The Weird Week in Writing: Literary tattoos, a Betty White comic book, and the curious case of Operation Dark Heart

The Word Made Flesh: If your favorite books are already forever imprinted in your mind, why not wear them on your sleeve? Check out the trailer for an intriguing new book on literary tattoos. (PS, anyone else have any literary tattoos?)

“Tony Blair is accused of plagiarizing his fictionalized self in his new memoir”: Per EW, it seems Blair might have taken too much of a liking to the cinematic portrayal of himself in the film The Queen. (Maybe Sarah Palin will make a similar move and decide to run for president on a steam platform, based on her love of the upcoming Steampunk Palin comic book?)

Bring on the Betty:
Golden Girls star Betty White is set to appear in her very own Female Force single-issue comic, set to release in November. Like the everlasting battle between Marvel and DC characters, we shall be split into distinct camps, and forced to decide: Female Force: Betty White, or Steampunk Palin?

The Pen is Mightier: If it’s 7 feet long. A visual artist has solicited several thousand dollars through an online fundraising site to build a massive pen for performances and art.

Government preheats its furnace to 451 degrees: After several agencies raised issues with an Army reservist’s forthcoming book, Operation Dark Heart, the Defense Department is reportedly planning to buy and destroy the entire 10,000 copy first print run. What say you, Mr. Orwell?

* * *

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.

Write a scene about two people having a fight—in the most awkward of
locations—about naming something (a person, a thing, or a place).


• If you’re a freelance-inclined scribe, you might be interested in a new
bootcamp WD has in the works (this weekend!). Here’s some info: “With publishing
companies laying off workers, freelance writers offer them a cheaper
alternative. But the sad truth is the success of a freelance writer
isn’t usually just based on quality of work or marketing. It’s often
about who’s the most organized, has a clear plan for future goals, and
understands how to best execute it.” Want to know how to do it? Check
out Eric Butterman’s How to Get Freelance Work Bootcamp.

workshops for writers


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18 thoughts on “The Weird Week in Writing: Literary tattoos, a Betty White comic book, and the curious case of Operation Dark Heart

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    “Peace be with you,” I said, extending my hand.
    “What?” She pushed my hand away and continued on to share the peace with a man in the next pew.
    I was newly married, she single. At an Evangelism Committee meeting in her home, my husband sat on a loveseat in her living room. Two other members of the committee did not show up. She took a seat next to him, book in hand. He was surprised that no one else had appeared for the meeting. He told me later how uncomfortable he was when she chose the seat next to him. It was a tight squeeze. At one point she laid her hand on his right thigh, while talking and drawing up some point about the Committee’s plans for ensuing weeks.
    These things my husband reported to me when he arrived home, earlier than I’d expected. Then I told him of what I had witnessed at a dinner given by her, prior to my marriage, on the previous Thanksgiving Day. Six church members and two of her next-door-neighbors had been invited. I was new to the church fellowship and this was my first invitation into her social group. Following dinner, all of her guests were seated in her living room or in the adjacent music room.
    Everyone, that is, except her and the husband of her next-door-neighbor. I alone had a view into the kitchen. There they were, kissing a lingering amorous kiss. What is this? I thought. Does my dear Lady Evangelist think herself immune to the dictates of the Sixth Commandment? Christian, she calls herself. Adulteress, I called her. She saw that I saw. Had she wanted me to?
    There is forgiveness. In ensuing weeks I had worked on this and had arrived at resolution from my side of the situation. With God’s help, I forgave her for her manner toward my husband. But, as evidenced by her behavior toward me, and at the exchange of the peace, she did not have peace with me nor my silent naming of her character.

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    The stewardess came through with the drink cart. Emily had a mission for her.

    "Would you mind delivering this note to aisle F seat 4 please?" Emily asked the kindly stewardess who looked relieved that the conversation previously taking place across the seat aisles was now going to take place in written form.

    "Sure thing, dear."

    Cliff must have read the note, she saw the crumpled piece of paper fly towards the front of the plane.

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    "Emily’s Erogenous Zone?? I am the only man who should be thinking of your erogenous zone. Love, Cliff"

    Emily responded on her cocktail napkin, and the passenger "pigeons" gladly passed it back to Cliff.

    "No one is going to think of it that way Cliff, it’s a name that a customer will easily remember. It’s a keeper!"

    Another cocktail napkin from Cliff: "You know there are some serious weirdos out there, it’s not their memory I’m worried about, it’s their imagination!"

    Yes, Emily had to agree, since she happened to be spying a "sicko" opening her cocktail napkin in order to read her response to Cliff. Emily quickly rose and saying nothing pointed at the interloper, her head back, eyebrows raised.

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    "I agree! the name is brilliant!" Another embarrassed man said as he quickly made his way to the restroom.

    Emily could not contain her laughter, "You’ve been overruled Cliff!" Our new adult store will be known as Emily’s Erogenous Zone!"

    An elderly woman sitting behind Cliff reached through to pat him on the shoulder. "Besides Cliff, with a real man like you protecting her, Emily has nothing to worry about! Emily’s not worried are you hon?" The elderly woman looked back at Emily with a wink and a smile.

    "Not one bit M’am! Thank you!" Emily grinned at Cliff in satisfaction.

    As time would tell, the adult store did do well. "Emily’s Erogenous Zone", was a memorable hit that patrons did enjoy joking about "being in" or "going to" and since Cliff also enjoyed being in Emily’s erogenous zone, he learned not to argue so much, which made Cliff’s erogenous zone very happy.

    And, as we all know, everyone enjoys a happy ending.

  10. Mark James

    On 451 degrees. . I loved this from that article, " . . . the publisher of Random House, Bennett Cerf, told the agency he would be glad to sell all the copies to the agency — and then print more."

    Yeah. Come buy my book. Please!

    Here’s to Ray Bradbury . . .

    “Lucifer, I don’t think you’re supposed to be here,” Michael said.

    “He sold his soul.” The dark angel’s face was tight with concentration. “But he’s hard-headed. I can’t get him to do anything right.”

    There was a portrait of a mortal wearing a white curly wig on the wall across from Michael. A black leather armchair was pressed up against the wall. In the armchair was a mortal, leaning forward, hands clasped loosely between his legs. “How long before the press conference?” he said.

    Two warrior types in black suits were standing at the door. One of them checked his watch. “Five minutes to the media event designated Operation Leaf Blower, sir. ”

    Lucifer was bent over the mortal in the armchair, whispering earnestly. Michael heard only two words: ‘operation’ and ‘all’.

    “Is he a doctor?”

    “Act like you know how to do something.” Lucifer’s eyes glowed scarlet with impatience. “Anything—just be quiet about it.”

    “What’s going on?” Michael said. “How come I get called every place, but no one tells me why?”

    “He’s about to declare war,” Lucifer said. “But he needs to convince other mortals.”

    “Convince them?” Michael took in the rigid lines of power etched into the mortal’s face. “You mean lie, don’t you?”

    “Why quibble over words?” Lucifer flashed his brother a look that would have set a mortal on fire. “I’m trying to ignite a war here, not rewrite the prophets.”

    The mortal in the armchair rubbed his eyes as if he hadn’t slept in decades. “What did you say the reporter called it?”

    One of the warriors pulled out a small black notebook, flipped it open, thumbed the pages and read in a low monotone, “A despicable government-sponsored propagandistic display that is awing and shocking only in its audacious attempt to foist it off on the citizens of a free country as anything other than a grab for wealth, land and colonial supremacy.”

    The man who ran the most repressive regime in the world said, “That’s a little long for a sound bite.” He looked up at the warrior. “Is this reporter still writing?”

    “Yes, sir.” The mortal in black slid his notebook into his jacket pocket. “He’s sending God his prayers in person.”

    “Well done.” The mortal in the armchair leaned back, crossed his legs, pressed two fingers to his temple. “A name that would sell, look good on movie marquis.”

    “Oh, for all the angels.” Lucifer’s black wings unfurled, stretched all the way up to the ceiling, fanning slowly in and out.

    “Try again,” Michael said.

    “You try. It’s your timetable he’s slowing.”

    Michael strode across the room, drew his flaming sword. Although he stood in front of the mortal in the armchair, he looked straight through the archangel. “Hey,” Michael said. “Listen to my brother. You’re on Armageddon schedule here. Think like you mean it.”

    From the door, one of the warrior types said quietly, “Two minutes, sir.”

    The mortal in the armchair leaned back, his face disturbed, as though he’d remembered a bloody nightmare. “How do you think Operation Freedom For All will go over?”

    Lucifer’s wings slowed; his eyes glowed a dimmer shade of red. He squeezed Michael’s shoulder. “Sometimes, you make me proud to be your brother.”

  11. Lily Elderkin

    “Contractions are two minutes apart!” calls the nurse, and words of encouragement fly around like arrows.

    “Alright, this is it,” I say. “We need to decide on the name, Betty.”

    “Augh! I’m trying to breathe properly, Herbert!”

    “Yes, well, keep doing that, honey. Just let’s think this over.”








    “These are all awful!” I cry, annoyed. “Why don’t you just like the name Madeline?”

    “Because it sounds like those books when I was younger – Miss Clavel saying, ‘Something is not right.’ I can’t name my child Madeline!”

    “Fine, then Sarah. Very classic.”

    “My first boyfriend was stolen by a girl named – ouch! – Sarah.”

    “You said you liked Anna a few weeks ago.”

    “I lied, okay? That is the ugliest name I’ve ever heard!”

    One of the nurses looks affronted. We ignore her.

    “New ideas then.”

    “Why don’t you like Elizabeth?”

    “Louisa May Alcott’s sister’s name was Elizabeth, and she died at 21.”

    Betty grimaces. We were both cursed with names that got us made fun of as children, so we wanted very simple names for our daughter. Unfortunately, we put it off to, very literally, the last minute.

    “One minute! One minute apart! Mrs. Richardson, you’re going to have to prepare yourself to push.”

    “Quickly. Allison.”

    “I hate A names. Hannah.”

    “How can you hate Anna but like Hannah?”

    “You’re right, I hate Hannah. Molly.”

    “My sister’s name is Molly.”

    “Oh, right, and she’s a bitch. Jennifer.”

    “My sister is not a bitch! My last girlfriend before I married you was named Jennifer.”

    “Definitely not Jennifer then. And yes, she is. Maria.”

    “I’ve just met a girl named Maria!” I sing, which immediately sends my wife into groans of pain.

    “Not Maria.”

    “Oh, oh, I’ve got it!” I call, just as the nurse shouts, “Push, Mrs. Richardson! The baby’s crowning!”

    “Jessica!” I say.

    “That’s perfect,” Betty says faintly, before pushing with all her might.

    Very soon after, little cries pierce the air. “That’s our Jessica,” I murmur.

    The doctor frowns as he takes our baby into his arms. “Um, Mr. and Mrs. Richardson, you’ve been blessed with a beautiful baby boy.”