As I mentioned in the last post (which was, ahem, a few weeks ago now but then we’ve all been busy not meeting people and not going anywhere, haven’t we?) Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill has been chosen as one of the lovereading4kids Indie Books We Love. This means it features on the front page of their website, and to add to the excitement, it is also one of their featured books for 9+ and 11+ readers this month, listed together with other titles such as Liz Flanagan’s exciting Rise of the Shadow Dragons and the new illustrated edition of Ted Hughes’ classic story The Iron Man.
To celebrate, we’ve updated the Stranger Days page here on grimlydarkwood.com with all the latest reviews, many of them five star including this one that’s just come in from an Amazon UK customer called JG, who says: “Weird and wonderful escape from reality. Genuinely new and surprising in its inventiveness. I should have been warned about the big spider.”
I’m glad you enjoyed it, JG. I’m sorry if you were startled by the spider (and actually there were three of them but maybe you looked away at that point) but we did say that the Vale of Strange books contain monsters, I seem to remember, so I would have thought that was warning enough. Ok, they were actually giant spiders with really strange webs and the kids almost ran out of unctuous splodger so Amanda almost got eaten but it seems to me that ‘warning – contains monsters!’ just about covers all that, doesn’t it?
What do you think? Should we put more warnings on Vale of Strange books? In which case, what should we warn about? “Caution – contains Uncle Bob!” maybe? Or: “This book mentions chocolate cake rather a lot” Or even: “This book may disturb the balance of the weirdosphere!” What do you think is scary in the books? Write and tell me….
You can contact me, Grimly, via the ‘contact Grimly‘ page (see link in sidebar) or just email me directly at grimlydarkwood03 (at) gmail.com It will be great to hear from you. While I’m waiting, though, there’s something else I need to work out: if something scares you, should I put more of it or less of it in the next book?
Feeling bored? Even in these difficult times, travel is still permitted to the Vale of Strange to enjoy the scary, funny, fantastic adventures of Peter and his friends as they tussle with all manner of monsters. Recommended ages: 8 to 80+ The Shop on Peculiar Hill, the first book in the series, can be bought on Kindle from Amazon for just 99p (or 99 cents, or a similar bargain basement price in your own currency).
We’ve recently had some very good new reviews of The Shop on Peculiar Hill:
“I really like this book. A great adventure in a very strange place. It has a Dr. Seuss vibe with all the weird creatures and reminded me of some of the OZ adventures. The author is very good at leaving you in the dark while making you die of curiosity to find out what’s really going on right up to the end. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!” Amazon customer, Canada
“A fantastic read: was a little unsure about this book at first but absolutely loved it.” Amazon customer, Australia
“An amazingly well written book. Made me use my imagination again and I haven’t done that in forever! Would highly recommend and cannot wait to read the next one!” Goodreads reader
“I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Read it to your kids, read it for yourself. It’s ace.” Scottish reader on Facebook
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?
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…
Have you read The Shop on Peculiar Hill? How much did you learn from it about life on the edge of the Vale of Strange? Now there’s a chance to test your knowledge in the brand new Goodreads ‘Shop on Peculiar Hill’ Quiz. Here’s a sample question to get you started:
Where do bogeys live?
a) In Boggy Hollows
b) At the Strange Hotel
c) Underneath your bed
An ideas? If you knew the answer to that one (or even if you didn’t) you can take the whole quiz here at Goodreads. It’s fun to do and it’s a very sensible idea to check your knowledge to make sure you’re taking the right precautions against all the various monsters. Otherwise you can end up trying to fend off a heeble-greeb with￼ a bowl of glop.
And if you haven’t been to Goodreads before, you might like to take a look around while you’re there.￼ It’s a good place to go to ￼get recommendations for books￼, chat about what you’ve been reading with friends,￼ and even to write reviews so you can share your thoughts about what you’ve been reading more widely.￼ Rather annoyingly, though no doubt for￼ very good reasons, you have to be 13 or over to be a member at Goodreads, but if you’re too young at the moment, this may be one of those times when a parent comes in useful. ￼￼￼ They might be able to ask for book recommendations on your behalf and it might be a really worthwhile project for ￼you to help them write a review of The Shop on Peculiar Hill or even Stranger Days – if only to keep them out of mischief for a day or so.￼
You can also help them to answer that quiz of course. Here’s another sample question before I go:
Just to ring the changes a bit as regards pictures here on the blog, many thanks to John Guy Collick, author of the galaxy-spanning Book of the Colossus series, for sharing this photo of his paperback copy of Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill on desk display...
Now that all the Kindles have been sieved and measured as they were downloaded through the great colander in the sky, we are able to report that almost a thousand people (yes, almost a thousand!) took advantage of the splendid offer of a free e-copy of The Shop on Peculiar Hill. This being so, it seems likely that some of them have been smart enough not only to grasp this remarkable opportunity with eager fingers but also to find their way here to the premier source of knowledge of all things Grimly. One of them may even be you, in which case welcome along!
This is indeed the place to come to keep up-to-date with all the latest developments in the world of the Vale of Strange. You may wish to check back here from time to time to make sure you’re not missing anything. Alternatively, if you’re as smart as I think you are, you’ll prefer to automate the process by putting your email address in the little box on the right-hand side of the page, the one labelled ‘Follow Blog by Email’. It will not surprise you to learn that this will sign you up to get email notifications of new posts here on the blog.
But of course, communication is a two-way thing. Extensive scientific experiments have proved that shouting at the top of your voice is a totally useless means of communication if no one is listening. So I wish to assure you that, for our part, we are sitting here with our ears sticking out of our hats (which Aunt Maggie assures me is perfectly safe as long as no bogeys are flying around), ready to capture your faintest whisper and place it on the conveyor belt which carries it up to what passes for a brain here at Grimly Central, where a conglomeration of brain bits (to use the technical terminology) will convert it into the message you wish to transmit.
Or to put it another way, tell us what you think and we’ll be listening.
Have you finished reading that book yet? What do you think of Peculiar Hill and the Vale of Strange? Would you like to live there? Who is your favourite character in the book and why? If you have just read ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’, are you keen to read ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’ next? What do you think is going to happen next? What would you like to happen? What is your favourite monster in the Vale of Strange? Do you think there are some more in there that we haven’t discovered yet?
And if any children – or indeed adults – would like to send us a drawing based on the books, we should be very interested to see it and perhaps share it here on the blog. Our artist, Pete Lyon, has shown us what he thinks the humans and monsters look like. What do you think?
You can contact us via the ‘Contact Grimly’ page, a link to which you will see on the right-hand side of the screen. In the case of any difficulty using the ‘contact Grimly’ form, just use the email address which is given on that page or leave a comment on this post. We’re really hoping to hear from you!
(If you do send us drawings and/or your thoughts about the books – and we very much hope you will – we’ll assume you are happy for them to be published in this blog unless you tell us otherwise.)
Of course, if you haven’t finished the book(s) yet then keep on reading – and keep on wearing that hat!
One last reminder: you can also keep up to date with events in the Vale of Strange by following us on Facebook and/or Twitter – see the links on the right….
OK, forget falling asleep! With 50 votes in on the first day, The Shop on Peculiar Hill was joint overnight leader in this week’s Author Shout ‘Cover Wars’ contest, so there’s everything to play for and it’s getting really exciting! So do get along there and vote before you forget, and then do the same thing the next day, and the same the day after that, etc. It’ll be just like cleaning your teeth but much more interesting – and without leaving strange blue stains all over the towel.
Illustrious speaking opportunity yesterday. Well, all right, a chance to read aloud from ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill‘ for five minutes before they sound a bell and throw you off stage. Naturally I myself (Grimly) was far too busy so I sent Simon Ounsley instead (see picture). As usual, he had a great time swanning about pretending to be me – and the reading seemed to be well received, though from what I hear his Aunt Maggie voice needs a lot more work.
Many thanks to Anzir Boodoo for telling us about the event, and to Fictions of Every Kind for the opportunity to speak. We hope to attend a future meeting, and this time perhaps provide an exclusive foretaste of ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’, the second book in the series, which is due out later this year.
And now he’s had a try-out in front of some adults (as far as I could tell, though there might have been the odd twelve-year-old with a false beard who had slipped in undetected) we can send Simon Ounsley to read in front of some children. If you are involved with some likely establishment (school, library, shop or similar) who might tolerate him for a short while as he mangles my prose, then please get in touch with us.
Do send Ounsley back in one piece though. He still has a vital role to fulfill in our organisation. No one has made me a decent cappuccino all morning.
Don’t forget that we’re always very happy to receive illustrations, reviews, and anything else you might be inspired to produce after reading ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’! Please send such items to us, but bear in mind that we will be assuming you are submitting them for publication unless you specifically say otherwise.
Our email for all purposes is grimlydarkwood03 (at) gmail (dot) com
See you next time then, and remember it’s still bogey season, so don’t forget your hat!
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.
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!
Hi Everyone – We’re pleased to be back with another review of ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’, this time from twelve-year-old Django Ensor, who says:
I loved the cute tomatoes
I liked all the different strange creatures
I liked Aunt Maggie and Uncle Bob’s characters
My favourite part was when they went to the Vale of Strange
Django also sent us this brilliant sketch of Uncle Bob’s strange purring tomatoes, pointing out that a purring tomato is likely to look like…. a cat
Many thanks to Django, who has been one of the first to help us out by reading an advance copy of ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’, the second book in the ‘Vale of Strange’ series. The book is still undergoing revision, which is why Grimly is even more grumpy than usual just now, but we hope to have a bit of a foretaste of what it holds in store here on the website soon!
In the meantime, you are warmly invited to send us your own review of ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’, complete with an illustration if you wish. Please use the ‘Contact Grimly’ page or email us at grimlydarkwood03 (at) gmail (dot) com
(Please note that by submitting your comments. audios, photos, pictures etc. you are giving us permission to post them online.)
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:
Hey, 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.