New release: Beauty and Wickedness

Dangerous spirits lurk in the woods
A bargain can bind a soul
Enchanted sleep can only be broken by true love’s kiss…

You know these things are true…even in this modern world. Your heart still recognizes the power and mystery you can only find in a fairy tale.

In Beauty and Wickedness, the first volume in the anthology series Ever After Fairy Tales, sixteen authors retell and reimagine some of the most enchanting fairy tales ever told. Within these pages, you’ll find beauty and treachery, magic and courage, innocence and wickedness…and at least some happy endings.

Come and lose yourself in the delights and dangers of Beauty and Wickedness.

Amazon ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Books2Read


Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

Story spotlight: “The Ballad of Molly McGee” by DeAnna Knippling

Witches weave curses out of words; the less you use ‘em, the more powerful they are. Blessings are weaker—but you can use them more often, wear them in like shoes.

Judith’s red-headed granddaughter Molly, also a witch, curses her way through life, and now look at her—pregnant, a widow, and an adulteress with the spirit of a mountain to boot. Not that Judith can complain; it’s only been time that’s worn off her own rough edges. And what else is a grandmother to do, but love her grandbaby?

Now it’s time for the baby to be born, to a powerful witch who can’t be touched by painkillers, with a father who’s being strip-mined by a company town, in a cabin at the top of the sky, and a midwife who’s tired of the drama.

What else could possibly go wrong?

And of course there has to be a storm rolling in…

“The Ballad of Molly McGee” is in the Witches’ Brew bundle. You can learn more on BundleRabbit, Goodreads, and the bundle’s Facebook page.

Collections With Stories by This Author

More by the Author

About the Author

DeAnna Knippling is a writer, a parent, and an overthinker who boldly paranoids where no one has paranoided before. Her superpower is speed reading. She ghostwrites novels for fun and profit. She has an essay in the award-winning Women Destroy Science Fiction! collection. She has had stories published in Penumbra, Three-Lobed Burning Eye, Black Static, and more. Her latest novel, Alice’s Adventures in Underland: The Queen of Stilled Hearts, comes out of her obsession with all things Alice. She writes books for middle-graders as De Kenyon.

Find the Author

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

Interview: The Editors of Electric Spec

Electric Spec

Founded in 2005, Electric Spec is a not-for-profit speculative fiction magazine published four times per year. The primary goal of the editors is to get great speculative fiction into the hands (or screens) of readers; they’ve published short stories from authors all over the world.

Meet the editors!

Grayson Towler has a lifelong fascination with dragons, dinosaurs, magic, and the telling stories. His first book, a middle-grade fantasy titled The Dragon Waking, was published in 2016 by Albert Whitman & Company. The book was a finalist in the 2012 RMFW Gold contest.

Grayson has worked as a copy writer since 2004 for Sounds True, a publishing company for books and audio programs concerning meditation, spirituality, and self-help. He is also an illustrator, and he has been writing and drawing an urban fantasy webcomic, Thunderstruck, since 2004. He also created “Tales from the Vault” – a popular collaborative fiction website active from 1996-2001.

In addition to writing, Grayson has also been a web designer, substitute teacher, comic artist, and small business owner. He and his wife, Candi, live in a house owned by three relatively benevolent cats in Longmont, Colorado.

Lesley L. Smith has a Ph.D. in Elementary Particle Physics and is the author or coauthor of many scientific articles. Her speculative short fiction has appeared in a variety of venues, including Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Lesley is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Minta Monroe writes darker fantasy, particularly involving the occult or supernatural. She is the author of The Mound Dwellers and several collections of short stories. In addition to fantasy, she writes science fiction and mystery under other pen names.

Nikki Baird writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror, both long and short form. Her short horror story, “Devastation Mine” was published as part of the anthology Broken Links, Mended Lives, which was nominated for a Colorado Book Award. She has been a finalist in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold contest for the two years in the Speculative Fiction category, and is a regular contributor to Littleton Writers Critique Group, an open critique group in southwest Denver. She is currently trying to place her second fantasy novel with a publisher.

The Interview

What’s your sorting process for stories that come in?

Grayson: Lesley handles this, and I believe she randomly divides the stories evenly between the slush readers.

Lesley: I randomly assign each story to an editor.

Minta: I start with the earliest subs and read in the chronological order in which
we received them.

Nikki: I don’t sort at all, I take them in the order received.
How far do you read into a given story?

Grayson: This very much depends on the quality of the writing! So writers, all that guidance you’ve heard about how important the first lines and pages are… it’s true. If I’m confused, bored, turned off by a cliche, or annoyed by basic errors of grammar and spelling, the odds are I’m not going to force myself to push through to the end. I might skim a story and see if it picks up, but it’s really important for a story to make a good first impression.

That said, I really do try to give every story a chance. A story doesn’t have to start in medias res to capture my attention (in fact, that technique has as high a failure rate as anything else). If the author’s writing fundamentals are good and the story doesn’t seem derivative, I’ll generally stick with a story to the end.

Lesley: I basically agree with what the others said: I read until I stop reading. 🙂

Generally, I’ll give it a page. If my attention hasn’t been grabbed by then: sorry! We get hundreds of stories submitted for each issue and we just don’t have time to keep going.

Minta: Until something makes me stop reading. Usually it’s something about the story itself, and usually this becomes clear in the first 2 pages, although sometimes much sooner. Almost half of my subs make me read the entire story.

Nikki: Until I get bored or irritated. Sometimes that’s half a page in, sometimes it’s half a page before the end. Very rarely will I read a story I plan to pass on through to the end, but it does happen every once in awhile, when I’m so confused about what the story is about or where it’s going that I just have to know how the author thought it SHOULD end. But that’s definitely not a good reason to finish a story!
How many readers does a story have to pass through before a decision is made about it?

Grayson: There are two stages of evaluation. In the first stage, one of our slush readers will engage with the story and decide if it is good enough to make the finals – that’s upward of 170 stories per issue in total. When we have the finalists selected, we generally have a list of 20-22 stories left. Then all three editors read everything on the finalist list, and we select our top 5 by consensus.

Sometimes that last cut involves leaving some very good stories out of the issue, which is tough.

Lesley: As Grayson said, we have two stages of evaluation. In stage one, a story will get one or two editors to read it. If a story reaches the second stage, then a minimum of three more editors will read it. So, potentially, all five editors might read a story that we publish.

Minta: If I think a story isn’t right for us, then it has only one reader: me.
But if I think a story is worthy of publication, then I ask another editor to read it also. If the second editor agrees with me, then it goes on for review by the remaining editors. In that case, a story will have 4 readers, because in the end, we all love the stories we select for
What do you like/dislike about editing?

DISLIKES: I dislike rejecting stories. I’ve been on the other end of that process often enough that I know how it feels.

I dislike having to send form letters out for rejections–every author wants to know why their story wasn’t selected. After all, without feedback, how are you supposed to improve? I get it. But we just do not have time to engage at that level. It’s that simple.

I dislike getting excellent “first chapters.” The experience is this: I’m reading along in a submission, I’m really getting into story and loving where it’s heading, and then all of a sudden it stops. It’s as if I’ve gotten the first chapter of a book but I don’t get to read the rest. An open-ended ending is one thing–those can be great. But a good story that just cuts off mid-stream? That’s the most frustrating sort of submission.

LIKES: I love finding that stand-out story in the submission process. Having to reject a bunch of stories in a row starts to feel so depressing, and I begin to wonder if I’ve become too jaded to enjoy anything. But then, a gem of a story comes along, and it’s a bit like falling in love.

Once we settle in and get our stories assigned, I love working with authors. Maybe I’ve been fortunate, but my experiences have been universally positive once an author and I get down to the actual editing process. Helping an author find the rough spots in their story so the whole thing can shine is infinitely rewarding.

Lesley: I like having the opportunity to encourage other authors and give them the opportunity to share their work with the world.

Minta: Editing is not part of my tasks for Electric Spec, but I enjoy the
challenge of figuring out why a story either works for me or not.

Nikki: I actually like editing. I feel like it helps me cast a stronger critical eye over my own work. It’s so much easier to see what’s not working quite right in someone else’s writing than your own. I was “raised” in the critique methods of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, which subscribes to the sandwich method of good-bad-good. I always try to say something positive in the note I send back with edits – what I liked about the story that got us to offer publication. And I try to point out 2-3 things in a story that I thought worked really well, in amongst all the edits. I try to offer concrete explanations for why something doesn’t work, and also a suggestion for what might work better. I try never to say “This doesn’t work – fix it”. That’s completely unhelpful. And I try to end with a positive comment or two at the end of an edit.
Once Electric Spec buys the rights to a story, what’s the editing process like?

Grayson: Speaking for myself, I scrub through the story in detail and look for any spot where the author could be more clear, more succinct, or more engaging. I generally don’t do too much developmental editing, but if I see a spot where a plot point might go a different way to strengthen the story, I’ll offer the suggestion.

In general, I find that an editor’s most useful function is to spot problems and explain why they’re problems. The actual solutions are better when they come from the author. My goal is to support the author in making this the best version of their story it can possibly be.

Once I’ve engaged with my first editing pass, I send it back to the author for their review. The author then reviews every suggested change and either accepts it, improves it, or contacts me to discuss whether the change is needed. There may be a bit of back-and-forth, but by that point the story is generally ready to go on to proofing.

The time frame we’re talking about here is about 4 weeks from signing to publication. So when we select stories for the issue, we keep that time frame in mind. What that means is we look for stories that are already quite solid. In submissions review, I’ve seen many “diamonds in the rough” that have a lot of potential but would simply take too much polishing. Stories have a better chance of getting accepted if the author has put the time and effort in to make them as mistake-free as possible.

Lesley: I print out my stories and then critique them as I do for my critique partners’ stories. Then, I email the authors back this edited doc and we go from there… From there, it differs quite a bit. Some stories need very little work. Some need more.
What’s your favorite part of working on Electric Spec?

Grayson: Well, apart from what I mentioned above about the editing process, I really enjoy working with Lesley and Nikki as editors. I’ve learned a lot, and I think we have a good rapport. Most of all, I love good stories. Being able to give authors a platform to share their stories is incredibly fulfilling.

Lesley: I really enjoy encouraging other authors. I’m also honored to work with such a great group of editors (who are all also great authors)!

Minta: Finding an unforgettable story. When a story sweeps me away, I form my own
list of stories that I hope will also sweep away the other editors. It’s a sweet moment when one of those stories ends up making it into the current issue!

Nikki: Getting the exposure to so much creativity. I get to read literally hundreds of short stories for free, and get a look into basically the “raw psyche” of spec fic writers out there. That’s pretty cool! And E-Spec wouldn’t be possible without a
crew that is dedicated and organized – and Lesley most of all keeps us all running

Find Electric Spec

Website | Facebook | Blog | The Editors


Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

How-to: Convert an image to black & white using an adjustment in Photoshop

There are a number of ways to convert an image to black & white in Photoshop; this post explains how to do it using an adjustment, which can be applied via either a smart filter or an adjustment layer.

Both smart filters and adjustment layers apply changes to the color and/or tone of your image, but they’re layered on top of your image – not made to the image itself. This means you can modify them, or turn them on or off, without changing the original image.

Smart filters apply to a single image, whereas an adjustment layer applies to all layers that come after it (not just image layers).

Here’s an example showing an image before and after the black & white adjustment was applied. In this case, the adjustment was only applied to the background image.


  • You have an existing .psd file.
  • The image you are working with is a smart object.

Convert a single image to black and white using a smart filter

  • Select the image in the Layers panel.
  • Click Image > Adjustments > Black & White.

  • The Black and White adjustment presets will be displayed. You can adjust the color values if the defaults aren’t exactly what you want.

  • Click OK.
  • A new smart filter will appear underneath your image in the Layers panel.


Create an adjustment layer to change all subsequent layers to black and white

  • In the Layers panel, select the image you want to convert to black and white.
  • In the Adjustments panel, click the Black & White icon.

  • The Black and White adjustment presets will be displayed. You can adjust the color values if the defaults aren’t exactly what you want.



Photoshop version

The version of Photoshop used for this post was the 2017.1.1 Release of Adobe Photoshop CC, 20170425.r.252 x64, on OS X 10.13.1.


Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

Story spotlight: “Imuji” by Liz Pierce

Tim’s would-be girlfriend has snakes in her hair.

His best friend appears to be incombustible.

And during the night, a dragon tattoo has appeared on Tim’s arm, a symbol of his half-Korean heritage.

Tim MacLaren was an ordinary student at Olympus High, until the day after his seventeenth birthday when he discovered that, like most of his friends, he was anything but “ordinary.”

An Olympus High short story.
“Imuji” is in the Fantasy in the City bundle. You can learn more on BundleRabbit, Goodreads, and the bundle’s Facebook page.

Bundles With Stories by This Author

More by the Author

About the Author

Whether it’s the exploits of the teenage offspring of the Gods walking the halls of Olympus High, or Faerie Folk moving to the Real World and trying to cope with jobs, neighbors, and everyday life, Liz Pierce writes “suburban fantasy” – stories that blur the boundaries between the real world and the fantastical, but are lighter and less edgy than their urban cousins. And, hopefully, a little more fun.

Find the Author

Website | Facebook | Goodreads


Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

Interview: Chuck Anderson and Jim LeMay on “Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence”

Meet Chuck and Jim!

Chuck Anderson and Jim LeMay are the editors of Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence, a collection of stories by writers whose lives were touched by the late Ed Bryant. In addition to creating this collection as a tribute to Ed, Chuck and Jim are both very talented speculative writers in their own right.

Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence

Edward Bryant influenced a generation of readers and writers. In this collection, you’ll find stories of dinosaurs roaming the Earth, zombies rampaging a small town in Colorado, a Norse god in a rock band, and a family road trip to view the solar eclipse in Montana when something strange becomes visible in the darkness. Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence contains twenty-four stories influenced by a master of science-fiction and horror. Editors Chuck Anderson and Jim LeMay are proud to find and work with so many talented writers who called Ed their friend and mentor. In this book you’ll discover the extraordinary influence of a master’s touch!

This collection contains stories by Edward Bryant, Connie Willis, Steve Rasnic Tem, Eneasz Brodski, Kevin J. Anderson, Janis Ian, Gary Jonas, Denese E. Dora, Kent Johnson, Richard E. Friesen, Jamie Ferguson, Wayne Faust, Mario Acevedo, Lucy Taylor, Bruce Holland Rogers, Gregory R. Hyde, Robert Chansky, Trey R. Barker, Stace Johnson, David Kilman, Marie Desjardin, Van Aaron Hughes, Rebecca Hodgkins, Chuck Anderson, and Jim LeMay.

The Interview

What inspired you to create this collection?

Chuck: Jim and I decided to start the collection after we were at a remembrance for Ed. There, a bunch of us who knew him were telling stories about him and drinking beer when a writer said, ‘We were all just Ed’s kids!’ That’s when I got the first idea for the anthology. A few days later, I told Jim my idea. Luckily for me, he came onboard and soon afterward we came up with the guidelines and started to ask authors for stories. Jim and I also knew Ed’s estate was trying to start a scholarship in Ed’s name and part of the anthology’s profits will go to it.

Jim: As with our most unusual and innovative ideas, Chuck came up with this one. When he mentioned the idea to me a few days after our group reminisced about our friend and mentor I immediately agreed. What a wonderful way to honor Ed! In his will Ed stipulated that part of his estate should be used to set up an award to be called the Edward W. Bryant Jr. Mathom Award. As Chuck mentioned a portion of the profits from this book will go to that award.
Tell us about the theme for these stories. How did you select them, and what do they have in common?

Chuck: The stories were all by authors Ed worked with over the years. The oldest story is by Connie Willis from 1979, and a few were created just a few months before his death. The stories vary just as much as the authors who wrote them. It’s surprising to see their range and their talent, but it doesn’t surprise me because Ed had so much to give to most of them. How did we select them? Jim usually reads them first. They have to get by him. He’s a good gatekeeper.

Jim: Selecting the few stories to include was an agonizing process. We had such excellent stories from so many talented writers to choose from. Even though, as Chuck says, I read the stories first, we decided on the final cut together. We wanted to include stories that represented the broad range of subjects that Ed favored in science fiction, horror and fantasy.
What did each of you learn from Ed? What impact did he have on your own writing?

Chuck: I always learned from Ed the dignity of how a professional writer should always act. It was always the way he carried himself and how well he treated others. How we should critique each other’s stories. How we should deal with publishers and editors. How to talk to act at a convention. Ed always showed us his professionalism, and I have always felt the best teachers always taught by example and Ed was one of them.

Jim: I had written non-fiction for decades before I started experimenting with fiction. I explained everything in enough detail for my clients to clearly understand the subject and which actions should be taken next. That worked fine for non-fiction, but manifested itself as a stiff writing style in my first two novels. Then I joined one of Ed’s writers’ groups. He taught me to give the reader just enough detail to let her figure out the rest. He showed me my strengths as well as areas where I needed improvement. All this in a firm but gentle manner that has made me a much better writer.

Oh, yeah. I rewrote my first two novels after finishing those under his tutelage.
What did you enjoy most about putting this anthology together?

Chuck: The things I enjoyed most about putting together the anthology were working with Jim and the other twenty-two authors. At first, I didn’t know if we could put the book together but after a few weeks stories started to come in one after another. The outpouring from our community was overwhelming; there will always be a great amount of love for him.

Jim: The day after Chuck suggested putting the anthology together, to which I so eagerly agreed, I had second thoughts. Had we committed a horrible act of hubris? How could we possibly have thought giants of our genre like Connie Willis, Steve Rasnic Tem and so many others agree to place their stories in our inexperienced hands? But, as you can see from the result, they did. And now I find I have made new friends of all those excellent writers and friends of Ed.
What makes it fun for the two of you to work on a project like this together?

Chuck: Jim is the best. We’re neighbors and only live a mile apart. We usually meet every week at a local brewpub. We have become good friends over the last couple of years, and I don’t remember any big disagreements when we were putting the anthology together. He’s always level-headed, and he listens to all of my crazy ideas. When Jim came onboard, he made the anthology one hundred percent better.

Jim: Our similarities (among other things, we both like beer) and differences (Chuck’s full of crazy — his definition — ideas that fascinate me and I tend to be more conservative and curmudgeonly). We’re close friends as well as neighbors. I feel honored that he chose me to help him with the anthology. Just wait’ll you see what he just came up with for our next project!
Are you planning other collections?

Chuck & Jim: We are currently putting together an anthology of dinosaur stories, tentatively to be called A Fistful of Dinosaurs. We are working on several other ideas.
What’s your most memorable memory of Ed?

Chuck: Maybe the time we almost got into a minor car accident on I-25. Or the time he proudly showed me the tulips in his garden. Or the unusual Christmas gift he seemed to find for everyone each year. Or the two of my short stories he purchased for Wormhole Books? One memory? How can I only choose one?

Jim: I remember those of his books he signed for me at several MileHiCons. He signed the first, his collection of short stories “Wyoming Sun” my first year in the Denver area in 1982. He always spoke to me for a moment or two before signing a book to find out how to make the message personal. And I remember our joking about his “flat cats” and trading puns about cats on our way to a writers’ meeting in the mountains. And his memorable comments about my novels. And as Chuck says, there are many more.

About Chuck

Charles Eugene Anderson is a painter, publisher, writer. Chuck lives in Colorado.

Website | Goodreads | Email

About Jim

Jim LeMay is originally from Missouri, the land of Mark Twain, Yogi Berra, Walter Cronkite, Edwin Hubble, Robert A. Heinlein and many other worthies so he knows his characters well. He has engaged in many of their vocations and avocations – homebrewer, bartender, waiter, land surveyor, civil engineer, land developer – and in some they have not: author, copywriter, commercial artist and others best forgotten. Jim lives in the Denver metropolitan area.

Website | Facebook
AuthorsDen | Goodreads | Email

Find out more about Ed Bryant

Locus Magazine | The Internet Speculative Fiction Database | Wikipedia

Find Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence

Mad Cow Press | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo
Books2Read | Facebook | Goodreads


Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

Embed a Pinterest board in WordPress


  • WordPress site.
  • Pinterest account.
  • A Pinterest board to embed on your WordPress site. Note that this doesn’t have to be your own board.

Configure WordPress

A specific instruction must appear in one of the PHP files on your WordPress site in order for embedded Pinterest boards to be displayed.

Don’t worry – you don’t need to write code to do this. 🙂

This instruction just tells WordPress to include some commands that tell it how to handle the Pinterest board.

  • Check to see if this is already set up.
    • If you have Jetpack installed, check to see if you have this file:

      If you do, make sure it contains something like this:

      $script_src = '//';
      wp_enqueue_script( 'pinterest-embed', $script_src, array(), false, true );

    • If you don’t have Jetpack installed, see if this line or something similar is present in your PHP files (search for “pinit.js”). It would likely be in header.php, but could be in another location.
      <script async defer src="//"></script>

  • If this is not set up, add this text to the file header.php for your theme, and save the modified file.
    <script async defer src="//"></script>

    Note that if you’re not running a child theme, this line will be overwritten if your theme is updated. (Unless you’re doing something that’s very customized, you should be using a child theme for this very reason – because who wants their modifications to be lost?)

Embed your Pinterest board

  • Go to the board you want to include, and copy the URL.

  • Go to the Pinterest Widget builder page.
  • Click on Board widget.

  • Paste the URL you copied into the Pinterest board URL field.
  • Select the desired size.
  • Copy the code displayed in the box under “Copy and paste this code…”
  • Edit the WordPress page or post or widget where you want the Pinterest board to be displayed.
  • Paste in the code you copied. This should work in the Visual Editor as well as in the Text Editor in WordPress.
  • Preview what you’ve done to make sure everything is displaying properly, and then save it.

You can modify the HTML to adjust the size, change the alignment, etc. For example, this text centers the board.

<center><a data-pin-do="embedBoard" data-pin-board-width="400" data-pin-scale-height="240" data-pin-scale-width="80" href=""></a></center>

And here’s the result.


Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

Story spotlight: “Freshly Ghost” by Chuck Heintzelman

Being dead was unlike anything Chance Phillips had expected. For one thing, he’s forced to change his name. For another, he discovers he can move through time.
When Chance learns a friend, an alive friend, is in danger will he and his ghost friend Jeremy be able to save her in time?
“Freshly Ghost” is in the Haunted bundle. You can learn more on BundleRabbit, Goodreads, and the bundle’s Facebook page.

Collections With Stories by This Author

More by the Author

About the Author

Chuck writes quirky short stories, usually with some sort of fantastical element. He’s as surprised by this as anyone. Even after dozens of stories he stills stays up too late at night, feverishly working on the next tale.

He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his beautiful wife and their three daughters.

Find the Author

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

Interview: Alethea Kontis on “The Goblin and the Treasure”

“The Goblin and the Treasure” is in the Once Upon a Quest anthology, a collection of fifteen tales of adventure, all brand new fairy tale twists from bestselling and award-winning authors. With inspirations ranging from The Ugly Duckling to Snow White, and everything in between (including trips to Camelot and Oz), these fabulous tales are full of adventure, magic, and a touch of romance.

Meet Alethea!

Alethea weaves fairy tale fantasy in the realm of Arilland, and dabbles in other fantasy worlds as well. She’s been a guest speaker about fairy tales at the Library of Congress, and gave a keynote address at the Lewis Carroll Society’s Alice150 Conference in New York City, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

“The Goblin and the Treasure”

Out-of-work soldier Kira Kobold is handpicked by the High Wizard Zelwynn to go on a quest. Her companions? A growly ogress, a surly dwarf, a dimwitted troll, and an overly optimistic goblin. This wasn’t exactly the quest she was looking for…

Kira fumed. It was supposed to be her up there. According to the dreams, it should have been her.

“Company,” announced the High Wizard, “I present your champions!”

There was a smattering of applause at the declaration, but far more groans and grumbles.

Kira tried to contain her anger…and failed. “They don’t even know what they’re looking for!”

Zelwynn’s bushy brows furrowed. “Didn’t I say?”

“No!” Kira yelled. A few others echoed her answer.

“Goodness, that’s very unlike me,” Zelwynn muttered. “Thank you for setting me straight, clever young woman. Tell me, would you like to join this questing party as well?”

“What is the quest for?” Kira asked pointedly.

Zelwynn spread his arms wide and proudly announced: “The Lost Treasure of Zelwynn!”

Laughs were hidden under coughs, along with a few expressions of confusion. What on earth had the High Wizard misplaced in the mountains that he couldn’t just go find himself?

Kira narrowed her eyes. “Animal, vegetable, or mineral?”

“It is an instrument of both perfect peace and ultimate destruction,” Zelwynn answered. “Its value is beyond price.”

Trench and Forge exchanged knowing glances. The troll and the goblin didn’t stand half a chance against those two. But with Kira’s help they might. She loosened the grip on the hilt of her sword. “Fine. Count me in.”

“Kira Kobold, everyone!” Zelwynn announced as she approached the dais, and the crowd of soldiers actually cheered. Kira hadn’t expected that. Nor had she expected the High Wizard to know her by name, but she supposed wizards had their ways. At the top of the steps, she faced Zelwynn. Unafraid, she stared deep into those beady little eyes.

“It’s about time,” the High Wizard said. And then he winked at her.

– from “The Goblin and the Treasure” by Alethea Kontis

The Interview

“The Goblin and the Treasure” is based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale “The Goblin and the Grocer.” What is it about the original fairy tale that inspired you to use it as the inspiration for your story?

The message at the heart of “The Goblin and the Grocer” is about the magic of books, and how vital they are to an optimistic life. Plus, I also love the whole crazy “cut out the Grocer’s wife’s tongue and put it on a whole bunch of inanimate objects so they can have their say” plot device. I’ve always been a big fan of personifying inanimate objects. Comes from being a young girl with a big imagination, I guess…

Why are fairy tales so important to you?

I began reading at three years old. By five I was eating up poetry and novels like there was no tomorrow, but the fairy stories were always my favorite. So on my eighth birthday, my French grandmother gave me a HUGE volume of collected tales by Grimm and Andersen. They were the unexpurgated tales, full of magic and monsters and darkness and blood and hope. These were the adventures of my childhood, and the well from which all my other stories since have sprung.

How do fairy tales manifest in your Trix Adventures series? Can you give us a sneak peek at what will be in book three, Trix and the Fire Witch?

Fairy tales leave most sensible people with a lot of questions. I like answering those questions with other fairy tales. Trix’s character comes from the Grimms’ tale “The Foundling.” Right before I decided to spin his adventures off into a series of novellas, I had just re-read Andrew Lang’s Crimson Fairy Book. Trixter is very much an homage to that book. Trix is the “Beggar Boy” who knows “The Language of Beasts” and “How to find out a True Friend.” Lizinia and Papa Gatto’s characters are straight out of “The Colony of Cats.”

I always wondered what would realistically happen to that girl dipped in gold, and her sister with the donkey’s tail on her forehead. Why was the Colony of Cats formed, and what would happen to all those cats after they died? Writing Papa Gatto as both The Godfather and the Cheshire Cat was just so easy…it made far too much sense!

Those who know “The Colony of Cats,” and have read “Hero Worship” from Tales of Arilland, will have a very good idea who’s going to appear in Book Three…including the identity of the Fire Witch!

Do your novels and stories connect with each other? If so, how? And why?

That, my friend, is an answer that will take more time than we have here. Arilland has become my Middle Earth. A Thousand Years of Faerie live in my head at all times now. I have begun including essays at the end of my novels (where I can) that discuss the origin of certain elements in that novel, and how they connect to the other stories. For instance, beta readers of “The Goblin and the Treasure” recognized my goblin mythology from When Tinker Met Bell, but they completely missed the MASSIVE reference to Hero until I mentioned it in the essay!

One day, there will be a map. But that is not this day.

You’ve been a part of the Once Upon anthology series from the beginning. How did the series begin, and what do you enjoy about participating in it?

“The Unicorn Hunter” in Once Upon a Curse might be my favorite story of all time. And then I started my tale for Once Upon a Kiss: “Once upon a time, long after the Wizard War, in the Third Age of Faerie the kingdom of Upper Reaches was separated from the rest of the world by a glass mountain.” At that moment, a Thousand Years of Faerie sprang into my head fully formed. I suddenly saw how everything I’d ever written and everything I’m ever going to write all fit together, and my life changed forever.

The thing I love best about my stories in the three Once anthologies is that right now they relate to each other more than they relate to any other storyline I have out in the world. I’m so excited for all my future projects from here on out!

What’s the status of Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Rants?

I made 55 episodes of the original Fairy Tale Rants. They are still available to binge watch on YouTube.

I miss making them SO MUCH! But as fun as they were to do, the filming, editing and promotion of each took a solid day out of my week and brought zero income, so I had to stop. I made a few more bonus episodes at the behest of my Fairy Goddaughters, and we debut a new Fairy Tale Rant Theatre production every Dragon Con at Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow. But Fairy Tale Rants will not be created on a regular basis again unless I can hit those milestone goals on my Patreon.

You incorporate aspects from a number of different fairy tales in your Woodcutter Sisters series, which is about seven sisters who are named after the days of the week. Three books in this series are out so far – what’s the plan for the other four?

That answer is best explained here:

What’s important to you about the patchwork skirts that Friday Woodcutter, the protagonist in Dearest, makes for herself?

“Friday’s child is loving and giving.” Since Friday’s nameday gift was a magic needle and sewing is her forte, it made sense to me that she would fashion skirts from leftover bits after she made clothes for the orphans. I did not realize how much this would become a metaphor for Friday’s heart in Dearest, and in my own life. A fan made me a patchwork skirt that I wear with pride. I look forward to making another one from scraps other fans have donated!

Tell us about Charlie!

Charlemagne Montesquieu, the Marquis of Albec, is my teddy bear. We have been together for almost 30 years now. He’s witnessed me at my best and stuck with me through the worst, with a steadfast determination that no other person in my life has ever had. (I refer you back to Question One, about the girl with the big imagination and her passion for inanimate objects. Did I mention that my first best friend was a tree?)

What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I just finished an essay for Clarkesworld’s “Another Word” feature, about how I’ve developed as a podcast narrator over the last seven years. I loved delving into how exactly I use my experiences as a child actress to breathe life into other author’s characters. There’s a magic there—real world magic, and it’s a beautiful thing!

Click here to listen to some of the stories I’ve narrated.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a voice actress, a force of nature, and a mess. She is responsible for creating the epic fairytale fantasy realm of Arilland, and dabbling in a myriad of other worlds beyond. Her award-winning writing has been published for multiple age groups across all genres. Host of “Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Rants” and Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow every year at Dragon Con, Alethea also narrates for ACX, IGMS, Escape Pod, Pseudopod, and Cast of Wonders.

Alethea’s YA fairy tale novel, Enchanted, won both the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award and Garden State Teen Book Award. Enchanted was nominated for the Audie Award in 2013 and was selected for World Book Night in 2014. Both Enchanted and its sequel, Hero, were nominated for the Andre Norton Award. Tales of Arilland, a short story collection set in the same fairy tale world, won a second Gelett Burgess Award in 2015. The second book in The Trix Adventures, Trix and the Faerie Queen, was a finalist for the Dragon Award in 2016.

Princess Alethea was given the honor of speaking about fairy tales at the Library of Congress in 2013. In 2015, she gave a keynote address at the Lewis Carroll Society’s Alice150 Conference in New York City, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She also enjoys speaking at schools and festivals all over the US. (If forced to choose between all these things, she says middle schools are her favorite!)

Born in Burlington, Vermont, Alethea currently lives on the Space Coast of Florida. She makes the best baklava you’ve ever tasted and sleeps with a teddy bear named Charlie.

Find Alethea at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter
Instagram | Pinterest| Wattpad | YouTube | Goodreads

Find Once Upon a Quest!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords | Google Play | Goodreads


Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!

Working with grids in Photoshop

Sometimes you can eyeball the spacing in an image, and sometimes it’s helpful to use a grid to make sure things are lined up correctly. Photoshop allows you to specify the distance between your gridlines, the style and color of the lines, and you can toggle them on and off.

Toggle gridlines on/off

  • View > Show > Grid
  • Keyboard shortcuts:
    • Mac OS X: ⌘ + ‘ (apostrophe)
    • Windows: control + ‘ (apostrophe)

Modify grid preferences

  • Toggle gridlines on if you’d like to see what your setting changes do. Note that you can toggle them on/off while you’re editing your preferences.
  • Go to Guides, Grid, & Slices:
    • Mac OS X: Photoshop > Preferences > Guides, Grid, & Slices
    • Windows: Edit > Preferences > Guides, Grid, & Slices

    The Preferences dialog will be displayed.

  • Modify the settings in the Grid section.
    • Color – this will change the color of the gridlines.
    • Style – this changes the style of the lines displayed in the grid.

    • Gridline Every – sets the spacing between gridlines. You can change the units to be inches, pixels, a percentage of the image, etc.
    • Subdivisions – sets the number of times each grid section will be further divided. Gridlines will show as slightly more obvious lines than the subdivision lines. For example, in this image the gridlines are solid, and the subdivision lines are dotted.

  • Click OK to save your changes.


Photoshop version

The version of Photoshop used for this post was the 2017.1.1 Release of Adobe Photoshop CC, 20170425.r.252 x64, on OS X 10.13.1.


Sign up for the Blackbird Publishing newsletter!