Emails from Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Sixteenth

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

WHAT HAPPENED AT GRIM HILL

Hello, All! Melanie here.

Last week I didn’t receive an email from Writer X and it put me in a slightly anxious state. Kendall wisely pointed out that, in the realm of possibilities, there were more explanations for not receiving an email than X having been thrown in jail. Jim Janney gave some excellent tips for cross reality travel so, if you’re planning your next cross-reality trip, you may want to check out the comment section!

As for my health, I’m feeling MUCH better. Still a little groggy and staying near the tissue box, but no longer so plague-ish.

Back to the missing email and its cause. There were two specified ideas on the table.

1.) X has been thrown in jail for breaking into the Grim Hill House on Thanksgiving night to retrieve her clog. Perhaps a small, panicked jump in logic.

2.) X has had internet/connectivity issues. Being that she did go for several weeks without power, this was very logical.

The good news is that X has sent us an email and explained her absence. Of course the cause was option 3.) Some other third thing.

I think what X is looking for is a plot and I’m not sure you can buy those online. I would send her an email about character goals, story structure, and through-lines but I don’t see that going well.

I’ve taken the added liberty of inserting links to this email just in case you’re new here and are wondering as to what X is referring to. I’ll try to declare when I do this in the future as she sometimes includes links of her own.

That said, without further ado…


Subject: I AM SO MAD AT YOU GLADYS!!!

Dear Everyone Else BUT Gladys,

I am now decreeing that I will never write to Gladys AGAIN. Not only did she not reply to my latest draft, she also DID NOT SHOW UP AT THE GRIM HILL HOUSE leaving me, R___, and EHPKTRYX to FEND FOR OURSELVES!!!

I almost didn’t write this email but thanks to my victory shopping session at BAM, I’m feeling a little generous and thought that I wouldn’t punish the rest of you just because GLADYS was a no-show.

You’re probably wondering where the latest pages are for my epic fantasy saga. This is honestly part of the cause of my very bad mood and I would prefer you didn’t bring it up.

I have had a very rough two weeks. First, I was nearly spotted by my boss at Mr. Morgan’s Food Emporium & Things Nicely Priced while I was supposed to be at work. Of course, I WAS at work—or at least EHPKTRYX was at work on my behalf. Not that he’s doing a very good job. I could sell twice the tractors he does in a week. My paycheck is going to take a hit pretty soon if he keeps this up!!! Fortunately, I spotted B___ before he spotted me and dove over the meat counter before he caught me but slipped on a bunch of meat grease and bruised my coccyx so I am now embroiled in a law suit against Mr. Morgan or at least I will be once my new lawyer calls me back.

The good thing was I had already made my initial trip to BAM to solve my writing problem after dropping off EHPKTRYX for his shift. That’s when I bought seventeen NEW books on writing fiction.

Hang on. My phone is ringing. It’s probably EHPKTRYX wanting me to bring him Subway brand lettuce for his lunch break or else he’ll threaten to quit my job. I don’t know WHAT is up with that demon. Get him his own smartphone so that he leaves you alone and he calls ALL the time!! How am I supposed to get any writing done???

BRB. (That means be right back.)

Would you believe that was Brian from the Society??? He sounded really shaken and was asking if I would be reasonable and he could come over and speak to me about why he needed my right croc. I’M BEING PERFECTLY REASONABLE, GLADYS!!!

Anyway, I asked him to deliver some Subway brand lettuce to my workplace and ask for me and hung up on him. 

Where was I?

I can’t remember so I’ll just move on. I feel very confident about the last draft I sent you. However, what I have been feeling not confident about are the NEW pages.

I haven’t written them. Well, I haven’t written them per se.

I have hit a whole new low. Writing is very hard, Gladys!!! Now that I FINALLY know what my story is about, I STILL don’t know what HAPPENS. How does a writer figure out what happens in their story???

I mean, I see a lot of scenes in my head and I think “oh! This is how the story will go” but then when I go to write them they just fall apart and aren’t what I saw in my head at all!! Then I wonder if what I see in my head is any good??? There has to be some kind of GLUE that holds it all together.

Hang on. I’m googling “story glue.” The internet will tell me where I can find it. It has everything. Horse shampoo. Dildo batteries. Bullets.

I’m back. Nothing interesting on story glue. I guess I’M going to have to be the one to invent it, Gladys!!! Do I have to do everything????

Speaking of bullets, I still could use that gun. The lights have really gotten to be too much. I’ve forgotten what the moon looks like. I’ve forgotten what it is to feel tired. But I did just order a set of night vision binoculars I saw on sale. They’re going to come in handy VERY SOON!!!

Marjory called me yesterday asking if I would be “submitting an application” to join the exclusive writing critique group at the Ink Black Coffee Club. I almost told them that they needed to submit an application to ME. In fact, I would have said this but then Marjory went on to say that one of the writers has a book coming out this week called Broken Tides by Tod Boadkins and that I would probably like it and I knew THAT has to be a lie!!!

Now I have to get into this exclusive critique group just to prove to everyone that Tod Boadkins is a FRAUD. Broken Tides DOESN’T EXIST!!!! WRiters are a rare bread and there just can’t be two of us in the same town!!! Meanwhile, writing is very hard!!! I just looked up “story glue” in my writing books and NONE of them could tell me anything about what is wrong with my story.

I decided that even though the high and mighty critique group is asking for a writing sample, it doesn’t have to be my writing sample. I don’t want them stealing my ideas!!! So I carefully typed out the first chapter of The Two Towers but changed the names of everything and sometimes just ad-libbed and I think it actually came out kind of good!!!

What if I just do this for the whole story??? Then I could have at least three books come out by the end of this month!!! I wonder where Tod Boadkins published his book.

Hang on, my phone is ringing.

BRB.

Stupid EHPKTRYX has gotten into a fight with my boss and wants to come home before he eats his own head! I told him to stay right there or he won’t get the Subway brand lettuce that Brian is bringing him. Such a needy demon. If he loses my job, I’m putting him out!!!! I think he’s clingy. He’s always smelling me like I’m a pork rind or something.

Anyway, I suppose one good thing is that NO THANKS TO YOU we did manage to get into Grim Hill House. EHPKTRYX took your form and wore anbo-jyutsu armor but there were sigils or signs or medallions or something that kept him from entering the premises. However, he thought quickly and simply egged Brian’s car and picked a fist fight with Old Wanda across the street to lure Brian out so that R___ and I could get in. I was a little slow going as I only had my left croc on so I couldn’t stop and warn EHPKTRYX that Old Wanda is a professional cage fighter with a titanium right arm. I wonder how long it will take for EHPKTRYX’s black eyes to heal.

Then, just when R___ was figuring out that we weren’t actually on a historic house tour, we both fell down a chute and ended up on this floor that had all these mysterious dark water tanks with little bridges over them. But that was no problem since my right croc was on that floor on some sort of dais with a black circle around it. I marched right over those little bridges and I GOT MY CROC BACK GLADYS!~!!!!!

Unfortunately, that’s when the alarm system went off. STUPID ALARMS!!!! If it weren’t for those things, I wouldn’t have dropped my LEFT croc in one of those dark tanks. They were loaded with these long-snouted, razor-toothed, acid-tongued THINGS!!!

Fortunately, R___ knows barjitsu and was able to use his umbrella to wrestle with one of those creatures and get my left croc back and now they are both home, beautifully safe and sound.

Anyways, Gladys. You are on my bad side now so you should NOT delay in responding. I’m going to need you to send me Tod Boadkins home address. I’m going to PROVE that he’s a FRAUD!!!!

What other kind of equipment should I order to spy on Tod Boadkins? Probably I need a ninja suit. I wonder if they come in pink.

xox,
X

FIDDLE HIGH FIDDLE DUM

WHEN THE HUMAN IS READY

YUM YUM YUM

Emails from Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Fifteenth

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

MOT JUSTE

Hello, all! Melanie here.

If you’re reading for the first time, welcome! It would make sense for me to say something to get you caught up on the emails we’ve all been reading from Writer X just to help you feel at home.

I gave this idea a surprising amount of thought. Ultimately I concluded that there’s nothing I could say to you, or to me, or to anybody that would get them caught up or explain what is going on.

We are all essentially here for the first time. Welcome! Welcome to all of us!

It’s probably a good time to top up and say that all typos and grammatical choices belong to Writer X and that my name is definitely not Gladys.

Other than that, you should be good to go.

Without further ado.


Subject: I AM FINALLY A FULL TIME WRITER!!!

Dear Gladys,

When I summoned a high level demon from the void of Ashiput, I had to set some ground rules for myself.

Oh wait, you probably don’t want to hear about that!!! I know you must be waiting on pins and needles for the first installment of pages for my epic fantasy saga I promised you last week. I have some explaining to do before I let you see it so that you can understand what is happening here.

With my new discoveries about my saga, that while it is an epic fantasy saga, it is really about two people who love each other across the world of the living and the dead, loosely based off of C__ and my relationship. I have more conviction than ever that THIS IS GOING TO BE FAMOUS!!! And to think, it’s a WHOLE NEW GENRE OF FANTASY TO BOOT!!! The only problem is, with C__ and I being the heart of the story, this story has to be perfrect.

And I mean perfect. I feel like I have an immense weight on my shoulders now that I know what my story is really about. As a result of having to write the world’s MOST PERFECT, MOST FAMOUS fantasy saga, I have come up with an ENTIRELY NEW WAY TO WRITE A BOOK.

Don’t worry, I’m not delusional!!! I know that I will HAVE to go through the whole novel and fix typos and maybe a couple of grammatical touch ups here and there.

So what I’ve decided is that I’m going to write—a little at a time—and only keep the most perfect words before I add any more. This means I am writing at a WHOLE NEW LEVEL and the writing I am about to send to you is MUCH MORE POTENT.

Writing such high quality, perfect work means that I need a LOT more hours to write if I am realistically going to get these books done by mid-December. Fortunately EHPKTRYX is covering for me at work (he does a near-perfect duplication of me except for a blackened, shriveled sixth finger on my left hand but so far nobody’s noticed.) This has cleared up more than forty hours a week for writing time!!!!

That said, I’m still going to take time out of my precious writing schedule to break into the Grim Hill House next Thursday at 7:30 pm to retrieve my custom croc. R___ says he can do it Thursday night after his chemistry exam. He thinks we’re going on a historic house tour. He doesn’t know that we’re breaking in so DON’T SAY ANYTHING TO HIM!!! R___ doesn’t seem to remember getting creeped out by the lady that was in my closet but I think his subconscious is still a little jittery so DON’T SAY ANYTHING TO SCARE HIM OFF. If you ruin this for me, I WON’T BE TALKING TO YOU!!!! My protege’s future career as a mumble rapper depends on ME!!! (Bring your anbo-jyutsu armor!!!)

Hang on, EHPKTRYX is asking to borrow my phone. I have to be nice to him even if he is the creepiest…person? (DON’T TELL HIM I SAID THIS!!!) (And the house STINKS of Sulfur but fortunately I ordered a box of tutti-fruity incense to help get the smell of hell out.)

But constant sounds of dragging chains gets grating. BRB.

Okay, I’m back. Sorry that took a while. (There are so many lights on in my house and NONE of them will turn off so I always have lightbulb retina burns and it takes forever to find my phone!!)

My sleep schedule’s also been a bit weird. Gladys, do you have a gun??? I’m wondering if we can shoot out some of these lights. I feel like I’m starting to see things. (The other day I went down to my basement to heat-fluff my socks and I SWORE I saw an abyss in the floor two feet away from my dryer. But it can’t be there because I told EHPKTRYX he could use the basement as his bedroom FOR THE TIME BEING and you think he would mention it if an abyss opened.)

Demonic-Substitute or no, eventually I’m going to have to break it to him that he should get his own apartment. Not to say that there’s any problem with a demon living in people’s houses, that’s totally fine of course, I’m just the kind of person who lives having my space.

Here is my latest work below. This is very hard because I had to not only tell you what was happening, but what Fenchin looks like and I think you’ll find I did something pretty clever.

       Chapter One: Darkness Comes to Chaalchaal Mall

Fenchin was picking herbs in the forest when a shot rang out at
the Chaalchaal Mall. Fenchin looked in the gazing pool at her
reflection. She was very beautiful. She had dark hair and a black
leather jacket and skinny jeans that fit her perfectly. When she
heard the shot, she screamed.

Please let me know all of your thoughts. For example, doesn’t it FEEL like an exciting story is about to start?

Write me right away!!!!! I have to know what you think as I have a DEADLINE. THe writing critique group at the Ink Black Coffee Club is VERY Exclusive and they want a writing sample before they’ll extend an invitation. TIME TO BLOW THEM AWAY, GLADYS!!!!

xox,
X

P.S. I notived you are late getting me the list of publishers, but that’s okay because I really want this to be PERFECT and I need you to put ALL YOUR FOCUS ON THIS FOR NOW!!!


Subject: DISREGARD THE LAST DRAFT, GLADYS!!!

Dear Gladys,

I realized when I hit send that the last draft is completely wrong. This current version is the only one you should read!!!

       Chapter One: Darkness Comes to Chaalchaal Mall

Fenchin’s fingers wer sticky with minty sap as she plucked a
fistful of herbs from the forest floor. These herbs made her think
of her mother, who had disappeared years before in search of a wand
that could let magic into or out of the world. A shot rang out in
the direction of the city and then a bunch of birds flapped over the
sky.

xox,
X


Subject: That was pretty brilliant but not PERFECT

Dear Gladys,

The lasst version I sent you was pretty brilliant and some very strong writing, however I am having a hard time thinking straight because ?HPKTRYX is listening to Lil Nas X and the Beach Boys at TOP VOLUME!!! AT THE SAME TIME!!

Disregard that version. TOO MUCH BACKSTORY!! I’ve incorporated more imagery into my latest writing. Again, I’m only keeping the PERFECT WORDS.

       Chapter One: The Dark Arrival at ChaalChaal

Fenchin’s fingers were sticky with minty sap. She grabbed a
handful of purple leaves from the forest floor.

xox,
X


Subject: New Draft

Dear Gladys,

Had to fix the last one. Here are the perfect words I’m keeping.

                  1.

Fenchin’s fingers were

xox,
X


Subject: RE: New Draft

Dear Gladys,

I know it’s been a couple hours but I’ve been working on my story in my bedroom as it’s getting late. The one nice thing about all these lights being on is that the full moon in that blasted skylight isn’t so distracting!! (Although all the eye masks I have to sleep in have been rubbing off all my eyelashes!!!)

Here is the latest draft with ONLY the perfect words

             1. Fenchin

Fenchin’s fingers

xox,
X


Subject: RE: RE: New Draft

Scratch that. those last drafts wer absolute rubbish. Here is my FINAL draft.

                           1. Fenchin

     Fenchin

xox,
X

HELLO MELANIE. HELLO MIKE. HELLO FILERS.

I SEE YOU.

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Fourteenth

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

TIME MACHINE TELEPHONE

Um…everybody? Melanie here.

Truth being a stranger thing and up being down, Neil Gaiman sent out a small tweet this week apologizing to Ellen Kushner for appearing in her wife’s dreams and giving her writing advice.

Here are two interesting and unexpected tweets that make me think about last week’s email in new ways.

@Daniel Dern, looks like we have more Dream Gaiman company.

Writerly conspiracy theory: in resurrecting DC’s Sandman, fledgling author Neil Gaiman unwittingly fused his spirit with a cosmic dream-force and now must live out his days appearing in other writer’s dreams doling out advice in order to free himself from… er…dunno. Never been good at conspiracy theories.

As for Writer X’s progress? Holy Hecate…By golly. I think she’s got it. Now for the pesky little business of producing words. I do, however, wish I could give her a big hug. She’s been through a lot. Some of it her own doing, but a lot—well, you’ll see.

Without further ado…


Dear Gladys,

While you have managed to bring me peanut butter cookies, my curling iron, the name of a handyman you trust, a copy of your Anbo Jyutsu certification, and three pages of feedback on A DRAFT I’VE SINCE DELETED, you still have managed not to tell me whether or not that creepy lady is still in my closet.

As for your note about breaking into the Grim Hill House, I’m not sure about the date as I don’t know if my right croc is still missing now that

Hang on. My phone is ringing.

It was my home insurance. They’re telling me there’s nothing wrong with my electric except that the lights won’t turn off. Something also about billing me for my stay here in HELL but I wasn’t listening.

What I need to talk to you about is my writing. I haven’t gotten ANYWHERE since I met that stupid writing wizard!!! I lost two weeks of perfectly good writing time doing something as stupid as taking a lot of notes about what I think my story is about!!! Who is going to publish these notes, Gladys???

Hang on. The bell boy, Belvedere, says that he needs me to move for a few minutes so that he can wash the windows in this part of the lobby. I’m not allowed to go anywhere without supervision so I’m stuck wherever they put me until I’m ready to go home. They think I’m waiting for my ride but my car’s out back.

Anyway, what I’ve decided is that I need the email addresses of publishers. Nothing too crazy, maybe Random House or TOR books, something approachable. They’re going to be very pleased with my new idea that no one’s EVER done before!! I’ve decided that I’m going to send one of their lucky editors the next biggest epic fantasy saga they’ll ever know but the whole thing is that it will still be UNWRITTEN. This means we can spend a lot of time talking about what the cover will look like!!! And advertise!!! I’m going to send them the Grim Dark version along with the Modern City Fantasy version because there’s things I like in both and the editor can work on sticking those together.

THIS IS GOING TO BE AMAZING!!! The only thing is that I’m going to need to get lawyered up!! I don’t want them doing to me what the New Yorker is doing to me!!!

Hang on.

Okay I’m back. I just sent the New Yorker an angry email withdrawing my worldbuilding and told them that I am CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF PUBLISHING IT WITH TOR BOOKS. THAT will teach THEM.

Maybe once I see all the posters for my new saga I can finally get the energy to write it!

Hang on. Belvedere’s moving me from this spot now. He’s acting cranky.

Anyway. I just need you to send me that list of publishers and let me know about my closet or else I’m going to see if I can stay at Marjory’s tonight. I suppose the lights being on is good news after all I’ve been through thanks to that writing wizard leading me totally astray with that “heart of a story” nonsense and my room spitting me out with all of my things this morning.

All I did was break a silly window and next thing I know, I’m being chucked out and Marjory can’t log me in to another room because the keys have all gone missing.

To top it all off, I’ve been feeling sicker and sicker but I can’t tell you why although the Coach’s minions have stopped calling me.

You’re probably wondering why I’m stuck here in the lobby and my room spit me out. It all happened when I hurled my cell phone through the window this morning. No, wait, maybe I should start earlier. It all happened when I decided to tear out my journal pages and burn them in the center of my bed. I was feeling a little frustrated.

That’s when I realized one of the pages I tore out wasn’t my journaling but a note I took after talking to work about needing to call out daily so that I didn’t get written up or fired but I completely forgot about it for the last two weeks!!! I tried to call work but D___ picked up and told me she thought I wasn’t working there anymore and that B___ had fired me. FIred ME??? WHO ARE THEY GOING TO GET TO MOVE THEIR PINK TRACTORS???

My sugar was low. I hurled my phone at the window and, to my surprise, it smashed the window and flew right out into the courtyard or whatever space is out there. How was I supposed to get my phone back if people put such cheap glass in the windows???

Then just as I was about to call Marjory from the room phone and complain about the cold, a phone came hurtling back through the window.

I didn’t recognize it at first. It was an old phone I hadn’t seen in YEARS!!! On closer examination, it didn’t seem quite right. There were strange scratches and teeth marks on it.

That when I decided to call B___’s cell phone. But instead of B___ picking up, this old man picked up the phone and said: “WHO’S THIS???” and he was shouting over a TV blaring in the background.

I told him it was ME and that I needed to call out of work for the last two weeks.

He shouted “WHAAT?? I CAN’T HARDLY HEAR YOU.” And something else but I wasn’t listening to him, I was listening to the news in the background because the announcer was saying something very strange. It was like Fox news or something and the announcer said:

“News of President Obamer’s initiative to spend $30 million dollars on polymorphic sensory field technology was met with uproar from conservatives who argued that the investment needed to be twice that if the U.S. is to keep up with Chinese military developments.”

I felt something in my gut. My skin got tight and prickly and my heart began to pound. Do you remember when President Obamer did that, Gladys?? That was like five or six years ago, wasn’t it?

That’s when it hit me. What if I was calling back in time???

Shaking, I called the call center C___ used to work at. But I suddenly lost my nerve when I heard the help desk person’s voice. So I asked the person at the help desk if she had seen the news that morning and she said, “Can you believe Obamer? What a cheapskate.”

My voice almost didn’t want to come out of my throat. I asked her to put me through to his extension and…

The help desk didn’t even hesitate when I asked for him.

His phone rang and rang. Then it went to voicemail. I hung up really fast and almost didn’t call him back but I don’t know why.

I called back and asked her to connect me again and she did and again, the phone rang once, twice, three times, and then it stopped, went quiet for a little bit and I heard: “Hey, buttercup.”

I began to cry before he had even finished the words. And he just let me cry and cry and it made me miss him even more. I became afraid because at some point I would have to hang up and I didn’t know if I would ever hear his voice again after that.

Even then I knew something was wrong. C___ doesn’t say “hey” when I call him. He always says “Waa Gwaan” because it sounds like his uncle and it’s our little thing. Then it hit me how sad he had sounded when he said “Hey, Buttercup.”

I said, “You sound so sad.”

C___ said: “I’m happy to hear your voice, but yeah. A little sad.”

“Why?”

“Because you lost this phone in that orangutan cage.”

“Oh…right.”

“And if you’re calling me from this number, it means that I’m dead.”

And I began to sob again and tell him that I hate the Society and that it’s their fault he’s gone and that I’m totally failing at writing and that I’m scared of our house and our evil neighbor A___ is MORE INSUFFERABLE THAN EVER and I didn’t even get to tell him about the chickens!!

“Listen,” he said. “I love you. But this number you’re calling me from has become a time line. If that’s the case, it’s going to disappear and we can’t be sure when. I chose the Society. The work they do is important and, you may not realize this, but they rely on me. And if I’m gone…it means I failed somehow. It means you’re not safe. No one is.”

“But can’t you change something? Can’t you just quit?”

“You know I can’t do that,” he said. “But I’m going to do something, okay? I need you to tell me what you know. Give me some clues about what may have gone wrong.”

“Gladys has stopped talking to me. That’s gone wrong. I asked her for peanut butter cookies and she didn’t bring them. She didn’t bring me my curling iron. She didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me if she still is certified in anbo jyutsu or if she knows a handyman or…or what she thinks of my writing!!”

“Other clues, baby.”

“What other clues??? It all strted when Gladys stopped talking to me! No, you know what? It all went wrong when you were dead. Nothing’s worse than that. Can’t you make yourself not dead??”

“Probably not…But I know only a little more than you do about this. Come on, bean-spilling time. What year is it?”

I told him that it’s 2021 and I’m not even remotely close to being a famous writer.

“How long has it been since…well, since I died?”

So I told him everything that’s happened. Or at least I tried to, but I’ve been so upset that none of it really came out in the right order and I realized after I missed a WHOLE bunch of stuff including about when I burnt his arcane mementos and my evil neighbor A____ called the fire department on me!!!! And that D___ said I was fired from work because I didn’t call out.

C__ said, “I’m going to do what I can, baby. But you need to know something: if I’m gone, M___ and Brian will look out for you. Do whatever M___ tells you.”

“But M___ has been in a coma since before you were dead!”

Then he swore. I heard someone tell him that it was time for him to take his break.

“Baby, I gotta go. But I’ll try calling you back from my cellphone, alright?”

“Alright, but what if it doesn’t work? And I didn’t even get to tell you about this snake oil salesman of a writing wizard and how I can’t find the heart of my story because all I can think about is you and how awful it is not having you. I wasn’t done. I wasn’t done with us. Not even close.”

C___ said, “Then write about us, kid. I gotta go. I call you back—”

But I knew he wouldn’t. I told him I needed to be the one to hang up first.

I heard him sniff and his voice sounded all wobbly and strained like he was trying not to cry. “Yeah. Yeah. I love you, okay?”

I took a deep breath and squeezed my eyes tight and hoped that this time wasn’t truly the end. “Goodbye,” I said.

“Good—” and I hung up before he could finish.

I put the phone in my purse, hid it as far away from my sight as I could. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s like when you close your eyes when you’re doing lottery scratch offs because you don’t want to see whether you win or lose until you’re ready. But when I pulled it out again a half hour later, it was my new phone and that made me cry all over

Hang on, Gladys, my phone is ringing again. My real phone.

It’s my protege!!! He was just calling to see if I was okay. Apparently there’s like piles of Society pamphlets around my front door and all my lights have been on for like two weeks and it’s really pissing off my evil neighbor A___ which is a silver-lining unto itslef. My protege’s BACK!!!! I’M SO HAPPY!!!

Anyway Gladys, I still need you to get me those publisher emails for TOR books and RAndom House!!! Otherwise I think I’m going to stay at Marjory’s place tonight. We’re back on speaking terms and they’ve told me about this writing critique group that meets every week at the Ink Black Coffee Club here in town.

I would invite you but it’s an exclusive event.

You know what I just thought of? That writing wizard was wrong, there isn’t a heart of a story, there’s just my heart and that’s going to have to be good enough.

And my heart can’t get over C___.

Gladys. I just thought of something. It feels like a floodlight went off in my brain. I can’t explain how it just came together, but if this story is about missing C___ and it’s about Fenchin and Musradi then Fenchin starts the story looking for the Hummindaal and Musradi starts the story

…dead.

I have to go write.

xox,
X

P.S. PAGES COMING!!! I ExPECT FULL FEEDBACK!!!

P.P.S. …thank you, Gladys. You really are my best friend. All of you.

P.P.P.S. I’m keeping this Demonic Grimoire!! It’s pretty interesting and I think will come in handy later. Probably even as soon as next week!

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Twelfth

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She served as guest editor for issue 43.4 of Star*Line, an issue focused entirely on Black voices in the speculative arts. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

FITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM AT THE HOUSE OF NINE GABLES

Hello, all! Melanie here.

The fact that Writer X seems to be learning comes as a pleasant surprise. I think she’s really on the right path now, it’s not an easy one, but it’s a good one and I hope she sticks with it.

I don’t want to give too much away other than I think this latest favor she’s asking warrants another email reminding her that Gladys isn’t getting her emails.

Other than that, I’m seriously considering hopping in my car and driving around until I find her town, I kind of have to see this inn!

I hope your fall is shaping up nicely. For those of you doing NaNoWriMo this year, I wish you happy writing!

Without further ado…


Subject: I’m in Room 771

Dear Gladys,

This is hard to say because it makes me feel like a bad writer, but if I say it, maybe I’ll be a better writer. Here goes…

I think I may have learned something about writing.

Not Chekov’s gun.

Not Show, don’t tell.

Something much harder, something much realer.

But first…

My doom is coming upon me. And I know it’s coming. I’m very weak and am in pain no one has ever known in the history of humanity.

He’s coming and his minions. 

There’s nothing I can do and I don’t have anyone I can go to for help.

I was such a fool. I’m going to have to call in another favor, but this time I really need you to come through.

I’m writing you from my room in the House of the Nine Gables down near the town green. I was previously checked in as a regular guest in gable number five. That’s been paid for by my home insurance until the electrical service is restored since I currently don’t have any power at my house. As of last night I’ve been moved into gable seven. THEEEE Gable Seven. I know what chances I’m taking staying in this section of the house, but right now I welcome it all as a reprieve. I’m stuck here, I can’t go outside even if I could find outside.

You probably want to know what happened.

As you know, I started work with The Writing Coach this week. It turns out—when I signed that soul contract—little did I know I was getting into something as dark and twisted as this. What I’m about to share might traumatize you.

Yesterday…was leg day. I now know that those two words represent the most excruciating torture known to humankind. The suffering doesn’t end at the squats and the deadlifts and the lunges, it follows you home like the malevolent ghost outside our old high school. You get weaker and weaker and weaker as the pain grows worse by the hour. It’s like a curse. I know you’ve never experienced something like this so I will be very explicit: if you move, you hurt. This should have helped me get the first three books written by now, but all I have to show for it now is LOW BLOOD SUGAR AND MILD PANTILINE CHAFING. 

This is possibly the worst thing anyone has ever faced and what I’m about to share with you, I need you to promise not to tell ANYONE.

When Coach released me yesterday for break, I somehow managed to find my way back here to the inn with strict instructions from him to return at five for evening cardio. He’s having me hydrate so of course I had a bladder full of bricks once I crawled into the lobby.

As soon as I entered one of the hosts wheeled away the confections trolley they keep near the fireplace. Turns out Coach pinned a note to the back of my jacket saying “Do Not Feed This Person Carbs, by Order of the Coach.” I’m offended. I don’t know why he thinks I would ruin my diet with carbs. I have discipline!

Anyways, I used the downstairs bathroom. Have you ever been here? Well they have these long narrow stalls so they hang their toilet paper on the door. I don’t quite remember getting up onto the actual toilet seat. I don’t wanna remember, honestly. But I tried reaching for the toilet paper while I was shopping on my phone so I wasn’t looking at what I was doing and my thighs went all wobbly and next thing I knew I had fallen off the toilet and peed on my new tracksuit. Overcome by it all, I began to scream in horror and then the staff came and found me and dragged me out. I was in utter distress, Gladys. And I knew that, in just two hours, Coach’s people would come looking for me to bring me back.

They’ll come looking for me every day for the next three months until my books are written or my contract is up or I’m dead.

Oh! Here’s a picture of my room. It’s pretty nice.

So I begged Marjory—that’s the head receptionist, if there was anything they could do to hide me and at first they didn’t think so, but I told them I believe my life is in danger. They just looked at me with their blue bowtie and this long, gray expression on their face and said, “Well, there’s gable seven…but you don’t want to stay in gable seven. No one will find you in gable seven, but you may not find yourself in gable seven, either.”

I told them that I was pretty sure that nothing gable seven had to offer was worse or more dangerous than what I’m now facing. How many pantsuits do I have to piddle on??? Marjory gave me this long look and I knew they weren’t going to move me to gable seven—I could just tell—and so I threatened to give the house a bad Yelp review if I ended up dead. Finally they took my old room key and a drop of my blood and a cheek swab and began the process of assigning me a new room. The bellhop, Belvedere, helped me onto a luggage cart and wheeled me out into the private courtyard until the staff could finish moving all my things.

Luckily, I had a giant whoopie pie stashed in my jacket pocket to keep me fueled during the wait.

If there’s one writerly detail that would go good in a story from all of this, it’s that whoopie pie. I’m going to remember it when Fenchin and Musradi are stranded in the Wastes of Wimbering. After so much pain and terror, and the promise of progress, the next meal you eat is the most delicious thing you ever tasted. And that was that glorious confection of whipped whoopie pie, that cakey delight—so moist the chocolate sticks to your fingers.

That’s when I noticed there was someone in the garden watching me eat. I was so afraid it was Coach that I almost fell off my luggage cart. But it wasn’t Coach, it was someone else.

I hadn’t see him at first because he was the same colors as the garden. Reds and grays and hemlock green, tawny golds, and that color that all the clouds take on in fall. That color that can’t make up its mind whether it’s grey or purple or blue. That was the color of his robes and I think his beards.

He just had one beard, but it was so long it shouldn’t really be called a beard, it should be called a beards.

The stranger’s eyes glittered. It felt like they were gazing out at me from a far away place, a place not in the garden. A place probably not in this world. I instantly felt the way you feel as a child when your mother first hangs the holly and lights after the first snowfall, that giddy, magical awe. The air smelled like cloves and earth and rain. So basically spicy mud. His hands were gnarled but graceful and they clasped a large wooden harp in his lap and, when he caught me gawping, his fingers danced across a couple strings but it sounded only like the wind blowing the skittering leaves across the garden walk.

He gave a soft and knowing smile and I felt again like a holiday was coming.

I instantly didn’t like him.

“Are you a guest here?” I asked. You have to be the first to talk, Gladys. It’s a power trick.

“Not as such. And what of you? Are you lodger or luggage?”

I told him I’m a writer. And you know what he smarmily told me? He’s a Wandering Wizard of Writing. Everyone thinks they’re a wandering wizard, Gladys. And if I had a nickel for every wandering wizard that hangs a shingle on their hill of a hat calling themselves a Writing Wizard, I could buy a small cup of coffee at Dunkies and leave a nickel tip. There’s at least forty of them. I knew I didn’t like this guy.

So I said, “Oh yeah, well what are you doing here?”

“Singing to the heart of the house. I come every decade or so and remind it of its rhythm. It’s winnowing to be a house surrounded by people.”

And while he was talking, I was just sitting there trembling and thinking of how much money my credit card company is going to have to pay this godsforsaken coach, and how any minute now Coach could be driving by, waiting for me to put one foot outside this house before he whisks me away and makes me flip tractor tires up a hill like some sucker of a Sisyphus, and how this stupid wizard’s lips are the exact same color as his cheeks and I exploded.

“WELL THEN TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT WRITING IF YOU’RE SUCH A KNOW-IT-ALL.”

And that’s when he said something that made me feel very lost and very humble.

He said, “Every house has a heart to which only the most intimate friend can find their way. And a story does, too. But the writer must find the heart before anyone else can. Find your way through the labyrinth to the heart of the story and you will find your way through the story itself. Even a great big house, after all, is opened by the smallest key.”

“Unless you have a big key,” I said.

“Pardon me, my dear?”

“Not every house has a little key.” And then I showed him the key to my house.

“You fit that colossal key in your petite pocket alongside a pie?”

“So how do you find the heart?” I asked.

His eyes twinkled smarmily. “Young writer, it’s already inside you. You know some of it at the beginning. You must grasp it better to guide you through the middle. The rest you refine through revision. In it all, you carve a path for the reader to follow. A reader always knows a story with a heart.”

THAT’S when I knew this digit-wriggling wizkid didn’t know half of whatever he thought he knew. If he REALLY knew writing, he would know that THE BEST WRITERS DON’T NEED TO REVISE. I’m one of those writers and I knew it just then so I gave him my smarmiest look back.

But by then, he had become harder to see and I wondered if the sun was setting early. You know how, when the sun sets in autumn, the shadows steal everything away? That’s what it was like, like watching him become a shadow, just part of the trees and shrubs and sky until he was hardly there at all. Yet just before he fully vanished, he said: “You have a bit of cake…right here.” And gestured to his lips and then his entire beards.

Never mind the fact that obviously this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, the thing he said about the heart of a story…I think he’s right. I don’t know what the heart of my story is or what the heart of any story is in a specific way. And I think you have to know this sort of thing in a specific way.

And I have the feeling that I can’t ask what the heart of my story is from anyone else but myself. As I’m sitting here in my new room and the halls and labyrinths of gable seven are shifting around me, I’m remembering what I said about my character Pujyna and I think I had a sense of things back then.

Remember when I said that I wasn’t sure what Pujyna had to do with this story??? I think that not being sure was because I was somehow sensing the heart. Maybe I do already know the heart, or I did a few weeks ago but I didn’t know to ask that question. But you know what I think about when I ask  myself what the heart of my story is? I can only think about C___ and how I feel like he’s gone, but he’s not gone. And it’s the not gone part that’s hard. Because it reminds me he’s gone.

I think maybe writing is knowing what questions to ask.

Anyways, before I forget, I need to ask you that favor. I can’t leave the House, at least not while Coach and his minions might be looking for me but I really REALLY need your help right now.

Gladys, can you come by the inn, pick up my house key, go back to my house and get my curling iron? Can you also check and see if the New Yorker has sent my check yet? I’m getting ready to write them a really angry email. Oh! And if you see my protege, R____ please tell him I need him to help me break into Grim Hill House and get my right croc back, it’s holding everything up.

I’m in gable seven, on the seventh floor although I’m not sure how many floors you’ll have to travel on the elevator to get to the seventh floor, the last time I used it, I ended up having to go up 21 floors. Anyways, I’m including a picture of what it looks like from the elevator so that you know when you get to the right floor.

Don’t get off at the floor with the elephants. That’s not floor seven.

My room is the second one from the elevator unless the rooms have changed locations by the time you get here. Don’t make the mistake of knocking on the doors of the other rooms, and, whatever you do, don’t go into the room marked 770. There’s several hundred or more souls crammed into that room, at least two or three astute cats, and one very well-read dog. At two this morning I heard someone cackle, “Pixels! More pixels to file upon the worlds, mwah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha.

Ha.”

Can you do this NOW please and not put it off like you do so many other things? This is some of the most important work of my writing life and I can’t do it if I’m feeling self conscious about frizz.

I think I have to find the heart of my story but that wanna-be wizard said something about passing through the labyrinth to find the heart. Where’s the labyrinth? And is there a path through the labyrinth for people stuck in gable seven at the House of Nine Gables?

I have to find the heart of my story and if there’s one thing I’m going to do while I’m here in gable seven, it’s that. That is, if my neighbors in the room next door quiet down the endless party they seem to be having.

I don’t know why you’re still reading at this point. YOU SHOULD BE BRINGING ME MY CURLING IRON!!

xox,
X

P.S. I’m thinking of lowering myself to join NanomoMo. Not officially, but if I just happen to write every day in November, it’s only to make sure I’m doing more writing than anyone else.

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Tenth

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She served as guest editor for issue 43.4 of Star*Line, an issue focused entirely on Black voices in the speculative arts. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

MUMBLE RAP PROTEGE

Okay, all. Melanie here. Now I’m really worried and completely perplexed about the closet problem. Methinks R____ has the right idea.


Subject: When we combine our powers nothing will defeat us

Dear Gladys,

I am now 3,181 and a half pages behind on my draft. However, I am 34 pages ahead on my worldbuilding.

Also, I know I probably shouldn’t say this so far in advance of it coming out, but my world is going to appear in The New Yorker!!!!!

It should be coming out sometime in the next month so please keep your eye open for it. I’m very excited that the very first issue that I’ll have ever read of The NEw Yorker will be the issue that my world is in!!!!

You’re probably wondering how all this has happened. First, as I’ve mentioned, I have been doing a LOT of worldbuilding. I’ve written 34 pages!!! That’s a LOT of writing. And to think, no one will ever read these pages except me. It’s not like they’ll appear in my story. That’s just wrong. Then, in the middle of the week I got really depressed and snuck up to Ms. B___’s house and stole her weekly wine shipment and did some wine-spiration therapy. That’s when it hit me.

I’m writing this WHOLE NEW GENRE called Modern City Fantasy, right??? So who would be interested in my worldbuilding notes, a modern city, right?? What about one of the most iconic cities in the world????? And they even have a magazine!!! I’ve seen copies of this delivered to my evil neighbor A____’s house. She’s going to piss in her yoga pants when she sees this.

You will probably want to get a little behind-the-scenes scoop on my worldbuilding progress. As you know, I’ve been working a little on the Chaalchaal mall. I’ve now come up with SIX stores in the mall, plus descriptions of the tile work, the fountain, the foodcourt, the magic bookstore, the ballroom, and the cheese buttery. I also have been thinking a lot about shoes. Particularly the Vampire and Werewolf clogs.

I have had to ask myself some tough questions, like why would Fenchin’s evil uncle steal all the magical beast clogs??? That’s when I realized something important: there is a unique magical signature inside each ofthe clogs that make it imperative for them to be found again. If Fenchin’s evil uncle holds their clogs hostage, then he can use their unique spiritual signature to WORK MAGIC ON THEIR BEHALF WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION!!!

But it makes me wonder, why won’t Brian give me back my croc?? I am this much closer to getting it back. I’m formulating a plan. When I give you the signal, show up at the Grim Hill House with your anbo-jyutsu equipment because it’s going to be on!!! I just have one more person to recruit but I know he’ll be in.

Remember how I told you that my evil neibghor A___ has a mumble rap nephew named R___??? Well he finally came over to check out the problem with my closet to see if he could fix it. The truth is, I think he’s basically made the problem worse, but while we were talking, I learned a few special things about him.

For one, he has no idea how evil his aunt is. Apparently, they’re not related by blood which explains a lot of things, one being how sweet and wonderful he is. He said that his mother and my evil neighbor A___ went to accounting school together years ago and were so close that he always thought of evil A____ as his aunt. Two years ago, before he had a chance to finish high school, his mother died and A___ promised to look after him. She probably has her own evil reasons for doing this but I didn’t want to break that to him!!

Anyway, he lived with his grandmother in some tiny beat down town outside of Dunwich, Mass. until he graduated from high school and evil A____ talked him into coming up here to beautiful New Hampshire to go to The Local College. I couldn’t help it, Gladys. I had to ask him if he didn’t notice anything strange about his (evil) aunt and he said, “Nah, not really. I mean she really likes those asymmetrical haircuts and she has that secret room that I’m forbidden to enter, but other than that she’s always been really amazing to me. I’m just lucky to have someone love me so much after my mom.”

I can see I’m going to need to broach the issue of his aunt being the most evil person ever with some care.

Also, he is really into mumble rap. He’s studying chemistry at the college here but when he graduated high school his dream was to be a mumble rapper. Apparently, mumble rap hit its peak in 2018 and he has given up trying to put out a mumble rap album because it’s no longer trending.

He gave up his dream, Gladys. He needs me. 

Remember what I went through with Grim Dark??? And everything everyone was saying about Grim Dark being a hard sell??? No one believed in me but I didn’t give up. I kept writing Grim Dark and I would still be writing Grim Dark if I hadn’t discovered that I was creating a whole new fantasy genre!!!!

R____ is my new protege!! If he sticks close to me, he is going to be the greatest mumble rapper of all time. I told him I believe in him and that if he has a dream, he should never give it up. When he said, “No, no, it’s cool. I’m really into chemistry, too. I’ve got a full scholarship and prospects are looking great for med school.” I knew it was a cry for help.

He also thought that my door popping open and now not opening at all is a heat and humidity problem. I asked him what he thought about the door knob wiggling and he just stared at me a long time and then said, “I don’t know.” We went up to look at the door and he tried to get it open but no luck. Then, he went and got some tools and came back to take the door off the hinges. He stuck a flat head screwdriver under the pin of one of the hinges and hit it with a hammer three times, bambambam.

THEN, something INSIDE the closet hit back…

It sounded like it was coming from all around us and the door sounded like it was cracking in its frame!!  All the color drained out of R___’s body and I think I peed myself a little. R___ said, “Hellooo?”

It was quiet. R___ and I looked at each other, his brown eyes were big as tennis balls. I got the sense of how young he is. At first, I thought nothing would happen.

Then, it felt like some dense, cloud-like pressure was pushing through the door into the hallway. It felt exactly like that. Like when you’re descending in a plane and your ears pop and the air gets heavy? That’s what it felt like. Only it was cold, cold, cold. Then there’s this weird whirring sound. I’m trying to figure out how to describe it, but I think the closest thing is a high pitched bull roar. This came from somewhere deep inside the closet like there’s a whole other world in there, and there was some scratching and the door handle began wiggling desperately and I thought I heard a woman on the other side saying, “Let me in! Let me in!”

I asked R____ if he also heard a woman’s voice but he was nowhere to be seen. Then I heard the screen door clatter shut downstairs and I figured out that R___ had gone out for some fresh air. So I went down after him but by the time I got out onto the street he was already a tiny figure jetting up the hill. All I could see were his dreads flying out behind him and the bottoms of his tennis shoes. He passed his aunt’s house and kept running.

He’s pretty fast!

But he left his tool belt behind. Anyway, when I find him again, I’m going to see if he’ll come down with us to the Grim Hill House and help to recover my croc.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to make a map of my mall and take the bowler hat down to the artillery range to see if someone will shoot it for me. For every week I don’t have my croc, the bowler hat gets a new hole.

I am going to discover the secret formula to writng this backstory to make it interesting. I just know it. It’s not Chekov’s gun. It’s something else. I’m circling it and circling it. I just have to get the bad ideas out of the way first.

When are you going to pay your phonebill???? What will you do if an agent calls about my book and your phone isn’t turned on???? It’s the OCTOBER!!!! This book comes out in two months!!!!

xox,
X

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Ninth

Melanie Stormm

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She served as guest editor for issue 43.4 of Star*Line, an issue focused entirely on Black voices in the speculative arts. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

BRINGING BACK THE UN-SILENT ‘K’

Helloooo. Melanie here. Things have gotten even more interesting. Writer X has given us unexpected access to The Society. Read on to find out more. (Warning: Whatever you do, don’t look it in the eyes!)

I’m also going to leave this here without further explanation.

Subject: Werewolves, Vampires, and Malls

Dear Gladys,

I’m going to cut to the chase. I have tried and failed to write my book starting from the end. Whomever came up with that idea should be shot. How am I supposed to write a meaningful ending for NINE WHOLE BOOKS with lots of little quaint references to special moments and how it feels to have fulfilled the prophecy when I don’t have any idea what happened that made it meaningful?? The people who write these how-to-books on writing have no idea what they’re talking about. Chekov’s gun, my eye!!

And my return ke
y keeps jamming.

Anyway, I have temporarily put a pin in my page count requirements so that I can work on doing some light worldbuilding. After this, I will need to write 198.66 pages a day to catch up, but if I can write 149 pages a day then theoretically another 49.66 is a small stretch.

I spent some time developing the ChaalChaal mall because, as of now, I only have known about the Arktel Slavers All You Can Eat Buffet. By the way, one thing I didn’t share with you was that I was having some trouble coming up with how to commute the Arktel Slavers to a Modern City Fantasy setting. I had to ask myself Where would they be in a modern city? In my previous setting I had them at the edge of the Knutt Tukr forest (pronounced kuh-nutt. I’m bringing back the non-silent ‘K’) but I think if I had a bunch of Arktel Slavers at a forest they might be arrested or something by park rangers so the only other place I could think of them congregating is at a mall. Maybe in the food court. That’s when it hit me that they have a hot food buffet there!!!

I think I’m going to give Fenchin a peanut allergy. That way she has a reason for not knowing that the Arktel Slavers are at the mall.

The mall is important because this is where Fenchin is going to go to buy her emerald gown and silken faery wings for the special ball that she and Musradi (BUT NOT PUHJYNA) go to and when Musradi realizes that Fenchin is the child of the prophecy. I’ve even looked up some music for the ballroom scene that readers can listen to so they can know exactly how it sounds when it inevitably heads for the silver screen.

Meanwhile, I also have decided that my modern city fantasy is going to be very different. Instead of elves and dwarves and orcs, I’m going to add some magical creatures like Vampires and Werewolves. Won’t that be amazing??? Anyway, the way I have it worked out is that the Vampires live on one half of the city and the Werewolves live on the wrong side of the tracks or something. Every month at the full moon, the Vampires and the Werewolves all stalk down in the silence of night to the town green to

get together and do clog-dancing. But here’s the clincher. One night, someone comes along and steals all the Vampires and Werewolves clogs and they need Fenchin to help them and this is why they come to realize that she is the child of the prophecy. It’s very important for them to recognize this, Gladys!! The Vampires and Werewolves are the only ones who can really hold off the Arktel Slavers!!! (I think it’s her uncle that steals the clogs, but I haven’t ironed this out yet.) It’ll be very clever. The only problem is that I can’t
have my main character fulfilling an important part of her quest just running around looking for missing shoes!!! What kind of writer would be so uncreative as to stoop to something like that???

Anyway, my other major concern this week has been with getting back my right croc that I hurled at that trespasser in the backyard two weeks ago. C___ had those made for me. I have come across an unexpected lead. First, you know how I have a problem with left

turns? Anyway, I got all turned around in the Seventh Hill neighborhood since they have all those one ways with left turns only. I took a couple right
turns and ended up driving by the Cradensburg Appliance Center. I usually NEVER go around there because that where that jerk BRIAN from The Society works! Anyway, as I passed by, I noticed Brian sitting there among the refrigerators at a desk and I noticed something funny. He didn’t have a hat!!! Brian ALWAYS has a hat!!! He likes to draw attention to himself.

The only thing was, I couldn’t remember what kind of hat Brian likes to wear. So I looked him up online and found The Society’s website. I clicked “investigators” and https://www.thesocietyofnh.com/investigators. LOOK AT THE HAT GLADYS!!!! I FOUND MY TRESPASSER!!! And it looks like Brian isn’t even a real warrior. He’s the secretary. Here he was warning me about all hell breaking loose. Things are just fine. Grrr stealing my shoe!

I immediately called the appliance center and Brian picked up. I knew it was him because his voice is so low. I said: “Give me back my custom croc, now!”

And he said, “Hello Xxxxssss—Unidentified Customer. Um, what—what could you mean? We don’t sell footwear here at Cradensburg Appliance Center.”

And I said, “I know it’s you Brian, I know you were in my backyard. Give me back my croc or the bowler hat gets it. I’ve got a gun and I’m not afraid to use it.” (He doesn’t know that the only gun I have is Chekov’s but I’m playing this to my advantage.)

And he said, “No need to do anything rash!…Could you perhaps describe your croc to me?”

“You know which one it is!!”

Then he said, “I don’t know what you’re—I can’t give you a deal. That coupon doesn’t apply. We only sell appliances. Pleasure to serve. You should thank me now that C___’s not looking after you. I just saved your skin. It’s a small sacrifice on your part. Thank you for calling Cradensburg Appliance Center on Ambling Road. Hanging up now.” And then he wouldn’t pick up the phone when I called him back 42 times.

I know he has my croc, Gladys. Just wait until he sees what I’m going to do. I’ve had it with him and The Society.

But there’s no way I can take them on
alone. Gladys do you still have that black belt in anbo-jyutsu?

xox,
X

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Eighth

Melanie Stormm

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She served as guest editor for issue 43.4 of Star*Line, an issue focused entirely on Black voices in the speculative arts. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

CHEKOV’S GUN SHOOTS BACK IN TIME AND HITS CHEKOV

Hello All. How’s your weekend been?

It looks like we’re back to that weird closet activity. I don’t have much to say about the following events except that there comes a time in every draft when a writer will be tempted by the plot of another. I find the truth is that most every book you’ll ever write will require you put one word after the other at some point. What’s your approach when you’re wistfully thinking of all the other stories you could be writing?

Without further ado: the email from Writer X. Figure it’s also time for me to re-up the disclaimer that all typos, grammatical and ethical choices are hers.


Dear Gladys,

I have been haunted this week.

Mostly by the idea that I might be writing the wrong book. I’m 1,060 pages behind schedule. Writing the wrong book has to be what my problem is. Every time I sit down to write Fenchin’s story, I start thinking about all the other stories I’d rather be writing.

For example, the other day at lunch I told myself I was going to write one hundred pages, but went to buy some tide pens at Mr. Morgan’s instead. While I was nosing around the detergent and stain removal aisle, I suddenly imagined a whole story of tiny little people who live in a grocery store and fight ping pong battles on the shelves.

And then, when I went to get an emergency sundae at McDonalds, I imagined that the new brick exterior was actually a castle and I imagined that it was a very big castle (maybe I was still thinking about the little people and so I kept the castle to scale.) Anyways, the castle is SO big that it fits an ENTIRE COUNTRY in it!

Isn’t that so creative????

What if I’m supposed to be writing THOSE stories???

It’s haunting me, Gladys. I’m losing sleep over it. Ms. B___ isn’t talking to me and has threatened a restraining order after my clairvoyant palm reading. That’s depressing too. All I did was tell her that her palm indicates that—within a year, a mysterious fire will rage over her house and this entire neighborhood following an army of Neil Gaiman Golems and ghostly moose and that, as a result of her up-cycled wine bottle fountains melting, she’ll discover her youngest isn’t really at University of Ohio studying pet programming but that he took her money and went to Thailand to start a mouse circus. And that she has abominable breath.

Meanwhile, the other way I’m being haunted is just by that thing in my walk-in closet that keeps jiggling the door handle.

I went to BAM again in hopes of triggering my ability to write and I looked at all the new books out and got depressed and a little bit angry. My book should be up there with those other books but I can’t seem to get it written.

Anyway, I felt so despondent that I went over to the self-help section and looked at all their books on how to write and bought five of them and put them on my new credit card. I started to read one of them but my eyes just kept crossing except for this one part where they talk about CHEKOV’S GUN!!!!

Get ready for this Gladys. This is REAL writing technique. I’m not sure you’ll understand so I’ll explain it very carefully.

Apparently, Chekov was a writer, or a gun collector, whose guns were always taken down from the wall and fired in the third act and essentially that means that the rules to writing are that you have to put a gun somewhere on one of the walls and then you’ve got to SHOOT AT SOMEBODY IN THE THIRD ACT!!!! And it doesn’t matter who you shoot it at. Or if they’re also pointing a gun at you. Or if you miss. Or if you just shoot it to make some noise. YOU JUST HAVE TO SHOOT IT!!!! Isn’t this amazing?

SO THAT’S HOW BRANDON SANDERSON DOES IT.

I knew that there was a secret formula to writing a book!!! Now I’m realizing that all I have to do is put a lot of guns in the backstory so that they all fire at the end!! Magical guns, of course.

But that’s hard. Because that means I have to know how the story ends at the beginning!! I’m going to do something entirely new, Gladys, I’m going to write the end first!!! Then, when I have all the guns go off, I’ll know what to put in the beginning!! Then this backstory won’t be so boring and besides I won’t keep doubting that I’ll ever finish this book because I’ll have finished the book FIRST!!!

I’m starting not to get along with my house again. It’s getting to be the full moon and it’s getting that feeling that it gets that makes me want to be anywhere but here. I never had this feeling when C____ was alive. I think it’s because I’m alone. I think I need to either get a roommate or some beanie babies.

Also, I’m really busy right now trying to unravel this mystery of who was in my yard last week. I went over to my evil neighbor A____’s house and confronted her and demanded my shoe back but she wasn’t home. Instead I ended up talking to her mumble rap nephew, R____. I was going to accuse him of standing in my back yard with the bowler hat, but he has a head full of thick, long dreads and can’t fit the bowler hat on his head. We tried. So it couldn’t have been him. Besides, he’s really nice and I don’t think his foot would fit my missing croc, either.

So now I’m still missing my right croc and I have this mysterious hat. I’m sending you a picture of it. Never mind the chicken feathers on it, the rain still hasn’t washed them all away since The Incident. My question is, who would be wearing this hat and standing in my backyard and why would they take my right croc???

I’m down one and a half pairs of shoes in three weeks. Anyways, it’s getting late and that thing that’s in my closet upstairs has started jiggling the door again. I think I’m going to sleep down here. The good news is that R____ said he’s starting a little handyman business so he’s going to come over tomorrow and look at the closet door and see if he can fix it.

At least The Society seems to be leaving me alone.

I wish C____ were still here. It was cruel what Brian told me. That C____ might not be dead. It goes to show you what a stupid person Brian is. If C___ were here, things would be very different. I would probably still be writing True Blood fan fiction.

Tomorrow IT’S GONNA BE A BIG WRITING DAY!!! I’ll work on the last 171.9 pages of my book! I’ll send you pages after that but keep in mind that everything will be in REVERSE ORDER. I don’t have to warn you about spoilers because when you read it from the end, you’ll still have to find out what the beginning and middle are so that will be interesting for you. Also, things will grow more and more calm as you progress through the story.

In the future, I’m going to sell a writing book about writing a fantasy saga starting at the end. I know that it’s going to work because I’ll have finished writing the book at the very beginning of the process. So that means I’ll also have had the confidence to finish the writing book about writing a book backwards.

Maybe I should start writing the writing book about writing a book backwards first. It’s like a Chekov 21 Gun Salute all the way down!!! This is gonna be easy!!!

To celebrate, I’m going to search for my croc. It’s custom made!!!

xox,
X

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Second

Melanie Stormm

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She served as guest editor for issue 43.4 of Star*Line, an issue focused entirely on Black voices in the speculative arts. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

A Fated Run In With Neil Gaiman Outside the BAM Bathrooms

By Melanie Stormm: It’s been a tough week for me. I don’t think I’ve gotten many pages written in my current work-in-progress but you know what I did get? Another email from Writer X. Apparently she saw Neil Gaiman at her local bookstore. I looked it up and I think she’s kind of delusional because last I read Neil Gaiman was in New Zealand or something, isn’t he? Anyway, spotting Not Neil Gaiman at her local bookstore appears to be the least of her writing problems.

Same as last week, names and email addresses are removed…except for Gladys, who is too big for anonymity. All typos (including the word bread) belong to Writer X.

I’ve included a screen shot and have copied and pasted the rest of the text below.

Will be sure to share if I get any more though I think she’s probably catching on that Gladys isn’t getting her emails. In the meanwhile, come get it while all hell hasn’t broken loose.


Subject: I saw Neil Gaiman

Dear Gladys,

You haven’t told me at all what you think about Grim Dark. I’m beginning to think you’re not reading these. I really need you to read these because I really need your help right now about Grim Dark!! I’m fighting for my life writing these pages. This week I took off three days to get writing done. It turns out that the local BAM bookstores are actually open and are letting people sit inside the building. There’s one that’s closer to my house but it’s small and cramped and things have gotten really awkward with the Barista there (a really unfortunate turn of events) so I drove to the one that has a better atmosphere that’s about 90 minutes away.

Anyway, the first day off, I packed all my writing things: my laptop, my leather notebook with all of the fancy scrollwork and the phrase “Magic Happens” on the cover, three of my four best pens, three Brandon Sanderson novels, a special edition of LOTR, a Star Trek encyclopedia, two erasers, my favorite coffee mug, my writing slippers, and a small flower vase.

Then I got in a car accident. I don’t even want to go into it, but they towed me back home. The next day, my car was in the shop all day so I couldn’t get to BAM so I didn’t get any writing done because I had really envisioned starting this Grim Dark book at the bookstore. I think writing there is going to really help me write, feeling surrounded by all those books.

The third day I made it down to BAM and I was going to get set up in a coffee shop but a local volunteer tutoring group took up all the best tables!! All they’re doing is teaching underprivileged kids how to read, do they even need the good table? So while I’m waiting for them to finish, I went to the counter and ordered some cold coffee drinks. I was really tired, I keep waking up in the middle of the night.

Anyway, there was this guy at the coffee counter hanging out with the barista. I ask the barista when the reading squatters are going to clear out and he says they’re usually there for a couple hours. So I ask him if he could just ask some of them to move so that I can have the big table by the window. He says there’s a table by the window free but that’s one of those dinky little two-seaters and I like to have all my Brandon Sanderson books open to pages with scenes I love and there’s no room. Barista decides to be a total stick in the mud about the tables but he makes me a frozen latte with extra chocolate, extra extra sweet, and four extra espresso shots for no extra charge.

Meanwhile his friend is looking at my laptop bag and my writing box and he asks what I’m up to and I tell him I’m a writer. This guy has a big orange beard the color of a bottle of Fanta and a matching orange baseball cap and he’s leaning on the counter the entire time like he owns the place. He says his ex-wife is a writer. Whatever.

Everyone thinks their ex-wife is a writer, Gladys. I tell him that’s odd because I don’t know any other writers other than me. We’re a rare bread.

He says his wife/ex-wife whatever is a rare bread too and I ask him what’s that supposed to mean. He asks me what I like to write. I tell him that I’m a writer, this isn’t a hobby. So he says “what are you working on now.” I tell him about my new grim dark saga. He says grim dark is his favorite sub-genre but that it’s not as popular as it was in 2018 so it might be a hard sell. I told him I think good writing sells itself. He asks me what grim dark writers I’ve read and I just squint at a bottle of Torani syrup and pretend I didn’t hear him.

Then he asks me to summarize quickly what my story’s about and I tell him I can’t exactly summarize a nine book saga can I? Then mister-wize-*ss asks me what else I’ve written and that’s when something in me CRUMBLES.

What else HAVE I written Gladys? I mean, I have that story loosely based off of True Blood but I never finished it. I guess I could, but I think it would be easier to sell that one after I finish this saga. Anyway, I don’t want to tell this guy that all I’ve ever written is some True Blood fan fiction and a bunch of short stories that chronicle C___’s  and my romance. He’ll laugh at me. How am I supposed to show Mr. Wize *ss that I know more about grim dark than he does?

Then, to top it all off, he says his EX-WIFE used to take him to writing conventions and she would pitch her current book to agents and she had to do it in 60 seconds or something and I thought that was just ridiculous. A b0ld-faced lie. Those can’t be real agents. People who really understand writing know that you just can’t summarize what a book’s about in a few sentences. Otherwise, why write a whole book? But anyway, something about what this guy was saying started to really get to me, what with him asking about which grim dark writers I read and having to summarize my saga. Then he says that his wife’s book is over in the fantasy section and that’s when I know this guy is full of crap.

Either he’s full of crap or everything i think about the world is wrong. If his ex-wife were really a writer, he’d be rich and living in Scotland or New Zealand. He wouldn’t be at BAM.

Finally, when I did get a seat and get all my stuff in place, I opened up my laptop and that’s when the coffee hit me. I couldn’t think of anything. The whole place felt incredibly loud. The barista kept grinding beans. The fluorescent lights were going thack thack thack on my brain.

I don’t think I like their lighting in these places. Fluorescent is the least writerly light. This was not what I was planning. I’m looking around me and this place isn’t as atmospheric as I thought it was. Who puts a cafe for writers right next to a shelf of foodie magazines and a bunch of flushing toilets? That’s not very literary. Is WHAM playing in a constant loop over my head LITERARY????? How am I ever supposed to get this book written? I have a goal of having this published by Tor books by December and all I can think about is how it’s already August and I’m starting from square one.

Then, all I can do is think about my bladder so I pack everything up so that Mr. Wize-*ss doesn’t just come over and start reading my stuff and finding out that I’m not a real writer at all and I head to the bathroom.

And that’s when I saw Neil Gaiman. At least I’m pretty sure that it was Neil Gaiman. He wasn’t as tall as I imagined, but he was coming out of the men’s bathroom and we passed in the hall and he just sort of looked at my writing box and looked like he was going to say something but my cellphone began to ring.

Gladys, I saw Neil Gaiman!!!!! IT’S A SIGN!!!!!! I’m going to be as famous as Neil Gaiman!!!!

Do you think I should send him my book to read? Gladys, I need you to find his email address while he still remembers me from the bathroom hallway!!! Tell him I was the lady wearing all pink with the BOX!!!

Other than seeing Neil Gaiman, the whole three days were a wash. When I got home from the bookstore I just missed the mail truck but he should have been watching where he was going anyway.

Slipped in among my eversource and internet bills there’s a letter wthout a postmark. It’s from The Society’s secretary and they’ve typed it out on a real typewriter I know because you can see the little raised indentations on the back of the note. I really wish these people would go away, they already cost C___ his life. The note tells me that they know that I burned “certain items” last week and that I should get in touch with them “post haste” because the articles that I burned were actually protective charms and if I don’t get the charms resurrected before the next full moon all hell will break loose.

I think I’m fine.

Gladys, I really need you to do me a favor and write down a 60 second script on what you think my book is about and send it to me and then I’ll tell you if you’re wrong.

Will send the first chapter of my new Grim Dark saga next week when things will have calmed down.

xox
X

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the First

Melanie Stormm

[Introduction: Today Melanie Stormm kicks off a wildly inventive series of posts about some misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She served as guest editor for issue 43.4 of Star*Line, an issue focused entirely on Black voices in the speculative arts. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

Misplaced Emails from the High Queen of Grim Dark

By Melanie Stormm: So they say truth is stranger than fiction. I’m going to need you to sit down for this. I’ve inherited an email address for a project I’m on. The last two weeks I’ve gotten some emails from a “Writer X” that have me scratching my head.

First of all, Writer X doesn’t seem to know that they’re emailing the wrong person and their emails are so personal and so…weird, that I don’t have the will to email them and let them know. Let’s be honest, morbid fascination is a factor, it’s fun and pitiful to watch another writer struggle so gloriously.

Also: apparently the person they’re writing to is someone named—I kid you not—Gladys and Gladys is either their agent or their beta reader. I’m thinking beta reader, but your guess is as good as mine.

These were so unbelievable, I had to forward them to Mike Glyer so he could take a look. We’d decided we’d share them with you all to see if you all have any idea what could be happening in this person’s closet? Also: how do you return an email attachment unopened?

Names and email addresses are removed…except for Gladys. Anyone bearing that name un-ironically in 2021 deserves to be celebrated unedited.. All typos belong to Writer X.

I’ve included a screen shot and have copied and pasted the rest of the text below.

Will be sure to share if I get any more. That is, unless Writer X reads File 770.


Subject: PLEASE SEND ME BACK THE PAGES

Dear Gladys,

I know that I promised you new pages this week, but I’m having some trouble with my character Fenchin and so much depends on getting her exactly exactly right. In fact, I’d like you to send me back the pages in the file I sent you last week unopened. I can’t have those pages being part of this book until I really work out how Fenchin feels when she operates the Hummindaal. Right now, I think I’ve gotten the language right, particularly the sensory details, but I was thinking about it last night it when I was laying in bed last night and it hit me like an epiphany in a mack truck: this passage is not emotionally moving enough!!!

Will send new pages next week. I may be a little late, I’ve been promising myself to finally unpack those three boxes in my dining room. I’m trying to develop the wherewithal to do it.

xox
X


Subject: We need more menace

Dear Gladys,

I know what’s wrong with Fenchin.

All of this goes back to when Fenchin first discovers that her real mother was sold to Arktel Slavers because her evil uncle believed she had magic powers and he was trying to subvert the prophecy (that Fenchin doesn’t know about yet). The fact that Fenchin is now able to operate the Hummindaal really should feel so much more menacing. All of this should feel more menacing. In fact, I think I’ve gotten this whole thing off on the wrong foot. I’m going to go back to chapter one and re-write this with a more menacing hue. I’m thinking grim dark. I know you said grim dark is going out of style right now but that’s just the time to bring it back. I need to separate myself from other authors and not follow trends. This book has got to make it, the world needs to know who I am.

In more personal news, I’m exhausted. I finally managed to unpack the last three boxes that were cluttering up my dining room. It was hard going through some of them and seeing mail that C____ forgot to open. He was such a magical person, he could be a character in one of my stories. Or maybe in a Brandon Sanderson story. But I don’t want to be compared to Brandon Sanderson.

It’s too bad C___ got mixed up with the wrong people. Did I tell you I still get pamphlets from The Society? What a nightmare.

I sort of lied. I didn’t unpack all three boxes. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I burned one of the boxes in the backyard. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that I had to get a burn permit and my evil neighbor A____ called the fire department and not only did they commandeer my garden hose, they also gave me a ticket. I’m a taxpying ctizen, if A____ can burn her chickn on the grill every nig ht, I should be able to burn my late lover’s arcane mementos in my backyard!!! But no, they just marched on in without ANY COVID mask when I was saying my MANTRAS and took my garden hose and whizzed out the fire like someone pissing on a crucifix. It smelled like hell and wet cardboard.

Dejected by the whole affair, I went to bed but, as you know, it was a full moon and I have that god-forsaken skylight. It was hot and muggy. I had the window open and all I could smell was A___’s burnt chicken and C___’s half burnt magic books and I had all that moon in my face and I started to picture myself as my character Musradi when he’s sleeping under the moon in his quest to the Chaalchaal caves. My mind started to go and I felt like the whole book was playing out in front of my eyes. I could even feel how readers would react to the plot twist in book seven. I wrote a few things down on the notebook I keep next to my bed, but this morning all I could make out was

Musradi …moon
big eyes…bzighfit
amaz…

I can’t remember any of it. Any of it!!! And it’s no wonder because about halfway through the night you know that walk in closet that at the top of my stairs? I swear to god that I heard this thumping noise. Woke me up. It did it like three times in the middle of the night. thump thump thump. Just like that. Then it did it two more times thump thump thump. Thump thump thump. Just like that.

Anyway, I hope to get some sleep tonight. I’m going to pull a She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and go to the local cafe to write because they have air conditioning and the humidity is making my thighs chafe. I never received those pages from you that I asked you to send back but don’t blame me when I send you new pages and they’re all Grim Dark.

The future is Grim Dark.

xox
X


Subject: Possible Spin Idea

Dear Gladys,

I know I just sent you that last email. Please make sure you read the whole thing. I know sometimes you skim like when you missed that foreshadowing I did about Fenchin’s eye color that would have clued you in to the reality of her parentage.

I was thinking, Lloyd Alexander was once called the High King of Fantasy, what if I’m the High Queen of Grim Dark? Do you think that’s something we could spin?

xox
X