The Affair of the Necklace

I recently met a few friends in Fuquay-Varina, NC (still one of the coolest town names ever) for the weekend.  That Saturday was Drew Williams’ signing at the Lazy Lion (where I scored a lovely signed copy of his new book The Corruptor…do you have your copy yet?)

We didn’t want to crowd Drew, so we browsed through the store a bit, like the hungry bibliophiles we are, and when the manager got sick of us we popped out to explore the quaint little burg that is Fuquay-Varina. We stopped in to Stick Boy Bread Company first and got some smoothies. I had a divine cookie called something like a Hootenany (it doesn’t appear to be listed on their website) with oatmeal and cranberries and pecans and fairy dust mixed in.

After that, Rhonda and Joe and I split off from the group and headed down the street to gawk through shop windows down Main Street. Enticed by a VERY enthusiastic dancing ice cream come, we sought respite from the heat in an indoor mall — not like a big-bucks-anchor-store mall, but one of those minimalls where you’d find booths of Antique dealers. Only these little independent shops dealt in custom birdhouses, vintage clothing, shoes, and some awesome jewelry. As cute as the dancing ice cream was, we were put off by the overly-zealous woman trying to hawk her apple cider, and shifted further into the bowels of the mall.

Joe pulled me back to one kiosk (that was far too close to the cider woman for my taste) to check out some jewelry he thought I’d like. I certainly liked the Victorian-dressed doll with wires for hands she was using as a necklace-display, and I coveted it. The woman behind the counter, who was in the middle of telling another woman how she hand-makes all her beads, stopped long enough to tell me where in town I might find something similar. I thanked her and let her continue on her spiel while I half-heartedly browsed. I wasn’t really trying to find anything, so I wasn’t really looking. I wasn’t really looking until I saw an old-fashioned key through a glass bead filled with roses at the same time a voice above me said, “Do you know what steampunk is?”

I looked up at the woman with a sparkle in my eye and said, “You are talking to the right person.” And then I started to examine–really, truly examine–the jewelry, and it took my breath away.

Marilyn–for the shopkeeper was indeed the artist herself–returned the sparkle and began to do that whole artist thing where you start explaining to someone what went into a piece, what elements you used, and what you were trying to achieve. We both got excited and a little carried away, and we probably drove Rhonda and Joe both nuts, but I didn’t care. Her designs were EXQUISITE. And regardless of whether or not she jumped on the Steampunk bandwagon, the movement is right up her alley. Marilyn has the Victorian sensibility to make her PERFECT for this kind of work. She went on to tell me that she gives classes on how to make glass beads. This was one thing about Fuquay-Varina I adored: from coffee roasting to stained-glass work, almost every single store gives a class on SOMETHING. I wanted to stay for a week or two, just to take them all. I definitely took a card, and promised that I would check out Marilyn’s website. She has some glass bead tutorials there, and a myriad of other things to peek through and find. She also has an Etsy shop (though there are no Steampunk items currently for sale there) and a place at 1000 Markets (there is currently a Steampunk ring there for less than $40. You better snap it up before I do.)

The best way to see the Peraza Beads merchandise, of course, is to visit the shop in Fuquay-Varina, if you can. Tell Marilyn I said hello. And be sure to pick up a piece or three while her artwork is still affordable. I got the cross-and-rose necklace at the top, of course. I couldn’t resist the handmade chain, or the fact that the center stone of the cross was a garnet — my birthstone. And Marilyn’s…and Rhonda’s daughter. We’re all just a bunch of stinking Capricorns.

But boy do we make gorgeous art.

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Pre-SENT Squee!

Kirkus reviews AlphaOops: H is for Halloween. And it kind of rocks.
Got yours yet? AlphaOops: H is for Halloween


Author: Kontis, Alethea
Illustrator: Kolar, Bob

Pages: 40
Price ( Hardback ): $15.99
Publication Date: July 13, 2010
ISBN ( Hardback ): 978-0-7636-3966-2
Category: Picture Books
Classification: Holiday
Series: AlphaOops
Volume: 2

Those wacky theatrical letters are back, this time for a mixed-up Halloween pageant (AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First, 2006). Smiling broadly and wearing a pointy hat, “H as for Halloween.” Then, “Z is for zombie. / N is for nightmare. / K is for kraken. / P is for pirate. / B is for—” Well, B had wanted to be a buccaneer, but now it will have to find another costume. Eventually, each letter, appropriately garbed and often accompanied by a picture of what it represents, takes the stage, but not without a lot of good-natured bickering. Running below each page opening is a strip along which a pumpkin for each letter of the alphabet arranges itself, finally, in alphabetical order as each character appears in the story. Kolar’s digital illustrations give readers plenty to focus on. Sophisticated abecedarian fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

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Adding to The List

I’ve remembered a few items that I need to add to The Princess List:

22. Be in Mexico for Dia De Los Muertos (and see a parade)
23. Be in England for Guy Fawkes Day
24. See the sun set into the Pacific Ocean (July 2007)
25. Own a Hope Chest
26. See the D.C. Cherry Blossoms
27. Flush the toilet in the Southern Hemisphere

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Apex Army Recruiting

You enjoy science fiction. You’re addicted to the computer. You’ve got some time on your hands. You like free stuff.

Kid, have I got the job for you.

Anyone, that’s right, ANYONE can be a member of the Apex Army. There are four ways to do it.

1.) Review some Apex books or stories from the magazine on your blog/FB/Twitter account. Where do you find those books & stories? HERE. Don’t like reading online and you’re printer’s out of paper? Have stories READ to you by fabulous authors! HERE is the latest one. There are links to others at the bottom. And dude..seriously…TWITTER. You can do a review in 140-characters or less. I dare you.

2.) Fly the Apex blog widget.

3.) Fly the Apex Amazon widget. (Check it out here on the right.)

4.) Fly one of Apex’s many lovely banners. (There are some right here you can copy & paste.)


BONUS.) If you are lazy and have extra money lying around (or if you were going to buy some books ANYWAY), check out the investment options when you donate to the magazine. Discounts, free books, free mugs, free shot glasses, and your name in print — all for $100 or less!

Go on, have some fun. You know you want to. WE certainly want you to.

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SEKRIT PROJECT REVEALED! (or, Why I Love John Skipp)

Skipp asked us all to wait until he made the official announcement. Wednesday, he made the official announcement, SO HERE IT IS!

There’s a bit of a long story behind this one (color you shocked, right?), which covers why this tale will be a simultaneous release with its inclusion in PS Publishing’s Nick Cave anthology…but I’ll let Skipp explain himself in the intro. In the meantime, enjoy this ToC. (And then click over here to preorder.)

I want you to look…just look…at this lineup before you ask me why I’m swooning. One, two, ME. *faint*


I can finally announce the TOC for WEREWOLVES AND SHAPESHIFTERS: ENCOUNTERS WITH THE BEAST WITHIN, which Black Dog and Leventhal will be releasing in late September.

I had an incredible time editing this follow-up to ZOMBIES. If anything, it’s more eclectic and wide-ranging, as witness the stories below…

THE OTHER SIDE – Count Stenbock
FIRE DOG – Joe R. Lansdale
PURE SILVER – A.C. Crispin and Kathleen O’Malley
GIFT-WRAP – Charlaine Harris
UNLESS YOU CHANGE – Francesca Lia Block
FORGIVEN – Eric Shapiro
IL DONNAIOLO – Brad C. Hodson
WEREWOLF 101 – Mercedes M. Yardley
MANDIBLE – Alice Henderson
FAR AND WEE – Kathe Koja
BRAIDS – Melanie Tem
THE SKIN TRADE – George R.R. Martin
STRANGE SKIN – Bentley Little
BREAK-UP – Richard Christian Matheson
THE BETTER HALF: A LOVE STORY – Scott Bradley and Peter Giglio
PLASTIC FANTASTIC – Dieter Meyer and Maxwell Hart
WARM, IN YOUR COAT – Violet Glaze
HOWL OF THE SHEEP – Cody Goodfellow
PIECES OF ETHAN – Adam-Troy Castro
WHEN SUSSURUS STIRS – Jeremy Robert Johnson
WAR PIG – Carlton Mellick III
DISSERTATION – Chuck Palahniuk
SWEETHEART COME – Alethea Kontis

35 stories, 18 of them original (including the Bentley Little), in 640 pages, with essays by yours truly and informative appendices on shapeshifting history and popular culture. A zesty blend of big shots and unknowns, including four authors who had never published fiction before. Plus lots and lots of amazing stories by women, for those who keep track of such things.

I love this book. You heard it here first!

Yer pal,

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Hypericon 6 Pics


(just click the cute girl)

Eddie took about half the pictures (while I was on panels and whatnot) so there may me more photos soon (or more links to his…) xox

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Cloudy Skies & Rorschach

I was cleaning up & organizing my pictures from Hypericon and I came across this one, which I took on the road from Charleston to Nashville. Yes, Mom, I know the dangers of photography (and writing) while driving — I promise you, my hands never left the wheel. Come on…could you have passed up this shot?

And…more importantly…what IS this?? A cake-topper? A video game character? One of those aliens from *batteries not included?

Hypericon pics coming shortly.

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To You, From Me

Mom saw my birthday tribute to her this morning (how fitting that Concrete Blonde played “Happy Birthday” last night as part of their set for the 20th Anniversary of Bloodletting tour). Needless to say, I brought a tear to her eye — an ability I’ve become quite proud of over the years, as my mother’s tears are a mark of excellence. She posted a comment regarding the “Ode to Motherhood” poem I wrote about her when I was ten. “Where did you find that?” she asked.

Bit of a silly question, really, but only because Mom lived in the same family I did where books and journals were exchanged at birthdays and holidays more frequently than hugs and kisses. And not only were they given and received with equal joy, but they were always inscribed.

I’ve let this custom go by the wayside over the years — working in publishing for almost 15 years has afforded me the luxury of giving BOXES of books to my family at every occasion…and every time I needed to clean out my office. Some of them were ARCs, some of them were mass markets, some of them were signed by their authors. But none of them (unless I was the author) were signed by me.

It’s silly, really. These inscriptions have meant so much to me over the years. One of my most prized possessions is an unexpurgated Treasury of Grimm and Andersen my maternal grandmother (Memere) gave to me when I was eight. Off the top of my head I can also recall the inscribed Goop Tales from my Aunt Theda (“Don’t be a Goop!”) and They Call me Boober Fraggle from my paternal grandmother (Nana). I like to look at these signatures and remember the person, the moment in time, and the reason I’m so sentimental about certain things. Plus, I like to be able to brag about exactly how long I’ve owned something…proof that I was a champion reader by age five.

That poem my mother asked about? Collected in one of my own myriad blank journals, of course. But a special journal — one given to me by Nana at age ten (inscription at top). I knew with that book came the silent instruction to continue to write, and to collect those writings on those gilded pages. Only less special than the inscription is the big, round handwriting of my ten-year-old self as I carefully wrote out in cursive my “Ode to Motherhood” and “Ode to the Avon Lady” and told everyone about “Halloween Night.” All of us writers came from somewhere. I came from fairy tales, fraggles, goops, and that little blank book.

The part we all certainly don’t think about is, many years down the road, how much those inscriptions will mean to someone else. Let’s not forget the story behind the copy of Live Alone and Like It that Andre Norton gave me among four boxes of books I carted away from her library, inscribed to her by Anne McCaffrey. When Miss Anne gave that book to Miss Andre all those years ago, I’m sure she never knew what it would mean when discovered by another Miss A while simultaneously picking up her house and the pieces of her broken heart.

I urge you all this year — that’s only six more months, including the winter holiday of your choice — to give a book to someone you love. Make it thoughtful, make it important. And make it special by inscribing it.

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Just Joking

Stories are getting shorter and shorter these days as our schedules get more and more full–we’ve begun reading our stories on coffee sleeves and business cards and the ever-popular Twitter, in 140-characters or less.

Nathan Lilly, editor of the now-infamous Twitter magazine Thaumatrope, just posted a great essay about the essence of lightning fiction:

In my comings and goings, introducing people to the twitter fiction concept, I’ve often heard it asked: “How is it possible to write a story that short? If a story must contain an entire plot then how can you compress all that into just a few sentences?” My answer: “Can you tell a joke?”

I’ve always said the mark of a good storyteller is the ability to tell a joke. Why the heck do you think we have so much fun at conventions?

Check out the rest of Nathan’s essay (and how I am dubbed a master of the one-liner) here.


My five Thaumatrope stories: here

Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome serial (#DrGnome): here
With illustrations by J.K. Lee: here

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For My Mother, On Her Birthday

An Ode to Motherhood
To a mom who cooks and cleans
And washes all my favorite jeans
The last time that you left a spot
Very happy I was NOT!
But where a spot you did not miss
Turns out another called a kiss
Life ain’t that easy, you see
I guess that’s why you’re stuck with me.
(And I still love ya, Mom!)

~Alethea Kontis, Age 10
June 1986

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