The Lucky Lad

adventures in dysthymia

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


One thing I have eschewed in all my fantasy fiction is the use of ‘spirits.’ By this I mean, all sorts of incorporeal beings, whether ghosts, demons, angels, human souls, elementals, what have you. As I do not believe in such entities in ‘real life’ it feels hypocritical to include them in the stories.

Rather, any and all beings of this sort are as solid as any other creature. They simply exist in other worlds. They are whole beings, not spirit joined to physical body — there are no souls moving from body to body or anything of that sort. I simply will not use that concept, nor will I base magic on any ‘spiritual’ force. Both allow way too much leeway and too many opportunities to fudge things.

As does all the paranormal stuff, telepathy, and so on that uses some sort of ill-defined ‘energy.’ All my magic is thoroughly mechanical and in some way relies on the ability to seek and/or travel through the infiniverse (and I do find the concept of infinite universes at least believable). Those are the boundaries I have set myself and I have stuck to them.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Warrior Theme

Before I start in on my narrative I sometimes write a preliminary/partial blurb just to help me focus on the central theme of the story. Here's what I have for 'Warrior of the Moon'—

Since he was small, Maratoa had held one desire above all others: to become a great warrior like his heroic father. Yes, he knew he had inherited sorcerous powers and, yes, he been trained in their use. But there was no place for a man with such abilities in Mora society.

Now the greatest of all wizards had crossed the ocean, on a mission that will decide the fate of their world. Does the fate of Maratoa also hang in the balance?

I'll revise and add stuff to that, of course, when the tale is finished. Maybe mention headhunters, lost aviators, etc, as best fits. Been doing more editing than writing the last few days (and watching tropical disturbance formation!) and it's also time to shift some attention to the release of 'The Crocodile God' in Sept.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

It's a Mystery

The one thing I most definitely learned in the writing of ‘Smoke’ is that one needn’t know the solution to a mystery when one starts a story. I should say that ‘Smoke’ is my first true mystery (and could probably be called a ‘cozy mystery’), whereas the two previous Cully Beach novels were about crime but there was never much of a ‘who done it’ element. Our protagonist simply blundered along as things unraveled.

Not so with Smoke. Oh, I knew why and how our victim was murdered, just not quite who did it. I had four primary suspects and each in his or her turn I thought would end up the murderer. That’s not counting Ted himself, whom some police think a pretty credible suspect! But we knew he didn’t do it, right? So I kept building around those four, suggesting things about each that might be incriminating. Actually, the one I originally thought I would make the murderer — the most obvious suspect — I eliminated from consideration in my own mind fairly early. It wouldn’t have been much of a mystery otherwise.

One of the others I eliminated by the time we visited the Florida Folk Festival. That one, too, I had briefly decided should be responsible, but no. Just didn’t feel right and the logistics of it were a little tricky. That left two and one seemed obvious to me. So, of course, it ended up being the other. I was pretty close to the end of the writing by the time I finally decided on — or discovered — the culprit. The fact that I had kept all of them viable as suspects right up to the end meant rather little rewriting was necessary. I’d kept my timelines and motivations straight.

Had I stuck with the original plan, had I known who did it right from the start, I doubt I could have maintained the proper tension. Better for me to figure it out the same as the readers. It’s their turn now.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Jewels and Jewels

The cache of stolen jewelry in my recently completed (more-or-less) mystery, “Smoke,” is essentially a ‘McGuffin.’ That is, in and of themselves they have no role in the plot other than to be searched for. A box of chocolate bars would have worked every bit as well. Unless they melted, of course. In this, the jewelry is like the statue in “The Maltese Falcon.” It is an interesting bit of hardware but does not really have any influence on the plot. Its role is entirely passive — it exists only to be chased after.

On the other hand, the four jewels known as “The Eyes of the Wind” and “The Jewels of the Elements” in the two fantasy novels of those names, are completely tied into the plot. They are sought because of the power they can bestow on their possessor, and that power is used in the books. They also appear as an important element (but not driving the main plot) in “The Ways of Wizardry.” It is certain that they will reappear in that novel’s sequel(s).

To be sure, there is not a thing wrong with incorporating a McGuffin into ones work. It is quite common, in fact, and the basis for countless stories. But having an active object adds an extra layer of interest. It creates more incentive for those who seek it. A lost child or a time bomb needs to be found; a statue of a bird, not so much. That’s a matter of degree also. Some objects will be more critical than others. The fate of the world depends on who possesses the jewels of the elements.

But we can’t always be saving the world, can we? Sometimes, it will just be that valuable McGuffin someone has hidden away, and that is okay — as long as the story is told well.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Smoke and More

I have a complete and somewhat edited manuscript of SMOKE, my third entry in the Cully Beach mysteries series. Weighing in at 68,000 words (I feared it would come in too short but that's a decent length). The novel is likely to see publication before the end of the year. Stay tuned for more on that.

Before I return to 'Smoke' for rewrites and edits, I am giving a final proofreading to the formatted manuscript of 'The Crocodile God.' The last task (I hope!) to make it ready for publication. Official release date is September 7.

Then, I'll probably tackle 'Smoke.' As I edit a great deal as I go along, I doubt there will be much change. It's going to be more line edits, fixing words and phrases, than any actual rewriting. But I might want to drop in just a tad more of some of the romantic subplots of the youngsters. No more than a line here and there, most likely.

And I am also starting in on the next novel, another fantasy and the start of a third trilogy set among the quasi-Polynesian Mora people. Title almost certainly to be 'Warrior of the Moon.' Mostly organizing my notes at the moment! There is also another poetry collection to prepare—I've been aiming for one every two years. The next is to be titled 'A Poet's Day.' Any British readers will recognize a bit of a joke in that title.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Alienese, a book review

 Alienese, a science fiction novel by Oliver Davis Pike

'Alienese' is a rather short novel, not quite a novella but bordering on it. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that. It seems to be as long as it needs to be. It is also not at all a fast-paced adventure. Cliff-hangers are few.

It is fairly straight-forward science fiction, but with a fair amount of humor of a low-key sort — not an outright comical novel nor farce. It is much more about the relationships between people (human and otherwise) than anything else. It also is an interesting portrait of its lead character/narrator, a has-been country singer abducted by aliens. ‘Alienese,’ incidentally, is what he calls the language they teach him.

Then he becomes romantically (more-or-less) involved with one of them. No more on that for fear of stepping into spoiler territory. I’ll just say that the two go on the run, both on and off Earth. There is a certain amount of cliché in the tale but it is rather obviously intentional, spoof or irony or whatever term one might choose.

All of this is in the wry voice of our country boy narrator (who is certainly no redneck dummy). I admittedly like it. It's pretty much up my alley as fiction goes.

'Alienese' is by Oliver Davis Pike, and comes from Arachis Press. The official release date in July 6, 2019 and it will be available in print and ebook.

Finally, a fairly large caveat: I was involved in editing this novel and getting it released, so I have my prejudices about its merit. I suggest you read it and form your own prejudices.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

The Wind's Gonna Blow, a song

The Wind’s Gonna Blow
a song for hurricane season

That storm’s moving closer to the coast
and all we can do is raise a toast:
Here’s to the hurricane, whatever it’s named
and here’s to the folks who live where it’s aimed!

It’s no good to sit and worry,
go nail up plywood, better hurry!
The wind’s gonna blow and it’s sure to get wetter,
it’s gonna get worse before it gets better.

Worse than I hoped, better than I expected,
got no reason to feel dejected.
Preparations thoroughly inspected,
family safe and all collected.

Make sure we’re ready for the gale;
Tie everything down or it will sail!
And make sure to stock up on the liquor,
though it won’t make it get here any quicker!

Got the radio to inform;
nothing to do but wait out the storm.
The wind’s gonna blow and it’s sure to get wetter,
it’s gonna get worse before it gets better!

Worse than I hoped, better than I expected;
hurricane has to be respected.
If we’re lucky, it’s redirected
and our maps can be corrected!

Stephen Brooke ©2019