Soapgate: A joke or something to be concerned about?

Yesterday, I was travelling home on the train from a girls’ trip to Dublin when my phone began blowing up.  I opened my Twitter and Instagram to find the bookstagram community freaking out over so called “Soapgate” and I began laughing out loud like a mad woman at the many MANY hilarious tweets and puns on the Twittersphere (head over to Twitter and read through that hashtag now because some of them are hilarious…trust me, you won’t regret it).  But is this simply a joke or something more sinister?

tweet 9First of all, let me caveat this post by saying I haven’t read any of the series yet, although the first book sits on my to be read pile as I type.  Also, I am not taking a side on this particular issue, I am merely asking the questions and opening the debate up because I would love to hear everyone’s take on it.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this scandal, where on earth have you been?  Basically, a company called Bookish and Stuff who produce bookish merchandise and book boxes has found itself going viral for all of the wrong reasons.  They had produced a fan box based on the ACOTAR series by Sarah.J.Maas.  This popular series of books has spawned tonnes of fan fiction and bookish art and products, so a book box whose theme centres around the books is unsurprising, but this particular box had a twist.  The box in question is called the ‘Illyrian Book Boyfriend Box’, the Illyrians being a warrior race of Faeries featured in the series.  The box contained such items as a fan fiction book filled with saucy stories and some risqué faery based prints, but the item that got everyone talking and spawned the now viral hashtag “Soapgate” was a penis shaped soap.  Yes you read that right, a soap shaped like a penis.  I won’t feature any photos of the soap here, but a quick google search or twitter search should help you find one should you wish to see it in all of its glory.  I have seen it and it is surprisingly detailed…in fact it looks like a small sex toy complete with suction cup to stick it to your bathroom tiles (I kid you not)!

This has raised several eyebrows, along with some concerns about the soap itself and tweet 5other items in the box as well.  First of all, many people, including myself, are under the impression that the ACOTAR series is Young Adult fiction, a type of fiction which targets children as young as 12 years old.  Apparently, it is in fact ‘New Adult’ which is intended for audiences around the late teens and early twenties.  Apparently, the series features some very naughty sex scenes and graphic sexual content not appropriate for younger readers.  I have seen plenty of young people featuring this book on their bookstagrams so perhaps it is reaching the wrong audiences anyway.  This has opened up a debate about the way the series has been publicised and advertised, with some people believing it wasn’t done responsibly enough by the author and publisher who should make it clearer that these books are not suitable for a young adult audience.  See this article for more on that issue.

tweet 2In turn, that has opened a debate about the propriety of the soap itself.  If children are reading these books, they will be buying this box or more accurately, having their parents buy them this box and I cannot imagine any parent would be too happy with that coming through the door!!  Bookish and Stuff have stated that they made it clear to customers that the book was for adults only, contained items of a sexual content and should not be purchased by or for those under 18 years of age, however I have seen several people noting online that these warnings and age restrictions only appeared after many of the boxes were already soldtweet 8

 

Thirdly, people are angry about someone selling fan fiction and the clear copyright issues that raises.  Sarah.J.Maas worked very hard on her books so is to fair, or legal for that matter, for someone to profit from the characters and stories she created?  The many fans of this author and series don’t think so and are tweeting their outrage in abundance.

The company Bookish and Stuff have released an official statement on the soap, as follows: “We of course know the debate about what really is YA series and if ACOTAR should be YA or NA it’s an ongoing discussion, one we do not control.  However the fact that the series contains multiple graphic sex scenes remains.  Our box was advertised and sold to adults 18+, we offered multiple warnings about its not safe for work and mature sexual content.  The infamous soap should be taken as the joke it is: a literal Illyrian wingspan, it even says so on the label.  These are sold as Bachelorette joke favours in the real world.  We want to clarify that they are for external use only, as instructed on the label.  But with everything in life there will always be those that are scandalised.  If the book scandalised you, it wasn’t for you.  Most of the feedback has been positive so we are going to concentrate.” – Yaira Lynn.

Whatever your opinion, this has certainly got people talking and the book box itself is sold out!  Please comment with your opinions and attitudes on the soap itself and the issues raised as a result of it going viral, I would love to know what you guys think.  But before I sign off, I have one burning question…Why is it blue?

tweet 3

 

 

My Chronicles Book Box: Unboxing & Review.

My Chronicles Book Box: Unboxing & Review.

chronicles 4Hello readers!  For this week’s blog post, I am super excited to bring you an unboxing of this month’s My Chronicles Book Box.  If you haven’t heard of this book box, it is a British based book box available as part of a subscription or as a one off purchase.  They come in various categories, including ‘Crime and Mystery’ and ‘Science Fiction and Fantasy’ as well as one off boxes themed to particular books or book series.  I of course, chose the Crime and Mystery box…I am a crime fiction writer after all.

First of all, can I just say how stunning the packaging and wrapping for this book box are.  Upon opening the box, I discovered a beautiful envelope addressed to myself at my favourite reading nook, sealed with a Chronicles book box wax seal.  Inside, was a letter explaining the contents, along with a ‘newspaper’ style article with an interview from each author featured.  Each book was beautifully wrapped in it’s own brightly coloured paper tied up with string, which meant that it was like a present within a present! The whole thing felt very luxurious and special.  I really appreciated the attention to detail, so I wanted to note that before getting into the box’s contents.

chronicles 1Ok, now for the all important contents and the best part about that?  This box contains not one, not two, but THREE books!  Two of which are hardbacks, and two of which are signed!  As a book worm and book hoarder, I cannot describe how happy I felt to unwrap three new books.  The three books inside the box are:

‘A Different Kind of Evil’ by Andrew Wilson: In January 1927 – and still recovering from the harrowing circumstances surrounding her disappearance a month earlier – Agatha Christie sets sail on an ocean liner bound for the Canary Islands.
She has been sent there by the British Secret Intelligence Service to investigate the death of one of its agents, whose partly mummified body has been found in a cave.
Early one morning, on the passage to Tenerife, Agatha witnesses a woman throw herself from the ship into the sea. At first, nobody connects the murder of the young man on Tenerife with the suicide of a mentally unstable heiress. Yet, soon after she checks into the glamorous Taoro Hotel situated in the lush Orotava Valley, Agatha uncovers a series of dark secrets.
 The famous writer has to use her novelist’s talent for plotting to outwit an enemy who possesses a very different kind of evil. 

I am particularly excited by this one as a massive Agatha Christie fan, so this will be promptly moving to the top of my to be read pile.  And can I just say, I love this cover.  This book came with a signed plate from the author, and as you know, us book worms love nothing more than a signed book.

‘A Shot in the Dark’ by Lynne Truss: After the notorious ‘Middle Street Massacre’ of 1951, when the majority of Brighton’s criminals wiped one another out in a vicious battle as the local police force enjoyed a brief stop en route for an ice cream, Inspector Steine rather enjoys life as a policeman. No criminals, no crime, no stress. He just wishes Sergeant Brunswick would stop insisting that perhaps not every criminal was wiped out that fateful day.
So it’s really rather annoying when an ambitious – not to mention irritating – new Constable shows up to work and starts investigating a series of burglaries. And it’s even more annoying when, after Constable Twitten is despatched to the theatre for the night, he sits next to a vicious theatre critic who is promptly shot dead part way through the opening night of a new play.
It seems Brighton may be in need of a police force after all…

This is the first in a new crime series and is a more light hearted take on a crime novel.  The reviews I have read say it has a great sense of humour, so looking forward to reading this one.

Finally, ‘The Dead Ex’ by Jane Corry: Vicki’s husband David once promised to love her in sickness and in health. But after a brutal attack left her suffering with epilepsy, he ran away with his mistress.  So when Vicki gets a call one day to say that he’s missing, her first thought is ‘good riddance’. But then the police find evidence suggesting that David is dead. And they think Vicki had something to do with it.

What really happened on the night of David’s disappearance?
And how can Vicki prove her innocence, when she’s not even sure of it herself?

This wouldn’t normally be the kind of book I would reach for, but it sounds interesting and I like the premise a lot.  This book is signed as well, which makes my inner book worm very happy!

Along with these three books, I also received some bookish goodies.  First of, an amazing chronicles 2print inspired by the famous Hercule Poirot, designed by Teddy from TeddyandGoo.  I already mentioned how much I love Agatha Christie, so this print is 100% going up on the wall of my office.  Next, we have a set of story teller pencils by UStudio design.  They feature such well used literary phrases as ‘Once Upon a Time’ and ‘It was a day just like any other.’  I really like these, and plan on using them to write with.  Hopefully they bring me some inspiration.  Next, we have a gorgeous pin brooch inspired by the ultimate detective Sherlock Holmes, designed by Bonita at Nabu online.  The brook features a tiny silver scarf, violin, spy glass and of chronicles 3course his trade mark pipe, and will be adorning my jacket shortly.  Finally, there is a ‘Discovery of Witches’ print, designed by Beth from Eyes of a Fangirl exclusively for My Chronicles Book Box.  This print is a teaser for a book box themed around the ‘A Discovery of Witches’ series by Deb Harkness, available to order soon.

All in all, a really great box, packed to the gills with crime fiction goodies.  I have to recommend to highly and plan on ordering myself one in the future.

The Crowns of Croswald: Magical Book Box Unboxing & Giveaway.

crowns croswald 1

Hello Readers, I hope you are having a great week!  For today’s blog post, I was privileged enough to receive a Crowns of Croswald magical book box from the author herself, D.E.Night and I thought I would unbox it for you and reveal the magic inside.  Each box contains a SIGNED copy of Crowns of Croswald, which makes me very happy!  There is nothing more exciting than a signed book to us bookworms.  So what’s the book about?

In Croswald, the only thing more powerful than dark magic is one secret…

For sixteen years Ivy Lovely has been hidden behind an enchanted boundary that separates the mundane from the magical. When Ivy crosses the border, her powers awaken. Curiosity leads her crashing through a series of adventures at the Halls of Ivy, a school where students learn to master their magical blood and the power of Croswald’s mysterious gems. When Ivy’s magic––and her life––is threatened by the Dark Queen, she scrambles to unearth her history and save Croswald before the truth is swept away forever.

Sounds great right?  I am super excited to read it, so keep your eyes peeled for a review down the line.  Along with the book, there is a truly magical artefact called the Glanagerie bottle.  I imagine this beauty plays quite an important role within the book and I cannot wait to find out how.  The best part about it?  It actually glows!  Yes this beautiful bottle lights up.  Along with the bottle, there is an explanation, a set of instructions if you will, about the bottle and its contents.  I won’t spoil it for you here, but needless to say it is the stuff of magic!  Along with these items you also receive a stunning print and a letter from the author themselves, both of which are just beautiful.  On a random side note, I am so impressed with the packaging for this box.  The Box itself is designed to look like it is made of sark wood and has old books along each side and the tissue paper your items come wrapped in is a newspaper cover featuring further clues about the book and the magical world in which its set.  I don’t mean to sound super old here, but I really appreciate the attention to detail with them and it genuinely helps immerse you in Croswald.  All in all this is a stunning box and one I really recommend to anyone interested in Fantasy fiction.

But I haven’t even got to the best bit yet…you could WIN your very own Crowns of Croswald box!  That’s right, you can get your hands on a signed copy of the book along with the other bookish goodies!  Just head to my Instagram to enter.  The Giveaway ends on the 10th of August- Good luck!!

Bejeweled: A Short Story & Artist Collaboration.

Bejeweled: A Short Story & Artist Collaboration.

Hello my lovely readers!  For today’s blog post, I have collaborated with another amazing artist on a short story.  For those of you unfamiliar with this project, I have been teaming up wit artists and photographers from all over the world.  I write a story or poem inspired by their artistic style and body of work and they in turn create a piece inspired by that story.  The idea is to inspire and be inspired in return and so far it has had some wonderful results.  For this collaboration, I have teamed up with the lovely Tula Posy, a book illustrator and crafter from Poland.  Tula creates the most beautiful and unique images, which she sells as prints in her shop, along with badass book marks (all my fellow book worms will understand the importance of a pretty book mark).  If you love her quirky art as much as I do, you can check out her Instagram here and her Etsy store here.  I hope you enjoy it, happy reading…

Tula 3

Bejeweled

Magic is real.  There are many books and stories which declare this already in existence, but I am now adding my voice to theirs in order to emphasise the fact: Magic IS real.  On the most part, it is something you are born into, something you inherit like an old clock from that Great Aunt you hardly visited, or your Grandad’s rare coin collection.  But, on the occasion, magic can be something you stumble upon blindly and without any warning.  Magic can simply enter your life and cause chaos, before leaving just as abruptly and mysteriously.  But before we get into all of that, let me introduce myself.  My name is Eleanor.

Tula 1Before this little incident, I was just your average teenager.  I was anti-social, a little moody, or perhaps a lot moody, and I pretty much hated everything.  My school was simply a red bricked prison for the illiterate hockey jocks that filled its corridors with incessant noise and inane chatter.  My home was a veritable battle ground, with me versus my parents in a verbal smack down on an almost daily basis.  They couldn’t understand why I was so irritable all the time, or why I wouldn’t try out for the cheerleading team.  I couldn’t understand how spelling letters with your arms could be considered anything but a huge waste of time.  It was, in a word, exhausting.

The truth was, I hadn’t withdrawn from everyone because I woke up one day and decided I disliked every other human being on the planet intently, it was because I had all of a sudden and without explanation become painfully aware of myself and my own body, and I was constantly terrified of embarrassing myself.  I suddenly gave a crap what everyone else thought about me, and I hated that about myself.  I hated ME. I decided, it was better to withdraw and surrender, than to battle forth and risk humiliation.  So, I did just that.  I withdrew and became invisible.  I discovered that disappearing was a hidden talent of mine. I was an expert at blending into the background.

But on one stuffy, June day, that all changed forever.  It was a day like any other to begin with.  Wake up. Brush teeth.  Change clothes.  Catch bus to school.  Avoid eye contact with the popular kids with their tanned skin and overly white, bleached smiles as I make my way to the back, well you get the idea.  At lunch, there was to be a sale of sorts, to raise funds for new Basketball team uniforms, or for some extra footballs, or something along those lines, I really wasn’t paying attention.  There would be baked goods of all varieties, made lovingly by the cheerleading team, or more accurately their house keepers.  There was to be some kind of skit by said cheerleaders, to be avoided at all costs, the band were playing something and they were selling off everything from the vast and cobwebbed store room.

You know how every house has that one drawer filled with old batteries, foreign currency and Chinese takeout menus?  Well, this was the High School equivalent.  Everything and anything that was located within its walls, which had no designated place to go, was shoved in here to be forgotten.  There were old instruments, damaged text books, chairs with missing limbs, and the lost property cupboard, filled with every discarded school jersey or dropped hair tie.  I didn’t know what I expected to find, or if I expected to find anything at all, but I found myself excited by the prospect of this sale.  It would be, in my view, an opportunity to see the school from a different vantage point.  After all, what says more about the person than the garbage they throw away? It was a time capsule or fifty years’ worth of teenager’s junk, and I wanted to have a hoke and see what forgotten treasure I could find.

I regretted my decision to attend almost immediately.  Everyone in the school had crammed themselves into the sports hall.  It was too warm, claustrophobically crowded and smelled badly of BO.  But, I was there, so I might as well do what I went there for.  I passed the cake stand and paid one dollar for a cup cake with a large dollop of pink icing.  It was sickly sweet and made my teeth hurt whilst I ate it, but it gave me the necessary sugar buzz to carry on with my mission.  When the skit started (some God-awful footballer/cheerleader/basketball player love triangle which made me vomit a little bit of undigested cupcake back into my mouth), most of the school moved to the end of the hall with the makeshift stage, so I finally felt able to breathe.

When I made my way to the sad little lost property stand, marked by a banner reading Tula 2‘Crap for sale’, something immediately caught my eye.  Just there, underneath a very faded school PE t-shirt with yellow stained arm pits, and a tattered copy of a Biology text book, I saw something green catch the light for a moment.  A diamond in the rough, the very rough. It was a necklace, but one unlike anything I had ever seen before.  It was a black chain, with a single green stone hanging from it.  The stone was not polished or shaped but looked as it must have looked when it was dug from the earth, and a thin black snake coiled around the stone and became the loop at the top in which the chain threaded through. As it caught the light, it reflected a small green blur onto the table below.   It wasn’t beautiful exactly, just unusual and a little rough around the edges.  I immediately took a liking to it and paid the requested five dollars without argument.

Now, as you have guessed from my opening lines, this necklace was no ordinary trinket.  I don’t know how it came to be in the lost property box, or where it came from.  I don’t know how old it is, who it belonged to or why the owner never sought it out once it was lost.  So, if you are looking for the answers to these questions then you will be sorely disappointed.  What I can tell you, is what the necklace does.

The first time I wore it, I was home alone with my Dad, a man older in mind than in body, who shouted at sports on TV and insisted on wearing socks with his sandals no matter how many times he was told how unfashionable this was.

“Elly?”

My Dad calls me Elly. It bugs the Hell out of me and is the cause of many a fight.

“What?”

“Could you take the garbage out please?”

“But Dad…”

“No buts missy.  If you want your allowance, you’ll take out the garbage.  And don’t forget to sort the recyclables.”

“Eugh fine.”

This is a typical example of our exchanges.  Blunt, brief and usually involving me doing something I don’t want to do.  I walked, or should I say stomped, my way down the stairs and out into the garage to do the needful when he spoke again.

“I’ve gained at least twenty pounds.”

“What?”

“What?”

“Did you say something?”

“No, I didn’t.  Don’t try and wriggle out of garbage duty Missy.”

He called me Missy when he was in a bad mood.  This also irritated me greatly.  I was halfway across the kitchen now, closing in on the door to the garage when…

“Twenty pounds at least.  I can barely get my pants closed.  I’ve tried everything, weight lifting, dieting, even running but nothing, nada.  You’re old and fat Carl.  Old and fat.”

I had never heard my Dad talk like this before.  He mostly talked about work, or whatever team in whatever sport was playing at that time, but I had never heard him talk about himself or his appearance.  He sounded sad.  I decided he must be talking to himself, the way we all do when we feel a little low, so I snuck into the living room and hid behind the arm chair so I could listen.

“Keep going like this and Jen won’t look twice at you anymore. She’s so beautiful, she’s always been beautiful.  She could have had any man, but she chose me and my fat ass.”

Jen is my mum, and she is indeed beautiful in that older woman kind of way.  She has always eaten well, always drank plenty of water and worn sun screen, and so she aged gracefully.  But no matter how pretty your mum might be, you don’t want to hear your Dad gushing about it.  Parents fancying each other is gross.  I was about to sneak off again, when I my breath caught in my chest and my heart skipped at least three beats, because suddenly I realised as my Father continued on about his appearance and his concerns about my Mum not fancying him anymore (eugh), I realised his mouth wasn’t moving.  I checked and rechecked again and confirmed it.  He was NOT speaking.  No words were being shouted, spoken, whispered or otherwise uttered. But that’s impossible I hear you say, because I could hear him speaking as plainly as I speak to you now, but dear readers it was true.  For what I was hearing was not my Dad talking to himself, but the very thoughts inside his head.  In five minutes of hearing my Dad ‘s mind whirling, I learned more about him than I had done in sixteen years of living with the man.  I learned that he had been privately going to the gym with a personal trainer, how he had traded his old musky aftershave for a new one he had seen advertised by a twenty something hipster on TV in an effort to appear younger, and how he was considering dying his hair to hide the ever-growing number of greys.

My Dad had always seemed happy enough in himself, but apparently, he worried about his appearance just as much as his self-conscious teenage daughter.  This made me feel a connection with him for the first time since I had stopped wanting to play catch with him at six years old.

The truth was, my Dad looked great for his age, and much as I loathed to admit it, my mum was still pretty into him.  I wanted him to know this, to feel better about himself.  So after my garbage run, and mild freak out in my bedroom over my new found ability to read minds, I did just that.

“Have you lost weight Dad?”

“What? Have I?”

“Yeah, definitely.  I would say at least ten pounds.  You look good.”

“Ok, what do you want?”

“I don’t want anything, I just noticed that’s all.”

“Yes!  That PT finally paid off!” 

For the rest of the day, he walked with a distinct spring in his step, and I even saw him grab my Mum’s butt.  Yes, it made me vomit in my own mouth, and yes I will be telling a therapist about it for years to come, but it was nice to see him feeling more confident in himself.

After my little episode with my Father, I couldn’t wait to try the necklace out at school.  As someone on the outside, someone who was not privy to the thoughts and motivations of the inner echelon of High school popularity, it was an intriguing prospect to in a way know them, and perhaps understand them.  I felt like Jane Goodall, readying myself to study the apes.  But in truth, what met me was such a cacophony of noise, a mass of bodiless voices all yelling at once, it was basically white noise.  As I ripped the jewel from my throat, I could understand why someone never claimed the charm.  It seems the necklace has no filter.  There was no remote, no way to point at the person you wanted to read and press click, it was simply an antenna, picking up every signal within a 100 metre radius.  It was deafening.

Taking a different tact, I began to seek out opportunities to study my peers in isolation, or at least with as few of them around as possible.  As you can imagine, that was more difficult that initially thought. We humans tend to be a social bunch, and the cliques within my school have long been established.  It was as if even the most popular amongst us sought the security of a group or crowd.  Even the loners and oddballs like me had our own little groups for support, misery after all does love company.  But after a week of trying unsuccessfully, and weirding several students out, I finally managed it.

It was a warm and humid Wednesday, and whilst most of the school poured out into the yard and playing fields, I sought the quiet of the library.  There were few people there, and I took the opportunity to put the necklace on, and walk amongst the stacks, studying the occupants of the room like the books on the shelves.  Much of what I overheard was relatively unremarkable.  The librarian, Mrs Cooper, a friendly faced elderly woman who smelled of soap and wore her gold rimmed glasses on a chain around her neck, was making a mental shopping list of what to purchase from the store after school.  Apart from hearing she suffers from haemorrhoids, I learned nothing there.  There was a boy called Ben, whose last name escapes me, from a year or two below me.  He was working out the math problem before him with a level of intensity reserved for nuclear physicists on the brink of fission.  There was Sarah Caplin, the mousey band girl who constantly ate her own hair, thinking about whether Joshua Elliot, the violinist to her double bass, fancied her as much as she fancied him (I made a mental note to try and find out) and finally Thomas Rodgers, a stoner and constant class disrupter, who seemed to be singing Nirvana in between debating whether he should ‘get the band back together.’  All in all, rather slim pickings and not the insights I had been hoping to discover.

Then he appeared. Matt Johnston, the school quarterback, boyfriend of the head cheerleader, most popular boy in school and all-round heart throb.  He wasn’t really my type, all brawn and no brains, but I could see his appeal with his strong jaw and dark eyes.  He reminds me of the members of those boybands, singing inane songs about falling in love and breaking up.  I was surprised to find him in there, he didn’t strike me as the bookish type, and frankly the fact that he knew where the library actually was made him stand out from his thick-headed peers.  He chose the farthest corner of the library, placing his books on the table in front of him and immediately clasped his head in his hands while he read, as if the written word instantly gave him a headache.  I put the necklace on and shuffled over to the stack nearest to him.  He didn’t even notice me, nothing new there then.

Come on, concentrate.  You can do this.  It’s just Maths for God’s sake.  Focus and keep your eye on the prize.”

 Eugh, even his mind thought in motivational sports expressions.  But then something changed, a noticeable shift.  He became upset.  The voice inside his own head changed, almost breaking, increasing in volume until it must have been bouncing and echoing around inside his own skull. Even outwardly, his body language shifted, from nonchalant coolness to awkward and sad.

“Why are you so stupid?  Why can’t you do the simplest things?  You fail this and you’re off the team.  No football, no college, no escae from this crappy town.  You’re worthless, worthless.”

 I had always looked at that group with a sort of cool headed detachment.  They were nothing like me.  They had everything handed to them, no effort required.  They were beautiful and popular and everyone loved them.  I was awkward in my own body and no one noticed me.  They were getting a free pass through life while the rest of us struggled on.  It had never occurred to me, not even once, that they would worry about the same things I did, like failing a class or not getting to leave and explore the world.  Well, what could I do?  I went over to him (unthinkable I know) and asked if he needed a study buddy.  I gave him some BS about struggling with that particular part of the curriculum (I actually rock at maths) and before you knew it we were chatting and laughing and getting along fine.  Then he surprised me.

“Why are you helping me?”

“Because that’s what you’re supposed to do, help each other.”

“But I’ve never even spoken to you before, my friends and I, well we, we…”

“You run in different circles?”

“I was going to say we’re dicks.”

“Oh, well, yeah I suppose you can be.”  I laughed at his honesty.

“Well, I’m sorry.”

“That’s ok.”

“How have I never noticed this girl before?  She’s so funny and smart and beautiful.”

Beautiful?  I nearly died right in front of him.  I never thought of myself that way and to hear someone who looked like he belonged in a Sports Illustrated say that about me, well think it at least, well I’m not ashamed to say it put one hell of a spring in my step.  After that, we would meet twice a week for study in the library and when we passed in the halls he would say hello, stop and chat with me. I hate that it took someone else to make me feel a little more confident in myself, because truthfully nothing changed.  I wore the same clothes, I had the same hair style, but I just stopped beating myself up as much.  I was a little more at ease with myself, not just because someone said I was beautiful, but because I realised I wasn’t the only one putting myself down all the time and more importantly I realised how stupid this mental self-harm was.  No one is a harsher critic about you than yourself. You are inherently biased.  You only see the bad and ignore the good.  I know now that we all do it.  Even the most beautiful people I know hate something about themselves, despite me and everyone else thinking their perfect. Why do it?  Why beat yourself up so much over things that don’t matter anyway? I know it’s easier said than done and I still find myself doing it sometimes but try to remember that happiness doesn’t come from a bottle of hair dye or a cosmetic store, it comes from within. Cheesy, but true.

Every section of the school, every student, from every walk of life, had something they hated about themselves, something they worried about and stressed over until they felt sick. There was the cheerleader I found crying in the bathroom, who genuinely believed all she had going for her was her looks, so instead of trying to expand or improve other areas like her intellect or skills, she focused entirely on retaining an impossible standard of beauty resulting in an eating disorder.  She is now in our study group.  There was the smartest kid in school, the one everyone just expected to go to Harvard and become some big shot lawyer, but whose parents put so much pressure on him to perform, he was driving himself into the ground.  He had no fun, no life, no friends, just his books and his exams.  We met for coffee last week and side note, I kind of like him, as in like like, but that’s another story.

I heard people fretting over their appearance, the fact that they couldn’t afford the latest clothes designated as cool by magazines and bloggers, the zits on their face or the weight they put on over the summer.  I heard them panic about exams and job prospects, even though they were just sixteen.  I heard them get upset about teachers who pushed them too hard and I heard the teachers worry about their car payments or letting their students down.  I realised in just a few short months, that every one, no matter how old they were or where they came from, was dealing with their own crap, their own issues and I realised what a difference I could make in people’s lives with the smallest and simplest of gestures.

Tula 4So, now I come to the moral of the tale, my reason for telling you this longwinded story, the message to take home with you.  Be kind. That’s it, just two words, but what an impact those two words can have on a person.  Everyone you see is fighting their own internal battle so, be kind to them.  Everyone feels lonely sometimes, so befriend them, or just say hi and let them know they aren’t alone.  Everyone falls down sometimes, so help them up.  This isn’t rocket science, it isn’t some magic formula or spell to cast, or complicated process, it’s as simple as helping them carry their groceries or giving them an old coat or blanket.  And when you are kind to people, you find they are kind in return and not just to you, but to others.  They pay it forward because they want someone else to experience what they have.  And the best part?  It makes you feel better about yourself.  You hold your heard up higher, you smile a little brighter, because you know that in some small way, you have made a difference in someone’s life. Confidence shouldn’t be entrenched in how thin you are, or whether a boy thinks you’re pretty, it should come from knowing you give a damn about others as much as you do yourself, in knowing that you are kind.

The necklace disappeared one day.  I know I had set it on my dressing table in the exact same spot I always did, but when I went to retrieve it, it was gone.  I never saw it again or worked out where or how it disappeared, but I had this feeling that it had done what it needed to do with me and had moved on to someone else.  I’m ok with that because I know now that kindness is the most powerful magic of all.

‘Fox & Wit’ Bookish Subscription Box: Official Unboxing.

‘Fox & Wit’ Bookish Subscription Box: Official Unboxing.

Hello readers!  I am so sorry I have not posted in a while, but life and all of its complications has been keeping me on my toes lately.  Between work, family, writing and bookstagramming, I am performing quite the juggling act, but I am hoping to begin posting more regularly, hopefully around once per week.  I have some awesome artist’s collaborations coming up soon, as well as some posts about writing and bookstagramming, so keep an eye out.  If you are on Instagram, why not follow me @mariemcwilliamsauthor?

For this evenings post, I will be unboxing Fox and Wit’s July box.  If you are unfamiliar with Fox and Wit, it is an amazing shop filled with bookish goodies, perfect for every book lover out there.  As well as selling individual items such as stationary, enamel pins and incense, they also sell a monthly subscription service.  Each month’s box centres around a theme and contains six to seven book related goodies.  I discovered them on Instagram and fell madly in love with the designs.  This month’s theme is fantastic and it is ‘Wanderlust.’  Let’s see what it contains…

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First up, there is this gorgeous custom Dragons of Nova print, designed by the incredibly talented Lesya Blackbird designs.  I am loving this so much, it is honestly badass.  I have had a sneaky look on Lesya’s Instagram page and she is insanely talented- I encourage foxandwit3you to do the same.  The box even comes with this little wooden easel style set stand so I can display it.  Next, there is this amazing book journal, which instead of simply blank or lined pages, contains customised pages with things such as space for your ‘To be read’ list and a place to write all of your favourite quotes.  I just love the quote on the cover, don’t you?  And the design around it is just awesome.  Thefoxandwit4 very talented people who run Fox and Wit believe in providing practical as well as beautifully designed bookish goodies, and they don’t disappoint with this month’s box.  There is a Six of Crows themed coaster designed by Silketara.  I adore these little illustrations, so I am very pleased there is also a character card (I got Rhysand) designed by her as well.  You can collect all of them now!  There is some amazing smelling incense which came with two illustrated cards- they will make perfect bookmarks.  I even have a book of matches to light the incense.  This box has Kes and Inej from the Grishaverse on it and was designed by Tara Spruit.

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But I have saved the best until last…There is an absolutely stunning Nevernight themed cut out, designed by the extremely talented Mary Nguyen.  I am genuinely so in love with this and I will 100% be framing this and hanging it on my office wall.  It is utter perfection!  Along the top of the cut out, it reads, ‘Never flinch, Never fear, Never forget.’  Honestly Mary, this is so divine.

Well that’s July’s box, and what a box it is!  I am so grateful to be a rep for this amazing company and as such, I am able to offer 10% discount to all of my wonderful followers and readers…just use discount code MARIE10 at the checkout.

 

 

 

Forever: A Short Story and Artist Collaboration.

Forever: A Short Story and Artist Collaboration.

Happy Sunday everyone.  I know it’s the end of the weekend and you are all staring down the barrel of a full week of work, but fear not, I have another collaboration to cheer you up.  For this collaboration, I have had the honour of working with the incredibly talented Elise Mahan.  Elise is an artist and an educator from California, USA. Her paintings and process have evolved from her research of astronomy, natural history, art history, the environment and her work with children.  She creates her paintings using a range of materials such as gouache, watercolor, ink, pencil, graphite, metallic pigments, and collage elements. Through her work, she examines the connections between natural history and symbolism and how they relate to one another within art and within our society.  I am absolutely in love with her art.  Her images have a surreal and dream like quality and they make me think of the myths and legends I heard as a child.  With that in mind, and inspired by her body of work, I have written a short story which I think reflects the ethereal quality of her work.  In turn, she has created one of her stunning images, inspired by my story.  If you like Elise’s work as much as me, you can check out her shop here, and her Instagram here.

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Forever

Her name was Branwen, the daughter of Conol, the Chieftain of the Eastern tribe.  Her hair was the colour of Raven’s wings, her eyes a whirl of blue and green, an ocean in a storm.  She was renowned throughout the lands for her beauty, and it was said her smile could end a war…or begin one.

His name was Cian, the son of Eoin the leader of the Western McManus clan, and the next in line to rule his people.  He was as opposite in looks from Branwen as he was in place.  His hair was of sand and sun, and his eyes were dark, like burnished wood and damp earth.  He would know only forbidden love.

They were never meant to meet, except in battle, but fate had other plans.  When both ventured too far from their homes, seeking answers to questions as yet unknown, and becoming separated from their fellow travellers, they came upon each other in a cave as both sought shelter from the rains.  They were unaware they were enemies, having not yet been schooled in the art of hate by their peers, and so they simply saw a fellow traveller, weary from the journey.

They spoke and laughed, and shared each other’s offerings, him sipping cool water from Branwen’s flagon, and her tasting the bread he carried, roughly torn in two.  They never shared last names.  They never mentioned from whence they had come.  It was simple and pleasant and uncomplicated by divisions as yet unknown to them.  They parted with a smile and the promise to meet again in one week hence.

And so, it came to be, that every week they would find one another in that cave, and share their stories and questions about the adulthood which stretched ahead of them and seemed to burden them with fears and worries they were unprepared for.  Over time, they shared more than stories.  An embrace, a kiss.  Dear readers, they fell in love.

But just as fate had designed to bring their hearts together, it conspired to tear them apart. When the patience of elders grew thin, and suspicions mounted, they were followed and discovered, and dragged away from each other’s outstretched arms under threat of blade and bloodshed. Heartache knows no bounds when two people in love are parted against their will.

There is no power greater on earth, than that of love.  When two souls are separated, they will overcome any obstacle to reunite once more. Despite admonishment, anger and derision at their foolish choice, they were undeterred.  They knew nothing of the battles fought before their birth, or the feuds and vendettas raised by each family against the other, they knew only the smell of each other’s hair, and the taste of lips against their own. Nothing could change how they felt for one another, and nothing would stop them finding each other once more.

They ran away.  They ran from their families, their tribes and their homes.  They ran from people telling them who to hate and more importantly who to love.  They ran towards each other, towards their cave, not knowing what they would do once they were reunited and no longer caring. But fate, she is cruel.  She gives with one hand and takes with the other. Branwen and Cian would never reach each other in this life.  Both would die alone, with the other as their final thought.

The snow storm grew with the intensity of each tribe’s fury.  River’s stopped and becameforever image 2 solid with ice and the moon, afraid to watch, hid from view behind dark thick clouds.  Not even the stars came out, and the thick forest was darker than it had ever been before.  Branwen, eager to reach her love, became lost in the inky black of the trees.  She climbed to higher ground, hoping she would find herself again, but instead found only death as she slipped and fell into the shadows below.  At that moment, Cian, who had almost reached the cave, felt a sharp and sudden pain within him, and he knew within his heart that she was gone.  Unable to live without her, he threw himself on his blade painting the pure winter snow red with his blood.

All of a sudden, and without explanation, everything became silent.  The snow stopped, the animals quieted, the winds ceased and nothing could be heard but the weeping of the Gods.  They had watched these lives unfold with curiosity at first, and then hope, as love it seemed could indeed conquer all.  But human lives are so fragile, so short, and seemingly love, for all of its power and might, could not traverse death.  It is said, that Anu, the Celtic Goddess of life and Mother Earth herself, became particularly despondent at the deaths of these two souls. She took their bodies, and turned them from flesh into something new, something as untouched and as pure as their love had been.  Branwen, with her black hair, became the night sky, and Cian, with his dark eyes, became the very earth itself.  And so, every evening, as the sun falls, they would find each other once again along the horizon, just where the earth meets the sky.  Together forever.

Unboxing: The Vellum Book Box.

vellum1Hey Readers!  It’s Friday night, the official beginning of your weekend, and with an extra day off thanks to the May Day bank holiday, and scorching weather, it’s going to be a good one.  As if things couldn’t get any better, I received my third and final Vellum book subscription box, and it has not disappointed.  This month’s theme is friendship, so I simply had to show all of you lovely people, my bookish friends.  Sadly, this is the last Vellum box as they are no longer producing them.  Good news thought- they are still selling their amazing bookish t-shirts, so head to their website to peruse their awesome designs and use my discount code MARIE!) for 10 % off.  In the mean time, enjoy the unboxing!

Vellum is all about the t-shirts, and this box contains my favourite one from them so far.vellum2As the theme is friendship, the shirt has a Wizard of Oz motif, which I am so in love with.  What I love best about Vellum’s t-shirts, is the fabric.  They are so soft and comfortable, and not to sound too much like a mum, but they wash really well.  This shirt was designed by  the very talented Kristin Askland, and one look at her Etsy shop and I am in love!  Her art is just so sweet and beautiful…definitely worth checking out.  This particular Oz design makes me smile whenever I look at it and I cannot wait to wear it!

vellum4                                                                                                               Next up, we have a pouch by the very cool Novel Grounds.  I adore when you find something beautiful and practical, so I am super pleased with their friendship themed pouch (I am already using it as a makeup bag).  Novel grounds is a shop I have been following for a while, and they have some great bookish designs, so definitely go check them out.

There is also a magnetic frame, with a removable magnet, featuring a quote fromvellum5 Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, designed by Sasha Natasha, which is 100% going on my fridge, and a greetings card designed by Art and Soul Creative Co., both of which are just adorable.  I love them!  The magnet reads, “I want everyone to meet you.  You’re my favourite person of all time.”  The greetings card reads, “True friends are always together in spirit.”  Both are beautifully designed and are very cheerful!

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Last, but not least, we have an item which takes me back to my childhood…friendship bracelets designed by Chaya Accessories.  Except, these aren’t like the poorly made string bracelets of our youth, these sophisticated bracelets are very much for adults.  Featuring semi precious stones and a lotus flower design, I will definitely be wearing mine, and I already know who to give its counterpart to.

And that’s it folks…another gorgeous box by Vellum.  It’s a shame they are no longer producing these, but at the end of the day, Vellum boxes were all about the t-shirts, and they will still be selling those awesome designs on their shop…check them out!