Scarlet Letters

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Finally finished sketching out the end of Swamp Thing. Granted, it's rough draft, and it's probably the roughest rough draft I've ever done. In the end it was 45,880 words, which is not long enough. There's still a scene unwritten - hell, probably a lot of scenes unwritten.

Usually I'd like to let a draft lie fallow for six weeks before starting the rewrite. I can't do that this time - my deadline is Dec. 1. The good news is that the rewrite is always much more fun than the first draft. The framework is there - now I get to play. Description, characterization, additional detail, the little tidbits that turn a story into a world.

My characters always change over the course of the first draft, but this book took that concept and ran with it. Kancethedrus in particular bears only the thinnest resemblance to the man I thought he was when I began. Alesia softened a bit too much, I think - and her resurrection needs to have a stronger effect on her. Tam's personality blended a bit too much with Kancethedrus - I need to work with him more. And the secondary characters are a bit too much out of pseudo-Tolkein Central Casting - they need some flesh on those bones.

But I can do all that. It's going to be a busy six weeks, but I can do it. And I'm having fun doing it.

I'll break out the wineglass tonight, but the ritual feels like a cheat. It always does - I never feel "done". I wonder if I'll ever finish a first draft and feel done. I wonder if I'll ever finish it and not think, "Well, that sucks."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Abaddon on Amazon

ABADDON is finally available on Amazon! Woo hoo!

Yes, you can still order it from me. Yes, Amazon's offering it two bucks cheaper, but you don't get it signed. No, I don't care which way you get it as long as you get it.

Here's what I do care about: Reviews! Ratings! Do me a favor and click through, tell them what you think. Be honest if you must. :) Right now there are no tags or notices of any kind, and Amazon is the only place where reviews actually sell (or don't sell) a book.

Thank you!

Last-minute addition to the tour!

Looks like we're going to Nashville!

I just found out about this yesterday. The Nashville Comic and Horror Festival is this weekend at the state fairgrounds. A flurry of phone calls to my publisher, the convention organizer and lining up crash space - it's good to have friends - and it seems like it's time to strap on the guitar!

The festival is 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville. Admission is $10 a day, with coupons available at local comic shops. There's gaming, tournaments and media guests from the very best in hack-n-slash. :)

PLEASE come! I'll have copies of ABADDON and other books (thank you Jasmine-Jade!) and since they have no time to advertise me, I'll be very very bored without my dear fans dropping by! Possibly we could arrange a dinner Saturday night if there's enough interest.

For more information, check out their web site at See you in Music City!

Monday, October 06, 2008

I swear it was research

My son's guitar lesson takes place at the famous Mojo's Music, around the corner from the library. While he was learning his riffs, I dropped by the library to pay off my constantly recurring debt and pick up the research materials I had requested through interlibrary loan.

So I sat in one of the comfy chairs and began to read. Presently a young mother came by with a baby in a stroller. She was trying to look at some titles and the baby was fussy. So I made faces. I smiled, stuck out my tongue, waved, played peek-a-boo.

The baby was laughing and mimicking me. But the mother was a little discomfited. Shortly I had to leave, but as I was walking out I couldn't help wondering why she had looked at me that way. After all, it was just faces.

Then I realized.

I had been reading a book titled, in big letters, "A History of Cannibalism."

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Quick Archon wrap-up

For once, it's not going to be my exhaustive minute-by-minute recap. I'm too dang tired.


The party was lovely. Attendance was a lot lighter than I wanted, but I think there were several factors working against me. The Blum House was the perfect setting for a vampire party, and my crew was the absolute best. Thanks in abundance to Jason Gish and Alesia Clardy of Focused Attention Entertainment for the music, as well as volunteer caterers and assistants Tammie Bush, Fiona Morales, Chris Koppenhofer, Kiwi Carlisle, Chris Harrison, Shawn Montgomery, Selena Rochlis, Anna Genoese, Jozelle Dyer, Becky Zoole and especially my assistant, Katie Yates (who was crowned with a tiara as queen of the evening for the work she'd done in party prep)./

I could not have asked for a more perfect evening, and if the numbers were low, it was still worth it. I don't know if I'll do it again, unless I had a better plan for bringing people in. But if I did, I would do it exactly the same way in the same place with the same people.


The convention kicked off fast, and we had a prime location. The Literary Underworld got the cherry spot right outside the door to the dealer's room, and it was the perfect place to put up the six-foot banner of my Burning Man. We had a great booth, with books by me, Cindy Appel, John Everson and Steven Shrewsbury. We also sold glowy stuff, Pocky and necklaces by Sara Harvey.

We had good company, too. Shane Moore's booth was next door, manned by Shane himself and Deuce. Tyree Campbell of Sam's Dot Publishing was across the way, along with Jon Klement. So we got to make faces at Jon and Tyree and throw spitballs at the Shanes. In all seriousness, it's great to be in the company of such fine gentlemen. They were always willing to watch the booth when Katie and I were cross-scheduled, and they made for good company when crowds were low. When I get bored, I tend to randomly break out in song. Half the time I don't even realize I'm doing it. Fortunately none of them threw books at me or told me to shut up. I love Archon.

Friday panels included "what makes a compelling novel?" with Haley Garwood, Vic Milan and Angie Fox, then "writing with vampires and dragons" with E.E. Knight and Cindy Appel. We had some great discussions and the crowds were strong. While overall I felt attendance looked light, it was the most book-heavy Archon - most book-heavy convention, really - that I've ever seen. Walking through the dealer's room was dangerous for me - just about every other booth was book-related. And the fans were all strong readers.

We had a bit of a break, enough to get into the room and get changed for the evening. Katie volunteered to stay in the room with the boys, who were ecstatic at being at con again. Our sons are growing up conbabies, and learning their geekdom from the best.

But I needed to be free, because I was a prize in the Fanboy Smackdown game show. Yes, I was a prize. The Backseat Producers podcast boys put together a very cool geeky game show, and I got to judge two contests in addition to being the Bachelorette for a geek Dating Game. The BSP boys and I had put together the questions in advance, including gems like "What's the best pickup line to use at Archon?"

We hit a little snag, however. When we asked the crowd for volunteers, only women put up their hands. Three women were the contestants in a Sapphic Dating Game. This is hilarious, since I'm about the most straight woman I know. I don't know if it was that the BSP failed to explain that I was the prize, the women thought I was hawt stuff, or the men were wusses. I'll just leave that to your thoughts.

But hey, I'm flexible. The contestants had great answers for the questions, and in the end I chose Bachelorette No. 1. Give up your salacious thoughts, folks - my obligations as a prize extended only as far as a photograph with the lady in question, which I'm sure will be on the internet any moment now.

I circulated the events for a while, enjoying fine conversation with various fiends in the VIP consuite and assorted parties. The Arkham Asylum dance was very well done, with congratulations to Sean Parrack and his crew. As per usual, return to the hotel came about 2 a.m. No wonder I'm always tired after these things.


Bright and early, we were up and working the booth with the boys happily deposited in children's programming. Bravo to Archon for the best kid's programming of any con I do. No offense to the others, and I understand no one wants the responsibility of running a babysitting service. But when I am required to stay with my nine-year-old for him to participate, he can't. I have a job to do. At con after con he ends up bored to tears, loitering around my booth or wandering the dealer's room suspended in the kid hell of "look don't touch."

At Archon, it's not a babysitting service. But the boys are free to stay, with us leaving cell numbers and locations. They made "armor" out of T-shirts and duct tape, drew dragons and dinosaurs. They had a blast, and let us know exactly how much fun they had.

The morning was mostly booth time, then my reading in the early afternoon. It wasn't on the schedule and I was cross-scheduled with Selina Rosen, but I still had a respectable turnout for THE COLD ONES. I love reading that piece more than any other I've written, I think. It just works verbally, and I like reading the dialogue. I got the laughs in the right places, but I didn't put anyone off their food this time.

I went straight from the reading to my signing, which was originally teamed with Laurell K. Hamilton. The schedule had changed, however, and so the crowd was pretty light. Still, I sold a couple of books and had a nice conversation with some readers.

The boys were delivered to their Saturday night sleepovers, and we hustled back to the con in time to not go to the masquerade. I love Archon's masquerade - it's always the best - but I did it to myself again. Every year I get the form, and it asks if I want off for the masquerade, and every year I think, "They never have enough people to cover the masquerade, I should leave it blank and let them decide." And then I get scheduled for something because everybody wants to see the masquerade. Silly me.

But it was a good panel, with several familiar faces. It was supposed to be about print on demand, and expanded into self-pub vs. traditional publishing vs. micropress, the state of the publishing industry and other depressing subjects. I think we managed to scare a few people out of the profession, go us.

Then we were crunched for time, zooming across to the Hotel Collinsville (formerly known as the Holiday Inn) to set up for the party. We hadn't intended to do a room party, seeing as we were in the Super 8 across the way and we'd just had a party. But Alesia had gotten a party room, bless her soul, and we had tons of booze left over.

The party was a blast. I got to chat with a lot of old friends and meet some new ones. I greeted the newly married Sara Harvey and Matt Schwartz, and I managed not to get killed by calling her Mrs. Matt Schwartz and then ducking very fast. (She claims he is Mr. Sara Harvey.) At a certain point we had to shut the door due to con regulations, but I think a good time was had by all.

Certainly by me, as I enjoyed both my party and others' parties for a good long time before finally going back to the room. I think it's possible I lined up two more contracts and a new convention, but that could've been the bourbon.


The morning came awfully quickly. Earlier for us than for others, as the authors' alley was populated mostly by the walking dead. Katie and I took turns until I had to duck out for a panel - Sara Harvey and I have perfected our talk on the Pink Ghetto, fighting the stereotypes and prejudice in and out of publishing and fandom for those who have written erotica or romance. We had a great time, but then it always is with Sara on the panel.

Then I dashed across for Pizza with the Pros, where we broke crust with the hardworking folks who gave up their own fun all weekend to facilitate the con. I try to show up each year on the off chance any of them actually came to see me. I brought Selina Rosen with me, so the diatribe about the effect of gravity on a middle-aged woman's breasts is at least partially my fault. I did crack up Vic Milan, so I call that a win.

Then I was a last-minute add-on to the sex panel, which was bizarrely at 1:30 p.m. instead of late Friday night this year. Me, Selina and Cindy Appel. Possibly the three most talkative women at the con, all on the same panel, talking about sex in fiction. The poor fans looked like they'd been smacked over the head with a two-by-four. The line for Laurell's signing went past the door, but strangely enough, none of them popped in after their books were signed.

By now the place was done. The dealer's room was closed and the other folks in Authors' Alley were already gone. Katie had the booth half-packed by the time I got there.

In all, a fine time and a great return to Archon. The folks running the show did a spectacular job, friendly and helpful. I didn't get the chance to thank them in person, so I'll be digging up their emails later. They made for a great con, and it didn't hurt that sales were strong.

But of course, the best part is meeting new readers. A whole lot of my books flew off the shelves this weekend into the hands of people who don't know me, and that's always a good thing. Without my readers, I'm just talking to myself. I am so grateful for their readership and the gift of their time to fall into my worlds for a bit.