Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Late Talker

I am pretty much a text book example of a ‘late talker,’ aka ‘Einstein syndrome’ (though I’m no Einstein!). Whether or not this puts me on the autistic spectrum seems to be a matter of disagreement, nor does it matter much at this point in my life. Here is bit from the Wikipedia entry:

Late talker is a term used for exceptionally bright people who experience a delay in the development of speech. Commonalities include usually being boys, delayed speech development, highly educated parents, musically gifted families, puzzle-solving abilities, and lagging social development. Many high-achieving late talkers were notoriously strong willed and non-compliant as children.

The rest of the article is here. I don’t want to nor will I claim to be ‘exceptionally bright.’ I’m certainly not a genius, just a guy with some brains and some talent. And I am still rather non-compliant. :)

No one did anything about my aversion to speaking as a little kid. My grandmother thought maybe there was something wrong with me but my parents chose not to intervene. And, as most late talkers, I grew into language eventually.

I will say that I think I never really ‘got’ language until I learned to read. Seeing those words laid out in an orderly fashion on the page made a lot more sense to me than people’s jabbering (I could say the same about reading and understanding music). I did — and still do — like to put things in order, which is sometimes a mark of autism. Again, at my age it matters not at all.

I wasn’t an ‘early’ reader — I didn’t get the opportunity — but once I started to read, I read voraciously. Anything and everything, kids’ books, adult books. I suppose I still didn’t talk that much, and still don’t. I do have problems with social anxiety (extreme ‘shyness,’ if you will, which is something quite different from being an introvert).

I was also early in physical development, walking way before most kids. I guess if I wasn’t ready to ask about things, I just decided to go and see for myself. I haven’t changed much there either.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Pests, a poem


Lice and mice and other pests
have long plagued mankind,
and they say our little guests
were by God designed.
But I think the devil may,
on some day God rested,
have let those vermin out to play
just so we’d be tested.

Yet the greatest pests of all
the Lord God created,
and their numbers should appall
for they frequently mated!
Mated and procreated they did,
now they’re everywhere;
the human pests we live amid —
the others can’t compare.

Stephen Brooke ©2019

light verse. I'm still turning out a poem (or sorts) occasionally.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Crocodile God Chapter

 A chapter from the recently finished THE CROCODILE GOD (to be released Sept 7), from around two-thirds of the way into the story. We enter at the aftermath of a rescue-gone-wrong.

Someone handed Qala her sword. She saw the mob of pirates divide, some moving toward her, some toward Quso. More than a few seemed unable or unwilling to decide.

“So you got yourself into trouble. I should apologize, shouldn’t I?” Lutanawa stood by her side.

“Helping us now would be worth more than any apology. Can you get us out of here?”

“And miss this fight? It looks like great fun! Which one is this Pirate King?”

Qala pointed him out. What was this fickle deity going to do?

“Ah. Not much to look at, is he? I went and sat on a mountaintop for a couple hours and realized what an idiot I am. So I came back.”

“We thank you for that, my lady,” said Galana.

“And you are better to look at than I realized. Oh well. I think they are waiting for you to make a move, Qala.”

Her side was outnumbered, with maybe a dozen men arrayed behind her. Maybe Looty would even up the odds. Qala raised her sword to signal the attack. There was no other course of action available.

Suddenly, Lutanawa was no longer at her side — not as the lithe goddess she knew. A massive snake raised its head, spread its hood, to peer toward Quso. The Pirate King gasped, immediately turned and fled toward the boats, the giant golden cobra following.

She really is going to eat him, thought Qala. Most swords had been lowered. The two factions no longer glowered at each other. What was the point? “Qala!” called out someone. Other voices repeated it, took up the name. This was not what she wanted either. Preferable to being executed, to be sure, but she would rather go home.

A small form appeared before them, stepping out of the shadowed night, a grinning Zedos. “Mommy!” he called. “Galana!” He giggled. “Galana-banana! Go.”

He held out his hands and each woman took one. A moment later they were standing before Lutanawa’s house, shining silver in the light of the twin moons. Mawa rushed out to them.

“I was watching for you from the porch. And I thought you were in bed!” she told Zedos.

“Had to save Mommy. And Galana-banana.” He laughed longer this time.

“That’s not a nice name for your mommy’s friend,” admonished the goddess.

“It’s alright with me,” said the noblewoman. “He can call me that anytime. If Sesa doesn’t give me a grandson soon, I may just steal this boy.”


“She remains behind. In snake form.”

Mawa only sighed at this news. “I knew something was wrong when it took so long. Then she refused to answer when I called to her.”

“Looty hided,” spoke Zedos. He gave his mother a rather accusatory look. “Mommy too.”

“It’s a good thing you found me,” Qala said. “Let’s not play hide-and-seek again for a while. And lets get inside where we can tell our tales.”

“What’s all the noise?” Ramapee had come out onto the veranda. “Oh, you’re all back. And you got the little one out of bed?”

Qala had to laugh at her disapproving tone. “He got himself out and traveled to another world while you slept.” She turned to her son, knelt down to speak face-to-face. “You know it’s safe for Mommy to go home now.”

“After breagfuss. Little mafadwi fix.” He turned toward the house and chirped something Qala could not understand. From her look, neither could Mawa. “Ready soon,” he said, seemingly quite satisfied.

“How did you learn to speak to them?” asked Mawa, as they entered.

“Looty teached me. When Looty gum back, Mommy?”

“I’m not sure, my dear. She has, um, business to attend to.” To digest, more likely.

“It may do her some good to be the cobra for a time,” felt Mawa. “Though we might hope she doesn’t swallow too many mortals in the meantime.”

“If they are as bad as that Quso, she is welcome to them,” declared Lady Galana. “Oh, what have we here? Monkeys?” The tiny mafadwi servants had appeared with bowls and baskets of food. Lots of fruit. Maybe Zedos had asked for it.

“Mongey-mafadwi,” the boy laughed. “Little mongey-mafadwi.”

Qala noted Mawa slowly nodding. Maybe there was something to the observation. The various stories — or different versions of the same story, more properly — were told over the next hour.

“I think,” concluded Qala, “Looty made up for her desertion the best way she knew how. I hope she does not remain a snake overlong. And I hope she decides to visit her old lover while she is in his world.”

“He might be the one who could bring her back from beast-shape,” spoke Mawa. “If he used those jewels they used to call Xido. Otherwise, her mind can not be reached, not by any of us.” She looked at her nephew, gnawing at a oblong ruby-skinned fruit. “Are you ready to take them back, Zedos?”

“Home?” he asked.

“No, the place where we slept last.” It seemed likely they would still be there.

“I shall tell Xido you are on the way. If he’ll answer.” Mawa was elsewhere only a moment. “He knows. I’ll stay a little while, just in case Looty comes back.”

“Bye little mongey-mafadwi,” called Zedos. “Bye Aunt Mawa.” He stood between Ramapee and his mother, offering each a small hand. A few vertiginous seconds later they stood in a dark room. “Damana?” asked Zedos of the darkness. “I taked you to Damana, Mommy.”

It must be one of the tack rooms at the hostelry. Yes, she could make out dim shapes, saddles, shovels, buckets. And in the corner, two figures who had pulled up a blanket to shield themselves. “Hi, deary,” called Damana. “You brought your mom back?”

“Yep! No more bad men now!” He was proud of his part, to be sure. Qala did doubt the part about no more bad men.

“Where’s the door?” she asked. “I do believe we are intruding, Lady Galana. Horos, you can report to me later. I can see you are far too busy at the moment.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he choked out as she stepped into the morning sunlight.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Spaces, a poem


I am the empty space
to fill with yourself,
poured in like morning coffee.
Sugar and milk? I ask

and ruin it. Pour me
out again and this time
I’ll keep quiet and all
the times that come and go

through all the empty spaces
I can be. Shapeless,
meaningless, nameless—
know me by my absence.

Stephen Brooke ©2019

Friday, April 12, 2019

Distant, a poem


A distant storm arises, dark and full of thunder
on some horizon. Far away; there is no need
to look beyond our selves, no reason we should heed
that whispered warning rumble. Let tomorrow blunder

into today, as ever. Lightning does strike twice
eventually and we stand waiting, waiting on
each naked hilltop. All the rain has come and gone
yet surely comes again; we need but roll our dice

and hit the luckiest number. Roll them as the thunder
rolls distantly but don’t look up. There is no need.

Stephen Brooke ©2019

going 'formal' again and a bit obscure :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Psychology and Donzalo's Destiny

Sojel, top henchman of the ‘big bad’ of my Donzalo’s Destiny books, the sorcerer Lord Radal, is probably a sociopath. I say probably because he is a fictional character who acts in ways that would suggest such a diagnosis but I did not create him with the thought ‘sociopath.’ I created him as a person.

But he does tend to act like a sociopath. He can be erratic and impulsive at times, unlike a psychopath who typically is more methodical in his evil. He completely lacks empathy but has a deep devotion to his master. As many sociopaths, he is not well-educated (he neither reads nor writes) nor can he ‘pass’ in normal society. This does not prevent him from rising to the top among Radal’s hirelings (mostly mercenaries) and commanding them competently, thanks to his natural intelligence. Given a task and adequate instruction he can ‘do the job’ — but he needs that direction from someone.

There will be no more opportunity to analyze Sojel, as I killed him off at the end of the third book. His successor in Radal’s service is quite a different sort, a rather straightforward mercenary who simply drifted into his current situation and life. Dovolo is not really either sociopath nor psychopath, only a fairly normal sort who has been corrupted. This actually makes him more interesting but he didn’t get that much on-page time and now he’s gone too.

As far as true psychopaths go, we have the diplomat-turned-spy, Benawis. He is entirely willing to serve Radal and just as willing to betray him. He wouldn’t mind possessing the wizard’s daughter, either, in part for her physical attractiveness but more as a way to power. He is a schemer who even after he is found out thinks he will be able to run off somewhere else and find his way to the top. People are to be used. He probably thought so until the moment an assassin garroted him.

Then we have Lord Radal himself. Radal is, to use a technical psychological term, bonkers. It’s a fairly common occurrence among those who use magic, who open themselves up to the voices of the infiniverse. He is also somewhat of a Faustian figure, a man who sold himself for power early on and has no choice but to follow the path he made. That he was already a bit unstable even as a child seems likely, that he suffered bouts of depression is certain. He sees existence as hopeless and meaningless, and wishes only for total extinction, even though he suspects it is impossible.

But he is devoted to his daughter and her future, and many of his actions stem from this. They are not always the best nor the most logical of actions, but he believes he is doing the right thing. His greatest fear is that Fachalana will be drawn into the same fate as he. Well he should fear, as the dark gods he serves would like nothing better (except they don’t actually like anything, strictly speaking). Radal’s final battle and death concludes and resolves most the action of the entire epic, but we may not be quite done with him. I shall, in time, write a sequel centered around the daughter (probably to be named Fachalana’s Fortune) and the legacy of her father. Let me say that Lady Fachalana will not be a villain in any normal sense (we all do a bit of wrong here and there). But she will struggle against forces that would turn her that way.

I know some authors like to ‘build’ their characters, using psychological concepts or even checklists. I find this completely backward. The people in my stories exist as people first, people I try to make feel true to life, and their ‘psychology’ is extrapolated from this starting point. This, I think, creates more realistic characters. Trying to fit them to some theory of personality or psychology will always result in simplifying who they are. It is better to look into ones own self to find understanding and motivation. Yes, even for sociopaths — to understand those without empathy, we need empathy ourselves!

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Words, a poem


What good are words that serve, compliant little
words going about their business with a smile
and a bow? Tonight they wait on me, stand waiting
as I sate myself, help me to my bed, leave

and laugh, for I have won nothing, done nothing.
Give me words that fight back. Give me words
that use my words against me, sparring, scarring,
words that knock me down. I’ll go ten rounds

with such words. I’ll get up off the canvas
and go again. That wasn’t a ten-count. I’m good.
What good are words unless we struggle? What good
am I, if I only let them serve and smile and leave?

Stephen Brooke ©2019


I admit to being rather fond of the typeface Galliard, Matthew Carter’s update/modernization of the traditional Garamond-like font generally known as Granjon. Granjon tends to be ‘livelier’ than most Garamonds, and Galliard carries this a step further, while remaining quite readable. I have used it for several fantasy novels of the lighter sort at Arachis Press. It suits them well.

Too lively, though, I felt for THE DICTATOR’S CHILDREN. So I went with a more traditional Granjon, Bit Streams’s ‘Elegant Garamond.’ This seemed like a good compromise. Does it actually matter that much what typeface is used, especially when the differences between two are rather small? Of course not, but that is no reason not to choose the one we think best suited to the narrative.

Incidentally, I tend to use Bit Stream fonts in a lot of our books for licensing reasons. There are some decent free fonts out there and I am not inclined to turn up my nose at them. Yes, there is also a lot of amateurish type that is not at all suited to text (but can sometimes work for covers or titling). I have said before that I could get by with nothing but the typefaces URW donated to the GhostScript project way back. They remain completely serviceable and I have used their Garamond No.8, a Stempel Garamond clone, in several novels. (Bit Stream’s ‘Original Garamond’ is nearly identical.)

The next novel with my name on it will be THE CROCODILE GOD. And I will use Galliard as I did with the previous book in the series. There will also be books forthcoming with other choices for type. I’m not so big on Galliard for contemporary ‘realistic’ novels, though it would undoubtedly work well enough. We are looking to put out a science fiction novel by Oliver Davis Pike in the near future and are looking into new and different choices there. Adobe’s free Source Serif is one — or we might just use Galliard. :)