Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Like Audiobooks?

Hey! I'm part of a special promotion at Audible.com, "Fresh Faces of Fiction." Twenty debut authors talk about the origins of our books. Great company and I'm honored to be included. Plus there's a discount on the audiobook for a limited time.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review Round-up for The RECKONING

I'm appalled to find a week has passed since I last blogged. It's due to a confluence of things: two months of touring on the weekends comes to a close today with an appearance at the Gaithersburg Book Festival; promotion for The Reckoning is starting to gear up; and deadline for The Descent, the last book in the trilogy is a month and a half away.

But I wanted to take a moment to let you know that trade reviews and book bloggers are starting to talk about The Reckoning and to my relief, they're all good. I've posted the Publishers Weekly and RT Magazine reviews earlier; Library Journal's just came in:

"Beautiful, mesmerizing... As with every fairy tale, the novel is full of moral questions and dilemmas that beg the characters to do the right thing... Leaves readers anxiously awaiting Katsu’s final volume..."

So far the verdict among book bloggers seems to be that they like it better than The Taker. It's possible that's because these readers are familiar with the characters and enjoyed being pulled deeper into their worlds. Or it might be because The Reckoning is a little more magical and a little less dark than The Taker. (That is, by the way, the trajectory for the series. The third book is a lot more magical and romantic.)

A couple quick notes:

I would love your help is getting the word out about The Reckoning's release June 19! Please tell your friends, your librarian, your local booksellers. Tweet, blog or post a few words on Facebook and you could win a NOOK tablet, perfume from the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and more goodies. Full details on the contest here. It runs until June 30.

The future of ebook marketing: bundling. Publishers are catching on to the power of bundling works by different authors together, introducing readers to new favorites. And digital is the perfect medium to do this. My publisher, Gallery, is doing this through their digital imprint, Pocket Star. They've just put out their first digital sampler (and guess whose name is on the cover) and you can take a look at it here

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Her Story: Alethea Kontis

It's been a while since I interviewed another writer on the blog, but I think you'll agree that the author here today is worth the wait. I met Alethea Kontis at the mega event at Nora Roberts' bookstore, where we were both signing. The organizers put Alethea at the beginning of the line and they couldn't have made a better choice: she charmed each and every person, right from the start. She is a bundle of magical energy, and she's here today to tell us about her amazing life and her new YA novel, ENCHANTED, just released.

How did you come to writing? Did you start writing shortly after emerging from the womb or did you come to it later in life?

I was born into a family of storytellers, but I didn't start writing things down until I was forced to do so for class assignments (usually poetry) when I was about eight years old. Right about that same time I started my career as a child actress as well. I had a big imagination, but I was never one of those kids with pie-in-the sky dreams like being a princess... I came into that later in life.

Were you influenced to begin writing by any writers/books in particular?

In hindsight, I think I was influenced by 1.) my anglophile Nana (my Greek grandmother) and all the English nursery songs she used to sing to my little sister and me by 2.) the Goops books by Gelett Burgess, and 3.) the giant tome of unexpurgated Grimm and Andersen tales gifted to me by my Memere (the French grandmother).

Whose works do you most enjoy reading?

Oh, wow. I have no idea -- I'm a total omnivore. I can tell you I'm not a fan of hipster "literature" that is pretentious just for the sake of being pretentious. When I speak to one of those authors, I tell them that I write CRAP. For KIDS. And I am proud as hell.

Tell us about your book.

All the fairy tales you ever knew (and many you don't) actually originated from one very large storytelling family: the Woodcutters. ENCHANTED is the story of Sunday Woodcutter, the youngest daughter, and her unlikely friendship with a frog that turns out to be a prince her father despises.

How the heck did you come up with the central idea/plot?

The idea for Enchanted began as a contest challenge in my writers group (Codex Writers). Our stories had to be inspired by at least one of four "seeds": "Fundevogel (The Foundling)," "The Princess and the Pea," the Irish legend of Cú Chulainn, and the nursery rhyme "There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe." I couldn't choose between them, so I chose them all...as well as all every other fairy tale and nursery rhyme that was suggested.
In the five years it's taken me to put Enchanted on the shelves, I've thrown myself into fairy tale research. It's fascinating how many common themes run through them, and how the Italians, French, Germans, Dutch, British, and Americans all have unique takes on them. Further still, it's interesting how the various countries choose to retell these stories on both the big and small screens.

At what point in the writing process did you think you might give up on it? Were you most inspired? What kept you going through the long dark nights?

You know, writers tell all these stories about the day they decided to give up writing. I have never had that day. In the 1948 film The Red Shoes, Lermontov asks Victoria Page why she wants to dance. She asks him in return why he wants to live. "I don't know exactly why," says Lermontov, "but I must." "That's my answer too," says Vicky. This answer sums up my feelings about my writing completely.

I was the most inspired...when I was younger, I think. I had the luxury of time on my side, and I could completely lose myself in a project without worrying about how and where and when and for whom the project would be completed. I had no parameters, no box, no deadlines. A few years ago, I worked on a collage artwork piece that completely subsumed me. I was lost in the paint and magazines and scissors, and when I was done my life felt strange and quiet. I know this power is still within me, wild and unrestrained and perhaps a little more mature now, but it's there. And every time I sit down to write, I raise the odds of tapping into it.

Wouldn't that motivate you? J

What have you read lately that you love and think everyone on the planet should read?

Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber. Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal (but read Shades of Milk and Honey first). Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer. And I have a gorgeous ARC of The Reckoning by Alma Katsu right on the top of my TBR pile.

What have you read that, surprisingly, didn’t grab you?

I hate to mention this, but I had to put down Jessica Shirvington's Embrace. I think I would have loved it if I hadn't JUST finished Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I was still obsessed with Prague and Chimera to enjoy anything else about Angels.

I've also been really annoyed lately at the prevalence of YA books that seem to end in the middle of the story just because the author has signed a five-book contract with whatever publisher. I think that's fabulous (heck, I'm jealous), but that doesn't give anyone a blank check to write a book that doesn't come to a satisfying conclusion. [/soapbox]

Do you have a “path to publication” story that you’d like to share? Funny agent/editor encounter? Publishing etiquette you didn’t know until you entered the business? Tip for newly published or aspiring writers?

My path to publication was "get a job in the book industry and then stay there for a decade." You learn all kinds of dos and don’ts that way by watching others do them (and cringing in sympathy).  I sold my first book without officially submitting it (someone else did--I'm lucky my name was on it). I have threatened to kill an editor, accidentally (the email wasn't supposed to go to her), and it magically didn't ruin our friendship. I fell in love with my agent when she said, "I love your aura," while peering at me over her sunglasses at lunch. I fell in love with my editor at Harcourt the moment she randomly quoted Sophie Hatter from Howl's Moving Castle (the book, not the movie. Gah). Just like in dating--there is someone out there for everyone. You just have to keep looking until you find them.

My tip to aspiring writers is to stop trying so hard. The only magic spell is putting your butt in the chair and writing. You are welcome to have hobbies, and to like (or despise) certain foods, and to play games and have pets and children and crazy family members and lives. So many people in this industry turn publishing into a game, with all the dressing up in suits and pitching and querying and riding in elevators. I have found that if you 1.) put yourself out there and 2.) are the best YOU that you can be, the editor and agent you are meant to have will find you.

Possibly even more than one.

What is the most surprisingly thing you’ve learned about yourself since getting published? The most unexpected?

The most surprising thing I've learned is that being comfortable scared me to death. There I was, living happily by myself in my little house with a big garden in Tennessee. I had a decent day job at a book wholesaler, I worked on writing books in the evening (and watching marathon stints of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who). I had zero debt, no one I was responsible for, and no one who was responsible for me. Apart from the deadly storms every April, life was pretty much perfect.

And then one day my heart was seized by a ghostly hand and a thought echoed in my head: You are going to die alone in Tennessee, just like Andre Norton.

Now, I loved Miss Andre. She lived about a mile or so from my house in Murfreesboro. I used to visit her at her library and bring her book catalogs, and we would scoot around in desk chairs and she would show me different books I might find interesting or talk about some old piece of writing she'd just found. We corresponded by proper snail mail, too--she sent me cards on every holiday you could think of.  But she was all alone in that house (with a personal assistant), and after she sold the library she moved in with a couple of friends (who then started this giant war over what to do with all that writing she kept finding). My heart broke the day she passed away.

Maybe it was Miss Andre poking my soul or maybe it was my own fear of mundanity, but I didn't want to settle into a life and effectively die at 33. So I quit my job, packed my bags, and moved in with a friend in Pennsylvania (in, like, a 24-hour period). Within three months I had a Fairy Godboyfriend and two teenage daughters and sold my first novel. I had the makings of a very decent career in a very new life.

Make no mistake, I do miss Tennessee. I miss my friends. I miss my little house with the big garden. I cried for a very long time after I left. But I wouldn't trade the life I have now for anything. I only wish I'd had the presence of mind to throw myself out of my comfort zone when I was...say...nineteen, instead!

New York Times bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a goddess, a force of nature, and a mess. She’s known for screwing up the alphabet, scolding vampire hunters, turning garden gnomes into mad scientists, and making sense out of fairy tales.Alethea is the co-author of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter Companion, and penned the AlphaOops series of picture books. She has done multiple collaborations with Eisner winning artist J.K. Lee, including The Wonderland Alphabet,The Umbrella of Fun, and the illustrated Twitter serial“Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome.”Her debut YA fairy tale novel, Enchanted, was published by HMH (Harcourt Books) in May 2012.You can visit her here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Win modern day magic: The RECKONING release contest

THE RECKONING, the second book in The Taker Trilogy, will go on sale June 19th and I need your help in getting the word out. Get your friends, neighbors, Twitter followers and Facebook friends excited about the upcoming release and you could win a NOOK tablet ($199 value), B&N gift card and even a bit of alchemy: Imp's Ears of exotic perfumes and a magician's mojo bag from the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. We'll have swag for three runners-up.
And everyone who enters will get my undying gratitude.
Here's how to enter. Between now and June 30th:
  1. Post about THE RECKONING on your blog, Facebook wall, or on Twitter or Pinterest and send me the web address (URL).
  2. Post a review of THE RECKONING on Goodreads, Amazon, BN.com, Shelfari, LibraryThing and send me a link or a screen shot.
  3. Post about THE RECKONING or The Taker Trilogy on a book forum that you frequent and send a screen shot of your post.
  4. Send a photo of you holding your copy of THE RECKONING (I will repost on Facebook so please be cool with that.)
  5. Have a friend write to the address below to join the mailing list and mention your name, and you'll get five entries to the giveaway. (To be clear: you get five entries in your name every time a friend joins the mailing list and says you sent her. Your friend will also be entered in the giveaway.)
All entries should be sent to contest@almakatsu.com
Multiple entries are highly encouraged.
Be creative, have fun with it!
Please adhere to all rules and laws of your state/country of residence.
Winners will be determined by random drawing.
Open to US residents only

Thursday, May 3, 2012

TAKER Readalikes: Some Like It Dark

I received an email from a fan recently asking for suggestions for other books similar to The Taker. As you can imagine, I was at a loss because as a lot of people have pointed out, my novel has a lot of elements of other books and genres but almost stands alone for what it is.

Recommending another book would depend a lot on what it was about The Taker that you liked. But I’ll go out on a limb and assume that at least some readers were particularly drawn to the darkness in the book. If you enjoy novels that look at the grim realities of life (as do I) and don’t insist on having your stories sugarcoated, I can make a few recommendations of similarly dark historicals though they lack a supernatural element.

Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue. (2001) The NY Times said of Slammerkin, “Whatever it says about our level of enlightenment (and it's probably not good), little seems to tickle us more than the tale of an unscrupulous woman who will stop at nothing to secure the glittery trappings of a better life, only to meet a harsh comeuppance.” Donoghue (author of last year’s smash ROOM) wrote this tale of a young woman who becomes a prostitute to get away from her desperate life. A great piece of writing.

As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann. (2001—what was in the water that year?) I haven’t read this book yet (because of a problem with an ereader…nevermind) but am looking forward to it. It’s described as “a darkly erotic tale of passion and obsession, As Meat Loves Salt is a gripping portrait of England beset by war. It is also a moving portrait of a man on the brink of madness. Hailed as a masterpiece, this is a first novel by a most original new voice in fiction.” This book got great reviews when it came out.

The Nature of Monsters by Clare Clark (2007) I just started reading this novel, which begins with the Great Fire of London in 1666 and continues with a young girl admitting that she has been erotically attracted to a man that she just realized she doesn’t love. According to the story’s description: “She arrives as an apothecary’s maid, a position hastily arranged to shield the father of her unborn child from scandal. But why is the apothecary so eager to welcome her when he already has a maid, a half-wit named Mary? Why is Eliza never allowed to look her veiled master in the face or go into the study where he pursues his experiments? It is only on her visits to the Huguenot bookseller who supplies her master’s scientific tomes that she realizes the nature of his obsession. And she knows she has to act to save not just the child but Mary and herself.” Great writing, and the novel promises to have the right mix of Gothic and erotic.

The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox. (2007) This book caused a huge stir when it was released and was one of the big books of 2007. It promised to have everything you’d think I’d like in a book: debauchery, opium dens, wicked dashing men but. . . alas, this was a DNF for me though I may have to give it another try. Here’s the description: “Resonant with echoes of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens, Cox's richly imagined thriller features an unreliable narrator, Edward Glyver, who opens his chilling "confession" with a cold-blooded account of an anonymous murder that he commits one night on the streets of 1854 London. That killing is mere training for his planned assassination of Phoebus Daunt, an acquaintance Glyver blames for virtually every downturn in his life. Glyver feels Daunt's insidious influence in everything from his humiliating expulsion from school to his dismal career as a law firm factotum. The narrative ultimately centers on the monomaniacal Glyver's discovery of a usurped inheritance that should have been his birthright, the byzantine particulars of which are drawing him into a final, fatal confrontation with Daunt. Cox's tale abounds with startling surprises that are made credible by its scrupulously researched background and details of everyday Victorian life. Its exemplary blend of intrigue, history and romance mark a stand-out literary debut.”

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

LOVE IS MURDER: new anthology featuring major thriller writers

Thriller 3

I want to tell you about an anthology coming out from International Thriller Writers, a great organization to which I belong. LOVE IS MURDER has stories about the scary side of love--and I mean the really scary side.

The contributing authors are Lori Armstrong, Jeff Ayers, Beverly Barton, William Bernhardt, Allison Brennan, Robert Browne, Pamela Callow, Toni McGee Causey, Lee Child, JT Ellison, Bill Floyd, Cindy Gerard, Heather Graham, Laura Griffin, Vicki Hinze, Andrea Kane, Julie Kenner, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dianna Love, Jon Land, D.P. Lyle, James Macomber, Carla Neggers, Brenda Novak, Patricia Rosemoor, William Simon, Alexandra Sokoloff, Roxanne St. Claire, Mariah Stewart, and Debra Webb. Not a bad line-up, I’m sure you agree.

It’s coming out May 29th and you can pre-order from any of your favorite major retailers at this link. It’s already gotten rave reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. If you’re looking for a short story collection for yourself or as a gift for a friend who loves to read, this is a great choice. And if you pre-order, you get an exclusive excerpt from NYT bestseller Sandra Brown's next thriller (coming out in September) LOW PRESSURE. See the link above for details.