Scarlet Letters

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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

smoooke geeeets iiiiin myyyy eeeeeeeyes

I can blame the fire if I want to.

Today was the Illinois-Missouri Author Fair, as organized by the marvelous Cheryl Eichar Jett. She coordinated with the Metro South Arts Council to get us a mall space on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to hawk our books.

First of all, I love the concept behind this mall. Crestwood Court in St. Louis is one of those mid-city malls unfortunately not located directly on an interstate, and Americans are too lazy to drive anywhere more than fifty feet from a highway, so it died. Most of its anchor stores are gone, along with nearly all the little stores that keep a mall alive (Aeropostale? Foot Locker? Things Remembered? People still go to these stores?).

The food court is on a lower level reminiscent of the bowels of Mordor, with only a solitary Subway surviving. We had a running gag about Subway; resist the Subway! Find other sustenance! But they took us for a few sandwiches anyway.

Some mad genius began converting the mall into indie art space. (Parade article about it.) Handmade jewelry, a dance studio, paint-your-own ceramics, a theater company, a miniatures craftsman... all independent artsy types. They call it ArtSpace, and I think it's brilliant. What better use for a dead mall than to bring it back to life with creative works? Heaven knows indie artists (and authors) could use any help to find venues for our work.

Unfortunately, it appears to be the best-kept secret in St. Louis. I never heard of it before today, and the foot traffic showed I'm not alone. All told we got perhaps a hundred people actually walking into our little storefront. Foot traffic in the mall itself varied throughout the day, but on the Saturday after Thanksgiving we should've been elbowing people out of the way.

Is that normal for Crestwood? Or was it the fire? (You knew I was gonna get back to that, right?)

The mall caught fire.

No, I'm not kidding.

We first noticed when the smell of smoke reached us. There were no sirens that we heard. The scent was faint but grew stronger. Then one of the passing customers told us, "The mall's on fire, they told us to evacuate."

Well, nobody told US. I stuck my head out in the parking lot and didn't see anything. I later found out it was on the far end of the mall, the opposite end from us - and it's a looooong mall.

I found the number for mall security on a sticker on the wall in the back of our empty storefront. They told me the fire was under control, but the smoke was pervasive and we might want to leave.

ME: Um.
OHARI: I'm going to duck in here while you go tell the authors they're about to die a miserable fiery death.

Here's an example of how crazy authors are: none of us left. But... but... leave our BOOKS?? We coughed, and the smell was strong, and when you went more than a short distance away from our little storefront it was impossible, and my lungs started burning and I felt a little dizzy, but we stayed.

There's a reason writers have a short life span. *koff* I am really regretting it now, because my lungs hurt more now than they did when I was there. I'm going to sing like crap tomorrow, with apologies to the Choir Zookeeper.

Many thanks to my dear Ohari, who showed up to buy me lunch and stuck with me through the fire, then spent half the afternoon standing in the hallway with our Authors Fair sign attempting to lure in customers.

Ain't he a sweetie?

Also thanks to Mark K., who showed up toward the end, bought books and helped me load out my booth to the car. Thanks to the other authors who hung in there with us - we had a great time with each other, cracking jokes and goofing around when there were no customers (which was most of the time). And especially thanks to Cheryl for setting it up. Regardless of how sales went, she herded these cats well and the idea was solid.

We can blame the fire if we wanna.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday!

And we'd really like to be in the black. :)

Go shop at The Literary Underworld and use the code "welcome1" to get a discount on your first order. I'd just like to point out that THE COLD ONES makes a heckuva gift at six bucks.

Also, we've fixed the glitch with shipping costs. If you have any problems, please let me know ASAP.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Guest of Dishonorable Intentions

We have returned from Contraception Kansas City, and just save all the cracks because I've heard them all. It was a lovely time, and I enjoyed getting to meet new people. Sales were pretty good for a small show, though I seriously overplanned the coffee - I've never seen a crew drink so little coffee as this one! On the other hand, the leftovers will be very tasty for the next, um, three months.

We sold out of our room, an arrangement I find I like more and more as time goes on. It's like running a low-key room party for 48 hours straight. I did bad tarot readings to amuse passers-by and sang to myself when I was alone, which wasn't often. I talked shop with some pros, watched Selina Rosen do an Elvis act (must be seen to be believed), and enjoyed the hell out of the Vegas theme.

Apparently one of the traditions for this show is to decorate your door, and so I threw together a sort of Vegas-crime scene thing, with a glittery door curtain, crime-scene tape, creepy fabric and my traditional string of skulls. To my utter shock, we won second place. Squee!

My pick for best hall costume was the man in armor with blue skin: a Norse of a different color. It's always nice to meet new folks, and there were a lot of readers there. One reader bought THE COLD ONES on Friday and read it right away (it's short, yanno) and on Saturday came back to tell me what she thought. She was the first reader to get the double meaning and subtext behind the title; or, at least, the first to communicate it to me.

At any rate, I have clearance now to announce something that's been in the works for a while. I kept it quiet, because they say you shouldn't speak publicly about things that aren't signed on paper. But since it was on the back of the program booklet, it's pretty damn public now.

I will be the guest of honor at Contraception 22, taking place Nov. 12-14 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Independence, Mo. (suburb of Kansas City).

I've never been a guest of honor before, and I am really flattered to be asked. They've even chosen a theme with my work in mind: Creatures of the Night. I don't know if they were specifically referencing the house band at Nocturnal Urges or just general spooky shit, but if I don't see some NU cosplaying I am going to kick some ass. :)

Seriously, denizens: if you have any possible means of doing so, please consider attending Contraception next year. Nothing would make me happier than to see the halls full of my dear readers. Needless to say the Literary Underworld will have a strong presence at the show. And since they have a vaudeville show on Saturday night, I am wide open for suggestions on an act relating to any of my creepy stuff. Zombies? Vampires? Ghosts? Who's got an idea?

Thanks to the crew at Contra for a great time this year, and I'm looking forward to wreaking more havoc next year. It's going to be a screaming good time!

EDIT: And thanks to Rick Silva for forwarding THIS to me. Hee!

Friday, November 13, 2009

signings and stuff

Just got home from a really nice signing at Afterwords Books in Edwardsville. It was such a pleasant time, I think it's rehabilitated me on bookstore signings.

Big-box booksignings are a real crapshoot. Much of the time, I'd find out they hadn't told anyone I was coming, there was no sign or display to drum up interest, and they sat me at a card table by the entrance so people would most easily avoid me.

Seriously, an author at a table in a bookstore is no better than the perfume salesgirl in Macy's at Christmas. They avert their eyes so quickly you'd think they'd get whiplash, unless they need directions to the bathrooms. You can try to engage them in conversation, you can bribe them (I used a bowl of chocolates) but it's still a crapshoot. A lot of the time you just end up sitting there like an idiot for two hours, trying to make eye contact and feeling like an asshole.

There are exceptions, of course. The last signing on the NOCTURNE tour was at a Borders right before Halloween. They had a nice display and sat me near the information desk, well away from the doors, so people happened upon me as they were shopping, not when they were just entering the store and focused on whatever they'd come to get. Every twenty minutes or so, they'd re-announce that I was there and signing, using the spooooky aspect of the book to draw people to me.

We sold every copy they'd bought and the display copy in the front window.

Mostly, though, bookstores offer a little extra terror: you don't want them to get stuck with loads of books they can't sell, because you know how hard it is for bookstores to stay alive and if you sell poorly for them they'll never have you back. It's extra pressure. Plus there's that whole shyness thing, and never knowing if people will be there. It was so stressful when the last book came out that I was almost relieved to shift focus more to other venues.

But tonight was great. They set it up like a reading, with me at a table next to a rack of my stuff and plenty of people - some familiar faces and some new folks. I blathered for a couple of minutes, background on my major books.

Then I read "Sisyphus," because that's always a happy crowd-pleaser. Snerk.

I answered questions for a bit after that, then started to read from THE COLD ONES. That made me nervous, because convention audiences are used to foul language and graphic violence. Out in the Real World, people tend to frown on such things. Fortunately, no one ran screaming from the store with their hands clapped over their ears.

I stopped THE COLD ONES right as they got to the Island. Heh heh heh. I'd rather stop that one a little later, but I was leery of going too long, and I sensed the crowd growing restless - they'd listened to me for 75 minutes by this point.

Good sales, a great crowd, a nice night. This follows a very pleasant evening spent with the Ocular Voices book club at Barnes & Noble last night, where they kept up questions for two hours at least, and good sales there too. If the last arts fair I did went like these two outings, I'd have been a lot happier.

I told Big Chris if I keep having such good luck, I'll get delusions of adequacy. Then I remembered I'm going to Kansas City next weekend, and I still haven't solved my child-care problem, and I think I'm going to be short of SETTING SUNS.

Well, that takes care of the adequacy. :)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Sanctuary Day Zillion and Three

Yesterday's word count:

Overall this month:

And the book to date:

And not even half done. I keep moving the total wordcount higher. That is bad. I was just mocking a fellow author last night because the box of his books in our inventory is damn heavy. "Omit needless words!" I scolded him.

The language edit next round will be brutal.

Last night I got to play with maybe my favorite scene in anything I've ever written. It's a sparring scene, where Torrance, Reyes and Crawford fight each other in various combinations. I love it for so many reasons.

I love the way Torrance and Reyes snipe at each other. Jealousy in real life sucks like a Hoover. Jealousy in fiction is marvelous fun. Best of all, Crawford is spared the discomfort, because she is pathologically oblivious to human emotion.

I love the way the fights reveal their personalities. Each of them fights in a slightly different way, and it shows who they are. They're all good, but each has a flaw that will show up in their lives later.

And of course, I love Torrance and Crawford. I love the way they dance. I love their dynamic together, in the ring or anywhere. I go back and forth which of them should win the fight, and I can't decide. They're just that perfectly matched.

I love love love love that scene. And knowing what's coming in the next two chapters, it makes it that much more fun.

Wasn't I setting this aside? Yes. But not until I finish Part Two. I want to hear the First Readers scream. Does that make me a bad person?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Okay, I am a crazy busy woman and I keep forgetting to approve comments. So for the time being, we're going back to unmoderated comments. Hopefully everyone will behave themselves and I won't have to go back to playing nursemaid, right? Right?

I know y'all are good. It's always just a few apples that ruin it for everyone. The letter verification is still on, which should keep out the @#$! spammers.

And thank you all for being here.

Sanctuary Day Zillion and Two

Today's work:

4,118 / 2,000

This month:

I'm slogging along until I reach the end of Part Two, then we switch to the new project. I don't think it will go along at nearly this pace. Nothing ever does. God, I love this book. I'm under no illusions that it's the great American novel, or even that it's something new or different. I just love it anyway.

It's also standing at 72,495 words and we're not even halfway done. When I finish and edit it, I will have to take the drastic step of *gasp* CUTTING words. Usually I'm fleshing them out. But yipes, this thing's going to be the magna carta before I get it done. It's my STAND, my opus, the book that wants to kill me and very well may...

And I love it anyway.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sanctuary Day Zillion

You know, I keep forgetting about this blog. When you update three blogs, Twitter and two social networks, sometimes things fall through the cracks.

However, I am unofficially doing Nanowrimo. No, I do not like the idea of uploading my stuff to someone else's server to prove my wordcount. So I don't. I also don't like some of the "tips" they offer for increasing wordcount, like un-hyphenating words that should be hyphenated, or pumping up the adverbs and wordy sentences just to inflate wordcount. Yes, we make words, but we should not encourage bad habits.

But the "just keep swimming" part of Nanowrimo appeals to me, because self-discipline is my worst flaw as a writer. Writing some every day, regardless of whether you feel inspired - that's a good habit, and one far too many writers ignore (myself most definitely included).

I have a new project in mind, but it's a few days before I can get it started. In the meantime, I'm wrapping Part Two of SANCTUARY before I set it aside (again).

Today I joined a group of Nanoers for an all-day write-in. It was one of the bigger tests of my self-discipline, because it was a glorious fall day with clear skies and gentle breezes and I would rather have done almost anything than write. Drive up the river road, go to Six Flags, walk the botanical gardens. Anything to be out in this lovely weather.

But I did it anyway, and I got some work done.

Today's work:

4,455 / 50,000

That brings SANCTUARY to 61,046 words, which is a bit too many for this point of the story. Of course, I haven't figured out how this new version will end. It's possible it'll get trimmed up some.

At any rate, I figure two more chapters, maybe three, before Part Two is done. Then on to the new project. We'll get back to the alien apocalypse in the new year.