Scarlet Letters

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

a new level of psychosis

Some time ago, my son committed the Class B misdemeanor of playing with a Batman bounce ball in the apartment. His sentence, of course, was a scolding and confiscation of said bounce ball.

I was on the computer at the time - aren't I always? - and slid the ball under my desk to keep it from being unconfiscated by sneakiness, something His Majesty thinks I don't know he does.

I found that it made a great footrest. I'd prop my feet up on it, and when bored or working through a plot problem, I'd sort of roll the ball between my feet. My way of saying Om.

A couple of days ago, he found the ball. And unconfiscated it. I couldn't exactly protest. It had been confiscated for months, far beyond the scope of the Class B misdemeanor.

I can't seem to write.

It's been a struggle the last two days, after at least a week of smoothish sailing. I seriously spent the last ten minutes searching my house for the stupid bounce ball. Even now, my whole balance is off. I've got the Creeplow encounter and the entire climax of the book to slog through in the next twelve to 24 hours, and I can't write because I don't have the Batman bounce ball under my feet.

This is a new level of psychosis. Sometimes I think I'm honestly not meant to write on deadline. That's quasi-hilarious, since I live my day job by deadlines. I'm very good with deadlines at work. For eight years, I knew I had to finish my story by 5 p.m. so I could leave by 5:30 and make it home in time to pick up the boy before 6 p.m. came and they started charging me a dollar a minute. That meant if I didn't have all my reporting done by 4 p.m., I needed to press the panic button and warn the editors that it wasn't coming. It meant if my writing wasn't done by 4:30, I wouldn't have time to reread, edit and add detail.

In fiction, I find the closer the deadline comes, the harder it is to slog through the book. To the point where my feet are aimlessly circling the carpet under my desk, seeking a rubber ball that isn't there. Where in heaven's name did he put it?

My ridiculous search - including sneaking through his room and attempting not to wake him - reminds me in a wry, chagrined manner of an early WEST WING episode. Sam and Toby wander the building, both afflicted with writer's block. "Somewhere in this building is our talent," Toby says. "It can't have gone far," Sam says.

It can't have gone far. And how much sillier is it that as soon as I post this blog entry, I will go check the patio closet for the rubber ball. He might have put it in there.

Monday, September 29, 2008

causing pain.

Wow. That last scene in Dreadmire was possibly the most horrible thing I've ever written. Not just what happened; the confluence of emotions, the roles each person took... This book is turning very, very dark.

I used to think of myself as a science fiction writer who also wrote horror. At some point, I became a horror writer who also writes science fiction.

Crunching away. I need more hours in the day. It's going too fast and it's too short, but the rewrite will blow the skies apart.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
37,710 / 50,000

Friday, September 26, 2008

Abaddon teaser!

Want a little something to read as you wait for the weekend to start?

Download the first chapter of ABADDON!

Go on, it's okay. No one will bite you. Unless you WANT them to.

If you like what you read, you can order the book at or get the non-autographed version direct from the publisher.

Better yet, come to the release event on Thursday, drink free booze AND get the book. Everybody wins.

Well, except my characters. They NEVER win. Muahahaha.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Random Thoughts While Writing Swamp Thing

As in, "Things I'm Going To Forget to Blog About."

• Note to self: do not hum along with Dreadmire playlist at Starbucks. Everyone else is hearing different music, dumbass.
• Oh, this is just awful. Kancethedrus speaks "neutrally" twice in as many paragraphs. Were you conscious when you wrote this?
• How many times can Dreadmire be "horrifying," "horrid" or "dank"? We need a thesaurus. Also, is "driving rain" really necessary, Cliche Girl?
• Kancethedrus is too sappy. I suck at writing love.
• We can't say will-o-the-wisp. Dreadmire is not in Ireland. Spooklights?
• I need to make up an elvish word that means "brother of choice" or "family of choice."
• Emo boys are emo.
• My god, the dialogue sucks. The description ain't too hot either.
• But boy, did I just hurt him.

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32,584 / 50,000

Monday, September 22, 2008

in case anyone's clocking me...

The book is aliiiiiiive and kicking. We've had some wonderful angst thus far. And themes are starting to develop - the nature as balance, love as sacrifice that I expected would emerge.

As discussed with dear friend, fellow author and official buttkicker Angelia Sparrow:

ME: This book is becoming very matriarchal.
ANGEL: Is that good or bad?
ME: I'm noticing that the lizardfolk are led by a shapeshifting queen, the elves are led by a woman, at times Alesia leads the questers... it's time for a male leader, but the next group we meet is evil... Tam and Kance are both blinded by romantic love. Angiss is weak when he's not casting spells. Ruebel is a dumbass and possibly monster fodder. Creeplow has been sulking for over a century... My women kick ass and my men are romantic weaklings.


ME: I wrote this last night, though I don't know where it goes yet, but it's quintessential Kance: "A paladin does not let a woman die for him. This he knew, without ever having been told. A paladin is a protector, the one who stands between the people and danger. Everything he was meant nothing if he allowed this woman's death. This woman above all. He had to make it right."
ANGEL: Oh yeah, paladin. That explains EVERYTHING.
ME: He's not one. But his father was, and he wanted to be. Earlier he tells Alesia, all his life he wanted to love a woman the way his father loved his mother. All together now: awww.


ANGEL: It's not the love thing, it's the whole hero's journey/having daddy issues thing.
ME: Oh well, that's classic.
ANGEL: Yep. "I'm going to be a paladin/knight/jedi just like my father!" And the more you can keep a classic, and yet mess with it, the better.

Tam, Alesia, Angiss and especially Kancethedrus have now turned into real people. The secondary characters are still just sketches, but it's wonderful to be dealing with real people again. I'm not happy with the dialogue and I think there are whole stretches in the first couple of chapters that are dull, but when we're rolling, by Mersapan we're ROLLING.

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30,560 / 50,000

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Abaddon release party!

Join us in Collinsville on the eve of Archon to celebrate the release of my new book!

WHAT: Book release party celebrating the release of ABADDON, the next installment in the Nocturnal Urges vampire series
WHO: Elizabeth Donald, author of the Nocturnal Urges vampire mystery series
WHEN: 7-10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2
WHERE: The Blum House, 408 W. Main St., Collinsville, Ill.
WHY: Fun for vampires and victims alike!

The event is open to the public. Music will be provided by the DJ Kiltman. Wine will be served free to those over 21.

If you come dressed in Nocturnal Urges apparel or disguised as a vampire, you get a $1 coupon off merchandise from the Literary Underworld booth at Archon that weekend!

You do NOT have to buy a book to attend! Just come and celebrate with us, in a terrific creepy kickoff to the Halloween season.

If you do want a book, it is strongly recommended you preorder your copy, as only limited numbers will be available. For $8, you will receive a signed first edition of ABADDON, as well as two Nocturnal Urges matchbooks and an autographed cover flat of the previous book, NOCTURNE. If you want a copy of NOCTURNE as well, add $12. Preorder by emailing

For more information, see

DIRECTIONS FROM ARCHON: Follow Gateway Drive away from the hotels and conference center up to the Route 157 light. Turn right (south). Pass Collinsville Crossing shopping center. Turn left at the West Main Street stoplight. The road turns one-way going your way. The Blum House is on the right just before you reach downtown Collinsville. You can park at the Collinsville Library lot next door or anywhere on Main Street.

Calling all writers!

Published or unpublished, whatever your genre, it is our obligation to support

Ralan is a FREE site that does better than anyone, including Writer's Market, at finding good, solid markets for speculative fiction and weeding out the scams. Personally, I think a scam that targets unpublished, new writers is about as low as you can get without clubbing baby seals. If you're gonna steal, steal from somebody who actually HAS money.

Ralan is FREE. Did I mention that? You don't have to pay $29.95 a year to access his listings, which helpfully point out the semi- and pro markets, the paying markets and "for the luv," which is pretty much how we all got started. He tells us how long we'll have to wait for an answer and knows faster than anyone when a market goes dead, so you're not submitting to guidelines lingering on a site no one is reading.

RALAN IS FREE. Help keep it free. Without Ralan, I honestly don't know where we'd go for listings. Can you think of any other clearinghouse for Places to Sell Your Stuff?

Ralan's annual fundraiser is half over and has raised only 14 percent of goal. We can do better than this. Recommended donation is $10 or 7 euros. DO IT.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

no words today, only music

Just too tired to work tonight, so tomorrow will have to be a serious work day along with major housework. But I won't do the work any good trying to force myself to think when I'm so tired my stomach is upset.

In the meantime, for those few who care, the Dreadmire Playlist.

This playlist was heavily influenced by seeing HURRICANE ON THE BAYOU, an IMAX movie playing at the St. Louis Science Center. It's a terrific movie, filmed just before and after Hurricane Katrina in the wetlands. It was supposed to be a what-if about the impact of a major hurricane now that we've destroyed much of the natural protection for the mainland, and ended up being front-and-center for Katrina.

It also celebrates the marvelous musical heritage of the bayou, and I could not help but get the CD. As such, maybe half the list is from that soundtrack, which featured Amanda Shaw, Tab Benoit, Zachary Richard, Charles Brown, Zydeco Force and others. It gave a nice Louisiana flavor to the playlist, and as I sadly haven't seen Louisiana since 1994, I had to work from very dim memory. Others are from famous fantasy soundtracks you might recognize.

Without fellow ado, the Dreadmire Playlist:

1. Full Blown Rose: Somebody Help Me (theme from TRU CALLING)
2. Hurricane on the Bayou: Iko Iko
3. David Bowie: As the World Falls Down
4. Hurricane on the Bayou: Make a Good Gumbo
5. Annie Lenox: Into the West
6. Hurricane on the Bayou: A Change Is Gonna Come
7. Art Garfunkel: That's All I've Got to Say
8. Sting: Fields of Gold
9. Hurricane on the Bayou: God's Good Hands
10. Madonna: What Can You Lose
11. Jon McLaughlin: So Close
12. Cherryholmes: Darkness on the Delta
13. Hurricane on the Bayou: Stand By Me
14. David Bowie: Within You
15. Hurricane on the Bayou: When a Cajun Man Gets the Blues
16. Meat Loaf: Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
17. Josh Groban: Let Me Fall
18. Hurricane on the Bayou: Dixieland Medley
19. Bonnie Tyler: Holding Out for a Hero
20. Cherryholmes: Bootstrap Bill
21. Bonnie Raitt: I Can't Make You Love Me
22. Jefferson Airplane: White Rabbit
23.Hurricane on the Bayou: This Is My Home
24. Amanda Marshall: Beautiful Goodbye
25. Cherryholmes: The Nine Yards
26. Avril Lavigne: My Happy Ending
27. America: The Last Unicorn
28. Hurricane on the Bayou: Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen
29. Metallica: The Unforgiven
30. Hurricane on the Bayou: Darkness
31. Triumph: Fight the Good Fight
32. Hurricane on the Bayou: Fever for the Bayou
33. America: That's All I've Got to Say.
34. Hurricane on the Bayou: Zydeco Extravaganza
35. Three Pints Gone: A Sailor's Prayer
36. Moulin Rouge: El Tango de Roxanne
37. Queen: Who Wants to Live Forever
38. Hurricane on the Bayou: Amanda's Waltz
39. Shirley Manson: Samson and Delilah
40. Three Pints Gone: Auld Lang Syne

go go gadget swamp

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
23,424 / 50,000

It's about frigging time.

Swamp Thing started rolling today. I finished the lizard battle and got on to the next drama, which is the dread fog that causes amnesia and oh, I was looking forward to THAT. Squee. I do so love tormenting characters.

But it feels so damn good for the work to be rolling again. I hate that pulling-teeth feeling when the book is slogging, because the work is never any good then. I know this book will require significant rewrites, but the foundation I'm laying now feels good and solid.

Best of all, I'm tormenting my characters. This is not a happy book. But it's turning into a good book. Thank goodness. I wouldn't feel right turning in something that didn't at least have the potential to be really fun.

Poor Tam. It so sucks to be him. Muahahaha.

Now to sleep.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Book orders!

Order your copy of ABADDON! You'll get a first-edition, first printing autographed copy to be picked up at the book premiere event on Thursday, Oct. 2 at a St. Louis-area location to be announced very soon. You'll also receive an autographed cover flat of NOCTURNE and two original Nocturnal Urges matchbooks with the Ellora's Cave imprint. These are older items and when they're gone, they're gone.

The price for this package is $8. Add $12 if you want an autographed copy of NOCTURNE as well. If you cannot attend the event, shipping cost is $5 book rate, $10 Priority Mail.

To order, email Be sure to include what you want, how you want it personalized and whether you intend to pick it up at the premiere. Katie will inform you how to pay for it.

SUPPLIES ARE LIMITED. I can only get so many copies from Cerridwen. Order right away to ensure your copy. The book will be in Borders eventually, of course, but it will be a while - and they may not carry it at all if it is not requested. Hint, hint. Ask for the book at your local Borders or independent bookseller! Please?

Monday, September 08, 2008

A little help from my friends.

FRANK: While you're working on this, can I call YOU Swamp Thing?
ME: Not if you expect me to respond.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
17,267 / 50,000

Thanks to Angelia Sparrow, who is kicking my ass nightly to keep up my word count. Equal thanks to David Tyler, who reminded me what simple, quiet love is like. Recent events have made that part hard to write. Sometimes I have to shut off parts of me in order to keep moving, but a writer can't do that too often or we find ourselves unable to write. I'd expound on whether that's why Dreadmire is proving so damn hard, but I'm too damn tired for psychoanalysis.

One thing's for sure: if I do this right, there won't be a dry eye in the house as this book unfolds. It isn't a happy story, people. I'm not in a happy mood.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Swamp Thing!

We're through the fairy scene. This is officially the hardest thing I've ever written. Why, God, why? It's not that it's bad - there's a bit too much head-hopping and passive tense, but that's stuff I can edit later in the process. It's not the characters - they're starting to take shape. It's not the plot, the structure or the worldbuilding.

All of it is good. I read the outline I put together and I'm just as fascinated and excited as I was when I decided to take the job.

I wanted to say things about respecting the balance of life and death in the natural world, about the balance of emotions between people... Dreadmire is about balance and the disaster that comes when that balance is disrespected. I was exploring the naturalist-environmentalist side of myself with this.

Character-wise, the entire concept comes from a song I heard once, a song that seemed to be about a woman in love with a man who doesn't even see her as a woman, a man seeking a faraway love he'll never truly have. If I hadn't gotten the contract for Dreadmire, it would have been a postapocalyptic journey through a ravaged futuristic country instead of a haunted, demon-ridden swamp... but it would have been the same story.

So why is every word like pulling teeth with a fistful of razor wire?

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
14,812 / 50,000

25 days to the Emerald City. 1,400 words per day. Kill me now.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dragoncon, cont.

• Frank Fradella has his DragonCon set up and they're beautiful. I don't know how his photos look so shiny! There's a handful with me in them, but don't let that stop you. Go look!

• Russ Matthews' photos are also here, with extra emphasis on the parade. I have never seen the parade. I mean to every year... No, I do not have Russ' author shots of me yet. Trust me, you'll be the eighth or ninth to see them when they're here.

• Gail Martin's video blog features a brief interview with me and John Everson, found at this link at the 4:40 counter mark. Listen to me be incredibly boring describing my books! With very, very bad hair!

The part what was cut:

ME: And you can find me at, where you will find links to everything I've ever done.
JOHN: Everything?
ME: Well, almost everything.

I thought it was funny.

You can see the other two videoblogs Gail did at Day One and Day Two.

• What do I wish I'd gotten on film? The Shanes breaking into song in questionable harmony on a regular basis. Those two have been perfecting their act for decades.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Dragoncon, Day V


As always, the end of Dragoncon brings both pain and relief. It is sad to say farewell to the friends we see only once a year, to come down from the mountaintop where we can talk about the things we love with people who understand us. And to make money. Don't forget the money.

It is a relief, however, to know that soon we can return to regular meals and full nights of sleep.

In the meantime, it's the clusterfuck of trying to get out along with 47,000 of your closest friends. The Hilton gets an A-plus from the Dragon Ladies for its service this year, but the elevators were insane. There was a group on the 25th floor that waited more than two hours for an elevator. In my elevator, someone was singing "Hotel California" - you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Speeding along, I went to my signing. As expected, there were 29481210 people in line for Laurell and four for me. At least there were that many! Jeff Pagliei delivered my errant money bag and Dana managed to get free of the Hilton elevators to arrive with the Tardis Box of Books just as I ran out of NOCTURNEs.

In all, I'm happy to say ABADDON sold out at Dragoncon. The other books, however, did not sell nearly as well. Dragoncon's profit margin has always been slim, but it's worth it nonetheless for promotional purposes. There's something about con that is so invigorating about the creative process. Writing is a solitary occupation - you're talking to yourself in a room, making up imaginary friends that fight, fuck and die for your amusement. But at con, you get to interact with other people who know your imaginary friends. It's remarkably gratifying and reminds you to work harder, dammit!

After all was said and done, I bid farewell to Dana and Anne, then the Shanes, who agreed to drive the Tardis Box (as well as the katana I bought my son) back to Illinois for me. I want to thank my wonderful roommates, even the exhaustingly energetic Shanes, for their companionship and fun. P.S. It was Shane II who snores.

Thanks also to Vernard, who heard that I had about five hours to kill between end-of-con and my flight, so he picked me up, took me to dinner and whisked me away to the Den of Iniquity. ;) He also took me to the airport, saving me having to wrangle my sixty-pound Monstro suitcase, Rolling Red Bag of Doom and carry-on through MARTA hell.

Thanks to all the readers and friends who bought my books and listened to me yammer. Thanks to the track directors who come up with smart stuff for us to talk about, and the marching legions of volunteers who make it happen. Thanks to the fellow panelists who let me crack stupid jokes and throw chocolate at the audience.

Finally, my biggest thank-you and an enormous round of applause to Dana, my wonderful handler*. She hauled the Tardis Box halfway across the world and back more times than I can tell you. She sacrificed things she wanted to do in order to stand by my side and help me hawk books. She wandered the lines passing out cover cards and never complained at the thirty-seventh, "Dana, would you mind..." She was probably responsible for half my sales. Also, she doesn't snore or hog the covers.

Ladies and gentlemen, Dana Franks. Give her a hand, would you? She sure-hell gave me one.

* We apparently prefer "handler" to "flunky," "slave" or even the more professional "assistant" these days.

Dragoncon, Day IV


We all slept in a little except for Shane I, who had hit the sack at an unprecedented 1 a.m. We just can't keep up the pace like we used to, you know? Anne disappeared with the Colonial Fleet and Dana and I took the opportunity to grab a "real" meal in the food court. Then we hung out in the VIP consuite for a while, catching up with some familiar faces.

My megapanel came next, a handful of us scary folk headlined by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Laurell K. Hamilton. Laurell was running a little late, so she wasn't there when we did our introductions. So when they passed the mike to me and everyone is looking at the curly-haired brunette, I said, "I am not Laurell K. Hamilton." This got a huge laugh. Easy room. :) I explained who I was and what I do and buy ABADDON please so I can pay my hotel bill. I may have left some of that out.

I was supposed to do an interview next, but the reporter didn't show. So back to the consuite for me, munching a bit and chatting with uberhacker Randal Schwartz, author Lee Martindale and codebreaker extraordinaire Elonka Dunin. I meet the smartest people at conventions, folks.

Remember when I said my failure to attend the zombie panel was my stupidest moment of the con? I topped it.

I went to the Walk of Fame, because when presenting the entire list of famous people to my son, he especially requested Michael Rosenbaum's autograph. Lex is his favorite villain ever, because I haven't let him see THE DARK KNIGHT, and Lex would be his favorite character bar none, except he's been conditioned to think he has to like the good guys better. Rosenbaum's my favorite because he's the most skilled craftsman on that show. His nuanced performances elevate the art to a higher level than the schlock he is ordinarily handed in terms of a script. His performance made me a fan.

So I stepped up to meet him.

ME: Hello. My son is a very big fan.
ROSENBAUM: Well, I'm a biiiig fan of yours. *waggles eyebrows, looking at my chest*
MUSE: He did not just say that. Has he heard of us? Is he looking at the badge or my breasts?
ISABEL: He's HOT. Even with hair. Especially with hair.
MUSE: Stop thinking with your glands.
ME: Well, I -
ROSENBAUM: We could have this conversation in my hotel room.
ISABEL: What time do you get off?
MUSE: This is not happening.
LOIS: Of course it's not. Ask him for an interview for CultureGeek.
MUSE: You are on another planet. Didn't we leave you in St. Louis on purpose?
SUPERMOM: Kiddo is not going to believe this.
MUSE: We're standing here with our mouth hanging open. Does no one have a witty rejoinder?
ROSENBAUM: I'm sorry... are you single?
ME: Uh. Yes. I'm, uh, single.
ISABEL: I have no words.
MUSE: He is seriously not speaking to us, people.
ROSENBAUM: *cracks up, points to Alesia*
ALESIA: *waves, smirking*
ISABEL: damn.
MUSE: I am going to kick her ass square. Just wait.
ME: I should've known. You are EVIL, woman.
ROSENBAUM: I totally would've said all that shit anyway.
ME: Riiiight.
MUSE: Raise your hand if you believe that happy shit.
ISABEL: *raises hand*
MUSE: *facepalm*

This moment has already gone down in (temporary) history as the biggest freeze ever. EDIT TO CLARIFY: Alesia is a friend of mine and was Rosenbaum's handler during the con. This moment, therefore, was entirely her fault.

I understand certain traitorous roommates of mine, who believe I should have vaulted over the table and attacked the man, have already spread this story in ever-increasing variations. In my defense, I can say that while I expect a certain amount of flirtation at con, I was completely unprepared for an uber-hot celebrity to come on to me so brazenly. And that Rosenbaum is a WAY, WAY better actor than he deserves to be.

For the record, this is him. You'd freeze too!

And three hours later, I realized what I should have said.


ME: Hello. My son is a big fan.
ROSENBAUM: Well, I'm a big fan of yours. Maybe we could have this conversation in my hotel room?
ME: We could, but then I'd just be using you for sex.

Why is it the funny snark only occurs three hours later? So, everyone join in the fun! Give me your witty rejoinder to Michael Rosenbaum! What should I have said besides, "buh... buh..." The clean ones may be collected for a future CultureGeek post.

After changing for evening attire, I went to my ghost panel. Still kicking myself. John Everson had the misfortune to be seated next to me, as I was in especially talkative mode. My defense was that I was highly caffeinated. Fortunately the panel was smallish, so I could do the chocolate trick - I tossed Hersheys to anyone who asked a good question and gave out the rest to the audience. I cracked bad jokes and somewhere in there I talked up YELLOW ROSES, which will register in no one's minds by its appearance in eighteen months or so.

Then Everson, Jonathan Maberry, Maberry's wife and our moderator went to Gibney's (again!) for dinner. I had my third chicken-breast sandwich of the convention. Weight Watchers will be so goddamn proud of me, she said through gritted teeth. As writers are wont to do when not in front of the public, we bitched about publishers and bookstores and the writing life for a good long while.

A note about John Everson: possibly one of the nicest and least affected writers I have ever met, and a damn good writer on top of it. I caught his reading earlier in the con and it was really terrific work, a nice blend of characterization, creepiness and toe-curling detail. I picked up the mass-market of his Stoker-winning novel, COVENANT. I haven't started it yet, but based on the parts I heard at the reading, I'm going to enjoy it. Everson's good people. Buy his books.

Midnight came and went and I wandered up to the Vernard Room Party. Every year Vernard says there may not be a party and every year we know it's bullshit because Vernard just won't accept that he is the center of all fun in Atlanta and wherever he is, whatever he's doing, we will gravitate to him because the party is wherever Vernard is.

As always, I was handed a sweet mixed drink of unknown genealogy. The folks who had requested my books picked up their copies, and I had an increasingly-less-sober conversation with several fine individuals whose names escape my memory. At one point Vernard was using something buzzy - not THAT kind of buzzy, get yer minds out of the gutter - and rubbing it on my shoulders. Atlanta, can I kidnap Vernard and take him back to St. Louis?

There may or may not be a picture of me in a Vernard-and-Parish sandwich. Sadly, I must report I remained fully clothed. I staggered back to my room, brilliantly forgetting my money bag in Vernard's suite. Fortunately he realized it wasn't a tip.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Dragoncon, Day III


I hate the Shanes. Despite about ninety minutes of sleep, they woke us up with singing and dancing. Gentlemen, I was never in the Army. FOR A REASON. We threatened to kill them, duct-tape them into the shower or worse, exile them to the Pepto-Bismol Palace, our off-site home of our first year at DC. The fury fell on deaf ears. But rest assured, we got our own back. ;)

Saturday began with my reading, and I was pleased to see a handful of people. I wish I had been placed later in the day or even on Sunday, as I hadn't had the chance to talk up the reading much, and I would have loved to see more folks there. I read the zombies, and I think only one woman left - perhaps it was the shreds of armflesh dangling from Parish's mouth? Or maybe she had an appointment. The overall reaction was positive and I sold a few books.

Then came the signing at the Borders kiosk. Borders had an itty bitty booth, so I set up my chair beside them. As Frank said, I was signing in the back alley behind Borders. Fortunately Kelly Parker (the real one) showed up and turned out to be a hell of a barker. "Vampires so hot they're on fire!" she chanted, alternating with "vampires, getting in trouble with the LAW!" Hee.

We were there for an hour, which is about all the signing I can take - it's so stressful, with the pressure to meet/greet and sell at the same time. I suck at that part hard. I'm going to follow Connor Cochran's hilarious line about handlers - "If the author touches the money it disintegrates!" But we sold okay, and the books were available at the booth throughout the convention, which is the important part.

Dana had suffered mightily as my flunky slave handler. Thanks to the airline restrictions, we had no rolling cart, so anything I couldn't fit in my bag went in a box she had to carry. She termed this box the Tardis Box - it's bigger on the inside, with weight to match! At one point, she threatened to buy all my books and hand the copies out for free just so she wouldn't have to carry them anymore. I had no problem with this plan, in case you were wondering.

I had been looking for a replacement lanyard, so on our way out of the exhibition hall we stopped at the Southeastern Browncoats booth and I bought myself a lanyard reading, "Find a ship, find a crew, keep flying." Words to live by. Then I saw one with Wash's line, "So now I'm learning about carrying." I instantly bought it for Dana. Who says being my assistant has no perks?

Nighttime came and I made my biggest mistake of the con. No, not going to Vernard Martin's party-that-ate-the-pirates, that was great. I love seeing these people I only get to see once a year. No, my mistake was forgetting to go heckle Fred Grimm's zombie panel. I had given him some shit earlier in the week about the surprising lack of ME on his zombie panel, and intended to heckle from the back row. I completely forgot, and Fred later told me two people didn't show and if I'd been there he'd have put me on it instantly. Damn.

The best moment of the con apparently took place in Anne's presence. She spent the weekend mostly with the Colonial Fleet, of course. Their biggest party was on Saturday night, and she had volunteered to work security. Apparently most of the BSG cast came to the party, and Edward James Olmos - the Admiral himself - gave a rousing speech to the troops. He told them how important the fans were to the job they're doing and the art they strive for, bringing tears to the eyes. I later heard Olmos made the rounds until five a.m. even though he'd have to sign all day the next day, because he really believes in giving back to fans.

That, my friends, is how an artist treats his fandom. Those who stand at a podium and snore or tell them to get a life don't deserve their accolades or overpriced autographs. These are our new modern myths, the fabric of our culture, and art is just as important to the health of a society as its science and politics. Olmos has always treated his fans with respect and never belittles them for the importance they place on his work. Bravo, Admiral. I wish I could have heard your speech.

At the Vernard party, there was some imbibing. That's all I have to say about that. ;)

Dragoncon, Day II


Shane I has the most horrifying ring tone. We discovered this when it rang about nine times Friday morning, as his friends and family back home all needed to report to him that his lost dog had been found. I think the entire town of Gillespie, Illinois was hunting for that dog.

Shane I claims not to be a morning person, but he lies. Because he was up, humming and being all cheerful, a scant five hours after we all passed out in sodden splendor. He opened the shades, people. I didn't kill him. I considered spiking his toothpaste with Anne's whiskey.

The Shanes departed for their booth and Anne went to join her BSG crew. I had a mission: find a Staples to pick up some needed supplies for the weekend's commerce, as well as replacing the flyers I had brilliantly left in my car back in St. Louis. Enter Panya and Michael, who were kind enough to give up a morning lying on lounge chairs by their hotel pool in order to drive me to Staples. They are good people. I would have told me to get a fugging cab, lady.

Note to self: Write to the manager of the Staples on Ponce de Leon and commend the two men working the copy shop at 11:30 a.m. Friday. They were friendly, helpful and they really went the extra mile to help me out. They even made a separate standup for my flyer for free, which went to the Borders kiosk to advertise the reading and signing. Great guys and they deserve a commendation.

On our travels, I caught a glimpse of the Holy Land: a Dunkin Donuts! Real live Dunkin Donuts! I turned into a gibbering idiot on the spot and Panya/Michael were kind enough to indulge me. I bought a dozen for the room and treats for Panya and Michael, and on the way back to the hotel I busted my diet into pieces with a powdered-sugar chocolate creme donut. When I was a kid, the creme filled the entire donut with a flower of cream on the outside, but I'm not complaining. YUM.

The box went to the room, which was deserted. I was tempted to leave a note on the box identifying them as POLICE FOOD. Shane I is a retired police officer. It would possibly have been appropriate retaliation for being so goddamn cheerful in the morning.

The late afternoon brought the photo shoot with Russ Matthews. If you haven't seen his work, you really should. Russ was very accommodating for my stupidity in losing his cell number, which made our shoot almost not happen. He tried a number of poses and I'm confident many of them will turn out to be very nice shots. For the occasion, I wore my black lace cocktail dress with a demure neckline and a fringed green scarf that I eventually tied loosely around my hips.

Dinner was to be a quick affair in the guest consuite, now that I'd caught up with Frank Fradella and his friends. "Quick" turned out to be quite relative, as the Annual Hyatt Elevator Clusterfuck struck early. After an obscene amount of hassle, we made it to the 17th floor only to find that the consuite closes from 6-8 p.m. It was just short of 7 p.m. I considered jumping. To his credit, Frank did not throw me over the side.

We ended up at Gibney's Pub again, where I learned a valuable lesson: sit on the good side. The side with the pool table gets you minimal service and you have to get your own fucking food. The bar side gets you a waitperson and a much more pleasant atmosphere.

My surreal moment of the night: walking through Gibney's and bumping - almost literally - into Dominic Keating, who immediately tried to order a sandwich from me. I wasn't sure what about my cocktail dress screamed "waitress" but I found it cute that he was in Atlanta and trying to find Britishy food.

It was at Gibney's that I realized my con badge was missing. Note to the DC staff: go back to laminating. The "tough" paper used this year did not stand up to even a full day of con-going. We were unable to find my badge. I don't know if someone found it and thought, "Hey, guest badge!" Well, enjoy the VIP consuite, jerkoff.

We went to the Hyatt, which was where I thought Ops could be found. It turned out to be Tech Ops, who sent us to Guest Relations in the Marriott. They were very polite and helpful, and one of them had actually heard of me, which was a plus. They sent us back to VIP badges in the Marriott with an escort, who finagled me a new badge. The one who recognized me asked me and Frank, "So are you two... an item?" The stammering and uncomfortable demurrals filled the funniest ten seconds of my year, as Frank hastened to tell her he's my publisher, not my boyfriend.

After all this, Frank and his crew had stuck with me. Finally we were ready to join Frank's friend Sean Taylor at the annual party for comic artists and writers. It was a minor odyssey of lost-ness, and I'd like to state that it's not entirely my fault, I never claimed to know the way from the Marriott to the Sheraton and suddenly everyone was following me and nobody knew better than me how to get there so it's not MY fault we were three blocks off-course.

The shindig was nice. I ended up expounding quasi-soberly about the state of publishing and the insanity of return policies in a royalty-based industry and newspapers aren't as doomed as everyone thinks and how we should probably all be writing m/m BDSM smut if we want to survive. This might have to do with the free drink coupons. Mmm, bourbon.

At this point my dear, sweet friend Dana Franks finally caught up with me. We wandered to the Marriott for drinks - because I needed more of those? - and catching up and people-watching. We also meandered up to Anne's BSG party before returning to the room.

I'd like to say we had a few (more) drinks, chatted and went to sleep. However, we apparently brought the Energizer Bunny and his twin as roommates. The Shanes came back with a handful of friends and the silliness got severe. Someone had given Shane I far too much alcohol - like more than a thimbleful - and let's just say a Sharpie was involved. Sleep came at five aye em in the morning and I still hadn't strangled them.

Dragoncon, Day I

It's time for the Ginormous Con Wrap-Up of Doooooom, and even then it won't be as long as the registration line for DragonCon.


Traveling to and from Dragoncon this year was easier than it ever has been. Perhaps this is because I flew with Jason Gish this year. I fly alone 99 percent of the time, so it was a pleasant change of pace to fly with someone and keep me company through the crazy. We flew and MARTAed without incident, checked into the room without problems... how strange!

Thursday was very laid-back. Jason kept me company as I stood in a 45-minute line for VIP badges. I decline to complain about it, because the non-guest registration line was wrapped around the hotel every day. I look at that line every year and know that I just couldn't do it. Standing that long, in that muggy Georgia heat, I'm always amazed no one faints or God-forbid dies. I understand the wait was half as long as last year, for which I am grateful. Those poor people.

This year the Dragon Ladies had two pet boys to replace our missing fourth Lady. The Shanes are two big, tough ex-military fellows. Shane Moore is the author of the Abyss Walker series, and his flunky's name also was Shane (Nettleton). We had some fun trying to decide which was Shane I and which was Shane II. I said the one I met first should be Shane I, but Shane 2 didn't like that, even when I offered to call him Deuce. When he appears in fiction, he will definitely be called Deuce. I tried calling them the Dragon Ladies' Auxiliary, but for some reason they didn't like that.

Anne Freitas (the real one) and I had our customary first-night dinner at Gibney's Pub. As always, tasty and affordable. We hadn't seen each other in two years, as Anne skipped DC last year, so we had some catching up to do. The only flaw was the absence of Dana Franks and Kelly Parker Cobb, completing the original Dragon Ladies.

Then poor Anne went to stand in the Line of Doom and I went to the VIP suite to chat with folks and have some wine. I did some aimless wandering, remembering why the Marriott is one of my favorite hotels ever. The evening ended with the four of us back in the room, drinking and getting silly. Not that it takes Shane I drunk - we just waved the whiskey under his nose and he about fell over. Anne brought whiskey (with a strange peat flavor) in her hand-etched BSG bottles, so we were drinking in style. Shane II and I about killed the bourbon bottle, which boded ill for the rest of the convention.

In retrospect, I think this evening was the best of the show. Friendly, quiet, getting to know each other. Even so, three or four bourbons didn't do to me what one shot of Anne's whiskey did, and I was quickly schnockered. We all passed out around 3:30 a.m. One of the Shanes snored. I was determined to find out which.