On this day eight years ago, I set sail from Rosslare in Wexford (Ireland) on a huge adventure – to travel through Europe in a small camper van, seeking out delicious food and wonderful scenery. That trip took me through England, France, Spain, Portugal, Switerland and Germany before arriving here in Lithuania. What was meant to be a short break to fix the air conditioning in the camper turned into a whole new adventure as I bought a small house and set about renovating it to create a cosy homestead.Continue reading “My Summer Plans – Sailing the Nemunas!”
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow of life, to put to rout all that was not life, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
From “Walden”, by Henry David Thoreau (condensed)
Spring came late in Lithuania this year. Winter didn’t start in earnest until January, but it found its feet quickly and dug in hard. Snow fell on top of snow and temperatures held at about -19 C (-2 F) until the end of February. It was beautiful to behold, even if it cost a small fortune in heating bills! Continue reading “Wildflowers”
It’s been a while since I made fajitas. I’m not sure why, as they really don’t take very long to make. I guess I get stuck in a cooking rut sometimes and just end up making the same few dishes on repeat. But recently, when a friend came to lunch, I thought I’d pull out all the stops and make something a bit special. Continue reading “Homemade Fajitas [Recipe]”
Music has always played a big part in my life, from singing songs in the car on long journeys to busking on Grafton Street and on to playing in various pubs and clubs around Dublin. I remember the first album I ever owned (a vinyl album of Walt Disney classics), buying my first single (Frankie, by Sister Sledge) and my first CD (The Lion & The Cobra, by Sinéad O’Connor). I was lucky to have parents, aunts, uncles and cousins who loved music as much as I did – every family gathering ended with a sing-song. Continue reading “30-Day Music Challenge”
In my ongoing quest to live a healthier lifestyle, I try to avoid overly-processed and high-sugar foods. Luckily for me, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I do love hazelnut spread. I was shocked to discover that the “branded” spreads contain only 13% hazelnuts and a whopping 56% sugar. This homemade version contains 82% hazelnuts and just 12% sugar. I would still consider this a sweet treat, so I wouldn’t be eating it wholesale. However, as sweet treats go, it’s pretty low in sugar and pretty dense in nutrients. You could reduce the sugar if you liked, but I find it needs this much sugar to counteract the bitterness of the nuts and dark chocolate.
This recipe is super-quick and easy. I hope you enjoy it! Continue reading “Homemade Nutella”
I envy animals sometimes. They live life in the moment. If they feel like eating, they eat. If they feel like sleeping, they sleep. And while they’re alert for danger and will bolt if they feel the need, they return to their relaxed state very quickly. No need to dwell on that last danger. No need to worry about the next danger until it presents itself. They are blissfully unaware that their world is full of danger, and that tomorrow might never come. Continue reading “Living in the Moment”
“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen…🎼”
“Not again, Robert – WE’RE NOT REINDEER!” Continue reading “Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen…”
It’s incredible the joy a little animal can bring into your life. It’s almost a year since I collected Luna from an animal shelter. Her mother had been dumped with seven tiny pups on an abandoned farm. I fell in love with her the moment I saw her. She had walked away from all the argy-bargy with her siblings and found a quiet corner to just sit and take in the world. I guess she reminded me of myself a little! She is playful yet calm, and full of love. We celebrated her birthday this week with a “cake” and some toys. I look forward to many more happy years in her company. Continue reading “Lovely Luna!”
We are lucky to have so much wildlife right on our doorstep. Roe deer are very flightly and quite hard to sneak up on – they are usually on the run and out of range before you can get your camera to your hand. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch one in flight. They are dainty and beautiful, particularly against a snowy backdrop. Continue reading “Roe Deer Doe”
I find snow very soothing. It dulls sounds, softens light, quietens the mind. Having a dog is great for getting you out of the house and into the fresh air, even when the temperatures have fallen well below zero. I walk about 4 km each morning, and even though I regularly take the same route, I always experience something new – ice crystals sparkling on fine branches, the way the light plays with the shadows, the crunch of the snow underfoot. The pale morning sings. Continue reading “Pale Morning Sun”
One of the greatest joys of writing books for kids (or for any audience, to be honest) is getting positive feedback from readers. It takes a long time to write a book, and even longer to get it published, so hearing that people have read and enjoyed your work is extremely gratifying. Continue reading “Ask the Author – Millie’s Questions”
I know lots of people are feeling “stuck” right now, with all the travel restrictions that are in place. I managed to make it to the seaside a few days ago. It was the first time I’d ever seen snow on sand and slushy ice at the water’s edge. Between the sky, the sea and the clear air, it was magical. If I have to be stuck somewhere, I’m glad I’m stuck here. Continue reading “Stuck in Colder Weather”
It seems that the whole world is now on lock-down, with the term “social distancing” now a part of our daily vernacular. While social distancing will hopefully help to stem the spread of coronavirus, self-isolating in this manner is not without its challenges. This is particularly true if you have kids who are now home from school, meaning they are missing out on their education, plus you need to keep them entertained all day when they can’t go out and play with their friends. Continue reading “Keeping Kids Entertained During Social Distancing”
It was a swift ending to a long and fruitful life. One minute, she stood strong, leaves shivering in the gentle breeze, the next minute she was gone. Broken. Lifeless. All in about 15 seconds. Continue reading “So long, and thanks for all the fruit”
I’ve been watching the ducks down at our local pond since the start of April, following their journey. I think there are four drakes and three ducks. I certainly saw plenty of mating action in April and was really looking forward to seeing the ducklings emerge. I had spotted a few broken eggs on the path near the pond and was worried that eggs were being eaten by predators, so I was absolutely delighted to see this female with a brood of nine healthy-looking ducklings. Aren’t they just beautiful?! Continue reading “Mallard with Ducklings”
Making the most of nature’s bounty is a huge part of my philosophy. I try to make use of anything that is available to me, whether it’s fruit and vegetables I grow myself, that given to me by friends and neighbours or wild food I find out in the fields and forests. So when I found a large patch of young nettles in the back garden recently, I decided to make tea. Continue reading “Homemade Nettle Tea”
I’ve waited so long to take these pictures. I know they’re not perfect, but when one of your favourite animals strolls out from the trees a few metres away, you take whatever photos you can get, regardless of the strong shadows. Red deer feature prominently in my middle-grade novel, Guardian of Giria, and I have been seeking them out for about two years, mostly to no avail. This hind posed nicely for a moment, then trotted off across the road and disappeared back into the trees. I had just put my camera down when I realised she was being trailed by her newborn calf – the tiny creature on spindly legs looked like it was only hours old. I had no time to focus, so please excuse the blurry shot. I still think it’s cute as can be! Continue reading “Red Deer Hind with Calf”
A gorgeous male chaffinch. It’s a pity there is a branch partially blocking him, but there is still some lovely colour and feather detail. Beautiful birds. Continue reading “Male Chaffinch”
There are days when I go out to take photos and seeing nothing of interest. Perhaps a few roe deer that run off as I approach or a fox skulking by a distant hedgerow. I regularly see birds, but most are small and skittish and have moved on before I can lift my camera. Once in a while, though, I get to see a true spectacle. Continue reading “Bean Goose Migration”
Driving through the countryside at the moment, the air is filled with the song of these tiny little birds. I scan the skies, I scan the fields, but they are so hard to spot. Finally, I see one. I sit and watch. I listen. It is magical. Continue reading “Skylark”
Now that spring is here and the snow has finally melted, I am reopening my school & library visits. If you would like me to visit your school or library (here in Lithuania), please contact me and we can arrange a date. The presentation typically lasts for about one hour, but we can adjust this to your specific needs. I give a short introduction to my novel, Guardian of Giria, followed by a presentation on the wildlife featured in the book. The presentation appeals to kids of all ages but is particularly suited to those aged between 10 and 16. Continue reading “School & Library Visits: Now Reopening”
Our house is nestled at the edge of our village, facing out onto fields and forests for as far as the eye can see. Sitting in my front room, I regularly see buzzards swooping and soaring over the fields. Generally, they are quite far in the distance, but occasionally they do come quite close. I was lucky once to be in the garden, camera in hand, when one flew over the house. Most of the time, though, they are gone from range before I have time to grab my camera. Continue reading “A Buzzard Soars”
One question that has come up a number of times when chatting with readers about Guardian of Giria is why I made wolves the “bad guys”. And my answer is this – the wolves are not the “bad guys,” they are the antagonists. And those are not the same thing. Let me explain. (Please note that this post contains slight spoilers as to the content of the book.) Continue reading “Why the Wolves are not the Bad Guys”
Here’s a great post from GroundEd on creating a visual display of your school library in the style of a NetFlix screen. Full instructions and a template are provided. Continue reading “Bookflix”
A mistake I frequently see made by learners of English is use of the wrong possessive pronoun. For example, someone might say “it is yours coat” instead of “it is your coat”. Continue reading “Possessive Pronouns (“Your” v “Yours”)”
One of the most common mistakes I see being made by non-native speakers of English is incorrect use of definite and indefinite articles – “a/an” and “the”. This mistake is particularly common in countries where the native language does not have a similar grammar rule, such as here in Lithuania. Even those who speak English proficiently frequently get this wrong, either by choosing the incorrect variant or by using no article at all. Continue reading “Definite & Indefinite Articles (“the” & “a/an”)”
Between the mists and the snow, the roads look endless. Oh, to drive forever on such roads, the crunch of snow beneath my wheels, the cold air pouring through the open windows as I dare not miss a single sight. The countryside is already beautiful, but under a thick blanket of snow, it is magical. Continue reading “Snowy Lanes”
Regardless of whether you are traditionally or self-published, you will need to be heavily involved in marketing your book. This means having a visible presence on a variety of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as attending a wide variety of events, either as a speaker or to mingle with other attendees from the publishing industry. Continue reading “Step 5: Market & Promote Your Book”
Self-publishing is a huge area and whole books have been written on the topic. I have tried to condense what I’ve learned into a few short(ish) sections, but if you plan to self-publish you will need to explore each of these sections in much more detail. Continue reading “Step 4b: Self-Publish Your Book”
If you would like to be traditionally published then you need to find a publisher who is interested in publishing your book. Some publishers will allow you to submit your manuscript directly to them. However, most big publishers will only accept submissions via an agent. Continue reading “Step 4a: Find an Agent and/or Publisher to Publish Your Book”
Now that you have a well-written and clean manuscript, you need to decide which publishing route you would like to take. There are two main routes – either publish through a traditional publisher (the traditional route) or publish the book yourself (the self-publishing route). There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Continue reading “Step 3: Pick a Publishing Route”
Yes, I know – you’ve written the perfect book. There’s nothing that could possibly be done to make it better. Except there is! I have no doubt that your book has the potential to be a bestseller or Man Booker prizewinner, but at the moment it is an unpolished gem. It needs lots of further care and attention before it is ready for publication. Continue reading “Step 2: Make it Better”
If you want to publish a book, the very first thing you need to do is write a book. You simply cannot publish a book that isn’t written. While it’s good to have an overview of the process of publishing before setting out on your own publishing journey, there is little point in reading multiple “How To” guides unless you actually have something to publish. So, if you’re reading this and you haven’t yet finished your book (or maybe not even started it) – you need to get back to work! Continue reading “Step 1: Write a Book”
Since I published My Food Odyssey – Lithuanian Food: Nine of my favourite traditional Lithuanian recipes early last year, and perhaps more so since I released Guardian of Giria earlier this year, I am often asked how to go about getting a book published. It’s a question that is not easy to answer in a few sentences, so I have put together a short guide to talk you through the process. Continue reading “5 Steps to Publishing a Book”
Oh, the joy! Oh, the sweet, sweet joy! Finally, after years of searching and waiting, I got to see a wild boar in the flesh. But not just one boar – a whole sounder (group) of sows and piglets! And the experience was everything I hoped it would be! Continue reading “Wild Boar Feeding Project, Tauragė (Lithuania)”
I’m delighted to announce that “Guardian of Giria” is now available from Vaga bookshop in Tauragė!
Su dideliu džiaugsmu pranešu kad nuo šiandien, “Guardian of Giria” galite įsigyti knygyne “Vaga” Bažnyčių gatvė 6. Tauragėje. Continue reading “Vaga Bookshop, Tauragė”
A common buzzard (paprastasis suopis) soaring above my garden. Look at that sky for the last day of October! Continue reading “Common Buzzard Soaring”
Today, I am delighted to announce my new “Free Books for Schools & Libraries” initiative.
Schools & libraries in Ireland and Lithuania can now apply for a free Paperback copy of Guardian of Giria. Teachers and librarians internationally can also apply for a free Kindle copy of the book. Continue reading “FREE BOOKS for Schools & Libraries!”
I have spread myself too thin. Somehow I have ended up with 5 Facebook pages, 2 Twitter accounts and 2 blogs, none of which is currently well attended. So, in an attempt to simplify my life, I am cutting back! Continue reading “Amalgamation”
Giria Wood is a large forest with a healthy population of animal families, many of whom feature in the story. Some are main characters and others are just family members who are mentioned once or twice. Together, they make quite a cast of characters. Continue reading “Characters in Guardian of Giria”
The Kindle version of Guardian of Giria is currently on sale for just 99c / 99p.
Available from Amazon here.
A sample from the book is now available here.
Continue reading “Guardian of Giria – Read A Sample”
The first batch of hardbacks arrived today and they are totally gorgeous (even if I do say so myself!)
Continue reading “The Hardbacks Have Arrived!”
A red deer stag with a massive crown of antlers is a very impressive sight. And indeed, that is part of their function – to make the stag look more impressive to the ladies. It takes a lot of testosterone to grow those antlers and it takes a lot of food to nourish them, so large antlers are a good indication of the virility and strength of the male. Unfortunately for the stags, they lose their antlers every year and then grow a new set. And while they’re between sets of antlers, they look just like the girls!
Continue reading “Red Deer Antlers: Annual Regrowth”
It feels like I’ve been waiting such a long time to bring you this news and I am very, very excited. On Tuesday, May 8th 2018 I will be releasing my very first novel, Guardian of Giria.
Continue reading “Introducing: Guardian of Giria!”