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In Which Princess Alethea Confuses The World

Princess Alethea ReadingToday over at the Waterworld Mermaids, I talk about writers who do more creative things than just write…like me…and how those writers CONFUSE THE HECK OUT OF PEOPLE.

I credit most of this to Neil Gaiman and his Sandman comics, circa 1993.

Hop on over and check out my True Confessions!

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A Plethora of Updates

The trouble with going on book tour when your book comes out is that all these wonderful things happen online when you’re on the road! So, in no particular order:

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Look Ma! I’m on stage directly after Neil Gaiman! Here is the online recording of the Nebula Awards Ceremony — I show up around 1:12:00, right after Neil Gaiman accepts the Ray Bradbury Award. I presented the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, accepted this year by the fabulous Delia Sherman.

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Enchanted was selected at the Just Jared Jr. (JJJ) Book Club Pick for May! I am so incredibly honored to be gracing the same web pages as Miley Cyrus. SCORE.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT? “Enchanted” is more than just boy-meets-girl, they fall in love and then the happily ever after comes. It’s more. It’s The Frog Prince with a twist, looping in Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk into it’s main storyline — plus some others you might recognize. All of them just work with Ms. Kontis’ writing and it’s hard to put the novel down.

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The podcasters at Slice of Sci Fi read my essay about Enchanted on John Scalzi’s The Big Idea and mentioned it in their recent podcast here. Hooray!

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Katy Manck, MLS, has posted a very thoughtful review of Enchanted over at BooksYALove:

Will Rumbold find Sunday among all the people at the ball? Will Sunday recognize Rumbold out of his froggy skin? Will the Prince or the King choose a bride at the ball? This bright-and-dark story about family, loyalty, and love in an Enchanted  land reminds us that even the simplest fairy tales and nursery rhymes can carry the power of mighty words.

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Bloggess Extraordinaire Grace Fonesca (who was lucky enough to witness my performance with Katy Kellgren at Lady Jane’s Salon firsthand), bought Enchanted after the readong, devowered it, and said some very nice things in a 5-heart review over at Books of Love.

This book at the end was like a pure-adrenaline rush. So many things that make you go wow, OMG moments, sadness, love, celebration and in the end, embracing the person that makes you the happiest in the world.

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In possibly my favorite pull-quote so far, Natalia over at Dazzling Reads says of Enchanted: “Readers are doomed to a happy reading.”

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis is a beautiful story that everyone should read. This is a tale that will make you feel like a child again. It will makes you believe that, for 305 pages, rainbows’ pot of gold and leprechauns are real. That spells, faeries and magic beans are real. And that maybe somewhere, an enchanted prince is waiting for you on a well.

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DEMONS On Sale Now!

I am on the back cover AGAIN! Wheee!

From Skipp’s intro to “The Unicorn Hunter”:

After all this evil, I thought some beauty might be in order. So thank God for Alethea Kontis, who brought it and then some, in an old-fashioned mythical context with some new-fangled twists.

This is a very easy story to love. And unless you’re a unicorn, you probably will, too.

I’ll say it again: This is the best story I HAVE EVER WRITTEN. Not kidding I swear. I’m gonna be FAMOUS. Go buy it now. RUN.

Click here to purchase Demons on Amazon!

 

 

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#YAsaves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Happily Ever After

So there’s this amazing book coming out in June that you need to know about.

Once Upon A Time…

…in the faraway land of Story, a Hugo-winning Editor realized that no one had collected together the fairy tales of the age, and that doorstop-thick anthologies of modern fairy tales were sorely lacking…

And so the Editor ventured forth, wandering the land of Story from shore to shore, climbing massive mountains of books and delving deep into lush, literary forests, gathering together thirty-three of the best re-tellings of fairy tales he could find. Not just any fairy tales, mind you, but tantalizing tales from some of the biggest names in today’s fantastic fiction, authors like Gregory Maguire, Susanna Clarke, Charles de Lint, Holly Black, Aletha Kontis, Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, Patricia Briggs, Paul Di Filippo, Gregory Frost, and Nancy Kress. But these stories alone weren’t enough to satisfy the Editor, so the Editor ventured further, into the dangerous cave of the fearsome Bill Willingham, and emerged intact with a magnificent introduction, to tie the collection together.

And the inhabitants of Story, from the Kings and Queens relaxing in their castles to the peasants toiling in the fields; from to the fey folk flitting about the forests to the trolls lurking under bridges and the giants in the hills, read the anthology, and enjoyed it. And they all lived…

Happily Ever After.

Contents:
Bill Willingham – Introduction
Gregory Maguire – The Seven Stage a Comeback
Genevieve Valentine – And In Their Glad Rags
Howard Waldrop – The Sawing Boys
Michael Cadnum – Bear It Away
Susanna Clarke – Mr. Simonelli or the Fairy Widower
Karen Joy Fowler – The Black Fairy’s Curse
Charles de Lint – My Life As A Bird
Holly Black – The Night Market
Theodora Goss – The Rose in Twelve Petals
Jim C. Hines – The Red Path
Alethea Kontis – Blood and Water
Garth Nix – Hansel’s Eyes
Wil McCarthy – He Died That Day, In Thirty Years
Jane Yolen – Snow In Summer
Michelle West – The Rose Garden
Bruce Sterling – The Little Magic Shop
K. Tempest Bradford – Black Feather
Alan Rodgers – Fifi’s Tail
Kelly Link – The Faery Handbag
Peter Straub – Ashputtle
Leslie What – The Emperor’s New (And Improved) Clothes
Robert J. Howe – Pinocchio’s Diary
Wendy Wheeler – Little Red
Neil Gaiman – The Troll Bridge
Patricia Briggs – The Price
Paul Di Filippo – Ailoura
Jeff VanderMeer – The Farmer’s Cat
Gregory Frost – The Root of The Matter
Susan Wade – Like a Red, Red Rose
Josh Rountree – Chasing America
Nancy Kress – Stalking Beans
Esther Friesner – Big Hair
Robert Coover – The Return of the Dark Children

Trade Paperback
978-1-59780-220-8
496 Pages – $15.99

That’s right — I’m in a ToC with Birthday Boy Jim C. Hines (Happy birthday, Jim!) and, once again, that pesky Neil Gaiman fellow. I’m not complaining at all. I mean, have you seen that cover? It’s GORGEOUS!I am so honored that John asked me to be included.

And if you like, you can preorder it now straight from Nightshade books.

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Book Giveaway at The Qwillery

I love vlogs. I really need to do one someday. Until then, I will be content knowing that I’ve been name-dropped in one. Hooray!

The Qwillery is giving away a copy of Werewolves and Shape Shifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within. This brief vlog shows you the book, tells you a little bit about it, and mentions the contest (and me!)

For details on how to enter (and to comment on the blog post itself — that’s one way to enter and so far there are NO comments yet!) go click on over to The Qwillery site. I know you don’t have a money tree growing in your back yard. It would be silly not to try for a free copy of this gorgeous book.

So what are you waiting for? Scoot!

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The Answer Is, Was, and Always Will Be: “Yes.”

It was all the rage in high school: South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts. As a junior or senior you could audition for their summer program in one discipline: visual art, ballet, drama, singing, writing…there may have been others, but two of those defined who I was. There was only one problem. I had to choose between them.

My junior year, I tried out for drama because Casey was trying out for drama. It was an easy in–after all, I’d already been a TV star. I got my monologues together and had them down pat. Mom and I spent countless hours trying to find the best piece for me to sing — Mom’s favorite was “I Enjoy Being a Girl” from Flower Drum Song, but I ended up settling on a section from Diana’s “Nothing” in A Chorus Line. I remember the looks on their faces when I opened my mouth and belted out that song: actual, literal, astonishment. Simon Cowell had that same look on his face when Susan Boyle opened her mouth.

I didn’t get in.

Casey got in. Even Julie Gottlieb, who could do no wrong, waltzed straight in to her audition in a baggy shirt and jeans and got in. But not me. We all got over our astonishment eventually. I spent the summer writing ridiculously long letters to Casey and sealing them with crayon wax.

My senior year, I tried out for writing. My friends Chris McCormick and Michelle Detorie did too. Now, I’d been writing for just as long as I’d been acting — and more regularly — so this was an even easier in. For the audition piece you could submit ten poems, three short stories, or a section from a novel-in-progress no longer than ten pages. I had all of those but I chose the third. I had the perfect piece–the climax of The Golden Band–where Cricket uses her powers to fulfill the prophecy and put the broken world back together. It had tension and emotion and poetry and everything. It was perfect. So we submitted these pieces with our application. On the day of the “audition” we attended a classroom lecture about writing, and then spoke to the judges after the class.

I knew I wasn’t going to get in after the first five minutes, when the lecturer wrote “SLICE OF LIFE” on the chalkboard. I have an issue with “slice of life” writing. Mainly, I hate it. I never liked reading books where the protagonist is sitting on the front steps contemplating suicide because she’s just started her period and her parents are getting divorced. That’s not my life. My parents have been married my entire existence. They travel the world and have hotels full of people wave goodbye to them with white cloth napkins. They make friends with strangers on airplanes and get invited to weddings at the Vatican. They’ve always brought home trinkets and stories of magic and wonder to go with them. We lived in a giant brick house on a lake that my friends still visit in their dreams. We had wonderful adventures there. This was my life. No matter how you sliced it, it didn’t have depressing crap crawling under the surface like maggots. And even if it did, I wouldn’t tell stories about stuff like that. Telling stories about horrible things just makes horrible things immortal. You tell stories about wonderful things. That’s just the way of the world.

Unfortunately, it’s not the way of Governor’s School. I suffered through the class and waited my turn to finally sit with the judges. It wasn’t much of a conversation. They flipped through the pages of my manuscript, looked down their noses at me and asked, “Is this indicative of all you write?”

“Yes,” was all I had to say. Because it was the truth. And if they didn’t want that, then they didn’t want me.

That night, Michelle called me on the phone–which was a surprise, because we hadn’t really talked that much before. She was so scared about what had happened that day. She just knew she wouldn’t be getting in, and she begged me to give her my acceptance when it came. I calmed her down and told her to be patient. The letters hadn’t even been mailed yet. She could still get in.

Chris and Michelle both ended up getting accepted. I lit a candle and burned my rejection letter from Dr. Virginia Uldrick to ashes in the backyard. The family went to Greece that summer.

Yesterday, I received texts from both the Fairy GodBoyfriend and Leanna Hieber with pictures of John Skipp’s Werewolves and Shape Shifters anthology — it’s on tables at B&N all over the country, apparently (look for it!). As a gift, FGB purchased a copy for me. It was lying on the bed when I got home. It’s a gorgeous book, chunky and beautiful and heavy, with illustrations for every story. For a while I just petted it. (Pick it up at the bookstore. You’ll see what I mean.) And then I flipped it open.

There are thirty-five stories in the book, and I’m the last one. The anchor story to Angela Carter’s entre, right after Chuck Palahniuk and Neil Gaiman (talk about a dream come true). Skipp didn’t tell me what he’d written for my introduction, so it was a surprise when I got there.

“And so, at last, we come to the end of our journey, returning to the woods where it all began. And it is here, amongst the beasts and forest-songs, that I leave you in the lush and lovely company of Alethea Kontis’s ‘Sweetheart Come.'” Skipp goes on to explain a bit about how he fell in love with the story and stole it straight from the Nick Cave anthology Up Jumped the Devil (with permission, of course). “I can think of no better, more beautiful way to bring this book to a close.” And then my first line after that simply bites with clever juxtaposition: “Sasha was fourteen when the villagers threw her to the wolves.”

I couldn’t help myself. I started reading. I read about what happened to Sasha, and her daughter, and her daughter’s daughter, and the birth of the great-great grandson whose adventures begin this particular legend. From his strange and magical family he learned how to tell the difference between good mushrooms and bad, how to play a variety of instruments (but he was best at the violin), and how to sing the sun down from the sky. It is the same farewell song every night, and it is included right there in the story.

Now, these are not lyrics from “Sweetheart Come” — Doug and Kyle were very specific that we be inspired by Nick Cave but not infringe on copyright in any way, shape or form. If you’re familiar with the song, just think of it as a soundtrack to this story. There are several violin solos in the song — close your eyes and you’ll see Bane, playing with all his heart. All the songs published in this story, all the poetry, they are mine. And the minute I read over that first poem, my eyes filled with tears. This is me. Songs and magic and tales told of adventures long ago. These are all mine. This is who I am.

Yes, Virginia. This is indicative of all I write. Sorry it wasn’t your cup of tea.

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Princess Alethea’s Magical Elixir

Princess Alethea’s new reviews are now up at Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show! This month I discuss:

Title: The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
EAN: 9780553807219

I fell in love with Sarah Addison Allen over a crotchety old woman and an apple tree. The woman was named Evanelle, and if she knocked on your door to hand you a thimble at 2 a.m. it was because you needed it . . . or would need it in the near future. The apple tree’s fruit showed the eater the best moment of his or her life, regardless of whether or not that moment had already come to pass. The book was called Garden Spells, and I was a fan for life… (read more)

Title: Absolute Death
Author: Neil Gaiman
EAN: 9781401224639

I’m overstepping my bounds a bit on this one and toeing into my friend and fellow sideshow freak Spencer Ellsworth’s demesne, but when a Miracle Pictograph is oversized, slipcased, bound with fancy artwork, and put on sale for just shy of a Ben Franklin to hardcore collectors, it’s slightly more than just your average graphic novel… (read more)

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