Monday, April 30, 2007

Steering Group and Book Circle

Was it just me or was last night's offering of "Kingdom" on TV slightly better than the week before? More jokes and sharpness, thank God. If they could only shake off the trappings of ruddy "Heartbeat", they'd be laughing. Oh and get rid of the irritating sister - a waste of space in my opinion. There, rant over. Phew

Have taken my calming pills to work today due to this evening’s University book circle discussion of A Dangerous Man ( Am being good so far though and have only taken two. Am definitely saving two for later though – plus the Rescue Remedy spray. Oh, I’ve already taken one of those, darnit. And it’s only 11.45am. Ah well. Our family isn’t known for personal courage, you know. We always hide or indulge in dubious black market activities during war time. It’s in the genes. Anyway, thank you to all who’ve sent messages of support and good thoughts through the airwaves (and some funny ones too – thanks, Clayton – – all very much appreciated. And, talking of which, I see the University Arts Office website has misspelt my name, so goodness knows how anyone’s going to be able to buy the book afterwards, should they wish to. Still, I’m used to that by now – sometimes my own mother misspells my name, so I’m lucky to have an identity at all really.

This morning, I have tidied up my emails, even dealing with some of them, and also updated parts of the website. So I’m not a complete quivering wreck, aha! It’s the Steering Group meeting at lunchtime, so I shall have to look knowledgeable about all sorts of stuff about which I know nothing. No change there then. But at least it will be something to do – and also nice to get back into some kind of work routine. Hurrah!

Spent the afternoon attempting to write the minutes up and hyperventilating. Maybe I’ll take one of my fluffy pens (possibly more!) with me tonight. I fear I may get stuck with Author’s Block – which is when you can remember absolutely nothing at all about a book you’re supposed to have written. Or is that just me? Or heck, I might even enjoy it – we’ll see. So maybe I should just stop moaning. For once. Ha! But then what would I blog about, eh??

Oh, and last night I hit 115,000 (exactly! Which appeals to my OCD tendencies sooo much!) words of The Gifting, with more plot to come. So there’s life in the old dog yet. Was even thinking about possible sequels – but whoah there! Let’s not run before I can walk. Have to edit the darn thing and then sell it yet. So at least four years’ work there, m’dears!

Sigh - we've got an email from the new vicar - addressed only to Lord H (hello? I've been leaving church for 18 months piece by piece, and not a single damn one of you has noticed??...) saying how sorry they are to lose him and if there's anything they can do to bring him back to St Peter's. Bloody hell, how about addressing a missive to Mrs Lord H? That might have bloody done it. Too late now though - and it's a shame, as the new vicar was human to me the only time I met him. Hmm, that trait must have been removed by now ... Ah well.

Anyway, I shall endeavour not to be bitter & twisted (though if you hear a scraping sound, it's probably the gnashing of my teeth ...), as there is good news below and I don't want to spoil it ...

Stop Press! Have just come back from the book circle. It was bloody brilliant!!! I utterly, utterly loved it and I utterly, utterly had a fantastic time!! So you all have full permission to beat me to a pulp with your keyboards until I beg for mercy for being a complete wimp. (I promise not to enjoy it). The group were lovely, they'd read the book, they'd got really into it, they couldn't stop talking and they asked loads of really interesting questions. Hurrah!! I even managed to sell one more copy, plus a copy of A Stranger's Table (, so I am just soooo happy!

Today’s nice things:

1. Kind comments from nice blog readers – thank you!
2. Hitting the 115k word marker – precisely!
3. The book circle – hurrah!

Anne Brooke

Sunday, April 29, 2007

More spring cleaning, event nerves and a good book

No church today. In any form. But, on the grounds that cleanliness is next to godliness, I have done my bit for the Great Hereafter and vacuumed the car. Yes, astonishing, isn't it? In the middle of yesterday's clear-out, Lord H found the car vacuum, recharged it (my, how thoughtful ...) and so today I have used it. But, ye gods, it doesn't last long, does it? Or maybe it's the amount of mess in my car that did for it. Hard to say, really. Anyway, we are recharging it again, in case I get the urge in another ten years' time. Ho ho. Even more astonishingly, I have actually dusted and polished the inside of the car as well. Which just proves, twice, that the age of miracles is not dead. Yet.

Apart from that, I've done some writing, and now have Simon through the first of his four final tests. And I think I'll put a sex scene in the next one (or rather an almost sex scene) as, hell, it's about time I wrote one. And I deserve it. If nothing else, it'll take my mind off my growing horror at tomorrow's book circle event for A Dangerous Man (, which I am now dreading on the grounds that (a) nobody will turn up, and (b) if they do, they won't have read the book so the discussion options will be zilch, and (c) somehow they will be able to tell that I've only sold about 50 copies so am not worthy of their time. Hell, I might even get that tattooed on my forehead before I go in - it'll save all those accusations ... God, how I hate this part of it - yes, I know it's great that I've been invited and I am pleased - it's just that my nerves will be shot to pieces by the time I get there, resulting in me gabbling like an idiot, going as red as a stressed tomato and looking like a klutz. Hmm, so no changes there then. Nobody will notice the difference. I will have to remember to take my calming pills, my Rescue Remedy spray and ask where the nearest loo is. Last time I had to do a public book event, I had to go to the loo five times. In the last ten minutes before it started. Ah well ... I think I might leave my kidneys to Science when I'm dead. I'm sure they'll find them fascinating.

Sorry, sorry, I'm blabbering, I know. There's just not enough TV on tonight to keep my mind off it. Sorry ... Even "Ugly Betty" has ended on a sad note, though was as classy as ever.

Anyway, the good and sad news is that I've just finished Stef Penney's The Tenderness of Wolves. It's bloody marvellous. I'll say it again, in case somebody missed that at the back: it's bloody effing marvellous. Read it. You won't regret it. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. My only problem was (a) reaching the end and feeling devastated that I'd done so, and (b) even though the end was great and perfectly judged, I felt there was something I'd missed in Mrs Ross's name. I didn't get what it was. I desperately wanted it to be Amy (for reasons that will be apparent if you've read it), but I am not sure. And I desperately want to know. So if there's anyone out there who can put me out of my misery, please email me via my website (see below) so as to not spoil the surprise for anyone else. Thank you.

Still have to ring Mother tonight - suspect it's safer to go light on our current church difficulties and be nice, happy daughter. I think that will be the easier option all round really. And of course there's Stephen Fry's "Kingdom" - but I thought last week's episode was really too bland (though Lord H enjoyed it), so I'm hoping for more wit and sharpness this week. We'll see.

This week's haiku (well, it's not a haiku - more of a short poem, but it is what it is, I think):

My walk a little less steady now.
Birds fly through broken clouds
and all the land is water.

Today's nice things:

1. Vacuuming the car
2. Writing
3. Stef Penney's book.

Anne Brooke

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Baby animals, church encounters and a brief spring clean

Lord H feeling a bit low today, as am I a little, so the two of us are depressed together. Marital harmony. It's a wonderful thing. So we've been quiet, but not completely silent, which is nice. A slow start to our morning too.

We decided not to go shopping for a new casual jacket for Lord H, as he wasn't really feeling up to it, and visited Burpham Court Farm to look at the baby animals instead. There weren't many people around, which was a complete surprise, but very pleasant. Though I did get rather irritated by the Neanderthal Woman on the till who took ten minutes (at least!) to sell us a ticket. But I couldn't be arsed to (a) get cross or (b) be witty, so I just stared at her blankly until she finally gave in and sold us an admission sticker. Ye gods though, no wonder there weren't many people around. There've probably been loads, but none of them could be bothered to wait for N.W. to get her act together.

Anyway, it was nice wandering round and seeing the baby llama, the lambs (different varieties and ages), calves, ducklings, chicks and goslings. I took loads of photos, which have come out surprisingly well, for me. That is, there is actually something vaguely recognisable as an animal (or bird) in most of them, rather than just a lot of grass and the odd hoof, which is my normal level of expertise.

Came home via the Great God Waitrose, where we have stocked up on Chinese for this evening, sushi for lunch (I love sushi - could eat it every day), beer, cider and the paper. Everything you could need for a weekend indeed. The paper was full of stuff about eBay, so I have told Irene (, as it might come in handy for Goldenford's ( forthcoming book, if only as a useful contact point. Heck they might even review it - you never know.

Lord H dropped me off at home and then went to St Peter's to return a box of the stuff from the vestry which we've had for a while. He thought this would be a good time to do it when nobody was around, as we are after all, and if truth be told, in the final stages of leaving the church and we don't really want the contact. Unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately depending on your viewpoint - the lay reader was there and asked Lord H if he was still okay to do next week's serving duties. He took the opportunity to say he wasn't and that he wanted to come off the rota, as well as giving back the vestry items. Apparently, the lay reader took this badly and got rather upset, so poor Lord H thought it best to just go. Which I think was probably the wisest move - though I do wish with all my heart that I'd gone with him, as I'm better able to cope with female tears, being a hard-nosed bitch when push comes to shove. It also would, I think, have been fairer to me to take some of the confrontation too, as I'm the one who began the process of leaving first. But it was obviously not meant to be that way. Though I think Lord H is glad that he had the chance to say his piece face to face rather than by email - for him it's a more honest way. Being me, however, I do admit to a rather bitter-tasting anger that somebody cried when hearing the news that my husband is leaving St Peter's, when no-one seemed to give a badger's arse (sorry, Bryony - your phrase I know, but it's a great one) when I left. They were probably laughing. Buggers!

At home, we finished off the rest of the cleaning, and then indulged in a spot of spring cleaning also. God, we must both be depressed, as this is something we never do. But it's cheered me up a little at least (which just proves that Grandma was right after all, dammit - hard work is a cure for all ills, though to be fair I've taken a happiness pill as well ...). I've packed up all my teapots (I used to collect these, sad to say) and put them in boxes so we have lots of lovely room to put books on the shelves instead. Instead of on the floor, where books usually go. Hurrah! While all that was going on, Lord H has cleared out the hall cupboard and we've created three binbags of rubbish, and we've then put the teapots in the cupboard so they're out of the way. Not only that, but Lord H has rearranged the cupboard so we have a boot section, a cleaning section, a domestics section and a food section. Rather than just chucking everything in higgledy-piggledy as was our wont. He also expressed interest in rearranging our DVD collection into Director and Year of Production, but I have dissuaded him on the grounds of marital sanity. Or any other sanity indeed. There's a limit to how sad even we can be in one day after all ...

Oh, and I've had another email from a member of the university gang, asking for a quick response to something I've already sorted out (though they don't know that). Frankly, bearing in mind that my emails are so rarely answered or even responded to, I'm not going to bother. So I've ... um ... deleted it. Ha! It's nice to be the one on the other end of a non-response this time, I have to say. As you can see, the older I get, the more of a cynical bitch I am turning into. Hell, I always knew it would happen ...

I've also scribbled some more of The Gifting down and hope to type it up later. Which just goes to show that I may not be able to sell the buggers but, bloody hell, I can still write 'em. And there's an evening of TV to look forward to, including "Dr Who", so it's not all sad faces and plain biscuits. Thank God.

Oh, and Jackie ( has kindly added her review of A Dangerous Man ( onto Amazon, which you can find here: Thanks so much, Jackie - much appreciated!

Today's nice things:

1. Baby animals
2. The Amazon review
3. TV.

Anne Brooke

Friday, April 27, 2007

The editing queen

I have worked like a trooper today and deserve countless gold stars, I'm sure. Well, maybe one anyway. For starters. First off, I must say how much I enjoyed the Goldenford ( meeting last night - it was really good in terms of (a) taking me out of my slough of despond, and (b) planning ahead for our two books of this year. It was also nice as Jennifer has read A Dangerous Man ( now and says she thinks it's the best thing I've written. Thanks, Jennifer - actually I think so too (if I'm allowed - as a UK female - even to type that ...), though I know my two genres are very different. She might even be able to pop into the Book Circle discussion on Monday, which will be great as there's a woman who can talk (sorry, Jennifer!).

Anyway, our two books of this year are:

1. The Gawain Quest by Jay Margrave, which you can find here:

or here:

and which is, frankly, the best and raunchiest historical mystery you'll read in a long time. With a very punchy main character too. And I know because I edited it. It's available in June, but order now to avoid disappointment. As they say!

So this morning, I've typed up the Goldenford minutes and edited our autumn book, which is also our first non-fiction one - a quirky and extremely interesting book on weird and wonderful eBay sales entitled Sold ... to the Lady with the Lime-Green Laptop by Irene Black. It's great. I really enjoyed editing it. Wonderful pictures and stories behind the sales too. This one will be ideal for your Christmas reading/presents for sure. We're anticipating an August publication date for that one. So good for late summer hols too!

Ooh, and I've also received a very kind review of ADM from Roger Morris, author of "Taking Comfort" and "A Gentle Axe" (both available on Amazon and well worth a read) on the Writewords ( site here: and which I reproduce below:

"Michael Jones, the dangerous man of the title, is driven by overwhelming ambition and desire: the ambition to make it as an artist, and the desire to show the world his true talent and vision by putting on the first ever exhibition of his drawings. (Surely a storyline that will resonate with many of us here on Writewords!) Michael is a complex and contradictory man: to begin with, here is an artist who seems to have a horror of colour. Indeed, the suppression of colour from his art is ominously intriguing. Colour, perhaps, is metaphor for truth, because the life Michael comes to live is only viable if he rigorously excludes the truth of his disturbing past. If art aims at self-expression, the artist who seeks to edit and trammel his self is heading for trouble.

What makes this scenario even more interesting is that Anne Brooke has chosen to make Michael her narrator. If there are things that Michael cannot admit to himself, then he’s certainly not going to share them with the reader. Connoisseurs of ‘the unreliable narrator’ take note.

There are layers of revelation and deceit in this novel. Confidences that are shared with some characters (Frank, the landlord at the Soho pub where Michael turns tricks to support his art habit) are withheld from others (notably Jack, Michael’s rich lover and benefactor). And then there are the things that no one is ever told, or at least not directly. But which surface nevertheless. We can’t help noticing the disturbing quirks of Michael’s behaviour, which hint at something dark in the past and something darker yet to come. The tensions that are set in play inevitably lead to violence, at which we may be shocked but not surprised. But there is also an uncontrollable outpouring of self-expression, a kind of rampage of artistic creation. Anne Brooke writes well about art, but of course we can never see Michael’s drawings. So we can never really know whether he has any talent as an artist. This is where her choice of Michael as narrator works particularly well. Is his self-belief justified? Or are those characters who are rather less enthusiastic about his work more to be trusted?

As we all know, the creative artist has to have a degree of self-belief, as well as self-will. Michael has both to excess. But does he have the necessary self-awareness? Possibly. At one point, commenting on his own ability to exploit an emotionally charged incident in his relationship with Jack, he confides to the reader: “Nothing we do is pure…” He then goes on to assert, perhaps protesting too much: “though I loved him, I swear it.” Michael’s best visual art, it seems, comes when he allows the difficult truth about himself to break through the emotional carapace that is, in fact, his greatest creation. But the process, of course, destroys him.

Anne Brooke tells a gripping story (at one point I missed my tube stop!) in a direct, conversational style that pulls you along. She is particularly good, I think, at delineating the power shifts and dynamics of Michael’s developing relationship with Jack. The honesty that a relationship demands is completely beyond Michael. The scene where Michael is introduced to Jack’s family is very well done, with the tension between Michael and Jack’s mother extremely well observed. Michael is dumbstruck by the family’s apparent ease together, even more than by their wealth. It turns out that the potential for happiness is a greater divider than class.

Although the author uses some of the tricks of a thriller writer to keep the reader guessing, I read ‘A Dangerous Man’ ultimately as a tragedy. Michael Jones may be guilty of wishing for too much, but we cannot help being moved by his fate. Given that he is in many ways a selfish and ‘unsympathetic’ character, this is a remarkable achievement."

Gosh, thanks, Roger. Hugely. More than hugely. And hey maybe it might tempt one or two more readers into the BSRS (Brooke Select Readership Society)! You never know. Come and join us ... you know you want to ... [cue creepy music and wild unearthly laughter, aha!]

Anyway, after all this I nipped into Godalming and bought a local paper and a present for my stepfather (birthday in May). I also bought a panicky last-minute present for a friend whose 40th birthday is on Tuesday, but I'd forgotten it was the big 4-0. Whoops. Ah well. It's in the post now, and I hope it's suitable, John!

My head is now throbbing with all this computer work. Might do some scribbling (by hand and on paper!) of The Gifting tonight, but don't count on it. I also have to think about the cleaning (argh, no, no!) and of course there's Friday TV comedy night to look forward to. And a weekend. Bliss.

Today's nice things:

1. Editing Irene's book
2. Roger's review of ADM
3. Being up-to-date with birthday obligations.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A day of two halves ...

Very up and down today, I must say. In that order. Both me-wise and weather-wise. This morning was good. On all fronts (ho ho). Went into Guildford early and stocked up on underwear at Marks & Spencer. Where would I be without that shop? Today I've been bold and rebellious and actually bought bras that weren't white. Or black. Which are my usual bra colours. No, today I have bought, amongst other items, one pink and one light taupe bra. So I feel wild and free and liberated. Hurrah.

Also had a counselling session with Kunu. As I did things I enjoyed at the weekend, I think she's pleased with me. Though of course I know that isn't the object of the exercise. We talked about shopping and the Quakers, about friends and books. We agreed that perhaps the reason why I've been stuck on the last chapter of The Gifting is that I've been worried for days about whether I should or shouldn't go up to London to see the university gals. Then when I make the decision yesterday not to go, I felt some inner knot untie itself (heck, there's psycho drama for you) and then spent some time late last night telling Lord H what my last chapter would contain. Hell, it all came flooding out, and I had to rush to scribble the notes down. Luckily he has promised to expunge it from his memory so it won't spoil his reading if it ever comes to the page. Zip zip and the memory is gone ... it's amazing how Lord H can do that, y'know. Must be a boy thing.

Anyway, back at the counselling, Kunu is sure there's a link there somewhere. We talked about the uni gang for a while actually, and I think the trouble is that we're all performers to some extent or other. I think we spent a lot of time when we first met pretending things were different than they actually were. Sometimes that particular group friendship is like being on stage and we're all performing our own versions of a play which doesn't quite gel. Maybe over the years we've all changed so much and yet still, whenever we meet, we're back performing our usual roles, come what may. It can make it feel - at least for me - very awkward, and I get very tense and jittery about it all. And yet ... and yet ... I freely admit that, without them, I would never have managed to get through university. Or indeed my early 20s. Where did it all start to change? God knows. Maybe I should invite them all round for my birthday in June and just have a normal chat. Whatever that is. Again, God knows. I'm in two minds. As ever.

Though I have to say in my defence that it's not only me who's decided not to go to London tomorrow - someone else has dropped out to. For reasons more valid than mine. But at least it makes me feel less guilty. Which makes a bloody change then.

After counselling, I popped for tea & chat at Jane H's (hello, Jane!). This was lovely - I really enjoyed it. Sooo relaxing. And we covered so many topics. From recycling (we are both very excited about the new food recycling project in Guildford - my, how "Surrey" we both are indeed! - and I am desperate for it to come to Godalming too ..) to my mother's strange feelings about houses (they have atmospheres, you know), from the children (eat your veggies, little people, and stop pouting ...) to horse-riding, and from Roman soldiers to hearing voices (me, not her, I hasten to add, but then you knew that ...). Talking of which, Jane's mother has also apparently read A Dangerous Man ( and was desperately worried that I'd had some past trauma that caused me to write such stories and was wanting to know how to help. Jane was able to reassure her, saying apparently that it was only that I heard Michael's voice in my head and just wrote down what he was trying to say. Strangely, this did reassure her - perhaps finding out that I'm probably a complete nutter was not a total surprise ... Still, I was very touched she'd been worried - so thank you, Mrs R.

Also, whilst at Jane's, I ordered some more Nutrimetics ( products, so won't have to worry about running out of same. Hurrah!

Back home, I come to my emails, and was instantly plunged into the slough of despond to realised that my first quarter (ie 13 Feb to end March) sales of ADM have been ... um ... 44. Which Flame Books have now understandably downgraded from good sales to promising sales. To be honest, I'm surprised that anyone should think 44 is good sales, but perhaps they all came in the first two weeks and they were hoping the sudden spurt would continue. Ah well. No, I'm sounding too philosophical now. Actually, I cried, but it did start raining at the same time so at least I'm doing my bit for the ongoing literary tool of pathetic fallacy. To be honest, I was upset as I was hoping it might be in the 80s figure, maybe even more (though that for me would be serious dreamland only 2 months or so after publication). Though, once I'd dried my tears and had a banana, I checked my records and did remember that I've sold 11 copies myself, so have dragged the figure up single-handedly to 55. Hurrah indeed. So, in royalties terms (the 11 sold author copies don't count of course for that), I've made £35.20. Which I won't get of course as they don't, understandably, pay royalties until the figure goes over £100. My, how it makes me laugh when people think I earn money from books. Slap my thighs and build me a garret.

And, if I'm trying to be sensible, I will be lucky if I reach 100 copies sold with this one. Michael is a specialised (and possibly very acquired) taste. Looking back on my past books, The Hit List has only sold 93 in the three years since I published it, and Pink Champagne and Apple Juice (my biggest success so far!) has only sold 105 since last year. So the disappointing sales of ADM are, I suppose, at least par for the course. I pride myself, however, on having round about 40 very discerning readers - to you all, thank you. I hope you might read me again. Small is beautiful indeed. Should any publisher ever be idiotic enough to take yet another chance on me, that is.

Meanwhile, the rain has stopped and the sun is trying to come out. Ye gods, I know how it feels.

And I've done about 1000 words to The Gifting. Which, under the circumstances of feeling like a demolition tool had whacked me in the stomach, is pretty good going, I think! Oh, and bizarrely I've had two emails and two phone calls from the university gang, in various sexes. And I know I should be answering them and being normal in some way but, really, I just can't summon the emotional energy for that right now. Sorry, gang. It's beyond me at the moment.

Tonight, it's the Goldenford ( meeting, so I shall keep my head down, have no opinions, agree with everything and just take minutes. I think that's the way through it. And maybe a sherry or two when I get home. Oh yes, please God yes.

Today's nice things:
1. Counselling
2. Seeing Jane H
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Manor Park and mining the ideas factory

Did some real secretarial stuff today and prepared papers for Monday’s Steering Group meeting – which feels like getting more back to normal after the hiatus of the Easter holidays, conference etc. And God knows how much I like normal. If only I saw it more often.

The rest of the morning was spent visiting the new Manor Park campus – where Carol works some of the time as part of her mentoring remit. We walked there and back which took about 20-25 minutes or so each way, but my goodness she sets quite a pace. I’d forgotten how much quicker (at anything …) I must have been in my twenties. Or maybe I’m just used to a more sedate Golfing Pace these days? Anyway the actual campus is lovely – nice big rooms and all ensuite of course, as is usual these days. Now when I was at university all those years ago, the shared bathrooms were where you made your friends. Hmm, maybe that was the problem?!?... Mind you, I was surprised at the lack of social space – some comfy but characterless common rooms and one table-tennis room only. I suppose they use the kitchens for talking – by the way, the kitchens and common rooms all have digital TV. Bliss indeed. The setting is good too, but will be nicer when the trees and grass etc is all grown up. If you see what I mean.

What with all the excitement, I decided to skip my first back exercise course, which should have been today. But I don’t think I would have gone anyway, as I’m not feeling my best. Must be all that fast walking.

Ooh, and I popped out to the University gallery at lunchtime as there’s a new sports photographs exhibition on, some of them by staff. It was great. One of them – a picture of a deep-sea diver by Robert Kelsey (staff member) was so inspirational that I scribbled a poem about it:

Life after darkness: Peter Kelsey

He swims in shades of blue
deep where no-one
can seek him,
finds a narrow crack
between unknown worlds –

he’s been searching
for so long,
thought he’d never
see it;
all these years
and now suddenly
it’s here.

Only a moment
for the decision to be made –
didn’t think
he’d even need that
but he does

then two kicks
of dark flipper,
a streak of rubber coating,
glint of torchlight
and he’s through.

Out there
in undiscovered blue.

I’ve had some ideas about the end of The Gifting too, which might steer me through some kind of an initial path into it. And also add to the tension a little. I hope. So I feel a bit better about it at the moment. Have to get on and actually write the darn stuff sometime though …

We had an hysterical conversation this afternoon about how our hairdos look whenever we wake up in the morning (the surprised cockatoo look is very in this year, don’t y’know). Ruth is convinced there are evil pillow elves which come in the night and mess things up. I can well believe it. Mind you, Ruth also says tent-face is worse, as whenever you’re in a tent, your face always ends up wedged against the canvas. Not being an outdoorsy type, this isn’t something I have to worry about. Thank God.

Oh, and I’ve written a poem about Easter too:


I used to like it
I mean ye gods but it’s got to be better
than Christmas

but somewhere between
the forgotten ages
of 38 and
42 – that nationally recognised
twilight zone for women –
I lost any interest
I might have had

in chocolate (unless
expensive), fluffy
lambs, small ducks,
irritating children
and one hundred and one
uses for an egg.

I mean it’s hard-boiled,
soft-boiled or
nothing, isn’t it?

Get over it

So I’ve had enough
of festivals.
I’ve cancelled them,
at least in my house,
and from now on
I’ll be living
a pleasant, unexcitable

Believe me it’s better
that way. Easter?
Bah, humbug, I say.

And I think I’ve decided not to go up to London this Friday. It’s just been quite an exhausting week and, to be honest, I don’t feel on top form, so I think I’ll give it a miss. I just desperately need a whole night in. And to see Lord H too, as this week if I’ve been in, he’s been out (tonight, it’s boring old Village Hall Committee for him), and vice versa, and I miss him. Plus I really need to get some sleep – particularly as May is going to be rather hectic. Yes, I know - excuses, excuses, but it's just the way it is.

Meanwhile, the Pink Champagne and Apple Juice site is coming along nicely. The launch will be on Friday 4 May, 3pm UK time, and I’ll be sending early invitations out to a few people shortly. It’s looking good, and now has a chat/comments section as well as the other whizzes & bangs. So thanks, Sue & Frank ( once more!

Tonight, I’m doing some much-needed shopping (groan) and then I’ll try to get some of my writing ideas (see above) started. That’s the plan anyway. Ho ho.

Today’s nice things:

1. A morning looking at Manor Park
2. Getting an idea for The Gifting
3. The Pink Champagne website preparation.

Anne Brooke

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Small flashes and larger words

Goodness, what a literary day today. The boss is back too, so we have to look super-professional and cutting-edge. Not that we don’t always look like that, of course – it’s just that we have to expunge that tell-tale trace of panic from our eyes …

Anyway, did a fair amount of website stuff, which I always enjoy, mainly on the Mentoring site, and we have plans for the Health Centre site too. Hurrah. About time it got updated. I’m sure we still have stuff about the Bubonic plague up there somewhere, if I looked closely enough. Groan.

And what fun I’ve had with the University rejiggling of the bank holidays. A concept which is seriously pissing me off, if only for the complexity of the new regime we have to do – but frankly I can’t be arsed to make a fuss. For once. Anyway, the powers that be have decided that bank holidays and University closure days are not fair for part-timers, as those part-timers (such as myself) who work the beginning of a week get to take and enjoy more bank holidays than those who work the end of a week. A concept, I admit, that even I can understand. However, instead of doing the sensible thing and just chucking in a few more holiday days for those people who work the end of the week – as I would have done – they’ve decided to subject the bank holidays of all part-time people to a series of mathematical formulae designed to work out an even balance. Allegedly. So, David and I have pored over this, sighed a lot and finally worked out that I am (possibly) allowed to have 9 bank holiday/University closure days in one academic year. However, as there are actually 13 in total, this means I owe the University four days up to and including March 2008. As a result, I have to either work an extra day in a bank holiday week, or take it as part of my leave, or as unpaid leave up to the value of four. Ye gods, no wonder Higher Education is struggling. So now I have a natty little spreadsheet designed to work it all out as I go along, which I have designed myself, and a pretty nifty headache.

To cap it all, my case is easy, as at least I work full days when I am here. Those people, such as Andrea in the Dean of Students’ Office, who only work partial days have to work it all out in hours. It’s astonishing we have time for anything else at all, really.

Had a UniSWriters meeting at lunchtime, which was thin on the ground as some people were sick (we missed you, Julia! – hope you’re better soon) or on training days, but we had some very good discussions about the manuscripts and about the publishing business. They were also very helpful about cuts and changes I needed to make to the poem I took along too, so that was great. Oh, and Jenny at the Library is going to come to next week’s Book Circle discussion of A Dangerous Man ( and has even read it in preparation (thanks, Jenny!), so at least there might be more than a couple of people there. Which will be nice. I’ve decided now that if there’s only a few of us and we run out of things to say, then we can always sneak off early to the pub. Heck, I’m sure Michael would approve.

Oh, and Angela who used to come to UniSWriters but left the University last year rang up for some emergency publishing information. I don’t see myself as the font of all knowledge, in any area, but it was lovely to talk to her again. My advice was, as always: send stuff out to agents/publishers before trying the self-publishing route. After all, I’m very much for having both routes to markets open (as you well know). In any case, I strongly advised her against using AuthorHouse, which she was initially keen to do – their reputation isn’t good, from what I’ve heard. Thankfully, I think I convinced her.

Back with my colleagues, we’ve had an in-depth discussion about the injustices of the social/work system with regard to non-child producing people. Now, I know I’m not a great fan of the concept of The Child, but I would like to say that I entirely agree with the provisions of maternity/paternity leave and think it’s a Good Thing. However, at the same time, I’ve always felt it discriminates strongly (as society does, to my mind) against those people who choose not to have children. I mean: hey, where’s my nice lot of leave when I produce something valuable or simply want to take a long tranche of paid/partially paid time off, eh? I don’t see why people without children can’t have some similar perks also. We all work hard enough, after all. However, I feel I’m a lone voice in this – well, Ruth at work agrees too, so perhaps together we can form a small splinter group. Child-free too.

Tonight, I’m off to Guildford Writers with the start of Chapter Three of The Gifting, so hope to get helpful comments on that. I’m still worrying about my last chapter, darn it. I did scribble down a couple of paragraphs last night, but hadn’t really got to the crux of the scene. Ah well. Perhaps it’ll all be all right on the night. You never know.

And I've written a piece of flash fiction for the next Writewords ( group challenge:

Carbon Copy
Genevieve lay back on the couch and sighed. At her feet, two scantily-clad young men massaged her lascivious toes. Bliss. They’d work their way upwards. In time. It had been a while since she’d been able to afford enough tokens for a double session and once again she thanked her long-dead grandmother for the ancient typewriter and carbon paper she’d recently discovered in the attic. It was amazing what the authorities would believe. These days.

Today’s nice things:

1. UniSWriters
2. Writing a piece of flash fiction
3. Guildford Writers

Anne Brooke

Monday, April 23, 2007

V-Cs, wasps and saints days

St George’s Day today – so happy St George’s Day to all. I gather that Guildford is making a big thing of this, but as I’m not able to go to town in the lunch-hour (in any sense), then I can’t confirm anything. Lord H and I were wondering if we should re-enact the traditional slaying of the dragon by the good saint himself, but were unable to agree on which of us should take which part. So this mini-drama has, I’m afraid, had to be shelved for now. However, at work I have taken out my red, white and blue fluffy pen and given her (or possibly him, but it’s hard to say) pride of place. The saint will be smiling, I’m sure.

And of course it’s Shakespeare’s birthday, so great cause for rejoicing. And … um … his death day, so something more of a bummer really. My though, what a party that must have been. (Happy birthday, Will! Hope you like the present … Oh. Obviously you didn’t. Ah well …). But it does give a nice sense of completion, I have to say.

Oh, and I was cheered yesterday by realising that A Dangerous Man ( is actually on someone’s Wish List on Amazon – and can be seen at the Number Two position on “Jem’s” list here: - thanks, Jem! I’ve never been on anyone’s wish list before, and it’s a great honour. Talking of which, I find that ADM and I are not only in the University summer arts calendar today – advertising the forthcoming Book Circle discussion on 30 April – but are also on the University intranet news page - which I'm afraid you can't see, but bearing in mind the pic that may be a good thing!

This morning, I have finished off my updates to the Mentoring Handbook and have given it to Carol once more to check. We’ve decided that it will be best housed in A5 files, so we can easily update stuff on an ongoing basis – but you wouldn’t believe how few options the office supply people give on A5 paper or files. Hobson’s choice really. But it does give me a secretarial buzz to be looking at paper and wondering which I like best – almost makes me feel useful.

And I’ve decided to cancel next week’s Kinesiology ( appointment in Petersfield and not book any more at the moment, as I’m not sure that I’m learning anything else in my occasional visits - though Jane Phillips is a lovely woman and very good at what she does. It seemed like the right thing to do – and if I do want any further advice I can always make an appointment in Guildford, which is in any case much closer to home. So, I’ve written her a letter to thank her, as that seemed the right thing to do too.

This lunchtime, we had another talk from the Vice-Chancellor about the restructuring. Groan. Mind you, his super-fast delivery meant that I took very little in – which once again may indeed have been his purpose. We were all talked-at into submission by the time the questions slot came round. So I popped out for my lunchtime walk later than usual in order to get my brain functioning again – and saw that we have two baby coots on the lake. Or possibly moorhens, but I can’t tell. The mother had a white beak and the babies red beaks, so perhaps it’s our first cross-breeding? Who knows?

However, it’s not all good news and caviare, I’m afraid – an online friend of mine emailed me today to say she hadn’t really enjoyed poor old ADM at all, the reasons being because it just didn’t gel for her and because she thought I’d left too much of Michael’s traumas until the end. In addition she felt he had much more to say than I’d allowed, and it should have been far darker and more violent. This came as quite a punch (which probably only goes to show what a pathetically sensitive sad git I am, I’m sure …), partly because it’s my first bad review and partly because it was someone I was utterly convinced would like it. A lot. I also felt gutted at the comment that I hadn’t given Michael enough of a voice, especially when I’d felt I’d really gone to the depths with him, and back again. I know she’s being nice and is obviously perfectly entitled to a reaction, but I must admit it hurts. However, a wry smile (of sorts) was raised when I read the comment that she hoped this wouldn’t upset me. Um, I’m only human! Still one very stiff gin later and I’m slowly unfurling. A little.

Tonight, Lord H is out at theology, and I’m going to attempt to start my last scene in The Gifting, even though I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing and am scared to death by it. It really feels like I’ve bitten off far, far more than I can actually chew and, however I write the ending, it’s going to be pants. I simply don’t feel that I can end Simon’s story in the way he deserves and that any of the cats I can pull out of the bag now won’t be any bigger or any fluffier than the cats I’ve pulled out before, as the story’s gone along. Bummer. Again. In all of my other novels (well, most of them anyway …), I’ve known as I approached it what the ending would be – but I’m going to be spitting into a vacuum for this one, I fear. Boy, does this writer have cold feet about it – my toes are barely hanging on. Still, this isn’t the spirit that won (or indeed lost) the empire, so I’ll just have to grit my teeth and slog on. Grinning wildly …

And my 55 word fiction, “When the phone rang” has won the Bird and Moon ( Readers’ Choice award for February (hurrah!) and can be found here: - so that’s cheered me greatly.

Oh, and I’ve had my first real battle with a wasp. I was doing the recycling when that terrible humming began in the hallway and I realised I was trapped outside the flat with no phone and no means of alerting Lord H who was having a quick bath prior to theology. I did try the neighbours but they weren’t in, so I couldn’t ring from theirs. So I had to wait 15 minutes for Lord H to finish his bath and wonder where I was. Lucky he noticed, eh! Still, he despatched the evil striped beast with his usual finesse and I could come home again. Phew. Damn lucky it wasn’t raining either …

And thank goodness there’s “New Tricks” on TV later – just the light relief I need, I suspect.

Today’s nice things:

1. Being on an Amazon wish list
2. The double University advertising splash
3. The 55 word award.

Anne Brooke

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Neighbours, Quakers and Olympic slumping

Managed to catch up with the neighbours opposite this morning while I was sorting the cars out - they're very sweet but they're the kind who find my writing life distinctly weird (as indeed do Marian & Siegi, our golfing friends), so I've learnt - as with M. & S. - not to bring it into the conversation when asked what I've been up to. So I've caught up on holiday news (not sure when the next will be yet), the daughter's wedding (quiet but pleasant) and her ensuing pregnancy (due in June, but gender unknown). I am now the perfectly informed street resident.

I also went along to the Quaker meeting this morning - Lord H wasn't keen so I went on my own, but actually that was fine. It was a warm silence (if you know what I mean) and I enjoyed it - though I could have done with my stomach being rather less vocal. Never mind - I wasn't the only one. And the few words spoken in the last half-hour were interesting too. As was the fact that there were two or three people present near my age. I'm sure last time I went, most of the folk were 50+. Mind you, I'm not so far from that myself these days! Afterwards, I chatted with Ruth, one of the elders there, and then slipped out for a pleasant walk along the High Street to the car. Weather is glorious today. Bought a "Mail on Sunday" too, so am now up-to-date with national, as well as local gossip. Hurrah. Anyway, I think I'll go again, depending how I feel.

This afternoon, I have been laziness personified. We've watched our video of "QI" from yesterday - Stephen Fry on top form as ever, though I'm sure it was a repeat - and I've also watched "Ugly Betty". Betty on top form as ever also. This was rapidly followed by an utterly essential nap on the sofa (how I love that feeling of being all curled up and safe!). And the only thing I have to face now is my phone call to Mother. Later tonight, there's a new series starting - "Kingdom" with - once again! - Stephen Fry, so Lord H & I will be glued. Tales of peculiarity from downtown Norfolk - sounds like perfect Sunday night viewing to me. And it's only an hour, so we can be in bed for a reasonable time. Double hurrah. After all, it is a "school night". Groan ...

This week's haiku is:

On my daily walk,
cherry blossom lines the road,
scented with summer.

Today's nice things:

1. The Quaker service
2. Soaking up the newspaper gossip
3. TV.

Anne Brooke

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Frocks, friends and Philippes

We had a great time at Robin & Gavin's last night - as I thought, Liz and John were there too, and the six of us had a really good time. I think it's the best time I've had out at someone's house socially since Christmas - so thanks for making that possible, Robin! Whilst there, we were chatting about Liz's son, Rob, who's an up-and-coming actor and also very hot-looking too (down, girl, down!) - and so I've asked Sue ( to add his link to our list of Philippes on the new Pink Champagne and Apple Juice website ( But you'll have to wait till the beginning of May (date tbc) to get a look at the gorgeous Rob, I'm afraid, but it will be worth it, I promise! And I must say what a marvellous job Sue and Frank are doing on the new Champers website - it looks fabulous. I'm sure you'll love it when it's here!

This morning, Lord H and I went for a stroll round Guildford, attempting to buy me a new frock. I desperately need one for Glyndebourne ( this year, as we're off to the opera four times over the summer; we go each year and over the years I've made friends with the lovely woman who looks after the ladies' loos. Well, a couple of years ago, I walked in, joined the queue, she looked up and said (one second before clapping her hand over her mouth and blushing bright pink), 'Oh hello, how lovely to see you? Isn't that last year's dress?' The two of us just started laughing, but the rest of the (rather posh) queue were not amused ... And, yes, it was last year's frock. And, um, the one from the year before that, and the previous few years also. So time for a new frock indeed. Which normally takes me months and months to discover, but today, Lord H and I walked straight into Viyella and there it was: a simple blue thing which looks fine on and is roomy enough to sit down in without fear, and not too bad a price either. Hurrah! Mission accomplished.

Oh, and we had a brief dip into our eternal quest for a pair of bedside cabinets, with inconclusive results. It strikes me that this has been our ongoing marital quest since our honeymoon, so if we do ever get any cabinets, we won't know what to do with them and, anyway, what the hell is our next quest going to be? It's a mystery, really. And I met Angela, one of my old poetry group people, in Heal's, so we had a nice, if brief, catch-up conversation. My my, I'm being so sociable this weekend - and enjoying it too - that I really can no longer recognise myself. Must be the Britebox working, not to mention the return of sunlight to our darkened and gloomy shores.

We were also attempting to look for a new watch for Lord H, as his current one is hanging by a thread and, I suspect, will not be long for this world. The trouble is, he wants one with a digital screen somewhere on it (even if it has a normal face too) which lights up so he can check the time in the middle of the night, and with an alarm also. Strangely, there doesn't seem to be any of these around, which aren't the same type as he's currently got, and he does want a change. So if anyone out there knows anything about watches and can tell us where to look, please do shout! Meanwhile, Lord H will have to start telling the time by the position of the sun. Which isn't so good for the night-times really ...

After our M&S lunch (really, I don't think there's as much filling in their wraps as there used to be, you know ... Good God, I'm turning into my Grandma - someone help me, please!), I did some more to The Gifting, and I think I'm now at the end of my penultimate chapter. Though the last one will be long. I'm wondering whether to go for a wham-bam or a subtle finish at the moment, but suspect I'll have to wait and see which way the pen turns. Ye gods, sometimes I think I have no control at all.

Tonight, Lord H is watching something on the Reformation on TV, as theology class starts on Monday and it's Church History this term. Which really has to be better and meatier than the boring old Ethics of last term. Which he didn't really enjoy, to be honest. And it's "Dr Who" also later, so that can't be bad. Not to mention our usual weekly fare of pizza, garlic bread, ice cream and wine which we've had to hold over from yesterday of course. Never say we're not creatures of routine ... Hell, we may be sad, but we're happy with it. If you see what I mean ...

Today's nice things:

1. Working out the Pink Champagne website launch date
2. Buying a frock!
3. Dr Who.

Anne Brooke

Friday, April 20, 2007

Haircut, dinner and a peculiar number of words

For reasons I can't now explain, I booked a haircut today at 8.15am. Horror! Which, as Lynda is always always early (in fact she may well have been sitting outside the flat since last night ...), meant that Lord H and I had to be sure to be up, bathed and decent by 7am. Hell, we managed it too. Almost. But there wasn't much intelligent conversation going on, I can tell you. When it got to 8am, I decided to nip out and see if Lynda was there. She was. So I crept up to the car, leaned over the bonnet and whispered hello in my most scary Psycho fashion. My, you should have seen her jump. We both screamed. Which I'm sure the neighbours were pleased about. And she still gave me a decent haircut without cutting my ear off, so the woman is obviously a saint. I've also booked her in for highlights at the end of June, so I can look relatively interesting over the summer - so I'd better make sure to be a good client then ...

The rest of the morning was spent typing up what I've done to The Gifting thus far. And guess what! I came to the point when I'd actually typed 111,111 words. Bloody hell, I've never been there before! But I suspect that I'm never going to make it to 222,222 in one book though - at any point. Bugger. Sadly I did so enjoy realising it too - it made me feel quite binary. So much so that I kept typing another word and then deleting it just so I could go back to 111,111 again. I think it appeals to my borderline OCD Control-freak personality. Borderline? Pull the other one, eh. Anyway, you'll be relieved to know that I did manage to type some more after that in the end, and Simon is now therefore just about to face his (long) final scene - or series of linked scenes, which is what I think it'll turn out to be. Will he make it to 120,000? I can but hope.

I've also done some critiques for my Writewords ( groups, which was fun - there was a great novel beginning which had me completely hooked and some deep poetry to enjoy. I really have no idea why those ruddy publishers out there aren't taking any of this stuff on. I mean what the hell do they think they're doing? Answer: giving us way too many "poor child made good" dull tomes and celebrity claptrap, that's what. Yawn. I long for the day when the mainstream publishers will go to the wall (or at least start publishing more interesting and less copycat market stuff), and the small publishers/writer-publishers will inherit the earth. Or at least the decent shelf space.

Oh and I've found out that the reason my copies of A Dangerous Man ( haven't yet arrived (I ordered them in March) is that the courier delivered them to the wrong place, and Chevonne was unfortunately on holiday till now so hasn't been able to sort it out. I'm hoping that I'll have some copies to wave around at the book circle event on 30 April, but you never can tell. Thank God I have my one reading copy, so won't look like a complete buffoon on the night. At least not for that reason.

This afternoon, I popped into Godalming to get a barrel-load of shopping, including lots of relaxation oil and a job-lot of birthday cards (why does virtually everyone I know have a birthday in May??). I think I've worried the lady in Boots though - she was telling me that if I joined the Half-Price Club I could get special discounts for any relatives I had who were over 60. She didn't take kindly to my suggestion that it might be cheaper just to bump them off and bury their bodies under the patio. Ah well. Worth a try though, I would think. Oh, and I've found out, much to my surprise (and worryingly I found this rather interesting, but see above for personality disorder paragraph ...) that when I key in the funny numbers on the card machine in order to pay, I'm happier using my left hand. Strange. Then again, all our family are cack-handed in some way or other. As for me, I write with my right hand, but I wear my watch on my right hand too, and I deal cards left-handedly and fold my arms the left-handed way. And now I can add number-keying to the left-handed list. What excitement indeed. Um, sorry. Are you still awake at the back?

Tonight, I think I'm going to have a snooze on the sofa, nicely curled up with my essential cuddly lamb, or possibly the cuddly crocodile -whichever comes to hand - and then Lord H and I are out at Robin & Gavin's for dinner. Bliss. I think Liz might be there too, so I must remember not to get over-excitable during our inevitable disagreements about art - we enjoy them, but I think Lord H gets worried. I still love Liz to bits though (even though she's wrong! - oh, sorry, that just slipped out ...). As it were.

Today's nice things:

1. My hair looks good today - hurrah!
2. Writing
3. Dinner out.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Counselling, competitions and the curse of the TV

Bit slow this morning, so had to dash to get to my counselling session ( Must say that Kunu had a lovely summer skirt on - I was really impressed, but didn't dare say anything in case she thought I was being more weird than normal. Or maybe she's just used to that by now? Anyway, we had a good session, better than last week, I think. We talked about my weekend of silence, and how Lord H and I communicate differently and want very different things. Well, that's something I've known for a while but it's good to talk about it to someone else.

We also talked about faith, how I felt about possibly going to the Quakers and whether I thought that I might not go anywhere for a while in fact. Again, all subjects I've mulled over myself, but it's great to get them into the open. She asked me what I thought my faith actually was, and I tried to say that really it's what it isn't and what it might be that helps me most. Sometimes it feels as if my beliefs are a huge shadowy thing lurking underneath or to the side which I can occasionally glimpse, but if you try to grasp it or label it, it simply vanishes. It's only by not looking that you sometimes see, I think.

Funnily enough, (and bear with me, because it does make sense in the end ...) I think "Foyle's War" on Sunday was helpful - the police station spent two hours trying to solve a card trick where they had to form a swastika (or fylfot in its original 15th century Christian form, before the Nazis ruined it) with only four cards. They failed. Then Foyle told them to look at the background behind the shape of the cards rather than the cards themselves, and the problem was solved. That's what I feel about faith, I think - it's not the words which count, but what's behind them. I've spent long hours in churches over the years saying the words and doing the actions, but all the time the phrase, "this isn't what I believe or at least how I best express it" is jangling through my head. Trying to express my beliefs in words is like trying to put an elephant into a suit made for a mouse. It's just not bloody possible.

Also, it's similar to what I feel about facts and the truth. For me, the two things are very different, and truth isn't found in whatever facts are flying around at the time. I've tried to explain my opinion on this to people once or twice and always received the brush-off, but I still believe it. The truth of a person, the real truth, isn't found in the facts. People are more important than that. Which is why, I think, that when people - or I - lie about myself or lie in some other area (and I do - don't we all?), the lie may not be the facts, but it might well be the truth. In a deeper sense. We're all bigger than the sum of our parts. That, for me, is what faith is. Anyway, I think Kunu got my meaning, but God knows how she's going to write all that up ...

Back home, and armed with the Radio Times and a fresh wad of much-needed cash, I've been sorting out this month's competition entries, which include my poetry and novel entries for this year's Writers' Conference ( - the brochure arrived yesterday, and I've had fun choosing my seminars and trying for a couple of one-to-ones with editors also. Ye gods, there's always hope. I'm putting both Thorn in the Flesh and The Gifting into the novel competition, but highly doubt Piatkus Press will be that into either. Way too violent in the former case for them, and way too much gay fantasy in the latter. I fear it's a waste of £7 (£7!!! Those entry fees get higher every year, I swear!). But there you go.

That done, I popped over to see Gladys, who is very frail and confused today, but did at least know who I am. Ye gods, she's one up on me then. We spent a pleasant hour finding the Radio Times (again!) and her trusty calendar to see if we could work out what day it was, and then I showed her how to turn on her television, as she'd forgotten. Can't say I blame her on either count, to be honest. Besides they don't make TVs simple these days. The remote control has way too many buttons on for normal folk. They should make something easier to operate - what is wrong with these companies!?

Tonight, I must try to do some more to The Gifting, as I'm beginning to get that pull. Like a long wire being drawn in from my chest towards my pad of paper. God, maybe I am weird. No wonder nobody (except Julia - thanks, Julia (!) answers my emails. Oh, and there's "Sea of Souls" later on TV, so Lord H and I will have to watch that. He's always so hopeful it will end happily, and always so let down when it doesn't. Ah well.

Today's nice things:

1. Counselling
2. Browsing through the conference brochure
3. Watching TV.

Anne Brooke

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

On a downhill slope …?

This morning started out well enough. If very early, with some damn bird starting the dawn chorus when it couldn’t have been much beyond 4am. Sigh. Still, at work I managed to get my conference notes typed up in reasonable order and printed out for the boss to look at next week. And I’ve also done some rejigging to the Manor Park Mentoring handbook. We’re now three months behind our deadline, but heck things keep changing. That’s universities for you. I’ve now done so many corrections that I’m sure it bears no resemblance whatsoever to our original efforts. Ah well.

Apart from that, the day really dragged and I got quite low, I’m afraid. The stuff I did I didn’t do very quickly. Just couldn’t be bothered. Spent a lot of time staring blankly at the computer screen or the Internet and thinking absolutely nothing. You know, sometime I wonder if I’m disappearing entirely and if people are actually aware I exist at all – this would explain the lack of any obvious email response from anyone I correspond with (the old university lot, or even the wretched church lot, come to mind again, sigh …). Maybe it’s time for a happiness pill? Again.

Mind you, I went for a walk at lunchtime and sat by the lake for a while, which was quite soothing. Saw two robins hopping about, which was strange as I didn’t think male robins liked other male robins as they were supposed to be quite territorial. Still, it didn’t seem to bother those two. Oh, and on my way there I caused something of a stir in the Lecture Hall foyer, which seemed to be home to some kind of Chinese delegation. On my shortcut through, I accidentally fell in through the doorway and nearly took the tea-cup of the girl standing nearest into the great hereafter. And I didn’t look so elegant either. They were all very sweet though, rushing to my aid and trying not to fuss. Perhaps they thought it was some quaint English custom – it’s hard to say.

Oh, and as I was leaving, Adriana from the UniSWriters came up and said she was intending to go to the Book Circle discussion of A Dangerous Man ( on Monday 30th April – thank you so much, Adriana! That really lifted me. More than you can know. So at least there’ll be two of us there on the night. I just hope that there’ll be someone else there who’s actually read the book apart from me. Please God!...

This evening, I played golf after work with Marian, and attempted to look young and glamorous this time – but I suspect no-one was fooled. We had a brief discussion about church (she’s not a church-goer), during which she was astonished that nobody from St Peter’s had come round or phoned/emailed me to see what was going on. Well, join the club, Marian! Still, ’twas ever thus, and heck I should know – in my lifetime, I’ve left more churches than is strictly necessary. Honest follow-up for the disenfranchised isn’t their strong point. Though perhaps they're just pleased to be rid of me? Maybe I should learn from my own history, eh? Oh, but it’s Wednesday so it’s sherry night. Thank God! That'll ease the stretched thought processes.

Tonight, I’m planning a serious slump, with maybe some writing if I have any energy levels left (at all). And an early night. Let’s hope that damn bird from this morning doesn’t start its foghorn tweet while I’m still attempting to get some shut-eye this time. Hmm, some hope …

Today’s nice things:

1. Lunchtime walking
2. Two robins
3. Adriana’s Book Circle commitment – hurrah!

Anne Brooke

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reflexology, more reviews and the curse of the Japanese toilet

Was thrilled last night when Roger Morris (, author of the marvellous Taking Comfort and the mysterious and much-praised A Gentle Axe, emailed me with a few comments on A Dangerous Man ( which can be found here: under the entry for 16 April, half way down, or as below:

“Another small publisher with an interesting list, and an original approach, is Flame Books. It’s the publisher of the novel I’m reading at the moment, a crime work called A Dangerous Man, by Anne Brooke. A Dangerous Man has garnered praise from no less a writer than Andrew Taylor, who described it as “a dark and chilling parable about art, love and murder.” What’s remarkable about Anne Brooke’s work is her ability to enter convincingly and with extraordinary empathy into the milieus of her protagonists, which I imagine are very different from her own. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t believe she has that much direct experience of male homosexual prostitutes, which makes this a bold and brave book for her to write. I’m all for brave, bold books.”

Gosh, thanks, Roger. Much appreciated. I’m not sure that Michael and I ever feel either brave or bold actually, but there you go …! But, heck, both of us are really pleased you’re liking the book.

At work, it’s been slow but steady, and I’m still ploughing my way through my conference notes. Groan. I was however both cheered and brought back to reality again (as he didn’t like the ending, which is fair enough, and, for the purposes of being honest about my reviews, I’m reproducing as much as I can without spoiling the plot) by an email from Jay Mandal, author of A Different Kind of Love and Slubberdegullion amongst other work (, who has just finished ADM and says the following:

“I always knew you could write, and this was very, very good. I thoroughly enjoyed it … You’ve found ‘your voice’ (I hate that expression, too). Stick with it. It was taut, edgy, gripping, exciting, a page turner, and I read it slowly because I didn’t want to finish it. It was powerful and passionate, and I wished I’d written it myself. I was really on Michael’s side … The ending was the only thing where I felt let down. I don’t mean sad … I mean I thought it might have been better if it had ended differently. Obviously this is just a personal opinion … Not only did it seem too bleak, but also too out of character.”

Thanks, Jay, for all the comments. They’re much appreciated also. It’s good to get a different view but I must say that, speaking as someone who’s had Michael in her head for years, both he and I honestly feel I couldn’t have ended it any other way. It was the part of the book where his voice and mine gelled the most. Writing it that way felt fantastic and just seemed so fitting. But I do understand that people will find it difficult.

Anyway, all this excitement got me through to lunchtime, when I had a blissful reflexology session and just chilled. I think I might try some Reiki next time, as Emily ( always adds a couple of minutes of Reiki (at foot level, strange to say!) after my session and I really love it. I certainly need to get my energy levels in some kind of balance, but heck I’ve always known that.

Oh, and Lord H has told me there is apparently some kind of excitement over the curse of the Japanese toilet on the news. It appears that the new craze in Japan is to have electronically heated toilets/bidets (gross thought in itself!) which do virtually everything for you bar the washing-up (though maybe that’s not a good phrase to use in the same sentence as “bidet” …). Unfortunately, the electronics has gone wrong so some of them burst into flame without warning. Scary!! So just when you thought that all you had was a nice warm bottom, beware … Nobody’s been injured yet (thank goodness! Though how could you ever tell anyone!?...), so thank God for small mercies, eh …

Tonight, I might do a bit of scribbling but we’ll see. I’m also aiming to watch “Sea of Souls” on TV, which is probably too scary for my delicate constitution, but I do enjoy the classy pap of it.

And finally, on a more serious note and bearing in mind my part-time paid occupation, I’d like to extend sympathies and a terrified kind of understanding to the staff and students of Virginia Tech University. Dear God, it could happen to any of us institutions here in the Higher Education world, as it’s already happened in too many schools. But why oh why didn’t they at least try to shut the whole darn thing down after the first incident?? I know it’s a virtually impossible task in something the size and structure of a normal campus, but you would have thought something could have been done. I hope we’ll all learn lessons from this, in every way. Please God.

Anne Brooke

Monday, April 16, 2007

Back to the grindstone

First day back at work - argghh!!! Though actually it hasn't been as horrific as I'd feared. I even got all my emails cleared by about 11.30am, which was nice. A ruddy miracle too! And the blessed Ruth had saved me some small chocolate eggs from Easter and left them on my desk as a welcome back, so I could have married her and had her babies there and then. Not only that but she'd left a large chocolate egg in the fridge, so it's like heaven in Student Care Services at the moment. Chocolate heaven.

I spent lunchtime wandering round the lake and sitting watching it. The trees on the walk to the public carpark are absolutely stunning (and I'm not usually a great nature fan. Nature? Bah! Red of tooth and claw ...) - a riot of pink blossom. I felt quite happy looking at that, and indeed at the lake. Two moments of happiness in one day? And at work? What in the world is happening to me??

This afternoon, we didn't get a great deal done. It was Penny's birthday so we went over to Student Advice (where she works) and had chocolate (surprise!) cake and an hour's chat. You can tell the boss isn't in ... It was great. Penny's actually leaving in two weeks' time and I shall miss her like crazy though. She's the voice of cynicism in a world of niceness. And how we need those!

Ooh, I've just finished reading Paul Burston's ( new novel, Lovers and Losers. I really enjoyed it - I loved the characters, and it's a warm-hearted and fun tale. Must admit to thinking that the book cover doesn't do justice to the book, which is far warmer and more humane than the plastic-looking front cover would have you believe. So don't be put off - buy it anyway! It's great!

And the lovely Gillian ( has emailed me to say how much she enjoyed A Dangerous Man ( and that she's in love with Michael. So thanks, Gillian - much appreciated - and that makes 3 of us now! Michael will be pleased. He never thought that, apart from me, he'd have much of an ardent fan club ... Gillian has also been kind enough (thanks again, Gillian ...) to leave a comment on the Flame Books Myspace site ( so I hope that means they will smile upon me for a while. I can be Good Author sometimes, you know!

Tonight, once Lord H (now happier again and standing at the edge of his cave, phew ...!) returns from the shops, I shall chill with a capital C, maybe with a well-deserved G&T in my hands, and look forward to "New Tricks" on TV. Just the thing to do the ironing to. Dammit.

Today's nice things:

1. Lovers and Losers
2. Chocolate eggs at work
3. TV

Anne Brooke

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Last day of Easter hols ...

... sigh. Work tomorrow - groan! I always hate the last day of any holiday (even if it's just a weekend and a normal Sunday) but this one's worse; what with conferencing and Easter university closure days, I haven't been in for a lifetime, so tomorrow morning is going to arrive like an unwelcome visitor. With a case. Thank goodness the boss isn't in, so it gives me time to get used to it all again without the need for a false professional face. Not that the boss is horrible - it's just that all bosses like to see that false professional face or they start asking awkward questions. Which is the last thing I need.

This morning, Lord H (still silent) went to church, but I stayed behind as I guessed (rightly, no doubt) that I'd be happier washing the car. Which I did. I also typed up the scribblings I've done to The Gifting onto the computer, and am now at the 110,000 words marker. With one section of my current scene left, followed by the big end scene. My, how I like a big finish. I've also written a poem, cooked a chicken and chatted briefly to one of the neighbours. So I feel that my duties are done.

Oh, and I've finished reading some really dreadful books. Though maybe "given up" is more accurate than "finished". First up is the truly appalling The Lighthouse by PD James. Call me an iconoclast (if you must), but I really do think that her appeal went out with the 1980s. It's excruciatingly dull, full of mindless details and backstory I don't much care about, and nothing at all happened before I gave up (about halfway through). It just seems an astonishingly old-fashioned way of writing. The second novel - which I skimmed through but did (just) manage to get to the end of - was Andrew O'Hagan's Be Near Me. I should have been warned as to its unreadability by its Booker longlisting, but really I am a fool to myself. It's about a dickhead priest with no charm and no sense. And no redeeming features, as far as I can see. Also cliched stuff re child abuse done boringly and with no sensitivity (so, yawn) and a long-lost gay love (double yawn). There is a glorious moment though when, near the beginning, he tries to talk to a music teacher at school who has an armful of violins and who, he believes, is obviously trying to get away from him whilst using the violins as a barrier. Believe me, I am right with that violin-teacher. I too spent the whole novel trying to get away from Father David, but sadly the ruddy man was just so much up his own arse that it simply wasn't possible. Sigh.

Later on, I shall ring Mother (arrggh!!), and I'm planning to watch "Ugly Betty" and "Foyle's War" on TV. So something to look forward to then before the horrors of Monday - hurrah!

This week's haiku (in honour of the weekend so far - double sigh!):

They say that silence
is golden. Wrong. Yours remains
silver and spiky.

Today's nice things:

1. Getting to 110,000 words in The Gifting
2. Not having to open those two dreadful James/O'Hagan books again - ever!
3. TV.

Anne Brooke

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Second Amazon review and A Stranger's Table request

Great joy this morning to discover a second five-star Amazon review ( for A Dangerous Man (thanks, Sue! Great pseudonym too!...), which I reproduce below:

"I thought the novel was suspenseful, unsettling and well paced and took me into a world that is totally alien to me; that of gay men and the art world. Although the main character, Michael, is not your normal type of hero - in fact he is a very dark personality indeed - I felt a real empathy for him and I found myself rooting for him until the end (even when he had stepped over the boundary into criminality). The final chapters of the book are gripping as the shadows that have been stalking Michael come to the surface and threaten to ruin his all too brief taste of success. There is a sense of foreboding as the reader realises that there is surely tragedy ahead for Michael and the people who surround him. I thought the writing throughout was excellent, particularly in the final more violent scenes, and I found it easy to visualise what was being played out in front of me. I was sorry to be coming to the end of the novel so I left the final few chapters until later in the day to savour reading them - what a sign of a good book that is!"

Glad you enjoyed it, ... um, Poohbunny(!), and thanks for putting it up there. Much appreciated!

I've also, much to my delight, had a request for A Stranger's Table (, which has cheered me no end. Hey, someone out there likes poetry! So, many thanks, Richard - and a signed copy will be in the post to you on Monday. Finally, as the ultimate hat-trick, I see I am in this month's edition of Writers' News (, and that Michael and Flame ( are mentioned, so that's lovely too. All three of us are very pleased, I'm sure.

The rest of my day so far has been spent lolling around aimlessly and squeezing out some more words to The Gifting. I've also attempted to contact my agent, but at the moment it seems to be a one-way track so I'm not holding out a great deal of hope (John? Are you there? Come out if you're still in the building ...). Perhaps he'll show greater interest once I've completed the novel, especially as fantasy is his genre of expertise - there's always that hope anyway! And, of course, as I'm very much a Z-list author, I imagine there's not a deal of point in him spending much time on me until I can deliver the goods. So, don't wait up then, at least not in terms of the big publishers, methinks ... Sigh.

And I've just watched An American in Paris on TV - lost of fun with Gene Kelly, the joys of tap-dance and some good one-liners, though I could have done without the ridiculous dance schmalz extravaganza at the end. A wasted ten minutes there, to my mind. Though I loved the character of the cynical concert pianist - great!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Lord H has entered one of his periodic silent zones (more silent than usual anyway ...), during which he speaks to no-one, particularly me, and mooches round the flat sulking. I've learnt over the years that he's best left to it, and am hoping that he emerges from the male cave in a day or two. Question to the boys: just what is it you do in that darn cave anyway??! Last year, he actually managed a week, but then again I was out a lot in the evenings that time, so may not have noticed as much (bad wife! Bad wife!...). Still, we'll see, and if I want idle chatter, I can always switch the TV on. Or ring Mother (yikes! That's worse!). Mind you, the good thing is that during such times, he does get a lot of DIY done, and even now is doing something peculiar with a new bookcase. So it's not all bad news and lettuce. (Lord B-I-L: if you're there, and have any good family tips, don't keep them to yourself!!...)

Tonight, I'm hoping they'll show Dr Who and it won't be kicked out due to overtime in some silly sports match or other (pause for brickbats to be lobbed!...). And I might try for some more scribbling. Might even get to the end of a page - who knows?

Today's nice things:

1. The Amazon review
2. The request for A Stranger's Table
3. Being in Writers' News magazine

Anne Brooke

Friday, April 13, 2007

Golf, greying and Gifting

A lazier start to the morning today. Feel I might have been coming down with something (pause for swooning ...) but have had a dose of Lemsip and feel much better, thank you. Played golf with Marian before lunch - the course was pleasantly empty in spite of the school holidays. And, pleasingly, the two lads that started behind us were actually slower than we were (rare in today's young male golfer, I have to say!) so we easily pulled ahead. Oh, and I got a par (a par!! Ye gods, the age of miracles is not dead!) on the first and looked - for a brief while - like a super-hip golfing professional. However I might have peaked too soon ... All in all though, we had a good time and didn't play badly. We both managed to get our balls in the pond on the sixth though - which is nicer than it sounds as we don't usually manage to strike them so far. Luckily, the ducks paddling on the pond at the time survived the experience. Well, they should be more careful on a golf course ... What do they expect?

Afterwards, we were chatting to the club receptionist about life, the universe and golf (in order of rising importance), and she was apparently startled to realise I am only 42. She thought I was in my 50s. Yikes! The optimist in me is hoping that this is due to the fact that Marian is in her mid 60s and I am deemed old by conjunction, but I now fear that too much staring at the computer screen and lack of decent beauty products in my 20s are at last taking their toll. I am rushing for more of Jane H's special Nutrimetics ( apricot oil and a date with the plastic surgeon even as I type. Alas, I fear however that particular horse may have bolted a long time since. I am a Hag before my time! Thank goodness Lord H's sight is so bad. He probably believes I'm Marilyn Monroe. I wish.

I have done some more scribbling to The Gifting, and am getting Simon to a key scene with his father (it's a flashback). At last. But I don't really feel able to start it today - though I might do some over the weekend depending - as I think that one will take a tank-full of energy. At least. And I am within a whisker of 109,000 words, so feel I am possibly approaching the final lap. One hopes. Bloody hell, I can almost imagine a time when I might have finished it. And what the hell will I do when that happens?? Ah, edit, edit, edit ... Oh, and I've uploaded the next section of The Gifting up on the Writewords ( site for comment (the Groups continue to be a good source of support), so I'll see what they say.

And, once again, I am proved wrong in my pronouncements; two of the old university gang emailed me yesterday, after I'd moaned that they never communicate. C'est la vie, eh? Though actually, I only understood one of the messages. I suspect the old friend who sent the meaningless email (twice!) probably needs either (a) a crash course in how to communicate through the Web in a non-abrupt way or (b) not to use it at all, really. Either way, I've been invited up for a gals' night out in London in April which is, to be honest, filling me with dread even though I should be delighted. I mean, I'll be going up to the Big City in May anyway to see my old school friend (thanks, Bryony!) and I'd much rather do that than go up to see a crowd (well, three or four, but to me that's a crowd) in order to say the same things we always say and have to perform the same social tricks I always perform. Um, yes, I am cynical. You've guessed it. So anyway, I have sent a vague reply and not promised anything. I'll see how brave and strong I feel on the day.

Tonight, it's pizza, garlic bread and ice cream - hurrah! Followed by shed-loads of TV, so my life is complete. I suppose I ought to do some cleaning, if only to show willing, but I don't know if I can be arsed, and I might leave it till tomorrow anyway. Hmm, I'm never going to be a serious entry for the Enthusiasm Olympics, am I? And my latest self-help read is called "Authentic Happiness" and even has its own website ( so I really should make an effort. Sigh!

Today's nice things:

1. Golf
2. Writing
3. Getting a date to meet Bryony - hurrah! (though she's unlikely to recognise the grey-haired, wrinkly old slapper I'll no doubt have turned into by then ...)

Anne Brooke

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Counselling, virtual worlds and a wasp battle

Had to get up at a non-writers time today (ie before 9am - ye gods, how will I survive the length of the day?...) in order to get to my Counselling appointment this morning. We talked about families and church. So no change there then. But I have now got to the point when I realise that, for the moment, I'm not going to go back to St Peter's. And I'm not looking for another CofE church to replace them either. Hell, it feels like a decision, and it also feels as if I'm finally - at least in one small part of life - attempting to be me and make my own choices. Rather than attempting to please everyone else and do what is expected. I may well go to the local Quaker meeting in Godalming this Sunday, but it will depend on how I feel on the day. We'll see. It is interesting though that last week I did finally get round to opening the bumph the Quakers sent me a couple of months ago. The envelope has been lurking at the side of the sofa for so long that I was starting to forget about it entirely. But it's open now, and even partially read. Again, we'll see.

Kunu's parting shot this morning was to say that I should look into enjoying more in life, rather than being hung up with achieving lots. She's said it before, I know, but it doesn't come easily. Maybe my achievement conveyor-belt lifestyle is what's stopping me being me, properly at least. Hmm, another thought to ponder a while. I fear. Anyway, whilst in town, I mooched around Marks & Spencer for a while, wondering where all the lovely things they show us on TV are actually kept, and failing to find them. Asking an assistant is way too much commitment. But I did find some nice t-shirts for £5, and in a 3-for-2 offer, so may well pop back in on Saturday to make real-live purchases. If it comes under my new enjoyment quota, that is.

At home, I've typed up more of the current scene from The Gifting onto the computer. And I know where that part of the book is going now, so that's clarified things for me. Just have to write the ruddy stuff really. Once again, a slower writing day today, but it's - hell - enjoyable.

I've also broken my one last connection with St Peter's; I've cancelled my standing order to them, emailed the church treasurer to tell him this (though I don't expect any reply, as these days it seems that neither church people nor my old university set have the courtesy to answer any of my missives any more. At least not in ways I can understand, bitch bitch!...). In its place, I've sent off a form to give regular payments to the Yvonne Arnaud theatre ( in Guildford. Well, I've worked out that I get far more enjoyment from the theatre than I do from the church, so what the hell, eh.

This afternoon, I paid Gladys a short visit - she was worrying about dandelions in the garden and a small fallen tree, but has a man coming on Monday to sort it out. I'm always a great approver of men who come to sort things out. A wonderful and dying breed. Sadly. Also, I was incredibly brave (for me) as there was a nasty looking wasp in her living room whilst we were talking, and I managed to (a) not scream and run sobbing from her house, and (b) get rid of it through the window for her. Really, I'm astonished at myself. It's probably my Courage Quota for the month. Maybe even the year. And please God don't let there be the swarms of wasps there were last year - I really can't stand it! It's like being invaded. In my own home too. Damn it.

Ooh, and Flame Books ( have joined Myspace ( and sent me a Friends invite. Thanks, Sean! Much appreciated, and welcome to the strange virtual world we all dwell in these days. Sadly though, so far I seem to be Sean's only friend, so I hope his social calendar fills up soon. If Michael had a Myspace profile, I'd send him round at once, of course.

Talking of virtual worlds, I must admit that I have times of getting really fed up with the Writewords ( world these days. It is (or it was) a good site, and the Groups are great, but I think the forums are getting way too cumbersome and sometimes downright unfriendly these days. Possibly it might be a victim of its own success, which is a shame. Recently I've found myself trying not to get involved with it quite so much, and I definitely feel far less supported on there than I used to be. There's just too many people, and the personal touch has gone, to my mind. Though I really don't want to leave it entirely, especially as parts of the site are incredibly useful, actually I feel far happier on Myspace, to be honest.

And I've just finished reading Jed Rubenfeld's The Interpretation of Murder. Marvellous novel - a pleasure to read, although I do think it was rather too convoluted, especially towards the end. But that doesn't matter, as the characters are just so hot, and it's got some top-notch one liners. A delight really. Go out and read it before they make the film.

Tonight, I'm planning some more scribbling, and it's Catherine Tate on TV later. Bliss. I love her. We redheads must stick together. I always admire a woman with attitude. Bliss.

Today's nice things:

1. Writing
2. Winning a battle with a wasp - for once
3. The pleasures of Rubenfeld's book.

Anne Brooke

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Amazon review and a better writing day

Was thrilled yesterday to get an email from an old school friend whom I haven't heard from for ages - it really made my evening, and my morning today indeed as she replied to my reply, hurrah! We're currently trying to make a date for catch-up, now we're both over our 2006-ish traumas (God, what a year that was ...), so hope I'll be able to see her soon. Not only that but the thrice-blessed woman has actually gone and ordered my books through Amazon - for which huge thanks indeed. This means that for the first time in a long time my Pink Champagne and Apple Juice ( Amazon rating has gone up to 5 figures instead of the usual 6, and A Dangerous Man ( and A Stranger's Table ( have both received their first rating entirely. Doubt any of them will remain at the 5 figure marker for long though, but it's nice to see for today at least.

And talking of Amazon, Michael has received his first review!! A five-star one at that. My cup indeed runneth over. The link (but be warned - it does carry some spoilers so look away from the next paragraph now if you haven't read it yet!) is: and the actual text is:

“I read this book in two sittings. My first thoughts were God! I wish I felt as passionate about anything as Michael does about his art … 'Fingers, hand, pencil even thought are one ... as the glow burns ... explodes like a shock of water'. The whole time I was thinking this is how a writer feels, an artist feels … For me he became a man obsessed with his need to understand and to try to express the dichotomy existing within him. To understand how to make sense of existing in an alien external world full of darkness and acute, cutting edges so at odds with his gentler sensuous vulnerable interior life. Jack, the urbane, the sophisticated, symbolised all he aspired to. As I read on I felt this was the nub of the real tragedy, a man torn between two such potent desires and that there wasn't going to be an easy answer. But I was totally unprepared for the final part. This novel reaches the height of true tragedy. I couldn't bear for Michael to destroy the man he loved, the gentle, the sensuous, loving part of himself. I found it more grievous to bear than anything I've ever read, at least Othello was torn by motives of jealousy. But the final pages of ADM revealed the horrific dilemma of a young man programmed by his abusive background and in the last resort unable to escape it. I wept for Michael, I wept for the pity of it all. This is a far greater book than the much acclaimed 'Line of Beauty' which lacks the driving energy of your theme. It just has to do well.”

End of Spoiler Alert! And huge thanks to Megsl who gave me that review. I really appreciate it. I'm glad too that you think it's better than Line of Beauty - especially as that was a book I couldn't stand, even though it won the Booker. Lord knows why - a load of twaddle to my mind, and dull twaddle at that. And nothing at all like the 80s. Michael, bless him, wouldn't have got on with any of them.

The rest of my day has been spent scribbling more of the childhood escape scene in The Gifting. It's flowing a lot easier today - again, Lord knows why - and I'm feeling quite enthused about it. So much so that I suspect the scene will be longer than I anticipated at the outset and will take on something of its own life and length. Which is good news for me if that happens as really, m'dears, I don't have a fecking clue most of the ruddy time what I'm supposed to be doing. And also good news for Simon, as it's a key scene which unlocks much of what has happened. Again, I hope. But honestly who can tell? If bloody LOB won the bloody Booker, ye gods, none of us is safe from disappearing up our own arses. And, yes, you can quote me on that.

By the way, did I mention Michael got a five-star review on Amazon?

And I really must say how utterly marvellous last night's final episode of Life on Mars was. It had me gripped all the way through, and the ending was full of wonderful twists and turns which we just soooo right. The final scenes were perfect. In every sense. Which, as I mentioned to Laura on MySpace ( earlier just goes to show that we have every right to kick the buggers who say that TV is not an art form into permanent touch. From last night's viewing (and indeed other programmes) it most certainly is. But, hell, I'm going to miss Sam & Gene and the gang. Pass me the ruddy tissues ...

Speaking of which, there's not a ruddy thing on TV tonight, as far as I can see, so I may have to watch a mindless video (an art form in its own right, surely) or scribble some more of the novel. We'll see.

Oh, and did I say that Michael got a five-star Amazon review? He's really so pleased.

Today's nice things:

1. Michael got a five-star ... hell, you can guess the rest
2. Hearing from my old schoolfriend
3. Having a day when the writing seemed to work - hurrah!

Anne Brooke