Friday, November 30, 2007

Work phrases and severed heads

Back at work today – on a Friday, arrgghhh!! – looking at the last of our website providers and also minuting the Student Induction Group over lunchtime. I hope to goodness they don’t say too much, or at least nothing that’s complicated, as I don’t have the emotional energy for complexity today. It’s been a heck of a busy week.

So much so that when I rushed into the kitchen last night to see if Lord H wanted help with the dinner, I found myself saying, as a kind of automatic work response: can I help you or shall I take a message? He stared at me for a few moments, blinked, and then said in his best, slow baritone, Reeee-laaax. Reee-laax. At which point, I flopped over like a rag doll and rested on the breakfast bar until light dawned in my brain. My, what fun we have in Godalming.

I must also admit that post-the website meeting, the providers have flummoxed me by their constant use of the word, “taxonomy”, which for me conjured up visions of stuffed animals in museums in a quite charming way. I looked it up the moment I got back to the office – and then thought, so what exactly is wrong with “classification” then??

Anyway, this afternoon, my fingers shall be dancing – or possibly dragging themselves – over the keyboard to make a hole in these darn minutes. (Once I get over the huge irritation of one of the Group members at the meeting – who must remain nameless – who insists on sitting next to me and pointing out what he thinks is wrong in the way I take the minutes, and then butting in on perfectly reasonable explanations I give to members afterwards of what they missed. The words: out, butt and loser come to mind!!! It’s just hugely rude!!) But I’d better try to get as much of the stuff (which turned out to be very complex indeed, sigh …) typed up as I can, as I have yet another wretched meeting on Monday, and I will soon be drowning in papers. And with only a two-day weekend ahead (pause for agonised screams from the rest of you – sorry …). Honestly, it’s shocking!

And, talking of shocking (SPOILER ALERT HERE!), I was much taken with a scene in the book I’m reading at the moment – Gyles Brandreth’s Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders – where a glorious New Year party at Oscar’s, described in tight but wonderful detail, is interrupted by the opening of a box which is thought to be a present for Mrs Wilde. Instead, the severed head of the man murdered on the first page rolls out across the dining table, and Conan Doyle (who’s also in the book) leaps up to fling his napkin over it and calm the ladies. Utterly fab!!! What a fantastic scene!! I wish more than anything that I’d written it.

Tonight, I shall be videoing “Ugly Betty” (Mark & Cliff are sooo sweet!) and “My Name is Earl” for later and watching comedy shows with Lord H. Bliss.

Today’s nice things:

1. Laughing at my hyped-up work brain
2. The severed head scene
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Maloney's Law cover and a good review!

PD Publishing have sent me four samples of covers for Maloney’s Law – and this is my favourite. I love it! Just how I’ve been imagining Paul all the while I was writing him. I might ask them to fiddle around with the London context, but we’ll see. Anyway, I’m thrilled.

At work, I’ve been in meetings (ones I don’t have to minute, hurrah!) all morning looking at possible new website providers. And there’s another one of these tomorrow, so we can’t make decisions yet. However, I favour the first guys, although the people with the power favour the second guys – even though they’re more expensive. Groan. Anyway, whatever we get will be better than what we have now so in any case we’ll be smiling. And it’ll be much more whizzy. Double hurrah.

Ooh, and our new zappy desk lights have arrived, and are indeed super space-age in design. We love them and they make all the difference in terms of office gloom dispersal. It’s all dark outside the window and inside there are comforting pools of light. All very Dickensian, I suppose.

This afternoon, I’ve been attempting to write up more of yesterday’s minutes, just in order to keep on top of it all. Some hope! Tonight, I’m leaving work early (well, I got in early for the website meetings and I skipped my lunch hour, so I think I’m entitled) to have a Clarins facial & back massage. Bliss. I wouldn’t normally make an appointment after work, but this week’s days in have been shot to pieces, so I’ve just had to cope. Ah well! (Update - they cancelled my appointment, dammit!!! Still at least I managed to get some shopping done. Still, it would have been nice to relax for a while ...

I’m also hoping to catch up with last week’s episodes of “Ugly Betty” and “My Name is Earl” once I’m home, as the new episodes are tomorrow, and I’m terrified of losing the plot. (Plot? Plot? What’s that then …?).

Ooh, and Lisa Glass (who wrote the marvellous Prince Rupert's Teardrop) has put a review of A Dangerous Man on the Vulpes Libris review site under today's date, but which you can also see below:

"“Want to swap books?” Anne Brooke asked me last week. “Okay then,” I thought, “We both write on the dark side, so why not?” But I swore I wouldn’t let it interfere with my other reviewing duties. After all, I had five other books in the queue. And then I read the first page … Some time later my husband was nudging me but I managed to wave him off and kept turning the pages. After discussing Vulpes Libris with a friend I agreed that my reviews couldn’t all be raves, because, you know, people love grouchy reviews too, but here I am about to rave again because A Dangerous Man is the most gripping book I’ve read in years. Michael is a struggling artist in Hackney, just starting out and supplementing his income with a little bit of prostitution. He is desperate to be taken seriously as an artist and he eventually gets a commission to provide a city firm with some artwork, which is where he meets Jack: a handsome, if reserved, businessman. This part of the novel is incredibly erotically charged, and as readers and writers alike generally agree, ‘Sex is bloody difficult to write,’ so hats off to Anne Brooke. Jack and Michael get it on, and get together, which is where things begin to go wrong… The middle section of the novel slows in pace and becomes much darker. Michael continues to draw (and think) in shades of grey, and continues to do things that he regrets. Jack, however, is still sailing through life. He has a loving, wealthy family behind him, whereas Michael has only his wiles and a handful of tricks…excusing the pun. There are detailed descriptions of the drawing process, and the parallels between writing and drawing are obvious: the rejection, the self-belief (and lack of), the doubt of others, the manic creative flow. As a writer this did sometimes take me out of the narrative, as I found myself thinking about my own writing trials and tribulations, but non-writers would be immune to that, I would think. As I read A Dangerous Man I kept asking myself ‘Who is the dangerous man here? Is it the difficult (but refreshingly true to himself) Michael, or is it the figure of capitalism, Jack?’ Because, yes, Michael is ‘troubled’ and he both craves and despises normality, but surely Jack senses that? Does Jack really go into this with his eyes closed? Is Jack a simpleton? No, he is shrewdly intelligent. A ruthless businessman, we assume. Michael might be set up as the manipulative one, but Jack employs Michael as an artist mostly to get close to him, he forces Michael to endure his gratingly middle-class family, even though Michael can’t bear them, and he says that if Michael earns £500 to contribute to an exhibition, he’ll pay for the rest. Ah. Michael doesn’t have a job and there’s only one way he earns money, although apparently Jack is unaware of Michael’s rent boy activities. This part of the book is upsetting as Michael goes further and further to earn the money, and I couldn’t help thinking, ‘How many blow jobs does it take to earn five hundred quid??’ Some readers have wondered why Michael doesn’t seek ‘a real job’ rather than resort to prostitution. Well, there’s no reasoning with Michael, but I’d say he’s a creature of habit. The novel’s obvious Bad Guy is a nasty piece of work called Paul, who exploits and manipulates Michael at every turn…but my thoughts kept coming back to Jack. Is Jack the true Bad Guy? Does Jack represent a negative capitalist force manipulating the fates of lesser, poorer mortals? Well, yes and no. Jack is basically a pretty decent person. He does his best, but in his way he’s just as messed up by his upbringing as Michael. He’s as square as they come. He’s all for ‘being calm about things’ and treating matters of the heart in a logical fashion, but his lack of loyalty and ‘conditional love’ make things infinitely worse for Michael. Which is all to say that I am for Michael. He might be a loony, a weirdo wrapped up in himself, a psycho unable to function in social situations, but he’s direct, and I like that. The ending is dark and not entirely unexpected but it kept me on the edge of my seat, as despite fearing the worst, I determinedly hoped for the best. This page-turner is commercial fiction at its best. I defy anyone to read this and forget it. Michael is someone you remember."

Gosh, thanks hugely, Lisa - a very interesting review and also hugely generous. I'm very grateful indeed.

Oh, and in case I haven’t said it already, I love my new cover!! Paul is just sooo one of my favourite characters (sorry, Michael, though of course I love you too …) – and certainly presentable enough to introduce to your mother without fear. Or not much fear anyway …

Today’s nice things:

1. The Maloney’s Law cover! (did I mention that?)
2. The review of A Dangerous Man
3. TV (I hope!)

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Ye gods, but I've finished the Thorn in the Flesh final editing process, hurrah! And I've now sent it off to Jackie so she can work her PDF magic for the Goldenford lists. Phew ... It's always a relief to get this part done. The thrill of completion is very satisfying indeed.

In the meantime, I've been slogging away at work too - including dealing with a raft of emails and minuting the Student Affairs Committee this lunchtime, and adding in an extra meeting for the Registrar into the fast filling-up January schedules. Well, there's only three weeks of term left, so we have to get the academics now before they all escape ... Not only that, but I've actually started writing the damn lunchtime meeting up too. Though don't ask me what it was about. I only take the notes - I don't follow them.

Mind you, we have our next tranche of Management Speak already biting at our ankles. And, in line with the technological university that we are (sadly!), we don't even have it in words. Just numbers. The new catch-phrase is ... um ... 10/100/10. Which we must all go round chanting like crazed mannequins until our heads implode. It apparently means that we're all working towards being the Number 10 university in the UK and the Number 100 internationally in the next 10 years. Well, I think that's what it means but, to be honest, I was too busy guffawing in disbelief as our poor manager was telling us. It could just as well mean we have 10 strange people saying 100 odd things across 10 different meetings. Which could well be the case. I say again that, frankly m'dears, the more management-speak there is, the less human I fear we become. And the more strategies and visions we have, the less we may well be in control of what's going on. I fear it anyway! Lord H also points out that, depending on when the launch of this new idea was, it could well be by now 10/100/9.997 recurring. Or some such figure. Mind you, if we're all becoming numbers now, please, please, please can I be Seven of Nine? In my dreams! The plot thickens, Watson ...

And talking of strangenesses in the woodwork, you may remember me talking about the woman that came up to me in Farnborough Bookshop and wanted to know why the Hamlet DVD wasn't filed under War Films & Military section. Lord H is much taken with this, and feels that we have a whole new way of reclassifying Shakespeare for the modern age - so that Julius Caesar would be shelved under Crime, and Romeo & Juliet under Alternative Medicine. Slap my thighs, Carruthers, but there may well be something in it ...

And there's good news on the hospital front: my friend in Intensive Care is now off the ventilator and breathing through a mask. Which is progress for sure! And she's waking up every now and again, so hurrah for that! I suspect she's getting better quicker than anticipated because the thought of another visit from me is just too much for her. By the time we pop in next week, she'll probably be at home watching TV at this rate.

Anyway, I'm off to watch "Heroes" now. Ye gods, but I feel I deserve it.

Today's nice things:

1. Finishing the Thorn edit
2. Laughing at work madnesses
3. Good hospital news.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Halfway through the Thorn and some hospital visiting

Have spent the whole day knee-deep - no, neck-deep - in Thorn in the Flesh, and I'm now halfway through the final read-through. Phew! I'm hoping I'll be able to get it to Goldenford by the end of the week, but it depends on a variety of factors. Not the least being that my two days off from the University is now over, and alas I have to go to work for the next three days as of tomorrow. Groan.

I was also going to try to fit in some golf today, but cancelled it as a friend of mine from work (or rather ex-work - as she's retired now) is unfortunately in Intensive Care at the local hospital with double pneumonia. A horrible shock to us all. So Ruth, Sally and I went en-masse to pay her a brief visit. We took it in turns, as they only allow two people at the bed at any one time, and talked as much as we could, though it's difficult when someone's unconscious. I know it's what you should do, as you never know what people can hear, but it's not particularly easy. Especially when you don't know someone that well. I hope we did our best - Sally thought there was more colour in her cheeks when we left, but my theory is that was because she was trying to get a word in edgeways during my manic monologue. She was probably saying: for God's sake, Anne, bugger off and let me sleep. Hell, it's understandable. I can't say I blame her. Anyway, the hospital are hoping that she'll be breathing independently in three or four weeks or so. We can only hope.

The three of us - rejoicing in our new official title of The Three Witches - then had a quick cup of coffee in the hospital canteen before the other two went back to work, and I returned to Thorn.

Tonight, I'll be out at Guildford Writers, but I'm planning to leave early, as I didn't get much sleep last night (I never do when I'm editing), and I need to be awake for tomorrow's tranche of meetings.

Today's nice things:

1. Trogging on with Thorn
2. Chatting to Ruth and Sally, even in difficult circumstances
3. Guildford Writers.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, November 26, 2007

A second edition, a surprising review and hacking away the thorns

Sorry, I've been working like a dog all day and there's no space in my brain for a snappy title. I'm ... um ... dog-tired. God, sorry. That's bad, even for me, but I can't be arsed to retype.

Have had my eyes glued to the computer and my fingers glued to the keyboard all day doing Thorn in the Flesh edits for Goldenford. I've done all the actual changes now, but am going through the styles so it's set in the desired format and - at the same time - redoing the traumas of the disastrous "search and replace" mistake I did on the speech quotes earlier in the day. Yes, that is 1048 changes to make, and no they're not easy to spot. Believe me. And, yes, if I search and replace them back to what they were, it means the other half go wrong too. Ah, choices, choices eh. Anyway, I'm up to Chapter 16 of 26, so only 10 of the buggers to go. And then, when that's all done, I'll be able to do the final read-through before sending it to Jackie who is the Queen of the PDF file.

All this has meant that Lord H is again in line for sainthood, as he's had to suffer the loss of his day off with Wife (though at least we did Dungeness yesterday, so have managed "us time" at least once this weekend, hurrah!). However, no complaints have been heard, and he's entertained himself by going out birdspotting in Ash and doing the shopping. Hell, he's knows what I'm like during final edits by now (answer: wide-eyed, pale and staring, with a peculiar disinterest in food) - but still gains SuperHusband points for forbearance. And he brought back flowers ...

... which were partly purchased to celebrate the astonishing arrival of my copy of the second edition of A Dangerous Man. Yes, I will say that again. I've got a bloody second edition!! This has never happened to me before, and bloody hell but it feels nice. The new version has review quotes on the back cover and even more inside, which is giving me a warm, loved glow I really don't get often. At least not in terms of the commercial publishing world. Somehow it makes the fact that I've only sold 110 copies all in, and will therefore never make it up to the dizzy heights of the Y List, much more palatable indeed. I keep picking the book up and hugging it. I might even sleep with it under my pillow tonight, but fear that even the noble Lord H might think that a madness too far.

On top of all that, the very kind Jill Weekes has posted a review of The Hit List (anyone remember that?) on her blog under today's date, but I include it here also:

"I finished reading Anne Brooke's The Hit List last night. If you want something a bit different - though not in the same vein as Pink Champagne and Apple Juice by the same author - then go for The Hit List. Jamie is doing sterling work looking after his cantankerous elderly father and running his own business from home. His half brother, Mark, the apple of his father's eye, is working in Japan. One of Jamie's friends from University returns to the village in Suffolk where he and his father live. But David appears to be gay, which he definitely never used to be - which worries Jamie - who soon adds him to his hit list of people he really needs to do away with to improve his quality of life. Then there is Robert - Mark's former boss - who turns up after six years away. The reason for his absence only becomes clear as the story progresses. Naturally his father who is always comparing him unfavourably with Mark is top of the hit list. I was on tenterhooks wondering how and when Jamie was going to succeed in carrying out his list. The sexuality of many of the main characters is constantly in doubt which adds to the drama. It is not a comfortable book though there are many moments of comedy."

Thanks, Jill! An extremely kind review, I think, for a book which even I find to be a difficult one. But, as I've said before, I couldn't have found my way in to Michael in A Dangerous Man without going through Jamie in The Hit List. In a strange way, Michael is really Jamie but without the jokes. At least that's how it felt like to me, as I went straight from THL to ADM without so much as a pause for breath. Pink Champagne and Apple Juice only came after the first draft of ADM was done.

Ooh, and talking of ADM, did I say a second edition is out?...

Today's nice things:

1. Getting to grips with Thorn - for better or for worse!
2. Jill's review of The Hit List
3. The second edition of A Dangerous Man (did I say that already??...)

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Power birds and the Michelin Man

Lord H and I have spent a marvellous day admiring the birds at Dungeness. Which were stunning, I must say. New birds spotted today: a smew (they're sooo lovely - all white with tracings of black. Wonderful!); a goldeneye; a hen harrier; Bewley's swans; possible divers, though it was hard to say; and a barn owl. The latter being an extra special treat as I navigated us along the wrong road on the way out and we saw it as we turned round. Goodness me, what a star I am indeed. It was all planned of course.

It was also an interesting day, in that I wore two pairs of socks, two pairs of trousers, seven layers of tops (comprising chemise, tee-shirt, polo-shirt, two jumpers, a fleece and my golf jacket), two scarves (one of which is my snood, so keeps my head warm too), a pair of gloves and a woolly hat. Really, m'dears, I had to be rolled out of the car and towards the bird hides, much like the Michelin Man. And I was still cold. Good God, this country!!! I think I am going to invest in some thermals. Don't tell Lord H ...

We also had lunch in a cafe in Dungeness Tourist Railway Station which appeared to have been almost perfectly preserved from the 1950s. That included the staff. And which produced the foulest mug of coffee I have ever had the displeasure of attempting to drink. There be strange folks in Dungeness, you know ... Though the fish are surprisingly large. And cook themselves. Dear me, how scarily handy!

Back home, I have caught up on the thrills and spills of "Strictly Come Dancing". Ah, Letitia, my angel, you are still in!! And how shit-hot and sexy was Matt! Oo-err, missus indeed. Also lovely to see that empty-headed, mean-hearted slapper, Kelly, taken down a peg or two. Oh how I wish she'd been chosen to go out. That would have been a real result!

I must also dash and watch "Cranford", as otherwise my week will be meaningless. The Thorn in the Flesh edit will have to wait ...

This week's haiku (which shows how terrified I can be by the sudden appearance of decorations):

The nursery tree
is all lit up tonight. God,
it must be Christmas.

Today's nice things:

1. Birds, especially the smew
2. Cheering for Letitia
3. Cranford.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The empty booksigners' corner and a cheery lunch

Up at the crack of dawn today - or almost - in order to get myself ready for the Goldenford booksigning at Book Boyz in Farnborough. I set off an hour before I needed to be there as I live in utter fear of driving to strange places and getting kidnapped by aliens lying in wait to pounce on weary travellers. Yes, my brain is like that. However, I managed to find the right carpark and even got myself onto the levels which provided cheaper parking (hurrah!). I must admit to being rather spooked by the fact that, at 10.30am on a Saturday morning before Christmas, I was the only one there. However, I soldiered bravely on. As one does.

I even managed to find the bookshop without too much trouble and set up half an hour before we were actually due to start. Um, not that anyone was waiting for us, I'm sad to say. And even when Jennifer arrived to liven up proceedings, the situation remained unchanged, thus proving that the Curse of Goldenford holds sway over Hampshire, as well as Surrey. I did do a lot of smiling, however, with the special plastic smile (the one formed of despair and faint, fluttering hope) that I keep for these occasions. I'd polished it specially this morning. However, to break up our sad time in Solitary, I did have one conversation with a man who played golf, who picked up a copy of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice on the assumption that it was a book about wine, but dropped it pretty sharpish when he realised it wasn't. We also talked to a woman who wanted to know where the DVD of "Hamlet" was, as it wasn't in the Military Campaigns section which she thought was very odd. Hmm, we thought it was odd too, but in a different way, I suspect. By this time, we were so desperate, cold (we were near the open door ...) and lonely that Jennifer purchased a magnetic poetry set and we played with it for a while.

I produced this:

A poem found whilst passing time at a book signing



Actually, I think it says it all really. Bizarrely, this frenzied activity drew the attention of a poet in the bookshop, with whom we had a marvellous conversation about poetry, writing, the Titanic and Julie Christie, and who finally took pity on us and bought a copy of Jennifer's The Gawain Quest. So we broke our duck: one book sold, hurrah! Thank you kindly, good sir, and I do hope you enjoy it. It's a fabulous novel. If you like it, please tell all your friends. Heck, we need the cash.

Considering that it would be nice to end on a high, we then immediately packed up and made good our fairly humiliated escape ... A plan of action made far smoother by the fact that Lord H popped in to see us on his birdwatching tour of Farnborough and was therefore able to take my (intact) box of books back home while I went to lunch with Julia. (Hello, Julia!) Which was great, and cheered me up no end.

Back home, I am looking at some of the edits for Thorn in the Flesh, which Jennifer has given me, though there's more to come. From a quick flick through, I can see already that she's picked up on some of my glaring errors (though possibly not as glaring as the ones Jackie picked up on!) - thank goodness for editors, I say. We writers constantly need to be saved from ourselves ...

And tonight, Lord H and I are off to the Guildford Choral Society concert at the cathedral. We're usually invited to the post-concert party, due to knowing some of the choir very well (hello, Robin & Liz!), but I think, after today's exhaustions, I'd just prefer to come home and flop.

Oh and, talking of music, here's a poem I wrote yesterday:

On listening to Bach

Notes shower my skin,
easing the week’s
spiked tension.

They wash me clean:
allegro moderato;
siciliana; allegro
again. Flute

and piano blended
into an ointment
not tasted before
until all my muscles

are flowing
with the melody
and I am wrapped
in gold and sunlight.

It raises me
into myself again:
this swift, strange

musical alchemy.

Today's nice things:

1. Surviving a rather desperate booksigning!
2. Lunch with Julia
3. Playing with poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, November 23, 2007

Golf, writing and a disappointing Phoenix

Early golf today as Marian had another appointment at 12noon, but it was actually fairly quiet as we hacked our way around. No great scores, though I wasn't bad off the tee and Marian's putting was top-notch. We've found out that if I stand behind the hole and shout aim at me legs, missus! then her putts are straighter and tend to go in. It's all psychological, you know - though neither of us were sure whether we should count the ball that rebounded off my foot and only then went in the hole. It's not quite golf as the PGA would have it, I fear ...

Afterward, I tackled the delights of Godalming and managed to stock up on my Christmas present supplies. Now I just have to wrap the buggers. Sigh, how I hate wrapping. It's really a job for SuperHusband, who is far tidier than I am and tends not to lose the Sellotape and burst into tears quite as much. Hell, somebody in a relationship has to be the drama queen, don't they? And wouldn't you know it had to be me!

Back home, I have got to the end of a chapter with The Bones of Summer and have discovered a surprising new development. Plus two new minor cast characters. Hey ho, well I suppose Craig knows what he's doing. Somebody has to. And I now have a total of 44,243 words (or worms, as Lord H likes to call them - funny wiggly lines that go across a page towards some unknown destination. Hell, he might be right ...), which surely has to be positive.

Tonight, it's TV heaven, though I think I shall have to video "Ugly Betty" and "My Name is Earl" to watch in secret later, as they're not Lord H's favourites. And I've just finished reading Ruth Sims' The Phoenix. Hey ho. It wasn't my favourite either really. It looked good - gay Victorian love story, thus making me think of the male equivalent of a Sarah Waters' special. But it didn't do it for me, I have to say. There's nothing wrong with the story per se - though way too many things were happening all in a flurry - but it was just so deeply unengaging, and one of the main characters had an NVQ Level 5 in Irritating Wimpiness which made me want to put a pillow over his head and push very, very hard. Sigh. I think one of the problems was the old-fashioned all-seeing narrator viewpoint - so you never actually got into the minds of any of the characters, and you were constantly swopping from one person to the other even in the middle of scenes, which was highly disruptive and made me want to scream. I also found myself losing the will to live when I was being told about Mr Wimpy taking his O and A levels. In Victorian times?? Am I in a time warp or is my own understanding of history completely up the creek?? I do realise that I make clunky mistakes too (trust me, I know them and they cause me great traumas in the middle of dark nights, no matter how old the novel!!) and I accept, nay rejoice, that no book is perfect and we're all human. But even I at least attempt every now and then to do a bit of pertinent research. Ah well. Anyway, I skim-read most of it and I'm glad it's done. The trouble is: I think she can write and she obviously does love the era. Maybe the next one will be better? I hope so.

Today's nice things:

1. Golf
2. Writing
3. TV.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thorns and Bones

Bloody hell, but I've actually done something literary today. Pause for blowing of trumpets and putting up of the bunting. Ah, I remember bunting. Brings back all those glorious '70s moments for me ... Does anyone still use this?

Anyway, I have changed all the names in Thorn in the Flesh that need changing and I'm sure my two secondary characters have grown sparkier as a result of being renamed to David and Nicky (or possibly Nicki - I'm still not decided). Strange what a difference a name makes. Even if only to my inner view of them. I've also added in a couple of phrases about Godalming Museum - well, if I'm going to have the launch there, then I'd better do the decent thing. Never let it be said that I, as an Essex Girl, am too proud to product-place in a novel. And even if the launch ends up being somewhere else, heck at least I'm showing local loyalty.

I've also typed up the Goldenford minutes and sent them out to the Golden Girls for checking. And I've done 787 (ye gods, that's more than 3!!) words to The Bones of Summer, which brings me to about 43,000 words. I think I'm about to go into a descriptive passage now too, so I'd better hang on to my hat and do my mental checklist: Do I have sight? Tick! Hearing? Tick! Taste? Tick! Touch? Tick! Smell? Well, not yet, but there's still time ... And not forgetting the most important ingredient of description: is this from the character's viewpoint entirely and absolutely and does it therefore reveal more of him? Oh Lord, but I hope so ... It's always the thing (amongst the many, many things) I have to rehash in the edit. And the one I struggle with most.

After all that, I have popped into see Gladys, who was quite chatty to start with but soon got tired. Hell, I have that effect on loads of people, so nothing new there.

Oh and I must say that I had a great time at Scottish country dancing last night - I managed to grab a partner rather than having to dance with the tutor, and I'm sure I pick it up quicker that way. I thought my poussettes were wonderful and I was okay on the weaving in and out in a line thing - whose name I have now forgotten - but my stripping of the willow was sadly lacking. Oh well, there's always next week. I think my main problem is the uncertainty under pressure of which is my left and which is my right arm. I think at one point I might even have swopped sexes. It was hard to say. Dahlings, it always is ...!

Tonight, Lord H and I are off to see the Northern Ballet Theatre perform "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Woking Theatre. So I'd best make sure my tutu is ironed and my pointes are pressed. Ah, it could have been me, if only I hadn't grown too tall ... not that I'm bitter or crabby about my lack of ballet skills. Of course not - perish the thought!!

Today's nice things

1. Editing Thorn
2. Writing more of Bones
3. Ballet.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Names and Teardrops

A long blog, for which apologies – but I’ve put a fairly in-depth review of Lisa Glass’s Prince Rupert’s Teardrop at the end – well worth a read (the book – and the review, I hope!). Had great fun at the Goldenford meeting last night sorting out our upcoming book signings and fairs etc. Christmas is always a busy period. So if anyone’s in Farnborough at all on Saturday 24th November (this Saturday) between 11am and 1.30pm-ish, do pop in and see us in Book Boyz bookshop in Kingsmead, Farnborough – we’ll be happy to see you!

Still no definite date for the Thorn in the Flesh launch, as it will be easier to see how much production time we need once the edits are done. Ooh and talking of edits, Jennifer wants me to change the names of my two secondary characters. Which is fair enough as I’m rubbish at names – at the moment they’re Kevin and Jane Fletcher. Which she thinks is way too dull. She’s right too. So I’m thinking about rebranding (ooh, a managerial word – hush my mouth …) them to David and Nicola (Nicky for short) Fletcher. Or maybe it should be Nicki? Hmm, I don’t know. She’s definitely not a Nikki – far too modern and twenties for a mid-30s woman.

Funnily enough, I had the same problem with Pink Champagne and Apple Juice where up until the very last minute, my heroine was called Angie Soames – which I’d basically taken from a friend of mine (hello, Ang …) with a very similar name at the time. Jennifer queried it just before we went to print and I cast around for another surname, looked desperately at my colleagues here at the University and took the surname of our Dean of Students – so goodbye Angie Soames and hello Angie Howard. Much better indeed.

And since then I’ve taken to using colleagues’ surnames in my novels – Thorn in the Flesh also has a McLeod and a Dickinson, and I’ve got a Clutton (briefly) and a Langley in The Bones of Summer. Not sure I can really find a place for a Faux (the Deputy Dean) though – as no-one can ever pronounce it properly and I probably confuse my readers (that small and blessed band!) enough, without adding in something they can’t say in their heads as they read.

Popped into the lunchtime concert again today – very enjoyable. And tonight it’s Scottish country dancing – my eye seems a lot better today, so those agonising moments of Lord H holding me down and forcing eyedrops in whilst I scream may have been worth it as I’ll be able to go to the ball, ho ho.

In the meantime, here’s a poem – it’s vaguely seasonal:

Carol conflagration

We left the candle on
the night we went to church

so while others were singing
of shepherds on cold hillsides,

mysterious loud angels
and babies in sheds,

all I could see were great swathes
of flame devouring

carpets and tables,
pictures, wallpaper, books

and all I could hear
was the crackle and hiss of destruction.

Later we arrived home
to a still night only, a steady room

and a guttered, quietened

And, as promised, here’s a review of Prince Rupert’s Teardrop by Lisa Glass, which I’ve just read:

This is an utterly fascinating and incredibly literary novel. Extremely poetic and as dark as a winter night without the Christmas glitz. The main character, Mary, is a tour de force – ageing, prickly and a complete misfit, she provides a piercingly perceptive voice on the world around her. Which is also the world around us, of course. Through Mary, we understand again the utter strangeness of the world we live in, and feel the edginess and potential danger of our everyday lives. Yes, it’s the story of a loner and how she collides with the threatening world around her – but in that sense it’s the story, surely, of all of us.

Interestingly, the actual narrative, concerning the disappearance and possible murder of Mary’s mother, is almost irrelevant – what counts is the poetic power and literary nature of the text. This reminds me of the best passages in Lawrence or even Joyce and I wonder in fact if, in years to come, the character of Mary in Prince Rupert’s Teardrop will be seen as one of the forces driving the novel to a different type of expression. Not that narrative and the need for it will ever be left behind, but it’s exciting to see that the genre can be moulded into a significantly new shape. As a result, the ebb and flow of the surface story here becomes the least attractive part; even the glorious chapter about the Armenian struggles is, admittedly, a work of art, but out-of-place in the context of what is being done with the book. This kind of novelistic oddity is, however, not uncommon; Hardy occasionally does the same.

Before I read this work, the author asked me to let her know if I thought the secondary character of the killer, a man who may or may not be called “Roo”, was real or simply a product of Mary’s wild imagination, as this was one of the points which had apparently come up in discussions. Actually, bearing in mind what I’ve already said about this work, I think the issue is irrelevant. A novel of course is never “real” and the characters in it are always made up. Even Mary. But the fact that we don’t know about the status of “Roo” within the text is another, very subtle way of playing with reader expectations concerning what a novel is or should be.

In conclusion, there are three questions which need to be considered:

1. Is this a difficult novel? Yes, in the sense that, for me, it stands outside the novel genre and is more comfortable with the “label” (if we must have them) of poetic prose, or prose poem.
2. Is it a novel worth reading? Absolutely yes, but slowly and giving yourself time to savour the experience. Much like Lawrence, a page or two a day gives the optimum pleasure.
3. Is it a novel that will stand the test of time? Though I say this in a novel culture where the best-written and most interesting works are sometimes shunned, I’d like to think so, yes.

Finally, I would state that if this is the standard of Glass’s work, then I’ll be first in the queue when her next offering comes up. And if it’s a poetry collection, I’ll even pre-order! Fascinating stuff indeed.

You can find it here.

And, to cap it all, Equinox magazine has just accepted one of my poems for their next edition, hurrah! So thank you, Equinox!

Today’s nice things:

1. Thinking about Thorn
2. Reviewing Prince Rupert’s Teardrop
3. Dancing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Writers, lamps and Goldenford

A fairly quiet day today. Full of rain and darkness. Goodness me, how poetic I am, ho ho – but it’s true. According to the weather forecast, it’s going to rain at least until Friday, so we’d better get used to it. It makes the concept of hibernation so much more appealing.

Work-wise, I’m waiting around for papers to fall from heaven for the rapidly approaching meetings. If I don’t get stuff out by tomorrow (my last day here this week), people will start to hyperventilate. And that will include me. But there’s not much I can do if they’re still being written elsewhere. We do so like to take things to the wire here in academia, you know.

This lunchtime, I had the University Writers’ Group for their usual monthly slot. Which included some manuscripts to look at and a writing game I’d worked out beforehand to keep people entertained. I do find running a writing group very scary, but I hope they get something out of it. I know I do. Numbers were rather scarce though - which seems to be the case across the board for these arts-type groups since the restructuring. Unless of course it is me ... Anyway, we're going to be doing some marketing after Christmas, so maybe a few more writers will turn up. I hope so - it's more fun with more people(as it were)!

Meanwhile, we’ve decided we might get free-standing desk lamps for us all in the office, as the windows are mirror-coated in order to ensure privacy (not that we do anything too wild in here, I hasten to add!) – which means it can get very dark indeed. So we’re trying out the one lamp we currently have in rota to see what we think. Today it’s my turn and actually I rather like it. There’s a nice little pool of light over my phone and mug which is bizarrely comforting. Also, the lamp is quite modern – black and shaped like the Starship Enterprise (my real home …), so I think I’m definitely going to order one. I’ve always known my true home is in space. The other joyful thing about it is it has two settings – bright and extra bright. Much like a hairdryer, if you see what I mean. I have no idea why that makes me feel happy, but it does. Lordy, somebody pass me a normality pill. Again. I shall only really start to worry though if the lamp starts communicating with me …

Tonight, I’ll be minuting the Goldenford meeting – am hoping to get some decisions on the Thorn in the Flesh blurb and when the launch might be. And I still have some edits to receive which I’ll then need to work on. The timing’s going to be quite tight if we’re looking at a February/March publication date, but it’s do-able.

Here’s a piece of flash fiction for the Writewords Flash Fiction Group 2 challenge, which is for something on one of the Seven Deadly Sins. You’ll probably not have to ask which one – I hope!

Such an effort

I don’t know, I’m supposed to be doing something, but I really can’t imagine what. And it can’t be that important anyway, as surely in that case I would have remembered it? Yawn. Oh excuse me, talking to you is just so exhausting, you can’t imagine. In fact everything’s exhausting and some days I just can’t be bothered to move. Yes, this sofa is wonderful. You should try it – if I could only find it in myself to shuffle over and let you have some space. But I can’t. You’ll just have to stand. Oh well. Whoops, another yawn. So sorry. How long have I been here? You know, I really can’t tell – it seems like an eternity. And maybe it is – I’m sure I’ve been here since the beginning of time. It feels that long anyway. Who did you say you were by the way? I know you’ve told me before but frankly I wasn’t really listening. Oh. Say that again, would you? I see. The Grim Reaper. Nice name. Hmm. I suppose I should be running but, as I’ve said before, everything is such an effort …

I’ve also made an appointment at the University Health Centre as my eye is playing up. Which it sometimes does. I’m hoping it’s not iritis, as I’ve had that before and it’s not nice – the cure’s almost worse than the disease too! Anyway, we’ll see. (Update on this one: I have a nasty stye in the lining of my right eyelid, so I've got some drops to put in to persuade it to disappear - the stye, not the eye! Cue Lord H holding me down while I scream - I'm not good with eyes. I hope the neighbours don't ring the Police ...)

Oh and I’ve just finished reading Matthew Sweeney’s latest poetry collection, Sanctuary. Sorry, but I didn’t rate it much. Seemed a bit meaningless to me, and very unfocused – though, to be fair, there were one or two poems I really liked. The one about the wild boar was stunning. Shame the rest didn’t follow suit.

And I've had two rejections (groan) - one from Mslexia (surprise, surprise ...) and one from the Frogmore Papers mag. Sigh. But the good news is that one of my flash fiction pieces has been accepted by the MMUniversity student-run mag and will be coming out in December. Hurrah! Which - astonishingly - gives me a 100% flash fiction success rate: the only two pieces I've ever submitted have both been accepted. Hell, I'd better not submit any more - I don't want to break my run ...

Today’s nice things:

1. University Writers’ Group
2. Goldenford
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Monday, November 19, 2007

Reflexology, Amazon mysteries and tackling Christmas

Spent the morning catching up with emails and organising meetings on top of the meetings that have already been organised. Just in case there aren’t enough. All this is made more exciting by the new system for booking catering – which has snuck up on us without trumpeting its approach. Instead of the usual email, there’s a lovely new form where you have to try to remember project codes without being prompted. A challenge too far for a Monday really, but I think I sussed it. In the end. I’ll know if I’ve done it right by whether food actually turns up on the day or not. My, how I like to live dangerously – I now have visions of starving academics weeping over empty plates.

And the new Starbucks is finally open! I haven’t tried it out yet, but will have to see if I can squeeze into the enormous queues sometime this week. Ruth is shocked that I would opt for a decaff – but, ye gods, I’m hyper enough without needing help. Can you imagine what I’d be like with caff??

I’ve also posted the requested copy of The Hit List to Jill Weekes so hope that gets to you okay, Jill. Thanks again for asking about it!

Had my reflexology session at lunchtime – wonderful, as ever. I won’t be able to go again for three weeks, so I’d better try and make the temporary sense of calm last. Talking of temporary feelings, the Monday morning sense of existential dread was particularly fierce today, but seemed to ease off at around 11am, thank goodness, rather than the usual high noon. Hmm, is it my hormones?? It’s a mystery …

Another great mystery is why Amazon have started describing all Goldenford and indeed all my books as being out of stock. Sigh. Just when I was hoping we might sell a few too. I’ve queried it with them but don’t expect an answer this side of the New Year. My advice is if you’d like a Goldenford book (and really what could be nicer …?!), click here and if you want to find out more about A Dangerous Man, click here.

Tonight, I tackled the first of my Christmas shopping (well, apart from things for Lord H of course, who is a special case) at Tesco. Yes, I am that mean. Sorry. I don’t really like Christmas, so will try almost anything to add it to my usual routine shopping rather than making special trips. Anyway, Tesco are good for biscuits and sweets, so it will cut a swathe through the list, I hope. Mind you, I’m cutting down on present-buying this time as much as possible and trying not to send cards to people I haven’t seen or contacted for a year, as why bother if the relationship really isn’t there? Yes, I know – I’m going to have to say it: Bah! Humbug! Phew, thank goodness I’ve got that out of the way.

I’m also planning to do some more to The Bones of Summer if I get a chance this evening – now I have a plot in mind, for the next few pages at least, I don’t want to lose the buzz.

And here’s a poem:


are a triangle:
I'm squeezed


at one end,

for meaning
and a life.

The day launches me,
unwilling rocket, into the vast

unknowable expanses

of the working week, with the weekend
an unimaginable dream.

Well, that’s just how it is sometimes, you know …

And my agent has at last contacted me! Rejoicing indeed - though subdued rejoicing, as the poor chap isn't terribly well. Back problems have prevented him answering any emails - rather than a desperate desire to cut off all contact with yours truly. Or maybe it's both?? Anyway, I hope he gets better soon and, in the meantime, I shall attempt to stop panicking and acting like a complete nervous wreck (on the other hand, I am used to that ...) and resign myself to hearing nothing about anything this side of the New Year. Heck, I'm used to that too!

Today’s nice things:

1. Reflexology
2. Getting home
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Sunday, November 18, 2007

An unexpected review

Got up today - very, very slowly ... - expecting a day of dull weather and novel trogging, but was bumped out of my personal twilight zone by a very lovely email from reader, Jill Weekes, who'd really enjoyed Pink Champagne and Apple Juice and who was kind enough to put this review on Amazon:

"The story is as sparkling as its title. I was gripped from the first page and had to know what the history was behind the mysterious Uncle John. This book is so full of larger than life characters - Uncle John himself, Derek the bouncer, Heinrich the chef and Philippe the waiter. Not to mention Angie herself who shows how stubborn she is when it comes to achieving her goals. A brilliant read. I can just see it as a film or a tv drama."

and this review on her blog:

"I have just finished reading Anne Brooke's novel Pink Champagne and Apple Juice. It is really good. Angie runs away from home and descends unannounced on Uncle John - the black sheep of the family. He turns out to be a transvestite running his own club for like-minded people in Muswell Hill. How Uncle John welcomes her into his home and yet manages not to “corrupt” (her mother's word) her in the process makes for an amusing story. There are serious aspects to it though and Angie has to come to terms with John's role in the break up of her own family before the end of the story. As might be expected, the book is full of colourful and yet believable characters: Derek the doorman, Malcolm - Uncle John's lover - Philippe the French waiter and Heinrich the German chef who always cooks mushrooms. Thrown into the mix is Lisa - Angie's friend from university - who turns out to be less of a friend than might be expected. This is a brilliant story and it would make a good film or TV drama. Why it hasn't been snapped up by a mainstream publisher I don't know. It deserves to become a classic like John Hadfield's “Love on a Branch Line”. It doesn't fit into any particular category and will still be readable in 20 years’ time. Go out and buy it!"

Thank you so much, Jill - your enthusiasm has really made my day! And it means all the more as I sell so few books of anything I produce - it's nice to know that there are readers out there who like my stuff, even if publishers don't! Not only that but Jill has been inspired enough to buy two more Goldenford books - ie The Gawain Quest and Sold to the Lady with the Lime-Green Laptop - so I do hope you enjoy both of those, Jill. And she's also bought a copy of A Dangerous Man and even persuaded me to part with a copy of my least favourite novel, The Hit List (only available in printed copy from me now, thankfully ...), so, Jill, I hope you enjoy the former and survive the experience of the latter ...!

All this has encouraged me to crack on with The Bones of Summer and I've now done another 827 words to it - which brings me to a grand total of 42,005. So over halfway then. And I'm even doing a plot now - good Lord indeed! It would be nice to get to 50,000 by Christmas, but I'll have to see. These mid-novel blues are so long drawn-out and exhausting, and they happen every bloody time. Honestly, I should be used to them by now. If I hit 60,000 words, I'll feel better. I hope! And I might even know what the plot is by then. You never know.

While I've been hitting the keyboard (and staring in astonishment at what comes up on the screen), Lord H has been out in the wind and the rain and the cold to look at more birds. This time on Thursley Common. He came back just before (a very late) lunch, soaking wet and reporting that the best birds turned up while he was in the car changing into his walking shoes: a heron and a great-spotted woodpecker. By the time he actually did the walk, it was pouring and any sensible bird was lying low in its nest and waiting for better days. Ah well.

Anyway, I have cheered him up by managing (pause for amazed gasps ...) to cook a reasonable Sunday lunch and even made a plum and nectarine crumble. This time with proper crumble mix instead of the suet pudding mix disaster of last week. Or was it the week before? How the year flies by. Hell, I even made my grandmother proud and did custard - so my Wife Points must be as many as the grains of sand on the seashore by now. I wonder if I should have a Wife Card where I can store my points? If I did, I shall be sure to make it less complex than the ruddy Boot's card.

Today's moment of terror: as I was getting Craig across the room and into his very important appointment, a wasp flew in the window and landed right on my hand. Bloody hell! A wasp! At this time of year - it's ridiculous. Frankly, I blame Gordon Brown. This sort of thing didn't happen in the Blair Years, you know ... Anyway, my shrieks of terror brought the noble Lord H running and together the two of us managed to flap around enough to scare the enemy out of the other window. Phew. Another crisis averted, by George.

Tonight, I will be glued to the "Strictly Come Dancing" results and I must ring Mother and not tell her what they are afterwards - as she always videos it to watch later. Talking of which, I must catch up on last week's episode of "Heroes" before this week's comes upon me. And later there's Elizabeth Gaskell's "Cranford", which may possibly be ideal Sunday night TV - at last!

This week's haiku (well, I do hate going up to London and it was soooo cold!):

London's inner chill
scrapes my commuter skin clean
of hope, mercy, life.

Today's nice things:

1. Jill Weekes' lovely review of Champers
2. And Jill being enthusiastic enough to buy more books
3. Writing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Birds and dances

Lord H and I have spent a day at Pulborough Brooks on their Beginners' Birdwatching course today. Well worth it - especially for the tips on field craft and quick lesson in birdspeak. I've learnt not to rush up to open fields yelling where are the birds then? Don't they know I'm here? and to hide behind things to watch, rather than standing in a clearing and jumping up and down whilst yelling ooh look a bird! I'm just so excitable, you know.

I've also learnt that a stringer is someone who's not sure about a bird identification and a pegger is a peregrine falcon. There you go then! It's a whole new world out there really ... The afternoon walk was good too - birds spotted: a pegger (see above - and utterly fabulous), a redstart and a flock of redwing. And Lord H thought he saw a fieldfare, but I missed it and he was fairly stringy about it (also see above!).

And, as ever, lunch was great and the cafe there has to produce the best apple pie and custard I've ever tasted. I'm torn now between having my ashes scattered at the cake counter in John Lewis, Kingston or having them scattered over the apple pie at Pulborough Brooks. I've achieved Nirvana in both places. Ah, decisions, decisions.

Tonight, I've just finished watching "Strictly Come Dancing". Poor Kate - I thought she did well and deserved better. Alesha was fantastic and did the best dance this series, but I still voted for Letitia, as how can you not love Letitia? She's wonderful.

And still no word from the agent. Alas, I fear I am soon for the chop. Is it just like the teenage years all over again, when a nice boy dumps you but doesn't let you know? I dread to think ...

Today's nice things:

1. Pulborough Brooks
2. Apple pie
3. Strictly Come Dancing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Friday, November 16, 2007

Stiff-necked and London-bound

Well, it's better than being egg-bound, I suppose. That's a nasty condition for sure. Anyway, today I feel as if I'm living slightly outside my own life. It's strangely hard to put into words - something like woozy but not quite. Definitely distant. Perhaps my poor old system doesn't quite know what to do with the extra inrush of oestrogen which is suddenly being added to the gloop? I can imagine all my little blood cells going: Good God, George, what the devil is that? We haven't seen this for a while. Can anyone remember what to do? Equally strangely, I've also developed a stiff neck, but I can't see that in the hugely long list of side-effects this gel I'm using is supposed to produce. Apparently, the big worries are stopping breathing and pains up the arm. Hmm, I think I'd notice that. If the pain moves down from my neck, I shall endeavour to act accordingly. In the meantime, if anyone else out there is on Sandrena Oestrogen Gel, do get in touch and tell me if it gets better. Or not.

Despite all this - and the bollock(if I had any)-freezing weather, I have managed to go golfing with Marian. However, bearing in mind my neck, my ankle (getting better, thanks!) and the fact that I was wearing a jumper, a fleece and a golf coat and therefore looking like the Michelin Man, my game was crap. Thankfully, so was Marian's, so I did beat her. But only just. I also performed a valuable service for those golfers behind us, as my ball broke the ice on the lake, thus saving them the stressful question of: shall I stand on the ice to play this one or shall I opt for living another day?

On the way home, I popped into Godalming to stock up on a few essentials, and seemed to bump up against thousands of shop assistants desperately trying to be helpful. Most of them in Boot's. I had to run the gauntlet of (a) do I want a meal deal? (b) do I want a Boot's card? (c) do I want to sign the form which gives me easier prescriptions? The answers being (a) no, I just want the ruddy salad; (b) no, I've never understood the counting system or what I'm allowed to buy with the damn points, and life's too short to try to figure it out; and (c) yes, all right, you've broken me, I'll sign the damn thing if only in order to get away from all this commercial concern ...

Anyway, once I'd ripped myself away from the caring arms of Godalming, I managed to get home and have spent the rest of the afternoon writing precisely 362 words of The Bones of Summer. That's not including the nice row of dots signifying a section break. Ah well. I can see that Craig is still not best pleased with my desertion.

Tonight, I'm off to London to see Jane W. It will be lovely to see her and catch up (my, what a lot I have to tell her!), but I am dreading the fifteen minute ice-cold walk to the station and the long rumble into London. Must dash and start getting those layers on again ...

Today's nice things:

1. Golf
2. Writing - however tiny
3. Seeing Jane W.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Back to the Bones

Managed to do a few words (about 500) to The Bones of Summer today - which was something of a breakthrough as I've not done anything to it for a fortnight and I was dreading getting started again. Mind you, I feel Craig and I are still on slightly dodgy ground as we attempt to get to know each other again. Yes, don't laugh - it is like that if you leave a novel for a while. Even two weeks. Like seeing an old friend you used to know quite well but you wonder if you have anything in common now. It's been made rather worse, I fear, by the fact that I left Craig in the middle of a sex scene - bloody hell, does the poor guy do nothing else in this ruddy novel?? - and I've now suddenly opened the door after a fortnight of ignoring him and he's giving me distinctly unfriendly stares. I suspect he ran out of his repertoire of moves by the 2nd day and has been winging it ever since ...

Anyway, we've tiptoed round each other for a few paragraphs and I think we might be speaking again. Just. At the very least, I've got him back in his clothes (well, almost ...) and now we're having a bit of plot. Hurrah! Perhaps when I go back tomorrow, or possibly for a nightcap later on, he might well be a bit friendlier. We'll see.

I have also been superbly brave (pause for cheers! Thank you, thank you ...) and rung the bookshop (Bookboyz in Farnborough) where Jennifer from Goldenford and I are having our book signing on Saturday 24 November. I do so hate ringing bookshops as, when they find out I'm (a) not important and (b) desperate, they can be so condescending. However, I must say that Carl of Bookboyz was super-sweet on the phone and even seemed to think I might be a real person. Which was nice. Anyway we'll be there somewhere between 11am and 1.30pm, so I hope someone turns up and we're not too lonely. I have sent an email to all my friends (okay, that didn't take that long, but I thought it would be a nice sentence to write ...), who even now are packing their bags to be sure to be away that weekend. At least they are if the Curse of Goldenford maintains its mystical strength.

Went out with Robin for lunch today - lovely to catch up with her news, though I think the pub we usually go to has gone strangely upmarket and we may well have to find another. When I walked in with my fleece, woolly hat and fingerless gloves (eeh by gum, it's chilly in the south), there was a distinct frosting of the atmosphere. As well as the temperature. Much like poor Craig's reaction to me really, so at least I'm used to it by now.

On the way back, I popped into see Gladys, who was bright if confused. And having trouble with her radiators, which are at least on. Mind you, as she has a boiler system for which you need an NVQ Level 5 simply in order to switch on, that isn't entirely surprising.

Tonight, I am chilling in front of the TV and catching up with things I've missed during the week. And, as I say, I might have a goodnight cocoa with my rather twitchy protagonist, but we'll see. I've also just given up entirely on Oliver James' They F*** You Up: How to Survive Family Life. It started off interestingly enough but soon lost pace and started wallowing in its own pseudo-seriousness. I got irritated when I couldn't fit into any of the categories - then thought better of it and was, frankly, bloody glad I didn't. It's utter rot, Carruthers. As they say. My advice is: if you don't get on with your family, don't buy the book; just don't visit the family. Much the cheaper option.

Today's nice things:

1. Slowly starting back on Bones
2. Lunch with Robin
3. Managing a bookshop phonecall without ending up a gibbering, insecure wreck - a miracle really!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Waiting for the dance

Trogged through today, not really functioning on all cylinders. So no changes there then. Didn’t get much sleep last night and felt wiped out, which probably explains it. Must attempt to get an early night at some stage – sleeping hours are becoming distinctly squeezed. I must say all this isn’t helped by the irritating and long drawn-out focus on the wretched Children in Need charity on Radio Two. Bring back a normal Terry Wogan slot – please! Very sorry and I know it’s totally non-PC these days, but I can’t abide all the talking about bids and children – it’s soooooo dull. I’m having to listen to Classic FM or Radio Three – whichever plays the nicer tunes …

At least I’ve managed to catch up with personal correspondence though, which included writing to the GP (aka That Cow!) and letting her know the blood test results and what I’m taking for it. Well, even if I don’t want to talk to my doctor, I’d rather keep my medical notes up to date. Who knows, the surgery might even get round to looking at them before an appointment one day. Miracles can occur! Heck, they should be grateful I haven’t written I told you I was right, so why did I have to arrange my ruddy blood test myself then??! No, I’ve been gracious, m’dears, and haven’t said that. Though if I see the GP in the street, I will take her condescension and her mealy mouth and stuff both of them where the sun don’t shine. With no feelings of guilt either. Harrumph!

In the meantime, outside the office window a man in a suit appears to have set up a makeshift office on the walkway, using a table that has been left there all night. Ye gods, we can’t even afford to give our lecturers inside rooms these days. The poor chap has his briefcase out, a wad of papers and is leaning against the bike lock-ups, chatting away on his mobile. If he stays there for much longer, IT will set him up with a computer and a landline.

Anyway, it’s caused us much amusement in the office on this relatively quiet day and, speaking of bizarre situations, Ruth tells me that her sister-in-law works as a police inspector and once turned up for work in full uniform but with her fluffy pink slippers still on, as she’d been running late. Not sure how that affects the prospects of promotion to chief inspector … although perhaps these days that actually raises your chances. Not only that but the sister-in-law in question was at a school fete one day and was persuaded by her children to have her face painted with a cat picture. Yes, you’ve guessed it – she then had an urgent call to attend an accident on the M25 and didn’t get time to take the paint off. Ah the police – a marvellous organisation indeed.

Oh and we may be getting to that stage in evolution where we can no longer tell our different types of phone apart; yesterday Sally from Advice came in with her landline phone in her handbag as she’d got it muddled up with the mobile. Needless to say, it didn’t work so well. But I’m starting to think they should really bring back wires for home phones – at least you can’t go too far with it then!

Went to listen to some relaxing music at lunchtime at the weekly concert. So nice to sit down for an hour and not have to do anything. Bliss! The bluesy jazz band at the end were particularly fab.

Tonight, I’ll be strutting my stuff at Scottish country dancing, and then popping into Jane H’s to collect my supply of Nutrimetics products. Oh, I do come close to being a real woman sometimes, you know!

Today’s nice things:

1. Laughing at the outside office man
2. Laughing at police antics
3. Dancing.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford Publishers

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Meetings, doctors and writers

Rushed around this morning sorting out papers for meetings and changing agendas until my brain imploded. Mental note to self: it is a bad thing to arrange two very similar meetings within two days of each other, particularly with the same Chair. I am guaranteed in such circumstances to get the wrong papers in the wrong meeting or worse – have two lunches turn up on one day and none on the other. Sigh. I can see I’m going to have to stock up with my Rescue Remedy spray for the end of November, not to mention Quiet Life pills.

I’ve also had my follow up appointment with the Hormone Guru at the Surrey Park Clinic to get my test results. Another sigh. There’s good news and bad news. Isn’t there always?? The good news is that she thinks she can sort out my insulin problem just by diet and exercise, rather than going on the scary insulin pills. Alas, this means going easy on cakes, biscuits and chocolate, and developing my relationship with lean meats, fruit and vegetables. But at least I’m allowed to drink 1 or 2 glasses of wine a week, rather than completely abandoning the vine, hurrah! Which, I suppose, means I can at last make use of the wine bottle stoppers my mother has bought me virtually every Christmas since I got married. Goodness, she will be pleased. We have acres of them.

The bad news is that my oestrogen levels are apparently so appallingly low for my age that I might as well grab myself a penis, strap it on and start subscribing to Motor Monthly. Well, that’s not quite how the doctor put it, but you know what I mean. Anyway the upshot is I am going on my own tailored HRT programme (not, sadly, the one that makes me into a Class One Bitch who salivates over younger men – what do you mean: what’s the difference then??) which will consist of rubbing oestrogen gel into my legs each morning and in the evening too if I feel the need. My, Lord H will be so pleased.

However, apparently, if I get my hormones sorted out (dahlings, a wide variety of experts have tried for years to no avail thus far, but at least the Hormone Guru seems to be more on the ball, as it were … which just goes to show if you want a problem at least acknowledged, sod the NHS and go private instead), it might mean that the insulin issues improve a little too. Who knows: in a year’s time, I may well be running for Miss World 2008. Or possibly Miss Knackered Woman 1960s. One of the two. Watch this space, eh …

Anyway, enough of the health-related gnashing of teeth and virtual wailing – though I would advise against asking me how I am if you see me in the street over the next couple of weeks or so – you may well be given more information than you really want …! Tonight, I’m planning to take the next section of my anti-novel to Guildford Writers and attempt to make sensible comments on everyone else’s work. Though whether I actually get there or not will depend on how I’m feeling after today’s ups and downs (Update: hell, I'm staying in). Ridiculously, I do feel more fragile about the whole thing than I expected to. Wish I’d ruddy well gone private ten years ago. Dammit. And hey ho.

Back in my other life, I’ve got the edits back for Thorn in the Flesh from Jackie so I’m looking forward to getting on with those. Funny how we both finished the edits of each other’s book on the same day – spooky, eh … I do feel that an Addie (from Jackie’s Tainted Tree) and Kate (from Thorn) sequel is surely in the offing at some stage – after all, Addie lives in Guildford and Kate in Godalming, and they both love the theatre – how could they not meet?!?

And here’s a piece of flash fiction for the Writewords Flash Fiction 2 Group challenge for this week, which is on the theme: Playing with fire:

Playing with fire

‘So,’ Anita said, putting down the Dove Body Firming Gel she’d been using on her thighs for the last two weeks. ‘Do you think my legs are better or worse? With this new gel, I mean?’
Douglas paused in the act of buttoning his shirt. Always the same question and in twenty years of married life it had been impossible to answer. At least with yes or no. This time, it was going to be different.
He smiled, knowing he was playing with fire, and opened his mouth.

Today’s nice things:

1. Getting my upcoming meetings under control
2. Getting to the truth – slowly – about the hormone stuff
3. Getting to the end of the day – soon, please God!

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford books!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Books, calendars and editing

Busy morning today – rushed around doing lots of glorious copy-typing (I really do love it – you can take the girl out of the typing pool, but you can’t take the typing pool out of the girl …) and hardly noticed when the Magical Monday Time of 12noon appeared. Astonishing! I also discovered that the boss’s wife has much better handwriting than the boss, and so documents she’s commented on are far easier to read. I did suggest that he might like to think of dictating his thoughts to the wife (a la Milton dictating to his daughter) so I could understand them in the future, but I’m not sure that suggestion will be taken up. Thank goodness I’m the right side of review time, eh!

Meanwhile, Ruth is having strange dreams about gutting fish on a fish farm. Does this say something about our student care approach? The mind indeed boggles … Anyway, lunchtime found me at the usual weekly reflexology session – what would I do without them? It makes everything worthwhile, you know. And I’m also starting to look at a venue for the Thorn in the Flesh book launch, which I’m hoping will take place in February/March 2008. I’m quite keen on the Godalming Museum, as the book is set in Godalming, and it’s friendlier than the Godalming Borough Hall though not as large. We’ll see. I may yet end up back at the Guildford Institute. At the same time, I’m working out what my Thorn dedication and acknowledgements should be. I always like to have them. Lord knows I need all the help I can get – novel-writing is a funny old business.

Oh and I’ve found the ideal Christmas present for Mother – the Men doing the Housework (with very little on …) calendar here. Mmm, maybe I’ll get one for me too. Mind you, I’ll have to get her and my stepfather the Farmers and Lady Farmers naked calendars as well – they always look through to see if they spot someone they know … And what could be better than supporting the British Farmer - they're a needy beast (I should know - I'm a British farmer's daughter and stepdaughter!) so buy early, buy often! And talking of Christmas, if you're looking for a book, my advice is to get yourself to the website of the best small publisher in the south and pick whatever takes your fancy. There's loads of choice - it's cheaper than going through Amazon, there's something for everyone and heck it'll put a smile on my face at Christmas!

Tonight, I shall be editing more of Jackie’s novel and also – possibly – watching the Stephen Poliakoff drama on TV. And I hope to get back to some of my own novel writing later in the week – ho ho. If only I had any ideas. I’m really not sure where I’m going with The Bones of Summer, if anywhere, but I’d better think of something. And soon!

And whilst I’m on the subject of fish, here’s a poem:


Fish spin
on the knife
in your brain.

Their mirror eyes
stare back
as gills, guts,

blood slide
to the floor.

You don't know
where they come from
or why they seem

so familiar
but their smell,
their history

clings to you
as they vanish
into the sea.

And alas I fear I've lost all contact with my agent. I can't even get him to reply to comments I put on his blog, poor chap. Even now he's probably fleeing the country, attempting to escape from my no-hope career. Ah well.

Today’s nice things:

1. Copy-typing
2. Reflexology
3. Poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website
Goldenford - you know you want to ...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembrance, trees and edits

Lord H and I were organised enough to attend the Remembrance Service at St Mary's today. I took two extra poppies in case there was a disaster, but the original two held firm and all was well. I shall have to add them to the growing poppy mountain in the drawer after tonight. God but I'm anal. Anyway, the service was very good, and the sermon particularly moving. Jenny (the vicar - or one of them) mentioned one of the verses of the old hymn, "Oh Valiant Hearts", and made the point that, after the crucifixion, God linked himself to all suffering of all people, for all time. Certainly an interesting point - one I've heard before, but well worth the retelling. I also enjoyed the fact that after the service, we walked outside to the War Memorial in Shackleford and had the actual Remembrance Service there. Sometimes it's good for the traffic to be held up for a while, I think. Another good thing - which I haven't experienced before - was the fact that they handed out small crosses with the names on of all the people from Shackleford who'd died in the two world wars and, as each name was read out, the person holding the particular named cross walked up and planted it in the soil near the memorial. Highly appropriate indeed.

The only negative thing about the occasion was the fact that, after it was over, I heard the middle-aged tosser next to me say to the young man playing the bugle that it didn't sound as good as if it had been a real military bugle. I was all for turning round and stuffing the said instrument up the complainer's bottom, but Lord H thought that might not be wise with the traffic police around. But really! I thought the bugler was fab and did an ace job! Some people should just keep their ruddy mouths shut!

After church, we wandered around Winkworth Arboretum for a while, admiring the trees and the new lake walkway. All very nice indeed. The colours weren't, I suspect, quite as stunning as before this week's bad weather, but still well worth the viewing. We managed also to catch the glorious sight of a family of long-tailed tits flitting from tree to tree, as well as our first white-fronted goose. Hurrah! And bizzarely, we spotted a flowering daffodil and a foxglove. Has global warming gone mad?

At home, I have washed the car (Goodness me! I think I might hire that ace trumpeter from today to play me a triumphant march!) for the first time in way too long to remember, and made a sort-of pear crumble for lunch. Sort-of, in the sense that we couldn't find any crumble topping (whaddya mean: make your own?? Are you mad?!?) at the shop yesterday, so I had to buy pudding & suet mix instead. And sort-of in the sense that the pears we had were all rotten, so I had to use tinned pears and some eating apples in their place. Ah well. I was trying so hard for Wife Points too. Foiled again, Carruthers ... Still, nobly and with utter sacrifice, Lord H has eaten the ungodly mix that resulted and is still smiling. Even though I'm not sure that my failsafe cookery salvation method of drowning it with custard entirely worked ...

Meanwhile, back at the Goldenford edit, I am now on Chapter 26 and roaring with all cylinders towards the end. Still sobbing like a baby at times, and also sighing with happiness at the budding romance, hurrah - Jackie as ever knows how to tug at the heart. Ah, if only I had one, eh ...

Tonight, I will be glued to the "Strictly Come Dancing" results. Surely it's time for Kate to go? Or empty-headed Kelly. Who surely must be prime contender in the Woman with the Most Irritating Laugh contest. Or the Woman with No Brain contest. She's hot to trot in either, really. And, if we get rid of Kelly (even though her dance was fab), it would save all that effort of turning the sound down whenever she comes on the screen. Ah, I wish, I wish.

Oh, and here's a poem:

Golfer’s autumn pause

I am flummoxed by leaves,
knee-deep in mulch,
searching for that mythical
golf-ball – small, white, lost –
which never lands
precisely where I want it.

Birds flutter, people call out
and somewhere in the distance
a dog yelps.

The wind breathes deep
and all the world moves on.

Only I am still.

And not forgetting this week's haiku, inspired by yesterday's shopping trip (the one with no crumble topping):

Sliced ham and roses
adorn your shopping trolley:
one hell of a soup.

Today's nice things:

1. Remembrance Service
2. Winkworth
3. Writing poetry.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Unrequited and Visiting Mr Green

Spent this morning editing for Goldenford and I'm now up to Chapter 23 of Jackie's upcoming novel. The plot continues to thicken indeed!

Have also just finished the marvellous Unrequited by James Bennett, which I thought was hugely enjoyable. If you like gay psychological thrillers, it's the book for you!

This afternoon, Lord H and I went into town to attempt to buy shirts and trousers - result: failure. Sigh! It's not often I don't like anything at all in Marks & Spencer, but I managed it today. We also saw "Visiting Mr Green" at the Yvonne Arnaud, which was very good indeed. Short but sassy, and a tour-de-force by the two actors in it, one of which was the great Warren Mitchell. It always sooooo wonderful to see a real play and then come out of the theatre with that particular floating feeling that only a good play well acted can produce. If it comes your way, then grab a ticket - you'll regret it if you don't.

Tonight, I shall be glued to "Strictly Come Dancing" and then we have takeaway Chinese to look forward to. Bliss. There are also a million and one marvellous Poliakoff things on TV, but I'm not really feeling literary or intellectual enough to watch them. Though if you haven't seen "Friends and Crocodiles", my advice is do. It's classy and a complete one-off. Even though my mother and I were the only people in the country to like it. It's about friendship. Big time. Ignore what the critics said - they were talking out of their arses.

Oh, and a fun marital moment (careful!) when last week I came over all romantic (believe me, that's a rare occurence) and rushed into the kitchen where Lord H was working on the computer, flung out my arms and said: you know, I'm really, really glad I found you! Ah, how sweet... Or would have been if Lord H hadn't looked bemused and replied: yes, I'm in the kitchen!. Oh well. On such misconnections are true marriages made. As they say ...

Today's nice things:

1. James Bennett's Unrequited
2. The play
3. "Strictly Come Dancing".

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Editing Queen with more than a touch of golf

Struggled round the golf course with Marian today - not so much due to the standard of our game (which was better than last weekend), but we were flummoxed by leaves. Hmm, there might be a poem title there somewhere, but I'll have to think about it. I do love the word "flummoxed". Anyway, because of last night's wind (careful, people ...), there were so many leaves all over the place on the course that it was virtually impossible to find your ball once you'd hit it. Yes, yes, I know the non-golfers out there will be thinking: what? Golden leaves and white balls - you must be joking!! But with the winter light as it is and half the leaves showing the white undersides, you have to be standing on your ball (careful, again ...) before you can see it. At one point, in the hunt for Marian's ball - which had ended up in a ditch stuffed full of autumn leaves - I found myself hitting the leaves with my club and snarling, "Don't worry, Marian, I'm going to beat the damn ball to death which will save you having to hit it", whilst giggling helplessly. Never say I am not a supportive and professional golf partner ...

I then popped into Godalming in order to stock up on Dead Sea Soap and the Surrey Advertiser. As you do. Really, m'dears, my weekend is incomplete without them ... For the rest of the day, I've been editing Jackie's book for Goldenford and sobbing once more at the tearjerker sections. My mother is just so going to enjoy it when it's published - she loves a good saga! I'm now on Chapter 21 of 30 and thoroughly enjoying the journey.

Tonight, I really have to try to watch last week's "Ugly Betty" on TV before this week's turns up - but I'm not sure quite where I'm going to fit it in. As we really have to do some cleaning at some stage, dammit.

Oh, and Lisa Glass's Prince Rupert's Teardrop has arrived, so thank you for that, Lisa! I'm still reading James Bennett's Unrequited but, once that's finished, PRT is next on my list! Mind you, I couldn't help but read the first couple of pages and already I love Mary, the main character. Completely off-the-wall, and my how I wish I had the courage to be that destructive at work. In my dreams ...!

Today's nice things:

1. Golf
2. Editing
3. Lisa's parcel.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The three witches

Yes, you've guessed it - I've spent a day at Mother's (arrgghhh!!) with my newly-widowed aunt, and we've actually had quite a nice day. I think my aunt manages to diffuse the normal family tension a little, which can only be a good thing. Though I do suspect that the older we get, the more we do become terrifyingly like Macbeth's witches. If the rest of the family start losing body parts and there's a cauldron brewing, they will know who to blame ...

Mind you, the journey down (two hours there and three back, thanks to the hold-up at the Dartford Crossing) was hell. Normally Lord H does it and I nap (well, I like to provide wifely support when needed), but I thought this was more of a girls' occasion so went alone. The last hour on the road was the worst - I had to keep telling myself to focus and singing songs to make sure I was still awake. There's something about the dark and the rain and the windscreen wipers that's ridiculously hypnotic.

Three interesting items from the witches' brew:

1. It's rare for a mother to know exactly what their grown-up children or grandchildren actually do for a living. How the Terrible Two long for the days when people were policemen, teachers or secretaries - you knew where you were then. My aunt spent about ten minutes attempting to explain what her eldest does for a living, then gave up and admitted she didn't really have a clue, as jobs are so much more complex these days. This prompted my mother to admit that she's never really had a clue what I do either, but she thinks it's something to do with new students. From there, we went through the entire family, and indeed the whole lot of them are a mystery to us. Much like Chandler in "Friends" - no-one ever knew what he did for a living either, not even Monica. Naturally, I didn't enlighten my mother any further as to myself - I like to keep an aura of mystique. It keeps the wolves at bay.

2. Uncle Leonard died before he could syphen off this year's wine supply (itself something of a long-standing witches' brew), and after much subtle persuasion and eventual wild laughter, we have convinced my aunt that it's better for society if she throws it away. It's a mercy killing, really. And apparently she never liked it much either. Ah, the suffering of wives, eh!

3. My mother will always tell me at some stage during a visit how good red wine is for the heart - even though nobody was drinking it today - and will ask me if she should keep the gravy hot on the stove or put it all in the gravy-boat at once. Bearing in mind that the gravy-boat is always too small for the amount of gravy made, this is a no-brainer. In fact we're thinking of having these conversations when I first turn up to save time and clear the way for other stuff.

Back home, I am attempting to superglue my eyes open and get some editing done tonight. And I wrote a poem yesterday:


Green woodpeckers
swoop through the air
round the house.

We hear them laughing
and follow from window
to window

laughing too -
our day's ungrasped

They leave behind
a scent of mown grass
and one small feather.

And a special thanks to Casdok who has just finished A Dangerous Man and enjoyed it very much - thanks for letting me know, Casdok!

Today's nice things:

1. Surviving the Three Witches' meeting!
2. Poetry
3. Casdok's comments.

Anne Brooke
Anne's website

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Books, trains and dances

Trogged my way through today, sorting out agendas and attempting to look efficient and professional. Ho ho. I’ve even been brave enough to ask for papers for one of the meetings – always a scary move. Lord preserve us but some punter might even give me a set of them. Horrors! Ah well.

Posted a copy of A Dangerous Man to Lisa Glass, author of Prince Rupert’s Teardrop as we both write in a similar dark and twisted area so thought we may as well swap products. Am looking forward to reading PRT, Lisa! I’m sure it will be just my sort of thing … Mind you, getting back from the University post office was something of an obstacle race – the automatic doors refused to open for me and I had to bang on the window with my nose in order to get the attention of the person on the other side, who did at least seem able to open them. Which proves my thesis that I am indeed not of this planet. Even the electronics don’t rate me as human …

Decided not to walk round campus at lunchtime – as I think my wretched ankle needs all the rest it can get prior to tonight! – so sat and listened to the weekly University concert instead. I used to go quite a lot, but haven’t been for ages since I started my back exercise classes last year. But since these have been taken over by a tutor who wants us to do everything in pairs (heck, what is exercise for but a chance to be alone for an hour??), I haven’t signed up for the next series. And I rather enjoyed just sitting and listening to music – very relaxing indeed.

We are also in the process of deciding what our office Christmas giving should be – which is something we do instead of having to buy presents for each other. Last year, we sent a sheep to Africa (I sometimes wonder how it’s getting on, you know …), and this year we might well do a similar thing, but with a more personal focus as Carol knows someone through her church – here - who’s doing good works in Burundi. At least it takes some of the pressure off the hell that is Christmas gift buying anyway! So, I have made a box into a donations point and stuck pictures on it of cows – in colour, hurrah. I’m calling it the Goat Box, but bizarrely can’t find a picture of a suitable goat. Ah well.

Here’s a piece of flash fiction I’ve done for the Writewords Flash Fiction 2 group. The remit was a story based on “absence of choice” and a train journey in up to 250 words:

The last journey

Always the same old route. Out of the station, the endless track pulling me forward. Away from trees, gardens, birds. Towards smoke, commutered city houses. No choice, no choice, no choice. Each day my load gets heavier. No-one cares how I feel, though I think they used to. The weight of human flesh presses against my floors, lines the great stretch of my carriages as all the seats are taken. They’ve thought about giving me more carriages, but I don’t have the strength for it any more. I don’t know if I want it. More people means a greater load. I don’t care much for them now. They’ve never cared much about me: feet on seats; graffiti across windows; vomit – and worse – in toilets. Nobody cares, nobody cares, nobody cares. I’ll not be kept for much longer. New stock coming up, with facilities on board I could never dream of. All my old companions have gone and I’m not far behind. I’ve heard what the flesh in uniforms say. I’m not going down with a whistle and a metallic sigh. This time they’ll know my last journey for what it is. I’ve thought about it for a while. I haven’t any choice. Look, the houses are crowding around me. I see the great circle of sky-seats, and the people are stirring. Soon I’ll be at Waterloo. Soon it will be over. Let’s see then what it is I can do to them. Let’s see, let’s see, let’s see.

I’ve also just finished David Leavitt’s The Lost Language of Cranes. It was something of a slow-burn and I have to say I was immensely irritated with the amount of flashback and meaningless emoting I had to wade through. However, the ending is stonkingly good and he seems finally to get into his stride about three-quarters through. I do however think that the main character is not the one the author thinks it is – I cared far more for Rose than I did for Philip or Owen – she’s a more interesting and complex person. Leavitt writes very well too, so I’d probably go for another one of his at some stage, if it came my way. But I must say that I was also riled by the cover – which has a crane (bird) floating elegantly off at the top. How charming, one would think – except that the cranes referred to in the title are machines, not birds!! Doesn’t anyone give these covers the once-over before they get picked? Deep, deep sigh …

Tonight, I am off to my second session of Scottish country dancing. I’m planning to take it easy – ah, the old war wound, you know; it’s not the same since the Crimea … – and either not do all the dances or leave early, depending on how I’m holding up. The real problem however is that this morning I couldn’t seem to remember any of the ruddy steps, or even how to skip. Dammit. Lord H reassures me that it will all come flooding back on the night, so I can only hope he’s right … We’ll see.

Today’s nice things:

1. Swapping books with Lisa
2. The lunchtime concert
3. Dancing (however much I manage to do!)

Anne Brooke
Anne's website