Just in time for Halloween


The country live in doesn’t really celebrate Halloween. But over the past few years it has been trickling in, the odd trick-or-treater roaming the streets, the occasional Halloween themed party brought on through the influence of the media, but traditionally, New Zealand has ignored Halloween. Instead, we prefer to get to together on Guy Fawkes Night.

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder, treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

If you don’t know the story of Guy Fawkes you can learn about it in this short video.

I find it a strange thing to celebrate, the torture and execution of a person, despite his intentions, and I’m pleased to say I haven’t seen a burning effigy of Guy Fawkes in years. Like most things these days, the history surrounding why we celebrate the occasion has been somewhat lost, and instead, the focus is on the pretty explosions in the sky . Over time, I image that Halloween and Guy Fawkes will melt together into one night of fireworks, bonfires and horror costumes. Much like it did in Forever Blue.
Clever little plug there, right?

But I didn’t intend to write this post as a history lesson. I wrote it because I thought I would let you know about two horror novellas recently released by New Zealand authors.

First off there is The Sleeper’s Dance by Mouse Diver-Dudfield.


I had the pleasure of beta-reading this novella and finished it in one sitting.  I’m a bit of a fan of zombies and this story put a historical spin on the genre that I really enjoyed.

You can check out the book trailer for it here.
And have a look at Mouse’s website here.

I can assure you she’s an author to keep an eye on.


The next novella is The Black Lakes Apocalypse by Clay Erikson.


This zombie horror/comedy is clever, refreshingly amusing and it is FREE for a limited time so make sure you grab your copy.

Clicking on the name links to the two stories will take you straight to the Amazon site for purchase.

You can have a look at Clay’s website here.



If you are a fan of zombies, or even if you are not, I hope you take the time to check out these two stories and feel free to let me know what you think.

Abby Wilder lettering





P.S. While typing this post, I am experiencing what I would have previously categorised as a horror story. A rat is sitting on my shoulder and burrowing into my hair.  The rats are an early birthday present for my daughter and despite my hesitation, the little critters have won me over.




My holiday in books

Smugglers Cove, Fiji

Sometimes I find it hard to find the time to read. When I’m not at work, keeping house, or being a taxi driver for my kids, my spare time is spent writing. How else am I going to get it done, right? So sometimes, sitting down to read a book seems like an impossibility. Holidays are different. Holidays are when all that other stuff gets pushed to the side and there is an opportunity to do whatever the hell you like. Well, that’s the theory, anyway.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that I got to spend last week in Fiji. Also commonly referred to as paradise. Just look at the picture above. That was taken while I was out for dinner at a little place called Smugglers Cove and eating char-grilled baby octopus.

So in between that harsh life of swimming, snorkeling, racing down zip lines and eating delicious food, the thing I looked forward to the most was having the chance to read with zero guilt over having other things to do. I even switched my brain off the plot of my next novel, though I did make a few notes. My ‘to read’ pile is huge. There are so many books I want to read, so many authors I want to support, that it makes it difficult to know where to start. But holidays aren’t holidays without reading. So, here is my holiday in books.

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer



A book I had started but hadn’t quite finished by the time I left, Endangered is the story of Sophie and a young bonobo called Otto. It is a story of political turmoil and sadness and the horrors faced in the Congo. But it is also the story of hope and triumph and friendship and adventure.



Under A Million Stars by Rita Branches

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I’ve read Rita’s first book, Painting Sky (see my reading recommendation here) and was thrilled to receive an advanced readers’ copy of her next book, Under A Million Stars. I won’t say too much about it here as it will get a post all of its own closer to the release date, but you can tell from the cover alone that it is a story of sadness and love.


Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

This book is dark and strange and creepy and does not have a happy ending, so naturally, I loved it. I can’t remember how I came across this book. Whether I was attracted to the cover, whether I read a review on Goodreads, but whatever reason it was, I’m pleased I bought it. It tells the tale of Jamie and his sister Cate, who has just been released from juvenile detention. The story that follows delves into their past and sets the scene for their futures. It is a twisted story that leaves you unsure of your feelings towards the characters. There are no dancing unicorns or sparkling rainbows in this story. Loved it.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

I’m pretty sure Maggie Stiefvater could write the telephone book, and somehow, I would find it enthralling. I dog-eared pages in this book. If you don’t know me well, this may mean nothing to you. But I have never dog-eared a page before in my life. I like to keep my books pristine. This book, however, needs to be loved. It needs to be read with a highlighter in hand. It needs notes scrawled in the margins. Its pages need to be dog-eared. They DESERVE to be dog-eared. And the kiss. Finally the kiss. No, I am not talking about Gansey and Blue. I’ve never come across a kiss more perfectly explained. Maggie arranges words in the most perfectly wonderful way.
So that was my reading list. I hoped to read more, but alas, the sun and the ocean beckoned and that’s all I got to read. My ‘to read’ pile is ever so slightly smaller and my relaxation tanks a little more full. The kids only have a few more days of school holidays and then more normal routine and novel plotting will continue.

Hope this post finds you well. Thanks for popping by!

Abby Wilder lettering

*All book cover images sourced via Goodreads.

Oh, if you love to travel, follow my friends ‘The Galavanters’ over on Youtube, Instagram, or via their blog. A family currently on a six week journey around Thailand and Vietnam they are responsible for some wicked imagery. Just check out the clip below.




Painting Sky by Rita Branches

I often lament how difficult it can be to get people to read self-published books. There are so many excuses that can be thrown at self published authors, deserved or not. While I pondering this, I realised that I am guilty of the very thing I was complaining about. The majority of the books I have read have been traditionally published. I guess I get sucked into the same marketing powerhouse as everyone else.

So I have decided to change that. I am going to actively look for new books to read which have been self published.

My criteria is simple. If it appeals to me in the same ways as a traditionally published book, I will read it. In other words, it could be a stunning cover, an appealing blurb, well placed marketing, a review on Goodreads, or, best of all, word of mouth. If I like the book, I will post a link on here to ‘My Indie Carousel’. It won’t really be a review, more of a reading recommendation. So if you’re like me and looking for new reads, watch this space!

The first book that came to my attention was Painting Sky by Rita Branches.

Painting Sky

Can you guess why? That’s right. The cover.

Actually, the way I stumbled across it was via a Facebook post that was a cover reveal for Rita’s upcoming novel, Under a Million Stars. I saw the cover and and fell in love. I didn’t know anything about the book, but I knew I wanted to read it.


With my new endeavour to read more self-published books in mind, I desperately hoped this book had been self published. It was! Unfortunately, the book wasn’t released yet, but I did found out she already had a book out with an equally stunning cover.

Painting Sky is a beautifully written romance story in the New Adult genre. It is told from the perspective of the main character, Jane. Jane is moving out of her family home to attend college where is she studying art. She moves into a house with her boyfriend, Cody, her brother, Ryan, and Cody’s older brother, Keith. Romance ensues. The story is compelling, and although it follows a somewhat traditional romantic plot, it manages to come off as unique.

Here is the blurb, taken straight from the author’s website:

Book one in the Painting Sky series – it can be read as a stand alone.

Nobody ever said life was easy…

People pleaser, Jane Skylar wants nothing more than to earn her art degree, start her life, and bask in the bliss of living with her boyfriend.

But things don’t always go as planned…

Struggling with her creative side, Jane finds herself in turmoil, often confiding in her roommate – another, more talented art student, Keith Hale. Keith just so happens to be her boyfriend’s older, brooding brother. After a devastating breakup, Jane turns to Keith for comfort. But when the lines blur between roommate and lover, Jane’s life becomes more complicated than ever before.

When Keith’s past comes back to haunt him, their lives all get turned upside down, forcing the truth to surface. Now Jane must fight for what she wants–even if it hurts everyone she loves.

The thing I found exciting about this blurb was the previously unnoticed, ‘Book one in the Painting Sky series.’ It’s part of a series! Brilliant! That means there is more to come. In the meantime, I will have to wait until August to get my hands on her next book, Under a Million Stars.

If you, like me, are taken with the amazing covers of Rita’s books, you can find more info in the links below.

Purchase Painting Sky

Add to Goodreads

Visit Rita Branches’ website

Find Rita on Facebook

Find Rita on Instagram

Find Rita on Twitter

Until next time,

Abby Wilder lettering