Dullness, Danger and Dubai

Book News:

Much to my delight, my latest gay short story, Brady’s Choice, has been accepted for publication by Amber Allure Press on 23 January, so it’s nice to have something to look forward to in the post-Christmas lull. Still much to look forward to this year however, as A Dangerous Man is due out on 15 October and can now even be preordered at Barnes & Noble, well gosh. You can find out more at Cheyenne Publishing, including a full blurb. I’m also happy that for a brief moment of time, Tommy’s Blind Date found itself at No 79 in the Amazon Gay Fiction charts so that was distinctly nice while it lasted.

Meanwhile, this week, I have just finished the dullest poetry book I have ever had the trauma of reading so thank goodness that’s over. I daren’t say who the author was to avoid their blushes but it was pretty bad. So bad it made my skin itch. I’m hoping my next poetry book will be better, but really that shouldn’t be too hard …

This week’s meditations are:

Meditation 436
Sometimes the god
of the mountain

is also the god
of the plain

and what you say
to the sky in secret

will come down
to destroy you again.

Meditation 437
If the bible
has taught me one thing
it’s this:

that lions and prophets
simply don’t mix.

The Sunday haiku is:

All week long the sky
lets fall its burden of rain,
soothing all my dreams.

Life News:

The redecoration of our spare room is now nearly done. We’ve tackled the last alcove and added two coats of paint to it today, plus I’ve put an undercoat on the skirting board there. We’re also slowly putting the rest of the spare room together again, including bookshelves and book cabinets but are reorganising it  to make best use of the space. Today, I’ve done another run to the council tip and also got rid of 4 more bags of books, and have this afternoon created another three book bags to go. It’s so cleansing, you know, and the good news is that the spare room that we’ve basically used as a dumping ground for 17 years now looks like a room someone might want to buy, hurrah. Ooh, and yesterday, we drove round looking at places we might like to live, and our favourites so far are Normandy, Fairlands and Wood Street Village (the latter two are in the outskirts of Guildford). We also liked Ash and Ash Vale/Ash Green, but it does depend where in those cases. We also looked at Tongham, but I think that’s third level on our list.

Church this morning was good too, especially as it seems like we haven’t paid God a call for ages (we haven’t), so nice to catch up. He’s having a quiet time before Christmas kicks in, if you’re asking. In addition, the poor vicar has apparently contracted pneumonia whilst on holiday (holidays: they’re not good for you, you know) but is being ministered to by the ladies of the parish (Gawd bless ’em) so every cloud does indeed have a silver lining. In our absence, the church also seems to have given birth to a music group, which K and I looked at with horror when we turned up as any whiff of evangelical happy-clappyness and we’ll be running to the door screaming. However, we needn’t have worried as it was clarinets only adding to the whole ambience of the hymns (very good indeed) and the singers sang a marvellous Latin chant during Communion. Bliss. Bring back Latin chants – they really do put the zing back into church-going. So the music group gets our vote, and I hope they keep that whole approach: it was great.

Alas however, next week I shall be sad and lonely as K is going to Dubai on business tomorrow and isn’t back till Thursday, so I will be Queen of this old Victorian house in truth. I can’t decide whether I want to be Miss Haversham or the Mad Woman in the Attic, but they are probably much of a muchness anyway. Thank goodness that Strictly Come Dancing is back on TV to keep me company or I shall indeed run mad. You have been warned …

Anne Brooke

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Freshers Galore

Life News:

Great news – I survived Freshers’ Week! As, I think so far and on the whole, have the Freshers themselves, so good news all round really. It was as exhausting and sometimes exhilarating as usual, but to my mind we paced ourselves better this year and that’s made all the difference. Also we knew what we were doing more, as we’d had the first bite at the new system last year so it felt familiar this time round. The biggest help of all though has been that instead of having two Information Point tables (that we’re responsible for), we’ve had one, so it’s meant that Ruth and I don’t have to be there all the time on our separate tables but we’ve been doing about two hours on and two hours off on a rota system during the day so we each get a chance to regroup and stop the work piling up in the office. As I’ve said before, being at the Information Point is much like performing on stage, so I reckon two hours is just about right before the need for an interval comes upon us.

Naturally, there’ve been some emergencies and last-minute changes, including three lecture theatres being unexpectedly out-of-action so a lot of our time has been spent directing confused people (staff and students alike) to the correct rooms and apologising, though most people have been lovely about it. And, of course, there’s been the odd talk overrunning, with the need for a bit of creative redistribution of stock. As it were. Still, I don’t think anyone saw the join …

Anyway, frankly, it’s been my best Freshers’ Week so far, so a big thank you to Clare W who’s organised it all once again. And an equally big and rather more than slightly tearful farewell to the aforementioned Clare, who’s leaving us this week for better and closer-to-home things … Really, it’s all change in the office, as not only that but Lauren from the Mentoring team is leaving as well (further sobbing, but there’s still time to change your minds, girls!) so last night we all had a farewell early dinner at Ask in Guildford, which was I hope a good send-off for both. And already we have replacements for our disappearing staff, as Steve has been with us for a week in the Mentoring office, and Jon arrives full-time on Monday to sit in Clare’s place. Boys in the office, eh – well, whatever next!…

All this rushing about and preparing for change this week has utterly wiped me out though and I have had a 2.5 hour nap this afternoon, well really and it must be my age … I think it’s done the trick though as I’m ready to continue our mammoth DIY project once K gets home. This morning, I’ve painted half the ceiling in the spare room and put a first coat of gloss on the window alcove skirting board and window ledge. Once the 2nd coat is on, we reckon that the alcove will be done and we can move things back into it, thus creating space in the non-decorated part of the room so we can start having a go at that too. The good news is that the hallway and front door is now finished and looks very nice indeed, hurrah.

The other big excitement is we’ve found out that if you attach the electric sander to the Hoover then there’s virtually no dust, double hurrahs and break out the Bolly. Sanding with a Hoover is therefore our new hobby, so be warned …

Books News:

I’m pleased to say that Tommy’s Blind Date is now available as a Kindle book at Amazon US and Amazon UK, and a copy or two has already been purchased at both stores – which is surprising as Amazon UK Kindle has a lot of catching up to do with its American cousin in these early days of its existence.

Meanwhile, The Hit List received a lovely 4.5 star review at Goodreads, so thank you, Jo, for your comments. And The Delaneys and Me made a brief visit to the Amazon Top 100 charts, but has disappeared once more, alas. Publishers have been busy too, and you can now find all my Untreed Reads books in one convenient location (thanks, Jay!) so if you want to know about dancing, nature, fruit, art or accountancy, or perhaps all of these, you know where to go.

Looking forward to October, I’m delighted that A Dangerous Man, which is due out on 15 October, now has its own page at Cheyenne Publishing – a perfect read for those dark autumnal days indeed.

Meditations so far this week are:

Meditation 434
When engrossed
in your daily chores
do not neglect
the subtle gestures
of God

and see how everything
changes.

Meditation 435
It says something
about a man

when he’d rather give away
his women and children

than his valuables
if he can.

Anne Brooke

Reviews, queues and haikus

Book News:

Tuluscan Six and the Time Circle gained a review at Tam’s Reads today (scroll down to view) so thank you, Tam! And yesterday I was lucky enough to be the featured author at Michelenjeff Reviews and, at the same time, they gave a 5-star review to Tommy’s Blind Date – so thank you also for that.

Meanwhile, determined not to be forgotten, Martin and The Wolf received a 5-star review from Two Lips Reviews – many thanks, Tina. All this is a nice boost for my current gay short story, Brady’s Choice, which is slowly, oh so slowly, being written and I’ve finally struggled my way up to 5,000 words (hurrah!), with another 2000 to go. I think. I’m hoping to get it finished sometime over the next couple of weeks or so but my rate of writing is distinctly not speedy at the moment, so who knows, eh. There’s just a hell of a lot of other stuff going on (see below).

However, I’m pleased to say that my latest poetry collection, Sunday Haiku, is currently being advertised at Goodreads so if you catch it on your travels, please do say hello and maybe even add it to your book list there – poetry’s not as weird as you think! Speaking of shopping, the good news is that there’s 20% off all my Dreamspinner Press titles this weekend so still time to bag yourself a bargain before Monday is upon us.

Here’s a meditation poem for this week:

Meditation 433
There on the mountain
the wind shatters rock,
ground heaves
and strange fire
scorches your skin

but it is only
when your mind eases open
for that still, small voice
that you sense at last
the possible nearness of God.

The Sunday haiku today is:

Nameless shadows drift
across my heart; they stifle
hope and fortitude.

Life News:

Lots of redecorating, DIY and decluttering has continued to take place wherever possible. We’ve now all but finished the hallway – just one section of carpet to take up in order to gloss the skirting board near the front door. We’ve also given the bedroom a lick of paint where needed and cleaned the walls where they’re dirty. Yesterday, K did one trip to the council tip, and today I’ve done two trips, plus an extra trip to the local book recycling point with another five bags of books. I reckon I could probably do another 5 bags of books or more on top of that but I’ll sort those out when I put them back on the spare room shelves. Because at the moment I’m typing this in the middle of the spare room with, behind me, a bare painted area (where the computer usually goes but not now!), and in front of me an area of total clutter. Once the half behind me is fully done, ie painted with a coat or two more, we’ll swap over those areas. To enable this, our three tall book cases which normally stand like sentinels of learning (mainly theology) behind me as I type are now standing in the outside hallway, and the books are on the two smaller bookcases now outside our front door, or on the large bookcases on the remaining shelves (the movable shelves we have stored separately), or in the inner hallway in front of the mirror or in the middle and side of the living room. That includes our domestic and professional business files. Thank goodness there’s only one item to iron tonight, eh, as there’s no room for anything else.

Things I’ve discovered/rediscovered during the course of today: electric sanders are great fun and very good, and the spare room walls are in fact not as bad as we’d feared (there was great gloom and depression last night after we’d washed them but a lick of paint is a marvellous thing indeed even in an old Victorian house); roller painting is fun and fast, and very good for ceilings though I do end up with a white nose that amused K way way too much; my lost sock was hiding behind the bedroom chest of drawers and has after 18 months been reunited with its partner; the Henry Hoover double strength suction pad will try to suck in a shirt if aimed inadvertently in its direction; the cat flap on our front door is not a standard size but we will nail a piece of wood over the damn thing and repaint properly.

While all this has been going on, I spent a large part of yesterday at the University’s Move In Saturday, arriving at 7.45am and leaving at about 3.30pm. It seemed much smoother than last year, possibly because I knew better what I was supposed to be doing, and most students have settled in nicely so far. A fair amount of queueing at our key times but they were all very jolly. Tomorrow Freshers’ Week starts in reality and it will be all systems go at our Information Point from 8.30am to 6pm. Goodness knows how exhausted I’ll be when I get back but I’m planning on tackling the skirting board behind me in the spare room, and K has taken that section of carpet up in advance so I don’t have to think too much. I just like to Paint ‘n Go, you know.

Finally, is it just me, or do all our three main party leaders now look so much like each other that they might as well be triplets? Lordy, I really can’t tell them apart …

Anne Brooke

The Decluttering Queen

Book News:

This week I’ve been delighted that Martin and The Wolf gained a 4-star review at Goodreads – many thanks, Chris. Tuluscan Six and The Time Circle received a 4.5 star review at Jessewave Reviews, so thank you to Val for that.

Meanwhile, Tommy’s Blind Date has been doing well, with a review at Tam’s Reads (scroll down to view), and two 5-star reviews at Goodreads, one from Lisa and one from Stephanie, so a big thank you to you both! And, for the blink of an eye, The Delaneys and Me found itself at No 40 in the Amazon charts but has dropped out now.

Finally, in this section, K and I have been parsing the verb to Kindle, and have decided it’s an irregular verb: I Kindle; you don’t have a Kindle; he/she/it doesn’t know what a Kindle is … Really, I’m loving it.

My latest meditations are:

Meditation 430
To question God
with raw honesty

is better
than a thousand pleasant lies

told in the secret passages
of your heart.

Meditation 431
Sow in the field
of desire

and reap
a harvest of death;

sow in the field
of kindness

and reap
a harvest of life.

Meditation 432
A whisper from the sea
seven times softer
than the salty air
you breathe.

When the dark clouds dance
and the wind sings,
run before the promise
of rain, rejoicing.

Life News:

Well, it’s been inevitable really, and certainly since the beginning of September when it all went horribly wrong, but K and I have this week now officially withdrawn from the flat-buying disaster and have, in a brief email to them and their solicitors, wished the vendors luck in whatever they decide to do with their flat from now on. Well, a former boss of mine once told me – and he was right – always to end a quarrel with courtesy so that is what we have attempted to do. Time to lick our wounds, take a deep breath and move on, once our solicitor’s bill is paid, of course!

With this in mind, we’ve been continuing to paint and declutter our flat ready for potential buyers, and have managed to clear the place of nine bags of recyclable clothes and two bin-bags of clothes not even charity shops would take. We have also thrown away a lot of our old video tapes (though I can’t bring myself to part with all my Star Trek ones – no way!) and have therefore all but filled three wheelie-bins full of rubbish again. And the binmen aren’t collecting rubbish until Tuesday week as we’re on a fortnightly cycle so Lord knows where I’ll be putting the old/unwanted food leftovers … Help!

We have also given at least one coat of paint to everything in the hallway that needs lightening up, apart from the skirting board as we need to take the carpet up for that. And I have washed the spare room walls where I can get to them between the bookcases ready for giving that a coat of paint too. There’ll be more stuff to throw away from the spare room but some of that is a council tip job so I think K and I will have to tackle that together.

In the midst of all this, I’ve also had my regular hospital appointment with the lovely Alli, and we’ve now decided that I’ll be coming off the HRT to try to avoid the need for another operation to take my right ovary out, as it’s not very good really. Poor thing, I’m quite fond of it, you know – I think it’s called George – and I’d like to try to save it. But I am a bit worried as to what it might do in terms of my mood swings, which the HRT was helping a lot with, so I will have to try to keep a close eye on how I am (not easy when I could be either screaming with rage and brandishing the nearest weaponry or weeping like a klutz all over the dining room table, and sometimes both!…) and keep taking the St John’s Wort which is also marvellous for my happiness levels. We’ll see.

So, thank goodness for a night out on Tuesday with the lovely Jane and Tanya, the latter of whom I’d not seen for ages so it was great to catch up. The French restaurant Jane chose ( Cote in Guildford) was fabulous too and the food top-notch though we were all puzzled as to why there was a choice of having your mushroom soup either hot or cold. Yuk! The French are a mysterious folk indeed. We’re also at that age where none of us can read the menu unless it’s at arm’s length, which caused great amusement to our fellow diners. Ah well. We’re not getting any younger, you know …

Anne Brooke

Popes, Prayer and paint

Life News:

A hell of a lot of painting has gone on this week – we’ve painted the bathroom door and skirting board, the hall cupboard, the spare room door & cupboard, some of the hall skirting boards and two sets of the three wooden frames that are a feature of our hallway. It all lightens it up nicely, which is hugely pleasing – if we’d known it would look so good, we’ve have done it much earlier, but it certainly should make it more desirable at the very least. And it’s a lesson to us for our next home – paint everything light colours and watch the space increase!

Not only that but I’ve tidied the living room and spare rooms so they look much bigger – or the spare room would if we hadn’t today moved everything around in order to paint, but it will do when it’s back in its right place again! I’ve also recycled six bags of books last week and have created another nine bags of books today to take to the recycling point this week. We do have a lot of books – K did an estimate a while back and made it 1200, but it’s 15 bags less now! We’ve also chucked away a load of old videos and tapes that we never watch/listen to – Lord only knows why we were keeping them. Laziness probably.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon behind the Student Care stand at the University Open Day – not as hectic as the last time which was truly horrible, but I wasn’t feeling that well really, so I kept smiling inanely and hoping that people believed whatever it was I was saying. Most seemed to.

Oh, and Marian and I played an outrageously bad game of golf on Friday – we were so bad we became utterly hysterical at one point and couldn’t stop laughing. Thank goodness no-one was behind us. Marian managed to get both her tee shots on the 6th hole into the pond, which is at least consistent, and I managed to hit not one, not two, but three trees on the 8th, two of them with the same shot. Lordy, but I’m good, um not. Thankfully, Marian and her husband came round for dinner on Friday night (pre-painting extravaganza) so we were able to drown our sorrows in good measure.

Finally, rumour has it that some elderly Catholic gent has come over to the UK for the weekend, Gawd bless ‘im. I hope he enjoys his brief stay, though I do think the least we could do is give him a car he could actually get in and out of successfully. He is 83, after all, and Jaguar’s don’t really allow for much leeway … Mind you, K reminded me that he must have been greatly chuffed indeed during his private audience with the Queen and Prince Philip – to be at last the youngest person in the room must have fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition for him, hurrah!

Book News:

I’ve finished the edits for The Prayer Seeker, so I now feel happier with that. Now all I have to do (ho hum) is find someone who might want it. Suggest no-one holds their breath though! And I’m pleased to say that Tommy’s Blind Date is now available at All Romance Ebooks and, not to be outdone, The Delaneys and Me popped briefly back into the Amazon Charts at No 78 though not for long.

This week’s meditation is:

Meditation 429
If you’re in a desert
where ravens bring you food
and God provides the water

sneak away quickly
as your odds for happiness
probably just got shorter.

The Sunday haiku is:

A sparkle of birds
wheels and dances in the sky.
Sunlight on water.

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