Question Time on Peculiar Hill: What’s the deal with the Marmalade?; Do people get Strange? And more…

Many thanks to Hayley who has sent in some incisive questions about ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’. If you have any questions on the Vale of Strange books which you would like to ask, please do send them in. You can contact us via the Contact Grimly page, using either the contact box or the email address you will find on the page.

Please note that unless you tell us otherwise, we will assume you are happy for your questions to be answered here on the blog. To make it all as simple as possible, please mark your email ‘Questions for the blog’.

Now over to Hayley with the first of her four questions. Grimly himself will be providing the answers (we hope). Grimly! Are you there?

What is the deal with the marmalade? Why does it have crosses on the lid and why do you have turn it anticlockwise 3 times before you open it?

Ah yes, hum, well, (slurps cup of tea) very good question. Thanks, Hayley! The truth is that although the world of the Vale of Strange is very different to our own, it has quite a lot in common with us too. In our own world, we have plenty of so called ‘traditional remedies’ which are thought to fight off illnesses, and various superstitious actions (such as crossing our fingers) which are said to protect us against bad luck. We can’t assume that all of these necessarily work.

It is just the same in the world of the Vale of Strange. The ritual with the marmalade first emerged in the distant past and has been handed down over the years to the present generation of Peculiarshire residents along with unge and glop. These latter are protective substances against strange creatures which are commonly used but for which there is not a great deal of scientific evidence. Unge is placed in a bowl on the dining table but scientists who have studied it claim it is no more effective against bogeys and other strange creatures than a bowl of sugar or a vase of flowers would be.

Glop has a more impressive reputation but is only effective if used properly. You may have noticed that Amanda has never suggested that she and Peter should take plenty of glop in their bags when they set off into the Vale of Strange. This is because you can’t just throw it at bogeys. It has to be prepared in advance. You spread a ring of it around your house a few weeks before the start of the bogey season. Then as the days go by, it reacts with the soil of the ground around it to form a substance called glopthwock which the bogeys don’t like. As long as this ring is inspected every few weeks and repaired as necessary – chiefly reinforcing any sections which have been eaten away by snails (which unfortunately find glopthwock delicious) – the glop will provide a useful bogey deterrent.

Aunt Maggie uses glop of course, not least because she makes it herself, and she and Uncle Bob conscientiously inspect and repair the protective ring around their shop throughout the winter. Some of their neighbours, however, don’t have the patience for this and would rather just have a bogey pole handy to fend off the creatures instead.

Scientists have carried out numerous tests on glop but differ in their opinion as to how effective it is at keeping bogeys away. This is probably because the tests have not all been carried out in the same place, so the strength of glopthwock produced by the soil on which the glop is spread may have varied from one test site to another.

To return to the original subject of your question, however, scientists have paid much less attention to the effect of turning a jar of marmalade three times widdershins etc. There have been only two trials concerning this, neither of which have indicated any deterrent effect on bogeys, but some of the scientists on one of the trials thought the marmalade tasted a bit better afterwards.

Does the strangeness make everyone in the town strange or does it not affect them?

Humans have a very high resistance to strangeness. This is not something which is fully understood. However, the latest theory is that it is due to the high concentration of a substance called mezzrinine in the human body. This substance appears to take in all the available strangeness itself, so blocking absorption into the rest of the body. Humans are therefore unlikely to become strange, even when exposed to very high concentrations of strangeness.

This may be why the unfortunate tourists who get eaten by monsters in the Vale have the effect of keeping down levels of strangeness, strange-hungry mezzrinine being released into the atmosphere as part of the process of digestion – in the same sort of way as cows produce carbon dioxide. But the end effect of all this mezzrinine in the atmosphere is not global warming (as in the case of the cows) but lower levels of strangeness. These lower levels are welcomed by the citizens of Peculiarshire, of course, not because higher levels would make them strange (which they wouldn’t) but because higher levels would encourage the bogeys and other strange creatures to fly nearby and generally make a nuisance of themselves.

I think there will be more about mezzrinine in the third book in the series, which will be out, er, eventually…

Does Peter find a way to keep the strangness at bay without the tourists?

This is a much easier question to answer but I’d rather not do it just here because I don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’, the second book in the series. I will only comment that there may be some progress made concerning this problem, but the proof (as the lifkins would put it) is in the pudding. To find out more, read ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’, available now from Amazon!

Do Amanda and Peter end up together?

I was quite amused when another of our readers described Amanda and Peter as ‘the love interest’ in the book. It seemed to me that they were a little bit young for romance, but that is probably just me being old-fashioned! Anyway, I am afraid I don’t know what the answer is because we haven’t got there yet. We are only two books into the series.

What do you think? Do you think they’ll end up together? On the evidence of the first book I would be a little bit scared for Peter if they did. Don’t you think Amanda would push him around? On the other hand, maybe Peter is well capable of standing up for himself. He is very adamant at the end of the first book about not going back to the Vale for instance. But does he stick to that decision in the second book? And if he doesn’t, who is it that talks him into going back into the Vale? Is it Amanda – or somebody else?

It might be time for you to get your copy of ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’. Things are about to get a lot more complicated…

So that’s it then. Many thanks to Hayley again for sending in those questions! What would you like to know about the world of the Vale of Strange? There’s a lot of things that aren’t explained in the books. This is your chance to become a Vale of Strange insider. Send in your questions and you could be talking to Grimly here too…

The Lifkin Wall

As I promised yesterday, I’m now going to explain what’s really going on in Pete Lyon’s cover illustration for ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill‘ so you can get a taste of what’s going to happen in the new book.

What the cover shows is an enormous wall which the lifkins have built to protect the underground deposits of strangeness. These are under attack from a new character, the villainous Percival Crow, so putting at risk the very balance of the weirdosphere. The lifkins are the industrious, spindly creatures who first appeared in ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’. They make everything out of things they find lying around in the Vale of Strange and this wall is no exception. Pete has used this as the starting point for an extraordinary picture, showing all the things that make up the wall in microscopic detail: bits of cars, an aeroplane, an old fashioned camera, a postbox, an anchor with chain, everything including the kitchen sink… How many different things can you spot?

In the right hand side of the foreground, you can see a lifkin called Suds who has been using a vacuum cleaner to clear up puddles of strangeness following an attack from Percival Crow the previous day. In doing so, he has also accidentally vacuumed up the three children. He has just switched off the vacuum and is reading the instructions in concern, while the children have fallen to the floor where they look rather dazed. In a few moments time, they will need to have all their wits about them, as who should come scrambling down the wall but Thing, the lifkin who caused them so much trouble in the previous book. Thing’s mood has not improved in the meantime….

And as for that creature in the background, that isn’t a bogey, is it? It looks too big….

That’s all I can tell you for now. You’ll have to wait till the book comes out to find out more. But it won’t be long now. The eBook version can be pre-ordered right away and the paperback can be purchased on the publication date, which is 1st Dec, next Sunday! The wait is almost over….

In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, take a look at the first two chapters of the book, available free on line right now!

Stranger Days Are Nearly Here!

Hello – Grimly here! It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here and I’ve noticed that a few new people have been viewing this site (welcome!) so I decided I should bring my computer out of the cupboard under the stairs, eject the rats that had set up home in the backup drive, de-louse the keyboard, polish the monitor, hunt around for the password cupboard, wrestle the mouse off the mice, and write you an update on what has been going on around here.

Well, nothing much really, but it’s all going to start soon because I’ve just taken delivery of Pete Lyon’s magnificent cover for ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’, the sequel to ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’ and part two of the ‘Vale of Strange’ series. Pete’s illustration really is wonderful. If you liked the cover of the first book, you’re going to really love this one! It’s a good thing that the ‘Vale of Strange’ paperbacks are larger format than the tiny books which seem to pass for normal these days because that will give you a chance to study the fine detail of the drawing. Even so, you might want to think about buying the Kindle version as well (so you can take advantage of the magnification capability) and to make sure you really appreciate the fine details I suggest adding an electron microscope to your Christmas list.

You think I’m joking? The illustration would really look at its best on the wall of some great public building. You’ll see what I mean when you see it. Maybe the House of Commons would like to feature ‘Stranger Days’? Some might think it appropriate.

I would have shown you the cover here but we’re going to look into the possibility of organising a ‘Cover Reveal’ event in advance of publication. If we manage to set that up, we will let you know here of course.

At the moment, we’re hoping for a mid November publication date, but once again we will publish the details here. If you’re not already following the blog, you can sign up for email alerts in the right hand sidebar. That way, you’re sure to be fully informed of all developments. You can sign up for our Facebook group there too.

That’s it for now then – but don’t forget your hat! It’s autumn now, so this message is endorsed by not only Aunt Maggie but also Uncle Bob. It’s October – almost Halloween – and the bogeys are flying!

(Photo shows Pete Lyon and Grimly Darkwood, on the lookout for bogeys.)

Radzy’s Review of ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’

Hi, Grimly here! Yes, I know it’s the first time I’ve shown my face in a while but I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches to my new book ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’. I’ll be sending it off to our publisher, Jennifer, at Journey Fiction any day now so it should be out in good time for Christmas. Don’t forget to put it on Santa’s shopping list…

As you might have guessed, it’s all about the further adventures of Peter and Amanda on Peculiar Hill, this time joined by another young friend called Mala, whose father, the hapless explorer Augustus Flipper, has gone mysteriously missing. Is there a chance that in the course of their investigations they will wander into the Vale of Strange, you may be asking? It may be best not to exclude this possibility.

You’ll be able to read much more about the new book here on the blog in the buildup to publication, so don’t forget to follow us to make sure you get notification of new posts as they come out. You can do this either by email (see the form in the sidebar) or through Facebook. If you have a WordPress account, you can also follow us through them.

To add to the excitement, there’s another new review of ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’ just out, this time by blogger Radzy who writes: “I can only imagine the creative impact this will have on young minds, and cannot recommend this book enough for yourself, the wee ones in your world, or just anyone you know who will enjoy a quirky, meaningful novel.”

As you can tell, she really likes the book and it’s a very thoughtful, perceptive review, well worth a read in full on her excellent blog, ‘Radzy Writes and Reviews‘. I strongly suggest you take a look at it now…

Thank you, Radzy!

Finally, the usual piece of fashion advice: Uncle Bob may say you don’t really need one for bogeys at this time of year, but if you’re here in the UK, you’ll need one to keep out the rain. So do the smart thing and don’t forget your hat!

(This column has Aunt Maggie’s Official Seal of Approval.)

A Scary Teaser

Hello Everyone – A couple of things to write about this time: first of all, if you’re one of those who have already entered the lovereading4kids competition to win a valuable signed copy of The Shop On Peculiar Hill (which we mentioned last time) you may be interested to learn that there are now several new ways to enter so you may be able to increase your chances of winning! Get over there to the competition page and take a look.

And the other new developments to tell you about are the exciting new “teasers” produced by marketing gurus “Author Shout”, which come in various formats, one of which you will see below. Some of them are even animated, but we haven’t worked out how to use those ones yet. It may be that we need to put in some AA batteries.

image1

We have to say we think that the red writing on the teasers looks especially scary and bloodcurdling, whereas – as you will know if you’ve read it – the book is pleasantly spine tingling rather than downright terrifying and even comes with specially designated funny bits, so those expecting to catch their death of fright may be disappointed.

Nevertheless, we think that the red writing is eye-catching and should bring in a few new readers, as long as they are not too traumatised by the teaser to undergo the checkout process. We recently invested in an ebook all about marketing and it gave explicit advice not to reduce customers to gibbering wrecks until after they have completed their purchase.

But I’m sure it would be all right.

That’s all for now then. I know it’s summer but Aunt Maggie’s advice is unchanged throughout the year: don’t forget your hat…

(A spokesperson for Uncle Bob drew our attention to the fact that bogeys don’t fly in the summer and it won’t even be July till a week on Monday. He therefore insisted that you don’t need a hat and it isn’t as dangerous round here as Aunt Maggie seems to think. But readers taking this advice do so at their own risk and the spokesman isn’t available for further comment because a piano fell on his head.)

 

Audrey’s Illustration

Hello Everyone – Grimly here, and this time we have another contribution from Audrey, the reader who I was chatting with a few weeks ago. This time she has produced this great illustration of a large proportion of the cast of ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill‘. Let’s see if you can spot who is who.

Audrey pic Shop

Got it?

No, that isn’t Uncle Bob painted blue with wings on. That’s a bogey, one of the vary rare blue ones in fact. And the green character on the left isn’t Mr Grimble feeling a bit green and sickly after having been accidentally shrunk in the washing machine. It’s a heeblegreeb. But you really knew that, didn’t you?

The next two are easy of course: Amanda looking cool in black and Peter in his new blue jeans, but is that a hot air balloon in between them or could it possibly be a strange tomato on a lead? I think it’s a strange tomato all right. It’s the purring that gives it away!

And finally, the character at the far right hand side surely has to be Algernon, but are those muscles under his T shirt? He looks like more than a match for any strange creatures who come his way. The only thing that worries me is that he hasn’t got a hat. Hopefully Amanda has it safely stashed away in her bag in case the bogeys start fizzing.

Many thanks to Audrey for sending us that terrific picture. I look forward to seeing her illustration of ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’ which is due out later this year of course. And in the meantime, if anyone else would like to try your hand at illustrating any of the characters in ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’, we shall be delighted to see what you come up with. Just remember that if you send any drawings in, we will assume that you’re happy for us to publish them on the blog.

And finally, following on from last time, I decided that yes, I would change the photo of me that goes at the top of the blog. Up there now is one that my friend Lee (Audrey’s grandma) has lovingly photoshopped into submission. Yes, perhaps it makes me look a bit younger than I actually am but I think it also makes me look less scary than the previous photo did. And after all, what with bogeys and heeblegreebs and jamjam plants, there are enough scary things in ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’ without people having to worry about the author as well, don’t you think?

‘And I’m not really scary, am I?’ I ask the staff here at Grimly Central. But no one replies. They’re all hiding behind their desks.

Ho hum. That’s all for now then, but bear in mind it’s still bogey season so… Don’t forget your hat!

Review by Lucy West

Hi Everyone – Well, time has been scurrying on without leaving too many posts here on Grimly’s website. so I’m delighted to be able to bounce back with this new audio review of the book plus a quite frankly terrifying picture of a bogey by seven-year-old Lucy West.

Let’s listen to the review first:

Which got us wondering: Lucy says Algernon is her favourite character from the book. What is yours – and why? Would you like to write in and tell us? We’d love to hear from you. It’s probably easiest to use the ‘Contact Grimly’ page, the link to which is (most likely) on the right hand side of the screen. Or you can email us at grimlydarkwood03 (at) gmail (dot) com

Maybe you would also like to send us a drawing inspired by the book, just as Lucy has done, though you may find it hard to draw a bogey as scary as hers:

Lucy Bogey pictureHey, where’s everyone gone? Oh, I see. They haven’t left after all. The whole of Team Grimly is hiding behind the sofa. Can you terrify them too? Please send us your monster picture and we’ll post it here…

See you next time then. And remember: don’t forget your hat!

Please note that by submitting your comments, audios, photographs, pictures etc you are giving us permission to post them online. Many thanks to Lucy and her father Graham for sending us these.