Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Un Aeroplane, a poem

Un Aeroplane

One day, she no longer
understood the piano
but sat staring at the keys,
Satie's Sports et Divertissements
open before her.
All the hours, forgotten,
all the times her hands
had followed the sarcastic
notes. Teins! un aeroplane...
Look up, look up,
before you also
forget me.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

This would be about my late mother and her descent into Alzheimer's, for any who might wonder. She was a very good pianist at one time. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Memoir, a poem


My real-life adventures
will be read widely
as soon as I finish
making them up.

A memoir? they'll ask,
and, did this all happen?
Each host of a talk show
will vie for the truth.

Surely you never
wrestled Hulk Hogan?
Let's see those medals
you won in the war!

Those were all hocked
to pay for my lifestyle,
whiskey and women,

back in the day,
just before prison —
but there is no need
to get into that.

Perhaps things were so,
I'm no longer certain,
and when I'm forgotten
nobody will care,

but I took great pleasure
in jotting them down —
those real-life adventures
that could have been mine.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

Sunday, December 27, 2015

stinky tom, a poem

stinky Tom
hangs around my porch
squalling all night

silly boy! don't you know
my Molly has been fixed?

Stephen Brooke ©2015

in a vaguely tanka-like form

Candide, a poem


Voltaire wrote Candide in three days,
while God required six to create
the best of all possible worlds.

I would think it was all
the coffee that made the difference,
those fifty cups each day

that fueled the philosopher's
creative fury. But God, no doubt,
slept better on the seventh day.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

this exists pretty much for the sake of its punchline

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hero Update 3

I have finished writing the narrative for the third section of HERO FROM THE SEA, again a bit over 15,000 words, bringing me to a total of around 47,000 so far. One section to go.

All according to plan, somewhat to my amazement. We leave our heroes marching north to battle at the end of this section. Obviously, they will fight early in the next one, followed by — well, other stuff. No giving it away, folks!

I might take a short hiatus to recharge — and ponder plot elements — before tackling the last part. My sore neck tells me I should. I think my feet are swelling a tad too from sitting so much. And the weather outside is mighty nice. Who knows how long that will last?

Happy enough with what I have written so far and expect to remain that way. No writer's block here — I have more ideas than I know what to do with, most of the time. Yeah, I know, that doesn't mean they are any good!

With all this sitting and writing I never got around to recording something for the “Florida Song” competition at the Will McLean Festival this spring. Honestly, I don't like the idea of awards and competitions anyway. They are quite meaningless (but, admittedly, good publicity). I might or might not get down to that gathering this year. It's fun but rather far.

And my niece isn't performing this year, nor at the Florida Folk Festival (she'll be on tour in Europe). We'll see how that all goes. I haven't planned next week, much less next year.

Oh wait, next week is next year. (Okay, that was an obvious gag.) And chances are, I'll be back in this chair, churning out the last section of HERO FROM THE SEA!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Just the Facts, a poem

Just the Facts

I've been told to believe in facts
but I've never actually seen one;
do they climb trees or dig deep burrows
to hide themselves from the sun?
I'd like to find the place those facts
come out to play and run,
but till then I'm not sure that they exist
and weren't made up just for fun!

Stephen Brooke ©2015

no more than a bit of doggerel - but it is so that facts are not 'things' in a physical sense, but metaphors, reality sifted through our human brains and language. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Eat, Drink, and Write Novels

It has been brought to my attention that there is a great deal of eating and drinking in my novels. Characters are forever sitting down to feasts or sharing wine or even brewing coffee. I hadn't really thought about it but it is true — there is definitely more of that sort of thing than in the average novel.

Food is important. Food is basic. Folks do converse and plan over meals or glasses of beer or cups of tea. I do, anyway! It just seems natural to make it an integral part of the narrative.

Food also identifies. Different classes, different cultures, eat differently. Peasants drink ale when nobles drink wine (not always, of course). On one side of the mountains, they consume barley; one the other, millet or maize. They make a unique cheese in one place. A sweet wine comes from another.

Food identifies characters as well, the glutton, the ascetic. The man who prefers rare meat and he who loves sweets. One might be a gourmet or a wine snob. Another does not care what is placed before him. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are a fair number of characters involved in the preparation or serving of food, inn keepers, brewers, cooks, even a prominent family of wine merchants.

We are what we eat, perhaps, and the same with a character in a story.

Basic, I said. Part of the everyday fabric, part of making things real. People eat and drink and scheme and make love. In my novels they do, anyway.

Accretion, a poem


Not one of us is ever
complete. Add more. Add
another piece and measure
against infinity.

I grow, accreting all
this debris of life.
In time I could become
planets, stars unnumbered,

a universe and still
fall short. No matter. Time
has not the length to make
me whole and at the end

each piece will fall away.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

Probably best at this length. More would only become redundant. None of my spell checkers like 'accreting' but it's in my paper and ink dictionary. That still comes in handy!

Monday, December 21, 2015


In the land of Lama, the great valley of the River Weldar, they would celebrate the Yule today. In the hills of the Cuddon, too, there would be festivity, and across the mountains in Sharsh.

The Lamans would offer prayer to Kamat, the great god of light, the god of Being, who again triumphed over the Void. That it was only symbolic and that Kamat was far greater than the returning sun, they knew, but it was a good symbol and worth the celebrating.

Elsewhere, different gods were honored. The feasting, however, was just as merry and the gifts as plentiful. There would be kisses beneath the greenery hung in every threshold. There would be young women in the arms of young men, dreaming before the Yule log. Women and men not so young, as well.

Let the cold winds blow. The mid-winter had come and the wheel of the heavens turned on. Spring would follow, and other feasts, on other days.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

This little passage would refer to the world of my Donzalo novels. It is not actually to be found in one of those but could always show up in a new one. So a Merry Yuletide to all!

Hero Update 2

To the end of the second section (again, of four) on the novel in progress, near 32,000 words. That's right on track for what I planned; of course, word counts may change a bit, usually increase slightly where I see a need for more clarity in description.

We end part two with a wedding, and happiness, but with ominous undertones. Must have those, you know, or there would be no need for parts three and four!

Feel good about what I've written so far and, as always, it is fairly close to the finished product. Any plot holes and such are usually plugged way back in the plotting and outlining phase, so no worries there. Admittedly, there might have been more action but I hate throwing in a crisis every three pages just for the sake of having one. And they do get tiresome if one has too many.

So, I shall get back to HERO FROM THE SEA and finish the next section in a while. How soon, there is no telling, especially with the distractions at this time of year. War coming up, I do believe, and death and destruction and all that kind of stuff!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Body and Mind

I do not understand the dichotomy of body and mind that some profess. It is all the same thing to me, arm, leg, brain — they are all me.

Perhaps being a body builder much of my life has led me to this attitude. I change my body, just as I change my mind. I shape myself, whether with weights or with books.

I am no passenger, here. I am the vehicle, carrying myself to me.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hero Update

I have completed writing the narrative for the first section (of four) for my next novel, HERO FROM THE SEA, 15,800 words. This is the third book of the Malvern series, sequel to COAST OF SPEARS and VALLEY OF VISIONS.

Only this first part was fully plotted, but in the writing of the text plenty of thoughts presented themselves for outlining what follows. This part took about three days to write; now I will have to do some more planning before plowing into the next.

I still haven't decided whether to kill off a VERY major character near the end of the book. But I have written out the scene. We shall see.

This is the same formula I used for the two previous Malvern novels, and somewhat based on Michael Moorcock's recommendations. Four sections, each around 15,000 words, each with its own arc. It's surprising how close the books match up with this idea when they are completed. Maybe I just naturally think in chunks of story that size.

But this is for a rather straightforward adventure novel. I would not use it for other sorts of books. Writing it in first person also allows for more streamlining — only one point of view to worry about! My Donzalo books admittedly got a bit complicated as we jumped from character to character.

How soon will I finish the whole novel? Hard to say. Possibly as soon as the end of the year, possibly as late as a couple months into the next. Then on to other projects!

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Fay, a poem

The Fay

If traveling through the fairies' gate
be sure to kiss goodbye your mate,
for it may be an hundred years
that your mate will have to wait.

When you pass into that air
of delight and appearance fair,
know glamour is the fairies' art;
all that seems fair lies cold and bare.

Count not the hour nor the day
as you sit feasting with the Fay,
a night, mayhap a century—
but with the Fay no man may stay.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

A throwaway, really, but it might be usable in a novel someday, maybe with revision.

A Start on Eggshell Boats

One reason I am starting a magazine (Eggshell Boats, coming soon!) is that the blog has become a far less useful place to share opinions and ideas than it once was. I don't do that very much here anymore; in part, that is because I now tend to slip my ideas into my fiction, but also because places like FaceBook and Twitter are where people share these sorts of things now. There or on magazine/news sites.

Which is not to say that I will not continue to maintain multiple blogs. But they have become places for announcements, or to share bits of poetry and such. Essays, opinion pieces, reviews — those will go to the magazine. Or at least a blog connected to the magazine.

There is a lot to think of yet before the official launch. Go with pages at the Insolent Lad site? Use Word Press or a similar platform? Have the individual issues on web pages or as downloadable ebooks? I have taken the first step by setting up a blog at Word Press, eggshellboats.wordpress.com. It is just possible that I will direct my domain there. But not right now.

Maybe I shall put some reviews there. I haven't decided about that sort of thing yet. I will post news and an occasional essay, and take it from there.

Anyway, it is another project to keep me busy. If I did not have such I would become terminally bored. And I mean terminal quite literally. Fortunately, I am plowing through the writing of the next novel (took a while to get myself going) so that will take my attention for a while. And I have plenty of ideas for the one after it.

Darn, I need to work in more beach time too.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Gallows Wait, a song

The Gallows Wait
a tavern song

He put a knife
into his wife,
then slew her lover too;
the gallows wait
at hell's gate,
for his judgment's due.

The devil is paid
when you use your blade
on a woman, though she cheat;
you might try to flee
but caught you'll be,
and die kicking your feet.

On all the earth
is any wench worth
the stretching of your neck?
Let one go
and before you know,
another's at your beck.

Is there a noose
resting loose
upon your shoulders now?
Let jealousy be,
don't hang from that tree
o'er the breaking of a vow!

Stephen Brooke ©2015

This song lyric is written to fit into a fantasy novel, sung by men, obviously (maybe pirates or similar sorts), in a tavern. It is not for the novel on which I am currently supposed to be working, but would appear in a projected Donzalo sequel --- for which I keep jotting down notes even though I should be writing HERO FROM THE SEA.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Anything I Say, a poem

Anything I Say

Never believe anything I say.
All the more, if it is
in a poem. I become
enamored of words, let them lead me

where they will. They put themselves
in my mouth. Even I
sometimes believe. Even I
can be seduced by the meaningless

phrase that sounds just right
and maybe it is. I'll not argue
the point with myself; I can't claim
to understand anything I say.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

Counting, a song lyric


Tell yourself plausible lies,
deny the evidence of your eyes;
tomorrow walks in dark disguise
behind the storm-enamored skies.

Death will make us all the same,
oblivion no different than fame.
Leaving triumph, leaving shame,
even we forget our name.

Counting marbles in a jar,
counting days that never are —
what's not offered, we can't choose;
what we never had, we can't lose.

Paint me in your somber hues,
match the memory of each bruise.
Nothing left of me to accuse;
I can do no more than amuse.

Lift your face now to the void,
voice a despair unalloyed.
All that's built can be destroyed;
desire is too readily cloyed.

Counting glasses in a bar,
counting every shining star —
all the things that never come,
all the things that leave us numb.

Believe all things that fools assure,
let your dreams awake and stir;
treat the impossible as though it were,
but curse the heavens if it occur.

Hold me in a moment's embrace,
never let me glimpse your face;
speak no name, leave no trace
of our passage in this place.

Counting every passing car,
counting miles we've traveled so far —
is there nothing left to see?
Is there nothing left to be?

Stephen Brooke ©2015

These are notes toward a song of the heavier sort. There will no doubt be changes---not even sure the verses will stay in this order. Yes, I have music but it is still rough too.

Forests, a poem


The fruit contains the seed.
From the seed grows the tree.
The tree bears the fruit.

I have planted
with the rising sun.
I have awaited the rain.

Hope is the seed.
Faith is the tree.
Love is the fruit.

I have tasted the day.
When evening wraps herself
in blue, come to me.

Tomorrow ripens.
Its seed will be scattered
across our empty hills.

I have blessed the night,
giving thanks for each
rising star.

We shall be forests,
tall and fruitful, dreaming
against the sky.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Eggshell Boats

So...I decided to finally take steps toward creating another online magazine and registered a new domain name. Paid for ten years so I have to use it! The name of the site and magazine is Eggshell Boats — to be located at eggshellboats.com. I'll have to work on a logo; until recently I had thought I would call it the Arachis Review but I decided I didn't want it too closely identified with the Arachis Press. I like this name way more anyway, but it might call for a slightly less formal look than I had in mind.

I shall probably launch as a review site and take it from there. I hope to develop Eggshell into a full literary magazine (of sorts, anyway) in time. A few of you will know that I attempted such a magazine a few years back but closed down after two issues because of the demands of being a full-time caregiver for my mother in her final days. I don't have anyone to take care of but myself now. Though that is pretty much a full-time job too.

It will also be a place where I can spout off in editorial/essay form. Or others might, for that matter. There is much to think about, most importantly the money part of it. I'll work on setting things up and launch some time next year.

Confessions of an Art Historian, a poem

Confessions of an Art Historian

I understand Impressionism too well
to really like it. As boring sometimes as
a Flaubert novel, it pursues the truths
of light in a brushstroke, science on a canvas.

The brush speaks only words; there are no stories.
That they, these painters, created beauty still,
despite the theories they carried with their paints,
laid out in care for plein air experiment,

but proves the artist will chafe at any bonds,
no matter that he might have forged them himself.
Some part must hide itself from theorists,
historians. It lies in the artists' souls.

I look too closely, seeing every brushstroke;
I stand too distant, knowing 'this came before,'
'that followed.' I understand Impressionism
too well and not at all. As most things.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Now and Then, a poem

Now and Then

'Do I make you crazy?' you'd ask now and then,
over some small silly thing you might do.
'No, kid,' I’d tell you, and smile. It was true,
oh, it was so true, when you'd ask, now and then.

And did you at last, or was it that I knew
my teetering dance on the tight rope of you
could only end with a fall? Who made who
mad is a question I ask, now and then.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

Adventures in trimeter. This is something that sat half-finished in my notes for quite a long time. Maybe it should have stayed there.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Theory, a poem


All history can be explained
in economic terms, claimed the theorist.

Why, we could do without any human beings
at all, agreed his students.

Good idea, said the politician,
they can be quite bothersome,

and he immediately initiated
a five-year plan to eliminate them.

It is for your own good, the police
told the people. When you are gone,

things will move much more smoothly.
Everyone will be happy, at last.

All history can be explained
in economic terms, claimed Spot.

I prefer the 'great cats' theory,
replied Mittens.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

Yes, it's pretty ridiculous. Or maybe I should say 'absurd' which sounds much more intellectual.

Mistakes, a poem


Trying to avoid
the mistakes of the past
we make the mistakes
of the present.

No worse are they than those
of our fathers, no more
foolish. To err remains
exceedingly human.

Blunder on, muddle
through; our children know
that they will do far better
when their turn comes.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Two Kinds, a poem

Two Kinds

There are two kinds of poetry,
I am told.
Good poetry.
Bad poetry.
Alas! I fail too often at both
and write only
mediocre poetry.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

This might qualify.

I Rested, a poem

I Rested

For a time, I rested
on unknown coasts;
there a port lies hidden
between the arms of the mountains,
reaching like a lover
toward the uncaring sea.

Hear the songs calling,
plaintive in the streets
of night, in the dark cantinas
where sailors forget their ships.
It is I they call.
It is I who yearns.

The journey from me to you
began where another ended,
where tides rise and fall
unnoted. It is the way
of quests and dreams to fade so,
one into another.

Hear the sea calling;
I am timbers and sails,
straining to know the wind.
It tells of other ports;
it speaks of other coasts.
For a time, I rested.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

an old topic for me, revisited once again -- as ever, pretty first draft-ish