Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Curse: A Flash Fiction of 450 Words

“Before You Embark On A Journey Of Revenge, Dig Two Graves” — Confucius

The Curse

by Alan Loewen

You have probably heard the debate about parallel or alternate universes, the theory that there is an infinite number of space-time domains that lie next to each other. Differing in only slight degrees, these timelines become more radically different the further you move away from your own home cosmos.

To me, it’s not a theory. These alternate universes have become part of a curse of my very own, borne about, strangely enough, by a curse spoken in a rage so deep, my very words shattered space and time.

Since that day so long, long ago when I cursed Glen Gardner, my own words have carried me from universe to universe in an eternal quest to fulfill a vow to kill him even if it took an eternity.

The Curse continues to drive me even now from dimension to dimension, plane to plane, cosmos to cosmos seeking Gardner out in his infinite incarnations. 

My shame is that I have been at this for so long, I can no longer remember the original sin Gardner committed against me that brought me to utter those evil words.

And so I travel the alternate universes to hunt him out to die at my hands.

In some worlds, he is still my enemy and I kill in self-defense. In other universes, he calls me friend and brother and I weep at the memory of the look of stunned surprise in his dying eyes. In most times and spaces, he doesn’t even know who I am.

I want to stop.

In some alternate planes of existence, he is a man in his prime, in others, he is in his dotage. The worst ones of all are those universes where he is still only a small child.

I try to stop, I really do, but the Curse makes me hunt him out and then the Rage returns to ensure I carry through on my vow.

In some worlds, he is a criminal of the basest sort and I do humanity a great service, but in others, he is a saint. In one world, he was a leader that kept an entire nation from chaos and ruin.

But in almost all of them, his death causes a rippling cascade of more death and horror and misery for innocents not involved in my personal crusade. So it’s not just Gardner’s blood on my hands.

And my hands have become so very, very bloody.

I should have forgiven him. I wish I could forgive him now. I feel I am plunging toward a death of my own that I will never reach.

Please. Somebody. Somebody help me to stop. I just want to stop.

I think I am in Hell.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Let Me Teach You How To Write Your Memoirs

I teach a two-hour class on how to write and publish memoirs and every time I have led it, the class was well attended and well received.

The reason I do so is because there are so many people who are leaving us with their stories untold, stories of how they survived heartache and hardship and how they overcame difficulties and roadblocks, simple yet dramatic stories of survival and victory. 

Many years ago I visited an elderly man who told me a story of his time in war-torn Italy as World War II began drawing to a close. Calmly, almost if talking about the weather, he told of an attack by the enemy as he and his unit marched down a road. 

He was the only survivor. "Since that day," he said, "I have treasured every day of my life. My life was given to me that day as a gift and I live it like that."

I begged him to write the story down, but he was a humble man and didn't think anybody else would be interested. At my insistence, he promised to scratch out a page or two.

I regret to say in less than a week, I officiated at his funeral, his story unwritten.

Now, when I officiate at a graveside funeral, most people see a silent city of the dead. I see God's library, each stone representing one of more stilled voices whose wisdom I will never hear.

So now I teach a class on how to write memoirs.

I would very much love to come to your library, retirement home, house of worship, or other social, community, or fraternal organization to encourage and teach on how to write one's life story for posterity. All you have to do is drop me a line at

But don't wait forever.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Walker Wars: How Insane Writers Get Their Ideas

(Note: I just read a report that says dark humor is a sure sign of encroaching dementia. If true this musing is proof that I'm doomed.)
This evening I meet with a small group of fellow writers and as I walked out with my companion, the conversation turned to the subject of nursing homes and their probable inevitability in my future. I bemoaned my lack of wealth that ensures dependence on government handouts, my introverted personality that does not enjoy being forced to mingle with others in a crowded environment, and my encroaching old age.

Me. Probably Just A Year From Now
On the way home, I envisioned myself, deaf and haggard, pushing a walker ahead of me while the rest of the doomed, the despairing, and the despondent sat about me or meandered the hallways while the halls echoed with the continual cries for nurses, bedpans, and assistance getting up from where they had fallen. 
(Note: This is not what nursing homes are actually like (I visit all the local ones professionally), but I'm a writer. I make my money from melodrama, hyperbole,  and conflict, not writing prose that would even give Pollyanna sugar shock)
Then my inner vision panned back and I took in the Pleasant Valley Retirement Community where I was a resident, abandoned by the staff after a zombie outbreak.

Suddenly, the camera zoomed back in and there I was with the remaining three survivors of the Daffodil Wing preparing for a raid on the few residents left in the Daisy Wing as we prepared to fight tooth and nail over the last case of banana-flavored Ensure.

Armed with canes and dentures, we slowly (the only speed available to us) made our way down the hallways, past the lockdown unit where the residents clawed at the windowed door. We never knew if they were zombified or normal residents that had chewed through their restraints, but nobody was going to risk opening the door to answer the question.

As we crept through the social room through the dining hall cluttered with debris from past conflicts, we met the enemy led by Mrs. Emma Plushbottom, a harridan of well-known reputation, all wrinkles and fury. 

The battle was on.

However, just as I envisioned that last scenario as combatants in wheelchairs or supported by walkers impacted each other in desperate conflict, I arrived home.

My dreams will probably be rather weird tonight.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Art of Time Travel (How to Read Historical Nonfiction)

A few days ago while browsing the aisles of Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I came across a biography of a man whose life I always wanted to study: Emperor Huizong (A.D. 1082-1135) the last emperor of the Song Dynasty in northern China. Around my neck on a leather thong I wear a coin designed by the emperor and I many times meditate on and marvel at the journey the coin must have taken from the minters of almost a millennia ago to where it rests around my throat.

Emperor Huizong by Patricia Buckley Ebray was published in 2014 by Harvard University Press and when I found it in the stacks at Midtown Scholar, I was overjoyed. Unfortunately, I did not have the necessary funds to purchase it. Reluctantly, I left it behind, but this morning I returned to the store and my luck held. It is now in my possession.

My own personal time machine.

Fortunately, Dr. Ebray is no amateur writer. A professor at the University of Washington and an author of over 12 books on the Song Dynasty, she is uniquely qualified to lay out the history of this fascinating, star-crossed emperor and give me a fascinating, detailed and intimate look into Emperor Huizong's life and times.

It takes two shelves to hold my works on Theodore Roosevelt
And fortunately, I know how to read historical nonfiction. As a collector of ancient writings, biographies, and works on history, I've learned that true learning comes when one is willing to follow a few simple rules:
  1. I do not consider myself superior to the past. Just because the people I study did not have access to the Internet, smartphones and other technology does not mean I am more intelligent than they are.
  2. Though issues of morality are tricky when it comes to reading history, there are universal moral codes that are accepted regardless of culture, nationality, and boundaries (cf: The Abolition of Man, by C.S. Lewis), through which I can safely judge actions and decisions as we all share a common morality with the past. However, I also have to reluctantly agree that certain acts questionable or even reprehensible to me did seem wise at the time they were enacted. Though I will never go so far as to say the Holocaust and similar events of genocide were ever good or wise, historical events such as the Crusades, the discovery of the New World and the resulting conquest of the Americas, the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan, and other events need to be viewed somewhat dispassionately in order to understand the zeitgeist or spirit of the times. 
  3. We learn from the past to understand how we arrived at the present. Our own age did not spring from whole cloth. Our own zeitgeist was generated by actions and decisions made by our forebears some as much as several millennia ago. 
  4. Finally, I am teachable. There are men and women that though they spoke a different language and lived in a different culture, they achieved and mastered arenas that I also wish to achieve and master. Therefore, though he was a misogynist and racist, I study the literary theory of H. P. Lovecraft to better refine my own writing. Though I disagree with the politics of Theodore Roosevelt, I study his life to learn how to conquer fear and surmount great trials. Though I am by no means an atheist, I study the life and writings of Friedrich Neitchszhe to understand the roots of a worldview that has an ever-increasing audience. 
My encouragement to you, Gentle Reader, is to utilize the millions of books that are at your disposal and learn. One in four Americans never read a book last year. Don't be one of them.

Now if you'll excuse me, I am scheduled to make a trip back to 11th century China. I am certain it will be a satisfying and enjoyable experience.

Monday, July 9, 2018

In Search of the Creators Released in a New Fred Patten Anthology

During Anthrocon 2018, FurPlanet released its new anthology, Exploring New Places, that contains my short story, In Search of the Creators. Coupled with 18 other short stories, the theme deals with anthropomorphic animals venturing into unknown places.

In Search of the Creators centers on Illatha, an anthropomorphic rabbit, and her crew searching the galaxy for the strange beings that uplifted her ancestors millennia ago before mysteriously disappearing. Exploring another solar system, they discover a planet that shows signs of habitation. Could it be, after fruitless years of searching, Illatha and her crew have finally found the answers to their genesis?

Exploring New Places is not yet available from Amazon, but can be ordered directly from FurPlanet.

Story Excerpt:

Illatha and her crew stayed in silent orbit waiting for orders from Homeworld. A subspace squirt took one week out and back and assuming a few days for the leaders of Homeworld to debate what they should do, a response was expected soon.

Illatha stared at the dots of light that speckled the night side of the planet, each one declaring the presence of a city. Sensors had shown the lights were not electrical in nature, but the glow from fires that appeared to be from natural gas.

One of the lights dimmed slowly and then brightened again. Illatha’s gaze focused on it.

It blinked again, twice in succession in a slow, but steady pattern.

Illatha’s furred brow furrowed in curiosity and concentration.

The light blinked again, three times in succession.

Immediately, the captain’s four-fingered hands flashed over the control board to put her ship in a stationary orbit.

Fascinated, she watched as it blinked five times and then went back and blinked once. And then twice, then three times and then five, cycling back to repeat the pattern of prime numbers in a base ten system.

Fear welled up in Illatha’s heart. They had been spotted.

Contact had been made.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Taking Apart The "Cat Hotel"

From many, many years ago, filched from an old blog no longer available:

Many years ago, a relative who owned many cats gave us their old "cat hotel."

Think of a wooden crate 3 feet wide by 7 feet long and 4 and a half feet high with windows and little shelves for kitties to play on, etc. and you'll know what I am talking about. It sat behind our garage for many years decaying in rain, snow, and heat.

Today, I took it all apart and put the wood on a burn pile for the world's most awesome bonfire.

I also have a garbage can filled with screws. Hundreds of them. I thank heaven for an electric drill that has a Philips screw bit. I would have lost my wrist otherwise.

So what did I learn from this 5-hour long demolition project?
  1. I believe I found several new species of spiders never before known in south-central Pennsylvania. 
  2. After the first two hours of having spiders crawl all over you, you will eventually stop screaming just so you can get the job done. 
  3. Wood that has been in contact with wet ground for many years develops several types of mold that would inspire the minds of all Grade-B horror film directors. 
  4. Mold feels fuzzy. 
  5. My lower back in its agony can use obscenities that I do not personally know. 
  6. Working in the hot sun while Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal plays nonstop in your inner mind is a type of torment very few people will ever appreciate. 
  7. When you are dismantling something and tearing it apart using a hammer and other tools while pieces of destruction lay about your feet, children are still capable of asking, "Are you taking the cat hotel apart?" 
Nonetheless, I now have a 3 x 7 foot patch of bare ground on the southward side of my garage fertilized by a decade of mice nests and Monday, I plant my herb garden.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go shower the spiders off of myself.