National Trust: Literary Edition

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Days out with the National Trust are always good fun, especially when they help maintain lots of houses and estates where famous writers once lived! From my experience, they really maintain the authenticity and atmosphere of the times, which always makes it a really rewarding experience. Here is my list of National Trust places I want to visit.

1.

Bateman’s, Burwash

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I’ve actually already visited Bateman’s! This gorgeous Jacobean house was once home to Rudyard Kipling, the writer of The Jungle Books. At Bateman’s, Kipling wrote his first major work, Kim, and soon visitors will be able to see Park Mill after some extensive restoration. Also, Bateman’s has a collection of gardens which makes it a great place to visit in the summer. Bateman’s is open all year round from 11-5pm and costs £10.40 for a standard adult ticket.

2.

Monk’s House, Rodmell

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This 17th-century house was once home to Leonard and Virginia Woolf, before her death which occurred at River Ouse, not too far from the home. After her body was found, it was cremated and buried beneath an elm tree in the gardens of Monk’s House. I’ve just been to visit this house, recently, and it was amazing to see where Virginia lived and wrote. She even had a “room of her own”, her writing room, at the end of the garden. Monk’s House is open Wednesday through to Sunday, after lunch until 5 pm, until the last week of October. A standard adult ticket costs £5.75

3.

Greenway, Devon

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This grand estate was home to the famous crime writer Agatha Christie and was specifically the holiday home for her and her family. Like Bateman’s, there are lots of gardens that make it perfect for going on walks, and dogs are also welcome according to the website. Greenway is open from 10:30-5pm, every day until November when it only opens at weekends through to December. A standard adult ticket is £11.00

4.

Hill Top, Cumbria

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This 17th-century farmhouse was home to Beatrix Potter, and resides in the northern part of England, compared to the rest of my other picks. Ms Potter bought the Hill Top farmhouse with the proceeds from her first book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Those wanting to visit, be mindful that entry to the house is ticketed to prevent overcrowding. Tickets cannot be bought in advance and a sell-out of tickets is possible. Hill Top is open every day until November, from 10-4:30 pm and standard adult tickets are £10.40. Access to the gardens and shop is free during opening times.

5.

Hardy’s Cottage, Dorset

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Thomas Hardy, the writer of Far From the Madding Crowd and Tess of the D’Urbervilles, was born in this cottage in 1840. It was built by his grandfather and has been maintained ever since, and Hardy actually wrote Far From the Madding Crowd in this very house! Thorncombe Woods is nearby, providing a beautiful picturesque walk for all who visit. Hardy’s Cottage is open every day up until November, where it only opens Thursday-Sunday. Opening times are 11-5pm and a standard adult ticket is £6.30.

I’ve put all of these National Trust estates on my list of places to visit. Have I managed to sway you too? Let me know in the comments!

Getting Out of a Reading Slump: My Top Tips

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Being in a reading slump is the worst possible state for a reader. You sit there wanting to read all the books on your shelf, and nothing captures your interest, even one of your most anticipated reads. Sometimes it can last a few days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months, but to give you a helping hand, here are a few of my top tips on getting out of a reading slump.

  • Try a quick read.

Reading a short, fast-paced book might just be all you need to propel you out of a reading slump. It might be a haiku, a poem, a short story, a novella or even a novel. Maybe even try a quick read in a different genre if you’re feeling adventurous, like non-fiction. If you’re searching for something to read, you can check out my blog post on quick reads for a few suggestions.

  •  Go to a bookshop and read some blurbs.

Getting yourself in a new and exciting book environment might get you into the right reading place again. So head on down to your local bookshop and start browsing! You don’t have to buy anything, but of course, we wouldn’t blame you if you did! Picking up a handful of books that make your bookish ears prick up might just give you the inspiration and interest to get reading again.

  • Take a break from reading.

If nothing is working, take a break. Don’t force yourself or feel guilty about not reading, or not being able to read. Reading is our most favourite and beloved pastime. Ultimately, reading is fun and it shouldn’t be a chore or something you put yourself through, so take a break until you find a book that gets you excited, or makes you feel that spark again.

  • Watch the movie first!

I know. BOOK BLASPHEMY. But if you’re really struggling to get into a particular book, you can watch the film before reading the book so you can get to grips with the story. This might be a good idea if you’re looking to read classics in particular, as there are lots of different adaptations to choose from, and the style of writing might be quite difficult to get into.

  • Re-read an old favourite.

Sometimes, it’s just best to go back to what you know and love. Re-reading something that is comfortable and familiar might just make you feel better about reading again. And who doesn’t love a good re-read every now and again?!

So these are my top tips for getting out of a reading slump. Are you in a reading slump right now? Do you have any go-to ideas for when you’re falling out of love with reading? Let me know in the comments!

Preparing for #NaNoWriMo2016

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I never thought I would ever finish my book, let alone have written two before I turned 25. That’s a crazy achievement for me, and it’s all thanks to NaNoWriMo. Four years before I first participated, the thought of doing a month long writing sprint filled me with anxiety. But once I found ways to prepare and manage my idea, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. So here are a few tips and tricks to get you going.

  • Find an idea you’re happy with

Writing your novel won’t be enjoyable unless you genuinely like what you’re writing! If you’re stuck for ideas, or simply want some help to guide you through the writers block, see my blog post on writing a book here.

  • Make an outline

Some people are pants-ers, some people are planners. I am personally a planner, and I feel so much more relaxed when I have an outline of a scene in my head ready to be written. Sometimes I’ll even write the dialogue in script form, just so I can get it down on the page and then convert it to prose later on.

  • Make a schedule

This is coming from a certified planner! However, designating time in your day to sit down and write will help you achieve the 1,667 words you need to win. It could be an hour before you go to work, on your commute, during your lunch break, after work or even before bed. I always find I work better in the late afternoons/evenings, so I always make sure I’m sitting poised and ready to write by then.

  • Enter in your novel

On the NaNoWriMo website, you can start entering in your novel from early October. The sooner you do it, the more committed you will be to the project. You can even upload a book cover as well, so until November comes you can get creative and make something that fully represents the novel you intend to write.

  • Add your friends!

Something that kept me going during the first NaNoWriMo I did was seeing how my friends were progressing throughout the month. Whether it’s a healthy competition or just checking in and talking through ideas, having friends by your side always makes the experience more enjoyable.

Add me to your buddy list here: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/clareholmanhobbs

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Either add me to the buddy list or let me know down in the comments what you intend on writing this year. Happy writing!

National Novel Writing Month begins on November 1st and continues until November 30th. Each participant aims to write 50,000 words in a month, which averages out at 1,667 words a day. You can find all the information on the project at the website: nanowrimo.org

Another 25 Facts About Me

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Considering the last 25 Facts blog post went down so well, I thought I would do another… just in case you don’t know me well enough already! So here are another 25 facts about me.

  • My second novel is titled Losing Lola and it’s a contemporary murder mystery.
  • My Ilvermorny house is Horned Serpent.
  • I try my hardest to buy cruelty free products where possible. Boots (UK) own-brand products are always affordable and good quality, as are Superdrug.
  • My wand is 10 and three quarter inches, made from Willow with a Unicorn Hair core.
  • I enjoy reading physical books and eBooks. Some readers seem to prefer one or the other, but I like both.
  • I am currently learning French on Duolingo (as part of my Promises and Wishes list), and am currently 30% fluent.
  • A portion of the books I own I bought whilst I was travelling on my gap year, so I have the international copies instead of the UK editions.
  • I adore all three of Charlie Simpson’s solo albums (Young Pilgrim, Long Road Home and Little Hands), and I never get tired of listening to them.
  • Whenever I travel to a new country, I try to buy a postcard as a memento.
  • I love listening to audio-books, namely the Chronicles of Narnia series and the Harry Potter series.
  • I have a warm skin tone and I look best in bright, crisp and clear colours.
  • I have written two books and I have vague outlines for at least another two, one of which I hope to write this November during NaNoWriMo.
  • Some other series that I love are The Lunar Chronicles, The Divergent Series, The Hunger Games and The Heather Wells Mysteries.
  • I have a passion for photography and usually take pictures on my phone when the inspiration strikes.
  • I love writing letters to people and have pen-pals who I write to regularly.
  • I have a very small, very faint birthmark in the shape of a diamond on my stomach.
  • Before I was born and all throughout my life, my nickname has been Hubble.
  • Fall Out Boy’s From Under the Cork Tree is one of my favourite albums of all time. It reminds me of when I began to develop my own music tastes.
  • This year, one of my dreams, that Busted would get back together and reunite on stage, was completed. My friend Rob and I saw it happen with our very own eyes at Wembley Arena.
  • Another of my favourite albums is Paramore’s Brand New Eyes. It was the first time someone had perfectly summed up the angst I felt about the world. I won’t ever forget how free it made me feel.
  • I love to draw, and often draw costumes, blueprints and ideas for my books.
  • I recently got another tattoo on my wrist of the letter H in my father’s handwriting. Those who know me well will know the significance.
  • The series I want to start soon are the Name of the Star series by Maureen Johnson, the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas, and the Comoran Strike series by JK Rowling.
  • I really love reading and watching non-fiction pieces on True Crime.
  • I am participating in the 2016 Classics Challenge and have currently read 12.

So that’s all for my latest 25 facts about me. Let me know in the comments section if you want to see more of these types of posts and whether you share facts in common with me!

Reliving the Magic: Why I Re-Read Books.

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As an experiment, ask someone near and dear to you what their favourite film is. I bet you most answers will be something along the lines of “Back to the Future” or “The Sound of Music”, or “Anchorman” depending on their generation. I have way too many favourite films to pick just one, but I can tell you exactly why I love each and every one of them. They usually remind me of a certain time in my life, or a certain someone I’ve lost, or perhaps I just want to relive the magic and the memories of watching it the first time.

This is exactly how I feel about books.

I absolutely love to re-read books, and my love of it began with (you guessed it) Harry Potter. I’ve lost count the amount of times I’ve read that series, and The Chronicles of Narnia too. It brings me such comfort and joy to delve into those worlds again, no matter how much of it I know off by heart. They still thrill and excite me to this day, and maybe when I’m feeling nostalgic or have heartache, Harry will comfort me as any medicine would.

I also recently re-read one of my all time favourite books Looking for Alaska by John Green. I was really nervous beforehand, as I worried that the magical words that had touched my heart the first time I read it would be gone, but I was met with the same warm and fuzzy feeling I felt inside like I had before. I could just see myself back in the Aventura hostel in Budapest, curling up in my window seat with the Hungarian sun streaming in. It’s a memory I’ll cherish forever. Even though it had been years since I’d picked the book up, it still managed to have the same effect on me, I still thought all the same wonderful things about the story, the characters and John’s writing. So it’s still one of my favourite books and I’m really, really happy about it.

Another collection of books I’ve re-read are the classics I was forced to read in school. The fact that they were compulsory reading made me fail to recognise the true strength of novels like Frankenstein, An Inspector Calls and Cider with Rosie. Now, I consider these among my favourites, and if you’d asked 15 year old Clare if she felt the same, she would have laughed in your face. The same goes for mystery novels. I like to re-read them after I know the ending, so I know what clues to look for, to sort through the red herrings and the plot twists. It makes it so much more interesting!

So these are the main reasons why I re-read books. Firstly, because I love to relive the magic, secondly because I love to revisit the memories and thirdly, because I love to gain a new perspective on books I’d long forgotten. Of course, this does make it difficult to get through my hefty TBR pile, so I don’t like to make a habit of it. Never the less, whenever someone tells you what their favourite film is, I’m sure it would be very interesting to ask them just why that is.

Do you often read books? Let me know down in the comments!

Top 15 Favourite Books

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At the age of (almost) 25, I have read a lot of books. I have read books I’ve loved, books I’ve hated, books that left me feeling ‘meh’, and books that I’ve abandoned. In my first quarter of a century, I’ve accumulated many books that I declare among my favourites, but these are the fifteen most loved ones that I want to share with you.

These books are in no particular order.

1

The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

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I’m seven years old, accompanying Lucy Pevensie through the wardrobe and into the Western Wood. I try to reason with Edmund as we walk towards the Witch’s castle. I sharpen my blade with Peter as we prepare for battle, and I fight alongside Susan, shooting my arrow through the hearts of Narnian traitors. As I grow older, I ride alongside Shasta and Aravis as we made the journey across the desert into Archenland. I’ll see Narnia come to life, hearing the sweet sound of Aslan’s song, singing the world into creation with Digory and Polly.

2

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

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I’m eleven years old, getting my Hogwarts letter with Harry in the cupboard under the stairs. We get the train together at 11 o’clock on the 1st September, and meet Ron and Hermione along the way. I defeat Voldemort with Harry, once, twice and three times. I escape to the Burrow with the Weasley’s way too often, and tag along to the Quidditch World Cup. I stand by Harry through the rise of Voldemort and fight along side him in the Battle of Hogwarts.

3

Looking for Alaska by John Green

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It’s 2011 and I’m in Treehugger Dan’s bookshop in Budapest, Hungary. I’m 19 years old, nearly no longer a teenager, my childhood soon to be over, marked by an epic InterRail experience before university. I’m in the sale section, I see a book called Looking for Alaska by John Green for 200F, equivalent to about 50p. What draws me in is… well, everything about it. I buy it and head back to my hostel, a cute, quirky loft converted from an old town house. I sit in the bay window and devour Looking for Alaska in one sitting. I realise why I want to be a writer. I realise that grief will never leave me. I continue to seek my Great Perhaps.

4

The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth

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I have now “become” an adult. I’m twenty years old. I’m in my first semester of university and I have just been exposed to The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, both of which I’ve read. Somewhere online, I find that the Phantom of Manhattan is the unofficial sequel to Gaston Leroux’s original novel and I fly through it in one sitting. It becomes my guilty pleasure, and much to my enjoyment, enables the musical-sequel Love Never Dies to come to fruition.

5

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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It’s the summer of 2012 and I’ve just completed my first year at university so I head into Waterstones to celebrate. I browse the shelves, when this book catches my eye. I’ve heard it’s being made into a movie, and once I read the synopsis I’m sold. I buy this in a two for one deal along with Fifty Shades of Grey, which I soon regret, but this novel serves as a reminder why picking Creative Writing as my degree is a good decision.

6

Paper Towns by John Green

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After I realise John Green has written not one, but four other books, I head to Amazon and go on a book binge buy spree. I buy An Abundance of Katherine’s, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson and The Fault in Our Stars, his latest novel. Paper Towns arrives first, and on that first page, John Green becomes my second Auto-Buy author. Sitting in my porch/bedroom, as Spring turns to Summer in 2013, I delve into Q’s world, sitting next to him in the mini van as we make our way along the East Coast to find Margo.

7

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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It’s Christmas 2013 and I’m in New York. I head into Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue and browse the shelves aimlessly. Outside it’s snowing, and I know we have to get the Croton-Harmon train back before peak times but I can’t tear myself away. Most people are gazing up at the Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center, but I’m gazing up at the rows of books before me. I’ve always wanted to read The Bell Jar, and so I buy it there and then before I could talk myself out of it. I read it on the train all the way to Tarrytown.

8

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

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It’s 2014 and I’m in my final semester of university. In our Creative Visions module, we’re exploring futuristic words and thus my love for dystopian fiction is born. I spend my time trying to escape the pain of assignments and dissertation talk by curling up with this book, finding a whole new definition of the word escapism. As I read, Tally and I hover board along the skyline, wondering what exactly it is that makes a person “pretty”.

9

Flowers in the Attic and the Dollanganger Saga by VC Andrews

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Despite trying to escape talk of my pending dissertation, I can’t, but I find respite in “reading for research”. Flowers in the Attic is the first book in the Dollanganger Saga, and fills my head with rich, luxurious, gothic mansions, plot twists and betrayal. I lap it up, and am reminded that my final piece for my degree is MINE, and take notes on delicious description from Ms Andrews.

10

The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

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I’ve finally left university. My dissertation is handed in and now I’m waiting on my results. Now I can read whatever books I choose, and the thought of that alone is so liberating. When I hear that Divergent is to be made into a movie, I figure it’s just another book series jumping on the coat tails of The Hunger Games, but after I decide to read the series, I realise it’s so much more. Tris goes on a journey unlike any other. She questions what it means to be selfless and brave, and questions her identity along the way. The ending to the Divergent series is heartbreaking, but proves it’s not just another book series. It’s a social commentary on human nature.

11

We Were Liars by E Lockhart

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Three years worth of assigned reading stopped me from buying any new books, so as my graduation fast approaches in the Autumn of 2014, I look for exciting books to catch my eye. Rediscovering authors seems to be a habit of mine. Many years ago when I was in secondary school I read a booked called The Boyfriend List, now nearly ten years later I find We Were Liars by the very same E Lockhart. It’s my first trip into psychological thrillers and I LOVE it. I don’t realise the twist and it blows my mind.

12

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

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I’m at my very first Writing Weekend as an alumni of the University of Winchester, and Belzhar has been my most anticipated read of 2014. A YA novel, inspired by The Bell Jar, set at boarding school, and it’s right up my street. Sometimes I wish I could go back to school, just so that I could choose to go to boarding school. Or sometimes I wish I could move back into Halls of Residence, where life was much more simple.

13

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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My graduation has come and gone. I really am a full fledged graduate, so I retreat to a place that makes me feel safe. I’ve spent much of the past ten years online. Not just online but ONLINE, participating in forums and chat rooms, writing in online journals, and writing, writing, writing. I never thought anyone would understand my “life online”, and I didn’t know how to communicate to anyone what that time in my life meant to me, but Rainbow Rowell does it with one swift novel: Fangirl.

14

And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks… by Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs

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It’s almost Christmas again and I’ve just finished watching Kill Your Darlings with Daniel Radcliffe. I quickly become obsessed with the Beat Generation and haul a tonne of books from that era. This book is the fictional account, similar to the Kill Your Darlings, of the murder of David Krammerer and the Beat Poets growing up in the underbelly of New York City. I adore this book the moment I read the first page and the moment I read the last.

15

Cinder and The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

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I’m twenty three going on ten years old again. I’m scouting the scrapyard for junk metal with Cinder and Peony when she gets taken. I’m running with Cinder to warn Prince Kai about Levana. I’m sitting in the cell with Dr Erland when he tells her she’s the lost Princess Selene. I’m reminded that you’re never too old for fairy tales.

Did I mention any books in this list that you love too? Let me know in the comments.

Top 5 OTP Ships

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In every book, in every TV show, in every movie, I always end up ship-ing at least once. Whether it be a friendship or a relationship, I often see deeper layers to character’s interactions than what is played out in front of me. I’ve (tried) to list my top five OTPs, although let’s be honest, it really could be a top 123,456, but I’ve narrowed it down to these few who always tug on my heart strings.

These ships are in no particular order.

1

Ron and Hermione

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The mother-ship of all ships. The OTP of all OTPs. I ship-ed this for ten years before it became “officially” cannon, and I, in fact, didn’t even know what ship-ing was until I entered online fandom. I simply wanted Ron and Hermione to be together forever and ever and have millions of lovely ginger haired children. Luckily they did. (Well… two…)

2

Tris and Four

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One of the main things I loved about the Divergent series is the fact that there is NO LOVE TRIANGLE. Tris and Four fall for each other and live happily ever after. (Don’t talk to me about Allegiant. Allegiant and I are not friends.) Tris and Four don’t play mind games, they don’t play each other, they come together and stay together and fight for/with each other. That’s what makes me love them.

3

Snow and Charming

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Back in season one of Once Upon a Time, when Misthaven/Enchanted Forest/Storybrooke was much less confusing, Emma and Henry tried to restore the memories of our beloved fairy tale characters and bring back the happy endings. Snow and Charming were MEANT TO BE TOGETHER. It is practically written in stone. They physically share one heart. All the to-ing and fro-ing made me dizzy, but they got there in the end.

4

Mary, Queen of Scots and Francis II of France

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History books don’t paint (literally) Francis, or Mary, in a very good light. Francis, in his infancy, is a weak and sickly boy, who apparently was unable to consummate his marriage to Mary as he had not yet reached puberty. Mary on the other hand, was described more favourably, but later in life was considered to have murdered her second husband Lord Darnley. So imagine my happiness when Toby Regbo was cast as the young Dauphin of France and played opposite Adelaide Kane as Mary in hit TV show, Reign. Their on screen chemistry cemented my deep love for their short-lived romance and no, I’m still not over that episode.

5

Hanna and Caleb

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Spencer had it right when she said Hanna and Caleb draw strength for each other and if IMK doesn’t make Haleb end game then I’m going to have some serious beef. All PLL fans have beef with some aspects of the show already, so don’t go making it worse, IMK. Let’s be honest, in the translation from books to TV show, adding Caleb was one of the best things the show-runners did. What makes Hanna and Caleb even more perfect is that they’re not only romantically involved, but they’re also great friends as well.

Honourable mentions go to: Sirius/Remus, Mary/Bash, Bash/Kenna, Greer/Leith, Carter/Max (Finding Carter), Nathan/Haley and Keith/Karen (One Tree Hill), Aravis/Shasta (The Chronicles of Narnia), Hazel and Gus (The Fault in Our Stars) and so many more!