Reviews

Life Lessons in a Fantasy World

One of the benefits of publishing a piece of writing is the positive impact it has on others, how it touches their lives and makes the world just a little bit better. Well we were delighted to receive this lovely review the other day and I wanted to share that with you for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it’s clear that the reviewer really enjoyed Legend of the Lost, the fist installment of the changeling trilogy.

Secondly, because it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the core theme of the first book, the corruption of love into a form of pandemic that threatens the natural and super-natural world, has a lot of resonance in these dark times. As more pople use their “down time” during the C-virus crisis, more people are finding time to read. Hopefully, when they pick up Legend of the Lost they will find magic, entertainment, thrills, hope and, above all, love.

A magical advernture

Here’s what our reviewer had to say:

Legend of the Lost focuses on a world of fairies, nymphs, witches and were-beasts which discreetly exists alongside our own. It begins by the Atlantic, in west Cornwall, as a young girl meets a mermaid and quickly realises that she is deeply connected to this parallel realm. Gradually the story moves inland, primarily to English woodland, as it builds into a traditional climax of good versus evil… but with an insightful deeper message.

I thought the interactions weaving between the supernatural, natural and human worlds were well done and the sea and forest locations beautifully captured, leaving my mind full of blues and greens. The fact that the locations are real made this super-natural world all the more touchable, anyone who has strayed into woodland as dusk falls will know the feeling. And I loved the fact that the animals I see in the wild in my real life – foxes, kites, deer – mix freely here with rather more mystical creatures.

There are strong environmental themes: man has polluted his world and it is this poison which has led nature and super-nature to turn bad. Nobody and nothing – it turns out – is entirely good or bad, and even those who are more the latter may be so for good reason, even deserving of sympathy.

This is a story for older children and younger adults: yes definitely for girls, but I hope also for boys with the gifts of openness and imagination, and meanwhile there are plenty of monsters, beasts and battles to get stuck into alongside the whimsy. In fact, “Legend of the Lost” is also an enjoyable read for adults who have retained their sense of wonder, but they probably won’t be the primary readership.

Overall, beautiful writing, natural settings, clever interactions between the real and the fantastical, some great environmental themes and that good ol’ “good versus evil” climax, but where the line between the two lies is rather less clear than may first appear.

Apparently this is the first in a trilogy, and there is an accompanying interactive website for those who get immersed.

Many will.

Guests, Reviews, Social media and publicity

Different genres. Similar magic.

We’re very pleased to feature a guest post, especially as it has been written by fellow author Keith Anthony, whose debut novel, Times and Places was published last year.

It is a warm and deeply touching read with many serendipitous echoes of the key themes in Legend of the Lost.  Here, Keith explores those similarities…

In February 2018, my novel Times and Places  was published, in which Fergus (a late middle aged man) seeks to come to terms with the loss, a decade earlier, of his only child, twenty-four year old Justine. 

The chapters alternate between an exotic present-day cruise, taken by Fergus, and other key “times and places” in his and Justine’s lives over the years. 

Since losing his daughter, Fergus has become increasingly anxious, and he hopes this idyllic holiday will help him conquer his nerves.  In fact, a series of bizarre events and close confinement with his fellow passengers – particularly an overbearing, somehow spiderish woman he nicknames the “Arachnid Lady” – bring him to a transformational crisis, a point of change.

I explore what it might be like to lose a loved one long before their time, and examine the questions of faith such a trauma would pose. 

I wanted to do so within an accessible book which, as well as deploying pathos, was rich in observational humour, romance, spiced with gothic horror and which followed a number of different strands to weave around each other, converging neatly at the end. 

The choice of an alternating chapter format allowed my story to visit diverse locations, enabling me to capture and compare the rich beauty of our world.

Times and Places is published by the Book Guild and each month I look for their latest standout publications. 

There is a certain kinship between authors sharing a small publisher, and the variety is astonishing.  In this way, I came across Legend of t Lost and fellow author Ian P Buckingham. 

I was first drawn to its cover and enigmatic title, but disappointed to discover it was aimed at older children and younger adults… alas, not me!  Yet I still felt an appeal. 

I started to follow and exchange messages with Ian on Twitter.  We connected over a mutual enthusiasm for UK wildlife and before long, as Ian reflected on similarities between our work, I decided – whatever my age – to give Legend of the Lost a try and I’m very pleased I did.

I don’t know why some adults are reticent to admit to reading fantasy or children’s books. The Harry Potter phenomenon should have put paid to that. Nevertheless, you might expect a young person’s fantasy novel to be very different fromy adult fiction, my genre. Yet it soon became apparent our books have a spirit and several themes in common. 

They both have a journey and discovery motif, they both have loss and discovery at their core and in addition, both are part set in West Cornwall with their hearts in the Chiltern countryside. What’s more, in the respective books, nature is magical, but vulnerable. 

Of course, in  Legend of the Lost, as well as people and animals, our world is shared simultaneously by faerie-folk, nymphs, mermaids, witches and werebeasts of every description – there is a super-natural element, but it remains paralell to the natural just as the pastoral and the civil run side by side in mine.

Foxes make brief but charismatic appearances in both books, as my cover implies, and Ian’s caricature of Vulpe the vixen is spot on:

“Foxes are neither dogs nor cats, neither weak nor strong, neither fast nor slow.  They are, in many ways, the best of all those animals and tread a fine line between most things, including the so-called forces for good and ill”.

An underlying theme in Legend of the Lost is how, too often, human industries poison and pollute the natural world, literally turning nature bad in a variety of ways both literal and metaphoric.  I too tried to capture man’s environmental impact by taking my idealised vision of Slovenia (a country I love) and comparing it with crowded southern England. 

On a visit there, Justine’s boyfriend marvels at the unspoiled Slovenian countryside which:

“…left him jealous that his own country’s rural culture was rather less valued, ever increasingly squeezed by expanding cities, and scarred by the transport links between them.”

As its title suggests, a feeling of time and place is distilled into my novel.  I was struck that the same could be sensed in Ian’s.  For example, on the ship, Fergus dances with his wife and reflects back on the parties of his youth:

“…there how you danced mattered, here it didn’t.  He pictured his struggling youthful self without envy, he was happy to be when and where he was, in this time and place…”

While, in Legend of the Lost, reflecting on impactful moments in her young life, Holly muses how:

“She loved a mystery and what a delight that this one was right here and now in her favourite time and place.”

I hope also that both books, within their wild imaginings, project important nuggets of truth. 

I was struck by Ian’s conclusion, echoing his earlier description of the complexity of the character of the duplicitous fox:

“One of the gravest mistakes people make in life is to assume that people are all good or all bad.  The truth is that sometimes bad things happen to people we thought of as good and great things can happen to those we formerly considered evil.”  

On the face of it, there is not a fantastic creature, not a faerie, nymph or mermaid to be found in Times and Places. Yes the books are different and target distinct ages, yet I do think they are visited by that same spirit, that of our natural – even super-natural – world.  Its siren voice calls out, reminding us of what is important and that, like the fox or Werewytch in  Legend of the Lost and the Arachnid Lady in Times and Places, nothing and nobody is entirely good or bad. 

Ian’s whimsical and fantastical settings were enchanting. Legend of the Lost is beautifully written, with grown-up lessons for children and for adults who have retained their sense of wonder.  It reminded me how we learn so many of our values from the great books we read as children, whether with adults or independently.

While our two books have their own, individual messages as well, I’m pleased they have such cross-over, that they share a magic I so wanted Times and Places to project! 

Genre labels and categories can be miseading at times. Hopefully, to readers of any age, both books offer reflections on the pressures facing the world we humans dominate, but which we share with our animal neighbours… and, who knows, maybe the faerie folk who tend them too?

About the author, Ian P Buckingham, Legend of the Lost book 1, Uncategorized

All They Really Want for Christmas is Time

Being connected to social media is like being plugged into the thoughts and  feelings of millions of people simultaneously.

That should be and often is a very good thing, but d it can be overwhelming at times.

Unfortunately, Christmas has become a time of great pressure, both financially and emotionally with people feeling they have to go to greater and greater lengths to buy THE must have gadget or replace all the soft furnishings before the relatives arrive.

In the few short months since the first book in the Legend of the Lost trilogy has been published, listening to the feedback of readers from around the world, what has really struck me is the fact that the right books hold a special place in people’s hearts. This has nothing to do with the cost or the conspicuousness of the purchase to keep up with the peer group. It is mostly to do with the reading experience.And I am so pleased to hear tales of people reading this book together.

They are investing that most important resource that all children especially  respond to, time; time invested; time out.

beaman-5

Nothing gives me greater delight than busy Dads telling me that they downloaded it on their device and are now reading it at bed time; grandparents who have sent copies to their beloved grandchildren far away with messages of love or Moms first taking time out to read it for themselves then repeating the process with their children having created dedicated reading time, reading purely for pleasure, together.

In a recent interview with the publishers Book Guild, I outlined that igniting imaginations was one of my aims and it delights me that this is happening.

So as you succumb to the inevitable stresses and strains of the festive period, consider this quaint tradition from Iceland and, if you’re feeling bewildered or overwhelmed, take to bed with a good book.

Iceland

Merry Christmas  from the entire changeling family…….

Legend of the Lost book 1, Uncategorized

Badgers and books, two magical ingredients

Today sees the magical convergence of days celebrating two things I hold dear in life as it’s #BookshopDay and #NationalBadgerDay.

Legend of the Lost, for those of us in the know, has an ecological theme at its core. For there quite possibly would never have been a story had it not been for a strange toxic ailment leeching from the Firehills.

The unfortunate consequences of this magical malaise gives rise to what has come to be known as the werebeast army. And one of the most ferocious adversaries the changeling children have to face is the werebadger.

Badgers are ancient creatures, the subject of myth and lore worldwide. They are usually depicted as wise and kindly. In England badgers are variously known as Old Grey, reflecting their ghostly nocturnal presence, often heard rather than seen, or Brock, alluding to their famous monochrome colouration.

They are also known for their strength and indomitability, none more so than the legendary honey badger which has been known to attack lions!

We have had the good fortune to encounter wild badgers, both in the Ashridge Forest where Legend of the Lost is partially set, Berkhamsted Castle and on the Cornish Coastal Paths.

CheshamLOL.jpg

I also had a long conversation with a badger conservation volunteer at a recent book signing and one of my former colleagues now heads up the Woodland Trust, an influential voice for wildlife conservation in the UK.

But even if I hadn’t had such close encounters, how on earth could I ever leave these incredible creatures out of our magical journey?

For they are a hugely important part of the English natural order and  long may they be celebrated, as they deserve.

Legend of the Lost book 1, Social media and publicity, Uncategorized

What type of reader are you?

Me?book magic

I love to get my hands on a book, the actual, physical copy.

I crave the whole experience of the look and the feel of the cover art and even the smell of the freshly printed pages.

I like to interact with the book. I’m afraid to say I make notes and mark pages, highlight passages that really speak to me. For me, my copy becomes something new and different as a result of my reading experience.

But then I have friends who are horrified by this. They treat their books like treasures or relics and virtually don white gloves to read them.

Some have been known to buy hard and soft copies, one for their collection and the other for the reading part.

Latterly, many people buy and store their books on their devices, especially if they do a lot of reading on the go.

Well, whatever your preferences, Legend of the Lost is available in a range of formats, from the traditional physical book with that sensual purple cover that has been such a big hit, through to the Kindle edition, available to read instantly from the Amazon store.

Personally, I admire the approach taken by this reader:

“We had to have the hard copy and wanted Ian to sign it. That now takes pride of place and we’ve bought Kindle versions for our friends so we can share the experience.”

But how you mix up your options to suit your lifestyle and preferences is entirely down to you.

To celebrate the launch of the Kindle version, however, here’s another brief extract from Legend of the Lost.

It’s a key moment for Holly and Savannah which changes everything for them both, forever.

We’ve chosen carefully to avoid spoilers, which those of you who have read the book will know, isn’t easy:

Buckingham Book LOTLBoat

“Just for fun, she had brought the scarlet robe with her, hidden in a carrier bag. She pulled it about her as she sat down on the flattest rock to wait, being sure to tuck the bag away in her pocket.

She wasn’t there for long before the figure of her friend appeared from the seaward side of the beach, looking radiant in a long ocean blue dress and golden hair band. She smiled as she saw Holly, who stood up to greet her.

“Don’t you find that this is always a little bit of a blowy spot?” Holly said, forgetting for a moment that Savannah had no spoken words.

Savannah smiled, looked deep into Holly’s eyes and then took her hand and led her towards the cliff-face. It looked as though they were headed for a dead end, but it must have been an optical illusion caused by the way the boulders were lying.

Soon, much to Holly’s surprise, they were at a part of the beach that she hadn’t noticed was accessible before. Here, their footprints seemed to be the very first, not just for this tide but ever.

After a short walk, they approached what looked like a solid rock wall, covered in ivy and seagrass. Savannah reached forward and drew the grassy and leafy covering aside like living curtains. She then gestured for Holly to follow her inside.

What greeted them as they stepped, blinking, into a cool, cavernous, salty-smelling space simply took Holly’s breath away.”