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Showing posts from October, 2013

The Little Monsters of Edwardsville

The tragedy of the night was certainly the St. Louis Cardinals' performance in Game Six. Congratulations to Boston; you played the better game and deserve the trophy. (We'll be back!)

But the horror was the wonderful tableau we built this year in our front yard. Skeleton rising out of his grave, ghosts and critters, Casper the Ghost floating beside the porch, Charlotte the Spider scuttling down the siding. We love Halloween, and if we were not limited by funds, our house would look like the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. Each year we add a little bit more to our display.

This year's Cuteness Award goes to the three-year-old Wolverine and two-year-old Spiderwoman who braved my miniature cemetery to gain candy. Wolverine told me in a gruff little voice, "I ain't afraid of no ghost," while glancing sidelong at Casper.

Extra credit goes to the toddler Simba who was sufficiently frightened of our skeleton that I had Ian deliver her candy to her at the sidewalk. Ia…

Fright Fest

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We're trying to cram all our Halloween traditions into a couple of days, since the Furlough Tour ate so much of October. Yesterday morning it was our trip up to the farm for pumpkins and apple cider before work; today it was Fright Fest at Six Flags.

Fright Fest was the usual array of expensive silliness. We love Six Flags, though we haven't been able to use our membership as much as usual this year. We do not do the extra-cost haunted houses, because we pay enough for our membership as it is. But we loved the zombies, evil clowns and other walk-around critters, the decor and goofy scary fun.



At least, Jimmy and I did. Ian clutched my hand awfully tight for a young man a foot taller than his mom, and refused to go through the Twisted Circus with us. Seems he still has a thing about clowns. So it was probably mean of me to offer to put my new painting in his room:


A good time was had by all, nevertheless. Though we had a harsh moment: when we foolishly sat down for one of the …

Dreadmire benefits the real Gulf

So there was this little error at the printer's, and we ended up with a lot of large-print editions of the new book. Now, large print is very nice for folks with limited vision, but large print sales are pretty small, comparatively speaking. Shorthand: We've got a bunch of books on our hands.

After consulting with my publisher, we determined the best use of the books would be to try to benefit the Louisiana wetlands. After all, Dreadmire is a sword-and-sorcery novel, but its worldbuilding is based on the ecology of the bayous. I drew inspiration from an IMAX movie several years ago titled Hurricane on the Bayou, which I strongly recommend for the soundtrack, if nothing else. Hurricane on the Bayou explained the ecological value of wetlands, specifically how they act as a natural barrier for the inland areas from... wait for it... hurricanes. Katrina happened to hit while they were there, and you can guess the rest.

The imbalance of nature is a theme that runs throughout Dreadm…

The Little Bookstore(s) That Could

I attended a wonderful book signing tonight at Afterwords Books, the little shop a few blocks from my house. Afterwords hosted Wendy Welch, author of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, and her husband, Jack Beck.

Welch has one of those stories that is so incredible you have to believe it. You could make a movie of it, and no one would believe it; too Capra-esque, they would say. Welch left a "high-octane" business career that was making her miserable so that she and her husband could move to a coal town in Big Stone Gap, Virginia ("It's not the middle of nowhere, but you can see it from there," Jack says.) They started a used bookstore in a town of 5,000 people.

Wait a second. Yes, 5,000 people in coal country. The whole county has only 150,000 people. To put that in perspective for you, Madison and St. Clair County have a combined population of over 500,000. There's a lot more "country" than "people" around Big Stone Gap, which is h…

Home sweet home

Whew.

I'm even unpacked, because if I don't unpack within an hour of arriving at home, I'll be living out of the suitcase for a week. That's just the way I roll.

Fortunately I did not have to return to Ye Olde Newspaper today, which gave me a chance to decompress, run some errands and return Falkor the Rental Luck Dragon. Being back behind the wheel of my old Toyota already makes me miss Falkor's high-tech bluetooth system.

Among other things: a pleasant lunch with Jimmy, who says he missed me; a trip to the Genius Bar to get my @#$! iPhone examined - ever since I upgraded to iOS 7 it has been buggy as hell; and wrapped the day with an interview on Digital-Radio103.com with Nikki Palomino. It was a nice chat, though the static made it hard for me to tell if I was talking over her. I devoutly hope not.

Nikki invited me to read from my work, which doesn't usually happen in interviews. I didn't have anything on my desk, but Jimmy scrambled to bring me a Settin…

Furlough Tour: Day Eight

I made it to Memphis.

It's 3:30 a.m. by my clock.

Six states today. I'm going to crash now. Sorry folks, but you get real blogging tomorrow. My hotel is kindly letting me stay until 2 p.m., so I can sleep the hell in and then get lunch before the signing.

If you live in the Memphis area, come to the last event of the Furlough Tour! 3 p.m. at the Booksellers at Laurelwood; look for me in the bistro. Yes, I'll be selling and signing, though I may not read if there are young ears present.

Missed Opportunity of the Day: I neglected to collect barbecue sauces in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama on today's deathmarch across the south.

Thanks: To Seth and Tip Kendall for introducing me to their little one, to Kelly Parker for helping feed my IKEA addiction, and to Marian Sanborn for the iced americano! I think I have a new favorite hyper-caffeination.

Furlough Tour: Day Seven

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It was bound to happen. After a week on the road, I finally hit a day where I took zero pictures. Not even a proof of life!

Today's lesson was that Google Maps is a lying liar who lies. Sure, it's only three hours from Baltimore to Charlottesville, Va., and only four hours from there to Charlotte, N.C. It all made sense on paper.

Today started at my sister's funky-cool house in York, Pa., where she was kind enough to host me for the evening. Melanie and I see each other so rarely now, and that's something we absolutely have to fix. The photo below is actually from last night's pub adventure, with her boyfriend Bryan. Because Melanie and I managed to see each other three times in one year and STILL didn't get a photo of us together. Oops.

Bidding farewell to Melanie (again), I set out for Charlottesville. It was sorta kinda on my way to the signing in Charlotte, and the NBC affiliate there happens to employ one Lynne Vogt, who survived the wilds of Westfield Mid…

Furlough Tour: Day Six

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It's possible that there is a time vortex on the New Jersey turnpike.

Bidding New York farewell, I left the city this morning with a carefully planned route to avoid tolls and make it to lunch in Delaware. That plan did not account for an hour at 8 mph, as the New Jersey turnpike continues to redefine "clusterfuck" for me. And this is driving at non-peak times, folks.

Somehow the three-hour drive to Delaware ended up being more like four and a half hours. Then I met long-time reader Meri Weiss for lunch, cementing the awesomeness of a tour that lets me meet people who have supported my work for almost a decade now and cheered me on through the internet. Meri, by the way, is awesome.

Then back to the turnpike, dangit, and more tolls. We're up to $60.50 in tolls, folks, and that doesn't include the bridge over the Hudson (I think) which is experimenting with mail-in tolls. You drive through, it takes a picture of your license plate and mails you a bill. We'll s…

Furlough Tour: Day Five

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New York City!

My wonderful hosts, Keith DeCandido and Wrenn Simms, were challenged to show me Manhattan in one day. All of Manhattan! Not only have I never seen New York City before and thus must do all the silly touristy things, but I have this story I plan to write that involves a great deal of New York detail. That's a bit difficult if you've never been.

First was the subway, where I discovered that a) they look just like St. Louis' Metrolink, and b) they put poetry on the Metro cards. (Also, unlike Metrolink, there ain't no way I'd know which train to take without locals for guides.)

We took the subway to the Empire State Building, which included a walk down Fifth Avenue. I saw the real Macy's, and I swear I wished we had an extra half day. I'd love to look around in the original Macy's!

Approaching "Empy" was a bit disconcerting: it's like scenes from a half-dozen movies kept playing over in my head and overlaying what I was seeing.

Furlough Tour: Day Four

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It's hard to remember that I woke up this morning in Pittsburgh.

Crashing hard last night, I woke up and didn't want to move. I'm not a morning person at best, and this constant motion is beginning to take its toll. Whoever called this a vacation didn't look at the itinerary. Note to self: Next time we do this, I'm in my hotel room by 10 p.m. each night.

I scrambled to Crazy Mocha in Squirrel Hill, which is a nifty ethnic neighborhood outside Pittsburgh. It was a pleasant enough event, sold a little and chatted some more. But then I was on the road again, because miles to go and all that.

First: Proof of life.


Along the way, I was treated to the beauty of rural Pennsylvania in the fall. Poor Jimmy was on the phone with me for a while, and must have gotten tired of hearing, "Wow," all the time. The pictures don't come close to doing it justice. A panoramic lens with some serious color might help. But in between the awesome weirdness of driving through …

Furlough Tour: Day Three

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Now appearing in Midwestern Illinois: Corn. And lots of it.

Today began in South Bend, where I had a nice event last night. I made the executive decision to cancel Fort Wayne in favor of a photo shoot at the University of Notre Dame, which I knew mostly from its frequent mentions in The West Wing.

It was an astounding and humbling experience, folks. Oh, I'd heard of the Basilica's beauty. But it's different to actually see it. I don't even know of the photos will do it justice - though that won't stop me from posting them. But when I walked in, Mass was going on, and I stopped dead in the doorway because the art and architecture literally took away my breath.

I waited through the Mass, respecting their restrictions and therefore did not receive Communion. (Just in case any of you were going to throw holy water on me.) Then I viewed the reliquary, the central altar, the artwork and frescoes, with my camera on its "discreet" setting which meant I couldn…

Furlough Tour: Day Two

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There were far fewer tweets today, you might have noticed. That's because everything went by plan! Sorta....

I slept in, gloriously. I didn't realize how little sleep I'd gotten this week, and the best thing about a hotel room with two beds and just me is having all the pillows on my side. All the pillows! Oh, the sleep was wonderful.

Almost too wonderful, as I barely made the lunch event on time. SoHo Cafe in Carmel, Ind. is a really nifty place, with an art gallery and outside patio as well as the funky main coffeehouse. Unfortunately, I must not have gotten the word out enough, as drop-by's were light. Still, it was a very pleasant place, the staff was wonderful and the next time I'm in Indianapolis I would definitely return to SoHo.

I can't say as much for the highway system, as attempting to get on the highway was an ordeal of nearly forty minutes. The Apple Maps were no help, as they kept directing me to on-ramps that were blocked or no longer existed. I&…

Furlough Tour: Day One

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"Raindrops keep falling on my head..."


We make plans, and God kind of snickers at us. The Furlough Tour stumbled right out of the gate, as it was supposed to kick off with an all-day appearance at the Harvest Thyme Festival in Carlyle, Ill.

The skies had other plans, however. I spent two hours chatting in a tent with several other authors as a thunderstorm downpour drenched the festival, a plastic sheet tossed over my books to keep them safe. Finally the organizers threw in the towel, so to speak, and canceled the festival for severe weather. We packed up a full nine hours ahead of schedule without having had any visitors.

Technically that breaks my streak. In ten years as a published fiction author, I have never had an event at which I sold nothing. The closest I came was a Waldenbooks in some mall that apparently had told no one that it would have three or four authors signing that day. We sat for three hours and nobody bought anything. However, two people had called into …

Flight Plan!

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Please keep in mind, things will change. Some of them are still awaiting final approval, and in others we've given up and are scheduling a Starbucks Stop. That's where I settle into a table, stick the sign in front of me and you can come by and say hello if you like.

Others are "author dinners," which is fancy for "we all have a meal and you can pick up a book if you want." Email elizabethdonald at yahoo dot com if you're interested in one of those.

Watch Twitter and Facebook for changes - everything will be tagged #furloughtour. Spread the word if you know someone along the route... and come see me! That's the whole point of this thing!

Saturday
• Harvest Thyme Festival, Carlyle City Park, Carlyle, Ill. 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

Sunday
• SoHo Cafe, 620 S. Range Line Road, Carmel, Ind. noon-1 p.m.
Chocolate Cafe, 122 S. Michigan, South Bend, Ind. 6:30-8 p.m.

Monday
• Fort Wayne, Ind. noon-1 p.m. Location TBA.
Columbus, Ohio 6-7:30 p.m. Location TBA

Tuesday
• Cra…

T-minus 12 hours!

No, that's not panic. I always chew my nails down to the elbow.

Actually, we're in decent shape here at Donald-Smith-Gillentine Inc., and it's entirely because of people who are not me. While I've been gnawing my nails and fretting and running around like a chicken with my head cut off, there have been a number of people manfully and womanfully putting forth enormous effort to help me pull off this tour.

Note to self: next tour, have a major New York publisher that will do all this for us. Or at least do it six months in advance. I really thought two weeks would be enough...

So, please give a standing ovation to Samantha Macumber, Marian Sanborn, Jay Smith, Keith DeCandido, Elizabeth Perry, Lynne Vogt, Parish Roberts and David Tyler. These folks are the ones on the ground who scouted out the territory and gave us locations to try, pulled in favors and spread the word with friends.

An extra hug and applause for Jimmy Gillentine, fiance extraordinaire. Jimmy has been run…

Learning Curve

The biggest surprise in this tour remains how many people were willing to donate and really, really wanted me to come to their towns. It's been three weeks and I'm still in shock.

The second biggest surprise is how few bookstores and coffeehouses would allow me to set up on short notice.

At first I tried calling them myself. But they acted like I was spritzing them with perfume. Oh, I wasn't aiming for Barnes & Noble; it takes months to get on a bookstore's calendar and even longer to wind through the red tape of a chain bookstore. They make the V.A. look swift and efficient.

But small new/used stores and coffeehouses? All it takes is a couple of tables set aside in the corner, folks. Then I advertise your coffeehouse across the nation and (hopefully) bring in business for an hour or two.

I've never had this problem before. I began doing the coffeehouse thing a few years ago, since the formal book signing is so stiff and intimidating (and the aforementioned pap…

Photography Non-Fire Sale!

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While Archon itself was a great show for me, the art show was, alas, a bust. Possibly this was because I am inexperienced at this and neglected to bag my prints. They are now slightly warped.

This is nothing that would not be solved by putting them in an ordinary frame; the image isn't damaged in the slightest. But I would not feel right about selling them at full price.

So I'm offering them at half price to you folks! Only one of each, so when it's gone, I'll mark it sold. Add $2 for shipping. If interested, email me at elizabethdonald@yahoo.com.

 Of course, all items can be found on the etsy shop! And next show, I will know to bag my prints, especially when it's 200-percent humidity. :)