One of my jobs at work — and it is among my favorites — is to order the trade books (that means the things you would usually just call “books”). One of the important tools for doing this is called “the Advance,” a listing of books that will be coming out in the next month.

The Advance likes to describe new hardcover books with ambiguous adjectives like “piercing” and “lyrical.” But the descriptions of paperbacks summarize the plot, following a basic pattern. It is this pattern which forms the basis for the game. 

Here’s how you do it. Start with a dependent clause, like “Devastated by the failure of his plot to overthrow the world” or “Recovering from a messy divorce.” Add a comma.

Now you need a descriptive phrase. The key here is to stuff as much description as possible in without requiring any more commas. One of the players at work always likes to use “devil-may-care raven-haired bookseller.”  

Now put in a name. It can be your own name. If not, try to make it an odd, romantic one, preferably with an odd spelling, like “Kaysee.”

Okay. You have something like “Tortured by her memories of battle, mind-melding Venusian rogue economist Kaysee…”

You need a verb phrase. “Struggles” is a favorite here, though “copes with” is good, as are verbs relating to the process of discovery.

You now need a list of things for Kaysee to struggle with. The list should be as weird as possible, and can also include those descriptive portmanteaus with no commas. I think it is most fun to make it be from recent conversations. In a group, it can be from recent shared conversations. Thus you end up with something like “Tortured by her memories of battle, mind-melding Venusian rogue economist Kaysee struggles with the Pre-Cambrian Explosion, shrimp stitch, and the difficulty of fitting any housework into her life while chasing devil-may-care superstar linguist Dirk Happenstance through post-Apocolyptic Bolivia.”

If you have a copy of the Advance around (as Scriveling probably does), you can use your scissors and paste to cobble one together from the existing descriptions, like this:

“Bad Boys in Kilts
Forced to return to the cow-obsessed town of her childhood, New York city zombie Marja — accompanying a fallen noblewoman on a dangerous odyssey to save her world — must overcome her midterms, an infant niece left in her care, and an incontinent terrier, while dealing with the arrival of her long-estranged father and his stripper girlfriend, who used to be a mermaid, all the while investigating the source of a severed human leg, being stalked by a mysterious stranger, and trying not to end up dead herself.”

If you don’t have the Advance, though, it can still be fun to play this game on a slow day. In fact, if you care to, you could make one and put it in the comments.

And now, if you read any new paperbacks in April, you will have a vague feeling that you have heard about that severed human leg or the incontinent terrier before.

Last night I actually didn’t have to go anywhere. I had stayed home from the gym in the morning to tidy a bit (I had skipped the gym with the full intention of scrubbing things vigorously, but I started talking to Pokey via IM, and only had time to tidy a bit) so things were not too terrible in the mess department, and we don’t raise clouds of dust yet. So, emboldened by the slovenliness-enabling wit of my fellow xangans, I spent the evening knitting instead of cleaning. I grafted the cable band together, picked up stitches and began the crown of the cap. Unfortunately, I seem to have made it to fit the gorilla rather than a baby, so I will be spending time this evening frogging it and reknitting.

I could take my knitting to work and ask moms of little babies if I could try my hats on their tikes. What do you think? Would they be scared?