adventures in dysthymia

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Qala

Qala is the protagonist of my current fantasy novel-in-progress, THE CROCODILE GOD, sequel to THE CROCODILE’S SON and the second book in the Crocodile Chronicles (there may be only two, but they are interwoven with the two novels of the Sajam Saga). However, she first appeared as a secondary character in THE EYES OF THE WIND and proved too interesting a character not to revisit — and allow to star in her own stories.

When we met her in EYES, she was the Pirate Queen, captor of our protagonists Marana and Saj, and, before long, lover to their companion Xit. Now Xit, as far as Qala knew, was simply a modestly proficient sorcerer but a quite proficient lover, a way to amuse herself amid the tedium of life in the hidden harbor of the pirate fleet. That she preferred women is not that important. Xit would do until someday she found that one she could truly love.

For Qala had loved before, loved the mistress of he who ruled over the pirates before her. It was his jealousy and his murder of the woman that led Qala to challenge and replace him. She had ruled since. Ruled until our trio appeared and were enlisted into her scheme to slip away into retirement before she, too, was pulled down.

So it is she ended up at her country estate, far away — and pregnant. Qala was in her mid-to-late thirties by then (she has no clear idea of her age). Soon she learns that Xit was no sorcerer but a god, and that her son will be something more than a mortal. All that weaves into the plots of the Crocodile Chronicles novels, with which we are not dealing here.

Qala was born across the Greater Sea, in the Old Muram Kingdoms, in the slums of a gray city by the sea. She is pretty much a true Mur*, though all her people were somewhat of mixed blood by that time. Who were those people? I hint that they are somewhat ‘Asian’ in appearance. Obviously, as there is no Asia in their world, that is not the best of descriptions. On the whole, they might most closely resemble Siberians or Native Americans but, like most humans of their world, they are very much a mix of various populations who passed through ‘gates’ from elsewhere. The Mura were a nomadic people a few generations back who swept in from the steppes and conquered the area that now comprises the ‘Old Kingdoms.’ Some adventurers from those cities later crossed the Greater Sea to found the Muram Empire, where our tales are set.

She is a fairly diminutive woman, slender, sinewy, and not tall, ‘coppery’ of skin, black of hair. While still wandering the Muram kingdoms before taking to the pirate life, she not only learned swordsmanship but became exceptionally adept with blades of all sorts. This has been alluded to in the stories. I am unlikely to actually explore that period of her life in any detail — no ‘Qala, the Early Years’ novel! Needless to say, she needed to be good at things other than weaponry to rule over a fleet of pirates; Qala is an able leader and politician.

Or was. Now she leads only the people of a mid-sized estate along the banks of the upper Chas. There she has found at least some meaning to her life, in her young son, in her responsibilities as the mistress of her little domain. And, perhaps, she will at least meet the love she has longed for. I believe I shall have to finish writing THE CROCODILE GOD to be certain of that.

* Incidentally, the word Mur means essentially ‘warrior’ in their language. It came to mean ‘noble’ among those they conquered and eventually to refer to them as a people. Some might recognize a Proto-Indo-European root in that.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Old Men Showing How It's Done

John Wilkins — Wilk — of THE DICTATOR’S CHILDREN is the oldest protagonist to so far appear in one of my novels, being in his early fifties. A quite fit fifties, to be sure. That makes him a couple or three years older than Ted Carrol of the Cully Beach novels. If I write any sequels, Wilk will, of course, be even older. One or more of those might be forthcoming, but so might tales of the Polish ex-pat adventurer set earlier in his career.

I did something with Wilk of which I would normally disapprove, and that is to allow him to have an affair with a younger woman. Okay, two of them actually (but not at the same time!). And I mean quite a bit younger, in her early twenties. The other is mid-thirties which is not near as much a reach.

Why does this happen? In large part because Wilkins lost his wife/love of his life in the recent war (WW2) and is somewhat at loose ends, feeling empty and bit sorry for himself. Naturally, all this says something about the women with whom is involved as well. The much-too-young Elena is probably not averse to recreational sex in the first place — I do not say this but it is somewhat implied. She may not even be overly serious about it all. But also she has a tendency to hero-worship, and to attach herself to people and causes. She too is searching for something or someone to fill up her life.

As for our other affair, that is run of the mill mutual attraction. There is tension between the two from the start and it takes its course eventually. Then it ends, largely on grounds of practicality, and that is that.

Nothing of this sort is likely to happen in any future Wilk novel. Certainly not a sequel, as he remarries not long after DICTATOR and is not the sort to cheat. And yes, the wife is fairly young (the novel implies who it will be). So no running around by our hero when he is even older. Earlier, he will also be married, from sometime in the middle of the Thirties up until the end of the war, when he searches for his wife, missing somewhere in China. I say only ‘missing’ in the book but, believe me, she is dead — it just takes him a while to completely accept this.

Before that? The woman of China he eventually married does pop in and out of his life, as I have laid things out (that could change when I get into plotting another novel). He will also be engaged for a while in Europe in the earlier Thirties when he is trying to make a ‘normal’ life. I did mention that in THE DICTATOR’S CHILDREN so I have to stick with it.

An older protagonist certainly has (in theory) more experience dealing with life. This can be a worthwhile trade-off against the vigor of youth. He can show the young’ns how it’s done. Of greater value, maybe, is the ability to make insightful remarks on things. And I very much like to make remarks on things!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Dictator Cover

I reckon it is time to reveal the cover of the upcoming adventure novel (coming May 4, officially), THE DICTATOR’S CHILDREN. Here we go—


There will be more on ‘Dictator’ in a while. It is a bit of a departure from my other non-fantasy novels, which are all set in Florida and relatively contemporary (and more focused on relationships than action!). This tale takes place in 1948 and does visit Florida, but also Cuba and Central America.

In a way, it is more akin to those fantasy novels I have been churning out, in terms of plotting and pacing. However, I chose to go with a terser narrative style to suit the subject matter—channeling my inner Hemingway. :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Thackeray Poem

I wasted some time making this little graphic of Thackeray's 'Commanders of the Faithful.' His poetry is overlooked somewhat these days. Perhaps it always was, in comparison to his novels, but it appeals to me. I suppose some might consider this a tad politically incorrect by today's standards. I can't speak for any Turks but the Catholic in me certainly doesn't mind (nor the lover of wine!).



Monday, February 11, 2019

The Tenants, a poem

The Tenants

The Landlord’s come, we’re long overdue,
our debts are great, our assets few.
We can not pay, He’ll send us away —
our time here is thoroughly through.

That He has cause, never doubt;
He’s seen what mischief we’ve been about.
We cut the trees, we poisoned the seas,
and now He’s come to turn us out.

We’ve nothing left to pay the rent;
our capital has all been spent.
Yes, all our cash, on gaudy trash —
what we received as quickly went.

Oh, He’s been lenient, not strict,
and ever urged peace when we conflict,
but we made a mess and now I guess
there is no choice but to evict.

We’ve been the worst of tenants, it’s true,
a thankless and disreputable crew.
We broke the glass and killed the grass;
the Landlord’s come — we’re thoroughly through.

Stephen Brooke ©2019

Pretty much of a throwaway so I'm throwing it here.