Thursday, October 19, 2017

Blade Runner 2049: A Review

Let me start out by clearly stating that I very much enjoyed Blade Runner 2049 and it is a worthy sequel to the 1982 film.
I can see why the public has panned Blade Runner 2049 and it is not doing well at the theater:
  • The public is tired of dystopia movies.
  • The movie is almost three hours long.
  • You have to pay careful attention to the plot line as it is rather convoluted with a number of significant red herrings.
However, I very much liked it. I thought the acting top notch, the story was great, and the cinematography was amazing.

The story follows a Blade Runner known only as Joe chasing down a rogue Nexus 8 replicant. This is not a spoiler as it is revealed immediately that Joe himself is a Nexus 9 replicant. In the ensuing investigation, Joe and the LAPD discover a body buried on the property that makes an amazing revelation about the Nexus 8s that changes all that was known about replicants.

I did not like the unnecessary nudity and MILD SPOILER ALERT, I thought the bizarre scene where Joe's holographic girlfriend superimposed herself over a "lady of the evening" was simply silly. (to see the script, hold down the right mouse button and run the cursor over the blackened text)

I was not aware the director of Blade Runner 2049 made three short videos to lay the groundwork for the film. I wish I had seen them before viewing the movie. Be aware these videos are NOT for children and the squeamish as they contains scenes of blood and violence. The films are:
  • Black Out 2022 when Nexus 8 replicants create a global EMP in a struggle for freedom.
  • 2036: Nexus Dawn is 14 years later when the ban against creating replicants is lifted opening the door for Nexus 9 models that must obey Asimov's Three Laws.
  • 2048: Nowhere to Run takes place a year before the film introducing one of the characters that appears in the opening scenes.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Thank You For Downloading My Books! Now, A Small Favor Please?

From October 15th through the 17th in celebration of All Hallows Eve and my 63rd Birthday (November 1st, I made two short story collections free to the reading public: Rowan Dreaming and Dark Dreams and Darker Visions.


And people responded. I'm delighted people took advantage of my offer. As a writer, I am thrilled when people allow me to entertain them.


The stories you read represent without exaggeration thousands of hours of my life. From idea to final word, none of these stories came easy, but with a lot of hard work, learning, unlearning, research, and toil.

IF YOU ENJOY THE STORIES, PLEASE KINDLY CONSIDER LEAVING A REVIEW. 
 
I am not interested in 5-star reviews. They are reserved for books that change your life. I write solely to entertain. I am just as grateful for realistic 4- or 3-star reviews as I am for those who gave me 5 stars.

And ready for this? If it comes from a sincere heart that is free of rancor, I respect even 1- and 2- star reviews because it's proof that people who read my work care enough to share their concerns and caveats.

And they don't have to be lengthy. Three or four sentences are just as helpful as a review that is almost as long as the work itself. Sometimes better.

So, please leave a review. I always do so for almost every book I read because I know how important they are not only to the author, but to the reading public.

Thank you in advance.

And now for a future announcement! Sometime in 2018, I will be releasing The Shrine War, a braided novel consisting of three novellas: The Shrine War, The Inugami, and Incident at a Japanese Inn.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Two Free eBooks to Celebrate All Hallows Eve and My Birthday



Addendum: I have confirmed that the two eBooks listed below are truly free today through Tuesday, so grab them quickly. As we say in the States, if you snooze, you lose. So Happy All Hallows Eve and happy birthday to me!

These links take you to the US Amazon, but whatever country's Amazon you use, the eBooks will be free there as well:

Dark Dreams and Darker Visions (10 dark fantasy/horror stories)

Rowan Dreaming (Two dark fantasy romances with a body count)

Please remember that these stories represent countless hours of hard work. An Amazon review of both or either books would be gratefully appreciated!

-----------------------

All Hallows is October 31st and my 63rd birthday is the next day, November 1st, also known as All Saints Day. So that you can celebrate with me, I am making two of my dark fantasy eBooks available for free from Sunday, October 15th through Tuesday, October 17th. Basically you have 72 hours to snag a free eBook from your country's Amazon page as I am making them available for free around the world.

Dark Dreams and Darker Visions is a collection of my dark fantasy works from 1996 to 2013. Titles include Killer Lullabies, An Incident at a Carnival, The Pig, Through The Black Andes, All Hallowed Eve in Greengate, The Pond, and others. These stories are not suitable for children and make sure you read the reviews before you download the book to make sure it is your cup of tea.

'Dark Dreams and Darker Visions' is, as the title says, a collection of ten horror stories done mostly in the old classic style. Fans of the works of horror authors like Lovecraft, Hodgson, and Machen will enjoy these stories, as they tend towards atmosphere and tension rather than the exploration of someone's internal organs. And they are by someone who knows whereof they speak; Mister Loewen is not just an admirer but a student of these classic authors and it shows in his work. ~ A Reviewer




Rowan Dreaming is a dark fantasy romance that takes place in south-central Pennsylvania centering on a Japanese ball-jointed doll that has a tragic effect on those that get near it. I have coupled the tale with another story, Strange Streets, about a man and his cousin who explore streets that are off the beaten track. The result is one of loss and  unrequited love. These two stories are rated PG.

This novella drew me in right away and held my attention right to the end. It was delightfully creepy without any of the violence or gore so prominent in a lot of paranormal/horror fiction. It's obvious from the start that there is "something" about the doll Rowan that just isn't right, and the protagonist sets out to discover what that something is before he too succumbs to its curse. The ending was satisfying, although not at all what I was expecting. ~ A Reviewer


Both eBooks can be read on the free Kindle eReader that is available for almost all platforms. You can download the Kindle eReader most suitable for your tablet, phone, or computer here.

PLEASE CONSIDER RECIPROCATING MY KINDNESS BY LEAVING A REVIEW!





Thursday, October 12, 2017

Lycan (2017): A Review of One Dog of a Movie

I take no joy in savaging a film because I love movies. I also dislike releasing a review with spoilers, but director Bev Land just stole an hour and a half of my life and I'm not feeling in a generous mood. So, just in case there is somebody reading this who actually wants to watch this travesty, here's my warning:

SPOILERS AHEAD

Here's the plot in a nutshell: Six college students given the assignment to rewrite a paper on revisionist history decide to tackle the hundred year old urban legend of Emily Burt, the "Talbot County Werewolf." So on the weekend before finals when every other college student is living on coffee and Poptarts, our intrepid college students take a horseback ride into the Georgia countryside looking for Burt's grave and end up getting killed by what could probably be a werewolf.

First, let me say what I liked about the film:
  • The cinematography is actually quite good, good enough that some scenes could have been used for the Georgia State Board of Tourism.
  • Actors Dania Ramirez and Craig Tate do an excellent job with the script they are given.
For the rest of this review, you might want to get a drink and some popcorn. This is going to be a long one.

After the title board tells us it's the year 1986, the movie begins with a sex scene. That in itself is a clear sign that the movie can't deliver as a horror film because it has to throw in titillating filler. The amorous couple are interrupted by something attacking their chickens and dog so they go outside to investigate and are attacked by something unknown and the screen goes black. Did they survive? Will we learn anything more about the couple?

Nope. The couple are never referred to again. It was just pointless opening filler.

Cut to a young Hispanic woman (Dania Ramirez) riding a bike. She stops to write some graffiti on a brick tower and then pedals on.

Cut to a college class with all the students clearly a decade older than they should be and you discover the next week is Finals Week, but instead of an exam, the teacher divides them into groups and gives each group the weekend to write a 20-page paper on revisionist history that will make up 50% of their grade.

And this has to be the cruelest teacher in existence. Evidently, the students have no other finals to study for or they are going to be in one painful time crunch.

So the group gets together in a traditional blend of horror movie college students including Isabella, the aforementioned Hispanic. The makeup of the group is so stereotypical, I was waiting for a Great Dane with a speech impediment to appear. The group decides to investigate an old urban legend of Emily Burt, the "Talbot County Werewolf" and I'm thinking, how are they going to get 20 pages out of that? And since its the weekend before finals, instead of researching old newspaper reports and interviewing local historians, they all decide to ride horses into the countryside in an effort to find Burt's grave. Really. On the weekend before finals.

But before they leave, we see Isabella working on a horse farm somewhere and she clearly has a large tramp stamp tattooed on the small of her back. Remember the year? It's 1986. The practice of women tattooing elaborate arabesques on their backs was not in existence in 1986, but nobody making this film cares. And why does the character of Isabella even have a tattoo? She's as introverted as they come and the idea of her sitting in a tattoo parlor just doesn't mesh with the character's personality.

So they all go off into the woods on horseback and almost all of them get killed in gory ways.

In the film, the chain holding the dog is not visible.
I could rant on and on about the stupidity of the story. How logical inconsistencies fill the plot and how certain events and locales make no sense at all, but here's my biggest problem.

From what I could discover, the original title of the movie was Talbot County. If they had kept that title, I wouldn't be writing this review, because I would not have purchased it. Instead, they renamed it Lycan and since I'm the president of the South-Central Pennsylvania Canid Research Group, I have a passing interest in werewolves and dogmen.

I bought the film thinking I was going to see a Grade B film about a werewolf.

Nope, it's just a Grade Z slasher flick. 

So, the biggest crime here is false advertising. If I buy a movie that implies a werewolf in the title, I want my werewolf, not two crazy women who pretend!

And in a second viewing, knowing who the killers are and why they are killing people, the inconsistencies scream at you. You would find yourself thinking, Wait up. That can't happen, or Why are the killers talking or acting like they really don't know what's going on?

Here's a link to the trailer. WARNING: TRAILER CONTAINS SCENES OF GORE AND BLOOD.



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Revisiting The Inugami (With Story Excerpt)

The kitsune, Hoso, interpreted by artist Aimi Isjern
For all the new visitors I have, here is a breakdown of my current project.

The Shrine War is a braided novel of three separate novellas that together tell a larger story. The lead story, The Shrine War clocks in at 12,100 words, substantially larger than the version that appeared in the anthology, Dogs of War. I am currently working on The Inugami describing events that run simultaneously with the events in the first section and currently I have over 10,170 words with an estimated 3,000 words yet to go. The final section (still in the planning stage) is entitled Incident at a Japanese Inn that brings the characters from the first two stories together in a finale.

I originally kept the point of view in The Inugami restricted to the human, Kelly Robbins, but have decided to include another as I did in The Shrine War using two points of view: Sen, the head of the kitsune shrine to Inari Ōkami and Christopher Andrews, the human who accidentally stumbles into the middle of the conflict.

SPOILER AHEAD

In The Inugami, I have written in another point of view, that of Haruka, a common kitsune who, unlike the white celestial foxes that serve Inari, is merely a red-pelted field fox. However, Haruka lacks the magic to destroy the Inugami and must seek out a white-furred celestial fox to deal with the creature. The quest does not go as planned:

Haruka gritted her teeth as she and her two male companions bowed low to the zenko, a white-furred celestial fox. Haruka had four tails signifying her age and seniority. Her two companions had three each, but they were all yako, field foxes with ermine fur, and since time began, the kami had decreed the red pelts to be servants to the white. To deepen the insult, the celestial, Miori-sama, was barely past her hundredth year, new to the blessings of sentience with only two tails, but by matter of birth, the white-furred kitsune enjoyed the particular favor of Inari Ōkami. Though yako were free to worship at an Inari shrine, they could never serve even if they reached the glorious number of twelve tails.

Little good that did them here. The Inari shrine where they had found the celestial lay in ruins. Around them, a thick wood hid the shrine from human eyes.

“Miori-sama,” Haruka said in her most formal Japanese, “that is our plight. Only a celestial fox wields the power and authority to kill an Inugami. Our predicament is grave.”

The celestial clutched her one paw to her chest, while nervously plucking at her kimono with the other. “But a band of Inugami destroyed my shrine,” she whimpered. “When I returned from my mission, the shrine was in ashes.” Tears came to her eyes. “The place reeked of Inugami, you can still smell them. Their tracks were everywhere and my sisters are still missing.”

“Miori-sama,” Haruka said trying to keep the impatience from her voice,” this is one Inugami, half-starved and weaponless. It is chained and I and my companions will protect you. You still have your prayer beads, do you not? Could you not summon an oni?”

“You will protect me?”

“Hai!” Haruka said. “You need not fear. We will travel to Hoshin Onsen tonight and stay at the Inn of the Yōkai.”

The celestial fox stopped trembling. “Really?” she asked. “I have heard of the aburaage they serve, deep fried twice with spices not of this world.” She licked her lips. “And could I have a little sake with the aburaage?”

Haruka sighed to herself. “Yes, but just a little. We must return by sunrise of the second day.”
(Note: Hoso, by Aimi Isjern, is a work in progress, but even in its beginning form, I find it strikingly beautiful and had to share.)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Would You Like A Free eBook for All Hallowed Eve?

Every year I like to make one of my eBooks free for All Hallows (October 31st) especially as the next day is my birthday. (Sometimes, I wonder how my life would have been different if my mother had been faster and I had been born on on All Hallows instead of All Saints Day ;-)

Anyway, here are my eBooks that are suitable for Halloween reading. Let me know in the comments what your selection is and I will allow the top two to be free for two days in October (October 15th and 16th).

 It was just a ball-jointed doll and for pawnbroker, Auden Gray, it was just another item to sell. Until Auden found his business partner dead with the doll in his arms. Investigating, Auden discovers the doll serves as a gateway to a dreamworld so seductive, men die under its spell. And Auden's time is running out as his resolve to discover the origin of the doll crumbles under the allure of Rowan, the dreamworld's sole resident. Rowan Dreaming is the second installment of my expanding Doll Wars saga. As a bonus, this edition also contains the short story, Strange Streets, a short story of urban magic and lost love.


A collection of dark fantasy featuring the short story, In The Father's Image (the first story in my expanding Doll Wars saga) and the flash works, Come Into My Cellar (a dark love song to the English language and the art of storytelling), Blood and China, and The Vicarage.


 My collected dark fantasy works from 1996 to 2013. Titles include Killer Lullabies, An Incident at a Carnival, Through The Black Andes, All Hallowed Eve in Greengate, and others. The book also includes my stories The Pig and The Pond that are considered my first forays into literary horror.





By the bye, if you take a free book, I do expect a review in return. It's considered ample reciprocation for the hours that went into creating exotic worlds for you to explore.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

My Travellercon 2017 Report




Last Saturday, I attended Travellercon 2017 at the Lancaster Host Resort in Lancaster, Pennsylvania dedicated to the science fiction role-playing game, Traveller, in all of its many variations. An old hand at conventions, this was my first visit to Travellercon and I had no idea what to expect.

Getting up early to make my 8 AM gaming session, I set my GPS for the address of the hotel to discover that it had created a wonderful route for me through every toll road and congested urban area it could find.

Knowing the convention location was right on Route 30, much to the consternation of my GPS who screamed “Recalculating!” every three minutes, it grudgingly accepted my more reasonable route after half an hour of pouting.

I arrived with 15 minutes to spare and received my con badge and t-shirt. Though I only wanted to observe the games being played, my deafness wasn’t acting up that badly, so I signed up for a game entitled, Lights in the Sky, run by referee, Harry Bryan (1) using the MegaTraveller rules. Here is his description of the adventure:
After successfully cleaning up the mess in from last year’s adventure, the player-characters receive some much-needed down time to heal both mind and body.  While relaxing, one of the team members stumbles into a reference to the AASB – Argushiigi Admegulasha Sunimush Bilanidin - The Vilani Repository for All Forbidden Knowledge. Hmm…...
I joined four other men playing characters exploring the wreckage of a 4,000 year old space ship on some backwater planet. Unfortunately, the wreckage was lying on its side on the top of a high, rocky, snow and ice-covered mountain where the atmosphere was almost non-existent…

Harry Bryan knows his stuff. Currently, he is editing the entire MegaTraveller canon and I saw the work he had already completed. I’m hoping it may be released sometime in 2018, and I assure you it will give all the other Traveller variants a serious run for their money.

Harry Bryan leads us through the adventure. The gentleman seated with the gray hair and glasses is Jeff Zeitlin, editor and manager of the online magazine, Freelance Traveller.
During the game, I was delighted to see an old friend, Fred Jones, and though I make friends easily, Fred was the only person there I actually knew and his presence only made the con that much more enjoyable. A fellow aficionado of role-playing games, over the years, Fred and I have explored the variants of Dungeons and Dragons and Call of Cthulhu with a few excursions in The Morrow Project and It Came From The Late, Late, Late Show.

We may look like two middle-aged men, but Fred Jones (left) and I together have fought dragons, explored old, evil houses, survived alien invasions, and ingloriously died in many a tavern battle. Such is the fate of old, experienced role players.
After lunch, I attended a lecture by Marc Miller, the creator of Traveller and his discussion was in no way boring. Speaking of Traveller’s history and answering a lot of questions, I discovered Marc is very intelligent and one of the most friendly and generous men I have ever met. 

Marc Miller
During the discussion, I asked the question if Joss Whedon’s Firefly TV series was inspired by Traveller (low tech free traders on the rim of unexplored space). It appears that Joss did say the idea behind Firefly was inspired by a science fiction role-playing game he played while in college. As the only SF RPG actually available when Joss attended college was mostly Traveller, the coincidence is too overwhelming not to be seriously considered. If you’re interested in doing your own research, google Firefly and Traveller together and you’ll get enough information suitable to convince you that Firefly truly is based on the Traveller universe.

I spoke at length with a couple of veteran players during the course of the day and learned a lot about the nuances of the game. The benefit of a convention is that the attendees are there for one purpose. Putting aside politics, religion, and all social constructs, people come together over one mutual interest. The group created, hands down, one of the friendliest conventions I have ever attended.

Finally, I spent some time with Marc Miller himself who led a session entitled, Can You Survive Character Generation, and it was a true delight. Marc gave each us of a generic pamphlet that would work with any variant of Traveller and had us generate characters to play using a simplified version. The unique aspect of playing Traveller is that character generation is a mini-game in itself and it is possible for much to happen to your character before you even begin the actual role-play episode. Your character might actually die during his formative years and you have to create a brand new character all over again. However, the system gives you a fully fleshed out character with a rich backstory that makes role playing him or her all the more exciting.

And what's a convention without lots of free bling?
Will I go back? Certainly and if next year I can obtain hearing aids, I already plan on running a game myself. With years of role-playing experience as well as my experience as a public speaker, radio personality, and stage actor, I think I can give the more seasoned game masters a run for their money.
----

(1) Harry Bryan has written two articles for Freelance Traveller: The Imperial Secret Service and Underworld Characters.