Saturday, December 24, 2011

Books for Christmas: A Celebration of Story

Giveaway Winners!

And  the draw winners are:

  •  SandyG265 ~ 'The Heir of Night'
  • Llehn ~ 'Thornspell'
  • JacquiR ~ JAAM 26
Congratulations to the winners and my thanks to everyone who commented---remember to stay posted for the 'Grand Supernatural Underground Draw' on the 30th. And of course I'll be back on the 1st for my regular slot and with something I hope you'll agree is special ...

Book recipients---please contact me on contact[at]helenlowe[dot]info so I can arrange to send you your 'loot'. :)
As a writer, it’s perhaps not surprising that books form one of the major landmarks of my Christmases past—not least, I suspect, because the gift of a book was always ‘sure to please’ me on the gift front. So I thought I’d share some of the brightest of those Christmas book memories today.

One of the earliest and most enduringly successful of those book gifts—possibly because it has always spoken to both the poet and prose writer in me, as well as to the lover of gorgeous illustrations—was Twas the Night Before Christmas (believed to be the work of Clement Clarke Moore, 1779-1863):

“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse …”

I have always loved the story this book tells, and the way it captures the anticipation and enchantment of Christmas Eve, a time when the young child feels as though the whole world is poised and waiting … for something magical to happen. And in Twas the Night Before Christmas it does!

I was 10 when I received the second of those very influential Christmas books—Roger Lancelyn Green’s Tales of Troy and Greece. (I suspect my book is a compilation from two publications: The Tales of Troy and Tales of the Greek Heroes, both first published in 1958.) I was already an enthusiast for both Greek and Norse myths and legends, but there was something particularly real and compelling in Green’s retelling, and all his characters came alive for me on the page. I have read many versions of those same stories, and many other classical works and reworkings since then. But I still feel that Tales of Troy and Greece was the signpost that set me firmly on the path to short stories such as The Brother King and Ithaca, and to poems like my Ithaca Conversations sequence, as well as establishing the strong mytho-heroic influences on my novels, Thornspell and The Heir of Night.

My father died when I was twenty two, and money and good cheer were both in short supply on the Christmas following his death. But we still came together as a family and my mother gave each of us a book, a trade paperback from the stationers near her work. My gift was Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon—and I loved it. Although I was subsequently to read a huge number of retellings of the Arthurian legends (too many in fact!) The Mists of Avalon was the very first such retelling I encountered and I was enthralled by its interweaving of Celtic myth and real history, and the combination of politics and battles and magic, romantic and sexual relationships—but most of all that the entire story was told from the perspective of the women in the Arthurian cycle. That was definitely a first for me in my Fantasy reading and one I liked, opening up the notion that women’s history and women’s voices in and through storytelling had something to say: something that mattered.

My mother, like my father, passed away too young. But they left me a legacy beyond price, one bound inextricably into my Christmas memories—the gift of books, and through the books, of the magic that is both story and storytelling. So it is no accident, or mere observance of convention, that The Heir of Night, the first book in my Wall of Night series, is dedicated to my parents. 

Giveaways Galore:

As part of this countdown to Christmas, each Supernatural Underground author who posts in the "Christmas Memories" series is doing a giveaway—and there’s also a Grand Supernatural Underground Giveaway at the end of the series, I believe to be drawn on 30 December. There’ll be a copy of The Heir of Night in that Grand Giveaway—plus in the soldiers' gift package—but I am also giving away a copy of both Thornspell and The Heir of Night today, the recipients to be drawn from commenters on this post.

Plus for those who already have both Thornspell and Heir (yes, Sharon, I’m looking at you! :) ) I’m adding in a copy of JAAM 26, which contains my short story Ithaca and two poems from the Ithaca Conversations sequence—amongst very many other fine stories and poems from other writers.

Just post a comment here, telling me about a “landmark” gift you've received (it doesn't have to be for Christmas), and be in to win.

Eligibility will close at midnight, US Eastern Standard Time, December 26th—I will then post the result here on the 27th so don’t forget to check back.


Supernatural Underground author Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet and interviewer. Her latest novel, The Heir of Night, the first of THE WALL OF NIGHT quartet, is published in the USA, UK, and internationally and won the Sir Julius Vogel Award 2011 for Best Novel. Her first novel, Thornspell, is published in the US by Knopf. Helen blogs every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really site and on the first day of every month right here on the Supernatural Underground.


SandyG265 said...

I've wanted a Hudson Bay blanket for years and finally got one for my birthday this year.

Sharon said...

ha! how did you know I would be here?! Wonderful story Helen. I am so lucky to have both my parents. I grew up in a house with overflowing bookshelves of fiction and non fiction.

My favorite gift my parents have given me is unconditional love. I know that my brother and I are the most important thing in my parent's lives. I know they will be there for me no matter what and that is such a great feeling. I want to give that to my kids too.

Terri Garey said...

What a great post, Helen! I'm not the least bit surprised to find we have the same taste in literature - just seeing the cover to The Mists of Avalon again is about to send me scurrying over to Amazon to download it to my iPad for a long overdue re-reading!

Happy Holidays to you,


alainala said...

i was given the new iphone 4 (it was new at the time!) from my boyfriend... its my fav thing ever!
ohh and there was the year i got the 'big girl bed'...that was a big one.. i had wanted a waterbed for years (my mom and dad had one).. but they said i had to be a certain age for it.. finally finally my birthday came around and YES i got my bed!!

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Mists is my fave retelliing!

I'd say my dobe. I usually just get a dog when I'm ready (for some reason they seem to find me so most of the dogs I have are rescues) but this time he was an official pressie to me! :D

Barbara E. said...

I've had lots of wonderful presents over the years, but a couple of years ago my son bought me a digital camera that's just the right size to fit in my pocket or purse, so I can use it all the time. It's perfect and I love it.

Barbed1951 at aol dot com

Llehn said...

A landmark gift would be a jade pendant in the shape of an pear from my late grandmother. My grandmother wore that around her own neck and gave it to me the Christmas just before she passed away and made me feel like I was her special grandchild.


Jacqui R said...

When I was 13 I was allowed to get my ears pierced for my birthday I waited years for that day to arrive :)

ticklebear2 at yahoo dot com

Eli Yanti said...

seem that Santa has not come yet to my house lol

merry christmas Helen ;)

Billie Jo said...

Happy Holidays!!

I have to say my greatest gift ever, and only gift from my father, was reading! At age three, he taught me how to read and I have been a bookworm ever since.

I used to watch him as he read all the time. And he would get so aggravated at me watching him. So he took me to the library, picked out a book and taught me.

There is no GREATER treasure than the gift of reading. And I passed that on to my children.

Sorry it was long-winded.

Merry Christmas
Billie Jo

kermitsafrog said...

One of my favorite Christmas presents was a Kermit the Frog nutcracker. I found it about 12-15 years ago. I saw it in a store in the mall and had fallen in love with it, but didn't get it because it was too expensive. The day after Christmas that year, I eagerly waited for the store to open, ran in and got my Kermit for half off the original price and used my Christmas money from my parents to purchase it. I may have had to buy it myself, but I know that it ultimately came from my parents.

June said...

I don't remember a particularly significant gift, but I have appreciated all the gifts that I have received over the years that have been practical (stuff I really needed and used) or stuff that I enjoyed (eg books, food and chocolates).

I have read Mist of Avalon and enjoyed it.

Jan said...

In 2009 I got Groucho, my cat.

Ok, I decided to keep him in June and used the justification he was my Christmas/birthday present.

Helen Lowe said...

Merry Christmas to you all and thank you for your great comments--which I feel reflect that Christmas and similar festivals are a great focus for thinking about others and giving gifts that can 'make a difference'--and sometimes receive them as well, which is an extra special feeling.

Bonnie said...

My favorite Christmas gift was this year, my daughter bought me a pair of Nike running shoes with a sensor in them for my iPhone so I can track how fast and far I go. It was an expensive gift and she wants me to start running so we can run some marathons together. It was very thoughtful of her.
I hope everyone had a happy holiday and a fabulous New Year.

Gisele Alv said...

Two christmas ago I receive a beautiful necklace from my grandma, she says is one of her favorite pieces of jewelry my grandpa gave to her! And i'm proud to wear it! :)
If this giveaway is INTL please count me in!