Ode to Summer

I was complaining about summer on Twitter this morning. I am, at heart, a winter girl. Winter is my favourite season for a number of reasons. However, it occurred to me that complaining about summer wasn’t really the right attitude. There are lots of things I like about summer, so, in the interest of positive-thinking, I thought I would list a few of my favourites.

First up, it’s Pimms:

 

Is there anything better than sitting in the garden on a sunny day enjoying a nice tall glass of Pimms? It’s refreshing, it’s tasty, and it’s served in a glass chock-full of ice and fruit and sprigs of mint.

Invisible Stockings:

 

My new summer must-have are these invisible stockings from Tess Daly’s beauty range at Marks and Spencers. Not only are all the products in this range reasonably priced and beautifully packaged, but the invisible stockings are scented with jasmine and sweet vanilla. For someone like me who has naturally pale skin but no desire to sunbathe, this product is perfect. Not as heavy as a fake tan, it just adds a little bit of bronzed shimmer to legs whilst making them smell really good at the same time. A bronzer and a body butter all in one.

 Tortoises:

 

 

My third reason for loving summer is that the tortoises come out of hibernation. You know summer has arrived when you see them stumping about in their pen, mashing up their food and getting it all over their faces. Pompey and Hannibal are both in their sixties – and very grand old men they are too.

Minx pedicure:

Clearly, there is no point paying out to have your toes look like this if they are hidden away in slipper-socks and boots the whole time. Summer, with its flip-flops and open sandals, is the perfect excuse to get a Minx pedicure. It would be a shame to ruin an outfit with plain feet, after all.

 

Bubbles with Moose:

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I love my Great Dane very, very much. And during the summer we get to spend more time playing bubbles in the garden. They’re a little hard to see in this picture but the bubbles are there, and she is catching them. Bubbles is Moose’s favourite game – she never really got the hang of chasing balls, and will give me an evil look if I throw one of her toys across the lawn. The only downside to the bubble game is that, sometimes, after I’ve blown them for her, the wind changes and they come right back towards me. And Moose doesn’t really see me when she’s intent on the bubbles. You can get knocked right off your feet that way . . .

Summer Reads:

 

 

You know the books I mean. Something that’s fast paced and easy to read. Something to take on holiday with you. Something to read whilst drinking Pimms. These books are sheer, unadulterated pleasure that has nothing to do with anything. I usually read novels for a reason – like I’ve heard good things about the author and want to see what the fuss is about, or I’m trying a different genre, all the time with my own writing in mind. But, during the summer, it’s nice to treat yourself to a book you know you’re going to enjoy. There’s often an element of guilty pleasure in this as well. My top summer read indulgences would be anything by Victoria Holt, Madeleine Brent or Deanna Raybourn.  

Travel treats:

 

You know when you go on holiday and decide to buy yourself some little thing that you don’t need but really, really want? This hydrating face spray by Evian was my holiday purchase this year. Yes, I know. It’s a little bit much. I acknowledge the foolishness. But it’s the perfect size to take on the plane with you and it has a pink lid and pink bubbles on the packaging and it did make me feel more refreshed after the long flight. And pure mineral water is much better for your skin than hard tap water. Go ahead and laugh at me – I don’t care – I will still love my dinky tube of face spray and I will still take it with me every time I travel.

And, finally, Starbucks frappucino:

A little piece of chilled blended heaven in a cup – ahhh! My favourite is the peppermint mocha frappucino. I could drink it all day.

So – there are some of my favourites. Now that I think about it, there is quite a lot I like about summer. So perhaps I will focus on the good stuff and try to make the most of it rather than wishing summer away.

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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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