Traumatizing Moments From My Past, Volume 5: Ug Bug

“But I don’t WANNA marry you!”

When I was five, my family moved to Eritrea (the land where so many Traumatizing Moments From My Past took place: Volumes One, Three, and Four). My brother John and I made friends with an older boy who, at the time, seemed like a grown man, although he was probably about 17. Well…we pretended to be his friend, but we actually hated him. Our miniature psyches knew that he was weird and creepy. So John and I christened him “Ug Bug” behind his back.

If I remember correctly, Ug Bug lived next door. Sometimes we would spy on him over the wall. (I know, this is starting to sound like “Traumatizing Moments From Ug Bug’s Past.”) We knew there was something sinister about Ug Bug, and although we played with him and baited him with falsely cheerful childish giggles, we were perpetually alert, determined to find out the evil that lurked beneath.

Finally, Ug Bug’s dark motives were revealed at church. Where else? After the service, as John and I played outside, Ug Bug came up to us and began to express how much he loved us in creepy Ug Bug fashion. His English wasn’t perfect, but the message came through loud and clear: PSYCHO KILLER! Qu’est que c’est! FA FA FA FA FA FA FA FA FAAAR BETTER! RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN AWAAAAAY!

“You will be my brother,” he said to John, smiling down at him. John looked confused.

“And you.” He turned to me, smile widening into what can only be described as a Leer of Horror. “You will be my wife.”

They say every girl’s first proposal is a magical moment. They never knew Ug Bug.

How to Write a Cover Letter

Yeah, basically everyone who works in publishing has made fun of cover letter writing at one point or another. So what, punk? Do you feel lucky?

I didn’t think so.

You can’t spell “novel” without 80% of the letters necessary to spell “hovel.”

Hi kids! Here’s my fail-proof guide on the art of writing a charming cover letter that will not only catch your editor’s attention, but keep it trained, like a well-oiled AK-47, right on you.


“Dear Editor,” will not suffice. Do you want to sound like a cud-chewing bovine, mindlessly following the literati herd? Find out your editor’s name, and then garble it. Your editor will be thankful for the chance to see their identity in a new light, and impressed at your dexterity with character names. For example, “John Smith” morphs into the eye-catching “Jo Smithereens.” Cute!

Bonus tip: Is your editor a man? Refer to him as “Mrs.” You’ll have him instantly alert.


This is the single most important line of your cover letter. You gotta grab ’em, hook, line, and sinker.

Consider a meta approach: “This is the single most important line of my cover letter”; a knowledgeable approach: “As my internet research tells me, you–Harvard class of ’79, tattoo of a small chinchilla on your instep, currently residing at 9347 E. Woodlawn–are the perfect editor for this novel”; a humorous approach: “Whoa, what’s that on your shirt? HAHA, just flicked you in the nose! That’s the kind of effect my story is gonna have on you!”; a sensual approach: “Imagine my novel slowly loosening your tie…”; a melancholic approach: “As I stared into the abyss with the noose around my neck, what should arise from its gloomy depths but the idea for this novel, fully-formed in all its dark, flawed glory”; a troubled approach: “I wrote this in prison. Still there. Killed a man.”; or a foodie approach: “You’re biting into the perfect grilled cheese. The Gruyere, melted to perfection, brings tears of joy into your eyes as you masticate. This is the kind of vivid, sensory experience that awaits you in my novel.”


It’s time to break out the big guns. Summarize your novel in the most concise, gripping terms you can manage. Good: Using one-liners that look like they should appear on the cover of a movie.

“He’s got a plan that will change the world.”
“It’s the moments that make us or break us.”
“With every great love comes a great story.”

Better: Writing about your novel in third-person, as though it’s already been published.

“Tori’s novel shows a striking maturity of plot and a masterful command of language. As she weaves a spell of magic around her characters, you’ll find yourself drawn into the darkly lyrical world she has created. A particular triumph of the novel is the narrative voice, which Tori executes with a skill reminiscent of Chekhov or Kafka. The ending is absolutely heart-rending. I cannot recommend enough that you read it.”

Best: Pretend that you are a robot.

“Information feed: ON. Novel computing. Excellent stuff. Story of man struggling with own identity, guilt. Love interest helps change spirit into stronger iron.” (It’s OK if it comes out a little distorted–that’s what robots do.)


Consider this your knockout punch. You’ve been beating the editor senseless with your ceaseless wit, your endearing one-liners, and the thick syrupy genius that practically oozes off your page. Now it’s time to make sure they don’t wake up for 4-6 hours, and when they do, their head is throbbing like a speaker at a Strokes concert and they have cauliflower ear.

I find it best to model your sign-off after the Seven Deadly Sins of the Catholic church. After all, everybody loves a good illicit thrill.

Wrath: “I can tell you’re thinking of rejecting me, you useless sonofabitch. You thought my metaphors were sharp? Meet my KNIFE.”
Greed: “Call me soon to discuss my advance. $$. I like nice cars.”
Sloth: “PS…I haven’t written Chapter 20 yet…maybe you could…”
Pride: “I’m the next best thing in fiction. Can your puny little publishing house keep up?”
Lust: “I can’t wait to get my hands on your edited version.”
Envy: “That “Twilight” thing you put out was no better than my novel. My vampires are just as hot. My main character is a soulless unappealing bit of angst. Whatever, I don’t care, I just think it was stupid that you picked her.”
Gluttony: “If you liked this book, you’ll love my next: Clogged Artery: Recipes from the Heart.”

Quick-n-Easy Abbreviations

Here are some things I’m DTD (Down to Do):

DTAS (down to avoid solicitors)
DTGRQ (down to get rich quick)
DTOLOHC (down to own lots of haute couture)
DTHASD(CC) (down to have a sugar daddy [called Charlie])

Here are some things I’m NDTD (Not Down to Do):
NDTPUWSP (not down to put up with stupid people)
NDTTTGRE (not down to take the GRE)
NDTHAHPOML (this one is embarrassing, I’m not going to tell you. Oh, this makes me remember an interesting story. When I was in 6th grade, I used to get really mad at my classmates because they were idiots. What else is new? Anyway, sometimes I would write angry little notes in my secret secret SECRET glittery pink notebook, but I would write them as acronyms because I was afraid the she-devils of my grade would find them. So I would write something like IHCSITDIA = I hate Carly she is the dumbest idiot alive. But then I would get really worried that Carly–despite her North Carolinian IQ of approximately negative “Your Mom Married Her Brother”–would somehow figure out the message. So I would cross it out really really well, and write something else, something harmless, like SS = school sucks. Being a sixth grader was probably the worst time of my life.)
NDTHSL (not down to have student loans)
NDWMF (not down with Megan Fox…for an explanation, see NDTPUWSP)
NDWOS (not down with oil spills)

I’m a good person. Man I’m glad sixth grade is over. IHCSITDIA! CISFAISS,IKTFFB, HAHAHA! (Carly is still fat and I’m still skinny, I know this from Facebook, HAHAHA!)

PS: You wanna read some really bizarre abbreviations? Check out this list of World of Warcraft abbrevs (the site where I got the above picture). Particular gems include CoX (Curse of Exhaustion), DS (Drain Soul), IAotH (Improved Aspect of the Hawk), LHW (Lesser Healing Wave), and MD–Master Demonologist, of course.

I Am Interviewed

As most everybody knows, I am a creature of mystery. I rarely consent to have my photo taken (unless CatPaint is involved), and I respond vaguely to inquiries such as, “Paper or plastic, ma’am?” I have been known to walk along the shores of Lake Michigan at midnight, shrouded in mist, invoking the spirits of Moon and Darkness to wrap me in their icy embrace.

However, when an intrepid young journalist comes along and begs to interview me, eyes sparkling with hope for the future, pen poised, hair coiffed, I find it hard to say no. After all, I, too, was young once.

Journalist: Good evening, Ms. Tori. Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview.
Me: Not at all. It’s a pleasure.
Journalist: You’re famously enigmatic and hard to pin down. Why do you enjoy living so far from the public eye?
Me: When the world turned its back on me, I turned my back on it.
Journalist: Could you elaborate?
Me: Once, I was great. Once, I had the kisses of a thousand young men at my command. I had only to drop my handkerchief, and the handsomest courtesans in the land would gallop forth on their frothing stallions to do my will.
Journalist: What year are we talking, here?
Me: 1535.
Journalist: OK.
Me: But everything changed when the king took me for his wife.
Journalist: The king?
Me: Yes, the king. The handsomest young man in all of Christendom. Tall, golden-haired, a savvy falconer and the undisputed champion of the joust.
Journalist: Did you love him?
Me: DID I LOVE HIM? (I stand up, my trailing silver gown sweeping the floor, and rush to the window. I lean my aristocratic profile on one slim, wrinkled hand, heavy with scarab rings. My French hood is set far back on my head.) Yes, I loved him. I loved him very much. But he loved…her.
Journalist: Her?
Journalist: Wait. Are you describing the last half of The Other Boleyn Girl?
Me: NO!
Journalist: Yes you are.
Journalist: Yeah, you’re definitely describing The Other Boleyn Girl.
Journalist: What’s your favorite color?
Me: Tudor green, my liege.
Journalist: You are SO describin–
Me: Leave me, fool.

My Life is an Advertisement!

Hi there! How are you? Me, I’m great! I’m just driving around in my convertible with the wind in my hair! See this girl in the passenger seat? She’s my best friend! Her skin is a little bit darker than mine! That’s not a tan–she’s ethnic! If you look really closely, you can see that she’s African American, and that makes me a good person! Her hair is perfectly curly and looks touchably soft–that’s called a ‘fro!

Whoa, now I’m on a dock with a large group of people! I have lots of friends! See this guy? He’s blond and terribly handsome, but you can tell he’s not a cliché because his hair is a little bit shaggy in front and he’s wearing green Converse All-Stars! He’s touching the small of my back with his gorgeous, sensual fingers, but we’re just friends! Isn’t it great to be friends with so many beautiful people?

I’m not wearing any makeup! JUST KIDDING–I really am! The secret to looking like me is a highly paid makeup artist and great lighting! JUST KIDDING–it’s simply lots of fresh air and sunshine! Oh and that guy who’s smiling at my African American friend is a MEXICAN! I mean, he’s LATINO! Or is it HISPANIC? Anyway, you can tell he’s from South America, Central America, and/or Spain because he looks a little bit like Gael Garcia Bernal! My friends say I look a little bit like Charlize Theron, but I’m not sure who she is because I’m so busy taking off my shirt to reveal a truly enviable body in a ruffled yellow bikini and diving into the lake! Now I’m in the lake up to my neck and you can see my bare shoulders! Whoa, am I skinny-dipping? Tee-hee, who knows? Aren’t I alluring?

Whoa, we’re all texting each other on our Blackberrys at this adorable hole-in-the-wall bar where we always meet! It’s great to be alive! I’m sending my best friend a text from across the table! TEE-HEE! It says, “Hi Lafawnda!” Isn’t that funny that I just texted her from across the table? Blackberry Messaging is so fun! Another perk of BBM is that I can tell when she reads my text! Lafawnda, why aren’t you responding?

Well, this sucks! Here I am at a pleasantly scuffed-up table looking all adorable and my bff Lafawnda isn’t texting me back! Should I send her another text? OK: “I see you!” HAHA! I’m like a cute stalker who looks really sexy but doesn’t even know it! I don’t realize my tank top is slipping coyly off one shoulder! I don’t realize that when I bend over, laughing warmly, you can see a little bit of cleavage! But the creepy old guy at the bar sure does! Wait–how’d he get in this ad?

Lafawnda still isn’t responding, although I know she got my text! Not only does Blackberry tell me when my texts are read, I SAW HER READ IT! She read it and then she put her phone down and kept right on giggling with our Asian Friend while being flatteringly lit from one side! What a bitc–FLOWERS! PUPPIES!

Whoa, it just felt like my brain was being reprogram–UNICORNS! CUPCAKES!

What was I talking about?

I love my friends! Hi Lafawnda! Ooh, my sexy blond guy friend just texted me on his Blackberry! He says, “Conversations come naturally on BBM.” That’s so cute! So I respond: “Chat with friends in real-time, anytime, on BBM.” I LOVE MY LIFE!

Inspiration Board for a Story

Lucifer in Starlight, by George Meredith
On a starred night Prince Lucifer uprose
Tired of his dark dominion swung the fiend
Above the rolling ball in cloud part screened,
Where sinners hugged their spectre of repose.
Poor prey to his hot fit of pride were those.
And now upon his western wing he leaned,
Now his huge bulk o’er Afric’s sands careened,
Now the black planet shadowed Artic snows.
Soaring through wider zones that pricked his scars
With memory of the old revolt from Awe
He reached a middle height, and at the stars,
Which are the brain of heaven, he looked, and sank.
Around the ancient track marched, rank on rank,
The army of unalterable law.