Scarlet Letters

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

Friday, July 30, 2010

hate it when they use my words back at me

Scenes from Julnawrimo:


Jay Smith: Sorry, I already quit tonight. You gotta cover my shift.

I reiterated this pouty statement after completely failing to make more than 600 words in three frigging hours last night.

COLE: Hey, that's 600 words you wouldn't have if you didn't try.
DIANE: *laughs her head off*
ME: Gaaaah! Stop using my own words back at me!

The Muse, I must admit, has mostly been absent as I slog through BLACKFIRE v. 1. The Muse is a fickle bitch, and when she shows up the writing goes smooth and exciting and fun like the rollercoaster it's supposed to be. The rest of the Chorus does the best it can in her absence, but that's when the writing is more like a slog up a snow-covered hill. I'll get there, but it's hard going, man.

The first draft is always like this. Pockets of awesome in the middle of a sea of dreck. It's the second draft when the Muse shows up and things really start to rock. In the second draft - which, for me, is always a complete rewrite and re-type of the entire manuscript from scratch - the book takes on its own life, characters become people, the story is streamlined and the words become awesome.

But not until I'm done pulling all the teeth from that first draft. One of my favorite quotes was used earlier this month for Julnawrimo: "A blank page is God's way of showing you how hard it is to be God." Amen, brother.

I'm at the two-thirds point with BLACKFIRE. Sara is still fucked in the head, the other characters are becoming a team (and then I do awful things to them, because that's how I roll), and I figure this book is going to end up in the 75K range by the time I'm done killing and burning. That's a fair length. I'm still roughly on track to have it done by deadline, though it means the second draft gets written while I'm on the Fall Deathmarch and won't THAT be fun.

Is it going to be better than my previous books? I don't know. I'm a better writer now, but I think I had a better sense of the story in ABADDON than I do in BLACKFIRE - the themes I started with don't seem to be jelling as much now. That may shake out in the second draft. Nothing I have yet written will touch YELLOW ROSES, but explain that to the publishing world, wouldja?

Tonight I'm taking the night off. Not because there's no writing to be done - after yesterday's pathetic word count, I scoff at the thought. But because this apartment has turned into a hazmat site during Julnawrimo. Somewhere there was a kitchen table and a living room floor under all that, and it's time to find it. It might be faster to just set fire to the place, but the landlord might object.

Then we'll see what I can do to Sara and her cronies. Things always get darker toward the end. Moo ha ha.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

delusions of adequacy

In an ultimate act of hubris, I have created a fan page for myself on Facebook.

I thought it was rather egotistical of myself - love me! Love me! But the fact is, the YahooGroup gets almost no traffic these days because most folks have moved on to Facebook and Twitter. Traffic on my FB profile is fairly brisk, as well as the Twitter account. But the fan pages are more easily designed for letting you characters know what I'm up to as far as the book tour, upcoming releases, etc.

So if you like me ... and if you don't, why the hell are you reading this? You could be watching porn ... go forth and "like" me on Facebook. Assuage my inflated ego.

And while you're at it, check out the Literary Underworld page. Yes, I am shameless.

As always, I keep you updated on this blog, on my web site and any number of other places online. At this point I don't even know all the networks to which I belong. But I'm betting most of us are going to be on Facebook for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

HG WORLD snarkfest!

As you know if you've been paying attention here, I'm writing an episode of the post-apocalyptic podradio serial HG WORLD later this year. Series creator Jay Smith is bringing in three outside writers to do standalone episodes: Keith R.A. DeCandido, Dayton Ward and me. Keith and Dayton write for people like FARSCAPE, SUPERNATURAL, STAR TREK, Disney/Pixar, BUFFY and other big-time folks you've actually heard of.

Then there's me. Hi!

Mr. Smith invited us to a roundtable interview, in which we snarked about convention lifestyle, the difference in writing for radio as opposed to novels, the joys of zombie fiction and whether Jay Smith has compromising pictures of us. Dayton slipped into interstellar porn and I'm not sure, but I think Keith propositioned me. :) Meanwhile, I flubbed the presentation of my own book, like I haven't intro'd THE COLD ONES nine hundred times by now, and they mercifully cut the part where I mispronounced Keith's last name.

I was giggling again just listening to it. Check it out, you'll love it.

And if you're not listening to HG WORLD, what are you waiting for? Start with season zero.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Twittering Writers

Whatever would I do without my HelpMeObiWanKaTwitter? The participants last night were authors Sara Harvey, Vic Milan and Mari Adkins, and journalist Dana Franks. It kicked off because Sara admitted she was watching... reality television. For the purposes of this story, you should know that the heroine of THE COLD ONES (and the sequel, BLACKFIRE, currently under production) was named after Ms. Harvey, as one of my dearest friends. The journalist in all three Nocturnal Urges books is named after Ms. Franks.

ME: You're watching AMERICA'S GOT TALENT? … Is this a gestation thing? I won't judge, I chewed ice cubes for 9mo.
SARA: I actually like AMERICA'S GOT TALENT and have watched all 3 seasons. And who are you to snark, Ms. AIR SUPPLY? Hmmm?
MARI: oooooooooo
ME: I WAS TWELVE. What's your excuse???
SARA: You WERE twelve? What, did you write "Sisyphus" when you were twelve, too?
ME: Do you not recall that in "Sisyphus" it was the Evil Song? :P Be nice, I'm writing your doppelganger as we speak!
MARI: mmmmhhhmmmm
SARA: As if you've ever been nice to a character before in your life!
MARI: mari concurs #buttinski
ME: I have too! Sometimes they live!
DANA: Um, do I need to bring up Celine Dion too?
SARA: They live, sure, but with PTSD, burying their beloved friends/lovers/pets, missing limbs, etc.
DANA: (to Sara) Her idea of "nice" is a quick death where they remain dead. Although my character has remained alive, so I should shut up.
MARI: what she said
ME: You guys complain just as loudly about the quick deaths as the slow lingering ones. And Dana, you live. SO FAR.
ME: Also, missy, Celine Dion songs make for excellent vocal exercise in broadening the range, even if they are schmoopy. :P
SARA: You want range, sing some "Queen of the Night" aria. That'll teach those vocal chords!
ME: And what's a little PTSD if you actually survive a horror novel? They should thank me. :)
SARA: Sure, but you can't then make the claim of being "nice."
SARA: (to Dana) My character is still alive… but she's mentally unstable. But in @edonald's defense, she DID start out that way.
DANA: Yes, and my character has remained a good journalist too. If you were truly evil, you'd turn her into a TMZ reporter.

ME: I can't find my demons sourcebook! Woe!
VIC: You mean teh IntarWebz don't have enough demon resources for you? The internet: It's all about the demons.
ME: Nope. I have a dictionary of demons and unquiet spirits, but it's hiding. Grr. Need water spirits!
MARI: Give me a second.
SARA: (to Vic) I thought the internet was all about pr0n?
MARI: Of course, the best thing I'm coming up with is the kraken ::headdesk::
VIC: (to Sara) Well, pr0n. And demons.
MARI: Deities and demons of the bible is turning up bupkis as well.
SARA: Vilas and rusalkas! #awesomewaterdemons
ME: What's a vila? #omgoogle
SARA: [linkage]
ME: Oh, I know rusalka. Vilia, though, look like wood sprites, not water. Am I missing something?
SARA: They cause storms, too. And like to drown people.
ME: Ooooh, but I like the Vilia! "The reason for abandoning their loves is a sad one. The Vilya are cursed never to find their true love. If they do, that love will die a terrible death." AWESOME.
DANA: Dammit, Sara, you've just given Elizabeth a whole new way to torture people with love. I thought she'd run out!
MARI: omg that's fantastic! #vilya
SARA: @edonald Wow, they have you written all over them!
SARA: @dana She would have found out eventually. There are unlimited ways to torture people with love!
DANA: It's bad enough IRL without adding mythological characters. #toocynicaltolive
ME: You never know. I could turn over a new leaf and write a love story, true love that conquers all.
DANA: You realize if you did that, it would inevitably turn into something like TWILIGHT and you'd be forced to write sappy forever more.
MARI: Good luck with that.
ME: True love and puppies! Rainbows and unicorns! Dancing in the moonlight and all that shit!
SARA: Yeah, conquers… with all the burning and pillaging that goes along with it! You just leave the happy endings to me, ok?
MARI: Gag me with a spoon.
SARA: Hey, ain't nuthin wrong with true love and puppies, I have plenty of both!
MARI: Ravage pillage conquer maim and put big hickies on all the fair damsels #eriktheawful
ME: I could stretch? They could, y'know, survive and live happily ever after!
DANA: I think she should write a story just like that so we can see what a great satirist comic she could be.
DANA: (to me) Yes, and sparkly vampires do exist and I play quidditch in my backyard with Oreo.
DANA: I'm having more fun making fun of @edonald's love of torture than anything in months. I'm gonna miss you at D*C, E.
ME: And I shall miss you, flunky. Don't stay away too long, okay? Who else is gonna keep me all cynical? :D
DANA: I'll probably be back next year if you'll have me. Almost un-canceled a couple of times.
ME: Hey, do what you gotta do, hon. You've always got a job with me, for all the salary I can bake. :D

ME: Anyone know if they still send someone personally to inform the family of a soldier killed in action, or if it's telegram/phonecall/etc. now?
SARA: I know they still go personally at Ft. Campbell.
ME: I realize this topic of conversation rather belies the "true love and unicorns" theme…
SARA: Just proves you are incapable of a happy ending! So, stick to horror, I guess!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

in lieu of actual content, let's make with the funny.

Real content pending again someday.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Elizabeth Needs a Flunky, Part 491

I totally forgot to announce:

• Keith R.A. DeCandido, Dayton Ward and I will be guesting on a roundtable snarkfest tomorrow (Sunday) for HG World's podcast. You might recall that the three of us are writing a trio of episodes for the excellent post-apocalyptic zombie podradio show this fall, and I can attest that Keith and Dayton have awesome ideas. I look awesomer standing next to them. Is awesomer a word? Do I need sleep?

Not sure when the interview podcast will air, and it probably will help if I can figure out this Skype thing before we record tomorrow afternoon. Looking forward to chatting and snarking with Keith and Dayton, whom I have heretofore only "met" on the interwebs.

• Next Saturday, July 24, I will be speaking at the O'Fallon (Ill.) Public Library about writing horror, with possible reading if the crowd is amenable and little kids can't hear me swear up a storm. My stuff will be available for sale, natch, but feel free to come by and just listen! I'll be there at 1 p.m.

• And yes, the fact that I keep forgetting to tell you guys this stuff shows how completely discombobulated I am these days. More announcements on the horizon, when I get my brain together or clone myself.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

uh... WHAT.

I pasted in the latest scene from BLACKFIRE.

I write like
James Joyce
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


Monday, July 12, 2010

a moment of silence

I would like a moment of silence for Linda.

None of you who read this know Linda, except maybe Kit Tunstall and Starr Rathburn, but I think both of them were gone from the Writers' Circle before Linda came. Linda went by the moniker TheCritic on, which is where I lived before LiveJournal, Facebook and Twitter. And when Kit and Starr left, Linda took over the WC.

The Writers' Circle taught me more about writing than anything ever had, including college. I was hiding from an unhappy marriage by writing short stories filled with sadness and horror. They told me what worked and what didn't. They watched me write my first flailing attempt at a novel and encouraged me when I tried to give it up about nine times. When I got my first book contract, they cheered me on. It is one of my great regrets that the WC has mostly fallen to pieces, with posts becoming fairly rare and most of its members moving on to greener pastures.

Linda was a sweet lady who devoted her time and effort to keeping the WC alive. She offered friendly but helpful critique and unflagging encouragement for new writers. She wanted it to remain a safe place for new writers to learn and grow, just as I had. Granted, my membership in the WC has been mostly symbolic for the last five years. I have so many other things going on that I would forget to stop by the forum for months at a stretch.

But Linda kept it alive. She kept renewing her paid membership on so the group would have a host account. She offered several times to step down if someone else could bring the group new life, but of course we all shuffled our feet and stared at the floor, so she kept the job. She prompted us all to keep working and keep posting, and the only reason the group is nearing 10 years of existence is Linda.

I knew she had been ill. I didn't know it was cancer. I was not paying enough attention. I dropped by today to see how things were going in the old WC.

It was stage 4 cancer, and she died in her husband's arms in May.

Today I will light a candle for Linda, whom I never met in person but whose strength and love of the written word kept alive the writers' group that is most directly responsible for the career I have today. These connections we form online seem tenuous at best, and our non-connected family and friends might laugh at them - they can't be "real" friendships if you've never seen the person. But you and I know differently.

I don't expect you to mourn for Linda, or feel her husband's grief. But I ask you, in her honor, to reach out today to someone. Someone you haven't spoken to for a little while, because time passes and memory fades and you just haven't had the chance. Go to that corner of the internet you haven't visited in months, blow off the cobwebs and see what's going on. Reach out to that person and simply say hello. Ask how they're doing, and listen to the answer.

Because you never know when the sand will fall through the hourglass and the chance is lost.