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Heading home…

Well, I’m writing this at San Francisco International Airport as Bob and I wait for our flight home. I can hardly believe we’ve done our San Francisco trip!

We’ve packed so much into our six days and I’m coming home with a million ideas for Book 5. I can honestly say San Francisco has stolen my heart in ways I could never have foreseen. The neighbourhoods, the colour, the relentlessly positive atmosphere and the melting pot of cultures are a heady mix and it will take a long time for it all to properly sink in.

If you’ve enjoyed my daily Book 5 Adventure blogs, don’t worry – there’s more to come! When I get home, I’m going to post the photos WordPress wouldn’t let me upload in San Francisco and will be doing a post a day for the next week at least, so please keep watching… I’ll tell you a story about each post and hopefully bring you some of the sights we have enjoyed this week. And, of course, watch out for this week’s vlog (on Saturday), where I’ll show you some of the places we visited.

It’s been completely wonderful to visit the city Nell will escape to in Book 5. I’m going to pour everything we’ve experienced in SF into the novel, so I hope you’ll get a sense of just how fantastic the city is when my book is published in October. In the meantime, keep watching this blog!

More soon! xx

Fortune cookies, vintage trams and a sparkly end

I can hardly believe we’ve reached our last full day in San Francisco, but Bob and I are determined to squeeze every last drop of time out of our visit.

This morning we walked up from Union Square into Chinatown, the entrance to which is a large Oriental arch. When you pass through it, it is like stepping into another world. Chinese buskers playing traditional instruments sit on street corners (although one man was happily playing Clementine, Happy Birthday and Hotel California on his Huqin, which totally sums up the kookiness of this city!) Red lanterns for Chinese New Year are strung across the narrow streets and every sign is written in Chinese and English. As you cross the roads at each block, you glimpse the skyscrapers of the Financial District, which seem so at odds with the quaint Chinese-inspired frontages of the Chinatown streets. But then that’s San Francisco: distinct neighbourhoods nestled shoulder to shoulder with each other.

We visited the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory down tiny Ross Alley which is said to manufacture half of the world’s fortune cookies. Instead of a large building, we found a tiny, narrow unit with five ladies hand-moulding fortune cookies while a very enthusiastic man at the front showed us all the different varieties they made. I hope there’s another big factory somewhere so that those poor ladies don’t have to make all of them!

From Chinatown we walked down into the Financial District and into another world again. Now all the buildings were high rise concrete monoliths, there were coffee shops on every corner and everyone passing by was wearing expensive suits. Dominating the skyline pretty much everywhere you look in San Francisco is the distinctive Trans America Pyramid, which you can walk right by. At its base is a lovely little park planted with giant redwood trees, with sculptures and a fountain, where office workers eat their lunch or pass the time. In a city of so many contrasts, this made complete sense!

At the edge of the Financial District is the Embarcadero, with the Ferry Building looking out towards the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island and Oakland beyond. It’s really odd to see the skyscrapers right by the bay and the Ferry Building’s beautiful old architecture surrounded by palm trees. Inside the Ferry Building are lots of artisan food shops, selling everything from herbs to mushrooms, olive oil and ‘salted pig parts’! We wandered around for an hour and then took a takeaway coffee from Peet’s (a San Francisco coffe chain) to wander along the dock of the bay (yes, really!) to look at the lovely expanse of the Bay Bridge.

From there, we caught the F-line tram to travel the length of the waterfront piers. This line is served by vintage trams from all over America and beyond, that were built in the 1920s and 1930s (including one from Blackpool!). It’s not just a tourist attraction, either: people who work in the Financial District use them to get to and from work, which is a really fun way to commute and sums up the quirkiness and fun of the city.

Last thing, we hopped back on the F-Line at Market Street to go back to the Ferry Building at night to see the new light installation along the Bay Bridge. It looked spectacular, with shimmering white lights moving across its structure and reflecting in the waters of the Bay. With the lights of the city all around us, it was a breathtaking end to what has been an amazing, surprising and completely love-inspiring trip to the City of Lights. Thank you San Francisco, it’s been a blast! xx

Hippies, Zen and Painted Ladies…

Today has been a day spent hanging out in what will be Nell’s cousin Lizzie’s neighbourhood.

Right from the beginning I knew I wanted Lizzie to live in Haight-Ashbury (or ‘The Haight’ as everyone from there seems to call it.) When Bob and I walked into the neighbourhood made famous by the Summer of Love we weren’t disappointed. It’s a creative, weird, chilled out place where no two stores are the same and most of them have hand painted signs. Several of the shops have brightly coloured murals on the outside and they sell anything and everything, from the shop which only sells hats to a gorgeous indie bookstore called Booksmith (where the owner has hand-written passages from famous books in chalk above the bookshelves), a Himalayan goods store and, of course, the pipe and smoke shops where tobacco isn’t the only item for sale.

Several guide books I’d read prior to visiting had called The Haight ‘a faded shadow of its former self’ and ‘a bit rundown and shabby’, but I couldn’t disagree more. It’s vibrant and quirky and happy to be different from, well, anywhere else, to be honest. I loved it – it’s perfect for my story and the kind of place it will be fun for Nell to visit.

We started our day at Alamo Square, home of the ‘Painted Ladies’ – a row of beautifully painted wooden buildings overlooking a park at the top of one of San Francisco’s many hills. Like many buildings in the city each one is painted a different colour (even the modern buildings follow suit, which makes me wonder if this inspires the laid-back, individual San Franciscan character). The park in the middle of the square rises steeply from the road but gives the best views of San Francisco through the tall cedar and palm trees at its summit. As it was Sunday everyone was out walking their dogs, playing tennis on the courts at the summit or practising baseball with their kids.

After visiting Haight-Ashbury we walked into Golden Gate Park and visited the Japanese Tea Garden. This was the place I had been looking forward to the most and it was lovely, if much smaller than I’d imagined. Although it was busy with Sunday visitors from all over the world, there were still some parts that were still and peaceful. This is where Nell visits with a character I know you’re going to love – but are they just friends or on a date? You’ll have to wait to find out!

More soon… Peace out, dudes! xx

Friendly people and dogs…

Everywhere we’ve been in San Francisco we’ve encountered two things: friendly people and dogs.

The friendly people aren’t just from California. They’re from all over the world. Some work and live here, others are visiting like we are. But everybody who has said hello and chatted to us has been upbeat and positive. I think San Francisco encourages the optimist out in you. Yesterday we met Brenda and Derek from Bournemouth on the boat trip, who were visiting San Francisco on the last leg of an 8-week round-the-world trip. We also met several friendly buskers around Fisherman’s Wharf and a bloke in Union Square who told us about Tony Bennett and took our photo for us. Today we met a very lovely Chinese man (and his dog) at the viewing point overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, who told us about his favourite places in his city. The lady at The Warming Hut (a fab cafe at the edge of Crissy Field near the bridge) asked us about Birmingham. And the busker entertaining the queue of people waiting for the cable car at Victoria Park remembered us from yesterday.

Dogs are everywhere: being walked (or carried) around Union Square, running with their jogging owners along Marina Street, playing on the beach by Crissy Field and riding the Muni trolley buses. They are all shapes and sizes and by and large are well-behaved and as friendly as their owners. San Franciscans LOVE their dogs. There’s even a ‘doggie couture’ boutique in Ghirardelli Square, selling everything your sartorially elegant pooch could possibly want!

One thing both friendly people and their dogs have in common is that you feel how happy they are to have you here. And that will be great for Book 5’s protagonist Nell Sullivan, because she visits San Francisco after being made redundant in her home city of London. After being used to the impersonality and avoidance of eye contact there, San Francisco will be the polar opposite – the difference enough to make her take a different view of herself and how she communicates with her world. I want Nell to experience a place where the best is expected for her, where she can allow herself to believe that anything is possible and where she dares to step outside of her comfort zone to discover what she’s capable of…

More tomorrow! xx

Hello San Francisco!

We’ve travelled for thirteen hours, but Bob and I have finally made it to San Francisco!

It’s quite surreal to be in the city I’ve been researching and the first thing that struck me was how much of it looks like a film set. I’m in no doubt that I’m in America (enormous cars, US flags everywhere) but it feels familiar because of the hours I’ve spent walking its streets on Google Earth and from travel books over the past three months.

I’m going to blog every day while we’re here, to share what we’ve been doing and hopefully my experience of visiting San Francisco for the first time. I’m also seeing the city through Nell’s eyes – my main character in Book 5, who decides to visit San Francisco for an adventure of a lifetime when she is unexpectedly made redundant. I want to show you the city from the perspective of someone falling in love with it for the first time.

We’ve only been here for a couple of hours, but I’ve already found a fantastic location for some scenes of the book – Union Square where we had coffee outside, listening to cable car bells, busking bands and even a throaty bagpiper in the shadow of Macy’s, Tiffany’s and Saks Fifth Avenue as tiny sparrows hopped onto the edge of our table. As introductions go, it was a pretty special way to meet San Francisco.

Now we’re heading out to find a diner before finally getting some sleep. More tomorrow, lovelies! 

Miranda & Bob xx

Happy World Book Day!

Happy World Book Day!

Books have been a part of my life for all of my life. I was lucky to be born into a family of book-lovers (book devourers is a more accurate term) and their love of reading and great stories fostered a life-long love of reading and writing in me. As soon as I could read books for myself, I discovered the wonders of Kingswinford Library (my local palace of book dreams) and started an amazing reading journey.

In celebration of World Book Day, here are Ten Books That Changed My Life when I was growing up:

1. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

2. The Wombles by Elisabeth Beresford

3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

4. Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Parker

5. Swallows & Amazons by Arthur Ransome

6. The Great Ghost Rescue by Eva Ibbotson

7. The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton

8.The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

9. I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

10. Emma’s Island by Honor Arundel

What are your favourite books from your childhood and teens? Tell me below and one person will win a £20 Waterstones Gift Card!

My VLOG is back! Big news and exciting times…

All this year I will be documenting the writing, editing and publishing of my fifth novel, giving you a unique, behind-the-scenes look at my life as a writer. This week, I’ve made a huge decision about Book Five…

I debated whether or not to reveal this, but I think it’s something that will encourage you if you’re a writer (and show you how important you are if you are a reader!) Over the past two years that I’ve been filming and sharing my vlogs, I’ve always been as honest as I can about the reality of being a writer.

So find out what my writing resolution is for 2013 and hear how my search for my FutureStars is inspiring me already…

As always, I love answering your questions in my vlogs. So if there’s something you would love to know about writing, editing, publishing, my novels, or anything else, leave a comment below, or email: mirandawurdy@gmail.com, chat to me on twitter or leave me a comment on facebook. I’d love to know what you think of the first vlog of 2013 – and my big news!

Enjoy! xx

p.s. This week’s YouTube-nominated freeze frame is entitled, ‘Look at the beautiful butterfly!’

F.A.Qs: Do you write chick-lit?

This is one of the questions I am asked most often – here is my response.

WOOOO-HOOO! My fourth Sunday Times bestseller!

I am over the moon to announce that When I Fall in Love is now officially my fourth Sunday Times bestseller!

When I Fall in Love by Miranda Dickinson

It’s my fourth Sunday Times bestseller, woop!

I received the news today after a nervous week and a half and I’m absolutely chuffed to bits! When I Fall in Love went straight in at number 17 in the Sunday Times Top 20 Bestsellers list (which is just for paperback sales) and my ebook sales are up from last year. It’s simply the best news and I am beyond happy about it!

I would just like to say a mahoooosive thank you to everyone who has bought (or is planning to buy) my book. It means the world to me that the book I’ve worked so hard on during the past year and am so proud of is something people want to read.

There are lots of promotions across the UK and Ireland and online worldwide, so make sure you take advantage of them – I know that Tesco still has a few copies of the special pink-page editions, but they’re selling fast so you’ll have to be quick!

As ever, thank you so, so much for your fantastic support and for making me a very happy author!

Love ya lots

M xxx

When I Fall in Love – It’s P-DAY!!!

This year I’m taking you behind the scenes of writing, editing and publishing my fourth novel, When I Fall in Love. This week, my lovely fourth book baby is finally released into the world as we reach P-DAY!
ImageI had a fantastic book launch event for competition winners at the amazing Fortnum & Mason Ice Cream Parlour – you won’t believe the size of the ice creams! Then I visited the lovely AVON team and recorded an episode of BookD podcast at HarperCollins HQ. It was a brilliant couple of days and of course I took my video camera with me…

So here, for your viewing pleasure, is my very exciting P-DAY VLOG (with added JLS… sort of)
Enjoy!

p.s. This week’s YouTube-nominated freeze frame is entitled: 

‘Things That Make You Go OOOOOOOOOOOOOOH’

p.p.s. Music on the vlog is ‘You Got It’ which will be available soon!