Official Website of A. S. Peterson

The Stephens Hill Horror

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Author's Note: I've always been a fan of H.P. Lovecraft. I love his weird words and the strange way he's able to evoke things that are both awe-inspiring and horrific at the same time. His stories, even the bad ones and those that are merely repeats of others, stick in my mind for days after I read them partly because he never lets the reader see everything, he leaves you with glimpses, impressions, reactions. You have to let your mind fill in the blanks and what your own mind comes up with is often more disturbing than anything he could have written.

When I decided to write a 'ghost story' about my brother's house and its location on Stephens Hill I succumbed to my desire to write in the style of Lovecraft. Anyone who's a fan will recognize the structure, word choices, and even a certain (slightly altered) name. As much as I like the way the story turned out, it's so clearly Lovecraftian that I can't really claim it as my own and prefer to think of it as an homage to a master of the genre.


--The Stephens Hill Horror--

. . .
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Perfected in Weakness

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(Note: This is adapted from my portion of the "Perfected in Weakness" session at Hutchmoot 2010.)

It's popular in our culture to think that we are defined by our strengths. If you go to a job interview, what do they ask you? They want to know what your strengths are, right? If someone wants to describe who they are or what they do, what do they say? They rattle off a list of strengths. I graduated from MIT. I work for NASA. I've been married for 12 years and have four kids. I hold the world record at Donkey Kong. We play up the things we're proud of or those things we think make us valuable in the eyes of others.

We don't mention our weaknesses. We downplay them. We hide them. I think we're trained to hide them for most of our lives. And in some measure, it's rightly so. It would be a depressing world if we described one another by our weaknesses, wouldn't it? Hi, my name is Pete Peterson and I'm lazy. I can't do math. I judge people before I know them. I secretly think I'm better than everyone else and my love of sweet tea and sandwiches is probably killing me . . .
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Memory of a Midnight Sea

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Last week you may have seen this news story pop up:

USS Dubuque Seizes Ship Captured by Pirates

You can probably imagine my interest in the report but my association goes deeper than simply being an author who writes about pirates. Almost twenty years ago, you see, I was U.S. Marine Sergeant “Pete” Peterson and I served on the
USS Dubuque for a while.

Luckily, the time I spent on the
De Puke (as we called it) was almost entirely taken up by sleeping, playing Spades, and reading Michael Crichton novels rather than fighting pirates or saving the free world. I remember a tattered copy of Jurassic Park making the rounds from jarhead to jarhead throughout the berthing area and it ignited all sorts of lively debate about how well Steven Spielberg had (or hadn’t) interpreted it. Crichton was considered high literature to us in those days. If I remember correctly, a copy of Congo was being passed along not far behind it.

This was in the early to mid-90’s and there seemed to be a new war or conflict springing up every other week. Young as we were, we were anxious for pirates to fight, or an embassy to evacuate, or a “peacekeeping mission” to join. Day after day, we’d run through our drills and study our battle plans and then we’d stand outside the hatch at night smoking our cigarettes as the sea rolled past . . .
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A Letter Completed

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You may recall that while in Amelia Island, Florida I chanced across the first page of an intriguing letter and was led to believe that the second page was in the keeping of Vanderbilt University back home in Nashville.

When I got home I tried my best to gain access to the letter in the usual ways, but despite a flurry of paperwork and formal requests, I was denied access to the university’s archives. So I was forced to take matters into my own hands. I got in touch with some contacts from the old days in the Marine Corps and called in a few favors. Thirty-six hours later, dressed in my best burgling outfit, I rappelled out of a stealth helicopter and...
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A New Letter

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While traveling the northern coast of Florida and investigating the economic tendencies of rabbits and their reading habits, I found myself on Amelia Island and took the opportunity to visit their historical museum to see what I might turn up. The curator was a crusty old salt with a jaundiced eye, a severe limp, and a shortage of fresh batteries for his hearing aid. He greeted me kindly and after a lengthy explanation that involved the appearance of an ear trumpet, I finally managed to communicate to him that my interest lay chiefly in the study of 18th century letters, logbooks, and other maritime documents.

I suspect he didn’t think much of my particular interests. He repeatedly steered me toward his vast collection of fish hooks and lighthouse replicas. I would not be dissuaded, however, and at last he showed me to a tiny closet at the rear of the museum inside which were stacked a treasure of...
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A Hidden Letter

Letter
This weekend a friend of mine moved into a new home and one of her housewarming gifts was an antique desk fitted with an expertly hidden compartment at the back of the bottom drawer (which she expertly found). The compartment, once opened by the pressing of a series of ingenious levers and buttons, contained a single letter dated January 10th, 1776.

Research and appraisal has revealed that the desk dates to mid-19th century Savannah, Georgia. Though this is nearly a hundred years beyond the prime of Fin Button’s documented career, the letter secreted away within the desk is undoubtedly of her authorship. Why it was kept at all, and kept so secretly, we may never know, but there are clues...
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A Letter from the Smithsonian

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The Curator of Postal Antiquities at the Smithsonian Institute contacted me last Thursday with exciting news. He explained that while cataloging a large number of documents received from the estate of Charles Albemarle of Massachusetts he came upon a letter that he suspected would be of particular interest to me. The letter discovered is one sent from Wilberforce Albemarle, III to his mother in the winter of 1776 and in it the person of Fin Button is largely featured. The perspective offered by this letter (dated January 7th, 1776) is a fascinating window into the events of that winter aboard the Rattlesnake and I’m happy to present it on the Letters to Peter page for public examination.

Another Letter Found

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This past weekend I was rummaging through a used book store in Providence, Rhode Island and came across some great buys.

The first book that caught my eye was entitled
Naval Knots and Them What Tied ‘Em. I’m always on the lookout for a good old fashioned knot book and saw right off that this was a keeper. It was written by Heathcliff G. Sanderson who most of you will recall was the Knottier-in-Chief of the Department of the Navy in the early 19th century and coined the famous phrase, “Knot without a fight!” during the War of 1812. Naturally, I snatched this little treasure up and added it to my library.

The second find of the day was...
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New Letter Transcription

Letter
I received a letter this week from the Clerk of Antiquated Documents at the courthouse in Savannah, Georgia. She reported to me that during a recent courthouse yard sale, they’d cleaned out the basement of the old building and found an intriguing set of documents stashed away in an old chest. The documents were an assortment of letters, shipping receipts, philosophical writings, sheet music, grocery lists, and bad poetry dating as far back as the Revolutionary War. The aforementioned clerk had spent the better part of the week delivering the documents to whatever museums, universities, and learned collectors she thought most appropriate and, having seen this website, she was kind enough to contact me regarding one particular letter bearing the signatory of none other than Fin Button.

The letter, dated December 19th, 1775, has been precisely transcribed and is presented on the
Letters to Peter page.

A New Letter Transcribed

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I’m happy to report that I’ve spent the weekend investigating the ruins of Ebenezer, Georgia and while traipsing amongst a thick growth of cypress near the Savannah River, I discovered the husk of an old chapel. I approached it in fascination, stepping lightly beneath its gaze of shattered windows and crept inside to see what stories lay untold within her. I emerged some time later having discovered a hidden panel in the chancel out of which I drew a musty collection of documents. One of these was a letter bearing the signatory “FB” and given its content, there can be no doubt of its authorship.

I have meticulously transcribed the letter, dated
December 14th, 1775, and placed its tale on the Letters to Peter page.

What's a Salzburger?

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Like most novels, the first draft of The Fiddler’s Gun has gone through a lot of changes and is a good deal different from the final version that readers will hold in their hands. I did a lot of research while getting to know the various peoples and places of the story and in the earliest drafts a great deal of that research is explicit on the page.

But just because the author knows the history of a person or a place doesn’t mean it belongs in the story. A lot of that kind of information gets cut during editing. That doesn’t mean the research was in vain, though. The individual stories and histories behind the persons and places of
The Fiddler’s Gun serve to inform the tale in much more subtle ways long after the raw exposition has been excised.

It does make me sad sometimes, though, and one such example is that of the Salzburgers...
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Origin of the Story

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Contrary to popular belief (trust me, I’ve polled it), I did not sit down one day and think, “Ah hah! I shall write an adventure novel of the Revolutionary War and my heroine shall be named Phinea Button!”

The real story, if you choose to believe it, is that some years ago I decided to try something different for Christmas. Simply buying gifts and handing them out wrapped in plaid paper had grown too ordinary. That’s when I thought, “Ah hah! I shall build treasure chests and fill them with gifts and bury them!”...
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Short Fiction

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I’ve had a fun time with the website lately but I worry sometimes that people will come to equate the snarky humor of the “About the...” pages or the psuedo-serious nature of the “Transcription” posts, or the first person perspective and voice of the “Letters to Peter” with the writing of The Fiddler’s Gun itself, which of course none of you have yet read. The novel’s voice, perspective, and style is something rather different from what is in evidence here on the site.

Some may have noticed a new webpage link in the sidebar entitled “
Short Fiction”. While the pieces I plan to post there will not be direct examples of the style of the novel, I do hope they’ll offer a broader portrait of my writing and will help to earn your trust in the quality of the story yet to come.

The first short presented is one I wrote for
The Rabbit Room entitled “The Taming of the Toad.” It is very loosely inspired by my experience as a staff member at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch and is not, as I’ve often been asked, autobiographical. I hope you enjoy it.



A New Letter Found

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This Sunday afternoon I received a phone call from a man with a thick German accent calling himself Herr Wilbur Schilling. At first I assumed he had a wrong number and nearly hung up the phone but when he told me he was a member of the Georgia Salzburger Society, he had my full attention.

He told me of a collection of aged documents that he’d found some years ago hidden between the pages of an old Gutenburg Bible. The Bible, he assured me, now rests safely in the hands of the local museum but he held onto the documents having no clear idea of what they might be worth or to whom they might be of interest. He related his elation at the discovery of this website and how, with all haste, he sought me out and then bid me come to inspect his documentary treasure.

I did so at once.

Most of the documents in his care were of little note being either unreadable or unremarkable. Most, not all. One among them, although undated and unsigned, seized my interest at once and I have transcribed it and entered it upon the
Letters to Peter page of the site.

Come Join the Conversation

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Like scads of other people, I went out this weekend to see Pixar’s UP and came out of the theater two hours later misty-eyed and grinning like an idiot. Anyone at Pixar hiring writers? I’ve got a big opening in my schedule if you are. I’ll be happy to pencil you in. Heck, I’d sweep the floors at that place if they’d let me.

I wanted to write a review of it for The Rabbit Room but was a little too overwhelmed by the experience to do it any justice. I did put down a few thoughts though and invited readers to do the same. Head over to the Rabbit Room and add to the conversation. And if you haven’t seen the movie yet, cancel whatever else you’ve got going on this weekend and get thee to a theater.

A Captain's Log

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For years I’ve dreamed of traveling cross-country to visit the famous National Museum of Maritime and Mercantile Logbooks in Beaufort, South Carolina. It boasts the biggest collection of historical logbooks in all of South Carolina and I had an inkling that I might be able to find something there that could enlighten the story of The Fiddler’s Gun. I was not mistaken.

I hid in a broom closet until they closed and then, under cover of darkness, I snuck into the museum proper to find what I had come for. Having watched
Treasure of the Four Crowns last week, I was able to easily avoid the laser alarm system and a rather ingenious nest of booby traps that guarded the logbook. I danced through the laser field like the pasty middle-aged ninja that I am and used a bag of sand to fool the weight-sensitive plate upon which the logbook lay. Then I cut the page in question from the two-hundred-year-old book and left a polite note that I would return it in the near future along with a copy of my library card.

The transcription of this newly acquired log entry can be found on the
Letters to Peter page. I hear sirens outside my door.

New Letter Transcription

Letter
This weekend I may or may not have been diving off the coast of Barbados and while I was (or wasn’t) there I may have discovered a heretofore undiscovered shipwreck containing a corroded old 18th century chest from inside of which I may have (just possibly) recovered a rather soggy and chewed at, yet mostly readable, letter from Fin Button. How it came to be inside the chest (which may not even exist) and how that chest came to be aboard a ship sunken and undiscovered in the Carribbean these two hundred years hence, I am not at liberty to reveal.

I am at liberty, however, to reveal the content of said letter, dated November 23rd, 1775, and have transcribed it for you and placed it for public viewing on
the Letters to Peter page of this website.

Back to Basics

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In the last couple of weeks I’ve seen some very poorly executed movies. Is there anything more frustrating than going into a theater with high expectations and watching for two hours as those hopes are slowly dashed to pieces? Why yes, I’m sure there are things more frustrating but it’s definitely near the top of any reasonable list. It’s right up there with forgetting to do laundry over the weekend and discovering on Monday morning that you’ve got to go to work in whichever clothes are least dirty. Maybe that’s just me.Read the entire post

In Search of Pierce Pettis

Pierce Pettis
I just had the rare privilege of catching a Pierce Pettis show in Houston. Pierce is one of my favorite storytellers (through song) and one of those rare gems that few people are familiar with but everyone ought to take a chance on. I wrote a short piece about my experience for The Rabbit Room. Anyone who appreciates the precise and economical use of words owes it to themselves to check out his music. Read the post here.

Stop Pillaging My Childhood

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I saw the new Wolverine and Star Trek movies last weekend. One of them was good, one of them wasn’t. I posted some thoughts and gentle mockery over at The Rabbit Room. Okay, maybe some not so gentle mockery as well.

Read the post here.

New Letter Transcribed

Letter
I’ve just finished transcribing a letter (dated November 13th, 1775) that I discovered when I dug up what appeared to be a crudely marked (yet empty) grave just outside of New Ebenezer, a ghost town in eastern Georgia. Why the letter was buried there, who buried it, and whether or not there was ever an actual body interred may be mysteries we will never uncover.

The letter does, however, shed new light on the matter of Fin’s snuffled boot. It seems a mystery is afoot.

Letters to Peter

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The studious reader will have noted the link in the sidebar entitled “Letters to Peter” and quite possibly that reader will have wondered why I write letters to myself and post them here. The answer is that, thankfully, I haven’t written myself at all, or if I have, I haven’t posted it here for eyes other than those of the addressee.

In the narrative of
The Fiddler’s Gun, Fin Button has multiple occasions to write letters home to her good friend, Peter LaMee. So in the time leading up to the release of the book, I thought it would be fun to discoverRead the entire post