adventures in dysthymia

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Confession, a poem

Confession

Anything I say may be used
against me. I have the right
to remain silent but that
is not about to happen.

Sort out the lies in my confession,
if you can. I have more
where those came from, each plausible
enough, each asking you to believe.

I’ll believe them, too, if you
ask. I’ll believe but not one
of my convictions will stand when I
testify against myself.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

Not very poetry-oriented at the moment --- been spending lots of time practicing and learning songs, as well as having started into the writing of the next novel (WAVES, a sequel to my 'Florida novel,' SHAPER). I am also working up an all-in-one edition of the Donzalo's Destiny novels. Should have a hardcover version of that available before long, a paperback to follow eventually.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Utilizing a Defunct Firepod

Among my various bits of recording equipment is a Presonus Firepod AKA FP-10.* This is a Firewire-based interface for getting ten channels of audio into a computer. My unit is essentially defunct as an interface.

The design was always a bit problematic, as Firewire devices tend to be. I will say that Presonus was quite good about helping me with the problems I encountered ‘out of the box,’ including taking mine back and reinstalling its software. But...as happened to many other units, the Firewire connection eventually died and it was not worth repairing by that point.

Had I updated the software and drivers before the device was no longer able to communicate, it could have used it in standalone mode for its eight preamps. They are not great preamps but not terrible either — clean enough if one does not push them too hard (i.e. perfectly fine for most condenser microphones). They’re not greatly different from what comes in many other popular interfaces and inexpensive mixers.

I did not get those updates installed so, although the microphone preamps are operational, I can not use them individually. Instead, I have essentially an eight preamp mono mixer. All the signals go to a pair of outputs on the back — the same signal to both, as there is no way to pan the individual signals. This is acceptable if I should wish to integrate it into my PA system. I run that in mono anyway and eight extra inputs are nice to have.

However, two channels do have direct outs so I could use those two in my studio should I really wish. I suppose I could even have occasion to use it in mixer mode when recording, but that seems unlikely. I do have better preamps anyway, both built into interfaces and standalone units. Therefor, the Firepod is going to live in my ‘live’ rack. That’s better than throwing it out!


*Presonus originally dubbed the unit the ‘Firepod’ but Apple apparently didn’t like their use of the word ‘pod’ and threatened action, so it was renamed the FP-10.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Plotting

I am hammering out the main plot for my next novel, a sequel to the Florida-based crime-and-surfing novel, SHAPER (available from Arachis Press and booksellers everywhere!). This one will almost certainly be titled WAVES and will move on from the previous book’s drug smuggling to public corruption and shady real estate deals.

There were a load of subplots and ideas I had ready, but nothing overarching to bring them together. That had been the obstacle to moving forward, having a concept to which I could tie everything. Once all that is worked out, the actual writing of the narrative is not particularly difficult nor time-consuming. It becomes paint-by-numbers to some extent.

Because, of course, I know my characters by that time and how they will react to situations. Oh, I shall certainly discover some things about them as I go along, but nothing earth-shaking, nothing that will require changing the story. Rather, little things that further illuminate their makeup might find their way into the narrative.

And their makeup, who they truly are, is really what the novel is about. Plot simply gives the characters a framework in which to act and react. WAVES will be more about the relationship between Ted and Michelle than about any criminal activities in Cully Beach.

Will WAVES be ready before the end of the year? No telling. Shoot, I could get inspired and churn it out in a couple weeks or I could drop dead tomorrow. No point in planning ahead right now!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Recording Space

I am finally achieving some semblance of order in my studio/music space here at Peanut Road. It's really too hot to do much in there right now, but at least I have things in place and am getting it all hooked up.





Of course, I have a lava lamp. No studio is complete without one.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Mistrust (Thoughts on Orlando)

It all comes from fear of the other. Fear turns to hate, hate to violence. We feel threatened.

This is a natural response. It helped our ancestors survive in a dangerous world. As many other natural responses, it neither good nor bad, of itself, but needs to be recognized for what it is. We need to keep those impulses under our control.

We can not do this if we refuse to recognize them within us, recognize our own capacity for doing wrong. For doing evil. This is why we have laws.

So, turning to the latest manifestation of hate and fear (not counting the presidential campaigns), we have the the attack in Orlando. Might background checks have prevented this? Possibly. The only problem I have with such checks is that they are open-ended and thus prone to abuse. Anyone can be put on a list without real reason. This does not mean I oppose them, just that I realize there are inherent problems.

And, of course, many dangerous individuals will never be recognized as such.

Assault weapon ban? There is no clear definition of what constitutes an assault weapon. Not automatic fire, as in true military weapons — that has been illegal for eighty-some years. Semi-automatic? There are plenty of legitimate hunting rifles and shotguns that use a semi-auto firing system. Being able to keep the gun on-target for a quick and accurate second shot means fewer wounded animals escaping to die painfully in hiding.

And, again, any open-ended definition of an assault rifle (it looks like a military weapon) is open to abuse.

This leaves magazine size, which is something I definitely support. No one needs 30 round clips, nor even 15. Limit them to six or, at most, eight. The pump shotgun I once owned had just such a limit — its tubular magazine had a plug to limit the number of shells it held (it could be sold with a full-capacity magazine in other states). This was something the police had asked for — “riot guns” in the hands of criminals was not exactly desirable.

This would, at least, be a step in the right direction. I am not big on disarming everyone. I have worked jobs (involving cash and late nights) where I felt more secure with a (legally) concealed handgun. I might be non-violent but I also might encounter someone who wasn’t.

Can we all learn to be tolerant, to not fear and hate the ‘other?’ I wish I could answer that. We can certainly improve — that has been done and continues, despite our setbacks. We have become better over the centuries, over the millennia, but that mistrust of what is different may always be with us. We must learn to recognize it for what it is — and deal with it.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Anvil, a poem

Anvil

I’ll lay life on my anvil
and hammer it into shape;
forge my dreams like swords,
tempered in the steaming
blood of my desire.

Into the heart of the fire
goes each rejected blade,
broken, to be reborn,
in songs of steel and flame —
hear the hammer ring!

Hear tomorrow sing
of all it can become,
transmuted. Blue-hot healing
leaps upon the hearth.
Lay me on the anvil.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

After the silliness of the last post, I had to put something here that takes itself perhaps a little too seriously!

Mowing, a poem

Mowing

It is not hard
to mow the yard,
but it takes lots of time;
so with each pass
through the grass,
I make up another rhyme.

I am not one
to just get done
and push that mower along;
but instead,
in my head,
I’ve written many a song.

Now I’ll confide
it’s nice outside,
blue skies and singing birds;
yet in plain fact
they only distract,
as I try to remember my words.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

an exercise in pointless doggerel

Friday, June 10, 2016

Of Ethnicity and Sexuality in ‘Eyes’

I include several ethnic groups in my new fantasy novel, THE EYES OF THE WIND, but do not dwell on them. It is better, I think, to simply mention such things in passing as a part of the world I have created — no need to draw attention away from the narrative. But it is important to have differences among the folk populating my books. Too many (bad) fantasies are plopped down into an homogeneous and quite unrealistic pseudo-medieval world.

So what or who are these groups? Well, in order of appearance:

Mura — This is the ethnicity of our protagonist, Saj. The hints about their appearance would probably make most readers think ‘Asian’ of some sort, and that is pretty much so. At the time of the novel, they are very much mixed with other groups, at least in Saj’s part of the world, but I intended for the ancestral Mura to be rather akin to Native Americans or perhaps certain Siberian populations.

Sharshites — I won’t call them ‘Caucasian’ because there is no Caucasus in their world! But they are essentially white, generally of a brunette sort. Think maybe Eastern European or even ancient Iranian stock. They filtered into Sharsh from the North but exactly where they originated is uncertain. As with other groups, their ancestors may have first lived near the Great Chasm (pretty much on the other side of the world). Note that the Cuddonians of my Donzalo novels are closely related (and perhaps descended from Sharshite refugees).

Ildin — This group is darker than the Sharshites, with more of a Mediterranean or Near Eastern appearance to them. They were the original (apparently) inhabitants of southern Sharsh, now largely displaced. Again, their place of origin is uncertain but I think it likely they came from across the sea --- whether the Great Sea or the Lesser Sea, I could not say...

Baxac — The name actually refers to group of languages rather than a people. Baxac speakers vary greatly in racial features but are generally rather dark. The original stock might have been more akin to Papuans than to Africans. There may have been some Denisovans in the mix, too.

Tesrans — We meet only one individual of this people, who are descendants of the Australian Aborigine-like folk of the ‘Valley of Visions’ we encountered in the Malvern novels. Thousands of years and much mixing has occurred since then! They remain a dark people, on whole (those who still survive), but blond hair remains a common occurrence (as does long life).

Finally, there is an unnamed group, only one of whom is glimpsed from a distance. These are a fairer people than the Sharshites, though still often dark of hair. It would seem they were never numerous and were absorbed into Sharshite and Muram populations. More live beyond the mountains, in scattered tribes.

Then, the sexuality part: yes, the Pirate Queen Qala is a lesbian. She is many things, truly, and hardly defined by her sexual preferences. Qala is also manic-depressive and has a strong streak of nihilism. But most of all, she is a pirate. That, more than anything else, drives her choices and actions.

I could have made her straight and she would have done much the same things. Except she might have had a hankering for Saj, rather than Marana. I could even have made her a Pirate King and the story would have played out quite similarly. Whatever her preferences, she is used to having what she wants and doing what she wants — that is what defines her.

As far as her dabbling in men — well, I have known lesbians who felt the same way about it, that is, sex is sex and feels good regardless, but they know they could never fall in love with a man. Shoot, I’ve known men who said the same thing. Should they be called bi-sexual? I think that whom we choose to love, not whom we have sex with, ultimately defines our sexuality.

And sometimes it is just a matter of loneliness, of needing someone to hold. Human contact — we all crave it, and Qala is no exception.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Snake-Eyes, a poem

Snake-Eyes

Einstein was wrong —
God played dice last night
and lost me when he rolled
snake-eyes. He kept betting

on three. He has a thing
for that, you know, three persons,
three days, even three
wise guys from the east.

It seems odd for someone
who is infinite.
Yeah, God lost me last night
and passed someone else the dice.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Art Must Transcend

I went to see a respected and popular Florida musician last weekend. He was quite entertaining, played very well, and was totally forgettable. I can’t remember a single tune he played, now, nor any meaning to any of his songs.

Is there anything wrong with that? I guess not but I would not bother to take in his show again (nor buy any of his recordings). Technical flash has never meant much to me (despite the virtuosity of my own niece, Mean Mary). It is the end product that matters, not the process.

Yes, I believe that. I know it is an attitude that is a bit out of sync with a world that says the journey is more important than the destination. But I believe in works of art that stand on their own, with no reference to how they were created, what thoughts or concepts went into them.

All that may be interesting (or not), but it is not the work of art. Art must transcend its origins.

Today is the birthday of one of my artistic friends, the pianist known as Lynda (she is rather private so I shall give no more of her name). Lynda does not use social media much and, alas, moved off to Texas a couple years ago to take a university position there, so we communicate only by phone these days. Anyway, we were talking about me going out and helping her record an album of her electronic music sometime this summer but it looks like that is on hold now.

But there is a possibility of me dusting off my mobile recording rig and going out to document a concert down the line (when the weather cools down a little, I hope!). I actually got into the mobile business to record one of her recitals more than a decade ago.

Lynda’s playing does say something to me. Yes, she has plenty of technical ability on a keyboard but there is also something of her soul in it. I am glad I had the opportunity to be part of documenting that. And I do listen to the recordings occasionally.

In fact, I shall pull out those CDs today and give them a listen — a birthday celebration at a distance.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Picture Books

There is no money in picture books for small children for a small, independent press. They are simply too expensive to produce; one can not compete. This is not so with novels, or even with beginners’ chapter books for slightly older readers. It is printing those big color pages that costs too much for small runs or print-on-demand.

I have one picture book, A MOUSE IS IN THE HOUSE, available through Arachis Press. It does not sell very well although I have almost no profit margin. Truly, I chose to put it out because the rhymes are also the lyrics of a song for the youngsters. Which I really should record someday, but that is another matter.

Anyway, I do not plan to bother with working up illustrations for another picture book. I do have usable texts for at least a couple books. I had more, at one time, but I chose to incorporate some of those into my book of children’s poems, AWFUL ALVIN AND OTHER PECULIAR POEMS (including the title piece). It is a better use of my time to write and put aside any projects requiring extensive illustration. I may be an artist of sorts but illustrating picture books is not really my forte---not that there is anything wrong with the pictures in MOUSE, you understand.

And I should face the fact that my rhyming texts tend to be sort of sophisticated. I consider that a good thing. Youngsters should be exposed to stuff that makes them think. I do not believe in ‘writing down’ for any age group. Or any group of readers, period.

I guess I should be more concerned whether the adults who read the books to children can handle the texts (including following the meter).

There is one good thing about the whole print-on-demand approach and that is that full color is no more expensive than the two or three color approach we might have used a few years ago to save on printing costs. That is no longer a consideration, as it is all done in one pass with ink jets, rather than several passes through presses, each adding another tone. But it is still way more pricey than putting out a book in black and white, which is what we shall probably stick to for at least the near future.

So, the next book after THE EYES OF THE WIND (coming July 15) will be another poetry collection, FIELDS OF SUMMER, almost certainly scheduled for release on October 1. We shall finalize that date shortly. Beyond that? Hard to say but there is a good chance of one more title before the end of the year. Ideally, in time for Holiday shopping!

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Showmanship, a poem

Showmanship

Once, I lived for the word, walked
its tightropes above the crowd. Their roar
subsided into distant murmurs.

Balance comes too easily,
no more than a trick, all danger
dwindled, turned to showmanship,

meaning nothing. The show is over,
folks. The poet has left the building.

Stephen Brooke ©2016

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

I Am Not a Musician

I am not a musician.

I do not ‘jam.’ I perform. When I am on stage I am an actor playing a musician. That is how I get the message across.

My goal is to communicate. Music is one more tool to be used in achieving that end. This is not to say I don’t like or understand music. I love to write music, listen to music. I have a firm grasp of theory, more than many of the musicians I know. That is not a boast; I simply need to understand the nuts and bolts of something to fully appreciate it.

But I have never learned to play much better than is absolutely necessary. I am not one to pursue virtuosity. Nothing wrong with it, if one has the time and interest, but it would be a detour for me, a turning aside from my road.

Yes, I can do rudimentary finger picking on my guitar, I can play some lead if necessary (though it has to be the blues!), I know quite a few chords. That latter is handy if one does not have nimble fingers — throw in a sequence of jazz chords and it sounds like you know what you are doing. I have noted some rather well-known song writers doing exactly that. That D6 to A13 is handy...or go Pete Townshend and do a lot of sustained chords.

Anyway, I probably will continue to get out more and play. I don’t particularly enjoy playing music, you understand. It is work, just like writing or painting. A means to an end.

I also recognize that it is the best way to be seen and that translates into more interest in my other endeavors. It can lead to more book sales. That is one reason I have started including some of the songs I wrote for the ‘Donzalo’s Destiny’ series in my repertoire. Nothing like saying, “This is a song from one of my novels,” before launching into it. And it probably makes the song more interesting to my audience, too.

Missed getting anywhere last weekend. The Florida Folk Festival just didn’t fit with my logistics or my budget. And I doubt that I shall be getting to Nashville this summer either. But, hey, that means I can afford to go other places, right?

Going to try to get down to Roberts Hall in Lynn Haven this coming Sunday, when Bing Futch performs. And maybe a few weeks later again for Promenade Action — those youngsters and others like them were the best part of Willfest this past spring. I get pretty tired of the same old bluegrassy ‘Americana’ acts. Time for new blood and new music.

And then in mid-July, Mean Mary will be there. I have to go for her, of course. And though I am not a musician, I will undoubtedly play.

Of Marriage and Novels

Civil marriage is, in essence, a legal contract, a business agreement. No one should go into a partnership of any sort without something in writing, and the standard contractual agreements of state-recognized marriage is the best choice for most.

It also provides a number of legal benefits. If one partner is incapacitated or dies, it is essential to have the marriage contract in place. If there are children involved, it protects both them and the parents. Having a civil marriage simplifies the whole process of two people being and living together.

I do consider those people married in the eyes of nature and god if they are living together as man and wife. Or woman and wife. Or even woman and two husbands. None of that matters. It would be ideal if governments also recognized these unions, these partnerships. I don’t care whether or not they call them ‘marriages’ or ‘civil unions,’ as long as the same rights are there.

A legal contract should be open to any consenting, competent adult. The validity of all contractual law is threatened if we deny this.

I have probably posted stuff along these lines previously here at The Lucky Lad. I just wanted to lay it out in a logical manner. Why? Because it is one of the themes that I am exploring in the early stages of writing a new novel. That would be a sequel to SHAPER, almost certainly to be named WAVES.

I left the two lead characters in SHAPER more or less agreeing to move in together at the end of that book. Implied, actually, as Ted offers Michelle a job at his shop with ‘room and board’ included. Ted’s opinion is my opinion about 'living together,' that it is marriage in the natural sense. But he also wants a legal union — something of which the twice-divorced Michelle may prove a bit leery.

Hmm...considering that both husbands passed away after their divorces, does that also make her twice-widowed? I’m not sure.

I am not certain that WAVES will actually be the next novel I write. I tend to make notes and dabble at several ideas simultaneously until one says, “Okay, I’m ready! Write me!” It works for me. SHAPER turned out to be more of a 'crime' novel than I had originally intended, so I guess I need to stick to that sort of thing for any and all sequels, eh? All the drugs and hard life in Michelle and Charlie's past was just going to be backstory when I first conceived of the book, and it was going to be much more about relationships and the sort of stuff one finds in a 'literary' novel. Indeed, I intended a downer of an ending with Michelle moving on and leaving poor depressed Ted behind.

Fortunately for Ted, I changed my mind and turned it into more of a 'surf noir' sort of novel. And I think that worked.