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Athena’s Eyes – an excerpt from The Back Roads of Limbo

May 24, 2016


The old man noted, as he put the empty glass down on the table, that the scotch was going down particularly easy tonight. It wasn’t often that it did this, because the stuff really isn’t made for that kind of drinking. Usually this would be a sign that it was time to stop.

He poured another. He called it a finger, but it was probably more like two, in the wide round bottom of the rocks glass. Nicest gift anyone had ever given to him for the kitchen. One had already broken earlier in the year, but this one was holding up just fine. Its strangely patterned golden rim nearly matched the golden glint in the liquid that seemed almost to move by itself, in the dim light of early morning.

The man stroked his hand gently across the table, a deep, glossy cherry wood with a strong stain that almost reminded him of the curls of her hair, as if she was trapped under glass. As if she were only trapped under glass, and not under the ground. Athena.

He remembered the first time they’d met, and how Karen had insisted they bring her home. He’d never seen Karen so happy to bring another woman into their home. A wry grin crossed his lips even now. Karen never felt jealous of Athena, which was fair. Karen and Athena were great together. Karen just couldn’t live with him. But Athena could. She stayed. Thank God, she stayed.

Smartest eyes, always reading him. Always knew when it was time to come sit beside him, park herself at his side on the sofa, lean against him to remind him she was there. Knew when to leave him be, when to be at his side, when to get in his face and remind him it was time to do other things besides brood. Karen never really understood that, but Athena did.

It didn’t seem to matter after that. He’d won and lost the hearts of a few very brave, very lovely women, and they had all loved him in their way. Athena had taken to them all in turn, accepting them and helping them get used to how things worked around the house. One of them had joked that he never considered marrying again because he’d secretly married Athena and merely had mistresses on the side. Ridiculous statement, but perhaps with a kernel of truth.

You can’t replace human companionship with the love of an animal. Not if you’re healthy. Not if you aren’t already a little damaged inside to begin with, and simply can’t connect to people anymore. He was pretty sure it hadn’t been like that for him. Athena just knew. She just made sense. And she knew he needed other things, so she never got in his way, although she did occasionally get in his face about the scotch.

He stopped to take another drink. He watched the liquid slowly, lazily roll around in the glass, sliding down the inside of the glass the way wine does. He’d stopped drinking wine some time ago. Wine was for companions. Scotch was for drinking alone. Athena knew that, too.

The park was like a personal little hell now. He still went for walks, alone, thinking of the past, the people he’d loved, the things they’d done. And always Athena there in the foreground, leading the walks, haring off after something interesting. Athena wasn’t a hunter. A herder, actually. Strange, bright blue eyes, splashes of cherry and ash on her white coat. Always rounding up children and friends who were straggling. Athena was a den mom. She’d come home pretty young, but she’d been with him such a long time. He had to stop and think how many years. Was it fifteen? Did it really matter? Athena had been there forever. Was still there.

Except that she wasn’t.

He slammed back the rest of the glass. Reached for the bottle again. Remembered those eyes imploring him. Held the bottle in front of him. He watched the liquid move around the bottle’s dark brown glass. Fifteen year old scotch. Smoother but richer tasting. This bottle had been distilled and bottled the year Athena was born. They’d aged together. Both of them very expensive, and well worth the price.

What the hell was he thinking? There was no comparison. He’d lost loves that had lasted longer than this bottle would, especially at this rate. Athena was irreplaceable. A lifetime of distilling would not recreate another like her.

He’d never had children. Never wanted to commit to children, in case the relationship didn’t last. Somehow couldn’t get past his fear of being a failure as a father, the way he’d failed so many loves. And over the years, it had just gotten easier to accept that he didn’t need children. And anyway, there was Athena, best daughter he could have hoped for. He could sire daughters from here to the grave and none would know him the way she had.

Cancer. How the hell does a dog get cancer? Dogs should not die of diseases that kill humans. They should be exempt. They weren’t corrupt in the soul. They were pure of heart and brave and true. Dogs shouldn’t have to die the way people died. Dogs should never have to experience tragedy. They didn’t deserve it.


The old man put the bottle back on the table, noticed the glinting golden light wavering in lazy oceanic patterns on the surface of the smooth satin finish of the cherry wood table. He walked slowly to the door, slipped into his shoes and shrugged on his autumn tweed jacket. He draped the scarf around either side of his neck, and then reflexively reached for the leash hanging behind the door. Gripping it, he let his weight settle slightly against its reassuring heft, solidly fixed to the metal hook. He could hear the leather strap creak slightly. He heard a choking noise, and noticed it was his voice. He let go of the leash, and dabbed at his eyes with the end of his black and white checked scarf.

It was a bright, mild autumn day outside. Good day for a long walk. A good day to go see everything like it was brand new, and find new adventures in familiar places. A good day for friends. He wondered idly what Karen was up to, and thought to give her a quick call. Shaking his head, he locked up and went out instead. Maybe later.

~ for Karen, Don, and Layla
© 2012 Lee Edward McIlmoyle

The Ghost of Books Past

April 24, 2016

I recently revised the information about RETURN TRIP, the last book I wrote and published on Smashwords, about a year and a half ago (Yes, it’s been that long. Sorry). I wanted to write something short and pithy about it to see if I could give the book a second lease on life, based on what I latterly decided was perhaps a slightly misleading–or just misguided–attempt to drum up some extra drama for the book with its original release.

I originally wrote this:
Richard Burley is dead. Long Live Richard Burley.

When is Death not an ending, but a beginning? Perhaps it’s when your spirit crosses over to the afterworld, or maybe your atoms scatter across teh cosmos and add to the total callective consciousness of the universe. Or could it be that the myriad forces and energies that intersected at the nexus of reality that is you will simply divvy up your total potential energy amongst your alternate selves? Whatever the ultimate answer you choose to believe in, it comes down tot he same basic premise: that your essence is eternal, and thus, death is, as the poets say, just a door to another level of perception.

When Richard Burley lay dead on the hospital floor, perhaps some of his friends were convinced that that would be the last chapter in his story. A few suspected otherwise, and his handicapped brother spent many months trying to convicne anyone who would listen that he had simply stepped across the threshold of the world and into a mirror reality, where he could watch over them from afar.

But what is Richard’s ultimate fate? Will he go to Heaven or Hell? Will he transcend reality for a higher plane of consciousness? Will he dissipate and leave his friends lost and wondering if they can carry on without him? And, knowing what we do about Richard’s mental health, how can we be sure that his death isn’t just other another psychotic fantasy?

I decided to replace it with this:
Richard Burley is dead. Long Live Richard Burley.

This isn’t the sort of supernatural story you might suspect it is. It’s really an examination of the possibilities of what it is to be Richard Burley, which in a real sense is an examination of what it means to be YOU. For Richard isn’t just my alter ego; he’s yours, too. He’s a little like everyone, and a lot like no one you know.

In essence, this is the story of some of the many alternate realities that are somehow affected by Richard’s untimely death, and his efforts to help them recover, so that he can move on, or come back, or do whatever it is he’s going to do by the end of the book. Read it yourself and find out.

Incidentally, for those wondering, there are at least two stories in this collection that are basically rock and roll fanfic, including a rather lovely story featuring someone not entirely unlike the late, great Chris Squire of Yes fame, and a short piece about an aging rock star who isn’t entirely unlike Roger Hodgson, formerly of Supertramp.

I did this yesterday. It had to be reviewed and approved, so i logged off and went and did other things. Today, I figured I’d check and see if it had been approved yet. Instead, I got this notification telling me the book has been flagged for some mistake in the Table of Contents (NCX), because ‘chapters are missing. They’re not. I actually meant for the second book to be numbered consecutively to follow the first, picking up with chapter 16. I sent them a note to tell them this. Now I’m waiting to see if they revise their decision. If I have to renumber it, I can, and I guess I will, but it seems kind of a waste of time, since no one has ever read the book, in any case. I pretty much killed it and decided not to write the final act. The only thing stopping em from unpublishing it is the stigma it will create with the other book selling companies if I develop a reputation for unpublishing works.

So I wait.

Meanwhile, I’m working on a very old painting idea I had back in college, but never completed. I’m doing a small acrylic colour study to test the technique I’m thinking of using, before applying it to my Limbo Tarot Fool.

Time to make some tea and get back to work.


Fiction Books I’ve Published – 2016 Edition

February 22, 2016

Act 1: Sudden Departures – Richard and the gang from TERMINAL MONDAY are back, but things have changed, and not all for the better. The friends of Wanda have all moved away or fallen off the radar, and one of their number may be in serious trouble.

Act 2: Return Trip – Richard has had a life-changing event (i.e. his murder), but there is yet life in the unstable curmudgeon. Join Richard on his trip down many roads to piecing together the remains of his shattered life.

Act 3: The Third Rail – Richard tries to take care of unfinished business and get some closure on his failed marriage and the string of love affairs he had following its demise. He also tries to deal with the fallout of his mental health, and tries to find a better way to live his life.
This book will not get written after all. It was going to revisit Richard and his friends one more time and clear up some stuff from the first two acts, but nobody read the previous two volumes, so it doesn’t seem worth doing. Sorry.

A series of short stories and novellas about spies, sultans, genies, detectives, bad angels, a man’s best friend, the God of Squirrels, Christmas dinner for two, thieves, sorceresses, lost children, working while you sleep, writer’s block, soul-eating vampires, and a giant squid.

TERMINAL MONDAY: a Dream of New York City
A man meets an old girlfriend who convinces him to return to novel writing, but not before his wife leaves him, he gets his old band back together, and suffers a nervous breakdown.

TERMINAL MONDAY: Under Observation
A man has a mental breakdown and wakes up to find himself under observation in a New York City hospital.

ASHES: Infinite Redress
A scientist becomes infected by a space-borne virus that contains the soul of an alien missionary who bonds with her and draws her into solving the mystery of how the aliens all died.

A knight falls in love with a young woman designated to be sacrificed to a mystical dragon, and undertakes a quest to learn how to defeat the dragon and break the centuries-old pact.

LINKTALES volume one
(excerpts from The Dark Guild) A series of mysterious events lead to the old city of Londonis being invaded by soul-eating vampires.

You know what I’m asking you to do. Please. Thank you.


I Look At You All, And See The Love There That’s Sleeping

February 21, 2016

I have a pretty big announcement I’m holding off on until I’m sure it’s what I want to do. Or not do, as the case may be.

I have art and novels and music to contemplate.

I need to make some sales. Money is very tight again this month, and there are still important things that need paying off. So if you’ve been holding off until now, now would be a really nice time to pay me for some of my work. Or if you haven’t, but just feel like being nice to me, I’d very much appreciate you buying some of my work. In fact, just about now, I’ll gladly accept money from people who didn’t even realize they wanted to own some of my work. Thank you.

I never really wanted to be rich or even famous. Wouldn’t hate it outright, but it’s never been my goal. I think I just always wished I were better understood. At least, I’d always hoped I would be appreciated by more people than I seem to be appreciated by today… which is sort of not a lot. ‘A few’ might even be a stretch.

*sigh* Seems I’m still wrestling with a bout of depression. Please pardon me.


Broken Site

December 14, 2015

My home site,, seems to be broken right now. No idea what’s actually wrong with it, but it may be that the theme broke and screwed up all of the code somehow. Should be fun trying to get that sorted out.

Meanwhile, I’m researching my year end music post. Been poring over albums from 2015 to decide if it’s worth doing. So far, a lot of dogs, but there are a few diamonds in the pile, so I figure I’ll do a truncated version in the next week. But first, I have to do some work on a comic strip/holiday card I’ve been staring at for the past few days.

I’m also thinking about some new songs. Not so much about the album project I’ve been promising. I may table it for another year and focus on music instead. Thinking there are a few musician friends of mine, including my long-time songwriting partner Gary Falkins, whom I’d like to work with on a new People’s Republic of Limbo album, instead of the catalogue blowout album I have planned to follow the concept album. I’ve been thinking my next couple of music projects were going to be clearing the decks projects, but they’re not as imperative to me just now. I’m hearing a lot of music that doesn’t quite go to eleven, and a few that definitely go there, and I’m thinking it’s time I wrote and recorded a rock album people actually want to listen to.

For those wondering, there WILL be a new book in 201. I will be stopping a lot of other stuff to make room for writing. Expect more news soon.
Customs and Road Songs of Limbo
The Constant Sea of Night

And I made twenty one small abstract paintings yesterday for one or two major Abstract Assemblages, which I sort of worked out in advance, but I may jigger with it some more now that I have drying pieces of art to work with. Think there is a way to create something visually sequential and not simply consecutive. In the past, the way I arranged the pieces as I painted them defined how the finished work was arranged. This time around, there’s a bit of that, but not as perfectly as before, so there is room–need, even–for reinterpretation and further interaction to create a more narrative sequence. We’ll see. The piece(s) won’t be assembled until the new year. Money ran out again. Would be nice if someone would buy a painting right about now. Images coming soon as the paintings are dry and I can try out he layout ideas again.

Anyway, sorry for the radio silence. I’ve been busy with the StinZine and The Anvil, two local community publications I’ve been involved with.
The Anvil 001 - cover 002d

Time to sign off. Have a great day, and Season’s Greetings.


Frenzy (2015)

July 3, 2015

$500.00 CAD +s&h.

Frenzy (2015).

No Serious Irregularities

June 19, 2015

Just a brief post to talk about what I’m up to, and to share a brief bit of graphical stats amusement, which I don’t do very often anymore.

First, there’s those buttons I started working on. They’re still not done. I might work on them today, barring interruptions. Gotta give them a black glass effect, before finishing them with something a little more eye popping. I wish I had some white paint…

Second, I’m trudging through the miles of rough road towards the end of CUSTOMS AND ROAD SONGS OF LIMBO. It’s a collection of weird and sometimes extremely naughty stories about a lot of new people, including a handful about Richard Burley. These will likely be the last Richard Burley tales I tell for a very long time, if not forever. I may post a bit of one sooner or later. We’ll see.

Third, I’m contemplating redrawing an old picture, called Ægypt, which I was meant to finish drawing and then paint way back in my college days. I’m thinking of a proper update, because the imagery and symbolism I chose back then isn’t as pertinent to me now as it was then (though some fun things haven’t changed, and certainly won’t). The original looked something like this:
Ægypt 001 sml
I have so many other pieces of illustration work to do, but this old piece keeps calling to me, like an old lost love, waiting for their moment. So I’ll take a new look at it, if I can, and get old business out of the way once and for all. Who knows? Maybe I’ll reconnect with the fiery young artist I was in my teens and twenties. Not likely, but it could happen.

Fourth: I have PB stuff I should be working on, but no one is asking me, although I probably owe some work somewhere to get the ball rolling. When I get that figured out, I’ll make a stab at it.

Fifth: Okay, time to stop mucking about. There’s always a million other things to think about, but I promised I’d show you some metrics. These next two images are screenshots from two of my most steadily visited posts on this website. Regulars can probably guess which ones they are (and no, it’s NOT Thick as a Brick II).

GENESIS – DUKE (1980) – a classic rock album review

The LAST LOVE SCENE – an excerpt from TERMINAL MONDAY [slightly NSFW]

And there you have it. As Elizabeth Bear liked to say back in the last good LiveJournal days, five things makes a post.

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