Scarlet Letters

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Find Your Bookstore Contest!

It's been a couple of years since I updated my database of independent bookstores. When I created the list in 2007, there were 579 appropriate, viable bookstores on it.

Today there are 505. That's pretty awful, but when you consider the impact of the economy in the last three years, it's not nearly as bad as it could have been. Considering that overall, only half of new small businesses survive their first five years, it's pretty damned good. I'm happy to see that a lot of bookstores that had eschewed the internet now have web sites. And web sites of their own, not just listings in Booksense. You would think that, say, an independent bookseller on the Upper East Side of Manhattan would know that it should have a web site, but apparently bookstores are among the last to join us here on our intertubes.

Here's the thing: I'm betting there are a lot of good, viable bookstores that haven't made my list yet. There are 1200+ booksellers in the American Booksellers' Association, and many of them would be appropriate for my database. I use this database to market my books, to consider locations for book signings when traveling, etc.

So here's my contest! Enter by posting here about an independent bookstore in your area. That means no Borders, Barnes and Noble, Waldenbooks, Books-a-Million, etc. Those guys have book buyers who are far too in love with the Twilight and Harry Potter knockoffs for us small-press folk to bother with. They think you only want Nora Roberts and John Grisham forever and ever amen. I'm betting the indie bookstores know better.

Also please leave out bookstores that are solely for genres I don't write, like children's books, Christian/inspirational or nonfiction; bookstores that only sell used books; and bookstores that are going out of business. I'll take mystery bookstores because some of my stuff could be considered mystery, like the vampire stories.

I need the following info:
• Name of store
• Street address including ZIP
• Web site (if any)
• Owner's name (if you have it)
• Phone number (ditto)

Each store you give me gets you one entry in the contest! Prizes include free books (by me and by other people), gift certificates to LiteraryUnderworld.com, and the grand prize... being killed in a story. Muahahaha.

And you indie bookstores... hang in there, okay? We need you!

Interview with Seventh Star Press

Stephen Zimmer with Seventh Star Press interviews me about the Literary Underworld and my secret plan for world domination. In which I talk about the state of the small press, big box vs. indie bookstores, the challenges with fitting the booth in my Camry and the pain of sending rejection letters. With secret bonus plans for next year's insanity!

EDIT: Meanwhile, Author Adventures says nice things about Stephen saying nice things about me. Oh, and about my wish for a van. I would totally paint our giant half-skull on the side, I'm just saying.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Molasses in Not-January

As my father told me, the hardest part of being a parent is not laughing in front of them when they do something hilariously boneheaded.

ME: [All Three Names]!*
BOY: What!
ME: What in heaven's name did you do to the molasses! It's all over the counter!
BOY: ...
ME: Tell the truth.
BOY: You know how you're always saying, "slow as molasses in January"?
ME: Yes.**
BOY: Well, I saw the jug of molasses, and I wondered how slow molasses is, so I turned it upside down and the cap was loose and -
ME: You were trying to see how slow molasses in January is?
BOY: *nodsnods*
ME: It's not January!
BOY: It's December, it's close enough!
ME: Go clean up the counter!

And then I went in the other room to laugh myself silly.


* Some things are universal. When Mom calls you with first, middle and last names, you're in trouble.
** As my mother told me, and her mother told her: "You're as slow as molasses in January!" Rinse, repeat.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Chronicles of the Muse: The Muse At Subway

Many years ago, I began writing stories of the Muse. She lives in my head, and she's the source of my work. She used to be the only source, but after a while she got some companions. She's not all that happy about it. Because I thought it might entertain you, I am reprinting some Chronicles of the Muse in this journal. And maybe it'll entice her to come back and visit me more often. 

This was written while I was waiting for Nocturnal Urges to be released, and writing a novella that would eventually become Yellow Roses. The idea spawned by this dream eventually became "The Sheriff of Nottingham," which will be in my upcoming collection Moonlight Sonata. I named neither protagonist Matt.


May 3, 2004


MUSE: You IDIOT!
ME: Shh, someone might hear you.
MUSE: Not likely, you moron. I'm in your head.
ME: Yeah, well, it's not my fault.
MUSE: We get a full lunch hour to work on the goddamn book and you don't recharge the laptop?
ME: I did recharge the laptop! You were there! I plugged it in!
MUSE: Then why does it say 2 minutes of battery time remaining?
ME: I don't know.
MUSE: What can we write in two minutes?
ME: (muttered) Your obituary.
MUSE: I heard that, bitch.
ME: Look, I tried. We'll get some time tonight.
MUSE: Oh no, we won't. We'll be looking at another goddamn apartment.
ME: You want a place to live or not?
MUSE: Then dinner. Then kid-care. Then laundry. Then maybe we'll work on the book. Also, you have six chapters of that guy's book to read.
ME: I hate my life.
MUSE: Yeah well, I've got another idea for you. Remember what Dream Fairy tossed you last night?
ME: God, yes. That SUCKED.
MUSE: It did not.
ME: I'm sick of getting shot in my dreams. And this time I was being KISSED!
MUSE: Maybe you didn't die.
ME: Bullet through the back into the right lung. I was toast.
MUSE: Faceless Guy was carrying you up to Laclede Square. He seemed nice.
ME: Yeah, that's why he was in my dreams. In reality, he'd probably drop my ass on the ground and take off like a bat out of East St. Louis.
MUSE: I thought the bloody cobblestones leading to the river were a neat touch.
ME: You would.
MUSE: So what about the time-travel murder story?
ME: The laptop just clicked off.
MUSE: Stare out the window, it'll work as well. Going back in time...
ME: Too depressing.
MUSE: This is me you're talking to.
ME: We did time-travel, remember? Didn't sell.*
MUSE: I still can't believe that.
ME: That makes two of us.
MUSE: Anyway, I'm not talking about the guy going back in time. Someone keeps coming back in time to him and killing the women he loves.
ME: Hmmm. A childhood sweetheart...
MUSE: Prom date...
ME: A girl in college...
MUSE: The woman at the river...
ME: Well, that'll efficiently fuck him up. But why?
MUSE: We-ell...
ME: You don't KNOW why?
MUSE: Not yet.
ME: Don't you think that MIGHT be an important part of the plot?
MUSE: Hey, I think it'll work.
ME: Not until we know why it's happening. Other than that, it's just a sadistic torture of an unnamed male figure in yet another goddamn horror tragedy.
MUSE: Matt. Let's name him Matt.
ME: The fuck? What is with you and the name Matt?
MUSE: I dunno.
ME: That vapid bitch is getting to you.
ISABEL: Are you speaking to me?
MUSE AND ME: No!
MUSE: We can't name the guy in Yellow Roses Matt, because then it's Matt and Cat and that's that.
ME: Hee. Dr. Seuss does horror.
MUSE: Fuck you. I still wanna use the name Matt for the time-travel psycho.
ME: Don't you ever get tired of torturing men with unrequited love and tragic loss?
MUSE: No.
ME: Me neither. What does that say?
ISABEL: You're both nucking futz.


* "Sisyphus." My most popular short story, headliner of Setting Suns, and was rejected by everyone. I simply don't get the short-story biz.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

oh hey, this blog exists!

I feel rather like a deep-sea diver who is surfacing after a very long time underwater.

The fall book tour (a.k.a. Deathmarch) is done. The new book (a.k.a. The Bitch) is done. The election is done. In fact, the only thing that isn't done is the laundry. But that's never done.

Okay, technically I still have one more booksigning this Saturday. But since it doesn't require sleeping in a hotel or packing a suitcase, I say it doesn't count. I am slowly unearthing my kitchen and I might even get crazy and run a vacuum. Pretty soon I'll put that suitcase in the closet, because really, I won't need it for a couple of months.

It's a heady feeling. Even better is this: last night I got home and realized that I did not have to work on the book.

This might seem weird, but for months now I've been on the midnight shift. I work the day at the newspaper, then I get off duty and go be Mom for a while. Once the boy is in bed, then I break out the laptop and work another two or three hours.

Or four or five. By the end of the Blackfire second draft, I was up until 3:30-4 a.m. each night and then up again at 7 a.m. to put the boy on the bus. Any resemblance I may have borne to the zombies in my book are entirely coincidental. Any psychosis I may have displayed is regretted.

Wait, who are you people again?

So now I'm poking around Ye Olde Facebook and reacquainting myself with the concept of television and I might even remember to blog here once in a while. Well, let's not get crazy.

Finishing a book is a good feeling. It's never as good on paper as it was in my head, but this one still feels pretty good. I hope you all like it more than I liked writing it; that's always my wish. Making money is nice, but a reader telling me they loved my book (or that it made them laugh/cry/hide under the bed) is much better.

Now I'm going to take a little break. I might give myself the whole week off. But next week, it's back to that pesky novella I was mulling as the centerpiece for Moonlight Sonata. You remember, that short-story collection I've got coming out next year?

No rest for the wicked. Or was that weary? I can never remember.