Scarlet Letters

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

Sunday, March 21, 2010

iPad saving us all? Maybe, but not yet.

Jon Gibbs has an interesting poll/discussion comparing self-publishing to a demo tape. As in, it's a perfectly legitimate way to put yourself out there.

I think I side with the folks who say the real "demo tape" of a novel is the ms that goes to the agent or editor, not something released to the general public.

I've had my ear tugged about six times by now from people swearing that I need to self-pub on the iPad right now because that's the wave of the future. And as I've tried to explain, it very well may be. I couldn't say otherwise when none of us in traditional or new media can say what the state of our industries will be tomorrow.

But as long as the publishing world considers self-publishing just this side of selling yourself on a street corner, I won't be doing it. Oh, I'll sell PDFs of short stories I'm not subbing to raise money for Relay. But I'm not self-pubbing a novel just to give myself something to sell, because it's hard enough as it is to be taken seriously.

I must have answered the question sixty times at the last convention - no, I'm not self-published. This question keeps popping up this year - haven't I put this to bed yet? Yes, we small-pressers still have to sell our own stuff, and we have to set up our own book tours and approach reviewers and publicity outlets ourselves, because that's the way of the world.

Frankly, I just can't bring myself to hit up any more bookstores for a while, because it just takes so much to get past the self-publishing defense wall... they'll interrupt me before I even get started with, "Does it have an ISBN?" Code for: Did you do this yourself, or did someone pay you to do it? I'm this close to hiring somebody just to make the phone calls for me, because if it isn't the author herself calling, they might take it more frigging seriously.

Look, Apple is already putting out the call for authors who want to self-publish for the iPad: ebookquery@apple.com. Yeah, I've got it. I got it from three different people. And I'm flattered that y'all want me on iPad. I even forwarded it to my publisher, in case they want to start negotiating with Apple for us to be available there. If any of you have stuff that is out of print, be my guest.

As I argued incessantly last weekend on panels, I want my stuff available in every possible format. I never want to have a reader ask me if my book is available in their chosen format, and have to respond, "No." I don't want to tell a Sony user that it's only available in Kindle, or a Nook user that you can only get it on the iPad. Which one gets to be Betamax? I don't know, and I can't afford to play that shell game. As far as I'm concerned, let my stuff be available in all formats, so you can get it the way you want it. Democracy in action.

But set it aside, because the one thing nobody seems to get is that it doesn't matter if I sold a bazillion copies of YELLOW ROSES on the iPad. I could outsell J.K. Rowling on the damn thing and there would still be an asterisk next to my name, if there's no publisher backing me on the project. Hell, I was labeled an "aspiring author" after my paperbacks were on the shelves at Borders just because my first two books were ebooks before they were in print. And I won't tell you how much shit I continue to get about having written paranormal romance. You know what it's like trying to get on the serious postapocalypse panels when they think all you write is Twilighters sucking each others' necks?

Not that I'm bitter.

I'm not adding the terminal stigma of self-publishing to my resume, thanks. Maybe they're right, and iPad will sweep in like iTunes and change everything. Maybe five years from now nobody will care whether you put your book out there yourself or a publisher paid you to do it. But given the glacial rate of change in publishing, I'd bet more on twenty years.

And then I'd still want an edit.

Friday, March 19, 2010

book tours

The L.A. Times has discovered that the multi-city luxury-hotel book tour is pretty much gone.

Okay, if you're King, Patterson, Rowling or Grisham, they'll pick up your hotel tab. But then, if you're one of those guys, you're a) not reading this blog, and b) you actually don't need the tour to sell four bazillion copies.

For the rest of us groundlings, "tour" is a fairly malleable term. Brian Keene got a corporate sponsor to send him and his bodyguard/assistant across the country in a van. The folks cited in the linked article couch-surfed their way across the country on four new tires and a pile of McDonald's and Starbucks gift cards.

Those of us with day jobs *waves hand* have a tougher deal: how do you do a book tour when you only have X number of days off work?

The solution I choose is to piggyback on conventions. Cons are an efficient way to meet science fiction and horror readers, because they're already there and in the mood to hear about the kind of stuff I write. This is much more efficient than sitting at the front door of a bookstore waiting for people who don't treat you like the perfume squirter - they practically get whiplash looking away from the pathetic author, careful, don't make eye contact!

Okay, it's not always that bad. The last signing I did for NOCTURNE was at a Borders in Fairview Heights, Ill. I felt lousy and I was so very tired of signings, but to my shock, they had promoted the heck out of it and kept re-announcing me for the entire two hours. We sold every book they had ordered and the copy in the front-window display. It was marvelous.

Independents often will promote the heck out of you weeks in advance, and let you do a reading as well. This is sometimes problematic for me - I love reading my work, and would happily do it anywhere. But if you've read anything I've written, you know that there's blood, horror, death and foul language. Particularly the language.

I read in a Memphis bookstore once, and when I got to the soldiers' swearing, I kept waiting for some kid to pop his head out of the very-nearby children's section and ask his mommy what that word meant, and then we were all going to end up in handcuffs.

I had to do a hallway reading last weekend, and when I told my dear editor Tyree Campbell that I'd be reading THE COLD ONES in public, he had this deer-in-the-headlights look calculating my bail. What can I say? Ex-Marine mercenaries don't tend to say "oh fooey" when the zombies snarl at them, blood dripping from their mouths.

I'm a little far from topic.

Anyway, I tend to focus on conventions over traditional book tours. If I do a bookstore, it's generally because I'm already in town for a convention. It's simple numbers, which the L.A. Times recognizes - it's hard enough to get people to buy books. How can I sell enough books in two hours at a folding table in Borders to justify driving to Indianapolis and back?

I don't like to couchsurf, though I will if I have to - it feels like imposing on my dear friends. But I have found very efficient ways to stay alive on the road. I survived Dragoncon on canned ravioli and trail mix, the former eaten cold because there was no microwave. There are extended-stay hotels for as little as $32 a night on the weekends, and sometimes they're pretty skeezy, but you woman up and do it. You make sure you've got a car with good mileage and you take care of it.

Last year I did five states in six days with four hotels, and back at work by Tuesday. I only get a handful of days off a year, folks - I have to save them against the Boy suddenly coming down with pinkeye or something that makes him stay home for days. These weekend wraparounds mean that I rarely get more than two days' drive from St. Louis - which, y'know, is not such a bad location to reach much of the country. California, I love ya, and I'm there as soon as airfare is free.

The point is, there are ways to do it. We all find a way to get out there. There are lots of places to introduce people to your work, and it's not always about selling it to them right then and there. Sometimes it's about connecting with the people who buy books. I can't tell you how many books I own just because the author was a human being.

The thing that's really funny? The L.A. Times thinks this is just because the economy sucks. Near as I can tell, the marketing dollars have always been reserved for the top echelon of authors, and rarely for the midlisters scrabbling for the scraps. One of the many ironies of the business - the most money spent on the books that need it the least.

Still, one of the funniest parts of CASTLE? Watching the world fall all over him, the vast book-release parties and women throwing themselves at him... because he's a WRITER. I guess I'm still waiting for that kind of fame.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

MSC followup

to Joseph: I never did find the actual Center for Southern Folklore. But in my wanderings I found several historical markers and boards from them, and they were all about Memphis' rich music history. This is, of course, really great stuff and the primary reason normal people come to Memphis. I, however, was hoping for traditional folklore, for myths and legends, ghosts and river spectres… you know, the stuff I use for inspiration. :)

to CelestineAngel: No room parties because there was a stated $150 fee, which means no room parties. Now, I hear there were room parties, but you had to know which door to knock on. I guess I'm not one of the cool kids, because I never heard. :) I don't mean to rip the hotel too much - the room was nice, and while they were less than accommodating for policies, it's a funky-cool Escher layout. That said, as an author I need room parties for promotional purposes… and I'd much rather relax in a room party with a drink in my hand than stand in a hallway for four hours in order to have a conversation.

to D.A. Adams: I forgot! Alex suggested "Fodder" as the title for the LitUnd authors. I think I prefer Underlords, though. I don't actually consume my authors…

Also, I forgot to thank the MSC organizers. This show has a more book-oriented and author-friendly programming schedule than any I attend, I think. So many good panels on really good subjects, and many of them around the subjects of writing, of speculative fiction… I love MSC and would never skip it. If you like to read, and you have the means to attend, I strongly recommend it. And not just because you'd get to see ME…

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Midsouthcon Merriment, Pt. 4

Sunday

This is turning into the Magna Carta. I didn't really intend that.

Sunday was pretty exhausting. We had to hustle out the door because the hotel absolutely refused to do extended checkout for anyone - have I mentioned I don't mind that we're leaving them next year? So I had six people to shove out the door or I got stuck with another ninety-dollar night.

We packed out without too much trouble. Sara, I dressed down on the last day - I wore my black harem pants again with the red salamh kameez, because the red pants ripped. So did my hip scarf, which is pretty much DOA.

We sold like gangbusters on our last day, moving the books fast. I haven't done the math yet, but I'd say we were about double what we did the year before, and on a par with our best shows of all last year. Portents are good for 2010, folks.

I picked up a new author, too - Nick Valentino, with his debut steampunk novel THOMAS RILEY. It'll be added to the Literary Underworld soon, along with Stephen Zimmer's new book, CROWN OF VENGEANCE. Bravo, boys. D.A. Adams said he resists the term "minions" - coined by Jimmy Gillentine, not me - for the LitUnd authors, as minions is the term for my helpers at the booth. I charged him with coming up with a new name, and Alex blanked. So I tossed it to Twitter, and Danielle Pollack came up with "Underlords." I think I love it. New button!

I had a problem: the dealer's room closed at 2, and I had a 3 p.m. panel. I had exactly one hour to pack up the booth. This is a two-hour project when I'm alone. But I had Jimmy, Angel, Michael and the boy to help me. We sorted and packed the books, buttons decorations, money and assorted crap that goes with the booth and fit it Jenga-style into the car, all in 45 minutes flat. That. Is. A. World. Record.

My minions rule.

Off to the final panel, which was moderated by Dan Gamber of Meadowhawk Press and was supposed to be about the future of publishing. It had me and Stephen Zimmer - oddly, I think the first time we've been on a panel together, even though we've been at the same cons since God was a little girl - and Jacob Hammer of Samhain Publishing. Which was founded by Crissy Brashear, with whom I survived my first Dragoncon back when I was promoting my first book and Crissy was still with Ellora's Cave Publishing. Six degrees of publication.

Dan did his best to keep us in line, which couldn't have been easy with the natural smartass of his panelists and I was pretty damn punch-drunk by this point. There was the usual discussion of Amazon-vs.-Macmillan, will the iPad save us all, the dinosaur-like rate of change among big publishers, the advent of the small press, the importance of being available in multiple formats, blah blah blah read the blog.

A few things I promised to post:

• The podcast markets I was trying to remember are Pseudopod for horror, Escape Pod for science fiction and PodCastle for fantasy. Those are the guys buying fiction for podcasting - at least, the ones I know about. There may be others.

• The other thing I said I'd look up and post was...

Um...

I can't remember. Someone who was in the panel, tell me? I promised...

At the end of the panel, the boy - still in Ninth-Doctor leather jacket - showed up as instructed, already in post-con depression. He hates leaving con. Especially with school waiting. I was less than sanguine about it myself, given that I was looking at a six-hour drive after all this fun.

But the drive went okay, and we brought Perkins muffins back with us. They did not self-destruct once we crossed the Mason-Dixon line, which gives me hope that someday Perkins will discover St. Louis.

And then I'll never fit into the corset again.

Midsouthcon Merriment, Pt. 3

Saturday

Seriously, I was going to be on a panel or seven. For some reason, none of them were on Friday. You know how I always say I'd like to go to panels I'm not on and I never get the chance? I broke my streak at MSC.

Angel took the first shift on Saturday, which enabled me to be a lump. Not much of a lump, though, since I had to get the boy going. I then took over the booth for a while, and marveled at our sales. In 2009, MSC was my worst show for sales per capita. This year it was easily double, and I haven't even done the math yet. I heard the same from other vendors - it's becoming a writers' show, a book show, and sales were strong for just about everyone. It was terrific.

My first panel was supposed to be Allan Gilbreath of Kerlak Publishing, Sara Harvey and myself, talking about mutilation vs. mind-play in horror. Sara, of course, could not attend the show due to illness. So it was just me and Allan yukking it up for a respectable crowd of writers busily taking notes. Allan and I are both natural smartasses, so we danced pretty well and got some good points in about the structure of scares, the horror movies that are the exceptions to every rule, etc.

Meanwhile, back at the booth we had to break into a second box of NOCTURNE. Memphis, I love you so much.

Saturday was my crazy day. Panel at 2, signing at 3, panel at 4, reading at 6 and panel at 7. Good to know I wasn't going to be bored. The signing was the usual deal - sit in the dealer's room with my books and the tarot cards, smile at the passers-by and wait for the fans. All two of them. Okay, three. I'm not Sherrilyn Kenyon and I don't pretend to be, but I keep hoping someday I'll have a signing where there are, like, 20 people lined up to see me. They don't even have to buy, just have me sign their programs or something, and I'll feel all important. That would be a message from Elizabeth's Ego (tm).

The next panel was "Good vs. Evil and the Mercenaries They Hire." I committed the sin I try never to do: I was late. MSC doesn't give us transitional times, and somehow I ended up leaving the signing right at the end of the hour. Fortunately my fellow panelists were very gracious. We talked about how good and evil are really malleable concepts in good fiction, because absolute morality is boring as shit. I may be paraphrasing just a little.

Then I had a bit of a breath, just long enough to grab something from the greenroom. Then it was off to my reading. They had a great idea on paper, but in practice it was pretty much a failure. They were held on a "street corner" under an honest-to-God streetlamp in a major hallway intersection. Readings were 15 minutes long - which isn't long enough, you can't even get through a short story in that time. The short time period meant you had to start right on the button, and you can't wait the traditional five minutes for the stragglers to find you, so people kept missing half the readings they'd meant to hear.

Now, it still could've been cool. But there were numerous problems. One was that material like mine is really not appropriate for a public audience. No, I don't have to read a sex scene, but my work is brutal and violent and filled with curses. And I'm not nearly the most harsh they could have had - can you imagine Steven Shrewsbury performing in that environment? Shrews can blow the doors off the walls.

Another problem: noise. People were just goddamn rude, and I'm sorry to be that harsh, but there were large crowds just standing around talking at the top of their voices inside the reading space and totally oblivious to the poor author with a microphone desperately trying to be heard, to get some cadence and inflection in the reading, all the things that make a reading work. One of them is silence, so nothing interferes and the listeners can fall into the story. None of that was happening.

And then there were the go-go dancers. I don't know who they were, but they claimed that hallway for their dance floor and they were dancing some kind of coordinated choreography all freaking afternoon. They danced through about a half-dozen readings I personally witnessed and I heard about several more.

So imagine you're an author, and you're trying to read the opening segment of your zombie invasion, full of blood and guts and brains and cries of "Oh fuck!" You've got yahoos yammering not five feet away from you, music blaring, some kid behind you yelling to his mom about Oreos and a cadre of go-go dancers cavorting behind your audience of two. Pretty much your vision of hell. Every author I talked to echoed the same feelings.

Every con I've gone to the last three years has complained about author readings. They're a hassle to coordinate, authors love them and they say nobody comes to them. I've never really had a problem getting people to show up at my readings, and people like Selina Rosen pack them to standing-room-only. I think they're invaluable for people who come to cons to find new authors, to hear excerpts from coming events, for authors to try out new material.

MSC tried possibly the most creative solution to the problem I've seen yet, and I'm really quite sorry it was such a dismal failure. But I hope they don't give up on readings, because they're a good part of why people go to the shows, whether it seems that way or not. Please, tell them so, guys.

Next was a short break, just long enough to grab actual food of sorts and sit in on Jimmy's reading, since it was his first ever as a professional author. Then I was off to yet another panel, and to my horror I discovered that I was the moderator. If I may channel Daffy Duck for a minute... who is responsible for this?? I am no moderator. My job is to crack wise, not keep things on track.

If I'd known I was a moderator, I would have been prepared with actual questions and topics for discussion. I swear. I'd never been a moderator before, I barely knew how to do it. I tried to keep the panel rolling - it was about finding markets for your work, one of those times I wish I could be in the audience because I'm lousy at finding markets. Hello, "The Sheriff of Nottingham"? Still, the audience was lively and intelligent, my panelists were great, and nobody threw rotten fruit. All in all, a success.

Next I bribed Angel to lace me into the Victorian Lady corset, and Jimmy watched, because he's a perv. Angel got me nicely laced up with the beautiful floor-length skirt Karen DeGuire made custom for me because it would match the corset, which she also made. Have I plugged Curious Cat Clothing yet? Because I wouldn't buy a corset from anyone else. Karen made both my corsets, and let me tell you, it ain't easy to make a corset capable of giving me a waist again, folks.

Then we hung out in the room a bit, just authors chatting. We were pleased with the way the show was going, but poor Angel had lost the Darrell again - she's the Susan Lucci of the Darrells at this point - and I think Jimmy was down about the sales he's been having. It would've been a good time to drink, but alcohol and corsets don't always mix, I've found.

I checked in on the boy, who had spent the day cosplaying as the Ninth Doctor and then ensconced himself in the video game room. It wouldn't be my choice for the best way to spend the con, but he was having fun, so heck with it.

I wandered about for a bit, popping into a panel here and there. I wanted to hang out in the greenroom, but it had closed. However, a small cadre of miscreants - I mean authors - had gathered in the hallway outside. I chatted with Kim Richardson and Allan Gilbreath for a bit, and of course Selina Rosen made a beeline to bury her head in my breasts because she does that every time she sees me in a corset, and that's just Selina, a force of nature.

For that matter, I was hit on by nearly every woman passing along the hallway who registered more than a four on the Kinsey scale, and not one man. I tell you, I should switch orientations. Apparently I'd make a very successful lesbian. Alas, I rank a 1 on the Kinsey scale. Sorry, ladies.

We had a long and fun conversation in that hallway, ranging from Selina scaring people (because she's Selina) to the idiot racist who had disrupted yet another panel, to trials with publishers (always a favorite topic among authors). I had time to go retrieve the boy kicking and screaming, take him to the hotel room and order him to bed, return, and they were still there talking.

When I finally outlasted them, I wandered about for a bit, then happened upon Lou Anders of Prometheus Books (a Guest of Honor) and J.F. Lewis, whom I've known for years and have tormented on many panels. Jeremy is a good guy, and we had a nice talk. Lou told me a few things about upcoming Doctor Who that give me hope.

We got bored when the consuite ran out of beer, and we wandered aimlessly about the halls in search of actual food. We ran into one guy who had food, and asked him where he got it. "I got a ribbon!" he declared, and scampered away. "Hey, I got a ribbon!" Lou protested, waving his Guest of Honor ribbon. Jeremy and I looked at our Guest ribbons in shock. Since when don't we get fed?

We ended up commandeering the registration table and talking about the direction of animated film, the boneheadedness of Disney and the utter dreck of the SyFyLys network until we remembered it was Daylight Savings Night and that 2:30 a.m. really meant 3:30 a.m. Scamper to bed.

Midsouthcon Merriment, Pt. 2

Friday

David Tyler joined me on Friday morning to lead me out to Whispering Woods, the northern-Mississippi conference center where the show has been held the last two years. Nothing against the place, but it was really too small - particularly in terms of parking - and the amenities just weren't that great. I won't miss it next year, even though its funky layout was designed by Escher.

Jimmy Gillentine was already on site, so he and David helped me unload the books and set up the booth. You know what's wonderful about having an all-male crew of flunkies? They never criticize my decorations or the color of my draperies or the strings of skulls... it's just, "You want it this way? Got it." And they do it. Of course, they kept going "Yes mistress" because they think they're funny. But they also gerryrigged straps to keep the button cases in place on a table that was really too small for my setup, enabling me to sell the buttons that really pay for the table. Bravo, boys.

Once setup was complete, David left us and I checked into the hotel so I could un-gross myself before the dealer's room was to open. I know you're all just dying to know what I wore, and by "all" I mean "Sara Harvey," because I am her paper doll. Sara, my Friday day outfit was a pair of black harem pants that my stepsister gave me, the black string top you gave me (and I want at least two more, where do I get them?) and the black breast-cup shirt you gave me. Plus the zombie-head necklace and big copper deco earrings, and my gypsy hip scarf. See, I can dress myself even when you're not here.

Jimmy had to open the booth, though, because I had brilliantly neglected to check the cash box for a receipt book. I dashed out to find one, and found that Walgreens, PakMail and the copy shop didn't have them. I got directions to the nearest Wal-mart and ran to it, only to find they only had traditional carbon-paper types. Screw it, I thought, and nabbed one (plus some Starbucks) so I could get back to the booth.

I'd like to point out that Jimmy Gillentine is Mister Manly Man, him with his all-black leather-jacket ensemble, kickass and everything, and drinks a double chocolate frappuccino with an extra shot. It reminds me of the time I did an author dinner with Shane Moore, another Manly Man. When the waitress arrived with our bourbon and amaretto, she tried to give him the bourbon. "I'm the bourbon, he's the girly drink," I said. "Hey!" Shane protested.

Jimmy and I held down the fort - selling rather well for a Friday - until Panya and Michael arrived on the heels of Angelia Sparrow and her minion - er, daughter. This freed us to completely change gears and escape... to Jesse's father's wake.

Jesse, of course, is my gentleman friend and Jimmy's best friend. We wanted to pay our respects and support Jesse. I know he was glad to see us. I don't know how Jimmy felt, but I wished I could do something better than simply stand by his side for a few minutes and think good thoughts. I wanted to make it better, and I couldn't. Such is the unfairness of death. Even when it alleviates suffering at the end of a long, happy life, at peace and surrounded by love... it still hurts.

Jimmy and I returned to the show in time for his first panel, which I stepped in to witness after Panya wrenched me into the leather corset. Poor Jimmy. And poor Allan Gilbreath, moderator of the late-night vampire panel. They were stuck with a trio of utter idiots who had gotten cataclysmically smashed and were in the midst of some kind of homosexual panic episode. Every other question was some slurred version of, "Why're all the vampires so fuckin' gaaayyyy?"

I stood it for about five minutes, and then I had to abandon Allan and Jimmy to their fate. You know, you do these cons over and over again and you have good panels and yawner panels, you have fun panels and okay panels, you have lively conversations and sometimes outright debates and then you have the Panel From Hell, crashed by assholes and idiots and you wonder why the hell you do this thing if these are the people you're writing for. Then you remember - it's not for the asshole in the front row muttering about them damn queers. It's for the girl in the back who isn't saying anything, but wants to hear what you have to say.

I fled from there to a panel on voodoo in real life, featuring the lovely Kalila Smith of New Orleans. I asked Ms. Smith about movies that do it right, and of course there are none, and about books... she recommended THE DIVINE HORSEMEN. Which is now on its way to me via eBay. I know my zombies aren't "real" zombies. But I'd like to have a breath of realism in it. Kalila and I had met in Baton Rouge last year, of course, and I was honored that she remembered me from just that one dinner. A lovely lady and very knowledgeable.

Once the panels were done, I discovered that they had closed the VIP greenroom at 10 p.m. I love MSC, but really, guys? We guests need somewhere to hide, drink wine and kibitz until 2 a.m. Next year: I'm doing a room party. When we're in a hotel that allows them. Did I mention the hotel doesn't allow room parties? They made me sign a paper when I checked in. There may have been parties at the show, but I didn't know the doors on which to knock.

So I wandered aimlessly for a while, until I realized I'd outlasted everyone I knew, and I went fwump.

Midsouthcon Merriment, Pt. 1

Thursday

We arrived late Wednesday night to sad news: Jesse's father had just died. Mr. Morris Sr. had struggled with cancer and other illnesses for several years, but there is no way to be prepared for such a thing. My heart goes out to Jesse and his mother, as they continue to deal with their loss.

Thursday was Research Day. Being an author, research is a variable term. In the morning, the boy and I went to the Memphis Botanical Gardens and wandered about. The Memphis gardens are considerably smaller than ours back home, but the boy loved their children's garden and I caught several pictures of a lovely swan. I told the boy the story of the Ugly Duckling, and to my surprise, he had never heard it before.

Lunch was La Baguette, because I cannot pass through Memphis without visiting my old employer. No one in the continental U.S. makes chicken salad like La Baguette. We nommed much French bread and I introduced the boy to chocolate napoleans. We also picked up a boxful of pastries to share with our friends throughout the week: almond croissants from La Baguette are a separate deadly sin from the original seven.

Then we meandered downtown, searching in vain for the Center for Southern Folklore. Seems that wasn't about what I thought it'd be about, so we parked and hiked up and down the waterfront taking pictures of good places for bodies to wash up. I told you "research" was a variable term.

ME: Ooh, that's a good place for a body!
BOY: You know, if someone hears you say that, they're gonna call 911.
ME: I can run.
BOY: You'll never take me alive, copper!
ME: *dies*

Then we spent far too much money on a popular tourist trap: the Memphis riverboats. It was a 90-minute sightseeing cruise up and down the Mississippi on a replica steamboat, narrated by a man who had my sense of history. He told us about steamboat wrecks and ghosts, about a man in a fishing boat who rescued drowning shipwreck survivors, about floods that sent thousands of Arkansans fleeing across the bridges, about Civil War battles and the yellow fever plagues and Prohibition bootlegging and the nights when the bridges caught fire and the people gathered on the riverbank to watch them burn.

We actually got our money's worth.

It was freezing on the water, but the boy is never cold. He went right up to the very front, stepped up on the railing and played King of the World. I took pictures. We added another magnet to our refrigerator collection.

Afterward, we still had some time to kill, so we walked down to Beale Street. The boy had never seen it, and given his love of music, I knew it was necessary. We walked past B.B. King's and Silky O'Sullivan's, stopped to listen to a live band playing in someone's beer garden and fended off the folks trying to get us to buy CDs. I tried to explain the history of the blues and birthplace of rock-n-roll, but he was pretty excited, so I don't know how much sank in.

On our way back, I took him up to the Orpheum, on the off chance we could get inside and he could see it. Alas, they don't let you just look.

Next I delivered the boy to his stepmother, and stopped off at Davis-Kidd on Poplar. Yes, they still have two copies of ABADDON in stock, so somebody go buy them. They're autographed first edition first printings, folks - that book's now been reprinted, so the DK versions are half the cost of the current edition and worth far more.

I swung by the hotel to de-gross myself. I've fallen in love with this little extended-stay place around the corner from the Holiday Inn on Democrat where they used to hold Midsouthcon. The hotel is nice enough, with interior corridors and relatively clean rooms, full kitchens and half the cost of the Holiday Inn. They've always been friendly and taken good care of me. By accident, I got bumped up to a suite, which was very nice.

On to the Memphis Pizza Cafe, and I managed to get lost in my own city. You leave town for a couple of decades and they change everything. They applauded when I finally made it, because they're smartasses.

The Stubblefield clan was there, plus Duesterhaus and the Sparrows and Andy Winemiller. Beers were drunk, pizza was et and many of them snarked me, because that's what they do when I come to town. I did the math and realized babies born the year we all met are about to graduate high school. Duesterhaus did not thank me for this bit of intelligence. He and his wife are expecting their second; the Stubblefields brought their baby; I know that Kaiser and his wife are expecting... everyone is procreating this year!

After dinner wrapped up, I intended to go to Otherlands and do some damn writing. I'd hoped to get to 10,000 words on BLACKFIRE before the show. But Otherlands was closed. At nine p.m. CLOSED. Did I miss a meeting? I wandered around the Cooper-Young district looking for a coffeehouse that understands the late-night caffeine concept, but found none.

So I retired to my hotel, with laptop and chocolate. Not a bad way to spend an evening, eh?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Group dinner! Midsouthcon! Reader chat!

We'll be gathering at Memphis Pizza Cafe 7-9ish p.m. Thursday, March 11! Join us.

Sigma Alphas, spice, friends and kids all welcome! Tip back a few and tell tall tales of college, as long as no one brings the yearbook photos this time. The more the merrier!

I will have books in the trunk in case anyone wants them but doesn't plan to come to Midsouthcon. Should be a blast! Oh, and if you're in the area, you should come to MSC! The Literary Underworld will be in the dealer's room, and I'll be doing a handful of panels. I'm supposed to get a reading, though I haven't seen one on the schedule yet. If I do, I just might read from the sequel to THE COLD ONES, which is the first time I'll have read from a work in progress. What, me nervous?

Also: reader chat is set for 7 p.m. CST March 16 in the Wilderness Chat Room. I'll have just gotten back from Midsouthcon so I should be nice and loopy. We'll give out some prizes, chat about upcoming projects, a trivia contest, I might make an announcement or two... It's the day before I turn 35 and officially become old, so come console me on the passing of my youth!

As always, the chat is open to any and all, but it is recommended for adults only, as my fans tend to be dirty-minded cretins and somehow the conversation always turns to sex. Naughty, you're all naughty and shall be spanked. And while it technically only goes to 9 p.m., we always end up talking much longer than that. Directions to the Wilderness Chat Room can be found on the NEWS page of my web site.