Thursday, December 29, 2016

Welcome to Worlds of Mystery!


Priced to sell, I slashed the price as low as I could go.
Worlds of Mystery Paperback ($5.49)
Worlds of Mystery Kindle ($1.49)

A list of stories and a brief description are located here.

Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, and Amazon Australia links should be coming soon.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Coming In Time for the New Year


Yes, I honestly thought I'd have this released in time for Christmas, but I have strong standards and kept finding errors. I think the fifth time through the approval process should do the trick and the result is a paperback and an eBook I'm proud of.

I stripped the cost down as far as Amazon would allow me so the paperback is $5.49 and the eBook is around $1.49.

This book is not yet released, but I will announce its Amazon advent within the next five days.

The ten tales are:
  1. For The Reader - a anthropomorphic vixen goddess introduces the collection with a shocking revelation of what you actually hold in your hands. 
  2. Adrift Off the Great Red Spot, 22°51’23.14”S, 98°49’24.40”W - in the near future, a gas miner flying the clouds of Jupiter finds himself adrift and approaching certain death in Jupiter's centuries old storm known as The Great Red Spot.
  3. The Case of the Missing Glasses - Detective Nick Weaver discovers his new client is not only beautiful, but visually impaired.
  4. Timely Revenge - a sf tale of discovery, creation, and cold-hearted revenge.
  5. The Furry Con Mystery - once again we go into the world of detective noir where the detective searches for his client's son who went missing at a furry convention.
  6. Gray Matter - what if alien abductions were reversed and we started abducting them?
  7. Kill Your Darlings - a writer's dream turns into a nightmare when one of his literary creations vows revenge.
  8. I Have Seen the Future and the Future Is Diesel - diesel punk in a dystopian world of oppression and liberation.
  9. Wolf Hunter - a fantasy tale reversing the tropes of Little Red Riding Hood.
  10. Leywood Manor - formerly known as Yew Manor, Leywood Manor is the philosophical companion to my seminal work, Coventry House.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Interview With Author A. R. Mitchell

A. R. Mitchell
I have had the pleasure of knowing author A.R. Mitchell for some years now and I was one of the original test readers for her work in progress, The Wind Walker. Recently she released a short story collection, Goldlust, that I reviewed here.

This is A.R. Mitchell's story.

1. Quick biography?

I’ve been writing fiction since about fifth grade. Even before then, I was the kid who was never intimidated by the teacher’s threats of, ‘you will have to write a report’. That was easy. Math is difficult. Math is still difficult. If you want me to confess my background like a resume, there’s about twenty writing awards. A good bit of them are from the national Scholastic Art and Writing Awards… and most of those stories do appear in my first short story collection Goldlust. I also have a blog

2. What genre do you write in?

I tell people I write pulp. Pulp isn’t so much a specific genre as it is an attitude or a style. People tend to think of it as just detective stories – and that’s part of it, but during the 1930s, 1940s, and into the 1950s it was actually a class of literature. The moniker 'pulp' came about because the titles were printed on cheap paper made from tree pulp. It was slightly above comic books, which at that time were considered foolish and only for children, and definitely far below literature. Pulp encompassed action adventure stories, science fiction, sword and sorcery, fantasy and westerns, as well as detective stories and… the last hold over… the cheesy romance novels you find in grocery stores. That’s considered women’s pulp, now renamed ‘chick lit’. I don’t write that. Ever. I would bore myself to death.

3. What drew you to the pulps?

I started reading Raymond Chandler in fifth grade. While my peers were reading the Harry Potter series – I was reading The Big Sleep and Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Both are listed as a post college reading levels – which destroys a common belief among people that pulps are lower class, predictable and not to be enjoyed and consumed by anyone with an iota of intelligence.

It was actually the women of the pulps which pulled me in. Growing up I was the ‘good girl’ – which is incredibly boring. The wisecracking private eye Phil Marlowe said all the things I couldn’t say, and the women did all the things I couldn’t do. Vivian Sternwood from The Big Sleep is a favorite character of mine. She knows men, she knows how to work with them, and control them using the resources at hand, her money, wits, and looks, yet will work tirelessly to protect her father and her younger sister. She’s flawed and as tough as any of the dystopian fiction heroines we see today. She was also less noble, and a perfect foil for leading smart-mouthed narrator, Phil Marlowe. And I’m also a sucker for a snazzy and sassy turn of phrase coupled with an image which makes me chuckle. You’ll see some of that in my work.

4. You mentioned the 1940s – you are an active World War II reenactor. Does that play a role in your genre and subject matter? What came first?

I’ve always been a history nerd, and it wasn’t long after I started writing in historical time periods that I realized I needed to live my characters in order to understand them. That’s not to say that I get into barfights on a regular basis – but I do learn the experiences of my characters as much as possible… including a trench warfare night battle against the Germans on the Eastern Front, the perils of the French Resistance, and the surprise of rolling over in your 1940s shelter half (a two man tent) and whacking your eyeball on the tent pole.

The writing came first. The reenacting started as research. I had a character who needed paperwork and because it was German identification papers, I couldn’t call them passports. The internet frequently fails me in matters such as this, so I had to go talk to some people. Eventually I fell in with the US 36th Infantry Division, or the Lost Battalion, a unit who’s history I may end up writing about in the future. I’m their representation of the females of the French Resistance, since, unlike the Russians, during the 1940s women were not in the American infantry and generally not on the front lines. Although some of them did have combat roles in the Army Air Corp, nursing and in the Press Corp.

An the best stories come from real life. At a living history event this past year, we had the honor of meeting one of the veterans who had served beside the 36th and actually was part of the unit who rescued the 36th Infantry in the forests of France. He told me, “We had a man from the French Resistance named Jacques, who lead us through the forest. Without him, and the people like you (portray), we could not have rescued the 36th Infantry.”

You can read the full story on my blog here.

And you can also follow us on Facebook.

My Facebook author page is also full of reenacting events, military history, author updates, and my blog, which is updated every Monday morning. Its more active during the summer months because of reenacting events – but there are plenty of photographs to look over and see what kind of historical events and adventures I’ve had.

I’ve also enjoyed portraying Russian infantry, where women served on the front lines, in all aspects of the Russian military. Red Trouble, which I hope to have published in the coming weeks features one of these women. Here’s a sample without too many spoilers

5. Back to Goldlust, your short story collection… what is its genesis?

Goldlust is a short story collection. It began in a dry spell of writing with the goal of me seeing what I could put together. My goal this past year was to get published. Goldlust is the fruit of that project. It’s a collection of twenty award-winning stories – and some new ones too. They span the genre gamut – I’ve got science fiction, fantasy, action adventure, dystopia, humor, sword and sorcery, a tad of romance, a western, cop stories, military fiction, and spies.

6. Some of Goldlust’s stories appear to have a nebulous ending. Are you going to expand these stories at any time?

I hope to. There are several characters whom I love dearly, and multiple worlds which I would like to revisit, the dystopia of Armageddon's Grace and The Pursuit Cycle are two of them. Also, if I can, without giving away too many spoilers, you will be seeing more of the 1930s German scientists at the end of the opening action adventure story, Goldlust. The black blood from Remember Me is significant as well. The Angel of Death will return and arms dealer Mason Jaymes from Storms of Life has a habit of walking into loaded situations with that dashing brazen charisma and those stunning bright blue eyes saying, “Honey, you need me.”

7. You’ve mentioned Red Trouble, and Goldlust, which is available through Amazon.com. Have you any other works in the hopper that we should look forward to?
Yes. I am an author who never rests. Writing is like breathing. After Red Trouble my next project is a novel titled, The Mist Walker. – We’ll start with calling it a novel because in the seven years I’ve been working on it, it’s spiraled into more adventures than I can handle. The Mist Walker is a modern thriller mixed with dark fantasy and international intrigue. It features a detective narrator working with an international terrorism investigation team facing a serial killer who’s straight out of ancient legend. There are also World War II connections, ancient curses, a high body count, lots of gunfire and plenty of suspicious characters. Its like Indiana Jones with the cynical voice of Raymond Chandler meets Xena in the world of Tom Clancy.

I hope to have The Mist Walker edited and published this summer.

Goldlust in paperback can be purchased here.

Goldlust for Kindle can be purchased here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My New WIP: The Inugami



Taking place concurrently with the events in The Shrine War, The Inugami is a tale of a young Japanese woman who rents an old house on the outskirts of Tokyo to discover her new home is already occupied.

An Inugami ("dog god") is a familiar for Japanese sorcerers and was created from a living dog in a process so abhorrent I will not post the process here and I only refer to it obliquely in the stories.

Don't hold your breath for this tale of Japanese yokai. This is my busiest time of the year and I suspect this short story will take a little while to wrap up.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Loewen Vaguebook List of Immediate Attention Grabbers


If I was to list just one major irritation with Facebook, it is what is called “vague-booking,” making a post that is so ambiguous, you know the person who posted it just wants to get attention.

Well, as has been stated before, if you need that much attention, better to get a dog, but I thought to myself, “Hey! Why fight it?”

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Loewen Vaguebook List of Immediate Attention Grabbers. Just post one of these suckers and you’ll get hundreds of “Wait…what?!?!” from friends, family, as well as unfriended from sudden enemies. Seriously. Give one of them a try today.
  • So here I am in the ER…again. Stupid toothbrush.
  • So is anybody missing a head?
  • Whiskey, melted wax, and my dog make an awful combination.
  • The job is done, but there’s blood everywhere.
  • Some of you sleep in funny positions.
  • I think a restraining order is just a piece of paper.
  • The family doctor has banned me from his office.
  • Well, I’m unemployed…again. Stupid toothbrush.
  • I never knew you could do that with 50 feet of plastic tubing!
  • When you’re motivated you can dig a 6-foot deep hole real quick!
  • Well, I just learned there are some things you just can’t microwave.
  • Google can’t tell me how to conceal a prehensile tail.
  • I wonder what I do during my blackouts?
Do remember this is a humor piece. In other words, DON'T ACTUALLY DO THIS.

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.

(sigh)

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
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
(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.

Sheila: A Morality Tale

 I share this tale with some trepidation as it was originally intended for a very small group of people who would understand the milieu of the tale. Allow me to elucidate.

Written many years ago, Sheila: A Morality Tale takes place in a parallel universe where sentience developed among humans and various species of animals. Much like Zootopia they live together basically in harmony and all the tales I wrote about this universe center around a watering hole called The Unicorn & Gryphon Pub, probably the only bar in the world that sports busts of St. Francis and St. Patrick above the door.

So if you can handle Sheila being an anthropomorphic goat, please enjoy this little tale of hamfisted morality that is quite suitable for this Halloween season.


Sheila: A Morality Tale
A Tale From The Universe The Next Door Over
by Alan Loewen
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
--Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Sheila hit the play button on the CD and smiled as the guitars ground out the familiar intro. She smiled at her reflection in the mirror, humming along with the ZZ Top tune that she adopted as her personal theme song.

Her hands smoothed her black, velvet dress along her perfect hourglass figure, the high hem showing legs that would have made Venus kill.

She's got legs, she knows how to use them. She never begs, she knows how to choose them.

A caprine face looked back at her from the mirror framed by a long, lush mane of glistening brown hair. Her archetype and face corresponded with a Toggenburg goat, but her figure would be recognized in any dimension as female. And as far as Sheila was concerned, her figure was prime regardless of her original derivation.

She's my baby, she's my baby, yeah, it's alright. She's got hair down to her fanny.

The phone rang and she let it go unanswered as she continued to primp in the mirror.

She's got a dime all of the time, stays out at night movin' through time.

On the fourth ring, her answering machine picked up. “Sheila? It’s Jackson. Why don’t you return my calls? Can we talk?”

Sheila smirked and let the poor slob talk himself out. Jackson had proposed two nights ago and that always signaled the end of the game and time to move on to another playing field. She paused before the mirror in thought. She had never tried dating a canine before. Maybe she could hang another different type of heart from her hemline.

She checked herself out in the mirror one more time and smiled at perfection.

Oh, I want her, said, I got to have her, the girl is alright, she's alright.

Her archetype may have been that of a vegetarian, but all her victims knew Sheila as something else. Sheila was a real man killer.

***

The Unicorn and Gryphon Pub sat on a lonely street and Sheila had hunted there before. She didn’t like to go to places where she might bump into old boyfriends with a grudge, but it had been over a year since she had hung out at the U&G. Surely, old boyfriends had moved on by now.

She walked into the brightly lit establishment secretly pleased by all the heads that turned and looked at her. Take a good look, boys, she thought to herself. It don’t come cheap.

Sheila mentally took note of the male population. Yes, this would be a good hunting ground.

She walked over to the bar and got her first disappointment of the evening. Sheila had forgot about the bartender and evidently he hadn’t forgotten about her.

His archetype was human; not that common, but not that rare. He walked over to her while she took a seat at the bar.

“Hey, Sheila,” he said as he set up a glass. “It’s been awhile. Brandy Alexander, right?”

“You’ve got a good memory ...” she paused forgetting the name.

“Friends call me the Horse. Inside joke.”

“Well, barkeep, you’ve got a good memory.”

The bartender smiled at the obvious affront. “Yes, I do. I also remember you dated Franklin for awhile.”

Sheila paused in an exaggerated pose of thought. “Franklin? Franklin? I don't seem to remember him. There are just so many men.”

Heavy poured brandy and coffee liqueur into a shaker followed by two scoops of rich vanilla ice cream. “He probably doesn’t remember you either. We hosted his wedding reception just two weeks ago. He married a beautiful girl.”

“That’s nice,” Sheila said absently, “but all the men here aren’t married.”

Heavy shook the tumbler, gave it an artistic twirl in the air and with a deft move, unscrewed the lid and poured the creamy contents into her glass.

“One Brandy Alexander, ma’am.”

Sheila sipped the concoction with a smile. “I will say this, barkeep. Nobody in town makes a better Brandy Alexander.” She looked up at him, a warm smile on her face. “Why don’t I just come over to your place tonight and you can teach me how to make these?”

The barkeep smiled in return. “I don't think my wife and three kids would appreciate that.”

“Well, you could come over ..”

The bartender stopped her with a wave of his hand. “I’m happily married. End of story.”

“That‘s not true for every married man.”

The barkeep chewed his lower lip in frustration. “You know, a bartender today is the same as a professional counselor. Let me give you some free advice.” He ignored Sheila’s exaggerated sigh of boredom. “You see that bust over the door? That’s Saint Francis of Assisi. Know anything about him?”

Sheila looked up at the marble bust above the door. Next to it sat a similar bust of Saint Patrick. “Do you take up an offering with the sermon?” she asked.

“Sheila, all I’m saying is that you can’t be a happy person and you ought to ask yourself what those men had that made them happy in their circumstances. There are men and women here of all different species that would like to be your friend. Just a friend.”

Sheila laughed in contempt. “I don’t want friends. I don’t need friends. Every female here is only competition. Every male here is simply prey.”

The Horse’s response was interrupted by a tiger dressed as a chauffeur. “Forgive me, madam,” he said to Sheila with a small bow. “My employer wishes to speak with you.” He handed her a note written on cream-colored bond.

Sheila opened the note and read the elegant script. A smile came to her face.

She turned to the tiger. “Please tell your employer that I will be delighted to make his acquaintance.” The tiger nodded mechanically and walked away toward the front door of the pub.

“It seems,” she told the bartender, “that a wealthy man is waiting for me outside in his limo wanting to meet me.”

The barkeep looked worried. “Sheila, maybe ...”

Sheila put up her hand. “I’ve already listened to your sermon and I don‘t need another. Anyway, I know what you’re going to say about danger and that I‘m a defenseless little girl.” She threw a bill on the bar to pay for the drink. “Anyway, do you really think a serial killer is going to ride around town in a limousine and have his chauffeur deliver his love letters?” She smiled at the bartender’s increasing frown. “It’s show time,” she said.

Sheila put her hair in place with a toss and walked toward the front door. Old men in limos meant old money and Sheila liked money. She especially liked old males with old money because old males normally didn’t live long.

Sheila caught her reflection in the glass of the front door as she opened it. Her caprine face looked back at her, perfect in balance and beauty. Oh, Sheila, she thought. You’ve entered the big time and tonight you’ll collect a heart that will top all your other trophies.

The white stretch limo sat alongside the far curb. The tiger stood beside the back door, holding it for her.

Though dark inside the vehicle, Sheila could dimly see two extended leather seats facing each other.

“Welcome, my dear,” said a rich, cultured voice near the front of the limo. “I’m honored you would meet with so old a man. Please join me.”

Sheila saw only a dim silhouette, but the cultured voice and the atmosphere of money put all fears to rest.

Gracefully, she entered the car and sat facing the figure. The tiger gently shut the door with a faint click. “I’m glad to meet a man of such obvious taste and culture,” she said. “Could we have a little light so we can see each other better?”

“Of course. Forgive me,” the figure responded. “Men of my status have an inadvertent tendency to be rude sometimes.”

Sheila heard the car’s engine turn over and felt it begin to pull away from the curb.

In front of her the silhouette leaned over and flicked a switch and a dim white light illuminated the car’s interior.

Sheila screamed once and dove for the door, but there were no interior handles.

“Yes, I can imagine it’s a shock to see me,” the cultured voice said. “We chupacabras are so rare that very few people even remember us. I‘m even honored that you recognize what I am.”

Crying in terror, Sheila backed away from the reptilian figure, its eyes reflecting back the dim light like green fire.

“I even wonder,” it continued, “if I may actually be the only chupacabra left, but it’s okay. There are so many goats...so many pretty, little goats to keep me occupied.”

Sheila spun around in her seat, screaming. Panicked, she ineffectively beat at the rear window.

“I don't think we need the interior light anymore, do you?” the cultured voice asked. With a click, the interior of the vehicle’s cabin was plunged into darkness.

Wailing, Sheila watched the lights of the Unicorn and Gryphon Pub recede into the night.

“So pretty,” the voice said behind her. Strong, taloned claws wrapped themselves around her slender waist and inexorably pulled her back.

“So pretty,” the voice whispered in her ear as Sheila struggled helplessly. Another clawed paw wrapped itself around her neck while another gripped a thigh.

“So pretty,” it repeated as four muscular arms held her in a powerful embrace.

“I could just eat you up.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I Write Like Agatha Christie?



I can live with this. Christie's short novel, Hallowe'en Party (1969), had a huge impact on me, and though a murder mystery, it had faint fantasy references mixed with a body count and hints of dark romance. A very interesting analysis. I used The Shrine War as my test sample.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

One Of My Prized Chinese Coins


One of the few coins in my collection I am very certain of is this fine example of a 10 cash chong ning zhong bao (崇宁宝) minted during the Northern Song Dynasty during the reign of Emperor Hui Zong (1101-1125). This coin was minted sometime between 1102-1106 AD and are plentiful and exist in many varieties. Nevertheless, the coins cast during Emperor Hui Zong's reign are considered among the very best produced during the Song Dynasty in terms of their quality, artistic essence and calligraphy.

Emperor Hui Zong was an impressive artist and calligrapher but not a very good administrator. His decisions resulted in the downfall of the Northern Song through defeat by the Jin. His calligraphy is quite distinctive and is known as "slender gold" script (shou jin shu 瘦金书) because the characters resemble twisted gold filaments. However, the coin pictured above is written in the Li script. This is actually a very common coin and beautiful specimens can be purchased for a very low price.

Unfortunately, these "10 cash" coins were not worth their stated value. There is a humorous story dating from this period that illustrates the hardship caused by the lack of 1 cash coins. The story relates that a patron bought a bowl of soup and paid for it with a "10 cash" coin. The soup seller did not have any small change and so encouraged the customer to eat more and more soup. The customer continued to eat but finally sighed and said, "It is fortunate that my coin is only a “10 cash.” If it had been a “100 cash” it would have killed me!"

These 10 cash coins were so overvalued that they were eventually devalued until they were worth the equivalent of 3 cash coins.

As a writer of fantasy, I enjoy holding coins like this allowing my mind to wander over the years and ponder the people who have held this coin, the lives that they led, the untold stories that now moulder in unmarked graves.

In a separate conversation, I was discussing my love for ancient Chinese coins and one commentator remarked, "Geekery is geekery no matter what the flavor is." My response:
And the flavor of mine is the romance of ancient bronze. When I hold one of these ancient coins and ponder the hands that have held them and the history they have passed through, I would offer years of my life for the gift of psychometry.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Another Question for Numismatists with Experience in Chinese Coins




This coin amulet is purported to be from the Jiaqing Emperor aka Emperor Jen Tsung or Chai-Ch'ing (13 November 1760 – 2 September 1820) who was the seventh emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, and the fifth Qing emperor to rule over China from 1796 to 1820.

The seller informed me that this object was not meant to be used as a coin, but as an amulet or charm to increase one's luck, especially financial.

Again, I would be grateful for any information that could shed more light on this coin, probably from the early 19th century. The writing is said to be in the Manchu style. If you can shed any light on this, please shoot me an email at magic.by.alan AT gmail DOT com.

Please be aware that until I can talk to an expert, some or all of this information may be incorrect. Also, the orientations of the coin may be incorrect as well.

Halloween Gift #4 - The Rotwang Convention For Mad Scientists


From: mad_scientist@dmail.com
Subject: Attending the Rotwang Convention for Mad Scientists
Date: May 5, 2012 9:05:42 AM EDT
To: The_Col@loc.org

My dear Colleen, I have just received the most delightful news! It appears that the events in my first foray into mad science in creating a race of sentient feline secretaries, were not in vain!

I’m delighted to report that I have received a personal invitation from the Rotwang Convention for Mad Scientists. Named after C. A. Rotwang who was made famous in Fritz Lang’s 1927 science fiction film Metropolis, the convention attracts mad scientists from around the world to compete for the famed Rotwang Award!

True fame has reared its lovely head. I shall keep you fully informed of my journey toward scientific immortality!

--
Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

From: mad_scientist@dmail.com
Subject: The Rotwang Convention, Day 1
Date: May 8, 2012 10:55:42 PM EDT
To: The_Col@loc.org

I arrived via steam railroad and made my way to the fin de siècle hotel where mad scientists were already gathered setting up their displays to compete for the coveted Rotwang Award. The hotel was already filled with grinning men in stained lab coats with frizzed out hair and escorted by creations and abominations of their own making.

I confess I had my own aspirations and I kept my wheeled satchel close to me with my own pet project carefully wrapped to keep it from being damaged.

After meeting my three roommates and promising we would not use each other as unwilling participants in our experiments, we went down for opening ceremonies.

There, special speaker Joseph Biden gave us an encouraging talk on how to take over a world leader with a brain transplant and it was a rousing speech filled with drama, cackling mad laughter, and screams of "And they call me MAD!"

Later we went down to for brunch where the usual verbal assaults broke out over the unending discussion of whether the ultimate goal of a mad scientist is to turn a beautiful woman into a gorilla or turn a gorilla into a beautiful woman. Personally, I avoid the entire conflict as the whole purpose of my life is simply to find new and novel ways to blow up chickens.

The Dealers' Room then opened and I snagged myself some good deals on Jacob's Ladders and some brains in old glass jars. I almost got a secretary, but as she grunted a lot, scratched at imaginary fleas, and insisted on being paid in bananas I thought it better to pass. She sure was pretty though.

Of course, I had to pass on a lot of panels to get the good deals, but through the afternoon, I attended the Does Your Assistant Have To Have A Prerequisite Hump? and Bad Monster! Bad Monster! or The Shame Of Premature Rampage.

Afterward, we all sat around playing Bridge and Cribbage because even mad scientists need to let their hair down. For those really wanting to party, I could have gone to the dance where mad scientists cavort with each others creations, but the event has a high body count.

--
Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

From: mad_scientist@dmail.com
Subject: The Rotwang Convention, Day 2
Date: May 9, 2012 6:05:42 AM EDT
To: The_Col@loc.org

The next morning after breakfast we discovered some mad scientist, in order to get a jump on the day's competition and impress the judges, had spiked the coffee with his Gender Bender formula.

We took the offender, fed him his own formula, and then turned him into a gorilla.

Fortunately, it all wore off which was good because belting out a mad cackle and screaming, "It's alive! It's alive! I now know what it feels like to be a god!" doesn't have the same impact when you're a pretty, blue-eyed blonde.

Then the contest started in earnest and it was the best year I have ever seen: inter-dimensional gates large enough to swallow whole cities, tentacled horrors that started out as puppies, rampaging robots with great gas mileage. It was incredible!

Then it was my turn.

With my heart in my throat, I wheeled my satchel onto the stage, opened it, and took out a chicken. Carefully placing it on the table with a handful of grain to keep it occupied, I then took out my life's work, a small pistol that looks like a toy from a local dollar store.

I took careful aim, pulled the trigger, and in a flash, the stage was covered with feathers and gore.

The crowd went wild and I could taste victory. The Rotwang was surely mine!

"Awesome," one of the judges said. "How many people can you target at once."

"Well, sir," I said. "It targets a total of one chicken at a time."

"And people?"

The auditorium went silent. "I'm sorry. It only blows up chickens."

The award went to a scientist who came up with a mutated abomination that could belch The Star Spangled Banner.

We all agreed that was certainly mad.

--
Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

From: mad_scientist@dmail.com
Subject: The Rotwang Convention, Day 3
Date: May 10, 2012 9:05:42 AM EDT
To: The_Col@loc.org

There was no Sunday.

The hotel accidentally double-booked our con with the Dark Mages Con and very few of us have survived to tell the tale of the scheduling disagreement.

But it was still a great convention and I'm going back next year with a bigger and better chicken!

--
Dr. C. Loewen




(Title graphic is in the public domain)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Halloween Gift #3 - Pepsi



From: mad_scientist@dmail.com
Subject: Building A Better Mousetrap, Day 1
Date: May 5, 2007 9:05:42 AM EDT
To: The_Col@loc.org

When I sent you the message concerning the Warner Brothers animated film Cats Don't Dance, I made an allusion to the benefits of having a sentient, anthropomorphic feline as a secretary. The more I thought about it, the more certain of my belief I'm sitting on a veritable gold mine. Take a little money, time, study, and research and … viola! … the end result is lots of little kitty secretaries for which the world would beat a path to my door. Surely a better mousetrap in more ways than one!

With that goal in mind, this morning I mailed my letter of resignation to my employer, went to a yard sale, and bought a used chemistry set, a used microscope and a gene splicer (Okay, it's really a roll of Scotch tape, but if I cut it very, very, very thin, I'm sure I can splice some genes with it). The SPCA refused to give me a cat so I then went to a local farmer who sold me a chicken.

I know it's not a cat, but I'm not discouraged. I'm certain I've read that all the great scientists who made breakthrough discoveries started out with chickens … Einstein, Edison, Madame Curie, Booker T. Washington, da Vinci.

I will keep you informed as to my progress as I continue toward my goal of creating the world's first sentient, anthropomorphic cat. Mark this date well. I am sure to go down in history!!!!

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

--
Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

From: mad_scientist@dmail.com
Subject: Building A Better Mousetrap, Day 2
Date: May 6, 2007 10:55:42 PM EDT
To: The_Col@loc.org

Okay.

The chicken blew up.

I'm really not all that discouraged because Wikipedia tells me most famous scientists had their chickens blow up the first few times around. In fact, I discovered that Edison blew up over 100 chickens before he realized they made poor light bulbs.

And how many chickens did Booker T. Washington bury before he finally discovered peanuts?

Anyway, my laboratory is covered with chicken feathers and I must go do some cleanup. Well, my laboratory is really my coat closet 'cause my wife won't let me work anywhere else, but, MARK THIS DAY! Someday, when my kitty secretaries are making coffee and taking dictation, you will be GLAD you knew me in these early halcyon days of my genius.

I would close by laughing fiendishly, but I discovered that I'm allergic to chicken feathers and I'm stuck on a coughing jag.

--
Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

From: mad_scientist@dmail.com
Subject: Building A Better Mousetrap, Day 3
Date: May 7, 2007 6:05:42 AM EDT
To: The_Col@loc.org

After the chicken debacle, I decided to follow the literary example of Mary Wallstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein and procure another subject more suitable for my experiments.

Therefore, last night, under the light of a crescent moon rising in the east with clouds of heat lightning illuminating the west, I snuck into the local pet cemetery and desecrated the grave of Piffles … Beloved Pet.

Hurrying home with my ill-gotten volunteer, I prepared to make history!

I remember it so clearly. The Jacob's Ladders were arcing, the gyros were gyrating, Tesla coils were spitting out spikes of electricity, filling the air with the odor of ozone and casting dancing shadows on the coat closet walls (none of them actually do anything, but I do have a flair for the dramatic). As the lightning storm intensified I pulled the lever that opened the roof and turned the great crank that lifted the bed that bore the cold lifeless corpse of Piffles … Beloved Pet into the sky amidst the gusting winds, the lashing rain, and the bolts of lightning.

Suddenly, the laboratory rocked as massive bolts of energy each bearing millions of watts of electricity slammed into the bed, each bolt hotter than the surface of the sun. The thunder cracked windows and was matched only by my howls of mad laughter as I watched bolt after bolt surge through my machinery and the body of Piffles … Beloved Pet which lay so high above my head.

Within moments I was turning the crank to lower my creation back into the laboratory.

Sadly, Shelley was wrong. Lightning does not bring deceased matter back to life. In reality it deep fries it to a crisp crackly crunch. I went and reburied Piffles … Beloved Pet.

However, as I was tamping the last spadeful of earth back onto the grave, a little white kitten came out of nowhere and began caressing my ankles and purring. With a shout of triumph, I swooped her up to discover I had obtained a little white spitfire.

The doctor in the ER said that with therapy I might get full use of my left hand back someday.

Nonetheless, I have my cat. I will keep you fully informed as to my progress as I make my way toward becoming a millionaire. MARK THIS DAY! Someday, you will be glad to say, "I knew Craig before his Nobel Prize."

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!, etc.

--
Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

From: mad_scientist@dmail.com
Subject: Building A Better Mousetrap, Day 4
Date: May 8, 2007 9:05:42 AM EDT
To: The_Col@loc.org

Before my progress report, I feel compelled to respond to your previous message sent to me on May 8, 2007 5:19:19 AM EDT:
Craig, Exploding chickens? Have you thought of the weapons potential of this? Smuggle a chicken in and use it to attack people or destroy military defenses or annoy your friends! If the weapon thing bothers you, think of this as a great party gag. Remember, some of the best research was stumbled upon and I say you stumble with the best of them. -- The Col.
My dear, I must say that it appears you are not taking my research seriously. My goal to create a sentient race of feline secretaries goes far beyond military uses or party gags. I search for a higher, nobler purpose which shall someday place my visage on Mount Rushmore as well as make me rich beyond my wildest dreams (and my dreams can be quite wild!). Of course, I'm being all very humble about this and what not. But I digress …

You can imagine my delight when I discovered in the Ladies Home Journal an article listing a mail-order source for carrier viruses for genetic research ("Cooking With Vegetables You Mutate Yourself!" April 2007, pp 125-128). A quick phone call and 24-hours later I was growing carrier viruses loaded with a heady blend of Homo sapien and Felis catus DNA.

As I victoriously carried the Petri dishes from the growing chamber to the work station, I sadly broke one of the samples, the glass deeply cutting my thumb. It appears the tragic accident is one of those good news-bad news type of events. The good news is that I'm no longer bald. The bad news is that my hair color has changed from red to a sort of calico.

Nonetheless, I will not let a minor set back dissuade me. You’ve seen pictures of Albert Einstein and how his hair suffered from his experiments with relativity.

The DNA has been doing its work quite rapidly in my little white kitten friend. I have seen signs of expanding intelligence which I am cultivating by showing video tapes of Sesame Street and other assorted PBS shows played at the fastest speed possible. Her first exposure to a word processing program resulted in her first typewritten missive:

"I kill Big Bird."

I would write more, but tears of joy have made the screen blur and my mascara run. MARK THIS DAY! Someday, you will say, "I knew Craig before his face was carved on Mount Everest!"

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

--
Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

From: mad_scientist@dmail.com
Subject: Building A Better Mousetrap, Day 5
Date: May 9, 2007 9:32:42 AM EDT
To: The_Col@loc.org
On May 9, 2007 5:22:32 AM EDT, you wrote:
Craig, I have a question: is the little white cat blue-eyed? Doesn't that mean its deaf? Won't a deaf secretary be a bit of a problem. How will it take dictation? Answer phones? Yell at annoying servicemen (repair type, not military type)? -- The Col.
My dear, dispel all your worries since Pepsi, whom I have named after the sustaining beverage that has carried me through these many days, has developed into an exquisitely-formed, five foot, two inch tall, green-eyed, anthropomorphic feline beauty. The only difficulty is that I got her at the start of her shedding season and, as you're a cat owner and know how cats shed, you can imagine what a five foot, two inch tall cat can do. My house looks like an explosion in an albino mink fur factory.

Mounds of fur aside, I've clocked Pepsi at ninety-five words a minute on a Dvorak key board, but, sadly, she has inherited a tad too much of the feline nature. When she doesn't feel like working she says things like, "Bugger off!" or "Want me to claw your eyes out?" Several times when I asked her to do something for me, I found the task left undone while she read Garfield cartoons from the paper. Most unprofessional, if you ask me.

She also ate the computer mouse.

And it may be just my imagination, but I think my stash of catnip tea is disappearing too.

I may have seen success as a tad premature, but I shall endeavor to keep you posted on my slow, but determined march toward fame and financial success.

Ha, etc.

--
Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

From: mad_scientist@dmail.com
Subject: Building A Better Mousetrap, Day 6
Date: May 10, 2007 3:31:42 PM EDT
To: The_Col@loc.org

It appears the experiment has fizzled. Pepsi has left me and ran off to join a traveling veterinary convention as an exotic dancer.

You may say it's sour grapes, but I'm relieved the experiment ended this way. She was costing me a bundle in kitty litter and all last night she kept us awake working on a hairball.

I've given up on sentient feline secretaries. Fortunately, my letter of resignation to my employer returned due to insufficient postage, so I still have my day job.

Now I'm working on another idea—sentient food. This would give lonely people something to talk to when they eat at McDonald's.

The farmer has agreed to sell me another chicken tomorrow.

Love,

--
Craig





(Title graphic is labeled for noncommercial use with modification. Owner of the graphic is unclear, but may be located here.)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Halloween Gift #2 - Kill Your Darlings


Sitting in the window of my favorite coffee shop, I watched Reggie coax his battered Dodge Van into a parking slot. I glanced at my watch and knew something was wrong. Not only was my eccentric friend on time, he was actually a few minutes early. When he eased his bulk out of the van and started looking about, I assumed he forgot that I told him I would meet him inside the cafe.

He finally saw me waving through the window, and he waved back, yet as he walked to the entrance, he still looked about with a look that bordered on fear.

Inside, he shed his coat, and squeezed himself into the seat across from me.

“Skittish, aren’t you?” I asked as he motioned for the waitress.

“Fred, you are not going to believe what I think is happening to me. It’s … it’s incredible and I want you to tell me I’m just losing my mind.”

“Okay. You’re just losing your mind.”

“Don’t make me laugh,” he said, anger flashing in his eyes.“I think I’m in some serious kim chi.”

“Okay,” I said. “Spill.”

“First let me order something. I’m starved.”

He called the waitress over and ordered breakfast suitable for three men.

“Eating light today,” I said.

“Stress puts me off my feed,” he replied. “This has me all worked up.”

I boded my time as the waitress put a little coffee in Reggie’s cup of milk and sugar and wandered away. After taking a large gulp and a good amount of it joining the other stains on his shirt, he wiped his chin on the back of his hand and sighed. “Well, Fred,” he said, “remember that pile of stories I wrote for my humor anthology?”

I nodded.

“Did you read the one I wrote about the three girls attaining magical powers?”

I rolled my eyes. “Unfortunately. That washow can I put this kindly?sophomoric.”

“Well. Here’s the killer. Do you remember the last line of the story?”

I shook my head in the negative.

“Well, I do. I got the blasted thing memorized. I quote: ‘And when I get my hands on the clown who plotted this,’ Priscilla said through clenched teeth, ‘he'll wish he had never been born.’”

“Oh, yeah. I remember something like that.”

Reggie looked around nervously. “Fred, I didn’t write that. The last line I wrote was one of the girls making a crack about their new cheerleading routine.”

“Well … maybe you don’t remember writing that last line or maybe the editor thought she could improve on the story. I don’t know.”

Reggie shook his head. “Neither of them are true. And last night, I got an e-mail.” He reached into his pocket and unfolded a piece of paper and gave it to me. It was a computer printout and other than the typical header which said it was from a Priscilla Waverley, the message itself contained only on line. ‘A good writer kills his darlings. Maybe it’s time for the tables to be turned.’

“It’s a tasteless practical joke,” I said.

Reggie laughed, a high pitched nervous cackle. “Oh, but you see, I’m not a noob when it comes to computers. I know how to find the source of an email from its header.” He blinked at me owlishly through his thick glasses. “Fred, it comes from no known domain.”

I laughed in spite of myself. “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie, do you hear yourself? Do you hear what you are saying? You’re trying to get me to believe this e-mail came from a character in one of those silly stories you wrote!”

Reggie leaned in closer. “Fred, you gotta listen to me. Do you remember the super power I gave Priscilla Waverly in the story? I gave her the power to manipulate earth. Now you can ask my wife, but last night Emilia and I woke up to what felt like an earthquake.”

“It was an overloaded eighteen-wheeler driving by your house,” I said in growing impatience.

Then the waitress brought Reggie’s breakfast and our conversation was interrupted by my friend’s frontal assault on three Breakfast Specials. I nursed my coffee and kept silent while he ate. I learned early that getting Reggie to eat and talk at the same time was a guaranteed path to post-traumatic stress disorder.

In ten minutes he shoved his plates aside and hugged his refilled coffee cup like a beloved pet.

“So,” I asked, “what do you want me to do.”

Reggie shook his head. “I think I’m going to need some real help. If I find more evidence like this, you’ll help me right?”

I nodded. “Of course, but I’m telling you that you’re letting your imagination run away with you.. You need to relax. Go write a romance or something.” Reggie sneered and left. Three minutes later I realized he had stiffed me with the bill and the tip.

The next day was Sunday and that afternoon, I had just sat down to watch the latest Dr. Who bootlegs when the phone rang.

“I don’t know who this is and I’m not happy,” I said into the mouthpiece, when I was interrupted by Reggie’s high-pitched wheedle.

“Fred! Fred!” came the tinny voice over the phone, “You gotta help me! Please! Turn on the TV. Go to Channel 8!”

“Hold on,” I said. I found the remote I was sitting on and flipped the channels. A smartly dressed woman stood informing the viewers an unexpected earthquake measuring three on the Richter scale had struck south-central with its epicenter just two miles south of Dillsburg.

Where my friend lived.

“Fred, please. You gotta come. I don’t know what to do.”

“Reggie,” I said into the phone. “You have got to calm down. Literary characters do not come to life. It doesn’t happen.”

I heard my friend sob on the far side of the phone. “Fred. I’m calling from inside my writer’s shed. Priscilla Waverley is standing on top of the hill right across the road. Please come and get me out of here. I don’t think she’ll kill me if there are witnesses.”

Suddenly, I heard my friend shriek and his scream was drowned out by a low growl as if some gigantic beast had reared its head. The line went dead.

In two minutes I was in my car heading to my friend’s home.

My worry increased when the traffic report on the radio told drivers to steer away from the area that contained Reggie’s address.

Twenty minutes later, after lying through my teeth to get through the roadblocks, I came around the corner and brought my car to a halt alongside the road. My jaw hung open in shock.

Reggie’s home still stood intact, but a short distance away in an old field gone to weeds and shrub, an old shack served as his writing office. Or, better to say, had served.

Surrounded by rescue vehicles with their blinking lights, the place where Reggie’s shed should have been was nothing more than a huge gaping sink hole.

I put on the four ways and stepped out of my car. It didn't take any imagination to know my friend could not have survived the earth giving way under his very feet.

Slowly, I turned around to look at the grassy hill my friend had mentioned, the one that would have been clearly visible outside of his office window.

And there she was.

After gingerly climbing over a barbed wire fence, I slowly made my way up the hill to her, carefully picking my way around the occasional cow patty.

She didn’t run. She just stared at the destruction below with a sickly grin on her face.

“Priscilla Waverley?” I asked when I got close.

She turned and looked at me in alarm. “You know me? How do you know me?”

“Reggie told me that you were threatening him.”

She laughed. A little teenage girl giggle. “I think I did more than threaten.”

“No doubt,” I said. “Mind if I ask you a question? I really have to know.”

She shrugged. “Ask away. If I don’t like the question, I’ll just have the earth open up and swallow you. Nobody’ll ever know.”

“Do you have any memories of your life say, about a year or so ago?”

She snorted in contempt. “That’s stupid, of course I …” Suddenly she paused. Her brow furrowed in intense thought and a look of worry came to her face.

“In fact,” I asked, “other than the events in the story Reggie wrote and what you’ve done to scare him, do you have any memories of any life at all?”

She looked at me then. Scared. “I know if I think hard enough …”

“You know,” I interrupted, “I find it ironic that Reggie and his wife always wanted a child and in a unique sense of the word, he actually was your father.”

“Go … go away.”

“You’re guilty of patricide. And because of a perceived slight to your pride, you killed the man that brought you into existence.”

I had her full attention now.

“Now that Reggie’s dead,” I asked, “what’ll happen to you?”

She looked back down the hill at the ruin she caused. “I don’t know. I’ll get by.”

“No,” I said. "Not so. The man who brought you to life and could have sustained you is now dead.”

She looked at me, genuine panic in her face. “But you’re talking to me! You see me!”

I smiled at her. “Who, me? I don’t believe in you.” I turned on my heel and walked back down the hill.

When I got to my car, a policeman stopped me. “Excuse me, sir. But I have to find witnesses. Did you see what happened?”

“No,” I said. “It was well over and done when I arrived.”

“Didn’t I see you up that hill there talking to somebody? Could they have been a witness?”

I looked up at the empty hillside.“My apologies, officer, but you must be mistaken. I haven’t spoken to a living soul since I got here."





(Title graphic is labeled for noncommercial use with modification. Original artwork can be found here.)