona village in rural Zimbabwe and the camel train of the Queen of Sheba in the days of the Old Testament.” Wow!

“Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Book Award” at Paper Tigers. This post includes a brief description of some of the demons Miku faces in the book: the nukekubi (cut-throat) and noppera-bo (see “artist’s impression” on left), to give just two super-scary examples.

“Diverse Children’s Books Recognised at Awards Ceremony” at Community Newswire.

Sounds like Takeshita Demons the book is full-steam ahead (YAY!), but I’m still not sure what comes next. At my request, I’m having another shot at editing the manuscript before re-sending it to Janetta Otter Barry, who will be looking at it with a view to featuring it in her new line of children’s fiction.  More later in the week…