Tags: emerald city

Snow White

Nebula Princess

The Prez & The Princess

Juggling is a precious talent. It’s so much fun to see so many things flying in the air over your head. You feel so giddy when they’re up there, so proud of yourself that you have come so far and are able to do so much. In that moment, you’re on top of the world.

God have mercy on your soul if you ever fall behind.

What with pushing myself to the edge and trying to be everything (and almost succeeding) I needed some time to recover that didn’t include new jobs and sick children and dusty to-do lists…but I don’t get to choose that part. Instead, I write notes to myself on the iPhone while I’m half-blind on the elliptical machine in the morning and I keep everyone hydrated and full of vitamins and I wash my new apron and stay until midnight to unload the truck if that’s what needs to be done. And if I don’t get to write about this past Nebula Awards weekend until Thursday (while I’m supposed to be recording another Fairy Tale Theatre podcast), that doesn’t make what happened there any less special.

I have this saying — I don’t remember when I came up with it, or to whom I said it first, but I’ve been saying it for a few months now: Strangers are just best friends I haven’t met yet. I do, in my heart, honestly believe that each one of us is special. Optimistic and crazy, oh yes, I am fully aware. But as a princess, that’s my prerogative.

It’s so easy to turn away from the stranger on the train, so easy to scream at the idiot driver in the car that just cut you off. We know fully well that inside each sack of flesh we encounter is a living, breathing soul full of life and love and complex beauty…and yet we do it anyway. It’s so much easier ignoring all that. It’s so much easier not to know. It’s so much easier managing a small group of friends. It’s so much easier to juggle fewer flaming batons. It’s so much more forgiving for someone with a lengthy, never-ending to-do list.

But I made a choice when Andre Norton died. When I got home Sunday night, I pulled Beauty & Dynamite off the shelf and read that essay again in the twilight to remind myself of the exact words.  I love having friends. I want as many as my heart can hold. I want them all. Even if it means that eventually and painfully I’ll have to lose every single one. The minutes and hours and years on the roller coaster of happiness and sadness with them are worth every second of gray numbness.’Cause when I get to heaven, I want there to be a heck of a lot more than five people waiting.

Friends are worth all the additional balls you have to juggle, and every bullet point on a never-ending to-do list.

Nebula nominee Barry Deutsch appropriately summed up the Nebula Weekend by saying that the convention was a very small group of people with a much higher ratio of really cool folks to the socially awkward off-putting variety. With that in mind, I took the opportunity to step way out of my box and introduce myself to people I didn’t know. I roomed the first night with a friend and a stranger. I threw myself into the one workshop I signed up for and the two that I audited. I sat down next to people I didn’t know and chatted with them until we stood up as friends. I was sure to gush compliments when compliments were due and asked to lend a hand if one was needed. I stayed up until way past my bedtime and I was babbling and incoherent. I took pictures whenever I remembered that I had a camera. And I wore the tiara, because Mary Rodgers reminded me that I wouldn’t be the same without it. She was right.

I would list all the new and wonderful friends I met this weekend, but I won’t — first, out of fear of forgetting someone, and second, because I need to email them all or add them on Twitter or tag them on Facebook, and I’ve spent far too much time on this blog post already. Suffice it to say that I have no idea why Kate Baker and I hadn’t met before, but I’m awfully glad we finally did. Michael Whelan is a fabulously nice guy, and far more approachable than I ever imagined. MK Hobson can seriously rock a dress, and Rachel Swirsky’s gorgeous jewelry brings out my dragonlike tendencies. Amal El-Mohtar can bring the shiny with me any day. Walter Cuirle needs to host his own radio show. Mike Zipser asks great questions. Bud Sparhawk tells great stories. Myke Cole is very good for my ego. Emily Whitten is a godsend from Geek Heaven. John Grace has great taste in comics, Eric Fullilove has great taste in t-shirts, and Shannon Rampe and Trodayne Northern have  impeccable taste in hats. Janice Shoults is a woman after my own heart. Kathy Morrow has great patience. Peggy Rae Sapienza and Bill Lawhorn can do anything, I am sure of it.

My Codex Homies

Possibly even more fun than making new friends was seeing the old ones–most especially, the Codex Writers. Every year that goes by I am so happy that the handful of us little kids with big ideas came up with that place. They are the family that gets reunited whenever there’s an event like this…even when we’ve never met in person. We still know each other. We have that much more in common. We can cheer like hell when one of us walks away with an award…and then stand up and do it all over again when one of us walks away with the next one, too.

Eric, I am so freaking proud of you. I’m still busting at the seams. When you shared your precious bag of Reese’s Sticks with me while my left leg was going numb in that hard plastic chair at Orson Scott Card’s boot camp–even after I’d threatened to slap your characters–who knew that we would be here right now? Who knew how far we would go? Who knows how far yet we still can? I hope that every time you see that shiny award you remember what it felt like…but right on the heels I hope is the memory of sitting at that lunch table with me and Scott Roberts while we each confessed to the fact that we were still freaking out inside at random intervals to the theme of “Holy crap, that’s Orson Scott Card right there!”

For me, watching Eric walk on stage and accept the Nebula Award this weekend was second only to watching Mary Robinette Kowal accept the John W. Campbell Award. It is so hard to believe that these people I love so dearly were strangers to me once. I can hardly remember a time before the Reese’s Sticks and the keys locked in the car running in my driveway (that was Mary). I know it’s true, though. We might have passed in an airport sometime in those first couple of decades, or waited in the same line at the World’s Fair. Back in those days, we were just best friends that hadn’t met yet.

Imagine what life would be like if we’d realized it then.

Originally published at AletheaKontis.com. You can comment here or there.

Snow White

Nebula Weekend Mass Booksigning

Not counting last weekend’s mass WRW signing at Turn the Page in Maryland (because I wasn’t officially on the list), next weekend will be my very first booksigning in the DC area. Hooray!

It’s a giant mass booksigning that the SFWA hosts every year during the Nebula Awards Weekend, wherever that happens to be. This year it’s:

Friday, May 20, 2011
5:30 – 7:00pm

Washington Hilton
1919 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, District of Columbia
USA 20009
Tel: 202-483-3000

I’ve never done the Nebulas before, so I have no idea how it works. Like all signings, I’m guessing it’s best if you have your own books and bring them with you. I’ll have a hard enough time hoofing my suitcase through the Metro and down the streets of DC, which means I won’t have any books to sell you. But I will probably bring bookmarks and a few buttons, so you won’t leave *too* empty-handed.

Other authors/editors at the signing will be:

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Christopher Barzak
  • J. Kathleen Cheney
  • Aliette de Bodard
  • Tom Doyle
  • Scott Edelman
  • Timons Esaias
  • Cynthia Felice
  • Andrew Fox
  • Kerry Frey
  • Laura Anne Gilman
  • Anne Groell
  • Joe Haldeman
  • Peter Heck
  • Vylar Kaftan
  • JohnKessel
  • Alethea Kontis
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Geoffrey A.Landis
  • Allen Lewis
  • Tom Lewis
  • Lee Martindale
  • James Morrow
  • Catherine Petrini
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Lawrence Schoen
  • Lansing Sexton
  • Bud Sparhawk
  • Allen Steele
  • Eric James Stone
  • Michael Sullivan
  • Robin Sullivan
  • Michael Swanwick
  • Brandie Tarvin
  • Mary Turzillo
  • Michael Whelan
  • Alexander Whitaker
  • Connie Willis

If you’re in the DC area that day, please drop by and say hello!

Originally published at AletheaKontis.com. You can comment here or there.

Snow White

In the Company of Writers — Part One

I woke up my car this morning.

It’s unique to those of is seasoned conventionistas, that grumbly sound your vehicle makes when you turn the key and politely ask it to dust off the cobwebs and rub the three-day sleep out of its gears. It’s a beautiful sound, full of shiny memories and the anticipation of seeing my own shower, my own bed, and my beloved’s face again.

I’ve been attending conventions since 1996. A decade and a half of seeing new places, shaking hands with my heroes, and making friends from all over the planet. I pretty much know what to expect of the continental breakfast, the bathroom amenities (Douglas Adams Rule: always bring a towel), and the occasional panel or meeting or talk. I’ve donated my fair share to book swaps and raffles and freebie tables worldwide. My head, feet, and stomach have withstood the most horrible of tortures, but never so heinous that I’m not raring to pull up my bootstraps and pin down my tiara and jump into the breach all over again.

And yet, all conventions and conferences are not the same. Like people, each one is special, from place to place and year to year. From the coordinators and the consuites to the guests and the opportunities, each is a bright star in the sky of an author’s life.

In many ways, this weekend’s Washington Romance Writers retreat was the most special of all.

[More tomorrow, when I've had a little sleep...xox]


Originally published at AletheaKontis.com. You can comment here or there.

Snow White

Shopgirls and GodDaughters

For those of you who might have missed it on Twitter or Facebook — yes, I did get a part time job working in a clothing store. I won’t mention which one (mostly since they’re not paying me to advertise on my site), so I’ll just refer to it as “Le Shoppe.” And in it, I am the Shopgirl.

Tonight was my first night on the job, and we were slammed. My boss just threw me right in the deep end. Wasn’t much I could do but paddle around and ask people if they needed help I didn’t know how to give. But I asked anyway. I smiled and laughed and listened to stories and handed guests off to more experienced employees than me. I folded a LOT of clothes. I broke a sweat. I had a good time. And next time, I’ll know a little bit more. Every time will be a little less daunting.

So I got home from work to a dark house — everyone was ready for bed, it seemed — but the Fairy GodDaughters trickled down the stairs while I was making some dinner to tell me about their days. Some good things, some bad things, more bad things, some cleaning, some homework, and some more cleaning (which they’re doing now…at 10:15pm).

And while I was having my leftover taco, I was informed that tomorrow is one of those “Take Your Kid to Work” days. Apparently, here in my Emerald City, it’s totally okay for your kids to skip school, so long as they tag along to a parental unit’s place of employment. And some places of employment have kid-friendly days…it’s a whole big celebratory thing. (Do you guys have this where you live?)

So guess which work the Fairy Goddaughters chose to go to tomorrow?


That’s right, kiddies…I get TWO — count ‘em, TWO — personal assistants tomorrow. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I have a LIST. Oh, yes, do I have a list. Of things they can actually do, that I desperately need help with. And we get to do them all before I leave for the retreat on Friday! Huzzah!

As a bonus — and to properly get the “Writing Lifestyle Experience” — I’ve considered inviting them to the Sherrilyn Kenyon booksigning in Arlington at 6pm tomorrow. That way they get the full effect, right? What do you guys think?

Oh…goodie of all goodies!! I can’t WAIT.


Originally published at AletheaKontis.com. You can comment here or there.

Snow White

Gratuitous Dog Picture

I’m mentally composing a nice long blog about comma use in writing…but I just realized it’s now lunchtime and I still have a bunch of errands to run. So, to tide you over until later, here’s a happy gratuitous picture of Lucky & Ginger.

I’m so glad THEY are getting some sleep. *grumble* I swear, by the time I get used to them being here, they’ll be gone. Pooh.

Originally published at AletheaKontis.com. You can comment here or there.

Snow White


If a writer plans to include a significant other in her life, this person needs to understand a LOT. It helps if this person is an avid reader. It helps if this person already has friends who are crazy, emotional, melodramatic, workaholic writers. It helps if this person is internet or technologically savvy. It helps if this person is perfectly okay being in the same room while the person they love is on a completely different planet. It helps if this person is realistic and sane and patient, if only when you need them to be.

The Fairy GodBoyfriend is all these things. He is my Touchstone.

Last night, after the Fairy Gooddaughters went to bed, I told FGB that we needed to talk. He was probably scared to death. Which he really shouldn’t be, because by now he should know that my very serious discussion are usually about things like “Which pancake recipe would go best with blueberries?” or “Should I put the plants outside before we go to your parents’ for the weekend?” But last night I had a dilemma, and I needed his help.

You guys know I have this huge list of things to do. I love my lists. I always have a list. If I ever find myself idle, I just go back and refer to the list. There is *always* something to do. I am never bored. But the list I’m working on now seems to have 5 or 6 things on it that all seem like Very Important Things to Do. The problem with all of those Very Important Things to Do is that one is not quite sure where to start digging first. So I laid them all out for him and asked him his thoughts on what my priorities should be.

Not only did he have an answer, he had a very good reason for that answer, and I went to bed with a plan of attack for the next day. I like having plans. Almost as much as I like having lists.

Thanks, sweetie, for being my tether back down to earth.

Now if you all will excuse me, I have a shower and a load of work to do today. FGB’s going to be checking in on me soon expecting a progress report. Have a good Monday!

Originally published at AletheaKontis.com. You can comment here or there.

Snow White

The Princess Goes to Court

Last month I was taking the Fairy GodBoyfriend to pick up his car from the shop and was pulled over. The officer wrote me up for not having a Virginia inspection sticker. He gave me no time to talk, so when he got back to the car (with my ticket), I explained that I had a still-valid PA inspection sticker, which I had asked about at the DMV, and the DMV told me I didn’t need one for Virginia. I told the officer I was pissed (not at him) and wanted to give the ticket to the DMV because I was *trying* to be a good citizen and get everything paid and done and registered in a timely fashion and now I had to go through THIS.

Officer C implied that the DMV folks were uninformed. He drew stars on my ticket and told me to find him before court on the date I was to appear, and show him the pink slip verifying I had gotten my car registered in VA. He told me to say to the judge exactly what I’d just said to him, and it would probably be dismissed. He also warned me to show up early, since I’d have to go through security.

Today was my court date. As instructed, I showed up about an hour early. The doors opened at 9am. My appearance was scheduled for 9:30, but Officer C was the last one on the docket. I sat behind him, pretty sure I recognized him. My mouth said, “Officer C?” before my brain was ready to talk, but it needed to be done, so I did it.

“What’s your name?” asked Officer C.

“Kontis, with a K. You drew stars on my ticket and told me to come see you before court started.”

He looked at his paperwork for a minute. “You get that sorted out?”

I showed him my pink slip. “Yes, sir.”

“Remind me what the deal was?”

“I had a PA inspection and the DMV told me I didn’t need a VA one.”

“That’s right. Okay. Don’t worry about it. But I’m last on the list, so you’ll probably have to wait a while.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “I’ve never been to court before. It’s an adventure.”

Apparently, my breaking the ice with him prompted three or four more people to approach Officer C. Since I was still sitting behind him, I overheard him give instructions and pointers to people, so I felt a little more comfortable about what I had to do.

Honorable Judge D arrived and explained a little more. After reading the cases that had been pulled from his list, he would call an officer’s name and then their cases, in alphabetical order. If your name was called, you were supposed to say “Here” and approach the specified podium. You were then asked if you understood your charges, and asked to plead Guilty or Not Guilty.

Oh, crap — was I Guilty or Not Guilty? I mean, technically I was guilty, but Officer C said it would be thrown out. I figured, “Innocent until proven guilty,” so I decided to start with Not Guilty. Judging by the cases who went before me, it didn’t matter what you plead; the judge decided for you anyway. It also seemed that brevity was the best course of action–one woman pleaded her innocence, explaining the circumstance of her ticket four or five times. She just wouldn’t shut up until the judge finally spoke over her and told her she was guilty. $200 and court costs. Move along.

Very few people (besides the lawyers) thanked the judge. And NO ONE said “Here” when the judge called their names. Silly people. I had visions of the judge calling my name and me saying, “Here!” To which the judge would reply, “Thank you, young lady for paying attention. Your case is dismissed, no matter what it is.”

While waiting, I tried to best sum up my explanation into something I could tweet. “I moved from PA last year and had a valid PA inspection sticker. When I asked, the DMV told me I didn’t need one for VA.” 120 characters — that would work. I repeated it to myself in my head, over and over.

Finally, Officer C was called. A, B, G, H, King…okay, the next one should be me…I had my pink slip out and ready to present for evidence.

Judge D: Uh-lee-thuh Madeleine K– (why is it NO ONE can pronounce “Kontis?” It’s spelled phonetically, people.)

Princess A: (Interrupting the judge and therefore saving him from pronunciation hell.) Here, your honor! (I made my way up to the podium.)

Judge D: You were charged with [blah blah blah inspection]. Do you understand these charges?

Princess A: Yes, your honor.

Judge D: How do you plead?

Princess A: Not Guilty? (I didn’t sound very convincing.)

Judge D: Did you get the car inspected?

Princess A: (Flashes the pink slip so the judge can see)

Judge D: Please show the Officer.

Officer C: I’ve already seen it.

Judge D: If you plead Not Guilty, you have to pay court costs. If you plead Guilty, I’ll just dismiss this. Would you like to plead Guilty? (Was he actually…grinning?)

Princess A: (With a big smile) Yes, sir.

Judge D: Then I dismiss all charges.

Officer C: The DMV actually *told* her that the registration was still valid…

Judge D: Officer, I’ve dismissed the case.

Officer C: Yes, your honor.

Princess A: Thank you, your honor.

At which point I turned and gracefully made my way out of the courtroom so he could get on to the next case. The uncontrollable shaking actually waited until I got to the bathroom. Turns out, I’m still just fine under pressure. And, true to form, I am still excessively polite when stressed.

It’s a very good trait to have.

For future reference: there are TWO inspections in Virginia. One is the emissions inspection, which is needed to obtain your registration and for which a PA inspection (safety & emissions, required to register your car in PA) is valid. The second is the Virginia Safety Inspection which, while it is illegal to drive your car without, is apparently not required to obtain your vehicle registration. Why? I have no idea. But I bet it’s a nice source of state revenue.

Originally published at AletheaKontis.com. You can comment here or there.

Snow White

Blossoms & BBQ

We had a great time with Dickie & Mandy last night. The arrived around 3pm, thus forcing me to stop cleaning and have fun. (Hooray!) We chatted for a while with refreshment, discussing what to do before our 9pm reservations at Hill Country (and the sekrit Adam Ezra performance). Nobody seened to care, so when Joe asked for my vote I didn’t hesitate in recommending Georgetown.

It was the most beautiful day we had all year. 75 degrees with a breeze and fantastic. Traffic wasn’t even that bad. We walked down by the water, back up M street past the crazy line for DC Cupcakes, and then back down to the water again for more refreshment.

There aren’t any leaves on the trees yet, but some of the blossoms are blooming. The Potomac was filled with rowing teams and private crafts and port authority skiffs. The sunset was lovely, and the full moon rose big in the east. And right around 7:30, we headed into the city to find parking before the show. We found a huge garage only three blocks from the restaurant with no problem. There was a huge line at the restaurant…thank goodness for reservations! They let us in early, and gave us choice seating downstairs, right in front of the stage (and the speakers).

It was an amazing show. The food was finger-licking good. Sitting next to the speakers turned out to be a great thing, since many people still felt pressed to try and converse over the music. The band played in three sets with breaks in between, which was awesome, because then there was an opportunity to go check out the swag table and visit the restroom without feeling rude.

The room being what it was, the band just hopped off the stage and came out to mingle with the crowd. I coerced Joe into buying me a shirt (who denies a princess?). He gave me $20 and let me go check out the swag. So I’m looking at the t-shirts, deciding which one I want, and the guy next to me turns aorund and says, “Hey, how are you doing?” And it’s Adam.

“Hey! Thank you SO much for being here,” I started to say.

At which point he just gave me a huge hug. YES, I was a starry-eyes fan girl. Still am. Not ashamed one bit.

I explained to Adam that we’d tried to see him twice before when he came to the area and missed it for one reason or another. And we almost missed him THIS time, since he’s playing in Virginia tomorrow — which we found out about a week after we bought the Enter the Haggis tickets. (The show’s late, though, and close to the house, so we still might try and stop by.) I introduced him to Joe, bought my shirt and had it signed by everyone. All the guys are great. Mandy & Dickie got some CDs and had them signed too. It’s just really hard not to love this band. Especially since their songs are amazing.

For the very last song of the night, Adam and the boys went unplugged and came out into the almost-empty restaurant. Adam sat on a table with his guitar; Turtle grabbed a chair and used the table top like his bongos. And we all sang–of all songs–John Denver’s “Country Roads.”

Mom and Dad probably don’t realize I remember this, but back in Vermont, when I was about four or five, we went to some event where everyone was welcome to sing along. Mom passed around typed pages with all of the song lyrics (which I could read, of course). My favorite song was “Country Roads.” Apart from all those British baby songs my grandmother taught us, “Country Roads” was the very first song I learned how to sing. It still has a special place in my heart. And never before have I seen a band EVER play it live.

You couldn’t have written a more perfect day. It’s the first time Mandy’s ever been to the states, and I was so glad we could show her a great time. I didn’t even mind driving back home through downtown DC. (The princess is always the designated driver.)

I did mind, however, that the parking garage was closed.

We walked around the block until we found a call box, which Joe used to exchange harsh words with some guy who hung up on him twice before calling us a cab from Falls Church. (Cabbies in metro DC have no idea where Ashburn is.) The verdict? We wouldn’t be able to get the car until 7am, and we had no desire to hang out in downtown DC for six more hours. So we took the cab home. Ugh. (That offer to write a story for someone for $80 is still on the table…just drop me a line.)

It’s always an adventure with me. But it was still an amazing night. And now I’m going to take a nice, long, hot shower and get ready for another one.

What are you all doing this weekend?

(Click on the pictures to see the rest of the “DC with Dickie & Mandy” album. More pics from today & tonight forthcoming…)

Originally published at AletheaKontis.com. You can comment here or there.

Snow White

Gee Whiz, People

My apartment complex is having a writing contest this month. In 25o words or less, you must describe “what healthy living means to you in your neighborhood” and submit it with a picture. The entries will be posted on the internet and put up to public vote. After votes are tallied, the top 4 entrants will receive an iPad.

I deleted the newsletter when I got it, but the Fairy GodBoyfriend said, “You should enter this contest. Go win an iPad.”

I’d probably win, right? I have a great picture of a double rainbow over the apartment complex I bet they’d love to have. I could probably come up with something fairly fun and romantic in 250 words…and then have my 3000 Facebook friends vote on them and win. Right?

So I went online. The deadline is March 22nd — cool. And then, because I’m a writer, I went and read the complete rules. (You know, all those rules no one ever reads?) In the fine print, I found this section:

J. By emailing the Submission, each entrant agrees, for zero compensation, to grant to Sponsor all intellectual property rights in the Submission and each of its constituent parts, which rights include, without limitation, the Sponsor’s perpetual worldwide fully-transferable and irrevocable right to publish, modify (and make derivative works of), make available to the public, distribute, display, perform and reproduce the Submission through any and all media or formats, whether now known or hereafter developed, for any purpose, including without limitation, for administering and conducting the Contest or for the marketing, advertising and promotion of Archstone and its products and services. In addition, each entrant warrants that any so called “moral rights” in the Submission have been waived and entrant acknowledges and agrees that Sponsor may use any ideas from any Submission or other submitted materials, whether or not entrant has been awarded a prize in connection with any such Submission or other materials.

WOW. I mean, gee whiz, people. I get what you mean by putting this here, but no author in his or her right mind would EVER sign a contract with this wording. Assuming that said author hasn’t been roofied, he or she will probably see this run the other way…thus perpetuating that “healthy lifestyle” they’re dying to hear all about.

I’m torn now as to whether or not I want to enter. What do you guys think?

[Edited to add: The full contest rules can be found here: http://www.archstoneapartments.com/Apartments/2011_Find_Your_Fit_Story_Contest_Rules.htm]

Originally published at AletheaKontis.com. You can comment here or there.