Shadows Audiobook Out Now!

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Today is the official release day for the Shadows audiobook from Audioshelf. To listen to a sampler and buy it go have a lookie here.

You can get it at a reduced price of R99.00 for the month of June.

Here’s what Audioshelf had to say about it …

‘Shadows’ by Pretoria-based horror author Joan De La Haye is now up for sale on the Audioshelf Shop. We had a great time producing this one. Terry Lloyd-Roberts’ narration was fantastic as usual, nailing each character’s tone brilliantly. Putting a voice to an evil demon is no easy task…

A chillingly glorious horror, set in our home country. A note to our listeners; not for the faint-hearted!

Audioshelf Shadows release banner


Requiem in E Sharp: Word Search

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Here’s a new fun word search puzzle for you, based on Requiem in E Sharp.

Requiem word search

Murder Forensics
Garrotte Mother
Killer Requiem
Investigation Piano
Psychology Rachmaninoff
Profiler Alcoholic

Here is the pdf Requiem word search in case you want to print it out.

Setting and Characterisation in Horror

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Last week we chatted about Tropes. This week we’ll be talking about Setting and Characterisation in Horror.

‘Never underestimate setting. Without it your story will feel like loose boards on a scaffold. It is as important as characterisation, and should be as meticulously developed and full of life.’ – Rio Youers, author of Old Man Scratch.

Writing fiction is like creating different imaginary worlds for your readers to explore. But in order for your readers to buy into the worlds you create, you have to make those worlds as real to them as this one. How do you do that?

By injecting a solid dose of reality.

And how do you inject a solid dose of reality?

By making people and their surrounds as real as possible. If you’re going to set your story in a city like San Francisco, or Cape Town, or Sydney, I would suggest visiting the place. If you haven’t been there how can you take your reader there? You’ve also got to make use of all your readers senses. You’ve got to make them feel, smell, touch, taste, and hear the places you want to take them.

You’ve got to breathe life into your characters. They’ve got to think and feel. Your characters have to be as real as your high school English teacher who said you’d never be a writer or the crazy old lady across the street who’s always wearing curlers in her hair.

No matter what type of fiction you’re writing, your reader should be able to say, “Yes, that could really happen.”

The key to being realistic and credible in your readers mind is your setting and characterisation.

In order for your reader to suspend their disbelief and join you on the journey you want them to take, you have to meet them half way. So … write what you know.

Stephen King lives in Maine, which is why most of his stories are set there, even if he has changed some of the names of the towns. He’s also based a few of the characters in his books on people that he knows. He often uses his uncle.

I set Shadows in Johannesburg, South Africa, because I was living there at the time. I knew the streets and the suburbs. The office block my main character works in, was the same office block I used to work in. I based some of the characters on people I knew. Some were happy about it, others not so much. So if you’re going to base characters on people you know, you should probably ask them first or only borrow certain character traits. I set Requiem in E Sharp in Pretoria, South Africa. It’s my home town and the place I returned to after my divorce. All the suburbs used in the book were suburbs I knew like the back of my hand. The blocks of flats and apartments used were blocks and apartments I’d been inside. I knew how each place smelt and what the walls felt like.

Okay … so you think the ordinary, mundane, and writing what you know is boring, but it’s the ordinary that helps you spring a surprise on the reader. It’s the mundane, every day common places and occurrences that your reader can relate to, that keep him or her believing the story you’re telling.

A believable character in your horror tale is as alive and as unique as anyone we really know in our actual lives. They have to be in order for your reader to care enough about them that they keep reading. Your reader can like or dislike the people you’re telling them about, but they cannot be indifferent to them. Indifference is the kiss of death. If they don’t care they won’t carry on reading. Make them care!

How do you make them care, you ask? Simply by making them seem real. Look around at the people you see in a café or at the movies. Look at the way they do things. Be a bit of a voyeur. How do they speak? What do they do with their hands? What are their idiosyncrasies? What do they care about? What makes them tick? People watching is something that all writers should practice.

Look at the people you know. What makes them different to anybody else? What mannerisms do they have?

Use the observations you’ve made and inject them into your characters. It’s amazing how a simple movement or speech pattern can bring a character to life.

Give your characters a past, a childhood. What are their greatest fears? Do they have loving parents? What are their ambitions? Who are their hero’s? What effect do these things have on them?

Know your characters and your setting. Only by knowing can you make it real for yourself and your readers.


Oasis: Word Search

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Last week I gave you a word search puzzle for Burning, this week I’ve got one for Oasis.

Oasis Word search

See if you can find the following words

Zombie Civilians
Bunker Army
Solar Base
Flares South Pole
Armageddon United Nations
Radiation Desert

And here’s the Oasis word search pdf version for you to print out.


Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Last week we chatted about Women in Horror. This week we’ll be chatting about Tropes.

“Tropes are unavoidable. The important thing is make sure that they are not being employed in a way that they have been overused and the only way to do that is to be familiar with the genre. Anyone who attempts to write a vampire story without reading Dracula, or a ghost story without being familiar with the stories of M R James is working in the dark while also wearing a blindfold.”Steve Lockley, author of The Ice Maiden. 

The first time I heard the word Trope I had no idea what the interviewer was asking me about. I promptly went on line and looked it up. This is the explanation I found:

  • Trope: In literature – a familiar and/or often used symbol, style, character, theme or device.

A badly and over used trope can easily become a cliché.

According to The Collins English Dictionary a cliché is as follows:

  1. a word or expression that has lost much of its force through overexposure.
  2. An idea, action, or habit that has become trite from overuse.

“It always seems to me that the best way to tackle a cliché is to first embrace it and then subvert it. A lot of clichés in horror fiction exist for a reason – because once upon a time they were fresh and original and they actually worked. A lazy writer will trot out these familiar clichés in the same way they’ve been used for generations. A good writer will dismantle the cliché and find out what made it work in the first place, before spreading its guts across the page in a new and interesting pattern.”Gary McMahon, author of Pretty Little Dead Things.

Clichés are to be avoided where ever possible, but tropes can be worked with and expanded on.

If you look at the horror novels you’ve read or the movies you’ve watched you’ll notice that there are so many recurring themes, symbols, and characters. Below I’ve listed a few, but I suggest you go and make up your own list of tropes that you can either use or try and avoid in your own writing.

  • The master vampire: It seems that in most Vampire lore there is a master who lures women into his deadly embrace. Dracula is a prime example of the master vampire. They are the makers of other vampires. They are the strong seducers.
  • Pentagrams: Sadly Pentagrams are invariably used incorrectly in horror fiction. In ancient civilisations the pentagram was not an evil symbol. It was a symbol of human spirituality connected with the four elements. Spirit was at the top of the pentagram. The inverted pentagram, used by the church of Satan and other Satanic cults, is a bastardisation and a modern invention. You can read more about Pentagrams here:
  • The damsel in distress: Let’s face it, horror is known for it’s scream queens. From the Gothic novels where young women were being tormented in haunted castles to the more modern city girl being stalked by a vampire or serial killer, it’s all about a girl and her blood curdling scream. Thankfully in the more modern literature the damsel doesn’t have to wait to be rescued, she gets to rescue herself and kick some vampire butt while doing it. Buffy springs to mind.
  • Werewolves: Represent the duality in man, our humanity versus our animality. They’ve been used in horror fiction since the 17th century. They were often thought of as being part of Satan’s army and having a taste for human flesh. Little Red Riding Hood is one of the early children’s folk tales using a werewolf, it’s also a tale that is being reworked quite nicely in modern literature.
  • The apocalypse: Since the dawn of man there have been world ending prophecy’s. The Mayan’s said the world would end in fire in 2012. Then there’s the biblical flood. The book of Revelations is pretty horrific and full of the apocalypse. The end being nigh is a fear that has driven many a novel plot.
  • Zombies: The dead raised by voodoo rituals in The Magic Island by W.B Seabrook in 1929 is where the word Zombie apparently originated. Zombie lore has grown since then. And its no longer just through Voodoo rituals that the dead are being raised. These days anything from genetic research gone wrong, to chemical warfare, to solar radiation can cause it. Modern Zombie fiction writers, however, do seem to think that Zombies and the apocalypse are connected.  I’ve even had some fun with Zombie lore in my novella, Oasis.
  • The haunted house: If you’re writing a ghost story, chances are your setting will be the haunted house, or castle, or even an apartment that the ghost is refusing to leave. Since the beginning of horror fiction we’ve had haunted houses. Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is a classic example.
  • The mental institution: I used the mental institution in my novel Shadows. The mad house can be used in so many different ways. Is it the building that’s absorbed all the insanity of the inmates over the years? Or is it really just the inmates that make the place as scary as it is? Mental institutions are always gloomy, sad, disturbing places. You could probably go in to the institution as a relatively sane individual, but I’m not sure you’d come out sane after an extended visit. Would you spend the night in a deserted mad house?
  • Ghosts: These little guys have been a staple in horror fiction since time in memoriam. There are so many ghost stories out there you could probably pave an entire highway across a continent with them. But thankfully, ghosts are pretty versatile and very human. Ghosts can be angry, scared, disturbed, pretty much anything you want them to be. They can also be a whole lot of fun to work with.
  • The mad scientist: The Island of Dr Moreau by H.G. Wells and Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton are prime examples of the mad scientist on the loose. Just think of all the scientific advances there have been. Or have a look at the experiments conducted by Nazi scientists and doctors on their prisoners. What is truly horrific is that most of the advances in modern medicine are based on their experiments. Organ transplants, genetic research, all based on the work done by Nazi scientists!

Now … how many tropes can you come up with and make them fresh?


Burning: Word Puzzle

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

I’ve been having fun with word puzzles lately, so I thought I’d have some more fun creating a couple of my own around my books.

So here is the first of them based on Burning.

Burning Word search

Have a look for the following words:

Ritual Witch
Demon Baby
Incubus Phurba
Succubus Marcie
Wicca Pretoria

Here’s the pdf word search for you to print out.