In the news, again

We’re getting all kinds of famous here at Donald-Smith-Gillentine Inc.

Author fair and book sale highlights local authors

SIUE’s Gillentine wins Degree Completion Award

And the previously announced Illinois Press Association Award got some ink this week.

In general, it’s been a good week for the DSG crew. The semester is winding to a close, and since I won’t be teaching over the summer, I’ll have plenty of time to write my fingers off.

At least, that’s the working plan.

Birthday Special! Meet the Muse!

One of the most popular bits of silliness I ever wrote was a series of blog posts called “Conversations with the Muse.” The Muse is the creative, cantankerous voice in my head who yells at me and keeps the writing on track.

For the first ten years or so of my fiction writing career, the Muse (and assorted other voices) worked out plot twists and ways to torment characters, while my saner mind managed the tasks of being a single mom and a reporter. Sort of. My conversations with the Muse were frequent, profane, sometimes more than a little frustrated, and always snarky. They were posted in a private blog accessible only to close friends, now long defunct.

Many, many times I have been asked to compile the Muse posts into a book. Apparently, she’s a popular lady, though she would probably put her fist through the face of anyone who said that.

As I approach my birthday (39 plus tax, and I’ll have words with anyone who says different), I’d just like to tell you that if you ever thought about buying me a present (or even if you haven’t), the best thing you could possibly do would be to subscribe to my Patreon.

All my best material is going on the Patreon these days: short stories, novel snippets, travelogues, photo essays, blog musings, even the Door Project, which has been delightfully fun all semester. The Patreon is an important part of my family’s income, but it has also been mentally and creatively stimulating in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

So I’m taking advantage of a new Patreon feature and offering an ebook as a special bonus to anyone who subscribes between now and March 25. It’s “Conversations With The Muse,” ranging from the arguments over my first novel back in 2003 up to her most recent appearance last month, as well as two short stories in which the Muse led me on a visit down the rabbit hole to visit my characters.

Already a subscriber? Don’t worry, you’re getting the ebook too! Along with my thanks for your kind support and diligently hanging in there while I worked out the kinks in the Patreon system. And if you increase your pledge by at least one level during the birthday week, you’ll get a secret extra bonus!

Sure, you can think of it as a birthday present if you want. But I’m hoping you’ll like what you see, enough to stay and keep reading what I’m putting out there each month. I try to sing for my supper, and I hope what I’m singing is pleasing to your ears.

Excerpt: Feb. 24, 2005

I’m stuck on a part of A More Perfect Union, namely the falling-in-love part. I thought maybe I’d go for a nice walk in the woods along the bike trail near the apartment, and see if I can remember how people fall in love.


ME: So, how do you fall in love?
MUSE: Never did.
ME: Sure you did.
MUSE: Nope.
ME: I made you up. I wrote you. You fell in love once.
MUSE: No, that was Crawford, in Sanctuary. She’s the one who fell in love. I’m the part of you that steers clear of all that.
ME: Oh great. I hope nobody notices I’m walking here talking to myself.
MUSE: Nobody’s here. It’s fucking February. You’re the only one nuts enough to walk on a trail the day after a goddamn snowstorm.
ME: Wuss.
(pass underpass construction site)
ME: I think it’s nice that the bike path doesn’t have to make way for the new road, and the new road doesn’t stop for the bike path. They get to coexist.
MUSE: Very philosophical. Note the graffiti.
ME: Ugh. Little bastards. Is that a tiger?
MUSE: I think it’s supposed to be Satan.
ME: Those aren’t horns.
MUSE: No, but the 666 all around him is kind of a tipoff.
ME: Idiot little gangsta wannabes. Any of them saw anything really bad they’d wet their pants. 
MUSE: Is this what we’re out here for?
ME: Fuck you. I need to think sappy thoughts. When was the last time I fell in love?
MUSE: You do not want to go there.
ME: Good point. I can’t remember how people fall in love.
(stops)
(stares)
ME: What the fuck is that?
MUSE: A stick.
ME: It’s got fur.
MUSE: Dead animal.
(stares)
ME: That’s the severed leg of a deer.
MUSE: Yup, it is.
ME: Deer are my favorite animal.
MUSE: Uh huh.
ME: Is there any WORSE fucking karma than this? It’s you, isn’t it? This is what happens when I’m talking to you!
MUSE: We should report this to someone.
ME: There’s no road anywhere near here! The road is like 200 feet away and 20 feet up with guardrails!
MUSE: Don’t smell anything, either.
ME: Idiot. It snowed. Nothing’s going to rot until the thaw.
MUSE: Ew.
ME: YOU’RE saying ew? You?
MUSE: I’ve got a thing about amputation.
ME: Which of us is the tough bitch? I forgot.
MUSE: That’s the severed leg of a deer. I’m all out of romantic thoughts.
ME: Now there’s no way that scene gets written today.
MUSE: I think we should go home and report this.
ME: Severed leg of a deer. Next to quasi-satanic graffiti. This shit only happens to me.

Flashback: The Murder of Stephen King, or Why We Write

Note: This essay was originally published on Oct. 12, 2016
How terrible for his ghostwriter.

In case you missed it a few weeks ago, James Patterson called off his novel The Murder of Stephen King. It was actually a concept with potential, though not terribly unique: a serial killer is reenacting the deaths in a famous writer’s books. Too bad Patterson decided to base it on a real-life writer, one who has already done this story a couple of ways, who has actually been stalked and terrorized by crazy people, and who isn’t much of a Patterson fan.

Okay, it was maybe a little unkind (or at least impolite) for King to call Patterson a terrible but very successful writer. Largely because it’s public knowledge Patterson doesn’t write his own books anymore. If his books are terrible, then he should probably hire better ghostwriters.

Still, this was a tacky novel concept, so I’m glad he pulled it. I name characters after real people all the time, but only with their permission. And while my friends are largely delighted to die in horrible ways – which tells you something about my friends – I am sure any who have actually been stalked would not appreciate it immortalized without their consent.

I still boggle that Patterson doesn’t write his own books.

At times, usually in frustration when sales are low or when struggling to carry a box back to the car (books are heavy) we will complain, “Why are we doing this again?”

And there is always a fellow author to say, “Because we have no choice.”

Because you love books.
Because you have stories inside you that won’t shut up.
Because it’s therapy.
Because it is the only thing you’re truly good at doing.
Because no one is writing the stories you want to read.
Because you love making worlds.
Because there isn’t enough of [your subgenre here] in the world yet.
Because you only get better by doing more of it.
Because if you stopped the voices would take over.
Because just like the readers, you gotta know how it ends.

Writer Mia Silverton told me she began her writing career this year, hearing this advice from Quinn Loftis in three parts: We write because we have to. We write because we are inspired. We write to impact and influence lives.

“I do,” Mia says. “I write because I simply have to tell these characters’ stories and see the truth unfold. ‘We write because we are inspired.’ I am exactly that. Inspired by all the books, authors and lightbringers that have touched my heart and soul during every single year and phase of my life. ‘We write to impact and influence lives’ – I write because I want to help change lives, through not only the characters and worlds I create, but the messages that are spoken within those pages of love and healing. A well-spoken word in the past created a shift in me when the time was needed and I feel called to pay it forward.”

Nowhere in that do you read, “So that I can make a couple million bucks.” And if you did, there would be this sad, sick swell of laughter from the dealer’s room.

Sure, if you’ve reached that lovely, privileged spot where you’re making a living at writing, you write to pay the rent and put food on the table. I was on a panel at some point during the Fall Deathmarch Tour about writer’s block, and all of us opined that one sure-fire cure to writer’s block is a big paycheck held over a deadline. Filmmaker Jack Snyder listed his St. Louis house, apartment in Los Angeles, office rent and two kids in private school as his cures for writer’s block. Money is a terrific motivator.

But… the money is a motivator because we want what Patterson has achieved. We want to reach that point where you can write whatever you want, get it published, and still pay the rent. So if you reach that point… why would you hand off the good part to somebody else? What do you do with all your time, roll around in the dollars cackling like Scrooge McDuck? If you’re so busy managing the money that you don’t have time to do the writing part, maybe the priorities have gotten a little out of whack?

Harlan Ellison once disparaged the phrase, ‘I like having written but I don’t like to write, it’s hard work.’ “Well, fuck you, hard work!” Ellison said with his usual delicacy. “You don’t like it, go out and sail sailboats. Of course it’s hard work. If it wasn’t hard work, everybody would be doing it. And the better you do it, the harder the work is. It’s supposed to be hard. Art is not supposed to be easy…. Art is supposed to be hard. Art is supposed to be demanding. That’s the way I feel about it.”

So I don’t pretend to understand what’s going on in James Patterson Inc., and while I might envy receiving one-tenth of his (or Stephen King’s) paychecks, I’ll still keep writing my hopefully-not-terrible books.

Because I have to. For more than one reason.

Fall Deathmarch and Stalking Guide

I do this to myself every year. Every year I say I am not going to schedule myself like a chicken sans head in the fall, and every year I do it anyway.

Really, there’s no other way. If you’re a horror writer and you’re not working in the fall, you’re not working. With our current circumstances, we’re going to have to start declining cons in the new year, so this is our last chance for a long time to do the cons, see our friends and readers and readers-who-are-friends, and P.S. make a little cash.

Just a little. Sadly, the cons simply do not pay off for authors as they once did. So. Hint. Buy some books from those poor starving authors if you want to see them the following year. Yes, AT the show. We love ebooks as much as you do, but that 17 cents per copy six months from now won’t pay the hotel bill.

Anyway, here’s where you can find me and mine this fall, and I hope you’ll come by and say hello! If you bought a book or a print, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings any, but seriously, it’s always good to see humans.

Just be aware, I’ll also be disappearing into the hotel room to study and write up endless essays and other grad-school-type-stuff and I might or might not burst into a random string of polysyllabic metaphors if you get a few drinks into me.

Sept. 15 – St. Louis SPJ Boot Camp (journalism). I’ll be speaking about ethics and serving pizza, no sales. If you’re a journo student, you still have a day or two to sign up! It’s FREE.

Sept. 26-Oct. 1 – Excellence in Journalism, Baltimore. Just attending this time, as well as serving as delegate for St. Louis SPJ. I’ll be tweeting journo stuff at @edonaldmedia and personal observations at @edonald, as usual. I used to live in Baltimore as a teenager, and am looking forward to finding myself some Berger cookies! I’m not vending, but if anyone is interested in picking up a book from me, please contact me before Sept. 24 and I’ll stash a few in the suitcase. Also looking forward to seeing family and old friends, so let me know if we can grab drinks at the Harbor!

Oct. 5-7 – Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. Attending, giving a seminar in “The Business of Writing,” vending as Literary Underworld and hosting the Literary Underworld Traveling Bar both nights. I’ll be accompanied by the Menfolk (read: husband Jim, son Ian) and my good friend Sela Carsen, who is definitely an author you should consider if you like romance. Or even if you don’t – she is queen of the fairytales! Imaginarium is one of my top-recommended cons for writers, beginning or established, and you should definitely consider it.

Oct. 12-14 – Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Attending, speaking, vending as Literary Underworld, and as of now we plan to open the Traveling Bar both nights. Sela is joining us again, and I’m not sure how many of the Lit Underlords will also be in attendance, but we’ll be looking for you!

Oct. 20 – Dupo Art Festival, Dupo, Ill. Vending as myself, both books and art. This is part of a chili cookoff that should not be missed!

Oct. 21 – Leclaire Parkfest, Edwardsville, Ill. Just selling this time, and not my own books – I run the charity used book sale for Parkfest that raises money for the American Cancer Society. (Psst. Volunteers welcome.)

Nov. 3 – St. Louis Indie Book Fair, St. Louis, Mo. Selling only and as myself, books only (no art permitted).

Nov. 9-11 – ContraKC, Kansas City, Mo. A 21-and-up “relaxacon,” selling as Literary Underworld with books and art, and the Traveling Bar will be open both nights.

At last I stay home, and celebrate a rescheduled anniversary with my long-suffering husband. Then begins the holiday fairs…

June Linkspam Round-up

At least my last month in daily journalism won’t be boring.

On the Patreon:

• A short story titled “Dead Heat,” for patrons at $10 or more.

• Blog post: “Goal No. 1 – Unlocked,” for patrons only.

• A short story titled “Sisyphus,” one of my golden oldies, open to all.

• Photo posts of a double rainbow sighting ($5 and up) and the MoBot glass show. (open to all).

• A personal essay on “Life After News,” open to all.

I also posted this essay on meeting a group of Chinese journalists.

You can get all this lovely content by subscribing to my Patreon!

In the news:

• Feature: A son’s gift to his father: 16 more years of life and counting

SIU board to vote on firing President Dunn

SIU meeting to fire Dunn illegal, chairwoman says

Board deadlocks on firing Dunn

• Granite City teacher resigns after allegations of affair with student

Storm pummels metro-east; 45,000 without power

Also, a public statement as president of the St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists regarding Lindenwood University’s decision to stop printing its student magazine after controversial (and award-winning) stories.

And finally… I was not permitted to use puns in this story. I think the loss of income going freelance will be worth it simply to be allowed to pun in public.

ME: Am I allowed to say he got stuck with the bill?
EDITOR: No.
ME: Sigh. Someday I’m gonna quack you up.
EDITOR: *stare*
ME: Look, Leader Pub’s lead is, “One Six Flags patron apparently thought it was duck season.”
EDITOR 2: Are you sure it’s not wabbit season?
EDITOR: I’m about to declare a time-out.
ME: I’m not allowed to use puns. See? No puns in my story, and it is physically painful.
EDITOR 3: Since you’re leaving, does that make you a … lame duck?
ME: *points* How come he gets away with that and I can’t make a single pun??
EDITOR: I gave him the side-eye glare.

Signing in Kansas City

Just a quick update that I’ll be signing and selling in Kansas City on Saturday, June 30. Many thanks to Contra Mini-Con 29.5 for hosting me as part of their event! I’ll have books in stock to sign and will be bringing art prints; if there’s something specific you’d like to have, please message me in advance and I’ll see what I can do.

Keep in mind that several of my novels have gone out of print due to publisher bankruptcies, so at the moment all I have in stock are the three in-print books: Setting Suns, Nocturne Infernum and Moonlight Sonata. I’m a little low on SS, so if you want one, reserve it fast.

As a side note, if you’re looking for my out-of-print books like Dreadmire, The Cold Ones or Blackfire, the only store I’m aware of that still has stock is Afterwords Books in Edwardsville, Ill. They do mail-order, hint hint.

I haven’t been to Kansas City for at least a year, and haven’t done a signing there since I was GoH at Contraception several years ago. I’m hoping to scope out some photo shoots while I’m there or en route, so if you have suggestions of good locations, please let me know!

Full details on the signing are available on the Facebook event. Hope to see you there!