Scarlet Letters

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

Monday, March 16, 2015

Weekend random

For the record, brain, it was not very polite of you to come up with the title and two-thirds of the plot to the next Nocturne novel at church today. Especially since we're obligated to about three more projects before we could possibly get to that one. It's gonna be kickass, though.


Day two of Waiting for Dreamhost. Something like Waiting for Godot; when something goes wrong with my website, they respond instantly, and sometimes I can even get a live chat for help. When something goes wrong with the webstore, I must post in the forum and wait for a reply.

It's been more than 24 hours and no response. If I call them, the price is $99. Waiting. Waiting... Let's make bets!


Boy: Are we doing anything Tuesday?
Me: *parabola-mouth*
Boy: What? Oh. Oh my God.
Me: *supersniffle*
Boy: It's your birthday Tuesday, isn't it.
Me: *pout*
Boy: I may have to do some shuffling. I forgot.
Me: For the record, that's the last time you get a free pass on forgetting, meanypants.
Me: *transcribes conversation for Man*
Man: That was mean.
Me: Him or me?
Man: Him. Yours was well played.
Me: I'm a mom. We have advanced degrees in guilt.


The to-do list before Midsouthcon is so long I can't even. Awaiting deliveries, ordering promo materials, assembling booth materials. This is probably one of the biggest attempts we've ever done:

• I am editor guest of honor at the show. Both of us are guest authors.
• We will have two (2) booths with a hired flunky.
• We are premiering the new book, Nocturne Infernum. (Preorder a copy!)
• My photography will be featured in the art show.
• We will be hosting the Literary Underworld Traveling Bar.
• Both boys will be sleeping on our floor.
• If we can finalize the arrangements, we will be gathering with friends for an unbirthday dinner.

So all I need to do before Thursday is finish designing the booth sign, order it, order art show prints, mat them for hanging, design and print art show sign, finish this waaay overdue editing project, design and print flyers, do hotel reservations for the Indiana signing next month, remind one person to pick up the posters and another that my books are heading to her house, upload six new titles to LitUnd, refill Boy's meds, inventory LitUnd Traveling Bar and restock, repackage and replace booth materials, write up that [redacted item that was supposed to be last week], return the cable box to Charter, receive final shipments, pack our suitcase, make restaurant reservations, confirm badge reservations, order a bed frame, get last books added to inventory and updated in system, and turn thirty-nine-plus-tax.

I think I need a bigger car. And about two more weeks. Come to the show and see what's left of me, Memphis!

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Friday, March 13, 2015


BOY: *drops TV remote on the hardwood floor for the 900th time*
ME: *glare of doom*
BOY: I've got it! I've got it. It... still works. Sort of. Don't press too hard on the left side.
ME: Would you go get a newspaper?
BOY: Why?
ME: So I can roll it up and smack you over the head with it.
BOY: I didn't mean to!
ME: Okay, we can't change input anymore. Quit breaking my shit!
BOY: Watch your language.
ME: Yeah, it's really goddamn unladylike to swear.
BOY: You'll never catch a husband with a mouth like that.
ME: *choke*

Out-smartmouthed by my own spawn. The student becomes the master.


ME: Can you snag me a glass of milk?
BOY: *dramatic sigh*
ME: Oh please. It's not that big a trial.
BOY: *more sighing*
ME: Dear Mom, thank you for going to the grocery store after work and spending your hard-earned money buying food to fill my belly. I appreciate your sacrifices for my well-being.
BOY: Thanks Mom...


ME: Metro-East Lutheran is having its home and garden show this weekend.
MAN: *mimes zipping lip*
ME: What? It's a home show!
MAN: And garden.
ME: *glares*
MAN: I can hear the screams of the poor plants now.
ME: Excuse me. *leaves room*
MAN: *follows me to bathroom* Oh no, the plants cry, it's Elizabeth!
ME: *emerges with spray bottle*
MAN: Noooo! *flees*
ME: *chases Man, spraying him with water* Mock my gardening, will you!
MAN: *runs into closet, hides*
ME: Muahahahaha.
MAN: *from inside closet* Noooooo! The poor plants!

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Terry Pratchett and a Vest Full of Stars

I've told this story before. But it bears repeating, given the death of Sir Terry Pratchett today. The author was mourned by more than his friends and family; he was mourned by the many readers who loved his work and had the honor of meeting him and being charmed by him, as I was, on one of the more nervous days of my life.

In 2007, I attended a convention where the famous Terry Pratchett was the guest of honor. I was a nominee for an award and much consumed with my own panels, making sure there were people on the booth in the dealer's room, assisting my friend with her book release, and other such convention business.

On Saturday, Pratchett had been scheduled for a signing one hour before me. Only one hour, which meant that by the time he was done, the line still stretched to Spain. There were a handful of us supposed to go on after Pratchett, which is a bit like scheduling a bar band to follow the Beatles. Fearing a riot, the powers that be kept Mr. Pratchett in place and moved the rest of us into a nearby ballroom.

I ended up next to Selina Rosen of Yard Dog Press, which always guaranteed snark. Selina and I had a long-standing threat of arm-wrestling dating back to my first nomination for the Darrell Award. It's a long story. The details don't matter; what matters is that we were so bored we finally arm-wrestled. And she kicked my ass. As anyone who has ever met Selina could have predicted. (As I tried to move her arm, she asked, "Are you trying? For real?" It was just sad.)

We had a few wanderers in and out, and I sold a book to a guy who made the fatal mistake of eye contact. Occasionally Selina stuck her head out into the hallway and yelled to the crowd waiting in the Line to Spain: "We will sign Terry Pratchett's books! No waiting!"

All weekend I had heard about Terry Pratchett, and the gentleman I was dating at the time was an enormous fan. I didn't know his work well enough to be starstruck yet. But he was so incredibly popular that he was basically this unseen force moving about the convention in other areas, with a wake of eager fans.

Evening fell, and I entered the banquet hall, nervous in my new cocktail dress and clutching a tiny good-luck charm. I decided to be optimistic and selected a table near the front that had some empty chairs. I was unaccompanied, as my gentleman friend was manning our table during the banquet. I asked if the seat was empty at the table near the front, and a friendly older gentleman in a black suit with subtle, sparkly stars imprinted on the vest assured me that it was.

I got the surprise of my life when he spoke in a wonderful British accent and someone referred to him as Terry.

Yes, I had dinner with Terry Pratchett.

We had a lovely time, conversation about the writing life and convention travel over chicken that was not actually made of rubber. At one point, Terry Pratchett said he'd been doing some reading about Tennessee, in particular the famous "body farm."

Blank looks all around, except me, because I know all about the body farm! They leave donated corpses out in various terrain to observe how they decay, to help students learn forensic techniques. Terry Pratchett and I talked at length about how weird and cool it is, while the others looked at their baked chicken as though it had suddenly turned over nasty.

"The thing I found strange," Pratchett said, "is that when they are finished with it, they give the body a proper burial. But none of them knew him in real life. What, exactly, do they say over him? 'Thank you for rotting for us'?"

I laughed myself silly.

Less than an hour later, I won the award. When I stepped up to give my brief speech, Terry Pratchett was clapping for me. It was one of those lifetime high points.

It was only months later that Pratchett announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He insisted publicly that it should not be treated as a funeral, and I tried not to do so. But I remembered that dry wit and marvelous curiosity, and I was angry at a disease that would take that away from him before it took his life. He had a rich and wonderful life, yes, but he was only 66 years old when he died today. He should have had another twenty years of weaving tales, folks. I lodged an official protest with the universe.

I never saw him again, and never got to thank him for helping a nervous young author relax and laugh over dinner, award or no award. He was a true gentleman, a fine writer and we are all the poorer for his loss.

I hope he is now free from the shackles of disease, and wherever he is, he wears a vest full of stars.

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Monday, February 23, 2015


Dueling laptops...

BARISTA: Angela?
JIM: *grin*
ME: What?
JIM: Every time I hear the word Angela, I think of The Beast Within.
ME: Your dream girl.
JIM: She is not.
ME: She is too. You first wrote about her years before we were together, and she was so obviously your dream woman. And she was blonde.
JIM: But now my dream woman sits before me and she is brunette and lovely.
ME: Nice try. Rolling your saving throw there, what do you think you got?
JIM: At least a five.
ME: Four, maybe.
JIM: Well, if we were playing D&D, but in Mage it's a five.
ME: That might be the nerdiest thing you've said all month.


While packing for the weekend show, I summoned Jim to the bathroom in a panic, as I was in immediate need of solace. I explained to him that I had been packing up my medications for the weekend, and discovered that my pill organizer was too small.

"I'm going to have to buy one of those stupid big ones with separate compartments for morning and night!" I wailed.

Now, what should he have said?

"I'm sorry, hon." - Nice, safe, supportive.
"You're still young." - Lying, but supportive.
"You're my beautiful wife and I love you." - His standard response.

Instead, he says this.

"Welcome to middle age."

Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrggggghhhh. I informed him with frowny-face that it was exactly the WRONG thing to say to a woman three weeks from turning thirty-nine-plus-tax. He hugged me and said, "Welcome to my world, hon."

I give you the wife side-eye, dear sir.


BOY: Mom! Did you buy me soda today?
ME: No.
BOY: Graaaah! Why not?
ME: Because I'm an evil mean monster who lives to ruin your life.
BOY: I'm down to two!
ME: Noted and logged.
BOY: Whyyyy didn't you buy them?
ME: Because I forgot. Duh.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2015


I'm totally spoiled, folks. Yesterday, Jim did the dishes, laundry and put on a load of towels before leaving for class.

Today, as I battled the zombie plague, he went out twice to get me chicken soup and Tylenol, made me tea and Jello, and helped me up and down the stairs when the headache became incapacitating.

Totally. Spoiled. Sorry, ladies, I got to him first.

Jim: I left the socks on the bed because I didn't know which drawer to put them in.
Me: Well, you're just fired then.
Jim: *sticks out tongue*


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Where he gets this mouth...

Subject of carversation: Math classes.

JIM: I'm pretty sure he'll let us use notes for the test.
BOY: They let me.
ME: Yeah, I saw your notecard for your last math test. I didn't know you could write that neat. Or that small.
JIM: I better do the same. With the notes I can enter the formula in the calculator -
ME: I gotta say, the most amusing part of this whole experience was catching you using your computer as a giant overpriced calculator because you couldn't figure out how to use the scientific calculator.
BOY: Seriously? It's, like, the exact same calculator I use!
JIM: I figured it out eventually!
ME: Man. You both are so freaking spoiled. When I was in college, we didn't get to use notes. We didn't get to use a freaking calculator.
BOY: That's because it hadn't been invented yet.
ME: ...
BOY: *giant grin*
ME: I will jump into that backseat and smack you right through the window, Spawn.
BOY: *whistles*
ME: We had calculators. I kept it right next to my abacus, so shaddup.
BOY: *wisely silent*
ME: Man. Where did he get such a smart mouth?
JIM: *look*
ME: Hush, you.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

So, those big announcements....

If you were not among the crew in tonight's author chat...

Just kidding.

You lost the chance for awesome freebies! But you still get to find out my current shenanigans.

• If you haven't heard, I'm going to be editor guest of honor at Midsouthcon in a couple of months. This is quite an honor, especially since Midsouthcon has a special place in my heart. It wasn't my first con; that was Shore Leave 13, and since Shore Leave is coming up on No. 37, I'll just let you figure out the math all on your own. (Funny, I've never been back to Shore Leave since. Must rectify that.)

But I went to Midsouthcon with a handful of friends when I was in college. The guy I was dating vanished into the gaming room (story of my life) and I tried a LARP for the first time, which was awesome, and inspired a short story that became a novel which is still unpublished but probably the darkest thing I've ever written, up to and including Yellow Roses.

I also attended a handful of writing panels, which I recall because it launched the germ of an idea in my mind. I'd been writing stories since I could pick up a pen, but I never tried to get them published. Instead I wrote a science fiction novella for my friends, printed it off at Kinko's and gave it to them as Christmas presents. That was the most publishing I ever intended to do. But those panelists made it sound like you didn't actually have to a) live in New York, b) be the child of someone famous or c) have Dumbo's magic feather in order to get a book published. It would be nearly 10 years before I finally did it, but the idea started there.

So I'm honored beyond measure to be GoH for Midsouthcon, and I do hope you'll join us. It's a chance to talk about the editing side of my work, which I don't get to do nearly as often as the writing aspect. It also happens to coincide with my birthday, which is the four-.... um, 39-plus-tax. So we might possibly throw a shindig.

• What other reason might we have for said shindig? I will be premiering TWO (2) books at the show. Yes, TWO. And y'all thought I wasn't doin' nothing but gettin' hitched last year. (Diagram that sentence, boys.)

I am pleased to announce that our friends at Seventh Star Press have contracted the Nocturnal Urges vampire series. This is the series that really launched my career, consisting of three books: Nocturnal Urges, A More Perfect Union and Abaddon. We are currently editing them into one compendium volume, which will be released at Midsouthcon. And if I'm very good and work very hard, we might be able to take preorders by Conflation. If the compendium sells well, I'm hopeful to write more books in this series for Seventh Star.

The NU series was my breakout hit, winning awards and gaining me attention that has allowed me to build my career. It also let me play around with allegory; the laws and societal constructs that plague my Memphis vampires were drawn from the Jim Crow laws and the separatist attitudes prevalent in American culture. The demise of Cerridwen Press cut short the story only halfway through, and I would love to tell the rest of my tale. Here's hoping!

• The other book? At long last, Moonlight Sonata. This is the book I first announced several years ago, inspired in part by you. Yes, you. I have multiple universes running in my work, including NU, Blackfire, the Sanctuary books, and the as-yet-unpublished Yellow Roses world. Moonlight Sonata brings many of these together in a collection of short stories and two novellas, most of which are drawn from these universes. Some of these pieces have seen print, and others will be brand new to you.

Circumstances beyond all our control have delayed it time and again, but this time we're pretty sure it's going forward. I consider it a follow-up to Setting Suns, which introduced the Sanctuary series as well as my similar Twilight Zone-style creepy horror. I've always been more about the shadow behind the curtain than the snarling beast, and Moonlight Sonata reflects that.

The other day, someone said that reading Gethsemane made him sleep with the light on. That's the best compliment a horror writer can get.

• I intended to offer a promotion during the chat, and I forgot, because I'm all brilliant like that. We are kicking off Relay season, raising money for the American Cancer Society. For the rest of this weekend, anyone who donates to my Relay effort will receive a free ebook; for donations of $25 or more, you get a signed Gethsemane (limited edition chapbook!). Only while supplies last. Click here to donate! Then be sure to email me so that I know you want in on the promotion.

That's all for now! But I've got more on the way...

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