Smith and the Snow Hounds

This is the exciting tale of Smith and the Snow Hounds. A story of snow, stealth, Siameses and sinister plots. You have never heard a legend quite like this one. Once upon a time . . .

This is Smith:

These are the Snow Hounds:

This is the Evil Siamese, who has just ordered the Snow Hounds to find Smith and destroy him:

The Snow Hounds were shocked, but as the Evil Siamese must be obeyed in all things, they set out on their daring mission to find Smith and defeat him. The Black Snow Hound was the bravest but the Spotty Snow Hound – as shown in the second picture – was able to levitate at will by flapping her ears. Together, they made a formidable team. They travelled many miles through harsh and terrible terrain, sometimes going for days without food or sleep:

 

Carrying huge and fearsome weapons with them as they travelled:

Until, finally, after many months of weary searching, the Black Snow Hound discovered Smith’s Lair:

And the White Snow Hound pulled off Smith’s nose and ate it – effectively stripping the snowman of all his powers:

The Snow Hounds returned to the Evil Siamese’s Castle in triumph:

And the Evil Siamese slept well that night, safe in the knowledge that her enemy had been defeated:

And they all lived happily ever after, except for Smith.

The End.

Cast:

Black Snow Hound: Loki

Spotty Snow Hound: Moose

Evil Siamese: Suki

Smith: As Himself.

Pretty good, innit? I ought to go into the novel-writing business . . .

 

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Loving Jamaica Inn

I love Jamaica Inn. For those who do not know, it is an ancient coaching house from the 1700’s, situated on the edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, spectacularly shrouded in ghosts and atmosphere. It is also the inspiration, and setting, of Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name – a fantastic story of smuggling, murder, romance and intrigue. She wrote the book after becoming lost on the moor, and finding Jamaica Inn in the fog, where she was then entertained by the local vicar with ghost stories and tales of smuggling.

If I lived closer to it, I would be a permanent fixture in the Smuggler’s Bar. They have six reasonably priced vegetarian options on the menu (SIX! Arghh!) (one of which is veggie sausage and mash – arghh, arghh, have I died and gone to heaven?). I love the timelessness of it – especially when you stand in the courtyard outside in the dark, with the sign creaking ominously, and all this mist pressing in. I can practically see Daphne du Maurier riding across the cobbles on her pony. They even have a little brass plaque on the floor in the bar saying ‘On this spot, Joss Merlyn was murdered.’ For some reason this plaque delights me profoundly. I try not to spend too much of my time staring at it when all the locals are walking past it in such a blasé fashion. Plus I do realise that Joss Merlyn is a fictitious character created by du Maurier and so was not really murdered on that spot. In fact he wasn’t murdered anywhere but in du Maurier’s own head. But still, when I see the plaque, I can’t help thinking: wow, Joss met his well-deserved end right here on this spot!

Conveniently, Jamaica Inn also allows dogs. Moose was very warmly welcomed despite her huge size. Not only that but she was even provided with her very own private doggy water bowl. This is what I call service.

We’ve been in Cornwall since yesterday, and as a result of peoples’ reactions towards her, I am starting to suspect she may have sneakily got bigger without my noticing. She just looks medium to me. But when you hear people remarking upon her size in shocked voices, it does make you wonder. She has started leaping right over Loki in the garden, but I just sort of thought perhaps the Doberman was shrinking. But it has to be said that she takes up significantly more room on the back seat of the car than she did last time we came to Cornwall in May. In fact, there is not really room for me on the back seat as well but I manage to squash in there somehow. If she had any sense she would just put her head on my lap but, being a little afraid of the car, she prefers to sit on my lap as much as she possibly can. This is very sweet, because she becomes very cuddly in the car – like a nervous child – but it does mean that by the time we get wherever we are going, I can no longer feel my legs, and I am covered in slobber (because Moose has a propensity to motion sickness, which causes her to drool). My favourite cap is now quite ruined.

But, anyway, I am sure that she thoroughly enjoyed her time at Jamaica Inn, even though she had no idea that she was snoozing just mere feet away from where Joss Merlyn was murdered! Perhaps I will consider moving to Cornwall in the future. That way I can go to Jamaica Inn every day, and perhaps get lost on the moors and have an amazing idea for a novel. Or perhaps go back in time. Every time I go to Jamaica Inn I can’t help half expecting it to happen. And I am always just a little bit disappointed when I open the door to the Smuggler’s Bar to find that there are no bloodthirsty smugglers in tricorn hats gathered there, all staring at me murderously. Maybe next time. Hope springs eternal, and all that . . .

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The Southampton Signing

Now that I have some photos, courtesy of Danie Ware and Neil Ford, I shall ramble a bit about the signing I did in Southampton last week with fellow Gollancz authors, Jaine Fenn and Suzanne McLeod.

First of all, Moose got to come, which was nice. She very much enjoyed being fussed by everyone:

 

Plus Suzanne and I both brought a tin of Hot Wasabi Peas, so there was no danger of running out:

We very possibly scared away more potential buyers than we lured with these, but I think we might have got a few more people into the fold. As Danie Ware is now referring to the Cult of the Pea, I think we can safely say that she is one of the converted. Welcome to the cult, Danie, I knew you’d like it here. For the record, the Hot Wasabi Pea thing was my idea. I first blogged about it here. It all started with me . . . I want everyone to know this because I’m just petty like that. And I think, perhaps, I should be earning commission or something.

Here the three of us are getting very excited about the peas:

 

So much joy from such a little thing . . .

As for the signing itself, well, it was intense. People were crying, screaming, asking us to dedicate books to their unborn children and- Oh wait. No, that wasn’t us. That was Patrick Rothfuss at his recent London signing. I don’t think anyone cried at our signing, although depending on how many peas any one person may have consumed, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility.  This was a quieter signing than the one I did in London. The Abercrumbles was not with us, after all. And I don’t think even Hot Wasabi Peas could compensate for his absence. But people did come and ask us to sign books, even if they didn’t weep as they asked. So thank you very much to those of you who came. And special thanks to Ruth, Paul, Audrey, Joanne and Jackie – it was tremendously cool of you all to come, especially as it was such a sunny day outside.

Here’s a final snap of us with our books. Go out and buy ‘em (but if you weren’t there on Saturday, you’ve missed your chance with the peas):

  

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The Incredible Singing Pooch

Yes, indeed, my Great Dane puppy can sing. Here is the YouTube link to prove it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fj25i6Gzl3I&feature=channel_page

I swear at one point she even tries to say a word. It sounds like meh-meh which, I guess, isn’t strictly speaking a real word. But it’s still pretty impressive nevertheless. I was crying with laughter when I filmed this. Given that, I think I did quite an impressive job of keeping the camera steady. Naturally Moose and I are going to enter into Britain’s Got Talent. I think Simon Cowell would really like her act.

The reason, by the way, that Moose is making those noises isn’t because she’s clinically insane, but because she was trying to coax Loki into playing with her. Loki, however, had been playing with her for a couple of hours by then, was worn out and wasn’t having any of it. The phone goes when she’s making these sounds sometimes. It’s no wonder people think I live in a madhouse. Between Moose and the Siamese it is rather like a madhouse much of the time . . . Which is fine because I don’t think I would do very well somewhere that was calm and normal.

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Moose At The Seaside

This weekend I am in Cornwall with Moose. My parents were going off to stay at their house in Looe and asked us to come so I decided that me and the Dinky Dane would go along so she could get a bit of a seaside holiday.

It was quite a long drive but Moose was fine apart from being sick about an hour after we set out. I’m sure the shriek of: ‘Ew! There’s puke everywhere!’ probably wasn’t the sort of thing my Dad wanted to hear coming from the back seat – especially as it was his car we were driving in.

But a fine time was had by all once we finally got there. It’s taken us ages to get anywhere because most of the people we’ve passed wanted to give Moose a fuss. I’d say about half of them recognised that she was a Great Dane. The rest thought she was some kind of Dalmatian cross, or even a Dalmatian. This always surprises me because Moose doesn’t just have black spots, but big black (and some blue) splodges all over her coat. Besides which, there would have to be something very wrong with a Dalmatian puppy for it to have a head that shape, and paws that big. One woman actually had the audacity to suggest that she was a ‘little bit of everything’! A mongrel no less!

  ‘Madam,’ I replied coldly, ‘I’ll have you know that this dog is fifteen hundred pounds worth of pedigree, show standard, harlequin Great Dane!’

But, these slurs on her breeding aside, Moose has had a lovely time. She walked on the beach and came into pubs with us, and met lots of people. There’s something nice about the fact that people will always come up to you if you’re walking a puppy. I’ve answered so many questions about Moose during the last week. And the fact that people want to come up and see her makes me warm towards humans more than I would usually.

Before we came I went to the pet shop to buy her some new things to take on her first holiday. I came out with a whole load of new chewy bones and some toys, including an evil looking crocodile, and a big fluffy rope monster, of which I’m rather fond. I love buying Moose stuff. Especially when I get a new thing out of the bag, and she hears the rustling, and looks up at me with that sweet little face. She’s also becoming a bit of a lap dog, which I suppose could be a problem when she’s big . . . But what the heck – Loki sits on my lap just fine, and he’s a fully grown Doberman. Besides, I’d sooner cut my own hand off than tell her she can’t get on my lap for a cuddle when she’s tired – even if she does happen to be covered in sand at the time.

Whilst walking around Looe, Moose met a fully grown blue Great Dane called Hamlet. Even for a Dane he was a very big boy – and extremely handsome with it. But although he was just five years old he was already starting to go grey around the muzzle. The one downside of Danes is that they don’t live very long. Eight years is the average but some only live to six. When I look at Moose I can’t bear the thought of her living such a short time. But for now I’m taking comfort in the fact that when we went to visit the breeder we saw Moose’s great-grandmother, and she was eleven years old. Moose has to be long-lived too, because I love her so much. She’s the best thing to happen to me in quite a while. She makes up for all the bad stuff – as animals very often do. And I will love my publishers, Gollancz and Headline, until the day I die for enabling me to buy her. Ditto for every single person who bought a copy of The Ninth Circle – even if they thought it was shit. Doesn’t matter so long as the book was bought (but obviously I would prefer that they didn’t think it was shit). Still, I got a Dinky Dane out of the book deals. Can’t complain at that.

If you would like to help keep Moose in toys and dog food, or, possibly, contribute to the next animal in my menagerie (I really want a sphyinx called Gretel and a bull terrier called Daddy), then feel free to buy a copy of Jasmyn, and Lex Trent Versus The Gods, when they come out. Heck, buy copies for all your friends and relatives too, and then perhaps I will be able to get Gretel and Daddy!

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