Silas

Beyond the seas, above the clouds, there existed the Realm of Dragons. To adequately describe its grand splendor would have been a nearly impossible feat for even the most skilled narrator. But the dragon hatcheries, which lay within the dark, cold, wet bowels of the realm were easy enough to describe.

They were dark. They were cold. And they were wet.

The silver drake approached the checkout counter. She said nothing, barely even glanced at Silas, as she handed him her engraved token.

“Be right back.”

Silas trudged deeper into the hatcheries. He stepped in a puddle, which was expected. The whole place was a puddle with occasional bits of moist, muddy ground. Most dragons didn’t mind the conditions, but as a peluda, his fur was getting mildewed.

On the way, he passed Gen, carrying a few eggs back to their parents.… Read the rest “Silas”

Watchful

The bar had been struggling for years now. A combination of inconvenient traffic construction and trendier places meant there wasn’t much of a crowd anymore. It was a Tuesday, which had never been a busy night even in its heyday. So when the front doors opened, the few heads turned to see the new arrival.

Shelly was a small woman in a long black coat. Her blonde hair was almost white. Her eyes were silver.

She was beautiful, though not in a way that was immediately obvious. It took more than a glance to notice. Some people never looked twice.

Jo was busy running the bar, which involved serving a drink to the two or three customers sitting there while she read a book in-between. She didn’t give much thought as the new customer found a stool.

Jo set down her book.… Read the rest “Watchful”

Dinner at the Delphi

An aura of absolute authority covered the maitre’de. He stood behind the lectern, his hands clutching it, like a judgmental gargoyle. No, Zane corrected himself. It was more like St. Peter at the pearly gates, but without the slightest drop of mercy in his heart. Only the maitre’de knew your final destination, but he waited for you to dare approach before handing over the keys or pushing the secret button that sent you plummeting to damnation. Or at least the burger joint down the street.

Zane had booked his reservation a week in advance, but his knees still weakened as the guardian of The Delphi gestured for him to step forward. The maitre’de, his eyes darkened slits, his eyebrows furrowed, his neat little mustache somehow scowling, fixed Zane with stare, neither kind nor cruel, but full of unspoken judgments.

“I have a reservation,” said Zane.… Read the rest “Dinner at the Delphi”

Blue Beetle and the Elusive 10 Percent

I saw Blue Beetle in theaters. Short review: It was good-ish.

Ever since I saw the film, I’ve been debating on whether to talk about it because I have some critical thoughts on the film. I make it a rule not to be negative toward other media. Everyone works hard on a movie. Even the movie you might not find great. No need to bash other people’s work.

That said, I’m going to go ahead and say Blue Beetle is consistently only good-ish and never hits great heights. And the reason for that isn’t because it doesn’t work, but because it never nails that final 10 percent.

I could break the film down, piece by piece, but that’s not strictly necessary. I can ummarize Blue Beetle’s shortcomings with one example, and it might even be one you’ve seen in the trailers.… Read the rest “Blue Beetle and the Elusive 10 Percent”

Banshee and the Barista

Banshees rarely had to wait in line.

“No, please, after you,” said the woman ahead of Ariel. “I’m still deciding.”

Human superstition made her life harder in a lot of ways, but here was one way it made it easier. She stepped up to the counter, and the newest barista, eyes focused on the register, asked for her order.

It was always the newest one who got stuck with her. This one was a tall, attractive young man who was trying, and only somewhat succeeding, in growing a beard. His name tag read Waldo.

“How are the cookies today?” she asked.

Waldo shrugged indifferently. “I don’t know. Same as always.”

“They’re not always the same,” said Ariel. “I know they come from the same factory somewhere, but sometimes, something goes wrong in the process or they get delayed or whatever.”

“Well, they’re always wrapped in plastic, so I don’t know how we’d know if they were good or not?”… Read the rest “Banshee and the Barista”

The Strange & Unreliable Alchemy of Indiana Jones

“The story of Indiana Jones plays out exactly the same if Indiana hadn’t done anything.”

It’s an observation you’ve probably heard by now. It floated around for a while before Big Bang Theory popularized it. Now everyone knows it and repeats it. Here’s my hot take on the idea.

It’s not true.

I have a more subtle take as well:

It doesn’t matter even if it were true.

I’m not trying to redeem Raiders of the Lost Ark. The film doesn’t need redeeming, and who wants to read a X page blog post about a movie most everyone already loves or at least likes?

I think it’s worth addressing though because it gets to the heart of what makes a story really shine. Spoiler Alert: It’s not a hero saving the day, even in adventure stories.

Let’s get the technical stuff out of the way first.… Read the rest “The Strange & Unreliable Alchemy of Indiana Jones”

The Beginner Writer’s Guide to Becoming Fabulously Successful (or not)

Time to open the Action Force Mailbag. If you have any questions, comments, thoughts, limericks,  cookie recipes, whatever, feel free to send them my way at Hipstercthulhu@hotmail.com.

“As a young writer who has just completed a detective novel, do you think I should try to get an agent, or build a reader base online, say on Substack, and self-publish? Thanks”

 I wrote a little about this already: How to Succeed in Publishing by Really, Really Trying Hard and Getting Lucky. I still stand by that, and what I write now will be basically a more specific digression on that same Write, Edit, Publish, Repeat philosophy.

Read that post first. If you’re still hungry for more opinions come here and read on:

It’s important to note that I can only offer the insight gleaned from my own limited experience. I’ve been writing, in one form or another, for thirty years now.… Read the rest “The Beginner Writer’s Guide to Becoming Fabulously Successful (or not)”

Stirring the Compost Heap

Most of our thinking is done in our unconscious. We don’t consider it a lot, and when we do, it doesn’t feel right. We know ourselves, our thoughts. We tend to think of our unconscious as a minor part of ourselves. The meat and potatoes of who we are must be found in our consciousness, right?

Right?

I’m no brain doctor so nothing I’m about to say should be taken as authority. In fact, assume that nothing I say on anything is correct because that’s just playing the odds, but as a writer who has been doing this for decades I’d like to think I have some insight into how it works. A lot of creativity is in the unconscious.

Every writer has heard the question: Where do you get your ideas? And most of us know that ideas aren’t that important, and that actually writing is what makes one a writer.… Read the rest “Stirring the Compost Heap”

What Am Art?

What is the value of art? What is the purpose of art? How do we define who is and isn’t an artist? And also, what the hell is even art?

These are big questions. The AI rise didn’t create them, but it did put them in the spotlight for many people who never considered them before. Great thinkers have struggled with these questions since probably a week after the first person painted a buffalo on a cave wall. There are no easy answers. Not until I arrived on the scene.

You’re welcome in advance.

The thing about art and creative expression is that there is no single answer to any of those questions. Some art tears apart cultural and societal conventions, challenging what we hold sacred. Some art is dinosaurs fighting robots because dinosaurs fighting robots are cool.

Why do we create art in the first place?… Read the rest “What Am Art?”

Slice of Life

It’s a little late, but here’s a Valentine’s Day short story.

Gil’s All Fright Diner

Having a ghost girlfriend came with disadvantages. For one, Cathy was impossible to blindfold.

She sat in the passenger seat with her hands over her eyes. She’d peek between her fingers now and then, forcing him to block her view with his free hand as he drove.

“You said you wouldn’t,” said Earl.

“I know, but it’s just we’ve been driving for a while.”

“We’re almost there,” he said.

“I don’t like surprises.”

“You’ll like this one.”

She closed her fingers and leaned back in her seat. “Okay, but it better be amazing.”

They drove farther down the road. The withered trees stretched overhead, blotting out the night sky, leaving only the headlights to cut through the darkness. They didn’t do a great job, and he turned them off.… Read the rest “Slice of Life”