I Wrote a Book About Refugees and No One Noticed

Alethea Kontis on Twitter

Dear Twitter: I lied.

Sotos "Sam" KontisThis morning, on social media, I admitted to being the White Privileged American granddaughter of a refugee twice over. My papou’s mother fled (with four small children) to Greece from the Catastrophe of Smyrna. Papou himself later fled to America* after the Nazi occupation of Greece. He served in both the Greek Merchant Marines and the US Army**. As he died before I was born, I never had the chance to meet my grandfather, but I am proud to be his legacy.

After stating my dismay over the state of the world with regard to the current refugee situation, I announced that that was all I had to say on the subject, and then I went for a walk.

During that walk I realized just how much more I had to say.

Because I wrote a book about refugees, and no one noticed.

“Well… there had to be at least ONE really dull Woodcutter sister.”
–Auggie, Goodreads (on Dearest)

Dearest (Woodcutter Sisters, Book Three)On the surface, Dearest is a young adult fantasy retelling of “The Wild Swans” (literally on the surface: just look at the cover!) starring the Mary-Suest of all white-girl Mary Sues, Friday Woodcutter.

What Dearest is really about: Friday Woodcutter is the half-fey, half-human child of a mother who cursed her daughter by naming her because “Friday’s Child is loving and giving.” Friday is a gifted seamstress with a heart as big as the moon. As a poor woodcutter’s daughter compelled to fall in love with everyone she meets, she spends her days at the church, sewing clothes for orphans. She uses the scraps to make patchwork skirts for herself. They are a symbol of her love, generosity, and selflessness.

When her sister Saturday breaks the world in Hero*** and calls the ocean inland, hundreds of families are displaced. Friday, who was also caught in the maelstrom, is rescued and wakes up back at the palace in Arilland. The king and queen have welcomed all the refugees into their kingdom. While it is a burden and a huge adjustment to their way of life, the monarchs take charge in a responsible manner. Based on Friday’s previous experience with orphans, the queen gives Friday the task of overseeing the children while the adults deal with the Very Adult Business of how to manage the sudden influx in population.

Dearest has elements of “The White Swans” and “The Goose Girl,” but the plot is also heavily based on an Armenian folktale (released in picture book form by Robert San Souci and Raul Colón as A Weave of Words). In this folktale, a poor weaver’s daughter turns down a prince’s offer of marriage because he is lazy, illiterate, and has no trade. The prince gets off his duff and learns to both read and weave, gaining the daughter’s trust and her hand in marriage. In return, the prince (now king) teaches his wife (now queen) how to wield a sword and lead an army.

The king is later captured by a malicious dev. He tells the dev he is a weaver, and proves it by weaving a cloth. He tells the dev it is worth a hundred pieces of gold, and that if he sells it to the queen, she will buy it. In the cloth, the king has woven a secret message. When the queen receives it, she picks up a sword and leads the army to rescue her husband.

No spoilers, I promise: Just know that when I wrote the scene in Dearest where the Patchwork Army presents itself to Friday, I wept.

Due to the underwhelming performance of my series based on Circumstances Beyond my Control, my fancy NY publisher did not renew my contract for any subsequent Woodcutter books after Dearest. (Worry not, the rest of the Books of Arilland will still be published.)

Unsurprisingly, Dearest did not have much of a marketing budget. As a result, most of the reviews you will find online concentrate only on my “goody two-shoes” heroine and the reviewer’s knowledge (or lack thereof) of the dozens of fairy tales referenced in the text.

To the best of my knowledge, NO ONE has mentioned the GLARINGLY ENORMOUS plot point about refugees. As Dearest was based on European fairy tales, Armenian folklore, and my own personal family history, I felt it was about time this was brought to everyone’s attention.

Patchwork PrincessMy great grandmother, Theodosia Kontaridis (née Komnenos), was the direct descendant of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios Komnenos (his life was written into a 15-volume saga called the Alexiad). In September of 1922, when the Greeks and Armenians were forced out of the city of Smyrna (now Izmir), Theodosia’s husband was taken from her and killed on a death march. She was “allowed” to flee from her home with her sister, her wheelchair-bound mother, and her four small children. When they finally landed in Greece, after a harrowing adventure, Theodosia did what all smart refugee widows did in that era: she found a similarly widowed Greek man with one child and married him.

The story of Theodosia’s flight is my family’s very own fairy tale. A few years ago, I wrote a picture book manuscript based on it called “Thea Maria’s Bag of Hope.” That manuscript remains unpublished. (Perhaps if I called her “Princess Maria” instead, it would garner more publisher attention.) I’ve thought about traveling back to Izmir, to the place where my family once lived, but according to my father (who made the trip several years ago) there is nothing left to see.

My grandfather died before I was born, and I was too young to care about my own history before my great-aunts and uncle passed away as well. (Uncle Xanthos was a famous dollmaker and loved that I was born the year of the US bicentennial, so we usually talked about those things instead.) What Papou Stories I know were told to me by my Nana and my father, both consummate storytellers.

One of my favorites is the story about Papou’s first job in America. His brother-in-law (Uncle Jim, who spoke English) introduced him to a man at a shipping company in Pittsburgh. The man was desperate for engineers with my grandfather’s level of skill, because so many of his men were off fighting in WWII. But the man was concerned because my grandfather spoke no English. Uncle Jim translated this for Papou. “Tell him,” my grandfather responded in Greek, “that the machines don’t know. The machines don’t care.”

Faith in PatchworkHe got the job.

My family survived Great Fires and Nazi Occupations. I am here because of them. I am the descendant of refugees. I wrote a book about refugees. I am proud of my book. I am proud of my family. I am proud of myself. The patchwork skirts I wear for my appearances mean so much more to me than just a character’s costume.

And the world should know these things.


*Papou came to America illegally, which became a moot point after he served in the US armed forces, and is even more of a moot point now that he’s passed away.
**He actually meant to be in the Navy, but his English was horrible. He turned left instead of right and ended up in the Army. He still eventually ended up working as an engineer on ships…but that’s another story.
*** Hero (Book 2 of the Woodcutter Sisters series), a.k.a. “I Wrote a Book About Gender Roles and Cross-Dressing and No One Noticed”
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Support my Thunderclap!

Hello, everyone! I’m trying out something new: a Thunderclap campaign to get the word out about the Storenvy sale this Black Friday, where signed copies of of both TRIXTER and TALES OF ARILLAND will be 30% off!

Here’s the widget (which I hope works…)

And here’s the link just in case you don’t see the widget:

Please click to support me — and THANK YOU!! xox

Thunderclap Black Friday

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AK BooksWhat could be a more perfect gift this holiday than one of Alethea Kontis’s beautiful books, signed & personalized by Princess Alethea herself?

Signed & Personalized Books are now available on my Storenvy page, directly from my personal inventory.

Titles include: Enchanted, Hero, Dearest, Trixter, Tales of Arilland, AlphaOops, and The Wonderland Alphabet

I even have a few of the original Apex editions of Beauty & Dynamite — for serious collectors only.


Available throughout the holidays…or while supplies last…so act fast!

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What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Waterworld Mermaids LogoWhen it rains it pours. I should know by now that the minute I get home and prepped for NaNoWriMo, I suddenly find myself with multiple meetings and podcast interviews and guest blogs to share. Apres moi, le deluge!

Today, for example, two of my fabulous essays have gone live. The first: My now-infamous monthly blog post on the Waterworld Mermaids. This November me and a bunch of other fabulous author guests are discussing “What’s one thing you cannot write without?” My answer: LOVE.

That’s right. CLICK HERE and see what the tree-hugging hipy-dippy princess is on about now.

My second post is live at Apex Magazine — Apex is hosting their grand yearly subscription drive, and in honor of that they have asked some celebrity guests to stop by and chat about Short Stories. Of course, I jumped at the chance to talk about how I got hooked…and how that contributed to my juvenile life of crime.

Stop by, leave a comment or two, and above all — enjoy yourselves.

Happy November! xox

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Are You Ready to Tackle Your TBR?

Hello, everyone!

My dearest Tressa over at Wishful Endings is currently hosting the Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon. But you know all about that by now, right? Of course you do! (Quick! Sign up through September 23rd here.)

Today on the schedule is solely dedicated to MOI, and to celebrate I am giving away a copy of Trixter! As you know, Trix is the precocious foundling little brother of the infamous Woodcutter Sisters. His antics were the whole reason that Hero happened in the first place…and now he has his own series of adventures! If you’re not familiar with his story, find out a more below, and then don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

Trixter (The Trix Adventures Book 1)

(The Trix Adventures, Book 1)
May 2015

Trix Woodcutter is the long prophesied Boy Who Talks to Animals. Heís also a foundling prankster scamp who places his family under a sleeping spell so that he can run away from home. Compelled by a vision of his dead birthmother, Trix departs on the eve of a Great Catastrophe, only to find himself caught in the maelstrom. Armed with little more than his wits and the wisdom inherent in all fey-blooded youth, Trix confronts a legendary Animal King, faces off against a ghostly feline, rescues a damsel in distress, and discovers more about himself than he ever wished to know.

And this adventure is only the beginning.

hardcover: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Powell’s
paperback: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Powell’s
ebook: Amazon | B&NKobo | iTunes

Find out more here.


One copy of Trixter
ebook for international winner, paperback print book for US winner
Ends September 27th

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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My DragonCon 2015 Schedule

Princess Alethea -- DragonCon 2011The con is still two weeks out, so this is subject to change, but here’s what I’ve got right now. Also, not 100% sure I’m walking in the parade yet. Will update everyone when I know for sure.

[Edit: YES I WILL BE WALKING IN THE PARADE. 10am Saturday — look for me with the Dark-Hunters! Xox]


Title: Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow
Description: Readings, music, & more from a motley band of costumed authors, plus swag!
Time: Fri 07:00 pm Location: A707 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Alethea Kontis, Leanna Renee Hieber, Gray Rinehart, Lisa Mantchev, Delilah S. Dawson, Zac Brewer, D.B. Jackson)

Title: Reading: Alethea Kontis
Time: Sat 01:00 pm Location: Marietta – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Alethea Kontis)

Title: Autograph Session
Time: Sat 02:30 pm Location: International Hall South – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Alethea Kontis, Sherrilyn Kenyon)

Title: The Source: Folklore & Mythology in UF
Description: Urban fantasy is rooted in age-old myth, legend, and folklore. Authors discuss influences.
Time: Sun 01:00 pm Location: Chastain ED – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Alethea Kontis, Leanna Renee Hieber, Jean Marie Ward, Jonathan Maberry, Valerie Hampton, Samantha Sommersby)

Title: An Hour with Sherrilyn Kenyon
Description: The bestselling author of Darkhunter and Chronicles of Nick series answers your questions.
Time: Sun 04:00 pm Location: Augusta Ballroom – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Sherrilyn Kenyon, Alethea Kontis)

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Princess Alethea’s 7 Dragon Con Survival Tips

My Family Reunion has a logo. Does yours?There are many Rules of DragonCon that those of us who are perennials have adopted over the years. Most of them revolve around elevators (You have to go down to go up. Always make room for the handicapped. Always follow a Ghostbuster) or walkways (Don’t take photos in the walkways. Avoid the habitrails on Saturday night). But more of these have been silently adopted simply for our personal survival.

Here are my top seven (with bonus Pro Tips) – please feel free to add more in the comments!

1.) Plan out your wardrobe, including day-to-day costume/outfit changes. This is a hard-core necessity for the heavy cosplayer, but I highly recommend it even if your choices include what geeky t-shirt to wear on what day. Parade outfits become gross and are typically one-use only. If you’re planning to wear a corset most of the time, also plan a down-time outfit so that you can at least eat or drink one meal comfortably at the end of the day. (The same goes for your shoes!) This plan helps when you’re packing, sure, but in the chaos of the con, something as simple as knowing what you’re going be wearing on each day is a HUGE help.

2.) STAY HYDRATED. You will hear this a lot during the con, because it never stops being true. If you can, buy a flat of water for your room. Carry a bottle with you at all times, and when you finish it, REFILL IT. There are giant water dispensers outside most of the panel rooms, and there are always water fountains outside the bathrooms.

Parade (Dark-Hunters) 2014Pro Tip: Play the Dragon Con Drinking Game. When someone you’re with asks you if you need anything, have them get you some water. If you already have water, TAKE A DRINK (of water, guys, come on). Your friends will notice that you are fading before you do.

3.) Eat something. It’s up to you to know your personal food tolerances. It’s fine if you want to let go and eat overpriced heatlamp stuff from hotel food carts all weekend – at the very least, take a multivitamin every day, willya? My three big trouble areas are 1.) I’m always on the go 2.) I’m usually wearing a corset and 3.) I’m prone to migraines.

My saving graces are protein bars (no less than 10g protein per bar). I pack a variety—especially the Kind bars w/protein. I’m usually so busy I don’t take more than a few bites. But every time someone I’m with asks me if I need anything (See: “Dragon Con Drinking Game”, above), I take a couple of bites (and a swig of water). This way my blood sugar stays up without crashing, and I stay comfortable in my corset. (For about 12 hours anyway.)

Pro Tip: Keep some sort of food on your person at all times – if not for you, then maybe for the person beside you about to go into diabetic shock. I literally had this happen in front of me a couple years ago, and it scared me to death. NEVER AGAIN.

4.) Shower at night. I always take my shower before I go to bed, even if it’s 4am. It can be a struggle, but the mental decompression is SO worth it (as is waking up clean and ready for that next costume and makeup). I also make sure to have a variety of herbal teas on hand in my room (with honey, for when the voice starts to go) to help me calm down and get to sleep.

If you’re like me, you burn like a firework for four days straight – taking a sleeping pill in the middle of all that would absolutely throw me off. Late showers, herbal teas, and aromatherapy are some nice natural ways to come down off that high long enough to catch a few healthy zzzzzs.

No one remembers the Anarchy Cheerleader...5.) Diaper rash cream is your friend. There it is, my dark and dirty secret! Look, folks, Atlanta is HOT in September. You will sweat in places you have never sweat before (especially if you walk in the parade). You will chafe. You may experience heat rash. Happily, there’s help for that! Put some diaper rash cream over your problem areas after you take that shower. Reapply before putting on your costume for the day. YOU WILL THANK ME.

Pro Tip: If you have sensitive skin, check the ingredients on a variety of diaper rash creams. I am allergic to aloe, so I can not use Desitin…but I can use the high powered generic Wal-Mart brand, which is mostly just zinc.

6.) Icy Hot/Tiger Balm is your friend. Feels great on sore muscles and sore feet. (Just don’t put this on directly after that shower unless you really want to feel the burn.) An ace bandage or two is also handy to have, to secure cold towels or ice packs to sore feet. Which reminds me:

7.) Bring a First Aid kit. Include the basics: Headache medicine, multivitamins, Benadryl, band-aids. An ace bandage or two can be a great help. A safety pin can be a life saver. In fact, throw the whole mini-sewing kit in there. And a few temporary tattoos. Because when that giant mysterious bruise of unknown origin appears before your panel with Stan Lee, a temporary tattoo makes a GREAT coverup. If you have roommates, earplugs and an eyemask can also be lifesavers. As will a travel bottle of Febreeze.

There are a bunch of smaller ones that, again, come down to personal preference – bringing bath towels and bath soaps from home, buying all your liquor before you get there, what types of insoles to put in your shoes and even how (and how long) to wear wigs and “travel hair.”

Your turn. What else can I add to this list?


Alethea Kontis is the author of the AlphaOops picture books, Sherirlyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter Companion, and the award-winning Books of Arilland fairytale series. She is the host of the all-star Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow every year at DragonCon. 

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The Princess Formerly Known as Snow White

The Unicorn HunterReaders often ask me about my favorites. Favorite book that I’ve written. Favorite character I’ve invented. Favorite EVERYTHING. It’s so tough–like choosing a favorite child!

But I will admit…I do have a favorite short story. To this date, my favorite story that I’ve ever written is “The Unicorn Hunter.” I dreamed up the concept a very long time ago: if a certain unsavory character wanted to hunt unicorns, what better bait to use than “the fairest of them all”? But the story never came together. There was something missing. Until John Skipp asked me to contribute a story for his Demons anthology and it hit me. My missing element was A DEMON. Four days later, I wept as I wrote the last line because I didn’t want the story to be over.

Skipp published “The Unicorn Hunter” in his anthology, placing me right next to Neil Gaiman (again!). Apart from that claim to fame–and a very enthusiastic show of support from SF author Cat Rambo–nothing else really happened with the tale. But it was still my favorite.

That’s the thing about favorites. We just can’t let them go. I held onto these two characters so tightly that I wrote them right into the Woodcutter-filled world of Arilland. And when I assembled all of my fairy tale short stories into Tales of Arilland, I knew that “The Unicorn Hunter” had to be first in the Table of Contents.

While no names are used in the short story, it’s clear from the first paragraph which princess is being referenced. And while it’s not terribly obvious when Ashes makes her cameo appearance in Hero, eagle-eyed fans were incredibly excited to put two and two together. As was I.

This interview was posted on a friend’s website right around the release of the anthology. That post has gone the way of the Internet Black Hole–for that reason, I am publishing it again here for you to enjoy.

Perhaps in the next fairy tale anthology, I will include all the Troubadour interviews I’ve done with my characters. Come to think of it…I’m really going to need to write this Troubadour into Arilland, aren’t I? Oh, that will be FUN…


Interview with The Princess Formerly Known as Snow White

Tales of ArillandTroubadour: I’m here today with Her Royal Majesty Princess Snow White, who has agreed to speak with us about some of the challenges she faced during her tumultuous–and infamous–childhood.

Princess: I agreed to meet with you only because my story-loving aunt sent you. I don’t want to talk about Snow White. She was a silly, stupid princess, and her jealous stepmother killed her. My name is Ashes-on-the-Wind.

Troubadour: Please forgive my impertinence. May I call you Ashes-on-the-Wind?

Princess: You may call me “Your Highness.” And I would thank you to not go transforming what I’m about to say to you into some sappy ballad; I don’t care what Aunt Sunday says.

Troubadour: I’ll do my best, Your Highness. But I really must implore you–the world is desperate to know what happened to that beautiful little girl the Huntsman led into the forest so many years ago. Were you frightened? Did he attack you?

Princess: (sighs and touches her left shoulder, briefly) I wasn’t afraid until he attacked me. But he didn’t get very far. I was saved by a…Unicorn Hunter.

Troubadour: Rumor has it that this Unicorn Hunter was a demon.

Princess: There are no such things as demons or unicorns, and don’t you dare tell the world any differently. I won’t have innocent girls or arrogant men chasing after either. I am the only one who knows what happened in that forest, and you will take me at my word.

Troubadour: As you wish, Your Highness. So this Unicorn Hunter–whatever his origin–saved you from certain peril?

Princess: He did. He needed my virtue intact, you see, to catch the unicorns. One can be the fairest of them all and still lose her virtue. (A far away look haunts her eyes) Instead, I lost my innocence.

Troubadour: The two of you became friends?

Princess: Yes. I believe we did.

Troubadour: Do you and the Unicorn Hunter still keep in touch?

Princess: No. He is…no longer a part of my life. I moved in with a band of hardworking miners and moved on with my life, just as we should move on with this interview.

Troubadour: Yes, Your Highness. One more question, if I may?

Princess: If you must.

Troubadour: It is also rumored that you are currently employed on a pirate ship. Is that correct?

Princess: (Smiles broadly) That is correct! (Pulls a folded paper from her breeches pocket) Here is a list of the captain I serve under, the men I work with, and all our ports of call.

Troubadour: Really?!? (Unfolds the paper. It is blank.)

Princess: No, not really! I used to be stupid, remember? (Drains the rest of her tankard and wipes her mouth on her sleeve) Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a deck to swab. Are we done?

Troubadour: Yes, Your Highness. Thank you, Your Highness.

Princess: No problem. Do send my aunt best wishes. And remember, no sappy ballads.

Troubadour: I’ll do my best, Your Highness.


CLICK HERE to purchase a copy of Tales of Arilland in paperback or on Kindle — hardcover coming soon!

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[Guest Post] The Best Perk in the Business

Alethea & David, 2013Once Upon a Time, after being hired on as Assistant Manager of a local Hastings store, I was asked to take a test. The test included statements like, “It is more WHO you know than WHAT you know that gets you ahead in this world.” There was a five bubble spread, from Very Likely to Not At All Likely. To this statement I chose: Very Likely.

Despite having already hired me, the results of that and other answers flagged me as “high risk of drug usage” and the offer of employment was rescinded.

That’s right. ME.

Sorry, boys, but I only write like I’m on drugs.

It’s been over a decade since I took that ridiculous test, but I still maintain that success is far more about WHO you know than WHAT you know. Moreover, the WHOs that I have known in this world have not only gotten me farther than my Chemistry degree and my perfect grades in Physics and Vector Calculus, they have also saved my life on many occasions.

David B. Coe was one of the first authors I met in the World of Publishing, during the Southern Festival of Books back in 2002. We’ve survived countless conventions and festivals, publishing and traveling adventures since that time, and I count him among my very best friends (in the sense of “I could show up at his house uninvited and he’d offer me a place to crash for the night”).

It is in that spirit that I invited David to guest post here on my blog today and talk about Author Friendships–both ours, and the one he has with Faith Hunter that facilitated their special collaboration: Water Witch, on sale now.

Pick up Dead Man’s Reach next week (I *love* the Thieftaker novels!), and keep an eye out for His Father’s Eyes, releasing this August. And if you’re attending Dragon Con this year, be sure to catch David’s musical performance in Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow!


The Best Perk in the Business

David B. Coe aka D.B. JacksonAsk any professional writer about the perks of this career path and you’ll hear a lot about the freedom of being one’s own boss, the joy of being creative for a living, the sense of discovery that comes from thinking up new characters, new plot lines, new worlds. And all of that is true.

I love this job, which is also something you’ll hear a lot from writers. We have to love it, because for the vast majority of us, the pay is minimal. Writing is hard work, and because our ability to sell our next book idea is usually contingent on the critical and, far more importantly, the commercial success of the previous book, it can be dispiriting. Much of the time, we work in isolation, alone with our thoughts and imaginations. Most of us, to varying degrees, are responsible for our own promotion, our own marketing. Some writers are responsible for every aspect of their publishing lives. Completing a novel is no small accomplishment. Making a living as a writer? Really, really difficult.

And yet, for those reasons I mentioned earlier — freedom, creativity, discovery — none of us would trade this career path for any other. At its best, a writing career — and really, any professional creative endeavor — is a constant adventure. Sure, we live vicariously through our characters, but they wouldn’t exist without us, so it’s as intimate a vicarious relationship as I can imagine.

But there’s another perk of writing for a living that I don’t often hear authors mention, one of which I’m reminded forcefully right now, as I tour the web, touting my newest novels. I have been fortunate over the nearly twenty years I’ve been writing, to develop some truly amazing friendships with my fellow authors, including the wonderful Alethea Kontis. (I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, those newest novels: DEAD MAN’S REACH, the fourth volume of the Thieftaker Chronicles, which I write as D.B. Jackson, comes out July 21; and HIS FATHER’S EYES, the second book in The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, by David B. Coe, comes out August 4.)

Lee and I met years ago, when she was still working for Ingram Books, and I was a fairly new author, appearing at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tennessee. We hit it off right away, but didn’t have much chance to get acquainted. That opportunity came a year or two later when we found each other in the Austin Airport after a World Fantasy Convention. We spent a lengthy plane delay chatting, laughing, and finding, as both of us had previously with others of our ilk, that writers are a unique breed, possessing a distinctive blend of humor, passion, and geekiness. We’ve been buddies ever since, and we share so many friends it’s almost funny.

Dead Man's ReachAgain and again, I have met writers at conventions or conferences, only to discover yet another kindred spirit, another sibling from whom I was obviously separated at birth. These friendships are their own reward. Yes, Lee and I help each other out with promotional cross posts at our respective blogs, and we recommend each other’s work to others we meet, readers and writers alike. But that’s icing on the friendship cake. We’d be friends even without that stuff.

Still, there are times when the friendships we forge with other writers lead directly or indirectly to significant professional opportunities. I’ve been invited to conventions because of such friendships. I’ve been asked to submit stories to anthologies because of them. I’ve met editors, publishers, and agents through friends in the business. I’m not at all unusual in this regard.

Recently, though, a project grew out of a friendship in a very cool and utterly unique way. My dear friend Faith Hunter is the author of the New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock series. I love the Yellowrock books, and Faith is a huge fan of my Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy series set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. In the fifth Jane Yellowrock book, DEATH’S RIVAL (or maybe the sixth, BLOOD TRADE), Faith mentions an ancient vampire who “terrorized Boston for a few years before the Tea Party of 1773.” She wrote the line with me in mind, thinking that if I noticed it and said something to her, we’d talk about it, and if I didn’t, no harm done. Well, I did notice, and it made me start thinking about cross-over collaboration possibilities combining the Jane Yellowrock world with my Thieftaker universe. Which was just what Faith intended. The conversations that followed eventually led to the publication earlier this summer of “Water Witch,” an original piece of short fiction set in 1770s Boston and featuring Ethan Kaille, the hero of the Thieftaker novels, and Hannah Everhart, an ancestor of Jane Yellowrock’s best friend. The story is available from several vendors as an electronic download. It may well prove to be the first of several collaborative efforts.

His Father's EyesThat mention of Colonial Boston in Faith’s book remains to this day one of the nicest, coolest things anyone has ever done for me. I love that it led to a story, but even if it hadn’t, it would have been an unbelievably generous gesture. And it points to the power of creative friendships. I have lots of friends outside of writing, and many have honored me with gifts and acts of kindness I will never forget. But this gift has already allowed us to reach thousands of readers with a new work of fiction, and there’s no telling where further mash-ups of our two worlds might lead. Of course, my writer friendships don’t have to produce new stories to be rewarding. It’s nice knowing, though, that they can.

David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of eighteen fantasy novels. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and, the newest volume, Dead Man’s Reach, which will be released on July 21. Under his own name, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first volume, Spell Blind, debuted in January 2015. The newest book in the series, His Father’s Eyes, comes out on August 4. He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

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*DeLorean not included

I didn’t see The Princess Bride when it came out in theatres.

A rare thing, I know, especially for a kid like me who literally grew up in a theatre. It was my first job at sixteen. I have family in Vermont who own several theatres—every summer when we went to visit, I spent hours theatre hopping (when I wasn’t tearing tickets or scooping popcorn).

But The Princess Bride released in September of 1987, and summer was over. Seventh grade had already started. I still remember looking through the paper at the film ads and seeing the listings for The Princess Bride. “What a stupid title,” I thought, and so I didn’t bother to see it.

(Remember, I thought princesses—and girls who tried to be them—were stupid until I was almost thirty. By that time, I was well aware of the responsibility that came with the title, and was ready to step up and accept the tiara. But that’s a different blog post for another day.)

So my first exposure to The Princess Bride was in 1988 or 1989, when it was out on VHS. I fell in love with it. And then my ninth grade English teacher gave us an assignment where we had to read a book that had a movie based on it (the book had to come first). I chose The Princess Bride. I don’t recall if I read it all in one day—it’s a safe bet that I didn’t sleep much, if there was sleep. I do remember, however, that upon reading the last line I closed the book, took a deep breath, opened the cover and immediately started reading from the beginning again.

I believe The Princess Bride is the only book I’ve ever done that with.

I memorized every line of the film, as well as a good chunk of the book. I wrote to the publisher, as requested, to find out what happened during the reunion scene before the Fire Swamp. I ended up getting into an argument with my English teacher, who thought I should have tried harder to track down the unabridged, unexpurgated Morgenstern classic. Every time I went into a used bookstore, I bought extra copies to keep on my shelves and give to friends at random.

I’ve always had a tough time choosing a favorite film, but after a few years of this, my favorite book was pretty obvious. There was just one thing missing. I had never seen The Princess Bride on the big screen.

Until Saturday.

Awesome Costumed Movie-goers!Cinema World, the theatre down in Melbourne, has a Cult Series where they show classic films late on Friday and Saturday nights (next week’s is Akira). I had been invited months ago by Ashlynn and Sarah, my besties from the B&N down there. I bought my ticket early: a combo that came with a drink and popcorn…a true splurge. I stopped buying concessions when I started paying for tickets. After so many years, movie theatre popcorn really doesn’t hold the same romance for me as it does for you.

But this night, it did. Which was good, because I needed it to. I sat in my comfy seat, eagerly awaiting the moment when the lights went down and I got to live the magic all over again. It was beautiful and perfect and funny and brilliant and over far too soon.

But the magic didn’t fade when the lights went up. There was still a softness around the edges of my mind the whole drive home. Like opening a time capsule, but so much more. I was twelve again, at the beginning of everything. A budding writer, a hardcore bibliophile, a genius outcast collecting misfits on the playground. I could step through time and erase all those annoying mistakes I made, all those horrible relationships I fell for in the search for my own Wesley, only to be disappointed every time and insane enough to pick myself up and fail all over again. There were no regrets for things I hadn’t done. The depression was gone, no one had died, and my heart—though still overly big and emotional—was largely unbroken.

Vizzini said that if anything went wrong on the job, or they had to split up for any reason, they would meet back at the beginning, where he had first hired Inigo and Fezzik. Inigo even made up a rhyme for Fezzik to remember: “Fool, fool, back to the beginning is the rule.” Fezzik, of course, forgot.

I forgot too, it seems.

Life gives us no do-overs, that’s true. And life isn’t fair, as the Goldman Rule taught us. But no one says that we can’t mentally take ourselves back to the beginning and look around a while. Remember why we’re here, and the paths we took. Give ourselves a break from the burdens of guilt and grief we carry, the ones that only get heavier as the years go by.

I may not be a girl on a farm anymore, but I am a princess now (with a Brute Squad, even!). I choose my own adventures. Fair or not, I have no life at all unless I live them.

So, here I go…

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