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It’s raining again so I’ve given up on summer; or at least the sort of summer we’ve had for the last couple of years. Instead, I’m planning to fill autumn and winter with things I want to learn and do and become. Close to the top of the list is making biscuits and tray bakes that look professional and taste a whole lot better.

I’m not asking much. I just want simple ingredients, quick to do, no piping or fussing with icing because I hate anything that’s more icing than base. If anything, I suppose I want the opposite of bake-off. No stress. No elimination (because we in real life don’t get eliminated from cooking, do we? And I’m glad now but I wasn’t when I started out.)

I’m looking at rolled cookies and shortbread that I can cut out using plunger cutters that imprint a pattern on them that makes me look a lot cleverer than I know that I am. I want ginger biscuits with stem ginger in. Raisin cookies. Chocolate chip cookies. Proper buttery shortbread and gingerbread and a house that smells of cooking and welcomes you even on grey days.

As usual, all that stands between me and that is research and practice and who knew that cutters go blunt after a while and that’s why your nice round shapes come out a bit deformed? So I’ve got some heavy duty ones on the way from that nice Mr Amazon and a growing list of recipes I want to try to go with a nice tidy larder and all the pretty Christmas tins I’ve acquired over the years that now want to be filled with goodies that I shall have practiced making till they're stress free. It’s going to be fun and my dear family, as always when I’m cooking, are perfectly happy to encourage me.

I need encouraging right now because I’m so tired of grey skies and wearing cardigans and jeans. Next week looks a bit better but it’ll still be cool and cloudy as much as it’s sunny, so I’ll just have to make the most of the sunny times and find ways to make the clouds seem less cloudy.

Obviously, that includes writing, but the next Amy is set in a grey, cold February when the sun seems to have forgotten how to shine… There again, after that I’ll be off to Oldcastle and I’ve just found an amazing book about the war diaries of someone who lived just round the corner from me, so I’m looking forward to getting back to Esther and the Professor and trying to work out what’ll happen long term.

That leads me so nicely to this week’s special offers that you could almost think I’ve planned it like that. As always, they’re on at 99p in the UK and 99c in the US and if you can’t get them in your country, then there are always the anthologies…

This week there’s ‘Echoes’ which is one of my favourite Amy Hammond’s because it’s where she and Peter decide to move in together because of Covid. You wouldn’t think they could find trouble while they’re locked down, and they don’t find the being shot at sort, but they do have a mystery to solve and their lives to reassess before what has to be my favourite book ending.

In much the same vein is one I wrote as Eleanor Neville. ‘Be Thankful You’re Living’ is set in the run up to World War Two and follows my Shadows covert intelligence department and specifically Miles Kinsella who’s trying to save people that Hitler wants to kill. Jenny Stannard finds him unconscious across her cabin door on her way home from finishing school and grows up very fast…

Lastly, there are two from my Christians Cross series. The Sword and the Stone is about the King Arthur legend and, just for a change, World War Two. Writing it made me think about the way that a practically immortal vampire must see the world so differently from us and the grief that comes from knowing that your friends will age and die while you stay much the same. That led on to Away with the Faeries which let me write my heroine a sort-of happy resolution of the sort we don’t get in real life. Obviously, it also drops her right in trouble but that’s pretty much her natural habitat so I don’t need to feel too guilty.

My natural habitat right now is cooking, so I shall head off to get lunch now (Pork garlic and honey meatballs in a tomato sauce) and leave you with this picture. I took it in the little cafe/deli where I practice my Italian and indulge my taste for their baking. (oooh, their cannoli are amazing.) How did Shakespeare get to be so wise that he's still relevant now? And isn't it a lovely sneaky thought! Have fun till we meet again and I hope the sun shines on you.


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