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

“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?


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”


The Automatic Detective

There’s a lot of waiting in this job, and I can’t share news that isn’t really news at this stage. But something kind of cool is in development, and so I’d like to share this short story I wrote a few years ago. Consider it a cryptic hint of possibilities to come. Hope you enjoy it.


Sanchez had seen his share of supervillain lairs. It came with the job. There was one constant when it came to evil geniuses. The more elaborate the lair, the less dangerous the villain. The villains who built elaborate dome headquarters with their logo stamped all over it (and branding was something villains seemed to take very seriously) were inevitably pushovers compared to the science criminals who rented a nondescript warehouse. Megalith’s base of operations was of the warehouse variety, and it meant trouble.… Read the rest “Rogue”


On this very special A. LEE MARTINEZ APPRECIATION DAY!!, I’m sharing the first chapter of my new work in progress. The working title is Unbearable, but I’ll probably change that at some point. In fact, I’ll probably change a lot of things. Thats what the In-Progress for Work-In-Progress means.

Anyway, enjoy. 

And thanks for caring. I only get paid because you do.


You find the strangest stuff when digging your own grave.

The spade broke the soft earth easily. I’d dug out a shallow trench and wasn’t even tired. And I’d worried I’d meet my end sweaty and out of breath.

@Roger sat on a tree stump, watching me with a pistol across his lap. I liked Roger. He was a good guy. Despite the situation, I still thought of us as friends.

“How deep do we want this?” I asked, tossing more dirt to the side.… Read the rest “Unbearable”


For those of you keeping count, this is the 50th one. Of course, this holiday only really rose to national prominence with the publication of my first novel Gil’s All Fright Novel in 2005. I’m not saying there weren’t celebrations before that, but they tended to be small affairs instead of the sweeping parades and extravagant fireworks displays we get these days.

Simpler times.

I’ve been a professional published novelist for 18 years now. Counting the years I was only an aspiring writer I’ve been doing this job–in one form or another–for roughly three decades. In that time, I’ve written a lot of books, most of which have not and will never be published. I’ve had 13 novels published, 3 different publishers, one Chinese language film adaptation, dozens of TV and film options that have never quite made it across the finish line, and currently five or six other options in various stages of development–some more promising than others.… Read the rest “A. LEE MARTINEZ APPRECIATION DAY!! 2023”