adventures in dysthymia

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Rivers, a poem

Rivers

We flow through deserts of time, you and I,
rivers destined for an unseen sea.

These banks are too high for any flood,
rage though we might between them.

One day, you will know me as the rain,
remembering its way home.

Stephen Brooke ©2017

written in a sijo-like form

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Centaur

The Centaur

The centaur of Greek legend
is an improbable beast,
or man, if you prefer —
half of him at least.
Take care if you invite him
to your wedding feast;
it’s possible you’ll find
you have no need for that priest.

Be sure he checks his bow
before he goes inside,
for he may wish to bridle
your intended bride!
She’ll contemplate his arrows,
then grow dissatisfied —
onto his back she’ll climb
and away she’ll ride!

Half of him is human,
half of him is horse;
neither one is likely
to ever feel remorse.
Nor the blushing bride
he did not need to force,
for you were only a man —
a centaur is more, of course!

Stephen Brooke ©2017

The centaur — it is improbable, isn’t it? I’ve tuned into some of the ‘Xena’ and ‘Hercules’ reruns lately on a new channel in the area (I rely on a rooftop antenna for television) and that led me to think upon the mythical creature. It is simply too preposterous and impractical a being for me to ever slip it into my own writing.

I think Edgar Rice Burroughs had the right idea with his centaur-like ‘Moon Men.’ They have four limbs, not six, with hindquarters similar to a horse wedded to a humanoid upper body. This comic book illustration has them about right.



I could see having such a creature inhabiting my fantasy tales. One can envision a logical evolutionary path leading to it. I have done something similar with griffins and other mythical animals in my novels, fitting them into more-or-less familiar family trees. So why not a ‘centauroid’ creature? Maybe in a future book, but only if a need arises.

Lots to Do

I have mentioned, from time to time, the idea of starting up a new ‘literary’ magazine. I did briefly publish one a few years back (‘Peripheral Vision’) but real life (primarily my duties as a caregiver) led me to fold it. So, I had plans for a new launch, under the name ‘Eggshell Boats.’

It is not going to happen. There are thousands upon thousands of places online where one may publish poetry, stories, essays, etc. I am not sure there is a place for a magazine in the traditional sense — certainly not as an electronic publication. In print is another matter; there are a few folks out there who still buy such publications.

As a web site, maybe, with articles appearing as they are written rather than being gathered into regularly issued collections. I think that is where the ‘magazine’ concept works best these days. There are others who do that sort of thing well so I have no plans to launch such a site, at least for the near future.

Better to concentrate on book publishing for now. There is an Eggshell Boats website — and a blog — and I shall be using them. It is pretty much decided that EB will become an imprint of Arachis Press, putting out poetry and, perhaps, other ‘literary’ work. I am thinking a yearly anthology but that is on the back burner.

I am definitely interested in publishing reviews — book reviews, primarily — at the EB blog. So, in a sense, it may become the ‘magazine.’ In the mean time, I am working to set things up and might be open to submissions eventually.

But first, I am busy writing and making music and redesigning the web sites. Learning to redo everything in responsive design, though it may be years before we transition completely. And, of course, spring is coming (I take the very old-fashioned view that the season starts in early February, halfway between the solstice and the equinox) so I need to get out and begin work on the gardens and on transplanting trees.

Then I officially come out of hibernation with the first music festival of the year, the Will McLean Festival on March 10-12. Lots to do before then!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Roll, a poem

Roll

Holding it in, way down underneath,
sang Big Joe Turner and described every
relationship I’ve ever been in. Can I
shake, rattle, and roll away from you?

I’m not the cat with Odin’s eye; there never
was a way to see beyond myself
and into you. Holding it in, till I
could no longer, yeah, way down underneath.

Best I be on the road away from you
when I let it go. Best I do right;
best I roll and save my doggone soul.
No one needs to sing my blues but me.

Stephen Brooke ©2017

Obviously riffing off the blues-rock song 'Shake, Rattle, and Roll,' which, incidentally, is part of my repertoire.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Hito in Print

A print copy of ‘God of Rain’ is in my hands and approved for distribution. It should be available pretty much everywhere by the official release date of March 13. I’ll be uploading the ebook versions in a couple weeks to hit the same target date.

So what is ‘Rain’ about? It is a new adventure fantasy set in the Mora world of the Malvern Trilogy. The Mora are essentially Polynesian and have a stone age level of technology, as do most of their neighbors, who are Australian aborigines and Malay-speaking peoples who, like the Mora, have found their way into another world.

As did Michael Malvern, who comes to be known as Marareta, in the first three books. I had fun writing Malvern as sort of a reverse ‘white savior’ in those novels, a man who does not come to save the ‘savages’ but learns from them. We revisit Marareta in ‘God of Rain’ but he is now a peripheral character. Every hero needs to retire eventually!

The new novel centers on the warrior Hito, who was introduced in the second Malvern novel, ‘Valley of Visions,’ as one of the band who follows Marareta across the mountains. I did bring him somewhat to the front in that book as the rather conservative skeptic of the group, but he played no essential role.

In the third novel of the series, ‘Hero from the Sea,’ he moves up to sidekick status, an important secondary role. Not Marareta’s sidekick, exactly, though they do travel together for a time; rather he becomes second to the young noble, Aranu, a captain of the loyalists in their civil war.

We find him in pretty much the same spot a year later, at the opening of ‘God of Rain.’ He is not happy about it, being ambitious and discontented and a bit tired of the life of a warrior. And so, journeys and adventures follow as he goes seeking something else. Does he find it? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find that out, won’t you?

The next book in this new Mora Trilogy will probably be titled ‘Arrows of Heaven,’ and should be set around three years later. It will not star Hito, though he almost certainly will appear. I am not yet sure just how large his role will be. ‘Heaven’ will feature Teme, younger sister of the High King Poneiva. Yes, I am going to attempt a first person narrative as a girl. We’ll see if I can pull it off!

When I shall start writing the novel, I have no idea. There are plenty of other projects and I want to keep up with writing ‘mainstream’ work as well as fantasies. So I could feel like starting in tomorrow or it might be next year. No telling. It will be followed by a third and final Mora novel (and probably the last with any of these characters, though one never knows). That will be at least a decade later and feature Marareta’s son. Title is likely to be ‘Warrior of the Moon.’

Right now I am rather involved in helping with someone else’s writing, acting as editor for a novel I hope to publish at Arachis Press. No more on that until it is further along. In other news, I am going to use my ‘Eggshell Boats’ site and name for a new imprint at AP, publishing mostly poetry, to sort of set it apart from the adventure novels. There might or might not still be some sort of magazine attached to that name but I’m not even thinking about that at this point.

‘God of Rain’ is sitting here on my desk and it looks good. I expected it to, having used the template of my Malvern novels to design it. I did however try out a new typeface in the titling, just to set it apart a bit, and one always wonders whether it will display properly in print. I’ve had some nasty surprises on occasion! I shall be ordering a few copies for myself to carry along to Willfest on the weekend before the release date. Not that I expect to sell any but it is best to be prepared. I generally carry a few of all my books when I travel anywhere, and I would probably recommend one of the others to a potential buyer, as a better introduction to my work. Which ones? Oh, I would say the first Malvern novel, ‘Coast of Spears,’ or my recent ‘The Eyes of the Wind.’

But don’t let that keep you from ordering one of the others! :)

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Artist

I had never realized it before but there is something of Charles Ryder, the protagonist of ‘Brideshead Revisited,’ in the lead character of my Mavern novels. My current reread of ‘Brideshead’ led me to recognize this.

Society artist, dissatisfied with himself, looking for something more, something he has lost somewhere — yes, that would be Michael Malvern. Beyond that, of course, there are great differences. Ryder comes from British affluence; Malvern is a farm boy turned pugilist turned painter. One paints architecture, the other portraits, but both are catering to the tastes of society, the wealthy, the influential.

There are even rough seas in common. But where Charles Ryder sails on, Malvern’s ship sinks and their paths turn in quite different directions. The Malvern novels are, of course, fantasy adventures, not ‘mainstream’ work like Waugh’s. This does not mean that I didn’t attempt to be every bit as serious with my characters.

Was ‘Brideshead’ in my head somewhere when I wrote my novels? Undoubtedly, along with everything else I have ever read. I admit that I like the novel and admire Waugh’s prose style. There was also that memorable adaption for television that introduced me to the story. So it was an influence.

But I can also point out influences from Burroughs and Zelazny and Haggard and Defoe and plenty of others. Any writer has them.

The dissatisfied artist type appears rather frequently in my fiction, to be honest. I need only look into the mirror to find that influence. Certainly there is something of me in Michael Malvern. There is more of me in Ted Carrol in my Cully Beach novels. Neither IS me, of course.

That would be exceedingly boring.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Word From Our Sponsor

I hardly ever mention my shop at Cafe Press (http://www.cafepress.com/insolentlad), with tees and tote bags and other merchandise with my designs. The fact is, I make more profit from that neglected shop than I do from my writing.

The big sellers? My classical music ‘joke’ items, stuff based mostly on puns. Not the work that displays any artistic ability beyond the basics of design. That’s okay, but in a sense that is me being a writer again, isn’t it?

It is true that I should work on new merchandise. I keep putting it off. I tend to put everything off and spend my time writing. And maybe that’s just as well.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Palette, a poem

Palette

Once, I painted poems in Payne’s Gray,
all cool shadow, misted monochrome.

Then, a dab of Cobalt Blue, to sing
of the passions long kept from my canvas,

Burnt Sienna, rich blood-brown of earth.
Could I capture Viridian depths of sea?

Bring that to my palette. Give me reds,
Cadmiums, Alizarin, wild beasts

leaping from the brush. Let golden Ochers
stand triumphant; let them resonate,

suns in skies imagined, yearning ever
to exist as more than shades of gray.

Once, I painted colorless illusions
to evaporate before the sun,

hid within my subtle fogs those poems,
all those tricks of light that held no meaning.

I would fill my palette with life’s colors,
every vivid hue, each nuanced shade

captured and set free again. The blacks
must be blacker; let the whites be blinding

and more pure than morning’s soul. In dreams
Ultramarine and Umber, shall I paint,

in exuberant brush strokes of words
Carmine and Cerulean, of Lemon

Yellow, Chromium Green. Lay out the palette,
all your colors; canvases await.

Stephen Brooke ©2017

In relatively strict blank-verse form

Oppressed

It is not something that is so common now, but I am old enough to remember when Catholics faced prejudice. Yes, seemingly ordinary ‘white Christians,’ the sort of folks who would be seen as part of the ‘establishment’ these days, had their problems in an earlier America.

By the time I was growing up, that had faded somewhat but I still came up against it as a kid — mostly young people parroting stuff their parents might have said at home. But it was far worse in earlier generations. In part, that was a matter of many immigrants, Irish, Italians, being Catholic, but it also goes to traditional Northern European hostility to the Church. Especially strong in England, of course, caught between their old enemy, Catholic France, and those unruly Irishmen.

I can’t claim to be an oppressed minority these days — well, not as a Catholic anyway. Maybe my grandparents could or maybe I would need to go a generation or two further back (before that, the Catholics in my family tree would have been in Europe*). But prejudice does still exist, particularly against those who truly practice their faith. We should remember that Catholics were among those specifically targeted by the Ku Klux Klan.

Those who truly practice their faith, I say; most modern-day Catholics are pretty much indistinguishable from the secular/Protestant mainstream around them. They have the same values, for better or worse. Despite not being a practicing Catholic anymore (nor for a very long time), I may well think and act more Catholic than most of those who are. It is ingrained in me, part of my identity, and always will be.

And I am, despite myself, a ‘Catholic author.’ It is there in the novels,** if one looks for it. It is there in the poems. So be it.

Oppressed minorities — can I claim kinship, despite my own straight*** white male status? Every person who has been bullied or mistreated knows something of oppression and persecution. That would be most of us, wouldn’t it? But not all make the leap to empathy; some turn to fear and hatred.

I suppose that is inevitable, humans being human. Most of us have the ability to overcome the evil within us (and I do believe in evil). But we are also easily led astray, twisted to wrong purposes. Few truly look into themselves and recognize their mistakes. Now there is an argument for the Catholic confessional! Or at least for the sort of self-examination that is part of that heritage.

If anything, I probably take too broad a view. I know all things pass, that cultures are constantly in flux. Today’s prejudices might seem ridiculous in a generation or two, just as those against Catholics mostly do now. And perhaps there will be new prejudices to replace them. We can only attempt to do what is right, as always, and know we shall sometimes fall short.

-------

*They were German Catholics, who came to this country from Switzerland. Whether that was their origin or they passed through on their way here, I do not know nor particularly care.

**Especially the Cully Beach novels, where I made my protagonist a semi-practicing Catholic.

*** Reasonably so

My Loss, a poem

My Loss

Death, I do not fear;
it will come to us all,
sooner or later.

To greet that day as me
is all I ask, to not
lose the man I am

before I am not.
I have watched that loss,
seen others melt away,

and it was my loss, too.

Stephen Brooke ©2017

yeah, another poem about Alzheimer's

Monday, January 16, 2017

Killing Them Off

Sometimes a character must die. Yes, even one we love.

Why? One reason only, really, and that is to promote the growth of another character. Just employing it as a ‘plot twist’ is not sufficient unless it serves such a goal. Well, that is unless it is a very minor character who does not impact much of anyone or anything in the story. Someone has to die in the battles, after all.

I have knocked off both primary and secondary characters on occasion. Hmm, the first? That would be Percos, brother of Perdos, in the first Donzalo’s Destiny book, ‘The Song of the Sword.’ It serves in all sorts of ways to thrust Perdos — a fairly minor actor to that point — into an important secondary role, first as a seeker of vengeance and then as a man who finds redemption.

In the next book in that series/novel, ‘The Hand of Asak,’ we have Donzalo’s true love kicking the bucket. Yes, it was always planned and was necessary to his development — and also to that of his primary antagonist, the sorcerer Lord Radal. It is the event that truly turns Radal into a man who wishes to destroy the young knight at any cost (including his own life and soul). The reasons for that, naturally, will not be spilled here.

Killing off the lover — I’ve done that elsewhere, too. It is a drastic measure, devastating to the lead character. Not to be overused! Only twice, so far, and no plans for more. Now, other primary characters and secondary characters can lose those they love, also, and that is certainly something that should occur. But be careful about using the device on your main protagonist — it can be a crutch, an easy way to change course.

People do die in real life and, therefor, in books. Fathers and mothers, lovers, friends. It would be unrealistic if no one ever passed on. But try to make the deaths serve a purpose. Even if they are seemingly random, they will impact others. They will change people. Our job is to explore how.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sweet Jezebel



A new video from Mean Mary. She will be back in Florida in March, at the Will McLean Festival and other venues.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Written

Written

The further people slip into our past, the more they become characters in a book we once read. We build a narrative around them, remembering those words, that look, discarding the random parts that no longer hold meaning.

Could I have written you, in idle moments? Are you the print on my pages, the changeless black and white that I chose? I read, from time to time, and know it is only a story.

Maybe someday I shall get around to crafting a happy ending.

Stephen Brooke ©2017

Magic, a poem

Magic

‘Take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic.’ ~ Frida Kahlo

I stand spot-lit on the stage,
creating illusion. Look at me
and suspend your disbelief.

Maybe I am magic. Maybe I am
the dream you used to dream.
Let your eyes follow my deceits,

as I conceal more than I reveal.
Did I put it here or there?
No, it is in neither place.

My lovely assistant carried it
offstage, as every other night.
The audience will always cheer.

Stephen Brooke ©2017

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lightning, a story

this is a story I wrote a while back (and was published) but I thought it needed a little work so I pulled it out and revised it

Lightning

a Branford Perry story by Stephen Brooke

June feared storms. This shouldn’t be surprising as she had been struck by lightning three times in her life. I didn’t stand too close to her during bad weather.

We were doing a show down in Lisbon, at the old train depot. Arts and crafts — June with her silver jewelry, me trying to sell my paintings. All of this was familiar territory for me. I had done plenty of shows over the years. Not so much for June.

It seems that every little town the railroad used to pass through has an abandoned depot to turn it into some sort of community center or museum, something that will bring shoppers to what is usually the not-so-nice side of town. Craft shows can be a part of that, at least in the minds of their organizers.

I knew it was not at all the sort of venue where I should be showing the artwork. Wrong time of year, wrong sort of advertising, just the wrong place altogether. Better to spend ones time and money on the shows in larger cities, the ones in the artsy downtown districts. But June wanted to do a show with me, maybe thinking it would be something new and exciting.

Yeah, I knew better. I said yes anyway. Lisbon was close enough to home and pleasing June was something I liked to do. Maybe it would be okay, I thought, as I parked my truck near the depot, freshly painted in white and green. All ready for the next train to pull in.

It didn’t take much time for me to set up my tent, that gorgeous summer Saturday morning, put out a table for June’s trinkets, hang paintings on my racks. Too little time, perhaps; I’m used to organizing and doing things myself and, although I did my best not to show it, June was mostly in my way. I tried to share the experience because I was, after all, in love. Still, it’s in my nature to be efficient and self-contained.

She took charge of our cards and fliers, arranging them on the card table up front. June had designed them, that being the sort of thing she did for a livelihood. I’ll admit, though, that I thought I could have done just as good a job on them. We were both artists and both had reasonably high opinions concerning our own work.

Once we set up, there was plenty of time to look over some of the other displays. It would be a while before  the potential customers showed in any numbers. A few spaces down from ours, an older woman in dark attire – pretty much the regulation artist uniform – was setting up jewelry cases. “Good morning, ladies,” she cheerfully greeted us with a wave of her multi-ringed hand. At that time of the morning it was probably still real cheer. “Let me know if I can help you with anything.”

It wasn’t the first time I’d been mistaken for female, being small-boned, long-haired, and fond of wearing aloha shirts. If she recognized her mistake, she didn’t correct it before we moved on to the next vendor.

We were both in those flowered Hawaiian shirts that day and wearing fanny packs, to boot. “I’m sure they suspect that we’re lesbian lovers,” I told June. “I’m the cute one in the couple, of course.”

June gave me ‘that’ look. She never really appreciated my humor. I don’t think she liked the whole idea of me being mistaken for a woman, either, nor my ‘who cares’ attitude about it. The truth is, I may be insecure about a great many things — oh, yes, that’s for sure — but my masculinity has never been one of them.

It truly was a lovely summer day. It was also a summer day in Florida which meant a good chance of rain, wind and storms later on. I knew about such hazards and had a well secured and covered set up for art shows. Too well covered, perhaps, as it got pretty hot under all those plastic tarps as the sun rose higher. Not much to do about that so I just sat and smiled at the browsers, hoping one might become a buyer. A long shot, to be sure, but I was used to this sort of waiting game.

June, on the other hand, was new to the outdoor show experience. Soon came boredom, followed closely by complaints. “You should talk more to people when they stop.”

“Maybe.” I wasn’t going to argue the point, though I know folks like to browse in peace, more often than not. No sense in putting them on the spot or making them uncomfortable. Nor am I known to be the most talkative person. No sense in putting me on the spot, either.

Be that and all other things as it may, I didn’t talk more to people when they stopped. Instead, I engaged June on the subject of the teenage boys playing energetic punk-pop on the old depot platform. “Sound a bit like Green Day,” I offered.

She didn’t know who Green Day was. Our conversations took such turns too frequently, I’m afraid.

I’m afraid, too, that June wasn’t finding much excitement in our day’s outing. She abandoned me, after a while, to stroll about and gossip with other exhibitors. I sat and watched the clouds multiply in the afternoon sky, first only a few puffballs, then larger cumulus towers and mounds, shifting from white to ever-darker shades of gray.

From the west, out toward the Gulf of Mexico, came a subdued rumble, sensed as much as heard. The breeze was picking up some and the chill of rain was in it. Well, it was about time to pack it up for the day, anyway. Sales had been few — prints, some small pieces of jewelry — but folks had picked up our handouts. Maybe something would come of that. Some do like to think about things before buying. Or they hope that they can get a deal if they wait.

June was nervous. I suppose I had never taken her fear of lightning very seriously; I love lightning storms myself, not that I would stand out in a field during one. That, however, was not my concern at that moment. I wanted to get our stuff under cover before the storm arrived. Trying to break down the display and getting it stowed away in the wind and rain is an experience to be avoided, yet all too common at outdoor shows.

Having gathered our equipment into orderly groupings — with June once again getting in the way of my all-too-obsessive routine — I went to get the truck from a parking lot around the block. I pulled it into the last parking space before the corner, not really that far from our exhibition space.

“Oh Bran, just move it forward,” said June, “and let’s get done quickly.” She seemed quite insistent that I should park illegally.

And I, just as adamantly, refused to park in the turn lane. After all, it would save, what, fifteen or twenty feet of distance? “This will do fine,” I replied. “Let’s load up.”

Light rain was sprinkling and the occasional thunder rumbled, still relatively distant. “Oh, come on. Please. I want to get out of here.”

I realized there was real panic in her voice, as well as a certain frustration with my ways. Still, I was loathe to pull that truck forward. I’ve always been a person who respected boundaries and hoped others would respect mine.

This was no time to explain things, assuming I could explain things at all. I knew that. Then again, I was also in love with June and men in love do things against their nature. And then do them again.

So, perhaps not as graciously as I might have, I started up the truck and drove it forward. All the while, I was thinking I could already be partly loaded up and fumed a bit that I could let myself be turned from my course.

Now, it was raining harder. And, yes, the thunder sounded more closely, as lightning flickered along the dark belly of an approaching front. We hurried to finish getting everything into the bed of the truck.

“Go ahead and get inside,” I told June. “I’ll throw on the tarp and tie everything down.”

To her credit, June didn’t desert in the face of fire, even though I took my time and perhaps tied things down a little more securely than necessary. I could tell she was impatient, none the less, and that she had her eye on the skies.

She probably never realized how hard it was for me to break the rules like that, even little, seemingly unimportant rules. She never realized a lot of things. Right then, that didn’t matter to me, as we drove through the storm to my place. We would spend the night wrapped in each other but not really knowing each other.

One thing I do know about her, though.

June finally did find some excitement that day.

Stephen Brooke ©2017

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Head Hunters

I’ve turned out four novels now in which Kohari headhunters appear and had never before addressed exactly how a stone age people hacked off those heads. Flint-edged ‘swords’ is the answer, of course. I had actually hinted at such weapons before, and described ones edged with teeth from sharks or crocodiles.


That was all in battle scenes, or in the narrative leading up to them. Those teeth-edged weapons would probably not work very well for head-removal. One needs a truly sharp edge for that and flint or obsidian or the like is the answer in a pre-metal civilization.

I also have warriors carrying stone axes in the series (i.e. the three Malvern novels and the new ‘God of Rain’) and those would certainly do the job — if they were the right sort. The heavy ones carried by some men are more like maces, meant for hammering at the enemy rather than cutting. But lighter ones, again with heads of quartz, flint, volcanic glass, would behead handily.

Now that flint-edged sword or ax is utilized ‘in the field,’ but would it be used for the ritual sacrifices in the Kohari temple? Those people do make some use of copper, primarily for ornaments, and hold the metal sacred to their goddess, Mihasa, the Sun Bird. Her image in hammered copper stands above her altar. I could see a copper ax being crafted for the neck-severing blow in their ceremonies. Is there one? Irrelevant at this point but we might find out someday.

Or not. I’ll probably never include such a ceremony in one of my novels. I don’t even see revisiting the temple, even though I have two projected novels to go in the new ‘Mora’ trilogy. There are more important questions, such as ‘how do they make their beer?’ or ‘how are dogs treated?’ (as a food item, I am afraid). Things of this sort have more to do with who a people are and how they live. They are far more relevant to the story.

And also we might ask, ‘why are these people headhunters?’ That might be the most important question of all!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cancer

I learned just yesterday that the ex-long-term girlfriend had been in the hospital, undergoing surgery for breast cancer. Very few of her friends had been told, apparently, and I am well outside of her closest circle.

Not that we haven’t remained friendly, at a distance. We haven’t actually spoken to each other in person for a decade and a half, though I glimpsed her once or twice at events and thought better of going over and saying hello. Should I have? Who can say?

She will always be ‘the’ XLTGF, even though I have been in longer relationships. Maybe that’s why I kept my distance. It seems her surgery was successful and I hope that is an end to it, that she lives a full and happy rest of her life.

Interestingly (or maybe not!), she is the reason I have many friends in the Florida folk music community these days. She had been an acquaintance of the late Don Grooms and I attended my first Florida Folk Festival in her company. I fear she also is the reason I quit painting (it happened pretty much the same time we broke up) and turned to poetry. Had to express those feelings somehow, maybe.

These things happen. It’s life, and as our chunk of life melts away, we see more of them. But we are never quite ready for them.

First and Latest

First novels, it is said, are usually bad. I would not say that about mine, although I can certainly, a decade later, see things that could be improved. I could have plugged in more description, especially concrete imagery. I am okay with the story, though.

The thing is, I was already a writer so I was not really feeling my way. I had a lot of magazine articles behind me — and those called for a more stripped-down approach. It took me a while to get away from that, but it was good training. I learned to put in what was needed and no more. That is where I learned my craft.

In a roundabout way, however, I think it was really poetry and song writing that brought me the last of the skills I needed for fiction. I threw myself into that sort of thing in the 2000s and learned a great deal about using the right words, creating the image, telling the story. I still consider myself a poet first and a novelist, well, somewhere further down the list.

GOD OF RAIN is ‘in the can,’ so to speak. Final edits and proofreading done, print and ebook formatted and ready to go. I need to upload the PDF of the print version and have a proof copy in my hand to approve next. That and finish off the details of the cover when I have the exact dimensions and and an ISBN code to add. I do design my own covers, having an art background. Corel Draw is the program of choice for that.

GOR is a little less action-oriented than the three previous novels set among the Mora (my more-or-less Polynesians), the Malvern trilogy. Definitely fewer fights and battles, though a few make their way into the narrative — this is more a journey novel. Our hero, Hito, is searching for many things, both physical and spiritual. More natural dangers (landslides, typhoons, griffins, crocodiles, etc!) appear.

And the greatest danger of all, of course — love.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Novel Lengths

For no particular reason, I was looking at the length of the novels I have turned out. Well, probably because I just finished another (should be sending a PDF to the printer to get a proof in the next week or so) and it was on my mind (and I'm not motivated to start another project immediately). Anyway, here they are:

49,900 - The Eyes of the Wind
54,400 - God of Rain
55,000 - The Middle of Nowhere
56,900 - Valley of Visions
62,800 - Coast of Spears
64,000 - Hero from the Sea
68,000 - Shaper
80,400 - Waves (I was surprised when that one ran as long as it did)

205,900 - Donzalo's Destiny – published in four books:
..46,000 - The Song of the Sword
..47,400 - The Shadow of Asak
..48,800 - The Sign of the Arrow
..63,700 - The Hand of the Sorcerer
DD is really one novel, though it is in eleven distinct sections of novella and novelette length. The word count puts it at about the same length as Moby-Dick. But there is way more action! :)

Of course, if one puts together the three novels of the Malvern Trilogy (Coast of Spears, Valley of Visions, Hero from the Sea) it adds up to more than 180,000 words. But they are really distinct novels, despite having a continuing story.

None of these would I call a 'short novel,' which I would use to describe work between 35,000 and 45,000 words in length. Shorter than that goes into novella territory. Most are not particularly long --- as long as needed, I hope, and no longer!

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Orphans

I have always attempted to eliminate ‘widows’ and ‘orphans’ in my books. Typographical widows and orphans, that is; there are plenty of the human kind! But I am thinking that it is finicky and generally unnecessary, and sometimes looks worse than leaving them.

Of course, I am formatting the novels in a word processing program, not a publishing one, so I can’t do some of those subtle fixes involving spacing of lines. At least not without it being more trouble than it is worth. I would not leave a line of one or two words at the start of a new page, and perhaps not even at the end of a paragraph, but beyond that, is it worth fooling with?

So, GOD OF RAIN uses a slightly different layout and I do think it looks every bit as good. Maybe even better. I have been noting that more than a few of the books on my shelves from major publishers do not concern themselves much with the whole widow/orphan thing. It is not even noticeable unless one actually looks for it.

Now, maybe it’s also time to think about leaving a ‘ragged’ right margin? Okay, maybe not, at least in novels. But justifying text is only a convention and does change the look of the text itself by adding space between words. It might also be easier to read non-justified lines, thanks to the more even spacing. Were I doing a magazine, I might be inclined to go ‘rag-right.’

Incidentally, turning off the widow and orphan controls also let me get by with fewer pages in the finished book. A penny saved, etc!

Thursday, January 05, 2017

God of Rain

The release of GOD OF RAIN has been ‘officially’ set for March 13 now. That date is quite arbitrary and exists for promotion purposes — the book should be on sale at some places (including the Arachis Press store) before then.

The novel came out slightly shorter than the target, ending up at around 55,000 words. That is definitely within the acceptable range. It also came out exactly at the planned sixty chapters. There will continue to be some polishing and minor edits but it is time now to work on book design. That will be facilitated by the fact that I am using the templates from the three previous novels set in the Mora ‘world,’ the Malvern trilogy (COAST OF SPEARS, VALLEY OF VISIONS, HERO FROM THE SEA).

Similar cover designs (silhouette concept), same typefaces, same page layouts. The text is set in URW’s Garamond No 8, a straightforward, readable font and quite suitable to an adventure novel. Naturally, the two further novels projected in this series will use the same approach.

Those two novels are tentatively titled ARROWS OF HEAVEN and WARRIOR OF THE MOON. Hito, the protagonist of RAIN, might well show up in either but will not have a major role. We move on first to Teme, little sister of the High King Poneiva, and then to Maratoa, son of Malvern/Marareta. But not right away; there are other projects that call for my attention.

I’ll write about those when it is time.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Book and Festival

My latest novel, ‘God of Rain,’ has been ‘assembled’ into something very close to final form now. That is, the structure and narrative are as they should be and will not change. Now it is mostly a matter of editing, finding where I might want to change some phrasing, where a little extra description might be called for (I always find some of those), and so on.

‘Line editing’ if you will, though there is something more to it than that, and proofreading is part of the same process. Mistakes are mistakes and I’ll be looking for them, but also things that are not really mistakes but might be improved upon. There will be several read-throughs of the manuscript before it is finally formatted for publication.

Then a couple more, most likely! Understand that I am constantly editing as I write, as I bring it all into focus.

So when to expect publication? We’re setting a tentative release date of Monday, March 13. That should be confirmed shortly; certainly it will be out before April. Then on to another project.

Incidentally, I should be at the Will McLean Festival on the weekend before that date, March 10-12. I’d best make sure I have some copies on hand before I go!