Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Preparing for Travellercon 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm packed and ready to go!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

I Dream of a Cat at a Parisian Bistro

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

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

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

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

Erma Felna, by artist Steve Gallacci
by Alan Loewen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How may I be of service?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

She pointed behind me. “Immediately.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

So Kitsune Aren't Perfect Little Angels?

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

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

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

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

Haruka buried her muzzled face in her paws.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Calling All Botanists!

ADDENDUM: The tree has been identified as a Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa). You can read all about it here and here. Thanks to everyone who sent me information. Every suggestion led me closer to the answer.

This plant is on the property of Green Ridge Village in Newville, Pennsylvania. The plant sprung up by itself and they have absolutely no idea what it is. Even the local newspaper published pictures of it without anybody able to come forward and identify it.

Could any hobbyists, gardeners, botanists, or herbalists identify this very remarkable plant.

It stands at least ten feet tall with leaves that are almost a yard in width. As you can see, the bark of the stem is speckled.

We are rather certain it is not a triffid.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Wanna Read My Slenderman Story For Free?

Well, of course you do. And all you have to do is click on this masterfully crafted link right here.

Anyway, there's nothing good on TV so you might as well.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Five More Poems For Your Enjoyment

More poetry that I have written over the years. Please remember that ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.

Alice Remembers the White Knight

I would step through the mirror once again,” she said,
“As a sacrament
to unrequited faith.

And writing of you with compassion,
my words will spill on the pages
with all the might of snowflakes.

And when my pen is emptied,
I will walk into the sky to find my heart
for it is there you will be waiting.”

Jordan Draws

Ink flows and
an ebony line forms
a face, an eye, a mouth,
the artist's desire made
corporeal—a faint echo
of a Divine hand when
it sketched its heart
on the virgin soil
of Eden.

The Wizard and the Poet

Incantation muttered, the stars
Have gelled in positions ordained.
The candles lit, the words uttered,
Sacrifices made.

The adept pauses, but no
Reality bends to firm will.
With a curse, retorts are shattered
And symbols undone as are years of labor.

The poet pauses with pen in hand
Then writes worlds into existence.
Crafting reality with artful phrase
And creating universes with words.

No demon-haunted wizard can match this power
No mumbling incantation half as strong.
Impotent all before the writing poet
Who wields his words in majesty and awe.

Maiden With Horn

She walks among the roses, sunlight
Glittering off opal and pearl.
He sees through the blossoms
A delicate body of wreathed
Alabaster, distillation of sylph
And maiden.

“Alms!” he cries and the
Silhouetted vision pauses.
“Alms! Bless this poor man’s

A whisper returns, “Do you ask
Or give?

“May we not do both?” He weaves
His web of words, “Come and
Enrich my heart.”

Her retreat quickens his spirit.
He follows the shadowed vision
To a wooded glade.
Under an ancient oak, he sees
The body of a girl, the face of a myth.
Her spiral horn shines in the setting sun.

By wonder transformed, the
Novitiate lays his head, his
Life, his alms, in his
Mistress’s lap.

Where Unicorns Walked As Men

He sat at the bar with untouched drink
And babbled about lost lands of opal towers,
Perfumed air, and unicorns that walked as men.

We mocked this poet racked with fever-dream,
Lost in visions and rum. “And you returned to this?”
We asked.