Saturday, August 31, 2013

Books and Pictures

So, now I have the color version of A MOUSE IS IN THE HOUSE finished and the title back into publication, it’s time to tackle the next publishing project. Yes, I know, I should also be writing my novel(s), recording, etc, etc.

It was good to have a task to focus on for a few days and now I need another. On to the next book! I could finish working up my other picture book in progress, AWFUL ALVIN. Or I could illustrate another chapbook of poetry. Either way (or some other way, even), it is the artwork that needs my attention.

The poetry book would be a version of my long poem THE TOWER. That is another book that might be affected by the format changes at Lulu (my printer). Any square black and white saddle-stitched is no longer viable — and that would have described either one of these books (and MOUSE, as well). I’m going to color, and a slightly larger size, on ALVIN so there will be no problem there.

THE TOWER is another matter. There should be just enough pages that I can go to a perfect-bound volume. It will be in black and white, though possibly penciled gray scale illustrations rather than my typical pen and ink, and does not have to be square though I do think that might be the best look.

As long as I’m on the subject of new books, I will mention that I think I am ready to tackle an outside project or two. Yes, I’d be willing to take on, prepare, and publish someone else’s book if it appealed to me. Not that Arachis Press could do much in the way of promotion but then even the big presses don’t these days — it’s up to the author much of the time. Anyway, it might be nice to have a title or two that didn’t have my name on them as author!

* * *

I have said before — and no doubt will again — that I consider myself no great shakes as an illustrator. None the less, I turn out my rather stilted and static drawings and hope they suffice. It is not so much a matter of technique as it is of temperament. I’m a splasher of paint, not a natural draftsman.

There’s no doubt that a part of me would like to emulate the great fantasy illustrators of the Sixties and Seventies: Frank Frazetta, Roy G. Krenkel (LOVE his drawings), Jeff Jones (I may have aped his painting style on occasion). But the guy who actually did influence me a bit came on their heels.


That would be Barry Windsor-Smith (known as just Barry Smith when he hit Marvel). Unlike the flowing pen of a Krenkel, BWS used more broken lines. And his work could (and can) be decidedly stylized. It’s more ‘artsy,’ if you will. I liked it then, I like it now.

At my age, of course, I have my own uniquely inept style but I am not above trying to learn new things. The way to do that is to sit down at my drawing board and get to work.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I messed around a little today with colorizing another illustration for the revised version of A MOUSE IS IN THE HOUSE. I’m reasonably pleased with the results and will get onto the rest of the pictures, as time permits.

I also realized that the next picture book I had laid out — but hadn’t found time to get back to since pretty much last year — will have to be adjusted as well. In that the 7.5 by 7.5 size is not longer viable, I think I will blow it up to 8.5, the same as MOUSE. That should work okay, but make it more expensive.

So why haven’t I found time? Nothing important — just a lot of little projects, things to tie up from my mother’s estate, yard work, etc. I’ve been moving things about (furniture, books) the last few days and have pretty much finalized the way I want things in this house (I’m still missing a couple bookcases that have been on order for ten or twelve weeks now). Sorted out my bedding, and moved the king-sized unit I’d stored in the carport into the master bedroom (which had been Mom’s room) and am now ensconced there. I like it.

I had moved all my own bedroom furniture into there a while back and used it all summer, but it’s back in the other bedroom now, my old room. Where I may stay in winter as it is cozier and easier to heat. I’ll see how I feel about it later. Extra single bed (which was where my mother slept the past few years) is in the carport now, but easy enough to get out — I reckon I could put up guests now, if need be.

And now I’m getting the books sorted out, except for the novels which should go on the aforementioned shelves I ordered. Just finished shelving the poetry. I think I need more poetry. Actually, the library here is heavy on travel and history. And, of course, art. Lots of art books.

Oh, I just thought I’d mention that I have a Tumbler blog. My second one, actually — the first one, last year, didn’t stick. This one did, though I haven’t used it much since I started a couple or three months ago. The intention, mostly, is to blog the goings-on in my art studio, but there’s not much of that, at least so far! That’s 

Well, more trivel later (that’s a mix of trivia and drivel).

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


So, this is sort of what I have in mind for A MOUSE IS IN THE HOUSE...

What it comes down to is that large-format black and white saddle-stitched books are no longer going to be available. It makes sense that there would be little demand for them; most picture books are in color. I could just have the same b/w book published as a color book. It would look exactly the same but cost more!

Therefor, I'm playing around with colorizing the pictures with simple (digital) washes as in this picture --- a bit of a comic book-like technique. I think it could work. It does mean pretty much assembling the book over again but then I'd been thinking of coloring it pretty much from the start. And I did intend to create my next picture book this way so it's a bit of practice.


A couple pix of cannas in my unkempt and overgrown garden/yard. Ash tree behind them, nandinas further back, some Madagascar periwinkles blooming off to the side (they come up volunteer everywhere). I was testing my new camera here --- yes, I decided to get a semi-decent digital camera, though I will still use my 35mm on occasion.

It's nothing special, basically a point-and-shoot, but I got a waterproof model, a Fuji XP60, so I could use it in the water to snap surf pictures. Or fish, if I wished! Seems to do an OK job --- much better than a phone, anyway.

* * *

In some slightly different news, my children's picture book, A MOUSE IS IN THE HOUSE, is going to be out of print for a short while, as my printer doesn't want to work with the 8.5 by 8.5 format anymore. So I'll have to shrink it to 7.5, which should make it less expensive and may look better, too. As soon as I put it out, I realized a smaller size would have been preferable and now I've been forced to actually use it!

Incidentally, I have a dozen or so copies on hand if anyone just HAS to have one in the meantime.

Addendum, a tad later: There was some miscommunication involved here. Going to 7.5 is altogether out and so is switching to a perfect-bound format --- not enough pages in MOUSE to make it work. Our only option is to go to color for the book. Is it worth it to colorize all those pen and ink drawings? We'll see.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Stars, a poem


I have watched the stars grow dim,
one by one, seen them flicker,
at the end, candles snuffed
by the breath of a weary God.

Despair and desire hold hands before
the void, as worlds collapse, as one
cold rock remains, circling some dim
dying ember. Then I, too,

lose my footing, tumble into
inky oblivion. How long
might one fall when time itself
ceases and forever exists

no more? I have plumbed my past
and counted every star that was.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Don't ask me to explain what I'm saying here --- the poem IS the explanation.

Friday, August 23, 2013


A dozen years back, I was in a relationship with a graphic designer. Which is not surprising — all my true long-term relationships have been with graphic designers. Considering how they’ve turned out, let us hope I’ve learned my lesson and will start dating women from some other occupation.

But that’s neither here nor there nor around the corner. With her being a designer, we naturally talked about design occasionally. One evening, I was making some remarks about something I was working on for my own use, a flier for some event or another, and how I was trying to get just the right balance on it. She right away suggested I do a series of designs and pick out the one I liked best. ‘Don’t you do variations on a theme?’ she asked.

And you know what? I don’t. I have in my mind the ‘perfect’ version of things and I’ll keep chipping away and changing until I get it. Why would I turn out several versions when only would be right? It would only confuse things!

I guess that says something about me. Exactly what, I’m not sure. I will admit that I can put on different personas as a musician and do different versions of a song — the folky ‘old time’ piece I sing tonight might come back tomorrow as a Calypso song. I think I consider those separate works, though, and would search for the perfect version of each.

I don’t know what this bit of musing means and I’m not going to worry myself about it. I’ll just go ahead and post it — after all, there isn’t any other version.

En Garde, a poem

En Garde

The avant-garde let down its guard
saying it was far too hard
to come up with each new fad,
to seem edgy, artsy, mad!

To always lead the way — it’s tiring,
and such a bore to act inspiring
when all is truly the same old,
dressed up, messed up, being bold.

Gladiators of the coliseum,
now perform in the museum;
pantomiming blood and art,
the avant-garde plays its part.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

complete doggerel, dashed off in a couple minutes --- but a semi-serious critique of contemporary academic art pretending to be cutting edge

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Five Important TV Shows of My Youth

I was thinking about the television I watched as a kid and which shows seem to have had an impact on me. By ‘youth’ I mean up to around puberty — I’m not going to go into the teen years. That can be another list, another time.

(The Many Loves of) Dobie Gillis — okay, Dwayne Hickman was basically channeling Jack Benny in this comedy, doing much of the same shtick Benny had on radio. I didn’t recognize that at the time, of course. After all, I was only nine when it came on the air. But I did recognize that it was something quite different from most of what was on the tube. Dobie turning and talking to the camera (and me), a la Richard III, was quite unlike anything else I’d seen — the original breaching of the ‘fourth wall’ on television. Performance could be both a story and a conversation. And, of course, let us not forget Bob Denver’s delightfully absurd turn as Maynard G. Krebs the beatnik.

Rocky and Bullwinkle — in the wasteland of children’s cartoon programming, this was an oasis. It was a show that dared to be dopey and smart at the same time. I wouldn’t mind getting in Mr Peabody’s Wayback Machine and experiencing it all over again.

That Was the Week That Was — the American version of the British news/comedy show was a hit in my home. I know it didn’t last very long — obviously a little too smart for broadcast television of the time — but it made an impression. A great introduction to the world of satire.

The Outer Limits — unlike The Twilight Zone, which I often thought predictable and dull (yes, even as a kid), TOL could scare me AND make me think. There was an occasional touch of cynicism to it that one did not see much of on the tube back then and the characters were developed more than in most shows of a similar genre. No wonder it didn’t last very long.

Hootenanny — the folk music surge in popularity was almost over by the time it came on the air — the Beatles were right around the corner, ready to change everything. This was really the show that first made me pay attention to music (and musicians) on television. Those folk singers actually looked like they were having fun! Moreover, it introduced me to the Smothers that’s one of those influences that would return in the teen years.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Wordless, a poem


Time disappears into
the insistent rain
and now might be tomorrow
or an hour ago,

marked only by the clock
of opaque windows, the tick
of dripping eaves. I am
as formless as the gray

taste of this day, washed
clean and purposeless.
As the birds, I huddle
stilled, my song forgotten,

while the wordless rain
murmurs against the roof.
No shadows lie between
me and my horizons;

has storm darkened the fields
or does night come at last?
All answers lie in sleep
and the morning sun.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

A bit of accentual verse mostly written last night in bed on my laptop. Three steady days of rain will lead to this sort of thing.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


An experiment to see if I can get the MySpace music player to embed here. This is a rendered (from midi) version of my old Concertina in G, written in the late 80s (on paper).

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Good Night, a poem

Good Night

I have struggled. We all
struggle and suffer and die
and it may or may not

mean a damned thing when
the universe turns out
the lights and says ‘good night.’

This old mix of anger
and amusement sees me
through this day and the day

after and another.
Each only replaces the last,
as I have replaced myself,

year by year, cell
by cell, becoming an ever
poorer copy, till none

can read me. Then, turn out
the light. Turn it out
and we will say ‘good night.’

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Pretty much first draft, if one can actually say that about a poem that sees constant revision as it is written. But if I ever choose to go back in a revise it, that could legitimately be called a second draft, I suppose. 

addendum, a couple hours later: Somehow the formatting changed on this after I posted it! Should be fixed now. I think this has something to do with cutting and pasting from the brand new Version 4 of Open Office.

Monday, August 12, 2013

When I Was Young... Eric Burdon sang. Not that most of you kids would know that song, but it made an impression on me at the time.

And that time was in my teens. In that I last posted something my father wrote in his high school years, I thought I would do the same for myself:


Are we meant to know happiness,
To live and laugh beneath blue skies,
Or does day but hold back the dark
That turns all of our hopes to lies?

Each new-found joy, each pleasure seems
To give way, in its turn, to pain;
As every man a shadow casts,
So loss will surely follow gain.

Stephen Brooke ©1967 

Yes, I was a pretty gloomy (shall we say depressed?) 17 year old. I'll admit this was tightened up a bit later on and I did slip it into my most recent chapbook of poetry, 'Dreamwinds' (available, of course, from the Arachis Press). I only hinted in the notes that some of the work in that particular book of verse was rather old---I didn't say which ones!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

My Dad Writes

This is something I found in my old papers, a little sketch my father, James Reginald Brooke (1913-2005) wrote as a teen that was published in his high school newspaper, ‘The Torch.’ (Bexley High, in the Columbus Ohio suburbs) He was writing about his family’s farm/get-away down in the Hocking Hills (where I spent some time myself as a kid):

Night-fall in the Hills
The sun, leaving a golden blaze int the sky behind it, sinks slowly behind a rock-covered hill, on whose crest rises a magnificent pine. The gray light drifts quietly down over the tree-filled valleys. Everything seems still and hushed as the last rays of the sun disappear, except overhead where they glitter on the coal-black wings of a solitary crow, as he wings his way homeward. 

Lower and lower falls the curtain of darkness, and as the mist rises, it mingles with the darkness forming a gray blanket over the earth. From the surrounding woods ring the shrill cries of the whip-poor-wills, and from the marsh the bull-frogs send up their nightly serenade. 

The moon rises majestically from behind a cloud, bathing the world in a soft, silver glow. A star peeps forth, and is quickly followed by many more, until it seems as though a myriad of sparkling diamonds have been scattered about the sky in the form of a white pathway. 
A gentle breeze comes up, swaying the pines to and fro, while in the distance a cow bell tinkles musically. The moon smiles serenely down, keeping watch over the sleeping world. 

It is night in the hills. 

Now, if I put my editor hat on (or should editors wear eye shades like in the old movies?), I would find all sorts of things to red pencil here. Fortunately, here I am just son and archiver. As the work of a bright high-school kid, it’s pretty decent — hey, I've read far, far worse from adults who think they can write! 

And here is something else of his I came across, a bit of silly doggerel he wrote for my mom about a planned vacation trip: 

A long trip we shall make
To a far away state by a lake,
And though it must be Erie
I’m with you all the way, Dearie. 

We’ll stop and visit with Daughter
And not just because we oughter;
We’ll check on the neophyte farmer
And snack with their budding charmer. 

Then away in our little car
Gawking at things near and far;
Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky,
Now feeling free and really lucky. 

Till we will come to Ohio
And someone there that you know;
In Columbus on Oakland Park
Will be the mid-point of our lark! 

We’ll see Daddy and sister, too,
He’s O.K. now, it’s true;
He’s waiting for his garden to grow
After all winter hidden in snow. 

But soon our adieu we must bid
And take off, we hope, without a skid.
Meandering down the breath-taking Blue Ridge,
Far miles over many a bridge. 

There we will search high and low,
From the top of a mountain in snow
To the fertile green valley below,
In search of a farm with price low. 

With trees and flower garden, too,
And lots of room for a cow to moo.
Just the right place for me and you
To vacation for a month or two. 

Then away through rolling hills,
Back again to our old tread-mills
Where we toil and pay the bills
But we’d rather be back in the hills. 

Well, Naples isn’t that bad,
Plenty of sunshine to be had,
And away from grandchildren is sad;
So here we are; I guess I’m mad!

Friday, August 02, 2013

Some More Music Stuff

I haven't actually anything much to say for myself today, but that's never stopped me before...I gave some thought to the children's album I'm supposed to be recording and decided that there are too many kiddie songs in a bouncy, island-pop style out there already. So, I'm sticking with the folkish sound I originally laid down. Fussing with finalizing backing tracks right now, should start laying down vocals soon. Depending on how well I'm breathing --- I'm inclined to blame my current respiratory condition on mold spores, with all the damp weather we've been having.

And I must give thought, as well, to the short solos. I have NOT practiced playing guitar solos in a very long time and when I did, well, they were more BB King inspired than what should probably go on this sort of recording. Maybe I should just whistle. I do that pretty well, actually, and if Bing Crosby could get away with it, why not me?

In related news (well, it's about music, anyway), I decided to go back and try out MySpace  to see if it was worth fooling with these days. I have a page there now that I intend to use for the 'composer' side of my music, instrumentals, formal classical-like stuff and so on. That's at: I can't say I'm very impressed by the user interface there --- it seems streamlined to the point of uselessness. But, hey, probably no one is using it anyway.