“Hello, my name is…”

Everybody gets the story this month—Patrons and blog readers and social media followers alike. Everybody. Because I’m the Princess, and I said so.
Hello, My Name Is…
Katy. Simi. Justin. Ursula. Dallas. Kathryn. Bill. An unconscionable amount of good people have left this world since my birthday in January. Want to know the worst part? I feel like I’m forgetting someone. Literally so many people in my life died in the last month that I lost count. 
I light a lot of candles these days. 
Katy died on my birthday. Bianca had whisked me away to Paradise City con in Miami by the time I got the news, so there was no time to grieve. Quincy Allen was around that weekend to provide bear hugs whenever I needed. I left the booth to cry in the bathroom the few times Leanna texted me, but I didn’t respond to her. I was not ready for that conversation. I did not want to “talk to anyone.” I had work to do. So I did it. 
I needed time to think about what sort of farewell I could write to my Audio Dream Girl. I still can’t manage it. There’s just so much to unpack. So much to process. Too much. And now, several weeks later, we’re four or five deaths down the line. 
I feel this way in my career sometimes. The to-do list becomes overwhelming and I don’t know where to start. Logic dictates that I begin with the first item on the list. But that’s not always the thing “speaks to me,” as Sherri Kenyon is so fond of saying. 
Bianca and I were at Orlando Toy & Comic Con when Kathryn went into the hospital. That con only lasted one day, so I was home when she didn’t make it through the second round of surgery. I had time to pray for Kathryn. I had time to grieve. I had time to cry, and scream at the world, and cry again. I cried a lot.
I cried so hard that Tempest came in the room and just hugged me for a while. I told her how mad I was…and how I didn’t feel like I even had the right to be weeping over Kathryn, since I hadn’t had the time to properly grieve for Katy yet. 
Alethea,” she said to me in that no-nonsense Tempest tone of hers. “That’s not how grief works.”
She was right, of course. I so desperately wanted to apply logic to this whole situation. But Feelings took Logic and laughed maniacally while tossing it out the window. 
But that’s me in a nutshell, isn’t it? The perfect fictional offspring of Mr. Spock and Deanna Troi. Though lately I’ve been wondering if I’m going to evolve into the Mad Hatter instead. Maybe I already have.
I don’t know what to say about Kathryn yet either—as Leanna pointed out this morning, we’ll probably have to wait for Dragon Con for those words and feelings to make themselves known to both of us. Kathryn’s spirit will be with us in the Green Room, no doubt about that. 
But Bill…I do have a story about Bill. A funny story. A story that pertains to writing. So everybody gets the story this month—Patrons and blog readers and social media followers—EVERYBODY. And to hell with logic. Because I said so. 
AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First released in the summer of 2006. My very first “appearance” was an official Author Event at Ingram. I’d been an Ingram Book Buyer for six years at that point, and I had attended every Author Event. Every single one. Being able to meet bestselling and debut authors from all walks of life, each at varying stages in their careers—it was the publishing education I never had. 
I also made a lot of friends at Ingram in those six years. I was known far and wide for the Happy Holidays mix-CD I made every December and inter-officed to just about everyone in the company. I learned that the more friends one had at a giant corporation like Ingram, the faster one could get things done. 
So I made a lot of friends. And I did a lot of things. It was incredible amounts of fun. I was the Miss Congeniality of Bookville. 
One of those friends was Susan, the woman in charge of Author Events. The day before my AlphaOops appearance, we had a very important conversation. 
“Susan,” I said. “I need you on Post-its.”
Post-its are a very important thing at Author Events. After the author gives his or her talk, the audience lines up to get their books signed. (Everyone in the audience at Ingram receives a signed book.) One person stands ahead of the signing table, armed with a pad of Post-its. They ask, “Who would you like the book signed to?” They write the name down, spell it properly, and stick it opposite the title page.
In elementary school I was known as “The girl who stars in every play and that PBS show on TV.” People often know my name, but I don’t always know theirs. It’s the down side of a reputation that precedes you.
There were going to be a bunch of people at this Author Event who knew me, but whose names I didn’t know, or who I blanked out on in the heat of OMGBOOKSIGNING. (To this day, I still ask my best friends how to spell their names when signing their books.) I had nightmares of scores of people saying, “Just sign this to me,” as I sat there with zero clue as to who they were. I knew it was going to happen. I just KNEW. So I tried to prepare myself the best way possible: with Susan. 
“I’m on it,” she said.
I had one of most well-attended Author Events in Ingram history. Bigger than Johnnie Cochran. Bigger than Dave Ramsey. Bigger than Al and Tipper Gore. There was standing room only, and people out the door. I told the story of AlphaOops, how it came to be, and how the title was originally The Telaphab from Z to A
“My poor mom and I made so many beaded bracelets with the word ‘TELAPHAB’ on them,” I lamented, and about fifteen people across the auditorium raised their hands. 
They were all wearing TELAPHAB bracelets. 
I was so touched, I almost cried. But I didn’t, because I had work to do. After the round of thunderous applause I walked over to the signing table, already piled high with books. Susan stood at the ready, armed with Post-its and a smile, and we made that signing happen. I signed over a hundred and fifty books that afternoon, and I spelled everyone’s name correctly. 
Later that day, flush with triumph and riding high on the wave of a job well done, I grinned as one of the artists from the ad department stopped by my desk. 
“Hey,” he said. “I couldn’t make it to your event earlier, but I had someone snag me a book. Could you sign it for me?”
“Of course!” I said chipperly, taking out my signing pens. But inside I was freaking out. Because I had no clue what this guy’s name was. 
Book Buyers had no business in the ad department, and the artists almost never left their magical, dimly-lit caves lined with twinkle lights. I recognized him, of course—he was the tall, handsome, really nice one. But what was his name?? I tried to remember where we might’ve met, or at what company function I had seen him last. Nothing. Nothing
“To whom shall I sign it?” If I was really lucky, the book would be for his daughter or something. 
And then those dreaded words left his mouth. “Oh, just to me is fine.”
I opened the book and uncapped a marker. My hand hovered over the page as if I were trying to conjure the perfect inscription. What went through my mind instead was actually a lot of cursing, followed by HOW THE HECK DO I GET OUT OF THIS???
I couldn’t sign this man’s book. I couldn’t. I was just going to have to own up to my ignorance. 
“How do you spell that again?” I asked sheepishly. 
“Bill,” he said. “B-I-L-L.”
Yup. Bill. 
Oh my god, I freaking knew that. I mean, I didn’t know, but I knew. And now I was just embarrassed. I felt my cheeks flush all over again as I bent over to sign the page. 
“Well, hey, Bil Keane only has one L,” I blurted awkwardly. 
Bill Elliott was an artist. He’d know exactly who Bil Keane was. Score one for the nerd girl who read everything she could get her hands on: every single TV guide article, cereal box, and newspaper comic strip—including The Family Circus
I didn’t have a lot of interactions with Bill after that, but I never forgot him after that day. I made sure he got a Happy Holiday CD every year, and every year I was the recipient of one of his original Christmas cards, even after I left the company. 
When Bill was sent home to rest, before the cancer snapped back with a vengeance that surprised even his doctors, Bill drew a new card to thank all of his friends and family for the support they had shown him during his illness. 
IMG_7060The last card. 
But Bill’s message of thanks is universal—it’s what I would say to all of you—my friends, my family—who have supported my artistic endeavors in the past and who continue to support me still. 
Thank you for being one of my reasons to smile. Your compassion and generosity continue to touch my heart in ways I cannot put into words. May your life always be filled with love, laughter, and peace. 
I love you all—every single one of you—right down the the bottom of my illogical, overly-emotional, crazy-filled, tea-drinking heart. 
I will be writing a follow-up essay for my Royal Scholars (after I stop crying) that includes some tips on how to deal with the “Just make it out to me” situation, from both sides of the signing table. If you are not yet a Patron of the Wonderful World of Princess Alethea, I highly encourage you to come join the fun!
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The Stuff I Didn’t Say on Patreon

Warning: This post is not for the faint of heart. If you would like to continue to believe that my life is a magical fairyland where darkness never falls, read no further. 


Sad FairyYesterday, I relaunched my Patreon Page in a big way. I made it shiny and welcoming and full of enthusiasm, with all the magic of a thousand spoonfuls of sugar. Just like they told me to: Sarah and Casey and Actual People from Patreon (in-person meetings, conference calls, the works).

Which was good, since a lot of that magic was forcibly kindled from a very dark place.

I haven’t been blogging much (probably another good thing), but those of you in touch with me on social media (especially FB) know this has been a pretty tough year for me. Yes, it seems that my body is falling apart, and no one’s sure why. I’ve subjected myself to six straight months of doctors and medicines and physical therapy trying to reverse the damage…or at least, slow it down.

Turns out, being in pain and brain-fuddled from various drugs doesn’t exactly put your mind in the best of places. On top of which, you know, some serious LIFE happened. Pretty rough and important stuff. It doesn’t stop just because you need to take a moment. Annoying, right?

At the conventions I went to anyway–on one leg and boatloads of medicine–friends asked me how I was doing. How I was really doing. I told them I was really okay. Because, in my mind I was, of course. Why wouldn’t I be? I had to be okay, or I wouldn’t have been able to Do All The Things That Must Be Done. I am a Magical Princess, and Magical Princesses are always okay!

It never occurred to me to tell them that I wasn’t okay. Even if, deep inside, my body was screaming from tip to toe.


The first draft of my “Why is Alethea on Patreon” statement was too long and so incredibly sad that a rewrite was “strongly suggested.”

I won’t repost all of that here (you’re welcome), but I will tell you about three very important bits.

1.) I’m in a decent amount of debt. Not impossibly so, and nothing I haven’t gotten out of before, which is why I took the risk. One does not leave an abusive relationship and move halfway across the country without risk. I decided that my quality of life was worth it, and I wasn’t wrong. But that was 2014, and things haven’t exactly bounced back yet because:

2.) My books are not performing as well as they should be. There are several reasons for this. One, is that I haven’t sold a new picture book yet (but I have three manuscripts I am actively working on RIGHT NOW, fingers crossed!). The second is that I haven’t been physically (or mentally) able to produce the massive quantities of fiction I want to produce. The third is that I feel obligated to finish the Woodcutter Sister series.

You’d think this last one wouldn’t put a wrench in the works, but it does. Harcourt still holds the rights to the first three books in this series, and will for some time. In order for me to make a real go of it at this self-publishing game, I need to have a WHOLE series in which ALL the books belong to me. Yes, I have an idea for what this series would be. I have LOTS of ideas. The problem is, I need to find a way to pay the bills with what I’m working on NOW so I can clear the decks and make that happen.

3.) I needed to find happiness again. Almost a decade ago I shattered into a million little pieces, and Princess Alethea rose from those ashes. I know how to find my happiness. Friends ask me for advice about this all the time. But even princesses, when left in the darkness for so long, can forget the reasons they get up in the mornings and why on earth they would ever smile. Social media became little more than a painful daily reminder of all the things I didn’t–and might never–have. Down and down the spiral went. I could sense the madness around the corner, and I had to nip it in the bud.

I moved to Florida FOR A REASON: to rebuild the Kingdom in my head. MY Kingdom. Consciously or not, I’ve been putting all the pieces into place this whole time.

Giving up the Fairy Tale Rants last year was harder than I ever thought it would be. Even though it didn’t pay the bills, every time I heard about a young person who sat down and mainlined all 55 episodes, it made my heart sing. For all that I do, I have always been a performer. My books, my videos, ME…all of these things are meant to bring joy to other people. My picture books readers, my romance, SF and horror friends, my fellow convention artists and cosplayers, my listeners and viewers. MY FAMILY.

Like Bilbo, I was starting to feel like butter scraped over too much bread. Relaunching the Patreon seemed the best way to gather all of ME in one place.

“And so I put a call here out into the world: if you have ever loved my writing, if you have ever met me at a convention, if you have ever admired my costumes, if you have ever read my essays, if you have ever watched a Fairy Tale Rant video, if you have ever liked something I’ve said or shared on social media, I invite you to my Kingdom where rainbows are seasonal and the flowers bloom all year round and exotic birds are as prevalent as exotic Pokémon…and there is glitter in the floorboards.”

If you love ME, and the magic I bring to the world, please click over to Patreon and help support this endeavor.

(At the very least, watch the video, because it’s 100% ME. And my friends. And my family. And Snake Plissken.  And Groot. It was incredibly fun to make, and I made it for you!)

Thank you, my friends. I really do love every single one of you. You are my world. My magical, wonderful world.



The Wonderful World of Princess Alethea

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Home from Boot Camp with Big Ideas

Hey, everybody! I’m officially home from Jane Yolen’s Picture Book Boot Camp…which means I got in late Sunday night and then spent an entire day in bed in excruciating pain (this whole neck thing is *not* my idea of a good time). I’ll be posting pics here in the near future…and maybe some thoughts…it’s just that everything that happened was so magical and surreal that I don’t know if I know words good enough to explain it. And even if I did, I feel like I should be spending that time working on ALL THE IDEAS I had while I was there! I mean, that was the whole point of going, right? You guys want new picture books from me, RIGHT? Well, hold on to your hats…

In the meantime, I’m over at John Scalzi’s Whatever today, talking about that old chestnut “Everything Happens for a Reason” and why it really deserves a boot to the backside. It’s a great essay…pop by to read it and join the discussion!

I’ve got another doctor’s appointment today, and then it’s CONQUER THE PICTURE BOOK WORLD TIME. Are you ready?? xox Lee

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The Writing Princess’s Manifesto

The Little MermaidIn an effort to catch back up with the world at large, I wrote a make-up blog post at the Waterworld Mermaids today.

The message may have been delivered with more force than I intended, but it certainly gets my point across.

Some days, we are just frustrated with the world. The chaos of our lives can go on for days…weeks…months…years.

We cannot let that defeat us. Ever.

Click here to read “No Such Thing” : Princess Alethea’s First Law of Writing Momentum.

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Sarah Interviews Princess Alethea

I was recently contacted by a high school student named Sarah K, asking for my answers on a survey she was doing for her English class…she had chosen “authors” as her demographic.

I was so intrigued by her questions that I asked if I could post them here, and she said yes. Thanks, Sarah!


Taking Care of Business, original film posterName: Alethea Kontis
Age: 38
Race: French Canadian/Greek American
Gender: Female

What qualities do you consistently put into the protagonists of your novels? Why?
All of my protagonists have a weakness. (This weakness is usually a weakness I have as well.) In the course of the story, they are challenged and forced–at some point–to overcome this weakness.
Nobody wants to read about perfect characters! I want to read about characters like me. We might not have the same color hair or eyes or skin, but maybe she’s scared of crowds or he’s done some terrible things in his past that he regrets…and through that porthole I become that character I’m reading. I want that to happen to my readers, too.

How has being an author changed you?
I have always been a writer–I have been writing creative things down and submitting them for publication since the age of eight. Being an author as a career is a different story entirely. I have become a loud, colorful celebrity, the freak I wish I had met when I was twelve so that I knew being like this–painting my face and dyeing my hair blue and waking up with glitter on my pillow–was a valid life choice. When I was a teen, I was quiet and frumpy and hid in the corners, watching and collecting misfits. Now I jump into whatever situation scares me and live my life in such a way that I will always be able to tell great stories.

How does love in the real world compare to fictional love?
A wise man told me once: “The difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.” There are different kinds of love, and different kinds of pain, and the more you live, the more you discover. I’m still a work in progress.

If you truly had the power to change anything about the world, where would you start?
I would give everyone in the world a huge injection of self-confidence and a good night’s sleep. I honestly think this is the solution to World Peace.

What is the difference between reality and perception?
When I was a teen, one of the movie posters on the ceiling above my bed was Taking Care of Business. It had James Belushi surfing on the roof of a fancy car and the tagline: “You are who you pretend to be.” As a child actress, this line always spoke to me and, when I was brave enough, I lived the life I wanted instead of the life I felt that had been forced upon me. Bad things happen to everyone. Good things happen too. THAT is reality. Perception is what you choose to do with that.

What is truth?
That’s an easy one: ME! Truth is my first name. “Alethea” means “truth” in Greek. I was named after a character Jodie Foster played in an episode of the TV show Kung Fu — a little girl that bravely chose not to tell a lie. Trust me, it’s as much of a curse as it is a blessing!

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Post-Apocalyptic Disaster Area

Today I am a-blogging over at The Waterworld Mermaids about the ultimate sacrifice a writer must make when he/she is trying to write a novel on deadline: HOUSEWORK.

The house is going to look like hell, and you’re going to have to let it.

Among other things.

Read my bit of insanity here. (I have taken a picture of my living-dining area as illustration…)


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1986 Wishes You a Merry Christmas

Della’s going to kill me for this one. 🙂

Merry Christmas!!


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Those chosen few who read Beauty & Dynamite know that back in 2005 I had a cancer scare because of a tiny mass they found during a chest x-ray. We named the “tumor” and made jokes and I was so scared to death by how everyone around me was acting that I pushed up the surgery date just to get it over with. Turned out that it was a congenital birth defect called a bronchogenic cyst.

[Bronchogenic cysts represent 10-20% of congenital cystic diseases of the lung, and account for approximately 10% of mediastinal masses. These cysts are the result of ectopic budding of the tracheobronchial tree during embryologic development from the primitive foregut.]

Far less traumatic–but far more frustrating–has been this nonsense going on with my left foot. I’ve been given a walking cast. I’ve appropriated crutches. Everybody keeps asking me what happened, and all I can say for sure is that “My foot really freaking hurts.” X-rays show that it isn’t broken. Blue Cross Blue Shield almost scared me out of getting an MRI last week to look at what was going on with the soft tissues.

But I’m glad I got the MRI (no matter what the resulting hassle it will be for me), because there would have been no other way to perfectly diagnose this ganglion cyst in my foot.

I’ve just sat here for an hour and done research online. Most of these cysts are huge, occur in the hands and wrists, and present themselves with swagger–in fact, this condition is also called a “Bible cyst” because back in the day people were advised to SMASH IT WITH A LARGE BOOK to break it open…and a Bible was a large book just about everyone had around the house. (FYI–Book Smashing is no longer the recommended treatment.)

So this little cyst is hiding somewhere in the top of my left foot. I never would have guessed there was a sac of liquid in there causing all this nonsense. Here is a picture of my feet. I just had a cortisone shot, so you can see the band-aid over my foot where the cyst is.

Otherwise, they look just like normal feet, right? (Yeah, yeah, except for that bit where I bruised my left big toe…nothing a little nail polish can’t cure.)

So what the Ninja Cyst is doing in there is 1.) making my middle toes numb and 2.) making the outside of my foot KILL me because all the tendons and muscles over there are compensating for this Ninja in my foot that’s not supposed to be there.

Unfortunately, like most doctory things, there’s no good cure for this Ninja. If it becomes as big as the ones on the internet, the doc can drain it or I can have surgery…but even that’s no guarantee that it won’t come back. Right now, the best we can do is fix my orthotics (I need new padding), wear really great shoes (and by that I mean sneakers and military combat boots…no pretty shoes allowed), and possibly do some physical therapy that includes ultrasound.I took the cortisone shot today because I am in loads of pain, but that was my one and only dose. The rest is up to me.

Oh…and, you know…take it easy. (HA!)

The up-side is that I don’t *have* to use the walking cast or the crutches unless I’m in boatloads of pain again. I’m also allowed to go back to the gym (THANK THE GODS), but only for biking and rowing. No elliptical machine for a while.

With any luck, the Ninja Cyst will either develop superpowers or just get smaller and go away. With further trauma (like Dragon*Con) it may come back, but by then I’ll know how to deal with it.

And, if all else fails, there’s always SMASHING IT WITH A BOOK.

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I have a migraine today. Not fun.

We’re going to see the Adam Ezra Group in Roanoke tonight, though, so hopefully it will pass by then. I’m armed with Starbucks & Imitrex, and Joe’s driving.

In the meantime, I’m giving away boxes of books on Twitter. Go tell me your favorite genre, so I know which hat to put your name in!

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So Much to be Thankful For

I am thankful for amazing sunsets that last for hours on long road trips. I have always loved sunsets, ever since I was a little girl taking pictures with her father’s ancient Minolta with the huge telephoto attachment.

I am also thankful for all this fabulous photo technology at our fingertips so that we might share the beautiful visions of my magical life with the world.


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