Thursday, September 6, 2018

Spine Chillers: The Scarecrow by Nancy Gray

SPINE CHILLERS: THE SCARECROW by Nancy Gray, Mid-Grade Horror, 113 pp., $2.99 (Kindle)


Author: Nancy Gray

Publisher: Independent

Pages: 113

Genre: Mid-Grade Horror


Eleven year old, Sophie, arrives at her Aunt and Uncle’s farm to
horrible news: her cousin, Hunt, has gone missing.  When Sophie starts
searching for clues to where her cousin went, strange things happen. 
The scarecrow wanders around the cornfields at night and murders of
crows lash out at other animals for no reason at all.

An ancient spirit wants revenge. Sophie will have to be brave and clever in order to save her cousin…and herself!




Chapter 1 – Aunt Angie’s Farm

Sophie leaned
against the car window listening to the soothing sounds of the dirt road that
threatened to lull her back to sleep. When her head rolled to the side, her
glasses occasionally rattled against the windowpane, waking her from her
dreamlike state. She glanced at the scenery rolling by like the background of a
side-scrolling video game. Even though most of what she could see was the
forest, she knew that they had to be getting close to the farm. The oak trees
would occasionally part revealing a long patch of clover or grass that looked
luxurious in the setting sun. She imagined rolling around in the grass like a
happy puppy and then exploring the woods, climbing into a tree or discovering a
hidden trail.
Just as she thought
that she couldn’t take wondering if they were getting close and was about to
ask, she realized that her parents were talking in hushed tones that they
thought that she couldn’t hear. They must’ve thought that she was still asleep.
She closed her eyes and listened, curious about what they were saying.
Her mother sighed
and said, “Sometimes I really don’t know how you two are related.”
Her father
chuckled. “Yeah, but at least she isn’t living out in the woods foraging
berries or something. Angie’s always been a flake.”
“Do you think that
Sophie likes coming here? I mean, the farm used to always scare her so much
when she was little, but she acted like she was excited to come this time.”
At first, Sophie
thought about telling them that she could still hear them, but instead she just
continued to lean against the car door with her eyes shut.
“Well, she’s always
liked seeing the animals and I think she likes spending time with her cousin.”
Her mother made a
snorting noise and said, “Sometimes I wish she didn’t. That boy is a bad
influence on her.”
“I talked to Angie
about that. This time, if they want to explore they’ll be going with one of
Sophie frowned at
her mother’s comment. Part of the reason why she enjoyed going to the farm at
all was to spend time with her cousin Hunt. They were a lot alike. They both
loved exploring the farm together and playing with the animals. They even could
be mistaken for siblings because they both looked alike as well, around the
same height with blond hair and blue eyes. Even though she hated to admit it,
her mother was right.  Sometimes Hunt did get her into trouble, but it was
always fun. They loved to sneak into places on the farm that they weren’t
supposed to go, like the old barn or the woods nearby. Playing with Hunt always
meant going on some sort of adventure.
She thought
miserably, “It just won’t be as fun if mom and dad are close by. I never get
into any trouble at home. Why can’t they just let us play? I guess, at least,
we won’t be getting lost in the corn field this time.
Sophie’s dad said
in a voice that shook her out of her daydream, “Sophie, we’re here.”
She opened her eyes
and stared out the window at the rows of feed corn in front of her, fascinated.
The road was so narrow the plants scraped against the sides of the car. She
could hear a tractor up ahead and their car slowed down. The tractor motor stopped
and her dad stopped the car. Sophie craned her neck and saw her uncle waving at
them from the seat of a large, green combine and motioning for them to get out
of the car.
Her father
muttered, “Looks like Mike wants to talk. Come on, Sophie. Why don’t you get
out and stretch your legs too.”
She gladly got out
and stretched then ran in the direction of her uncle. He gave her a long hug
and said, “There’s my favorite niece. Good to see you, Sophie. Give me a minute
to talk to your dad, and then maybe I’ll give you a ride on the tractor later.”
Sophie said,
She thought, “He
usually seems more excited to see us. Why is he frowning? Is something wrong?
Her uncle put an
arm around her father’s shoulders and walked down the road until they were far
enough away that Sophie couldn’t hear them. From the way they pointed in her
direction, she knew they didn’t want her to listen in and were talking about
something that concerned her as well.
Sophie walked up to her mother.
“Mom, can I go look around?”
“Okay, but don’t go
too far. I’m going to talk to your dad. Stay close to the car.”
Sophie squinted and
shielded the sunlight from her eyes, glancing at row after row of corn.
Finally, she spotted what she was looking for and carefully entered the corn,
counting the rows so that she wouldn’t get lost, until she reached the
clearing. Hanging on a pole in the center of the open area was a scarecrow.
Oddly, there were several crows perched on top of it. One was even pulling on
one of its button eyes. The black birds glanced at Sophie for a moment with
dark, doll-like eyes and then flew away as she approached to get a closer look.
Since the
scarecrow’s head was tilted downward she got a good look at its face, and
immediately wished that she hadn’t. The head was made of a burlap sack. Even
though it was just a cloth bag, the folds around the bottom and the eyes were
deep, creating grooves in the material, making the scarecrow appear to have an
unhappy expression, possibly even an angry one. One of the button eyes hung limply
where the crow had pecked it loose, and the wide brimmed black hat on its head
cast a shadow that made the body seem to leer over her like the intimidating
silhouette of a villain in a western movie. Sophie stepped back slowly and then
turned and ran in the direction of the car, not stopping until she reached her
mother. Sophie hugged her tightly around the waist.
Her mother glanced
down at her and asked gently, “Sophie, what’s wrong?”
“Can we go?”
She nodded. “Yes,
we were just about to go to the guest house and get settled in.”
Sophie got into the
backseat of the car and didn’t glance back in the direction of the scarecrow
until they were driving. When she did turn to look, even though she knew it
wasn’t possible, the scarecrow’s head seemed to be cocked in a different
direction, slightly upward, as though it was watching them leave. Just as she
was about to say something to her parents, a wall of crows flew up from the
cornfield and obscured her view. When they were gone the head was resting down
again. Sophie made a whimpering sound in the back of her throat that she was
glad her parents didn’t hear and shifted further down into her seat, hoping
that even the top of her head wouldn’t show through the back window.

Nancy Gray 

Nancy Gray has published a number of works including her young adult fantasy series Blood Rain. Her short story “Chosen” appeared in Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Author Quest: a Penguin Special from Grosset & Dunlap. Her work also appears in various anthologies.

Nancy Gray has been writing for over ten years. Gray lives in South
Carolina with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys books, video
games, anime, manga, and horror.

Her latest book is the mid-grade horror, Spine Chillers: The Scarecrow.



Interview with Nancy Gray

How did you come up with name of this book?

It actually was a difficult process coming up with the name for the series itself. I had nearly an entire page of ideas and played with putting several different eerie concepts together. In the end, I came up with the name Spine Chillers as homage to R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series and to show there are similarities to his stories in my own. I guess you could say his books were partly my inspiration.
The subtitle of each book is about the particular monster of the story. In Spine Chillers: The Scarecrow, the scarecrow is the antagonist. In some of the others the monster of the story might be a bit more subtle in the title, but don’t let the titles fool you either. Just because this story is called The Scarecrow doesn’t mean that there isn’t more going on in the plot. Usually there are subtle layers in each story and the title is sometimes meant to be slightly misleading so the reader is surprised when they find out more about the monster.

Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?

I read many different types of books. I’ve read everything from reference books to classic literature, but my favorite genre has always been horror. Even though I’m well past the age of the target audience, I still like the occasionally mid-grade scary story. Right now Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. I’ve been a fan of his work ever since I read my first Steven King story, Thinner. I fully intend to read some of his new work in the near future.
I also enjoy reading fantasy, but particularly dark fantasy interests me. Occasionally I read fantasy comics as well. The most recent stories that I’ve read are J.M. Lee’s Shadow of the Dark Crystal novels. I’m planning to read A Wrinkle in Time soon simply because I never got to read it as a child and one of my friends suggested that I would enjoy it.

Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I prefer to work in silence because I can be easily distracted, but there is always background noise in my house because I have two young daughters. A little bit of background noise is usually okay because silence in a house with children is always suspicious and just as distracting.
Even though I don’t listen to anything while I write, I love listening to music that feels right for the book I’m currently working on while I’m in my car. Usually there is a particular album that seems to fit with the book and I listen to it every chance I get to become inspired. Music is very inspirational. Sometimes certain songs just feel right for the setting of the book or the lyrics seem almost perfect for how the characters feel. Most of the music I listen to could probably be categorized as fantasy metal, but the feel of the songs is usually more like dark fantasy.

What do you feel you can accomplish with this book?

I feel that this series will be able to provide the readers with a good scare. More than that, though, I feel that the world is a frightening place and that scary stories are a good outlet for feeling afraid but knowing that in the end none of it is real. Middle school is a difficult time of transition for children. Right now children have to deal with a lot of difficult problems. Even going to school can be a frightening experience.
Children are bombarded with news stories about violence at school, separation of families, and child abuse. For them, being able to experience a story about a child facing what seem to be impossible odds and overcoming their fears is important. If my books can provide them with escape from the real fears they have to face, or give them the courage they need to face what frightens them, then I will have accomplished what I set out to do.   

What is your next project?

My next project is another Spine Chillers story. This one is called Spine Chillers: Big Bad Wolf. Again, don’t let the title fool you. It isn’t a fairy tale, and though there are fantasy elements to it, it is a horror story. I’ll include the blurb for this story here.

Jane is ecstatic when she gets the role of Red Riding Hood in her school play, but she didn’t realize that they’d be using the stuffed wolf prop as the Big Bad Wolf. That tattered old prop has always scared her and lately she has been having strange dreams about it that make it seem like it’s something more.
Jane will have to get help to save herself from the hungry spirit that has haunted her people and her nightmares before it consumes her, or worse, before it escapes the prison of the last creature it took to satiate its horrible appetite.

There are other stories to look forward to as well. After Spine Chillers: Big Bad Wolf there will be at least three others of this series featuring a new main character in each and a new horror to face.  

Thank you very much for having me here and for letting me talk about my books. I hope you enjoy them.


  1. Thank you for this opportunity to be on your site! I really appreciate it!

  2. Thank you for sharing some of your writing process with us. I like how you try to find music that matches your story. I do that sometimes too. And I love your comment about background noise. "Silence in a house with children is suspicious and distracting." LOL!
    The Spinechillers series is awesome so far and I can't wait for your next book to come out.