Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Word From Our Sponsor

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And now for a massage from the Swedish Prime Minister...

Miscellany at Year's End

I have never used 'lol' online. Well, until just now. I'd much rather do the laugh face -- :D

Outside of the occasional 'btw' I scarcely use those internet abbreviations at all (nor the pre-internet i.e and e.g. for that matter). I like and respect words too much to do that to them.

So if you ever see me rotflmao, give me a smack upside the head and tell me to cut it out.

* * *

I was set to make bread a couple days ago and when I went for my jar of yeast from the fridge, it was missing.

I had a pretty good idea that my mom had taken it out and put it somewhere. She does that quite a bit anymore and I have to keep an eye out for misplaced items. CDs and books in the wastebasket, towels in the oven, etc.

Fortunately, I had a large pouch of yeast in the freezer so the bread did get baked. When I emptied the kitchen trash later, I found the yeast and the jar. Alas, not together as she had poured it all out into the basket.

I'm thinking maybe a lock on the refrigerator might be a good idea.

* * *

Well, I've been back on the St John's Wort for a month or so now and not a single migraine. I guess it was okay to go off a while and be reminded just how bad it was when I had them regularly. It's worth the cost but I wonder if I could cultivate the herb here myself.

Or if I could find an herb that cures mold spore allergy!

* * *

At this time, I'm not sure what I have planted here is still alive but dormant and what succumbed to the continued heat and drought of autumn. So I'm a bit loathe to buy replacements! I do hope the pomegranates made it but I fear otherwise.

I know that all the weeping willows were dead. I don't think the ones I last put in ever took root -- actually, not much from the last nursery order survived. Considering the weather since, it looks like I could have held off a month or more before doing my fall plantings.

At any rate, I'm going to attempt the willows again. I know they will grow here as I've seen them around the area. Last try. I do have wild ditch willows (Harbisons, I would guess) growing and will probably plant some more of them -- they start readily from cuttings and can grow into something of a tall hedge in the low area by the drive.

* * *

My  internet connection has been getting pretty awful again as winter moves in. I've been putting up with this for too long. Maybe this will be the year we finally get high speed here.

If so, I can blog even more! I set myself a goal sometime back to post here regularly, daily if possible. New material does bring more readers but the real point was to make myself write. And the more I write, the more I think of stuff to write, so it's working!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Pond

The frogs sing, come warm evenings, March or April, as rains replenish the cypress pond. It lies beyond the green curve of the neighbors' field, south-east and south-east again.

They grow cotton one year, peanuts the next, though once they threw us a curve, planting cotton two years in a row.

Ah, well, cotton is always planted in a row.

But the field -- it slopes down to the pond, to the cypress, the willows and gum, and we're glad to have the music, when frogs sing, come the warm evenings. In the spring, when we can sit on the porch and leave windows open to the night, we listen.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Vignette, prose poem, whatever you wish to call it.


The pastor at the church I attended as a teen once made a point I've always remembered: religion is theater.

It was in the course of a discussion on the layout of our new more-or-less circular church structure when he said it, but I could see its further validity. Going to church is entertainment. It's a play that attempts to slip in its lessons along with the music and the rest of the experience.

Recognizing this fact, as much as anything else, has kept me from dismissing organized religion. What another might call hypocrisy, I see as art.

And art, of course, can be a 'religious experience.' So why separate them?

Some have tried to strip church-going of all this. It's the quintessential Protestant approach, reaching its ultimate expression in a Quaker meeting. Quiet spiritualism certainly has its place but that's not why I attend church.

I want the candles and the stained glass and the high-vaulted ceiling. I want the choir and the pipe organ, the bigger the better for both of them.

Or something else in the same spirit. I loved it when my current church (which is, alas, a windowless dungeon) had a mariachi band in for the Lady of Guadalupe feast day. Their flashy costumes come from the same school of thought as the priest's vestments. I approve of both.

This does not mean I want a performance of 'Cats' next to the altar. But I wouldn't mind one bit if Andrew Lloyd Weber's 'Requiem' were played at my funeral. I'd like to think that my final appearance might be theater too. Even if I'm buried in a simple shroud and return quietly to the earth.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's Just the Weather (caution: somewhat naughty)


When we're bundled up to our necks
be content with my little pecks,
for it's not my intention to vex
but it's much too cold for sex.

Forgive me if I play hooky
or act like a love-making rookie;
I think you're very good looky --
it's just too cold for nooky.

If I seem cool
don't call me a fool --
It's just the weather, Dear!
Though a man dons
his warm long-johns,
he can still hold you near!

If I'm cold as ice
when I should be nice,
It's just the weather, Love!
My fingers and toes
get as cold as the snows --
don't ask me to take off my gloves!

Though I want you, I really do,
keep your assets out of view;
no reason we both should be blue --
it's far too chilly to screw!

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Another music hall-style ditty. I seem to be having a minor fit of creativity.

Panderer, a song lyric


I'm just a pimp, parading
my songs before the Johns,
pandering to their dreams
of no more lonely dawns.
They take one up to her room,
listen to her come-ons,
leave part of themselves on the dresser --
in the morning she'll be gone.

Professional liar,
that's who I am --
running a scam.
I'll make you think
I give a damn --
each emotion
is a sham.

I tart up all my offerings,
make each hard to ignore;
that will pull them back,
they'll crave them as before.
Their sexy lingerie
is a rag and nothing more;
no one looks too closely
when they're with a whore.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Each of us has a bit of self-loathing built in. I decided to dig into mine a bit to create this character. That's who sings my songs -- not me, but the characters I create.

Recognizing the fact that we are essentially actors when we write (or perform) gives us the freedom to distance ourselves from our material, even when it sometimes seems agonizingly personal! It lets us say what we need to say.

Fast Away...

So, another year on this trip from here to there. I've had worse, I've had better. Ha, that's the advantage of having some really bad years -- the mediocre ones look good in comparison!

And I did accomplish stuff. Getting the publishing thing going was more a matter of being forced to let the rest of my life go on hiatus than any actual plan I had. Heck, I had to do something with my time. Besides worry, that is.

I don't know if I ever would have tackled the book projects if I weren't able to do my own illustrating and design. No claims here of being great at it; just competent enough to do the job. I rather like designing the books, really, but I don't necessarily look forward to doing the illustrations. I'm never completely satisfied with them and suspect I could better utilize my time elsewhere.

That's especially true with the children's books. I am not the sort of 'dynamic' artist needed for those pictures. My work tends to be quite the opposite, in fact, and far too stylized. Being pretty much limited to black and white illustrations is probably to my advantage, however.

Color is expensive in the POD model because the whole book is printed in color, even if there is only one color picture in it! (Not counting the covers here.) I chose to keep 'A Mouse is in the House' all B&W and the price still isn't that competitive with similar books from the big publishers.

Anyway, I do hope to keep releasing titles this coming year. One every quarter would probably be enough work for me, as long as I do it all myself. And depending, of course, on what other duties might need my attention. My mom's care will always be the priority.

I'll admit, I did not expect her to still be with me, not to mention in such apparent good health. Eventually, change must and will come but I am by no means in an hurry.

The turning of the year also means it is time to think about planting in the spring. Time to peruse the nursery catalogs. And, of course, to get all the beds weeded out. February is not too early to be transplanting trees here. Some might be coming out in bloom or leaf by the end of that month. Maybe it will not be so dry this year and I can actually get some stuff to grow well.

This year I will turn 62. Less than four months, now, to the birthday. This means I can and almost certainly will collect my early Social Security. It won't be much but it will be a cushion. If I never make any profit off all these little endeavors of mine, so be it. I won't starve and I own my house.

So, the future doesn't look too bad. But being who I am, I'll grumble anyway!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

So Should I, a poem (maybe)


Jesus never killed anyone;
Brother, why would I?
He bore no sword, I'll bear no gun;
Sister, why should I?

John nor James ever cast a stone,
Nor, Brother, should you and I
Paul did and was called to atone;
So, Sister, are you and I.

We've fought our wars to make war cease;
Brother, you and I.
But Jesus blessed the peacemakers,
And, Sister, so do I.

They will be called children of God,
And, Brother, so would I,
Ere one more man's laid 'neath the sod;
Oh, Sister, so should I.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

It might be a poem, it might be a lyric, it might be added to, it might not. But I wrote it down anyway.

Promotion: Personality and Product

Personality and product -- the two sides of selling an artistic work, be it a painting, a book, a musical recording. Both should be promoted.

Of course, the product is paramount. It must be something that people actually want, that will promise some lasting value. Remind them of that. Tell them how it will useful, desirable, how it will change their lives!

But the buyer also wants to connect with the creator. Personality does sell. Or, at least, it attracts the buyers to the product. Would Lady Gaga sell as much without her persona? Although she seems reasonably talented (more than the average pop star, anyway) there are plenty of competent unknowns out there who can't attract an audience.

Let's face it, we -- whether singers, writers, actors, jugglers, whatever -- are in the entertainment business. So be entertaining. Promote yourself!

Remember, self-promotion doesn't necessarily have to be your real 'self.' No one cares who that is, except your mom. And you can probably fool her too.

Never forget, though, that it is ultimately the product that has to have substance. Never forget that it has to promoted equally. Product and personality; that's what sells.

Monday, December 26, 2011

You Sound Just Like...

Everyone who sings in public has eventually had someone walk up after a performance and say 'You sound just like (insert singer's name here)!' Many times, they are projecting one of their own favorite vocalists onto you.

But then, you may actually sound like someone else. Everyone does, after all. Sometimes we consciously copy a style; sometimes it's just our natural voice or accent. I admit to being a fairly good mimic of other singers and may fall into an imitation of them without actually meaning to do so.

I think the first time I got the 'you sound like,' the singer of comparison was Lee Hazlewood. And I can see (or hear) it. Hey, I'd be out there performing 'Summer Wine' if I could get Nancy Sinatra to accompany me.

Ha, back then I would have accompanied Nancy just about anywhere.

Who else has been mentioned? Glenn Yarbrough. Robert Goulet. Or, closer to home, the late Florida folksinger, Don Grooms. I suspect that was more the songs than the singer, as I don't hear that much resemblance.

Someone once even told me I sounded like a male Eli Perras. I guess I do have a tendency to declaim like Eli.

But I'll never have the gestures...nor the flowered hat.

We are who we are and that's who we sound like, ultimately. Yet we have our ideals and those we emulate. Not only in singing but in playing instruments, writing, the way we walk!

I remember reading a piece way back by Sartre (I think. It's been thirty years or so.) that spoke of how the invention of photography changed how people acted in public. Ever since, we have been 'posing' around others. Movies and recordings furthered this, I'm sure.

But we already had books and paintings and, well, other people so I'm sure it's been something we've done all along. As did the apes before us. Imitation is a large part of how we learn and also of how we fit into our social existence. When we imitate, we become that other person in a sense. We are making an attempt to share in his or her status.

Of course, there is also the actual appeal of their style, that something that finds an accord within us, that makes us think 'that's the way to do it!' With any luck, we have more than one such 'aha' moment and develop more than one facet of our own style.

And if we're truly fortunate, we develop a unique way of our own. One that will make someone else out there think 'that's the way to do it.'


Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Song of Christmas (a song lyric)


vs 1:
Sing me a song of Christmas
Sing me a carol of cheer
I'll get into the spirit
I'll have no time for a tear
Sing me a song of Christmas
Let me be happy a while
I'll put aside these worries
And I'll put on a smile

Sing me a song of Christmas
Remind me I belong
Sing of all that's right
In a world that seems wrong
Sing it everywhere
I'll try to sing along
Sing me a song of Christmas
I'll join in that song

vs 2:
Sing me a song of Christmas
and come what morrow may be
I'll try to remember the tune
And carry it with me
Sing of Christmas morning
The end of every fear
Oh, sing me a song of Christmas
Sing me a carol of cheer

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Just under the wire! This rather rough idea for a song lyric came out of me this morning. I guess I have a whole year to polish it up now.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Rain Day, a Poem


Morning speaks of storms.
Not the red sky of warning,
or is that gray?

Ask a sailor.

I hear the distant thunder,
see the dark leading edge
of a front.

That's warning enough.

The dogs, cowed by the rumble,
take refuge in the closet,
the master walk-in.

It's their safe room.

Muffled rooftop drums --
a crescendo comes on
lightning cymbals.

They fade from me

to a tuneless murmur.
Once, I would hear words
on the wind.

Should I have answered?

Misted windows open
on misted skies, awash
in memories

of other rains.

Such days cross the horizon,
days of gray ennui
and misplaced time.

We'll find it tomorrow.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

A theme I may revisit too frequently but then rainy days come frequently too, don't they?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Food and Festivals

Tortillas: I've decided they must be the perfect food. Easy on the tummy, nutritious, simple to fix and tasty. A great choice for vegetarians. I don't know how I missed out on them for so long!

Tasty...tasty to me but I tend to like bland food. Most of the stuff out there is too salty, too sweet, too spicy, too much. Give me a toasted tortilla and I'm fine.

I get -- and, admittedly, eat -- too much of the wrong food at this time of year. People don't know what to send me as a Christmas present so I get food. Candy, cookies -- great for upset tummy, hives, the runs. More than a little of it ends up in the compost. Now that I have dogs around, though, I have to be careful disposing of chocolate.

And meat. Either no one remembers I'm vegetarian or they don't take it seriously. I can at least feed some of this stuff to Mom.

Speaking of Christmas presents, I did intend to send out some autographed copies of my books to family and close friends but 1) decided, for tax/business reasons, not to order any more copies this year and 2) just didn't have the time to package up anything and take it to the post office.

I will stock up some early in the new year for gifts, as well as for possible distribution and direct sales. Who knows, eventually I may be able to get out there and hawk them in person.

And on the subject of 'getting out there,' (one subject just leads to another, doesn't it?) I see that some of the performers at the upcoming 60th Florida Folk Festival (coming in May) have been chosen. I haven't heard from (Mean) Mary yet. Who knows whether I'll have the opportunity to attend this year?

I do know that I will not attend if it means leaving my mother in someone else's care for a day or two. Not because I mistrust any other caregiver but because I will not go off and mingle with large crowds and chance bringing home a cold or worse. It's not worth the risk.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wife, a poem


Life's a love affair,
a girl's sunny smile,
the dalliance of a day,

and Death's the wife who waits
while we have our fling.

Waits behind her shuttered
windows for we who have
philandered with the light,

when Life must surely turn
away to her next lover.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Hey, I can't be Scrooge all the time. And I like designing stuff. So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Yippy for the Yule!

And, of course, Happy Robonukah to all my mechanical friends!

Seeing Stars

Not surprisingly, when I 'reviewed' my own books at Good Reads I gave them five stars. That was just to get the ball rolling and, of course, to let folks know I value my work.

Honestly, though, if they were by some other author they would probably receive three or four stars. I don't think any of my titles are duds but I don't deceive myself that they are masterpieces, either.

My very best work is yet to come. I have improved as a writer of fiction, as a poet. I have greatly improved as a non-fiction author since last I had a print magazine article published. That was so long ago I was still using a typewriter!

There will be more books with my name on them this coming year, at least as illustrator. With any luck, some I've written as well. A sequel to 'The Middle of Nowhere?' Maybe, maybe, but not right away. Another volume of poetry? Quite possible.

There will almost certainly be a book or two for the children. That's where my concentration is at the moment, as artist -- the texts are there already.

And they all will, of course, receive five gold stars from me!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Words and Weather

Finally, I put together the revised versions of 'Pieces of the Moon' and created two PDFs -- one for sale as an ebook, the other a press-ready version for the print edition. I'll be uploading and finalizing them soon, as my connection allows. There's no substantial difference between these and the older versions, just some updating. Btw, the revised version has been available as EPUB for a while now but I didn't want to step on the heels of 'Dreamwinds' by putting these out too soon.

* * *

I've been devoting some time to working on the next 'book' of 'The Song of the Sword.' The novel, when finished, should contain three books, each a separate episode -- novellas, essentially -- in the story. I finished Book 1, probably to be titled 'Sons,' some time back and am working on Book 2, 'Daughters,' now.

I do not outline, exactly, but I do like to have a general idea of where I am going, so I write out a sort of synopsis (or 'argument,' I prefer to call it) noting the things I want to include. It lets me work out the relationships and subplots. There are a fair number of both.

The framework is taking shape. Probably the biggest decision I have yet to make is as to what sort of attempt(s) will be made on the protagonist's life -- so far we've tried to throw him over the castle wall and attacked him with wild dogs.

Fortunately, he survived or I wouldn't be writing the second book.

I've been told that my fiction reads like plays. Probably so, with lots of dialog and a definite division into 'scenes.' Ha, there are even musical numbers. 'The Song of the Sword' really is a song.

* * *

Looks like a warm Christmas weekend coming up. Pretty mild early Winter so far (as I've grumbled before, I do not consider the Solstice the beginning of the season but, rather, the middle). Unfortunately, the high pressure systems that have been keeping the cold air away -- only two freezing mornings so far -- also keep the precipitation levels down.

Will this be a more-or-less permanent result of the warmer climate? Will we always be drier? Do I need to plant yucca and cactus?

addendum, the following morning: So it poured rain all night! Welcome rain!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bah! a Poem for the Season


I've spent most of my life
trying to seem cheerful,
and kept my inner Scrooge
where no one could see.

Now I'm the crusty codger
and the cranky curmudgeon,
the crotchety old crackpot
I'd always longed to be.

I can greet the Christmas season
with a 'bah!' and a 'humbug!'
and nobody expects
any different from me.

I buy no presents these days
nor stamps to put on cards;
I've become a grumbling grouch,
a grinch who steals your tree.

When Santa came to visit
he found no cookies here --
I locked him in the basement
and threw away the key.

No tinsel hanging anywhere,
no holly, no mistletoe;
I finally have created
a zone that's Yultide-free.

Releasing old Ebenezer
was truly a relief,
So now that miserable miser
is out for all to see!

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Doggerel for the season...hey, there's just a little too much jolliness out there at times!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fair Fight, a poem


Some days, I believe life isn't fair.
Others, I suspect that I deserve
all the crap it hands me. Either way,

I'll never be that guy who says 'life isn't
fair, deal with it.' The guy who takes that crap
instead of taking a swing in hopes of landing

a fist to life's smug face. Not that life
will ever notice but I always feel
a hell of a lot better. Even if

the knockout punch is waiting in the next round.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

That Comic Font

Comic Sans -- the font everyone (well, almost everyone) hates and everyone has. Being installed almost universally and being a quite legible font for online applications, it does get used.  But let's face it, Comic is somewhat ugly and may imply a certain tastelessness in its users.

Especially when combined with garish colors!

The one place I might use Comic? As really small text online. It's surprisingly readable as small as 8 point and looks better when reduced in size, as well -- less cartoony and more script-like. Still, I'd probably choose Verdana for pretty much any type that small.

Not that I ever go smaller than 10 pt on my own sites. There is no reason to strain folks' eyes and it doesn't cost anything to have a larger page!

If I needed a Comic-like typeface I would probably opt for Dom Casual. It may not as suitable for on-screen readability but is decidedly better looking as a display font.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011


I don’t exactly dislike snakes. I’ve no problem at all with most of them.

But I have never warmed to the poisonous varieties. There are lots of them in Florida; most of the Northerners who move here probably aren’t aware of how thick the scrub country is with rattlers, how many moccasins are lurking in those canals and ponds. Of course, everyone knows that the occasional poodle becomes an alligator meal. Fewer realize that the coyotes filtering into the north part of the state are responsible for cat disappearances. The retirees in their manicured subdivisions are largely oblivious to the fact that they are living with poisonous reptiles.

I remember my dog, Shortie, carrying on and going out to find a huge rattler curled up inside his house. Dog and snake were not going to coexist so removal via shotgun was necessary. Not too much damage to the dog house! I remember walking into my front yard in South Florida and finding not one but THREE large moccasins. I smelled them before I saw them; their rotten-cucumber reek is quite unmistakable. Unmistakable to me, anyway, I know the odor and have me a pretty good sniffer.

Maybe it’s not the good environmentalist thing to do, but I killed all of them. In their place, in the woods, I have no problem with coexistence. When they come into my yard, it’s another matter.

Incidentally, there is no way I would walk around in the wilds of Florida with exposed legs. Heavy jeans and boots for me; I’ll leave the khaki shorts to wannabee Crocodile Hunters.

I am more than aware that poisonous snakes are every bit as numerous where I live now as they were further south. When living close to the Steinhatchee River (yeah, I know using both 'hatchee' and 'river' is redundant), I did see moccasins from time to time. The picture is my nephew Jeff with a medium-sized cottonmouth he speared there. The pine scrub lands around there were and are prime rattler real estate.

As it no doubt is here in the Panhandle. Though the only one I have seen was a little rattler that decided to glide through my flower bed one morning. Ha, maybe I should wear those boots while gardening too!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Breathe, a poem


The line dividing life and death
is measured by a single breath.

Exhale what is and all that might,
a wisp to fade into the night.

When next we breathe, what unknown air
fills souls now past all mortal care?

That dark divide breaks ev'ry bond;
breathe deeply ere you cross beyond.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

mostly short poems lately, when at all

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Just when did the radical capitalists and libertarians hijack the name 'conservative' anyway? I thought conservatives conserved. I value tradition. I value the earth. Maybe that makes me a true conservative.

I believe we are stewards of what we have, not owners. I believe it is given us so we might use it for the greater good. That is a surer path to happiness than the endless pursuit of personal gratification.

Who can truly own anything, after all? We hold these possessions for a few years before they fall from our hands. Care for them while they are in your brief custody.


No Won's Perfect

Dag-nab it! After all the proof reading I did on 'Dreamwinds,' I just noticed a typo. In most books, that would be expected and no big deal, but it kind of stands out in a small volume of poetry. (Btw, the boo-boo was using "it's" where it should have been "its.") But don't expect a revised edition anytime soon.

I've been looking for places to promote and/or sell the books (and anything else, for that matter) and am considering opening a seller account at Alibris. Not right away, however -- there's no hurry on any of that while I still have so much to do with what I already have. As my connection allows, of course.

I have been able to get in and use GoodReads some. Oddly, the site functions better for me in Internet Explorer than in my usual FireFox, when my connection isn't very good. Which is most of the time. So apparently it's not something that's actually missing in the FireFox browser, as it works fine at times, but some component that isn't making proper contact when the connection is slow.

Speaking of slow connections and display, I've been visiting some sites that use the @fontface protocol to display 'non-standard' typefaces and it is extremely slow to load the correct fonts for me. Sometimes, they never load at all. Not the way to go, I think, if one wants to make sure things display properly.

The only really dependable way to do that is to convert the fonts to graphics. Yeah, that will be slow too but it will at least look right. Like the 'Kelmscott' font I used on that graphic-plus-story 'Cliffs' I posted a few days ago.

* * *

I'm going to pretty much skip Christmas, I suppose. I won't put up a tree as I wouldn't trust Mom near it. And she doesn't really have the ability to keep track of the date or season anymore. It's to the point where she doesn't know me most of the time either.

Life has become pretty much endless frustration. I'd be sure to get depressed if I weren't already. On that subject, after ten years of using the St John's Wort my DO recommended (rather than going to prescription stuff), I thought it was time to cycle off and see how I did. So...four months without and, to be honest, I don't know if it makes any difference to my 'mood' BUT my migraines came back. Yep, after having ten years of freedom from the headaches I'd had as far back as I can remember. Needless to say, I'm back on the Wort and will probably remain so.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

After School

I’ve always liked girls. When the other little boys were out playing their games, I wanted to hang close to the young ladies. There is always a boy or two in every class that wants to play with the girls, but they mostly grow up gay. I didn’t particularly want to play... just to be close to them!

In second grade I had a severe crush on my teacher, Miss Francisco. All I remember of her now was that she had red hair. I would purposely dawdle on my class work so I could be kept after school, and have her all to myself. My regular afternoon date with an older woman! I’m afraid I didn’t get much of my work done then either; mostly I just mooned over that sexy red head.

Then my folks put me in a Catholic school. Nuns! What a let-down.

Monday, December 05, 2011


I'm fooling about some with graphics and thought I'd post this mockup of a page w/illustrations.

All done in Corel Draw. The silhouette is supposed to be a black vulture, btw. I'm just auditioning ideas for the future here. The text, incidentally, is a little story, a prose-poem really, I wrote some time back.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


For three days straight, GoodReads has proven unusable for me. I feel like quitting the site when it's like this -- can't edit anything, can't rate anything.

This is, no doubt, in part the fault of my bad connection, although more and more sites are becoming unfriendly to users like me. We're a pretty small minority anymore so who cares if we can't use them?

So it's also poor functionality and design at their end. MySpace, of course, has been that way for quite some time. I haven't been able to really use it since last year. This is why I try to keep my own site as user-friendly and as quick-loading as I can manage, with a minimum of Flash and graphics.

Oh well, I'll probably stick with them and even add the rest of my titles. When I can. If I can.

Maybe the ebook versions too, or even upload copies to the site. Theoretically, I can sell them from there but since they are already at Lulu and B&N and the iBookstore, there's not much sense in it. I've looked at other spots to sell but they don't seem particularly attractive. And I checked out CDBaby's ebook site, BookBaby, which seems very much a rip-off.

I'm somewhat inclined to look on epub and mobi ebooks as sort of the equivalent of music mp3s. An inferior version of the product, the sort of thing one might give away to attract attention to the other work.

I guess the PDF, done with high-quality images, fonts, etc. could be seen as an analog of a wav. file, then. And the print book, of course, is the CD. Ha, and both seem to be becoming obsolete!

By the way, I should mention that my books would make exceptional Christmas gifts. Still time to order!

Or, if you would prefer something to wear, drop by

Hey, I'm trying to make a living here, y'know? ;)

addendum: I finally was able to get into GR and take care of business and updates this afternoon. Who knows whether it will work the next time I visit?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Scrooge for President

In this season, I can not help but see the similarity of many Republicans to Ebenezer Scrooge. To be a good man of business seems to be their only criterion of worth. The poor...are there no workhouses and prisons?

We do not need smug and mean-spirited self-righteous men of money running this nation (or this world). A country is not a business. It is a community. It exists to serve the needs of its citizens.

I suppose I have become more 'liberal' with age. I've seen that life isn't fair. Some say, 'So be it, I have mine.' But what they have is really of little worth. Share it while you have the time or you'll miss Christmas once again.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Keeping Them Short

With the wintery weather has once again come an abysmally bad internet connection. It's hardly worth getting on line and fighting to get pages to load. Especially first thing in the morning, the time when I've gotten in the habit of checking my mail and so on before I have to get Mom out of bed and fed.

But once upon a time, early morning was when I did most of my writing, creative or otherwise. I may just fall back into that habit -- there's nothing like having a routine to get your work done.

I've been messing about with my short stories lately. I had a fair number in various states of completion, plus some I felt needed rewrites. I'm pretty satisfied with most of the latter now and am making progress on the first group. Not to mention that the act of working on them has brought new story ideas to investigate.

I never thought of myself as a short story writer, really. If I had a small-scale concept, it was liable to end up as a poem or a song. But it's good to explore a different direction. Unless, of course, you get lost.

But then, I guess writing is sort of about finding your way back home again after a voyage of discovery.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


I've been fooling about a bit in Corel Draw lately, with thoughts of going new directions, illustration-wise. I think I'm in a bit of a rut with those pen things I've been turning out the last twenty-plus years. So, a complete break maybe...

This is a very simple silhouette of a faun I created. I'm still pretty much in the learning stage on this sort of thing but the basic concept isn't difficult. Maybe it isn't really suitable as 'illustration' but this sort of thing is certainly a way of creating bits of decoration.

Much more than this can be done, of course. Applying gradients, layering figures, etc. Art Nouveau-ish ornamentations. And all in gray-scale, of course, as color illustration is just too pricey for most books. I do have projects where this stuff might fit well.

On another but sort of related note, I created a FaceBook page for myself as 'author.' That's at: Not a big deal but it doesn't hurt to have it. Even if I do end up neglecting it.

Good Reads (and Writes?)

The GoodReads site remains a somewhat iffy proposition for me with my connection -- sometimes it's usable, sometimes nothing will work. Nonetheless, I've taken control of my published work there and now have an 'author' account. It is important to get out there and network and it would seem one of the better sites to target.

Not that I won't use GoodReads to find and talk about books, like most of the members. I should be easy enough to find, if you're a member there, or go to  for my page. 

I've been spending a lot of time on the publishing and designing side of the job lately, and not doing that much writing. Almost no poetry, but that has always tended to come in clumps. I have been working on my short stories some and may have a collection ready down the line or, at least, be getting more of them out to magazines.

Some are 'by' my alter-ego, Branford Perry. Using a nom de plume gives one a certain freedom to utilize ones own personal experiences in a fictional narrative. No need to stick to the facts -- this happened to ol' Branford, not me!

Speaking of magazines, 'The Arachis Review' (or whatever it ends up named) is still only a thought. Eventually I should be able to get it up and running and, perhaps, carry on where I left off with 'Peripheral Vision Magazine.' Not any time soon, though.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hiding From the Holidays

I dislike holidays. They disrupt my routine.

And I love to have a routine. When things change to upset that routine, I get upset.

And I'll probably remain upset until I can establish a new routine. That, I'm good at. I've always been able to work out efficient ways to do things.

So I can be a bit rigid. It's my nature and unlikely to change. I like stuff to be clear-cut. That's why I've worked out answers to philosophical questions here on this blog from time to time. They might not be the right answers but they help me frame out a structure in my mind, help me figure out just what I'm trying to figure out!

The psychologist I saw years ago told me I'm probably mildly autistic. Considering that I hardly spoke until I was four, there's possibly some merit to his assessment. Not Aperger's, by the way; folks with that syndrome are rather different -- often good verbal ability early on but not good motor skills. I was pretty much the opposite of that.

I'm also extremely visual-oriented. I was never good (and still am not) at following what I hear. I never really understood language -- or music -- until I learned to read it.

Seeing the words or notes makes them into things. Things can be put into order, made to do what one wants of them.

It gives me control over them. Being in control is what it's about, why I like my routine, why I like to have my answers. Why I try to stay a step ahead of the creeping chaos that follows all of us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On Changing Human Nature

There are few greater wastes of time
than complaining of human nature;
folks grumble at the dinner table,
hold debates in the legislature!

They fill books with their thoughts on man,
the good and the bad, the hopes, the fears,
but I suspect the only solution
will come from genetic engineers.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Of course, I'm already perfect and don't need no stinkin' changes.


"... a book, once it is printed and published, becomes individual. It is by its publication as decisively severed from its author as in parturition a child is cut off from its parent. The book 'means' thereafter, perforce, — both grammatically and actually, — whatever meaning this or that reader gets out of it." ~ James Branch Cabell*

I'm somewhat inclined to agree, although that won't keep generations of literature students trying to figure out authors' motives and writing convoluted theses on the subject.

Such as my friend Amy, whom I dated a while in the early 00s while she was working on her Doctoral thesis. I have a draft copy of it here still: 'From Development to Deconstruction: The Contemporary Female Kunstlerroman.' With which I would probably disagree if I understood any of it. :)

I haven't seen nor really even been in touch with Amy in some time. Not since moving to Peanut Road -- when I was in Steinhatchee, day trips to the Tampa area were possible. So life goes. I may eventually contact her, as we wrote a song together years ago and I've always intended to record it. I would need to tie up a few minor legalities first.

At any rate, I suspect that she will turn up as a source of material in future fiction. So I won't go into her personality or life story here! Since becoming Doctor Amy, she has moved on to other places, other things. That was inevitable and I have wished her nothing but success and happiness.

Well, happiness is a relative matter, as we both had long histories of depression and anxiety. Though we are different in many ways, we could vent to each other about our disappointments and problems.

So be it. Things will remain the same until they change. That's all we can ever say for sure.

* Cabell is a favorite author. Light and breezy fantasy on the surface but whole loads of depth in the, uh, depths.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Print, Prayers, Politicos

My print copy of 'Dreamwinds' looks pretty decent. I can see that 68 pages is getting close to the limit for a stapled chapbook. I do not think I would want to make it any thicker, although Lulu will go up to 88 pages. At 48 pages, 'Pieces of the Moon' works fine in the saddle-stitch format.

So if I create more chapbooks, I'll limit myself to perhaps no more than 60. Or put them out with a perfect-bound spine. Would they still be chapbooks then?

The mostly-black cover, although attractive, does show any scuffs. That's something I'll need to keep an eye on for any copies I sell directly. Maybe I should slip each copy into a plastic bag for protection.

But until I can travel again, that's moot. Someday I'll be out doing readings and such. I do pretty good readings, if I do say so myself. Ha, I should get busy on recording a few.

The pen and ink interior illustrations are serviceable. I didn't do anything very ambitious or very original. The next project may require a little more of me! Btw, 'pen and ink' usually means using a technical pen, the sort a draftsman might employ. Or did before everyone started using CAD.

* * *

Speaking of the next project, it probably will not be the Song of the Sun book I mentioned a while back but something similar -- an illustrated version of The Prayer of St Francis (which, as you may know, has absolutely nothing to with Francis of Assisi). I did a translation from the French for myself a few years back and I think I will try to work up some art to go with it. Perhaps an art nouveau look, as it dates from around that period.

I'll do other similar projects if it works out. I'm thinking that I might give away the ebook versions of the public domain stuff, at least the religious books -- it's a bit of advertising -- and charge minimally for the print editions. Maybe just sell them at cost.

* * *

On a completely different note, I don't pay a whole lot of attention to the Republican debates and candidates at this point. It does look like they are well on their way to nominating Barry Goldwater again.

That is in terms of electability, not integrity! Half the field, or better, seem pretty flawed human beings. Ron Paul may be an okay and honorable guy but he's trying to bring back a past that can not work in today's world.

In honesty, there is only one man there for whom I could see voting and that is Jon Huntsman. Yeah, the most moderate candidate in the field. Of course, he doesn't stand a chance in today's atmosphere but maybe we should watch for him four years down the road. He's certainly likeable enough and he seems to understand how things work.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Launch

It's time to officially announce the release the latest book from Arachis Press! (I was waiting until I had a print copy in hand.) That would be 'Dreamwinds,' a new chapbook of poetry by yours truly, with the typical pen & ink illustrations. 68 pages, saddle-stitch bound, available in print, PDf and epub formats. And quite reasonably priced, of course.

The print version at Lulu:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Planting and Weeding

Stormy weather is moving in and my internet connection is going out. Typical. With some rain arriving, I've been out transplanting a few things. Mostly privet.

I know privet is a 'noxious weed' in this area, growing everywhere and crowding out the native plants. But if it's coming up in my yard anyway, I might as well move it where it will do me some good.

I'm moving only my more-or-less evergreen plants right now, the privet, the nandinas. I have loads of nandina berries coming for the first time here. They need some cold weather to sprout so I'll be gathering them in about a month and leaving them in the carport. I should have a whole lot of new little nandinas growing by next summer.

They, and the privet, do thrive with little care so I'll keep planting them. Along toward February, I'll get busy on all those seedling peaches and the mulberries The wild cherries, too, which also come up volunteer everywhere.

I think I will also transplant my figs which suffered a lot in this past summer's heat and drought. Actually, the grafted parts may have died off and what I have now might be only the root stock. So I'm going to put them in a bit shadier spot and maybe get some more!

* * *

I've been going through my modestly-sizable collection of fonts and weeding out or uninstalling a few that are unneeded, unsatisfactory, or redundant.

Some are copies, inferior or not, of other typefaces. They may or may not be legal -- there is no law against copying someones else's font, even if it is an exact clone. BUT if one utilizes the code from a digital typeface design, that is theft. We who use these may be in the dark as to which are which.

In an earlier day, foundries copied each others ideas on a regular basis. They might not have been exactly the same but they were obviously intended as competition. This still involved designing the font on the drawing board and casting the type. Now, the casting part is unnecessary and the drawing board has given way to the computer, at least in part.

I am a bit hesitant about using 'free' fonts, in general. Not the ones that came bundled with Windows or whatever. Those are generally okay -- there's never a problem with Arial or Times New Roman!

I'm talking the ones that some hobbyist created and is giving away. They may be fine or they may not display properly in some applications. There's no problem, of course, in using them as display fonts and converting them to graphics. Embedding them in a press-ready PDF may be an whole other question.

Anything from a 'big name' foundry is fine, of course -- Bit Stream, URW, Monotype, etc. Whether the copy you might have is legal to use is sometimes anyone's guess! That, however, is not a problem unless you are using them commercially, in books, on an often-visited website, in print ads and so on.

Or are giving them away!

There are some safe collections out there that can be recommended. The URW set of fonts that comes bundled in Ghost Script is excellent and free and can be downloaded separately. Google and you'll find them. I could live with just that collection of typefaces, aside from the need for an occasional odd display font.

The Bitstream Vera set is also good and free and trust-worthy. There is an open development of this group of fonts as the Deja Vu typefaces, but some (including me) have had the odd problem with them.

By the way, if you have Adobe Reader installed there may well be some nice Adobe fonts hidden away in the program folder on your hard drive, in particular Minion and Myriad. If you feel like taking the time, search them out and install them as part of your regular font selection.

* * *

I eat a lot of complex carbohydrates and a lot of fiber. I've had friends who swore by the low-carb diet but it never worked well for me. The fact that I do (or did) mostly anaerobic exercise probably plays a role in this. Walking or running burns fat. Weightlifting burns carbs. In general.

Fat always made me fat. Well, that and beer! I've concluded that alcohol does depress my metabolism more than I would like so I've had very little in the past year or so. The fact that Graceville is a 'dry' town probably has more to do with that, really.

It truly does depend on ones body and ones lifestyle. Still, I have my misgivings about low carbs as a steady thing. I would be fearful of clogging both my arteries and my bowels.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Buttons and Bands

I have this modestly sizable collection of web graphics I've been collecting over the years. Some have become sort of obsolete as screens kept getting wider! But in all, they're still usable.

Except that I've been fooling around in Corel Draw and finding I can make my own sooooo easily. Well, some of them anyway. Boxes and buttons and so on are pretty simple. And I can get exactly what I want, not just something that's 'close enough.'

It is also worth mentioning that one can design and create ones own True Type fonts in Draw. That's something I might fool around with more some day.

* * *

We have yet another musician in our extended family. That is beside, of course 'Mean Mary' James and your rather less talented (or at least a lot less well known!) author of this blog. That would be my grand-nephew, Josh Price.

Josh is the son of Mary's older sister, April. He grew up out in the LA area and is a member (guitarist) of the band Via Verde. They, I guess, would be characterized as Christian Rock. Not totally my cup of darjeeling, musically (on first listen, I felt a bit of a U2 vibe to them), but they seem talented enough.

Anyway, they are on FaceBook (like everyone else) at

BTW, there are folks on the other side of my family (i.e. my Brooke cousins) who are also involved in the music biz. To be honest, I haven't really looked into them as they are in New York and seem to be urban music oriented. I should check them out when I have lots of spare time...yeah.

Actually, it's difficult for me to listen to music at all with my current internet situation. Forget streaming! I can devote an hour or so to downloading a song occasionally, assuming the download doesn't break off somewhere in the middle. Or, more typically, when it's almost finished.

* * *

I mentioned a post or two back the idea of working with public domain material. Well, I've chosen a project (at least tentatively) and that is to illustrate Francis of Assisi's 'Canticle of the Sun' (or whatever variant on that title you happen to prefer).

The first thing to decide, I suppose, is whether it will aimed at a young or adult audience! Or maybe it doesn't matter; anyway, I'll be thinking and sketching. I do not intend to rush it; it may not even be finished in the course of the next year. But it will be, eventually.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Number Four

My fourth book at Arachis Press, 'Dreamwinds,' is now published, though it won't be officially announced until I have a print copy in my hands. That should be in a week or so, most likely.

It is a 68 page chapbook of my more 'fantastic' poems (mostly), in a saddle stitch format. My feeling was that the staples were preferable for a book this size and it will let me pass on some savings to the buyers.

There will be buyers, right?

After uploading my files, I realized I had failed to make a note in the book of my font usage, something I normally like to mention. For anyone who is interested, the typeface used for all interior text is Venetian301 Dm BT in a variety of sizes. It seemed suitable for the look of the book, being a somewhat modern (from the 1920s) take on a Rennaisance design. The cover uses Dominican, an 'antique' font -- antique referring to its appearance, not its actual age!

The next project is the revised edition of my first poetry chapbook, 'Pieces of the Moon.' I have already had the EPUB revised version on sale for a few days; the PDF and print editions will be up when I get to it. Before the end of the year, I'm sure.

I probably never would have gotten started on this -- or at least jumped in so thoroughly -- were it not that my current situation makes other artistic endeavours difficult-to-impossible to pursue. So I finally gave up any immediate plans for recording or such and decided to give my full attention to writing and publishing.

This is sort of what I do anyway: get totally involved in one thing to the exclusion of all else!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Books New and Old, and Getting Cold

I uploaded all three versions of 'Dreamwinds' today and the ebook versions -- EPUB and PDF -- are ready for purchase. I need to finish up the cover for the print edition and then it, too, should be available.

However, I won't announce it as such until I have a copy in my hands and make sure it's correct! The cover art is ready, it simply needs to be positioned properly on a template and a bar code added for the ISBN. I'll have that done pretty quickly.

* * *

We're due for our first freeze of the season tonight and it looks like a serious one. Not one of those little just-down-to-32-or-so events, but well into the twenties. Good thing I finally got around to clearing a space in the carport for the truck.

Not to mention putting in a pet door for Tucky and Molly. Fortunately, the weather is projected to warm right back up and be in the 80s by midweek.

* * *

I've been considering illustrating and publishing an occasional title from the public domain. This is something I've mentioned before, in particularly concerning the work of Lord Dunsany.

But it is true that Dunsany's work is all in copyright in most of the world. The exception would be anything published before 1923 which, in the United States, is considered to be in the public domain.

So, even if I can legally put out an edition of, say, 'The Gods of Pegana,' I could only sell it here in the USA. Moreover, I would have some ethical concerns if the copyright is still protected in much of the world.

Therefore, I should consider authors from further back -- there are certainly plenty available!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dreamwinds Update

Chances are I'll get the formatted version of 'Dreamwinds' uploaded to the printer this weekend. Maybe not the cover, but that should be ready very soon, as well. The book should be on sale by Thanksgiving. As before, I will have print, PDF and EPUB versions available. And, as before, I definitely recommend the PDF over the EPUB, as it is an illustrated book of poetry.

Whether the EPUB edition will go to Barnes and Noble and so on is a bit uncertain at the moment. I'm still waiting to see if my EPUB editions of 'The Middle of Nowhere,' 'Pieces of the Moon,' and 'A Tale of Two Turkeys' meet with the approval of the big online sellers. If they are accepted to show up at B & N and at the ibookstore, I'll keep submitting ebooks to them, using Lulu as my distributer.

The distribution is free, for now. If that changes, or if my efforts are turned down for some reason, I might not continue nor bother to allot ISBNs to the EPUB editions. I would, however, continue to put out EPUB versions for sale through my own store and website.

addendum: Pieces of the Moon, The Middle of Nowhere and the free short story, A Tale of Two Turkeys, are available at the iBookstore so it looks like the EPUB thing is a go, at least for now.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Pushcart Prize

I've been nominated for a Pushcart award. Not a big deal, really, a nomination but it's nice anyway. Actually winning an award? Pretty unlikely but one never knows.

The nomination was for my poem 'Jewels' in the online Scarlet Literary Magazine (Vol.1, Issue 3, 'Odes to the Moon').

The Pushcart Prize has been around quite some time, a legitimate and reasonably prestigious award. It is for work from the small presses and literary magazines.

Well, as they say, it's an honor just to be nominated. :)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


It's just stuff. No one will
care about it when I'm gone.
Into the trash, to second-hand
stores, to boxes in the attic.

It's just stuff. Into a hole
when I'm gone, forgotten
in an hour or two. Just stuff,
after all, I'm just stuff.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Stuff and nonsense, undoubtedly.

I joined GoodReads the other day, in part to help promote my own books, in part because I like to read. Unfortunately, it proved to be yet another site that is very difficult to use with my slow connection. There are far too many of those anymore.

Someday, I suppose, there will a high-speed option for me, here in the boonies (other than too-expensive satellite). In the mean time, I do get frustrated!

Monday, November 07, 2011

More Turkey

For those who might prefer not to read our free short story, 'A Tale of Two Turkeys,' as an EPUB (see Free Turkey), it can also be seen online at our Arachis Press Blog. We have added a 'Sampler' page where we will occasionally post writing samples or stories; that's at:

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Future of the E-Book

The e-book and the various readers intended for its viewing has made some noteworthy strides in the last few years. It's still not anywhere from ideal, of course, but getting better.

I suspect that the dedicated reader's time has already come and gone. More and more, the line between them and smart phones and tablet computers is becoming less clear. If the devices on which we read our e-books become increasingly capable, so should the e-books themselves.

The artistic element of the book has largely been set aside, but that will change. More interesting fonts, designs, illustrations -- all these are aspects that should come in the future. There will be an increasingly multi-media feel to the e-book, as well.

Right now, epub or mobi or other similar e-book formats provide easy readability and relatively small files, but we do give up many things we expected from printed books. The venerable PDF is truly better in this respect but the files are larger and the pages don't always display that well on small e-reader screens. It would remain my choice for reading poetry or anything that calls for a static layout.

And, of course, for reading on a computer. I'll admit I do not own a dedicated e-reader nor, for that matter, the smart phone or tablet PC. I'm sitting in front of a big screen when I read an ebook. That does make a difference!

Some of the things to expect in the future? I'm sure that readers will also be talkers. The e-book will also be an audio book if we prefer to listen. There will be embedded videos, interviews with the author and such. Plenty of linking to just about anything. Full integration with computers and all their power.

Reading will become very much a Star Trek experience. We'll be like Geordie talking to the computer. But probably no holograms!


A little mention that I started up another Blogger blog, one for publishing news that I have named The Arachis Press. The addy for now is but I may link it to an insolentlad address like I have here at the Lucky Lad.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Free Turkey

I've made a short story of mine available as a free ebook download, epub-format, at my Arachis Press spotlight at Lulu. Here's the link:

This little piece is titled 'A Tale of Two Turkeys' and is essentially a slightly reworked chapter from 'The Middle of Nowhere,' my Young Adult Novel (also, of course, available at a modest price). Download, read, pass it along if you wish. My Thanksgiving present to y'all (and a bit of publicity).

Thursday, November 03, 2011

To Bed

We'll be switching back from Daylight Saving Time this weekend. I've expressed my disdain for the whole concept before so I won't go into that again. It doesn't impact me much anyway, as I rise with the sun and go to bed when I'm sleepy.

I'm putting some of my projects to bed as well. I have an EPUB-source version of my YA novel, 'The Middle of Nowhere,' worked up and will get it converted and should have it for sale at Lulu shortly. Elsewhere (ibooks, B&N) later, if it meets their formatting requirements. I had to rework the 'Pieces of the Moon' EPUB a teensy and resubmit it, as it had a problem. It does remain available at my showcase store at Lulu, however.

I have also finished the very last of twelve illustrations for 'Dreamwinds' (not counting the covers) and should have that book formatted and ready to go soon. Earlier than I was projecting -- it might be ready for your Christmas shopping after all!

Racing and Reality

Okay, I’m not a true redneck... I hate Nascar. Always have. It’s not that I dislike racing; at one time I was quite the fan of the sports car circuit, formula one, all of that. Nascar has always had a certain meaningless quality about it. It was created purely as entertainment and has no true relationship to the real automotive world. Sort of the racing equivalent of pro wrestling.

Of which I was a fan, but that’s something to write about some other day.

I’m not suggesting Nascar is fake; obviously it isn’t. However, its rules serve to make exciting racing, not prove anything about automotive design. I’d much rather see “real” cars going around a track. In other words, I’m a bit of a sports car snob. Or was, at one time. These days, cars don’t mean that much to me; my truck gets me where I want to go. It’s just a tool, a piece of metal.

Though if someone was willing to buy me a new Mustang, I might change my mind.

another pre-Lucky Lad blog, repurposed for posting here

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkins and Peanuts

Today is Halloween. It is also marks the anniversary of my move to Peanut Road. Five years I've been here and am likely to stay, come tricks or treats.

This day also marks my father's death, exactly one year before we moved. That event, after five years as his caregiver, is what started me on the quest to find a new home. I'd spent far too much time in Steinhatchee.

So what have I accomplished here? Not as much as I had envisioned; life kind of rolled up my blueprints and whacked me about the head with them. But I'm doing other things and that's good too.

Here I am, starting another year on Peanut Road. Things will happen, life will go one, etc. Maybe I'll do something or maybe I'll do something else.

Maybe it will even rain occasionally this next year.

* * *

Tucky, being a smart doggy, picked up on the pet door idea right away and is in and out quite a bit. My home-made cloth flaps are not holding up well to the traffic, not to mention letting in more cool air than I would prefer. I've ordered a manufactured door and will install that when it arrives.

The cat has not used the door since the first day I cut the hole. Why, I don't know, as she always liked getting inside whenever she could!

* * *

Work progresses on getting 'Dreamwinds' ready to publish. I've designed the covers (roughly mocked up at this point, finished versions later) and am progressing on the interior art. That entails one full page drawing, probably to be used as a frontispiece, and somewhere around eight to twelve half-page illustrations.

Also to the point where I'm auditioning fonts. The EPUB version will get boring Times New Roman, probably, or maybe Garamond. There's no point in worrying since the readers can change it to whatever they want. The print and PDF versions are another matter. I want something with a hint of the antique for this book. The Dominican font I'm using on the cover is great but not really suited for the text, even for poetry.

I fooled around some with a Kindle version of 'Pieces of the Moon' and was not satisfied with the way it looked nor the whole Amazon store idea. So I deleted the project there and will most likely not pursue the Kindle idea further.

EPUB and PDF are enough. There is some adult language in 'Pieces' so it's always possible that it could be rejected by some retailers of ebooks. This will not be a problem with 'Dreamwinds.'

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pieces for EPUB

I got around to putting out my first EPUB ebook, a revised version of my poetry chapbook, Pieces of the Moon. It came out okay and can be found (and purchased) at: 

Right now, it's only in my spotlight at Lulu but it should eventually make its way to Barnes & Noble and the Apple ibook store and maybe some other places. Assuming they don't find something they dislike about it. Whatever. I did it mostly as an exercise before tackling something larger like a novel!

I first tried converting the title myself, in Calibre, and it looked fine in a couple different readers but Lulu wouldn't accept, citing various errors. So I uploaded my Open Office Writer file to their online converter and it worked well enough. I'm satisfied with the product.

I will, soon, be putting up revised print and PDF versions of the book too. No real content change, just updated information and such. A book of poetry is bound to look better in PDF format so if you have to have a digital version, I recommend that.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Back in the Saddle-stitch

I have chosen and ordered the 49 poems that will go into 'Dreamwinds.' Also written are fore- and afterwords. More illustrations need to be finished, cover designed, and size finalized -- this latter can come fairly late in the formatting stage, actually. The book should end up at a length where I could choose to go with saddle-stitched rather than perfect bound.

That will lower the cost and I wouldn't mind being able to offer 'Dreamwinds' at a lower price. 'Pieces of the Moon,' a slightly shorter poetry book, is stapled so maybe I'll stick with that for my chapbooks.

It does, in fact, produce a more durable book as there is no glue that might fail and let pages fall out -- the bane of inexpensive binding. The main disadvantage is no spine for the title. However, that would be rather cramped on a thin book anyway.

Some may perceive it as less professional with the saddle-stitched assembly. Book stores might not want to handle a product without a title on the spine, as well. I don't really expect to get 'Dreamwinds' into stores so that doesn't worry me much. But I will allot it an ISBN, as I will the revised edition of 'Pieces' I intend to release soon.

Release date? Probably at the start of the new year, maybe a little sooner. That really depends on how quickly I can finish the pictures -- the actual formatting and release should be fairly quick and easy once I'm done illustrating.

Probably not in time for Christmas shopping, though. Yes, I know there are folks out there clamoring for my book this holiday season. I guess they'll just have to be satisfied with one of my other titles from the Arachis Press. ;)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My first word, I am told, was 'no,'
and apparently it served

me well enough I didn't bother
with many others until I was

around four. It's still my favorite.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

The return of the five line poem!


On to other projects lately, not that the last ones don't need continued attention. Right now I'm making an effort to update the website -- pretty much redo a good portion of it, actually. I hadn't done any work on it since August, what with being kept busy elsewhere and not having a very good internet   connection.

Also, because the web site software I use does not work on the newer computer. Not because it's Windows 7 but because of the 64 bit bit. I do most of my graphics work as well as getting on line with it, so it would have been nice if I could also update the site from it. Oh well, I'm working with the older PC and thinking about alternatives down the line.

My other project right now is getting the next book together, the often-promised poetry title. I'm putting it into shape and working on the illustrations. The name will be 'Dreamwinds' and it will focus on the more Gothicky and Romantic stuff. It should be a somewhat thicker book than 'Pieces of the Moon.'

So, here's a preview of one of the pictures I've finished (in somewhat lo-rez form). It's titled 'Storm-lost' and was done in my typical pen and ink technique of little dots and squigglies.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Climb

The mountain was a morning's climb,
now I stand at the peak;
my way winds down from here into
the valley each must seek

for rest when our ascent is done
and weary, we return
to lay our head, to close our eyes,
to no longer yearn.

I might touch the stars from here,
before I must descend,
but I know they will stand their guard
as I sleep and mend.

A mountain is a morning's climb,
then comes long afternoon
and dreams before a warming hearth
and life's fading tune.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

This one perhaps owes a bit to my old favorites Hardy and Housman. Not that it's in the league of either.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why Publish?

Reasons I started my own publishing company:

1) I have creative control over my own product and the abilities to make use of it. Input from others is welcome and useful but I ultimately decide.

2) This also leads to saved time, as I can see the project right through with minimal dependance on or interference from others.There is no waiting on other people's decisions.

3) Financial questions become much less important as there is a smaller investment both at the start and over time. My own time and effort is most of what goes into these projects.

If you have the desire to do the same, the necessary artistic talent to design a book, and are willing to put in the work, I would recommend taking control of your own publishing. Some would prefer not to take on these responsibilities themselves. That is quite understandable.

Would I be willing to take on and publish work by others? Possibly. Probably, even, in time. I'm still finding my legs at the moment but if an interesting project were presented to me, who knows?

* * *

I hit 6000 views at the Lucky Lad last night. That's not a lot by some folks' standards but not bad for me. Especially considering I had very little readership not long ago. I suppose it's because I update a lot these days. Even if it is no more than my trivial thoughts!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Pillow

It couldn't be resisted, I suppose,
even sitting up high where she had
to jump to reach it. I've placed pillows
there before, on the brick plinths

supporting the weathered columns.
One day I'll have to replace those
or the porch roof will be coming down
on me. It's a good place to set things

though, to dry or to air. The pillows do get
wet; it's part of my daily routine, the damp
bedding and clothes, the rinsing and refreshing.
What is that to a playful dog? I'd put it high

but she can jump high. It's part of the game,
reach what one can, tear it apart, never mind
the rebukes that will follow. She knows
I'll love her again soon. I always do.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Bad girl! Yes, I mean YOU!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I suspect that there are as many ex-hippies in the Tea Party as there are occupying Wall Street. Maybe more, actually.

Many hippies were of the drop-out, leave-us-alone, anti-establishment libertarian sort, and not really leftist (in the normal sense) at all. And many of the young leftist activists of the 60s were not at all hippie-like.

Of course, by the end of the decade pretty much all of us looked like hippies. That was just the fashion of the times. I liked the clothes but wasn't about to go join a commune in Montana.

Nor smoke pot (I always much preferred a good claro panatella) for that matter. Some of us weren't into dropping out and complaining about 'the man.' I think that's what the Tea Partisans are still doing.

Maybe it's time they grew up too.

SB 2001

Bring Me a Movie

A couple nights ago I watched the Sam Peckinpah movie, 'Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.' Peckinpah considered it perhaps his best effort, or at least the one closest to his vision. The public and the critics did not agree.

It was criticized for being violent, which it was, and for being melodramatic, which it also was. Some loved it, some hated it, and few fell in between. Few showed (or stayed) in the theaters to watch it, as well.

At any rate, it was a film that inspired emotions and still does. Undoubtedly, it was a bit ahead of its time. And undoubtedly it, and Peckinpah's work in general, influenced a great many makers of movies since.

The best thing about it, almost everyone agrees, is the acting, especially that of Warren Oates. Oates was such a marvelous actor and he did get a few great roles in his career. Not as many as he deserved but he did some fine work in those he took and this may have been the best. He seems a very real person here, dealing with an increasingly unreal and out of control world. People who don't fit in their world is a recurrent theme in Peckinpah's movies, from 'Ride the High Country' on down to 'Junior Bonner.'

The cinematography is pretty darn good too, and well suited to telling the story. Nothing is pretty about the camera shots yet there is a beauty to them as they catch the characters and the Mexican settings. It's the beauty we can see ourselves, from our windows, on our streets, brought into focus.

Like the critics, I perhaps both love and hate this movie. It does have the touch of an over-indulgent director -- Sam Peckinpah was definitely playing auteur. But considering how much the lead character, portrayed by Oates, is a reflection of Peckinpah himself, that works in its way.

'Head' is, essentially, a quest story, but one with a few twists and an ending that, if not exactly happy, still manages to satisfy. The stylized storytelling works -- I suspect that Quentin Tarantino and the brothers Cohen, among others, may have watched this movie a time or two.

If I were the sort to rate things (and maybe I am) I'd probably give it a thumbs-up, a four-out-of-five, and a do-see recommendation. And I'd suggest a posthumous Oscar for Warren Oates.

SB 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Codes

I feel that ISBNs and UPCs are another way to force us into the world corporate economy. We don't actually need them and it's way expensive to register -- and remain registered -- with the issuing body for the UPC (not so much for the ISBN). This obviously favors the larger companies over small businesses. I would label it an unfair business practice.

Although I understand economies of scale, I do not see how this applies to electronically generated numbers. One number should not be more expensive by itself than in a group of a hundred or a thousand. I could understand a set-up fee for ones account but not tiered pricing of the numbers themselves. I can only assume that it is intended as a block for the small business owners.

But the UPC may be obsolete anyway. I'm not talking the bar code part -- anyone can generate bar codes for their own use, though they are becoming an old piece of technology and computers are increasingly capable of recognizing things without them.

I'm referring, in part, to the registration with an official body and being listed in their data base and the rest. With everything so interconnected, it would be simple enough to set up an ID-issuing system and website. Maybe we need an alternative to the 'official' UPC monopoly, something in the same spirit as the Creative Commons effort.

But again, the growing power of computers and their increasing capability to recognize objects without any reference numbers or IDs may make that unnecessary. Why do we need an official ISBN to be listed as a 'book in print?' Books do have titles, after all, and authors and publishers. Giving everything a number is kind of a 20th Century hold-over in this age of tagging and image-recognition.

An aside -- as an 'indie publisher' I do have a block of ISBNs, probably enough to last a decade or two! However, I would never invest in UPC codes for other products -- I simply couldn't afford them. Incidentally, having a UPC and a bar code has never seemed to keep sellers from sending the wrong item anyway. :)

It should also be noted that the ubiquitous smart phones and their relatives are capable of reading bar codes and so on, so the cost of UPC scanners and software is not as big a deal for stores as it once was. It was a sizable investment not so long ago. Now, the cost of having an alternative system available on an inexpensive PC would be almost negligible.

I have come across ThingLink ( which attempts to present an open network alternative to the UPC. Sort of. It seems aimed more at product sold online than in physical stores and is considerably more complex than a simple database, being more about tagging stuff. I, honestly, don't know much about that. But I think it is the direction we're headed and I intend to investigate using it for my products.

Okay, enough on that. Now, how about an alternative to debit and credit cards? Oh wait, it's called cash!

I use a credit card for most purchases these days. Online, of course (although I could use PayPal were I so inclined), and also for my weekly grocery run. Right now, it's the best way to go because I have to manage both my own and my mom's finances, i.e. I can use my own card to purchase stuff but pay the bill with our joint account.

When I am once again alone -- it will come eventually -- I will most likely go back to paying cash most places. I'm just six months out now from being able to start collecting my 'early retirement' social security so I will have a little more cash coming in. It makes sense for me to go for it at 62. Were I in a normal wage-receiving job, not so much!

It won't be much money but I don't need much. I own this property outright so housing is taken care of, outside of taxes and maintenance. I eat simply and cheaply. Being vegetarian definitely helps the wallet. To be honest, I've sometimes considered just dropping the outside world entirely once my caregiver duties are finished -- no internet, no car, maybe even no phone. I can walk or bike the three miles to Graceville when necessary. Just vegetate with the vegetables here on Peanut Road.

But it's unlikely. I don't care that much about interacting but I do about acting. I need my stage: all the world, as Shakespeare wrote. And there is always the possibility that I might actually make some money off all this more-or-less creative stuff I do.

Well, I managed a bit of a segue there, from UPC codes to retirement plans (or absence thereof). Codes and the future can both be difficult to figure out but there is always a key, isn't there?

SB 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Mouse, a Cat, a Dog

A short notice to let folks know that the cover art from our children's picture book, 'A Mouse Is In The House,' is now available on tee-shirts and other merchandise at The Insolent Lad Emporium, our Cafe Press Shop.

That's at

We now have five designs up at the new and improved Emporium, two of them new. More to follow -- though it's mighty slow work with my connection.

Also remember to stop by the Insolent Lad Media page at Face Book and take a likin' to us. To be found at
'The Middle of Nowhere', my YA novel, has been available a little while now at the Arachis Press 'spotlight' at Lulu, along with our other two titles. All of the versions are currently sorted out and correct, and available both as print and PDFs. I hope to continue to add titles regularly, perhaps quarterly.

And that one is at

I do have a box of the TMON books on hand here (as well as the poetry chapbook, 'Pieces of the Moon') so I can sell them direct if I ever get more than three miles away from my house again. Or send autographed copies to people who have a hankering to see my handwriting.

 * * *

In other fascinating news, I installed a home-made pet door (i.e. sawed a hole and hung a cloth over it) for Tucky and Molly's use in cold and inclement weather. I'll 'upgrade' it in time but what I have could serve indefinitely. They are allowed free rein in the front two rooms (library/living room and art studio) which will be closed off from the rest of the house in cold weather.

I'd let them into the other rooms -- and may on really cold nights -- but Mom doesn't interact well with a boisterous and fairly sizable dog. And the cat matches the floor so well she's liable to be run over by a wheel chair.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Big Enough

There are two main groupings on the Right. First, those who feel that the less fortunate are lazy, get what they deserve, etc. These are the folks who have, more than any others, given conservatives a bad image -- the Left tends to see the entire Right as having this attitude.

But there are also those who may be committed to aiding others but believe the government should not be involved (or be as limited as possible). There are many good people who feel this way and they do have some valid points. It's never a good idea to give too much power to the government nor to let it co-opt working independent solutions.

I have always felt that there needs to be a balance between the two, the governmental and the private. Neither can nor should do it all in our current society.

We should keep in mind that when Jesus told us to feed and clothe the poor and the hungry he meant US, not the government. He didn't tell the Roman authorities to do it.

Now there is nothing wrong with us working through the government to accomplish this, in part. Moreover, it is certainly necessary if we wish to establish a stable society. Government needs to be involved for its own good -- having people starving on the streets would destabilize any nation.

So the government needs to provide a basic 'safety net' for its citizens. How big that net need be is open to debate.

But the answer, of course, is 'just big enough.' :)

SB 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I have been an aristocrat
of emptiness, my sterile realm
of skewed sarcasm, poisoned perspective.

Better to rule in Hell? Thank you,
no. I'd gladly scrub the floors
of Heaven clean of every stain

trodden in by weary angels.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

this little piece was developed from fragments I'd jotted down way back in 1970


It's all in Maccabees.
We're the Greeks.
They're the jealous guardians
of their God and of their ways.

We have lured their young
to embrace our ways.
Meaning no harm, of course,
but only to raise them

from their ignorance
and stubborn faith.
Let them mingle with us
in the market, at the bath.

Let them leave their narrow
religion and customs.
Apollo and the World Bank
await with open arms.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Friday, October 14, 2011


We are infinite for We
are persons of the infinite God.
Each of us our own messiah,
each a prophet, a burning spark,

we are the One who dwells within
and yet remains the Other. As lovers
are we, joined eternally
in the passion of our Being.

And if we sometimes feel the hollow
darkness, too, within us, know
that shadow serves but as the vessel
of our light. Fill yourself;

love shines brighter than all the stars.

Stephen Brooke ©2003

A piece I came across in one of my older journals, refurbished a bit for posting here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Writing Rules (or Some of Them)

The Middle of Nowhere, even though the original draft goes back to 1999, pretty much reflects my current approach to the writing of fiction. I would hope that my style has become a little more polished in the years since, but the basics haven't changed.

These are not an attempt to teach anyone how to write but here are five rules -- or maybe just ideas -- I've made up for myself, things I try to keep in mind as I work:

1) Have as much exposition as possible accomplished through dialog. If not through dialog, then through action. If not through action, then through internal dialog. Passive description may be, at times, the way to go, but try not to overuse it.

As in a movie, the narrator's voice can pull one away from the feeling of being immersed in another reality. Of course, if a story is told in first-person voice (as is TMON), that voice becomes an active part of the story's reality.

2) Be neither too specific nor too general. Use just enough description to make something real and not so much as to bore the reader with details. Do not load your story down with superfluous imagery in an attempt at 'realism.' The mind will create its own images and, coming from within, they may seem more 'real' than those we attempt to impose.

3) Every action by a character must have a reason. The reason need not be told to the reader, but the writer should know what it is. Know, also, the back-story of the character, who he or she is. Even the most minor character is 'someone.'

4) Have a point of view. You need to know what you are trying to say. No matter how well one writes, it is only words if there is no meaning behind it. The exposition of ones point of view may be subtle; the reader need not even recognize it as such. Indeed, a certain amount of ambiguity can be a good thing, adding interest and depth.

Nor need it be a clearly focused point of view when one begins writing. Authors will often find their message grows more cohesive as they work and new ideas present themselves. Concept arises from content.

5) Which brings us to being flexible. Stories change in the writing. They must grow or they will never reach their potential. Do not be afraid to change things or to follow your characters down whatever road they might lead you. You may well reach a more interesting destination than you originally envisioned.

Should there be more? Probably, but that covers it for me right now. So I'll write now.

* * *

I was finally, after considerable experimentation, able to produce an acceptable epub version (via Calibre) of my poetry chapbook, Pieces of the Moon. It had, of course, been originally formatted in Word Perfect so I had to strip pretty much all the formatting (via converting to plain text) and then reformat it in Open Office Writer.

Writer is quite good for conversion to epub, assuming it is formatted properly. This is because it also converts extremely well into html. Most e-books are, essentially, containers for html. I will do my early drafts from here out in Writer and then format for publication in whatever program is appropriate.

Theoretically, I would be able to convert from epub to the Kindle format without problem, should I decide to publish/sell at Amazon. I'm not sure I want anything to do with the company. I should be happy selling epub at Barnes & Noble and Apple, right?

Anyway, now that I know that I can pull it off, I'll tackle getting The Middle of Nowhere into epub. It's not high on my priorities, however, just something I'll work at when I have the time.

And I'll probably hold off on Pieces of the Moon until I'm ready to launch the new editions, print and PDF, that I have worked up. I don't want to publicize those when I've just released two new books.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tucky's Poem

Someone left a chew-toy for me
right here by the road!
A crunchy flattened armadillo!
Can't I take it home?
I'd play with it, I'd tear it up
into a hundred pieces!
Oh, please, Oh, please, let me have it!
It smells so wonderful!

I'd leave your shoes alone all day,
I wouldn't chew your gloves!
I wouldn't dig holes all over the garden
or gnaw the trees to the ground!
I really am a very good doggy,
but I need stuff to do!
So can't I take home one ripe armadillo,
just one armadillo today?

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Dogs, of course, never rhyme their poems. Cats, on the other hand...

Look, a Book!

I have the printed copy of 'The Middle of Nowhere' in my hands and it looks great! So here's the official announcement:

Stephen Brooke's new Young Adult novel, "The Middle of Nowhere," is now available from Arachis Press. 53,000 words, 240 pages, $12.50 plus shipping for a single copy.

It is the story of fifteen-year-old Martin Groves who is uprooted from a comfortable, narrow life in Atlanta when his parents buy a small motel in a Florida Gulf Coast village. It is a tale of friendship and of floods and of growth.

There is also a dedicated ebook PDF version, for those of you who are allergic to paper. It is priced at a paltry $2.00.

All our books may be found at The Arachis Press

* * *

I've been diligently updating my Cafe Press shop too. It's slow work with my lousy connection (all the worse in this stormy weather). Three designs in the new shop now and more to come, both older products moved from my soon-to-be-deleted 'basic' shops and new merchandise as well.

I'll announce a 'grand re-opening' when I'm done but it's at if you feel like dropping by anytime.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Laugh or cry, curse or pray,
the sun still sets at end of day.

What we do, what we say,
each memory is swept away.

Accept what is, question why,
no answer serves to satisfy.

Curse or pray, laugh or cry,
the sun sinks lower in your sky.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Sunday, October 09, 2011


The first e-book format I ever used was Microsoft's proprietary .lit -- which the company has decided to stop supporting. I liked it and it was a rather good format -- the Kindle and EPUB have really only caught up to it recently. Indeed, I don't know if any of them yet have the clean and clear readability of the MS Reader's rendering. But it never gained the popularity it probably deserved, perhaps because it was so closely tied to MS (and to their Tablet PC offerings).

I am leery of proprietary formats in general, so I'm not a fan of Amazon's Kindle offering (while recognizing it has its strengths). Well, I'm not a fan of Amazon anyway. EPUB and/or PDF is the way to go in my, uh, e-book.

If one is reading a book on ones computer, I think PDF is still an excellent choice, especially if the formatting (including illustrations) is an integral part of the product. The PDF is not always the best for portable readers, however, as it may not fit well on the screen. For a novel with a relatively narrow page layout, the whole 'reflowable text' thing may be less of a concern.

I did update to a dedicated PDF e-book version of "The Middle of Nowhere" to make the file smaller and more e-reader and web-friendly. That's at, of course. In time, there may also be an EPUB copy available but that remains a back burner project for the moment.


When everything matters,
nothing matters
or is it the other
way around?

Everything matters
the same, anyway,
and, every day,
life has the same point

or lack thereof.
It all means what
you will or won't
let it mean,

so be in love
with life one day
and hate it the next.
It matters or doesn't.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Don't ask me what this poem is doesn't matter anyway! :D