I found Evil Editor's blog and I think I'm hooked. He offers advice to struggling writers on query letters and there's a whole community of his Evil Minions.
He also offers writing exercises, and I had a go at the latest one: to write a short (300 word) story with a Deus Ex Machina. So here it is:
Jason braced himself against a bulkhead and wrenched at the lever but it was stuck. He looked across at Emily imploringly and she added her strength. Her biceps bulged but the lever stood firm and the door remained firmly closed. Water swirled around their ankles. It was rising fast and would reach the ceiling in less than a minute.
Jason clutched at Emily. "We're going to die!"
She held him in her arms and gazed into his eyes. "There's only one thing we can do."
She reached into her enormous handbag and pulled out a can of WD40. One squirt and the lever came free. They opened the door and scrambled through, then pushed the door shut against the weight of the water.
Now the lever was hanging loose and they could not get the door to stay shut. Water poured through and Jason was shivering with cold and shock.
"If we don't stop the water coming through we're dead," he said.
"Don't panic." Emily reached into her bag and brought out a huge reel of duct tape, then bit off a long strip and handed it to Jason. Between them, they taped the door shut and the flow of water ceased. They slumped down against the sealed door to await rescue.
"How come you had the right stuff in your bag?" Jason asked.
"Everyone knows," Emily replied. "If it doesn't move and it should, you use WD40, and if it moves and it shouldn't, you use duct tape."