Scarlet Letters

The not-so-private thoughts and rants of Elizabeth Donald, journalist/author and founder of the Literary Underworld.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Recipes for Writers

Because this was requested multiple times, here are the famous wontons that I served at the Eville Writers Hanukwanyulemas party. It is not my creation; it is shamelessly stolen from my awesome stepsister Kim. Below is the pie recipe, if you missed it on the group; also not mine. :)


1 pkg. wonton wrappers (small, not the egg roll size)
1 roll ground pork sausage
shredded cheddar cheese
ranch dressing
red bell pepper (opt.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, line the wells of a standard-size muffin tin with wontons. Make sure they don't fold over, but form little cups. Bake them alone for 5 mins.

(I generally find this recipe makes about two muffin sheets' worth of wontons; if you plan to make more, double the filling.)

In skillet, brown sausage and drain excess fat. Mix in cheese, optional red pepper (I usually leave it out) and enough buttermilk and ranch dressing to coat the sausage. Don't overdo the liquid or it'll soak the wontons. The buttermilk-to-ranch ratio is to taste; I generally prefer more ranch than buttermilk, but if you're not a ranch fan, you might prefer more buttermilk.

While the second sheet of wontons is baking, fill the first sheet with a spoonful of the meat mixture. Add a little extra cheese on top if you like. Do not overfill or the cups won't hold. Bake another 5 mins. Serve quickly. And snag one yourself; they won't last. :)


1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
1 tbsp. flour
3/4 c. dark corn syrup (I was out; I used light and had no problems)
1/4 c. Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
1 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs
1 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust
whipped cream (opt.)

Preheat oven to 375. Meanwhile, beat sugar and softened butter until smooth. Beat in flour. Gradually beat in corn syrup, Kahlua and vanilla. Mix in the eggs, then chopped pecans.

Prepare pie plate and line with unbaked pie crust. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the bottom of the crust. (Mandy's note: I am very liberal with this and make sure the crust is very well-covered with chocolate chips.) Pour filling into the crust.

Bake until filling is puffed around the edges and just set in the center, about 45-55 mins. Transfer to rack to cool.

Mandy's note: At this point I sprinkle more chocolate chips on top and allow them to set while cooling. If I bought whole pecans and crushed them myself, I save a few and put them on top to make it pretty.

Elizabeth's note: I melted the chocolate chips and used a frosting spatula to smooth the chocolate into a solid layer across the top of the pie.

Can be made in advance; cover and refrigerate.


Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Buy now or forever hold your pieces

Given the surprise I heard when I said the words "out of print" a couple of times at Dragoncon, it occurs to me I haven't been clear enough about what's going on with the books.

Many of my titles have gone out of print or are going out of print this year. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; it's the nature of the industry. I consider myself damn fortunate that Setting Suns is still in print and available nearly a decade after its release; that's like a century in book years.

However, the Blackfire zombie series is out of print due to the demise of Sam's Dot Publishing. I still have a decent inventory of paperbacks, but when they're gone, they're gone. Does that mean the end of Major Sara Harvey and her bloodsoaked crew? Of course not; there's a final novel to write. I am in negotiations with interested parties, and when the Blackfire series has a new home, I will be happy to share the news.

The Nocturnal Urges series also will be going out of print shortly. Cerridwen Press went the way of Sam's Dot, and the parent company is due to relinquish the rights shortly. Likewise, I am in negotiations for a new home for the vampires, and not only do I hope to re-release the first three books, but there are several more books to be written. Vampires rise again... see what I did there?

As to the chapbooks, both Infinity and Gethsemane were intended to be limited-edition runs. I did a reprint of Infinity because it was selling so well, but circumstances I am not free to reveal will probably mean that Gethsemane will not be reprinted. (It's a good thing.) So if you're fond of the dead-tree chapbooks, best pick them up before I run out!

Below is the list of titles and their current status, with links.

Setting Suns: Currently in print. Copies available at Literary Underworld, Amazon and fine booksellers everywhere. Also available in ebook now!

Dreadmire: Currently in print. Copies available at Literary Underworld, Amazon and fine booksellers everywhere.

The Cold Ones: Out of print. Copies available at Literary Underworld while supplies last.

Blackfire: Out of print. Copies available at Literary Underworld while supplies last.

Nocturnal Urges: Going out of print. Ebooks available for only a short time longer.

A More Perfect Union: Out of print. No copies available except through Nocturne (see below).

Abaddon: Going out of print. Ebooks available for only a short time longer; no paperbacks available.

Nocturne: Out of print. (For those joining us late: this is the paperback combining ebooks Nocturnal Urges and A More Perfect Union.) Paperbacks long out of print, as far as I know; no ebook available combining them. Literary Underworld has only six copies left.

Infinity: Out of print. Literary Underworld has only two copies left.

Gethsemane: New release; limited edition. Dead-tree available exclusively at Literary Underworld; ebooks available at Literary Underworld, Amazon Kindle and iBooks.

I should add that in the metro-east St. Louis region, both Afterwords Books and BSR Books carry a selection of my titles, including some out-of-print items. I will always urge you to support your local independents. If they don't carry me (and there are others nationwide that do, I just don't have a list), they can usually order the in-print stuff through Baker & Taylor. If it's out of print, though, your best bet is, which I help run and thus has a full selection of my books.

There's other stuff brewing: some exciting new projects, returns to some familiar places and new territories to be scouted. And I'll be keeping up the fall tour in spite of the impending nuptials; I'll be at Imaginarium toward the end of this month, and of course I can't miss Archon. Come and see me!

(But if you want any of these... better hurry.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Countdown to Crazy: Minus One

Probably when one is running as far behind as I am in preparing for an 11-day business trip, blogging is a dumb thing to do. But I never claimed to be smart.

Remaining on the to-do list:
• Pack Dragoncon suitcase
• Pack respectable-journalist suitcase
• Put checks in mail
• One last load of laundry
• Finish packing books and electronics
• Do itinerary for Jimmy
• Finish promotional flyer layout
• Finish Kindle programming and send
• Email publisher
• Email Mom
• Email Stephen
• File time card
• Find photo sites for post-DC shoot
• Reserve hotel for Nashville
• Tomorrow before leaving town: load car, pick up flyers, drop off Boy's prescription, drop Jimmy off at the college and return library book that will be screamingly late if I don't return it before I leave town.
• While on the drive: Call the reception site to find out when we get access to the space, so I'll know what time my wedding will be, so I can order my wedding invitations, so they'll be ready when I get back so I can frigging send them.
• When I arrive in Nashville: Pick up Gethsemane copies at the awesome and terrific J and J Printers as soon as I get in.

And then collapse, at the home of my dear friend Stephen. Early, though, because the next day begins the Dragoncon Merry-Go-Round. Weirdly, this might be my easiest round yet; while I will have some delightful fun riding about on MARTA, the amount of stuff I'm bringing is less complicated than ever. That's not actually a good thing; my inventory of books is so reduced that it fits in one rolling tote.

Fair warning, friends and neighbors: I will have copies of The Cold Ones, Blackfire, Setting Suns, Nocturne and Dreadmire. For the novellas, I have exactly two copies of Infinity left, plus the new one, Gethsemane. The only ones still in print are Setting Suns, Dreadmire and Gethsemane. That means once I sell out of the others, I'm out. If you were considering a purchase, I strongly suggest hopping to it. :) If I'm not going to see you in Atlanta or Nashville, go to and you can order any of the above.

As far as Gethsemane goes: The PDF edition is now available on Literary Underworld. The iBook version is in the pipeline, but has not gone live yet. The Kindle version is pending some programming nonsense. The print edition is pre-selling on Literary Underworld to ship on Sept. 8; I will have limited stock on hand, folks. I do not know if there will be a second print run, as Gethsemane has a different future ahead of it. (Vagueblogging is an art.)

Housekeeping note: For those of you who follow Twitter, I'll be tweeting through @edonald during my sojourn to Dragoncon. However, after discussions with my editors, we've determined it is best for me to launch a separate Twitter for journalism. I have shifted my journalism-related feed, including my work with the Society of Professional Journalists, to @BNDedonald. If you are interested in that sort of thing, follow me there. The original account will be refocused on fiction, photography, personal yammerings and other such nonsense. Feel free to stay.

The reasons? Frankly, more and more of you are getting your news through Twitter, and we need to be where the readers are. Twitter is unique; unlike Facebook, it is chronological and complete. There is no algorithm that decides what I want to see; I see the accounts I've followed, and in the order they posted. We're going to be using reporters' Twitter accounts more often, streaming them in various places online, and it seems appropriate to separate that content from the stuff none of the newspaper readers care to hear.

That's a long-ish way of saying that after Dragoncon, I'll be proceeding to the Excellence in Journalism convention, a combined gathering of the national Society of Professional Journalists and RTDNA, a.k.a. the Radio Television Digital News Association. Nothing will be misspelled in Nashville for a week, folks. If you're interested in the important work taking place there, follow @BNDedonald.

All right, those suitcases ain't gonna pack themselves. If I ever needed a reminder of how weirdly bifurcated my professional life is, I can just look at the suitcases. One full of creative, flowing, kinda bizarre writerclothes; the other full of sensible black pantsuits. AuthorLady vs. Lois Lane, each with her own Twitter account. Kinda funny, isn't it?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dragoncon Stalking Guide

Yup, friends, it's that time again. Time for the ravening hordes to descend upon downtown Atlanta and hang out with 60,000 of your closest friends. As usual, I will not have my books available in the dealer's room unless a dealer with shelf space magically appears out of the genie bottle in the next week, so you'll have to catch up with me if you want my NEW NOVELLA.

Or, y'know, any of my other stuff. Or a hug. Though it's going to be 91 degrees and there's a tropical storm bearing on us, so hugs might get sticky.

Here is my Stalking Guide. I don't have an app code yet, because I'm old and dumb and haven't figured out how they work. But I am open to (most) suggestions, and looking forward to seeing my awesome folks in Atlanta! Yes, even YOU.


Reading -  4 p.m., Vinings in the Hyatt. What will I be reading? Whatever y'all want to hear, or the new novella or possibly interpretive dance. That last one is directly proportionate to the amount of alcohol you bring.


Bits & Pieces: The Makings of a Great Zombie - 2:30 p..m., Chastain in the Westin. Guest appearances by my good friends Jay Smith of HG World and The Diary of Jill Woodbine, and Jonathan Maberry of Dead of Night and half the bestselling zombie fiction on the market today.

Autograph Session - 5:30 p.m. in International Hall South, Marriott. This is your best chance to buy my stuff, as I'll haul out the box o' books for this. I'm flying without an assistant this year, so please be patient with me as I fumble with the moneystuff. Usually they keep that sort of thing away from me.


Castle Rock Confidential - 11:30 a.m. in Peachtree 1-2, Westin. Reviewing what Stephen King and his various properties are up to this year. I will probably get yelled at again this year for not reading The Dark Tower and giving up on Under the Dome, but I'm used to it. Pennywise lives!

Apocalyptic Fun: Inventive and Messy Ways of Killing - 7 p.m. in Chastain, Westin. Apparently we're going to find the silly side of the apocalypse. Aim for the head!


Werewolves, Vampires, Demons & Dragons - Embassy D-F, Hyatt. Oh my, time to play with the faces of the creepy tarot.

Following the convention, I'm taking a day off in east Tennessee, and then I'll be in Nashville for several days for the Excellence in Journalism conference, cosponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists and RTDNA. Our primary focus - or at least my primary focus - will be discussion and passage of the revised SPJ Ethics Code. I'll be pretty swamped with the convention, but pop me a line if you'd like to get together!

For the record, that means Jimmy and Ian will be bachelors without supervision for a week and a half. Anyone wanting to do something nice for them will get my eternal gratitude, especially since they'll be without the car.

Monday, August 04, 2014


Jimmy and I had the pleasure of visiting Dad and Karen in their lovely new lake house this past weekend, and it was a pile of fun except for the part where Jimmy nearly drowned.

Okay, that's overstating a bit. It was all fun. Including the part where Jimmy nearly drowned.

Dad retired at the end of last semester, and he and my stepmom sold their house in Our Town and moved to the Lake of the Ozarks. (Karen's right behind him on the retirement train, but she's still working one day a week for now.) Now they live just far enough away that we can't harass them on a weekly basis, as was our wont, and probably half the reason they ran away as quickly as possible.

Or it could be they wanted a beautiful house in a quiet forest, so they could go out on their boat anytime they wanted. Something like that. Here they are with their new boat, which needs a name, folks - help us out there?

Early suggestions include Geronimo or perhaps The SS Minnow. Titanic was vetoed.

We had a delightful time, including a fantastic, luxurious spa visit for me, Karen and my stepsister Kim while Dad and Jimmy went fishing. Later was lunch at a tasty lakeside grill, and a road trip out to the local Mennonite community to snag spices and foodstuffs. Anyone ever had real roll butter? Me neither, but I'm planning things to bake just so I can smear it with the stuff.

Then steaks on the grill, relaxing in the hot tub...

Wait. I forgot the part where Jimmy nearly drowned.

He didn't nearly drown, okay. He's a fairly competent swimmer - well, he's drownproofed at least. But Jimmy came back with my dad from their fishing trip dripping wet, right down to his sneakers.

"What happened to you?" I asked.

"There was this giant alligator gar," he said, holding his arms out this big. "I snagged it and it pulled me overboard - it was huge! - and Pop had to hit it over and over with the butt of his rod to get it to -"

"You are so full of shit," I interrupted. "What really happened?"

Dad walked in after him. "See, there was this great big fish -"

"You are both terrible liars."

Turns out that as Dad was nosing the boat back into the slip, Jimmy stepped onto the dock to help guide it in. That is, he put one foot on the dock with his other foot on the boat. As boats do, it drifted a bit, and it turns out Jimmy can only do the splits so far. In a perfect face-first Jerry Lewis pratfall, Jimmy hit the water.

Dad did help him to safety. I'm absolutely sure he ascertained that Jimmy was whole, breathing and uninjured before he laughed his ass off.

So the rest of the day, all of Jimmy's cards and receipts in his wallet laid out on the counter to dry, as I snapped my fingers in frustration that he'd left his bedamned cell phone at the house for the day. I'm not sure the sneakers have recovered yet.

We revisited the as-yet-unnamed boat the next morning for a quick boat ride around the lake before we had to head home. It turns out that Dad is like a 68-year-old Speed Racer when he's behind the wheel of the boat. Zoom zoom! With the wake from all the boats in the middle channel, it was just like a watery rollercoaster ride! I'm a big fan. And Jimmy... well, Jimmy's more of a paddleboat type.

You can see him mentally updating his will. Dad's only going about 30 mph here. That's about 26.5 knots, Patrick Stubblefield.

Whee! I had a blast. Many thanks to Dad and Karen for hosting us, feeding us and for not killing my fiance. I do wish we could install a wormhole from Edwardsville to the Lake so we could simply step through and see them, but I have a feeling we'll be wending our way along I-70 quite often.

See? I eventually got him to sit up front with me.

P.S. They didn't catch any fish.

P.P.S. This blog has been edited to correct my father's age. I suck at math. Both gentlemen also point out that they did in fact catch two small brim, but threw them back. Therefore I should have said that they didn't bring home any fish. This is a serious point of fisherman's pride, it seems. Noted and logged, gentlemen.

P.P.P.S. It seems that particular kind of fish is spelled "bream," but is pronounced "brim" by bearded Southern gentlemen. I'm not writing about fishing anymore.

Friday, July 11, 2014


Boy has his learner's permit. Wasn't it just the other day he was seven years old and waiting in line to meet Mickey Mouse?

I took him out for his inaugural drive yesterday, in the most remote parking lot I could find on the college campus. He practiced backing up, pulling into a parking space, and driving around in circles. At first we stuck to idling speed, so he could get a handle on the car before we started accelerating.

You should know that our car is a Honda Fit. It's a teeny little hatchback with a snub nose, and I adore it. It's a Tardis: fold down the back seats and it's got huge cargo room, while still being a little teeny car. But it does have a lighter engine than, say, the Honda Accord; 130hp vs. 185, for example. 

When I test-drove it, I cracked that it had two little hamsters in wheels for the engine. Whenever the car has to do something special, like go uphill with the entire Literary Underworld in the back, we encourage the hampsters to run faster. (At one point on our camping trip last weekend, Jimmy declared one of the hamsters dead. "Is not!" I insisted. "He's just sleeping.")

As Ian drove the car around the first bend on idle, he grinned and said, "I'm the slowest driver ever."

I replied, "That's okay. The hamsters can use the rest."

"The hamsters are walking," he said, and that kicked off my giggles.

Ian did very well, managing not to hit anything with my precious new car and managing some good trial runs around empty places of the campus. He even started to use the accelerator to pick up some speed.

"Now the hamsters are running!" I said.

"They're jogging," he replied.

That did it. I had a hysterical fit of giggles as I envisioned the hamsters in Jane Fonda headbands and legwarmers working up a sweat under our hood. It's possible I was a bit loopy. Hey, it was my tiny baby spawn behind the wheel of my brand new car. I think I handled it pretty well.

(Yes, I know he's hardly a tiny baby. Six feet tall and 185, he's more man than boy now. I still see the baby cheeks when I look at him, and I think I always will.)

So batten your hatches, Edwardsville. Boy is on the roads. With me strapped to the bumper and reciting prayers, while the hamsters warm up for the run.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fighting the Beast

I want you to meet David Black.

I met David when I hired him to be my son's tutor. Ian was struggling with middle school, ADHD and generally being a teenager. He was very good at being late to class, ignoring his homework and not paying attention; he was very bad at passing the seventh grade. His teachers were giving up on him.

I didn't have the luxury of giving up on my son, and David was our lifeline. Hired with the generous help of my folks, David was more like Ian's warden than his tutor. Every day after school, he picked up my son and took him to the library. They studied American government and English and fractions every afternoon, with an extra dose of study skills and work ethic.

David had just graduated from the university with his teaching degree, but it was the recession, and he hadn't snagged a full-time job. So Ian became his classroom. He had worked extensively with special-education kids as a student teacher and came with glowing recommendations that turned out to be right on the money. He found ways to motivate my stubborn child that I would never have thought of trying. He was funny and dedicated, but he was also tough. He did not put up with any of Ian's middle-school sneakiness and stubborn sullenness. He took no crap from my kid, and it is thanks to David, in large part, that Ian passed the seventh grade, the eighth grade and is now doing well in high school.

David became more than our tutor; he was my friend, my advisor and guide through the most difficult years this mom ever had. He was also a writer, and asked my advice on publishing his books. I gave him the advice I've given so many, about the best ways to hone your craft, the best approaches in the small and medium press, the extra hoops if you try for New York. In the end, David decided to self-publish his books, because it turned out he didn't have time to wait for the slow wheels of publishing to grind along.

See, in a fair and just world, I'd be introducing you to David Black the schoolteacher. He'd be standing before a classroom of kids, snarking at them as he opened their minds to the really cool stuff in history and literature. He'd be finding new ways to reach kids that other teachers gave up on, because that's what he did. He truly had the gift.

I wish it happened that way.

Not long after he ceased being Ian's warden, David was diagnosed with a fairly aggressive form of cancer. And he fought it just as hard as he fought Ian's attitude, as hard as he'd worked his way through college. He wrestled it for a few years, and we all watched him fight the Beast as he and a few of his buddies taped a live podcast every week. They wanted it to be a chronicle of their friendship, of his life, and he must have invited me four or five times to appear on it with them.

I asked him if he wanted me there as an author (usually the reason I'm asked to speak in front of people), or as a journalist, or as a Relay for Life team captain. Any and all, he said. And I always meant to do it, you know? It taped on a difficult night for me, but I always meant to clear my schedule just once, make the time, arrange to be there. As an author, a journalist or a long-time advocate for cancer fundraising, I wanted to be there.

Time ran out.

David Black lost his battle in early May. He never got his classroom. This time, the Beast won.

And it pisses me off. I've been angry since David died, since my son and I attended his memorial and faced just how much poorer we all are for not having him with us anymore. What do you say to someone who impacted your life as much as David did? How do you thank someone who helped turn your only child around when everything else you've tried had failed?

It's not fair. It's not right, and it's not "just the way it is," and it's not "God's will" or some such claptrap that is supposed to make us sit back and accept that this disease, this Beast, is going to take some of our people much too young.

Unfortunately, David is not the only name on our wall. I never had the honor to meet author Jay Lake in person, but I'd been reading his blog for more than a decade and so many of my friends were deeply impacted by his death. It's funny how you get to know people online; we put so much of ourselves out on the internet that even if we're only words on a screen, we know each other, often much more intimately than those we see in our offices and neighborhoods.

Jay Lake put more of himself out there than most. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he was brutally honest in his blog posts, detailing his treatments, emotions and side effects in a conscious effort to demystify the Beast. We hide disease and ailments behind closed doors as if it's something to be ashamed of, and too often cancer patients are expected to wane quietly in private as though they must shut themselves away.

Rachael never did that. Rachael Wise was proud not to be a "typical cancer patient." In all her life, Rachael was never typical, folks. She had a personality you could see shining across a room. She loved life, she loved her friends, and she loved her husband, author Bryan Smith.

Rachael was a dear friend and a voracious reader, even if our tastes did not always cross paths. She had a wicked sense of humor. She knew that I am completely squicked by eyeball trauma - hey, everyone's got a phobia - and there was a particularly grotesque eyeball scene in one of Bryan's latest books, for which I threatened him with retribution.

Naturally, when she knew I would be at Bryan's next book release party, she special-ordered a package full of candy eyeballs. Squishy candy eyeballs. When I arrived, she dragged me over to them, wearing her mad-scientist coat. She said, "Look, Elizabeth!" and grabbed an eyeball.

She bit it in half. It was gooey red inside. "Just for you!" she declared, grinning. Evil, I tell you!

I miss her so very much.

Rachael Wise died of breast cancer in 2011. She was only 37 and it's not fair, it's not right and I do not accept it. I'm angry, because Rachael should be here laughing and chewing candy eyeballs with me. Just as David Black should be in his classroom, ready for another year of thickheaded kids to teach.

You know who else should be here? Patrick Swayze. Paul Newman. Farrah Fawcett. Jerry Orbach. Anne Bancroft. Eartha Kitt. Nat King Cole. Peter Jennings. Gilda Radner. Carl Sagan. Elisabeth Sladen. Edward R. Murrow. They aren't more important than the ones I know, the ones we've lost, but they're the ones you also might know.

And Dick Adams. You don't know who he is, and unfortunately, neither do I. He was my fiance's stepfather, and by all reports a good and decent man who loved Jimmy as if he were his own blood. He helped raise Jimmy and his siblings, and taught Jimmy what kind of man he wanted to be. Jimmy loved him deeply, enough that his loss still stings. Jimmy is a wonderful, caring and compassionate stepfather to my son, a blessing to our house, and sometimes I feel as though Dick's influence is here in our house, through the man that Jimmy became.

But I never got to meet Dick, and he never knew me or my son. Dick died of cancer before Jimmy and I ever met. Another opportunity lost, robbed before its time. Dick is Jimmy's reason for walking this Friday, the name he will write on a luminary and set along the track as we walk all night for the American Cancer Society.

I'll tell you something else: the Beast has brushed up against us, too. At first I wasn't going to talk about this, but what the hell. In recent months some annoying symptoms showed up. I'll spare you the grotesque details. They could have been an advancement of other medical issues I have, or they could be indications of cancer.

My doctors ordered some particularly invasive tests to rule out cancer before proceeding. I know this doctor pretty well; he's taken care of me for nearly 15 years. If it's nothing, you get a postcard with the all-clear. If there's a concern, you get a phone call.

The phone call came just as we were pulling into a hotel in Nashville last weekend for a convention. It was late in the day and it surprised me to see the doctor's office on my cell. I switched over to take the call, and accidentally sent it to voicemail. She left a message asking me to call the doctor's office about my results. Naturally I immediately called back - but it was too late. They'd closed down the switchboard for the night, and therefore for the weekend. No news until Monday. I left a message anyway.

We spent the weekend with that hanging over us. No news is good news, but they never call unless the news is bad. We were determined not to borrow trouble, and save the panic attack for when we had actual answers. Nevertheless, it felt like a cloud hanging over us throughout our trip to Nashville, even though we kept it to ourselves. I tried to keep a good attitude; I think I succeeded better than Jimmy.

On Monday, the doctor's office called back with an apology. The scan was clear, and they don't know why the assistant had called me. The postcard was already in the mail.

I won't even pretend that Jimmy and I now know how the others felt when they were touched by the Beast. Ours was a tiny hiccup, a brief weekend of nervousness. But it reminded me that all of us will be touched by the Beast at some point in our lives. Even if we are lucky enough to go our entire lives cancer-free, we will all know someone who fights the Beast, and far too many who lose their fight with it.

It is the one truly universal disease, the one that touches everyone.

That's why I'll be walking around the track on Friday night. My team and I will raise money through raffle tickets, selling glowy toys and collecting donations that will help fund research and support services for cancer patients.

And I'll be adding David Black's name to a luminary on the walk. Sure, I can hear that cankerous fellow groaning now. David, you see... he didn't have a lot of use for people who just said, "I'll pray for you," and did nothing else. He was a man in a pitched battle, and words just didn't fix anything. Not for him, and not for his kids.

As for me, I do believe that prayer has meaning. But I also think David has a point. Prayer without action doesn't do much. God helps those who help themselves - and other people.

And that's where I get to my point, my friends. I want you to join me. Not in walking the track - although, if you're in the area, you're certainly welcome at Edwardsville High School and the Relay is always a blast.

Or you can join me in spirit.

I want to raise at least $300 by Friday. My team's goal is to raise $3,000 by the end of the season, and we're way behind - my fault. I hope you'll support us. If you don't have the means, there are other ways you can help. The point of the Relay is to walk through the night in solidarity - not to torture ourselves, not as an endurance test. But to stand watch, taking turns throughout the night, so that when the sun comes up, we all see the light together.

It's my hope that someday these walks won't be necessary. Someday they'll make the breakthrough, and we won't lose any more talented artists or brilliant minds, teachers or friends.

Rachael Wise should be laughing with me.
Jay Lake should be writing for all of us.
David Black should be teaching our kids.
Dick Adams should be here to meet his new grandchild.

It isn't fair.
It isn't right.
And it can be stopped.

I believe that.
I hope you do, too.