Sunday, February 21, 2016

Naples, Then -- a poem

Naples, Then

Gertrude Lawrence died the year my family
moved to Naples, but the old-timers had their tales
of her hanging out on the pier, fishing and smoking
and telling dirty stories. The town was an escape,
then, a world away from the sophistication of Miami,
across the Everglades. One might bump into Gertrude
or Gary Cooper at the Swamp Buggy Lounge, rubbing elbows
with the fishing guides and the old-money locals.

That world could not last. Can any? Development
and golf courses and retirees made the town
like any other in Florida. I could see it change
around me, even if I was a kid, become a pretty
Chamber of Commerce approved postcard. It doesn't
matter; the pier blew down in Sixty and its replacement
never looked quite right. Nothing looked quite right
after that except the Gulf. That does not change.

I have sought another town like the one I remembered,
tinged with false nostalgia, no doubt, but remembered
none the less. Naples, then, can not be now. No one there
worries about parking under a coconut tree anymore.
They trim them all before the nuts fall and one can not
go gathering them in the streets in the early morning.
Shake that coconut — can you hear the milk inside?
If not, throw it aside and check another.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

a bit about the town where I (mostly) grew up. the pic is the Naples pier in 1957

Friday, February 19, 2016

Cross, a poem


In every child I see the second coming,
god made man again. His cross awaits.

We each climb Calvary, eyes averted
from this destiny. It stands against

our sunsets, stark, a shadow across the world.
Stride forward, Brother. Do not hesitate,

my Sister. It is a moment's work to lay
ourselves down. The beat of the hammer only

echoes the beat of the heart and both
will cease in time. Pray there is no third day.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

An exercise in gloom! :)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Twelve Years

APRIL 23 will be the TWELFTH anniversary of this blog, THE LUCKY LAD. Hard to believe, at least for me. Mostly because it is unusual for me to stick with something that long!

I will admit there were periods when I posted very little here for weeks on end. Various reasons for that, other things that needed my attention or simply not having anything to say. Since I got back more into writing the last few years, I've been pretty regular with my posts.

I wonder if I can reach 50,000 page views by that date — I am pretty close but at my current rate probably won't quite make it.

Anyway, I intend to keep posting stuff here into the indefinite future. As long as I and/or  Blogger is still around.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Eyes on "Eyes"

This is a mock-up of a possible cover (just an idea at this point, really) for what will probably be my next novel, THE EYES OF THE WIND. In that "Eyes" exists mostly in outline form at the moment, there is no hurry on getting a cover ready! That does not prevent me from messing about when I have a spare moment or three.

That is based on a painting by a Romantic (19th Century) artist and is therefore a public domain image. I thought perhaps I would move away from those silhouette pictures I have been creating for my covers. Those were to 'brand' me, sort of, create a distinctive and recognizable look.

Whether I shall use this image or find another or go some other direction, I do not know. Right now, I need to get back to writing  the novel. Incidentally, the Eyes in the book are four jewels, scattered to the four quarters of the wind, that the protagonist needs to find and reunite. Which sounds like standard fantasy fare, stated so, but I promise it will be something more.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Fourth Wall

I have occasionally done the 'breaking the fourth wall' thing in my novels and stories. This comes naturally, of course, in a first person narrative — any story told in that fashion implicitly recognizes an audience. Perhaps being able to make remarks to the audience is one reason I like that point of view!

It is a little trickier when one goes third person, particularly if it is a limited third person voice. Any aside can be jarring and pull the reader away from the story. This has not prevented me from doing it a few times. If Thackeray could get away with it, why not me? I recognize that he was writing at a time when such devices were going out of fashion and greater 'realism' was the trend. But a book is a book; it is not real life.

So why pretend otherwise? The reader is fully aware that the author exists. I like to think of myself, at times, as a storyteller sitting in the marketplace, telling tales to a circle of listeners (I've written a couple stories that explicitly make the narrator such.). In this role, I would acknowledge and interact with my audience.

A little of this goes a long way, as the cliché would have it. It's not something to use over and over, but only dropped in very occasionally. And, admittedly, there are times when it simply does not work. The thing is, the aside should fit into the narrative, help illuminate it, rather than pulling the attention of the reader away from what is going on.

In other words, don't use it to comment about something else. Don't take the audience away from the story — you might not get them back. Ideally, such digressions will serve the plot, leading the reader right back into it.

Do not be afraid to reveal yourself. That is my point here. You, as the author, exist. You are part of your story and there is no reason to pretend otherwise, to follow some conceit of 'realism.' It's not real. It's a book. You made it up.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

Monday, February 08, 2016

Intentions, a poem


Despite my worst intentions
I mellow as I grow older.
You might even like me
before I'm done. And here

I was hoping to mature
into a white-haired curmudgeon,
my only friends the pigeons
I visited each day,

pockets full of bread.
Maybe someone else
will expect my visits,
yet. It could happen.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

A slender idea made into a not very serious poem.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Of the Typewriter

The typewriter changed the way writers worked. It is largely responsible for the mindset that says write a first draft without editing and then go back and rewrite. That was what worked with typing, where editing as one goes is difficult, if not impossible.

In an earlier time, authors wrote with a pen. This made changing the work as one went quite a bit simpler. One could cross out, mark up the margins, insert passages, without too much difficulty (though it might look rather messy!). It could also be noted that the editor in the 'modern' sense barely existed then. Writers (most of them) certainly asked the opinions of others on their works in progress and made changes accordingly. But the idea of an editor as some sort of co-writer did not exist.

I never took to the typewriter and did the bulk of my own writing, once upon a time, with a pen, only typing up the late drafts. Some of my poetry still starts out this way. But the computer changed everything.

There is no longer a need for separate drafts. We can edit and change readily as we go along in word processing programs. For me, and many other writers, this is better; there are, of course, those who prefer the other approach and that is a personal choice. What matters is that it works for the individual. Isaac Asimov credited the typewriter for his voice, saying it would have been much heavier had he not been able to sit down and quickly turn out stories, as quickly as the words came to mind, without editing. But that is definitely not me, a guy who labors over the right word. That, perhaps, is due to being first a poet and songwriter.

Since I do work with at least a rudimentary outline and deal with any plot problems there, the writing itself is sometimes a paint by numbers exercise, filling in the drawing with the proper colors. In an earlier age, I might have been the sort to use file cards or such but that is no longer necessary; instead, I have two instances of my word processor (usually Open Office Writer) open on my wide screen, one with notes and outline, one with the narrative text. The fans of the unedited first draft approach might say to get ones words down while one is inspired. But for me, inspiration comes long before I actually write. I have my blueprint and my stacked lumber before I begin building my house.

The internet has also changed things. It is far simpler to get feedback on ones work now. That most of it is not very useful is to be expected but, still, being read and having the opportunity to read others is generally a good thing. The ability to self-publish has also removed the tyranny of the editor. Yes, some writers truly need ruthless editing, some are better off left alone or given suggestions.

One thing is for sure, if the typewriter still reigned I would be writing my novels with a pen. That is how I did my first one, THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. It is how I wrote all the articles I had published in the Eighties and Nineties, as well as all the poetry I turned out up until fairly recently. But the transition to computer was quite painless and my workflow did not really change much — it just became a little easier to organize it!

Friday, February 05, 2016

Desire, a poem


Once, I desired life,
as a lover desires.
Once we were beautiful
together; we wore the morning

as our due, the colored,
clouds of sunrise, tumbled
as our own unmade bed.
We all run out of time

and soon I shall sleep,
as sunset fades to darkness.
Sleep, holding life in my arms
as desire also fades.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

As most of my stuff here, first-drafty. And, as most of my stuff, no more 'personal' than something that might be said in one of my stories.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Feast of Awakening

Although Groundhog Day, Imbolc, or whatever one wishes to name it is celebrated on February Second, from an astronomical viewpoint the mid-point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox should come a tad later. In my Donzalo novels (available, of course, from Arachis Press), it is called the Feast of Awakening and is observed today, February 4.

I prefer to see this day as the beginning of Spring, rather than the equinox. That, I would call Mid-Spring. One may, of course, begin the seasons whenever one chooses — there is no 'official' start in this country, though it could be noted that meteorologists, as well as some nations, begin Spring on March First.

So, a Happy Feast of Awakening to all!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

WillFest 2016

I went ahead and committed to driving down to the Will McLean Festival on March 11-13, ordering my ticket online. Now I have to go. It IS a rather long drive and I need a cat-sitter while I am gone, but it is also sort of my traditional coming-out-of-hibernation event. I used to go every year, but between being a care-giver and moving some 175 miles further away, I missed it for a while.

But I did get back last year and now shall this year too. No family there this time around, as my niece 'Mean Mary' will be touring in Oregon and Washington around then. It looks like she will miss the Florida Folk Festival too, though she should be back from her European jaunt by then. I'll probably make it to the FFF, at least for one day.

I shall camp, of course, but not even attempt to get there in time to claim a site with water and electric. Those all fill up early — last year, I came in on Thursday afternoon and nothing was left. So I'll be 'up on the hill' in a primitive site, and shall make sure to take along firewood or a charcoal grill.

It was only after I bought my ticket that I realized that was the same weekend as the official release of my latest novel, HERO FROM THE SEA. It's not like I planned a release party or anything, so I guess it doesn't matter, but I shall be out of contact so there will be no promotion online during that period (I don't do internet via phone). Maybe the festival is party enough; I shall certainly take along copies of all my books. I'm getting into the habit of taking some with me everywhere.

So, looking forward to heading down to the Dade City area a month from now. It is always lovely down there in central Florida at that time of year (well, almost always), not too hot yet, orange blossom scent filling the air, and a 'gathering of the tribe,' so to speak. Maybe I'll get myself together and actually apply to perform next year; I keep saying I am going to get out there but I have become so engrossed with being a writer in the last few years that my music has languished. I do recognize that performing occasionally is, if nothing else, a good way to promote the books!