Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Theatre: Episode 18

Episode 18: “Sweetheart Roland” (8:58)

Imagine, after escaping from certain death and all you had been through together, that your sweetheart leaves you for another woman. At the end of the story it sounds like Roland had been put under a spell by this woman, but I didn’t really get that while I was reading it. See what you think. Will the stepdaughter and Roland *really* live happily ever after?

Also: that must have been some apron. Two people died for it! (I do love the idea of talking blood drops, though.)



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Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Theatre: Episode 17

Episode 17: “The White Snake” (9:35)

Whenever I read this type of story I always wonder who it was that first ate a white snake and realized he could suddenly hear animals speak. For that matter, I would love to see a fairy tale version of Chopped. “In your entree basket: “Whole duck, leg of Horse, White Snake, and an apple from the Tree of Life. You have thirty minutes. Time starts…now!” Can you imagine what magical powers that dish would have? Wow!

(Production note: You might notice a very loud bird that did not have the courtesy to shut up while I was recording this episode. I let it be…I felt a chirping bird was rather appropriate for a story about a man given the power to talk to animals.)


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Tennesse Bound

…but first I have to put in a shift at the bookstore.

That’s right, kiddies — this afternoon, I am headed back to Tennessee, for far less time than I’d like to stay, of course. One day I’ll kick the renter out of my house and use it as a summer spring winter home, but for now I must (finally) move my worldly possessions to a giant storage unit in VA.

But before then I will have homemade cornbread. I will get ribs from The Slick Pig and cornbread muffins from Calypso Cafe. I will sign books at Hypericon. I might even stop by the Smyrna Library. I am bringing the Fairy GodFamily, you see, and I am anxious to show off my former life.

What I regret the most, of course, is that one day next week I will be driving into the parking lot of the Job That Shall Not Be Named (because They like to Google Themselves and then pass around inter-office memos about it), but I will not be able to go inside and hug every single one of those people I miss. (Thank the gods for Facebook.) This is a bridge I burnt myself, so I have no one to blame but me. I just hope everyone in that building (they know who they are) knows that I love and care about them and think about them all the time and miss them like crazycakes, and so long as I have the address I will continue to send Christmas CDs, because it’s tradition.

If there’s one thing I learned from my life in Tennessee, it’s tradition.

Lord, how I miss my little house. I wonder if the roses are still blooming.

See y’all soon!  xox

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Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Theatre: Episode 16

Episode 16: “The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean” (3:07)

This little tale reminds us that busting a gut while laughing is a time-honored tradition. It also tells us why all beans have black seams.

I must say, though…I have never felt bad for a bean in my entire life. That must have been one very unique tailor.



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Happy Birthday, Mom!

Please feel free to leave a comment wishing my mom a very happy mummbledymumble birthday!

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Beer for Breakfast

Today’s my day to blog over at the Waterworld Mermaids. I encourage you to pop on over and discover why I interrupted the Fairy Godboyfriend in the middle of his breakfast and asked if he could grab me a beer..and what the heck that has to do with writing.

Heehee! The things we do for art.

Man, his face was priceless..

Here’s the link.

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The Jewelry Designer Diva

Just because it’s not May anymore doesn’t mean I won’t be hosting interviews on my blog anymore. They just don’t always have to be about writers…like this one!

I talk about my sister Soteria and her spectacular jewelry all the time–heck, I’ve handed out her business cards to people who have complimented me on the New York subway–but how well do you really know her? Here’s your chance to find out!

I asked her these questions a while ago — she took her time answering, and I took my time posting them. I say this because in one of the questions I reference “this holiday season,” and I actually have NO IDEA WHAT FREAKING HOLIDAY I’M TALKING ABOUT. Just so we’re clear. Enjoy!

And when you’re done, pop on over to the Dixie Dunbar Studio website and check out the pretty shiny stuff!


Alethea Kontis: When did you start making jewelry?

Soteria Kontis: I started making jewelry when I was a kid…of course I moved up the bead ladder from making friendship bracelets and daisy chains to knotting pearls, soldering and working with semi-precious stones. I always considered myself the jack of all trades until one day it occurred to me that I am actually really good at making jewelry. It’s nice to have one thing in your life you feel you’re really good at, whether it’s parallel parking or doing your taxes…it doesn’t matter what it is, just having something that makes you feel more confident about yourself is an awesome thing.

AK: Where did the name Dixie Dunbar come from?

SK: There is a Dixie Dunbar who was a famous actress in the 1930’s, but the one my store is named after is the Dixie Dunbar I helped to open this shop with 10 years ago. We worked together as best friends for years until she decided to retire two years ago. She is the coolest. I have never seen her “unadorned”, she wears jewelry when she gardens or even when she goes out for a jog. She taught me so much, her style is so unique and unmatched. People always said that Dixie could pull off so many things that they never could, and after being around her all day I finally realized why Dixie COULD in fact pull off her outlandish style…because she DOES. She doesn’t let insecurity get in the way of being who she is, and that’s her secret perfume. I aspire to be more like her. I kept the name because she lives on in the hearts of people who dare to try something new and different for themselves.

AK: How did you manage to get that famous red door?

SK: You have to offer up your first born in this town to get anything you want. I hope my husband doesn’t find out that our future son will be adopted by the city of Charleston. No, kidding. But you do have to make about 16 phone calls to city appointed members and then create a porfolio of pictures and color samples and show up in person to the Charleston Historical Society and beg and plead your case. FOR A DOOR. It’s the city’s policy, they want to keep people from “tackying” up Charleston, I suppose. I just wanted our shop to be noticed on king st. The city almost made me hire a “city approved Contractor” to paint our door FOR us, but luckily I talked them out of it.

AK: How often do you change the decorations in your shop window? How labor intensive is that?

SK: I have the most wonderful woman who helps out on occasion in the shop, and she calls me to remind me of upcoming events and holidays in which we need to decorate.  She has FABULOUS ideas, for valentines day we had huge blow up lips in the window and fuchsia pink busts with giant purple hearts behind them.  I can’t wait to see what she comes up with for the Spoleto arts festival we have in May.

AK: Who are your favorite customers?

SK: Men make the best customers. They are always content with everything. They never want anything in the shop that you DON’T have, unless their wife/girlfriend sent them on a mission for something. They are so easy to please, I swear sometimes I think I should have opened a cigar shop.

AK: Can you tell us some “worst customer” stories

SK: OH no, do I have to?!?!?  Okay, okay, well without naming any names I had (or currently have) this woman who saw a necklace in our shop window that she couldn’t live without.  Over the course of the next three months she proceeded to call us 8 to 10 times a day just to “talk” about the piece and sent us payments for it in small increments of money orders and by western union.  It got to the point where even though she was considered a customer, I felt I was being harassed.  8 to 10 times a day was a little much, and she would get angry if no one answered the phone. I tried to explain that we had a very small store and only one person in here at a time and that if we were currently helping customers there would be no one available to take her call.  She ignored my pleas and continued to call anyway.  After the three months it took to pay off the necklace we shipped it off and thought we were done with her, but she recently called back to “see what else we might have that she would like.”  I tried to direct her to the website but she didn’t seem interested.  I don’t want to jinx it, but we haven’t heard from her in a couple weeks.

AK: What are some of your favorite local independent shops?

SK: There’s a really cute shop called Willy Jay’s on middle King with some of the most adorable clothing and they are really affordable!  I also love the little local businesses that have opened up on my block, Lucinda Eden has beautiful dresses and housewares and LIly has cute little Charleston keepsakes. We are really making quite the little “locals corner” on lower King st!

AK: What would you like to tell everyone this holiday season?

SK: As a struggling owner of a local shop I must say I’d love to try to talk people into supporting local business more.  I promise we’re not that intimidating, I really don’t mind at all when people come in and let me know what they were thinking of spending…that way I can either help them find something in the shop that’s in their price range or even make them something special to give as a present.  Not only can you give a sentimental gift but you can help support the little man, I’d hate to think that one day this whole world will be one giant wal-mart.

AK: Where can people find your jewelry that don’t actually LIVE in Charleston?

SK: We do have a website,, and I now have pieces in a couple of stores around the US besides South Carolina…

Teri Anns, 290 Front St. Marietta Ohio, 45750

Artemisia, 101 S. Third Street Geneva, IL 60134

AK: If you could have one superpower (or be one superhero), who/what would it/you be?

SK: I always thought it would be cool to be able to go to any country and automatically be fluent in the language, but is that necessarily a superpower?  Or maybe I could just be Temp-Girl, who’s superpower is perpetually being 72 degrees with a light breeze.

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I have a lot of hours at the bookstore this weekend, so I crashed last night shortly after this Wall Street Journal article came up in conversation on Twitter and Maureen Johnson started the #YAsaves hashtag. My only regret is that when I woke up this morning I missed all those inspirational tweets…but I’m starting to see that they’re being archived online. Good.

Obviously, this issue of the quality of fiction being read by teenagers is a pretty big deal to me. My goal in life is to write books that will mean as much to some young person as Tamora Pierce and Lloyd Alexander and Roald Dahl and Diana Wynne Jones and all the others meant to me when I was twelve. Two summers ago, I wrote down a list of my 21 most influential books. Looking back on them now, I realize that only *one* (Me Talk Pretty One Day) was read when I was older than nineteen.

I asked my mother once why she never did anything when I came home crying almost every day in the sixth grade. Her answer was straightforward and honest: “I had no idea any of that was happening. You’d come home and go straight to your room and never come out.” To be fair, it’s true. And what did I do up there? I read books and I wrote stories.

What the #YAsaves hashtag wants to know is *why* I did that. Why did a genius ten-going-on-eleven year-old girl who was hitting puberty so hard it literally made her bones ache, who found solace in food and Star Trek when her best friend in the whole world broke up with her for absolutely no good reason, hide away from people who might have helped her? Why did she close off the outside world and go live somewhere else?

The answer is as obvious as it is silly: I didn’t think anyone in *this* world would understand me. My little sister wasn’t as old as me yet, my big sister was too much older and lived too far away, and my mother had her own childhood stripped away and couldn’t relate to me. They didn’t know what it was like to be me, in my situation, with my feelings. I might have looked just like all of them–I am the spitting image of my mother–but inside, my heart and nerve and sinew were vastly different.

Skimming the surface of the #YAsaves tweets, so much is similar. There are fish-out-of-water stories. There are boys and girls who were so full of loneliness and depression that they contemplated or attempted suicide. YA fiction provided an escape from everything, up to and including alcoholic parents, rape, and abuse. Reading was where we all went to understand, to be understood, and to not be alone. YA literature reminded us all that we had the power to control our destinies and change the world.

In one hundred forty characters or less, I might say: “YA fiction helped me raise myself.” Of course it did. Not only did I become a worldly child, I became an other-worldly one as well. My tolerances went beyond race and creed and sexual orientation to species of aliens and shimmering gods and whether or not you could use magic, and if you could, whether or not you used that power for good or evil. If you put good things into the world they came back to you, and bad people got punished. I was challenged to be the best person I could be, to push my limits far beyond my reach, to think so far outside the box that it didn’t look like a box anymore.

These people–these fabulous authors, and a good chunk of them British–were my friends. They knew my pain and suffering and could translate it into something beautiful. Even better, THEY WERE ADULTS. Which renewed my faith in the belief that it actually was possible to mature and yet still not forget what it was like to be a kid. We must grow older, but we never have to grow up. And I didn’t mean to.

There is hope in this world. Our children are our future. What they take from a book won’t be the same thing you take from a book, because they don’t need what you need. They don’t know what you know. They are blank slates, and you must trust that you have raised them well enough to be able to make their own decisions to be good, caring, unselfish people who will seize their destinies with both hands and chase after that dragon with no fear.

In fact, I dare you to try and stop them. Have you ever known anything to stop a teenager? Ever? My parents told me I couldn’t major in English when I was a teenager. And we see how well that worked out.

If you are on Twitter, tell us what YA literature meant/means to you and use the #YAsaves hashtag. If you are not on Twitter, I encourage you, as always, to share your stories here.

Now I’ve got to go get ready for my shift at the bookstore. Yes, I am a bookseller AND a YA author. Today I have the most rewarding jobs of all time.

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B&G&B&G on Cast Macabre

My Civil War ghosty-story “Blue and Gray & Black and Green” is now up for your listening enjoyment at Cast Macabre.

I’m so glad this story was picked up for podcasting, as it works best as a told story. Barry J. Northern’s voice also adds that gorgeous level of mystique.

Do you know anything about the General Jenkins house in Green Bottom West Virginia? There is very little information out there. Do you like ghosts? Were you ever a little boy (ir wished you were)? You should listen to this story. And then come back and let me know what you think!

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Ask a Stupid Question

June 1st was my day to post over on the Waterworld Mermaids website — in which I shared my thoughts about May’s Month of Writers Blog Festival (I know you didn’t miss it). Feel free to pop on over, read & comment with your favorite stupid question! I’d love it if you did.

The Month of Writers interviews were a hit — thank you to the 30 writers who became my victims and to all of you who dropped by to check out new writers, or see what kid fears your favorite author is still hiding under his or her bed.

The questions were so well received that they became the basis for the Mermaid Profile Questionnaires. Here’s mine, if you’re interested in how *I* would have answered some of last month’s questions.

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