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13 Writing Truths from Neil Gaiman on His Birthday

(Photo credit from @neilhimself)

Neil Gaiman has always given the world much to think about: Do dogs understand when we’re trying to write and decide to impede us anyway? Is it all right to go next door for a pad of paper and a writing utensil upon being locked out? Armageddon…or tea? These are the important questions.

Though he’s surely the next Nostradamus, Gaiman is probably better known as a writer than as a Doomsday-Darjeeling soothsayer. To celebrate this sir on his birthday, and in light of NaNoWriMo, we scoured Gaiman’s tweet backlog for ages (and by ages we mean hours looking through Twitter’s advanced search function) finding the best tidbits on writing that this jovial tea-sipping nerd king has to offer.

Posted by Alex Grover

How To Tell If You’re About To Be Murdered In This Mystery: A Flowchart

We know a doomed character when we read one. Of course, we would never be dense enough to go down that dark alley alone looking for clues, or decide to take a shower right after being chased through an old hotel. But is surviving a muder mystery really that easy? Inspired by the new anthology, Manhattan Mayhem, edited by Mary Higgins Clark, here's a flowchart to test your sluething metal and measure your chance of survival in a gritty murder mystery. 


Posted by Alex Grover

Holmes is in the Public Domain! Here Are Five Lesser-Known Sherlock Stories to Enjoy

"There's the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it."

So Sherlock Holmes says to Dr. John Watson in A Study in Scarlet, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first novel to introduce the famous characters. It was published 127 years ago today.

How should we celebrate the cob-pipe-smoking detective's debut? By taking advantage of the fact that, as of this November, all stories about Holmes prior to 1923 are officially in the public domain. The US Supreme Court refused to hear a copyright appeal by the Conan Doyle estate after a US Court struck down its wishes to maintain ownership over Holmes. As freely as one would rewrite Jane Austen's work, Conan Doyle's Holmes mysteries (save roughly eight) may be manipulated at will (are you getting my subtle hint, Quirk Books?)

You may be versed in the modern adaptations of Holmes—as portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr., Jonny Lee Miller, or Tumblr's #1 Boyfriend Bentobox Lumberjack—so you might know tales like The Hound of the Baskervilles and "The Final Problem". But since I know you're ever curious (and maybe need new fuel for your fanfic), I've decided to gather five of Conan Doyle's lesser-known stories (with links!) that may, true to their form, spur the inner detective and London recluse in you.

Posted by Alex Grover

NaNoSloMo: A List of the Five Most Sluggish Writers Ever to Quicken Your Writing

November, mostly known to Americans as That Time When the Family Gets Together at the End of the Month to Awkwardly Eat Lots of Food Revolving around a Mythical (and Most Likely Inaccurate) Meeting of Two Cultures, is also a season for writers. Yes, you're correct: along with raising awareness for not shaving, banana pudding lovers, and sweet potatoes, November is National Novel Writing Month.

Interested in writing a 50,000-word novel and you're intimidated by the time limit? You're not alone. Thousands will join you in the pursuit and feel as though their fingers cannot chitter-chatter at the keyboard quickly enough. It's nerve rending.

Unless, of course, you regard those writers among us that take a helluva long time on their work.  With your permission, I'm going to explore some of the leisureliest (yep, that's a word) writers that decided to grace the page, either by pen or typing contraption.

Let's begin. Permission granted?

Posted by Alex Grover

The Necrolexicon: Book of the Six Scariest Words in our Naïve Mortal Language

In most honest form, I recall to you an academic list, which I have fastidiously discovered through Plutonian nightmares that have defiled my fleeting knowledge of the earthly truths I once knew, of the six scariest words I have accounted in my life. Few have endured this maldictonox that was borne to pass under my visage.


I wake up in a graveyard. This sometimes happens. I spy an abstruse structure through the curtain of fog, and I come upon Your Humble Narrator's first abominable word.

A sepulcher is an innocent childhood-ghost-story word that we probably know well from Edgar Allen Bro's "Annabel Lee." If you're not familiar with the word (or you don't have a familiar spirit that follows you, unlike me), a sepulcher is a room intended for a dead body to lie in for a vast amount of time. 

Homes for the dead are generally odd to consider (despite our fascination with burials). However, if someone offers a sepulcher for rent on Craigslist, I'll probably take it pro-rated from the cadaver-in-residence. Just have to worry about that whole eternal lease thing.


Adversely, this is a word I do NOT like to see in Craigslist posts.

With its provided, lighthearted connotation, my pocket Oxford Dictionary, dampened and moldy, defines eviscerate as "[depriving] something of its essential contents." 

By essential contents, we actually mean internal organs, right?


Even grimmer is Oxford's own lovely example: "[T]he goat had been skinned and neatly eviscerated." 

At least the goat was disemboweled in a neat fashion. That's always good. 

In a rare and spectral jitter, I drop the pocket Oxford into a river of screaming souls (?) and wander to find a train to take to get to the goat sacrifice.

I didn't mention the goat sacrifice before?

Well now I'm mentioning it.


En route to the train, I become lost on a stone road in a sprawling forest (Hell's Kitchen, go figure). The sun taunts me: it's nearly dark, but not quite. The crimson dusk draws to its apex on the tree line, curdled blood—when a bear jumps out with a truncheon in its right paw. More terrifying than the bear is the truncheon.

What the heck is a truncheon? It sounds awful.

That's because it is. It's quite awful. It's a baton meant to cause blunt damage to an intended victim. One might simply call it a baton, or a billy club, but if a bear wants you utterly under its terror-spell, it will say, "This is my truncheon. There are many like it, but this one is mine."


I rush to a local deli and ask for a quarter pound of headcheese. It's that time of year, right? As I wait for my order, I see a shifty character in the corner with a paper bag in his hands.

"What've you got there?" I ask, somehow immune to the day's happenings.

"My darlings," he says, grinning.

Two things happen in that moment:

One, I see that this guy has a beautiful smile.

Two, I see that there are dozens of black legs wriggling between his teeth.

This man is arachnivorous. He eats spiders. He eats spiders.

He eats spiders.


While watching this man kill his darlings (HA!), my own neuroses take over and I begin to compulsively pick at my fingernails. That's because I'm an onychotillomaniac. I swear, it's not the fascination with the broken nails…or the tearing cuticles…or the fear of an impending truncheon-bear hallucination—just my craze and interaction with the penultimate word on this list.

Later IN THE night—

I arrive at the goat sacrifice with my familiar spirit, daydreaming about my new sepulcher pad. Monks of darker arts emerge from behind the groaning oaks (with truncheons?!) and a nice little goat is led to the altar. I pick at my hanging pinky nail. I slap a spider on my neck and accidentally snack on it. 

Then the ritual begins. Something seems odd when one of the unholy acolytes begins chanting about tax season. Then two more start chanting. Then four. Then all 17. They pull down their habits to reveal their white dress shirts, their 1099's, their tax return transcripts—

Could it be? Could all of the outerdimensional prophecies have come to fiscal fruition in his hellish manifest of utter demonology? 

Before my realization suffocates my sanity, a banner unfurls from the altar, hosting what I believe to be the scariest word of all:


The archmonk of taxation lay the goat on the altar. The others continue to chant.


He asks about the goat's personal expenses. Then the goat's at-home office expenses.


Then about any back taxes the goat might like to disclose. It bleats in panic.


The fiduciary horror! I fall to the ground in numbing awe. In my last moments of consciousness, the quadruped victim bleats in rhythm with the umbrage of the demoniacal tax monks, suffering a fury of withheld employee tax deposit penalties.

I wake hours later, the acolytes having disappeared from the desecrated woods. I happen to view a large spider crawling from me, snickering, having picked through my pockets and pulling out my iPhone 6. My mind already ensnared, I give no attention to the Apple-hip spider but instead wonder if I had properly filled out my W-2.

Ah! what abysmal aberrations I have suffered to view in this world!

Alex Grover (@AlexPGrover) writes in New York. He sometimes ventures to the gates of delirium, mistaking The Cranberries lyrics for Lovecraftian lore.

Posted by Alex Grover

Quoth the Caddie “Overclubbed”: Golf in Literature

The corpus of contemporary golf literature (All Fore Revenge and The Swinger being two notable players in this niche) attempts to fuse the masochistic game of inches with the human experience.

Whatever worth you might place on, for example, Golf in the Kingdom, know that it has literary links (hehe!) to works on par (hah!) with the green jackets (HA-HA!) of the canon. In honor of the summery pastime, here’s a list of some classics that feature the game of grass and iron.

Posted by Alex Grover