Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's not over till the Fat Lady sings ...

Goodness me, what a thundery rainy day today. Lord H and I do so love a good thunderstorm. Shame it seems to have vanished away now - we were hoping for more drama. Ah well.

This morning, I've had a nice lie-in (at last! At last!) and have then packaged up the rest of my free/review copies of Maloney's Law for sending off in one fell swoop on Monday (I missed the post office opening hours yesterday, dammit). Honestly, the more I look at that cover, the more I love it. The back is pretty ace too. And perfect for Paul's obsession with whisky and time. The cover artist, Tracey Davis, is a genius, to my mind.

I'm blogging early today as we're dashing off at about 12.30pm-ish for our last Glyndebourne opera of the season - they're ending with Carmen, which I love - so I really can't wait for that! The joy of going on the last night is we get a sneak preview of what they'll be doing next year. Rumours of Wagner (noooo!!!) abound, but we'll see. We're also meeting an old work colleague of mine - Ronnie Yearsley - for drinks beforehand, so that should be fun. Ronnie's not on email (Gawd bless 'im), so I've been gathering up emails sent to him from his overseas cousin about the family tree, which I must remember to deliver this afternoon. Said Yearsley family tree also includes a picture of a Victorian ancestor who didn't quite seem to know how to wear a beard, as it doesn't appear to be fully attached to his chin. Perhaps it's the angle of the shot, Carruthers?... One can only hope.

And I'm now at 31,000 words of Hallsfoot's Battle and at the end of the first section, which is entitled Lust and Fortitude. Onto the next section then, which will go by the theme of Anger and Justice. My, how I do like to make things tricky, eh. I do have a couple of ideas for it, which is something, I suppose. I hope.

This week's haiku (because, hey, it hasn't been bad, has it!):

Sometimes the universe
fits us: struggles cease.
Enough, for now, to be.


Today's nice things:

1. Thunderstorms
2. Having a lie-in
3. The Maloney cover
4. Carmen
5. Finishing a Hallsfoot section
6. Haikus.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Maloney arrival!

Really, people, could yesterday get any better after my fabulous hole in one (um, did I mention that already?)?? Well, apparently, yes: when Lord H came home, complete with congratulation flowers (what a super-hero indeed!), he found a box of Maloney's Law copies on the path (the postman must have been tired, poor love ...) hot off the press from PD Publishing. Triple hurrahs and let's all throw our hats in the air! My baby has come home!! I then spent several glorious minutes ripping apart the box, taking out all 18 of my babies and clutching them to my bosom whilst crooning. So no changes there in my reaction to getting author's copies then ... The sad part comes when I have to send them all out again as review or thank you copies and in one case to my hugely patient competition winner - hope you enjoy the read, Tony! Though I will keep one or two just to hug in the long winter evenings. As you do.

Anyway to today. Lord H and I have trundled off to Warnham Nature Reserve near Horsham and had a pleasant couple of hours wandering round the very beautiful woods and lakes and staring at the usual suspects (ie a wide variety of tits, finches, ducks, herons, etc etc). The weather was a tad too muggy and headache-y for me though, so after a late lunch we came home via Mr Waitrose. I think I might even manage to fit in a nap this afternoon - a woman in her prime can enjoy several, you know.

I'm not sure whether I'll get round to Hallsfoot's Battle, but we'll see. I don't want to overtire myself after all ... And there's comedy on TV tonight, so hurrah for that. Oh but there's sad news as the glorious Paddy Burt who always does the hotel reviews for the Saturday Telegraph is retiring today - shame!! It's one of my favourite columns and, honestly, I feel I've grown up with that woman, and I'll miss her hugely. It just won't be the same on Saturdays after this. Sigh.

I've just finished reading Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch's poetry collection, Not in These Shoes. Um, something of an enigma really. There were some poems I really loved such as (amongst others) Grandfather Clock, which took me right back to the good parts of my childhood, the punchy tragedy of Give Me Another Word for It, which had me reeling, and the wonderfully surreal Snowstorm, which I hugely related to as (sadly) I do collect snowstorms. (I even have one with the old Pope in it, you know - well, I need all the help I can get). But there were way too many things about the sea (if I ruled the world, I would ban all poets from writing about the sea - enough already, please!), and there was something about the collection as a whole which just didn't hang together. It put me on edge. I think I would have liked to see a chapbook for this one, and maybe wait for a collection to gel at a later date. Or maybe that's just me? Anyway, if you read it - and it comes with 60-70% recommendation, I think - let me know.

Today's nice things:

1. Getting my author's copies of Maloney, hurrah!
2. Warnham Nature Reserve
3. Napping
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hole in one!

Today's supercalifragilisticexpiallidocious (and really who gives a damn about the spelling of this glorious word) and utterly splendid news is that I've actually achieved a real-live hole in one!! Yes, people - on the golf course and with all the rules of the great game in play. Quadruple hurrahs and bunting all round. I couldn't believe it! I thought the shot looked pretty good, and Marian & I watched it as it landed on the green, headed towards the hole and ... um ... just vanished!!! There was a second of silent shock and then we both started shrieking like banshees! (I'm always the consummate professional, as you know...). Not only that but I managed to get my best ever score, and so did Marian - after she achieved not one, but two pars! Ye gods and little fishes, Tiger Woods better watch out now as we have him in our sights for sure. I am still grinning like a banana - one the right way round. Gosh. All I need now to make my day complete is a publishing deal for The Gifting (ho ho!) and my work here is done, Carruthers ...

Back at home.com, and I've got to 30,000 words in Hallsfoot's Battle and even have a little bit more of that first (of four) section's closing scene to do, plus some ideas for following scenes, so am hugely pleased with that too. I'll leave it there for today, as at my age I can't take too much excitement, you know, and at least it will give me something definite to come back to later. Am soooo pleased to have cracked the big 30,000 barrier, as it is something of a milestone for me. I'm definitely on the road to somewhere now. Ah, but where, m'dear, where? There's the question, eh ...

And talking of roads to somewhere, I've just now finished Tony Judge's novel, Sirocco Express, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Here's my review, which will appear at some point on Amazon UK and Waterstones websites:

"Sirocco Express is a powerful novel of journey, discovery and how to be human in an increasingly inhuman world. Adebayo, a young Nigerian, leaves his home in Lagos and embarks on an extraordinarily difficult journey to try to discover a better life in Europe. The journey is in marked contrast to the comforts and familiarity of home which are touched on very effectively in the first few chapters, although even so the themes of potential displacement and dis-content are never absent. I did find the final scenes between Adebayo and his father in this section, brief though they are, particularly moving. Once established on his flight to the "good life", Abebayo finds himself in a shockingly unfamiliar world, accompanied by people smugglers and desperate companions, most of whom it would be wiser not to trust. In these circumstances, he must find his feet and try to carve out a place for himself. It is here that his instincts to do what is right bring him into dangerous conflict with the smugglers and make him what is essentially a marked man. The descriptions of the journey taken and of the people the migrants meet along the way are measured and clear, and it is especially interesting how the beauty of the landscape becomes bleak, coloured by the reasons for the journey itself. On the way, there are moments of high drama, danger and death, placed alongside well-researched realism of how the people smuggling process actually operates. The final destination of Adebayo's travels, the ups and downs of his secret new life and the clever twist at the end are well worth the journey. Taken as a whole, the character of Adebayo in fact becomes a type of modern "Everyman" figure as his story, although unfamiliar in its detail to most of us in the West, contains elements of desire, search, vision and need common to us all. Indeed, with this in mind, there are also echoes of the novels of Paul Coelho in the way Sirocco Express is written: in short, it's one to read, one to ponder over and one to keep."

Ooh, and did I say I got a hole in one today?

Have also been shopping and stocked up on Quiet Life pills, Relaxation bath oil and Equilibrium drops. All the little essentials today's modern woman needs then (never say I'm not a train wreck in the making indeed). And flowers - a big bunch. Hell, I deserve them! Hole in one, you know ... actually I'm thinking of getting a tee-shirt with those words printed on it in big letters. Very big.

Tonight, I'm going to slump in front of the TV and watch as many comedy shows as I can pack in. Including the one we recorded last night while we were at "Moll Flanders". Which I have to say was one of the most wonderful pieces of theatre I've seen for a long time - it had everything the novel does: wit, heart, social commentary and a double dose of what it means to be human. The small band of actors were top-notch and the whole thing was fabulous. Theatre like that is one of the best things on this planet, I tell you. Well, that and a hole in one, of course ...

Today's nice things (as if you even needed to ask!):

1. My hole in one
2. My hole in one
3. My hole in one
4. Getting to 30,000 words in Hallsfoot
5. Books
6. Ooh, almost forgot - my hole in one.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hallsfoot, lunch and a rambunctious rabble

Took a while to get into Hallsfoot's Battle this morning - but suddenly in the last half hour before I had to leave I was there. In that skin-tingly zone where the writing is okay and even almost flowing. Ye gods indeed. Lordy, but it's so good when that happens. Ideas were zipping their way from the head to the fingertips and I knew how to end the scene and start the conflict. Ruddy hurrah! It's thrown up a whole load of other ideas and themes for the rest of the book too, but hell that's the way I like it. It's best to have too much in the head than too little. Here's hoping I can remember at least some of it, eh. Anyway, I'm at 29,000 words now and might even reach 30,000 over the weekend. That's about a quarter of a fantasy novel then. Heck. Somebody phone for an ambulance - I need a lie-down.

I've also - gosh! - had even more parcel excitements today. I came home yesterday, collected my first parcel from the opposite neighbour and then found yet another City Link delivery notification card in the post. This time, it told me this second parcel had been taken back to the Guildford depot so I braved the automated telephone response system again - much easier with the consignment number, you know ... - and spent ten minutes pressing the correct numbers in order to be able to pick it up from Guildford myself today. However, this morning as I was in the bath (typical! typical!), they delivered it anyway and the middle neighbour had to respond to the frantic knocking at the communal door and sign for it for me. All that in his dressing-gown too, Gawd bless 'im. But hey at least he was decently attired. If I'd attempted to answer the door, it would have been way too scary for the poor City Link man, I'm sure. Never do anything with unbrushed hair and a towel is a motto we like to live by here in the wilds of Surrey. Anyway, the upshot of all that is I now have a copy of Navkirat Sodhi's wonderful first poetry collection and I am thoroughly looking forward to reading it.

Oh, and The Book Depository believe my order of five copies of Maloney's Law has now officially gone missing, so they are nobly sending me a second order. Here's hoping Paul arrives here this time. Perhaps he just doesn't like the countryside, poor boy? It wouldn't surprise me. So my wait to have real-live copies of my novel that I can actually keep continues ...

Meanwhile I've had lunch out at the White Hart, Wood Street Village, with Robin & Liz, so fab girly chat, fab food and (mmm ...) lovely waiters. Hell, what more could women in their 40s ask for? It's like Pre-Menopausal Heaven (PMH for short). And the loos are magnificent too - though I could do with towels rather than the wretched air blower thingy that never does the job. Only a slight niggle in a glorious couple of hours though, so hell I'm not complaining.

Tonight, Lord H and I are out at the Mill Theatre in Guildford to see Moll Flanders. Now there's a woman with a Fine Pair of Lungs, as Lord H would say. We are promised "a rambunctious rabble of prostitutes and pickpockets, perverts and peers in an uproariously compelling tale of incest, bigamy and crime." So much like the plot of one of my own novels then. I can't wait.

Today's nice things:

1. Getting some steam going on Hallsfoot
2. Delivery of Navkirat's book
3. Lunch out with the womenfolk
4. The glorious Moll (Gawd bless 'er - and all who sail in 'er ...)

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A neighbour revived, the prodigal parcel and a Maloney review

The neighbour seemed better last night, thank goodness – his daughter decided to stay over and the situation seemed to be much calmer. Phew. Will pop round after work tonight to see how things are, but I suspect that Daughter has it all in hand. She’s great.

Oh and I thought last night’s first episode of “Mutual Friends” was pretty fabulous, apart from Keeley Hawes, who must surely have cornered the market in cold women by now … But I loved the menfolk and am, I suspect, already hooked. Being me, I particularly loved the child-hating man, who couldn’t remember the names of his friend’s children. Bliss! And actually so very true – I do always have to think about that …

Meanwhile at work, the resetting of the electricity supply has had – as far as we can tell – no ill effects and we are all functioning at optimum settings. Well, as far as we ever do (and naturally I speak only of myself here …). I have also discovered my parcel, hurrah! A process which involved ringing up the central City Link parcel service number (Lord preserve us from nonsensical automated phone systems – bring back the human voice, please ...) and being told I absolutely had to key in my parcel consignment number or nothing whatever would be done. Groan. I had no consignment number – that part of my notification was left blank. Isn’t it always the way?? Sadly, the voice system did not respond well to me yelling this fact down the phone several times. In the end I had to make up a consignment number simply to get through to the next stage, where I was told in no uncertain terms that the number I’d keyed in was incorrect but – relief! – at least it gave me the local Guildford depot number to contact, which rather begs the question as to how it knew I was ringing from Guildford … Anyway, the woman I spoke to in Guildford was incredibly nice and helpful, as well as being real (double hurrah and gosh) and I have discovered that my parcel is actually with the neighbour opposite rather than the neighbour below. The house number on the notification card was wrong then, but at least I can collect the goods tonight. Dammit it though, I know it’s not books. Of any sort. So I’m still waiting for poor old Maloney to turn up, Gawd bless ’im …

Talking of which, I received a lovely review of Maloney’s Law from Tony Judge, author of philosophical journey novel, Sirocco Express – which, strangely enough, I’m reading now so review to come!:

“Novelist and poet Anne Brooke’s novel, Maloney’s Law, introduces us to Paul Maloney, ‘a small-time private investigator from London’. Against his better judgement, he takes on a case from big-time businessman, Dominic Allen. For Maloney, the case is fraught with physical and emotional risks. Dominic is his ex-lover, and the ‘ex’ part of the equation is still the source of great pain for Maloney. With her use of a gay PI, Brooke is able to step outside the hard-bitten clich├ęs of the genre and explore an emotional landscape denied to many other crime writers. When Maloney is upset, he cries. Yet, when he needs information vital to his new case, he breaks into a secure building and fights his way out, dodging bullets as he goes. The complexity of her main character is one of the great strengths of the novel. The reader feels his peril and his emotional turmoil when he discovers just how ruthless his ex-lover can be. Brooke adheres to one of the best traditions of the genre in the tightness and internal consistency of her plot. The details of the investigation weave an ever more intriguing spell around the reader. Her descriptions of the gruesome reprisals inflicted on Maloney, after he discovers too much, are carried off with compelling realism. His immersion in the Soho clubbing scene is also done with unflinching honesty. With writing credits that range across crime fiction, psychological thrillers, romantic comedy, fantasy and poetry, one can only wonder where Anne Brooke’s eclectic interests will take her next. On the evidence of Maloney’s Law, it will be a fascinating destination.”

Thanks so much, Tony – hugely appreciated indeed!

We’re also trying to sort out our staff rota for Saturday open days – in the end I’m having to do the morning of Saturday 6 September, which means I’ll have to jiggle around with my planned lunch with my friend in Kent on that day – I’m hoping it can become a planned tea instead, depending on her schedule. If that works out, I’ll be shattered on the Sunday though! Ah well – as I said to the boss, as I’m a mid-40s woman, I’m used to being tired anyway, so I probably won’t notice the difference. Hey ho.

Had my usual lunchtime stroll round campus and sat by the lake for a while. The worst thing is getting up to go back – really I could sit there all afternoon and be quite happy. Tonight, I’m planning to stare in a puzzled manner at Hallsfoot’s Battle for a while and then I’ll be glued to “Who Do You Think You Are?” with Jerry Springer. Apparently it’s all about the Holocaust, so it’ll be traumatic but well worth watching, I’m sure.

Today’s nice things:

1. Discovering my missing parcel
2. Speaking to a nice woman on the phone
3. Lunchtime stroll
4. The Maloney review

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Electricity blues, Maloney and domestic crises

Got to work today and found out our office computers weren’t working. So not much else I could do whilst IT got it sorted apart from some much-needed tidying and rationalisation (now there’s a working day word if I ever heard one) of my desk and in-tray. My, I feel totally cleansed now. Like a new woman. Which should surprise Lord H tonight if it were true, I must say.

However, all things were restored by mid-morning, so I have chased everyone under the sun about the frighteningly close first round of Freshers’ events. And some (oh thank you, thank you!) blessed people are even beginning to reply, hurrah. With information too. Good Lord.

Today’s food excitement is the first of the new season’s apples, courtesy of Mr Waitrose. You always know autumn has truly begun when you’ve bitten into your first English apple. Though, being an apple farmer’s daughter, I suppose I would say that, wouldn’t I? Anyway, suitably fortified by fruit, I strolled round the campus at lunchtime in the rather dull weather we’re having – which is nothing like what we were promised. Did I really expect otherwise?? Not many people around, thank goodness, so had a pleasant sit by the lake for a while and watched a young squirrel and ducks. Very nice.

Meanwhile, this afternoon’s big thrill was the Health Centre doctor popping in with a copy of Maloney’s Law for me to sign for her holiday – so lovely to be able to touch my latest book again, and I definitely had trouble handing it back to her (ah, my baby, my baby - don't take him away ...). But thanks for buying, Vicky, and hope you enjoy the read.

And tomorrow the University is having a complete electrical shut-down and clear-out in the morning so we have to – on pain of death – switch off everything and unplug the whole of the office before we leave tonight. Which we are indeed all geared up to do – but they’ve now sent us so many reminders about it that I suspect we’re going to assume we’ve actually already done it, and then forget. Sigh …

Oh, and I’m chuntering on with my long poem, slowly slowly. Three pages and 134 lines now. And I’m still only on the morning in the text. Hey ho.

On my way home, I’ll pop into see if Gladys and I can get in the same room together for a chat – what with the enormity of our noses, it might be tricky … And later tonight, there’s a new comedy drama – “Mutual Friends” – which I have my eye on. Hope there’s more comedy than drama in it though – I could do with a laugh or two after the alcoholism trauma of yesterday’s “New Tricks” (poor Brian …).

Might even do a sentence or two of Hallsfoot’s Battle if I can dredge up any ideas from the pot, that is. Hey, miracles can happen! Though, actually when I hit home, the downstairs neighbour wasn't very well and was (or wasn't, depending on whether I spoke to the daughter or the friend) waiting for the doctor to arrive. He'd (the neighbour, not the doctor - that would be too weird really ...) apparently taken delivery of a parcel for me (books? Maloney?? Who can say ...) before he fell ill, and had completely forgotten about it by the time I turned up waving my parcel note briefly before getting up to speed with what was happening on the health front. So I have abandoned it and restocked his water supplies instead, left our phone number (which he'd also forgotten) in case of difficulties and will check up on him again before the evening draws in.

I'll sort out the parcel crisis tomorrow and see who I need to reorder from. Heck, it'll be something to do if we don't have any electricity again at work!

Today’s nice things:

1. Tidying
2. Apples
3. Lunchtime walk
4. Signing a copy of Maloney
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Monday, August 25, 2008

Taking it easy

I must first of all say I ended up watching the Spielberg film, Artificial Intelligence, last night. What a load of drivel! Though the zappier parts with Jude Law in it in the middle were quite fun. On the whole, it was a rather typical Spielberg overschmalz and it would have been much better if the wretched little boy and his irritating super-teddy could have been killed at the beginning. Now that would have been interesting for sure, but in the meantime somebody pass me the vomit bucket, groan ...

Anyway, today, I am laid low by female problems (double groan ...) so have spent most of the day drooping around in a Lydia Languish manner but with a hot-water bottle and a long line of suitable painkillers. Which I'm sure Ms Languish never had. However, I was much cheered by a delicious double helping of Friends on TV at 9am, which was the usual classy bliss. How I do love Chandler and Monica - which is in truth the best and most realistic portrait of marriage on the box thus far!

I've also managed to do another 1000 words to Hallsfoot's Battle and am now about halfway through the Ancient Gathandrian Legend of Lust and Fortitude. No, I don't really have much idea what the second half of said legend is either - though it will probably be about fortitude as I've done the lust section! - but I'm hoping something will turn up in the head at some point ... Or I'll just keep on typing until it does, I suppose. As ever.

In the meantime, Lord H has hunted the buffalo in Mr Waitrose (is it me or does that seem rather rude? Oh well ...) and come back with lunch and some provisions for the week. I just about managed to get lunch down me before retiring for a two-hour nap in the bedroom, still clutching my hot-water bottle. Ah, it's so comforting in these difficult times, you know. And I really don't want to over-exert myself.

Tonight, I'm planning another slump in front of the TV but am hoping for better fayre than yesterday, please God. At least "New Tricks" is on later, so it can't be too bad. And I've got The Puzzler magazine to continue to tackle, which is quite obsessive fun. Hell, who am I kidding? Any fun I have is always obsessive ...

Today's nice things:

1. Friends on TV
2. Writing more of Hallsfoot
3. Puzzles
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Windswept and wonderful

In spite of the rain and the wind (typical August weather indeed), Lord H and I opted for a day's birdwatching in ... um ... Beachy Head today. Goodness me, yes, it was windy, very windy. And there weren't that many people about, at least in the morning - surprise, surprise ... Only mad dogs and Englishman go to Beachy Head in near blizzard conditions, you know.

But, my goodness, it was wonderfully dramatic - which made up for it all. Although not many birds, I'm sorry to say - they were all huddling in the undergrowth and phoning Mountain Rescue ... Mind you, if there had been any birds, we wouldn't have been able to see them - we were way too busy hanging on to our hats, our footing and each other. Though I did suspect that if we had accidentally fallen off the cliff (yes, you can get terrifyingly close!), the wind would probably have blown us back onto land anyway.

However, after the mist came down, we decided that we were probably too wet, cold and confused to have any more fun just then so we retired to the Beachy Head Hotel & Restaurant where we tucked into a glorious roast turkey dinner followed by Eve's apple pudding (me) and rhubarb & raspberry crumble (Lord H). Bliss. The staff were lovely too. When we're next in the area, we'll definitely go and eat there again.

After lunch and a little drying-out session, we trundled along to Seaford, still on the coast, where we spent a wonderful half-hour staring at the kittiwakes from the top of yet another windswept (but thankfully rather less rainy) clifftop. Honestly, the views are to die for, especially as the mist had gone by then. Back down the hill, we had fun dodging the very dramatic waves as we stared at the kittiwakes from another angle but nearer the sea. I do so love the sea when it's rough - there's something about the power of all that water crashing against the rocks and getting the fallout of all that foam. Magic. Though Lord H is somewhat less keen on that part of it ... I also fear that my hairdo (such as it is) will never be the same again.

Back home, I'm planning to do a little more to Hallsfoot's Battle, and I think there's a film on later I might slump in front of. We'll see.

This week's haiku:

The past always waits:
the wasp lurks in the lily,
longing to be found.


Today's nice things:

1. Wild cliffs and wild water
2. Kittiwakes
3. Lunch
4. Writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Day at Mother's

I have performed my Daughterly Duty today as Lord H and I have spent the day at Mother's. To prepare for this momentous occasion, I took two calming pills and one Vitamin B De-Stress pill with breakfast. Good to have a healthy diet, you know. Much to our astonishment, the journey there was almost entirely clear of traffic and even the A12 (Gawd bless it) had moving cars on it. Well, miracles can still occur then - but it does make me wonder where the hell everyone actually was. Have they gone abroad or are they staying in to watch the Olympics? It's a mystery. Anyway, as a result we arrived earlier than usual, and poor Mother was still donning her Difficult Daughter armour in order to get through her day. We might have been even earlier, but when we were parking outside the house, Lord H and I had a five minute discussion as to whether we could get away with peeking in at the window and then leaving a note saying "sorry but you were out" before making good our escape. Ah, dream on, eh.

It also meant that we had to make up an extra 45 minutes of conversation but I think we managed fairly successfully. If only by talking more slowly. We also bravely offered to take them out for lunch - which can be something of a trial as both Mother and Jim (stepfather) make their feelings known in no uncertain terms if (a) the service is slow, or (b) they don't like the food. Which is fair enough of course, but can be difficult if (a) the service isn't slow but the waitress has taken more than 30 seconds to appear at the table, and (b) the food is perfectly fine but the restaurant doesn't serve new potatoes without skins and the vegetables aren't cooked to the point of exhaustion.

However, today we have truly hit the jackpot! Mother had booked a new restaurant neither of them had been to before, but which had been recommended by friends - the Village Maid in Bradfield. Really though, there aren't many village maids anywhere these days, so good to have one preserved in the wilds of Essex ... Anyway, it looked strangely downbeat and appeared to be filled entirely by men with tattoos and Essex accents so strong you could have built the Dartford Tunnel with them (much like the village maids then ...), but in fact they were utterly lovely, the service was swift and friendly and the food was wonderful, hurrah! In fact so wonderful that Jim complemented the chef for the first time in his life and actually smiled. Mother and I nearly fainted as we can't remember the last time anyone saw Jim smile (being the horny-handed son of the soil that he is). We didn't even know he had the capability.

Buoyed by this exciting discovery, we went for a walk through woods near the River Stour to make the most of the unexpected August sunshine. Mum and Jim surged ahead, and Lord H and I lurked in the rear and hid behind a tree, wondering if they'd notice if we made a bid for freedom while things were going so well. However they were too deep in conversation to realise so we were forced to catch up with them in the end. Lord H's theory is that having a good meal obviously made the parents more amenable, so we must bear that in mind next time and constantly carry a supply of food just in case we need to distract them ...

Back at Mother's, we had tea and a bun, only having a slight dispute over the best way to toast a crumpet (which is pretty good for us - normally we row about the tea and the bun too) and when the toasting process is completed. Still, Lord H and I managed to throw the car into first gear and escape at just after 5pm without me using the remaining crumpet in a way not intended by the manufacturer, so I consider I did pretty well really, all things considered.

And a quick round-up of the day's conversational topics went something like this:

1. Napkin-folding lessons are rather addictive though it's astonishing how little you remember an hour after the lesson
2. There are no clothes to be bought in the whole of the known universe this season, or at least none we like
3. Yes, it is possible to use your socks to polish your shoes
4. Baby barn owls are extremely noisy and have to be taught how to make proper owl sounds
5. The dead bird in the porch is a sparrow
6. My (nasty) cousin hoovered my aunt's bungalow and is now being proclaimed as a hero. The fact that the bungalow is the size of a postage stamp appears to make no difference to the general (apart from me and Mother) adulation
7. The Royal Yacht is shockingly only nicely decorated on one side for photographic purposes. Not only that but the Royal Yacht servants had to live in conditions which would be deplored by third-world sweat-shop children, and if they saw a Royal they had to stand completely still without breathing until the Enemy had departed. Off with the royals' heads, say I! Thank goodness they decommissioned that floating slave-ship then ...
8. Yes, friends are irritating when they ask what you've been up to - don't they know it's private?? - and yes we do realise this is something one can never explain to said friends. Really though, if you wanted them to know something, you would have told them without being asked ... (strangely, Mother and I agreed about that one - hmmm, perhaps I have more of her blood in me than I'd like to admit, arrrrggghhh!!)
9. And, finally, we both agreed it would be extremely helpful on occasion to have a "You have been deleted from my current contacts list - sadly, there is no recycle option" card. Well, it's a thought, eh!


Today's nice things:

1. Surviving Mother
2. Finding a nice pub
3. A walk through the woods.


Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, August 22, 2008

The ones that got away

Fluffed about like madwoman on the computer today, doing anything but write. So didn't manage to look at Hallsfoot's Battle before a brief Sainsbury's shop and golf. Which today proved a bit of a rollercoaster - I played some spectacularly bad shots which resulted in not one, but two lost balls. Two! Ye gods and little fishes, it's lucky I've got any to play with at all. I foresee the first item on my Christmas list for sure ...

Still, to counteract all that, I parred the third beautifully with a totally top-class chip in from way, way off the green. There was that wonderful moment when I watched it and thought: Yes, that's pretty damned close. Then the equally wonderful clunk where the ball hit the flag and went in. Bliss. At this point, real golfers smile slightly, nod their heads and move on, always aware of the essential courtesy and professionalism of the great game. I, on the other hand, shrieked wildly, brandished my golf club above my head and ran around like a crazed bee for a few minutes. Lucky I didn't lose it entirely and do a streak (God forbid! - though it would clear the course) ... Even more excitingly, Marian nearly - oh soooo nearly!! - got a birdie on the 9th. Now that would have catapulted us to the heights of Godalming golf fame indeed.

This afternoon, once normality had set in, I finally managed to drag myself back to the world of Annyeke and Simon. Which wasn't as scary as I'd feared after all, and I now have about 25,500 words under my belt. Or wherever the damn things go. Good Lord, that's round about a fifth of a fantasy novel then. There's hope and a sense of perspective then. Out there in the undergrowth somewhere.

And I've been thinking about things that get away (such as my ruddy golf balls, etc), so here's a poem:

The one that got away

I found a poem
under the bathmat today.

It stared up at me
as bold as a cat.

I should have grabbed it
then and there

but in the act
of shaking out the mat

it slithered off,
triangular mouth stretched wide

and round eyes blinking,
down the smooth bathside

through the gurgling water,
into the plughole

and was gone.
Dammit.


Talking of poetry, I've now finished reading Issue 8 of The Seventh Quarry poetry magazine. Though I don't like it as much as Equinox Magazine (to which I've now subscribed), I did enjoy offerings by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Aeronwy Thomas, Gloria G Murray (you really can't go wrong with a poem entitled "Sleep is the Bitch with the Botticelli smile"), and Dave Woolley. The latter also has a couple of poetry collections out, so there's a poet I'll be looking out for.

Tonight, I'm planning a complete blitz of manic flat-cleaning for the Bank Holiday Weekend. It's a very English tradition, you know. Ooh and the lovely people we met in Egypt a couple of years ago have invited us up for a get-together of "The Egypt Group" in October. I can't wait! Ideally timed too, as I can give them copies of Maloney's Law - as of course the novel is dedicated to them. I couldn't have done the Cairo hotel scenes without the input of Mike 'n' Miriam who actually stayed in the hotel I wanted Paul to stay in. The rest of us were in the slightly less posh one! So thanks to M & M for the insider knowledge on that.

Today's nice things:

1. Golf
2. Writing
3. Poetry
4. The Egypt Group get-together news.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An unexpected smile and the shit lorry

Was rather flummoxed yesterday when purchasing my rail ticket at Guildford Station when the woman behind the counter gave me a bright smile, was extremely helpful, smiled again and even wished me a good journey and a pleasant evening in London. Well, gosh! Not something that's ever happened before when travelling on Network South. It really cheered me and set me up for a wonderful evening (thanks, Jane W - lovely to see you as ever!). Though I have to admit my general bonhomie slid down a notch or two when I realised it was Guildford Station Customer Service Week. Ah well - I should have known it couldn't have been my own personal charisma (conspicuous as ever by its absence). Perhaps it could be Customer Service Week every week? It would certainly make travelling by train far more palatable ...

Today, I have scrawled a few meaningless sentences to Hallsfoot's Battle and am just scraping into the 24,000 word zone. Lord alone knows where I'm going now though - it's a mystery. I do hope Annyeke or Simon gets an idea soon - that would help.

This afternoon I have spent a glorious couple of hours having a Clarins massage. Ah, bliss. I think I even nodded off at one point - which is unprecedented. Honestly, this is the most relaxed I've been since 1975. And what a year that was. Thirza (the therapist) was telling me of her recent trip to Cornwall when one of her friends shrieked with delight at the sight of a real farmer on a real tractor. Apparently she'd not seen one before. Ah, the Young People - a marvellous breed, you know. Anyway, they'd had a fabulous time though Thirza did say the villagers did give them some curious looks to start off with. I suspect it's probably because they've not seen a stranger since 1903 (being a country girl born and bred, I'm fully able to say this, so please: no postcards!).

I also suspect it's the traditional countryside envy for those city folk who have (a) mains gas, and (b) mains sewage. I have fond memories (shut your eyes now if you're of a delicate disposition ...) of the quarterly visitations of the "shit lorry" down on the farm where our cesspit in the garden would have to be moved. Not to mention everyone else's cesspit too. And woe betide any unsuspecting gal who came to stay and attempted to dispose of female accessories down the loo. God forbid! Believe me, retrieving them is definitely a man's job. Mind you, it's not so far advanced here in the Godalming twilight zone, where the house's Victorian plumbing means we're strictly rationed to five sheets of loo roll per visit - or risk the downstairs neighbour's wrath. Though, to be fair, Downstairs Neighbour himself does admit that after surviving the WWII Russian Front, anything's a plus ...

Tonight, I shall attempt to squeeze out (if I dare use that phrase at this point?) a few more words for Annyeke and Simon to play with, and I really have to watch Boris. Should be good.

I've also finished reading Sophie Hannah's "The Point of Rescue". Amazing. Everyone who loves good crime writing should definitely read this. It got to the point this morning when I had to stop everything, sit down quietly and simply finish it - which rarely happens, as I always read when I'm doing something else. She writes like a dream - even when I'm muddled about the plot, the main female lead irritates the hell out of me and the so-called relationship between the two police officers is frankly ridiculous. I just had to find out what happened - some amazing twists for sure, some of them on the dodgy side of believable, but really it just doesn't matter. Read it - it's worth it.

Today's nice things:

1. Trucking on with Hallsfoot, slowly, slowly
2. Clarins massage
3. TV
4. A good book.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Minutes, burials and the Big City

Managed to do nearly a whole scene in Hallsfoot’s Battle last night, so it looks like I’m back in the saddle, hurrah. For now anyway. Meanwhile in the office there are no polylopes sweeping over the horizon today as far as I can see, so I kept my head down and got on with the Nursery Group minutes. Which I have more time to do as Lord H gave me a lift into work early as I’m off to London tonight, so don’t want to be bothering with the car.

Yesterday’s exciting news in the local rag was that there’s going to be a new natural burial ground in Godalming from the end of August – which apparently is being described as “the most exciting news in cemetery management for years”. Hmm, well, I suppose it would be. Though, actually, after initial laughter, I’m starting to think that being buried in a cardboard box with a wooden plaque, all of which are biodegradable, might well be a good idea. The nutrients produced go towards creating a natural area of beauty for plants and wildlife, and really what memorial could be better? Food for thought indeed. As it were. With these deep things in mind, I went for my usual stroll around campus at lunchtime – a plethora of ducks around today, Carruthers. Is there a Duck Conference going on?... I wouldn’t be surprised.

Tonight, I’m up in London seeing Jane W, so am hoping for a good chat and maybe an Indian. I’m just in the mood for it at the moment too. The only downside is the irritation of actually getting to London – honestly these days the train is such an effort.

And I’ve remembered to set the video for recording Boris Johnson on “Who Do You Think You Are?” – I couldn’t possibly miss that, being a die-hard Boris fan. It’s the hair, you know – I can resist it.

Today’s nice things:

1. Doing more to Hallsfoot
2. Burial thoughts(!)
3. Lunchtime strolls
4. Seeing Jane W
5. TV – and Boris!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Poetry thoughts, minutes and this week’s heroes

Feeling rather drained today and am hoping to lie low at work and not get involved with anything. Or anyone. So no change there then. In fact Lord H and I are thinking of starting up our own secret Hermits’ Society – it’s just a shame we probably can’t ask anyone to join, as it would rather defeat the object. Ah well.

In the midst of all that, I’m vaguely wondering about writing a long poem. Not something I’ve ever tackled before, or even thought of – as my usual approach is that if a poem doesn’t say what it wants to say in the first ten lines then it’s not worth reading on. It’s only a vague thought though, but we’ll see. UPDATE: I've started something, am quite enjoying it and will see how it goes.

And – relief! – the weather was good enough to go for a walk round campus at lunchtime. Which was much needed before settling down to take the minutes of the Nursery Group this afternoon. Actually, in spite of my child allergy, it’s not too bad a meeting to minute and usually ends early, which is nice. And the members tend to be the most complementary of all my meetings about what I provide in terms of notes etc, so that’s nice also. Always good to be appreciated here in the slow lane!

Oh and this week’s heroes are (a) the Health Centre – who saved someone’s life last week who was having a heart attack (huge well done to them!); (b) the Mayor of Mount Isa in Queensland who has a welcome ready for “beauty-impaired” women (hurrah!); (c) Andrew Marr for having lovely diction; (d) Gillian Magwilde from Bonekickers – what a super-heroine and a role model for us all indeed; (e) Mary Poppins for being practically perfect in every way; and (f) Team GB at the Olympics.

We’ve been rather confused this afternoon by the email from the Marketing department to let us know that they were stuffing polylopes with information for new students to be sent out tomorrow. We’d never even heard the word “polylope” before – but a swift piece of research tells us that it isn’t a type of antelope after all (sending an antelope with new student information on its horns would have been the ultimate in pizzazz for our forthcoming Freshers, I feel …), but simply an entirely polythene envelope. There you go then. Shame though.

Tonight I’m popping into see Gladys, who probably hasn’t realised I’ve been away at all. After a couple of weeks, it’ll definitely be time to refill the bird seed pot. UPDATE: actually she was really glad to see me and we had a half-hour chat, hurrah! Which was only marred slightly by the jolly Philippine nurse commenting on what large noses we both had and were we related? Hmm, time for me to rush to Queensland where I might be more appreciated, I feel ...

And later it’s the second episode of “Maestro” on TV – though I doubt Lord H will watch. He was traumatised by it last week – he hates it so when people struggle, whereas I was concentrating on the parts where they did well. Anyway, I’ve always rather fancied conducting – a marvellous way to get people to do what I tell ’em. Pause for evil laughter. Dream on, eh …

Today’s nice things:

1. Lunchtime walks
2. Thinking about a long poem
3. Polylopes
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Monday, August 18, 2008

Back to school and divided reviews

Not a great day today, I must admit. I do so hate having to go back to work after the joys of being away and am consumed by envy for those people who do jobs because they love them rather than (like me) because they need the cash. It just makes retirement seem such a wonderful option – bring it on! Indeed I spent several minutes under the duvet this morning groaning at the thought of a whole day away from home and – more horrors! – having to do the shopping. Twice, dammit. Not only that, but it was raining and grey and ghastly. Finally Lord H had to drag me out into the open air and push me in the direction of the bathroom. Could it get any worse, I wondered …

Well, um, yes. In a way. There's both good and rather average reviews for Maloney’s Law, both of which can be found on Amazon US. The average one succeeds in damning the book with faint praise, poor Paul (ah, Carruthers, pass the smelling salts, do …). According to that reviewer, A Dangerous Man is the better book (pause while Michael smiles smugly ...). Hmm, wonderful how a statement can be apparently generous and yet cut to the quick also, goddammit. Hey ho. Best to move on swiftly from that one, I feel … Though something in me would at least have preferred the glamour of a one or two star rating rather than the appallingly dull three stars it was allocated. Lord preserve me from being dull! Sigh. However, I am much cheered by the fact that on the other hand award-winning author Jeffrey Round has also given me a good five star review for Maloney on Amazon US, which I include below:

"Paul Maloney has a lot on his plate. If he could just keep his mind on his job he'd be a lot better off. Fortunately for the reader, he doesn't. What's obvious right off the bat is that this novel is written by an accomplished stylist. As it turns out, Anne Brooke is also a poet, which makes for a charming read. But you may not have time to stop to appreciate that fact because the action sweeps you up from the word `Go!' The characters are compelling (there's nothing like a sexy, morally ambiguous, irresistible charmer to stir up the intrigue, which Brooke has ably created with Maloney's nemesis, his ex-lover Dominic, who practically spits sex) and the plot is razor-edge gripping. (Foreign intrigue!) There's one incredibly harrowing scene where Brooke's descriptive powers come to the fore, though with a little deep breathing you can make it through intact. A good read, a fun ride!"

Many thanks, Jeffrey - that's hugely appreciated indeed.

Meanwhile at work, I’m faced with a glut of emails and having to pretend that any of them might matter. Groan. Ah, the terrain of the first day back is always a rough and rocky one. Not only that, but I’m shopping at lunchtime and after work too. And facing looking at the draft new University website and working out where we are on it. Really, will the day’s working delights never end??

Bearing all these things in mind, here's a poem. Of sorts.

Being at work

seems to mean
you smile and smile and smile

and still wonder if one day
you'll punch someone

instead.



Thank goodness there’s leftover peach crumble and cream from yesterday to hoover up for dinner and it’s “New Tricks” on TV tonight – though I hear tell it’s a sad one. Lordy, just what I need, eh. Bugger. Though I was chuffed at lunchtime when I loaded the car after the first round of shopping and found I could actually drive out forwards rather than face the trauma of reversing, as the space in front was empty – it’s the little things that thrill the heart during a tricky day, you know …

Today’s nice things:

1. Getting to the end of the working day
2. Driving straight out of a car parking space
3. One good review
4. Crumble and cream
5. Poetry
6. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Operatic thoughts and more Maloney

Well, gosh, Love and Other Demons was certainly an experience. Not one we particularly enjoyed, alas. Although the weather was kind and our picnic was fun. To my mind, it was all rather dull with a simple recitative used throughout instead of any chance at lyricism (which I would have thought the book would encourage). I've never been so relieved to see the descent of a curtain. Though the singers were grand, I have to say, and of course it's always good to see a red-haired woman as the main character, naturally - it's just that the material they had to work with seemed poor. As Lord H commented as we left, they took the best bits of a very difficult book, so good on the lyricist and composer for that - but what they should have done to convey the power and passion of the themes was to give the South American flavour by using the rhythms and songs of that country, and to contrast this with the Catholicism sections by using religious chant as a counterpoint. Now that's an opera we'd have liked to see - but unfortunately this attempt ain't it. Perhaps some other composer could have a go?...

Oh, and my shoes were agony too - it was a relief to wrench them off when we got home!

This morning, the lovely Jeffrey Round has emailed me to say the following about Maloney's Law:

“A lovely book! Your poetic instincts were obvious from the start. I can always tell a real writer from a storyteller ... And gosh, but Dominic was a sexy bugger! Why is it always the immoral ones who are soooo good?????” [I've removed the middle sentence which gives away plot]

Thanks so much, Jeffrey - that's very much appreciated indeed! So glad you enjoyed the read. Also glad you liked Dominic - some don't! Of course, I think he's a sexy cad, but I would say that, wouldn't I?...

Today I have sorted out the cars so we have enough oil and water and tyre pressures for the week (hurrah!) and I have stirred myself to domesticity by baking a peach crumble. Which worked - double hurrah! This time, I added fruit juice to it so it wasn't so dry and we had the cream left over from yesterday to use up too, which helped. The peaches were perfect as well - I swiped one or two pieces (well, more actually) for myself whilst cutting them up. Mmmm, lovely.

And I've finished reading the hugely talented Vicki Tyley's Sleight Malice. A grand read, Vicki - I do hope they will be in the shops soon for you. I particularly loved the Desley & Fergus arc - they rocked. I've now started Vicki's Brittle Shadows and am loving Jemma too. I do enjoy a good action heroine!

Tonight, I have the repeat of Midsomer Murders in my sights for an evening's TV slump - ooh, and we've managed to watch our video of the last of the Bonekickers episodes. How I'm going to miss the gang! I hope they make another series - I do so love the main character, Gillian. Favourite character scene: the one where the great G rushes away from a kiss with the male totty as she's seen something more exciting and relevant to her mission on the telly - hurrah for Woman Power! It's good to see a gal who isn't afraid not to be nice. Bring it on! Wimpy heroines are soooo last century ...

This week's haiku:

A marsh harrier
foreshadows death in the sky.
Wind blows the clouds in.


Today's nice things:

1. Discovering the opera they should have written ...
2. Maloney comments
3. A successful peach crumble - and cream!
4. Kick-ass heroines a-plenty
5. TV
6. Haikus.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What a lovely aria and some nice Maloney comments

Today is Glyndebourne day and we're off to see Love and Other Demons. This is filling me with terror as I hated the book so much and - Lordy - but it's a newly commissioned opera. Will there be tunes? Will I have to run screaming from the auditorium in the knowledge that I am not intellectual enough or musical enough to understand it?? All these questions - and more - will, I fear, be answered by the close of play today. The plot thickens, Carruthers ...

So this morning, Lord H and I have been playing hunt the picnic in Godalming, courtesy of Mr Waitrose. Gawd bless 'im. We thought it was about time we actually chose the DIY picnic option as it's our last chance to do so (we always eat in the Mildmay for our last opera of the season - Gordon Bennett, but I must have taken extra Posh Pills today. Sorry. Even my hair is behaving itself ...). Anyway we've gone with the salmon goo starter, the turkey pie main and the chocolate orgasm dessert. With cream. Um, that's not the actual name of the pudding chosen, but it really could be. There's a whole untouched marketing ploy just waiting to be discovered there.

And I'm delighted to see that the lovely Caro has kindly mentioned Maloney's Law on her blog here - thank you so much, Caro - I'm a sucker for any of my stuff being called "brilliant" - hell, aren't we all! But, seriously, many thanks - much appreciated.

Anyway, apart from that, not much has happened here in the Surrey outback - though I was interested to see that during Lord H's and my absence in the Eastern counties, Russia has been throwing its toys out of the pram. Honestly, the things countries will get up to when our backs are turned ... Still, we're here now and on the case, so we're hopeful that a tentative world peace will be re-established any day now, sigh ...

Meanwhile, and keeping my priorities in the right order, I'm blogging early as I have to spend at least two hours attempting to look respectful for opera folk and working out what I can actually fit into, post-holiday (I'm sure the thighs I've returned with are someone else's, not my own ...). I fear it's the Bridget Jones All-Is-Safely-Gathered-In pants today, folks - and no photos!

Today's nice things:

1. Opera - possibly
2. Nice comments about Maloney - definitely
3. Chocolate orgasms - absolutely.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, August 15, 2008

Birds, a Maloney review and a touch of pink

What a fabulous holiday - we've had a seriously great time. And that in spite of the rain, which didn't dampen our spirits one jot, hurrah. Pause now for Boring Birder Moment (AKA BBM): we've seen 15 new birds in Norfolk, double hurrah! Including the bearded tit (my target bird for the week and identified by ... um ... me, even before our tour expert for the day could get to it), a spotted redshank, eider ducks, yellow wagtails, marsh harriers, reed bunting, gannet, a red-legged partridge, two golden pheasants, a ruff, several whimbrels, a sandwich tern, a willow warbler, two tree creepers and two yellowhammers. Well gosh! And yellowhammers really do sing: a little bit of bread and no cheeee-eese. Right in front of us on top of a bush too, Gawd bless it.

The hotel was grand too - a room the size of Essex so it became utterly exhausting just reaching the bed from the door, and some fabulous food. And - triple hurrahs (but we knew as we'd checked for this) - the menu did indeed change every day. I do so hate hotels where they only change it every week - it's pure laziness. I also ate samphire for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the eating experience - and yes the waiter does have to give you instructions. It's very messy! And I had a chicken curry dish to die for. Mind you, they were quite quaint, as well as being totally charming - the concept of trays doesn't seem to have reached Norfolk yet. If they brought you something which required more than two hands, they would make several trips. We only saw someone use a tray once, for clearing up a lot of drinks, and he had obviously been around a long time. Perhaps you have to serve at the hotel for ten years before they give you a tray of your own? It's a mystery ... It was also a mystery why I had to keep asking for a jug of water and glasses and they were most reluctant to provide one, or so it seemed! Lord H thinks it's because they know what's in the water and it's the cause of all that Norfolk inbreeding, and who's to say he's wrong?...

Anyway, I was much delighted to return and discover that Maloney's Law has its first five star review on Amazon UK, thanks to Megsl, which you can read here or indeed below:

“Maloney's Law has excellent pace and a rich sense of place as it eases its way into the criminal world. Anne Brooke knows her London and understands the motives of both the 'good' and the 'bad'. The clever 'insider' knowledge helps to keep you on tenterhooks. But this is more than another 'gay crime novel'. It touches on very powerful emotions and there are some heartrending moments. One can't help liking Paul Maloney and his 'Laws' that mark him out ultimately in his true colours. A further precept might be added to those 'Laws'. All it takes 'to make a town good or make it what you see' is for 'good' people to do nothing. And Paul Maloney is not one of those 'good' people. He is, in the final assessment, a man of heart (despite his statement that friendship is better than love) and of integrity. He is a man of principle. A thought-provoking book.”

Thanks, Megsl - very much appreciated! And talking of books, the lovely Vicki Tyley has commented at the Authonomy site on Pink Champagne and Apple Juice as follows:

"Riotous "chick-lit" with a pink twist and heaps of laugh out loud moments. Just adored impulsive – or should that be impetuous – Angie and her motley, larger-than-life entourage. Gotta love those knickers. Simply gorgeous."

Again, many thanks, Vicki! Other good book news is that two of my poems, Venetian Doorway and Bridge Song, are published in the latest edition of The Seventh Quarry poetry magazine. Lovely to see them there, and I'm sure I'll enjoy reading the rest of the work included too. That brings to an end my poetry submissions actually, as I've tried my hand at no more magazines since then. It just seemed better to stop - too much trauma in the silences, as people don't generally let you know if they don't want stuff now. So there you go.

And today, we've spent a grand few hours at Titchfield Haven and have spotted another two new birds! First, two Little Ringed Plovers right in front of us, and secondly the gorgeous Osprey - being mobbed by anxious birds desperate for it to leave their vicinity. Both wonderful. After all that, I've had a much needed - two-hour! - nap. Equally wonderful.

Whilst on holiday, I finished Bethan Roberts' novel, The Pools. A fabulous start and a very good ending - but a very, very slow middle. I wasn't sure how they could be connected really. She seemed to give me a lot of irrelevant stuff, but even so she writes well. The book's strapline of "A cool and relevant novel" did rather seem to damn with faint praise as well as being not entirely true (to my mind the main character is the son, not the father - I was fed up with the father by the time I'd got a quarter of the way through). If I'd seen that first, I suspect I wouldn't have picked it up, although it's had one good result: I'd like my next novel to have the strapline of "A hot and irrelevant novel". By George, that'll draw 'em in ...

Today's nice things:

1. Being on holiday
2. Birds - new ones aplenty!
3. The Maloney review
4. The Champers comment.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, August 08, 2008

Golf, hair and holidays

Last day before our holiday today, hurrah! So I'd really better go and pack soon. For those of you keen on Norfolk, we'll be staying here for a few days. Shame it won't be that sunny though - indeed I'm packing for torrential rain. I fear lots of wet birdwatching days ahead - but what the hell, eh, it's a holiday and ye gods but I need the break. If only I can have five minutes of time and sunshine to sit in that glorious looking courtyard, then I will feel fulfilled.

Have had a good morning's golf today - my putting was shit-hot and I was getting the balls in when really I shouldn't have been. As it were. I was particularly proud of my long putt on the ninth which rattled in as if it was always meant to be and gave me a par. Ha! It makes it all worthwhile, you know.

Back home, the letter from the specialist has come, confirming what I already know, and asking my own doctor to refer me to the Royal Surrey. However, I was rather brightened by the fact that she doesn't think my non-standard cyst is likely to be "of any sinister pathology" (a turn of phrase I can only admire), so it will be interesting to see what they do think the bugger is. Once they've had a chance to have a good look at it of course. My bet is on my old school tie still. But at least it looks more hopeful now, thank the Lord. Talking of which, here's a poem I wrote yesterday when I was staring in the mirror and wondering which toothpaste to use, and which is very tongue-in-cheek - honest!

The cautious optimism of teeth

The medical profession
might be frowning
over the state
of my ovaries

but I continue to floss,
confident
that at the very least
I’ll die smiling.


In preparation for my holiday, I've also had a haircut and now look utterly amazing - Lynda is such a genius really. Shame it'll all fall apart when I wash my own hair tomorrow - as ever. For now I am attempting to keep my head as still as possible so Lord H can be wowed by the state of his wife when he comes home. As always, of course.

I have also been regretting the fact that I haven't been taking my Vitamin B depression pills - I must remember that just because I'm feeling okay doesn't mean to say I shouldn't take them! Why don't I ever learn that?? Groan. Anyway, I was cast into a fit of weeping this afternoon when I realised that the shit-hot short story that I think is one of the best and most literary I've ever written got precisely nowhere in a competition I just found out about today. Yes, yes, I know - this is normal and I shouldn't be making a song and dance about it, but quite honestly I felt truly gutted. Sometimes it feels as if you try and try sooooo bloody hard, you edit until your hair falls out, and you can't make what you've written any better - and still it's not bloody good enough. Really, writing can be the most soul-destroying job in the world sometimes. It's the only thing that can make you feel a complete failure within seconds. No matter how good past stuff has been. Sigh. Anyway, I managed to drag myself to the kitchen and take a Vitamin B pill, plus a De-Stress pill. Plus the last slice of chocolate orange cake. The combination seems to have helped a little, thank God ... But I'm still feeling fragile. A situation not helped by the fact that I think I'm coming down with another cold, bugger it. So I've taken a couple of Echinacea pills too. Hell, shake me and I'll rattle.

In the midst of all that, I've flung myself, gibbering like a loon, into Simon and Annyeke's story and now have c22,500 words of Hallsfoot's Battle under my belt. And that's where it'll stand for now, I think. Because I really do need to go and pack. And have some kind of a normal bloody life, ho ho.

And finally, the very enthusiastic and also delightful people at the Completely Novel website are celebrating their launch in October with a short story competition. Though, bearing in mind my last experience with short stories, I suspect I'll be happier if I don't enter. I have enough on my plate really. But still, it could be worth a look!

So, I hope you all have a lovely week and I'll catch up with you when I'm back on Friday!

Today's nice things:

1. Golf
2. Haircut
3. Writing
4. Holiday.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Hallsfoot, Equinox and a clean getaway after all ...

Have spent most of the day working on Hallsfoot's Battle and am now at the grand total of 21,500 words. Or thereabouts. I've just got to the telling of the First Gathandrian Legend, which is basically Gathandria's creation story. So that's proving challenging to make up as I go along, for sure. Fun too. Annyeke and I are hoping this will be the first stage in helping Simon to come to terms with who he is and what he can do with the mind-cane but, really, it's anyone's guess just now.

I was also really pleased to see that my poem, The Death of Marat, is included in Issue 18 of the Equinox poetry journal. And I'm among some great company too. I think it's the best poetry magazine I've had the pleasure of reading for a long, long time. Bloody hell, I might even subscribe, if I can find the energy for it. I particularly enjoyed offerings from Nigel Humphreys, Navkirat Sodhi, Andrew Geary and Barbara Daniels. Thought I'd best name-drop in advance, just in case they become hugely and justifiably famous later, you know ...

And the postal service is becoming stranger - I found Mother's postcard in the mud behind the recycling bins, so I had to scramble around in the dirt in order to retrieve it. It was lucky I glimpsed it at all. Anyway, she's having fun in Cork. As you do. Though she was sorry to have missed Jersey - the seas were too rough. I would have thought she'd have been able to get there with her broomstick as usual, mind you. Perhaps she left it at home?

In terms of reading, I've given up in bored despair with the pretentious and poorly written No Country for Old Men. Shame on you, Cormac McCarthy! Have you not heard of speech marks? Dull claptrap, to my mind. I hope the film was better, for those of you who've seen it. The strapline for this book tells me: There are no clean getaways. Well, actually, yes there are: just remove the bookmark and start something else. That'll do it.

Meanwhile, at home.com, Lord H has returned from hunting the buffalo and leapt straight into fixing our very droopy telephone wire. And I hadn't even realised it was something we could fix - seeing as we're so high up here in the shires. Lord H's response when I asked how he'd done it: I have very long arms, you know. Hmm, I suspect it was rather a matter of pulling at the end and using a carefully positioned couple of nails and a hammer. Still, I could be wrong. It has been known.

Tonight, I'm planning an evening of sudokus and TV. I am strangely involved with "Lab Rats" now. Hell, I'll miss them when it's finished.

Today's nice things:

1. Writing Hallsfoot
2. A published poem
3. Abandoning a bad book
4. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Thorn, fanciable men and fire drills

Lovely to see Thorn in the Flesh on the Bristlecone Pine Press website today, and I also managed to do some marketing last night, so I’m hoping that raises interest in the eBook. Don’t miss out!

At work, I’m trundling through the minutes of yesterday’s meeting – interest levels are low at the moment due to (a) total exhaustion and (b) impending holiday, but I’m doing my best. Am also attempting to set up a staffing rota for the first of our new students’ events in early September, so here’s hoping I drum up some enthusiasm for that also. Eventually. Not to mention that I need to proof-read the new Mentors’ Handbook before I leave tonight.

Mind you, today’s big excitement was a real-live fire drill. Gosh! However, without the guiding hand of David or Ruth, we were somewhat confused as to where to gather once we’d escaped the non-existent flames, but we eventually followed the Catering crowd and ended up roughly where we should be. One hopes. I feel there’s room for improvement however … Oh, and Ruth’s husband, Douglas, popped in (after the drill, thankfully) to fetch the car keys (a long story – safest not to ask!), just as we were discussing which stars we fancied most. Note for Husbands: there are some occasions when truly it’s best not to enquire about the conversation when you enter a room! You only have yourself to blame when we tell you the truth …

Walked round the campus at lunchtime, as the weather was slightly better – as indeed am I – ye gods but it’s really good to get out of the office sometimes. The ducks were nice too, even though my special shady bench was once again occupied. Sigh.

Ooh, almost forgot – this week’s heroes are (a) Richard Dawkins, (b) Ruth’s dentist – possibly (for solving her toothache problem, but here’s hoping it works …), (c) Germaine Greer, and (d) Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman – who count as one. Almost. Which brings me nicely back to which stars we fancy most. Mmmm ...

And tonight, I might try and do a little bit more to Hallsfoot’s Battle, but I’m not pushing it and, frankly, the call of the TV seems stronger.

Meanwhile, at home the lovely Jill Weekes has sent me a copy of Maloney's Law to sign - so thank you, Jill, as it's lovely to see a real copy of the book at last! And hey doesn't it look good. Lord H is particularly taken with the back cover whisky and watch picture. So appropriate for Paul! But don't worry, I shall sign and put it in the post tomorrow, so he'll have to wait for my author's copies to arrive post-holiday to read it himself.

Today’s nice things:

1. Thorn at Bristlecone Pine Press
2. Fire drills
3. Stars and husbands
4. Lunchtime walks
5. TV
6. Seeing my first copy of Maloney - even if only temporarily!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Blood tests, Thorn Take 3 and Bonekickers

Up bright and early this morning for my second ovarian tumour marker blood test, which I’d booked for 9am. Actually I was there early and they just slotted me in, so at least I got that part over soon, hurrah. While I was there, I reminded them that my holiday starts on Saturday and ideally I’d like to know results and what the next stage will be before I go. The very sweet and chatty nurse suggested I ring in late this afternoon or tomorrow to get the results, which I will do – though of course that doesn’t take me any further forward in terms of what happens next, if that’s what’s needed. I also gather from the first results letter that they’re intending to bring my October scan forward as well, but as yet I don’t know to when. UPDATE: not great news, I'm afraid: my blood test is higher than the first one was (up is bad and down is good), so they're referring me to the Royal Surrey for further investigation. Groan. Sounds rather like a police operation to me ... I shall presumably await a letter telling me when I'm due to stand trial (as it were) once I'm back from holiday. Hey ho.

Meanwhile, and to take my mind off my ovaries (surely every woman needs that!), there’s yet more exciting news about Thorn in the Flesh – the Kindle eBook version is now available at Amazon.com and can be found here at a very reasonable price – so the ideal accompaniment to your Kindle machine. I’m thrilled at the new venture, as you can imagine. Here’s to healthy sales. I’m hoping I might get more American and other interest this time round, as I gather some non-UK people were put off by the postage price of the original paperback. eBooks solve that problem for sure!

It was too cold and wet to wander round campus at lunchtime so I just attempted to do a sudoku at my desk. And failed, sigh. I can see I’m going to have to call on Lord H’s skills in the logic arena this evening … Anyway, this afternoon, I’ve been sending out the annual report templates to people, even though it’s not due for a while yet. Ha! That’ll keep them on their toes, eh … And the Project Welcome team have asked me to minute their final pre-Freshers’ Week meeting, so I’d best get my brain in gear. Minuting meetings where you don’t know anything about what’s been said before is always scary – funny how non-minuters never seem to realise this. I’m sure they think we just swan in and start scribbling, but heck it’s honestly not that easy. Background is all. Though I suppose winging it is my middle name. But really only in novel writing …

As I’m feeling better today, I’ll pop in to see Gladys tonight on the way home – I’m not sure she really knew it was her birthday last week, to be honest – or she wasn’t too keen on the idea of being another year older. I’ll have to do a sneaky check while I’m restocking the bird table and see whether she remembered to open her presents.

Tonight, I’ll do some marketing for the new Thorn and then there’s the existential joy of “Bonekickers” on TV, double hurrah. I do so love that programme and have no idea why everyone bitches about it. Hey, people, it’s fantasy – live with it! After all, nobody ever complains about how unreal “Dr Who” is … And I’m beginning to bond with the Bonekickers team too – hmm, perhaps there is really no hope for me after all?

I've also finished reading Joseph Hansen's Skinflick - the next in my re-reading of his 1970s gay crime series. Marvellous stuff - the ending is so shit-hot. I was on the edge of my seat. Great characters, great dialogue and snappy pace - I love it.

Today’s nice things:

1. The Amazon.com Thorn eBook
2. Battling womanfully with sudokus
3. TV.
3. Reading

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Monday, August 04, 2008

Muddling through and Thorn revisited

Rather a rough night last night, Carruthers – couldn’t sleep at all, so got up at about midnight and did some sudokus. Eventually had an hour’s sleep on the sofa and then woke up again with a stiff neck at about 2am and went back to bed. All my dreams lately have been focused on lions and tigers and such like stalking me and trying to get into whichever house I am hiding in. Hmm, doesn’t take an analyst to work out that one then!... I did think I might try to face the buggers next time I dreamt it and see if they’re as bad as I fear – which sometimes works – but I haven’t so far had the balls to do it.

Anyway here’s a poem about it:

Zoo

Lions and tigers
prowl round the house
at night.

They are coloured
like sand, they snuffle
and purr

but their intentions
are dubious.
Don't trust them.

Their hot satin mouths
will tear you
skin from skin

and you won't be the same
again.



Anyway, I have dragged myself to work and am feeling better in small waves. Sort of. I also have enough Lucozade inside me to launch the Titanic twice, and am now so hyper you would probably have to scrape me off the ceiling with a pen-knife. Ye gods, no wonder I can’t sleep!

Mind you, the good news is that yesterday Bristlecone Pine Press sent me the edited version of the Thorn in the Flesh ebook, and I was able to sign it off for them last night. Apart from the corrections I made to it, the only phrase changed is “tannoy system”. Which is now “P A system”. I had no idea up to that point that tannoy is such a UK-based word, but apparently it’s actually a generalised trade name, like Hoover, according to a quick slice of research on the web. You do indeed learn something new every day. So it looks like the ebook should be available at a very reasonable cost very shortly, so many thanks, Leslie, of BPP for that! Watch this space … And talking of which here it is on Mobipocket, with the full Monty on Amazon still to come. And very reasonably priced it is too - buy early buy often!

This morning, I have muddled through the informal Steering Group meeting – most people are away on holiday, but we managed to keep it going for the required hour. Just. And hey the coffee and tea was nice. Though the biscuits I’d ordered were mysteriously absent and I had to hunt for water. Thank goodness for my lunchtime reflexology session – just when I needed it most. Again.

Tonight, I’m facing the Tesco shop – groan! – and then I shall collapse in front of “New Tricks” on TV and do my Slob of the Year routine. So no change there then.

Today’s nice things:

1. Signing off Thorn for Bristlecone Pine Press
2. Thorn appearing on Mobipocket!
3. Reflexology
4. Poetry
5. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Hallsfoot, haikus and waiting for the night

Hurrah, am feeling a bit better today - more like a woman with a cold and less like a walking disease with no human characteristics. I have even stopped grunting and wailing and begun forming actual words. Lord H is delighted. Only one-syllable ones though. I don't want to get overtired. We're really very delicate here in the south.

I've even managed to do another 500 words to Hallsfoot's Battle, thus reaching (so soon!) the magical number of 20,000. Only another 100,000 to go and I might even have the makings of another fantasy novel. Ye gods. I have to think of what the first of the planned four Gathandrian legends is going to be though. It'll have to be something to do with fortitude and lust, as that's my theme for the first quarter of the book. I have to have a theme for these big fantasy stories, or otherwise I can't make my way up the mountain at all. It'll also have to be something to do with song, as Gathandria (where this one is mainly set) is big on song. It'll affect how Simon learns to develop his mind-skills. Even the land sings. Well, when it's not under attack from the mind-executioner, it does. Anyway, it's similar to how the Lammas Lands (where The Gifting has its foundations) is very big on story-telling, and the importance of stories in life. Lordy, but I like to make things difficult for myself. Why can't I just write light romantic fiction that sells? It's a mystery. Best start practising my scales then, and paying more attention when at the opera. Ho hum.

I've also managed to set foot outside the flat - thus breaking my developing reputation as a recluse. Shame, shame, we cry! Mind you, I did feel quite shaky when staggering down the outside stairs, so had to really concentrate. Don't want to give the neighbours a shock at the sight of my blood-stained frame on the concrete after all. (Whoops, I feel a storyline coming on - suppress it at once! I have enough on my writing plate just now ...) They're doddery enough as it is, Gawd bless 'em. Anyway, with Lord H's help, I've sorted the cars out, done the washing and even brushed my hair down from its usual surprised cockatoo style. I actually look relatively normal - a state of being which surely can't last.

Talking of Lord H, while we were eating lunch (yes, I'm eating - double hurrah!) I casually asked him what we were going to do about tonight (leaving unsaid the fact that I was referring to TV, as there's nowt on but bloody rabbits and bloody Marple). Lord H at once put on his best Christopher Lee expression and whispered, in a tone laden with doom: I think if we wait for long enough, the night will come to us ... Indeed yes, I suppose it will, but, my goodness, how the long summer afternoons in Godalming simply fly by, m'dears.

And before we are overwhelmed by existential darkness and the faint humane glitter of the TV, here's this week's haiku:

On this summer day
my throat prickles with winter:
bleak times still to come.


Today's nice things:

1. Feeling better
2. Getting to 20,000 words on Hallsfoot
3. Getting the domestics done
4. Lord H
5. Haikus.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A slow day

Honestly, nothing much has happened today. It's one of those days in the universe which doesn't - at least here in cloudy Godalming - count for much. However, my stomach is less gripey than yesterday and I think that whatever I have is developing into a head cold with digestive accessories. (Would you like your head cold with digestive accessories, Ms Brooke, or without? Oh with, please doctor, it's so much more fun ...)

As a result, I didn't go for a day's birdwatching in Pulborough Brooks, but I encouraged Lord H to go anyway - there's nothing duller than being indoors with a sick wife. So one of us has had a nice day at least, hurrah, and he's come back loaded with Lemsips, Lucozades, the Saturday Torygraph (ah, here in Surrey, where would we be without it?) and - best of all! - a new cuddly bird, complete with appropriate song. What a superhusband. The bird in question is a cuddly songthrush, and my goodness but it's loud. Extra sensitive too - it's supposed to sing if you push its back but this one starts up if you so much as glance at it whilst passing. Perhaps it's trying to tell us something? So, a nice, if opinionated, addition to our cuddly bird collection.

Whilst Lord H was out, I have been lying on the sofa and doing a lot of sudokus. Ye gods, I'll have to be careful though - I can't imagine what would happen if there were no puzzles to do around the flat. I can see I'm going to have to stock up fairly soon. Not only that but I've been reading the gloriously talented Vicki Tyley's novel, Sleight Malice, which she has kindly let me have. Another great story with some kick-ass characters, Vicki! I am wildly in love with the main man, Fergus. When oh when will publishers have the sense to take this stuff on?? Deeeeeep sigh.

Meanwhile the US publication date for the eBook of Thorn in the Flesh comes closer. The final edits have been done and it's now with the designer apparently. I might even be able to sign it off before I go on holiday, which would be grand. It's certainly exciting and I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product very much.

And I've even managed to squeeze out another 500 words of Hallsfoot's Battle, though it has very much been a struggle today. I'm floundering around for ideas and some kind of forward motion - I suspect I'll have to rely on the mind-executioner to do that. He always does something off-beat everyone else in the book has to respond to. I hope. Anyway, I'm not going to do any more to it now - I'm feeling too old and too tired, and the other 500 words I'd like to have under my belt before the holiday can wait. Besides, there's a barrel-load of crap TV on tonight, and I need something light and fluffy that just goes over my head. Bring on that darn song-thrush eh ...

Today's nice things:

1. Slobbing
2. Thorn eBook development
3. Cuddly birds
4. Writing
5. Vicki Tyley's novels
6. Sudokus.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, August 01, 2008

Eclipses, strange beasts and the Red Room

Waved goodbye to Lord H at our front door as he left for work today and then hurried to the bedroom window to wave him off down the path as usual. At which point a dark grey tabby strolled down the path and paused at the junction with the road - a distinctly unusual event that made me wonder if Lord H had turned into a cat and, if so, where he'd put his briefcase. However, a moment or so later, Lord H strolled out as usual, pointing at the cat and shaking his head and then pointing at himself and nodding. Always best to reassure wives that one is one's usual shape, I suppose. Anyway, I did know Lord H hadn't turned into the cat - if he had, the cat would have been taller.

Later on, I was reading the news online and thought the morning was turning a little dull when I realised we were having an eclipse. Well gosh! They sneaked that one up on us for sure. Or am I the only person in the western hemisphere who didn't know it was happening? It wouldn't surprise me. Apparently it lasted from 9.32 to 10.16am, and has surely to be in the running for the Dullest Eclipse in the Universe Award. Ah well, many a flower ... etc etc.

Still, Marian and I managed to squeeze a game of golf into our action-packed day. We did okay, but not brilliantly, though Marian's shot hitting the edge of the pond and then bouncing over it onto the green (dammit and curses, Carruthers) has to go into the annals. Really, m'dears, I was green with envy. After all that excitement, I popped into Godalming to pick up the usual shopping and had a very pleasant chat with the lady who sells The Big Issue. She was very excited about showing me pictures of her new son, Ronaldo, a brother for Yosef - though language problems prevented us from being entirely sure of the exact age of the latter. Anyway, all very thrilling for her, and the new child even sleeps through the night - almost. How very civilised. Well done, Big Issue Lady!

Back home, I scribbled down some more to Hallsfoot's Battle and I now have just over 19,000 words. And I've given a larger role to the First Gathandrian Elder, who comes more to the fore in this book for a variety of reasons. I've decided to call him Daagmund - which derives from the Anglo-Saxon and means Day-Guardian. Or as near as darn it. Well, it seemed to fit. I shall enjoy having him in my head, I think.

Ooh and thanks to a blog tip-off from Roger Morris, I have joined The Red Room and now have my own author's page here. You can find out all about my influences, my favourite writers and what I'm reading now. Amongst other stuff. Well gosh! Really, what more could you ask for? Sometimes, I nearly sound like a real writer, ho ho. Almost.

And I have to admit that I'm not very well, dammit. I felt rather odd this morning, but this afternoon, this odd feeling has developed into a series of fascinating stomach gripes that suddenly appear out of nowhere and hold me captive until they pass. How marvellous. Along with that is a very achey feeling and a complete lack of interest in food. Very bizarre indeed! Anyway, I've had a nap late afternoon, but have now dragged myself upright to greet the returning cat-husband. Not sure whether the planned pizza & garlic bread will actually be on the menu or not, but I'm swigging lemonade (always very good for stomachs, along with coke, you know) as if it's going out of business.

Still, at least it's taking my mind off other health issues so, hell, there's always a silver lining somewhere! Possibly in my ruddy stomach indeed ...

Today's nice things:

1. Laughing at dull eclipses
2. Golf
3. Big Issue news
4. Writing
5. The Red Room entry

Anne Brooke
Anne's website