Category Archives: Word Games

Contest 2012: Results

Yes, finally, here are the results of Contest 2012. Yet again everybody has delighted me with funny, creative, off-the-wall entries. This year the contest had more submissions than ever. Thanks to everybody who took part.

The photograph was taken by Jim Urquhart for Reuters. And while a strong proportion of entries placed the action in China, Japan, or Brazil, the photo was taken at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada.

Before I announce the two runners up and the winner, here’s a nod to a few other entries that made me laugh. It’s too bad the new novel doesn’t have room for a jolly bus plunge that would allow me to add everybody as a character. In lieu of driving you all off a cliff, here’s a tip of the hat to jpaubrey, jack hrusoff, Jason, YouBredRaptors?, Pop Culture Nerd, Linda, Rich, Doug Moring, Susan, Mark Dobson, DJ Paterson, Rachel Pope, and Ron.

Now, the results.

Runners up: These two entrants will each receive a signed copy of one of my novels.

I believe I’m a fly, I believe I can touch the sky….!

When Ferd Bismuth unexpectedly found himself thrust amongst several battle-hardened Samurai, he knew he’d have to turn to desperate measures to ensure that he’d be…
“….stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha,
Stayin’ alive.
Stayin’ alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha,
Stayin’ aliiiiiiive…”

Winner: We have a tie. Both these entrants will have a character named after them in The Shadow Tracer:

Coffey Kin:
Of all of the tropical diseases his doctor warned him of before his once-in-a-lifetime trip to Bali, Irving swore she never once mentioned Disco Fever.

Two Words: Bling Dynasty.


Grammar allergies & Cormac McCarthy: funnies for the weekend

Cyanide & Happiness understands how I react:

And just in time for Saturday night: Pictionary, the Cormac McCarthy edition.

(Thanks to Kelly for the Cyanide & Happiness link.)

Reminder: Enter Contest 2011

You have until Monday 17 October at 11:59 p.m. GMT to enter Contest 2011.

In the comments section of the Contest 2011 post, explain what’s happening in this photo. 200 words maximum.

The winner will have a character named after him or her in my next novel.

Two runners-up will receive signed copies of one of my books.

Why I love A Word A Day

If you haven’t signed up for A.Word.A.Day from, do so now. Here’s today’s word:


noun: An emblem or device, usually with a motto.

From Italian impresa (undertaking), past participle of imprendere (to undertake), from Latin in- + prehendere (to grasp). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ghend-/ghed- (to seize or to take), which is also the source of pry, prey, spree, reprise, surprise, pregnant, osprey, prison, and get. Earliest documented use: before 1586.

“A bottle of poison was brought by a girl who owns a ring bearing the impresa of Mary Stuart.”
S.J. Parris; Prophecy; Doubleday; 2011.

Sign up for the daily email and learn something new with your coffee every morning.

By the way, this week’s theme is “What do these car names mean?” Previous words are accord, paseo, and prius.

Word game: Sitcom novels

It’s Saturday afternoon, so let me shamelessly crib this game from Twitter. Come up with crossover titles that mash up sitcoms and novels. You know, like Anne of Green Acres. Or Fear and Loathing in Mayberry, RFD.

Or Married, with Children of the Corn.

Go on.

Friday word game: Less Ambitious Titles

Thieving unapologetically here. A while back on Twitter, folks wasted hours fruitfully invested their intellectual capital coming up with new, half-hearted versions of famous books and movies. Playing is simple. Invent less ambitious versions of well-known works.

From the original game, here are some Less Ambitious Movies:

  • Casino Royale With Cheese
  • Jurassic Car Park
  • Alien vs. Editor

And some Less Ambitious Books:

  • Zen and the Art of Segway Maintenance
  • Hey, Godot’s Here
  • The Catsup on the Rye
  • The Devil Wears Gap
  • Eat Pray Barf

Have fun.

Bad literary mashups

A game! Thanks to Jason Pinter, who tossed it up on Twitter, here’s the idea: Come up with the worst possible cross-pollinated literary titles.

Such as:

  • @wawoodworth: The Joy Luck Fight Club
  • @CParkhurst1: Lord of the Flies and also the Rings
  • @PaulaMatter: Gone, Baby, Gone With the Wind

My contributions so far include:

  • Eat, Pray, Jaws
  • Jacob Marley and Me
  • Cannery Ronin

Come on, what can you come up with?

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Book titles taken from literature and song?

A Wednesday game. Name book titles that are drawn from earlier works of literature or song. I’ll start:

  • The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner: from Macbeth
  • Fatal Vision, Joe McGinniss: Macbeth
  • In the Beauty of the Lilies, John Updike: “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.

Your turn.

Bookmark and Share

Frankenstory: the results

Yesterday I linked to Frankenstory, the site that lets you write a story with a friend — with the gimmick, and the fun, lying in the fact that each writer can only see the final ten words of each section their partner writes.

I sent Frankenstories to Maxine Clarke, who lured me into participating to begin with, and to Snart. Now Maxine has dared me to post the results.

Very well, then. First, the redacted versions. These are the bits we had to work with when we were writing.

Meg’s and Maxine’s redacted Frankenstory:

xx xxx xxxxx x xxxx xxxx… He heard: “The Southwest Trains service to Kingston Upon Thames is cancelled.”

xxxx x xx xx xx xxxx… Matt. But a woman answered! “Tough luck, buddy!” she drawled.

xxx xx xxxx xxx xx xx xxxx x… at the seemingly innocuous offices of Nature magazine. Now this.

was deeply dangerous… xxxxx x xx xxx.

Snart’s and Meg’s redacted story:

xxxxx x xx x… falsies and arch supports. Suddenly, their deaths are hell. Tonight!

xx xxx x… return. The Battle of La Cumbre Plaza is not over.

xxxx xx xxxx… staplers and duct tape. Humankind has no taste for carnage.

Not raw, anyway… xxx  x xxx xx.

And now, the full stories. Remember — nobody had much idea what her partner was writing. We could only guess, and go nuts. 40 words at a pop. So the results aren’t publishable — just entertaining.

Meg’s and Maxine’s full Frankenstory:

Bourne shoved aside the nun with the knife and ran through Waterloo. Viggo was down, taken by Dr. Clarke, but Bourne could still escape. Then doom struck. He heard: “The Southwest Trains service to Kingston-upon-Thames is cancelled.”

Would the nuns get there first, he wondered desperately? Quickly, he leapt over the fence and grabbed the rucksack. Scrabbling down the hill, he pulled out his mobile phone and speed-dialled Matt. But a woman answered! “Tough luck, buddy!” she drawled.

It couldn’t be the American. He’d sent the monk to deal with her. He ripped off the woman’s wig. Sarah Palin! Could it get worse? Torture, canceled trains, escaping captivity at the seemingly innocuous offices of Nature magazine. Now this…

… was deeply dangerous. Rejecting the manuscript of the cyberbioterrorists was not for the faint-hearted. Nonetheless, Clint did not flinch. Staggering to the coalface, his heart stuttering, he gasped “No!” Was he too late? Will the earthquake hit? Cont part 2.

Snart’s and Meg’s full story:

Zombies live for the night. Fresh meat, dampness, and little traffic. But one night each year, them must endure … the Body Makeover! … when their creator re-installs their pacemakers, contacts, falsies and arch supports. Suddenly, their deaths are hell. Tonight!

We pull our dead from the display window at Victoria’s Secret and shore up the barricades. We have little time. When night falls, the Dr. Scholl’s army will return. The Battle of La Cumbre Plaza is not over.

… come next year, given that the planet is still here and their Queen of the Dead, Joan Rivers, still exists, they will come again, armed with limbs and twining bales, staplers and duct tape. Humankind has no taste for carnage.

Not raw, anyway. With salsa, definitely. We shovel up the glass, prod prisoners into the barbed-wire pen at Gymboree, stoke the fire at Sears. And open a new restaurant to crown La Cumbre Plaza: Chili’s Con Carnage.

Revealed: the “most unfortunate” names

What do you call some of the most unlucky people in Britain?

Justin Case, Barb Dwyer and Stan Still.

It sounds like a bad joke, but a study has revealed that there really are unfortunate people with those names in the UK.

Joining them on the list are Terry Bull, Paige Turner, Mary Christmas and Anna Sasin.

Personally, I think Anna Sasin would make an awesome pen name for a thriller writer.

Free United flight 930!

My daughter’s flight from San Francisco to London was scheduled to land at Heathrow almost four hours ago. It faced headwinds and took an unusually southern route across the Atlantic, but, after a ten and a half hour flight, arrived over London around 1:15 p.m. When the Husband and I got to the airport at 1:45 (because, when flights land at Heathrow, passengers generally don’t make it to the exit until 45 minutes later — bet your travel agent doesn’t tell you that, tourists) the arrivals board said the flight was delayed until 2:00. Finally, at 2:25, the board changed to DIVERTED.

The jet had circled for so long above Heathrow waiting to land that it ran low on fuel and had to land at London Gatwick.

Where the fuel trucks didn’t come… and didn’t come… and the Gatwick ground crew LOCKED THE JETWAY so nobody, including the flight crew, could leave the aircraft. Here are words you never want to hear from your kids when they phone: “The flight attendants look worried. They’re saying, ‘This isn’t safe.'”

I’m hereby starting a protest movement. I want my little girl home. Free United flight 930!

While I gather my mob and prepare to storm the airport — um, I mean, while I wait quietly for news that the flight has received fuel and can make the 10 minute flight over my house back to Heathrow — here’s some appropriate music.

It’s a Christmas carol, performed by the choir of the Stanford University Catholic Community. Kate, aka the Hostage, is the flute soloist.

“Home from Our Exile.”

Contest: And the winner is…

Finally. Time to announce the winner and runners-up in the contest to have a character in my new novel named after you.

But first, a thank you to everyone who entered. Your creativity amazes me. Reading through your submissions still makes me laugh. Before I announce the prizewinners, here are a few shout-outs:

To Phil — for mentioning the Argentinian Sidling Gnome.

To Susan — for “She couldn’t see DeForest for the trees.” You knew from the start your chances of winning were low, because, as you pointed out, you won my previous contest and now your namesake is “massively dead.” But you entered anyway. Kudos.

To Antony B — for brevity.

To Snart and Dan — for mentioning Tater Tots.

To C.D. and Kelly — for presuming that editing, and editors, turn me murderous.

To Matt — for Grandma’s cut-and-paste.

To Eddie — for the Jeopardy reference.

To Dana Jean — for having the chutzpah to write the words, “His jock itch ebbing and flowing like the English Channel on a warm moonlit night.”

To Thymebandit — Well, now. Gnomefinger must be dealt with. I need your address so I can send you a book. Yes, a book. Mwahahahahaha!

And now, the prizewinners.

These three runners-up will each get signed books:


Rich Klinzman


And for the winning entry, we have a dead heat. These two contestants will each have a character in the new book named after him:


DJ Paterson


Winners: email me at with the address where you’d like the books mailed.

Contest: Soon I’ll announce the winner

Tomorrow. That’s my intention. Today I’m wrestling the first draft of my new novel to the ground and tying it into a knot. Bear with me, contestants — you can’t have a character in the book named after you until there’s a book.

Contest update: the judging begins

The contest to have a character in my new novel named after you has now closed. Many thanks to everybody who entered. Your submissions have been wonderful.

Now it’s time for me to choose the winner. Over the weekend I’ll sit down and review all the entries with a dartboard and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s with the greatest of care. The winner will be announced next week.

And the little typewriter in the photo — shown actual size — isn’t a prize. It’s a Limoges piece my grandmother left to me, which I simply think is a wonderful emblem for a writing contest.