Friday, July 31, 2009

Rocks, reviews and requests

It seems to have been a day of getting things done and pleasant surprises on the whole, which is always nice. Let's start with this morning's poem:

Meditation 187

When the puzzle,
the parable, the shadow,
the mysterious everlasting dance

of the spoken word
is laid to one side
for a while

all that is left
is love: naked,
defenceless, perfect.

First off, in terms of literary matters, I'm pleased to say that my short story, The Rock, has now been republished by Einstein's Pocket Watch - so if you didn't catch it at the first publication, now's your chance!

I'm also thrilled to say that Pink Champagne and Apple Juice has received a Five Diva review from Dark Diva Reviews, which can be found at the previous link and below:

“As I started reading this with my good ol’ cuppa joe on a lovely Saturday morning, Pink Champagne and Apple Juice was probably the first ebook that had me chuckling every two minutes. Anne Brooke must be a comedian at heart because right from the start you have the main girl, Angie Howard, running from her own mother to get on the train to find her Uncle John. Trouble and mishaps followed her nonstop. Angie wanted to have her own life and not have a sheltered life with her overprotective mother. Angie’s character is so easy to like and anyone can relate to her because all she wants is to have her freedom and live life to the fullest. She really does when she finally arrives at her Uncle John’s home, which is rather a racy nightclub with cross dressers and gay people relaxing and being themselves. As fun as it was for Angie to partake in Uncle John’s The Den, every vibrant character worked against her. She had to go through challenges and learn about her own flaws, as well as the family tension between her mother and her uncle. The ugly truth later rears its ugly head, but the endless twists kept me wondering how the story will end. This lively story was amazing in descriptions and situations, so it was very easy to play the story in my head like a movie. It fondly reminded me of the movie called The Birdcage, and the transvestite uncle John was very much like the one and only Nathan Lane, but was set in England and with raunchier innuendo. The French waiter gave Angie the time of her life, while the yelling German chef constantly fought with her due to his passion of cooking. Never diss the mushroom ice cream! Her uncle John was constantly the proverbial keeper of secrets and seemed to hide behind his cross dressing personality, Jolene. John/Jolene often caused trouble for Angie and the twists he caused kept me on my toes. This story had other twists, so much that I got caught up in all of them and was wowed by the final twist. It floored me and I kept saying ‘wow!’ when I finished. Anne Brooke truly mastered the art of keeping her readers drawn in and distracted so the ending isn’t predictable and boring. Her imagination was totally endless and hilarious. The only drawback in this story was some of the British words. It took me a moment to figure out what she meant, but the general idea was caught on. It was easy to follow for the most part. Overall, Pink Champagne and Apple Juice was a great, laid back story with many twists to keep you laughing. The fast paced flow of the wacky story was undeniably fun. I say that if on a rainy day or just when you need to laugh in a ‘The Birdcage’ feel, this book is for you. I recommend for anyone to read this book, and also the mushroom ice cream done by the German chef. He was a riot! Rated 5 Delightful Divas & Recommended Read.”

Many thanks for that, Karen - so glad you enjoyed the read! The other great surprise of this morning was a request from Amber Quill Press to submit something to them - so I've sent them The Gifting and will see what they think. I suspect it may not quite be what they're after, but heck there's no harm in trying, eh.

Meanwhile, the extraordinary miracle has happened and I have actually finished the first edit of Hallsfoot's Battle - well double gosh and hurrahs and somebody pour me a brandy. My next stage is to print it out and send it to The Literary Consultancy, as really I can do nothing remotely decent without them and they are Worth Their Weight in Gold (Capitals Deliberate). Phew though - time for a summer break from novel-writing, I think.

Also today, I have been to my Alexander Technique lady, who tells me off for falling back into bad habits, alas. And there was me thinking I was doing so well ... but hey what do I know? And I've had a lovely chat & tea with the neighbour and his daughter, so am now fully caught up on Life in Godalming, hurrah.

Tonight, I really have to turn my attention to doing a whistlestop clean of the flat, though I am fairly up-to-date with the ironing so at least we are not facing a crumpled weekend. For once. Domestics - they never really go away, do they?...

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Short story publication
3. Champers review
4. Publishers requests
5. Finishing the Hallsfoot edit Part One
6. Neighbour chats.

Anne Brooke - having a significant Champagne Moment or two
Vulpes Libris - Adventure Week comes in from the cold

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Relaxation, readers and battles

Just had time to fit in a poem before rushing into town this morning, so here it is:

Meditation 186

He speaks in riddles,
puzzles, running phrases
of words whose notes

remind you of beauty
but whose sense cannot
reach you, bewildered

seeker of truth. When
every explanation
imprisons you in the wrong,

leaves you waiting,
ravaged, questioning,
lengthening the song.

But my day really started with a fabulous Clarins massage from Alice in Guildford - honestly I could have lain there all morning. Why can't all days start like that? Soooo relaxing. It set me up for this afternoon when I've been editing the battle scene in Hallsfoot's Battle. Never say I don't live a life of contrasts, eh. But at least I'm not actually fighting. And the edit has gone rather better than expected - I'm about halfway through that 50 page scene now. Yes, I know - 50 pages of fighting! My only excuse is that there's a lot going on and a lot of viewpoints to consider. Including that pesky raven - whose speech patterns are now most definitely off the wall, I have to say. Birds don't really like war. It upsets the colour of the air, you know.

I've also just finished Bernhard Schlink's The Reader on my Coolreader. What an amazing book - I can thoroughly recommend it. Literary and accessible at the same time. With a powerful punch. And really what an astonishing story. The only thing I'd say was that the trial scenes did drag just a bit but the ending more than made up for it. I've been thinking about it on and off all day. I'm glad I haven't watched the film - a fact which must make me the only person left in the whole world, I think, who didn't know the story at all. Shame on me then.

Later this afternoon, I'm off to the last of the Rectory Bible studies before we break for the summer. Not that I've been to that many, as Thursday evening is theatre night if anything's on, but I like to go when I can. I think we're finishing off the First Letter of Peter tonight. Hey, at least I'll know how it ends then.

And I must try and watch New Tricks later on TV, as I've managed to miss both of the previous two episodes due to general busyness and lack of commitment to the i-player. Plus there's Kate Humble's family history to catch up on. Don't tell me what happens!

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Clarins massage
3. Editing Hallsfoot
4. Books
5. Bible study
6. TV.

Anne Brooke - totally chilled, for once
Vulpes Libris - Adventure Week: Rosy Swale is the new Superwoman, no question ...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Canongate Brokeback article, parties and murder

Put out the bunting but I actually managed to get to bed at a reasonable time last night, hurrah! And really it does make all the difference – I feel much more alive today, thank the Lord. Anyway, here’s today’s poem, something of a conundrum in itself, I feel:

Meditation 185

A city ravaged
by music.

I wonder if,
amongst the song
and celebration

when the walls
fall at last,
I will find any

who grieve
for the boundless
destruction of people,

who marvel
in the silent shadows
of the night

how God can wipe out
a culture’s beating heart
with one discordant note.

And I’m thrilled to say that the prĂ©cis version of my article on Brokeback Mountain is now up at the Canongate Literature World Tour site, so thank you for that, Andrea. The Book Foxes and I are all thrilled!

At work, I’m still fiddling around with meeting dates for the year ahead and puzzling over Freshers’ Week arrangements. So something of a normal day then, eh. Quite sad at lunchtime though when we said goodbye to Tasha from Student Advice, who’s going on to bigger and better things. Heck, I’ll really miss her. How I hate it when things change. Thank goodness for my mid-afternoon Starbucks moment – I have no idea how I ever survived without them.

Tonight, I’m looking forward to Midsomer Murders, though I’ll have to video Kate Humble in Who Do You Think You Are on the other side, as I don’t want to miss that. And I’m still mulling over my short story about the letter – which some of you may remember from several weeks ago. Ye gods, but that one’s taking an age to pan out. I’m hoping I might actually finish it before retirement beckons, but you never know.

Today’s nice things:

1. Sleep
2. Poetry
3. The Brokeback article at Canongate
4. Starbucks cappuccino
5. TV.
6. Pondering short stories.

Anne Brooke - still enjoying Brokeback ...
Vulpes Libris – Adventure Week: where be those Romans?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Disasters, Bones and the joy of tax

Here’s today’s meditation, which is a strange little incident where Joshua meets an angel of the armies of God before the great challenge of Jericho. I’d even forgotten it was there:

Meditation 184

A shadow sword
and a ghostly army
echo your every move.

Your only response:
remove your sandals;
kneel; pray; love.

Keeping on literary matters, I’m delighted to say that The Bones of Summer has received a 4.5 star review from Kassa at Rainbow Reviews, and this can also be found below:

“This is a fascinating story about the choices and actions one person takes, both deliberately and unconsciously, and the far-reaching effects those have. This is described as a “quasi-sequel” to Maloney’s Law, although The Bones of Summer can be read alone. I haven’t read the previous book and found this story easily stands on its own. However, there is clearly information and context missing that will most likely create a more complex and fulfilling story having read both books in order. Bones is a captivating and engrossing story filled with passion, angst, turmoil, fear, and the range of human emotions as two men struggle to find clues to the past and the implications on their future. The story is told in third person from Craig’s point of view. Craig and Paul had met a few months ago in a club and exchanged a hot night of sex but until now, Craig hadn’t heard from Paul again. Now just as the two reconnect, Craig is informed that his ultra-religious father has gone missing. Paul’s job as a private investigator comes into play reluctantly as Craig hesitantly delves into the problem of his missing father and the further mystery of Michael’s missing whereabouts. When Craig was a teenager he met and had a brief fling with a vacationing older man, Michael, and the results had Craig fleeing from his home and living in London. Now, not only is Craig trying to discover what’s going on with his father, but he realizes Michael never returned from that ill-fated holiday seven years ago. The dual mysteries have Craig delving more deeply into his past than he is comfortable with while taking a helpful but cautious Paul for the ride. Craig is a compelling but inherently inconsistent narrator. This is because his mind is full of holes, misinformation, memories, thoughts, and confusion. Some of Craig’s actions are inconsistent with his personality but fit with his confused demeanor and his tendency to ignore and hide from the truth. However, when Craig chooses to confront the truth, he oddly takes the most ridiculous assumptions and believes in them wholeheartedly with nothing but the erroneous beliefs and delusions of a confused, hurting teenager. Surprisingly, Craig refuses to actually follow steps dictated by logic, instead finding solace in confusion and mystery as long as he doesn’t have to confront his fears and his past. Craig goes to extreme lengths to avoid dealing with his father and the effects of his past, going so far as to believe wildly untrue things about himself. Craig has taught himself to ignore his past and any clues that might make him re-evaluate what he knows to be true. Therefore, the clues unravel slowly in small pieces at the pace Craig is able to cope with the revealing truth. This makes for a sympathetic yet occasionally frustrating character. At the same time, Craig is a witty, humorous, and above all, an optimistic man. His firm desire to avoid the past but hope for positive outcomes is endearing. He may be emotional and dramatic but he tempers this with a very British sense of humor and commentary. His rules for Gay Men are funny and delightful as are his inner monologues on a variety of subjects. For example: “Gay Rule Number Thirteen ~ unlucky for some: Don’t let them see you’re a complete psycho before they’ve expressed some kind of commitment first.” Aside from the great list of rules, Craig is coping in his way and leads a relatively happy life but has little control over it. Within the space of the book, Craig slowly begins to take control of his life and his choices, ultimately creating a stronger character than when he started. This hallmarks the character driven story where the men and their progression is perhaps more important than the mystery itself, although the two stories parallel each other in multiple ways. Paul is an equally complex character and much more mysterious. As this is the sequel to Paul’s story, much of his background and past is dealt with off page and little referenced in this story. There are tangible holes where information is missing. This isn’t to the detriment of the story at all but it has a palpable empty air. The deliberate pausing before comments and the flashes of pain in Paul’s eyes and demeanor all speak of prior incidents that aren’t divulged yet impact how Paul reacts and handles both Craig and the situation. Paul exhibits a lot of anger towards Craig for his hiding and less than truthful behavior. Craig is so afraid of his past that he often lies without thought or malice, but simply because facing his truth is too painful and frightening for Craig. These lies frustrate Paul, who offers more than his share of half truths and mysterious statements without explanation. Yet, Paul offers a much-needed support system to Craig and their relationship has a wealth of emotion amidst the tension. What is really wonderful about the book is that it depicts both the settings and characters in such a realistic, gripping way. When Paul and Craig fight, it’s painful and harsh with the kind of verbal dirty fighting rarely seen, but incredibly relatable. The characters must deal with their jobs and lives independent of the sudden mystery. The various settings are mundane and common, yet the tension and emotion ripples and hangs uneasy in the air. The reader follows Craig and discovers information as he does, requiring patience and understanding. The strength of the writing is in the connection between the men as Paul and Craig deal with their individual pasts and the secrets they need and want to keep hidden. Moving beyond these lies and fears is essential to their budding relationship but may be too much at the start of a fragile connection and the careful dance is written incredibly well. The actual dual mysteries are interesting with clever clues but the ending resolution is not surprising. However, the lack of surprise is more than compensated by the gripping intensity and painful realism of the situation. The complexity of religion and its possible overwhelming consequences are deftly handled with perhaps a heavy tread, but fitting with the concept of the story. This is not necessarily an easy book to read due to the myriad of themes presented but wholly worthwhile and very well-written. The well-crafted and paced story draws the reader in and doesn’t let go until the very end, which in true style is left with a hint. For readers who crave wonderfully rich character-driven stories with a solid mystery all wrapped up in a captivating story, I can easily recommend this book. You won’t be disappointed.”

Many thanks, Kassa – I’m really glad you enjoyed the read!

I’m also equally pleased to say that Disasters and Miracles is now available for pre-ordering at Amazon, Waterstone’s and W H Smith’s. So take your pick, and enjoy! It’s suitable for children over 10 years old and adults, so an ideal family collection for the summer.

And I’m also happy to say that I had a lovely email from a man called Bob last night saying how much he’d enjoyed A Dangerous Man, Maloney’s Law and The Bones of Summer, and when was I doing another. Gosh, thank you, Bob! I’m thrilled you’ve enjoyed those three books, and I shall do my best to write another very soon – promise!

At last, I have my US tax number so I’m sending the forms out to PD Publishing and Dreamspinner Press, so with a bit of luck and if the wind’s in the right direction, I won’t have to pay double tax on royalties from America. A very special thank you has to go to Alex Beecroft and Sharon Maria Bidwell for talking me through the whole very complex process and holding my virtual hand when I was weeping about the agonies of it all. Thank you both big-time.

Meanwhile (lordy the strangeness of having two jobs indeed …) at work, we’re still preparing for Freshers’ Week and facing the pains of year-end (well, year-end for us). And our Heroes of the Week are Ruth (for being a finance whizz), Clare (for getting things done) and Rupert Everett (see below). Not me sadly – I think I’ve given up being heroic. So my lunchtime walk round campus was especially good – it also woke me up a bit more as I’m still not managing to get to bed at a reasonable hour, sigh. When will I ever learn??? There just seems to be loads to do when it gets to 10pm. I really need to go to a Sleep Lesson class, if such a thing exists.

Tonight, I’m looking forward to Episode Two of Desperate Romantics, and I must say how totally wonderful Rupert Everett’s programme about Byron was last night. He was honest and charming, witty and fascinating about the Great Man, so I was gripped. I can’t wait for next week’s conclusion.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. The Bones review
3. Pre-ordering facilities for Disasters and Miracles
4. Bob’s kind email about the novels
5. Getting my US tax number
6. Heroes of the Week
7. Lunchtime walks
8. TV.

Anne Brooke - finally official in the US
Vulpes Libris – Adventure Week shines a light on Flashman

Monday, July 27, 2009

Feet, Ice and Bubbles

Here’s this morning’s poem. It’s certainly not my idea of a good party, but there it is.

Meditation 183

You celebrate your arrival
into the land
you’ve waited forty years
to enter

with a mass circumcision.
Really, if it were me,
I’d have stuck
to champagne and roses.

Must admit to having a wave of Monday gloom today, groan. I could happily spend all day sleeping, but I suspect that won’t be the case. Ah well. Instead I’ve spent most of the time sorting out emails and fiddling around with minutes. That indeed is my great skill. Hey ho.

So thank goodness for reflexology at lunchtime – an hour of bliss in a world of greyness. Or maybe that’s to do with the rain? I’m not really sure. However, I was much cheered by the arrival of Polish chocolates from the Deputy Dean – they’re a combination between marshmallow and jelly surrounded by chocolate –and far nice than I’m making them sound, I must say.

This afternoon also cheered up somewhat as Student Advice had a tea party and a new IT package presentation, so I went along for scones, grapes and tea. Bliss! The package looked pretty good too, if it’s taken on – though the amount I really know about what goes on outside my own office could be written on a postage stamp and still have room for a rewrite of War and Peace. Anyway, after work, I popped in to see Gladys after work – it’s her birthday on Friday so I took a card and some non-Polish chocolates (she’s a real chocoholic) but I’m not convinced she really knew what was happening. Still, at least she was livelier than usual which is something.

Meanwhile the lovely people at Alma Books are going to send me Sarah Stonich’s The Ice Chorus as I’m keen to review it for Vulpes Libris, so I shall look forward to that. I’ve also written the first draft of my Vulpes review of Vanessa Gebbie’s Words from a Glass Bubble, and it’s been fascinating to see what’s come out of that: an interesting writer indeed. Keeping to the subject of literature, I’ve written a poem about childhood and apples. As you do. And tonight, I’m looking forward to the programme on TV about Byron. That should be fun – especially as Rupert Everett is presenting it. The ideal combination, in my opinion. Oh, and I’ve had another short story rejection, sigh – so I’ll try and send that back out somewhere before it all gets too disheartening. Lordy, but I do really need to get some sleep.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Reflexology
3. Tea parties
4. Chocolates
5. Books
6. Working on the Vulpes review
7. TV.

Anne Brooke - reviewing for Britain
Vulpes Libris - a foxy look at books

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Flu thoughts, battles and the author at play

Here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 182

I’ve never been a gardener
so all this talk
of vines, fruition,
destruction, pruning, fire
and the unceasing flow of sap

passes me by
like an east wind,
the flight-filled clouds
or the migration path
of distant, unknowable birds.

Keeping on religious matters, church today was rather strange. We now have a three-line whip from the Powers that Be (who I suspect probably aren't God) that, because of the swine flu threat, we're not allowed to take wine at communion or shake hands with non-related people during the Peace. We were also told not to come to church if we felt ill, and advised that the Rector had washed his hands with anti-bacterial soap before starting the service. It all made me feel distinctly unsettled. What next? Casting people who cough into outer darkness? Beating people who happen to sneeze with twigs?? The plot thickens indeed, but I wonder if we're giving in rather too quickly to media panic?... I may yet have to eat my words (Lordy, that's been known several times at least ...), but it seemed an edict too far to me. We do know how to behave after all. We're all sensible rational human beings. Well, apart from the church attendance of course ...

I've been continuing the edit of Hallsfoot's Battle and am now within spitting distance of the ... um ... actual battle. I must admit it's worrying me a little and I'm holding off from actually getting to that chapter, but I'm going to have to face it at some point. I just think I need to be stronger. Don't wait up.

And this afternoon, Lord H and I have been having great fun with taking more photos of me for use on the web etc. I'm attempting to look like a writer but I fear the worst. New shots of the author at play (ho ho) appear here and here, the latter being the picture where I was admiring my screensave of swimming fish while Lord H was fiddling with his tripod. As you do.

I've now read Vanessa Gebbie's short story collection, Words from a Glass Bubble. I'm hoping to review it for Vulpes Libris once I get my act together, so I won't say much about it now. But what I will say is that it's certainly a mixed bag - some wonderful tales and some definitely not-so-wonderful ones - but more on this to come. I hope.

Tonight, Lord H and I are hoping to watch the first episode of the new Midsomer Murders series which we videoed earlier in the week. Perfect Sunday night viewing indeed. You really can't go wrong with a country location and a good murder or two. And here are this week's haikus - as you get two for the price of one today, you lucky people, you!

I sit on a bench -
the first time I've stopped this week.
Sunlight warms me through.

Between silent tracks
layers of pink and cream stone
remind me of joy.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Editing Hallsfoot
3. A mini photo-shoot
4. Books
5. TV
6. Haikus.

Anne Brooke - I'm ready for my close-up, Mr DeMille ...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A day with the birds

Here's today's meditation for you:

Meditation 181

Today I take
a fresh sheet
of paper
for my thoughts –

the creamy space
waiting in its emptiness
for the inky pattern
to come.

Like the ancient stones
Joshua places
in the conquered Jordan

as a marker
of everything
to be remembered

and everything we seek.

A lazy start to this morning, which has been nice. How I do love a lie-in. We've then spent the rest of the day in Titchfield Haven enjoying the rather nice weather (not much rain! occasional sunshine, well gosh!) and admiring the birds -which have been more numerous than we expected for this time of year. We managed to spot green sandpipers, common sandpipers, black-tailed godwits, common terns, dunlin, a wren, whitethroats and willow warblers. Marvellous. The only slight downside is we forgot to buy sandwiches so had to have cappuccino and a cake in their distinctively horrible cafe. Honestly, I don't know how a cafe can make cappuccino taste like dishwater that's seen better days, but they managed it. And I also don't know how they can make the comfy side room smell like a toilet, but they do. Sigh. It's probably a work of genius.

This evening I've had a chat with the neighbour opposite and have caught up with what's happening on the road. And tonight I'm planning a bit of Hallsfoot's Battle editing and some TV. Depending on what's on. Apart from that, it's all been fairly quiet, and I'm enjoying the unexpected sense of peace. Here's hoping it continues. Ooh, and a jay has just flown into the garden - how lovely.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. A day with the birds
3. Chatting with the neighbour
4. Editing Hallsfoot
5. TV.

Anne Brooke - enjoying the quietness

Friday, July 24, 2009

A quiet day, ashes and a spot of stretching

A rather nice and calm day today (well, goodness me indeed) and I've rather enjoyed the feeling of relaxation, I must say. Not the sort of feeling I often have, being usually so wound-up that I could probably launch a catapult halfway across the country and not notice the effort. Ah well.

Anyway, here's today's meditation:

Meditation 180

Everyone knows
the great miracle
of Moses

as the Red Sea parts
to let God’s people
go through

but no-one remembers
that years later
at the Jordan

Joshua did it again.
Which is, I suppose,
the drawback

of being always
the archetypal
number two.

I was supposed to do golf this morning with Marian but, my dears, the rain! What a lot of weather we're having at the moment, as Lord H would say. An awful lot of weather really. In fact I think two storms might have passed over, unless it was the same one coming back. It was hard to tell. So instead of golf, I've been doing more editing to Hallsfoot's Battle. Astonishing really how frequently I've managed to get the exact number of the Tregannon emeralds wrong. First there are seven, then there are nine, and now there are four - though, to be fair, Ralph did have to use some up when dealing with the mountain dogs. I'm attempting to rationalise them so we end up with roughly seven, but really I don't feel entirely in control of their breeding talents. Those pesky emeralds are like rabbits! I might have to make them a fluid number because of their inherent magic, simply because I find it hard to count them. Sigh. Now I know why I married an accountant ...

This afternoon, I've had my back stretched to its actual length once more by the wonderful Linda, so I now feel more like the height I should be, thank the Lord. Honestly, office work and writing are not conducive to good posture, I can tell you. One day I feel I will eventually find that my forehead is in fact fused to the keyboard, never to be parted. Not, however, if Linda has her way of course.

Tonight, we have the horrors of cleaning the flat to face (arrgghh!!). Oh but there is a wonderful half-hour programme on TV at 7.30pm-ish about what different people do with their loved one's ashes. I really must watch it - I've always been fascinated by ashes. As it were. My ultimate (and please God let it not happen soon) wish is for either (a) Lord H to keep my ashes on the mantelpiece and chat to them as he goes about his daily business; or (b) vice versa. Depending on who goes first. For some reason though, Lord H does not seem keen - on either eventuality. Perhaps he was hoping for some peace?... I suspect I'll be watching the programme alone then.

Oh and I absolutely love my car. Miranda is wonderful. She can do amazing things with her dashboard, including telling me what radio station I'm on without me having to look down, advising me how many miles of petrol I have left and letting me know what the temperature is. What a girl! Her talents know no end.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Editing Hallsfoot
3. Alexander Technique
4. TV
5. Miranda.

Anne Brooke - thinking about the magic of jewellery

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Truth or Dare, Brokeback Mountain and hello, Miranda

A busy fun-filled day today (in oh so many ways), but here's this morning's meditation just to get us into the zone:

Meditation 179

all you need
to ensure the next day

actually happens
is a high window,
a red cord,

and the art
of keeping secrets.

And, at the other end of the literary spectrum, I'm pleased to say that my lesbian erotic short story, Truth or Dare, is now published at Clean Sheets webzine. It comes with a WARNING though - do NOT click on that link if you are under 18 years old or of a delicate disposition! - or I may have to beat you, and myself, with twigs. Which won't be a pleasant experience, believe me.

Keeping to literary matters, I'm pleased to say that the lovely Charles at Ink Sweat & Tears webzine has accepted my poem about toes for future publication - so thank you very much for that, Charles - it's hugely appreciated, especially after my recent three sets of poetry rejections. Phew.

I have also uploaded my article on Brokeback Mountain at the Vulpes Libris review site, so do pop along and let me know if you prefer the film or book version of that glorious tale. You'll be more than welcome! Indeed, the article does seem to have struck a chord out there in the virtual world as Canongate Press have emailed to ask if they can republish a precis version of the article next week as part of their Literature World Tour series, as this month they're focusing on North America. Once Vulpes agreed to this, naturally I've said yes - and thank you, Andrea, for asking!

Meanwhile, the very exciting news of the day (as if all this isn't enough!) is I have picked up my wonderful new Fiesta from the garage, filled her with petrol and I love her absolutely already. Mind you, I did shed a quiet tear on the journey home at saying goodbye to Rupert - as really that car has seen me through a lot of stuff in the last eight years. A hell of a lot of stuff. When I met Rupert, I'd never even completed a novel. Now I've written seven. My, how time flies when you're having fun, eh, and I do hope he goes to a good and deserving home. But for now - oh woman, thy name is fickle - it's goodbye, Rupert, and hello, Miranda Louise. She's gorgeous!

Back home, and once I'd finished licking the car with joy (um, that's a metaphor - really ... no, really it is), I've turned my attention back to Hallsfoot's Battle and have edited the chapter with the Third Gathandrian Legend in it. I could do more, but I'll see how the time goes.

Tonight, Lord H and I are off to Woking to see the stage show of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. I can't wait. And, yes, I do know that the fact of my huge excitement about this does indeed show my age ...

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Lesbian erotic short stories
3. Poetry acceptance
4. Brokeback article
5. Miranda!
6. Editing Hallsfoot
7. Theatre.

Anne Brooke - pondering gay cowboys and falling in love with her car

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reviews, Desperate Romantics and the big city

Was very happy to have received this five-star review of The Bones of Summer from Rosy on Goodreads:

“This was a great read. Told from the viewpoint of a new character - Craig Robertson - it also features Paul Maloney, the lead character in a previous book by Anne called Maloney's Law. It is definitely not necessary to have read Maloney's Law to enjoy this story though, (this stands up completely on its own as an independent tale) but I'm glad that I did. Mainly because Paul felt like an old friend to me from the beginning, I felt like I knew him, in a way that Craig obviously couldn't as he'd only just met him. Also whenever Paul talked of his past, his 'friend' or his 'ex', I knew who, and what, he was referring to. I knew what had brought Paul to this point in his life. Although, as I've said, it's not necessary to do so, as this story rips along at its own fast pace! (I actually did imagine sometimes when I was reading that it would be equally nice to learn about Paul at the same time as Craig does ... so it's good either way!). Craig was a very endearing character and I loved his Gay Rules. This is a good mystery AND a good love story. I'm just glad these two men found each other ... I enjoyed this book very much.”

Thanks, Rosy – I’m hugely grateful for that!

Oh, and I must say I actually really enjoyed Desperate Romantics on TV last night – it’s surprisingly charming and witty. Totally unrealistic of course, but that doesn’t matter. Heck, it’s fiction. Lord H and I particularly enjoyed the ripple of shock that went through the supposedly avant-garde group when they found out that one of them had actually had sex. All wonderfully Victorian, and very funny. I also hugely sympathised with (a) their desperate struggle for recognition; (b) the shock when someone said something nice about their art; (c) the blaming something – anything! - else (ie the model) when a painting didn’t work; (d) the terror of networking; and (e) the relief and pure gratitude when someone else came along and networked on their behalf – very successfully (oh lordy, how I wish I had someone like that on a full-time basis, believe me!). I also liked the fact that they had to lie, cheat and deceive in order to get noticed at all. I’ll definitely be watching again.

Meanwhile, at work, I’m struggling away on my second set of minutes – I managed to get the first set out for checking yesterday, hurrah. I’m hoping I might get a first draft of these ones done today too, but we’ll see. Mind you, the Mentoring team came back with homemade cake from one of their meetings, so that went down well, mmmm … One thing about our new office in Senate House is that there’s a heck of a lot more cake being offered around the place, which can only be a good thing, hurrah.

Anyway, it was nice to get out of the office at lunchtime and take a stroll round campus. Although half of it seemed to be blocked off as they do improvements over the summer so I had to take a strange route. And you know how much I hate a change in my routine. Still, I did finally find a bench I knew so sat on it and gazed at the lake for a while. I’ve even remembered to bring my ereader with me so I’m reading the rest of the stories in the upcoming Disasters and Miracles anthology. There’s some very good stuff in there, I must say, and I’m very pleased to be included in it.

Tonight I’m up in London to see Jane W (hello, Jane!) – so I’m looking forward to that. I can feel a curry coming on, as it were. Maybe. Again, we’ll see. And my ereader is perfect for train travel too.

Oh and one of the sets of poetry submissions I resent out yesterday has once again already come back as a rejection. Honestly, some people have absolutely no sense at all. Idiots! I obviously need to try a publisher with more intelligence and taste then, ho ho. And deep sighing. However, to balance the poetic universe, I’ve written a poem about toes. As you do. That’ll show ’em, eh …

Today’s nice things:

1. The five-star review for Bones
2. TV
3. Cake
4. Lunchtime walks
5. The Bible stories anthology
6. Seeing Jane in London
7. Poetry.

Anne Brooke - desperately seeking a poetry publisher ...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rejections, writers and a bestseller status

Here’s today’s meditation. Joshua isn’t quite in the Promised Land yet, but he’s thinking about it. Sort of.

Meditation 178

So it begins,
that final part

of your journey:
and at the moment

of greatest trepidation
a glimmer of light:

generous words; the hope
of a future, love.

At work, I’m attempting to get the minutes from yesterday’s two meetings written, though I have to admit my enthusiasm quotas are low. Heck, aren’t they always? It would be nice to get one of them out of the way, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s a bit of a tricky morning though, as I’ve had not one, but two, rejections of poetry submissions in the email. Groan. What was even more humiliating was that one of them I’d only sent out late last night so they must have really really hated them. The other was worse though – as it told me I was a near miss with what I’d sent them. Deep sigh. I do wish publishers wouldn’t say that – it’s so patronising and doesn’t help anyone at all (after the first near miss rejection, which is I admit nice-ish, the experience quickly loses its charm, believe me). A simple “no” is the easiest way. Why on earth don’t they stick to it?

Anyway, at lunch, I took the last writers’ group meeting of the academic year. Today’s game was to make something of words and phrases I’d cut out of our selection of magazines on Sunday night – I think they enjoyed it. I know I did – I’ve started a comic piece set in the Garden of Eden with a rather irritated Gabriel. As you do. So I’ll have to see how that goes.

After work, I popped in to Tesco to get a few essentials, though I must admit Lord H was a hero yesterday and did a barrel-load of shopping even though it wasn’t his week for it. Talking of heroes, our work list for this week is James Anderson (something to do with cricket, I think, but I can’t rightly remember), the campus Transport Team (for doing a brilliant job with the current roadworks on site so we get through them relatively painlessly), Ruth’s dentist (for doing an equally brilliant job in his profession) and … um … me (for getting the boss a cheaper deal on his airport car parking that he hadn’t realised he could get, hurrah!).

And tonight it’s the new series of arty lurve, pain and angst – Desperate Romantics. I’m in two minds about it, I must be honest, but I’ll give it a chance and watch the first episode. I’m just not sure about these programmes that stuff as many famous, stressed-out young men in them and then expect that to be a plot. We’ll see.

Ooh, and The Bones of Summer is a Silver Star Bestseller at All Romance Ebooks. Well gosh indeed, and thank you!

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Writers’ group
3. New short story ideas
4. Heroes – including me!
5. TV – possibly
6. The Bones of Summer bestseller status.

Anne Brooke - a poetry reject but an eBook bestseller

Monday, July 20, 2009

Feet, books and paper

Here’s today’s meditation. We’re at the start of the Book of Joshua now, so it’s all change:

Meditation 177

After the death,
a list of actions

to take: welcome

But, most of all,
a sense

of unfulfilment,

the need to write

across the emptiness
for the man

you’ve lost,
for the man

you must become.

My UK Amazon copies of The Bones of Summer have finally turned up so I’ve given one to Ruth at work and one to Steph in the Health Centre. I hope they enjoy the read. Steph tells me she now has her mother reading my books (thanks, Steph!) so I am slowly widening my reader base. As they say.

At work, I was straight in at the deep end with three hours (three hours - nightmare!!) of back-to-back meetings from 9.30am. Really, it’s not the best way to start a Monday. First off we had the rescheduled Steering Group, which is usually done over lunch so that was confusing enough in itself. After that, we had a new group which is looking at joining up all the campaigns we have so we all know what’s going on at any one time. Which makes sense. But I am now surrounded by paper and have to make something logical out of it all before my brain implodes. That could be soon …

Still, I managed to have a wonderful reflexology session over the lunch hour so I now feel more centred, hurrah. Or at least my feet do. Tonight, I’m at the University book group discussing Rose Tremain’s The Road Home. A book I enjoyed so it should be a good session.

And, back home, I discover that the birthday card I posted to a friend last week has been delivered to me as the Post Office have franked it on the wrong side and seem to have assumed that the address on the back of the envelope (ie my address) is the one they actually need. Eh?!? The address on the front is perfectly clear - why on earth couldn't they use it?... Still, I will attempt to put it in the post again tomorrow, and see what happens, deep deep sigh. Good job I posted it early then.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Delivering copies of The Bones of Summer
3. Reflexology
4. Book group.

Anne Brooke - bamboozled by post

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Skeleton woods and a plethora of artists

So, I've come to the end of Deuteronomy in my morning meditations and here's my poem about that:

Meditation 176: The Death of Moses

All those years
of travel,

grief and hope
end like this:

a long, slow view
of the land

you’ve waited for,
tasting cool mountain air

on your tongue,
the whispers of God

at your ear
and the darkness to come.

Poor Moses - forty years of travel and doing his best, and he never quite manages to set foot in the Promised Land. It always gets me, that does. As you can probably see. Anyway, onto the Book of Joshua tomorrow, and all his terrors about being the Number Two forced into becoming the actual Leader. When he evidently wasn't really sure he wanted to, poor man. Ah well.

Literary news for today is that my flash fiction piece, The Skeleton Wood, is now up at the Every Day Fiction website and getting rather mixed reactions. Which I imagine must prove I'm doing something right, ho ho. One or two readers seem to be enjoying it anyway, which is also nice.

Anyway, we've graced the doors of the church this morning - some marvellous hymn choices and I do always enjoy the monthly 1662 service - it's like an ocean washing over you and there's no need to think. Bliss. We decided to go to Petworth House for lunch and a wander round. Actually lunch wasn't that great really, but that was probably a good thing - to be honest, my stomach still isn't brilliant and I'm only okay when I don't eat, sigh ... Good for the diet, maybe, but bad as a life plan. I'm hoping it sorts itself out soon. Mind you, it was lovely to go round the actual house - I forget how much bloody good art it has. Everywhere you look there's a Turner, or a Van Dyck or a Bosch - so much so that it's almost embarrassing. The sculptures are great as well, but I have to admit that on the whole I prefer paint.

This afternoon, I have cleared out Rupert in preparation for the arrival of Miranda on Thursday. I actually think the new car might be Miranda Louise - and interestingly will be my first ever female car and my first car with more than one name. All the others I've had have been male with one name only. As it were. I don't know how I know she's a gal, but she most definitely is. Maybe she'll improve my image? You never know. And I've done another couple of chapter edits of Hallsfoot's Battle and am now just over halfway through Edit One. Ah, there'll be an Edit Two and an Edit Three as well before I even think about submitting it anywhere, so it's still all to play for.

This week's haiku is:

Rain freshens the air,
washes the present away.
History lives again.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. The flash fiction publication
3. Church
4. Art at Petworth House
5. Car preparation
6. Editing
7. Haikus.

Anne Brooke - enjoying a typical Sunday of skeletons and art ...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Review city and arty teas

First, on this rather exciting day, the morning meditation:

Meditation 175

There’s a message
for each of us:

words for courage,
unity, faith, protection,

strength, journeyings,
hospitality, war,

youth, expansion, security.
What matters

is when we hear it
and how we hold it.

After that, the day has turned into a veritable plethora of good news and reviews. First out of the stalls is this review of Maloney's Law from the lovely Jason:

“One such book that I did read whilst on the balcony in the high 90s was Anne Brooke's Maloney's Law, available from Amazon. Now at first I wasn't too sure about it, I'm not a private dick kinda guy, so I'm not one for purchasing and reading detective stories, but hey, I saw this in America, knew that Anne although she may be an Essex girl lives close to my Surrey roots, so thought what the heck. Now that I've finished, I'm so bloody glad I did, it's an astonishingly good read; once I got in to it I was gripped and wanted, no, needed to know what lay ahead, how the future was mapped out for our hero, Paul Maloney. Small town private detective earns a crust for little insurance fiddle cases, it pays the rent but only just, that is until he takes on a case that will change his life. I'm not sure if he takes on the case or the case takes him on but, after that, life cannot be the same again for this London lad. It's not long before he's jetting off and entering a world of high-class crime, big business and seat of your pants danger. Oh yeah, and I forgot to say, this new and exciting case he's working on just happens to be from his ex lover, called Dominic! The book is fun, interesting and exciting, there are some real high and some very low points in the story that had me smiling and also my eyes moist with sadness. I won’t go on and spoil it for you and tell you the plot and the ending except to say … yep there is death in that story, but where, when and how, you'll have to read to find out, which if you ask me, you blooming well should do. It's a great read!”

Thanks so much, Jason - that really put a smile on my face, I can tell you!

I thought it couldn't get any better after that, but then the equally lovely Nancy on Goodreads sent me an email to say how much she'd enjoyed Painting from Life and gave me this review:

Painting From Life is not a love story in the traditional sense. It is the story of an artist in a suffocating marriage struggling to achieve perfection in his work. While strolling on the beach with his wife, he meets an old man he’d like to paint. After a brief conversation, the old man agrees to sit for a portrait. The more time they spend together, the more his model, Peter, inspires creativity and instills passion in his art. The gorgeous and vivid prose captures the essence of the sea, the beauty, frailty and loneliness of old age, and the deep, spiritual love between the artist, his model, and his work. Very highly recommended.”

Well, gosh! Thanks so much, Nancy. I thought surely that must be it, but then, to my amazement, I saw that the Literary Nymphs review site had given a "5 Nymph" review to The Bones of Summer and had said the following about it:

“Growing up with a religious zealot for a father wasn’t easy, which explained why Craig Robertson left home after the discovery of his underage gay affair. He moved to London, changed his name and got on with his life, becoming a small-time actor and model. His life changes for the second time, when an old neighbor notifies him that his estranged father has disappeared. Lucky for Craig, his new lover, Paul Maloney, is a private detective and he agrees to accompany him to his hometown to help in the search. Going home is difficult, dredging up painful memories of an abusive childhood after the sudden disappearance of his mother when he was six. As the search progresses, they learn that his long-ago lover, Michael, has been missing since the day they were discovered. It’s clear there are gaps in Craig’s memory, leading him to suspect that there’s something in his past he doesn’t want to remember. When Craig confesses to Paul his fear that Michael is dead and that he’s responsible, Paul refuses to believe his lover is a murderer. As Craig’s hunt for the truth turns to obsession, the lovers’ new and fragile relationship begins to fall apart, leaving him to search on his own. Alone and being stalked, Craig must face the terrors of his past, and hope he can survive to have a future. The Bones of Summer by Anne Brooke is a complicated and intriguing tale of a man struggling to cope with his life in the aftermath of a painful and difficult childhood, lived with a cold, hard and uncaring religiously fanatical father. On first impression, this complex story might appear to be overwhelmed with fear, pain and angst and while that’s partly true, it’s not the whole truth. It’s also the story of Craig and Paul, finding each other, and the passion, love, desire and friendship that builds between them, despite their individual painful pasts, hidden secrets and lies. Emotions run high throughout the story and both men break down in tears on more than one occasion or verbally clash, saying hateful, vicious things to each other. Other times the sex is hot and passionate. In truth, they are often at odds, despite how they feel for one another and the search for Craig’s father and his fear of what might have happened only strain an already fragile relationship. So, while at heart The Bones of Summer is a story of Craig and Paul, the fuel that propels the story forward, and causes most of their problems, is Craig’s father, his missing ex-lover and his fear of what he might have done that summer, seven years ago. The father in this tale is a true ‘bay guy’. A fanatic so certain that what he thinks justifies his actions. I have to admit that Ms. Brooke caught me off guard when his disappearance turned into a stalking of his estranged son. Take it from me. This man is crazy, but makes a great villain, perfect for hating. It’s not all doom and gloom though. Craig has periods where a wicked sense of humor pokes through, and he says something that makes me chuckle. This is particularly true when he spouts his self-created Gay Rules. He’s also, deep down, an optimistic man who hopes for a happy and successful future.”

Gosh, thank you so much, Mystical Nymph (great name, btw!) - I'm so very glad you enjoyed it. Heartfelt thanks indeed to all three of you who've taken the time to read my books and have really made my day, big-time - it's very much appreciated.

Anyway, buoyed up almost beyond belief by all that, I have written my review of Makine's Human Love for Vulpes Libris, so am hoping for an upcoming slot for that at some point.

This afternoon's been fun too - Lord H and I have spent several hours with Robin & Gavin at the Watts' Gallery Victorian Tea Party, with no less a Guest of Honour than Penelope Keith. I hope the theme of the party wasn't saying anything particular about the wonderful Ms Keith however - she was great and looked amazing. Nothing Victorian about her! We all had tea in the marquee, signed a roof tile for the restored building and had a very interesting tour around Watts' Great Studio (which isn't usually open). My, what circles we Surrey-ites move in indeed ...

On the way home we popped into Waitrose to get a Chinese takeaway for tonight - and I think it was fairly typical of the Godalming crowd that nobody paid us any attention at all, even though we swept in wearing a posh frock, glittery shoes and a pashmina (me), and a blazer, light summer trousers and a cravat (Lord H - he'd left the boater in the car ...). Naturally though, dahhlings, here in the shires, we always dress up to visit Waitrose. Doesn't everyone?

Tonight, I'm looking forward to the programme about Versailles on TV - yet another place I really must get to some day. Perhaps we should change into our evening wear in order to watch it? Noblesse oblige, don't you know ...

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Not one, not two, but three good reviews of different books!
3. Tea with Penelope
4. Gallery tours
5. TV.

Anne Brooke - thinking the day can't possibly get any better!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Golf, Gathandria and gadgets

Feeling more normal today (well as normal as I ever get), hurrah. Here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 174

you have played

your last shot,
given it

let loose

the golden words
that fill you

and watched them

the only thing

to do
is hide

and wait
for the end to come.

Hmm, yes well, you'll be glad to hear I'm feeling rather jollier than that, but it's what came out so I'll keep it. As it were. I've been continuing the Hallsfoot's Battle edit and am now on the 4th Lammas section, so that's good. I've enjoyed it too. Marian and I have also managed to fit a game of golf in between the showers - we both did rather better than normal and got exactly the same score, so that was fun. I even managed a par on the first hole, but then totally messed up my tee shot on the 6th when the Pro was watching me - the ball missed the club head entirely and dribbled about 4 foot off the tee, oh the shame and oh how Marian laughed ... Ah well, I suspect the Ladies' Open will not be beckoning this year, Carruthers. Again.

Whizzed round Godalming and restocked on the essential supply of oils and happy pills so I should be okay for a few weeks at least. And hey I've even managed to eat lunch today, which is progress indeed. I've also finished my first book on the CoolReader, and have on the whole enjoyed the experience. I think I've bonded with the machine now. The only slight problems I had with it were that (a) it takes a while to power up, though on the other hand it's very easy to shut off; (b) some of the screen pages only had a few words on them so you had to press Next Page very quickly indeed; (c) plugging it into the Mac is fine but it fails to understand the Eject Button so it always objects when I take it out, though apparently with no harmful effects. On the plus side it's wonderful to be able to take something wherever I want and be able to read whenever I like, book-marking is easy and it comes back to the page you left it, and I can also store my novels and published short stories on it in PDF versions so another saving method, by George. Just what the keen reader and writer requires.

And my first portable eBook has been the very wonderful James Robertson's Close And Other Stories. To be honest I only bought it as I wanted to see if the machine worked - I'd never heard of the chappie. But I have to say they're bloody excellent stories. Like a cross between Tania Hershman and Elizabeth Baines, but a bloke. His main themes are the small human changes in a life or in a relationship and how they affect what happens next. He ranges from the dark to the quirky and round the houses to the funny again. I loved them. I have no idea if he's done anything else, and I'm not even sure if this collection is available in a paper version, but I can thoroughly recommend the experience. Sharp and wise. Just how I like my fiction.

Which is more than can be said for the book I've just finished for an upcoming Vulpes Libris review. I think I've been bludgeoned to near-death by the amount of politics in Andrei Makine's Human Love, and I never did discover the story. Or the characters. Deep deep sigh. I shall say no more until the review goes up, but trust me - it won't be pleasant. What on earth are Sceptre up to nowadays?? I wonder if they have any readable books at all, my dears ...

So, a much-needed Alexander Technique lesson this afternoon, and then a quick cup of tea and chat - plus a restocking of some of my Nutrimetics products - at Jane H's (hello, Jane & co!), and then I'm planning a relatively quiet evening tonight. Ye gods, what a good day it's been really. After this week, that's certainly come as a surprise.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Editing
3. Golf
4. The CoolReader
5. Books - well, some of them ...
6. Alexander Technique
7. Tea & chat with Jane.

Anne Brooke - chugging along in the rain

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The serial napper and the speed-dial doctor

Goodness me but I am the Queen of the Naps today. And yesterday even - the moment I got in from work, I fell asleep, then this morning I was asleep until Lord H left for work, and this lunchtime I've had to have another hour's nap just in order to feel capable of facing the day. Obviously I need it then! I'm not eating very much either and don't feel at all hungry, though I'm drinking lots. But apart from that and a slight achiness and stomach trouble, everything's fine. Ho ho. Actually I think it's payback time from the stresses and strains of this week and last. When oh when will I learn not to panic and to try to chill out more?? Hmm, don't wait up is my advice ...

Anyway, here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 173

What it all
comes down to

is this:
one slight

terrified man
facing agonising

for the sake

of a truth
he thinks

worth dying for.

I've been working away on the Hallsfoot's Battle edits today and actually quite enjoying the leisurely manner in which I'm doing it. I'm adding in a few pointers towards the things I made up later in the book and discovering other facts I'd entirely forgotten about, so that's good news. In many ways, I find the editing stage the most enjoyable - actually creating the pesky story can be like tearing the skin off a cat without the aid of anaesthetic (not that I've ever done that, I hasten to add, but the image seems right), whereas editing is more like smoothing it back on again. I think I'm at my calmest at this stage too. Good news for Lord H then!

Other good news is that our holiday to Italy has been confirmed, hurrah. Sadly, it's not Pompeii (though I'm making plans to go in the spring instead - watch this space ...), but a trip to Umbria, north of Rome. Bliss, I can't wait.

Later this afternoon, if I feel up to it, I'm hoping to go on a car hunt at the local showrooms. My aim: a new second-hand Ford Fiesta that isn't black (well, Rupert's black and I fancy a change - but, for goodness sake, don't tell him that!), has five doors, petrol, a manual gearbox and aircon. Surely that can't be too hard? Well, we'll see ...

After that, I'm supposed to be meeting up with work friends for a quick drink and some supper, but I'm going to see how I am before I get there. I don't think I'll be infecting them with anything if I do turn up (whatever I've got is just me, I feel), and in any case it's certainly not swine flu - I've checked the symptoms online and it's a definite "no, go away, and stop bothering us". But, again, we'll see - I may make a miraculous recovery if I see a car I like and then the entire thing will have been only in my head after all. As ever, eh. Do you think I might be a hypochondriac? Surely not. Doesn't everyone have their GP's number on speed-dial?...

Today's nice things:

1. Napping, a lot
2. Poetry
3. Editing
4. Holidays
5. Car-hunting
6. Drinks & supper with friends.

Anne Brooke - napping for Britain, again

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Muddling through, again …

Couldn’t get really excited about this morning’s meditation but here it is anyway. It’s much like it is really:

Meditation 172

There’s nothing
in the store today –
all the words are blank.

Somewhere far away,
great men
and great deeds

go about their business,
but here, where I am,
it’s empty and dark

and astonishingly quiet.

Still feeling very low this week, as you can probably tell. This is something of a surprise as it’s not the right time of the month for this kind of thing, but there it is. Everything seems very slow – it’s like walking around whilst carrying a huge and very heavy cloak over my shoulders. Very strange. Still taking the happy pills though and hoping for the best. This morning I was sorting lunch out in the kitchen whilst groaning so Lord H brought me the toy puffin so I could cuddle it, sets its cry off (puffins sound like cows in labour having a very bad time) and groan in unison – so at least I didn’t feel too alone. What a hero.

Talking of heroes, this week’s are Carol for being lovely and wanting to help people (at the moment, I simply want to avoid them so I am more than impressed by this), Chaplaincy Ruth’s son’s teacher, and the lass from Marketing who’s been landed in the deep end and is doing an amazing job in very tricky circumstances.

At lunchtime I walked into town to pay in a cheque and post off the copy of Maloney’s Law to the charity bid winner. Actually I was late back as I didn’t feel at all well, to be honest. Groan. So this afternoon, I’m trying to take it easy but I’m still struggling with making sense of yesterday’s Forum minutes. My interest levels are at an all-time low which isn’t making it any simpler, I must say. It took a Starbucks decaff cappuccino to revive me – even a little.

Tonight, I’ll do a bit more to the Hallsfoot’s Battle edit, if possible. Ooh and I also signed off the final PDF for my story in the upcoming Disasters and Miracles anthology yesterday, so it looks like things are moving there. And I’m looking forward to Who Do You Think You Are? and Ugly Betty on tonight – ideal chilling out/interest material.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Paying a cheque in
3. Posting Maloney
4. Starbucks
5. Editing
6. Preparation for Disasters and Miracles
7. TV.

Anne Brooke - in the spaced-out zone, as ever ...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rupert’s return and the happy pills

Up early today as Rupert (the car) is at last ready to be collected, hurrah! It’s so nice to have him back, I must say – and the aircon hasn’t been this good for a long long time. Almost tempting not to look for a new car now, but I’m still keen, I must admit. I suspect there might be a bit of a car hunt this weekend. We’ll see how I’m feeling. We’re also attempting to book our September holiday in and around Pompeii, so here’s hoping there’s some good news on that one tonight.

In the meantime, I’m still feeling raw and more than a little overwhelmed from yesterday’s horrendous day – so have taken my supply of happy pills this morning and am hoping from the best … I think I’m having People Overload at the moment. Way too many demands coming from way too many quarters. Oh to be a hermit, eh. There’s a lot to be said for the solitary life – as long as Lord H is in it too.

At work, I’m struggling away with my meetings I’ve arranged for the upcoming year, which appear to have been lost so I suspect I may have to start from scratch. Not much joy there then. Plus I’m trying to avoid getting too stressed out by the traumas of Freshers’ Week planning. I do wish people wouldn’t assume I need a new challenge and the chance to do something different. Actually I don’t. I get plenty of challenges galore in my writing life – I really don’t need them elsewhere. I’d be far happier just doing the old familiar stuff I know and might not get too stressed out by – but that concept appears to be off the menu, alas. UPDATE: Having done something about it myself today (rather than lots of people telling me what I should be doing, as happened yesterday), I feel ever so slightly more in control which is making me feel just a tad better, hurrah. Not a lot though – just a little bit … I do have a hunch that the whole process will be more edgy this year, but we’ll see.

Had a much needed walk round campus at lunchtime, as well as a brief pop into the gallery which has a sculpture exhibition on at the moment – nice stuff but nothing really grabbed me. And I’m also still having fun with my CooleReader, so that’s a relief. Oh and there’s some lovely charity news about Maloney’s Law – some hugely wonderful person actually put a bid in during the last nine minutes of the auction so the shame of being the Most Unpopular Author in the Charity World has just about passed me by, phew. So, thank you a thousand times and a signed copy will be winging its way to you, Kind Person, just as soon as I can get it in the post.

This afternoon, I took the minutes for the Project Welcome Forum and then I’m hoping for a relatively quiet evening, please God. I’m bumbling away on the edits to Hallsfoot’s Battle, and it’s going okay at the moment. I’m trying to take it slowly and not worry about it too much. Hmm, I wonder when the happy pills kick in …

Today’s nice things:

1. Getting Rupert back
2. Thinking about a new car
3. Thinking about a holiday
4. Lunchtime walks
5. Maloney’s Law finding a last-minute friend, hurrah!
6. Editing
7. Happy pills.

Anne Brooke - taking everything slowly as she's unable to go very fast

Monday, July 13, 2009

Disasters and Miracles

Here’s this morning’s meditation:

Meditation 171

Every seventh year
let the words

speak through you:
from the gut

to the throat,
from the mouth

to the air,
releasing strange light

that glistens the skin
of all who hear.

I took the courtesy car into work today and managed to get a 3 day temporary pass for it as I don’t really know when I’ll be seeing Rupert again, sigh. UPDATE - looks like I'll be able to pick it up first thing tomorrow, so that's a relief anyway. Meanwhile at work, I’m messing around with meeting papers and diary maintenance. Feels like a very muddled Monday today really.

Mind you, the nice news is that the upcoming Bible Stories Anthology, Disasters and Miracles, now has its family-friendly cover art. It’s the first time I’ve ever been in anything remotely family-friendly, so that’s a new thing for me. Best not get too used to it though …

Thank goodness for reflexology at lunchtime – such a treat. It set me up for a meeting straight afterwards about Freshers’ Week. I’m running one of the information point tables again this year so best gird my proverbial loins up pretty darn soon. It all starts now. The worst thing is there’s a new regime this year (groan …) and I have to come in the Sunday before Freshers’ Week as well – for six hours!!! Lordy, but I can see it’s going to be even more of a nightmare week than usual, deep deep sighing … The very thought of it is making me feel quite tearful, even now.

Tonight, I will pop into see Gladys on my way home, and then I’m anticipating an evening of quiet editing and maybe a spot of TV. You never know. Oh and there’s been yet another rejection of my comic fantasy short story, Creative Accountancy for Beginners, double sigh. And there's about one hour left (at the time of typing) of the Maloney's Law Diabetes Charity auction bid and the sum total of my bids is zero. Ye gods, that's not something I'll be doing again in the future, I can tell you that now!! So, not a first-class day then, all in all. The fed-up factor is about 10. Out of 5. Is the weekend soon???

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Cover art for Disasters and Miracles
3. Reflexology
4. Editing
5. TV.

Anne Brooke - hoping the day will be over soon ...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Slow starts and stories

A gloriously slow start to the day today. And Lordy but that doesn't happen often. Didn't actually get up till gone 9am, which is about a three hour lie-in compared to a University day and two to a non-University one, hurrah! Total bliss really. So here's this morning's meditation (which was nearly an afternoon one):

Meditation 170

All those years
and years of travel

and when the destination’s
finally in sight,

just there over the hill,
all you can do

is gaze and gaze
at untouched beauty,

knowing you will never
enter it.

Talking of literary matters, I'm pleased to say that my short story, The Last Morning, is now published at The Foundling Review and two of my earlier meditation poems can be found at Pens On Fire webzine.

It certainly makes up for the two or three rejections (boo! hiss!) I've had this week - I'm storing them up for the moment as I can't raise the energy to resend stuff out while I'm seriously getting into the novel edit for Hallsfoot's Battle. The beginning is actually going fairly smoothly and I'm now as far into it as Chapter Four (which is further than you might think as Ralph's sections of the story don't count as chapters but as part of the Lammas Chronicles, and I've had two of those already). So far my most amusing changes have been to do with Annyeke's house which I appear to have completely redecorated in the two days' gap between the ending of The Gifting and the start of this novel. Hell, no wonder she's tired! I suspect there will be a lot more changes to come, and deeper ones too, however.

Tonight, I must ring Mother and try to sound relatively normal (ho ho) and I must also try to glean some manner of television out of this evening's sparse programming. At least we have last week's video of Mock the Week still to watch, plus a fair amount of DVD Spaced episodes, hurrah.

This week's haiku is:

Each word hooks meaning
into my skin; their temple
rises to the skies.

Today's nice thing:

1. A lie-in
2. Poetry
3. Short story and poetry publications
4. The Hallsfoot edit
5. Videos/DVDs
6. Haiku.

Anne Brooke - relishing slowness

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Torchwood failures and toilet brushes

Ah, Torchwood. What a very peculiar mix that week was. Such a rollercoaster ride and with such a deeply unsatisfying conclusion. Who would have thought that the kick-ass brilliant episode one could have led to the mixed-up confusion of episode five? Such a shame. Don't get me wrong though. I thought that, taken as a whole, it was an utterly superb and gritty political fantasy drama, and the brilliant Peter Capaldi gave the performance of a lifetime as flawed civil servant, John Frobisher. I also think the scene where he (SPOILER ALERT - just in case!) goes up the stairs of his family home to kill his wife and children, interspersed with the equally wonderful scene of his secretary talking to Lois in prison about how Frobisher used to be might just be the best thing on TV since Rome.

But, to my mind, for all that it simply wasn't Torchwood. It felt as if the scriptwriters had strayed so far from the ethos of the programme that they could easily have taken it out of the Torchwood world, given it a slight shift of structure and it would have worked equally well. And, if that's the case, then I think that all in all it failed. Interestingly, (ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT!) when Ianto dies, I felt it had strayed so far from its centre by then that I didn't much care either way whether he lived or not. I also do think that the scriptwriters never really understood how to handle a developing gay couple relationship - throughout the five nights, the dialogue between Jack and Ianto was never consistent and blew hot and cold all the time. It was really very unsatisfactory. And yes I do think Ianto had to die - due to Jack's revealed past history and the fact that he'd taken twelve children to their deaths, creatively speaking Jack needed to suffer too, and that was fine. But, if the series wanted to hang on in some measure to what makes (or rather made) Torchwood special, then there would have been no need to kill Jack's grandson, Steven, at the end. All they had to do to give it a really satisfying ending was to discover that Steven had inherited Jack's resurrection abilities, and allow the boy to come back from the dead. That would have been grand - and opened up a whole new plotline about Jack's developing links with his family, while Gwen develops hers. Instead, they seemed to blow any concept of light or positivity out of the water and left themselves with something of a mess. Again, such a shame.

Anyway, here's today's meditation:

Meditation 169

You won’t find it
in the sky
nor on the other side

of the ocean.

What you seek
is already with you;
it’s a pure scent,

richer than all the perfumes
of earth, poured out
like water, over skin.


Other amusements of the day are that when cleaning the loo last night, the loo brush fell off in my hand and landed in the toilet-bowl. Goddammit. I had to get Lord H to come and fish it out and mend it - this sort of thing is a man's job, you know ... Oh, most definitely it is. However, bearing in mind that this week I've had a gear stick come off in my hand, and now a loo-brush, I am loathe to go anywhere near Lord H's good self for the duration of the weekend, just in case. These things often travel in threes, you know. And I have absolutely no idea how I might explain it to the hospital, should I need to ... Hmm, perhaps better safe than sorry.

This morning, I have finished writing up my review of Chris Cleave's novel, The Other Hand (surely no coincidence, bearing in mind the above?...), for Vulpes Libris which will be up on site on 4 August. My review won't be pretty either, that much I can say. The novel also has the worst blurb in the history of time - what on earth are publishers on these days??? The mind boggles indeed ...

This afternoon however, things are looking up as Lord H and I are off to Glyndebourne once more to see Falstaff. I must admit to not usually being a fan of anything to do with Falstaff at all - I've always found him an immensely irritating and dull character, but hey it's Verdi and it's an experience. So I am endeavouring to keep an open mind. And the company, the food and the setting will be lovely for sure.

Oh, and the good news is that Lord H has found out how to open my strange PDF files on the CoolerReader. Apparently the Adobe Digital Editions downloads are not actual PDFs at all, but envelopes containing PDFs. When downloaded, they put the envelope in one file and the actual PDF in another. Yes, I know, it's not intuitive at all, is it? And the instructions are sadly minimal. Anyway now I have found them on my computer, I have copied them to the eReader and it's all working fine, hurrah. Hell, I can even bookmark the dang pages and find them again - what joy! Lord H and I are now the experts, sad to say ...

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Getting the loo brush mended
3. Not having even to think about Cleave's dreadful novel for a while
4. Glyndebourne
5. Getting to grips with my CooleReader.

Anne Brooke - frightened to touch anything at all today

Friday, July 10, 2009

Vulpes Libris review, golf and a CoolerReader nightmare

I'm pleased to say that my review of John Wray's novel, Lowboy is now up at Vulpes Libris reviews. Something of a mixed bag, to my mind - but I appreciate that even saying that, and making the suggestion I do, is going against every other single reviewer in the known universe. Ah well, I never did follow the crowd ...

And here's this morning's meditation (I think I may have got the numbers muddled in the past, but this is now right. Possibly ...):

Meditation 168

A bitter root, a
barren waste:
salt, sulphur, emptiness.

The pain has always
been written.
Travel secretly

to the desert
and feel the sand
sting your feet

while the light
beckons you on.

And Marian and I managed to have a good golf game - well, compared to last week anyway - so that was something of a surprise. I didn't even go in any bunkers (well, gosh!) though I did manage to hit a tree dead centre which brought the ball right back to where it had been lying only a couple of seconds earlier. Trick shots, eh - how I love 'em.

I've also managed - at last! - to start the actual editing of Hallsfoot's Battle. Having the notes from The Gifting is proving very useful already. I feel it might well change rather more than anticipated by the time I reach the end again. But that's probably a good thing. Talking of books, I am really, seriously struggling with the CoolerReader machine. I did manage to download and read a short story onto it this morning, which was fine. But since then I've bought two more books at different venues which I can't seem to see at all on the reader. Though they appear to exist on the computer and I can even see them in the machine's menu when I plug it in, but I can't get them on the machine itself. I suspect that my reading options might be limited to PDFs, and it doesn't seem to take any notice of Adobe Digital editions (which I thought was a PDF by any other name, but apparently isn't, sigh ...) even though I've downloaded the software and tried to get it to talk to the CoolerReader twice. It's very very frustrating. So it looks like I can't read any of the books on the CoolerBooks site as they all seem to be Adobe Digital and that's no good to man nor beast. They're supposed to offer books in a special CoolerReader format, but for the life of me I have no idea how to find them - it's not very well organised at all. On top of that, I sent a help message to them yesterday, but no-one's replied. I am rapidly becoming extremely disenchanted with the whole thing, really. It surely can't be that hard for them to make it easier for the customer!! But obviously not, deep deep sigh ...

Thank goodness for this afternoon's Alexander Technique lesson - just what I needed to straighten out and just chill a little. And I definitely needed that after discovering that the garage have at last got the aircon unit delivered today - but sadly it's not the right one. So nothing will happen now until at least Monday. Head - meets desk - stays there. Mind you, while the garage was on, I remembered to ask them how to open the courtesy car windows and there's a button under the radio at the front which does it. Not very intuitive then ... Lordy, but really it's astonishing I'm not climbing the walls and chewing at the curtains already. Maybe I would be but I'm just too damn tired, to be honest. Haven't been sleeping well and have been waking too early in a state of extreme tension (Lord knows why) every day for a week - am desperately hoping for a lie-in tomorrow. Now that would be nice.

Today's nice things:

1. The Vulpes Libris review
2. Poetry
3. Golf
4. Starting the Hallsfoot edits
5. Alexander Technique
6. Finding the car's window buttons.

Anne Brooke - wondering if there might still be time for a nap, oh please God yes ...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A 5+ star review for The Bones of Summer!

Well, gosh and double gosh. The lovely Jen at Well Read Books has given me a 5+ star review for The Bones of Summer at Jessewave Reviews, which you can click on there and which I also produce below:

“This is my first full marks review and to be honest I'm a little nervous as to whether what I'm going to write now will actually do this book justice. It was that good. So good, in fact, that I may run out of superlatives. So good, that my mind disappeared into 'book world' and I spent every single spare moment reading. So good, that even when I had to do pesky real life things like cooking I was still thinking about the book, wondering what was going to happen next or mulling over the characters, their merits and their flaws. At the beginning of The Bones of Summer everything is going well for Craig. He's happy with where he lives and is good friends with the two women he shares a house with. He likes his modelling job, even if he's not been able to get on as an actor. Best of all, is that he gets a phone call from a guy he met a couple of months ago, Paul, who wants to get together and maybe start something. Things are on the up for Craig and he's happy to go with it and forget all about the terrible things that happened to him when he ran away from his Devon home seven years before. Unfortunately for Craig, life has a way of kicking you in the teeth when you least expect it. Just after his first date (and night) with Paul, he receives a letter from an old neighbour and friend in Devon telling him that his father is missing. This starts off a chain of events which forces Craig to return to Devon and his past and confront all that he was attempting to forget. Paul is a Private Detective and offers to help Craig investigate his past. This then impacts on their tentative relationship. There are two main themes running through this book. The first, and most obvious theme is that of facing up to your past. Craig ran away from his abusive Father at the age of seventeen and has spent the intervening years trying to avoid thinking of his childhood and the events which led to him leaving. The past, as they say, has a way of catching up with you and I found it admirable in Craig that he faces up to that once he realises that he can't stay in hiding forever. His reaction to going back to Devon was a mixture of heartbreaking and confusing for the reader. Craig himself has large gaps in his memory and often reacts to his surroundings in a very emotional way that even he can't understand, let alone explain to Paul. It takes time and a painful stripping away of the layers before Craig is even able to discover what happened. The reader is taken along with that emotional rollercoaster and I found that I had to be very patient and wait, like Craig does, before I got answers to the many questions that I had as I was reading. Paul too has a past. He has suffered tragedy and betrayal in his life which you would think would make him the ideal person to help Craig through this difficult time. However, things are never that simple which leads to the second theme: That of secrets and lies. Both men have secrets from each other. In one sense this is understandable; they have just met each other and are starting a tentative journey on the road to love. Neither one of them want to share their past with each other yet. Craig doesn't want to scare Paul off and Paul has his own reasons to which we are not privy. It did annoy me that Paul often accuses Craig of lying to him, when, rather hypocritically, he never comes wholly clean about his own past. In fact, I found myself getting cross with Paul quite a lot throughout the book. On one hand he offers to help Craig and even spends a lot of time supporting him through this terrible time; but on the other hand he uses quite brutal methods to force Craig to open up and speak about his past. Methods such as the use of emotional blackmail by withdrawing his approval or acting coldly towards him or blowing hot and cold so that Craig is confused as to where he stands in their relationship. I wasn't sure I liked Paul, but that didn't mean he wasn't a terrific character. He was - as is any character who draws such a response from me. If you are thinking that this sounds like a very angst filled book, then you will be right. Emotions run high throughout the novel. Both men are strong characters who are dealing in their own way with distressing things that have happened to them. Sometimes they break down in tears; sometimes they clash horribly and say dreadful things to each other; sometimes they make love fiercely in order to forget; sometimes they close up and suffer in silence. These were complex men and I was never really sure how they would react at any time. It was this unpredictability that had me on the edge of my seat throughout the book. What a thrilling ride! Having said that, the book wasn't all doom and gloom and what saved it from being too heavy going was the internal voice of Craig. He had a typical British self-depreciating sense of humour and a ready wit, which brought out humour in the direst of circumstances. An example of this was his self-created list of 'rules for gay men'. But he’d better not forget Gay Rule Number One: At least find out a name and a job before you do the business. Craig also has a great optimism about him. He always tries to focus on the good, even if he does worry about the bad things which are happening to him. This idealistic cheerfulness was appealing and coupled with Craig's sarcastic humour often gets him into trouble, but did help to lighten the feel of the book. I've only touched the surface of what was so great about this book. It wasn't just the realistic characterisation that made this book a fantastic read. The settings were so ordinary, so domestic, such as kitchens, bedrooms, an office, a club, and yet terrible things happened in those settings so that their mere ordinariness added to the chill down the spine. The plotting was tight, with each clue, each answer, being revealed slowly until a breathtaking, frantic, thrilling conclusion. Have I waxed lyrical enough about this book? I don't think I can. All I can do is recommend that you read The Bones of Summer. Actually, this goes beyond recommendation to a plea - if you like mystery; if you like character driven books; if you like reading compulsively, unable to part with the story for even a short time; then you must read this book.”

Double gosh and enormous thank yous from me, Jen - I'm so glad you enjoyed it so much! Actually, astonishingly glad, bearing in mind the traumas of the day and the fact that I struggle so hard to get a book published at all! It's so lovely when readers like it. Thank you.

Keeping to literary matters, here's today's meditation:

Meditation 168

A litany of disasters
opens out:
famine, disease, war,

pain, exile, oppression,
murder, cannibalism, death.
But on this day

of quietness and warmth
the voice of the past

seems far away.

This morning, I caught up with yesterday's episode of Torchwood - the shock! the awful revelation! What on earth did Jack think he was doing??!? Words fail me. I can't wait for tonight ... I've also picked up a free courtesy car from the garage as poor Rupert is going to be sick until at least the weekend. The trauma of driving a courtesy car was bad enough (Lord but I hate change), but when I attempted to get it into reverse in order to park it at home, the damn gear stick came off in my hand and the cars queueing up to wait for me to sort myself out had to wait a while longer as I struggled to get the damn thing back in. Really, it doesn't bode well ... Not only that, but I can't work out how to open the windows so when getting and giving back my car park ticket in Guildford this afternoon, I had to leap out of the car, sort out the barrier machine and then leap back into the car and drive through at a rate of knots before the pole came down again. I also had trouble getting into 2nd gear as the pesky thing tends to go straight from 1st to 4th, which makes roundabouts interesting, to say the least. And Guildford has some damn complex roundabouts. Really, it's astonishing I'm alive at all ...

Thank goodness for a girly lunch and a free glass of wine (thank the Lord for food vouchers) with Robin this afternoon. Lovely to see her, and the support while I burbled on for ten minutes from the off about cars and stress and gear sticks is hugely appreciated. Thank you, Robin. After lunch, we wandered around Guildford and I have bought a very nice green summer cardigan with my Viyella voucher - it must be a voucher day indeed.

Back home, I have finally finished typing up my notes for The Gifting and now need to go through them and highlight the things I specially need to bear in mind for the proper Hallsfoot's Battle edit. And, in the meantime and sadly, I am now one of only two authors who have no bids, for Maloney's Law at the Diabetes Charity auction. Ah, the shame is mounting, you know and only four days left, woe is me.

Lastly, you'll be pleased to know that after nearly 24 hours (24 hours!!!), my Cool-er Reader has finally charged itself up and I must now work out how to load ebooks onto it and how to read them. The mystery thickens, Carruthers ...

Today's nice things:

1. A lovely 5+ review for The Bones of Summer, hurrah!
2. Poetry
3. Torchwood
4. Lunch & shopping with Robin
5. Finishing the pre-edits
6. A charged-up Cool-er Reader - at last!

Anne Brooke - having a veritable rollercoaster day