Have a sneaky peak at one of our spookiest #SpookyReads!

by Discover Kelpies - October 28th, 2014


One of our favourite things to do when it’s cold, wet and windy outside is to curl up somewhere warm and comfortable with a good book. And with Halloween just round the corner, the spookier the better! So we thought we’d whet your appetite with a teaser from the spine-tingling Chill by Alex Nye (we attempted to read it with our eyes closed at one point – unsurprisingly it didn’t work…). Enjoy!

Samuel was alone in the house. Outside the moor lay silent, stretching away into endless emptiness. Dunadd was completely deserted. He liked it this way, having the place entirely to himself. He could almost pretend the house was his. There was an atmosphere of secrecy and silence, which grew more intense when there was no one else about. The others had all gone skiing – it was all they could think to do on the snowbound moor. The drifts were so high that the narrow winding road, which led up to the isolated Dunadd House, had become impassable.

It was so quiet. There was nothing but the sound of the wind in the trees, and the distant murmur of the Wharry Burn, water travelling and rumbling beneath ice. The whole moor was covered with snow, an ocean of unending white, waves of it packed up against the walls of the barn and cottage – the cottage where Samuel now lived.

The rooms, corridors and staircases of Dunadd House creaked all about him in the silence. Numerous empty rooms lay behind heavy oak doors.

Samuel had felt nervous as he crossed the snowy courtyard, the white tower looming above him, but he was not going to be put off. He made his way up the silent staircase to the drawing room on the first floor. The grandfather clock ticked noisily in the hall below, a deep sombre note befitting its age, like the heartbeat of the house itself; constant, regular, marking time.

On the wide landing dark wooden doors concealed their secrets from him, but ahead of him one door stood open. He made his way towards it over the polished boards and Turkish carpets. He trod softly, afraid to disturb the peace. The colours of the rugs were beautiful, tawny-red, crimson and tan-coloured, like the flanks and hide of a red deer. The walls were panelled in dark oak, and he was conscious that above and behind him lay another narrower stone staircase, leading into the tower, a place he had never before explored.

He passed shelves of books, old thumbed paperbacks, family favourites, and pushed open the door at the end. Before him lay the drawing room on the first floor, a vast expanse filled with light from the large bay windows on either side. Old pieces of antique furniture stood about in the shadows, gathering dust.

After a week of raging blizzards the moor had at last fallen silent, and sunlight sparkled and reflected from the snow outside, and reached into the dark corners of the house. Dust motes circulated slowly.

Samuel was familiar with this room. He had been here before, most memorably on Christmas Day, just over a week ago, although he preferred not to think about that right now. It only made him nervous, and he didn’t want that. He wanted to be able to explore the house, unafraid, without feeling the need to keep glancing back over his shoulder.

He advanced slowly into the centre of the room.

Near the door stood the grand piano, as expected, its lid open and ready to play. Family photographs of the widowed Mrs Morton and her three children stood on its polished surface. At the other end of the room was a massive stone fireplace, its hearth stacked with firewood, unlit at the moment. Mr Hughes would light it later when the family returned. Above the fireplace hung the mirror, framed in elaborate scrolling gilt. Samuel made a deliberate effort not to look into it. He repeatedly drew his eyes away on purpose, especially after what he had last seen there. He didn’t want that vision to disturb his dreams again.

He wanted normality, nothing unusual to happen. Or did he? Perhaps he was seeking her out again.

He walked across the drawing room to the window seat on the far side, and sat down with his back to the room. He made himself comfortable and studied the view of the mountains. It was a breathtaking panorama. The whole moor lay beneath him.

He turned his attention to the map underneath the window, a long map of the Highland line, browned with age at the edges, fixed and preserved behind glass. This is what he was here for, ostensibly, to copy the drawing of this map, so that he could have one for his own room. His bedroom in the cottage across the courtyard shared the same view. Mrs Morton had been reluctant to leave him alone in the house at first, but at last she had agreed, and now here he was.
He placed his pens and pencils on a small occasional table and dragged this into position next to him. Then he rolled out his long piece of paper, selected specially for the purpose, and pinned it down onto the table with a weight at either end to stop it from curling inwards.

The oak panelling creaked now and then in the silence, and from a long way away, if he strained his ears, Samuel could still hear the regular, soothing beat of the clock downstairs. He began to draw, his fingers moving rapidly over the paper, his back to the mirror and whatever visions it might contain.

This is an ordinary house, he told himself. It’s old and beautiful and very large, but it holds no sinister secrets. He almost believed it for a moment.

There was nothing Samuel loved more than copying maps. He liked drawings with lots of fine lines and detail. It was a gift he’d always had. Even as a small child, sitting in front of the television, he had arranged his pens and pencils in neat rows and would draw away with utter contentment for hours.

As he worked he glanced over his shoulder from time to time at the empty room behind him. The mirror over the mantelpiece remained blank, nothing moved or stirred in its silvery depths.

He stopped drawing and listened. He thought he’d heard a sound on the staircase. The empty house waited, no sound apart from the distant tick of the grandfather clock and Samuel’s own breathing. There it was again – a light tread on the stair. He decided it was probably Granny Hughes doing her dusting again, despite the fact she had been ordered to rest by Mrs Morton. She often crept about like that, duster in hand, trying to be invisible in spite of her mutterings and groanings.

He turned back to his drawing, his hand poised over the paper, and began to draw a long curving line, more slowly this time, his ear cocked for any sound outside.

Behind him the door swung slowly inwards – he could feel the draught of it at his back travelling across the room. Slowly he turned his head, but there was no one there.

Then he heard it.

It was the sound of a woman crying. It filled the room around him, permeating the walls and furniture. A bottled-up sound, trapped, as if echoing along a long dark corridor.

Samuel looked about him, spinning this way and that, but the drawing room was empty. Then he heard her footsteps. She passed through the room to the door of the library at the far end. He couldn’t see her, but he could hear her footsteps clearly, and the sound of her weeping. Then the library door closed with a bang, and he was left with a terrible silence.

He dashed across the drawing room, stumbling against the furniture in his haste. When he got to the door of the library he rattled the handle furiously, but it was locked … from the inside. He bent down and peered through the keyhole. The key was still in place. He could see nothing.

He stood up and his eye was caught by the mirror over the fireplace. It reflected back no one but himself.

“I don’t believe in ghosts,” he whispered to himself. “I don’t believe in them.” There had to be a logical explanation. Think with the mind, not the heart. But his mind was telling him to run.
He fled from the drawing room leaving his pens and pencils and unfinished map scattered on the window seat. The door swung wide behind him, and he pelted down the staircase, his feet clattering against the wooden boards. He charged along the corridors to the kitchen at the end, calling out for Fiona as he went.

“Fiona? Mrs Hughes?” No one answered him. Granny Hughes was up in her room in the tower, half-asleep, an unread library book on her lap.

He ran outside onto the snow-packed lawn, and stood looking up at the windows on the first floor. The immense panes of glass were dark with shadow. Nothing could be seen in the drawing room. If he closed his eyes he could still hear the sobbing echoing inside his head. He looked all about him at the silent trees, blanketed in snow, the cold bleak hills, hoping to catch a glimpse of Mr Hughes, perhaps busy about his work, or the family returning from their skiing trip, but there was no one. He stared up at the dark mass of the house. Then he thought he saw movement in the library window to the right of the drawing room. A shadow moving, backwards and forwards … then it was gone.

Want more? Check out Scottish Book Trust’s list of spooky reads. And don’t forget to find Chill on our website!

Are you #TeamThor or #TeamLoki? Vote today on Discover Kelpies!

by Discover Kelpies - October 24th, 2014

We do like a Norse god here at DiscoverKelpies Towers, which is why we LOVE Robert J. Harris’ hilarious adventures The Day The World Went Loki and Thor is Locked in my Garage! Set in St Andrews, the Master of Mischief, the Prince of Pranks Loki tries to take over the world not once, but twice! Luckily for us, troublesome twosome Greg and Lewis are there to save the day, with a little help from Thor himself.

Exciting stuff, eh? So imagine our delight when we found Loki’s Top Secret Very Important Personal Diary just lying on our desks. It would have been rude NOT to read it… Right?

Lokiday 32nd October 2014

Dear Diary,

Worst. Day. Ever.

I had such grand plans for today. Such grand plans. I even had my special green suit – My Taking Over The Universe Suit – dry-cleaned for the occasion. Today was the day Larry O’Keefe took his rightful place on the throne of Asgard.

Or it would have been. If only it hadn’t been for those pesky kids.

Greg and Lewis McBride. Pah! Those chumps would never have been able to defeat me this time. They’re just loki (ho, ho, ho, I do still like a wee joke) that Susie ‘Toots’ Spinetti and that meathead Thor were around. It’s like they’ve nothing better to do with their time than get under my feet.

It was a great plan, Diary. I’d spent months tracking down the Fimbulwinter box, convincing hotshot Hollywood halfwit Garth Makepeace to take me with him to St Andrews, even learning how to play golf! Alright, I didn’t spend as long on that one as I should have, but what’s an outcast Norse god to do when there’s not enough hours in the day?

And for what? For nothing, that’s what. My ice monsters, my precious toys, smashed to pieces. And I’m pretty sure there’s no Yggdrasil seed in the Herbs and Condiments aisle in the local supermarket.

They’ll see. They’ll ALL see. There’s two things you should never do. Never steal a banana from a gorilla and never try to trick the god of mischief.

Oh yes, I’ve got another big plan. I’m going to take over the world, but this time it’s DIGITAL! And the first place I’m going to take over is DiscoverKelpies…




Watch out, readers! Looks like Loki will be taking to Twitter (@DiscoverKelpies) and Facebook today… Good job Thor is here to help us keep him in check! Join in the fun online and let us know if you’re #TeamLoki or #TeamThor.

And if you want to read more about Loki and Thor’s adventures in St Andrews, The Day The World Went Loki and Thor is Locked in my Garage! are available online and in bookshops now. It’s also our Book of the Month, if you fancy pitting your skills against our quiz to win a free copy!

#FlorisDesign Illustrator Interview: Si Clark

by Discover Kelpies - October 1st, 2014

Header PDFIllustrator of…


A few weeks ago, the team here at Discover Kelpies were thrilled to announce that three (yes, THREE!) of our lovely titles had been shortlisted for the 2015 Scottish Children’s Book Awards! The following week #FlorisDesign introduced you to the first of the three illustrators involved, the fantastic Luke Newell – illustrator of Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens. This week we’re continuing our SCBA showcase with Pyrate’s Boy illustrator, Si Clark, whose swashbuckling cover would make anybody’s timbers shiver!


Ahoy Si! Thanks for taking the time to chat to us today! We’re beyond excited to hear all about your inspiration for Pyrate’s Boy, did you find it easy to get started?

Yes, I really enjoy working on Pirate themed illustrations. I grew up playing the Monkey Island games on the PC in the 90s which have inspired my work a lot.

Quite a few of our illustrators have referenced video games amongst their inspiration so it seems we have a lot to thank them for! So what’s your favourite part of the Pyrate’s Boy cover?

I like the golden colour scheme, I think it fits well with the theme. And the illustrated parts of the book title.

We love the golden colours too, although our favourite bit might be the crossed swords! Now our readers may well be interested to know that you’re not only an illustrator but an animator as well. What made you want to illustrate and animate?

I’ve wanted to do both since I was about 8. The Monkey Island computer games I mentioned before (and others like Day of the Tentacle and Sam & Max) inspired me a lot (along with lots of other things along the way) so always knew what I wanted to do with my life.

It’s great to hear that it’s been a lifelong passion! So working in both illustration and animation must require quite different approaches, do you prefer to work digitally or traditionally?

My work is a mixture of both. All of the elements of my illustrations are either drawn or painted by hand or are textures that I have found and scanned in. I use Photoshop in my work as I like to have every element on a separate layer so I can make any changes very easily. With animation I either draw every frame or draw directly on the computer.

It’s interesting to know that both your illustration and animation work requires a bit of both. So do you have a favourite thing to draw or animate?

Yes, I like creating my own little worlds and making odd little creatures to inhabit them.

That sounds fun! We do hope you’ve created a pirate world! Now, this is something we ask all of our illustrators – what do you do if you get stuck or illustrators’ block on a brief?

I get ideas for things pretty quickly most of the time. But sometimes there is a project where it’s much harder to get the idea. If this happens I will just do as much research as I can on the subject and then go and do something else like house work or going to the shops, something to take my mind off the problem and then just wait for my unconscious to work it out and then the idea pops up in my conscious mind.

That sounds like a good solution! So do you have a favourite illustrator or animator?

I really love the work of animator/director Marc Craste, especially his short film JoJo in the Stars which is truly beautiful.

Thanks for pointing us in his direction – what lovely work! And finally, because you are both an animator and an illustrator, do you ever think about how your 2D characters would move and act if they were animated? Do the two disciplines compliment one another?

Yes, I think they work well together. Whenever I have ideas for characters then they are always moving about in my imagination. They are pretty similar professions. And yes, even when I’m doing an illustration they are normally of a scene in the middle of some action so the whole scene will be playing out in my head so I can stop the camera at the right point to get the rid composition. If that makes sense.

It does indeed, thanks again Si!

Si achieved a First in his Illustration degree at The Arts Institute at Bournemouth. To see more of his brilliant work you can visit his website, his Bright Agency profile page or follow him on Twitter.

ColinPyrate'sBoy-SHORTLISTClick on the cover for more info on Pyrate’s Boy and to use our exciting See Inside feature!

Clip clop CRASH! Yann and the Fabled Beasts gang are taking over DiscoverKelpies for a day!

by Discover Kelpies - September 26th, 2014

Good morning Kelpies fans! We found this very mysterious blog waiting for us when we arrived at DiscoverKelpies Towers so of course we had to share it with you…

FBC covers

Clip clop tip tap…

Helen : What are you doing, Yann?

Yann: *tapping furiously at the keyboard* I’m writing a blog post for Discover Kelpies about those new covers for the Fabled Beast Chronicles, and the takeover day where we get to write lots of tweets…

Rona : *pokes her head round the door* Why are you writing it? I thought we agreed we were all going to draft it together.

Yann: But I’m the best at telling stories, so I’ll be the best at writing blogs too.

Helen: But you can’t even type! You usually write on scrolls and parchment and stuff.

Yann: Yes, but I’m fidnign teh lerttes quite easily. Anyway, the Fabled Beasts Chronicles are about ME. I’m clearly the hero in all four books: I kick down doors to get you lot out of trouble, I gallop all over the countryside with you on my back, and I have at least one epic fight in each book…

Rona: Don’t be daft, Yann. These books are about Helen. She uses her first aid kit to heal every one of us at various times, she solves most of the puzzles in First Aid for Fairies, she’s nearly kidnapped by the Faery Queen in Wolf Notes, she helps me compete in the sea singer contest in Storm Singing, and she saves your life at least once in Maze Running!

Catesby: *butts in* Hold on, I thought the books were about me! I get 3 chapters of my own in Maze Running. Anyway, if this is about Twitter, a bird is the obviously best character to be tweeting…

Yann: Yes, but they’re doing it on Facebook too, and we can’t really see your face past all those feathers. So I think I should be in charge of the WHOLE takeover day…

Rona: Shhh! Who’s that at the door?

*Three booming voices outside*  Mwahaha. Obviously the villains are the most important characters in any adventure books! So we will have to stage a takeover of their takeover…

Helen: Oh no! It’s the Master of the Maze, the Faery Queen, and the sea-through sea monster. We’d better get out of here, now! Is there a tunnel out of Discover Kelpies Towers, do you think? We’ll have to sneak back in to write a few tweets later today…

Keep your eyes peeled, because it looks like Helen, Yann the centaur, Rona the selkie, Catesby the phoenix and the rest of the Fabled Beasts gang will be taking over our Twitter feed, Facebook page and Pinterest boards today! If they ever manage to escape the Master… (Nice of them to tell us beforehand!)

Posted by: Yann, Helen, Rona and Catesby (and Nuria) at DiscoverKelpies

#FlorisDesign Illustrator Interview: Philip Longson

by Discover Kelpies - September 24th, 2014

HeaderIllustrator of…DonTale of Tam LinnFor the last three weeks we’ve dedicated our #FlorisDesign take-overs to showcasing our wonderfully talented Traditional Scottish Tales illustrators! We kicked off our interview series with The Dragon Stoorworm illustrator, Matthew Land, followed by The Selkie Girl illustrator, Ruchi Mhasane, and for our final instalment we have the brilliant illustrator of Lari Don’s The Tale of Tam Linn, Philip Longson. Read on to learn about where he found his inspiration, his favourite page in the book, and advice to his younger self…

Hi Philip! Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your beautiful illustrations for The Tale of Tam Linn! So where did you look for inspiration when preparing to illustrate this tale?

I always try to take inspiration from as many diverse sources as I can. For this book I looked at some of the classic illustrators of fairy tales (Arthur Rackham, Ivan Bilibin, Edmund Dulac) as well as paintings, landscape photography, books on Scottish history, concept artwork for films and lots of other things.

What a great variety of sources! You can really see the influence of classic fairy tales in the Tam Linn illustrations. Now, The Tale of Tam Linn is a very dramatic tale with dramatic illustrations to match – do you have a favourite?

Probably the page where Tam is turned into a swan and Janet is holding on. That piece came together pretty smoothly and I think it came out well.

tam as swan

It’s one of our favourites too! We love the movement in this one, and the brightness of the swan against the ominous dark background is beautiful. The colours in The Tale of Tam Linn are very striking, how did you decide on the colour palette for this tale?

Besides looking at the Scottish countryside I also looked at concept artwork for films like The Lord of the Rings and Pixar’s Brave.

The Dragon Stoorworm illustrator, Matthew Land, looked at Brave for inspiration too – it seems we owe Pixar a thank you! Now, we’ve been asking all of our Traditional Tales illustrators if they have a favourite fairy or folk tale, what’s yours?

I always struggle to choose favourites. I have previously made some illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, I find them particularly interesting. Especially The Wild Swans and The Tinderbox.

It’s difficult when there’s so many to choose from! So is this what you expected working as an illustrator would be like?

In  many ways yes and in many ways no, But there’s always something to learn from each project.

And do you find it different working under contract than for personal projects?

It definitely is different, but that’s good, I think it offers a good balance. Personal work is open to infinite possibilities which can be paralysing sometimes, so having a project with definite objectives and limitations helps to counterbalance that. I often find that I have lots of ideas for other pieces while I’m working on projects.

Page 25 2nd roughSo is there any advice you wish you could give to your younger illustrator-self?

Far too much to write here! Probably two main things though.

1. When planning your time, everything will take twice as long as you think.

2. “Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.” – John Cleese.

That’s some great advice, I’m sure all of our younger selves would appreciate wisdom from John Cleese! Now, do you have a favourite spot you like to work in?

I’ve had to move around a bit over the past few years, so I don’t have a permanent set-up just yet. But usually somewhere light, spacious and quiet. I also like to share studio space with other artists, it’s really helpful to have others around to bounce ideas off and get some second opinions.

It’s always good to get feedback on your work and it must be inspiring to work in a space full of artists. So what made you want to become an illustrator?

Well, I love art and I love stories, and illustration has both of those things. I was never particularly interested in making images of still life or landscapes, I always wanted to tell stories.

Well we’re very glad you illustrated this fantastic tale! Now, your work is a mixture of traditional and digital methods, which do you prefer? Are there benefits of combining the two methods?

Working digitally gives you a huge amount of freedom and an ability to try things out quickly in a non-permanent way. However, drawing is the basis of everything I make and I couldn’t do that digitally. So, it’s just a case of using the tools that work well for me.

Do you have a favourite thing to draw?

Like I said, I’m not good at picking favourites. But, I always love drawing trees, especially old, twisted ones.

Page 4 and 5 Final Flat

We love these wonderfully twisted and gnarly trees in the opening pages of The Tale of Tam Linn. Now, what do you do if you get stuck or illustrators’ block on a brief?

Well, the worst thing to do is stare at a blank page waiting for an idea. I usually dive into the research and pretty soon I’ll find something that sparks my interest.  Getting the ball rolling is that hardest part, but the good thing about working from a brief is that it usually gives you a few things to latch onto to get started.

Blank pages can certainly be very intimidating! So when you’re looking for inspiration do you have any favourite illustrators you look to?

Probably James Jean. He’s had the biggest influence on my work and me. The first time I saw his work it just blew me away, it showed me the sort of things that are possible.

Philip studied at Edinburgh College of Art. To see more of his wonderful work you can visit his website, check out his tumblr, or follow him on Twitter.

DonTale of Tam LinnClick on the cover for more info on The Tale of Tam Linn and to see more beautiful illustrations using our See Inside feature. You can also see all of our beautiful Traditional Scottish Tales on our big sister website florisbooks.co.uk!