Friday Fun: Autumnal Landscapes from Corylus Books @CorylusB

I thought I’d offer you something a little different this week: a series of autumnal landscapes to inspire and delight us, but all of them in settings featured in the books we have published thus far at Corylus (because we do like to travel with our reading and crime fiction). Maybe even a few hints as to upcoming titles! N.B. Of course, autumn is not necessarily the season during which the action in each book takes place. Here we go, in order of publication:

  1. In Anamaria Ionescu’s Zodiac, four murders take place in four different locations, with four strange and different marks on the victims – and the only thing they have in common is that all of them were born in the little spa town of Voineasa in the Romanian Sub-Carpathians.
Voineasa, photo from BalneoMedica.ro

2. Bucharest is the setting for Teodora Matei’s police procedural Living Candles featuring the unlikely duo of Anton Iordan and Sorin Matache – a city of dark shadows, wet pavements and damp basements.

Photo credit: Gabriel Furtuna, on Reddit.

3. Snagov Lake to the north of Bucharest is the place where many Romanian politicians have their villas, and where they conspire with the media to cover up the politically embarrassing story of a vigilante killer in Sword by Bogdan Teodorescu.

Snagov Monastery on an island on Snagov Lake, photo credit: travelminit.ro

4. We first meet S贸lveig P谩lsd贸ttir’s police officer Gu冒geir Fransson in The Fox, far away in exile in the picturesque but isolated settlement of H枚fn on the east coast of Iceland.

H枚fn landscape, from Rough Guide to Iceland.

5. Gu冒geir is back in Reykjavik in the next book in the series, Silenced, in a tense story about appearances and reality, class and gender differences.

Iceland’s capital is also the setting for the forthcoming book Deceit by our new Icelandic author J贸n铆na Le贸sd贸ttir.

Colourful Reykjavik in autumn, photo credit: Cristine Zenino.

6. Although the ‘port town in the west of France’ is never explicitly named in J茅r么me Leroy’s clever novella Little Rebel, it might resemble Le Havre a little bit…

Photo credit: Arnaud Pointdefer on Instagram.

7. Some of the key conspiracy scenes in Bogdan Hrib’s spy thriller Resilience take place in Iasi in the north-east of Romania (close to the border with the Republic of Moldova).

The Culture Palace and panorama of Iasi, photo credit: Palas Iasi.

8.  脫skar Gu冒mundsson’s hard-hitting tale of trauma and revenge The Commandments takes place in the supposedly tranquil north of Iceland in Akureyri. How can anything bad ever happen in this beautiful little town?

Akureyri, photo credit: Rajan P. Parrikar

9. Harm, the third book featuring Gu冒geir Fransson and his team of investigators alternates between Reykjavik and the breathtaking scenery of the Westman Islands – you know, the ones that often feature in wishlists of remote houses in inaccessible landscapes.

Photo credit: Adventures Iceland.

10. Bonus entry: in our novella Skin Deep, our first book to be translated from Spanish (estimated publication date spring 2023), we meet a group of cross-border investigators in the Basque region. The body, however, is found in Biarritz.

Photo credit: euskoguide.com

Phew! Ten books since we launched at the start of 2020. That’s not bad, is it? Wonder where our literary travels will take us next! Well, the clue might lie in what I’m currently translating… And the action does take place in autumn!

Photo credit: vacantevacante.com

Friday Fun: Bring the Outdoors In

It’s now officially autumn but I can’t quite hunker down, close the shutters and light the fire (that I don’t have). So let’s try to bring some nature and light indoors and maybe even go out on the terrace on a mild day.

Always love the French country-house style. From maisonsdecampagne.fr
Big windows and indoor plants, a lovely combination, from 9gag.com
Sitting under the grapevines – nothing more pleasant at this time of the year, from Town’n’Country Living.
Even if you’re on the first floor, you can still have the windows overlooking greenery, from homeadore.com
Comfy chairs for reading are always welcome, although I would have them facing the window (fewer interruptions), from NorthernCalStyle.com
French windows yet again, from ruemag.com

Friday Fun: Writing Retreats

I may be out and about hobnobbing with the crime writing community at Bloody Scotland this weekend, but it’s that time of year when I start to think about retiring to a cabin in the woods (or mountains or on the coast, I’m not fussy) and writing non-stop until spring. Easy enough to do with these gorgeous places!

Even better if it’s in a tropical climate, so you don’t need to worry about the heating. From Pinterest.
But there is something so irresistibly romantic about a snow-covered cabin, from cabindiary.com

This cabin in Tennessee looks suitable for year-round living, from PfefferTorode.com
You can rent these holiday cabins in Pennsylvania, from TerritorySupply.com
This one straddles a waterfall – wildly adventurous, but it would make me want to pee all the time! From designdecors.com

If you don’t like the idea of living in remote places, you can always build a cabin in your backyard – if it’s big enough. From Country Living.
This actually is a writer’s cabin, belonging to Canadian writer Ann Voskamp (from her blog)
This one in Alabama is less cabin, more like a miniature Versailles, from Onekindesign.com
Who needs to get away from home when your back garden has such an amazing view and shed (although I may not want to open the bar until I finish writing). From Onekindesign.com

Friday Fun: Hiding Places

It’s autumn, we are starting to get cosy indoors, so here are some lovely places to run and hide when the world gets too loud and noisy, so that we can get on with the important things in life, such as reading.

The classic under-the-stairs nook, from BookBub. This is where Zoe’s litter tray used to be, but once I clean it up, I might consider something like this (but darker, no windows)

Even cosier if you have a landing and more than one floor, from House Beautiful.

Just imagine having a round window to read by, from Homedit.com

Of course I’m a big fan of window-seats, especially when they are in a blue and white colour scheme, from House Beautiful.

A more rustic window seat, or should that be a window bed? From Good Housekeeping.

The chalet style – or the bed in Wuthering Heights? From HomeDesignLover.com

But if you mention chalet, I am already dreaming of winter landscapes and a burning stove, and this perfect chair for reading and snoozing. From HomeDesigning.com

Brimful of Zoe

It’s been a week since that last very sad day with Zoe, and I finally feel able to pay tribute to her and celebrate her short life by sharing a few anecdotes. I suspect many people will think this is too much grief for a pet (I probably felt the same way before having her), but she was much more than that to me. I apologise to those who read my Twitter thread, for I will be repeating many of the same things, but Twitter is transient and I wanted a slightly more permanent way to commemorate her uniqueness.

She was my first pet and I had to wait over 40 years to get her. I had always loved cats, but my parents refused to allow any pets in the house. I would wander forlornly in the vacant lots behind our house and feed stray cats there in secret. When my friends got me a kitten for my 18th birthday, they made me return her to the owners of the mother cat. Once I left my parents’ house, I was either too broke, or living in student accommodation/ private rentals, moving every 6-12 months, often in-between countries, to even contemplate getting a pet. Once I got married and had children, I kept being told by parents, in-laws and husband how unhealthy it would be for babies to grow up in a house with cat hair and excrement. Plus, I was travelling a lot for work, my husband made it clear he would not look after an animal in my absence, and moving abroad continued to happen.

In the conservatory.

She became my symbol of ‘breaking free’ and not caring what other people thought. In January 2014 we were living in France and I had just ended an extremely busy year of travelling for work. I was cutting back on my professional obligations, partly for my own sanity, partly to spend more time with the children, but most of all because my husband had issued an ultimatum that he couldn’t bear to take over the childcare and household responsibilities any longer (needless to say, I was still doing most of these whenever I was at home, and organising with other mums and after-school clubs for the rest of the time). I was also starting to feel very lonely, resentful and sad in my marriage, but my husband kept telling me there were no problems, no need to do any counselling, and I should just snap out of my totally unjustified depression.

I decided it was now or never to get a cat and visited the local shelter, where I saw a shy tabby trying to avoid all the other cats. The people at the shelter told me her sad backstory and it took me just a couple of days to complete all the paperwork and adopt her on the 4th of February. As soon as I brought her home, my husband (who had hitherto served his usual ‘you do as you please, dear’ response) started complaining (this was his typical MO). He claimed he was allergic to cat hair, but luckily he was incapable of going for a doctor’s appointment without me in tow to translate for him, so we soon debunked this. He never fed or stroked her, but the boys were by now old enough to help and they fell as much in love with her as I did. In fact, they immediately composed a lullaby for her, which they used to sing till she fell asleep (it didn’t take too long, she loved napping). It always seemed to calm her down (maybe she just loved hearing her name repeated a lot), so I sang this song to her a lot during her final few days.

For the past eight years, our Christmas pictures have always featured all three ‘children’.

She knew exactly when to come onto my lap. For the first six months or so, she was friendly but cautious and slightly aloof. She took a while to sit on the sofa, and always only on a little green blanket that we put there for her. She allowed herself to be stroked, but hated being picked up and never came onto our laps.

All this changed on a single day. In mid-July, we took the boys to the airport to fly as unaccompanied minors to their grandparents in Greece. We paid quite a high sum for this service (we had done it before with other airlines/airports and it had worked beautifully), only to find that the Swiss made us queue with them (no Fast Access lane), take them through security, take them to the gate, wait there until their flight was airborne etc. I went to complain about this lack of service, which clearly embarrassed my husband, as he then proceeded to complain about me in the car on the way home, saying I was impossible to live with, and no wonder he had been having an affair for the past year.

I was so shocked and hurt by this sudden news, especially from someone claiming that my unhappiness in the marriage was illusory and everything was just fine, that I ran into the guest room (which was Zoe’s domain, as she was not allowed in our bedroom) and threw myself onto the bed, sobbing uncontrollably. After a while, I felt a little paw on my back. I turned, sat up and Zoe crawled onto my lap, and she has been there ever since. It was her favourite spot, but she seemed to have knack for knowing when I was especially sad or upset or ill in the many tricky years that followed, and she was always there for me.

I don’t have many pictures of the two of us together, but this one shows her doing ‘sucky-sucky’, i.e. kneading on my lap while also sucking her blanket. She would sometimes meow at me impatiently to get into position for her to do that

She was the best-behaved darling. The day after I brought her home, I already let her roam all over the house. I went cross-country skiing on the 5th of February with some friends, and they told me: ‘Oh, no, you’ll come back and all your furniture will be scratched, she’ll have peed on the sofa, jumped up on the counters, smashed your vases etc.’ But she didn’t do it that day – or ever. The most she ever did was climb up occasionally to sleep in my younger son’s bunkbed, and she would always jump down from it guiltily when we intoned: ‘Zoe? Are you being naughty again?’ That didn’t stop the boys or me, of course, from blaming her whenever something was missing in the house: ‘Zoe must have taken the nail clipper or my school tie or left the door to the garage open.’

She was starting to get a bit cheekier in the last year or so: jumping up on the kitchen counter if we forgot any food there. We would hear a telltale loud thump when we were in the living room, watching TV.

She was a bit of a hunter back in France, and would explore the garden and all the way to the end of the close. Once we moved to England, however, she became far more cautious (possibly because of the loud road at the back of our garden) and never again troubled the wildlife. In fact, she rejected the advances of two of our neighbours’ tomcats, who competed for her French demoiselle graces by bringing mice as offerings on our drive for the first few weeks after we returned to the UK.

She was Mummy’s Girl but also had a delightful complicity with the boys. Her preference for me was so marked that even the boys had to admit that it might be about more than just me feeding her. The boys often spoke in ‘her voice’, saying: ‘Maman est la meilleure.’ She even forgave me within a couple of minutes when I had to give her worming and tick liquids, or take her to the vet. As for when I had to put her in a cattery once when we went on holiday, she was utterly miserable there, and when we got back home, she brought in two mice, a bird and two lizards that day, as if to tell me: ‘See what a good provider I am? Please don’t put me in that awful place again.’ [It was the most expensive and exclusive Swiss cattery you can imagine, but hey- ho…].

She was a bit of a celebrity, since she was included in a colouring book Forty Real Cats From Around the World by Pamela Hodges, where she represented France, with her stripey pattern, a beret and chasing butterflies (she never caught on that it was impossible to catch them).

Watching TV – or should that be my eyes while watching TV.

In France, we would take the shortcut through a neighbour’s garden and an orchard to walk to school, and Zoe would often follow us there, but stop short of the road. She liked to pretend to be spying on us, but she was rubbish at hiding, so we could see her when we came back from school too, waiting just by the horses in the field. Aside from pretending to be James Bond, she also liked to pretend to be a dog: she would dash after the bouncy miniature toys that we threw, but just sat beside them instead of bringing them back.

Back in England, she knew what time the boys would be back from school and jump on the windowsill in my study, which overlooks the front door, to wait for them about five minutes before they arrived. She would then run downstairs to chat to them about her day, and try to trick them into feeding her: ‘Maman hasn’t fed me in years, look how skinny I am!’ [She was a plump little girl, who sometimes got stuck on her back like a beetle while rolling, and had to be put on a diet. Which made the last couple of months, when she lost more than half her body weight, particularly heartbreaking.]

She was a gifted linguist, an excellent reading companion and perfect for exam revision. Although she seemed to respond best to the French language, over the years she picked up English, Greek, German, Romanian, Japanese, Spanish and Italian as we either learnt or spoke those languages or during Family TV Time. She loved me reading to her in bed, I don’t think she’d have minded me sitting there all day. And she was always there to help the boys revise for their GCSEs and A Levels. Her particular areas of expertise were the Weimar Republic, Stalinist Russia and hot deserts, although she was starting to differentiate between Sartre and Camus recently.

My favourite example of her French bias came when we were watching Casablanca. She was (for once) not on my lap, but on the windowsill next to the TV and when the Marseillaise was sung, she jumped down and stood to attention in front of the TV. Alas, not captured on camera! She also tended to prefer the team dressed in blue whenever we watched football: ‘Allez les Bleues!’

And in case you are wondering where the title of the post comes from, it’s from this song by Cornershop, which was everywhere around the time I came to live in London and is a homage to the things you love and that made you what you are today (in this case the music from Bollywood films).

Friday Fun: Needing Holidays Again!

Another week of horrendous ill health (I’ll spare you the details) and generally feeling quite helpless and low about most things. I’m ready for another holiday, aren’t you? Escapism is more needed than ever before, so here are some pictures to put you in a more positive frame of mind.

Fairytale house and courtyard, with Encanto vibes, from Pinterest.

Nothing better than an inner courtyard with a water feature, from Mosaicstiles.com

A dream restaurant in the French Antilles. From Antillespassion.com
An unusual but spectacular inner courtyard at a hotel, from behance.net

A beautiful garden and sea views, what’s not to like, from wattpad.com

I do believe this is the Amalfi Coast? I don’t think I would want anyone sitting on those comfy seats, covering the view though. From extrapetite.com

Friday Fun and Another (Long) Break

After my long holiday and blogging break, I will now be taking another break, not sure how long, because of an actual break. For those of you who have not followed my self-pitying saga on Twitter, I fell over last weekend, fractured the elbow and sprained the wrist on the right arm (my writing arm), which has effectively put me out of action for pretty much anything. I can just about do my day job, albeit with speech to text software and frequent breaks, but I never realised how much you need two hands to accomplish simple tasks such as opening a jar of honey, cutting a piece of cheese or putting up your hair. Now that the boys have gone on holiday with their dad, I have no one to help and am beginning to understand why my mother put up with so much from my father over the years, and was so against me getting a divorce, terrified as she is of being alone and infirm in old age. (Needless to say, I still don’t subscribe to that view.)

But this post is called Friday Fun rather than Friday Accident, so on to cheerier things. I have put together some holiday pictures with a literary link.

George Top卯rceanu was a Romanian poet and humourist, with family ties to the area where my parents were born and now live. This memorial house in N膬m膬e葯ti, Arge葯, was where the poet’s mother lived and ran a weaving workshop.
View from the porch on the upper floor. The poet’s wife and son lived here for a while, and he visited them occasionally, but spend most of his time in Iasi, pursuing his literary activities (and a relationship with the poet Otilia Cazimir).

The Roman poet Ovid was exiled to the Black Sea port of Constan葲a, known as Tomis in Roman times, and apparently did not have anything complimentary to say about the area. There he is sulking in the main square.

Meanwhile, the Romanian national poet Mihai Eminescu is staring dreamily out to sea, in a sculpture completed in 1934 by the sculptor Oscar Han, through public subscriptions.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that the house where we stayed in Constan葲a, was the house where an important modernist woman writer Cella Serghi was born and spent most of her childhood. It is right next door to the beautiful 艦u葲u Villa, which is finally being renovated, as you can see from the tarpaulin covers.

This gives you a little bit of an idea what the 艦u葲u building used to look like before the scaffolding went up (overlooking the sea, naturally).

This example of a house on stilts from the Danube Delta region reminds me of one of poet George Bacovia’s most famous poems ‘Lacustrine Homes’

Meanwhile, in Bucharest, the Beer Cart (Caru’ cu bere) Pub, brewery and restaurant, with its art nouveau interior, was a much-loved meeting place for literary and artistic figures at the turn of the 20th century.

Finally, who knows, maybe someday they will say: this is the place where the translator and writer Marina Sofia spent her summer holidays as a child?

Back from Holidays – and Books Acquired!

There is no such thing as a relaxing holiday with the extended family back in the home country… but there were many pleasant moments, and a complete break from the treadmill, so I can’t complain! I’ve been boring everyone with endless holiday pictures on Twitter, but here are a few of my favourites, to give you a flavour of the landscapes and ‘vibes’. I will share more in my next few Friday Fun posts. [None tomorrow, though, as I have a lot of catching up to do still]

Barajul Vidraru – reservoir and dam

The Black Sea coast

The Bran-Rucar pass in the Carpathians
Sibiu

Although I had no time to browse in bookshops (unbelievable, I know!), I brought back a whole pile of books with me, some were old favourites languishing on my parents’ bookshelves, others that I had ordered online a few months ago and got delivered to their address. Meanwhile, a few books made their way into my letterbox here in the UK while I was away.

Here’s the result!

Romanian books:

  • As part of my search for contemporary Romanian authors to read and possibly translate, particularly women authors, I’ll be reading Raluca Nagy, Nora Iuga, Magda C芒rneci (this one has been translated by Sean Cotter) and Diana Ba虇dica虇. All recommendations via Romanian newsletters to which I subscribe.
  • A mix of contemporary and more classic male authors as well: Gellu Naum is better known for his avantgarde poetry and prose in the 1930s and 40s, or his wonderful children’s book about the wandering penguin Apolodor in the 1950s, and this is his only novel as far as I am aware (this too has been translated into English, see some reviews here); Max Blecher’s Scarred Hearts, which I previously read and reviewed in English, but wanted to own in Romanian; one of my favourite modern poets, Nicolae Labi葯, who died tragically young; an English translation by Gabi Reigh of my favourite play by one of my favourite writers, Mihail Sebastian; finally, two young writers that I want to explore further, Tudor Ganea and Bogdan Co葯a.
  • Last but not least, a dictionary of Romanian proverbs translated into English – just to remind myself of some of the old folk sayings.

Other books:

  • Another expat in Berlin story, imaginatively entitled Berlin by Bea Sutton. I read Susan’s review on her blog A Life in Books and couldn’t resist.
  • Two Japanese crime novels: Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight by Onda Riku (I was bowled over by The Aosawa Murders by the same author) and an older crime classic by Matsumoto Seicho entitled Tokyo Express.
  • Two volumes of poetry, Reckless Paper Birds and Panic Response by the English poet John McCullough. I recently attended a workshop with him and found him very inspiring indeed.
  • Last but by no means list: a whole flurry of chapbooks of Swiss literature, translated from all four official languages of Switzerland, published by the wonderful Strangers Press at the UEA. I am hoping to convince them to do a series on Romanian literature too someday, fingers crossed!

Friday Fun: Cape Town Apartments

One of my favourite cities in the world is Cape Town, because of its stunning natural location. You can find some of the most luxurious apartments with sea views there, although it’s problematic if we compare them with the dire conditions in shantytowns like Khayelitsha, just a couple of kilometres away. A third of the population of Cape Town lives in slums or substandard housing, 99% of the inhabitants of the slums are black, and it is very sad that this situation continues many years after the abolition of apartheid. However, this Friday Fun is all about escapism, so let’s try and forget about this for just short while and allow ourselves to think about holidays instead.

A more traditional decorating approach to this flat in Bakoven, from CometoCapeTown.com

Bantry Bay, Cape Town – leather seems to be a staple in South African interior design, but might get sticky in hot weather. From CapeConcierge.co.za

A very modern take, from James Edition.

You’d have to be very sure your neighbours wouldn’t be watching, but I rather like the idea of having a bath within earshot of the sea (I think you can close the walls/windows too). From Villa Concepts.

I liked these villas in Clifton View so much that you will now see them from three different angles, this one from The Pinnacle List.
The terrace for the Clifton View Villas, from Capsol.co.za

And a view from the opposite end, from Antoni and Associates.

Friday Fun: Viennese Apartments

After Paris and Berlin, how could I leave out my ‘home’ city of Vienna? Of course, I did NOT grow up in any of these fancy Viennese apartments, but I did have some friends who were housed in old Viennese Palais – which didn’t look at all like this back in the day, but were often run-down and full of drainage issues. Completely unaffordable nowadays, of course.

Most flats are completely unfurnished when rented or sold, but this gives you an idea of the volumes and the fancy light fittings. From coreal.at

The light fitting is not so fancy here, but I love the flowing spaces and the parquet flooring, from Willhaben.at
Here’s what a furnished one might look like – I am in love with the stove though! From Luxus Palais Wohnungen.

Sadly, most of the old buildings have been modernised beyond recognition. This one is just about acceptable (although hell to heat up in winter). From Falstaff.

But this penthouse seems a step too far, despite the dreamy views. From European Real Estate.

I have to admit I quite love this one, though… From Cuubuus.

But my dream home would be a flat in one of those inner courtyards, which were considered more modest back in the day, with lots of greenery. This one is a hotel now, Schreiner’s. From Hotelguru.