I’m pleased (almost) beyond words to announce I have been honored with the Mimi Zanger Award for fiction writing. This is an award granted by the English Department at Southern Illinois University, where I have begun my coursework for an MFA in creative writing (in case you’ve missed all the other references to my MFA here and on my Patreon …. somehow).
The story I submitted for the contest’s consideration was written in workshop last semester. My first inclination was to share it, of course. However, it is currently under submission to a literary magazine, and thus it would be inappropriate to publish. I sincerely hope I will be able to share it with you soon.
Near as I can tell, the award is named after the wife of Dr. Jules Zanger, a professor at SIUE before it even became the university we know it today. Dr. Zanger grew up in Brooklyn and fought in World War II, as did many of his generation. After the war, he earned his degrees and met Mary Proctor – known as Mimi – while finishing his PhD at Washington University in St. Louis. Like many academics, the Zangers bounced around from Ohio to Chicago and so on before moving to Alton, Ill. and settling at SIUE. Dr. Zanger taught at SIUE for 35 years, retiring as professor emeritus after receiving Fulbright grants to study in Brazil, France and Czechoslovakia.
Mimi died in 1991. Dr. Zanger continued with his research and extensive travels, eventually remarrying and relocating to Frankfurt, Germany, where he died in 2014. His obituary states that he was “a great lover of good books, good food, good wine, good music, and good conversation. He loved fine restaurants, but was also a skilled home chef, preparing many memorable meals for friends and family. He loved and frequently attended the opera, never understanding why everyone didn’t.”
When Dr. Zanger died, his survivors indicated that memorials should be made to the Mimi Zanger Award endowment, so that it could continue to support students like me who seek to explore the joys of the written word.
It sounds like the Zangers would have been terrific people to know.
As I write this, I am playing Don Giovanni, in honor of the opera lovers, and hope that I can be worthy of their legacy. I am humbled and grateful for the honor and support of my mentors in the writing program, and look forward to all I have to learn from them.
One month of 2021 down, 11 to go, and hasn’t it been entertaining so far? I don’t know about you, but I could use a little less excitement in my news… and also a little more sunshine, because this has been the longest, grayest January I can remember.
This is Women in Horror Month, and just in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a horror writer and a woman. I’d like to recommend this essay by Mary SanGiovanni, who is a terrific writer and very smart human, as she discusses some of the challenges facing us as women horror authors. It spurred me to do a rare Twitter rant on this issue, and I hope you’ll consider Mary’s call to do more than scan the ubiquitous lists of women writers: read them, discuss them, share their work.
But now let’s talk about what’s been going on! For one thing, I’ve slightly altered the Patreon. In addition to the new MFA Adventures posts, I’m adding book reviews (and maybe movies if we EVER get to go see them again) at the $3 level. This is in part because I’m doing so much reading and finding such neat stuff as I work through the MFA, and in part because my pandemic-induced isolation means I have very few photo shoots and no travelogues. I’ve got plenty of backlog, mind you! But until I can move around again, y’all deserve fresh content.
Meanwhile, the semester has begun at Ye Olde University. I am teaching English composition again, and studying fiction and poetry writing. This should lead to some interesting posts in the Patreon!
I’m sorry to say it looks like all the conventions for the first half of the year have been canceled. We’re still waiting to hear on the July-Dec. cons and conferences, and assuming I can get a jab in the arm, I’m looking forward to seeing folks again! However, I plan to attend Conflation in its virtual format later this month, and we’ll see what other shenanigans I can manage from my Rapunzel tower!
Not quite publicity but important: Be aware that my author website will be coming down shortly for a massive overhaul after *mumblety years of the same static design. I am not a programmer and I really suck at site design, yet I manage something like five sites. *shrug* We’re a work in progress.
In the meantime, take note my photography portfolio at elizabethdonaldphotography.com. I’ve also consolidated my webstore to offer books and photography from the same site. Never fear, I’m still part of Literary Underworld! (Which has two nifty new titles this month, you should check it out.) And my work is still available on Amazon, of course.
And I have a Patreon. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it in the last two paragraphs….
We have some new posters in development! Right now there’s just the one new poster available on the photography portfolio in addition to the older poster designs, but there are several others in the works that will be available in the store and on etsy. Stay tuned!
Whoops. Somehow November’s Linkspam never posted, and I never noticed and none of you yelled at me. That’s a sobering lesson!
Suffice to say the end of the year is now upon us, and good riddance. There’s been plenty of work for us writerfolk, but a lot of others have been suffering. It’s hard for me to complain about having to hole up in my little attic office all the time when my son the college student will have to take on a third job because his restaurant job has cut his hours and his setbuilding job is on hiatus and tuition bills are looming.
Here’s the links for the last two months of the year, and thank you for sticking with me, folks. Here’s to better things in 2021 – they’d almost have to be, wouldn’t they?
Not much to report other than the ongoing MFA work, which has been keeping me very busy. I’ve been narrating my thoughts about the MFA in the Patreon, so if you’re really interested in that material, you might subscribe. (Was that subtle?) This semester I wrote three short stories and began two others still in production. Whee!
It’s not much of a finish line, but today marks the end of the fall semester. At some point today or tomorrow I will file my students’ grades and turn in one last assignment, and I am DONE for the semester.
I’m not done with the masters thesis still hanging over my head from media studies, and I’m sure as hell not done with the MFA – it’s gonna be a long three years, folks. But I will have four weeks to… um, I’m trying to remember the word… relax? I’ve read about it in books. I thought I might also try sleeping. I hear it’s nice.
The family has postponed our ha-ha graduation trip again to May, so we won’t be traveling during the holiday break. For those playing the home game, that’s the fourth rescheduling of our vacation to celebrate Jim’s and my joint graduation. (Of course, I didn’t graduate, but that wasn’t going to stop me from slapping on the mouse ears, folks.)
In the meantime, I’ve revised and updated my holiday column on “It’s a Wonderful Life,” musing on the ups and downs small-town life, the Capra Corn moment, the essential nature of humans and other lightweight subjects.
I should add that my Medium channel has a new URL: elizabethdonald42.medium.com. ElizabethDonald was taken, so I opted to add “life, the universe and everything” to my name. Please feel free to bookmark and visit as often as you like! I get paid by how much time people spend reading my essays, which means I probably ought to write more of them.
At any rate, I hope this weird, wild holiday season is treating you well. Tip your curbside servers, leave the light on for your postal worker, wear your mask and remember to treat others with kindness. The worst that can happen is that we make the world a little better than it was yesterday.
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!
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.
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.
How to survive a horror movie: 2020 edition (Medium)
Wait wait don’t tell me…. Yanaguana came out. Just so you know, your purchase of Foul Womb of Nightgets 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).
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.
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!
It’s time again for “How to Survive a Horror Movie,” the annual tradition that began years before Scream came up with its own list of Rules. As detailed in the essay linked below, it began with my father the Film Professor, who wrote an actual academic article using Darwinian theory to apply to characters in horror movies, titled “Don’t Do That, You Twit!”
With my annual hat-tip to Dad, and to the many authors, fans, readers and others who have contributed to the Rules over the years, I give you the 2020 edition.
I’m happy to announce that my new Blackfire novella, Yanaguana, is now unleashed on the world courtesy of Crone Girls Press.
It walks along the San Antonio river, and it carries all your fears in its grasp.
Paul Vaughn and the Blackfire team have been summoned after several mysterious deaths, because that’s what they do. They face the things that lurk in shadows, and they save unknowing civilians from their grasp.
But this one will challenge Blackfire more than any they have yet faced, as they must fight not only the demon that lurks along the Riverwalk… but the things they fear the most.
A standalone novella preceding the events of The Cold Ones,Yanaguana adds another chapter to the Blackfire series and will hopefully introduce new readers to this world of ghouls and beasties. Paired with two other novellas under the Crone Girls Press collection Foul Womb of Night, Yanaguana is now available for $2.99 from Amazon or FREE for Kindle Unlimited readers.
While I’ve got you… I have a few people to thank. Because nobody writes a book alone, as much as we like to pretend.
Many thanks to David Szucs, officer and gentleman, who provided a sanity check for military parlance; to David Tyler, who answers my rambling messages at two in the morning; to Ian Smith, who helped me devise what’s going on with new characters Juliet and Tommy; and to my husband Jim Gillentine, who always cheerleads.
As usual, many thanks to the real Parish Roberts, Jim Bell, and the late Vic Milan, who let me steal their names for characters more than a decade ago.
Thanks to the good people of the Alamo Trust, who kindly gave me permission for a photo shoot and visit to the historic site, and the staff there who answered my many questions. San Antonio is a wonderful city, and I always show my love to the places I visit by infesting them with monsters.
Special thanks to Rachel Brune, editor extraordinaire who is blessed (or burdened) with indomitable patience and grace.
Finally, thanks to the real Sara Harvey, who couldn’t be more different than her fictional counterpart, except that they both kick ass.
I’m happy to report that my new novella, Yanaguana, will launch next week and preorders are open NOW.
Part of the new Midnight Bites series from Crone Girls Press, Yanaguana will be released with two other novellas under the title Foul Womb of Night, centering on horror among the military or paramilitary. A prequel to the first Blackfire novel, Yanaguana follows Sara Harvey and Paul Vaughn as they face a mysterious force killing people in San Antonio by forcing them to face their deepest, most paralyzing fears.
Also included are Goblin Hole by Adam Stemple and Frozen Meat by Gustavo Bondoni, ranging from the trenches of World War I to the frozen wastes of the Antarctic.
I had a wonderful time writing Yanaguana. Of course, it’s always fun to ride with Sara and the gang, whether they’re facing down an aswang ghoul in the Phillippines or a redcap in the British Isles or a Russian rusulka lost in Memphis or, y’know, zombies. Yanaguana takes us in some new directions with the Blackfire crew, and let me explore some aspects of the team that we haven’t seen before.
If you’re wondering about the previous Blackfire books… well, they’re out of print. Sorry! The good news is, you absolutely do NOT have to have read the other books to understand Yanaguana. It was intentionally written as a standalone novella, so while it will certainly tie in to the events in the other books, you will not be lost if this is your first adventure with Sara and the team.
And I really loved exploring San Antonio. They make guacamole at the table, man.
I hope you enjoy Yanaguana as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Note to my English 101 students: Please do not read the above cartoon. It bears no resemblance to actual expectations. No, really. Do as I say, not as I do.
I’m in mid-semester here at sunny SIUE, inflicting rhetorical analysis on my students and writing fiction on deadline, which should mean more fun for you in the near future! I also was proud to serve as delegate to the Society of Professional Journalists’ national conference, which was online instead of Washington D.C. Stupid virus. I’ve returned to the student newspaper The Alestle as a copy editor as well.
There wasn’t much else to report for September, because I came down with a nasty bout of something bronchitis-like right after Labor Day and stayed sick for the entire month. Four weeks of fever is no one’s friend. (Yes, I was tested for the Voldevirus and thankfully was negative.) Working entirely from home meant I could keep working without infecting anybody. On the downside, I could keep working. Many thanks to the professors who were so understanding about my croaky ass remaining on mute during classes so as to not inflict my coughing on the Zoom call.
In better news, I’m happy to report that this month I finished a Blackfire novella that will be coming out from Crone Girls Press later this fall. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope you’ll enjoy it. I was startled to find that only a little bit into my MFA, I have already compiled enough short stories to fill about half of a new collection. If you’re interested in the Ongoing MFA Adventure, I’m detailing it several times a month on my Patreon.
Anyway, here’s this month’s links!
Happy to be part of the Edwardsville Public Library’s Book Festival, which had to be held online for staggeringly obvious reasons. I had to miss the first of these festivals last year because I was on the road, and that is so not a problem this year. All conventions and signings for October have been canceled, along with just about every such appearance since February. Thanks to the Edwardsville Library for helping boost the signal for the starving authors!
As usual, I would remind you of my delightful Patreon. I’m adding 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!
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!
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!