adventures in dysthymia

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

All Sorts

Virginia Woolf said “It is fatal for anyone who writes to think of their sex.”* She had a point, a valid point. The author needs to write about people as they are, to understand and become those people. That is impossible when they are reduced to types.

That includes the author thinking of him or herself as a type. She also mentioned ‘self-conscious virility’ in modern male writers (modern in the Twenties, that is). That is certainly something that is still with us — and not just in authors.

I’ll admit that I consider any differences between men and women, how they think, how tall they are, how well they might write, are a matter of averages, not intrinsic to their being. We are far more alike than we are different.

Some are able to see that as do I; some aren’t and are stuck with a binary view, seeing women and men somehow as opposites. As much as I love Kipling as stylist and storyteller, he most certainly wasn’t able to break away from his masculine view of things. He barely deigned to allow women onto the pages of much of his writing.

I suspect there are those who would complain that my male and female characters are too alike. I’ve seen that criticism of other authors, that their women are just men in dresses (not that a man in a dress might not pop up in one of my books). Those critics, I think, have a false view of just who and what men and women are, caught up in cultural stereotypes. They complain when female characters do not fit their idea of what women are.

But women come in all sorts. Men come in all sorts. They are all individuals, each different, each acting according to who they are, not ‘what’ they are. Let them do it — and don’t think of your sex.


*in ‘A Room of One’s Own’ — a highly recommended little book

The Dog God, a poem

The Dog God

Don’t take the Dog God lightly;
He is a Sirius fellow.
He rules over every canine,
black or brown or yellow.

Oh, you can trust the Dog God,
for he is a Good Boy.
He loves to fetch the Earth-ball;
it is his favorite toy.

The Dog God sends his angels
to live with men a while;
they wag their tails and go
and leave us with a smile.

But in the Dog God’s heaven,
they wait as we still roam;
wait patiently at the gate
until we all come home.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

I can write as silly and sentimental as the next guy

Monday, May 21, 2018

Reading

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I always read, of course, but the amount of time spent on it varies. It seems I read more when I have finished off one of my own books — no more writing, editing, design, formatting to keep me busy, and I don’t feel like diving into another project.

Not that there isn’t another project. There always is at least one going. I am feeling my way into a light fantasy — standing at about 10,000 words at the moment — and will undoubtedly get more serious about writing out the narrative soon. Incidentally, it feels a bit inconsequential after writing a ‘serious’ novel like ASANAS. But I know it isn’t, really.

Some of the books I’ve been reading are old print volumes from my own library (many inherited from my grandfather) and some are ebooks downloaded free from Project Gutenberg (or Gutenberg Canada which has some newer work, thanks to Canadian copyright laws). Invariably, I find myself attempting to puzzle out the typefaces employed in the print books. That’s not a thing with ebooks; if they do not default to the user’s own style settings, one can ‘look under the hood’ and find what is being used.

I just finished a book from the Forties, one by Louis Bromfield, and figured out fairly readily that it employed Electra. That’s a lovely type, and fairly new at the time. It was used for my own Cully Beach novels (actually BitStream’s clone, but it looks the same). With some, I’ve never been able to come to any conclusion. Many similar fonts in my collection but nothing quite the same. Incidentally, an historical I read last year sold me on using Caslon some time. It looked great set in Caslon Old Face.

Something else I noticed in a couple books I read recently is an absence of chapters. Neither was a particularly new book. Both used markers between scenes but there were no numbers or titles to indicate any sort of chapter. I see nothing particularly ‘wrong’ with this, though it does make navigation more difficult. Nor do I see myself ever doing it — but one never knows, does one? I considered using running chapters in ASANAS, that is, not breaking and going to a new page for each chapter. It would have saved some pages and I think it looks perfectly good in the books where I have seen it done. That, however, is a formatting and design choice, not anything to do with the writing.

I shall continue to read, undoubtedly, and dab away at ‘The Jewels of the Elements.’ At this point, I am still doing more in the way of outlining and coming up with ideas than I am actually writing out the narrative. The novel is taking form well enough. Expect it later this year. After that, who knows? Maybe I’ll just read some more.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Great Men

I have been reading H. Beam Piper’s ‘Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen,’ a science fiction novel from the mid-Sixties that explored the ‘multiverse’ concept. A forerunner of many books, both science fiction and fantasy, that used the idea (my own included), some good, some not so good. ‘Lord Kalvan’ teeters on the border of not so good.

The multiverse itself is handled well enough. No complaints there. But the story largely ends up being all about military encounters rather than characters — and I do not find the world building very convincing. That is not what I want to discuss here.

Piper was apparently a believer in the ‘great men’ theory of history, or at least puts it forward here. One must not assume authors always believe in the ideas they write about! He even has one of his characters make a derogatory statement about those who favor ‘vast, impersonal social forces’ as the engine of history. But I am one of those, myself.

Yes, I believe economics drives history. Perhaps I should say economics is history. The times make the man; the man does not make the times. If one ‘great man’ doesn’t come along, someone else will do something similar and things go on much the same way. Don’t think that World War Two would not have happened if Hitler had been assassinated. Maybe the Holocaust wouldn’t, but I wouldn’t count on it — and the Holocaust probably had little effect on history, in the long run. People have been killing each other for a very long time.

Does this mean I think individuals are meaningless? No, certainly not. Things are still done by individuals, after all, not some great god of economics. All I say is that those individuals are fairly interchangeable. But they are humans, with human lives and wants and loves; that is what I choose to write about.

And why one is unlikely to find ‘great men’ in my fiction.

Friday, May 04, 2018

The Infinite

Infinity can not exist in a finite universe. We may point to a mathematical infinity — such as a never-ending progression of numbers — but it would require infinite time to keep counting them. We do not have infinite time in this universe; it will come to an end.

So we could say that infinity exists only in potential within the finite universe. But is it a bridge to infinite being, of which our universe is only one finite speck? I might posit that being, existence, is itself infinite (filling, of course, an infinite void). All things can and do exist in that infinity that contains all — and not just in potential, though one might argue they do not ‘really’ exist until a consciousness observes them.

But then, perhaps being itself is conscious. After all, if it holds all things and all minds, should it not also be aware? Consciousness and existence are perhaps inextricably linked to each other. The fact that our own consciousnesses grasp the concept of the infinite may be as good evidence as any of its existence.

That infinite being — or consciousness — of which we are all part might be called god. It’s as good a definition as any. Not a creator, exactly, except of itself! If indeed conscious, aware of all that is — there would be no bounds on that in infinite existence, no constraints of time and space, both of which are constructs of a finite universe.

I have never been much of a believer in the afterlife. I certainly do not buy the popular definition of soul or spirit, that is, some sort of incorporeal entity that flits off on its own after the death of the body. However, if there is infinite possibility in being, then we certainly might continue to exist. In fact, we must continue, though ‘continue’ is probably not the proper word when we speak of timeless infinite being.

That is conjecture. The whole concept of infinite being is conjecture, truly. It is possible that only our finite universe exists (or a finite number of finite universes). But the fact that this universe does exist raises all these other questions. Existence makes no sense within those finite bounds. Why would anything be? Why would it start and end? Set that finite universe in an infiniverse, boundless, timeless being, and maybe we glimpse some answers.

Or at least very many questions.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Of Orcs

You will never find an Orc in any of my fantasies. The name is far too closely identified with Tolkien, who essentially coined it for modern use. Yes, it originated from a few brief mentions in Old English (including in Beowulf, which he knew well and translated). Those old Anglo-Saxons may have borrowed it from the Latin Orkus, a sort of demon. Tolkien was skeptical of that but I am rather inclined to believe it.

It may be noted that the name Ogre comes from that source as well, via the French. I would much prefer to use ogre in my tales, though so far only one has appeared briefly in my Donzalo's Destiny novels. Ogres there are essentially a largish variant of the the goblin/kobold fairy family. Goblins and/or Kobolds do appear also, in more than one of my novels. I prefer the latter name but they mean essentially the same thing and the same type of being.

Tolkien, remember, used goblin instead of orc, originally. So they are named in 'The Hobbit.' I can certainly understand his desire to use a term with less baggage when he got into 'The Lord of the Rings.' Everyone has preconceived ideas about just what a goblin is (which, again, is why I prefer kobold).

A final question here: are orcs (or whatever analog) inherently evil? This was a question with which Tolkien wrestled and could never quite come to a satisfactory answer. There are no inherently evil beings in my fantasies (except possibly some gods — the jury is out on them). Kobolds come good and bad, as do the Fay, ogres, trolls, dwarfs, and, of course, humans. Admittedly, some demons are essentially amoral (like Qu'orthseth in 'The Ways of Wizardry'), but we needn't explore that right now!

So, no orcs. I won't let them near my computer. If someone else wishes to borrow them from Tolkien, that is their affair. I suspect I have borrowed enough else from him already!

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Whiskey and Wine

I've been reading Raymond Chandler recently and noting how much whiskey is consumed in the pages of his novels. It made me realize that there is almost no hard liquor in any of my own novels; the only instance I can bring to mind is the sharing of a flask of 'corn liquor' in one of the Donzalo's Destiny books. It was a bit of a curiosity in the the time and place the incident was set.

That undoubtedly is part of the reason I don't have much liquor in the tales. Distilling is either unknown or still 'new.' There is, however, a great deal of beer and wine disappearing down my characters' throats in pretty much all my books. The Mora are forever serving millet beer at their meals (which tend to be feasts) and a certain amount of palm wine makes an appearance. Beer, ale, wine — these are all common in the fantasies. People drink them with their meals. And at other times, too.

Indeed, one of the major Donzalo characters comes from a family of wine merchants. So that clan not only drinks it but speaks of the wine business, of vineyards, of transporting it. It makes a useful device for exploring a larger pattern of trade in that world.

But what of the other novels, the more or less mainstream ones set in Florida? Yes, wine is consumed. Even a little in the Young Adult 'The Middle of Nowhere.' But not by the kids, of course! 'Shaper' Ted Carrol always has beer and wine in the fridge, as do his neighbors (they are likely to smoke a little pot too, but that is another matter). He does have to be careful of keeping it on hand once his girlfriend's alcoholic daughter moves in. Out into the workshop it goes, into a padlocked fridge (not because of the girl so much as the fact that lots of kids hang around the place).

I might mention that Ted is a very temperate sort who only allows himself one small glass of wine a day. Yes, I pretty much copied that from my own life. I'm not a drinker. I don't think I have touched hard liquor in a decade. That is as much about being cheap as anything else.

What of the latest novel, the contemporary 'Asanas'? Much the same pattern, to be honest. Wine is served, wine is drank. I'm not sure I even mentioned beer anywhere; just not a part of my main characters' drinking habits. I do suspect that when young Race Hadley gets drunk and makes a scene, beer was involved. Incidentally, there is a secret about Race that I have told no one. And may never; I'll just say he is not quite the person most readers might imagine him to be.

That's getting off the track, and that track was alcohol. Now I have noticed this, well, sameness to the drinking in my stories, I should remember to mix it up a little (ha, that could have a double meaning) at times. Maybe someone will have a bottle in their office desk, a la Philip Marlowe. Or at the campground in that mystery-set-at-a-folk-festival I'm developing. But only if it serves the plot; that always come first.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Hurry, a poem

Hurry

I'm not the sort to saunter nor amble,
to aimlessly stroll nor even to ramble;
I'll always hurry to go nowhere
and never stay once I get there.

I'm easily bored, I must admit,
not at all inclined to sit,
to shoot the breeze, to watch the stars,
to count the headlights of passing cars,

not even when I'm next to you—
I shouldn't say that but it's true.
There's someplace else I ought to be;
You wonder where? Don't ask me.

Perhaps I'll know when I arrive,
perhaps I can no more than strive
and never find the place I'm bound.
Perhaps that place can not be found.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

Pretty much a quick throwaway, facile enough but without much depth. I thought it might be humorous when I started but that didn't work out.

Useful Writin’ Stuff

Recently, I have added a couple new tools for writing. Both of these are free, as well as being useful.

writer2epub

This is an extension for OpenOffice/LibreOffice (alternative search is a another useful extension but we won’t get into that one here) that produces quite usable ebooks in the epub format. If one uses OO or LO for writing — as do I — this is an excellent tool, if only to create a preview of how ones formatted ebook would appear.

However, the ebook itself is completely professional. If one wishes, it could be further edited in a program such as Sigil but I would have no qualms about offering a novel produced in writer2epub for sale. It’s not so good for poetry, I must say — that would require more editing. The ebooks it creates use the reader’s default style rather than imposing a typeface. I prefer this. Smaller files, less to go screwy.

I admit that I continue to use my distributor’s (Lulu) online converter for the ebooks I offer for sale. For now. I am limited to a trio of fonts there, which are specified in the ebook’s style, so I go with Garamond for everything (the alternatives, Arial and Times NR, are not fonts I would generally care to use, though they might be okay for some titling). I don’t like this much but the ebooks look okay and I run into no problems with them.

notepad++

Text editors such as notepad++ or gedit (and a bunch of others) are popular with folks who write code. I have not done that in many years nor am I likely to again. However, an editor that goes beyond (far beyond!) the capabilities of the Notepad app included with Windows is more than just useful for a writer. If nothing else, I can use it to create plain text backups of everything I’ve published, in a format anyone will be able to read on computers pretty much forever — no proprietary software required.

In truth, notepad++ offers all sorts of extras I neither need nor care about. Just being able to drag and drop blocks of text was enough to sell me on having a ‘super’ text editor. Now I find myself using it more and more for jotting down my notes and that sort of thing. To be sure, there are some drawbacks to working with plain text, such as defaulting to ‘typewriter’ style quote marks and that sort of thing. I know the ‘alt/number’ codes to type in, if it matters to me, or I can pick them by double-clicking on a list of characters. Both slow me down a little but sometimes I just need that punctuation.

I would not actually use it to write fiction. Maybe for poetry. Maybe for songwriting. Indeed, I am making sure to have text versions of all my songs, both for backup and so they might be readily shared. I always type out and save my songs, in whatever format, in a monospaced font — the ubiquitous Courier New — so things will line up properly whoever opens the file. Chances are I shall be putting text files of some of my work online for download eventually.

notepad++ can be downloaded from https://notepad-plus-plus.org/

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Those Jewels

THE CROCODILE’S SON carried on from the events in the first book of my ‘Sajam Saga,’ THE EYES OF THE WIND, but centers around one of the secondary characters, so I consider it the start of a different series, ‘The Crocodile Chronicles.’ Saj and Marana go off another direction and have their own adventures in parallel.

Those are to be told in the second Sajam book, THE JEWELS OF THE ELEMENTS (the current WIP), while the Crocodile story-line continues in THE CROCODILE GOD. Then we leave both series for a time.

To have them merge again, eventually, perhaps a couple decades later, when Borm, youngest son of Saj, travels north to meet Zedos, the son of Qala the Pirate Queen (and a certain trickster god) and the two have their own tale. Is this the third Sajam novel or the third Crocodile? Not certain — maybe both!

But as it is on Zedos’s home turf, probably it will be called Crocodile Chronicles #3. Not writing that one anytime soon, but am working on both the other books. There are plenty of possible stories of Saj’s descendants on the island of Lorj, too. Their history influences much of what comes later.

Incidentally, the second Sajam novel will also tie into the Wizardry series. THE WAYS OF WIZARDRY introduced the fledgling wizard Im, whose tale will be continued in time. He will reappear a millennium later, near the end of his life, in JEWELS. His fate has always been connected to that of the four ‘magical’ jewels known as the Eyes of the Wind.

Which are also a presence in my ‘Donzalo’s Destiny’ epic, though not actually named. They are the source, so to speak, of the prophecies of Cars that set things in motion there. We may or may not make that clearer when we return to that world. But now you know, anyway!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Asanas and Romance

My latest novel, ASANAS (out June 16, Arachis Press) is not a Romance in the typical genre sense. Anyone who might expect it to follow the established rules for that sort of book would surely be disappointed. But there is romance in the story, to be sure.

It is a novel of relationships, first and foremost. There is no unrelated plot on which to hang those relationships, as in my Cully Beach novels (SHAPER and WAVES), which are, ostensibly, 'Crime' stories. In truth, ASANAS is not too different in tone from those two books, though told from a quite different point of view — the Cully Beach books are first person, with a male narrator and ASANAS is third person, as seen by two female protagonists.

Admittedly, there are some Romance-like touches here and there. I was playing just a tad with the brooding, solitary male romantic lead when I created the character of Jason Bruce. Jay, however, is not a major player in ASANAS but someone on the periphery of the narrative most of the time. If and when a sequel appears, he might just move up to a larger role.

And there is a certain amount of mooning over lovers. That is unavoidable. Also unavoidable, in that the main protagonists are female, is that it is women doing the mooning. Not that the guys aren't too, you understand, we just don't have the opportunity to see much of their inner workings. I do not like and do not use an omniscient voice in my books — we only see into the heads of our POV characters and even there I make no attempt to explain their thoughts. They have to do that themselves. Not surprisingly, they sometimes get them wrong.

ASANAS weighed in at 76,500 words, a pretty good length for a book of its sort. Of course, I used as many words as were needed to tell the story and did not work toward a certain target. I will admit I expected it to turn out around the 70,000 word mark. I've gotten pretty good at guessing how much will be needed!

The files for the print version have been sent off to the distributor and I should have a proof copy in hand reasonably soon. Once that is approved (let's hope it is!) the book can go into distribution. We'll hold off a little while before uploading the ebook version so both will be sent out to retailers around the same time. One could actually buy a print copy right now from Arachis Press but I would advise waiting until I've had a chance to look at it.

So it's time for me to move on to other projects. I am developing two novels at the moment. Or developing one and writing one might be more accurate. The one being written is a fantasy, THE JEWELS OF THE ELEMENTS, sequel to THE EYES OF THE WIND. The one I'm messing about with, working on characters, settings, plot developments, is a mystery set at a folk music festival. It will probably be titled THE DEPOT BLUES. Maybe I'll finally get some recording done, too. And work on the web site. And...well, plenty to keep me busy.

Asanas Cover and Details

The full cover reveal for Asanas. Coming June 16! All the associated files are on their way to the printer/distributor so watch for print and ebook editions to show up at your retailers. Or buy direct from Arachis Press.

For any interested in such things, the typefaces used on the cover are Berkshire Swash, Syntax, and Sabon. Syntax and Sabon are also used for the interior text. The paperback ways in at 76,500 words and 281 pages.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

STOP, a poem

STOP

I've been shown a sign
that the end is near:
red and with eight sides,
STOP written big and clear!
It's good to reach the end;
now all that I fear
is choosing left or right
and going on from here.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

light verse at its lightest

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Unhappy Ending

For those who have not read it ― that would be most of you ― the concluding book of my Malvern Trilogy, ‘Hero from the Sea,’ has a decidedly unhappy (or, at least, tragic) ending. I agonized over that for some time but do not at all regret it now.

I won’t include any spoilers here. I’ll simply say it worked for the story. Tragic events in other novels have worked, as well, but I never ended on that sort of note. They were part of the protagonist finding his way to that more-or-less happy ending. Oh, sure, what happens in ‘Hero’ was also part of that process, ultimately, but it is only suggested that Malvern will go on to find some sort of meaning to it all.

Fortunately, there was another trilogy to follow and, although Malvern is not the protagonist in any of the novels, he appears and hints are provided of how his inner life has played out. The man may just appear as narrator of one more novel, if I get around to a third and final trilogy in the Mora world.

So, have I ― or would I ― do this sort of thing again? I very much intended an ‘unhappy ending’ for the first Cully Beach novel, ‘Shaper.’ It turned out quite differently and that was to the good. There is certainly no tragedy involved in my latest, ‘Asanas,’ (to be released June 16) though many of the plot lines end on an unhappy note. That is as much to set up a sequel as anything else (not that one is actually necessary ― the novel does stand on its own).

I am not out to write feel-good novels. Neither do I wish to turn out melodramatic tragedies that manipulate the reader’s emotions. The goal is to write good stories. Sometimes things end well, sometimes they don’t. The two tales in active development at the moment (one a mystery, one a fantasy) should end happily enough. Some down the line might not. Those will be dealt with I get to them. I will choose and I will not regret the choice.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Corner, a poem

Corner

Too long I’ve gone in circles,
round and round and round;
perhaps I’ll switch to squares
and by four walls be bound.
And if I like one corner,
why should I not stay?
I’ll think inside the box;
I’ll rest there while I may.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

A little throwaway piece

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Mighty Mulberry

Mulberries show up quite a bit in my novels and in my worlds. This is true more of the recent work than the early efforts, but the trees are there even back in the ‘Donzalo’s Destiny’ novels. For that setting, it was primarily a result of my knowing they were important for the feeding of silkworms. That and the climate was suitable.

It was when I began researching for my quasi-Polynesian people of the Malvern and Mora trilogies, that they really showed up. At first, because I was looking into the making of bark cloth. My reading showed that mulberries, in their varied species, were extraordinarily useful. Cloth and paper from the bark, rope from the roots, quick-growing wood, and, of course, fruit.

The only thing that rivaled them was the somewhat related breadfruit. Which also appears, naturally. Both tend to be a bit bland as a food. To be sure, there are comments on this. People eat a lot in my books and talk about it too.

By the way, I have eight good-sized mulberry trees in my own yard, ones I planted soon after moving here. They certainly do grow rapidly and the fruit, if not exciting, is pleasant enough. That is, on the trees that bear fruit; three are males but those are necessary too!

I’ve mentioned the silk connection very peripherally in the writing. It is not important to the ‘Donzalo’ sequence (though I think it is an major industry, one I shall explore when I return to that world). I spoke of silk production being common among the villages of the Ildin in ‘The Ways of Wizardry’ but did not explore the mulberry connection there. Again, when I return to that series, perhaps I shall find reason.

There is no particular need — when such things become important, they are dealt with. Most of the time, a mention here or there is all we want; anything more gets in the way of the story. But I, the writer, should be aware of these underpinnings of my worlds. I should know that this people or that does grow a certain tree, and why.

That’s how we keep our tales ‘rooted.’ :)

Fantasy Worlds

A mention here that I have opened a new blog, The Fantasy Worlds of Stephen Brooke, to focus on that aspect of my writing. The emphasis will be on the world-building, primarily, and there will certainly be some amount of cross-posting with this blog.

But I hope to go well beyond what I do here. Already I have posted a page of sample chapters—the same ones I am giving away as an ebook—and intend to do more of that sort of thing. And, of course, I shall promote the books! Follow it or visit it as you may wish; I am not cutting back at The Lucky Lad and there will still be plenty to read right here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Emperors, a poem

Emperors

After Augustus comes Tiberius
and we all see our mistake. Where now are the knives
of the Senate? All the blood of tyrants
dried years ago, was scrubbed from marble floors

and Caesar made a god. It’s not so hard
to be a god; old actors take on the role
with aplomb. Some even believe themselves.
Can we raise up some new god to be savior?

Young Caligula seems a promising boy.
Maybe he’ll make Rome great again.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

Monday, April 16, 2018

Ebook Sampler

I created a little ebook sampler (epub) of my fantasy novels, one chapter each for all thirteen of them. Free to download, give away, whatever. And, of course, if you like them, you can always buy copies!


I made this, by the way, with the Open Office add-on, writer2epub. Does quite well, but for my  commercial releases it's probably safer to stick with the converter at my distributor's site.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Holmes and the Sea


I just finished a read of Oliver Wendell Holmes's 'The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table' and was somewhat taken with this passage. So I did a graphic. It's a pretty good book, too.

Wordless, a poem

Wordless

To wordless sing, I go into the day
you leave behind. Beyond this sham of dawn,
beyond the dew yet sparkling on the lawn,
sunrise surrenders, leaving only gray.

All murmured in the dark now fades away
so soon, so soon, still must I choose to sing —
I shall be as a bird, awakening,
and wordless go; what more have I to say?

Stephen Brooke ©2018

I thought at first this was going to be a sonnet. But, as the poem puts it, what more have I to say?

Asanas and Women

There is not a single scene in ‘Asanas’ without a woman in it. As the point of view is always from one of the two female main characters, this is to be expected. One or both will be there to experience the action.

Maybe the novel doesn’t quite pass the Bechdel Test with flying colors, however, as their conversations frequently turn to men and, in particular, their relationships with them. But that is what the novel is about, before all else — relationships. Including, to be sure, the relationship between best friends Lynn and Karen.

But it is also about finding themselves. Maybe they search for who they are in the wrong places, maybe they sometimes look to men for answers, but in time they may just find their paths. Lynn, particularly, who is the primary protagonist (with Karen being a strong secondary), makes a start. This sort of discovery is a pretty common theme in my fiction. More than common, perhaps, whether my lead characters be women or men.

After all, though ‘Asanas’ may see some marketing as ‘women’s fiction,’ it is intended to be universal. My ideas about things were not likely to change radically from one novel to another, regardless of the characters!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Dragons

Dragons are, to be sure, a staple of fantasy fiction. Typically able to fly and breathe fire, they are also generally fairly intelligent, tend to evil and greed, and look vaguely reptilian. None of these things are obligatory, of course, and there have been many variations.

It has also become somewhat customary for dragons — the flying ones — to be portrayed with six limbs, that is two wings and four legs. Biologically doubtful! Those with a more normal two legs and two wings are often termed wyverns. In my own fantasy stories I have (so far) gone with four limbs total for both.

This is for the dragons of my main fantasy setting, the ‘D-World’ — so named in my notes because my first fantasy novels set there were the four books of Donzalo’s Destiny. (Our own world, perhaps not surprisingly, is the ‘E-World.’) I did consider at one early point making ‘dragons’ wingless and calling those with wings ‘wyverns’ but ultimately chose to make the wyvern a different, less intelligent flying reptile sort of creature. I wanted a dragon to be a dragon, wings or not, and not muddy the water with a different name for some species of the creatures.

Every creature native to the D-World is going to be reasonably logical in its design. This is true not only of dragons but also griffins, mantichores, etc. No impossible hybrids! So, my dragons are pretty much quite large members of the weasel family. They don’t breathe fire but they do, as other weasels, spray nastiness from the other end of their bodies. And they are quite intelligent.

Now an underlying concept of all my fantasies is that there is an infiniverse beyond the various worlds (universes) my stories might visit. In that infiniverse anything can exist. Anything does exist, at least in potential. So we could have those six-limbed dragons, those half-eagle, half-lion griffins in other realms. Such realms would be illogical enough that humans might have trouble existing there, or even finding their way to them. But I do occasionally acknowledge or hint of such things (The ‘Rupa’ of Donzalo’s first book may have originated in such a place. So might fairies, sphinxes — and gods.).

The dragons of my ‘Greenmeadows’ stories exist in one of those worlds, one a tad less logical than our own or the D-World. So they do breathe fire, though I’m not quite sure how! Still four limbs, still mammals, but with a magical ability to shift-shape to human form. Those stories are just for fun and have no relation to my other fiction. Except that they are part of that same infiniverse, naturally.

There are no dragons in the WIP novel. It’s set on a large subtropical island and I think they don’t like warm weather that much. I might just throw in a wyvern, however, if developments call for it. That has not happened in any of my novels yet! I’ll find the right spot for one eventually, I hope.

Which of my novels do have dragons? One appears in the third book of Donzalo’s Destiny, ‘The Sign of the Arrow,’ there primarily to give the escaping wizard Radal a ride. They are mentioned here and there elsewhere in the four books but do not again appear. They are somewhat more visible in the second Malvern novel, ‘Valley of Visions,’ taking part in the war there — and fighting griffins. No appearances in any other Malvern/Mora books but, again, mentioned a few times.

And only mentioned in any of the other novels. Fear not, they will return!

Of course, dragons don’t exist in our own world. I laid out pretty early that the ‘E-World’ is a thoroughly nonmagical place, when Malvern and his companions blundered through a gate to the D-World. But there is an infinite reality out there beyond this world — that’s where dragons are.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Map, a poem

Map

The map bequeathed me proved inaccurate,
  yet I found my way from there to here.

Who wandered with me all that way but you?
  We who lost our way but did not fear

have reached the well-marked road at last, come dusk.
  Walk with me into the night drawn near.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

I must admit, this ended up nothing like what I had in mind when I started.  That, I consider a good thing.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Yellow Cat, a song parody


Yellow Cat
(to the tune of ‘Yellow Bird’)

Yellow cat, up high on the counter top,
Yellow cat, I wish that you would stop,
Climbing everywhere,
Leaving yellow hair,
Knocking over stuff,
I have had enough!
Won’t you play outside?
You should stay outside,
But you keep bothering me!

I once had a kitten cute,
Where is it today?
Turned into a big yellow cat ―
Kittens grow, but still want to play!

Yellow cat! Yellow cat!

Stephen Brooke (c)2018

Friday, April 06, 2018

A Depature

I have stated before that I employ an almost Nabokov-like method for writing my novels. That was perhaps more true of “Asanas” than any previous book.

It also took me longer to write than most. Or maybe any. Admittedly, I took a couple long breaks to write lighter fantasy adventures. In a sense, though, I was still writing it. I was still laying out those notes, both on the computer and in my head.

Some stories simply require more thinking. Now it is done and I can think of other things. Yes, possibly a sequel, though “Asanas” stands on its own. Or I think it does. I guess that’s up to the readers to decide. The publication date is set for June 16 and it will probably show up here and there before then.

“Asanas” was a departure for me. Oh, it has its similarities to my Cully Beach novels, I am sure, but without their ‘crime’ element. This novel depends purely on human relationships to carry the story. I’ve gone full circle to my very first novel, the young adult title “The Middle of Nowhere.” I like to think I’ve improved at least some since then.

But, you may be assured, I have no intention of giving up fantasy.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

In Potential

If, as quantum theory seems to have it, things exist only in potential until they are observed, why, we might ask, do we all seem to observe the same reality? Why don’t we all create ‘new’ universes with our observations. My answer would be that we do.

Those who observe/bring into reality the same thing will all exist in the same universe. If we observed something different, we would be in a different universe with all those who saw it that way. There might be infinite versions of us, each observing a different reality.

Or perhaps there are potential infinite versions of us. It does not matter. This is somewhat the underlying principle of the worlds of my fantasy novels. I am certainly not the only nor the first to play with such a concept; indeed, in some form it is rather common. Multiple worlds are a staple. Not explained in quite this same manner, of course, but the end result is pretty much the same.

I have noted previously that Roger Zelazny’s ‘Amber’ novels are an influence in my own ‘infiniverse’ creation. Not his twin poles of ‘order’ (or Amber) and ‘chaos’ — which, in turn, he more or less borrowed from Moorcock. So I give the tradition my own interpretation. If I gave it a different one, I guess I would be in another universe!

Monday, April 02, 2018

Finishing Asanas and Other Projects

It is not surprising that, as I moved closer to finishing the final pages of “Asanas,” I found more and more material that should be shunted to a sequel. That’s okay; the novel needed to be kept tight and, well, now I have material for a sequel.

That sequel will appear sometime. I am in no hurry to write it and will finish at least one fantasy novel before tackling the project. The most likely would be the sequel to “The Eyes of the Wind.” I’ve been making notes toward it — and half a dozen other possible books. When I’m done with editing ‘Asanas!’

As for “Asanas,” it will come out this summer. I would set July 1 as the latest release date. If things fall into place, we can move that up a few weeks. Something will be announced soon on that.

Incidentally, it came out quite close to the 70,000 word target I had set for it. I’ve gotten rather good and guessing how long my books will be before I ever write them! I suppose this title can be considered an up-market mainstream ‘relationship’ novel, aimed somewhat at the ‘women’s fiction’ genre. Hey, I have to market it as something.

I may just edit up another little book of quotes for release before the novel appears, Marcus Aurelius this time to join last year’s Thomas a Kempis. There is absolutely no need for me to hurry on that.

Prison

Prison is not for punishment. Prison is punishment. The question then is, ‘what purpose does that punishment serve?’

Not vengeance. That is up to God, right? We are dealing with practical goals, not abstractions. This is why I cringe at a statement that a criminal ‘deserves’ a certain punishment. It is not up to us to decide who deserves what, only to find a solution to the problem of the criminal.

The purposes of prison are threefold: One, to keep dangerous individuals away from society for a period of time. Two, to discourage others from doing wrong, and Three, to attempt rehabilitation.

The first of these obviously works. Someone in prison can’t harm society. Life imprisonment is just as effective as a death penalty,* if this is our goal. It might well be argued that some people serving long sentences would be harmless if released and some people serving short sentences should never be released. But we can’t be arbitrary about such things; best to follow rules.

Second, discouragement of crime. That certainly works some. Or so we assume — who knows how much more law-breaking would occur without it? And there are those who will never be discouraged by the threat of imprisonment. They just don’t think their choices through nor realize they don’t have the brains to get away with their crimes.** Thousands of years of punishments have not stopped crimes from being committed. There is no reason to think they will in the future. I’ve know career criminals and many seemed to have difficulty assessing the risk of their actions. It is some impulsive act that tends to get them caught.

And then, rehabilitation. It should certainly be available, even if it will never work for some individuals. People do learn in prison, do come out for the better sometimes. Of course, it would have been nice if they had learned before going to prison. Better late than never, I suppose; education is always a good thing. Some people can not be rehabilitated, I believe. They are simply broken. That is not true of the great majority of lawbreakers.

The ‘punishment’ of prison may always be necessary. Human nature is not likely to change.*** It will never be a solution, in the sense of ending crime, but it does help keep it under control. So, admittedly, would changes in society; that, however, is a different discussion!

*If I were faced with a life in prison sentence and no chance to get out of it, I would almost certainly kill myself. Perhaps we could give the sentenced person that choice.

**It would be obvious that smart criminals evade arrest and conviction more frequently, wouldn’t it? It’s not like the average policeman is particularly brainy (no offense intended to those who serve but you can’t all be Columbo).

***Except maybe by tinkering with our genes.