Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Sixty-Third

[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.]

SHIPWRECKED!

Hello All! Melanie here.

Last week I managed to come down with the flu. I was worried that I’d missed Writer X’s emails from her writing retreat, but it turns out she was tied up with her own trouble.

Without further ado…


Subject: Everything’s FINE

Dear Gladys,

Since we were boarded by pirates a week ago, I’m sure you’re dying to know how my Writing Retreat is going. I’m happy to report that, short of that brief spout of radio silence, everything is in good working order.

It’s too bad what happened to the Memoirists. I think I hear their conch now sounding from the other side of the island. Yep. That’s their conch.

And that long, inhuman wail that has made the island’s tropical bird population go silent is probably their doing, too.

Notice, Gladys, that I haven’t asked you about how Free Sample Week went. I rest safe in the knowledge that you have received ALL my emails and, when I failed to appear in town last week, you collected abundant free samples and stored them in my fridge for my consumption when I return home from this Writing Retreat. Can you also check on Tryxy, please? I don’t want him to worry. 

What was I saying? Right! Everything is fine. Earlier today, many of the Hoity Toities were rescued from Strange Island by their agents. I’ve never seen an agent, Gladys, they have quite a wingspan!!!!

It makes sense that agents would have such enormous wings. After all, how else would they manage to ascend to the lofty towers of the world’s most well known fantasy and science fiction publishers with unsigned manuscripts clutched in their talons? Evolution is fascinating.

The Hoity Toities informed us that they will send more agents after the rest of us who are stranded on this island and no one took that news better than Tod Boadkins. This Writing Retreat has worked out splendidly for him. What with us misplacing the city of Boston and then being boarded by pirates, no one has noticed that he hasn’t delivered any lectures on the Paths to Publishing.

He’s also excited that the Hoity Toities are sending us agents. He’s been up at the top of a palm tree for the last three hours practicing his book pitch.

This is the perfect time to get you caught up on all the notes about our trip for the Blog.

…Oh wait, I think that’s one of the Memoirists scurrying on their belly toward me in the jungle brush. Hang on, Gladys, I have to go pick up my Memoirist Beating Rock.

Darn it!!!! I managed to scare off that rabid Memoirist but I lost a perfectly good rock in the process!!!!

You have to stay on your toes with those ones, and I won’t let just anybody guard my forty pounds of emergency chocolate. We have to make that chocolate last at least another few hours until the agents return!!!!

Let’s see, where did I leave off? Right. We were boarded by Publishing Pirates who tried to sell us shady publishing packages while bribing us with top tier tailgating treats. Some of the Rest of Us-es succumbed to the siren call of pirate publishers and we haven’t seen or heard from them since.

The Selfies were ALMOST completely immune to the lure of Dream Fulfilling Publishing Packages. Almost. Nearly all of them are used to the hard work and hustle of writing, editing, publishing, and promoting their own fiction and were turned off by the pirate’s demand for their life savings for the guarantee of 100,000 book sales in a non-existent eastern European country.

Unfortunately, SOME of the Selfies were inspired by the piracy itself and left our Writing Retreat to join the ranks of the pirates. Some of them were so inspired, they were already penning their own ebooks like Sell 100,000 Copies of Your Book NOW! before they were even fitted for their buccaneer boots and tricorn hats!!!!

But what no one saw coming—except maybe for me because you know that I’m clairvoyant—was the pirates’ effect on the MEMOIRISTS. I’m pretty sure the Memoirists wouldn’t be on the other side of the island beating their drums and lighting things on fire with stolen glasses, blowing their godforsaken conch in search of some mythical beast, and TRYING TO STEAL MY CHOCOLATE if it weren’t for the piratess.

There goes another one!!! Hang on, Gladys. This one’s a big one.

I would be in much lower spirits if it weren’t that I know their are agents coming to rescue us ANY MINUTE NOW.

Where was I?

So the pirates were the LEAST interested in the Memoirists. They prefer to sell piracy publishing packages to genre writers who can “write to market” and produce a series. The packages simply weren’t priced to make sense for a memoir about someone’s—and I quote “crappy little life” and, apparently, memoirs don’t sell well in non-existent eastern European countries, non-existent West African countries, or even in the non-existent states of the Unite\d States.

I beg to differ with the “crappy little life” comment. What with that ghost leak we had a couple weeks ago, I know quite a few undead who would be thrilled to get their hands on a “crappy little life”!!!!!!! The pirate who said this now has a broken toe.

As you know, Gladys, nothing breaks a writer’s brain like learning that no one wants to read their story. Combine that trauma with the stress of us misplacing the city of Boston and the Memoirists were really doomed from the start.

By the time I thwarted the pirate’s tailgate party with that secret move I told you about the other week (made much easier after having already broken one of their toes) and what with the captain having walked the plank, when we hit that storm and became shipwrecked on Strange Island, the Memoirist had already reverted to a feral state.

Thats when my boyfriend, award-nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins explained to me that all writers actually live in a state that is very close to—but not quite feral and that usually feral conditions aren’t observed in writers until they’re about two-thirds of their way through a novel. Or when a publisher has sent their finished manuscript back to them and asks them to turn on “track changes” for information on their next steps.

Wait Gladys!!! I think that’s the agents!!!! I think I see the shadows of their glorious wings passing over the makeshift miserable little shanties we’ve cobbled together. You should see these agents, Gladys!!! They are magical and rare beasts.

They have jeweled, multifaceted eyes capable of evaluating your manuscript for mysterious and arcane qualities only they are aware of. They possess extremely refined and highly sensitive senses—so sensitive that they can be driven off by A SINGLE IMPERFECT WORD in your query letter.

You have to approach them carefully and perform a special dance known as a soft-shoe shuffle and always keep your hands where they can see them.

Nope.

That wasn’t the agents. From the size of the storm clouds gathering like bunched fists off the coastline, that was the monsoon blowing clouds in and the stooping tree shadows waving over the miserable little shanties.

Hang on. I think I see another good rock for beating memoirists with and just in time, too. I smell one approaching, licking its chops either at the size of my chocolate pile, or the tenderness of my chocolate-filled thighs.

When will those agents get here???? They’re taking forever!!!! I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out. That last Memoirist grunted at me when I walloped it with that rock and fled back to the others, whining and holding its head. I’m pretty sure he means to get back up.

What have I told you so far? Tailgate party. Check. Lost Boston. Check. Chocolate. Check. Feral Writers. Check. Broken toe. Check. Shipwrecked.

Right! We became shipwrecked on Strange Island. Maybe becoming shipwrecked would break the spirits of any other passengers on a glorified booze cruise through the New England coast line in the middle of winter, but WE ARE WRITERS Gladys, and that means we have read a LOT of books and done enough obscure research on things like survival and broken bones and how fast you die from drinking ocean water that we can bore any party-goer to tears telling them how to land on a no-fly list with book research alone.

The first thing we set down to do is to try and figure out what book we were in in order to prioritize the necessary survival skills and predict the next plot twist. Of course, the more literary writers among us prickled that we were skipping over characterization and theme, but we found a way to bring them on board and after much deliberation, we collectively decided that we’re OBVIOUSLY in

GLADYS!!!!!! The agents are coming!!!!! The agents are coming!!!!! We’re going to be published!!!!! We’re going to be RICH!!!!!

We’re going to be saved!!!! I can hear their angelic calls and see their magnificent wings gliding through the cloud cover. I can spy their messenger bags hanging upon their sides and their skinny mocha frappacinos clasped in their divine talons.

Please let Tryxy know that we’re on our way back home!!!! This has been the most productive writing retreat I’ve ever been on!!!! I’m coming home with an agent!!!!!! I’m going to be FAMOUS BY DECEMBER!!!!!

…Oh wait.

The agents have clarified that they’re currently only accepting QUERIES for Rescue and will let us know of their decision in three to six months.

xox,

X

SIGH.

SUPPOSE THIS

MEANS I HAVE

TO GO RESCUE

X AND TOD.

WOULDN”T

BE SO BAD IF

IT WEREN’T

THAT THEY’RE

NOT EVEN

IN OUR

UNIVERSE

ANYMORE.

BETTER PUT

ON MY

BUCCANEER

BOOTS AND

HEAD OUT.  

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Sixty-Second

[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.]

PIRATES!!! Pt. 2

Hello, All. Melanie here!

In case you missed last week, Writer X and Tod Boadkins decided to give the New Hampshire Writer’s Retreat another whirl. The retreat takes place in January. On a boat. That travels up and down the New England coast line for a week.

Or, as in the case of last year’s retreat, two weeks. But a malignant undersea Lovecraftian society were to blame for the extension.

I didn’t know they did winter cruises in New England. I’m sure it’s a lovely, scenic time to be sitting on a boat trying to write.

Here’s a link to last week’s fit for your convenience.

Without further ado…


Subject: Still No Doom in Sight!!!!!

Dear Gladys,

By now you should be set up to camp for the week outside Mr. Morgan’s Food Emporium and Things Nicely Priced. Maybe you think that I’m being too dramatic about asking you to camp out a week in advance for Free Samples Week, but you can’t be too careful.

Cradensburg residents take savings seriously!!!! They will try to cut you in line!!!!

I decided to give you a run down of a few additional things you’ll need. These will see you through the rest of the week in terms of personal defense!!!

Bob and Barbara Elfwitz throw the best tailgate parties and are your singlemost top threat!!! How do you think they’re so successful at such splendid tailgates, Gladys????

EVERY YEAR THEY CORNER THE COUPONS FOR SWEDISH MEATBALLS at Free Samples Week!!!! Every winter, Bob cashes in those coupons, clears out Mr. Morgan’s stock, and sculpts a tower of delectable jam-glazed meats in the shape of Tom Brady.

NOT THIS YEAR!!!!!

Now, Bob is pretty much a pacifist, but he’ll still try to con you out of your spot by chucking a molotov cocktail through your car window.

Once you run to put out the flames of your smoldering car, he will scoot into first place and then they win!!!!! Whatever you do, LET YOUR CAR INCINERATE INTO A CHARRED WRECKAGE!!!! Show them what you’re made of, Gladys!!!!

But once you stare down Bob, you’ll have Barbara to face. Barbara is a much more serious foe. Do not underestimate her.

When you look into her warm brown eyes, you are staring into the eyes of a woman who has twelve continual years of excellent tailgate parties, each one outdoing the last.

Oh yes, Bob serves the swedish meatballs, Gladys, but BARBARA serves the Jalapeno poppers, the chicken nachos, the lemon-dill-beer dip, the macaroni salad, the hot mexican corn, the coca cola chicken wings, the buffalo chicken fingers, a seven-layer dip, and the ham and cheese sliders with the little slices of pickle pinned to the tops with a festive toothpick.

And she won’t accept a lick o’help from ANYONE, lest the GLORY BE SHARED!!!!! They throw the only tailgate party I know of that strictly forbids anyone from bringing a dish to pass!!!!

Gladys, I don’t have any other way of preparing you for this, but Barbara will use her very teeth to get past you to the coupons. She will bite off your ear if she has to. Have you noticed that Josh Nichols-Buttercop has stopped going out of the house without a beanie covering his ears???? He was in front of the Elfwitzs in the Free Samples Week of ’14. Those were dark times, Gladys.

Don’t you worry, though!!!! I have outsmarted her before!!!!! The sure-fire way to beat the Elfwitz’s to the Swedish meatballs is to

sent from my iPhone


Subject: Re: Still No Doom in Sight!!!!!

Dear Gladys,

I’m writing you from the Grand Marsh Hotel in Innsmouth, Massachusetts and our power keeps going out.

Anyhoo, I need to get you caught up on our retreat notes, so be sure to do EVERYTHING I SAID PRECISELY the way I SAID IT and I’m sure you’ll be just fine with the Elfwitz’s.

As I was saying, we have one day under our belt on our Writer’s retreat and there is still no doom in sight. There is an electrical outage, a strange wall of black storm clouds that have rolled into the harbor and enveloped the yacht, and some pirates on the horizon, but NO DOOM.

Absolutely nothing is going to make this retreat run longer than a week and put me at risk of missing those free samples!!!!

Sorry for keeping you waiting Gladys, I’m back. I had to throw myself beneath a hissing fiddle leaf fig because the Event Coordinator is out on the prowl looking for a thief and he’s wearing his shouty face. Someone mysteriously stole one of the Memoirists formal evening gowns last night and I’m still wearing it because I love the sequins and forgot to pack my pajamas.

The Event Coordinator has been in a rotten mood. He chewed out my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins for the lecture he did on publishing paths yesterday and says he expects “a lot more from him.” I’ll be ready to take notes when Tod Boadkins delivers that “lot more”, we both can’t wait to see what that will be!!!!

Sending you my notes for the BLOG next!!!!

xox,

X


Day Two on The Writing Boat

One hour delay on launch of the boat. A Memoirist had gone missing but someone found him on the roof of the Grand Marsh Hotel sharpening the talons of an ancient aquatic creature into spear heads. He says his name isn’t John anymore, that we now have to call him The Vessel and pour him glasses of cow’s blood, but this is fine because no one liked John and The Vessel is much more tolerable.

Skipped private writing session for the morning thanks to The Vessel.

The Hoity Toities hosted a panel on finding an agent. The biggest takeaway was that you should immediately inject your agent with an iridium tracking device to prevent your agent from getting lost in the first place. The Rest of Us-es took careful notes. The Selfies said they never have this problem.

Lunch was cancelled due to the captain sailing the yacht at 28 knots to outpace the brigantine and fleet of sloops that are coincidentally going in the same direction we are, no matter how many evasive maneuvers we take.

Fortunately, I brought forty pounds of emergency chocolate so I made do with a few nibbles of that. Imagine how hungry I would be if I had packed clothes instead of chocolate, Gladys!!!! Good thing I think ahead!!!!

I’m sure it’s fine.

Memoirist keeps eyeing me asking me where I got my jeans from. I said “down south.” By south I mean her suitcase in the hold.

Tod Boadkins is just glad he didn’t have to do another lecture on the path to publishing. I think he’s running out of different kinds of pavements to talk about.

Tells me not to write that. Says yesterday’s lecture was all part of a bigger plan. Sticks his nose in a corner and stares into the shadows while swaying catatonically.

Says he’s not catatonic. 

Another Memoirist created a kerfuffle when her black star agate necklace seemed to go missing but mysteriously returned to her neck just as the strange mist overtook our ship.

The Vessel says he is the chosen one and will let in the Ancient Jackal through the Eye that Devours the Worlds.

Way nicer than John.


Day Three on The Writing Boat

Dropped anchor for the night on the island that appeared in the middle of that mist. Took shelter in a desolate stone village that has every modern amenity but looks as though it was abandoned with cook pots still on stove and shovels stabbed into snow piles.

No footprints anywhere to indicate where the inhabitants may have gone.

Everyone’s surprised that all of the Memoirists are alive and cordial this far into the trip!

The sea is free of mist so its clear sailing back to Boston. Were supposed to stay there last night but there was only that island where Boston should have been so the captain says he’s just gonna loop around the island and Boston should reappear, no problem, so long as no one crosses their fingers.

Tod Boadkins has his fingers crossed. 

Tells me not to write that he’s crossing his fingers.

Tells me to erase that.

Says “Why do you keep writing down everything I tell you in confidence?”

Facepalms himself and says nevermind.

Hoity Toities host a morning panel on Getting An Agent. Agree that they probably should have started with this one. Give us a recipe for an arcane, agent-summoning spice.

At lunch, the Rest-of-Us-es make a commotion and say that maybe we should call for help. The captian says “why?” The Rest of Us-es point at the pirate ships with unfurled black flags that have encircled our boat. The flags have books with crossbones on them.

Tod Boadkins suddenly becomes light-hearted and happy, like he senses he won’t have to do another lecture.

Starts to open his mouth to tell me something, then shuts it.


Day Four on The Writing Boat The Dark Ship of Vanity

Were boarded by pirates yesterday so spent the rest of the night on the commandeered ship swabbing the decks and setting up chairs for the presentation.

Pirates have hoisted their black flag with book and crossbones on our yacht. They have asked how many of us are completely satisfied with our book sales.

The former captain raises his hand.

He is pushed overboard. 

They have informed us no one needs to die, but that everything will go well if everyone is published and headed for the bestsellers list by the end of the presentation. But if we aren’t, they’ll make us walk the plank. Everyone agrees this seems reasonable.

Pirates inform us that they help writers dreams come true. For a small fee of only a quarter of your life’s savings, they will partner with every writer here and publish their latest manuscript and guarantee over 100,000 book sales in a small, nonexistent Eastern European country.

Selfies push back on the pirates. Say there should be more markets. Pirates explain that they have an additional publishing package that they offer of 50,000 additional book sales in a small, nonexistent West African country.

Selfies push back on this too and ask if the pirates have any packages in the States. Pirates explain that they include that in the standard package. They send the book out to all fifty non-existent States.

Hoity Toities say something smells fishy about this.

Pirates say that’s just the fish tacos. Tell us that if we don’t care for the fish tacos, we’re welcome to try the jalapeno poppers, the chicken nachos, the lemon-dill-beer dip, the macaroni salad, the hot mexican corn, the coca cola chicken wings, the buffalo chicken fingers, a seven-layer dip, or the ham and cheese sliders with the little slices of pickle pinned to the tops with a festive toothpick.

sent from my iPhone

PASSED MY

FIRST TEST

OF THE

SEMESTER!

IT WAS ON

THE FIFTH

DIRECTION.

GOT EXTRA

CREDIT

ON THE

SECTION

ABOUT HOW

TO TRIGGER

THE FIFTH

DIRECTION

AND OPEN

A PORTAL.

EASY.

HOLD A

BLACK STAR

AGATE OVER

SALT WATER.

HOW WAS

YOUR WEEK?

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Sixty-First

[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.]

PIRATES!!! PT. 1

Hello All, Melanie here!

I’ve never been on a writing retreat though I’ve considered it numerous times. I’ve even priced rates for a single room at a hotel or cabin in the White Mountains. I’ve visualized the sound of my fingers striking the keyboard in the deep quiet of wild New Hampshire.

And then I imagine my kids burning my house down while I’m away. My partner clinging to a piece of hard cheese as a security blanket while our life goes up in flames around his ears. My kids electing their guinea pigs as their gods.

Without further ado…


Subject: Mr. Morgan’s Week of Free Samples

Dear Gladys,

As my boyfriend—award-nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins and I set off for this year’s New Hampshire Writer’s Retreat, I used my clairvoyant abilities to scan the sky for clouds of doom. I noted the following cloud shapes in the sky:

A skull, a castanet, a penguin with a pimp hat, the grinning face of death, and a hanged man.

I was very happy to see that there was absolutely no doom indicated for our week long cruise in the scenic waters of the frozen New England coastline. As you know, last year’s trip got unexpectedly extended an additional week thanks to the Deep Ones and that Esoteric Lodge of Dagon cult.

I absolutely cannot take ANY delays this year. I am a very busy PUBLISHED writer and I need to write more short stories. I also need to be back in town for Free Samples Week at Mr. Morgans Food Emporium and Things Nicely Priced.

You know I live for those little plastic cups of clammy asparagus tips with half-congealed hollandaise sauce!!!! Not to mention the exclusive coupons!!!

Not only that, I received an email letting me know that I had not shown as much frugal activity last year as I did the year before.

As you know, Gladysm, if you go two years with insufficient occurances of haggling over a clearance item, filling up your trunk with free road-side stuff, or holding up a grocery line with four hundred coupons, your New Englander status gets revoked and you start to be able to pronounce the letter “r.” I refuse to flirt with that SHAME AND HUMILIATION!!!! In the words of Paul Revere, Give me kah keys or give me death!!!

Patrick Henry was a copycat.

Anyhoo, Tod Boadkins and I are nearly at the rendezvous point to meet the Event Coordinator and board the yacht in Portsmouth and it’s going to take us a while to unload the forty pink suitcases I’ve brought for this year’s event so I’ll have to cut this email short.

Here’s what I need from you, Gladys. Tryxy has started his first week of school and is very busy with homework. I need you to swing by my house, pick up my sleeping bag, my portable fire pit, my bluetooth speaker, and my camping futon. Then I need you to swing by Mr. Morgan’s and set up a camping spot by the front door with all of those things. Then I need you to camp there for the week to make sure NO ONE CUTS ME IN LINE for Free Samples Week!!!! Especially when YOU IS ME!!!!

Will keep you posted on our doom-free single-week cruise!!!!

xox,

X


Subject: First Blog Secretary Post

Dear Gladys,

To my eternal surprise, this year I have been elected to be the Blog Secretary for the Writing Boat. This is an immense honor and I have obviously been selected because of my publication history and incredible attention to dtail.

I’m quickly writing down my notes from our arrival as I remember them and sending them to you. You can give them to me when I’m back ashore and I will write them up in a blog post.

10:00 a.m. – Arrival. We were looking all over for the Event Coordinator. Tod Boadkins was sweating. He was nervous about being the presenter a second year in a row but says “my only saving grace is that I have my notes from last year.” He is going to do three seminars, one on character building, one on craft of writing, one on story structure. Asks me not to write that he is sweating or nervous.

10:05 a.m. – Found Event Coordinator. His thin hair is stiffly moussed, his round belly is slightly smaller than it was last year, his bow tie is purple, and his shoes are Italian. He still likes to use the words “God Almighty” a lot, and he still is shouty. As soon as he sees Tod Boadkins, his face lights up. As soon as he sees me, his face goes white as a sheet and he says “You again.”

Hold please.

10:14 a.m. Event Coordinator has banned me from the boat. Says that last year I passed myself off as Covid tester from the state health department and stole everyone’s clothes. I did know such thing, Gladys!!!!

Tod Boadkins gestures to my trolley of forty suitcases and says that obviously that won’t be a problem this year and besides, he needs me to take notes for the Blog. Event Coordinator squints at me, frowning for a long time then jabs his finger in my face and says “If you so much as steal a hanky, you’re OFF THE BOAT!!!!”

I tell him he must have me confused with somebody else.

10:17 a.m. Event COordinator and Tod Boadkins are discussing the seminar schedule. There will be less “private writing time” for this retreat because this year’s focus is on “The Paths of Publication” and last year’s writing schedule left too much time for “outright hedonism.” Tod Boadkins goes extremely pale and starts sweating again.

Tells me not to write down that he’s sweating.

Event Coordinator explains that this week’s schedule will be similar to the last with breakfast served on the dining deck followed by a session of private writing, a panel on some facet of publishing, followed by lunch. Then Tod Boadkins will do a seminar on paths to publication—Tod Boadkins interjects that he wasn’t expecting to talk about publication and that his specialty is on the craft of writing—but Event Coordinator says that won’t do. Tod Boadkins goes grayish-green and gives a high, tittering laugh.

Tells me not to write down that he has a high, tittering laugh.

Event Coordinator says that when Tod Boadkins’ seminar is finished, there will be a short mixer then we drop anchor in the evenings at different locations. Tonight we drop anchor in Innsmouth. Staying at the Grand Marsh Hotel again.

Other writers are arriving. It’s time to get on the boat, Gladys!!!! Will send more noats soon.

xox,

X


Subject: Forgot A Few Things!!!!

Dear Gladys,

After a few hang-ups in loading our luggage onto the writing boat, I’ve realized that my meticulous packing list has come up short. I have my footbath, my yoga mat, my Absolutely Necessary Library of Books, my toiletries including a facial sauna I forgot I ordered four years ago.

I have my thesaurus, my custom crocs, my vitamins and supplements, my toothbrush, toothpaste, and back up toothbrush and toothpaste. I have my wellingtons. I have my prophylactics and my lactose intolerance pills, an emergency first aid and snake bite kit, a tin of boot black—in pink—with a boot brush, and a clothes steamer.

I also have my travel iron, my writerly globe (it helps me write), my set of candles, three pairs of sunglasses in slightly differing shades of pink, my water bottle and back up water bootle, my dehumidifier, my emergency puzzles and tarot deck, my favorite bathroom spray, my campstove, 23 packets of writerly hot chocolate (the kind with cinnamon or cayenne or french vanilla), and rash cream in case we run into any poison oak while out at sea.

At the last minute I also grabbed my sweater Charles de-Linter that I bought when we went on that trip to Newford, my desalination tablets, my favorite curling irons, my pommade, my roadside flares, my back up battery packs, my box of Paris themed postcards, and forty pounds of emergency chocolate.

But I seem to have completely forgotten my clothes. I must have been distracted when I was busy checking our trip for DOOM. 

Please bring me some clothes GLadys!!! You have about 45 minutes to get here before we head off for Innsmouth!!!!! If you don’t get here, I’m going to be stuck borrowing clothes from people again and the Event Coordinator is already on to me!!!!

xox,

X

sent from my iPhone


Subject: Writing, the Gathering

Dear Gladys,

COntinuing my notes for the blog!!!! Keep track of these!!! Also, where are you with my clothes, we’re about to set sail!!!!

Day One on The Writing Boat

This year offers a very different set of writers. Which is good. Because last year most of the writers never made it home thanks to that murder mystery.

The writers have once again segmented into different groups on the dining deck.

  • There are five writers with hard cover copies of their books who all seem to recognize each other and pepper their conversation with the phrase “my agent said” or “the such-and-such award.” They’re looking at the other writers with a mixture of curiosity and alarm but keep a distance. Let’s call them The Hoity Toities.
  • I’m calling the fifteen writers who keep talking about KDP, self-publishing hacks, and “writing to market” the Selfies. They seem to congregate into three sub-tribes. Five who can’t tell their elbow from an astronaut, five who speak a dialect of Marketing-ese so only talk in three-letter acronyms and hurl free ebooks at every passer-by, and five who look extremely stinking rich.
  • Then there are the eleven writers who don’t seem to know where they belong. They look longingly at The Hoity-Toities but also curiously at the Selfies. Their auras are conspicuously free of Agents. I’m going to call them the Rest of Us.
  • Lastly, there are twenty-five people with long fancy scarves and the kind of jewelry made from bent up spoons or irregularly shaped semi-precious stones who keep interrupting each other to talk about THEIR memoir. I’m calling these the Memoirists. Where do these folks come from???
  • Noting that there are no Furries this year. That’s because Furries, unlike other writers, actually learn their lessons.

Ah well, this cruise will be doom-free so those Memoirists have nothing to worry about!!!! I’m sure they’ll be fine, Gladys!!!!

The sea is fine and clear and cold and gray. The dining deck is warm. People are supposed to be doing private writing. No one is but Tod Boadkins.

The Selfies are talking about rapid releasing long books in two volumes, getting on the Amazon bestseller’s list, and how 18.6 books will bring you $49,000 a year in royalties.

The Hoity Toities are trying to look like they’re writing, but really they’re each covertly listening to the Selfies and looking at each other, eyes like saucers as they question their publishing path.

The Rest of Us-es are also listening to the Selfies but are trying to mimick the Hoity Toities.

Tod Boadkins has the precise look of someone who is trying to magically pull a seminar about publishing out of his hindquarters.

Tells me not to write hindquarters.

The Memoirists have spotted a dark ship trailing us on the horizon. They point out that it looks like it’s dropped out of the 18th century.

The Event Coordinator tells them not to worry. “It’s probably just re-enactors on their way to Boston to re-enact the Boston Tea Party.”

One of the Memoirists says “On a Brigantine?” The other memoirists ask how he knew it was a Brigantine. First memoirist explains that he has a memory of his grandfather polishing a small brigantine in a bottle and that he once necked with his best friend under the brigantine and that he hadn’t been aware at the time that he was in love with a girl from Nantucket that he had spied on a beach one July while hunting lobsters…with a bucket. Everyone clasps their hands over their mouths and give a hushed “Ohhhhh, such imagery! Is that in your memoir?”

Lunch is pumpkin soup with filet de soul (not sure whose) followed by Tod Boadkins’ first seminar. He spends thirty minutes talking about how paths to publication are indeed paths and that there are many kinds of paths. Some are paved. Some are gravel. Some have solar lights. Some are man made. Some have mulch. Some are made by boy scouts. I’m sure he’s going somewhere with this.

Memoirists aren’t listening. They say that the Brigantine is gaining on us, followed by a fleet of sloops.

The Hoity Toities point out that the black flags flapping in the breeze all have books and crossbones.

The Rest of Us-es have nothing to contribute to the conversation until one of them says “You don’t think they are pirates and that they’re after us, do you?”

Everyone on the dining deck gives a high, tittering laugh.

We dock at Innsmouth soon. Gotta go Gladys, we’re having a formal dinner and I need to sneak into the hold and see if someone thought to pack me an evening gown!!!!! More notes soon!!!!

xox,

X

SO. MUCH.

HOMEWORK.

DID YOU KNOW

THEREARE FIVE

CARDINAL

DIRECTIONS,

NOT FOUR?

FIFTH DIRECTION’S

ASTROLOGICAL

SIGN IS

THE PEEPHOLE.

ITS PLANT,

THE GLOWING

JUNIPER. ITS

SEMI-PRECIOUS

STONE IS THE

BLACK STAR

AGATE. THE CITIES

OF SAN FRANCISCO,

NEW ORLEANS,

AND HIBBING

ALL HAVE

FIFTH DIRECTION

COORDINATES.

PLEASE KEEP

AN EYE ON

X FOR ME.

HAVE TO

STUDY MORE

FIFTH DIRECTION.

TEST NEXT

WEEK.

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Sixtieth

[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.]

MARK TWAIN’S EDITOR

Hello All, Melanie here!

If a ghost offered to haunt your house, would you accept? I think I’d need to see a resume.

Whatever her latest choices, I’m happy for Writer X!

Without further ado…


Subject: A New Year’s Ghost Story

Dear Gladys,

I know I was supposed to pick you up for THE BIG PLAN, but the local advisory said that the ghost weather was too bad to go out of the house.

I looked out my living room window and there was a tide of souls pouring out of the cemetery and down my street. It was a ghastly sight, tall skeletal men with beards and top hats, prim skeletal children in chort pantrs with shriveled eyes in shriveled sockets wandering through the melting snow.

Anyhoo, I’m sure you’re dying to know how my writing is going! Honestly it wasn’t looking good until this ghost parade showed up after that unfortunate explosion outside the Horn Hill cemetery by the New Hampshire DOT. Whatever the mayor said about “the ghosts merely passing through to eternity” there are A LOT of them that are knocking on people’s doors to offer haunting services.

I’ve turned nearly ALL. of them away. If the health department or ghost immigration services calls you, I turned all the ghosts that knocked on my door away and THAT IS MY OFFICIAL STANCE ON THE SITUATION.

With the HOA sending me letters about TRyxy’s new leopard, I don’t need any more officials breathing down my neck!!! I PUT UP A SIGN!!! The leopard should surprise NO ONE!!!!

Where was I? I was on my way to pick you up so that we could drive to the houses of EVERY short story publication that rejected the chapters of my novel last week. I was determined to be published and become famous before the New Year!!!

Nothing would fix that situation like some good old fashioned CONFRONTATION. I still have half a mind to talk sense into these publishers. But then there was the cemetery explosion and the outpouring of ghosts and I didn’t want to get ghosts in my car’s air intake system again.  

That’s when the ghost in the green Stratford hat and the parrot shaped cane showed up at my front door. She fixed my crooked Beware of the Leopard sign that some HOA member had angrily strangled and asked me if I could use an editorial haunting as she was sick of “living in the underworld and wasn’t hastened to return.”

I don’t need an editor galsdy, my words are BRILALNT the minute they hit the page!!! I started to turn her away except she slid in another scintillating detail.

She said, “I was Mark Twain’s editor.”

I siad, “Prove it.”

“Are you familiar with Mark Twain’s quote Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest?

I told her that OBVIOUSLY I was. (I wasn’t.)

“Originally it went: Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish most of the rest. Speaking plain, that version lacks the vigor of the latter. If needing further evidence of my skill, I editorially haunted Ernest Hemingway while he wrote The Sun Also Rises. Prior to my assistance, it will surprise that Hemingway’s prose was flabby.” She raised her mostly missing nose high, daring me to contradict her.

While I don’t NEED an editor, I would challenge an editor of a short story magazine to turn down the chapters of my novel WHEN THEY’VE BEEN EDITED BY NONE OTHER THAN MARK TWAIN’S EDITOR!!!!! Of course I invited her in.

She hung her hat and parrot cane by the door, I handed over my incredible chapters, and she began editorially haunting me.

Mark Twain’s editor read the pages quickly. She looked more pale and bloodless than she had when she left the graveyard.

Occasionally she would get to a particularly genius paragraph and she was BLOWN AWAY, galdys!!! She had a tell. Whenever she ran into my genius—which was FREQUENTLY, she would lean her head to the left and blink her shriveled eyes rapidly while pursing what was left of her lips.

Did you know that ghosts can sweat, Gladys? Because this one did. As she got further in, she sweat in buckets and kept making that blinking face at my pages. Pretty soon the first floor smelled like earthy ghost sweat and Tryxy had to come up from his abyss in the basement and discretely place som apple cinnamon air fresheners around the room. Then it smelled like apple cinnamon ghost sweat.

Finally, the ghost said, “Young lady, if you desire my advice, consider throwing out—”

“The adverbs?” I asked.

“No,” said she.

Remembering some of the writing books I’d read when I was stalking Tod Boadkins’ house I said: “Oh! I know! Get rid of multiple gerunds in a sentence!!!!!”

The ghost flashed the two gaping nostrils in her skull and peered down what was left of her nose. “I was going to say consider throwing out everything that is not chapter four and five.”

“Oh,” said I and I began to think of throwing this ghost out of my house because OBVIOUSLY she’d lost her editing knowledge when her brains rotted away, but you know I like to be polite, Gladys, soe I watied until she was done editing chapters four and five.

At last, she handed me the pages. “These read as a short story.”

She collected her hat and cane from by the door. The new short story looked pretty good so I asked her if she wanted to take a look at my True Blood fan fiction and she said that, on second thought, the underworld hadn’t been half bad.

HER LOSS!!!!

Anyhoo Gladsy, I sent chapters four and five off to a publisher I found online, paid the $25 publishing fee and…

I’M A PUBLISHED WRITER, GALDYSA!!!!!!

You can find my new short story at We Publish Anything dot com later this week!!!!! What a way to bring in the NEw year!!!!! This is right on time for the New Hampshire Writer’s Retreat that my boyfirend, award-nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, invited me on!!!! Now I’ll sit on the PUBLISHED writer’s deck when we sail away. They invited him back a second year because his evil doppelganger did a horrible job last year.

I’m in high spirits. I think I’ll go write!!!!

Pages next week, Gladys!!!

xox,

X

SCHOOL STARTS

NEXT WEEK

BUT DON’T

WORRY, FILERS.

EVEN WITH

A LOT OF

HOMEWORK,

WILL STILL

MAKE TIME

FOR YOU.

HAPPY

NEW

YEAR.

Never Mind The News – File 770’s Best Feature Articles of 2022

People writing about the issues they care about is what keeps this community going. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. Thanks to all of you who contributed to File 770 in 2022!

FEATURES

Melanie Stormm — Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me: Links To Every Installment

Stormm continued her humorous series about the misdirected emails she gets from Writer X throughout 2022, braiding together comedy, horror, and the pitfalls of being a writer.

Jeffrey Smith — A Bibliography of Jules Verne Translations

…Thinking about Jules Verne, with the new TV version of Around the World in Eighty Days about to start, I just bought the Wesleyan edition of Five Weeks in a Balloon, translated by Frederick Paul Walter – after researching what the good modern translations of Verne are. Verne has been abysmally translated into English over the years, but there’s been a push to correct that….

Joel Zakem Religious Aspects of DisCon III’s Opening Ceremonies

…  It was on FaceBook where I first saw friends’ posting about Opening Ceremonies. According to what was posted, some of the musical selections performed by students from the Duke Ellington School spotlighted the religious aspects of the Christmas holiday.

My immediate reaction was that this was not an appropriate part of Opening Ceremonies, especially since, as far as I know, the religious aspect of the performance was not contained in the descriptions in any convention publication. The online description of Opening Ceremonies says, in its entirety: “Welcome to the convention. We will present the First Fandom and Big Heart awards, as well as remarks from the Chair.” The December 9, 2021, news release about the choir’s participation did not mention that there would be a religious component to the performance….

Walt Boyes Grantville Gazette Publishes 100th Issue

Whew! We made it. We made it to Issue 100 of the Grantville Gazette. This is an incredible feat by a large group of stakeholders. Thank you, everyone.

I don’t think Eric Flint had any idea what he’d created when he sent Jim Baen the manuscript for 1632. In the intervening two-plus decades, the book he intended to be a one-shot novel has grown like the marshmallow man in Ghostbusters to encompass books from two publishing houses, a magazine (this one, that you are holding in your metaphorical hands) and allowed over 165 new authors to see their first published story in print. The Ring of Fire Universe, or the 1632 Universe, has more than twelve million words published….

Anonymous Note from a Fan in Moscow

This message was written by a fan in Moscow 48 hours ago. It is unsigned but was relayed by a trustworthy source who confirms the writer is happy for it to be published by File 770. It’s a fan’s perspective, a voice we may not hear much….

Borys Sydiuk SFWA Rejects Call to Join Boycott of Russia: A Guest Post by Borys Sydiuk

Right now, when I’m sitting at my desktop and writing this text, a cannonade nearby doesn’t stop. The previous night was scary in Kyiv. Evidently, Russians are going to start demolishing Ukrainian capital like they are doing with Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Mariupol.

The Ukrainian SFF Community joined the efforts to isolate Russia, the nazi-country of the 21st century, to force them to stop the war. The boycott by American authors we asked for is also doing the job. Many leading writers and artists of the great United States already joined the campaign.

We appealed to SFWA to also join the campaign, and here is what they replied…

(Two days later the organization issued a SFWA Stands With Ukraine statement.)

Daniel Dern Reading Daily Comic Strips Online

Fortunately, comic-carrying newspapers are, of course, all (also or only) online these days, but even then, some require subscriptions (fair enough), and to get all the ones you want. For example, online, the Washington Post, has about 90, while the Boston Globe is just shy of a paltry one-score-and-ten. And (at least in Firefox), they don’t seem to be visible in all-on-one-page mode, much less customize-a-page-of.

So, for several years now, I’ve been going to the source — two  “syndicates” that sell/redistribute many popular strips to newspapers….

Michaele Jordan Squid Game and Beyond

There’s been a lot of excitement about Squid Game. Everybody’s talking about how clever, original, and utterly skiffy it is. I watched it, too, eagerly and faithfully. But I wasn’t as surprised by it as some. I expected it to be good. I’ve been watching Korean video for ten years, and have only grown more addicted every year.  And yet I just can’t convince many people to watch it with me….

Rich Lynch A Day at the Museum

Let me tell you about my favorite building in Washington, D.C.  It’s the staid old Arts and Industries Building, the second-oldest of all the Smithsonian Institution buildings, which dates back to the very early 1880s and owes its existence to the Smithsonian’s then urgent need for a place where parts of its collection could go on public display….

Mike Glyer What the Heinleins Told the 1950 Census

When we last left the Heinleins (“What the Heinleins Told the 1940 Census”), a woman answering the door at 8777 Lookout Mountain – Leslyn Heinlein, presumably — had just finished telling the 1940 census taker a breathtaking raft of misinformation. Including that her name was Sigred, her husband’s was Richard, that the couple had been born in Germany, and they had a young son named Rolf.

Ten years have passed since then, and the archives of the 1950 U.S. Census were opened to the public on April 1. There’s a new Mrs. Heinlein – Virginia. The 8777 Lookout Mountain house in L.A. has been sold. They’re living in Colorado Springs. What did the Heinleins tell the census taker this time?…

John A Arkansawyer Laser Cats

“In the future, there was a nuclear war. And because of all the radiation, cats developed the ability to shoot lasers out of their mouths.”

On this dubious premise, Laser Cats was founded. By its seventh and final episode, the great action stars and directors of the day had contributed their considerable talents to this highly entertaining, yet frankly ridiculous enterprise. From James Cameron to Lindsey Lohan, Josh Brolin to Steve Martin, Laser Cats attracted the best in the business.

Being part of Saturday Night Live undoubtedly helped….

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki Announcing the Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction

The Emeka Walter Dinjos Memorial Award For Disability In Speculative Fiction aims to award disability in speculative fiction in two ways. One, by awarding a writer of speculative fiction for their representation or portrayal of disability in a world of speculative fiction, whatever their health status; and two, by awarding a disabled writer for a work of speculative fiction in general, whatever the focus of the work may be….

Bill Higgins Two Vain Guys Named Robert

Robert Osband, Florida fan, really loves space. All his life he has been learning about spaceflight. And reading stories about spaceflight, in science fiction.

So after NASA’s Apollo program was over, the company that made Apollo space suits held a garage sale, and Ozzie showed up. He bought a “training liner” from ILC Dover, a coverall-like portion of a pressure suit, with rings at the wrists and neck to attach gloves and helmet.

And another time, in 1976, when one of his favorite authors, Robert A. Heinlein, was going to be Guest of Honor at a World Science Fiction Convention, Mr. Osband journeyed to Kansas City.

In his suitcase was his copy of Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel—a novel about a teenager who wins a secondhand space suit in a contest—and his ILC Dover suit.

Because if you wanted to get your copy of Have Space Suit, Will Travel autographed, and you happened to own a secondhand space suit, it would be a shame NOT to wear it, right?…

Rich Lynch Remembering Bruce Pelz

… I’m sure that our first face-to-face meeting was in 1979, when my job in industry took me from Chattanooga all the way out to Los Angeles for some much-needed training in electrochemistry.  I didn’t really know anybody in L.A. fandom back then but I did know the address of the LASFS clubhouse, so on my next-to-last evening in town I dropped in on a meeting.  And it was there that I found Bruce mostly surrounded by other fans while they all expounded on fandom as it existed back then and what it might be like a few years down the road.  It was like a jazz jam session, but all words and no music.  I settled back into the periphery, enjoying all the back-and-forth, and when there eventually came a lull in the conversations I took the opportunity to introduce myself.  And then Bruce said something to me that I found very surprising: “Dick Lynch!  I’ve heard of you!”…

Rich Lynch It’s About Time

It was back in 2014 that a student filmmaker at Stephen F. Austin State University, Ricky Kennedy, created an extraordinary short movie titled The History of Time Travel.  Exploration of “what ifs” is central to good storytelling in the science fiction genre and this little production is one of the better examples of how to do it the right way.

Dale Skran Reforming the Short Form Hugo: A Guest Post by Dale Skran

 For a long time, I’ve felt the Short Form Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation was not properly organized to give an award to the best “Television” SF of the previous year….  

Paul Weimer Review: Neom by Lavie Tidhar

Lavie Tidhar’s Neom is a stunning return to his world of Central Station, twinning the fates of humans and robots alike at a futuristic city on the edge of the Red Sea…. 

Mike Glyer Iron Truth Review

… It is through Joy and Cassimer’s eyes we experience S.A. Tholin’s Iron Truth, a finalist of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition. If there was ever a case of the cream rising to the top this book is one….

Lis Carey Review of Rocket to the Morgue

… A couple of odd things, though. He had $300 on him, that wasn’t stolen, and an unusual rosary, with what seems to be the wrong number of beads. It’s a puzzle….

Mike Glyer Review: In the Orbit of Sirens

In T. A. Bruno’s In the Orbit of Sirens, a Self-Published Science Fiction Competition finalist, the remnants of the human race have fled the solar system ahead of an alien culture that is assimilating everyone in reach. Loaded aboard a vast colony ship they’re headed for a distant refuge, prepared to pioneer a new world, but unprepared to meet new threats there to human survival that are as great as the ones they left behind.

Mike Glyer Review: Monster of the Dark

On the morning of Carmen Grey’s sixth birthday an armed team arrives to take her from her parents and remove her to the underground facility where Clairvoyants — like her — are held captive and trained for years to access their abilities. So begins Monster of the Dark by K. T. Belt, a finalist in the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition….

Jonathan Cowie Jurassic World Dominion Ultra-Mini-Review

Jurassic World Dominion is another breathless, relentless Hollywood offering: the action and/or special effects never let up…. 

Mike Glyer Review: Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire

G.M. Nair begins Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by making a surprising choice. His introductory scene explicitly reveals to readers the true nature of the mysterious events that the protagonists themselves uncover only very slowly throughout the first half of the book. The introduction might even be the penultimate scene in the book — which would make sense in a story that is partly about time travel loops. Good idea or bad idea?…

Rogers Cadenhead Review: Captain Wu: Starship Nameless #1

… What sounds like Firefly also describes the SPSFC finalist novel Captain Wu: Starship Nameless #1, a space opera by authors Patrice Fitzgerald and Jack Lyster. I love Firefly so it wasn’t a big leap to climb aboard this vessel….

Olav Rokne Hugo Voting Threshold Reform Proposal

…. It would be exceptionally embarrassing for a Worldcon to have to explain why a finalist would have won the Hugo except for — oops! — this bit of outdated fine print. The best course of action is to eliminate that fine print before such a circumstance arises….

Mike Glyer Review: A Star Named Vega

The social media of the 30th century doesn’t seem so different: teenagers anonymously perform acts of civil disobedience and vandalism to score points and raise their ranking in an internet app. That’s where Aster Vale leads a secret life as the Wildflower, a street artist and tagger, in A Star Named Vega by Benjamin J. Roberts, a Self-Published Science Fiction competition finalist…..

Paul Weimer Review: Babel

R F Kuang’s Babel is an audacious and unrelenting look at colonialism, seen through the lens of an alternate 19th century Britain where translation is the key to magic. Kuang’s novel is as sharp and perceptive as it is well written, deep, and bears reflection upon, after reading, for today’s world….

Paul Weimer Inside the New Uncle Hugo’s: Photos by Paul Weimer 

Paul Weimer went to donate some books at Don Blyly’s new location for Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores. While he was inside Paul shot these photographs of the bookshelves being stocked and other work in progress.

Michaele Jordan Jordan: Comments on the 2022 Best Novel Hugo Finalists: Part 1 and Jordan: Hugo Finalists for Best Novel, Part 2

Rob Thornton A World of Afrofuturism: Meet Nicole Michell’s “Xenogenesis Suite” (Part I) and A World of Afrofuturism: Creating Nicole Michell’s “Xenogenesis Suite” (Part II)

… Another contributor to the Afrofuturist tradition is Nicole Mitchell, a noted avant-jazz composer and flutist. She chose to take on Octavia Butler’s most challenging works, the Xenogenesis Trilogy, and create the Xenogenesis Suite, a collection of dark and disturbing compositions that reflect the trilogy’s turbulent and complicated spirit….

J. Franklin March Hidden Talents: A Story

Anna carefully arranged the necessary objects around her desktop computer into a pentagon: sharpened pencils, a legal pad, a half-empty coffee cup, and a copy of Science Without Sorcery, with the chair at the fifth point. This done, she intoned the spell that would open the channel to her muse for long enough to write the final pages of her work-in-progress. Then she could get ready for the convention….

Nicholas Whyte Whyte: Comments on the 2022 Hugo Awards Study Committee Report

… In the last five years, the [Hugo Awards Study Committee] [HASC] has changed precisely two words of the Constitution. (Since you asked: adding the words “or Comic” to the title of the “Best Graphic Story” category.) The HASC’s defenders will complain that we had two years of pandemic, and that the committee switched to Discord rather than email only this year, and that there are lots of proposals this year. But the fact remains that so far the practical impact has been slower than I imagined when I first proposed the Committee…..

Michaele Jordan Jordan: 2022 Hugo Finalists for Best Novella

In Michaele Jordan’s overview, she comments on the novellas by Aliette de Bodard, Becky Chambers, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Catherynne M. Valente that are up for the 2022 Hugo.

John Hertz Tim Powers Makes Stolen Skies Sweet

… Once we had a lot of science fiction, little fantasy; lately we’ve had a lot of fantasy; so Powers’ writing fantasy does not seem particularly defiant.

His fantasy has generally been — to use a word which may provoke defiance — rigorous. Supernatural phenomena occur, may be predicted, aroused, avoided, as meticulously — a word whose root means fear — as we in our world start an automobile engine or put up an umbrella. Some say this has made his writing distinctive….

Mike Glyer Will E Pluribus Hugo Survive Re-Ratification?

The day of reckoning is here for E Pluribus Hugo.  The change in the way Hugo Awards nominations are counted was passed in 2015 and ratified in 2016 to counter how Sad and Rabid Puppies’ slates dictated most of finalists on the Hugo ballots in those years. It came with a 2022 sunset clause attached, and E Pluribus Hugo must be re-ratified this year in order to remain part of the WSFS Constitution….

Michaele Jordan They’re Back!

Who’s back?” you ask. Spear and Fang, of course! But perhaps you have not heard of Genddy Tartakovsky’s Primal?…

Rich Lynch The Fan Who Had a Disease Named After Him

… His name is Joel Nydahl, and back about the time of that Chicon he was a 14-year-old neofan who lived with his parents on a farm near Marquette, Michigan.  He was an avid science fiction reader and at some point in 1952 decided to publish a fanzine.  It was a good one….

Melanie Stormm Supercharge Your SFF Career With These Ten Tips from Writer X

[Infographic at the link]

Borys Sydiuk Guest Post: Ukrainian Fandom At Chicon 8 [PIC Borys-Sydiuk-584×777]

Friends, on behalf of the Ukrainian Fandom I would like to thank everyone who supports us at this time…

Lis Carey Review: What Abigail Did That Summer (Rivers of London #5.83), by Ben Aaronovitch

… Abigail Kamara, younger cousin of police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant, has been left largely unsupervised while he’s off in the sticks on a case. This leaves Abigail making her own decisions when she notices that kids roughly her age are disappearing–but not staying missing long enough for the police to care….

Michaele Jordan Review: Extraordinary Attorney Woo

Friends, let me tell you about one of my favorite TV shows. But I must admit to you up front that it’s not SF/F. Extraordinary Attorney Woo is, as I assume you’ve deduced from the title, a lawyer show. But it’s a KOREAN lawyer show, which should indicate that is NOT run of the mill…. 

Lis Carey Review: Romance of the Grail: The Magic and Mystery of Arthurian Myth by Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell was a professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College, and wrote extensively about comparative mythology. His “hero’s journey” theory has been extremely influential….

Lee Weinstein Gene Autry and The Phantom Empire

The Phantom Empire, a twelve-chapter Mascot serial, was originally released in February, 1935. A strange concoction for a serial, it is at once science fiction film, a Western, and strangely enough, a musical. It was the first real science fiction sound serial and its popularity soon inspired other serials about fantastic worlds….

Kevin Standlee Guest Post: Standlee on the Future of Worldcon Governance

… I find myself explaining the changes to membership in the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) and the conditions for attending the World Science Fiction Convention that were ratified this year in Chicago (and thus are now in effect, because this was the second vote on the changes)…

Tammy Coxen How the Chicago Worldcon Community Fund Helped People Attend Chicon 8

Chicon 8’s Chicago Worldcon Community Fund (CWCF) program offered both memberships and financial stipends. It was established with the goal of helping defray the expenses of attending Chicon 8 for the following groups of people:

    • Non-white fans or program participants
      • LGBTQIA+ fans or program participants
      • Local Chicago area fans of limited means…

Lis Carey The Furthest Station (Rivers of London #5.5), by Ben Aaronovitch

The London Underground has ghosts. Well, the London Underground always has ghosts, but usually they’re gentle, sad creatures. Lately there’s been an outbreak of more aggressive ghosts….

Sultana Raza Utopias

As environmental problems caused by industrialisation and post-industrialisation continue to increase, the public is looking for ecological solutions. As pandemics, economic crises, and wars plague our society in different ways, thoughts turn to the good old times. But were they really all that good? People are escaping increasingly into fantastical stories in order to find a quantum of solace. But at what point was there a utopia in our society. If so, at what or whose cost did it exist? Whether or not we ever experience living in a utopia, the idea of finally finding one drives us to continue seeking ideal living conditions….

Rich Lynch Three Weeks in October

… Capclave appeared to be equally star-crossed in its next iteration. It was held over the weekend of October 18-20, 2002, and once again the attendees were brought closer together by an event taking place in the outside world. The word had spread quickly through all the Saturday night room parties: “There’s been another shooting.” Another victim of the D.C. Sniper….

Michaele Jordan My Journey to She-Hulk, Attorney at Law

… Why such mixed feelings? On the one hand, I am a huge admirer of Tatiana Maslany. On the other hand, I truly loathe The Hulk….

Daniel Dern — Stephen King’s Fairy Tale: Worth The Read. Another Dern Not-Quite-A-Review

… In Fairy Tale, his newest novel, Stephen King delivers a, cough, grimm contemporary story, explicitly incorporating horror in the, cough, spirit of Lovecraft (King also explicitly namedrops, in the text, August Derleth, and Henry Kuttner), in which high-schooler Charlie Reade becomes involved in things — and challenges — that, as the book and plot progress, stray beyond the mundane….

Lee Weinstein Review: Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles

The idea of an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories about the Beatles seems like a natural. I’ve been told the two editors, each unbeknownst to the other, both presented the idea to the publisher around the same time…

Jonathan Cowie SF Museum Exhibition  

The Science Museum (that’s the world famous one in Kensington, London) has just launched a new exhibit on what Carl Sagan once mused (though not mentioned in the exhibit itself) science fiction and science’s ‘dance’. SF2 Concatenation reprographic supremo Tony Bailey and I were invited by the Museum to have a look on the exhibition’s first day. (The exhibition runs to Star Wars day 2023, May the Fourth.) Having braved Dalek extermination at the Museum’s entrance, we made our way to the exhibition’s foyer – decorated with adverts to travel to Gallifrey – to board our shuttle….

Mark Roth-Whitworth KSR and F. Scott Fitzgerald

I was at the 2022 F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival in Rockville, MD today. If you’re wondering why the festival is there, that’s where Fitzgerald and his wife are buried. Now, I’d never read any of Fitzgerald`s writing, so I spent the evening before reading the first three chapters of The Great Gatsby (copyright having expired last year, it’s online). So far, I’ve yet to find anyone in it that I want to spend any time with, including the narrator.

However, the reason I attended was to see Kim Stanley Robinson, who was the special guest at the Festival. The end of the morning’s big event was a conversation between Stan and Richard Powers. Then there was lunch, and a keynote speaker, then Stan introducing Powers to receive an award from the society that throws the annual Festival….

Jonathan Cowie How Long Does It Take an SF Award to Reach Its Recipients?

A recent possible record could be the SF2 Concatenation’s website 2012 Eurocon Award voted on by those at the European SF Society’s convention which, that year, was held in Croatia….

Lis Carey A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny: An Audiobook Review

 Snuff is our narrator, here, and he’s a smart, interesting, likable dog. He’s the friend and partner of a man called Jack, and they are preparing for a major event….

A.K. Mulford The Hobbit: A Guest Post by A.K. Mulford

…As a child, I kept a notebook filled with my favorite quotes. (How did I not know I was going to be an author?) The first quote? “Not all who wander are lost.” There was everything from 90s rom com lines to Wordsworth poems in that notebook, but Tolkien filled the most pages….

Lis Carey Review: The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch

This entry in Rivers of London is, for variety, set in Germany, and involves a German river. Or two. And river goddesses….

Lis Carey Review: Ringworld Audiobook

Louis Wu is 200 years old, and he’s bored. It’s his 200th birthday, and he’s using transfer booths to extend the celebration of it for a full twenty-four hours, and he’s really bored….

Michaele Jordan Korean Frights

How can Halloween be over already? We barely had time to watch thirty horror movies –and those mostly classics, which are less than half our (horror) collection!

Paul Weimer Review: The Spare Man

There is a fundamental implausibility to easy manned interstellar (or even interplanetary) space travel that nonetheless remains a seductive idea even in our wiser and more cynical and weary 21st century. …

Lis Carey Review: Alif the Unseen

Alif is a young man, a “gray hat” hacker, selling his skills to provide cybersecurity to anyone who needs that protection from the government. He lives in an unnamed city-state in the Middle East, referred to throughout simply as the City. He’s nonideological; he’ll sell his services to Islamists, communists, anyone….

Ahrvid Engholm Bertil Falk: From “A Space Hobo” to “Finnegans Wake”

Journalist, author, genre historian (and fan, certainly, from the 1940s and on!) Bertil Falk is acclaimed for performing the “impossible” task of translating Finnegans Wake to Swedish, the modernist classic by James Joyce, under the title Finnegans likvaka….

Lis Carey Review: Isle of the Dead / Eye of Cat, by Roger Zelazny

The protagonist of the first short novel in this omnibus — which is in fact Eye of Cat — is William Blackhorse Singer, a Navajo born in the 20th century, and still alive, and fit and healthy, almost two centuries later…. 

Lis Carey Review: Whispers Under Ground (Rivers of London #3)

One fine Monday morning, Peter Grant is summoned to Baker Street Station on the London Underground, to assess whether there was anything “odd,” i.e., involving magic, about the death of a young man on the tracks…. 

Michaele Jordan Again, with the Animé?

…If you’re not a fan, then there’s a real chance you have no idea how much range animé encompasses. And I’m not even talking about the entire range of kid shows, sit-coms and drama. (I’m aware there may be limits to your tolerance. I’m talking about the range within SF/F. Let’s consider just three examples….

Daniel Dern What’s Not Up, Doc (Savage)?

While I subscribe to the practice that, as a rule, reviews and review-like write-ups, if not intended as a piece of critical/criticism, should stick to books the reviewer feels are worth the readers reading, sometimes (I) want to, like Jerry Pournelle’s “We makes these mistakes and do this stuff so you dont have to” techno-wrangling Chaos Manor columns, give a maybe-not-your-cup-of-paint-remover head’s-up. This is one of those….

Rich Lynch Remembering Roger Weddall

It’s been 30 years since the passing of my friend Roger Weddall.  I doubt very many of you reading this had ever met him and I wouldn’t be surprised, actually, if most of you haven’t even heard of him.  Thirty years is a long time and the demographics of fandom has changed a lot.  So let me tell you a little bit about him….

Lis Carey Review: Broken Homes (Rivers of London #4)

Peter Grant and partner Lesley May are at the Folly practicing their magic skills and researching an Oxford dining club called the Little Crocodiles….

Mark Roth-Whitworth Artemis I: A Hugo Contender?

I expect a lot of File 770’s readers watched, as we did, as the Orion capsule returned to Terra. I’m older than some of you, and it’s been decades since I watched a capsule re-entry and landing in the ocean. What had me in tears is that finally, after fifty years, we’re planning to go back… and stay….

Lis Carey Review: The Complete Psychotechnic League, Volume 1

Poul Anderson began writing his own “future history” in the 1950s, with its starting point being that there would be a limited nuclear war at some point in the 1950s. From that point would develop a secret effort to build a new social structure that could permanently prevent war….

Rich Lynch A Genre-Adjacent Essay Appropriate for Today

As the Peanuts cartoon in the newspaper reminds us, today is Ludwig von Beethoven’s birthday…. 

Craig Miller Review: Avatar: The Way of Water

…As with AvatarAvatar: The Way of Water is a visual feast. Unlike the first film, there aren’t long sweeping pans lingering over beautiful, otherworldly vistas. The “beautiful” and the “otherworldly” are still there, but we’re seeing them incorporated into the action and storytelling….

Rich Lynch Remembering Harry

Today we celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of Harry Warner, Jr., who was perhaps the best-known stay-at-home science fiction fan of all time….

Melanie Stormm On Rambo’s Academy For Wayward Writers (Feat. A Trip in Melanie’s Time Machine)

… I took two classes at The Rambo Academy For Wayward Writers this week, and I’d like to do something a little different.

You see, I’ve got things on my mind that I think you might identify with. You may find it helpful. 

I’d like to tell you exactly why you need to jump over to Cat Rambo’s Patreon & website and sign up right away for everything that looks shiny….

Lis Carey Review: Juniper Wiles and the Ghost Girls

…But having learned that she can see and talk to ghosts, and that they all have unresolved problems they want to solve, she can’t always say no when they ask her for help…. 

Lis Carey Review: Red Scholar’s Wake, by Aliette de Bodard

…Xich Si is a tech scavenger, living in Triệu Hoà Port, and scavenging tech to sell and support herself and her daughter, when she’s captured by pirates. ….

CHRIS BARKLEY

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #63

My 2022 Hugo Awards Nomination Ballot for the Best Dramatic Presentation Long and Short Form Categories 

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #65

… When I was growing up, children like myself were taught, no, more like indoctrinated, to think the United States was the BEST place to grow up, that our country was ALWAYS in the right and that our institutions were, for the most part, unassailable and impervious to criticism from anyone, especially foreigners.

I grew up in Ohio in the 1960’s and despite what I was being taught in a parochial Catholic grade school (at great expense, I might add, by my hard-working parents), certain things I was experiencing did not add up. News of the violence and casualties during the Vietnam War was inescapable. I remember watching the evening network news broadcasts and being horrified by the number of people (on all sides of the conflict) being wounded or killed on a daily basis.

As the years went on, it became harder to reconcile all of the violence, terrorism, public assassinations and the racism I was experiencing with the education I was receiving. The Pentagon Papers and the Watergate break-ins coincided with my high school years and the beginnings of my political awakening.

When I look back on those formative days of my life, I see myself as a small child, set out upon a sea of prejudice and whiteness, in a boat of hetero-normaltity, destination unknown….

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #66

Interrogatives Without Answers: Mercedes Lackey and Stephanie Burke     

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #68: Two 2022 Hugo Award Finalists Walk Into a Bookstore…

… After I introduced myself to Mr. Weir and Mr. Bell, I said, “You and I have something in common.”

“Oh really? What’s that?”

“You and I are the only 2022 Hugo Award nominees within a hundred-mile radius of this bookstore.” (I stated that because I know that our fellow nominee, Jason Sanford, lives in Columbus, Ohio, hence the reference to the mileage.)…

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #69

Fandom and the Pendulum: The Astronomicon 13 Fan Guest of Honor Speech

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #70

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, A (Spoiler Free) Review 

JAMES BACON

Cosmonaut Solidarity

Despite some very harsh comments from Dmitry Rogozin, the director general of Roscosmos, threatening that “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or Europe?” spacefarers seem to have a different perspective and understanding of the importance of international cooperation, respect and solidarity. This appears to have been demonstrated today when three cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station….  

45 Years of 2000AD

Forty-five years ago or thereabouts, on February  26, 1977, the first ‘prog’ of 2000AD was released by IPC magazines. The second issue dated March 5 a week later saw the debut of Judge Dredd. Since then, Rogue Trooper, Nemesis the Warlock, Halo Jones, Sláine, Judge Anderson, Strontium Dog, Roxy and Skizz, The ABC Warriors, Bad Company and Proteus Vex are just some of the characters and stories that have emanated from the comic that was started by Pat Mills and John Wagner. Some have gone on to be in computer games, especially as the comic was purchased by Rebellion developments in 2000, and Judge Dredd has been brought to the silver screen twice. 

Addictive and enjoyable stories of the fantastic, written and drawn by some of the greatest comic creators of the latter part of the 20th century, they often related to the current, utilizing Science Fiction to obscure issues about violence or subversiveness, but reflecting metaphorically about the now of the time…. 

Fight With Art

“Fight With Art” is an exhibition of Ukrainian Contemporary Art created under exceptional circumstances taking place now in Kraków at the Manggha Museum until April 30. 

We reached out to curator Artur Wabik to learn more of this topical exhibition…

Steve Vertlieb, William Shatner, and Erwin Vertlieb.

STEVE VERTLIEB

The Greatest Motion Picture Scores Of All Time

Traditionally, the start of a new year is a time when film critics begin assembling their lists of the best films, actors, writers, composers, and directors of the past year. What follows, then, while honoring that long-held tradition, is a comprehensive compilation and deeply personal look at the finest film scores of the past nearly one hundred years….

“Don’t Look Up” …Down …Or Around

The frenzy of joyous controversy swirling over director Adam McKay’s new film Don’t Look Up has stirred a healthy, if frenetic debate over the meaning and symbology of this bonkers dramedy. On its surface a cautionary satire about the impending destruction of the planet, Don’t Look Up is a deceptively simplistic tale of moronic leadership refusing to accept a grim, unpleasant reality smacking it in its face. 

Remembering Veronica Carlson (1944-2022)

What follows is truly one of the most personally heartfelt, poignant, and heartbreaking remembrances that I’ve ever felt compelled to write.

Veronica Carlson was a dear, close, cherished friend for over thirty years. I learned just now that this dear sweet soul passed away today. I am shocked and saddened beyond words. May God rest her beautiful soul.

“The Man Who Would Be Kirk” — Celebrating William Shatner’s 91st Birthday

After interviewing William Shatner for the British magazine L’Incroyable Cinema during the torrid Summer of 1969 at “The Playhouse In The Park,” just outside of Philadelphia, while Star Trek was still in the final days of its original network run on NBC, my old friend Allan Asherman, who joined my brother Erwin and I for this once-in-a-lifetime meeting with Captain James Tiberius Kirk, astutely commented that I had now met and befriended all three of our legendary boyhood “Captains,” which included Jim Kirk (William Shatner), Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers (Larry “Buster” Crabbe), and Buzz Corry (Edward Kemmer), Commander of the Space Patrol….

King Kong Opens in Los Angeles on March 24, 1933

Today is the 89th anniversary of the “Hollywood Premiere” of King Kong in Los Angeles on March 24, 1933…

Elmer Bernstein at 100

… The first of the most important music modernists, however, in the post war era and “Silver Age” of film composers was Elmer Bernstein who would, had he lived, be turning one hundred years old on April 4th, 2022.  Although he would subsequently prove himself as able as classic “Golden Age” composers of writing traditional big screen symphonic scores, with his gloriously triumphant music for Cecil B De Mille’s 1956 extravaganza, The Ten Commandments….

R.M.S. Titanic … “A Night To Remember”

… She was just four days into her maiden voyage from Southhampton to New York City when this “Unsinkable” vessel met disaster and finality, sailing into history, unspeakable tragedy, and maritime immortality. May God Rest Her Eternal Soul … the souls of the men, women, and children who sailed and perished during those nightmarish hours, and to all those who go courageously “Down to The Sea in Ships.”  This horrifying remembrance remains among the most profoundly significant of my own seventy-six years….

Seth Macfarlane and “The Orville: New Horizons”

… It is true that Seth MacFarlane, the veteran satirist who both created and stars in the science fiction series, originally envisioned [The Orville] as a semi-comedic tribute to Gene Roddenberry’s venerable Star Trek. However, the show grew more dramatic in its second season on Fox, while it became obvious that MacFarlane wished to grow outside the satirical box and expand his dimensional horizons and ambitions….

A Photographic Memory

…  I was born in the closing weeks of 1945, and grasped at my tentative surroundings with uncertain hands.  It wasn’t until 1950 when I was four years old that my father purchased a strange magical box that would transform and define my life.  The box sat in our living room and waited to come alive.  Three letters seemed to identify its persona and bring definition to its existence.  Its name appeared to be RCA, and its identity was known as television….

I Sing Bradbury Electric: A Loving, Personal Remembrance 

He was a kindly, gentle soul who lived among us for a seeming eternity. But even eternity is finite. He was justifiably numbered among the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Among the limitless vistas of science fiction and fantasy he was, perhaps, second only in literary significance to H.G. Wells who briefly shared the last century with him. Ray Bradbury was, above all else, the poet laureate of speculative fiction….

Celebrating “E.T.” On His 40th Birthday

On June 11, 1982, America and the world received the joyous gift of one of the screen’s most beloved fantasy film classics and, during that memorable Summer, a young aspiring television film critic reviewed a new film from director Steven Spielberg called E.T….

Steve Vertlieb is “Back From The Suture”

…Before I realized it, tables and chairs were being moved and I felt the hands of paramedics lifting me to the floor of the restaurant. Les was attempting to perform CPR on me, and I was drifting off into unconciousness. I awoke to find myself in an ambulance with assorted paramedics pounding my chest, while attempting to verbally communicate with me. I was aware of their presence, but found myself unable to speak….

Rhapsodies “Across The Stars” …Celebrating John Williams

After nearly dying a little more than a decade ago during and just after major open heart surgery, I fulfilled one of the major dreams of my life…meeting the man who would become my last living life long hero. I’d adored him as far back as 1959 when first hearing the dramatic strains of the theme from Checkmate on CBS Television. That feeling solidified a year later in 1960 with the rich, sweet strains of ABC Television’s Alcoa Premiere, hosted by Fred Astaire, followed by Wide Country on NBC….

Reviving “The Music Man” On Broadway

…When Jack Warner was casting the film version of the smash hit, he considered performers such as Cary Grant, James Cagney, or Frank Sinatra for the lead. Meredith Willson, the show’s composer, however, demanded that Robert Preston star in the movie version of his play, or he’d withdraw the contracts and licensing. The film version of The Music Man, produced for Warner Brothers, and starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones, opened to rave reviews on movie screens across the country in 1962. Robert Preston, like Rex Harrison in Lerner and Lowe’s My Fair Lady, had proven that older, seasoned film stars could propel both Broadway and big screen musicals to enormous artistic success….

Remembering Frank Sinatra

On the evening of May 14, 1998, following the airing over NBC Television of the series finale of Seinfeld, the world and I received the terrible news of the passing of the most beloved entertainer of the twentieth century. It has been twenty-four years since he left this mortal realm, but the joy, the music, and the memories are as fresh and as vital today as when they were born….

Dr. Van Helsing And Victor Frankenstein: A Peter Cushing Remembrance

I had the honor and distinct pleasure of both knowing and sharing correspondence with British actor Peter Cushing for several years during the late Sixties and early Seventies….

“12 O’clock High” Legendary Soundtrack Release By Composer Dominic Frontiere

Very exciting news. The long awaited CD soundtrack release of 12 O’Clock High is now available for purchase through La-La Land Records and is a major restoration of precious original tracks from Quinn Martin’s beloved television series….

Remembering Camelot’s Prince

That terrible day in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 remains one of the most significantly traumatic days of my life. I was just seventeen years old. I was nearing the end of my high school classes at Northeast High School in Philadelphia when word started spreading through the hallways and corridors that JFK had been shot. I listened in disbelief, praying that it wasn’t true … but it was….

Vertlieb: I Am A Jew!

I recently watched a somber new three part documentary by film maker Ken Burns that is among the most sobering, heartbreaking, and horrifying indictments of humanity that I have ever encountered. It was extremely difficult to watch but, as an American Jew, I remain struck by the similarities between the rise in Fascism in the early nineteen thirties, leading to the beginnings of Nazism in Germany, and the attempted decimation of the Jewish people in Europe and throughout the world, with the repellant echoes of both racial and religious intolerance, and the mounting hatred and suspicion of the Jewish communities and population residing presently in my own country of birth, these United States….

Remembering Hugo Friedhofer

I’ve read with interest some of the recent discussions concerning the measure of Hugo Friedhofer’s importance as a composer, and it set my memory sailing back to another time in a musical galaxy long ago and far away. I have always considered Maestro Friedhofer among the most important, if underrated, composers of Hollywood’s golden era….

“The Fabelmans” — A Review Of The Film

…Steven Spielberg’s reverent semi-autobiographical story of youthful dreams and aspirations is, for me, the finest, most emotionally enriching film of the year, filled with photographic memories, and indelible recollections shared both by myself and by the film maker….

A Magical Philadelphia Christmas Tradition

These photographs are of an annual Christmas tradition at American Heritage Federal Credit Union located at Red Lion and Jamison Roads in Northeast Philadelphia…. 

Remembering Frank Capra

…This was the man who brought such incalculable joy and hope to so many millions of filmgoers with his quintessential Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life. …

Martin Morse Wooster

MARTIN MORSE WOOSTER

Review of Moonfall

My friend Adam Spector tells me that when Ernest Lehman was asked to write the script for North by Northwest, he tried to turn out the most “Hotchcocky” script he could, with all of Hitchcock’s obsessions in one great motion picture.

Moonfall is the most “Emmerichian” film Roland Emmerich is made.  Like his earlier films, it has flatulent melodrama interlaced with completely daft science.  But everything here is much more intense than his earlier work.  But the only sense of wonder you’ll get from this film is wondering why the script got greenlit….

Review of Becoming Superman

… Having a long career in Hollywood is a lot harder than in other forms of publishing; you’ve got to have the relentless drive to pursue your vision and keep making sales.  To an outsider, what is astonishing about J. Michael Straczynski’s career is that it has had a third act and may well be in the middle of a fourth.  His career could have faded after Babylon 5.  The roars that greeted him at the 1996 Los Angeles Worldcon (where, it seemed, every conversation had to include the words, “Where’s JMS?”) would have faded and he could have scratched out a living signing autographs at media conventions….

Review of “The Book of Dust” Stage Play

When I read in the Financial Times about how Britain’s National Theatre was adapting Sir Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage, the first volume of his Book of Dust trilogy, I told myself, “That’s a play for me!  I’ll just fly over to London and see it!  OGH is made of money, and he’ll happily pay my expenses!”

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to London, because the theatre came to me, with a screening of the National Theatre Live production playing at the American Film Institute.  So, I spent a pleasant Saturday afternoon seeing it….

Review: A Monster Calls at Kennedy Center

… Stories matter more in the theatre than in film because far more of a play is in our imagination than in a film.  Stripped of CGI and rewrites by multiple people, what plays offer at their best is one person’s offering us something where, if it works, we tell ourselves, “Yes, that was a good evening in the theatre,” and if it doesn’t, we gnash our teeth and feel miserable until we get home…

Review of “Under The Sea With Dredgie McGee”

As Anton Ego told us in Ratatouille, the goal of a critic today is to be the first person to offer praise to a rising artist. It’s not the tenth novel that deserves our attention but the first or second. In the theatre, the people who need the most attention are the ones who are being established, not the ones that build on earlier successes.

So I’m happy to report that Matthew Aldwin McGee, author, star, and chief puppeteer of Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee is a talented guy who has a great deal of potential.  You should be watching him….

Review: Maple and Vine

I once read an article about a guy who was determined to live life in 1912.  He lived in a shack in the woods, bought a lot of old clothes, a Victrola, and a slew of old books and magazines.  I don’t remember how he made a living, but the article made clear that he was happy….

TRIGGER SNOWFLAKE

By Ingvar

CATS SLEEP ON SFF

OBITUARIES

[date of publication]

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Fifty-Ninth

[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.]

The PERFECT Hogswatch

Hello All, Melanie here!

I’m writing you from New Jersey this week as I’m here visiting my sister for the holidays. I hope that you each enjoyed your holidays and had uninterrupted power.

Without further ado…


Subject: This will be the end of those juggling, caroling gnomes!!!

Dear Gladys,

I need you to convene at my house IMMEDIATELY. I am traveling from the Magical Market and should be there in TWNETY MINUTES. Nothing less than My Perfect Writerly Hogswatch is on the line!!!!

Drop whatever holiday shopping you’re in the throws of and bring me your extra long extention cord. I have something to plug in. Please.

By the way, sorry that I didn’t email you last week, as you will see from my lawn I was BUSY handling this GNOME situation!!!!

This Hogswatch I could have wished for world peace, a renewable energy source for humanity, or an end to hunger but did I do that? NO.

I set my sights on a reasonable list of Hogswatch demands: to be a famous writer (currently in the works!!!), to find the perfect present for Tryxy (this is his official first celebrated Hogswatch), to give my boyfriend—award-nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, a present that reveals I am the superior giftgiver.

And to lose ten pounds.

With all my wishes on the verge of coming true except that last one, I was set to have the Perfect Writerly Hogswatch. Hogswatch morning would begin with a light snowfall, some writing and reviewing all the hundreds of acceptance letters that SHOULD BE IN MY INBOX BY THEN, popping a scrumptious three course Hogswatch feast in the oven, and then quietly opening presents together.

Two weeks ago, Tryxy and I even put together A VERY TASTEFUL Hogswatch themed animatronic display in our front yard. At sunset on Hogswatch, we planned to switch on the animatronic display as the HOGSWATCHY WONDERMENT of animatronics doing the robot delights all.

Everything was great until my neighbor, Mr. D___, hired those STUPID juggling MLM gnomes to set up Magical Hogswatch Village in his front yard. Since then, it’s been non stop juggling, chorus line kicks, and barbershop quartets singing saccharine carols until FOUR A.M.

How is my Hogswatch display supposed to inspire HOSGWATCHY WONDERMENT with those stupid barbershop gnomes singing a doo-wappy “It Happened On A Hogswatch Night”???????

Of course this forced me to delay shopping for Tod Boadkins and Tryxy UNTIL HOGSWATCH EVE and prioritze buying ALL of the Hogswatch lights and lawn ornaments in a fifty mile radious. (Ialready got #bestkitten a ham and a cute little snoopy doll.)

I covered EVERY inch of front acreage in wattage and gtinsel!!!! It took ALL of my attention.

You know what those miserable gnomes did??? They exchanged juggling metallic balls for CANDLESTICKS. And now Mr. D___’s lawn is bucolicly lit with the warm glow of juggling candle flames THUS DIMINISHING my overall animatronic HOGSWATCHY WONDERMENT by AT LEAST 18%!!!!

So I started anti-gnome whisper campaign. Gnomes are the most pedestrian of Hogswatch symbols. But you didn’t hear that from me!!!!!

AND THEN I FOUND THE ULTIMATE HOGSWATCH.

Down at the magical market, I bought a one-of-a-kind BEHEMOTH  XRAY VISION LUMINANCE HOLIDAY BEACON 10000.

I signed the safety waver and promised to reserve its use for Emergencies. Such as if planet earth needs to signal extra terrestrials for help. But that’s just like those tags people tell you not to tear off pillows. 

On Hogswatch, if those melodic gnomes so much as whistle a single bar of “Silent Night, Hogswatch Night” I’m gonna light those suckers up with SO MUCH HOGSWATCH CHEER IT WILL WAKE THE DEAD!!!!!!

xox,

X

sent from my iPhone


Subject: SEcond OPINion

Dear Gladys,

I’m hear in the Magical Market scouting last minute presents for Tryxy and my boyfriend, award-nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins. I think I found the perfect presents but I want your opinion.

For Tryxy I went to Mungawo’s Misfit Marvels and I found a chartreuse fur-trimmed unitard. or a  lifelike immense sculpture of a malevolent purple leopard with opulescent bared fangs and black eyes that follow you when you move. It also throbs with a cold dread whenever you touch it.

I’m leaning towards the leopard but you can change my mind.

Tod Boadkins is against the commercialization of Hogswatch. He prefers recycled gifts so I popped by Sigmund Sigirsson’s Second Chance Showroom and found a watch that’s entirely out of time.

I also found this nifty little lamp with a writer’s soul trapped inside. It’s the ultimate upcycled gift. That could be cool, too.

Whatever you do, let me know fast because I went to Mr. Morgan’s before I came back here and I bought some grapes, a vat of eggnog, and a rack of lamb for our three course holiday feast and there are wolves circling my car. Oh! And I saw some stuff that looked like parsley growing on the side of the road so I picked some to flavor the eggnog.

You know everyone loves my cocktails, Gladys!!!!!

Oh my goodness Gladys!!!!! I WAS JUST THE VICTIM OF A DRIVE BY TAUNTING!!!!

A hand trolley full of half drunk MLM gnomes just jockeyed by while shouting “HEY LADY, WHO YOU CALLING PEDESTRIAN? WE’LL SHOW YOU WHO’S MORE HOGSWATCHY OH YEAH, TAKE THAT, SO THERE!!!!!” Then they pumped away on their hand trolley. 

This is incorrigible!!! What’s this town coming to??? I’m so mad I could write an email to those gnome’s upline!!!!

I’m gonna be the bigger person, Gladys!!!! I’m going to turn up my nose, buy that leopard, and walk with dignity to my car to carry on knowing TWO THINGS:

1.) With all the chapters of my novel submitted as short stories, I will be a famous fantasy writer VERY SOON and THOSE GNOMES WILL WANT MY AUTOGRAPH and

2.) I HAVE THE BEHEMOTH XRAY VISION LUMINENCE HOLIDAY BEACON 10000 so who’s laughing????

Always be the bigger, more well-equipped person, Galduys!!! And when given the option, always buying the econo sized bottle of cheap rum on Hogswatch eve!!!! I’m so shaken from that taunting, I need to calm my nerves!!!

xox,

X

P.S. Why didn’t I think of sending out my chapters as short stories before???? It’s BRILLIANT!!! I could have been famous last year!!!!!

sent from my iPhone


Subject: i’m SO CLEVER GLADys

Dear Gladys,

No. I have not been drinking. Much, Do you still have that tarp? Need to borrow it.

I was checking my emails for short story acceptances and I thought well Gladys has a tarp maybe she can assijst with this scenario.

After I snuck the giant malevolent leopard into the backyard before Tryxy could see it, I festooned it with tinsel but I don’t think the leopard liked it. Let’s cover it with a giant tarp so that Tryxy can unwrap it tomorrow and I don’t have to regret ny deciusions.

I must havetaken my Great Thinking Pills today Gladys because I narrowly avoided a crisis!!!!!

Potato.

As you know the HOA loves to skulk around my backyard. With this leopard here, one of them is sure to have a heart attack. So I painted a little sign that says “Beware of the Leopard” and hung it on my front door.

so quaint!

Anyhoo,

I need you to get here before Tryxy gets back!!!! Those blasted gnomes across the street have started to roast their sugar pigs and hurl their Hogswatch sausages at passers-by. I’m going into the house before I’m

tempted to BREAK OUT THE BEHEMOTH. It’s HOGSWATFCH TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!

xox,

X

sent from my iPhone


Subject: HogSWatch!!!!! EMERGENVY!!

Dear Gladys

For some reason I overslept buyt hagve no idea why and i seem to be in a bit of a picl;e. Pickle.

How do you cook a perfcewct hogswatch feast in…twenty three minutes???

BEcause my boyfriend, award-nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins will soon walk through my door and the lamb is raw, the grapes are warm, the eggnog is half gone, and the parsley is growling at me.

What would Rachel Ray do? Oh!! We’ll make this a one pot hogswatch [email protected]@!!! We’ll put it all= in one pot  and turn  on the dinner. No.

Turn the OVEN up to 500 degrees and that should get things smelling like HoSSGwatchy Wonderfment!!!!

This is going to be the Most perfect Hogswqarch ever.

 I still haven’t gotten those accaptence letters but they’re coming, I can feel it.

Waitaminute Gladys, waht if I put the dinner in front of the BEHEMOTH XRAY VISION LUMINENCE HOLIDAY BEACON?????? If it can XRay a distant planet, IT CAN SEAR A LEG oF LAMB!!!!!

Hang on cladys, I’m just pouring the eggnog in with the lamb and hauling it in front of behemoth.

Ready Gladys??? Get ready for some Hogswatch WONDERmENT in

3

2

sent from my iPhone


Subject:

Dear Gladys,

Now that power has been restored across the region, I’m sure you’re dying to know how my writing is going. Things are excellent. Those acceptances for my chapters will come any minute now that publishers once again have electricity with which to send them.

The four of us had to adjust holiday plans due to that mysterious regional power outage but we had an equally atmospheric supper of ketchup on ritz crackers.

The light from that lamp crafted from a writer’s soul came in handy. It runs on hindsight and so didn’t need to be plugged into the grid. It leant a haunting, if not a little anguished, atmosphere to the meal as the gnomes angelic’ and plaintive voices called out to each other for directions because they were temporarily blinded by BEHEMOTH.

It’s a Hogswatch miracle.

I hope you had a happy Hogswagtch Gladys!!!!

xox,

X

LOVE MY

LEOPARD!

I GOT X

A GOAT

POSTER

BECAUSE

SHE’S THE

G.O.A.T.

HAVE TO GO

ENTERTAIN

OUR ALIEN

VISITORS.

HAPPY

HOGSWATCH,

FILERS!

On Rambo’s Academy For Wayward Writers (Feat. A Trip in Melanie’s Time Machine)

[Introduction: Melanie 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.]


Hello All, Melanie here!

For the last year and a half, we’ve rubbernecked Writer X’s misadventures in writing fantasy together. This week, I took two classes at The Rambo Academy For Wayward Writers, and I’d like to do something a little different.

You see, I’ve got things on my mind that I think you might identify with. You may find it helpful. 

I’d like to tell you exactly why you need to jump over to Cat Rambo’s Patreon & website and sign up right away for everything that looks shiny. 

So, if you’d like to learn how to

  • get fewer rejections, 
  • FINALLY finish that novel, 
  • gain insightful feedback that makes your stories sing, 
  • feel yourself grow as a writer, 
  • experience community, 

  …or check out my time machine. Read on!

But first…

Let’s start with a seemingly unrelated story. 

Last spring, my partner and I toured an expansive artists’ workshop filling a century-old factory renovated into the Makerspace. Our jaws flapped open as we strolled from one light-filled area to another. 

Here was the textile workshop. Behold, the $7,000 embroidery machine, the cutting table wide enough to arrange a sofa and coffee table on top of it. A commercial machine could mow through leather or sail cloth if needed. 

A short trot away was the jewelry-making shop, fully equipped with workbenches installed at the correct lower height, and tiny tools organized in drawers in the sequence you use them. Someone even thought of installing a wheely chair, knowing that jewelers frequently kick off from one spot of the workshop to land at another without breaking their workflow. 

There were C&C machines, a graphic design lab, and a ventilated area for metalworking that hosted looming machines. My partner’s eyes lit up like he was greeting old friends. There was a fully-equipped professional woodworking shop with a lathe (and wood available to purchase should you need it.)

Of course, we couldn’t sign up fast enough. For a low monthly fee of about $100 per person, a craftsman can access all of the equipment and space available whenever they need it. There were also classes available for each machine or skill represented in the area should they want to try something new. Never worked a lathe but want to start this project? There’s a class for that!

My partner holds a degree in ceramics and jewelry making, focusing on metalwork. We have a one-room workshop here at home. The ventilation is a hot mess, to say nothing of the thin layer of sawdust that eventually coats everything. So if he wants to create certain things—or weld at all, he can’t. Or he has to figure out how to do it in a tiny space. 

But we fixed that! It costs us about $1200/yr; that’s the cost of a quality wood lathe we don’t have room for. 


It’s amazing what having a sprawling space with all the right tools in all the places will do for an artist. 

Likely you see where I’m going; stay with me. We’re SFF nerds, so hop into this time machine, why don’t you? 

…Just as soon as I clear a path to it. Don’t mind these stacks of unedited manuscripts everywhere; I’m sure they’re not a fire hazard. 

Would you mind holding this Wampanoag steampunk alternate history? Thanks, I appreciate it. I just have to push aside this far-future sci-fi set in a hard drive. 

I keep meaning to get back to these stories. Arrange, polish, and send them off to new homes. But it’s a bit cramped in here. 

The time machine! I think we have things cleaned up enough to work the door. Yes, that’ll do. Climb on in, Filer!


I’m taking you back to an important moment in my life. It’s dark, but notice the window lit on the second floor of a duplex in the middle of a dilapidated neighborhood? That’s where we’re headed. 

A little girl is on the other side of that window, gazing out at the rain and the frowning buildings. She’s about six years old. She’s knelt in front of a trunk shoved under the window. She peers through rain-streaked glass at the avenue where broken bottles roll off curbs. Stragglers huddle under laundromat awnings to shelter from the weather. It’s a depressing view. 

But wait. 

The rain smears the view from the window. Either that or this is the exact moment the little girl has begun to need glasses because the avenue blurs, and the rust spots on the oversized cars struggling down the street disappear. The vehicles are altered, displaced. Even the street lights are displaced; the light that starts in one world lands in another. 

In the distance, two giant smokestacks with red blinking lights guard the horizon, but tonight, the smoky black plumes blow horizontally so that they no longer appear as smokestacks of the factory the girl’s uncles work at but instead become a giant torii gate. A torii as big as the world. 

The street in front of her becomes another world. She’s gripped by the notion that every window looks out at the beginning of a story. One is unfolding before her; if she doesn’t write it down, she’ll miss it. 

The little girl runs away long enough to return with paper and pencil. She begins to write. 

As the awkward letters stretch across the page, something feels familiar. It feels right. Like stumbling behind the curtain in Oz, instead of finding the wizard, she has found herself.

Oh, she thinks, that’s right. This is who I am, and this is what I’ll do. I’m a writer. I remember now. 

This is not an Arthur pulls the stone from the sword moment—or whichever way that thing goes, but we each have our own compass in our chest. And sometimes that compass turns into a boombox, stands outside our window, and blasts Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” 

That’s happened to you, yes?… Well, this is an awkward silence, isn’t it?

Let’s jump ahead in time—oh. Sorry. Small technical difficulty here. You see, one of my many dead pens has become wedged in the recess of the control arm. Would you have something small enough to reach down in there and dislodge it? 

You do? You’re a lifesaver! I’d hate for us both to get stuck in 1986 like the last guy did. Forget I mentioned him; he’s not important. So instead, here’s a great place to bring up a few rules on writing SFF.


1.) Writing is a skill you spend your life learning.

My first workshop was when I was twelve. It was an adult mystery writing workshop. Adult Me sympathizes with the actual adults who had to attend a workshop with a twelve year old.

I was a writer, and I wrote. Mostly fantasy stories torn from Alexander’s Prydain and Edding’s Belgariad. I attended an art school in high school and majored in Creative Writing. It was a rigorous program and I wouldn’t understand how rigorous until I hit college.  

I graduated with a high school diploma, a diploma in Creative Writing, and a sense that my teachers waited with baited breath for the day I would get writing SFF out of my system.  

Writers need a well to draw from, and mine needed deepening. So, after an uncanny stroke of luck, I went on the road for fifteen years to see the world, human beings, and learn how to write songs. I wrote lots of fantasy but no longer had a critique group. I traveled too much to find a local group. 

Online classes were in their early years, so I went to school that way. Out of a formal degree program, I studied and practiced copywriting. I bought every book on writing I found and read them in airports, on busses, and in diners at three in the morning. Finally, I returned to school (yet again) and got my degree in writing fiction, to the endless surprise of everyone who had been under the impression that I was a musician. 

I submitted nothing. 

You see, I have this problem. I have a lot of tools, and they’re everywhere. Some of them are buried so deep I need you to help me move my time machine to lug them out. I’m also missing tools. 

And in writing, you don’t just need tools; you need applied practice with each.


2.) Writing requires many skills to bring one story to the market. That means to do it successfully…you have to do it successfully. You must perform each skill to one degree or another. Description. Characterization. World Building. Dialogue. The rough draft. The revised draft.

Then there are other critical skills: deciphering beta readers, writing a slug line, developmental editing, writing a query letter to an agent, writing a book proposal, and publicizing your work. 

You not only need to know how to shape a clay pot, but you also need to study glazing and pot-selling. Specialized rules and ways of thinking take years of trial and error. You don’t have to get each of these perfect, but you need to be proficient at most if you’d like this stuff to hurt less. 

It’s overwhelming. You know which skill you’re lacking because its mention fills you with dread.


3.) Writing is necessarily solitary. 

Call me crazy, but you’ll never get that space opera written while splitting hot wings at a karaoke contest. Ditto on writing while at parties, talking on the phone, doom scrolling through Twitter, or binge-watching Stranger Things

To write a draft is to choose to make time to be alone in your life, your day, and your week. You will have to ask yourself innumerable hard questions in that time alone. Shudder.

This is writing’s Eternal Truth except for the other pesky Eternal Truth.


4.) Writing is necessarily a collaborative process.

It’s no coincidence that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis knew each other and that we know them. Nor is it a coincidence that Hemingway and Fitzgerald were once chums and that we know who they are, too.

Whatever some professors have insinuated, SFF stories are art, and art happens in communities. In fact, communities are where the best art happens and where potentially great artists reach that potential. 

Years ago, I attended an online poetry workshop led by the indomitable Chen Chen. A fellow attendee had received a sizable poetry award and was celebrated. She confessed that she was in the workshop because she writes better when she’s workshopping.

I’ve noticed the same in my own work. 

You deserve to see your work from another’s eyes before you rear your massive throwing arm and hurl it into an editor’s face. 

But I’m gonna put something else in front of you. 

You deserve a workshop. Whether struggling through your very first story, querying an agent, or reaching delightful levels in skill, you deserve a space equipped with all the resources. You deserve a space that helps you switch from writer to editor and back again. 

If you craft science fiction, fantasy, or horror, you’ll find that space at Rambo’s Academy for Wayward Writers. (Cat doesn’t know I’m writing this, I get nothing for this, I’m simply committed to sharing an excellent writing thing when I love it.)


In November, I completed a draft of an epic tome that took me more than twenty years to write. This was euphoric and disheartening. (You’ve seen the stack of unedited drafts surrounding my time machine.) How could I edit this when I couldn’t bring myself to edit that steampunk thing I had you hold? 

I avoid things when I’m overwhelmed. It’s like walking into my partner’s dust-covered shop. I want to run away. I have eight novels moldering on my hard drive that I don’t touch because, as comfortable as I am with short fiction, novels are lumbering beasts that can crush you like a rancor in the throes of a do-si-do.

So I enrolled in Cat Rambo’s “First Draft Novel Blues”, a two-hour workshop that gives you the start of your precise roadmap to work through your novel. It was a process changer. 

Much of what Cat went over at the tail end of their class is stuff I’m well-versed in, but it only helps to refresh. I enjoyed listening to it from their years of experience. However, what they delivered in the first half of the session has me looking forward to revising that novel AND the steampunk one.

That is if you didn’t lose it. Where did you put it? I’m looking around, but… Oh! Phew. There it is. 

For a tiny monthly donation (TWO BUCKS), you can access the Chez Rambo discord where there are opportunities to have your work critiqued by other writers. There’s moral support for when you receive the inevitable rejection and celebration when you score a sale. There are guidance, tools, and classes. Patreon supporters gain access to a free class each month. This month it’s on writing food in SFF. Next month, it’s story fundamentals, so sign up!

Are you familiar with Clarion West? Maybe you’ve attended. It is a game changer for those SFFs who can attend, or so I’ve heard. 

Most of us will never have the opportunity to attend. Some of us have families that can’t part with us for six weeks, or jobs, or health conditions, or financial circumstances that keep us from being able to participate. And yet, you also look out windows and see new worlds and new stories beginning, and you deserve Clarion-level resources, too. We can’t learn about those window worlds if you’re not writing them down, revising them, and sending them boldly into the black.

This is my favorite benefit of Rambo’s Academy: some of the teachers and workshops available at Clarion West teach at Rambo’s Academy for Wayward Writers, and they do it year-round.

Here are just a few classes I’m considering for next year. 

How To Create Your Own Genre with Henry Lien (Jan. 8th)

Project Management for Writers with Jen Brozek, (Feb. 12th)

Wrangling Short Stories with John Wiswell (Jan. 22nd)

Then, there’s accessibility. If these are financially out of reach, there are scholarships available. You don’t have to fly anywhere; you attend from home. 

I wonder if Cat is offering classes in Writer X’s reality?

If you’re shy and new to all this, you already know someone in that community. I hope you consider joining, and if you do, let me know if you’re there. I look forward to hearing about your worlds! You can find me as MelstressoftheDark on the discord server or look for me.

I’ll be racing by on the wheely chair going “Wheeeeeee!”

I’m curious. What’s your writing story? What classes or courses have worked for you? Do share!

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

[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.]

ALL I WANT FOR HOGSWATCH IS A SHORT STORY SOLD

Hello All, Melanie here!

Every year my partner and I try to make holiday plans a little more manageable. A few years ago we got tired of being tired for the holidays. Our families live in very different locales, none of them are in New Hampshire so figuring out who we see which year is a balancing act. Some years we elect to stay home. It’s a Christmas present to us to not have to drive.

Unfortunately, today, we both learned that neither of us are mind-readers. Somehow we have managed to guarantee two different sides of our families that we will be at their house for Christmas, hot dishes in tow. In two different states. On the same day.

This is going to be interesting to pull off!

Without further ado…


Subject: List of Hogswatch Gift Demands

Dear Gladys,

It’s December, and the signs of Hogswatch are everywhere. The snow has not only started to fall, it’s started to stick. The neighbors have put glowing pigs in jingling harnesses out on their roofs. Tryxy and I almost landed in traction stringing red and green fairy lights around the gutters in a windstorm. Mr. Morgan’s egg nog prices have suddenly tripled. And the magical market is appearing in random places around town. I’ve spent the last several days tripping over knee-high gnomes trying to sign me up for Amway!!! The spirit of Hogswatch is slipping into the littlest things, you start to get the feeling that giving is more important than receiving.

And since you are getting that feeling, Gladys, here is my list of what I want for Hogswatch this year!!!

1.) To become immediately famous as the greatest epic fantasy writer of all time.

1 b.) To lose another ten pounds (December is the PERFECT month for weight loss, everybody knows this!!)

1 c.) To get Tryxy the MOST ASTOUNDING UNBELIEVABLY AMAZING HOGSWATCH PRESENT EVER!!!!

1 d.) To make it clear to my boyfriend, award-nominated fantasy writer Tod BOadkins, which one of us is the superior gift giver.

There are a few things that I would like but haven’t put onto this list yet but will need you to read my mind Gladys!!!!

Speaking of mind-reading, I need you to immediately start spying on my boyfriend, award-nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins. We are having a small crisis, mostly because he hasn’t dropped any hints about what he wants for Hogswatch and I need to prove to him that I am the Clearly Superior Romantic Partner by getting him something that BLOWS HIS MIND!!!! AND I need to do it without him knowing that I know what he wants!!!! This Hogswatch, Tod Boadkins is going to not only LOVE his present, he’s going to be floored by my ability to know his innermost desires!!! I’m in the PERFECT position to prove this to him but with one tiny itty bitty oroblem.

I don’t have any idea what he wants.

THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN GLADYS!!!! Since Tod Boadkins and I have been dating for some months now, I’m not as able to stalk him because he’s familiar with most of my disguises. I tried dressing up as my 80s power suit wearing business executive when I went through his garbage last week but he caught me and I had to pretend I was looking for some granola I accidentally threw out.

Well, he’s not familiar with the Panda Suit disguise but, as you know, that’s been pretty scorched through after NaNo…that thing writers do in November.

I’ll need you to stalk Tod Boadkins night and day and comb his computer for clues about what he might want!!! The best way to break into his house is through the basement bulkhead. He put new locks on it since I broke into it earlier this year, but last week I dropped by and quietly broke them all again when he was stuck on the toilet. You and anyone looking to burgle the house around the holidays should have no trouble getting in!!!!

If you fail to come through on this Gladys I might be forced to get Tod Boadkins one of those plastic license plates that says “Man Cave” for Hogswatch!!!! Don’t let that happen!!!!

Anyways Gladys, I’m sure you’re dying to know how my writing is going. As you know, I may not have gotten any words written last month, but that doesn’t mean I’m not one step ahead in achieving my dreams!!!! Before I explain, I need you to understand something about writing fantasy. Fantasy isn’t only written in novels. Sometimes it is written in SHORT STORIES. I am a very special writer Gladys because apparently while writing my epic fantasy saga I ALSO managed to write a SHORT STORY!!!!

Or at least that’s what Bevvy Hart told me. Maybe I better just copy and paste what she said.

> particularly interesting magic system. Is it all based
> on that specific variety of broccoli or will
> any cruciferous vegetable do? Chapters 4 and 5 sort
> of read as a standalone short story. Have you
> considered editing those sections and submitting
> them to a publication? You could do worse than
> what Patrick Rothfuss did with an excerpt from
> The Name of the Wind!

Do you see that, Gladys???? Greatness is before you!!!! You know who else has published short stories??? NEIL GAIMAN!!!! That’s why he shows up to me in dreams!!!! Little did I know I was a short story writer ALL ALONG. I wish he just told me. If all you have to do is cut your unfinished novel into pieces and send it to publishers I COULD HAVE BEEN FAMOUS AGES AGO!!!!!

Since you’re going to be busy with my Hogswatch demands, I decided to get to work and I looked up some places to send my chapters to. I found this little known science fiction magazine called Markesworld and I think I’ll gift them with a submission from my first chapter.

My short story career isn’t the only greatness we’ve got going on at our house, Gladys!!! Tryxy is getting ready to start his first semester at Miskatonic Online University this January and he’s starting to get the jitters. He’s afraid his professors won’t like him and that he won’t be able to handle the homework load. He’s being very brave right now so if you see him, make sure you tell him that he’s got this!!!! I’m going to order him a sweatshirt with his school’s name on it. Not for Hogswatch, just as a pick-me-up for his self esteem.

Anyhoo Gladys I have to go!!! Gotta send that first chapter off to Markesworld. I briefly went to their website and saw that they mostly publish science fiction but when they see my first chapter they’re gonna change their ways!!!!

If Tod Boadkins catches you spying on him I”m going to deny deny deny. And that’s exactly what you should do, too.

xox,

X


Subject: DONE!!! SUBMITTED TO MARKESWORLD!!!!!

Dear Gladys,

Brace yourself!!!! A new short story senstion Is about to hit the market!!!! Is the world ready for Writer X???? NOBODY’S READY FOR WRITER X!!!!!

Mark your calendar, because about three minutes ago I jumped through all the hoops and managed to get my first chapter of my novel copied and pasted into the Markesworld online submission system. Word on the street is they can take up to 3 days for them to accept a story so in just three days I’m going to be a published writer!!!!!! The only thing more poetic would be if they accepted my story on Hogswatch!!!!

Huh. That’s weird.

It’s only been three minutes since I submitted and just got the following email:

> Dear X,
> Thank you for the opportunity to read “Chapter
> One-Fenchin.” Unfortunately, your story isn’t
> quite what we’re looking for right now.

There must be some mistake, Gladys!!! There’s no way they could have possibly given that chapter the time they need to know that it’s the perfect short story!!!! It’s like nothing they’ve ever seen!!! I’m going to submit it again. Hang on, BRB (that means Be Right Back.)

Okay, I’m back. Clearly they’re having some technical difficulties at Markesworld. I just recopied and pasted everything into their system and the clock has been

What?? They’re definitely having some problems, Gladys!!!! I just got this email:

> Dear X,
> Thank you for the opportunity to read “Chapter
> One-Fenchin” again. Unfortunately, your story still
> isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now.

Third time’s a charm, Gladys!!!! The plus side is that I’m getting faster at submitting!!!! This time I changed my name so that their algorhithms don’t catch it!!!! You’ve got to wake up pretty early in th

OH NOW THIS IS JUST GETTING RIDICULOUS

> Dear “Ekks”,
> Thank you for the opportunity to read “Chapter
> One-Fenchin” a third time. Unfortunately, your
> story still isn’t remotely close to what we’re looking
> for right now. Please read through our guidelines
> and try again with a different story.

Gotta go, Gladys!!!! I need to send an email to that editor Michael Marke. I’m sure he’ll be very interested to know that his system is broken!!!!

Next stop, FAME!!!!

xox,

X

ORDERED

ALL THE

BOOKS

LISTED ON

MY COURSE

LIST FOR

NEXT

SEMESTER.

GOOD THING

I GOT A

SCHOLARSHIP.

MIGHT HAVE

HAD TO

SELL OFF

WHAT’S LEFT

OF X’S

SOUL TO

PAY FOR

THEM. 

Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Fifty-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 coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

SABOTAGE PT. 2

Hello All, Melanie here!

When I first moved to New Hampshire, it was because my partner and I threw a dart at the map and ended up here. I was in no way prepared for the lack of cell phone service and, to my eye, the severely limited options for internet access.

For two years, I lived in a beautiful house up the road from former president Franklin Pierce’s homestead. It was an area that no cell phone provider could penetrate.

Suddenly, my endlessly connected life became disconnected. It was like being in the 90s all over again. No text messages. No mobile phone ringing off the hook. Not that it ever had a hook.

A weird thing happened. My yearly word count tripled.

Correlation? You be the judge.

Without further ado…


Subject: Resending these emails!!!!

Dear Gladys,

It’s December 1st. I hope your reputation recovers from the miming incident. I’ve heard the goat is recovering well and journaling at the Buddhist retreat. The restored library is cleaning up after the firefight surprisingly fast.

Anyways, your reputation and the reputation of an entire government agency aside, I’m sure you’re dying to know how the Fantasy Dream Team has done in the NaNoHooverDam contest against the Fantasy Writer’s Meetup of Brokenheap.

Did we win??? I DON’T KNOW YET. I don’t think my nerves can take the anticipation!!!

Tryxy and I are on our way to the final count in the Cradensburg town square. Brokenheap doesn’t even have a town square!

In the meanwhile I’ve realized that some of my emails never made it to you last week. It must be because the whole southeast neighborhood of Brokenheap doesn’t have cell service so they got stuck in my outbox.

Anyhoo, I’m sending those emails to you so you can get caught up NOW!!!! Make sure you read them, Gladys!!!! So that everything can make sense!!!!!

xox,

X


Subject: THE RETIREES

Dear Gladys,

It’s November 24th—YES, TURKEY DAY and I am A DAY BEHIND thanks to the pesky nurses at the Cradensburg hospital wanting to keep me for “observation” after my panda suit caught on fire the second time. 

Gladys, I’m going to need you to stop babysitting your stand off with the armed commune long enough to help me figure out what I need to do to stop this next guy from writing. You can’t just think about yourself and a few folks with grenade launchers!!!! I’m taking on RETIREE WRITERS!!!! These are the big guns!!!!

I’m going to pass by you pretty soon but don’t let off any sign that you know me or else the locals might start to suspect and see through my disguise. I’ll be the lady in the pink leotard and 100% nylon legwarmers power-walking a suspiciously demonic poodle. Who is also power-walking. Whew!! We are burning some calories!!! Brokenheap hills are STEEP!!!!

Target #4: Boots Donovan
Age: 66 years old
Occupation: Retired
Fantasy subgenre: Sword & Sorcery

Early intel tells me that he is going to go to his sister’s house for her Annual Impossibly Early Turkey Dinner at 12:00. That’s far too early to serve a turkey, Gladys!!! I estimate that I’ll have about two and a half hours to explore his house with him gone.

Uh-oh.

Gladys, who’s that guy talking to you??? You know. The one with the bushy white beard poking out from beneath a droopy fishing hat???? Because with that walking stick and liberatarian party t-shirt beneath his camouflage coat, he looks SUSPICIOUSLY LIKE BOOTS DONOVAN!!!!! I’m just going to power-walk past you two with all the desperation of woman with a cheesecake to burn and a button that just ominously popped off her skinny jeans. Don’t give me away!!!

Gladys where are you going???? You’re my decoy!!! He’ll call me over—oh confound it, here he goes!!! Why’d you have to walk off????

Okay Gladys, I’m back. I finally got free of Boots Donovan. That was a close call!!!!

FYI Boots suspected nothing. That’s the power of a great power-walking disguise. I’m not sure you knew this, Gladys, but that armed commune hasn’t always been a commune. Boots tried to accost me and see if I’d be willing to protest the stand off between the FBI and the mimers who took over what used to be the Broken Heap Town Library building (and is now an miming commune.) Boots isn’t protesting the FBI OR the mimers, but rather the STAND OFF itself because the noise of the firefight is making it hard to read. He also yammered on how, while he’s categorically against the FBI, he also wants the mimers gone so that Brokenheap can start a new town library in the old town library’s place.

Not to mention the property values in the area have severely decreased since the mimers moved in. You know how mimers and neighborhood desirability are. Brokenheap is the only place in the U.S. where property value has gone down instead of up with the COVID housing market!!!! Anyways, good thing you’re not in the FBI, Gladys, or else you might look foolish with people protesting you!!!

Where was I? Oh, right, Boots has no idea that I’m heading to his house. I can see it up ahead, it’s the one with seventeen Gadsden flags and the sign that reads “TAXATION IS THEFT” above the door.

I wonder why they don’t have a town library any more?

Closing this email out, Gladys, I’ve got a basement window to break!!!

xox,

X

sent from my iPhone


Subject: GLADYS I AM IN HORRORER

Dear Gladys,

I warned you that Boots Donovan is a retiree writer. I clearly insinuated the fear that should be lurking in the cockles of your heart—

Whoa. That was a big explosion. It shook Boots Donovan’s entire house!!!

Anyways, this writerly situation is FAR WORSE than I thought.

As you know, Boots Donovan writes Sword & Sorcery. I am standing in his living room overrun with a collection of fantasy and science fiction books that have been accumulated over five decades and I am telling you that I have no idea how to stop this JUGGERNAUT!!!! As a retiree he is nearly free to write all day!!!! Sixteen of these books WERE WRITTEN BY BOOTS DONOVAN!!!!! I checked his computer and he’s in the middle of writing BOOK SEVENTEEN for NaNoVisigoth!!!!

This is goinosoieobe[o’eg
qe

Gladys!!!! Would you quit it with the explosions??? Tryxy and I keep having to dig ourselves out from beneath these yellowed copies of Frank Baum’s Oz series, three quarters of the Mercedes Lackey, and ALL OF THE PIERS ANTHONY. One more BOOM of yours and the Asimov tower of books will topple and once that does WE ARE NEVER GETTING OUT!!!!!

Well would you lookee here.

A clue.

A filing crate fell off the stack of Michael Moorcocks and some handwritten letters to the internet company fell out. Boots Donovan has sent out a letter to various internet providers every year for the last ten years asking them when they will be able to deliver internet access to his home and every year he gets a reply that says something to the effect “it’s far too rocky and weird where you are.”

GLadys…BOOTS DONOVAN WRITES BECAUSE HE DOESN’T HAVE INTERosidofoinow

Oh for heaven’s sakes!!!! Gladys, cut it out with the rocke

Oh no!!!! Gladys why didn’t you warn me???? Boots Donovan has come home early from his impossibly early turkey dinner!!!!

His keys are in the front door!!!! Tryxy’s started barking because he’s a method actor and now Boots is shouting “Hey!!!! WHO’S IN THERE????!!!!”

I’ve gotta flee and the only way out is for me to hurdle over these piles of books and throw myself through the patio screen door.

Good thing I wore my leg warmers and fueled up with all that cheesecake!!!!

xox,

X

sent from my iPhone


Subject: I NEED TO BORROW YOUR SURVEILLANCE VEHICLE

Dear Gladys,

Boots is after me!!!! I’m banging on the door of your surveillance vehicle but no one’s coming to let me in!!!! Why aren’t you getting my emails???/ This is URGent!!!! Oh no!!! That’s the top of Boots’ droopy fishing hat lurking behind that rhododendron!!!

…Do you ever feel like rhododendron has an unreasonable number of Ds in it?

Let me in Gladys or I’m going to have to run down into that other valley on the opposite side of the valley where the stand off is!!!! And I’m not ready for what is or isn’t waiting for me there!!!

Open the door!! He’s rounding the rhododendron!!!!

…Why couldn’t it be spelled rhodendron? It would have gotten the point across.

Hang it all, Gladys!!! I’m headed for the little lavender house on the other side of the valley and taking evasive maneuvers!!!

This is painfully close. I’ve woven down the hill, taking cover behind the many oversized granite rocks here.

…I wonder why they call New Hampshire the granite state?

I’m in the middle of the valley and Boots is hot on my tale and there’s no more rocks!!!! What do I do, Galdsy???

I’ll have to take refuge inside that giant heap of broken old range rovers, jeepss, and chicken trailers. It’s like a citadel!!! A colossal heap of broken…

Huh. So that’s why they call this town…what they call this town.

Boots has entered the broken heap citadel. There’s the crush of his camoflauge duck boots on the detritus of maple leaves and discarded wing nuts.

The sweat on my upper lip feels like ice. The sweat under my leg warmers feels like a river swaddled in plastic cling wrap. If you’re waiting for Tryxy to do something, he’s very committed to method acting as a poodle and is looking up at me with eyes as round as frisbees. He’s very good. I wonder if Miskatonic University has a theater club.

Boots’ walking stick has appeared from behind the fender of mashed up Grand Cherokee and it looks like a talon. It’s going to touch me!!!

I’ve got it, Gladys!!!!

I’ll use my ventriloquist ability and throw my voice behind Boots to distract him while Tryxy and I make for the little lavender house!!!!

xox,

X

sent from my iPhone


Subject: From the mixed up files of the little lavender house

Dear Gladys,

I’m just writing you to mark myself safe from Boots Donovan. Shouting “Quick! Congress is passing another Omnibus Spending Bill!!!” was all that was needed to get him to turn around and blindly run in the opposite direction screaming “TAXATION IS THEFT!!!!” the whole way.

But now that I’m in the little lavender house, I should catch you up. I’m no longer sure it’s lavender. I wonder if it’s more gray. Or a gray-y lavender.

Target #5: Rain F. Williams
Age: 63 years old
Occupation: Retired
Fantasy subgenre: Fairy Tale Retellings

This little lavender house is giving me the creeps. Not only was the front door unlocked LIKE IT SHOULD BE, there was a glass of milk and a slice of cheesecake set out by the umbrella stand with a note that says “EAT ME.” That wasn’t suspicious at all and was very delicious. But then I started looking around the house and what I see here is terrifying.

IT IS EXTREMELY CLEAN. And symmetrical. The left side of the house is a mirror image of the right. Or is it the other way round?? For instance. There are two sides to the living room on either side of the front door. Each side is perfectly reflective of the other side. Two identical gray couches face each other from either living room and they are each precisely one dog length away from the ornate symmetrical rug running down the center of the room. There are two silvery tiffany lamps on identical glass lamp stands, one sits to the right of the sofa on the right, the other to the left of the sofa on the left.

Directly across from the front door there is a gray soapstone stove, polished to a high gloss with a cheery fire burning inside of it and a stovepipe fixed to the gray paisley wall behind it. On either side of the soapstone stove there are two open doorways and on the other side of each of those doorways are dark staircases leading up.

But what is REALLY creeping me out Gladys is that on the walls behind the sofa there are two identical portraits of Rain F. Williams. In each, she is wearing a severe gray suit and is posed next to a gray bookshelf and a vase of eucalyptus. In one she is frowning slightly, in the other, she is smiling slightly but I can’t seem to tell which one is which. Is she smiling on the right or is she frowning??? And why is everything gray??? People with single color obsessions really creep me out!!!

Oh look! There are identical college diplomas on each side of the living rooms. She has a Bachelors Degree in Pragmatic Foresight. Apparently F stands for Freespirit. And there’s filing cabinets!!! I wonder what’s inside. 

Okay, that wasn’t very interesting. Apparently, Rain F. Williams is also a published author and there was a letter from her publisher saying that they didn’t see the point in keeping her books in print if she doesn’t have an online platform. There’s also print outs of her replies explaining that she would have an online platform if it weren’t that the rocks and broken heap near her house prevent any company from providing her with service. MUST BE NICE TO BE PUBLISHED!!!!! When I’m finally a published writer, I won’t write letters like this to my publisher because EVERYTHING WILL BE A WALK IN THE PARK when I’m FAMOUS.

Anyhoo I’m lactose intolerant and that cheesecake is running through me so I better hurry up and pick a set of stairs to go up!!! Tryxy just method-acting piddled on the couch on the right so RIGHT IS IT IS!!!!

Uh oh Gladys.

I’m upstairs… and someone is definitely here. Someone just called my name from a bedroom.

It’s Rain Freespirit Williams and she does not look happy. Wait. Is she smiling or is she frowning???

She’s saying that she’s been expecting me. She also says that a giant, deadly rocket is about to be misfired and will hit the house with us inside but not to be afraid because reality is not what it seems.

Gotta go, Gladys!!!!

xox,

X

sent from my iPhone


Subject: STOP WHAT YOUR DOING GLADYS SOYLENT GREEN IS MIMES!!!!!

Dear Gladys,

I’ve survived the explosion and Tryxy is currently method acting as a wifi connection for Rain and Boots’ houses but I need you to stop firing at the armed commune so that I can go and talk to the mimes without getting a bullet in my buttocks!!!!!

YOU ARE NOT BEING FIRED ON BY REAL BULLETS!!!! Those are just HIGHLY TRAINED MIMES defending their commune in the repurposed town library by MIMING an ARMED COMMUNE and EVEN MIMING BULLETS!!!!

The rocket that just hit Rain Freespirit Williams’ house wasn’t actually a rocket that decimated the side of the house and engulfed us in a fiery blaze, it was a MIME MIMING A ROCKET and another MIME miming the exposed beams, charred crumbling bricks, and yet ANOTHER mime miming the FIRE!!!! This is a very talented miming company Gladys, and if you don’t stop your siege, they aren’t going to be able to help the Fantasy Dream Team win the writing contest against the Fantasy Writer’s Meetup of Brokenheap!!!!!

Also, there is a young goat named T-bone who lives in the valley and doesn’t have the mental training that Rain Freespirit Williams has to see through all the clever miming and T-bone is TERRIFIED.

Do you want the writing contest on your conscience???? And T-bone????

xox,

X

sent from my iPhone


Subject: SUCCESS!!!!

Dear Gladys,

I don’t know why you’re not checking your emails but I have managed to get to the miming commune in spite of you. You can thank me for the ceasefire later. If you need to question the mimes as to why they mime-fired at FBI angents, you will have to look for the new communications array next to Rain F. Williams house. THEY”RE THE NEW WIFI ACCESS.

EVERYONE WINS!!!!

But please don’t interrupt them too much, I just peaked inside Boots’ house and he is happily engaged in a political battle on twitter. If you stop him, he might go back to writing. The last I talked to Rain, she was on Wix building her author website one severe gray drag and drop at a time.

I keep trying to check our word count progress but there aren’t any cell bars out this way and both Rain and Boots have their wifi access locked down and so password protected, it’s like they don’t trust the government!!!!

Rain F. Williams did say one thing that bothered me. She said that she knew I was sabotaging their team the whole week but that it was too late, the Fantasy Dream Team wouldn’t be able to catch up to their word count totals.

I asked her if she could give me a hand since I got her that wifi access and she gave me a private look. I couldn’t tell if it was a smile or a frown.

Can you give me and Tryxy a ride back to Cradensburg, Gladys??? I don’t want to power-walk all that way. I’m starting to chafe.

xox,

X

sent from my iPhone


Subject: WE LOST!!!!!!!!!!

Dear Gladys,

I can’t believe this. After all that work these are the final word counts for the writing battle between the Fantasy Dream Team and the Fantasy Writer’s Meetup of Brokenheap.

Fantasy Writer’s Meetup of Brokenheap, NH:
154,227 total words written

Ink Black Coffee Club’s Fantasy Dream Team of Cradensburg, NH:
143,292 total words written

Bevvy Madison Hart: 0 total words written
Tod Boadkins: 69,866 total words written
Edwina Tómas: 29,695 total words written
Ravenhair Silkenwind: 43,569 total words written
Writer X: 0 total words written
T-bone: 162 total words written

THIS IS AMAZING!!!!!! I have a John Deere mousepad and a book of stamps of my very own. It’s a $12 savings, Gladys!!!! I’m gonna mail you a letter!!!!

The Fantasy Writer’s Meetup of Brokenheap never showed up for the final word count and FORFEITED THE CONTEST!!!!! We’re all going over to Ink Black Coffee Club to celebrate.

By the way, the other night I accidentally emailed my story to Bevvy Hart and I got an email back from her before I could tell her to send me back the file. I’ll forward it to you.

Look at it right away, Gladys!!!! Don’t drag your feet like you did about the mimes!!!

xox,

X


From: Bevvy Hart
Fw: Your Manuscript begin forwarded message

Dear X,

I’ve been unable to produce words for yet another NaNoWriMo. However, the arrival of your manuscript about Fenchin has revealed a twist of fate. I think I am meant to be an editor. I’ve also decided that the person who attempted to enter our critique group by plagiarizing Tolkien must have been some other Writer X and not you. It makes sense to forgo telling the others about this.

I’ve read through your pages and I have some thoughts. Have you heard of Patrick Rothfuss? Let’s talk.

Warmly,
Bevvy

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

WOW. THAT

T-BONE IS AN

EXCELLENT

WORDSMITH.

WONDER IF

HE’D CONSIDER

JOINING

MY BAND.

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

[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.]

SABOTAGE PT. 1

Hello All, Melanie here!

This week’s emails from Writer X has me thinking about productivity. I think NaNoWriMo is a positive thing and what I’m about to say has no reflection on its value. But it brings me back to thinking about something Stephen King detailed in his book On Writing.

Forgive me if I butcher this summary.

King tells the story of his writing desk which was once set in the middle of his office, a metaphor for the way he tailored—and sometimes shoehorned, his life to revolve around writing. Following a low time, he moved the desk to a new spot against the wall, no longer in the center, but against the structural supports of the room. Because writing should support life, and not the other way around.

Maybe the correlation will become apparent after reading, but all I’ll say now is that not everything that takes a writer away from writing is bad. Go figure.

Without further ado…


Subject: I see you Gladys!!!

Dear Gladys,

Look downhill!! We’re both in Brokenheap today!!!! Tryxy and I are in the algae covered taco truck about a quarter mile down Spying Spy Hill. You probably can’t recognize us as we’re in matching panda suits, but I can see you!!! Hi!!!!!! I’m waving but you’re not waving back. You and those other people in the surveillance van are too concentrated on whatever’s going on in that armed enclosure in the valley.

Anyways, I’m sure you’re dying to know how our writing contest against the Fantasy Writer’s Meetup of Brokenheap is going. Despite my best efforts, it is going terrribly. What I am about to tell you needs to remain in utmost secrecy!!!!! Don’t put this anywhere on the internet!!!!

The only way the Fantasy Writer’s Dream Team of Ink Black Coffee Club is going to pull ahead and win this thing before November is over is if…

THE FANTASY WRITER’S MEETUP OF BROKENHEAP STOP WRITING!!!!!!

Tryxy and I have taken the day to gather intel on the various writers here in Brokenheap to find their achilles heel and stop them from writing so that our group has a chance to catch up.

Don’t worry, Glayds, everything we’re doing is ETHICAL and entirely mostly sort-of legal. But I can’t vouch for anything we’re about to do because THESE WRITERS ARE SERIOUS!!!! The only writer who has dedication even remotely close to the Brokenheap writers is my boyfriend, award-nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins!!!! And me.

Brokenheap can’t win this contest!!! They don’t even have a broken heap!!!!

In spite of all this stress, I’m glad the Ink Black Coffee Club writers forgot they banned me. I think I found something I’m good at!!!

Anyhoo, gotta go Gladys, I think I feel an email from Bevvy Hart incoming. Besides, it looks like you’re busy downloading satellite images which I’m sure is way less important than whatever it is I’m doing but that’s okay, I support your hobbies.

xox,

X

sent from my iPhone


From: Bevvy Hart

Fw: You’re not replying to my emails

Dear Gladys,

EMERGENCY REQUEST: I need you to create another Writer X out there to take the fall for this!!!! If I go down I’m taking the whole town with me!!!

xox,

X

begin forwarded message

Dear X,

It’s November 20th and it looks like it’s over for us. I can’t see how we have any path forward to beat the fantasy writers in Brokenheap. I blame myself. I should not have saddled you with so much responsibility.

Since you have not replied to my emails in the last week, I was forced to do a word search for your name in IBCC’s group emails. I was distressed to discover that we banned a writer with your same name because they plagiarized J.R.R. Tolkien. Is this you?

Let this uncertainty inspire you to reach out to me for insight. Affirmations are critical to every writer’s success.

I will be generating words later today after I realign my chakras.

Fantasy Writer’s Meetup of Brokenheap, NH:
141,091 total words written

Ink Black Coffee Club’s Fantasy Dream Team of Cradensburg, NH:
72,832 total words written

Bevvy Madison Hart: 0 total words written
Tod Boadkins: 45,056 total words written
Edwina Tómas: 8,436 total words written
Ravenhair Silkenwind: 19,340 total words written
Writer X: 0 total words written

With concern,

Bevvy

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


Subject: The Curious Case of Malcom Lin

Dear Gladys,

Tryxy and I are writing you from behind one of the big rocks near Malcom Lin’s apartment over the garage of a sprawling sheep farm and knitting cooperative. I need you to pause whatever it is you are doing in that surveillance van and put your eyes on this, please. The last two weeks I’ve had an entire week to get two writers writing. This week I have to get FIVE WRITERS TO STOP WRITING!!!!

I need a diversion so that I can climb into this guy’s apartment!!!

Target #1: Malcom Lin
Age: 24 year old
Occupation: MA program at Local College
Fantasy subgenre: Epic Portal Fantasy

Oh, would you look at that!! Guns are going off over at that armed commune and people are scurrying everywhere!!! That’s just the distraction I needed.

Hang on, Gladys, I have to put my phone in my pocket while I’ll shimmy up this drainpipe!!!

Okay, I’m back Gladys and this is WORSE THAN I IMAGINED.

Malcom Lin lives in a one bedroom apartment. It’s kind of bleak in here. There’s no television and he has a desktop computer left on in his bedroom. His bed stand is stacked with books on Russian Formalism and a highlighted and much-marked up copy of Chekhov’s collected short-fiction.

Hold me, Gladys!!!! I’m scard!!!! Could it be that I’ve found a fantasy writer THAT HAS ACTUALLY READ CHEKHOV?????

I did a quick sweep of his computer and he has files open for each one of his characters. He’s got their backstory, their motivations, defining moments, notes on their physicality and comportment.

GLADYS!!!! He even has a file with the outline for A FULL EPIC PORTAL FANTASY TRILOGY!!!!!

I checked his draft and he’s in the top three producers for Brokenheap’s team. I should just tuck my panda tail between my legs and trudge away. Kiss the John Deere mousepads that the winners get goodbye. This guy is too good to stop.

Thanks a lot, Gladys. You can stop that firefight you started as a diversion. I need to get out of Malcom Lin’s apartment without getting shot.

xox,

X

sent from my iPhone


Subject: ONE DOWN FOUR TO GO!!!!!

Dear Gladys,

There is no dour mood that eight root beer floats can’t fix!!!!!! I consumed those root bear floats yesterday afternoon and I still have the might of a thousand fields of sugar cane crackling through my brains!!!!!

This morning when I saw the latest numbers from Brokenheap come in, I noticed they were significantly decreased by exactly one fifth of their usual progress. My sugar-fueled idea worked, GALdsy!!!!

I’m writing to you now in a significantly better mood. Whcih is good becaue it’s cramped here behind the fridge of my next quarry. Who happens to live next to the quarry here in Brokenheap. It was great seeing you this morning, btw. Glad I could help with that little stand off you’re caught up in. I forgot I had all that ammunition laying around in my trunk. Where did you get that little FBI jacket? It’s cute on you!!! I’d like one but only if you can get it in pink.

I’m sure you’re dying to know who my next quarry is. Well it is none other than David Wash—wait.

I didn’t tell you how I solved our Malcom Lin problem, did I???? I have to admit, it was pretty genius. Before I flung myself out the window and into the firefight, terrifying everyone below, I sat down and read some of Malcom Lin’s story and it is REALLY good. SO GOOD in fact I thought “Wow, this is almost like a published book!!!” How do you get someone who is writing a really good book to pause writing that good book for—oh, I dunno, the next EIGHT DAYS????

Easy. GET THEM AN AGENT!!!!!! It’s the golden rule of writing. Once I had that in mind, I called Tryxy who immediately began searching Publishers Marketplace for the perfect match. Tryxy telepathically planted the urge to get Malcom Lin’s slugline, synopsis, and book marketing plan in that agent’s brain ALONG WITH MALCOM’S EMAIL ADDRESS and all I can say is that I saw Malcom Lin excitedly wringing his hands this morning while googling how to write a Book Marketing Plan!!!! He’ll be puzzling over that for at least a WEEK!!!!

This next writer is going to require a different strategy.

Target #2: David Washington
Age: 36 years old
Occupation: Blaster at Brokenheap Quarry
Fantasy subgenre: Fantasy Steampunk

At least David has the good New Hampshirely habit of leaving his doors unlocked. It has saved me a lot of trouble replacing the doors after I kick them in.

I had the opportunity to observe David a little last night when I was running off those floats and I noticed that he came home from a twelve hour shift at the quarry and put a bag of carrots in the microwave, planted himself in front of his computer and wrote at least eight pages in a steampunk adventure. But when he got to the end, his face looked long and sad. He trudged to his bathroom and glumly brushed his teeth. Tryxy has been tracking his limited online activity and David regularly googles articles about burnout.

I just so happen to have a solution. Theeee Perfect Solution, a solution that’s been drastically reducing writer’s word counts since 2004!!!!!

World.

Of.

Warcraft.

I AM ON FIRE, GLADYS!!!!!!!!

xox,

X

sent from my iPhone


Subject: Burn kit

Dear Gladys,

Can I borrow your burn kit??? I thought I saw one in your surveillance van. I also need to borrow your sewing kit so I can patch up this panda suit or else I won’t get my deposit back on it. Who knew it was so flammable????

If I had thought my panda suit could catch on fire while behind David Washington’s fridge, I wouldn’t have lit all that calming incense around me. It detoxifies your blood stream after excess sugar consumption. Tryxy told me about it. He’s very into smells lately.

…Is that fire trucks I hear in the distance?

Nah, couldn’t be.

Anyways, I’m sure you’re dying to know how I’m going to take on the next of Brokenheap’s fantasy writers. I am too!!!!

I’m sitting here in Arlene Perry’s living room and I have no idea how to crack this nut!!!!

First of all, in order to get to her computer, I have to climb over all of her himalayan pink salt lamps and some of them are VERY HOT Gladys!!! If I’m not careful, I could catch on fire again.

Target #3: Arlene Perry
Age: 48 years old
Occupation: Bus Driver for Brokenheap Homeschooling Cooperative
Fantasy subgenre: YA Fantasy

Well that’s interesting. I made it to Arlene’s computer (she’s out right now picking up the kids from the homeschooling cooperative) and she’s got an article on home remedies for tooth aches and a stack of books about natural cures for rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve also gone into her kitchen to see what she has for snacks and there’s an overwhelming number of colloidal silver bottles where she should be keeping ranch-flavored corn nuts.

Since you’re busy with that whole stand off, I’ll have to text Tryxy and ask him to bring me some corn nuts.

I’m mystified on what it will take to get Arlene Perry to slow down her word count for the next week!!!!

Wow, those fire trucks are getting louder. Do you smell that, Gladys???

I’VE GOT IT!!!!!! I was going through Arlene Perry’s medicine cabinet to borrow her dental floss and I noticed it was FULL of Oregano Oil!!!!

I know exactly what to do for her!!!! Gotta go, Gladys!!!! I have to call Tryxy!!!!

xox,

X

sent from my iPhone


Subject: Have fun at the stand off!!!

Dear Gladys,

Don’t worry, that noise in the valley is just me being carried away by the fire department. They took away my panda suit which is probably for the best as it was very flammable and, once they figured out that I wasn’t an arsonist, are taking me to the clinic in Cradensburg to get these blisters treated.

I was also able to call Tryxy re: The Arlene Perry Plan and he was able to get everything set up faster than you could snap your fingers and say “Toot-Toot-Malaroot-Snoot” we’ve got Arlene Perry’s week WRITING FREE!!!!!

I bet you’re wondering how we did it. A little known thing called EXCELLENT HEALTH INSURANCE!!!! Tryxy got her grandfathered in to his demonic health insurance plan complete with dental, vision, the WORKS with ZERO COPAY AND ZERO SPENDDOWN!!! Then, he called her to let her know and Arlene was over the moon!!!! She’s fallen into our wicked devices, Gladys!!!! Everything is going to plan!!!! This evening, an emergency trip to the dentist, tomorrow, an internal medicine specialist and three whole days of physical therapy!!!!!

I’m on FIRE!!!! Not literally, Gladys. Just figuratively.

By the way, on the way to the paramedic van, I noticed that the armed commune has taken out a rocket launcher so, you know, you might want to watch out for that. But before you do that, could you please get that other Writer X identity crafted??? I NEED SOMEONE TO FRAME!!!!

I feel another email incoming!!!!

xox

X

sent from my iPhone


From: Bevvy Hart

Fw: I’m coming to your house to face you

begin forwarded message

Dear X,

I’ve looked everywhere and it’s becoming clear to me that you are the Writer X that we banned last year.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m willing to let this stay between us if you get us to the finish line and secure the winning spot in our contest against Brokenheap. There are the dreams of non-plagiarizing fantasy writers to think of, if that matters to you, not to mention the John Deere mousepads and free book of stamps. Those books of stamps represent a twelve dollar savings in your postal needs. To win, we need a heart to heart, so I am coming over to your house now.

I will be generating words later today after I instruct you how to be a write team coordinator that wins.

Fantasy Writer’s Meetup of Brokenheap, NH:
151,238 total words written

Ink Black Coffee Club’s Fantasy Dream Team of Cradensburg, NH:
91,690 total words written

Bevvy Madison Hart: 0 total words written
Tod Boadkins: 52,634 total words written
Edwina Tómas: 13,887 total words written
Ravenhair Silkenwind: 25,169 total words written
Writer X: 0 total words written

With a clear set of chakras,

Bevvy

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

X THINKS

I AM INTO

SMELLS

LATELY BUT

AM JUST

TRYING

TO GET THE

STINKING

ALGAE

TACO

TRUCK

SMELL

OUT OF

EVERYTHING.