adventures in dysthymia

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Mora — What’s in a Name?

Although the name of my quasi-Polynesian people, the Mora, might sound a bit like that of another Polynesian nation, the Maori, that is not where I came up with it. Indeed, the similarity of the two made me leery of using Mora — but I went with it anyway.

The name is actually a back development from Molu, a later group that I had invented long before I ever wrote anything about the Mora. I had developed this Molu nation as something closer to a feudal Japanese society, and the Mora may still evolve into something similar. As I have hinted and suggested over the course of the Malvern and Mora novels, they will mix with their neighbors — particularly the Malay-related Kohari — to become a great nation down the line.

I also came up with an origin for the name, which I put forth in ‘Arrows of Heaven.’ It means, more or less, ‘peaceful sky,’ a name the Mora gave to their land after a storm-filled journey. In time, the term also came to apply to those who dwelt there. This does follow actual usage from Polynesian dialects, as do many of the names and terms I have used in the novels. I have attempted to be somewhat consistent about how the language changed in their new home but have probably not been completely successful! That doesn’t matter; language does change and more so when there are external influences — here, the main one being the Kohari and the pidgin tongue the two cultures have developed for trade.

So, they are the Mora and the name refers to no other people or culture. Are they like Maori? Sure, in some respects. Perhaps they are more like Tahitians, as their ancestors were probably migrating from that area of the Pacific. That doesn’t matter so much; it would have been well back in the early days of Polynesian colonization across the ocean, maybe before the Maori even settled in New Zealand. All I have told of them was that they were exiles, fleeing some defeat in ‘nine great canoes.’ And maybe that is all we ever need know.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Invention, a poem

Invention

Our names are secret. Do not whisper some
invention; I’ll know it for another lie.
I’ll know it as the darkened wishes, dead
within you, those you would were true.

Come, day. Come with roses and the rot
of centuries. You bear the secret name,
the name I hazard with each sun that rises
across the death of nightly comfort.

The mockingbird has sung it. The almost-words
linger. Read what is upon the grass;
wind passes, writes, erases. Read what is
when cloud forms transitory rune.

Unknown, we greet each other. I shall name
you so today and not so on the morrow.
And, tomorrow, whose voice might I hear?
My own, no other. Our names are secret.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

Asanas POV

I have one primary protagonist in ‘Asanas,’ Lynn, and one strong secondary character, her best friend, Karen. All points of view are from one of these two, and I stick to one POV in each chapter. By far, the greater number of those chapters are from Lynn’s perspective.

Lynn Devinne, gallery employee — soon to be part owner — and sometime artist; that is who the novel revolves about. However, CPA Karen Fairfield is certainly a major presence. In a sense, the story may be more about her than Lynn, and about her relationship with yoga instructor Pat Janson. It is certainly the defining plot line, among a number of subplots. Lynn’s parallel affair with married artist Matt Stone, to some degree, provides a counterpoint to this.

Some might note the names I have given my characters — yes, those are all names of typefaces. A little private joke is all that is. It has no bearing on the story! It does make it easier to come up with names if one has a list such as that.

I continue to work on the novel, to write, to edit, to think deep thoughts! And it will be finished, sooner or later. I’m hoping on sooner.

The 'Perfect' Screen

Fooling around when I should be writing. A simulation of an early Word Perfect screen—I never used the original but I do go back far enough to remember this sort of thing. Incidentally, I do have WP on my computers but don't use it for writing (great for office stuff) and can actually still specify this screen in it.

Friday, March 23, 2018

The 'Rubbish' Draft

Some of the best-known novels of the 19th Century were published serially, chapters or sections appearing in magazines or newspapers as they were written. Obviously, there was no ‘rubbish first draft’ involved. Although there may have been some editing involved before they showed up in book form, what we read today are pretty much first drafts.

It is entirely possible to write a work ready for publication in one pass; more so if one is experienced and has the methodology down. I certainly write better stuff from the start than I did a few years ago. Voltaire churned out ‘Candide,’ as is, in a few days, and Johnson took only a bit longer to do the same with ‘Rasselas.’ Stendahl’s ‘The Charter House of Parma’ was dictated over a few weeks in something close to final form. Dickens, Thackeray, even Hugo, did the serial publication thing, showing the first parts of their novels to the public before they had finished the rest of the narrative. H. Ryder Haggard refused to do any rewriting on his books, claiming that an attempt at polishing would take away from their impact.

The whole rough first draft concept is at least partly a result of the typewriter. Editing oneself as one goes along is difficult when typing but quite a bit easier when writing longhand. And, of course, the modern word processor makes editing at any point quite simple. My first novel, the YA title ‘The Middle of Nowhere,’ was produced with a combination of hand writing and typing. That is, roughly written by hand, with plenty of editing as I went, then typed out and edited/rewritten further. I did the first novella-length section of my four-book ‘epic,’ ‘Donzalo’s Destiny,’ that way too. Both saw a fair amount of rewriting — but nothing too drastic, admittedly. I had worked out any major problems at the first stage, thanks to being able to edit myself there. From that point on, I wrote mostly on the computer.

That included editing those early books for publication. I transferred ‘The Middle of Nowhere’ to the PC, typing the whole thing into Word Perfect, my word processing program of choice then (I still like it for office stuff — not so much for writing). Since, I have written all my novels in Open Office Word, start to finish. Even my outlining.

I do outline, roughly. It might be better described as a sort of synopsis, rather than a formal outline. There will be a list of points to hit. There will be a number of questions posed, usually — what if I did this or what if that happened? Then the whole thing grows in an almost Nabokov-like fashion (but file cards are not needed when using a computer!), with me working here and there, bringing up different sections in a non-linear approach, writing scenes, bits of dialog, and so on.

Admittedly, I must write out the linear narrative eventually. Changes will occur. That is inevitable. But the result is not really a first draft. I revise and rewrite and edit as I move along with this draft, and the result is really what some might call their second draft. Or whatever one chooses; how can one number versions when the work is being constantly revised? One thing is for certain: I have gotten much better at writing out a somewhat finished novel on the first go. I know what I want to say and how to say it. If anything, I fear that I may have become a little too facile.

When I go back through that draft — probably after letting it rest a little while — I will be editing some. A major change is highly unlikely. At any rate, it hasn’t happened yet! Mostly, I end up adding bits of description or exposition here and there to make things clearer. It is rare that I need to cut anything at all. I am an economical writer by nature, not inclined to write anything unnecessary, not inclined to experiment or deviate from my plan.

If new ideas pop up, they are jotted down for use in some future story. Believe me, I have a lot of those in my files. There are scenes from novels I won’t be writing anytime soon — but may impinge on ones I will. That sort of world building is a part of my process. There is more material than I shall ever be able to get to — but I’ll keep at it anyway.

To each their own, of course. I do not urge my method on anyone else. I do, however, point out that one needn’t follow that ubiquitous advice to write the ‘rubbish’ first draft. It is only one way of many to produce a novel and, for me, not the right way.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Further Misadventures in Computing

Time for another installment of my computer misadventures. I’ve noted before that I am a fan of the refurbished PC. It is just too good a deal, most of the time, compared to new computers. Everyone wants new, of course, the latest thing, but older machines can be every bit as good, performance-wise. After my office PC AND my recording PC both melted down within a few weeks of each other, I found myself needing replacements and I did go with refurbs.

Which were better computers, really, than the ones they replaced. More powerful, more memory, etc. Incidentally, I was able to get the office PC back into operation, running Linux on it, and it is okay for use online. It always lacked the power I actually needed in the office for working with graphics and publishing, and it definitely fell short for any music use.

I first replaced the music PC with a nice i7-powered machine with 16 G of Ram. But I needed a computer in the office more, so it sat there for a couple months until I could afford a replacement. It worked just fine but has at last been moved into the music space as a dedicated recording computer (Not that it won’t be used in other capacities — however, it may never go online again).

So, when I saw a Xeon-powered 16G Ram machine with the specs I wanted (more-or-less), I went for it. And I would be happy except it turns out the Radeon graphics card installed does not play well with Windows 10. Or doesn’t play at all, to be honest. I end up having to use Microsoft’s wholly inadequate plug and play drivers as there are none from AMD that will work. As a result, none of my big widescreen monitors will display properly. Moreover, a pair of smaller monitors will display only in mirror mode — the computer does not really recognize them as separate monitors so I can not split my display. In that working with graphics was the number one reason for getting the machine, this is not a good thing.

I am stuck with a single 15 inch, 1024 X 768, monitor for the moment. I could, theoretically, find another, larger monitor that would work but that does not strike me as a very good solution (not that I might not go that way if nothing else works). I am trying out a USB solution first, and will see how that goes. Maybe it will let me get dual monitors going properly, or maybe it will even let me use the widescreen. Either would be fine with me! I find the small monitor aggravating for many uses but perhaps most of all if I am writing. I like being able to have two pages open side by side, notes on one hand, draft on the other. And I hope I shall be able to do just that, soon.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Gate Lore

Although I have no immediate plans of returning to my Mora world, I have been giving thought to future stories set there. It is likely that the sorcerer Hurasu, who played a major role in the second Malvern novel, ‘Valley of Visions,’ and has seen occasional mention since, will return to the stage.

I doubt we would return to his valley kingdom. More likely, Hurasu will cross the mountains and visit the Mora people. Why? Maybe just boredom; when one has lived three-thousand years a change of scenery might be welcome! I do think he will be attempting to close the two gates (ward them against entry, actually) that open from our world into his. Malvern and his companions passed through one of them; Hurasu used the other millennia earlier.

So one thing I have been doing is firming up my gate lore, making certain I fix their locations at both ends and considering just who might have passed through either over the ages. The one used by Hurasu is somewhere in the vicinity of the Ural Mountains and would have been passing the occasional human and pre-human for hundreds of thousands of years. It opens onto a quite large but also rather barren island set near the antarctic. Human settlers have gradually found their way off it and into the rest of the world — there is a chain of islands one might follow, so ‘modern’ humans would certainly make their way to the mainland.

The other gate is located on the opposite side of both worlds. This gate lies in the ocean at both ends, as well, the southeast Pacific in our world (somewhere south of Pitcairn or thereabout) and well out to the west of the land where the Mora (and Kohari and Diwarna) settled at the other terminal.

Note that both gates are one way, from our world to another. They can be seen as poles, perhaps, of some sort of axis running through each of the worlds (not directly through the center, I must further note). They are probably the only direct route through which humans might reach that world, a world where mankind never evolved. Note also that it takes power to open them, physical power, so they generally open only during great storms.

So Hurasu is likely to make an appearance in one or more of those further fantasy novels set in the Mora realm. But the real focus will be on the next generation in that world, on Maratoa, Malvern’s son, and on Malee, the daughter of Gordie and Demba, and niece to the shaman Oorto. Both of these individuals have sorcerous power (as revealed already, though both were young children when last seen) and will have intertwined destinies. Perhaps the son of Bafa and Teme, prophesied to become High King, will have a central role as well. We shall see how that plays.

But for now, back to other projects. I need to write sequels to, well, just about everything. And I shall!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Who Are Those Folk?

For any who might have wondered, the girl Um-um-um and her people, the 'First Children,' whom I introduced in the second Malvern novel, 'Valley of Visions,' are Homo heidelbergensis folk. Or something close to that, in that we are in another world. I did choose to regard them as 'fully human' in the sense that they could interbreed with modern Homo sapiens.

Incidentally, the Dwarfs first introduced in 'The Ways of Wizardry' but hinted at in other novels are essentially Neanderthals. Small Neanderthals. There are other Dwarf 'races'—as well as the related Trolls—that may show up in future stories.

Oh, and the wizard Hurasu, also in 'Valley of Visions, and a traveler from one of those other worlds, was left rather nebulous in any racial or ethnic sense. But from the description of his appearance one might assume he was vaguely Mid-Eastern. I made his native tongue seem related to Etruscan, so take that as you will.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Projects, Computers, Hair

My latest novel, the ‘fantasy adventure’ WOMAN OF THE SKY, was officially released yesterday, March 10. It was generally available everywhere by then, at our own shop, at online retailers, etc. The date was just to have a release date. WOTS is the third and final installment of my Mora Trilogy (which followed the events of the Malvern Trilogy, set in the same time and place). If I write more stories set in the Mora world, it will be a couple years down the line — there are no ideas burning to be put into words right now (though I have a good idea where I would go, when I get to it).

So, what are my current projects? I am still plugging along on ASANAS, my mainstream-ish attempt (It might even be styled ‘women’s fiction’). It has been neglected the last couple works as I needed to turn my attention elsewhere. Fear not, I shall finish off the fourth and last section reasonably soon. In that I have the story all plotted out, it becomes a bit of paint-by-numbers at this point, which makes it more difficult to remain interested!

Beyond that, I am jotting down ideas and passages and so on for the sequel to THE EYES OF THE WIND. The continued story of Marana and Saj will be titled THE JEWELS OF THE ELEMENTS and it is likely that it will be the only other novel that focuses on the pair. Their children are another matter. As usual, I am ‘building’ the novel in an almost Nabokov-like manner, and do not sit down and write a linear first draft — by the time I have a draft narrative it has undergone lots of revision and rewriting. In essence, it is what most would probably call their second draft.

One of the things that has been taking up my time is getting the recording space (dare I say studio?) back into operation. That included getting a new computer set up and, as long as I was at it, I moved everything around! Actually, I moved the PC I bought for the office a couple months ago; that had always been my intention as it was better suited to the role, a fast i7-powered machine with lots of ram. Now I have a Xeon-powered PC in the office for graphics and probably some of my writing. Pretty powerful too but not quite as fast. Different needs for different jobs.

Anyway, I do hope to get some recording done in time. Shoot, I hope to get lots of things done in time. I still have time, I think! I’m not young but I am in excellent physical shape (though that can be deceiving, I know), the leanest I have been in my life and more muscular than most  guys half my age. Maybe even a third my age. I’m hiking 10K a couple times a week, still lift weights pretty much every day.

And I’ve let my hair grow back out to head-banger length. As they say, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. And if you’ve still got it at my age, flaunt it all the more!

Monday, March 05, 2018

Book Release and Freebie

My latest fantasy adventure, Woman of the Sky, is out officially this Saturday, March 10. To mark the occasion, I and Arachis Press are doing a giveaway of the first book  in the Mora Trilogy, God of Rain. More info at: http://arachispress.blogspot.com/2018/03/book-release-and-giveaway.html

Onshore, a poem

Onshore

The wind had come onshore
and we could peddle home,
breeze at our backs, the rain
following behind.

It swept us on, that breeze;
it whispered how the day
ever grows forgetful
of morning’s every promise.

Out over swamp and prairie
built the towering dark
of distant afternoons —
remembered, now, remembered

in dream of slabs of storm,
summer’s lightning licking
along our gray horizons.
Remembered, as a sun

that called us to the now
empty rain-swept beaches.
Our past has its own paths
through other afternoons;

it will not be found
along those ways, beneath
the palms that swayed so when
the wind had come onshore.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

Another of those poems that harks back to my younger days along the Gulf coast in SW Florida. I should probably be working on the novel instead of writing these!

Thursday, March 01, 2018

A Narrative, a poem

A Narrative

As you slip into my past, you become
a character in a book, someone I read
about, long ago. I have built
a narrative around you, 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
I chose? I read, from time to time,
and know it is only a story, and that
perhaps some day I shall get
around to crafting a happy ending.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

I first wrote a version of this last year as  a sort of vignette or even prose poem. This may or may not be the final form (or something close to it).

My Rendezvous, a poem

My Rendezvous

If I daydream of a threesome —
me and the co-anchor and the weather girl —
it is meaningless and, as they say,

only human. Hey, I’m older
than the two of them put together.
That won’t keep me from tuning in

at Five-thirty every evening,
though I could watch reruns of Xena
then. She and Gabrielle certainly work too.

Stephen Brooke ©2018

pretty obviously (I should hope) not serious poetry

Online Promotion

Facebook and Twitter are fairly useless for authors and publishers. This is not to say they should be avoided utterly, just that it does not pay to spend a lot of time (and certainly no money) on them. If one already has fans, it is good to have a presence for them, but let’s face it — a writer does not have that many interesting announcements to make. It’s not like being a musician who announces gigs regularly.

Instagram? Pretty much the same as Twitter and Facebook, it would seem. I have never used Instagram because I have neither a smart phone nor do I take many pictures. Tumblr might be a little better. Not much, but a little. It is a place one can post writing samples and that sort of thing. Again, it is more for the fans one might already have; don’t expect Tumblr to drive book sales. Pinterest might be fun but not much for promotion. I dropped my account after ‘pinning’ for a couple years.

I might just drop Twitter too. I haven’t the time nor interest to post interesting stuff there. My ‘personal account’ is supposed to be for the music career but there’s nothing happening there. The Arachis Press account has the occasional publishing announcement that is probably of little interest to anyone.

So what works better than these? I suspect an old fashioned email list might. Not sure about that but it’s one way of actually getting information to potential readers/buyers. A website and a blog are definitely important. One needs a searchable presence, a place where any interested person can find out about you, your books, your life.

YouTube is certainly useful, assuming one has compelling content to post. I’ve put up book trailers in the past (with my own music) but they haven’t attracted much attention. They were probably too long for the slide show format I used, and did not hold viewers’ interest. I will continue there, and with various sites where I can post audio (Reverbnation, etc.).

These latter are, of course, more useful for a musician than for a writer. If one is both, the two can (at least theoretically) cross-promote. Like the music? See my book. And vice versa. My niece, ‘Mean Mary’ James has certainly sold way more books because of her music (and hugely successful YouTube presence) than she would have otherwise. I should undoubtedly spend more time on music — not that I have anywhere near her level of talent!