Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Theatre: Episode 9

Episode 9: “The Old Woman in the Wood” (5:27)

This is a really fabulous tale–it’s a wonder why it’s not more popular. It’s got all the great elements: a stranded serving girl, murdering thieves, benevolent wild birds with keys, trees full of food and clothes and beds, and an old witch that the serving girl must defeat by following specific rules. CLASSIC fairy tale stuff. So why isn’t this one a “classic?” Because the girl’s not a silly princess? Harumph.


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There be e-Dragons

My friend Steven Saus and I were chatting earlier this month about the pros and cons of (and rampant rumors and misconceptions surrounding) e-Publishing. I asked him if he wouldn’t mid writing up some of his thoughts for a guest blog. (When a Princess asks for something, she usually gets it.)

Steven has listed for us some unromantic realities of e-Publishing, and why he and his partner-in-crime, Paul Genesse, decided to travel down this road. There be Dragons here.


I am publishing my first digital book on the 20th, and I’m here to tell you … think twice about venturing into this yourself. Especially if you’re looking to self-publish your own book. The book is “The Crimson Pact: Volume I”. It’s an anthology, and I really am just the publisher – I don’t have a story in the anthology. Paul Genesse is the editor of the series. While I still firmly believe that digital publishing is more important than ever, I’m skeptical of digitally self-publishing as a simple shortcut to success.

You see, it’s all a matter of time.

No overnight successes

There are no overnight successes in digital publishing. None. Everyone who has succeeded with it so far has worked hard at promotion, produced a lot of material, or both. Purely digital sales grew over time, while the author kept producing more work. Sometimes it’s paid off, sometimes it hasn’t. Simply putting a story up for sale on Amazon leads to commercial success about as frequently as putting your stuff up on a web page led to a book deal. The exceptions are notable because they’re exceptions.

More hurdles and hoops than you think.

There are a lot of hurdles and hoops you don’t have to worry about when you publish traditionally. Contracts, taxes, payments, other people being late – heck, just this week I had to call the IRS because I misunderstood something about my EIN, or business tax ID. That was thirty minutes on the phone I really didn’t want to spend – it’s been a busy three months for me. Which leads to…

More knowledge and skill than you think

You don’t know everything that goes into this stuff. I don’t – and I’ve finished publishing a book! While we’ve been pooling the talent and knowledge of the authors in the anthology – and sharing the knowledge we have – there’s a definite learning curve. What’s the differences between format requirements for B&N, Kobo, and the iBookstore? They all use ePub… but each one has different specifications. I have yet to see an automatic eBook conversion work exactly right – even when you follow all the requirements. Whether we mean Smashword’s “Meatgrinder” or Adobe InDesign, they all create and introduce errors. Some might not show up on one eReader, but will on another. How do you get an ISBN? Why should you buy one instead of letting someone else assign you a “free” one? Some of the “distributing partners” for both Apple and Sony’s bookstore are listed on Writer Beware (and others probably should be). How do you make a non-cheesy looking cover? How do you make a press release, or animated avatar icon? All of these were things I had to learn or teach others.

More time than you think

Everything takes more time than you think it will – and that applies here. All of the above contributes to that, along with snafus and the typical gremlins. For example, I convert documents to eBook formats professionally and I spend a good quarter of the time of each conversion fixing my own mistakes. Paul Genesse, the editor, spent a lot of time working with authors and getting the book together. All this time leads to one big problem…

Less time for writing

Every moment you spend doing something other than writing, you’re spending doing something other than writing. Both Paul and I have had to cut back on our commitments – and even then I’ve fallen further behind than I intended.

Here’s the thing – if you’re using digital publishing as a shortcut to being famous, you’re doing it wrong. Submit, and then write something else. If the first thing comes back, send it out again. If it comes back more than five times, put it to the side for a week, then re-evaluate if it needs rewritten or trunked. Meanwhile, you’ve already got something else in the works (or several something elses) and you’re improving your writing. Remember where I said that success was through volume and/or promotion? If you’re busy doing all the ancillary publishing work, then how are you writing more material? You can only get so far promoting the same thing over and over again.

Digital Publishers

You’re probably wondering, given all this, why I’m still doing this. There are five big reasons:

1. Paul and I were already professionals. Paul has several novels under his belt as well as editing experience. I have several short story and flash publishing credits, as well as the eBook conversion experience and some business know-how. Things went best when we stayed with what we were best at…and by that I mean, when I stuck with what I was best at.
1. I’ve already set up the structures to do it. I have the knowledge and expertise now, so I might as well use it.
2. I’m not interested in using this as a vanity press. With this venture, I’m a publisher, not an author. I’m still submitting my short stories the same way I was before. When the rights revert, then I’ll put them up – but not before. I think it would be a conflict of interest for me to submit my own stories to an anthology I’m publishing. It would risk the chance of one of my stories not being the best they possibly could be.
3. Part of my purpose is to provide an alternative to the scammers and to illustrate what is good – and bad – about digital publishing. I want to make sure anthologies are able to survive – and this is one way to do all those things. So success for me is not measured solely in financial gain. That said, I saw a niche, assessed my options, and went for it.
4. I like doing it. I liked economics class. I like figuring things out. I like all this stuff. I like it better than my day job – which is always a good thing.

So I’m proud of The Crimson Pact, glad I’ve worked on it, and I’m looking forward to the next anthologies. I want to outcompete the scammers and provide more viable markets for short fiction. The authors who have stories in this anthology have proved they deserve it.

Yes, you can hire me to convert your story or novel to an eBook for you. I will help you get your self-published work online.

But I’d rather that you’d sell it to a publisher first.

And just maybe, that publisher will be me.

The Crimson Pact vowed to stop the demons of the Rusted Vale – but something went wrong. The demons invaded dozens of world across dimensions. These are the stories of the men and women who refuse to let the demons win. The Crimson Pact comes out 20 March 2011, with 26 stories in major eBook formats. You can read more about the anthology and buy your own copy at .

You can find out more about Steven Saus and his publishing ventures at his personal website or at his business website Alliteration Ink.

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Fool for Recipes

Hello, everyone! As promised, here is my March contribution to the Fool for Romance Giveaway Extravaganza!

Comment on my blog here today for a chance to win a spot in the Great Big Giveaway. At month’s end, the winners for each day will have a chance to win a HUMONGOUS prize pack from all the contributing authors for the month…including a Kindle! It’s a fun and fabulous event, there are plenty of ways to win, and I’m so happy to be a part of it!

My contribution to the prize pack: A signed (by both me and Sherri) Dark-Hunter Companion, along with assorted other fun D-H buttons and bookmarks and ornaments and stuffage!

So let’s get to today’s entry: RECIPES. After all, what’s the one thing most of us love even more than romance? FOOD!

In the Greek section of The Dark-Hunter Companion, I broke a bunch of rules and printed some of my family’s recipes. I just don’t think great recipes are meant to die along with their creators…and since I probably won’t have the opportunity to personally cook for every single one of you, why should you never be able to taste my Greek Chicken or Baklava?

Today I share with you a new recipe — and because I have a migraine this morning, it’s going to be GLUTEN FREE. This delicious recipe can be enjoyed by both my sister and myself without us regretting it later with stomach aches and headaches.

My mother perfected this recipe and passed it along–Soteria and I pretty much shared an entire batch of these over our Greek Christmas holidays. I hope you enjoy the recipe. And if you know of any other great gluten-free recipes, please link to them or post them here in the comments so that we might all share in the yumminess!


DATE LAYER BARS (gluten free)

Date filling:
1 pound pitted dates (Costco usually has great dates)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water (or 1/4 cup orange liquor (Triple Sec) and 1/4 cup water)

Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens. Cool. Just before using, add 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts.

3/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup almond flour (or just superfinely chop up 3/4 cup of any kind of nuts)
3/4 cup Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (they sell this at the grocery store – it’s easy to find)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
2 Tbsp water

Cream together sugar & butter. Sift dry ingredients & stir into creamed mixture. Add oats & water; mix until crumbly.

Firmly pat 1/2 of the mixture into a greased 9×13 baking dish. Spread with date filling. Drop remaining 1/2 of crust mixture on top and pat smooth.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Cool and enjoy!


Remember — please comment and/or share a recipe in order to participate in the contest!

Dark-Hunters Rule!!

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Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Theatre: Episode 8

Episode 8: “The Nail” (1:40)

The moral of this story is: “Make Haste Slowly.”

Also, don’t be a jerk.


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In Which the Princess is Not Amused

I started writing an essay about this three times last night.
I deleted every attempt.

There is a very big hullaballoo going on right now surrounding Dorchester Publishing. Chances are, you’ve heard about it from someone you’re a fan of in the industry. As usual, many of the supporters are basing their arguments on rumors and faulty information. A few of them — most understandably the upset and emotional authors adversely affected by this insanity — are basing them on facts.

There’s no getting around it — this whole fiasco is…well…a fiasco.

And for me, it’s personal.

I stand on a fence with three sides. On the first, there are very close friends of mine who have been royally screwed by Dorchester and are not afraid to tell the world about it. On the second, there is a very close friend of mine who has not been treated badly by Dorchester, is still publishing with them, and is scared as hell that a boycott will kill her book sales. On the third, there is a very close friend of mine who worked for Dorchester before the reorganization, and is still there trying to pick up the broken pieces and fashion a decent publishing company out of the wreckage.

There was a time when I, myself, was threatened with losing my job when I could not squeeze blood from the Dorchester stone. I am well aware of the situation, from all sides, which only makes it harder.

Ultimately, Dorchester is a business model that does not work, and one that the publishing industry does not need to perpetuate. I don’t know the solution to this problem. I’m not sure anyone does. I am not on the publisher’s side on this issue. But I also can’t in good conscience support a boycott (Yes, I’ve burned a book before; it was personal then too) or a slur campaign. Happily, that is my right as Princess. It’s your right to do whatever you want, too. Vaya con dios.

I am glad that the problem has been brought to the industry’s attention, and I hope Dorchester gets to cleaning up this mess they’ve buried themselves in. I hope the authors that have grievances with the publisher get their freaking rights back (and a check to boot would be nice) and soon. It would be nice if Dorchester could just officially go out of business and start over again fresh…but it’s just not that easy (though it should be). I suspect this issue (and many like it) is only going to get messier before it gets better. I just hope it’s quickly resolved.

Readers: Please be aware of situations like this, especially when purchasing e-books. You want your money to go to the right place, don’t you?

I wonder how many of you have actually visited the website of your favorite authors. I hope you all take some time today and do that.

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Princess Alethea’s Magical Elixir

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

Title: The Desert of Souls
Author: Howard Andrew Jones
EAN: 9780312646745

I loved this book. This could possibly be the shortest review I ever write, because I don’t know how to say it any other way: I loved this book. I wish it had been about 800 pages long. I wish I could pop in the DVD and watch the movie. I wish I had the kind of pocket change to pay Howard Andrew Jones to write me another story just like this. I wish I had the power to stop time, drop everything, and read every single one of the source texts he lists in his afterword. Heck, I wish I had the power to turn back time two days just so I could read this book all over again… (Read More)

Title: The Stainless Steel Rat (audiobook)
Author: Harry Harrison
Reader: Phil Gigante
EAN: 9781441881090

For the last few years, Brilliance Audio has been expanding their science fiction and fantasy selections by snagging the audio rights of classic novels in the genre. It’s a brilliant (no pun intended) move on their part — the audio presentations breathe new life into these gems, putting them back on the radar for those of us with too little time to go back to the library and catch up on the sections we missed when we were twelve… (Read More)




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The Princess Goes to Court

Last month I was taking the Fairy GodBoyfriend to pick up his car from the shop and was pulled over. The officer wrote me up for not having a Virginia inspection sticker. He gave me no time to talk, so when he got back to the car (with my ticket), I explained that I had a still-valid PA inspection sticker, which I had asked about at the DMV, and the DMV told me I didn’t need one for Virginia. I told the officer I was pissed (not at him) and wanted to give the ticket to the DMV because I was *trying* to be a good citizen and get everything paid and done and registered in a timely fashion and now I had to go through THIS.

Officer C implied that the DMV folks were uninformed. He drew stars on my ticket and told me to find him before court on the date I was to appear, and show him the pink slip verifying I had gotten my car registered in VA. He told me to say to the judge exactly what I’d just said to him, and it would probably be dismissed. He also warned me to show up early, since I’d have to go through security.

Today was my court date. As instructed, I showed up about an hour early. The doors opened at 9am. My appearance was scheduled for 9:30, but Officer C was the last one on the docket. I sat behind him, pretty sure I recognized him. My mouth said, “Officer C?” before my brain was ready to talk, but it needed to be done, so I did it.

“What’s your name?” asked Officer C.

“Kontis, with a K. You drew stars on my ticket and told me to come see you before court started.”

He looked at his paperwork for a minute. “You get that sorted out?”

I showed him my pink slip. “Yes, sir.”

“Remind me what the deal was?”

“I had a PA inspection and the DMV told me I didn’t need a VA one.”

“That’s right. Okay. Don’t worry about it. But I’m last on the list, so you’ll probably have to wait a while.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “I’ve never been to court before. It’s an adventure.”

Apparently, my breaking the ice with him prompted three or four more people to approach Officer C. Since I was still sitting behind him, I overheard him give instructions and pointers to people, so I felt a little more comfortable about what I had to do.

Honorable Judge D arrived and explained a little more. After reading the cases that had been pulled from his list, he would call an officer’s name and then their cases, in alphabetical order. If your name was called, you were supposed to say “Here” and approach the specified podium. You were then asked if you understood your charges, and asked to plead Guilty or Not Guilty.

Oh, crap — was I Guilty or Not Guilty? I mean, technically I was guilty, but Officer C said it would be thrown out. I figured, “Innocent until proven guilty,” so I decided to start with Not Guilty. Judging by the cases who went before me, it didn’t matter what you plead; the judge decided for you anyway. It also seemed that brevity was the best course of action–one woman pleaded her innocence, explaining the circumstance of her ticket four or five times. She just wouldn’t shut up until the judge finally spoke over her and told her she was guilty. $200 and court costs. Move along.

Very few people (besides the lawyers) thanked the judge. And NO ONE said “Here” when the judge called their names. Silly people. I had visions of the judge calling my name and me saying, “Here!” To which the judge would reply, “Thank you, young lady for paying attention. Your case is dismissed, no matter what it is.”

While waiting, I tried to best sum up my explanation into something I could tweet. “I moved from PA last year and had a valid PA inspection sticker. When I asked, the DMV told me I didn’t need one for VA.” 120 characters — that would work. I repeated it to myself in my head, over and over.

Finally, Officer C was called. A, B, G, H, King…okay, the next one should be me…I had my pink slip out and ready to present for evidence.

Judge D: Uh-lee-thuh Madeleine K– (why is it NO ONE can pronounce “Kontis?” It’s spelled phonetically, people.)

Princess A: (Interrupting the judge and therefore saving him from pronunciation hell.) Here, your honor! (I made my way up to the podium.)

Judge D: You were charged with [blah blah blah inspection]. Do you understand these charges?

Princess A: Yes, your honor.

Judge D: How do you plead?

Princess A: Not Guilty? (I didn’t sound very convincing.)

Judge D: Did you get the car inspected?

Princess A: (Flashes the pink slip so the judge can see)

Judge D: Please show the Officer.

Officer C: I’ve already seen it.

Judge D: If you plead Not Guilty, you have to pay court costs. If you plead Guilty, I’ll just dismiss this. Would you like to plead Guilty? (Was he actually…grinning?)

Princess A: (With a big smile) Yes, sir.

Judge D: Then I dismiss all charges.

Officer C: The DMV actually *told* her that the registration was still valid…

Judge D: Officer, I’ve dismissed the case.

Officer C: Yes, your honor.

Princess A: Thank you, your honor.

At which point I turned and gracefully made my way out of the courtroom so he could get on to the next case. The uncontrollable shaking actually waited until I got to the bathroom. Turns out, I’m still just fine under pressure. And, true to form, I am still excessively polite when stressed.

It’s a very good trait to have.

For future reference: there are TWO inspections in Virginia. One is the emissions inspection, which is needed to obtain your registration and for which a PA inspection (safety & emissions, required to register your car in PA) is valid. The second is the Virginia Safety Inspection which, while it is illegal to drive your car without, is apparently not required to obtain your vehicle registration. Why? I have no idea. But I bet it’s a nice source of state revenue.

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On the Nomness of Babies

If you don’t laugh at this video, you should probably just go ahead and unfriend me from Facebook right now.

To the rest of you, I say: You’re welcome.

(via: Ron Dickie)

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Blossoms & BBQ

We had a great time with Dickie & Mandy last night. The arrived around 3pm, thus forcing me to stop cleaning and have fun. (Hooray!) We chatted for a while with refreshment, discussing what to do before our 9pm reservations at Hill Country (and the sekrit Adam Ezra performance). Nobody seened to care, so when Joe asked for my vote I didn’t hesitate in recommending Georgetown.

It was the most beautiful day we had all year. 75 degrees with a breeze and fantastic. Traffic wasn’t even that bad. We walked down by the water, back up M street past the crazy line for DC Cupcakes, and then back down to the water again for more refreshment.

There aren’t any leaves on the trees yet, but some of the blossoms are blooming. The Potomac was filled with rowing teams and private crafts and port authority skiffs. The sunset was lovely, and the full moon rose big in the east. And right around 7:30, we headed into the city to find parking before the show. We found a huge garage only three blocks from the restaurant with no problem. There was a huge line at the restaurant…thank goodness for reservations! They let us in early, and gave us choice seating downstairs, right in front of the stage (and the speakers).

It was an amazing show. The food was finger-licking good. Sitting next to the speakers turned out to be a great thing, since many people still felt pressed to try and converse over the music. The band played in three sets with breaks in between, which was awesome, because then there was an opportunity to go check out the swag table and visit the restroom without feeling rude.

The room being what it was, the band just hopped off the stage and came out to mingle with the crowd. I coerced Joe into buying me a shirt (who denies a princess?). He gave me $20 and let me go check out the swag. So I’m looking at the t-shirts, deciding which one I want, and the guy next to me turns aorund and says, “Hey, how are you doing?” And it’s Adam.

“Hey! Thank you SO much for being here,” I started to say.

At which point he just gave me a huge hug. YES, I was a starry-eyes fan girl. Still am. Not ashamed one bit.

I explained to Adam that we’d tried to see him twice before when he came to the area and missed it for one reason or another. And we almost missed him THIS time, since he’s playing in Virginia tomorrow — which we found out about a week after we bought the Enter the Haggis tickets. (The show’s late, though, and close to the house, so we still might try and stop by.) I introduced him to Joe, bought my shirt and had it signed by everyone. All the guys are great. Mandy & Dickie got some CDs and had them signed too. It’s just really hard not to love this band. Especially since their songs are amazing.

For the very last song of the night, Adam and the boys went unplugged and came out into the almost-empty restaurant. Adam sat on a table with his guitar; Turtle grabbed a chair and used the table top like his bongos. And we all sang–of all songs–John Denver’s “Country Roads.”

Mom and Dad probably don’t realize I remember this, but back in Vermont, when I was about four or five, we went to some event where everyone was welcome to sing along. Mom passed around typed pages with all of the song lyrics (which I could read, of course). My favorite song was “Country Roads.” Apart from all those British baby songs my grandmother taught us, “Country Roads” was the very first song I learned how to sing. It still has a special place in my heart. And never before have I seen a band EVER play it live.

You couldn’t have written a more perfect day. It’s the first time Mandy’s ever been to the states, and I was so glad we could show her a great time. I didn’t even mind driving back home through downtown DC. (The princess is always the designated driver.)

I did mind, however, that the parking garage was closed.

We walked around the block until we found a call box, which Joe used to exchange harsh words with some guy who hung up on him twice before calling us a cab from Falls Church. (Cabbies in metro DC have no idea where Ashburn is.) The verdict? We wouldn’t be able to get the car until 7am, and we had no desire to hang out in downtown DC for six more hours. So we took the cab home. Ugh. (That offer to write a story for someone for $80 is still on the table…just drop me a line.)

It’s always an adventure with me. But it was still an amazing night. And now I’m going to take a nice, long, hot shower and get ready for another one.

What are you all doing this weekend?

(Click on the pictures to see the rest of the “DC with Dickie & Mandy” album. More pics from today & tonight forthcoming…)

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Enter the Haggis

I’m cleaning the house (okay, I *was* cleaning the house — I am now officially taking a break to do some writing) because we’re having company this weekend. Tomorrow night, we’re all going to see the band Enter the Haggis.

Since it’s Friday, I’m going to share a song with you. I’ve never heard them play this one live, but it’s one of my favorites. You literary types will enjoy the reference. “Did you rise up for the curtain to fall for the plot?” Brilliant.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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