Thursday, September 29, 2011

Freshers, fig trees and fans

Life News:

This week has been Freshers' Week at the university so it's been all systems go all week, with not really much time for anything else. Luckily, I was well enough to go in on each day, though I still can't honestly say I'm functioning on all cylinders yet. Same old, then ... I must say this year's freshers' arrangements have gone really well and I found myself enjoying the process even, so that's been good. I think partly that's to do with the fact that my role took a more backseat position this year, and I spent less actual time on our information point table - though I did manage to set it up, get it started with the volunteers and take it down again each day. Having the extra time meant I kept up with the job back at my desk and that's been great too. How I hate it when I get behind.

Plus the really wonderful thing is seeing (and feeling!) the general states of anxiety from our new student intake lessen substantially as the days go by, hurrah. We've got one more day with the information point on Monday when lectures actually start and they're into their real timetable, but it's never so pressurised a day - so on the whole I feel I've survived Freshers' Week (and even enjoyed it!) rather well. Gosh indeed.

Meanwhile at home, it's all go on the domestic front. We had a dishwasher delivered this morning and - silly me - I happily signed and sent the delivery men off on their way. Only then did I think to see if it fitted in the space. Hmmm, sadly not. Groan. Well, the top fits but the bottom doesn't as the wooden frame of the cupboard unit on the right isn't straight. Deep deep sigh. I'm waiting for Super Husband to come home and see if he can work miracles but I fear we will have to tackle the shop to see if they'll take it back and offer us something smaller. It's really irritating me too, as I was so looking forward to using it tonight. Cue weeping and gnashing of teeth ...

This afternoon, I'm also waiting for delivery of a long ladder so K can get up onto the roof and work out if we need to sort any tiles out. With my current luck, it'll probably be too ruddy big to get through the house, sigh. We'll wait and see.

Turning to the garden (or "the estate", as we like to call it, my dears), I fear that my precious fig tree is not long for this world. I haven't a clue what I'm doing wrong. Over-watering? Under-watering? Too shady? Too sunny?? Lord knows - but its leaves are now all curly and yellow, and I don't know how to make them straight and green again. Not only that but the lovely grasses in front of the dining room window are turning all yellow and droopy too from being all shiny and green last week. Should I be watering more? Is it something that should happen in autumn, though aren't they meant to be evergreen? Sigh, it's a mystery. If anyone out there has any answers, please feel free to share them. We need all the nature help we can get.

Book News:

Not much to say - I'm continuing, very slowly indeed, to write the short story I'm currently working on but it's no use holding your breath. Mind you, I was extremely heartened yesterday to receive not one but two pieces of fan email, so that was really lovely. Thank you, both! I usually only get two in a year, and to have them both on the same day is surely a coincidence no fiction writer would ever dare get away with. Onwards and upwards, eh.

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Roses and recuperation

Life News:

Sadly, I've been sick since Friday - the usual nasty catarrh virus thing that's given me a couple of relatively sleepless nights and put paid to my appetite, groan. Rather a dramatic way of losing weight, but there you go. It was all rather annoying as I had to be in work on Friday for an important meeting at the end of the afternoon - and I so nearly made it there too. I kept my head down most of the morning and early afternoon and managed, near enough, to catch up on the outstanding stuff (thank goodness) but then I made the foolish error of going to the campus shop to stock up on Lucozade and felt really really sick. All that cold fresh air is definitely not good for you ...

So I made the decision to give up and go home - and managed to get home more or less unscathed though there were several distinctly dodgy moments when I got into the house when I wasn't sure whether I would go one way or the other. Since then it's not been great but at least I do feel a bit more human now. Have even succeeded in eating a bit of lunch today though, to be honest, I couldn't really taste it so I suspect that's probably it until tomorrow.

Nice things that have happened over the weekend include K mowing the lawn and doing wonderful things to the garden as I drooped around groaning a lot. He also very sweetly brought me in a rose which was lovely and made me cry (heck, I am ill, so you shouldn't blame me for the gush ...) but I couldn't actually smell it. Today I can though, and it's very nice! What a superhero.

I really need to be in work tomorrow first thing as well as it's Freshers' Week and I ought to be there, helping Student Support to do its stuff - so I'm hoping I can get a decent night's sleep tonight and feel okay tomorrow. We'll see. Stupidly, even doing normal things is totally wiping me out - probably the lack of food, sigh ...

Book News:

I'm pleased to announce that the winner of the competition in my inaugural quarterly newsletter is Deb F - so well done, Deb, and do get in touch to claim your prize! Which is either the ebook of fantasy novel The Gifting or gay erotic short story For One Night Only. The choice is yours ... Commiserations also to those who entered and didn't win - but better luck next time!

This week, gay erotic short story The Art of The Delaneys has gained a 4-star review at Goodreads, so I'm thrilled with that.

And here's the Sunday haiku for you (you should be able to guess the story!):

You bring me a rose.
I'm too sick to smell it but
the colour shimmers.

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Commitment, competitions and covers

Book News:

Gay thriller, A Dangerous Man, has received a fascinating 4-star review at Goodreads (many thanks, Vio)  and at the same time it's been voted as one of the finalists in the Rainbow Awards covers competition - so many thanks to the judges for picking it. It certainly is a cover I've always really loved.

Keeping on the subject of reviews, gay BDSM short story For One Night Only gained a 4-star review at The Romance Studio - so thank you to Gabrielle for that one.

Over at Vulpes Libris Reviews, you can see my review of Dan Savage's The Commitment - which is a sharp and lyrical memoir about one man's path to gay marriage. Definitely worth a read, whatever point on the sexual preference spectrum you appear on, and highly recommended.

Meanwhile, don't forget that there's still one more day before the giveaway competition included in my recent newsletter ends - so there's time to enter before the winner is chosen! There's a choice between fantasy novel The Gifting or gay short story For One Night Only as the competition prize so enter early enter often!...

This week's meditation poem is:

Meditation 571
The man in charge
of olive oil
glows with hope.

His smooth countenance
eases the ways
and words of men

while the aftertaste
in his speech
brings to their memories

the wind’s mysterious power
and the dapple
of sunshine on skin.

The late Sunday haiku is:

Under roofs of sky
the abbey breathes its secrets
to unheeding air.

Life News:

We had a fabulous time on holiday, and the first five or six days were blazing sunshine, which was great. I spent a lot of time reading on the sun-deck whilst sipping my cocktail du jour. Ah, this is the life, eh. The food was magnificent, although the cabin was rather more bijou than anticipated, hey ho. But no need to spend a lot of time there, what with the sun deck and the programme of excursions. It's such bliss when you don't even have to think and you just go where you're told. I suspect that is a holiday pleasure which comes with age, but my how we're enjoying it. Particular pleasure were Arle, Avignon and the Carmargue. How I loved the horses and the bulls. Wonderful. Hmm, there's a story there somehow but it might be a while in arriving, which may of course be a good thing.

Anyway we're back into normal life now - though the day after our holiday and our first day back at work started rather earlier than anticipated when my alarm clock when off at 5am instead of 6am due to still being on French time. Zut alors indeed. I won't be winning any awards for the Most Popular Wife any time soon, I fear ...

Speaking of work, we've held an open day for prospective students yesterday and are gearing up to the tribulations and joys of Welcome Week next week, so there won't be any time to breathe until at least October. Or not if previous years' experience is anything to go by! Still, as long as the students get settled in relatively painlessly then everyone's smiling.

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hallsfoot, heucheras and hazelnuts

Book News:

I've just signed the contract for the second in my fantasy series, Hallsfoot's Battle, which will be published by Bluewood Publishing probably sometime next year, hurrah! Here's the blurb just to stimulate your interest:

In the second book in The Gathandrian Trilogy, Gelahn the mind-executioner begins his campaign. His powers are sublime, unmatched – even without the mind-cane in his possession. Using fear and pain he enslaves his victims, but next he will break and possess the Lammas Overlord. Recently appointed Acting Elder and left in sole charge of her people, Annyeke Hallsfoot draws on all her mind-skills and courage as the fight for Gathandria rages. The precious ancient Legends are her bedrock and she begins teaching their wisdom to the scribe, Simon Hartstongue, who must quickly learn to work with the mind-cane’s strange powers. But Simon is distracted by his own demons and only fears the artefact. Supported by Johan and Talus, her young charge, Annyeke plots a desperate strategy to defeat the enemy. As the Gathandrians rally behind their new leader, Gelahn strikes at the heart of the city.

And before Number Two in The Gathandrian Trilogy arrives, don't forget there's still time to read the first in the series, The Gifting. Don't delay - buy today! Here's the next small snippet:

It's damning for Johan in so many ways, as Chief Advisor to the Sub-Council of Meditation, but it's true.

Other good book news this week is that gay erotic short story For One Night Only gained a 4.5 star review at Top 2 Bottom Reviews - so many thanks to Michele for that. In addition literary thriller A Dangerous Man gained a lovely 4-star review at Goodreads - thank you so much, Blake. 

I've also uploaded a new blog to The Thoughtful Corner which, this month, concentrates on fresh starts and what they mean, or might mean. I hope you enjoy the read.

This week's meditation poem:

Meditation 570
A people said to be
as numerous as stars

must always remember
not to be distant,

sterile, and a reminder
only of history

but a light
in the darkness

and an absolute promise
of hope.

The Sunday haiku is:

The cardboard boxes
now unpacked and gone: old lives
give way to the new.

Life News:

I appreciate very much that today is a day of quiet remembrance, but it's also K's and my 18th wedding anniversary, so we've been celebrating, but quietly. We've had a lovely lunch out at The Woolpack and then wandered round Wisley Flower Show where we bought a Paris heuchera for one of the borders at the back - K has already planted it and it looks fabulous.

Other house and garden excitements this week have been: we've bought a shoe tidy, a washing line, pegs, a peg bag and some compost, well gosh. And I've hung the washing out to dry for the first time in our married life (18 years today, don't you know! Did I say that already? ...). A fact which, strangely, has made me extraordinarily happy - it's almost like being an adult really, ho ho. I've also sorted out the wardrobes so we know where everything is, and K has planted the French lavender, the rose and the azalea which Jane and Liz (thank you, both!) very kindly between them bought us as house-warming presents. He's also planted our own rose and nemesia, but we have yet to see how they cope with not being in a pot.

And, to cap it all, we've harvested the first hazelnuts from our hazelnut tree - all two of them, and yes they were utterly delicious. Perhaps we'll harvest some more one day ...

On Friday, Marian and I played golf for the first time in ages and I actually won, hurrah! Which just proves that I'm better if I don't play for a while - the weirdness of golf indeed. Practice makes me worse, ah well. And in the afternoon, Liz came round and we had coffee, cake and chat - all perfect for a Friday afternoon really. Ah, this is the life.

Yesterday evening, we took Liz & John to a Proms party at the house of a friend of theirs in Woking - supper and chat in front of the TV. What could be nicer? We were, sadly however, rather late, as I'd confidently programmed the route into Celia SatNav and merrily directed K there from the back seat - but when we "arrived" I realised it wasn't Liz's friend's house at all, but some other address I'd keyed in, and we had to start all over again. Ho hum. Naturally enough, someone else directed on the way back ...

And the Spider Sagas continue. Liz kindly lent us her new spider vacuum (which allegedly allows you to get the spider in a tube and then deposit it in a nature-friendly way in the garden) and we had occasion to use it earlier in the week when I got up at about 1am and discovered one of the evil beasts next to the loo. Well, one can't really go when there's an enemy in the camp so K nobly rushed to get the spider doom machine and attempted to vacuum it into the tube. Alas, the power wasn't strong enough to suck the enormous beast up the tube (as it were ...), and I was so desperate by then I had to dash to the other loo to answer Nature's call - thus abandoning poor K in the ensuite with a cylindrical plastic tube planted on top of a rather large spider. I think he understood, but I may well have lost Wife Points ... By the time I got back, he'd somehow tipped the spider into the loo and flushed it away, hurrah. So whilst I fear that the nature-friendly nature of the vacuum might have been missed, at least it did the job. Sort of.

However, we decided we really needed something stronger so when, after the Proms party, we discovered another spider, this time in my bathroom,  K dashed to get the real vacuum and we sucked it up to its doom in a matter of moments, aha. Nature? Bah, humbug and Death to the Enemy, eh. We are indeed the Spider Destroyers of Elstead - call us anytime, hey ho.

Anyway, for a week or so, our unwanted house lodgers will be safe as we're off on holiday cruising down the Rhone and enjoying the Colours of Provence and Beaujolais and, hopefully, having a lovely relaxing time from tomorrow.  I suspect it will be our last holiday abroad for quite a while but, hey, we definitely deserve it, though I think we'll both be looking forward, secretly, to coming back to our new home afterwards. Who wouldn't!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Tesco and topiary

Life News:

We've been in our new home for a week now and I'm loving it. The only downside is the influx of spiders we're getting (yuck!) but of course that's with having a garden and the joys of the season, I fear. Still, battling back, I have bought some spider doom equipment and a keep away spray so here's hoping that will thin out the wretched beasts. Even so, it's not as bad as where I grew up on a farm where the spiders were the size of wheels and frequently armed. Double yuck.

Other discoveries we've made this week are that we have a hazelnut tree, complete with nuts, in the garden and some hazelnut sprigs scattered around, and that the weird switch near the kitchen door lights up the under-the-cupboard areas around the kitchen walls. All very odd, but I imagine it will give the kitchen a romantic aura in winter, hey ho. Not convinced how vital it is however.

Our lovely friends, L & J, have once again come to the rescue and donated us their no-longer-wanted fridge freezer as our fridge has been broken for weeks. At the Woking flat, we'd resorted to keeping things in cool boxes in order to avoid serious food diseases. Now, it's bliss - we hadn't realised margarine could be so firm (as it were) as recently we've been all but drinking it. So another big round of applause for L & J - I fear that soon their house will be nothing but an empty shell as all their worldly goods eventually make their way to ours!...

This week, K has removed the area of dead lavender bush near the vegetable patch, and trimmed the topiary ball, which now looks far better. Hey, I've always wanted a topiary ball and now I have one! K didn't look keen when I mentioned wanting a matching pair, but he did so well with the trimming that I don't want him to lose the skill ... We've also ordered a composting bin from the council so we're seriously getting stuck in.

Yesterday, I popped into our old doctor's as I was due an appointment anyway and I wanted to say a proper goodbye as we're in the process of joining the Elstead one. She's been ruddy brilliant with me and my various ailments and I'll really miss her - but apparently not too much as I found out she lives two roads away from me in the village. Honestly, Elstead is truly the centre of the known universe, you know. All the best people come here.

Today, Jane H (hello, Jane!) came round for coffee, a chat and a tour of the estate (well, in my dreams, eh), which was fabulous. And she bought us a lovely French lavender bush as a house-warming present - thank you, Jane! - so we can plant that where we pulled out the dead lavender earlier on, hurrah. Plus, just now, Tesco have delivered enough shopping to feed the British army (should they arrive for tea ...) and I have fed the freezers, which should keep them happy for a while.

In the meantime, I'm waiting for British Gas to arrive to give us a first service, but no signs yet. Still, if we didn't have to wait for a gasman, then it wouldn't really be England, hey ho.

Book News:

I've started writing again, which has been very much on the back-burner for a week or so. I'm working on a literary gay short story at the moment, tentatively entitled In the Silence of The Heart, but I'm taking it steady and I think it be a while before I get properly into a routine again. But it's nice to be back, however lightly.

Literary lesbian short story The Girl in the Painting has surprised me again by turning up as the No 2 international bestseller in August at Untreed Reads, well gosh. And don't forget that there are a lot of book bargains to be had in September at the Untreed Reads bookstore - shop early, shop often!

Meanwhile, at Vulpes Libris Reviews, you can find my review of To Marry a Prince by Sophie Page, a right royal romance that's light-hearted and great fun and should take you happily into the autumn.

Here are this week's meditation poems:

Meditation 567
Somewhere in this cacophony
of trumpet, horn and harp,
shouts, wild applause and song

there must be a memory
of silence, an unheard voice
to rest upon.

Meditation 568
Even the holy Levites
needed administrators

which just goes to show
that a good secretary

is always worth her weight
in blessings.

Meditation 569
A list of holy names
in which I have
no real interest
fills my mind
and this quiet room.

I cannot catch
any wisdom here
and my frail attempts
at prayer
end too soon.

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Hallsfoot, horses and home

Life News:

We're in our new home at last, and it's absolutely wonderful! We seriously love it. The move went very smoothly and because we've blitzed it over the last couple of days, we're now fully unpacked - though some of the bookshelves/book cases and wardrobes might need sorting out at some point. It's nice to have themed rooms and try to suit the books to the theme - though the same can't be said of the wardrobes of course! It feels like we're really starting to settle in. The horses in the field at the bottom of the garden are an added bonus, especially with the foals (ah, sweet!), we have bought gardening equipment and K has already planted out - with autumn veg - one of the three raised beds in the vegetable plot. All very rural, m'dears. Next gardening job - attempting to work out how to make the fountain functional. Don't get too excited - it's not Versailles (though to us it probably is)! The fountain's small, but hey it's there and we're going to get it working. One day. STOP PRESS! K has got the fountain working already, so now we have a mini Versailles, sort of - what a hero!

Interesting things about moving to a house from a flat. We have an upstairs where you go to bed - heck, that's strange. We have our own wheely-bin and recycling bins - which feels very grown-up as we've always shared these before. There is more than one bathroom (hurrah!) which saves the morning panic as we both try to get ready at the same time. And - wait for it!! - I am at last a Woman with an Electric Garage Door which (possibly sadly) has been my dream for so many years I can't even begin to tell you. Fan-bloody-tastic!! I could play with it for ages, but K advises against it as I'll wear the batteries down. But, honestly, it's better than the telly.

Already, we have eaten out at the local pub, The Woolpack, which was very good indeed with very friendly people, and bought our papers from the local Spar - which is much larger and with a wider variety of goods than you might expect in a village, and is open every day except Sunday from 7am to 9pm (Sundays it closes at 7pm) - gosh, that's better than shops in town really. Today we have dropped in at St James' Church for Parish Communion which I really liked, and enjoyed a BBQ with our very good friends, L & J, who happen to live 2 doors down (hurrah!), so have met a raft of other new neighbours which was lovely. We feel we've arrived now - we may well lower the tone but, hey, we're here!

While I'm on, I must also seriously sing the praises of L, who left a big box of "Welcome to Your New Home" presents AND a box full of quiche, salad, strawberries, cream & champagne, and coffee in a flask for our supper when we moved in - all of which were hugely appreciated. Honestly, L is the most generous woman I know, and it actually made me cry. She is definitely my Heroine of The Year. Big time. Thank you, L.

Book News:

Stop Press! I'm delighted to say that Bluewood Publishing have agreed to publish the second fantasy novel in my Gathandrian Trilogy, Hallsfoot's Battle, so a huge thank you to Paulette and David for accepting it. I'm really thrilled and what a very lovely week it's proving to be indeed.

Meanwhile, not to be outdone, the first in the series, The Gifting, has just been purchased as an ebook by the Singapore National Library, so that's a great surprise.

At the same time, gay thriller A Dangerous Man gained a five star review at Goodreads (many thanks, Nithu) and the ebook version will be on sale for September only at £2.10 in the UK and $2.99 in the US - so now's your chance to snap up a serious bargain.

Speaking of bargains, ALL my books at Amber Allure Press are on sale at a 25% discount throughout September as well - so there's yet more good reading shopping to be done! Buy early, buy often ...

And, in terms of other reviews, gay erotic short story For One Night Only gained an interesting review at Goodreads, so thank you to Book Robot Reviews for that. Don't forget you can win a copy of For One Night Only or The Gifting by signing up to my newsletter - you still have until 23 September to enter! Don't miss out!

This week's meditation poem is:

Meditation 566
They task us
to guard the gate,
a way out
and a way in:

a concept
entirely dependent
on what you think of
as home.

The Sunday haiku is:

One small grey squirrel
dancing on the neighbour's tree,
gazing right at me.

Anne Brooke
The Thoughtful Corner