Tag Archive: giveaway


Raincheck…

Hey peeps!

So. Phew! Release day over, The Holly & the Ivy launched, A Sprig of Holly at #1 on several different lists in different countries… it’s been fun! A proper run down will follow, but just now I’m doing the last bits of tidy-up and admin.

The giveaway books are being parcelled up and sent across the world in all directions. The bonus material is just going through its last polish before I send it out – and I am pretty pleased with it. It includes: a recipe for Holly’s favourite spiced milk, a behind-the-scenes audio file talking about where the idea for A Sprig of Holly came from and what’s queued up to be written next, and best of all, a short story telling about the run up to the story, told from another character’s point of view. 

I’ve enjoyed putting all that together, but in some ways it’s been a bit of a learning curve – not least as I haven’t done any audio stuff before, so not only did I have to check out what the best equipment and software was for a beginner on a budget, but also I had to work out how to use it and find out whether I could talk unscripted for the right amount of time….! Turns out my early brush with a radio show was not entirely wasted – the problem was actually making the ramble short enough to not crash everyone’s inboxes! 😂

The recipe, as well, was one that I made from scratch, and it took a little time to get the mix of spices just right. I can tell you, I’ll be using that one again though! Mmmmm! Though I say it as shouldn’t….

Of course, with this being exclusive to those who bought before 1st Sept, none of this will be surfacing anywhere else for a while, if ever. Maybe when the Holly series has finished and there’s a box set or something…. so essentially, if you want to read any of this and you bought The Holly and Ivy, get your receipt into me quick! The email address is in the back of the book  but it is jaclement [dot] ondarkshores [at ]gmail.com. Get in quick!

So, apart from that, there will of course be the ongoing round up of deals and giveaways that my stuff is featuring in on the newsletter, which you’re welcome to sign up to if you haven’t already, and once I’ve finished off a couple of outstanding blog posts related to the release, it’ll be time to put together the big overview of what I did, how it went and what next….

…and then onto the next bit of writing of course. But which??

In the meantime, a couple of big deadlines in the dayjob, and the dog has managed to prang himself on a tree at some speed, so is currently sporting one of my tshirts to stop him licking the resultant gouge (far better than a cone, esp given that this is the dog who routinely slides off his own sofa!)

But though life is as frantic as ever, at the moment it feels oddly focused and productive. I feel like someone who’s been trying to carve something with a penknife and someone’s just given me a hammer and chisel… The tools available to us as writers are the moment may well make a huge difference, and I think now is the time to use them – I just need to keep producing the odd short to keep me publishing while I’m working on the longer series. 

Moreover, it turns out I have a genre developing, albeit one with a slightly high-falutin name. You know grimdark, where terrible things happen to everyone and are described in detail and it probably is all going to end with the bad guys winning (my definition!)? Well, it turns out, someone has invented “noblebright”, which sounds a bit po-faced, but as far as I can see, the diff is that whereas bad things can happen, noblebright fiction is characterised by a thread of hopefulness running through it. It’s not as simplistic as good always winning, but sad things can sometimes be the correct outcome too, provided they provide the best outcome. 

There are undoubtedly better definitions than this and unlike Joe Abercrombie who is known as Lord Grimdark, I have no illusions of being dubbed ‘Lady Noblebright’ any time soon (you’d definitely need a robe with stars on in that case, don’t you think?😂) but it’s nice to finally have something to tell people who want to know what I write. Esp as I have written what I wanted to write, and the genre has appeared just in time to fit my stuff! Most obliging!

Anyhow. Also turns out there’s a bit of a market for fairytale retellings and fairytale-like stories, which is the other thing I’ve been playing with with such shorts as The Last Dragon and The Scarred Artisan That’s good as I already had several ideas for more, so these might well be the shorts I work on in between chunks of series stuff.

      

So, it’s been a busy old month but a sharp learning curve, and has left me somewhat cheered. Can’t complain, eh? Anyhow, back to the edits on the bonus material – if you are expecting yours, look for it around the tail end of this week, if not before.

The rest of you, take care. It’s a bit of a grimdark world at the moment, and we fantasy fans need to look out for each other. I sometimes think that when we can’t influence real life, all we as writers can do is to provide an escape for people, and hope that when they set our books down, they have had a little emotional respite from it all, recovered enough of their equilibrium to get through the day, and the next and the next. If that is all we can do for our readers, that’s a pretty powerful gift, not that we will ever know it.

So. Be kind to yourself and others, and stay safe. Whether from fire or flood, or the far off rumble of national hostility, I hope you can all find a safe haven, whether in the real world or fictional ones. 

Take care;

JAC.

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I am standing on the seashore….

Hi all:

Bit of a surreal day today. Went to a funeral which was held in a natural burial place; not a graveyard, but a very beautiful stretch of woodland sloping down to the sea. There are no grave markers, though you can see the mounds for a few years till the soil settles a bit, and as we walked down the path to where the grave was, at first it’s a bit disconcerting, seeing all the mounds under the trees, some more recent and others barely discernible. Most were covered in woodland flowers and undergrowth – not as if they were unkempt, but as if they were being reclaimed by nature.

The coffin was made of wickerwork, and the bouquets were simple cut flowers, no oasis or cellophane. The grave was under the canopy of a most beautiful beech tree, with other trees closely around. I looked up during the service, and was fascinated by the moving mosaic of leaves, layer upon layer of them. The sun glowed through the higher leaves, and now and then there was a blink of blue sky as the branches shifted and whispered in the breeze. It was really lovely, actually, and looking around at the other grave sites, I really liked that slowly, the mounds settle back into the ground and become part of the woodland. They’re tall and proud at the beginning, when you need the marker, but gradually as the sadness of grief fades and the happiness surfaces, the mound also fades and the woodland stops being background to grief, and comes back into focus as a place of peace to sit and be thankful for the good memories.

That really appeals to me. For me, a quiet, sunny space filled with leaf-whisper and the dappling of sun through the leaves is perfect for dealing with grief; not lonely silence, but filled with enough sound and movement to keep your brain occupied while your heart quietly breaks, and quietly mends itself, though it takes a long time.

One of the moments during the service that made me wobble a bit was the readings as they used one – sometimes called “What is dying?” – that we had at my Dad’s funeral. He died last year, just before our wedding. That reading was one I first heard at the funeral of the father of a good friend. It talks of dying as standing on the seashore watching a ship carrying cargo which disappears over the horizon. It’s lovely: have a quick look at the link above (the rest of this blog will make a lot more sense if you do!)

I loved it. I sent it home to my parents as my mum plays the organ at a lot of funerals and my Dad’s choir used to sing at them, so it’s always useful to know these things in case the family are having trouble finding something relevant. My Dad had always loved sailing and the sea, so he really liked the reading too. It always makes me think of him, and certainly it did today. I miss him, the old bugger. I found myself standing at the funeral for one person and crying for another, which was also weird. 
My Dad found school very difficult as a child, and that included reading. He said once that he read maybe five books from the time he was a teen to that point (his early seventies, maybe?) But at that point we went on a mission to get him reading. I had persuaded my Mum to read Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice. She didn’t like fantasy until she read Hobb and discovered it wasn’t like she had thought, and she was sure that my Dad would enjoy it too, but he was an awkward one and not necessarily inclined to oblige. So we left it on the table, slightly in the way. When he came in, he looked at it and read the blurb and said “What’s this?”

“Oh, sorry, is that in your way?” I  moved it onto the side. “It’s the book I just finished reading.”

“Is it good?” 

I shrugged. “I think it’s epically good,” I told him, and went off  burbling about it being really exciting and gripping and all the stuff I thought might appeal. “But you wouldn’t like it.”

“Why not?”

“Well, I know you’re not right bothered. Anyhow I lent it to Mum and she loved it so I’m going to see if (my sister) wants to read it.”

I left it at that and wandered off, and sure enough when I went back into the kitchen a couple of hours later it had mysteriously gone. He loved the book, of course, and was up till all hours reading it several nights in a row. Less than a week later I caught him sneaking into the other room to see if he could find the second one in the bookshelf… and he did read the whole trilogy. 

After that, there was a rather lovely thing where he would come and ask my Mum rather hesitantly what she thought he might like next. Mum, having been a school teacher, is pretty good at judging that sort of thing, and he went from kids books like Stig of the Dump, which he loved, to James Herriot and Nevill Shute, and by the time of his death he was part way through Oliver Twist. To me, that is just the most amazing thing, to suddenly discover the joy of words so late in life, and I’m so proud that he stuck with it all the way up to Dickens (I know the classics can be a bit Marmite, but I love Dickens’ use of words, so it’s amazing to be able to share that enjoyment with someone discovering it for the first time). I am so proud and pleased that he did start, and kept going nearly to the end of his life, when his Parkinson’s intervened. He gained so much pleasure from it until then; I love that that was a gift we were able to give him. It feels like a real privilege.

I don’t think he ever read any of my books apart from one short story, The Black-Eyed Susan, which had a sailing ship in it. He  really liked it and wanted to read Song of the Ice Lord after, as it also involves ships and war, which were two things he was quite interested in, but sadly his illness intervened and he never got that far. Whether he would have enjoyed it or not I can’t tell you, but I think he would have liked the shipspirits.

What are the shipspirits? In Song, the warrior/sailor tribes that make up the Skral people have a complex relationship with their ships, to which they attribute a sort of benificent awareness, and when each ship becomes too old to repair, the tribe haul them to a very secret and sacred place, the ships’ graveyard, where they are laid to rest in honour. Maran and Lodden, a bard and a engineer of sorts, travel across the island where Maran’s people live. Lodden, who comes from a far country, is awed to see the row upon row of ships along the hillside, the older ones crumbling into flat, shapeless mounds while the newer ones stand high and stark.

…Sound familiar? 

As I looked around the burial ground today, with the grave-mounds unmarked and settling into the earth, it felt as if someone had taken the pictures in my head and made it real, just on a smaller scale (and with less snow!). That’s why it was doubly eerie when they started reading the poem; Song is dedicated to my friend’s father, at whose funeral I first heard the poem that gave me the idea of the shipspirits- but that poem, the poem at my Dad’s funeral, was the very same one they read today.

Today, the combination of the burial site and the reading made me shiver, though not in a bad way.  Song of the Ice Lord is about grief and loss, but it is also about coming to terms with losing the people you love, and understanding that while we remember them with love, they never really leave us. 
I will leave you with the last part of the poem in the version we heard today, as the soul-ship disappears over the horizon and is lost to sight:

And just at the moment when someone at my side says

“She is gone!”

there are other eyes watching her coming,

and other voices ready to take up the glad shout

“She is here at last!” 
Take care, all.

JAC.

– – –

NB Song of the Ice Lord is quite randomly on a 99c deal at the moment, if you’re interested. Oddly enough, we organised it weeks ago before there was any question of a funeral at all. Synchronicity is a weird, weird, thing.

Free ebook anyone?

While I remember:

Free copy of The Scarred Artisan if anyone wants one?
You sign up to the mailing list to get it but can always unsubscribe later- there’s a link at the bottom of any email that gets sent out.

Please note, this is one of the shorts from Song of the Ice Lord so if you’ve read that, you’ve probably already got this!

in which case try The Black-Eyed Susan free here:

Dear all:

Due to a mild disagreement between myself and my computer, the splendidly celebratory blog announcing that Song of the Ice Lord had now gone live…well, it remained in my computer. Unhelpful. I will be giving it a stern speaking to later. But Song is now indeed live, and at the introductory low price of $0.99 / £0.77 until Monday 14th July only.

SO

to celebrate (in retrospect) the release of Song of the Ice Lord, I am going to give away;

One signed paperback

One bracelet, handmade by a local glass artist

And one solar-powered hummingbird, would you believe?!

And (subject to availability) the pendant of the house of your choice from Game of Thrones).

Giveawayphoto 4

So – how do you win all this booty??

 

To enter, all you have to do is come up with songs for (dah dah dah…..)

“Game of Thrones – The Musical”.

 I want to know what the song is, who the artist is, and what character should sing it.

 

As an example, if this was Lord if the Rings you might enter

“Ring of fire” by Johnny Cash (as sung by Sauron)

or envisage a scene between Frodo and Sauron to the melodic strains of “Can’t Get you Out of my Head” by Kylie

or even

“You ain’t nothin’ but a Balrog” by Elvis, as covered by Gandalf.(Yeah, it’s cheating but it made me laugh)

 

 

So –

Same idea, but Game of Thrones-related please! The prizes will be shared amongst the ones that make me laugh the most (there may be ebooks or bookmarks for ones deserving of special mentions).

 

So that’s how to enter. And if you absolutely can’t wait till 13th July when I decide on the winner,  Song of the Ice Lord is now available for your viewing pleasure (rah!) at the following purveyors at the knockdown price of $0.99 / £0.77 until Monday 14th July at which point it will go up to $2.99: you have been warned.

 

Amazon UK:

Song of the Ice Lord (Parallels)

US:

http://www.amazon.com/Song-Ice-Lord-Parallels-Clement-ebook/dp/B00L72RTY0/

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/448648

B&N:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/song-of-the-ice-lord-ja-clement/1119745072?ean=2940046014785

Apple:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/song-of-the-ice-lord/id890151274?mt=11

 

It’s also in all the other stores Smashwords export to, so if not listed here, Google should find it.

 

but back to the giveaway! Game of Thrones – the musical, remember?.

Comment away peeps! there are prizes to be won, and if the entries are good enough, I might add more swag to the bag, esp if you send other entries my way.

I’ll start you off, shall I?

with an intro to the musical by the author himself.

George RR Martin, it’s time for your solo number! Roll the intro to: Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust”….

after which the curtains lift on… what? Your turn – comment away, peeps!

JAC

 

 

Dear all:

More news from Weasel Green Press – my running mate Dulcie Feenan has offered 3 copies of her new paperback “Christmas comes to Oddleton” for a giveaway on Goodreads here:

http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/44535-christmas-comes-to-oddleton

If anyone wants to enter for the chance to win one, please do! Another cover by the tremendously talented Regina Wamba of Mae I Design, Weasel Green’s favourite cover artist, and if you can read the blurb and not be intrigued, you’ve never experienced the chaos that is a school play…

Best of luck all!

JAC

Hey all:

This week’s guest post is by another alumni of Creative Reviews, no less than Beth Ann Masarik. She has recently brought out Prince of Darkness, part of her trilogy The World Among Us. So all you fantasy  / romance fans, take a look at her interview below and be aware that she’s going to do a giveaway- there will be a couple of great prizes, all to be had for a simple comment below.

I leave you in Beth’s capable hands!

JAC

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Name: Beth Ann Masarik

Author of: The World Among Us: Prince of Darkness

Genre/s: Young Adult/Fantasy (Urban Fantasy)

P- or e-book: All formats…paperback, hardcover, and e-book

Available from:  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords & Otherworld Publications

One-sentence summary: The World Among Us is a Young Adult/Fantasy Trilogy that has plenty of Greek Mythology & Vampire lore, and of course, forbidden love.

  One-sentence biog: I love to write, read and    role play.

 Links to your Blog / Twitter / FB / other:

The World Among Us Fanpage,

My Author fanpage

 Twitter accounts:

@theworldamongus &

@literarylunes

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When you write, do you have a routine or habit?

I usually like to write in my bed, with my pajamas on, and the music blasting in the background. I usually listen to something fast beat.  This is going to sound weird, but I like to try to write to the beat of the music. Does anyone else do that?  I also usually have either a glass of Pepsi or mom’s homemade iced tea & a bag of chips with me when I write.

What kicks off the book – a character, a situation, a plot-point? 

Usually a situation is what kicks off my books.

Do you plan the plot or follow it as it unfolds? How much do you know in advance? 

I usually do very little planning.  I like to have set goals or situations that have to happen in each book I write.  Otherwise, I usually just let my characters write the books, and I dictate.  Sometimes, however, my characters tend to sidetrack, and I have to get them back on track and plot a little bit.

Do you write character notes or background information?

Yes!  That is mostly what I plot. It’s how I get to know my characters.

Do you do research and how?

It depends on the topic I am writing about, but yes, I do research.  I usually browse the internet for said topic, and keep looking until I find whatever it is I am looking for.

Do your characters do as you intend or do they tend to run away with the plot? 

My main characters are generally good with doing what I want them to. However, once in a while they tend to get off track.

Do you have clear visuals of places or characters? 

Most of the time, yes I do.  It’s getting that vision into words that’s the problem sometimes.

When you have writer’s block, what do you do? 

When I have writer’s block, I usually put the book down for however long I need to, and read.  I usually read books in the genre I write in, and after a while, something I read or see in real life will spark an idea. I find that going to church is actually a good place to get inspiration from.  I often find myself zoning out of the homily’s after the gospel during mass, and entering the thoughts of my characters.  It’s a nice escape I have to say (especially if the sermon is really boring lol)

What made you decide to write this story? 

I’ve always been into the fantasy world, and love vampires and witches (not so much werewolves).  It was one of those stories that once I got the idea for it, it just HAD to be written.

What element did you start with and how did it develop? 

I started out with knowing the last ¼ of The World Among Us: Prince of Darkness, and developed the story around it.  It sounds complicated, and I guess you could say I kind of wrote the book backwards, but it developed nicely (I think).

Did anything change substantially along the way?

Sometimes something that started as a detail suddenly becomes a plot point. Have you had that happen and what was it (if it would not be a spoiler to say)?  I am sure that I have, but to be honest, I can’t remember a specific detail.  (there are just too many).

Do you have a favorite character or place? 

I hate being asked about my favorite character lol. It’s like being asked if you have a favorite child.  I love them all.  In terms of a favorite place, I would have to say Mount Olympus.  You don’t get to visit it much in Prince of Darkness, but you will get to see why it’s my favorite in Stormy Nights.

Are any of your characters / places / situations based on real life? 

Some of the places are loosely based off of places that I frequently visit in real life.  IE, Holly Oak University is based off the college I went to, and Port Washington is a real town in NY.  It’s in Nassau County, Long Island.

What are your views on self-publishing? 

If you have what it takes, go for it!  I self-publish my magazine called Literary Lunes (www.literarylunes.com), so I know that it’s a lot of hard work, and can be very frustrating if you don’t know what you are doing.  BUT if you have the time and patience, then by all means, all the more power to you!

What are your views on e-books?

I think e-books are great and convenient for traveling, but, I still prefer to hold the actual book in my hand.

Do you have / are you considering getting an e-reader?

I actually just received an e-reader for Christmas from my fiancé.  I received the Nook Color J.

Did you have your cover made /  work edited / proofed by someone else?

My cover was designed by someone that Otherworld hired.  James from JE Ellis Design designed it.

What do you do to market your book? 

I talk about it all the time on facebook, twitter etc. I have a fanpage on facebook (www.facebook.com/theworldamongus), and my twitter handle is also the title of my book @theworldamongus.  This way, whenever someone sees the name, they are always thinking or talking about my book (even when they don’t realize it!)

Are you on any social media? Which do you prefer? 

I am on too many social media websites. I am on so many, that I can barely keep up with them all.  I personally prefer facebook & twitter as opposed to myspace, however.

What has proved your most successful marketing method so far? 

Networking sites such as facebook, twitter, and Goodreads.  They are MUST HAVES, especially for new authors.  Blogging is also proving to be successful as well.

Have you read and enjoyed any other indie authors? Who / what book? 

I’m honestly only just starting with reading some Indie authors, and the one that I just read was called Legacy of the Highlands by Harriet Schultz.  It’s a new, romantic thriller that has you on the edge of your seat right to the very end.  It was out of my normal genre (YA/Fantasy), so it took me a chapter or two to really get into it. BUT once I got into it, I was hooked.  I will be writing a review for it on www.literarylunespublications.blogspot.com over the next week.

Have you any tips for other authors? 

Be kind to your fans & readers.  If you’re on a pedestal, step down.  No one likes a stuck up author.  Be humble.  If someone takes the time out to review your book, be sure to thank them, or pay it forward. If you received a bad review, take it with a grain of salt.  Remember, a review is ONLY ONE PERSON’S OPINION.

Which book review sites do you read?

I honestly try to avoid reading book review websites BUT I absolutely ADORE everyone that has been participating on my tour.  It’s hard to pick just one.

Which review sites have reviewed your book? 

Too many to list.  If you take a look at the tour list on www.bethannmasarik.com or www.bahbammymusings.wordpress.com you will get an idea of who’s reviewed me.

Are there any resources you have found really useful? 

Goodreads is a goldmine for authors, writers, and yes, even readers.  It’s a great way to connect with your fans and the general audience.  There are lots of great books out there, and Goodreads is a great resource to finding them.

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Many thanks to Beth for the interview, and now for the giveaway – Beth has kindly offered prizes for you! There will be the chance to win an ebook, a fanclub Tshirt and possibly a mug, which could be yours! To enter, please leave a comment below…. and if you know other fantasy / romance fans, please let them know as well!

Thanks to Beth for this great opportunity;

JAC

Hi all:

In memory of indie author L.C.Evans who recently passed away, we’re trying to raise awareness of her books to help offset the medical bills with which her family have been left.

To that end, the Indie View is running a giveaway – if you buy one of L.C’s books, you can have a free copy of one of the books listed, and be entered in the draw to win all 40.

It’s running today, the 24th, and if anyone would like to take part, the link is here:
http://www.theindieview.com/2012/01/20/a-tribute-to-indie-author-l-c-evans/

And if you click on the bit in bold halfway down it should take you to the page where the freebies are listed,

And if you could tweet, FB, blog or otherwise spread the word, you’d be helping to try and ameliorate the circumstances of the loved ones LC left behind. I know she’d appreciate it.

Please have a look – she was an award-winning author so amongst her various books there may well be one you’d be interested in.

Thanks, all:
JAC

The countdown begins!

In case any of you have escaped notice so far, “On Dark Shores” is currently going free at Smashwords – BUT this deal only lasts till the end of the month.

So if you want to read a copy – or  do fwd the link on if you have friends who like fantasy – go to http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/46488 and input this special code

SSWSF

which is also written at the top of the Smashwords page, and you should be able to simply download all 45k words of it (ish) without having to pay a solitary penny! Bargain, huh?

And if you enjoy the read, please

a) consider leaving a review – Smashwords, Amazon, the Apple story, Goodreads, anywhere the book is, you’ll find other readers who want to know what you thought of it.

b) if you want to know what happens next, sign up to the mailing list using the rather snazzy new “Get the gossip” button to the right. Book 2 (The Mother) is currently in editing but work is going apace – and you KNOW advance review copies will be offered to reviewers of book 1 and to those on the mailing list before it’s advertised anywhere else!

c) if neither of those appeal, but you enjoyed the book, just go tell someone – preferably someone to whom you think the book will appeal rather than your dog, a small child or your religious advisor, maybe (depending on the religious advisor), but word of mouth is an incredibly powerful thing.

Anyway, the count-down continues – and if On Dark Shores isn’t your thing, check out some of the other books available there. Most have a downloadable sample so you can try before you buy in order to check it looks interesting, and there is some really unusual work out there.

Hope at least some of that will be helpful – and as always, have a great day, peeps!

JAC

 

Hey all:

Just a brief blog – check out

The Smashwords Top Ten Bestsellers in Epic Fantasy List

This morning I found that ‘On Dark Shores: The Lady’ was up at no. 8, which was very exciting – so I came back to it this evening and would you believe that it’s up to 7th place?

I suspect that this is mostly because it’s free at the moment and I went in to put the price back up to 50% off – but I might leave it another day now, and see if it goes up any higher….

HOW cool is that though?! Exceedingly chuffed!

And as always, if anyone would be prepared to RT on Twitter or Facebook, I’d really appreciate that.

Thanks for your support, all – you know I wouldn’t have got this far without you.

JAC

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Morning all:

Well, here’s a thing. There appears to be some bloke in his trollies plastered across my blog – how did that happen?!

How that happened is simple enough, actually;  the lovely Vanessa at Love, Laugh & Read blog is hosting a giveaway to celebrate Canada Day (for the ignorant such as I, they tell me this is the anniversary of the birth of Canada). It’s an international contest and  by simply commenting on each blog participating (there’s a list of them on her site) you can win all sorts of goodies including a wide variety of ebooks (not least “ON DARK SHORES; THE LADY“) and paperbacks and a couple of mystery prizes…. Intrigued yet? I know I am!

So, click on Tarquin pic above (about 2 Boddingtons fans will get this joke) and go to Love, Laugh & Read;  sign in with the linky gadget at the bottom of the page, and then do your blog tour, commenting as you go for extra entries!!

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So:

Only a short blog today, but as some of you will know from my ramblings on Goodreads, I’ve recently moved house and I was unpacking yet another crate of books today when I came across one of my best secondhand bookshop finds; a boxed set of CS Lewis’ Narnia books, the lovely ones with the Pauline Baynes illustrations.

Just finding them there made me smile, as these particular books are really special to me; and it made me think that though I am a big fan of ebooks (and indeed had been just been thinking that if my entire collection was in virtual form I’d have brought it into the house on a memory stick rather than in 25 crates!) there are some things that an ebook cannot do that a paperback can and does do.  For what it’s worth, my take on the whole ebook / p-book debate is that I read ebooks to gatekeep my shelfspace, and buy p-books of the books I was to keep and re-read and admire on my shelves in idle moments and this boxed set is very definitely of that category of books.

In the first place, it’s an author I love whose books transfixed me for hours at a time, as a child (and I still enjoy them today, though you can never quite reclaim the innocence and the novelty of your childhood interpretation); but these books have a claim on me which might be entirely imaginary…. or might not.

Let me explain…

In the area of the country where I grew up, virtually all the kids moved South to find work (and still do) so when I finished Uni and went back home it was a bit of a shock to the system. I’d gone from the mad, glad dash of clubs and musical societies and classes on a campus with fifteen thousand people around my age from all around the world to the slow, gentle, quiet progression of life in the  beautiful countryside, with no public transport locally and none of my good friends in this half of the country. Even the kids I’d gone to school with were mostly living down South somewhere, so it felt a bit forlorn in a lot of ways.

I did do a bit of writing, of course, but having just finished 4 years’ worth of essays, reading for pleasure felt like more  of a luxury and there was a great little secondhand bookshop just down from where I worked so when I wasn’t buying the mis-shapes from the chocolatier, I was usually lurking in the bookshop. One day I happened across a boxed set of the Narnia books, in beautiful condition. All the paperbacks were there, and there wasn’t a bent spine amongst them; they were slightly faded along the spine but otherwise in beautiful condition, and when I asked the price, the shop-owner said that as I was a regular, I could have the lot for £15, which was about the price of a new hardback.

I wasn’t well-off at the time and this was about a month’s book allowance, but  I didn’t hesitate to take him up on this offer and bought them on the spot, dashing back to my temping job with the bag clasped to me as if it was something precious – because it was. I was consumed with glee at finally having not only managed to buy a full matching set of them for myself, but also having managed to ace all my expectations by finding the ones with the Pauline Baynes illustrations that I loved, in the original box, and in such perfect condition! Clearly they’d never even been read, I thought; but I was wrong.

When I got home that night I went straight up to my room, allegedly to change out of my work trousers, but in actual fact to savour the first opening of the books, as if it were some amazing gift that I’d received unexpectedly.

I took them out of the box, marvelling at the jewel-like colours and the absolutely unsullied appearance of the covers; and then I opened ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ carefully. On the inside of the cover was handwriting in a plain, angular script, not easy to decipher. It simply read “To [scribble]” and the date, which was also unreadable.  It was good to have a bit of the book’s history in front of me.

The inscription was only written in the first book, but they were obviously a set; a wonderful present for someone. I wondered if they had been unwanted and how they had ended up in the secondhand shop. However, as I leafed through each book in turn it quickly became clear that these books had not been unwanted but had been treasured by someone just as careful with their books as I am – and more.

Each and every one of the beautiful line drawings that grace the pages of that edition had been painstakingly and very thoughtfully coloured in in pencil crayons; not the usual clumsy scribbles that spoil the picture and mar the book, but with real attention to detail and thought for the colours.

I hate writing in books – I’m the first one to argue that it distracts me and breaks the spell of the tale, and even hesitate over writing my name in the front of my books because it will annoy me every time I open the cover. In the normal way of things I don’t approve of colouring in the pictures either unless you’re a much better artist than am I; but these were different. These were the work of some child who genuinely loved those books, and cared enough to keep them in utterly pristine condition otherwise.

The thing is, that sort of book doesn’t end up in a secondhand shop unless the original owner is no longer  around; we might fall out of love with the stories but we never fall out of love with the memory of the pleasure they have given us. Of course I may be wrong, but it seems likely that the books were given away as part of a house clearance….

I can’t help but wonder what happened to the child who coloured in those pictures with such care and wonder; but wherever she (or he) is now, I think that they’d be pleased that their books have come to someone else who will love and look after them, and sometimes when I sit alone in the quiet and read them, it is almost as if there is someone else there sharing the story, and loving every turn of the page just as much as I do.

I always stop to look at those beautiful pictures; and it doesn’t break the spell of the story; and I always spare a kind thought for that child, who is reading along with me, just as they used to when the books were new…

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Anyway, that’s my story for today. What about you? Is there a book that you loved as a child? Do you still own it now? Leave a comment and let me know!

And of course, don’t forget to go back and enter on the other sites by leaving your comments there as well…. So who’ll start the ball rolling?

JAC