Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Feeling the heat, a Bones review and a symphonic novel

It’s going to be a scorcher today, I fear. Here’s this morning’s meditation before we reach for our Pimm’s and ice:

Meditation 160

In early sunlight
the slats of the gate
glitter, pulsate
with shining cobwebs,
the day’s harbingers.

Beyond, the field
and distant mountains
shimmer with a promise
you can’t yet taste:
tantalising, dangerous.

Keeping to books, I am utterly thrilled with my first (five-star) review of The Bones of Summer which can be found at Amazon US (scroll down to the review section to read). Thanks so much to Amos Lassen for such kind words - I particularly liked "Brooke is a terrific writer and if you have not read her, you are really missing something." I think I might even put that in my Christmas cards if you're very unlucky!...

At work, I am considering the year’s Steering Group meetings and seeing how we can improve them. Yes, well, rather too much of a managerial task for me (I really only wanted to do the typing, you know …) but I’ll have to try to think of something. A blank page response doesn’t look good. At the same time, the office is drumming up more enthusiasm for our plans for Freshers’ Week – all very worthwhile and necessary of course, but as the whole concept is as usual filling me with dread and existential terror, my smile is, I admit, a little on the fixed side …

I decided against my lunchtime walk round campus today as it’s way too hot, but I did sit by the lake for a while and read. While I was there, in the heat and anger of the day, I finished Rose Tremain’s The Road Home – which I’ve been reading for the University Book Group meeting in July. What a novel. It’s the literary equivalent of listening to a great symphony. Possibly Beethoven but I’m not a musical expert. The characters are rich and vibrant with colour, and some of the turns of phrase are gripping. What puzzled me is that the review quote on the front of the book calls it “wild and beautiful.” Actually it’s anything but wild. It’s the most measured piece of writing I’ve read for a long time. “Measured and beautiful” would be far more accurate. That said, the symphony isn’t perfect. Some of the protagonist’s (Lev) actions are, I think, out of character. I don’t think he’s a man who succumbs to bouts of rage, but he does so in the novel a couple of times. This doesn’t work. I was also worried about two characters, our main man Lev and his short-term girlfriend Sophie, who seemed happy to take money from people in an old people’s home now and again without so much as sparing a thought for the morality of such actions. And I speak as one who used to work in an old people’s home, if on a voluntary basis. They’re always offering money – it’s part of dementia or the general vulnerability of old age. You either laugh it off or take any cheques to the home manager who can dispose of them as he/she thinks fit. So I did find that part of the book rather shocking and it felt as if Tremain hadn’t done her research properly here. Although of course I can’t judge a novelist for that – I’m Mrs Research Light after all. On a more serious note, however, I also think the novel is a good fifty pages or so too long. Maybe more. Reading the end of The Road Home felt like listening to a piece of music where the composer didn’t quite know how to end it and then it eventually fizzled out somewhat. Also the ending doesn’t work – it’s too neat and too happy, on a surface level. I think the power of the book required more angst at the end. That would have been better. However it’s nice that Sophie comes from Godalming – I of course did appreciate that! So, negative points aside, this is a novel well worth reading, if you haven’t already.

Meanwhile, I’ve written a poem about clocks. As you do. And I've got the second part of my advance cheque from Dreamspinner Press, so that's put a spring in my step, thank you, Elizabeth!

Oh and I forgot to say yesterday that I tried to convince the boss that I may have a prickly exterior but that inside I am as soft and malleable as marshmallows melted in the sun. Or words to that effect. His response was actually he thought it was really the other way round, and I was pricklier on the inside than out. Well, harrumph, we say. That’s him off my Christmas card list then …!

Tonight, I’ll continue with my read through of The Gifting whilst sticking as closely as possible to our one and one fan. There’s still more ironing to do too, but I don’t really know if I can face it. The good thing though is that Lord H brought home loads of salad things, plus choc ices, from the shops yesterday which should keep us going for another few days, so we don’t have to turn the oven on at all, hurrah!

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Reading
3. Being lazy
4. Books
5. Royalty cheques
6. The continuing pre-edit
7. Not having to turn the oven on.

Anne Brooke - wondering if she's reached the day's prickle quota yet

Monday, June 29, 2009

Meetings, editing and novel ideas

Here’s today’s meditation:

Meditation 159

The removal of sandals
signifies something:

a setting aside,
an end

to whatever came before.
The air ceases

its slow rhythmic pulse,
streams still their flow

and somewhere in the desert
a wild bird cries.

Keeping on literary matters, I’m thrilled to see that the paperback version of The Bones of Summer is now available at Amazon US. No picture though, which somehow lessens the excitement, but it’s nice to see it slowly getting out there.

Meanwhile, at work, I’m tidying up last week’s emails which, thankfully, are getting fewer, now the vacation is in full swing. I also had one of those more … um … challenging meetings to minute at work over the lunch hour. Much to my relief however, it was all fairly straightforward and over in half the time. Wonderful. Now that’s the kind of meeting I really go for …

This week’s heroes are Chaplaincy Ruth’s dog for not killing a rabbit but letting it go; Sarah Connolly, who took the part of Giulio Cesare in yesterday’s opera (as indeed she did in the original) and who is an utter utter marvel; Ruth’s campervan, Minty; and the much-missed Farrah, poor lass.

After work, I popped in to see Gladys and renewed her bird-table provisions. Really, I’m not even sure she sees it any more, but it feels like the only thing I can do as she seems to hate talking to me so much these days. Correction – she even hates looking at me, sigh.

Tonight, I’m planning to carry on with the read-through and note-taking of The Gifting, and then I think there’s a repeat of Have I Got New for You? later so I can do some ironing while I’m watching that. My, what an exciting life I lead.

Mind you, I have had an idea for the next (non-Gathandria) GLBT novel which I feel might well have legs. As it were, and possibly. So I’ll wait and see how that pans out. But, hey, an idea – ye gods!

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. The Amazon US paperback edition of Bones
3. Heroes’ list
4. Making notes on The Gifting
5. TV
6. A possible novel idea.

Anne Brooke - pondering novel ideas

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Poetry, review and song

An early and rather short blog today as we're out for most of the day and won't be back till late. Here's this morning's meditation, which is more religious than I'm used to, but hey it's Sunday after all:

Meditation 158

A long questioning,
edged, as it must be,
with the threat

of rejection.
Then from a cloud
of curses

one clear truth:
once I was blind
and now I see.

the smallest arrow,
if you grasp it,

may pierce
the darkest night.

And I'm thrilled to say that I've had another review of Painting From Life by Kassa at Manic Readers who says the following:

"While on a vacation to rejuvenate a failing marriage, an artist encounters an unlikely muse in the form of an older man. An obsession quickly develops as the differing needs of the artist, his wife, and the object of his attention collide. This short story is haunting, intense, and unlikely. At just about 15 pages, the author has delivered a stunningly gripping story about an artist and his obsessions. From the hints of the past such as the history between the artist and his wife and the wife’s caustic comments, the author suggests that the unnamed artist may often find these unlikely muses and devote more time than is healthy to them. Similarly, the artist slowly and inevitably becomes the sole caretaker of an older man, Peter, while using the man as a model for his work that is only now gaining success. The author manages to use just a few words and descriptive phrases to convey intensity and emotion that is clearly felt. The impact of the artist’s need for Peter is surprising yet chilling in phrases such as, "There's no need for him [Peter] to see or speak to anyone else but me." The artist realizes that Peter fatigues easily while sitting for him, but the rush the artist feels is too addictive, too much to let go. He counters this by taking care of Peter yet knows he will paint the older man to his death. The implications and subtle meaning go far beyond the obvious and continue to resonate well after the short story is done. Crisp, vivid prose works incredibly well with vibrant characters all uninhibited by the short length. For those that enjoy a fabulous short story that truly makes you think and leaves you wondering well after it’s done, I highly suggest Painting from Life. The themes of art, death, obsession, love, selfishness, and need are all played out beautifully in this complex and complicated story."

Gosh, thank you hugely, Kassa - much appreciated indeed! That's put a big smile on my face today for sure.

Keeping to the literary theme, I'm also delighted to say that two of my tankas have just been published at Ink Sweat & Tears webzine, so I hope you enjoy the read. And thank you, Charles, for that!

All of which jollity will lead us nicely into a lovely summer afternoon spent at Glyndebourne where we've ordered a picnic, furniture and staff (staff, dahhlings, really!...) to set it up for us, so we can just sit back and enjoy the sunshine. Hey ho and lift a glass to the empire spirit indeed ... And let's not forget the song of course, which today is the glorious Giulio Cesare which we've seen before and loved, so I'm looking forward to the rerun. To my mind, you can't ever go wrong with anything by Handel.

Here's this week's haiku. Or rather haikus - as I wrote one yesterday, got all smug that I'd done it and then another one (this time inspired by my continued and very enjoyable reading of Sara Maitland's amazing "A Book of Silence") suddenly popped by as well. Honestly, sometimes the pesky things are like buses.

First Haiku:

Outside: sun, laughter.
Inside: computer battles
and a web of words.

Second Haiku:

Silence unskins me.
It takes my heart's full measure,
offers a strange grace.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. The review of Painting from Life
3. Tankas publication
4. Glyndebourne
5. A double helping of haikus.

Anne Brooke - limbering up her voice once more ...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Book discounts and distances

Here's this morning's meditation, which is longer than usual but I think it's what I wanted to say:

Meditation 157

Bound in flesh
you ask your question

but the answer you get
rips through skin
and bone, blood,
marrow, limbs
and even your hidden heart,

sending all you’ve known
and trusted in
spinning outwards
to a place
no man but one
has ever seen.

Earth, saliva
and that strange sparkle
of a possible truth
you can but guess at
will draw you on
unprepared, still unsung.

Yes, well, there's one to conjure with, eh. So this morning, we popped out to Godalming and I've posted my copies of The Bones of Summer out to those who wanted them, so thank you for that. It should be with you early next week, assuming the post office keeps on trucking. And on this totally glorious day, I've been continuing to scribble away with those notes on the pre-edit for Hallsfoot's Battle. I'm now on Page 300 of The Gifting, with 12 pages of notes. Only 167 pages to go before I can get to the actual edit then ... Don't wait up.

Mind you, it's not been so much of a battle as struggling to the end of Fiona Sampson's poetry collection, The Distance Between Us. I was so looking forward to this as I did enjoy her Common Prayer hugely. But I'm afraid this one left me cold. And deeply deeply confused. I think a large part of its problem was that it was way too personal and muddled. The poems obviously mean a lot to Sampson herself but were far too closed-off and with too many references I didn't get for this particular reader to feel enlightened. No doubt that shows what an intellectual idiot I am, but I do think that poetry shouldn't be this obscure. Yes, I understand the need for difficult poems that the reader has to work with to understand and I'm not against that concept, within limits - but this seemed to be taking that to ridiculous extremes. Poetry shouldn't be this impossible! That said, I did enjoy some of the shorter offerings, like The Orpheus Variation (for its tenderness) and In The Early Evening, As Now (for its clarity and the relationship between man and nature). And some of the individual lines in the longer poems were very powerful indeed, but I'm afraid this collection as a whole didn't work for me.

In other literary news, I'm taking part in the GLBT themed excerpts day at Love Romances Cafe so have posted an excerpt from the middle of The Bones of Summer. Not only that but if you buy any book (including mine!) in any format from Dreamspinner Press TODAY only then you get 15% off. Definitely an incentive to visit then ...

I've also done another round of poetry submissions and - in a last brave but probably totally desperate attempt to spread the anguish - I have finally submitted the first three chapters of The Gifting to the publisher that requested it two years ago, and which I asked the agent to do at the time, but I don't think he ever got round to as he hoped a bigger publisher might take it (ho ho). And of course I'm now way too humiliated to ask him about it. Naturally by now everyone will have moved on and it's a situation without hope, but really I've got nothing to lose by trying. Just this once, eh.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Pre-editing
3. Marketing Bones (and the discount!)
4. Poetry submissions
5. The temporary triumph of hope over experience re The Gifting.

Anne Brooke - having a literary day and staring out at sunshine

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sandy golf, paperback Bones and GLBT fiction

What a peculiar day it's been today, I must say. I haven't really been able to get much of a grip on it. Anyway, here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 156

A simple sheet of paper
and another’s command

cast you out
from all you have known:

voices; the pattern
of a room; the schedule

of days. What once
has been lost

cannot be found again.

That sense of being lost has followed me throughout but it hasn't been a bad day. Just strange. My golf was ridiculous really. I managed to get two very beautiful (though I say it myself, I know) pars but then was completed and utterly fettled and lambasted by two really appalling holes where I went into those great deep bunkers of despair. Twice. Ye gods and little fishes, what a disaster. My first attempt at getting out of the bunker resulted in a score of twelve. Twelve!!! The shame is almost overwhelming, my dears. My second attempt at getting out of a new bunker they appear to have added to the last hole (the beasts! - how could they??) then resulted in a score of eleven. Oh for the rivers of Hades to rise up and swallow me down. All of which meant that, in spite of my two pars, Marian won by a massive ten shots. The only positive thing to come out of this sad debacle is that while we were playing I had the carwash people wash my car inside and out - so it's all lovely and clean now. All the better for weeping in ...

Perhaps I should revisit my bunker-play?...

Back home however, there has been the wonderful moment of joy when I opened the post to find that my authors' copies of The Bones of Summer have arrived. Joy abounding indeed! I have tried not to spend too long stroking them and licking their nice shiny covers, but it was hard to resist. But panic not, you people who are expecting copies - I made sure not to lick yours (as it were) ... And they will be in the post to you tomorrow. I have to say the books all look so wonderful - Dreamspinner Press have done a truly amazing job with production and it is classy beyond belief. I am soooooo pleased. A huge thank you to them.

Oh and I have a new published article, about the importance of settings in books, which can be found at the You Gotta Read review site. Thanks, Tami, for having me as guest writer for the day - much appreciated!

Talking of GLBT literature, a brand new Wiki GLBT bookshelf is now open for business and easily browsable for all your GLBT reading requirements, and there is a rising number of authors, reviewers and publishers on there. You can also find my bookshelf there, and can browse for my books under title, categories or publishers, as you wish. It's a great idea and well done to Mel Keegan who has organised it all and particularly helped me overcome my fear of Wiki. Thank you, Mel.

This afternoon, I've continued working on the read-through of The Gifting and am now on Page 200 with about 9 pages of notes. So about halfway through now. And I have to say it's a pretty damn good story too (though again I say it myself and shouldn't - still, dammit, I will, and sod the consequences, eh ...) - I'd forgotten most of what happened since I last opened it up last summer and it's nice to be reminded. I am already thinking of additions and depths I can add to the edit of Hallsfoot's Battle once I get into that for real.

And tonight we really must do some cleaning before the Domestic Police turn up again, groan. They do go on so ... What joy.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Two pars in golf (let us not speak of the rest of my game again, alas ...)
3. A nice clean car
4. Authors' copies of Bones, hurrah!
5. Published article
6. A new GLBT bookshelf
7. Reading through The Gifting.

Anne Brooke - just don't mention those pesky bunkers ...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Review writing, theatre and fan mail

Something about today's meditation made me feel as if I was being held in place somewhere, in a measured kind of a sense, so here it is:

Meditation 155

May the purple sun
stain your fingers
and tongue

from the grapes
you feed on
along the path,

and when you cross
the humming cornfield
may its ripened light

brush over your skin
for just as long
as you walk there.

It is the moment,
not its holding,
that shapes you.

The great joy of this morning is that I've actually had an email from a reader who's just finished The Bones of Summer and who says the following:

Just finished "Bones of Summer". All I can say is 'wow'. I'm going to have to find your other books which I gather are published, not e-books. I'm very glad this one was so I could be 'introduced' to your writing.

Well, gosh! Thank you so much, Edward - that's so incredibly encouraging and has put a smile on my face all day. Which has been widened still further by one of my writing friends emailing me saying how much she's enjoyed the novel as well, so thank you also, Sarah - very much appreciated!

For the rest of the day I've been working on my review of John Wray's novel Lowboy (Canongate) for Vulpes Libris and that's due to be up on site on Friday 10 July. Wray's work has raised a lot of questions in my mind, some of which might not sit too well with the generally glowing and highly enthused reviews this novel has been receiving elsewhere - but hell it's certainly making me think. Which can only be a good thing. And there's no gainsaying the man can write, but ... but ... Ah well, the end of that sentence will have to wait until July, I fear!...

I've also sent off more short story submissions to various places and was intending to send some poetry submissions off too, but I think the combination of a low-grade headache and submission overload means it must wait until I'm feeling stronger.

And I'm back to thinking about the edits for Hallsfoot's Battle. Hell, does anyone remember that? This time round there's rather a lot of work I have to do before I even pick up my virtual red pen however, so I've started reading through The Gifting and making notes about the people and the settings and the traditions as I go. So far I have about 5 pages of notes and I'm about a quarter of the way through the read. But at least it's getting me back into the feel of the Lammas Lands and Gathandria, of Simon and that pesky mind-executioner, all of which I need to have fresh and deep in my mind when I come to editing Hallsfoot in reality. There's still a feeling of sadness though as of course The Gifting no longer has the hint of an interested publisher attached to it, so I'm very much working without commercial hope in my fantasy career at the moment. It's a difficult space to inhabit.

Anyway, no matter. We hobble onwards. And I have fan mail, hurrah! And yes, sadly, I have actually started a Fan Mail File, so I do understand that I have no shame and an ego the size of Manhattan. A difficult combination at the best of times ... The file itself is small but perfectly formed, of course. Meanwhile, tonight, Lord H and I will be off to see Ruth's husband, Douglas, in Much Ado About Nothing. Which apparently now has scenery (double hurrahs!) and people aren't falling over it. It's such a wonderful play too - one of my favourites of Shakespeare's comedies.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Fan mail for Bones (did I mention that?)!
3. Review writing
4. Short story submissions
5. The pre-edits for Hallsfoot
6. Much Ado.

Anne Brooke - glad to be able to provide the 'Wow' factor, at least once!...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Heroes, theatrical traumas and review writing

Back to a more normal routine today, thank goodness. Here’s this morning’s meditation:

Meditation 154

Sex and war
should not mix;

keep your wild dreams

Towards evening
you long for the clean spaces,

the reassurance
of water,

but at sunset
the boundaries of flesh

contain you again.

At work, I’m scrabbling away at those dang minutes and there might well be an end in view at some point. One hopes. We also have a new list of Heroes of the Week (hurrah!) which includes Chaplaincy Ruth’s mother (for being a generally Good Person with some marvellous news that I probably can't talk about yet - but well done to her). Also on the list is John Donne (for being another Good Egg and writing an absolutely stunning prayer which I revisited yesterday), Karen from Flight Centre (for helping Carol get a decent holiday booked) and the whole cast of Much Ado About Nothing (Ruth M’s husband is in it and they’ve had to battle their way through sackings, illness, artistic traumas and the existential pain of no set at all – still – in order to get to tonight’s first night so well done to them …). Apparently yesterday’s dress rehearsal was stunningly good though and they might even do the whole thing without the set – which may possibly arrive today but who knows … Lord H and I are going to see it tomorrow so we wait with baited breath to see if we need to bring our own scenery.

Walked into town at lunchtime to pay in a cheque (gosh – how rare!) and to attempt to look for clothes. I had some hopes of getting a new dress for our second Glyndebourne outing on Sunday, but sadly nothing sprang out at me. Is there nothing at all out there for a slightly bizarrely shaped mid-forties red-head who prefers sleeves and a not-too-low neckline but doesn’t want to look like a sack???? Surely there must be something? But obviously not in Guildford – I shall have to wear the dress I wore last year and the year before that and for several years before that on Sunday, I see. Really, I despair … Anyway I also posted off a copy of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice to Charles Christian – so thank you for asking and I hope it gets to you safely, Charles. It’s a summer read for sure. Which meant my walk into town wasn’t entirely wasted (the post office on campus being closed for refurbishment …), hurrah.

Tonight, I’m hoping to continue working on my review of John Wray’s Lowboy (Canongate) for Vulpes Libris. Oh, and there’s a new series of Ugly Betty on TV – at last, double hurrahs. Meanwhile, talking of Vulpes, the lovely Elise Valmorbida has sent me a hugely kind personal email saying how much she appreciated my review of The Winding Stick – so thank you once more for that, Elise. It was a pleasure considering your gloriously humane book and I shall look forward to reading more of your fiction for sure.

Talking of books and reviews, I’m pleased to say that one of my own reviewers for The Bones of Summer has already finished it and says she enjoyed it a lot. She’ll be putting up her thoughts at some point on the Unique Logophilos site, so I’m looking to seeing what she thinks. How strange though to be on both sides of the review equation in the space of a day or so – my feet are certainly standing in both worlds at the moment. I’d best not look down ...

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Heroes of the Week
3. Paying in a cheque
4. Posting off a copy of Champers
5. Review writing
6. Kind-hearted authors
7. A reviewer enjoying Bones.

Anne Brooke - pondering heroes ...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Stories, publisher misunderstandings and train pain

Am slowly coming down from the excitements of The Bones of Summer publication date yesterday and the good news is that it’s now available at All Romance Ebooks and on Amazon Kindle too, so lots of options for your summer read, hurrah. And I even seem to have sold a couple of copies, so that’s nice – thank you, kind people, thank you!

Other nice news is that my short story, The Last Morning, has been accepted by Foundling Review for future publication, so I’m chuffed about that too. And my review of Elise Valmorbida’s novel, The Winding Stick, is now available to read at the Vulpes Libris review site. I think the publisher might have got rather confused and thinks that I’m a person who only reads bouncy, shallow kind of books (you who know me know better!), as some of their comments on their blog were really rather snippety which has upset me, I must admit - surely a simple thank you for taking the time to review our novel would have been sufficient?... - but, in compensation I had an absolutely lovely comment from the author herself about the review which indicated that she'd actually read and understood what I was trying to convey. So a huge thank you, Elise, for that. All this aside, The Winding Stick is definitely a book I can recommend. A fascinating read.

Meanwhile, at work, I’m struggling with yesterday’s minutes and not getting very far at all. Too much else going on really. And I’ve spent a long and thankless time battling with the online trainline people to try and work out ticket prices for getting the boss to Leeds in July. And back. It’s impossible to ring for help as you don’t get a real person and the automated system is agonisingly slow, sigh, and obviously doesn't understand my Essex accent. Plus the customer service email chaps gave me one price, whereas the online one is one hundred pounds more expensive. Deep and heartfelt sigh. Frankly, I’d rather be back in Wales. I did look at flights to Leeds too, but you have to fly via Glasgow (!) and it’s nearly a thousand pounds. Ridiculous. Perhaps the boss would be better off hitchhiking to ruddy Leeds? That option remains … UPDATE – we finally booked the tickets, thank the Lord – but I will not celebrate too soon before I actually have them in my hot little hand. Ah the tension is mounting ...

At lunchtime, I chaired the University Writers’ group – not as many there with the summer vacation, but we still had a fun time. At least I enjoyed it. In spite of my underlying headache. And the lovely news there is that a member of our group has also been accepted for the forthcoming University of Maine short fiction anthology, hurrah! So that’s cheered me hugely.

Tonight, I’m popping to Tesco (groan) for another week’s shopping and, ye gods, but my list seems huge today, dammit. Once back in my Home Zone of Safety, I must think about my next review for Vulpes, which is on John Wray's Lowboy. I think it'll be a mixed one, particularly as there are literary issues that make me ponder there. Best gird my loins then!... Plus I’ll try to do some more marketing of The Bones of Summer. Whilst basking in the sure knowledge that at least those slightly bemused publishers (see earlier comment) can’t accuse that of being too bouncy and shallow, ho ho. At least one hopes not.

Today’s nice things:

1. A couple of sales of Bones
2. Short story acceptance
3. The Vulpes Libris review (mainly!)
4. Writers’ Group success

Anne Brooke - paddling in her hidden shallows, tee hee ...

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Bones of Summer - here at last!

It's here at last, hurrah! I'm very happy to say that The Bones of Summer is now available in eBook and paperback from Dreamspinner Press, where you can also enjoy a full (and rather adult) excerpt of the whole of the first chapter and admire the book trailer once more. Triple hurrahs indeed and crack open the champagne - again! I hope you enjoy the read as much as I enjoyed writing it. I'll always have a soft spot for Paul and Craig, I feel.

Anyway, this morning I have bravely struggled into work, bearing cakes and cookies to celebrate my birthday of yesterday and my publication date of today. I've had to do some actual work too (shock! groan!) and minute the Steering Group meeting, where a heck of a lot of talking was done, so I have pages and pages of notes to attempt to write up tomorrow. Mind you, I was sensible enough to take this afternoon off to get some marketing done on The Bones of Summer, so I have updated various websites and journals, notified Yahoo Groups and considered where to send reviews etc etc over the last three hours or so. It's really astonishing what a lot there is to do when 99% of my sales come via the Internet. People have been responding fairly positively too, so that's encouraging. It would be so nice if it did okay.

Oh, and I forgot to add my week's haiku on Saturday when I last posted so here it is:

Over windswept grass
kites form speech marks in the sky.
Words never spoken.

Today's nice things:

1. The Bones of Summer being published, hurrah!
2. Cakes & cookies
3. Haikus.

Anne Brooke - rattling her Bones big-time!...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Romance and song all the way to the finale

Am very pleased to say that All Romance Ebooks are now stocking both Pink Champagne and Apple Juice and Thorn in the Flesh, and Thorn in the Flesh even (at the moment of typing ...) appears on the front page of All Romance Ebooks, so that's been a bit of a thrill. And a special thank you to Leslie of Bristlecone Pine Press for sorting it all out. What a star!

Also today, my review of Erin Pringle's short story collection, The Floating Order is now up at the Vulpes Libris review site. The collection - and I hope (!) the review - is well worth a read, all the more so as I'm disagreeing with literary review giant Scott Pack in my response to Pringle's work ...

And here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 153

What turns curse
to blessing
is love;

let the light
wash through you
and pray

to one day know
where you came from
and where you go.

This afternoon, Lord H and I are at our first Glyndebourne event of the season and will be enjoying all the romance and song of Purcell's The Fairy Queen, plus there's a bottle of champagne with my name on it, hurrah! I'm getting my glad rags dusted down even now.

All of which is highly appropriate as tomorrow will be my 45th birthday (hurrah!! So young, and so unspoiled, I hear you cry - or maybe not ...) so the chances of any kind of journal entry are shamefully low and I'll be spending most of my day admiring the roses and (I hope) sunshine of Wisley.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and I'll catch up with you on Monday - which will of course be publication date for The Bones of Summer. Well, gosh!

Today's nice things:

1. A new buying home for Champers and Thorn
2. The Vulpes Libris review
3. Poetry
4. Glyndebourne
5. Champagne!
6. My upcoming birthday
7. The roses of Wisley
8. Only two days to the Bones publication date, hurrah!

Anne Brooke - enjoying days of wine and roses ...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Breaks, birds and post-holiday blues

We had a really, really fantastic time in Wales. The countryside was grand, the weather was mainly hot and sunny (except for one day), the hotel was wonderful, and the owners Ian and Alan made us feel completely at home. Not to mention Ian being an utterly superb chef. We'll definitely go back at some point, and I can't recommend it highly enough. I fell totally and utterly in love with this view too, which we came across mid-week:

Honestly, looking at it now is making me feel quite tearful as we're not there any more. It was so peaceful, we were the only ones around to enjoy it and I could have stayed much longer than we did. The birds were lovely too - new birds for this year (plus some lifetime firsts) were: red-breasted mergansers, wheatears, great black-backed gulls, ravens, choughs, puffins (hurrah - and really close up too!), fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, bullfinches, razorbills (a wonderful bird and my new favourite), crossbills (amazing and probably my joint new favourite ...), redstarts, tree pipits, a wood warbler, and - last but not least - a rather large jellyfish. Astonishing really.

I also had the pleasure of reading V.B. Russell's new children's book, The Adventures of Granny Destross and CeeCee. A very enjoyable, imaginative and fun read which should suit children in the 8-10yrs old bracket (though I'm not an expert - but am guessing this as CeeCee is ten!). Definitely one for your young person's list.

Back now to the washing and ironing, and catching up on email correspondence too - what a lot of spam there's been this week, I see. Here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 152

There’s so much punishment
for sin deemed

to be sexual
that it’s astonishing

to find anyone left unharmed
at all.

Crouch low
over the earth,

write unknown words
into sand

and let the woman
go free.

While I've been away, there's also been good and very bad news on the literary front. The good news is this:

1. Two of my poems, Chicken-man and Dustward, appear in the inaugural edition of Apparatus Magazine and can be found here. Thanks so much for including them, Adam!

2. My interview about gay fiction and other matters appears here - and thank you so much to Margaret West for including it in her Author Spotlight series.

3. My biblical short story, A Small Betrayal, has been accepted by historical fiction magazine, Lacuna Journal, for their inaugural edition in October.

4. My flash fiction piece, Turning Point (which is actually based on real-life), has been accepted for publication in the University of Maine Ultra-Short Fiction competition anthology.

Always good to have something nice to look forward to indeed, though sadly I've been rather punched in the gut (well, it's exactly what it feels like) to discover that the small US publisher who had expressed strong interest in The Gifting has now ceased trading and didn't even have the courtesy to tell me. I found out yesterday by popping into their website and discovering the announcement. Honestly, I felt quite sick then and still feel totally winded by it now. The nagging headache and broken night's sleep hasn't helped either. If only I were back in glorious Wales and still ignorant about it, eh! I wish. Anyway, taking a deep and very shaky breath, I've sent the novel off again to my last port of call - and it will be the last, as I really can't take any more rejection of that particular book - and if they decide against it, then I'll self-publish and move on. In the meantime, I'm taking the happy pills and I've tried to cheer myself up by thinking of the publication date of The Bones of Summer this coming Monday and uploading the book trailer. Enjoy!

Today's nice things:

1. Holidays
2. Books
3. Birds
4. Poetry
5. Poetry publication
6. Interview
7. Two acceptances
8. The Bones of Summer book trailer

Anne Brooke - somewhere between happy and sad - again!...

The Bones of Summer book trailer

Available from Dreamspinner Press on 22 June 2009. More details can be found here

Anne Brooke

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fan pages, birds and holidays

Was more than slightly puzzled by today's bible reading but here's my tongue-in-cheek take on it:

Meditation 151

Escaped sheep,
tired donkeys, lost clothes
are not to be ignored.

Given time
and enough carelessness
by others

you could probably start
your own noisy, raggle-taggle business
from them.

I've also written a poem about weaponry, scars and healing (as you do), which I like better. I shall have to think about where to send it at some point, and whether it might have any accompanying friends. You never know.

Talking of friends, I have bravely (and possibly foolishly) set up a Facebook Fan Page for ... um ... myself, thus proving beyond all doubt that I am indeed the most self-obsessed of writers. Well, I suppose we already knew that really. Anyway, twelve kindly people have taken pity on me and joined it, and I am hugely grateful to you all. Thank you. Anyone else who wants to join the Crazed World of Anne will of course be more than welcome, and I make a damn good cup of tea too.

This morning, Lord H and I have taken advantage of the better weather and have walked round Linchmere Common and spotted a pair of woodpeckers, various tit families and the usual scattering of blackcaps. On the way home, we also did the Heath Trail at Thursley Common which was its tranquil and lovely self. Thankfully, without the tiger that strangely appears in the previous link picture on the right. Now that would have been scary. Whilst there we were lucky enough to watch a hobby hunting for insects, and a pair of stonechats. Wonderful. Plus we spotted a brimstone butterfly and huge numbers of dragonflies and damselflies. Thursley really comes into it own during the summer months.

This afternoon, I've been working on my ongoing short story and think I now roughly have an idea how it will end up and what the path might be in getting there, so that's a relief. Double phew and all that. Though it might turn out to be longer than I originally thought. Ah well. And, later on, I really must pack for our holidays as we're off tomorrow, hurrah!

Tonight I might get time to watch yesterday's poetry programme, but it depends on how long it takes me to get my life into a suitcase really (don't wait up then ...). Oh and as I'm out for a few days, here's this week's (rather religious) haiku early:

God sticks to your skin.
You hold his song in your head,
carry him always.

So, as we're going to be here in North Wales and puffin spotting (double hurrah!) until late Thursday, I hope you all have a wonderful week, and I'll catch up with you later.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. My Facebook fan page
3. Birds
4. Butterflies
5. Short story writing
6. TV
7. Haikus
8. Holidays!

Anne Brooke - looking forward to puffin, rather than nuffin ...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Teeth, poodles and chocolate

A small meditation today, but here it is anyway:

Meditation 150

Wood and flesh
bring darkness

across the earth.
Sometimes the questions

will not protect you.
Only listen.

Had booked dentist and dental hygienist appointments this morning, so my teeth are now all gleaming white and sparkling, hurrah. Apparently I've been brushing well and both dentist and hygienist are smiling at me today. Still no lollipop for good behaviour though - but I suppose that works against the effort they're making. Ah well. Mind you, it's amazing what you find out. I had a good chat with the dentist about the glories of Springwatch and whether Chris Packham is gay or not (well, he has poodles - clipped ones - and he regularly fluffs up his hanging plants, so what were we supposed to think? Though I do accept that might be a tad narrow-minded of me ...). We've decided he isn't, at the moment, particularly in light of the mention of the girlfriend yesterday, but wonder if he's the forerunner of the "new camp" which is apparently the "old straight". Lordy, it's so urbane and confusing these days. It's amazing we keep up at all.

Also I've discovered that the hygienist had a lovely time on the Nile earlier on this year (Egypt - what joy! You can't really go wrong, as long as you remember not to drink the water) and is now learning the guitar in between appointments. Good for her is what I say. People are always more than you think they are.

Anyway, after all that, I popped into Godalming with my super-smiley teeth and have bought two new tee-shirts and a jumper for my hols. Special bargain prices at the Edinburgh Woollen Mill. I am indeed the last of the fashion icons. There was also a charity sale on in the High Street, so I have bought a selection of home-made chocolate flapjacks, which I have to say are utter bliss. So good for the teeth too, of course. It'll be a miracle if any are left for Lord H, and I entirely blame Jason for all this who has tempted me to sin with talk of home-made chocolate cheesecake today. How could I resist?!?

This afternoon, I've been working away slowly on my short story about the threat of a very nasty letter - still can't think of a title for this one so it's currently going by the name of Post Story. Lordy, even I can see that's not going to get anywhere. I'm hoping more title inspiration will strike by the time I finish the story itself, but that won't be till after the holiday now. Plus I've fiddled around with my two upcoming Vulpes Libris reviews and put more links in them in order to encourage traffic to the site once they're posted. Well, that's the plan anyway.

I've also had my regular Alexander Technique lesson - I appear to be doing okay as next time we'll be working on my front now that my back knows what it should be doing. Well, almost. And there's no guarantee it will actually do it, but there you go. Tonight, there's the usual Friday night comedy hour though I must video the poetry programme too. Not sure when I'm going to watch it, but I'm sure a space will reveal itself at some point. Ho ho.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Buying holiday clothes
3. Chocolate flapjacks
4. Working on that short story
5. Improving those VL reviews
6. Alexander Technique
7. TV.

Anne Brooke - the girl with the gleaming teeth ... in my dreams

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is there honey still for tea?...

Am delighted to say that my review of Jill Dawson's novel about Rupert Brooke, The Great Lover is now up at the Vulpes Libris review site. Additional extras are the brief appearance of my grandfather, Justin, and the strange facts of honey, teabags and soft fruit. Go on - how can you resist?...

Still on matters literary (and once again it's been a very literary day), here's today's meditation:

Meditation 149

On the most important day
water pours through air

and sweeps all the dust
away. See the streets,

houses, shops, gardens
glisten and how sunlight

repaints the morning
so your eye

can barely contain it.
Hold this in your memory;

feed on it
when night comes.

Oh and I had a super-speedy rejection from yesterday's poetry submission. Ye gods, they could barely have had time to open the file and obviously don't know class when they see it, sigh. Anyway, I've turned the whole thing round again and send the poetry back out to somewhere else a little more discerning. Ha! I hope. Mind you, I am mollified by the fact that my short story, Speaking Her Mind, is now up at the Pens On Fire site - so I hope you enjoy that. If only they could have spelt my name right, eh! Ah well ...

For the rest of today, I've written an article on the importance of setting and environment in fiction for my upcoming guest blog at the You Gotta Read review site so I hope they're okay with that. And I've written another review, this time of Elise Valmorbida's novel, The Winding Stick, for Vulpes. So a tiring but very satisfying day. Really, I could talk about books and writing until the cows started rampaging or just gave up on me entirely and went to the pub.

Tonight, I've got the second bible study looking at the Book of James (the power of speech! Equality! Fire!) at the rectory, and I've even done my reading homework, triple hurrahs for me. No guarantee I'll remember any of it by the time I get there though.

And, once I'm back, there's the last episode of Springwatch (sob!) - will the swallows fledge? And what the hell is happening to those linnets?? Plus there's a new comedy fantasy series starting out - called, bizarrely, Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire. Gosh. A title to die for indeed.

Today's nice things:

1. The Vulpes Libris review
2. Poetry
3. Short story publication
4. Article writing
5. Review writing
6. Doing battle with James
7. TV.

Anne Brooke - reviewing for Britain and wondering about the honey

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reviews, erotic acceptances and e-readers

Goodness, what a literary day it’s turning out to be. First off, here’s this morning’s meditation:

Meditation 148

Whispers in the dusk
lead to questions
at sunrise

but morning mist
and you will find

Close your lips,
open your eyes

and wait.

I’m pleased with a review of Painting from Life which appeared at the You Gotta Read review site yesterday from Shawn Weisser:

“The book was not what I expected. The main character, an artist, is entranced by the character he sees and feels in another man’s face. Seeing an old man at a distance he notices each line of his face and cannot distance himself. He needs to paint this man. It has a slight feel of a homosexual love but does not break that barrier. Anne Brooke has written an intriguing tale about love between humans and how people give of themselves. I felt that there was more of a story to tell and anticipated a different ending. I would love to see where this relationship goes as I create the scenario in my mind. It is an interesting and thoughtful story.”

Interestingly, the actual rating given was Average or Less than Average, but I do understand it’s a tricky one to pin down for sure! In any case, I’m very grateful to Shawn for taking the time to write a review – it’s much appreciated. The people at the You Gotta Read site have also invited me to post a guest blog at some point, so I shall look forward to that too.

Keeping on literary matters, I’m also astonished that my first ever lesbian erotic short story, Truth or Dare, has been accepted by Clean Sheets magazine for publication in July. Well, gosh. I wonder if I should write another, or just quit while I’m ahead? One to ponder on perhaps …

I’m also hugely, hugely excited by the new ereader which has been produced by the Cool Readers company in Reading (appropriately enough, I suppose …). I’m definitely putting this (in the lovely pale violet colour) on my birthday list as I’d love to have one – and it appears to be the only ereader that’s compatible with a Mac and works in the UK. Result! I can’t wait to get my hands on it …

Meanwhile, at work, I’m busy writing up yesterday’s minutes and hoping I can get the first draft done before the end of the day – particularly as this is my last day in before our holiday and I’m bound to forget everything by the time we get back. UPDATE: I managed it, hurrah! That’s one less thing on my list to worry about. And that definitely calls for a Starbucks celebration.

Tonight, there’s Springwatch on TV, and I’m also planning to send out some poetry submissions, as I haven’t done any for a while. Can’t have the publishers having an easy life, eh … I might even send a short story into the great ether of the Bridport Prize, never to return. Well, I like to live dangerously, and with no real hope – it’s part of my psyche, don’t you know.

Ooh and Lord H has come home with strawberries and cream provided for him by Reed Accountancy Employment Services - mmm, lovely. But they must really be desperate for him to give someone a job. Anyhow, it will go some way towards easing his continuing shock when I told him in great excitement yesterday that there were "four kingfishers" on Springwatch - his look of astonishment and expressed concern that surely fisherfolk weren't that bad is a definite indicator that the level of my swearing around the flat (you'll probably need to think about it for a while ...!) has perhaps gone a little too far.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Painting from Life review
3. Lesbian short story acceptance
4. An ereader I can use!
5. TV
6. Planned poetry submission
7. Strawberries and cream.

Anne Brooke - where oranges are certainly not the only fruit ...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Minutes, visits and review writing

I managed to redeem yesterday’s extraordinarily dull day by sending out three short story submissions, so I feel something came out of it all at least. I was also mollified for the prior rejection of one of these (for one of my bible stories) as the editor said they loved it but it was too long for their format, and did I have anything else? Well, unfortunately not at the moment – but I’ll bear that venue in mind for sure.

Additional excitements of today could be found in the interesting challenge of actually driving out of the end of our road. For the last week, we've been part of a 3-way traffic light system as British Gas are once again working on the road - which has meant we've had to wait for long long minutes (during which civilisations rise and fall, and generations are born and die) before we're allowed to go. But this morning the lights were broken, so we had to make a wild guess as to which directions traffic might be coming from beyond the solid barriers and then just go for it. It's not an easy turn at the best of times (having one blind corner) but today all the corners were blind. Still, on the way back home tonight, I see the lights have all been taken down and the holes filled in (presumably to hide the dead bodies of those less than lucky motorists ...) so it looks like tomorrow might be a normal day. One hopes ...

And here’s today’s meditation:

Meditation 147

The truth of a man
is not found

in the mere facts
of his life

nor in what you think
you know of him

but in what
he knows of himself

and the freedom
you grant him.

For most of this morning, I’ve scurried around typing up copious minutes, so my brain is full of education- and management-speak. Lordy, what can it all mean? UPDATE: I've finished the first draft of both sets of minutes and sent them out for checking, so I am indeed a true minuting genius. Pause for applause ... Mind you, I can't vouch for the sense I've made of them. So, despite the weather (where has summer gone??), I walked round the campus at lunchtime just to see how things were faring. Everything was wet. But it was good to be out. As it were. I’ve also remembered to send off Jim’s (stepfather) Father’s Day present as it’s 21 June (also my birthday, hurrah!) as we’ll be back too late from our holidays to send anything out then.

Later in the afternoon I had to minute my final meeting of the week, though this one was – thankfully – a little more informal. Phew. Always good to have yet more writing up to look forward to tomorrow, I suppose.

On the way home, I’ll pop into see Gladys for our usual 15-20 minutes of silence, as she seems to hate me so much these days, sigh. UPDATE: she really hated me tonight, so I was only able to stay for 10 minutes as it looked like she might start biting and screaming. I suspect though that if it did come to a biting and screaming match between Gladys and me, then I may well win, but one doesn't want to upset the old folk too much. Anyway tonight I’ll be glued to Springwatch (those messy finches, dear me …!) and I must start my Vulpes Libris review writing for Erin Pringle's collection of short stories, The Floating Order. Nice to have a more literary (as it were) writing task to look forward to.

Today’s nice things:

1. Short story submissions (from yesterday)
2. Poetry
3. Lunchtime walks
4. TV.
5. Review writing for Vulpes.

Anne Brooke - a potential Olympic medallist in the biting/screaming competition

Monday, June 08, 2009

Meetings and domestics

Here’s today’s meditation for your delectation:

Meditation 146

Only water, words
and blood

can cleanse
the unsolved

field of death.
Search for

the unplanted earth
and pray

for the guilt
to pass.

That’s probably the only pleasant thing that will happen all day, I fear. As I have the delights of not one, but two meetings to minute today, groan. Back-to-back and with a fair amount of scary people in. The good thing is that both will be over by 2.30pm (I hope!) so I can collapse on my desk whilst sobbing and taking tea. Ah the life of a modern minutes secretary never ceases to thrill, you know.

So this afternoon, I will be attempting to ensure I don’t get the minutes muddled as I separate them out and will, no doubt, be drowning in paper. But as the pinnacle of all joy, I have the Tesco shopping to do on my way home. Really, I can’t wait … My life is just one long party after another.

Thank goodness for Springwatch and Ashes to Ashes tonight – only the thought of them is keeping me sane. Sort of. We battle on …

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. When the minuting stops …
3. Getting home – eventually
4. TV.

Anne Brooke - wondering if, really, the day can get any better ...

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Hallsfoot - first draft done!

Ye gods and little fishes, the miracle has finally occurred and I've actually finished the first draft of Hallsfoot's Battle, hurrah! It's come in at 129,438 words and I'm smiling. I particularly love the ending - and not just because I could then lay my head on my keyboard and give a deep and heartfelt sigh. I have celebrated this momentous event with a chocolate biscuit - thus proving that I do in fact know how to live on the edge. Now all I have to do is find the courage from somewhere to face the mammoth edit to come. I suspect that won't happen until after our holiday for sure.

All of which effort and joy and pain obviously means very little to some of my writing friends - one of whom today took my breath away utterly and absolutely by saying (by implication) that only full-time writers are real writers. Arrgghhh!!!! Words fail me. If we're fighting such a battle against those of us who are supposed to know better, what hope for the rest of society?? Deep deep sigh. I can only hope it was supposed to be a joke. If it was, then a bad one and badly done, I feel. But I would like to state my case now and state it well (thus the capitals): ANYONE WHO WRITES ANYTHING AT ALL AND CREATES A POEM, A NOVEL, A SHORT STORY, A PIECE OF FLASH FICTION OR ANY OTHER PIECE OF WRITING OUT OF IT IS DEFINITELY AND FOR ALL TIME A REAL WRITER. And I don't care whether that real writer has one, two or 102 other jobs they have to do as well, that remains the truth. May those who think otherwise slink away and reconsider the error of their ways indeed ...

Anyway, speech over, phew, though as one last thought perhaps my new strapline should be: Anne Brooke - unreal writer and proud of it. It's an idea for sure. But remaining on the subject of writing, here's today's meditation:

Meditation 145

The trick is
to understand

the right moment
and dwell in it.

To wait
for its breath alone

to touch you
and not to heed

the hasty words
of others.

the courage to wait

is the greatest courage
of all.

This morning, Lord H and I have braved the puzzlements of the Trinity Sunday service - always the most feared of all the services by preachers themselves - one old vicar of ours always used to take the day off and invite a guest preacher to muddle through the doctrine of the Trinity, a quite wise move really. No-one truly knows about it or understands it, and really we in the pews aren't that bothered one way or the other. But there were some good hymns and then pastries after the service to take our minds off it all. Frankly I think it's one of those issues that worry the clergy more than anyone normal. If you see what I mean.

Oh, and today's exciting Surrey news is that a human foot has been found in a refuse bin in Cobham. Lord H's comment was the police were probably getting angsty about it as it might have been recyclable, but I don't quite think he got the point there, myself. Anyway, they now appear to have found a whole woman in the bin, so presumably some stalwart policeperson had to go beyond the foot to see what else was there. Hell, we really know how to party here in the shires.

Tonight, there's sod all on TV, so we might get our Lewis DVDs out - it feels like that kind of evening. Talking of TV though, was it just me or was yesterday's episode of Primeval hugely substandard?? A lot of clunky action & acting and very very strained. I could see the denouement coming a mile off, groan ... It was quite laughable.

And here's this week's haiku, mainly in honour of yesterday's Race for Life, but sadly ironic in terms of refuse bin woman perhaps:

Today the colour
of hope is pink; women walk
to keep death at bay.

Today's nice things:

1. Finishing the first draft of Hallsfoot
2. Poetry
3. Church amusements
4. DVDs.

Anne Brooke - keeping all her limbs in one place, thus far ...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Race for Life - we did it!!!

Well, we've finally done it! The Top Team of Penny's Pals (ie Andrea, Tasha, Clare and me) have done the Race for Life and so far we've raised £485 for Cancer Research, hurrah! It was a fabulous time, in spite of the rain, and I really really like the concept of being applauded when I cross a finish line. Bring it on!... Actually, I think I shall hire a band of followers to applaud me every time I enter a room - now, that's living ... Mind you, I needed the applause by then as we didn't exactly hang around - the walkers set a cracking pace and we did the whole thing in an hour. Astonishing. I also never knew there were quite so many hilly bits in Stoke Park, but heck I do now. So, a big thank you to Andrea, Tasha and Clare for being part of the A Team, and a big big thank you to all of you who've sponsored us - it's hugely appreciated. Thank you. And, of course, a special big thank you to Lord H who picked me up afterwards and had even bought me some chocolate. What a super-hero.

This morning's meditation is:

Meditation 144

The word
is a dry frame,

a scaffold
waiting to be filled

with something,
we know not what:

a small slow pulse
of sound

where, if you bathe yourself
in silence,

you can hear
the river flow.

I've managed to write another scene of Hallsfoot's Battle, which brings me to the mop-up chapter. I've written a fair amount of this already, so I need to add another major scene or two in, and check the flow and logic of it with what's gone before. But I feel the end of the first draft might just be in sight, hurrah. When I get there, it'll definitely be time for more applause.

Sticking to literary matters, I've just signed off the final version of my short story, The Voyage, for the Real Bible Stories Anthology 2009 for Bridge House Publishing. So that's another tick off the list. Plus I'm posting excerpts of my GLBT novels in the Coffee Time Romance GLBT chat day so if you're in the mood (as it were), do come along and join in the fun. There's some great authors and some kick-ass books in the mix.

Tonight I'll be glued to Primeval - the last episode I think! Hell, I'm going to miss it. And there's some comedy on too, which might be the perfect end to a very worthwhile day.

Today's nice things:

1. Taking part in the Race for Life day
2. Poetry
3. Writing more of Hallsfoot
4. Signing off The Voyage
5. Taking part in a virtual GLBT chat
6. TV.

Anne Brooke - packing a heck of a lot into her day

Cancer Research Race for Life Day - we did it!!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Maloney review and a Baroque afternoon

I'm blogging early today as I really must be away to London in an hour (of which more later), and I haven't eaten lunch yet, sigh. I must say though that the really thrilling thing about today is the lovely review I've received from Clare London on Amazon UK about Maloney's Law, which you can read on Amazon or indeed below:

"Plenty of other reviewers have stolen the words I might have used *haha*, so I'll happily endorse them all and add my reader's perception. The book was a delicious bolt from the blue to me, strong and sexy and passionate and anguished and complex and realistic and hopeful - all the things that Paul himself embodies! I loved the fresh approach to what is a mix of crime, psychological drama, romantic relationships, occasionally shocking violence and sly detection. Paul drives it all without becoming either pathetic or arrogant or irritating. Anne's writing is sympathetic while bringing you the reality of life, she can describe his thoughtfulness and pathos just as vividly as his decisive action. Paul's relationship with Dominic was so bold and so poignant in all its stages, it made me ache for them both. The secondary characters shone, the setting was a delight to me, another London-ite. I loved it and was sorry to see it end! She has another book in the same setting out in 2009, though I don't think it's strictly a sequel, and I'm really looking forward to it."

Gosh, many thanks indeed, Clare! I'm very grateful indeed. So glad you enjoyed Maloney. I'm hoping you'll like The Bones of Summer when it's out on 22 June just as much.

And here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 143

The boundary stone
has been waiting

for four long books,
nineteen chapters

and fourteen verses
to be noticed

and when it is
it’s for one verse only:

gone before you realised
it was there.

I know how it feels

The curse of the mid-40s woman, eh - the ability to be totally invisible, even with the use of binoculars. Ah, it's a gift, you know ...

For the rest of the day, I've done/will do the following:

1. Written the start of another scene post-war in Hallsfoot's Battle, and that appears to be flowing well at the moment, so let's hope that continues.

2. Had an Alexander Technique lesson and been de-twisted. If only Linda could de-twist the inside as well as the out, we'd all be laughing. Lord H more than anyone.

3. Go to see the Baroque Exhibition at the V&A with Jane W - so am looking forward to glorious art and chat.

So today's nice things are basically all the above, with the possible exception of the middle-years vanishing talent. Though even that can come in handy on occasions of course ...

Anne Brooke - aiming for strong and sexy and passionate and anguished and complex and realistic and hopeful, all at the same time: heck, no wonder she's tired ...

Cancer Research Race for Life - 1 day to go to the Race and only £10 to go to reach our target!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Vulpes review, votes and the completed battle

Am very pleased to say that my review of Alex Beecroft's False Colors, together with further thoughts about the welcome onward march of gay fiction, appears at Vulpes Libris today. Do click through and have a look - the novel is a fantastic read.

Speaking of reviews, I've read Erin Pringle's The Floating Order, a collection of short stories about the dark, jagged side of family life. On the whole, it's great stuff, though I do have initial reservations - but I won't say too much now as I hope to be reviewing it for Vulpes later on.

And here is this morning's meditation:

Meditation 142

He never stays too long
in one place.
That’s a given.

Just when your boat
is moored
and you’re dreaming

of calm waves,
a safe harbour, ease,
he’s vanished again

and you must seek him
in the places you thought
you’d left behind:

in the dark streets
and twisted corners,
the elongating shadows.

For most of the rest of the day, I've been scribbling away on Hallsfoot's Battle and the really, really good news is that the battle scenes are finally completed. Huzzah! The people that were going to be killed have been killed and those that are alive are still hanging on. Though there might yet be a slight twist when it comes to the former category, in one respect anyway - you never know. So all I have to do now is the closing, mop-up scenes, the resolution and then the slight hint of something more to come. Though please God I won't have to think about writing the third in the series for a while. I think one fantasy novel every couple of years or so is plenty enough. I need a "crime novel chaser".

I've also voted, as I couldn't not vote - I mean think of Mrs Pankhurst, my dears! How can women not vote when we remember all that incredibly brave woman and her cohorts had to go through ...?? So I have done my civic duty with pride and negotiated the thrills and spills of the green forms and the huge pale yellow ones. How very soothing on the eye indeed.

Tonight, I'm off to the Rectory as the church is starting a six-week bible study on the Book of James - which I hope will prove more accessible than the Book of Job. And equally challenging, I suspect, but in a very different way.

But the utterly fabulous news is that Lord H and I have finally booked our holiday in Wales, hurrah! We'll be staying at the Tir y Coed Country House, which looks amazing, and admiring the puffin colonies. I hope. Honestly, I can't wait ...

Today's nice things:

1. The review of False Colors
2. Books
3. Poetry
4. Getting the battle completed in Hallsfoot, hurrah!
5. Voting
6. Bible study
7. Holiday bookings!

Anne Brooke - dreaming of holidays to come
Cancer Research Race for Life - 2 days to go!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Literary thoughts and phone mysteries

I think I’m going through my monthly slump at the moment – feeling very flat and low, but have taken my usual supply of Happy Pills this morning (where would I be without them, eh?) and am hoping for easier waters soon. Talking of which, here’s today’s meditation:

Meditation 141

The boldness of water
breathes in

his footsteps
as if they were fish

or a summer dragonfly
dancing over a storm,

while the boat enfolds
his flesh in thunder:

rain, the easing wind,

Staying with literary matters, I'm delighted to say that Painting from Life has had another review on Livejournal, which raises some very interesting issues - thanks so much, Kassa 11, for that. Much appreciated. And, as an aside, the link may warn you that there's adult content involved but that particular link doesn't include any naughtiness (shame!). A special thanks also to Clare London who tipped me off about the review. Thank you, Clare!

At work, I am desperately preparing for the double whammy of meetings (groan …) I have on Monday – the major one is still not sorted yet but I’ll have to send the papers out today, even if only in draft form. Oh, and I’ve finally put the archiving into archiving boxes, though the mystery of how to create an archive box eluded me until Chaplaincy Ruth took pity on my sobs and groans. The instructions told me to look at section D of the flat-pack box in order to start making them up – but there was no section D. Sigh. Thank goodness for the motor skills of parents – it took Ruth about 30 seconds to work it out whereas I’d been struggling for at least five hours. The unfortunate thing was that by the time I’d created my boxes, someone was in the archive room (which also doubles as the meeting room) so I couldn’t get into it anyway. I kept nipping back and peering threateningly through the glass but they were unmovable. Ah well. UPDATE: it’s done, hurrah! I managed to sneak in when nobody was looking and squash the wretched boxes into their spaces, aha. I just hope there's no more archiving for a while, as we're strapped for space.

Meanwhile, I’m getting increasingly twitchy about the frustratingly long silence from the potential (please, God!) US publisher about whether they want to take on The Gifting or not. Honestly, this business is nothing if not soul-destroying. I suppose silence is good news – as if they don’t want it, they let you know soon enough, and I certainly had the same scenario with Flame Books and A Dangerous Man, where agonising months and months went by before the “yes” finally came through – but right now it feels like a doom-laden weight on my head. Sigh. I don’t really know whether to hang onto hope or not. I keep telling myself to wait until the end of the year, but it’s unbelievably hard. Ah well. They do look like such a gloriously good fit for the novel too.

I met up with Fiona from the English Department at lunchtime to thrash out the planning for the autumn reading event. I’m hoping it’s easier than the first time I organised one of these, where I had to end up screaming and sobbing before anyone would help me. I really don’t want to go through that again – but I do believe wholeheartedly in the concept. Again, I’m hoping for smoother waters this time round. UPDATE: Hurrah! - we've been lucky enough to get the hugely talented Charles Christian who runs the Ink Sweat and Tears webzine to come and give us a reading in October, so I'm very much looking forward to that. Thank you so much, Charles, for agreeing to see us!

And, back home, I have had to run the gauntlet of rude telephone people. Honestly!! I saw there were three messages on our answer machine and they all appeared to be from someone called Philip looking for someone called Robert, with increasing desperation as the messages went on. Being a socially minded soul (ho ho), I got the number and rang back to tell the hapless Philip that unfortunately he'd been dialling the wrong number and needed to regroup. Instead of polite gratitude, all I got was a rather abusive reply asking: who the hell I was, and where was Robert (who apparently is a refrigeration engineer) and what number did I think I was on when he definitely had the right number, and therefore it must be all my fault. I told him I had no interest in his problems, I had merely been trying to be helpful, but in his case I wouldn't bother again, and I put the phone down. Really, the cheek of the bloke! Lord H and I have decided that if the pesky bastard rings again, we'll blow a whistle down the phone, beat him with twigs and wish him long agonisingly hot days with no fridge. Really, if the unfortunate Robert has gone AWOL, I have every sympathy ...

Tonight, it’s Springwatch – will the dipper chicks survive their fledging??! The tension mounts, believe me. And Lord H and I are hoping to book our June holiday – I’ve been waiting to see if Dreamspinner Press need me to do anything else for the publication of The Bones of Summer on 22 June, but I haven’t had any response to my request, so I reckon I’m going to book anyway. They do know I have earmarked that time as hols, plus I’ve already signed off the galley proofs (with slight queries about the strange italics font) and I do desperately need to get away. I just hope I don’t upset anyone by taking a decision …

In the meantime, I’ve written a short poem about spaces (again – but different ones …) and I’m still working on that pesky short story about letters. Perhaps I should have stuck to a story about texting, eh?

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. The Painting from Life review
3. The reading event
4. TV
5. Holiday booking, come what may
6. Pondering short stories.

Anne Brooke - bamboozed by boxes, and phone calls ...
Cancer Research Race for Life - 4 days to go!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Publicity tasks and Race for Life preparation

Another scorcher of a day today. If only we could be lying in the gardens, eh. Though it's really rather more than a tad too hot for me, I fear. Anyway, here’s today’s meditation:

Meditation 140

It is perhaps
in the leftovers

of five small loaves
and two fish

that wisdom
can be found,

but I have
let wisdom

slip through my grasp
so often

that I can no longer
taste it.

At work, we’re starting the long arduous lead-in to Freshers’ Week in September. I am attempting to go through last year’s publicity material to see what needs changing and what needs adding. Copious amounts, I fear … The exhausting haul of summer beckons.

I’m also putting last-minute arrangements in place for our Cancer Research Race for Life event on Saturday – so at least the four of us who constitute Penny’s Pals will have a fighting chance of actually meeting up in the general throng. I’m getting quite excited about it now, I must say. Mind you, when I mentioned the necessity of bringing water, sun-cream and a suitable hat, Andrea suggests I might like to bring along a portable drip too, just in case – so I fear that public opinion of my state of fitness is not great. They’re probably right too. Even Lord H wonders if he’ll be able to drag me back into the car afterwards. And we’re only walking it. In the meantime, if you haven’t donated yet, you still have time so here’s the link again, just in case you missed it earlier in this paragraph.

We spent our lunch hour listening to the Vice-Chancellor give us an overview and pep talk about the future. Maybe we should have had it outdoors? Might have been more pleasant then - the room was way too hot for concentration. Indeed it was all very well-meaning and full of good stuff, I'm sure, but the mind-numbing management-speak and wild use of acronyms meant I was really unable to grasp any of it. Sigh.

Tonight, I’ll be glued to Springwatch, and then I hope to catch up with the poetry programme with Sheila Hancock that I videoed last week. And I’m still thinking about my short story about letters and deceit. It’s slow but bubbling away. Somewhere …

Today’s nice things:

1. The weather, sort of
2. Poetry
3. Race for Life preparations
4. TV
5. Short story thoughts.

Anne Brooke - cultivating numbness in the heat
Cancer Research Race for Life - 4 days to go!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Poetry success, reflexology and the joy of vacation hours

Welcome to June – my birthday month, don’t you know. Sadly, it’s started with a rejection of my comedy fantasy story, so that’s something of a bummer. I shall try to send it out to a more deserving place very soon … However, the universe has been kind to me nonetheless and two of my poems, Bookshops and Kitchen lion, are published today at The Battered Suitcase webzine, so I hope both of those raise a smile for you.

In the meantime, here’s today’s meditation:

Meditation 139

You always live
on land
you do not own,

the great compensation
being the knowledge
of the secrets

of God.
Corn, wine, wool
slip through your fingers

and you wonder
how another life
might be.

We have a new lady in the office today – Clare – who’ll be dealing with new students and their settling in process. So we’re growing apace here in the twilight world of care. Apart from saying hello and making sure Clare has a desk (more Ruth’s job than mine, to be honest), I’ve been catching up with emails and attempting to sort out the plethora of meetings I appear to have on in June. All with the same people but discussing slightly different things – so I foresee a month of bewilderment and déjà vu ahead. No change there then.

Still, I was incredibly pleased to have managed to book a reflexology appointment today – haven’t been able to go for ages so it was lovely to lie down at lunchtime and have my feet rubbed. Bliss indeed. And the other joy is the University is back on vacation hours so I can leave at 5pm instead of 5.30pm. Wonderful! Funny how that extra half-hour of me-time makes all the different. On the way back I popped into see Gladys and the two of us were as quiet as ever for 15 minutes. She can only really stand me for that long – but heck who can blame her?

Tonight, it’s Springwatch and Ashes to Ashes, so an evening of slumping beckons. Just what I need. I’m also working on the latest book review for Vulpes Libris, so that’s proving a lot of fun.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry publication
2. Reflexology
3. Vacation hours
4. TV
5. Book reviews.

Anne Brooke - slumping for Britain, as ever ...
Cancer Research Race for Life - only 5 days to go!