Saturday, May 15, 2021

Terry Brooks and Cliffhanger Endings

Several years ago, I attended a writers’ workshop by the great Terry Brooks. As an aside, do you know he pronounces Shannara with a short a at the start, instead of an a like in father? It shocked a lot of people. But I digress.

He stressed that every chapter should end with a cliffhanger ending. “No exceptions,” he said. As a young aspiring writer, I thought that sounded cliché. Now that I’m an older aspiring writer, I see the wisdom of it. Which brings me to the manuscript I’m about to send out.

This picture I took was from much later
Not perfectly focused, I know

So this is from my War of the Wars reimagined. It you’re reading this from a home computer, you can find links to excerpts in the column on the right, or if you’re reading this from a smartphone, you can scroll down to the tiny words that say “View web version” and see that column. My working title will be Fairy War. Here is the cliffhanger ending for a chapter:


My senses were overwhelmed as I lay there, head lolling on hard wood, and I could not differentiate between the steam and smoke obscuring my vision when I blacked out.


How’d I do?

Friday, April 30, 2021

Book Review: Monster Hunter Guardian

Julie Shackleford is a member of Monster Hunters International. You can probably guess what they specialize in, and it requires a lot of guns. The other Monster Hunters are on a mission in another country, so all Julie has to do is care for her three-month-old baby, Ray, and hold down the compound.

But some monsters are not simply fierce things to be shot down by bullets. Some can infiltrate the mind of a person and suddenly control that person’s actions. And so Ray gets kidnapped by a trusted friend. Julie does what any monster hunting mother would do: She loads up for bear and chases after her child through a portal. She ends up in Germany, but her rifle doesn’t make it. Still, she proceeds to do an amazing amount of damage with a handgun, and even a sword. She takes down cult members and creatures of sheer evil in amazing numbers, trying to get Ray back. 


Monster Hunter Guardian by Larry Correia and Sarah A. Hoyt is the eighth book in the Monster Hunter series, but it is a stand-alone novel, so the reader can understand it without having read the previous installments. Still, even though the book is action-packed, there are a few slow moments at the beginning where those familiar with the series get caught up with what is going on with her husband and grandfather.

The action really flows after that. Julie takes an enormous amount of damage as she takes down one cult member or evil thing after another. Obviously this is explained in terms of her toughness and her desire to rescue her baby, but it is somewhat hard to believe she can stay on her feet, let alone keep fighting. Then again, you should see the other guys.

The story does have its lighter moments. She arrives in Germany in the middle of their equivalent of Mardi Gras, so she blends right in with her tactical look, which I found quite funny.

Also, the cover is a treat. The artist, Alan Pollack, obviously studied a certain fight scene in the book. It is incredibly accurate. True, Julie doesn’t handle her gun and the sword at the same time, but still. And how many action heroines with glasses have we seen on book covers?

So if you like guns, or women with guns, or wonder how you would do if you had to rescue your baby, or just want a ripping good yarn, Monster Hunter Guardian is for you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021


So the latest crisis is a shortage of garden gnomes. Supply chains in general have been stressed for the little fellows, but then the Suez Canal was blocked for six, count ‘em, six days. Great Britain felt the shortage quite keenly. Where is gnome central—the Middle East? The Indian subcontinent? Some part of what used to be called the Orient, where factory workers beat those cute hats into shape? What must they think of Western civilization?

image from satellite ESA Copernicus Sentinel-2

This, of course, brings us to fantasy. Special Unit 2 was an early form of urban fantasy on television. Detective O’Malley was played by Michael Landes. Detective Benson was played by Alexondra Lee. Together, they fought creatures of legend, such as mermen, gorgons, werewolves, and even a dragon, who threatened the human race. Their street informant was a gnome named Carl, played by Danny Woodburn. The series was quite funny and full of action, so I highly recommend it.

But to the point, O’Malley and Carl did not get along. The relevant part starts at 5:45.  (Warning: some coarse language.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Easter Egg for Future Archaeologists

This egg was at a mall. It was about five feet tall. Future archaeologists may decide we worshiped a large egg at this time of year.

I remember the main character in Quark, an old science fiction show, said archaeologists found that his ancestors in California worshiped a five-foot tall mouse with white gloves.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Movie Review: Chaos Walking

Todd (Tom Holland) lives on a sparsely colonized planet. Some unique property of the planet allows the thoughts of men to be projected out loud, accompanied by misty tendrils that are visible from a distance. Memories can also be seen, and Todd is skillful enough to project images. All the women in his village were killed years ago.

Viola (Daisy Ridley) is part of a second-generation colony ship. When her scout ship crash lands, she is the only survivor. Todd has never seen a girl, so when he discovers Viola, he is immediately smitten with her. Unfortunately, the mayor of the village wants to attack the main ship when it lands while most of its people are still in cryogenic stasis. Viola overhears the plot and runs. Todd chases after her, trying to help her avoid the men of the village who pursue on horseback.

Chaos Walking is a serviceable film that kept my interest. Todd and Viola alternate between being frantically on the run and pausing to discover more of the remains of attempted civilization on the planet. All agree that the movie is completely dependent on the acting talents of Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, who do a great job. Critics tend to bash it, saying it becomes predictable after the intriguing beginning. Also, there is rabbit-out-of-a-hat trick with the images that was problematic.  

Ordinary people (probably a lot of teenagers) enjoyed it. I might have enjoyed it more if I were an insecure teenager—more than once Todd visualizes being kissed by Viola, which outrages her. But as I said, it kept my interest.

So if a theater is open near you, you might consider Chaos Walking. Keep in mind the very different reactions to it, and that there is no accounting for taste. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Writing at the Mall

I usually do a good amount of writing at malls. It doesn’t always work out (see my entry on Mallrats). But I write in malls because if I write at home I start thinking of other things I need to do, like cleaning.

Last Saturday, I was in Bellevue Square. (Bellevue is the largest suburb of Seattle.) It connects by a skybridge to Lincoln Square.

Here’s a view from it looking north:

Oddly enough, there is no glass on this side of the skybridge. They must have figured that having glass on the south was all that was needed to keep the wind from blowing through.

Here’s a view looking south:

Here is from a different angle. It’s a little hard to see, but there are three movie posters, each as tall as a floor—a very tall floor. They showcase A Quiet Place 2 and Bad Boys for Life. I’m not sure what the third movie is. Any guesses?

click to enlarge

It’ll be nice when the theatres are open again.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Charisma Carpenter Speaks out on Joss Whedon

I’m a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and to a lesser extent, of Angel. (See my post “What if Buffy had Never Been?”) If you care about either series, please read the tweets by Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia, here:

I’m not in favor of the cancel culture. But if someone gets the idea to cancel a certain someone, not my fault.  

Addendum: Sarah Michelle Geller posted on Instagram that she doesn’t want to be forever associated with Joss Whedon. Michelle Trachtenberg, who played Buffy’s sister Dawn, reposted that and added there was a rule that Joss Whedon would not be allowed in a room alone with her again.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Movie Review: Run Hide Fight

Zoe (Isabel May) is somewhat of an unusual high schooler, in that she’s comfortable handling guns because her father has taught her how to hunt. (Although, such teens who have been introduced into a healthy gun culture are more common than some think.)

But something’s gone wrong with Zoe emotionally. As one teacher flat-out tells her to her face, she used to be outgoing and cheerful. Now she’s withdrawn and become flippant with her teachers. She even tells the only friend she has left, “This is high school. Nothing that happens here matters in the real world.”

So on senior prank day, she’s not impressed by the hijinks that go on. But when a van crashes into the cafeteria and students dressed in black cold-bloodedly shoot a number of other students, everything changes.

Covered in blood, Zoe manages to escape the school. But then she slows to a stop. Will she turn around to warn other students to run? Will she fight? 

Run Hide Fight is quite the unusual movie. It shows in gritty detail what a prolonged school shooting looks like, without being exploitational. If you make a comment on this, please don’t mention politics. Some reviewers think they see partisan politics in this movie, but the politics is in their heads.

Everything rests on Isabel May’s shoulders, and she does carry the movie. It pretty much zips along from start to finish. She does not play Zoe (which means “life”) as an over-the-top action hero. She is actually terrified during much of the movie. And Zoe has to work out her emotional problems during the course of all the violence.

Isabel May is twenty, so she was nineteen or twenty when she played the seventeen-year-old. She mentioned in an interview that fear of a school shooting was a real part of her life.

Is Run Hide Fight a great movie? It has a few continuity problems, and a few of the scenes seem forced. But it is well worth watching, and I am not aware of any other movie like this out there.

(If you don’t want to see several students get shot to death, and if you can’t stand the sight of blood, this movie is not for you.)

As a little social commentary, I have been shown more than once the standard workplace video that shows the options of run, hide, or fight in an active shooter situation, and the pragmatic explanations of when to use which option. But schools are given only one option: hide. Schools lock down in an active shooter situation.

There was a situation at a school that won’t be mentioned here, in which students in a completely different building were locked down, instead of being allowed to flee. This makes no sense, especially since some shooters go from classroom to classroom. Certain administrators have decided this is the lowest-risk option in terms of insurance and public image and their own careers, but the students’ lives are not given the highest priority.

I feel sorry for teachers who are stuck in this system. If they go against administration policy and have their students flee, they could be sued if a student gets injured. It wouldn’t have to be something as dramatic as a student getting shot. If a student breaks an ankle while fleeing, the teacher could be in big trouble.

Those videos that businesses use to show their employees to run, hide, or fight should be remade featuring teenagers and shown to high schools. It gets trickier with ages younger than that, but the blind insistence on a one-size-fits-all policy is an act of cowardice that does not serve students well.


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