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10 Things You Can Do On My Birthday

Hero by Alethea KontisToday is 1-11, the day we celebrate PRINCESS ALETHEA’S MAGICAL BIRTHDAY EXTRAVAGANZA! I do hope you have marvelous things planned for today. I do!

If you don’t have some marvelous things planned, here are ten suggestions for how I would love you to spend MY FRABJOUS DAY.

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If you have a few extra dollars:
1.) Order some of my books. All the links are here. Already own the complete Princess Alethea library? Consider purchasing some extras for baby showers and children’s birthdays…or for your local school library. (If you order them from here, I will even sign & personalize them for you.)

2.) Are you a fan of Peter David? You should be. Buy a few of his books and help Peter and his family defray the cost medical bills caused by a stroke he had over the holidays.

3.) Are you a fan of Jay Lake? You should be. Click here and find out all the various fun ways you can help Jay cover the cost of genome sequencing for Jay’s cancer.

If you haven’t got a penny to spare:
1.) Write a fabulous five-star review of one (or all) of my books on Amazon, B&N, Audible, or Goodreads.

2.) Go “like” or “tag” a bunch of my books on Amazon, etc.

3.) Go review or like or tag five of your favorite authors.

4.) Go visit the website of five of your favorite authors. If they have blogs, leave a nice comment.

5.) Write a letter today, snail mail or email. Make it personal. Fan letters count.

6.) Call someone you love today.

7.) Take a picture of you or your child with one of my books and I’ll put in in my Family Album.

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Much love to you all — I hope you have a wonderful, shiny day! xox

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Nominate Me! 2011

I published a few short stories this year. Not many, but a few. Really good ones, too.

But as promised, I am only touting one story that I would like to have nominated for awards in 2012. This is The Best Story I Have Ever Written. It has a special place in my heart, and I hope that one day it will find a special place in yours…and your children’s…and your children’s children.

If you have not read it already, “The Unicorn Hunter” is still available online here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/70431258/The-Unicorn-Hunter

Happy Holidays, and Happy Reading! xox

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Designer Shoes

It was written in the stars. Always has been.

I had my tarot told once at the Llewellyn booth at a Publisher’s Showcase. Scott laid all the cards on the table and stared at them a moment with that contemplative face all doctors make. Then he put his palms flat on the table, leaned over to me, and said: “YOU. DO. TOO. MUCH.”

The woman behind me in line whispered, “It’s not good when they yell at you like that, hon.”

The reality of it is: This year I had to face facts that the writing wasn’t paying enough, so I got a day job at a bookstore. Yes, retail on my feet all the time. My feet began to hurt off and on.

Then came Dragon*Con. After that, my left foot began to hurt every day.

Now I have a third job: Subbing for the Loudoun County Afterschool program at 9 middle schools in the area.(I have to sub tonight, as a matter of fact. I’m going to see if the kids will help me bling this blank canvas up a bit.)

My benefits kicked in, the pain in my foot became a pain in my neck, and I finally went to the Urgent Care down the strip mall from the bookstore. (It’s amazing how much more one will actually consider going to the doctor if the doctor is exceptionally convenient.) Urgent Care sent me to a podiatrist. The podiatrist gave me this and sent me to have a few x-rays.

“People will take you seriously now,” he said as he showed me how to strap myself in.

I need to wear this 24-hours a day (except when showering) for 2 whole weeks. And while people will definitely take me seriously, I do need a better story to tell. Stunt riding on horseback? Saved a baby from a runaway train? Foiled an attempted mugging?

“I do too much” just sounds like…well…not enough.

Any ideas?

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Princess Me?

Confession: I am aware of the infamous Jonathan Coulton, but I do not actually know or own any of his songs. Not because I don’t want to — just because I haven’t gotten around to it.  So when my brand-new friend Jennifer from Capclave posted on my wall that Coulton’s song “The Princess Who Saved Herself” reminded her of me, I looked it up on YouTube. And I found the most fabulous thing.

Ms. Mayo and Ms. Kari’s first grade class was studying fairy tales. So they illustrated the lyrics to the song, and made them into THIS INCREDIBLY BRILLIANT VIDEO.

I should really look into the works of this talented Jonathan Coulton person. Maybe in November when I have some time…

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I Cried This Morning

There are things we don’t blog about.

Me, I don’t blog about the sad things, the stressful things, and the things that upset me. Doing so usually makes me sadder, upsetter, and more stressed out…and lord knows you guys have enough of that in your own lives. You know what those things are. I don’t have to go over them for you.

For a while, not too long ago, I cried every day. About a month before I left Tennessee, and for at least two months after, I cried every single day. There was fear in there, and regret, and hurt…but I couldn’t talk about any of those things for all our sakes. I had done the brave thing–cut ties and jumped off the flying trapeze with no net–and I had to prove to the world (and myself) that everything was sunshine and puppy dogs. I lived in front of the world, as the song says. Showing my weak side was just not an option.

When I was back in TN last summer, a very dear friend told me he hadn’t been in touch because he’d (and I’m paraphrasing) gotten upset over all my optimism. I’d made it sound like leaving was the best thing I’d ever done…and in some ways it was…but it was the hardest thing I’d ever done, too. So many people told me I was their inspiration and I couldn’t disappoint them. I had to be an inspiration for myself, too.

If we are what we Tweet, then I’m okay if everyone thinks I’m always sunshine and puppy dogs. But deep in your heart you know that’s not true all the time. Be realistic. That’s not true for anyone.

I cried this morning for a lot of the regular reasons: fear, hurt, regret. I cried because there are horrible people in this world who don’t get what they deserve. I cried because there are good people in this world who don’t get what they deserve either. I cried because I don’t feel like I work hard enough. I cried because my boyfriend is in pain and doctors are useless. I cried because it was 6:30 a.m. and I hadn’t had breakfast yet. I cried because we don’t have enough closet space. I cried for…you know…the usual reasons.

And then I got up, made lunch for everyone, checked my email, went to the gym, and ran five miles. Because I’m awesome. Because the clouds are gone today and I can hear the dogs barking. Today I will challenge myself to be better and work harder. And tomorrow, well…

…tomorrow is another day.

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The Car Window Epiphany

It was a gorgeous day, too gorgeous to experience in the confines of a car. I rolled the window down part way…and then rethought my decision after immediately experiencing the wind and the noise that resulted. Defeated, I rolled the window back up…and learned something new.

Fairy GodBoyfriend: Did you fart?

Princess: Excuse me?

FGB: Did you fart?

Princess: No. Why?

FGB: You rolled the window down and back up again. That’s what guys do when they fart in a car.

Princess: (explodes into laughter)

You know, I’ve seen people roll car windows up and down my whole life, and it has never occurred to me that there was a common cause. What an innocent little princess I am. I’m not sure I ever gave much thought as to a cause at all. Now, every time someone rolls down a window, I’m going to be suspect.

I do love these little epiphanies.

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The Birthday Dilemma

Okay, guys. I need your help on this one.

My sister and I were once discussing our favorite numbers. My mother pondered aloud what her own favorite number might be. Without missing a beat, my sister and I immediately spouted “35.” It’s always been 35 with my mother. “I have told you 35 times to empty that dishwasher” or “Casey has called about 35,000 times. Will you please tell her what you’re doing tonight?” The funny thing was, until that moment, she’d never noticed. Now it’s a big family joke.

My birthday is in less than a month — 1-11-2011, as a matter of fact. Any guess how old I’ll be? You got it. My mother’s favorite number.

I remember the morning I had that epiphany — that my 1-11-11 birthday would be my 35th. I’ve always known it was going to be a big deal…I just didn’t know what I was going to do. Plan a giant party? Host my own mini convention? Fly to London? Join the circus? So many options…

And now here we are in December 2010. A year ago I quit my job and moved to a different state. I’ve spent the time living as a full-time writer: which means I’m now sharing a tiny apartment with 3 lovely people, I’m in lots of happy debt while I wait on that lovely novel advance, and the Fairy GodBoyfriend’s having all those horrible troubles with his lovely hands that so far every single doctor has given up on. (And that’s on top of all the other dramas of life we don’t blog about.) Nevermind the fact that 1-11-11 is a TUESDAY. Who has a giant party on a Tuesday?

It’s really a super inconvenient time. BUT IT’S A REALLY BIG DEAL. Sure, I could celebrate my birthday at a more convenient time, but then the whole point of 1-11-11 is kind of missed.If I don’t make something awesome happen that day, I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life. And that’s the truth.

Which is why I’m asking for your help.

Leanna and I talked a lot about this while I was up in NY for the SFWA soiree. The best idea we came up with was to spread the word and have everyone I know post a picture of themselves wearing a tiara that day in honor of The Princess’s 1-11-11, 35th Birthday.

What do you think? Is this a good idea? It’s cheap and easy and totally doable and gives everyone a free blog topic that day. Do you think you, as my friends, would participate? Got any better ideas? Help!

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Email and Thanks

In this, the season of Thanksgiving (in the US), let us give thanks to King Fabulous WebMaster Phillip I, who has fixeth the website email form.

I notified him of the problem and he wrote me back immediately, telling me that he had discovered what was wrong. As I am Princess Technoidiot, what I gathered from his missive was: “Lalalalalala cache lalalalalalalalala fixed now“–much in the way of Ginger, the dog from The Far Side.

Thank you, my dearest Phillip, you are a wonder. Comme toujours.

Now, LET THE EMAILING COMMENCE!!

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Smile Therapy

Having a big sister who married into the Movie Moghul family of Burlington, Vermont means that I’ve had almost unlimited access to free movie posters for the last thirty years. They covered my room growing up — all over my walls (Die Hard II, Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade) and, much to my mother’s chagrin, all over my ceiling. I saw them every time I laid back to dream: Crybaby, Sidekicks (RIP Jonathan Brandis), Enemies A Love Story, Pure Luck, Twins, and Taking Care of Business. I hadn’t actually seen all of the films, but I loved the poster art. What drew me to Taking Care of Business was the tagline: You are who you pretend to be. It just had this amazing ring of truth about it.

In my twenties, after I moved to Tennessee, I started watching that show Ally McBeal, where Peter MacNicol’s character introduced the concept of “Smile Therapy.” It’s a real thing — studies have shown that if you force yourself to stand up straight and smile like an idiot, you’ll actually feel happier. Happy is as happy does, essentially. MacNicol had great fun with this on the show…but who says life can’t imitate art?

When I started girling-up — wearing dresses and makeup and acting the princess that I am today — I first thought about it as a costume. It was easier that way. I pretended going to work was like going to a convention — something I did all the time. I never hesitated a moment to walk out in four-inch corset boots or full Neil-Gaiman’s-Death makeup…how different was a skirt and some eyeliner?

I remember the first time I effectively took Smile Therapy on the road — it was the very first Hypericon. I was in the throes of exhaustion and only days from taking myself to the doctor (a rare occurrence, to be sure). In my bag I brought two sets of clothes: one set to wear if I just felt more horrible than horrible, and one set if I decided to be cute and act the part.

The jeans and t-shirts never saw the light of day, and I had one of the most memorable weekends of my life.

Several years later, at the same convention, I remember riding down to the lobby in the elevator on Sunday morning in my maroon halter-top dress and having someone ask me where I found the energy to be so consistently cute and amazing. That’s not to say that I never crashed — oh, I did and still do (especially after Dragon*Con) — but I just put on the attitude with the outfit. Call it Method Acting or Smile Therapy or whatever you will…it certainly does the job.

This all occurred to me last night, at part one-of-two of the Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers concert last night. (Last night they performed the Glassjaw Boxer album; tonight is The Bear.) Happily, one of my favorite songs is on Glassjaw Boxer — it’s called “In Front Of The World.” Stephen wrote the song for his little brother before he went off to college to impart some worldly wisdom (which, Stephen told us last night, his brother summarily ignored). The song starts out:

Well, it’s hard to live in front of the world.
There’s only so much that you can pretend.
Write down what it is you’re thinking.
Take each day as it comes.
You never know what’s hanging ‘round the bend…

I’ve been feeling a bit in the doldrums lately — I’ve had nothing but major changes in my life for almost nine months now, and the hits still keep on coming. Nothing particularly impossible, and plenty to look forward to, but every step has been pretty darned life-altering. Some days I feel like I’m drowning in a state of exhaustion from which I’ll never surface. Like last night, for instance. I broke out the big guns — curled hair, cute dress, Alice in Wonderland shoes. I ignored the rude people behind us who talked to their kids through most of the show (thank you for leaving before the encores), and when we were allowed to get up out of our seats and dance, I be-bopped my little heart out and sang (when I knew the words) with my Fairy Goddaughters until my voice got husky.

I felt cute and wonderful (and very warm) all night long, and I had a great time. But when Stephen sang the first verse of that song, the pathetic little me underneath all the Smile Armor perked her ears up and listened. It is hard to live in front of the world and, coincidentally, I keep an ongoing list of things I need to do beside me at all times. The only thing keeping me from marking things off that list is me (and timing the DMV so I don’t have to renew my car tags until August).

If I can put on the smile and go to a concert, I can certainly wake up in the morning, put on that same smile, and get my ass to work. I’m not one of those folks who “needs to be inspired” or “needs to find my Muse” — the Muse is in the momentum. But nothing started is nothing finished, and the less I get finished, the longer this pseudo-depression might last. You guys know me enough to know I’m not a big fan of that apathetic crap. I’m more of a “take each day as it comes” kind of girl. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.

Tomorrow there’s a Kontis-Mitchell family reunion (the Greek side). I haven’t been to one of our reunions (when they’ve occurred) in five or six years. I now live close enough to attend. It’s been so long since I’ve lived so close to family…I miss them all immensely. I can’t wait to see them all. But that’s tomorrow. For now, the sun’s rising, and today has come. We’ll take this one first. Happy Friday to you all. Smiles on, everybody!

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One Guy Can’t Ruin It For Everybody

I have seen a couple of double rainbows in my life, during very important times in my life. It’s one of those signs I feel the universe gives me to remind me that it hasn’t lost track of me — I’m on the right path, doing exactly what I’m supposed to do with my life.

And then some dorky guy posted a three minute cheesegasm to YouTube that everyone made fun of and turned this beautiful majestic freak of nature into a joke. I’m not even going to link to it. If you haven’t seen it and want to find it, you will.

Double rainbows remain awesome and magical to me. Especially after coming back from an awesome and magical convention like Necon, to the awesome and magical place where I’m supposed to be.

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