Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Hundred & Eighteenth

A dark forest sits beneath a starry sky. Creepy black goo drips over the scene. Whimsical white letters read: “Fit the Hundred & Eighteenth: Hold Me Closer, Tiny Demon.”

[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.]


Hello, All! Melanie here.

Summer’s almost officially begun, and things are getting back into swing at the Ink Black Coffee Club Critique Group in Cradensburg, NH. 

If you’re unfamiliar, the Ink Black Coffee Club Critique Group is a group of fantasy writers who meet weekly at the Ink Black Coffee Club to discuss their writing lives. Writer X and her boyfriend Tod Boadkins have been members for some time now, although X was once banned for plagiarizing Tolkien.  

Critique groups are an important part of writing life. They give writers the tools they need to succeed, such as accountability, feedback, fun challenges, and a collective superiority complex. 

X broke both her wrists a few weeks ago in a time travel accident, and so Tod has been writing us on her behalf. 

Without further ado…

Subject: Tiny Demons

Hi Gladys, 

I just returned from a disastrous meeting at our weekly writing meetup and realized I last emailed you two weeks ago. So here goes.

Things have settled down since returning from the future a couple weeks ago. Tryxy is seeing a therapist for his suspected ADHD. He’s caught up on schoolwork and finished the semester at Miskatonic Online University, which is great news as it was touch and go there. 

He decided to take the summer off from school to work on creating a structured routine. With all his new free time, he and #bestkitten plan to visit music festivals for inspiration, but it’s because they want to show off their matching sun hats. 

X has had her casts removed. She started physical therapy, but it’ll be another week or two before she gets back into the swing of things. Right now, she’s the only writer I know with a legitimate excuse for not writing, but it’s what she gets up to when she’s not writing that makes me lose sleep. 

With all the time travel, I have yet to write much. I haven’t told anyone this, but I’ve been approached by an agent. If they knew, a few people in our writing group could get vindictively jealous—X being one. 

The agent requested a manuscript. This is exciting. It’s an opportunity I’ve long wanted, but I can’t get myself to write. 

I have a subconscious block. 

I’m not the only one. No one in the Ink Black Coffee Club Critique Group is getting much writing done. So when a mysterious wooden crate arrived from Tanzania last week with a bunch of Tanzanian Tiny Demons in equally tiny dark blue vials, we all jumped at the opportunity to write like the big leagues. 

Are you familiar with Tanzanian Tiny Demons, Gladys? Rumor has it that Brandon Sanderson and his writing group use them, and it’s the best-kept secret to their prolificness. 

The best productivity hack our writing group has managed is timed writing sprints with a stopwatch. It’s effective, but not Tanzanian Tiny Demon effective. 

Only no one knew how they actually worked. The tiny, dark blue vials looked like nothing more than a chintzy tincture bottle you’d find at a ren faire. The only things peculiar to them were that they were cold to the touch, and if you held one up to the light, the dark blue glass glittered with silver stars. 

We each agreed to take our vials home, but no one would use the Tiny Demons until we could confirm that they were real Tanzanian Tiny Demons and not some botched imitation ordered off Temu. 

Bevvy Hart said she “knew someone” who uses Tiny Demons and offered to ask them how they’re supposed to be used. She said she would send us a group email with the instructions. 

The email never came. 

Each day, that small, blue vial sat on my desk next to my laptop, burning a hole in my brain. I thought about the agent’s invitation to send a manuscript getting colder and colder in my inbox. It’s been two months, and I have nothing to send her.

I googled “How do Tanzanian Tiny Demons work for writing,” and there was nothing but a cryptic subreddit that looked like it was written by two gnomes on LSD. I searched “Brandon Sanderson Tanzanian Tiny Demons Success.”

Nothing. I felt like I would never write again.  

Hoping to break the dry spell, I caved. I opened the bottle, dumped its icy contents down my throat, and prepared for a wave of inspiration, for my fingers to type so quickly that the keys on my keyboard melted. 

I opened a blank page. 

Two hours later, I had written twenty-three words. 

Today, no one confessed to using the Tanzanian Tiny Demons in our writing group. Not even me. 

But when it came time for us to each talk about our writing progress, we began to realize the cruel reality of how Tanzanian Tiny Demons work. 

Bevvy Hart was the first person to speak. You know how she is, Gladys. Prim, restrained, and neurotic, but she has a good heart. 

She has this way of making announcements. She raises her eyebrows perilously high and closes her eyes as she speaks. “This week, I lied about knowing someone who uses Tiny Demons because I wanted to impress you all and make you feel like I’m the authority on writing.” Bevvy’s eyes bulged as though she was as surprised as we were over what was coming out of her mouth. She clamped two hands over her mouth, but words continued to punch their way out of her lips. 

“Instead of writing my epic fantasy poem, I doomscrolled Facebook for fourteen hours and got into a petty competition with a coworker over who could write the most condescending email. I also ate the lion’s share of the leftover cake in the break room fridge but told everyone I was allergic to chocolate, so it couldn’t have been me.” 

Bevvy’s face was as red as her hair. She slowly slid down her chair like she meant to melt into the floor.

Ravenhair Silkenwind squeaked, “Bevvy, aren’t you vegan?” 

“What about you, Ravenhair? How was your writing week?” asked Thomasina Prepper. 

Ravenhair blurted: “I wrote 214 words but spent most of my creative energy getting into an argument on Discord about whether Star Trek Discovery has any actual exploration. Why do they have technology that can pop across realities, and they do almost no discovering? Is it even Star Trek? WHAT DO THEY DISCOVER?—”


One by one, each of us spewed horrible confessions about all the frivolous things we do with our time instead of writing, each against our will. 

When Edwina Tómas admitted she had made voodoo dolls of each of us, we each scooted our chairs away from her a few inches. 

When X confessed that, instead of planning her next nine-book epic fantasy saga, she covered a tree in pink glitter, ordered three hundred pounds of sardines from a deeply suss seller on eBay, and sent an email to the president of Tanzania with the words “Everything is in place,” no one batted an eye. 

Finally, it got to me. I had already caught on that this must be the work of the Tanzanian Tiny Demon. Of course. It’s brilliant. The Tanzanian Tiny Demon prompts writers to be prolific due to the embarrassment of publicly admitting what they actually did instead of writing. Ingenious. 

Rather than fight the demon, I tried to slip off to the toilet, only to discover that it was still out of service since X had blown it up. 

All eyes were on me. I clamped my jaw shut, but my lips moved of their own accord even as I tried to pinch them shut. 

“I wrote twenty-three words but spent most of my writing time looking up Fritz Lieber’s astrological birth chart and comparing his career trajectory against my own because I was looking for some magical reason to believe that I could write something as beautiful as The Snow Women or The Unholy Grail. Deep down, I know I’m the best writer in this group, but I still can’t help fearing that it’s too late for me to write something brilliant. Even though I know I’m better than all of you, I’m afraid all that means is my whole writing career will climax as nothing more than a two-bit writer shilling their self-published work to a readership of ten people, half of whom are family and never actually finished the thing.” 

We all agreed that we would go back to timed writing sprints next week. 



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One thought on “Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Hundred & Eighteenth

  1. Oooof. Mental note: don’t drink contents of mysterious dark blue vials….

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