Category Archives: house

Miracles and men

Life News:

Such miraculous news to know that at last the Chilean miners are safe – so many things that could have gone wrong and they just didn’t, hurrah. Amazing news indeed! I just hope the world now leaves them alone to recover from such a terrible ordeal, but no doubt we won’t. But it’s seriously lovely to hear of something glorious rather than something grim for once.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, we’re finally putting the flat on the market next week as three estate agents are coming round on Wednesday, so I hope there’s at least one there who’s confident about selling it. Great to be taking the next step in the process indeed. On the left you can see what the Victorian house itself looks like. We’re the servants’ quarters at the top. As it were. Because when it was built for one of the local schoolmasters in 1873, the servants would have lived where we do now. Plus ca change, eh …

Turning to television matters, it’s a serious delight to have the glorious Whitechapel back on our screens at last, though sadly for too swift a time. Though it’s a serious disappointment that the otherwise extremely classy Downton Abbey took a turn for the worse last Sunday and included a very ridiculous Midsomer Murders plotline, sigh. Don’t get me wrong: I love Midsomer Murders with a great and abiding passion, but not in the middle of Downton Abbey, per-lease. And it was doing so well too …

Book News:

I’m thrilled that today my author’s copies of A Dangerous Man have arrived and look lovely, hurrah. Publication day is tomorrow (Friday 15 October) so I’m really looking forward to that. Erastes has very kindly republished an original review from 2007, when the book was first published, so a big thank you for that! And I’m pleased to say that people do seem to be preordering the novel at Barnes & Noble, which is very nice indeed.

Also at Barnes & Noble (what great people they are!), you can find a copy of Sunday Haiku, which is a more meditative read. Meanwhile, Tommy’s Blind Date gained a really enthusiastic 4-star review at Three Dollar Bill Reviews, so many thanks for that, Kassa – it’s much appreciated. And The Delaneys and Me appeared briefly at No 58 in the Amazon charts, but has now slipped back onto the shelf once more.

Finally, I’ve reviewed Diana Wynne Jones’ magical children’s fantasy, Enchanted Glass at Vulpes Libris Reviews. It’s pretty dang good for adults too.

These week’s meditations are:

Meditation 442
A downbeat end,
the epitome of grim

when what one expected
was a rousing hymn.

Meditation 443
The first man
to fall off a balcony
didn’t make
particularly good choices
but he certainly
started a trend.

Meditation 444
A journey, an oath,
a cloak and divided water
show that a miracle

can also be
the beginning of grief.

Anne Brooke

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Painting and proofs

Book News:

This week I’ve been working on the final proofs for A Dangerous Man and have just now sent them back to Cheyenne Publishing and Bristlecone Pine Press ready for publication date on 15 October. Nearly there, gosh. I’ve been thrilled today to see that the novel is included in the Lambda Literary October listings (Mystery & Thriller section), and that’s a seriously good place to be showcased, double gosh.

Meanwhile, Maloney’s Law gained a 5-star review at Goodreads, so many thanks for that, Nicci – so glad you enjoyed the story. I’m also very happy indeed that Tommy’s Blind Date is No 4 in the Amber Allure September Bestseller lists, and many thanks to those who’ve put it there. And I’m equally happy that I appear twice in Jessewave Reviews’ September Recommended Reads list, once with good old Tommy’s Blind Date and once with Tuluscan Six and the Time Circle – thank you, Wave!

Over at Vulpes Libris, you can find my review of Jane Green’s Girl Friday, which is a fabulous novel for the over-forties, and we so definitely need more of those. And the lovely Kirsty has also published a wonderful haiku-review of my Sunday Haiku collection – many thanks, Kirsty!

Here are this week’s meditation poems:

Meditation 438
Wine and women
are a heady brew;

they befuddle kings
and confound the things

that are true.
Who knew?

Meditation 439
Men become liars
and truth hides
in the deepest well

when the story we long for
is not the one
where we dwell.

Life News:

K has been in Dubai all this week and I have missed him LOADS. Thankfully he’s back tonight (hurrah!!) and is even now jetting his way towards Heathrow, so it will be totally lovely to have him back again. Goodness me but I was super-wimpy when he left at some ungodly hour on Monday morning – only barely managing not to grab him by the ankles and weep. Lordy, never say I’m not stylish, though what style it actually is must be anyone’s guess.

Anyway, it’s been strange rattling about in this old Victorian house all on my own for several days, but I have kept myself busy by doing bucketloads of DIY each evening when I got back from work – with the result that the spare room walls and ceiling are now painted with four coats, and the skirting board and door glossed with two. Oh and those proofs have kept me focused too, so that’s been good.

Work’s been horrendously busy as well, what with being the first week of term, and I simply haven’t had time to sit down, my dears. Not one second. I couldn’t even spare the time (or the energy) to go to Starbucks, and the wonderful Ruth had to bring me not one but two coffees where I sat pinned to my desk and panicking like a trouper. What a superstar that woman is. It’s the froth that keeps me going, you know …

Today, one of the vendors from the flat below has been in the house though, so I’ve not been entirely alone. I think we are studiously ignoring each other, which is no doubt best, and really I don’t have any desire at all to communicate with them again, to be honest. Yes, that probably means I’m a bad person but hey at least I’m honest about it. I’d feel happier about it if K was home as it’s a little unsettling, but as long as said vendor doesn’t try to talk to me I’ll be fine. Though if you do hear tell of a man being pinned to a landing wall with a screwdriver in a small Surrey town, I trust that all of you will vouch for my obviously impeccable character. Ho hum.

Anne Brooke

Reviews and DIY delights

Book News:

I’m very happy to say that Tommy’s Blind Date gained a lovely 4.5 star review at Jessewave Reviews – so thank you, Wave, for that! It’s also been lucky enough to gain two 4 star reviews at Goodreads, one from Ami and the other from Chris – many thanks, both. It’s much appreciated.

Determined not to be left behind, Tuluscan Six and the Time Circle also received its first review at Obsidian Bookshelf, which I’m very pleased about. Thank you, Val! I’d been worried nobody liked it at all so nice to know some do.

Meanwhile, I’m continuing the edits for The Prayer Seeker and hope to have finished them by the time we get to Freshers’ Week (aarrgghh!!!) at the end of September. I like to have a clear head for battle, don’t you know.

Here at the meditations so far this week:

Meditation 425
For everything on earth
there is a price;

the only question is
when you pay it.

Meditation 426
If I’d been king
for only seven days

I too would want to die
in fire and heat and agony

if only so the buggers
remembered me.

Meditation 427
Another year, another king
leads to more disputes,
one new town,
not much action
and no-one’s learnt a thing.

Meditation 428
For the city’s foundation
you lose a son

and for its gates
your youngest dies:

so God’s sacrifice
when it is done

should come to you
as no surprise.

Life News:

Hmmm, ruddy vendors. What can I say? I’ve really lost interest in them and in their flat myself now, so if that’s what they were aiming for, they’ve certainly succeeded. What’s happened most recently? Well, they were fairly unhelpful over the weekend (which is becoming something of a hobby for them really), accusing us of chopping and changing our demands. We responded by saying that may indeed be true, now, but it is after all a skill we have learnt from them. No response to that, yet, hey ho. We have therefore returned the plants we were tending on their behalf to the flat – well, we don’t want to be accused of taking them without permission even though that’s what they agreed to (vendor memories don’t last long, I fear …)! We have also removed the items of our neighbour that have been in our outer hall cupboard and put them back in his flat (neatly, of course – how could you think otherwise, ho ho?! – and we have at least informed them that’s what we’ve done), and taken the precaution of fixing the cupboard with a padlock and marking it as ours. Just in case of dispute, don’t you know. Really, it’s been nice to store some of our larger items in it and creates much needed space for us.

Therefore, in the interests of making our flat as purchasable as possible, I have scrubbed the outer hall stairs and window, tidied and dusted the shared hallway, sanded and washed the bathroom door and skirting board, cleaned the fridge, and K and I have washed the kitchen walls. Lordy, we’re good! Actually, if the vendors do unexpectedly start playing nice and taking our offer seriously, I’m now at the point where I actually don’t want it any more. I think it will be far nicer to move elsewhere, frankly. Their loss. And I do think it’s high time K and I moved on.

Today, Liz came round for tea (hello, Liz!) and we had a lovely chat whilst she admired our sparkling new hallway. We then put the world to rights, and the universe is now perfect. Don’t blink in case you miss it!

Anne Brooke

Blind Dates galore

Book news:

I’m happy to announce that Tommy’s Blind Date is published today and available at a first week discount at Amber Allure Press. Enjoy!

I’ve also spent a really wonderful day today at the inaugural UK gay fiction writers & readers conference in Ely – it’s been fabulous and we’re definitely going to do it again next year. It was fascinating to meet some of the writers whom I’ve known for a while on the Internet and via email, and to meet some new faces/names too. Great stuff. Special thank yous to Alex Beecroft for organising it all, and for Sarah & Jo who had to put up with me in the car – a special medal for them for sure! Can’t wait for our Christmas get-together either.

Meanwhile, The Executioner’s Cane has finally made it to the 70,000 word marker so well over half-way now. Phew. And the first-round edits for The Prayer Seeker are looking interesting, with my editor/consultant (a new one to me, but she deals with religious fiction) describing it as “quiet and luminescent”. Gosh, I didn’t think any of my stuff would ever be described in that way and it certainly feels nice. Still a lot to do to improve it but I’m on the road. Somewhere …

This week’s meditation is:

Meditation 424
Beware of dogs
and vultures,

beasts that bite
and beasts that fly:

no good will come
of either.

The Sunday haiku is:

Girl in a pink top
and purple skirt is dancing
amongst the fuchsias.

Life news:

K and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary on Saturday which was great. We spent most of the day at Wisley Flower Show – it’s amazing what they can do with flowers, don’t you know! – and had a picnic there as the weather was just about okay to sit out. At least it wasn’t raining. And we opened a bottle of champagne in the evening – which always goes down well. I’ve never met a champagne bottle I didn’t like.

Earlier in the week I spring-cleaned most of the kitchen. I have to say the under-the-sink cupboard was utterly gross in every way and took 2 buckets of hot soapy water to clean it properly. I don’t know what had died in there but I spent a long time mopping up a vast and evil lake of what appeared to be a gravy and soy sauce mix that had flowed everywhere without us noticing (we are such slobs). Honestly I had to prize the tins of peas away from its sticky grasp, so it was not pleasant! All clean now, thank the Lord, and at least I didn’t find the head of John the Baptist, or Shergar, both of whom would be grateful not to have spent time there, I imagine.

Finally, the news on the house remains distinctly disappointing and, really, I just don’t want to talk about it that much. It just makes me too angry and upset. Suffice it to say we made another slightly higher offer in response to the vendors’ new apparent reasonableness, and they have come back with another rude and unnecessary email not really responding to our offer but just expressing their personal opinions about us, so seem to have reverted to type somewhat. All very exhausting – don’t these people have any idea how to do business??? Well, obviously not …. Anyway, we will send another letter to them and their solicitors reminding them that our new offer is still on the table if they wish to consider it again and see what that brings out of their very peculiar communications pot.

In the meantime and on a happier note, we continue the efforts to spruce up our flat and are busy admiring the lovely number of buyable properties in the local paper this week. If the vendors want to keep us as potential buyers which is after all the easy and cheap option for them as we’re already in the damn house for goodness sake, then they’re going to have to be a lot nicer and work much harder than they currently are. Hmm, don’t wait up, eh …!!

Anne Brooke

Highly unlikely scenarios

Life news:

Ah, the house, the house. We are now so very deeply perplexed and bamboozled by it all that who knows what will happen with it. The latest ins and outs over the weekend were that the vendors didn’t appear to like us doing something they hadn’t expected, ie objecting to their fluid understanding of exchange and completion dates (Gawd bless ’em), and so kept ringing us asking us to ring the particular vendor who is unexpectedly on holiday in Croatia to sort it out. Um, no. There seemed little point doing this as (a) it’s expensive, (b) if the vendors don’t seem to speak with one voice then there’s no point chatting to one of them without the other, (c) if they do speak with one voice, what’s wrong with the one in the UK? and (d) we now want everything in writing so we can have some kind of confidence that any agreements made might actually happen.

In the end we turned the phone off to avoid the calls and withdrew our original offer on the grounds that they weren’t taking the situation seriously enough. Interestingly our simple conveyancing case has been booted upstairs at our conveyancer and the Head Honcho is now dealing with it – and even sending very sweet and supportive emails at 10.30pm on a Sunday night. Well done to her, and we did need some support!

The upshot is that we have made a much lower offer, with provisions attached, and eventually (after recovering from the shock of us not jumping through all the hoops quite so willingly, if at all) the vendors have come back with another price slightly lower than their original one, but with a fair gap still between us, so we’ll raise our offer slightly and then see what happens. In the meantime, we’re also looking at Plan B which is do up our flat, put it on the market and move elsewhere. After all, though it would be nice to continue living here, our house isn’t the only property in the area we can afford.

With this in mind, we have been spring-cleaning! A good thing for whether we stay or whether we go, for sure. I have washed the kitchen cupboards and have spent 4 hours today washing everything in the bathroom and clearing out the stuff I no longer use in there. I expected to find the head of John the Baptist, or possibly Shergar, in the bathroom cupboard but they must have moved out … Which probably isn’t too surprising as I did all the scrubbing (as it were) whilst wearing a shower cap on my head to keep my hair clean, as I couldn’t find a suitable scarf. Thank goodness no-one came to the door! If it had been our vendors, that might have been the final straw for them, ha!

Later this afternoon, I am off to the clinic to see yet another gynae expert to work out if I might need any further operation at some point – my life is so glamorous this week, as you can see. Though this evening, we’re off to the theatre so the day will at least end on a fun note.

And, is it just me, or is there just too much Stephen Fry on TV at the moment? I do love QI and admire some of his programmes, but that utterly dreadful advert for his latest book is just so self-obsessed that it turns my stomach. I was thinking of getting the book but I definitely won’t now – at least until he rediscovers his English sense of humour again. Should have taken a tip from the Peter Mandelson advert, I think, Stephen …

Book News:

I have to say how fed up I am with the number of writers’ Yahoo groups I’m in, one of which has been irritating me so much with its general snippety attitude that it was a great relief to leave it last night. At last – freedom! I took the opportunity to leave some of the other ones too as I never read or take part in them – so am left only with the Yahoo groups that are publisher-specific as those are the most useful ones. It seems a sensible way forward anyway.

Meanwhile, The Delaneys and Me paid a brief visit to the Amazon charts once more, at no 69 no less(!), but it ain’t there now. Ah well.

This week’s meditations are:

Meditation 420
If you want
to commit sins

don’t just copy
your father’s crimes

but do at least try
to be original.

Meditation 421
The quietness of stone
and the warmth of wood

are an everlasting counterpoint
to war’s harsh music.

Meditation 422
Blood leads to blood
and wars never cease

so no-one remains
who might speak of peace.

Meditation 423
It’s not the sin
you commit
that kills you

but the sin
you make
others commit.

Anne Brooke

Houses and haikus

Life News:

Sadly, all is not too good on the house front, I’m sorry to say. Our attempt to buy the flat beneath ours in order to expand into an actual house is being put into jeopardy by the sellers playing a rather interesting game with exchange and completion dates. One moment they agree on both these, then they don’t like the exchange date, then they decide they like the exchange date but don’t like the completion one. Honestly it started out being all very disheartening but has now become somewhat amusing. We have had little option but to respond with firm but fair emails and by ignoring the phone-calls we’ve been getting. Interesting too that the emails they send say something rather different from the phone messages, hey ho, but we’re trying to back off and remain neutral until they and our hard-pressed legal teams sort out between themselves exactly what their position might be, Gawd bless ’em.

Their main point of contention, however, appears to be that one of the sellers is on holiday from today and can’t sort the place out in time. Hmm, it’s the first we’ve heard of that and in any case seeing as the flat has been empty since March, the argument doesn’t impress us much. And we remain even less impressed by the fact that we ourselves were intending to go on holiday in September but have put that off in order to deal with house matters. And, besides, what’s so hard about the remaining seller putting stuff in boxes and taking it away so the one on holiday can deal with it later?? It’s not rocket science, you know. Believe you me, the more they say, the less they are endearing themselves and their position to us.

In any case, we’ve decided that the exchange date will be Tuesday 7 September, as agreed, and the planned completion date, which they had originally agreed should be two weeks after that, will be three weeks after that on Tuesday 28 September if only in order to show that we at least do understand the meaning of compromise. Frankly, if that’s not acceptable, then we’ve seen some nice-looking houses with gardens in the area that don’t need quite so much work and which we can – hurrah! – still afford, so moving out of our current place entirely is beginning to look fairly attractive! Watch this space, eh …

Anyway, we got away from the whole ridiculous shennanigans yesterday by spending a lovely day at Hinton Ampner. Can’t imagine why we’ve never been before, but it’s great and the weather smiled upon us. The house there is good too – especially because there weren’t that many people around so the woman in the main bedroom let us through to the en-suite which was stunning and had the best view from a loo-seat that I’ve ever seen. How I envy that! Maybe we should put in an offer?

This morning, we decided to pop into church. Verdict: good sermon, if longer than we’re used to, but it was a visiting preacher and they’re always a law unto themselves. And the piece of wafer I was given at Communion was the largest I’ve ever known so perhaps the preacher thought I looked terribly sinful and needed all the help I could get. Hell, he’s not wrong there. I still hadn’t managed to swallow it down by the time I got to the wine moment so had to store the dang biscuit in my cheeks like a crazed holy chipmunk while I tried to look serious. Ah the joys of Anglicanism.

Meanwhile, over at The Bemused Gardener, I remain bamboozled by flower names …

Book News:

I’m astonished to discover that The Girl in the Painting was Untreed Reads‘ 2nd highest bestseller during August, well gosh. Memo to self: must write more lesbian literary stories then, if they prove that popular … Many thanks to those who’ve bought a copy – much appreciated.

Sales news hot off the press: there’s 20% off all my Dreamspinner Press titles this weekend and 15% off Angels and Airheads, with the code anniv2010 – happy shopping!

This week’s meditation poems:

Meditation 417
Not all the bread,
cakes or honey
in the world

can bring healing
when God has decided
to kill.

Meditation 418
Your deeds, battles,
and decisions,
good or bad,

are all finally
swallowed up
by death.

Meditation 419
It’s a shame
the secret sins
that anger God

always seem
just so damned attractive.

This week’s haiku:

Scent of vanilla
and roses laces the air
in rich hopefulness.

Anne Brooke
The Bemused Gardener

Kindles and Christmases

Book News:

Yes, sorry about the title but someone has to mention the Dreaded Christmas Word first and it might as well be me. The big news of this week has been the long-awaited arrival of my new Kindle. Or Katy, as I’m calling her. She is totally wonderful and I love her – so far. The screen is clearer than the Sony ereader and I particularly enjoy the way that when you switch her off, a different writing-related picture comes up each time. So far I’ve had (as it were) Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens and the front cover of a medieval-style manuscript. Lovely. The only problem is that you don’t see the covers of the books you buy, which is a shame. I do like covers. Still, Katy is great and I have no real complaints at the moment.

Talking of the Kindle,  I’m pleased to say that my poetry collection, Sunday Haiku, managed the dizzy heights of No 8 in the Amazon Kindle Poetry charts, though it’s now fallen to No 29, but it was a real boost. And if you now have or are expecting your UK Kindle, don’t forget that there’s a whole wealth of shopping fun here – enjoy!

Meanwhile, publication day for Tommy’s Blind Date will soon be upon us, and I have accordingly returned the final galleys. You can also now find further information plus a short & spicy extract at the publisher’s website – just to whet your appetite, don’t you know.

Not to be outdone, The Delaneys and Me made a brief appearance at No 44 in the Amazon Gay Fiction charts but has now, sadly, slipped away again. This week I have also been heartened that Two Christmases gained a very positive 4-star review at Goodreads – many thanks indeed, Aredhel.

And, at The Bemused Gardener, I have been mulling over mint, figs and the strangeness of sticks, which might – just! – be coming to life again. You never know.

This week’s meditations are:

Meditation 415
Never trust an old prophet.
They are like
false smiles
at the meal-table

and ravenous lions
on your path:
avoid them.

Meditation 416
The ancient, well thought-of
and venerable role of priest

is, in these dangerous days, the career
we recommend the least.

Life News:

There’s still no definite news on any exchange date for our potential new flat – I had so hoped it would be today, but obviously … um … not. It’s rather disappointing, not to mention frustrating – even though I do quite understand that the vendors need to get things signed in different parts of the country and then back to their solicitors and then back to our conveyancers, and the bank holiday has slowed everything down and it’s a bother for them too, etc etc. It’s just that we were aiming to exchange at the end of August, and we’d done everything in our power to make it happen. Yes, I understand that – with a bit of luck and the wind in the right direction – everything will hopefully happen very suddenly and then we’ll be there, but until it does I’m feeling hugely twitchy and unsettled. Ah, it’s the waiting which kills you, Carruthers, don’t you know. Watch this space though … We live in hope!

Popped in to see the ground floor neighbour today in order to thank him for signing all the documents we need to help the sale go through – he and his family have been total stars throughout all this and we are very grateful to them indeed. Thank you to the M Family! Also lovely to catch up with what’s been going on – we chatted for ages which was great.

Other good news is that the very irritating car that was abandoned outside the house during the summer has now finally been removed by the council, so thank you, Mr Council, for that. It’s a good job it’s gone as my plan this weekend was to beat it to death with sticks, which would have been quite a frightening sight really.

All of which takes my mind off the fact that this week I’ve had my work review – well, most of it, as David and I chatted for so long that we ran out of time and we must needs finish it off next week sometime. Looks like I’m not too bad after all and he has decided not to sack me yet – hurrah!

Anne Brooke
The Bemused Gardener