Sandros Lefrak was a writer. At least, he claimed to be. He certainly spent enough time on it, as he sat before his antiquated typewriter, hour after hour, day after day. One page after another of tripe. The worst kind of tripe. And everyone knew it, except for him.
His agent, if you could call him an agent, would barely accept his calls anymore. What was left of his friends avoided him for fear he might ask them to read something he'd written. Even his own mother, rest her soul, had lied to him, claiming her eyes had become too bad to read. It wasn't his style that was bad, but rather his imagination that couldn't conjure a new idea, even on a good day.
To Sandros, none of that mattered. He knew he was great, if only his work could reach the right person. So he continued typing more of the same. He certainly had enough time, considering no one would talk to him.
His latest triumph sat completed before him and he couldn't wait to call his agent. He grinned as he pictured the expression on his agent's face, when he read it. It would be, he knew, an overnight success.
Sandros rose and carefully placed a thick rubber band around the manuscript. "Who knows," he murmured, "one
day, this original may be worth something."
He placed the document in a thick manila envelope and picked up the phone. His end of the conversation sounded like this.
"Hey Bernie, it's me...Sandros...Sandros Lefrak, the science fiction writer. I just finished a book I know is going to...why don't you just wait until you...there's no need to raise your...I'm coming over." Swearing,
Sandros slammed down the receiver. Once he was famous, he'd get himself a
Sandros moved about his apartment without looking around. Truthfully, there wasn't much to see. An ancient black and white television resting on a snack table. A sofa that had seen better days in the seventies. A coffee table that had once belonged to a friend, upon which congregated half dozen soda cans, empty or almost so. And on the floor, two piles of clothes; one dirty, the other filthy.
He walked to the dirty pile, grabbed a sweatshirt even the moths had given up on and left his apartment. During the entire hour trip on a city bus, he daydreamed about what he would do with the advance. Book signings, conventions, the chicks, everything that came with success. He cursed when he broke from his reverie, only to find he'd missed his stop by five blocks. He climbed off the bus at the next stop and ran all the way to his agent's office. Five minutes later, he was sitting across the desk from Bernie Kaplan.
"This time it's different, Bernie. I can feel it."
Bernie nodded, barely looking up from his newspaper. "That's precisely
what you said last time. What was the name of that gem, hmm? The Day the
Earth Blew Up and if I have to read another manuscript by you, I'll wish
it had. How many times do we have to dance this dance? Do you think I like
telling you that your work is worthless and that you have no talent, and
no imagination? Do you suppose you'd even be sitting here, if I didn't promise
your mom I'd look after you? Do you think I enjoy looking at the expression
in your eyes, when I tell you no publisher in his right mind would give you
a dime for all of your works put together? Listen to me. There are other
jobs, other areas where you might excel, but as a writer, you stink."
Sandros jumped to his feet. "Stink, eh? Well, you can just forget
it. I'll find someone else to look at my manuscript. When it's number one
on the Times best seller list, don't come running to me."
"By the time any of your books end up on any list, I'll be too old
and feeble to run. Now why don't you go play somewhere else. I have work
Sandros snatched the envelope and stormed from the room, slamming the door on his way out.
Many light years away, on a world it had never bothered to name, stood a tree. It had lived for countless eons, alone, yet not alone, aware it was one of a kind...the last of a dying race. Part of the Tree was saddened by this and many limbs died in sorrow and were subsequently shed. That was so long ago, the Tree could only barely recall it. For a time, a short time by its own reckoning, it withdrew into itself. When it again emerged, it found a new way to deal with its isolation.
The Tree's perceptions reached out and touched a living world--a world so full of life and death, of movement and stillness, of strength and vulnerability, the tree was enthralled. Over the millennia, it learned not just to appreciate but to communicate with its new friends. And the Tree was content.
Then a new creature entered the Tree's domain. Many of the older fruit, the philosophers, debated what this meant, but that's what fruit did. The rest of the Tree ignored their ramblings and concentrated on the newcomer.
The creature was like nothing it had encountered before. The Tree emitted waves of friendship, which met with no response. It did not doubt the newcomer had some sort of intelligence, but nothing to which it could form a bond. The strange being traveled the world, completely intent upon its mission. The Tree spent much of its resources tracking it, hoping to understand the creature. Unfortunately, a short while after it had arrived, the creature removed itself from the world in a way the Tree did not understand. The Tree shed a branch in sorrow, but grew yet more in joy for it reveled in the birth of a new mystery.
With the absence of the stranger, life resumed for the Tree. It returned its attention to the world around it and left the pondering to the fruit.
The Necklace of N'larikan
T'liqua emerged from the Temple of V'aldris, stretching her orange and black wings to catch the sunlight. She moved so quickly, several priestesses stopped to watch, wondering at the urgency in her stride. She ignored them and kept walking, bare feet dissappering beneath the surface of the cloud.
Leesira hurried to keep up. "I still don't understand. A shepherd does not invite wolves to dinner."
T'liqua answered without turning. "If logic held sway in this world, I would agree with you, but T'serinor has once again blessed me with a vision. One does not question the will of the gods."
Leesira, having no answer, remained silent. She was a priestess, but T'liqua was high priestess and privy to knowledge beyond the ken of most mortals. When T'liqua reached the edge of the cloud, she stopped. A moment later, Leesira stood beside her.
T'liqua turned to face the sun. She closed her eyes and sighed as she felt the blood grow warm in her spread wings. Leesira, having no wings, kept her distance from the edge. Of all the priestesses, only T'liqua had undergone the transformation. Leesira looked down and with her foot sketched an arc within the surface of the cloud. Finally, the high priestess spoke.
"They have arrived."
T'liqua opened her eyes and raised her arms in supplication. For a short time, she was silent. When she started to chant, a piece of the cloud broke away and began a slow descent, taking the two priestesses with it.
It took almost half an hour to reach the surface. During that time, T'liqua was silent. She was not looking forward to the days ahead. Few men had ever set foot in the Temple of V'aldris, and none with the reputation of those waiting below.
Though T'liqua had ruled the Temple for over seven hundred years, she could recall no set of circumstances that might have prepared her for this. She had always obeyed the visions. As far as she could remember, this was the first time she had reason to question one. She only hoped she wasn't making a mistake.
Two guests stood waiting as the cloud settled upon the ground. If either was impressed by the entrance, they didn't show it. Both were human, but that was where the similarity ended.
One was slim, muscular and tall. His long hair was as black as his eyes. Even without the broadsword at his side, there was no taking him for anything but a warrior. His beard was almost invisible again his black leather armor. An aura of strength surrounded him.
The second was older, balder, heavier and wore a red serpent around his waist like a belt. His robes were colorful, almost gaudy. His wizard's staff, made of ivory, terminated in a blue gem of untold value.
Most of the world feared and revered these men. T'liqua regarded them with a suspicion she dared not display.
Leesira leaned forward and whispered. "Where is the other?"
T'liqua didn't have an answer. There were supposed to be three. Another reason to doubt the authenticity of the vision. She stepped from the cloud and approached.
"I am T'liqua, high priestess of the god T'serinor."
"I know who you are," said the wizard, "Now, if it isn't too much trouble, might I know why I’ve been summoned?"
"You will be told when you reach the temple, not before."
The warrior stepped forward, his smile not meant to reassure. "If you think I'm going to the Black Temple without good reason, you're not as bright as your wings."
T'liqua returned his smile with a cold one of her own. Few would dare refer to the Temple of V'aldris by that name at all, let alone in the presence of a priestess. "I rather think you already have good reason. If you didn't, you wouldn't be here."
The wizard chuckled. "She's got you there, Melga."
The warrior's smile vanished. "I'm leaving." He turned and took a step.
"Very well. Then Sebastian alone will learn what has transpired."
Melga turned back and cursed. "You know I can't allow this fat, insolent sorcerer to gain that kind of advantage."
T'liqua shrugged. "If you insist."
She turned and walked toward the cloud. Sebastian followed and Melga, after a moment of hesitation, did as well. He had only taken a step, when a terrible roar brought him to a halt. T'liqua turned quickly, hand reaching for a sword that hadn't been there in seven hundred years.
The creature was clearly reptilian, yet it ran on two legs, dragging its thick tail behind. A leathery wing sprouted from each shoulder and its jaws were lined with teeth that looked dangerous, even from this distance. Only as it approached, could they see that it was clad in an expensive looking tunic and carried a huge jeweled mace on its belt.
"Ah," said Leesira, "our party is now complete."
Sebastian looked at T'liqua, aghast. "You can't possibly mean you've invited that...monstrosity."
"That monstrosity is a great prince among his people. He will be treated with respect."
Sebastian looked as if he were about to protest, but thought better of it. Then the beast joined them and the opportunity was gone.
"You're late, Kaldazar," said T'liqua.
The reptile flashed her a smile that was all teeth. Because the creth's vocal cords were not designed for human languages, his voice was only barely audible when he replied.
"Apologies. I was...detained." He turned toward the wizard. "We meet again, Sebastian."
"Unfortunately," muttered the wizard.
"Come," said T'liqua. "It grows late."
Once the five were in place, the high priestess spoke a word of power and the cloud slowly began its journey back to the heavens.
Let me begin by saying that Steve Lazarowitz is an evil, evil man.
I say this because my first exposure to him occurred when I foolishly read the first several parts of one of his serials. I then had to wait to find out what happened next. I'm really impatient, so it was quite painful, and reminded me why I had resolved in the first place never to read a serial until I had access to all of its parts. (And yes, I do realize this does somewhat defeat the purpose, since a serial story is not necessarily simply a big story hacked into little pieces, but structured very deliberately.) But I eventually found out what happened next, and from what I can tell Steve Lazarowitz seems to be a pretty nice guy, so I guess I'll have to forgive him.
This was supposed to be a book review, wasn't it? So, on to A Creative Edge: Tales of Speculation, which is another reason to forgive him.
Megan Powell, Fables Magazine
Like many of his fellow writers, Steve Lazarowitz says he started out as a reader who one day looked up from the printed page and said, "I can do this."
This collection of his early work, both published and new, clearly shows that he can, indeed, "do this." The 15 short stories and one novella in "A Creative Edge" are well-written and compelling, with characters that are all-too-human, even when they aren't.
Elizabeth Burton, Inscriptions
A Creative Edge is a marvelous collection of sixteen short stories by author Steven Lazarowitz. Although some of the stories are apparently sci-fi/fantasy from the get-go, many appear to be traditional contemporary or even historical tales until the twist that is generally filled with irony and perhaps even a lesson to be learned. Indeed the characters often learn something about themselves, the reader about human nature. By story's end the reader will be filled with wonder and amazement at the turn that the tale has taken. Characters range from a newborn child, to an empathic tree, from a no-talent writer to a spoiled young wizard, sea-dwelling aliens and game-playing spirits. Though the title of the collection is taken from the introductory story it could very easily apply itself to the author of these wonderful tales.
Leslie Tramposch, The Best Reviews