An Amazing Physical Feat and Thoughts on Any Impending Apocalypse

If you ever wondered if I could walk one mile in 14 minutes in -2 degree weather, the answer is an amazing yes.

In other news, I am without a car today.

But the traumatic misery of that little trek has now been stored away in my memory and will someday find itself in one of my fictional endeavors ... or come out as a violent PTSD incident.

However, in the light of my amazing accomplishment, I can now say, “Bring on the Apocalypse! Come at me, bro!”

As long as it’s not a zombie apocalypse. I do not give myself airs. Three days into the zombie apocalypse, I’ll be scrabbling at your door moaning for your brains. Or maybe something worse …

“Minerva! I just shot our neighbor!”

“Oh, poor Mr. Loewen. He was a zombie?”

“Nah. He looked downright healthy to me.”
Yeah, yeah. I stole that from The Simpsons. So shoot me.

Wait! Wait! Wrong choice of words there.

The Star: A Christmas Story - 500 Word Length

My apologia: The one aspect of the Christmas story that has always captured my imagination was the reference to the mages that came from the Far East bringing gifts to the Christ Child. Though they actually arrived in Bethlehem about two years after the birth of Jesus, these pagan astrologers traveled great distances to honor the prophesized King of the Jews. This very short story is my attempt to capture a distant time and culture and what it must have meant for these non-Jewish men to make such a dangerous journey. In the end, their honor of the Christ Child demonstrated that the Messiah had come for all of humanity.

Alan Loewen

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Doll Wars Revisited

In early 2009, I completed a very short story that I entitled Dollmaker, an eerie little piece rather difficult to explain. It simply has to be read. It was picked up by the magazine Aoife's Kiss in March of that year. It is also going to be republished in the anthology, Fossil Lake II: The Refossiling in February, 2015.

Interestingly, Dollmaker wouldn't leave me be. The ideas generated by the short kept coming back to me and in early 2013 I wrote a somewhat related story, In the Image of the Father, which was published by Morpheus Press in their Ethereal Tales Special Edition in February, 2014.

A related tale followed immediately and Rowan Dreaming has never been published as there is no market for novellas.

My ultimate goal was to write a braided novel, that brought the three stories together along with a central 50,000-word novel

The first chapter is In the Image of the Father and takes place in London, England in 1961. in the tale, Arianna Winters, a 16 year-old teen, meets two cursed lovers, Collette Heartstrom and Joshua Wakefield, and becomes trapped in their ongoing tragedy.

The second chapter is Rowan Dreaming, another dark fantasy tale that takes place in modern-day Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It's two main characters are Auden Gray, a phlegmatic owner of a pawn shop, and Rowan Corday, a young woman whose quest for peace of mind has taken a seductive and deadly turn.

The third unwritten "chapter" is actually a full blown novel, but more about that later.

The final portion is the super short, Dollmaker, that reveals the fate of the main antagonist introduced in the third section of the book.

It was that middle chapter I struggled with. Having a 50,000 word-length goal, three times I have set the novel aside because something simply was not working. Finally last week, I recognized my difficulty that I could not see until I stepped away from the novel to work on other projects.

In the Image of the Father is in its purest essence, a love story. Agreed it's a dark love story, but it's still a love story. Likewise, so is Rowan Dreaming.

My problem came with the disconnect between the emphasis on dark romance in the first two stories, but yet the third section was going to be an epic fantasy war between rival mages who used child-sized animated ball-jointed dolls as their warriors. I was looking forward to this one. At the end, Harrisburg was little more than smoking ruins.

And it took awhile for me to realize why it all wasn't working, something that you, dear reader, probably just did. The third section with its themes of battle and blood simply didn't fit.

And there was only one way to make the third section fit. I have no choice. The third section must have, as its main theme, a dark fantastic love story.

And as soon as I realized that, it all fell into place. The third installment is now a love story, albeit a very dark one (and there is still a body count), but I will reveal what three people from London, England and two people from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in the U.S.A. unknowingly have in common with a secret society from 19th century Florence, Italy.

So now there shall be bloody violence and death and destruction mixed liberally with professions of passion and kissing and the making of goo goo eyes.

Personally, I think it's going to be a fun ride. ;-)

H. P. Lovecraft Was A Racist ... Should We Care?

Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937), known as H.P. Lovecraft, was a writer of horror and dark fantasy. His best known works are The Call of Cthulhu, The Dunwich Horror, At the Mountains of Madness, and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

Though never reaching any form of fame during his life, posthumously he became one of the best known genre writers in the western world due to the dedication of his friends, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, who together formed Arkham House, a publishing company formed at first to preserve the fiction of Lovecraft.

Lovecraft’s work has been the inspiration of many genre writers as well as artists and musicians and a full list would be impossible to compile, but here is a partial list: Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Bentley Little, Joe R. Lansdale, Alan Moore, Junji Ito, F. Paul Wilson, Brian Lumley, Caitlín R. Kiernan, William S. Burroughs, and Neil Gaiman. Though Lovecraft and I share worldviews diametrically opposed to each other, I freely acknowledge him as one of the Top 5 inspirations for my own voyage into the writing life.

Recently, Lovecraft has come under attack from the Political Correctness crowd, especially over the annual award given by the World Fantasy Convention which is a bust of Lovecraft called The Howard because the reality is that H. P. Lovecraft was a racist. And that accusation is not up for debate. Lovecraft was also an anti-Semite, a sexist, and his distaste for homosexuals was well known (I refuse to call him a homophobe as he never displayed fear toward them and as a writer words mean something to me). Lovecraft was also a classic neurotic.

I do not support Lovecraft’s worldview. I will repeat that because this is the Internet where people freely ignore what other’s write and make wild assumptions about motives and messages. I do not support Lovecraft’s worldview. In fact, just for troll protection (which trolls will ignore anyway because if they didn’t they would approach something almost close to being human), here it is repeated all by its lonesome in caps which is what only trolls can read:


My personal goal as a writer is that someday 50% of my earnings from writing will come from my literary ventures. And if World Fantasy keeps the Howard, if by some odd twist of fate I might actually someday win the award, I will display my Howard without guilt or shame because as Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi wrote in an essay defending the Howard, “The WFA bust acknowledges Lovecraft’s literary status in the field of weird fiction and nothing more.”

Yes, Lovecraft was a mess, but he has been dead nigh on 70 years. He can’t defend himself nor can he change his mind, but he left behind a body of inspiring work that made the field of weird fiction much richer in diversity and the simple, sheer amount of enjoyable literature from the pens of others who write in the shadow of the Old Gentleman From Providence.

And if your distaste or hatred for Lovecraft lessens your appreciation of today’s weird fiction, that is your problem, not mine. All writers of weird fiction write from their dark spot. All readers of weird fiction read from their dark spot. So whether reader or writer, you’re no angel yourself in spite of your protests, so don’t give yourself airs. I have no problem acknowledging Lovecraft’s sins, but I feel no need to damn the dead for their inequities and turn my back on an author pretending he never had any influence over my world.

Trekking With My Mother Through The Kohl’s Bra Aisle

Very close to celebrating my sixtieth birthday, I feel very secure in my masculinity, but a confession: never having had the blessing of having sisters or daughters, I grew up sharing the same opinion of Lewis Carroll’s unicorn that saw members of the opposite sex as fabulous creatures.

Nonetheless, I have survived many years in my confused ignorance until yesterday when my mother asked me to take her shopping. My mother is wheelchair bound so taking her shopping is a routine service I supply, and when she asked to go to Kohl’s I went with a joyful heart and a song on my lips little knowing the horror that awaited me.

Kohl’s is a department store and, on this Columbus Day, surprisingly empty and as I wheeled my mother around the displays she would stop me so she could inspect various items.

“Where to next, Mom?” I asked, and then she said the words that stopped my heart.

“I want to go look at the bras.”

There is a memory that I have when I was 14 years of age when my mother and I went shopping back in the halcyon days when she was mobile on her own. Before we split up, she told me to look for her over in ‘that’ department and she pointed to a sign at the end of the store hanging from the ceiling.

Little did I know that "lingerie" is pronounced lahn-zhuh-REY and I said, “Oh! Over in the linger-REE department?” The peals of laughter from my mother and various people who overheard me have seared my soul to this day. The result is that I steer clear of the woman’s intimates departments and I have hated the French language with a passion ever since.

But I am nothing if not a dedicated son, so I wheeled my mother over to No Man’s Land.

“What is the price on that one?” my mother asked.

With trembling fingers I touched it waiting for security to tackle me at any given moment and looked at the price.

I now know why the ancient Jewish men would sometimes pray, “Thank you, Lord, that I was not born a woman.” That tiny piece of cloth made of fabric and frills and wire and snaps that no man can ever work came in at a cool $29.95.

And that was one of the cheap ones.

My word! The bedroom bureau drawer that holds every woman’s intimates must have the economic value of a small Middle Eastern kingdom! How come men with daughters aren’t standing on street corners holding tin cans and cardboard signs with the scrawled words: Father of Daughters. Need Bra Money.”?

“Keep going, son,” my mom ordered and obediently I pushed her through the narrow aisle surrounded by brassieres (How I hate the French language!) on hangers on both sides.

And because the universe at its base is infinitely cruel, the stands of bras were not parallel and unbeknownst to me they narrowed at the end.

When I realized the trap I was in, I confess I panicked. I shoved my mother and her wheelchair through the remainder of the aisle, bras and their respective hangers snagging on everything, and when we burst through the end, my mother, her wheelchair, and I had dozens of bras hanging from us. No joke. Dozens.

I envision that in the security department a man watching the surveillance cameras immediately grabbed his radio, “Pervert alert in the brassiere aisle! Everybody converge … no … hold up …wait a minute. False alarm. Now uploading video to YouTube!”

I could feel my face so crimson with embarrassment that an egg could have been fried on my forehead. “Mom, for the first time as a man,” I said holding back tears of shame, “I have to go clean up a bra aisle.”

Gales of laughter from a nearby aisle (women are so cruel) simply added insult to injury as I went back into forbidden territory and cleaned up the destructive wake I and my mother’s wheelchair had left behind.

I learned three important lessons:
  1. I am still secure in my masculinity.
  2. Padded bras are really gross.
  3. The next time I take my beloved mother shopping we’re only going to supermarkets, hardware stores and office supply companies.

Slightly Off-Topic Musing: The Traits of Highly Effective People

As an author, I want to keep this blog centered on my writing, but for the past several years I have been doing some exploration of a topic I have found most interesting and I think I'm ready to reveal what I have discovered:

I have always been fascinated by effective people. I do not use the word "success" simply because I find that particular word difficult to define and in today's American culture, rather shallow. I define effectiveness as the ability to attain a predetermined goal. Also, as we define successful people as wealthy, there are too many wealthy people who are certainly not content with their lives and every effective person I have met carries within themselves an inner core of satisfaction.

Having studied countless biographies and talking with a huge number of people, here are the main traits of highly effective people that I have discovered:

  1. They are focused. Refusing to be distracted, they have a very specific goal and 75% of their waking life is focused on its attainment. They seldom, if ever, watch TV and though an amazing number of them are physically active, they spend little time on entertainment. None of them play computer games. They entertain no addictions. Their inner joy comes from seeing the attainment of their goal as the Ultimate Game and the relationships they enjoy are based on the second trait:
  2. They surround themselves with people who share in their goal and they reward them for their work and loyalty in some manner, either public recognition or financial payment. Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, referred to this as a Mastermind Group. I have never met a "Lone Ranger" in my search for effective people.
  3. But the most important trait I have found is that they a) do not know fear, or b) they recognize the fear and choose to ignore it. I honestly have not been able to find out which one of those statements is the most accurate, but I suspect it is the first. These people simply do not acknowledge the presence of fear.

    The most common phobias that humanity deals with are (in this order) fear of speaking in public, the fear of death and the fear of failure/ridicule. Quite simply, effective people are not saddled with them. At all.
  4. I must also honestly report that effective people span almost every worldview in existence. I have met effective Christians, Jews, Buddhists, pagans, atheists, and others, but I have found that each has a deep, defining moral core and they demand honesty, justice, and fair play in all their relationships.
  5. Failure means nothing to them. I really want to stress this: NOTHING. All they did, in their perspective, is learn how not to do something.

TMI section:

This topic has always been of great interest to me, but a decade ago as I passed my 50th birthday and I became aware of my own mortality. I also realized that there were many goals and desires left unattained and I spent ten years trying to discover why.

I am a very mature person and I blame nobody for this situation. My present situation is my decision, not my parents, my God (1), the government, my family, or anybody else.

Now as I approach my 60th birthday (on All Saints' Day) I am determined to "redeem the time" and spend my next decade in focusing on my goals and personal vision (2) nurturing the traits, with God's help, of effective people.

Wish me luck.

(1) There is a Christian sect that contains many individuals that I deeply love and respect that believe that humanity has no free will and that God micromanages everything for if He does not, he is not completely sovereign. Therefore, they would deduce that I am exactly where God wants me and I should be content with my goals and desires unattained. Quite simply, with due and deep respect and love to my Calvinist/Reformed brothers, I maintain a different view of Christianity.

(2) My goals, my personal vision, my governing statements that guide my life are not selfish. Many people will prosper and be blessed if I reach them.

A Writing Update

Currently working on three projects:

  1. I'm restarting Doll Wars AGAIN! I know. I'm ashamed of myself, but I keep coming up with Point of View conflicts and as the story covers 300 years with a cast of 27 separate characters, I need to find a way to keep it simple for the reader. I'm not into a Game of Thrones scenario where the reader needs a cheat sheet to tell who's who. I also want to write more action that doesn't include paragraphs of nothing but information dumps.
  2. I received an email from the multitalented anthologist, Fred Patten, who has asked me to write a hard SF story for his upcoming anthology. I've already blocked the story out.
  3. I LOVE Grade-Z horror films and I'm writing a story where a monster basically consumes the entire Eastern Seaboard. Here's the opening quote:
“In comparison to its size, the amoeba is the most terrifying creature on earth. It is motivated by two powerful biological drives: to replicate and to feed.” ~ Dr. Ryan Laughman, (2019, September). How we lost the entire Eastern Seaboard to a giant blob. Lecture conducted from Huntington University, Huntington, IN.</blackquote>

I am going to have so much fun with this ... ;-)