Sunday, March 30, 2008

Reviews and the web

Delighted to see that Alex Beecroft, author of Captain's Surrender (a high-octane fun read!) has put a review of A Dangerous Man on the US Amazon site - and as they don't stock it, here's the review:

“A gorgeously written, tense and creepy book, combining a love story and an artist's passion for his work into a force that makes the narrator of the book a very dangerous man. Not for those who like their fiction fluffy, this is a real work of literature.”

Thanks, Alex! And I was trying so hard to be fluffy ... ah well.

And talking of Amazon, I gather that they're having a serious crackdown on small publishers who use POD (print-on-demand) technology - which probably explains why so few of our Goldenford books are ever in stock on Amazon these days, and also why Thorn in the Flesh has never been in stock there. Interestingly, my test request for a copy from Amazon UK is now over one month old and still shown as outstanding on my account - yet I've heard nothing from them. Even though they can get it within only a few days from Gardners UK (book stockists and distributors). I fear that the little people are once again about to be shafted by the big conglomerates. Honestly, it really pisses me off - so much for individual choice, eh. Buggers. UPDATE: Gosh how weird - Amazon have just emailed me saying they are still trying to obtain a copy of Thorn in the Flesh for me and do I still want it? Um, yes. Actually I do. Get off your arses and send an email to Gardners, you idjits!!! Ye gods, how thick can one company get??!

Anyway, for most of the day, I've been slogging away updating the old Goldenford site and I think that - with Lord H's valuable help - I am now almost there. I just need to sort one or two of the book covers out, upload the PayPal details, work out a transfer schedule and we're done. I hope! Actually, I've thoroughly enjoyed doing it - computer creativity is a marvellous thing - but it's utterly exhausting too.

I've also packed my bags for next week's AUA conference - that's the Association of University Administrators, for the 99.9% of you not in the know on that one. I'm off bright & early tomorrow to York and don't get back till Wednesday evening. Depending on the traffic. Am also hoping to go and see my aunt while I'm up there - when we will spend a lot of time not talking about my writing, as that part of the family find it so terribly unsettling. I think the poor thing is still in shock at having tried to read A Dangerous Man - so she's going to find Thorn in the Flesh even more startling, I'm sure!

Anyway, as I'm away for a few days, I hope the beginning of your weeks are all as good as possible, and I'll be back blogging on Thursday - if I recover from my breakfast radio interview in time, that is!

This week's haiku:

In the slate-grey day
the road is full of bridges.
They whisper secrets.

Today's nice things:

1. Alex's review of A Dangerous Man
2. Website creativity
3. Haikus.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
The old Goldenford site

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Walks and websites

Took advantage of the unexpected gap between bouts of torrential rain today to go for a walk around Ockham Common. Very nice it was too, although the noise levels from the M25 are pretty dire. Such a shame. Due to the wind, we didn't see too many birds either, though we did spot a kestrel (hurrah!), robins, chaffinches and something that Lord H said might have been a female blackcap (they're red on top, confusingly) - though I must admit I failed to notice that one. I also had a moment's sheer panic when my Wellington boots got stuck in what appeared to be a swamp, but Lord H nobly rescued me before the mud came up beyond my neck. Swoon! What a hero. I hadn't even realised we had swamps in Surrey.

For the rest of the day, I have been grappling womanfully with changing the old Goldenford website beyond all recognition. Lordy, but I wish I hadn't chosen a template which uses side PDF-to-GIF images instead of text, double dammit! Still, with Lord H's help, I have beaten the buggers into submission and am thoroughly GIFfed-out. My main worries now are the logos, the book pictures and the nightmare of PAYPAL, plus fiddling around with showing more links from the Books page, but frankly my dears, that's the icing on the cake, and I'm just glad I'm still standing! Have to say I do enjoy it though - I'm just a Website Whore really.

Tonight, there's sod all on TV, so Lord knows what we're going to do. Might watch a video, or even do the odd line or two to The Bones of Summer, but I'm not sweating it. As they say.

Oh, and I must say that the downstairs neighbour has had a rather amusing Bin Crisis, poor love, and has been telling me all about it. Here at the scary end of Godalming, we take great pride in keeping our bins clean (yes, I know - we probably do need to get out more ...), and it's the downstairs neighbour's turn at the moment. The binmen collected on Tuesday, and Henry was telling me that he'd been shocked beyond measure to see the state our bin had somehow got itself in. And, bearing in mind that Henry survived the Russian Front in World War II, you can imagine what a state it must have been in. Well, he then spent about thirty minutes tackling it with a scrubbing brush and hot soapy water and unpeeling the Gloop of Ages from the bottom before realising that ... um ... it wasn't actually our bin. Ah well. Next door must be thrilled with their new gleaming rubbish depository and, in the meantime, I've suggested Henry send them an invoice. Could be the start of a whole new career, you know.

I've just finished Nii Ayikwei Parkes' poetry pamphlet, Eyes of a Boy, Lips of a Man. Must admit that some of it left me utterly cold and felt as if it was struggling too hard. But wonderful poems like "The Bite", "Tin Roof" and "Rendezvous with Death" make up for it all, and justify the cost of the book. Certainly an interesting poet, in his best work at least.

Today's nice things:

1. Walking around Ockham Common
2. Working on the old Goldenford website
3. Thinking about poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Old Goldenford site

Friday, March 28, 2008

Radio date and the Web Mistress

I really have to say that yesterday's trip to the theatre to see Our Friends in the North was an utter disaster! It was dreadful. For a start it lasted nearly four hours with only one interval, all the characters were completely unappealing and we seemed to have the same short scene over and over again, only with different people in it. Um, yes, we caught on quite early that the theme was politics and corruption, but we didn't need to have that message drummed into us more than twice. And really there was no humanity in it. I do have to say that by the time we'd all dragged ourselves to the interval, we could take no more - so Lord H and I left in order to run, screaming, to the hills. We just couldn't face another two hours of it. There was one glorious moment though - when the woman in the scene just before half-time suddenly said, "Do you know? I think we've been here years. I'm terrified we'll never get to leave ..." and I don't really know whether that was scripted or not. Either way, I'm sure we all felt the same. Shakespeare it ain't.

Anyway, to this morning. I have arranged an interview on Southern Counties Radio and it's going to be on the Breakfast Show on Thursday 3 April at 6.50am. I'd better make sure my teeth are brushed in that case! And try to stop hyperventilating between now and then ... Hmm, I foresee a run on those calming pills.

For the rest of the day, I have started to create a new website for Goldenford. The old one is very creaky, and we just need something zappy and stylish to go with our zappy stylish novels. I'm pleased with what I've done so far, but feel that I need the guiding hand of Lord H in order to do anything complicated with it. With any luck, I might have got it sorted by the end of April, but don't hold your breath! I've also added another 500 words to The Bones of Summer and am well into the flashback scene now. So that's 65,000 words in total, hurrah!

Also managed to squeeze in some essential shopping in Godalming, but missed anyone coming up to me asking for a novel, tee hee. Mind you, my hair does look rather wild today (forgot to blow-dry it, you know), so perhaps they were all put off by my Wild Woman of Borneo look? One can only hope ...

Tonight, I'm planning to watch yesterday's video of "Ashes to Ashes" and then, oh joy, there's "Torchwood". Oh and Lord H has won the work quiz so we have wine, double hurrah! I may even treat myself to a glass or two. Lordy, but I'm such a wild child - must be the hair ...

Today's nice things:

1. Arranging a radio interview
2. Writing
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers' site - for the next month anyway!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thorn taster and the radio queen

If you're wanting a taster of Thorn in the Flesh, ie the first two chapters to whet your appetite, the lovely people at the Storytellers' Cafe have very kindly posted it here. Enjoy! Also huge thanks to Felicity who calls the excerpt "fantastic and compelling". Gosh, thanks, Felicity! That's certainly made my day.

Which, all in all, has been very nice really. I had a lovely two hour facial and back massage today at the Clarins salon at the Guildford House of Fraser. Wonderful. Honestly, I feel like a new woman afterwards. Lord H will be pleased. And my therapist even bought a copy of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice, so what a sweetie indeed. My cup runneth over ... Oh, sorry, that's just the way I'm dressed.

From there, I went straight to lunch in Godalming with Jane H and Ang - hello, both! On my way to get some money out in the High Street, I then met an old friend I haven't seen for ages, who congratulated me on my appearance in the Surrey Advertiser and even bought a copy of Thorn. Goodness me, I seem to have discovered the secret to marketing my books - all I have to do is stand in Godalming High Street with an armful of novels, look suitably pathetic and the customers will come to me ... Ho ho.

Back home, I discover that Fred Marden at Southern Counties Radio would like to interview me - at least I think that's why he rang. Or maybe he just likes redheads? It's hard to tell. Anyway, I have rung back and left a message, and he's going to ring again tomorrow morning after he's finished his breakfast programme. I've always said I have a good face for radio - hmm, maybe I should start trying to tone down my Essex accent? Once he hears that, no doubt he will be running to the hills, screaming ... Still, it's certainly nice to be asked! Bloody hell, let's be honest - I'm so excited that I'm frothing at the mouth and running to the loo every five minutes. My, I'm such a professional.

This afternoon, I have managed another 500 words to The Bones of Summer and am just about to get Craig into a rather traumatic flashback scene. As you do. Though it's not as traumatic as what's actually happening to the poor guy now. Ah, make 'em suffer is what I say.

Tonight, Lord H and I are off to the theatre in Guildford to see Our Friends in the North. All about corruption and power apparently (I never saw the TV series, I must admit ...) - so very like the home life of our own dear Queen. Allegedly. As my mother is a Geordie lass, I'll be checking to see they have the accent right. Stotty cake, miners and whippets - takes me back to my youth, you know.

Today's nice things (so many to note!):

1. The Thorn extract at the Storytellers' Cafe
2. Clarins treatments
3. Lunch with the gals
4. Being contacted by radio people(!)
5. Theatre.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Reviews, birdseed and grappling with Bones

My goodness, but by the time I'd got to the end of yesterday I felt like a whipped dog. (So I had one delivered, boom boom - sorry, couldn't resist it ...) It was a real struggle just to summon up the will to get to bed and, at the same time, I was so wired I would probably have shot off into the great beyond if the ceiling hadn't got in the way. A tricksy little combination, all in all.

Still, today things have improved a little - mostly thanks to Jackie who posted a review of Thorn in the Flesh on Amazon UK, and which I reproduce below:

"In Thorn in the Flesh, Anne Brooke has written a book that is full of passion and tension. The heroine, Kate Harris, is a strong, resilient woman but, after a violent attack and stalked by the unknown aggressor, she cannot help but attract our sympathy. And so we follow her throughout the book, observing her tender relationships with the people she loves. We also accompany her on her journey into the past to places we would rather not go – to the darkest of places in the present. Anne Brooke gives an authentic feel to the seamy underbelly of London, where down-and-outs live in their own sub-culture and where Kate Harris is forced to go in her quest for the truth. In contrast, Brooke also describes the cosy environment of Godalming, where Kate lives and where much of the action takes place. Throughout the journey, readers will be on the edge of their seat and will remain there until the climax of the story, at the very end. A book that should not be missed. Anne Brooke's best, so far."

Gosh, thanks, Jackie - much appreciated! I like a touch of the seamy underbelly, myself.

Talking of which, I have sauntered down to the surgery this morning to have my annual medical review (a necessity in a family riddled with diabetes and bowel cancer - well, it's always good to have a hobby, you know). Sadly, they're not greatly impressed with my results and I have to go back next week and do it all over again, dammit. If they're still not happy then, they will have to send the tests away to the Powers That Be so everyone can have a good laugh and then shoot me. That's the rumour anyway. I'd best get on with the ruddy novel then!

As I have done. Writing today has seemed a bit easier (oh thank God, thank God!) and I have managed another 1000 words to The Bones of Summer. Which means poor Craig is in even hotter water than he was yesterday. Things ain't looking good, down there on the farm ... And I've also managed a poem - well, you have to have something to occupy yourself in the Doctor's waiting room ...


Sometimes I wonder
if in fact
the best
already lies

and all
I’m doing now
is scrabbling
for what might
have been

and what
never will.

Yes well, I did say yesterday was bad ... Ho hum. I've also managed to fit in a quick visit to Gladys in the nursing home and have restocked her bird-table with vast layers of seed. So we had a lot of fun watching robins, chaffinches, blue tits and great tits, all vying for food supremacy. Also heard a green woodpecker, but never actually managed to spot it. This afternoon, the air seems full of that distinctive yaffle, both at the nursing home and here - perhaps they've set up a tape recording? Evolution is a marvellous thing.

Have just finished Kate Atkinson's One Good Turn. A very good read and highly recommended. It felt strangely like a real book with characters and plot and depth - not like the Booker offerings they thrust in our direction these days. I particularly loved Martin and Gloria, though I could have done with a more satisfying tying up of the many loose ends at the finale. I imagine a sequel is in the offing though ... In any case I can highly recommend it.

Today's nice things:

1. Jackie's review of Thorn
2. Birdwatching with Gladys
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rejections, bones and fruit

Drifted round Sainsbury's this morning (not my usual shop, you know - I'm a Tesco Girl myself) getting the weekly shop and surprised myself by actually finding everything I wanted. Ye gods. Even the birdseed I'm getting for Gladys as her nursing home room has a bird-table in front of it and she was complaining about the lack of birds. I found it amongst the cat food - which has some kind of food-chain sense, I suppose.

This morning's surprise rejection was from a small publisher for The Gifting - not much of a surprise in itself as Rejection is my middle name. But they had already rejected it last month and, in addition, they addressed the email to Lord H. Is something going on I don't know about? Ah, many many things, I fear. I also fear that (a) I am losing any sense of identity I ever had, and (b) they will reject me again next month and this time will address the email to my mother. Deep sigh. I must be caught in a temporal loop somewhere. Again.

I've also been struggling with scraping out more words for The Bones of Summer and today it's been a real struggle. Even Craig is becoming bored with my indecision and lack of commitment. Poor love. Still, I have peered over the parapet of 63,000 words so feel I can lie down and rest for a while. In the meantime, the glorious Nik Perring has very sweetly edited my short story, How to eat fruit, for me and I have factored those changes in. Huge thanks, Nik - you're a star. As ever. Now I just have to decide what to do with it.

Mind you, I'd best make a decision soon as my memory is likely to run out any day now - I read in the news that women on HRT with lots of oestrogen in it have better memories and are less likely to suffer from Alzheimer's. Bearing in mind that I have had apparently virtually no oestrogen since Lord knows when, it's astonishing I can remember my own name. Can I ever make up my lack now?? Which, possibly, brings me round to those rejections again. Maybe I did send a second submission thinking I was Lord H? It's not beyond the realms of possibility ...

Oh, and I've had a response to the Surrey Advertiser article on Thorn in the Flesh. The admin team at the Guildford Sexual Abuse Centre have sent a very lovely email and asked if, given the subject matter of the novel, I might like to donate a signed copy. Which of course I am more than happy to do, even though Kate's story and its ending is very specific to her. They do bloody good work.

Tonight, I'll be minuting the Goldenford meeting and hoping for an early night. Well, playing with words is exhausting, you know. I don't actually have terribly hopeful news on the sales front to give them either - month for month, I'm about one-third down on Thorn sales as compared to Pink Champagne and Apple Juice, the latter selling 60 in the first month as compared to the former's 40. I suppose my usual gay readership isn't biting, and it's not an easy read even for a more mainstream audience. Ah well.

Still, it's not all pain and misery on the literary front (or not as much as usual anyway) - I did get my money from the ALCS today - but only £61. Which is, to my shame, less than every other writer I know! I can only hope that I'm using Lord H's name there too and there might be a second bite of the cherry. Dream on eh ...!

Today's nice things:

1. Nik's help with the short story
2. The response to the Thorn article
3. Goldenford.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hunks and fruit

There's a title to conjure with indeed. And so very un-Easterlike too. Lord H & I had quite a jolly day yesterday - the Easter service at St Mary's was fine, and I fell in love with the perfume of the woman behind me and quizzed her about it during the Peace. As you do. Apparently it's called "Angel", appropriately enough. Church - such a useful place to stare at (and sniff at) other women and see if they have anything that might suit you. I was also rather taken with the mauve jumper of one of the women taking communion, but appreciated that leaping up and yelling excuse me, where did you get that? whilst she was communing with the Lord probably wasn't the best etiquette. Shame I missed her afterwards though ...

Due to the inclemency of Sunday's weather (good God, snow - whatever next?!?), we opted for staying in. A wise move. I made the most of the opportunity by watching my video of "Fifth Element". Glorious ham really, but it grew on me and had some very funny lines. Plus Bruce Willis showing his torso - what could be nicer? There's something incredibly sexy about La Willis, even though I don't usually go for that type of man. Too many muscles, my dear Mozart. I prefer 'em willowy and lean.

I also had a marvellous time lapping up the last of "Lark Rise to Candleford". Utterly wonderful and I swear Julia Sawalha has never been better. And such huge emotional turning points and moments of high drama were happening (I have absolutely no idea why everyone says nothing happens in LR to C - my dears, everything happens!!! It just doesn't come with noise, car chases or dead bodies - well, not many anyway - which may be why people are being fooled? Anyway, it's crammed with incident, so sod the critics). Please, please, please give us a second series. Soon.

We also meandered our way through "The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency". Ah, poor Minghella - what a waste. Anyway it was perfectly charming, and I seriously loved the secretary (there's a woman who can kick ass) - but it was really a tad too long. You could have done it all in an hour. I hope they bear that in mind when the series hits our screens next year. Though I suspect I may not watch more than one or two - I only read two of the books, and by then I'd got the hang of it and wasn't really interested in reading another. Hush my mouth, eh.

Which brings me to today. Lord H and I have wandered around the River Wey in various parts and sneaked up on some birds in the rain - including dunnocks, tufted ducks, woodpeckers of both ilks, a plethora of tits and a warbler-sized bird with a black head and a white collar that we couldn't identify at all. Dammit. If anyone has any ideas, please don't be shy!

Back home, I've been working away on my short story, "How to eat fruit", and it's now finished, hurrah. Or at least draft one is anyway. It seems more literary than my usual fare, so I'll let it fester for a while before I look at it again. I do feel pleased I've actually written a short story though - it's been a while. Still, best get back to seeing what the hell is going on with The Bones of Summer before Craig - and I - lose the will to live entirely.

Tonight, I'm planning on watching "The Fixer" - the guy who plays the main role is so wonderfully dour. Great stuff.

Today's (well, and yesterday's) nice things:

1. Bruce Willis
2. Birds
3. Writing
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Home Horror Brought to Book!

Was greatly pleased today when Lord H came back from the shops with the Surrey Advertiser (Godalming edition) to find that I and Thorn in the Flesh were in it. Hurrah! Naturally the sudden rush of local fame and fortune appeals to my essentially shallow and worthless nature ... Actually, it's a very good article by Luke Jacobs (thank you, Luke!) - who somehow made sense of my crazed meanderings - and a photo which even makes me look human. I was also amused by the article headline, which appeared just under my photo - "Home Horror Brought to Book" - which makes me sound wonderfully like an evil arch-criminal who has just been arrested by the police. Which I suppose isn't too far from the truth. From now on, I shall always sign myself as the Home Horror. You know it makes sense.

Lord H and I have also just completed our final (sob!) "Torchwood" online mission. Which was great - I had to save Ianto from certain death by using the signal jamming mechanism in time. Fab stuff! I succeeded - in case you're wondering, so he will be in the next episode, phew. In fact Ianto was so pleased with us both that there may well be a Torchwood job offer in the pipeline for us, apparently. Mind you, that might be withdrawn once he sees the local paper headlines ... In the meantime, Lord H and I have set up the Torchwood satellite mission in Godalming - single- or rather double-handedly, we have pledged to save Godalming from alien invasion (oh no, it's too late, I fear) and are even hoping to set up one of those nice pavement lifts outside the Pepperpot (old town hall). It'll be so handy for the shops. And actually if it had been in place while my Kate was having her Pepperpot traumas in Thorn in the Flesh, then she may not have needed to worry quite so much after all. Lordy, what is my brain like?? I think I may be making too many wild mental connections here, even for me.

Anyway, today we have visited The Vyne in Basingstoke and wandered round the house, gardens and bird viewing areas. Bloody freezing, Carruthers, but we managed to miss most of the rain - and snow. It helped that I was layered up like a Michelin Man. And is it something about my jolly and approachable (ho ho) face? - because every single ruddy National Trust guide in every single ruddy room engaged me in long conversations about pannelling, tapestries crockery, pictures, history and anything else that took their fancy whilst Lord H strolled round the room in blissful quiet. Goddammit, people, I just want to be left alone to admire stuff and think! I ended up dodging round tables and pretending to be engrossed in the views from the windows in a vain attempt to avoid the information-conveying hordes. Sigh, I suppose it is early in the NT season, so they're all geared up to expound their newly-gathered knowledge, but I have been there before. Several times. Anyway, Lord H promises me that the next time we go, he will carry a big stick and beat them with it if they try to talk to me. I shall also try to remember to put on my new Home Horror face and hope that will discourage them.

Tonight, I might try to do a bit more to The Bones of Summer and see if I can dredge anything sensible up from my rapidly depleting literary pool. Don't wait up then. I don't hold out much hope. And there's something about Richard the Lionheart on TV later, so I might watch that. It's eddi-cational, you know.

Have just finished Edward Storey's New & Selected Poems. Some of them I really loved and gave me that punched-in-the-gut feeling (always welcome when reading poems), such as the very Keatsian "In the Museum" or the reflective "Look at Yourself" which contains the ace end line: "Cold eyes will be where stars were, and the mirror bare." Fabulous. However, many of the rest of them were rather clunky and prosaic and there was way too much homage to John Clare (not my favourite poet, West Wind or no West Wind). I think it would have been overall better quality if some of the pieces in the collection had been cut, but for the ten to fifteen poems which for me really sang, it was bloody worth the purchase.

This week's haiku (early, I know, but hell tomorrow is Easter after all):

Good Friday visit
home: the unbearable weight
of expectation.

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful Easter day, and I'll be back on Monday.

Today's nice things:

1. The Surrey Advertiser article
2. The Vyne
3. Poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, March 21, 2008

Day with Mother!

Arrgghhh!!! No, sorry, that just came out. As it were. You know how it is. Anyway, Lord H and I have done our Mother duty and we can tick that one off our list, ho ho - so the rest of the weekend is our own (cue evil laughter ...). Which, funnily enough, is exactly what Mother said, except she substituted the word "Daughter" where I've typed "Mother" in the last sentence. And missed out the reference to Lord H. Lord preserve me, but perhaps we are indeed more alike than I'll admit. Noooooooo!!!!!! Somebody pass me the aspirin bottle now and save me the misery later.

Anyway, it wasn't too bad really. Lordy, what am I saying?? We had a nice lunch and popped out in the afternoon so we could deliver her church magazines round the village. During that little outing, I only tried to strangle her and suffocate her with her own woolly hat once (each), so really I consider I was on my best behaviour, all in all. Though I have to admit she did come in useful in the houses where there were wild dogs attempting to tear us limb from limb: under those circumstances I simply stayed in the car and sent her into the fray. Well, she's my Mother - she ought to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice if need be. That's her job. Besides of which, I have more of my life left (one hopes), so you know it makes sense. Lordy, but I hate dogs. At risk of being torn limb from limb by rabid British dog owners, I really don't like dogs. The only good one is a dead one, in my opinion. Hmm. Maybe, having said that, Mother is likely to live longer than me after all ...

During the afternoon, I attempted to take a brief nap while Mother and Lord H struggled with the jigsaw that my aunt bought her for her birthday. Really, it's a constant astonishment how my aunt - who has known my mother for 77 years, man and boy - has no idea what my mother is like. Honestly, I think that said aunt only sees the sister she knew when she was 12. She forgets we've all moved on. Because the fact remains that my mother absolutely hates jigsaws and only did some of it today as a sop for when she next meets her sister. The bloody thing has 1000 pieces too, most of which are blue sky. Ah, the lies we all tell and the faces we assume in the family, eh ...

It's also a constant astonishment that Mother talked non-stop through the jigsaw session - and there was I thinking that a jigsaw was a quiet, reflective activity. More fool me, eh. I'm surprised I got any sleep at all.

Anyway, we are now back in the shires, hurrah, and looking forward to "Torchwood" tonight. I really ought to do some cleaning and put a wash on but, frankly, I can't be arsed. We will just have to remain dirty. Which is somehow fitting for the theology of Good Friday, I suppose.

Today's nice things:

1. Ticking off Mother from the list
2. Not being eaten by mad dogs
3. Torchwood.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Insane writers and the shallow chocolate-eater

Rushed into town this morning to get a shed-load of stuff which has been waiting to be bought for weeks. However, commerce is - once again - against me. I couldn't find half the stuff I wanted (deep sigh) and when I got home some of the stuff I'd actually bought was the wrong ruddy stuff (deeper sigh): it's just that the ruddy retailer had put the oil in the place where they usually put the soap and in the same packaging. So I'm no further forward. Plus I have something extra I don't need yet. And I still have to go back and get the things I really wanted at some point. Bloody hell - is it just me or do other people go haywire and get utterly stressed out when simple things don't go to plan?? I mean I could probably cope with style and finesse if World War Three broke out in Godalming (that den of crime and unrest), but I fall into a sobbing wreck when I can't find my soap. Hell, maybe I really am mad. This reminds me of a quote from a book I'm currently reading where Person A (reader) comments on what a glamorous lifestyle writers must have, and Person B (writer) thinks that there is surely nothing glamorous about being indoors for seven hours at a stretch trying not to go insane. There's wisdom in that, by George ...

Anyway, while in Godalming, I did manage to buy a Cadbury's Creme Egg to take as a small Easter present to my friend in hospital. However, by the time I got back in the car, I was so jazzed up and unable at all to cope with any more social interaction of any kind that I actually drove home instead and ate it myself. Even though I know chocolate is bad for my insulin problems, it went nicely with the De-Stress pill I found. Which only goes to show what a shallow, heartless bitch I am - taking chocolate from the mouths of the sick ... Shocking. I am sure that, in this Easter season, this is Not What Jesus Would Do. As that wretched evangelical bracelet doesn't say ...

Anyway, back here on the ranch where I am safe from meeting any people at all, I have made good the extra time gained from my day by finishing the whole of the edit to Irene's Darshan for Goldenford. Another wonderful literary novel, Irene! And what an ending - utterly fabulous.

I've just seen that A Dangerous Man has been included, along with other Flame Books publications, in the Amber Square listings (which is a new project to market books from small independent publishers - more power to their elbow, I say!) here. I'm hoping it might even sell a few more copies - well, you never know your luck.

And I've managed - in superspeedy mode - to solve the latest "Torchwood" mission, hurrah! Mind you, I've had to as the answer needs to be in by tomorrow night, dammit. They're obviously building up the tension to the grand finale, as they normally give us a week to solve the mystery. Still, I'm pretty pleased that I managed it on my own - it wasn't easy, I can tell you. You had to be damn quick at writing stuff down in order to get it. Still, writing damn quick is my middle name, so I suppose I shouldn't complain.

Tonight, Lord H and I are having dinner at the Yvonne Arnaud theatre and then seeing The Late Edwina Black - which in that photo looks deliciously camp and just the sort of thing we warm to. Here's hoping it fulfils its promise, eh.

Today's nice things (more than three - ye gods, the pills must be working ...!):

1. Guilty chocolate eating
2. Editing Darshan
3. Solving the "Torchwood" mission
4. Another marketing avenue for A Dangerous Man
5. The theatre.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Fragility, visiting and socks

Still feeling fragile today, but calmer, thank the Lord. Bearing in mind I’ve had a couple of wobbly sessions recently, I’ve decided to go back on the super-powered Vitamin B pills the doctor gave me and which I stopped taking – yes, foolishly, no doubt – about a month or so ago. Lord H was quick to agree, so the poor chap has obviously been bearing the brunt of my traumas. In noble silence. Again. So I’ve taken one today and we’ll see how I go.

At work, I am keeping my head down, avoiding getting involved with anything remotely resembling a lost professor and typing up my minutes from yesterday. Not to mention feeling my way through the Marketing stuff. Ho hum. We are all much cheered here at the coal-face however by the fact that our postman has bought us each a mini-chocolate Lindor egg for Easter. My favourites. What a star! He obviously either (a) finds us amusing or (b) is relieved to discover that there’s an office which has more crises than his does. Either way we’re grateful and hope to rush out and buy something nice for him later on. Which we managed to do, phew! Ah, it restores your faith in humanity, you know. Not only that but today Ruth found the keys she lost yesterday – so another Easter miracle, hurrah!

And I was quite pleased with myself that I managed to write another 500 words of The Bones of Summer last night and they sort of made sense. I hope. And the section post-mini edit seems sharper too, so that’s a relief. It really did look pretty ropey yesterday, I have to admit. So thank you to those brave Writewords people who are prepared to beat me with twigs until I get it right. Which is a scarily enjoyable image, oo-err, missus. I also think I’m going to change Craig from first person view to third person – it just seems to work better. And gives me something to get my teeth stuck into, which is good.

This lunchtime, I was planning to pop in to visit Gladys in hospital, and take some small Easter gifts for her, including a large-font Bible, a poetry book and some chocolates. All the things she used to like – but of course it’s hard to tell now. However, once at the hospital, I was told she’d been moved to a nursing home in Godalming – I am indeed the forgotten visitor – so I’ll pop in instead on my way home. I hope she likes it there – and at the very least I’m sure it’ll be a better place to die in than the ruddy hospital.

Tonight, I’m planning to go to my last Scottish country dancing session – if I feel up to it, that is. But I’m not pushing it. And it depends how I feel post-Gladys to be honest. And of course, there’s “Torchwood” later on. Aliens – they always make me feel so sane. Ye gods but something has to.

Oh and I have come into work wearing different socks – both shades of black but not the same shade. Sigh. Lordy, if only I knew what a professional veneer actually looked like, eh.

Today’s nice things:

1. Mini-chocolate eggs
2. Odd socks
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A bloody awful day

Bugger of a morning today – I’ve really utterly hated it. Lord but I could do with another job. To be frank. I mean, ye gods, but do I seriously have to do another 20 years of this??? God help us all!! There was lots of stuff dumped on me in which I have zilch interest, and huge amounts of meetings nightmares, including double meetings for those who can’t attend the first set and rescheduling of things so distant I have no real idea what they are. Not only that but everyone seemed to change their minds at least twice as to what they actually wanted or tell me different things from different sides of the fence. Deep deep sigh. And it also appears that things I had no idea were my responsibility apparently are. Dammit.

In the end I got so stressed that I walked out of a meeting set up to try to sort some of these issues out – as in fact the meeting appeared to be making things more complicated, so I didn’t feel it was worth staying, aha. However I don’t think anyone actually noticed how upset and shaky I was – always good to know one’s worth in the company echelons is what I say … Thank God for my early reflexology appointment – I ended up bursting into tears over my poor therapist, who must now count as part-time counsellor and general Good Egg, and she gave me a specially calming and strengthening session. Crisis reflexology – it’s the way forward for office traumas. You know it makes sense.

Anyway, this afternoon, I struggled on amidst the bullets and attempted to avoid the enemy. As you do. I also tried to look at the minutes I have to type up from yesterday’s meeting (arrgh! The “M” word – I can’t bear it!), but goodness knows if they’re actually going to mean anything. I rather seem to have lost the will to live, Carruthers – somebody pass me the smelling salts.

In the meantime, a lost external professor wandered into the office and we sent him off with smiles and a map to where he should have been. Well, we are the caring side of the campus, you know. However when I rang the Secretary of the person the professor was visiting, I was given a complete verbal dressing-down about how I should have sent him somewhere else as he’d been told at least four times where the meeting venue was and why didn’t I tell him that? Well, as it’s the first time I’d ever seen this particular professor and I’m not a mind-reader, it’s hardly surprising I couldn’t tell him what I ruddy well didn’t know – but in spite of fighting a brave rear-guard action, I seemed somehow to get myself involved in ringing up all sorts of people trying to track the poor guy down whilst the original Secretary presumably went off to have a lie-down and a cup of tea. Double dammit. Still, I’m quite proud of the fact that whilst said Secretary was burbling on fairly meaninglessly I did manage to suggest that if she stopped talking quite so much we might solve the problem a little faster. Or words to that effect, aha. Sod the caring side, eh.

Tonight, I was going to go to Guildford Writers but I don’t think I can face any more people. So I think I’ll stay in and act like blob. A blob with no brains. I also put the next section of The Bones of Summer up on the Writewords Novel Group and have already gained mixed criticisms on it – Hell but the person who didn’t like it is probably right. Now I look at it, it is crap, waffly and with no strong character and I should just cut the whole ruddy thing and start again. God, but it’s so depressing sometimes. You never really feel confident in this writing game – or indeed that you’re getting anywhere. Sigh.

Mind you, on the way back to the car park in my increasingly desperate attempt to get home and stay home, Amy from Guildford Writers did stop me and say how much she'd enjoyed Thorn in the Flesh, so much so that she couldn't put it down and thought it was wonderful. Gosh, thanks, Amy - that's the nicest thing that's happened all day. And bloody hell but maybe I can write after all - just not the novel I'm doing now, dammit ...

And here’s a poem (stress is notoriously good for poetry, you know):

Gemini girl

I've always cold-shouldered
the stars

thinking that no planetary conjunction
or accident of birth

was going to organise my life.

Now God doesn't seem
such a reliable concept any more

being a Gemini girl
on the cusp of Cancer

might prove quite the sensible option.

Today’s nice things:

1. Reflexology
2. Amy's kindness
3. Poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, March 17, 2008

Thorn review and multiple meetings

Was thrilled last night to get my second review of Thorn in the Flesh from Margaret Gill, author of young adult novel, Narwhal - as below:

Thorn in the Flesh is a gripping psychological thriller whose central character Kate goes through a whole gamut of emotions from the deeply sensual to the tenderness of true friendship, betrayal, loss, fear, a sense of personality annihilation and nail biting terror. I am constantly amazed by Anne Brooke's ability to understand abnormal levels of perversion. But at the end of this novel one is left not with the feeling of an abnormal caricature but more with a query and urge to understand what strange twist of otherwise normal events could have sown such a tragic seed.”

I’m hugely pleased with that – thank you so much, Margaret! Though naturally “abnormal levels of perversion” are probably pretty normal here in the shires … Or maybe it is just me?

At work, I am caught in a network of complicated meeting arrangements, most of which I am not fully in control of. As ever. The Steering Group appears to have been put back till 1.30pm though we’re still allowed to have lunch, so I’ll be starving by the time I attempt to minute the darn thing. After which I’m supposed to be at another meeting to discuss our new website provider. Which would be fine and no doubt fascinating if I didn’t have homework to do for it before I get there. Darn it. I’m not sure I have the energy for intellectual thought about websites, to be honest, so maybe I shall just have to wing it. Again, as ever.

Tonight, Lord H is at the shops and I’m hoping to edit more of Darshan for Goldenford. Ooh and there’s the second part of “The Fixer” on TV which I thoroughly enjoyed last week, hurrah! I won’t be bothering with Part Two of “The Passion” however. Last night’s episode was clunky, slow and way too pseudo-portentous – and as for that ridiculously clichéd music, well, words fail me. An irritant factor of ten, though we both rather liked Annas and Caiaphas. What a great team. I have to say I gained a greater sense of the reality and strength of the Gospel narratives and the sheer fascination of Jesus as a character from last year’s drama-documentary about Jewish culture and history – if I could only remember its name!

And here’s a poem:

Some things

arrive slowly
and not when you expect them

announcing their presence
like ghosts
or shy guests

who aren't quite sure
if they've come
on the right day.

Best to make them welcome,
apologise for the mess,
clear a chair

and see
what they have to say.

Today’s nice things:

1. The Thorn review
2. Editing
3. Poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Editing city

Lots of rain today. We were thinking about going for a quick walk and looking at birds but the weather soon put a stop to that. However, I have to say the garden was a riot of birds - blue tits, dunnocks, robins and green woodpeckers. Fabulous. And how much more pleasant that we could just stay in the warmth and look out at them.

For most of today, I've been continuing the edit of Darshan for Goldenford and am now on Page 240 of 378. Have discussed one major change to the novel with Irene which I think will give an even greater depth and lyricism to the narrative, but of course it's entirely up to the author. Whatever, it's still a fabulous book.

In the midst of all this, I've managed to check the tyres and water of the car and make a plum and peach crumble for lunch. Oh, I am indeed a Domestic Goddess. Ho ho. The crumble was a bit burnt, I have to admit, so even I am not totally infallible however. Sigh.

Tonight, I'll do more editing, and then intend to watch "The Passion" and "Lewis" on TV. Ideal Sunday night viewing really: spirituality and crime. A great combination in anyone's book. Ooh, and I might even manage to grab myself a brief nap. You never know your luck.

This week's haiku:

The night closes in.
Rain holds the promise of light
withdrawn for a time.

Today's nice things:

1. Editing
2. Birdwatching whilst keeping dry
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Don't break a leg, Mr P!

A lazy lie-in this morning and then I continued with the Darshan edit for Goldenford. I'm now on Page 123 and am enjoying the flow of it. Not making many suggestions either - just typos and one or two minor changes only. Certainly nothing major. It's lovely to edit a novel where it's been given a good polish already. Makes all the difference to the job!

This afternoon, Lord H and I went into Guildford and I stocked up on supplies of Dr Stuart's teas from Food for Thought healthshop - as, unlike Holland & Barrett, they're still stocking them, hurrah! I also actually did some girlie shopping (shock! horror!) in M&S and ended up buying a posh tee-shirt, a pair of trousers and a cardigan (sorry, soft jacket ...) - and amazingly they all go together. Ye gods, it must be the extra hormones I'm taking. I never normally buy anything that goes with anything else. At all.

After all that excitement, we settled down to watch "Uncle Vanya" at the Yvonne Arnaud theatre with the hugely sexy (or is that just me?) Nicholas Le Prevost and the nearly-as-sexy Neil Pearson. A wonderful production to my mind (although Lord H thought it might be a tad rushed to be truly Russian - if you see what I mean). Unfortunately, the divine Mr Le P. never quite got to that moment where he holds the pistol and goes "bang!" as during the very dramatic pre-shooting argument, he fell headlong over a chair and twisted his ankle. He and the cast bravely battled on for a few minutes but it was obvious that he wasn't going even to be able to make it off-stage to get the ruddy pistol, at least not without some off-script screaming, so they brought the curtain down. We then had a twenty minute impromptu interval where they carted poor Nicholas off to hospital and prised the understudy out of the pub for the last act-and-a-bit. Ah, of such delights is the British theatrical experience truly made. Still, the understudy scrubbed up well and at least we got to the end, where Sonja makes that glorious lyrical speech which finishes the play so marvellously.

It's certainly a production to remember anyway!

Tonight, we're off to Marian's for dinner and I'm hoping to get a relatively early night as, frankly dahlings, I'm pooped. Must be all the excitement.

Today's nice things:

1. Editing Darshan
2. The drama - both scripted and unscripted - of Chekhov
3. Dinner with Marian.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sing-a-longa Carmen and the abandoned author

Lord H and I have spent a wonderful day at the Glyndebourne Members' Open Day today, doing all sorts of strange and bizarre things. First off was the Sing-a-long Carmen session, where we all sat in the opera house and were put through our paces by the enthusiastic and rather too optimistic chorus master. Carmen from scratch in an hour - well, I certainly hit notes I didn't even realise I had though not necessarily at the time I needed them. I have also discovered that my skills at singing and clapping in the right place at the same time are utter crap. I just can't do it, dahlings. Not without medical attention and a strong tailwind. Lord H is much more co-ordinated in these areas. Ah, 'twas ever thus. However I fear that Glyndebourne will not be taking my number for consideration for next year's chorus line ...

We then wandered round through various talks and workshops. The man presenting "A Year at Glyndebourne" was extremely gripping - I never knew how much actually goes on in putting on an opera festival, and he was also wonderfully gossipy about which directors hated each other and the traumas of singing in Czech. This last gem concerned the Glyndebourne production some years ago of "The Makropoulos Case" where the amazing Anja Silja took the title role and gave a bravura performance every single time. And we know because we saw it twice and she was incredible. Apparently, at the dress rehearsal, everyone was weeping with joy because she was so very, very good - EXCEPT for the musicology and language coaches who were weeping because, even though it was marvellous, she wasn't actually ... um ... singing in anything remotely resembling Czech. Well, Czech is difficult at the best of time, m'dears, let alone having to put it to notes! The solution they came up with - apart from an intensive day's extra coaching - was to put post-it notes on all the props so Ms Silja could look dramatic and do her singing stuff whilst staring intently at yellow pieces of paper. And we, the audience, didn't have a clue - I just thought she was being incredibly focused.

The props and wig department tours were much more interesting than I'd expected too. Apparently, they like to use real human hair but the market is shrinking as Eastern Europeans become richer and don't need to sell their assets. At least not in that way. Hmm, perhaps some bright young and dodgy entrepreneur can leap in and create a hair-trafficking trade? It could do well. The props man is also fighting a determined battle with the director of this year's "Poppea" who wants a luxurious bath to roll out onto the stage and then fill up with water from the taps. Tricky to know where to put the pipes without the audience seeing them for sure.

And, amazingly, this summer's new commissioned opera, "Of Love and Other Demons", hasn't quite been finished yet. Though the composer does at least know how long it will be. Phew, that's a relief then. Everything is indeed done by smoke and mirrors here in the world of drama and song. And that's on a good day ...

So, we are now the behind-the-scenes opera experts - and I feel a crime novel set in an opera house coming on. No! No! Get back! Ye gods, some ideas are best left rotting in their own juice, I promise you.

Meanwhile back on the ranch, I rush to buy the Surrey Advertiser to see if I'm in it. Am I heck! Damn and blast it, I've been spiked again, Carruthers!! Oh the shame and trauma of it - somebody pass me a gin and let me weep ...

Tonight, I'm thinking (hell, it's the thought that counts) about doing the cleaning, and I'm hoping to edit more of Darshan for Goldenford too. And I've just finished Margaret Gill's young adult novel, Narwhal. I really enjoyed it - the main character, Gray, is very strong indeed and I loved him right from the start. A very nice mix of adventure, mystery and the supernatural, and recommended for the young adults in your family. Or anywhere else really.

Today's nice things:

1. The Glyndebourne open day
2. Editing
3. Reading.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Healing the sick and raising the dead

Must say how utterly wonderful last night's reading at the North Camp deli turned out to be. The owners, Claire and Matt, were fabulous and very welcoming people, the shop was superb and the audience very supportive indeed. We sold a healthy number of Goldenford books, including Thorn in the Flesh and Pink Champagne and Apple Juice and the readings and discussion were hugely enjoyable. I came away with free gifts of cheeses and anchovies, and bought a basket of stuff I just couldn't resist. And I even got back in time for "Torchwood". What could be nicer?

Anyway, this morning, I have had my careers consultancy session - very interesting indeed, and I think the consultant was pleased to meet a real-life portfolio worker. And there was I thinking I was Jill of all trades and mistress of none ... Had lots of useful discussions about how to plan my dovetailing careers over the next five or six years and we talked about the concept of creating your own role - which I probably do more easily in my writing life, but it's more muddled in the university one. Came away with issues to think about and a book or two to read. So very worthwhile indeed.

After that I have been healing the sick and raising the dead. Visited my original sick friend in hospital and had a good hour solving the problems of the world. Also took in a fresh supply of bananas and grapes - as you do, and because that was what she asked for. Nipped home to do some editing on Irene's Darshan for Goldenford and to grab some lunch. Which included anchovies, hurrah! Which I know I shouldn't have as they're so salty, but hell they're lovely and you need to keep your strength up when distributing largesse to the needy, ho ho.

I then spent the rest of the afternoon visiting a new sick friend and providing essential gifts of bananas, grapes (well, I thought that as I was buying for one, I may as well buy for two ...) and cheese. We had a great natter, which I enjoyed hugely, and managed to solve the remaining problems of the world left over from my morning sick visit. So everything is now perfect - in case you hadn't realised. Lord H suggested that my mission might be easy to carry out if I wore a long robe and sandals but, frankly, it's not the weather for it, m'dears, so I stuck to my usual jumper and fleece.

Tonight, I need to ring another entirely different sick friend who, thankfully, is now in recovery so I don't need to perform further miracles - which is probably a relief to us all really. And I'm planning further editing and a slump in front of "Ashes to Ashes". I might do a bit more swearing too - just to counteract the effect of so many good works stuffed unaccountably into one day. Indeed, tomorrow I might have to beat up a few old ladies or steal sweets from passing children just to redress the balance. Ah, it's always good to have an aim, don't you know ...

Today's nice things:

1. Careers chat
2. Editing
3. Dispensing good cheer Jane Austen style, but with fewer bonnets.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Odd knockings and book readings

Very stormy in the night again, Carruthers. Apparently. Though I have to admit I slept right through it. However, Lord H was woken up by odd knockings from the downstairs flat and, in the morning, we discovered that the neighbour’s outside continental blind had been swept up by the winds and was nestling nicely in our gutter. We’ve managed to unattach it from the gutter using only a skewer and some sticky-back plastic and reattach it to where it should be, but I think it might need further medical attention at some stage. Don’t we all? Mind you, I do feel that Lord H should have woken me up when it was actually happening, and we could have then gone and investigated in the middle of the night, armed only with our special Torchwood torches and some rather unusual fluffy slippers. After all, it could have been aliens, you know … Hmm, now there’s an image you don’t want to mess with.

At work, Sue from the Health Centre has suggested that her book group look at Thorn in the Flesh later in the year and invite me along to discuss it. Gosh, thanks, Sue – a very kind thought indeed! It’s not often I get taken out for an airing – I have to abide by my police curfew of course – and I’m always delighted to be asked. And naturally Goldenford provide discounts for multiple purchases, so hopefully it’ll work out for everyone. And something to look forward to for later, hurrah!

Talking of books, I see some equally kind person has bought a copy of A Dangerous Man from Amazon as it’s now no longer on stock there. Here’s hoping they restock it soon as goodness knows it’s the only one they seem able to! In the meantime, thank you, Kind Person, and I do hope you enjoy the read. I’m also continuing – slowly, oh so slowly – to write my short story about fruit. I like the way it’s going, but it certainly ain’t quick. Always good to discover a different working method though.

I’m supposed to be going to my last Pilates class at lunchtime today, but I’m not really in the mood, so I’m going to skip it and walk round the campus and pop into the gallery instead. Ooh what a rebel I am indeed, ho ho. And tonight, Jennifer from Goldenford and I are doing a book reading at the North Camp deli, so that’ll be (a) fun; (b) scary; or (c) both. Probably (c), I think. I’ve brought half a ton of books in, as we’re going straight there from work, and will no doubt be carrying half a ton of books back too. Haven’t had much time to practise my readings –I’ve prepared one from Thorn and one from Pink Champagne and Apple Juice just in case, but I suspect I’ll only do the Thorn one.

And I’ve even remembered to set the video for “Torchwood” in case Jennifer and I are mobbed by our adoring fans and can’t get home in time. Not only that, but I’ve added in the programme on Frinton-on-Sea that follows afterwards. So near my home town! And Frinton has always had class and quirkiness. In spades. I love it.

Today’s nice things:

1. Being invited to a book group with Thorn
2. My campus lunchtime walk
3. The deli book reading.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Writers, photos and poems

Managed to finish the first draft of the Student Affairs Committee minutes yesterday, hurrah! And have spent a large part of the morning typing up travel forms for the Health Centre website. Simple typing stuff – honestly, I really love it. Wish there was more stuff I didn’t have to think about during my working day. That would be bliss. I also really loved the question on the form which said: Are you pregnant or planning pregnancy or breast feeding? (NB Women only). Goodness me, but I hadn’t realised medical expertise had moved on quite so quickly …

Took the University Writers’ Group at lunchtime – I think they’ve had fun with the word game homework I gave them to do and there were some good manuscripts to look at. I always find running – or trying to run! – a group terrifying, but worth it too. Not to mention helping me with my own stuff – and goodness me I need all the help I can get! Ooh, and I’ve sold another copy of Thorn in the Flesh – so thank you, Ruth’s mother! Though I suspect it’s not exactly an Easter read …

This afternoon the Surrey Advertiser came by to take a photo of me for their article. I’m wearing a waistcoat and attempting to look like an author, ho ho. Perhaps they can make me look like Ginger Rogers? Now that would be a result – I’ve always wanted to be that woman. All that glamour and dancing with Fred too. What could be nicer? Anyway, I’m ready for my close-up, Mr DeMille …

Tonight I’ll pop into the hospital to see how Gladys is getting on, and then it’s an evening in, hurrah! I’m planning to start editing Irene’s wonderful Indian novel, Darshan, for Goldenford – it’ll be great to edit someone else’s work rather than my own for once.

And - at last! - here's a poem:


prickle my eyes.
They are sharp,
bright arrows of meaning

though sometimes
it's hard to know
exactly what they say

or to accept the message.

Words have their own
purpose, hold their own
timing, breathe a different life.

Much like people.

Today’s nice things:

1. University Writers’ Group
2. Surrey Advertiser snaps
3. Writing a poem.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, March 10, 2008

A stormy day

Goodness me, what a wet and windy day it is. All rather dramatic really – how I love a bit of drama! Talking of which, was it just me or did the burning house at the end of last night’s rather wonderful “Lewis” episode explode rather too much and too often for a normal house fire? What on earth were they keeping in there?? Gas canisters? A makeshift bomb? The mind boggles, Carruthers … Mind you, it was still a good episode – all that Hathaway emoting – marvellous!

It’s taken me a while to get into today really – I’m still reeling with the shock of actually finishing The Gifting. Lord H has now read through and made some sort of sense of my synopsis, so I’ll get that off to the agent tonight. And then I just have to wait. And … um … wait. Lordy, the man is just so busy. Ah, ’tis ever thus.

I’ve posted off another copy of A Dangerous Man to an interested reader and I see that the rating of Thorn in the Flesh on Amazon has improved greatly, if no doubt temporarily – I just wonder whether they’re actually going to fulfil the request for a copy or just say they can’t be bothered in typical Amazon fashion. We’ll have to wait and see, though I suspect I’ll probably never find out, dammit.

This lunchtime, my reflexology appointment has been cancelled (double dammit) as the therapist is sick. I was so looking forward to it too, as I haven’t been able to go for ages. Still, these things can’t be helped, and I do hope Emily gets well soon. I’ll have to see if I can book another appointment after Easter as my diary is beginning to fill up with meetings big-time. Mind you, I did manage to struggle my way through the wind and rain to put in some cheques at the bank instead, so the hour was not wasted.

In the meantime, I’m plodding on with typing up the minutes of the Student Affairs Committee – I can’t really get a full head of steam going on it, to be honest, and even I am not sure I’m making sense. Still, that’s never stopped me before, eh. Ooh and the Surrey Advertiser have just cheered up my afternoon by interviewing me on the phone – very scary, especially in the middle of the working day, but heck I’m just a Media Tart and I’ll talk to anyone at any time. About anything. It was much like being on a rollercoaster – fun but really rather dangerous. And they’re coming in tomorrow to take a photo. Hmm, who can I get to stand in for me who’s a darn sight more glamorous? That’ll be any other girl in the office then!...

Tonight, unless I get blown away, I’m intending to do the weekly shop and add Easter presents to the list if Tesco have anything nice. Then I’m going to collapse in a heap and watch “The Fixer” on TV. Looks interesting for sure.

And I’ve now read Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach. Glory be, but it was dull to the point of despair. I really do think that he needs – desperately! – to move on from writing novels which are about one particular day only. I actually think he can’t do it and he needs to get through the night and into the following morning. Go on, Ian – give it a try. You’ve done it before – you know what the techniques are! The story just seemed to take an inordinately long time getting from the wedding supper to the fact that they don’t really have sex. My dears, I’m sure I could knock that out in a paragraph or two and still get the gist across. I don’t really want to know about every single muscle spasm and breath taken to get there. Nor do I need those appalling flashbacks (which I mostly skipped in order to get back to the thin sliver of plot there was). Mind you, I liked the end few pages – which gave a very exciting précis as to what happened in the years after the wedding night. Actually I think that was the real story – he just needed to write it.

Today’s nice things:

1. Sending out A Dangerous Man
2. Watching the Thorn Amazon rating (Lordy, but I really am a sad obsessive writer …)
3. The Surrey Advertiser interview.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Gifting - done!

A very short blog today - sorry, but I'm battling with time and really have to watch "Lark Rise to Candleford" in 10 minutes or my brain will explode.

Anyway, Lord H and I popped into church today, which was okay actually - even though the vicar's hands were so cold that we feared he might be dead. Or an alien. One of the two. Mind you, if he is either of these, it'll certainly save the church money in salaries.

For the rest of the day, I have been head-deep in finishing the read-through of The Gifting. And ye gods, but I've done it! Sound the trumpets and crack open the beer. So I've sent it off to the agent and await his wrath and gnashing of teeth with great trepidation. I've also completed the update of the synopsis and Lord H is nobly checking it. Though I fear that he is already lost by sentence two as I attempt to describe who these people actually are. Ah well, synopses aren't my strong point, you know.

In the meantime, I've phoned my mother who loves Thorn in the Flesh and Kate but is now asking: exactly how autobiographical is this, dear? And what did you get up to at Durham? And ooh, was that your old boyfriend's college room (no, mother, it's not!!)? And how lovely to put your aunt and uncle in York in. Trust the Wicked Witch of Essex to get to the heart of things, eh ... Ah well, you can't trust family, you know.

Tonight - well in 2 minutes really - I'll be ensconced in front of the TV for the duration. Might even have a cake. Bloody hell, I deserve it!

Ooh, almost forgot the haiku. Here it is:

I'm really pissed off.
Haven't written a poem
for ages: loser.

Today's nice things:

1. Church
2. Finishing The Gifting
3. Mother's comments - bizarrely!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Shopping, the final furlong and a night out

Had a lovely time with Jane W last night in London - and Lord H enjoyed his art session too. We even managed to meet up at Waterloo before catching the train home. Bloody hell but it's good when things work out without too much effort or angst. Bloody amazing actually.

This morning, I have psyched myself up for the weekly Godalming shopping experience and got through it by talking to as few people as possible. Hurrah! Managed to get most things on my ever-growing list, but gave myself a break by not bothering with Easter stuff just yet. That can be next week's worry. Hell, it's good to have a hobby and hey worrying is cheap. Mind you, I think I upset the flower sellers in Secretts Garden Centre as I waltzed into their flower shop and asked if they had any flowers which might cheer me up. They looked at me as if I'd spoken in a foreign tongue or had something very peculiar on my head. Maybe both. Ye gods, they're flower sellers! You would have thought this sort of query would turn up daily - after all, what are flowers for? Anyway, they pointed me in the direction of the farm shop where, after much deliberation, I chose three lovely bunches of narcissi - which look lovely and have a fantastic scent. Now if only the flower ladies could have been friendlier about it, eh ...

Anyway, I've finished the read-through of Part Three of The Gifting and am now about to tackle the final furlong of Part Four. So only 100 pages to go then, hurrah! Ooh, and the lovely Margaret Gill, author of exciting young adult books, Secret of the Scrolls and Narwhal, has emailed me to say she thinks Thorn in the Flesh is my best yet and she's intending to do a proper review of it soon. Gosh, thanks, Margaret - much appreciated, especially as I struggled so much with both the story and Kate, my main character, than I now no longer know what it's about at all, let alone whether it's better or worse than anything else!

This afternoon, Lord H and I have tackled the cleaning - although the ironing is still lurking in the basket like an unforgotten sin. Sigh. Hell, I'll leave it till tomorrow. Again ...

Tonight, we're out at the Guildford Choral Society concert at the Cathedral, so I'd better remember to take a thick coat as the seats are crap and I always need something to muffle the pain. Still, the singing is always first-rate, so it'll be great to have a chance to relax and simply listen.

Today's nice things (of which there are four, good grief!):

1. The continuing read-through of Gifting
2. Margaret's comments about Thorn
3. The concert
4. Narcissi.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, March 07, 2008

Interview, golf and London-bound

The lovely Nik Perring has included an interview featuring Sally Nicholls and me on his blog dated 6 March. It's a nice author/mad author mix for sure - no prizes for guessing which way round Sally and I are! Many thanks, Nik, for asking the questions.

Am feeling a little better today, thank goodness (and thanks also for the good wishes - much appreciated), though still a bit low. Have taken a De-stress pill (just the one - honest!) so am hoping that will see me through for a while. I could probably do with another nap, but unfortunately I don't have the time. Dammit.

This morning, Marian and I played golf. I was good off the tee, but crap round the green. I only just won - by the skin of my teeth. Probably literally. Mind you, no doubt I am my own worst enemy - I suggested that Marian try out my tee wood (which is, I swear it, my greatest friend) and it improved her game no end. I had to keep a close eye on her to make sure she gave it back at all! I can see that my equipment advantage is lost forever, curses and gnashing of teeth ...

This afternoon, I should have gone shopping in Godalming and running around trying to get everything bought for Easter etc, but to be frank I'm not up to dealing with any more people than I've had to deal with this week, so I wimped out and stayed indoors. It'll mean I'll have to go out and do quasi-socialising and scary Saturday shopping tomorrow, but I'll cross that bridge etc etc ... For today, I just sat quietly and got on with the read-through of The Gifting and I'm now on Part 3, page 310. I think I'll stop it there as I'm not taking any more in.

Tonight, I'm up in London seeing Jane W, which will be great - but I'm hoping I'm not too late back. I'm exhausted already. Lord H will also be up in London looking at art for his OU course, so we're planning on meeting up on the train home. That'll be nice.

Today's nice things:

1. Nik's interview
2. Golf
3. The read-through.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Feeling a little fragile

Not a great day health-wise today - feeling rather fragile, so haven't done as much of my read-through of The Gifting as I would have liked. Cue the usual stab of that well-known Writers' Guilt ... Ah well, I have managed to get to p226 so am at the last chapter of Part Two. A concept not to be sniffed at, I suppose.

And my publicity flyers for Thorn in the Flesh have finally (after much to-ings and fro-ings) been delivered and very nice they look too. I'm extremely pleased with them. Now all I have to do is find the energy to send some out to my less email-friendly friends, and any other contact I can think of! I was also delighted to see a small article about me and Thorn in Writers' News magazine, which was delivered today. Almost makes me sound like a real writer, ho ho.

Due to total exhaustion, I've fitted in a nap late this afternoon, which has taken the edge off it. I'd forgotten how much I love my naps, when I can get them - don't seem to have had the time - or been delicate enough! - for one for ages. So, hey, even fragility has a plus point. I've also finished Michael Connelly's Echo Park - another glorious Bosch novel. Ye gods, but he's bloody good. I had to sit down and read the last few chapters all in one session. The twists and turns and the upping of the tension were fantastic - and of course Bosch himself is so marvellous. I can't recommend any of that series highly enough.

Tonight, we're out at the theatre to see Rattigan's "The Deep Blue Sea". Ah, all that dying love, passion and angst - how can you go wrong? I'm sure it'll be good but I just hope I can fend off the tiredness that's threatening to overwhelm me. Better remember to video "Ashes to Ashes though ...

And was it just me or was (sorry to have to say it) "Torchwood" utter tripe last night? Dull, dull, dull. And way too shallow. Sorry. Somebody shoot that scriptwriter!

Today's nice things:

1. Books
2. Naps
3. Theatre.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Books, buttons and dance

Ooh gosh, I actually seem to have sold one or two more copies of Thorn in the Flesh – so huge thanks to the University Health Centre for their enthusiasm! I’ve also managed to get the book news onto the University intranet and the commercial noticeboard, so I feel I’m PR-ed out now. For a while.

This morning, I’ve carried out a VDU assessment for a new employee and discovered that my assessee (is that a word even?) has been given so short an extension lead to her keyboard that she can barely reach the thing when in the correct typing position. And if she does manage to get the keyboard where it should be, then it slowly pings back to the wall. I’m hoping the powers that be will grant us a longer lead soon – it’s certainly the merciful option!

Ooh, and I’ve posted another couple of copies of Thorn out, and had a very in-depth chat with the lovely post lady while doing so. The poor thing’s been going through a hell of a time, so no wonder the post office has been closed recently – I quite understand it now! At least, things seem to be improving at the moment, which is a relief for her. Odd how so many people seem to be going through bad times this year – let’s hope it gets better for us all …

Whilst running around campus, delivering works of literary genius (ho ho) to the favoured few, the last of my buttons fell off my ruddy coat. Big sigh. I don’t think I now have any buttons on any of my coats, and I also have a large collection of coat-free buttons collected over the years. One day I will get them all together and have a very big party. Where I’ll definitely get Ruth’s husband to do the catering.

And one of my friends in IT who is retiring later in the year has very thoughtfully sent me photos of her wonderful Spanish villa where she will be living from October. Curses galore, Carruthers, but my teeth are well and truly gnashed! Why, oh why can’t it be us? I love Spain … and the villa looks utterly wonderful. If my eyes weren’t already green, they would have turned so now.

This lunchtime, I took the minutes for the Student Affairs Committee – I haven’t looked at the papers for so long that I felt like I was winging it for most of the session. So no change there really. The only trouble is having to write the darn things up. Sigh. It was rather sweet though the way people kept passing notes around the room in order to communicate without disturbing the discussions in hand – it doesn’t really work, I have to say. Best to just interrupt and have done with it really.

Tonight, I’m braving my Scottish country dance class, even though I haven’t been able to go for ages. Hope I’ll be able to keep up. And I must dash back for the glories of “Torchwood”. My midweek isn’t complete without it, you know. Somebody get me my torch …

Today’s nice things:

1. Selling some Thorns
2. Dance
3. Torchwood.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Systems, visits and Guildford Writers

Ah it’s like a Monday all over again today – the existential pain of having to go into work, groan … Still it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared (about two calming pills-worth, if you’re asking), mainly because I was running around like the proverbial until late afternoon and hardly had time to breathe, let alone think.

I’ve managed to be incredibly brave and ring some suppliers to get ballpark (hark at my management speak moment – someone take me out and shoot me before I do it again!!) estimates for our online booking system. My, how these people do like to talk. And ouch. It’s slightly more than a trip down the High Street, m’dears, ain’t it … I think we might be parking the ballpark (as it were) and carrying on as we were. Still, at least my learning curve (ho ho) has evened out a bit. These days, I don’t really think I’m able to take on more than one new thing a month or my brain explodes. Heck, who am I kidding? It’s always been like that.

Managed to squeeze in a marketing meeting about flyers and mini-guides, and look almost as if I knew what I was talking about. Possibly. I also seem to have said something intelligent about student induction somewhere along the line. Goodness knows how that happened but people seem to be smiling at me. Mind you, I hope they’re not expecting any more intelligence. At least not any time soon.

Took a late lunch and popped into see Gladys in hospital. She knew vaguely who I might be today (hurrah!) but was in fighting mood, threatening to beat the lady in the bed opposite with her walking stick and doing a heck of a lot of swearing. Sounds like a normal day in the office here in the shires to me. She also insisted that I should give her love to her mother when I left, which I was obliged to promise to do – although my séance skills are distinctly rusty. Ye gods, there are some things that even I cannot perform.

Tonight, it’s Guildford Writers although I have nothing to read out – as I’m still engrossed in kicking The Gifting into touch and have no literary spaces or heart for anything else. I might have to leave early too, as I do need to try to phone a friend tonight (or ask the audience or something), as from now on it appears I have no free evenings until Sunday. Good grief, how the heck did I let that happen?!?

Today’s nice things:

1. Getting the horrible task of talking to suppliers over with
2. Managing to escape the hospital without having to prise apart two fighting old ladies
3. Guildford Writers.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, March 03, 2008

First reviews and some loose women

A day off today, thank the Lord. Nothing special but I need to use up some days before the end of March, as I can only take five days over to the next holiday year. Still, always nice to have a bloody Monday off!

Had quite a leisurely morning - I am however utterly delighted by Jill Weekes' review of Thorn in the Flesh which you can find on her blog dated 2 March. Jill has also been kind enough to put a similar five-star review on Amazon though of course they're not stocking it, Gawd bless 'em ... Anyway, it's cheaper via Goldenford! We don't charge a ruddy £1.99 search fee for a start, which is a joke. Bloody Amazon, eh. Anyway, I'm hugely grateful for Jill's review, so thank you for that. My first one as well!

For the rest of the day, I've been reading through The Gifting and am now on page 117, so nearing the end of Part One. Again. I think I've picked up most of the errors and am also copying out the battles history into a separate file so I can have a good look through later. So far, it might be making some kind of sense though - almost. Quelle surprise!

I stopped for "Loose Women" on TV at lunchtime though - just the ideal time for loose women really ... though I don't think it was as good as it usually is. Perhaps I was just too spaced out to laugh? It's possible. Oh, and I've done the recycling. It's bloody freezing out there!

Tonight, I might look at some more of the read-through, but my main priorities are (a) the ironing (bugger ...) and (b) "The Palace" (bliss!). It's the last episode tonight, so I hope they make a second series - I'm utterly hooked.

Today's nice things:

1. Jill's review of Thorn
2. The read-through of The Gifting
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, March 02, 2008

I've done it!!

Ye gods, sound the trumpets and wave the ruddy flags as, by George, I've done the bloody rewrite!! Yes. The Gifting is now completely rewritten and I believe I can give myself the ruddy evening off. Hell, I deserve it.

Naturally, I'll have to do the read-through and correct the no-doubt numerous errors, plus redo the timeline, create a new character profile for Annyeke and do a battles timeline, but at least I have something nearer the beast as I think it should be to actually work with. Sorry, you'll need to forgive the split infinitive. I can't be arsed to rewrite it. Ho ho. It is funny how some novels have to be chipped away at like sculptures before you get to what's inside. A Dangerous Man was like that, and now here's another bugger just the same. Damn those total rewrites, eh. Whereas both Pink Champagne and Apple Juice and Thorn in the Flesh seemed to know roughly what they were supposed to be from the word go. Honestly, there's no rhyme nor reason to writing, you know. But it's bloody exhausting, I can tell you! As well as being one of the most fun things in the world. Of course.

Besides this monumental achievement, I have done other stuff today too. This has included spending a lot of time bumping into or falling over things. Hmm, perhaps my mind is elsewhere? Lord H tells me, deadpan, that it's because everything has shifted since the earthquake and I am simply taking routes which are no longer suitable. Honestly, that man could blag for Britain. I will indeed have to learn to walk in the new shape of the flat ...

And I've checked the tyre pressures, oil and water in the car, baked a plum and nectarine crumble and wished Mother a Happy Mothers Day. She is more than thrilled with her flowers and books package (and, yes, that did include Thorn!), so I may well have been raised to the heady heights of Good Daughter again. For a while ...

Tonight, I am chilling (at last! at last!) in front of "Lark Rise to Candleford" and "Lewis", safe in the knowledge that I have a delicious day off tomorrow. So I don't have to get depressed until tomorrow night, hurrah! Ooh, and one of my Thorn in the Flesh readers received her book package yesterday, read it in one sitting and has emailed me to say how much she loved it and that she couldn't put it down. Gosh, thank you for that, Sarah! That's made my day even more special. Apparently, she's going to do a review for me, so I shall look forward to seeing that at some stage.

And this week's haiku is:

Unexpected space:
the joy of nothing to do
and a chance to breathe.

Today's nice things:

1. Finishing the rewrite of The Gifting
2. Getting a nice Thorn review
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Watches, woodpeckers and what shall I do with my hair?

Lord H and I had great fun attempting to change my watch from 30 on the date button to a 1 today. Yes, it is a team effort - Lord H provides the brains and I provide the tea. We were surprised however when the watch started fighting back and giving us the days of the week in Italian. Hmm, it's never done that before. Do you think it's trying to tell me something? I wasn't even aware my watch could speak Italian and I'm very impressed, as I certainly can't. Anyway, we wrestled it to the ground and persuaded it to return to its native tongue, so it's now saying it's Saturday 1st. Hurrah!

Lynda popped in today to do my hair while Lord H went to look vaguely at new cars. I've been thinking about changing my hairstyle (which I've had since the 1870s, I think) for a while now, so I broached the subject tentatively with Lynda. My dears, it was like breaching a dam - she enthused for ten minutes about what she could do if allowed and we've eventually decided to cut the back and sides short (short back and sides, sir? Naturally, my man ...), and let the top grow out so it's less layered. We might even be working towards a bob - who knows? Lucky Bob. Anyway, I think Lynda must have been storing up her creative ideas about my hairstyle for at least five years now and was obviously glad to get them off her chest. She looked much happier when she left - and I have the distinct impression she is now a Woman With a Mission.

For the rest of the day, Lord H (who didn't really find a car he liked the look of) and I have been at Titchfield Haven, admiring all the wonderful birdlife and enjoying the surprising sunshine. We were cunning and took our own sandwiches from the shop as the cafe there is crap. Big time. We even prepared a flask of decaff coffee to keep us warm - but left it in the kitchen. As you do. New birds spotted today: a reed bunting and a Mediterranean Gull. We were also totally humiliated by the very exciting Great Spotted Woodpecker at one of the birdtables which we gazed at for some minutes through our binoculars with awe and wonder before realising it was ... well ... stuffed. Ah well. We always like to maintain our professional birding standards, you know.

Back home, I'm planning some more editing to The Gifting and I've sold two more copies of Thorn in the Flesh. Gosh indeed. Tonight, "The Bourne Supremacy" is on, so it might be nice to sit and let it soak over. I hope we understand it in spite of not having seen the first one, as I think it's Number Two in a series. But I'm a Film Ignoramus, so I really don't have a clue.

Oh and the flash coffee was still warm when we got back - bliss!

Today's nice things:

1. Conquering the watch
2. Being fooled by a woodpecker
3. Selling more Thorns.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers