I am working on behalf of SCBWI in the mid-Atlantic Region to collect traditionally published picture books for the Sandy Hill Elementary School Book Drive. If you have any picture books to donate, please send me an email (akontis at gmail) and I'll give you the address where you can send them. Thank you all in advance...and HAPPY NEW YEAR!
(PS -- yes, you are welcome to purchase new books from Amazon and have them shipped straight to the Mid-Atlantic coordinator, but that person is not me. Drop me a line and I'll get you her address.)
Alethea Kontis – author of “Enchanted” (recently listed on Kirkus Reviews among the “Best Teen Books of 2012“), the award-winning “Alpha-Oops” series, and so much more – is a passionate and informed storyteller. Her diverse background includes, among other things, a love and respect for the theater and of the rich heritage of folklore and fairy tales, both of which informs her work and infuses it with authenticity and magic. Justin Macumber (co-host and founder of the Dead Robots’ Society podcast) joins me in a rousing 20(ish) minutes as Alethea waxes rhapsodic on the allure of fairy tales, who she writes for, her revision and editing process, and much more. The Fairy Queen is in the house people… woot! (and come back for more writerly goodness in Alethea’s Workshop Episode airing Christmas Day! It’s our present to you.)
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN.
Happy Yule, everyone! xox
On Saturday night, Dark-Hunter posse member Maggie Mae Short was watching fireworks. She posted about it on Facebook. Apparently, her town had a bunch left over from the 4th of July, so they were setting them off in honor of some local event. She looked out her window, was surprised by a professional light show in rainbow colors, and shared that magical moment with us.
This morning I woke to find friends posting that Maggie Mae was gone.
I hope to be able to say a little something about this before the Hour With Sherrilyn Kenyon at Dragon*Con next Friday, but we don't always have that lovely block of time beforehand in which I can put on an impromptu Princess Alethea Preshow, so I wanted to make sure I said this here.
It is still strange to me when one of my friends passes away, but it is no longer strange for me to mourn someone I barely (or never) knew in person, but with whom I conversed online almost daily.
Being a writer is odd, in that you constantly wobble back and forth over the line from infamy to obscurity (until you're someone like Sherri or J.K. Rowling). I decided back when my friend Andre Norton passed away that I would always strive to make as many friends as possible, even if that meant crying like my heart was broken every time one left. It was worth it. It's always worth it. That was the origin of that thing I always say: Strangers are just best friends I haven't met yet.
Nobody says that authors and fans can't be friends. I'm a person. You're a person. We met because we like the same things. Seriously--I still go to Sherrilyn Kenyon book signings because they are like three-hour cocktail parties during which I meet the most fun people. I keep in touch with those people. They make me laugh with the things they say, and they stop by to leave a hug when I'm feeling down. When I feel passionate about something, they're part of the conversation. We hang out together at conventions. Sometimes we even play Words With Friends at 2am.
Some of the Dark-Hunter fans are closer to me than members of my own family. They cheer me on and inspire me from every corner of this globe. Some are new (Britany) and some are old (Lisa). Some I met simply because they recognized me and screamed "Oh my god, I love you!" in a crowded food court full of people (Sammi). Some I met because they simply showed up, with their red hair and lovely accents (Bernadette). Some I got to know because we just kept meeting at Dark-Hunter signings from the beginning of time (Marie, Kat, Dee, Afifa, Penny, Judy, Eddie...the list goes on). We make the effort to stay in touch.
Sometimes, that's all friendship is.
I can't tell you how many people in my life have said to me, "Remember me when you're famous!" and then never spoken to me again. I do remember those people. I have nightmares about them. We were closer than sisters and we don't talk anymore. I send emails and texts and get nothing in return. It's incredibly sad. People will come into your life and leave it because they choose to. There's nothing you can do about that.
But it makes us treasure the people who DO make the effort even more.
Maggie Mae was always part of my global conversation. She was pleasant and shiny (and a breath of fresh air when some people who post comments have no social skills). I am sad that she will never know what seeing her there all the time meant to me.
I know I'm not great about being on the internet. I try to comment when I can--it's like the luck of the draw if something comes across my news feed in the ten minutes I sign online to see if there are any old-world synonyms for the word "gnome." But I would like everyone who posts on my FB wall, and on my blog, and who messages me on Twitter to know that I see you there. I'm listening. I'm smiling, or laughing, or following a link you just sent me. I appreciate the hell out of you, you mean the world to me, and--above all--I consider you a friend.
It really is just that easy.
I will miss you, Maggie Mae, and I will think of your smiling face the next time my night sky lights up with pretty colors. Thank you for being my friend. xox
And there was much rejoicing.
Alethea Kontis, New York Times bestselling co-author of Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter Companion and bestselling author of the AlphaOops! series of picture books, saw her debut novel, Enchanted, launch early this May and instantly garner the coveted Gelett Burgess Children's Book Award. Hot on the heels of Enchanted's breakout success, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt offered Kontis a nice, two-book deal to further the fairy tale adventures of the Woodcutter sisters. The books, tentatively entitled Hero and Beloved, will follow the lives of sisters Saturday and Friday, respectively. HMH plans to release the titles in the fall of 2013 and 2014.
Ideally, of course, there will be seven book in the series, one about each sister. PLEASE KEEP BUYING THEM SO I CAN STAY IN PRINT!! xox
I finished Maureen Johnson’s The Last Little Blue Envelope this morning at the bookstore. The premise of the book is this: Virginia (the main character) spent all last summer hopping around Europe (starting in England), following the instructions in thirteen little blue envelopes her artistic Aunt Peg left her before she died of cancer. Only in Greece, before she had a chance to read letter number thirteen, her backpack was stolen. This story begins when she is contacted by Oliver, a boy in England who somehow found the letters and wants to get them back to her. Now, Ginny finally has the chance to read (and comply with) that last little blue envelope.
Ironically, the bookstore closed last night when I was on the last chapter. I thought to myself, “Oh, I have to open first thing in the morning. I won’t lug this book all the way home just for one chapter. I’ll just finish it in the morning when I have time.”
Which led to me being annoyed all night. I even had dreams about how the book might have almost ended. Coupled with a migraine and insomnia, this is not something I’d recommend to any of you in the future. But I will tell you–I now have an inking of how Virginia felt when she couldn’t get her hands on that little blue letter.
Overall, I found The Last Little Blue Envelope highly enjoyable. I’m not jumping up and down saying it was the best book I’ve ever read, but it was a lot of fun, and I’ll go see when they make it into a movie. (Isn’t that always the way these days?) While the writing for the most part was concise and moved the story along (a trait that many authors are forgetting–thank you, Maureen), there were a couple of lines that jumped out at me:
“Painting, writing. Both just stains on the page.”
“We have the mad one here. Strange things seem to find her. She’s like a party in your pocket.”
Books like this make me want to do a complete 180 and leave fairyland to write contemporary YA…but I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. We’ll see. Right now, I’ll just be glad that I have John Green and Maureen Johnson to keep me occupied.
And, goodness, how reading this book made me miss England. Maureen is there right now (I stalk her on Twitter), and I am excessively jealous. Yes, I am very glad I didn’t marry that lying, cheating citizen of the United Kingdom I was engaged to that one time, but a part of me is still sad that I had to lose a country in the breakup. I miss my England, with its cream tea and its traffic circles that go clockwise. I still have friends there, and a promise of a football game and Guy Fawkes Day…and Dulles airport is RIGHT HERE and I’m so incredibly tempted sometimes to break my bank and hop over the pond just to wave and play hopscotch on the cobblestones and throw a penny in Trafalgar Square fountain and fly right back home again.
But, unlike that Virginia, I do not have thirteen blue excuses and a tidy little bank account. So for the meantime, I will stay here in this Virginia and enjoy the bookstore’s weighty population of British customers, and dream.
Assuming I can sleep tonight.
For those of you who don’t know why, here it is: “Topping the 2011 nominees with 5 nominations is Return of the Dapper Men, a fantasy hardcover by writer Jim McCann and artist Janet Lee, published by Archaia. It has nods for Best Publication for Teens, Best Graphic Album–New, Best Writer, Best Artist, and Best Publication Design.”
For once in my life, I am seriously bummed that I can’t be at SDCC this year. Not for the crowds or the swag or the “Oh my gosh, I met ___ in line for the bathroom!”, but because of this awards ceremony.
I was there with a cadre of Codexians when my dear Mary Robinette Kowal won the John W. Campbell Award, and I was similarly on my feet applauding and cheering when Eric James Stone walked up to receive his Nebula earlier this summer. Janet and Jim know that I will be there in spirit, with my glittery dress and tiara on, hands red from clapping and voice sore from yelling over and over.
It is FIVE AWARDS, after all.
GO TEAM DAPPER MEN!
I’ve always been proud of my friends, long before we were US. I knew we were all destined for greatness, not just me, like the psychics had said. We were going to be doctors and lawyers and surgeons and politicians and artists, and we were going to rule the world. Our ovens just hadn’t preheated yet.
Drew Bates and I didn’t know each other very well back in middle school, but I think we went on a couple ALERT trips together, and we had a few really good friends in common. We talk a lot more now than we ever did. Thanks to Facebook, I discovered that we share the same birthday. (Something about us 1-11 babies…) I also discovered that in 2007, Drew was in a car wreck that left him a quadriplegic. Has that stopped him from making things happen? Of course not. Because we are amazing, and we always have been.
Earlier this year, Drew took advantage of the Kickstarter program to pitch his animated series REDNECK NINJAS to Hollywood. He ended up getting far more than the $8000 he’d planned for (Go, Drew!) and then used the money to work up the art and animation necessary. Here’s the pilot teaser for your watching enjoyment:
Kickstarter has this to say about Drew:
Drew Bates was a dreamer, always with his head in the clouds. His friends and family described him as…Unique. Then one day, he discovered he could make a really cool robot voice by speaking into his drinking cup. With sounds bellowing in his ears, he thought, “I want to do this everyday.” He watched countless science fiction movies, and cartoons, played video games, read Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and National Geographic, until he found a sci-fi book at a school book-fair about robots.
Drew bought that book, devouring its content. He took it to school, showing it to everyone that would look. Alas, since most 5th graders weren’t into it, he tried sharing it with his teachers; only his English teacher responded. “Do a book report about it,” she boringly replied. So he set out to writing his report, and when he got to the end, he realized that it wasn’t enough. After collecting his thoughts, he searched the house for supplies, and went to his father’s garage possessed, like a hell-bent mad-scientist in his laboratory. Using a cardboard box, a shoe-box, wood strips, coat-hanger wire, wooden dowels, wagon wheels, Plexiglas, nuts, bolts, nails, silver and red spray paint, even a light-switch, bulb and receptacle, he created a robot. Then using a tape-cassette recorder, he performed his book report using his robot voice, and ad-libbing “if you don’t give Drew an A, I, the robot, will destroy you.”
Drew founded UniquePublications LLC in 2006 to create spec animation concepts. Not your average concepts, but…Unique.
All I can add is that Drew is a fabulously talented and amazing person, and I am so glad that I’ve been able to get to know him better since we’ve graduated. I am incredibly proud of him and can’t support him enough.
To find out more about Drew and his projects, visit the UniquePublicationsLLC website. For updates on Redneck Ninjas specifically, check out the Kickstarter page. You can also friend Drew on Facebook (but be quick about it — he has more friends than *I* do).
To learn more about the Quad Fund (a not-for-profit fund to help those with a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) or other disability) visit Drew’s information page here.
If anyone needs a reason why I love Eddie, this is tops on the list.
(The promo is for Sherrilyn Kenyon’s YA books, if you’re not already familiar with them.)
New reviews are up at Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show!
I absolutely loved reading this book. For me, Rejiggering the Thingamajig wasn’t just a collection of brilliant stories by an author so funny and clever it makes me angry sometimes, it was a trip down memory lane. I’ve been a fan of Eric James Stone’s since Day One, literally. As you’ll discover in his afterword to “Betrayer of Trees,” I sat across from Eric during Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp when he presented his first draft of this story . . . and okay, I did threaten to slap his characters. But what everyone likes to forget is that I began my critique with, “This was about magic and trees, so you had me at hello.” And then came the infamous “But . . .”
However, ladies and gentlemen, please let the record show that Eric James Stone had me at hello. (Read more…)
I found The Kitchen Daughter by chance, on a shelf in the bookstore. I was scanning the fiction section as opposed to the sci-fi & fantasy corner, since I was in the mood for something a little more mainstream, a little more . . . magical realism. I honestly had no idea what was out there, but this book, face out, caught my eye after only about thirty seconds of looking. I had just ordered a book for a man’s wife that morning called The Kitchen House, and the coincidence of the title made me pick this one up. When I read the inside dust jacket, I knew it was exactly the book for me.
The best way to describe Jael McHenry’s debut novel is that it’s a cross between Sarah Addison Allen’s subtle magic fiction and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. (Read more…)