[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]
WRITER’S CELL BLOCK
Hey All, Melanie here.
For years I used to be quietly thankful that I wasn’t writing epic fantasy. I’m a novella writer, I said. Thank the gods I’m not writing epic fantasy. I worked on a series of short stories that all take place in a universe I call Malchevek Street and got sidetracked writing the history of a single house, but heavens be praised I’m not a writer of epic fantasy. I’m working on a science-fantasy novel in Wyrld’s End, it’s tough, doesn’t behave, and this plot has kicked me in the teeth at least six times but at least it’s not epic fantasy.
TIL that the project I’ve been slaving over for more months than I care to admit, the project that was supposed to be “no longer than 40,000 words,” the project that I’ve been calling “folkloric” to those who’ve asked…is 75,000+ words in—not even at the midpoint, and is epic fantasy.
I think I need to see my therapist.
This development is making me see Writer X in a whole new light. I’m not one of those people who believes in telling new writers what they should or shouldn’t be writing, but, if asked, I would lovingly advise them to steer clear of epic fantasy at the beginning because people should be kinder to themselves. Truth is, epic fantasy is what got me writing fantasy in the first place at just ten years old and, when I failed to write a single full fantasy novel by the time I was 21 (let alone the five-part series) I decided that short stories were a noble craft.
Looking at X’s current struggles, I’m reminded just how much you don’t know about writing when you start out and how, if many of us knew what we were getting into, we wouldn’t pursue it. Looking at my current struggles, I’m reminded that every single time you start something new, you are starting something new to you, as well. You don’t know what it is yet, even if you have an outline, and you might not know how to write it, even if getting words on the page is old hat for you.
I think of John Yorke’s book on the five-act structure of story, Into the Woods, in which he argues that all characters leave home and get lost in the woods. I’m going to argue that it’s the same for writers. We get lost in the woods. Regularly. But in the end, that’s how stuff gets written.
If you’re reading this and you’re waiting for a breakthrough on your current draft: Go. Get lost. And then find your way home again. And my sympathies if you’re writing epic fantasy.
Without further ado…
Subject: Contact Tracing
It’s happened to me. I’ve finally caught it.
I have writer’s block and now that I look back, I think I have had it for a long time. WRITER’S BLOCK IS WHAT’S KILLING THIS STORY!!!
I’ve spent several days contact tracing and I made a list of all the people I could have caught it from and I think it’s definitely my evil neighbor A___. I’m not sure how she gave it to me or WHEN, but I KNOW it was her. Every time I see her stupid asymmetrical haircut I just feel the creativity drain right out of me!!!
Either that, or I got it from an egg croissant that wasn’t fully cooked. But the point is Hang on. That’s my house phone.
It’s the refrigerator delivery people. They’re FINALLY delivering my new fridge. I am going to have to get out of here fast. Don’t want to be here when they get here!!!
Subject: I AM BEING STALKED
Sorry for ditching you like that but you are NOT going to believe what has just happened to me!!! I AM BEING STALKED.
As you know, I totaled my car last week and all the rentals in the area are used up so I am stuck hoofing it everywhere for now.
Fortunately, it’s the holidays and everything is covered in ice and I live at the top of the hill so I was able to borrow a sled, throw my writing box on it, and road it straight down the hill through town and up to the library in one straight shot. It got a little dodgy for a second there when I hit main street but the oncoming traffic should know that pedestrians and people in sleds have the right of way!!!
Anyways, I get into the library and I go to sign out the Velvet room (velvet has the best ambience for writing and has enough room for me to spread out all my things) and THEY TELL ME IT’S ALREADY BEEN BOOKED FOR AN EVENT TODAY.
Guess what event is SUDDENLY booked in the VELVET ROOM?
The launch party for Tod Boadkin’s “new book” “Broken Tides.”
I was going to do some ESSENTIAL research on my Secret Research Project that I got from—oh, I don’t know DREAM GAIMAN, but I can see that my talents are needed elsewhere for the afternoon!!!! Not only is Tod Boadkins a fraud taking in the whole town, but he’s trying to prevent me from becoming a famous writer by hogging the Velvet Romm!!!!
I need to infiltrate the launch party without being seen.
I am going to have to figure out a disguise in a pinch. Fortunately I keep my make-up bag and a spare wig in my writing box!!!! I have to go, Gladys, but if you don’t hear from me within forty minutes, assume the worst!!!!
Subject: CHANGE OF PLANS
Okay. So there is no way I’m going to be able to infiltrate the launch party without Tod Boadkins recognizing me after he shouted at me that last time. I can’t take any chances. But that’s okay because I came up with a better plan.
I’ve taken the opportunity to lock myself in the trunk of his camry. That way I’ll be able to get into his house!!! Then I’ll expose him for the fraud he really is!!!!
Gotta go, my breath is fogging my screen!!!
P.S. I texted Marjory and they say they have writer’s blcok, too. I wonder if TOD BOADKINS is the super spreader of writers block????!!!!
sent from my iPhone
Subject: STEAK OUT
I hope you weren’t worried. I’m a little frozen and a lot sore, but I have safely made it into Tod Boadkins’ house thanks to him forgetting to lock his bulkhead although it took me a number of tries and now it’s about 9 pm. It was a little noisier than I like but it’s a good thing that burglars don’t breka in at night or else Tod Boadkins might suspect!!!
Now, this is very important. Since I have finally infiltrated Tod Boadkins’ house, I’m going to need to find a way to shelter here until I find what I need. Gladys can you please bring me an overnight bag??? I can’t have a steak out if I don’t have the write clothes!!! Also, please check in on my writing box. I left it at the library. And tell little Josh C_____ that I’ll get him his sled back just as soon as I EXPOSE THE BIGGEST FRAUD IN HISTORY!!! Not to mention the fact that he may be spreading the WORST CASE OF WRITER’S BLOCK KNOWN TO MAN!!!!
Please keep careful track of the information and comb them for clues that Tod Boadkins is a fraud. If I go missing, you know where to find me. I’m depending on you, Gladys…
and eveyrone else. more everyone else than gladys
First things first. Before I got in through the bulkhead, I tried most of Tod Boadkins’ windows and doors and I found a few important clues. For one, they are ALL LOCKED.
This is NeW HAmpshire!!! The only people who lock all their windows and doors are from Massachusetts!!! HE’S HIDING SOMETHING!!!! OH I DON’T KNOW PROBABLY THE FACT THAT HE’S A FRAUD!!!!
Second, it seems to me that Tod Boadkins lives alone. There are pictures on the wall but all of them are of him and apparently he’s a spelunker or something. Lots of selfies of him in caves with a headlamp on and one picture of him with a cardboard cutout of Jay Leno. Nothing suspicious there.
Third. I went through his trash. He had about a month of it in the shed. It was oddly full of a lot of gluten free wrappers. Gluten free tortillas (lot’s of those), gluten free frozen meatball packages, gluten free cereal. But when I LOOKED IN HIS WINDOW there was a loaf of pepperidge farm honey wheat bread on the counter and an open package of OREO COOKIES. I also watched him warm up a can of chef boyardee beefaroni and pour himself a glass of merlot to go with it then he leaned an axe up against what I imagine is the basement door and told someone to shut the eff up or else he won’t feed them.
He’s cheating on his diet!!!! What does that tell you???
NOw for the basement. There are a LOT of garbage bags down here and there’s a big green door that has been chained shut. The chains are shiny and new. I think they’re from that chain sale at the hardware store a couple months ago. THAT’S A CLUE GLADYS!!! I’m going to have start processing this for evidence.
Other than those two things, this is a perfectly ordinary basement. There’s a bright orange boiler that just kicked on. It’s not a very writerly boiler. To the left of the bulkhead there’s the washer and dryer. On the far side of those there’s an old sink, closer to me there’s a big rickety old cupboard with two dilapidated doors and a white plastic laundry basket on the countertop.
Wait a minute. I was wrong. There’s also a shelf. It’s full of lanterns. And I mean FULL of lanterns. Like, shiny brass lanterns with paned glass and candle holders in the middle. And they’re not covered in dust like everyone else’s storm supplies. I’m going to check those out first.
Oh crap. I just picked up one of the lanterns and it clattered!!! There’s a key or something shoved in the little candle holder. What do you call the base of a candle holder. I feel like it should have a name.
Wait. There are footsteps. He’s moving around up there. Coming down the stairs from the second floor. I have to stand very still.
Hang on. He’s coming down. have to hide!!!
Okay I’m back. I climbed into the cupboard next to his washer and dryer. It’s super dusty and gross like no one’s crawled in here for like a hunddred years. He’s definitely coming down her.
have to b very queit
opening the door!!
Oh goodness Gladys I almost had a heaert attack! He just opened the door to the cupbaord I’m in!! Fortunately I’m on the bottom shelf and he just grabbed a bottle off tide of the top shelf and didn’t notice me.
I think I may have been bit by a spider
ys that’s a spider
oh my god it’s a speir
where am i supposed to wipe my hadn??
i hve been bit by a spier gladys
i think i’m going to need u to call 911 ad tell them tod boadkins spiers are heldigme hostage
how many spiders can kive in a cupbard?
is at the only one?
my fingers r tingling
ohgof ohgod ohgof
oooooooooooh god gladys. tod boadkins has an angry closet too!!! the cloest with the chain is rattling. someone is pounding on the door asking for help. they keep saying ‘hello is someone there, please help, it’s tod boadkins’ but I know that tod boadkins is washing his underwear right now. i think tod boadkins has a thing in his cloest too.
it won’t stop.
it keeps banging and yelling
you have to ignore these thigns
my hand is thribbing
he;s going back upstaris
hand hand hand
i think i’m going to die
its throbbing throbbing
have to put my head down for a second
think i’m going to pass out.
no i’m not
Gladys. I KNOW WHAT’S WRONG WITH MY STORY!!!!! I think the spider cured my writers block!!!!
I have to go, Gladys. I need to take some notes before I forget them!!! I also need to find some extra chef boyardee if I’m going to keep up this investigation!!!! Please drop my overnight bag outside the bulkhead door and tell Tryxy to stay off the internet!!!
sent from my iPhone