adventures in dysthymia

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Splice and Dice

As I leafed through the latest edition of Tape Op (the only paper magazine to which I still subscribe), I noticed, in the back pages, a little review of a 'better' splicing tape. Yes, there are still people out there splicing together pieces of analog recording tape.

I'm not one of them but it sure brings back some memories! I did embrace digital recording to a hard drive early on and never looked back. Tape was fine, in its time, but I've no urge to return to those days.

I spliced a few tapes when younger but I spliced far more film. I was into making 8mm movies at one point, mostly of surfing. Now, of course, anyone with a smart phone or such can make movies. I suppose that's one reason I've never gotten back into it, nor photography in general.

It's been devalued. As has music, in considerable part.

In that same issue was an interview with Brian Eno. An interesting guy, certainly, with interesting things to say. At the same time, he occasionally exemplifies those aspects of Post-modernism against which I'm inclined to rail, e.g. the pursuit of concept. Not always, though.

He discussed his iPhone app, 'Bloom,' which will constantly generate, at random, new music. Okay, that's fine...but hey, I've got wind chimes on my porch that do the same and I don't need some electronic gadget in my pocket.

Just the breeze and a moment to sit and enjoy.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Open Office ~ is free worth it?

I've been using the free Open Office programs for a while now and thought I'd make a few comments. Nothing in depth-- there are better sources if you want to know more of the nuts and bolts of these applications.

There are several components to the Open Office suite, some more useful and usable than others. First, I'll mention the less useful -- to me -- offerings.

Let me say that I have no idea how well their spreadsheet program, Calc, works. I've never used it and don't know if I ever will. Is it an Excel killer? I don't know. Maybe someday I'll have some money to count and find out!

But if you also have no money to count, keep in mind that it and the rest of these applications are free.

My same lack of experience would apply to the Math program. This would appeal to a rather small user base, anyway; most of us aren't going to be working with mathematical formulas on a regular basis (if at all).

Impress is the Power Point analog. As I've never had much use for PP (nor had it installed for several years), I don't know if it's any better or worse. It seems to create perfectly good presentations, so it would seem an alternative. And, like the rest of Open Office, the free thing makes it more desirable.

So, on to the other components: Base is, to me, the best thing in Open Office. It's certainly superior to the free Works database formerly bundled in Windows. Is it as good as some that aren't free? I don't know but, honestly, it does everything I need quite well. It's main problem, as with the rest of this suite, is that it is not always completely user-friendly.

I use Base to keep track of my writing as well as my publishing-- nothing very complicated, admittedly. It can also be used to create mailing lists and such. Whether that is even needed in this day of online management, I do not know. If I ever have any fans to mail, I'll let you know.

Draw copies another program named Draw: Corel Draw. It is not as good but it is an awful lot cheaper! My impression is that it would work quite well enough for layout duties but is not nearly so nice for editing the graphics themselves. It is clumsy in this role.

In that I have and use Corel's offering, I haven't much recent experience trying to work with OO Draw. Incidentally, if you might be looking for an Photoshop-like program to edit your graphics, I would highly recommend the free GIMP application. Neither Draw has that sort of focus.

I could very much see laying out pages in OO Draw if need be. Advertisements, posters, even brochures or small books.

This leaves the main attraction (for most Open Office users), the word processing program Writer. I like Writer. I like it better than MS Word. The biggest drawback, to me, is the somewhat clumsy (but logical, in its way) approach to formatting. That's a negative for me as a writer; in an office situation it might be meaningless.

That is why I prefer -- slightly -- to use Corel Word Perfect for formatted manuscripts. I could easily live and work with Writer. I do appreciate its excellent PDF conversion.

Open Office is a big program. If one is on a slow connection (as I am), it can take a while to download! Unfortunately, one can not choose and pick which apps one wants from the suite. It's a package deal.

And it's a good deal, really -- the best money I never spent!Available at www.openoffice.org .

Monday, September 26, 2011

By my Desk

There are five books I keep within arm’s reach by my desk:

My dictionary– I’ve been using it since I started college, over forty years. It’s a bit warped from having gone through a flood, but still a good useful and thorough reference. It’s the Random House College Edition. Unfortunately, the print in it has gotten smaller as I've grown older!

My thesaurus, of course. Now, that is Webster's Collegiate Thesaurus, which I picked up at a flea market for 25 cents. It is thick and pretty exhaustive.  For years I used a very old, smaller book from a defunct publisher, Revell. It gives me words that a more modern thesaurus might not so I still occasionally pick it up.

Then there are my two foreign language dictionaries, French and Spanish. Spanish is, of course, ‘the loving tongue’ as the old Western song goes. I can carry on in Spanish to some degree but the dictionary is definitely useful. I only know a smattering of French, but I sometimes wish to know a word in that language... and the names of many of the characters in my novel, The Song of the Sword, are based on French words.

Finally, the Bible. A Catholic version, naturally: the New American. It’s pretty decent. The language is good enough and truer to the sources than the King James or the bible I grew up with, the Douai. I read from it occasionally or look up things. For me, it is (like the other four I've mentioned) essentially a reference book.

Should I have another book beside me? Open to suggestions!

Btw, a rhyming dictionary is nice too. Mine is on the computer rather than in a physical book but I might just invest in the paper version on of these days. My other reference books -- atlases, encyclopedias, Butler's Lives of the Saints, etc, -- are over on a shelf.

note: this is a rewritten piece from the blog I had (at a Yahoo Group, of all places) before I started writing here at the Lucky Lad. I may be reposting more such.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

When the Right is Wrong

Those on the Right often rail against the 'socialism' of our government here in the United States. They've been doing it for a hundred years.

And they are wrong. Socialism means ownership by the state (or the 'people' if you will). What we have -- as do most nations in the world -- is a form of corporatism. State-directed capitalist economies.

Our corporatism is a rather 'lite' version and, of course, reasonably democratic. In some nations, the government's role is larger, in others, smaller. But almost everywhere there is a partnership between business and the state.

The welfare state is an integral part of this system. By providing basic security and support to the people, the state undercuts the demands of the socialists. It co-opts them.

This whole system goes back to such 19th Century leaders as Bismark. They came up with the approach, whether consciously or simply in reaction to events, to protect capitalism. The modern capitalist state truly could not survive otherwise; it would become unstable.

The Republicans have been dismantling the New Deal, our version of the corporate state, for the past 45 years or so. Then they blame our current economic woes on the Democrats and their policies. I think not.

They are the ones -- though certainly with Democratic collusion -- who destabilized the system via deregulation. In essence, they sent us back to 1929. The cost of unfettering the economy is its inevitable fall. Boom and bust.

But the Right was reacting, as do we all, to changing social and economic situations. We have a world economy now and all of the old solutions were formulated in answer to old problems. The whole world needs to recognize this, whether they be congressmen in the United States or terrorist leaders in the Third World. Things change.

I choose to support the Green Party over the two majors. The Greens, at least, have a somewhat coherent vision for the world -- even if they do attract Leftist crazies the way the Tea Party does on the Right.

Of course, I am not a crazy (yeah, really) nor even all that Leftist. Inside me dwells an old-fashioned Midwestern Progressive, pro-union, pro-family farm, maybe a little socially conservative. I don't think that guy has a home in either of the major parties these days.

Or maybe not even in our society.

Tomorrow may be different. Tomorrow WILL be different. That is inevitable. All we can do is try to shape that tomorrow, to help it grow in the proper direction. Not toward unbridled libertarian capitalism. Not toward a world economy dominated by international corporations or entrenched banks and trade organizations.

If that is our future, we'd best also have entrenched world labor unions to balance them out, as well as other groups that will be on 'our' side. Religious groups included. We can not trust the government to always act in our interests -- it will most likely continue to see what is good for 'big business' as being good for the country.

That's not necessarily a future I'd want to see but it may be the future we will see.

If I should write here on political matters, I do so largely from an analytical standpoint, an historical standpoint, not from any deep belief in liberalism, conservatism or any other social or political stance. Humanity will, as always, go where economic forces send it, and the state -- for better or worse -- will remain with us in some form.

And I remain, not a pessimist, not an optimist, but a realist.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Going Greene

Mr. Greene, some aspects of your books are certain to offend some Catholics, but you should pay no attention to that. ~ Pope Paul VI to Graham Greene

I'm somewhat a fan of Graham Greene's writing. I like his prose style, for one thing. Clean, serviceable, to the point. Perhaps a little journalistic, at times, but that's better than going too far the other way.

His ideas, however, are where his strengths lie. His characters certainly come off as real people, especially compared to those of some of his contemporaries.

One of my favorite movies is based on a Greene novel. Of course, many of his books have ended up as novels -- they adapt well, often being rather movie-like as written. The movie to which I refer is 'The Fugitive.' That's the one directed by John Ford, with Henry Fonda in the lead role.

It is based on a novel that has appeared under more than one title but is best known as The Power and the Glory. The film is often criticized for changing many of the nuances of the book but simplification was undoubtedly called for. It's a good film on its own merits and has outstanding camera work.

But it is, admittedly, not as good as the novel. Rare is the movie that can claim to outshine its source material (though a few do exist). It is based on the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico during the 20s and early 30s, which Graham Greene witnessed personally.

It was an event which he claimed help strengthen his own faith. Unlike his fellow British Catholic convert, Evelyn Waugh, Greene felt a kinship to the humble, the peasants. Nor was he Waugh's fellow conservative, feeling that conservatism and Catholicism were 'impossible bedfellows.'

Perhaps Graham Greene was not a 'great' novelist but he was an important one, an influential and widely read one. If I were asked to name someone for an aspiring writer of novels to study, he might well be my first choice. He is a model for effectively presenting a point of view, even in his more pulpy suspense pot-boilers.

And without a point of view, is there any point at all to writing?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

California Dreamin'

If I could magically choose any time, any place, to live, it would probably be the mid-50s in California. Modern enough to be comfortable, stable and prosperous economy, no major wars going on. And, most importantly, uncrowded waves at all the major surfing breaks! I could have my pick on one of those new-fangled balsa-and-fibreglass boards.

1955 would not be the best pick for everyone. It was not a particularly good time for any and all minorities. But there was a time there when the California beaches were a paradise for a few. It lasted into the early 60s; then came crowding, war, social unrest, all the usual snakes that might slither into Eden.

I never got to hang at the beach with Gidget -- born too late, on the wrong side of the country. But a part of me has probably been trying to move there since I was a teen. Cocoa Beach in the 60s and early 70s tried to fill the role I'd cast but didn't quite make it. Flagler Beach came a little closer, later on, but my own life didn't cooperate.

Flagler would still be about as good as I could do at this point, in Florida. But I almost certainly will stay here on Peanut Road, quite possibly for the rest of my life. Country life can be good too, even if it's not exactly Malibu.

Panama City beaches are not that far away. Eventually, I will find the time to spend time there. The surf is inconsistent (though better than where I grew up) but the beaches are nice. And often crowded.

So one of these days they may see an old guy drag his board down to the water at the St Andrew's jetty and catch a few. I reckon I'm still capable of that. And who knows -- maybe I will make it to California eventually. Even if Gidget is a little old lady now.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Going to the Middle of Nowhere

I do intend -- or at least hope -- that my Young Adult novel, The Middle of Nowhere, will be available by mid-October. Quite possibly, it will be even sooner as I am at the point where I'm simply trying to get the perfect edit. Here is the back cover blurb:

The art there, by the way, is not mine but clip-art. Nice quality stuff I got from Dover years ago. The actual illustrations in the book are, however, mine.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Pirate I Be

A pirate I be,
a-sailin' on the sea,
and not one man of ye
is even half so free
as me!

A pirate I be,
from Tortuga Key,
and if they catch me
I'll hang from a tree,
so I'll flee!

I sails in search of plunder,
and just in case you wonder,
I'll send yer ship right under!
I have a cannon and fire it
for I be a pirate!

A pirate I be,
and so's me mate, you see.
A pirate wench is she,
a-sittin fancy-free
on me knee!

A pirate I be,
and rum's the drink for me,
the drink of piracy!
I drinks it on the sea
in me tea!

Stephen Brooke ©201

A very quick little lyric I wrote for Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Pondering POD

So, I've looked into other places that do POD CDs and DVDs, now that Cafe Press and Lulu have dropped them, and found a couple possibilities, TrepStar and Kunaki. TrepStar DOES ask for a disc rather than uploaded files so it's probably ideal for me. Kunaki, although it seems better in some other respects, requires uploading my music. Impossible for me at this time.

It appears that both allow me to choose between them taking the orders or me doing it myself, though in all instances I would be selling through my own site. Unlike Lulu or Cafe Press, there are no storefronts at their sites. Also, Kunaki provides a UPC barcode whereas TrepStar requires I provide my own -- if I feel I need one.

I'll probably have lots of time to think about this before I make any choices. Who knows when I'll have new material to offer? But I may try to get my older stuff out, just to see if the process works. Wouldn't really expect to sell any except maybe directly to folks at live shows.

There are none of those in my immediate future. If I was selling physical product myself, I could run off a few on my own or have them manufactured for less at Disc Makers or wherever.

For the advantage of places like these, or Lulu and Cafe Press is not that they can manufacture our products -- that could be done elsewhere and more cheaply -- but that they can also handle the selling and shipping. And, of course, there is the much lower initial investment involved in POD manufacturing.

Lulu is a great choice for the small publisher. Their quality is certainly adequate although I might not use them for a high-end art book. The unit price for manufacturing might be a little more than some but is offset by reduced costs for distribution, book stores and other middle-men. If one is willing to take a fairly small profit on each book, the price to the consumer is competetive.

* * *

Looked into being a affiliate for Lulu, which means signing up via Google AdSense, but I don't think it's a great idea if I'm writing reviews. Conflict of interest and all that. So I'll just put buttons and ads for my own products on my sites and blogs.

For that matter, I will withdraw my Amazon affiliate ads as well. I intend to write more reviews as they DO attract readers.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Spotlight

Well, I went ahead and changed my account name and 'spotlight' shop name at Lulu to Arachis Press. Since I'll only be doing books there from now on, it seemed logical.

Now watch them bring out some great new different product and mess it all up!

Of course, the URL changed again: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/arachispress

* * *

From time to time, I see videos posted on Face Book or wherever of virtuosic playing. Often, the performances are on out-of-the-ordinary instruments such as ukuleles or bodhrans; sometimes, the more typical guitars and basses and banjos and so on.

The first thought is: that's amazing. The second thought is: what's the point? It may indeed be amazing but it's rarely entertaining. An exhibit of skill only keeps ones attention for a brief time.

Unless, of course, the viewer is also someone interested in the craftsmanship of playing. But they're not concerned with the music nor the performance, per se.

It's all well to play well! I've nothing against that. But I'd rather see someone strum the ukulele to accompany an entertaining song than a note-perfect rendition of some tricky and intricate piece. That, to some degree and no matter how well it is done, veers into self-indulgence. It entertains only the person playing it.

Which is okay. But don't expect me to gush over it.

Complexity for its own sake is a dead end. Artist's have walked down that road and into obscurity, from the start. It's usually the death of an artistic style, as well. Look (or listen) to the intricate music of the Late Renaissance, the multi-voiced and quite undecipherable polyphonic madrigals that were being turned out in the 16th Century.

Then take a listen to the simpler yet more interesting and understandable compositions of the early Baroque. Gabrieli, for example. Or Monteverdi, who wrote great music in both eras.

And that's the thing: the music was just as good despite being less complex. The same happened as the Baroque wound down. It became more complex and ornate before giving way to a new and more forceful Classicism (which is really a part of the whole Romantic era but we won't go into that here. Ha, my background in Art History is showing.). And so on.

I did veer a little off my original point there but I think it's all related. Artists (and other folks for that matter) tend to get off message, caught up in a 'look what I can do' mentality. We don't care what you can do, really; just what you have to say.

* * *

From the window, I can see my forty pounds of bounce, aka Tucky, herding imaginary sheep again. She runs as fast as she can in big circles out in the field. She does a good job of it just about every morning -- I don't think an invisible sheep has gone astray yet!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Drink Down at the ePub

I looked into doing an ePub version of the new book in addition to print and PDF. The poetry and picture books aren't particularly suited to that sort of thing because they call for rigid page-by-page formatting but a novel is fine for ePub (or Kindle or whatever) where the text 'flows' freely on the screen. Some of the formatting I've already done on The Middle of Nowhere is not particularly suitable for conversion to ePub so I'll let it go. Almost all ebook readers can handle PDF anyway.

I would really need to convert my existing file to RTF, remove any text boxes, and apply heading styles to my chapter titles so ePub will generate a table of contents. Possibly change the font, too. Maybe later.

On the next book, I'll make sure to use heading styles, anyway. Especially if it's a non-fiction book, where a contents listing is more important. Although the PDF of TMON doesn't have a table of contents, the Adobe reader displays thumbnails of each page to aid navigation.

I was a bit peeved to find that Lulu is dropping CD and DVD from its products. They did this with posters and art prints a year or two back (though they expanded their offering of big art and photo books). I guess they just don't sell well enough (or have as good a profit margin) so they're going to concentrate on books.

I might as well rename the store there 'Arachis Press' instead of 'Insolent Lad Media' if I can only sell books now. Darn, I may have to go around changing my links again.

Of course, I wasn't able to use Lulu for CDs anyway because they would only accept uploaded music files and that is quite impossible with my connection. Cafe Press is about the only POD CD producer that asks one to mail a disc in. I tried them some time back but they have zero support for the product and their template for the inserts has been broken for years. They simply don't seem to think it's worth fixing it. Their base price is rather high too.

(addendum, later in the day: I dropped by Cafe Press and found they announced an end to CD production a month or so back. So I guess that's why they never fixed their designs.)

Oh well, until I find time (and, more importantly, the seclusion) to record, it doesn't matter much. The fact that I can't really work on music (or painting, for that matter) is kind of why I decided to put all my efforts into these writing and publishing projects for now.

Friday, September 16, 2011

O, I C U ISBN 2

Well, I went ahead and invested in a block of ISBNs for the Arachis Press. That was the last thing I needed to decide on before finishing the new book.

I went for 100 numbers. That should last the rest of my life. Ten almost certainly wouldn't have and each number would have cost almost five times as much. I can live with this modest investment, even if they prove to be of absolutely no use!

I just might apply a couple to the books I already have in print, on new editions, but there is no hurry on that. Not sure it makes any sense to use one for these small books, anyway.

I also suspect that the whole system of ISBNs and UPCs and barcodes may become obsolete. As computers continue to grow 'smarter' and more powerful, numbers and barcodes will become less and less relevant. They'll be able to find stuff by name, read the text from covers, etc.

For that matter, just look at the file systems on these machines we're using now. We can find pretty much anything with a word search, no matter where we 'mislaid' it. As we can on a larger scale with search engines and the entire internet.

Soon we'll be able to do the same in our warehouses or stores. The whole barcode concept was really developed before the modern computerized age.

Would one look for an ISBN on Google? Well, maybe in a few rare instances, but in general it would be title or author or publisher or even subject.

This also means that the big stores, the Amazons, the CD Babys, are becoming less relevant. We can all sell direct these days (if we wish) and search engines will bring the world to our virtual doors. The goal will be to be discovered -- once that's done, the selling part is simple.

So social networking is the place to put ones efforts. Make people aware that you're out there and have something they want. Get your music where people can discover it. Give it away if need be. Have your book cover and blurbs plastered anywhere you can. Get reviewed!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Store Restored

A very quick note to mention that the URL to my store at Lulu (my printer) has changed to: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/insolentlad . Why they changed them, I don't know but I'll have to go about the internet revising my links. If and when I can, I'll so some fixing up of the store on my own Insolent Lad site too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Okay, it's been a while. Not a really long while but kind of long for me. Partly due, once again, to bad internet connection. I had a couple days there when I simply couldn't get on at an acceptable speed. Back to sort of normal, now.

Busy too. Not just taking care of this place and working on my own creative projects, but Mom has needed extra attention. She's pretty much stopped standing up for me and it's become more difficult to clothe her, bathe her, get her on and off the potty, etc. It wouldn't be quite so much trouble if she didn't panic and flail about when I try to help her stand or move from chair to chair. It will just get worse, I know -- but, as I've said before, as long as I can get her to eat I can manage the rest.

And now I have a new powerful battery in the 15 year old truck so I won't be quite so worried about it starting. Or not starting. I usually left it running whenever I went to the store or anything for fear I wouldn't be able to get back home!

I should have my new novel out in a couple or three weeks. That would be The Middle of Nowhere, the Young Adult book. I'm pretty much done with edits and proof-reading so I'll upload the press-ready PDF to the printer soon. Must design a cover too -- I have the picture for it and wrote a blurb for the back, so it's mostly just a matter of laying it out.

As this book is intended for Young Adults, I was trying to sound like a bright 16 year old. It's actually aimed at an audience a couple years younger than that. Kids like to read about a protagonist who is a little older and dream about what they will do when they are that age.

Of course, I may sound like a 16-year-old (and not necessarily a bright one) most of the time...

Anyway, it's 242 pages, 53,000 words, 4 b/w illustrations and about as good as I can get it without it being a different book. I'll be able to get back onto one of the other writing projects when it's in print.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I'm about three-quarters of way through my rewrite of The Middle of Nowhere now, churning along. I see,looking into my files, that the original draft was from 1999. Not quite as far back as I was thinking but a while, none the less.

It is not as bad as I was thinking, either. I'm actually not making that many changes, though it certainly counts as a rewrite. I had to decide on a specific time frame for the story -- decided on 1998-99 -- and take out any anachronisms. It was originally more in the first half of that decade but I thought it better to slightly modernize.

This also lets me set up a time frame for the Branford Perry stories set in the same mythical Gulf Coast town.

I sure used a lot of semicolons back then! Some, I'm removing but I'll let a lot of them stand. These days I'm much more likely to use an 'em' or just break the thought into two sentences.

I had sent this manuscript out to various publishers back ten years or so ago and did some fairly extensive rewrites at that time. That's why it really doesn't need much change now. At any rate, this time I'm going to put it out myself. If nothing else, it will give me the experience of setting up a full-length novel in press-ready form.

Once I've finished this draft, which I do as a Rich Text file in WordPad (I don't want to worry too much about formatting or even spelling at this point -- I do all my early drafts as RTF), I'll transfer each chapter over to Open Office Writer for finalizing. Writer files can supposedly be plugged right into the Scribus publishing program. If I can figure out how!

I do suppose I could work up a little art for the book. A cover, of course, and at least a frontispiece. Maybe a map. Or I might just have a photo or two around that fits.

And I must decide whether to invest in an ISBN. I don't know if it's really necessary or even particularly useful for a book that will probably never see the inside of a physical book store. Still, maybe I should just go ahead and purchase a block of ten numbers for the Arachis Press.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

I JOINED Google Plus a little while ago but so far it has proven practically impossible to utilize on my slow dial-up connection. I get awfully sick of blank pages and 'try again' buttons -- I see enough of them elsewhere around the internet.

* * *

The mostly-favorable review I posted yesterday for Sparrow Alone on the Housetop was not a 'puff piece,' even if the authors are close relatives. If I had not actually thought the book was pretty decent I would have declined to review it -- I would not savage the work of friends or relatives but I'm willing to give a thumbs up if their work deserves it.

* * *

On the subject of novels, I'm chugging along on the rewrite of The Middle of Nowhere.  I did the first draft of this Young Adult novel sometime in the second half of the Nineties and it has seen some rewriting and revision since. None in quite a while, though, so I'm coming in fairly fresh and seeing a bit of change that can be made.

The first order of business was to change a number of the names of the main characters. Thank goodness for 'find and replace' functions on word processing programs! Each time I changed one, I found that it meant I had to rename someone else so I ended up with six different changes. That's done now and I can get to the actual rewriting.

TMON is set in the mythic village of Ruby, which combines elements from any number of small towns on the Florida Gulf coast north of Tampa and south of Appalachicola -- but the primary inspiration would be Steinhatchee. After I had written the novel, I had begun penning stories about Branford Perry in the same setting -- this is the main reason I had to change the names at this point. I'll get it all running on the same track in time.

Anyway, I have pretty much decided to make this the next publishing project, though I will continue to dabble at the illustrations for one or another poetry chapbooks. Plenty to keep me busy for a while!

* * *

My friend Raven Stands Alone was struck by a truck while bicycling a couple nights ago, breaking both legs according to the info I've seen. RSA lives in Jacksonville and is, to say the least, an avid bicycle rider. Full recovery seems likely though he'll be out of action a while. My prayers go for him.

Raven, and his then-mate Bettina Makely, were my first friends in the Florida Folk community, some nine or ten years ago.

Bicycling can certainly be dangerous on crowded busy roads. That's why I haven't biked since moving here, though I rode frequently back in Steinhatchee. I even gave the bike away a couple months ago. Can't roller blade, either, which I enjoy more. It would be taking my life in some very shaky hands to attempt either on Peanut Road.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

 a book review ~

SPARROW ALONE ON THE HOUSETOP
by Jean James and Mary James

The new novel by Jean and Mary James, Sparrow Alone on the Housetop, is an action-packed mystery drama set in present-day rural Mexico and Houston's centers of commercial power. It is in the interaction of these two very different worlds that the story arises -- a tale of greed versus courage.

Though not overtly religious, this book has a Christian slant, dealing with good and evil in it own terms, as well as exploring environmental issues. It is, however, in the determination and faith of the protagonist, Anne Sumner, missionary and daughter of an unscrupulous and tyrannical business magnate, that the true message of the novel lies. Sparrow is the story of a woman who will not be swayed from truth and duty.

Indeed, she is perhaps too driven. Every hero must have her flaws, after all, and Anne comes off as very human at times. She, and most of the other characters in this book, is well drawn and believable.

Anne's village in Mexico is in trouble. A strange sickness begins to claim victims, including the young woman herself. Ill and with no resources other than her own convictions and the aid of a bush pilot of questionable motives and allegiances, she works to unravel the cause of the epidemic. There is a mystery story here, and a romance story. Moreover, there is a story that rings true on all levels. Real people, real problems, even real horses!

Sparrow Alone on the Housetop has a strong, somewhat spare narrative tone, quite readable and enjoyable. It has the drive of a good, well-paced screenplay. I was quite honestly impressed. The authors know what they want to say and get it across to their audience -- that is the ultimate criteria on which all art must be judged.

Needless to say (but I will anyway), I recommend this book. It's not the perfect novel by any means. It is not a 'big' novel, in either length or intent, nor an ambitious attempt to wrest away the crowns of Hemingway or Faulkner. But it does deserve to be read and will not disappoint.

This novel is published by 4RV Pubishing ~ more information may be found at the dedicated website Year of the Sparrow




note: I have begun a dedicated review blog site, Ranger Reviews, where this will also appear, along with any future 'criticism' and thoughts. I will also copy (and probably expand upon) some of the older reviews I've posted here at The Lucky Lad.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Country Home

Rain on the roof,
dog on the floor;
feelin' rich
though the bank says I'm poor.
Truck out back,
maybe it runs;
some look down on us
but we're the lucky ones.

Country home,
not much here is new;
peanut field
for a front yard view.
Rooster crowing,
rise with the sun;
when the day ends
got a day's work done.

My country home,
where I want to be;
it's all good here
far as I can see.
Greens from the garden,
peach from my tree;
my country home
is the place for me.

Rain on the roof,
cat on the couch;
it doesn't get better,
I can vouch.
Life tastes sweeter
than a honey comb,
right here in my
country home.

Stephen Brooke ©2011

Ten minutes or so to jot down (well, type) this little lyric. Probably pretty much a throw-away but I may work up a tune anyway. Now what shall I so with the rest of this boring rainy afternoon?

I am glad to have the rain from this tropical system though it will be coming down all day and all night and all tomorrow. We need it. Boy, do we need it!

I was looking over my YA novel (of some 53,000 words), The Middle of Nowhere,  that I wrote more than a decade ago. It's not that great but I think I may just do some rewriting and get it out there. I do need to differentiate it somehow from some of my more recent stories which are first-person under the pen name of 'Branford Perry,' as the settings rather overlap.

Branford Perry, btw, is what you will read on a road sign in the center of the small town of Mayo FL, pointing toward Branford the one direction and Perry the other.