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 Wipe your feet before entering.]


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?


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!!!


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

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 Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello All, Melanie here.

I…there’s so many things I could say about the following emails. I’m still not sure where to begin so I’ll start by telling you how I’m doing.

Had a pretty good writing week this week! Not a lot of pages written, but I feel myself breaking into the final third of this work-in-progress. Finish line on the horizon. If you’re a writer reading this, what’s your approach to a daily page count?

Also: How many pages a day could you type before your hands fall off?

So it appears that she seems to understand that she is talking directly to you. But apparently, I am Gladys now in her mind and I’m not quite sure how to broach the subject again.

Regarding the credit card she mentions, I’m not sure whether to feel sorry for the credit card company who sent it because I have a tiny feeling they may regret this decision.

Her inspirational quote is….um, dangerous.

I’ll let her get to it, then.

Subject: The Book is Wrong

Dear Gladys and Everyone Else,

This has been a terrible week. Work was nice, I sold a lot of tractors, but my real work as an author was horrible. I’ve been holding myself together by looking at inspirational quotes about being a writer.

Something is terribly wrong.

As I told you last week, Puhjyna has no place in this book. Somehow in all of this I have lost the thread to whatever makes this story special. Fenchin seems like such a lifeless character. I started to google advice on what to do when a character behaves like this but everything I found suggested that I “dig deep into character motivations.” I am not Fenchin’s psychologist, Gladys!!! Why should I know what her deepest motivations are? This is supposed to be a fantasy story!!!


Why does everyone know so little about how to write fantasy??

Earlier this week I spent about twenty hours doing more research on Puhjyna’s special abilities even though she doesn’t come into this story until book five. At first I was going to research UFOs again and learn about potential forms of life in neighboring solar systems, but then I thought maybe I should start with researching Puhjyna’s special gift. I also got a new credit card in the mail with a $20,000 credit limit!

The first thing I did was look up all the -pathies on Wikipedia. Telepathy. Sociopathy. Empathy. Psychopathy. I now know everything there is to know about the -pathies and I even took an online course on becoming a clairvoyant!! It was only $3,000 and I got a real, certified certificate! I’m now a bonafide psychic medium just like my character, Puhjyna! This is going to be so great!! Book five is going to be so easy!

I’m probably going to have to put out some ads offering my services on Craigslist to get this course paid off. Of course that will take away from some of my writing time but I’ve eliminated all my other hobbies so that’s no trouble.

Meanwhile, I’m trapped on page sixty in Book One. Sixty pages is no joke, Gladys. In just 940 pages I will be done with book one and I’m just 8,940 pages from finishing the saga. I’m giving myself a strict deadline of two months to write this saga and that means I only have to write 149 pages a day. Two months should be the maximum amount of time it takes to write a saga. There was this thing the other day on YouTube and it said that Salman Rushdie (whoever THAT is) took four years to write a book. Maybe that’s why no one’s heard of him.

I feel a lot better getting my timeline sorted out. I’m not going to start the page count schedule though until tomorrow. This should be fine. I’ll just have to adjust my daily page count to 151 and one half pages a day. Totally doable.

In spite of all these very important advances, the next few days are going to be grim. I have to write all this stuff before I can write about the cool stuff. I want to be writing about Fenchin riding on a motorcycle with the wind in her hair summoning up the magic within her to wake the hummindaal. I want to be writing about Musradi working on her motorcycle and not even remotely aware that the child of the prophecy is right in front of him.

Unfortunately, I can’t be writing these moments because I have to write all this BACKSTORY. Otherwise, how will readers ever know about that afternoon when Fenchin was in kindergarten and she did the thing with the fruit-by-the-foot that no other child can do and it was the first clue that she’s the child of the prophecy. Or about how painful it was when her kindergarten teacher chose Madison Bass as “most likely to grow up to be a writer” when all along it was really ME???

My one relief is that I really know my magic system. It’s based entirely on wishes and a special kind of broccoli but I don’t want to give everything away.

Be honest with me. Do you think I should cut all this backstory??? I think I feel you saying yes. But f I cut the backstory, then what am I going to put in the first three books???? You’re not really being any help to me, Gladys.

I shouldn’t say that. You’re the only thing that’s keeping me going. Knowing that you are going to read and respond to my pages.

In fact, I think I’m going to call you right now and read you my latest chapters and then you can tell me what you like about them and I can ask you to explain what you like about them in far more detail than I ever spent writing it. My new clairvoyant skills tell me that you’ll be ready to hear my story if I call you RIGHT NOW! It’s a high-feedback-expectations night, Gladys! These are troubled times!!



Dear Gladys,

How am I supposed to get hold of you and read you my chapters if you don’t pay your phone bill??? I keep telling you to come and work with me selling tractors and you never listen. Why you want to work at the Local College is beyond me.

Anyway, in the meanwhile, I googled more inspirational quotes and they made me want to jump off a bridge. Writing is a horribly violent craft with some very mentally disturbed masochists making up a large portion of its population. There was all this stuff about killing your darlings and that to write all you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed, or that extremely famous one that you see in all the stores about a submitting yourself to regular vivisection. I couldn’t find the ones I need to read right now so I made up a few of my own. I’m willing to be the change I want to see in the world.

I took a few hours and put quotes into some pretty fonts and I’ve attached one here for you to share with anyone who needs it. I’ll send you more in the future so that you can send these back to me from time to time when you get your phone turned back on.

Anyway, I have to go next door and prostitute my psychic abilities to do a palm reading for Ms. B____ who lives in the crooked little cape cod three houses down. Do you remember her? She’s the one who has the four up-cycled water fountains made out of all the wine bottles she blows through in a month. This woman is the most narcissistic person I have EVER met!!! She sidelined me in Walmart and spent two hours talking about how she’s thinking about getting unicorn fur and how her youngest is going to University of Ohio to study pet programming.

Hang on.

There’s someone in my backyard!

I can see them from here. THERE IS SOMEONE JUST STANDING THERE IN MY BACKYARD. I can tell because I left my downstairs bathroom light on and it’s got their whole profile lit up. (The upstairs electric still isn’t working and I’ve been blackballed by the electricians in town.) They’re wearing a bowler hat. (The person in the backyard, not the electricians.)

Hang on, Gladys, brb.

Okay, I’m back. I don’t have time to chase people down so I just opened my kitchen window and lobbed my right croc at them. It knocked their bowler hat off and they swore, groped around the rocks back there and ran off with my shoe.

I bet you it was my evil neighbor A____’s mumble rap nephew. I’m going over there tomorrow to give them both a piece of my mind and to get my right croc back!!!

Pages later. It’s going to be backstory so you’re going to need to be a grown up and get some taste! I don’t want to hear that nothing is happening!!! Pay your bill!!!


Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Bonus Fit

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 Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello, All. Melanie here. So I did it. I reached out to Writer X directly and the good news is, she appears to be in good physical condition? No bad news. I’m just confused is all. For one, does she think that I am a figment of Gladys’ imagination? Or an alter-ego?

I’m going to ignore her goad because I figure I probably deserve it. In the meanwhile, Gladys is rapidly become one of the most interesting people I’ve ever been mistaken for.

From: Melanie Stormm

Subject: I’m not who you think I am

Dear Writer X,

You might be surprised to see this unfamiliar name in your inbox, but I wanted to reach out and make sure you were alright.

I have a small, semi-large confession. I’m not Gladys but I’ve been receiving your emails for the last month and a half and also possibly sharing them with the whole world. My name is Melanie and I—and possibly a few others—would like to know if you are alright and if you’ve made any progress in your draft?

Writing is hard work, frequently emotionally exhausting, but worthwhile. I applaud your persistence. Whatever your response to this revelation, I sincerely wish you the best of luck and hope you’ll consider continuing to share your progress with me…um, with us.

Best wishes,


…and the Whole World.

p.s. The contents of your draft have been kept private.

Subject: Re: I’m not who you think I am

Dear Gladys,

I now understand mostly everything there is to know about Puhjyna. However, I have no idea what she is doing in this story.

Do you think it’s okay to introduce her as a new character in book five?

By the way, I ran into your younger sister, Blanche, at Mr. Morgan’s Food Emporium and Things Nicely Priced and she said something very surprising to me.

She said your cousin, Luellayou know, the cousin YOU TOLD ME was terminally ill??? She said Luella was in EXCELLENT HEALTH and recently won the New Hampshire All State Synchronous Sky Diving Championship.

Blanche had no idea why I was under the impression that there was anything wrong with Luella at all. She said you and Luella went to Croatia to talk some man into bequeathing you with his beanie baby and pog collection from the 90s. What have I told you about those beanie babies, Gladys??? Don’t you remember what happened to you in Boise??? Beanie babies are going to be the death of you again!!!

Needless to say, I’m not surprised at all that you are also a person named Melanie and that you have been using my unique voice to attract the attention of the world. Fortunately for you, I’m feeling very benign and a little sore after my weekend and I give you my permission enlighten my future readers of my efforts. Please add this to your list of duties after you get caught up on my latest pages, which I’m changing, but you still should read them. 

I’m getting closer and closer to releasing an epic saga of fantasy books that will CHANGE THE WORLD, Gladys. I know this is true because I have seen Neil Gaiman.


I saw him again.

I’m not talking about the time I saw him outside the bathroom at BAM.

This time I saw him in a mail truck, but I’ll explain later.

You’re probably wondering why I am a little late in sending you an update. I’m feeling very relaxed following my weekend at the park and thought I would take a day to just seep in all my newfound knowledge about Puhjyna.

I’ve decided that Puhjyna is not an alien investigator but an alien COMMUNICATOR. She receives messages from alien life sort of like Deanna Troi but she supports herself by working at a diner near the airport that I’m loosely basing off our town diner, The Landing Pad. Do you know any alien-communicating telepaths? Can you check at your discord server for me please? I need to do more research!!!

That UFO Communications and Far Far Right Gun Group was a nothing burger.

At dusk, I went to the far far right of the park and must’ve driven past all the pavilions there at least five times. They told me to look for a bunch of people in camo tactical gear with AR15s and a confederate flag with the state of New Hampshire on the front but they were NOWHERE to be found.

Finally I parked my car by the duck pond and decided to poke around in the trees behind the pavilions to see if they might be back there.

There weren’t any UFO investigators back there, Gladys, but there were these little brown capped mushrooms everywhere. Tiny little things with these cute little brown umbrella tops and spindly little stems. Adorable really. I took one look at them and I knew they were safe to eat.

Anyway, no sooner had I clambered through the trees looking for New Hampshire confederate flags, I began to hear all this strange hooting and screeching so of course I had to go see what that was.

And I would have caught up to it but one of my heels was ensnared in this strange white goo beneath a bunch of tree roots. I had to take a few minutes to sit down and scrape all the gunk off with some twigs and, while I was doing this, I felt this strong vibration. It was as though I was in front of massive speakers at a stadium concert and I could feel the sound but couldn’t hear it. My ribs were buzzing under my jacket. My jawbones rattled and my teeth tickled in their sockets. What do you think that was, Gladys?

I didn’t have any time to figure it out because then I went half-blind. Flashing, roving lights swung like beacons through the tops of the trees. They were ridiculous. I had no idea where they were coming from, my best guess was that it was a bunch of sky-divers with flares. Again and again these lights swung back and forth over the forest, blanching all the pines with white, blazing light. Cleaning my shoe became as easy as it would be to thread a needle in a strobe light.

That’s when whomever else was in the woods starting setting off semi-automatic fire works. Stupid New Hampshire with the stupid fireworks. Either that, or there was a gun range very very very nearby.

Come to think of it the whole wood started to stink of gunpowder.

I’m going to have to file a complaint with the park rangers. By the time the soundless humming and the lights and the shooting stopped, all the weird hooting stopped, too. It was suddenly quiet and still. My jawbone stopped quivering. My ribs stopped vibrating. Everything in the woods had stopped vibrating and all there was was this hushed dark, like all the breath had gone from the wood and I was just sitting there on a stump in the dark having forgotten which way I came from with nothing but mushrooms, white gluey stuff, and tree roots as far as the eye could see.

Needless to say, I didn’t learn a thing about aliens.

I was also terribly lost. It was much darker than it had been when I’d gone into the woods and after all the blinding light, I was now in foggy dark. I sat there, shivering and uncannily cold trying to hear any sounds of a highway or picnickers or anything that could suggest which way my car was. I knew I needed to get out of there.

That’s when I heard footsteps. Not of a bear or a deer. But something on two legs. Several somethings. They were all stepping at the same time, picking over the ground with one leg. And then with the other. Not a single step out of place. My heart was a golf ball lodged in my esophagus. The deliberate crunch of their feet closed around me and I was finally able to make out these vague shapes in the gray between the trees. They were people. People with long flowing hair. They came closer and closer and I tried to say something but I felt my tongue was held by invisible fingers. As soon as words came in my mind, it felt like someone was scooping them up and tearing them away from me.

One person stepped ahead of the others. She came where I could see her; blue hair flowing down all the way past her knees. White bandage tape covered her mouth. She held out her hand and waggled her fingers slowly for me to follow her. I looked around me at the others, they, too, had that white bandage tape over their mouths, some with stains. I could feel their round eyes looking at me from the trees more than I could see them. But I could see the eyes of the person with the blue hair and, to my mind now, I think she must have been wearing novelty contacts. Her eyes were orange and glimmery as tigers-eye with no pupils to speak of. I wanted to ask her if she knew the way back to the pavilions. I knew that wherever she wanted to lead me, I should not follow, that if I went with her, I would join the ones with the bandaged mouths. But my voice was caught in my throat, my tongue swollen and sticky, and I found I could not run. All I could hope was that she would lead me clear of the trees enough so that I could make a break for the road.

I must have walked with the bandaged souls for a half hour, Gladys. The scent of pine sap in the last of summer heat filled my nose. I clambered over root and rock, trying to stay close to my guide because the branches and bugs seemed to recoil from her presence while I was clawed and bitten. Where I had been cold, I now was hot and breathless. After a small eternity, I found myself with great relief in the midst of a rolling grassy slope with the shrinking moon overhead but as lost as I had been in the forest. What more, Gladys, there were others here. I couldn’t make them out at first in the shadows, but soon I began to perceive the shapes of about twenty more people. But these ones had antlers like deer, and when we got closer I saw that they were dressed like deer, with pelts flapping over their human hands and feet, standing on two legs, stained bandages over their mouths.

Before I could cry out, the deer people and the long-haired people flung their arms into the air and capered in a circle around me. They waved their arms and began a strange dance, one foot crossing over the others, making no sound—not even to breathe, but for their feet rustling in the grass. They danced as though they each could hear some invisible music and I felt myself suspended like a buoy in a black sea of dawning horror. All I could do was plead my legs to bolt for the pavilions, but I looked and I looked with no sight of the pavilions or the duck pond in any direction.

Without warning, all of the dancers stopped, arms hanging in the air. The people dressed like deer removed the pelts covering the bottom halves of their deer costumes so that all their nethers were sitting out for the world to see, an endless shadow mass of shadowy hair. Then, the long-haired flowing ones did the same, stripping skirts and trousers from their bodies and flinging them aside and I stood there in a circle of round, staring eyes and private parts and thought, “Well, this could be fun.”

Needless to say, Gladys, when the park ranger found me in the morning I was much more relaxed although I still haven’t managed to find my shoes.

I had to drive barefoot all the way home and that’s when I saw the mail truck and Neil Gaiman was sitting in the passenger seat. He waved. Real slow like. Do you think he is stalking me for my Modern City Fantasy story???

I’ve decided Puhjyna isn’t from the Nyther regions. That name sounds too much like the Dresden Files. I don’t want to be compared to Jim Butcher.

Will send new pages next week, now that I know I don’t need to worry about Puhjyna until book five!!!

If you see Neil Gaiman say nothing to him!!!!!



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

[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 Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello All, Melanie here. I’m sorry to disappoint. I haven’t received an email from Writer X this week. This was a real let down for me; I’ve kind of gotten used to reading her emails. For a moment I wondered if she’s finally learned that her emails weren’t getting to Gladys, but given the content of her last few messages, I’m starting to worry more for her safety—although I’m not sure how she’s actually in danger. Besides that UFO Communications and Far Far Right Gun Group.

I like to assume they have good reasons for requiring her dental records and “various possible forms of identification.”

Probably she’s alright and has just corrected the email error. I’ve tried looking her up some other way, but short of this account on Pinterest, I can’t seem to find her. I’ve also tried looking up articles online to see if there’s any reported incident of chicken feathers covering a neighborhood and that was a wider and deeper rabbit hole than I’d imagined.

It’s not that I found a lot about chickens leaving their feathers all over a neighborhood. For that, I only found this link:

Rather, I discovered that there are about a hundred thousand small newspapers for towns in the U.S. which is maybe a sign that there’s some hope for our democracy. Most of them have a paywall, which means this is a dead end.

Kinda makes me hope she gets that book written so that maybe it gets published and I can find her again. I couldn’t help it, I opened her file and I have to say the chapter she shared really wasn’t that bad. Almost Dresden Files but with a lot of pink and a passage of confounding length about moonlight on the city of ChaalChaal.

I’m really hoping we hear something from her. If I get anything from her, I’ll be sure to pass it on right away but, barring reaching out to her directly, we might just have to face the fact that she’s fixed the error and is disappearing out of our lives.

For a little while, it was nice to read of someone else having a worst time with writing than I am.

Cross your fingers and toes and hug the nearest writer to you, even if it’s yourself.

…Do you think I should email her? 

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

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 Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello All, Melanie here! I have another email from Writer X for you to see. The closet thing is still bothering me, but you know what’s really been on my mind? The importance of letting several people read your made up character and place names OUT LOUD so that you can catch mistakes that are potentially embarrassing down the line.

I’m curious. What’s the worst character name you’ve created? Read?

I was once ruthlessly saved from naming a swordsman “Shitand.” Which I, of course, loftily pronounced Sheh-TAHnd, but others may have pronounced…well, you can figure it out. 

Without further ado, the latest email. All typos and punctuation choices belong to Writer X.

Subject: I’m the worst writer in the world

Dear Gladys,

I don’t know what happened. I got into the sixth chapter and all of a sudden it felt like the road disappeared from right under me. I couldn’t get the voice right. I kept thinking about the words. I couldn’t really picture what was happening next. I think I got writer’s block.

I went back and re-read the chapters that I read you and now I’m realizing that you were absolutely right!!! Nothing is happening!!! And until you send me the 60 second script I don’t even know what this story’s about!!!!

This all feels so lifeless. The only thing I really know about Fenchin is that she wears skinny jeans. Maybe I just need to switch characters.

I feel like if I were a better writer, this would be easy. I would just be able to go “blah blah blah, blah blah blah” and it would be the exact right thing. I used to picture that people would line up just to see a screen shot of my rough draft or a scan of my paper napkin chapters but now, I wouldn’t show them to my waste removal professional.

Not that they’re coming around with any regularity since the chicken incident. I’ll tell you about that later but right now I need you to focus on my story.

I got really stuck. I’m going to have to put a pin in Fenchin and her operating the hummindaal. Instead, I did a quick brainstorm on everything that’s wrong with Fenchin and I negated all of those things and I came up with a new character!!!!

The only trouble is, she’s completely different than Fenchin so she’s not a replacement. Instead, I think she’s just an extra character like in epic fantasy. I think I might make a bunch of characters so that every time I get stuck, I just have a new character start their story and eventually they’ll all run into each other. Because she’s a different character, I had to do a little bit more world-building and I’m putting her homeland as a secret land within the land. Okay, are you ready to hear a little more about her?

Her name is Pujyna and she comes from the realm of the Nyther Regions. She’s a raven haired, bronzed-skin beauty and she doesn’t take no for an answer. She does alien investigations for a living (somehow this is going to tie in with the hummindaal but I haven’t quite figured out yet.) I think I’m going to have a love triangle between her and Fenchin and Musradi. Maybe they won’t be a triangle, maybe they’ll just be a thrupple.

Maybe they’ll become a thrupple in book seven. Maybe they’ll just be a love triangle until then.


This is a precarious place to be. I’m excited about a new character and starting her storyline, but I’m also really depressed about the quality of the pages I’ve produced. This time, I need to do a little research before I start writing so that’s what I’m going to do in lieu of sending pages.

I reached out to a local UFO Communications and Far Far Right Gun Group on Facebook and they got back to me right away and invited me to a meeting they’re having at the park on the other side of town. I usually don’t like going out that way because the houses and the people are creepy, but I see this as another fated event. Why else would they get back to me so quickly??? The hardest part will be finding their pavilion which, I assume from their group name, is on the far far right side of the park.

The weirdest thing happened the other night. I couldn’t sleep because of all that moonlight and my evil neighbor A____’s chickens. Then, I heard the bell in town begin to ring. It’s such a lonely, foreboding sound. It’s very late, but I don’t think the bell is telling the time. This is different. I can just feel it. The chickens got quiet and stayed quiet. Other than a little scratching sound from my walk-in closet, it was finally peaceful and I fell straight to sleep.

In the morning, I woke up to police sirens and flashing lights in my backyard. I ran outside and the entire neighborhood was covered in chicken feathers. A____’s chickens had all disappeared. No blood. Just white and green feathers covering the entire neighborhood. They had to bring in the fire department to start spraying eveything down and now the streets and gutters and my gladiolas are covered with chicken feathers.

Hang on, my phone’s ringing. BRB.

Okay, that was that creep, Brian, from The Society calling to make sure I’m okay. I don’t know what he’s talking about. Of course I’m fine. He said I’m in danger and I told him that’s what he said a couple weeks ago but the full moon has come and gone and I don’t see hell breaking loose.

He said there could be a slight delay on hell breaking loose. I asked how long of a delay. He said he didn’t know, it’s not a precise thing but rather like a force of energy flooding from one world and intermingling with ours as though you were slowing pouring acid in a garden. I asked him if he has anyone else he prefers to stalk since C___’s died.

You know what he just told me????

He said C____’s not dead!!!! Or at least he said there’s a possibility that C___’s not dead. I said like hell he is, I buried what was left of him in the cemetery around the corner from my house.

The nerve of this guy. Then he says he needs to talk to me about Neil Gaiman and that I have to take this very seriously. I told him I’m in the middle of an email and hung up.

Anyway, I’m going to pull up that UFO meet up on google maps, collect all my “various possible forms of identification” that they asked I bring, call my dentist and ask him to transfer my complete dental records to Mr. D____ of the UFO group. It’s a good thing my dentist is 96 years old and hasn’t ever updated from filing cabinets, that should be no trouble at all. Next, all I have to do is pick out an outfit for next week’s meetup and try to build a backstory for Pujyna!!

No pages this week. Except for notes!!! Notes are very important, Gladys!!!!!


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

[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 Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello All, I’m not going to say much about what’s in this week’s email from Writer X other than it DID contain an actual attachment of pages from a manuscript. I couldn’t bring myself to open it. I guess I already feel a little guilty about sharing this stuff and I figured I had to draw an ethics line somewhere.

Since I’m a writer and hold the manuscript sacred, I decided that’s where I’d draw the line. I won’t read her script. I’ll respect her privacy.

I can assure you that the following emails are more than enough to keep the mind occupied.

Subject: HANDY MAN

Dear Gladys,

If I had known you were in Croatia I would’ve called your google voice line. I’m sorry you’re upset about the phone bill, but I needed to get you caught up on these three chapters. I haven’t gotten any response from you and a lot has changed in the story since you last got pages from me. Besides, 240 international minutes can’t be that expensive anymore. I didn’t even bring up you getting Neil Gaiman’s email but I’m reminding you NOW.

From what I could hear, your cousin sounded fine.

Anyway, I’m sending you this next chapter now and if I don’t get some comments back from you, I’m going to take it that you just want me to call you and read it to you.

I just wanted to take a moment and write to you and respond to you about what you said that there’s “nothing happening” in the first three chapters and that you don’t know what Fenchin’s motivation is or anything bad about her personality.

First of all, why do I need to tell you something bad about her personality? This isn’t grim dark. Besides, I want people to like her and people don’t like female characters that have negative qualities and this is going to be a best-seller.

Secondly, there is a LOT happening. For one, I’m setting up the Hummindaal by showing you exactly how ordinary her life appears to be. But instead of telling you that it’s ordinary, I’m showing you, Gladys. SHOW NOT TELL. This is what real writers do. I bought a book about it at BAM on it and you need to understand that I’m not supposed to tell you that it’s nighttime but SHOW you the moonlight on broken glass or something like that. Those three pages about her paying her parking ticket are called realism, I’ve taken those details from MY REAL LIFE.

Speaking of moonlight, it’s getting to be the full moon again. I still haven’t gotten any power on my second floor which makes it ridiculously hard to use my flat iron.

I’ve gotten the first page of chapter five started and I think you’ll like what happens because this is when I talk about the hummindaal and foreshadow my character Musradi coming into Fenchin’s life. I think he works much better in the new modern city environment and I’ve made him a motorcycle mechanic, but he also has a master’s degree and went to magic school but he doesn’t believe he can do magic and that he’ll never be anything more than a greasy mechanic.

Gladys, I can see everything in this world so clearly. Sometimes I wish I was there. Especially on nights like tonight when I’m all alone in this house and my evil neighbor A____’s chickens are screaming.

I went and filed a complaint with the town when I paid my burn ticket. I hope they kick her out. She’s abusing the chicken ordinance and whatever bread of chicken she’s got out there, it should be outlawed. Then again, I don’t blame them for screaming. They know they’re going to be dinner.

Even worse, A____’s nephew has moved in with her because he’s supposed to go to the local college. It’s been hell. All he listens to is mumble rap and he blares it super loud and I can’t even understand the words. But I don’t even blame him for that because his stupid aunt has those stupid evil chickens.

I’m starting to get lonely.

It used to not bother me, but this house feels especially dark and especially lonely these days. Like, I don’t even want to be here most of the time but the only other place I can write is at BAM.

Oh! Do you know a good carpenter or handy man that lives around me? Can you find one? My walk-in closet door that’s at the top of the stairs isn’t closing anymore. I push it shut, turn the knob and hear it click into place and then it just bounces back open.

Creeps me out.

Okay, read this chapter and then PLEASE REPLY RIGHT AWAY.


Subject: The Society called

Dear Gladys,

I forgot to attach the actual chapter. Please be sure to read the last email and then read this one and the chapter I’m attaching now.

I would have sent you this chapter an hour ago but The Society CALLED me. Can you believe it? They CALLED me??? I pick up the phone and I’m wondering who it is and this deep voice says, “Hello, X____, this is The Society. We’ve been trying to reach you.”

Anyway, he tells me that I have to let them into my house so they can get those protective charms back in place. I tell him I can’t really do that right now because I’m busy writing a book.

He asks what kind of book I’m writing and I tell him it’s Modern City Fantasy. He says is that anything like Neil Gaiman? I ask him how he knows about Neil Gaiman. He says if he told me, he’d put me in even more danger than I’m already in and can he please come over here and put the charms back in place. I tell him I’ll think about it.

Then he tells me that if I need their help, The Society can help me publish my book. I say, “No you can’t Brian.” He says they have an old printing press. I told him I’d print my book with them when hell freezes over. I’m a professional. He says it’s nearly the full moon and he doesn’t know that he can keep me safe.

I’m going to need you to start reaching out to agents so that I can get Brian off my back. Did you finish that 60 second script? I would really like to know what my book is about.

Here’s the next chapter, I know you’re dying to read it.


Attachment: Travelers in a hostile wind.docx

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

[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 Wipe your feet before entering.]


Subject: Grim Dark is Dead

Dear Gladys,

It was great talking to you on the phone yesterday. Please look for those emails I sent you. I know you’re on vacation with your cousin who is in terminal condition but I think if you read my story it will help you feel better about the fact that she’s dying.

I had a very good writing week. I didn’t write at all before our phone call what with my evil neighbor A___ having gotten all those screaming chickens, but after we got off the phone, I felt this sudden outpouring and I knew I had to write right away!

My laptop was completely dead. All the electricity on my second floor went out the other day and the electrician is still here trying to figure out how to get it back on. But I had a bunch of napkins right next to my sofa so I started writing on those and the story just started to pour out of me. At first I tried to write it as grim dark, with lots of brown and lots of black and grey but other than changing Fenchin’s eye color, that’s about as grim dark as I can get. But I think adding all the extra grey to my writing will really resonate with grim dark readers.

Grim dark is dead. I think I’m doing something new. I still want you to read those pages I sent you, but this time I want you to ignore all the details about thatched roofs and wagons and just pretend I’m writing about a modern city. This is going to be kind of wild. It’s not urban fantasy, but it is modern city fantasy!!!

You’re not going to believe how I got the idea. I probably shouldn’t even tell you but I trust you not to tell until after I’ve had my first primetime interview. I dreamt of Fenchin. I dreamt she was standing in a long, dark wood, and instead of wearing her emerald gown with her fairy wings, I dreamt she was wearing skinny jeans and a leather jacket.

Isn’t it edgy? If you just put someone in a leather jacket they immediately become edgy.

Writing this saga has been so hard. It’s like I have to make everything up from scratch and then when it doesn’t work, I have to ask why it doesn’t work and then the whole thing just falls apart from asking too many questions. But not this time.

This time, I know that it’s modern city fantasy because I had THE DREAM. Fenchin in skinny jeans. She’s a real character, Gladys. She appeared to me in a dream.

I still need you to send me Neil Gaiman’s email address. But don’t email him for me. I’ll email him myself.

When the electrician has gone, I’ll convert all my napkin writing to Word and email it to you. Remember the new genre is called Modern City Fantasy. It’s totally new. But I don’t want to send it to Neil Gaiman yet. I don’t want him stealing the idea. 

Read it to your cousin. You have my permission.


Subject: Neil Gaiman Appeared to me in a Dream

Dear Gladys,

I have to send you this email quickly. I only have a little battery. The electrician said they can’t get the electricity to work. He says he’s never seen anything like it in his life.

I just woke up from another dream. This time I saw Neil Gaiman in the dream, Gladys!!!! He was standing in a long, dark wood. He was very tall and he was wearing a black jacket. He looked very pale but I didn’t feel like he was unhealthy.

I asked him “are you okay?”

He asked me, “are you?”

And I really felt like he cared. I asked him if I was writing a good book and he said I was writing the best thing I’ve ever written.

I almost cried.

I had to tell you about it. It’s a sign.

We have to find Neil Gaiman.

We have to find him NOW.


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 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.


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 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.


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.


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

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.


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?


Pixel Scroll 7/31/21 So You Want To Be An Orc’n’Scroll Star

(1) RETURN OF A MAN CALLED CHUCK. Chuck Tingle’s Twitter account has been restored. He tweeted thanks to some who helped him along the way.

(2) SMITHSONIAN FUTURES EXHIBIT. Octavia Butler, one of her typewriters, and some newly commissioned art, will be part of the Smithsonian’s “Futures That Unite” exhibit that opens in November reports Smithsonian Magazine: “The Pioneering Sci-Fi Writer Octavia E. Butler Joins a Pantheon of Celebrated Futurists”. The complete set of Nettrice Gaskins’ images can be viewed here.

…In developing science fiction writing as her craft, after disparaging a campy sci-fi flick, Butler became a master storyteller whose unique works revealed how members of the African diaspora could use their own power to shape alternative futures. Butler is one of the futurists who will be honored in the Smithsonian’s expansive “Futures” exhibition, which will mark the Institution’s 175th anniversary and will debut in the Arts and Industries Building late this year.

“Anchoring her in the exhibition in the hall that we call ‘Futures That Unite’ is really important because her books have united people across time and space and ages and identities,” says Monica Montgomery, the exhibition team’s social justice curator. While many of Butler’s works are dystopian in nature, “We know that ultimately, her work aims to unite and go from what does the future of sorrow look like to what does the future of strength look like.”…

A Smithsonian artifact—an Olivetti typewriter—from the collections of the Anacostia Community Museum will represent Butler’s life in the “Futures” show. The museum received it directly from Butler in 2004, when it went on view in the exhibition, “All the Stories Are True,” explains Jennifer Sieck, the museum’s collections researcher. “Octavia Butler was one of the invited authors, and not only did she generously share her presence, but she also donated the typewriter to the museum, along with the ribbons.”

…In addition to the typewriter, Butler will be represented by a newly commissioned work of art by digital artist Nettrice Gaskins, who uses algorithms meant to be employed in machine learning to produce artworks. She will provide a series of portraits of featured futurists, including herself. Others include author and disability rights advocate Helen Keller, American sculptor and political activist Isamu Noguchi, and National Farmworkers Association co-founders Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, frontline researchers in the global race for a Covid vaccine Barney Graham and Kizzmekia Corbett, computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, non-binary professional skateboarder Leo Baker, the multi-disciplinary educator Buckminster Fuller and the civil rights activist Floyd McKissick.

“I used styles that corresponded with each futurist,” Gaskins says. “When I created the futurist portraits, I collaborated with the A.I. [artificial intelligence] and fed the machine different styles to see what the results would be, then I chose the ones that captured what I imagined.” Mirroring characters in Butler’s Parables series, “I’m finding ways to use A.I. to recognize my own power to affect and direct change or chance,” she says….

(3) 2022 WORLDCON HIKING MEMBERSHIP RATE. Chicon 8, the 2022 Worldcon, is raising its attending membership rate to $190 on August 1. So if you want to beat the deadline, click here: Memberships – Chicon 8. The new rate will be good until December 20, 2021.

(4) SELF-PUBLISHING DURING THE PANDEMIC. Mike Allen is interviewed by Melanie Stormm at the SPECPO blog: “The Uncertain Journey of Shirley Jackson Finalist, Aftermath…”

…“I came to horror as a way of wrestling with the darkness in human nature, the darkness in my own nature,” Mike said, speaking to the autobiographical quality of some of his poems. “I had to make peace with my understanding of the world. The fact that the things Edgar Allen Poe was writing about were not alien, but part of the human experience.”

When he announced this, it hit me and made things plain. I understood my own tendency to like dark things: they seemed to tell the truth and I turn to fiction and poetry as much for truth as I do for adventure. These sorts of work found all the things our minds want to reject as part of life and wove them into the narrative. It’s about acceptance and not only thrill. I found myself reflecting internally on the kind of catharsis that comes from reading work like Aftermath and on my own desire to escape the Jeremiad news cycle. And yet, in the middle of the pandemic, life had been stressful for me, but I found that I wasn’t suffering from the same psychological horror that others I cared about suffered from. I felt strangely spared the extent of shock and sleepless nights others had, spared the existential crisis, the headlines (and very real events) created in others. Not because I was brighter or wiser or more resilient. In fact, it felt as though the level of peace I had was gifted to me.

As though reading the new question in my mind, Mike said: “In a way, horror inoculates you. There’s an addictive quality to it as it produces a lot of chemical activity in your brain, but it also inoculates you.” Mike paused, wondering whether ‘inoculate’ was the best word given the situation the world faced. Then, after a moment, he nodded. “Yeah, it inoculates you. You come to accept that the worse can happen, and that idea maybe shocks you less than it does other people.”…

(5) STAN’S ORIGIN STORY. J. Hoberman chronicles “Marvel’s Ringmaster” at the New York Review of Books. “Under Stan Lee’s guidance, Marvel marketed not only its characters but also the men who created them.” The first part of the article is open, but the rest is behind a paywall.

…The comic book industry was largely created by first-generation Americans. Lee’s Romanian immigrant father was a fabric cutter in New York City’s garment industry; the family struggled during the Great Depression. Skipping grades, the faster to finish his education and get a job, Lee attended DeWitt Clinton, a huge all-boys public high school in the Bronx that produced many distinguished alumni. Lionel Trilling, Irving Howe, A.M. Rosenthal, and William Kunstler were graduates. Lee’s classmates might have included the future playwright Paddy Chayefsky, the disgraced studio boss David Begelman, the Get Smart actor Don Adams, and (before he dropped out) the champion boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, as well as Richard Avedon and James Baldwin. Lee worked on the school literary magazine, less as a writer or editor than a self-appointed publicity director….

(6) LEARNING FROM WRONG GUESSES. Simon Evans discusses “What Sci Fi novels can teach us about uncertainty” in The Spectator.

…Literature has no single golden age, but some genre fiction does, and Science Fiction had a long one, stretching from the mid-30s all the way up to the mid 50s – up, perhaps, to Crick and Watson and the genuinely astounding discovery of DNA with which it briefly struggled to compete. Soon, we’d been to the moon too, and the race to speculate before science could accumulate became a lot tighter. 

Sci-Fi thrives off society’s sense of the unknown. The fiction of this era is worth reading as much to register the blind spots, as to applaud the bulls’ eyes. These are generally by way of under estimating the societal changes which were to sweep across the West after WW2. Many authors anticipate nuclear annihilation, and subsequent genetic mutation, but there does not appear to be a single one who saw feminism coming. 

Instead, stories by Asimov, Heinlein and the like bristle with square jawed 21st century heroes, wise cracking journalists, distracted academics and Blondes, Blondes, Blondes. Some of the predicted innovations in tech are hauntingly accurate, but the action remains firmly rooted in a social milieu Raymond Chandler would recognise. But this is instructive in itself and tells us something about the business of understanding what can, and cannot change, and how quickly. Many people envisaged the rise of a global pandemic at some point in the future but not many paused to consider its social implications – plus ça change. …

(7) VAMPIRE CLEARANCE SALE. FX dropped this trailer for season 3 of What We Do In The Shadows.

An evil bucket that’s great for collecting evil. See how the vampires are decluttering for the all-new season premiering Sept 2nd on FX.


July 31, 1992 – Twenty-nine years ago the Buffy the Vampire Slayer film premiered. Written by Joss Whedon, it was directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui and produced by Howard Rosenman and Kaz Kuzui. The cast was Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Paul Reubens, Rutger Hauer and Luke Perry. It got middling reviews from the critics and currently holds a rating of just forty-three percent at Rotten Tomatoes. It neither made nor lost money at the box office.

It of course would spawn the later Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Angel series as well. The former was both a critical and rating success. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer series would win a Hugo at Torcon 3. 


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 31, 1932 Ted Cassidy. He’s best known for the role of Lurch on The Addams Family in the mid-1960s. If you’ve got a good ear, you’ll recall that he narrated The Incredible Hulk series. And he played the part of the android Ruk in the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” on Trek, and provided the voices of the more strident version of Balok in the “The Corbomite Maneuver” episode and the Gorn in the “Arena” episode. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. “The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair” episode, he was Edgar, who kidnapped, tortured, and repeatedly attempted to kill Napoleon and Illya. And failed magnificently. (Died 1979.)
  • Born July 31, 1951 Jo Bannister, 70. Though best known as a most excellent British crime fiction novelist, she has three SF novels to her credit, all written in the early Eighties — The MatrixThe Winter Plain and A Cactus Garden. ISFDB lists one short story by her as genre, “Howler”, but I wasn’t at all aware that Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine printed genre fiction which is where it appeared first though y’all corrected me when I ran this Birthday note first several years back. 
  • Born July 31, 1955 Daniel M. Kimmel, 66. His essays on classic genre films were being published in The Internet Review of Science Fiction from 2005–2010 and are now in the Space and Time magazine. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association.
  • Born July 31, 1956 Michael Biehn, 65. Best known in genre circles as Sgt. Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks in Aliens and Lt. Coffey in The Abyss. He was also The Sandman in a single episode of Logan’s Run. Though not even genre adjacent, he was Johnny Ringo in the magnitude Tombstone film. Likewise he was in The Magnificent Seven series as Chris Larabee.
  • Born July 31, 1959 Kim Newman, 62. Though best known for his Anno Dracula series, I’d like to single him out for his early work, Nightmare Movies: A critical history of the horror film, 1968–88,  a very serious history of horror films. It was followed up with the equally great Wild West Movies: Or How the West Was Found, Won, Lost, Lied About, Filmed and Forgotten. He’s also a prolific genre writer and his first published novel, The Night Mayor, sounds very intriguing. (CE)
  • Born July 31, 1962 Wesley Snipes, 59. The first actor to be Blade in the Blade film franchise where I thought he made the perfect Blade. (There’s a new Blade actor though they name escapes right now.) I also like him as Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man. And he was Aman in Gallowwalkers, a Western horror film that is really, really bad. How bad? It gets an eleven percent rating by audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Born July 31, 1976 John Joseph Adams, 45. Anthologist of whom I’m very fond of The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West which he did. He was the Assistant Editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for nearly a decade, and he’s been editing both Lightspeed and Fantasy magazines since the early part of the previous decade.


  • Alley Oop isn’t ready for this cosmic discovery.

(11) HAMILTON DROPS OUT OF THE TREES. Netflix dropped a trailer for the animated movie Vivo. Arrives August 6.

A one-of-kind kinkajou (voiced by Lin-Manuel Miranda), embarks on an unforgettable, musical adventure to deliver a love song to Marta (voiced by Gloria Estefan) on behalf of his owner Andrés (Buena Vista Social Club’s Juan De Marcos).

VIVO is an exhilarating story about gathering your courage, finding family in unlikely friends, and the belief that music can open you to new worlds.

(12) WELL, THAT WAS EXCITING. That new Russian module at the International Space Station got a little rowdy. The maneuvering thrusters fired accidentally, pushing the whole station out of position. The mis-orientation was bad enough that the ISS lost radio communication with ground controllers for about 11 minutes. One thinks that Roscosmos will have some explaining to do. “International Space Station briefly loses control after new Russian module misfires” at CNN.

An unusual and potentially dangerous situation unfolded Thursday at the International Space Station, as the newly-docked Russian Nauka module inadvertently fired its thrusters causing a “tug of war” with the space station and briefly pushing it out of position, according to NASA flight controllers.

Nauka — a long-delayed laboratory module that Russian space agency Roscosmos’ launched to the International Space Station last week — inadvertently fired its thrusters after docking with the International Space Station Thursday morning.

NASA officials declared it a “spacecraft emergency” as the space station experienced a loss of attitude (the angle at which the ISS is supposed to remain oriented) control for nearly one hour, and ground controllers lost communications with the seven astronauts currently aboard the ISS for 11 minutes during the ordeal. A joint investigation between NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos is now ongoing.

(13) HE CALLED IT. It always gives John King Tarpinian a warm feeling inside whenever Einstein is proved right. Yahoo! has the latest instance: “Einstein right, again: Researchers see light ‘echo’ around black hole”.

For the first time ever, scientists have seen the light from behind a black hole.

Black holes are regions in space-time where gravity’s pull is so powerful that not even light can escape its grasp. However, while light cannot escape a black hole, its extreme gravity warps space around it, which allows light to “echo,” bending around the back of the object. Thanks to this strange phenomenon, astronomers have, for the first time, observed the light from behind a black hole.

In a new study, researchers, led by Dan Wilkins, an astrophysicist at Stanford University in California, used the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s NuSTAR space telescopes to observe the light from behind a black hole that’s 10 million times more massive than our sun and lies 800 million light-years away in the spiral galaxy I Zwicky 1, according to a statement from ESA.

The light “echo” was first predicted by Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity, published in 1916….

(14) STRAY CAT STRUT. Nerdist says we have something to look forward to: “STRAY The Sci-Fi Game About a Stray Cat Debuts Early 2022”.

…In Stray, you play as an injured cat who has been separated from his family. He’s searching for a way back to them through the winding alleys of a decaying “cybercity.” Humanoid robots that lend an air of melancholy to the neon-lit streets are the only residents of this strange city. On his journey, the cat will find and befriend a small drone named B-12. They’ll work together to survive and get back home….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]