Friday, May 31, 2019


Here's a new science fiction novel coming soon from Arachis Press, but (for once) not from me:

And here's the official blurb:

Dave Ladd, has-been musician, didn’t mind being abducted by aliens. Especially when those aliens had plenty of cash to compensate him. Let them keep whatever secret they seemed to have learned about Earth.

So he thought when he was returned to his home in rural Alabama. But he was already too involved in that secret — a secret that involved the survival of humanity — and soon was on the run with an alien girlfriend, first on Earth and then ‘out there.’ A solution must be found by the motley band of humans and aliens thrown together in ALIENESE, a science fiction novel by Oliver Davis Pike.

 As publisher and editor, I readily admit that I have a role in producing this book. It will officially be out on July 6 but may well appear here and there before then, online ebook retailers, Amazon, whatever. And, of course, at the Arachis Press site.

I like the novel, obviously, and also obviously I am a bit prejudiced. It is short (not quite as short as a novella) and fast paced, with a good bit of humor. Look for it! My own next novel will be 'The Crocodile God,' another fantasy, slotted for a September 7 release. After that? Probably the third Cully Beach novel, on which I am currently slogging along. That will be ready when it is ready.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Adobe's 'Free' Fonts

The term ‘free fonts,’ to some, is a warning sign. To those less knowledgeable of type design and usage, caution is definitely a good idea. There are a lot of not-very-useful free fonts out there — especially not useful for printed text, which is going to be our main concern here. We can also find many that are quite good and entirely suited to printing out a book. For those who remain wary, we can point to a couple of free typefaces that come from a completely trustworthy source — Adobe. These would be Utopia and Source.

Minion and Myriad are not included in this; though quite nice fonts and bundled with various programs from Adobe, they are not exactly free. They can be used in many projects but not as the typeface for a print book or magazine (without paying). Not that one couldn’t embed them for use in print-on-demand and probably get away with it. I don’t see much point in that — one can find plenty of alternatives. Minion and Myriad are also, perhaps, a little too familiar, a little too common, though not to the extent of Times, Calibri, Arial. We all know not to use those, right?

Utopia has had an on-again-off-again status as a ‘free’ font. There is an official paid version, with the most recent refinements. There are also free versions — completely free to use as one wishes — that Adobe donated in the past. Utopia has somewhat of a resemblance to Baskerville, but simplified a tad for early computer and printer use, and with features that also suggest ‘Modern’ typefaces of the Didone sort. The original development statement called for Utopia to serve as a general purpose office font, rather as Times New Roman has over recent decades. I would say Adobe’s font is definitely preferable to Times.

And could certainly be used for all the same tasks — correspondence (if one still prints it), papers, resumes, etc. It looks good; one might even say ‘classy.’ I would note, however, that a nice text-oriented Baskerville (Libre Baskerville, e.g.) would do as well. Utopia is also a serviceable book font. It may not be a first (nor even second) choice for fiction or poetry, but one could do far worse for nonfiction use.

The Source family from Adobe is totally free, free to download, free to use as one desires. It includes sans and monospaced fonts but, for books, we are interested primarily in Source Serif. Source Sans is a decent ‘Gothic’ style of font but was designed more with user interfaces in mind than printed text — which is not to say it can’t be use in that capacity, just that it does not shine in it. The monospaced Source Code is geared for writing code, primarily (as opposed to a typewriter-style font).

Source Serif Pro (to give the typeface its full name) is inspired by the Eighteenth Century designs of Fournier. This is the period of Caslon, but the two are only distant cousins. One might accurately describe Source Serif as a ‘utility font,’ suited to a variety of applications. There are certainly other excellent free alternatives in this category, such as Charter.

But Source Serif might be a tad more attractive for novel text than some of these. Its bloodlines show, so to speak. Our next title to be released at Arachis Press, the science fiction novel ‘Alienese,’ (by Oliver Davis Pike) is set in Source Serif. But, as with Utopia, it should be a good choice for nonfiction too. If one can’t (or doesn’t want to) lay out money for something like Adobe Caslon, Source Serif is certainly a decent alternative.

Both free typefaces are easy enough to find with a quick internet search, and easy to download and install. You just might find one or both useful.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Undead

I have never been big on including the ‘undead’ in my fiction. For one thing, they don’t actually mesh well with the rules of my primary fantasy world (or this one, for that matter). It is to be admitted that somewhere in the ‘infiniverse,’ in less logical worlds, there must be such beings but that is beside the point.

In Norse/Germanic folklore, an undead human might well have been a witch in life, already a person with magical power. They are filled with avarice and an unwillingness to relinquish wealth and existence, so they hide in a mound and guard their treasure after death. That is quite similar to the ‘barrow wight’ Tolkien wrote into ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ Such beings were sometimes referred to as ‘trolls’ in ancient lays, the name not having the connotations it does now.

The trolls in my fantasy fiction, by the way, fit the modern concept of a race of creatures of the more or less magical sort — denizens of Faerie. I could see folk mistaking my gray-skinned homely troll folk living in the ground for undead creatures (and may well include it in a future tale).

But the undead of those old tales — they do not and can not exist in my world. The dead do not come back.* Vampires? One might have magical beings that fit their description but they would not be dead (or undead) humans. They also most likely would not originate in my primary world (the ‘D-World,’ as I dubbed it) but find their way there from elsewhere.

Then there are zombies. The only zombies I have created have been in the mold of the original concept of such creatures, that is, corpses reanimated through magic. They are puppets. The sorcerer sends part of his being into corpses to control them. That, to be sure, is dangerous if he gets stuck there! I had one such appear in my second Malvern novel, ‘Valley of Visions,’ but have not revisited the concept. If needed, it’s still there.

Finally, the pseudo-undead. Humans converted (via drugs, disease, what-have-you) into a zombie-like state to serve or perhaps just wander about and create mayhem. That is something else entirely but should be mentioned. They might well seem undead, animated corpses, to some observers. This is more like the zombie of popular modern entertainment.

Revisiting the first version of the undead we touched on here, the witch/troll who dies but refuses to relinquish the world — though that concept, of itself, does not work, I could most definitely see sorcerers extending their lives unnaturally to become something not unlike those creatures (as did Gollum, in a sense). Not undead, strictly, but close to it! Whether I shall ever explore anything of that sort, I do not know. Right now, it is just an idea and not useful to any stories I have planned.

To be honest, I’ve never been big on the whole zombie/vampire/undead bit. I found it hard to get that ‘suspension of disbelief’ working with them. In other words, they simply didn’t fit any logic — and I’m big on logical world-building. So if someone undead shows up in my fiction, know that there is an explanation — even if I don’t give it to you.

*There may be a sort of exception to that in my upcoming ‘Fachalana’s Fortune’ sequence, in that a ‘part’ of someone with magical power could hide in another world when he or she is destroyed. In a way, that could act as a sort of ghost but (probably) only be sensed by other sorcerers.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Big Bend Rivers, a song lyric

Big Bend Rivers

I crossed the Apalachicola,
flowing mighty and wide,
headed down the Big Bend coast
where rivers meet the tide;
at dawn I set forth, by day’s end
I shall rest beside
the Suwanee, hear its subtle song,
at the end of my ride.

The Ochlockonee and Sopchoppy,
Saint Marks and Aucilla,
bars and camp grounds, weathered docks,
fishermen’s flotilla.
Econfina, Fenholloway,
dark Steinhatchee water,
eagle and the cormorant,
raccoon and the otter.

From deep in Florida’s wild heart
the rivers ever flow,
from the swamps and shaded bays
on to the Gulf they go.
From the springs that crystal lie,
the waters join and grow —
the osprey soaring high above,
the coasts we love below.

Stephen Brooke ©2019

A song lyric I recently completed more-or-less to my satisfaction. The music is done too but there may be some revisions there once I get to playing it more. The 'big bend' area of the Florida coast is where I used to live (in Steinhatchee) and I've driven along it on occasion.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Questing, a poem


To be with you proves one more task,
as I quest for my holy grail.
Had I but known, I might have spoken;
hope’s glamour will ensorcell those

who must ride forth, their words all sleeping.
A whispered light along the world’s
edge calls me forth to claim this day,
to name this day as ours. I shall,

I must, go questing once again
in you. It leads on to tomorrow,
across rose-tinted yearning dawns
with promise just beyond unreached,

unreachable, horizons. Go,
I tell myself; the quest is not
yet ended, the grail is not yet won.
I’ve set myself but one more task.

Stephen Brooke ©2019

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Fun-House, a poem


Art is life, glimpsed in a fun-house mirror,
twisted, stretched. Yet we say, That’s me!
Who could guess I looked so funny? Laugh
and move on. Each image warps its way

into truth. See how long my nose
is! Tomorrow our reflections peer
from the mirrors of the morning, asking,
Do you know me now a little better?

Stephen Brooke ©2019

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Image, a poem


I remember meeting
only because someone
took a picture. There
I am, at your side,

on folding metal chairs.
One convention or
another; I’m sure we talked
about books. I probably

called you ‘Chip.’ Or not.
The image has taken the place
of memory, become memory.
Do you remember too?

Stephen Brooke ©2019

This is about meeting a rather well-known author (who shall remain nameless) many years ago. And I very much doubt he remembers it. :)