Thursday, April 30, 2015

White Savior

One of the clichés of the fantasy novel is the civilized man – usually white – who in some fashion saves the ‘savages’ he encounters. We have seen this as recently as the movie ‘Avatar.’

This fellow has been dubbed the ‘white savior.’ Whether he pops up in Africa or among the stars, he has been all over fantasy writing since at least of time of Haggard. (Though to give Haggard credit, the real hero of ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ is the black man who pretty much saves them all.) For that matter, one can see it before then with the frontier romances that featured white men among native Americans.

It would have been easy to fall into using that trope with ‘Coast of Spears,’ my soon-to-be-published novel. White guy shipwrecked among natives (never mind that it occurs in a more-or-less parallel world) gets involved in their lives and wars. I recognized the perils of such a scenario and made it my intention from the start that he would NOT be particularly heroic.

Competent, yes, but not wanting to take the lead or impose himself — which contributes some to his problems. Is he the hero? Sort of. He is the protagonist, anyway, and the point is that he does step up eventually, after being pretty much forced into it. But first, he is the one rescued on more than one occasion.

And he truly saves no one but himself. The native peoples could have gotten along perfectly well without him.


There is another, completely unrelated cliché that pops up in some fantasy writing and that is the use of the apostrophe in proper names. Usually this is just to make them seem ‘exotic’ and serves no actual purpose.

However, there are languages in our own world where apostrophes are there for a reason. One sees them in western Africa, for example, or in Polynesia. This latter has a direct bearing on my novel as one native nation there is supposedly of Polynesian origin. So a few pseudo-Polynesian names I coined do have those apostrophes, but only where they make sense.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Valuable, a poem


Commodities. Valuable only
when someone is willing to pay
or to steal. You. Me.

Raped in the marketplace.
Sold into servitude.
How else know my worth?

How else know your worth
than to steal all that
is you? Take. Hold.

Toss aside, worthless.
Every coin changes hands.
Every coin becomes the game

of chance. Heads. Tails.
Life. Loss. I sit
unpurchased. Valueless.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

Now for something completely different?

Painted, a poem


We walked hand in hand through the art show,
creating portraits of each other.

Memories are painted in the vivid hues
of cobalt and alizarin.

It has been long since we were in love
but not long enough for them to fade.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

One of my sijo-like efforts -- my upcoming jaunt to the Florida Folk Festival reminded me of the first time I went and the one who accompanied me.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


I have pretty much of a finished text for the first half of my upcoming novel, COAST OF SPEARS, about 30,000 words. Any further revision should be editing, not rewriting.

I decided to follow the Michael Moorcock method of novel writing for this book, dividing the structure into four sections of about 15,000 words each, and each with its own narrative arc. Since I tend to write in novella-sized chunks anyway, this came pretty naturally to me. Of course (like, apparently, Moorcock), I have lots of notes and outlining ready preceding the actual text, so in some respects my writing is a sort of ‘painting by numbers.’

So now to finish off with the writing/rewriting of the second half, and it should be out sometime this summer. I’ll most likely to obsess over it and finish fairly quickly, ignoring everything else for a while. Then, on to other projects — I should pick up an instrument and practice one of these days.

Speaking of which, I do intend to make it to the Florida Folk Festival on Memorial Day weekend. Whether the whole affair or just one day, I’ve not decided (and may not until the last moment). I guess I should change the oil in the old pickup before heading over to White Springs.

I’ve mentioned before that I never considered myself a ‘writer’ until about fifteen years ago. I was an artist, and only occasionally did a nonfiction article for magazines. Now, it’s been ages since I turned out a painting. Only allowed one obsession at a time, I suppose.

Expect COAST OF SPEARS to appear before too long. We (Arachis Press) are going to go for print distribution to Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc. right from the start on this one. And, eventually, We may get the other books to those vendors too. Of course, as always, the ebook will be available pretty much everywhere.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Myth

This was written as part of the back-story for the novel-in-progress, 'Coast of Spears.' Chances are, it will never actually show up in the book, but that is not the point of something like this --- it is to help me understand the characters and the cultures in which they 'exist.' It is very, very loosely inspired by certain myths of the Malay cultures. And by Lord Dunsany, of course.

Before one thing followed another, the First sat alone. How long, we can not say; an instant and eternity were then the same. The First was and was not, for neither substance nor time existed.

I will become, said the First, and was, becoming all being, but had yet no form, nor moved either here or there, forward or back.

Then, one part sank and one part rose. That which rose took the form of a shining bird, and that was Mihasa. That which sank into the depths became a serpent, Bagap.

In the darkness, the Snake raised itself up and gazed upon the bird, wishing to devour it, to become all. But the Bird also desired to consume the snake, and took it in her horny beak and swallowed it down.

In her nest, Mihasa laid then three eggs. From the eggs hatched the first gods and these were Lacu, Time, and Maco, Storm, and Lugan, Sleep. They shaped all things into that which is, forming the world of the essence of the First.

To feed the three, Mihasa disgorged the Snake. But the gods, seeing their father spat out in pieces, put him together again and returned him to his realm, and Bagap is the Snake who dwells in the sea, while Mihasa is the Sun Bird who flies across the sky each day.

Innocent, a poem


A naked innocent, playing
in the garden — so I was,
so I was, until you whispered
of a gate. I know now

what lay beyond. Let me once more
sleep with Paradise’s peaceful
beasts, each as I named it, and forget.
Within me grows a forest; the seeds

I carried forth rooted themselves
and everywhere the fruit of knowledge
rots upon the branches. Who
can hope to pick them all? I have

eaten and spat out the taste
of memory. How else can
I live here? How else can
I die a naked innocent?

Stephen Brooke ©2015

An obscure bit of poetry that popped out, though I extremely focused on completing the novel right now. Back to work on that now.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mapping It Out

Before beginning to write a novel or other narrative, I feel that it is essential to have some knowledge of ones characters and the world in which they exist. Much of the plot may derive from this, from knowing how they will act, how they will react to their environment.

Of course, more will (and should) be revealed to the writer once the story itself begins to unfold. Having a solid grasp of who the characters are will make this process much smoother. There is nothing wrong with borrowing from literature or other media to get started on the characterizations, as long as the people who dwell in your created world are not outright clones.

Similarly, I will often use pictures of individuals, maybe well-known, maybe random photos found on the internet, to help me visualize my characters. I’ve mentioned celebrities I used in this manner for the creation of my Donzalo’s Destiny reality.

It is also necessary to visualize your world itself. This means maps, even in non-fantasy fiction. Sketching out ones city streets in a crime novel is as important as plotting a quest across the mountains to find dragon gold.

Yes, I like maps every bit as much as Bilbo Baggins (and his creator) and have drawn my share. This is one for the novel-in-progress, ‘Coast of Spears,’ (I shall almost certainly keep that title) as it might be drawn by the protagonist. In other words, there is much unknown to him (but not to me!) about the land in which he has been cast up.

So, back to writing — I am hoping to have it all finished/edited and ready for print soon. Incidentally, since I ‘build’ my novels in this fashion, with lots of notes and outlining first, I rarely need much actual rewriting. Most problems have been dealt with already!

By the way, I created this map (after some freehand sketching) in Corel Draw, although I borrowed and reworked some icons from AutoRealm. I'm finding I don't need a specialized map-drawing program like AR at all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Leaving My Card

One thing I realized when I was at Willfest last month was that I had no up-to-date business cards to hand out. To remedy this, I ordered a batch of cheap cards from Vistaprint:

Nothing special, kind of generic, and printed a little darker than I expected, but at least I have something now. I'll need to eventually order another design or two for other facets of my life/work (I have some home-made ones for my art, which are okay except for having an out-of-date phone --- decided not to put a number on these ones at all).

Incidentally, no problems with Vistaprint, cheap, quick enough for my needs, and decent quality.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Retellings Retold

My poetry/vignettes chapbook, RETELLINGS, is now available in print on Amazon and at other booksellers. Of course, it and all my titles can still be purchased directly from Arachis Press --- and I would hope you do so, as I make a much better profit there! Wouldn't you rather I get the money than Jeff Bezos?

However, we do intend to get most of the Arachis catalog into acceptable format for print distribution over the course of this year. RETELLINGS was sort of a test run to see if there would be any problems. There will have to be changes here and there, mostly little things like margins (for some reason they insist on equal margins all around the pages) or the covers.

This may mean higher prices, at least eventually. We'll see how that goes.