Friendly Friday: the Fairy Tale Princess Alethea Kontis

Trix and the Fairy Queen

Every once in a great while, I run into someone whose hand gestures are as wild (if not more so) than mine are. Enter Alethea Kontis, who has written stories for kids, young adults, and crotchety old farts like myself. (Okay, I’m not all that crotchety or crypt-keeperish, but definitely not a teenager anymore!)

Kontis’s versatility as an author is complemented by her efforts to generate and strengthen a sense of community between genre writers and artists. She is passionate in all she does, and that’s definitely something I can relate to! What I like about her work, is the fact that she’s the type of skilled writer who’s easy to root for. When she goes to a convention, she puts on a show; her costumes, infectious laughter and larger-than-life personality are part of her stories as well. Combined, Alethea is magical and drawn to the light she’s very much a part of.

When I think of Alethea, I consider someone who definitely has the “giant ball of knotted yarn” career path–a common journey for most of us. But, Kontis is also an example of someone who doesn’t give up; she’s the definition of persistence, and there’s no doubt in my mind that, one way or the other, she will continue to generate the success she works so hard for. Knowing her, I’m guessing when more blessings land on her glittering tiara–it’ll be when she least expects it. Won’t her happily-ever-after be fun to celebrate!

If you’re interested in her stories, check out Alethea Kontis on Patreon, her Twitter @aletheakontis, or visit the author’s website at You can also see what books are available via Alethea Kontis on Amazon Author Central, too.

Mood: Deadlines will either eat me, or they already have and I didn’t realize they did.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Uh… Four. No five!
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hunting Pokemon
In My Ears: Some whiny dude. Seriously, if this song gets any whinier about some topic I cannot make out, I’m going to start howling at the moon.
Game Last Played: Pokemon Go
Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: La Belle et la Bete.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.

Friendly Friday: the Fairy Tale Princess Alethea Kontis was originally published on Monica Valentinelli

My WisCon 41 (Somewhat Tired and Rambling) Recap

Before I talk about WisCon 41, I wanted to address a few administrivia-related bits. First, a shout-out to Michael Matheson. Michael’s short story “Until There is Only Hunger”, which appeared in Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling, was longlisted for the 2017 Sunburst Awards. Huzzah! Second, if you’re in the mood for clicking around the…

My WisCon 41 (Somewhat Tired and Rambling) Recap was originally published on Monica Valentinelli

Friendly Friday: Prisma Visions Tarot and James R Eads

The Magician | Prisma Visions Tarot | James R Eads

One of the things that I love about tarot cards, is that there are so many different ways to represent the images in a deck. I collect them and, of all the decks I have, one of the most unusual and beautiful is the Prisma Visions tarot designed by James R Eads.

The Major Arcana image of The Magician doesn’t do this deck justice. James is known for playing with light, and his style really shines through in a tarot deck. What’s really cool about the Prisma Visions tarot, besides the silver edging and the lovely box, is that each suit has also been illustrated as a panoramic piece. To see all four suits illustrated in their entirety, James offers full-size panoramic prints. I have a smaller print of the Ace of Swords, and I love the quality and theme he uses to breathe magical life into the suits.

In addition to the Prisma Visions tarot, which is the second deck he’s designed, James also offers prints and stickers of his illustrations as well. If you dig his art, you’re not alone! James also creates beautiful posters for bands and other gigs, too. He has a lovely portfolio, and I’m glad I have a little piece of his talented works.

If you’re interested in this artist, visit the official website of James R Eads or follow James R Eads on Tumblr.

Mood: Convention Fevah!
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: There’s really no point counting while at a convention.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hunting Pokemon
In My Ears: Hustle and Bustle
Game Last Played: Pokemon Go
Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: X-Men Days of Future Past.
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.

Friendly Friday: Prisma Visions Tarot and James R Eads was originally published on Monica Valentinelli

There’s a Storm Coming…

There’s a storm coming, and I’ll be a part of it! The Torg RPG, which is a cult classic roleplaying game, will launch on Kickstarter on May 31st. I’ve been asked to write a short adventure for it, along with several other amazing game designers. Watch for the launch at the end of this month!

There’s a Storm Coming… was originally published on Monica Valentinelli

Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules

Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge Participant Badge

Born out of both my personal experiences and the knowledge that oppression tends to crush the artistic spirit on a cellular level, I have created a Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge for those who need it. This challenge, which came together from inspiration to draft guidelines, is designed to be flexible to work with your talents and lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to customize the specifics to fit your needs. Your art? Your rules.

Why take the Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge? When times are tough, the feeling that artists are not necessary tends to permeate because art is viewed as a luxury item in some cultures since we don’t produce food, clothing, or housing. The exact opposite is true, because art is a documentation and representation of our humanity and all our struggles. People turn to stories to find hope, to be inspired, to reach inside themselves and discover their own courage. This challenge is about making art to tap into your voice and tell your story. After all, one story can change the world. The problem is, we have no idea which story that will be, when it will be told, or in what medium. It’s up to us to find it–by making art!

Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge

I’ve designed the challenge to be simple, but grounded in four actionable areas. They are: Motivation, Discipline, Accountability, and Connection.

Rules Summary

This is a summary of the rules I’ve designed for the challenge. In the longer version, I offer means of customization to fit your lifestyles. After you’ve read the rules, write down in four-to-five sentences what you’ll pledge to do for 2017 and post them publicly or privately. Combined, those actionable items will help keep you grounded and focused on making art, while remaining connected to the world around you.

My Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge pledge:

  • I pledge to devote one hour a day to my original art.
  • If I don’t feel motivated, I pledge to write down the reasons why I wanted to take this challenge for fifteen minutes or one-to-three pages whichever comes first.
  • I pledge to mark down on the calendar whenever I complete a day’s efforts.
  • As the challenge creator, I pledge to create a weekly accountability post every Wednesday beginning on January 9th. Comments will be open. Hashtag #makeartnotwar2017 #manw2017
  • I pledge to check into social media twice a week for personal use, and once a month with my local community of artists and writers.


Find your personal reason to make art and use that as your rallying cry for 2017.

Artists are human beings, not robots. Writers need to discover our characters’ voices. Painters need to glance at a blank canvas and draw that first line. Musicians need to hear the first stanza. Sometimes, however, we get stuck. We don’t know what to write. We don’t know if our art will resonate. We don’t see how our words will matter–because we can’t predict the future so we freeze up. We punish ourselves. Then, we read the news and get depressed; or, we get bad news and get even more depressed. Caught in that never-ending cycle of wondering what our worth is, some artists cease to create altogether.

There are 1,000 reasons to never pick up that pen, that inkwell, that stylus. What is more important? Those precious few reasons why you’re making art. Before you begin the challenge, figure out why you want to make art to find your motivation. Maybe you have a mantra, like “I want to make readers laugh.” Maybe, however, making art is so ingrained in your identity you might say: “I need to write to be happy.” Or, maybe you have a goal or business plan that helps keep you grounded on: “I need to draw to pay the bills”.

When you get stuck, take fifteen minutes and remind yourself that you’ve taken this challenge because your art is important to you. Abandoning the act of making art is not an option, and you will not retreat. Say that reason out loud, sing it, letter it, draw it–whatever you need to do. Focus on that mantra and recharge your artistic batteries, for the well of inspiration you draw from will never empty, not as long as you have the will to draw from it. After all, motivation is about reminding yourself how to find the will to make art when you lose it.


Discipline is the time you will take every day in 2017 to make art.

The challenge is designed around spending one hour every day to make your original art.
Modifications are as follows:

  • Subtract Half an Hour: Thirty minutes is good for beginners! If this allotted time does not challenge you, however, consider upping it to 45 minutes or an hour.
  • Add Fifteen Minutes: Tackle one household chore or personal health item every day like making the bed, eating vegetables, flossing, etc.
  • Add Half an Hour: Get moving, get grooving. Pledge to dedicate this time to a physical activity like biking, climbing stairs, going for a walk, going to the gym, etc.
  • Add an Hour: Switch techniques, genres, art forms and start something brand new–or double your time.

One thing to keep in mind, is that it doesn’t matter how good the art is you make if you are learning. Stretching the boundaries of what you normally do often means that your first attempts will probably suck. That’s okay! Give yourself permission to suck, but also to improve, revise, refine. You cannot see how far you’ve come, or how you’ve internalized the techniques you’ve been practicing, unless you put the time in. This is why discipline is needed to keep you on track.

A few things to think about depending upon your situation:

  • One hour writing sprints typically yield 750 to 1,200 words of text.
  • To hit the NaNoWriMo word count goal of 50,000, you would average 1.5 to 2 hours of writing every day.
  • If you’re a professional artist, consider using this hour to create something you haven’t sold or been contracted to create yet. Think of this as your pie-in-the-sky wish list!
  • If you need supplies, pay yourself a dollar every time you make art.
  • If you have kids, roommates, or family obligations, consider working out a time where you have an hour to yourself or, alternatively, break it up into two half-hour segments.
  • To instill discipline, you will need consistency. If you know you’re going to miss a day, either plan to make it up (if that works for you) or spend half the time on it instead.

The keys to making your own art on a regular basis is commitment. The motivation is the “why”, the discipline is the “how”, and the accountability is the “what”.


Pledge to hold yourself accountable to this Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge.

It’s one thing to say you’re going to make art or write that novel or what have you, it’s another to actually do it. Accountability is about proving to yourself that you have done the work you pledged to do.

Methods for accountability include:

  • Use a diary and write journal entries to mark your progress.
  • Buy a calendar and put smiley face stickers on it, or use the calendar on your phone.
  • Buddy up and find someone else who’s taking this challenge to hold each other accountable.
  • Check in every Wednesday here on my website, beginning on January 4th. Comments will be open.
  • Print out a free calendar and “X” off the days.
  • Use the hashtag #makeartnotwar2017 or #manw2017. Share your efforts every week–even talking about it with other challengers will help!

Accountability doesn’t have to take a long time; just by checking off a date on your calendar right after you’re done will complete this part of the challenge. There is no greater sense of accomplishment than being able to quickly look back at what you’ve done. Super important!


Manage your connections with your online and offline communities to remain focused but grounded.

For this challenge, connection taps back into the reasons why you’re making art. A story you write could make someone cry. A digital painting you create could instill a sense of wonder. The art you produce is a unique part of your identity, your humanity, and at the other end of your art is a reader, viewer, or player who’s interacting with your creation. Often, the best art evokes an emotional reaction, regardless of how well its crafted. Our relationships help give us the connections needed to understand the spectrum of human emotion. They also provide the means for self-care, and a tool to help us support one another.

Unfortunately, our connections can work against us because there are so many different ways to connect, that they wind up distracting us from what we want to accomplish as artists. The truth is that artists need solitude in order to create; being alone, even when it’s depicted in a positive, almost spiritual light, carries many stigmas with it. We hear the word “loner” and internalize our need or enjoyment of solitude as being wrong or bad or a sign that we’re broken. We need that “alone time” to focus, to listen to our innermost selves, to channel our voices into making art before we can share our creations with others.

This leg of the challenge is about managing your ability to connect against the discipline required to make art. For me, that is broken up into two, distinct parts: offline and online. Your mileage on these two areas in particular will vary widely, depending upon your situation.

I am listing below what I’m pledging to do for my challenge, in the hopes that you’ll use this as a baseline.

Weekly Check-In:

    Pending any work-related promotions, interviews, this challenge, etc., I pledge to check in to social media no more than twice a week for personal usage.

Quarterly Downtime:

    • A few years ago, I took

100 days off of social media

    , and since then I’ve found that it took me two weeks to reset. I usually take the week off after a big show, but I will consider taking more of these breaks if limiting my access is not effective.

Monthly Connection:

    I started this back in October/November, but it bears repeating now. Once a month, I am connecting with other artists/writers in my local community–outside of convention season.

Now that I’ve written the rules, it’s time to spend the last two weeks of the year reflecting on what I want to do for my challenge by reviewing what I’ve got on deck. I will post next week about this in particular, to help you prepare as well.

Rise up. And take the Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge with me!

Captain Whinypants Will Eat Everything

Captain Whinypants

It’s been a rough past couple of weeks in the House of Teeny, Tiny Valen, so here’s one of my favorite pictures of Captain Whinypants. His new thing is to go after organic fertilizer? Yeah, I got nothing on that one. But, apparently Jobe’s Organic Fertilizer sticks are so tasty he ripped the box open. Managed to get it away from him, but still. UGH!

Right now, all I want to do is binge watch a bunch of Miyazaki movies and call it a day, but I’m so sick of being high on Ny-Quil the idea of sitting for hours at a time does not sound appealing. Sounds like an idea straight out of Heart and Brain comic by The Awkward Yeti, eh? Fortunately, I think I’m finally over this double whammy of a virus.


Mood: Zen. So Zen. Like, zen-like.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Three so far.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Hunting Pokemon
In My Ears: the washing machine. Great, eh?
Game Last Played: Final Fantasy X-2
Book Last Read: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End Um… Why was this movie THREE HOURS LONG again?
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.

Captain Whinypants Will Eat Everything was originally published on Monica Valentinelli

Friendly Friday: The Princess and the F-Bomb

Inspired by Princess Alethea Kontis’s goal to institute friendly friday, I’m pleased to highlight different creators, companies, and artists whose work I really enjoy on this, the day of Freya. I don’t get the chance to squee as much anymore, and I really need that right now. (I had a post planned, in fact, but this particular squee is the kind of stress relief that money cannot buy.) Yes, there’s a lot to be concerned about, but without any humor I’ll devolve into a hot mess that can’t be mopped up.

My friend Bill Bodden presented me with this particular beaut, and I thought it was fitting to end the week with a review of the plushtastic F-Bomb from Plushzilla.

First, I’d like to set the mood. The lights around you dim. You hear the slow, steady beat of a synthesized drum. Then, the ghost of Barry White materializes, and–

*cue loud record scratch*

Uh, let’s try that again. Just a drum roll this time, I think. Perfect!

Presenting the F-Bomb

In the universe of the illustrious plushie, it seems that there is always another avenue of plush-tastic ideas to explore. Take for example Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle who, sadly, does not have the fiery temperature of a demon as one might expect. And, the ever-popular Labyrinth worm that neither talks nor walks, who shall forever remain nameless doomed to a lonely existence outside the Goblin King’s maze.

The F-Bomb is one such idea, and shares the Labyrinth worm’s ineffectiveness as it does have several weaknesses. While sewn well, this F-Bomb is not explosive and can be dropped repeatedly and with vigor. In fact, this F-Bomb is so soft it can be launched at any unsuspecting target– even small children under the age of 3. To test this theory, I threw the F-bomb at myself; it felt as if a rainbow-colored unicorn had frolicked in a pile of rose petals and one just happened to land on my cheek. Yes, it was that soft, which leads me to believe this is not a mere plushie. Oh no, this F-Bomb is the avatar of the letter “F” in material form.

I was quite disappointed, however, to discover that the wick isn’t a flammable incendiary device. It appears to be an intricate braid of hairs pulled from an ancient Viking’s beard that was conditioned for days in almond oil, and then attached to the F-Bomb’s butter-soft casing. The red “F” is also made from a similar material as its housing, and while that letter may well be dyed with the blood of someone’s enemies, it’s hard to say if that’s truly the case. No wonder this F-Bomb doesn’t come with a warning label!

The one upside to the F-Bomb, is that its name isn’t something the nefarious Autocorrect will touch. In fact, one can freely say “F-Bomb” instead of the swear word it represents, which prevents quite a bit of confusion. After all, the word “duck” has a slightly different (and considerably more avian) meaning than the -uck beginning with “f”, which makes it a poor, sorry excuse for an expletive.

And now, for a live action response to the F-Bomb. This is a picture of Captain Whinypants who is idly sitting next to the F-Bomb, but not on top of it, ready to toss it at a moment’s notice.

If the F-Bomb strikes your fancy, you can pick one up on Etsy. The store is taking a brief break because they’re on the road. If you follow this link, you can sign up for updates and view the description.

    Mood: Out of ducks
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: 2
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: 20, but I did not get any Pokestops.
    In My Ears: A fountain and a snoring cat. Would make a great picture book!
    Game Last Played: Pokemon GO
    Book Last Read: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Thor
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition and Unknown Armies Books 1-3. Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming this month!

Friendly Friday: The Princess and the F-Bomb was originally published on Monica Valentinelli

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