The Lucky Lad

adventures in dysthymia

Monday, July 09, 2018

The Lost Map

Last year, I had almost simultaneous failures of both my desk PCs, the office/writing/design machine and the dedicated music one. This meant I lost some data. The writing, and most of my documents, were pretty recently backed up so that was mostly safe. Graphics were another matter. I hadn’t kept quite up to date there.

So, recently, I got the hard drives from the music computer mounted and was able to retrieve back ups I had stored there. That helped; they were not the most absolutely recent versions of things but better than what I had otherwise. In fact, there is only one thing I truly regret having lost and that is the map I made of Cully Beach, the fictional setting of my novels ‘Shaper’ and ‘Waves.’

I could redo them, I suppose. There is enough description in the books and a fairly decent map in my head. Moreover, the town is loosely based on Flagler Beach, Florida (with a bit of Cocoa Beach mixed in), so I have a starting point. If I get onto a third Cully Beach novel, I just might try a reconstruction.

The floor plan for ‘Shaper’ Ted Carrol’s home and surf shop is still extant (but not his neighbor’s, which I also laid out — that doesn’t matter so much), so there is that. Incidentally, I also did maps and floor plans for my other ‘Florida novel,’ ‘Asanas.’ Those were not lost.

There probably will be a third Cully novel. It is not high on the list right now. But we do need to get Ted and Michelle happily married, after all, while solving yet another crime.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

The Tsar

It's time to tell one and all that I shall have another book out in a couple months — exact date to be announced shortly. I'm finishing up all the work on the narrative, getting the publication chores begun, and so on. This is one of my relatively light fantasy adventures (though a tad grimmer than the average), to be titled TSAR OF THE EMPTY LANDS. The name is a reference to the protagonist, some of whose followers jokingly refer to him so. More details on the story down the line, but here is (probably) the finished cover:


Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Novesl I Like

These are novels (not plays, short stories, nor anything else) that I particularly like and feel have particularly influenced my own writing. It is not a list of the ‘best’ novels.

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien — I love The Lord of the Rings but this was the book that made the initial impact and has been more of a model for my own writing.

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway — For me, the first and the last of Hemingway were his best: the first novel, The Sun Also Rises, and his late-life novella, The Old Man and the Sea. One could disregard all the novels between, not that some of them were not decent enough.

Vanity Fair, W.M. Thackeray — A relatively late entry for me, and not a book I read when young. But it might well be my favorite novel of all. No one better at giving insight into characters.

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh — Not necessarily his best but it made the most impact on me. I do love his more typical novels too, the humor, the style, but the nuanced ideas of Brideshead speak to me.

The Left Hand of Darkness, U.K. Le Guin — This novel made a big impact on me when it first came out and I was young. This was (and is) the sort of thing serious speculative fiction should do. The Dispossessed may have been even better, and those Earth-Sea books, but this one got got to me first.

A Princess of Mars, E.R. Burroughs — Pretty much where my love for speculative fiction starts, and a surprisingly well-crafted piece of writing with a sense of wonder. Burroughs’s sly humor puts him a cut or two above most writers of adventure.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen — Yes, I seem to have a thing for English novelists with a bit of sarcastic tone. Thackeray, Waugh — but they both owe Miss Austen.

Kim, Rudyard Kipling — In terms of prose style, I can think of no one I like better. And I do like stylists. The short stories of the Jungle Books provided the original impact as far as Kipling goes.

There is probably no sense in adding more to these eight. Yes, I know they are all English language writers. Yes, I could come up with a different list a different day. And I could more easily make a list of well-known authors I do not like that much and have influenced me as examples of what not to do. We learn as much that way as any other — figuring out what turns us off and avoiding it in our own work. But I won’t mention my dislike for Dostoevsky or Conrad or anyone else here.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Character-Driven

My fiction is very much character-driven. I tend to create my characters first and then find things for them to do. They interest me more than the stories. I am certainly not the only writer to put characters first; it is something of a trademark of so-called ‘upmarket’ fiction.

The publishing world would most certainly put my adult Florida novels, the two Cully Beach titles and the recent ‘Asanas,’ in that marketing niche. They are relatively leisurely in their pace and not driven by their stories as much as they are by the growth of their characters. I would be inclined to call them upmarket or middle-brow or something of that sort myself. They are not literary fiction nor are they ‘commercial’ genre novels.

So what of my fantasies? Darned if I know. There has always been a strong literary element in the fantasy genre (quite unlike science fiction). Dunsany, Eddison, Cabell — I could name names all day. I would not go so far as to call my own fantasy novels literary fiction. At least that has never been my intention! Ultimately, they too are more about their characters than anything else. Never mind that those characters may sometimes be wizards or gods. They are still pretty human.

Any ‘ideas’ that are put forth grow out of those characters and their actions; I’ve never set out to intentionally ‘say’ something. Not that I don’t say quite a bit. I am quite as opinionated as the next author — I wouldn’t bother to write were I not. But both ideas and stories arise from humans and their interactions; that is why I start with characters.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Magic and Madness

One of the recurrent themes in my fantasy tales is that magic can lead to insanity. This is a direct result of how sorcery works — it is an innate gift that allows some to see and hear across the boundaries between the infinite universes. For the untrained, unable to block out those voices and visions of other worlds, madness can result.

But even for those who are trained to wield magic, the danger remains. The other worlds are always there in the background, the vastness of the infiniverse mocking those who seek through it. It is no wonder some wizards choose to serve the Void, hoping to escape into nothingness.

The great sorcerer Radal of the Donzalo’s Destiny novels was my first and perhaps most thorough example of this. His daughter Fachalana will share in that when I get around to writing the sequel (it will come!), but it will not simply be a repeat of Radal’s doom. Her struggle against his legacy will be a central element.

This not to say that all magicians flirt with madness. Some are better able to handle their gift than others. Some receive better (and earlier) training. The wizard Im of ‘The Ways of Wizardry’ manages to deal with all this quite well, partly due to his exceptional talent, partly due to being trained by a god, and perhaps partly by his bonding with the mystic jewels knows as the Eyes of the Wind (which appear in other novels, including one by that name) and the young woman who shares that bond.

Yet there are those who never know they have an ability. Some die by their own hand. Some lash out at the world, thinking themselves divine or at least divinely guided, misunderstanding the voices in their heads — real voices in those worlds where sorcery comes more easily than here.

That magic has a ‘price’ is very much a fantasy cliché. I see this not as a price but as a built-in danger. Many vocations have such dangers. Call them prices if you must, but not everyone pays. The soldier may live or die on the battlefield, come home maimed or lauded. The sorcerer is the same, yet different. It is part not only of his craft but of his being — magic and madness ever walk together.

Monday, June 25, 2018

He Who Counts, a poem

He Who Counts

The leper counts his fingers and his toes,
each morning’s inventory. He is whole
today; tomorrow will be as it goes.
There comes a reckoning in time, a toll,
and what choice has he but to pay? None throws
the dice when naught remains except his soul.
In morning’s gloom the leper counts and knows
he’s but a prisoner on his parole.

Have I not counted so the passing days?
They vanished in the darkness, as the dreams
I can recall no longer. Nothing stays;
all falls away, away, until it seems
we are no longer. I who counts and knows
has seen that naught remains except his soul.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

Living in Books


I didn't notice when I wrote this out that it is sort of in the form of a sijo.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Trolls, a poem

TROLLS

Trolls will eat anything,
including each other;
maybe their sister--
probably not Mother.

You may find small bits
of someone you know
stuck in their beards
that wag to and fro.

Those beards they are long,
those beards they are green;
they're never combed out
nor are they kept clean.

Trolls deny nothing
to their appetite;
pray you don't run
into one in the night!

So now you are warned
if a troll be your friend,
he just might eat you
too, in the end.

Stephen Brooke (c)2018


Trolls have been appearing prominently in my fantasy novel WIP, so this bit of nonsense popped into my head. Now back to serious stuff!