The Answer Isn’t a Simple One

Photo by Erik Mclean from Pexels

If you have paid any attention to popular culture over the past several years, you have surely noticed the explosion of what some call a new literary genre and others call a weird obsession: fan fiction. Whichever category it falls into, and I think it’s probably a bit of both, it has become even bigger than some of the works that inspire it. It is also a literary behemoth that can be a controversial subject in the bookish world and beyond.

In case this is the first time you’re hearing the phrase, fan fiction (more commonly called fan fic) is…


Yes, Films Really Can Be Both

The Alamo (2004) (Photo: Touchstone Pictures)

Last week I published an article about five of the worst movies ever made, at least as far as their historical accuracy. To show that I’m not just a grumpy old man who hates everything, today I want to present the flip side of that: five movies that are both excellent films and historically accurate as well. Sadly, there aren’t as many of these as there are of the bad ones as an overall total of what Hollywood puts out. On the plus side, not a single film listed here features that bane of historical filmmaking Mel Gibson.

1. The…


It was a glorious year

The Last Word Bookstore at night

A little over five years ago, having just been laid off from my job after two decades, I had the following brief conversation with one of my daughters:

Me: “Is it crazy to be thinking about opening a bookstore?”

Her: “No crazier than talking about it your whole life and never doing it.”

And a child shall lead them.

I found myself remembering this conversation, and the bookstore that resulted from it, while pondering a writing challenge on the Vocal Media site called (No)Regrets. That challenge is about an embarrassing or cringeworthy experience in your past, and this is neither…


Gone But Never Forgotten

Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Photo by Gustau Nacarino)

One year ago today, I woke to learn that Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author of The Shadow of the Wind, had died in Los Angeles from colon cancer. Much like the loss of Clarence Clemons ten years ago, Zafon’s passing affected me in ways you would not expect for someone I never met. But also much like Clarence, I really had met him, known him, in maybe the best way possible: through his art.

I think Zafon’s passing struck me hard for a different reason as well. He was only a year older than me. When your heroes die, and those…


Some You Should Emulate, Others Not So Much

Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

There is no shortage of dads in literary works, unlike the surprising shortage of moms which I discussed in my literary moms post on Mother’s Day. As in life, some of these fathers are amazing and some should be incarcerated. For this Father’s Day weekend, let’s look at some of the best and the worst of them, starting with the worst (have to end on a positive note, after all).

The Bad

Jack Torrance (The Shining). Not being a homicidal lunatic who tries to murder your family is one of the first things covered in the “don’t” section of Fatherhood…


De-Clutter This

Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

So there I was, blissfully swilling coffee, smoking menthols before the FDA bans them, and diligently working on a new Marvel article that Eric Pierce inspired with an outstanding piece on Helmut Zemo. The morning was cruising along quite nicely.

I had taken the shortest of breaks (not procrastinating, mind you…writers don’t do that) to check out my friends’ newest articles. I had just finished reading a great review by Simon Dillon of a film I had never even heard of and was about to get back to work (no, really) when the title of a new article by Danielle…


A short story

Photo by Kelly Visel on Unsplash

Sal Terranova is about to lock up the bookstore after an incredibly slow Wednesday when Luis Ortiz appears and pushes past him. He is carrying a six-pack of Modelo Negra (though two are missing), and he tosses one to Sal after he has flipped the sign to “Closed” and locked the door.

“Salvatore, my friend,” Ortiz says, draining half his bottle in one long pull, “Jake and I have decided to join your campaign of literary conquest.”

“Literary conquest?”

“Yes,” Ortiz replies, looking at him like he’s a backward child. …


If We Don’t Do It, Who Will?

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

One of the worst-kept secrets about writers is that most of us are far more comfortable communicating on a page and at a distance than verbally and in person. This introversion is just as evident, and ultimately self-defeating, when it comes to the only thing we hate more than editing our work: promoting it.

Looking around social media today, you wouldn’t think that self-promotion is something anyone struggles with. From YouTube to Instagram to TikTok, we are awash with creators screaming “Look at me!” But for most writers this just isn’t the case.

We can agonize for weeks, months, and…


If Only Medium Had Tabs

Photo by Anton H from Pexels

Ever since I passed the 100 article mark, I’ve wished more and more that our profile pages had tabs like the publications do. Like many of you, I write about multiple subjects and it would be nice to be able to gather them up by topic. This would make it far easier for the music or movie fans to find my articles on those areas while steadfastly avoiding my fiction. Please stop steadfastly avoiding my fiction.

Until Medium makes this change (come on Ev, make the change) I am stealing a solution from several other writers I follow who have…


You’ll Be the Next James Patterson in No Time

Photo by Camille Orgel on Unsplash

There are two types of writers in the world: those who write fiction and those who don’t yet admit they write fiction. Both types know all too well how hard it is out there for a fiction writer, and it’s just as hard here in the writer-friendly space that is Medium. For example, all of my fiction articles combined have fewer views than this article about sex in Victorian-era England. Sex sells, clearly.

I want to help you would-be John Grishams and Danielle Steels to be heard over the noise, so…

Paul Combs

Writer, bookseller, would-be roadie for the E Street Band. My ultimate goal is to make books as popular in Texas as high school football...it may take a while.

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