Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pancake Day

A morning of writing up - frantically! - my Steering Group minutes, then an early lunch and on to the Student Experience Group meeting, for minuting. Seemed to have a lot of discussion, with not many actions/decisions, but that seems to be the nature of the game with that one. Have a sinking feeling that we'll be doing the same thing next month ... That's university life for you.

No post when we got back home, so obviously nobody loves us today. And I can strike any very tenuous (more than tenuous ...) hopes of getting anywhere in the BBC National Short Story competition (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/arts/frontrow/short_story_terms.shtml) as have heard nothing from them. No surprises there then.

Still, Lord H made a gorgeous chicken, potato & onion dish, followed by pancakes and ice cream, so all was not doom and gloom. And there are more pancakes left for tomorrow (thank goodness for shop-bought ones), hurrah!

Linda Smith, the comedienne, died yesterday, but just on the news today. She was marvellous - very funny, with a great voice. I'll really miss her. And so young too - only 48 years old. Not that much older than me. It really brings mortality home; am beginning to think any of us might go at any minute. At least she achieved something of what she wanted to achieve however, whereas if I go tonight I'll have achieved virtually nothing in terms of my (non-existent) writing career. It would be nice to have "writer" instead of "secretary" on my gravestone. Hmm, fat chance.

Anne Brooke

Monday, February 27, 2006

Team/Personal Development Day

Hectic day at work. Sorted out the zillions of emails that appear to have landed in my inbox over the weekend. Then started my plethora of meetings - the first being to sort out a new Healthy Living leaflet for our students, or at least begin to; the second the usual Care Services Steering Group - though not many there this session; and the afternoon was focusing on the next stage of our team/personal development programme. All good stuff, especially the afternoon, but I was getting twitchy about not being able to start my minutes, especially as there's another meeting tomorrow to do, and another on Friday, with a week's holiday coming up fast. The terror of falling behind drives me. One of the cons of working part-time - people still think you're full-time somehow and expect you to fit it all in. Well, it's hard, and sometimes it's by the skin of my teeth.

No writing/editing of anything done this evening. Too exhausted from the weekend. Besides, there's "Life on Mars" on television - the last episode and I'm too hooked to miss that. Still, a couple of people have left positive comments on the uploaded section of the next part of "The Gifting" on the Writewords site (http://www.writewords.org.uk), so that's always a boost.

The DSJT Charitable Trust have confirmed that I can indeed bring both my mother and my aunt to the writing award ceremony in Harrogate in May - that's a relief, as I was beginning to think I'd have to not eat the buffet lunch so they could both come. If I win anything next year, I'll have to be careful not to promise them both a trip out!

A former colleague popped in to visit us today - lovely to see her, but it's astonishing how much things move on. And how hard it is to think what she might now be interested in hearing about.

Managed to get my first Touch for Health (http://touchforhealth.co.uk) appointment this Wednesday when I have an unexpected day off - the lady who does it sounds very nice, so I hope it will be an enjoyable experience. Must admit to being a little nervous though - especially as it's in a town I don't know and I hate travelling to new places. And finding somewhere to park. My, what a wimp I am.

One of my work colleagues is running in the London Marathon for WaterAid this year, so made sure I did my bit for sponsorship. A braver soul than me indeed!

Anne Brooke

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Thorn in the Flesh editing: the conclusion

A day spent editing "Thorn in the Flesh" and my goodness I've done it. I think the plot is much better and more humane now, and I like it more. It's been heads down stuff but I think - I hope - it's worth it. Have now sent it off for further editing and proofreading to the Jacqui Bennett Bureau (http://www.jbwb.co.uk).

Lord H covered for me at church - bless him - and apparently it was freezing (no heating for this next week, I fear), so it was probably a good miss.

Tonight, it's time to relax with "Invasion" and - thank goodness it's back! - "Midsomer Murders". Or perhaps I ought to get out more??...

And today's haiku is:

Air is crisp and clean.
Army of snowdrops marches
eastwards to the spring.

Anne Brooke

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Thorn in the Flesh Editing

A late start to the morning, courtesy of a much-needed lie-in. Then solid work on "Thorn in the Flesh" editing for the rest of the day, with a break for a quick soup lunch. I've changed the two major scenes the reviewer was unhappy about and, though I hate to say it, I think she's right - it's better with more emotional ramifications and less sex. In this particular main character's case, less is more, and more human.

Am now reading through for more tweakings before sending it off to the Jacquie Bennett website (http://www.jbwb.co.uk) for yet more editing and vital proofreading. Only when I've responded to that will I send it to my agent. Goodness, how complicated - and expensive - a would-be writer's life is! And, more importantly, the more I do the writing lark, the more I realise I couldn't possibly get anything done without the support and endless patience of Lord H. Whether or not he thinks I'll ever get there in the end!...

This evening will be a definite relaxation zone - Pizza, wine and TV beckon. Thank goodness!

Anne Brooke

Friday, February 24, 2006

Civil Partnership Ceremony

A day spent celebrating the civil partnership ceremony of some friends of ours. A marvellous occasion - simple and moving. They were kind enough to ask me to read one of the 2 readings - "A soliloquy by Hamlet's cat", which was very funny. And I managed to get it read without stammering over "soliliquy" - something of a relief! The second reading, "An apache's blessing" was also good and very suitable. Afterwards, we had canapes, mulled wine and photographs, followed by a superb seated tea. Very enjoyable indeed. And a very impressive hotel - a Victorian-style take on castle life. And fantastic loos, which always means a place is high on my list! Took loads of photos (of people rather than loos ...), and I'm sure there'll be loads more to look at later too. How very 21st century we are becoming.

Have finished "Strangers" by Taichi Yamada - great stuff. A lighter Murakami, if I dare compare to the master.

Goldenford (http://www.goldenford.co.uk) have arranged to meet up with the bookfair people in Farnham next Thursday, to see if we can run a stall at one of their events. I'll go along with Irene and see what the lie of the land is. It'll be a good outlet if everyone's in agreement.

No writing done today - will do more editing tomorrow.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Reflexology Day

Posted my writing competition entries, and then had a morning's reflexology session. My first real one, though I have done a mini-session for a friend who was studying it in the past. I found it very interesting - relaxing and exhausting in turn - and tonight my sinuses certainly appear to have improved. I was particularly impressed with the way the physical and emotional factors were combined. Good stuff. I entirely agree with the approach. Depending on finances, I'd like to do it again, perhaps in a month or so, and see how it goes.

Still trying to contact the Touch for Health woman, and have left a message on her ansaphone, but no response as yet. Will try again tomorrow or next week.

Post-reflexology, I felt utterly exhausted (was warned that might be the case!) but decided to get cracking with the "Thorn in the Flesh" edit anyway. Glad I did, as I now feel much better about the changes that need to be made and the things I need to look out for. Have already got a couple of extra scenes in my head that I'd like to include, and have ditched the ones I've decided simply have to go. Still feel shattered though ... My own fault, of course.

Nasty snow here during the day and into the evening - how I hate snow! Paid a quick visit to one of the old ladies from church. She seemed quite well this week, and we caught up on church life and other matters. Didn't stay long, as the snow was coming on strong. Thankfully it's not ice though - yet.

Tonight, am out with a couple of girlfriends down the local pub. Best not be too late though, as we have a civil partnership ceremony to attend tomorrow, and I don't want to be too tired to enjoy it. As Lord H says, at this rate it will definitely be a white wedding!

And talking of Lord H, we have decided that we'll - for once - take the vicar's advice and do something creative for Lent. He's planning to do more photography, and I'm thinking of making at least one cake - something I haven't done for a lifetime. Will have to ask Mother for recipes. Simple ones. That will please her. Think I also might give up coffee and see how that goes. I will have to train myself to like those wretched fruit teas!

Anne Brooke

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Competitions Entry Day

Long, but bearable day at work. Did lots of website stuff and prepared for next week's glut of meetings. Town at lunchtime to get present for the child of a friend and do finances etc. Also bought a hat to keep my head warm in winter and see if that stops me getting these long strings of nasty colds etc. Mind you, I look like a cross between a refugee and my coal-mining grandfather, so it's not good for style. If only I knew what style was ...

This evening, did my monthly round of competition entries - just to feel as if I am doing something positive in my writing life. Will have to start on the dreaded "Thorn in the Flesh" edit tomorrow, and am not looking forward to it. Still, the sooner I start, the sooner it's done. How I wish the critique had been nicer. I don't think I'll be using that one again - on deeper thoughts, some of the wretched woman's comments were simply unfair. Perhaps she just doesn't get "crime" - she was okay on my "chick-lit" offering. We live and learn indeed. Next time, I'll try Cornerstones.

And still no word from either my agent or anyone else, concerning any novels at all. Hello? Is anyone out there? Or am I doomed to dwell in this bubble of roller-coaster hope and despair forever? Hmm, probably. Still, it's Wednesday, so sherry night - thank goodness, she cries - sadly!...

Anne Brooke

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Guildford Writers' Evening

A good morning at work, doing more exercises on the team/personal development tool, and also had an excellent university writers' group lunchtime session. Everyone brought manuscripts, and there was a lot of discussion and suggestions etc, which was good. For the first time, I didn't have to fill in time with a writing game, so really felt happy about it. Came away with a definite buzz.

Shame about the afternoon though - rather dull. Am waiting around for meetings, with little to do until they turn up. Then of course it will be all systems go! Am still worried about the changes I need to make to "Thorn in the Flesh". It might be better once I've made some kind of an editing start but, until I do, the depression just gets bigger. No chance of doing anything along those lines till Thursday afternoon though. At least. How I hate hanging around and waiting.

This evening was the Guildford Writers' (http://www.guildfordwriters.net) evening. Lots of manuscripts and fun too. Came away with some ideas about my short story, "A Question of Trust", which I can work on later in the week. Am still a little worried about exactly how the text and cover tweakings of "Pink Champagne and Apple Juice" for Goldenford (http://www.goldenford.co.uk) will work out though. Seems to be lots of unsolvable (or at least not immediately solvable) issues to go through in terms of writing at the moment. Sometimes it's like wading through treacle.

Anne Brooke

Monday, February 20, 2006

Thorn in the Flesh Report Day

Interesting day at work - spent the morning on a rather good team-building/relationship event, just with our small Central Team. Certainly made me think. There wasn't enough time to get through all we should have done, so we're intending to do more tomorrow and next week. Self-awareness here we come!

A poetry friend popped round to take a copy of my poems which were in Envoi magazine to her poetry group. Promised to take her to lunch later on - if only we can find a jointly-free day.

Today's difficult news - the report from The Literary Consultancy (http://www.literaryconsultancy.co.uk) came back on "Thorn in the Flesh". Seemed to be far more negative points raised than good ones. As ever, I need more specific descriptive detail - which is always the case with me - but the editor didn't like my central scene of violence, nor my main character's reaction to it. It's always upsetting when these major issues are raised, particularly when the one doing the raising doesn't seem sympathetic to the rest of the novel either. Perhaps I'll downplay that scene, and make it more mental than physical. We'll see. I've bounced back from worse criticisms, and to a better novel in the end too ...

Have now got the logos to put on the cover/spine of "Pink Champagne and Apple Juice", and have sent the final corrected version off to the Goldenford Directors (http://www.goldenford.co.uk), so maybe not a complete pig of a day then. Maybe. Still, all ruddy depressing.

Have just finished Ken Bruen's crime novel, "Priest". Some good dark humour, a very powerful and sad ending, and the main character is very strong, but it's perhaps a little too unremittingly dark, even for me.

Anne Brooke

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Second before Lent

Church not so bad today - people were nice, and the hymns were a good choice. Sermon okay too - all about stewardship and creativity. We should apparently not be giving anything up for Lent this year, but instead doing something more creative. That suits me fine.

Finished reading the latest issue of Envoi magazine - some top-notch poetry in it (including ... err ... mine!). Was particularly impressed with Jonathan Attrill, James W Wood, John Lindley and Alice Beer - poetry that grabs you in the gut and twists it. That's what I like, and that's what they have provided.

In terms of health, am well on the way to recovery now - thank goodness! Even did some morning exercise today for the first time since Wednesday. And caught up (Protestant guilt) with my Bible reading notes. Which may go to show just how facile they really are, of course.

Still, there's "Star Trek" and "Invasion" to look forward to tonight. One has to have something to prepare for the hell that is Monday.

And this week's haiku is:

Salt and pepper pots
on the table: dragon scales
crossing murky seas.

Anne Brooke

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Poetry Publication Day

Good news today - three of my poems, "For Jean", Shadow Play" and "View", have just been published in Envoi magazine, so that's cheered me up! Looks good on the writing CV too ...

So bowled over by this astonishing news that I have done almost nothing all day. Lord H has been busy though - putting the corrections to my "Pink Champagne and Apple Juice" cover that the Goldenford (http://www.goldenford.co.uk) directors have requested. I have to say the updated version looks stunning - it now includes the back blurb and also a review comment from Marsha Rowe, the co-founder of "Spare Rib". Emailed the cover to the directors, one of whom replied saying it was "gorgeous". A quote good enough to eat indeed. Lord H is a genius. Naturally!

Afternoon spent dozing, and I am also about to do some more to "The Gifting", though don't have enough energy for more than fiddling about with it, I fear. Lord H and I have decided to eat out early tonight, at the local pub. Which will be our first trip out today - apart from my brief sortie to post a letter.

Enjoyed the Russian photography at Somerset House last night, by the way. Lots of nudity and drama. Just the sort of thing to cheer up a Friday night. Also, have just finished Harlan Coben's "Deal Breaker" - the usual easy-to-read page turner, and I do love the main character's black humour and dialogue. But I do wish Win could stop being such a "deus ex machina" - it's getting to be rather dull and obvious; each time MC is in trouble, there Win is to save the day. Groan!

Anne Brooke

Friday, February 17, 2006

Recovery Day

A morning and early afternoon of doing nothing much, sitting on the sofa and sleeping. Beginning to feel hungry again, which is good. Have decided to find out about Touch for Health and food intolerance testing, to see if it makes a difference - via the Kinesiology website (http://www.kinesiology4health.com). If I'm feeling brave, I might even try for an appointment with a local practitioner, Jane Phillips, who's been recommended to me. Have also made a Reflexology appointment for next Thursday morning, so will see how that goes.

Bad news on the second novel front - "A Dangerous Man" - Cavalier Press (a gay press in the US, and, no, I'm darned if I'm bothering with their web address now!...) have turned it down, no reasons given. Should be disappointed, I know, but frankly am too drained to care. So. That leaves Flame Books (http://www.flamebooks.com) in the UK, and LBF Books (http://www.lbfbooks.com) in the US who have the full MS, and Alma Books (http://www.almabooks.co.uk) and Tonto Press (http://www.tontopress.com) in the UK, who both have partial MSS. It's all in the laps of the gods. If all four fail, I will go for it myself, either via Goldenford (http://www.goldenford.co.uk) - or anyone for the Peperharow Press? I've always liked the name ...

Later this afternoon, I shall take myself to London to see a friend of mine. Both of us aren't too well, so we'll have to prop each other up somehow. Hope to see the Russian photography exhibition at Somerset House, then some food and fairly early home.

No writing done today. No energy.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Sick Day

Up all night last night with this wretched cold/nasty catarrh thing. Would love to get sleep - I'm a great fan normally! - but, whenever I've got this thing, each time I lie down I feel sick. Kept on working my way through Sinutab pills, Lucozade, dull TV and cards. Finally managed to get some sleep on the sofa at about 5am, and then crawled into bed when Lord H was having a bath. Not a great start to the day.

Once up - around 10-ish - I finished off the "Pink Champagne and Apple Juice" final read-through, and sent it to the Goldenford directors (http://www.goldenford.co.uk). Am pleased it's now complete, but am a little worried about the changes they want done to the cover format and content. I hope Lord H and I can work it out to their satisfaction, but I'm not entirely confident, as everyone seems to have a different view. Too many cooks indeed. Still, we'll see.

John Jarrold (http://www.sff.net/people/john-jarrold/about.html) replied to my "The Gifting" synopsis, saying it was interesting and he'd look at it properly over the weekend. "Interesting" isn't exactly the phrase to bring joy and hope to a writer's heart, especially as I was so enthused about it yesterday, but at least he's not over-the-top and forever telling me how marvellous I am. No. Actually, on second thoughts, I think someone SHOULD tell me how marvellous I am. It would make a nice change. Actually, even Lord H isn't as confident now about my publication changes as he once was. Sadly. It comes to something when friends (still) seem more confident about this than spouses do. Or perhaps they're lying. Heck, they SHOULD lie - what else are friends for? (And spouses). That said, I knew Lord H wasn't one for enthusing unnecessarily when I married him, so I only have myself to blame. As they say. Still, it's hard enough to keep one's own confidence up, without having to battle for that of one's nearest and dearest ...

On the brighter side, have had a couple of positive comments about my story, "Creative Accountancy for Beginners", on the Writewords site (http://www.writewords.org.uk) so that has cheered me up!

Too sick to write, so spent the afternoon watching the DVD of the film version of "Pride and Prejudice". Great stuff, but not as rivetting as "Sense and Sensibility" and the gorgeous Alan Rickman. Mind you, nothing could be really. Apart from, maybe, the film of "Emma", which I also love.

One thing about being up all night; you get a lot of reading done. Have finished Reginald Hill's "The Stranger House". It's fine, but not that impressive. He was good - even very good - at the relationship between the two main characters, but I didn't like the odd way it was "tied up" at the end, and the novel was too packed with needless information dumping (most of which I skipped), and unlikely - very unlikely!! - coincidences and irritating secondary characters. Not one of his best then.

I also started and finished Ed McBain's "The Heckler" - easy enough reading, but not very gripping. I don't think I'll bother with another. Have just started another Harlan Coben now - we'll see how that pans out.

Anne Brooke

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Pink Champagne and Apple Juice

A day spent having this wretched cold, and doing a last read-through of "Pink Champagne and Apple Juice" before I send the final version to the other Goldenford directors (http://www.goldenford.co.uk). I think it flows well, though when you've read something so many times it's always impossible to tell anything about it at all. I've only got the last 3 chapters to do now, so will get on with that tomorrow.

Also did a synopsis for "The Gifting" for John Jarrold (http://www.sff.net/people/john-jarrold/about.html) and sent that off to him, but no reply as yet. I was dreading doing it, but actually I found it really helpful and quite inspirational. Am really looking forward to getting on with the novel now, after I've finished with "Pink Champagne."

I can foresee another evening slumped in front of the TV, as I'm really good for nothing else. Lemsips here I come ...

Anne Brooke

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentines Day

Rather a dull day at work. Did lots of marketing stuff, and tried to think strategically. Goodness, how exhausting that can be. Achieved something by setting up a meeting to look at new leaflet production next week - I am indeed the PR Whizzkid of Surrey - not. Lord H sent some lovely flowers in glorious shades of red, which made me feel very dramatic and continental. Somehow. Would that the weather echoed the feeling.

Cold is becoming rather worse, I fear, so an evening in front of the TV watching an old "Foyle" episode on DVD called me. Pink champagne and a Chinese takeaway beforehand made our evening. And, joy of joys, my new bedsocks turned up - hurrah! The winter evenings here simply fly by ...

Had an email from John Jarrold, my agent (http://www.sff.net/people/john-jarrold/about.html), saying he liked the start of "The Gifting" and could I please send him a synopsis. Horrors! I only ever do synopses when I've finished a novel, as I never have any idea at all what's going to happen when I'm writing it. I find that's the best way to keep the tension levels up - for me and any future (very distant future) reader. Still, have a day's holiday tomorrow, so will work on it then.

Several Goldenford emails tonight (http://www.goldenford.co.uk) about the "Pink Champagne and Apple Juice" cover, and changes which need to be made to it. Am hoping that Lord H can help out once more as I'm a Photoshop Klutz and he is a genius - and has done all the slog in getting it this far anyway.

Anne Brooke

Monday, February 13, 2006

Goldenford Publishers Day

A day at work for trucking along, typing up minutes. I am indeed the Minute Maid of Surrey. The conveyor belt was broken up by a brief informal Heads of Teams meeting at midday - fun to be at and no minute taking needed. Oh joy! Biscuits too. At lunchtime, visited the campus art gallery, which is now showcasing art from staff members - there's some great stuff. You never know what people are doing outside the office. And wonderful to see so much talent.

This evening, we had a meeting of Goldenford Publishers (http://www.goldenford.co.uk) to thrash out more marketing for our current two books, and to plan mine, which is due in the summer - "Pink Champagne and Apple Juice". A lot to think of, but it's beginning to seem real now. It might even be available by June, which would be nice. A birthday treat indeed. Will give it one more read through, before sending the final version to the gang.

Cold better today, thank goodness.

Anne Brooke

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Third before Lent

8am church today. Most definitely not in the mood for any of it, especially with my cold developing nicely. Although "nicely" is not the word. Half-dozed my way through the service and got out as quickly as I could afterwards, whilst managing to talk to the least number of people possible. Am beginning to think that actually no-one gives a damn how things are, just as long as I perform the minimal Sacristan duties, and the water and the wine are in the right place at the right time. I vaguely caught the drift of the mini-sermon, which was telling us how much God loves us. Baloney, say I. It doesn't feel like that right now.

Lord H was serving (ie leading the first half of the service, and helping out at the altar) at the 11am Family Service (something I always try to avoid on the grounds that (a) they don't need me as it's not Communion, and (b) I hate families), so I took the opportunity to bash out another 1000 words of "The Gifting", taking me to c11,000 so far. Day not a complete waste of time then!

Tried a post-lunch nap, but no good due to nasty cold thing. Hope to get at least some sleep tonight. The miserable, rainy day today is most certainly echoing my mood! Still, at least it's "Star Trek" and "Invasion" later on, so there's something to look forward to ...

Had a rather harsh and long comment from one of the site experts on the Writewords site (http://www.writewords.org.uk) on my short story, "A Question of Trust" - just the sort of news I didn't want or need today. I've tried my best to correct the points she raised, but I do think she could certainly have phrased it better. I like to think that I would do, when commenting on other people's work. After all, you never know how someone is feeling underneath and sometimes this sort of thing just feels like another nail in the coffin of what I want to do most.

Still, here is today's haiku: a response to my trip yesterday to see The Queen's Gallery and Rolf's painting. I am obviously an artistic klutz:

I'm sorry to say
Canaletto's Venice was dull,
but I loved Rolf's Queen.

Anne Brooke

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Tea at 3 at Fortnum's

Day in London today. Took Lord H to see the changing of the guard, and also to visit the Queen's Gallery to see the Rolf Harris portrait of the Queen, Canaletto in Venice, and the rest of the gallery. Loved Rolf's Queen portrait, but thought the Canaletto was dull. Seen one, seen them all, in my opinion. Enjoyed the rest of the rooms far more - some gorgeous portraits, including a Memling and a Vermeer, and the amazing jewellery of course.

Afterwards, met up with friends for tea at Fortnum's. Great room and great company, but I was rather disappointed with the tea - I was expecting more and larger for my money. But the others seemed to enjoy it, which was good. Nice to meet up with the gang, and then still have the evening free. Wonderful!

That said, I think I'm coming down with a cold, so will dowse myself with Lemsip and hope for the best.

No writing done today. And sadly I am beginning to hate going round bookshops (we dived into 2 - Hatchards & Waterstone's, both in Piccadilly) - all those lucky, lucky people, and none of them me. Once again, very depressing.

But all is not lost - tonight is that glorious tosh, "Sea of Souls", and with the added attraction of Paul McGann - who, I have to say, is exactly the picture I have for Paul Maloney in "Maloney's Law". Visualisation is all!

Anne Brooke

Friday, February 10, 2006

Friday is Pub Day

A writing day at home today. Typed up the Mozart poem I did last night for a Writers' News competition - http://www.writersnews.co.uk - onto the computer and fiddled about with it until I was fairly happy. Will upload it to the Writewords site - http://www.writewords.org.uk - later on for comment. Also made some comments on work showcased on the Bewrite site - http://www.bewrite.net - the UK Authors site - http://www.ukauthors.com - and the Writewords site. It's all give and take after all; if I look for comments and ways to improve my work, then it's only fair to offer that to other people as well. And, besides, it's enjoyable - on the whole!

Worked on "The Gifting" for most of the day, and managed another 2000 words which I was pleased with. I aim to write 2000 words each writing day (1000 in the morning and 1000 in the afternoon) when I can, plus another 1000 words over the weekend if I can manage it.

Lunch was at The Harrow in Compton with Robin, a friend from my old job. Lots of girly catch-up and some great baguette & chips x2. Robin and her husband, Gavin, sing in Guildford Choral Society, and have a performance of Bach's St John Passion in March, so I booked two tickets for Lord H and me. I'd better be well for it this time - as the last 2 times, I've been sick. Darn it. The post-concert do, in whatever form, is always good too.

Have now finished Philip Yancey's "Disappointment with God". I thought it was clear and helpful, and maybe I won't be quite so stressed with the bad things that happen next time they all fall on my head again. Or maybe not. Still, it helped a little. But, being me, I should imagine my next religious read will be in 10 or so years' time. Once that day arrives, I wouldn't mind another Yancey though. He's not an evangelical, thank the Lord (sorry!). Just an ordinary bloke trying to make some kind of path through the nonsense of it all. Like us all indeed.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Thursday 9 February 2006: Lord H's Birthday

Lord H's birthday today - so a speedy present opening session before he went to work this morning. I forgot the usual birthday cake (shame on me), but went towards making up for this shocking oversight by the individual chocolate cakes I bought at the university shop yesterday. He seemed to like the rather beautiful picture I bought for him from the university gallery - "L'escalier blanc" - he loves stairs, so I feel I've done well there. Also bought a whisky described as "long and complex". Just like himself really.

Lord H went off to work, and I made a start on a precis of a Mozart opera (The Magic Flute in 50 words - hard but fun!) for a Writers' News (www.writersnews.co.uk) competition, and wrote a short story also for a Ws' N competition called "Creative Accountancy for Beginners" - about a spaceship attempting to park. Never say I'm not catholic in my writing tastes ... I love doing something I can finish in a day - a "quick win" in management-speak rather than the long-term novel commitment. Will also try to do a poem on a Mozart piece (spot the theme!) later on. I always do poems longhand before transferring them onto the computer, but the fiction - long or short - goes straight to screen.

Attempted to confirm my booking for a Fortnum & Mason's tea on Saturday for my gang of friends, but it was a nightmare of phone rage. Their system cut me off 3 times and I ended up having to ring their PR company to get to speak to a person. But never say PR isn't useful - 5 minutes after my call, the restaurant rang back and confirmed it. Thank goodness! How I hate doing these mass social arrangements, but it always - always! - ends up being me doing it. I swear - if I didn't do the running around, this lot would never meet up. I'm very fond of them, naturally, but how I wish for someone else to be the Social Secretary for a while. I work on my "days off" too, chaps - sometimes harder and for longer than my "working" days!

Sent an email query to Alma Books (www.almabooks.co.uk) today about "A Dangerous Man". They emailed back quickly to request the synopsis and first chapter, so will send that to them by snail mail tomorrow. Fingers crossed - again!

Have just finished Harlan Coben's "The Innocent." Not very impressive, I must say, although a Coben is always a page-turner. It was a picnic of unlikely coincidences, and the wife, Olivia, has to be the most plastic and irritating character I've come across for a long while. At least in literature! And no marriage - believe me! - is ever that perfect.

Talking of which, I'd better start getting the birthday dinner ready for the homecoming (complete with the flowers I had sent today - hope it makes up for the lack of cake) Lord H: sausages, chips & beans, chocolate ice cream and champers. What more could you want?

Anne Brooke

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Wednesday 8 February 2006

Not too bad as a work day, though it was a night thick with dreams - can't remember much about them now though ... Had a meeting of the Student Care Services Committee over lunch time - loads to minute, but we got into some quite deep subjects. There's a strong feeling amongst different groups in the university that we really do need to focus on people's wellbeing - both staff and students - rather than just processes. I'm all for this, but it's not going to be simple; the university is a large and complex beast - in many ways!

Some good news on the writing front this evening - my poem, "King's Cross, Sundays, 1992-1993" won the DSJT "On Parting" poetry award and appears in this month's issue of "Writers' News" magazine - http://www.writersnews.co.uk - along with a very kind and positive critique by judge, Alison Chisholm. In the same magazine, I've also been shortlisted for the Last Line short story competition, so a gratefully received double dose of good news indeed. Wish this would rub off on my novel submissions though ...

Also received the latest edition of fiction/poetry magazine, "Tears in the Fence" - will subscribe for another year, mainly because the prose is so good, though I'm not that keen on the poetry included in it, which seems somewhat beyond my understanding. I'd be happy if it was made into a pure prose magazine - surely there's a market for that in the UK!

Anne Brooke

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tuesday 7 February 2006

A day in London doing the Southern Universities Administrative Development Programme (SUADP) course, which isn't as bad as it sounds. We've got a good and talkative group. This month's topic was Planning, which was fine but didn't set my world on fire. I think I'm better off with the more "soft skilled" topics, such as Managing People, and Leadership & Teamwork, both of which number amongst the delights to come. Had a moment of panic at the fact that Lord H kindly drove me to the station in the morning, but the road was blocked and we had to go to the next station down the line instead. How I hate it when the routine - my only link to normality, I'm sure! - is shot to pieces ...

Good to be home though. My favourite place. I really don't like going to London for anything these days. Perhaps my outlook is becoming more parochial, but it's just the way it is. I should be going to Guildford Writers - http://www.guildfordwriters.net - but I've decided there's no way I can go out again at all on a day I've had to do battle with the great metropolis. So that's the way it will have to be until the course ends in June, or unless the GWs' programme ends up not coinciding with SUADP days post-Easter.

This evening will be full of catching up with the Friday night American comedy programme fest on the video. Time to chill out indeed.

Anne Brooke

Monday, February 06, 2006

Monday 6 February 2006

A day for chugging along at work. Had a nice walk round campus at lunchtime though - some of the buds are out and there are the first signs of crocuses which cheered me up. Had an informal team meeting, where we discuss anything and everything - today, it was religion, freedom of speech and forgiveness. So never say our focus is too narrow. Cappuccino good too. Also did some preparation for tomorrow's monthly training day in London - the focus will be on planning, which doesn't grip me, but the group I'm in is very lively so no doubt it will be better than I anticipate.

Tonight it's "Life on Mars" and "The Thick of It", so I will be a TV slob for the evening. Wonderful.

Anne Brooke

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sunday 5 February 2006: 4th Before Lent

Managed to get to church today after a 2 week break. This is good as I am the Sacristan, so responsible for preparing the altar etc for the communion services. It's just that I've found religion - not to mention God - hard going recently. It just doesn't seem to relate to the way I see God at the moment - or don't see him. I'm in the middle of reading a rather good book by American Philip Yancey called "Disappointment with God" - I usually hate books about religion or God, but this one fell off the shelf at me (metaphorically), and it seems to be pitched at the level I am right now. Today, at church, I liked one of the hymns, which made me think that maybe there's something out there after all, but the sermon put my back up. Big time. Contrary to the theme of the piece, I actually believe freedom of speech is a good thing and God is big enough and - dare I say it? - ugly enough to take the flak. And have more of a sense of humour about it than our rector would have us believe. Darn it, though, at least I was listening.

A round of golf post-church with Lord H (husband) cheered me up - we had a good time. Sometimes I'm sure life makes more sense on the golf course than it ever does in the pews. Then again, maybe the good lord might say the same.

My agent, John Jarrold - http://www.sff.net/people/john-jarrold/about.html - has emailed me today about his efforts with my 4th novel, "Maloney's Law." I've also told him that my 5th novel, "Thorn in the Flesh" is out with The Literary Consultancy - http://www.literaryconsultancy.co.uk - for critique before I send it to him. At the same time, I've given him the first 3 chapters of "The Gifting" for his comment, as he's a fantasy expert. Re "Maloney's Law", he says the following:

"Right, well we've heard from Penguin, Time Warner, Random House and Headline. It's still with Hodder, Transworld, Macmillan and Harper Collins, and they have promised replies ASAP. I'm also in touch with Serpent's Tail and a couple of other smaller publishers. I think the very positive thing about the replies we've had so far is that they all like your writing. Most fiction editors see around thirty books every week and take on two or three new writers in a full year, so to have responses that are encouraging is a Good Thing! It's a step forward on a very long road. I have meetings set up with most of the editors who have seen - or are still considering - Maloney's Law in the next month and further reports will wing their way to you the second I have news."

Nice to hear that people like what I write of course and it's very nice of John to be so encouraging, but it doesn't seem to get me any nearer publication. In some ways I wish they'd say I was rubbish, then the constant glimmers of hope and subsequent knock-backs might be easier to bear. It's terribly depressing. I've been so long on this road with work (6 years now, and onto my 6th novel) that I wonder how anyone gets published at all. And what exactly the UK publishing industry thinks it is about. The longer this goes on, the more I think that approaching only small independents with a little more courage in their veins, or simply self-publishing every time is the best - and certainly most enjoyable - way forward. Still, that would be unfair on poor JJ, so for the moment I'll see what he comes up with. But, bearing in mind past experience with the publishing trade, I am not holding my breath. And I'm prepared to self-publish and be damned indeed.

Have just finished a wonderful book by Barry McCrea - "The First Verse" - I was starting to think I'd never find a book again that actually gripped me and which I couldn't put down, but this one proved me wrong. Fascinating characters - mainly gay - and very dark. Just the style I warm to. When I wasn't reading about it, I was thinking about it, and that to me is the mark of a great book. It's about young Niall (Irish) who gets involved in a mystical book cult in his first year at university, and is unable to let it go, to the detriment of "real life" happening around him. For me - and at the risk of being pretentious - it's a metaphor for how books can grip us so we live in their worlds and the "real world" around us drifts away. True for writing too, as far as I'm concerned. Sometimes when I'm at work or doing something dull at home, all I can think about is my next scene or what my character is going to do next. Heavens, how we all need our fantasy worlds.

Anyway, it's Star Trek soon (another great fantasy world!) and I can't miss that. So here's today's haiku:

Wind the coffee up
and let the minotaur dance.
Heart's wild images.

Anne Brooke

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Saturday 4 February 2006

Not much writing done today, but hey everyone needs a break. Had a glorious Clarins facial this morning - my monthly treat - and followed it up by a last minute shopping session for an outfit for a civil partnership ceremony I'm attending in a couple of weeks' time. Luckily managed to get a wonderful green velvet long jacket from Debenham's, which I can match with one of two green tee-shirts (different shades - contrary to what my closest friends think, I can occasionally understand colour ...) and my posh black trousers. Will probably look like Oscar Wilde, but surely that will somehow be fitting.

Then a frantic house-clean to show willing and into the weekend. Can't miss "Monk" which, thank goodness has returned to us after a brief absence. And this evening it's "Sea of Souls" - ghostly tosh with class. I love it. And it will take my mind off the mound of ironing I need to do. And of course I have the regular Friday night American comedy diet to catch up on after last night's theatre trip to "Lysistrata" - not the best production in the world but cleverly modernised and the schoolchildren were having a riot. And it's always good to see large balloons used as makeshift penises - the original "Carry On" indeed. Plus ca change.

Anne Brooke

Friday, February 03, 2006

Friday 3 February 2006

A day of drama at home - have had the firemen out. The neighbour in the flat beneath ours lit a fire and the chimney caught light! Whilst beavering away in my writer's garret, I did think that it seemed a surprisingly foggy day (great swathes of dark grey smoke drifting past the spare room windows, you'd think I would have guessed ...). Next thing I knew there were 6 hunky fireman with pleasantly large hoses pouring water onto the chimney up a ladder, and a nice flashy engine outside.

However we are all safe - luckily - though as I look out the window now, the chimney does seem to have more cracks than normal. Hmm. Though the fire brigade promise it's safe and the neighbour is going to get it checked out, cleaned and relined soonest. Till then, he'll be using his central heating only. My, the fun we have in Surrey! And such nice totty visiting on a Friday too - it's enough to make any girl swoon ...

There's a short story in there for someone, surely ...

And in the meantime I've managed to do another 2000 words of "The Gifting" - have just about got Simon to the point of near death at the end of Chapter Three. Which will with a bit of luck be a nice page-turner to persuade people to turn over to Chapter Four. We live in hope.

Also had lunch with a good friend of mine from my Detica (old job) days - Ronnie Yearsley - a charming raconteur of the old school. Would that he'd write his memoirs, but he always declines whenever I nag. Shame.

I have to say that last night's trip to the theatre was something of a disappointment. In spite of the glowing (well, almost glowing) review in the Surrey Advertiser, I thought Alan Bennett's "The Old Country" was boring, clunky and meaningless. Even Timothy West, playing the main character, seemed to be so bored he hadn't even bothered to learn his lines properly. Not that I can blame him for that. Still, we made our first venture into the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre's Vanbrugh Club which, thankfully, sells ice cream - we were in dire need by the interval. It was full of fogies, but pleasant ones, though we soon escaped to the more cosy surroundings of the top floor. Pity it's not open for matinees though.

Tonight we're seeing "Lysistrata" at Christ's Hospital school - so we will I'm sure be better people after it. Takes me back to my Classical days.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Thursday 2 February 2006

I'm restarting my journal here, as the previous one I've had since January seems to have escaped into the ether - hope this one works a little longer!

It's been a day off work attempting to get to grips with the beginning of my sixth novel, "The Gifting" - which is turning out to be a fantasy tale about a mind-reader, Simon, who is threatened by death and is forced to start a journey into the unknown in order to save his life. And I've finally found a surname for him too - de Trevit - so that's a relief. I do like to know what my main characters are called somewhere along the line.

Have just listened to the Radio 4 afternoon reading - "The Kitchen Goddess and the Trumans" by Nadia Al Yafai - a fantastic erotic tale about food and relationships - more of that quality please, Radio 4!

Have also just finished reading James Manlow's novel, "Attraction". I have to say I was disappointed as I think he's a great poet. The novel however is rather irritating and very clunky - too many asides about science and both the main characters were extremely unlikeable. The end came as a welcome relief.

Am off to the theatre tonight with Lord H (as husband likes to be known) - so will have to make sure food is ready by the time he comes home. Goodness how domestic I am - not!

Anne Brooke