October Linkspam

If you’re a horror writer, October is always your busiest month of the year. If you’re not working in October, you’re not working.

That said, October is super-mega-special busy for me – in a normal year. In October 2015, I visited eleven cities in two time zones, flew on four airplanes through three airports, drove 2,017 miles, hugged and shook hands with approximately four zillion people, stayed in five hotels, rode public transportation without number, attended at least a dozen public events, visited the Magic Kingdom twice and averaged five hours’ sleep. All while working my full-time job at the newspaper (plus or minus a few vacation days).

So this was the strangest October I can remember since my first book was published, because I went nowhere. I mean, I left the house a few times. We successfully moved my stuff out of my university office, and then we moved the Literary Underworld and all its trimmings to a storage facility. Yes! LitUnd now has a warehouse! (Kinda.) It was taking over my house, which has more than enough piles of detritus that it doesn’t need the competition.

I also left the house to go to a pumpkin patch and get this year’s carveable gourds. Look, I will put up with a lot to stay safe from COVID, but some things are sacred.

If it were not for COVID, I would have flown to Washington D.C. for the SPJ conference and to Atlanta for the College Media Association conference. I would have attended Archon in Collinsville, Ill. and I’d be raring up for ContraKC in Kansas City next week and I would have been running the Leclaire Parkfest book sale for the American Cancer Society and somewhere in there I’d probably have had a stark raving mad nervous breakdown but that’s standard for October too.

Instead, I was home, teaching my class and attending what I could via Zoom, and happily celebrating the release of Yanaguana from Crone Girls Press!

Have I mentioned it enough yet?

So even though I stayed home and didn’t “see” anyone, I still feel like it was one of my busiest Octobers ever, and I can’t remember how I did my usual Octobers without losing my mind. I have no doubt, however, that I will sign right back up next year for the usual Fall Deathmarch, because really… I miss y’all.


Publicity/Appearances

Have I mentioned yet that Yanaguana came out last month? Okay, okay, ya heard it. Seriously, though, I had so much fun playing with the Blackfire crew again, and I’m so grateful to my fantastic editor Rachel Brune for including my little novella in Foul Womb of Night, the first in Crone Girls Press’ Midnight Bites series.

Here’s an interview I gave about Yanaguana, my writing life, the trip to San Antonio that inspired it, and other ramblings.

Journalism/Essays

Highland schools face deficit budget (Highland News-Leader)

Highland approves interim police chief (Highland News-Leader)

GoFundMe set up for coach in need of kidney due to COVID (Highland News-Leader)

Highland police adopt 10 shared principles of civil rights and racial justice (Highland News-Leader)

COVID forces shutdown of after-school program (Highland News-Leader)

Highland leaders report more than 100 new cases in two weeks (Highland News-Leader)

How to survive a horror movie: 2020 edition (Medium)

Fiction

Wait wait don’t tell me…. Yanaguana came out. Just so you know, your purchase of Foul Womb of Night gets you more than just me. There are two other novels of military-themed horror by Adam Stemple and Gustav Bondoni included in the collection, and all for $2.99 (or free if you’re on Kindle Unlimited).

Photography

No photo trips again this month (I am going out before the leaves turn, COVID or no COVID) so here’s a flashback shot for you.

This image is “Fields of Pennsylvania,” a picture that nearly killed me. I was on the Furlough Tour in 2013 and trying to make my way across the toll roads of Pennsylvania for an early dinner in York before heading up to New York City. I think. That whole tour is something of a blur.

I was annoyed at the tolls, but the view made it worth every penny. The scenery was simply astounding, and when I saw this field with the farm at the treeline, I swerved my little rental car over to the side of the road and got out on the highway to get this shot. I didn’t have my good camera yet, so I had to be content with the resolution of my small point-and-click. It’s one of my favorite images from the tour, and still doesn’t do half justice to the beauty of Pennsylvania in the fall.

Patreon/Blogs

Dark and stormy night (Patreon)

Blackfire crew rides again! (Donald Media and Patreon)

Book birthday! And thank you. (Donald Media)

How to survive a horror movie: 2020 edition with pictures! (Patreon bonus)

Happy Halloween! (Donald Media)


Please consider subscribing to my Patreon! You get new and exclusive content, extra stuff no one else can get, and you are helping me pay the rent while I wend my way through grad school. Thank you for your support!

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August Linkspam

And we’re off to the races!

(Ouch, cliche.)

(Fine, I technically was still a student since the masters is pending…. shush with your facts.)

As I write this, the semester is one week old and I’m already behind. How does this happen? I’m developing my lesson plans as I go for my English composition and rhetoric class, so please pass the bourbon. So far my students haven’t dropped en masse and no one is driving me from the campus with pitchforks and torches shouting “heretic!” so we’ll call it a win for the first week.

I’ve had round one of the classes in advanced literary editing, where we will be focusing on producing the annual issue of Sou’wester; and my fiction workshop, where I will continue to develop short pieces (and you Patreon folk will get to see them, muahahaha.) My tutoring gig starts next week, and I will be returning to assist the good folks at the Alestle student newspaper.

I’m still mostly housebound, which has been nice and all but I would really like the virus to go away now, okay? The next two conventions for me are/were ContraKC in November and Conflation in February, and it’s still up in the air whether those events are taking place. If they do, then I need to decide if I can attend. I miss seeing you characters!

(Even you. And you. Maybe not you.)

Anyway, here’s this month’s links!

Essays

• Pay for it. That’s how people live. (Patreon and Medium)

Journalism

• Highland parents overwhelmingly choose in-person learning this fall (Highland News-Leader)

• Highland mayor implores community, businesses to take COVID more seriously (Highland News-Leader)

• Highland street art festival will still take place despite COVID (Highland News-Leader)

• Highland schools forge ahead with mixed schedule (Highland News-Leader)

• Two charged with home invasion in Madison County (Highland News-Leader)

Photography

Sadly, no photo trips this month. So instead I give you this one from the archives:

This is the Baltimore memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, located at the Inner Harbor. What appears to be a metal sculpture is actually a twisted remnant of the girders inside the World Trade Center, and there is an inscription of the names of the Baltimore residents who died that day.

Patreon/Blogs

• And heeeeere weeee go. (Patreon)

• Historical artifacts (Patreon)

• Stringbook (Patreon)


As usual, I would remind you of my delightful Patreon. Yes, I know, you hear about it every month. But I’m starting a new feature, as I begin a three-year MFA program in creative writing: I’m going to share what I learn with you, in the hopes that those of you interested in writing or the MFA experience will find it useful. So if you were thinking of joining the Patreon, now’s a great time!

July Linkspam

As I write this, I am beginning my last week of summer “vacation.” That last word has to be in quotation marks, because this summer has hardly felt like a break! Between my freelance work and ducking this bloody virus and managing the circus that is my family, I’ve hardly felt like I was on a break.

However, next week begins an intensive two-week training course in English composition pedagogy, which is academic-speak for “teaching English comp.” This being grad school, the readings actually start this week, and then for most of August I will be training heavily and preparing to start teaching in the last week of the month.

While I’m not (entirely) new to teaching, I am very new to English composition. Little-known Elizabeth fact: I never took English 101 or 102, nor a creative writing class until last year. Back in the ancient days (a.k.a. the 1990s), you could take a test called the CLEP (make your own jokes) and a high enough score let you skip straight to the literature classes. So I CLEPped out of English comp, and thus I have never taken or observed these classes. Whee!

Still, this is an exciting new challenge, compounded by the fact that all my teaching (and learning) this semester will be online, as well as my requiring tutoring for students who are struggling with writing skills. I am very grateful for the privilege to continue working entirely from home, as we all continue to ride out the pandemic and try to keep ourselves and our families safe.

In the meantime, journalism! This month was all about the news, as the folks in Highland kept me hopping. I also had a few essays, although I didn’t put any of them on Medium. I’m still trying to sort out what kind of material is going to be of interest on that site, and what people would like to hear from me.

Of course, the first priority is always to the Patreon, as those good folks fork over perfectly good money every month to read my blatherings. They got a couple of essays this month, as well as a photo travelogue from San Antonio. That’s the second of what will probably be four travelogues on San Antonio, and will eventually be repackaged into a travel piece. You know, in my spare time.

Essays/Blogs

The celebrity in the room (Donald Media)

Pay for it. That’s how people live. (Patreon)

Freedom Day (Patreon and Donald Media)

News

Highland parents face choice of in-person or remote learning (Highland News-Leader)

COVID may force schools to off-campus learning (Highland News-Leader)

Highland considers allowing golf carts on city streets (Highland News-Leader)

Highland teacher dances into retirement, but keeps a toe on the stage (Highland News-Leader)

Highland issues verdict on golf carts, ATVs on streets (Highland News-Leader)

Highland city manager set to retire after 40 years (Highland News-Leader)

Photography

San Antonio: The Riverwalk (Patreon)

You can always catch my latest work at ElizabethDonaldPhotography.com, and the shop is linked to all images that are available for sale. If you would like a piece customized as a poster or other item, just ask! 

Miscellaneous

We have been informed that Archon has been canceled for 2020, which was disappointing but not a surprise given the mass cancellation of just about every convention, book fair and signing this year. There are a few possibilities left for the holiday season, but odds are strong that every convention and signing will be canceled this year. I hope to see your faces again someday… 

Finally, work continues on the novella of doom, which should come out later this fall. I’m delighting in the creep factor of my haunted San Antonio (hey, if I like a city, I’m gonna infest it with monsters) and looking forward to seeing it in “print.” More about that next month, I hope! Many thanks to my awesome editor Rachel Brune, who has displayed uncommon patience with me…

In the meantime, have a cover!

Freedom Day

Monday was an anniversary of sorts. On that day, two years ago, I worked my last shift as a full-time newspaper reporter.

Those of you who’ve followed me for a while know what a big decision that was. I had worked for that particular newspaper for 18 years and in newspapers in general for 22 years, which was pretty much my entire adult life. I spent a long time thinking about the choice to go freelance and try to make a living with my words while I went through what I thought would be two years of grad school. Whee.

Last year I wrote that this decision was like jumping off the high dive with my family handcuffed to me, but without knowing if the pool was full of water. I spent the first few weeks of grad school sure I had made an awful mistake: I was too old, I didn’t fit in, I was a bad fit for academic style and the philosophical approach to the field. I didn’t exactly hit the ground running, but I adapted, and as of this writing I have finished all the coursework for the masters degree in media studies.

Several factors have delayed completion of Ye Olde Thesis, not the least of which has been COVID-brain – no, I haven’t had The Plague, but the situation we’ve all been in since March seems to have made my concentration very difficult. Wurdz r hard.

But I have never regretted my choice. It’s not an easy life, being a freelancer. I spend a lot of time hustling work and filing invoices. But I also choose what I write about, and I am my own boss. That has definitely been worth what I gave up in security and a regular paycheck.

And I’m still reporting. I do magazine articles on a fairly regular basis, and I also do some local reporting for a subsidiary of my former employer. I like to keep a foot in the game, since I hope to be teaching newswriting again in the future and I feel you really need to keep up with the profession in order to teach it, beyond reading in the trades about the general state of the news industry.

I truly love teaching. I didn’t know how I would take to it, but it surprised me by being the best part of the last two years. One of my few disappointments this year was that we could not figure out a way for me to keep teaching newswriting while I’m teaching English comp this fall, as I would happily teach both classes as long as they’d let me. All of us got hit with unexpected challenges – a baby-bird new teacher suddenly switching to all-online instruction in mid-semester required multiple adjustments of the syllabus and assignments, but fortunately my poor students were patient with me, and I’m looking forward to continuing my teaching in the English department this fall.

Oddly, my fiction work has flourished even during the grind of grad school, in ways it hasn’t in years. This year in particular, I’ve seen several stories picked up for speculative fiction anthologies and also a literary magazine, an avenue where I haven’t had much success in years past. I am hoping to see far more of that, as I begin my new MFA program next month.

Meanwhile, nothing dulls my passion and advocacy for news reporting, even as it becomes more and more tiresome to wade through the hate spewed toward us online (and sometimes more than hate, as evidenced by the treatment of journalists on the protest lines in so many places this year.)

So while I tend to think of the anniversary of my departure as Freedom Day, it should not be interpreted as freedom from my old job or the news or journalism. It was more an internal freedom, the freedom to remake my life and my work to better suit all the facets of who I am as a writer. It’s freedom from the expectations of others and the restrictions I placed on myself, not freedom from any particular employer.

Below is the speech I gave at my farewell party at the newspaper. I meant every word of it, and still do. (Yes, I wrote it down. If I don’t write down what I’m gonna say, I’ll talk forever and it’ll be full of “um,” as my students can attest.)

——-

I remember the first time I walked in here as an employee. It was June 2000, and we won’t talk about how old some of you were on that day, Josh

I was 25 years old and less than three years out of school. I filled out my papers and they sent me up to the bureau so I could introduce myself to the crew working up there: Doug Criss, Teri Maddox, Steve Nagy, Marilyn Vise, Jayne Matthews.

I thought I knew what I was doing. I didn’t know shit.

But I learned, because of the people I worked with here. I had editors, and colleagues, and mentors, and friends. We are a strange and often dysfunctional little family, but we are a family nonetheless. 

And that doesn’t change when you walk out the door, as I’ve discovered from the number of people I’ve heard from in the last few weeks and even the last few days. They remember, and we are connected. We are a family, because we all came here for one purpose, one calling that rides above an ordinary profession.

We are here because we believe in journalism, and its importance to the community in ways that they will never understand or appreciate. No matter how awful or exhausting or difficult it gets, no matter how jaded we think we’ve become, we still show up and shovel coal into the furnace and do the work and inform people who will never appreciate it.

To me, that makes every one of you heroes.

I am proud to have worked with every one of you. I am proud of being part of the News-Democrat. I always have, and I always will be. I have been here so long that “News-Democrat” is part of my name – when I introduce myself to people out in the world, I have to stop myself from saying, “Elizabeth Donald News-Democrat.” 

It’s going to be a hard habit to shake. But that’s okay, because it’s part of me, part of who I am.

I know there’s a lot of uncertainty right now – it’s weird, and there are difficult times ahead, more difficult for some than others. But I know that wherever our various paths go from here, each of us can and will stay the course with our true mission – and I don’t mean the checklist or a spreadsheet or a hit count goal. But the true mission of any newspaper: to serve and inform our community.

Each of you has been a shining example of that mission. And I don’t just mean the mentors who taught me so much of what I needed to know all these years. I mean you young ones who will carry the torch forward for us, and have taught me things I didn’t know that I didn’t know. 

Your dedication, your skill, your passion and commitment have restored my faith in our profession’s future. I will always be proud to have worked with each of you.

And you’re required to stay in touch. That’s why God invented the internet.

May Linkspam

I’m not even going to pretend to summarize May. Anyone with half a working brain cell and an internet connection knows what’s going on, and I’ve been up to my eyeballs just keeping up the butcher’s bill of attacks on journalists while covering the historic protest marches taking place worldwide. If you want to know more, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has a compilation much more comprehensive than mine and the ACLU is filing suit. If anything they’re being conservative in their definition of “attacked,” as I’ve seen far more than 54 journalists beaten, maced or otherwise assaulted in the course of doing their jobs.

Meanwhile, for the effect coronavirus is having on the journalism industry, Poynter is keeping a running tally of layoffs, furloughs, salary cuts and news organization closures as a result of the pandemic and shutdown. Please feel free to use this list against any idiot insisting that the media are overamplifying the threat of the virus because it’s so bloody good for us.

Of course, the State of Journalism is not really what Linkspam is supposed to be about, because if I start on the ranting essays I want to write, I’ll do literally nothing else, and I am ass-deep in alligators these days with freelance work. Here’s what I have to share from May:

Journalism

• “Fueling Our Heroes” makes stop in Highland, feeding truck drivers (Highland News-Leader)

• Highland High School creates virtual graduation for class of 2020 (Highland News-Leader)

• Pere Marquette under renovations for spring (Outdoor Guide Magazine – print only)

• Is Highland reopening yet or not? (Highland News-Leader)

• Mayor cautions city must follow state orders (Highland News-Leader)

Fiction

• An untitled short-story experiment for the Patreon group, which originated in my fiction workshop this spring. As always, the Patreon gets the behind-the-scenes stuff and the new stuff first, so you might want to consider subscribing. Hint hint.

Photography

The bloody pandemic has really damaged my plans for regular photo shoots this summer – I had multiple trips planned, and until the damn bug goes away, I won’t be able to do them.

• “Fireworks,” a photo essay for Patreon detailing my efforts to shoot fireworks into abstract sky-art. My town is going to attempt a socially-distanced fireworks display on July 3, and I will attempt to shoot it if I can do so safely.

Miscellaneous

CultureGeek is currently on hiatus due to the complete shutdown of the movie industry. If it resumes, it may be in the form of book reviews – or the reviews may find their way to this space. I haven’t made up my mind on that – I love CultureGeek and I’ve been writing it more than a decade, sometimes with others and sometimes alone. But I’m doing a lot more freelance work these days, I’m writing or managing five blogs, and the decidedly non-lucrative CG may have served its purpose. Or perhaps it has enough fans that it should keep rolling – either in its current space or in a dedicated website. I will decide that by the end of the summer, most likely.

I have recently joined the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), which appears to be the standard organization for writers in MFA programs like moi. Their conference looks to be a really nifty opportunity and it’s going to be in Kansas City next spring, which is an easy drive from sunny St. Louis. Best of all, I’m just a member, so I am not in charge of ANYTHING.

SPJ’s Excellence in Journalism is still scheduled for September, but damn near everything else I had scheduled between now and then is canceled, so it’s flip-a-coin whether I’ll be in D.C. this fall or not. I chose not to apply to Dragoncon this year before the COVID mess began – betting pools continue on whether DC will have its big party or not – but I hope to return sometime in the future when life is once again sane. Ish. The local chapter’s work is also on hold due to coronavirus, but I’m hopeful for our annual fundraiser and the monthly Freelancer Coffee Hour to resume soon. (Wear masks!)

Website work continues to be borked, as both the SPJ website and Jim’s website are completely fubar and I have to un-fubar them before I can attack the task of redesigning the rest of the websites. Did I mention I am not a programmer? I never get more than three steps into the recommended processes before I begin weeping and rending my clothing.

In the meantime, I’m working on magazine pieces and editing projects, still banging away at the Goddamn Thesis, and there’s a nifty new fiction project I’m not yet at liberty to discuss. When the contracts are signed, you’ll find out. It involves creepiness… and teeth. Muahahaha.

Stay safe out there, friends.

New photos: East St. Louis

East St. Louis Theater

I found this theater during a 2019 photo shoot in East St. Louis, Ill. It looked as though businesses had at least attempted to use the lower level in the recent past, and everything at ground level was covered in graffiti. But the upper level had fascinating scrollwork and artistic design. I know little about architecture, but I know that that building has stories to tell. 

There are a number of other images from my East St. Louis shoot, which was a fascinating trip detailed a few months ago on the Patreon.

See the rest of the photography portfolio at elizabethdonaldphotography.com.

April linkspam

It’s been a weird month, but then it’s been weird for all of us, hasn’t it? We are only two weeks from the end of the semester here at Donald Media Towers. My husband is about to finish his bachelor’s degree and not-graduate with the rest of the class of 2020; I have taken an extension on Ye Olde Thesis to get it knocked out in the summer before starting my new endeavor (read the last blog post on this list, if you missed that).

I’m under house isolation for the most part, having ventured out only for such thrilling moments as medical treatments or an insurance-funded car repair that required my actual presence for paperwork. The rest of the time I’ve been in the house, sending my essential-worker husband or son out on our errands, and sooner or later I’ll get them trained on how to follow a shopping list.

Teaching is pretty much wrapped up except for student conferences and grading the final projects, and my student work is… well. Let’s just say grad students and instructors are no less prone to procrastination or the mental malaise that has gripped so many of us in this time of plague. I see all these posts saying that it’s perfectly all right not to suddenly take up a new art form or write a novel or otherwise take advantage of all this home time… but then there’s those pesky deadlines.

So two weeks from now begins the summer, and I will not have any steady gigs for this breather between one program and the next. So it’s going to be freelancing, fiction and Ye Olde Thesis. Which probably means more essays and website design, because I can procrastinate like nobody’s business.

Most of my volunteer work is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. The American Cancer Society chili fundraiser/author fair scheduled for May 2 is postponed until further notice, and the Breakfastival of Hope scheduled for May 30 will likely be in August. The Cardinals ticket sale is on hold until we hear if there will be a baseball season, and right now I’m just crossing my fingers that the fall festival will happen so we can hold our annual book sale.

This has been disappointing for me, as I have lost two friends just this month to cancer and I’m more than a little pissed off about it. Rest assured our Relay for Life team will be raising money for cancer research one way or another, virus bedamned. In the meantime, you can donate here.

Essays

“Unexpected Gifts” (Medium), featuring a photo by my son, Ian Smith, because it was better than my photo by a long shot, pardon the expression. I better up my game! This one was posted on Patreon first, because Patreon always gets first dibs.

“Peace which the world cannot give, I give to you” (Medium)

Journalism

Highland High explores graduation options (Highland News-Leader)

Highland staying vigilant against coronavirus (Highland News-Leader)

Highland faces budget questions amid pandemic (Highland News-Leader)

Future of marijuana dispensaries on hold for now (Highland News-Leader)

Caterer donating meals during pandemic (Highland News-Leader)

Fiction

“Fever” (exclusively for Patreon)

(And a sooper-sekrit project I can’t tell you about until the contracts are signed. Ooo, mysterious.)

Patreon/Blogs etc.

Patreon subscribers received their annual bonus, which was a copy of the River Bluff Review, a literary magazine only distributed in dead-tree edition that included two of my stories this year. They also received a matted photograph. See what you miss by not subscribing? And there should be a lot more fiction in the coming year… for details, see below!

Elizabeth, what are you going to do when you grow up? (that itty bitty announcement here)

March linkspam

To say the month of March was a tad unusual would be grossly understating the case. But you’re right there with me, aren’t you?

I’m fine. My family is fine. We have the enormous privilege of working and/or attending a state university. That means when my husband’s job was put on administrative leave, he kept his salary and benefits. His second job is deemed essential, so he’s still working a few days a week. My son’s job has had its hours cut, but he still has some income. And we are all working our way through the semester via the wonders of Zoom.

I have been in the house for coming up on four weeks, with a few brief exceptions: a doctor’s appointment and two brief trips for supplies when the menfolk were unavailable. Immune-compromised means I was sheltering in place before there was a state order. I am teaching my class in a Zoom chatroom, I am working my way through my final semester from home, and if the thesis weren’t a hot mess, I’d actually be just fine.

We’ll call it a learning experience for all of us.

But I am privileged. We still have money coming in, and we got a nice big tax return just in time to help us through the worst of it. We kept our health insurance – very important for a house with as many prescriptions as I do – and we are in no danger of eviction or starvation.

Not everyone is so privileged. Some of the people I know are in dire straits. There are emergency funds popping up for journalists, for artists and writers, for students, for others in my circle that are devastated by the current mess. I urge you to seek them out – and to buy work from those artists and writers, because we are all going to need a little beauty to survive this.

And give a little extra love to the journalists. They were talking about this before it came here, and people mocked them. Then they were warning of disaster, and people ignored them. Then they were reporting on the disaster we predicted (or rather, the scientists they quoted predicted) and people blamed them. Now the disaster has hit their own organizations, and they’re being furloughed and laid off even as they were risking their own lives to give you the information you desperately need more than ever.

Support journalists, subscribe to a good paper if you can afford it, and maybe hop into the comment section once in a while to say something nice about it. Don’t stay too long – the mire might get on your shoes. But a supportive, intelligent comment on a news story would make a huge difference.

If you’re a journalist who has been laid off, here are some resources to help you. If you’d like to support good journalism, pick a fund here.

In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to this month. It’s not as much as you’d expect from someone who’s been mostly housebound, but may I remind you… THESIS.

Essays

An abundance of caution (Medium)

Journalism

Highland inching closer to new pool (Highland News-Leader)

Highland paramedics move to neighboring fire station during renovation (Highland News-Leader)

Highland takes steps to combat coronavirus (Highland News-Leader)

Highland citizens vote down marijuana dispensaries in advisory referendum (Highland News-Leader)

Highland bus drivers stay on salary amid coronavirus shutdown (Highland News-Leader)

Fiction

Coppice and Brake launched with a short story from me titled “Shiny People”! Here’s a blog post about it, and you can buy the dead-tree version or the ebook version right now.

And here’s a podcast of a radio interview with me and Crone Girls Press publisher Rachel Brune about Coppice and Brake, the creative process, the convention life, the changing gender dynamics in horror, and random other subjects that came to mind. Thanks to Adam Messer of WRUU for hosting me!

The River Bluff Review launched its annual edition earlier in March, including two short stories of mine titled “Dear Katrina” and “Sergeant Curious.” It’s a literary magazine and while “Dear Katrina” is part of the Blackfire series, “Sergeant Curious” has no supernatural or horror elements at all. It was an unusual honor to be selected for publication in a literary magazine outside of my usual genres. Unfortunately River Bluff Review is only available through the university.

Patreon/Blogs

Tempting to sing ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ (Donald Media)

The end is nigh… (Patreon)

The Cheshire Inn (Patreon)

That’s all the news that fits… um, except for that one other thing. That’s going to be its own blog post. Stay tuned, citizens.

Tempting to sing “Don’t fear the Reaper”…

First: I’ve got a new essay up on Medium regarding the current crisis. Check out “An abundance of caution…

In the meantime, we’re doing fine here at Donald Media HQ. The university around which our family life is centered is closed through next week, and then will begin online-only instruction for the foreseeable future. Never before have I been so glad to have my lovely big iMac in my home office… except that now people will see the rest of the office, and Jimmy Hoffa is probably buried under some of that crap. I was going to clean it this summer, I swear!

We’re also catching up on our Netflix – why did no one warn me that Season 3 of Daredevil was hot garbage? – and I think Amazon has just delivered our DVDs of Outbreak and The Stand. Has no one made a movie of Mira Grant’s Feed yet?

In all seriousness, much of the world is shut down. My son’s job at a local restaurant continues for now, though customers are few. My husband’s job as a university janitor also continues, and more vital than ever as they disinfect flat surfaces everywhere.

As for me, I’m going through a crash course in “how to teach online courses” that will honestly be a helpful work skill, though not one I’d ordinarily undertake while finishing the bloody thesis. I’m staying isolated as much as possible, given my compromised immune system, and we are well-stocked for the siege. We have food, coffee and bourbon, and yes, even toilet paper. We’ll be fine.

I hope all of you are safe and well and that you stay that way. For those who must venture out, be as careful as you can.

Never show how you make the sausage… or do you?

One of the major issues being discussed in my little corner of the world is a horrific sewer problem in Centreville, Illinois: a low-income town largely populated by black residents. It is literally the poorest town in the United States, and it has problems. Flooding isn’t just a wet basement for these folks; it’s open sewage pumping into a front yard, water literally spewing up from manholes.

It’s being investigated by local newspapers – you know, those “dying” institutions that the Facebook commentators love to mock and refuse to pay. Insert rant here.

Reporter Michele Munz with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has taken an interesting approach: she wrote a first-person narrative of her efforts to get information from the Centreville leaders.

A month of phone calls and emails.

Ducked by council members.

A mayor who would only take questions in writing and then never answered them.

Contradictory information given out at town halls.

Outright lies.

Munz’s column, “Crickets and unanswered questions from metro-east government,” is an unusual choice in that it is a first-person account of shoe-leather journalism. It is, of course, a common – almost mundane – tale for those of us who have worked in local journalism. Nobody wants to answer the questions when the answers aren’t pretty, so they hide.

But it’s not so uncommon anymore. Munz writes “On the Beat” regularly, detailing what goes into her reporting. More and more local journalism is pulling back the curtain, following up major stories with detailed “how we investigated this” and “why we did that” pieces.

It’s part of the push for transparency in reporting, intended to create a greater trust in news media among the readers. Of course, if you just read the Facebook commentators, it doesn’t matter how many lengthy hours we put in trying to find people and get your public officials to explain why they let sewage flow into people’s homes. They just complain about the paywall.

This new trend goes beyond the traditional role of the ombudsman, to examine and sometimes criticize the newspaper’s decisions, independent of editorial control. This is news literacy, explaining what we do in the hopes that they will understand how very hard it is. This gets even harder as newspaper after newspaper cuts staff and retasks their few remaining employees to run after car crashes and murders because that’s what you click and they’re desperate to pay the bills.

And no one else is doing it, folks. Unless someone has accused the mayor of burning down City Hall, I don’t see television cameras in city council meetings. Nobody is watching your local school board or library trustees… or sewer district. Nobody except newspaper reporters, the ones you’re not paying when you growl at the paywall.

Munz is keeping after the Centreville officials. Who’s keeping after the officials in your town?