Saturday, October 31, 2020

Speak with the Weight of Three Thousand Years

While watching the Chinese animated film Jiang Ziya: Legend of Deification, a thought struck me:

The Chinese language is uniquely suited for epic fantasy.

Sheriff of the Swamps Chapter 5


Black Hatchet

Clark had kicked up the hornets’ nest. They weren’t going to stick around to see what came swarming out.

The Clark family lived in the suburbs at the northwestern edge of Saint Lucile. Here the architects had envisioned a slice of the pre-Cataclysm world, a homage to long-lost Americana, coupled with adaptations to modern living. Rows of modified double-width camelback shotgun homes dominated the street, each of them obeying the same design aesthetics, yet subtly different in their own ways.

The Clarks enjoyed the nicest house in the neighborhood. Fresh white paint, tinted blue windows, wrought iron gates tall as a man, tipped with blunted spikes. The attached two-car garage was at least as wide as the house itself. Blooming bushes lent splashes of red and pink and violet to the neatly-trimmed lawn.

It was almost a shame they had to leave. Forever.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Sheriff of the Swamps Chapter 4


Three Little Pigs

the commotion of the morning, the ferry terminal was once again as lethargic as it was when Kayla had arrived. Yellow crime scene tape blocked off half the parking lot, encompassing the field of combat. A bored deputy stood watch, protecting what little evidence remained. Dark stains marked where the dead men had lain. Wreckers had towed away the stricken vehicles, leaving behind sparkling shards.

The moment they retrieved their things, Clark hired a taxi to return them to the scene of the shoot. They said little during the drive, and nothing of import. The driver was a fan of Clark’s, gushing about the work she had done and the need for a new broom, but he was also an outsider. Operational security remained paramount.

With their eyeshields in MISD custody for so long, there was no telling what they’d done to them. They scrambled the identity modules on their eyeshields, generated fresh burner numbers on an app, then powered them off and stowed them in RFID blocking bags.

As she worked, Kayla thought of what they had to do. Organize accommodations, plan travel routes, audit security arrangements, prepare backup plans and backups to backups. The shoot had thrown Kayla’s plans out of order. And now that the whole damn world knew who and where they were and what they were doing here, she and James would have to improvise on the fly.

They were two steps away from a clusterfuck. They’d have to figure out how to step back from the line, back up towards something resembling normalcy.

But first: they needed hardware.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Sheriff of the Swamps Chapter 3



When you shoot someone in Moreno Island, the cops send everyone.

At least, that was the impression James had when the MISD showed up. A cop car, then two, then four and six and eight and then an ocean of cruisers, lights flashing, sirens screaming, more police than Babylon PD would ever send to a shooting like this. More police than he’d ever seen in Moreno Island.

Kayla and James had turned themselves in quietly. They dropped their guns when the first deputies arrived. They’d allowed them to recover the weapons, cuff them, pat them down, take their initial statements. Clark supported her protectors, vouching for them, verifying their version of events.

Nonetheless, the deputies hauled them back to the station.

The last time he’d been here, he’d fought and shot and killed his way out. Every step he took surfaced memories of combat. As the deputies marched him to the interview room, he found himself looking for signs of damage. For blood, bullet holes, physical reminders of what he’d done here.


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Sheriff of the Swamps Chapter 2


Trigger Pullers

Moreno Island.

East of Babylon, across the shimmering sea, it was so isolated that it was a nation unto itself. Left behind by the changing tides of time, it was decades out of date, hopelessly obsolete, so backward it could never hope to catch up with the rest of Nova Babylonia.

Few young people stayed in the island if they could. Those who did flocked to the towns and the city, to the promise of white collar work and salaries and the comforts of modern civilization.

The New Gods had brought modernity to the land but had demanded so much in return. Allegiance. Politicking. And souls. Yet before the New Gods came, older and stranger gods had laid claim to the swamps and the rivers and the woods of Moreno Island. Once dormant, the power vacuum caused by the Temple Commission would surely draw them out of the shadows.

Kayla Fox shuddered. She had no desire to see any of the older gods again.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Sheriff of the Swamps Chapter 1


Insider Turned Outsider

James Wood heard the car long before he saw it.

In the quiet of the woods, sound carried a long way. Loose gravel crackled under heavy tires. The engine purred, low and smooth and steady. A twig snapped. One vehicle, moving slowly, navigating the final turn into the farmhouse.

Not an assault.

Or so the driver wanted it to seem.

Everybody on Moreno Island knew that you never, ever, visited the Woods without an appointment. No exceptions. Deliverymen, postmen, farmhands, everyone had to set an appointment and call ahead before arrival. Without the call, they would be turned back, no matter who they were. Nobody wanted to argue with six feet and two hundred pounds of rock-hard muscle, muscle earned through daily labor, or the rifle he always wore everywhere he went.

That meant the newcomer was a stranger. Or someone who knew but chose to disregard the rules.

Maybe even someone pretending to be visitor, to draw his attention away from an assault.

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Secret to Writing Powerful Action Scenes


Action scenes are the bread and butter of pulp stories. When the story threatens to get too boring, throw in a fight scene and you revitalize it with fresh energy, stakes and momentum. When the hero finally confronts the main villain, readers expect a climactic battle to wrap up the book.

The art of the action scene is critical to writing a pulp-style tale. To craft a powerful action scene, write to what readers want from one.

Readers want the excitement and the drama of the fight, without the experience of danger. They want to feel the crunch of bone on bone, hear the crack of a bullet whipping past, see the blood spraying from a fresh wound.

Higher-level readers also want to see the technical aspects of the fight, and learn from it. They have an idea of how violence plays out in the real world, and they demand to see it on the page. They want to see violence that matches their experience -- without the danger of it.

An action scene allows the reader to live vicariously through the characters, experiencing the intensity of a fight from the comfort and safety of their homes. It is a full-sensory assault, brimming with tension and drama and energy, with the characters gunning for the highest stakes.

Readers want intensity, velocity and characterisation. Write to what they want and they will flock to you.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Superheroes in A Post-Modern Age


What is a superhero?

A hero with superpowers.

What is a hero?

That is a question the genre is struggling with today.

To be a hero is to protect the innocent, uphold moral norms, and preserve society, even if it means experiencing great hardship. It is to embody and express the great virtues, even at tremendous personal cost. It is to use your gifts and talents wisely, in the service of others, instead of satisfying personal vices.

It is to be good and do good in the face of incredible challenges.

But what does it mean to be good?

And does possessing superpowers make you less than, greater than, or something other than human?

Once, there was an easy answer to these questions. Not any more.