The Lucky Lad

adventures in dysthymia

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Shaper and the Board

As anyone who designs and builds surfboards, Ted Carrol, the protagonist of my novels 'Shaper' and 'Waves,' has his own ideas and pet theories about how boards work. He is quite willing to share those theories with any and all. It does not matter whether they are at all accurate as far as the books go; indeed, being a bit of a crackpot is part of Ted's character.

The fact is just about anything works for surfing. One can ride a rectangular piece of plywood (not that I would recommend it). It's mostly a matter of learning the quirks of whatever one is on, and dealing with them.

Most design differences are about control. Surfers may talk about 'speed' but, in truth, boards have always gone fast enough. That speed needs to be controlled somehow; otherwise we are hurtling straight toward the beach, unable to turn! Bottom shapes, outline, fins--all these things play a role, each element interacting with the others. And to some degree combining them is guesswork. The only true test of a shape is in riding it. Even there, the skill and preferences of the individual surfer make a big difference.

And, of course, what he or she is attempting to accomplish. Tricks in small waves? Survival in huge ones? Or just cruising along--each calls for its own equipment. Ted would be glad to shape whatever you need! :)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Two at a Time

I find myself working on not one but two fantasy novels at this time (but nothing 'mainstream'). One is a project of which I had not even conceived a couple weeks ago but it just came up, tapped me on the shoulder, and said 'write me.' That is a book almost certainly to be titled 'Tsar of the Empty Land.'

'Tsar' follows a group of Stalinist Russian refugees who were headed to the gulag but instead find their way to another world. This is the same world and approximate period as that of my Malvern and Mora novels; I mentioned in those the existence of a 'gate' on the far side of the world, so I had to use it, right? :) The book (or books maybe) will tie in to the earlier work, with the ancient sorcerer Hurasu making an appearance—he's been worried about the gate, what with humans becoming more technologically advanced, and intends to ward it against more entry.

The other novel is  the one I am supposed to be working on, the sequel to 'The Eyes of the Wind,' to be titled 'The Jewels of the Elements.' I honestly do not know which I will finish up first. One is in progress on the office PC, the other on my laptop. And I think it is good to be working on multiple books, as their is a cross fertilization of ideas; indeed, I always have several projects in development, jotting (or typing) down plot ideas, bits of dialog, etc. for later use.

So  certainly expect one before the end of the year. Even if I finish both,  I'd need to hold back the publication of one for a little while!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Pieces of the Moon

I have put an online edition/archive of my very first book of poetry, originally published in 2003, PIECES OF THE MOON. Of course, the print and ebook versions are still available through Arachis Press. It is my belief that poetry should be shared — and is not a money-maker anyway — so I am sharing this book. I might put up some of the ones that followed when I get ambitious, and also  have plain text versions for free download.

The for-sale editions are close to being at cost anyway. I see them as 'loss-leaders' for my novels! :) You can find the PIECES OF THE MOON site at: https://piecesofthemoonpoems.blogspot.com/ . Visit anytime.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Depressed Surfer Novel

Depression, drugs, suicide, have been in the news and on people’s minds lately. Those who actually know me would not be surprised that these are among the themes of my contemporary (more or less) Florida crime-and-surf novel, ‘Shaper.’ Some of that is from my own life.

I’ve had serious bouts of depression, yes, and have thought about suicide pretty much every day since I was a little kid. It’s just something I live with, check on to make sure I’m still okay, like a leper checking all his fingers and toes each day. Keeping busy, being creative, has helped keep it under control; if I couldn’t work any more, I’m not sure I would want to go on.

And I manage the depression with a small amount of medication and a lot of activity. I’ve said before that bodybuilding may have saved my life. I continue to work out most days, take long hikes or bikes. I should surf more but the beach is just a little too far.

Drugs or alcohol? Never had any problem. Maybe just luck there, my genetics or something. Never even cared for pot, but I do drink a small glass of wine occasionally. My protagonist in ‘Shaper,’ Ted Carrol (Shaper, himself), is pretty much based on my own experiences with this sort of thing. Nothing to hide there. Of course, he isn’t actually ‘me.’

But we have other characters with problems. The alcoholic daughter of Ted’s girlfriend, as well as said girlfriend’s junkie ex-husband, play roles. I’ve tried to understand these people; however, I took care not to delve too deeply into them. That always rings false. There are no facile explanations for very complicated situations. It is best just to present them, maybe let them explain themselves, however flawed those explanations may be. Then let the reader figure them out, as possible. That is how it is in real life.

‘Shaper’ was published a couple years ago and is available from Arachis Press, as are all my books. At Amazon, etc. too, of course. And there is a sequel, ‘Waves,’ which explores some other directions while the depression and addiction themes go more into the background. A third ‘Cully Beach’ novel will undoubtedly appear one of these days.

Monastery, a poem

Monastery

My aesthetic is ascetic
fit for a monastery;
I choose to pray each and every day
at Vespers, and not tarry.
I think I look good in robe and hood,
and I’m thankful I needn’t marry;
for having a bride at my side
seems quite unnecessary!

Stephen Brooke ©2018

This bit of light verse sat in my notes for a while in case I came up with more lines. But it didn't need any.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Lights. Camera. Action!

The biggest problem with incorporating action into a story — especially starting out with a bang — is the likelihood of things bogging down later. Rushing from event to event, attempting to escalate the action, can only go so far. It is fatiguing to the reader.

But slowing things after that big bang beginning can be a bit of a letdown and lead the reader to lose interest. That is why I prefer a slow burn, a leisurely pace. I am more interested in exploring the characters anyway. My two crime novels set in mythical Cully Beach amble along somewhat and that was my intention. I avoided turning them into action stories.

This is a particular problem, I think, with crime and mystery tales. Everything that happens pretty much needs to further the movement toward a solution. Subplots tend to be neglected — and I’m pretty big on interweaving subplots. I much doubt that I would ever write a straight detective novel.

I am working on something that may come close, so we shall see. It will not be fast-paced action; I promise you that right now. Now, there is plenty enough action in my fantasy tales. Duels and spells cast and ambushes and attempted assassinations — these are the sorts of episodes I weave into the plots to keep the readers’ attention. However, the novels are not about these things. No good novel is.

My goal, and that of any serious author, is not to entertain with my writing. Entertainment is a means to an end and that end is communication. The goal is to have something to say and to make it heard.

So my writing (though this applies to any and all art-forms) does attempt to be entertaining, yes, to get and keep the readers’ attention. More importantly, I strive to make it somewhat accessible . Some of it more so than some other, of course; the audience, the intent, plays a role in this. One novel or story might be more ‘literary’ in its style, and that style, of itself, is part of the process of communication. The medium is the message and all of that.

And the message is what counts. It’s the nutrition in our literary meal. The rest is the part that tastes good! So I’ll season it well, make sure it has an enticing aroma and is pleasing to the eye. I’ll even put it on an attractive plate — or behind an attractive cover. If action is what it takes, there will be action. But not so much action that the novel gets lost in it.

Incidentally, there is no action at all in the shortly to be released ASANAS. Oh, yes, yes, a drunk does get punched. That’s about it. It’s just humans doing human things and, ultimately, there is no better subject matter.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Will-of-the-Wisp, a poem

Will-of-the-Wisp

I’m will-of-the-wisp, there isn’t a ‘me;’
if you look closely, there’s nothing to see.
Made up of moonbeams, bound with cobwebs,
mists that arise, a dark tide that ebbs —
hear me go singing through empty night,
counting the stars, never knowing the light.

I’m will-of-the-wisp, I could be a lie;
men whisper so, in the hour they die,
following after what they know is true
through forest darkness, through bog and slough,
lost in their dreams — no, nothing here’s real.
Only Will’s laugh, as I away steal.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

A piece that started out to be something completely different, a more 'personal' poem. But Will took it over. Written surprisingly quickly.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

All Sorts

Virginia Woolf said “It is fatal for anyone who writes to think of their sex.”* She had a point, a valid point. The author needs to write about people as they are, to understand and become those people. That is impossible when they are reduced to types.

That includes the author thinking of him or herself as a type. She also mentioned ‘self-conscious virility’ in modern male writers (modern in the Twenties, that is). That is certainly something that is still with us — and not just in authors.

I’ll admit that I consider any differences between men and women, how they think, how tall they are, how well they might write, are a matter of averages, not intrinsic to their being. We are far more alike than we are different.

Some are able to see that as do I; some aren’t and are stuck with a binary view, seeing women and men somehow as opposites. As much as I love Kipling as stylist and storyteller, he most certainly wasn’t able to break away from his masculine view of things. He barely deigned to allow women onto the pages of much of his writing.

I suspect there are those who would complain that my male and female characters are too alike. I’ve seen that criticism of other authors, that their women are just men in dresses (not that a man in a dress might not pop up in one of my books). Those critics, I think, have a false view of just who and what men and women are, caught up in cultural stereotypes. They complain when female characters do not fit their idea of what women are.

But women come in all sorts. Men come in all sorts. They are all individuals, each different, each acting according to who they are, not ‘what’ they are. Let them do it — and don’t think of your sex.


*in ‘A Room of One’s Own’ — a highly recommended little book

The Dog God, a poem

The Dog God

Don’t take the Dog God lightly;
He is a Sirius fellow.
He rules over every canine,
black or brown or yellow.

Oh, you can trust the Dog God,
for he is a Good Boy.
He loves to fetch the Earth-ball;
it is his favorite toy.

The Dog God sends his angels
to live with men a while;
they wag their tails and go
and leave us with a smile.

But in the Dog God’s heaven,
they wait as we still roam;
wait patiently at the gate
until we all come home.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

I can write as silly and sentimental as the next guy