River Bluff Review release event set

I’m delighted to announce that River Bluff Review will premiere on Tuesday, March 3 with a celebration and reading at the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

This year’s edition of River Bluff Review will include two of my short stories: “Dear Katrina” and “Sergeant Curious.” The event is open to the public, and will include authors reading excerpts from the book.

I will be late in the program, because I am teaching at that time, but I will skedaddle across the quad as soon as my class is done. How does an author skedaddle? Come to SIUE and find out!

The event begins at 4 p.m. in the Cougar Bookstore, located in Morris University Center. Please join us!

January linkspam!

I’m delighted that an original story will be coming out in March in Coppice and Brake, a new anthology from Crone Girls Press. “Shiny People” was inspired by an incident at a convention, actually, and I had so much fun writing it. Find out more about the anthology and my funky little story here.

I’ve also been crazy busy with some SPJ events. In February, SPJ will host a seminar in Google Tools at St. Louis Public Radio, which is going to be fascinating if you’re a journalist, data reporter, or giant nerd. (Or all three, which is pretty common.) We’re also moving forward with a trivia night in April, and there’s the annual First Amendment Free* Food Festival… and on the fiction side, the Eville Writers are rolling again after the winter break, while Literary Underworld is preparing for the first convention of the year in February and I’ve started planning for our fundraiser author fair in May. Whew!

Meanwhile, the semester has begun at Ye Olde University, where I am once again teaching newswriting and writing for the mass media. I am taking two courses that are delightfully fun, and womanfully attempting to finish The Thesis. I have other words for the thesis, but they’re probably not appropriate for a public post.

A friend said the other day, “I don’t know where you get the energy.”

“What energy?” I replied.

“To do all the things you do,” she said.

I laughed. “It’s an act!”

As of this writing, it is 14 weeks to graduation. Oh hey, there’s today’s Daily Panic Attack! Back to work.

Also this month:

Essays

The Newspaper (Medium)

Learning to fly (Medium)

Me vs. the Mouse (Patreon)

News

Highland paramedics need new housing during renovations (Highland News-Leader)

How to keep your New Year’s resolutions at school (The Alestle)

Highland provides incentives to Trouw Nutrition (Highland News-Leader)

Budzban steps down for political, social projects (The Alestle)

Highland to issue bonds for new public safety building (Highland News-Leader)

Feasibility study recommends major renovations for Highland schools (Highland News-Leader)

Photography

I did photo shoots this month for a couple of private clients, which are not currently permitted for public display. As I write this, I’m in Springfield, Illinois and will be shooting at a couple of sites here while my husband is rabble-rousing with his union.

Fiction

Sausage-making: An incomplete WIP (Patreon)

I’m also delighted that two of my short stories will appear shortly in the River Bluff Review. By next month’s Linkspam, I should be able to share with you the details on its publication and how YOU can snag a copy.

Anthology! New story coming out!

I’m happy to announce that I will have a new short story in the upcoming Coppice and Brake anthology from Crone Girls Press.

“Shiny People” is a creepy story inspired by someone I met on the convention circuit, and original to this anthology. It’s a ghost story – or is it?? It was a lot of fun to write, and by all appearances, I will be in good company for this nifty anthology. Here, have a cover reveal:

I will be taking preorders for the print edition starting now, and will be offering them at Conflation in a few weeks as well. Click here to preorder it for only $10!

If you missed it, the last anthology was Stories We Tell After Midnight, also from Crone Girls Press. It’s also available for $10 by clicking here!

If you live in the St. Louis area, you can choose “local pickup” for your delivery option. You will receive an email letting you know when and where to go to pick up your book. Otherwise, shipping is a flat rate no matter how many books you buy, so feel free to load up!

The ebook preorders will be going up in February, and the anthology is scheduled to release in March. I’m delighted to be part of Crone Girls Press, and look forward to seeing my fellow authors’ work in print.

Fall tour wrapping up!

This weekend I’m at ContraKC, an adult relax-a-con in Kansas City! I’m delighted to be back at Contra, which is the first convention that honored me as GOH several years ago and the people here have welcomed me as part of their family.

I’m looking forward to good conversation, good booze and BBQ second only to Memphis (sorry, KC, my heart belongs to the Bluff City).

And this will wrap up the Fall Deathmarch, which started way back at Labor Day, spans six states and I don’t want to speculate on the mileage. After this I’m settling back home for a bit, plus or minus a hometown signing in December and a possible trip to Washington D.C. for a photo shoot and visit to the Newseum before it dies.

Thanks to everyone who came out to see me at my various stops, who supported and cheered and bought books and art – especially that latter part, since that’s how I make my living. Extra thanks to my fellow authors and minions, especially my husband and son, Sela Carsen, David Tyler, and anyone else who helped us schlep books all over the midwest.

Touring is a grueling life living out of a suitcase with boxes of books and booze perpetually living in my mudroom so it can be loaded into the car next weekend, but it also has an extraordinary benefit: the chance to meet and talk with so many people who enjoy my work. That is a true blessing, and I am thankful for it.

New anthology!

I’m happy to announce a reprint of one of my favorite short stories will appear in an upcoming anthology from Crone Girls Press.

Now, I know we’re not supposed to have “favorite” short stories, because they’re all my babies. But let’s face it – some stories are just more fun than others. “In Memoriam” features the return of Cat Suarez, the photographer who sees dead people from Yellow Roses. What is Yellow Roses, you ask? You may be new here… that’s the best novel I’ve ever written, perpetually pending in publication. Apart from her debut novel, Cat shows up in a couple of short stories in Moonlight Sonata, which is still in print and available in ebook too (hint hint).

Stories We Tell After Midnight is edited by the indomitable Rachel Brune, and includes stories from Jane Hawley, Adam N. Leonard, Christy Mann and several others.

Spoooky.

A changeling binds a young girl to a mirror and takes her place…

A salesman pursues closing a deal until it costs him everything…

An ancient Duchess graciously invites you on a tour of her orangerie…

This is the world of Crone Girls Press. Here, the shadows keep their secrets and the moon hides from deeds cast in her glow. In these pages, the Fae walk as human, the dead burn with their anger at the living, the creatures that live in the dark places of the wrong zip code creep out of the shadows and into the kitchen. Stories We Tell After Midnight is a collection of short horror fiction from established names in the genre as well as a number of debut authors.

So, how can you get your hands on this awesome collection? You can preorder the ebook from Amazon for 99c right now! After release on Oct. 21, the ebook will cost you $4.99, so preorders are definitely in your best interest.

The print edition is not yet up on Amazon, but you can preorder that as well from Literary Underworld! Ordering from LitUnd means you can opt to have it signed if you wish. You can also order it as a gift with optional gift wrap.

As you might know, my fiction work has taken a back seat while I am going through the masters program, since there is actually a limit to how many plates I can spin at any given time. But it was a delight to return to my scary fiction worlds for this project, and I’m quite grateful that it met Crone Girls’ needs. I’m looking forward to reading the other stories, and I hope you enjoy them all.

Also: If you’re local, you might drop by Maeva’s in Alton tonight! Writers of the Riverbend will feature at least 20 local authors, including myself, and I will be taking preorders for Stories as well as selling books at the event. Hope to see you there!

Fall Deathmarch

Every year, I tell myself I’m not going to do it this year. I’m not going to schedule myself into a pretzel every fall and say “yes” to everyone. And then I look at my profit-loss sheet and remember that rent is a thing, and if you write horror and you’re not out and about in the fall, you ain’t workin’.

The first round for the Fall Deathmarch was, of course, Excellence in Journalism. There’s a summary of that excellence conference pending for St. Louis SPJ, but believe me, it was a terrific week and absolutely the first place I’d go if I were job-hunting in media today. Also, San Antonio is a nifty city and I’d love to go back with the family someday.

Onward!

• Breakfastival of Hope, Glen Carbon, Ill., Sept. 14. Okay, so technically this isn’t a public appearance: I won’t be speaking or signing anything. But those of you who have followed me for a while know that I have lost an inordinate number of friends to cancer, and I am sick of it. I have been a team captain for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life for more than 10 years, and this year the local Relay has opted to do a daytime food festival instead of the traditional all-night walk. So look for me and the St. Andrew’s team at the photo booth, where you’ll be able to ham it up as a superhero or Disney character.

SPJ Student Journalist Boot Camp, SIUE, Sept. 21. This is one of the best programs we do at St. Louis SPJ: we put together a small group of student journalists with working professionals in the area and help them learn a bit about how the job is done today. I’ll be conducting the session on ethics and generally herding the cats.

Writers of the Riverbend, Alton, Ill., Sept. 27. This is at Maeva’s coffeehouse in Alton, and I’ve been attending as long as they’ve been running it. Books will be on hand; I may or may not bring art to this one depending on space. But if you’re planning to attend and would like a specific piece, please let me know and I’ll be sure to have it on hand!

Archon, Collinsville, Ill., Oct. 4-6. Always a highlight of the year, Archon is our hometown convention and we will be there in force! The Literary Underworld will have its usual table just outside the dealer’s room, and we will bring the Traveling Bar to the Doubletree, so be sure to come by and say hello!

Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky., Oct. 11-12. Who tries to do two major cons back to back? Crazy people who don’t sleep. Imaginarium is a terrific convention, more of a writers’ workshop crossed with a film festival and a ton of fun. Literary Underworld will once again have a table in the dealer’s room and run the Traveling Bar, and I’ll be presenting on a number of topics, including a two-hour workshop on the business of writing.

Leclaire Parkfest, Edwardsville, Ill., Oct. 20. This is another fundraiser I run for the American Cancer Society: Used books for sale during Leclaire Parkfest, which is a nifty little festival celebrating the history and culture of the Leclaire village. Don’t look for it on a map: it was annexed into the city of Edwardsville many decades ago, but I’ve lived here since 2012 and I absolutely adore Parkfest. Look for us under the pavilion on the far side of the lake, and pick up some books while you’re there!

• Grownup Book Fair, St. James, Mo., Oct. 26. I’ve never been to this one, so I can’t say how it goes! But I’ll be there with books and art.

St. Andrew’s Book Sale, Edwardsville, Ill., Nov. 1-3. No signing or speaking, just volunteering … but if you love books, you should check out this sale. Books start at 50c, and cover all topics imaginable. It’s a terrific way to get a jump on your holiday shopping.

ContraKC, Kansas City, Mo., Nov. 8-10. This is a small, adults-only convention in KC, and I’m happy to be back after having to miss it for several years up to last year.

And… then I get a break! Whee! Until, of course, the holiday markets start up. And we won’t talk about research and term papers and my students and Ye Olde Thesis. (Send chocolate and booze, please.)

So I hope to see you characters while I’m out on the road (which is, y’know, pretty much the only way anyone’s going to get to see me!) Who needs sleep?

June bylines

Colleges help students with autism reach higher education (Diversity IS Magazine) – this actually published in May, but I missed it for last month’s roundup.

Inspection debate in Highland still simmering (Highland News-Leader)

Highland Council mulls over allowing food trucks (Highland News-Leader)

The Spindler Building: If Walls Could Talk (Patreon)

Dark Phoenix rises, and it’s not so bad after all (CultureGeek)

“Alleged victim” (Donald Media)

The Alestle asks: What’s your favorite MRF memory? (The Alestle, just compiling quotes this time with photography in the gallery)

The historical marker sits close to the road, while the site itself is somewhere back in the trees. The land that once housed the Mississippi River Festival’s music acts has since been used as a radio-controlled airplane field, an outdoor astronomy lab and the current

Highland city leaders decide against granting funds for Chamber’s art festival (Highland News-Leader)

Highland weighs number of inspections required for new housing (Highland News-Leader)

Fiction: Prologue to Yellow Roses (Patreon)

Note: I have finally remembered to update my Contently site with more samples of my work. I try to keep it at no more than 100 clips, a sampling of my various nonfiction works. Click the link to see more.

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.