Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lunch with Julia and Guildford Writers

Had something of a nostalgia session last night when I got out my hats (well, all three of them) to see which one I’m going to wear for Carol’s wedding on Saturday. The choice is the wide-brimmed blue (which doesn’t fit terribly well), the quirky green (more for the fun occasion) or the smart casual cream with ribbon (ideal wedding get-up, really). Naturally, I went for the latter. I think I’ll wear it with the light green dress and matching jacket. Lord only knows what shoes and handbag I’ll opt for. (Oh heck, am I having a Girly Moment??! Someone pass me the normality pills again …) Equally naturally, the hats are buried in the same place in the flat as our wedding photos, so I was poring over those too and weeping at how young and innocent we once were. Or at least how young and innocent we once looked. Yes, there is a difference. Ah well …

Anyway, great joy at breakfast today, when Lord H and I spotted a wren in the garden. Rushed to get the binoculars in the kitchen (yes, it is fairly sad that we keep them there at the moment but you never know when you might catch a glimpse of a bird you just have to have a closer look at …) and, yes, there it was – small brown job with a sticky-up tail. Wonderful! And while I’m on the subject of binoculars, we’ve discovered a fantastic aid to marital harmony with them (no, people – you have very peculiar minds, honestly!...) – if you turn them the wrong way round and look at the other person through them, then the whole problem looks so much more distant and manageable. Bliss!

Am thinking of preparing my annual reports for work sometime over the next week or so – to save the mad panic in October and to look super-efficient at the same time. It might help to make a start soon anyway, as I’m hoping to have some time off during October, post the Freshers nightmare, so anything I can do now to ease the pressure then will be a plus point, I’m sure. But first I need to change the Student Advice & Information Service (SAIS) web references to be just Student Advice, as we’ve decided the old name is really too much of a mouthful. Even we have trouble remembering it, let alone the customers! I’m the Web Queen once more then …

Had lunch with Julia from UniSWriters today – very enjoyable, though everyone’s feeling the heat as we approach the end of the restructuring process. It’ll be so much better when the powers that be have sorted themselves out. One hopes.

Oh and here’s a piece of flash fiction for the Writewords Flash Fiction II Group. The theme is “On the road again”:

On the road again

That’s it then. Another door shut, with the bloke behind it already lighting a smoke and wishing I was further away than I am. Same old, same old. God knows I try my best but I never stay anywhere long. This time, though, it felt different. Just a little. And I half-think about knocking on the peeling paintwork, waiting for him to open it – if he does – and maybe even asking to talk.
But I don’t. What’s the point? Talking never solved anything. Not for me.
So instead of doing what everyone else might have done, if only in books – instead of that I shoulder my rucksack, twisting the belt around me until it’s tight against my hips, spit once on the line of broken flowerpots and stride down the steps and into the night.
The city is in that empty phase between shedding its daytime office junkies and welcoming the party-goers, the clubbers and the hookers. Around me, with the street lights flickering in the winter dusk, I can feel it drawing breath, waiting for things to turn, waiting for the night to begin.
I pass Tottenham Court tube and head east. Cars crawl by me, buses too, and the fumes and the noise are almost overwhelming. But I pay them no attention. I just keep on walking, elbowing my way through groups of high-heeled girls and boys dressed only in black. The air is rich with sweat and perfume. At times like this, the road becomes once again the only friend I can trust.
Finally, when the crowds begin to thin out, destinations reached or parties given up on, I weave my path away from the main streets and into the city’s darker corners. Here, the smell of urine and Meths takes over from sweat and scent. The change isn’t unwelcome.
When I find a shop doorway, sheltered enough to protect me from any rain, I ease the rucksack off my shoulders, curl myself up next to it and sleep. It’s familiar enough for my sleep to be dreamless. I’m on the road again.

Tonight I’m off to Guildford Writers – drinks afterwards are most definitely on me to celebrate my book deal. Good job I got paid last week then!

Oh and I've just finished Samantha Wynne Rhydderch's poetry collection, Rockclimbing in Silk. Hmm, too many words, m'dear. They were bludgeoning me like stone-age hunters closing in on the prey. So much so that no meaning appeared to be left at all. I can't remember why I decided to buy it, to be frank, and that's a good couple of hours of my life I won't get back. The whole thing has completely exhausted me - so not one I can recommend, I'm afraid.

Today’s nice things:

1. Seeing a wren
2. Lunch with Julia
3. Guildford Writers.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Web Queen and reflexology

I must say that, even though Daniel Craig is seriously hot, I didn’t really think much of “Casino Royale”, which we watched on DVD last night. Way too many action scenes, not enough humour or lightness of touch, too long a card game and far too confusing at the end. Sorry, but really I still prefer Roger Moore. Hush my mouth indeed …

This morning, I discovered that a grasshopper had attached itself to my green bag - yes, sad git that I am, I have to take a briefcase (for my pill supply - you never know when you might need a pill or two), a green bag (for my sandwiches & water) and a handbag (for everything else) to work with me, or my whole life falls apart. Anyway, it was fun persuading it off the bag and back into its real-life environment. Thank the Lord I discovered it before I got in the car - if it had launched itself at me while I was driving, goodness only knows what might have happened ...

Hugely busy today sorting out emails from last week and also doing loads of additions & changes to the Health Centre website - one of my favourite jobs, so do have a look and see what you think. But bear in mind it’s definitely a work in progress. As ever!

Thank goodness for my hour of calm and inner rejuvenation at my lunchtime reflexology session. Honestly, my feet still feel tingly. It’s bliss. Mind you, by the time I’d crawled my way round, through and over the amount of obstacles the builders put in my path to Nirvana, I definitely needed the slot. And I swear that they’d changed the set-up again during the hour I was having my feet rubbed, as I definitely came back via a different route. Much like the Magi really – though I suspect they didn’t have the reflexology extra. And I certainly don’t have a camel.

And I have finally posted my article to Mslexia so at least that's out of the house. For a couple of days anyway. Sigh!

I have also been terribly brave (pass the smelling salts, someone …) and sent out possible meeting dates to two sets of friends. Which makes me feel like I might actually be slowly dragging myself back to the land of relative normality post my troublesome depressive phase. We’ll see anyway. And I think that’s all I’ll attempt to plan on the social front for this week, even though there are one or two other sets of people wanting to meet up. One step at a time, eh – I really don’t want to get too twitchy and stressed again. After all, my next serious breakdown-time isn’t due till my 60s, ho ho.

Ooh, and there are chocolate biscuits left in the office from last week – double hurrah! – so I am cheering myself with those. Where on earth would we be without chocolate? Lordy, but the thought of that is too terrible to contemplate …

Tonight, Lord H is doing the shopping, and I’m hoping to do some more to The Bones of Summer, plus generally slobbing. We’ll see.

Today’s nice things:

1. Working on the website
2. Reflexology
3. An evening in.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sex scenes and garden parties

No, not together - steady, people! - don't believe all you read in the papers about the Surrey set - per-lease!

I have at last started a major sex scene in The Bones of Summer - when Paul & Craig are in Devon (hurrah!) - and got so carried away that I'd done another 1000 words before I knew it. Taking me up to the grand total of 13,000, so don't wait up, eh. Still have more of the sex scene to go, plus I need to get them through the day's traumas before they actually get to the evening - but, heck, I decided to tackle the hot stuff today as it's Sunday and hell I deserve it. I can do crime and family dramas tomorrow - ideal for a Monday really.

I also managed to get my bookmark to stay upright on its side on the dining-room table today, while I was having breakfast, and was so excited by this miraculous piece of engineering that I had to call Lord H in to admire my skill. I'm not sure he was that impressed, to be honest, but he did his best in the marital support stakes. And while he was there, we had some interesting discussions about what it really means to put something on "in a low oven" and whether, if you raise the oven up on blocks, it will then be a "high oven" and take a shorter time to cook. Ah well, as you can see, Godalming is still an intellectual hot-spot in the western world ...

Ooh, and the Pink Champagne blog has been updated to include the latest Waterstone's review - so do pop in and have a look. Thanks for doing that, Sue!

This afternoon, we've been strutting our glad rags at a 50th birthday party for a work colleague, Colin - the weather being kind, we spent most of it in his garden getting over the social shame of being the first ones to arrive. Lordy, but I'm just so "Essex" and uncool that I have to be there to get to the bar before anyone else. We were also the first to leave (neither of us being great party-stayers, no matter how pleasant the people), so will probably have no friends at all by next week. Just call me Billy No-Mates.

And I also must admit to my eternal shame that I've had to give up entirely on Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite Runner". Yes, I know it's no doubt a literary masterpiece and everyone I know has been telling me I'd love it - but ... umm ... I hated it. Sorry. I got to the end of Chapter Three and, as far as I could tell, the story hadn't really started yet. Though the author had kindly told us - several times - that a story would be happening and it would change everything for the main character. There also seemed to be way too much telling and very little showing. When I got to Chapter Four and he was still telling me about his father and when he'd been born, I actually lost the will to live and knew I could take no more of it. Life's too short for this kind of narrative, I fear. At least in my opinion. So sorry again to those I might have upset ...

Tonight, I must ring Mother, and then we're planning an evening in front of the TV, watching our DVD of "Casino Royale", which will be our first time, so don't spoil the plot! I suspect I will freeze-frame several times that glorious shot of Daniel Craig rising out of the water in his speedos like Adonis from the waves (if Adonis had ever risen from the waves, that is ...), and run the gauntlet of Lord H's objections. Heck, it's worth it, tee hee!

This week's haiku is:

Mid conversation.
A grey heron floats lazily
over silent heads.

Herons again, I know - I'm obviously developing a heron fetish. Sigh ...

Today's nice things:

1. Getting a big sex scene started for The Bones of Summer
2. Colin's 50th.
3. Casino Royale!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Writing and a trip to Maidstone

Ooh dear me, it was a bit of a struggle with the writing on The Bones of Summer this morning. I think I must have moved Craig on only from the doorstep into Paul's car and onto the motorway (they're heading to Devon, but it ain't going to be a holiday, rest assured!), and that took me about two hours. For me, not them ... Sigh. So I now have about 12,000 words in total. I think I might put a scary scene in soon, then maybe another sex scene later. That'll cheer them both up. And if it doesn't, well it'll cheer me up, and hell I count too, don't I?!

The rest of the day was spent driving to Maidstone (well, Aylesford actually, but fewer people are likely to know where that is - um, it's near Maidstone) to see Pauline and catch up over lunch. Which we duly did. She'll be taking her first head teacher job in September so at last I know someone who's turned out to be a Pillar of the Community, aha! After all these years of waiting ... Which will at least make my teachers proud - as I was apparently judged to be the pupil most likely to join the Townswomen's Guild and Do Good Works (my my, how different things were then and what a shock those same teachers would have now, eh ...), and I feel I've never really fulfilled that aim. At least now I can fulfil it by proxy.

While I've been doing girly stuff (oh no, surely not!! Not very me at all really ...), Lord H has spent the day bird-watching in Camberley. So, once he gets back, I'm sure I shall be treated to a list of birds he's seen which I have yet to see - which makes me way behind in the Wife Bird-Watching Stakes, but then again there's no surprises there. Not that marriage is in any way competitive, of course ...! Hell, it's just me. Though Pauline and I did see a heron flying over us while we were at her car, discussing poetry, religion and relationships (hmm, maybe not quite as girly as I'd thought then ...) - so that was breath-taking. The bird and the conversation both.

Tonight, there's absolutely sod all on TV - so we are obviously approaching the August TV slump zone when all the decent schedulers are away in the Bahamas looking at real life, and we at home have to suffer an endless diet of repeats and reality TV. Groan. Will have to get the DVDs out over the next month and see all the wonderful films we planned to watch one day, I feel.

Today's nice things:

1. Getting Craig and Paul onto the motorway (hurrah! - but will they ever reach Devon?)
2. Seeing a flying heron (so having a bird fact to tell Lord H later)
3. Chatting to Pauline (and proving that on occasion I can actually be a girl ...)

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, July 27, 2007

Editing and another review

Really thrilled today to receive a review of A Dangerous Man on Writewords from Jw Bennett who says the following:

"From the moment my copy arrived, I was keen to read this novel. The intriguing blurb on the back cover and the enticing image on the front informed me I was in for a satisfying read. And I was not disappointed. A Dangerous Man relates the tale of Michael Jones, a struggling young artist in the shadowy depths of contemporary London, whose desire for success blossoms into obsession. Michael strives hard for artistic perfection and, more surprisingly, gets by on the side as an experienced rent boy. When Michael falls head over heels for handsome financier Jack Hutchinson, the stage is set for a thrilling and emotional journey. Early on, we are shown glimpses of Michael’s ferocious compulsion, the passions that drive him, hints and allusions to a troubled past. Swiftly immersed in the luxury of Hutchinson’s Islington pad, Michael thinks he has found a get out clause to all of his problems. Michael doesn’t see his sexual favours as prostitution, more as a necessary evil to edge him closer to his goal. Nevertheless, debt and desire ensnare his existence, harassment and blackmail dogging his heels. All is not as it seems ... London’s seedy backstreet life – the alcoholic desperation, gay bars, tricks for cash – all are brilliantly realised. From the grubby pub toilets to the morning cruisers along the Embankment, Brooke reveals the sleazy parameters of Michael’s world, all the while balancing the prurience with convincing erotica and the alarming hope of love. Expertly juxtaposed against the City’s squalor lies the upper class atmosphere of Jack Hutchinson’s realm – the grandiose houses, the immaculate offices, the uncomfortably polite family visits. In short, another universe completely. As Michael draws closer to the realisation of his ambitions – ambitions he’ll do almost anything to achieve – the darkness of the past comes drawing in, and the two worlds are set on a collision course. Will Michael’s obsession transcend his love for Jack? Can he meet the threat of his sordid history head on? No doubt about it, A Dangerous Man is a gripping read. I finished the novel in only two sittings, enthralled by the plot and the finely drawn characters. The novel’s insightfulness made for clear visualisation, and all the events seemed perfectly placed and never less than engaging. Anne Brooke handles her subject matter with humanity and grace, delivering an original, exciting and thoughtful read. Brave, bold, and beautifully written, A Dangerous Man is a class act."

Gosh, thanks, James - I really appreciate it. Many thanks indeed. And in one of those "If you liked that, you'll love this" moments, I do have to say that Bennett's gay novel, Unrequited, is out fairly soon, and will be definitely worth the read. Go on - put it on your book list!

Most of today has been spent editing Maloney's Law and I've actually got to the point now when I'm relatively happy with it. It's funny with novels - you write the damn things and then by the time anyone shows an interest in publishing them, it's been so long that you've actually forgotten half of what you wrote. Reading through Paul's story once more makes me remember how much in love with the bloke I was - and still am, really. But I suspect that's (probably) normal, at least for me - if I'm not in love with my main character, then I can't really do the biz. But, bloody hell, what traumas I put the poor guy through. I'm astonished he's still speaking to me at all ...

Oh, and I forgot to say yesterday that I've finished my article on straight women writing gay fiction, and will be sending it off to Mslexia on Monday when I'm next near a post office (there's one on campus). Ho ho. So expect it back round about Tuesday, earlier if they're not busy then ... After that, I'll try the usual suspects and see if someone will bite. Faith springs eternal, eh ...!

And I've just finished C E Trueman's "The Bone Cradle" - which is actually a children's book, but quite interesting. I loved the main character, but felt it was a bit too neatly tied up at the end - though wonderfully poignant. And a nice, slightly creepy, touch of magic realism too, which I enjoyed.

Tonight, I've got the champagne on ice (well, in the fridge ...) to celebrate my contract with PD Publishing, the pizza, garlic bread and ice cream ready, and the cleaning can damn well wait. Aha!

Today's nice things:

1. James' very kind review
2. Editing
3. Champagne - hurrah!!!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Counselling and the editing queen

Seemed to spend a lot of time this morning in the process of actually getting up, so ended up rushing to get to my counselling appointment. Still managed to buy some more floppy disks on the way though - I'd just run out. Had quite a good session with Kunu, filling her in on stuff like mother, work, the gay man/men who appear to live somewhere inside me (Gawd bless 'em, eh - a rum lot ....) and getting a publishing deal (hurrah!). We talked a lot about the books this time (probably understandably ...) and the fact that you can tell how I am by what I'm writing at the time. Funny then how Craig in my current novel, The Bones of Summer, is having to go back in the present and sort out his family life, reinterpreting it from an adult perspective so he can get on with the business of living. Know how he feels then!...

I've then spent a lot of the day tackling the editing on Maloney's Law and easing down the tempo of the illicit sex scene in it (though there are others that remain untouched!) for the US market. It's difficult to know exactly what PD Publishing might want, but I hope I'm doing the best I can with it. I'm also reading through and checking the flow of the thing - an exercise which is quite useful in terms of bringing to mind the background I need to know for The Bones of Summer. Hey, at last I can kill two birds with one proverbial!

And I paid a visit to Gladys, who was also entertaining her niece & grand-niece, as it's her 91st birthday next week. Only nine years till the royal telegram (or whatever it is now - email??) then! I probably stayed longer than I should have though - as I haven't met that side of the family before and they seem very nice - as Gladys was a bit confused when I left. But at least she had cake. Which is never a bad thing. And, come to think of it, I was pretty confused when I turned up - so we have much in common indeed.

Oh, and Jools from Writewords and Mighty Erudite Publishers has very kindly asked if I'd like to do one day a month as creative consultant to her new publishing company, so I'm hoping to pop up to London soon for a drink with her to discuss it. Certainly sounds interesting to me. Thanks for the offer, Jools!

Tonight, I'm going to chill, and plan to catch up on my Channel 4 Gay Week videos. And, hopefully, a relatively early night too. You never know.

Today's nice things:

1. Counselling
2. Editing
3. Jools' kind offer.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Maloney’s Law Contract with PD Publishing!

Great news today and time to put out the flags! I have a contract for the publication of Maloney’s Law in the US by PD Publishing – double hurrahs! And huge thanks to my agent, John for arranging the contract. I even get a (very) small advance, which is not something I’ve had before – so hurrah for that also! Apparently, it should be published somewhere around May 2008, and I’d better get on with doing the edits they want as they need them by 1 September. Oo-err! Though actually, it’s only really one scene they want major changes to, so hopefully I should be able to do that okay.

But I’m really excited – sorry, can’t help it!! Lord H is excited too, and has started calling me an “internationally published author”. Ho ho! Marital loyalty is showing its face here, I feel – though it’s definitely a champagne night on Friday!

And here at work, there are even more celebrations going on – the office is stuffed with chocolate and cakes, and we’ve even gone out for coffee again, huzzah! (I’ve altered that from “hurrah” as I thought it would be nice to ring the changes …). Celebrations include:

• Carol getting married next week
• David to become a father for the second time in November
• Colin’s 50th next week
• Andrea being here for a year
• And me.

And we’re partying now as today is the last time we’ll all be together before all these exciting things (or most of them anyway!) take place. A red-letter day indeed!

My meeting this afternoon has, sadly, had to be cancelled at the last minute due to staff family illness and the fact that our external attendees are in Oxfordshire and trapped by flooding (no trains). Bit of a pain for all really, but I’m hoping to reschedule over the next couple of weeks before everyone disappears on their holidays.

Oh, and did I say I’ve got a contract for Maloney’s Law?!...

Went for a stroll round the campus at lunchtime – just to get my head cleared from the noise it’s currently full of. Okay, that’s not a great sentence, but there you go. The ducks all seemed to be waddling somewhere very fast in Olympic lines. Very impressive really.

Tonight, I’m hoping to look at the Maloney’s Law edits, and see if the publishers have given me any further clues on what they’d like. And the new fantasy series, “Heroes” is on TV, so I’m planning to watch that too. Plus videoing the next instalment of Channel 4’s Gay Week. It’s all go here in the countryside, you know …

By the way, I’ve got a contract. Yes, I’m still screaming (for joy)!!!

And I've just finished Mark Haddon's A Spot of Bother. A slow start but absolutely electric when it gets going. I couldn't put it down. Witty and deep and moving. Great stuff. Buy it! He's a truly great writer. Though there was one chapter I actually couldn't read - even though I suspect it was just as superbly written as the rest of it. It was just way too sad and graphic for me.

Today’s nice things:

1. Getting the Maloney’s Law contract (did I mention that?...)
2. General office celebrations – well done all!
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

UniSWriters and Clapham Junction's darker side

No spiders in the bath today – hurrah! – and an unexpected lack of rain. Not sure what that big yellow round thing is in the sky though. Weird. Watched my video of “Clapham Junction” last night (part of Channel 4’s Gay Week) – strong stuff, but rather too gloomy for my liking. I wasn’t really convinced by the young teenager seducing the older guy though. Seems highly unlikely to me - the lad was just way too confident. And there were just too many coincidences. Nice to see all those stars strutting their stuff though – and my goodness what a lot of it they strutted. There was something peculiarly British and uptight about it somehow - actually, if they’d added some humour, it might have made a good “Carry On” film. Which must be saying something – if I only knew what.

The usual weekly meeting with the boss today – mainly preparing for tomorrow’s meeting. There’s not really a lot else going on, to be honest. Typical vacation time. Had UniSWriters at lunch, which was nice. More of an informal meeting than a real one, as most of us are away or on holidays. Had a lovely email submission from Alan for the meeting – he’d created a cracker of a piece of flash fiction from the words, “superman”, “cheese” and “nits”. It was great! I think I’ll cancel the August meeting though – give us all a break till September.

This afternoon, the builders have decided to use the drill as much as possible, plus indulge in a lot of shouting and having the radio on full-tilt. Apparently, they seem to like something which I’m reliably informed is called “The Umbrella Song” and is number one in the Popular Beat Combo charts. Hey ho. I am, as you can see, at the cutting edge of modern culture. As ever.

Here’s another piece of flash fiction. It’s the piece I did at UniSWriters today:

The decisive moment

The first thing he saw when he turned the corner was the burnt-out hulk of the house he used to live in. Bugger. So much for sprinklers and an alarm system connected straight to the fire station, eh? All that money spent for nothing.
The second thing he saw was his wife. She was kneeling on their garden path, clutching what appeared to be his Barbour jacket and wailing. She didn’t look pretty. The man over the road was trying to comfort her. Horny bastard, he thought.
He was about to put the Jag into neutral when he thought again. Gazing at the scene, he found the words, 'Easy come easy go', drifting through his head. Then he drove on.

Tonight I’m planning to do more to The Bones of Summer – time to take Craig back to his roots. With Paul of course. Up the tension a little. That’s the hope anyway.

Still no sign of any contract from PD Publishing for Maloney’s Law yet. And I can’t chase John until at least Friday, as he’s moving to Lincoln this week. Deep breaths, eh, gal – deep breaths!

Today’s nice things:

1. No spiders (so far!)
2. UniSWriters
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, July 23, 2007

Coffee, reflexology and shopping

Slight case of Monday Morning Syndrome today, groan. Probably made worse by the need to drown a spider in the bath before I could start my day. Double groan. At work, I kept staring bleakly at people attempting to engage me in meaningful conversation and feeling hopeless. Don’t think the continued rain and general overcast weather is helping much either. Had loads of emails about meetings to sort out when I finally managed to open my inbox without screaming too – which was scary, but I think I’ve dealt with them all now. A process which involved arranging a variety of meetings up until June 2008 (never say we in the University are not prepared for the year …), so at least I looked fairly efficient in the midst of my existential gloom. Ho ho.

However, as there are only three of us in the office today, we all decided we needed to get out before we went stir-crazy, so we popped out for coffee on campus at 10.30. Ye gods, but it was nice to get out and chat. Made me almost feel normal again. I had a decaff cappuccino – I’m hyper enough without a caffeine fix, don’t you know …

Ooh, and some writing news – Jools from Writewords has just set up a new online publisher – Mighty Erudite – so please do look it up and see if you’re able to submit anything – she’s a really lovely person, so I’m sure it will be well worth it.

I’ve written a piece of flash fiction for the Writewords Flash Fiction II challenge – the theme is in the title:

Sympathy for the Devil

It ain’t easy having a forked tail and horns, you know. Nobody ever thinks of that, but it’s true. Well, even I have to admit it was much easier in the Middle Ages, when everyone believed me and found my appearance shocking. So shocking that I’d sometimes lose them altogether to Him Upstairs (May He Never Be Named). He always was a bit of a trickster, that one. Never trust anyone with a halo and relationship issues is my advice. For what it’s worth.

Anyway, the way I look is a bit of a problem these days. I have to make sure my trousers are pretty roomy at the back so I can curl my tail round without stabbing myself. No, don’t laugh. You try explaining it at A&E – last time I was there I had to evaporate the two nurses who saw to me with a blast of my special hot breath as otherwise the game might have been up. I think they’re still listed as missing, poor dears …

And, as for the horns, I do the best I can with a rather Boris hairstyle (another one of mine, you know – I’m so proud; London has much excitement in store once he’s mayor) and a demon barber. But on the couple of occasions that my cover’s been blown (if I may use that phrase), the – err-hem – woman in questioned has always just laughed. Women are the devil, eh! Or they were immediately afterwards. Think they both quite like their new roles in hell too – then again, anything’s better than the Eastern bloc countries.

So there you have it. A valid reason for not judging by appearances – after all, you may never know (and, believe me, you won’t – not till it’s too late) when you’re entertaining devils unawares. And yes, before you ask, He Who May Never Be Named did plagiarise me for that one. After all, I get all the good lines, don’t I?

Had a much-needed reflexology session at lunchtime – honestly, I’m not sure I could get by without them, you know! It made me feel energised. Almost. Post-work, I’ve struggled round Tesco to do the shopping. Never say my life is not one rollercoaster round of excitement … And tonight, I’m torn between doing a bit of writing and slobbing in front of the TV. Thank goodness I don’t have to go out though – that would have been way too much for a Monday!

Today’s nice things:

1. Mid-morning coffee
2. Reflexology
3. A little bit of writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Church and chilling

Yes, time to sit down, people, as astonishingly we have actually gone to church today. Not to our former Sunday abode (God forbid - never again, I think!) but to St Mary's in Shackleford. Nice looking building - quite light inside, but with a traditional feel. And what must surely be the longest aisle in the county. At least for a village church. Sensible move therefore to put a communion table in the middle of it - if the priest had actually done the biz at the altar, we would never have been able to see him at all.

And, service-wise, it was okay. Only 45 minutes, fairly straightforward and with some much-appreciated periods of silence as we flitted our way through. I was rather taken with the priest's sense of humour too - he messed up the opening words, greeting us with "Grace, Merce and Peacey" instead of the more usual phrase, and then broke into some wonderfully ice-breaking giggles and explained that he'd been out at a party the night before. Well, it had been Saturday ... After which we all laughed with him and started again. Much the best way to approach any religious service, to my mind. Ye gods, but if we can't laugh at that, what the hell can we laugh at?!

The sermon was fine too - pleasingly feminist, and I liked the way he took the story of Mary sitting at Jesus' feet, listening, and Martha bustling away in the kitchen, and didn't give us the usual spin on it. Instead, he pointed out that the scenario actually shows how Jesus took gender expectations of male hospitality (the men should be entertaining the guest, and the women should be behind the scenes) and turned the whole thing on its head by allowing Mary the right to be there. Not something I'd thought of before. I'm all for equality (as long as I'm first, eh?!...).

Post-service, the (rather posh but perfectly pleasant) people of St Mary's were obviously so astonished to find some strangers in their midst that they fell upon us with cries of joy and biscuits. Which was a bit scary in its way, but strangely not horrid.

And the really, really good thing about St Mary's is that they only have two services a month - so no need to feel committed on a serious level, hurrah! So, we'll see ... but, bloody hell, I ain't going in for a sainthood yet awhile.

Back on the ranch, I have (at last! at last!) managed to get 10,000 words done to The Bones of Summer. And the plot (I hope ...) is beginning to rattle along more, which pleases me. Craig, I think, is turning out to be a character with his own timings and ways of doing things, in spite of his apparent level-headedness and quietness. Hmm, it's a funny life.

And I've written a poem inspired by yesterday:


My dreams are filled
with parakeets.
They fly,
green bodied and full,
from tree to river
across my path.

Surprising visitors
not native to this island
but growing so,
I would, like you,
take an unknown journey,
welcome unlooked for,
my own bright plumage fluttering,
glimpsed on an unsung shore.

This afternoon, I'm planning a well-deserved nap, catching up on my two "Will & Grace" videos, and later on I'll ring Mother and see how she's doing. Ooh, and tonight there's the joy and sorrow of the last episode of "Rome", as well as the need to video "Clapham Junction" (part of Channel 4's gay week). Talking of which, did anyone see the utterly marvellous "A Very British Sex Scandal" last night - about 1950s homosexuality and the lead-up to the Wolfendon Report? It was incredibly human and gripping, and extremely well done. And an eye-opener to me, who had no idea about the era at all. Also interesting to hear men today talking about how things had been then - social history is just so good. The older I get, the more it seems to mean to me.

Oh, and two kind Writewords folk have had pity on me and taken the review copies of A Dangerous Man and A Stranger's Table which have been hanging around since March - so another load off my mind! Unless they hate them of course - you never can tell in this game.

This week's haiku is:

Two grey herons
on grass: elegant S-shapes
carved in summer air.

Lordy, lordy, but am I becoming a bird-obsessive? Someone pass me the smelling salts ...

Today's nice things:

1. Church without fear
2. Getting 10,000 words done to The Bones of Summer without imploding (yet)
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Day out with the birds

Spent a lovely day out at the London Wetland Centre in Barnes today - part of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Not quite as natural as the RSPB centre at Pulborough Brooks - as some of it was rather too "organised" in terms of layout for us - but still very nice. And worth a visit if you're ever that way. Heck of a lot of ruddy coot though. I think they're the pigeons of the water world. Anyway, we saw ring-necked parakeets (which are now breeding in southern Britain and are a glorious shade of green), sedge warblers, grey herons, what we think was a siskin, and what I'm fairly convinced (though I admit it's unusual) was a nightingale. And I do have to say that the Barnes centre has fantastic loos and plenty of them too. Plus handtowels instead of those appallingly uncivilised hand-drying machines (which must have been invented by a man, I'm sure ...), so I'd say that, although we won't join as members, we will go again. Just not as often as to Pulborough Brooks.

Back in the shires, and as of yesterday, the books I sent into Writewords in March(!) have now finally been offered on site for review, after a couple of chases from me - ie A Dangerous Man and A Stranger's Table. But, oh the utter humiliation - nobody has "bitten" yet, so I am reduced to sending round a begging email. Well, as near as. Sigh! I am obviously not Mrs Popular on site at the moment (so no change there then!) - honestly, it's just like being back at primary school (oh God, please no!!!) and being last to be picked for the netball team ... Let's hope some kind writer takes pity on me soon, eh!

Tonight, Lord H and I are having a Chinese and beer. Hurrah! Still no champers, I'm afraid, as still no sign of any Maloney's Law contract yet. Never say a writer's life is one of glamour and parties - more like waiting and hoping, m'dears.

Today's nice things:

1. A day out with the birds
2. Chinese food
3. Beer.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, July 20, 2007

A nearly contract and a failed bookstall

The sounds of semi-rejoicing are heard in the Godalming fields - John Jarrold has just sent a final "yes" to PD Publishing in the US about Maloney's Law. Well, shiver me timbers but I might soon have an actual, real contract to sign. Ye gods, but that will be a miracle indeed. Shocked Godalming Writer has to take a long lie-down and some strong smelling salts - the perfect headline in fact. However, I'm not cracking open the champagne until the contract is in my hot little hand. I know too well what this game is like, m'dears ...

I spent the first part of this morning polishing up my women & gay fiction article and sending it out to those noble women who have contributed to my meanderings - ie Erastes, M L Rhodes and Sharon Maria Bidwell - so they can check they like the content. After I've okayed it with them, I think I'll try Mslexia magazine first, before heading to the usual suspects. As it were. I think it's got a feminist interest angle, which is what they always seem to go for.

The rest of the day has been spent with Irene at the Shepperton bookstall on behalf of Goldenford. Gordon Bennett, but it was pissing it down. Big time. We got soaked packing the car with the books, and then I parked in what was basically a lake in the Shepperton Village Hall carpark. This involved us wading through water which was well over our ankles just in order to unload the car. We were utterly wet through, and I spent the whole afternoon barefoot - and still my socks and shoes didn't dry!! Dammit. And with all that, we only sold one book - one of Irene's, hurrah! So, all in all, not a great success. I doubt we'll be doing that one again. Still, we did get a lot of brainstorming done - we think that next time we do a Goldenford stall, we need props - such as pink champagne, free apple juice, red wine, Indian accessories and Medieval food and ceramics. All of which relate to our books. At least it will get the punters talking - let's hope it get them buying too!

Back home, I've attempted to ring Mother - but discover she's already been sent home. Double huzzahs all round. Ye gods, but keyhole surgery is amazing. She still has further tests to undergo to find out if she needs chemotherapy, but I'm hoping not, and that all will be well. But it's great news that she's back home, especially for her wedding anniversary next week. My stepfather is apparently even bringing her tea - which is a miracle in itself.

Oh, and today, Writewords has finally offered A Dangerous Man and A Stranger's Table for review. Not much interest or many takers so far, dammit, but I'm hoping someone on site might be persuaded soon. Lord, but it will be sooooo embarrassing if nobody wants them - after all, I've been a regular there for about three years now. Help!

Today's nice things:

1. My nearly contract - here's hoping ...
2. Getting my article finished
3. Mother being at home.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Famous Godalming & Scarlet stories

Great excitement last night! Godalming is finally famous, hurrah!! We switched on "Location, Location, Location" on TV (not something we watch often, but it just happened to be on) and there was Godalming - in the screen-flesh! Not only that, but the couple in question were looking at a house virtually opposite our road. I kept waving at the traffic coming out of the junction in the hope that one of them might be us, but it never was. Waving to oneself on TV would have been the ultimate in crazed sadness. I do understand that. The programme also gave some suitable shots of middle-class Surrey enjoying their constitutionals, so it was lovely to scream at places we knew. Gods, but we really have to get out more. Anyway, the upshot was that the couple bought the house, even though she was eight months pregnant and we kept shrieking: don't buy it - that junction is hell, your child will never be able to play in the front garden and you will be doomed forever to a back garden life only! And we should know - that main road is a deathtrap for the unwary visitor. They should have viewed it at 8.30am or between 5pm and 6pm. Both Lord H and I have learnt to press the accelerator down to the floor and cast our fates into the laps of the gods every morning. And that's only turning left. Turning right is an absolute no-hoper! Interestingly, the other couple featured in the programme bought a house in Bournemouth, Lord H's old hunting ground, so things are getting seriously spooky here in the shires ...

This morning, I have shopped in Guildford and bought a new pair of light walking shoes and a day rucksack-type bag. So I'm all prepared for our next spot of bird watching, aha! I just have to get water bottles that will fit the spaces allowed for them in the bag. And I had a counselling session with Kunu - which was quite relaxing actually. We discussed the fact that for the first time ever, I'm beginning to feel that family judgements which have been made against me in the past (and are, I know, still being made) are actually wrong. And there's no need to feel pressurised by them. Hurrah! People in my family live a different way from me, but that's no reason for me to change my views. Or life choices indeed. Quite empowering really. It might (just!) be okay to be me. As it were. And anyone who implies otherwise is likely to find themselves kicked firmly into touch. I mean, bloody hell, I've never told them what to do - so why the hell should they feel it necessary to tell me what to do? I'm done with all that stuff, really I am. I'm me and they frankly will just have to lump it.

Talking of which, Lord H and I visited Mother in hospital this afternoon. She's surprisingly well, and very perky, even though the operation was only on Tuesday. Honestly, keyhole surgery is a marvellous thing. She thinks she might even be out by the weekend, all things being equal, and assuming they don't find anything else (here's hoping not, for the old gal's sake ...). So fingers crossed, eh. We had to do a loo run together, which was something of a laugh, I have to say - I think she was glad I'd turned up, even if only for that purpose. After all, I'm good with old people - I've worked voluntarily in an old people's home and have done visiting for years. Hmm, funny how much more empowered I feel when my mother is safely lying on her sickbed or dependent on me for something. Aha! Crazed Godalming daughter sweeps through Essex, eyes flashing and zimmer frame raised in triumph ...! Kunu did say that might happen though. Wonderful counsellor, that woman.

And I managed to avoid the horrible brothers too - result!

But goodness me, the journey home was hell. The M25 had given up the ghost entirely so we had to use the A25 instead, and it took us nearly 4 hours (4 hours in a journey that only lasts 2!!!) to get home. A journey which included several heart-stopping minutes when we had literally no petrol left (so much so that even Lord H was worried ...) and no sight of a petrol station. I mean, what the hell is it with the A25??? - there's a road that's just crying out for petrol stations, and not a bloody one in sight. We had to leave it in order to find one.

So we're shattered tonight, and I'm about to go to bed. Can't be arsed with TV frankly.

Oh, and Kathy from Guildford Writers has got a wonderful story involving a very hot train journey to Zagreb in this month's (well, August) "Scarlet" magazine - so everyone must rush out and buy it. You'll find it in the deliciously named "Cliterature" section, tee hee! It's seriously hot - so well done, Kathy!

Today's nice things:

1. Seeing Godalming on TV
2. Counselling
3. Mother moments (weirdly).

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Diet Coke breaks and rainy days

Good news on the Mother front – the operation yesterday was apparently successful, though she wasn’t back on the ward yet when I rang in early evening. It did cross my mind that perhaps the ward were enjoying the unexpected peace and quiet(!), but far be it from me to voice such a thought … Anyway, I’ll ring again tonight and see how things are.

This morning, I flicked through Birdwatching magazine at breakfast (as you do) and found a quite interesting article on bullfinches. Sad, I know, that I actually just keyed in that sentence, but there you go. But they are sooo cute, and we’ve had a pair in the garden for the last two years, so I have a landlord-type interest in the matter.

At work, the builders have decided to throw lots of scaffolding around in front of the office and create another layer of walkways. I’m hoping this will mean a plethora of diet coke breaks, but I’m not convinced they’re really the types. It also means that our toilet options are being narrowed even further, so soon we will all be resorting to buckets and whistling. Just like the war years, you know … Heck, but it’s fun to watch the builders though – they all have very nice arms. No, don’t laugh – arms do matter. Lord H’s are of course the best!

I am also making further brave attempts to interest my colleagues in the concept of online appointment bookings, and have decided to do a flowchart to see if I can spark their interest more. Not that flowcharts have ever sparked anyone’s interest in anything since the dawn of time, but at least I can use pretty colours. A secretary’s world is a rollercoaster ride indeed. And it did mean that I could go and have coffee & chocolate biscuits at Student Advice, which included a lovely chat with Sally about the ups and downs of mothers, families and religion. So that cheered me up – thanks, Sally.

Went for another walk at lunchtime, though the rain means we’re all considering our autumn gear again. Well, let’s rephrase that - other people are considering their autumn gear, but I’ve never understood the concept of seasonal wardrobes. On those rare occasions that I actually find something that suits me, however remotely, I wear it until it’s virtually falling off and then discard it, weeping. Anyway, I took the lunchtime strolling opportunity to post my letter plus reviews of A Dangerous Man and Pink Champagne and Apple Juice to Jim at Gay’s the Word, so never let it be said that I don’t make the effort in the scary marketing field. And on the way back, it absolutely poured it down – it was loud under the brolly! – and the bottoms of my trousers, shoes and socks were soaked through. So I was reduced to attempting to get dry with a (clean) tea-towel, and warming my socks on the heater. Honestly, it gets more and more like a campsite here every day. Still, I did see a moorhen on top of another moorhen though, which was amusing. I don’t even think it was doing anything naughty – just using its mate as a stepping stone. Funny things, birds …

Tonight, I’m hoping to do some more to The Bones of Summer (does anyone remember that??). Ye gods but if I get to 10,000 words by the end of July at the rate I’m currently going, I’ll crack open the champers and have a party. Oh, and there’s the penultimate episode of “Rome” on TV, so I’ll be glued. Ah, the pain, the drama, the joy of it all.

Today’s nice things:

1. Mother’s seemingly successful op
2. Coloured flowcharts
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gay's the Word and Guildford Writers

Jennifer at Goldenford emailed me last night to say that she’d had a discussion with one of the people at Gay’s the Word bookshop in London about A Dangerous Man and Pink Champagne and Apple Juice, and there might be some interest in putting on an event there at some stage. Gosh – well done, Jennifer. And thank you. Honestly, the woman’s like a tidal wave. I’m impressed about the talking up of a book Goldenford didn’t actually publish though! The only thing is that I now have to ring up Jim (the manager) at Gay’s the Word to see what his opinion is. How I hate these marketing calls – I’d much rather do things via email or not at all really. It’s seriously scary. I’ll never sound like a “real” author (whatever one of them is …), no matter how long I live.

UPDATE: Well, I rang the poor chap and burbled on unconvincingly. From the University loos. As you do. The upshot is I’ll send him a copy of A Dangerous Man with information on where he can get it from. And then we can breathe an extremely clich├ęd sigh of relief and get on with our usual life of Z-list obscurity, tee hee. And not writing. Which seems to be the case these days. Double sigh. Still, to show willing, I’ll pop some details in about Pink Champagne and Apple Juice. You never know your luck, eh …

FURTHER UPDATE: Sean at Flame Books has offered to send a copy of A Dangerous Man to Jim and get in touch with him directly. Gawd bless you, Sean – lovely to get the email. I’m just so used to doing everything myself that sometimes I forget the publisher aspect entirely. It certainly made me feel a little lighter of heart anyway! Ooh, and it must be my day (or possibly Michael’s day) as Sean has also sent out further review/promo copies to other venues (well done, Sean, and thank you) and has negotiated ADM’s availability on Amazon.uk and Amazon.com. Gosh, Michael might be easier to get hold of soon (as it were!), both here and across the water. He’ll enjoy that for sure.

Went for a walk around campus at lunchtime – nice to get out of the office. Without the terror of having to call anyone. Sat by the lake and enjoyed gazing at the ducks, the coots and the moorhens, the latter of which had two chicks. Lovely. The ducks also indulged in a display of simultaneous leg stretching. Very talented birds really. And I’m amazed they could balance on one leg at all.

And it’s Mother’s operation sometime today (they didn’t know if it would be morning or afternoon – that the NHS for you then), so hope all that goes well for her. Interestingly, I did ring the hospital last night to check she’d got in okay, and followed Mother’s instructions to the letter about never (under pain of destruction) referring to the ward manager as “matron” but always asking for the “Ward Co-ordinator” instead. This I duly did. There was a long, blank silence (as silences often are, funnily enough …) followed by a glorious Essex accent asking me if I meant Matron. So much for being modern, eh?

And here’s some flash fiction for the Writewords Flash Fiction II Group – this week’s theme is “obdurate”:

A change is as good …

Forty years she’d been married to him and she’d never known him change his mind. Once he’d made a decision, however small, it was set in stone. It was for this reason that she’d had one child only, that they’d never been abroad, that she didn’t own a colour television and that they’d always lived in Reigate. The morning after the funeral, she sent dating agency details to her son (she’d make do with grandchildren or want to know the reasons why …), booked a holiday in Fuengirola, placed a call to Dixon’s and asked her neighbour what Scotland was like. Well, a change was as good as a rest, they said. And now the old bugger was dead, she intended to find out for herself.

Suspect there might be the beginnings of a very strange novel in there somewhere, but let’s hope it doesn’t surface too soon, eh …

Tonight, it’s Guildford Writers, but I’m not taking anything of the novel along, as I’m feeling rather low on the confidence stakes, and don’t feel much up to being brave. Am happy to give reasoned opinions on other people’s work though and maybe take along today's flash fiction piece, so I hope not to be a complete lemon in the meeting. Will also need to go along in order to (a) donate wine bottles to Irene who is making plum wine (sounds like heaven – hope we get a chance to sample some, Irene …) and doesn’t have enough empty bottles to put it in (can’t understand that myself) and (b) give copies of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice to Jennifer and Jackie, both of whom plan to run a Goldenford bookstall at separate locations in the near future.

Today’s nice things:

1. The contact with Gay’s the Word, and Sean’s offer
2. Lunchtime walk
3. Guildford Writers (without the fear of reading!)

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, July 16, 2007

Back to work and reflexology

Surprisingly, being back at work wasn’t as scary as it usually is. Which made a nice change. Managed to make my weary way through all my outstanding emails by early afternoon, so that wasn’t bad. I almost felt like a real secretary, you know. And it seemed to be one of those days where we kept stopping for chats – about religion, Sunday shopping, holidays, weddings, etc etc. As you do.

All things being equal, and depending on whether a bed is available, Mother goes into hospital today. I hope they don’t let her down – as the waiting around can be just as soul-destroying too in these places. I really do hate hospitals! If she’s in tonight, then the op is scheduled for tomorrow, and at least then the process has begun.

Enjoyed my Reflexology session at lunchtime – it must be the first time I’ve actually felt relaxed before the session though. And without the help of a calming pill too. Miracles will never cease.

Tonight, it’s an evening in. Hurrah. I’ll try to do some more to my gay fiction & women article, as I really need to get that finished off sometime. Oh, and here’s a poem about shadows:


It’s the shadow side
which moulds us,
you say.
All that surface movement
and shifting light
nothing but a mask
that conceals
what we truly are.

Cannot a person
be both,
I reply.
The glitter of what is seen
fusing into
the darkness beneath
to form one perfect
imperfect whole.

You are silent then
but your mind
is full of sound; I laugh
but my heart
lies quieter now.

And there’s no news on any response to John's negotiations about Maloney’s Law with PD Publishing. Not that I was really convinced there’d be any! Ah well. Staying on that subject, I’m not expecting any response back from Hodder about Thorn in the Flesh either for at least another month. Holidays intervene, as ever.

Apart from that, I have to admit that it’s a day when nothing much has happened. Though probably, on looking back, it’s more than enough! Is it just me, or does anyone else get days like this?

Today’s nice things:

1. Reflexology
2. Writing
3. An evening in.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Birds and bliss

Just back from holiday - well a long weekend away. But it was utterly, utterly marvellous. And incredibly relaxing - the best holiday I think we've had in a long while. We did a fair amount of walking, visited nature reserves and bird sanctuaries and saw loads of birds. Including little egrets (which are about the size of an elephant, so goodness knows what a large egret is ...), cormorants, black-headed gulls, herring gulls, tern, a tufted duck, great-crested grebes, green finches, house martins, swallows and - my all-time favourites - the long-tailed tits. They're soooo cute! I could put one in my pocket and take it home. But Lord H (let alone the RSPB) wouldn't allow it, I fear. All in all, we saw about 40 varieties of bird. Bliss.

The B&B was good too - a lovely room, fluffy towels, great breakfasts, and super clean & comfy. Will definitely stay there again. Or at least in the area. The Purbecks are wonderful. Honestly, I could retire there. Given half a chance. And so near Lord H's home ground of Bournemouth too.

The best bit of all (apart from the long-tailed tit family) was the walk along Studland Beach. I couldn't resist it - I took off my shoes and socks and walked along in the sea. Lord H did too. It was bliss. I haven't done that for nearly 30 years at least. And it was past the naturist area of the beach too. I do appreciate it might have been better etiquette to put my binoculars away (for the birds, people, for the birds!!), but nobody complained, and I didn't look at anyone below neck level. Always the best move. Actually, given the right moment and a pleasing lack of people, I was half tempted to shed all inhibitions and clothing, and leap into the sea myself. Bloody hell, but it was that kind of day. I can see the attraction of it for sure.

Here's a poem I've just written:

At Studland Beach

That particular sparkle
of light on water
gets me,
the sand’s amber glow.
A minute is all it takes
and it’s thirty years gone.
I’m tearing off shoes, socks,
rolling my trousers up

and I’m running,
shrieking like a child let loose from school
into the sea.
A blast of icy blue, creamy wave,
the sting of salt on skin
and I’m in.

And, hey, even a sonnet there - of sorts! So I hope you're suitably impressed. My attempts at sonnets usually end up like Patience Strong (Heaven forfend!), so this is a change for sure.

We've definitely got to go away for another bird weekend sometime this year - it's great. Has taken my mind completely off the lack of activity on my nearly deal with
PD Publishing - which can only be a good thing. Writing career (ho ho!) - after a weekend like this, who really cares, eh!

This week's haiku (which did happen, I swear it!):

The ducks on the lawn
perform an evening quadrille.
They wait for applause.

This weekend's nice things:

1. Studland Beach
2. Bird-watching
3. Feeling relaxed - for the first time in ages, at least for any length of time!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The joy of the garden

Another retreat today - this time in Chertsey (hell to find, but I got there) - and this time about transformation. I didn't think much of the speaker (or most of the people indeed) who was way too evangelical for me. Do these people not realise there are other ways to be a Christian?? It also all seemed a bit too 1970s in style. Anyway, I ignored most of what the leader was trying to make us think, and simply enjoyed the garden. Which was beautiful. I had such a feeling of peace and enjoyment whilst sitting in it, which was bliss. And I wrote a lot of poems, even did some drawings too, which helped. A lot.

Here's a couple of the poems:

Thoughts on being on retreat, July 2007

I don’t say amen to the prayer.
Probably I’m the only one
who’s listening.

Nothing in church
has pleased me half as much
as leaving it.

Please God
if I never have to read
a Christian book again

it won’t be a moment
too soon.

The best retreat
is not having to think
about God at all

but just sitting
in the garden, enjoying
the grass, the air, the birds

and me.

As you can see, I entered retreat in my own particular way. And very rejuvenating it was too. Lunch was good at the retreat house as well. As were the chocolate biscuits. Ace! When I write my book on chocolate and prayer, I swear it will be a bestseller.

This evening, I've seen Kunu again for counselling. Had a very good session today - we talked a lot about being an individual and accepting that I don't particularly want to have strong family relationships. Hell, it's just the way I am. And, actually, I'm happy with it. The older I get, the more I grow apart from those I grew up with, and actually the journey for me is a good one. Again, when I write my book on how to move on from your blood relations and be happy, I'm sure it will be a bestseller!

This evening, I'm packing for tomorrow's long weekend away. So I won't journal anything again till Monday, possibly Sunday. Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Today's nice things:

1. Chocolate biscuits
2. The retreat centre garden
3. Counselling.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Renewing the bodymind - very, very slowly ...

All day retreat today, as part of the Diocesan Summer School. Should have gone on one last week, but couldn't be arsed and I was actually busy with the Thorn in the Flesh edit. Panicked hugely about getting there, even though it was only in Woking, but Lord H found a better route than I'd anticipated and in the end it was fine. The only problem was it was held in St Columba's House Woking which, frankly, has to be the least welcoming retreat house in the UK. I've been before, and had the same feeling of despair and lack of anyone friendly or even willing to tell you where you should park or which room you should be in. Lordy lordy, but this time was a struggle as well. They really need to raise the level of their customer service game. Ye gods, but even I know how to smile when people come into the office. At St Columba's, the people in the office (when I eventually found it) all turned round and stared at me as if I was the devil himself paying them a visit. Or perhaps they know me better than I thought? Hmm ...

Anyway, once the lovely Viv Stacey had turned up and was leading us through the "Renewing the Bodymind" day, things calmed down all right. I've been on one of her courses before and they're really good. Though this year, what with one thing and another, I wasn't concentrating as much. I think I got the most out of her breathing meditations - so simple, but it does make you aware that prayer goes on in the body too. Not just the mind. It's how we feel and our physical selves too. And also good to be reminded that words get in the way of the silence. Sometimes I do think that the church is full of words words words, and only God is quiet. Oh, and I found myself sitting next to two more Annes, one from Godalming, so that was nice. The other Anne from Godalming was great as a lunch companion. In the course of one hour, we managed to discuss when churchgoing becomes impossible at all, how to survive the fall-out, the value of silent retreats (ace, in my opinion), how God can be really disappointing at times and what the Buddhists can teach us. And we didn't talk all the time either.

The funny thing (and the thing that got me most) was that during the afternoon, we had a brief session on Gospel encounters involving restorative touch, and we were all given a passage to look at and think about. Mine was the story of the woman who'd touched the edge of Jesus' cloak to try to cure her bleeding, and been healed of her illness. It took me right back to last year where, during one of Viv Stacey's retreats, I'd had a picture in my mind of doing exactly the same thing, but this time Jesus had stopped, turned round, faced me and given me the whole cloak instead. I don't often get these pictures, and so rarely indeed these days, and they always pack a punch. Anyway I was glad to be reminded of it again.

Post-course, I've done a Tesco shop and bought some light-hearted books for Mother to read if she gets bored with hospital mags next week. And I've typed up the Goldenford minutes.

Tonight, Lord H is out at the Village Hall Committee (groans of boredom ...) and I'm going to do a little writing, possibly some flash fiction for the Writewords Flash Fiction II group. We'll see if I can get any inspiration.

And, coincidentally enough, I've just finished reading Reclaiming the Body in Christian Spirituality, edited by Thomas Ryan. It's about using the body in meditation and developing the essential link between mind, body and spirit. Which I feel is so important. However, I don't think the book made much of an impression, to be honest. Actually doing the thing is far better. Or attempting to, rather!

Apart from all that, I do feel very drained and rather low at the moment. I'm dragging myself round the flat, attempting to do only one thing at a time. It's the only thing to do at times like these, I think. Ah well.

Today's nice things:

1. Talking with the other Anne of Godalming
2. Remembering the image of the cloak
3. Not having to go out this evening.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, July 09, 2007

Reflexology, holidays and Goldenford

A busy morning today sorting out the emails from last week. The nearer we get to the new term in September, the more queries arise – understandably. Not to mention the Freshers’ Week Student Care Services presentations which I’m in charge of organising. A true exercise in logistics, that is. It’s all done by smoke and mirrors, you know. Arrgghh!!

But, joy of joys – we’ve booked a few days away this weekend – hurrah!! Thanks to Lord H finishing his theology essay early (what a hero indeed), we can go and spend a few days in the south-west looking at birds and generally milling (I hope!) before Mother goes into hospital next week. I think we both deserve it for sure.

Had my usual reflexology appointment at lunchtime – it’s just sooo relaxing. I think I fell asleep several times, so must obviously have needed the nap time. One of the true highlights of my working day really.

Ooh, and Ruth is back, which is marvellous – how I’ve missed her – and is regaling us with tales of Botswana, hippos and canoeing. She’s the adventurous, derring-do type, you see. I’d be way too terrified for any of that … My idea of a holiday is wall-to-wall champagne at all times and decent chocolates left (in foil) on my pillow at night.

Other top work news – the blinds I broke have finally been replaced – obviously Ruth’s imminent return galvanised the workmen into action where my pleas went unheard … However, now the cords are at Ruth’s end of the window rather than mine – I am indeed entirely stripped of my office responsibilities and gutted to the core. The only good news is that I still have charge of the window pole, aha!

Today’s the day that my agent is negotiating the Maloney’s Law contract with PD Publishing so I’m hoping that goes well and everyone ends up being happy with what’s agreed. Um, including me. Funny how these things seem way out of my control, even though I’m the author. It’s the way of the world, I imagine. Though John has been very clear and helpful in going through the contract, I must say. And, actually, being a Secretary for so many years has at least taught me that my voice may well be the last listened to, tee hee!... Anyway, that said, good luck, John & PD – hope it’s a pleasant few conversations for you both.

And tonight, I’ve got a Goldenford meeting, so will minute that and hope to write up over the next couple of evenings before we’re away.

Today’s nice things:

1. Booking a long weekend away – hurrah!
2. Reflexology
3. Catching up with Goldenford.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Wisley and the leisured classes

Spent a wonderful few hours at Wisley today with Lord H. We wandered round the gardens, smelt the utterly glorious roses and watched the bird-feeding area for ages. Astonishingly, we saw a family of young greenfinches, a pair of goldfinches and also a pair of chaffinches. As well as a young robin. Bliss. Plus the obligatory wood pigeon. Hmm, not quite so bliss there then. Anyway, it was really nice, and hugely relaxing. Plus (pause for shock!) the sun was actually shining! Not something that happens often in the UK over summer.

We saw most of the gardens, though we did forgo the pleasures of the fruit trees (I grew up on a fruit farm - I know what they look like) and the heather collection, which is apparently the largest in the world. Hmm, doesn't fill me with joy, that. Why is it that things are sold on being the largest of something? If I ever get rich, I'm going to start a series of "small museums" - haiku museums, if you like - where there isn't more than three examples of any one thing. As personally I think that when you've seen three of anything (three flints, three items of Roman combs, three paintings of Madonna & Child etc etc), you've probably drained the barrel pretty much dry. Hell, it could take off, you know!

And we bought a book on flowers and a fold-out sheet about butterflies. So next time we'll be the complete prepared visitors.

Back home, we have indulged with roast chicken and treacle tart. Heaven. I love treacle tart and would probably kill for it in the right (wrong?) circumstances. And there's some left for tomorrow, which is even better. Never come between a woman and her treacle tart is the lesson to be learnt here, I think.

This afternoon, I was going to clean the car, but frankly I can't be arsed. And why spoil a perfectly pleasant day by working on it? So, Rupert (yes, I do name the car) will have to be a dirty bugger for another fortnight then. Still, he should be used to that by now.

Ooh, and wonderful news!!! After 17 years on the Waiting List, Lord H and I have finally received our confirmation that we are as of now official Glyndebourne members. Hurrah! No, double hurrah! So I'd better up my accent and get a posher frock. Or a butler or something. Hey, the Leisured Classes - here I come ... As if, eh!!

And more good news - John has looked at the PD Publishing contract for Maloney's Law and is hoping to negotiate with them on Monday. Fingers crossed for me, eh ... It would be so nice to have another novel ticked off my personal backlist. Bloody hell, though - if it really does happen (and being me I'm still not so sure), I'd better hurry up and write another one. The Bones of Summer is still only at 8,000 words (reached today!) - well, 8007 to be precise. But hell who's counting?

Later on, I shall ring Mother (arrgghh!) to see how the old gal is doing, and then there's "Rome" on TV. So something to look forward to then, tee hee.

Oh, and I've just finished Julia Glass' second novel, The Whole World Over. Yawn, to be frank. Her first, Three Junes, was fantastic, but this latest one is really, really tired. And sooooooo long. I actually gave up the will to live several times. I think it wasn't really a novel - just a rambling series of notes about stuff. And so very disjointed. I skipped desperately. I also thought all the characters were really quite nasty or dull. I didn't care at all about Alan or Greenie, or even Walter - and Ray, who could have been wonderfully eccentric and free-spirited, was simply crass and arrogant. Don't ask me who they all ended up with - I really couldn't work it out, and cared even less. It would have been better if it had been cut by at least half. My advice is stick to her first one, and wait in despairing hope for the third.

This week's haiku:

After a long week
of sales, bad news and contracts,
I long for roses.

Today's nice things:

1. Wisley
2. Hearing from John about the contract
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Had a fantastic time with Jane W in London yesterday - soooo good to talk with her and feel normal again. Or what passes for normal in my head. And the Indian food was wonderful too. Have never had chicken momo before - it was ace. Must have it again.

Spent most of the day at Farnham Maltings helping Irene with the Goldenford bookstall. Mind you, I was in a bit of a rush to get there, it being one of those days where it takes me years to get ready. I think when I'm old and fragile, I might not bother to get up on some days at all, as the effort isn't worth the benefit really. Anyway, I couldn't find anywhere to park in the Maltings car park and then the one near the river was full too, so I had to park miles away in virtually another county - well the other side of town - and hump my big box of books all the way back. Groan! However, with my new muscly arms, I can now shot-putt for Russia. Should they choose to ask me ...

To be honest, it wasn't really the best day to have an indoor stall - not with the sun shining, Wimbledon, a local show in the next town and the bike race stuff going on. Even the other stallholders said it was the slowest they've known it be for a while. That said, I managed to sell two copies of A Dangerous Man (thanks, Pip, and kind-hearted stallholder next door!) And we also shifted other Goldenford books so we almost broke even, which was (almost) nice.

Irene and I did get the giggles in the afternoon though - 90% of the minimal amounts of people who came through the door seemed to whizz past the stalls at such rates of speed that we christened them the "fly pasts" - much like a lesser version of a Red Arrows display, but not as high up. My theory is that in fact there were hundreds of people milling around, but they were moving so fast that it was impossible to see them with the naked eye. My other theory was that our stall was somehow in a temporal anomaly zone so that we weren't ourselves actually visible to browsing customers in this historical period. Unless they were truly determined of course. Ah well, eh - better luck next time!

Tonight I'm going to attempt to do some of the cleaning and then chill. The neighbour has very sweetly attempted to invite us to supper, but I made an excuse as I really can't deal with any more people today. I am socialised out.

Oh, and I've just finished the latest edition of Mslexia - which wasn't actually as irritatingly 1970s as it usually is. Must be the new editor or something. I was pleasantly relieved. Still wish they'd update that so old-fashioned layout though. Sigh.

But tonight all manner of thing shall be well, as it's our delayed pizza, ice cream and wine night - hurrah!

And here's a poem:


when I stare at the tiger's
knowing eyes,
I wonder if in fact
it's the animals
who are free

and we who are
in cages.

Today's nice things:

1. Selling two copies of ADM
2. Giggling at the lack of business
3. Dinner!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, July 06, 2007

Articles, poets and the big city

Have had an easy-ish day today. Popped to see Gladys this morning, and she was quite lively, though did get muddled about which day it was, and why I'd come to see her on a Friday, when I usually visit on a Thursday. Can't say I blame her - everything seems something of a muddle at the moment. And I don't even have particularly advancing years to blame it on.

On my way back, I did a spot of shopping in Godalming (my, how Surrey I am sounding today - somebody pass the Pimm's and the butler. In that order ...), and managed to restock on all those little essential bath oils that one absolutely can't live without - though I fear my search for more wasp nest killer was unsuccessful. They've sold out - bloody hell, there must be battalions of the beasts around at the moment. Even with all this rain.

Back home, I rewrote my article on women writing gay fiction (I think it's new working title is "An opposite life", which I much prefer to my first working title) to add in all the wonderful input given to me by Erastes - thanks, Erastes! I'm hoping to get the views of other female writers of gay fiction in due course and then see if I can sell it anywhere.

I've also just finished Dorothy Molloy's poetry collection, Gethsemane Day. Hmm, not a patch on her first one, Hare Soup. Which was truly wonderful. I'd give GD a miss and buy HS, if I were you. And I've also read through the latest editions of "Brittle Star", "Roundyhouse" and "Envoi" poetry magazines. "Brittle Star" is far and away the best, to my mind. I fell wildly in love with Pat Borthwick's "Visit" (about a moth in a room) which is just magical and extremely strong. And Kate Noakes' "Woman" was also stunning. Funnily enough, Kate Noakes also turned up in "Roundyhouse" (go, Kate, go!!) but I didn't like that offering as much. But, hey, I was alert enough to notice - so don't knock it!

Tonight, I'm off to London to see Jane W. Where I shall find out all about her latest holiday (to Turkey), and tell her all my news. After which, we shall get pissed as newts (or Lords? Hell, can't remember which it is and can't be arsed to worry about it anyway), eat Indian food (I hope) and then roll home late. Hurrah! Lord H has kindly agreed to pick me up from the station (whichever station I end up at ...) and not to complain about the smell of stale Indian food (much).

And, bloody hell, but I'm pooped. Already!

Today's nice things:

1. Getting more to grips with the article
2. Thinking about poetry
3. Seeing Jane W.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Editing Queen

Have edited for Britain today. If this were an Olympic sport, I'd definitely go for gold. Have now gone through the whole of Thorn in the Flesh, and sent the repolished article off to John. Who is still in negotiation with PD Publishing about Maloney's Law. So many of my crossable extremities are crossed, that walking is becoming well nigh impossible, you know. A writer's life, eh ...

Due to all this uncustomary excitement, I missed the first of the Diocesan summer schools this morning, but to be honest I'm not that worried about it. There wasn't any counselling today either, as Kunu is busy and can't see me till next week. Actually a whole day in the flat has proved incredibly grounding. I can understand what hermits see in the lifestyle. And I've been able to have an utterly delicious afternoon nap - something that has been missing from my action-packed schedules for way too long.

I have also bravely killed a spider in the kitchen by dint of spraying it with half a ton of fly spray until it was literally on its last leg, and then gathering it up in a few large slices of kitchen towel whilst screaming, before putting it in the bin and spraying another few tons of fly spray after it for good measure. Goodness me, what a very long sentence, but I had to do the act all of a piece or I would have lost courage entirely. My daily supply of courage is, after all, exceptionally small.

This evening, I might well send off a poetry submission (even though I know I said I'd be going easy on these) as Phil Carradice, the poetry tutor at the Writers' Conference did seem keen that we should all send him something. So it would be silly not to. That's my excuse anyway.

I'm also intending to chill, watch last night's video of "Will and Grace" and generally not do a great deal. Though I may well have a beer. Bloody hell, I deserve it.

Oh, and there's more satisfactory news about Mother - who doesn't have to have any pre-operation treatment (hurrah!) and is going into hospital on 16 July for a week to ten days. Here's hoping she doesn't have to have any post-operation treatment done either. In the meantime, I'll have to stock up on my supply of grapes and rude novels to keep her mind off the cute young doctors, and get my visiting head on. Mind you, the shock of seeing me more than once in a three month period (never say this family is not regular ...) might well send her entirely over the edge. Sigh!

Today's nice things:

1. Finishing the Thorn edit
2. Dispensing death to the arachnid
3. Having an evening in - hurrah!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Back to reality

Goodness me, it seems to be a long week this week – and here I am still at work. Am I in a temporal anomaly? Again?? Never mind. Anyway, the Writewords (http://www.writewords.org.uk) London Literary Salon event last night was great – lovely to see people I’ve only ever known through email at last. Gosh, I can do real – as well as virtual – networking. Wonders never cease. Also lovely to hear Emma Darwin (http://www.emmadarwin.com) read from her latest novel, The Mathematics of Love, and also from her new, yet to be named novel, which comes out in Summer 2008. I’m very much looking forward to that, Emma!

Here’s a poem – a scene spotted from the train somewhere in east London on the journey up last night:

Seen from a train

A row of Victorian houses
fronted in white
rises up the hill
to a distant spire:

wedding cake pathway
to God.

Hmm, must be in unusually romantic mood or something today. Anyway, my eyes are being dragged through the day due to impending exhaustion. I’m not good at these late nights, you know – must be me age. Funny how temporal anomalies never work backwards. At least not for me. I think I only ever age in great bounds. Groan!

Today, I have had a new staff card photo done, as we’re changing our logo. The new one is a deer, m’dears. And very jolly it is too. My old staff card showed a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed youngster smiling gamely at the camera. My new one shows a clapped-out old hag frowning into the distance. Astonishing how things can change in only three years. Draw your own conclusions … I was actually trying to focus. Even though I already had my glasses on.

This lunchtime, I am skipping the back exercise course, which is probably a good thing as I doubt I’d be able to get off the gym floor once down there. Instead, I have to cover for the Student Advice office as they’re seriously understaffed today. I do hope nobody visits or calls between 12.30 and 1.30pm as, really, I know absolutely nothing and any enquirer may be better off waiting till the temp (who’s very knowledgeable indeed) comes on this afternoon. I’ll need to lock up too later on, so have to look like a real professional, with office keys. Ho ho. Actually, the lunchtime cover wasn’t too bad – just two visitors, both of which I could deal with (hurrah!) and one phone call. Ditto. Oh, and I discovered that Sally’s chair is wonderful and with only a gentle push you can go all the way round on it three times. Both ways too. It was such fun! I’m a simple soul at heart …

Rather scarily, I have just used the new University Internal Requisition system for booking Steering Group meetings over the next year. I was terrified beforehand (please God, not a new system – I can’t take any more!...). But, actually, it was really easy and I didn’t have to get up from my (own) chair once. My idea of happiness indeed. So that really confusing email sent round earlier was obviously only designed to fool us. Ha!

And have just heard from Chevonne at Flame (http://www.flamebooks.com) that so far they’ve sold 72 copies of A Dangerous Man (not including the ones I’ve sold myself). Not sure I’ll be able to retire quite yet then – but, as ever, thank you hugely to my 72 very discerning readers. I really appreciate your support. If I sell 100 copies, I might just crack open the virtual champagne and share it with you all, tee hee!

Tonight, I was going to call Marian and skip golf, as I really, really need to do more editing to Thorn in the Flesh. But actually, if the weather holds, I think I’ll go as I need to get some air through my brain. Yes, I know, there’s more air than brain up there anyway, but you know what I mean. I’ll restart the editing afterwards, and set the video for “Rome”.

Ooh, and really incredibly Good News (with Capitals) about the release of Alan Johnston. At last! Excellent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a relief. I am sooo pleased about that one. Double – no, triple – hurrahs. And all good thoughts to him, his family and friends too.

Today’s nice things:

1. Sally’s chair
2. Editing
3. The good news about Alan Johnston.

Anne Brooke

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Interviews and poetry

Gosh! An interview with me and a review of A Dangerous Man (http://www.flamebooks.com) came out today on http://www.hagsharlotsheroines.com (many thanks, Laura – I really appreciate it!) and can be found on there – actually, it's a great site anyway, with lots of reviews, features, stories, competitions etc, and it's free to join. So go on – do it now! You know you want to …

Otherwise, (if you're an unreconstructed man – and, if you are, reconstruct yourself, now! We're in the 21st century, you know …) the interview is here, and will amuse some and terrify others:


Features - Man to Man – Laura Wilkinson of HagsHarlotsHeroines in conversation with author Anne Brooke

Anne Brooke has written five novels and numerous short stories and poems – one of her shorts, A Little Death, is published on http://www.hagsharlotsheroines.com. She was short-listed for the Harry Bowling Novel award in 2006, the Royal Literary Fund Awards in 2004 and the Asham Award for Women Writers in 2003. Her latest novel, A Dangerous Man, is reviewed elsewhere on site and has received widespread critical acclaim.

Hello Anne. I'd like to start by talking about A Dangerous Man. It's a fascinating read and despite having finished it well over four weeks ago I am still haunted by it, in particular the central character, artist Michael Jones. It has been described as a gay thriller. As a married woman living in leafy Surrey where did you find the inspiration to write about a gay, tortured artist from inner London?

Michael has, I think, always been somewhere in my head, and for a long time. I see him as an essential part of myself, or as a way of expressing ideas and feelings that are probably impossible to express in my "real" life. The original inspiration came when I was in Florence in 2001. I found the city very inspiring – art, sex and death were everywhere, so much so that they took you over, and I first began writing Michael then. I wanted to set the story in London – I lived there in my early and mid twenties, and found the city very dark and sometimes frightening. That stayed with me and has been a source of inspiration for other novels I've written too.

Would I be correct in thinking that you don't hold much store by the maxim 'Write about what you know' then?

Absolutely! I hate the phrase "Write what you know"! With a vengeance. I would always kick it into touch and say the much more important "Write what you WANT to know". It's far more exciting. And leads you into far deeper places.

You write very well 'as a man' – did this come easily to you? Many (great) male authors are notoriously bad at writing believable, three dimensional female characters – why do you think female writers, on the whole, write better men than male writers do women? If you agree of course!

Yes, I'm far happier when I'm writing as a man. I really don't know what girls are supposed to think – I must have missed the "How to be a Girl" lesson at school. Think I was off sick that day ... It's odd that whenever I dream, I'm definitely a man and a lot of my dreams, particularly when younger, were adventure-type stories which carried on from where I left off night after night. I can still remember some of them very clearly now. It's also strange that when I write as a man, I always use the first person approach, but when I write as a woman I use the third person. At least in my fiction. And I find it impossible to write anything the other way round. I'm not entirely convinced though that female writers are better at writing the opposite sex – for instance I think that EM Forster wrote some of the most powerful and interesting female characters around. But there are some male writers who, in my opinion, don't do women well – and no, I'm not naming names! But perhaps it's because women are more socially aware, if that's not too sweeping a statement? But at heart I'm not honestly sure – if anyone has the answer, please let me know!

I see from the notes at the back of A Dangerous Man that you thank an artist friend for help with the artistic sections of the book. Did you speak with her first and then write those bits or did you work the other way round?

No, I wrote the artistic sections first – after reading a couple of very thin and basic guides to drawing – and then contacted Penelope, whom I knew through the Writewords (http://www.writewords.org.uk) site, for help. She was kind enough to read through the whole work, and made some very useful suggestions. Including a few pieces of verbatim dialogue in the gallery sections towards the end, which she let me use! She also created the cover for me, which I think is wonderful, so I'm really glad I asked her.

Sticking with the art theme for a moment… although there are clear differences in the processes I got the feeling that when you write about Michael's need to draw you could often be talking about a writer's need to write?

Yes. A couple of people have picked up on this. I'm not an artist, though I love visiting art galleries, and often write poems about the art I see there. When I came to putting myself in Michael's shoes as he drew, I simply took the feelings I have about writing, what it means to me, how I approach it and how I do it, and put all that (pleasure and pain both!) into the descriptions of Michael's art. His feelings about his exhibition and desperately wanting to be known/seen are also my own feelings as a writer wanting to be read, and I suppose understood. So his vulnerability is also mine, I have to say.

Is research important to you and how do you set about researching a book or an idea for a book? How much time do you give to research?

I have to admit I don't enjoy research. And I do as little as possible. I don't research before I start a novel – but if things come up as I go, I find out more about them then, or if they're bigger issues, I leave them till the end and then sort them out. For instance, after the first draft of A Dangerous Man, I went up to London with my husband and spent a day in Hackney and Islington, walking around, making notes and taking photographs to help me in the edit. It was well worth it – I found the building that I made into Michael's gallery, and also Jack's house that way. And for those sections, I did draw internal plans of the layout, so I could work out what happened where and how they could get there. But I much prefer the creative part of the process – if research takes more than a couple of days or so, I get very restless.

Does intuition play a role in your research and writing process? Do you ever wait for your characters to speak to you as it were?

Yes. Very much so. I'm an organic writer – and I rarely plan, and even then never in detail. When I start writing, what comes out on the page/screen is usually a surprise – but that's what makes being a writer so very exciting; I don't know what's going to happen next either – it's a journey for me, as well as, I hope, for the reader. And yes, my male characters do speak to me; I can hear them very clearly in my head, and I always find it best to go along with what they say (within legal limits), even when I'm in the middle of writing something else. Michael has changed plot development in his novel – as have other of my male characters in other books – and occasionally very drastically. I also talk back to them. I realise it's a way of speaking to another part of myself, but it does help me unlock other ways of being which, in my outer life, I don't have access to.

Michael is a compelling character with a clear voice and the first person account provides the story with an immediacy and vibrancy that I imagine simply wouldn't be as strong if it were written in the third person. As I've made clear the first person account works for me but of course there are limitations with this approach… We're never sure if Michael really is as good an artist as he says he is for example. And I was dying to know a little more about the repulsive Paul. Was it always going to be a first person account, or did you experiment along the way?

Michael was always, from the start, written in the first person. He couldn't exist for me in any other way. From instinct, I steered clear from the third person account and I think it worked. I certainly enjoyed it – and got a lot of self-knowledge out of it too. Towards the beginning of the process, I did experiment with another, third person, voice who would act as a saner counterpoint to Michael (not anyone that made it through to the final character list) but I ditched it after a couple of days as my skin felt itchy when I was trying to write it and it made my stomach seize up. And you're right – I do feel Paul is probably the weakest character in the book – Michael never got to know him, for obvious reasons, and therefore neither did I. It still annoys me a little now, but I'm not sure what I could have done about it.

I see A Dangerous Man as a love story – on more than one level too – and it is a very sensual novel. There is very little sex in it though – was there a particular reason for this?

An interesting question! I've had all sorts of comments about this – ranging from "too graphic" to "not enough sex", so I'm not sure if there's anything I can do about it for the next one – at least not anything that will please everyone. I had the amount of sex in it that I was happy with (though there is a scene between Michael and Jack which I cut from the final version – because it was gratuitous rather than showing either of their characters or advancing the story much). And maybe that's the truth of it for me – I want the sex scenes to show character or to reveal people in another way which the reader may not have thought about before. It's the measure of their intimacy, with themselves or each other, and the main focus I have (or hope I have) is: how does this change the characters' emotions or their lives? So, for me, it's not really the physical act which counts, but what it carries with it.

The book has a pretty dark ending. Did you know from the outset how the tale would finish or did Michael himself dictate the finale?

Yes, it was always going to be dark, though I didn't know quite how it would happen until I got there. Some critics have placed it in the genre of "tragedy" and that's pleased me. Because the whole thrust of it, for me, was always going to be tragic. Michael certainly dictated the ending – or perhaps I should say that the two sides of me were working so well together by then that it flowed quite easily – in the sense that neither I nor my editor made any significant changes to the last two chapters, and I wrote them in one session, all of a piece. Much in the same way that I write my sex or violence scenes – I find them easier than anything, I have to say. Which probably says something rather sad about me of course …

A Dangerous Man is in a genre that seems to work for you. Will you stick with this (gay crime if you like) for a while?

I've certainly enjoyed the gay crime genre – two of my novels (one unpublished) have been in that area. Since A Dangerous Man though, I have also written a comedy set in a transvestite nightclub (Pink Champagne and Apple Juice), a psychological thriller about a bisexual (female) lecturer and I am just finishing off my first gay fantasy novel. So I'm a bit of a genre tart – which doesn't please publishers at all – but I like to think that my themes of intimacy (or the lack of it), death and split families remain constant – even in the comedies.

Can you tell us a little about your experience of working with small independent publishers, like Flame Books?

It's certainly been very different from my self-publishing experiences (both on my own and via a company formed with friends – Goldenford Publishers). I've thoroughly enjoyed having a commercially published offering in the market, but the small publishing world is very pressurised and often the communication between publisher and writer has been tricky. Not Flame Books' fault – as they're doing the best they can and are horrendously busy – but it's the way the publishing world is now. I have to say though how thrilled I am with their book production and with the editing help they provided. I do live for that moment though when I can say I've (a) met my publishers and (b) met my agent, in the flesh. Much of the small publishing world works entirely online these days. It's quicker, but perhaps you do miss that personal touch.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

No. I never had the confidence to imagine such a thing. It was only when I met my husband in my twenties that I gained confidence to write the stories/poems I've always imagined or thought of. I started with poetry, and then began fiction during a rather bad session of "poetry block" in the year 2000. Actually, I don't think of myself as a writer now. Or very rarely. It seems like an impossible pipedream – I see myself as a secretary who writes, as I work three days a week at the local university. And, of course, I never make any money from the writing – certainly not enough to live on by any measure.

Which writers inspire you and do you have/did you have a mentor?

I love Murakami, particularly The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which I think is a modern masterpiece. And anything dark by Patricia Duncker is marvellous, as is Maria McCann's As Meat Loves Salt. How I wish McCann would write another one. I also found Barry McCrea's The First Verse utterly gripping, and I'm looking forward to his next work. I get most excitement and pleasure from writers who work on the dark side and aren't afraid to let that show. And I'd love to have a mentor – but I fear no-one would take me! If it could be Patricia Duncker, my dreams would be complete …

What advice would you offer to writers starting out on their careers who also need to earn a living?

Don't think that writing will earn you money. Ever! Unless you're very lucky or a celebrity (and even then it's not guaranteed), it won't. Take a part-time job if you can, but keep working and write round the corners of your day, in the evenings or at weekends. Make writing what you do for love, not what you do for any perceived "market". That way it'll be more real, more powerful and you'll still have a salary.

How do you approach developing and building your characters? What techniques would you offer to aspiring writers and novelists?

I tend to start writing and let the characters build. While the heat is on. Then, about a quarter to one-third of the way through, I fill in a character sheet for each person, e.g. hair & eye colour, build, accent, family, parents, education, great loves or hates, things they want, things they're most afraid of, etc. That really helps build things up from there. I may not use half of what I write down, but I know it and it's there and it helps make characters feel three-dimensional in the text. Other people who've used this method say it helps also, so it's not just me.

How long does it take you to develop one of your books from start to finish and do you run more than one project at a time?

It takes me about a year to 18 months to write a novel, and when I'm about 3/4s there, I do tend to start writing the beginning of the next one. But that hasn't worked with the current fantasy novel I'm writing – I have some vague ideas for a next project, but haven't started them yet, preferring to finish what I'm doing. This has been making me feel rather twitchy and wondering if I'll even have enough material to start anything else, but I do always get twitchy if something in my working method is different, so I'm trying to be calm about it.

If you are finding it hard going on a novel, or a writing project, do you question the validity of the project or do you accept that this is part of the process?

No, I think it's just part of the process. Sometimes writing a novel can be the hardest thing in life, and sometimes it just flows. I think it's simply the way it is. Apart from the times I've known something is seriously wrong, and that happens (so far) early on in the process, so I just drop it and move on. I must admit I'm finding the ending of my current novel-in-progress very hard-going, but I'm hoping to smooth it over in the edit, and I'm hanging on to the thought that once the ending is there then I'll (possibly) know more fully what I'm working with and things will become clearer. As you can see, I'm a great believer in hope – at least when it comes to writing.

You have written many short stories. What are the different disciplines and skills required for shorts as opposed to a novel?

A short story is a wonderful way of showing a more focused moment in a person's life, and you have to really work hard to squeeze everything into miniature in order to achieve the punch you need. Whereas in a novel, you can be slower, more subtle perhaps, and you can ease out into the longer timescale allowed. Then again, a novel is achieved in scenes – nobody sets out to write a novel; it's too frightening. But if you do a scene here and another one there (rather like a short story but with the ending held off), you can build it up over the months. And whatever genre you're writing in, a key factor is Commitment, Commitment, Commitment. And then more Commitment. Short stories and my current love – flash fiction (stories in 250 words or less, for me …) – are also a wonderful way of completing something and giving yourself a boost while you're working away on the longer projects.

You also write poetry – do you have a preferred genre or do they perform different functions/fulfil different needs?

I find I need the balance of writing that poetry and fiction provides. If I haven't done one particular genre for a while, I get very tense and need to get back to it. The poetry also feeds the fiction, I find, and vice versa. Sometimes I write poems from the point of view of my characters, and that really helps me get to know them better. Some readers have also said that my fiction flows well and can be poetic in nature, which always pleases me. On the whole, I tend to find that I write poetry more from my everyday "self" (unless I'm writing "in character") and fiction from somewhere deeper and more hidden. I appreciate it should perhaps be the other way round – as poetry is seen as a more intense genre – but it just isn't like that for me.

You are a member of a number of writing groups – both online and the more 'conventional' form. How do you benefit from these networks and what advice would give to new writers?

Writing groups are very helpful indeed – in whatever format. I get a lot out of my membership of the groups on Writewords and also find my membership of my local writers' group, Guildford Writers (http://www.guildfordwriters.net), is vital. Any writer needs an outside honest critical voice (as any actor needs a director), and both provide that in abundance. I would strongly recommend that writers find a friendly, supportive group to join – but be aware that you never ever lose the fear of reading your work aloud. It's part of being alive – but the results are well worth the fear, believe me.

You're involved in a new project – Pink Champagne and Apple Juice – can you tell me a little more about it and how members could get involved? This is your opportunity for a shameless plug!

Yes, http://www.pinkchampagneandapplejuice.com is a website dedicated to the novel I wrote in 2006 and which was published by Goldenford (http://www.goldenford.co.uk) from where the paperback version is still available. It was picked up by an internet marketer via Myspace and she kindly created a website for it which showcases the characters, possible film actors, cocktails, reviews and also includes a blog where you can put comments or start discussions. You can also download the first two chapters for free as a taster, and the eNovel is available at a very reasonable price. Membership of the site is free, and all are very welcome!

Many thanks Anne.




And, if you're not too tired after that run-through my mental incapacities, here's a very kind review which Laura also did:

Book Club - A Dangerous Man

Book review - Laura Wilkinson reviews A Dangerous Man by Anne Brooke published in paperback by Flame Books, £8

"When you want something badly enough, everything else fades away, including love and what it can mean."

If you recognise the author of A Dangerous Man it may well be because one of Anne Brooke's short stories, A Little Death, is published on http://www.hagsharlotsheroines.com. A Dangerous Man is Brooke's second novel and it hasn't been an easy journey to publication, though the quality of the work makes me wonder why not.

Perhaps this is because A Dangerous Man is an unusual book and one that defies easy categorisation, something that tends to give mainstream publishers the heebie jeebies. It is an extremely good book and one that has haunted me since I finished it. I am confident that many readers will devour this taut psychological thriller set in contemporary London in a couple of sittings.

It is a dark, brooding tale. From the outset it has the feel of a tragedy of almost Shakespearean magnitude, following as it does one man's vaulting ambition. That it will end in emotional and psychological bloodshed is never in doubt. It's fair to say that I'm not giving anything away here. The tension lies in the how and when, and Brooke builds this quite superbly.

Michael Jones, artist and part time prostitute, is a damaged man hell bent on destruction. Exploited by those who sense his vulnerability, he trusts only a select few and lets even fewer into his heart.

Until he meets wealthy Jack Hutchinson. "Tall, slim and with a way of dancing when he walked as if he was about to jump into the air simply with the joy of being alive," Jack transforms Michael's life and his fortunes, helping him to realise his ambition and stage his own exhibition. But no-one's past can be evaded forever and Michael's collides with his present with shattering consequences for all.

Drawing is an integral part of the essential Michael Jones and Brooke uses Michael's working methods as an artist as a metaphor for his soul. Michael works in black and white, sketching only in pencil or charcoal. He cannot allow colour into his life. Brooke shows a deep understanding of the creative process too and while she has clearly done her research into the art world she could as easily be talking about writing. She paints a very convincing portrait of an artist.

Characterisation is good all round and again Brooke uses Michael's craft as a way of outlining the other players: "[Jack's] mother, I thought, should be drawn with the sharpness of pencil, something in the H range which could indent the line, channelling her sharpness into paper and skin, and scoring blood out of whiteness."

London itself hovers in the shadows like a mugger waiting to pounce: grimy, edgy and menacing it constantly threatens to consume Michael. There are faint, one dimensional creations but this is because Brooke uses first person narrative – we see the supporting cast through our protagonist's eyes only but even the sketchiest characters are memorable and one in particular made my flesh crawl.

This novel is written with the seemingly effortless grace, and style, that has many a would-be novelist believing they could pen something similar. The fact is, of course, most couldn't. It is testament to Anne Brooke's mastery of her craft, and her readability, that she makes it all seem so, so easy.




Many thanks again, Laura – very much appreciated!

You're probably way too tired to read much more and deserve a gin – so go have one now, people! Or several. Suffice it to say that I am getting through the working day. Hope to have a lunchtime walk to clear my head after the struggles of last night's stab at editing Thorn in the Flesh. Didn't sleep so well either – way too hyped up. If I have coffee (which I need to keep awake), I fear I will be scrabbling on the ceiling all day.

Tonight, I'm off to the inaugural meeting of the Writewords (http://www.writewords.org.uk) London Literary salon, where Emma Darwin (award-winning author of The Mathematics of Love) and I will be reading from our work. Emma's doing prose, and I'm doing poetry. I did manage to get some practice in last night, and have remembered to bring all my necessary reading bits & pieces to work, so I hope I don't mangle it too much this evening. Am also hoping the event won't end too late, as I desperately need the sleep. It will be lovely though to meet some Writewords people in real life at last!

Ooh, and apparently I've sold two more copies of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice via Amazon – hurrah! But why is Amazon UK now insisting on saying that poor old A Dangerous Man is out of stock and completely unavailable? Was it something I said?? Groan!

Today's nice things:

1. The interview & review on http://www.hagsharlotsheroines.com

2. The London Literary Salon event

3. Selling two more copies of Champers.

Anne Brooke