Sunday, September 29, 2013

Terra Incognita, a lyric

Terra Incognita

Voyage ended, I study maps
and ponder unknown lands.
They call to me, my restless heart
remembers trackless sands.
Across the leagues, a whispered song
trembles on the air;
it holds the voice of the lonely gull,
o’er seas where no men fare.

In search of Terra Incognita,
I will sail afar
to lands beyond the lands I know,
beneath an unnamed star.
There is a life yet undiscovered,
a world to explore —
I search for Terra Incognita,
I search for my lost shore.

I’ve known the sun of tropic morns,
that rips the horizon asunder,
and lightning fierce as tigers’ claws,
the roaring of its thunder.
Dropped anchor in the sapphire depths,
off teeming sun-gold ports,
or jungled shores where gem-clad kings
hold sway in savage courts.

In search of Terra...

The wooden ribs of this cold room
are now my ship, it seems,
and in place of snowy sails,
I have but my dreams.
Chair and chart, I long to plot
an ending to my tale;
There comes the day I take the helm
and into dawn I sail.

In search of Terra...

Stephen Brooke ©2013

I seem to suddenly be in poetry mode. I guess polishing off everything involved with the novel let my mind move on to other things. This is a song lyric...I think...that has been sitting half-finished for quite some time. It just came together for me, easy as can be after months of struggling with it. It's in ballad form, more or less.

Healing, a poem


Time may heal each wound
but death works even better;
in the earth, cocooned,
we’re free of every fetter.

Free of want and worry,
free of scam and scheme,
yet I am in no hurry
to sleep, perchance to dream.

Yes, peace comes when we die
and earth is all-forgiving;
but till that time, I’ll try —
that’s what makes life worth living.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

More than a bit tongue-in-cheek

Sing in God's Sight

Sing in God’s Sight

Jump with joy
Dance with delight
Sing to the sun
Sing in God’s sight

Laugh and love
With all your might
Celebrate day
Glory in night

Look to the sky
Full of God’s light
Sing to the stars
Shining bright

Exult with the clouds
Gray or white
Dance with the wind
Come what might

Bless this morning
For all is right
Sing to the world
Sing in God’s sight

Stephen Brooke ©2013

A conscious attempt at something more 'simple' than usual. And rather more upbeat, as well! I suppose this could be set to music, were I ambitious.

People Going Places

I would congratulate my niece, (Mean) Mary James, on her upcoming tour of Britain – and maybe the continent – this coming spring, along with her friend and likewise talented performer, Audrey Auld. However, it means that she will not be at the Florida Folk Festival again. So it goes, but the FFF’s practice of notifying performers far too late for them to change their schedules inhibits touring professionals like Mary from appearing.

With any luck, I’ll make it over there this year. I had hoped to make it one day last May but had to cancel at the last moment. Perhaps just as well — two-hundred miles over and the same back is a bit much for one day. I’ll have to see if I can find a way to stay over there this time. Maybe camp on the old place in Steinhatchee.

Having animals does weigh against any extended travel. I’m hoping I can work something out and maybe even get down to Willfest in the spring.

Mary and her mother will be in Miami in November to accept their first place prize in the Readers’ Choice awards for their novel. To be honest, the contest is not very prestigious and, say some, a bit of a fraud. The entry fee itself is a hint — small reading fees may be acceptable for some competitions (though I’m still against them) but this one is fairly substantial and I’m not certain all that many authors actually enter. Given the rather large number of categories, winning some sort of award is perhaps not that difficult. Which isn't to say the book isn't good and the award isn't deserved, just that it may not mean that much.

Maybe I should start my own book awards competition. We could call it the Stevedore Awards — you know, Steve adores this book, Steve adores that book...

And, on the subject of books, the sequel to THE SONG OF THE SWORD is slowly being written — in my head. That’s the way I do it, pretty much. Think about plots, scenes, ideas, for months, jot down notes, and when it all seems pretty much together, sit down and write it (or a substantial section of it) fairly quickly. I’m not the guy who writes his thousand words each day. I don’t know how to do that.

The sequel, by the way, is tentatively titled THE SHADOW OF ASAK. If you read the Sword, you’ll know who Asak is! (Hey, it’s only 9.50 print, 1.99 epub.)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Trailer

I've put together a simple (and rather inept) book trailer video for THE SONG OF THE SWORD. Yes, I wrote the song. And yes, I sing the song. And no, I can't play guitar that well.

It comes out a bit longish. I had worked up a shorter alternative 'soundtrack' style of musical piece but I figured this was more appropriate, despite my croaking.

The Song Behind the Song

The song/poem that originally inspired the writing of the novel and makes an appearance in its pages, sung by a pair of minstrels. A version is also in my chapbook DREAMWINDS.

I have, no doubt, posted the text of this poem here sometime in the past.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


This in not the 'official' launch of THE SONG OF THE SWORD -- that must wait until I get a proof copy of the printed version in my hands -- but the book is available at the Arachis Press store now in print, EPUB and PDF version. The EPUB should show up Apple and Barnes&Noble shortly.

I'm pleased with the results, both in terms of what I wrote (though I'd pick at it forever, given the opportunity) and the book design. I really wanted to use drop caps in this one but with so many chapters starting with dialog and/or one-line paragraphs, they just wouldn't work! I went with a Bembo-like typeface, Bit Stream's Aldine, as it seemed period-appropriate, the book being set in a world much like that of Europe c.1500. Except with magic and trolls and other neat stuff!

Here's a bit of a blurb (and the text that will appear in the video trailer, if I get it done):

In Lama, times are changing. The younger son of Count Borrago, a scholar and a tinkerer, thinks he knows where he fits into this new world. 

Destiny has another role for Donzalo. The king’s sorcerer is trying to kill him. A mysterious minstrel has made himself his protector. And Donzalo himself is turning into a man of action, a man of Destiny who marches to the Song of the Sword. 

Magic, music, and mayhem mingle in Book One of Donzalo’s Destiny by Stephen Brooke, The Song of the Sword.

available from Arachis Press

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Singing the Song

I’m pretty much through with the rewrites on THE SONG OF THE SWORD. I’ll go over the text one more time, take one last look for the small things, and then prepare it for publication. The print version first, so I can get a proof copy in my hands before I ‘officially’ release it, both in print and ebook.

In the mean time, I’ve decided to create a ‘book trailer’ for the novel. Since the original TSOTS, before it ever became a book, was a song/poem, I will attempt to record a version to go with some simple graphics — which I have already created and loaded into Movie Maker this morning. All that is needed is to add music.

Now, ideally, that would include a male chorus, harps, string section, etc, but I think the basic finger-picking backing track I’ve prepared will have to suffice (the minstrels in the book would have sung it to the simple accompaniment of a bowed rebec). Similarly, it would have been nice to have video of a large number of armored men on horseback, but that’s not going to happen! I don’t exactly have a Game of Thrones budget here.

On the subject of music, once I finish this I really should set up and get to creating one of the long-promised recording projects. I hope I can shift gears!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Where There's a Will

I was watching a presentation of ‘Richard II’ on PBS last night – part of it, as it went past my bed time – and realized just how much my fiction and, particularly this latest novel, borrows from Shakespeare. Perhaps my poetry too, when I think of it.

Now I tend to see that as, all in all, a good thing. I love the plays, I love the sonnets. But perhaps I tend to rely over much on dialog carrying the story forward.

Not speeches and monologues, of course. Or mostly not. But the greater part of the exposition does come from my characters’ mouths. I simply do not like to describe what people are doing or where they are when they can do it themselves.

And, of course, they can reveal themselves, their philosophies, their personalities, best this way. No psychoanalysis from the author! Will Shakespeare’s King Richard, vacillating on the sands between despair and defiance, is, to me, far better than any of the internal explorations of Dostoevsky’s characters.

Well, anyway, the novel (THE SONG OF THE SWORD) has undergone several rewrites/edits now. I just keep going through and finding things to change — little things, for the most part. I will continue with the process for a while before assembling and designing the book for release. And then on to other projects.

What projects? Not the sequel, not immediately, though I have the story loosely plotted already. And the one after it, for that matter. Perhaps I should write a sequel to THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Those kids are certainly going to be doing things.

Or get back to the neglected music, the painting, the beach! It occurred to me that if I concentrated only on writing I could get by with a way smaller place — a couple rooms would suffice. It’s the recording and art that take up a lot of space and, of course, I have that space in this old house. Even if I’m not actually using it that much.

In a couple months, I’ll use it even less as I close off half the rooms in cold weather. I can hunker down with a heater in a small pace and ride out the winter. Hmm, I reckon I’ll be doing a lot more writing then!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sword Blurb

Just for the fun of it. Hope to have it ready before December.

Making Time

I’ve been working on the rewrite of THE SONG OF THE SWORD (as well as fooling about with some of the peripherals such as book design and the maps), mostly just reading through and fixing small things, rewording here and there where things might not sound quite right or clear enough or I’ve used the same expression too many times!

I’m also making sure of the timing. There is moderately complex interplay of subplots and I want to be absolutely certain everyone can actually be where they are supposed to be WHEN they are supposed to be. I was perhaps underestimating some of the distances when I started writing — in particular, the six-hundred miles that must be crossed on horseback by various characters. With the use of relays of fresh mounts, I think the messengers and assassins passing back and forth can manage it in my time frames.

Mostly, anyway. I think I may be asking too much of one individual in terms of multiple round trips so he may be replaced by a courier on one occasion. Otherwise, things seem to fit, including the phases of the moon — had to careful to get those right!

One might think the general subject matter and, unfortunately, the title of this book would indicate that I cribbed from George R. R. Martin. However, I came up with the name and wrote the first half of the novel well before I ever heard of him and his work.

I will say that my characters are a far nicer bunch of noblemen than his, even if a few would smilingly slip a knife between your ribs. To be honest, I think mine are more real to life — not everyone to ascend a throne is a psychopath. They are also certainly more fun.

And it was fun writing about them. Hard work too. With a little more work, I’ll be able to introduce them to the world soon.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I've spent each of the five past days churning out four to five thousand words on the novel. Now, I can report it done. First draft, that is, rewrite coming up in a while --- I need a few days relaxation first!

This second part came out almost exactly the same length as the first  one, maybe five hundred words longer. It doesn't really stand as well on its own, though I suppose one could still call it a novella. It IS a self-contained story like part one. The length will probably grow a bit in the rewrite. Some writers throw a lot into their first draft and have to trim it later. I tend to be too bare-bones and need to add a bit of imagery to pad it.

So, we can expect THE SONG OF THE SWORD to be a published book by the end of the year. Maybe in time for Christmas shopping --- surely you know someone who would like a good fantasy adventure, full of magic and mayhem!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mapping the Way

This is a draft of the main map for my fantasy novel-in-progress, THE SONG OF THE SWORD. I'll need to indicate the mountain --- perhaps with a gray wash rather than trying to draw them in (which obscures things and makes it look busy, not to mention the fact that they might not look very good!).

I continue to plug away. At this point, part 2 stands at 15,000 words, bringing the total for the novel to 37,000. If I can end up with grand total up to somewhere in the mid 40s, I'll say that's long enough for this book and save the rest for the sequel. Or sequels.

I do know that during rewrite it will grow. It always does --- not the substance or the plots, which are set by then (though I've discovered sub-plots as I go) but I find places that need more imagery, more description. I flesh it out a little --- but just a little, as I dislike wordiness.

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Books -- the Good, the Bad and the Ugly Font

I just received my proof copy of RETELLINGS and it seems the font I employed 'broke' in a few places. Why, I do  not know and the PDF looked fine, but so it goes.

So I uploaded a revised version and it is back online and for sale. I really should order another proof to make sure this one looks right! (But I suspect it's safe. Shoot, the earlier version actually looks okay...mostly!) I'll have to remember not to use Libre Baskerville again; I switched to Baskerville 1757 for a fairly similar size and appearance and only had to adjust for length in a few spots.

I have been continuing to write on the novel, though not quite at the speed I did yesterday. I'm up to 9000 words on the second section (which puts me at 31,000 total) and should be able to keep at it. I'm just at the first big climax scene in this part, involving Halloween masks (okay, not actually Halloween but the 'Harvest Feast') and assassination attempts. Depending on how long this section works out to be, I may or may not need to include a third part in this novel.

Incidentally, I also ordered a proof of the new color version of A MOUSE IS IN THE HOUSE and it looks fine.

I, Workaholic

When I am fully engaged and working hard on a project is when I come closest to being happy.

Or maybe I am just so busy that I forget I am unhappy. It doesn’t matter; the end result is much the same.

There are many ways to shut out the world. Drugs. Work.

Hmm. Those are the only two I can think of, actually. All else is a variation; indeed, I suppose work is no different from a drug. Hence the term ‘workaholic.’

Those variations — reading and study, playing games, chasing after sex. They all serve the same purpose, to keep us from stepping back and looking at our emptiness.

But look we must. To work all the time, to sedate oneself, is to never explore. The work becomes meaningless.

We must pull some truth out of that void and throw it onto a canvas, tack it to a page, sing it to the heavens. And that, ah, that takes work.

Work in which we can lose ourselves and just maybe approach happiness.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Progress, part 2

I somewhat amazed myself by sitting down and churning out five-thousand words on my novel today. Obviously, that's not a pace I could keep up but it's very nice to see such a large chunk of text completed.

I'll admit, I had fully intended to hop in the truck and go listen to live music somewhere. Maybe even play. But you have to make hay while the iron's hot!

So, here's hoping I can keep at it. Not at that manic pace but, if I keep plugging, I should have something completed in a couple months. No worries about writer's block at this point, as it is all pretty much plotted out --- it's more a matter of filling in the blanks.


I’ve been getting a fair amount of work done on the novel. Naturally, everything else I might work on is being ignored! I’m about 3000 words into the second part/novella.

But a lot of the work has been more on what I like to call the ‘argument’ – sort of a combination synopsis/outline – rather than the text. I switched out my monitor for a wide-screen TV so I could have two word processing pages open side by side, one with my notes and one with the actual novel draft. It’s not as clear a display if I want to work on graphics but it’s certainly convenient.

Someday, maybe a really wide high-def monitor (they’re surprisingly affordable) but I can’t justify that right now, with all the working displays I have on hand.

Anyway, it’s coming together, scene by scene. I very much write scenes — anyone who has read THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE would recognize that it resembles a play as much as a novel. I think I picked up that approach from all those Edgar Rice Burroughs novels I read as a youngster. He loved to cut back and forth, presenting his varied subplots.

Depending on whether I can end this part with a satisfying conclusion (as I did the first novella) and on its length, I might or might not want to add more sections to THE SONG OF THE SWORD. Yes, I want my readers to follow the arc of the story through more novels but I also want them to be reasonably contented with the ending to this one!

So, if I can keep up this progress, I may well have a finished draft before the end of the year. I will have to polish and rewrite a while — but not all that much, as I don’t really write ‘rough’ drafts. That’s all worked out in the argument. Then, on to the next novel.

Which might be a sequel to THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE or to this book or something completely different.

Friday, September 13, 2013


I just realized that this is the tenth anniversary of Arachis Press. In a sense, anyway — I self-published my first chapbook of poetry, ‘Pieces of the Moon,’ in 2003. At that time, I styled myself ‘Nihil Crocodile Press’ and continued to do so until I put out my second book, the YA novel ‘The Middle of Nowhere,’ some eight years later!

That first edition was not only self-published but also self-printed. A laser printer, good paper stock, and a long stapler are really all one needs to put out a quite decent-looking product. Distribution, however, is another matter which is why I switched to printing and selling through Lulu for the second edition in 2005.

So I’ll celebrate. Yay! Okay, that’s taken care of. Now back to business!

I’m working up a new catalog, reflecting the release of the latest book, ‘Retellings,’ and will have it on the site shortly. It might be time I adjusted some prices anyway and maybe even put out some revised editions (too many mistakes in both ‘Pieces of the Moon’ and ‘Dreamwinds.’).

And, of course, I continue to make attempts at more books. As I mentioned a while back, I’m open to working with other authors, but I do have projects of my own in progress. Maybe I’ll finally get that fantasy novel finished.

That would be ‘The Song of the Sword.’ I have decided to retain that title for the first ‘book’ of ‘Donzalo’s Destiny,’ which should consist of two novella-length parts. The first of which is long finished and well-polished — I considered releasing it on its own as a 22,000 word ebook but think I will wait.

Here is a mock-up of a possible cover. I like simple and (I hope) classy presentations.

Old Watercolors

Among the family memorabilia I have here are two old watercolors, probably from somewhere around a century ago. Both are almost certainly by the same hand, although neither has a signature nor annotation as to the artist. One, however, is initialed 'MC.'

Who MC might be, I was uncertain. There were Margarets and Marys in the family tree but the 'C' baffled me. On going through the old photos, the only MC I could find was a Mildred Cogley, who was apparently first cousin to my maternal grandmother and of a similar age---about the right age to have painted these. So perhaps she was the artist.

In that she and my grandmother, Mary Koos (Page), seem to have been somewhat close, I could see Mildred giving them to her. Or maybe they are by someone else entirely! They are certainly nothing special from an artistic standpoint, though reasonably competent.

These two pictures have been framed and under glass for most of the past century but I have removed them from their old frames and will, at least for a while, store them somewhere dark for better preservation. Perhaps I'll be able to learn more about them or their painter. That is not really important, however.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Swallowed, a poem


I swallow the ground glass
of your words, a suicide
of hidden bleedings.

It is a wound time may
not heal, tattering,
tearing, slowly bleeding,

behind forgotten smiles.
Look for no meaning here;
pain does not redeem.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Sort of surprised myself by dashing this off. Not a lot of depth, just a shallow puddle of angst.

I'll mention that I'm not linking much to my poetry and postings here from my FaceBook profile anymore, in that it's just so much clutter to most of my FB friends. But I will do so on my official poetry page, , for those who actually want to follow me.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Retellings Released

Okay, so my mad dash to get a new book out is finished. I rather amazed myself with how quickly I got RETELLINGS assembled, designed and into print. Not to mention creating eleven illustrations (albeit quite simple ones that required no physical drawing) and the cover.

It’s the longest poetry collection yet, coming in at 70 pages — and I let the pieces run on rather than placing them one to a page as in the past. That was partly due to the fact that I included a handful of ‘vignettes’ along with the poems. There was more recent work than in the last chapbook, or the first one, for that matter. Still, a few pieces go back a decade or two.

RETELLINGS is, of course, available at the Arachis Press shop at Lulu (which we use for our printing). The paperback (6x9) goes 7.50; there are also EPUB and PDF versions.

What next? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll go to the beach.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Journeyed (an excerpt)

The closing piece and its accompanying illustration from the new chapbook, 'Retellings.' It is available now as an EPUB (at my Lulu shop, soon at Apple and B&N) and I should have the print edition out shortly --- just chose this Baskerville font for it this morning!

I had no intention of suddenly putting out this book but I got ambitious and needed to expend some energy. And I did need to get a new title out there. When I am done with this project, on to something else!

Saturday, September 07, 2013


So here's a mock-up of the cover for the new poetry collection:

Created, as usual, with a combination of Corel Draw and GIMP. GIMP is such a great and useful graphics program; it may not be the equal of Adobe Photoshop but it runs rings around the less expensive 'hobbyist' Photoshop Elements program. And, of course it is completely free. Free is good.

When will the book be out? I'm not hurrying it. I may even attempt to publish one of my other projects first. But by the end of the year, for sure.


I try to do too many things at once and end up accomplishing none of them. My recent work on colorizing A MOUSE IS IN THE HOUSE demonstrated to me that I’m best concentrating on one project at a time. Or maybe two or three is okay, but not a half-dozen or more!

So I have put a few things aside for the moment, to focus on three goals. The first of these is a new anthology of poetry and vignettes to be titled RETELLINGS. Most of the artwork is already finished and I have been busying myself with finalizing the text — adding and subtracting a few pieces. This might be the next offering from Arachis Press.

Or it might be my second writing project, the picture book AWFUL ALVIN. I am working on the drawings for this; the text was, of course, finished ages ago. All other art-heavy books are on hold. I can not concentrate on the necessary illustrations for those right now but will return to them.

My third endeavor is the recording of IN MY GARDEN, the EP of children’s songs. This has been on hold more for physical reasons – mine and the studio’s – than anything else. I think perhaps I should approach each song as a separate project and concentrate on finishing one at a time.

There is, of course, always lots else to do around here. Upkeep on this property takes some time (and, alas, money). I have yet to finish getting everything set up properly here in the house too.

I’m still waiting for my new bookcases to arrive; it’s been over three months now. The previous order took about ten weeks but I guess they have a bigger backlog of orders now! These are solid pine units that should last pretty much forever, unlike the cheap particle board stuff out there. In theory, I shouldn’t need any more shelving though I might upgrade someday if I have the funds.

Once they arrive and I can get the books off the floor, everything else should find its proper place. Maybe I will too.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Really Deep Hole, a poem

The Really Deep Hole

Out by the fence, in their back yard,
Young Lynn and Pete were trying hard
To peek inside a hole they'd found,
A little hole dug in the ground.

Lynn said, “I wonder what lives here
And if it could be somewhere near.”
“Perhaps,” Pete answered, “there might be
Some mice, but it's too dark to see.”

Then asked her, as he took a peep,
“Do you think it is really deep?”
Lynn told him, “No, I don't think so
But then with holes, you never know.

“I guess it's goo big for a mole,
So maybe it's the kind of hole
Where rabbits or a tortoise stay
And only goes a little way.”

“Don't be so certain that it's nice,
I bet there's more down there than mice;
Things that would give you the shakes,”
Warned Petey, “even worse than snakes.

“There could be rivers underground
Where alligators float around,
Just waiting for us to fall in!”
“I don't like that at all,” said Lynn,

“But I think elves might have a mine
That's deep down where the sun can't shine,
With diamonds there so big and bright
They don't need any other light.”

“Okay,” said Pete, “then further down,
Dinosaurs can still be found.”
“Well, at least their bones are there,”
Lynn answered, trying to be fair.

“And far below,” continued Pete,
“We would go on until we meet
A dragon with a pile of gold,
In a cave that's dark and cold.

“If we were quiet, we could creep
By that old dragon in his sleep.”
“What if he wakes up?'”asked Lynn.
“We're breakfast,” said Pete, with a grin.

“A really deep hole will run right
On through earth to the other side,
But that's too far to go today,”
Said Lynn, “and still have time to play.”

“Let's come back when it's not so late,”
Suggested Pete, and Lynn said, “Great,
It should be here; I think that such
A really deep hole won't move much.”

They know it's fun when we pretend
That really deep holes never end
And guess about what lives way down
Miles and miles beneath the ground.

If we imagine things that might
Be hidden somewhere, out of sight,
Like Lynn and Pete and look ourselves,
We may find rabbits or find elves!

Stephen Brooke ©1998

This is an older piece intended for children --- I see that I've never posted it here before so I will now. Thinking of making it one of my book projects, fully illustrated, or maybe part of a book of children's poems. A project for somewhere down the line!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Prophets, a poem


The Prophets of Profits have spoken —
war must surely come!
All wishes for peace were but token;
now we’re beating the drum.

The lives of a few (or of many)
do not count when we sum;
No, to us they’re not worth one penny
and soon we all will be numb.

The Prophets of Profits have spoken
(would that they were struck dumb) —
we must break what’s already broken;
war must surely come!

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Dashed off in a few minutes, as bits of social commentary are wont to be

Sunday, September 01, 2013


A favorite question of skeptics is if God is all-powerful, then why does he allow evil to exist? My answer? Because evil is also all-powerful.

I see good and evil as the binary code of the universe — the one and zero, the on and off. Not opposites, but being and non-being. God/good is infinite existence filling an infinite void of non-being/evil.

This is not Dualism in a Manichean or Zoroastrian sense. In a truly dualistic system, evil is a thing or person coequal with God. But evil (if I may continue to use so inadequate a word) is not a thing; it is the absence of existence, complete emptiness.

Can Being exist without emptiness? What would it fill? Or, for that matter, would Emptiness ‘exist’ without Being to define it?

Far be it from me to attempt to answer those questions! Even the little I have said here is a thoroughly inadequate attempt to make sense of things. That, however, will not keep me — and the rest of mankind — from trying again.