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Caption Me!

In catching up on things that never got finished during the holidays, I was going through some Christmas photos and came across this:

It just begs for a caption contest, doesn’t it? Give me your best shot — post your best caption (or captions) for this in the comments on my website (let’s say…by Valentine’s Day), and I’ll send a copy of the Dark Faith anthology to the one that makes me laugh the most.

I rarely post these caption-needy pics like this — the last one I put up was the famous John & Krissy Scalzi pic from Penguicon in 2009. They are a lot of fun, aren’t they? I really should do these more often!

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Apex Halloween Sale…and Contest…and Call For Stories

For two weeks only, from October 15th to the 30th, there will be a series of one day specials on select Apex Publications titles. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, one book will be on sale at 40% off the cover price and $2.99 for the e-book version for one day only through the Apex Bookstore. The book of the day will be announced early each morning on those three days.

These discounted titles will be:
The Blackness Within
The Changed
Close Encounters of the Urban Kind
Dark Faith
Harlan County Horrors
Mama’s Boy
Orgy of Souls

And the contest? Buy any Apex book between Oct 15 and Oct 30 from the Apex Bookstore and your name goes into a raffle for one of the following prizes:

Grand Prize: A personalized short story critique (up to 7,500 words) with fiction editor Catherynne M. Valente. If you’re not a writer, then we’ll be giving away a $25 Amazon gift card.

1st Runner Up Prize: An Apex Publication Minion pack (T-shirt, a mug and a shot glass).

2nd Runner Up Prize: $10 gift certificate for the Apex Bookstore.

Winners will be announced on the Apex Blog on Tuesday the 2nd of November.

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Jason Sizemore  of Apex has also started an entire line of Zombie fiction, and a website — The Zombie Feed — to discuss books, movies, and the entire zombie zeitgeist.

They are also reading for an anthology of zombie fiction.

*

Guidelines page is here: http://thezombiefeed.biz/submissions/

Novella = 15,000-40,000 words
Novel = 40,001-80,000 words

As can be implied by the sizes described above, these are the word counts we’re seeking for each format.

What do we want?
Fast-paced zombie apocalypse fiction! Your zombies can be from any style…Romero, Viral, supernatural, etc.

What to submit?
Please submit the first 5,000 words of your manuscript. If 5,000 cuts your novel off in the middle of a sentence or paragraph, be reasonable and include the rest of the paragraph. Include a short bio and a brief high-level description of your novel/novella.

Rights requested
Exclusive First World English print and digital rights for three years.

Compensation
No advance. Royalty 10-20% against net receipts. Digital royalty of 40% against net receipts.

Distribution, Wholesale, and Marketing
The Zombie Feed is a micro-press, therefore, it should come as no surprise that we’ll be using the POD business model as our sales and distribution format for physical books. This means your book will be available through most online retailers, but not distributed through the brick & mortars. Naturally, your book will be available to the B&Ms, but on a strict no-returns policy (unless they go directly through The Zombie Feed then we’ll do returns).

The Zombie Feed will market your book, though we do hope for author assistance with this task.

Submission Address:
thezombienet at gmail.com

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The God of Last Moments

As you know from reading this blog (*waves to those who are newcomers*), I’m usually quite vocal about the origin of my stories. For one, knowing a little bit about them (beyond the title), helps you as a reader decide whether you even want to bother. For two, it helps those of you who are writers answer the everlasting “Where do your ideas come from?” question.

There are authors who hate the “Ideas”  question, for there is no one right answer. But I have found that if you ask that question about one work in particular, you will often be surprised at the answer. Each work of fiction DOES have an origin. It was written for a person or an anthology or a contest. It started out with a theme or an object. The research required to write it turned it in a different direction, as did the personal experiences called upon to make the characters real. These are the “Real” stories, the fascinating ones, the ones where you discover that no matter how fantastic the genre, the author really is writing what he or she knows.

My father only reads non-fiction. He is the progeny of my Nana, who insists that all fiction is a bunch of unhelpful lies and hooey. You can imagine my surprise when Mom–my first reader–handed some of my fiction over to my father for his insight. Why on earth would he want to read that? I wasn’t embarrassed or anything, I just know it’s not his cup of tea, so I wasn’t going to force it on him. So you can also imagine my surprise when he reportedly told my mother how amazed he was that “Alethea puts so much of herself into her writing.” It’s true. All these stories inside me, all these little bits of myself, are broken off and used as treasured exotic spices for whatever I plan to be cooking. I continue to live life, for better or worse, and my experiences go into my writing. There is no story I’ve written that doesn’t have some tiny personal, autobiographical circumstance in it.

And then there are stories, like The God of Last Moments, which have too much.

I have been putting off this origin entry because it is just that damn personal. But there have been multiple requests from people who have read Dark Faith for the story behind this story, and I don’t want to put you off forever. It’s been long enough now. So here it is for you in a mishmash of words, written the best way I know how.

***

The seeds of this story were planted on Thanksgiving week, 2007. On Monday, I joined Facebook. On Tuesday morning I discovered that the money-grubbing fiance I’d broken up with only a month before was not only suddenly engaged again, but had been cheating on me the whole time we were together. I threw up, made an appointment for a blood test, and went to work. In that order.

I don’t remember any part of Wednesday, except when Janet Lee ordered me to her house the next day for Thanksgiving because I didn’t need to be alone. She was adamant. If I didn’t show up by a certain time, Mike was going to come get me. I managed to get up, get dressed, and get over there on time. Mike was standing in the driveway waiting for me when I opened my car door. I didn’t start crying until he hugged me.

I survived the day, even smiling a few times at Mike & Janet’s boisterous relatives, and stayed long after they’d all gone. Mike’s mother was the last to go–Mike drove her home. When he returned to the house, he had the strangest, most baffled look on his face. Janet and I instantly asked him what was wrong, and he proceeded to tell us the events that had just transpired between him and his mother.

On the way back to Mrs. Lee’s house, she and Mike passed the home of a once-famous country star. (It’s Nashville. It happens.) Said country star had died in a plane crash many years before. Mike’s father had been a police officer at the time, but Mike did not know that Mr. Lee had been the first officer at the scene of the plane crash. “Oh, yes,” Mrs. Lee affirmed. “I think we still have a piece of [dead country star]’s finger up in the attic.”

Upon hearing this, Janet, Mike, and I immediately started brainstorming why exactly a person would want such a morbid keepsake. We shouted reasonable explanations one right after another, followed by the unreasonable ones. I called out, “Maybe someone could touch the item and relive that person’s last moments” followed by “DIBS!!”

All the seeds were planted, all the wheels set into motion, but I did not write the story then. I did not write anything for a while. First, I tried to sleep (that took far longer than it should have). Then, I tried to erase the image of me stabbing The Dreaded Ex through the heart with a spear. I tried to stop wondering WHY and HOW and WHY again (and kept thanking various deities that it was already over). I tried to stop putting pieces together and having epiphanies about why certain strange events had happened the way they did over the last few years. I investigated filing a formal lawsuit over the money, but decided I did not want to be tied to this person in any way, shape, or form for longer than I had to. I had paid enough; it was done. I needed to be free. That was only going to take time. I hated time.

Three people (other than Janet, Mike, and Lillie, whose shoulders I physically had at my disposal) were instrumental to me during that time: Ken Scholes, Edmund Schubert, and Mary Robinette Kowal. Ken called me every morning on his way to work, to make sure I got out of bed. Mary both emailed me and snail-mailed me hopeful, happy things to keep me afloat. And Edmund…poor Edmund. Edmund was who I called when I cried. There were other friends, too, many others, all around the world. Too many to list in this blog, but none of whom I’ve forgotten, and all of whom I will always treasure.

Mom and Dad came to visit in December. And in an unprecedented move, my sister & newly-minted brother-in-law surprised me at my house on Christmas Day. On New Year’s Eve, Janet and Mike ordered me up to their house again. The moon was low on the horizon as I drove home. I got up the very next morning and wrote “Rabbit in the Moon.” Directly after that, I started looking into the philosophy of good and evil and researching angels and demons. Thus began The God of Last Moments.

(WARNING: possible spoilers for those who haven’t read the story)
If you’ve read Beauty & Dynamite, you know why I could use no other name but Max. From the first sentence, I knew I had to write the story from Max’s point of view. Psychologically, I guess it was the only way I could put myself into his shoes and try to make sense of his madness. Rose is very me, of course, with her voluptuous beauty, ridiculous optimism, and butterfly hairpins. Why “Rose”? It’s a fairytale name, and very well could be a family name. More importantly, Rose was Doctor Who’s companion at the time. (What?? You knew I was a geek…) The Elemental Guardians who protect Rose and see her through her ascension are tributes to four of my friends, and if you know them at all, you’ll recognize them through their descriptions. Ken is Earth; Edmund is Water; Mike is the djinn of Air; Mary is the Fire woman. And this is the convention where Dark Faith was conceived, six months later. No one but Jason Sizemore, Maurice Broaddus, and Jerry Gordon could have brought this into the world with the appropriate amount of elegance.

As for the Angel…I’m not sure who she is. I don’t see her as the Princess, but some might. Perhaps she’s simply the epitome of the woman I’m still trying to become.

Or perhaps it’s just a story, and nothing more. Magical and ephemeral as the morning mist, disappearing at your fingertips and only remembered in your dreams. After all, it’s just fiction.

Bunch of unhelpful lies and hooey.

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While I Was Out Partying at Necon

While I was out, Jason Sizemore left one of those pink post-its on my desk that said “APEX HAS A NEW ONLINE STORE. GO FIX ALL YOUR LINKS.”

Sure enough, there is a new online store. Click here and go check it out. It’s snazzy. I’m looking forward to getting my wicked new alien t-shirt. It’s the least Jason can do for making me go through all my bibliography pages and change the links. Well, that was the least he could do for ME. What he did for YOU was host a 40% off sale for all his in-print books (all digital & physical, no preorders).

That’s right — pick up a copy of Dark Faith (did you get on at Necon? I’m in it!) or Harlan County Horrors (because you’ve become obsessed with the show Justified and want to creep yourself out for Halloween) or Beauty & Dynamite (because you’ve dropped your copy in the tub. Admit it).

Just type in NEWSTORE40 when you check out to get the 40% off. This offer ends July 23, so you should just hop on over there soon. Now sounds good.

In the meantime, I’m going to go snag those links I just posted and fix my website…

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New Books ISO Author Shelf

One of the greatest things an author can get in the mail is his or her contributor copies. Sometimes it’s a giant box like George McFly…sometimes (especially with anthologies), it’s only one or two copies. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve received a copy of H is for Halloween (being auctioned off tomorrow 9am CST at Do The Write Thing for Nashville), a copy of Dark Faith, and a copy of Pill Hill Press’s Four Horsemen anthology. I can’t wait to put them all on my author shelf, step back, review the spines, and feel a lovely sense of accomplishment.

The only problem? With all this moving I don’t HAVE a shelf. How pathetic is that?

We all know you’re going to preorder your copy of AlphaOops nice and early from your local independent bookstore…but you can get DARK FAITH and FOUR HORSEMEN right now!

Click here to order a copy of Dark Faith.

Click here to order a copy of Four Horsemen.

You can always put them on YOUR shelves…and then send me a picture to make me jealous.

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Mo*Con V: Kelli Strikes Back

(long story, but here’s the edited version):

Bob and Kelli and I drove down to Virginia, woke Joe up from his nap, threw our suitcases (and four boxes of the LAST RITES chapbook) into Joe’s car, and started on our 10-hour drive to Maurice’s house. On the way we drove through Flushing, Negro Mountain, a Pony Pull, and October. We arrived at Mo’s around 1am. There was Jack Daniel’s steak waiting on us. I love that man. (Maurice, I mean.)

Friday morning started the way it should…with Kelli, on the trampoline. We sat back with our Jamaican coffee and watched Maurice’s awesome wife Sally mow the front lawn in her Wonder Woman boots. We picked up Brian Keene from the airport, got all pretty, and met Jerry Gordon for some really awesome cajun food at Yats. No lie — I had “chili-cheese crawfish étouffée.” Have you been to the Broad Ripple Village section of Indianapolis? It’s a little bohemian. It reminded me a bit of my beloved East Nashville (though with too many bars & not enough cool little shops…and currently four feet less water…but I digress).

Kelli took a nap, the boyz played Magic, and Joe and I explored a bit around Broad Ripple. It was a nice little respite before Maurice started the show and we had chicken marsala (a now-staple and tradition of Mo*Con because it’s The Princess’s favorite). Open Mic Nite began last year as a poetry-reading homage to Linda Addison, and I swear it’s one of the best things we’ve ever implemented. It’s a great way to break the ice and introduce everyone to each other — the new blood and the old regime alike. To get a feel for the range of genres and talent, the senses of humor (you’ve all seen the performance of “Dracula’s Winkie” by now), and to kill Brian Keene…again…and again…and again. We met Wes Southard, remembered what a talented poet Lon Prater is, and made faces at Gary Braunbeck when he trampled like an elephant over his allotted 5 minute time slot.

Saturday started off with a bang once everyone got in and settled — Sara Larson brought the coffee filters and evolved from Maven to Goddess of the Kitchen. Kelli hopped up on stage with her I-wanna-have-sex shoes and announced exactly how she’d be running the show: she’d be picking the panel participants out of the audience, and in the absence of moderation she expected everyone else to ask questions, provide comments, and keep the conversation going. And you know what? They did. We did. And it was a beautiful thing. Of the three panels that day, I think Wrath James White was the only participant on all of them (way to be opinionated, Wrath). The blogging was informative, the spirituality was intriguing, and the sex was hilarious.

The art reception was ramped up this year — we had our own little wing of the church (which was unfortunately rather far from the festivities…but we had the wine). I got to chat with Steven C. Gilberts a little more, which is always a pleasure, and I was very impressed at Jim Leach’s wood block prints. Next year I’ve requested that there be a short — maybe even 15 minute — panel introducing all the displaying artists and giving them a little time to talk about their art, their inspiration, and their processes. Essentially, to have all the conversations I didn’t get to because I was too busy manning my table. I sold five pieces!! I’m super stoked about that. And, as promised, I’ll be putting a few up on Etsy in the next few days.

The other Fabulous New Thing this year was a running live Funky Werepig show Greg Hall hosted in the middle of everything. As people wandered in and out of the art reception, Kelli dragged guests on stage to be questioned. I have to tell you, the more I know Greg Hall, the more I love him. Who doesn’t love a man who makes everyone laugh? And I’m still one of his son’s Top Three Girlfriends. I hope Greg’s on hand to do it again next year — it not only kept the energy of the day upbeat, but we now have it to look back on forever and ever and ever.

I gave a sneak-preview reading of AlphaOops: H is for Halloween to a very excited crowd, and then we took up two tables in a massive signing of Dark Faith. (I held up the line with all my glitter pens. And I so don’t care.) It was amazing to be part of something so big. This a very important book…and gorgeous to boot. (Do you have your copy yet? You need one. Use this link.)

But “carnivorous vulvasaurs” or not, somewhere in the middle of that last panel I hit a wall, the wall that demands I de-Princess immediately. But I was surrounded by dozens of people — I couldn’t just be “off.” It’s a convention — and not just ANY convention, it’s MY convention, the convention I reign over as royalty. “Off” is just not allowed. So I subtly removed my tiara and hoped no one would notice. It wasn’t 15 minutes before Jerry looked over at me and said, “You’re like Maurice with all his costume changes.” “What?” I asked him. “Weren’t you wearing something different a minute ago?” he said.

What a difference a tiara makes.

I went back to the hotel fully intending to change and return to Maurice’s house for Part Two of the festivities. Instead, I cried about my lack of focus and my sudden (and not a little scary) lack of convention stamina. So I wasn’t there for the buckets of Absinthe or the Black Hole Liquor Store — Kelli’s got those covered in her happy con report. But Joe reminded me of something very important: family. I’ve jokingly referred to Mo*Con as a “geek family reunion” before, but I needed to remember what that meant, exactly. Of the 75 people that attended Mo*Con this year, I’ve known most of them for four years. They made me their princess. I’ve slept on their couches and roomed with them at conventions. I’ve cried on their shoulders too, and escaped to their houses, and sought refuge in their basements. I’ve read to their children and talked to them about their divorces. I’ve got their numbers in my phone and–thanks to Twitter–I talk to them every single day. These are people who are going to notice when I’m upset or tired or frazzled — not because I’ve suddenly fallen “off”, but BECAUSE THEY LOVE ME. Because those are the kinds of things that people who love you notice. We call those people family. And I cried all over again, and there was no green fairy to wipe my tears.

Sunday morning I helped Chef Rob chop things for his Mediterranean/California salad while he prepared a garlic pasta dish and the most succulent Chateaubriand I have ever put in my mouth. (I’m telling you, it was a divine experience. NEVER miss Sunday brunch.) Goodbyes were lingering, as always, but they came with a contract for my story in the upcoming Nick Cave anthology from PS Publishing…so there was hope in the sadness. We drove home through a constant rainstorm–the fog made every town we passed seem as if it were on fire, and we had to pull over in West Virginia when we couldn’t see the road anymore. I had heard something from my friends about rain in Nashville too–but April always brought tornadoes and flash flooding so it was nothing I hadn’t heard before. (Or so I thought…but I digress. More on that tomorrow.) There were candy bars and red Doritoes and catnaps and white knuckles…and more goodbyes…and then it was four in the morning and we were back in PA and it was over.

We still can’t quite believe it’s over. I barely saw Maurice (he was a bigger whirlwind than ME, and that’s saying something), I didn’t get to say goodbye to Jason Sizemore or Geoffrey Girard, and I have that nagging feeling that I’ve left something behind. I suspect it might be family.

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Mo*Con V Picture Gallery

Click the Gypsy and the Diva to go to the official Mo*Con V picture gallery (the ones on Facebook are just the pics, out of order, with no captions BECAUSE I JUST DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT).

*ahem*

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More Arty Goodness

Yes, folks, Mo*Con is this weekend — are you coming? Don’t forget, we’re launching Dark Faith and there’s going to be a massive signing with lots of authors.

I’ll also have an artist’s table (which is starting to become something of a tradition for me at Mo*Con), with lots of lovely, affordable art that I’ve been working like gangbusters on all week.

Here are the newest pieces I finished yesterday — I’m really, really happy with all of them. There’s just something about collage that soothes me. Maybe it’s the glue.

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My Future’s So Dark, I’ve Gotta Have Faith

I happen to be in two Dark anthologies this year: Dark Faith and Dark Futures. For a Princess who tiptoes in rainbows and often answers to the name of “Sunshine,” I find this predicament rather ironical. And fun. Because Irony is always fun.

I’m still waiting on some direct ordering information for Dark Futures, but I’ve got some Dark Faith chewy goodness for you right here and now. Are you ready?

ATTENTION!!! THIS IS IMPORTANT! Pre-order now and receive the limited edition promotional chapbook Dark Faith: Last Rites that contains stories by Nate Southard, Bob Ford, Toiya K. Finley, and Sara M. Genge. Only 500 chapbooks will be produced!

Table of Contents: (a.k.a. Holy Crap There Are Some Awesome Folks In Here)

“The Story of Belief-Non” by Linda D. Addison (poem)
“Ghosts of New York” by Jennifer Pelland
“I Sing a New Psalm” by Brian Keene
“He Who Would Not Bow” by Wrath James White
“Zen and the Art of Gordon Dratch’s Damnation” by Douglas F. Warrick
“Go and Tell It on the Mountain” by Kyle S. Johnson
“Different from Other Nights” by Eliyanna Kaiser
“Lilith” by Rain Graves (poem)
“The Last Words of Dutch Schultz Jesus Christ” by Nick Mamatas
“To the Jerusalem Crater” by Lavie Tidhar
“Chimeras & Grotesqueries” by Matt Cardin
“You Dream” by Ekaterina Sedia
“Mother Urban’s Booke of Dayes” by Jay Lake
“The Mad Eyes of the Heron King” by Richard Dansky
“Paint Box, Puzzle Box” by D.T. Friedman
“A Loss For Words” by J. C. Hay
“Scrawl” by Tom Piccirilli
“C{her}ry Carvings” by Jennifer Baumgartner (poem)
“Good Enough” by Kelli Dunlap
“First Communions” by Geoffrey Girard
“The God of Last Moments” by Alethea Kontis
“Ring Road” by Mary Robinette Kowal
“The Unremembered” by Chesya Burke
“Desperata” by Lon Prater (poem)
“The Choir” by Lucien Soulban
“Days of Flaming Motorcycles” by Catherynne M. Valente
“Miz Ruthie Pays Her Respects” by Lucy A. Snyder
“Paranoia” by Kurt Dinan (poem)
“Hush” by Kelly Barnhill
“Sandboys” by Richard Wright
“For My Next Trick I’ll Need a Volunteer” by Gary A. Braunbeck

If you’d like to help me out spreading the word about Dark Faith, be sure to use this link: http://www.apexbookstore.com/products/dark-faith-edited-by-maurice-broaddus-and-jerry-gordon-kontis so Maurice knows that I sent you. I get like five cents for everyone who clicks on it and then buys the book. I’m trying to save up for a little red wagon (that I’m going to paint yellow). Please help me reach my goal!

Thanks! xox

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