Reading at the traffic lights

A lovely  post on Facebook today from Oana Dunel:

“De-abia așteptam sa ajungă cartea asta, sunt atât de nerăbdătoare sa o citesc ca am început lectura de la semafor!😌
Visez de mult ca intr-o buna zi as putea sa ma mut și eu intr-o căsuța pitoreasca la munte,in inima Transilvaniei, deși la o analiza mai atenta pare imposibil acum (drumuri, infrastructura, utilități, scoli, etc)… Sunteți o inspirație pentru mine și pana acum îmi place cartea la nebunie!”52592506_175609753410299_2169517362804424704_n

In English:

“I could hardly wait for this book to arrive, I was so eager to read it that I started in the car, while sitting at the traffic lights! 😌
“I dream very much that someday I could move myself into a picturesque mountain village, in the heart of Transylvania, although a more careful analysis now seems impossible (roads, infrastructure, utilities, schools, etc). You’re an inspiration to me and so far I love the book to madness!”

Which would you pick up?

Can you help me? I’m about to commission a cover for the English version of my book. The Romanian title was Din Liverpool in Carpati, and the English title is A stake in Transylvania.

But what style of cover will people like most, do you think? I’ve picked some covers that I like – they are not all about the same subjects as my book, and are not all modern. I like them for all sorts of reasons.

But… which two of these covers would you pick up off the table in the bookshop? Which would pique your curiosity and make you look at the back cover?

Have a quick look and go with your first instincts. In a bookshop it takes one or two seconds for someone to choose a book to pick up and look at – so first impressions are crucial. Don’t think about it too hard!

Let me know the titles in the comments below – and if you have a moment, tell me why you like them.

Thank you!

Greenly warmer

Magura, Transylvania

IMG_5406Spring is well sprung. Compared to last year, when the end of April saw me wading through knee-deep snow in late April, wrapped in thermal layers against the -8C freeze, this year it was sun, and no rain all month so we were beginning to face the horrible prospect of drought.

But early May has seen lots of gentle rain and the very occasional thunderstorm, which is perfect for the earth and growing things. ‘Nori si soare’ says the weather forecast. Occasional ‘furtuna’ warnings with lightning symbols lancing through the cloud, and so it’s proving. Perfect mixed weather for the cycle of wildflower meadows and sweet hay, and happy herbivores munching through lush spring grass. Glorious.

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It’s white and cold – still February

A writer’s day in a Carpathian mountain village.

Magura, Transylvania

This was today. This is winter in the village. Saturday – I woke up late (10am, shameful) to find more snow falling. Forecast is dire. Fridge close to empty, gas bottle getting light. If I don’t go down to Zarnesti NOW, I might be stuck for weeks. So…

Car under tarpaulin so that’s okay – no shovelling of snow off the vehicle. But the battery is dead as the proverbial dodo. Trudge up to the neighbour and beg for help. He’s happy, as ever, and cracks open the crocodile clips and the power pack with the longest cable imaginable – about half a mile of it, seemingly. Bonnet up, clips clipped to battery, men retire to shed, I sit in chilly car while juice flows to battery. Now then I try the ignition and slowly, slowly, there are signs of life. After 20 minutes, the ignition roars. I hoot for…

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Brian Douglas: Winter driving in snow extra dangers; be aware!

Most people don’t bother with winter tyres in the UK and are surprised when they slide on half an inch of snow… Excellent advice, Brian! Today is a good day to stock the car for winter driving… as next week is meant to bring snow.


Brian Douglas

The first very cold snowy morning appears, not such a shock as was advertised on local TV last evening. I greet the guy next door as we step outside our dwellings and start brushing the snow off my car, he I notice simply brushes off the windscreen and in a flash is into his car, engine started and moving away. Stop I shout as see his car is covered in snow all apart from the windscreen, which is still iced up to appoint where one cant see properly. He winds the side window down and says the screen will clear; I have the heater blower on and is away down the road. cauciuc de iarna M+S

Goodness knows how many other drivers set off like this in a morning so full of ice and snow as they simply think only of being to work on time, forgetting personal safety and that…

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Meet The Herbs Puppets

How fabulous! I have nostalgic ties with Parsley et al. Childhood friends… And my sister Ginny typed up the first scripts for The Herbs. How wonderful to see them again, and looking so young.

The World of Animator Ivor Wood

The wait is finally over, here is some VERY exciting news that I’ve been waiting to tell you about for a loooong time. A while ago I was put in touch with Michael Bond’s daughter Karen in the prospect of learning more about Paddington and Michael’s work with Ivor. A call led to her telling me that she had just received a lot of old promo material for Paddington from their copyrighters as they were having a huge clear-out. She explained that there were a few boxes that she thought contained all the puppets from Ivor’s The Herbs series. No sooner had she said this, we’d arranged to meet up and delve into those boxes.

So myself and fellow researcher Joseph Wallace headed into London and below is what we found…

The Herbs puppets - Created by Ivor Wood The Herbs puppets – Created by Ivor Wood – Parsley, Sage, Dill, Lady Rosemary, Sir Basil, Tarragon, The Onion…

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Secrets of a bestselling author

A must-read for new and would-be writers: the confessions of a bestselling author.


author Lesley Cookman Lesley Cookman

I’m so grateful to my long-time friend Lesley Cookman for revealing some of the secrets of a bestselling novelist‘s life. Read today’s guest blog to see what you have in common with her, and get a sneak preview of the cover of her next book (which won’t be published for months yet).

Lesley is the author of the Libby Serjeant series of murder mysteries, with the eighteenth recently published – Murder by the barrel. Each new book whizzes to the top of its category on the Amazon bestseller charts, but despite Lesley’s success, the writing life is still not easy. But it is rewarding… Read Lesley’s guest blog here – and do ask questions in the ‘comments’ bit!

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What an editor does for a book

Do you want to know how a story is turned into a book? Once the author has typed ‘The end’, it’s the job of the editor to make sure the words are as good as they can be, and to liaise with the illustrators, the designers, the translator and proofreaders before sending the book to the printers.

Dragons over London

The author is only the first part of the process in producing a book. We get all the credit, of course, and lots of people don’t realise the number of other professionals involved in turning a few thousand words into an attractive, readable, desirable book. In the first of a series of articles about the publishing process, here’s my editor, Ruxandra Campeanu, to explain the part she plays.

Foto_micaMy favourite moment while editing Dragons over London was seeing the layout with the illustrations in place. Up to that point, I had mostly been concerned with the text, and that was the very first time when I got an idea of how the book would look like as a physical object. I particularly liked the scene where the mice, upon having learnt that Xiaolong had been deceiving them, decide to withdraw their support from him. I loved the way…

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