Darkness and Valentines

Know what people love to get for Valentine’s Day? Flowers.

The problem with flowers, though, is that they’re only beautiful for a short period of time. You have to make sure they have fresh water, trim off the dead buds, and then finally toss the whole kit & caboodle in your trash can and scrub the mold out of your vase.

Know what’s better than moldy vases? Books.

Right now over at Apex Book Company, there are a whole lot of great sales going on, and a super-duper Valentine’s Day Promotion.

First, there’s the brand-spanking-new anthology DESCENDED FROM DARKNESS II. If you remember the first volume, it’s kind of like a “best of Apex Magazine” collection. The unique thing about this volume is that while all the stories were published online by Apex, this is the first time most of them (and possibly all of them) have been in print.

DESCENDED FROM DARKNESS II includes my post-apocalyptic Patsy Cline-inspired tale “A Poor Man’s Roses.” The price on this very lovely and very affordable trade paperback is $16.95. But if you order now, you can get DESCENDED FROM DARKNESS I & II for the low price of $25.00. It doesn’t come with a set of Ginsu knives, but Apex won’t rape you for “shipping & handling” like those horrible TV ads. (People pay that much for a $2 bill? Really? Pull the other one.)

If you’d like something a little more personal for your Valentine, might I suggest the Apex “Byte & Sign” promotion? Here’s how it works:

From now until Valentine’s Day, when you buy an Apex book, it will be signed by the author(s) (or the editor for anthologies) AND you will be emailed the digital version (ePub/mobi/PDF) for free.

That’s right — an e-book you can dive into immediately, and then a beautifully personalized book you can give your sweetheart later. It’s literally the gift that keeps on giving!

The Valentine’s Day promotion includes my infamous essay collection BEAUTY & DYNAMITE (which, if you think about it, includes some fairly romantic material and would make a really great Valentine’s gift…why didn’t I think of this before?)

Look at that gorgeous, romantic cover…and you guys know how colorfully decorated my signatures get when I have time. I don’t have a lot of these hanging around to bring to conventions anymore, so if you’re looking for a signed copy, now’s your perfect chance!

(And who knows…maybe if enough folks order it, maybe Apex will let me put out another one. Fingers crossed…)


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In Which The Fairy GodBoyfriend Makes Fun of the Publishing World

As you lovely folks may or may not know, the famous and lovable Fairy Godboyfriend (who sometimes answers to “Joe” or “Tomo”), used to have a very popular site on teh intarwebs known as Tomoview. What MST3K did for horrible movies, Joe did for horrible literature. (Though calling it “literature” is kind of a stretch.) Think slush pile horror stories…to the billionth degree.

Last year, Joe had too much on his plate to continue posting on the website, and he took it down. Things have finally calmed down, and he’s ready to jump back in the (very scary) deep end again. He has relaunched the site as a blog, which you can bookmark and/or follow by clicking this link.

Those not familiar with Joe’s site need to know: Most of the titles are in the horror genre. Not all subjectmatter is appropriate for all ages (or appropriate for some people in general). You may not enjoy Joe’s caustic sense of humor, and that’s okay. These are books published by actual people — both small press and large (but usually small). They are for put up sale and therefore public consumption. Joe’s site is living proof that you have no say over your baby once you put it out there. All its great parts and horrible parts are yours to own up to.

While I only review books that I enjoy on IGMS, Joe will only make comments on titles that stink…because they are funny. (I kind of hope he posts his secret review of the first chapter of Snooki’s book, because it was HILARIOUS.)

As a rule, I do not like laughing at people. But Joe makes me laugh and remember the very high standards to which I hold both myself and my writing.

Because on Tomoview, no one is safe.

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Princess Alethea’s Magical Elixir

My new reviews are up at Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show!

Title: Pegasus
Author: Robin McKinley
EAN: 9780399246777

Ask me who my favorite authors are and — hard pressed as I am to narrow it down to less than twenty — Robin McKinley is always at the top of the list. She has remained stubbornly at the top position, despite the fact that I have not enjoyed her last three books. I couldn’t even finish Dragonhaven. I felt completely miserable about that one. But I refused to give up on her. I hoped that the muse would find her again, that she would wander back to Damar, or retell another fairy tale in the way that only Robin McKinley can. I wanted the gorgeous prose and complex worlds and even more complex characters that she can weave like straw into gold. I didn’t expect another Blue Sword or Deerskin, but a girl can dream, can’t she? I bought my copy of Pegasus hoping for nothing, but praying that I would not be disappointed.

I am happy to report: This is the book I’ve been waiting a decade for. (Read more…)

Title: The Osiris Ritual
Author: George Mann
EAN: 9780765323217

Once upon a time I was a series purist and completist. I needed to start with Book One of a series and go on chronologically until I came to the end (or until the author lost me in boring minutiae). Now that I’ve read my way around the library a few times, I enjoy jumping into an already-established series just to see if the author has the chops to draw me in and pull it off without my having read the first one. In The Osiris Ritual, a Newbury and Hobbes investigation, author George Mann passes the test with flying colors. (Read more…)

Title: Subject Seven
Author: James A. Moore
EAN: 9781595143044

The theme of my column this week is apparently series, or books that are some small part of a bigger whole. I dove into Subject Seven having no idea if it was book one of a series, and at the writing of this column I still have no idea. But sure as heck hope it is, because I would really like to know what happens.

From the first page of Subject Seven, author James A. Moore throws you right in the deep end. There are authors who can’t pull this off, but Moore is not one of them. The reader is too busy following the action to wonder about answering all the questions they don’t know — there will be time for that, we realize, right now we just need to get out alive. (Read more…)

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A Little Persuasion

The monthly Washington Romance Writers meeting is today. I’ve had it on my calendar and kept the forum digest in my Inbox so I don’t forget the wheres and whens — from 10:00 to 3pm today we will be discussing Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

I assumed that in the five allotted hours we’d be watching a version of the film and then having a discussion afterward. Not until I checked the email again to get directions at 8pm last night did I realize that it was requested that we read (or reread) Persuasion so that we might contribute to the discussion.


I joined WRW in November — the meeting in December was the holiday party, and I felt uncomfortable walking into a perfect stranger’s house and saying, “Hi, I’m the new girl. I’m here to eat your food.” I know they wouldn’t have minded….but I wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t thinking clearly, and I resorted to the introvert cop out of “I’ll go to the first proper meeting in January, so they can get to know me properly.”

Only now they’re going to get to know me as the girl who read the first three chapters of Persuasion last night while her Fairy GodBoyfriend was watching Gold Rush: Alaska.

I do adore Austen — the A&E version of P&P is my comfort food. But Pride & Prejudice is all I’ve ever read in book form. I would love to read them all, of course, and I fully intend to bring Austen’s complete works along with Rudyard Kipling’s when I get stranded on that deserted island with a never-ending supply of Lady Grey and SPF 50.

My friend Shannan pointed out that Persuasion was all about giving someone a second chance. I may point this out just for brownie points…

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Ding Dong

It’s that time of year again! Yes, just as you’re ready to throw in the towel on that New Year New You resolution, here come the girls with brown and green sashes, ready to take your cookie order.

This brings up another one of Mom’s Rules: Your parents will not bring your Girl Scout cookie order form to work. If you want to win fabulous prizes, you and your sister better hoof it around the neighborhood in the fine, upstanding tradition of vacuum cleaner salesmen.

To my parents’ credit, we had a really good neighborhood full of really good people. I wish I could go back to that girl in the brown sash and tell her to go practice her skills of cute manipulation on the innocent neighbors of the North Springs community. I would have been shy for maybe two seconds, and after a day I would have earned my weight in personalized mugs and unicorn posters.

But I chose the path of the lazy shy girl. I hit up my friends’ parents and a few people I knew, and I suffered the consequences (with only a mug that said “Welcome” on it in about 47 languages).

Fast forward years later to when I worked in a cubicle at a large corporation. I always knew when Girl Scout time was, because tons of people brought their girls’ order forms to work. It made me nauseous. What made me literally want to vomit was that one of our VPs would actually send out an email, reminding everyone it was cookie time and that he had his daughter’s form in his office. He did not encourage you to buy from the other suckers-with-daughters in the office — he wanted you to buy it from him.

And, of course, everyone did. He was the VP, after all. What better way to brown nose? Ugh–the thought of it even now disgusts me. My parents made me do it the hard way (and rightfully so!) when I wore that sash, and now I was going to be strong-armed into drinking the Kool-Aid or being branded Not A Team Player? No way. Alethea doesn’t play by those rules.

I never bought a single box of cookies from that VP. It’s probably one of the reasons I don’t work there anymore.

Right now, I live in a gated apartment complex on the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a small strip of office buildings and a branch of George Washington University that no one visits. In front of us, magically, is acres of undeveloped land, and behind us is wildlife refuge all the way until you hit the Potomac. This is a very nice community full of very nice people. I have already purchased one item from a boy who knocked on my door with a school fundraiser order form in his hand. I know what it’s like to be on the other side of that door. I want to reward that bravery.

If any girls stop by here in the next few weeks and knock on my door (which is more than my rude mailman does), I will happily buy a box of cookies from her. But I will not be strong-armed or guilt-tripped into buying cookies I don’t really want from you or your VP, and I probably won’t hand over any cash to the gaggle that sets up a folding table in front of the local Wal-Mart.

My mom gave us rules, and I have rules too. While I did not enjoy my own time as a Brownie, I recognize the Girl Scouts as a fine organization and would encourage any young girl to join the ranks. I also realize that, at any time, I am free to make a 100% calorie-free donation to the Girl Scouts of America. You can too.

Reward hard working young people, but don’t let yourself be bullied, my friends. And if you do buy cookies — I sincerely hope you enjoy them.

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Ice, Ice, Baby

As you might have noticed, I’ve been MIA from Teh Intarwebs recently. Part of it is being caught up with work (I suddenly find myself awash in manuscripts to revise, and I am not unhappy about the prospect) and the Ice Capades weather of DC, resulting in The Fairy GodDaughters getting not only MLK Jr. Day off from school, but yesterday as well.

There’s this funny thing that happens when I’m around my family and friends–I like to enjoy their company without being connected to the internet. Crazy, right? I know.

I promise, I’ll take a break and pop in periodically to let you know how things are going. But for right now, I need to knuckle down and get to work.

Are you guys working on any fun projects right now?

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Geek Joy

The Playstation Network has finally made Final Fantasy VII and IX available on Playstation Classics. I am in complete geek love.

The FairyGodboyfriend wonders if me killing bad guys all weekend constitutes me being technically “off the grid.”

You think about that a minute. I have some Materia to collect.

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Lawrence and Luc

Over at my dear friend Lawrence Schoen’s website (you may know Lawrence as the King of Klingon), my other dear friend Luc Reid is grilled about the Codex Writers Group, his new e-book Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories, andwhat it was like to be a student in Lawrence’s class all those years ago. (Small world, isn’t it?)

Luc was one of the people–possibly the very first person–responsible for making SUNDAY the novel it is today. After getting a very crushing rejection on New Year’s Eve five years ago, he encouraged me (after my birthday party) to send it out again. Nine months later, it was published in Realms of Fantasy. Next year, it will be a book. Life is just amazing like that.

If you’re looking for something to pass the time (and if you’re reading this website, you’re obviously doing that already), pop on over and see what Luc has to say. And if $2.99 is burning a hole in your pocket, follow that link and check out his 172 short stories. I guarantee–Luc’s always good for a laugh.

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The Twelve Rules, Annotated

I have been asked to talk a little bit more about the now-infamous 2010 Christmas Pageant song “The Twelve Rules of Christmas” (Click here to watch on YouTube).

NO DECORATING THE TREE! (feat. Della Leffler)

Rule#1: No Decorating the Tree
I believe this rule originated the first year we moved into the giant house in North Springs…so I was about ten and Soteria was eight. We had a staircase with a long banister that curved at the end, and a huge ballroom. The tree was on the end of the ballroom closest to the windows facing the road. I spent hours fixing the garland that wrapped down the banister so that every green branch looked like a living snake off Medusa’s head. (Apparently, pine branches are straight and stick out forward.) Soteria and I were also in charge of the tinsel, which represents snow. Snow falls from the sky. We assumed the best way to put on the tinsel would be to throw clumps up in the air and let them fall where they willed. (While this *is* how snow falls, it is not correct for the application of tinsel.) Mom was so frustrated that she banned us from decorating the tree ever again; the least-stressful solution for all parties involved.

Rule #2: No Boys in Your Room
This is a good rule for any parent who has girls.Especially if they’re boy-crazy girls. However, it is sort of an annoying rule in a two-story house when a.) all your daughters best friends are boys and/or q.) she has no problem kissing the girls anyway.

Rule #3: No Food in the Den
Also a good rule if you’re a stickler about cleanliness. The only TV was in the den (this is back when families only had one TV and were lucky if they had only one very-slow computer). The way I got around this rule was to sit in the hallway outside the door and eat my Doritos while watching Star Trek TNG after school.

Rule #4: Can’t Ride with Teens
Teen drivers are, by definition, not very experienced drivers. They are also easily distracted when other teens are in the car. But when so-and-so’s brother is the only way you have to get from point A to point B, you’re SOL with this rule.

Rule #5: “If I find it, can I smack you?”
The person in the house with all the power is the person who cleans it. It follows that the person who cleans it is also the person who knows where everything is. Why should we bother looking when he/she can tells us exactly where it is? But when we’ve looked for ten minutes already, even after hearing “Are you looking with my eyes?”, we would get this saying…for which my mother is now famous. Apologies for the ear worm.

Rule #6: No Table Singing
No one has any idea where this rule came from. When doing research for The Dark-Hunter Companion, I discovered that singing at the table was bad luck in certain circles. I asked Mom if that was the origin. “No,” she said. “I probably just made it a rule so you girls would be quiet.” And there you have it.

Rule #7: No Last-Minute School Help
This is possibly the best rule my parents ever gave us, and I suggest it to everyone else I know. The full rule is: Mom and Dad will help you with your school projects to the best of their abilities, but not within 24-hours of the project being due. If you tell them in advance, you will have all the materials and brainpower and handiwork at your disposal. If not, you’re on your own. I was on my own a LOT…but I knew it was my own fault, because I knew the rule.

Rule #8: Write Down What You Owe Me
God, we hated this rule. There was a list behind the kitchen door of all the money we ever borrowed from our parents, that we were expected to pay back (with chores and cash). We never got money for gas or money to go to the movies. If we made a long-distance phone call, it was written down. Car insurance? You betcha that was on the list. It certainly taught us to be financially responsible…and to abhor money above all else.

Rule #9: Don’t Slam Your Door Shut
We were emotional, melodramatic teenagers who grew into emotional, melodramatic women. Slamming the door shut was a great way of making your point and ending the conversation. It was also a great way for the door to start coming away from the wall. We also weren’t allowed to lock our doors, or tie the bathroom door to the bedroom door so no one could enter from the bathroom…

Rule #10: Complain and You Can’t Have More
Also one of the best rules ever and now I see why…I HATE people who groan or say “ew!” at the dinner table, especially after a long day after I’ve made dinner and am ready to sit down and relax. We were forced to try one bite of everything on the table anyway — if you complained about the dish, and then tasted it and LIKED it, you weren’t allowed to have any more. Since both my parents were pretty darn good cooks, this was a legitimate threat. I believe both Soteria and I have very open-minded palates as a result of this rule.

Rule #11: If You Ask Me If Your Friend Can Spend the Night and Your Friend is Standing Right There, The Answer is Automatically No
Pretty self-explanatory. There was just no way to shorten this one.

Rule #12: Dishes, Dishes, Dishes!
Doing the dishes was our job. One sister did the dishes, one emptied the dishwasher. We traded off. It was the worst experience and scarred us both for life. My parents cooked stuff like Egg Foo Young and Bisteeya and Moussaka and they used every dish in the house, and we couldn’t go to bed until the entire kitchen was spotless. Whatever you couldn’t fit in the dishwasher (there were more rules about what to put where in the dishwasher and how clean it had to be before it went into the dishwasher), you had to do by hand. After dinner parties with visiting dignitaries, Soteria and I were sometimes up well past midnight doing the dishes. After I moved out of the house, I didn’t have a dishwasher for over a decade. I didn’t mind it one bit.

There were other rules that didn’t make it into the song…the last to make the cutoff was “No Screaming Help While Swimming.” (We lived on a lake…if you were screaming “Help!”, you better be drowning.) One day, Soteria and I might sit down and try to remember all the rules…perhaps we could make a book out of them.

Did you guys have any crazy rules while growing up?

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One Spectacular Birthday

When Leanna and I first came up with this crazy idea on the streets of New York City, it sounded silly. Sure, I could ask a bunch of my friends to wear tiaras on my birthday…but would they? Was this going to be the dumbest idea in the history of ideas? Was I going to regret my 1-11-11 birthday for the rest of my life? What kind of disaster had I set myself up for?

But once the idea was out there, I didn’t have time to change my mind. Christmas happened, and then FGB’s family Christmas, and then New Year’s, and then Greek Christmas, and then suddenly I was in Florida and it was my father’s birthday and we were eating lobsters at the table and they were begging me to open my birthday presents. The plane landed back in DC a little over 24-hours before the 1-11-11 deadline, and I was too worn out to care if the dynamite I’d lit blew up or not.

The fireworks started to sizzle the night of the 10th, as my birthday rolled around to Australia and India…and then it exploded.

At last count, before Facebook gave up, over 350 people had posted on my wall. There are 136 (and counting) photos in the Tiara Birthday Spectacular Album, and I’m still hunting them down all over the internet. (If you don’t see yours there, please email me!) I spent hours yesterday and today putting the album together. It is nothing short of amazing. There are people of all ages and sexes, in person, animated, or photoshopped. There are animals, both real and not real, from dogs and cats to lizards and bunnies (and those are all live). There are people I’ve known for years and people I’ve only met online. There are family members and there are complete strangers…but they all have one thing in common: I love them all. And every single one of them — to a person and animal — unique and spectacular.

I’ve also realized that 1.) it takes a real man to wear a tiara, 2.) my friends are incredibly inventive and original, Q.) they have some gorgeous tiaras and 82.) I don’t have a pink feather boa. Apparently, when one owns a tiara, one often owns a pink feather boa as well. Who knew?

I’m going to go ahead and chalk up this birthday as a win. I hope you all had half as much fun as I did yesterday. And thank you, all of you, so very very much, from the bottom of my Royal Heart. xox

(Click the princess to enter the Tiara Birthday Spectacular Album!)

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