SCBWI Sandy Hill Book Drive

"You Have a Gift for Words," Said Grumble.Hello, friends & family–

I am working on behalf of SCBWI in the mid-Atlantic Region to collect traditionally published picture books for the Sandy Hill Elementary School Book Drive. If you have any picture books to donate, please send me an email (akontis at gmail) and I’ll give you the address where you can send them. Thank you all in advance…and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

(PS — yes, you are welcome to purchase new books from Amazon and have them shipped straight to the Mid-Atlantic coordinator, but that person is not me. Drop me a line and I’ll get you her address.)

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Happy Christmas Workshop Episode 43

In the midst of the traveling and the three Christmasses I didn’t have the chance to post about this yesterday — part two of the fabulous Roundtable Podcast that started with the 20-minute interview. Now, we get into the much longer, nitty-gritty of live-workshopping a fellow author’s work in progress…


Alethea Kontis – author of the award-winning “Enchanted“, “The Wonderland Alphabet“, The “Alpha-Oops” series, and so much more – returns to the Big Chair to help workshop a rich luxurious story idea offered up by podcaster, voice actor, authoress (and so much more), Lauren “Scribe” Harris. With Justin Macumber as guest co-host (author of “Haywire” and “A Minor Magic“, founder and co-host of the Dead Robots’s Society podcast, and co-host on the Hollywood Outsiders podcast), we dive in to a delightful frothy discussion, inspirations bouncing around like pixies on egg nog, taking Lauren’s already fabulous idea and festooning it liberally in Literary Gold. (and for more writerly delights, make sure you check out Alethea’s Showcase Episode!)

Listen to the workshop podcast here!

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Princess Alethea’s Next Big Thing

I was tagged by my dear friend Alma Katsu to participate in this infamous NEXT BIG THING meme that’s going around. I was asked to answer the following questions about the book I was working on at the time, and then tag more people at the end.

Want to know a little more about Hero? Here are my answers:

What is the working title of your next book?

Where did the idea come from for the book?
It’s the sequel to my fairy tale novel, Enchanted. Where Enchanted‘s main fairy tales were Cinderella, The Frog Prince, and Jack and the Beanstalk, Hero is based mostly on Petronella, The Snow Queen, and Hansel and Gretel.

What genre does your book fall under?
Young adult fantasy (though B&N shelves it under Teen Paranormal Romance)

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I wish I knew! Peregrine is almost pretty, with dusky skin and long dark hair. Saturday is tall and blonde, with a very athletic figure. If anyone has suggestions, I’m willing to hear them.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Um…I can do it in two: Peregrine, whose father died of the Forgetting Sickness, is cursed into the body of a blind witch’s daughter. Saturday is mistaken for her infamous brother Jack, and tasked with rescuing them both from the witch’s clutches.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Hero will be published by Harcourt Children’s Books in October 2013.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
All together, probably about 4 months. There was a big gap in between where I had to change the outline three times before I could finish the zero draft.

Petronella, illustrated by Friso HenstraWhat other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I tell people that the Woodcutter sisters series is “Once Upon a Time” meets The Princess Bride (the book, not the film). I would shelve it next to Patricia McKillip, Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Jane Yolen, and Diana Wynne Jones.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I was most inspired by the story of Petronella, a picture book I owned as a child by Jay Williams, illustrated by Friso Henstra. Petronella is a 1973 feminist retelling of the Grimms’ “Master Maid,” which just so happens to be my editor’s favorite fairy tale. Everything after that just fell into place.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Despite its fairy tale trappings, Hero deals with two very important contemporary issues close to my heart: Alzheimer’s disease and gender identity.


Now I’m not a fan of the whole chain letter business, so I’m not going to perpetuate this by tagging more authors who will be forced to participate. (If you’d like to, please feel free, and say I sent you.) Instead, I’ll direct you to some of the Waterworld Mermaids who have already participated:
Loni Lynne
Denny S. Bryce
Carlene Flores
I encourage you to follow the links to their websites and hear what they’re working on.

Happy Boxing Day! xox

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WRW’s Marlene Contest Now Open for Entries!

It’s that time of year again! And yes, before you ask, I completely support this contest and have no qualms about it having an entry fee. There needs to be a limited amount of entries, and all entrants will receive feedback on their manuscripts.

If you look closely, you’ll see that YOURS TRULY is the celebrity prize critiquer for the YA category, and my fabulous Fairy Godmother Editor at Harcourt Children’s Books is the celebrity judge!

Effectively, you will get what you pay for in this contest. So don’t delay!


‘Tis the season, not just for Santa, but for your chance to have your unpublished manuscript seen, critiqued and (for the finalists) win wonderful prizes, including evaluation by some of the top editors in the romance genre.  Three of our 2012 winners received book contracts, two of them as a direct result of the contest.

The Marlene Awards competition runs until midnight EST, January 15.  Complete information can be found at (, but let’s cut straight to the good stuff.  The finalist judges and prize critiquers in each category are:
Series Contemporary
Judge: Johanna Raisanen, Harlequin
Critique Author: Darlene Gardner

Single Title
Judge: Esi Sogah, Avon
Critique Author: Susan Donovan

Judge: Latoya Smith, Grand Central
Critique Author: Darynda Jones

Judge: Leah Hultenschmidt, Sourcebooks
Critique Author: Kieran Kramer

Romantic Elements
Judge: Rhonda Helms, Carina Press
Critique Author: Mary Burton

Young Adult
Judge: Reka Simonsen, Harcourt Children’s Books
Critique Author: Alethea Kontis

The winner in each category also receives a pendant in honor of her (or his) achievement.  All finalists receive certificates, and everyone who enters gets at least three fresh sets of eyes on their manuscript–a prize all by itself.

What are you waiting for? Enter today!

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20 Minutes with Princess Alethea at The Roundtable Podcast

What better way to celebrate the world NOT ending that listening to a very fun interview with me, hosted by the Roundtable Podcast?  (I certainly can’t think of anything.)

Alethea Kontis – author of “Enchanted” (recently listed on Kirkus Reviews among the “Best Teen Books of 2012“), the award-winning “Alpha-Oops” series, and so much more – is a passionate and informed storyteller. Her diverse background includes, among other things, a love and respect for the theater and of the rich heritage of folklore and fairy tales, both of which informs her work and infuses it with authenticity and magic. Justin Macumber (co-host and founder of the Dead Robots’ Society podcast) joins me in a rousing 20(ish) minutes as Alethea waxes rhapsodic on the allure of fairy tales, who she writes for, her revision and editing process, and much more. The Fairy Queen is in the house people… woot! (and come back for more writerly goodness in Alethea’s Workshop Episode airing Christmas Day! It’s our present to you.)


Happy Yule, everyone! xox

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Miss Andre and The Norton Award

(This blog is part of the SFWA Norton Award Blog Tour.)


I don’t really get nervous speaking in front of crowds anymore. Public speaking is one of those skills that can be exceptionally difficult to learn, but well worth braving that initial terror to get to the other side. The biggest benefit is that when someone in an organization is forced to find people who will shamelessly stand up in front of a crowd, your name is easily at the top of the list.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve entertained a room full of people at the drop of a hat when a speaker or guest of honor is late or forced to cancel. Stretching your improv muscle is important. Warming up crowds can be a really great game. Telling stories is fun!

And yet, the moment I was asked to present the 2012 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, I was both honored to my toes and scared to death.

This should not have been a big deal. Two minutes on stage in front of a bunch of people I know and love. The spotlight wouldn’t even be on me, it would be on the well-deserved recipient. So why was I freaking out?

Because this time, it was personal.

How on earth was I supposed to sum up what Miss Andre meant to me in two minutes…or less? (A tired audience wants you to announce the award and get your behind off the stage tout suite.) I wasn’t sure it was possible.

I only knew Miss Andre for the last few years of her life, but it was one of the most important and valuable friendships I’ve ever had. I wrote in her library, High Hallack. I listened to her stories and her advice. We rolled around in desk chairs and laughed while she read aloud from a book of crazy answers kids had submitted on tests. I enabled her book habit by sneaking her new-release catalogs, even after her personal assistant asked me to stop.

It was a friendship that never would have happened if David Drake hadn’t ordered me to go visit her, and I hadn’t been brave enough to write her that first letter.

Miss Andre and I talked about writing, but we never really talked about her published work specifically. She loved being a librarian above everything else. She didn’t know what to do with an adoring fan, but she knew exactly what to do with a budding young writer in need of guidance and a place to work.

The last time I saw Miss Andre was in 2004 when she sold off High Hallack, piece by piece, to fund the Andre Norton Award. I missed the official sale day, but she still encouraged me to come by and personally helped me sift through the aftermath. It was heart-wrenching. The empty shelves looked like a war zone, but a good chunk of the research library was intact. We spent hours putting together four huge boxes of books (one of which turned out to be my most prized possession…but I didn’t discover that until years later). She sent me a Chinese New Year card in February of 2005 (Miss Andre had cards for every occasion), telling me that the benefit anthology project I was working on was a worthy cause. When she died that March, I was in the middle of a book expo and someone mentioned the news to me off hand. I cried for twenty-four hours straight. The first official Andre Norton Award was presented to Holly Black in 2006.


I lost a lot of sleep. I shared my anxieties with my lovely and patient Nebula weekend roommate, Kate Baker. I wrote down some thoughts on a hotel pad and managed to whittle my presentation down to six sentences. It still felt too long. Kate read it over for me and gave it her blessing. I practiced presenting the award out loud, over and over, while donning my glittery dress for the ceremony. There were bets as to whether or not I was going to cry on stage. Kate told me it was all right if I did. Rose Fox gave me a handkerchief, just in case.

And I made it through.

I congratulated Neil Gaiman in passing, as he walked off the stage and I walked on. My legs shook like crazy and I steadied myself on the podium, holding Rose’s handkerchief in a white-knuckled grip. I had written down my six sentences, but I didn’t need them. I remembered to breathe. I spoke loudly and slowly. When I thought I would choke, Connie Willis nodded and gave me courage. When I came to the end, my voice wavered, but I did not cry. And when I announced that the award went to Delia Sherman I smiled in earnest, for her name was the one I had been practicing out loud in the hotel room.

My mother always called Miss Andre my guardian angel. I remember she had a star framed on the wall, just opposite the door of the library, one of those fancy documents from the Star Registry indicating the celestial body that someone had named after her. Regardless of whether that star is recognized by any professional astronomical organization, I know Andre Norton is up there. I am 100% sure she was shining down on me that night. I only hope I did her proud.

(You can watch the ceremony here and see for yourself–I appear right around 1:11:00.)
Click here if the embed code for the video happens to die again.)

Video streaming by Ustream
For me, the best thing about those six sentences is that it got people talking about Miss Andre and the Norton Award. I swapped some great stories that night with SF luminaries I’ve admired my whole life. As far as I’m concerned, this award cannot have enough praise or visibility. I encourage you all to spread the word about the Andre Norton Award to your friends, teachers, and librarians. Especially the librarians.

For the past two weeks, members of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America have been blogging about the Andre Norton Award–its origins, its importance, and recent books worthy of the accolade. I’m honored to be the final essay in the tour…but I’m not sure I can convey the sheer importance of this award in one blog post, even though I was allowed far more than two minutes and six sentences this time.

What can I say? It’s personal.



Click here for a complete list of past Andre Norton Award recipients and nominees.


Norton Awards Blog Tour Schedule:
Dec 1 ~ Erin Underwood
Dec 2 ~ Sherwood Smith
Dec 3 ~ Norton Jury Interview by Jenn Reese
Dec 5 ~ Malinda Lo
Dec 6 ~ Lee Barwood
Dec 7 ~ Nancy Holder
Dec 11 ~ Peni Griffin
Dec 12 ~ Beth Revis
Dec 13 ~ Jenn Reese
Dec 14 ~ Diana Peterfreund
Dec 15 ~ Alethea Kontis


Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Yes, my debut fairy tale novel Enchanted is eligible for the 2013 Andre Norton Award.

Click here to find out more about Enchanted.


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Happy Holidays 2012

Happy Holidays 2012Here is your Track Listing for the Happy Holidays 2012 CD!

1.  Preaching The End Of The World — Chris Cornell
2.  Christmas Is Just Around The Corner — Barry Manilow
3.  Ol’ Saint Nicholas — Doris Day
4.  Holly Leaves and Christmas Trees — Elvis Presley
5.  It’s Gonna Be A Cold Cold Christmas — Grant & Forsythe
6.  I’ll Be Home For Christmas — Johnny Cash
7.  A Holly Jolly Christmas — Lady Antebellum
8.  The Christmas Waltz — Peggy Lee
9.  I Believe — Frank Sinatra
10.  A Working Elf’s Theme — The Polyphonic Spree
11.  Santa Claus Is Coming To Town — Kim Zimmer
12.  Mistletoe — Colbie Caillat
13. What Christmas Means To Me — Stevie Wonder
14.  Good Morning Blues — Ella Fitzgerald
15.  I Love the Winter Weather — Tony Bennett
16.  Every Heart Is Home At Christmas — The Five Keys
17.  Boogie Woogie Santa — Deana Carter
18.  The Christmas Song — Sammy Davis Jr.
19.  Adeste Fideles — Luciano Pavarotti
20.  New Years Day — U2


1.) I played up the 2012 aspect this year, so the first track of this CD couldn’t have been any other song.
2.) Did you notice the Aztec calendar in the background behind Santa?
3.) Of COURSE the world’s not going to end on December 21st. If it does, Santa can’t get here!
4.) If you’d like to see more of Carol’s gorgeous artwork, please visit her website here (you can order prints, notecards, and other exciting things!).
5.) I had SO many disagreements over postage with the US Post Office this year (the cost of mailing one card ranged from $0.65 to over $2.00, depending on the clerk), this is probably going to be the last year I make CDs. I’ll have to think of something else new & fun for next year!

Happy holidays, everyone! xox

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Santa is my Guy

The Waterworld Mermaids have a special feature we call “Guy Day.” This month for Guy Day I’m interviewing the one…the only…SANTA CLAUS.

Please stop by and tell the jolly old man what you’d like in your stocking!

(Featuring holiday art by Carol Berning)

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“Blood from Stone” now live at Apex Magazine

Issue #43 of Apex Magazine is now live! Featuring:

Blood from Stone” by Alethea Kontis
Labyrinth” by Mari Ness
Relic” by Jeffrey Ford

Blood on Vellum: Notes from the Editor-in-Chief” by Lynne M. Thomas
You’re Not Supposed to Write That: Taboos in Speculative Fiction” by Vylar Kaftan
An Interview with Alethea Kontis” by Maggie Slater

Click the links to read for free, or Subscribe:
Apex (ePub/mobi/PDF)
Weightless (ePub/mobi/PDF)
Amazon (Kindle)


PS: If you are not already familiar with the story of Bluebeard or the “Fitcher’s Bird” tale from Grimm, read it here first. You can also hear ME read it to YOU by following this link.

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Killing Them Softly

I’m discussing the Killing of Darlings today over at the Waterworld Mermaid site.

“So…I didn’t end up completing NaNoWriMo. Again. And let’s be honest–I didn’t really try. I finished my third pass of revisions by November 10th or so, but sometimes a body just gets SO EXHAUSTED that it’s like getting the flu. Everything shuts down, emotionally and physically, and you can barely get out of bed. The worst part is, we somehow have to find a way to let our bodies do this, and heal.

Thank the Water Gods for Netflix.

I love watching full seasons of TV shows at a time. They’re fun and pass the time…but it’s difficult to see ten of them and not have the writer brain consider dialogue, pacing, and plot structure. This month, I’ve learned quite a bit from two shows: How I Met Your Mother and Grey’s Anatomy…”

Check out the rest of the post HERE.

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