Scarlet Letters

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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Last Day, and Chat Tonight!

Go to and see my post about procrastination! It's your last chance to enter the drawing for a free copy of ABADDON! If you get the chance, too, thank the kind folks at Long and Short of It for featuring me. It really has been an honor.

Also, don't forget tonight's release party chat for TWILIGHT AND THORNS! Such a pretty cover. I can't wait to read the rest of the stories. (I already read mine.) The chat is at 7 p.m. CST. Go to and scan down to the chat link. It is a Java-enabled chat, so you'll need Java to participate.

See you there!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Author! Author!

Wait, that's me.

The Long And the Short of It kicks off its week of featuring MOI in the author spotlight today! I've tried to be quasi-entertaining in my little chats - a new yammering by me will be featured each day.

Best of all, enter each day for a chance to win a copy of ABADDON!

Even if you have zero interest in my ramblings, please drop by and give these folks hit counts.

ALSO: Circle Dark Publishing is holding a chat party Friday night beginning at 7 p.m. CST to celebrate the release of TWILIGHT AND THORNS. The anthology includes a short story by yours truly, so I'll be there with bells on! (Or, you know, sans bells.) Let's have a good showing!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Yellow Roses

Another day, another couple of characters killed. I apparently broke the internets, since Zokutou's word meter is missing and others suck. So you'll just have to take my word for it that YR stands at 73,924 words. My goal was 80,000, and I'll make that easily, but longer is better, I suppose. Some publishers are starting at 90K for a first novel these days, though I wouldn't want to go over 100K. Not until they knows me better. :)

Today was a day of failed research. I sought a protection spell, reading up in MONSTERS by John Michael Greer and firing off emails to people who might know, but I haven't found what I wanted and I don't know if the scene will be in the book anyway.

I also took a stab (pardon the expression) at courthouse security research, but that scene is already written. Still, I hope the attempt gains some fruit, since I'd like to catch any egregious errors at this phase.

I've been ultra-paranoid about language lately. A bit of constructive criticism is bringing things to my attention that tend to slip by me. The fact is, I'm about the plot. Tell me what's happening, who's doing what to whom and what they're saying about it. Language, description, emotion... that all takes effort. I think that's why I have word-count problems.

But I can't afford to make that mistake. As the plot rolls through, I need to keep it moving, but I have to fight the impulse to write faster and faster and forget about the language. I already know there will be a line edit before this goes out to submission, but I don't want the line edit to become yet another rewrite because I got sloppy.

I love this book so much. That's always dangerous. Very soon I will have lost all perspective whatsoever, and it will be time to put it away. But will it be DONE by then?

Friday, November 23, 2007

progress report

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
69,416 / 80,000

Holy crap, I did a lot today. And I freaked myself out rewriting the library scene. I don't know if it'll make the readers crap their pants, but I feel like sleeping with the light on.

Today's Research:

• Ten-codes vary widely from department to department. However, a Ten-Double-Zero is nearly universal for "officer down, all units respond." This is a better choice than "Ten-Thirty-Five," which is just "major incident." Duh.

I have been listening to my Yellow Roses mix while I write the rest of this book, but for the library scene I switched. First Solus ad victimam by Kenneth Leighton, then Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. The march to the scaffold is truly freaky.

Often while writing, I have felt that the stories I want to tell are ill-served by my talent. I knew the ending of THE COLD ONES long before I began to write the book, and yet when I finally wrote the ending (and rewrote it, as is my wont) it was not nearly as horrifying and painful as it had been in my head. The grief of ABADDON was muted by the time it reached the page. The adventure of SANCTUARY has yet to reach a point where I would send it out for people to read. The chills of YELLOW ROSES never seem to match my imagination.

And yet I think I'm getting closer. I first had the idea for YELLOW ROSES three years ago. I wrote the rough draft in December and January. And now as I write what will prayerfully be the last full rewrite before submission, I feel it growing into the best book I have yet written.

I don't know if that makes me a better writer, or if I just fall in love with my own language. As I've said before, writing is essentially just talking to myself. It remains to be seen whether anyone else will want to listen in.

I certainly hope so. Cat and her ghosts are too much fun to lose. But creepy. I think I need to cuddle a teddy bear tonight. That library ghost is an unpleasant character.

Featured Author!

That would be moi.

The Long and the Short of It, a fiction review site, will be featuring me as their guest author all next week! Drop by all week to hear me blather on insanely, or at least to support people kind enough to consider my work worthy of their time.

Links will be forthcoming each day next week! Now to come up with something quasi-coherent to say....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Yellow Roses

I wonder what it says that I keep cackling to myself and muttering, "Ain't I a stinker?"

That said, one of today's scenes rawtha smells. I've tossed it to the First Readers, and I guess I'll see if it stinks as badly as I think. I need to slow down, I know, but it's been so long since it was this much fun...

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
56,868 / 80,000

The Latest Research:

• A hook is a type of punch in boxing. You turn the core muscles, swinging the arm at a 90-degreee angle into the opponent. Usually aimed at the side of the head, but can also be used for body blows. A cross is a more powerful hook, thrown by the rear hand horizontally.

• Ghost hunters would use a digital thermometer probe for the most accurate testing of cold spots.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Yellow Roses

We're zooming now, folks. Of course, we're in the fun part. All that grief, agony and pain. Yum.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
47,951 / 80,000

Research has included:

• The background and history of the Wildey Theater, as well as a personal visit to the interior of the Miner's Theater. Both are wonderful old turn-of-the-century stage-movie houses, and both are allegedly haunted.

• Everything Nick spouts in all his scenes is from my research into ghosthunting and paranormal investigation as it currently stands. I am not soaking St. John's Wort in olive oil for two months just to see what it looks like, though.

• Dillinger was allegedly shot and killed outside a Chicago theater by the FBI, led by Melvin Purvis. There is an ongoing theory that the Feebs accidentally killed the wrong man, but the official version is that Dillinger got plastic surgery right before his death and that's why his own father didn't recognize him. The "oops" theory doesn't account for why Dillinger would give up crime, but does speculate that he sent jibing letters to J. Edgar Hoover for the rest of his days. For this alone, I vote for that theory.

• THE BIG CHILL came out in 1983.

• Streets in the 1920s were mostly paved, leaving behind the cobblestones and bricks of older streets. They were even beginning sewers and stormwater control with the WPA projects of the 1920s. That was in the main areas of town, of course - older streets would still be composed of tightly-interbound brick, and the poorest areas would be hardpacked dirt, gravel if they were lucky. The key to a good street isn't the surface; it's the subgrade. This research came from an offhand conversation with the street director of a local town, who I believe knows more about roads than any man since the Romans got started.

• All veterans are eligible for the flag-folding ceremony, three-volley salute and taps to be played, but it's up to the family what they do. The flag is free. Soldiers who die on active duty get extra services. Request it, and it will be done, regardless of money or aspects of service, as long as he was honorably discharged.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I am spam!

I rather thought Shelfari was cool when I signed up for it. Any online community built entirely on books must be great, yes?

Until I had a friend request on it, and I clicked the wrong button. Instead of just accepting invitations, it sent an email inviting my entire address book.

That address book had my editors and reporters at the newspaper. My colleagues at Cerridwen Press, Ellora's Cave, New Babel Books, Circle Dark Publishing... It had editors at publishing houses and magazines to which I've submitted, added to my address book automatically so their responses wouldn't go into the spam filter.

Clients from my editing service. Fellow writers. Friends from college. Long-lost relatives. 394 NAMES.

I hereby declare that those "invite your entire address book" programs are evil, and they must be destroyed.

My apologies to any and all I accidentally invited. I tried to send an apology to my address book, but Yahoo wouldn't let me.

Ironically, it seems they don't want me to SPAM.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Apex Magazine is having a subscription drive for the best of all possible reasons: to increase its pay rate for authors. The more subscriptions it gets in the course of the drive (through Nov. 30), the more it can raise its rates to writers.

Apex is one of the best horror/sf markets out there, and it is absolutely worth your time. They publish good stuff, by established and new writers alike. A one-year subscription is a very reasonable $20.

Go forth and subscribe! Help keep a good market in business and support markets that are dedicated to paying a quasi-living wage to hardworking writers. If nothing else, you should subscribe to support that goal.