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Mad Song Foo

I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.Not surprising — it’s my normal reaction to having my sleep schedule thrown off. The last time this happened was New Year’s Day.

It was worth every moment then, too.

Like many events in my life, I didn’t know how much I needed that Foo Fighters concert until I was there in the middle of it, jumping and dancing and singing and screaming my head off. I’ve always been a huge fan — of Dave Grohl in particular — and there have been concerts in the past, but something (usually personal garbage) has always conspired to keep me from them. Which is a shame.

‘Cause damn it was a good concert.

It was almost like Dave had picked the setlist just for me — they played all the songs I needed to hear and none of the ones I didn’t. Not because I don’t like any of them, but right now the crust on the surface of my emotional lava is just a thin black glass and one tiny cold tear might shatter it.

Last night was a night for tempering.
And the words spoke to me.

*

“Did you ever think of me? Oh, so considerate…”

“The page is out of print, we are not permanent, we’re temporary, temporary, same old story…”

“I’m what’s left, I’m what’s right, I’m the enemy…”

“Hook me up a new revolution, ’cause this one is a lie…”

“One more for hire, a wonderful liar, I think it’s time we should all come clean…”

“Truth or consequence, say it aloud…”

“Tonight, I throw myself into and out of the red, out of her head she sang…”

“Done, done and I’m on to the next one…”

*

There is a reason we as humans don’t remember pain — it’s a survival instinct. If we were able to relive it, it would keep us from ever moving forward. We can’t remember pain, but we remember the effect it has on our lives. And those of us who do move forward, who turn our backs on the horrible things, who put on a brave face and smile into the wind, who rise above vindictiveness on golden wings, who–despite the suffering–continue to love unconditionally and try to leave the world a better place than we came into it, we are the strong ones. We are the mighty.

This world will always be full of liars and thieves, of cheaters and betrayers, of abusers and emotional vampires, of selfish people who will use you and ignore you and neglect you and take you for granted. Look in the mirror — some days, that person is us. We have to recognize it in ourselves before we can truly see it in others.

But last night…we were the mighty.

I’ve always wondered how Dave Grohl ever performed “Monkey Wrench” live — where would he take a breath on that famous bridge? The version on the CD is flawless and no doubt digitally enhanced. Is he just THAT talented? I would certainly believe it. The man is a god.

I got my answer last night. I almost didn’t think I would…when the last song before the encore went into the guitar solo and the drum solo, I wondered if maybe he’d just skip the bridge altogether. I wouldn’t have been surprised, really. It’s a tough one. But right when I thought the song was over, he didn’t disappoint me.

Dave took four breaths.
I took one.
And in that perfect moment, I was free.

*

“One last thing before I quit
I never wanted any more
Than I could fit into my head
I still remember every single word you said
And all the shit
That somehow came along with it
Still, there’s one thing that comforts me
Since I was always caged
And now I’m FREE…”

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Genre Chick Interview: Alethea Kontis (!)

For a change of pace, my fellow Genre Chick Janet turned the tales and did a fun little interview with *me* about Sherrilyn Kenyon and my work on The Dark-Hunter Companion.

***************************

JY: So, let’s go ahead and get the obvious questions out of the way: how long have you known Sherrilyn Kenyon?

AK: Sherri and I met in 2002, sometime between Fantasy Lover and Night Pleasures. My friend Nicole and I were huge fans of her short story Dragonswan that had appeared in the Tapestry anthology. We fell in love with it enough to look the author up online… and what do you know… she lived right around here! She used to work at Ingram Entertainment! And she was appearing at a local signing the next week!

It was a small enough event (pre-Dark-Hunter days) that Nicole and I had plenty of time to chat with her. I remember leaving the bookstore thinking, “It’s a shame she’s a rich and famous author. She’d be a great person to have as a girlfriend.” (This was well before I knew much about authors… or about being one.)

I had left her my card, but I never thought she’d actually get in touch with me… The rest is history.

JY: What’s she really like?

AK: A sister with a really great wardrobe. (grin)

I was with Sherri at a signing one time where a woman actually cried upon meeting her. Sherri held her hand and said, “Oh, no, sweetie. I’m really nobody special. My boys throw up on me just like everybody else.”

That’s what Sherri’s really like. She’s a workaholic woman like you and me, with a loving husband and three rambunctious children. She works out, has migraines, pays her bills, and puts her corsets on one lace at a time. (Did I mention her fabulous wardrobe?)

JY: How were you chosen to write The Dark-Hunter Companion?

AK: After reading the manuscript of Sieze the Night, I told Sherri that she needed an encyclopedia of all the people in her books, because I was beginning to get confused. The world was just SO complex… she’s amazing enough to keep it straight in that brain of hers, but the rest of us mortals are just not that smart.

About a year later, she called to tell me that her publisher had approved the idea of a compendium of the Dark-Hunter universe, but they didn’t want her to write it. I congratulated her and asked who they had in mind. She told me they were expecting my proposal on Monday.

JY: One of the most noticed aspects of The Dark-Hunter Companion is the voice in which its written: The Companion is written as if it were an instruction manual for the new Dark-Hunter. What inspired you to choose this voice and what was its impact on the book?

AK: If you’re familiar at all with William Goldman’s The Princess Bride (Sherri and I can pretty much quote it by heart), then you know about authors who “write in parentheses.”

If you were to transcribe the routine of a stand-up comic, most of the punchlines would be in parentheses. If you look through this interview, you’ll find more than a few of them. Notes you pass to your friends in class have lots of parentheses. E-mails have parentheses. English teachers don’t like people who write in parentheses. (My English teachers hated me.)

The Companion screamed to be written in parentheses. Quick-witted, brutally honest, smart-assed, tongue-in-cheek… it was me, but with an extra helping of jaded sarcasm. And some of the most fun writing I’ve ever done!

JY: At most recent count, the Dark-Hunter series has thirteen books and almost a dozen short stories set in an amazingly complex universe. How did you go about corralling all that information?

AK: Like any Capricorn worth her salt, I went about it systematically. I started reading the books and making notes in the front of a notebook. I read the short stories and made notes in the back of the notebook. I went online to the myriad Web sites and copied to a document every shred of information I could find. I sent my parents and friends on fact-finding missions. Then, based on my outline and that wealth of information, I had to piece it all together.

I had never written anything non-chronologically before. It was an interesting learning experience.

I also had a ton of post-its (I want to marry Arthur Fry) where I would list questions for Sherri to answer. I don’t think there were *too* many phone calls where I asked her to explain things… but I wasn’t on the receiving end of those calls. She was very patient with me, and having her at my disposal was invaluable.

JY: Did you discover anything about Dark-Hunters that you didn’t already know? Any “Aha!” moments?

AK: Of COURSE I did.
And if I told you I’d have to kill you.
And then you could turn into a Dark-Hunter and kill me in revenge… and then my patron gods would get upset and curse you further… and it’s just a downward spiral from there, really.
Best not go there.

JY: I know you make a killer baklava… where did you find those other yummy recipes?

AK: I grew up with a French mother and a Greek father. Our next-door neighbors (and very best friends) were a bunch of Cajuns. We’d have fried oyster po-boys on New Year’s Eve, and moussaka on Christmas. Our Thanksgivings were a thing of beauty.

I never EVER thought that one day I’d be diving into my recipe box as research for a book where all these cultures just happened to collide. But like my mother says, everything happens for a reason.

JY: If you were a character in the Dark-Hunter universe, which one would you be and why?

AK: Funny you should ask this question–usually it’s “Who’s your favorite Dark-Hunter?” (Vane, hands down.) But I’ve actually given this quite a bit of thought. I wouldn’t want to be a Dark-Hunter or Were-Hunter or Dream-Hunter, but immortality is certainly a fine trait. Maybe a goddess? I wouldn’t want to be a big, high-profile goddess, though. (I leave that to Sherri.)

Back when I was writing AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First, my publisher asked me if I knew the answer to the question: “Why is the alphabet in the order that it is?” I did hours of research and couldn’t come up with a reasonable answer. Is there a Goddess of the Alphabet? I could happily be the Goddess of the Alphabet. That seems fitting.

As far as men go, I think I’d like to date one of the Dolophoni–I’m a big fan of karmic justice. Especially when I’m not the one who has to mete it out.

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Transformers and Timecapsules

This is so cool…

In the Amazing Kontis Sisters’ continuing effort to one-up each other, Sami got a nod on NPR yesterday.

She and Ian were best friends growing up — the Chillags lived across the lake from us in South Carolina. (Hi, Ian!)

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Lion in Winter

You know, after the mad rush to get to the end of that godforsaken year and the insane crush of work I leapt into the moment 2008 hit, I hadn’t given much thought to my birthday.

Before my friend Ian left for England in December, over a cup of desperately-needed whipped cream and caffeine, he had asked me about my big birthday plans.

“Well,” I said, licking the caramel off the plastic lid, “I’ve been invited to Portland, but I imagine I’ll be mired in editing at the time on top of all the other work I have to do. So nothing, really.”

And suddenly “nothing” sounded like the most wonderful thing in the world.

Ian smiled one of those unconvinced smiles. “I’ll get you something in England,” he said. I smiled back. He knows how much I miss England. Even if he never got around to it, I’d love him just the same.

Soon after, Ian sent me a Zen Christmas card reminding me that every snowflake lands where it’s supposed to land. His message inside said, “Be the snowflake.”

My friends rock.

Mom had sent me a card for my birthday, with instructions not to open it until the day of. I received it in my cavernous, Andre Norton-sized mailbox (my birthday gift from my parents while they were here over the holidays), and tossed it on the dining room table with the rest of the neglected envelopes there.

Despite the intense workload, I still wasn’t sleeping well. I’d get up at 4am and lie in bed, my brain too busy to be bothered with sleeping and my body too pissed off to move. So I started making a list of all the “nothing” I wanted to do for my birthday.

I’d get take-out, of course, because I had no desire to cook anything. I didn’t want to go anywhere, but sitting in front of the TV and watching a movie sounded divine. A bath and the Christmas episode of Doctor Who — that had to be on the agenda for sure. A hot cup of tea. A brisk walk on the treadmill. There were also several stories by my friends that I had lined up to read, and I looked forward to getting to those as well. Above all, no work (despite the obligatory dayjob). No writing, and no editing. No fables, no fairy tales. Zip. Zero.

When I told Sami my plans, she was jealous. So I’m guessing they were pretty good plans.

Had I thought about it, I would have put “sleep” on that list too. Like clockwork I woke up at 4am on January 11th, the first day of my to-be-infamous thirty-second year, and with an exasperated sigh, I got out of bed. I played on the computer for a little while, grinning at the messages from Australia where my creaky bones were old news already. The hour ticked over to five, and I looked at the pile of junk mail on the table.

That’s right. It was my birthday now. I could open that card.

It had a bunch of ladybugs on it all marching in order, with one wandering off to the side, no doubt distracted by a stray patch of sun or a four-leaf clover or a shiny…anything. The card said, “You’re one in a million!” My curse and my blessing. My parents know me so well.

I flipped open the card…and inside was a poem.
A riddle.
A birthday riddle.
A friggin’ Jane Austenesque RHYMING birthday riddle.
Oh my god.

Now, keep in mind, it’s 5am. As busy as my brain already was with calculating the time in Melbourne, the price of tea at the current exchange rate, why the Brits don’t just say “garden variety” like the rest of us do, and how the flapping of a butterfly’s wings might affect my lawn service bill, it was definitely not up to the challenge of walking into my parents’ twisted minds and figuring out what the heck “bridges and crossroads and highways” had to do with being to the left of “spiders and vermin and slithery things.”

But the synapses did fire enough to realize the important part: While Mom and Dad were here over the holidays, they had HIDDEN my birthday present somewhere in or around my house, and now I had to FIND IT.

Oh my god.

Setting aside the riddle I wasn’t up to solving, I decided to use the Brute Squad approach and simply tear the house apart. My house is not that big. There aren’t a whole lot of places to hide things. Especially things you don’t want to be discovered until you’ve been home in Florida for two weeks.

Highways. Crossroads. Did they hide it OUTSIDE, to the left of the car? I put on my shoes and went poking around the freezing cold bushes by the dawn’s early light. Surely they wouldn’t have left it out in the elements. But maybe…spiders and vermin? Was it in the backyard shed? To the left of the lawn mower? A quick trek through the house and across the lawn. No dice.

Giving up any thought of arriving at work on time, I stomped back into the house and stared up at the attic. It was the only place left. I pulled down the folding stairs, turned on the light, and climbed up.

There’s a decent amount of junk in my attic, but not a ton, and it’s all very organized. There’s still stuff from the previous owners I never had the energy to drag down and dispose of. There are boxes for Christmas and boxes for Halloween, and boxes with journals and yearbooks and Star Wars toys. There are empty boxes for some of the electronics I have because you never know when you’ll need a serial number. And there are the remnants of my life at the movie theatre: the posters, the ammo box of buttons, the batsignal I painted for the marquee, and the standees.

Including my life-size Kurt Russell from Escape from L.A., with a yellow caution sign beside him announcing, “Snake Xing.”

HIGH ways.
CROSS roads.
Slithery things.
Those clever toads.

To the left of Snake Plissken, covered in a soft painting tarp, was a beautiful, oversized suitcase. It’s positively marvelous — now I don’t have to borrow Janet’s every time I go overseas, or to an awards ceremony. I pulled it out from behind the row of empty boxes.

A beautiful, oversized, HEAVY suitcase.
It was full of presents.
My parents rock.

I was a little late for work, but not terribly. I decorated my office and wore a tiara around all day. Some people noticed, and some people didn’t bat an eyelash. Hard to say which group made me happier. My boys at Solaris sent a beautiful bouquet of pink and yellow happiness so that I could stop and smell the roses whenever I wanted to. Dee took me out for lunch, and I OD’d on frappucinos and thai iced tea.

Turns out I had made far more plans than I had time for. Take-out became leftover pad thai, and I watched Sense and Sensibility before crashing. I made time for the other stuff over the weekend; I secretly squeezed it all in between everything else and stretched my birthday out for a good long while.

And every day I asked Glenn if my present from England had come, and every day our Mail Guru shook his head.

I knew what it was — Ian had let it slip after New Year’s during my enthusiastic interrogation and his multi-media presentation on how his trip went. But it was arriving separately, and I just had to be patient. Ian knows me so well. Damn him.

Late Tuesday, five minutes before I left work, during an animated discussion of butterflies and the New York Times with the owner of the lawn service, Ian’s package arrived. I was giddy and dancing around the office before I even opened it. There, under the paper, in blue and white and stripes and lions, straight on the heels of their Saturday win, was my very own Chelsea football club scarf.

“You’re officially a Chelsea supporter now,” Ian said when I thanked him for the millionth time.

Why, yes. I suppose I am.

I turned left onto the highway that night, warm and blue and pink and yellow and full of happiness as the other snowflakes fell around me. I pulled in behind a humongous truck with a license plate that said: MISTHNG.

Why, yes. I suppose I am.
Murphy knows me so well.

I am Miss Thing, and this is my year.
The Year of the Lion.
Hear me roar!

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