The Weird Week in Writing: Justin Bieber and Holden Caulfield; Harry Potter V. Willy the Wizard; Throwing a book at the president

Freaky Friday—the latest from the often weird and wonderful world of writing
this week (followed, as always, by a prompt). Happy weekend!

Close Encounters of the Authorial Kind: Did a former NORAD officer and self-published author predict the sighting of a purported UFO in New York this week?

The Pressures of the Modern Book Business: Last weekend, you might have heard about a man who hurled a book at President Obama (he missed) during a rally. Interestingly, the CSM reveals that it was not a political statement, nor ironic tea-party based recommended reading—but rather a wayward attempt to get the prez to back his book. (As for our blurb-nabbing tips a couple of weeks ago, I will now add: No. 5—Do not throw book at president.)

“Even though I don’t want to be given special treatment, I guess some things are a little bit different for me as I was surprised to be given a Range Rover for my 16th birthday”: Justin Bieber’s memoir (First Step 2 Forever: My Story) dropped this week, and The Daily Beast has a new quiz to see who offers the best advice: The Catcher in the Rye‘s Holden Caulfield, or Bieber?

This week a court rejected author J.K. Rowling’s move to have the copyright infringement case against her dismissed. Rowling may yet find herself defending her 734-page book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire … against a 16-page “novella” called Willy the Wizard, written by an author who died in 1997. (Tarantallegra! spell translation: “Forces opponent to dance.”)

♫ I wish that I had Ricky’s Book … ♫: So I could read the details about how Rick Springfield’s old band committed robbery, how he dated a teenage Linda Blair when he was 25, and other assorted strangeness. (Actually, never mind: EW has the scoop on the memoir here.)

Beyond General Hospital:
James Franco, in addition to starring as poet Allen Ginsberg in movie theaters right now, is on an awesome “literary shopping spree.” If I could put an entire person in our new Top Shelf column, I would.

The Girl Who Kicked The Wall: Is my friend Kate S., who adores Stieg Larsson’s Millenium books. This week she found out that the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo author wrote a fourth installment in the series before he died—but that it was actually the fifth book in the series. And that it probably won’t be released.

(Image: Via)

* * *

WRITING PROMPT: Bending the Rules
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post a
response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our
occasional around-the-office swag drawings.
you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece and the prompt to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

The sign said “No shirt, no shoes, no service”—but that didn’t matter. He had to get inside. 

Also, the lineup and discounted early registration have been announced
for the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York, Jan. 21-23. Additional
details are on their way on Promptly, but so far we’re planning a pitch
slam, sessions on the future of publishing, craft, and platform, and
much more. Check it all out here.

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9 thoughts on “The Weird Week in Writing: Justin Bieber and Holden Caulfield; Harry Potter V. Willy the Wizard; Throwing a book at the president

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    “I don’t need service,” he said.

    He didn’t look like he ever needed anything, except his next steroid shot. “Yeah,” I said. “But my boss, he’s real weird like that.”

    The Incredible Hulk’s twin brother glanced at my name tag. “I’m Harlon,” he said. “You’re Timmy. Now we’re not strangers, right?”

    Great, I thought. My new best bud packs a gun as big as that terminator guy. “Sure,” I said.

    “Let me ask you a question, okay, Timmy?”

    Outside, past the glass door, it was blacker than inside a grave. Not that I’d ever seen that, but I was thinking I was getting pretty close. “Yeah,” I said. “Okay.”

    “You like your job?”

    He was holding the gun the way a barber holds a straight razor, like it was part of his work. “I’m not Donald Trump or anything,” I said, “but it gets me through school."

    He closed in like he was the dart and I was the target. “How about you do your job tomorrow?”

    The barrel of his gun looked roughly the size of the Grand Canyon. Whatever kind of bullets it shot, there wouldn’t be pieces of me left for mom to bury.

    “You listening, Timmy?”

    “What? Yeah. Do my job tomorrow.”

    “That’s right,” he said, real low and soft. “Just get out from behind the counter, and walk out the back door.”

    Into the middle of nowhere. It was the last thing I wanted to say, but I said as quietly as I could, “I can’t.”

    He raised his gun. “Why?”

    I flattened myself against the cigarette rack, crushed Marlboros and Camels in my trembling, sweaty hands. “Fire door.” I swallowed. “It’s so loud, the cockroaches come out.” And because he looked like he was thinking he should have just shot me when he walked in, I added, “Even in day time.”

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    “All right,” he said. “I’ll have to shoot you.”

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  5. Dare Gaither

    The urge was so intense Doug barely noticed the pain
    when he stubbed his toe on the pharmacy door.
    The sign demanding both shoes and shirt fluttered to the floor
    and lay trampled under Doug’s bare feet.
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    itchy rash raging in brilliant red over his chest and arms.
    The look on his face silenced any comments from the manager.

    Doug raced down the first aid aisle in search of relief.
    The poson ivy had spread quickly thanks to his constant scratching.
    He was unable to focus on specific items, so he grabbed
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    The bewildered cashier stared at him, uncertain what to do next.

    “How much?” Doug demanded, frowning as he scratched at
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    selections and presented him with the total.

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    He swiped his credit card and took the pen she offered.
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    at the contaminated object he now held before her.
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    His exit was blocked by Ed Dalton, the People’s Choice.
    The obnoxious candidate for City Council automatically
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  6. Nathan Honore

    The sign said, “No shirt, no shoes, no service”-but that didn’t stop him. He had to get inside. He looked like a rabid wolverine, yet harmless. The bags that were strapped to his feet, once used to house Wonder bread, were now his shoes. His shirt, a paper bag with arm and head holes, like we used to do when we were kids. I envied his beard a little, unkempt and free. The blue in his eyes was as piercing as McQueen’s, maybe more so considering the circumstances. My heart went out to him as he walked into the café.
    “Come on Joe. You know you can’t come in here. We’ve been over this,” an agitated barista yelled.
    The other patrons turned, glared for a moment, then ignored him. Joe just stood there, his fingers twitching with some sort of anticipation. His eyes were as wide as a meerkat’s.
    “Get out of here Joe!” The agitation escalated to anger. But the barista’s words bounced off him. Like a prayer that has been memorized and recited too many times, they meant nothing. I decided this man needed help, and for some reason I was the one to give it to him. The barista was moving around the counter when I grabbed his arm and said, “He’s got shoes, and a shirt.”
    His angry eyebrows moved to me.
    “I’m a psychiatrist,” I lied. “Let me buy this man a scone and tea. I’m sure he’ll leave you alone.”
    My eyes said please, but his didn’t care.
    “Ok pal, but if he starts wigging out I’ll make sure the cops get you too.”
    “Fair enough.”
    The barista went to his register, eyeing my new friend and I. I walked slowly to Joe, looked him in his amazingly blue eyes and said, “Care to join me?” He nodded.
    His scone and tea arrived. I figured tea would be better for him than coffee. Joe stood at my table while I sat, eyes darting back and forth.
    “Take a seat,” I invited. And he did.
    “So your name is Joe?”
    He wet his lips and slowly opened his mouth, closed it, then tried again.
    “No. That’s just what people call me.”
    He took a tiny bite of his scone, wiped his beard of crumbs, and folded the napkin.
    “Well, what do you go by?”
    “Of Nazareth?” I said half-jokingly.
    He smirked slightly. “Not this time.”
    Jesus took another tiny bite of his scone. He sniffed the tea and sipped it. I stared, almost inspecting him. He did kind of look like the Aryan portraits of Jesus that hang in white people’s homes across America.
    Suddenly he stood up. He took the scone, set it on top of the teacup and reached his hand to me.
    “Peace be with you.”
    Mouth open, I let him shake mine.
    “Where can I find you?”
    “Letters work. Just send it to Jesus, in care of the Pentagon.”
    Jesus walked out of the café and I sat there, thinking.

  7. Jo Mason

    The sign said “No shirt, no shoes, no service” – but that didn’t matter. He had to get inside. He laughed at the thought of what he must look like to passers-by. No doubt, a down-on-his-luck replica of that famous you-know-who celebrity. If they only knew. Nothing is ever as it appears.
    “Get a job!” someone scowled, causing him to jump back. He lost his footing on the wet sidewalk and landed, bum first, into an oily puddle. I need a stunt double, he mused to himself, then broke out into hard laughter. For it was always his choice to do the stunts himself. It gave more honesty to the scenes, he often said.
    And now, with no director or script or camera crew, here he was. On the rain-soaked streets; trying desperately to reach her.
    She glanced back playfully; egging him to keep after her, daring him to the chase. He rose to the challenge and started again. His stride automatically increased in large bounds but his focus turned to recall of how they met. There had been auditions and screen tests. Agents and managers. Meetings and negotiations.
    She’s stubborn to work with, they warned. She has a will of her own. But he always loved a challenge. And he always got the girl. There was no need to think otherwise. Until now.
    Their courtship barely started and he was in love. The tables had turned, and this strong leading man was now being led.
    And so he chased. Whenever they weren’t working, and sometimes when they were, he pursued her in a manner almost ridiculous. Like now.
    It had started when she greeted him in costume. She often found him half dressed. Giving him no time to prepare, she grabbed his sandwich and ran away with a smile and “come get me” look. The chase, the game, the race. It was all on.
    He gave no care to anyone or anything except pursuing her, and suddenly she was trapped. She managed to escape into the deli, out of the wet falling sky.
    The irony struck him. Her beauty had always opened doors for her. Here he was. Soaked. Dirty. Determined.
    He paid no attention to the sign, and strode in. With authority. She backed into a corner, almost laughing. The patrons, drying and feeding themselves, stopped to observe, whisper, and gawk. He gave no attention to his peripheral vision.
    Finally, with no place to go, he backed her into the corner. She took one bite of the sandwich and dropped the remnant on the floor. She was collared, and she knew it.
    He smiled his Oscar-winning smile. “Tell me you love me,” he urged as his embrace became more of a stronghold.
    She looked up, licking her mouth more for his benefit than hers. Almost nodding, definitely winking, she answered.