Is music for guinea pigs really a thing?

So internet wormholes being what they are, I found myself on a journey. You know it’s one of those journeys where you forget what you set out to discover and instead spin your eyeballs with the amount of tabs you have open.

And then your computer wheezes because it cannot believe how many different sites you’re trying to access all at once.

Because, of course, you’ve forgotten what you set out to do in the first place.

Anyways, I think I might have been looking for a shoe rack. This was prompted by the fact my hallway is akin to a jumble-sale and I am sick to death of tripping over the myriad of footwear littering my floor.

And it’s a small floor, so every centimetre counts.

This little idea set me off on a task which then necessitated finding the measuring tape (where on earth did I put it, I was quite sure I’d put it back in that safe place where the measuring tape always lives) but where-oh-where is it now?

The fabled safe place, had indeed, become a fable.

Thus I had to then hunt down the paper one I remember stashing when I went to IKEA a gazillion years ago. This, I was quite sure, lived in the drawer along with other stationery items. It was not there – of course – because when can you ever find something when you need it?

Deciding the tape measure was off having an affair with the stapler (that seems to have gone walkies as well, thus my theory they have eloped), I tried to measure out the space with a sheet of A4 having found the measurements online (opening yet another tab – A4 measures 29.7cm length-ways in case you were wondering).

Tackling the height of the proposed said shoe rack with a wafting sheet of A4 was trickier, and it was at this moment I swallowed my pride and did the thing nobody really wants to do: I knocked on my neighbours’ door and asked to borrow a tape measure.

Amazingly, their tape measure had not gone on holiday/eloped/disappeared and they were able to locate it in a matter of seconds.

Armed with the tools of the trade I then set to work. I noted down the measurements and then all I had to do was click the order button.

Of course, if you’ve opened a dizzying array of tabs, it’s pretty tricky trying to find your way back.

It was then that I came across a random site I had been meaning to look at and distracted by I don’t know what, I carried on clicking.

Click-happy is not the phase you should be in when you’re trying to buy a shoe rack.

But of course, I digress yet again, because the purpose of this post was to share with you how today I have learned music for guinea pigs is a thing (maybe?) On YouTube I have found a variety of tunes for piggies to dance and strut to and I thought I would share them.

Well, that and the story of my shoe rack, which if you’re interested, I still haven’t bought!

 

How Writers Overcome Self Doubt

So after weeks and months of writing, worrying, editing, occasional flashes of excitement and a lot more worry, it’s almost time for the publication of my book baby: Who Killed Patrick?

I’d love to say writing a book is easy, but it’s not. It’s not the actual act of writing which is so hard (although it has to be said trying to find that volume of words – 80-odd thousand – to connect in a logical order is no mean feat), but what many writers battle with is the ever present danger of self doubt.

Self doubt kills creativity.

Self doubt destroys the dream you may one day make it to The End.

Self doubt ensures you never feel good about the sentence you just wrote, even though yesterday it made your heart sing.

And so the only way writers who end up finishing and actually publishing their books, are those that battled through the self doubt to hope/wish/cherish the idea that maybe they are good enough. Despite the amount of book choice out there, you’d be surprised how many quit on their dream and never make it to The End.

And I know it’s really easy as a reader to criticise (I do it myself, I’m human too), but I often spare a thought for the creator. What I have in my head when you’re reading my words, may not be the same meaning you have in your head. Words are empty vessels, it’s you as the reader who fill them up with significance.

I’ve spent the last few weeks busy in excitement. I ordered special hand made guinea pig gift wrap from America to wrap up my paperbacks before sending them to reviewers. And now I nervously wait to hear their feedback.

I’ve forced myself to take some time off (thank you kind weather for sending sunshine to Devon) and I treated myself to some new flipflops (Crocs, Swiftwater – highly recommended!)

I’ve already participated in some book blogger Q&A’s, written some guest blog posts and eagerly hope reviewers and readers will find fun and good times in my new book.

Books are to authors, as children are to mothers.

We want the best for our offspring. We nurture them and we love them and then we send them off into the world hoping they will make their own way. We’re sad when they leave, we worry about the dangers they may face, but we’re excited for them to find their own happiness. And it may sound strange, but as an author you want your book to shine on it’s own, to grow independent and no longer need your support. Of course, you will always be there to love and take care of it, but there comes a time when your book needs to stand up for itself.

To live independently in the minds of readers.

I know for me, despite the passage of time, my characters stay with me for years afterwards. I wonder about them, I think about what they may be doing next, about what other problems may have befallen them.

I like to challenge myself and when faced with an issue in life, I think about what my characters would do if they were me. People are all so different and I get such a variety of answers, it’s brilliant. Having a whole host of characters on tap to apply to life’s problems is the writerly way to gain perspective.

Although it must be said, sometimes there’s such a thing as too many viewpoints!

But I digress, and what I want to say is to publish a book, thousands of words that have sat on an author’s screen for months on end, is no small thing. But the biggest thing, I think, is for an author to be brave enough to push through the self doubt and to say to the world: Here, read my words.

Self doubt is a killer, but bravery is the best form of defence.

Want to feel like a pilot flying to Fuerteventura?

So until today I’ve never considered myself to be an airplane nerd.

I’m also not a gamer (unless you include board games!) And so it took me by surprise that I’ve now spent the best part of the last hour watching this YouTube video of a flight simulator from Malaga (LEMG) to Fuerteventura (GCFV).

I don’t know how it happened – but internet wormholes are what they are!

And I’ve got to tell you: it was mesmerising.

Knowing there’d be scenery of Fuerteventura was my pull, but what I didn’t expect was to be so addicted to all the onboard action and button pressing.

As I say, I’m not a gamer – I don’t even know the language for these things.

But, what got me about the whole experience was how life-like it was. If ever you wanted to feel like a pilot, then this simulation game is it. I looked out of the window, controlled the flight paths, door locks, stairs (in the virtual vicarious sense of the word), and it was amazing.

The plane you’re flying is a Vueling A320 and from where you’re sat, you can see everything including the engines, the wings – heck you can even see the ground staff looking fed up with their lives as they wait for you to take-off!

If you’re more into games/ simulators/ planes than what I am, this video has been released by Fly X who are a flight simulation scenery development company that develops airport scenery. I’m not sure on the technical details as I’m just an amateur observer, but what I can say from my position is: WOW.

Who knew watching somebody flying a plane could be so fascinating!

I loved being able to pretend for a while to be a pilot and see what a pilot may see and look down on the beautiful island of Fuerteventura. As most visitors know, the island is primarily served by tour operators such as Ryan Air, Wizz Air and Norwegian. And I was impressed by the level of detail which even included the tour buses at the front of the airport when you arrived.

Flying over the island and seeing the golden sands was a real treat, but what I didn’t expect was to enjoy the landing into Caleta so much! It’s a landing I’ve done so many times (always with much excitement), but this time to see it from the pilot’s seat was extraordinary! The screenshots are so realistic and you actually feel like you’re on the runway about to land…and you’re holding yourself ready for the jolt!

And it’s not just the imagery you’re looking at – they also have audio instructions to ensure you’ve put your fuel pumps on, disengaged the parking brake and to start the engines. There are so many controls I wouldn’t know where to start and so it was a pleasure to watch somebody else take the controls, but feel like you were doing it. So clever.

What I also really enjoyed was the guy who was doing the flight simulator had been to Fuerteventura in real life as well, so he knows the wonders of the island on offer!

When we arrived the temperature was 26 degrees and it was time to call the stairs and the baggage handlers.

And in that moment I also thought I’d arrived.

Sadly, looking out at my British grey clouds, I know that not to be the case.

Anyway, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a pilot and fly to Fuerteventura here’s your chance. It’s cheaper and easier than trying to get your pilot’s licence! And for those tourists who’ve always wondered what it’s like to be upfront – here’s the virtual deal.

It may be tricky to travel right now, but I for one, feel like I arrived in Fuerteventura today 🙂

How Do You Tell People You’ve Written A Book? (And you want them to read it!)

Writing a book is hard. But getting the word out you’ve written a book is even harder.

Everywhere you look people are publishing books (or so it seems when you’re an author), and so trying to share – without ramming it down people’s throats – is a fine art of balancing.

And so, not wanting to be one of those people who beg their friends and family to read my books, I decided to reach out and find what other authors do.

A book blog tour, is what I learned.

And so off with my little fingers a-tapping on the keyboard I found myself Rachel, a recommended book blog tour organiser who sorts it all out for you. In exchange for a small pot of gold, Rachel contacts all the people in her network (book bloggers, bookstagrammers etc) who may be interested in reading and reviewing your book.

Rachel is super lovely, but it’s a pretty anxiety-inducing time because you’re sending your book out into the world and hoping bloggers will be interested enough in your offering to want to read it.

As book bloggers, they’ve seen a lot of books, so it stands to reason they’re pretty selective about what they will and won’t read.

And I don’t think I’d realised how nervous I’d feel about this whole thing. Because not only do you have the thing about ‘does anybody want to read it?’ you also have the additional thing of ‘will anybody like it?’

And that does send you into a bit of a spin, I have to confess. But it’s a spin of excitement and anxiety and hope and fear and so many emotions it’s hard to know what the real thing actually is.

So I decided not to dwell. Dwelling on such a range of emotions will positively get me nowhere. Thus I decided to compartmentalise that part of my brain, it wasn’t easy. But with big thoughts about walls and ignorance and focussing on other stuff it worked.

So it was with utter delight when I read the email from Rachel informing me my book blogging tour for Who Killed Patrick? was full!

And it was with complete astonishment when I read the amount of book bloggers who wanted to do Q&A’s with me, who wanted unique extracts and who wanted me to write guest posts for their blogs. Little ole me? You want to know me and have a piece of me?

I won’t lie, I shivered with delight and tapped away again.

I don’t really know what to expect from this upcoming book blog tour for Who Killed Patrick? But what I do know already, is that the experience has exceeded my expectations.

To feel wanted to be read is such a special feeling. And it’s that I cherish. Of course, I want everyone to love my story and my characters. But that’s the next stage of this process (at least for me mentally!)

For now, I’m so happy with the start, book bloggers want to read my book and I’m going on tour. I’m not compartmentalizing anymore, I’m flooding with delight 🙂

5 Things I Miss About Fuerteventura

For over 20 years I’ve been going to Fuerteventura, and no, I know I don’t look old enough (!), but I was an early discoverer.

I have been fortunate to visit the island multiple times per year for many years and sadly, I admit, until recently, I’ve taken it for granted. Cheap flights and being able to work remotely meant I could bag any cheap flight without a second thought.

And now those second, third and fourth thoughts turn to what I miss about the island and as a way to reminisce and celebrate the loveliness of Fuerteventura, I wanted to write about what I miss about my second home.

#1 The clean air

Fuerteventura is blessed with wind swept across the Atlantic Ocean which can, on occasions, make things very windy. I recall muttering myself on many an evening the need for a warm winter ‘cardi’ to my fancy evening dress on account of it. But now, stuck in the pollution of London, I long for it. I yearn so much for the blowy, blustery wind to make my goose bumps tingle and fill my lungs with the sweet, fresh sea air.

#2 The safety

I have yet to go anywhere else in the world (and I’ve travelled a lot) to feel anywhere as safe as I do in Fuerteventura. I believe everybody who lives or visits this island understands how special it is to be there and to not cross the line. I don’t want to go as far as say there is no ‘unpleasantness’ as bad things, I’m sure do happen. But it’s a sacred isle where people understand the importance of the common good and looking after each other to look after the whole

#3 The scenery

I know Fuerteventura is not an island known for its spectacular scenery, but it all depends how you define it. For me, I love looking at the mountains, who for millennia, have protected the island from the winds. I love the big, big, blue skies. I love the blackness and the starriness of the skies. I love the island feel from wherever you are – the feel and the smell of the sea is on every whiff of air.

#4 The attitude

The people who live and who are attracted to Fuerteventura have a special vibe; they understand this is a special island with its own vibe, its own personality. Fuerteventura doesn’t want or need to be another Tenerife or Gran Canaria, it has a laidback feel like a well fed dinosaur and it doesn’t need to jump to the latest trends. We all already know we’ve got the best beaches and the best roads, we know Fuerteventura is the best; there’s nothing to prove.

#5 The space

Fuerteventura has the most amazing sense of space. Wherever you are on the island you feel you can find your own private place to get away from things. From deserted beaches to being the only customer at a bar, the opportunities for living a solitary life are there for the taking. It’s so wonderful to not feel hemmed in, or crowded – and this feeling happens even in a busy bar.

And I think it’s the combination of people and place that makes Fuerteventura so special. Everybody who visits understands they’re in a different place, a special place. Some will make it their own and it will become a place in their heart, others they’ll take fond memories and move onto pastures new.

For me, I can’t wait to return.

Fuerteventura I miss you x

This guinea pig thinks he’s a cat!

So last month I featured an article where a guinea pig thought he was a dog. Fast forward a couple of weeks and we now have a guinea pig who thinks he’s a cat!

Seriously, these piggies are going to be having the ‘piggest’ existential crises! (yep, pun fully intended!)

Anyway, what I really love about this story is how alike Luis, the bald guinea pig, looks to his adopted family of Sphynx cats. He may be a rodent to their feline line, but they all make for an adorable brood.

Luis is just six months’ old and was adopted by his current owner, Oksana Baltakiene, in Spain because she thought he would ‘perfectly fit’ into her Sphynx family – not something many new guinea pig owners would likely consider, but it seems Luis has bonded with his fellow baldies and treat him as a brother.

You can read the whole story here.

Why a guinea pig makes a great sidekick!

guinea pig in car driving

When I started writing my Mr Bob Murder Mystery books, my mum called them ‘my kids books’. Yesterday, over a year on during a phone conversation, she did the same to me again. I was telling her about the plot of book two and how excited I was.

‘Mum,’ I said, (cue withering stare and grating of teeth), ‘these are not kids’ books, they are adult cozy crime investigations.’

‘But, you have a guinea pig to help your main character investigate,’ she replied.

‘Yes, I do. That’s because I love guinea pigs and because they’re very intelligent, emotionally sensitive and have better hearing and smelling than humans.’

‘Is that right?’

‘Did you know…?’ I said, all puffed up with pride. ‘There are more bones in a guinea pig than a human body.’

‘What?’ she said. I’d got her attention now and I could feel her face melting at such a fact. ‘That can’t be true!’

‘It is’, I said, a smug sense of satisfaction glowing and growing all over me like fungi. ‘Humans have just 206 bones in their body, whereas guinea pigs have 258.’

‘Really, are you sure? Where do they have all those bones?’ she asked.

‘Well,’ I said, pausing and relishing my role as an expert. ‘They have 34 in the spinal cord, 43 in each front leg and 36 in each back leg. The rest of the bones are in the skull, ribs and breastbone.’

She went silent on the other end. ‘Well, that’s remarkable, I never knew that.’

‘There are a lot of things you don’t know about guinea pigs mum, and that’s why Mr Bob, who is a guinea pig, makes a perfect sidekick for investigating murders – he’s downright clever and perceptive.’

‘More bones in their body than me, I can’t get over that, they’re so tiny,’ she sighed.

I smiled and waited while she sucked in this new information, gleeful I’d impressed her with something she didn’t know (despite her being a piggie owner back in the day).

‘You know,’ she said, ‘come to think of it, I’m currently reading a book where the lady has a Chihuahua to help her solve the murders. They’re not that much bigger than guinea pigs are they?’

Size wasn’t really the point, but I took it as a small win: My mum’s started to accept that a guinea pig could be a useful – and welcome – sidekick.

Mr Bob is a cute, cuddly companion for Tarah and he’s certainly the cleverest of the duo. He may not have the Dr. Watson-esque stature of Sherlock Holmes’ legendary sidekick, but he does make Tarah a better amateur sleuth, and pushes her to interrogate things she wouldn’t ordinarily think of.

And that’s the thing about sidekicks. People often think of the sidekick as somehow inferior, but most of the time, it’s the dynamics between the duo which make the sidekick an integral part of the main character’s being – and hence the entire story. Where would the feckless Wallace be without his dependable Gromit to save the day? Where would Charlie Brown be without Snoopy? Pooh without Piglet?

A hero is nothing without their sidekick; they are the support to assist the main characters to do what they have to do.

And that’s why I love Mr Bob, he’s a guinea pig and so very, very clever!

Wizz Air Has a New Route to Fuerteventura!

Yippee! We love it when new airlines come and bring us to the sunny, blissful shores of Fuerteventura and Wizz Air have announced from this summer they’ll be flying from London!

Of course, we still have all the travel restrictions to contend with, but the news is still positive – more flight routes means more competition which means more choice for customers! Ryanair and easyJet have had it easy for far too long, being the main carriers for passengers wanting to fly to Fuerteventura, (unless you’re taking a package tour) so Wizz Air’s new travel plans are great news for all of us!

Flights start from 3 July and will fly on Mondays and Fridays from London Luton to Fuerteventura. They’ve also started additional routes to other Canary Island including Gran Canaria and Lanzarote. Check out Wizz Air for more details.

Does This Guinea Pig Really Think It’s a Dog??

I love a nice news story – especially when it involves guinea pigs! Who doesn’t need more guinea pigs in their life?!

So today’s offering is about Margo the guinea pig who thinks she’s a dog. Well, I’m not sure that’s factually correct as how would they know ! Anyways, it’s cute because Margo looks like the two border collies she lives with in Somerset.

Here’s some pics of them all together!

If you want to read the whole story it’s here

7 Cool Facts Most People Don’t Know About Fuerteventura

1.There is a magic mountain

Tindaya Mountain

Tindaya Mountain (Montana Tindaya) is situated in the north-east of the island close to La Oliva. The 400-metre-high mountain is the earliest formation of Fuerteventura from the first volcanic eruption, 20 million years ago. The early inhabitants believed Tindaya was sacred and had magical properties. There are a variety of tombs and religious symbols in the centre of the mountain which are believed to have been left by the majoreros. The most curious of the hieroglyphics is what has been called ‘podomorphs’. In essence, feet like! There are over 300 of these engravings on the mountain.   

‘Podomorphs’

To this day, the area is bathed with a special aura and the landscape is said to be impregnated with a sense of peace and mystery. Local legends still believe witches are in conversation with the mountain. This writer doesn’t know if that’s true, but she very much hopes it is!

2. Miguel de Unamuno was banished to Fuerteventura

Miguel de Unamuno

The isolated location of Fuerteventura means it’s a great place to escape…but was also used to exile dissenters. In 1924, when Miguel de Unamuno a prominent Spanish essayist, novelist, poet, playwright, philosopher, professor of Greek and Classics and late rector at the University of Salamanca, disagreed with the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera, he was banished to Fuerteventura.

Miguel de Unamuno said of his time on the island, ‘For me Fuerteventura was an oasis where my spirit drank reviving waters and from where I left refreshed and fortified to continue my journey across the deserted civilisation.’

The house in Puerto del Rosario where Miguel de Unamuno lived during exile is now a museum.

3. Caleta de Fuste is named after a rotting boat!

Caleta de Fuste beach

Caleta de Fuste, a popular resort located close to the airport, was built to cater for the huge demand of tourists who started coming to Fuerteventura. The area is well known for it’s white sandy crescent shaped beach, world class golf resorts and top hotels. For many years a shipwreck of an old Arab-style cargo boat lay in the bay. The name Caleta de Fuste means ‘bay of the fishing boat’.

4. There’s a secret Nazi base

Villa Winter

*Conspiracy theory alert*

Over the years there has been much controversy surrounding ‘Villa Winter’, a grandiose turreted house, allegedly built in 1937 by Gustav Winter, a prominent German engineer – who if stories are to be believed – was wanted for questioning by the Allies as a suspected Nazi, and who was never handed over by the Spanish authorities.

Villa Winter sits in a remote location at the end of a very long, very dusty track where there is nothing but mountains, sea and sand. Idyllic, you may think. Sinister, is the claim.

Separating fact from fiction is tricky. Apparently, in 1939 Franco and Hitler agreed to turn Jandia Peninsular into a military zone, Winter was the man employed to do the job. The land around Cofete was given to Winter, where he built the habour at Morro Jable, a church, a school and started the main road, and built Villa Winter, locals say in 1937, documents say in 1946.

Why? has always been the question.

And this is where the fun starts (again!), because Gustav’s life, like the house he left behind (and never lived in), is shrouded in mystery. People claim Winter raised the money from Hermann Göring, one of the most powerful figures in the Nazi Party. The tower turret is alleged to have had an an electric lantern, similar to a lighthouse, so they could signal German U-boats and the villa was actually a secret submarine base. It’s also claimed underneath the house is a fissure in the rocks leading to a subterranean tunnel to the sea. And more recently, allegations have arose purporting the tunnels and rooms under the house were used as cells and gas chambers.

5. The Capital was renamed without the consent of the locals

Nuestra Senora del Rosario

In the 1800s the main port of Fuerteventura was called locally ‘Puerto Del Cabras’. This literally means: ‘The Port of Goats’, which makes sense given they were one of the main exports. In 1834, the port town took over from La Oliva to become the capital and in 1956 the name was changed – without the consent of the locals – to the more tourist friendly, and attractive ‘Puerto del Rosario’ which means ‘rosary port’. The church in the centre of town is dedicated to it’s patron saint, Nuestra Senora del Rosario: Our Lady of the Rosary.

6. Nelson lost the Battle for Fuerteventura

In 1595, Sir Walter Raleigh launched assaults on Tenerife and Fuerteventura, both met with little success. The English, however, wanted to add the Canary Islands to their list of colonial acquisitions – and so over the next couple of centuries tried again and again.

Enter Horatio Nelson, one of the legendary figures of British naval history. His aim was to occupy all of the islands and make them British territory, the archipelago’s strategic location made it an ideal platform in the Atlantic for basing and refueling His Majesty’s fleet

Given the underwhelming resources of Santa Cruz, Tenerife – The Canarians had less than half as many military personnel as the English admiral – Nelson was confident. However, he didn’t anticipate ‘El Tigre’ a mammoth gun forged in Seville. Many British sailors perished under the cannon fire (and a shot from ‘El Tigre’ removed one of Nelson’s arms), but after fierce hand-to-hand fighting by those few English who managed to enter the city, the English survivors later surrendered.

Gutierrez and Samuel Hood, a leading officer of Nelson’s fleet, agreed the surrender. One of the stipulations being: the British Navy would never again attack the islands.

7. The island looks like a sperm whale

Ok, so maybe at a push…but still, I bet you remember the shape of the island tomorrow!