Monday, August 31, 2009

Reviews, books and battles

How I love the bank holidays. We've been super lazy today and not done a thing which is bliss. Here's this morning's poem:

Meditation 212

The river
flows into salt,
its freshness lost.

And the tongue
forgotten languages

forged in wind
and flame
for a while.

I'm really thrilled to say that the lovely Jilly has given The Bones of Summer a very good review on her website today which you can read here. Thanks so much, Jilly - glad you enjoyed the book!

Not only that, but she's kindly put up a five-star review on Amazon UK as well, so double thanks for that also. You can read that one here. So that's a very big smile on my face this bank holiday for sure.

Keeping to the topic of books, I've read Sarah Stonich's The Ice Chorus, which is a very powerful and poetic story about a holiday affair and the changes it brings to the heroine's life. I'm hoping to review it for Vulpes Libris after I've finished tackling my current editing, so I won't say much. But I certainly experienced the whole range of emotions in my reaction to the heroine - sometimes I wanted to slap her very very hard, and sometimes her story made me weep. Goodness me indeed.

Meanwhile I'm trucking slowly onwards with the edit to Hallsfoot's Battle. Interesting how the changes are bringing the focus more firmly onto Annyeke. Which is a good thing, to my mind. Lots more to come however, so we're not out of the woods yet.

This afternoon, I caught up with the latest on Ugly Betty, and tonight I'm hugely looking forward to Part Two of Wuthering Heights on TV. Part One yesterday was utterly gripping and I loved it. Funny how Heathcliff is indeed such a monster and yet I so desperately want him to win, even with knowing what happens. The actor is just so perfect in that part. Wonderful stuff.

Today's nice things:

1. Bank holidays
2. Poetry
3. Reviews for Bones
4. Books
5. Editing Hallsfoot
6. TV.

Anne Brooke: roaming through the moors of ... um ... Surrey
A Dangerous Man: almost as scary as Heathcliff and probably twice as deranged ...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Motes, nature and a good week for stepfathers

Another full day today, but here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 211

The picture
in your mind

is only blood
and emptiness.

You plan and legislate
for what

cannot be held
in the hand

or snatched
from the air

as it passes.

For most of the day, Lord H and I have been wandering around Ightham Mote in Kent, which is a totally wonderful Medieval moated manor house. Bliss. It's the first time we've been too, so shame on us for not visiting it sooner. We'll definitely be back. It's got so many fantastic higgledy-piggledy rooms and a library layout to die for. The walks round about were pretty damn good too. As was the lunch - special mention has to be made of the banana and toffee meringue which reduced Lord H and myself to a totally worshipful silence. Mmm ...

Not content with all that, we also popped into Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve on the trail of the black-necked grebe. Sadly we didn't actually spot said grebe, but it's got some good hides so we'll be back when the birds are more in abundance. Or at least more obvious.

Tonight, I am gearing myself up for the joys of Part One of the new adaptation of Wuthering Heights on TV. The scriptwriter is the sainted Peter Bowker, a Man Who Can Do No Wrong - he was responsible for the script of Desperate Romantics and the glorious Blackpool, so it'll definitely be worth watching, I'm sure.

However, I can't really let this week go without saying how utterly horrified I've been at the terrible abduction and imprisonment of poor Jaycee Lee Dugard from the ages of 11 until 29 years. I've been so horrified by it all and what she and her two children must have suffered that when I come to try to pray, I can't find any meaningful words and all I can do is cry. God preserve us, maybe that's enough. The only good thing that I can say about it all, speaking with my stepdaughter hat on, is that it's lovely to see that stepfathers aren't necessarily the potentially evil monsters they're often depicted as being these days. Sometimes they can be good things too - and I'm sorry the last 18 years of veiled accusations have cost Jaycee's stepfather his marriage, but it must be a relief for him to be so totally exonerated today. I like to think that if I'd ever been snatched from the street by an individual intent on evil (as my grandmother used to say), my own stepfather Jim would also have got on his bike, or more likely into one of his beloved tractors, and attempted to give chase, no matter how hopeless the outcome. Anyway, a tragic, long and horrific episode for all the Dugard family, and let's hope recovery is as whole as it can be for them. What I really fear is how many other Jaycees are out there, waiting to be discovered. Or not ...

Here are this week's haikus (two today, as one popped into my head this afternoon):

In my scented bath
a cloud of stories floats by.

In green-golden woods
dapple my skin with sunlight,
meld me to the earth.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Ightham Mote
3. TV
4. Stepfathers
5. Haikus.

Anne Brooke: in medieval mode
Maloney's Law: for the children who remain

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Skies, battle and song

I must say what an utterly glorious time Lord H and I had at last night's The Great Look Up event. The range of experts and telescopes was astonishing. We managed to get brilliant views of Jupiter, its rings and three of its moons, plus a ring nebula and a very very close look at the moon. I loved the whole thing. It was fascinating, and I would definitely jump at the chance to do something like that again. It really made you look. In a world were that doesn't happen often, I think.

Anyway, here's today's meditation poem:

Meditation 210

lies in the struggle

to clear its path;
gaze upwards

and let your heart

through a clarity
of angels.

This morning, I've been continuing the edit of Hallsfoot's Battle and have now worked out the complicated piece of editing. Which, like many things in life, wasn't actually as complicated or as fearsome once I got down to it. I'm very happy with how that section looks now. And, amazingly, I'm nearly half way through. Ye gods and little fishes indeed.

This afternoon, Lord H and I are off to our last Glyndebourne opera which is L'elisir d'Amore. One I really enjoy - it's such fun. This time we've opted for the pre-performance tea, just to ring those proverbial changes, so we'll spend the long interval sipping champagne and admiring the gardens. As you do. Ah, it's a tough life ... Though sadly it's the last of this season's operas so no more Glyndebourne after today until next year. The end of summer then, I fear.

Meanwhile, I'm in two minds about Ishiguro's latest short story collection, Nocturnes, which I've read on my e-reader. It's a very interesting and not a difficult read, with the stories focused on music and displacement. But it felt a bit "light" and I didn't really enjoy the title story, which went on for far far too long. The collection as a whole didn't really leave me with any sense of voice, and I have to say it's not Murakami. Though not bad. Faint praise, I know, but ah well.

Today's nice things:

1. Remembering the night sky
2. Poetry
3. Editing
4. Glyndebourne.

Anne Brooke - dusting down her posh frock and shoes
A Dangerous Man - which strange to say did once have a Glyndebourne sex scene but wisely I ditched it ...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Editing, sleep and the big night skies

Well, we thoroughly enjoyed Walking with Dinosaurs last night - a magnificent show indeed and very well done. Stars of the show were the great beasts themselves of course, but the way the plant life burst out of the stage at various points was grand too. The only big down-side was the fact that we were over half an hour late due to the fact that the M25 was shut and everything in the south came to a sympathetic standstill. Which made an hour's journey into a grand 2.5 hours and was extremely dull. Not to mention frustrating. On the way we passed no less than four accidents and were passed in turn by a very very slow-moving fire engine. One hopes it got there before the fire gave up. All of which probably made it into National Traffic Queueing Day, and the country will be celebrating its anniversary for years to come. Anyway, people were arriving late all the way through the show (which matters very little due to the nature of Wembley Arena). But the people I was really sorry for were the young family who finally crawled into their seats in front of us looking thoroughly bedraggled and traffic-beaten about 10 minutes before it actually ... um ... ended. Tough explaining that one to the young children in tow ...

Anyway, to today. And there's a poem, and it's the first day of reading Acts:

Meditation 209

it is necessary

to advance,
pour forth

the needs
of the moment,

demand satisfaction.
At other times

there is nothing
to do

but wait
under empty skies,

trusting in a promise
you no longer see.

For most of the day I've been editing Hallsfoot's Battle and am quite pleased with progress. I've now come to a section of more complicated editing so I'll leave it until I feel fresher, I think. After that and worn out from all the excitement of the past few days, I've managed to fit in a much-needed nap. Which turned out to be a whole two hours, so Lordy but I must have needed it.

Tonight, Lord H and I are out at the University's Great Look Up event, as he's something of a fan of the night sky and I think it should be interesting. Mind you, I'll try and avoid the barbecue, I think - I'm not a great fan of raw meat in the open air. If I want to eat badly-cooked food, I'd prefer to do it indoors ...

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Editing progress
3. Napping
4. The night sky.

Anne Brooke: head in the clouds as usual
Thorn in the Flesh: a definitive night-time read

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Walking with Dinosaurs

A brief blog today as I have to be out of the flat in half an hour and still have to brush my hair and powder my nose, my dears. So here are today's excitements:

1. Had a fabulous Clarins massage with Alice this morning, which was hugely early so apologies for the lack of poem - I opted for the invigorating oils this time rather than the relaxing ones as usual, so am raring to go. Though I suspect not for long ...

2. It was then straight into a cappuccino with Robin, and then lunch with Robin & Liz (hello, both!). We put to rights the world of books, song and politics. So everything's perfect now. Just in case you were wondering why everything felt different.

3. Tonight, Lord H and I are up at Wembley Arena to see Walking with Dinosaurs, and I'm so very excited about it that I think I might be sick. I love dinosaurs. And I paid a small fortune for the seats so they are truly brilliant. Lord knows when we're going to have time to eat - and indeed I may well be eaten during the evening, which would rather solve the problem. Who can say?

Today's nice things:

See above!

Anne Brooke - wondering if I can fit a dinosaur into the flat ...
Disasters and Miracles - the everyday life of Bible folk

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Poetry, the reading revolution and Mr Penry-Jones

Today we’re at the end of St John’s Gospel so here’s my last poem on that:

Meditation 208

In the flesh
there are no borders

and in the blood
and spirit and memory

there are so
many words

that the whole world
cannot hold them.

Tomorrow, it’s Acts – so hang on to your hats as we dive into that action-packed drama and angst …

At work, I’m actually doing quite well on my information gathering project – I’m rootling through the undergrowth with my trusty machete, and the tigers haven’t yet torn me limb from limb. So there’s hope, Carruthers, hope … I’m also attempting to sort out some upcoming meetings, but as it’s August and most of the academic staff are therefore sunning themselves in Majorca or Barbados, my hopes there aren’t quite as high. Still, by next week, we’ll be truly into autumn and it’ll be as if the summer pause never happened at all. Though actually, it didn’t for us. And probably not for the academic staff either. Ah well.

But this morning’s great excitement was the fire alarm going off. What fun. We all left the building beautifully and it wasn’t raining, hurrah. Nice to get out of the office once in a while en masse. There wasn’t actually a fire either, which is even better. I also managed to squeeze in a quick lunch & a cappuccino (hurrah!) with Jennifer – hello, Jennifer! Great to catch up and in just over an hour (naughty me …) we managed to put the literary world to rights. Jennifer’s Great Plan is that if we find a book that’s badly written (Sasha Wagstaff’s dreadful book, Changing Grooms, springs at once to mind, alas), or with dull characters and a ridiculous plot (um, ditto), we should mark up the errors and send it back to the publisher to say that the quality of the product falls below an acceptable legal standard and we should therefore have our money back. Honestly, it’s not a bad plan at all – and if everyone did it, then maybe publishers would begin to think twice about accepting substandard work for their lists. One can but hope. The reading revolution starts here …

Tonight, I’m pondering the edit of Hallsfoot’s Battle once more, though I mustn’t miss a new version of The 39 Steps on TV tonight, with the really quite scrumptious Rupert Penry-Jones. Whom I hadn’t really cottoned on to before, never having seen Spooks, but who swept me away in the glorious crime series, Whitechapel. Mmm, can’t wait …

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Reading revolutions
3. Editing
4. TV.

Anne Brooke – hacking away in a jungle of paper
Pink Champagne and Apple Juice – the perfect summer cocktail

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Great Information Gatherer and holiday memories

On this rather grey start to the day, here’s this morning’s meditation:

Meditation 207

East of the waters
the question

of where your heart rests
overflows the sense.

is a binding power,

leading you
through unsung paths

where even now
you fear to pace:

follow it.

At work, with Clare’s help, I’ve finally got hold of some of last year’s reference sheets for Freshers’ Week so have spent most of the day attempting bravely to update them. My goodness, what a lot of information we seem to need for that week. It’s a never-ending well, my dears. Will I ever reach the bottom (as it were)?

Walked into town at lunchtime, mainly in order to get another journal. I always take one on holiday and the one I currently have doesn’t have that many pages left for any deep thoughts or inspiration that may flow my way in Italy, ho ho. I do find they come in handy – my holiday experiences in Bruges found their way into Kate’s story in Thorn in the Flesh, and of course my Egypt trip found its way into Maloney’s Law. I shall always remember that young boy, his very dirty basket of bread rolls and those Americans, Gawd help them. I hope they survived … Ooh, and I popped into Boots while I was in town and the totally lovely woman from whom I always buy my Clinique stuff (but I haven’t seen her for a while) took one look at me and told me my hair was utterly fabulous. How very kind! I didn’t think anyone in my “real life” but Lord H had noticed I’ve been growing it longer. It’s been a real boost today.

Tonight I am torn between expected joy and tears; it’s the last episode of Desperate Romantics and I’m already missing it. Please let there be another series – soon … My TV screen will be all the dimmer without it, alas.

Meanwhile, I’m getting into the edit of Hallsfoot’s Battle and can feel myself becoming quite excited about it again. I do love this part of the writing … um … battle. I’m being very drastic too about what I keep and what I add in. The snow raven is biting the dust, or possibly pecking it, and Johan’s point of view is going, as is the First Elder’s, these latter two to be subsumed into the viewpoints of my remaining four characters. Ah, the power, the power – it’s so satisfying.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Holiday journals
3. Hair compliments
4. TV
5. Editing powers.

Anne Brooke – power-crazed but beautifully coiffed writer sweeps through Surrey
Thorn in the Flesh – the dark side of the Surrey shires ...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Reflexology and editing

Goodness me, here we are again at Monday. How these summer weeks just fly by. Anyway, here’s today’s poem:

Meditation 206

The whole water
is empty of life

and the air
is as silent

as the hills.
Night has folded us in

like the promise
of death

and when the morning
finally softens the sky

all I have
is nothing

and all I see is how
at the water’s edge

he waits for me.

Have spent the day continuing to sort out details for the upcoming Freshers’ Week. I really need to get together a reference book for our information points staff, but I’m not quite clear on where the information actually is. Still, that’s never stopped me in the past, so I’m almost sure I’ll be able to whip up something that looks meaningful. Famous last words, eh. I’ve also had a fun time rejigging the Health Centre website ready for the new influx of students and arranging another tranche of meetings for next year. My, how it makes me laugh when people say that because I work in education my summers must be easier. Ho ho.

So, with all that, I thoroughly enjoyed my lunchtime reflexology appointment – soooo relaxing. Plus I’ve booked some more to get me through the autumn, hurrah.

Tonight, I’m intending to look a little closer at the Hallsfoot’s Battle edit, with the reward of Would I Lie To You? on TV later. As a sop to my existential pain of course. Wonderful.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Reflexology
3. Editing
4. TV.

Anne Brooke – feeling the benefits of the foot rub
Maloney’s Law: a man who could really have done with a little reflexology to get him through …

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Church, edits and books

Here's today's meditation:

Meditation 205

In the middle
of battle, victory

and a bargained marriage
she knows

what is needed
and for this one time

she asks
what she wants

and gets it:
the upper

and lower water.
Caleb, Othniel, Achsah.

Keeping on a religious theme, Lord H and I graced the church with our presence today, but were utterly confused by the hymns. I think it's part of the Anglican August conspiracy that vicars choose hymns nobody knows to tunes that nobody understands. Perhaps they think it keeps us on our toes? We had a charming one by Wesley - called Author of Life Divine - but it's only two verses long so the congregation barely had time to get to grips with the tune. After all, the Church Hymn Rule for unknown tunes is the first verse is the one where you're working it through, the second verse is the one where you're practising it and the third verse and beyond is the one where you can really belt it out with gusto. Today we didn't get that chance. Ah well. We were also muddled by the fact that the last two lines of said verses are apparently sung slower and twice. Hmm, nobody told us ...

Still, at least we're back to shaking hands during the Peace and allowed to take wine at communion, so the spectre of the swine flu plague has obviously lost some of its grip. I also managed to give out a few postcards for Disasters and Miracles that Bridge House Publishing had kindly sent out. Nice to see that Disasters and Miracles at Amazon appears to be doing well. At one point late last week, its sales ranking actually only had four figures. Well, gosh, I've never been in those dizzy heights before.

This afternoon, I have fiddled around a little with the edits for the start of Hallsfoot's Battle and am pleased with my minimal efforts so far. More drastic cuts and slashes are ahead however! Time to gird one's loins for the kill.

Keeping to the subject of books, may I say that Sasha Wagstaff's Changing Grooms is the worst novel I've had the horror of reading in a long long time. What I was hoping for was light but intelligent women's fiction. What I actually got was dull, cliched, clunky and very very badly written. And the characters were so shallow it was laughable. A serious disappointment. It's an astonishment Headline actually published it - what on earth could they have been thinking?? Point of view changes happened every few paragraphs so it was very difficult to work out where you were at any one time, the conversations were completely unrealistic - how many British men do you know who sit down and discuss their emotions and the meaning of love at great length with each other?? - the plot was very sloppy, and character development (where it existed at all) was only shown through what clothes they were wearing. This kind of book is an insult to any reader, and certainly an insult to the genre. Shameful stuff. The only slightly positive angle I can spin on it is that if crap such as this is published by a mainstream imprint, then there is surely hope for us all. It also puts the nail finally and absolutely in the coffin of the ridiculously misinformed brigade who insist that "if you write something of quality, then of course it will be published ..." Um, not if this is the kind of book the so-called "quality press" are publishing, say I. Lord preserve us indeed.

Thank goodness then for an extremely high quality poetry collection from Peter Abbs. His Viva la Vida (though I do so hate that pretentious foreign title ...) is top class poetry that manages to be human, spiritual, religious and accessible, all at the same time. Which is surely a feat in itself. I have an absolute raft of favourites from the book, but I do have to mention "Falling Like Gulls" (about memory), "Grandmother Reading at Myrtle Cottage" (a strong and poignant portrait of a woman), "Moving Statues" (about faith and expectation), "Other Gifts" (a poem about emotional inheritances), "A Raw Planting" (visiting the graves of his parents), "The Genius of Turner" (how art happens) and "Small Love Poem". Amongst many many others. I shall definitely be looking out for more of Abbs' work.

Finally, here's this week's haiku:

Each raindrop glistens
with the clarity of light
and the world is still.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Church
3. Disasters and Miracles' Amazon rating
4. Beginning the Hallsfoot edit
5. Viva la Vida
6. Haikus.

Anne Brooke - puzzling over hymns
Disasters and Miracles: ideal Sunday reading

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Reviews galore and a day in the country

Seemed to be loads of little jobs to do before the day really got started today (why are some mornings just like that??), but I managed to squeeze in a meditation poem:

Meditation 204

A faith that glistens
in the eyes

of your friends
slips through

your fingers,
does not glide

into skin:
a halfway house

between saints
and men

that gives
a promise of hope,

joins our now
with then.

I'm also very pleased to say that Book Utopia Mum has given Painting from Life a very positive review at Book Utopia Reviews. Thank you hugely for that - it's much appreciated.

Not only that but the lovely Clare London has uploaded three reviews on my work at the Goodreads site. Firstly there's A Dangerous Man:

"Excellent read, though dark and very edgy. Michael is all-consuming, totally fascinating. Both victim and ambitious, though he'll always be trapped by his background. Can't say much more without spoilers! But it's a treat to read. Great prose, it slides deliciously in and out of Michael's own mind and emotions, taking you with it, no holds barred. Great UK setting and a lovely slice of the art world and the anguish/joy of art itself."

Secondly, there's a review of Maloney's Law:

"Blew me away, a stunning mix of mystery and melodrama and one man's journey through a period of his life when everything seems a struggle. It's not heavy, though there are shocking scenes and strong adult themes. Paul's charm and determination carries the book, he's a great mix of strength and sensitivity and the perfect 'eyes' for the mature plot. Written with wit and excellently clear, entertaining prose."

And thirdly and lastly, here's Clare's take on The Bones of Summer:

"Excellent combination of mystery and romance. Loved the UK setting especially and the gritty, modern feel that gave it. Paul follows on from Maloney's Law, still the tortured, complex, fascinating man. Craig is new and a great counterpoint, lively, confused, sexy, needy, brave. The sex scenes are very fresh and hot, the dialogue realistic, and Craig's wit enchanting!"

Triple gosh and big big hugs to you, Clare - thank you so much! I'm extremely grateful indeed.

All of which has set me up nicely for a day in the country with Mother. The Old Gal is chugging along nicely - speaking of which, she's planning a holiday later in the year on the Manchester Ship Canal. It wouldn't be my first choice, but hey there's no accounting for mothers. We managed to fit in a walk in the afternoon as well so we could help her deliver the church magazines, although I was deeply traumatised by one of the people in the road exclaiming with astonishment when he saw us: "Gosh! You must be mother and daughter - you look so alike!" What can I say?? Obviously a man who needs his eyes thoroughly testing. There is NO WAY on this planet that my mother and I are alike IN ANY SENSE. At all. There. That's that sorted then ... Lord H meanwhile remains tactfully silent on the matter ...

Curious things passed on the motorway queue on the way to Mother's: a truck with Caution: Racing Pigeons emblazoned across it. Surely it would be quicker for them to fly??

Curious thoughts discussed whilst on the motorway on the way back from Mother's: why are houses always named in such obvious fashions? Why can't you have The Old Whorehouse or Brothel Cottage or Slaughter Manor? Ah, it's tempting, so tempting ...

Today's nice things:

1. Four book reviews, no less!
2. Poetry
3. Surviving Mother (Gawd bless 'er ...)
4. Lazy pigeons
5. Curious housenames.

Anne Brooke - happy to be read
Painting from Life: not just a load of old brushes

Friday, August 21, 2009

Reviews, pars and reports

What an exceptionally sparkly day it's been - we had a glorious moment at lunchtime when it began to rain heavily whilst the sun was still shining and the raindrops were all glittery. Just like a Disney film. Wonderful. It could only happen in the shires, you know. Anyway, here's today's meditation:

Meditation 203

Some old men
won’t lie down

but keep knocking
on your door

to demand land
and armies

and honour.
Whilst younger men

won’t stay dead
but arrive at supper

to show you
blood and pain

and a strange
breathable peace.

I'm thrilled to say that Christina at Romance Junkies Reviews has given The Bones of Summer a 4.5 star review which you can read here. An extract of the review is below:

The Bones of Summer by Anne Brooke is an exceptionally well written and thrilling mystery novel. This novel grabbed a hold of me almost immediately and would not let go. I found myself reading until the early morning hours. The plot is quite interesting but what really intrigued me most about this book is Craig himself. He survived a terrible childhood. I admired his resilience. His father’s fanaticism is extremely disturbing and also very sad. The last few chapters are especially chilling and will stay with me for a long time.”

Thanks so much, Christina - I really appreciate that.

Golf this morning was fantastic too - my score wasn't as good as last week's dizzy heights (shame ...) but I managed to get the grand total of three pars. Three!! It's unbelievable, especially as the one on the eighth hole went in from a chip off the green. As it were (does this make sense to anyone but a golfer?). Who needs putters?... I parred the final hole too, which I felt pretty damn good about. Especially as when we walked back to the clubhouse, I was congratulated on it by not one, but two groups of male golfers. Result eh! It's amazing I can get into the flat at all with a head this size ...

Lynda has also arrived for my haircut and I now look almost sophisticated, my dears. Whatever next? I've also been working away on my review of Julian Fellowes' Past Imperfect for Vulpes Libris. I've now got the basis of what I want to say. I just need to sort out the quotes to demonstrate it. The book really is a fascinating read, even in its not-quite-perfect state.

This afternoon, my back has been duly stretched and widened into the shape it should be at my Alexander Technique lesson, and it certainly does feel different now. Ah if only I could remember and put into practice what I've learnt during the week to come, then I'd really be laughing. Whilst looking tall and elegant. Ho ho.

I've also received my critique from The Literary Consultancy about Hallsfoot's Battle and I'm happy to say that it's not as damning as I feared it might be. They did give the original version of The Gifting something of a pasting (and rightly so), so I was worried about this one. Yes, of course there are fairly major things to alter or kill - but that's par for the course (sorry) for me in the editing process. But I see what they mean and I think I can visualise how it might be, and that at this stage is certainly something. I might fiddle around with changes a little before our upcoming holiday, but I think the bulk of the next tranche of the editing process will happen afterwards. After all, it's not as if there's a rush for it ...

Tonight, it's mammoth flat-cleaning time (arrgghh!) and then there's a programme about a British bull-fighter on TV later, which I absolutely have to watch. This will bring me brickbats and shame, but I have to say I do like bullfights. Sorry, but there it is. We used to go to Spain a lot when I was a child and I loved them back then (which probably says something rather disturbing about me, but then again rural children are rarely sentimental about animals), and I took Lord H to see one when we were in Seville a few years back and I loved it then too. Lord H was not so keen, but he possesses less blood-lust than I do. Considerably less. He did look rather startled when we exited the building but it's no worse than a night out in Colchester when the army are on the razzle. Ah, my teenage years, eh ... Anyway, back to Spain and bullfights, I think for me it's that glorious combination of genuine danger, out-and-out machismo, blood and ballet. Not to mention the men in tight trousers. Marvellous.

Anyway, wiping that psychotic and lustful gleam from my eye, onwards and upwards. Here are today's nice things:

1. Sparkly weather
2. Poetry
3. A review of The Bones of Summer
4. Golf
5. Haircuts
6. Working on another Vulpes review
7. Alexander Technique
8. The report on Hallsfoot
9. TV.

Anne Brooke - bloody but relatively unbowed
The Bones of Summer - guaranteed: no bull

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A glorious writing day

I've spent a really quite fulfilling day today simply writing. I'd half-forgotten how fulfilling it can be, as and when it wants to be. Really I've done little else. Here's today's meditation:

Meditation 202

The coolness
of the garden:

something remembered
from a time

before your time.
Tears, secrecy

and a vanished love

to a dazzle of angels
and his voice.

Getting to the end of the Gospel of St John now. As you may be able to tell. I'm wondering how I'm going to find the Book of Acts, as that's a rollercoaster ride for sure.

Anyway, I'm pleased to be able to tell you that I have finally (at last!) finished the short story I've been working on for what seems like ages, but is probably only days. It's an erotic short story about a male prostitute who doesn't quite have sex with a rather mysterious client, and who may or may not be in love with his pimp. Well, I'm a simple soul at heart. As you know. And it's tough here in the shires ... I'm also happy that I've finally found the right title for it. The working title up to this point has been Heavy Air, which I hated. But this morning, I looked at it and thought: Aha! A Stranger's Touch. That's the one. So there it is. Done. I've also sent it off to a possible publisher and we'll wait and see. Never say I'm not focused.

I have also read Julian Fellowes' Past Imperfect for the University reading group and I must say it's an utterly stunning novel. I have been gripped, my dears, gripped. It's not quite perfect, but it's pretty damn close. I won't say much more as I'm hoping to write a review for it for Vulpes Libris when we're all back from our summer break - but what I would say is this: if you see it buy it. It's one classy broad. As they say. And I can never resist an unnamed narrator. Bring them on!

Tonight, I'm chilling - as hell I deserve it. And there's New Tricks on TV too. Ooh, lovely.

Today's nice things:

1. Writing
2. Poetry
3. Finishing my short story
4. Books
5. TV.

Anne Brooke - pretty damn twisted but rarely dull ...
A Dangerous Man: another prostitute to die for

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Disasters, Miracles and strange Connections

I’m very pleased to be able to tell you that Disasters and Miracles, the new Bible Stories anthology, is now available for purchase at Amazon UK. One of the stories in it is my own The Voyage, based on St Paul’s journey to Rome and his shipwreck in Malta and is told from the point of view of the centurion who took him there. Other stories in the anthology include an animal’s eye view of Noah’s ark, what it might have been like for the people in Jericho when the walls came down, and what really happened to the boy with the loaves and the fishes. More information can be found at my website.

Which is good news for me, as since last night I’ve been caught up in a small but rather vicious wave of depression, goddammit. It hasn’t been nice. And this morning I woke up to the news that Dreamspinner Press aren’t going to use my story in their upcoming Games in the Dark anthology, even though they thought it was good. I don’t know – I felt utterly winded by that and really quite tearful. They suggested I send it in as a stand-alone story, but I don’t feel strong enough for that, to be honest. So I’ve sent it off to another publisher who have a similar style anthology in the offing, to see if I have any more luck. And I’m trying to not think about it too much.

Anyway, what with all that, I didn’t have the heart to open my Bible this morning, so I apologise for the lack of poem, but there it is. But thank goodness work has been busy so I’ve been able to keep the doldrums at bay by throwing myself into writing up yesterday’s minutes, creating a draft presentation for the wardens, forming a To Do list for Freshers' Week, and all that whilst maintaining a reasonably calm exterior and not bursting into tears and rushing to the loo every five minutes. Lordy, but I’m good.

I’ve even taken my Coolreader – which is working, hurrah! – on my lunchtime stroll with me and sat reading it by the lake. The book I’m reading on it is utter chick-lit tripe (of which more when I’ve finished it) but at least it’s working. Though it did take us a while last night to realise we had to authorise the machine first before it would open anything. Sigh. We should have remembered from discovering this the time before. And on the way back to the office after lunch, I nipped in for a quick Starbucks – bliss, as ever.

At home, however, I've been hugely cheered by the fact that my erotic flash fiction piece, Connections, is now up at Babel Fruit Journal. This is a significant milestone for me as it was the very negative (and actually very hurtful) reaction from my former writers' group to this story that made me leave it and, eventually, the self-publishing company attached to it. Nice to know they might have been wrong. Sorry if that seems bitchy, but that's how it was. And I've never pretended to be perfect. Besides of which I don't think I would ever have reacted in a similar way to a piece brought to a writing group for comment. It was quite devastating at the time, but looking back I'm glad it made me take the decision I did. So I suppose it worked out for the best for all in the end, and thank you, Ren, for publishing it now!

Tonight I might stare for a while at my current short story and wonder what the heck it’s all about, so thank goodness for Who Do You Think You Are? Sometimes TV is a veritable lifesaver.

Today’s nice things:

1. Disasters and Miracles being published
2. A working Coolreader
3. Starbucks
4. Connections being published
5. TV.

Anne Brooke – fighting back disaster even as it strikes
Disasters and Miracles: a summer read for all the family

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Poetry, Coolreaders and Romantics

Phew, we’re onto Tuesday. At last. Monday seemed to go on for ever, really. Here’s today’s poem:

Meditation 201

Night wraps round
your body as you stumble
through silent trees

and soft grass,
dawn already milking
the too early skies.

Where you thought
to find
the solidity of stone

you touch only freedom
and the coolness
of linen.

As you can see, I’m focusing on the New Testament again, as the Book of Joshua has moved on to a list of towns the Israelites have conquered, and it’s really rather dull. Yawn. Keeping on the subject of poetry, I'm pleased to say that five of my meditation poems have been published at Thirty First Bird Review, and have been kindly described by Edward as "modern psalms". Gosh, thank you, Edward. You can read them by clicking on the link and scrolling down about a third of the way down that page. Enjoy!

Anyway, at work, I’ve had two meetings today, both of them squeezed into the afternoon in quick succession. Though I did manage to have a stroll round campus at lunchtime beforehand, which was gloriously soothing. The first meeting was to look at what the accommodation wardens are doing in terms of greeting Freshers when they arrive, and the second followed on from that by looking at how we in Student Care are getting on with our induction week arrangements. It’s all a muddle at the moment. At least in my head. But that’s par for the course at this time of year. Or is that only me? I’m sure it’ll all come together on the week. Well, I hope it will … Though that feeling of barely contained panic continues, eh. Really, I'm just nodding and agreeing with everyone and hoping it will all soon be over.

Meanwhile, my replacement Coolreader has arrived at Lord H’s workplace, and he’s even charged it up for me. Here’s hoping it lasts longer than the first one! And thank you, Susan/Erin, for sorting that out for me. It’s going to be great to get back to ereading again.

Tonight, that short story beckons me – I reckon I’m about halfway through now and I’m still not entirely sure how the ending will be. But that’s normal for me, so I’m not worrying about it. Too much. Thank goodness then for the boisterous joy of Desperate Romantics on TV tonight. Honestly, that script is the best and brightest thing (and so strangely underrated, Lord knows why) on TV at the moment. I’ll miss it hugely when it finishes.

Today’s nice things:

1. Not being Monday
2. Poetry
3. Poetry publication
4. Lunchtime strolls
5. Replacement ereaders
6. Short stories
7. TV.

Anne Brooke – muddled but desperately romantic, naturally …

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday angst and work reviews

This morning seems full of that all-pervading Monday angst, groan. But here’s my 200th meditation poem anyway:

Meditation 200

The heady scent
of spices –
myrrh and aloes –

almost cuts you down
when you walk
for the first time

from the almost-dark
to the light.
The garden

buries your discomfort,
wrapping it
in linen, preparing

for the night.

I’m pleased to have reached my 200th poem in this series – it seems like a kind of milestone, albeit a quiet one. Meanwhile, at work, I’ve been attempting to deal with my emails whilst pretending to act like a normal human being. Never say I don’t know how to multi-task, eh. Why is it that on Mondays it’s soooo much harder to be normal? Really, I just want to run screaming from the building, go home and lie under the duvet for a while. Ah, if only that plan could happen.

Anyway, today I had my annual review. Never something I look forward to, it was made rather worse by being rescheduled over my lunchtime. I should have taken in my lunch of rice and smelly fish, ho ho, but didn’t quite have the courage. Still, it went well, and they might just about keep me on for another year, which is a relief. Phew. I’ve also rung my website provider to try to sort out my direct debit – what lovely people Zen are, I must say. A pleasure to deal with.

Tonight, I need to go shopping – more smelly fish is required, I think – even though I am utterly and absolutely desperate to get home. Where I’m planning to add a few more paragraphs to my current short story (now at 3000 words and growing ever stranger …) and collapse like a beaten jelly in front of Would I Lie to You? on the TV. Sometimes, the only thing that works for me is the glorious David Mitchell being his adorably comic self.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Zen website people
3. Short stories
4. TV.

Anne Brooke – groaning her way through the day
Vulpes Libris: foxtrotting off for the summer but still dreaming of books

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunflowers and sleep

Goodness me, but what a sunshiny day today. We are being lucky in terms of weekend weather these days. Are we still in Britain at all? Anyway, here's today's poem:

Meditation 199

Buried in a list
of impossible towns –
Dibon, Kedemoth,

Zereth-Shahar –
lies the death
of Balaam,

devious teller
of fortunes
and beater of donkeys

and I find that,
for his faults,
I’ll miss him.

Today, Lord H and I have spent a very pleasant few hours wandering around Wisley and particularly admiring the sunflowers. I do so love sunflowers. Such a happy plant. We also had a very good lunch and watched as Queen Victoria and her entourage (no less) greeted her subjects. She looks surprisingly well for a dead woman, I must say.

Once back home, I braved medical opinion by taking a (I think) well-earned nap, and am now feeling like I could start my day all over again. I might well add a few more sentences to my short story later on, but we'll see. There's also a programme on TV about God (well, it is Sunday ...) later which we may well catch, even though it looks rather too worthy for the weekend.

Here's this week's haiku:

Railway men dressed as
orange flamingoes punch soil
on the railway track.

Today's nice things:

1. Sunshine
2. Poetry
3. Wisley
4. Napping
5. Haikus.

Anne Brooke - lapping up the sun
Vulpes Libris: shining a light on the secret life of erotic fiction

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day in the country

Am thrilled to say that Connections, my erotic flash fiction piece, has been accepted for publication by Babel Fruit Journal, so that's hugely pleasing - many thanks, Richard!

I've also read the latest edition of Equinox Poetry Journal, where I particularly enjoyed Ann Drysdale's The Shadow of the Moon (all about endings and beginnings, in lots of ways), Denise Bennett's marvellous Quaker Meeting (about the magic of silence), John Enright's Listening in Florida (taking a very satirical view of highways), Abegail Morley's Blackberry Picking (where nature is more sinister than first expected) and Tom Gilliver's Poem xvii (which looks at that unbridgeable gap between the idea and the realisation, dammit). Great stuff.

The rest of the day has been spent with our friends in Kent, helping to celebrate Pauline's special birthday (28 years old with 22 years' experience, naturally ...) and generally having a very very good time. We chatted for ages, had a great lunch out, saw round the school where she works and went for a high-powered (or at least high speed!) walk in the woods. Plus I was very brave and met her dog for the first time - I'm not by nature a great fan of dogs, and Max is a long-haired German Shepherd, so a big dog too. But actually he was fine and didn't (a) do that horrible jumping up thing - yuk, or (b) try to lick my face - double yuk. So I have warmed to him, my dears. Soon we will be corresponding by canine mail and the next thing you know we'll be booking a holiday together ... You heard it here first.

Today's nice things:

1. Flash fiction acceptance
2. Poetry magazines
3. Visiting friends
4. Unscary dogs.

Anne Brooke - getting in touch with her canine side
Vulpes Libris: discovering the art of being dead ...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Glorious golf and off-the-wall stories

Marian and I had a wonderful game of golf today - I think it's the best we've ever played. And we both got two pars apiece - bliss! Really, it was one of those rare and perfect golf days where I could have spat at the ball and it would still have gone in the hole. And even the sun was shining. What could be nicer?

I've also been working away on my piece of short fiction - which at over 1000 words now has definitely gone beyond the boundaries of flash fiction. Especially as I think I'm probably only about a quarter through. At some point I'm going to have to move it into a different file. And think of a title. Strangely it's turning into a story about a prostitute who doesn't have sex and his dealings with a stranger who may, or may not, be from another world. Lordy, but I like to make it tough. Hey ho.

Meanwhile, here's today's poem:

Meditation 198

For the priests
no land
is allotted.

Enough for them
to possess
those killed

in God’s name,
to nurture by night
the eternal flame.

Keeping on the subject of writing, I've finished reading Remastering Jerna, Ann Somerville's upcoming book from PD Publishing, which she's been kind enough to send me for comment. I have to admit straight up that BDSM simply isn't my scene and I had to skim through those sections with my eyes half shut and my teeth gritted, but I absolutely loved Jerna as a character - he's wonderful and I've been worrying and thinking about him a lot, even when I haven't been reading. I also thought the setting was top notch and the tension and complexities of the plot first class. It's being published sometime late Summer (not quite sure when), and I can certainly recommend it, with the proviso that you might have to grit your teeth now and again if you're not a fan of the genre. But if you are, enjoy!

There you are - from religion to sado-masochism in one easy move. Though perhaps that move isn't such a long stride as people may imagine (hush my mouth)...? In any case, never say this journal isn't inclusive, eh.

Meanwhile, the CoolReader saga has taken a more positive turn (hurrah!). Susan (also known as Erin) on Twitter has sent me a very human email - my first from them, I think, and thank you, Susan, for it. I've now sent back the old broken machine via Lord H's work, and am waiting to hear when they might deliver my new one. I hope it's okay from now on in - as, contrary to popular opinion, on the whole I'd really rather not have to be cross.

This afternoon, I've been to my Alexander Technique lesson and my back now feels much freer than it's been for a few days. It's odd how you don't notice the problems until someone puts you into the right position again. I must remember to focus more.

Over the last couple of nights, Lord H and I have been trying to watch for the shooting stars display that happens each year around this time. We've been lucky in the past, but not so far this year. Two nights ago, it was too cloudy and last night we saw nothing even though we set the alarm for 2am (how brave!) and stared determinedly at the sky for half an hour. Not sure whether we'll try again tonight - we'll see.

Today's nice things:

1. Golf
2. Writing short stories
3. Poetry
4. Jerna
5. Alexander Technique
6. The possibility of meteors.

Anne Brooke - she may be in the gutter but she's looking at the stars
Vulpes Libris: making the most of Summertime

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Poetry, sex and napping

Back to a more normal routine today, so here's this morning's poem:

Meditation 197

Old age
brings the knowledge

of all the noble acts
you have not done:

people unfought,
lands unconquered.

Sometimes you wish
you’d died young.

Keeping to the subject of poetry, I'm pleased to say that Callused Hands Journal have accepted two of my poems for future publication - thanks, Ivan! Always good to have something to look forward to indeed.

Anyway for the rest of the day I've been writing up my review of Ian Kelly's Casanova for Vulpes Libris. I've thoroughly enjoyed it too - what a great book and what a fascinating man! As I'm sure I'll say again, and probably again, when the review date comes up (as it were).

I've also been continuing my long-running and rather fraught emails with the CoolReader people. I've discovered that the best (or indeed the only) thing to do to get them to respond (for anyone else out there who has similar problems) is to send them private messages on Twitter. After several messages today, we finally have the following situation: they have told me that the information on my broken machine will be deleted. This is the information I asked them for last week and frankly it's astonishing it's taken them so long to reply. It's what I wanted to know - particularly as my own completed novels and one or two published short stories are stored on there. With that in mind, I've asked them to give me a date on which my old machine can be collected and my new one given to me - bearing in mind that it's taken a week to get here, I'm not convinced that will be soon, but we'll see. They've also offered me a voucher for spending on CoolerBooks, but as there's nothing on there I want to buy, that's not particularly great and I told them so. And really, I don't want a voucher - I want good, swift, intelligent service and a machine that works. So, I'm pleased I've finally got an answer, but we're not out of those pesky trees yet ...

And I've also been incredibly brave and had a nap. Apparently, according to today's news, this is a very dangerous thing to do as it brings on Alzheimer's and Diabetes. Hopefully not at the same time. Lordy, but is anything at all deemed to be safe??

Tonight, I'm looking forward to New Tricks, which is my comfort TV for that almost-midweek zone. Bring it on.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Poems acceptances
3. Writing my review of Casanova
4. Napping - goodness how brave!
5. TV.

Anne Brooke - living on the wild side
Vulpes Libris: getting to grips with the man behind Ghosts and Lightning

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Human Love and the strangeness of cheese

I’ve uploaded my review of Andrei Makine’s Human Love onto Vulpes Libris today. It’s a very political beast and I’m seriously not sure about that mozzarella line. Ah well. As you can tell, I wasn’t greatly impressed.

Talking of Vulpes, I’ve now read Ian Kelly’s biography, Casanova, and what a wonderful piece of work it is too. I can thoroughly recommend it – an intelligent, witty and eye-opening book. I’m looking forward to writing my review on it for sure.

At work, I’ve been getting to grips with typing up the second meeting of Monday and managed to get the first draft done, hurrah. I’ve also been making changes to the office website ready for the new academic year. Though whether I’ll ever be ready for the new academic year is anyone’s guess …

At lunchtime, I walked into town and bought a watch as mine gave up the ghost on Monday and I’ve been living my life entirely by means of handy wall clocks and the computer timer. I do keep looking at my right wrist (yes, I’m totally cack-handed – neither a left- nor a right-hander, I fear) to see what the time is, but so far it hasn’t been able to tell me.

And, after much umming and ahhing, I’ve put my name down for the Poetry School online course. I seem to be the only one there so far, and am even now pondering on my pre-course assignment which is to write a poem about a subject I am passionately curious about. I suspect they don't mean write about me however. Ah well.

Meanwhile, I’m still making absolutely no headway with getting a replacement Coolreader machine. The company aren’t answering my emails though they are responding to Twitter messages, and so far the promised replacement isn’t here. I’m getting more and more angry and frustrated about it all, and it’s seriously putting me off my Coolreader, which up until last week I was very much enjoying. It’s very difficult to know what I have to do to make them respond with real action, other than chain myself to the MD’s front gate and bite his kneecaps as he shuffles past. Hmm, that might certainly be an option. Watch this space, eh …

Tonight, I’ll be glued to Who Do You Think You Are, and pondering that review of Mr Newhouse (anglicised). What a fascinating chap.

Today’s nice things:

1. Vulpes Libris
2. Books
3. A new watch
4. The Poetry School course
5. TV
6. Pondering reviews.

Anne Brooke - searching for something to be curious about
Vulpes Libris – meditating on the mysteries of politics and … um … cheese

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Poetry, books and champagne

I’m very happy to say that Thirty First Bird Review magazine have accepted five of my meditation poems for online publication and will also consider them for their print journal later. So thank you, Edward, for that! In the meantime, here’s another:

Meditation 196

Hills, rich river valleys,
the eastern slopes

and all the barren
dry country

of the south

are weighed
in the balance

with a crown
of briars

and one purple cloak.

I attempted to get to grips with typing up the second of yesterday’s meetings, but only half-heartedly, I must admit – as the main excitement of the day has been our office boat trip which we arranged as a surprise party for the outgoing Dean. Well done to Ruth for organising it all, and a sad final farewell to Colin (sob!) – we’ll miss you. We all set out at 11am and spent a lovely day meandering down the River Wey, drinking champagne (sensibly of course – hic!) and taking a long lunch at a nearby hostelry. Much like a normal Tuesday here at the educational front line then, ho ho. We even got presents (thanks, Colin!) - mine was an enormous pink quill pen. Perfect for writing my next novel with indeed! Our present to Colin was a framed photograph of us, complete with limericks about him which we all thought up. All works of genius of course.

And, naturally I always like to face any boat trip properly dressed, so I’ve been wearing my Hawaiian-style shirt, my straw boater, my eye-patch (briefly, and yes, I do have one, sadly …) and a toy puffin – which is the nearest thing we have at home to a parrot. Oo-arr, Jim Lad … I also brought my Factor 40 sun-cream (with my hair colouring, I never travel without it), my dark glasses, my binoculars and a camera. So I fear we might all be captured for posterity somewhere. Lucky posterity.

This afternoon, we were supposed to have yesterday’s rescheduled meeting about the plans for Freshers’ Week. But really by the time we got back to the office, we just weren't in the mood, so it's been put off till next week. Phew! I'm never at my best at decision-making after champagne. Then again, who is?

At home, the author's copy of Disasters and Miracles has arrived, and looks lovely, I have to say. I'm so looking forward to publication date this Thursday, hurrah!

Meanwhile, I suspect my piece of supernatural flash fiction which I began to work on again last night is becoming rather more erotic than supernatural and is likely to be short story than flash. As it were. The plot thickens, Carruthers. And talking of plots, it’s Desperate Romantics again on TV tonight, double hurrah! I can’t wait.

Today’s nice things:

1. Five poems being accepted for publication
2. Poetry
3. Boat trips
4. Champagne
5. Disasters and Miracles
6. Working on my erotic short story
7. TV.

Anne Brooke – dressed to impress, of course
Vulpes Libris – where two heads really are better than one

Monday, August 10, 2009

Reviews, meetings and prescriptions

I’m delighted to say that Maloney’s Law has been given a very positive review by Val Kovalin at Obsidian Bookshelf – so thank you very much, Val, for that. So glad you enjoyed the read! I’m also happy to say that Ruth at work seems to have enjoyed The Bones of Summer – so thanks for reading, Ruth.

Meanwhile here’s this morning’s poem:

Meditation 195

The power of politics
to subdue, condemn

shows to the fallen
the danger of men.

The power of politics
to condemn, subdue

is never a threat
until it condemns you.

Today, I’ve been rushing around sorting out the emails I’ve gained at the end of last week – it’s beginning to hot up now with term starting in less than two months … And I’ve had to face a meeting of the Project Welcome Forum, plus another with the Health Centre people. I was steeling my resolve for a third but thankfully that’s been rescheduled until tomorrow. Phew. It might give me time to catch my breath and start writing up the dang things.

Tonight, I need to pick up my HRT prescription before the pills run out (arrggh!) and if I get time I might also pop in on Gladys. I have a whole new birdseed bag to start. Ooh, and there’s a new series of Would I Lie To You on TV, which I love. David Mitchell is so fabulous.

Today’s nice things:

1. The Maloney’s Law review
2. Ruth enjoying The Bones of Summer
3. Poetry
4. Having a meeting rescheduled, hurrah
5. TV.

Anne Brooke – climbing a mountain of paperwork with a merry song, ho ho
Vulpes Libris – meditating on the miracle of wealth

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Short stories and dancing queens

Goodness, but that old jaw of mine is a thousand times better today, hurrah. I'm barely even thinking about it now. So good news for me, but bad news for Lord H as the talking levels are back to normal. Ah well.

Here's this morning's poem:

Meditation 194

The land keeps
an ancient power.

It whispers
to those whose feet

walk the warmth
and bleakness

of its skin:
hills and valleys,

desert, pastures, streams.
Still its voice

calls men to possess
what cannot be owned.

Keeping to literary matters, I'm both thrilled and relieved that I've actually finished that short story about the post, hurrah! I'm planning to submit it to the upcoming Dreamspinner Press Christmas story anthology, and see how it fares. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say.

Lord H and I decided to treat ourselves today and we've been out for lunch at the recently reopened Squirrel at Hurtmore. It closed at the beginning of the year as the owner/manager had problems, but a consortium of three local businessmen have just reopened it and what a magnificent job they've made of it too. Great furnishings (soothing but modern), wonderful food and extremely good staff. Their blackberry, apple and cherry crumble was to die for, and we'll definitely be going again. Well done to them.

This afternoon, I've also treated myself and at last seen the DVD of Mamma Mia which was a birthday present from a friend (thanks, Pauline!). Lord H was less keen, but I thought it was absolutely wonderful. Ah those songs, and what a revelation Meryl Streep was. More like this please. Perhaps best to put my dancing queen frock back in the cupboard till the next time, however ...

Tonight, it looks like the repeats of Top Gear might well call us, and I'm pondering a piece of flash fiction too. But only pondering.

This week's haiku is:

A garden clouded
with white butterflies; they spin
dreams in the bright air.

Today's nice things:

1. Feeling better
2. Poetry
3. Getting my short story sorted
4. Lunch out
5. Mamma Mia
6. Pondering flash fiction.

Anne Brooke - young and sweet and only seventeen (I wish) ...
Vulpes Libris - previews a week of love, death and erotica

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Glass bubbles, birds and ah that jaw ...

I've uploaded my review of Vanessa Gebbie's Words from a Glass Bubble to Vulpes Libris today. Certainly a mixed bag but a very interesting writer for sure.

The rest of my day has been spent in totally glorious sunshine with Lord H, searching for birds. We visited Burton Mill Pond and the ever reliable Pulborough Brooks. The only new bird for this year was a female marsh harrier hunting over the fields, which is really luckier than we expect to get during the summer months. We also enjoyed seeing a couple of green sandpipers, a ruff, a young great crested grebe with that wonderfully striped face that young cresteds have, and Lord H saw a kingfisher, but I was just too late, dammit!

Also the amount and variety of butterflies out today were utterly glorious. We managed painted ladies, peacocks, a common blue, gatekeepers and speckled woods, and Lord H saw a tortoiseshell too - though once again, I was just that few seconds too late. Story of my life, eh. Ah well. My one big butterfly ambition (surely everyone has a butterfly ambition?) is to see a swallowtail. They're amazing. Here's one:

Isn't that just fantastic? Happy sigh ...

Meanwhile, I think the jaw situation might have taken a turn for the better, hurrah and put out the bunting. A small turn but a significant one nonetheless. I woke up in excruciating pain at 3.30am this morning, staggered out of the bedroom groaning quietly so as not to wake Lord H and then in the living room remembered (aha!) that I still have the really really strong kick-ass pain killers plus the anti-inflammatories the doctor gave me last year for the pesky frozen shoulder and trapped nerve fortnight. Luckily, they're still in date (till 2011, no less), so I took the pain killers last night, and the anti-inflammatories this morning and at lunchtime. Entirely due to that, I managed to eat breakfast (with a teaspoon, I admit, but hey I did eat something) and when I brushed my teeth I wasn't actually moaning with pain. So double phew and let's keep it up until the jaw is itself again. I even managed the bread which came with my soup at lunchtime by means of squashing it flat and pushing it in - which might not have looked particularly pleasant but I've never gained compliments for my dining etiquette, so why start now?

Also, many thanks to kind online friends who've offered support and sympathy - it's very much appreciated. And a special thank you to LitLove who has suggested a jaw exercise which I am already doing. Well, not whilst typing, but in pauses - thank you!

Tonight, there's a scrummage (is that actually a word?) of comic TV on, but I can't make head or tail of it till I get there. No brain power, you see. I suspect we'll end up watching whatever is on the first channel we turn to.

Today's nice things:

1. Vulpes Libris review
2. Sunshine!
3. Birds
4. Butterflies
5. Pulborough Brooks
6. Less pain in the jaw
7. Jaw exercises & support!
8. TV.

Anne Brooke - Ms Lockjaw has a day in the country ...
Vulpes Libris: putting glass bubbles under the microscope

Friday, August 07, 2009

The old person's diet and a bit of a stretch

Ah, I have a confession to make today - I haven't been blogging about it as it's really rather dull, but I've been suffering from a rather painful right jaw for the last few days - the result of an unconscious teeth-grinding session on Monday night/Tuesday morning, I fear (yes, well , best not to think of it, really ...). Unfortunately today it was so bad that I could barely eat (it's tricky when you can't chew, my dears ...) so I managed to grab a dentist's appointment this morning just to check it wasn't something else.

Well, the good news is it's not an abscess - hurrah! But the bad news is there's really nothing particular that can be done at this stage, so the dentist advised eating food that doesn't need chewing over the next few days until it settles down (hopefully soon, as I'm not good with pain!) and taking Nurofen to keep the worst of it at bay. She also suggested that at my next appointment in December, I should get fitted for a night guard, which you wear while sleeping to stop the grinding. As it were. Looks like I'm going to have to bite the bullet (sorry!) and resign myself to having absolutely no glamour at all during the hours of darkness. Hmm, no change there then. There's not really a great deal of glamour during the hours of daylight either, but there you go. The dentist did say she can do it sooner if the pain continues or I waste away to nothing due to lack of solid food - but let's hope it doesn't come to that and I still have four months of naked-mouth sleep time left. Ah well.

On the way back home - no golf due to the rain, alas - I popped into Godalming, and the pharmacist in Boots also suggested putting a hot water bottle on the jaw to ease the pain, so I've tried that once today and it's quite helpful. I might try it later too - as I don't really want to be reduced to simply licking the topping off my statutory pizza tonight, though I might reluctantly give the garlic bread a miss. Sob! Apart from that, I suspect a few days of soup and ice cream and yoghurt beckon ...

Anyway, here's today's meditation:

Meditation 193

War stretches on,
filling the future

with blood, death,
pain. Warm yourself

by the fire,
wait for the questions

you cannot answer,
the grief you cannot name.

Meanwhile, I'm stumbling on with that ever-increasing short story. I've got one more mini-scene to do now, plus the ending plus the sex scene. Really, the more I write it, the longer it gets (again, as it were). Perhaps it really wants to be a novel after all? If so, it will have to wait its turn, the pesky beast - I've got other things I'd like to concentrate on first, believe me. This afternoon, I've also had my Alexander Technique lesson and am now learning how to be wider. Honestly, I swear Linda had my shoulder blades where they've never been before, at least not without a passport and a suitcase. Soon I'll have to go through doors sideways.

And tonight, there's the cleaning. Serious cleaning as I fear the Domestic Police would certainly judge us wanting this week. Plus there's an episode of QI on later, I think, so that'll be our reward for being good, hurrah.

Today's nice things:

1. Managing an instant dentist appointment
2. Nice pharmacists
3. Poetry
4. Short stories, with minds of their own
5. Alexander Technique
6. TV.

Anne Brooke - definitely not biting off more than she can chew
Vulpes Libris - finding out what really happens at the Romantic Novelists' Conference ...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Reviews, poetry and a sick Coolreader

I'm very happy to say that The Bones of Summer has been given a lovely review by Val Kovalin at the Obsidian Bookshelf - so thanks very much for that, Val - it's much appreciated!

And here's this morning's meditation:

Meditation 192

So great a fight:
from the slaughter
of nations

where blood
crimsons the earth
to the sharp sound

of a single slap
piercing the night.
Some questions

can never be answered,
and the answers
will never be right.

Really, there's a whole lot of violence in the Bible. Part of the fun of it, I suppose. For most of today, I've been working away on that pesky short story I'm struggling so much with. Ye gods and little fishes, but there might even be an end in sight. At some point. At least, I think I know where it's supposed to be heading, but whether it will get there in quite the way I presume is anyone's guess. I'm saving the sex scene till later - a treat for me for getting to the finish. As it were.

I've also had my interest sparked by the new online courses being set up by the Poetry School. I must admit to never being a great fan of the Poetry School before - it seems filled with people who I find quite snooty and feels very very cliquey and narrow, but the concept of a 10 week online poetry course is still very tempting. Mind you, no doubt if I apply, they'll take one look at me and burn the application form. But, hey, if I get in, at least I don't actually have to meet anyone. That'll be a plus!

Meanwhile, my Coolreader is sick. Terribly, terribly sick, Carruthers - perhaps someone should pass me the shotgun and the whisky and I can put it out of my misery?... It's stuck at that dark and light grey striped screen and will neither turn fully on nor fully off. Neither can I plug it into the computer as the computer doesn't recognise what it is any more. Honestly, the wretched thing is a bugger when I can't make it work. And the customer support is utter rubbish - I sent an email and they are still taking 48 hours to respond. That's ridiculous. Don't they have live staff?? I did try the telephone number but it doesn't work. So, I am distinctly Unhappy of Godalming, and am waiting to get back to my e-novels whilst drumming my fingers. That is, if I don't jump up and down on the pesky thing before anyone from ruddy Coolreaders deigns to get back to me ...

Still, I've cheered myself up by watching David Mitchell in Who Do You Think You Are, and that's been fun. What a wonderfully bitchy will his great-great-great-etc grandfather wrote. Marvellous! I wish I'd thought of it first. And tonight, there's New Tricks on TV too, so I foresee a relaxing evening ahead. Just as long as I don't think about ereader companies, eh. Arrgghh!!!

Today's nice things:

1. The Bones of Summer review
2. Poetry
3. Short stories
4. Courses
5. TV.

Anne Brooke - flummoxed once more by technology
Vulpes Libris: putting the spotlight on Bluemoose Books

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Busy busy busy

A day when I’ve been snowed under with work, but here’s today’s poem anyway:

Meditation 191

A freezing night,
charcoal fire, the girl
at the gate

and always that sense
of being outside
the truth

or if a mystery
were taking place

and remains
where words

false spoken
solidify the fact
of you.

I have to say that last night’s Desperate Romantics on TV was definitely the best episode so far. I know that I’m the only person in the country who loves it, as the critics are being terribly terribly snooty about it, more fool them – but I think it’s top class stuff in terms of humour, honesty and humanity. The scenes between Millais and Mrs Ruskin were simply excellent and totally charming. More please.

So today I’ve been rushing around arranging 1001 meetings at least, typing up notes of other meetings I wasn’t present at and reconsidering agendas for yet more meetings we’re trying to relaunch. Oh the joys and rollercoaster ride of a secretary’s life indeed.

Thank goodness then for a calming walk round campus at lunchtime and a quiet sit-down by the lake. With my e-reader, ah bliss. Honestly, if I wasn’t allowed out of the office at lunchtime, I might well run mad, my dears.

Tonight, I’m gearing myself up for the comforting joys of Midsomer Murders (which I hope will be rather more comforting than last week’s strange episode) on TV and I must also video David Mitchell (comedian, not the writer whose books I can’t stand – sorry …) in Who Do You Think You Are. A perfect evening indeed.

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. TV.
3. Lunchtime walk

Anne Brooke - rushed off her feet
Vulpes Libris: getting to grips with The Black Prince

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

On the other hand …

This morning, I have posted my review of Chris Cleave’s The Other Hand at Vulpes Libris. What can I say? It’s a novel about Nigeria, exile and supremely irritating children. As you can see I didn’t love it. And it’s certainly getting an interesting response. I’m only glad I don’t have to read it again. Deep deep sigh.

At work, I’m still struggling to make sense of my new appraisal form. I think I might lose the will to live shortly, and whether the boss will get any sense out of my responses is anyone’s guess. I fear a challenging review might well lie ahead …

In spite of the rain and threat of rain, I walked into town at lunchtime and attempted to do some more interesting shopping than yesterday. Um, I bought a polo shirt and a pair of tights. Well, I snagged my old pair (yes, I only have two, one for wearing and one for spare – thus making me the anti-fashion icon of the age, no doubt) at Glyndebourne. My, how posh. So I must replace them before the next opera comes along. Noblesse oblige, don’t you know.

Ooh and I’ve signed a copy apiece of The Bones of Summer for Carol (yesterday) and for Vicky at the Health Centre (today). Many thanks, both! I hope you enjoy the read.

Meanwhile, this week’s heroes are the Welcome Week Volunteers (yes, we have some, hurrah!), Lord H (for dealing with a wasp’s nest last night, double hurrah), and the outgoing Dean (for being a Good Egg, much missed already).

Tonight, I might try to look once more (when oh when will I ever finish it??) at that dang short story about the post that I’m still working on, but really who can tell? It depends on my energy levels. However, let’s not forget today’s Rainbow Extravaganza where the focus is on Syd McGinley.

And there’s Desperate Romantics on TV, hurrah. So I look forward to the developing traumas between Ruskin, poor Mrs Ruskin and Millais. Whilst on the subject of the small screen, I must say that last night’s Rupert Everett/Lord Byron programme wasn’t half as good as Part One was. I think poor Rupert must have peaked, my dears … Surely the great Lord B is worth more than that?

Today’s nice things:

1. Not having to read The Other Hand again
2. Vulpes Libris review
3. Signing copies of Bones
4. Heroes
5. Thinking about a short story
6. Rainbow month
7. TV.

Anne Brooke - thinking about writing, almost
Vulpes Libris – taking an even-handed approach to publishing gimmickry …

Monday, August 03, 2009

Catching up, Deans and a double dose of shopping

I’d almost forgotten the rather strange incident of today’s Bible reading, but here’s my take on it:

Meditation 190

For Joshua
the sun stands still
over Gibeon,

and the moon
over Aijalon
ceases its nightly dance

until the battle is won.
So humanity
gains a day

while a city dies
and nations fall,
and little is gained

at all.

Joshua’s life was certainly complicated, poor chap. As is mine today (though not, thankfully, with such dramatic repercussions) as the boss is back and we are frantically catching up with the thousands of things we now have to do in order to survive August. There’s barely been time to breathe.

Sadly today, the Dean has retired from his role and gone back to the simple (ho ho) world of academia – so goodbye, Colin, and we’ll miss you. And hello, new Dean Dave. It’s all change here at the coalface, you know. Meanwhile, we have an even more complicated and mind-boggling appraisal form to fill in (oh joy of joys indeed) so I’ve had to transfer the information from the old form I’ve already completed into this delightful new receptacle. As an added bonus, it has lots of questions asking me about my competency levels. Lordy, who the heck knows??? I think I might just put zero and hope for the best. It’s what it feels like anyway. However, it must be progress as it’s neither intuitive nor easier than the old form to complete. Sigh.

Still, I managed to pop out at lunchtime and get some food shopping (yawn), which made my post-work food shop slightly shorter (hurrah!). I’ve also written a poem based on animals but I’m not entirely convinced about it. Ah well.

And today’s Rainbow Extravaganza is focused on James Buchanan, and the competitions continue, so don’t miss out! Ooh, plus the lovely Lynda Mangoro on Facebook has read The Bones of Summer and has emailed me to say how much she loved it. Well gosh and thanks, Lynda - so glad you enjoyed the read!

Tonight, I’ll be glued to Part Two of the wonderful Rupert Everett/Lord Byron combo, as it were – now there’s a thought …

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Rainbow Extravaganza
3. Comments about Bones
4. TV.

Anne Brooke - flummoxed by forms
Vulpes Libris: taking the Grand Tour with … a rhino

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Unholy Affairs and nonsense verse

I have to say that last night's Rusalka was absolutely superb. I loved every minute of it. Wonderful singing, wonderful scenery and utterly astonishing costumes. A tour-de-force indeed. You can always tell how successful the Glyndebourne operas are by how lively the queue for the ladies' loos is in the interval. Dahhlings, they were buzzing. So much so that some of us forgot we were there to go to the loo at all and just kept talking excitedly about it all even when cubicles were free. Marvellous!

Anyway, despite being a tad over-tired today, here's this morning's poem for you:

Meditation 189

Worn-out sacks, patched-up
wineskins, ragged clothes,
old sandals, mouldy bread
and more than a dash
of good old-fashioned deceit

save the Gibeonites
from destruction,
making an eternity
of cutting wood
and carrying water

for the conquering
but foolish Israelites
a small price to pay
for life.

Other good writing news is that my short story, An Unholy Affair, is now up at Cynic Magazine and is of course ideal Sunday reading, ho ho. I'm also pleased to say that my rather more than off-the-wall poem, Blutherbung, is published by Every Day Poets. Enjoy!

Today, we pew-dwellers have nobly rebelled against ridiculous church Heath & Safety orders and we all shook hands at the Peace anyway, aha! We in the Shires are obviously not going to be mollycoddled by anything that comes out of Canterbury, my dears. The vicar said we were all a bunch of wild rebels, but in admiring tones, I have to admit. The revolution starts here ...

Lord H and I have spent most of the afternoon having a glorious lunch with our middle neighbour, who is a wow at Indonesian food, and insists we drink buckets of wine. Ah, it's a tough life, eh. And I've got to grips with the engine and tyres of my new car, and now know roughly where the oil and water containers might be, and what my tyre pressures are. Always good to have some kind of control over one's transport.

Meanwhile, Dreamspinner Press are having a month-long Summer Fun Sale for August, so if there's something you wanted to buy, now is most definitely the time! And today's Rainbow Extravaganza focuses on Lara Zielinsky who is a fellow PD Publishing author, so feel free to pop in and see what she has to say about her award-winning work. Great stuff.

Oh and I've had a short story rejection (sigh ...) and have therefore sent it out again into the great unknown. We battle on, eh.

This week's haiku is slightly Shakespearian and more than bizarre:

Days of quietness,
but in my dreams I'm pursued
by trains and wild bears.

Really, I do have a strange dream-life at times, I can tell you.

Today's nice things:

1. Opera memories
2. Poetry
3. Short story publication
4. Poetry publication
5. Church rebellion
6. Boozy lunches with the neighbour
7. Dreamspinner sale
8. Haikus.

Anne Brooke - living a purely unholy Sunday - again ...
Vulpes Libris: have a roaring time with a fabulous chic lit ghost

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Relaxation, a Rainbow extravaganza and song

A rainy day ahead, but I'm chilled. Well almost. This morning's poem is below:

Meditation 188

Sometimes the deepest act
you can do
in a moment of connection

is listen.
The silence is more powerful
than any word

resting on your tongue.
Remember how the air felt
when the act is done.

Had a lovely lie-in too, which has been bliss. And I've also caught up with Mock the Week on the iplayer, so am being totally lazy, hurrah. Though I'm pleased to say that the Rainbow Reviews August GLBT Extravaganza begins today, and will be a month of GLBT author interviews and giveaways, so it's well worth keeping a close eye on. Sadly, I'm not included but I'm being brave (sob!) - well, as brave as I ever can be with an ego like mine, eh, ho ho ... Anyway, today's focus is on J M Snyder who has some very important advice for writers, I must say. Thank you for this, J M!

This afternoon, Lord H and I are at Glyndebourne to see Rusalka. Looks like a jolly number for sure. So I'm already staring at my frocks and wondering which one to opt for. As long as we can dodge the raindrops they promise us, I'm sure we'll be fine.

Today's nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Lazy mornings
3. TV
4. Rainbow Reviews extravaganza
5. Glyndebourne.

Anne Brooke - limbering up the voice once more ...
Vulpes Libris: Adventure Week gets up close & personal with Napoleon