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

A dark forest sits beneath a starry sky. Creepy black goo drips over the scene. White letters read: “Fit the Ninety-Eighth: Enter the Wortex.”

[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 (temporarily closed for update). Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello, all! Melanie here.

It’s been an eventful NaNoWriMo for Writer X and her friends, although not much of it was spent writing. If you were writing for NaNoWriMo, I hope you had a great month.

When last we left the writers of the Ink Black Coffee Club Critique Group, they were still searching for the missing fantasists of their nemesis writing group, The Fantasy Writers’ Meetup of Brokenheap, NH.

You see, thanks to her love of spying on people, Writer X had discovered that men in blue latex gloves had abducted each of the missing fantasists. Further investigation revealed another character posting clues about the abducted writers’ whereabouts. The poster went by the name of the Mysterious “W.” The Mysterious W informed them that the disappearance was part of a Deep Publishing Conspiracy and urged those looking for the writers to find out what the writers had been writing when they were abducted. Then, they would have to “Enter the Wortex.” 

It turns out that each of the Brokenheap writers had been working on their memoirs when abducted. If that doesn’t send a chill down your spine, you probably need some explanation.

Meanwhile, Tryxy has been stuck in Paris in the year 1789 thanks to his borrowed SpaceTime machine breaking down. X has been kitten-sitting #bestkitten while he’s away, but it’s complicated her ability to throw herself fully into discovering the missing writers.

Without further ado… 

Subject: SECRET Secrets of the Universe – DON’T TELL!!!!!!

Dear Gladys,

What I am about to tell you may risk your life. Remember how I told you last week that we took the advice of the Mysterious “W” and discovered that the missing fantasists of Brokenheap WERE WRITING THEIR MEMOIRS???? And remember how I told you that it made PERFECT sense??? And remember how I told you that I would explain it to you some other time??

Please make sure you are sitting down while you are reading this.

Everything in the world is an ILLUSION.

Remember when we were taking tenth grade physics with Mr. Hunky Dunky Anastasio??? And he told us that there are four forces working in the universe: Gravity, Electromagenta force, Strong Nuclear Force, and Week Nuclear force. And remember how I failed physics and Mr. Hunky Dunky said it was because I “never studied” and “never did my homework” and “slept through the final exam???” Well it turns out, Mr. Hunky Dunky wasn’t just a dreamboat, he was also unknowingly in on a global conspiracy!!!!

IT WAS ALL A LIE, Gladys!!! I didn’t fail physics because of something as silly as “homework”!!!!! I failed physics because there AREN’T FOUR FORCES. THERE ARE FIVE.

Gravity. Electromagenta Force. Strong Nuclear force. Week Nuclear Force. And the most powerful FORCFE of them ALLLLLL!!!!


And THAT is why Memoirs make perfect sense.

You see, the marketing forces of the universe have been shaping our existence for thousands of years. Much of what you see and experience in the world is as a result of marketing forces.

If it weren’t for marketing forces, we wouldn’t have book genres, or words like “dependability” and “halitosis.” We wouldn’t have signs that say things like “Act Now!,” “Limited Time Only,” and “Black Friday Sale.” And we wouldn’t have decision fatigue!!!! What would you do without decision fatigue, Gladys?? Your decisions wouldn’t have nearly as interesting outcomes as they do at 7:16 pm when you’ve finally left work and have to choose between leg night at the gym, a clown shoe flash sale, and leg night at KFC!!!! 

But why would Memoirs make the fantasy writers of Brokenheap disappear?? Well I’m about to tell you.

Oh wait. They just called #bestkitten’s name. I’d better act now; the nurse will wait for a limited time only. Now THAT’S Dependability!! It’s a little hard walking with these clown shoes covered in fried chicken grease so Secrets of the Universe are going to have to hold a little longer, Galdsy!!! I’m at the vets and they’re giving #bestkitten a dental cleaning to treat her halitosis.

Secrets later!!!!



sent from my iPhone

From: Bevvy Hart

Subject: Fw: Re: Re: Re: How do we enter the Wortex?

Dear Gladys,

I’m still at the vets!! Will write more about marketing forces later. A sasquatch got loose and ran through the examination room and now we can’t find #bestkitten!!!!




begin forwarded message

Dear Fellow Writers,

I want to repeat that writing a memoir is EXTREMELY dangerous and any of us that engages in such a thing are taking our lives in our own hands. That said, if one of us is going to do something as deadly as write a memoir in hopes the Blue Hands capture us, it should be someone who has enough writing clout. ALL of the Brokenheap writers have publishing credits, and no doubt that has something do to with their abduction.

Ravenhair, I’m sure you’d like to think you’re well known and capable of saving the day, but you aren’t. You don’t so much as a have a short story credit to your name.

If anyone is famous enough as a writer to draw the attention of the Blue Hands, it’s Tod Boadkins.

If anyone is infamous enough, it’s Writer X. 



Bevvy Madison Hart she/her
Wandering Spirit Small Press, CEO
A Vegan Owned and Operated Press

On Mon, Nov 27, 2023 at 9:04 AM  Thomasina Prepper <> wrote:


I trust that you’re the best judge of your feelings, even if I can’t help but feel you have a lot of unexpressed stress. I have a meet up tomorrow with my Perimenopausal Self Defense Shitkicking Group. You’re free to join us if you’d like to blow off any steam.

Ravenhair, I’m blown away by your bravery and willingness to endanger yourself to blow Deep Publishing into the next world and save the Brokenheap writers. Please don’t start anything until we’ve all had the chance to plan our attack.




On Sun, Nov 26, 2023 at 7:14 PM Bevvy Hart <> wrote:


I don’t see what you’re saying. I’m not resentful of Ravenhair at all. I’m deeply supportive, and harbor no animosity toward any living creature. I’m vegan. That means that I am committed to peace with all living things, even if they erringly feel they know the answer to everything.



Bevvy Madison Hart she/her
Wandering Spirit Small Press, CEO
A Vegan Owned and Operated Press

On Sat, Nov 25, 2023 at 10:17 AM Ravenhair Silkenwind <> wrote:

If that’s what has to be done, I’ll do it. I’ll write my memoir. I’m single and no one would miss me. Except my mom.

But how would we do this? Would you all come to my house and watch from hidden locations? How long should I attempt memoir writing? Is there any information out there that shows how long a memoirist has to live once they start their memoir?

-Ravenhair Silkenwind

On Sat, Nov 25, 2023 at 9:13 PM Thomasina Prepper <> wrote:


There’s no getting around it. If Deep Publishing is behind the Blue Hands that X described, we have to get abducted by the Blue Hands to get to the bottom of this. The only way we’re going to enter the Wortex that the Mysterious W wrote about would be for us to write OUR memoirs. If the Wortex or the Mysterious W exist at all.

Everything I know about Doomsday, the Illuminati, and the DaVinci Code tells me that THIS IS ALL TRUE. I can feel it in my prepper bones.

Bevvy, I don’t mean to pry, but I noticed that you seem to have a lot of resentment directed at Ravenhair over the last few weeks. Is everything okay?




Fw: Fw: Claim #66678PXTU

Dear Gladys,

I’m still at the vet’s office which is why I haven’t told you more secrets of the universe. But it’s gotten very interesting here. After that sasquatch completely wrecked the exam room and stole all the ancient magazines in the waiting room, the vets had some trouble finding #bestkitten so came out to enlist my help. 

We searched and searched and found her in the break lounge. She was napping peacefully on top of a laptop keyboard one of the technicians had left open.

On the screen there was a new document file with a poem written that the technician swears they did not write.

“Friends are all there is,
in a world full of striving.
Friends are all there is,
when you gonna start thriving?
Friends are all there is,
so put your ego down.
Friends are all there is,
bSIH q8yq=30th=q0e”

Gladys!!! Is it possible #bestkitten can write things with her butt????

In the meantime, I got this from Tryxy. Things are not getting any better for him in Paris of 1789. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to write a memoir and get captured by the Blue Hands while I’m still kitten-sitting!!!



begin forward message







On Mon, Nov 27, 2023 at 7:34 AM  Spacetime AAA Claim Support <[email protected]> wrote:

Dear Claimant,

Thank you for your patience. We are working to resolve your claim. Please know that our rescue and repair department is short-staffed. We have been unable to assign an agent to your claim.

The SpaceTime machine HK007 models that have service issues frequently require a specific sensor light to be replaced. That sensor light is only made by a company located in 2914 on Betelgeuse. Our next shipment of sensor lights should arrive in 4 to 6 centuries.

You are a valued customer. Thank you for trusting SpaceTime AAA for all your spacetime traveling needs.


Agent 33867

Subject: We lost

Dear Gladys,

I’ve been meaning to write you about the secret secrets of the universe, but I’ve been very busy.

Once we all agreed that my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, should be the one to write his memoir and lure the Blue Hands into a trap, we all loaded up on shots of espresso.

As you may remember, Gladys, the Blue Hands make you drowsy when they kidnap you. Bevvy Hart had the most espresso, about nine double shots in all. Then, we met at his house and hid under his bed and in the closet. Mark and Thomasina Prepper both have martial arts training so they took the spaces closer to my boyfriend so that they would be free to attack.

Sure enough, no sooner had my boyfriend written the first three sentences of his memoir, a swirling blue circle appeared behind his chair. Out stepped a big burly guy in suit, sunglasses, and blue latex gloves.

Mark and Thomasina moved from their hiding spaces in the closet, but to everyone’s surprise, Bevvy Hart leapt through the air with limbs flying like a yowling cat. She was a flurry of rage as she bowled the Blue Hands over and proceeded to beat him with her writing journal as she yelled: “How dare you write no words for NaNoWriMo!! Some of us struggle to write! You think you know everything?? You think you know everything??”

We all stood in shock until Bevvy straightened herself and took a cleansing breath. Then, we dragged the unconscious Blue Hands into the Wortex with us, but not before we deleted my boyfriend’s memoir file and narrowly avoided a moose stampede!!!!

When we got to the other side, we were standing in the barracks of a secret publishing compound of a corporation called Kindlespark – A Memoir Publishing Specialist. Fortunately for us, they had just called everyone into their latest marketing meeting so there were only a few guards posted around for us to fend off. Bevvy Hart had really gotten into expressing her artistic frustration through violence, so most all of them ran off.

Unfortunately, the secret publishing compound was very large and we got lost several times in the cafeteria and child care center. But then Ravenhair spotted a sign that read “This Way to the Missing Fantasy Writers’ Meetup of Brokenheap, NH.”

I should probably tell you more about the secrets of the universe, Gladys, or else you might be REALLY confused.

Once upon a time, there were very few people who could read and even fewer people who could write Memoirs. This meant that memoirs were extremely valuable with many selling long after the writer’s death. With the invention of public education, social media, and a five day work week, a lot of other people began to want to tell their own story. Many of these were famous people or people who had contributed something to larger society, but a lot were not.

As a result, the market became FLOODED with memoirs by people whose only contribution to society was their memoir, thus driving down the value of the memoir genre with many writers giving away their stories for free on amazon. There was an imbalance in the marketing forces of the universe.

That’s when the marketing forces kicked into gear. Since there were so many people writing memoirs, the marketing forces worked to make those memoirs more valuable. Remember when I went on that Writing Retreat a couple years ago and over thirty memoirists went missing??? That’s an example of the marketing forces at work. One of the best ways to have a memoir from someone you don’t know become valuable is for that person to die AND THAT’S WHAT THE UNIVERSE STARTED DELVIERING!!!!! Not every writer knows this which is why so many can be fooled into WRITING THEIR MEMOIRS!!!!

That’s when Deep Publishing began. A small collection of memoir publishers came together and started luring small and medium famous people to write their memoirs, offering huge advances paid on publication. Then, they abducted the writers into the Wortex—a place where the laws of physics don’t always reach. Then, the writers would finish their memoirs where they were safe from marketing forces. When they emerged from the Wortex, they had finished memoirs and were immediately killed by a falling anvil, or a rogue lawnmower, or a freak moose stampede, leaving Deep Publishing free to forgo an advance, and sell a book that has increased in value BECAUSE THE WRITER DIED IN A FREAK MOOSE STAMPEDE!!!!!

Back to our rescue attempt!!!!!

We found the Brokenheap writers in their own comfortable cells, each sitting at their assigned computers, typing away. The blood drained from our faces as we realized what they had done. You see, Gladys, if they wanted to survive our bringing them back to the real world, they would need to immediately delete their memoirs or else risk Deep Publishing releasing the memoirs in retribution and killing them!!!!

But to the horror of our writing group, the Brokenheap writers HAD NOT BEEN WRITING THEIR MEMOIRS. Instead, they were protesting their abduction by switching back to their NaNoAnimal novels. Seeing as they had nothing to do for an entire month BUT write, they had collectively written over 567,000 words. Meanwhile, we had written just over 160,000 words. This means that, if we rescued them, we would succeed in thwarting Deep Publishing, but we would also lose NaNoPour Some Sugar On Me.

So we took a poll. In the end, we narrowly passed the vote to rescue them after four or five recounts. I also had the chance to explore the complex and discovered the year 1789 packed away in a closet somewhere in HR. There I retrieved Tryxy and now everything has been restored back to our nice, usual normalcy!!!!!

When we got home, I found #bestkitten asleep on my desktop keyboard and a note from the Mysterious W on the screen.

“Congratulations. Sometimes losing is winning.”

Well, another NaNoHit Me With Your Best Shot is behind me. That means I’m free to start writing again!!!

Pages next week, GLadys!!!!
















The Museum of Earthly Delights

By Rich Lynch: As I mentioned in a previous essay, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me for me to say that I really like museums.  Art museums, history museums, science museums, cultural museums, sports museums, you name it.  They’re all good.  Where I live we’re blessed with the Smithsonian which has 16 museums and galleries in the Washington metro area, ten of them conveniently located adjacent to the National Mall and several others near Metrorail stops.  And besides these there are dozens of others in the city that are not affiliated with the Smithsonian.

But this essay is not about any of those.  Just up the road, Baltimore has its own treasure trove of museums and one of them, the American Visionary Art Museum, gets my vote as the region’s most extraordinary.  It’s been described by CNN as “one of the most fantastic museums anywhere in America” and that seems pretty accurate to me.  Visiting it is like being immersed in a Hieronymus Bosch painting – it’s the Museum of Earthly Delights.

Unlike the famous Bosch triptych there is normally little in the way heavenly or hellish imagery to be found at AVAM.  But there’s no lack of unusual and at times surreal things to see that are truly captivating.  And exhibitions hosted by the museum are always varied and eclectic.  Three past examples:  The Great Mystery Show, described as “one part lively fun house, two parts cosmic dream lab”, explored the human need to know and it featured works and creative investigations of visionary artists (one of them Edward Gorey), research scientists, astronauts, mystics, and philosophers.  All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs & Karma, billed as “a call to awareness of the circular and voluptuous nature of life”, was a multimedia extravaganza which included things like spherical sculptures by vision-impaired artists, mandelas, micro dot sock-thread embroideries, and otherworldly visions depicted by indigenous Huichol yarn art.  And Human, Soul & Machine: The Coming Singularity! was an attempt by the museum to promote “an honest contemplation of the future of warfare, personal privacy, and transhumanism (the very real effort to download soul, intellect, and human memory into a machine that will not die or grow old)” and was described as “a communal look forward to where much of the Sci-Fi imaginings of the past are now swiftly becoming commonplace reality” via artwork that was “a hot-wired blend of art, science, humor, caution and hope”.

Needless to say, Nicki and I have been regular visitors to AVAM.  Partly because of the pandemic it had been a couple of years since we’d last been there and we were pleased to discover there were three new so-called ‘outsider art’ exhibitions on display.  One of them was a retrospective of multimedia artist Judith Ann Scott (1943-2005) titled The Secret Within.  Judith was a truly remarkable person.  She was a Down Syndrome baby and from birth was deaf and mostly uncommunicative.  This led her parents to institutionalize her when she was age 7 and she spent her next 36 years as a ward of the State of Ohio.  In 1986 Judith’s twin sister Joyce, who had not been afflicted with Down Syndrome, got custody of her after an extended legal process and brought her to northern California where she found nurturing surroundings in a boarding home which provided the care she needed.  Joyce also enrolled Judith in the Creative Art Center in Oakland (an art center for people with physical and developmental disabilities) where she discovered her talent as a fiber artist.  Judith incorporated various found (and sometimes pilfered) objects such as keys and magazines as cores to be enveloped by yarn and other materials.  What resulted were new shapes and forms, many of them vaguely organic and cocoon-like in appearance.  And in doing so, she gained national and international acclaim – her works have been on display at the Brooklyn Museum, the National Gallery in D.C., the American Folk Art Museum in New York, and now at AVAM.

Nicki at the Judith Ann Scott exhibition

Some of the objects that were on display reminded me a bit of forms depicted by the great artist John Schoenherr on some of his covers for science fiction books and magazines.  Which makes me wonder if Judith had come across old issues of Analog in her scavenging for things to incorporate into her 3D art.  There was also a short video of Judith at work in the studio and even from that brief clip it was clear that she was driven to create and had realized it was her purpose in life.  Would that we all could be so fortunate.

Another of the featured exhibitions was titled Esther and the Dream of One Loving Human Family.  It’s not genre-related but it is in its own way extremely compelling – the life story of Holocaust survivor Esther Niesenthal Krinitz (1927-2001) as depicted in a series of fabric pictures.  The series progresses from bucolic home life in rural Poland to the rounding up of Jews in the village by Nazi soldiers and then to her escape (with her younger sister) into the relative safety of a forest while her parents and other siblings, as well as all other Jews in the village were rounded up and sent off to a labor camp where they were murdered.  She and her sister eventually were taken in by a farmer and his wife in a different village where they were able to survive the war, and she eventually immigrated to the USA where she created the fabric pictures that told her life story.

The Bees Save Me – Nazi soldiers flee swarming bees instead of interrogating Esther

There was more to the exhibition than just the fabric picture series, as it also included a partial reconstruction of Esther’s pre-war farm home as well as paintings by other artists about more recent genocides.  The overall aim was to “juxtapose the power of Esther’s work and story with the experience of other innocent victims of cultural genocides, historic and current” and it certainly did that.

One of Leslie Payne’s home-built aircraft

The third featured exhibition was not nearly so powerful in theme but it was just as interesting.  It was titled If You Build It They Will Come: Visionary Artists and Their Environments and has been described as an attempt to “take visitors on a journey into the spaces of exceptional artists who have built their own dream worlds”.  One of them was Leslie Payne (1907-1981), who lived in rural Virginia and built several faux but fairly realistic-looking airplanes.  And then, with the participation of neighborhood women who played the role of ‘stewardesses’, he ‘flew’ around the world, all the while recording his adventures in a log book under the byline ‘Airplane Payne’. 

Another was Zebedee Armstrong (1911-1993) from rural Georgia, who believed he’d been visited by an angel who warned him of the imminent end of the world and then became fixated on creating a ‘calculating calendar’ which would predict the exact date.  He became so fixated on this that over the final two decades of his life he built somewhere around 600 such calendars, using mostly discarded and reclaimed material, from the size of an ordinary flat wall calendar to a large 3D wardrobe. 

Some of Zebedee Armstrong’s many calendars

But my favorite, by far, was DeVon Smith (1926-2003), a junk dealer and science fiction/horror movie enthusiast from rural Pennsylvania who used some of the scrap metal he had on hand to build what he called the Worlds 1st Family of Robots.  These are not small constructs – most of them appeared to be about 4-5 feet tall.  And they all had names: Father Jupiter, Venus, Sis-tar and her brother Sun, and the dog Pluto.  Later on, two others joined the family: Saturn and Mars.  Even though they’re part of this special exhibition they’ve been ‘residents’ of the museum for many years – I’ve read that Saturn and Mars were ‘married’ at AVAM back in June 2000 and the ceremony was witnessed by dozens of museum attendees.

DeVon Smith’s Worlds 1st Family of Robots
DeVon Smith’s jacket

DeVon Smith is interesting for more than just his scrap metal sculptures, though.  He was known for his wanderlust and his bio describes him as a former Guinness World Record holder for most miles hitchhiked (more than a half million, across four continents).  He’d described himself as a ‘space traveler’ because he’d often deliberately gone to places with out-of-this-world names (Jupiter, Florida, for example).  And he’d stood out in a crowd because of the outerwear he’d worn – a Doctor Who-like long black jacket with red lapels, cuffs, and shoulder epaulets, festooned with patches and pins that celebrated some of the places he’d been.  This had made him a minor celebrity which had led to appearances on TV shows hosted by Art Linkletter and Groucho Marx.  He was present at the museum for the robot wedding ceremony where he offered attendees some sage advice: “Don’t sit in a chair.  Get out and do it.”

The amazing Tick Tock the Croc

The permanent collection of AVAM is just as interesting as the special exhibitions.  It’s spread out over the two buildings occupied by the museum and there’s no lack of remarkable things in it, from the sublime (a meditative sculpture garden between the two buildings) to the ridiculous (a display chronicling the history of flatulence humor, appropriately located near one of the restrooms).  The museum is home to dozens of kinetic sculptures, ranging from about the size of a bread toaster all the way up to Tick Tock the Croc, a multi-segmented reptile built for the museum’s annual kinetic sculpture race and whose movement is provided by six linked-up bicycles.  But my favorite is something, in its own way, equally amazing: a 16-foot-long scale model of the RMS Lusitania by craftsman Wayne Cusy (b. 1961), built entirely from toothpicks (193,000 of them).  It reportedly took him 2½ years to complete, and it’s not the only large toothpick sculpture of steamships he’s ever done.  When Cusy was asked why he was drawn to this kind of use for his available time, he stated that: “It’s a challenge.  There’s a lot of people who like to climb mountains like Mount Everest. … I choose to build models.  It’s safer.”  I’m with him on that.

Wayne Cusy’s RMS Lusitania toothpick sculpture

As you might expect, AVAM has a gift shop.  And like the rest of the museum, it’s very diverse.  There are things for sale such as gorgeous hand-painted Día de Los Muertos ceramic tiles from Mexico and small metal science fictional sculptures from Vietnam.  And lots more.  (There’s even a Zoltar fortune telling machine but that’s probably not for sale.)  The gift shop is so flamboyant and eclectic that it was given a descriptive name: Sideshow.  And, from what I could see, it was as much a draw for museum visitors as any of the exhibitions.

Small metal sculptures from Vietnam in the gift shop

Nicki and I spent two entertaining hours at AVAM during our most recent visit there in mid-November and we could very easily have stayed a whole lot longer than that.  There was quite a lot to see!  Just before we departed for home I had a brief conversation with the gift shop manager, who asked me if we’d enjoyed our visit.  He seemed impressed when I told him we’d been to AVAM several times, we liked it so much.  And he chuckled when I told him that AVAM could be described as ‘The Museum of Earthly Delights’.  He told me, “I think I’ll use that!”  Hey, he has my permission!

J.J.S. Boyce Review: E. Guittard Chocolates

By J.J.S. Boyce: I’ve received a sampling of three different bars of chocolate from E. Guittard, the oldest family-owned chocolate company in the United States.

San Francisco chocolate-makers since the 1850s, the company began with one enterprising Frenchman, Etienne, who saw a market for premium chocolates during the California Gold Rush.

My sample included three chocolates, and I will work my way from dark to (relatively) light.

At 91% pure cacao, the appropriately named Nocturne is black as moonless night. Even amongst dark chocolate lovers, this will probably not be for everyone. My advice: before taking a taste of this chocolate, make sure to have a completely clean palate. If you eat anything remotely sweet beforehand, it will probably seem overwhelmingly bitter. If you take a small bit of the chocolate without making it compete with other tastes, however, it is overwhelmingly chocolatey, with just the slightest ghost of sweetness.

In comparison, the 72% cacao Quetzalcoatl, a bittersweet dark, is much more universal. The sweetness, while not overwhelming, makes its presence known, and the chocolate is, again, quite smooth. Of the three, this one alone contains no cocoa butter. I often satisfy my own chocolate cravings with a few semi-sweet chocolate chips, kept in the freezer, but this bar shows that I can handle bittersweet just fine, if it is of a high quality. As with Nocturne, a little bit of this chocolate goes a long way.

Tsaratana, lightest of the dark, I tasted last. If I was going to sample them together, I could hardly go the opposite way. A mere 61%, this one contained the same ingredients as the others: cacao, cane sugar, cocoa butter (except for Quetzalcoatl), vanilla beans. Nocturne, however, contains more cocoa butter than sugar, and in Tsaratana it is the other way around. Tsaratana is classed as a semi-sweet, but this is only by comparison with the vast amounts of sugar one finds in mass-produced chocolate bars. Actually Tsaratana is very sweet, indeed. There’s no need for it to be any sweeter.

If you have an interest in sampling for yourself some premium artisan-made chocolates, the E. Guittard web site might be a good place to start. It’s also worth poking around a bit, since there are a number of chocolate-based recipes available, not to mention some interesting information on the history and production of chocolate.

Website: Guittard Chocolate Company

J.J.S. Boyce is a freelance writer and science teacher. He tries to use both sides of his brain regularly, but will probably never know enough opera to be a Jeopardy! champion. His author blog is at; his reviews can be found at Green Man Review, Sleeping Hedgehog, and Blogcritics; other work can be found at Terry, the Science Creative Quarterly, and print media.

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

[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 (temporarily closed for update). Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello, All! Melanie here.

NaNoWriMo is still underway. For the very first time, Writer X and her friends appeared to be winning their annual word count competition against the Fantasy Writers Meetup of Brokenheap, NH. And this was in spite of the fact that Writer X has written exactly zero words so far!

Unfortunately, the only reason why the Fantasy Dream Team of Cradensburg is winning this year is because the writers of Brokenheap have mysteriously gone missing.

And that’s not the only mystery. A clandestine figure named “W” has appeared on the town’s NaNoWriMo Discord chat hinting that something called “Deep Publishing” has to do with the disappearance of the Brokenheap writers. “W” advised the curious to look at what the missing writers had been writing if they wanted answers as to what happened to them.

This week, the Cradensburg writers have been looking into the identity of this mysterious “W.” They don’t want to break into missing writers’s houses without knowing exactly who told them to do so.

Meanwhile, X’s best friend and high-level demon, Tryxy, had been time traveling to visit historical figures and take better pictures for their Wikipedia profiles. Writer X has been kitten-sitting while he’s away.

Tryxy’s latest trip was to hang out with the Marquis de Condorcet in Paris of 1789. His spacetime machine broke down and he’s been stuck in revolutionary France for nearly two weeks.

Turns out, Tryxy’s extended stay has gotten him in deeper trouble and it could impact the whole investigation.

Without further ado…



Dear Gladys,

Will you please go to my house and look for #floofybaby??? I checked Tryxy’s sock drawer in his abyss in the basement, and it’s not there. I’m on my way to the flea market to see if my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod BOadkins, hasn’t taken it with him.

We haven’t slept in four days!!!! Meanwhile, Tryxy’s going from one crisis to another!!!!! He could be gone ANOTHER THIRTY DAYS!!!!! How am I supposed to solve our NaNoMystery without sleep???????

You should leave now because THE TRAFFIC IS HORRIBLE!!!! Everyone’s out holiday shopping!!!!!



P.S. Will catch you up on NaNoHoobastank later. Right now, things are not looking good for our writing group!!!! We are no closer to finding the missing writers and I CAN’T DO EVERYTHING, GALDSY!!!!!

begin forwarded message
















From: Bevvy Hart

Fw: Re: Re: Re: Re: Who the hell is “W”?

Dear Gladys,

Still at flea market. No sign of #floofybaby ANYWHERE. I just got this email from Bevvy. I wonder if she knows that a group of our writers carpooled over to Brokenheap with a trunk full of disguises this morning to beat the traffic. I got a text about a half hour ago reporting that no one could get past the crime scene tape and that they’re currently regrouping at the gas station outside Brokenheap to cobble together a Plan B!

No idea how they’re going to get into those houses, Galdsy!!!! I think I’m going to have to call in a flavor from you!!!!!

I wonder why Bevvy isn’t in the group texts? Oh, well.

I’m going to keep shopping while I”m here at the flea market. After all, Hogswatch is right around the corner!!!! What I could use is a good, old-fashioned Plot Device to solve this mess, but it’d be worth a fortune!!!! You never know what you’ll find at a flea market!!!!!



begin forwarded message

Dear Fellow Writers,

I hope you don’t mind, I took the night to think about our conundrum more deeply. We can’t be hasty about a situation like this. 

The best information we have on the Mysterious “W” tells us that they post at odd times. Discord tells us nothing about their location. The only thing I’ve noticed is that “W” posts whenever X is away from home, and when she has a viable alibi.

As much as I hate condoning the insanity, I loathe us falling further behind on our word count. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with X. We’re going to have to bite the bullet and find a way into the homes of the Brokenheap writers. 



Bevvy Madison Hart she/her

Wandering Spirit Small Press, CEO
A Vegan Owned and Operated Press

On Fri, Nov 24, 2023 at 7:19 PM Writer X <> wrote:

NO ONE WOULD BE ARRESTED IF YOU JUST WORE THE DISGUISES I’VE PROVIDED!!!!!!!! I would assist in the investigation more, but I am currently in the middle of a #bestkitten emergency and if I don’t find her #floofybaby, I MAY NEVER SLEEP AGAIN.




P.S. Has anyone seen her #floofybaby???? It’s a bedraggled blue floofy thing about the size of an apple.

On Fri, Nov 24, 2023 at 7:14 PM Thomasina Prepper <> wrote:


Wish I had your confidence, but did you see the latest news from Brokenheap? The writers have been reported missing and police are conducting an investigation.

Following your advice would mean collectively breaking into several writer’s homes—which are now all crime scenes—and leaving our fingerprints on EVERYTHING. That’s a fast way to become Persons of Interest.

What the heck is a Wortex? Is that like a Vortex? But with Words?



On Fri, Nov 24, 2023 at 7:00 PM Ravenhair Silkenwind <> wrote:

Not so sure it’s a prank, Bevvy. Did you see the latest post? According to the Mysterious “W”, the only way we’ll find the missing fantasists is by entering “the Wortex.” The only way to enter the Wortex—apparently—is to find out what the missing writers had been working on.

If we keep searching for the identity of W instead of discovering the documents, we’re going to waste more valuable NaNoWriMo time. At this point, I don’t care about the competition, per se, but I do care about neglecting my WIP for too long.

-Ravenhair Silkenwind

On Fri, Nov 24, 2023 at 6:08 PM Bevvy Hart <> wrote:

Dear Fellow Writers,

Here are our latest numbers. Since we’ve begun our search for “W,” we’re aren’t making as much progress. I must remind you that, last year, Brokenheap writers wrote a total of 154,227 words. It’s after Thanksgiving, and we aren’t even close to that. What if they’ve continued writing wherever they’ve been squirreled away? We’ll lose again!

Am I the only one who’s considered the possibility that W is not a prank, but that a certain someone within our group is feeling insecure about her word count numbers and wants to make herself feel better and so has come up with a missing writer conspiracy meant to draw the rest of us away from our hard work?

Fantasy Writer’s Meetup of Brokenheap, NH:

7,675 total words written

Ink Black Coffee Club’s Fantasy Dream Team of Cradensburg, NH:

73,230 total words written

Bevvy Madison Hart: 7 words written
Tod Boadkins: 10,600 words written
Edwína Tómas: 2,004 words written
Ravenhair Silkenwind: 1,578 words written
Thomasina Prepper: 2,323 words written
Mark Prepper: 1,956 words written
Writer X: 0 words written


Bevvy Hart

Subject: A MAJOR WIN, GLADYS!!!!!!!

Dear Gladys,

Please apologize to your cousin Blanche. I accidentally rear-ended her car while I was pulling out from the flea market parking lot. I’m sure she’ll be comforted to know that her crumpled back end wasn’t for nothing!!!

As I skidded out of the parking lot in reverse and plummeted into Blanche’s car, the force of the impact sent everything that had slid under my seats out onto the dashboard!!!! Once my airbags deflated, there was #bestkitten’s #floofybaby on the dash!!! It was under the driver’s seat all along!!! Every cloud has a silver lining!!!!

Of course, I knew that miracles would happen once I activated the plot device I found under a broken baby basinet in a novelty toy booth at the flea market, although when I first found it, I wasn’t so sure it would work at all!!!!

What is a plot device???

Well, a long time ago, in NaNoPoodleSkirts gone by, many writers wrote novels by the seat of their pants. They would wake up every NaNo Morning and plug away, blindly typing one word after another until they found themselves 50,000 words into a story, but at the precipice of a GIANT PLOT HOLE or an IMPASSABLE PLOT WALL. What would they do???? How would they solve this without losing all their hard work????

This happened so frequently, that NaNoNymphomania became known as the place where novels go to get half written and then neglected in your hard drive. Of course, this was very bad. So the NaNoHouseofPancakes met with some Wizards of Writing to invent a magical device that could help writers fix their plot hole problems and save their novels!!!!!

Enter the Plot Device!!!!!!

Thanks to the Writing Wizards, a writer could simply enter in the specifications of their plot hole, and with the help of six D batteries, the Plot Device would get to work fixing things!!!! A simple click of the button created another plot device WITHIN THE PLOT that resolved the plot hole.

For example:

Say you’re a writer who has placed the thing the main character is seeking behind a ridiculous arsenal of dragons and high-powered wizards and needs something that believably allows the main character to overcome the problem. You could make it so that the cloak the main character is wearing happens to be resistant to dragon fire!!! BUT, that means you’d have to go back to all your earlier pages and write in the details foreshadowing the cloak or else risk a Deus ex Machina!!!!!

OR, you could use a PLOT DEVICE which will automatically generate the solution AND retroactively make sure it appears earlier in the story saving the writer from continuity errors, drafting time, and embarrassment.

And a Plot Devicve is JUST WHAT I FOUND!!!!! Once I found the Plot Device, I purchased it for six dollars and powered it up!!!! I entered in the following scenario:

Writers unable to enter missing writers’s houses and find out what they had been writing thanks to closely guarded crime scene because none of them have the courage or disguise skills of WRITER X to bypass investigators but I can’t bypass the crime scene guards because me and my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, have been unable to sleep because #bestkitten yowls until one in the morning because she’s looking for Tryxy, who might be stuck in the past for ANOTHER MONTH!!! And THEN she climbs on our faces at three in the morning and kneads our foreheads until we wake up again.

Then, I left the plot device to work wonders!!!!! I jumped into my car to beat the traffic leaving the flea market!!!

Who’d have thunk that a momentary decision to gun my accelerator into reverse to beat a line of pick up trucks exiting the lot would send me flying into your cousin Blanche’s car, thus freeing #floofybaby from its hiding place under my seat, but also sending me on a county wide police chase fleeing the authorities????

Next thing you know, Brokenheap’s police force was called in for back up to form a blockade on the bridge, stopping me from leaving the county but also suddenly leaving the writers’s houses unguarded and allowing OUR writers to don their disguises and enter the homes to discover the next key in finding the missing fantasists!!!!!!

Gladys, brace yourself because you’re NOT going to believe this.

The missing fantasists weren’t writing novels at all. Prior to November, all of them had received an exclusive invitation to WRITE THEIR MEMOIRS.

THEY WERE ALL WORKING ON THEIR MEMOIRS!!!!!!!!! This is all making so much sense now!!!!!

And of course, I’ll explain why it makes sense, just as soon as you hop on down to the county jail and bail me out. The police separated me from my plot device or else I’d do it myself!!!!



All correspondences sent from this device are subject to review by law enforcement and can be used as evidence in a court of law.





James Bacon on Dublin Riot

James Bacon was in centre city Dublin yesterday when a riot broke out; File 770 asked him what happened.  

Dublin has had a shocking day yesterday, with an appalling knife attack on school children followed by a protest by racists that degenerated into a full blown riot with looting by malevolent youths spurned on by right wingers. 

I had arranged to meet some friends and spend some time going around comic shops and then relaxing and enjoying a coffee. I visited the city centre comic shops, Sub City and Dublin City Comics and went to Wigwam to meet comic writer Stephen Walsh and we all variously enjoyed chat, tea, coffee and a cider.  The talk ranged from war comics to fanzines and was good. 

Sadly about this time an attack occurred where a man stabbed a young girl of five years of age then stabbed two more children and a carer while they were lined up outside their school, Gael Scoil Colaiste Mhuire on Parnell Square in the city centre. I understand that an Irish lady and an American lady saw what was happening intervened and helped to restrain the man, who is an Irish citizen, here 20 years.  There’s no details on the why, but the young girl is badly injured and of course, thoughts are with all of them. The man was arrested.  

Oblivious to this, Stephen and Pádraig went home and myself and a pal walked over to Forbidden Planet. 

The knife attack, an appallingly terrible thing was meanwhile maliciously used as a  catalyst for a racist protest organised by people  described by the head of An Garda Síochána Commisioner Drew Harris as “a complete lunatic faction driven by far-right ideology”. 

Continuing in ignorance of what was unfolding we walked over to Hapenny Bridge and into Forbidden Planet. 

As matters became clear to the management and staff that the situation was escalating, prompt action was taken. Kevin the manager and his team went around the shop as most customers like ourselves were totally unaware of what was going on outside, and we were calmly warned of the situation, informed of where to avoid and the threat to safety shared.

Kevin the manager and his team at Forbidden Planet Dublin were kind and considerate, and took an impressive stance, thoughtful and caring. They calmly ensured awareness and encouraged comic buyers to get home safely. There were offers of walking folks home if required. 

Really nice in what are exceptionally unusual circumstances and difficulties.

This prompt, preventative and proactive action was wise, as a very short time later, matters escalated to unprecedented levels of violence and destruction as the situation deteriorated and buses, a tram and police cars were set on fire in what has been the worst rioting to be seen in Dublin, in my lifetime, at least.

As our thoughts go to those poor unfortunate children and carer who were attacked, a sense of gratitude with the feeling of real community thoughtfulness comes from the actions of Kevin and staff at Forbidden Planet International Dublin.

Update: Further reports point to a Brazilian deleveroo driver who intervened: “’I used my helmet as a weapon to stop him’: Brazilian Deliveroo rider intervened in knife attack at school on Parnell Square” in The Irish Times.

A Brazilian Deliveroo rider who intervened in the knife attack outside a school on Parnell Square on Thursday said he “didn’t think twice” before acting.

Caio Benício (43) has two children, and when he realised it was an attack, he dismounted and hit the suspect on the head with his motorcycle helmet.

Mr Benício said he was still in shock on Friday to see the riots that took to Dublin streets last night and said: “It does not make sense at all. I know the protest involved anti-migrant groups. And I, as a migrant, was the one that helped to hold back the assailant.”

The JFK Assassination At 60: New Frontiers In Scientific, Medical, Legal And Historical Research

By Steve Vertlieb: My brother Erwin and I joined friends Howard Weitz and Gary Hoffman over the past several days in order to attend this fabulous once in a lifetime event.

The legacy of Camelot still resonates for historians and the public alike. On Nov. 15-17, 2023, experts gathered in Pittsburgh for Duquesne University’s JFK Assassination at 60 symposium.

“Former Secret Service Agent for President John F. Kennedy, Paul Landis, who recently made headlines around the world with new details about the 1963 assassination, was one of the featured speakers.

Speaking with Alec Baldwin, an actor and social activist who has garnered my personal admiration and respect over the years, at the JFK 60th anniversary symposium held at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during opening night remarks on Wednesday evening, November 15th, 2023.

Rob Reiner speaks to the JFK assassination symposium via a zoom conference call.

Together with a truly courageous American hero, Paul Landis, at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh for the 60th JFK anniversary assemblage in Pittsburgh on November 16th. Paul is one of the two last living secret service agents riding with the presidential motorcade when the fatal shots rang out on November 22nd, 1963.

“Don’t Let It Be Forgot
That Once There Was A Spot
For One Brief Shining Moment
That Was Known As Camelot”

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

A dark forest sits beneath a starry sky. Creepy black goo drips over the scene. White, whimsical letters read: “Fit the Ninety-Sixth: The Mysterious “W”.”

[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 (temporarily closed for update). Wipe your feet before entering.]


Hello, all! Melanie here.

When last we left our heroes, the Ink Black Coffee Club Critique Group (aka the Fantasy Writer Dream Team in Cradensburg) had begun their yearly NaNoWriMo competition for the highest group word count with the Fantasy Writer’s Meetup of Brokenheap, NH. Writer X’s group has an unbroken losing streak and is more motivated to win this year than ever.


Events these last two weeks have taken a peculiar twist. Just two days after NaNoWriMo began, the writers of Brokenheap went radio silent. This was great news for the Ink Black Coffee Club Critique Group. The silence meant no word count from Brokenheap, and the Ink Black Coffee Club Critique Group was celebrating having the leading word count for the first time in history.

That is until one of their members, Writer X, started looking for answers on what happened to the missing fantasists. It was either that, or she’d have to write something in November other than emails to Gladys.

Meanwhile, Tryxy, Writer X’s BFF and every Filer’s favorite demon, decided to do his part by not distracting his writerly roommates. Instead, he took up a noble hobby for November that would get him out of the house: going back in time to get selfies of historical figures so that he could update their Wikipedia profiles. He checked out the spacetime machine at the local library to assist him.

With pressure gaining on X to actually write something, X persuaded Tryxy to give her a ride back in time to the last day they’d heard something from the missing fantasists of Brokenheap. I’ll leave the exacts of her discovery to her.

Without further ado…

From: Bevvy Hart

Fw: Re: Re: Re: We are sailing to VICTORY!

Dear Gladys,

LOTS TO UPDATE YOU ON!!!! Will explain in next email!!!!



begin forwarded message


Obviously, if I had thought “writing” would be better, I would have used that word. Regardless of any innate bias you may hold toward me, I’m perfectly capable of choosing my own language.



Bevvy Madison Hart she/her

Wandering Spirit Small Press, CEO

A Vegan Owned and Operated Press

On Fri, Nov 17, 2023 at 6:43 PM Thomasina Prepper <> wrote:

WOW, Ravenhair! Your approach is inspiring. Maybe you should run a NaNo bootcamp for the rest of us. I’d go!



On Fri, Nov 17, 2023 at 6:38 PM Ravenhair Silkenwind <> wrote:


Great subject line! Could only be better if you wrote, “We are WRITING to victory.” ;-D

I’ve discovered I write better in the morning. Up at 5:00 a.m. with all my writing done for the day by 7:30. I may even finish this novel for once. It would be my first.

Good news, all the same! Congratulations, team!

-Ravenhair Silkenwind

On Fri, Nov 17, 2023 at 6:11 PM Bevvy Hart <> wrote:

Dear Fellow Writers,

Here are the latest word count numbers. As your beloved “coach” for this year’s competition, please be encouraged to continue on.

X, your complete lack of words is troubling. I have sent a list of writing affirmations, but you don’t seem to use them. I fear you mistake yourself for some kind of writing detective instead of a writer and this is not a “writing detective critique group.”

Friends, should we discuss what steps to be taken to address Writer X’s continued failure to produce words? Tod, you’re not required to attend as she’s your significant other.

Fantasy Writer’s Meetup of Brokenheap, NH:

7,675 total words written

Ink Black Coffee Club’s Fantasy Dream Team of Cradensburg, NH:

55,403 total words written

Bevvy Madison Hart: 193 words written
Tod Boadkins: 18,119 words written
Edwína Tómas: 10,901 words written
Ravenhair Silkenwind: 17,054 words written
Thomasina Prepper: 4,899 words written
Mark Prepper: 4,237 words written
Writer X: 0 words written


Bevvy Hart


Dear Gladys,

There I was, two weeks into NaNoWeebleWobble and my investigation into the missing Fantasy writers of Brokenheap had come to a grinding halt. My friends were becoming relentless in hounding me about word counts. If I didn’t get a breakthrough on the case soon, who knows what I’d do with the rest of my November!!! I would probably have to WRITE my epic fantasy saga despite the hives it gives me!!!!

To make matters worse, my sidekick Tryxy ran into trouble last week. He was back in the late eighteenth century to get a pic with the Marquis de Condorcet. If you’re not familiar with him, he was DEFINITELY a hoopy frood. He wrote a bunch of books on gender and racial equality and Tryxy knew the guy could hang.

Here’s the best picture I could find of him. He totally deserves a glow up!!!

But just when Tryxy went to use the spacetime machine’s sound system to show Condorcet the wonders of Lil’ Nas X, the spacetime machine went KERPLUNK. Completely busted.

Tryxy’s been stuck in the eighteenth century using all of his demonic powers to magic up a wifi connection so he can still get his assignments in on time at Miskatonic Online University. It never fails!! Every time we use a spacetime machine, Tryxy has trouble with school!!!! And he’s pretty much stuck there until Spacetime AAA can give him a tow. I’ve been looking after #bestkitten while he’s away, keeping her company, sneaking her bits of ham, dressing her up as the cowardly lion BECAUSE WHY NOT.

A historical portrait of a middle-aged Marquis de Condorcet in a white powdered wig, ruffled neck tie, and green velvet coat.

Fortunately, Tryxy and I had made a lot of progress on the missing fantasists of Brokenheap the week before!!! I should catch you up!!!

As you know, when I hid in Rain F. Williams’ closet the last known day she had produced any words, she had been working on her word count when she suddenly drifted off. As I peered through the slats of her closet door, I spied a set of hands CLOTHED IN BLUE LATEX GLOVES covering her mouth just before I, too, succumbed to a SUDDEN SLEEPINESS!!!!!

Once Tryxy found me dozing on the floor of the closet, he woke me up and we went time jumping in the spacetime machine to the homes of TWO OTHER BROKENHEAP WRITERS:

1.) The formidable Boots Donovan, a 67 year old retiree who writes Sword & Sorcery and doesn’t have any internet so HE GETS A LOT DONE.

2.) The EQUALLY formidable Arlene Perry, a 50 year old bus driver who spends several hours each day surrounded by teenagers and so writes YA Fantasy that WILL MELT YOUR FACE OFF!!!!!

Sure enough, Galdsy, the same things happened at the Donovan and Perry houses. The writers nodded off while writing. The blue hands appeared, and just as I caught sight of the would-be kidnappers, I dozed off in my hiding places under the bed and on top of a towel rack respectively!!!!!

Before I could make any further progress—or figure out how to stop passing out—fate threw a wrench in the spacetime works and I spent nearly a week stalled out on the case of the missing fantasists.

That is…Until just a few days ago!!!!!!

Another mystery appeared on my horizon in the form of a mysterious person only known as “W.”

There I was, perusing our local NaNoBoogieWoogie Discord Server when I noticed a few INTERESTING posts by this W person.

The first one read: “Writers: Nothing you know is what it seems.”

Over the next two days, W made the following posts:

“When you don’t know where fantasy writers went, it all comes down to dollars and cents.”


“Blue hands, blue hands. Filthy little plans.”


“Deep Publishing has taken over NaNoWriMo, you just don’t know it yet.”

Now, I know what you’re thinking Galdsy, you’re thinking that I should have replied to W on discord and asked them what they meant, but before that occurred to me, I had already been banned from the server for posting too many pictures of my lunch in poor lighting.

IT’S NOT MY FAULT I EAT SEVERAL LUNCHES A DAY AND THEY ALL LOOK SLIMY!!!!! My mother’s great hunkle was 3/16ths hobbit!!!!

It didn’t help that Bevvy Hart has taken to calling me 32 times a day on the half hour to ask me if I have anything written yet.

I was stuck figuring out what W’s posts could have meant on my own, but that’s where I do my best DETECTING!!!! OBVIOUSLY W meant that the missing fantasists were part of some Deep Publishing Conspiracy that had infiltrated our writing world and that I needed to go to Brokenheap WITHOUT the use of Tryxy’s spacetime machine and discover what the missing fantasy writers had been writing!!!!!

Unfortunately, as you know, I’ve also been banned from the town of Brokenheap FOR REASONS I DON’T WISH TO DISCUSS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH GLADYS!!!!! That means that, to break into the houses of the missing writers, I’ll need a crack team willing to do the work in my stead!!!!

It just so happens that the Ink Black Coffee Club Critique Group is just that crack team!!!! But there was just one problem: Bevvy Hart hauled me into an MEmergency Tribunal to discuss what should be done about my lack of writing progress.

You can’t be mad at her, Gladys!!! Bevvy Hart isn’t exactly what I’d call “psychic.” She’s unable to perceive that she’s talking to the next big epic fantasy writer of ALL TIME!!!!! I don’t need to “write a novel” like other writers!!!! She needs to trust the process!!!!!

Unfortunately, the rest of my writing group also seems to be unable to grasp this as well, and when I proposed that, instead of fitting me into the Writing Iron Maiden or getting out the thumbscrews, they should go out to Brokenheap and find out what the missing fantasists had been writing…let’s just say it went over like an anvil wrapped in a bag of sand, wrapped in a lead balloon.

Ravenhair Silkenwind was the first person to explode. “You mean to tell me that I’m to just drop the best thing I’ve ever written and upset my writing schedule to find out why OUR COMPETITION ISN’T WRITING?!” He was super red faced.

Bevvy Hart glared at me from across the table and said, “X, please understand that I am saying this with love, but one of us isn’t pulling our weight and it’s not me, it’s you.”

To which I said, “But Bevvy, haven’t you only written 193 words in the last three weeks?”

“THEY’RE HAIKU!” she bellowed. “And this isn’t about me! Don’t change the subject!”

To which Ravenhair squinted and said, “But, wait. Haiku aren’t novels. This is National Novel Writing Month.”

Bevvy Hart made strangled noises. “Don’t blame me! I spend half of my time chasing Writer X around trying to get her to write words but all she wants to do is dress up like a violently pink version of Carmen Sandiago and hide in people’s garbage cans while she tries to help the enemy!”

“I haven’t hid in a garbage can in AT LEAST A WEEK!” I shouted. Although this was not true. It has actually been about three weeks since I’ve last hid in a garbage can. Just as all my friends were about to turn against me, it came to me what to say.

“Listen, everyone!!!!” I yelled. “Fellow fantasy writers have gone missing for more than two weeks! And all you’re concerned about is whether we win NaNoWalkieTalkie???? Which would you rather do; write, or be a good human being????”

Everyone fell oddly silent and chose to stare at their coffee mugs rather than meet each other’s eyes.

Finally, Mark Prepper clenched his jaw and said, “I guess I would rather be a good human being. If I have to. I guess.”

Ravenhair muttered something unintelligible.

“What was that?” asked Bevvy.

“I said ‘Good human being!’” Ravenhair yelled.

One by one, each of the writers voted to be good human beings. Except for Bevvy.

“I see what you’re doing, X. But you’re not going to get me to agree to any of this. Who’s to say this anonymous “W” is even a real person? Who’s to say they’re not just posting a bunch of conspiracy theories waiting for some pink-clad sucker to bite?”

At this, everyone looked uncomfortable.

“Yeah, what if it’s all made up?” asked Thomasina, whose never met a conspiracy she didn’t like.

Then, #bestkitten meowed from her kitten carrier. As you know, Gladys, she’s deaf so she HAS A VERY LOUD MEOW. It’s not like you can ignore it. I couldn’t leave her home alone without Tryxy so I brought her to Ink Black Coffee Club. She made such a fuss that I took her out of her carrier and put her on my lap where she curled in a ball and began to purr.

“What were we saying?” asked Bevvy.

“That W is a made up conspiracy,” said Thomasina.

#bestkitten opened one eye and fixed it on Thomasina.

But Edwina was the next to speak. While everyone had been shouting at each other, she’d been sitting quietly in her chair starting to hyperventilate. She bolted upright, her chair screeching with the motion. Edwina clenched both fists and tearfully began to splutter.

“B-but why do I have to be a good human being instead of winning NaNoWriMo? I’m finally writing an average of 2,000 words per day. Do you know how long it’s taken me to write 2,000 words per day??? Do you know how many Y-Y-YEARS it’s taken me to figure out my writing process? How many half-written short stories? How many notes by my bedside that I scrawl in the middle of the night thinking I have all the solutions on how to end my story only to find it says ‘mashed turnips’ in the morning???”

She began to hyperventilate. Ravenhair offered her his inhaler.

“Let’s take a vote,” said Thomasina. “Show of hands. Who wants to help X break into the missing fantasists’ homes and find out what they were writing?”

I raised my hand. If my boyfriend, award-nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, had been able to come, we’d have two whole votes instead of one!!!

Thomasina said: “Oooookay. That’s one. Who wants to keep writing without finding out what’s happening to the fantasists?”

“I don’t wanna be a bad person,” lamented Edwina.

Bevvy Hart raised her hand. Then, when she realized she was alone, she nervously tucked her hand in her lap and studied her coffee mug.

Thomasina said: “Okay. One. So that means the rest of us are on the fence. That’s four of us.”

Mark Prepper raised his own hand. “Who wants to find out who this Mysterious W person is before we go breaking into anyone’s houses or getting back to writing and possibly being a bad person?”

Four hands went up. After a few moments, a red-faced Bevvy Hart raised her hand, too.

#bestkitten stood up, turned a circle on my lap, then laid down again into a warm fur pile and began to purr again.


Oh, wait. Maybe not. BUT WE’LL BE SOLVING A MYSTERY!!!!!












IN 1789

















April Gutierrez Review: Kopali Organics Chocolate Covered Bananas

Review by April Gutierrez: Founded in Costa Rica in 2004, Kopali Organics seeks to provide access to global markets for small-scale farmers who are growing crops in a healthy and natural manner, eschewing  pesticides and needless destruction of the local environment. The company has since expanded its efforts beyond Costa Rica’s borders and currently provides ten organic vegan snacks from farmers around the world, five fruits and five chocolates.

Up for review is one of the company’s 2-oz. snack packs, containing organic dark chocolate covered bananas. The ingredients list is short and simple: dark chocolate and bananas, vanilla for flavor, soy lecithin as an emulsifier, and some rice flour.  There are no preservatives, no artificial flavors or straight up sugar; there is evaporated cane juice in the chocolate, serving to stave off the bitterness dark chocolate can be prone to. The result is an absolutely delightful treat sure to please fans of bananas and chocolate alike.  Chocolate goes well with many fruits, and bananas are no exception. These bite-sized nuggets are moist and chewy (the latter a bit of a surprise, but not unwelcome as far as texture goes) and the taste is a delicious blend of the two flavors, strongly reminiscent of freshly baked banana chocolate chip bread. The treats strike a good balance between the chocolate and banana, so that one isn’t tempted to peel the former to get to the latter (or to discard the latter) — they’re simply perfect just as they are.

In theory there’s two 120 calorie servings in each pouch, but I dare anyone to stop at just one handful!

Kopali’s Facebook pages have more information their philosophy, products, and most importantly, a list of places where they can be purchased.

April Gutierrez, Japanese fan. A Green Man Review reviewer. A life-long lover of chocolate and felines, she indulges in the former frequently and shares her abode with a rather spoiled specimen of the latter. She can most commonly be found with her nose buried in a book, a cup of good tea in hand and Japanese pop music playing in the background.

Toy Review: Thunderbirds 2086 Moderoid Thunderbird Model Kit

Review by Iain Delaney: Thunderbirds 2086 is the 1982 Japanese anime series loosely based on the original 1964 series, Thunderbirds. It is known as Scientific Rescue Team Technoboyger in Japan, thus the label on the box of this toy. Although not considered canon, the series is an indirect sequel to the original marionette show. International Rescue is now a large, multinational organization, an areology built on an island in the South Pacific has replaced Tracy Island, and instead of the original five Thunderbirds vehicles, there are now eighteen. In typical anime fashion, some of these vehicles can merge and form larger machines, but thankfully not a giant humanoid robot.

The box contains the pieces needed to build the first three ’TB’ vehicles: TB-1, TB-2, and TB-3. TB-1 is mostly white space plane, TB-2 is a large, blue, rectangular cargo carrier, and TB-3 is yellow, multi-wheeled all-terrain crawler. The party piece of the set is that the three combine into one large vehicle.

The models themselves are easy to build and molded in separate colors so that they don’t need painting. No glue is needed either, since all the parts snap together. The ’Moderoid’ brand is a relatively new line of plastic model kits from the Japanese toy manufacturer Good Smile Company. The snap-fit mechanism is reasonably tight but nowhere near as good as the kits from Bandai, especially the Gundam model kits. In either case, edge cutters are the best way to separate the parts from the plastic tree. This is the only tool you really need, but tweezers are useful in applying the decals which are tiny. I gave up trying to put the dashes in between the letters and numbers because they were too small to handle and position properly.

With the three ships assembled you can merge them by splitting TB-3 in half, attaching one half to either side of TB-2, then unfolding the undercarriage of TB-1 and snapping it into place on top of TB-2.

The result is something that is not really attractive or that makes much sense; but it is screen-accurate. It’s a must-have for fans of this obscure series, or Thunderbirds completists. The Thunderbirds 2086 model kit is priced at $74.99 US and is available from the Big Bad Toy Store.

Iain Delaney was born in the UK but moved to Canada at an early age. The UK heritage explains his fascination with British TV SciFi, including Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, UFO, and, of course, Dr. Who. After fumbling through high school, he fumbled through university, emerging with a degree in physics. With no desire to pursue graduate studies he discovered that a bachelor’s degree had little to no job prospects, so he took up a career in computer programming. In his off time he reads, watches TV and movies, collects toys, and makes attempts at writing. To that end he has a small number of articles published in role-playing game magazines and won two honorable mentions in the Writers of the Future contest. He is working on an urban fantasy YA trilogy and entertains delusions of selling it to movies or TV.

Denise Dutton Review: Stork’s Toffifay 

Review by Denise Dutton: I remember being a kid and seeing Toffifay. It looked so elegant, so grown-up. Now this was a classy candy, obviously made for ADULTS, thought Little Me. Naturally, I had to try it. And I loved it. But I seldom wander the candy aisle anymore, so when I got a box in for review, I snapped it up.

Just as luscious as I remember. The chocolate is silky, the hazelnut cream is a lovely blend of nut and and milk, and of course the hazelnut is crispy-crunchy. (Nice work, considering this candy is shelf-stable.) Then there’s the caramel, or what I like to call “the edible bowl that holds everything”. It’s not a stringy caramel, it’s solid. But it still had a nice chew to it. Together, this candy is just as delicious as when I popped that first piece in my mouth all those years ago.  Of course now I try to bite into it, letting the candy last for two bites instead of one. I also like looking at the hazelnut. Don’t judge me.

Don’t pop these in the fridge and eat ’em cold. These are best at room temperature. That way the filling melts in your mouth the moment it hits your tongue, and the caramel is at a nice pliable state. You’ll literally sink your teeth into them when they’re soft. Mmmm, that’s the stuff.

There’s also a whole lot of recipes using Toffifay, including blondie-like bars, brownies, and cookies. But I can never keep this candy around long enough to actually bake with it. Oops. One day I’ll pop some Toffifay bars into the oven.  (Who am I kidding? I can’t wait that long to dig in.)

Denise Kitashima Dutton has been a reviewer since 2003, and hopes to get the hang of things any moment now.  She believes that bluegrass is not hell in music form, and that beer is better when it’s a nitro pour.  You can find her at Green Man Review, Atomic Fangirl,, or at that end seat at the bar, multi-tasking with her Kindle.