Monday, April 30, 2012


The best laid plans can indeed run into difficulties. For example, my hopes that my latest book – whatever that might have chanced to be – would be out by the end of the first quarter of 2012, the first day of April.

It seems I was an April Fool. However, there will be a new title officially released tomorrow, May 1, from Arachis Press. Who knows, I may yet meet my goal of publishing four new titles this year, even if the first was a month late.

That doesn’t really matter, of course. New material will come out when it’s ready. In the mean time, there is a great deal else going on in my life that requires my attention.

So, the book: that would be ‘The Contrary Fairy,’ ostensibly a beginners’ chapter book. About 4000 words, spread over 11 chapters and forty pages, with 18 black and white illustrations. The pictures are all mine, naturally, and I think them adequate, considering I don’t really believe I’m that great an illustrator.

‘Fairy’ is available, as are all my titles, through The Arachis Press ( and Retail price for the paperback is 6.99; the PDF runs 1.99. I have eschewed an EPUB version for this book as it is not well suited to products for small children.

What comes next? Much of that depends on how my life goes, my time spent as a caregiver, my projects in music, and so on. There will be more writing, more illustrating, more books. Just maybe not on schedule.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Nightfall, a lyric


I long for the dark, the coming of night,
I wait the release of no more tomorrow.
Nothing remains, no will to fight,
no reason to live, only my sorrow.

Christ and Anti-Christ dwell within me,
anointed of God, marked with the Beast.
I know who I was, who I might be
when nightfall consumes the greatest and least.

The end of days is in my soul;
Armageddon takes its toll.
Who will await us, who will console?
The coming night swallows us whole.

To heal and to hurt, to hate and to love,
to be your slave and set myself free:
no man holds the wisdom, no angel above,
to know the lock that fits every key.

The old god has passed, the new sits enthroned;
we serve our two masters, what is and what was.
Each new sin’s delights must be full atoned;
nightfall names our penances.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

makings of a song, maybe

A Princess of Mars ~ book review

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

With the recent release of the ‘John Carter’ movie, I decided to revisit ‘A Princess of Mars.’ Not for the first time – I’m sure I’ve given this book a half-dozen or more readings since I first discovered it as a preteen, but not in almost twenty years.

I feared that I would be disappointed rereading ‘Princess,’ that the reality would not live up to my memory. I needn’t have — it’s every bit as good as it was when I first read it fifty years ago. Maybe even better. Though I missed the anti-socialist subtext then, at least consciously! Burroughs could certainly spin an imaginative tale and his world creating set the standard for would-be SF writers. Even if it is not scientifically sound at times, it has the detail and consistency necessary for it to seem real.

The central love story, itself, is a bit simplistic and one that ERB revisited frequently in his novels. And, truly, his characters are not exactly complex. That’s okay; the world and its creatures that surrounds Dejah Thoris and John Carter more than makes up for it. Burroughs was a masterful teller of tales, of interweaving plots and daring adventure.

This was where it all started. Without ‘A Princess of Mars’ there would have been no ‘Avatar’ nor hundreds (okay, probably thousands) of other books, movies, and television shows in the century since its first publication. There wouldn’t even have been a ‘Stranger in a Strange Land,’ most likely. Even if you are no fan of this sort of action novel, it’s a worthwhile read as a milepost on the road to modern fantasy and science-fiction.

reposted from my Ranger Reviews blog

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Treasures, a poem


Tomorrow beat me up
and stole my lunch money;
spent it all on candy
to give the pretty girls.
This one called me 'Sweetheart,'
this one I called 'Honey;'
one took my breath away
when she tossed her curls.

Now I've nothing left
except the memory
of every laugh and word,
each caress and smile.
I may have no fortune,
be that as it will be;
such riches bring contentment
but for a little while.

I blithely let tomorrow
take my every cent;
perhaps a fool and money
do too easily part.
Yet never once I felt
my money poorly spent:
I’ve treasures of a lifetime
stored up in my heart.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

Yeah, yeah, sort of a cliche but what the heck.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Poet's Day

Saw this British-ism on Annie Finch’s blog ( “having a poet’s day” = leaving work at noon and spending the rest of the day drinking in a pub.

Maybe I need more poet’s days...


the sun is poised
at the top of its arc,
the better to watch
workers hurrying
to their lunches,
the break in their everyday.

I’ve been at my desk
since dawn,
coffee and words
poured together
until I’m too full
to hold anymore.

down a few streets
and over a few more,
is a place, where,
is a cool corner,
dim-lit by a curved
glass window,

and I will sit,
watching you pass,
the rest of this
poet’s day.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

A bit of quick work and definitely first-draftish.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


So which cover do you prefer? The original concept with the butterflies or the more artsy one with the silhouette?

This is pretty much the last decision to make before 'The Contrary Fairy' goes to the printer. Looking for official release date of May First now.

sometime later... I've chosen the fairy silhouette. I can always recycle the other one later on, if I wish.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Birthdays and Books

Another birthday come and gone, and this one marks my official ‘retirement.’ Not that it will make one bit of difference in what I do, aside from collecting a pittance of Social Security. I can make quite a lot more than I currently do off the artistic endeavors before I’d have to give any of it back.

Perhaps the best birthday present – on an otherwise rather uneventful day – was to send the last of the puppies off to its new home. That will simplify life around here. I do have to find a way to schedule a visit to the vet for Tucky. We don’t want to go through that again!

My own birthday present to myself was to go to the Dick Blick site (I’ve been buying art supplies from Blick for over thirty years) and order a good light table. I’ve been lusting for one forever. It will definitely facilitate the creation of ‘real’ drawings, the kind with pen and ink on paper, instead of the mouse-and-computer stuff I’ve been doing lately.

Such as all the art for ‘The Contrary Fairy.’ Not that there is anything wrong with it but it has its limits. As does, admittedly, drawing by hand, so it’s nice to have both options.

* * *

Speaking of the ‘Fairy,’ it is all set up for release in two versions, print and a dedicated PDF ebook format. Now to get them to the printer and complete the cover – at forty pages, I decided to go with saddle-stitch rather than perfect bound and do not have any spine-width to take into account. For early readers, I think a flat-lying stapled book is easier to handle than one with a spine, as well as more durable.

I did work up an EPUB version of the book but will not release it commercially. Little kids aren’t likely to be using an e-reader so why waste an ISBN? The pictures do not look very good this way either. I may give it away privately to generate some interest, the way one gives away low resolution mp3s as a sampler of ones music.

A PDF for the computer screen is another matter, as the pictures display full-sized and properly placed. I wouldn’t be selling that anywhere but Lulu or my own site so an ISBN is unneeded. It is largely the same as the PDF I worked up for printing, anyway, except with a color cover page added and a bit of compression on the images to keep the file size manageable.

So I may end up moving my ‘official’ release date up a bit (May 1?), even if it means less time for pre-release publicity. That doesn’t mean much with the internet approach to publishing, anyway, and the sooner I have product available, the better.

* * *

I expect my sister Jeanne and her daughter Mary (Mean Mary James) to stop by on Wednesday on their way to Mary’s Florida gigs this coming weekend. Only a few minutes, most likely. Busy people!

If you get the chance, get out to see Mary sometime. All you Tallahasseeans, catch her at the Mockingbird Cafe this Friday, April 27. By the way, they have her website address wrong at the Mockingbird site.

Jean and Mary are hard at work getting their next book(s) ready for publication. I have not been able to convert them to the POD concept so they’re going the more traditional printing route. Their first novel, Sparrow Alone on the Housetop, was released by a small publisher, but the next one should be a self-published devotional with Mary’s brother, Frank, as a co-author. More novels in the pipeline after that.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Contrary Fairy

I’ve been churning out illustrations for ‘The Contrary Fairy,’ my beginners’ chapter book. It looks like it will actually be the next to be published, perhaps by mid-May.

That does depend on how much time I can spend on it with all the other stuff that calls for my attention. I’m pretty much finishing up the pictures and think I have enough done or near completion now.

I could have been more ambitious and turned out a LOT of pictures if I’d a mind to but the 18 I have should suffice. They are black and white, of course, and all drawn on the computer screen this time. Though if I don’t like some when they’re on the page, I may redraw with a real pen.

When I say ‘beginners’ for this book, I’m talking fairly sophisticated beginners. Or, ideally, adults willing to read to them. My touchstone for this sort of work would be the Thornton Burgess ‘Mother West Wind’ books – which I loved as a little kid. Never inclined to talk down to their audience, always with a bit of a poetic sensibility to them.

Here’s a little sketchy spot illustration of a wren I’ll be using. Some of the pictures will be in this style and some will be in silhouette form. 

The job now is to assemble the books – three versions, EPUB, PDF, and print – and to design the covers. Back to work!

* * *

A note about word processors: I have abandoned the Windows WordPad for almost all uses. I used to do my first drafts, write my poetry, keep my journals, etc. in this program but it just adds too much odd formatting that carries over when I try to cut and paste to my final word processing or publishing program. Then the only way to get rid of it is to paste it into a plain text editor such as Notepad and then recopy to its final destination.

So I do almost all my writing now in OpenOffice Writer, which works well as copy and paste into almost anything. Or works well enough for a finished product, for that matter, though I’m trying to find time to learn to use the publishing program Scribus, if only for its more robust PDF output.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

When (a poem)


When life gets worse each day,
why continue to live?
When life seems less each day,
why continue to give?

When all things matter the same,
do they truly matter?
When nothing matters at all,
what seeds do we scatter?

When life seems without meaning,
we still live and die.
When life comes to its end,
will we wonder why?

Stephen Brooke ©2012

Mostly an exercise.

Herbs Two

Another herb design...

To be added to the Emporium when I can.

Monday, April 16, 2012


The latest design for the Emporium uses a Benjamin Franklin proverb from Poor Richard's Almanac. Those are supposed to be basil and sage* leaves, by the way.

Not uploaded yet nor, for that matter, is the 'Dove' graphic I last posted here. I've been trying to get it up for two weeks but between my lousy connection and Cafe Press' buggy interface, I've had no luck. I wish they would let me use FTP.

*That's a correction. For some reason I wrote 'thyme' originally.

* * *

One puppy spoken for, four to go. They should be ready to go out the door this weekend, at six weeks of age. I'd just as soon get all of them into new homes though I would be willing to keep one myself. Maybe.

I have my first real crop of mulberries from the largest tree, which had like three or four fruit on it last year. The berries are quite small this year but I assume they will achieve more size as the tree matures. And soon all the other mulberry trees should start bearing too.

The niece, 'Mean Mary' James -- and probably my sister as well -- will be back in Florida in a week and a half for a couple gigs. One down near Mayo and then at the Mockingbird Cafe in Tallahassee. Although I can't get out to those events myself, I do expect at least a brief visit here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Four Encyclicals

Some swear by 'The Wealth of Nations' or 'On Liberty' or even 'Das Kapital.' My text is 'Rerum Novarum.'

That, and the successor encyclicals, 'Quadragesimo Anno,' 'Mater et Magistra,' and 'Centesimus annus,' do pretty much correspond with my own social views.

'Rerum Novarum' was issued in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII. It became the basis for the Distributist movement and for Catholic social, economic and political thought in general. The encyclical argues for responsibility and balance, condemning both the extremes of capitalism and socialism. The other three missives follow and update its lead.

It should be noted that when Leo condemns 'Liberalism,' he is using it in the 19th Century sense -- libertarian laissez faire capitalism. Similarly, when these encyclicals speak out against Socialism, they mean 'Real Socialism,' as John Paul II puts it, state ownership of the means of production. Not the welfare state (although there are warnings against its abuses).

At any rate, I decided to put together an ebook of these four encyclicals, free to anyone who wishes to download it. There are both EPUB and PDF versions available at my website.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Journey, a poem


My journey of a thousand miles
begins with me stumbling
on the first step. I get up.

The only way to keep going
is to act as though nothing
matters. Perhaps it doesn't.

This journey may lead nowhere,
but I get up and travel
another mile. Why not?

Stephen Brooke ©2012

It's poetry mostly because it's formatted as poetry.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Puppies and PCs

The puppies are almost four weeks old and have been hitting the solid food for a week now. They grow up so fast!

Want to take one of us home?

Molly had to pose. Cats are like that.

* * *

I got the recording computer back into operation after some frustration. I ended up having to reseat my memory cards so it's anybody's guess as to whether the battery also needed to be changed. But hey, it's a two-dollar replacement and should be good for another seven years or so.

Incidentally, it seems extremely likely that my 'office' computer (the newer Windows 7 machine) is so poor at audio recording because of its slow and mediocre hard drive (a Western Digital 'Caviar Green' model). 5400 RPM does not really cut it and other performance figures are not very good (especially read/write). The only actual advantage it has is that it's rather quiet. Faster drives do tend to be noisier.

I could hook up a faster external (or internal, for that matter) drive but it doesn't matter that much. The computer is fine for most uses, getting online, writing, and mostly adequate for working with graphics (though it can be slow).

The recording computer, by the way, has a proper 7200 RPM drive in it.

Now I'll need to find some time to actually use it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Heart Is a Dove

Another design for the Emporium, probably on cards and posters and such; it's not really suited to a tee-shirt, I'd think. This is probably the finished version (lower rez and smaller size here).

* * *

I've been making headway on my spring cleaning. The music room/recording studio is getting there and I may actually be able to work some soon. When I tried cranking up my dedicated recording computer, however, it wouldn't start.

The problem? Definitely a dead battery, a simple do-it-yourself fix that costs only a few dollars. It MIGHT come back to life if I leave it plugged in a couple days and recharge. The computer sat unplugged all winter and that is why the battery is drained.

However, it's also pretty old so chances are it needs replacing. My music PC runs Vista but I've optimized it somewhat for recording so I'm okay with that OS. And it has all the connections and drives and such I need. This Windows 7 computer on which I am typing (and use for most of my graphics and writing) is abysmal for recording work. Playing as few as five tracks simultaneously will grind it to a halt. Even graphics programs can run pretty slowly on it.

* * *

I occasionally look at decent digital cameras and consider laying out some money for one. There is a cheapo here that I use now and again but it's not that great (and eats batteries).

Really, I prefer to use my trusty Minolta 35mm. And I intend to do so more frequently. One hold up has been finding a place to process the film -- no one local does that anymore. So I'm going to try the old mailer method of getting them done.

I do need to get some good pictures taken of art work, both mine and my mother's. I'm intending to put out an art book of her 'life's work' when I can. That would be mostly for the family.

* * *

There are plenty of flowers and such to photograph right now. I have lots of Tickseed (native Coreopsis) growing along the fence and the road. I've tried transplanting a few to my own garden and will try to remember to gather some seed later on. Yes, the seeds look like little ticks.

My beds (and miscellaneous spots in the yard) are overflowing with volunteer petunias. Amarylis is blooming, that darn invasive honeysuckle is sweetening the air. The hibiscus is growing well as are all the peach trees I set out. Now when I get the oak taken down I'll have a new large area where I can plant. But considering the time of year, tree transplanting will most likely wait till fall.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


To err is human...

addendum: including me, with this post title which I had used just a few weeks ago.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Fulltime Fool

I don't save it just for April, you know! Not a whole lot of interest going on (once again or still or whatever). The puppies will be three weeks old tonight and are starting to nibble some solid food -- I do up a soft scrambled egg with mushed up dog food for them right now but they'll graduate to store-bought puppy food this week. I have to convince Tucky the food is for her babies and not her. She wants to gobble it down (always hungry what with nursing and all)!

I'm having someone come to look at taking down the tree this week. Just the monster red oak that overhangs the house, probably, though if it is affordable I might remove a couple others. Then I'll have to see if I can allot some money to house repair. I'll have a small amount extra starting in a couple months as I have signed up for my Social Security benefits. Pretty tiny at age 62 and with my earnings record but I might as well get it while I can and I can still make a fair amount off art or whatever. A good bit more than I'm making now before I need to worry about giving any back.

Speaking of art (ah, yet another smooth segue), I put up a slide show of some of my designs at my site. Not everything I have at the Emporium is displayed but what I skipped are essentially just variations on these ones. The address is:

A very simple little html-based show that I created in OpenOffice Impress, which is their Power Point imitation. I may go to something more sophisticated someday but this works.