Category Archives: Alethea Kontis

Quintessentially Me: Alethea Kontis

Alethea MermaidHappy New Year, everyone! It’s so lovely to see you all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with all of your hopes and dreams intact and goals still in sight.

Wanna know what I have in sight? A giant mess.

This Giant Mess is actually a step up. This time last year, Dad and I were rushing to install the floor in my bedroom. Dad thought it was because I wanted it done before my birthday (Jan 11)–in reality, I wanted it done before the mini-family reunion we were about to have for HIS birthday (Jan 8). We finished enough of the  floor to throw a mattress down and sleep a few people. Only one bathroom worked, but we made do. There was no kitchen, and the living room and garage were packed with boxes.

Needless to say, there wasn’t much done at my house besides sleeping that weekend.

This Halloween–after the last major overhaul of the master bathroom was completed–Dad and I finally finished the floor. My house instantly went from “Partially Rebuilt Renovation” to “Disgustingly Messy Home.”

The whole problem with level of anxiety is all the suddenly wanting to put everything away. It’s a lovely compulsion, except for that I DON’T KNOW WHERE EVERYTHING GOES YET. I literally have to make it up as I go along. And then if something isn’t quite right, I have to change it midstream. Or start all over.

People tell me, “Oh, don’t worry. It took me a year to really move into my house.” Well…I’ve had this place 18 months already. My subconscious is constantly trying to remind me that I’m woefully behind. I pour another cup of chamomile tea and try to ignore it.

I had one of those moments today, actually. I found myself sitting on the trunk of memories that’s taken up residence behind my couch–mostly because I don’t have another place in mind and mostly so the couch won’t slide all over the floor. Across from the trunk is my display case–solid dark wood with leaves carved into the top and a sliding glass door. I love that thing. I got it at Costco or Sam’s half a billion years ago for dirt cheap. Somehow it survived moving from TN to DC to FL without breaking into a million pieces, and for that I will be forever grateful to the universe.

I don’t remember exactly how I had it set up six years ago, but I think I’ve just about unpacked all the pieces at this point. There are six shelves in the case (if you count the bottom of the case as a shelf–I have stuff down there, so I do).

Three of the shelves are full of Fantasy and Fairy Tales. There are faeries and gnomes and wizards and elves and dragons and unicorns. Beauty and the Beast and their Castle. The porcelain roses that were given away at my baptism. Aladdin and Lady and the Tramp. I even have a small glass award from a school I visited…and the wisteria crown I wore for all eight episodes of Pass It Along when I was eight.

One shelf is all about Greece. Some of the little statues I collected when I went there with my family as a teen, and some were given to me by other friends and family. There’s an angel holding a shell with some pretty stones inside, and my grandmother’s infamous “That Will Never Do” engagement ring. There’s a shot glass with the flag on it and a komboloi inside. I have Apollo and Daphne, Nike, and my statue of Athena is surrounded by an army of little pewter owls of all shapes and sizes.

One shelf is all about comics. When I worked as the buyer for DC, my annual gift was usually some fabulous statue from their collection, like my Wonder Woman fighting the hydra. Of course, once the rep found out I was a Sandman fan, I received two Sandmans (Sandmen?) and a Death before I moved on to greener pastures.

The bottom shelf actually *is* about Death. The dark wood bottom of the display case is the perfect backdrop for my voodoo dolls and porcelain Mardi Gras masks from New Orleans, and my little stone skull.

So there I was…staring at my display case in admiration and distraction, and it occurred to me: The entirety of that case, top to bottom, is quintessentially me.

Alethea Kontis could easily be described as 3 parts Fairy Tale, 1 part Greek, 1 part Comics, and 1 part Death. A lot of fantasy, a little bit of horror, and everything in between. Magic, Myths, and Misery.

Which led me to suggest the writing prompt for the Mermaids this month! All of us–and a few special guests–will jump into our blog posts this year by talking about something in our lives that we can describe as “quintessentially us.”

So now I’m curious. What is something in YOUR life that is quintessentially YOU?

The Beast’s Castle is from the WDCC “Enchanted Places” line. And yes, roses really were given out at my christening. I am so Belle, it’s not even funny. ~Alethea

Cannot Write Without: Alethea Kontis

The question in the lagoon this month: What’s the one thing you cannot write without?

Today’s answer comes from Waterworld Mermaids’ very own Alethea Kontis.


Princess AletheaThis is one of those months where I’m always thrilled that my name starts with A…because it means I GET TO BLOG FIRST. (April, not so much.)

I’m excited because it’s November…which means MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF WRITING AND WORD WARS.

My first foray into National Novel Writing Month was 2004 — I finished the first draft of a novel. Unfortunately, it clocked in at a measly 36,000 words. That’s right, to date, I have never successfully “won” NaNoWriMo. I’m hoping this year, that will all change.

I often get asked about my writing schedule, or what my writing area looks like. My answer is always: HA! I have yet to establish the Perfect Workplace, or the Perfect Daily Schedule.

However, it did get me thinking: What do I need in order to write? What’s the one thing I literally cannot write without? And, for that matter, how would all my writing friends answer this same question?

Thus I bring you this month’s Theme Question — be sure to check back in every day (or Like us on Facebook) to enjoy a plethora of incredibly inspired answers from writers all over the globe.

But first, here’s my answer. Are you ready?

Hey Alethea, what’s the one thing you cannot write without?

My answer: LOVE.

You know the old cliche about tormented artists and how they find all their inspiration from the horrible events that happen in their lives? Well…not so this optimist. I know this because it was pointed out to me by someone in my inner circle…one of my very first beta readers, copyeditors, and harshest critics: My Mother.

I don’t remember which story — it was either “Blood & Water” or “Sunday” (I think it was the former). But after Mom read it, the first thing she said to me was, “You should always write when you’re in love.”

It’s true…I had a crazy-huge crush on a boy at the time. (Who ended up being a horrible specimen of a person…but I digress.) Being in love made me all lofty and poetic. The words flowed. I wanted to write (instead of just making up stories in my head and calling my friends to tell them about it).

When I am sad, I do not write. It is a horrible thing. The stories end up all trapped in my head, banging at the walls to come out. It creates this incredible powder keg of anxiety that at one point even forced me to seek medical attention (not even kidding). The misery compounds in one horrid downward spiral.

Last year, I broke up with a guy and moved to Florida. I wrote in strange fits and spurts, but it was incredibly difficult. It was less about finding my Muse and more about finding MYSELF.

When I did, I remembered what my mother had said.

I had a nervous breakdown at the age of 23. From that point on, I began surrounding myself with things that made me smile. Rainbows. Fairies. Stickers on my window. Quotes on my wall. Things that I loved.

It’s been kind of wonderful, moving into this house and starting that collection all over again. I have a prism in my kitchen window that scatters rainbows all over the house all winter. What walls aren’t lined with bookshelves are covered in artwork by artists who inspire me. And I have my friends — the Mermaids, my Brute Squad, my peeps on social media — whom I need to remember most, because these are the people I write for.

Princess AletheaThese are the people I love.

So…thanks, you guys. xox


Connect with Alethea on Facebook

Get Alethea’s books signed & personalized from Storenvy

Alethea’s Profile on NaNoWriMo


Let The Write One In


It is time for some Word Wars.


This year for NaNoWriMo it’s THE BATTLE OF THE BLOGS!

The Waterworld Mermaids are battling Romance on the Rocks — it’s all about who will write the most words as a team. The winner will receive a pretty badge to post on their website…but mostly, we want bragging rights!

Also this month, the Waterworld Mermaids will be hosting authors from all over the world — they’ll be stopping by the lagoon to tell you all about one thing they cannot write without.

Drop in and see which author has the most in common with you!

So, who out there is doing NaNo this year?

Let’s buddy up and do this thing.   Now GET BACK TO WRITING!


Waterworld MermaidsMermaid Profiles on the NaNoWriMo Website:

Denny S. Bryce (Denny S. Bryce)

Princess Alethea (Alethea Kontis)

Question Lady (Kerri Carpenter)

kmaccarron (Kimberly MacCarron)

Carlene Love Flores (Carlene Love Flores)

P.H. Dunn (Pintip Dunn)




Alethea’s Convention Survival Guide

NEW_LOGO_DCAt the beginning of every month, I put a blog post on my site directing folks over here. Well, this month I’m going backwards BECAUSE I CAN.

As I continue getting ready for DragonCon, my biggest convention of the year, I remind myself of all the survival tips I’ve come to adopt over the years.


They started out as particular to FragonCon, but they have served me well at other conventions and conferences over the year.

What are YOUR biggest conventions?

How do YOU survive?


Mermaids & Friends: David B. Coe/DB Jackson

Alethea MermaidDavid B. Coe (a.k.a. D.B. Jackson) has been my dear friend for over a decade (David contributed a guest post on my blog recently in which he discussed the circumstances of our meeting in 2002, and our friendship since then).

David is not only an exceptionally talented writer (his Thieftaker books are my favorite) but he’s also exceptionally prolific. I’m not kidding–the guy has TEN books out this summer.

Okay…so maybe I’m exaggerating. But not by much. Check out: Water Witch, Dead Man’s ReachHis Father’s Eyes…and I’m sure I’m missing something. On top of the hundreds of guest posts he wrote for this month’s blog tour to celebrate all these releases. LIKE THIS ONE! Which I demanded. Because what else are friends for? <grin>


His first name ain't baby. It's David... Mr. Jackson if you're nasty.Birds, Teen Angst, and High Fantasy:
Three Books That Changed My Life
by David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson

Choosing three books that changed my life, even if it’s just for the purposes of a blog tour, is a little like choosing “Three Meals That Helped me Grow Big and Strong.” Sort of. Actually, no one would ever accuse of me of being either big or strong. But you get the idea. The first thought that pops to mind is “Only three?” And the second is, “Okay, how many people am I going to tick off by leaving their books off the list?”

A lot of fantasy/SF writers would choose the classics, and I suppose I could make a case for putting Lord of the Rings, or other landmark works in the field on my list. The truth is, though, my journey into a writing career began long before I discovered speculative fiction.

The first book that changed my life might also have been the first “serious” book I read without any help at all from my parents. Back when I was a little kid, and dinosaurs roamed the earth, Grosset and Dunlap published a series of nature books for children. Mammals Do the Strangest Things, Fish Do the Strangest Things, and the one that caught my fancy, Birds Do the Strangest Things. I loved all the …Do the Strangest Things books, but at the time, I was discovering what would become a lifelong passion for birds and birdwatching, and I found this book utterly fascinating. It described, among other things, the elaborate bachelor pads constructed by bowerbirds, that creepy 360-degree-turn-thing owls do with their heads, and the fact that some shrikes impale their prey on thorns and barbed wire to store for future meals, like little birdy survivalists.

Joking aside, Birds Do the Strangest Things confirmed for me that my love of birds wasn’t weird, or a valid justification for teasing from my contemporaries. Birds, the book assured me, were just as amazing as I believed. More, so were books themselves. This one fed my passion; it captivated and inspired me. Most important, it befriended me. I returned to it again and again, and each time it welcomed me, admitting me to a world that didn’t judge or ridicule. My lifelong love affair with the written word began with this book.

Our literary needs change as we get older, and I went through some fairly typical reading phases over the next ten to fifteen years: Hardy Boys mysteries and books about baseball, more sophisticated nature books and a host of novels, among them The Hobbit. When I was sixteen, having read Catcher in the Rye, John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, and a couple of other “coming of age” novels, as YA was known back then, I stumbled across Good Times, Bad Times, by James Kirkwood. (Kirkwood also wrote the script for A Chorus Line, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.) Good Times, Bad Times, appeared a decade after A Separate Peace, and in some ways the books were similar. Kirkwood’s novel told the story of Peter Kilburn, a typical alienated teen who goes off to prep school. There he’s befriended by Jordan Legier, a brilliant, charismatic kid with health problems. Their friendship deepens, but, predictably, is cut short by tragedy.

I’m the youngest by far of four children, and though Salinger and Knowles spoke to my siblings, I was a different kid, living in a different time. Kirkwood’s book touched my emotions in ways the older titles couldn’t and no other book had. It dealt with all the things I was thinking about at the time: friendship, sex, death, the struggle to fit in and still maintain some semblance of individuality. I understood its characters, and I imagined that if they were real, they would have understood me. Upon finishing it, I immediately started over from the beginning. I did that four times, and even after that binge returned repeatedly to certain passages. Good Times, Bad Times got me through my sophomore and junior years in high school.

Which brings us to number three. Given that I’m a fantasy author, I suppose it’s not surprising that one of my choices is in the genre. I’m cheating in a way, because my third life-changing book is actually a trilogy: Stephen R. Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever (Lord Foul’s Bane, The Illearth War, and The Power That Preserves). By the time I read the series, I had already fallen in love with fantasy. I knew that I wanted to read as much of it as I could.

Donaldson made me want to write.

Reading those books came as a revelation. His world was fascinating and strange; his “hero” was dark, at times evil, always difficult to like. I never wanted to create a protagonist like Covenant; I found him too distasteful. But having read fantasies that all struck me as somewhat similar, I felt as though Donaldson had drawn back a curtain, revealing a thousand new possibilities. If he could turn Covenant, this leprous misanthrope, into a hero, and create a world that embodied health and healing, a fantasy writer could do anything.

From the moment I finished reading the first Covenant trilogy, I knew I would be a fantasy author. I intended to explore every nook and cranny of my imagination, and though I still have a long way to go before I satisfy that ambition, I’ve at least made a dent in it. This summer I have two new novels out. The first, Dead Man’s Reach, the fourth volume of the Thieftaker Chronicles, which I write for Tor Books under the name D.B. Jackson, came out on July 21. The second, His Father’s Eyes, the second installment in the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, which write as David B. Coe, comes out from Baen Books on August 4. These will be my seventeenth and eighteenth published novels.

Dead Man's ReachAt first glance, my newest books may seem to have little in common with Birds Do the Strangest Things and Good Times, Bad Times. But the passion for reading sparked by the first title, and nourished by my teenage obsession with the second, made possible the spark of inspiration the came with the third. Taken together, they put me on the path to where I am now, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of eighteen fantasy novels. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and, the newest volume, Dead Man’s Reach, was released on July 21. Under his own name, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first volume, Spell Blind, debuted in January 2015. The newest book in the series, His Father’s Eyes, comes out on August 4. He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a His Father's Eyesmean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

Amazon, Friends, and Family

There’s been a bit of hullabaloo lately in the writing community and–SURPRISE–it’s all about our favorite website, Amazon.

Click here to read a nice, concise summary of the new policy.

Firstly, Amazon decided to ONCE AGAIN change the way books are reviewed. Remember the “Like” buttons? And then the “Author Likes” and then the “Author Page Follows”? Well, now reviews are being weighted based on “helpfulness” (that box you get to check under each review) and “verified purchases” (if you actually bought the book through Amazon, as opposed to another reputable dealer).

I didn’t bat much of an eyelash at this one, since Amazon seems to change this aspect of Likes and Reviews and Follows about once every six months. I don’t even bother asking my fans to “support me” every time this happens, forcing them to ask “How high?” just because Amazon has once again yelled “Jump!”

I’ve learned not to get too attached.

TRIXTER by Alethea KontisThe aspect of the change that has everyone across the Interverse screaming “Big Brother” is Amazon’s new refusal to allow friends and family to review books.

I experienced this myself when my mother posted a thoughtful and supportive review of my latest novella TRIXTER. Like anyone else who posts a review on Amazon, she read the book and gave her honest opinion. And then Amazon promptly deleted the review with no warning.

The day before Mother’s Day.

I happened to be at a conference that weekend, but I sprang into action as soon as I realized what had occurred. Since I had uploaded Trixter myself (thank goodness), I had the power to go behind the scenes and change the product description. So I did. (Click the link to see what Mom said.)

A bunch of you are playing Devil’s Advocate right now and saying to yourself, “Yeah, well, I wouldn’t trust any mother who reviewed their kid’s book.” But think about it…would you really? Or would you perhaps enjoy the honest-to-goodness review a parent posted that they KNEW their child could not change? Think about my very colorful family for a minute. Wouldn’t you sort of love to read all of their incredibly honest reviews of my work?

This occurred to me, so I instantly ran over to the Amazon page for AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First. You see…one of the first reviews for that book was from my grandmother.

My grandmother is celebrating a birthday this month (Happy birthday, Nana!). I can’t tell you how incredibly proud and honored I was when she took the time out of her busy schedule to write a review of my book. I was tickled.

But right then, as I realized what had happened to my mother’s review, I was scared. I did not want this beautiful memory erased by the Amazon machine. Happily, the review was still there in all its glory, caps lock, misspellings, and all. I made a screen shot. Which I am posting here, in the event that it eventually DOES vanish from the Amazon page.

Nana's Review of AlphaOops

Now, I’m not going to ask who among you would not find this review helpful, because I really don’t want to know. This review is precious TO ME, and worth more than any other review posted by anyone else.

Nana’s last name is Kontis. I’m almost sure this review will be deleted in time. But beyond this, Amazon is using a proprietary algorithm (which means they don’t have to tell you how they do it) that decides whether or not the author is reviewing is a friend. (Click here to read how one book blogger confronted Amazon after being accused of being an author’s friend, and Amazon’s incredibly crap response.) Of course, the person is not notified of this until AFTER he or she has typed up their very thoughtful review…that is now lost forever.

In my life, I have made many, many friends. I’ve even lost a few of them. Some are very close. Some are mere acquaintances. It never occurred to me that I should apply an algorithm to my life. BECAUSE THAT IS SILLY.

I’m neither for or against anyone in this essay, I’m just making sure you know just how far Crazy Uncle Amazon has gone around the bend this time.

And to suggest this: If you take the time to type up an Amazon review for a book, you may want to save it to a Word Document or something, just in case you get hit by the Friend Algorithm Stick.

To Be Or Not To Be…a Local Author

Lunch Money -- Family Indie Rock for Kids!It’s June, everyone! Three weeks ’til midsummer, countdown to the end of the school year, and advent of THE SUMMER READING PROGRAM.

I love Summer Reading Programs. Always have. Even before I was a Children’s Librarian running puppet storytimes and painting faces at Carnival, I was a kid checking out 20 books every two weeks (the Richland County Public Library max at the time) and racking up the prizes.

This past weekend, my friends in the band Lunch Money held a concert to kick off the RCPL Summer Reading Program. (If you happen to have young children in your life and they don’t have these CDs, they are missing out!) J.P. texted me after the show and told me that he’d name-dropped my one of my children’s books (AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First) during the set and highlighted the fact that I was a local author. By the end of the concert, this display had magically appeared in the Children’s section:

Lunch Money & AlphaOops -- a match made in Heaven!



But I have to admit…I felt a little guilty. Technically, I haven’t lived in South Carolina since 1998. My family moved there from Vermont when I was six. I learned to speak the strange language (“Y’all take y’all’s books and go to y’all’s classrooms”). I graduated from high school and college there. Heck, I had a starring role in a miniseries on SCETV. Of all the places I’ve lived, South Carolina probably has the most claim on me. But I wasn’t born there, nor do I live there now.

This got me thinking…what exactly is it that makes a “Local Author”?

I’ve moved around a lot, so let’s use me as an example.

1.) Vermont: I was born there. If you were born in a place, I think that should grandfather you in as a Local Author.

2.) South Carolina: Spent 16 years there, and graduated from college. Even if it’s no longer “home,” I still spent the largest percentage of my life in SC.

One of my goals in life is to have my name up on the Author Frieze in the library where I used to work.

One of my goals in life is to have my name up on the Author Frieze in the library where I used to work.

3.) Tennessee: 11 years here. Remember when I said I was a Children’s Librarian? That was in Tennessee. I  spent almost a decade there working for the world’s largest book wholesaler. My first book was published while living in Tennessee.

4.) Washington DC (area): I only lived in Northern VA for 4 years, but I made an incredible amount of friends and a definite name for myself as an author in the time I was there. My first novel was published while I lived there. The Waterworld Mermaids were created. I signed at least four times at Nora Roberts’ bookstore in Boonsboro, MD. My favorite local bookstore–Turn the Page–is in Arlington. I taught at the local libraries and signed at almost all the bookstores. I belonged to the Washington Romance Writers AND the Maryland Romance Writers AND the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of SCBWI. Leaving was really, really hard.

5.) Florida: Where I live now. Like your birthplace, I figure “the state where you live now” grants you immediate Local Author status.

So what do you guys think? Is there a statue of limitations on how long an author has lived in a place or how much an author accomplishes in a place before they are considered a Local Author?

And for those authors out there: In how many states do YOU claim Local Author status?


Judging A Book By Its Cover…and Then Writing It To Match

The manuscript for my fairy tale novella, Trixter (available today!), was supposed to have been finished in January. I had not factored in home renovations, my father’s surprise birthday party, Marscon, houseguests and a dual book launch (Hero & Dearest).


So I found myself back in DC for the NoVa Teen Book Festival in early March, having an impromptu Mermaid Brunch with Kerri and Dana. I’m sure I whined about the fact that the novella still wasn’t finished, but I showed them the preliminary cover art and smiled when their jaws dropped.

TRIXTER by Alethea Kontis

Cover design by Rachel Marks (the model is her son)

“Yeah,” I said, “it’s not exactly what I had in mind for the character…he’s really kind of scrawny in the book, but this cover is SO gorgeous that I’m going to keep it.”

Kerri and Dana–mouths still open–looked at me as if I was insane. (It’s a look I’m used to.)

“You have to do something about that,” said Dana.

“Your book is a fairy tale,” Kerri said vehemently. “Can’t you just…I don’t know…whip up a magic spell or something? Trix needs to look like this.”

Dana nodded fervently

Suddenly, the wheels began to turn. Truth be told, I actually had passed up the perfect opportunity to bespell Trix with such a “curse.” Fey children take longer to physically mature in my world…who’s to say I couldn’t decide to speed that up a bit? It was just the sort of spiteful, backhanded gift a Feline Fairy Godfather might give: Handsomeness, Strength, and Puberty. Even better, Trix could be so busy adventuring that he doesn’t even notice that Papa Gatto’s “curse” has taken hold…oh my, that would be amusing…

And then that moment happened–you know, the one where the clouds part and the angels sing. I smiled back at Kerri and Dana and told them I would name the magic potion after them, in their honor. (And I did.)

Yes, I am one of those annoying people who thinks everything happens for a reason. (I wrote an entire book about it–it’s one of the universal themes in Enchanted.) Regardless of your own opinion on the subject,  I am very glad that I had not finished the novella manuscript before I had that brunch. Kerri and Dana’s idea added a whole new facet to the book that I believe made for a richer story…and a more perfect cover.

So, have any of you had such epiphanies? Been frustrated by waiting and then thought…perhaps I was waiting for a reason? I’d love to hear your stories!

Mermaids & Friends: Delilah S. Dawson

I met Delilah S. Dawson at Dragon Con. We were on a panel together — I forget how many years ago. She was the other author on the panel (besides me) wearing a fabulous costume. We did not sit next to each other. I slipped up and accidentally called her “Delia” and felt like an idiot. I don’t think I saw her again that year. But I remember thinking, That woman is really cool and I wish I knew her better.

Getting to know Delilah S. Dawson has been one of the better decisions of my life.

My love for Delilah started with her tweets of verbatim dialogue with her kids. (Delilah’s son once decided to be an evil supervillain whose goal was to shut off the sun. She asked him politely not to, because she needed it. His response: YOU HAVE A LAMP.) Then there was her blog, with its incredibly helpful entries on being an author and reader that continually make me think “Why didn’t I post that?” And then there was her fantastic entry for Dear Teen Me that broke my heart into tiny pieces and made me love her all over again.

Delilah has a new book out this month — HIT — about a futureworld teen who is forced to become an assassin in order to save her mother’s life. (It also has a seriously kickbutt cover.) I thought this was as good an excuse as any to invite Delilah into the Mermaid pond for a swim and a chat about three of the books changed her life…


Three Books That Changed My Life, by Delilah S. Dawson

I’m a Romance writer, but I grew up with no respect for Romance. In my house library, horror and science fiction ruled. We thought of anything with smooching as “bodice rippers” and assumed they were all poorly written drivel without a plot. Oh, what fools we were, and oh, how our shelves have changed. Now my mom wears a “Keep Calm and Dinna Fash, Sassenach” shirt, and I have penned three Romance books with naked man chest on the covers.

So what happened?

These three books happened.

The Valley of Horses by Jean Auel
When I was 13, my mom suggested I read Clan of the Cave Bear. It was a gripping tale merging real history with the fictional account of a homo sapiens raised by neanderthals. When I found its sequel, The Valley of Horses, in the used book store, I had to buy it to see what else Ayla did. As it turns out, she tamed a horse, adopted a wolf, invented a spear thrower… and had lots and lots of athletic sex. And I couldn’t put it down, even as I knew that what I was reading was forbidden and strange. That paperback—which I still have— was my first introduction to the concept of women as sexual beings capable of receiving as much pleasure as men. No bodices were ripped, and Ayla continued to be a great fighter, a fierce friend, an intelligent inventor, a talented cook, and basically the progenitor of our species, all while having a billion orgasms.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Just as The Valley of Horses was my introduction to women as sexual creatures, The Mists of Avalon was my first taste of women as figures of power. Although I recently discovered that the author was a horrible person who did horrible things (, that doesn’t change the fact that when I felt the most powerless and awkward on the brink of puberty, this book made me feel like I could claim strength and be more than just a spectator in my life. King Arthur was actually a pawn of strong women? SOLD. It was so gratifying and reaffirming to see women recast as the heroes of history and legend.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I didn’t recognize, when I was younger, that The Valley of Horses and The Mists of Avalon were actual Romances. I considered them Science Fiction or Historical Fiction. That’s right—young me had a genre chip on her shoulder, the little goof. And then a friend recommended Outlander. I took one look at the back cover and put it right back on the shelf. A bodice ripper! 900 pages of ripping bodices! And then I moved 300 miles away and had pneumonia for three months with no money to see a doctor and no TV. The used bookstore was the only thing that helped keep me sane, and when I stumbled upon a ripped-up copy of Outlander, I figured it was a good bargain for that many pages. And then, fourteen hours later, I looked up and counted down the hours until the used bookstore would open in the morning. Because I needed the sequel like I needed air. I’d never cared about characters so much, never hung on every word, whether it was dialog or instructions for making porridge.

History, violence, sex, intrigue, jokes, horses, castles, kilts—Outlander had it all. And I was finally forced to admit that Romance could be so much more. That it wasn’t silly or poorly written, that it could have plots that made you sweat and characters that clung to your heart and never let go. That’s what I want out of every book, not just Romances: I want it to stick with me. And that’s the kind of book I try to write, every time.

Delilah S. DawsonDelilah S. Dawson is the author of HIT, Servants of the Storm, the Blud series (with naked man chest!), and the upcoming Wake of Vultures. She also writes Geekrotica as Ava Lovelace.

Find her online at

[And if you’re up for a ton of fun, be sure to follow Delilah’s exploits  on Twitter! –AK]

Finding My Joy

Norton Nominated PrincessI finished a new novel yesterday.

I didn’t write the words “THE END” because I was running late for a dinner party. I sent the last chapter to my mom (she reads chapter by chapter) and the whole thing to my editor and went off to watch the sunset at Cocoa Beach (technically, the Banana River).

I don’t think I was much fun at the dinner party. Which was okay–it meant I got to sit around and soak up other people’s stories for a while. And it allowed me to process some things.

Because I had just finished the first book I’m ever going to self publish.

I know what you must be thinking right now: “I get it. She got dumped by her publisher because she’s a terrible writer. Ugh. I don’t have to listen to this.” I know this is going through some people’s minds because it’s what went through my mind many, many times in those first days.

Yes, I did get dumped by my publisher last year. I also got dumped by my boyfriend. Turns out, sometimes in a failing relationship you accidentally find a door marked EXIT. Sometimes even in the same 24 hours.

I’m here to tell you to take it.

Here’s what I heard happened with the publisher: Somebody new came in. Somebody higher up. For whatever reason, everyone I knew and loved at my publisher started leaving. The head of Digital. The head of Marketing. My own beloved editor. Turns out, my publishing contract was just one of the first casualties of this event. You know, no hard feelings.

I had spent years forming these relationships. If they hadn’t dropped me like a hot potato, I would have been forced to start fresh with all new people…even if I didn’t like them. As it was, I was going to have to work with all of these new people for my last book there. They pushed back the release date, sent it through several more rounds of copyedits even after the final pages were done, and declined the change we had decided to make on the cover. One of the new people, I fell in love with. One of the new people I didn’t care for at all.

And yet, like that terrible boyfriend, if they had asked me back in those first few months I probably would have said yes.

There have been other times like this in the past when the Universe has saved me from myself. This is why, when I look up at the stars at night and don’t have a wish on the tip of my tongue, I say, “Thank you.”

I finished a book last night. My editor will look at it today, because her only client is me. I have full approval on the cover art. And the title. Barnes and Noble will not be swooping in to change anything at the last minute. My author photo will be on the back (or jacket flap). I have a copyeditor lined up, and proofreaders, and I have to get back to the layout people.

This book could be out in a month.

Beyond that: New York would never have let me write this book in the first place. There are already two parallel novels in the Woodcutter Sisters Series — this is a third. It’s a spinoff series, like starting Angel in the middle of Buffy. If Dearest is Book 3 of the Woodcutter Series, this is Book 2.5. Also, the entire novel’s worth of adventure bumps right up against 40,000 words. New York pretty much has no idea what to do with that.

But you know what? My fans know what to do with it. Mom read the last chapter this morning over her coffee, gave it two thumbs up, and yelled, “ENCORE!”

I am thankful that the romance writing community has embraced self-publishing in such a vigorous way, when other genres still look down their noses at it. You know what? I think every published author should try self-publishing a novel, in the same way I think everyone in America should have to work a retail job through the Christmas season. Short stories don’t count. I’ve self-pubbed those too. It’s not the same. You have to spend months–YEARS–invested in a title and then realize that, if your ducks are in a row, it will be in the hands of fans around the world in one month. Not a year, not two years, but ONE MONTH.

That is where the joy is. JOY. That is the strange feeling I contemplated in silence as I watched the dolphins frolic in the twilight.

Would I like to continue publishing with traditional New York publishers? Yes. Specifically, I would like to work with my beloved editor again at her new publisher. But I will be finishing the Woodcutter Series on my own, with no fear.

The paperback of Dearest will hit stores next February. My goal now is to see how many books I can get out into the world before then.

What are your goals for 2015? It’s not too late. It’s never too late!