Saturday, August 24, 2019

My Libraries ...

Somebody asked about my libraries so allow me to take you on a tour.

A confirmed bibliophile since I could first begin to read, I've collected, lost, and gave away more books than I can remember.


In my office, I have two bookcases, this one handcrafted for me 23 years ago. Consisting mostly of works on theology and ministry, the upper left shelves are dedicated to books about and by Theodore Roosevelt, my personal hero. I may not have appreciated all his politics, but as an individual, his life is certainly to be admired.


The second bookcase in my office this holds my books on business management, my music CD's, and ephemera that covers a plethora of subjects such as neolithic survivals, books on cults, and works on ancient Britain.


These are the three books that are perpetually on my desk. My goal is to read through each one at least once a year; Sun Tzu's The Art of War, Baltasar Graci├ín's The Art of Worldly Wisdom, and the New American Standard Bible (Updated).


This is my personal bookshelf in my home, and unfortunately, the room is too small for me to back up to capture the entire bookshelf. I would say this contains 95% fiction and the rest containing books to aid in me in my research on my current work in progress. The paperbacks are stacked two deep.

By the bye, this does not take into account books in the storage room, the ebooks on my Kindle eReader or the books stacked up by my bed. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Yes, I Have Been Unusually Quiet.

Allow me to explain:

I can say without superfluous profanity the last four months have been hellish on my family and me with a long bout of personal ill health, four funerals, a sick wife, the protracted death of my beloved dog, and all culminating in the passing of my father.

Needless to say, my nights are consumed by incessant anxiety dreams, several of which contain scenes that will appear altered in future stories. (May as well use them.)

Last night I dreamt I traveled to one of the eastern Asian countries and had an interesting conversation as I passed through customs:
"We have come here to study your country's magnificent volcanoes."
"Ah, yes. Many scientists come. The last one was consumed by a herd of rabbits."
"But ... but rabbits don't eat flesh."
"These ones did."
Now I confess even though I was inspired to get out of bed and write the conversation down immediately, it's a little too silly to use in a story, but the concept is perfect for a horror story: a nonchalant speaker revealing a horrific truth. I could use the idea in so many ways, even in stories that are not specifically horror:
"The coroner says the woman was killed by her Shih Tzu."
"What! But that's just a little dog!"
My partner shrugged. "It's still descended from wolves."
Just an idea. Use it if it works.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Strange Streets: My Best Kept Secret

Strange Streets is a foray into dark fantasy romance where the narrator discovers the object of his unrequited love is not the person he initially thought her to be. A story of 5,380 words, it forms part of my ebook, Rowan Dreaming.

Oddly enough, those who reviewed the ebook make no mention of Strange Streets, and I believe the story to be just as compelling as its companion piece.

I developed the idea when a detour took me through Carlisle, Pennsylvania and I was delighted by all the little odd shops, delis, and restaurants that peppered the main streets. In my story, James and his adopted cousin, Darcy, enjoy a hobby of visiting small, obscure shops in various small towns:
...for the last two years, when she was not assisting her parents in the daily routine of running the family farm, we would take an occasional Saturday and explore the streets of any nearby town or village. Darcy had no interest in malls or the predictable sameness of the chain stores. Instead, she reveled in shops that stood on what she called "strange streets," the tiny little shops and eateries with their quaint, special eccentricities that existed only off the main thoroughfares 
Over the months, we had wandered through Greencastle, Newville, Waynesboro, and other assorted burgs and villages throughout south-central Pennsylvania and even ventured into Maryland. My Ford, always threatening to breathe its last, took us on many an adventure and I took delight in following my enchanting will-o-the-wisp, sharing in her joy when she would find some inconsequential, yet eccentric treasure.
However, in Carlisle, they discover an extraordinary street and an otherworldly adventure that changes both their lives.

The Kindle ebook is yours for a mere 99¢ and can be read immediately on your phone, computer, or tablet with a free Kindle eReader. And Strange Streets is bundled with the novella, Rowan Dreaming, another dark fantasy romance that takes place in Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania.:
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.
The ebook can be yours at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, or whatever Amazon serves your country.

Thank you for allowing me to entertain you. I look forward to doing it again.

And please remember to leave a review, even if just a short note of affirmation. Reviews on Amazon are an independent author's bread and butter.







Wednesday, July 3, 2019

My Free Online Stories


As I write to entertain, I have been guilty of posting stories for free on this blog and here is an easy master list for you to easily find them. If you are entertained, as a I hope you are, please feel free to purchase any of my collections at your nearest Amazon and please do not forget to leave a review. Needless to say, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED! Feel free to link to the stories, but please do not cut and paste, download, or copy.


Complete Short Stories


  1. Gray Matter: A Dark SF Story in Six Paragraphs
  2. The Man Who Loved A Doll: A Parable
  3. The City of Sarkomand, A Guide for the Traveler
  4. Child of Sorrow
  5. Quatermass vs. the Aliens
  6. Nightmare
  7. Fake Memory Challenge--Sixteen Tiny Tales
  8. The Sinister Minister's Thanksgiving Confession
  9. Molly's Christmas: A Story For Children
  10. The Star: A Super Short Christmas Story
  11. A Lord of All Futures Christmas Tale
  12. Diesel-Punk Super Short For Your Amusement
  13. Revelstone 2020: A Cyberpunk Story
  14. Adrift Off The Great Red Spot, 22°51'23.14"S, 98°49'24.40"W
  15. Sheila: A Morality Tale
  16. Jenny, Sweet Jenny
  17. Kill Your Darlings
  18. Timely Revenge
  19. Fifteen Super Short Stories
  20. Wolf Hunter: A Short Story
  21. The Curse: A Flash Fiction of 450 Words
  22. Summer Games: A Short Story
  23. Wild Carrot (humorous short story)
  24. Lair of the White Rabbit (Vignettes)
  25. An Exercise in Insanity (44 Super Short Stories)

Desperate Attempts at Humor (Please Don't Hurt Me)

  1. The Psalter of Saint Brumphrey the Unstable
  2. It Is The Month Of March And My Heart Yearns For Paris
  3. A Writing Exercise From 2011 (Zombies)
  4. Cheerful Company And A Merry Time
  5. Meditating On The Afterlife
  6. The Detective, The Dame, The Diamond, and the Dog
  7. Trekking With My Mother Through The Kohl’s Bra Aisle
  8. Rabbit Barf Cookies or "Get That Man Out of the Kitchen!
  9. Paranormal Romance? Let Me Give It A Shot. Oh, Man, I'VE OFFENDED MYSELF!
  10. The Horror... The Horror... (Teaching at a Homeschool Co-op)
  11. The Many (Supposed) Faces Of The Rev. Craig "Alan" Loewen
  12. Almost ALL My My Little Pony Satires
  13. Spells From Loewen’s Dark Grimoire
  14. My Schnuffel Bunny Intervention
  15. What Is A Bodice Ripper Genre Story?
  16. A Christmas Carol Parody
  17. When It's Superbowl Sunday and You Have No Life
  18. A Day In The Life of Detective Nick Weaver
  19. The Tea Experiment: What Hath My Madness Wrought?
  20. The Rotwang Convention For Mad Scientists
  21. Pepsi
  22. Winter Tales from the Blizzards of 2015 and 2016
  23. Grey Ghost and Doom Storm Reminisce
  24. 10 Pointers When With A Werewolf
  25. My First and Last Interview
  26. Belinda McFate: The Literary World's Weakest Female Character
  27. My Road Trip - Day 344
  28. The Most Common Cause of Death Among Literary Characters
  29. Mrs. McGillicuddy's Home for Unwed Cats
  30. Case Study: Counseling Transcript of Client Blanche Thibodeaux

Fragments

  1. Faydra: A Tale From the Fractured World
  2. Slender Man: An Excerpt From An Old Work
  3. Grave Gate Sample
  4. I Dream of a Cat at a Parisian Bistro
  5. When Imagination Calls (Story Excerpt)
  6. Rat Hunt: A Story Excerpt
  7. Rat Hunt Segment #2
  8. The Lord of All Futures Story Excerpt
  9. Elysia House
  10. Sister Unicorn: A Fable For Adult Children
  11. Doll Wars: The Prologue
  12. The Hunters Three: An Experimental Story
  13. The House: An Excerpt
  14. The Lord of All Futures Story Excerpt

Poetry

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Seven Sisters: My Children's Novella

Several years ago I wrote a children's novella inspired by a 1984 TV show. The first episode from the Canadian animation company, Nelvana, was terrific, but unfortunately, Hasbro, that owned the copyright, decided the rest of the show should be written and animated by a company that came much more cheaply.

The result was inconsistent animation such as characters not only changing colors between scenes but also voices. Beloved characters would be permanently removed from the storyline when Hasbro wanted to sell new toys in the line.

So, I thought to myself, how would I write a cartoon series if I was more interested in storytelling than selling product?

The result was The Seven Sisters, a fairy tale about seven young girls transformed into ponies by a vengeful witch and then sealed away by a merciful wizard who granted them amnesia so they would not remember they were once human.

And then time passed waiting for somebody who would undertake the quest to turn them back into humans.

It took me over a year to write the novella, and it was accepted by a publisher who immediately went belly up. I then sat on the book for years and was about to self publish when My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic was released. Even though my book was radically different in tone, plot, setting, and characters, I didn't want people thinking it was only a My Little Pony fanfic, so I sat on the book some more until 2014 when I decided to self publish it anyway.

I also commissioned pictures for the book, and I found the perfect illustrator in Jordan Peacock whose fantasy unicorn illustrations have always delighted me. I was not disappointed at all. Here are two of my favorites:



You can buy your own copy at almost any online bookstore, Amazon being the most prominent. All I ask is that if you enjoy the book or have enjoyed The Seven Sisters in the past, a review is gold and will help me share it with many others. Thanks!





Thursday, April 25, 2019

Rat Hunt Segment

I should be working on Incident in a Japanese Inn, but I'm on vacation and decided to instead write another segment of Rat Hunt.

The following is to be considered a rough draft. You can read the first excerpt here.


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The prison bus pulled up in front of a nondescript stone house somewhere in Manhattan. Aside from the bus driver and a prison guard, Conrad sat alone, his hands cuffed. He had no idea where he was, and he had learned after three years into a lengthy prison sentence not to waste time with questions. Answers, at least the ones you needed, were seldom forthcoming.

The guard said nothing but opened the gate that separated the driver and his escort from the prisoners and motioned toward the open bus door. Conrad stood up and made his way up the narrow aisle. For a moment he considered a possible escape scenario. Conrad couldn’t help it. The thoughts had become second nature, but his hands were cuffed, and he wouldn’t be able to run any distance without being shot down in the street.

Conrad stepped down off the bus steps, and the guard took him by the arm, steering Conrad toward the door of the house.

Inside, the entryway was bare. The guard steered Conrad away from stairs that went to the second floor toward a set of double doors. 

The guard knocked and opened the door without hesitation.

An elderly gray-haired woman sat at a plain table with a empty chair facing her. A large mirror adorned the one wall.

“Remove his cuffs and wait outside,” the woman said. The guard nodded, unlocked the cuffs on Conrad’s hands and stepped outside the room closing the door behind him.

“Sit,” the woman said, motioning to the chair across the table. She opened up a manila folder and studied the papers inside. “Conrad Gavin,” she read. “Currently serving the third year of a thirty-year sentence as a guest in Sing Sing. Previous employment, an enforcer for an organized crime family.”

Conrad sat and said nothing. 

The woman closed the folder. “How would you like to have that sentence reduced to ten years?”

Conrad paused for a moment trying to read the woman’s body language. “I’m listening.”

The woman sat back in her chair. “Of course, there’s a catch. You have to go through a lot of testing first to make sure you’re completely suitable to the task at hand, but you fit what we’re looking for: single, no family, military experience, a good business ethic.” She tapped the folder with her fingertips. “Even if you were working the opposite side of the law.”

“You are implying you want a job done. What’s the job?”

The woman smiled, and Conrad saw no mirth in it. “Let’s say we want you to be a security guard. An honest day’s work for room and board, a small retirement account, and you get to walk in seven years.”

“What’s the catch?”

“Let’s just say there’s some risk involved. You in?”

Again Conrad paused deliberately showing no emotion on his face.

“I don’t kill people,” he said. “I was an enforcer, not a hitman. My job was to frighten people into doing something or stop doing something.”

“We would never ask you to kill another human being,” the woman said.

“Then seeing that in thirty years I’m in my 60s with a good chunk of my life gone, I’ll take your offer.”

The woman nodded. “Smart move. We start the testing right away.”



The next three days consisted of lots of psychological tests. Conrad had his own personal room where his meals were served. The door was locked at night. 

The doctors spoke to Conrad with no emotion, performing their tests impassively as if they were robots.

On the morning of the fourth day, Conrad was led back to the room where he had first met the woman. A doctor sat there with a blanket covered box at his feet. 

“Please sit,” the doctor said.

Reaching down, the doctor put the cage on the table and removed the blanket. Inside the cage, a large gray rat hissed and growled.

The doctor observed Conrad carefully. “Ever seen a rat before?” he asked.

Conrad laughed. “I’ve lived in New York all my life. Rats are the only wildlife the city has. Well ... rats and pigeons.”

“Ever kill a rat?”

Conrad shrugged. “A couple. Ones that got in my house.”

The doctor nodded. “Are you afraid of rats?’

Conrad shook his head. “No rat has threatened my life so many times I’ve lost count. No rat has ever told me in detail what they were going to do with my body after they had killed me.” He gestured toward the cage and its occupant. “This little guy is no threat to me.”

“But if it attacked you?”

“Can’t outrun a rat. You kill it.”

The doctor opened up his suit jacket and took out a small electronic tablet. He tapped on the screen and then held it out to Conrad. “What about this rat?”

Conrad watched the video that had already begun playing. He felt a growing wave of horror.

The video showed a man in a doctor’s lab coat standing over a large table dissecting a body. The body was a huge rat, quite dead, longer than the table, it’s misshapen, clawed feet hung over the end of the table.

In the video, the doctor pried open the creature’s jaws to reveal its front incisors, a good two or three inches long. The doctor then lifted a brown-furred paw for the camera showing three-inch long claws at the end of each finger. The doctor waved to his right. The camera panned over to show another one of the rat corpses placed in a standing position. The monster stood on two feet and towered over the man in the video.

“What is this?” Conrad whispered.

“That,” the doctor said, “is Rattus erectus. Hundreds, most likely thousands, of them live under New York. They attack in swarms. We want you to join a group of select people who wage war against these monsters and keep them underground.”

Conrad stared at the doctor in silence.

“Take a day to think about it,” the doctor said. “If you agree you’ll discover we have some interesting tools at your disposal. If you say no, you go back to your prison cell. We know you won’t be telling anybody about this. You have neither friends or family to talk to anyway. And if you did say something, nobody would believe you.”

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot

Lester Dent
What follows is the writing formula designed by Lester Dent (1904 – 1959), an American pulp-fiction author, best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels about the scientist and adventurer Doc Savage, consisting of 159 novels written over 16 years under the name Kenneth Robeson.

The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot

This is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story. It has worked on adventure, detective, western and war-air. It tells exactly where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in each successive thousand words.

No yarn of mine written to the formula has yet failed to sell.

The business of building stories seems not much different from the business of building anything else.

Here's how it starts:

1. A DIFFERENT MURDER METHOD FOR VILLAIN TO USE
2. A DIFFERENT THING FOR VILLAIN TO BE SEEKING
3. A DIFFERENT LOCALE
4. A MENACE WHICH IS TO HANG LIKE A CLOUD OVER HERO

One of these DIFFERENT things would be nice, two better, three swell. It may help if they are fully in mind before tackling the rest.

A different murder method could be--different. Thinking of shooting, knifing, hydrocyanic, garroting, poison needles, scorpions, a few others, and writing them on paper gets them where they may suggest something. Scorpions and their poison bite? Maybe mosquitos or flies treated with deadly germs?

If the victims are killed by ordinary methods, but found under strange and identical circumstances each time, it might serve, the reader of course not knowing until the end, that the method of murder is ordinary. 

Scribes who have their villain's victims found with butterflies, spiders or bats stamped on them could conceivably be flirting with this gag.

Probably it won't do a lot of good to be too odd, fanciful or grotesque with murder methods.

The different thing for the villain to be after might be something other than jewels, the stolen bank loot, the pearls, or some other old ones.

Here, again one might get too bizarre.

Unique locale? Easy. Selecting one that fits in with the murder method and the treasure--thing that villain wants--makes it simpler, and it's also nice to use a familiar one, a place where you've lived or worked. So many pulpateers don't. It sometimes saves embarrassment to know nearly as much about the locale as the editor, or enough to fool him.

Here's a nifty much used in faking local color. For a story laid in Egypt, say, author finds a book titled "Conversational Egyptian Easily Learned," or something like that. He wants a character to ask in Egyptian, "What's the matter?" He looks in the book and finds, "El khabar, eyh?" To keep the reader from getting dizzy, it's perhaps wise to make it clear in some fashion, just what that means. Occasionally the text will tell this, or someone can repeat it in English. But it's a doubtful move to stop and tell the reader in so many words the English translation.

The writer learns they have palm trees in Egypt. He looks in the book, finds the Egyptian for palm trees, and uses that. This kids editors and readers into thinking he knows something about Egypt.

Here's the second installment of the master plot. 

Divide the 6000 word yarn into four 1500 word parts. In each 1500 word part, put the following:

FIRST 1500 WORDS

1--First line, or as near thereto as possible, introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble. Hint at a mystery, a menace or a problem to be solved--something the hero has to cope with.
2--The hero pitches in to cope with his fistful of trouble. (He tries to fathom the mystery, defeat the menace, or solve the problem.)
3--Introduce ALL the other characters as soon as possible. Bring them on in action.
4--Hero's endevours land him in an actual physical conflict near the end of the first 1500 words.
5--Near the end of first 1500 words, there is a complete surprise twist in the plot development.

SO FAR: Does it have SUSPENSE? 
Is there a MENACE to the hero?
Does everything happen logically?

At this point, it might help to recall that action should do something besides advance the hero over the scenery. Suppose the hero has learned the dastards of villains have seized somebody named Eloise, who can explain the secret of what is behind all these sinister events. The hero corners villains, they fight, and villains get away. Not so hot.

Hero should accomplish something with his tearing around, if only to rescue Eloise, and surprise! Eloise is a ring-tailed monkey. The hero counts the rings on Eloise's tail, if nothing better comes to mind. They're not real. The rings are painted there. Why?

SECOND 1500 WORDS

1--Shovel more grief onto the hero.
2--Hero, being heroic, struggles, and his struggles lead up to:
3--Another physical conflict.
4--A surprising plot twist to end the 1500 words.

NOW: Does second part have SUSPENSE?
Does the MENACE grow like a black cloud?
Is the hero getting it in the neck?
Is the second part logical?

DON'T TELL ABOUT IT***Show how the thing looked. This is one of the secrets of writing; never tell the reader--show him. (He trembles, roving eyes, slackened jaw, and such.) MAKE THE READER SEE HIM.

When writing, it helps to get at least one minor surprise to the printed page. It is reasonable to to expect these minor surprises to sort of  inveigle the reader into keeping on. They need not be such profound efforts. One method of accomplishing one now and then is to be gently misleading. Hero is examining the murder room. The door behind him begins slowly to open. He does not see it. He conducts his examination blissfully. Door eases open, wider and wider, until--surprise! The glass pane falls out of the big window across the room. It must have fallen slowly, and air blowing into the room caused the door to open. Then what the heck made the pane fall so slowly? More mystery.

Characterizing a story actor consists of giving him some things which make him stick in the reader's mind. TAG HIM. 

BUILD YOUR PLOTS SO THAT ACTION CAN BE CONTINUOUS.

THIRD 1500 WORDS

1--Shovel the grief onto the hero.
2--Hero makes some headway, and corners the villain or somebody in:
3--A physical conflict.
4--A surprising plot twist, in which the hero preferably gets it in the neck bad, to end the 1500 words.

DOES: It still have SUSPENSE?
The MENACE getting blacker?
The hero finds himself in a hell of a fix?
It all happens logically?

These outlines or master formulas are only something to make you certain of inserting some physical conflict, and some genuine plot twists, with a little suspense and menace thrown in. Without them, there is no pulp story.

These physical conflicts in each part might be DIFFERENT, too. If one fight is with fists, that can take care of the pugilism until next the next yarn. Same for poison gas and swords. There may, naturally, be exceptions. A hero with a peculiar punch, or a quick draw, might use it more than once.

The idea is to avoid monotony.

ACTION:
Vivid, swift, no words wasted. Create suspense, make the reader see and feel the action.

ATMOSPHERE:
Hear, smell, see, feel and taste.

DESCRIPTION:
Trees, wind, scenery and water.

THE SECRET OF ALL WRITING IS TO MAKE EVERY WORD COUNT.

FOURTH 1500 WORDS

1--Shovel the difficulties more thickly upon the hero.
2--Get the hero almost buried in his troubles. (Figuratively, the villain has him prisoner and has him framed for a murder rap; the girl is presumably dead, everything is lost, and the DIFFERENT murder method is about to dispose of the suffering protagonist.)
3--The hero extricates himself using HIS OWN SKILL, training or brawn.
4--The mysteries remaining--one big one held over to this point will help grip interest--are cleared up in course of final conflict as hero takes the situation in hand.
5--Final twist, a big surprise, (This can be the villain turning out to be the unexpected person, having the "Treasure" be a dud, etc.)
6--The snapper, the punch line to end it.

HAS: The SUSPENSE held out to the last line?
The MENACE held out to the last?
Everything been explained?
It all happen logically?
Is the Punch Line enough to leave the reader with that WARM FEELING?
Did God kill the villain? Or the hero?