Saturday, November 30, 2013

Heroes, a poem


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


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 ( 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


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


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


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


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

Friday, November 08, 2013

I Who Was Young, a poem

Moon of silver, sun of gold,
I who was young now grow old.
Daylight dims, night grows cold,
Should I fear death, I who was bold?

Life is short, forever is long,
I tried to do right, often did wrong.
Will is weak, wine was strong,
I would forget the words to my song.

Moon of silver, queen of night,
I knew you once, grown full and bright,
And madly I danced, by your light,
But those who danced with me fled from sight.

Last fading stars, by dawn swept away,
I, as you, may no longer stay.
Yet you return, come end of day;
Where I might go, I can not say.

Every road walked, every tale told;
All I then loved I could not hold.
Sun of morning, spun of gold,
I who was young have grown old.

Stephen Brooke ©2013 

I think this still somewhat rough

Of Love Scenes

How very much is writing a love scene like writing a poem. Or perhaps it’s the other way around and every poem is, in a sense, akin to making love.

The true power of words can be known when we attempt to capture such emotions, to speak of and from the soul. They demand truth.

It has hurt, sometimes, to find those words. They have been driven like nails into my heart and must be wrenched free. Now, I drive them again into the page before me, so they might wound others.

That is the purpose of poetry, isn’t it? To make of words something more than words. As love makes of two people something more than they are on their own.

I have written of love and I have written many poems. More importantly, I have loved.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

Thursday, November 07, 2013


What shadow does a shadow cast?
How long does forever last?
Where sleeps the wind before it blows?
Where is love when it goes?

If I passed beyond the sea,
would you wait and watch for me?
If I crossed the mountains high,
would you pray for wings to fly?

Who am I without my name?
Are the gods or we to blame?
Why must dreams fade with the dawn?
Where is love once it is gone?

If I passed beyond the sea,
would you wait and watch for me?
If I crossed the mountains high,
would you pray for wings to fly?

Could a man count every star?
Why are all things as they are?
Do you love me when you sleep?
Answer these or silence keep.

Stephen Brooke ©2013

A little riddle song/lullaby sort of piece I wrote for the ongoing novel. Which stands at over 16,000 words currently, which would make this novella-length section at least two-thirds finished.

Monday, November 04, 2013


I am closing in on a 9000 word count on the novel — it’s writing itself much quicker than I expected. This part may also turn out longer than expected, which is okay. It should still be more-or-less a novella-length section.

Naturally, I am totally into it and everything else is being neglected. I go to bed at night thinking of plot points and dialog and frequently get up to jot things down. It’s the first thing on my mind when I wake up. That won’t last, of course, so I get what I can done before it dries up — it’s a bit of a manic-depressive pattern, I guess.

This second book of ‘Donzalo’s Destiny’ is also darker than the first. Not anything approaching a ‘Game of Thrones’ level, but a bit more violence and sex and general nastiness. They are still a rather courtly and well-behaved group of characters, though. On the surface!

Well, back to it...

Saturday, November 02, 2013

No NaNoWriMo

Although I am not officially participating in National Novel Writing Month, I am working on the next novel. That would be the sequel to THE SONG OF THE SWORD, probably to be titled THE SHADOW OF ASAK (I briefly considered ‘The Shadow of the Sorcerer’ but that’s been used before.).

Here is a screen shot that illustrates how I write — two instances of Open Office Writer open, notes on the left, narrative on the right. Stuff goes back and forth between them. I do tend to have a lot of sub-plots operating simultaneously and cut back and forth to various characters, so I need to keep track of it all with outlining and notes.

It is a method not well suited to NaNoWriMo anyway. I’m not a person who is going to sit down and churn out so many words in a day. Also, this will turn out, almost certainly, at novella length and I will have to write another such to have enough for the book...and that will require gearing up all over again!