Thursday, November 16, 2017

Mrs. McGillicuddy's Home for Unwed Cats

This afternoon at a meeting I was talking about certain legalities that nonprofits have to fulfill and, speaking a mile a minute, my mind, needing a random example of a 501(c)3, came up with the name, Mrs. McGillicuddy's Home for Unwed Cats.

The name popped out of my mouth when I was comparing the Articles of Incorporation that are practically universal across the spectrum of US-based nonprofits as compared to the By-Laws that can contain information specific to the organization. 

I believe what I said in my impassioned need to communicate information was, "The Articles of Incorporation are almost universal whether the nonprofit is a church or Mrs. McGillicuddy's Home for Unwed Cats."

Oddly enough, nobody batted an eye.

Either nobody was listening or nobody is surprised anymore by whatever stream of consciousness I blurt out at random.

Nonetheless, I couldn't get the name of this odd little organization and my imagination traveled back to Victorian England...

Mrs. McGillicuddy's Home for Unwed Cats was well known in the Victorian City of Westminster coming into existence after the British government sent a military force to end the atrocities reported on the island of notorious vivisectionist Doctor Alphonse Moreau. Toward the end of his nightmarish life, Moreau worked toward creating the ultimate feline slave and thirty survivors of his experiments were taken back to England and housed by Moreau's niece in a spacious home located on Milford Lane just off the Strand.  
The feline curiosities became popular with a number of wealthy Victorian families fulfilling various roles due to their superior abilities to manage household affairs and became common fixtures of Victorian London as nannies and private secretaries even being employed by members of English royalty. However, their habit of shedding notorious amounts of fur, coughing up hair balls, their insistence on using inconveniently large litter boxes, and presenting beloved owners with gifts of dead rodents did hinder their overall popularity.

(Note: I have not been able to identify the artist who created the picture of the anthropomorphic Victorian feline even after an extensive search. Any verifiable information so credit can be given would be greatly appreciated.) 

Friday, November 10, 2017

I'm Now On Staff For World Fantasy Con 2018!


Ayup, little ol' me is on the programming staff for World Fantasy Convention 2018 where the movers and shakers of today's fantasy market rub shoulders with the hoi polloi.

Yes, I will play a small part in guiding this great ship and directing and recommending ideas for seminars and roundtables and you're probably in awe and wonder and pondering, how did Alan Loewen get such a prestigious position? Was it because of his masterful hand at writing fantasy? His encyclopedic grasp of the genre? His incredible skills in problem solving and conflict resolution? His debonair and manly gravitas?

Nah. I just begged and cried and wailed and whimpered and groveled and rent my clothing until the Program Chair got so embarrassed she gave me a bit part.

I think I'm the coffee-runner between the programming staff and Starbucks.

Nonetheless, I'm attending World Fantasy 2018 and I shall try my very, very best not to embarrass anybody.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Case Study: Counseling Transcript of Client Blanche Thibodeaux

An individual seeking advice on how to counsel his friends came to me and I gave him six main pointers. (Note: When not writing dark fantasy or odd humor, I do pastoral counseling.) He then asked for a sample transcript illuminating the six principles.

(sigh) Never, ever give me a chance to write. It doesn’t turn out well for anybody. Here is the transcript I really, really wanted to give him:


Well, Ms. Thibodeaux, I’m delighted to see you. How can I help you today?

Well, I’m somewhat embarrassed to tell you.

That’s quite all right. Many people who come to see me feel uncomfortable at first, but I assure you there is nothing you say that I have not heard before and company policy states all conversations with me are kept strictly private within the boundaries of the law. What seems to be on your mind?

Well… well, I might as well just come out and say it. I think I’m a werewolf.

Well, Blanche… may I call you Blanche? ... I agree that is a legitimate concern. Tell me what makes you suspect you have a problem with lycanthropy?

(sighs) Well, when I go to bed during the nights of the full moon, I wake up sorta weird.

Yes?

Well… my pajamas are all ripped up and wood surfaces in my house are clawed up and… well after the last full moon my beloved Piffles went missing.

Piffles?

My chinchilla.

So sorry… please go on.

And then I hacked up a hairball.

Oh, dear.

And it was the same color as Piffles

So sorry. Here’s a Kleenex. Keep the box.

And there are other situations. On my days off I like to curl up on the floor where the sunlight hits me and I’ve become really picky at what foods I like and I’ve got this overpowering urge for fish and I like to rub my cheeks on people and inanimate objects…

I understand, but let me ask…are you sure you’re dealing with being a werewolf?

What else could it be?

Let’s review the symptoms: clawed furniture, picky appetite, yet still preferring fish, curling up in sunlight…and I suspect you want to have people gently rub your ears yet at the same time you're fighting the impulse to bite them. Does that sound like a werewolf?

You mean…

Yes?

You mean I’m some type of werecat?

Well, there is an acid test.

(A half hour later)

I ALMOST CAUGHT THAT BRIGHT RED DOT!

Yes, you almost did. Maybe at our next session you’ll be more successful. Let me buzz my secretary for your next appointment.

Miss Plushbottom, please schedule Blanche Thibodeaux for her next session.

Blanche, it was a pleasure working with you. My secretary will schedule your next appointment.


Thank you so much! You’ve been a great help and comfort.

Anytime and please stop circling between my legs.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Through the Black Andes to Be Published in Odd Tales of Wonder #7



I am delighted to announce that my short story, Through the Black Andes, will be published in the seventh edition of Odd Tales of Wonder. You can also follow the magazine through its Facebook page.

Here are the opening paragraphs to Through the Black Andes:



If you take the Shippensburg-Arendtsville Road east of Cleversburg, Pennsylvania, you soon find yourself traveling up the foothills of the South Mountains. At the summit, stand the ruins of a ghost town once known as Big Flat. In its heyday this simple 19th century village boasted a population of three hundred souls, mostly of German descent, who made their living from the making of charcoal and the open pit mining of iron ore.

However, the industrial revolution moved on to other energy needs and the low-grade iron ore of South Mountain soon petered out. Slowly, Big Flat sunk into oblivion and today its ruined foundations and stone chimneys are only visited by white tail deer and those that hunt them in due season.

The town’s unique name came from the natural plateau on which it stood. Surrounding the remains of the little village you can still see the stands of oak, ash, hemlock and pitch pine that once served as fuel and protection against the harsh winter wind.

However, not too far from Big Flat on another natural plateau stood an ancient stand of white pine trees that had grown so intimate with each other that the soft, floor of the forest lay swaddled in perpetual night.

The name Black Andes was first given to this primordial stand of pine and from its first discovery, hunters and charcoal makers made every excuse to avoid the area. Birds never called out or sang there. Game avoided the area.



Monday, October 23, 2017

Eight Tales to Prepare You For All Hallows Eve


Over the years, I have written special tales for All Hallows Eve for the enjoyment of my readers. Some are humorous, some ... not so humorous. In fact, some are rather dark.

Feel free to read these at your leisure:



Child of My Desire Published In Morpheus Tales #31




I'm delighted to announce that my flash fiction piece, Child of My Desire, has just been released in the magazine, Morpheus Tales #31.

A preview of the magazine is available here and it can be downloaded in various formats here. Also, printed copies are available here and here. Below are the opening paragraphs of the story:

Dr. Abraham Winslow stopped outside the closed door to the hospital conference room and watched the man within through the small window. Joel Dekker sat at the table staring at his hands, not looking much like a best-selling author. His doughy face, heavily lidded eyes, and fat quivering lips spoke more of a man who could barely remember his alphabet. Scarlet scratches, only a few days fresh, marred his face.
Winslow rapped on the door and opened it. Dekker looked up but did not stand.

“Mr. Dekker,” the doctor said, “thank you for meeting with me.”

A flash of pain went across Dekker's face. “My daughter, is she okay?”

“There has been no change in her condition but, Mr. Dekker… a few questions have come up about Deirdre.” The doctor sat down at the table across from Dekker and opened a large file.”When your daughter did not respond to traditional medications, we did a full medical scan on her. The results are… puzzling.”

Friday, October 20, 2017

Pictures of Heaven

At the very least, they are to me...


Clementinum, Prague


Haensia Temple, Corea del Sur (And what treasures may be buried here?)



Home library: Source unknown



Home library: location unknown



Saguaro Forest VII model home



Nigella Lawson in her private library in London



Private home library: location unknown

And finally ....



































A small portion of my own literary collection.




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.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Preparing for Travellercon 2017


Because of hearing loss, I basically put an end to all conventions for 2017 except Travellercon that will take place this weekend (September 29th through October 1st) at the Lancaster Host Resort & Conference Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

I will be only attending Saturday, September 30th, but the time will be well spent, but before I share my schedule, first a description of what Traveller is:
Traveller is a science fiction role playing game created in 1977 by Marc Miller and originally published by Game Designer's Workshop. One player would represent the GM (game master) who led the rest of the players through one or more adventures. Sometimes, the game would become a campaign that would scan multiple adventures and in the late 70s, I participated in one that ran for two years led by the late James "Jay" Forrest.
The Traveller universe takes place in a specific game setting in what is known as the Official Traveller Universe where the Third Imperium, made mostly of humans, is slowly expanding into unknown territory.

Since then, Traveller has gone through 11 incarnations being picked up and dropped by several gaming companies, each having its own interpretation. I own three: Traveller, Traveller 2300, and Mongoose Traveller, 2nd edition.
My coauthor, Ken Pick, and I have created several short fictional works loosely based on Traveller, but unfortunately, many of them are currently out of print: Mask of the Ferret and Dyads, published in the anthologies Infinite Space, Infinite God, and Infinite Space, Infinite God II respectively.

On Saturday, I will be attending a lecture by Marc Miller at 1 pm and at 8 pm, Marc will be running a seminar entitled, Can You Survive Character Generation, an interesting look into creating a Traveller character that becomes your persona as you explore the universe. A unique aspect of Traveller is that while creating a character, your persona can actually die forcing you to start over again from scratch.

In the morning, I will be observing a number of GMs as they run players through their pre-scripted scenarios, but I will not be playing myself. As I said, I am slightly hearing impaired and to have one player constantly asking, "Sorry...what did you say?" can only result in irritation. Best to just observe.

Nonetheless, Travellercon is not a huge convention. If you find yourself attending, just look me up. I'd be delighted to meet up and talk.

I'm packed and ready to go!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

I Dream of a Cat at a Parisian Bistro

9/25/2017 Addendum: Due to requests, I added on some more to my little tale of a feline alien beauty meeting a detective in a Parisian cafe. Also, this post is pulling in a lot of new visitors. WELCOME! Please visit me at Amazon.com and make sure you peruse the rest of my blog!

Dreams are innately boring to anybody except the dreamer. Their symbols strike an intimate chord that resonate only with the person who has dreamed the dream. Yet, there are a number of authors who have written stories and poems based on their dreams: H. P. Lovecraft, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and others.

Two nights ago, I dreamed of meeting an anthropomorphic cat in a Parisian bistro. To simply relate the dream would have you yawning in moments, but I took the seed of my nightly excursion and ran with it.

I dream of pretty humanoid cats drinking tea. What do you dream about?



Erma Felna, by artist Steve Gallacci
Felidae
by Alan Loewen
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Just as I had instructed her over the phone, she was sitting outside Le Saint Régis on the Rue Des Barres. Her back was turned to me giving me a moment for a quick study. Regally ignoring the stares from the human diners around her, she sat, straight and elegant, drinking what I assumed would be an herbal tea. Caffeine was toxic to Felidae.

Her long blonde hair could not conceal the golden-furred tail and furred, pyramidal ears or else from the rear she could easily have been taken for a human. She wore a pale yellow sundress, somewhat loose as tight clothing is uncomfortable when your body is covered with fur. She would be, if anything, one of the more exotic specimens of Felidae, feminine with every move one of controlled grace, but I was immune to their charms. To me, she was nothing more than just an oversized cat in human form.

When the Felidae invaded on October 12, 1939, H. G. Wells’ novel, The War of the Worlds, prophesied how it would all turn out. A simple soil bacteria, one that had no effect on humanity, decimated the invading army and it was carried back by accident to their homeworld. A very few survived courtesy of a natural immunity, but with so few survivors, they traded in their weapons for lessons in diplomacy. However, by that time, they had decimated a good chunk of Europe ending the start of what was already shaping up into a rather nasty conflict.

But we humans are forgiving, especially since the Felidae opened up the universe to us. Now here in the Year of Our Lord, 1989, those war memories are far gone, especially since they rebuilt the Eiffel Tower.

As we humans played with our new technology and introduced ourselves to the cosmos, we discovered that evolution was actually not as creative as originally thought. All of the intelligent species we were introduced to were bipedal with two arms, one nose, one mouth, two eyes, and two ears. None of them looked like humans, but they all mirrored, sometimes quite loosely, animal counterparts here on earth. We had growing, stable yet feisty galactic civilizations of what could be easily referred to as Terran examples of mice, cats, dogs, raccoons, lions, and tigers and bears and others. A stroll through any of Earth's cosmopolitan centers now felt like a walk through a Beatrix Potter fever dream.

It was just the bloody rabbits you had to really beware of. Unspeakably violent, they were beaten back centuries ago by a combined effort of the major galactic empires to one solitary planet in the backwaters of the galaxy. Orbiting military hardware around that planet makes sure they stay on their dirtball.

The galaxy still had some rabbits running loose and I saw one once, chemically sedated and lobotomized and kept as a pet by one of the wealthier aliens slumming on Earth. The creature still snapped at anybody who came near it.

I angled my walk as I approached my new client as one does not approach the Felidae from the rear and our eyes locked as I drew near her table. I bowed my head slightly. “Bon après-midi, mademoiselle.”

She was walking gold. Even her slitted eyes matched the color of her fur and she had the body of a ballerina.

She held out the back of her hand and I took it in my own, bowed, and kissed it. I hate the custom, but the Felidae are proud. Her fur gave off the aroma of cinnamon, but I didn’t know if that was her natural aroma or some version of Felidae perfume.

“I speak English,” she said. Of course, with non-human lips it came out as “I thee Enthlish,” but I've hung around enough Felidae to catch their drift.

“May I sit?” I asked. She nodded. I motioned for the waiter as I took my seat and pointed to my client’s cup of chamomile tea. Serveurs on the Rue Des Barres are smart and not as arrogant as other Parisian waiters. In moments, I had my own steaming cup.

“How may I be of service?” I asked.

My new client paused for a moment, her unblinking eyes taking me in. “I need an armed escort and word in Paris is that you’re the best.”

“It is one of my many skills,” I said. “I can see why you would need an escort. I’m surprised with the way you appear you don’t have humans approaching you hourly.”

“I am beautiful,” she said with typical Felidae candor. “Even among my own people I am considered...how do you say it in English? I am exquisite.”

“And far too humble,” I said with a slight smile. As Felidae have no concept of sarcasm, I knew she’d take it as a compliment that she had not flattered herself enough. “My fee is two hundred francs a day with expenses. I include 24-hour coverage which means I also stay in your accommodations at night, separate rooms of course. When would you like me to start?”

She pointed behind me. “Immediately.”

I turned to see two large humans walking toward us, their stern faces clearly focused on my client. I sighed with annoyance. I didn’t even know my new client’s full name.

Fortunately, I had chosen the Le Saint Régis for a reason. Owned by a local boxe française club, each of the waiters are actually well-trained in savate, using the cafe as a means of employment while they studied French kickboxing, their one true love.

I motioned for our waiter and then pointed to our two unwanted visitors.

One of the thugs made eye contact with me and pulled a Filipino Balisong out of his pocket, flipping the knife open in a casual gesture meant to make me think twice about attacking him.

I waited until he was in range and other cafe customers not in any angle of danger when I threw my cup of hot chamomile tea in his face. It stunned him enough that it required no effort to trap his hand and make him drop the knife. I then spun about--not for show, but to build up kinetic energy--to drive my left elbow into his temple. He dropped to the ground.

By that time, the other thug was down, the sole of a Bolvaint Verrocchio Tassel Loafer prominently imprinted on the front of his face. The waiter threw me a thumbs up and I turned to my new client.

“We must leave, mademoiselle. It appears we have made a scene.” And, true to my words, the other customers began to react to the sudden show.

“Please relax, Mesdames et Messieurs,” I said to the crowd in my best French. “The show is over.”

My client had not reacted at all. She overlooked the scene without emotion on her feline face as if watching one of the new reality shows that were becoming all the rage. “Mademoiselle,” I said firmly, “We must go.”

“Are you not going to interrogate them?” she asked.

I grabbed her by the arm and pulled her from the chair as she hissed in indignation. “You are touching me!” she said. “How dare you!”

“They are not alone,” I said, pulling her down the street. “There is a black Renault across the street with more men. They have been watching us since I sat down.”

That quieted her down for a few precious moments as I dragged her into a hat boutique and hurriedly made my way to the back door. Ignoring the protests from both my client and the shop owner, I burst through the back storage room and into an alleyway. As the Renault was headed east on Rue Des Barres, I turned west, came out onto a side street and quickly motioned for a taxi.

With a jerk, she pulled her arm free. I opened the taxi door for her and with a prominent air of injured pride, she got into the back seat. Running around to the other side, I threw myself into the seat beside her and gave directions to the driver to my office.

“No,” the Felidae said. “I want to go to my hotel room.”

“Too dangerous,” I said. “There would be men there waiting for you.” I turned to her. “By the bye, what is your full name?”

“In English, it would be Whitestar, daughter of Eellight, First Female of the First Litter.”

“And why the interest from whoever it is trying to get to you.”

She struck a theatrical pose showing off her profile. “It is because I am beautiful.”

Well, it’s certainly not for your common sense, I thought.

She looked down and suddenly hissed under her breath. “I soiled my slipper in that filthy alley!”






(Note: The above graphic is Steve Gallachi's well known comic book character, Erma Felna. His Amazon profile and marketplace are located here.)

Friday, September 15, 2017

So Kitsune Aren't Perfect Little Angels?

For new readers:
  1. One of the myriad species of Japanese yōkai, Kitsune are Japanese foxes blessed with sentience and multiple tails. There are two types: yako who are regular red-furred field foxes and white-furred zenko that are charged with serving the goddess Inari in her shrines. In my story, they are anthropomorphic and walk on two legs.
  2. One of the myriad species of Japanese yōkai, an Inugami is a familiar for evil Daoist sorcerers created by taking a normal dog and perverting it through torture and death. In my story, they are anthropomorphic and walk on two legs.
In writing The Inugami, I have a quartet of kitsune coming to attempt to kill the titular character and I had to find a way to delay them. Now in the first installment of The Shrine War, all my kitsune shrine maidens are perfect little angels without a flaw in the bunch. In The Inugami, not so much.
Haruka hung up the phone, her claws sliding off the plastic. In the mirror of the inn’s room she stared back at herself in her fox form, ermine-colored fur showing her to be a common yako, a kitsune of no special heritage. No matter how many tails she added to her present two, she would never amount to anything when compared to a zenko, a white-furred celestial fox dedicated to serve the goddess Inari. In the mirror, she watched her two male companions, both yako as well, attempt to calm down the three-tailed Inari shrine maiden they had hired to deal with the Inugami.

The celestial had never left the Inari shrine where she served and her first foray out into the dangerous world of humanity had her discover sake for the first time. Her insistence on downing an entire bottle of the rice wine had not settled well. Fortunately, the inn was run by yōkai for yōkai so the celestial’s drunken demands for more wine resulted only in embarrassment and not in exposing their existence to humans.

“Fumiko-sama, there is no more sake in the inn,” the one male kitsune said, bowing deeply. “Please rest. We already are delayed on our urgent journey.”

Fumiko blinked her red-rimmed eyes that stood out in sharp contrast to her glowing white fur. “I tell you...,” she said, slurring her Japanese heavily. “I tell you that I now know why Inari gets offerings of sake. That is certainly wine for the kami. I tell you, I want more!” The celestial paused as her eyes suddenly grew larger. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Haruka buried her muzzled face in her paws.