Scarlet Letters

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

new book coming!

I'm glad to report that NOCTURNAL URGES and A MORE PERFECT UNION will finally see print this summer!

The two books will be combined into a trade paperback release from Cerridwen Press, titled NOCTURNE. It's set to come out in late summer or early fall, and when I get a more definite date you'll all know, believe me.

You folks know how much time, effort and affection has gone into the Nocturnal Urges series. As I'm working on the third book - sex-free, I'm afraid, too much death and destruction for a romance - I'm struck by how much this little world has grown in my imagination. Before Nocturnal Urges, most of my mind lived in the Sanctuary universe, with little forays into horror sideshows. Now I switch between my oppressed slaves and my lusty vampires with equal sadistic delight.

So, you say: Why should I buy NOCTURNE? After all, I'm a devoted Elizabeth Donald fan and I already bought the ebooks!

For several reasons. First, a print book is always going to be better than an ebook. I believe in ebooks. I believe in their possibilities for giving new authors their first shot and allowing small presses to take risks they wouldn't ordinarily take. But there's something about holding a book in your hand that makes the world it contains more real, more solid.

Second, because I can't sign an ebook for you. And if you buy NOCTURNE, I'll happily sign it for you and make it - heh - more valuable. Bring it to one of my public appearances, or mail it to me and I'll sign it and ship it back to you. All I ask is the shipping costs - I'm just a poor working author.

Third, because if you love the Nocturnal Urges series half as much as I do, you have to vote with your dollars. That goes for all small press, not just my books. Vote with your dollars. If NOCTURNE doesn't sell, there may not be an INFERNII, or the books I have planned beyond it. Want to know what happens with our denizens of Memphis? Buy the books!

How do you vote? You start at your local Borders, and there is a plan of attack. Yes, it's important to patronize your independent bookstores, but they'll buy what they want to buy no matter what. Borders orders by region, and if they start getting requests, they'll order the books.

When the book is out, you attack. They don't have the book? Ask them when they'll be getting it in. Borders has a deal negotiated with Ellora's Cave/Cerridwen, so they all carry the books. Which books they choose, however, depends on YOU. Ask!

So the book is on the shelf. Ask the clerk where it is. What, you know where it is? Doesn't matter. Ask the clerk. That's the only way they know people want the book.

Where will it be? They're going to put it in the Romance section. You and I both know it belongs in horror. There's no more sex in NOCTURNE than in your average Laurell K. Hamilton, and have you ever read the original DRACULA? Victorian steam, baby. But for some reason, all EC/Cerridwen books end up in Romance regardless of genre.

Defy authority! Move the books!

Put NOCTURNE in horror where it belongs. If there's no horror section (GROWL), find where they've put Laurell and put NOCTURNE there. Turn it face-out instead of spine-out so people can see the cover.

And, of course, buy the book. Buy it from Borders. Buy it from Cerridwen. Buy it from Amazon. Buy it from me. Okay, you only have to buy it once, so pick one. But wherever you buy it, go to Amazon and write a review extolling its virtues. You love the book! It's a great book! All should buy this book!

This plan of attack applies to all small-press books, folks. The one exception: whenever you can, buy direct from the small-press publisher. Amazon takes an ungodly percentage of book sales - on the order of 70 percent - and it kills small press. Buy direct for the same price and the money stays with the people who wrote and published it. But however you buy... BUY.

But not yet! NOCTURNE is months away. Holding pattern, folks. Lie in wait. Then we will attack.

In the meantime, you can always buy SETTING SUNS. Or explore the wonderful small-press books out there that get no love from the top-ten lists of Check out Barri Bumgarner or Jeff Strand's new books. Buy something from New Babel Books. Attend a con and buy from the authors trying to pay for their hotel rooms with book sales.

Tired of the same nine chick-lit books being recycled by New York? Vote with your dollars, folks. Just save a few for NOCTURNE.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Sacred Grounds

There is just something about my coffeehouse.

I've been stuck on INFERNII for quite some time. Hell, I'm weeks behind in everything. I was supposed to finish the second draft of INFERNII by the end of April, and guess how THAT'S not happening?

Somehow I just can't work well in my apartment. It's like pulling teeth. My concentration is lousy. I get nothing accomplished. But as I am kidless this week, I chose to go to my coffeehouse tonight after work.

In the three-and-a-half hours since I got here, I have gone through half of SETTING SUNS seeking the typos to correct, reread ALL of the 26,000 words already written for INFERNII, gone over my outline and written the first 2,000 words of the bedamned traps chapter. It's better than I remembered.

As I write this, it's just after 10 p.m. The door is open, letting in the cool spring breeze. There are young people sitting outside at the black metal tables. There are more young people and a few older people sitting inside, chatting and drinking caffeinated beverages at silly hours of the night. The poor folk who work here are cleaning up and collecting cups, hoping we'll take the hint. There's a young man wearing a T-shirt that reads, "I wish I knew how to quit you." Heh.

It's a lovely coffeehouse. Long and narrow, with real brick walls dating back to the days when this little cow town had horses tied outside. There are shelves full of the many brands of tea, and I wonder why I always drink the organic fair trade coffees instead of sampling those wonderful teas. Perhaps then I'd make fewer treks to the bathroom in the back.

This week's artwork is a collection of watercolor landscapes. They have something different almost every time I come here. There is a collage of an old Schwinn bicycle framed on the opposite wall. I have no idea of its significance. Perhaps the owner likes bikes. The glass windows are covered in flyers advertising concerts, poetry readings, museum exhibits and Earth Day activities at the watershed nature center.

There are two young men sitting at the next table playing guitars, while completely different music plays overhead and I am listening to a third song on my earbuds. The three combine into a strangely pleasant mix that works almost like white noise, blocking out my upper brain and letting the Muse do her work.

One of the young men keeps glancing over at me. For a moment, I am flattered. Then he compliments my laptop, and I laugh, my ego dashed again. A really nice Apple iBook is to women what cute little dogs are to men: the conversation-starter. I shall have to remember this.

Why is it I can only work four hours at a clip at my coffeehouse? Why can't I do this at home? I could blame the phone and the TV and the chores and all that, but really, it's the bedamned internet. The coffeehouse is the only place I ever go that has no internet access. When my attention falters, I cannot escape.

I miss my boy. But it's also nice to feel like I'm working again. It's time to go home - the coffeehouse will close soon, cutting off its magic. But I will be back tomorrow.

Thank you, Sacred Grounds.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Raising Money (but not for me)

Some of you may know I'm the captain of a Relay for Life team, raising money for the American Cancer Society. Last year we raised almost $1200 for cancer research.

It's that time again, folks. I am beginning with the annual promotion on my web site. It's just a few promotional items, but all funds will go to the Relay for Life fund this year. Also, you can donate directly to the fund via a Paypal button.

Note: Direct donations are tax-deductible. The purchases, alas, are not. Something about the IRS tax code, I dunno.

Every one of us knows someone who has fought a battle with cancer, or God forbid, lost their lives to cancer. There is literally no one untouched by the disease. The American Cancer Society funds research and local programs to support cancer patients in their fight. Please consider donating to this important cause.

And now I'm done asking for your money. Well, for today...

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Sister Day

Many years ago, two little girls in Massachusetts decided that if there was a Mother's Day, a Father's Day and a Grandparents' Day, there should be a Sister Day.

And lo, those two little girls declared March 31 to be Sister Day. Originally commemorated by doing each others' chores, through the years, it occasionally passed unmarked. But there was usually a phone call, an e-card, and on the few occasions they lived in the same state, a lunch or shopping trip.

When I told my co-workers that today is Sister Day, there was good-natured gibing that soon Hallmark will be printing cards. It's all my fault. We invented a holiday. And it's true, we tend to sneer at these holidays - artificially created excuses for us to spend money. But aside from the Hallmark silliness, these minor holidays serve as an annual reminder to tell our loved ones how we feel. It is far too easy to let the years pass with so much left unsaid, and when inevitably we part our ways, how much worse is it to think, "I wish I had said it when I had the chance."

My sister is my personal hero. Her story isn't mine to tell. But when I think of women who have overcome great odds, who have faced down trials from the world around them and attacked their own flaws as well, I think of my sister. She is someone I admire, whose grace under pressure and wry sense of humor in the face of life's rollercoasters gives me hope that it is possible to keep your sanity in the merry-go-round of a working mom. She is generous and strong, smart as hell and a wonderful mother, daughter and sister.

Flawless? Hell no. She is the world's worst letter-writer and she likes peanut butter sauce on Hawaiian punch ice cream.

We had more than our fair share of spats as children, and our personality differences made us indifferent teenagers. But as we became adults, our personality differences seemed to vanish, and we came out the other end remarkably the same. Or so I would like to think.

Her name is Melanie, and it is my great honor to call her my sister. Happy Sister Day.