Wednesday, December 19, 2018


So, no sooner had things started to get to normal (or something resembling it) after Hurricane Michael passed through, than I seriously tore a muscle in my hip/lower back and ended up rather incapacitated this past month. A week of hardly getting out of bed followed by one hobbling about with a cane, has given way gradually to my regular routine, albeit with a certain amount of pain and soreness.

What was perhaps most frustrating was the discomfort involved in sitting long in any position, making writing difficult (or at least painful). My fantasy novel-in-progress has not progressed very much but I know I’ll get to it. In the mean time, I putter about at this and that. I can even exercise some now though I must be careful not to put too much pressure or weight on the injured area. No dead-lifts for a while! They seem to give the most pain (and quite possibly are how I hurt myself, though I do not recall any one moment it happened). Short hiking and biking expeditions were possible this week. Those will get longer.

I had the same injury three years ago with much the same results. Oddly, I know exactly how I tore it that time — I was prying an old turbine loose from the roof. Apparently I have a vulnerable spot and will always have to take care. Maybe I fell on the hip too many times when young and into skateboarding, or maybe it’s just how I’m put together. It doesn’t matter much at this point.

As far as the next novel goes, I’m only like 4000 words into it. That would be ‘The Crocodile God,’ sequel to ‘The Crocodile’s Son.’ What I have dubbed the Crocodile Chronicles runs parallel to my Sajam Saga. The second of those, ‘The Jewels of the Elements,’ is due to come out in February of this coming year. That is the sequel to ‘The Eyes of the Wind’ where I introduced Qala, the former pirate queen, who is protagonist of the Crocodile series. I know where the story is going so it’s largely a matter of settling down — if I can get myself reasonably comfortable — and writing it out.

Both of these series are pretty much going to stop at two novels. At least for some time — if and when I return to them, the story will be taken up decades later and there may be some convergence of the two. Lots of other projects to concern myself with first, and both series will stand quite well as they are. Or will when I finish the WIP.

NOTE: this was written more than a week ago but the satellite internet has been down most of the time since. Finally a chance to post!

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The Image and the Word

I create my images, whether in writing or in paint, brush stroke by brush stroke, word by word. They do not exist in my mind until I have created them so. I do not see them and then describe them or put them on canvas. I recognize that many — perhaps most — do not work this way.

Nabokov believed everyone thought in images. Reading his work, one can certainly see that he did. I need those words to fix what would be otherwise nebulous. I need to describe a scene to see it. I build it.

I slipped a little reference to that fact into my novel ‘Shaper,’ where our protagonist is asked to describe a suspect. He explains that he has to describe a man to himself to remember the details of his appearance. He needs to find the words that set the image in his mind. His explanation has little to do with the plot and we move on, but I can ‘see’ that suspect in my own mind still. He is made up of my words.

My poems almost always begin as a few words, a phrase, that catches my attention. They grow from that beginning. I have no firm idea about the meaning or the direction of the poem, nor do I sit down intending to ‘say something.’ That will be revealed by the words as I write. This is perhaps one reason I often write in form. Cadence and even rhyme help shape the pieces, help them find a direction.

And, of course, there is the sound of those words. I am very much one to read my stuff aloud to myself, not only the poetry but also the fiction. Dialog is spoken and so it must be heard if one is to know it is ‘right.’ (Though I am pretty good at hearing it in my head — along with those other voices!) I dislike clumsy prose and can see myself as the storyteller in the bazaar, speaking the finely-crafted lines of tradition.

Are the results worthwhile? That is for others to judge. I can only use my words to craft what I will.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Raindrops, a poem


I can not count the raindrops
but know they have a number;
they sang upon my rooftop
as I fell into slumber,
and each told me its name,
each whispered and was gone,
with all of night time's dreams
forgotten in the dawn.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

This is one of those pieces that I sat and looked at for some time, trying to decide whether I should add more. But there was really nothing to add.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Shadow of the Swell, a poem

The Shadow of the Swell

When a younger man, a time forever gone,
I'd drive through the night, long hours to find dawn,
stand by the Atlantic as the sun would rise,
watch the crashing surf beneath peach-tinted skies.

My heart beat in rhythm to the ocean's song,
rising with each wave, far-journeyed yet still strong,
loud as thunder's drums and subtle as the mist
that clung to its crest, by morning's breezes kissed.

Once I sought truths in the shadow of the swell;
time’s lost lambent song has held me in its spell.
Does the sea dance now on that remembered shore?
Shall I seek all that eluded me before?

I have journeyed long, to find and know this day,
whispering its secrets to the foam-flecked gray;
still I understand too little of the wind,
still it wordless murmurs of how I have sinned.

I live in the shadow that the swell once cast
when a younger man, a time forever past,
and each heartbeat is a wave upon the beach
I drive toward through the night and never reach.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

Yes, it is sort of about surfing. Other stuff too. And in pretty strict hexameter.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


My brother had a knife, one of the knives from the kitchen, from the drawer by the range. I believed he would use it.

So did my sister. He was capable of using it. He had these rages, usually expressed through fists and feet, but now he brandished those three inches of stainless steel. I don’t remember what set him off.

It would never be anything important. Not important to me nor to anyone else, nothing you’d think would make someone angry, nothing that should make anyone angry. We barricaded ourselves in the upstairs bedroom closet, held him back with a chair, until he calmed down or lost interest or something.

I remember my sister’s face, not his. She was five years older than me and not around so much. Maybe she didn’t know how he was, not really, not the way I did. She was trying to make sense of him, I could tell. I didn’t try anymore.

No point. He was broken and that was that. It was something I had to deal with. Our parents were gone too much of the time, both working, both grinding out a living for us. They didn’t see it. The two of us coexisted through school, surfed together — though he was an asshole in the water — and went our ways, in time. He even managed to hang onto the second wife. I still do not try to make sense of him.

It’s likely I didn’t pick up on things back then. That’s what was, nothing more, water under several bridges, and I have as little to do with him as practical these days. It’s not difficult. We live different lives in different states. There are no family Thanksgiving gatherings.

For that, I am thankful.

note: this is essentially true memory, but also the sort of thing that just might end up in fictionalized form in one of my stories, some day

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Worst, a song

The Worst
a song

I’m the best at being the worst,
it’s nice to be good at something!
Dead last when it comes to coming in first;
so nice to be good at something!

Go right ahead, give me a test,
I always succeed at failing!
You’ll find I’m worst at being the best,
No, I never fail at failing!

No, I’m no mediocrity,
no mediocrity for me!
What’s worth doing is worth doing badly,
and I’ll do it badly gladly!

Now being the best is over-rated,
though it’s better than nothing!
Yet shouldn’t I be congratulated?
Yes, it’s better than nothing!

If you check, you’ll see in the past,
I’ve truly been consistent!
I’ve always managed to come dead last;
no problem being consistent!

No, I’m no mediocrity,
no mediocrity for me!
What’s worth doing is worth doing badly
and I’ll do it badly gladly!

I’m the best at being the worst,
it’s nice to be good at something!
Dead last when it comes to coming in first;
so nice to be good at something!

Yes, it’s nice to be good at something!

Stephen Brooke ©2018

the 'worth doing badly' line is, of course, borrowed from Chesterton

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Free Poetry Books

I put up a new epub version of the free book of poems from the Donzalo’s Destiny novels, making the old link obsolete. So here’s a new link to the entire folder (which is unlikely to change or be deleted) containing both the ebook and text versions of my first three poetry collections (without the illustrations, obviously).

Nets, a poem


From their crescent boats, the poets cast
their fathers’ ancient and oft-mended nets
across the dark, into the deep, unknown,

unknowable, in hopes of tangling truth,
some blind supple swimming truth, in woven
words, a mesh of metaphor. Their fathers,

yes, their fathers’ fathers cast them so,
catching their own meanings. Those decay
upon the silvered shores. The moon is setting.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Jay-Birds, a poem

Between Hurricane Michael and weird cold front weather I've barely been on line the past month. Lots of material piled up! This is a bit of light verse for your amusement.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Hurrican Hiatus

Having endured a two week hurricane hiatus---I was in the direct path of Michael here in the Florida panhandle and without power or any connection to the outside world for a long while---I am back to the business of being a writer. All of this should not have interfered with any publishing timetables, though we'll be cutting in close on the release of MAGIC, the new poetry collection. Out Dec 1 if all continues on schedule, from Eggshell Boats.

And what follows? Why another fantasy novel, of course, another of my 'little' (around 65,000 words) adventures. This one is titled THE JEWELS OF THE ELEMENTS and is the sequel to THE EYES OF THE WIND, making it the second book of the Sajam Saga. It chronicles the further adventures of newly-weds Marana and Saj as they attempt to settle into a new life as colonists on the isle of Lorj. Good luck with that, kids! We see the return of the wizard Im (who has popped up elsewhere in my fiction, notably in THE WAYS OF WIZARDRY) and (spoiler) of a certain small god who likes to dabble in human affairs. I am going through a final round of proofreading right now.

Beyond that, who knows? I am working on a couple concepts. Well, more than that really, but two fairly seriously. That is typical for me. I like the cross-pollenization effect of multiple projects. And, as ever, dabbling here and there in the projected novels. I'll never be a linear writer. One or the other will 'grab' me eventually and I'll finish working it up. Those are a reasonably mainstream mystery/crime novel to be titled THE DEPOT BLUES and another fantasy adventure that will become THE CROCODILE GOD. Between those and the needed roof repairs, I'll be kept busy.

Saturday, September 29, 2018


There are essentially two types of sequels. One would be the continuing story sort, where, although the novels stand on their own and have their own arcs, there is an overall unifying plot. The three novels of my Malvern Trilogy fit that model pretty well. Maybe the four Donzalo’s Destiny books do also, though it might be argued that it is one large novel (or, conversely, a series of eleven different novellas and novelettes). In that each Donzalo book was published before the next was written, I feel it is appropriate to call them sequels.

The other would be an whole new story for our protagonist(s) — or maybe, a secondary character moves up to the lead for the new narrative. The three novels in the Mora Trilogy (which can itself be seen as a sequel to the Malvern Trilogy) go this route. There is an underlying plot element, to be sure, but not really a continuing story. However, there is not a clear line between these two kinds of sequels. They may just be a bit of each.

My latest, ‘The Jewels of the Elements’ (out February 2 of next year), tends more to the latter. It is billed as a sequel to ‘The Eyes of the Wind’ and shares the plot element of the mystical jewels known as the Eyes. It also continues the adventures of the noblewoman Marana and her now-husband, the craftsman Saj. But it is a new story with a new plot and a new setting. There is no overarching plot unifying the two books.

Eventually, there will a sequel — or sequels — to the Donzalo’s Destiny books. Donzalo will not be in its pages that much; rather, the focus will shift to Lady Fachalana. That is, the story will center around her as the previous one did around Donzalo, but there will be plenty enough subplots. When I might start on it, who knows? There are other projects waiting. Some of them just might be sequels.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Hike and Bike

Having largely recovered from an 'ouchy' lower back/hips, caused by overdoing it with the string trimmer (hey, I have an acre and an half to maintain here), I was able to get back to my hiking and biking routine. That was  curtailed a bit through the summer anyway, as I spent time almost everyday pushing a mower about. No more of that till next year, I think.

So, three or four hikes or bikes of varying length each week. In addition, of course, to my regular weight training. I'm not giving up on that after forty-some years! I may not be as big as I was in my peak bodybuilding years but I am in the leanest condition of my life. I look better than most guys half my age. Maybe even a third of my age. No brag, just fact, as they say. Well, somebody says it. This does not mean I am necessarily healthier than those younger guys, just that the body looks better.

I do a medium-length bike ride most Sunday mornings, up to Graceville and back on the paved road—that would be Peanut Road. It's the only time I feel safe pedaling up that busy and somewhat narrow way. To the Piggly-Wiggly in town and back is about seven miles. I could do my grocering by bike, if I wished, and might when the weather grows a little cooler. But I can take various dirt back roads up to Graceville and add a mile or two to that distance. Still entirely doable, should I wish.

But I can also simply ride (or walk) those many back roads just for the fun and exercise, and frequently do. Sometimes a wider tire might be helpful, when conditions get dry and sandy; I have 32s on the bike and can live with that 'compromise' for now. The bike, incidentally, is an inexpensive Taiwan-made single speed, with commodious baskets for carrying whatever. Probably better suited to city use but here I am in the middle of nowhere! The photo above is from a recent jaunt, not too far from my place.

I see loads of wildlife tracks when I get onto those dirt roads and sometimes wildlife as well. A deer ran in front of my bike the last time I was out, some time after seven in the morning (in this continuing hot weather, I ride early). Riding those back roads is the next best thing to getting down to the beach and surfing, and awakes some of the same feelings in me. Riding around on city streets would not be the same. It is the joining of nature and physical activity that does it for me.

I've always enjoyed hiking and biking. I was a wanderer as a kid, whether we lived in town or country. My bike or my feet carried me away from whatever bothered me at home. I liked the solitude of it, the being-in-control of it. I still do.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Fan Fiction

In a sense, I write 'fan fiction.' No, I've never written anything that incorporated someone else's characters or worlds. But I do create characters and worlds of my own and then write about them, rather than starting with an 'idea' and then crafting the characters and setting to fit it (Mostly. There are always exceptions to everything). I'm not unusual in this approach; some writers work this way, some don't. Stephen King starts with the story and says the characters will take form as he works. I need to know how those imaginary people think and act (to some extent) before starting. This is why I sometimes write back-story tales about them for my own use, before ever starting on a book.

Now, of course, I have various interrelated series going, so I have a whole bunch of characters I know fairly well. And I am, indeed, writing fan fiction about them.

Sunday, September 09, 2018


The demon Qu’orthseth — known in some parts as Akorzef or Cahorsus, and affectionately called Cory by its human companion (not exactly its master) — goes way back in my writing, back to a short story I sketched out and never finished, long before I wrote any of the novels. The name Qu’orthseth, admittedly, was a joke, a parody of such over-apostrophed names in fantasy fiction.

But Big Q itself (it is asexual, about eight foot tall, and wine-red) was first titled ‘the red beast’ in a tale I intended to write of Corad of Lorj, one of the sons of Saj and Marana, who are the protagonists of ‘The Eyes of the Wind’ and the upcoming ‘The Jewels of the Elements.’ Essentially, the idea was for the demon to be a caregiver for its senile human master, keeping the elderly wizardly alive via less than ethical means. Why? Because as long as the old man held onto life, the demon could remain in our world — much preferable to returning to its home!

I never followed through on developing that tale but Q did show up in a different story, ‘The Book, the Beast, and the Burglar.’ By the time I got that short piece to where I considered it complete, I recognized it really was the beginning of a novel (that happens to me rather frequently). The novel became ‘The Ways of Wizardry,’ and it detailed how Qu’orthseth and the wizard Im came to be bound to each other. Now Im and the demon have shown up, a thousand years later, in ‘The Jewels of the Elements.’

And both are near the ends of their lives, though still reasonably vigorous and capable, magically and physically. The original ‘red beast’ story would have taken place twenty years or so after the events in ‘Jewels;’ the question for me now is whether to follow on with that scenario (even though I might never get it written) or have Qu’orthseth come to a different end in the final pages of the novel-in-progress.

I’ve put in quite a bit to ‘humanize’ the demon, to show that a millennium among men and, especially, as a companion to Im, has rubbed off on an essentially amoral creature. So a ‘sacrifice’ at this point is very tempting. It also seems just a tad cheap but, after all, we all have to die sometime. Even demons. It does save it from being whisked back to its home, too, and I can admittedly think of other (and maybe better?) scenarios for Im’s final years.

So it is likely Qu’orthseth will meet its end in this novel. This will not prevent it from appearing in all those stories set in the thousand years between ‘The Ways of Wizardry’ and ‘The Jewels of the Elements.’ That, you may count on.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Nobles and Names

In ‘The Crocodile’s Son’ and ‘The Eyes of the Wind,’ I chose to use Irish/Gaelic titles for the old Sharshite nobility — titles that had been outlawed by their Muram rulers. Now the Sharshites are not Gaelic. Let’s get that out of the way right now. The actual titles would be different in their own tongue. But I did want to give a bit of a Celtic feel to them, thus the choice.

Is there some Celtic ancestry for the native folk of Sharsh? Possibly, but it would be far removed and much mixed with other cultures by the time of our tales. ‘Gauls’ almost certainly passed through the Ural Gate, the passage between worlds, at some point, as would Romanized people of that heritage a little later. Both would, however, be thousands of years removed from the time the novels are set.

Similarly, I employed more-or-less English titles for the Muram and post-Muram Sharshite aristocracy. Count, Baron, etc. were used in the Donzalo books but not in the aforementioned novels, which are set more than a millennium earlier. I do make mention of the actual Muram title for King, Celos. I also used Thegn here and there as an older title and one the Mura allowed for the ‘new’ Sharshite nobility that supported their rule. The title survived as Thane among the Cuddonians of ‘Donzalo’s Destiny.’ (The Cuddonians are, at least in part, descendants of Sharshite refugees who crossed the mountains.)

And there is Dux, from the Latin, which I used for Muram military governors. Not unexpectedly, this comes down as Duke in later Sharshite usage. The ruler of Muradon is an emperor, also of Roman origin; for that matter, I use the Roman equivalent of knight, equester, for mounted Muram lancers. There was certainly an intention to draw some parallels between the empires of the Romans and the Mura.

Not that they are at all the same! The Mura are more akin to Asiatic nomads than they are Italians. But using references from other cultures is a useful sort of shorthand in writing fantasies. It helps prevent the created cultures from seeming too odd, too alien — and then, everyone (well, almost everyone) in the ‘D-World’ is descended from folk from our own ‘E-World.’ Nonetheless, be assured that I have created new languages to some degree for these cultures (although bits of Basque, Etruscan, and other tongues pop up) and that the cultures themselves are pretty much created from the ground up, and are not directly based on historic models. Nor am I going to be stealing historic events, a la Game of Thrones, and presenting them as as new. I reckon I can make up better ones myself!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Sorcery and Chat Rooms

I recognize that the ‘speaking from afar’ that the sorcerers of my fantasy novels use is rather similar to chatting online — even to the existence of private ‘chat rooms,’ in the form of little empty worlds where they can meet. One needs to know the ‘address’ to find and speak to another wizard, generally, though powerful individuals are able to sort through thousands of worlds quickly and find where they need to be. A magical search engine, if you will. They even, in a sense, bookmark each other.

I had not really thought about any of that until now, but it is most likely it shaped my creation of the whole system. Of course, there are quite large differences, too. For one thing, their communication over distances involves actually sending a part of their physical being to those other worlds — existing in more than one universe at a time. The inherent ability to do that is largely the basis of all wizardly power.

And would it be possible to send a ‘virus’ to some other sorcerer? Pretty much, yes. Letting another wizard in is analogous to opening an infected email. He’s in your system and you may not be able to get rid of him. Spy-ware of a sort is common, and those spied upon may not realize it. Best to block certain users!

I suppose all this is in part a result of my personal need for a more-or-less logical system of magic. I may certainly leave some things unexplained in my tales, but they adhere to the concepts I have laid down. More traditional sorts of magic will not work in my primary fantasy world; this is not to say they might not in some less logical universe. Those will exist too (in potential, anyway) in the infiniverse. It is probably safer not to visit them. :)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Sidekick, a poem


Every hero needs a sidekick;
I'll let you be mine.
It's not a demanding position,
I'm sure you'll do just fine.
I'll ask for your advice,
but follow my own design,
and. of course, I'll get the girl;
you'll console yourself with wine.

You'll share in my derring-do,
yes, each and every deed;
and be seen as an hero too,
although of a lesser breed.
My horse will be tall and fiery,
a truly worthy steed;
you'll ride a little behind me ―
a donkey is all you'll need.

And when you take that bullet
that was aimed at my breast,
I shall surely grieve,
tell all you were the best.
But I must find another
to laugh at my every jest;
for a hero needs a sidekick
to share in his quest.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

a bit of light poetry, a good bit of which I wrote in my head while mowing the yard

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Jewels Chapter

For no particular reason, a chapter from the WIP, 'The Jewels of the Elements.' This is Chapter Five, fairly near the beginning of the book, and is reasonably close to finished form.

* * *

“I shall kill you both, of course,” Orro told them. “As a priest of Asak it is expected of me.” His eyes slowly moved from the one to the other, the man savoring his power over them. “Had I the time I would torture you as long as possible. The Lord of Death asks us to make the extra effort, when we can.”

He knelt and began to methodically search their bags. “I have sensed the Jewels’ presence these days, known one of you carried them, but could not tell exactly where they might be concealed.”

“You are a wizard?” asked the Mur. It came out as a raspy whisper.

“Some might name me so, but before all I am a priest, the servant of Asak. Ah!”

He must have found the Eyes, thought Saj. He would have thought of more things had not a cheerful voice called from somewhere behind Orro.

“Ho there, young man. I do not think those belong to you.”

Saj could see a smallish man, an old man, leaning on a staff. He was wrapped in a dark cloak or maybe it only looked dark because of the night.

The Ildin turned to face him. “Begone old man,” he snarled. “This is no concern of yours.” A scornful laugh. “Or do you wish to go to Asak as well?”

“Those jewels were a concern of mine long before you were born, priest,” answered the newcomer. “And, I suspect, they will be after you die.” He slipped the cloak from his wiry body and raised his staff. Hair and beard were white and curling and neatly trimmed short, Saj could see, and his features — the dark skin, the heavy brow. He had seen such features before.

“A Tesran?” murmured Marana.

Saj only nodded. Was this man after the Eyes as well?

Orro took a step forward. With a sharp drawing in of his breath he stepped back again. Someone — something — loomed behind the old man. Saj could only tell it was exceedingly tall and somewhat man-shaped.

Their visitor held up a hand for it to halt. “I’ll tend to this, Cory. Hmm, first those bonds.” A casual wave of his hand and Saj felt his arms and legs suddenly freed. “And now, introductions. I am named Im.”

“The great wizard? Impossible!” laughed Orro. “Dead centuries ago.”

Im — if that was who he truly was — laughed as well. “You are free to believe what you will, Lackey of Asak. But you should believe that I can best you in any contest of wizardry.”

Saj sat up and grabbed the poke containing the jewels, lying where Orro had dropped it. He did not like being in such close proximity to them but best he keep them safe.

“And I’m not bad with a blade either,” continued the wizard, eyeing Orro’s knife. He said a few words, held out his hand, and a long sword appeared in it. “Drat, didn’t want one that big,” Im grumbled.

The priest of Asak answered with a wave of his own hands. Saj could actually see the magical fetters he tried to fix on his opponent, glowing a sickly green. It must be the influence of the mystic stones he held. This was why he liked to keep his distance from them!

The wizard swept the bonds away as they were nothing. “Cobwebs,” he chuckled. He tipped his head and peered at Orro. “Oh, so you’re going to call on your god.”

Saj could see a glow growing around the priest, the same ghastly green hue as before. Im glanced toward the Mur and held out his hand. Saj knew what he wanted. But should he? Could he trust this Tesran wizard?

Yes. He was not sure why he chose his course but Saj tossed the Eyes to Im. At once, a glow sprang up around the wizard as well, a glow of four colors, the colors of the jewels, red and gold and green and blue.

The men advanced on each other, blades in hand, auras leaping above and around them. Saj could see the wizard’s companion move forward now. Not a man, that was for certain. Its skin shone, reflecting the magical lights, so he was not sure of its true color. He was sure it stood a head taller than any man he had ever seen.

Orro made a sudden cast of his dagger, cursing when it was deflected by Im’s aura. Im smiled and tossed his own sword aside. It disappeared a moment later, pulled back to whatever realm he had drawn it from. A dome of sorts was forming above and around the dueling pair, a dome of light and fire, the jewels’ colors contesting with the cold pale green that must come from Asak’s realm.

Now two great — creatures, shadowy, unreal, began to form above the two combatants. That of Orro was manlike but misshapen, horned and clawed and terrible. Saj suspected maybe it was the form of Asak himself. Or a form. Gods had forms, true forms, he knew. He had spent time around one.

The shifting colors above Im made it difficult to tell just what it was. The form was that of a man, though, that was certain, a man of white light, and a rainbow-hued sword in his hand. No, no, not a man. A woman. Wasn’t it? Saj had to turn his dazzled eyes away.

When he looked back again, yes, it was a young girl he beheld. Had she something to do with the Eyes or was she of Im’s making? A goddess? It mattered not right then.

Orro’s demon held a sword too, a black sword with eddies of poisonous green light creeping up and down its blade. Both avatars seemed to be growing more solid, while the men below them were locked into some sort of trance. Saj realized all at once that these were manifestations of an invisible struggle going on between the two sorcerers.

Could Marana see all he did? Saj had been born with the second sight. He was of wizard blood. Perhaps his natural talents were modest but that did not matter. He never intended to pursue the study of magic. A gift of foreseeing was quite enough.

Thrusts and parries, feeling out the opponent. Saj suspected Orro was doing most of the feeling out. The elderly wizard Im seemed rather sure of himself. Slabs of spark were thrown up when the swords met, crashing with the sound of thunderclaps. Then a great wide swing of the black sword. Rather than ducking away from the blade, the woman brought her own weapon up and against it with all her own force. Saj was blinded for a moment. Deafened, too.

When he saw again, the demon, the manifestation of Orro or Asak or both, was gone, and the priest himself lay inert on the sand. The aura around Im was slowly subsiding. “Here, you’d best keep these,” he called, tossing the little bag of jewels back to Saj. The Mur chose to hand them over to Marana at once. He would prefer not hold them more than necessary.

Im knelt beside his foe’s body, listening to his heart. Saj could see the wizard’s large companion better now but still had no idea what it was. It seemed to be reddish. “No, not dead,” announced Im. “Had I not chosen to strike the sword he probably would be.”

“You should slay him anyway,” came an incredibly deep rumble from the red creature. “Safer.”

“I think not. Better he return to his fellows in the high mountains and inform them who guards the jewels now.”

The thing’s chuckle sounded like distant thunder. “If there are any more decent wizards among them, they already know.”

Wednesday, August 01, 2018


I like to use a monospaced typeface for my writing. There are a few reasons for this. One is that it is useful for composing songs and poetry, as it allows one to line up breaks between feet or bars, and thereby keep track of the meter. I also like to print out songs for performance with those breaks. It makes it easier to stay with the rhythm, sing the right word in the right place.

For prose, a monospaced font helps the eye see mistakes. Yes, it is slower reading with monospaced type but that’s a good thing in this instance. The drafts of my recent novels (and poems) have first been typed out in Century Schoolbook Mono, 12 or 13 point. I liked the font for this purpose though I am sure plenty of others would work. Were I a writer of code — another application where monospaced fonts are useful — it would most certainly not be the choice.

I have long saved and printed song sheets in Courier New. This was simply because everyone had that typeface and everything would show up properly if I shared files. But it is not at all nice for reading from, for practice or performance. I tried alternatives and finally settled on Courier Prime, an ‘improved’ version of the typeface. It was no trouble switching my default style to it in Open Office, where I do most of my writing. It is set as my default font for text files too, which I write and read in Notepad++ these days.

Does any of this make much difference? Of course not. It’s just nice to have things working at their best. I like efficiency. I’ll probably go right on writing my books in Century Schoolbook Mono. It has more of a traditional text serif look than pretty much any other monospaced typeface, and that’s a good thing — at least for me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Cardboard, a poem


A puzzle someone put together once,
we made a picture. Nice, he said, and threw
the pieces back into the cardboard box.

The version on its cover did not do
us justice, but it’s all that now remains.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

Thursday, July 19, 2018


A few things can be admitted about my upcoming “Tsar of the Empty Lands.” For one, as many of my ‘fantasy adventures,’ it follows a somewhat Michael Moorcock-like template of around 60,000 words (I ran a little longer this time, topping out at 68,300) divided into four sections, each with its own arc. This is an approach that comes somewhat natural to me and I will undoubtedly employ again.

Also, the plot has definite similarities to my Malvern novels, particularly the first, “Coast of Spears.” That is, a man from our world thrust into another, as well as into a somewhat unwelcome position of leadership. Josef Dobrov is certainly a different character than Michael Malvern. He is younger. He is something of a cynic, but one who finds purpose in his own life through duty. An existentialist of sorts, maybe.

This tale is set in the same world and approximate time frame as the Malvern/Mora series — on the opposite side of that world. Joseph and Michael are quite unlikely to ever meet; they do, however, share the acquaintance of the ancient sorcerer Hurasu, who plays a fairly large role in “Tsar,” as he did in the second Malvern novel, “Valley of Visions.” Hurasu should show up in the first of a new trilogy set among the Mora. In a way, this book provides a bridge to that one.

But I shall put off its writing for a while. I think! One never knows. I do have plenty of other projects to hold my attention. There might even be a sequel to “Tsar of the Empty Lands” one of these days.

I did something else in the novel I have done before, without thinking too much about it, which is make the ‘Big Bad’ only someone in the background, a distant threat, through the first two-thirds or so of the narrative. We know him through agents or indirect and mysterious actions. This builds suspense but at the same time we are not actually introducing a new character late in the story. We knew he was there all the time, even if were not sure who he might be or what he intended.

Gates between worlds again play a role. The existence of a second gate, opposite the one through which Michael Malvern passed in ‘Coast of Spears,’ has been part of my world-building from the start. It is first mentioned in print in the second Malvern novel, ‘Valley of Visions,’ where it is said to be located in ‘the land of the Scythians.’ This was refined in the upcoming ‘Tsar of the Empty Lands’ as the Ural Mountains.

The two gates are not opposite in the sense of an axis through the middle of the earth. They have their own axis which is not necessarily tied to this world. But still, they are on opposite sides of the world and I do have a sort of math worked out that led me to place them where they are. That’s unimportant to the stories.

Of course, I have posited many gates in the course of my other fantasy novels. These are just the two from the world we know (the ‘E-World’) to my primary fantasy setting (the ‘D-World’). For example, the gate from the world of Hurasu and Xahun (the ‘A-World,’ for Atlantis) to ours is located in Anatolia. This has to do (ostensibly) with land mass distribution in our world, a spot in Asia Minor supposedly being at the center of earth’s land masses. It worked out nicely for their back story too, their time spent in our world.

Incidentally, this would be different from finding the center of an hemisphere of our earth containing the greatest landmass. That would be in France, if someone hasn’t recalculated since the last time I looked into it. Not that any of this actually matters here. It’s fiction.

Now that all the work — aside from getting it published and out to the public — is done on ‘Tsar,’ I have moved on to other projects. One is my next poetry collection. I’ve tried to keep those to one about every other year. This book will be titled ‘Magic’ and is scheduled for release on December 1. Working on setting it up now. I have also gotten back to work on ‘The Jewels of the Elements,’ which I was writing simultaneously with ‘Tsar’ up to the points where both were a little over 20,000 words. Then the one started boiling and the other was slipped to the back burner. ‘Jewels’ might be the next novel, early in 2019, or I might find some other project. One never knows until it actually happens.

Roads, a poem


All the night I’ve driven, passed each ramp,
each with its whispered promise gone
among the headlights. Though I yearned to sleep,
I yearned more to find the dawn.
Count the markers to your destination —
unknown, it lies on maps not drawn.
Roads must end, whatever Tolkien said;
I can not go forever on.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

Monday, July 09, 2018

The Lost Map

Last year, I had almost simultaneous failures of both my desk PCs, the office/writing/design machine and the dedicated music one. This meant I lost some data. The writing, and most of my documents, were pretty recently backed up so that was mostly safe. Graphics were another matter. I hadn’t kept quite up to date there.

So, recently, I got the hard drives from the music computer mounted and was able to retrieve back ups I had stored there. That helped; they were not the most absolutely recent versions of things but better than what I had otherwise. In fact, there is only one thing I truly regret having lost and that is the map I made of Cully Beach, the fictional setting of my novels ‘Shaper’ and ‘Waves.’

I could redo them, I suppose. There is enough description in the books and a fairly decent map in my head. Moreover, the town is loosely based on Flagler Beach, Florida (with a bit of Cocoa Beach mixed in), so I have a starting point. If I get onto a third Cully Beach novel, I just might try a reconstruction.

The floor plan for ‘Shaper’ Ted Carrol’s home and surf shop is still extant (but not his neighbor’s, which I also laid out — that doesn’t matter so much), so there is that. Incidentally, I also did maps and floor plans for my other ‘Florida novel,’ ‘Asanas.’ Those were not lost.

There probably will be a third Cully novel. It is not high on the list right now. But we do need to get Ted and Michelle happily married, after all, while solving yet another crime.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

The Tsar

It's time to tell one and all that I shall have another book out in a couple months — exact date to be announced shortly. I'm finishing up all the work on the narrative, getting the publication chores begun, and so on. This is one of my relatively light fantasy adventures (though a tad grimmer than the average), to be titled TSAR OF THE EMPTY LANDS. The name is a reference to the protagonist, some of whose followers jokingly refer to him so. More details on the story down the line, but here is (probably) the finished cover:

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Novesl I Like

These are novels (not plays, short stories, nor anything else) that I particularly like and feel have particularly influenced my own writing. It is not a list of the ‘best’ novels.

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien — I love The Lord of the Rings but this was the book that made the initial impact and has been more of a model for my own writing.

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway — For me, the first and the last of Hemingway were his best: the first novel, The Sun Also Rises, and his late-life novella, The Old Man and the Sea. One could disregard all the novels between, not that some of them were not decent enough.

Vanity Fair, W.M. Thackeray — A relatively late entry for me, and not a book I read when young. But it might well be my favorite novel of all. No one better at giving insight into characters.

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh — Not necessarily his best but it made the most impact on me. I do love his more typical novels too, the humor, the style, but the nuanced ideas of Brideshead speak to me.

The Left Hand of Darkness, U.K. Le Guin — This novel made a big impact on me when it first came out and I was young. This was (and is) the sort of thing serious speculative fiction should do. The Dispossessed may have been even better, and those Earth-Sea books, but this one got got to me first.

A Princess of Mars, E.R. Burroughs — Pretty much where my love for speculative fiction starts, and a surprisingly well-crafted piece of writing with a sense of wonder. Burroughs’s sly humor puts him a cut or two above most writers of adventure.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen — Yes, I seem to have a thing for English novelists with a bit of sarcastic tone. Thackeray, Waugh — but they both owe Miss Austen.

Kim, Rudyard Kipling — In terms of prose style, I can think of no one I like better. And I do like stylists. The short stories of the Jungle Books provided the original impact as far as Kipling goes.

There is probably no sense in adding more to these eight. Yes, I know they are all English language writers. Yes, I could come up with a different list a different day. And I could more easily make a list of well-known authors I do not like that much and have influenced me as examples of what not to do. We learn as much that way as any other — figuring out what turns us off and avoiding it in our own work. But I won’t mention my dislike for Dostoevsky or Conrad or anyone else here.

Friday, June 29, 2018


My fiction is very much character-driven. I tend to create my characters first and then find things for them to do. They interest me more than the stories. I am certainly not the only writer to put characters first; it is something of a trademark of so-called ‘upmarket’ fiction.

The publishing world would most certainly put my adult Florida novels, the two Cully Beach titles and the recent ‘Asanas,’ in that marketing niche. They are relatively leisurely in their pace and not driven by their stories as much as they are by the growth of their characters. I would be inclined to call them upmarket or middle-brow or something of that sort myself. They are not literary fiction nor are they ‘commercial’ genre novels.

So what of my fantasies? Darned if I know. There has always been a strong literary element in the fantasy genre (quite unlike science fiction). Dunsany, Eddison, Cabell — I could name names all day. I would not go so far as to call my own fantasy novels literary fiction. At least that has never been my intention! Ultimately, they too are more about their characters than anything else. Never mind that those characters may sometimes be wizards or gods. They are still pretty human.

Any ‘ideas’ that are put forth grow out of those characters and their actions; I’ve never set out to intentionally ‘say’ something. Not that I don’t say quite a bit. I am quite as opinionated as the next author — I wouldn’t bother to write were I not. But both ideas and stories arise from humans and their interactions; that is why I start with characters.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Magic and Madness

One of the recurrent themes in my fantasy tales is that magic can lead to insanity. This is a direct result of how sorcery works — it is an innate gift that allows some to see and hear across the boundaries between the infinite universes. For the untrained, unable to block out those voices and visions of other worlds, madness can result.

But even for those who are trained to wield magic, the danger remains. The other worlds are always there in the background, the vastness of the infiniverse mocking those who seek through it. It is no wonder some wizards choose to serve the Void, hoping to escape into nothingness.

The great sorcerer Radal of the Donzalo’s Destiny novels was my first and perhaps most thorough example of this. His daughter Fachalana will share in that when I get around to writing the sequel (it will come!), but it will not simply be a repeat of Radal’s doom. Her struggle against his legacy will be a central element.

This not to say that all magicians flirt with madness. Some are better able to handle their gift than others. Some receive better (and earlier) training. The wizard Im of ‘The Ways of Wizardry’ manages to deal with all this quite well, partly due to his exceptional talent, partly due to being trained by a god, and perhaps partly by his bonding with the mystic jewels knows as the Eyes of the Wind (which appear in other novels, including one by that name) and the young woman who shares that bond.

Yet there are those who never know they have an ability. Some die by their own hand. Some lash out at the world, thinking themselves divine or at least divinely guided, misunderstanding the voices in their heads — real voices in those worlds where sorcery comes more easily than here.

That magic has a ‘price’ is very much a fantasy cliché. I see this not as a price but as a built-in danger. Many vocations have such dangers. Call them prices if you must, but not everyone pays. The soldier may live or die on the battlefield, come home maimed or lauded. The sorcerer is the same, yet different. It is part not only of his craft but of his being — magic and madness ever walk together.

Monday, June 25, 2018

He Who Counts, a poem

He Who Counts

The leper counts his fingers and his toes,
each morning’s inventory. He is whole
today; tomorrow will be as it goes.
There comes a reckoning in time, a toll,
and what choice has he but to pay? None throws
the dice when naught remains except his soul.
In morning’s gloom the leper counts and knows
he’s but a prisoner on his parole.

Have I not counted so the passing days?
They vanished in the darkness, as the dreams
I can recall no longer. Nothing stays;
all falls away, away, until it seems
we are no longer. I who counts and knows
has seen that naught remains except his soul.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

Living in Books

I didn't notice when I wrote this out that it is sort of in the form of a sijo.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Trolls, a poem


Trolls will eat anything,
including each other;
maybe their sister--
probably not Mother.

You may find small bits
of someone you know
stuck in their beards
that wag to and fro.

Those beards they are long,
those beards they are green;
they're never combed out
nor are they kept clean.

Trolls deny nothing
to their appetite;
pray you don't run
into one in the night!

So now you are warned
if a troll be your friend,
he just might eat you
too, in the end.

Stephen Brooke (c)2018

Trolls have been appearing prominently in my fantasy novel WIP, so this bit of nonsense popped into my head. Now back to serious stuff!