Friday, May 29, 2015

A Week

Last weekend, I did get over to the Florida Folk Festival, Friday only, for a bit of music and catching up. I do not think I will do that again; next time it will be the whole weekend or not at all. Ideally, with me as a performer, of course.

My niece, Mean Mary James, was there performing and we did hang out some. She won't be back next year; has another European tour planned for that time.

I decided to take my bike with me this time to get around the place more easily. Good decision, all in all, but I did have an accident. No, I didn't fall off the bicycle. I fell over the bicycle getting it out of the truck bed, before ever getting into the festival, and bled a bit. Nothing broken or torn though, so the day was generally okay although my leg was stiffening up some before it was over.

And the seven or so hours of driving stiffens up the back too. I probably shouldn't have thrown myself into work around this place when I go back because sometime during the night on Saturday, I tore something badly in my lower back/left hip. That's an old injury that I manage to revisit every now and again but this might have been the worst ever. Part of getting older?

Anyway, I spent most of this last week lying on my back watching TV and being incredibly bored. Unfortunately, even sitting in my office chair in front of the computer (or in bed with a laptop) was too painful to do for more than a few minutes at a time. But I did manage to finish reading 'Moby Dick.'

I also managed to finish off and upload all the files for my new fantasy-adventure novel, COAST OF SPEARS, to the printer this week. It is available in print and ebook versions at the Arachis Press store at Lulu now, and should appear pretty much everywhere over the next six to eight weeks. We did have to set the price higher with distribution costs what they are — official list price is 19.99, but that is discounted to 15.99 directly. Ebooks remain at a reasonable 2.99.

If/when the rest of the books get put into wider distribution (we're in no great hurry on this), the list prices there will go up too.

Next project will be a completely revised website. I could probably upload a bit of a bare bones site right now, just to hold the space, including pages for mobile devices. Soon. Incidentally, I decided to jettison my '' domain. Its renewal was coming up and I realized I just don't need or use it. I might rethink '' next year, too; the other four domains remain useful.

And now on to the next book project. A sequel to COAST OF SPEARS? Maybe. Eventually, for sure, but I might get into something else first. Perhaps that 'serious' contemporary novel. We'll see.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

For Every Action

A phrase that appears a bit too frequently in fantasy writing is that 'magic has a price.' It is a cliché, yes, but it does make a sort of sense (nothing is free, right?) and helps provide a source of consequence and conflict. But it doesn't explain anything, does it?

Instead, we might say that Newton's Third Law of Motion applies. This is often stated as 'for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.' This is the price one pays; everything has an impact on something else. A magical spell for love here may cause hate over there. An allowance for the reaction might even be written into the spell, a safety valve of sorts.

Indeed, I would think all the laws of physics would apply to magic. Inertia, force, mass, would all be factors in its operation. And I wouldn't worry that the Newtonian laws are not exactly accurate — they are 'close enough' for our purposes.

We can apply this concept of action and reaction to all writing, actually. Anything that happens has consequences of some sort. Even if only internal.

* * *

I'll admit that I've never written anything that explores such a world of magic. 'Spells,' as such, do not exist in my Donzalo/Malvern world; the seemingly magical stuff there involves moving through alternate worlds/dimensions. That's just work, involving the physical and mental strength of the sorcerer. Which is also a price.

In fantasy tales, one also finds the sort of magic that relies on agents. This is more true of older fantasy than new, I think. The summoning of demons or elementals to do ones dirty work has been a staple of magic pretty much from the beginning. These generally extract a price for their services, but beyond that they too would have to follow those rules of physics.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

On the Page, a poem

On the Page

I am not the words on the page
any more than I am that old picture
of me. After all, we are made
anew every seven years, right?

All those words, yes, they were written
by someone else. Sometimes, that once me
hands me one and whispers,
You can do this a bit better —

go ahead, but sign my name to it.
I've no problem collaborating with every me
that ever was and maybe some
to come. We'll all sign the same name.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Publishing and Projects

Everything is done on COAST OF SPEARS, aside from finalizing the cover — final print dimensions are needed to finish that up. Editing, formatting both print and ebook, registering the ISBNs, etc, is all taken care of. I'll be able to start uploading files pretty much whenever I feel like it. Probably after this weekend, when I still intend to make it to the Florida Folk Festival.

For one day, anyway. Which day may depend on the weather and if looks bad every day, I just might cancel it out and save the money. I do still intend to get to Nashville in July. I should look into some other places and people to visit as long as I'm on the road. Maybe even do a very short 'open mike' tour.

But, the book — MY official release date via Arachis Press is July 1 but, of course, it will be available in some places and some formats before then. When I assigned my ISBN I put the official date down a month earlier, June 1. It can take weeks for books to show up everywhere, especially the print version at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Much sooner at Arachis Press (and our Lulu store).

So, will I start writing the sequel now? I admit that it is not all plotted out, even in my head, though I have the basics. The whole thing may need to ferment and bubble for a while before I do more than jot down my ideas. And I could try shifting gears and working on something else — it does take a little while to get one project out of my mind and another into it.

The sequel, by the way, is likely to be titled VALLEY OF VISIONS. I haven't a name for its sequel yet (and there almost certainly would be one — I'm thinking a trilogy here). We leave book one with our protagonist pursuing his rival and hostage (hey, there has to be a damsel in distress) into the mountains, so there should be a homecoming to the tangled politics of the Mora nation in the final book. And to his own tangled romance.

But first, I must completely redesign and replace my current website, for a variety of uninteresting reasons. One of them being the software I have used for years, Yahoo's Site Builder. Great for people who like to design rather than write code, but frustratingly buggy. The other is the need to get with the times and have a mobile-friendly site.

I will NOT do a responsive site, at least not now. I'm going for the separate 'm' site with redirects. This lets me control the look of both versions much better and not be stuck with a cookie cutter site. And most responsive sites I have seen look horrible on a big screen.

So that's the big project for a while. Then on to other stuff.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Moon, an Excerpt from Coast of Spears

 Just for the halibut, I am posting a short excerpt from somewhere around the middle of my new novel, COAST OF SPEARS. So here is Chapter 38, The Moon

 * * *

There was a moon. For that I must be thankful.

But, at the time, I resented it for it made sleep difficult. I awoke after no more than a couple hours and could not return to my slumber with the lunar light shining through my window. Perhaps I should get up, as the High King had suggested, rejoin those who sat conversing or listening to songs in the cool of the night.

A noise — someone attempting stealth was at the threshold of my chamber, the faintest of shadows among shadows. Had one of Maitoa’s wives returned?

No, the shape was that of a man. As the facets of a jewel, something gleamed in the the figure’s hand, reflecting the pale cool moonlight. Then he lunged forward; had I not been awake, a sharp stone knife might have found my heart.

I lunged myself, taking his legs from under him. The weapon flew from his hand to clatter on the floor. The assailant drew himself up and flew, as well, out the window and into the night.

Maybe it was his yelp of surprise when I knocked him down, or maybe it was just the noise of our brief struggle that brought a pair of burly warriors to the doorway. “Someone tried to knife me,” I told them, as calmly as I could make myself. One immediately hurried away.

“Are you harmed, Taona?” asked the other.

“No,” I replied, “and I fear my attacker escaped unharmed as well.” Other than a few bruises, perhaps.

The High King himself, disturbed by this affront to his hospitality, headed the group that returned with the guard. An oil lamp was held high, allowing discovery of the dropped weapon. It was a knife of rose quartz, a ceremonial weapon, apparently.

“A priest’s blade,” said one.

“He intended it to be a sacrifice,” whispered another.

“Did you see his face, Mika?” asked the King.

“It was too dark, sir. He was no more than a shadow.” I reflected on all I could remember of the assailant. “Not a very large shadow, though.”

“And not any sort of a warrior or he would not have fled so quickly,” mused the monarch. “Let me see that knife.” It was handed to him.

Maitoa held the weapon and pondered it, as if it might give up its secrets to him. Then he raised his head, ordered, “Have the High Priest attend me,” and left the room.

I knew little enough of the Mora gods and goddesses, other than the fact that there were such. Quite a few, in fact, and many very minor. “Which god does this High Priest serve?” I asked of Pua, when I saw her among those who had gathered.

“All of them,” she told me. “He is the High King’s representative before the Spirit World.” Lady Pua gave a low laugh, and added, “Though the High Priest would rather think of himself as the Spirit World’s emissary to the King.”

“Ah.” I thought I understood. “Then there is, shall we say, a certain competition for power between them?”

“Exactly, Taona. You have seen things as they are.”

Understand that I had and have nothing against religion. I knew from history that the power of religion had often been the strongest force opposing government tyranny. I knew also that the greatest tyranny could come as a result of their collusion.

So I was, at least in theory, in favor of an independent High Priest. But not if he was involved in trying to assassinate me.

That individual was soon standing before Maitoa, and not alone for he motioned a pair of attendants forward. Between them they dragged a terrified young man. I could spot a gash on one arm, perhaps the result of leaping through the window.

“A fanatic, my Lord Maitoa,” spoke the High Priest, gesturing toward the captive. “We found him cowering at the shrine, too frightened to either fight or run.” His face, his tone, made the priest’s distaste obvious. “I assure you that the priesthood was not involved in this affront.”

Pua whispered to me. “He probably took my brother’s favor toward you as a sign. Most of the priests are waiting until they learn more of you and your friends.”

“What do they expect of us?” I whispered back.

“Many think the hero from the sea comes to bring back the old ways. The High King has some uneasiness about this.”

I nodded. Maitoa’s words earlier had suggested as much.

The High Priest was still speaking, his monologue having turned into a mild harangue against all things modern. His position, I suppose, let him get away with it as long as he did not go too far.

I wondered how many others than I were noting that his peaked feather crown – not so high as that of the king, but still impressive – was rather askew. He ceased his speech at last.

“Taona Mika!” called the High King. “Come to me.

“Look upon your would-be assassin,” he said, when I came to stand beside him. “The crime this priest has committed carries the punishment of being buried alive. The crime against my house and hospitality, that is. The attempt to murder you would normally call for bludgeoning.

“Which shall it be?” he put to me.

The High King studied me carefully as I thought on it. “I would not have any man suffer,” I finally replied. “I choose the quicker death by the club.”

“Clubbing can be prolonged, if the executioner so desires,” answered Maitoa, “but, yes, I think it preferable too. We can bury him alive after he is dead,” he decided, and chuckled at his little joke.

He motioned to a giant of a Mora, bearing a great knobbed club. Two warriors grasped the condemned man by his arms, forcing him to his knees with his head thrust forward. One swing was all it took.

Above us, the moon still shone in the heavens, promising that I would sleep no more tonight.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Wrens, a poem


A wren hunts all around the window
frame, clinging, creeping,
poking into spider webs
I should have cleared away

last year or the year before.
They’ll probably remain
next year, also, noticed only
now and then or never.

There are no longer plans drawn up,
lists written and rewritten.
Each day is like the last and I
don’t know if it is Monday

or tomorrow. The sun does not
care, the rain still falls,
and being alone is almost as bad
as being with someone else.

The days flit, brown as wrens, seeking
and singing and building nests,
as seasons pass, and night speaks
of owls until I sleep.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

I scribbled most of this down on a piece of scrap paper shortly before going to bed last night. Therefor, I consider this an early draft (rewritten a tad and 'finished' this morning) and subject to further rewrites.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Run, a poem


Howl with me tonight, before the moon
wanes again to nothing. Howl into
the heavens so God remembers why he made us,
so we remember why he made us. I’ll run

as far as tomorrow with you. Let the next day
find itself, even as the moon diminishes
into a hole among those stars that man,
in all his hubris, once chose to name.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

This started as part of a longer piece, but as oft before, I decided that less is more.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


So, the rewriting of COAST OF SPEARS is more-or-less done. And by rewriting, I really mean line editing. The story itself would have been worked out early, largely in the outlining stage. So the first draft is pretty close to being the final draft — it needs polishing, not radical change. Rarely have I felt the need to cut a chapter or a character, though I might trim out a conversation or unneeded descriptive passage.

I had projected the novel, at the first stages of outlining, to come to approximately 60,000 words. I ended with 63,000. Sometimes things actually go according to plan.

That outline, incidentally, does continue to change and develop throughout the writing process. If there is a change, I will work out what the ramifications are there, before putting it into the narrative. The outline, which is not formal, often takes the form of a series of questions: what if so-and-so does this or such-and-such occurs? When I have the answers, I have the book.

From here it is more of a proof-reading and formatting task. Not that I won’t see changes I want to make in the wording, right up until it is sent off to the printer!

Which should be in time for an official release date of July 1. Expect it to show up in at least some stores a couple weeks sooner, especially the ebook versions.

Although COAST OF SPEARS is much more of a stand-alone tale than the Donzalo novels, it is still part of a longer narrative. I very much have a sequel (well, probably more than one) in mind, and semi-plotted out. Tentatively, it will be titled VALLEY OF VISIONS.

But that is very tentative. We left Malvern making the decision to follow his antagonists into the mountains, both to discover what was calling him to their peaks and to rescue the woman they have kidnapped. Exactly how he feels about that woman is still somewhat up in the air at the close of COS but I guarantee it will not be by the end of the novel that follows!

There will also be many answers about the world in which he finds himself, and a better understanding of the forces at play. These include ‘magical’ forces, which I shall say right here follow exactly the same rules as in the “Donzalo’s Destiny” books. Because this is, after all, the same world but at a far earlier time.

Will I start on it immediately? I shouldn’t, for I have so many other projects in mind, but inspiration may force me to stick with Malvern. Honestly, I would probably write a better sequel if I do get the story out of my head for a while, work on something else, and return with fresh eyes and thoughts.

Then, there are the novels set in Donzalo’s time that need to be written. All those illustrations for the children’s books need drawn, and another poetry collection, oh, and the ‘serious’ novel that takes place in contemporary Florida.

Obviously, I don’t suffer from writer’s block — there is always more stuff in my head than I have time to write down. Maybe writer’s gum-up, when I’ve stared at too many words too long and can’t think straight anymore! That’s when it’s time to pour my daily three ounces of red wine and call it a day.

Monday, May 11, 2015


I think it is about time for an across the board price increase for all (or most of) my print books from Arachis Press. Not for the ebooks — those are fine as currently priced.

This is in part because of the plan to get editions out to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and, for that matter, available for order at your local book store. At the current ‘direct’ pricing via our printer, the profit is small but acceptable (I don’t expect to get rich off of them!), but it just about disappears at the other retailers.

So, maybe something like a dollar increase for the poetry titles. These are ‘loss leaders’ and were never priced with profit in mind. From 7.50 to 8.50? Or maybe just 7.99 — I’ll decide eventually. The novels will see a bigger increase; I may not set that until I work out just how much I would actually make at places like Amazon.

But the current 9.50 on the Donzalo novels is definitely too low. I see books of similar size with twice that price tag! Anyway, I do promise that they will still be reasonably priced.

In other news, I reached the final pivot point/plot twist in my write/rewrite of COAST OF SPEARS and am near to the final draft for the whole novel. It ended up just a tad longer than originally envisioned (and I still cut stuff!) but will be a reasonable length. It is not a long and weighty novel, nor was it ever intended to be.

But it is, perhaps, a little less of a mindless adventure than I first envisioned. I guess I’m not cut out for mindless.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Conservative and Liberal

I like to think that I am liberal in the original sense of being generous and tolerant.

I like to think that I am conservative in the original sense of being careful and having a desire to conserve those things that are important.

I do not think either label is particularly applicable to today’s political parties.

Stephen Brooke ©2015

Sunday, May 03, 2015


Depression can be its own cause. There need not be an event that ‘triggers’ it. Things do not always have a black and white explanation, even though we wish them to, even though authors ever seek ‘motive’ for their characters’ moods and actions. Stuff is sometimes just random and messy and meaningless — perhaps more often than we would like to admit.

* * *

Whether these words, or something like them, appear in the 'serious' novel I've been working on for a while (when not distracted by the fantasy stuff), they are sort of the underlying thought of that book. I wrote a short story years back about a surfer who lost his board far out in the surf and contemplated just letting himself come to an end out there. The most common comment I got? Why would he want to die? What is the reason for his suicidal thoughts?

Hey, there does NOT have to be a reason, or at least a simple one. Life is sometimes just too much. I have mornings when I think I might drown in the upcoming day, but I always manage to swim to the shore of evening. Maybe I won't, eventually. Who knows?

And who knows why?