We have to correct that immediately

Ten days ago I penned an article about Springsteen’s outtakes and B-sides in which I said I would never again go almost two weeks without writing about the Messiah from the Garden State. I do my best to keep my promises here, so it’s time for another deep dive into the Springsteen catalogue. …


A Short Story

It had started as a drinking game. A drinking game for pop culture nerds, to be exact. We were just a bunch of punk kids then, film and literature majors who got passed over by every fraternity and sorority on campus and banded together as much out of self-preservation as anything else. We had little in common except a love of music, film, and books; in the end that turned out to be enough.

It was Randy who came up with the idea of turning Top Five lists into a drinking game. We had been sitting around Joe Willie’s Bar…


The Answer Isn’t a Simple One

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

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

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…


But only the early ones

If you are a regular reader of my stuff, the title of this piece likely shocked you. Surely I must have learned everything about life from Springsteen, given my stalker-like devotion to the man. That would be true for the greater philosophical questions in life, like “is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?” But day to day existence is rarely made up of the Big Questions.

More importantly, it was clear from the first time I picked up a guitar that I would never be able to emulate Bruce in even the…


How has it come to this?

I read an excellent article recently by the lovely and talented Hogan Torah titled “No One Will Read Your Story If The Title Sucks.” It’s a great read, in which he advocates the use of the Sharethrough Headline Analyzer to improve your story titles. It will give your title a score from 0 to 100, with the highest number possible obviously being the goal; you want to aim for a 70 or higher. I use both that one and Headline Studio because they are free and I’m cheap.

This talk of titles got me to thinking about classic titles from…


The history of the high seas gets twisted, too

The Age of Sail remains one of the most romanticized eras of our history, but it brings with it some myths that have taken firm hold over the years, many of which are on display in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. Since those were never meant as history, I’ll give them as pass (well, at least the first two). When it comes to actual history, however, these myths need to be corrected; the period was thrilling enough without altering the facts. Here are just a few of the biggest maritime myths.

Myth #1: The Mutiny on the Bounty…


Some things are worth the risk

One thousand meters. One thousand meters was all that separated Dagan from his goal. And there was cover for all but a few stretches of that distance. Cover from the snipers, at least. The mortars were another story.

The mortar rounds fell in a predictable, rhythmic pattern. He had listened long enough to know this. The soldiers on the hills were evil monsters, but disciplined evil monsters. He could count the time between explosions and know how long he could run in an all-out sprint before the next one fell. The mortars were the easy part.

As for the snipers…


And it’s still working

Harry Houdini’s greatest skill wasn’t magic, it was misdirection. While he was pulling off whatever trick or sleight-of-hand that enabled his “magic” to happen, he kept the audience’s attention focused elsewhere so they wouldn’t see what he had up his sleeve. Over the last month or so, lawmakers in Texas have put on a masterclass in misdirection that would have made Houdini envious.

Do a Google search for “Texas” and the first results (after Tropical Storm Nicholas, which will be old news by tonight) are all about SB8, the recent law that went into effect September 1 making abortions in…

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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