``It was a dark and stormy night'' sounds good to me! It has lasted! Say it to anyone who likes to read, or hear, a tale: and he will brace for danger before the story's done. The phrase, attributed to Bulwer-Lytton, who wrote (some claim!) the worst books ever written, is the target of a text on ``lousy writing . . .'' Fiddle-de-dee! I find the phrase exciting. It sets a stage, creates an atmosphere, surrounds one with the psychological weather that promotes suspense, and mystery, and fear, pulls the reader's will and that of night together. I have a book to read. Let black winds blow the rain through it, lash roofs and tree-tops, put me in the mood for mischief. Make me know from the first line that something is afoot!