Monday, April 16, 2018

Solvitur Ambulando

Solvitur Ambulando

Thursday, April 12, 2018

I'm Not In This For the Money (Or I'd Be Dead)

Yesterday I received a post from Facebook that told me my posts have so far been liked 73,000 times. I thought it a cute factoid until I realized that Zuckerberg is making a pretty penny off of me. With 648 Facebook friends and with my commitment to make my Facebook entertaining and light-hearted, with my audience enjoying my silliness and fascination with various subjects: writing, space flight, futurism, animation, gardening, etc. and when they (and maybe even you) pay my account a visit and click on an advertisement that strikes your fancy, Zuckerberg gets a penny or two.

Now I don't begrudge Zuckerberg his billions. I'm on Facebook with my eyes wide open and I know he is using me. It's okay because I'm using Zuckerberg.

I have a private account I run on behalf of the churches I pastor and Facebook is a great way for me to keep in contact with them and share important information. And on my personal Facebook account, I link to the blog you are reading now.

I will tell you honestly that what you are currently reading exists to entertain, promote my literary work, and in the process, make money for me. Not only do I promote my books that I hope people buy, but if you click on an ad here, I get anywhere from $.001 to $.01.

However, I think I better rethink my marketing plan. I started my blog on March 24th, 2015. So far, I have made a whopping $8.95 in ad revenue.

And the writing? Well, my wife tallied up our paperwork for taxes. Since my first published book (Opal Wine released on December 9th, 2013) in paperbacks I have made $28.04 in US dollars and £3.47 in English pounds. For ebooks, in the same period, I have made $46.28, a combined whopping total revenue of $79.25 for two years of writing.
(NOTE: I am not including revenue from magazines and publishing as payments are negligible and probably do not come to anything more than $250 since my first magazine acceptance way back in 1998.)
Thankfully, I still have a full-time job or I would be an authentic starving writer.

However, there are ways you can still help me and others as writers:
  1. Buy my books.
  2. LEAVE A REVIEW! These are gold. I can't tell you how important they are.
Nonetheless, I will continue to write even if I can't make millions. I'm driven to tell my stories.

Current Works in Progress

I'm working on two projects at the same time. Probably not a good idea, but at least I'm writing in the midst of the busyness of my life.

The main project is Incident at a Japanese Inn with a current word count of 1,500 words. You can read an excerpt here and here. Incident at a Japanese Inn is my third and final part of my braided novel, The Shrine War.

The secondary project is an untitled fantasy and you can read the intro here. Currently at 3,500 words, it answers the question as to what you should do if you discover the guide/bodyguard you hired is a mythical, homicidal creature. This one is a few steps away from the usual fare that I write as it contains a lot more violence (though not graphic). The point of view is in first person, a view I find a challenge to write in as it creates an unreliable narrator who cannot read minds and must explain everything from their own biased and sometimes inaccurate point of view. With other plot lines and tropes unique to my writing style, the entire story is a test of my capabilities as an author.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Hunting Kitsune in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Last night I took my wife, Cherie, and my middle son, Christopher, to a new ramen and sushi bar that opened up only 10 miles away from my home (at least new to me). Kazue Ramen & Sushi Bar is part of the Majestic Theater complex in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Appealing mostly to the Gettysburg College crowd, for awhile my wife and I were the oldest people in the bar. The restaurant was packed, but the atmosphere was friendly and not overly loud. 

For an appetizer we ordered a Philadelphia roll (smoked salmon with cottage cheese and cucumber) while we awaited our ramen bowls.

The food was excellent. No complaints. According to the reviews I read, the more people in the place means a longer wait for service, but if you avoid the 6 pm crowd, service is reasonable.

And when I say the food was excellent, I mean the food was very good and came in a large bowl that was more than we could eat. If you walk away from Kazue still hungry, you have only yourself to blame.

Now when it comes to restaurants that feature cuisine from the Far East, I am a strict judge, not only of the quality of the food but also the quality of the atmosphere. When I eat at a Japanese or Chinese restaurant, I insist on the whole package. I selfishly demand magic and Kazue fulfilled that to a T: traditional cuisine served in a traditional manner surrounded by a tasteful traditional Japanese setting. One could almost imagine looking out the window onto a busy street in Tokyo.

So this is where the kitsune come in because if there are kitsune in Gettysburg, I know where they go to eat.

Kitsune are yōkai, fox-like creatures from Japanese mythology and the main subject of The Shrine War, my current literary work in progress. Their mythology is vast and complex and differs according to many factors. I myself am fascinated by the tales of kitsune and as I said, if there are any in Gettysburg, they are sure to visit Kazue.

Why? Well, a kitsune's favorite food is aburaage, thinly sliced tofu that is the principle ingredient of
Inarizushi, a pouch of aburaage filled with sushi rice and sometimes sesame seeds. Inarizushi is also known as Inari sushi, so let's take a look at a small part of the Kazue menu.

Ah, yes. There it is. Inari-sushi. Just what the kitsune ordered.

So here is my plan.

I shall someday travel to Kazue and order a double portion of Inari-sushi (fortunately, I find it delicious, but I assure you I am not kitsune...just a human being with discerning tastes).

At some point, mayhaps a pretty young thing will wander into the restaurant and will be drawn inexplicably to my table, suddenly drooling at the inarizushi that so artistically adorns my plate. There is a possibility that her infatuation with her favorite food may cause her to drop her illusion and for the first time in my life I will actually see a kitsune.

However, though a curmudgeonly potato of a man I am not a lecher. I will do nothing but offer her a portion of my inarizushi and let her slip back into the mysteries of the Gettysburg streets. To simply see a kitsune is enough for me, just another impossibility that may someday be crossed off my bucket list. 

Nonetheless, even if one does not appear, I still win. That leaves all the inarizushi for me.

If you ever get a chance to visit Gettysburg, please enjoy its historical importance as a site of a famous Civil War battle, but do yourself a huge favor and drop by 25 Carlisle Street. Just be aware Kazue is closed on Mondays and as they follow the college schedule, it is advisable you call first to confirm they are open. 

And on the way out, don't forget to treat yourself to the traditional bottled Japanese drinks on display. They are all delicious.

And if you order the inarizushi and a young lady with unusual movements that remind you of a fox tries to trick you out of your supper, take her picture and thank your lucky stars.  Fortune has certainly smiled on you.

You lucky devil. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

In Search of the Creators is Finished

This afternoon, I put In Search of the Creators through its final edit and, for weal or woe, I sent it off to Fred Patten for consideration in his upcoming anthology.

In Search of the Creators was a challenge in several arenas as the character with the main point of view is an alien. When she encounters another alien race, I have to tell a story in English where characters who know no English have to communicate with each other, especially when my main character cannot speak in labials. After a lengthy struggle, I think I was able to clearly tell the story:
Slowly, the man put his open hands on his chest. “Blayne,” he said. His voice was deep. Again, he put his hands on his chest. “Blayne,” he repeated. Then with his hands still opened, he motioned toward Illatha. 
Illatha knew what he wanted. Her name. “Illatha,” she said repeating his actions with her own hands. 
“Illatha,” the man repeated. 
Slowly the man stood. Illatha’s head came up to his chest and she shuddered from how small she was in comparison. He pointed at the sun that shone down on the meadow. “Odo,” he said. 
Illatha already knew what the creature wanted. He was working on a basic vocabulary. She squinted up at the bright sun and pointed at it. “Nae,” she said in her own language. 
“Nae,” Blayne repeated. “Nae.”

Sunday, March 25, 2018

When Imagination Calls (Story Excerpt)

Like all writers, I will go to my grave with more stories unwritten than completed. Ideas come to me daily and I have learned that if not written down they are soon buried under the continual tidal waves of fresh vision.

This afternoon while waking from a late afternoon nap, in my mind's eye I saw an elderly man and his younger companion in a fantasy tavern, sitting at a rough wooden table, their backs to the wall. A woman enters.

So, this evening I sat down with my hand on the keyboard and I told myself the story, allowing it to unfold as I followed the events that transpired on the movie screen of my imagination.

What follows is a very rough draft that I may revisit in some far future and continue the story of Master Ayras and Min if time allows.

NOTE: This excerpt contains a short, but graphic scene of violence. Caveat emptor and read responsibly.

Source of Graphic Unknown. Please Advise.

Untitled Fantasy
by Alan Loewen

I was nursing my watered down beer when Master Ayras nudged my shoulder.

“Observe the woman who just entered and tell me what you can surmise.” I put down my mug on the rough-hewn table top and looked up to see a young woman standing in the doorway of the Three Stones Tavern looking over the crowd as if searching for someone.

A striking beauty, she wore a hempen, knee-length robe over simple tan-colored blouse and pants. Her brown leather boots came to mid-thigh. Around her waist she wore a dark-green sash with a sheathed sword carried on her left hip. I could see from across the room her eyes were a brilliant green and when she pulled the hood of her robe back, her brown hair was pulled back into a tight bun.

The entire tavern went silent at the sight of her and I nervously felt for the dagger I always carry concealed in the sleeve of my robe, more for the feeling of safety than a desire for open conflict. At establishments like the Three Stones, the presence of a woman always brought out the worst from a number of patrons and I had seen men die for less.

Master Ayras shook his head. “Do not make a move. Just observe.”

The woman strode over to the bar where a man, rough and muscular, nursed a huge mug. “You are Orr of Crayburg,” she said, her statement containing no trace of a question.

The man spun about, his hand darting for his own sword, but he stopped when he saw the woman standing before him. His grin split a scarred face, showing off a mouthful of teeth cracked and twisted from conflicts past.

“Aye, my beauty,” he said. “I am.” And he lunged for her, his arms outstretched.

The woman moved at a speed I never knew humanly possible. Stepping backwards out of the man’s grip, the woman’s sword flashed from its scabbard and flew across the man’s face, the point drawn directly across his eyes. Blood and fluid sprayed and the man’s jaw opened in shock before he covered his ruined face with his hands and fell to the tavern floor screaming.

“Compliments of my sister,” the woman said calmly, ignoring other men about her jumping to their feet and drawing daggers and swords.

She assumed a fighting pose. “Do you gentlemen wish to die for this wretch?” she asked. The men looked at each other to see if any other man would attack first, but after a few tense moments, they began to slowly retake their seats.

With blade at ready, the woman backed slowly toward the entrance. When her shoulders touched the woodwork, she used her weight to push the door open and she disappeared into the night.

As the barkeep tried to assist the blinded man on the floor, Master Ayras smiled at me and took a gulp from his own mug. “Tell me what you saw. What do you make of the woman?”

“She’s a very good swordsman?” I said.

Master Ayras clucked his tongue. “Come, Min. Look deeper. Remember.”

I paused as I remembered, searching my mental image of her. “I suspect she is a woodsman,” I said after a moment’s reflection. “She was dressed for travel through the wild. She is no stranger to killing, but her taste for revenge is sophisticated.” I nodded toward the brute groaning under the ministrations of the barkeep. “She could have killed him, but she knows there are states of being far worse than death. Mercy is not one of her virtues.”

Master Aryas smiled at me and patted my hand. “Very good, Min. Yet did you not observe how clean her clothes were? They had no signs of travel on them at all, not a particle of dirt or a stain.”

My jaw dropped in surprise. “I...I did not see that, Master.”

“Never mind, Min. In time you will be able to tell a person’s entire story from their glance alone. Let us leave.”

I followed Master Ayras as he made his way toward the door, I avoiding looking at any of the other men in the bar in fear that one of them would see the secret I kept for my own protection, a secret known only to Master Ayras.

In the streets, the night had settled and I followed my master and mentor who always had an uncanny ability to see in the dark. With my hand on his arm, he led me through alleyways as if on a predetermined course. I had learned never to question him. Master Ayras' sense of direction bordered on the mystical.

Before long, we entered another street where light poured through doors of inns and taverns not yet bolted against the night. “Master!” I said, but he hushed me.

“Yes, we have been following her,” he said softly. “The woman intrigues me.”

He quickened our pace until we were some ten paces behind our quarry. I watched her in fascination as she moved gracefully through the filth of the streets, her hand on the hilt of her sheathed blade.

“My pardon, my lady,” Master Ayras said, and then stepped back as a blade swept across the air just a few hand breaths away from his throat. Immediately, he put up his hands, palm outward to show himself unarmed.

“Again, my pardon,” he said. “I am unarmed. My companion and I only wish to ask a question.”

The woman sneered in contempt. “What business do you have with me?”

Master Ayras nodded and spread his open hands further. “We saw your sword work in the tavern,” he said quietly. “Min and I need to travel to Hisk and a person of your talents would guarantee us safe journey. We need a guard and I say there may be none better in this town.”

Again, she sneered at us. “I have no need…”

“We will pay you 200 satins a day,” Master Ayras said quietly.

The woman paused and motioned with her sword. “And how do I know you are not simply robbers who will kill me in my sleep just so you can take my weapon?”

“Min and I are scholars of the Golden Academy. Surely we are nobody you should fear.”

The woman looked at me and, for a moment, I saw her eyes flash green and change. The transition from green-slitted eyes back to the green eyes of a fellow human occurred so rapidly, I doubted my own senses. She appeared to sniff the air. “The little one is a girl child,” she said.

“Yes, Min travels as a boy. I’m sure you can appreciate the reasons. So you have nought to fear from an old scholar and a young girl who has not yet experienced her first bleeding.”

I blushed at Master Ayras’ comment. At fifteen summers I had still not yet participated in the Passage, but I confess I felt resentment that he mentioned it to a stranger.

The woman paused a moment in thought. “Hisk is only a two day journey,” she said. “For 400 satins I will take you there, but I will have half the money now. Now follow me for there is an inn where honest people can sleep in safety,” she turned her back to us and began walking. “And you are paying for the room,” she said over her shoulder.

“I do not know your name,” Master Ayras said.

Again the woman turned to look at us over her shoulder, her expression a withering glare. “There is no need for you to know,” she said.

Closing notes: When I write, I tell myself the story allowing it to unfold at its pleasure. When I first wrote the opening paragraphs I only knew of Master Ayras, his ward, Min, and the strange swordswoman. I also knew the mysterious woman was entering the bar specifically for an act of vengeance. The rest came as a complete surprise to me and some fellow writers understand the experience when I say that I did not know Min was a young girl until Master Ayras revealed it! 

Where does the story go from here? Well, time will tell. I have far too many projects in the hopper that must be completed, but someday I hope to return to the adventures of Min and her Master and we shall see where imagination leads them.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

First Draft of In Search of the Creators is Finished

The oldest legends say that when the Creators left blue-green Ur to explore the stars, they found themselves alone in a cosmos without boundaries. Grieved at their loneliness, they returned to their world, took their animals, and gifted them with sentience, hands, and a bipedal stance. The Creators then scattered their progeny across numerous stars and today, they patiently wait for their children to return and ease their solitude.

At slightly over 4,700 words, the first draft of In Search of the Creators, a short story written specifically for Fred Patten's upcoming anthology, is finished.

Now comes the hard work: revision and editing.