In stories, people don’t usually exchange pleasantries during phone calls, but as much as people like to poke fun at the convention, it exists for a good reason. Hello and Good-Bye add nothing to the conversation two characters might be having. It tells us nothing about who they are. It offers no insight into their relationship. It usually doesn’t do anything but fill up some space.
There’s a lot of rules like that in storytelling. Stories do not usually bother with the minutiae of everyday life. I’m sure you can pick your favorite examples. One of mine is when characters have a conversation that continues through to a location change, implying that perhaps they stopped talking, traveled to a new location in silence, and then just started where the left off when they arrived.
These conventions exist because they allow us to skip the boring stuff and get the interesting bits.… Read the rest “Minding the Details”
How do you define superstitious?
We all have a convenient definition at our fingertips. It usually involves lucky socks or good luck rituals or avoiding behavior that “jinxes” us. That sort of superstitious is obvious, and even people who employ it tend to acknowledge that it’s more of a feeling than real world effect. It’s not that people don’t sincerely believe in these things. It’s just that they aren’t surprised when they don’t work consistently. Luck is a fickle ally, even when we throw offerings her way.
I’m pretty low on the superstitious index, but I did own a car for over a decade that I refused to ever fill up completely with gas because twice it had a maintenance issue soon after I did. Neither issue had anything to do with the fuel system in any way, but once the association was made I couldn’t ditch it.… Read the rest “HOW TO SUCCEED IN PUBLISHING BY REALLY, REALLY TRYING AND GETTING LUCKY”
Gil’s All Fright Diner remains a $2.99 deal on Kindle for this month. My first novel was published 17 years ago. Time comes for us all. Since then, I’ve published a few books, so maybe you’ve never read it. Here’s a great chance to do that.
In the meantime, here’s an original free short story featuring Duke, one of the protagonists of the novel. Hope you enjoy it.
Duke came out of the bathroom to find Marcy pointing a gun at him. He rubbed a towel across his wet hair and reached for his beer on the table beside him.
“Don’t try anything,” she said.
Duke, big and fat and hairy and naked, took a long swig of his beer. The only light in the motel room came from the bathroom behind him, the cheap lamp beside Marcy, and whatever was filtering through the broken blinds.… Read the rest “The Fearful Moon”
This November, Gil’s All Fright Diner’s eBook is on sale for $2.99.
Here’s a short story based on the novel’s setting: The Southwestern town of Rockwood, where the supernatural is commonplace. I’ve written a lot since then, but I’ll always have an affection for Rockwood.
Rockwood spread across the desert, and aside from the trailer park and a few clusters of houses here and there, it was a long walk from door-to-door on Halloween. Some parents drove their kids around, but even then, it was a lot of work for not much candy. Especially since the next town over had an annual carnival with a bounce house for the kids and reasonably priced alcohol for the parents.
There were still a few diehards who’d make the rounds in Rockwood, but these exceptions were usually done before dusk. Except for Horace Slater, who came out long after darkness fell to prowl the night in search of tricks and / or treats.… Read the rest “The Long Halloween of Horace Slater”
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.
“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”
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.
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”
”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.”
“Magic isn’t illegal,” I said.
“Not most of it,” I said. “Can I come in?”… Read the rest “Last Wish”
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”
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”
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”