Monday, November 28, 2016

The Rough Draft of Patterns is Completed

Eighteen days to complete a rough draft is, I think, some kind of record for me, but the first draft of Patterns is complete at 5,690 words.

Now comes the very hard work of revision and correction and, though the basic plot will remain the same, I am free to add, subtract and revise until my heart is content with the finished product.

When will I know it's done? When I'm sick of the story and revision consists of nothing but shoving a few odd words around.

Then I start sending it out for its rejection slips. Here's an excerpt, but do remember this is a rough draft:

Ryan parked his car along the side of the street. North Second street in Harrisburg had, many years ago, been to domain of the upper middle class, but the years had made the brownstones appear to be a little more unkempt, a little more seedy in appearance.

The underlying pattern here was so wrong. It was unhealthy.

He checked his eyes in the rear view mirror, but this time, his eyes remained a crystal amethyst blue. He put his sunglasses back on.

An elderly woman came to the door at the sound of the doorbell, her eyes filled with suspicion.

“Ryan Williams, Mrs. McLain. I called you this morning?”

She sighed. “Come in.”

The interior of the home was the home of an old person, gravid with memories, the very air smelling of age.

Ryan turned down the offer of a glass of water.

“Thanks for letting me see you,” Ryan said. “As I said on the phone, I just have some questions about your late husband. When he passed, you sold some of his items at auction and now I own one of them.” He turned on his tablet and held it out to her so she could see the picture on the screen. “Do you remember seeing this? Remember anything about it?”

Arthritic fingers trembling with age, Mrs. McLain reached for the glasses she had hanging from her neck and placed them on her face. She studied the picture for a bit.

“Yes,” she said after a moment of silence, “I remember this piece. He picked it up on one of his travels to the Far East. I think he mentioned it in one of his books.”

She stood and toddled over to a bookshelf, taking down a small, dusty book. “It’s in here somewhere.”

Ryan took the book from her. “Legends of Lost Lemuria,” he said. “One of your husband’s books.”

He found the section with a few minutes of scanning the thin volume.

The ancients would train their wizards using various instruments and contests. I believe that one of these ancient tools was the predecessor of the Go board, one of the popular games of Japan throughout its history. This leads to the conclusion that either ancient Japan had open trade with Lemuria in its prehistory or that survivors of the Lemuria earthquake and resulting deluge somehow made it to the Japanese islands where they were absorbed into its peoples and culture.
Ryan handed the book back to his hostess. “Mrs. McLain, thank you so much for letting me see this. This answers my question.”

Minutes later, he held a pile of the late professor’s books as well as forty dollars poorer. Andrew McLain had self-published his books, leaving his widow with numerous boxes of books that would only sell to the fanatics who had long forgotten McLain’s work into prehistory in search of greater titillation. Understanding his hostess’ plea to rid herself of a few of the works, Ryan felt the money well spent, a donation to a widow in her dotage.

“By the bye,” she said, “as she walked him to the front door. “It’s rather odd that you should show me a picture of that thing he had.”

“Yes, ma’am?”

“The day he died? Poor dear. I found him in his office, slumped dead across it.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Patterns: The Opening Paragraphs

Patterns is my new work in progress, a tale about Ryan Williams who wins what he thinks is a Go board at a prize drawing, but it turns out to be something far more insidious and as he uncovers its secrets, it begins to change him. Here are the opening paragraphs (still to be considered a rough draft)

“Our next drawing is for a traditional Go board.”

The crowd went silent waiting as the owner of Walt’s Cards and Games rummaged through the bowl that held slips with names of those who came to celebrate the store’s tenth anniversary. He plucked out a yellow piece of paper and Walt squinted as he made out the spidery handwriting. “Ryan Williams!”

There was sporadic applause as Ryan raised his hand. “Here!”

Walt held up his hands for silence. “I want to thank all of you for coming and celebrating our anniversary. I want to congratulate the ten people who won our drawing and when you come up to claim your prize, please bring some picture ID.”

Ryan made his way through the crowd that now focused on the table offering free snacks and treats Walt had made available for the celebration. Waiting patiently in line, he tried to suppress his jealousy as winners before him walked away with rare and expensive board games. A young kid walked by holding a copy of The Campaign For North Africa and Ryan doubted the boy actually had the ability to even understand the most basic rules. Maybe he’ll trade with me.

When he got to the front, Walt waved his ID away. “Know you well enough, Ryan. Enjoy.” With that, he handed a large, plain cardboard box to Ryan who whistled at the feel of weight and substance.

“Looks like I’m going to be learning something new,” Ryan said.

Walt smiled. “They’ve been playing Go for almost six millennia and I think I’ve had this game for that long. Never could find anybody interested in it, but if you can get some enjoyment out of it, I’m just glad to let it go.”

Ryan smiled. “So what you’re saying is that I’m getting your unsold junk?”

Walt pointed his finger at Ryan’s face in mock anger. “Walt’s Cards and Games never sells junk. But I’m willing to let you trade this for a pack of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards.”

Ryan laughed at the offer. “No thanks. I like myself. I’ll learn to play Go.”

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Patterns: My New Work in Progress

Ryan Williams wins what he is told is a Go board but when he gets it home, he discovers that the board is something older and far different than what he expected. And it is changing him as well as the world in which he lives. 

One of my few forays into the  horror genre, its projected publication as an Amazon Single is December 15th.

Read and Heed

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Shrine War Cover

In 2017 when my contract with the anthology owners expires, I will be releasing an expanded version of The Shrine War as an eBook and here is the cover:

The graphic is a modified version of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi's beautiful 1892 print of
The Moon on Musashi Plain.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Revision Work NEVER Ends

Last night at an "open mike night" for my writers' group, I read the first three scenes in The Shrine Wars and discovered a terrible error.

In the Shinto shrine, I mention the burning of agarwood incense.

Currently I'm reading In Ghostly Japan, by Lafcadio Hearn. (1) In the chapter on incense, I read the following about incense:
Shinto shrines, indeed, are free from it;incense being an abomination to the elder gods. (2)
Buddhist shrines are filled with the aroma, but Shinto shrines? Never.


You know when you stop reediting old stories that you thought were completed?

Five minutes after you're dead.
(1) You can legally read Hearn's work for free here
(2) Lafcadio Hearn, In Ghostly Japan (United States: Capricorn Publishing, 2004), POD paperback., p. 28

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Jenny, Sweet Jenny

Again, this is another Unicorn & Gryphon Pub tale from the universe where humans and other species attained sentience together and the bartender is human. The first tale is Sheila: A Morality Tale that I released yesterday and if this is your first U&G story that you've read from me, you might want to read the introduction and story there first. Again I release this, with some trepidation, in the spirit of Halloween.

Jenny, Sweet Jenny
A Tale From The Universe The Next Door Over
by Alan Loewen
(Author's note: British mothers in the Middle Ages kept children away from the dangerous edges of ponds and streams by telling them of Jenny Greenteeth, an ugly fairy-goblin who waited just under the water to grab little children.)
Warm light and friendship illuminated the Unicorn & Gryphon Pub. A portly, mustachioed human bartender stood behind his bar and wiped wine glasses clean with a soft cloth. Around him, pretty barmaids of various species served ginger beer to dragons, gryphons, equines of all flavors, wolves, foxes, and other canines as well as the rare human who chatted amiably with lions, tigers, bears and ohmyes.

The evening proceeded like one hundred evenings before and would probably proceed like the next one hundred, but life, regardless of the dimension it finds itself, has a tendency to be unpredictable at best.

The first sign that something amiss loomed on the horizon presented itself as an overpowering odor of rot and decay. Conversation in the pub stopped abruptly as individuals began to gag and cough and look askance at their neighbors who blamed others for the phenomenon.

Suddenly, the door to the pub opened and in walked an apparition from a demented child's nightmare.

The creature looked as if it had laid in the bottom of a bog for the last decade. Copious strands of algae formed its only clothes as well as dangled from long, wiry arms. Wet, dripping hair failed to hide most of the waterlogged features of a ravaged female face.

Leaving scum-flecked puddles behind, it walked over to a bar stool and sat upon it with a loathsome, squelching sound.

"Bartender!" it croaked, "Service. Now!"

The pub remained silent as everybody simply stared.

The creature looked around at the shocked faces with some annoyance. "What? What?" it growled. "You never saw Jenny Greenteeth before?"

Nobody dared to respond.

"You never heard of Jenny Greenteeth or is it you just don't like me?" she cackled, a grin revealing the source of her name. "Oh, yes, we all like the foxes don't we? We like the horses and the tigers and the bunnies, but nobody ever likes Jenny Greenteeth, do they? Jenny's too scary, eh? She that eats little children that wander too close to the water's edge, eh?"

She put hands up in mock surprise, speaking a few octaves higher. "Oh my babies!" she squealed. "Don't get too near the water or mommy will worry and Jenny Greenteeth'll get ye!"

With a cackle, she turned back to the bar to come suddenly face to face with the bartender.

"I'm sorry, miss, but we can't serve you here," the bartender said firmly. "You see, it's just that I know what your kind likes to eat and all and we just don't serve children here."

"Pah!" Jenny said with an annoyed wave of her hand, "I had to give up on eating children. Doctors said they was too high in cholesterol and saturated fat. And the feisty ones give me heartburn something fierce."

She pointed to a large cookie jar. "Just give me one of them gingerbread cookies over there."

With a sigh, the bartender fetched her a large gingerbread cookie inn the traditional shape of a man. Not to often do gingerbread men form part of a normal pub's menu, but the foxes did love them so. He lay the cookie on the top of the bar in front of the fairy-goblin who eyed it hungrily, licking what was left of her lips.

With slimy, trembling fingers, she carefully arranged the gingerbread man on the bar, making sure it was precisely where she wanted it to be. Then she got off her stool and slid below the bar.

"Ooh," she said, her voice drifting up from the floor. "Does ol' Jenny Greenteeth hear a little child above me? Did some naughty darling disobey his mummy and wander too close to the water's edge? Bad, naughty, little boy!"

She peaked over the edge of the bar at the gingerbread figure ignoring the shocked patrons who stared at her, her watery, green eyes staring intently at the sweetmeat. "Ooh! He's a naughty little boy, isn't he? He's a scrumptious little thing, isn't he? Wandered too far from mummy and daddy to the water's edge, didn't he?"

With a roar that made everybody jump, Jenny leapt over the bar and grabbed the gingerbread man with both hands. Cackling shrilly with diabolical glee, she stuffed the large cookie in her mouth, spraying crumbs and pond water everywhere. Her high-pitched squeals brought tears to the eyes and pain to the ears.

After a moment, she stopped laughing long enough to glare at the barkeep. "Another one, please?"

Suddenly, one of the dragons spoke up. "Hey, Horse," he said the barkeep in a loud voice, " tell her about the life-sized gingerbread boy you have."

Jenny whirled about to face the dragon fast enough to miss seeing the puzzled look on the barkeep's face. "Gingerbread boy?" she asked. "Life-sized, you say?"

"Yeah," the dragon said casually. "It's kept in there." He nodded toward a thick, oaken door complete with large lock and key behind the bar. "You could say it almost looks completely lifelike."

Jenny spun about to face the barkeep. "I wants it," she demanded. "I wants it now!"

The bartender simply spread his hands with a puzzled look.

"Don't worry yourself, Horse," the dragon said. "Allow me." With that, he got up off his seat and walked behind the bar.

Jenny shook with eager anticipation.

"Now when I open this door," the dragon said in a stage whisper, "you run in and get him."

Jenny cackled, grinned, and rubbed her slimy hands together.

Suddenly, the dragon grabbed the handle and opened the door with a sudden jerk. With a shriek that froze the marrow of all those who heard, Jenny dove off her stool in a demonic leap right into the darkness beyond the open door leaving behind a puddle of brackish pond water and the cloying smell of decay.

The dragon slammed the door, turned the key, and leaned against the door.

The bartender walked up, worry etched in his face. "L.D.," he said. "Fun's fun, but I can't keep a customer in the walk-in freezer, no matter how obnoxious she may be."

He held out his hand for the key.

The dragon looked at the barkeep, then looked at the key. With a shrug, he tossed the key into the air, caught it between his jaws and swallowed. "Oops!" he said with a toothy grin. "Looks like you'll have to put the cost of the key on my tab."

Hours later after the barkeep removed the door, he found that Jenny's attitude toward the bar had grown cold...downright frozen, in fact.

The next October found the U&G pub the talk of the town. The celebrations of All Hallowed Eve were made even more complete with a life-sized ice statue of Jenny Greenteeth in disturbing detail.

Trapped in the icy prison of her own body, Jenny sighed with satisfaction. She might be cold and stiff, but she could still scare the kiddies.