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Official Alethea Kontis Newsletter — October 2007

Hi, everybody!

It has been SUCH a busy and crazy summer. I’ve traveled the USA from coast to coast and back again: LA, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Vermont, Florida…this weekend is K-Con in New Orleans and next is World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, NY. Whew! But I’ve had so much fun reconnecting with old friends and making new ones…it’s been well worth the exhaustion.

Of course, when these newsletters come so few and far between, there is so much to catch up on! So let’s get to it:


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The Dark Hunter Companion is almost here! The encyclopedia to Sherrilyn Kenyon’s bestselling Dark-Hunter Universe, the Companion is your Hunter 101. Curl up in a comfy chair with some millennium-old scotch and feast upon the informative banquet I have prepared for your enjoyment. Read an excerpt HERE.

Look for it at a lovely bookstore near you on November 13th. Or, you can support the Codex Writer’s Group and preorder the Dark-Hunter Companion from Amazon using THIS LINK.


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How time does pass…this December 26th will be the third anniversary of the horrific tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia. We have heard from the publisher that proceeds from Elemental: the Tsunami Relief Anthology have totaled over $6000 for Save the Children’s efforts in that area of the world.

Steven Savile and I both would like to once again extend our thanks for the overwhelming support of this fabulous science fiction and fantasy anthology: to the authors and the publisher for all their efforts, and to you for buying a copy and making your dollars count. You guys rock.

Elemental is still available in paperback HERE.


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Oops, they’ve done it again! That’s right, folks — the illustrious AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First will have a sequel — AlphaOops: H is for Halloween. Now here’s where I break your heart and tell you that H is for Halloween won’t be available until Halloween 2009.

Bob Kolar, Candlewick Press, the Alphabet Players, and I are hard at work getting ready for this next production. In the interim, be sure to spread the word about AlphaOops to all your friends and family. And be sure to visit the Official AlphaOops Website — read up on the cast members and play a few games!

Purchase AlphaOops on Amazon HERE.


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The much-anticipated Issue #11 of Apex Digest will be shipping soon — including stories from Brian Keene, Joy Marchand, Sara Genge, and my essay “Curses of Nature.”

Get your subscription to Apex Digest HERE.

While you’re at it, enter to win some seriously cool stuff in the Apex Halloween Raffle HERE. (A percentage of all proceeds will go to the National Center for Family Literacy)


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Stephen Euin Cobb’s October podcast is now available online at The Future and You. This month’s installment features Senator (and presidential candidate) John McCain, Eric Flint, Jack McDevitt, Doctor Aubrey de Grey…and ME! (Which one of these things is not like the other?) The best part is, I don’t sound like a complete moron. Hooray!!


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Okay…so I have to take some space and brag a little about my beautiful and awesome and talented (and newlywed – congrats Soteria and Charles!) sister, Soteria Kontis. For those of you who subscribe to VOGUE Magazine (or while you’re standing in line at the checkout), turn to page 270 in this month’s issue and check out Soteria’s Southern Gothic crystal and cross choker. Woohoo! Vogue! And Charlize Theron is on the cover!

If you’re not convenient to the 192 King Street store, you can always virtually browse Dixie Dunbar Studio’s original creations at the official Dixie Dunbar Studio Website.


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While I’m at it, let me also plug the very first book released by brand-spanking-new publisher Meadowhawk Press out of Memphis. Edited by my good friend Jackie Gamber, the debut fantasy anthology Touched By Wonder is a meaty collection of inspirational and thought-provoking stories. The especially wonderful part — a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to Breast Cancer Research and Awareness.

Even better, during the month of October (which just so happens to be Breast Cancer Awareness Month), Meadowhawk is offering free shipping on all orders of Touched By Wonder. Support a great cause and a fabulous new Independent Publisher — good karma at a great discount!


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Well, that’s certainly enough for now…

I also have some news concerning Apex Publications and a special project I’m working on…but there’s time for that next month. More details coming to you soon!

Much love,

Alethea
(a.k.a. The Incredible Whirlwind of Beauty and Dynamite)



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Genre Chick Interview: Jeff Carlson

If you like to sleep at night, stay away from this book!  Jeff Carlson’s pulse-pounding debut novel, Plague Year, has turned the world of science-fiction thrillers completely upside down. The undaunted and unafraid Genre Chick Alethea Kontis dons her hazmat gear and gets extreme with the Bionic Man.

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Alethea KontisPlague Year has one of the most terrifying and original high concepts I’ve ever come across. What is wrong with your brain that you could even think up something like this?

Jeff Carlson:  The setting was easy: that the only safe places on Earth are above 10,000 feet because of a nanotech plague. I literally built this story from the top down. I’m a life-long backpacker and snow skier, and as a writer, I’m always on the hunt for cool ideas. My brother and I had just had one of those incomparable powder days among the cliffs and trees of our local resort. It was time to leave because we both needed to be at work the next morning, and I thought, “What if we couldn’t go home?”  We’d been snowed in before, but I began to think, “What if we could never go home again?”

AK: And yet you seem so optimistic…

JC: It’s funny. I’m a very upbeat guy, but now that the book is out, I do get strange looks from people who are wondering if they ever really knew me–or from strangers who assume I’d just as soon kill ’em and eat ’em.

AK: Did you freak yourself out while writing this book?

JC: Plague Year is extremely tense. There wasn’t any other way to write it. If you change the world so that no warm-blooded life can survive below 10,000 feet, things get ugly in a hurry. To start with, the biosphere goes out of whack. The insects take over. Imagine an ant swarm as big as a city block!

More important to the story, though, human beings are among the smartest, toughest creatures on the planet. In a crisis, some people will fail. But there are always others who rise to the occasion. Any occasion. To me, that’s fascinating.

AK:  Your heroes, the survivors, are all strong and intelligent characters, but they’re also deeply flawed.  What was it like living with these people as you worked on the novel?

JC:  It was great fun! I was safe in my house with plenty to eat, electricity, a hot shower and a car, my laptop, you name it.

I’m always a reader first. Writing is an extension of that. I wanted to see what happened, and with Plague Year, I was able to use all three classic elements of story: man against nature, man against man, and man against himself. The environment is lethal. The people are murderers. And everyone has to find a way to live with what they’ve done to stay alive.

AK:  Do you work in a nanotech lab? What was your background for the science involved in Plague Year?

JC:  The nanotech in the book is 100% real. There’s a lot of eye-popping material being published in the field right now, and I also attended talks on the subject and then mercilessly hounded the speakers afterward.  Thank God for e-mail.

We’re still a few breakthroughs short of building a prototype like the one that gets loose in Plague Year, but here’s the thing: there are also hundreds of private labs around the world that aren’t publishing their work. Some are military. Others are quietly developing medical technologies like the one in the book, and nobody really knows how far they’ve advanced.

Plague Year could happen tomorrow. That’s the freaky part.

AK:  You were recently a winner in the prestigious Writers of the Future short story contest, and you’re also collaborating with New York Times bestseller David Brin on a new adventure series. And you’re writing a sequel to Plague Year that will be published next summer. Are you about to burst into fire?

JC:   Probably! The amount of stuff I’ve learned in the past year is enough to explode anyone’s brain.  I’m only held together with Band-Aids, caffeine, and jalapeño bagels at this point.

First of all, I could not more strongly endorse the WOTF contest to any aspiring writer. They pay great, you’re published in a sharp-looking anthology with phenomenal distribution, and, most important, they fly you in for eight days of hardcore writing workshops. It’s like being strapped down for a thousand injections of writing basics, tips, secrets, and opportunities.

David has also been a mentor. It’s awe-inspiring to be working with someone whose books warped my mind as a kid, and I’m soaking up as much technique as I can handle. Our new series, Colony High, is a great big classic adventure in the vein of Heinlein’s Tunnel In The Sky, and I for one couldn’t be happier with the project.

As for my sequel War Day, it ratchets up the all-or-nothing stakes from Plague Year to an even wilder ride.  I like to think these novels have it all. There are insect swarms, mad scientists, commandos in hazmat suits, large-scale invasions for safe ground, lost cities, lies and betrayals, and new surprises.

AK:  Word is you’ve got some fun stuff on your Web site?

JC:  Readers can find a free excerpt of Plague Year and one of my favorite short stories on my Web site, along with upcoming tour dates and a lot of other goodies like a science-fiction trivia contest. Top prizes include the chance to name a character after yourself or a friend either in War Day or in Colony High. See you there!

AK:  I usually end with asking who’s your favorite superhero, but… is it true you have a titanium skeleton like Wolverine?

JC:   Who have you been talking to? Yes. You’ve learned the truth! But now Defense Intelligence is going to cart you away to a nice, quiet cell.

No, seriously. After a couple surgeries, my right leg is still reinforced with a 14″ rod, a 4″ plate, and a large handful of assorted screws. I got a little too excited after two days of fresh snow and forgot that I was skiing, not paragliding. There’s actually a great photo from the day before on my Web site if anyone’s curious. Big air, baby.

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The Future and Me

Right — so I did my very first podcast while Edmund and I were waiting to get into the Green Room Sunday night at Dragon*Con. It was kind of fun, and I didn’t think much about it. (Stephen Cobb said I did a good job, and of course, I didn’t believe him.)

The podcast is now live at: http://www.TheFutureAndYou.libsyn.com

What I didn’t know–that I just found out–is that this month’s podcast also features Senator (and presidential candidate) John McCain, Eric Flint, Jack McDevitt, and Doctor Aubrey de Grey.

What am I doing on here?? Eeep!! Holy CRAP!

Happily, I think I actually did okay.
Enjoy the show!

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Miss Nikki and L’il Mo

Don’t look now
I’m fading away
Into the gray of my mornings
Or the blues of every night
~Nikki Giovanni (from Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day)

I’ve been meaning to write this essay for a while, but things have just been…crazy. Time zones and new carpet and moving offices, Apex parties and family and library readings. Another book edited, another interview turned in, the same heart broken into pieces for the umpteenth time.

You know how it is.

And still in the midst of all the meetings and melodrama are the Authors in my Neighborhood. This week, I met Amy Grant. Last week it was Dr. Bill Bass (founder of the Body Farm) and his co-author Jon Jefferson.

Before that, it was Nikki Giovanni.

I had been looking forward to Nikki’s arrival for weeks. A powerful woman, speaker, teacher, and poet…funny, personable, and assertive…Nikki Giovanni is just All That.

And she’s cute, too.

I went to the presentation armed with two cameras (35mm still takes a better picture in low-light auditoriums, sorry all you digital folks) and my copy of her new book, On My Journey Now. How did I miss that she was a fellow Candlewick author? Too many conventions on the docket I suppose.

I didn’t take too many pictures, though…mostly, I just listened to her speak.

My friend Nicole and I had discussed the mutual doldrums we had been in lately — caused by different things, of course, but the destination was still the same. We both were looking to Nikki to give us some inspiration, to light the lantern and show us a path out of our dark tunnels. We hung on every word, waiting for that moment of epiphany.

Nikki spoke of many things in her loud and wonderful way, spreading her arms wide to be sure that the room knew it was included in her discussion. She spoke of Virginia Tech, and what still resonated on that campus. She spoke of the Jubilee singers, and the reason Nashville is really called “Music City.” She spoke of slaves on boats and the cabin songs that evolved from their moans, moans that could be understood by all no matter what your race, creed, or dialect. She spoke of homeless people, how she admired them for having the strength to keep living such a horrible life. She admired them all for that same thing–for that ability to see through the pain and the sadness and somehow still have hope for a better tomorrow.

But instead of feeling inspired, instead of feeling like part of that group, I felt left out. I will be the first to admit to anyone that I’ve had a pretty fabulous life. Sure, I went through the typical school days ostracism, the typical struggle with my self-image, the typical teenage angst towards my parents. I am a privileged, middle-class girl from privileged, middle-class stock. I’ve never had to want for anything, to fight against anything, to hate anything.

That doesn’t make me strong…it just makes me here.

What in my life is so horrible? A birth, a death, a wedding. A soulmate trapped on the other side of the ocean. A rape of my forest and an invasion of privacy.

Those people cried for their lives.
I cried over a bunch of trees.

So what is it that makes me strong? It’s in here somewhere, I know, I can feel it. I can feel the passion and conviction down there, so I know it exists. It comes through my voice and my tears and my words.

But why? For me to believe in a better tomorrow is arrogant, isn’t it? Better than WHAT, exactly?

But maybe that’s it. Maybe just the fact that I don’t settle, that I still have passion and conviction, that I believe–even misguidedly–in people and see them for what amazing people they can be, maybe THAT is my strength.

I don’t just believe in a better tomorrow; I believe in the people that are going to get us there.

When I got home from LA (the second time), there was a box waiting for me.
Inside it was a tree.

The tree is a Chinese White Serissa bonsai tree, also known as the “Tree of a Thousand Stars.” In with the tree there were more names: Carrie Rapp, Maurice Broaddus, Chesya Burke, Gary and Nancy Frank, Sara Larson, Michael West, Debbie Kuhn, Jason Sizemore, and John Hay.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are my friends.
This is my Mo*Con family.
These are the people I believe in.
They are the reason I look forward to tomorrow.

The tree may be a serissa japonica, but it told me its real name as soon as it left the box: Little Mo. He sits in my kitchen window, making the view a little more tolerable every day. I even took the books down.

And it still makes me smile.

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Pay it Forward: Vote for Mel!

Get yourself some good karma points — please vote for my dear friend Mel on October 15th. And pass the word along!

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American Title IV Countdown Begins!

I’m very excited to publicly announce that I am one of the ten finalists in the American Title IV contest for my contemporary fantasy novel, Voice of the Bard!

American Title works similarly to the TV show American Idol. Ten finalists duke it out with their best material. Romantic Times posts the finalists’ themed excerpts on their website (www.romantictimes.com) every month. Folks vote for their favorite and the two contestants with the fewest amount of votes are eliminated. The winner earns a contract with Dorchester Publishing.

I feel really lucky to be included in this group. The other finalists are very talented women who, I believe, represent the future of romantic fantasy fiction. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to beat the pants off of them.

Today’s October 1st and, other than wishing my mom a happy birthday (happy birthday, Mom!) I’m starting the two week countdown to the first day of voting at Headquarters (www.melhiers.com). There’ll be something new every day from my bio, to reading recommendations and “If You Like” lists, to essays on the writing life, and information about my work including bonus content from and about Voice of the Bard. I’ll also post voting instructions and links to make the whole process as painless as possible. So read, enjoy, interact, and don’t forget to vote on October 15th.


American Title finalist for Voice of the Bard
Voting starts October 15 at www.romantictimes.com.

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