adventures in dysthymia

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What You Know

“...talented young novelists were all going to these MFA programs and being told, 'write about what you know,' which is brilliant advice for your first novel but it makes them helpless on their second novel.” ~ Tom Wolfe


I suppose my first novel, the YA 'The Middle of Nowhere' was a 'what you know' story. It was very much based on a place I lived, the people I knew there. I am pleased enough still with my effort on the book but I do see it as essentially a practice piece. I learned the craft there and have been able to work more quickly and confidently on my writing since.


I do doubt that I will ever write another Young Adult, even though I have a good idea where all those kids' lives would be going over the next couple years if I chose to pen a sequel. The setting and some of the characters will, however, reappear in more ambitious adult novels. Eventually.


Indeed, the Steinhatchee area – which is essentially what the fictitious town of Ruby stands in for – has appeared in many songs and poems, as well as a handful of short stories. A big chunk of my past was spent there. I've spent enough time and done enough things in different places to pretty much write about what I know indefinitely.


But, instead, I went to a fantasy for my second novel. I felt that a complete break with the themes of the first book was in order. It also gave me more freedom to say what I wanted to say.


My third novel, the second book of 'Donzalo's Destiny,' is still officially set for release on March 1 (though it is already available for purchase). 'The Shadow of Asak' is similar in length to the first book, 'The Song of the Sword,' bringing the total for 'Destiny' to 93,000 words — so far. It truly is all one fairly lengthy novel, even if I am dividing it into 'books' for publication. There should be two or three more of similar size, bringing 'Donzalo's Destiny' up to somewhere around the 200,000 word mark.


I may get onto the next book, tentatively titled 'The Sign of the Arrow' now or I may work on another project and give Donzalo's saga a rest. At any rate, I know where the story is going so there is no problem with writer's block. Except I haven't quit decided which pairings of lovers will occur by the end.


Which, incidentally, will probably not be the end of Donzalo. There well may be more novels with him – and undoubtedly some of the other characters – showing up.


As always, the books are available both at the Arachis Press site and at our bookstore at Lulu. By the way, if you are a reviewer, contact me and I'll see about getting a free ebook to you (EPUB or PDF).

Leadership (Wendell Berry)


Monday, February 24, 2014

An Ugly Song, a poem

An Ugly Song


I will make ugly music, shriek
disharmonic diatribes into your ears.
Dance to it if you can.


Dance to it if you will.
Tomorrow is in my pocket, yes,
and every promise that lay


hidden around time's curve.
Hidden in the palm of my hand,
beneath the clumsy fingers


that reach for God and find
falling stars in the night.
Falling as far as my mind


can imagine, and no further;
we only dreamed who we were
yesterday. We were children


yesterday, singing tuneless
ugly songs to the darkness.
Did they reach the ears of God?


Stephen Brooke ©2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

Flights, poem and prose

I wrote this piece out as a poem -- the first version here -- and then wondered if it might not work as well or better in the form of a vignette or prose poem (of sorts). So, I laid it out as such in paragraphs but with the same text. I don't know which I prefer.

Not that I'm overly fond of either.


Flights

I'd bicycle, or sometimes walk —
six or seven blocks I think
it was, nothing for twelve
year old legs, especially

my well-traveled pair. I had
seen much of Columbus
from a bike, more than my folks
might have ever suspected.

But the hobby shop down
at the end of the street
(if you turned by the school)
wasn't very far, as I said,

where Broad Street and James
and my own route made a five-way
inconvenience and the Ho-Jo
sat out on the point but I

stayed on this side of the street.
We ate there once, a few
days before we left Ohio.
I probably had the clams.

I always liked the clams.
But the hobby shop was
my destination, each week,
when I had enough money

from my allowance to buy
another model airplane
or maybe check the paperback
racks for the latest

reissue of a Burroughs novel.
A visit to Africa or Barsoom
was only a quarter or thirty
cents, and that was a good

deal compared to a one-forty-eighth
scale Revell. Such flights I took
on both, and on a green bicycle,
that last year in the city.

Stephen Brooke ©2014

Flights

I'd bicycle, or sometimes walk — six or seven blocks I think it was, nothing for twelve year old legs, especially my well-traveled pair. I had seen much of Columbus from a bike, more than my folks might have ever suspected.

But the hobby shop down at the end of the street (if you turned by the school) wasn't very far, as I said, where Broad Street and James
and my own route made a five-way inconvenience and the Ho-Jo sat out on the point but I stayed on this side of the street.

We ate there once, a few days before we left Ohio. I probably had the clams. I always liked the clams.

But the hobby shop was my destination, each week, when I had enough money from my allowance to buy another model airplane or maybe check the paperback racks for the latest reissue of a Burroughs novel. A visit to Africa or Barsoom was only a quarter or thirty cents, and that was a good deal compared to a one-forty-eighth scale Revell.

Such flights I took on both, and on a green bicycle, that last year in the city.

Stephen Brooke ©2014


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Form

There is a tendency among some academics to dismiss poets who write in form as mere traders in nostalgia, or, worse, reactionaries — in some sense, anti-modern. This view tends to ignore the fact that Modernism itself is over a hundred years old now and one might say they are indulging in their own form of nostalgia.*


The ‘New Formalist’ movement began to stir in the Eighties and made an impact over the next couple of decades. As an actual movement, it has subsided, as all such do. In a sense, it could be seen as parallel to the ‘Stuckist’ (or, alternatively, ‘Remodernist’) movement in the visual arts — not a denial of the Modern but an attempt to bring meaning back to the arts.

I am inclined to believe that many were poets who, like myself, came of age in the time of the ‘meaningful’ song lyric. Their sensibilities were formed by the work of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and a host of others who brought poetry and a certain seriousness to the popular music of the Sixties and – to some degree or another – the time since.

Songwriting truly is the popular poetry of today. As with popular poetry of any era, most of it can be dismissed as somewhere between mediocre and absolute garbage. But then, academic art, be it visual, written or composed, is much the same. Indulgent theatricality seems to have replaced painting, becoming so self-referential that is now being ironic about irony.

Of course, ‘formal’ writers and artists are not above the same sort of jokes, the same ironic view of their own work. We see the world that way, for now. As with all things, that will someday change.

But we may need to give it half a century, if history is to follow its typical course. The Modern Era has far from run out steam – or words or paint – and the best of it may be yet to come. Or we may soon be descending into a ‘Late Modern’ mannerist period (which may still produce perfectly good work).

That only means the next clearly defined era is around the corner, just as the Modern replaced the late Romantic and the Romantic replaced the late Baroque (Rococo) and the Baroque replaced the late Renaissance. Each of the these eras lasted a decade or two more than a century and a half and I would expect much the same for Modernism.

Yes, the world moves more quickly these days but, on the other hand, humans live longer. It is the artists and writers and all the creators and thinkers who move things along. We have new ideas when we have new people.

Who knows if I shall live long enough to see them.

Stephen Brooke ©2014

*I would put the beginning of the Modern Era around 1910, ushered in by Picasso and Stravinsky.

This little essay is something I scribbled (I consider it early draft-ish) with thoughts toward the launching of the literary magazine. It most likely will still appear, eventually!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Canvas, a poem

Canvas

What colors shall I paint
upon the blank canvas
of this day? The pigments
dry upon my palette,

the ultramarine and cobalt,
alizarin, gamboge;
stiff-bristled brushes stand
in old coffee cans,

the Yuban and Bustelo,
ready to my hesitant
hand. Another cup
before I work, before

I set brush to this
emptiness? In paint
is every choice, those made
and those I leave in sketches.

Stephen Brooke ©2014

It seems that once I start writing poetry again, it snowballs. For a while---I'll fall into another all-consuming project soon, I'm sure, and the poetry will dwindle.

Piles, a poem

Piles

When the sky is torn in pieces
and scattered like confetti on sawmill
winds, when dark ocean leaps
to swamp the stars, gather up
your baskets of prayers. Throw them before
your god, saying ‘Count them, O Lord.’
Later, an angel will sweep them into
unruly piles to be thrown away
with all the rest of eternity.

Stephen Brooke ©2014

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Small, a poem

Small

I write the small sins of my life
very large. I fill books with them,
dressed up as great passions, the vices
of a man that I am not.

Let me lie to you. Let me
hide in a thicket of words, grown
tall as jungles, dense as morning’s
sunlit distances. Time will

remember only these pages, singing
their tunes across tomorrow, singing
of this small man, written large.

Stephen Brooke ©2014

A 'small' poem

Monday, February 10, 2014

Revisions and Removals

My proof copy of the print version of THE SHADOW OF ASAK arrived today and it looks good. My immediate concern is always whether the graphics printed properly — which they did. I’ll read through to make sure there are no problems otherwise.

So it looks like I could ‘release’ the book anytime but I will hold the official date to March First. That gives me loads of time to get it on my own Arachis Press website and do a little more promotion. It is, however, already for sale at the AP page at Lulu, in print, PDF, and EPUB.

The best thing about a print on demand model – aside from the low initial cost – is that revisions are very easy. If I find anything wrong in the book I can upload a new version and have it available pretty much immediately. The only lag is the EPUB versions for Apple and Barnes & Noble, which have to be approved. I don’t care that much whether my books show up in those stores anyway, to be honest.

And, as always, I do not use Amazon.

I do need to get to revise all my older titles eventually. There are always problems one finds, if only typos. Also, I should get my pricing more consistent, especially since Apple rounds it up to the nearest 99 cents! That will be the first task, I think.

In only slightly related news, I have concluded that official Face Book ‘Pages’ for my various endeavors are not very useful. Better to have blogs and/or sites that I can link to from my profile, for the most part. I have already dropped ‘Que Linda Music’ and ‘The Poetry of Stephen Brooke,’ and may delete ‘Insolent Lad Media’ as well.

I will, however, keep my page as a musician (hoping that I will actually play again someday), the ‘Arachis Press’ page, and the one for ‘Peanut Road’ (which is somewhat all-encompassing).

Beatles versus Banjo

I did watch some of the Beatles special last night. And I did watch their performance on Ed Sullivan fifty years ago. Admittedly, I was not all that impressed at the time.

'Just another pop band' was my thought and so my inner sophisticate dismissed them. All those screaming girls did not help their cause, either! Eventually, I did come to appreciate the Beatles, especially when harder rocking songs like Ticket to Ride or Day Tripper came along. Yes, they were everything everyone says they were. ;)

But watching that tribute didn't really do that much for me. Moreover, the Columbo rerun on MeTV had Clive Revill (a most excellent actor) singing Irish songs and strumming his tenor banjo. How could I miss that?


Sunday, February 09, 2014

Mantis Dance, a poem

Mantis Dance

Our courtship moves in patterned steps,
a pantomime of passion,

the invitation to an embrace
I willingly accept.

We will dance this mantis dance
until you devour me.

Stephen Brooke ©2014
 

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Earthrise, a poem

Earthrise

On Mars, that planet far,
Earth is a morning star
to shine above the red
landscape, chill and dead.

Who has seen it rise,
what unknown, alien eyes
in eons past would stare
through thin twilight air

and wonder? Were there none,
dim lit by the ancient sun,
who once knew death and birth
and wished upon the Earth?

Stephen Brooke ©2014

Inspired by the recent pictures of Earth rising over Mars. A bit of a throwaway

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Tunnel, a poem

Tunnel

I have passed through the tunnel
and found night on the other side.

Pleasure and pain look alike
in the dark. Why seek either?

Do as you will, the world has whispered.
It means nothing. I do nothing.

Stephen Brooke ©2014

It's hard to believe that this is actually my first finished poem of the year! Been too busy obsessing about the novel (and other fiction projects). Sort of in the form of a sijo though I wouldn't call it one.

Seegar the Conservative


This quote by the late Pete Seegar dovetails with my recent post about conservatives and liberals. By that standard, I would be a 'conservative' too!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Shadow Trailer

A simple trailer I put together for my upcoming fantasy novel, THE SHADOW OF ASAK (the Second Book of Donzalo's Destiny). My design and music. The book should be available in March.


Sunday, February 02, 2014

Spring?

I consider this date – Candlemas, Groundhog Day, or whatever name you prefer – to be the beginning of Spring. It lies half-way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, both of which I would call the midpoints of their respective seasons.

It was quite foggy this morning so I did not see my shadow. The end of the cold? Oh well, this is Florida so I wouldn’t expect much more wintry weather anyway. It certainly has felt spring-like the last couple days, after those  two arctic incursions.

So it is time to get out and about. I need to get my vehicle situation straightened out some — I’m still running my twenty year old Ford Ranger, almost at 200,000 miles, and hope to for some time more. If it dies, who knows what I could afford as a replacement?

As a backup plan, I bought a bicycle, a fairly nice Essex Windsor single-speed with luggage racks, that I can use to travel the three miles or so to Graceville if need be. I could get by indefinitely without going farther, not that I would want to!

In other news, I am ‘fostering’ a pit-mix that showed up starved and somewhat beaten-up. He is a very nice and obedient fellow, especially compared to my willful Tucky (that’s border collies for you), but I do not think I can take care of him long-term. If anyone out there wants an amber-eyed buddy, let me know!