November-December Linkspam

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?

Publicity/Appearances

Review for Foul Womb of Night, which includes my novella Yanaguana.

Journalism/Essays

The richest man in town (reprint; updated for 2020 in Medium)

Highland city leaders survey effects of COVID-19 on businesses (Highland News-Leader)

Highland Arts Council developing mural project (Highland News-Leader)

More parents request to move kids back into the classroom (Highland News-Leader)

Council approves proposed coffee shop with gaming room (Highland News-Leader)

Scouting for Food teams with Edwardsville Lions for food pantry (Belleville News-Democrat)

Latzer Library to renovate (Highland News-Leader)

Council not sold on proposed coffee shop (Highland News-Leader)

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

Highland cautions residents to take rising COVID numbers seriously (Highland News-Leader)

Gentlewriters: Start your engines (Medium)

Fiction

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!

Excerpt: Banshee’s Run (Patreon)

Also, Yanaguana is still available. Hint hint.

Photography

The final Door Poetry collection (Patreon)

(I also did a nifty couples shoot with my son and his terrific girlfriend.)

Patreon/Blogs

Writer’s Resolutions (Patreon)

Happy Holidays! (Patreon)

Finish line! (Donald Media)

Giving thanks (Patreon)

Elizabeth’s Rules* For Nanowrimo (Patreon)


Finish line!

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.)

Stupid virus.

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.

The Richest Man in Town

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.

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!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is patreonad-1024x512.jpg

Happy Halloween!

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.

Book Birthday: Yanaguana!

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 NightYanaguana 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.

Blackfire crew rides again!

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.

All this for $2.99 preorder price! Only available in ebook.

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.

September linkspam

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!

Publicity/Appearances

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!

Journalism

Mayor implores governor to rethink pandemic restrictions (Highland News-Leader)

Illinois governor has not replied to mayor’s letter (Highland News-Leader)

Full steam ahead for public safety building (Highland News-Leader)

How to have a safe Halloween during COVID (Highland News-Leader)

Photography

Sadly, no photo trips again this month, as I spent all of September inside my house recovering from illness. So instead I give you this one from the archives:

The pumpkin patch at Eckert Farms in Belleville, Ill. A trip to Eckert’s has become part of our family tradition. They have the most amazing fried chicken…

Patreon/Blogs

Yanaguana and the Five Senses (Patreon)

Elizabeth vs. the Voldevirus Patreon

Fiction

Grow Old With Me (Patreon)

Zippo (Patreon)


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!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is patreonad-1024x512.jpg

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.