The 2003 Purple Prose Parody Contest

September 24, 2003:

Congratulations to Amanda Grange and Blythe Barnhill. Out of 14 entries in this year's PPP Contest, they tied to win.
Timeless Message donated one of their elegant messages in a bottle for Amanda to send to someone she loves. Her message was sent in a gorgeous European crafted bottle of her choice within a wooden crate designed to give a Renaissance feeling. Renaissance feeling.

As Blythe is one of AAR's staff, she is ineligible for a prize, but after submitting six entries in seven years, her hard, creative, and inspired spoofing gives her the well-deserved title as co-winner in the 2003 Purple Prose Parody Contest.

Analysis of the contest can be found in the August 1st At the Back Fence. Here are comments from both winners as well as some reader comments collected during the polling process, followed by the entries themselves:

Amanda on her win:

"I'm amazed to have won. It's great! Mind you, I think I owe my success to Jane Austen - if she was alive, I'd buy her a drink <g> The other entries made me LOL, so thanks for organising the PPP. Long may it continue!"

Blythe on her win:

"I'm thrilled and honored to win. It's actually been my secret, burning ambition for years; I've entered every contest but one, so I was gradually honing my purple prose craft.<g> I also have to say that I'm a huge Balogh fan, even if I couldn't resist the opportunity to poke fun at her penchant for prostitute heroines."

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Regarding Amanda's P&P parody, The Pitch:

  • I thought this was a great idea and Jane Austen must be turning over in her grave I can just see poor Jane Austen sitting in front of an Avon editor, her heart beating rapidly as she realizes that the pinnacle of her ambitions, the culmination of all her dreams, a place at the top of the mountain, is within her grasp...a spot on The Avon Ladies Website! When I, a couple of women friends, and our significant others sat down to watch A&E's Pride and Prejudice, all of the men said 'Too much talking. Not enough action. Where's the sex?' This parody was a exact reflection of their reaction to the story.
  • Can you imagine a sexed up P&P, especially one with Darcy's internal monologue detailing how much he'd like to have Lizzy in his bed, or behind a potted palm, etc?! And the titles of the inevitable sequels - beautifully trite and repetitious.

Regarding Blythe's Balogh parody, Once a Ho:

  • Even though I was in on the premise (daughter paying for father's debts) I could not predict where the story was going. I thought it was cute how the heroine was so TSTL she didn't know she only had to wait until Thursday. I liked how Blythe incorporated other people with such a small word count and got the point across with the use of Thursday. Worthy of Julie Garwood herself when she was on her game. Once a Ho had me laughing out loud in the middle of my office. Amelia was every wannabe martyr heroine rolled into one. I laughed all the way through. TSTL as an artform. My vote has to go to Blythe Barnhill for Once a Ho. "I. Was. Coming. Home. THURSDAY!" I absolutely died laughing all the way through it. She nailed it.
  • Well the obvious choice is Blythe's "Once a Ho." It was hilarious.

Comments about some of the other entries:

  • The Virgin Widow Sex Kitten by Cheryl Sneed. I can't help but thinking that Cheryl is too clever for her own good and I just love reading what she writes. She always nails the cliches and does it with such wit. Charity J's Dark Parody made me collapse with laughter from that first line: "You are beautiful. Your amber eyes, your creamy breasts, your silky red hair." Embarrassed, she looked down at herself. Yes, as she’d feared, she was lactating again. Her breasts were creamy. My favorite PPP entry was the DEAR AUTHOR, by Margeurite Kraft. After I saw at my computer, dying laughing, my husband was glancing over cusiourly. So I started reading it aloud, and we both had to wipe tears from our eyes afterwards. A DAY IN THE LIFE OF ANITA BLAKE, VAMPIRE HUMPER, by Holly. He style is somewhat relentless and the humor hits your hard and fast. I like her style as well, and the bold scenes. The doorknob made me pee my pants. Well, almost. Everyone did a marvelous job. Thanks for the laughs. But Holly managed to nail the painful turn of the Anita Blake series and turn it into something longtime fans can laugh about as opposed to lamenting. The Audition by Rachel Potter - Hilarious take all sorts of writer/writing issues. Especially loved the alpha/possessive/obsessive male (hero or villain? sometimes difficult to tell), and the appearance of Clayton Westmoreland as a villain.
  • I am casting my vote for Love's Burning Itch by Jenny Evans. The Duke of Slut has always irritated me, the way he cats around and manages to remain disease free, then meets The One Who Ruins Him for Any Other. I always feel bad for her, with her slut husband, thinking that one day, he'll slip up and she'll get the pox.

Entries for this year's contest were limited to 1,500 words. When this contest first began in 1997, all the parodies were of love scenes. We've expanded that concept over the years to keep things fresh and encourage the parody of other romance novel scenes, including: epilogues; Regency Romance ball scenes; the first meeting in a "love at first sight" romance; the Big Mis; the Big Secret; the "morning after" scene; the prologue of a romantic suspense novel; a skanky sex scene between villains; or a draft proposal of a category romance publisher featuring things such as secret babies, cowboys, virgins, amnesiacs, virginal sex therapists, etc. We also encourage homages to favorite romance authors as well as the "merge-matic" concept we some years ago. We still haven't received a parody entitled Whitney, My Savage Love, but we can always hope!

The following entries can be found on this page
The TSTL Story by author Lynne Connolly (et al)
Dark Parody by Charity J
The Debut Author by Maxine Misso
The Audition by Rachel Potter
A Ballroom Encounter by (author) Alissa and Tessa Baxter
The following entries can be found on the second page
A Day in the Life of Anita Blake, Vampire Humper by Holly
Dear Author by Marguerite Kraft
Once a Ho by Blythe Barnhill
Pandora's Button by Nancy Carrigan
Across the Room by Margaret Murray-Evans
The following entries can be found on the third page
The Virgin Widow Sex Kitten by Cheryl Sneed
Love's Burning Itch by Jenny Evans
The Pitch by author Amanda Grange
The Further Annotations of Lady Disallclown by Bina

 

Purple Prose as written by author Lynne Connolly, a synopsis for a romance:

The TSTL Story

Lady Sharon Gracehurst, daughter and heir (despite an older brother) of Lord Gracehurst, is a Titan haired, green eyed beauty with a fiesty temperament. Ranch Merlin, Duke of Devilsham, usually addressed as 'my lord,' with the nickname (bet you can't guess) 'Devil', engages himself to marry Honoria Boring, a childhood friend who is either prosy, plain and boring, or beautiful and stupid (take your pick).

When Sharon's father loses all his money at the gaming table (at a hell, not at White's, though in reality most money was lost at White's) Lord Gracehurst puts his daughter up as a stake. Devil accepts. Sharon knows Devil, and has danced with him at Almacks although he has ignored her because she was dressed in white muslin, which didn't suit her. She admires him from afar, although when her father tells her about the wager she flies into a rage and says she won't marry him.

Sharon steals her brother's clothes and, dressed as a boy, runs away at the dead of night. Into the arms of Devil, who is drunk. He takes her away, and tells her she can be his page. He is on his way to a country house party, and, thinking she is a boy they share a bed at a country inn. When they wake up he realises she is a girl, and she tells him who she is.

Still disguised, he takes her to the country house where nobody recognises her, despite her being out in society for the last two years. In the middle of the night she can't sleep, so she goes down to the library, barefoot in her night rail, despite it being January with ice on the inside of the windows. She goes to stand in front of the fire. Devil is there getting drunk. He sees her legs through her nightie, gets uncontrollably carried away and they have a snog and a grope, but don't go All The Way. (Here's where you can tell what kind of Regency this. If he sees a patch through her nightrail, that makes it a historical. If his gaze strays no higher than her thighs, it's a trad).

Sharon realises she loves Devil. A malicious ex-mistress tells her that the hero is interested in her only as another notch in his 800-year-old bedpost (the bed came into his family as a gift from a grateful monarch) and has an entry in the betting book at White's about his successful seduction of her. She believes it, of course.

Because she loves him, she runs away again (TSTL heroines always run away once they realise it is True Love). He realises he loves Sharon, so he goes to spend some time with his fiancee, never trying to explain to poor Honoria why he has turned so cold.

With the whole of England to choose from, Sharon and Devil meet up. She is pretending to be a highwayman and holds up his coach. He takes her to an inn, and they go at it like rabbits. She says she can't marry him, not because she will make Honoria unhappy, because they both despise her, but because she wants to be independent and she won't kow tow to a man. She wants to be an actress.

Sharon runs away (again) to London where she easily gets a part with a theatre company (parade of colourful characters) and is a sensation. Nobody recognises her. Devil is unbearably rude to Honoria because he is unhappy. She, a good woman at heart, finally gets the message and lets him go.

The dastardly manager of the theatre company drugs the heroine out of her mind with the villain (naturally he is the hero's cousin and is trying to keep him from marrying so that he can inherit) taking her via coach to his little hideaway away from the city---and his plans to seduce her.

There are pirates in the play. One of them is an actual criminal running away from his crimes [forced into them by necessity of course], but who has a heart of gold. He is Devil's long-lost [illegitimate?] brother. Devil is an illegitimate son of the old duke, willed his title on the old man's deathbed, despite the existence of a large and legitimate family.

Joyfully Devil rushes off to London, drags Sharon off the stage and marries her. He has a Special Licence in his pocket, just in case. In his spare time, Devil also races his phaeton to Bath, breaking the record, and then is asked by Prinny to break up the French Spy ring that is working out of the Foreign Office and the Horse Guards. He glances at the encoded message and immediately solves it, catching all the spies. After another seduction scene in the library--he's only on the third bottle of the four a day he normally drinks, he then goes to Belgium and gives Wellington invaluable advice so that the Battle of Waterloo is won.

He and Sharon have seven children and settle down to wedded bliss. The sequel features Boring Honoria and the pirate.

Purple Prose as written by Charity J, a parody of Christine Feehan's Dark series:

Dark Parody

"You are beautiful. Your amber eyes, your creamy breasts, your silky red hair." Embarrassed, she looked down at herself. Yes, as she'd feared, she was lactating again. Her breasts were creamy.

"There is no need to be embarrassed." Baldric, an ancient Carpathian male, bent down and licked at the drops of milk wending their way down the fatty mountains which sat atop his lifemate's precious human chest. "I cannot allow it. I can do no other than make you happy always."

"You can do no other than read my mind all the time, apparently. How about a little privacy here?" Secretly, she enjoyed having him snoop through every petty thought she had. She found it strangely irresistible that he could see beyond her polite attempts at deception. He knew when the fungus growing on his toenails disgusted her and when the queasy look on her face meant she'd eaten some bad Chinese food. There could be no secrets between them.

"You are my lifemate. We can hide nothing from each other," Baldric confirmed. "We must share our minds, bodies, and blood on a regular basis, or I will be consumed by the darkness within me, and you will not be able to tolerate the pain of the separation. I can do no other than force my will on this issue, since it is for your own safety."

Although she found him secretly thrilling, she knew she couldn't allow him to have his way on every issue. After all, she didn't think she could tolerate the pain of spending every second with him, either. "You'd better be able to do other, because I'm not going to drink your blood or spend my days buried six feet under just to be near you. Ok, you want to share everything? Tell me the truth about that sweet old Mr. Jones. Did he really have a spontaneous conjoined brain aneurism, heart attack, and collapsed wind pipe, or did you do something to him?"

"He tried to hold your hand. It is the Carpathian male way. I cannot allow any other male to come near you." Oh dear, she'd so hoped that it had been a strange coincidence.

"He was shaking my hand. You've never heard of hand shaking?"

"You will not do this hand-shaking with any man. It is too dangerous." His eyes glowed red. "It will only incite my wrath. Remember, the beast within me is close to the surface." Although he was just confirming her belief that he was a domineering, throwback, murdering chauvinist, she couldn't help but be attracted to these very qualities about him.

He kissed her fiercely, and made the rest of her clothes disappear with a brush of his mind. Since they were standing in the middle of a crowded bar in New Orleans, she was a little put out by the situation. She wasn't embarrassed just because of her lactating breasts.

"Hush, little one. I have cloaked us from their eyes. They will see nothing."

He pushed her against a wall and ravenously kissed her. The mood was spoiled when she noticed a skinny, pimply college aged kid staring at her with popping eyes.

She grabbed Baldric by the chest hairs and pulled. "If you don't get me out of here pronto, I'm going to be able to do no other than . . . make you wish you'd never been born!" She couldn't actually think of a good threat to make against a man with his powers (she'd seen him turn into an earthworm in the blink of an eye), so she yanked even harder.

"Ouch!" Within a few seconds, he'd whisked her back to his cave at the edge of town. He looked sheepish. "I'm sorry, ma petite, but that boy must have the ability to see past my illusions."

"And here I thought you were an all-powerful ancient. You didn't kill him, did you?" she asked suspiciously.

"Why would I do that?" He seemed affronted. She decided not to bring up Mr. Jones again. He'd killed someone for shaking her hand, but had no problem stripping all of her clothes off of her, without warning, in a public place. Naturally, this irrational Carpathian behavior set her loins aflame.

Baldric resumed where he'd left off, and they had some hot sex for a long time. There were advantages to Carpathian males. This one was very old, and apparently, after a thousand years or so, men learned to slow down the pace. During the middle of it, however, he started drinking her blood. Although she'd been close to a hot orgasm, she missed it because she passed out from blood loss. Again. She'd never actually stayed conscious long enough to have an orgasm. Sometimes she thought that only sexual frustration kept her with him. If she could just have the damned orgasm, then she was sure she could break if off with him and go back to her ordinary life.

"Never. Do not even think it. You were meant to be with me for all time, bebecakes, as I was meant to be with you. You are the light to my darkness, the other half of my soul. I can do no other than keep you safe with me at all times." She decided it was a waste of time to keep lecturing him about reading her mind. She also wondered if he remembered her name, since he never used it. Of course, if he forgot, he could just look in her mind and see that she was named Drizzle. She was a little defensive about the name, so she went by the nickname Rustynails.

"Look, Baldric . . ." She'd been avoiding having this particular conversation with him, hoping she could have the hot orgasm before she had to break it off. "You're a nice guy and all, but I'm not sure I'm ready for this kind of commitment. I've got a whole soul of my own, and I like it that way. I'm not ready to give half of it to you."

"Do not be foolish. You are my lifemate. We must be together always. I can do no other than ensure that this is so, for your safety, as well as the safety of the entire universe, which I will rip apart with the power of my thought alone should you ever leave me."

"But I barely know you. What about getting to know each other? What if we don't like each other?"

"We are made for each other. Neither of us is complete without the other."

She thought this was a crummy way to avoid having to romance your date. Just jump straight into the permanent commitment without any intermediary stage. She had to stand up to him, even though her breasts tingled and her clit twitched whenever she thought of the fact that at twelve hundred years old, he should have long ago been rotting in his grave.

"Ok, how about this. No. It was a fun ride while it lasted, but I'm getting off of this train right here." He smiled, either because she'd used the phrase I'm getting off, or because of her foolish attempt to assert her independence. Of course, he could not allow either one. He would get her off, and she would learn to obey his every command.

"I cannot allow this foolishness," he intoned. "You are the light to my -"

"Darkness, yeah, yeah, I've heard the spiel." He looked pleased, and she was pretty sure that it was because he thought she was finally able to read his mind. Truthfully, she'd just heard this "you are the light to my darkness" speech many, many times. Along with a few other Carpathian how-to-get-laid-by-your-lifemate-fast speeches.

She tried to get up to go, but the blood loss kept her too weak to leave. Damn it. She almost thought he kept sucking too much blood on purpose. She suspected that while she slept, he turned himself into a leech and sucked on her neck all night. The thought made her shiver with desire. In any case, she didn't have the energy to fight him, and besides, she'd not yet managed to have the orgasm that she was sure would allow her to finish things off with Baldric. Always leave the customer wanting more, right? She definitely wanted more. Tired of fighting, she lay back down. What the hell. Maybe someday she'd get that orgasm, and it would all be worth it. Right now, she could do no other than lay back and recover from the blood loss. She realized that she was starting to think like him.

"Honeypot," he murmured softly in her ear. "How about one more time?"

And, probably because of the limited amount of blood circulating through her brain, she couldn't think of a single reason to say no.

Purple Prose as written by Maxine Misso:

The Debut Author

Zane stood outside Jane's bedroom door. He'd tried to sleep on her couch, but God, he could hear her breathing all the way down the hall and into the living room (maybe a sinus problem), which was why he was now standing here, in his bare feet with his jeans buttoned and his shirt hanging open. He raked one long-fingered hand through his thick wavy hair, as gold as the sunrise and with red highlights as fiery as the sunset. He took a deep breath and raised his hand to knock. Just before his hand made contact the door suddenly opened and there stood Jane, her usual alabaster skin flushed from sleep, her eyes, normally so wide, so innocent, heavy with slumber, and he wondered if she would look like that after his glorious, stupendous, lovemaking (no to be confused with plain stupid).

Zane drew in a long slow breath. How he wanted to lay her down and thrust himself into her soft, warm, wet, silky, creamy, tight (can't forget that one!) sheath. Even though there was a perfectly good bed behind her, he was going for style. Jane gazed at Zane, surprised to see him standing there - so tall, so strong, so silent, with clenched fists and flared nostrils, and who could overlook that heaving manly chest? He made a noise deep in his throat. Either he was so taken by the sheer loveliness that stood before him, or he was going to throw up all over the place. Jane took a hasty step back, but then he made that noise again, and this time his eyes - those eyes of sparkling emeralds - devoured her, yep it was she er her well whatever, he was overcome with lust for her, who would have thought it?

They'd been friends ever since kindergarten, when he'd wandered over and peed on her sand castle. Now twenty years later all her dreams were about to come true. Zane stared at the vision of loveliness before him, her hair as black as night, her eyes as blue, as beautiful as the most brilliant sapphires, and her body so small, so perfect, dressed in an almost see-through night gown, sleeveless with a dozen mother of pearl buttons, all undone. If he just moved over to the left a little he was sure he could make out one perky little nipple. He was truly overcome with desire, longing, love (and good old fashioned lust). His breathing was rapid, his nostrils flared, and the buttons on his jeans were at the bursting point, thanks to his erection - which even if he did say so himself was quite magnificent. Jane glanced down and got an eyeful of that erection. She quickly looked up and met his storm-tossed eyes, and felt herself blush. She also felt her nipples harden into tight little pebbles.

Zane reached out to gently take Jane by the arms... he was about to ease her back into the bedroom... it was time to finish what they had both started... and then suddenly everything went black.

Zane took a deep breath and gave a little chuckle; he could just barely make out Jane's beloved face. "Hey, don't worry baby, it's just a fuse - we'll be up and running in no time".

Jane looked at Zane through a mist of tears, "Oh Zane, you poor foolish man, don't you see what's happened here? Take a good look around and listen very carefully. Now tell me, what do you hear?

Zane did as she asked, he listened and he frowned, and he listened some more... nothing, nada, zilch. He looked back at Jane through the murky darkness that surrounded them. "OH GOD, oh no, please tell me I'm wrong Jane, please it can't be, it just can't be!

Jane gave a watery sniff, "It's true Zane - she's gone".

Zane let out a roar of filthy swear words, "what by all that's holy do you mean SHE'S GONE??.

Jane was only the heroine, it's true, but she was getting a little annoyed with Zane's bad humor. She stood tall and tried to look him in the eye, even though the darkness made it almost impossible. "I told you, she's gone for the night. She'll resume at 8:15 tomorrow morning."

Zane just glared.

"Look Zane, she has a husband waiting upstairs for her, she's done for the day. She'll be back tomorrow as soon as the kids are off to school".

Zane was quiet for a moment,"what am I suppose to do with this erection, flared nostrils,and heaving chest?"

Jane was getting a little miffed herself right about now. "Will you shut up with your bellyaching, it's all about you, isn't it, well what about me? I've got to go through the whole night with pebbled nipples while I freeze my buns off in this see-through number!!"

They both took a deep cleansing breath, they looked at each other as best they could in the darkness and each gave the other a smile of understanding. Zane held Jane's hand and gave it a small squeeze.

"Well" he said "you know what this means don't you?"

Once again she gave him a small smile. "Yes, my love, once we finish this book we never work for a debut author again."

Zane heaved a heavy sigh, "God protect us from newbie authors."

Purple Prose as written by Rachel Potter:

The Audition

At 7:55 the room was already full, and still people were filing in. It was a motley group, but the majority of them were attractive and fit. A blonde, exceedingly attractive woman sat filing her nails in one corner. Next to her a Jeremy Northam look-alike sat reading a John Grisham novel. An older man lugged in a set of golf clubs and sat down. The clock on the wall ticked slowly past 8:00 and then 8:15.

At 8:22, the door opened, and a woman entered. Under normal circumstances, rested and made up, she might have been attractive, even pretty. At the moment however, she was wearing a gray sweat suit with brown stains down the front. Her strawberry blonde hair - in desperate need of a touch up - was pulled into a lopsided pony tail by a scrunchie that had all but lost its elastic. She carried a clipboard with a yellow legal pad and a Diet Coke.

"Okay, then," she said, smiling in a harassed sort of way. "I'm Annie Author, and I'm working on my sixth book for Bard Books. Appreciate you coming on a Saturday morning." She took a deep breath. "Here's the situation. I'm in a major crunch. I've got a deadline of a week from next Thursday, and I've got to punch this manuscript into something workable by then. I thought I had it all under control. This was supposed to be straightforward plot. I've got an adult-ed. teacher heroine, a real do- gooder, and an ex-con survivor of childhood abuse who wanted to learn to read. Heather was supposed to be nurturing, to understand all the immense suffering Brandon'd been through. She was supposed to heal his wounds. But on page 150, my sweet, biddable heroine decided she'd had enough and told Brandon to 'Cut it the hell out. If you don't quit your whining,' she said, 'I'm outta here. I don't have to take this. I'm not your mother.'

"I wanted to make Brandon go out and sleep with another woman out of bitterness, but he'd thought it over and decided that Heather was pretty, smart, and gainfully employed. No student loans. He'd be a fool to throw her away.

"So here I am on page 150 with no conflict." She ran her fingers through her hair. The scrunchie fell out. "This is where you come in. I've got to have a villain to shake things up a bit, but I'm not sure exactly what approach to use." She surveyed the room. "I don't have time for full auditions, so just give me your name and tell me a little bit about yourself." She took a quick swig out of the Diet Coke and then pointed to a man in the middle of the room. The man was pleasant looking except for some severe acne scarring. "Name?" Annie asked.

"Yura Badeigh," he said.

"And what do you specialize in, Mr. Badeigh?"

"Kidnappings," he said. "I'm the guy who drags the heroine off in the last fifty pages, so the hero can rescue her. I'm flexible as to location. I keep my travel papers current. And I'm fully bonded."

Annie made a note on the clipboard. Then she pointed to the beautiful women who'd been filing her nails. "And you are?"

"I'm Evie L. Beech," she said.

"And what would you do to break up my characters?" Annie asked. Evie looked blank. "Do?" she asked. "Yes, do?" Annie said impatiently. "Are you going to pull a gun on Brandon in a jealous rage? Fill Heather's shampoo bottle with bleach? Boil a bunny?"

"Oh, no," said Evie. "I don't really have to do anything. I just have to be younger and more beautiful than the heroine and have a better sex life. Put me in a couple of skanky sex scenes and I'll be established as the villain. Piece of cake."

Annie frowned. "I'm not sure that's going to work. She pointed to the nondescript woman next to Mr. Badeigh. "Who are you?"

"Imiz Eckswife," the woman said eagerly. "I get to cause all kinds of emotional distress, especially in the backstory. If you want I can tell Heather that Brandon made me abort his baby because he hated children. That ought to do you for conflict." Her eyes were shining.

Annie toyed with her pen. "Yeah," she said. "If I wanted to write a 1,000 page soap opera. Next." She pulled a linty Snickers bar out of the pocket of her sweat pants and chomped it.

The man with the golf clubs was a serial killer. He described at length various methods of capture and torture. All of them had set fee schedules. After him was a dark, sexually magnetic man named Raven. "My heart has been broken by a bad woman, and that is why I must have Heather. I will capture her and force her to love me. Even though I hate all women."

Annie frowned. "Uh, Raven," she said. "Are you sure you're at the right audition? I've already got my hero. This is for villains." Raven looked peeved, but he pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket and consulted it. "Oh," he said. "Right. Sorry." He exited the room.

The cheating husband, Dick Head, offered the interesting suggestion of giving Heather a social disease - passed along of course, from his slut girlfriend, Mystee. "Lots of conflict there," he said.

"Hmmmm," Annie said. "I don't think my readers would think a visit to the gynecologist's office is escapist reading. But you never know. I'll get back to you."

Hezekiah Wormwood, the religious fanatic, had to be woken up to give his input. He gave an apathetic rant about "the evils of mankind, the final days, the coming judgment," and then sat down again, plucking at his long beard. Annie frowned. "What religion are you, Mr. Wormwood?" Mr. Wormwood frowned back. "Does it matter?" he asked. "I'm religious. That's good enough for most readers!"

The Jeremy Northam look-alike had finished his book and was waiting patiently. He really was a stunner - dark hair, intense blue eyes, slight beard shadow on his cheeks even thought it was still early morning. He was dressed nattily in a charcoal suit, and his shirt and tie were light gray. A rakish scar ran across one eyebrow. He started to speak when Annie said, "Don't tell me. Gay, right?" He nodded, looking slightly surprised. "Figures," Annie said.

Almost everyone in the room had introduced themselves. Annie stared at her clipboard in disbelief. She started tapping it sharply with her pen. "Let me see," she said, "Stalker, dog kicker, insane loser who was ignored all through high school." Her voice raised sharply and she tossed the clipboard aside. "You're all cliché! I've got nothing, absolutely nothing, original here! How am I supposed to make my book work with this?"

Several of the assembled villains looked stunned at her outburst and then angry. Mr. Badeigh stood up. "Look, lady," he said. "You asked us to come. And now we're not good for you? Well, we won't beg you for work. If you can't tell, it's not like any of us are hurting. We get used all the time." Ms. Beech and Mr. Head nodded in agreement. "When was the last time you read a character-driven romance?" Mr. Badeigh asked. "Plot-driven romance is what's now, and if you want that, you need one of us." He folded his arms. "I'm just here because Lou, your agent, called in a favor. But I think I'll be going." He left, and most of the others filed out after him. Finally, there was only one other man in the room. He was tall and good- looking in an arrogant sort of way.

"So," Annie asked tiredly, "what do you do?"

The man smiled. "I morph into the hero's form in the last half of the book. No one can tell it's me, the villain, and so I can do whatever I want to the heroine - rape her, smack her, spank her, berate her, mistrust her, whatever. This generates plenty of conflict and can keep the book going well past the point of natural ending. In case you need the page count," he finished.

Annie squinted at him. "What your name?" she asked. "You look very familiar."

"Clayton Westmoreland," he said.

Annie's eyes widened. "Clayton! Wow! It's nice to see you again. You were certainly a very.memorable.character. How've you been? Are you still with Whitney?"

Clayton shook his head sadly. "No, we broke up. We just couldn't seem to communicate. And I've been out of work for awhile. Characters like mine just aren't used that much any more. So what do you say? You want me for your book?"

"Well," Annie said, "that's a pretty lame conflict, but your book did make a lot of money and I am in a tight spot..." She nodded once decisively. "Okay. You're hired!"

Purple Prose as written by (author) Alissa and Tessa Baxter:

A Ballroom Encounter

She was seated behind the plastic potted palm in Almack's. The op-art black and white design of the palm container, matched the marble chess-board type tiles where the dancing couples moved slowly to the beat of the drums. Macy waved her fan, glancing briefly at her the neat swatch on her arm. Yo! Man would she be a wallflower for ever, would no gentleman ask her to dance? She knew she could excel at the Roger de Coverley, at the waltz and even better, she could do a mean tango and show Fred and Gene a step or two.

Then he approached, Hunt Beveldom the Third, the third son of the Earl of Boredom. He would inherit the castle and all the wealth. She would be Lady Beveldom. Her heart beat in her bosom, the rhythm faster than a Pacemaker. Would Hunt ask her to dance? She lifted up her eyes, oh! darn her contact had fallen to the side, his broad shoulders looked lopsided, his crooked grin now appeared straight. Was that a lump in his trousers? Everything was askew.

She managed to put her contact back in her eye, and smiled coyly at Hunt as he strode up to her. His deliciously crooked grin did strange things to her stomach as he said in his deep, velvety voice, which reminded her of Cary Grant's, "Would you care to tango, Miss Carrington-Smythe?"

Her eyelids fluttered, and she realised he had given new meaning to that age-old expression. "My lord," she murmured. "I must accept - it takes two to tango after all."

He bowed over her outstretched hand, admiring her French manicure, but the hand he held captured in his, suddenly fluttered like a dove, then flew up to her cheek. "Oh, my lord," she said in dismay, "Have you requested permission for our tango from one of the Patronesses of Almack's?"

"I do not care for their good opinion," Hunt said loftily. "They are like a group of Nazis. I will not be controlled by them..." And dragging her into his arms, he swept her around the room, the rhythm of the steel band matching the beating of their pounding hearts. "Oh, my lord," she exclaimed. "Lady Jersey is bearing down upon us... what are we to do?"

"Silence, my dear - I will defend your honour..."

"Who spoke my name?" Lady Jersey said coldly. "And why are you dancing without permission. Miss Carrington-Smythe? You have disgraced yourself!"

"Do you choose pistols or swords, Sally Jersey?" Hunt said in an icy voice. "How dare you insult the fair name of my partner?"

"Of course I choose pistols," Lady Jersey said. "I have been shooting clay pigeons since I was in my teens. I am a crack shot, you know. Lady Sefton will act as my second. She will call on your second tomorrow morning."

Hunt bowed stiffly, and Lady Jersey turned on her heel and strode away. Miss Carrington-Smythe swooned in his arms. Taking his cell phone out of his evening jacket, which anyone could see had been designed by Weston, Hunt called 911.

Hunt took her to an antechamber, and lowered her tenderly onto a conveniently placed chaise-longue. Her saviour departed the room, then, to await the ambulance, and Macy gradually recovered from her swoon. And then he was there again! Her knight errant, the love of her life, the man who made her heart pump lumpy custard. She blinked up at him as he strode into the room, and raised a trembling hand to her forehead, "Oh my lord, you have returned!"

Unbeknownst to her, however, Hunt's evil twin, Chase, had seen his brother depart, and had come to see Macy in the hope of causing mischief for his brother. He was Chase Beveldom the Fourth, the fourth son of the Earl of Boredom, and he believed he and his twin had been switched at birth and that he was in fact the third son, who should inherit the castle and all the wealth. "Miss Carrington-Smythe," he said in an evil voice. "I have you alone at last! I can have my wicked way with you now. Heee Heee..."

Macy looked at him doubtfully, "Hunt? My darling Hunt. The gentleman who has captured my heart...like Heath Ledger in A Knight's Tale..."

Chase advanced into the room, and dragged Macy off the chaise-longue into his arms. "I have you where I want you, Miss Carrington-Smythe. Heee Heee."

"Hunt - oh Hunt, what are you doing?"

At that moment, the door of the antechamber swung open and Beau Brummell stood on the threshold, dressed in an immaculate Savile Row suit. He raised his binoculars to his eyes, and said in a bored voice. "It is as I expected... Hunt Beveldom - you are a cad. However, I will not deign to rescue you Miss Carrington-Smythe - it would require far too much effort and I do not wish to rumple my clothes - however I will whisper in Prinny's ears that he should change the law so that Chase Beveldom inherits the castle and all the wealth. You do not deserve it, Hunt." Lowering the binoculars, he let them hang on the elegant riband around his neck, and strolled negligently from the room.

Chase dropped Macy onto the chaise-longue. Rubbing his hands gleefully together, he sped from the room, bumping into Hunt and the paramedics on his way out. He smiled evilly at his brother, and said, "Heee heee".

Hunt, knowing that wicked laugh of old, looked anxiously at his love, who was lying prostrate on the chaise-longue. She sat up, suddenly, and glared at him. "How could, you Hunt? How could you? Beau Brummell has seen me in a compromising situation, now, and will make me a laughing-stock. And he is going to ensure that Chase becomes the Earl of Boredom.

Hunt glowered. "You are mistaken, my love - Chase was in the room before me. He tricked you into believing that it was me!" "I do not believe you ! I trusted you, and you have betrayed my trust."

"No - no it is a Big Misunderstanding!"

Macy opened her Chanel handbag, and withdrew some tissues from it. She blew her pretty nose, and looked tragically up at Hunt. "I will never forgive you, Hunt. Never!"

She ran from the room, leaving Hunt staring sadly after her. He got out his cell phone and called his mother. She would understand....

 

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