Okay, so it looks like we’re talking about haunted dolls. Somehow we got here because I read this article about ‘dark copers’, which I guess is a polite term for referring to people who cope with anxiety by latching onto morbid, grim, or even horrifying things (all you folks who read horror/thriller novels and watched Contagion during the pandemic? I see you, and I feel you, friends).
So I was reading the ‘dark copers’ article (which makes some good points, ngl) and literally the first thing it mentions is something to do with haunted dolls, and well…you know me. I therefore present you with the eBay listing for a series of haunted dolls, and also a picture of one of the weirder ones.
The best thing about these listings are the seller notes – “overseas bidders please check postage!” and “please consider carefully if rehoming or washing” and the ominous “experience necessary” (experience of what??). I mean, clearly some of these are simple scams (how do you verify if a doll is haunted? If you buy a haunted doll and it turns out to not, in fact, be haunted, do you get your money back?) But honestly, all the dolls are just so incredibly goddamn creepy that it wouldn’t matter if they weren’t actually haunted, because you’d be haunted by the sheer existence of them in your house.
Imagine the reaction of invited guests? “Oh, Ellie, yes, it’s been too long, we should catch up more often, thanks for inviting me to – SWEET MOTHER OF GOD, WHAT IS THAT THING ON YOUR MANTLEPIECE?!”
Heh heh heh.
Anyway, do with this information what you will, but just be careful with rehoming and watch your experience level.
THE KILLING CODE is a Notable book!
I was just so happy about this. Thank you to my Australian publisher, Allen & Unwin, and to the lovely judges of the Children’s Book Council of Australia 😊
SOME SHALL BREAK excerpt and preorders
I’m including an excerpt from SOME SHALL BREAK in this newsletter! It’s near the bottom, so I can share the news first, but I wanted to give you a heads-up.
Also, to answer the question that some people have asked, there is definitely a preorder campaign for this book. It’s coming in April, so please hang onto your receipts!
What I’m watching
Movies: Women Talking is really, really good, okay? It’s heart-wrenching, and the actual criminal case that it’s based on is terrifying and fascinating, but the film itself keeps a lot of the traumatic details offscreen. In a lot of ways, it’s like a film version of a stage play – an ensemble cast in a kind of bottle set – but the script is good, and the performances are uniformly excellent.
TV: The Last of Us is personally attacking me, of course, like it seems to be personally attacking anyone with feelings. If you’re not watching, you’re probably living under a rock or something, but seriously, go watch it.
Oh, and tl;dr, but I’d like to point out a funny little research detail that will only annoy pedants like myself (and I got into the weeds about this with my son and a couple of friends). Okay – so the cordyceps fungus contagion starts in a flour factory in Indonesia? Which is…well, let’s break it down a little:
1. In the OG game, the fungus contagion starts in South America. They can change it if they want to! Sure, absolutely. But why did they? No clue.
2. And it seems from hints given in the TV show pilot that the fungus infection is transmitted by infected wheat flour (go back and you’ll notice how the creators point to Joel’s daughter not being able to get pancake mix, and the Old Lady Next Door eating homemade biscuits)
3. But…there’s not a huge wheat industry in Indonesia. Indonesia doesn’t produce wheat at all, and is entirely reliant on imported wheat. Yes, there’s some, for things like Indomie noodles. But other than that, most Indonesian people don’t eat a lot of wheat flour – there’s not a lot of baking (it’s too hot! Also most people don’t have ovens), people don’t really eat bread, and wheat flour is more expensive than rice flour, which is abundant.
4. A-ha! Some of you will say – but Indonesia has one of the world’s largest wheat flour mills!
5. Yes, this is true! But the business of importing/milling/exporting of wheat flour in export quantities didn’t really take off there until the 2010s (and TLoU says the pandemic started in 2003)
6. Also, why would the US be importing wheat flour milled around the other side of the globe in Indonesia, when the US itself is the fourth-largest wheat producer in the world and has the second-largest wheat mill in the world?? And also when the top wheat flour exporting countries are Turkey (closer!), Kazakhstan (closer!), Germany (much closer!), Uzbekistan (about as close as Kazakhstan), and Argentina (so much closer, omg!)?
7. I’d also like to point out that a) the Indonesian actors in the show were authentic and great! And b) if a fungus pandemic did originate in an Indonesian wheat flour mill, it would take wayyy longer than 2 days for it to come to the attention of the authorities, and even longer for the Indonesian authorities to actually do anything about it. By then, half of Jakarta would be infected #ifyouknowyouknow.
TV: Yellowjackets, friends! OMG! I finished it, after starting then stopping (why did I stop? Idk, but Juliette Lewis was annoying me). And I’m really glad I went back – it picked up steam as it went, and then the final 4 episodes were absolutely amazing. Melanie Lynskey is AMAZING. And season 2 starts at the end of the month, yessssss
We have TWO giveaways this week, but one of them you have to work for.
Okay, first of all, I’m giving away a signed US copy of NONE SHALL SLEEP to a random person on my newsletter subscriber list. I’ll email you to let you know if you’re the lucky winner! And congrats to Maddy, who won last month’s random giveaway 😊
Second of all, I’m giving away a signed US copy of THE KILLING CODE – but only to those people who have posted a review of the book. If you want to review, now’s your chance! Go here to GoodReads and post your review, then send a screenshot to me at email@example.com to enter. Anybody can enter (including non-subscribers) if they post a review! I’ll pick a winner at random and contact you by email. Thanks to you all!
The lovely Kate Armstrong is releasing her magical fantasy YA debut NIGHTBIRDS this week, and I can’t wait for you all to read this one.
Join us on Thursday 9 March at Readings Hawthorn to celebrate! (1920s attire encouraged, oh yeah baby!) Amie Kaufman is leading the festivities, and the event kicks off at 6.30PM – it’s free to attend, but please book here.
Look, I don’t do a lot of promo for my paid-subscription newsletter, Nailbiters, but I wanted to let you know that it’s a lot of fun. Also, you get cool stuff. Everyone on that list is about to get either a digital or hardcopy advance of SOME SHALL BREAK, for instance, which is cool. I’m also ready to email that list with info about our group Zoom chat later this month, in which I’ll be answering peoples’ questions and having a good chinwag. Nailbiters subscribers are also getting access to exclusive SOME SHALL BREAK merch, plus behind-the-scenes stuff from me.
See? Cool stuff. So if you’re thinking about subscribing, go here:
The Black Hand is a reader-supported publication! To keep me writing, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
I kind of got into podcasts late? But now I am hoovering them all up, and I was delighted to see that the Tor Nightfire blog had this wonderful list of podcasts for horror fans. Some good ones in there! But maybe my fave horror (-adjacent) podcast is Books in the Freezer, hosted by Stephanie, which is a horror book podcast with a great array of book recs, genre discussions, author interviews and more.
This month, the funnest event is going to be the Somerset Storyfest 2023, where I’ll be speaking to a metric ton of school students about serial killers, my books, and crime writing. I have been planning what to wear for – I kid you not – actual weeks.
I was also recently interviewed by Samantha and Bethan for the Kokomo-Howard County Library podcast called Off the Shelf – that recording should be going up later this month.
And I spoke to Cathi and Christie from Game of Books – we zoomed, talked kangaroos and elk, and books (of course), and I drank a pink gin spritz at ten in the morning, it was a time – so check that out if you’d like a listen.
Oh, I’m also going to be at Kate Armstrong’s launch for NIGHTBIRDS (just scroll back a little for deets), if you want to say hi there!
This month we’re reading Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim, and if you’d like to catch up with all things bookclub, swing on by the FB page.
In exciting news for bookclub, my co-mod Emmaly and I have decided to transfer the club from Facebook to Instagram (which we think will just be way more fun). So keep an eye on the new @loveozyabookclub IG page, which is in soft launch right now, and get ready for our big changeover in April!
Look, I know this newsletter is advertised as “serial killers, sleuths, and other thrilling things”, and I haven’t really talked much a bout crime this edition, but I promise I’ll get back into that next month.
Meanwhile, I’m slowly cranking into gear as the release of SOME SHALL BREAK inches closer, mainly by putting up silly videos like this:
And I said that I was going to give you a book excerpt… Am I allowed by my publisher to share this snippet? I honestly don’t know. But here it is, and without fanfare I’ll leave you to enjoy it, and wish you an excellent reading month – see you next time!
Some Shall Break excerpt
“The killer’s following a really specific set of criteria. It’s linked to something in his mind, something ...” Emma shakes her head. “I’m stuck on that, but the posing is important.”
“And the pink nails? That’s part of it, right?”
“It’s got to be.”
Kristin’s eyes drift north when she’s thinking. “The way he dresses and prepares the girls, it’s definitely something to do with obsessions around marriage and love.... Is that consistent with Huxton?”
“Huxton put us in white dresses. He gave us all rings. He never called us brides, that was all the media after the fact, but that’s what he was doing.” Emma stares out the car window at someplace horrific, and her hand makes a nervous detour over her dark scalp stubble. She blinks herself out of it. “For Huxton, it was like a cruel joke. But for this guy, the bridal image is meaningful. It’s important— ritualistic. It’s part of the staging he needs to play out his fantasy.”
Travis gets the static-electricity jolt of a connection. “That’s another clue to his age. He’s looking for someone closer to his own age. A life partner.”
Emma nods. “And he’s giving us the key to his motivation in the posing. I don’t understand much about posing, though.”
Rain drums on the car roof.
Kristin wets her lips. “I know someone who does.”
Travis feels another kind of jolt. He sees Emma’s eyes snap wide. Emma says, “Your brother’s not in St. Elizabeths anymore,” at the exact same time Travis says, “Let’s hold on now.”
He does a double take right in her face. “You’re considering that?”
“I’m considering everything.” Emma’s gaze is still trained on Kristin. “I know Simon’s in Philadelphia. He wrote to me.”
“He what?” Travis’s stomach drops, like he’s just fallen out of the moving vehicle.
“He sends me postcards sometimes,” Kristin says softly.
Emma nods. “I got two.”
Travis turns Emma’s way on the back seat. “You got two postcards from Simon Gutmunsson.”
“Yes.” She focuses back on Kristin. “Where is he?”
“He’s in Byberry,” Kristin says.
One of the most notorious mental institutions in the country. It’s not enough, Travis thinks. For the perpetrator who murdered his father, it will never be enough.
I feel for Travis, I really do… but I need more Simon in my life please and thank you 😂