Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Interview with Katie L. Carroll, author of ELIXIR BOUND

Today the Inkpot is delighted to welcome Katie L. Carroll, author of ELIXIR BOUND, to our cozy stage for an interview! She's in the green leather armchair over there on the right, the one with the floral motif twining in bronze around its arms. I'm the nervous one on the stool to her left. The occasion is a happy one: Katie's tale of love, loyalty, and extremely magical plants has just appeared in paperback! Here's the tale in its official nutshell (taken from Katie Carroll's website,

"Katora Kase is next in line to take over as guardian to a secret and powerful healing Elixir. Now she must journey into the wilds of Faway Forest to find the ingredient that gives the Elixir its potency. Even though she has her sister and brother, an old family friend, and the handsome son of a mapmaker as companions, she feels alone. It is her decision alone whether or not to bind herself to the Elixir to serve and protect it until it chooses a new guardian. The forest hosts many dangers, including wicked beings that will stop at nothing to gain power, but the biggest danger Katora may face is whether or not to open up her heart to love."

INKPOT (represented by Anne): Welcome, Katie! Thank you so much for taking this time on Halloween Eve to talk with us about ELIXIR BOUND! I took your book along to a silent film festival, so for a week I was watching old black-and-white movies all day, and then joining Katora on her quest for the Elixir at night. The world you've created in ELIXIR BOUND is definitely full of color! How did you come up with the places your characters travel to? Did you make yourself maps? The story seems a natural for a nice map at the beginning. And did you try drawing any parts of Katora's world?

Katie Carroll: Thanks! When I write books, I see the scenes in my head, sort of like a mental movie. I try my best to take those images and convey them to the page with words. Some of the places, like The Sleeping Giant, were inspired by real places and others, like the Three River Split, I just made up. I pull from everything in the real world and the imagined world when I write.

As for a map, one of the first things I did once I knew I wanted to have Katora and company go into the forest and back again was create a map. It didn’t make it into the book, but has proven to be a great resource for me. (I shared a copy of it on my blog last month I think I’ve only drawn one other aspect of Katora’s world. The images tend to be very strong in my mind, so I find I don’t need to draw them out to have a good picture of them.

INKPOT: What senses are most important in your imagination? Do they all come into play, when you're thinking up a scene? Which scene in the book would you say was most vivid in your mind before (or as) you wrote it?

Katie: Since I am a very visual writer, sight is first and foremost the most important sense. It’s my starting point. I try to use the law of three, meaning I try to have at three different senses present, when creating a scene or moment in a book. Sight is almost always there (except when a character has her eyes closed, for example), so I try to infuse two of touch, taste, smell, and hearing in as well, and mix up which ones I include throughout a story. I like three senses because as a reader I don’t like when I get bogged down with too much description.

The scene that was most vivid to me when I was writing it definitely had to be when one of the forest horsemen magically binds Katora and her companions. Katora is tethered by what feels like an invisible rope. The horseman lets the “rope” loose, and for a moment she gets the sensation of flying. I’ve dream about flying a lot, so the emotions of it were very easy to conjure.

INKPOT: ELIXIR BOUND came out as an e-book first, and now is releasing as a paperback. More and more stories are following this trajectory. Does having the book come out in print feel different to you than the e-book publication?

Katie: It was a thrill when ELIXIR BOUND launched as an e-book. My sister and nephew (two of my biggest fans) threw me a little party, my husband bought me flowers, and we had cake at my parents’ house, and later I had an event at the local library. But I started writing in a time before e-books, and though I’ve come to love this new way to read and believe it’s a totally legitimate form of publication, it is something special to hold your own print book in your hands. The main thing is that I hope having it out in paperback will be a way to reach new readers because as writers that’s really all we want: to reach readers.

INKPOT: I noticed in the acknowledgments that the character Kylene is based on your sister--did that make that character harder or easier for you to write?

Katie: My sister Kylene is the reason I became a writer. She passed away very unexpectedly at the age of 16. I was only 19 at the time and going to school in a field unrelated to writing. Then I decided I was a writer. My dad suggested I write a story for Kylene. She was a big fan of Harry Potter and I wanted to give her a fantasy adventure of her own. I started ELIXIR BOUND from her point of view, but found it was too hard. So I switched to her sister’s point of view, and in many ways Katora is me. Then the story turned into a quest for the magical ingredient to a secret healing Elixir, a very powerful one that can bring people back from the brink of death. I don’t need to be a psychologist to see that I was fulfilling a wish. I think writing ELIXIR BOUND is how I mourned my sister.

INKPOT: Oh, Katie, I'm so sorry about your sister. What you say about mourning through writing strikes a chord in me, however. Perhaps it might be interesting to ask ourselves (and other writers) about nearly every book: whom are you mourning, as you write this story? (Or sometimes, "what are you longing for?"....) I guess that part of what makes writing so difficult is all the other work we do when we start digging into the heart and bones of the world. In the case of ELIXIR BOUND, was there a particular scene in this story that you found yourself having to write and rewrite more than other parts of the book?

Katie: The opening scene was rewritten and transformed many times, as is the case for so many books. I had to find the right balance between establishing the mood and setting and introducing the characters. It’s certainly not a perfect opening, but I’m happy with where it ended up.

INKPOT: What would it take for you to bind yourself to, say, a magical flower as its keeper? What price or prize would tempt you to sacrifice your own freedom?

Katie: Well, seeing as Katora and I are of similar minds, I’d have to say I’d make the choice to bind myself to something magical for the reasons she did. I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out what those are. ;)

INKPOT: I notice you have also written at least one picture book! I always imagine that must be much harder than writing novels. How would you compare those experiences?

Katie: The idea for my picture book app THE BEDTIME KNIGHT came to me in a flash of inspiration while I was in bed. I caught a glimpse of the ceiling fan and in the dark, it looked just like a giant. I have a very active imagination. When I was a kid, I used to always see things in the dark that weren’t really there or were something other than what they appeared to be. It went through several revisions before I sent it out to a contest (which I didn’t win, but ended up with an offer from MeeGenius to publish it). Picture books are hard to write, but I still find novels a much lengthier prospect that push me to my limits of creation.

INKPOT: What are some of the writing projects you're working on now?

Katie: I’ve been keeping a bit mum lately about my latest projects, creating a sort of bubble around me and my writing. However, I can share that I’m working on a follow-up to ELIXIR BOUND called ELIXIR SAVED, and Kylene is one of three (right now, might go down to two) point of view characters. And I have another YA novel I’m working on. It’s a kind of thriller, and right now I’m referring to it as BLACK BUTTERFLY. But that’s all I’m saying about that. 

INKPOT: That's very intriguing, Katie! Just the words "Black Butterfly" conjure up mysteries for me! I'll be waiting for that one . . . . Meanwhile, to turn from the future back to the past, what magical worlds from children's books you read when you were a child did you want to live in? Which ones, if any, would you still be tempted to move to, if the proper portal opened?

Katie: Narnia is on the top of my list for magical worlds I wanted to visit as a child. Though I didn’t read a ton of fantasy as a child (and still have not been able to read A WRINKLE IN TIME in its entirety). I was really into realistic novels, historical fiction, and series like the Baby-sitters Club and the Sweet Valley books. I really wanted to have a group of friends like Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey, and Dawn or a twin. Harry Potter came out when I was in high school and really got me into reading fantasy. I’m still waiting for my letter to Hogwarts to come.

INKPOT: My fervent hope is that all of us will get our Hogwarts letters eventually!  Thank you so much for taking on these questions, Katie, and best of luck with the newborn paperback edition of ELIXIR BOUND!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Quotable Quotes

Since it's Monday and therefore the beginning of another productive week of writing, reading and other non-frivolous pursuits, I've collected some Quotable Quotes to soothe and inspire our writerly souls.

I consider each of these a mini-pep talk, a shot of wisdom, advice and solace - which we all need, especially when NaNoWrMo is only days away (I hear you shrieking but you're not alone!) So feel at liberty to plaster them along your desk, pin them on your corkboards and stick them on the bathroom door as your permanent bathroom reader.

Here's a pic of my quotes, strategicly placed in piles, stuck to blank spaces and lined up at eye level. An interior decorating idea free of charge from me to you. Quote collecting is like a wisdom fetish or a bad rash, so beware! It can be contagious and possibly itchy.
(Please ignore everything else in this picture. My random desk design and collectibles display is all part of my writing therapy which is a TOTW for another time ...)

My very first pearl is from Snoopy. Of course. 

"I owe all my rejections to this little book"
"Begin at the beginning ... and go on till you come to the end: then stop." Lewis Carroll
"Anybody who shifts gears when he writes for children is likely to wind up stripping his gears." E.B. White
"The difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense." Mark Twain
"You either have to be first, best, or different." Loretta Lynn
"A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom." Roald Dahl
"One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book;

give it, give it all, give it now." Annie Dillard
"No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader's intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing." E.B. White
"When you catch an adjective, kill it." Mark Twain
"When you're tempted to write about a dream come true, be sure that the dream turns into a nightmare as quickly as possible." Crawford Kilian
"The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism." Norman Vincent Peale
"When your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt." Henry J. Kaiser
"In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure." Bill Cosby
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrecorded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
Calvin Coolidge
And, lastly, I'd like to quote our own Ellen Booraem,
"The best advice I’ve ever received is also the hardest to follow. My editor, Kathy Dawson, constantly has to remind me that, underneath all the magical bells and whistles, a middle-grade fantasy novel is about a kid on a personal journey, trying to figure out who he/she is and where she/he fits in the world. Lose sight of that journey and you’ve lost the story."
So many words of wisdom and such little space. We'd love to hear your favorite, or most motivating quote, so please share them with us!
... And to every NaNoWrMo participant - GO FORTH AND TYPE YOUR HEARTS OUT, we're rooting for you!
Pippa Bayliss
MG Fantasy writer

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Interview with HAUNTING JOY author Lena Goldfinch

Lena Goldfinch
Today on the Inkpot it's my pleasure to welcome Lena Goldfinch, author of Haunting Joy.  Lena and I have never met in person, but since we're name-sisters, I was particularly excited to do this interview--and I was even more excited after I read her book, a charming ghost story that completely won me over.  Here's the summary from Goodreads:

Haunting Joy
by Lena Goldfinch

Joy’s new dress has a secret – one with a little supernatural history, one that’s a little more than she expected.

It all starts one ordinary afternoon, as seventeen-year-old Joy tries on some thrift-store clothes her grandmother gave her. The little white dress fits perfectly. Trouble is, now it won’t leave her alone. Soon Joy is swept up in an extraordinary journey to help a ghost complete some unfinished business.

If only that didn’t involve Joy driving through dangerous intersections...

Or calling up her high-school crush, Nick...

Or getting stuck at a cemetery after dark.

Will Joy accept this ghostly challenge to be "more"? And just how far will she go to uncover the truth?

LC: I was fascinated to read in your Author’s Note that the incident that launches the story—Joy
Print Edition Cover
being awakened one morning by the sound of an otherworldly sigh—is something that really happened to you.  So…do you believe in ghosts?

LG: Hmmm... Can I say I wouldn't rule out the possibility? ;) I think we're all spiritual beings with souls, something apart from our brains ticking away. So what happens to that part of us after we die? This is actually an underlying theme in the story. Nothing too overt, but it's there ticking at the edges of Joy's mind.

LC: What made you decide to write a ghost story?

LG: *Decide* may be too strong a word. LOL It really was a story that came to me out of the blue one morning. The concept kept nagging at me until I had time to work on it. I typically write longer historical fantasy, so writing something light and contemporary — and set here in Massachusetts, right in my neck of the woods — was a refreshing change of pace for me. 

EBook Cover
LC: I love Joy because although she can be timid, she’s always challenging herself to be more than what she is.  How did you come up with this character?

LG:  I don't know... Joy just came to me that way. She's probably a lot like me as a teen and some of my friends growing up. I think the teen years are such a tender age when we're finding our way. It's a very emotional time too. I remember thinking a lot about what I should say, or what I just said, or what people thought about me, or...really, there's a whole lot of thinking going on about yourself, about others, and about the world at that age! That’s Joy. 

I didn't consciously set out to explore the idea of wanting to be “more,” but that's where my sub-conscience led me. Joy starts off feeling a bit less than her best friend, Emily, and she’s pretty much accepted it, because that's the way it's always been. Then she has this sudden desire to kick things up a notch. I think we all have that inner yearning to some degree. It gnaws at us. We want to be ourselves and explore what that means, but there's also a little part of us that's not fully satisfied with staying where we are in life. For instance, it's not that Joy doesn’t like herself, but I think she just wants to see if she has more inside if she gives herself an extra little nudge. And then discovering she’s haunted definitely forces the issue. 

LC: I was so happy to see that Joy’s story will continue.  This is the first of your books to have a sequel, isn’t it?  What made you decide you wanted to turn Joy’s story into a series?

LG: I've been toying with the idea of writing a series for a while. I just never had it come together. I'd create my fantasy worlds and characters, but then when the story was done, I was done. I don't knowhow else to say it. So this is the first time a second story about the same characters has really come to me. 

I also grew up reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon, and I read historical mystery series as an adult. I'm also a big fan of shows like PSYCH, ELEMENTARY, and BONES, where there's a puzzle to solve each week. We see the same key characters in every episode, but they're faced with a new scenario. That's kind of how I envision Joy's series. There will be a new haunting with each book, a little mystery to solve, and a resolution. There will also be some changes in Joy’s personal life and with her friends and family with each new book.

LC: I have to ask, because he’s such a dreamy love interest, will Nick feature in the sequel?  How did you develop that character?

LG: Well, Nick *may* show up in book 2... but that's all I'm saying. ;) 

Nick felt very real to me as I was writing. I kept bringing myself back to the idea that these are two suburban teenagers, not adults in teen bodies. He’s seventeen, not twenty-seven. I’m sure there are teen guys out there on the super self-assured, gregarious end of the spectrum, but I picture Nick as more a nerdy-but-cute guy. (Maybe not unlike, ahem, my husband would have been at that age?? ;)) Nick's the real deal, a genuine nice guy. He's what I'd call "crush-worthy". LOL He's smart and attractive, but not over-the-top magazine-pretty. He's not full of himself either. In fact, he doesn't always have the perfect delivery, but he's responsible, kind, and willing to help out when he's needed. He accepts Joy for who she is, and he *likes* her, even when she says or does things he doesn't fully understand. 

LC: Something I totally forgot about my teen years, but which your book brought back to me, was the weight of responsibility of being a newdriver.  I love how you use driving as a metaphor for the burden and scariness of Joy’s coming adulthood.  Did you know when you started the story that driving would be so important in your book?

LG: I'm so glad to hear you connected with that. Getting your driver's license is sort of a universal rite of passage, isn't it? It's all about that transition of becoming more--no longer a kid, but not quite an adult.

No, I didn't know when I was first starting out that driving was going to play such an important role in the story, but my kids are teens, so the risk involved in learning to drive was very much on my mind (and still is!). I remember how scary driving could be as a teen, and now I feel it as a mom. 

When I think of my own high school years, I remember my best friend, the guy I crushed on in secret, all the worry about homework and tests, and *getting my driver's license*. I remember thinking about college, what I'd choose to study, and who I wanted to be “when I grew up”. All that. Wow, it's just so much. Joy brought a lot of that back for me, and I'm living through it now with my kids too. 

LC: I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but so many authors are curious about how to self-publish successfully, I wonder if you could tell us something about your experience.  What have been the pros and cons of self publishing for you?

LG: I love it. I initially resisted the idea because I was pursuing traditional publishing and had published one book with a small press, but at one point I felt compelled to give it a try. Looking back, it was the best route for me. I love the freedom and control. I love the ability to try different genres and settings. I love working with good people, like my freelance editors. I love doing cover design and book formatting. It suits my personality and my skill set, I'd have to say, but it's also a lot of work. A lot of times I feel stretched, and I'm afraid I'm going to drop a ball. I feel the pressure of wanting to put out a professional product, and when I commit to a schedule, like a release date, I work hard to stick to it. I think the hardest thing for me is the promo and marketing piece. That doesn't come naturally to me. I'm so glad that I connected with Amber Stokes, my freelance editor, who also helps me with that part. She organizes and manages blog tours and that helps so much. 

Pros: creative freedom, control over the process in general, speed to market (I still have wait times when I'm waiting to get notes back from my editor, but on the whole my publishing process is faster), control over pricing, ability to see (near) real-time sales numbers, higher percentage of royalties,... I also get to wear a lot of different hats, which makes it challenging and interesting to me. I like connecting with readers too, and I've been able to form partnerships with talented people whom I enjoy working with. 

Cons: it's time consuming and wearing lots of hats means I feel stretched at times. Mastering new skills takes time (even though I enjoy it). I don't get an advance (i.e. money up front). In fact, since I'm the publisher, I'm the one putting money into the process (buying stock art for covers, paying distribution fees for print editions, advertising, and any other expenses come out of my pocket). The self-publishing process consumes a chunk of the time I'd normally put into writing something new (like staring off into the ether gathering new ideas ;)). 

LC: I’d love to know a little bit about your process, both for Haunting Joy and in general.  Are you a plotter or a pantster?

LG: I have a constantly changing, very messy process that refuses to be pinned down. ;)

Basically, I go after each story and shake it out whichever way works. I'm a puzzler, which is a mix of pantster and plotter, fitting thepieces together as they come to me. Sometimes I'm seeing a scene but the sequence is out of order. (It's going to come later on, or it's something that needs to be worked in earlier. I often  know the ending but not exactly how we're going to get there.) Sometimes it feels like the pieces are turned upside down. Or are hidden under the couch cushions. ;) Sometimes I have to map things out on paper, and I always take lots of notes. Sometimes I may get stuck (often actually), and I have to go for a walk or take a nice warm shower. Basically, I do whatever works.

Some stories are harder for me than others. For instance, Songstone was the hardest book I've ever written (it was emotionally hard to write and hopefully it will remain the hardest story I've ever had to write ;)), and Haunting Joy was probably the most, er, joyful? (Sorry!;)) 

With Haunting Joy, I really just tried to be as spontaneous as possible. The voice is lighter and chattier than my historical fantasy voice. I also drew a lot on my life and things I was seeing and hearing. For example, I saw this guy on the highway one day. He was agitated with the car in front of him, kept swerving in his lane trying to pass, but he couldn't because of traffic. So, when he finally gets his chance and is passing the car, I see him point an imaginary gun at the other driver and pull the imaginary trigger. He did it so cold too, like a professional assassin popping a round in the movies. Pop. Man, that totally flipped a switch in me. I almost wrote down his license number. Driving behind him, I was wondering if pretending to shoot someone could be considered assault. (It could beconsidered a threatening action, right? But is it illegal?) I also remember worrying that he'd somehow start to harass the other driverand actually do something physical (road rage right there on Route 2!). Then he sped way ahead of the pack, so I figured that was that. But inside I was seriously shaking. Even though I wasn't the recipient of his rage, it really upset me. (I'm a peace-loving soul at heart.)That one little action brought up such a visceral response in me. So, later, it very organically made its way into the book. 

LC: In addition to Haunting Melody, the sequel to Haunting Joy, you’ve also got Through the Spyglass coming out.  Can you tell us first aboutwhat’s next for Joy and then a little bit about Through the Spyglass?

In Haunting Melody, Joy is haunted by an mp3 player. The ghost is a skateboarder who doesn’t remember how he died. (Which cracks me up. A ghost with amnesia. ;) This mixture of humor in the midst of some very tragic circumstances is what makes the haunting series concept work for me. Exploring issues like loss of a loved one appeals to my more serious nature, but I think if it was too heavy it would wear on me.) As for Through the Spyglass, it’s a Steampunk/Gaslight fantasy that’s very much a work-in-progress. If I had to give it a Hollywood pitch, I’d call it The Bourne Identity meets Sherlock Holmes (the one withRobert Downey, Jr. :-)).  The hero, Keane, is a teenage earl and spy-in-training. Though he’s experienced a crippling memory loss (this will be my year for amnesia stories, I guess — totally unplanned that way ;)), he seeks to rescue the captivating, generous-hearted girl he sees through the lens of an enchanted spyglass. Lysandra, a foreign emissary, is pursuing her jealous cousin, aptly named Pandora, who’s stolen both her identity and a box of enchanted objects. Mystery and adventure ensue...and possibly romance. Okay, probably. ;)

LC: Fantastic! And finally, what books are inspiring you these days?

LG: I’ve been so busy with this book release that I haven’t had a whole lot of time for reading, but I did recently read ABSENT by Katie Williams and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a short YA ghost story, and it has inspired me to rethink the plot I had in mind for Haunting Melody. There were a couple of very strong similarities with the premise I’d envisioned, so I’m pondering ways to differentiate my book. To say what those similarities were would be too much of a spoiler for ABSENT — so I won’t go into details. But having gone through this experience, I’ve decided to sit down with a big ole pile of YA ghost books (though probably on my Kindle ;)) and do a lot of reading. I want to get a better handle on what’s already been done, so I can give my haunting books a unique spin.

LC: Thanks so much for telling us a little bit about your process, Lena, and about Haunting Joy!

Unlike Lena Goldfinch, who pronounces her name "Lee-na," Lena Coakley pronounces her name "Lay-na."  Her first novel, Witchlanders, was called “one stunning teen debut” by Kirkus Reviews and won the SCBWI Crystal Kite award for the Americas.  It is a 2013 MYRCA nominee and a 2013 OLA White Pine honouree.  Lena is also the author of two children’s picture books and the former administrative director of CANSCAIP. Learn more about her at

Monday, October 21, 2013

TOTW: All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Monsters

In keeping with the spookiness of this month, I wanted to offer a timely topic: monsters. But instead of the scary monsters, creepy monsters, monsters under the bed, monsters out of nightmares or monsters that keep us up at night, I'd like to talk about some of the monsters that help us keep in touch with our ourselves by their unique quality of being unlike, and yet completely recognizable as, you and me.

We allow readers and viewers to look at themselves through a fuzzy (often furry) lens to see things we may have forgotten, things that are universal, or things that are may be hard to look at and make us squirm in our seats but are important--maybe even moreso--because it's tough to do. Those are our beloved monsters and we are grateful to them for showing us what's most important about being human.

Whether it's how to be kind

Or unabashedly silly

Staying in touch with our wild side

Or what it's like to have a best friend

To care for others more than ourselves

Or supporting one another and overcoming challenges (from physical to forgiveness)

We need our monsters to show us the good as well as the bad, in ourselves, in the world, and in each other. And the best place to find the monsters we know and love is in a good book!

Be sure to visit a bookstore, library or secure cage nearest you! Who are your favorite, lovable monsters? Do you know what you learned from them? As a fantasy writer? An artist? A fellow human being?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Enchanted Inkpot Ghost Hunters

I thought it would be fun to do a little digging and find out what kind of real life paranormal encounters our authors have had. I have several spooktacular tales of terror and weirdness to share, so snuggle up near the fire with a glass of wine and enjoy! Remember these are ACTUAL EVENTS. 

Ellen Booraem, author of TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD :

Years ago, an acquaintance of mine (I’ll call her Ann) lived with her husband and young daughter in an old house in coastal Massachusetts. They had several near-spooky experiences: Creaking floorboards, something out of the corner of an eye that wasn’t there when you looked straight, that kind of thing.  At one point all the glassware on the dish-drainer started to ring in unison. But they managed to explain everything away somehow.
One bath-time, when Ann’s daughter was just learning to talk, Ann held up a rubber duck and said, “duck.”
“Duck,” her daughter repeated.
“Duck,” said  a voice outside in the hall.
Ann, figuring her husband had come home and was messing with her head, ignored the voice. “Duck,” she said to her daughter.
“Duck,” her daughter said.
“Duck,” said the voice.
At which point, Ann’s husband’s car pulled up to the front of the house. She rushed out into the hallway.  No one there, but there was a creak on the stairs. No one there either.

Katherine Catmull, author of SUMMER AND BIRD :

I always call this my kidnapped-by-aliens story. I was in my twenties, and after rehearsal for a play I had a glass of wine with the cast and director. I was carless, so one of the other actors was my ride home that night. We drove down a boulevard that curves along a greenbelt and went through the green light at 29th Street. I was looking dreamily out the passenger window, watching the greenbelt curving by, when a few moments later we  . . . drove through the light at 29th Street again. 

It was the strangest feeling, this absolutely eerie, chilling sensation, like being plunged into cold, dank water. And of course my first thought was: WE'VE BEEN KIDNAPPED BY ALIENS. 

No, not really: my first thought was Holy smokes! What was in that wine! 

So I turned to tell my friend, and his face was ash-white, and he said: "Am I crazy? Or did we just pass 29th Street twice?"


We drove the rest of the way home in total, freaked-out silence, and I still have no idea what exactly happened that night. 


I come from a family who claim to be very sensitive to the spiritual world. When I was younger, whenever we'd go traveling, my parents, and my younger sister would all make comments like "there's definitely an unhappy spirit here" or "this place has very bad energy" or "we can't stay in this hotel, too many ghosts." Now I'm about as sensitive as a yak rolling in the mud but I'm apparently easily persuadable. So whenever they would say these things, I would immediately get goosebumps and become unreasonably anxious until we left. I'll never forget my second apartment that I lived in after getting married. I had an extra bedroom so my parents came and slept there for the night. In the morning, both my parents complained that they couldn't sleep at all because there were too many restless, unhappy ghosts in my apartment. I had to live there for another year before my lease ran out scared witless! I would actually persuade myself that I could feel them, even though I knew it was probably all psychological. To be honest, I just never ever on my own felt a spiritual presence. Until one day, I was meeting a friend in NYC who lived in one of those really old warehouse buildings that had been renovated into apartments. I entered the building and immediately felt a tightness in my throat. As I rode the elevator, I became incredibly anxious but I don't know why. I also felt the hair rise on the back of my neck. By the time I got to his apartment, I was really spooked. I knocked on his door and he invited me in, saying he wasn't quite ready yet. But by this time, there wasn't a part of my skin that wasn't covered in gooseflesh and I almost felt I couldn't breathe. I told him I'd wait for him outside (January in NYC is really cold) and ran for it. I didn't want to take the elevator so I ran down the stairs and bolted out the door. I actually felt warmer outside in the frigid cold than I had in that building. For the first time in my life, I knew I had experienced a negative spiritual energy, and it was the most frightening experience of my life. Twenty years later I can still feel the horror I felt that day. My friend laughed at me all throughout dinner but it turns out that many gruesome and grisly murders had been committed in that building at the turn of the century. And after only a year, my friend moved out, claiming that he just never felt quite comfortable in his apartment. And that's my one and only ghost story. 

Jennifer Nielson, Author of THE ASCENDENCE TRILOGY:

There's a ghost living in the old building where my husband works. Years ago, he was identified by a coworker who claimed he could hear them. He said the man was an African-American named Charles who had been an attendant in the early 1900s at the nearby train station. We checked the station's records, and sure enough, they did have an attendant fitting that exact description. Charles seems friendly and generally keeps to himself, although everyone who has worked in the building late at night describes odd occurrences. And the exception is hard rock music - Charles doesn't like it at all. If someone is playing it loud in their office, their phone will get a ring. But when they pick it up, nobody will be there and the extension it came from will be an unoccupied room. A paranormal investigator was there late one night, and described seeing a man dressed in older clothes standing in an office. She got up off the couch and went in to see him, but when she got in there, the office was empty. I'd never been a believer before, but I've heard enough stories that now I'm convinced.

Keely Parrack:

Okay - I don't think of these as really spooky - but I did go through a slight phase where every time I went past a bicycle locked to a railing or anything it would fall over - I know, not weird but at the same time I had this thing with street lights were they'd go off as I walked by. Not every single time - but enough for my boy friend (now husband) who is completely a science guy, not at all superstitious to think something strange was going on!I think it was something to do with being 15/16 that's when most poltergeist activity occurs around teens!

Lena Goldfinch, author of HAUNTING JOY:

I grew up going to yard sales, thrift stores, Goodwill, and The Salvation Army with my mom. She still sends us boxes of her finds from yard sales and thrift stores. One morning a soft, sliding sort of sigh woke me up. It was really sort of creepy sounding. Maybe even otherworldly. At first I told myself it must have been my dog making a noise. didn’t really sound like him. It sounded more human. Plus, he was nowhere near the corner of the room where the sound came from. There was, however, a box of clothes from my mom. And so Haunting Joy was born (the story of a girl, Joy, who receives a haunted thrift-shop dress from her grandmother).
Alas, I’ve never really been haunted.

My own story? Okay...
Lisa Gail Green, author of THE BINDING STONE:

When my son was an infant I was used to feeding him at all hours of the night. But one four AM feeding I was particularly sleepy and started to nod off while he sucked away at his bottle. On the floor a little distance from me was his play mat - you know the ones with the dangling toys that they bat at before they can crawl around? - anyway, just as I began to doze, the toys on the playmat starting swinging like crazy, the bell in them dinging away like someone pushed them all really hard. There was no air on. No windows open. Nothing else near the toys. At least it was someone watching over the baby because it woke me right up!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hero author Alethea Kontis

Today the Inkpot has the pleasure of bringing you the incredibly talented Alethea Kontis, author of Enchanted and it’s sequel, Hero. I am a huge fairy tale fan so when Enchanted came out last year, I barely waited a millisecond to click buy on my Nook reader. And boy was I ecstatic! I adored Enchanted! I love the Woodcutter family and this fabulous cast of characters Alethea brings to life in her novel. So I was incredibly happy to meet Alethea in person, (she is as fun in real life as her books are!), and have the opportunity to read Hero, which stars the fantastic Saturday Woodcutter.

Hero (Woodcutter Sisters #2)Hero
by Alethea Kontis
Hardcover, 304 Pages
To be published October 1st, 2013 by Harcourt Books

Rough and tumble Saturday Woodcutter thinks she's the only one of her sisters without any magic—until the day she accidentally conjures an ocean in the backyard. With her sword in tow, Saturday sets sail on a pirate ship, only to find herself kidnapped and whisked off to the top of the world. 

Is Saturday powerful enough to kill the mountain witch who holds her captive and save the world from sure destruction? And, as she wonders grumpily, "Did romance have to be part of the adventure?" 

As in Enchanted, readers will revel in the fragments of fairy tales that embellish this action-packed story of adventure and, yes, romance.

Please welcome the enchanting Alethea to the Inkpot today! Alethea, you are like the queen of the modern fairy tale, as far as I’m concerned. Tell me first how you became a writer.

AK -  I was born into a half-Greek, half-French family of storytellers, so I've always loved stories. I started reading at the age of three, so I've always loved books. And when we started writing poetry in class somewhere around the age of eight, the world just all fell into place for me. I wrote all kinds of things--greeting cards, pamphlets, mostly poetry--and I submitted everywhere I could find a contest. TV Guide, Reader's Digest, cereal box, Marion Zimmer Bradley Fantasy name it, I submitted. I would keep my rejections in a shoebox, and once a year I would throw away all the rejections (because they made me sad) and start again. Mostly, I wrote stories for my friends. One day, many years later, one of those friends forwarded the story to a friend of her who worked at Candlewick Press...and they called me on the phone and offered me a book deal.

Ello -  What made you decide to write these wonderful fairy tale retellings?

AK – Also when I was eight (1984 was a big year for me), my maternal grandmother gave me a giant tome of unexpurgated Grimm and Andersen Fairy Tales. My parents were probably just grateful that the book was large enough to keep me occupied for a while--they had NO IDEA what those stories were actually about.

As a little girl, these stories became sort of a religion for me. I believed in being strong and clever and motivated enough to seek out my own fortune. I believed in putting kindness and generosity out in the world, because I never knew when my path would cross that of an evil fairy. Above all I kept my mind open to the possibility of magic, because I didn't want to miss it when it finally found me. And, in many ways, I think it has.

So when I say that it's a dream come true for me, writing stories in a setting  where all the fairy tales come from one family, you know what I mean. The Woodcutter Sister Series are the books I've been waiting to write my whole life.

Ello – And I've been waiting my whole life to read!! Now I have to say that it would be hard for me to pick a favorite character out of the Woodcutter bunch, but I think Saturday tends to edge her sisters and brothers for me. I loved her in Enchanted and was thrilled that she had her own story. Do you have a favorite?

AK – Have you ever read Tanya Huff's The Last Wizard? (Gorgeous book; I highly recommend it.) In the book, the titular wizard has several goddesses trapped inside her head, and she can take on the aspects of each one at a given time. I feel this way about the Woodcutter sisters--in a way, each one is just a different facet of me (even Monday, who is very much based on my eldest sister, Cherie).

Now, there's a character I sort of can't wait to write about...she first appeared in a short story I wrote for an anthology called DEMONS. You can actually still read the story online here for free (they used it as a teaser for the book):

Ello – This is so awesome! Thank you for sharing that! And what an unusual romantic interest for Saturday!  A cross-dressing hero?! Love it!

AK - Well, when one has a blind witch to play with, one takes advantage of the situation! What better way to play with emotions and stereptypes than a girl mistaken for a boy and a boy cursed to look like a girl? Cross-dressing and costumes are very fairy tale in nature--I originally wanted to name the hero Orsino, after Twelfth Night, but it would have been too obvious. Instead I named him Peregrine, a nod to M. M. Kaye's The Ordinary Princess. (But "Hero" is still technically a Shakespearean character--and a girl, to boot!--so we cross-dressing drama nerds still have the bard hidden there.)

Ello – I did catch the Shakespearean nod, btw. Very nicely done! Now I know we can’t be spoilery, but I have to tell you that I’m pins and needles to find out what happens next – and to learn all about Jack, the oldest brother! Can you give us a wee hint as to what we can expect in the next book?

AK – Beloved is a parallel novel to Hero, chronicling the adventures of Friday and the rest of the Woodcutter crew back in Arilland, in the tragic aftermath of the appearance of Saturday's "impossible ocean." Apprentice seamstress Friday becomes a leader of the children (because that's Friday's thing), and gets caught up in trying to break a curse involving seven swans, a mute girl, and the need to weave seven shirts out of stinging nettles.

I've always loved all the bird-tales ("The Goose Girl" is my favorite) and I have to say...I am SO IN LOVE with writing this book. Beloved is such an appropriate title.

Ello  - CAN NOT WAIT!!! Ok, since we are talking about fairy tales and magic and fantasy, I only feel it is fair to ask you a magic question. If you could have one magical talent, what would it be? (and no cheating and saying you’d be a wizard and do it all!)

AK – I'm still waiting on my power over gravity. I think my order got lost in the mail.

Ello – :o) Here's a harder question for you. If you were on a deserted island and could fill a magical suitcase (think Hermione’s purse with the extension charm) with 5 items, no matter how big, what would they be?

AK -  Sunday's neverending journal (1) and a pen that never runs out of ink (2), an iPod filled with all my favorite songs that will never run out of battery life (3), sunscreen with no aloe (I'm allergic--4), and the complete works of Rudyard Kipling (5). I actually have a set of the last one that I inherited from the same grandmother who gave me the fairy tales--I've just been waiting on that island.
Ello -  Ok last question, if you had a chance to talk to your younger teenage self, what one thing would you want to tell her?

AK - You know, I wrote a letter to my younger self for "Dear Teen Me" a while back -- you can read it here, complete with vintage Alethea pictures and secret codes. LINK HERE.
If I only had the chance to pick one thing, it would be the first one on the list: Everything's going to be okay. Sometimes we just need the GPS of our life to reassure us that we're still on the right path, and I would wish my younger self that confidence. 

Thank you so much for joining us today, Alethea! Now go finish book 3 of the Woodcutter saga before I burst! :o)

Alethea Kontis

Alethea KontisNew 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. Her short fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in a myriad of anthologies and magazines. She has done multiple collaborations with Eisner winning artist J.K. Lee, includingThe Wonderland Alphabet and Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome. Her debut YA fairy tale novel, Enchanted, won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award in 2012 and was nominated for both the Andre Norton Award and the Audie Award in 2013.
Born in Burlington, Vermont, Alethea now lives in Northern Virginia with her Fairy Godfamily. She makes the best baklava you’ve ever tasted and sleeps with a teddy bear named Charlie.

Tour-Wide Giveaway
Sept 22 - Oct 17

Fairy Tale Gift Basket (US only): Signed copies of both Enchantment and Hero by Alethea Kontis plus swag!

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Getting in the Hallowe'en Spirit

John Atkinson Grimshaw The Haunted House

All Hallow’s Eve is just about three short weeks away. Here in the US, store shelves are well stocked with Snickers bars and that weird peanut butter taffy nobody likes but somebody in your neighborhood always gives out anyway. Pumpkins are appearing on doorsteps and in lattes everywhere. If you love all things spooky, ghostly, ghoulish, and cloaked in darkness, you’ve been ready for Hallowe’en since last November. Here at the Inkpot, we thought we’d share how we like to get in the holiday mood—both in October and all year long.

Katherine Catmull, author of the haunting fable Summer and Bird says:

For some reason I find Marideth's Sisco's a capella recording of "Missouri Waltz"--with night sounds underneath--particularly elegiac and eerie. Very children-lost-in-the-woods

"But for me the best spookiness comes from a long walk alone in autumn woods. Fall comes sloooooowly where I live, not till after Halloween, really, but most people live somewhere less irritating in that regard. I recommend writers go walk in the woods, get some dead leaves on them, look inside some fallen logs for crawly things, listen to the odd and unexplainable sounds.”

Chantress author Amy Butler Greenfield finds eerie inspiration in the holiday's ancient roots: 

"Here in England, Bonfire Night (November 5) is a much bigger deal than Halloween, but I'm fascinated by all the old significance of October 31st, and loved creating a variant All Hallow's Eve celebration at the start of Chantress. For mood-setting, I like to re-read Susan Cooper's The Grey King, especially that wonderful poem that starts 'On the day of the dead, when the year too dies,/Must the youngest open the oldest hills.' For music, I put on Loreena McKennitt's eerie and gorgeous The Book of Secrets. What else? Irving's 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,' Grieg's 'In the Hall of the Mountain King,' and (sentimental, but great fun) the Halloween section of Meet Me in St. Louis."

More spooky music recommendations come courtesy of William Alexander, who should certainly know a haunting song when he hears one.

"Zoe Keating the cellist plays perfect background music for writing dark fairy tales." Visit Keating's Youtube channel to hear for yourself, but beware! You've been warned how bewitching her music is....

Lia Keyes turns to a classic of dark fantasy for her seasonal inspiration:

"Each October I re-read Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, in which two 14-year-old boys, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway visit a nightmarish traveling carnival led by the mysterious 'Mr. Dark,' who bears a tattoo for each person who has become bound in service to the carnival. Of the two boys, Jim was born one minute before midnight and Will was born one minute after midnight on October 31st. There's also a carousel which, if you ride it forwards will make you older, but if you ride it backwards will make you younger (clearly the inspiration for the same kind of carousel in Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord).  Will's father, who at first envies the boys' youth, fights off the darkness by laughing at it--a magic gained by experience--and is able to save the boys from falling prey to the carnival's thrall. He's the most transformed character in the book, though we stay with the two boys for most of the story.

"It's wonderfully creepy, but also full of subtext--as the best Halloween stories should be--about the wisdom one gains through experience and that you can't rush the growing up process as a result. Nor should you let your number of grown up years define how you interact with life. Perfect for the night that celebrates the thin line between life and death!”

In the best spook story tradition, Texting the Underworld author Ellen Booraem recalls an unsettling experience from college, calling out the works of two of the masters of sinister storytelling: 

"For sheer spookiness, nothing sets me up like 'The Haunting,' Robert Wise's 1963 (black and white!) film based on Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. I'm probably influenced by the fact that I saw it first in college, and that evening, sitting in my dorm room, I heard the exact noise Something Evil made as it banged up the hallway toward the horrified Julie Harris. I was paralyzed. Fortunately, the banging ended and I started hearing dialogue. Turned out the president of the college film society was re-screening the film in a room across the hall. I've never been quite the same."

No one is quite the same after seeing Hilari Bell's recommendation for the first time, either. 

"One of my favorite things is to stay up late with a couple of friends and watch 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.' It's a great movie for Halloween... and you can sing along. So what more could you want?"  I'm sure that's what they were doing at that fateful party at the von Tassels' house, that fateful evening in Sleepy Hollow, too.

Keely "Inkster" Parrack offers some of her favorite reads, both classic and modern, and also suggests a peek at her super-creepy angel board on Pinterest.

"I always read The Turn of the Screw if I'm looking for something spooky. Never Let me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) and Let the Right One In (John Ajvide Lindqvist) are also up there, books-wise, and pretty good movies, too! For fun vampire thrills, I recently read Holly Black's The Coldest Girl in Coldtown--a great Halloween ride!"

And last but not least, we have Anne Nesbet's Great Overseas Halloween Adventure:

"This Halloween will be unlike all others for me because . . . . well, let me tell you about it! Usually, back in California, I stay at home with the dog while the kids go out trick-or-treating. The dog and I admire the costumes of all the tiny witches and Spidermen (sometimes the dog hides if the costumes are too scary) and hand out candy from our enormous plastic cauldron. But THIS year, we're living in Paris, and my second book, A Box of Gargoyles, is recently out and very Halloweeny in theme (Halloween is Maya's birthday, actually, and spooky things happen at the party her parents try to throw for her), soooooo we're doing things a little differently:

"1. A visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery, where A Box of Gargoyles  takes us for its dramatic highpoint, with my daughters doing over-the-top readings of the most exciting bits in exactly the places where those exciting bits happen in the book, while innocent tourists point fingers at us and laugh.

"2. Shifting gears slightly, but still very in the spirit of Halloween, we will then spend many hours at the Salon du Chocolat, the most astoundingly huge chocolate-themed fair and exposition ever. We will gorge on chocolates and bring more home for continued gorging in earliest November.

"3. As you can see, we have Setting and Food covered--but what about FEAR? That comes the next day, November 1st, when I appear on French television in a cooking-based reality TV show with a Halloween theme. The taping was, not to mince words, catastrophic, and involved small children tasting foods offered as part of a Halloween feast and reacting by spitting everything out and bursting into tears. It was a hot day; under the pressure I lost all ability to put more than two words together in any language, much less French. Oh. Mon. Dieu. Anyway, my family is going to sit down and watch me sweat in HD, and because most of my family is 15 years old, I am never EVER going to live this down.
 And that's Halloween 2013 for me!!"

Happy haunting, everyone!

Elizabeth C. Bunce is the author of A Curse Dark as Gold and the THIEF ERRANT novels, StarCrossed and Liar's Moon
She's currently working on a gothic fairy tale and proposed this topic for entirely selfish reasons.
Visit Elizabeth at