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

















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