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Tag: fiction

Catching figs

As my semester draws to a close, one of our projects has been an online anthology of work centered on “Imagining Madness,” a semester-long examination of madness in fiction. Not to be confused with actual mental illness, it centered on people perceiving the world differently or whose ideas or behaviors violated the normatives of their society. 

My contribution to the anthology was “Catching Figs,” an essay examining Esther of The Bell Jar and what it reflects of second-wave feminism. I was also selected to present this paper at the SIUE Graduate Student Symposium this semester, and my poster slide from that is included below.

If this kind of literary analysis interests you, you can read my revised essay here. Then click around the other offerings and see what people have written. There are poems and character studies and much more. It’s really been a delight and a fascinating discussion all semester, and I’m going to miss it.

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April 2022 linkspam

It’s no coincidence that this month’s meme is Toni Morrison. All this semester I have been studying Morrison, as I am privileged to attend a university that offers a class solely focused on her writing. The nuances and intentionality of her prose are powerful and inspiring, and I’ve greatly enjoyed exploring her work. So far we’ve done deep dives on The Bluest Eye, Sula and Song of Solomon, with side trips into her essays and academic writing. I can already tell that I’ll be digging out Beloved and Paradise over the summer.

My Deep Thoughts on Morrison and my other studies in the MFA program are a continuing feature on the Patreon. I recognize that I have an enormous privilege to be able to pursue an MFA in creative writing and spend three years developing my craft and studying literature, and not everyone has the financial or practical freedom to do so. Therefore I am sharing what I learn on the Patreon, so that my readers get an MFA by proxy! Or something like that. 

As we enter the homestretch of the Longest Semester of My Life, the travel schedule is picking up. As I write this, I’m one week back from Memphis and heading to Wichita later this week, with more travel on the horizon. Am I coming to a show or festival near you? If not, drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do. 

Meanwhile, I’m delighted that the anniversary edition of Setting Suns is out now! “But wait, Elizabeth, I already read that book.” Sure you did, but this anniversary edition has a new short story, a new afterword and other tweaks. I am very happy with the way it came out, and many thanks to Kody Boye Publishing Services, who did a great job on the book.

We premiered it at Midsouthcon this past weekend, and had a great time seeing our old friends and meeting some new ones. The official release event is slated for April 15 at Spine Books here in St. Louis, and I hope to see you there! 

More about the Setting Suns release on the blog, but in the meantime, here’s where you can pick up a copy:

Signed copies direct from me
Amazon
Kindle

A nightmarish funhouse turned deadly.
A couple trapped in a futile journey through time.
A single baleful eye watching from the deep.
An assassin waiting in a snow-covered tree.
A toy that seems to have a life of its own.
A pair of soldiers trapped between death and something worse.
A tenebrous hand reaching out of the shadows.

These are the award-winning tales and terrors of Elizabeth Donald, writer of things that go chomp in the night. This new anniversary edition is being released 20 years after the first story was published, now including a bonus short story and the author’s reflections on twenty years of twilight tales.

In that space between evening and nightfall, between consciousness and sleep, the moment when the light fades and the shadows take over… These are the lands of the Setting Suns.

Publicity/Appearances

In March I simultaneously attended the national conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and Midsouthcon on the same weekend, which was a hilarious bit of scheduling. Many thanks to my husband and our fellow Literary Underworld authors, J.L. Mulvihill and Rachel Brune, for their patience as I dashed up to the hotel room for AWP panels, then back downstairs for a Midsouthcon panel. Rinse, repeat. 

Kimberly Richardson of Viridian Tea House gave a wonderful review for Nocturne Infernum with five out of five cups of tea. “This is one hell of a book,” she declared. Check it out here!

I am so excited to be reading and signing Setting Suns on April 15 at Spine Books here in St. Louis. Spine Books specializes in indie and small-press publishing, primarily from local writers, and I’m honored to be featured in their Friday night showcase series. The fun starts at 6 p.m. – check out the Facebook event for details!

Other highlights of the coming month include the SPJ Region 7 Conference in Wichita next weekend, where I am presenting on the practical applications of the SPJ Code of Ethics; our annual (ha ha) SPJ Trivia Night (postponed five times due to COVID); the First Amendment Free* Food Festival; and the Afterwords Bookfest in Edwardsville, Ill. on April 30. Whew! It’s going to be quite a month. 

I’m also pleased to announce I will be attending ConCarolinas this summer as a guest author. I’ve never been to this particular con, so I’ll have to see if I know anyone there…

Coming up:
• SPJ Regional Conference, Wichita, Kan. April 8-9
• Spine Books signing, St. Louis, Mo. April 15
• Afterwords Bookfest, Edwardsville, Ill. April 30
• Smithton (Ill.) Library signing, May 28
• ConCarolinas, Charlotte, N.C. June 3-5
• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 8-10
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Oct. 7-9 
• SPJ National Conference, Washington, D.C. Oct. 26-29 (tent.)
• ContraCon, Kansas City. Nov. 11-13 (tent.)

Journalism/Essays

• Highland council considers deficit budget (Highland News-Leader)
• Highland residents have options for rising utility bills (Highland News-Leader)
• Voters to decide on $40 million school construction referendum (Highland News-Leader)
• Embracing the werewolf (Medium)

Fiction

I premiered a few pieces at my Midsouthcon reading, including two literary fiction stories from my MFA workshop and a selection from Setting Suns. Happy stories about bunnies and unicorns, of course. 

In the meantime, read a bit about how this anniversary edition of Setting Suns came to life in “Twenty years of fever dreams.”

Patreon/Blogs

• Old Home Week at Midsouthcon (Literary Underworld)
• King Lear, identity chameleons and Andy (Patreon)
• Housekeeping and linkage (Patreon)
• Five cups of tea for Nocturne Infernum (Patreon and Elizabeth Donald)
• On the road again (Elizabeth Donald)
• Welcome to Crone Girls Press (Literary Underworld)
• Another slingshot around the sun (Patreon)
• My birthday present to you! (Patreon)

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Twenty years of fever dreams

Harlan Ellison once asked me, “How many stories have you sold?” Nervous, I flubbed the question, because the answer certainly was “far fewer than you, sir.” 

My first short story published for pay was “Vertigo,” a weird Twilight Zone-esque piece set in the middle of a campus shooting. It appeared in DogEar Magazine in 2002, and while I’d played around with the freebie sites beforehand, it was the first time someone paid me money for my fiction. 

Three years later, the amazing Frank Fradella founded New Babel Books and came to me with an idea for a collection. Setting Suns collected all my published short stories and a handful of new ones written just for that volume, and it won the Darrell Award for best short story and stayed in print for more than 15 years. 

I’ve had several books go out of print over the years, and some have been reissued by other presses, while others have quietly gone on into obscurity. But Setting Suns is a book that many of my readers continue to cite as their favorite, and I have a particular fondness for the old girl. It was not my first book – that distinction belongs to Nocturnal Urges, an ebook released in 2004 by Ellora’s Cave Publishing – but Setting Suns was the first time I opened a box of books and saw my own name on the cover. Ask any writer about that moment, and see the look in their eyes when they answer.

While I was thinking about this, I realized I was coming up on my anniversary: it’s been 20 years since my first paid fiction sale. That’s a nice round number, and I wanted to commemorate it somehow. 

Thus was born the anniversary edition of Setting Suns, to be released this spring. It includes a bonus short story and a new afterword from me reflecting on the last twenty years and how damn lucky I am to have the career I have. After all, Harlan didn’t ask me how many stories I thought about, or plotted in my notebook, or even how many I managed to scribble out over the last 20 years… he asked how many I sold, and that ever-changing number is due to your support and continued willingness to plunk down your cash for my fever-dreams.

I’m very pleased to be able to offer this book, with my thanks for the past twenty years. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed walking through its garden of shadows. 

To add to the fun: I’ve recently gotten a handful of books back from a store that had them on consignment, and to my delight, there are three out-of-print rarities among them! I now have two copies of Dreadmire and one each of Setting Suns (original edition) and Blackfire to find homes.

So we’re running a contest! To get an entry, you should: 

Sign up for my newsletter!

Subscribe to my Patreon!

Preorder Setting Suns!

Each of these gets you an entry in the contest, and three winners will be randomly selected to receive one of the out-of-print rare books, signed upon request. Spread the word!

Setting Suns Anniversary Edition

Setting Suns Anniversary Edition

$15.00

Buy now

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In which I talk in symbols….

@*%&)!*#!

Not those.

Sean Taylor runs a blog titled Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action. Despite the title, it is not a sausage fest, nor is it solely focused on crime/noir/genre fiction. It’s one of the best, most thoughtful writing blogs out there, and one that doesn’t get enough attention.

I’m happy to be part of today’s writer roundup, in which we discuss symbolism from the perspective of the writer. While we can all find symbolism in what we read, whether intended by the author or not, how do we approach the use of symbolism as writers? It’s “the curtains are fucking blue” argument, that frequently we seek out a reflection of what we already believe in our fiction, while the author may simply have chosen blue for the curtains because that’s what he saw in his mind’s eye. Is symbolism in the eye of the beholder, or is it an intentional commentary on This Modern Life? Or something in between?

As an MFA student, finding symbols is kind of our stock in trade. Where would we be without dissecting the true meaning of the letter opener on the table or the broken wine goblet? And then there’s what Hemingway allegedly said:

Check out what Sean’s latest author roundtable had to say about symbolism, including me. What is your take on it?

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January linkspam!

If you’re like me, you’re entering this brand new year with hopes that it will not suck as much as the previous two years. So far we don’t have a lot of indicators in that direction, as my email is crammed full of nervous announcements about classes going online, cons and festivals being canceled, and7 other things that complicate my life and pocketbook. 

My good friend John Hartness, author and publisher at Falstaff Books, is never one to mince words. He posted this week, “Y’all get your damn shots. This damn plague is starting to fuck with my business again, and getting between a redneck and his money is not a good move. So get your shit straight, get your shots, and maybe we can finally put this fucking disease behind us.” He went on at extensive, profane detail, and if you are friends with John on Facebook, you should really go read it. It’s a thing of beauty.

As of this moment, my classes are all still intended to be face-to-face with the exception of my fiction workshop, and I’ll be teaching and tutoring face-to-face as well. Other events are starting to look questionable, so while I’m listing them here, please keep an eye on ElizabethDonald.com to ensure that an event is going forward as planned. 

And get yer dang shots. I want you alive, healthy and able to buy my books.
 

Publicity/Appearances

Who does a book signing outdoors in December in Illinois? This woman! The Edwardsville Winter Market took place Dec. 4, and was treated to fairly reasonable weather, which means I was only half frozen to death by the time the family showed up to collect me. (What? They were not dumb enough to actually stay with me all day.) 

This was followed by the Collinsville Author and Artist Fair, which was blissfully indoors and oddly had a much lower turnout. That’s maybe not as surprising when you realize it was the day after the tornado struck Edwardsville. It’s obvious that my family and I were unharmed, as I am writing this newsletter, but thank you to all who reached out to us in concern. We were lucky; the workers in the Amazon warehouse on the Edwardsville-Pontoon Beach border were not. The Edwardsville Community Foundation continues to raise funds to help those impacted by the tornado, and you can donate here.

Coming this month: the Millstadt Library Author Fair, which kindly did a terrific write-up of my novel trilogy Nocturne Infernum in advance of the event. “Unique, modern, intelligent, and feisty, Donald’s stories are more than entertainment – they are political statements about civil and sexual rights, independence, privilege, agency, and STILL MADE ME BAWL at the sad romance of it all,” they wrote, and that’s going on the website! Funny thing: through their post I discovered that their library system has several of my books available, including some that are seriously out of print. 

I’ve also been informed that Conflation is moving to a mostly-online format in late February. Awaiting details, but however the Goddesses decide to run the show, I’ll be there in any way I can. 

On the publicity side, Cuppa Words is kindly featuring me for the month of January! Here is my introduction, and all month they’ll be talking about my work. I’ve been happy and proud to be associated with Cuppa Words for the last few years, and look forward to another great year with them. 

Coming up:
• Millstadt (Ill.) Library Author Fest, Jan. 15
• Conflation, St. Louis, Mo. Feb. 25-27 
• Midsouthcon, Memphis. March 23-26 (tent.)
• AWP, Philadelphia. March 25-27 (tent.)
• AuthorCon, Williamsburg, Va. April 1-3 (tent.)
• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 8-10
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Oct. 7-9 
• SPJ National Conference, Washington, D.C. Oct. 26-29 (tent.)
• ContraCon, Kansas City. Nov. 11-13 (tent.)

Journalism/Essays

• Elon Musk is a bad Person of the Year… but not for the reasons you think (Medium with intro on Patreon)
• Brewpub closes only weeks after opening (Highland News-Leader)
• A kidney for Christmas (Metro-East Living)
• Schools on alert after violence threat (Belleville News-Democrat)
• Council approves gas station over residents’ complaints (Highland News-Leader)
• Highland Police move into new station (Highland News-Leader)
• Local contractor gets $113 million Air Force base contract (Highland News-Leader)
• Highland voters to decide school construction referendum (Highland News-Leader)
 

Fiction

I’m happy to announce that Spine Bookstore is now featuring my work, along with that of many independent and small-press authors in the bi-state area. I’m delighted to be part of this new concept and look forward to events beginning soon at the shop and cafe. Spine is located on Arsenal in St. Louis near Benton Park, and is definitely worth a stop. 

In addition, River Bluff Review went live early, including my short story “Fever.” It’s available online for free here.

Patreon/Blogs

• ‘Fever’ is published! (ElizabethDonald.com)
• A blessed season (Patreon)
• New story published! (Patreon)
• A Second Life (Patreon)

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Nifty review and upcoming event at Millstadt Library

I’m looking forward to the first event of 2022, which is the Millstadt Library Author Fair. Millstadt is in the process of expanding and will be running a referendum to build a new library soon, and I’m happy to be one of more than 20 authors who will be signing and speaking at the author fair on Jan. 15.

In advance of the event, Millstadt’s library blog wrote this lovely introduction to me and my work. I’d seen a previous write-up on their blog and saw they were still circulating the original Nocturne, which was from the first publisher and did not include the third novel of the Nocturnal Urges series, Abaddon. I donated a copy of Nocturne Infernum so that they’d have the most updated version, and they said this: “Unique, modern, intelligent, and feisty, Donald’s stories are more than entertainment – they are political statements about civil and sexual rights, independence, privilege, agency, and STILL MADE ME BAWL at the sad romance of it all.”

Well, that’s the kind of comment that makes a writer’s day.

If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll consider joining us in Millstadt on Jan. 15!

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“Fever” is published!

I wasn’t expecting the annual publication of the River Bluff Review until early spring, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that it’s already live on the interwebs!

River Bluff Review is a student-edited literary magazine, and only recently made the transition from print to all-digital. I was honored that they selected my short story “Fever” for this year’s edition. It’s a weird little piece, one that reads like a COVID story but was written the month before the pandemic began.

I remember it well, because I had been very ill that February – a flu that simply knocked me on my ass.* I recovered in time to go for a weekend getaway at Valentine’s Day with my husband, at a hotel we adore called the Cheshire Inn. Each room at the Cheshire is named and themed after a famous British writer – the suites are for the big boys like Robert Louis Stevenson and William Shakespeare, and the smaller rooms get the lesser-known authors. We were booked in the Romeo & Juliet suite, and after Jim fell asleep I was restless.

So I sat at the little desk in our suite and considered myself lucky to have kicked that nasty flu in time for this trip… and started writing. I wrote the tale of a woman so ill with fever that she hallucinates a monster in her house… or does she?

The entire first draft was written in the wee hours of the night in that hotel room, refined over several weeks and workshopped in my MFA program before submitting to magazines. I’m delighted that it was picked up so quickly, and I hope you enjoy it and the other fine stories included in this year’s River Bluff Review.

 

 

* Yes, it has occurred to me that it might actually have been COVID Original Flavor, before we knew much about it. My doctor said that “we may not have seen COVID before, but it’s probably seen us.” No real way of knowing, except I’m still alive and kicking.

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December linkspam

Happy holidays! I am delighted to announce that I will be an adjunct instructor at St. Louis University beginning in the spring semester. Yes, probably the last thing I needed was a fifth job, but I’m very excited to be teaching journalism again. Never fear, I am continuing in my assistantship at SIUE teaching English composition in addition to my MFA classes, editing work at the student newspaper, my freelance writing and reporting work, my volunteer activities… I think I forgot a job in there somewhere. 

Only one week left until the semester is over and the signings end for a little while, at which point I will… do more writing. And probably bake some stuff, seeing as how the holidays have enveloped us. I appreciate the patience of the Patreon people in particular, as pickings have been slim while I trundle through to the end of the semester. The Literary Underworld and Elizabeth Donald shops are bustling with the holiday orders, and please see the infobox at the end of this newsletter for deadlines to order in time for Christmas. 

That said, we just finished Thanksgiving, and if I haven’t done so up until now: Thank you. Yes, you, particularly. You stick with me and this newsletter, you support my work and many of you subscribe to the Patreon and/or buy the books. That keeps the lights on in my house and feeds my family, and I am always humbled by your continued support. As every year, I give thanks for you. 
 

Publicity/Appearances

November kicked off with ContraCon in Kansas City, which was the last Literary Underworld event for the year and at which we won Best Booze! This is an honor we have received before, and I can only assume it is our staggering array of bottom-shelf liquor and menu of geek-themed cocktails that wins us these accolades. Seriously, I am so pleased that the Traveling Bar brings so much joy to our guests at the cons, and it absolutely makes it worth hauling all those boxes of booze around the country.

Jim and I took a long weekend to Galena, Ill., which is a lovely little town with an old-fashioned Main Street and plenty of ghost lore that we’ve intended to visit since our first anniversary. On the drive up, I was pondering: when was the last time Jim and I traveled anywhere outside the St. Louis region that did not involve books, signings, public appearances or the kids? We’ve had family vacations and a few overnights in St. Louis and St. Charles, Mo., plenty of solo travel, sadly a few funerals, and more cons than we care to admit. But honestly, to meet those parameters, we’d have to go back to our honeymoon in Jamaica. It was a delightful weekend even if the ghosts were a bit of a disappointment, and soooo much food. 

I was delighted to return to Writers of the Riverbend in Alton, Ill., which is partly a sale and partly a networking opportunity for writers of the Alton-Edwardsville-St. Louis region. As always, there were familiar faces and new acquaintances, and I had a great time. Also, the charcoal mocha at adjacent Maeva’s Coffee cannot be beat. 

I was also happy to host write-ins all month long for the Eville Writers’ Nanowrimo, and the first-ever write-in for Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society at SIUE. (See, I opened my big mouth and suggested it and thus I was put in charge. This happens a lot.) Two more holiday markets coming up in December, and then I’m staying home for whole weeks. 

On the publicity side, I (briefly) contributed to another author roundup for Sean Taylor’s Bad Girls Good Guys blog, on “The End.”

Coming up:
• Collinsville (Ill.) Winter Market, Dec. 11 – last of the year!
• Millstadt (Ill.) Library Author Fest, Jan. 15
• St. Louis SPJ Journalist Boot Camp, Feb. 15 (tent.)
• Conflation, St. Louis, Mo. Feb. 25-27
• Midsouthcon, Memphis. March 23-26 (tent.)
• AWP, Philadelphia. March 25-27 (tent.)
• AuthorCon, Williamsburg, Va. April 1-3 (very tent.)
• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 8-10
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Oct. 7-9 
• SPJ National Conference, Washington, D.C. Oct. 26-29 (tent.)
• ContraCon, Kansas City. Nov. 11-13 (tent.)

Journalism/Essays

• Substitute shortage forces Highland schools to cancel class (Highland News-Leader)
• New police chief sworn in (Highland News-Leader)
• Alhambra, Grantfork schools renovating for security (Highland News-Leader)
• SIUE investigates reports of frat racism (Alestle)
• Highland residents to vote on school referendum (Highland News-Leader)
 

Fiction

I’m delighted to report that my short story “Fever” will appear in the River Bluff Review literary magazine next spring. While ostensibly it seems like a COVID story, I swear I wrote it just before the Voldevirus hit, so the fact that it refers to a terrible illness is entirely coincidental.
 

Patreon/Blogs

• Writing the Adventure (Patreon)
• Body horror in MFA Land (Patreon)
• The Dance (poem) (Patreon)
• Job No. 5! (Elizabeth Donald and Donald Media)

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October Linkspam

Happy Halloween season! This newsletter is late! And that’s because we had such a spectacular time at Archon that we are still recovering three days later. Folks, I’m getting too old for these shenanigans. Archon is our hometown con, and it was a delight to be back after last year’s cancellation and see so many familiar faces. Attendance was about half the usual throng, and yet we sold just as well as we did the year before the world fell apart! I think they missed us, and I know we missed them. Many thanks to everyone who came by the booth, who dropped by the Traveling Bar, and who came to my reading to hear me read happy stories about bunnies and unicorns*. It was fun! Official write-ups are pending on my various blogs, with plenty of pictures. I’ve always said that if you’re a horror author in October, you’re working nonstop or you’re not working. That’s certainly the case this year, even if things are still a bit muted. I’m booked basically every weekend from now to November, though I’ve worked in a couple of moments to spend with my family. I hear they’re nice. Don’t worry – we’re being very safe with masks and sanitizer and weekly COVID screenings to make sure we’re not contributing to this mess we’re in. The Traveling Bar had more precautions than we’ve ever had – not just badge and ID checks at the door, but a required hit with the hand sanitizer upon entry, masks and gloves for the staff (i.e. me) and masks on throughout the evening. Pull down the mask, take a sip, push it back up. It’s really not that hard, folks. It was also our first outing for Frodo the Bookmobile! After eight looooong years as a one-car family, Jim and I finally purchased a new-to-us Honda Odyssey with an enormous space for hauling the booth. It was such a delight not to have to play car Jenga to get the booth into the Honda Fit. We are delighted with our new toy, and plan to put it to good use on the tour. I hope to see you out on the road!

Publicity/Appearances

This weekend is the Edwardsville Book Fair! Again! This led off last month’s newsletter, but it was canceled due to cats, dogs and small barnyard animals falling from the sky. I am looking forward to finally attending this event in person, as it is usually cross-scheduled with other events to which I am committed or virtual. Spied in the wild: Nocturne Infernum, a preferred recommendation at the Smithton Public Library! Apparently the earlier edition was recommended in their blog some months before. And hey! I was in the news from the other side of the notebook! You’d think as many times as I have interviewed people, I wouldn’t feel awkward or weird when someone is interviewing me. Here’s a piece about Archon, with quotes from yours truly and a brief mention of the Literary Underworld, which gets press even more rarely than I do. Coming up: • Edwardsville Book Fair, Oct. 9 • ContraKC, Kansas City, Mo. Nov. 5-7 • Writers of the Riverbend, Alton, Ill. Nov. 20 • Edwardsville Winter Market, Dec. 4 • Conflation, St. Louis, Mo. Feb. 25-27 (tent.) • AWP, Philadelphia March 23-26 (tent.)

Journalism/Essays

• Highland schools navigate politics, law and staff’s health (Highland News-Leader) • ‘Difficult decision’ looming for Highland dispatchers (Highland News-Leader) • ‘Heroic’ police officer saves two lives at Silver Lake (Highland News-Leader) • Artist at work creating new mural in Highland (Highland News-Leader)  • More students test positive for COVID in Highland (Highland News-Leader)

Fiction

• Flashback: Sanctuary (Patreon) • Not (Patreon)

Patreon/Blogs

• Archon ahoy! (Patreon and blog and DM) • Wheels (Patreon) • MFA: What the fractal (Patreon) – with fiction  • Freedom for women, sexual and otherwise (Patreon) • Hello from totally not New Orleans! (Patreon)

*not really

 

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Farewell, old friend.

This wasn’t exactly how I’d intended to christen my new website, but here we go: as of July 31, my oldest title Setting Suns will be going out of print.

Setting Suns wasn’t my first book, but it was the first to appear in paperback. Way back in the dawn of the ebook era, my first novel Nocturnal Urges came out from Ellora’s Cave Publishing, but they only published in ebook (two years before there was even such a thing as a Kindle!). If the ebook did well, they released it in paperback later. 

Nocturnal Urges came out and it sold well, won awards and the publisher demanded a sequel despite all the people insisting, “I’ll wait until the real book comes out.” I kept yelling, “It IS a real book! Ebooks are real books!” Now people look at my paperbacks and say, “I’ll get the ebook,” and I want to yell, “Where were you in 2005??” 

I was working on that sequel when Frank Fradella, founder of New Babel Books, came to me with the idea of putting my short stories into a collection. I’d published a handful of short stories in horror and science fiction magazines that had a disturbing habit of going out of business right after they published me. I was the Typhoid Mary of the small press in the early 2000s. Frank suggested collecting those stories and writing another half-dozen or so just for the collection, and thus Setting Suns was born.

It wasn’t my first book. But it was the first time I opened a box of books and saw my name on the cover. Ask any writer about that moment, and see the look in their eyes when they remember. 

Setting Suns has been in print for 15 years, give or take, and that’s one hell of a good run for a small press collection. It won the Darrell Award for best short story for “Wonderland,” a weird little Frankenstein riff told entirely in emails and online chats that gave Frank apoplexy in layout, and contains two of my most popular short stories: “Sisyphus,” a tragedy exploring toxic grief and lost love; and “Jesus Loves Me,” known as the Evil Teddy Bear story.

The Evil Teddy Bear still exists, here in my office. And there were T-shirts. 

But there are other stories that didn’t get as much attention. There’s “Prisoner’s Dilemma,” a literal funhouse horror piece that looks at the different kinds of love a person can have for the people in her life, plus crazy man with gun. 

There’s “Silent,” which was one of my very first short stories to be published for money, that smacks of a haunted house as told by The Twilight Zone. There’s “Deep Breathing,” a future-world submarine scarefest involving a monster several readers have referred to as “Cthulu-esque” which was funny because I’d never read Lovecraft at that point. 

There’s “Memory Lane,” another escapee from Twilight Zone about a husband’s desperate search to find his missing wife, and the dark secrets that come to light. That one began as my first attempt at a short-film screenplay, rewritten as a short story for Setting Suns.

There’s “Gauntlet,” an action-flick of a science fiction story set in my Sanctuary universe that only reaaaaally dedicated readers know about, since it’s had a couple of stories published but the novels remain in the trunk until I get them to not suck. Three of the Setting Suns stories are set in Sanctuary, but “Gauntlet” is my favorite.

There are even two stories that would qualify as “literary” with no SFFH elements whatsoever, though entering an MFA program and exploring literary fiction was the absolute last thought on my mind in the waning years of my twenties. 

After 15 years, Setting Suns is still the “entry drug” for Elizabeth Donald fiction. Long-time readers sometimes tell me it’s their favorite of my titles (which is a little humbling since I’ve published maybe thirteen books and novellas since then, give or take a few). 

I’m gonna miss the old girl.

I want to thank Shane Moore, publisher of New Babel Books, for working with me to put Setting Suns out of print with grace. It will be available through July 31 if you haven’t snagged the ebook yet, and we still have a few in stock if you want the print edition

I also want to thank Frank Fradella, who is no longer with New Babel Books, for his contributions to making Setting Suns what it was. The book was Frank’s idea, and his editing, layout and design coupled with the cover art from Darren Holmes made a wonderful book that I was proud to call my first. 

Thanks also go to Jason R. Tippitt, who co-authored one of the stories with me (“I Live With It Every Day”) and served as sounding board and inspiration through much of the book’s development. I very rarely work in partnerships – I don’t play well with others – and it is a testament to Jason’s patience and skill that our story turned out well. The book was dedicated to Jason, who is a fine writer and I hope you’ll hear more from him in times to come. 

It’s been a terrific run for my first “real” book, at least as far as I’m concerned. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

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