Sunday, May 31, 2009

Church, birds and Bones

This morning's bible reading brought a wry smile to the lips. Some things never change, eh. Here it is:

Meditation 138

Instructions for kings:
do not possess
too many horses,

or wives,
too much silver
or gold.

Beyond that,
it’s open house,
pretty much.

Though an occasional
flick through
the scriptures

might just,
on balance,
be wise.

Lord H and I have also been much amused - in a despairing, "surely they can sink no lower than this?" kind of a way - to read that one of our honorable MPs has charged a church donation of £5 to expenses. Which would be really pretty low on the low scale in itself. However it was also for a Battle of Britain commemoration service, so surely it can't get any worse than that?? Ye gods and little fishes, one hopes not. Mind you, it's so cunningly low and unforgivable that it's probably a work of genius and we should make the guy PM at once. After all, we need someone with a jazzy amount of deceit and dishonour in that role, don't we? Otherwise nothing of importance gets done, sigh ...

Anyway, church today was packed full of stirring Pentecost hymns (which makes sense as it is, after all, Pentecost today) and the vicar was wearing a lovely red stole (the long scarf thingy that hangs round the neck on top of the white robe) with flowers on it. Which is obviously her pride and joy. However, having admired the recent Church Times cartoon about the secret messages vicars are trying to give us in their stole patterns, we are now convinced the poor woman is desperate for someone to do her garden for her. Well, she probably doesn't have time - she's too busy trying to knock the fingers of those pesky MPs out of the collection plate before they take all our hard-earned cash.

After church, we had a very pleasant stroll round Winkworth arboretum. You'll be pleased to hear that both the foxgloves and lupins are now beginning to appear and - thanks to Lord H's superior flower knowledge - yes I do know the difference. Whether I'll remember it for next year is entirely another question. We also had the usual blackcaps falling over themselves in an attempt to get noticed, and a high number of feeding tit families fluttering about and squeaking a lot. As they do.

This afternoon, I have continued on with the great tome of Hallsfoot's Battle and I've now put a structure in place for the last few scenes as the war finishes. Simon's going to have to do some pretty nifty work with that mind-cane of his in order to save the day, but I suspect he may well be up to it by now. Thanks of course to the reappearance of Ralph in the same vicinity as himself for the first time in a long, long time. Well, I know Simon should perhaps be more wary of a man who's tried to hang him and then pursued him across the lands accompanied by the mind-executioner all hell-bent on death and destruction, but my warm-hearted if slightly confused scribe is a man who doesn't give up easily. And what's a little rope and a crazed killer between friends, eh? Not that I fear he's going to get much chance to enjoy Ralph's company for any extended time, alas, but who can tell? Those scenes have yet to be written.

Still on the subject of books, I can't say I've really enjoyed The Blue Fox by Sjon. It's a strange mix of fairy tale and surreal mystery, and I didn't really get into it at all. However, at only 112 pages, that's not too much heartache. To be fair, it started off well and interestingly enough, with the blue fox and the vengeful preacher. And I enjoyed the concept of short almost-prose poems telling a magical tale, but then somehow the interest faded and I found I didn't much care. I think it would have been better if the whole story had been told in prose poem or short poem/haiku style - that would have been truly fascinating and very brave. But I sensed that Sjon didn't hold onto the courage of his initial vision somehow. That said, it's won countless awards in Iceland (which sounds like I'm being bitchy, I know, but what the hell), so may well please some.

Tonight, it appears that (oh joy, the schedulers have heard me for once) A Night at the Museum is on again, so this time - when I'm not so head-deep in edits as I was last Sunday - I shall watch the whole of it. It's a great film.

This week's haiku:

On my back I bear
the week's slow weight and pattern
pressing me to earth.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Church
3. Winkworth
4. Birds
5. Flowers
6. Fiddling around with Hallsfoot
7. TV - again
8. Haikus.

Anne Brooke - wondering how much she can claim back from church on her expenses sheet ...
Cancer Research Race for Life - only 6 days left to donate!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Blackcaps, butterflies and Bones

In spite of the calls of today's glorious weather, I did linger long enough in the flat to get my meditation poem written:

Meditation 137

The world is framed
by judgement, stone
and water.

You have lived
with the scent of it
so long

that change
is a strange friend,
a darker shadow

at your shoulder.
Think about
when the water stirs –

if you want
to taste it at all.

The seriously exciting literary news of today though is that I have the galley proofs for The Bones of Summer from Dreamspinner Press so have spent a lot of the day going through those. There are some problems with how italics seem on my Mac, but I've raised that so I hope it should be fine. Only 22 days to go to the publication date, hurrah!

I've also been taking part in the Dreamspinner Authors' Chat day at the Love Romances Yahoo Group, and I'm been hugely encouraged by the very positive reaction to my Chapter One excerpt of The Bones of Summer. They also liked the cover, which was very pleasing too, and in case you've forgotten that, here it is as a reminder:

Ah, religion, death and a budding gay relationship - what could be nicer?

Lord H and I have also gone birdspotting on St Martha's Hill, near Guildford - it was incredibly peaceful and, though we didn't manage to see many birds (but the blackcap was grand!), we had fun spotting a painted lady and a brimstone butterfly. Fabulous. Also lovely to be able to wear my sunhat for the first time in a while, hurrah.

And I've also had the Alexander Technique lesson I had to miss yesterday as the tutor was away - so my back is smiling once more. For a while at least.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Bones galley proofs
3. Authors' Yahoo chats
4. The Bones cover - I still love it!
5. Blackcaps
6. Butterflies
7. Alexander Technique.

Anne Brooke - so nearly stylish in a sunhat ...
Cancer Research Race for Life - one week to go before the big day!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Golf, battles and that upstart tea boy

I am battling with sickness and hope in this morning's meditation, which possibly isn't a subject fit for such a bright and sunshiny day but here it is anyway:

Meditation 136

Hold his sickness
in your hands
and bear on your shoulders
death’s strange knowledge.

When you find the words
you came for,
hurry back
to where your heart lies,

carrying the light
in the circle
of your arms:
your last and clearest hope.

Have spent a very enjoyable morning on the golf course with Marian - we both played well but not, sadly, as well as last week. However, I have to say that my putting was rather good - unexpectedly so. Can't imagine why that should be but, hey, I'm not complaining. We were accompanied round by that distinctive trill of chaffinch song (in case you don't know, it's the long phrase of notes which usually ends with three little notes in a high-low-high trio that can sound like the bird is saying "ginger beer") - but the usual woodpecker was missing. Ah well, you can't have it all.

Back home, the marvellous Lynda has come to cut my hair, so I can now see out (very useful for golf) and I've spent the rest of the day getting to the final stage of the great Gathandrian war in Hallsfoot's Battle. I have to convey the fourth and last legend and somehow intersperse it with the Gathandrians' attempts to rescue Simon and the mind-executioner as they slug it out regardless. Hmm, no pressure then. Mustn't forget the snow-raven either - I've left him rather up in the air (always a good place for a raven really, of any colour) and will have to give him something useful to do at some point. If only I could remember where exactly he was right now. I think I'll make that tomorrow's problem though - after all, Gathandria wasn't (re-)built in a day.

I've now read the first of the Vulpes Libris book review package which arrived last week, which happened to be Jill Dawson's novel about Rupert Brooke, called The Great Lover. As I'll be writing a review for Vulpes, I won't reveal much about it now, except to say that I was much amused to see two brief mentions of my grandfather, Justin Brooke (no relation), who was at Cambridge with Rupert and one of his neo-pagan set. He's charmingly dismissed as "the Brooke Bond Tea Boy" - which probably says it all, hey ho. Still, it's better than how Justin is described in Nigel Jones' biography of the great Rupert. There, my less-than-illustrious ancestor is described as a young man who at Cambridge "continued to devote most of his energy to the stage, often playing female parts, to which his clean-cut, boyish good looks and 22-inch wasp-waist predisposed him." Really, my dears, perhaps Dawson let us all off lightly. If you think too deeply about it, it's probably an astonishment I'm here at all. Hell, no wonder I write what I do - it's in the genes. Anyone for a cuppa?...

Tonight, I shall watch Have I Got News for You? and the last episode of Reggie Perrin, but I must video the Sheila Hancock poetry programme for watching later. It looks interesting for sure.

And, finally, after being gently castigated by the good Tony for failing to mention this in yesterday's Nice Things List (look below, Tony!), another special mention must go to Lord H for a second toothpaste pre-squeezed onto toothbrush moment today - what a marital hero that man is! I really will start a new tube soon.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Golf
3. Haircuts
4. Writing Hallsfoot
5. Books - and strange grandfathers
6. TV
7. Marital toothpaste moments! See - I remembered!

Anne Brooke - wondering why the hell nobody inherited that wasp-waist, sigh ...
Cancer Research Race for Life - helping the nation's health

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gin, grief and medicine

My first review as a fully-fledged Book Fox for the Vulpes Libris review site is now up and is the gloriously dark and deliciously chewy Kill-Grief by Caroline Rance. Read and enjoy - it's a classy book.

Speaking of words, I must say how utterly wonderful yesterday's programme on Milton's Paradise Lost turned out to be. I was gripped. Even Lord H was gripped and expressed a desire to read the great poem afterwards (even though he hates poetry) - well gosh! We were all gripped. Full marks to that unexpectedly dark, rich and passionate presenter, Armando Iannucci, for telling it how it is and letting Milton's astonishing words live and breathe to the full. It was electrifying television and if any of you were unfortunate enough to miss it, do please rush off now and activate your BBC2 i-players. It'll be the best hour of factual TV you've seen in a long, long time. Now if only they'd hired Iannucci to present the John Donne programme as well, then that would have been absolutely perfect too.

I was also amused - and strangely heartened - to hear that when Milton (after about 20 years of writing it) finally got round to publishing Paradise Lost, the two initial reactions he received were (a) "Did you realise it doesn't rhyme and that's not very commercial?" - from his publisher; and (b) "It's all very nice, but why didn't you write about paradise regained?" - from his best friend. Ye gods, and there was I thinking I was hard done by as a writer ... It's enough to make you want to take your trusty quill pen and poke their eyes out with it. As Iannucci said: how rude!

Tying nicely in to matters spiritual, here's this morning's poem:

Meditation 135

Midday heat.
The scent of water
on the skin.
The waiting air.

A woman walks,
framed in sunlight,
towards a man
she has never known

and known for ever
while words rest
by the well
under the tongue

as the moment turns.

Oh, and I must say that I've been desperately squeezing the last of my toothpaste out of the tube in increasingly vigorous efforts over the last couple of days whilst accompanied by suitable swearing at modern manufacturers - I do so hate waste - but this morning after Lord H had left for work, I dragged myself to the bathroom and found that - yes! - he'd already squeezed it out for me onto the toothbrush to save me the effort and left brush & paste balanced on the flannel. What a super-hero indeed. Of such gloriously miniature moments is a modern marriage made ...

This morning, I've added more to that last battle scene of Hallsfoot's Battle and I think they're working towards closure now. I know roughly in my head what's going to happen (which is, as you know, rare), who will die and who won't. I feel quieter and less desperate about it at the moment - a good thing for sure - and the panic to get to the end has faded slightly. So I'm taking it as it comes and trying to write what I think needs to be written. I hope, eh.

So, I reckon I've deserved my Clarins massage this afternoon - it was bliss as ever. The only thing was at the end I realised (which I did know about but I'd forgotten, shame on me ...) that it was my last session with Hilary as she's leaving for pastures new and next time I'll be seeing Alice. I felt suitably traumatised for having forgotten and not having bought Hilary a leaving present - honestly, I am indeed crystallising into a self-centred, thoughtless slapper in my middle years. My mother was right after all then, hey ho. Sometimes I forget that there's a world beyond my own head, sigh ...

Anyway, back home, I briefly caught up with the neighbour who's now out of hospital and looking stronger, double hurrahs. I've then spent the rest of the day improving on the book trailer for The Bones of Summer - it's been niggling at me for weeks so today I've gone in, knocked it around a bit, added another image and got the music to end where I want it to, just about. I'm keeping that trailer under wraps for the moment as the novel isn't out until the middle of June, but watch this space. I've also been adding a Vulpes Libris page to my website, which took some time as I forget to update the actual link whilst putting it in (sorry, techno talk, sorry ...) so had to go back over each page and do it again. I think it's right now though, but if you do see something odd - well, odder than usual on my site - please do let me know. I'll be most grateful.

Tonight, Lord H and I will be glued to Springwatch, and then it's Graham Norton for me. I'm such a classy broad. Oh, and - stop press! - Surrey actually has news, ye gods and little fishes, which you can find out about here. Well, gosh indeedy. News in Surrey that doesn't happen on a Friday - how rare! Who knows: it might therefore even be possible for the Surrey Advertiser to put it on its front page tomorrow in the right week for once. We wait and wonder.

Today's nice things:

1. Caroline Rance's kick-ass wonderful book
2. Milton programme
3. Poetry
4. Writing Hallsfoot
5. Clarins massage
6. Book trailer updates
7. Website work
8. Happy neighbours
9. TV.

Anne Brooke - knows a good book when she sees one
Cancer Research Race for Life - still time to give!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The photocopying queen and some poetry thoughts

Had real trouble getting anything out of this morning’s meditation, but here it is – such as it is – anyway:

Meditation 134

Too many words
for me to carve
a journey through;

the meaning buzzes
round my ears
but does not penetrate

I stand immune
to wax, honey

or any memory
of the glorious hive
and must walk, today,


And, while I’m thinking of words, I must say that yesterday’s programme about John Donne was glorious in the sense that you get the man and his poetry – but who the heck was the idiot who decided that Fiona Shaw would be the best person to read Donne’s work??? Don’t get me wrong – I love Fiona Shaw. She’s a marvellously intellectual actress and I have a lot of time for her. But that’s just it – she’s intellectual and a woman. Donne’s poetry (whilst of course being intellectual) is straight-down-the-line passionate, physical and out-and-out male. It should have been read by someone like Antony Sher. He could have given it the welly and oomph it needed. Sigh.

Anyway, this morning I have been photocopying for Britain and sorting out next week’s potential disaster areas. Apart from that, it’s been hugely quiet in the office – which is nice but dull: Chaplaincy Ruth and Andrea are on half-term as usual, the boss and Ruth are on courses, so in the big room there’s only me. I think I might do a Scottish jig at some point and see if anyone notices. Mind you, the builder is around putting up shelves and dealing with our clock, so I don’t want to frighten him away …

At lunchtime, I braved the rain and walked into town – mainly to get a key cut and try to see if I have any money left. Surely it must be pay day soon? Oh, tomorrow: hurrah.

Tonight, I’ll pop into Gladys on the way home and run the gauntlet of her existential but ultimately ineffectual fury that I should dare to visit at all, and then it’s the joys of Springwatch and a programme on Milton. I hope they get someone more suited to Milton’s poetry to read it this time. We live in hope, eh. In the meantime, I continue on with my strangely intense short story about letters and deceit. And I’ve written a poem about teaspoons, as you do. Hey ho.

Also this evening, I'm taking part in the Eternal Press authors chat at the Rites of Romance Yahoo Group, so I've posted various details about and an extract from Painting from Life there and hope they enjoy the read. Plus Sophia who runs the group has got some excellent questions for us all, so I've enjoyed answering those - thanks, Sophia!

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Programmes about poets (no matter who reads the work, I’m grateful it’s there at all)
3. TV
4. Short stories
5. Chatting about Painting from Life.

Anne Brooke - pondering poetry
Cancer Research Race for Life - improving women's health

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A five-star review and murder will out ...

Am thrilled to say that the Rainbow Reviews site have given Painting from Life a five-star rating and their comments are here and below:

“This short story is lyrical, fluid, and quietly unsettling; the style perfectly suited to its subject ~ an artist's obsession, the end of a marriage, the evolution of a relationship between elderly Peter and the unnamed protagonist that defies classification. That relationship is intense, deep-rooted, life-changing, but every attempt to label it is rejected ~ the artist denies that it is sexual, Peter denies that it is filial, but the two of them are drawn together, their lives entwining to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. A masterful piece of writing, and a haunting story that lingers in my memory.”

Many thanks indeed, RR - much appreciated! Talking of writing, here’s this morning’s meditation:

Meditation 133

A power given
only to be yielded

to the one
you look for.

Sometimes it is a yoke
to weigh you down,

a sword at your head
to threaten you.

Dark nights
and needy voices

fill your every thought
as you wait

for the only thing
you have known:

moonlit desert;
the singing breeze;

bitter taste of locust
on your tongue.

I seem to be getting rather more involved in the Gospel of John than I’d anticipated – it’s opening up more for me than I thought it would, so far anyway. Let’s see what happens tomorrow though.

At work, I’m catching up on emails and filing. Odd how that dream of the paperless office never came to much – I still have enough files to blockade in the whole of Senate House, should it come to that.

Took the University Writers Group at lunchtime – the last one of the academic term, though we do still have a July date to look forward to. I decided to play a game with the gang involving either powerful jobs or illicit post (the mail variety) today, and I think it went all right. They were certainly lively anyway, and we had a couple of new people, both of which is good. However, I must admit my head is still full of the mammoth weekend edit of The Bones of Summer, so it’s tricky to live in the real world right now. I’ll miss Paul and Craig, now their story arc is done.

Tonight, I’m on the shopping run (groan …) and then it’s the joys of Springwatch (how can we have survived without it for so long??) – I’m hoping for a glimpse of a polecat and more baby bird feeding. It brings out the compassionate side of me, you know – which doesn’t happen often, so one must make the most of it. Oh, and there’s a programme on about John Donne, which I must watch. What a fantastic poet and an utterly fascinating man. I can’t wait.

Finally, it's true what they say about murder will out ... Much to our general shock & awe, the photographs of our recent Egypt Gang murder mystery weekend are now on the hotel website and can be found (prepare yourselves, folks ...) here and here. By George, Carruthers - I think they arrested the wrong people ...

Today’s nice things:

1. A five-star review of Painting from Life
2. Poetry
3. University Writers Group
4. TV
5. Photographs of some very strange people ...

Anne Brooke - making plans to leave the country, fast ...
Cancer Research Race for Life - helping fight cancer

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bones edit and the Surrey County Show

Apologies for the very brief list-like blog today, but due to copious editing I am time-poor. As they say.

First off though, here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 132

In the night
something draws him

to a space
where questions

can be asked
and answers

not truly given,
hearing instead

a flow of words
that sparkle and shift

like moonlight:
fragile, beautiful

and just out of reach.

Beyond that, I have done the following:

1. Completed the final edit of The Bones of Summer and returned it to Dreamspinner Press. Pause for general rejoicing!

2. Lord H and I have had a whistle-stop tour of the Surrey County Show and admired the donkeys and rather bizarre flower arrangements. Does nobody believe in sticking them into vases of water any more? (Flowers, not donkeys ...)

I will also do the below:

1. Watch Springwatch on TV (in 20 mins and we haven't eaten yet, or made a shopping list for this week or done the recycling, so you can see my problem).

2. Watch Ashes to Ashes.

3. Attempt to get my normal non-editing life hat on ready for the rest of the working week. Wish me luck!

Today's nice things:

1. Finishing the Bones edit
2. Poetry
3. Surrey County Show
4. TV.

Anne Brooke - packing it all in in record time, one hopes ...
Cancer Research Race for Life - helping people live

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The glory of the edit and the joys of Spock

I am being organised and focused today, or trying to. Ho hum. But I must admit that when I'm seriously editing, the rest of my life does rather get put on hold. However, here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 131

The price of commitment
is blood
and torn flesh,

something given
by the one

who wants to stay;
sometimes the open road
does not enchant us.

We've also managed to show our faces at church this morning, and what wonderful belting hymns we had today. Ah, they don't make them like they used to, you know. There's something about All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name that really stirs the blood - the perfect processional hymn indeed. To the right tune of course, not (sadly) the one that appears to be on the web, sigh ... Also a pleasure to have in the pew behind us an old man who had the most glorious baritone singing voice - like listening to a torrent of the best honey pouring over a mountain. He turned out to be a retired bishop (of all things), so good to know the church can occasionally, even these days, make a good musical choice.

For most of the rest of the morning and all this evening, I've been working away on the final edits to The Bones of Summer, and am now proudly at the start of Chapter 16, page 110 (of 192 pages), so am pleased with how it's gone so far. And I'm learning a huge amount about how different the American language and spelling is to the UK's. It's an eye-opener for sure. Though it is exhausting.

I've also continued to take part in the online gay fiction celebration weekend at the Literary Nymphs Yahoo Group, and have posted a second, rather more intense excerpt of Painting from Life, and erotic extracts of both A Dangerous Man and Maloney's Law. The response has been positive, so that's a relief (as it were).

But the BIG EXCITEMENT of today is that I have finally, finally, finally gone to see the new Star Trek film with Lord H, and I have to say it is utterly and incredibly brilliant. I loved it and can't recommend it to you highly enough! I have fallen in love with Spock all over again, and the whole thing was clever and witty and sharp and warm. Not to mention very very exciting. Great stuff. The moment the DVD comes out, I'm there with my purse open, geared up to watch it all over again. If you haven't gone to see it - and even if you don't like Star Trek - just go. It'll be worth it.

This week's haiku is:

You unknit the day
so it falls like bright raindrops
on my weary skin.

Oh, and while I'm thinking about it, a BIG thank you to all you wonderful people who've donated to the Cancer Research Race for Life - it's very much appreciated and the team is very grateful for your continuing generosity. It's stunning.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Good hymns
3. Editing Bones for publication
4. Gay fiction chats
5. Star Trek!
6. Haikus
7. People's Race for Life generosity.

Anne Brooke - waiting for the mother ship to summon her home ...
Cancer Research Race for Life - helping those with cancer

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Stories, Bones, birds and chat

I'm very happy to say that Cynic Magazine have accepted my short story, An Unholy Affair, for publication in August, hurrah! Always good to have something to look forward to over the summer is what I say. Meanwhile, the good people at Dreamspinner Press have emailed me the final edits to The Bones of Summer, so that's what I'll be working on over the next few days.

Anyway, here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 130

It is not the gathering
that pierces you

but the letting go,
the rediscovery

of spaces
you had thought

were filled forever
when coin, flesh,

feather vanish
and only your voice remains,

unprotected, unsung.

For most of today, Lord H and I have been freewheeling across the country watching birds. Our first port of call was the Arundel Wetland Centre where we went warbler-mad. We managed to spot a willow warbler, a reed warbler and a sedge warbler - all three new birds for this year, hurrah! Plus there were dozens of baby ducklings, baby coots, baby moorhens and baby Canada geese, etc etc. So very pleasing indeed. Also pleasing was the marvellous slice of chocolate cake we had for lunch, which seemed to cure the headache I spent most of the morning nursing, thank the Lord. On the way home, we also had a quick spin round Pulborough Brooks where we added a another bird to the "New Birds This Year" List - a little egret - one of my favourites.

Back at the ranch, I've been involved in not one, not two, but three author marketing virtual events. First off, Rites of Romance Chatters have been hosting an Eternal Press authors' day, so I've been marketing Painting from Life at that.

Secondly, Love Romances Cafe has been hosting an event for writers of GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) fiction, so I've been talking about Painting from Life, A Dangerous Man and Maloney's Law there.

Thirdly and finally, Literary Nymphs Chat have started their three-day m/m (male/male) fiction event, so I've posted information on my work there too. Tomorrow, I think I'll do another posting, probably with a greater emphasis on sex and sensuality (hey, a great almost-title for another Austen novel there, I think!), as both are of course ideal for Sundays ...

Tonight, I'll be glued to Primeval, in between making sure all my literary balls (as it were) remain in the air for as long as possible. A writer's life is certainly never dull, eh!

Today's nice things:

1. An Unholy Affair being accepted for publication
2. Getting the final edits for The Bones of Summer
3. Poetry
4. Birds
5. Three virtual author events!
6. TV.

Anne Brooke - juggling for Britain
Cancer Research Race for Life - aiming to raise £300 before 6 June!

Friday, May 22, 2009

A less than confident woman and a good review

I've now read Ingrid Trobisch's book, The Confident Woman (sub-title: Finding Quiet Strength in a Turbulent World). To be honest, I was hoping to get more from it than I actually have, but in fact it's been rather a struggle. Her particular brand of Christianity seems so terribly wholesome and irritatingly pure that those of us (such as myself) who are limping along sullied by the mud and grit of the world (and undoubtedly rather enjoying that same mud and grit even) can never hope to keep up. At times the book made me feel as if I wasn't a real Christian at all, and at other times I felt like giving it a thorough shake whilst screaming: 'For God's sake, woman, that's not how my life is!' Oh how I long for a real book about spirituality for real women that relates to where we are and where we're likely to stay. I feel I might be waiting some time though. Sigh.

That said, there were a couple of points towards the end where I feel that Trobisch did say something I could relate to. There was a good section about taking time and stopping, and also about having patience with ourselves, that I felt was worthwhile. I spend a large part of my life being hugely impatient with myself and trying to handle a head that fires off with all sorts of ideas and thoughts and worries in all sorts of directions all the time, so the concept of how to relax is a total mystery that I definitely need to uncover. She also startled me in her section on the prayer-filled life by using the quote from Isaiah 30:15: In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. Yes, an obvious one for this type of book, I know, but it's something someone said to me a long time ago in one of those moments out of time when everything in your life goes still. And I haven't forgotten it, though mainly it lives in the back of my mind and I've always failed to live up to it. So maybe the book was worth it just for that reminder.

Whilst on matters spiritual (of a sort), here's today's meditation poem:

Meditation 129

When the laughter thins
and the joy

is something
you can only remember,

not taste,
then feel on your skin

the cool promise
of water

and what might lie
within it.

I've had one of my poems, Surrender, published by Eat A Peach Poetry Journal and you can find it in their latest issue, though you'll need to scroll down to see it. I'm also thrilled to say that Painting from Life has gained a good review at the Obsidian Bookshelf, so thank you, Val, for that. Very much appreciated.

This morning, I've managed to get out and play golf with Marian, which was fabulous. The weather was stunning (I even took my jumper off, well gosh) and we both played better than our usual level of game. Which was also fabulous, hurrah. My swing seemed much freer today (if I dare type such a line ...), so let's hope that trend continues. This afternoon, I had my Alexander Technique class, which I've missed over the last couple of weeks, so my back now feels much less scrunched up than it's been recently, thank the Lord.

Meanwhile, I'm continuing with those final scenes of Hallsfoot's Battle and I think Simon's at last got the hang of it all. Or he's got the hang of something anyway. About time too. He and the mind-cane may yet be friends. You never know. Though the mind-executioner may still have a few tricks up his sleeve. If he was currently wearing a sleeve, that is.

Keeping on the subject of books, I'm not sure that the hugely talented Mark Wagstaff has quite convinced me with his latest offering, In Sparta. Not that it's not an immensely powerful tale about bombs and the city - it is. And not that it's not sharply and powerfully written - it is. Mark's a genius with the pen, if you like dark, gritty and painful. And he's amazingly truthful about how it really is at work (this year's best lines about office life: 'Sometimes, my only ambition was to pick loose skin off my fingers till it was painful and dry.' and 'I was always horrified to learn what my role would be.' Oh yes, yes and yes. Welcome to the world of the office ...). But the rather gross (and I use that word advisedly) sex scene did, I admit, put me off at a time I desperately needed to be kept within the story - I'm not sure it was necessary in quite that manner, though it was of course well written. I don't object to having main characters have sex with prostitutes (hell, I've written about prostitution myself), but it was the type of sex that went on that pushed me out of the world he was creating. And that's a danger writers should always be wary of. Normal sex would have been fine! Alongside that, I didn't quite get the character of Terri. The change between who we think she is and who she actually is possibly arrived too suddenly and, again, it made me feel uninvolved. Still, the story itself is a cracker, and Wagstaff's always worth watching.

Tonight, I'm looking forward to Have I Got News For You? and Reggie Perrin, whilst of course keeping a close video eye on the last episode of Boy Meets Girl. Ooh, and there's pizza and ice cream. What could be nicer?

Today's nice things:

1. Books, however they make you think
2. Poetry
3. Surrender being published
4. A good review for Painting from Life
5. Golf
6. Writing Hallsfoot
7. TV.

Anne Brooke - still puzzling over confidence and faith ...
Cancer Research Race for Life - meeting our target but hoping for more!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Scrabbling through the undergrowth to a landmark word count ...

... sound the trumpets and put out the bunting, people, but today I have hacked away (oh in so many ways) at the iron-clad mountain of words and I am now well into the 120,000 word range of the little beggars that make up Hallsfoot's Battle. Ye gods and little fishes indeed! Crack open the champers and I'd like a round of applause. Ah thank you, thank you ... I'm so touched (also in so many ways). Phew, eh. Trouble is there's a tad more to go before I collapse like a used-up sponge across the great wall of THE END. Hmm, is that too many metaphors, do you think? Ah well, you know what I mean. Still, it's a landmark and I'm happy.

This morning's meditation was rather tricky but in the end I came up with this:

Meditation 128

Under the trees
the air pauses

in that flow
between one part

of your life
and the next.

You taste the richness
of wild fig

on your tongue
and wonder

who it is
that beckons you.

Multiple kudos to anyone who knows where in the bible that comes from, or at least which passage inspired it. As a clue, it's new testament, which is unusual itself as I normally focus on the old - it's more meaty for poetry, to my mind. But I liked the sense of space when I read the scene and it set me thinking.

For the rest of the day, apart from scribbling away on Hallsfoot's Battle (did I say I'm now well into the 120,000 word levels? Hurrah!), I've also been involved with a fair amount of literary marketing/PR type stuff, so never say I don't know how to multi-task. I've managed, with invaluable help from Alex Beecroft, Erastes and Mel Keegan from the band of GLBT stalwarts to work out how to upload pages onto the new GLBT Bookshelf. It was hugely scary at first, but after a few tears and tantrums, and some therapeutic beating of poor Lord H's chest, it looks like I've done it, so thank you, all! I've loaded Painting from Life, Maloney's Law and A Dangerous Man, all with pictures and links, so at least they look nice.

On top of that, I've also been taking part in the Eternal Press authors' day at the Love Romance Yahoo Group. And that's been a lot of fun - the questions we've been asked are fantastic and I've loved thinking up the answers. It's certainly made me think in a lateral way about my writing and the books I produce, which can only be a good thing.

And I'm delighted to say that the lovely Charles at Ink Sweat & Tears webzine has accepted for future publication both the tankas I wrote yesterday, so that's hugely pleasing. Plus I've submitted my mental health-focused short story to the publication I was aiming it for, so we'll have to see what they think ...

Tonight, I'm easing off a little (hell, I deserve it! - I've reached 120,000 words today, did you know?...) and plan an evening of reading and doing puzzles. Well, there's not much on TV that grabs me. Wickedly however, I've opened the tin of chocolate biscuits that we apparently have to finish by the end of May (how can they have been in the flat so long without being noticed?!?), so I feel they might be demanding a fair amount of my attention too. Mmm ...

Today's nice things:

1. Getting to the high 120,000 word range in Hallsfoot, hurrah!
2. Poetry
3. Marketing on wiki and yahoo groups
4. Tankas acceptances
5. Chocolate biscuits.

Anne Brooke - having a real champagne moment
Cancer Research Race for Life - gearing up for 6 June

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Worthwhile books, ducks and the mysteries of Twitter

What a bright and Haydn-y morning today. Just to start us off, here’s today’s meditation:

Meditation 127

The dead
do not need
your blood
or the scatterings
of your skin.

Ask instead
where the life is
and follow it.

Thinking of poems, I’m pleased to say that Pens on Fire webzine will be publishing two of my meditation poems in July, hurrah! Naturally enough, the universe hates imbalance so at the same time a piece of flash fiction has been rejected (sigh – the idjits …), so I’ll try to turn that round and get it back out of the virtual door soonest. But the really good literary news for today is that the coffee-table book of photographs and poems/stories in support of The Alzheimer’s Society is now available, and includes one of my own haikus attached to a gorgeous photograph of water. The official press release is as below:

“Photographer Katherine Elizabeth Lewis has collaborated with author Nik Perring and 18 other writers to produce a beautiful limited edition book to raise money for the East Cheshire Branch of the Alzheimer’s Society – and it was put together, from start to finish, in just four weeks! The high quality book features 20 of Katherine’s photographs along with 20 stories, poems and haiku inspired by them. These stories and poems have come from a terrific mix of contributors; you’ll find work from local writers alongside more established ones, including three former Cheshire poet laureates, short story writer Tania Hershman (who received a special mention in this year’s Orange Prize), best-selling novelist Caroline Smailes, and award winning short story writer Vanessa Gebbie. The book is priced at £14 and is available from the photographer and from Nik Perring. And every penny of profit it makes will be donated to the East Cheshire Branch of The Alzheimer’s Society, who support people with any type of dementia, their carers and families. If you have or care for someone with memory problems please get in touch with your local branch, who can be found by clicking here.”

I do feel this is a very worthwhile cause and the book itself is a classy production with some marvellous little vignettes, so worth every penny. Thanks for putting this together, Nik & Katherine, and it’s a pleasure to be included in it indeed.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, I’ve been tweeting the initial extract of Maloney’s Law for a good few weeks now, to which the response has been … um … none. Ah well. Now that Painting from Life is available in paperback and eBook, I’ll start tweeting that instead. It’s so hard to know whether this sort of marketing attempt is worth it or not – probably not, on balance, but hey at least it gives me something to put in that empty slot on the Twitter board.

Meanwhile at work, we’re trying to sort out agendas for a raft of upcoming meetings but the goalposts keep changing. The moment we think we’ve got them sorted, something else comes up. By the time we get there, my agendas will be so long they could probably wallpaper the meeting rooms, sigh.

Oh but we’re all greatly cheered in the office today by this item of charming news about a man in the States saving a brood of ducklings. You absolutely must watch the video – it’s fabulous! Joel Armstrong, Duck-Man Extraordinare, is definitely my Hero of the Month. In fact I was so moved that I wrote a tanka (Japanese-style verse with 31 syllables divided into lines of 5/7/5/7/7 – and yes I did have to look it up too) about them. I quite like tankas. So much so that I then wrote another one about a moorhen (it’s obviously a day with a strong bird focus …). Might even try to write more of them as and when (though I suspect that’s the limit for today) – there’s certainly extra room to breathe compared to a haiku, that’s for sure.

Tonight, I shall pop into see Gladys on the way home, and then I’m planning to watch the poetry programme on television tonight. Even though it has Simon Armitage in it, and really I can’t stand his stuff. Hopefully there won’t be much of it (bitch, bitch ...).

And I’ve very much enjoyed Kate Williams’ biography of Emma Hamilton, entitled England’s Mistress. It’s lively, fascinating and well worth the read. I loved Williams’ very human writing style and she paints an in-depth picture of the woman and the age she lived in. Emma’s like a historical version of Posh, but with a barrel-load of wit and compassion. Great stuff.

In the meantime, if you haven't already donated to my attempt to raise money for Cancer Research, the link is here. And many thanks indeed to those who've already given. Not long now till the race on 6 June!!

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry, of all shapes and sizes
2. The Alzheimer’s coffee-table book
3. The duck-man
4. Poetry on TV
5. Books.

Anne Brooke - something of a charity case herself
Cancer Research Race for Life - please give generously!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Poetry, coots and the Archive Queen

Thrilled with getting back to my routine, here’s this morning’s meditation:

Meditation 126

When the dream
explodes in your blood

and the bright star
you lived by

turns crimson,
you can do nothing

but carry the knowledge
of destruction,

tasting it
deep on your tongue.

It’s a fairly quiet day at the office today – though as always the spectre of meetings is lurking and the parental guidelines document is drifting around at street corners looking suspicious. Mind you, I’ve got a heck of a lot of filing to do and the boss has finally uncovered his archiving bucket. Joy indeed. Thankfully, I’ve had to put in a new order for extra archiving boxes as there’s nowhere to put it, so at least I can hold off that doubtful pleasure until another time, hurrah …

Oh and the office quote of the week (from next door’s office, I hasten to add – we probably have a couple of years or so to go yet before we get there) and said in humour is: This office is a hub of menopausal sweat. Brilliant! I feel it’s a line I might well use in a book one day …

Went for a walk round campus at lunchtime – we appear to be in April weather mode: one minute sun and the next rain. My dears, I really have no idea what to wear. But as that’s pretty normal for me, I’m not too bothered. Anyway, it was nice to sit by the lake and watch the rapidly growing-up but still highly fluffy baby coots. That cheered me greatly.

I’m hoping to pop into the hospital after work to see how the neighbour’s getting along. I’m seriously out of the loop, what with being out of action for a week. UPDATE: Henry seems much better so that's good news indeed. Am hoping the improvement continues.

And I’m still pondering on my mental health short story – it’s rather surreal and obsessed, but heck I should probably be used to that as well, eh. UPDATE: I've finished the first pass through - I think I'll let it lie for a while and see how I feel about it in a few days.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Quote of the week
3. Lunchtime walks
4. Baby coots
5. Short stories.

Anne Brooke - the archiving Queen
Cancer Research Race for Life - please give generously to help beat cancer

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cancellations, False Colors and book groups

Look! I’m back reading my bible, so I must be getting better, thank the Lord – here’s this morning’s meditation:

Meditation 125

Add nothing
to what you see

and take nothing away.
Leave the earth

as you found it
and let your breath

be a whisper
on the wind

heard only by God.

At work, the boss is ill, poor chap (it’s not really been a good year so far for office illnesses …) so I’ve cancelled his meetings for today and hope he’s on the mend tomorrow. One of the meetings to fall by the wayside was our monthly Care Services Steering Group, so I’ve kept the sandwiches order (it’s too late to cancel them anyway) and will bring it up to our new offices as an informal get-together for whoever is around. UPDATE: Not many were around but hell we ate them anyway. What heroes we are.

Tonight, it’s the University book group, so I’m planning to go to that. We’re discussing the marvellous Kate Fox’s Watching the English which I loved, so hopefully they’ll be some lively debate there. You can never trust the English, after all – we’re a funny lot. UPDATE - it was wonderful. A really good discussion, made all the more interesting by the presence of an American lady in the group. Fascinating stuff indeed.

Talking of good reads, I must say Alex Beecroft’s GLBT historical romance False Colors is a total and absolute pleasure. The plot is marvellous and terribly exciting – and heck I don’t even usually go for seafaring novels, but there’s a perfect and very real level of detail there which meant I felt part of the whole scenario without being overwhelmed by it. The characters were gripping, well-rounded and very human – even the minor characters felt real. Plus the level and detail of sex was just right. I can thoroughly recommend it and look forward to more. In fact, I’m hoping to do a more in-depth review of this one, plus take a brief look at the new GLBT historical romance line from Running Press (from whence it comes) for a future Vulpes Libris article, so watch this space … In the meantime, I’m working on a short story with the theme, Lost and Found. It appears to be shaping up into a tale about mental health or the lack of it. Hmm, how I like a challenge, eh. Why can’t I write happy at all these days?...

Finally, I’m delighted to say that Every Day Poets will be publishing my poem, Blutherbung, sometime in the near future, so that’s lovely news, hurrah.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Informal sandwich chats
3. Books.

Anne Brooke - the queen of cancellations ...
Cancer Research Race for Life - where every penny counts!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gardens, sculpture and stories

A very lazy morning today. I must say that one of the good things about being on the mend but not quite well yet is the fact that you don't have to stick to your routine. Hurrah. Though you still have the safety of it to run to if you need to. Double hurrah. So this morning I thought about going to church, but decided that sneezing and coughing on the old folk was probably not a wise idea still, so had a lie-in instead. Bliss.

The good literary news of this morning is that I have finally tracked down the paperback version of Painting from Life on Amazon US. You can find it here. As you can see, the reason I've been struggling is that they have no idea how to spell my surname. Sigh. Still, I'm way too terrified to complain in case they unilaterally ditch me anyway for being too gay a writer, so I shall say nothing. Discretion is the better part of the proverbial, after all.

Before lunch, Lord H and I decided it would be a good idea if I did attempt to leave the flat before work tomorrow - I haven't seen the outside world at all since Wednesday, alas. So we've been for a brief but very relaxing walk round the Birtley House Sculpture Trail. Just beat the rain too. What stars we are. The House itself is actually an old people's care home and looks very charming - so Lord H and I are booking our places there in advance. Before the rush starts, eh.

For the rest of the day, I've struggled and groaned in the effort to squeeze another few words out for Hallsfoot's Battle and have just managed to get myself into the 119,000 word range. I really can't do any more though - it's making my head implode and, before long, I shall start to hate it and curse that wretched Simon in truth. Bloody scribes, eh - you can't trust them. Right now, I feel like printing the whole damn thing out and stamping up and down on it whilst foaming at the mouth and yodelling. Which is pretty normal for me at this stage in a novel, I must admit. But rather disconcerting for Lord H. Ah well.

I've now read Erastes' historical gay romance novel, Transgressions. The writing is certainly smoother than her earlier novel, Standish, but the characters in Transgressions don't really grab me, I'm afraid. This may of course be because I was so in love with the dark and mysterious Rafe, and the amoral, charming and criminal Fleury in Standish that nothing afterwards will ever be the same and I still think of them and wonder how they are even now - but I do feel that David and Jonathan (not a good naming idea, in my opinion) in Transgressions were simply too nice to be gripping. I wasn't wholly convinced by the Jonathan-as-witchfinder story arc either - though it was delightful I admit to be back in my home county of Essex for a large section of that. All-out favourite passage about Essex was:

"This is a strange county and it has more legends and evil associated with it than any other I know. It is also home to these mists which are strange, changeable and too thick to be natural."

Superb and soooo true! We rural Essex Gals have always been strange, changeable and too thick to be natural. It's part of our genes. I learnt how to drive in those dang impenetrable sea mists - and even now I'm pretty handy if I find myself in a car in a fog. It's all done by feel and instinct, you know.

Tonight, Lord H and I hope to finally get round to watching the video of Compulsion which we recorded some weeks ago and which I have been too ill or too busy to watch ever since. So I am gearing myself up for angst, naughtiness and trauma. Sounds like a normal Saturday night in my home county then ...

This week's haiku (with a hint of desperation):

Career of the week:
coughing, sneezing, spluttering
Queen of the Lemsips.

Today's nice things:

1. The paperback version of Painting from Life now being available
2. Sculpture parks
3. TV
4. Haikus.

Anne Brooke - definitely too thick to be natural
Cancer Research Race for Life - helping you help women with cancer

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Back to the battle, a gay solution and a competition prize

Still getting there on the health front today, slowly slowly. A lot of coughing and snorting - in fact I'm thinking of applying for a job as an old horse, should one be up for grabs anywhere. Really, I'd be brilliant. We've also been continuing to laugh a lot at MPs. Such joy to know that the criminals are all safely gathered in one place: Parliament. Ho hum.

We're also smiling at the Church Times which, as always, manages to grab the last word on the religious issue of the day - in response to the recent appalling news about the London conference encouraging homosexual people to be "turned straight" (Lord preserve us from such idiocy, we cry ...), one of their literature-focused columnists suggests that in fact the world would be a lot more pleasant and far more moral if there was a programme to turn us all gay - then Macbeth would have shacked up with Duncan rather than murdering him, Jane Eyre would have managed to talk Mrs Rochester down from the roof and Romeo would have settled down happily in Verona with Mercutio. There's much to be said for it indeed - where do we all sign up??

Meanwhile, I've finally got myself back into writing more of Hallsfoot's Battle and am now at 118,500 words. Mind you, I'm getting hugely twitchy now and I just want to (CAPITALS DELIBERATE) GET THIS DANG FIRST DRAFT FINISHED and have a bloody good lie-down. Please??? I'm sooo nearly at the end of the wretched battle scene, then I have to finish the mopping up, get Simon, Ralph, Johan and Annyeke in the places where they should be and I'm done. Honestly, it's as if I can glimpse the finish line in the distance, but the sweat in my eyes is meaning the whole damn thing's a bit blurred and I'm not sure I'll get there in one piece. Or, more accurately maybe, it's like a piece of classical music Lord H and I were listening to on the radio a few days ago where just as you thought they'd played the final chord, there was another ... and another ... and then another. And only THEN was it over. Writing the end - or trying oh so desperately to write the end - of Hallsfoot is hugely like that. Goddammit. I'm tired, I've had it up to here and I need to start something else. Soon.

But there's more positive literary news too, thank the Lord. The lovely people at First Edition Magazine are offering a complete and signed set of my novels as a competition prize in their June edition - which is out now in WHSmith's, hurrah! My name is even on the front in a big red circle, so that's lovely. I'm just hoping and praying that some kind people out there might actually enter the competition (the answers are easy and can be found either in my interview in the May edition or on my website, hint hint ...) -as the humiliation if nobody enters and they have to ditch the books or (worse!) send them back to me doesn't really bear thinking about. Though of course I am doing nothing else but thinking about that scenario, sigh ...

Tonight, I'm gearing myself up for the joys of Primeval and then we must watch as much of Eurovision as we can bear. The honour of the country, don't you know. Ho ho. It won't be the same without Sir Terry however - and I really don't think much of that dreadful UK entry. I tried to listen to it on YouTube earlier in the week and could only manage about 30 seconds without losing the will to live. So, bearing in mind the undoubted influence of my cultural opinion on the music (or indeed any other) business, that probably means the damn thing will be an outright winner. Lord preserve us once more.

Today's nice things:

1. Church Times articles
2. Limping to the finish with Hallsfoot, slowly
3. Being a competition prize - at last, at last!
4. TV.

Anne Brooke - aiming high at nul points ...
Cancer Research Race for Life - all donations very gratefully received

Friday, May 15, 2009

A novel to die for

Have stayed in the flat today with a major focus on getting better, so cancelled golf with Marian, which was a bit of a shame. But in the end I think it was a wise choice as I do feel on the mend more now. If seriously tired.

But the good news is that I am now included as a regular reviewer on the Vulpes Libris site, so that's lovely. And in preparation for being able to get in and book review posting time, I've spent the morning writing up a full review of Caroline Rance's wonderful novel, Kill-Grief, and here's a very brief taster of that review:

".... The novel tells the story of Mary Helsall, who arrives in Chester in 1756, carrying her own bitter secrets but determined to carve a future for herself, despite the men who lay claim to her, body and soul. The setting is so densely and sharply described that it becomes a character in itself, and carries equal billing with the marvellous character of Mary. In essence, it's dark and rich and strong, like the best brandy, and I can thoroughly recommend it ..."

More like this please, Caroline ...

Other than that, I've spent a large part of the day asleep. I've eaten one bowl of cereals and one half-coated chocolate chip cookie. That was nice. I'm drinking bucket-loads of Lucozade. And I'm doing an awful lot of coughing. In fact, I think I may well be the best cougher in Surrey. Possibly the UK. My tissue supply might be running low too, but I shall worry about that tomorrow.

Oh, and I forgot to say that for some reason the US tax office have rejected my claim for literary tax relief, so I have to fill in the forms again and send them off. It appears I may not need to go up to London and go through the whole process a second time though - which is a blessed relief. But I think if this attempt fails, I may well simply grit my teeth and accept the double tax whammy. After all, it's not as if I actually earn anything to make a third try worthwhile - but for the sake of those wonderful people (thank you hugely, Clare & Sharon!) who talked me through the process and emailed lots of support, a second go will be had. Watch this space ...

Finally, Chris Brown from new media agency, Chris Brown Media is kindly helping me with an upcoming book trailer for A Dangerous Man as a low-cost way of building up his post-University portfolio - so thank you, Chris, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you might come up with.

Today's nice things:

1. Writing a review for Kill-Grief
2. Books
3. A Dangerous Man potential book trailer.

Anne Brooke - down but not yet out
Cancer Research Race for Life - give generously to help others ...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A nearly Foxy Lady and an interview request

Another fairly brief blog, I suspect - should I start cornering the market in the potential new fashion of Haiku Blogs, I wonder? - as I must admit I've taken rather a turn for the worse today. So I haven't gone up to London to see Jane W and the Baroque art exhibition at the V&A, as planned. Bummer, eh. Instead I've lolled around, attempted to cure my galloping head cold and my apparently unstoppable cough in the usual ways and have also done a hell of a lot of sleeping. Still, it's not so far as bad as my horrifying two-week bout of illness in April, so I'm hoping it stays that way. There's always a silver lining, eh.

Anyway, to the nice news: first off, the lovely Rosy Barnes, author of Sadomasochism for Accountants (a book with far more than just bite ...!), has kindly asked me to join the regular team of foxy book reviewers on the Vulpes Libris review site, so I'm thrilled to be asked and more than thrilled to accept. Thanks, Rosy! I hope I can live up to your top-class foxy act indeed.

The other nice news is that Writers' News Magazine will be writing a piece about me and Painting from Life for one of their forthcoming editions - so thanks, Emma, for the interview and I shall look forward to seeing that for sure.

Sticking to matters literary, I've been sort of middlingly-whelmed by the Peter Robinson omnibus of short stories (entitled Not Safe After Dark as a collection) and its accompanying one Inspector Banks novel (A Necessary End). There are about 800 pages in total - and I was deeply confused about the chapter numbering system in the novel I must say as it seemed to follow a scheme entirely of its own - and all of them were ... um ... okay. Ish. There's nothing hugely bad about it (though the updated follow-on short story of Measure for Measure was simply gross and totally unnecessary), and there's nothing hugely good either. It's um ... fine. It passes the time if you don't want anything challenging, gripping or moving to read. Good then if you have an apparently high illness factor, like me! But it does beg the question as to why this sort of white-noise literature can be published when so many really good, kick-ass writers can't find a publisher for love nor the proverbial. It's a mystery. One I suspect the (not terribly pleasant) Inspector Banks really couldn't solve. Sigh.

Today's nice things:

1. The chance to be a foxy lady - at last!
2. The Writers' News interview
3. Sleep.

Anne Brooke - a throat like barbed wire but she means well
Cancer Research Race for Life - donating where it matters

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A quiet day and another review

Today I’m still quite croaky and sneezing a lot, but it’s better than yesterday, hurrah. Hey, I might even be allowed back into normal society soon. Hmm, can normal society (whatever that is) cope with that??

However, I'm cheered greatly by a very kind review of Painting from Life by the very talented Sharon Maria Bidwell who says the following on her blog today:

"I adored this short story of love as we seldom examine it; that love has many forms and many uses, fulfilling a variety of needs, all different, all necessary to our well-being. The first thought to strike me hard was that Anne Brooke paints beauty into a lined, lived-in face, and I’m very grateful that she does in a world where beauty is so often marked not by time but the skill of a surgeon. This very fact gives the story a depth right from the start that is missing in many books. The second thing to strike me was how descriptively she illustrates the problem all creative people face between living their day-to-day lives and spending time with their muse...and, in some cases, preferably with their muse. There’s a quintessential eeriness to this story reminiscent of the unfounded belief that the camera steals our souls along with our likenesses...for why else does an old man grow weaker as the artist paints him, except from human frailty and life, of course. This story leaves a disturbing, bittersweet taste, yet is undeniably haunting and memorable. Well worth the read!"

Thanks very much, Sharon - I really appreciate that!

Back in the office, we’re all having a lot of fun with the new national sport of laughing at MPs and their expenses. We thought we might set ourselves up as moat cleaning experts and wait for the money to roll in. Actually I really rather fancy a moat. Though I’m not sure it’s something I can justifiably ask Estates & Facilities to provide. And if Lord H and I started digging one at home, I’d only worry about the neighbours falling into it. They’re not in the first flush of youth, after all. Ho hum.

At work, I’m busy writing up the notes that the lovely Rosemary took at the rather complex meeting I missed on Monday. I must say her handwriting is a hundred times better than the boss’s, so that side of it is a joy. But I do think they seem to have discussed much the same things that were discussed at the meeting last month, but in a different order. Ah the life of a Minutes Secretary is a rollercoaster ride, don’t you know.

I was planning to stay inside where it’s warm at lunchtime, eat my special Starbucks prawn sandwich and read a book – but I forgot to bring the book, dammit. So I’ll have to find something else to distract me. Mind you, my spirits were raised by my first Starbucks decaff cappuccino in the new office. Wonderful – tastes just as nice as it did in the old office. The only problem is the longer walk rather more open to the elements to get it, but hey that’s splitting hairs.

Tonight, we’re staying in and I’m medicating with Lemsip whilst wondering why once again there’s nothing on TV. I’ll have to do a Sudoku instead and wait for the schedules to improve. From the look of next week’s Radio Times though, it isn’t going to be soon. We’re also fascinated by the local candidates for the upcoming European elections – all the usual suspects are represented and then there’s also about six or seven parties with a variety of names, all of whom basically hate Europe. How very Surrey. Oh, and let’s not forget the one sad representative of the Roman Party. What the heck do they stand for? A return to the Empire?? Who knows …

Today’s nice things:

1. A review for Painting from Life
2. Laughing at MPs and their moats
3. Prawn sandwiches
4. Decaff cappuccino
5. Sudokus.

Anne Brooke
Cancer Research Race for Life - please give generously!...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The secret life of sex writing

A small but perfectly formed (if I even dare say that!...) blog today:

First off, am very pleased to see that my article on writing sex is now at the Strictly Writing website – so it’s the place to go for hot tips on ... um ... sex. As it were. Enjoy!

Meanwhile, I’m back at work. Sneezing a lot and generally being avoided. I decided against wearing a big hat, just in case people got twitchy … And I’ve managed to deal with – or at least print out and put in a pile - all 103 of my outstanding emails, hurrah. Plus a big vote of thanks has to go to Ruth and Rosemary who, between them, dealt with my two meetings yesterday. What stars they are indeed.

Had a late lunch and popped to Tesco to pick up some items which Lord H (who kindly did the shopping yesterday) didn’t get. Also remembered to buy some lunch as I didn’t fancy my usual rice and fish concoction today. Too damn healthy. Bring on the ruddy chocolate. In so many ways, eh ...

Tonight, we should have been going to see the Star Trek film, but really I don’t want to infect the whole of Guildford, so am staying at home instead. Not a lot on TV, but I might just watch it aimlessly anyway. Doesn’t have to be on. Though I do have a couple of poems floating round my head, so it's probably best to try to get them onto paper before my brain implodes. Better out than in, as they say. Ho ho.

Today’s nice things:

1. The sex article
2. Coping with emails
3. Resting and, hopefully, getting better
4. Poetry.

Anne Brooke
Race for Life - helping Cancer Research

Monday, May 11, 2009

Reviews, poems and sniffles

Dammit, but I'm ill again. Was up at 3am having Lemsip and have taken the day off work. Fortunately, I don't think it's anything more than a sudden and rather virulent head cold so there's none of the usual nasty stuff. But it's a bit of a bummer and I feel hugely guilty as I was supposed to minute two meetings today, so it means someone else will have had to do them and everyone's up to their eyebrows with work anyway. I really can't afford to be ill. I'm hoping to be well enough for tomorrow so am medicating up to the limit. At least I'm sneezing now, which is always a good thing.

Mind you, the lovely news is that I've had two very positive reviews for Painting from Life, so that's cheering me up:

The first is from regular Livejournal reviewer, Elisa Rolle, who starts off her review like this: "Painting from Life is a story of obsession, like it should be when you are talking of art, since only a work born from an artist who suffered to create it is worthy of that name. But in an almost Dorian Gray twist, the artist of this short story takes strength from his art while his muse is slowly dying ...". The rest of her review can be read here. Thank you, Elisa!

My second review is from another regular GLBT fiction reviewer, Ann Somerville, who calls Painting from Life "a story about love in its purest form" and the rest of Ann's review can be found on the Unique Logophilos review site. Many thanks, Ann.

And, to add to the general literary rejoicing, my poem, Sun-dance, has just been published at the Ink Sweat & Tears webzine, so thank you once more, Charles, for accepting that one. Much appreciated.

For the rest of the day, I've caught up on the missed episodes of Primeval and Boy Meets Girl (the video failed to work properly as the reception was rubbish, sigh ...) - both of which were well worth it. I particularly like the way BMG is shaping up nicely to be a rather snazzy study of male/female behaviour and gender assignment, with a light touch. Nice one. Mind you, it took me a while to work out how to get the i-player on the ITV website to work, but I got there in the end.

Later I might try to squeeze in a nap before I actually have to go to bed - if you see what I mean. I think I need it. Otherwise, I'm planning absolutely nothing but an attempt to get better, hurrah.

Today's nice things:

1. Two good reviews of Painting from Life
2. Sun-dance being published
3. TV catch-ups.

Anne Brooke
Race for Life - helping women with cancer

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Surviving murder and a little writing success

Must say the murder mystery weekend was certainly an experience. I'm not sure that the hotel, the actors or the other guests were quite ready for the combined and barely contained lunacy of the Egypt Group (as that set of friends has been named), but we all muddled through relatively unscathed. I suspect it's one of the those things you just have to do once. If you know what I mean! However, honour was satisfied, as Chris from the EG (well done, Chris!) cracked the case and won the bottle of champagne by a stroke of pure genius. Whereas the booby price (a lemon for me, hurrah!) went to Yours Truly for an off-the-wall and I think brilliantly inspired solution to the murders, in which the true culprits were the camel and Mustafa in a tale of ambition, lust, revenge, despair, loss, grief, love and ultimately redemption. Just sounds like the usual weekend then, really ... Anyway, it was great to catch up with the Egypt Group, as ever, plus we managed to create a group salute (no, I really can't describe it) which we then taught to the acting troupe. Never say I'm not meant to be in the world for a purpose. Not only that, but Lord H and I spotted sky-larks, a red kite and swifts, so I think that at least two of those are new birds for this year.

Oh and we all had a trip out on Saturday afternoon (free non-murder time!) and had a great time at the Yellow Hat Tribe Gallery which is a truly wonderful place with a lovely artist who was very happy to chat with us and who is a genuinely nice woman. I bought teatowels, cards and a marvellous canvas bag. The yellow hat motif and what Irene Tyack makes of it can't help but make you smile.

Back home, I discover that I have a rejection from some people with apparently very poor taste for a selection of poetry (what can they be thinking??!), but also that two of my stories have been published over the weekend, so that's perked me up for sure:

The first is a romantic comedy - The Driving Force about a kind-hearted taxi driver and a rather confused couple.

The second is a somewhat darker piece of flash fiction about the end of a relationship - The End of Winter.

I suspect that you'll either love one and hate the other, or hold to the other and despise the one. As they say.

And let's not forget this week's haiku:

Directing traffic:
red kite over the M4
with triangle tail.

Today's nice things:

1. Murder Mystery weekends
2. The Egypt Group, and all who sail in her (as it were!)
3. The Yellow Hat Tribe Gallery
4. Story publications.

Anne Brooke
Race for Life - helping Cancer Research

Friday, May 08, 2009

Something's afoot ...

Am still recovering from yesterday's amazing Eternal Press online launch party. It was really something. I can honestly say that it's the first time a commercial publisher has actually celebrated the publication of one of my books, rather than letting it slip into the market with half a shrug and a rather embarrassed giggle. And Painting from Life is not even a novel, but a short story. It's made such a big difference to how I feel about it - and I haven't even had to run around organising anything myself. Hell, but that's really really nice. Thank you, Eternal Press - from now on, I'm a huge fan of Canadian publishing.

This morning, Marian and I should have been playing golf, but the sudden downpours put an end to those hopes. Though, bizarrely, I noticed that half an hour after we should have started playing, it was nice and sunny again. Typical eh. But, to be fair, I did need the extra time gained from the day, if only to get my writing (rather than my celebrating) head on - I'm now at the 117,500 word level in Hallsfoot's Battle so it feels nice and normal to get back into it again. I'll be taking the whole lot of them to the great Gathandrian Library in the next phase - it just seems right to have the final battle scenes there. I also have vague ideas as to how that will be, and I'm hoping both Simon and Annyeke can step up to the mark. With or without the mind-cane. We'll see.

And I must say you must all absolutely dash out now and buy Kate Fox's marvellous non-fiction book, Watching the English. It's wonderful - light and bright and wise and funny. And oh soooo true. I can't recommend it enough. I've been laughing out loud at some of the passages, seeing my own and other English people's behaviour in a whole new light and generally thoroughly enjoying the experience. It was a shock to realise that other nations aren't like us - how can this be??? Lordy, even that last statement shows how very English I am, ho ho ... Anyway Lord H also reminded me, just after I'd started it, that we've actually met Kate Fox. Pause for a very English class-ridden but utterly true story - we'd been invited to the races at Goodwood (oh, dahhhlings, you mean you haven't been?? How utterly shocking ...!) as a thank you for an event I'd arranged for my previous company, and Kate Fox gave a presentation on the English at the races. She was very funny, very astute and totally charming - just like her book. Go buy it now.

This afternoon, Lord H and I are donning our deer-stalkers and picking up our magnifying glasses as we'll be spending a weekend with our lovely Egypt friends at a murder mystery event at the Sudbury House Hotel. Oh please please, let me be the one that finds the body and let there be a knife!! That would be so excellent, ah in so many ways. Hmm, go with a friend, come home alone ... It should certainly be an eye-opener. I reckon Lord H did it, you know. He has that slightly mad Pope look in his eye. If you don't hear from me again, tell the police all you know ...

Have a great weekend, whatever you're doing, and I'll catch up with you on Monday! One hopes.

Today's nice things:

1. Eternal Press parties
2. Writing Hallsfoot
3. Books
4. Murder Mystery weekends.

Anne Brooke
Race for Life - supporting Cancer Research

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Painting from Life launch day and other writing excitements

Goodness, what an exciting day I'm having! There's so much news I really don't know where to start. Let's try and keep it simple, eh.

First off, Painting from Life, my short story about erotic and artistic obsession, has just been published and you can find out more information and read an excerpt on its page at Eternal Press.

You can also enjoy the book trailer, and as yet another special treat, here's the blurb:

"Love is never what you think. When a painter goes beyond the degree of intimacy that provides the connection between him and his newly-discovered muse, he is forced to undergo a re-evaluation of the true meaning of love. In a strange twist on the Dorian Gray theme, perhaps the artist steals the subject’s essence as love and art meld into one."

Not only that, but the online launch party, including excerpts, insights and competitions, has lasted all day and if you like you can still join in the fun at the Eternal Press Readers Yahoo Group. There's still time to open that bottle of virtual - or indeed real - champagne!

The second literary excitement is this:

My upcoming novel, The Bones of Summer, now has brand-new cover art - which I'm hugely pleased with, and a brand-new blurb, both of which I attach below:

"When Craig Robertson's religious fanatic father disappears, Craig is forced to return to the home he'd left behind after an underage affair in order to look for answers. His new lover, private investigator Paul Maloney, agrees to help so they can continue to enjoy their fledgling relationship. During his initial search, Craig finds items that belonged to Michael, his lover in that long-ago ill-fated affair, and soon discovers that Michael has disappeared as well. The search becomes an investigation into Craig's past, and, because of distressing gaps in his memory, he's terrified of the truths he might find. Finally Craig tells Paul his deepest fear: that Michael is dead and he himself is responsible. While Paul refuses to believe his lover is a murderer, Craig's obsession with uncovering clues grows, and their fragile relationship begins to disintegrate. Now on his own, haunted and stalked, Craig has to face down the horror of his memories if he wants to have any hope of a future at all."

My goodness, that'll be a rollercoaster ride for sure - in so many ways. I can hardly wait till it's published on 22 June!

So, really, I've spent most of my day being involved in the Painting from Life virtual launch party, doing loads of marketing and updating my website and everything else online I can think of. With all that, I didn't have breakfast till gone 11am and didn't get dressed till 12.30pm - shame on me ... Sounds like a typical writer, eh - but I've been busy, honest. That said, I've also managed to squeeze in making a book trailer for The Bones of Summer, which I'm very pleased with and which I'll upload nearer the time. That'll be the third video I've made, so I'm becoming quite the Ang Lee of Godalming. Ho ho.

Oh and I've booked tickets for Lord H and myself to go and see the hugely exciting new Star Trek film next Tuesday - I can barely contain myself!

Tonight, the launch party continues, but I must find time to pack as we're away with our lovely Egypt friends on a Murder-Mystery weekend in Swindon (gosh!) at the weekend, so I must make sure to take a magnifying glass and a deer-stalker in order to look for clues ...

Today's nice things:

1. The publication and launch of Painting from Life
2. The Bones of Summer cover art
3. Book trailers
4. Booking the Star Trek tickets.

Anne Brooke
Cancer Research Race for Life - just £35 to go to match our fundraising target!

The Bones of Summer cover ...

here's a sneak preview:

You can find out more about this gay crime book at The Bones of Summer website page.

Anne Brooke

Painting from Life book trailer!

It's launch day for my mysterious short story, Painting from Life, hurrah!

So, as a special treat, here's the book trailer:

More details to follow when the launch party starts later today!

Anne Brooke

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Rocks and a pair of wicked women

Now, there’s a title to conjure with, eh. Something of a mad rush to get to work today, but here’s this morning’s poem:

Meditation 124

Across the river
everything will be different

and heaven will live
on your skin.

Pour out
the blood you shed

like water
onto waiting ground

and listen.

On the subject of poetry, I’ve also written a poem about leaving the city. It’s nice to do a non-meditation piece every now and then. Just to see if I can. And I’m very happy to say that two of my stories have been published either yesterday evening or today. Firstly, there’s my Biblical short story, The Rock, which can be found here , and a comic piece of flash fiction about a rather wicked woman (or two), Woman on Top, can be found here. I hope you enjoy both the reads – they’re very different.

Oh and there’s strange news about Maloney’s Law on Amazon US and A Dangerous Man at Amazon UK – some kind reader appears to have bought a copy or two of each and for a brief period yesterday both actually had a bestseller list ranking. That’s not there now, mind you, but it was lovely while it lasted. So double gosh and thank you indeed to whoever bought them.

Meanwhile, at work, we’re settling into our new lives and even the printers are working, hurrah. Plus we have a lovely water machine in the new shared kitchen which provides filtered cold water at all times. Bliss. Mind you, on the negative side, I’ve had to return to those corrections to the long-running parental guidelines document. Not sure I’m making entire sense of them either, but I’m doing my best. UPDATE: I did them, ye gods and little fishes, and have now sent them out to various people for comments, so let’s see what comes back …

The office move means that my lunchtime walk around campus was slightly different, but I’m sure I shall get used to it in time. I’m nothing without my strict geographical routine, you know. Anyway, it was very relaxing to sit by the lake and admire the one and only duckling there appears to be (what happened to the others?? I fear the worst, Carruthers …). I’ve also thoroughly christened the new office by having my first decaff Starbucks here. Ah, it makes it a home from home, you know.

Tonight, I’ll pop into hospital to see the neighbour on the way home – I’m hoping he’s on the mend now, poor chap. And as far as my erotic short story goes, I’ve got the first draft written (hurrah!) and I need to start the edits tonight. I do like the ending I’ve given it – which is not what I anticipated when I started it off at all, but I think it works.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. The publication of The Rock and Woman on Top
3. Brief Amazon bestseller rankings for Maloney and A Dangerous Man
4. The new office
5. Lunchtime walks, revisited
6. Starbucks
7. Short stories.

Anne Brooke
Race for Life - so nearly at the £250 aim for Cancer Research

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The big move and the joys of reading

Before we get into the general kerfuffle of the day, here’s this morning’s meditation:

Meditation 123

The blessing
and the curse of God

focus, it seems,
on war
or the absence of war.

You would have thought
there’d be some other measure

for happiness.

Talking of matters literary, it's lovely to see a mention for A Dangerous Man in The Obsidian Bookshelf reviewer perspective. Even now Michael is preening himself for being in such good company ... Oh, and my article on the joys and importance of reading for writers, and indeed everyone else, is now up at The View From Here Magazine so pop along and find out all about my peculiar youthful reading habits (which probably explains a lot) and more. Go on, you know you want to ...

And I've thoroughly enjoyed reading Fiona Doloughan's chapbook, Repetition and Difference. Very lyrical and also accessible indeed - it reminded me a lot of Keats. Which is always a good thing. And I thought the haiku sequence was stunning. As Fiona is a member of the English Department at the University, I'm afraid the book isn't available commercially (which is a crying shame, to my mind), but I can thoroughly recommend her poems, should she ever decide to go public.

Apart from that, my whole day has been taken up with moving our offices from Oak House to the posh venue of Senate House third floor. After the initial panic, it’s actually been surprisingly okay and at 4pm I am actually set up on my desk, with a working phone, a working computer and a lamp, hurrah. I can’t print anything but hey I’m not worried, yet. I even have all my fluffy pens and snowstorms on the desk smiling at me so all is relatively okay in Anne’s world, double hurrahs. Nice offices too, though the kitchen is smaller. But hey we have a toilet that we don’t have to go outside for, so that’s a definite plus point. It almost balances out the sadness of no longer being near Starbucks, eh. Almost.

The main problem that’s arisen is for some reason they started repainting the boss’s new office this morning, so he wasn’t able to unpack anything into it until later this afternoon, dammit. Not the ideal plan really. What was wrong with repainting last week exactly?...

Mind you, I’ve managed to get some computer work done and dealt with most of my emails, so I have a halo of office competence hovering over my head. Won’t last, I can guarantee it.

Tonight, I’m going to pop into see Gladys on my way home and run the gauntlet of the nurse door opening procedures, groan. After that I’ll be collapsing in a heap on the sofa. I can’t decide whether to catch up with last night’s video of Compulsion or get some more done to my erotic short story. Ah decisions, decisions, eh …

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. A mention for A Dangerous Man
3. The reading article
4. The new office
5. An indoor toilet
6. TV/short story – whichever comes first.

Anne Brooke
Race for Life - help beat cancer