The Plight of the Lonely French Fry

Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest

Another dead end.

Helen crumpled up the restaurant child’s placemat and started on a fresh one. She should’ve used a pencil, but that felt like cheating. She stuck with pen. No going back. It was a maze for five year olds, leading an anthropomorphic French fry to a box of his brethren. It shouldn’t be this hard.

She hit another dead end. Crumpled it up and tossed it with the half-dozen others she’d failed to complete. Troy had been watching her for a while. He finally said something.

“Problem, Hel?”

“No. No problem.” She ripped the placemat in half and sighed.

Troy took one of the failures and smoothed it out. “I’m surprised you’re not better at this.”

“I’m surprised you’re not better at math.” She immediately regretted saying it. She wasn’t mad at him.… Read the rest “The Plight of the Lonely French Fry”

A Change in Management

There’s that one store. It’s tucked out of the way. Maybe it’s in a strip mall that clings to life. Maybe it’s in some back alley with an unmarked door. Maybe it’s next to everyone’s favorite local taco place, but the windows are black and the signage is uninviting and so nobody goes in. Nobody even tries the door.

Almost nobody.

But those that do are drawn by something. Cosmic forces or fate or dumb luck or a deep, hungry need. The woman behind the counter–though sometimes she’s a man, though not really a man or a woman but something else–is there to fill that need. The price is always too high, but the customers pay it. Sometimes, eagerly. Sometimes, reluctantly. But nobody who walks into the shop leaves empty handed, and everybody gets what they want, which isn’t what they need.… Read the rest “A Change in Management”

Last Wish

”Agent Pythia Sibyl, Theurgy Security Commission.” I held up my badge. “I’m here about the wish.”

John gave me a funny look. The kind of look that said he was thinking about what to say. Nobody liked a government suit knocking on their door.

I moved the badge closer for him to get a better look.

“What’s theurgy?” he asked.

“Magic,” I replied. “The Commission steps in when magic shows up.”

I put away the badge, stuck my hands in my pockets. I slouched a little. I was less threatening that way. Not that I was physically intimidating. But the badge and his guilt did most of that work.

“Let me just put you at ease. You’re not in trouble. Not yet.”

“I’m not?”

“Magic isn’t illegal,” I said.

“It’s not?”

“Not most of it,” I said. “Can I come in?”… Read the rest “Last Wish”

Dregs

Flint crawled up into the city streets. The midnight sky hurt his eyes, and he pulled his hat over his face.

He’d been told that the day was worse, but like most ratlins, he’d never seen it directly. Once, as a youth, he’d spied it through the rubble of a cave in, and he’d been curious. But that was a long time ago.

He’d been told that the night was brighter in other place, but the city’s smokestacks pumped their haze into the air, and while he knew there were such a thing as stars, he’d never seen one.

He skulked through the streets, keeping his head down. There was no rule saying ratlins need stay Below, but few Above were happy to see a four foot tall rodent wandering among them. Fewer were happy to cater to ratlins, but there were places where money was all that was required and questions weren’t asked.… Read the rest “Dregs”

Fire and Fist

Hey, Action Force. Here’s a short story I posted years ago that got lost when I updated the site. It’s part of Demon with 10,000 Fists: a setting where magic exists but manifests in very personalized ways. Haven’t really done anything with it, but this story stands on its own. Enjoy.

 

A lady can’t help but contemplate her life choices when she’s punching a man in the face for a rent-controlled apartment.

In my defense, the guy was trying to set me on fire at the time.

Dragon stumbled back and wiped away the blood dripping from his nose. He chuckled and smiled. “You can’t beat me.”

I adjusted my stance, held my fists out before me, and motioned for him to make a move. “I can always beat a gimmick.”

“You think your insults are going to make me sloppy?… Read the rest “Fire and Fist”

Doctor Death Does a Villainy

Antagonists are tricky. Traditionally, they’re the Bad Guys who stand in the way of our protagonists. The most basic antagonist is the clear cut villain. These sorts of antagonists work because they’re easy to root against. They might not even have much of a personality at all. Xenomorphs just want to kill and impregnate without discrimination. Many thugs in adventure stories are interchangeable. We don’t know much, if anything, about them. We just know they’re trying to stop the protagonists.

Some stories deliberately make this clear. The alien invaders in Independence Day are a race of ruthless conquerors who move from planet to planet, destroying the native life, consuming all the resources before moving on. There is nothing redeemable or sympathetic about them. Heck, they even look weird and don’t make any effort to communicate in any relatable fashion. And that’s fine.… Read the rest “Doctor Death Does a Villainy”

Nick Errant

Here’s a little something. One of the ideas I’ve been toying with is a novel involving a classic pulp fiction team-up. This is the introduction of Nick Errant, inspired by detectives and weird menace fiction. I don’t know if it’ll go anywhere else, but thought I’d share this bit. Enjoy.

Prospero punched Nick Errant in the gut. A lot of your less respectable hired muscle might smack you in the face to make a stronger impression, but the risk was that you might break a jaw. Guys with broken jaws couldn’t talk.

Prospero worked him over for a bit until Nick couldn’t breath. Then the two guys holding him dropped Nick in a folding chair.

He gasped. Something might be broken. He couldn’t always tell.

Prospero offered Nick a cigarette, but he waved it off.

“Never picked up the habit.” He nodded to a bottle of scotch on his desk in the darkened office.… Read the rest “Nick Errant”

It’s All Hard

With the third Constance Verity book coming out this week in the US (and already out in UK), I’m officially wrapping up the Constance Verity trilogy. I’m not saying there won’t be more Constance books, but right now I’m pausing to work on other projects.

My first ten novels are all standalone stories set in their own distinct universes. I remember once I was on a convention panel discussing Standalones VS. Series. At the time, I wasn’t interested in a series, which made me a bit of an anomaly in the field. One of the panelists even remarked that “Maybe one day you’ll be a strong enough writer to create a series.”

It was a silly comment. At the time I thought a series would be easier than starting from scratch every time. You’ve already done half the work by reusing characters and concepts, right?… Read the rest “It’s All Hard”

Constance Verity Destroys the Universe

Constance Verity Destroys the Universe is out now in the UK and will be out on March 8th in the US. If you’re visiting this site, then you probably already know if you’re interested in it or not, but if you’re on the edge and need a push or maybe just eager for a bite, please enjoy this first chapter of the book.

Also included is a version of the cover copy that didn’t make it onto the US version. Don’t know why. The online cover copy for Constance Verity Saves the World has never been right, but these things happen.

Enjoy.

 

The Adventurer. The Great Snurkab. The Caretaker. Constance Verity returns, having accepted and secured her place in the universe while juggling her expanded life. There isn’t a foe she can’t outfight, a peril she can’t outwit, but what happens when Connie discovers she just might be the greatest threat to the world she regularly saves?… Read the rest “Constance Verity Destroys the Universe”

That One Thing

I’ll give you the TLDR of this post up front:

The best way to make a believable character is to have them do one thing, and then have them do that one thing over and over again.

That’s it. Now you know. Thanks for stopping by.

Okay, so maybe a bit more exploration of this idea is worth our time. The thing about stories is that they are simultaneously more complicated and more simple than most people think. This isn’t unique to writing. Part of getting good at anything is realizing that many of the mysterious elements aren’t all that mysterious while understanding that a lot of the elements people never really think about are the hard bits.

When it comes to characterization there’s plenty of advice about how to make memorable, distinct characters. A lot of it is good, but it often creates the impression that characterization is difficult.… Read the rest “That One Thing”