Saturday, December 8, 2018

An Exercise in Insanity

Because I lack the brains the Good Lord gave a mud stump and only half the commonsense, I accepted a challenge that was posted as a meme on Facebook. The result was over 40 people asking me to write a segment that I would write to introduce them in one of my novels. 

I determined that if I wrote one to three a day, I would be finished within a month or so. I started on Saturday, December 8th. Let's see what date I ultimately write my last entry.

  • The participants are listed in alphabetical order according to their first initials.
  • I will be writing responses out of order as some people I know and others not as well. Admiitedly, for those I know well, there may be some inside jokes that may fall flat for the casual reader.
  • It's the Christmas season. I reserve the right to take my blessed time with this challenge.
Here are the participants:

A. Will

Adam had been visiting an elderly lady at the local ER, fulfilling his pastoral duties when the electromagnetic pulse hit and shoved his world back to the pre-technological 1880s. He realized he would never know if somebody detonated a nuclear device high above the earth or if the sun had belched out a massive solar flare. It made little difference. Everybody had become Amish whether they liked it or not.

Walking back to his home on a road littered with dead cars, dozens of people walked beside him, drivers stranded when the electronics in their vehicles fizzled. Adam would rather have been back at his house on the porch hammock listening to the rain while reading a good book.

However, it looked like he was going to become one of those old-fashioned circuit riders whether he liked it or not. With their electronic toys gone, people were going to need spiritual guidance now more than ever. 

B. Mowery

Mowery tilted his fedora back and shifted his legs off his desk. "Let's not bandy around the bush," he said. "You come in here wanting a private detective for a job and now you're telling me it might be illegal?"

The pretty little thing sitting across from him nodded and dabbed at her tears with a silk handkerchief.

"However," he continued, "It's not that I've danced on the wrong side of the law before, but the emphasis is dance. I don't do anything that would make me lose my license or put me behind bars."

The woman paused for a moment. "I understand," she said thoughtfully. Then, after a pause added, "So how much would you charge to teach me how to shoot a high-powered rifle with a scope?"

B. Löwen

Brendan put the head of the zombie directly in the sites of his Mosin–Nagant M1891. As he grinned and slowly squeezed the trigger he considered for the hundredth time the negative connotations of the word "apocalypse" were wildly exaggerated.

C. Pellegrino
C. Mills
C. Rebmann
C. E. Smith

C. Cahill

Reginald Lerew swore as he surveyed his ransacked library. In a panic, he rushed to the wall safe hidden by an original painting by J. W. Waterhouse. 

The safe lay open and empty except for a handwritten note.

Mr. Lerew, the note read, the 16th-century map of Atlantis from the library of Charles the First is now under the safe protection of the Library of Congress where it belongs. I would like to thank you for the momentary diversion provided by your guards, your guard dogs, and your elaborate security system, but please try to remember that the next time you steal a priceless artifact, that I will easily get it back from you. I am, after all, a librarian.

D. D. Lerew
D. G. Rhodes

D. Carr

"Magic," Dennis said, "is purported to be the manipulation of supernatural elements when in reality, true magic consists of the mundane presented with excellence. To quote Abraham Maslow, 'A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.'"

Dennis poured me a mug of his famous mead and offered it to me.

I took my first sip. "Saints preserve us!" I cried. "This stuff is extraordinary!"

Dennis smiled. "I, therefore, rest my case."

D. Pheil
D. Myhre

D. Farley

"You are best known for your three books," the interviewer said, "especially your young adult work, Bearing the Saint. I quote from one of the reviews: 'Following the character of Edmund, we get a glimpse of a real world that reads like a tale out of epic fantasy with its exotic locales, its ever-present danger and--in the latter portion of the story--political intrigue. Farley is an excellent writer and manages to describe a world long gone.'

"However," he continued, "you also write fantasy and science fiction for magazines, correct?"

Donna responded in the affirmative.

"And what," the interviewer continued, "do you enjoy writing more? Historical fiction or genre fiction?"

For a moment, Donna looked puzzled. 

"Did...did I say something wrong?" the interviewer stuttered.

Donna shook her head. "When did I ever say I wrote fiction?"

E. Hinkle

As I sat with Eric in his home, I stared with unabashed envy at his library. Shelves groaned under the weight of countless books while others stood stacked in piles about him. It was the largest private collection I had ever seen in my life and made my own library appear paltry in comparison.

"So I see why the local police call you for help in solving crimes that go beyond the norm," I said. I reached down and picked up an original 17th-century edition of Michael Ranft’s De Masticatione Mortuorum in Tumulus in perfect condition.

Eric nodded as he sat back in his overstuffed easy chair. "Yes," he said, motioning to the tomes around him. "You could say I'm rather well read."

F. Jones
G. K. Fish
G. Salter
H. Lowe
HA Tail
J. C. S. Wales

J. Dellosso

"Just one last question," the officer asked as he closed his notebook. "When the robbers entered the bank, you were able to usher ten people into a safe room and keep them quiet and calm during the entire experience. How did you do that?"

Jen shrugged. "Not only am I raising five children, my husband writes complex thriller novels. I have read them all."

(Note: Jen's husband's novels are listed here.)

J. Wilhelm
K. Williamson
K. S. Isaac
K. Wetzel

L. Cabrera

Leigha opened her eyes and stretched, wanting nothing more than to ignore the morning alarm, roll over, and snatch five more minutes of sleep. Yet, duty called. Her husband had been up for an hour already and taken care of the kids, seen them off to school, and hastened off to his own job. Now it was her turn to groggily sit up, pull on her slippers, and eat something before leaving to work on the optics for the observatory's main telescope.

In the kitchen, pouring herself the first of many cups of coffee, she stared out at the lawn, past the protective dome, to the rolling red sand dunes illuminated by the pink sky of Mars.

L. Millson

M. Daniel

Daniel gritted his teeth and wiped his bloody sword on the grass. Before him the corpse of the monster he had just slain steamed as it cooled off in the brisk morning air. 

The new game master never directly implied that testing his pen-and-paper role-playing game would result in his being sucked into a real world of sword and sorcery, but the more quickly Daniel found this Lord Pyre of Ice and slew him he could get back to his own world of comfortable beds and convenient technology.

M. Crane
M. Doelle
M. D. Brooks
M. R. Morrow
R. Parks

R. Laughman

Across the table, Laughman's opponent rolled the dice and smiled. Between them lay a huge game board covered in figures representing various characters. Boldly, the young man moved a piece across the board. "Looks like you're losing this one, Laughman," he said with a sinister laugh.

Laughman smiled, took the dice and sent them skittering across the board. Casually, he moved one of his own pieces across the board. His rivals's eyes widened in shock as he abruptly realized the extent of his loss.

Laughman, laughed, stood, cracked his knuckles, and the first piece he put back into the box bore a striking resemblance to his former opponent who had suddenly and mysteriously vanished.

S. Phillips

S. Bramwell

Stoker sighed as he stared at the ancient relic before him, a statue that made the mind hurt just to look at it.

Nothing had happened. He had said the right words at the right time with the right ingredients and once again, he had purchased what was most likely a cleverly designed fake.

He heard a low growl behind him.

Or maybe not, he thought.

T. M. Ford
T. Ross
W. Bell
W. F. Lowe
Z. Tora

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Island of Doctor Moreau: A Fond Critique

When I was quite young, I found and read H. G. WellsWar of the Worlds and I remember reading the entire work in one sitting. Since then, I have read and reread the book multiple times, reveling in the narrator's attempts to reunite with his wife and survive a deadly attack from Martians. Positively affected by the experience, I immediately found three other works from Wells to delight and amaze me: The Time Machine (1895), The Invisible Man (1897), and The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896).

The latter had a huge impact on my young mind as I wandered Noble's Isle with the narrator, Edward Prendick, and his horrific encounter with vivisectionist, the aforesaid Dr. Moreau.

Unlike War of the Worlds, I only read The Island of Doctor Moreau once in my life, but last week I found it available at the Gutenberg Project website (you can obtain your own copy in multiple formats here) and downloaded it to my Kindle eReader. I confess I was curious if a book I had not read in five decades would still have the same impact it had on me when a young child.

It took me only two days to read the 43,500 word+ novel and I can tell you I found it even more fascinating than when I read the work so many years ago.

Admittedly, the science is completely wrong, but if one can suspend belief, Wells' tragic tale of doomed souls created under the merciless knife of the titled character instills in the reader a sense of deep pity and outrage. Moreau's belief that surgical torture would transform animals into humans makes him the villain and more of a monster than the monsters with which he populates his island. This moves the tale well away from science fiction, a genre the novel has always been associated with, but in this reviewer's opinion, into the field of genuine horror.

As an author, there are two works I have always wanted to revisit and rewrite or revise: H. P. Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, and Well's The Island of Doctor Moreau.

Trust me when I say of all the faults that can be laid at my feet, giving myself airs is not one of them. It is a charge of arrogance to consider touching the works of two masters, and I know I cannot even approach them with the same level of quality that came from the pens of the masters, but if time allows me to undertake such projects, it is motivated not from a spirit of conceit, but of humble gratitude for the privilege of walking in worlds of another's creation and a desire to once again grasp the magic I felt when I read the tales for the first time.

On August 5th, 2010, I began keeping a list of books I have read. The Island of Doctor Moreau is 293rd book I have completed since that date.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Just In Time for Thanksgiving: A Medieval Recipe

Yesterday, while haunting the crowded aisles of a local thrift store, I was able to rescue a cookbook that struck my fancy. Lorna J. Sass' To The King's Taste, is a compilation of various medieval cookbooks that were used in the court of England's Richard II (AD 1367 - 1400). I immediately saw it was a fascinating treatise and as the thrift store is notorious for shredding books and making money from the recycled paper, I snatched it up and will be sending it to a friend who is involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).

The cookbook contains some fascinating modern translations of various dishes that were literally fit to set before a king, comestibles with such fascinating names as Perrey of Peson (an exotic and sweetly flavored pea soup), Sawse Madame (a goose stuffed with garlic, fruit, and herbs), Tart de Brymlent (fruit and salmon pie), Aquapatys (boiled garlic), and Sambocade (elderflower cheesecake).

The work also goes into trivia about medieval meals such as Richard II's castle having a hearth big enough to roast an entire ox, and exotic spices were brought from very far corners of the world such as ginger, sandalwood, pepper, galingale, and a spice called cubeb, a small berry from Java that has a distinct flavor reminiscent of a cross between pepper and allspice. 

However, for your upcoming Thanksgiving feast, or any feast in general, allow me to share with you one recipe from the book that sounds tantalizing: Connynge in Cyrip, better known as ...

I very much wish to try this dish, but I will attempt it with chicken instead of rabbit. By the bye, the 1/2 teaspoon of finally ground cubebs will most likely be difficult, if not impossible, to find. Instead, substitute 1/4 teaspoon of finely ground pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of finely ground allspice.

And for those poor souls that lack the time, finances, or expertise to tackle such an exotic dish, allow me to regale you with a medieval dish made specifically for peasants:

by Alan Loewen

Imagine serving your family Loewen's D*mn Good Gruel this evening, sweeping into your dining room in a swirl of skirts and saying, "Tonight, we're all going to eat like pathetic, medieval peasants." and plopping tasty gruel into the earthenware bowls before them.

Well, this recipe is an authentic gruel recipe and is exactly how poor peasants lived under the crushing boots of their feudal overlords.

(serves 1 pathetic peasant)
  1. Boil 1 pint of water.
  2. While coming to a boil, mix 4 heaping tablespoons of the flour of your choice (wheat, rye, cornmeal) into COLD water, making a paste.
  3. When the water comes to a boil, add the paste and stir.
  4. Throw in a handful of raisins (we may be pathetic, but we ain't masochists)
  5. Add a dash of salt to taste.
  6. Reduce to simmer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Serve with the sweetener of your choice to taste, and nutmeg and/or cinnamon. (Milk, soy milk, or rice milk is optional). 
Now everybody knows that a good meal must have a good presentation, so it's best to give everybody a cue card with authentic medieval peasant conversation as follows:
  • Now this is d*mn good gruel
  • We (burned/hung/rode out of town on a rail) a (witch/Puritan/Popist) at (work/school) today.
  • Scurvy? Let me tell you about scurvy!
  • I'm so glad that gruel doesn't require teeth.
  • I made 3 pence begging in front of the church today!
  • You know, modern science says that demons are behind all headaches.
  • Today, Old Lady Henicle turned me into a newt!
  • The plague only took two of our neighbors today!
Yes, I am a sick puppy, but the recipe does work as I've tried it and it does taste rather good, thank you very much.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

RIP Fred Patten (1940-2018)

Early this morning, I received news that Fred Patten passed away at the age of 77 on Monday, November 12th. My relationship with Fred Patten was only through email correspondence, but if ever I had a personal, professional editor, it was Fred. 

I first met became acquainted with Fred when I asked him if he would review Opal Wine for me and I was delighted when he said yes. The result was a wonderful review and one I am both grateful for and proud of and you can read it here.

Sometime later, he asked me to consider contributing to an anthology he was collecting and unfortunately life events prohibited any work toward his vision. However, in the ensuing anthologies, I worked with Fred on contributing three titles:
It was The Shrine War that served as the biggest challenge to my career and Fred and I corresponded frequently over its creation. Throughout all the dialogues I had with him, Fred always remained professional, friendly, and polite and his recommendations for edits were always correct.

It was a delight working with Fred. He taught me a lot and I am very grateful that he was the one who inspired me to write The Shrine War. Up until now, Coventry House that was published in my Opal Wine collection has always been my best-known work. I believe that if my extended version of The Shrine War is ever published, that is the novel that will make my career and it will be dedicated to Fred Patten's memory.

In closing, a jaw-dropping list of his accomplishments is found here

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


What is my main character's favorite treat and her best trick?

Easy! Sen, being a kitsune and a servant of Inari Ōkami has, like all spirit foxes, an incredible weakness for rice.

Kitsune udon is udon with a fried tofu topping and their other favorite food is Inarizushi, fried tofu pockets stuffed with sushi rice. If ever you are visited by a kitsune, offer her these delectable treats and she may stay for awhile.

As far as a trick? In my story, all kitsune are able to cast illusions to fool the human mind. Case in point:
Quickly, (Christopher) snapped pictures barely taking thought to register what he pointed the lens at, but he snapped off several pictures in quick succession, capturing his hostess in a few of the shots. After taking fifty pictures, he scanned through them on the camera display when he came upon a photograph that centered on his host. 
Christopher felt the blood run from his face and a wave of fear and vertigo as he stared at the picture on the LCD. 
He looked up and saw Sen staring at him with a puzzled expression. “Are you well?” she asked. 
Christopher stared at the woman before him and then looked back down at the LCD on his camera. He flipped forward a few more pictures to where the shrine maiden again stood within the frame of the photograph. 
“All is well,” he stammered. “Arigatou gozaimasu, thank you so very much for allowing me to visit your shrine, but I must allow you to prepare for your special guests. You have been so kind.” 
He bowed and the miko bowed in return. He backed away a few steps before turning and walking out of the oratory, the LCD on his camera showing an anthropomorphic female fox clad in the garb of a shrine maiden, her nine tails sprouting prominently from behind.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Trials of Being a Counselor to Lycanthropes

For the month of October, 2018, I gave myself a challenge: could I come up with a joke for every day in October centered on the theme of what it must be like to be a counselor for those poor shapeshifters who must put up with all sorts of indignities? Surely, they can use the help of a licensed counselor, no?

I will leave you as judge, jury, and executioner to judge how well I did.


So what would my characters in The Shrine War think about pumpkin spice?

Seriously, I do not think they would care for it. Traditionally, Japanese do not like very sweet foods and for those who have had their mochi and their ice cream would attest to this.

Even their Rabbit in the Moon Higashi (Wagashi Sugar) is mixed with soybean flour to kill the sweetness.