Wednesday, April 30, 2008

First draft done and the Porcupine Wife

Sound the trumpets and raise the huzzahs! The first draft of The Bones of Summer is done! There will be general rejoicing and bursts of applause over the land. Well, in my own self-obsessed head, at least. And I did what I thought I’d do – I ditched the ridiculously flabby ending and wrote a much tighter and more realistic one. With which I am hugely pleased. Phew. And I’m starting to get that buzz of excitement at the thought of tackling the no doubt equally huge edit. My, but it’s wonderful to have something complete which I can pull apart, pummel to within an inch of its life and generally tear to shreds before sticking back together again once more. It’s what a writer’s life is all about.

I’m also pleased to see that the article about me in the recent Writers’ News magazine is now online and can be found here. Well, gosh. So much that is positive in one day – how can I cope with the unfamiliarity of it all? Still, it’s not all good news and champagne cocktails – that day in the month is upon me when I am all spikes, edginess and stomping round the flat muttering darkly. So no change there then is Lord H’s comment … Still, proving that he is indeed a Superhero Beyond Measure, Lord H has already taken time out for a two-minute hug, because Hugging Spiky Women and Porcupines is his favourite. Well, it’s good for the menfolk to have a hobby – keeps them occupied. I’ve also taken two of my essential Quiet Life pills, which are helping. Thank the Lord.

Meanwhile, here at the frontline of back-office care, we are much amused by the man outside with the very long pole (steady, people, steady) who is washing the high-up windows of the faculty opposite. My goodness, what a long pole it is indeed. There’s a fun job for sure. And today’s other fun item was Ruth attaching herself to the cactus as she attempted to sort the blinds out. I swear that plant’s brave bids for freedom are becoming legendary. It’s obviously a day for spikiness. In all its forms.

And I’m continuing to weave my way through the updates to the Personal Tutors handbook. Even better, I think I can see where we’re trying to head towards, so it’s making some kind of sense. Gosh now, that’s a novelty. Did someone put something in my tea? Still, I managed to get out at lunchtime, in spite of the rain. Visited the art gallery, which is a riot of colour this week. Some glorious and inspirational paintings indeed. Honestly, I swear it’s true that the perfect combination of colour can rest the eyes and raise the spirits like nothing else can. In fact, here’s a poem about one of the pictures:

Greek Rock: Multicoloured by Judy Williams

Gold and burnt ochre, russet,
orange, brown,
the rocks rear up
to fill canvas and sky

while words, torn strips
of newspaper
carve out dark ruggedness,
the mountain's deep shadow.

Gazing brightens my eye,
makes me dream of summer.

Tonight, I’m hoping to start the updates to the Goldenford website, as our next book is out tomorrow – triple hurrahs! Jacquelynn Luben’s marvellous romantic saga, Tainted Tree, is published on 1 May and is the book to read over the summer. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry and the utterly perfect ending will leave you going yes. Buy now to avoid disappointment!

Ooh and huge thanks to the lovely Nik Perring for the equally lovely gift of purple tulips which were waiting for me when I got home. They're wonderful! Though Lord H is slightly concerned that he may have to defend my honour - if he can find it, that is!...

Today’s nice things (goodness, more than three …):

1. Finishing the first draft of Bones
2. The Writers’ News article
3. Goldenford book news
4. Poetry
5. The window-cleaner
6. Nik's flowers.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rain, parcels and Bones

Gosh, more rain. What a surprise. Or possibly not. I'm not sure we'll ever know sun again. Anyway, have spent most of the day thinking about completely redoing our Personal Tutors’ handbook, which is severely showing its age now. Heck, aren’t we all. We’re hoping for something tighter and jazzier that people will actually use, rather than just admire for a while. Here’s hoping anyway. And actually I’m getting quite enthused about the whole project – at last, my chance to get my evil secretarial hands on a document and cut it to pieces, mwa ha ha! Still, perhaps I’ve been showing a tad too much enthusiasm – the boss was also making noises about me actually presenting the issues at the next meeting of the Personal Tutors’ group – Lordy, no! That would be awful beyond belief! So I’ve managed to negotiate him down to the concept that we both present things together. I couldn’t possibly do it on my own – I’m a secretary, for goodness’ sake, not a real person.

I’ve also posted a copy of Thorn in the Flesh to the British Library, as per their requirements. My, it does feel nice to parcel one up for sure! Ideal May holiday reading, you know, if you haven’t yet got your copy … I also made my way through the weather to town at lunchtime to post in a cheque (hurrah!) from Goldenford. And whilst in town, I actually found something highly suitable for my stepfather’s upcoming birthday in May in the gardening section of the Robert Dyas shop – but dammit not in his size. Curses, foiled again, Carruthers. Hey ho.

Tonight, I’m planning a few more scribbles to The Bones of Summer – and ye gods I might almost have a novel-full soon. You never know your luck. Once I’ve got the first draft done, I’m really beginning to look forward to the edit in order to knock it into some sort of shape. Famous last words, eh. I still think Craig has more hidden kicks I have yet to discover, dammit. Again. Still, that’s part of the fun of novel-writing really – you never know what will happen next. Double dammit.

And I've just read Nicci French's Losing You. Hmm, not one of her best, I fear (or, seeing as it's a husband/wife writing team, their best). All perfectly gripping, but the lack of chapters was frankly exhausting and ridiculous. It was just one long spiel. Please, writers, give us chapters - we need them! There seemed to be no time to develop either tension beyond it's Class A Panic status or character. Something of a one-trick pony and a lesson in churning out a lowest common denominator thriller then. Really, they can write better than that. And I do feel that Nina, the main character, deserved more.

Today’s nice things:

1. Sending out Thorn, even if not to a customer!
2. Paying in a cheque
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, April 28, 2008

Reflexology and rain

Managed to get my emails fairly well sorted this morning, and am fiddling around with marketing bits and pieces. And we’ve been busy moving printers around to try to accommodate the new person we’re getting in the office at some stage. Goodness knows where we’re going to put them though – we’re pretty packed as it is. And new people – gosh, scary …

This lunchtime, I chilled out with a reflexology session with Emily. Wonderful. The only problem was having to walk through the rain to get there. Darnit. Just as I was getting into the mood for spring too. Must be yesterday’s cuckoo and bluebells moment.

Tonight, I shall pop into see Gladys on my way home, and then it’s an evening in. Lovely. Ooh, and we have leftover chicken roast from yesterday, plus the remains of the plum crumble I made. Double bliss. I’m also hoping to get some more done to the ending of The Bones of Summer but I suspect it will take me a while to get into it again, as I don’t think I’ve done any all week. That fact alone is making me jittery.

Anyway, here’s a poem - untitled:

Touch is more powerful than tongue
lightning to thunder

flash of contact
to set free or burn

for good or bad
skin binds

what the tongue divides.

And the middle neighbour is finally getting rid of the furniture he’s had for the last forty years – this consists of storing it in the garden until the Council can come and take it away. Apparently, it was actually his wife’s furniture and he’s kept it far longer than he did her. And no, sadly, that doesn’t mean the former wife is buried in the garden – fabulous though that would be – he’s divorced. At least, I assume she’s not buried in the garden, but here in the shires you never can tell precisely what people really mean … Though goddammit, at least he didn’t keep her in the cellar for 24 years. Something for which we should be truly thankful. That is, one assumes. Though maybe next time Lord H wants to store something in the house cellar, I might just ask him to look. Ye gods, in all truth, none of us is safe ...

Today’s nice things:

1. Reflexology
2. The possibility of writing
3. Chicken & crumble.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bluebells and books

Spent this morning wandering around Winkworth Arboretum with Lord H. Weather wasn't brilliant but the great swathes of bluebells were marvellous. We also heard our first (and very loud) cuckoo of the season and saw a matching pair of blackcaps. Fabulous. The only problem is the fact that it's situated across a valley - so ambling to the bottom is perfectly pleasant, but the trawl up a mite too energetic for Sunday walking.

I've also finished reading through Nik Perring's novella, which is very dark, modern and gritty. I hope it gets placed somewhere, Nik, and soon! But naturally my cynicism about the publishing industry leads me to believe that it's just too damn good and shit-hot for the standard publishers. It would be nice to be proved wrong however. And I've also finished reading Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes. Very gripping as ever, but the ending was very rushed. And muddled, to my mind. Weirdly the only sympathetic character was Peter, the killer. I loved him. He was great. By the time I was a quarter through, I was already glad he'd shot up the school - bunch of tossers, to my mind. They deserved it. God alone knows how doubly ghastly they would have been as adults. Josie wasn't much better either. God, are children in the States always so horrible?? One hopes not! If they are, the US really needs to consider upping the number of brat camps. Big time. Please someone from our cousins across the water tell me it's not really like that over there - soon!

Meanwhile, my growing irritation with the Writewords site continues. I can see I'm going to have to stick with the Groups I'm in only (who are great) and avoid all contact with the wretched forums. I keep thinking the situation might get better, but really I should have learnt by now! Sigh ... We'll see how things are when my renewal comes up in August, but I'm not holding my breath that anything much will change. Anyway, moving swiftly on, tonight, I'm videoing "Miss Austen regrets" and will be glued to the joys of "Midsomer Murders". Now there's a real glimpse of English rural life, don't y'know ...

This week's haiku:

Bluebells are early
this year: something to be said
for global warming.

Today's nice things:

1. Winkworth Arboretum
2. Nik's novel
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Birds, books and a minor celebrity moment

Lord H and I have spent most of the day at Farlington Marshes, enjoying the glorious weather and admiring the birds. Bliss. New bird spotted today - linnets, hurrah! And what lovely birds they are - pink and grey and surprisingly bright. Rather like a long-tailed tit, but bigger. And without the long tail. We also came across black-tailed godwits, avocets, oystercatchers, skylarks and meadow pipits. So, all in all, a damn good day.

I've also been reading more of Nik's novel and am thoroughly enjoying it. The plot is really darkening up now and I foresee trouble ahead. I am particularly worried about Jess - don't do it, Jess. He's not worth it!!

Tonight, I shall be glued to "Doctor Who" and "Pushing Daisies", accompanied by the takeaway Chinese we've just bought from Waitrose. Mmm, prawn toasties - my favourite ... And I'm being on-the-ball in terms of my monthly blues - as I've started taking the extra evening primrose/starflower oil a couple of days ago when I felt the need rather than sticking rigidly to a week before D Day. It seems to have perked me up for sure - but, believe me, I'm keeping an eye on the whole damn thing. As you do.

Ooh, and I forgot to say yesterday (what is it with my memory this week? Should I up my intake of fish??): bizarrely I am reaping the financial benefits of my apparently minor local celebrity (ho ho) status as the receptionist at the golf club insisted that I, as an author, had to have a free game. My goodness, do you think I should try my luck and send a note to Nicole Farhi asking if a free frock is on the cards?? Hmm, yes, the words "Chance" and "Fat" do come to my mind too ... Anyway, I was very grateful, even more so when said receptionist also bought a copy of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice, having enjoyed Thorn in the Flesh so much. And yes, I did say they were very different! And I also suspect that the days of free golf games will soon come to an end when she realises quite how Z-list I really am. Ah well, I shall bask in the glory while it lasts ...

Today's nice things:

1. Birds
2. Nik's book
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, April 25, 2008

Pink sheep, little balls and the running meter

Forgot to say - yesterday I let in a car from a sidestreet into the queue to get into Guildford and was much cheered by the enthusiastic waving of the young, blonde driver. She - Gawd bless 'er - was driving a white mini, complete with two pink stripes across the roof and bodywork and a fluffy, nodding pink sheep in the rear window. Fabulous. Now there's someone who knows who she is and is proud of it. I'm quite tempted by the concept of a nodding sheep myself - maybe I'll get one in ginger.

Anyway, this morning, I have played golf with Marian. Today the course was filled with men of a certain age all plodding round in calm fashion. Which was actually rather soothing. Though it didn't do much for my first hole, which was a disaster. Dahlings, I can't even talk about it. The shame is too much for me. Thank goodness I managed to find my game for the rest of the holes, and finished with a fairly reasonable score. And some near-pars too.

From there, I nipped into Godalming for a spot of shopping, as you do, and then home to face the Goldenford minutes. Which turned out to be less complicated than I'd feared actually - last night's meeting seemed to cover a range of subjects at speedy rates, but I think I managed to get it all. Or most of it anyway. We're certainly doing well in terms of getting events sorted, plus some reasonable publicity, articles, interviews etc, so things are looking up for the Golden Girls, hurrah! Much of this is thanks to our superb new part-time marketing expert, Frances, who is a lady who definitely gets things done - thanks, Frances. We even have some bookshops interested in stocking our work (Glory be!), so more power to your elbow! And our leader, the great and unique Jay Margrave, has finally started her own blog, which you can find here. So if you want to discover what really goes on in the mind of a top-class historical fiction author, now's your chance!

And I'm having great fun reading through/giving thoughts on the latest novel by the inimitable Nik Perring, While the Meter Ran. I've only just started but already I'm gripped by the sheer energy and edginess of it all. Certainly very different from Mr Perring's equally wonderful children's novels, it's somewhere between Roger Morris' Taking Comfort and Mark Wagstaff's The Canal. Which I had the pleasure of editing recently (and why haven't you got your new book on your home page yet, Mark?? Sigh!...). Though in my opinion Nik's title needs changing. To something much darker and more dangerous, I feel. Anyway, it's early days yet, but I'm looking forward to reading more.

Today's nice things:

1. Pink sheep
2. Golf
3. Nik's novel.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Clarins, chilling and Goldenford

Had a lovely facial and back massage at Clarins today. Charlotte says my shoulders are less stiff than they've ever been - a minor miracle surely as I've never really known how to relax them. Perhaps my attempt at lying on the floor and meditating for twenty minutes every day (a fairly recent and not always achieved development ...) is working? Who can tell. Though I am also trying to relax whenever I think about it (if that isn't a contradiction in terms), but it's hard to change a lifetime of social defence mechanisms all in a night. As it were. Mind you, I was much cheered by the fact that Charlotte's mother is reading Pink Champagne and Apple Juice and loving it apparently, especially the naughty bits. As well as wondering why she hasn't heard of me before. Ah, well, Mrs Charlotte, it's a mystery indeed. My Z-list authordom comes with its own special invisibility cloak. But so glad you're enjoying the read. Uncle John raises his glass of pink fizz to you. Chilled.

Whilst in Guildford, I've also picked up a copy of the Radio Times and see that there's very little on to grip the interest next week. Sigh. Or if it is on, then it's all in one day and sadly my video is not up to recording it all. Why do they do that?? I have a vision of the evil programmers huddled round their cauldrons deciding which combination of programmes will annoy me the most. Is paranoia setting in, do you think?

Once back home, I had Big Plans for dredging up some more words to The Bones of Summer but actually exhaustion had its way and I had a two-hour nap instead. Which leaves me feeling refreshed but guilty. Ah, nothing is ever perfect in this world ...

Tonight, I'm off minuting the Goldenford meeting. Which means I'll have to video "Heroes" - the new series, hurrah! - and "My Name is Earl". As you can see, I'm a slave to my television.

Today's nice things:

1. Clarins treatments
2. Reader response to Pink Champagne
3. Napping.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Starbucks crisis, unusual reading matter and a possible night out

Just as we got used to the sun, the rain has returned in all its glory. It’s so dark outside the office window that it might as well be the middle of the night. Perhaps we’re all on Australian time now? We may even be having their winter. Anyway, I’ve rung Mother who’s just got back from her first post-op holiday and it’s all gone very well, hurrah. So she might feel confident enough to go abroad next year, or even later on in this year, depending on how things go. That’s good news then.

In the meantime, we trudge on in our day though, to be fair, it’s actually quite quiet on campus at the moment – students are poring over their exam timetables so have no thought to spare for anything else. And the same is true of the academic staff. I’m hoping to go for a walk at lunchtime, but if the rain keeps up, I might have to think of something else to do. I have to get out of the office if I can though – it clears the brain. UPDATE: the weather cheered up, thank goodness, and the lunchtime walk was much-needed. Though I don’t know if it’s pepped my brain up much.

Tonight Lord H and I are supposed to be out to dinner at the Mythos Greek Restaurant in Cranleigh but we’ve heard nothing from our friends who were in charge of booking it, so it’s anyone’s guess as to whether we’ll actually get there or not. I’ve sent an email asking if they’d like us to pick them up and what time that should be, but no response. If it gets to 8pm and all is still silent, then it’s fish, pasta and an early night, Carruthers. UPDATE: We're going so best brush my hair - soon!

Oh and I finally got round to watching “Wedding Date” on the video last night – I really enjoyed it. Romance, comedy and Debra Messing. What more could you want? The bloke playing the lead was pretty hot too, but to my shame I don’t remember who he was. I was so impressed by it all that I’ve even added the book on which the film is based – Asking for Trouble by Elizabeth Young – to my Waterstone’s wish list. Yes, I have now entirely given up ordering any books from ruddy Amazon at all. It’s not my usual dark and dangerous reading matter, I have to admit – but what the heck. I’m allowed a slushy sassy moment once in a while.

Back in the office, Ruth and I are pretty much on our own today and desperate for a Starbucks special to warm us up – but everyone is having the same thought, darnit, and the queues are too damn long! UPDATE: we managed to infiltrate the queue and I ordered a frappucino, hoping it would be a nice hot caramel flavoured coffee. Um, not. Once again, I have been stymied by the complexities and modernity of Starbucks – nobody told me a frappucino is ice cream! It is now terrifying me, like some huge alien beast from a very cold planet sitting on my desk. Which often happens of course, here in the University outback. I’ve managed a few teaspoonfuls of the beast and have now put it in the fridge, hoping I might feel more kindly disposed to it later. Hey ho. Next time, I’ll order something I understand. Oh how I long for the old days when a cup of coffee was … um … hot. And I think I’m nursing a cold, groan. Echinacea pills, here I come.

And here’s an office poem, of all things:

My strange yet compelling relationship with my staple remover

It's a small tiger -
black mane, silver jaw -
biting the noses
of people at work I don't like.

It's the thing I fiddle with
when there's nothing to do:

sharp incisors
graze my skin,
baptism of self-inflicted
bearable pain.

A barrier between me
and the outside world.

Teeth tear into paper,
liberate thought
back to the air
it came from.

My boss doesn't like it:
uses paperclips.

Today’s nice things:

1. Mother’s successful holiday
2. A quiet campus
3. Poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Writers and visits

My goodness, I’ve had quite an interesting day today. Managed to finish off the minutes I took yesterday and send the first draft to the boss for checking. We also had a really good meeting throwing round some radical ideas for the update to the Personal Tutors’ Handbook and getting started on sorting out the team away day over the summer. I even felt quite inspired – gosh, how astonishing!

At lunchtime I chaired the University Writers’ Group and we had a really good time – quite a few people, one or two new faces and lots of inspiring work. Bliss. No time to play a writing game today, unfortunately, but I’ve given it to them for homework. So there’s no escape, aha! Ooh and the lovely Rosemary took me to one side afterwards and said how much she’d loved Thorn in the Flesh, how unclich├ęd and unique it was, and what a positive and hopeful read. Thanks, Rosemary. And goodness me – it makes me think that when I tell everyone (as a kind of warning) how dark it is, then what I’m actually saying is how dark and difficult the writing of it was, rather than the reading of it. Heck, I should know by now that the last person to know what a book is really like is the writer. Or maybe I just find it difficult to cope with people asking about it – I must learn to be less English and apologetic! It’s a damn good read and I’ve very proud of it. There. I’ve said it now. Phew. I will have to go and lie down for half an hour to recover.

This afternoon, I am bravely attempting to tie the team down to a day they can actually do for our summer away event and checking out all those lovely conference hotels on the web. I particularly liked the one where the first picture you saw (and no, I’m not naming names – to protect the innocent …) was four scantily-clad girls preening to the camera. Hmm, maybe that’s not quite the sort of away day the boss was hoping for, though it’ll certainly catch their interest.

Tonight, I shall pop in and see Gladys on the way home, and hope that she’ll be awake enough to know I’m there. Last week, she was so fast asleep that after twenty minutes I left a note and sneaked out, feeling both relieved and guilty. It’s not a task I find terribly easy. And I’m wondering if I’ll get round to watching the video I was planning for last night, as I ended up running out of time yesterday. I’m not really in a writing mood today, so maybe.

Today’s nice things:

1. Feeling inspired by work tasks – gosh!
2. Writers’ Group
3. Rosemary’s comments about Thorn.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bank holidays traumas, poems and a telephone interview

A medium dose of Monday morning gloom today so I’ve dosed up with Vitamin B pills and the De-stress ones too. Just in case. A girl can never have too many medicines. I am also facing the nightmare calculation about how many bank holidays and University days that I, as a part-timer, am allowed to take this holiday year. It’s such a trauma, I can tell you. Firstly, I’m not convinced we should have to pay for our bank holidays just because we’re not full-time – but I can’t be bothered to make a fuss which won’t have any effect. Sigh. Ah, the wisdom of age – Choose Your Battles. Anyway, after working out (with Andrea’s help and Ruth’s calculator) that if I were full-time, I’d have 25 holidays, 2 free days, 8 bank holidays and 7 University days – all of which need dividing by 0.6, thus making 25.2 in total, or less depending on whether I do or do not count the bank holidays which fall on Thursdays and Fridays, ie Good Friday, Boxing Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day which I can’t have as I don’t work on Thursdays or Fridays (usually) – are you keeping up at the back?? – then if I swing from a rope with a rose in my teeth I might owe the University 2 holidays, or not – thus bringing me to the point where I have given up entirely and asked HR if they can help. But, Lordy, there must be a better way of doing this. I don’t care how many bank holidays I have to work on – just don’t make me do the ruddy calculation!!! Finally – the University have broken me … ah, I always knew it would happen in the end.

Thank goodness things have been more civilised and manageable over lunchtime – when I minuted the Steering Group meeting. At last – something I understand. And it means I can switch my brain off this afternoon and just type things up. What a relief. Though actually it was quite complex stuff, dammit, so I might have to keep alert. Groan. Post-work, I shall face the excitements of the Tesco shop (groan) and then I’m looking forward to my telephone interview with Siobhan Curham this evening. Nice to think about writing matters after today’s traumas for sure. UPDATE: it was totally lovely. Thank you, Siobhan - and lovely to speak to you at last!

I’m also hoping to watch last night’s video of “The Wedding Date”. Heck, it’s all my brain can cope with right now. Ooh, and my Ego Wall replete with framed covers of all my novels is now up and running. As it were. Bliss. Inspiration for the next – I hope.

Oh, and while I think of it, there was an interesting article on dyspraxia in the weekend papers – all that stuff about no co-ordination and not being able to ride a bike etc etc. Well, there’s something I can relate to. I’ve never been able to ride a bike. Or whistle. Or swim. I also have serious (and I mean serious!) problems in, of all things, attempting to put purse & purchases in order after I’ve bought something at a till. I’m sure it’s getting worse as I get older too. My brain completely switches off and I have to think hard about simple things such as (a) where does my purse go? (b) where do my credit cards go? (c) where are my hat & gloves etc? (d) how do I get my purchases in a bag? and (e) how am I supposed to do all these things at the same ruddy time?? Honestly, sometimes, I resort to grabbing everything, once paid for, dumping it a few feet away from the stream of people, hunkering down and sorting everything out whilst muttering to myself. Other people who aren’t Lord H (he’s used to it by now) often get quite surprised. Not to mention impatient. Not that I can blame them, I suppose. But is it just me?? If there are other post-shopping challenged people out there, do tell – we can form a support group and wear a tee-shirt or something.

And here’s a poem:


The clocks drips silence into the wooden room.
Benches sigh, the air eases out.
At first you can't hear it
and the only sound is the whisper of beetles
as they scurry over the floor.

Then it happens -
a slow trickle of almost-meaning
easing past your skin.
Maybe it's been there for a while
but you haven't noticed
as your foot marks a metronome chant
and your mind falls to quiet.

When it comes
it's a full golden river sweeping past and over you,
taking you with it
to an invisible sea
where no time happens.

Later you walk to the car
and the singing salt glistens your body,
pulls you back to the earth
and remembers reflections of sky.

Today’s nice things:

1. Telephone interviews
2. The Ego Wall
3. Poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A quiet hour and the return of the wanderer!

A leisurely start to the day, followed by a quiet hour in the Godalming Quakers service. Sometimes it's lovely to relax into silence and have a definite period of thinking/meditation. Words can be such a barrier on occasions. And it's nice to sit while the silence flows by. It's funny but it does have different colours and stages. Like a river. Sometimes it's stretched thin and you can barely see it, and sometimes, it's like a great flood of gold, and there's no rhyme nor reason as to which it might be at any given time. Very strange. Anyway, before I get too carried away with it all, I must say that I do wish they'd make the benches more comfortable. Next time (and now I suspect there probably will be a next time, sometime) I'll sit at the back where the wall is. And maybe take a cushion. I also played it cleverly in that I didn't order a coffee afterwards so I could slip away without talking to too many people. Aha! I am indeed a sociopath.

This afternoon, I've watched my video of "My Name is Earl" and scribbled a bit more to The Bones of Summer. I've left it halfway through a scene that I actually know something about (there's a rarity ...) so when I come back to it I'll know roughly what's going on. That's the plan anyway. I'm also beginning to like the minor character that appears in said scene. I might have him come in earlier in the rewrite maybe - we'll see. Just as long as he doesn't take over the whole story. And, dammit but Pedro (yes, he's definitely a Pedro - Piss-Artist Pedro to his employees, a name used to convey terror and respect in equal measure) is the sort to do just that. I shall have to watch him.

And Lord H is back!!! Hurrah!!! He's had a really good time at his course, but it's always nice to be home. Hurrah again! As a special treat, I've bought Hot Cross Buns and fresh butter for tea, as it's his favourite - thus (a) gaining yet more essential Wife Points, and (b) revealing beyond doubt my northern pre-feminist roots. Sigh.

Anyway, tonight I'm planning to watch "Foyle's War" (ah, Foyle, don't go away for long, we can't bear it without you ...) and video "The Wedding Date", as I love Debra Messing who can Do No Wrong and hey I'm in a romantic comedy mood. Or I will be when I watch it.

And I've read Nick Hornby's latest novel, Slam. Always a writer to rush out and buy, in my opinion, and vastly underrated - but I have to admit it wasn't as good as his last book which was fabulous (I think it was called A Long Way Down). I struggled as this one focused on (a) children and (b) pregnancy. Neither of which are my preferred reading topics. Still, he's a bloody good writer and Sam, his main character, is very well realised. But the women characters are like ghosts that drift in and out of the night - they didn't really seem like characters at all. The men were much better written - I particularly loved Sam's no-hoper yet utterly charming and real father. I longed for there to be more of him. That said, it's a superbly clever plot and I liked the unexpected - and very brave - time shifts, though in my opinion he wimped out of explaining the doctor's visit one the second time round. Shame on you, Mr Hornby - you could have done that if you'd put your mind to it, for sure! Still, as it's Hornby, I'll be buying the next of course.

This week's haiku:

April imitates
November; I look forward
to my winter tan.

Today's nice things:

1. The Quaker hour
2. Lord H's return - hurrah!
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, April 19, 2008

TV, novel endings and a secret curry

I am utterly (and possibly very sadly) thrilled to have received my Torchwood certificate during the week. Signed by the great Captain Jack himself. Ah, I'm now an official operative, you know. And they may well need my services at a future date, should Godalming ever be threatened by alien invasion. Oh no, I'm already too late. Dammit. Never mind, I can still hold my torch in the special Torchwood manner and wear a long black coat. Hmm, in that case I fear no-one will notice the difference.

This morning, I have popped into Guildford to put some cheques in and post a parcel (really, my life sans Lord H is so full of incident). I also paid a visit to Waterstone's, who are still holding their single copies of my old first novel, The Hit List, and Pink Champagne and Apple Juice. Well, I do like to go and say hello to them if I'm passing. It's only polite. And you can always guarantee they'll be in.

Back home, I have finished the cleaning (thus gaining extra Wife Points for when the Lord & Master returns, hurrah!) and finally come to the end of the big action/tension scene in The Bones of Summer. It took a while, but I think it's pretty much nailed for a first draft. Before the countless changes I'll no doubt make anyway. Beyond that chapter, I just have to mop up the pieces and come to some kind of conclusion. I really don't like the conclusion that's currently sitting there in the file. It's going to have to change. For me though, that's par for the course: I wrote the ending of Maloney's Law a hell of a long time before I actually reached it. And when I got there I thought no way would Paul ever do that, so ditched it and wrote the opposite. Which works. Honestly, sometimes novel writing is nothing more than a way of getting to know a character more, and by default getting to know oneself more. Hey ho.

I've also watched my video of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", which I've seen before but which I love anyway. Sigh, I'm just a romantic slush underneath the prickly kick-ass exterior, you know. And tonight it's "Dr Who" and "Pushing Daisies". Lovely. And of course, the secret curry. Aha!

Ooh, and the lovely Siobhan Curham has emailed me to set up a telephone interview on Monday for an article she's doing on self-publishing and Amazon for Writers' Forum magazine. Which of course I'm more than happy to do - the availability of good books is an issue of vital importance to readers and writers, and the problem isn't going to go away any day soon. Writers - like the Sisters of old - are really beginning to do it for themselves.

Today's nice things:

1. My Torchwood certificate
2. Nailing that final key action scene in Bones
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, April 18, 2008

Clinics, Bones and Goldenford

Had my scan at the Surrey Park Clinic today, which wasn't as terrifying as I'd feared - but I gather that I will probably have to go back in fairly soon to talk about it. Nothing drastic, I hasten to add - but I anticipate a change in my hormones treatment is in the offing. Oh lordy, not another one!

I've also done some essential shopping in order to get three sad-meals-for-one for this weekend, as Lord H is away on a course. Goodness me, but the flat seems quiet right now. I suspect I will have to turn on the TV fairly soon, just in order to fill the space. That said, and while I miss him like crazy, I'm sneaking in a secret curry tomorrow while the chance is there - though I must remember to open the windows afterwards in order to hide the evidence. Lord H Doesn't Do Curry.

And I've had a visit from the downstairs neighbour, who isn't too well at the moment, poor thing. And is worried about what next week might bring. Nothing much I could say really, but we did share a cup of tea and play Patience for a while, which seemed to cheer him up. Also cheery (for him) was the utterly messed-up state of our flat, compared to the tidiness of his. Ah well, 'twas ever thus. Anyway, I'm sure next week will be better than he expects it to be.

For the rest of the day, I've fiddled around with The Bones of Summer and found myself enjoying linking up the two end scenes I was working on. Well, hurrah, eh! I've also added in another page to my website, called Interviews & Articles and you can find it here. That'll send 'em fleeing to the hills then.

Ooh, and the lovely Rachel from Writers' News Magazine has just rung me to confirm that they will be using my article on Goldenford in the near future. So that's made me feel useful, double hurrah!

Tonight, I'm planning to do a fragment of cleaning before ensconcing myself in front of the telly. Bloody hell, I might even switch it on. Actually I'd better do - just in order to fill the Lord H-shaped gap in the flat. Pause for a trembly lower lip moment ... God, I'm a wimp.

Today's nice things:

1. Surviving - thus far - the clinic experience
2. Fiddling around with Bones.
3. Talking to Writers' News.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Books, Shakespeare and the great G P Taylor himself

Delighted to find that the lovely Rosy Barnes at Vulpes Libris has just uploaded my article on self-publishing and that already it has inspired a lot of really interesting and thought-provoking comments. Including one from the great G P Taylor himself. Well, gosh. I always wanted to include myself in the same paragraph as a New York Times bestselling author, and now I have! My work here is done, Carruthers. Thank you and goodnight. Seriously though, do have a read and let me know what you think. My feeling is the times are most definitely a-changing and self-publishing is long overdue for a serious rebranding in the minds of the publishing world. Long long overdue. After all, readers don't have a problem with self-published books, so why the hell should the book world?? Food for thought anyway, I hope.

And thank goodness I'm feeling rather better today - or at least a little further up from the vast Slough of Despond I was drowning in yesterday. Thank you all so much for your messages of support - they've been really appreciated, and I do agree with many of your comments, and will attempt to do something about them in the near future. In the meantime, I've managed another early night (good God, pass the smelling salts, someone ...) and I've upped my Vitamin B dose, thus cocking a snook at the worry-mongers of yesterday's news bulletins. Anyway, thank you.

This lunchtime, I popped into see my sick friend, who is feeling hugely better compared to last week, which is a big relief. We discussed, amongst other things, the Times crosswords, Graham Greene, Anthony Powell (am I the only person in the world who read Dance to the Music of Time - in the wrong order - when I was 13? Lordy, perhaps that's what's made me the sane pillar of the community I am today ...) and Shakespeare's use of words. Hell, it's been that kind of a day, really. Pseuds' Corner has nothing on us.

And I can thoroughly recommend Sarah Stovell's debut novel, Mothernight. A tour-de-force of poetry, pain and grief. Just how I like my reading. Some lovely turns of phrase and I particularly enjoyed Olivia's growth throughout the story and the incredible humanity of Katherine, the step-mother. Powerful stuff indeed. Very insightful about unforgiveness, to my mind, and how to live with it. I've also just finished Jane Draycott's poetry collection, Prince Rupert's Drop. I'm not sure, to be honest, that it really held together as a collection, though some of the individual poems, such as "Jacob Wrestles with the Angel", "Land Girl" and the final poem, "What matters", are mind-blastingly good. It's just that for the rest, I think - bizarrely - that the words got in the way of the meaning or obscured it. Not at all like Shakespeare then. My feeling is that really Draycott can do better.

Anyway, tonight I'm not writing again (goodness, how liberating!) and instead Lord H and I are going to see "A Touch of Danger" at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. A thriller involving an author who isn't quite as dead as everyone thinks he is? Good Lord then, there's hope for us all ...

Today's nice things:

1. The Vulpes Libris article
2. Talking about books
3. The theatre.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The view from the bottom

Lordy but it’s dark down here. Not sure why it’s happened now – maybe it’s just tiredness – but goodness me I feel low. To be honest, I’ve been pretty shaky all week, though I have been bravely fighting off the feeling by being super-positive and rather on the hyper side of hyper-jolly. And how exhausting that is too! Maybe I should up my Vitamin B pills to two a day instead of one? Hmm, that might work. Or perhaps more oestrogen gel is called for? Who can say? I realised things had become pretty bad this morning whilst driving into work – I was listening to the news which told us that vitamins might now be a Bad Thing as they might actually shorten life, and caught myself thinking well, in that case it’s not all bad news then. Hell, I may not particularly relish another 40 years of feeling low and wondering what the hell it’s all about, Alfie, but even I know that thinking like that and kind of meaning it isn’t terribly healthy. Sigh.

Talking of health, I’m helping out with the Health Awareness Fayre today (what an irony), so I have to put on my bright, professional and jolly (oh God, that word again!!) hat. Thank goodness I come from a long line of drama queens (on the male side) who could probably act for Britain, should the need arise. Roll on home time, eh.

In between all that, I am generally drooping around looking like Lydia Languish on a slow day and contemplating the wonderment of yet more of my fellow-writers succeeding in their endeavours. Is there a glut on, Carruthers? Have I missed the boat marked This Way for Success yet again, dammit?? Anyway, marvellous news for you all, and very well deserved indeed, but I remain utterly puzzled as to how people do it. Really, it takes me back to my teenage years when everyone else I knew (well, most people anyway – I was never in with the in-crowd, if I’d even known what the hell the in-crowd looked like) were getting boyfriends like it was easy (it isn’t), whereas I seemed to live most of my teens and early twenties in a bubble marked Not This Way, Chaps –if You Value Your Sanity. Thank God Lord H wasn’t wearing his glasses when he met me. I would have been a complete recluse otherwise. He must have missed the bubble. That same bubble which I suspect is still hanging round my neck and scaring off publishers now.

And I’m coming to some sort of realisation that it might always be like this. Not only that but, much like trying to fit into a church situation, attempting to play the commercial publishing game, at least in the UK, is not making me any happier. And I was a bit of a Marvin the Paranoid Android to start with! I’m wondering if it would be better for me if I eased down on the gas a little. As it were. It’s interesting that in some ways I’ve already started to do that, in small but significant decisions taken. I gave up my membership of the Society of Authors about eighteen months ago now. Possibly longer, I forget. I’m not resubscribing to the Poetry Society, I’m only going to Guildford Writers in general once a month rather than every fortnight, and I’m seriously considering giving up my membership of Writewords when it’s due for renewal in August. The latter partly as I think I’m becoming something of an irritant to them too, and Writewords itself (whilst being a very worthy site of course) is moving more towards being an organisation for commercially successful or up-and-coming writers, rather than a place where we’re all learning together; so the ethos has changed and, for me, it’s become more uncomfortable and way, way too competitive. Really, all these decisions were taken or are being taken as most of the organisations involved were, or are, beginning to cause me more pain than pleasure. And I don’t think that’s what writing should be about. Recently, I’ve also stopped submitting poems to magazines on a regular basis, and I don’t enter as many competitions as I used to. Frankly, I can’t get the energy up to do so, and neither can I see what the pay-off is. And I’m seriously fed-up – no, debilitated is more the word – by rejection. It’s not nice. It hits me in the gut every time it happens (which, as you know, is quite often!) and these days takes so much longer to recover from. Yes, I know that as writers we’re supposed to take rejection in our stride and continue “onwards and upwards” like mad elephants on the rampage – and I used to do that – but hell it’s not that easy. I wish to God it were, but it’s not.

On the plus side, I’m still writing the novel, and I’d like to finish it too. Though I’m unsure whether it’s one I’ll give to the agent or not, to be honest. We’ll see. I’ve done a couple of short stories recently, which has been a surprise. Although the reaction to that development has been mixed, to say the least. I might write another one, I might not. I can’t tell right now. And I’m doing the occasional poem, though even I feel it’s a bit up and down in that department. I do like writing and most reader reaction has been touchingly enthusiastic, but it’s the other stuff, the expectations, the failures and all that jazz, which take away the enjoyment of it.

So really, I can’t say that I’m hugely enjoying being in my forties, even though there have been very nice and good things which have happened in the last four years – though I gather from a recent newspaper article that this is par for the course. Nobody likes being in their forties. God, but they’re bloody right! I think I had a lot more hope in my thirties; and even though I personally feel I’m a better writer now, I have a lot less hope. Or perhaps more rather painful realism. I’m certainly doing a damn sight more thinking about what the next forty years will be like for sure, depending of course on the effect of those pesky life-threatening vitamins. Ah well.

Today’s nice things, um, arrgh …

1. Having a yoghurt bar at lunch
2. Not having to talk to many people this morning, as they’re all at meetings
3. An evening in.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Doctors and writers

Goodness me, a sunny day today. How shocking. None of us really know what to do about it and are staring out of the window with our mouths open. What a very pleasant image. Still, it won’t last – the forecast for the rest of the week is rain. Followed by rain. Best make the most of it then.

I’m struggling with working out my travel expenses for travelling to the York conference in the new system. Apparently I’m allowed extra money per passenger – and as I took one person up to York and brought two people back (hey! I made a friend!), the maths is beyond me. I can see I shall have to rely on weeping and Ruth. Again. Must be my hormones.

Talking of which, this lunchtime, I went for my appointment with the lovely HRT doctor to see how I’m doing. Answer: OK, but I have to go in for an ultrasound scan on Friday, groan. Ah well, at least the wait isn’t too long. And hey at least it’s something to do for the weekend! The nurses at the clinic had read my Surrey Advertiser article and were all keen to buy Thorn in the Flesh so that was encouraging. I gave them the website details and will hope for the best!

In the meantime, I seem to be surrounded by online writing friends who are all getting high-powered agents and publishers and super-incredible deals. Without seemingly so much as stirring from their writing desks. Hurrah and General Rejoicing for all, of course! But, if I’m honest and human, my teeth are gritted. Severely gritted. So darn gritted in fact that they may well be welded together for all time. Deep sigh. Dahlings, sometimes the bitterness is the only thing keeping me in one piece.

And I’m ruddy tired, I must admit. I really have to aim for an early night at least once this month. I also suspect I’ve been slogging away too much on the Goldenford website and accessories, and my eyes are now begging for a more distant view. Maybe trees and fields and birds. Hmm, that sounds nice. In addition, I really need to do a few lines to The Bones of Summer fairly soon before I forget entirely what the story is about. Or, worse, where it’s going. That’s the trouble with doing web stuff – it’s deeply addictive, darn it.

Tonight, I’m at Guildford Writers. I’m taking along my short short story set in an office, so I’ll have to see what they think. It’s a bit of a wildcard tale really. Heck, I should be used to that.

Today’s nice things:

1. Sunshine
2. Guildford Writers.
3. Dreaming of an early night.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Gifting, web adventures, and just how big is my nose!...

A little bit of good news today when my agent emailed me to say that he thought the second draft of The Gifting was a lot better than the first, hurrah! He’s promised to be in touch with me later in the week, after the wild traumas of the London Book Fair, so I shall gird myself for more edits to come. No doubt.

This morning, I’ve spent vast swathes of time sorting through the meetings for the coming year, and they’re all slowly slotting into place, like some kind of giant and very alien jigsaw. Still one or two pieces that are floating in the ether though … And I’m back to typing the boss’s changes to various sets of minutes and publicity, so the schedules are filling up, ho ho. Ooh, and I’ve signed an educational online petition and had a confirming email from 10 Downing Street – how very exciting! At last I am mixing with the Great and the Good – if only virtually …

Still, in spite of all the excitement, I had time for a leisurely coffee with Sally at lunchtime and caught up with what’s going on in our lives, not to mention planning the Health Centre Fayre on Wednesday. It’s all done by smoke and mirrors. Honest.

This afternoon, I have attempted to update the name of our Student Advice website and ended up ditching the entire thing. There were a few minutes of utter, throat-constricting panic before the Blessed Aileen (May Her Name Be Praised) of IT resurrected it for me. Such a relief. Thank you a thousand times, Aileen. So I can now cancel my one-way ticket to Borneo. Apparently, this is a University First and no-one in Aileen’s years of service has ever attempted to do it before. Glad I still have the capacity for surprise then. And, hey, at least they can always rely on me to attempt the impossible with only a gung-ho smile and a cheese sandwich for company.

Oh, and dammit but we’re back to semester hours, so no 5pm finish tonight. Ah, that last half-hour is a desert of time indeed. Groan.

Tonight I’ll put on my flak jacket and go and see Gladys. I’m hoping we’ll both survive the experience. Once I’m safely back home, I’m planning to pluck out a few more lines from my dwindling Pot of Inspiration to add to The Bones of Summer. Possibly. And I absolutely must watch the last episode of “The Fixer”. They’d better do a new series – and soon!

And, last but not least, and rather scarily, I appear to have made it to Page 44 of the Winchester Writers’ Conference PDF guide, which you can find here. Thanks for the tip-off, Denise. Heck, but just how big is that nose of mine! I blame my grandfather for it all. And yes, Goldenford will be there this year so do come and visit us. Even better, buy a novel! I’ll be there on the Friday only, so book early to avoid disappointment …

Today’s nice things:

1. John liking The Gifting more
2. Coffee with Sally
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Web mania and the chocolate festival

In spite of the rain, Lord H and I have made the effort to go out today, and ended up at the chocolate festival at Polesden Lacey. Mmmm, lovely. Though we were noble and did the house first - our attempts to dodge the Room Dragons were fairly successful, thank goodness. Mind you, there were children around so no doubt they had other things on their mind ... We also had a lovely walk across the always stunning grounds and the sun even shone for a while, astonishingly. Then we hit the Chocolate Tent, and were quite restrained, well for us - though I did have to drag Lord H away from the chocolate fountain before he plunged into it. And I discovered a really wonderful chocolate & courgette cake (yes, you are reading that right), with cinnamon. Lovely. We had it warmed with ice cream as pudding today, and even have some left over for tomorrow. It's the healthy option after all - no doubt being an extra portion of vegetables for the day.

For the rest of today, I have been setting up various Goldenford sites on the web. So we now have a Facebook page and a MySpace page - so do come along and make yourself known if you use either of those facilities. It will be lovely to see you in the online world! I make a damn good cup of virtual tea, you know.

I must also say how utterly wonderful yesterday's TV was. "Dr Who" was stunningly good and incredibly deep. It should really have been the first episode, to my mind - it deserved it for sure. And "Pushing Daisies" is an absolute Must See - quirky, wise and funny, and totally, totally off-the-wall. Like "Spaced" but set in America. I loved it. If you missed it, do make the effort to catch it next week - it's wonderful! Tonight though I shall be glued to "Foyle's War" and am already in mourning for the fact that there'll only be two more episodes ever after this one. What is wrong with programmers?? Foyle is amazing - why the hell are the idjits ditching him?? It's madness out there.

This week's haiku:

Through the cold sunlight
you spike the day with silence.
I wave a goodbye.

Today's nice things:

1. Chocolate festivals
2. Building up the Goldenford web profile (hey, I have the lingo, you know! Almost ...)
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bones, Goldenford and the mysteries of chestnut hair

A very quiet day today. We haven't done very much. Good Lord, I haven't even left the flat, though Lord H has done a spot of shopping and brought back lunch and a paper, hurrah. I've been attempting to get to grips more with Facebook, which continues to remain more of a mystery than MySpace is. Perhaps it's an age thing, I don't know, but I do prefer MySpace as a networking tool. Too many applications on FB really.

That said, I have started up a Goldenford page on Facebook which you can find here. It's very lonely being the only fan of a publisher which produces the best books in the south, so if you are a Facebooker at all, please do come and join me. I promise not to bite. Well, not for the first few days anyway. I've even set up an event for our forthcoming Goldenford talk on Writing from our Roots on Wednesday 14 May at 2.30pm in the Guildford Institute in North Street, to which one person has already suggested they might come (thank you, Julia!). Gosh! Indeed I am so modern. Ho ho.

In the middle of all that virtual excitement, I've also managed to add another 1,000 words to The Bones of Summer, which brings it up to just over 70,000 words. Double gosh. Almost a novel-ful then. I also have Craig discovering the bitter truth about his past, so the aftermath of that is going to be fun to write, I can tell you. Suspect I'll leave it to another day though - he needs to mull it over for a bit first. As do I.

And, responding to the Golden Girls' suggestions, I have tweaked the Goldenford website in one or two places, so I at least feel that my new title of Webmistress Extraordinaire is not a courtesy one.

Tonight, I'm planning to watch "Dr Who" and hope that it's better than last week's clunker of an episode, and then it's the great decision of whether to watch (a) the golf; (b) "Pushing up Daisies"; or (c) "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". And once that's decided, I can then work out what to video. Ah decisions, decisions.

Ooh, and I am officially Shocked of Godalming. The latest discussions on the Vulpes Libris review site have strayed into the area of whether chestnut hair only actually exists in fiction. Well! Really! Rosy B, what can I say?!? One look here will indicate all too well that chestnut hair is alive and kicking and living in sunny Godalming, m'dears! As if the question even needed to be asked!

Today's nice things:

1. Writing more to Bones
2. Creating a Goldenford Facebook page
3. Validating the existence of my hair colour!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, April 11, 2008

The continuing adventures of the Golfing Marketeer

An early golf session with Marian today - before which I was greatly thrilled by the reaction of the club receptionist to Thorn in the Flesh: which was "Fantastic! I loved it! Can I have another one?" Hey, that's the kind of reader response which makes me smile! So I have promised to pop in with Pink Champagne and Apple Juice, signed naturally, when she's next in. Fabulous - it's honestly made my day.

The golf was great too - much better than last week, though I found out to my cost during the extensive showers that I didn't have my hat in my bag. Groan. So I had to resort to wearing my sun visor instead which, at the very least, gave Marian a laugh. It certainly kept the rain off my eyes, but I ended up with a wonderfully soggy wad of hair on top.

So thank goodness for my hair appointment at lunchtime today. Really, we writers never stop working, you know ... Anyway, Lynda has managed to make me look relatively human, a look which will disappear entirely when I wash my hair myself tomorrow. Sigh. For the rest of the day, I have been scribbling away on The Bones of Summer. Today it's been flowing nicely, which is certainly something I haven't been used to for a while. So another 1000 words done, bringing me up to 69,088. Hmm, not that I'm obsessed with counting of course. And I'm finding there's a strong undercurrent - okay, more like an overcurrent then - of religious bullying coming out now - it fits what's happening so I can see I'm going to have to go back and write it in from the beginning. Still, I should be used to these total overhaul edits, and I always suspected that Craig's story was going to grow exponentially as I wrote it. It's been thrilling to discover what the hell has made that boy tick. Not to mention the fact that he's been more in charge than I've been, all along - just in a quiet way so I don't think I've realised it till now. Good on you, Craig - more power to your elbow. Or rather, mine.

Tonight, I'm planning to watch more of the golf on TV - bliss! Those courses! The way they play! It's a delight to see. Also a delight was watching Ian Poulter's magnificent hole in one yesterday - and the look on his face when he realised he'd done it. Fabulous.

Today's nice things:

1. A reader response to Thorn
2. Golf
3. Getting to grips with Craig.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers - a new website!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Goldenford site - done!

Sound the trumpets and raise huzzahs! The Goldenford site is now uploaded! Phew! Do pop in and have a browse around - we hope you like the new site. And with May bank holidays and summer coming swiftly upon us, now's the ideal time to stock up on all your perfect summer reading! Go on - you know you want to ...

Today, I finished off my office encounter short story - and very short it is too, but that's okay as I think it works. I've uploaded it to the Writewords Novel Group (somewhat cheekily but I did say I hoped it was okay), and people seem to like it. One or two do think it might be part of something longer - but I'm not sure I can cope with thinking about another novel at the moment! What with waiting for the agent's view of Draft 2 of The Gifting and gnawing away at The Bones of Summer, I fear I probably have more than enough to be getting on with. For now.

I've also had a lovely lunch with Robin and Liz at the White Hart in Guildford - great to catch up. And the food is sooo good there. Not to mention the barmen. Ideal totty for the pre-menopausal women. Mmmmm. After that, I popped round to see my sick friend - who's doing very well, and things are continuing to look positive. Double hurrahs.

And I've read Rachel Seiffert's Afterwards. Hmm. Very poetic and beautifully written - but honestly nothing happens for 250 pages, so it was rather on the dull side of dull. Sigh. I also hated the formatting of speech in the book, which irritated the hell out of me. Why can't publishers just use speech marks like everyone else?? Why must we be subject to the pretentious literary dash - it's soooo pointless. Double sigh. I also loved Joseph but thought Alice and her family were prissy and narrow-minded. Good grief, if every woman got so stressed just because a bloke didn't tell her everything, we'd none of us be long for this world. Aren't silent blokes a part of the ecosystem? Mind you, all that said, the book really comes to life from Page 251, a happy event which lasts for the remaining fifty or so pages, so my advice is start there and you'll have a really good read. With nothing much lost that can't be gained from the blurb. My feeling is that actually Afterwards is a long short story that's been ruined by trying to be a novel. It should have stuck to being a short story - and would have been an absolute gem then. That ending is magnificent, truly magnificent.

I've also finished my read through Maeve Haran's Froth on the Cappucino: How Small Pleasures can Save Your Life. Perfectly pleasant but very frothy and pink. Which was about what I expected really. And much like having a Chinese takeaway, I enjoyed the experience, but half an hour later I can't remember a thing about it. Ah well.

Tonight, I'll be seeing if I can add any more lines to The Bones of Summer and, oh, did I say that the new Goldenford site is up?

Today's nice things:

1. The Goldenford site
2. Lunch with the gals
3. Visiting.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford website - oh look it's new!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Talks, toilets and the Matthews Method

Had great fun seeing Bryony last night in London – in the end we ate Turkish instead of pizza, which was great. I’ll do anything for lamb’s kidneys and hey the lamb had even died first, so no problem. We chatted for ages, so thanks for that, Bryony. I was rather amused though as she’d like me to give a talk to the children at her school (she’s deputy head) about writing – I was thrilled to be asked, just as long as she doesn’t leave me alone with the children (arggh! scary aliens, you know …) and just as long as I avoid actually telling them about the books, ho ho. Heck I don’t want to be arrested.

Meanwhile, the lovely Rosy from Vulpes Libris has given me loads of other ideas for my self-publishing article, so I’m all fired up to do those – so that’s tonight nicely sewn up. My, how I love a plan. I’ve written down a set of bullet points and I’m all ready to go. UPDATE: Second draft done, so I'll see what Rosy has to say about it. I certainly like it better.

Just a shame that I have to be at work first. Still, I think I’ve managed to sort out most of the meeting crises which threatened to overwhelm me yesterday and the people who might attempt to scupper my plans today have been quiet. So far. Though of course there’s always time, darnit. And we’ve come up with a Cunning Plan to get more money into the Hardship Fund – all we do is take the Dean, hide him under a bed for a couple of weeks or so and wait for the media offers and cash to roll in. The students will love us. We’re calling it the Matthews Method. You know it makes sense. Though, for some reason, the Dean doesn’t seem that taken with the idea. Not at all like Lord H, who would absolutely love to be hidden under a bed for three weeks in order to escape from his busy work life for a while. Also I’m sure I’d be marvellous at weeping and wailing in front of the cameras and think what we could do with the money! Heck, it’s a plan. One with a charm all of its own.

Talking of ideas for work, we have a virtual noticeboard where people advertise items they want to sell. Today we see there's an advert for a toilet tent, complete with portable "elegance" potty, tent pegs and loo roll (unused). Bearing in mind that our office has no toilet facilities, I've sent a request to the boss asking if the item can be added to next year's budget before the April deadline is upon us. I'm convinced that, with Ruth's expert camping skills, we can install it in the meeting room next door and need never leave the office again, thus improving our productivity levels and minimising the time spent wandering cross-legged round the campus searching for a suitable Ladies. No answer from the boss yet, but I live in hope ...

On the way home, I popped into see Gladys. We had a pleasant half-hour before the nurse left me the pills and told me I had to get her to take them (why, oh why do I get involved in technical stuff like this?? I just make a rod for my own back, I swear it!). Naturally, Gladys then started shouting and fighting me. I put the pills down, picked up what was apparently the most important one and asked her if she trusted me. She said no (well, what the bloody hell did I expect, really?...), so I replied that if she didn't take the pills, I'd leave. When she glared at me, I started to walk away, so she called me back. I repeated my offer and she took the first of the pills. So far so good. When I reached for the next of the medicines, the same scenario took place, so I turned and walked away again. This time, she didn't shout for me to come back, so I just kept on walking. And came home. No doubt leaving the nursing home with the impression that I am the mean-spirited Bitch from Hell and Scourge of Little Old Ladies. Well, one always likes to have a reputation. Tough Love - ah, it's a drug, you know. Not to mention totally bloody debilitating.

And weirdly, I’ve started another short story, about a dark but healing encounter between a woman and a man in an office. What the heck is going on in my writing head at the moment?? My dears, I simply don’t know – but while the ideas are there I have to go with them. Heck, I even have another idea for when I’ve finished the first one. Shock! Horror! Probe! Still, who knows when the next five-year dry zone will turn up? Short stories have a mind of their own. Talking of which, I think I’m going to give up on my attempt at terza rima – it’s a disaster in the making and every time I add in another line to the wretched beast I find I’m turning into a mix of Patience Strong and Pam Ayres. Now there’s a frightening concept. The world would never survive it, believe me.

Today’s nice things:

1. Our new money-making scheme
2. Articles
3. Short stories.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford website - still ...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Meeting frenzies, missing calendars and a night out

Have spent all morning frantically attempting to arrange the Student Induction meetings over the summer without screaming and diving through a window. I’m going to start a campaign to ensure that all my key people go on holiday at the same time so I can shoehorn them into meetings together at other times without reaching for the whisky. It’s the only way forward. Neither has it been made any easier by the fact that halfway through the long and complex process, the computer decided to update itself and my calendar has now vanished. Entirely. Missing. Kaput. So my tiny post-it notes in delicate shades of orange and pink are now the only things lying between me and complete insanity. My theory is that my calendar is so peed off that it’s packed its bags and is currently at Heathrow Terminal 5 attempting to flee the country. Ha! It won’t be able to go far then.

In the midst of all this, I’ve also been researching whether Student Care Services can set up a Facebook account so we can encourage more students to attend the events we put on. I’m all for it – heck, that’s where our client base is. We just have to persuade management it’s the way to go. Talking of management, we’ve spent a jolly half-hour or so filling in a staff survey which we had to keep saving as the darn thing kept timing out –even though the intro said it wouldn’t time out (heck, is that even a verb? Who knows …) until 90 minutes had passed. Well, wrong! In addition, when we all attempted to submit it by pressing the “Submit” button, that caused it to time out too. Sigh. Apparently, too many people are filling it in and the system can’t cope. There’s something to be said for paper after all.

This lunchtime, I strolled round the campus in an attempt to enjoy the blossom (a glorious purple tree rather took my fancy) and discover some perspective. And the means of tackling the afternoon. Which, however, was significantly improved by the fact that Steph in the Health Centre (whose medical wisdom is acknowledged in Thorn in the Flesh is getting married next year, hurrah! Oh, I do love a wedding. It gives us gals something to shriek about, which is always a good thing. Well done, Steph! Can’t wait to see the ring.

Oh, and thanks to Rosy at the Vulpes Libris review site who has asked me for an opinion piece on self-publishing. Ah, you know me – I have more opinions than there are stars in the sky, and if you don’t like them then I have others. As they say. So I’ve sent her the initial article and we’ll see how it goes.

Tonight, I’m up to London to see Bryony, an old school friend – so am looking forward to that hugely and am also longing for pizza and chocolate. Must be the kind of day I’ve had.

And here’s a poem:


A wheely-bin waits
by the bus stop.
I wonder where

it's going. I hope
it has the right fare.

Today’s nice things:

1. Steph’s good news
2. Lunchtime walking
3. Seeing Bryony.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, April 07, 2008

Back to school and the Ego Wall

Back to the grindstone today, though surprisingly I haven’t felt so bad about it. Weird, that. Mind you, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time over Easter not being at work. It’s been great – retirement holds no fear, I can tell you. Bring it on!

I’ve also had quite an easy start to the day in that my computer’s been off-line for an hour and a half. Heck, I’m not complaining. We finally solved the problem by reattaching the network cable into the correct hole. Aha! Ruth is now traumatised as it was she (her? I forget my grammar on a Monday – which is a lifestyle choice of course) who removed the cable while I was away in order to recharge the laptop for the chaplain (who apparently has yet to collect it, sigh …). Actually I wish it could happen every morning – 75 minutes downtime before the day starts is heaven, frankly.

In any case, I’ve dealt with the emails cluttering up my inbox, or at least printed them out. I now have the same flurry of unresolved meetings to sort out as I had before Easter. Groan! Still at least my Wednesday meeting has been cancelled in favour of an email approach, so I can claw back some time there, hurrah.

Managed to pop out at lunchtime to do some of my Tesco shopping, which means I won’t have to spend quite so much time there after work – time at home is always A Good Thing. I might do some more to The Bones of Summer but we’ll see. I absolutely can’t miss “The Fixer” on TV – I’m utterly hooked now.

In the meantime I’m struggling with writing a terza rima for a Writers’ News competition – rhyming is not my forte, believe me, and the form just has so many ruddy rhymes, darn it. I feel triteness is starting to overwhelm me. Hmm, so no change there then …

And Lord H has decided to print out and frame all my book covers so far and put them on a wonderfully named Ego Wall in the spare room – where I do my writing. Bliss. Inspiration for the desperate novelist indeed.

Today’s nice things:

1. A leisurely start to the day
2. Surviving the day
3. The Ego Wall.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers - for the time being ...

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Snow, webs and bones

Good Lord, snow. What a lot of it. Horrible, horrible, horrible, I really hate snow. With a deep and deadly loathing. When I opened the curtain today, it was like another universe, I can tell you. Thankfully, this being Surrey, it has now all gone, and let's hope it doesn't come back. Otherwise, I shall be forced to lie on the sofa with the smelling salts in order to calm my shattered nerves, a la Lydia Languish, and the thought of having to go out anywhere will simply be Too Much. With Capitals.

Mind you, today did start rather later than usual - I was a tad delicate during the night and didn't stumble from my bed until nearly 10am, by which time Lord H had been up for a good two hours and was doing marvellous redesign stuff to the Goldenford website. This will mean we will have a bottom band to the site in the corporate yellow and blue colours and it will look okay on whatever size screen one happens to have, hurrah! I then huddled over the computer in my dressing-gown and clutching my hot-water bottle and made sure the new code was on all the pages. Which it now is, so all I need at this point is the necessary details from our old Goldenford webmaster and I can FTP it onto the web. As they say in the trade.

And I finally got dressed round about 1pm. Ah, nothing like a good old-fashioned Sunday, you know.

For the rest of the day, I have been hard at work on The Bones of Summer and have written 1000 words and got to the end of a chapter. With a very dramatic development that I hadn't realised was coming but, now that I look at it, makes bloody good sense indeed. It feels punchy, and that's what I like. So I'm now at 67,000 words and I suspect the first draft will probably end up in the mid 70,000s - though I think it's one of those which will have more meat added to the bones (ha!) at the editing stage.

Tonight, I'm intending to vegetate in front of "Safari" on the TV - a film which promises to be something like Indiana Jones, which suits us fine. Oh, but talking of TV, was it just us or - frankly - was "Dr Who" something of a disappointment yesterday? It seemed very saggy and had nothing of the excitement of previous series. And - though I hate to say it as I adore redheads - I don't think Donna is a patch on the glorious Martha. Mind you, I did like the glimpse of the strangely evil Rose at the end. More of that, please. And less of the pseudo-comedy and back history. Ah it hasn't really been the same since Christopher Eccleston left ...

Finally, I'm so sorry to hear that the great and god-like Charlton Heston has been called home at last. They won't make his like again and I for one am sad about that. Hollywood stars are much smaller and meaner these days.

And this week's haiku is:

These things come to mind:
evening imprisons the day
while the owl flies free.

Today's nice things:

1. Finishing the Goldenford website
2. Finishing another chapter of Bones
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
The hopefully-soon-to-be-changed Goldenford website

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Macs, birds and horses

Lord H has been wondering recently about buying a Mac instead of a PC to replace one of our computers, and now it's arrived, hurrah! What a wonderful machine it is too - so scarily modern, with everything in-built. Weird. It even has Office software, so everything looks fairly similar to what we're used to. We're calling it Morris, if you're asking. It'll be Lord H's computer, but if we like it, then I suspect I'm going to get one too. Though we'll be keeping a PC, just in case. As you do. I fear the time will come, m'dears, when we'll have to get a larger flat, just to put our computers in. Lordy, but we're sad.

Anyway, today we have been to Pulborough Brooks, partly in a vain attempt to see one of the two common cranes that were there early in the week. Allegedly. Well, they're not there now! Bugger. Though we did see two red admiral butterflies, the first of the spring swallows and a great spotted woodpecker. Along with the usual suspects. Lunch was nice too - honestly, Pulborough Brooks does the best lunches ever. My mushroom soup was to die for. Though I have to admit Lord H's order of onion soup did strangely turn out to be tomato. Well, they were busy - it was difficult. And we're British so naturally we didn't complain. Not the Empire Spirit, you know.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am trying to do the final touches to the book covers on the Goldenford website - which you can't see yet, I'm afraid, so you'll just have to trust me on that one. And I'm thinking about doing something to The Bones of Summer, but don't hold your breath. Especially as I'm being sidetracked by having to watch the Grand National, a humdinger of a race, to be sure. And, no, neither of Lord H's office sweepstake horses won. Or, as far as I could tell, even finished. It was all very exciting anyway - my, how I love a good gallop. Well, as long as I'm just watching - I was always rubbish at actually staying on the ruddy animals and never progressed much beyond an (unintentional and quite terrifying) canter. And that's quite a revelation for a country girl.

But, sigh, the final "Torchwood" of the series is over. I have to say it seemed a bit of a cop-out to me. I mean getting rid of two main characters is a no-brainer tension button and I thought they could have done rather better. I was strangely unmoved. Also, where the hell has the Jack/Ianto heat gone?? Did they decide to downplay it to save our maidenly blushes? I hope to goodness they rediscover it, should they do another series. Which, naturally, I hope they do. In the meantime, I am relying on the new "Doctor Who" for my SF/fantasy input tonight. And go for it, Catherine T! We all love a redhead! Redheads are the New Blonde.

Today's nice things:

1. Our new Mac
2. Watching the first of the swallows
3. The Grand National.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
The old Goldenford site

Friday, April 04, 2008

The golfing marketeer

I must say what a glorious sunshiney day it's been today. As an old acquaintance used to say, it's a "trumpety Hadyn-y day". And who's to say he was wrong? Anyway, there's far too much ruddy rhyme in those previous sentences than is strictly good for us (not to mention overuse of the word "day"), so I'll carry on and hope for some decent prose. So here goes (oh no, not another one ...!): Marian and I have thrashed the life out of the golf course this morning and came out with exactly the same score. That never happens. This means she's done very well and I've done very badly. Sigh. Still, I was quite happy with my attempted shot over the pond which landed on the very edge and stayed there. Hurrah! Thank the Lord for that conveniently placed nettle patch which kept my ball from the wet.

And my low-key celebrity status continues to burble away in the background, ho ho - the golf club receptionist was very excited about seeing me in the Surrey Advertiser before Easter, so excited indeed that she bought a copy of Thorn in the Flesh. Goodness me. I think Marian was almost impressed too! Double gosh. Ooh, and since yesterday's radio interview, the hits to my site have actually more than doubled. Could there be a connection?? Anyway, thank you to those 38 good people who've peered in through my virtual front window today - I hope you've enjoyed the view! Do come back sometime - it's lonely here in the twilight zone, you know ...

For the rest of the day, I have been working full-tilt on the updates to the Goldenford old site. All I need to do now is fiddle around with the book covers and I think we're nearly there. I even managed to get the Paypal information on, with Jackie's help, so the Age of Miracles is not dead. However I live in fear that I'll find out I've overlooked something vital and all will be lost - please God, I hope not!

At least there's the grand finale of "Torchwood" to look forward to tonight - though naturally there'll be weeping and gnashing of teeth that there is no more Torchwood next week. How can such things be? What will Lord H and I do in these long summer evenings without Captain Jack and our special torch collection to keep us going? Hmm, no, don't answer that ... I like to protect the innocent. Should I find any.

And I've just finished Rick R Reed's High Risk. A rollercoaster ride of excitement and terror which had me hooked as to what the hell was going to happen to poor Beth. Very well written, with some agonising moments of violence which were in keeping with the plot but rather too much for me. Eyes, I just don't do eyes. Nooooooo!!! Definitely worth a read though.

Today's nice things:

1. Selling a copy of Thorn
2. Website visitors
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's unusually popular website
Goldenford's old site

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Conference Queen and the Radio Virgin

Goodness me, but what a long way it is to York. A jolly long way. And even further back - did they make the M1 longer while I was up there?? I wouldn't put it past them. Anyway I had a surprisingly good time at the AUA Conference - it might even have been, on a personal level, the most enjoyable one so far. Partly because hey, it's York. And in the sunshine, it's an amazing city. I also teamed up with Miv and the rest of the gang from Surrey wherever possible, which made networking less terrifying, frankly. Networking is much like DIY, I suppose - if you can't do it alone (and I can't - in both cases), then do it together. As they say. Also the food on the Gala Dinner tonight (Tuesday) was fabulous and (typical Yorkshire) there was lots of it. Hurrah! There's nothing worse than Nouvelle Cuisine, in my opinion, which is simply another way of saying Not Enough Food. I also sat at the table which won the champagne, so - hick! - we were all right, Jack.

Oh, and the seminars were good too - I even got quite inspired at the ideas for alternative media for reaching students. Goodness, somebody pass me the normality pills. Though I could have done with more content in the Humour at Work seminar. Hell, Miv and I could probably have taken it ourselves! I also managed to fit in visiting my aunt - though why must I always get the one taxi-driver who's been done for GBH, sigh? A fascinating tale indeed and one I shall, no doubt, use later, but I'm beginning to wonder if I wear an invisible sign saying Please tell me your GBH story while I'm in your cab - as I really want to hear it? Hmm, it would explain a lot.

Anyway, this morning, I was up whilst the owls were still hooting (and I know because I heard them) ready for my radio interview on BBC Southern Counties with the very kind Fred Marden. What with taking four calming pills and two Rescue Remedy sprays, I was relatively calm (shock!) and actually I really enjoyed it - which was mainly, I suspect, thanks to Fred for making me genuinely feel it was just a conversation between me and him. Quite a feat when there's a huge green microphone a millimetre away from my mouth, which would have gone with my eyes if they hadn't been red-rimmed and thoroughly bagged-up at the time. Well, it was early, you know. So I am no longer a Radio Virgin, hurrah! And when I got back Lord H said it sounded fine, so that's a relief. I always fear that my Essex twang will take over on these occasions and I will feel the urge to dance round my handbag - a scary thought indeed.

For the rest of the day, I have napped (ah, sleep - blissful!) and popped into see Gladys - though I didn't stay long as she was at the hospital this morning and was quite exhausted, poor thing. I've also managed to squeeze out 500 words to The Bones of Summer and it seems to be going off in a rather unusual direction. So I've decided to go with it and see what happens. I fear there'll be more traumas ahead, so I'd best fasten my seatbelt and take care on the bends. Good advice for life, indeed.

Today's nice things:

1. The radio interview
2. Napping
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers' site - for the moment ...