adventures in dysthymia

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Made in China, a poem

Made in China

It was a mysterious land,
an ancient land of silk
and oddly shaped mountains.
It evoked the exotic

when I was a child,
unknown, untouchable,
save through curios
and plates kept on high shelves.

The Great Wall has given
way to the great Walmart,
marking our new borders,
and Made in China has lost

its wonder. No caravans
traverse the Silk Road, today.
No barques bear chests of fragrant
dragon tea to our docks.

I have held the teak
and jade of another age.
I remember when
there was a land of mystery.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

more an idea than a completed poem

Friday, December 20, 2013

Donzalo's Destiny

I'm putting together a blog/site for the series of fantasy novels I call DONZALO'S DESTINY. It is located at: http://donzalosdestiny.wordpress.com/

The first book in the series, THE SONG OF THE SWORD is already in print (at Arachis Press) and the next, THE SHADOW OF ASAK, should be coming out fairly early in 2014. There will be more to follow--exactly how many, I'm not sure!

There is not much at the site yet and I will probably not give it a great deal of attention until next year, but the plan is to provide some 'behind the scenes' looks, some back-story, and so on.

The Song of the Sword

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Prehistoric World

In 1957, the summer between first and second grade, I sat in the back of my folks’ Plymouth station wagon and read the Classics Illustrated comic of ‘The Red Badge of Courage.’ We were on our way to New Orleans for a gymnastics meet in which my sisters were competing.

It was the only time I’ve ever been to New Orleans – or that far west – but I remember it quite vividly. Especially the ducks in the pond across from our motel! What would be more likely to make an impression on a seven-year-old, after all?

That was sort of my introduction to great literature and I was soon reading the ‘real’ books, not that a number of other Classics Illustrated titles didn’t pass through our home. Clues to go look for the books, at times, or to avoid them!

When I was twelve, one of their ‘special issues’ came out. These were titles that were not adapted from fiction but covered some historic or scientific topic. I picked up ‘Prehistoric World’ and it changed my life. Really.

Like any kid, I was interested in prehistoric animals, dinosaurs, etc. There was more to this comic, though. The greater part of it was dedicated to the ancestry of man. I met Australopithecus and Pithecanthropus (now Homo erectus) and those Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons and all the rest and I was hooked. Visits to the library meant bringing home books on anthropology and I plowed through a lot of thick volumes for a couple years there — when we moved from Columbus Ohio to Florida when I was fourteen, I didn’t have as much access to good libraries.

And, of course, I had a beach that required my occasional attention.

I’ll note that ‘Prehistoric World’ had a quite good explanation of genetics and evolution, as well. Good enough that I could figure out what they were talking about, anyway! It was completely new stuff to me.

I very much intended to go into anthropology all through high school. That sort of slipped into the whole history/art history thing when I got to college and decided I didn’t really want be the scientist that much. And by the time I finished college, I decided I’d rather create and went off to paint pictures.

But I’m still fascinated by ‘cave men’ and the story of the human race. Knowing whence we came connects us to each other, to the world and to the universe. The same stars have shone on our ‘family’ for billions of years and, at some point, we looked up and reached for them.

Ah, to have been there at that moment!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sleeping, a poem

Sleeping

Once upon a time came and went
before I could muster up the courage
to kiss my sleeping princess. What good
was it to be charming? Dream on,
your highness, dream on, and may
your beauty last behind those walls.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Squeaking, a poem

Squeaking

The honey-colored hamster went
round and round, the squeaking
of his wheel a soundtrack
for our play, our awkward
acting of the love scene
I had just written in my mind.

Who would bother to count
the revolutions? We all go
around, you know, and think
we have arrived somewhere,
with fresh newspapers to tell
us things have changed.

In the dark silence of after,
not noticing the wheel
had ceased to turn, we whispered
of fate and of love but I
knew that each cage is somewhere
in a larger cage.

I and the hamster accept this;
we have put the world
in a cage, where it can
do no harm. Inside
is outside and my wheel
still goes round and round.

You will, someday see
the wires around you. This
I have known all along.
I have laid awake too many
nights beside you, and heard
the squeaking start anew.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Very much first-drafty and maybe not all that interesting nor original a concept. It pretty much all arose from the image of the hamster---the phrase honey-colored hamster just came into my mind and that set it off. A couple hours of off-and-on jotting and this is the result.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ticking, a poem

Ticking

When each of us contains our own
end-times, rising from the grave
of self, can time be but the ticking
of a bomb? Hear the clocks,
their steady mechanisms marking
monotony till we no longer
note our passage into nothing.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Crates, a poem

Crates

I have placed yesterday on sale,
half-priced until we close. After
that, it goes into the dumpster

with the wilted lettuce and moldy
cheese. Let the homeless root
about and take the broken pieces.

I have no use for them. Crates
of tomorrow already wait
to be unloaded and placed on shelves.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Lament for a King, a poem

Lament for a King

Where has gone the king?
Man no more is mighty;

silence spreads its shroud
where heroes sang of old.

Lizards doze upon
the walls of ruined cities;

the wells hold nests of snakes;
the wind rules realms of dust.

Victories forgotten,
sword beside him broken;

the king lies in his grave
and sleeps eternally.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Another piece intended for use in a fantasy novel — maybe not the one on which I’m currently working, but eventually.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Recent Recording Notes

My recent casual recordings – the video trailer for THE SONG OF THE SWORD (http://www.youtube.com/peanutroad), my reading of PIECES OF THE MOON (http://www.soundclick.com/stephenbrooke), and the Advent song, COME, COME, COME (http://www.reverbnation.com/stephenbrooke) – were all recorded with the same microphone, mostly because I had put it up for something else and was too lazy to go get a different mike set up. The rest of my equipment is in semi-storage until Spring; I can dig things out if I’m ambitious but they aren’t ready at hand.

Anyway, the microphone is a Heil PR30, a big dynamic basically intended as a broadcast mike but also popular for use on instruments (think Sennheiser 421 or Electro-Voice RE20 for similar microphones). Which is not to say that it is not a good choice for singing. Indeed, there is a hand-held version, the PR35, that is first choice for live performance by such artists as Joan Baez.

And for me, not a bad choice if I’m well back and singing full-voice. It’s versatile and one couldn’t really go wrong with the Heil most of the time, but I would be more inclined to choose something like a Shure SM7 (the one glaring hole in my mike cabinet is no current SM7!). Or, of course, a good condenser. My Cad e100S is a nicer voice-over microphone if I decide to record some more poetry one of these days.

By the way, in that I mentioned poetry, I would point out that I do have a dedicated page for my poetry – mostly to promote the chapbooks – at FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/stephenbrookepoet Feel free to like it.

Confession

One might not realize, from what one reads on sites and blogs around the internet, that five times as many teenage boys commit suicide than girls. Young men have, too often, looked to the rope or the gun as the solution to their torment, where confession has been the salvation of many young women since long before the internet existed.

Confession means admitting to ones sins, that is, recognizing who one is — the faults and failings as well as the strengths and successes. There is a reason to put this into words. It is so we can understand it, recognize ourselves for who we are.

As Flannery O’Connor put it, “I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.” So if young people ‘whine’ a bit, that’s a good thing. If they write confessional poems, good or bad, it’s all part of better understanding themselves.

I’m still discovering that, at my age. It goes on all ones life, I suspect, if one is truly living.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Loose Change, a poem

Loose Change

Regret, the loose change
of my life, is left
in a jar on the dresser
and never counted.

Each purchase, each time
I thought I needed
this, or thought that
would make me happy,

gives me another handful
of coins to add, to clink
one by one against
all I had hoped forgotten.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

A little quick piece, not very ambitious 

addendum, the next day: As usual, the poetry I post here is in early draft form. I can see all sorts of ways this might be revised  and rewritten. Right off, the first word (regret) should probably be dropped.

Blogs and Blogs

Not much going on at the moment. In one of my ‘lulls’ between periods of burying myself in whatever project I am obsessing about at the time. I will get back to the novel. Or something.

I did mention my Tumblr blog a few entries back. I have been auditioning outlets such as it and Twitter and Pinterest to find if they are worthwhile. Twitter...quite useless, I would say. Tumblr does not seem a particularly effective platform, either, and I may ignore it for a while, though I will not delete the account. At least not yet. I am interested in seeing how it might evolve – if at all – under Yahoo’s ownership.

Pinterest, on the other hand, seems pretty good. That surprised me, as it didn’t sound that great as an idea. Copying pictures from each other? It has definitely driven sales to my Cafe Press shop so I will stick around there.

But ‘real’ blogs like this are still my preference. In keeping with that, I will mention that I posted a demo version of an Advent song, ‘Come, Come, Come,’ at my Reverbnation pages. That is at: www.reverbnation.com/stephenbrooke

It is just a quickie recording — I wanted to get something up while I had a little time and before Christmas made it too late. I realized after I laid down the backing tracks that it should have been pitched something like a full tone higher. I croaked my way through the vocals anyway.

Maybe I’ll do it right next year!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Dyslexic Deity, a poem

The Dyslexic Deity

Heaven and Heart were created by Dog,
the Dyslexic Deity,
who set the Morning Rats in the sky
for all of us to see.
He turned the Sun into a father,
to sire each new day,
and to make the Universe laugh
created the comics ray.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

a throwaway more worthy of throwing away than all previous throwaways

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Stale, a poem

Stale

Bonbons for the banal,
candy-coated cliché;
make a new batch daily,
place them on display.

Powder-sugared poems,
junk food for the soul;
empty calories
will never fill the hole

hunger has created,
existence claims as toll.
Stale words in the window;
throw them all away.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Monday, December 02, 2013

Sinews, a poem

Sinews

I will run until I
forget, slam the heavy
bag, make myself weary
with curls and presses.

I have searched for sleep
in pills and bottles,
forgetfulness in the pursuit
of illusive pleasures,

but found nothing, save within
the singing of my own sinews.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

pretty much just another light-weight quickie of a poem

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Chewed, a poem

Chewed

I lost the words I meant
to say to you. Maybe
they’re under the cushions, slipped
out of my pocket while I sat
writing on the couch.
Or could the dogs have snatched
them when I wasn’t looking,
to play their games of tug
of war in the yard?
Well-chewed words, lint-covered
words are still usable,
I think. I’ll just rinse them
off, smooth them, stick them
into another poem
while no one is paying attention.
Maybe they’re in this one.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

another little throw-away

Theorems

I walked in high school. Around and around the campus I would go, before classes in the morning or during lunch break. I was restless and not one to sit and talk or interact much at all.

It’s a wonder I made it through those years at all, considering how little interest I felt and how often I was deeply depressed. Despite a disgustingly high IQ, I muddled through many of my classes, rarely actually hearing what was said in them, but feeling I had to do it or disappoint someone — exactly who, I am not sure now.

Oh, there were a few subjects that caught my interest. English, history, sure, especially when it got to the essay and paper writing. All that advanced algebra and trig and physics, not so much, but I did the work anyway. When it came to math, the only subject I actually liked was geometry. I loved working out theorems, those little puzzles of logic. It didn’t seem like math at all!

Maybe if life were a theorem, I could work it out and understand it, eh? I think maybe I’ve been treating it that way. And, no doubt, will continue; the problem may be the axioms with which I’ve been working! :)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Heroes, a poem

Heroes

All you heroes are not much different
from me. Your victories taste no better.
Your songs will fade as soon, into
the night that falls upon us all.

Pain is as fleeting as joy, and death
even more pointless than life. If I
take up my sword, defy the heavens,
am I the better for it? Sooner

or later, we shuffle it all off,
and maybe we are happy or maybe
we just keep unhappiness
at bay until it doesn’t matter.

Laugh, my heroes — the jester dances
before us. In the end he will
draw near to whisper his name into
your ear. But you had guessed it already.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Harvest Feast

Thanksgiving is a harvest feast. We celebrated these for millennia before the Pilgrims came along, before we shopped for Christmas or raised turkeys or watched football. It’s the time mankind puts its feet up and says, Well, we did the best we could this year. Let’s eat and relax and be happy we have what we have. Let’s thank our god or gods, our family, our friends, for being there. Winter is coming and we might not all make it, you know?

Thanksgiving is about as primordial a holiday as they come, akin to our ancestors dancing and feasting after the big hunt. We need to gather around that fire too, dance to the flute and the drum, eat, drink, make love! And always, always, give thanks that we can.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Two Poems and an Update

Soil

The mindless soil knows not
boredom and I may seek
satisfaction in dirt.

Shovel and rake, planting
and weeding and, yes, someday
I too will find its embrace

and rest.

Stephen Brooke ©2013


on lingerie

nothing that gets
between your skin and mine
is sexy

SB 2013


Two quick little throw-away poems from this morning. Back to the novel now, most likely. I'm at 8500 words in this second part, which adds to the 22,000 in the first (as always, a bit too polished already to really call 'first draft'), and should have another thousand or so to finish this section (or 'Tale'), so it's essentially a novelette in length. The next part, which should conclude the book, will probably be longer.

My protagonist is visiting the fairie realm in this Tale, healing after the trauma that closed the last part, and discovering himself and his direction a bit. There are dangers involved, of course, but I hope to have more sword play and excitement after this interlude, and a semi-happy ending before the next round of intrigue, assassination and sorcery in the third book!

addendum, early afternoon: Completed the section, 9,600 word total (which could change a little in rewrites). On to the next!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Other Woman, a poem

The Other Woman

The ocean is the other woman in my life.
She calls me from your side, yes, whispers her way through
my dreams upon a breeze, salt-scented, from the south.
And though dreams they may be I must believe them true.

Let me leave behind this fog of Northern ports.
Let me seek the sun once more and do not be
jealous of my love, for she will cast me back
upon your shores, some day, the fickle, faithless sea.

Yes, a faithless lover the ocean ever is
and man was never meant to seek her as a wife.
He’ll yearn and find no peace, sailing ever on;
yet she remains the other woman in my life.

Stephen Brooke ©2013


an exercise in hexameter and certainly open to revision and/or extension

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Being Real

I mentioned in a short entry over in my Tumblr blog (http://insolentlad.tumblr.com) that I sometimes use pictures of online friends and acquaintances to help me physically visualize my fiction characters. This would be in addition to people I know in real life and celebrity figures.

For example, the gay minstrel who is a major player (of the rebec, ha-ha) in the Donzalo novels is a ringer for Kenneth Branagh (and with some of his over-the-top mannerisms, as well). And the evil-but-conflicted sorcerer, I must admit, looks a lot like Barak Obama (not sure about the ears, though). Shares his somewhat aloof demeanor too (I’m sure the Prez is a much nicer guy...even if they’ve both sold their souls, in their way).

I like to ‘see’ my characters. I am a very visual person, anyway, and a ‘scene’ in my writing is definitely going to play in my head like a scene in a movie. Which may be why I’m sometimes a little sparse with descriptive language — I forget the reader isn’t seeing everything I am.

This means my rewriting largely consists of going back and padding the narrative with extra imagery. All it takes is a few words, the mention of a window or chair or the color of the drapes. Just something to make it a tad more real to the reader. Even if it was already real to me!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Busy Writing

I am some 3000 words into the fourth novella-length Tale of the ‘Donzalo’s Destiny’ saga. At this point, I am not sure if it will provide an ending for the second book, ‘The Shadow of Asak,’ or if I will need one more — I do know where the book ends, just not how much happens before then.

That is, there is a possibility that there will be enough material that I will feel the need to break the rest of the narrative into two parts, the Fourth Tale ending up novelette length and a Fifth Tale needed to finish the book. We’ll see how that goes.

The previous section, which I wrote out over the past few weeks, came to about 22,000 words total. Pretty typical of how these have turned out so far. I seem to think in terms of episodes of that length. It probably will get a little longer in rewrites, as I flesh out things here and there.

I am glad that I chose to end the first book, ‘The Song of the Sword,’ where I did, after the first two Tales, even though the total came to only 46,000 words. The Third Tale ends on a tragic note so it would not have been a suitable place to break the narrative.

Rather than attempt to write a novel with a ‘social message’ I decided to do all-out adventure and slip in what messages and ideas I wanted along the way. I do hope that the story is entertaining enough to support them! I can’t say that I am in any way disappointed or unhappy with what I have written so far (and I'm a pretty serious critic of my stuff).

With any luck and serious rewrites and edits, expect the new novel sometime early next year. Then on to other projects, particularly those picture books I keep putting on hold.

In peripherally related news (ha, I didn't notice that was a pun until now), my heavy dependable keyboard finally stopped working after 12 years. All the cheap flimsy ones I have around here, keyboards that came bundled with one computer or another, are not really very comfortable for long typing sessions so I purchased a good Corsair ‘gaming’ keyboard with mechanical switches on the keys — the ‘blue’ switches, which are the best for typing, I think. I love it, both the feel and that satisfying typewriter sound of striking the keys.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dallas, a poem

Dallas

I don’t remember what class
it was, only that it was
mid-afternoon at Saint Catherine’s
and a nun came into our eighth-grade
classroom and whispered to our nun
and the world was changed.

And the world went on,
too, and we lived to see
the Beatles on Ed Sullivan
and the war in Vietnam
and every war since, and some
went away and they also died.

If things were different
it was because things are always
different. We changed them
and they changed us and we
marched or married, got
religion or became hippies.

Dallas cast its shadow
but like all shadows it fades
with distance. We can barely
see it from here and soon
it will disappear
into books and blurry videos.

Stephen Brooke ©2013


not quite my normal thing but what the heck

Monday, November 18, 2013

Excess, a poem

Excess

She always did excess to excess
but that was the style, then.
Each needle hit the red-line.

Each song became the blues
as she tore pieces from
herself and scattered them.

She always went further and faster
toward nowhere than the rest of us.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Door, a poem

Door

I have lived in the pain of you,
knowing hurt does not outlast us,
knowing all things do come to rest,
that dusk takes each day through its door.

Shall I wait by that door, the door
that leads to night? No one sees
the whole truth of things, only
that part of it he holds close.

Let each restless dreamer wait
within, holding his torch of despair.
Who has thrown these slender daggers
at the sun? Blindly, blindly,

have I stared at his face. Let
the melancholy optimist
loosen his grip on the moon and stars.
They have only carried him home.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

a tad more obscure than my usual

Building Reality

One often hears some version of the statement that the world is how we perceive it, not how it ‘really’ is. I say the world is how we see it and that IS the way it is. Perception is reality.

Or a part of reality. The blind men groping the elephant are not wrong. They just don’t see the whole truth. We can not see the whole truth, yet we do perceive some aspects of it.

I was agnostic at one time. Then I realized it was just laziness to say we can know nothing. It was too easy to say ‘it is all illusion.’ We must strive to know, even if our knowledge remains infinitesimally small compared to all that is. We must go search out meaning, if life is to have any.

Remember that every ‘truth’ is ultimately metaphor. Every word – indeed, every thought – is a symbol for some aspect of a real thing but it is not the thing itself. They are attempts to grasp some part of its existence. This is how we build our reality.

SB 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cooking Something Up

Writing is very like cooking, at least for me. I have a recipe to follow, I prep all my ingredients and have them ready to add, make sure I have the proper mixing bowls and cooking dishes on hand.

If I decide to add a little more or less of an ingredient, to substitute this for that, it’s all right. It’s a decision, not an accident.

But then there is the question of who is going to eat it. Do I leave out some of the pepper for those who don’t like it spicy? Or do I trust my own judgment of how it should taste and just accept that some aren’t going to eat what I set it before them?

I must be the chef. I must be the one who decides, from recipe to plating. Not that I shouldn’t listen to suggestions, of course — I’m always on the lookout for new tastes, new ways of presentation.

Then I have to hand it off to the waiter and hope for the best!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lines, a poem

Lines

Unfamiliar actors
take the stage to speak
lines with no meaning. Was
there a plot or only

words? Act follows act
and each phrase hangs
above the harsh footlights
for our admiration.

Who would notice were we
to slip out of this theater?

Stephen Brooke ©2013


a simple little piece that grew out of a completely different piece that had long sat in my notes, going nowhere

Monday, November 11, 2013

Building a Pen

Grandma Moses always made sure she had a frame ready before starting a painting because, as she pointed out, one would not buy a pig without a pen in which to keep it. With that advice in mind, here is the ‘pen’ for my next (probably) novel, a mock-up of the cover for THE SHADOW OF ASAK, the sequel to THE SONG OF THE SWORD.


The novella that will make up the first half of this book is more-or-less done, needs some fleshing out and rewriting, of course, but the story is there. Whether I’ll immediately tackle the next part, I don’t know. The plot line there is still taking shape and lacks any real climax at this point. There is sure to be fighting and love-making and dying, though. And women with swords---have to have women with swords.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

In Tampa, a poem

In Tampa

The old women with their hennaed hair
remembered Havana. They had followed
husbands or fathers here, in the days
when cigar-making was the trade
in demand, the skill of the hand roll.

Before Castro, before even
Batista, the men had come and they
watched the besbol games on the warm
Florida evenings and smoked
what they had created that day.

The fragrant salty bread from the corner
panaderia would remind them of home,
the cousins and brothers, and who
knew what had become of them when
revolution and time had broken their world.

And the old women were now the abuelas
and tias of a generation that did not
know Havana. They did not speak
Espanol or chose not to and danced
to the rock-and-roll with their girlfriends.

That is the way things go, their children
tell them. We are Americans now.
On the park benches, the old women
with their flaming hair gossip of this
and much more and remember Havana.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Genre Test

I found my way to a little quiz about what literary genre best represented my ideas and my writing here via Leah Libresco's blog, Unequally Yoked, at Patheos. Validity? Some, I'm sure, but interesting anyway as it makes one think about one's writing goals might be.

I was not at all surprised to find 'coming of age' at the top of my results. People discovering who they are is always important to me. What was surprising was to find westerns coming in right behind and epic fantasy way down the list.

But, when I think about it, I could put the characters in my fantasy novel, THE SONG OF THE SWORD, and its sequel-in-progress, into cowboy hats and the story wouldn't be that much different. There would be people riding around on horses, going back to the old ranch house instead of the castle, and making the same sorts of decisions. In other words, there is a lot of emphasis on personal morality and growth and not so much on big-picture epic conflict.

Indeed, I could jettison the magic -- which doesn't make up that big an element of the stories -- and write pretty much mainstream stuff. And the next novel may be just that.

addendum:  I had a thought after posting about something that has not so much to do with ideas but a great deal to do with style---the prose in TSOTS is very much on the 'poetic' side. It might even be called 'courtly' and it is suited to a fantasy concept. Writing in a different genre would require a change in my language and in my voice. But then, I wrote THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE as a contemporary 15 year old boy so maybe I could pull it off.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Art School Girls, a poem

Art School Girls

Art school girls were much too
full of themselves and the discovery
of their talents to be
introspective. Brash, ready

to hurt without thinking,
to throw themselves at their canvases
in crimson and ultramarine,
they spoke loudly to hear

themselves over their own chaos.
Everything broken could be put
back together and this week’s
theories debated with this week’s

boyfriend. How could I resist?
I who pondered each brush stroke,
each word, who knew the fragility
of what talent I had — I was

not for such nor they for me.

Stephen Brooke ©2013


Jabber, a poem

I, the jabbering ape, have sought
the secrets of life so I might fling
them at my brethren. We will howl
at the universe from our trees.

Every storm holds voices we can not
understand. The eyes of the sky
tell of its great hunger, its roaring
holds the memory of ages

lost in our abyss. Jabber,
brother! Howl, sister! Even
time must hear us before it ends.
Even God will understand.

Stephen Brooke ©2013