Wednesday, February 28, 2018

In Search of the Creators: Opening Scene

What follows is the opening scene of my current work in progress, In Search of the Creators, in response to a request to submit a story to an upcoming anthology.

The end result may be dramatically different and bear in mind that this is a rough draft:

In Search of the Creators
by Alan Loewen
The oldest legends say that when the Creators left blue-green Ur to explore the stars, they found themselves alone in a cosmos without boundaries. Grieved at their loneliness, they returned to their world, took their animals, and gifted them with sentience and the ability to stand on two feet and use hands. They scattered their progeny across numerous stars and today, they patiently wait for their children to return. ~ Histories and Legends
“Sensors at full. Keep your ears up.”

Captainess Ilassa brushed her hair out of eyes, flipping her long lop ears to hang over her back. The rest of the crew studied their monitors intensely. Outside the ship, the neverending gray of the warp manifold enveloped the ship and the timers ticked off the seconds when they would pop into real space and a new star system.

Tension filled the air of the cramped control deck. The ship lacked weapons and the instinctive response of Ilassa’s race, exactly like the rabbits from which the Creators had upraised them, was to flee if danger threatened. 

Ilassa checked her monitors. All five crew members stood ready to feed her important information the moment they appeared out of warp. Within seconds she would make the decision to either stay and explore this new planetary system or flee back into the safety of manifold space.

She mindlessly tapped her pen on her incisors that peeked out from behind her upper lip, a nervous habit borne from the many times she had entered a new system.

The timer ticked down and suddenly the main viewscreen snapped from formless gray into the dark of space with a brilliant mainstream sun shining like a bright dot in its center.

Information started flashing over her monitor as her crew shouted their findings.

“Five planets, Captainess!”

“No radio signals detected.”

“Captainess, I detect a ship! Wait! It’s dead, Captainess. No heat at all. No electromagnetic signals. Just floating.”

“Captainess, there is one planet that is the proper distance from the sun to maintain life. I detect no electromagnetic signals. Nothing artificial in orbit.” 

It was only then that Ilassa realized she was holding her breath. She let it out with a shudder. “Set a course for the derelict,” she said. “Let’s see what information it can give us.”

A Small Change of Plans

Though I have already started working on Incident at a Japanese Inn, I was approached by anthologist and editor Fred Patten to consider submitting to his upcoming anthology.

The official release for submissions follows:
FurPlanet Productions is announcing its next original short story anthology: 
Exploring New Places; an anthology of furry stories about going someplace new. That journey can be anything, from a comedy about someone going on a packaged vacation to an exotic resort where everything goes wrong, or a romance where they find Mr. or Ms. Right, to a horror story about an expedition to explore a new planet, or a historic drama about a sailing ship blown off course in a hurricane to an unknown continent. 
Length: 4,000 to 20,000 words. Lesser will be accepted. Longer … let’s discuss it. 
Opening: March 1 st , 2018. Deadline: May 31 st , 2018. To be published at Anthrocon 2018
Rating: G to PG. Keep it for all ages, for a family audience. 
No explicit erotica, but tasteful romance of any orientation is okay. Authors who want to contribute are urged to check with me (Fred Patten) first to make sure that their story ideas are not too close to others which are being submitted. Multiple submissions by an author will be considered, but simultaneous submission of a story to different anthologies will not be. 
Payment:  ½¢ per word upon publication and a contributor’s copy of Exploring New Places, a $19.95 anthology.  Contributors may buy additional copies at a 30% discount. 
Send submissions to fredpatten AT
Now let me make it very clear. If Fred Patten asks me for a story, I'm going to do my best to make sure he's going to get a story.

I'm working on a short story I've entitled, In Search of the Creators and will reveal more about it in a future blog post.

Graphic courtesy of Max Pixel
Note: My completing the story does NOT imply automatic acceptance into the anthology. The divine right of editors outweighs the divine right of kings. If not accepted, the story will be released on my Wattpad site (and you should visit that link for some free stories from yours truly anyway).

Monday, February 19, 2018

Incident at a Mausoleum: A True Story

On my honor, this is a true story.

Some years ago, my wife, sons, and I were visiting friends for the day. Going out into their backyard for a breath of fresh air, I noticed a cemetery just a block away on top of a hill. What struck my curiosity was the sight of a lone mausoleum sunk into the hillside.

Family name deliberately blurred out of respect and consideration
Fascinated by this solitary resting place separated from the other graves, I walked over to explore. Aside from a name on the padlocked iron sheet that formed the door, there were no distinguishing characteristics, not even a date of birth and death.

There were ventilation holes in the rusted door and curious, I peered inside to see if anything was visible.

Nothing could be seen but a dark interior. However, you can imagine my stunned surprise when from within the tomb, I heard the distinct sound of movement.

I jumped back and immediately scolded myself soundly for my overactive imagination. Carefully, I leaned toward the ventilation holes and once again, the unmistakable sound of movement came from behind the door, a sound like grave clothes brushing against stone.

My overactive imagination took full sway. Though I don't believe in ghosts, for one fleeting moment I entertained the possibility. I even considered that somebody may have been imprisoned within the mausoleum and left to die and I was hearing their desperate attempts to communicate.

Running back to my friends' house, I strode into the kitchen were they and my wife sat at the dinner table talking.

"That mausoleum over in the cemetery?" I began in haste. "The one you can see from your backyard?"

Oh, yes," my friend's wife said. "I've told my children to avoid it. It's completely full of snakes."

"Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?"
Addendum: I found myself back at the cemetery today to officiate at the interment of a very dear individual and when I saw the mausoleum, the memory of my encounter came back in a rush. I took some quick pictures and decided to share them on my blog.

I was able to research the mausoleum. It contains the remains of only one individual who was interred in October 1922.

If any of my closest friends and neighbors recognize the site, please, out of respect and consideration for the family, do not mention its location or the name of the deceased in the comment section of this blog.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Let Me Show You Some Magic

From 1975 until 1979, half of my annual income came from doing stage magic. Classed as "semi-professional" by the Society of American Magicians, I covered Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey mostly doing shows for nonprofits like churches and libraries. I had the money for a levitation and a guillotine and I had a killer mentalism routine. I also invented an illusion where two audience members cut another audience member in half using thick ropes. I'm retired from magic now, but it doesn't take much to get me to dust off the old props and do a show for a family-friendly nonprofit.

However, I'd like to do a magic trick for you now. Please read the following:
Marie blinked up at the bright pink Martian sky through the protective glassine dome. After a week in transit staring only at white spaceship walls, the sudden expanse gave her a touch of agoraphobia. I wonder if I’ll ever miss blue, she thought. I wonder if I’ll ever care.


Marie jumped, staring at the customs officer. An android, he was humanoid in form, but clearly a robot. “Y…yes?” she asked.

“Do you have any baggage to declare?”

Marie sighed. “Only these two.” She motioned toward the two small carry-ons at her feet that contained her only possessions. Not to mention the twenty-eight years of baggage I carry in my head.
Now that, Gentle Reader, is my finest illusion. Using only 111 words, in your imagination I transported you to Mars where you have never been and put you into the head of a person you have never met and who doesn't exist. With just five paragraphs, I took you out of your reality and plopped you into one I created.

I have racked up some really nice magic shows. I have left audiences dumbfounded and I have received accolades and awe for my illusions. However, all of that is nothing compared to what I just performed for you right here on your computer/tablet screen.

This is why I love writing for you. This is why I write solely for entertainment. I don't want to change your life. I don't want to pound any philosophy into your head using my work as a bully pulpit.

I just want to do a magic show for you.

So hang on. I've done some nice shows for you in the past, but I'm working on some doozies. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Note of Encouragement for Writers

All writers come with baggage. 

If you suffer from procrastination, emotional and/or physical wounds, self-defeating or self-destructive behaviors, crippling moments of doubt and despair, there is something you need to remember.

Your reader knows nothing about this. They only see the finished product. 

Most of my readers don't know my professional vocation, my list of failures, my years of rejection slips, my failed manuscripts that I have buried as a service to humanity, or years of mental challenges caused by rampant depression. They only see my finished works, the stories that I have written for their enjoyment. 

And it's the same for you. Your readers see the work, not the writer.

When you write and your Internal Critic attempts to sabotage your work, with failures and shortcomings of the past and present, remind it that your readers don't know you and carry no suppositions or prejudices as they read your story whether it be a short story or a massive trilogy of encyclopedia-sized tomes.

They only see your plot, your characters, your world, and your tale as a whole.

So write your best because your present work uses your failures and successes of the past as energy and ideas and rest in comfort that your reader is only interested in your story, not who you are.