The Lucky Lad

adventures in dysthymia

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Thought on Thought

I happened to watch an episode from ‘Star Trek: the Next Generation,’ a couple nights ago. One from fairly early in the series, where the ‘Traveler’ visits and reveals young Wesley’s future importance. The Enterprise is also catapulted into a place (so to speak!) where thought and reality are too closely linked for the crew’s survival.

A decent enough episode, but the underlying idea is the truly interesting thing — the concept that space, time, and thought are all part of one continuum. In other words, consciousness is essential to the existence of, well, existence. This is a rather serious idea that has been tossed about by both philosophers and scientists in recent time.

I am no way near being an expert on anything quantum-related, despite basing a fair amount of my fantasy writing and world-building on some of the better known concepts. The idea that something does not exist until it is observed would be one. That is put badly, I am sure — this is why I prefer to weave such things into a fictional narrative rather than attempt to speak of them in essays. Yet here I am, attempting just that.

I would certainly applaud the ST writers for working the concept into their own story. How many watchers actually pick the idea up and think about it? Most, I suspect, just see it as another plot device and do not think about it again. I missed the point myself when first I watched the episode, years ago.

And I could never say how much validity there is to the whole concept. By its very nature, it must remain conjecture, unprovable, it would seem. A little too close to religion for some folks, too, I suspect. It challenges the rational, mechanical universe of the Enlightenment.

That too, after all, was just conjecture, a metaphor, another attempt to understand. That model of the universe is one aspect of something much larger, true so far as it goes. We are limited by our senses, ‘seeing’ only a little part of the whole of reality — which is, of course, infinite.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dwarfs

Although there has been a mention or two in my fantasy books, and although they have always been a part of the world-building, my latest novel, THE WAYS OF WIZARDRY (to be released January 6), is the first in which dwarfs have actually appeared.

There have been other ‘Others,’ of course — trolls and ogres and kobolds (lots of kobolds — which is another name for goblin, for those unfamiliar with the word) and Fay of varied sorts. But those reclusive dwarfs have stayed out of the picture until now. Not that they have a major role in the story; they are a convenient device to move things along at a certain point and do not impact the tale again (although they do make a brief later appearance, for continuity’s sake).

So — dwarfs. What are they? Small, stocky men is how most would tend to visual them, probably with beards. Good enough. That pretty well describes mine, as far as it goes. Actually, the dwarfs of my world are Neanderthals. Small Neanderthals, admittedly, who have undergone millennia and millennia of change and now stand about chest-high on an average ‘human.’ That is the ‘classic’ dwarf I utilized. In my world-building there are many branches beside these; moreover, trolls stem from the same ancestral line, splitting away sometime in the dim and distant past.

Be that as it may. My dwarfs do look rather Neanderthal. Not only the barrel-chested stocky build but also the heavy brows and big noses. And, of course, light of skin and sometimes redheaded. They still frequent caves, as well, but now it is as miners.

It is more than likely the race (or a race) of dwarfs will show up in future books. I had no reason to include them up to this point, and I do not throw things in unless they serve a purpose. So they will!

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Ways On Its Way

I’ve another good more-or-less finished draft of a novel ready, a somewhat typical ‘light’ fantasy to be titled THE WAYS OF WIZARDRY. This is the book I had no intention of writing, that I had had not added to my queue nor even never thought of.



But it came out of me anyway, with less planning and outlining than usual. Oh, the outline did come; that is inevitable with the way I work. And I had a clear concept of my main protagonist from the start — the wizard Im has been referred to in other novels but never appeared before. And a young Im was the protagonist of my short story THE BOOK, THE BEAST, AND THE BURGLAR from which this novel grew (it is now the first chapter).

A journey of discovery (I do that a bit!), bordering on YA (Im is but 17 when the tale begins), with varied threats against our hero’s existence, his first love, hints of a darker future but ending on a high note — that’s pretty much the book. I was not that far into the process when I realized it was the first installment of a continuing story, an epic even. So expect sequels!

Length was a fairly typical 60,000 words for this sort of book. Why I think in stories of that length, I’ve no idea. On going back through, I know that I am likely to add very slightly here and there, fleshing out places I might have rushed through a little. At most, the narrative might grow by a few hundred, maybe a thousand, words. That’s if the process goes as it normally does. It could be published as-is, really, but a little polishing never hurt. Nothing big; the story itself is solid.

So we’ll get it ready and out the door at Arachis Press. Release date is set for January 6 next year. That’s plenty enough time (and it is a good idea to set myself deadlines). Before then, my poetry collection VOYAGES will be appearing, on Nov 1, 2017. And on to other projects!

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Hurricane Waves

The biggest waves I have ever ridden were hurricane surf in my hometown of Naples Florida. Yes, on the Gulf Coast.

When was this? Honestly, I am not quite sure. In the Eighties sometime and I think it was the swell from Hurricane Gilbert in ’88. That is because of the board I was riding at the time — that, I remember! But I suppose it could have been Allen in 1980. I’m just not sure I had that lime-green long board by then.

Hey, it was long ago and the date doesn’t really matter. The waves were breaking out beyond the end of Naples Pier and that is one long pier. Feathering out there, really, not breaking hard until one got inside, past a couple more sandbars. There was no way to catch one on a short board out there but I stroked into a few, knee-paddling on the long board. It was altogether the wrong board for those waves, a thick, round-railed, flat-bottomed design that was great for the typical tiny Naples waves but couldn’t hold into a big wave at all.

And, as I said, they were big, the biggest I’d ridden then or since. We’re talking maybe double-overhead. But not particularly dangerous aside from the extremely long swim if I messed up and lost the board out there somehow. I have surfed far more life-threatening waves in the range of maybe eight foot or so on the Atlantic Coast. Surf sessions I thought I might not survive.

I wrote a fictionalized version of one of those times years ago as a short story. It wasn’t a very good short story as it originally stood, as it didn’t give the reader much beyond a blow-by-blow account of the attempt to survive. That is, the protagonist’s character and thoughts were underdeveloped. When I went back to a rewrite some time later, it became a chapter in my novel ‘Shaper.’ Fitted much better there, I think, though I suppose it works in stand-alone story form.

‘Shaper’ is set in a fictional Florida town that is inspired by several different East Coast spots I’ve visited or even lived in briefly. The most similar would have to be Flagler Beach and that is where the incident I turned into a story actually occurred, right by the pier there on a big day. Broken leash, way outside, lots of swimming — that’s pretty much the story!

I’m not young anymore (though in better shape than anyone my age I happen to know), so I am unlikely to be paddling out into ten to twelve foot surf again, wherever it might be. But one never knows.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

To Go, a poem

To Go

If it’s time that I must go,
at age an hundred and ten or so,
I would choose to slip away,
surfing on a sunny day.
Waves double-overhead, of course —
thrown at last, by that wild horse,
driven into the patient reef,
neck broken in a moment brief.

Yes, that’s the way I want to go,
at age an hundred and ten or so,
and who’s to say, I just might!
Or failing that, a barroom fight —
a jealous husband knocks me dead,
bottle broken over my head
(let it be anything but Merlot!) —
that’s a suitable way to go.

I know when all is done and said
I’m likely to die in my own bed
stricken down by heart attack;
as long as I’m not alone in the sack,
I’ll consider it well enough played
and hope the girls aren’t too dismayed,
when it’s time that I must go,
at age an hundred and ten or so.

Stephen Brooke ©2017

Obviously not too serious

Monday, August 28, 2017

Cover Story

My own background in art and design may actually hurt me when it comes to creating book covers. I’m not inclined to be satisfied with the all-the-same approach that is so often seen and even advocated for genre fiction. The argument is made that YOUR cover should look like other covers in your genre to guide those poor not-so-bright book buyers. As if they couldn’t read the description!

I do prefer the more abstract sort of approach one may see with mainstream/literary fiction. Not that it shouldn’t relate in some way to the subject matter but we don’t need another generic girl with a sword to sell our fantasy novel.

My top priority in this day of online book sales is that the thumbnail be quite clear and understandable, with title and author large enough to be read. Many typical covers become indecipherable when reduced in size. This is another argument in favor of a more abstract approach, with bold, simple designs. Some number of my covers are essentially done as silhouettes, black on solid color, with title and author name as large as I can get away with.

I recognize that no one is going to walk into a bookstore and buy one of my books by its cover. It’s all online and that simply calls for a different approach. How it looks at Amazon or on the publisher’s website is what matters. And we must keep in mind that the material WITH the cover is as (if not more) important than the cover. A good blurb, the right keywords — that is what we need. Readers want words, after all.

Until fairly recently in history, book covers had no pictures at all. That practice sort of slipped over from the magazine business and was, perhaps, influenced as well by movie posters. When racks of paperbacks became ubiquitous, so did the cover illustration, and it is just as important now on the internet. Yes, a cover does need to attract attention, still. And maybe looking like every other cover is not the way to achieve that.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Galliard

I’ve been chugging along on the next novel, another ‘light’ fantasy (not the mainstream I thought I would work on), almost certainly to be titled THE WAYS OF WIZARDRY. It is quite likely we could get it out before the end of the year but there is probably no point in doing that; January 2018 is more likely. We’ll see.

I’ll give more info on the story, do a cover reveal, etc. in a while. I do have a cover more-or-less ready. I also have the formatting worked out. That is no problem because I am carrying over the template from THE EYES OF THE WIND and THE CROCODILE’S SON. Some differences in titling but the pages will be laid out the same and I will use the same typeface for the body text.

That would be Galliard, of which I am rather fond. It is the prolific Matthew Carter’s (designer of Charter, Georgia, Sitka, and a whole bunch of others) take on a Granjon style. More lively than a classic Garamond, it seems quite suited to this sort of subject matter. There are, of course, other Granjon-inspired fonts out there, including ones that bear that name, but Galliard has a more up-to-date feel for me. Chances are it will continue to be one of our go-tos at Arachis Press.

Incidentally, the five Malvern/Mora fantasies, which are a tad more ‘serious,’ were set in Garamnod No.8 from URW++. This was one of the fonts the company donated to the Ghostscript project quite some time back and is totally free and free to use for anything. It is a solid font and I would definitely recommend it as a starting point for anyone looking to design a book interior. I could see using it for almost any body text. Especially if one does not have the funds to buy a typeface!