Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Emily Dickenson Quote

Xtro II: The Second Encounter (1990) A Review

Made in 1990, Xtro II: The Second Encounter is a sequel in name only to the English splatterpunk film, Xtro (1983). Amazingly, both were directed by the same man, Harry Bromley-Davenport who later admitted he hated the sequel and made it only because he needed a job and the money. You may think that I want to praise the film, but I point it out as an example of what happens when you have no business writing a script or making a movie.

It took four men to script this disaster and not even the presence of Jan-Michael Vincent who was beginning to enter the nadir of his career could salvage this wreck of a film. Dealing with alcoholism, the reason Vincent delivers his lines with all the energy of a sloth is that the director had to individually feed him his lines before Vincent spoke them.

The movie's pacing is interminable, there are logic and continuity problems, and basically, the storyline makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The movie opens with 3 full minutes of credits interspersed with a helicopter flight going through ice-capped mountains but from the perspective of the helicopter's interior showing the back of actress Tara Buckman's head.

Finally, we get to see an 8-bit computer display of the facility in which the entire movie takes place and the female computerized voice that will act as the chorus to our sad little journey into terrible movie making.

Then we see an interior shot of the place and you will recognize right away that the producer just grabbed some random factory in which to film the movie.

The story line has all the familiar tropes: two scientists in competition with each other, a rude government-type who wants to shut the project down, a moody hero who knows a lot but isn't telling anybody anything, but has the hots for the female lead, a rubber monster who can suddenly appear in different locations with no idea how it could logically travel from Point A to Point B.

Think of Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) and James Cameron's Aliens (1986) combined on a $5 budget.

Unfortunately, in attempting to describe the plot, I will actually make it sound like there is some sense to the story. Abandon all hope ye who enter here. There is no sense at all.

For some reason, the U.S. government has rebuilt a facility to restart the Nexus Program that will enable people to travel to parallel universes. The first facility in Texas resulted in disaster three years before the start of the film when one Dr. Ron Shepherd (Jan-Michael Vincent) blew the place up and, (wait for it), never told anybody in the government the reason for such a dramatic action and somehow he did not end up in a federal prison. Instead, he enjoys a cozy retirement and for the rest of the movie, though he traveled to the alternate universe and knows everything that is going on, says nothing to anybody about what they are facing.

After the pointless helicopter ride intro, we see Secretary Kenmore just arriving at the facility (by car, mind you, not helicopter) and he is just in time to see a team of three people take a foray into the alternate universe. Now they should have sent robots to retrieve air and soil samples, but they send a team of people first and when they finally get live visuals, they are grainy and in black and white. The trio sees some type of globe-shaped structure on the horizon when suddenly they are attacked by something and all contact is lost.

Now evidently there is no oxygen in the parallel universe (no idea how they knew that and the suits they are wearing are not airtight) and if the team is still alive, has only 12 hours of air left.

After an intense discussion on how to rescue the exploratory team, it's revealed that the two scientists in charge of the Nexus Program have strong feelings about Dr. Ron Shepherd, the guy formerly in charge of the Texas institution. It seems Dr. Julie Casserly (Tara Buckman) was Shepherd's former lover and Dr. Alex Summerfield (Paul Koslo) hates Shepherd with a passion that goes beyond all reason. So in spite of the fact that Shepherd blew up the original Nexus Program's Texas facility without ever giving a reason, Secretary Kenmore insists they bring him to the current site to act as an adviser.

"Take me home, country roads!"
So 15 minutes into the film, we get to meet the film's hero played by Jan-Michael Vincent and who looks eerily just like John Denver, the late folk singer.

Anyway, once again Shepherd refuses to reveal why he blew up the original facility, but he agrees to come and find out what has gone wrong and offer what help he can.

In the meantime, Dr. Summerfield assembles a military rescue squad of four of the oddest most eccentric military men possible: Colonel McShane (all business military guy), Zunoski (a New Age hippy), Baines (played by Nicholas Lea before he became famous in TV shows including the role of Alex Krycek in X-Files), and finally, Mancini, a long-haired, smart-mouthed guy with a foreign accent.

These guys are military. Right.

Anyway, at a group meeting, Shepherd encourages the military people not to go into the parallel universe and once again refuses to tell anybody what happened the last time he himself made the journey. However, the viewer will never get a chance to see an alien world anyway, as one of the original trio, Marshall, the crew's sole female, somehow returns and is in a coma. No neat trip to a parallel universe for us. The budget wouldn't allow it.

Well, here's a spoiler for you: Marshall is pregnant with a monster and when she does wake from her coma for a moment, she scratches Dr. Summerfield on the neck infecting him with some mutational disease of some type that nobody ever knows about so no explanation is needed.

The monster is born and escapes into the air ducts (you never saw that coming) and while the facility is being evacuated, the AI computer that runs the facility locks all the doors trapping the four military guys, as well as Drs. Summerfield, Casserly, and Shepherd. And the AI is going to set off a nuke within a certain number of hours to cleanse the place unless the source of the "bio-hazard" is removed.

Respect the amount of rubber that went into this.
Cue the increasing body count, the monster who can impossibly appear in places that are not linked together, Summerfield losing his mind as he mutates into a monster himself, lots of screaming, and lots of rip-offs from the Alien franchise.

And then cue an ending that makes absolutely no sense at all.


What puzzles me is that somebody sat down and thought this was a great movie to invest in when even some of the worst writers I know could have taken this incomprehensible mess and at least made it understandable.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wonderful Trainwreck Quotes

I read a story in the public domain and relished the delightful train wreck that it was.

For your amusement, here are some direct quotes from the tale that prove revision of your work is sometimes a really, really good idea:
  • In her mind was something dark, grotesque as it was something watching her from deep in her emotional psyche.
  •  … sometimes weird things happen to the writers and they share their experiences - sometimes they experience things that would be in the imagination of the fringe genre called bizarre…
  • "Every graphic detail right down to the severed hands," Michael replied while inhaling on a square.
  • Michael stepped inside, it was growing deathly cold as his breath was able to be seen outside and the days waned into night.
  • It was a few hours later when Michael finished his beer and smoked his last cigarette.
  • "So this is a bit tattoo writing weird fiction stories with actors and authors as characters then doing perverse things to them," (writer means ‘taboo.’)
  • She was staring into the darkness at this point, and in her mind were bugbears that were dark, surreal and wandered within her emotions. (I'm putting this gem on a t-shirt.)
  • "This diner, is one of the creepiest damn places I ever seen," Karen replied as she felt the goose bumps crawl up her flesh. "It looks like it was decorated by R.L. Stine."
  • "A Hardline Republican, that is rare.”
  • “Conservatives have a darker imagination because they explore subject matter such as a liberal's nightmare and see it from a nightmarish way."
  • She kept thinking of Cicerone's dark nonfiction stories relating his horrors dealing with his health, acute cases of bronchitis where he was vomiting vast amounts of blood.
  • "He was influenced by the books Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark.”

Monday, June 20, 2016

My PowerPoint Presentation on Self-Publishing For the Library of Congress

I have the honor of speaking at the Library of Congress on Tuesday, June 21st at 12 noon and I have taken an hour-long PowerPoint presentation and boiled it down to a few minutes. Much will not make sense without my talk to go along with it, but for my fans who can't make it, you'll get the gist of the presentation.

You can view the video directly on YouTube by going here.

The music has been put into the public domain by its creators: Everybody, by K-391

You can visit K-391 on their homepage here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Reading The Shrine War For Critique

Last night I did a dramatic reading of the first 4,200 words of The Shrine War for two editors.

It was humbling, embarrassing, and exciting and informative at the same time. This morning, I went over the manuscript and made some excellent changes. Here's one paragraph they had me rewrite, but the result creates a much better mental visual of an Inugami (loosely translated as dog spirit), a legendary Japanese yōkai:
She was an anthropomorphic dog that stood on two legs, a Kishu Inu transformed into an Inugami by a black and evil magic. The long, ebony-colored, unkempt hair on her head spilled over her muzzled face and shoulders, in sharp contrast to the dirty white fur and bright, amethyst-colored eyes. She wore a sarashi, a long strip of cotton cloth tightly binding her breasts. A fundoshi, a traditional loincloth, served as a token to modesty. Over her undergarments, she wore a short, open kimono, stained and travel-worn; a  brown sash tied around her waist held a sheathed katana. Around her neck on a heavy chain lay a jet black polished stone, a contrast against her white-furred chest.

“It comes dressed as a man,” Chiyo muttered.

“She comes dressed as a warrior,” Sen quietly replied.
I think you can easily visualize her now and, needless to say, everything is still in rough form. Compared to revision, writing is the easy part and for me revision never stops until I come to the point where I'm just pushing words around.

Monday, June 13, 2016


Today I was at Green Ridge Village to take my mother to a skin cancer specialist (she's fine...no worries) and some...let's say a misguided soul allowed a wild mother duck and her five ducklings into the building.

Much screaming and madness and duck flight ensued while I'm yelling, "Calm down! It won't hurt you! IT'S! A! DUCK!"

This Is Not the Face of Death. IT'S A DUCK!
I tried to grab it, but unlike in my youth when I was a park ranger at Caledonia State Park and could grab black rat snakes in mid-strike, at the age of 61 I discover I am too slow to grab panicking ducks. Eventually after much mayhem we herded it out an open door.

I found out later this is not that uncommon an occurrence and again, reason rears her lovely head and I am forced to ask, "What idiot allows wild ducks and the associated ducklings into a residential building filled with old people?"

PS: I lied about grabbing a black rat snake in mid-strike. I actually only did that once. The rest of the time, I gave fascinated park patrons a chance to see what a nonpoisonous snake bite looks like of which I accumulated quite a number trying to repeat my Chuck Norris moment.

PPS: A nonpoisonous snake bite can hurt like the little dickens, let me tell you.

PPPS: Sorry for the implied vulgarity. Normally I keep my language sparkling clean, but you cannot maintain an aura of dignity when chasing a flying duck down a corridor filled with screaming people in wheelchairs and walkers.

PPPPS: No, it was NOT ME who let the duck in the nursing home.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A New Review of Opal Wine

Just came across this review today even though it was posted about 6 weeks ago.

Reviews inspire me to write more.

Opal Wine is my anthropomorphic story collection and features a baker's dozen of stories for your entertainment:
  • The Substance of Things Hoped For  
  • The Clockwork Cat  
  • Sawyer  
  • Fox Hunt  
  • Festival of Masks  
  • Wild Carrot  
  • A Fairy Tale  
  • My Pretty Pony  
  • Night Mares  
  • Storyteller  
  • Lair of The White Rabbit: A Collection Of Unexplored Vignettes  
  • Pick’s Model  
  • Coventry House

In-depth reviews of Opal Wine can be found here and here and the collection can be purchased through your country's Amazon.

Opal Wine (United States) Kindle eReader and Paperback
Opal Wine (Canada) Kindle eReader and Paperback
Opal Wine (United Kingdom) Kindle eReader ONLY
Opal Wine (Australia) Kindle eReader ONLY

Saturday, June 11, 2016

So You Want To Be A Writer?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge is the supreme tragedy of indiscipline. Never did so great a mind produce so little. He left Cambridge University to join the army; he left the army because he could not rub down a horse; he returned to Oxford and left without a degree. He began a paper called The Watchman which lived for ten numbers and then died. It has been said of him: he lost himself in visions of work to be done, that always remained to be done. Coleridge had every poetic gift but one—the gift of sustained and concentrated effort. In his head and in his mind he had all kinds of books, as he said, himself, completed save of transcription. "I am on the even," he says, "of sending to the press two octavo volumes." But the books were never composed outside Coleridge’s mind, because he would not face the discipline of sitting down to write them out. No one ever reached any eminence, and no one having reached it ever maintained it, without discipline. ~ William Barclay

If you want to be a writer, write. ~ Alan Loewen

Friday, June 10, 2016

Rowan Dreaming: Read It Yet?

Rowan Dreaming is a dark fantasy romance with a body count and is only a mere 99¢ as a Kindle eBook.
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. (Amazon review)
Part of my Doll Wars cycle, the story centers on Auden Gray, a pawnbroker who receives a ball-jointed doll and saw it only as an exotic toy 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.
This is another bit of classic horror from author Alan Loewen. Done in the tone and feel of works by Blackwood or M.R. James, the novella tells us about some unlucky people who come into contact with the strange doll, Rowan, and what happens to them. Some may be groaning at the prospect of 'Not another evil doll story!' but this is different. It plays with that classic trope and surprises you with an original yet logical end. (Amazon Review)
 As a bonus, the story comes with another dark fantasy romance, Strange Streets.

For 99¢, enjoy a story that costs far less than a ticket to the movies and can be enjoyed over and over again.

Rowan Dreaming: Amazon USA
Rowan Dreaming: Amazon United Kingdom
Rowan Dreaming: Amazon Canada
Rowan Dreaming: Amazon Australia

And if you have read it, could you kindly leave a review?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I Need Advice on Japanese Honorifics

I am in need of advice on the use of Japanese honorifics. So far, I've found the following: San, Sama, Kun, Chan, Bō, Senpai and kōhai, Sensei and hakase, Shi, Dono/tono, No kimi, Ue, Shōgō and I suspect there are dozens I am missing.

For first time visitors, I am writing a requested piece on a conflict between five Inari shrine maidens who are kitsune, defending their shrine against an invading body of Inugami. The working title is The Shrine War.

The structure of the kitsune shrine maidens is as follows: Sen is the head of them all determined by seniority (she is over 900 years old). Sen's commands are followed without question (though Chiyo may speak up and respectfully point out another option). Directly below her is Chiyo who is second-in-command and would succeed Sen if something ever happened to her. Kiku and Kuwa are twins, next in line and equal in status. At the bottom is young Hoso who is subservient to all.

The structure of the Inugami is they have a leader, Akumu, the unquestioned warlord of the pack of ten. The remaining nine are equals and totally subservient to Akumu who has a goddess-like status to them (though she is not).

If important, all characters are female.

Question: How would they address each other? How would they refer to each other in discussion when the other person was not present.

Any advice or insight would be greatly appreciated.

Oh! One last question. My human character, Brennan Woodbrygg, is an American and in the story will interact only with Sen and Hoso. He is aware that Sen is the authority in the shrine (it does not have a priest, only miko, i.e., shrine maidens), but is not clear on the status of Hoso though aware she is under Sen in authority. Though American, he is very sensitive to Japanese culture. How would he address these two?How would they address him? (Sen looks somewhat down on all humans, Hoso is awed by the first human she has ever seen.)

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Shrine War: A Progress Report

Currently only up to 2,570 words because of the amount of research needed to portray life realistically in a Japanese Shinto shrine. I find myself doing copious amounts of reading on shrine architecture, shrine maiden clothing, and other odds and ends to add a realistic dimension to the work.
On a Facebook group I run for writers of genre literature, I wrote:
To add historical credence to a present work in progress, I just spent over an hour trying to find the name of the brassier women wore in feudal Japan. Does that make me a writer or simply barking insane? It's called a sarashi by the way.
Fortunately, I have been a huge fan of eastern cinema and watched enough Japanese samurai films to add some interesting scenes, but this segment that takes place after the Inugami envoy leaves after making some brutal and impossible demands to the shrine kitsune still took me a good hour to craft:
Chiyo nodded, her jaw tight and her eyes grim. “They will not obtain the mirror, sister. Not tonight. Not ever.” She reached into the left sleeve of her haori and pulled out a folded fan. With a flick of her wrist, it sprang open with a metallic whisper to reveal itself as a Japanese war fan, it’s edge honed to razor sharpness. “I have not used my tessen in years past counting, but should the dogs attempt to enter the honden…” Chiyo spun the fan in her furred fingers, its deadly edge splitting the air with a fearsome hiss and blurring from the speed of its movement as she expertly guided it through a simple exercise. In her left hand, her prayer beads began to glow with a dull azure light, Then with a sudden movement she flicked the fan closed with a sharp click and the prayer beads immediately once again took on the appearance of simple tiny ceramic and wooden balls strung on a hempen cord. Chiyo slid her tessen back up her sleeve. 
With dignity, the sisters bowed to each other and Chiyo left Sen standing alone in the hoiden.
 I'm glad the deadline for the work is October. It may actually take me that long.

Why I'm Happy Just To Write To Entertain

My official bio says:
Loewen also makes no bones about his writing: he writes solely to entertain, his first desire to be a storyteller. If the reader discovers some great universal truth in a Loewen-crafted tale, that's icing on the cake, but as Loewen has said, "I want my readers simply to enjoy themselves in a story of my own creation. If they feel their time has not been wasted and they liked the story, I have achieved my primary goal."
It appears that somebody agrees with me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Shrine War: Opening Scene

What follows is a rough draft of the opening scene of a story I am currently writing for an anthology for editor Fred Patten. I have never been to Japan and I have never been to a Shinto shrine. I regret I have never met a kitsune and I am rather certain I will go to my grave never having had the pleasure.

But this is the enjoyment of writing fantasy: to communicate exotic pictures to the reader's imagination using only the power of the written word. I do hope I dance close to succeeding. Please remember that this is a rough draft and everything is subject to change.

The Shrine War
by Alan Loewen

“Sen-sama? The sisters have gathered in the oratory as you have ordered.” In the dim light before dawn, an observer would have seen the forms of two young women. Each wore the traditional garb of a Shinto shrine maiden: long, red skirts bound with an obi, a white kimono jacket, and white hair ribbons and ivory combs tying back long, waxed hair.

“Well done, Hoso-san. Arigato.” For a moment, they watched the sun rise above the horizon beyond Mount Tomuraushi. As the growing light illuminated the mountain’s summit, what little mid-summer snow remained glowed with a brilliant radiance. On the lower slopes, the small hardy bushes and wildflowers turned the slopes a verdant green.

As the gloom dissipated in the growing warmth of morning, sunlight reflected from the eyes of the two watchers, eyes that were brown and a fitting shade and shape to match the white-furred, fox-like faces of the pair.

“You enjoy watching the sunrise, do you not?” Hoso asked.

Sen remained silent for a moment and Hoso wondered if her superior had heard her, but after a pause, Sen slowly nodded her head. “If the weather allows, I have not missed a sunrise in the five centuries I have been here at the shrine.”

Hoso stared with envy at Sen’s nine tails, one for each century of her life and the greatest number a Kitsune could acquire. For a moment, and not for the first time, Hoso regretted her youth. Only two tails emerged from a cleverly designed slit in the back of her skirt and Hoso had seven more centuries to go before she could enjoy Sen’s status and glory.

Ashamed of her jealousy, Hoso bowed to Sen, her furred hands with their dainty claws sliding down the front of her thighs as she bowed. “We will await you, Sen-sama, but I humbly ask that you not tarry. The Inugami emissary will be here soon.” With that, she turned and left.

Sen watched as the risen sun turned Mount Tomuraushi into a brilliant and shining beacon, and wondered if today would be her last opportunity to revel in the gift of a new day. She turned to see the sun gleaming off the red-tiled roof of the hodon. Surrounded by its protective bamboo wall, the hoden served as the most sacred part of the shrine where Inari's mirror stood in glory and splendor, primal and serene. In front of the hodon, stood the haiden, the public oratory where her sisters waited. All around her, the peace of the shrine lay inviolate, but Sen feared it would not be so for long. An invading force of the Inugami was coming. The emissary only served as a pretense of peace. With a shake of her head, she turned to walk up the tiled sandō to join her sisters.