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?


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17 thoughts on “Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the First

  1. I’m saddened to see Ms. Stormm presenting herself as someone who would make mockery of the noble, or at least knightly, name of Gladys.

  2. “All right, have it your way, you heard a seal thump at the top of the stairs.” (pace J Thurber), or perhaps “”Something very much like nothing anyone had ever seen before came trotting down the stairs and crossed the room.” (ditto but not op.cit.)

  3. Since when is the fine (if old-fashioned) name of Gladys deemed mock-worthy? This seems really culturally insensitive, hilarious though everything else is.

    But really, Melanie needs to let poor Gladys know that her connections are all on the fritz.

  4. Ah, I think I’m misread. I think Gladys is such a significantly old-fashioned name that it needs to be left in! (I have a deep love for old names you just don’t see anymore: Irma, Edna, Hubert, Percy, Ethel, and Maude are just a few of my faves, including Gladys.)

  5. I link the name to comedy because Pete and Gladys was Harry Morgan’s next sitcom (with Cara Williams) after Fifties hit September Bride (where he was a sidekick) ended its 5-year run. Two shows I suspect I’m alone among Filers in remembering. Never mind!

  6. 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.

    Well, there’s nothing disturbing about that.

  7. The foiled attempt to burn the box with the books owned by the writer’s ex reminds me of one time in high school when my then best friend persuaded me to help her bury a shoebox full of stuff her ex-boyfriend had given her. So we trudged out into the countryside (she lived in a former farmhouse in a very remote area) with a shoebox and a shovel to bury the offending mementos. Unfortunately, it was winter and though the temperatures were above freezing, the ground was still frozen, so we couldn’t dig a hole deep enough to bury the shoebox. My suggestions to just throw it the box in the trash (but he might be checking out her trash can) or into a ditch next to the path (but then she’d see it every day when biking to school) where rejected and so we took a soggy shoebox back to her home again, where she shoved it into a closet. It might still be there for all I know.

  8. I’m glad others are standing up for the noble name of Gladys. One of my Aunts on my Dad’s side thanks you. Besides, just–making fun of someone’s name is just one of the meannest, unfunniest variations on The Failure Mode of Clever. I have such a visceral dislike of that sort of humor that I had a very hard time continuing to read rest of the post–“But why would you?” kept rattling around in my head when I tried.

  9. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I share your distaste for humor that makes fun of things that results in dehumanizing another person. I apologize that what I said may have come across as though I were doing this and can see how, regardless of my intention, I have succeeded in doing this.

    That was not my intent in any way. There seems to be some discrepancy in how my use of the word “deserves” can be interpreted. I was being comedic, but comedic in that the idea is that Gladys is such an old-fashioned name that it deserves to go unedited (as in, it is celebrated and set free.) It’s a position of honor. No one can hold back Gladys, she is too big for anonymity.

    I have a lifelong love for old-fashioned, generational names (my husband had to ban me from naming my oldest son Percival although I still think he would have worn it well.)

    I mentioned earlier that the name could “take the rib” only because I felt the first commenter was commenting more to be punny and I was being punny back. I didn’t realize until later comments that people really felt I was making fun of the name Gladys itself. Again, I apologize that I offended you and thank you for sharing your feelings on this!

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