Mar 31, 2012

5 Questions with @SanjidaOConnell, A Novelist who Loves Animals

1. Can you describe yourself in 3 words?

Energetic, enthusiastic, focused.

2. As a child, I'm sure you wanted to be something exciting when you grew up. We all did. Have any of your childhood dreams come true?

When I was five I remember standing in the long grass in our garden in Nigeria surrounded by insects whirring thinking, ‘I want to be a zoologist when I grow up’ - but I was a bit too scared of the bugs to venture any further!

 I trained as a zoologist (I studied chimpanzees for my PhD). All of my books either have animals in – Theory of Mind has chimps, Angel Bird has magpies – or feature the natural world: in The Naked Name of Love Joseph travels to Outer Mongolia to find a rare white lily and debates about evolution.

When I worked as a wildlife TV presenter for the BBC I got to travel round the British Isles looking at and talking about animals.

But as for being a proper zoologist, frankly I don’t have the patience to sit still all day, the fortitude to put up with deprivation, like no coffee and being a bit cold, and my maths is abysmal.

I always wanted to be a novelist too and luckily I got to do a bit of book writing as well.

3. What's the difference between a writer and a hack?

A hack always makes me picture Jeffrey Archer standing at one end of an attic full of student writers churning out copy in the literary equivalent of a sweat shop.

Someone who spits out their words rather fast and somewhat unfeelingly: I think if you produce work too quickly, you lose time for reflection, editing and crafting. Revising a novel always reminds of the last stage in throwing a pot, where you smooth and smooth the clay.

4. Should writers (of any kind) read more fiction or non-fiction?

I read that Alan Titchmarsh doesn’t like reading novels. If it’s true, it’s pretty astounding. Surely all writers should read?

Whether we’re writing non-fiction or fiction, we all need to do research, which requires reading factual books.

As for fiction, it can help both novelists and non-fiction writers hone their craft and see how a good narrative works. Once you’re actually immersed in writing your novel though, it might be better not to read books in the same genre in case you either get accused of plagiarism if you inadvertently pick up ideas and phrases, or become despondent about your own, as yet, unfinished work.

5. What's your favorite word, and what can you tell us about it?

I overuse ‘brilliant’ in real life. In my novels, I like ‘riven’. It can mean coming together or being torn asunder, it’s onomatopoeic and, as I have synaesthesia, I see the word’s colour as an appropriately marbled mixture of granite and slate.

[I am not synesthetic, but I imagine it must sometimes feel like this. - JMB]
Painting by Lee Harvey Roswell

Dr Sanjida O’Connell is a writer based in Bristol in the UK. She’s had four works of non-fiction and four novels published: Theory of Mind, Angel Bird (by Black Swan), The Naked Name of Love and Sugar Island (John Murray).

Connect with Sanjida O'Connell:

Mar 30, 2012

The Man Who Climbed Into his Chest

The best oracles look hungry. Mateja did.
She wore a dozen cameos around her neck and a pilgrim hat over long, greasy black curls and she told fortunes for a dime. So I asked her to find me a man out of place and time, a man that shouldn’t be.

Breakfast on the Lake
by Vladimir Kush

Only Turbo-capitalism Will Save You Now

Forget Cthulhu, this is much worse.

I shook the man’s hand and I just knew. There was mold between his ears, not a functioning brain.
“We’re going to turn this business around,” I said, grinning like the overconfident asshole I can be.
“Uh-huh,” he said.
“No more giraffes, Don,” I said. “Leave the marketing to me.”


Other prompts you might like:

Mar 28, 2012

Bio-Digital Ecstasy At Last

Charlie Corrigan

Jane Five swallowed the Parsec tablet, sat very still and waited for the self-diagnostic cluster to report. What would it say about Jane’s faulty heart?

The pharma-nanites reached her cardiac array and started sniffing around.
“Love,” they said.
Jane’s corrupted protocols had gotten to them.

Mar 26, 2012

What's Good on the Internet Today? Free Science Fiction & More

Free Science Fiction, Audio - Video & eBook formats
From Open Culture

The most excellent Dan Colman has published a roundup of free science fiction on the web, including Rudy Rucker’s Ware tetralogy and half a dozen of Philip K. Dick’s short stories. Most links will point you to Project Gutenberg, where you’ll find many more hidden gems, The White Feather Hex among them -- a sinister tale ripped from the black continuum that links Poe to Lovecraft.

Speaking of which, Old Man Abomination died 75 years ago and fans are… perhaps celebrating is not the right word… Anyway, they’re doing it the world over. Whatever it is.

Here’s my favorite HPL storyBy the way, Conan the Barbarian exists in the same fictional universe as Lovecraft’s nameless gods.

Insanely patient YouTuber who’s posted a total of 658 feature films and full-length documentaries on the site. Talk about dedication! Find the Science Fiction playlist right here.

by Shon Bacon, The Blood-Red Pencil

If you’re lucky enough to have an Android tablet, then do more with it. Let Bacon walk you through the discoveries she’s made: Mindjet, OneNote and OnLive Desktop.

by Shannon,

Talk about a dynamic duo. Shannon and Toni, who’ve been friends for twenty years, bring you tips on how to write a press release, where to send it and, get this, they put together a press release template (.doc file) you can use, free of charge. I say check it out.

by Rachelle Gardner, literary agent

Sample quote:
“The biggest mistake writers make with respect to their “publishing dreams” is hoping for that one big break that’s going to change their lives, allow them to quit their job, and propel them into the life of the full-time writer.”

Do you know what I like about Rachelle? She doesn’t feed you bullshit, that’s what.


What’s Good on the Internet today? - A new, semi-regular feature where John Magnet Bell brings you articles/video and more about writing, life, inspiration and the arts. 
Feel free to suggest links for inclusion via e-mail, twitter, or Google+

Mar 24, 2012

What can Conan teach you about writing?

Illustration by Frank Frazetta
Conan, slayer of demons and apemen, pirate lover of a thousand women and barbarian king, sprang from the mind of a weak-hearted scribe who committed suicide at the age of thirty.

Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) belonged to another world, not ours. He was born in the town of Peaster but spent most of his life in Cross Plains, TX, a burg that wouldn’t see a train until the year of 1912.

What with the new trains and the oil boom, the little Texan town provided the stage for a number of gunfights, lynchings and other assorted acts of violence. Howard’s father was a doctor and the boy had plenty of opportunities to see injured people up close. This would impress upon Howard the omnipresence of evil and violence, as well as the need for physical strength.

We do know that the writing bug bit Howard early in life; growing up in a tiny place where donkeys roamed the streets and the local theater branded itself as the venue “where everybody goes” must have made ol’ Robert E. realize that creativity was salvation.

The character of Conan the Barbarian was preceded by Kull and Bran Mak Morn -- they too resourceful loners wielding sharp blades against an unforgiving world. Ruled by despots and black magicians, visited -- and often corrupted -- by extraterrestrial or extradimensional gods, theirs is a land where man’s dreams and aspirations matter very little.

Conan’s first appearance was actually in a rejected Kull story that was later rewritten as “The Phoenix on the Sword” and accepted for publication by Weird Tales.

So, what can Conan teach you about the workings of character and the rich undersoil of narrative?

Mar 23, 2012

My Cousin's Name is Strontium, Too

I’d only been working two days at the Divine Steakhouse when this hulking Russian came in with a smelly wet package under his arm.
“Table for one?” I ventured.
He pocketed his sunglasses. One of his eyes was a violent bloody red.
“You smart, you leave now,” he said.


I'd like to think that this painting hung in the foyer of the Divine Steakhouse.

Ewelina Koszykowski

When Cities Mate, the World Shakes

Felix Labisse
Skewbert stopped his technocratic ears; the rumbling in the city’s throat was seismic and desperate.

The ground shook as the Theriopolis uprooted itself, and Skewbert, chief technocrat 2nd class, stained his velvet pantaloons. The animal city was calling for a mate.

Had it really been a decade? 

Mar 22, 2012

What's Good on the Internet Today? More Power to You

Félix Fénéon, portrayed by Paul Signac.

Dead Frenchmen are cooler than you’ll ever be.

But wait. How about a spoonful of microfiction? I just stumbled upon the undead anarchist Félix Fénéon’s Twitter account, @novelsin3lines. Though he hasn’t tweeted since late 2010 (cut the guy some slack, he’s been dead for 68 years), there are 1500 tweets waiting for you over there. Each one is a subversive pearl of Gallic wit. No bons mots, promise.

by Kim Ukura, Book Riot

Sample quote:
“Still, it’s hard to be a regular pop culture consumer and not have some idea of Mad Men‘s big themes — sex and advertising and identity spun in a cloud of cigarette smoke and a puddle of dry martinis on Madison Avenue in the 1960s.”

Ms Ukura has a bloodhound’s nose for intriguing book titles and, when you’re done reading her post, you might find your thoughts drifting to the mighty Amazon. You know which Amazon, don’t make me say it.

by Janet Callaway, The Natural Networker

Reason no. 9: “You can create the business that aligns with your passion.”
Sounds obvious, doesn't it? Yet there are people limping along from dawn 'till dusk who've never hit upon this simple truth. Someone should crown Janet Queen of Business Blogging for Everyday Folk. What the hell, I can do it. Janet, you are hereby anointed Queen. Enjoy.

by Roger Dooley, Neurosciencemarketing

Dooley reviews Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow, a foray into the troubled waters of human decision-making. As it turns out, your brain employs different “circuits” according to the kind of choice it needs to make. Roger Dooley tweets here.

by Susan Harrow, Psychology Today

Let me ask you three simple questions:
1. Do you want more followers on Twitter, Pinterest or G+?
2. Do you find yourself interesting/relevant?
3. Are you willing to take a hard look at your online presence and make a change if you need to?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to all of the above, read Susan Harrow’s 300-word article. It’ll save you a lot of hurt if you do it now. “Give me nourishment,” Susan writes. Words to live by.

Finally, sit back and let Andy McKee wow you with his “bassitar.” (I don’t know what else to call it.) If you’re getting this via e-mail you may not be able to see the YouTube video. Just click here.

What’s Good on the Internet today? - A new, semi-regular feature where John Magnet Bell brings you articles/video and more about writing, life, inspiration and the arts. Feel free to suggest links for inclusion!

Mar 21, 2012

The Drive-Thru Slaughterhouse

Disclaimer: For this story to work, the narrator would have to be a right-wing extremist, preferably from the lunatic fringe. I have my politics like everyone else, but Start Your Novel is not a political blog, not here to enforce any particular viewpoint.


The Cabots dropped off their lesbian daughter at the clinic so she could have her ninth abortion and would you believe it, the little slut was chipper as a woodchuck. She even made eyes at the parking valet! A young, red-turbaned Pakistani doctor eagerly awaited her inside.


Totally unrelated -- here's a whimsical picture for an extra jolt of inspiration.

Making Clouds, by Sergey Colesov

Mar 19, 2012

What's Good on the Internet Today? March 19, 2012

What’s Good on the Internet today? - A new, semi-regular feature where John Magnet Bell brings you articles/video and more about writing, life, inspiration and the arts. Feel free to suggest links for inclusion!

From the Harvard Business Review

Life’s too short. Are you stuck in a rut? Maybe you should focus on what you really want to do.

Sample quote:
Is a life crisis the ultimate emblem of privilege, bastion of those who don't have to worry about subsistence? While it's true that none of us are perfect, I'd suggest that there's a reason — beyond the infinite power of human superficiality — for our collective angst.
Here's my hypothesis…

From George Angus’s blog,

From Sylvia Plath to Hunter S. Thompson, by way of Dave Eggers. I haven’t read all o f them, but this article includes one of my favorite books, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. (Free .epub, .mobi and other formats from

From Coilhouse Magazine + Blog

Illustrator supreme and low-brow darling, Molly  observes that “the idea that you have to be a vegan saint to care about having a vaguely just world is just a way of making sure no-one does anything.”


A riveting slideshow of Cronenbergian goodness. Maybe NSFW. Certainly not safe for your mind.

Mar 17, 2012

What can The X-Files teach you about writing?

Unless you’ve been living in a cabin in the woods for the past 30 years, you’ve heard of special agents Mulder and Scully.

The key concept throughout the X-Files is duplicity and dualism, the struggle to reconcile or annihilate binary opposites. Fox Mulder and Dana Scully reflect this never-ending dance of opposition: Man and woman, believer and skeptic, reckless child and protective parent.

Over the years Mulder and Scully drew closer -- as Gillian Anderson astutely remarks in the video below, their loneliness drew them together. 

So, what can Mulder and Scully teach you about writing a novel, story or play?

Mar 16, 2012

When Master and Pupil Are One

Overwhelmed by the musky scent, Faust stepped back from the summoning triangle. The dragon wove itself out of fiery words that burst into being, and when its vocal cords were braided under its predatory beak, it moaned languidly, like a great cat dreaming of blood. 


Running Around in Circles Won't Make You Immortal

When Beth turned four, the Silencers raided the night quarters. They found her breathing shallowly under a junk heap, and dragged her wailing shape -- more mouth than body -- all the way up to the Divide. Above that changeless barrier, perpetual dawn gilded the city, the sunrise-chasing metropolis.

Mar 15, 2012

Inspiration: Where do Ideas Come From? by @SanjidaOConnell

Dr Sanjida O’Connell is a writer based in Bristol in the UK. She’s had four works of non-fiction and four novels published: Theory of Mind, Angel Bird (by Black Swan), The Naked Name of Love, and Sugar Island (John Murray), which is coming out today. 

Courtesy of Sanjida O'Connell
At the readings, book launches and workshops I give I always get asked the same question: Where do you get your ideas from? 

People in the writing industry often make fun of this question but it’s no laughing matter when you’re sitting in front of your computer with a blank screen. I guess what readers really mean is: ‘Goodness, how did you get the idea for that story?’ Faced with an 80,000-word book and a living, breathing novelist, it’s hard to see the germ of the original inspiration -- and where your novel might have come from is often an interesting tale in itself.

I personally find inspiration from other strands of my life. Until recently I used to juggle several careers: science journalism, a column on ethical fashion, non-fiction book writing, producing and directing science documentaries and presenting wildlife programmes for the BBC. As well as writing novels. So my life was bursting with stories and information that spilled into ideas that could potentially make a novel. For instance, Sugar Island, my latest novel, was inspired by a diary I discovered, written by an English actress, Fanny Kemble. She met and married a charming Southern gentleman in 1834, only to find out he was the owner of slave plantation. I came across her story whilst researching a non-fiction book I wrote, called Sugar: The Grass that Changed the World.

Even if you’re 'normal' and have one job (or, as I am now, are a stay-at-home parent) you’ll no doubt have multiple strands to your life, so rather than wait for inspiration to strike when you’re actually sitting at your desk, jot down ideas from stories your friends have told you, incidents at work, articles you read in the papers, documentaries you see on TV, conversations you’ve overheard in your local café. I keep a notebook in my bag, plus one by my bed (and a little torch so I don’t wake my husband up!), another for odd things my daughter does and one for quotes from writers (one day it would be nice to go digital and join them all up). I also have a folder called, unoriginally, Novel Ideas, in which I put clippings that interest me.

Reading widely helps. One of my friends bought me a non-fiction book from a charity shop about pirates. I immediately thought it could be the basis of a novel. Browsing in sections of the library, or Amazon, asking for recommendations from other people or reading unusual magazines can lead to discovering topics and subjects you wouldn’t normally come across in your everyday life.

I also write down lists of things that I’m interested in and then see how I can join them up to make a story. For instance, my first novel, Theory of Mind, is a romance featuring robots, people with Asperger’s and chimpanzees; Angel Bird is a murder that covers magpies, angels, free will, destiny and genetics!

I find walking is a good way to mull over ideas and see if they’re going to go anywhere. Will your original inspiration bear the weight of a fully fledged plot? Can you stretch it to 80,000-plus words? Do you want to spend the next year or several years of your life working on it (my third novel, The Naked Name of Love took ten years from inspiration to publication; luckily I’m still interested in God and evolution)? The pirate story was a fantastic one-liner but I just couldn’t make it blossom into a full-blown novel without turning myself into the kind of writer that I am not.

Or you could take Start Your Novel’s free seed ideas and nurture one of them.


Dr O'Connell's latest novel, Sugar Island, is out in paperback on 15 March, published by John Murray.
On tour in America in 1859, Emily Harris, a young English actress, meets and marries the charming Charles Earl Brook. But Charles has kept a terrible secret: he is a slave-owner. Forced to accompany her husband south, Emily's attempts to help the slaves put her in great danger. And when civil war breaks out, she realises she stands to lose everything she has ever loved.

Connect with Sanjida O'Connell:

Mar 14, 2012

O Savage Land of Amazons and Griffins

FOLSOM, CA -- Tom Curry Parnell, author of four self-help books for people who want to stop being snarky on the Internet, was assaulted outside Mercy Hospital today by a retired RAF officer, who witnesses claim screamed non-stop about “striped donkeys” as he bludgeoned Parnell with a rolling pin.      


What else is good on the Internet today?
Head out to Elizabeth S. Craig's blog and read Writing Multiple Books a Year -- It Doesn’t Take as Much Time as You’d Think, where Elizabeth discusses time management and writing goals, and how writing fits into her daily routine.

Your Heart in a Cup, Your Mind on a Platter

I bled all the way to the mall. Juicy Lucy had me locked in a bear hug as the car rattled down the road. She wouldn’t stop asking what the things were.
“Bill collectors,” I groaned. “From… from somewhere else.”
Shane’s knuckles whitened around the wheel. He always drove hysterically.


For the record, I almost called this prompt "70% of your mind, take it or leave it." It didn't sound all that engaging to me. 

Should I admit to a dirty little secret?
OK, here goes. Writing these prompts week after week is immensely liberating, in terms of sheer poetics.


These prompts are intended for you, my reader. You can take them and do whatever you want with them. This frees me to concentrate on the musicality of words. I find myself sculpting the sentences, working on the way they flow.

I've read many a piece of web fiction where the author clearly believes that focusing on the story is giving the reader lots of details that mean very little.

Why does that happen?

I have a theory. Every now and then, people advise you "not to be literary." This is good advice with potentially harmful side effects. I get the feeling some people -- hopefully not you -- take that piece of advice as "divest your prose of all beauty, either voluntary or not."

Fine. If that's the score you would play to, by all means be matter-of-fact and conservative in your prose. You won't hurt anybody but yourself. See, poetry is more or less inevitable. There's one thing that "genre" writers can learn from their "literary" peers, though -- and that is playing with words, twisting them to your own ends.

There's a less-than-subtle difference between writing a story and a set of assembly instructions for an IKEA shelf. Dare to be literary. If you're any good, readers will recognize it.

Be, like, yourself, and stuff.

Mar 10, 2012

What can Epicurus teach you about writing?

Epicurus: You owe him more than you know. You know why you’re reading this blog[1] on a screen and not on parchment? Epicurus. The ideas and technologies we now take for granted -- we can thank people like him.

The philosopher was born in 341 BC to Neocles and Chaerestrate, an Athenian couple who’d migrated to the island of Samos, even then a place of vineyards, blue skies and clear waters. Samos was a center of Ionian culture and home to a sea-loving people. The Samians were the first Greeks to reach the Gibraltar strait, or so we believe. They plied their vessels from Libya to the Black Sea. As member of the 12-city Ionian League and a major trade hub, Samos was a force to be reckoned with. Ruins of the great temple to Hera still stand. Pythagoras was born in Samos, too, and the city where he was born was renamed Pythagoreion almost sixty years ago (1955, to be exact).

Samos is where Epicurus first drew breath. It was a city of temples and schools and a place of passage for sailors from distant shores. The Mediterranean, you see, was the cradle of western civilization.

Psalida Beach, modern-day Samos. Source

 Epicurus was midwife to what we now call the scientific method. He maintained that you shouldn’t believe anything unless you could observe it directly or deduct it through rational means. Granted, there are a few problems with that principle. Yet on the whole it is sounder than claiming ‘a wizard did it’ is sufficient explanation for natural phenomena. Am I right?

Epicureanism is often mistaken for a philosophical defense of pleasure -- of hedonism and extreme detachment. Epicurus would have gnawed through his burial shroud in supernatural despair, if only he knew. (OK, I’m not going to turn this into an essay about zombies. Promise.)
See, the epicurean lifestyle is not exactly sybaritic. To the ancient philosopher, a good life entailed ataraxia, i.e., peace and freedom from fear; aponia, which is freedom from pain; and the cultivation of friendship. Luxury and the single-minded pursuit of pleasure hardly figure into it. Want to know more about this? I’ve included a three-minute video at the bottom of this post that may be jokey in tone but gets the facts right.

How does Epicurus concern us, as writers? What can we learn from him?
As you’ll see, a number of his insights relate to integrity and heroism. Do you want to develop a solid, remarkable protagonist? Epicurus, you have the floor.

Mar 9, 2012

Take Me to the Ice Volcano

Up there the Empress watches and dies by the window. Down here I and my mates steal from the dead. Thanks for the war, m’ lady, there were too many people in the city to begin with.

“Look what I found, Rags,” says Poppycock. She holds up a blue wand.


Other prompts you might like:
Do Polish Doctors Like Hornets?
Behold, the Stratospheric Beast


What else is good on the Internet today?
It seems we dodged a solar bullet.
Back in the day, pterosaurs made for a dangerous meal.
LSD helps alcoholics to give up drinking.

The Sleep of Reason

You get used to the smell pretty fast -- you stink as bad as the sleepwalkers do.
It’s the howling that gets on your nerves.

About a hundred cluster outside a Walgreens. Some try to copulate with stationary objects.
I need to find Oxycontin. Will my mask filter hold? 

Mar 8, 2012

You Swallowed my Grandma's DNA?

Finally I had that autographed photo of Lori Shea in my pocket, the one with a faded bloodstain. My golden ticket. No more ancestor-hunting for me, no sir. I snuck into a blind alley and crouched behind a dumpster to check for waypoints in the neighborhood.


Lori Shea starred in the first movie that Francis Ford Coppola directed. It was a 3D feature.


Other prompts you might like:
The Lab is No Place for the Fearful
Too Many Preachers in this Town

Mar 7, 2012

What can Batman teach you about writing? Part 2 - Villains

Read Part One here.

When a hero strikes a pose, a villain will try to match it.
Batman’s foremost enemies all represent aspects of Batman’s personality. You could say that they are Batman minus the heroism.
Some, like Harvey Dent (Two-Face) are actually fallen heroes who worked on the right side of the law, whereas Batman operates in a grey area. Who are these liminal figures that challenge Batman's sense of order?

Fear the Judgment of the Wicked

Things started to go right when the workers found the walled-in corpse behind the altar. From then on they puttered about, faces dull with gloom, and I couldn’t feel any happier. I hid west of the apse and drank up their anxieties. Nectar to me, that juicy and electric fear.


Other prompts you might like:
The Light-boned Ambassador
Don't You Eat the Purple Blossom
Will Distort Reality for Food
Paradise Encrypted

What else is good on the Internet today?
Read Whatever Happened to the Texas Instruments Home Computer, an inspiring tale of blunders and failure. It's a textbook example of what you shouldn't do when you develop hardware.

Mar 3, 2012

What can Batman teach you about writing? Part 1

Cover of Batman #676, 2008

Batman is our fear of the dark. But wait, there’s more. He defies the old tyranny of fear and darkness by descending to the underworld every night. Down there, he deals punishment to the deserving and disrupts the schemes of drug barons.

At sunup he goes home to Wayne Mansion, puts on a suit and pretends to run multi-million dollar companies, drive vintage Porsches and date Croatian supermodels.

Judging by their schedule, neither Batman nor Bruce get any sleep.

Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, two New Yorkers of Jewish parentage, born within a year of each other. Though Bob Kane gets much lip service for creating Batman almost single-handed, Kane’s original concept included

reddish tights, I believe, with boots ... no gloves, no gauntlets ... with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out, looking like bat wings.
-- Bill Finger

You can be thankful that Bill Finger suggested losing the red parts of the costume, then adding a cape and cowl.

So, what can Batman teach you about writing a novel, story or play? What are the truths that this character embodies?

Mar 2, 2012

I Suppose You'd Like a Tail, Too

The lady at the counter looked factory fresh and Mark Battaglia already despised her with all his heart, before they exchanged a word.

Mark’s liver was about to hit expiration date. His kidneys? two more weeks. Mark stepped onto the ceramic plate for scanning.
“Shoes off, please,” the lady said.


Inspired by this recent article on Esquire.


What else is good on the Internet today?
Chimpanzees deceive a human competitor by hiding.
Caffeine disrupts sleep for morning people, but not night owls.
Green is the new black.

Two-Thirds of a Beautiful Friendship

The bagpipes blared as a dozen kilted men turned a corner and caught sight of Father Ellis running down the sidewalk au naturel, covering his privates with a pin cushion and howling about fire ants in his rectum.

Half his beard was shorn off. The left half, to be precise.