Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Day In The Life of Detective Nick Weaver

Some say I write very good detective noir satire. Others say I write passable detective noir satire. And then there are the others who wish I would simply break my fingers and take up chicken farming.

With apologies to Nick.

A Day In The Life of Detective Nick Weaver
by Alan Loewen

Nick Weaver sat at his desk, his feet up on the blotter, his pavement-worn patent leather shoes dangerously close to knocking a rum bottle off onto the floor. Around his fedora, pulled low to shade his eyes, cigarette smoke lazily made its way to the fly-spotted ceiling where a slow ceiling fan mixed the tendrils into the general haziness that filled the room.

True, the cigarette was an e-cigarette and the rum bottle was filled with tepid black coffee, but a man who made his living as a private detective had to keep up appearances.

There was a tentative knock on the door.

Nick tipped his fedora up and saw a silhouette on the glass office door, all curves and all woman which meant all trouble. “Come on in,” he said.

The door opened and she stood in the doorway, long, subtly curled red hair accentuating a perfect face. Large green eyes stood out amidst a perfect complexion marked only by a splash of freckles across a pert nose. She wore dangerously high stiletto shoes and all was barely covered with a little black dress with emphasis on the words little, black, and dress.

“Come on in, sister,” Nick said with a growl. “The meter started ticking when you opened the door.”

“Oh, Mr. Weaver,” she said, breathlessly, “I so need your help.”

Her first step into the room sent her careening against the door jamb where physics threw her against a bookcase followed by a glorious cascade of first edition Mickey Spillanes, Rex Stouts, Erle Stanley Gardners and cheap Alan Loewens, and then she immediately hit the overstuffed chair Nick had placed across his desk for clients. With an ungraceful forward roll, she flipped over the back of the chair, head over heels and finally sprawled out of breath into the chair itself.

Nick nodded to himself. “While you catch your breath, I will tell you why you are here. Seeing how you just destroyed my office, how you are squinting at me like a mobster in an interrogation room, and that when you fell, I saw you were wearing intimates marked Tuesday when today is Friday, I can see you have come to me to find your lost glasses.”

She held her clutch purse to her bosom as she panted for breath. “Oh, Mr. Weaver!” she gasped. “Craigslist was right. You’re amazing. That’s exactly why I’ve come.”

With controlled ease, Nick swung his legs off the desktop, stood up and walked over to where his new client sat. Taking her clutch purse, he opened it, dug around, and took out a heavy pair of black-framed glasses and gently put them on her face.

The woman squealed with delight, hugging her glasses to her face, bouncing her little feet up and down like a toddler seeing a store Santa Claus for the first time. “This is wonderful!” she squealed. “I can see. Oh, what can I do to repay you?”

Nick shrugged. “Going rate is 60 greenbacks an hour. For as long as you’ve been here, that’s three dollars.”

“Oh,” the woman said, “but Mr. Weaver, I’m so grateful. Just three dollars? I … I would do anything out of gratitude. Anything!”

Normally, Nick would have thrown her out, but her large, green eyes, made abnormally huge by her thick Coke bottle bottom glasses reminded him of those infamous 1960’s paintings of over-sized, doe-eyed children his own sainted mother loved and collected.

“Anything?” he asked.

The woman furiously nodded her head up down. “Anything!” she insisted.

Nick turned and pulled a card from his pocket. “Okay. Here’s the address of my house. Be there at three. You can wash my windows.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rowan Dreaming Is Live (With Bonus Story)

Rowan Dreaming is now live and includes the story, Strange Streets, as a bonus. For lovers of dark urban fantasy romances, it is only available as an eBook for the Kindle reader.

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, but can be read on its own without reading In The Father's Image.

Strange Streets is included in the work as a bonus telling the story of James and his cousin, Darcy, as their window shopping leads them to another world.

The work is 99¢ (U.S.) and Amazon estimates it takes 90 minutes to read both stories. As here in the United States, it is not uncommon to pay $8 to $10 for a 90 minute movie, this is a bargain. You can purchase the work by following the appropriate links below:

Amazon US

Amazon UK
Amazon Germany

Amazon Australia

How to Write a Sentence: A Review

Crafting a review on a book about writing and appreciating sentences becomes a challenge as one has to use sentences themselves. In the light of Stanley Fish’s excellent book, the impulse to construct each sentence of the review as a pristine gem becomes overwhelming. So if I may pervert Gustave Flaubert’s complaint, I fear this review “is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”

Authors often hear the advice to ignore individual sentences in favor of the total work whether story or essay. I believe Stanley Fish would disagree strongly. A building is composed of individual bricks and though it may be a beautiful edifice, if the bricks are rotten, the building cannot last. A gourmet meal may look appealing as a whole, but if each individual bite is a torment, it matters not the aesthetics of the table setting. A literary work is composed of individual sentences put together in a systemic manner that build up the structure, but are also strong enough to stand on their own.

In How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, Fish leads us on a tour de force of sentence structure looking at structure and style as well as the importance of the first and last sentences. His examples are a true delight. Yet, this is not a mechanical “How to…” like Strunk and White’s seminal work. A human being is composed of more than bones and internal organs and a sentence carries within itself its own type of metaphysical wonder that appeals to the heart as well as the mind. In its own way, Fish’s work is a love letter to the simple sentence.

However, do not think it an easy read. For such a short book, there is amazing depth here. I found myself rereading several passages several times to make sure I grasped what Fish was communicating.

The bottom line is that I believe reading Stanley Fish’s inspirational work will make me a better writer as well as a better reader.

Friday, March 18, 2016

What If The House You Lived In Was Alive?

Since the tenth century A.D., Shingon Buddhism has entertained a concept known as Tsukumogami. It is a difficult concept to define, but loosely described, it is the belief that when any object has reached its 100th birthday, it becomes alive and self-aware.

My first introduction to Tsukumogami was through Le Portrait de Petit Cossette, a very odd animated Japanese film. In the movie, items from the young French girl’s boudoir enact a brutal revenge on the reincarnation of her murderer, an assistant to an antique dealer.

Though I cannot say I’m convinced of the reality of Tsukumogami, my fascination with old houses embraces the concept. In my novella, Yew Manor, my essay, The Vicarage (found in Come Into My Cellar: Darker Tales From A Cerebral Vault), and Coventry House (found in Opal Wine) and various future works, my houses all become characters in their own right.

Last night I was musing on the old homes I have been privileged to live in and visit and thinking about Tsukumogami I wondered, if true, does the house develop sentience in a flash or is it a gradual growth of self-awareness? You may think me addled in the brain, but I do entertain a subjective belief that some houses inherently make me feel welcomed. Some make it clear that I am most unwelcome. Some feel like I am in a house trapped in a waking dream and the aura of the house is, dare I say it?, wistful.

I can imagine a house, filled with family, and on the celebration of its centennial, there is within its walls, a spark of awareness, much akin to that of a newborn child. As I allowed the fantasy to evolve in my imagination, I followed its developing personality affected by the attitudes and actions of those that lived within walls. Those houses that entertained a family that was loving and supportive took on a personality of love and support. Those homes that harbored hatred and perversion within their walls were destined to have their newborn hearts twisted and malformed to become, like the Vicarage in my essay, a Bad Place.

And then there are homes that contain within their walls, the lonely and the unloved, the aged who dream of a better past and others who can seek refuge only in their memories. What of those houses, I wondered? Could it be that when they lay empty they cry for love and yearn for true life to blossom within their walls, longing for what they have been denied. Making it worse, it is unable to define what it is it cries for as it never experienced love to begin with.

Mayhap when a loving family moves in, the house responds with joy, and those who walk its halls may find an odd reluctance to leave its embrace.

This house does not like you. Welcome home.

And for those lonely houses forced to suddenly harbor evil tenants? How they must rage to have their needs denied, their own hearts darkened into murderous fury to be forced to home parasites instead of the love they long for. Their vengeance must be terrible to behold.

And that, my Dear Reader, is where my ideas for my stories come from.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Making Our Dream Of Reaching The Stars A Reality

We sit in the mud... and reach for the stars. ~ Ivan Turgenev

I have always been pro-space. Since a young child, I have dreamed of spaceships traveling the planets between the L5 colonies and the settlements on Mars and the Moon, researching the best methods by which we could reach the stars themselves.

The IXS Enterprise as envisioned by Mark Rademaker

In collaboration with NASA, in 2014, artist Mark Rademaker revealed conceptual artwork of the IXS Enterprise, a subliminal spaceship first conceived by NASA scientist Dr. Harold G. White. The IXS Enterprise would be theoretically capable of achieving warp travel that would make travel to the stars feasible. Currently, Dr. White is currently running the White–Juday warp-field interferometer experiment in the hopes of creating a Alcubierre warp bubble. He is also researching what is known as an Em Drive that shows even greater potential.

The IXS Clarke as envisioned by Mark Rademaker
I do not know whatever happened to our vision of space exploration. Don't get me wrong. I dearly love Forbidden Planet (which by a delightful coincidence today celebrates its 60th anniversary), Star Trek, Star Wars, and the wonderful Firefly TV series, but let's be honest. After we walked on the moon and retired the shuttles, our dream of space appears to me to be just that: a dream.

And now, I wonder what our future does hold. Watching what passes for news nowadays, I fear humanity's ability to dream of a future bigger than bread and circuses has become too limited. I just sincerely hope it is just not too late. With visionaries like Sir Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic), Eric C. Anderson (Space Adventures, Ltd.) and Elon Musk (SpaceX), there may still be hope for us all providing we don't all get so fascinated by the mud on which we stand that we forget to ever look up.

What I want for Christmas

Friday, March 11, 2016

Allow Me To Entertain You (Horror Thriller Sample)

I wrote this so many years ago I honestly can't remember its genesis any more. However, I canned the project when the film 28 Days Later basically copied the same scenario to start their own story. I have since come up with a completely different beginning, but i thought you might enjoy reading the original opening scene.

As this is a horror thriller, this is probably not one for the kiddies.

Chapter One
June 12, 2002
2:00 a.m.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Tony drew the last drag on his cigarette and threw it to the ground where it sizzled in a thin puddle of rain. Crap, he thought, six hours left and four security rounds to go.

He stood at the gated entrance to Bright Futures, Incorporated, the chill from the rain penetrating the small, lighted booth where he sat doing gate duty. At two in the morning he appreciated the phrase, graveyard shift. The city streets lay empty. Tony hated being outside alone.

The fact there were two higher ranking security guards located in the large building complex behind him, didn't give him any warm feelings of safety. Three more months of night work at the gate and he'd be in the warmth sucking down coffee and watching old movies.

Well, watching television and dealing with the moody Doc Virkler. Virkler had a habit of working late and even tonight the Doc's car was still in its parking slot.

"Hey, Webby!" the intercom squawked. "You made a perimeter check yet?"

Tony cursed and hit the button. "Just leaving. I'll get back to you in fifteen minutes."

"Hey. Jones says not to get wet." In the background the other guard could be heard laughing like a moron. Tony shook a fist at the intercom and grabbed his flashlight.

The lights of a van slowly coming down the street illuminated Tony as he left the booth. He tensed as the van pulled up to the gate, but relaxed when an elderly woman rolled the driver's window down and yelled at him through the rain. The concern on her face was evident through the light drizzle.

"What?" Tony asked as he shrugged his shoulders for effect. The woman waved a road map and yelled something about a something, something Avenue.

Tony sighed and unlocked the gate. The rules were specific about going outside the perimeter, but he hated to think about an old woman riding around this part of the city at night. All sorts of maniacs ran the back streets of Harrisburg after sunset.

As Tony walked up to the van, he tried to blink the raindrops away. His vision finally cleared just in time to see the strange-looking gun the woman pointed at him. Before he could react, the gun gave a loud pop and two darts went right through his rain slicker and into his chest. Connected to the gun by thin wires, one hundred thousand volts of electricity slammed him to the ground.

The back of the van popped open and five people in camouflage jumped out. Two of them grabbed Tony as he twitched on the ground and dragged him through the gate and into the booth.

"He's gonna be okay?" asked a woman, her bright blue eyes in contrast to the black shoe polish she had streaked across her face.

Tony gurgled as if he was trying to answer for himself.

"Yeah, he's gonna be fine," answered a young man. "Judy, you and Connie tie him up. Bill, you and Heather go to that back door. We'll be with you in just a minute."

The leader ran out the gate and to the woman who was still in the driver's seat. "Mary, park the van at the curb and turn all the lights off. We'll be out in thirty minutes."

"You be careful, Charles," she said as she shifted the van in reverse. As he waved, she gave him the thumbs up sign.

In the guard's booth, Judy was trussing up the guard with his own cuffs while Connie worked a gag into his mouth. Tony's eyes looked like they were just starting to regain their ability to focus.

Charles pulled out a leaflet and slapped it on the small desk. "C'mon. We've got twenty-nine minutes."

The trio ran out into the rain. As Tony struggled with his bonds and listened to the footsteps fade in the distance, a small breeze blew the paper off the desk. It fluttered down to land in front of Tony's nose where he stared vacantly at the typewritten words.

Animal Oppressors of the World Be Warned!

We, the soldiers of the Animal Freedom League have declared Bright Futures to be an oppressor of our animal sisters and brothers. We find them guilty of using defenseless animals for unnecessary cosmetic research.

These animals have been liberated and are under professional care. Their torments will be documented and all information will be released to the media.

* * *

Charles, Judy and Connie joined the other two near a side door of the complex. There, sheltered from the rain by an overhang, they quickly huddled together in conference.

"The door's open, Charles," Heather whispered. "The secretary did it!"

"Thank God for greed and low salaries," Charles grinned. "Now listen. You remember the floor plans. Bill, you, Judy and Connie go for the monkeys. Heather and I will go for the rabbits." He smiled, relieved at how easy everything was going. "We only have twenty-seven minutes at this point, so keep moving. Stay away from the main lobby. If you see any guards, get them with the mace. Now let's roll."

Bill opened the door into the fire escape. Following him, they quickly made their way to the second floor. At the top of the stairs, Charles slowly opened the corridor door and peered into the dimly lit hallway. Quietly, they made their way down the corridor where the group split at an intersection.

Charles and Heather stopped in front of a door marked Research. They opened the door into an open laboratory stocked only with equipment. They looked at each other puzzled.

Quickly, they went back into the hallway, but all the rooms were offices, meeting rooms and other laboratories empty of animals. Where the bribed secretary had assured them were helpless rabbits held slave to the vanity of American women, there was nothing but rooms filled with desks, chairs and microscopes.

They made their way back to the fire escape where they found Judy waiting for them.

"Did you find the rabbits?" Judy whispered.

"No. Did you find anything?" Charles asked.

"We didn't recognize the hallways, but we found this big metal security door. C'mon."

They followed their fellow member who led them through the maze of hallways. At the end of a short hall was a large, metal door marked Authorized Personnel Only. A small panel with a silhouette of a palm print was the only other marking.

Charles tapped on the metal door. "I would love to know what's behind this," he muttered.

Suddenly, Heather grabbed his shoulder. "Shh. Listen," she whispered intently. Down the corridor behind them, came the sounds of footsteps.

Charles motioned the rest against the wall. He slipped the mace out of his pocket and flipped the lid.

Around the corner, intently reading a sheaf of papers, an elderly man in a laboratory coat made his way toward the door. Engrossed in his reading, he didn't know about the intruders until the mace hit him in the face from only ten feet away.

With a cry, he grabbed his eyes and dropped to his knees. Charles and Bill grabbed him and dragged him down the hallway.

"Shut up! Shut up!" Charles hissed at him. The three women simply stared at the men with guilty looks. Animal oppressors weren't supposed to look like their grandfather.

The old man coughed and sputtered. Charles stared at the scientist and then stared at the handprint on the door. With a triumphant grin, he and Bob manhandled the employee to the door and forced his hand on the template. In seconds, the panel glowed and, with a hissing sound, the door gave a click.

Bill quickly opened the door and they dragged the man into the adjoining hallway. Leaving him slumped against the wall, Charles brusquely motioned the women through the door.

"Keep an eye on him," Charles ordered the women. He started opening doors. "Bull's eye," he said. Inside the room were stacks of large, empty animal cages. "We're getting closer."

Charles grabbed the employee by the lapels and glanced at the name on his security badge. "Listen, Doctor Virkler," he said to the man who was still coughing and rubbing his eyes. "If I hear you yell, you're dead."

He motioned for Bill to help him and, again, they half-dragged, half-carried the doctor into the room where they tumbled him into a cage. Charles locked the cage and motioned for Bill to close the door.

"Charles," Heather said, her face twisted in contempt. "We're pacifists. You threatened that man!"

"Now's not the time to worry about it," Charles hissed back. "We're in the right section. Let's go."

Charles and Bill began throwing open doors, the women reluctantly following behind. Though there was still no sign of rabbits or monkeys, the laboratories were obviously designed to handle animals.

Around a hallway they found another door with a large wheel located in its middle. The unmarked door appeared to be solid steel.

"Jackpot?" Bill asked, smiling at Charles.

"Only one way to find out."

A few turns of the wheel and the door opened to show seven feet of hallway and another similar door. Bill and Charles looked at each other in puzzlement.

Heather put her hand on Charles' shoulder. "Listen," she said. "It's weird to have two doors like this. This looks like an airlock. How do we know there's not something poisonous or radioactive on the other side?"

Charles gave her a patronizing look. "In a cosmetics firm?" he asked. " Anyway," he said, motioning to the bare walls. "If there was anything bad on the other side, there would be some special symbol. It's required by law. If you're nervous, go outside and close the other door. Bill and I'll open the other. We'll knock when everything is okay."

Heather looked at the other two women who shook their heads in the negative. "No, Charles. We stand together. Open the door."

Charles spun the wheel until it could turn no further. With a tug, the heavy door easily swung open on its hinges.

* * *

The pain in Doctor Jonathan Virkler's eyes had finally begun to recede and he could take deep breaths without coughing when he heard the first screams. Oh, no, surely they didn't.

He kicked at the cage door, but the lock held. Knowing what was probably in the hallway by this time, maybe he was safer inside the pen. He heard people running and screaming.

In a moment the screams stopped.

Virkler discovered the silence was worse.

Not aware he was holding his breath, he watched the shadows form underneath the door. It shook as someone jostled it. Virkler's heart began beating so loud, he was certain what was outside could hear.

Silently, he prayed, remembering there were no atheists in fox holes. Or animal cages.

His heart surged with fear when he heard the sound of the door knob slowly turning. The door slowly opened to blazing hall light and the doorway filled with the silhouettes of his children.

All sixteen stealthily entered the room and surrounded his cage. Sixteen pairs of golden feral eyes glared at him through the thin bars of the cage.

Virkler curled himself into a fetal position and his mind made him go far, far away.

* * *

Tony was still groggy from the taser when creatures from a fever dream galloped past his guard station.

Running on all fours, they were much bigger than his Great Dane. One stopped at the open door of the station and stared in at him.

Stupidly staring back at it, Tony watched in a daze as the creature snuffled at him. It ran long-fingered, heavily calloused hands over his uniform. It puzzled at the handcuffs, sniffed at the gun and batted it away.

Tony was glad when the bad dream turned its back on him and run out the door. That's when he heard the screams and the sound of breaking glass.Tony started to cry and thought sad, befuddled thoughts about a lost, elderly woman in a van.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Worldbuilding Is An Art

Ken is on the left, doing what
explorers do naturally.
So learn from a master.

Ken Pick is a coauthor of mine on several past and future projects and one of his main loves is Traveller, a sophisticated science fiction table top role-playing game that I played for years as well.

His articles for the free Freelance Traveller magazine are nothing short of amazing and fascinating and he is a master worldbuilder. The link below takes you to all his articles for the magazine. Enjoy and we will assume you already said thank you.

Ken Pick: Worldbuilder Extraordinaire

Thursday, March 3, 2016

February's Writing Prompt Challenge

This was this evening's writing prompt at the monthly gathering of writers I am privileged to attend. I had way too much fun with this one.

February 2016 Writing Prompt: Describe a part of somebody's body in detail.

In the latter years of my life as my memory fades, it is no surprise that when I remember Ambrosia Plushbottom, the only image that comes to my senescent mind is her mouth. I cannot remember the color of her eyes or her hair; I cannot recollect how tall or short she was; my age-addled brain cannot even recall the most basic shape of her face. If Ambrosia were to stand in front of me I would not remember her, but the moment she opened her mouth to speak, my memory would return in a flood.

I think it was that odd combination of mismatched lips, teeth, and tongue. When she spoke, the result was a spastic ballet that surprised you when you heard actual intelligible words. Watching Ambrosia speak was like viewing a badly dubbed foreign film, the brain stretching itself to marry contradictory visual and auditory clues as the small pink tongue waltzed around broad teeth that belonged more to equine than human biology, and moist lips that had smothered many a screaming child in matronly kisses.