Interview: Diana Benedict on “City of Nowhere in the World”

“City of Nowhere in the World” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.

Enter the magical, unpredictable, wonderful world of fairy tales!

Meet Diana Benedict!

Diana Benedict, aka Thea Hutcheson, lives in Colorado with a collection of books, cats, the boxes and other accouterments the cats entertain themselves with, and an understanding partner. She loves pulling the magical, fairy tale aspect of storytelling into her stories.

“City of Nowhere in the World”

Korshan falls and cuts her knee on a hidden rock in “City of Nowhere in the World.” Korshan seeks the shaman to ask for salve for her knee, not realizing what magical adventures await her.

Excerpt

Korshan steeled herself to stand tall and not quake with the fear that rattled her legs and made her belly clench down tight. It was one thing to see an old man and call him a shaman. It was another to see him wearing his cloak and hear and see the magic in front of you. She looked away lest he see the terror in her eyes and think she wasn’t worthy of his help, or shouldn’t have been trusted with eggs in the first place.

“Come with me, little sun,” he said, waving his staff at her.

She followed him around back of the hut, past the goat pen and the garden to the edge of the barley field, emerald against the dark mud.

“Fetch me a stick and a withy,” he said. Korshan went and picked up a reed and found a long supple twig, and brought them to him.

He sang over them and waved his staff and danced a bit. The lion’s eyes blazed like embers in a smithy’s fire and the stick grew and split, grew and split, while the withy stretched like a long rope and wound around and around, the whole thing growing into a ladder that reached far up into the sky.

“Climb that and look for your eggs,” the shaman commanded.

Korshan stared at the ladder standing straight up and reaching toward the sky. She looked back down the road where she had come, and then back at the ladder. How could this lead to her eggs?

—from “City of Nowhere in the World” by Diana Benedict

The Interview

What inspired you to write “City of Nowhere in the World?”

I read this tale in an anthology of tales of brave girls from around the world and love the nonsensical connections that pulled the reader through the story. But the original was like many fairy tales—bare boned. I just knew Korshan needed more flesh on her story bones to do her tale justice. 

In a previous interview, you said the stories you write with fairy tale elements that are special to you. What is it about these stories that gives you such a strong connection to them? 

I love the magic. I also love that people and animals go through those adventures and come out successful because of their own wits and innate talents. I have always felt like I had to depend on myself to get what I want, and U have made my way in the world successfully because I pursued what I wanted, sometimes in the face of people telling me I couldn’t or shouldn’t for various reasons. 

Where is “City of Nowhere in the World” set, and what is it that you like about this geographical area? 

The story is set in Mesopotamia. I have always been drawn to the Middle East–Greece, Anatolia, and Crete are my favorites, but the earliest cities were built along the Euphrates and Tigres rivers. They were busy figuring out that they could farm and feed themselves, creating time to do other things, like build cities and learn how to live in them. The Bronze Age is my favorite time period. People believed in magic and gods, and people could be magicians and speak to gods. Wonderful things happened back then, when the world was really just getting started in ways that modern people can touch and relate to. That is the best magic.

In “City of Nowhere in the World” Korshan Ilibasha is a strong and clever protagonist, like many of the characters you write about. What do you enjoy about working characters like this into your stories?

They give me a chance to play with lots of situations, and I can give the characters many chances to have adventures where they find their strengths, leverage their fears, and come out better whether they really get what they want or not. It also lets me see into myself and find out wonderful things about myself and my hopes and dreams.

Perils for Portents is a steampunk novel about a haunted fortune telling machine. Do you plan on writing anything else in this world?

Yes, I have several other novels planned for this series. They are a bit further down the production schedule, but Francie Wolcott will get married, and she and Madame LaFontaine, the ghost that haunts the machine, will have several adventures, both in America and abroad. Those stories take place in a very special and difficult time for women just before the turn of the 19th century, and Francie will find her own way through them.

Diana Benedict is one of your pen names. What are the others, and how do you decide which name to write under? 

I also write under Thea Hutcheson and Theda Hudson. 

When I get an idea for a story, I explore who the characters are, the setting, and the theme. What I find for answers determines who gets credit.

 Diana Benedict mostly gets the stories about young and new adults. She also wrote King of the Air, which appears in Doorway into Faerie: Sixteen Tales of Magic and Enchantment (A Procession of Faeries Book 3), which is about a woman in her thirties. She is older than Diana usually writes, but the story was so darn beautiful, she just begged to be the author. 

Thea Hutcheson writes science fiction and fantasy that feature adult characters. She gets to tell all the kinds of stories I was devouring and dreaming of as I grew up and continue to contemplate as an adult.

Theda Hudson writes romance, often with a spicier edge and many times featuring lesbian characters. If I have an idea about an aspect of sexuality or relationships, Theda gets to explore it. 

Tell us about your cats! 

Thanks for asking! We have four cats. They are all rescues. Muncher, Tom, and M all were born under or on our deck, and Ed Gumji came from the Alley Cat Rescue. Muncher is nearly fourteen now, and a “white on the bottom with a gray hooded cloak” cat. She is my partner’s cat. She only loves him and has seen him through leukemia and bladder cancer. Me she will tolerate to feed and empty the cat box, and allows an occasional pet, but mostly she gives me the stink eye and a hiss, just on general purposes.

Ed Gumji is my fraidy cat. He is a buff and cream tabby who had a really horrible start in life. He had to wear a sweatshirt because he had no body fat to speak of and the minute you put it on, he became the brokeback cat. They told me he was six weeks old when I adopted him, but he was really six months old since his fangs came in shortly after I got him. His baby fangs didn’t fall out and he had to have surgery to remove them, just the start of his dental issues. He had ringworm, internal parasites, and as suffered an ongoing battle with irritable bowel syndrome. He’s twelve now and, for the last year, he only eats oven roasted chicken, which I buy as whole chickens and cut up into meal-sized packets for him, and vacuum seal for freshness. Oh, yes, and Friskies for dinner even though it’s like Kitty McDonald’s, but it’s one of the few other things he will eat. He was a wonderful uncle to Tom and M, whom we rescued when they were four weeks old.

Tom and his two siblings were born in the kitty condo we made for the feral cats to birth in so they were safe. When the momma cats would wean the kittens, we would trap the lot of them and get them spayed/neutered and vaccinated, and return them home where they took up their catly lives, coming back for food and fresh water as they wanted. 

But something happened to this momma and one of her kittens. Tom was very talkative and we could hear him meowing from the kitty condo, even with the deck door shut. We went to look and these two adorable kittens were in there. We watched for another day, but Momma didn’t came back. My partner said, “If they eat food, we’re bringing them in.” 

I thought of Muncher and Ed Gumji, but how could I resist these cuties? They did lick up baby food so we brought them in and bottle fed them. We cleaned their little bottoms and put them to bed at night in a scale model tent from Target. When the time came, introduced them to kitten food. That is super fun to watch if you ever get the chance. 

Ed thought we were doing a terrible job of grooming them and he took over those duties plus, he played with them. Tom looked very much like the Big Bad Daddy Tom in the neighborhood–a thick, soft, all-white coat with an ashy mark on his forehead.Tom’s mohawk, as we called the mark, faded, but he turned out to have a blue left eye and green right eye.

His sister, M, is clearly related to Muncher, much to Muncher’s disgust, because she has the same white lower half, gray hooded cloak, and the same faint white stripe over her hips. But she has the tabby “M” on her forehead, hence her name. She also has a long, lemur-like tail and she fetches, bringing the toy mouse to you and asking politely, but insistently for you to throw it. She and Tom are both seven now, but we still call them the kids.

So, now we have four cats and they are all lovely and funny, with interesting personalities and quirks. And, yes, I am halfway to being a crazy cat lady!

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

Theda Hudson just finished a lesbian urban fairy tale that is the second novel in a series. It is a tale based on the Grimm’s fairy tale, “The Crystal Orb”. But it is so much more. There is magic, destiny, mystery, an enchanted princess in a castle, true love, giants, and a magic hat that will take you wherever you like. It is fun because I get to transpose the fairy tale onto modern life and twist the tale elements into new shapes. 

I am also working on a fae short story for Diana Benedict about a reluctant queen. I got to do a lot of research about Iron Age Ireland. I love research. I like to do a lot, and yes, it can be a rabbit hole, but what treasures you can find! The research gems find their way into the story in interesting ways and informs the characters, making them fully formed with views and needs and beliefs all their own.

Once that story is finished I will write the third in a time travel series for Thea Hutcheson. This one takes place just before the last time Lake Missoula, an ice age glacial lake in northern Idaho, flooded. It was an epic flood, changing the topography of the land all the way to the Pacific Northwest. The main characters are comprised of two couples, one a Bronze Age Cretan prince and a near future woman, the other a 1980s forensic anthropologist and a Bronze Age African shamaness, who had their own novels already, plus one demi-god whose alter shape is a cat. They are charged with saving Ice Age animals and people from the flood, and shepherding them into a pocket universe for a goddess who loves her creations too much to let them die. Little do they know that Chaos believes that fate should not be meddled with and has agents of his own to enforce his beliefs. They not only must learn how to work as a team, but confront the forces of Chaos as they try to save elephants and tigers and bears from being swept away in a flood of biblical proportions.

About Diana

Diana lives in a small suburban Colorado city a mile away from where she grew up. She loves studying magic and history and will take any opportunity to combine them into a good story. She once tried to work a spell inspired by a tale her great aunt told her and has always felt lucky that it only turned her fingers green for a week.

Find Diana

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Interview: Deb Logan on “Beauty or Butterface?”

“Beauty or Butterface?” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.

Enter the magical, unpredictable, wonderful world of fairy tales!

Meet Deb Logan!

Deb Logan writes light-hearted fantasy tales for middle grade readers and young adults. She also writes fantasy and paranormal romance as Debbie Mumford. She loves mythology, and is especially fond of Celtic and Native American lore.

“Beauty or Butterface?”

Philip doesn’t find a bride fast enough to suit his father in “Beauty or Butterface?” so the king writes Philip’s marriage into a treaty with the neighboring kingdom. Philip just has to choose between the other king’s twin daughters. What could be easier?

Excerpt

“Great news, Philip,” Dad said, wiping a bit of yolk from his chin. “I’m finalizing a treaty with Lindesland this morning. A very advantageous one. I’m sending you to Stefan’s kingdom. You’re to marry his daughter, and when the two of us are gone, our kingdoms will be merged. You and, eh, uhm, what’s her name will rule a new and vastly larger realm. Isn’t that exciting?”

The blood drained from my face. My appetite fled, and a knot of molten lead formed in my belly. “You’ve chosen my wife? Without even asking me?”

Confused disappointment dimmed Dad’s smile. He looked like I’d just refused the best gift in the world. Bewilderment glazed his eyes. He frowned momentarily before his gaze cleared and his smiled brightened.

“Not at all,” he cried, slapping his palm on the table. “I’ve forgotten the best part. Stefan has two daughters. Identical twins! You’ll have your choice of brides.”

I groaned and buried my face in my hands. Why did I have to be born a prince?

—from “Beauty or Butterface?” by Deb Logan

The Interview

Fairy tales were often cautionary tales, told to teach lessons. “Beauty or Butterface?” is a fun, lighthearted story, but it too contains a lesson. Why do you think fairy tales work so well for getting messages like this across?

I think it’s because fairy tales are stories about someone else’s experience. Reading (or listening to) another person’s story allows me to hear the lesson without having to acknowledge that it might apply to me. To think about the situation, be aware of the dangers, the possible pitfalls, and possibly even decide how I might react differently than the choice that was made in the story.

What difference do you see between today’s fairy tale retellings, and the types of fairy that were told hundreds of years ago?

When I was a kid, I loved fairy tales. But I grew up on significantly sanitized versions of the original tales. When I was about 12, my mother splurged and bought me a beautifully illustrated, hardbound version of the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I was so excited! Until I started reading.

Oh. My. God! The stories were horrifying! Not at all what I expected. The fairies weren’t gentle and kind creatures. They were cruel and spiteful and malicious. I closed the book and didn’t open it again for many years.

Depending on who’s writing, the fairy tales of today are either sanitized versions of the originals, or are horror stories brought into the present, or even the future. Frankly, the horror stories are truer to the originals, which weren’t intended to delight and entertain, but to forewarn and arm.

I definitely fall into the “delight and entertain” camp. But the other side makes for some fascinating reading!

What do you most enjoy about writing middle grade and young adult stories?

I love the wonder and the possibility of that age. The characters (and readers) have their whole lives in front of them, and while they face a lot of challenges, they also have a world of possibilities open to them. A lot of my stories focus on self-discovery, of finding out who you are, and just what it means to be you, with your particular strengths and weaknesses and funny little quirks.

We’re all unique, but until we accept ourselves it’s hard to move forward and attain our potential.

What fairy tale elements have you used in your Faery Chronicles series, and how do you feel they’ve enriched the stories?

As I said in the last question, it’s all about accepting who you are and learning to live with it!

The Faery Chronicles (Faery Unexpected, etc.) focus on Claire, a perfectly normal teenage girl who has a unique family heritage. She’s descended from a faery princess who deserted the throne of Faery and chose to marry a mortal. Claire is the culmination of her bloodline … the descendant who is destined to become a true faery and take her place in the royal succession.

Isn’t it every little girl’s dream to be a fairy princess? Claire discovers it’s not all pretty dresses and handsome princes.

Your novel Thunderbird incorporates elements of Native American mythology and history. What aspects of tribal legends helped inspire this story? 

I grew up in Oklahoma with the tales of the Five Civilized Tribes, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. Later, I lived in Montana and became familiar with the Crow, Blackfoot, and Shoshone. Later still, when we made our home in Colorado where I read a lot about the Ute and the Lakota. Consequently when I write Native American themed tales, they borrow from many sources.

Thunderbird draws on the shamanic tradition, including traditional gods and spirit guides. It also draws from the great archaeological work done in Montana as represented by the Museum of the Rockies … a place we visited frequently when we lived in Bozeman.

You write middle grade/young adult fiction as Deb Logan, and write stories for a slightly older crowd as Debbie Mumford. How do you balance the two different aspects, and is there ever any overlap? 

I chose to write for the young (and the young at heart!) as Deb Logan because that’s my maiden name. Essentially, Deb channels my younger self! Interestingly enough, except for rare exceptions, Deb writes in first person and Debbie writes in third. Weird, huh?

I think that’s partly because Deb’s stories are often based (very loosely) on my own life, while Debbie’s are pure speculation. For instance, Dani Erickson is the youngest of seven siblings, and the only girl. I am the youngest of six siblings, and the only girl. That’s about where the similarities end though. Dani is an hereditary demon hunter. I am (and always was) a studious reader! But … Dani and I both know how to deal with boys! And we both have very savvy mothers.

So far, there hasn’t been any overlap between my alter egos, although the characters in my “Seer Chronicles” series are growing up, and getting closer to Debbie’s audience. Those stories, which began as young adult, are now really “new adult” … we’ll just have to wait and see what happens!

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

I’m currently writing another Dani Erickson story and am hoping to get to the sequel to Thunderbird! Coyote will focus on Justin Prentiss and … well, Coyote! 

I have one young fan who contacts me on a regular basis to ask about this novel, so I really need to get moving! I may have to dedicate it to Emily since she’s being such an inspiration. *lol*

About Deb

Deb Logan writes children’s, tween, and young adult fantasy. Her stories are light-hearted tales for the younger set—or ageless folk who remain young at heart. She’s published 14 titles, including short stories, collections, and novels and has been featured in several anthologies. Author of the popular “Dani Erickson” series, Deb loves dragons and faeries and all things unexplained.

Find Deb

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Interview: Brigid Collins on “Claws at Hand”

“Claws at Hand” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.

Enter the magical, unpredictable, wonderful world of fairy tales!

Meet Brigid Collins!

Brigid likes cats, frappuccinos, and writing. She’s working on the fourth book in her fantasy series Songbird River Chronicles, which blends technology and magic, and is co-editing an upcoming issue of the Fiction River anthology with her father and fellow author, Ron Collins.

“Claws at Hand”

After the fairy king grants him the feline body he’s always longed for, Tobi upholds his end of the bargain by serving as messenger between the fairy court and the powerful wizard Baba Yaga in “Claws at Hand.” But there’s one thing that could make Tobi lose his hard-earned cathood…

Excerpt

Unlike most cats, Tobi hadn’t had the benefit of being born a cat. For the longest time, he’d been mistaken for a human, and it had caused him no end of stress and depression until, finally, he’d risked a visit to the fairies. He’d been willing to pay any price to inhabit the proper body. They’d given it to him—well, almost: he’d wanted to be a gray tabby, and here he was, a tabby of the orange variety, but it hardly seemed worth fussing about—and in return, he agreed to serve as a messenger between the fairy court and the powerful wizard Baba Yaga.

But the fairy king had warned Tobi the spell could be broken.

“Beware, should you ever win the hand of a prince. If that event comes to pass, your true form you will assume, and we shall be unable to reverse it.”

Tobi returned to washing his paw with a vigor that left his toes raw. Prince Ivan had the power to destroy everything Tobi loved about his life, and the idiot boy didn’t even know it. He couldn’t take a hint, either, given how often he still attempted to pet Tobi despite the ribbons Tobi would make of his hand.

Tobi didn’t want those royal hands anywhere near him, thank you very much. He knew the fairies’ penchant for taking things literally.

—from “Claws at Hand” by Brigid Collins

The Interview

“Claws at Hand” is the sequel to your novella “Thorn and Thimble,” which appeared in Beauty and wickedness. Tobi was a side character in the novella. What made you to write a story from his point of view? 

Even though Tobi’s role in “Thorn and Thimble” was minor, his total cat attitude came across straight away. I was asked to write a story about a heroic cat for another collection, and Tobi immediately sprang to mind as the cat to write about. I wanted to explore more about what sort of cat would act as a servant to the version of Baba Yaga I have in “Thorn and Thimble.”

Why did you decide to use the mythology of Baba Yaga in this story, as well as your novella?

In truth, it was actually the mythology of Koschei the Deathless that I wanted to use, and Baba Yaga’s is tied up in his. I also liked the idea of having a female mentor figure for my female protagonist, so I thought I’d have some fun making Baba Yaga my own thing.

The original fairy tales were often cautionary tales, told to teach lessons. Do you find some of these lessons still apply in today’s world?

Certainly! But maybe not in the same ways. For example, I don’t believe we should be afraid to explore the unknown, but we should undertake the exploration with caution and remember that we never know what may be lurking out there…

Is there a fairy tale that you really enjoy, or which has stuck with you? If so, which one—and what do you find compelling about this particular story? 

I like loads of fairy tales, so it’s hard to pick just one. I think I love the sense of foreboding that weaves throughout all these stories, as well as the theme of tricks and wordplay and the idea that you always have to watch what you say. That’s one lesson I definitely think still applies today!

You’ve taken up the guitar! How’s it going? 

I’m having fun! Music has always played a role in my life, from piano lessons in grade school to choir in high school. It often crops up in my stories, too, usually as a form of magic. It’s nice to have a fun, creative outlet that I can work on just for myself. I’m not going to be shredding any face-melting solos anytime soon, but that’s okay!

You’re working on the fourth and final book in your series Songbird River Chronicles. What do you plan to work on once that series is complete?

That’s a secret! Which is code for “who knows?” I’ve got a number of ideas and projects I’d like to work on, so it depends on what strikes me when the time comes. I have got another series in the works, about a kingdom of clockwork people and pirates who fly through the skies…

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

At the moment, besides working on book four of my series, I’m clearing a few short story projects off my to-do list. Today I’m hoping to finish a story for the next Valdemar anthology, which Mercedes Lackey puts out every year. I always enjoy the opportunity to play for a little while in another writer’s world, since it puts some interesting constraints on what I can do. After that, I shall have to force myself to come up with a story featuring a dragon. Oh, woe is me!

About Brigid

Brigid Collins is a fantasy and science fiction writer living in Michigan. Her short stories have appeared in Fiction River, The Uncollected Anthology Volume 13: Mystical Melodies, and the Chronicle Worlds: Feyland anthology. Books 1 through 3 of her fantasy series, Songbird River Chronicles, are available in print and electronic versions on Amazon.

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Interview: Karen L. Abrahamson on “Like Wind Over Water”

“Like Wind Over Water” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.

Enter the magical, unpredictable, wonderful world of fairy tales!

Meet Karen L. Abrahamson!

Karen writes urban fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and whatever else suits her fancy. She and her various author personalities reside on the west coast of Canada where eagles, killer whales, and two cats keep her company.

“Like Wind Over Water”

Romy left her mermaid form to search for her beloved. Five years later, on a ship heading up the Canadian coast, she finally finds him—and learns his secret.

Excerpt

Ahead, the man aboard the sailboat waved his arms and yelled as if waving his arms could wave them away. The Borealis Queen churned closer. Closer until Romy swore she could look down into the surely-soon-to-be-dead man’s eyes.

Blue, she realized. The color of light through tropical waves. Once upon a time she’d known a man with such color eyes. He’d carried the scent of land and grass fields. She had met him on a rocky shore and in that distant time she thought she might have fallen in what the humans called love. But her man had returned to the land and she couldn’t bear losing the sea.

She had never seen him again even though longing had led to her trading away her tail soon after in hopes of finding him again. All she’d known was that he liked to walk by the sea and that he lived in a place called the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. Not much to go on.

Or maybe it was.

—from “Like Wind Over Water” by Karen L. Abrahamson

The Interview

What inspired you to write this beautiful story about a mermaid searching for her lost love?

Once upon a time, when I was far younger, I worked on the BC Ferries. A few years ago, the ferry that I once worked on sank under suspicious circumstances with two people lost. The story really affected me and I kept thinking about it. Then the idea of a mermaid working as a crewman on a ferry occurred to me. I asked why would she be working there and the story fell into place. As for the lost love, well, I’m sure that we’ve all had one or two of those…

You once worked on passenger ferries. Did that experience help shape the ship the Borealis Queen, which is the setting for most of “Like Wind Over Water? 

It certainly did, both in terms of the ship structure and in terms of people’s attitudes. The ferry that I worked on was an anomaly amongst the ferry fleet because it had passenger cabins below the car decks. I gave the Borealis Queen lower deck cabins, too, but otherwise she was an imaginary ship. My experiences on the ferries also helped shape the story in terms of the relationships and resentments between male and female crew. At the time I worked the ferries, there were no female crew other than in the catering department. Female deck crew just wasn’t happening. Of course all that has changed now, but my experience, and the challenge of being the first female in previously male job colored this story.

What difference do you see between today’s fairy retellings, and the types of fairy tales that were told hundreds of years ago?

The original fairy tales were quite gruesome and clearly cautionary tales for children and society in terms of expected behavior. That changed through the Victorian era and afterwards when society began to shelter children and created adolescence (previously children went from childhood to adulthood without the prolonged teenage years we see today.) I think today’s fairy tale retellings are still somewhat caught in the Victorian era insofar as we don’t see truly  gruesome episodes in children’s tales. On the other hand, fairy tale retellings for adolescents often recapture that original gruesome nature.

The original fairy tales were often cautionary tales, told to teach lessons. Do you find some of these lessons still apply in today’s world? 

Interesting question. I think fairy tales are often like layers of onions. There are the overt lessons that are easy to spot and they may or may not be relevant to today, but when you dig a little deeper into a lot of tales you find lessons that apply to today’s world. As a result I find I use fairy tales in some unusual places in my writing. For example, I’m currently writing a series of mystery novels set in an alternate history Russia where Russian fairy stories provide an explicit overarching theme/structure to each story as you peel the layers of meaning away.

You’ve written a number of stories set in Burma. Have you incorporated Burmese folk tales/mythology in any of them? And if so, what have you found the most fun to write about? 

Yes and yes. I write about Burma and I have used Burmese folk tales and animistic beliefs, which aren’t quite fairy stories, but close relations. I absolutely love the Burmese nats, which are the spirits of the land and also the spirits of dead heroes/someone notable. Nats can be the spirit of a tree or a hill, or they can be the butterfly spirit of a wronged woman or a hero wrongfully killed. They can be out for revenge or they can support you, depending on how you treat them. Treat a nat with respect, such as making offerings to it, and things will likely go well for your family and home, but fail to make offerings and all bets are off. They can cause a hellish amount of misfortune and mischief. Think big time gremlins, because these guys can bring down whole kingdoms. I’ve used nats, including the Burmese nat-inhabited puppets in my Aung and Yamin fantasy/mysteries and they’ve also played a large role in my Romantic Suspense novel, Shades of Moonlight.

I seriously love nats…

You now live  on the west coast of Canada, and often incorporate that setting into your stories. What is it about that part of the world that you find so appealing?

OMG. What’s not to like? This is a part of the world that can get into your blood. There’s ocean and mountains and forests and killer whales and bears and… Need I go on? It’s a beautiful part of the world, but it’s also mysterious with so much land and a relatively low population. As a result, it provides a gorgeous, if sometimes unsettlingly lonely setting. Where I’m currently living is a lovely resort area that brings many escapees from urban life from all over the world and that brings conflict. So does the growth of the entire west coast population. The development to accommodate more people isn’t being done well and we’re losing a lot of the things I love most about the coast. As a result I can harness my frustration and anger and channel it into my writing. At the moment, though, I guess I can say that where I live provides me with a peace that I haven’t found elsewhere.

Tell us about your cats! 

Monsters! Monsters, I say! They just wear svelte kitty fur and purr to lure you in and get you to love them and then you’re trapped and at their mercy.

Seriously, I have two wonderful Bengal cats that I love dearly. They keep me entertained and tearing my hair out, at the same time. At eleven, almost twelve-years-old, most cats have settled down, but not these two. They demand walks (on a leash) and regular attention and if they don’t get it when they want it they will do bad things.

I won’t say anymore. They are listening.

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

At the moment mysteries seem to be my life. I’m working on the final stages of publishing the fourth in my Detektiv Kazakov mysteries, which should be out in June.

These are the books with the Russian fairy tales in them. I’ve just started a new mystery in my Phoebe Clay mystery series (this will be the second). This book is set in India instead of coastal British Columbia. Phoebe is a former school teacher struggling with PTSD due to a school shooting. She was the hero in Through Dark Water and now she and her sister and niece are on a tour in India when things go awry. So far I don’t THINK there’ll be fairies…

I recently returned from a trip to India that provides fuel to this novel-in-progress. So that’s part of what’s fun about writing—it can be cathartic and, at least in mysteries—you can maim the people that make you angry. I love the creative process and mining the areas of my life that struck strong emotional chords. It’s way better, and safer than actually doing nasty deeds.

It’s fun writing about made-up people that, through writing, you begin to know so intimately. Series characters really lend themselves to this. I also enjoy the challenge and the risk of developing the characters I don’t like so that they become heroes (at least in their own minds). Heck, I can even find myself liking some villains in my stories!

Thanks for the opportunity to do this, Jamie! It was really fun to have to ponder the answers to your insightful questions.

About Karen

Karen L. Abrahamson is a well-traveled writer who has explored cultures and countries around the world but British Columbia, Canada is her favorite place to come back to. She is the author of literary, mystery, romance and fantasy fiction including the highly regarded Cartographer fantasy series. She lives on the west coast of Canada with two Bengal cats that aren’t quite as well traveled as she is.

When she isn’t writing she can be found with a camera and backpack in fabulous locations around the world.

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Interview: DeAnna Knippling on “Doctor Rudolfo Meets His Match”

“Doctor Rudolfo Meets His Match” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.

Enter the magical, unpredictable, wonderful world of fairy tales!

Meet DeAnna Knippling!

DeAnna’s favorite musician is Tom Waits, her favorite author is Lewis Carroll, and her favorite monsters are zombies. Her life goal is to remake her house in the image of the House on the Rock, or at least Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. You should buy her books. She promises that she’ll use the money wisely on bookshelves and secret doors.

“Doctor Rudolfo Meets His Match”

Connor and his brother are on their way to get ice cream in “Doctor Rudolfo Meets his Match.” They come across a strange antique shop…so strange they find themselves inside of it after turning to walk away.

Excerpt

The door was shut behind us but the bell jingled anyway.

Aiden’s hand was shaking in mine.  Mine was probably shaking in his.

We were inside the antique shop.  Something had picked us up and put us inside it, like a hand moving dolls inside a dollhouse.

The inside of the building…man.  I don’t know how to describe it. It had smelled like fancy old stuff all the way out to the sidewalk because the inside was full of fancy old stuff, top to bottom.  Like, there was no way to tell what colors the walls were.  Every surface was covered with something, even the ceilings.  There were so many things to see, all of them interesting, all at once, that you couldn’t actually see anything.  You kept interrupting yourself by jerking your eyes all over the place.

“Don’t touch anything,” I said.

Aiden was still whimpering.  Slowly, the two of us backed up.  With my spare hand, I reached for the doorknob.

And got a handful of slime.  I jerked my hand away.

A high-pitched voice giggled.  My eyes snapped in that direction, but my head seemed frozen.

“Welcome, welcome!” The voice belonged to someone that wasn’t human.  He looked like one of the goblins out of the Harry Potter movies, only not quite so sharp-looking?  More like he had been claymation at one point before being brought to life. I tried to remember the name of the creepy old guy who sold Harry his wand at the wand shop.  My mind was a blank.

—from “Doctor Rudolfo Meets His Match” by DeAnna Knippling

The Interview

“Doctor Rudolfo Meets His Match” is loosely based off of the Brothers Grimm’s version of “Cinderella.” Tells us about the connection between the two stories.

Small correction, the story is based on the Grimm version of “Aschenputtel,” which ends up being much the same thing–but “Aschenputtel,” the original Grimm version, has a tree in it that drops the good stuff.  There is no fairy godmother in “Aschenputtel,” only a tree which may or may not have the soul of the main character’s mother in it. I believe the fairy godmother comes from Charles Perrault’s French version, “Cendrillon.”  The tale of Cinderella spans the globe, from One Thousand And One Nights to a variety of Asian versions, so there is some variety.

I read “Aschenputtel” as a kid, and because I love trees, that’s the one that stuck with me.  Cute fairy godmothers and singing mice are charming but not my cuppa.

The connection:  once upon a time, there was a kid who needed some good advice and a wardrobe change or two, and someone beyond the here and now whose heart broke for the crap situation they were in, and wanted to help.

Is Afterlife Antiques, the store Connor and his brother find themselves in (literally, as they’d been walking away from the building), based on a real place? 

Actually, yes.

My husband Lee and I did a lot of antiquing in Denver this last year, you might say that this place is a combination of all the basements of antique stores that I’ve been in lately.  But that would be a lie. You could also say that it’s based on the Reinke Brothers costume store in Littleton, Colorado, but that would be an incomplete answer.  To finish the answer off, I’d have to mention the House on the Rock in Wisconsin, which I’ve been to several times and consider a place of my heart.

In the interview for your first Doctor Rudolfo story you mention that Connor (aka Doctor Rudolfo) has a special appeal for you. Do you still feel this way, and do you plan on writing more stories about Connor?

Yep.  I have an Italian fairy tale picked out for the next one along with some ideas.

What difference do you see between today’s fairy tales retellings, and the types of fairy tales that were told hundreds of years ago?

Some of the time–not always–when you see a retelling, it gets away from the original purpose of the story, and just tries to entertain.  Which is fine, but not my thing. I feel like a fairy tale retelling should feel locked in space and time for the current version it’s in, but universal in theme and emotion.  You can retell the rags-to-riches story as much as you want, but unless it’s also about someone going, “The people you thought were nice are actually sabotaging your happiness and success,” then it will never really feel right.

For me, because I’m such a big Alice in Wonderland fan (which isn’t really a fairy tale, except it is), it’s when you see an Alice retelling that focuses on romantic love or an uprising against a Queen that the retelling becomes a little off putting.  Alice is the story of a girl being taught how to survive and control polite society. I liked the big Disney Alice movies; I thought they did a good job of capturing that, even while adding other elements (like an uprising), but there have been other TV series and whatnot that I can skip after an episode or two.

You and I (Jamie :)) are co-editing Amazing Monster Tales, an anthology series with a 1940s pulp monster theme. What surprised you about this project?

One, I started doing more focused on pulp fiction from that era, and found out that stories were a lot weirder than I remembered or expected.  Two, when I first read the stories, I thought, “Oh, these will never go together, what have we done?!?”  But upon a second reading my brain went, “Never mind, this is perfect.”  I was subconsciously expecting a more predictable book, I think. I think the reading I did helped:  actual pulp covers more territory than I expected, so why wouldn’t Amazing Monster Tales?

You do a lot to help other writers, from blogging, to running an online Facebook group, to coordinating get-togethers with other authors. Why do you do all of these things? And why did you name the online group after Nikola Tesla? 

The science fiction, fantasy, and horror communities are full of drama, with lots of writers full-on attacking each other on a semi-regular basis.  And, even worse, it seems hard to connect with those tribes at all unless you go to conferences. It was after yet another SF/F/H drama moment where writers were attacking each other that I said, “This isn’t what I want out of my interactions with other writers in my career.  We should be building each other up.” I started up the Colorado Tesla Writers Group so that SF/F/H people could meet new people and just be writers in a low-risk setting (cons can be intimidating and stressful for introverts, newcomers, and people with anxiety).

I had no idea that starting the group would lead to both madness and power! [Insert insane laugh here.]

I named the group after Tesla, because if you’re going to draw a line in the sand about what your values are, then valuing someone who innovated and created things over someone who ran a production line (ahem, Edison) is not a bad line to draw.

How did you come up with the idea of combining zombies with Alice in Wonderland in your Alice’s Adventures in Underland Series, and when can we expect the next book in this series?  

I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and got jealous.  I had some quibbles with PPZ, namely, that the zombie parts didn’t mesh seamlessly into the story, they were farcical rather than a part of the world in which the original Pride and Prejudice existed.

When I wrote the Underland books, I tried to make both parts of the story–the original material and my additions and rewrites–flow together.  Often the negative reviews on the first book can be summed up as, “I don’t know why anyone liked this book! Nothing was changed!” How flattering, right, if nobody can tell where Lewis Carroll left off and I took over?  I changed most of the book, but I tried to keep it low-key so that it would feel like the retelling was the original story, the one that was never told because people have been pretending that zombies never existed for generations.

Shh.  It’s a secret.

The first book, Alice’s Adventures in Underland: The Queen of Stilled Hearts, covers Alice’s Adventures in Underland and the story of Alice Liddell (the original Alice) at the time the book was being written.  The second book, The Knight of Shattered Dreams, covers Through the Looking-Glass and the events around Alice Liddell’s life when that book was written, some of which are heartbreaking, and bleed through a little into Looking-Glass.

 

You regularly analyze stories and study what works (or doesn’t), and why. What have you been studying lately, and what have you learned from it? 

Edgar Allen Poe short stories!  I’m working on analyzing his structure.

So I take about 15 minutes a day and type in about a thousand words.  When I’m done with that, and I know the story fairly well, I start looking for different structure things:  when the story is in the current moment, when it’s a first- or second-level flashback, when you think that he’ll say something and he doesn’t.  (For example, in “The Murders on the Rue Morgue,” Poe gives a paragraph to what the unnamed sidekick narrator saw at the rooms where the murders occurred–to show that the sidekick really didn’t see anything.)

It’s hard to sum it all up at this point, because I’m still in the middle of it, but it’s very cool.  I hadn’t been expecting to do more than a single story (“The Fall of the House of Usher”), because I remembered Poe being atmospheric but not especially a great writer.  But the deeper I dig, the more interesting his work becomes, and there are times where I’ll burst out laughing because he’s hidden a structural “joke” in the middle of something deadly serious.  It’s hard to explain in brief, so suffice it to say that I have a new appreciation of him as a writer.

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

I’m starting on the second story for Amazing Monster Tales, which will be a monster road trip story.  I had a plan for what to write, but I found myself kind of “meh” about it yesterday, so I’ll have to ditch that plan!

I just got back from a writing workshop where I had to write three stories–two of those were fun, the third was Not Fun, but probably the best of the three.  All three of the stories had unexpected twists, as in stuff that I, the writer, didn’t see coming. That is the best, to have your own subconscious surprise you.

About DeAnna

DeAnna Knippling is always tempted to lie on her bios. Her favorite musician is Tom Waits, and her favorite author is Lewis Carroll. Her favorite monster is zombies. Her life goal is to remake her house in the image of the House on the Rock, or at least Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. You should buy her books. She promises that she’ll use the money wisely on bookshelves and secret doors. She lives in Colorado and is the author of the A Fairy’s Tale horror series which starts with By Dawn’s Bloody Light, and other books like The Clockwork Alice, A Murder of Crows: Seventeen Tales of Monsters & the Macabre, and more.

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Interview: Annie Reed on “Chance of Bunnies and Occasional Toad”

“Chance of Bunnies and Occasional Toad” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.

Enter the magical, unpredictable, wonderful world of fairy tales!

Meet Annie Reed

Dean Wesley Smith says Annie is considered to be one of the best short story writers coming into fiction in the last decade. Annie divides her time between writing short fiction (her first love) and novels in whatever genre strikes her fancy. She’s one of the founding members of the innovative Uncollected Anthology, a series of themed urban and contemporary fantasy collections. Her stories have appeared on recommended reading lists and in Year’s Best collections. Her most popular fantasy stories, including her Diz and Dee detective stories, are set in a fictional version of Seattle called Moretown Bay. Her novels include the private eye Abby Maxon mysteries set in Northern Nevada, A Death in Cumberland featuring rural Nevada Sheriff Jill Jordan, and the suspense novel Shadow Life, written under the pen name Kris Sparks.

“Chance of Bunnies and Occasional Toad”

A visit to one of her favorite childhood places gives Cecily one last chance to find the magic she lost growing up in “Chance of Bunnies and Occasional Toad.” Not only for herself, but for her aunt, a free spirit who taught Cecily the value of imagination.

Excerpt

One side and the back of Aunt Gin’s yard were closed off with a tall redwood fence, but the other side had only a little split-rail fence. On the other side of the split-rail fence was a field that seemed to go on forever.

“That’s why I love this place,” Aunt Gin had told her one time when they were sitting beneath the maple tree. “All that open space, as far as I care to see. There’s magic in open spaces, you know. That’s where imagination lives.”

At ten, Cecily didn’t know about magic, but she knew about the rabbits that lived in the fields. She saw them now and then, cute little brown bunnies with fluffy white tails. She told her aunt once that she wished she could hold one because it looked so soft and cuddly

“You can’t hold magic, Cici. If you try, it runs away. That’s why adults can’t see magic anymore. They want to own it. Control it. They’ve forgotten how to slow down and just let the magic happen.”

—from “Chance of Bunnies and Occasional Toad” by Annie Reed

The Interview

“Chance of Bunnies and Occasional Toad” evokes a wonderful sense of magic hidden in plain sight. What inspired you to write this lovely story?

You’re going to laugh, but the inspiration came from a toad that dug a hole for itself beneath one of the bushes in our front yard. Cottontail bunnies frequently visit our yard to munch on the grass, but this was the first toad we’d seen. I came up with the title for the story from that encounter, and it just grew from there.

What difference do you see between today’s fairy tale retellings, and the types of fairy tales that were told a hundred of years  ago? 

That’s a tough question. The well-known fairy tales—Hansel & Gretel, the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Little Red-Cap (Little Red Riding Hood), Snow White—that was some pretty scary stuff, especially if you were a kid (or a beautiful young woman). I don’t know about anyone else who retells fairy tales, but I like to put the wonder back in the tale without necessarily scaring the crap out of kids along the way.

What do you enjoy about incorporating fairy tale elements in your own writing?

Tapping into the common elements of a story like a fairy tale that a lot of people grew up with is a shorthand way of shaping expectations, but then I like to twist those elements around. Turn the scary into the wondrous, or look at a character or situation from a different perspective. That’s fun for me.

The original fairy tales were often cautionary tales, told to teach lessons. Do you find some of these lessons still apply in today’s world? 

Sure. Especially how not to take things at face value, but use your own judgment. 

A while back you participated in a challenge and wrote a short story each week for an entire year. One of those stories turned into your novel Iris & Ivy. What’s the novel about, and what was the short story that inspired you to expand it?

The novel’s about a woman who has to track down her twin’s killer so that her twin’s ghost can find peace. In order to do that, she has to become the twin she’d lost touch with—basically become more than just the party girl she’d always assumed her twin was—and serve herself up as bait for a killer who’s more than happy to go after the same woman again so he can get it right this time.

While I liked the main character in the short story, I didn’t have a lot of time to flesh out either her life or her twin’s life. I also wasn’t really happy with the killer or his motivation in the short story. The novel let me play around with more points of view, to dig deeper into the murdered twin’s life, and to come up with a killer I really liked (I know, that sounds weird [unless you’re a crime writer *g*]). And while I thought I already knew the basic story going in since I’d written the short story version, the novel surprised me a lot during the writing and I’m really happy I expanded the story into a novel.

Iris & Ivy is set in Moretown Bay, the same fictional version of Seattle you use in your Diz and Dee fantasy detective series. Do the two story lines overlap? If not, do you plan to write overlapping stories in this world?

They don’t at this point. The Diz and Dee mysteries tend to be lighter in tone than some of the other Moretown Bay books, like Iris & Ivy, my novella Unbroken Familiar, or my short story collection Tales From the Shadows.  Diz showed up in another Moretown Bay short story—“Roxie”—that’s in Fiction River: Sparks, but I hadn’t planned on that happening. In Moretown Bay, the neighborhoods tend to overlap more than the characters do. But you never know. I never know what’s going to happen when I start writing one of these stories. 

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

I have a sweet romance novel I’m finishing up—the first of many, I hope—and sweet romances are always fun to write.  On the flip side, I’m working on a noir mystery series tentatively called Saints & Sinners (all of the crimes have something to do with religion) that’s letting me expand on a character I created in my short story “The Flower of the Tabernacle” published in Fiction River: Recycled Pulp. Expanding the world of a character I really like is also a lot of fun for me, and besides—I always like figuring out whodunnit, since I rarely know when I start writing a mystery. 

About Annie

A frequent contributor to the Fiction River anthologies and Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, Annie Reed’s recent work includes the urban fantasy mystery novels Unbroken Familiar and Iris & Ivy, and the near-future science fiction short novel In Dreams. Annie’s also one of the founding members of the innovative Uncollected Anthology, a series of themed urban fantasy stories published three times a year written by some of the best writers working today.

Annie’s full-length novels include the Abby Maxon private investigator novels Pretty Little Horses and Paper Bullets, the Jill Jordan mystery A Death in Cumberland, and the suspense novel Shadow Life, written under the name Kris Sparks, as well as numerous other projects she can’t wait to get to.

Find Annie

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Interview: Todd Fahnestock and Giles Carwyn on “True Love (Or the Many Brides of Prince Charming)”

“True Love (Or the Many Brides of Prince Charming)” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.

Enter the magical, unpredictable, wonderful world of fairy tales!

Meet Todd Fahnestock and Giles Carwyn!

Todd and Giles have been friends since high school. They co-wrote The Heartstone Trilogy, an epic fantasy that begins in the city-state of Ohndarien and includes murder, treachery, invasion, and the curse of a fallen city of sorcerers. Todd collects quotes, is fascinated by slang, and spends as much time as he can with his quirky, fun-loving family. Giles has worked as a film script analyst, and is currently focusing on writing screenplays.

“True Love (Or the Many Brides of Prince Charming”

Some people blame poor Prince Charming for throwing Cinderella into the dungeon, having little Snow White beheaded, and ordering Sleeping Beauty to be burned at the stake. But “True Love (or the Many Brides of Prince Charming)” tells us the other side of the story…

Excerpt

The glass slipper should have tipped him off. Cinderella’s odd carriage should have nailed the coffin shut on her chances of marriage. There were hints all along of trouble to come, but Charming was smitten. He could see nothing beyond her beauty, her soft skin, her fine figure. Her dulcimer voice haunted his memories.

But what kind of a woman owns glass shoes? Shoes in which the slightest misstep meant severe lacerations? What kind of a woman shuttled herself around in a squash? From the moment she stepped out of the coach, Charming should have realized she was out of her gourd.

With that damn slipper, Charming managed to find Cinderella. He and his entourage went door to door, searching for the owner of the glass slipper. When he found it fit upon the delicate foot of a servant girl he could not have been happier. Two days later he was married.

No one truly knows what occurred on the honeymoon. As honeymoons should be, it was an affair between the young lovers alone, but Charming returned with a smile on his lips and light in his eyes.

Things went downhill after that.

—from “True Love (Or the Many Brides of Prince Charming)” by Todd Fahnestock and Giles Carwyn

The Interview – Giles Carwyn

“True Love (Or the Many Brides of Prince Charming)” is a humorous take on Prince Charming and his brides Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. What’s your favorite part about this story? 

My favorite part of the True Love is the way it subverts expectations. The idea for the story came when I was on a blind date in college. My date asked,  “Why did Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White all fall for Prince Charming? Don’t they all know that he is cheating on all of them.” My immediate urge was to flip her question around and paint Charming as the poor romantic fool who had been betrayed by each of the women. (Which my date thought was very funny, but not funny enough to want a second date.) That idea of the thrice married man being a victim rather than a player was the initial inspiration for the story Todd and I wrote.

Is there a fairy tale that you really enjoy, or which has stuck with you? If so, which one—and what do you find compelling about this particular story? 

Of all the classic fairy tales, I find Beauty and the Beast the most compelling. That’s mostly because I’m a sucker for dancing spoons and Disney romances, but I also appreciate the deeper meaning of the story. I have heard an interpretation that the story is about women learning to love the animalistic parts of men and men’s sexuality and men learning to love women for who they are, not for what the can give you. People criticize the story for being a romanticization of Stockholm Syndrome (which it is) but on a deeper level I think it is about finding Beauty (humanity) within the Beast and the Beast (strength/value) within the Beauty.

The original fairy tales were often cautionary tales, told to teach lessons. Do you find some of these lessons still apply in today’s world? 

I would say that all stories are cautionary tales. And I find it fascinating how humans keep updating our favorite old stories to address new things we need to be cautioned about. The way I see it, the “original” fairy tales were mostly focused on gaining wealth and status like marrying a prince in Cinderella or finding a great treasure in Aladdin. Then those stories were then rewritten in the 20th century with happy/romantic endings that were focused on gaining “true love” rather than wealth or status. More recently, as we have become more skeptical of the idea that kissing a super hot stranger will lead to lifelong happiness, the tales are getting rewritten again. More modern fairy tales like Shrek (which is focused on emotional intelligence and gentrification) and Wall-e (which is focused on isolation and environmental sustainability) are still cautionary tales, they are just cautioning about different things.

Giles, you’re working on a series of middle-grade books about children who find four magic hats. Other than the magical aspect, what’s special about these hats?

There are four children in the book. One experiences the world through his mind and tries to solve all his problems by being smart. One experiences the world through her emotions and tries to solve all her problems through relationships with other people. A third experiences the world through her body and tries to solve all her problems by being active and assertive. And the last experiences the world through his ideals and tries to solve all his problems by staying positive. All of them are struggling because their narrow approaches to life don’t work very well. Then they discover the magic hats which represent the four archetypes of the Lover, the Warrior, the Magician, and the Sovereign. Putting on different hats causes the wearer to start thinking different thoughts and feeling different feelings. That leads the children to discover and learn to appreciate the four different approaches to life: being smart, being connected, being assertive, or being positive. As each of the children learns the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, they become more confident and well-rounded people. And then… Of course…  All hell breaks loose. The four of them need band together and use all their new skills to save the magical land that the hats came from.

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

These days I am focusing on screenplays. I’m in the middle of revising a King Arthur story that focus on Merlin and the Lady of the Lake’s relationship as they try to train an adolescent Arthur to become the king the Brittain needs. What’s fun about the story is that Merlin and Nimue have very different ideas of what makes a great king. Merlin has a very masculine approach. Nimue has a very feminine approach. And they fall in love as they argue about how to raise Arthur, who being a teenager, doesn’t want to listen to anything either of them say. .

I am also working a script called the Phantom of the O. It is a retelling of Phantom of the Opera set in a modern day New York City sex club. The heart of the story is taking a deeper look at the pressure, support, and judgments women put on each other around their sexuality. What I enjoy  most about the story is the edgy, sexy and ultimately very heartfelt relationship between our heroine and the Phantom. He’s really cool, in a deeply broken kind of way.

The Interview – Todd Fahnestock

“True Love (Or the Many Brides of Prince Charming)” is a humorous take on Prince Charming and his brides Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. What’s your favorite part about this story?

For me, it was the last part of Charming’s interaction with Sleeping Beauty, when her obsession with sharp things comes to a pointy crescendo of profanity. I always laugh aloud. Though where Giles started and I left off in the story is often fuzzy in my memory, I’m pretty sure he wrote that part, which is likely why it always makes me laugh.

Is there a fairy tale that you really enjoy, or which has stuck with you? If so, which one—and what do you find compelling about this particular story? 

Interestingly, the “fairy tale” that has stuck in my mind forever was a novel based on the life of Sleeping Beauty. It was a fractured fairy tale, of sorts. The name of the book was Beauty, and for the life of me I can’t remember the author’s name, but the story followed Beauty from the original fairy tale into a harrowing journey to all kinds of places you wouldn’t associate with the character. It was a dark, apocalyptic fantasy of the past and the future, rife with diabolical faeries, time traveling psychopaths, and a horrific possible future ending of the world. Beauty is caught up in this nightmare, an object of desire for some pretty horrible men, and her character arc is one of strength, growth and perseverance. One of the most interesting characters is the faerie Puck, who alternately betrays Beauty and saves her life (which, I suppose, is in his job description, fickle fellow that he is). I read this in college many years ago, and I wish I could find a copy of it and read it again. It made an impression on me.

[Giles’s note: The book is Beauty by Sherri S. Tepper]

The original fairy tales were often cautionary tales, told to teach lessons. Do you find some of these lessons still apply in today’s world?

I do, though I think it depends on the particular faerie tale and the particular lesson. Some of them were pretty black and white morality plays, and we just don’t live in a black and white world anymore.

Todd, what is “slanglift,” and do you use any of the slang you come across in your writing?

Ha ha! I love the “slanglift” part of my website. It’s a composite of two of my great joys: language and teenagers. I love kids. I love to play with young kids, running around, making them laugh (one of my greatest inventions of all time is a game called Cake Monster, which has mostly to do with chasing kids around the yard), and I love listening to teenagers, with all the brilliant things their hyperactive minds produce. Sometimes, if I can get away with it, I’ll set my phone to voice recording while I’m taking my daughter Elo and her friends to a dance or back home from play practice, just to record the way they talk to one another. I’m fascinated by how quickly teen slang will come and go. A personality-defining phrase in 2018 will suddenly vanish in 2019. It reminds me that teenagers are in a time warp compared to me. A year of my life is like a brick stacked on a single tower I’ve been building for 49 years. A year of their lives, by comparison, is like a million bricks, forming dozens of little towers, an entire mini-civilization, a Rome that actually IS built in a day. And it can vanish just as quickly, these “towers” of their relationships, of their catch-phrases, falling into disuse within months. I love to capture these “eras” before they pass, immortalizing the ruins of their bygone teen parlance on my website.

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

Oh! Such a great question. I’m working on an epic fantasy novel called Brilliant. It’s a story about the inquisitive, sarcastic and romantic Brom, who attends the Champion’s Academy, a school of magic where all would-be magicians (called Quadrons in this world) must train. The school is run by a mysterious and nigh-omnipotent group known only as The Four, and as we follow Brom through his time at the school, we discover that The Four may not be as benevolent as they seem…

About Todd

Todd Fahnestock is a writer of fantasy for all ages. His bestselling The Wishing World series for middle grade readers began as bedtime stories for his children. His epic fantasy series include: Threadweavers, The Heartstone Trilogy and The Whisper Prince Trilogy. Charlie Fiction, a time travel urban fantasy, is his latest novel. Stories are his passion, but Todd’s greatest accomplishment is his quirky, fun-loving family. When he’s not writing, he goes on morning runs with his daughter, wrestles with his son, and practices Tae Kwon Do. With the rest of his free time, he drives the love of his life crazy with the emotional rollercoaster that is being a full time author.

Find Todd

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About Giles

Giles Carwyn is a novelist, screenwriter, husband, father. He co-authored the Heartstone Trilogy with Todd Fahnestock published by Harper Collins in 2006-2008. While living in Los Angeles he worked as script analyst for Phoenix Pictures. He has presented workshops on various aspects of the writer’s craft through Pike’s Peak Writers and Delve Writers. His also a licensed Shadow Work® Facilitator and Coach who specializes in men’s sexuality. He is a co-creator of the Eros Work Program and the Men’s Sexual Shadow Transformation Weekend with Shadow Work® founder Cliff Barry. He currently lives in Asheville, NC and is working on a historical screenplay about the mentoring relationship between Merlin and the teenage King Arthur.

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Interview: Leah Cutter on “The Lizard Horses”

“The Lizard Horses” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.

Enter the magical, unpredictable, wonderful world of fairy tales!

Meet Leah Cutter!

When Leah was eight years old, she wrote in her journal, “When I grow up, I want to be a writer.” She now writes everything from fantasy to science fiction to mystery. She’s a member of the Uncollected Anthology, an urban and contemporary fantasy collective, and of the syndicate Boundary Shock Quarterly, whose motto is “On theme. With weird.”

“The Lizard Horses”

“The Lizard Horses” is set in modern-day Hungary. Jelek loves reading old myths and legends, like the stories of Hungarian wizards, how they only drink milk and always carry around weighty spell books. But what if some myths are true?

Excerpt

Still, I decided to catch at least a few now. I slid my crutch across the threshold and poked at the nest, startling the brood hen. She stood up and hissed at me, spreading her wings wide.

Five lizards sped out from loose collection of hay and grass under her.

I pushed myself back, startled, landing on my ass in the dirt.

Stupid tyúk. Lizards ate eggs. Bird probably had been keeping them warm for a week, not her chicks.

I grabbed my crutch and struck at the lizards coming out of the hut. Missed the first one as it raced away, and the second one as well. I ended up smacking the ground hard, jarring my arms as I pounded the dirt.

But the next three came out in a straight line. Whack. With a single stroke, I stunned them all. Then I took my crutch in both hands and smacked them again and again, until they were all dead.

They were some of the ugliest lizards I’d ever seen. Gray-stone colored, with nobby heads and matching points running down their spines. Their jaws were funny as well, over developed, like they could unhinge them to swallow something bigger than their heads.

—from The Lizard Horses by Leah Cutter

The Interview

“The Lizard Horses” is based on the Hungarian Folk Tale “The Dragon Rider.” Why did you choose this particular tale as the basis for your story? 

I wrote “The Lizard Horses” for an anthology call. I believe the spec called for stories based on myths. I’m familiar with a lot of non-traditional myths and stories. I went paging through one of my large collections, and ran across “The Dragon Rider.” I’d read it before, and everything all clicked in my head for this story when I read it with this anthology call in mind. I didn’t sell the short story to the anthology (though I did get a nice rejection letter.) 

What do you enjoy about incorporating fairy tale elements in your own writing? 

I love taking the existing tropes, fairy tales or others, and twisting them. What can I do to make this idea new, different, fresh and unusual? I also love fantasy, magic, and the hidden things lurking in the corners of the garden. All of these things regularly influence my writing, whether I consciously use them or not.

Traditional fairy tales varies depending on where the tellers lived. Is there a geographical region (or regions) whose fairy tales resonate more with you? And if so, why? 

I’ve read so many fairy tales and myths from all over the world. I have lots of collections. I find they Mongolian myths fascinating, because of the horses. I love the dream-like quality of some of the South American myths. And the darkness of the eastern European myths. 

You’ve written another story about feathered serpents mating with chickens! “The Challenges of Raising Urban Chickens” is part of the Uncollected Anthology’s Beasties issue. Did you change the mythology you used between that story and “The Lizard Horses?” 

Oh yes. They aren’t related at all. The feathered serpent in “Chickens” is from South America, and it’s speculated that he’s a “snow bird” – traveling north in the summer when it’s hot, then migrating south again during the winter. “The Lizard Horses” uses a very different Hungarian serpent.

What are some of the fairy tale elements you’ve incorporated in your Seattle Troll Series? 

Trolls are used as changelings in many, many of the European myths. And that’s where I start with in “The Changeling Troll” – a troll who’s been raised as human, so her human “sister” can fulfill her destiny. There are a lot of tropes I play with there, such as Trolls loving the underground, guarding bridges, being short tempered and “troll-like”. The second trilogy (The Troll Wars series) introduces a lot of different species, and I had a lot of fun taking what was expected and twisting it.


You write in multiple genres, including fantasy, mystery, science fiction, horror. Do you have a favorite genre?

I always seem to come back to fantasy. While I’ll write other things, fantasy appeared to be my one true love. In particular, contemporary fantasy. That’s the “flavor” of fantasy in which I have the most novels finished. After fantasy, I love all the others equally.

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

I’m just about finished with the second book in a dark, epic fantasy trilogy, Wind-Stone-Sea. (“A Wind Blown Torment”, “A Stone Strewn Clash”, and “A Sea Washed Victory.”) I love this series because no one is human. All the characters are relatable, but the magic and what they can do is very different. It’s a typical trilogy structure – book one – things get bad, book two – things get much, much worse, book three – everything gets resolved, eventually. It’s kind of one big story, instead of a stand alone first book followed by a duology. The next book is the last of an urban fantasy series, so back to my beloved contemporary settings. After that, who knows?

About Leah

Leah Cutter writes page-turning fiction in exotic locations, such as a magical New Orleans, the ancient Orient, Hungary, the Oregon coast, rural Kentucky, Seattle, Minneapolis, and many others.

She writes literary, fantasy, mystery, science fiction, and horror fiction. Her short fiction has been published in magazines like Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Talebones, anthologies like Fiction River, and on the web. Her long fiction has been published both by New York publishers as well as small presses.

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Water Faeries: 15 Tales of Mermaids, Kelpies, and Magical Water Creatures

Jump into the water and enter the world of Faerie!

On a rock by the shore sits a mermaid fair
Dreaming of her lost lover as she combs her hair

Kelpies, and selkies, and the great snakes of the sea
All stop and listen as she sings of a love never to be

For the sailor she saved from those dark, storm-tossed waves
Got back on his ship, and sailed away

Now the mermaid’s alone, with broken-hearted dreams
And far, far away the sailor stares out at the sea

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What if the Loch Ness monster is more than a myth?

Where did the Lady of the Lake go after leaving Avalon?

Can a mermaid ever truly leave the sea, and follow her lover to land?

This collection includes fifteen tales about sirens, kelpies, mermaids, sea monsters, naiads, and other enchanted creatures of the water.

Enjoy the magic and wonder of these watery tales of Faerie!

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The Stories

Lina asks the sea to return her fisherman husband in Jaime Lee Moyer’s “Ocean Daughters.” A mermaid comes to shore to answer Lina’s call, and offers a bargain…but is Lina willing to pay the price?

In modern day New Hampshire Guinevere, now a blacksmith, and the Lady of the Lake, guard King Authur’s magic sword in Karen L. Abrahamson’s “The Lady of Ashuelot.” When Lancelot arrives and demands the sword back it distrubs the peace the two women have built. Now Guinevere must decide whether to spend the magic of the sword to revive Arthur and Camelot, or to preserve her modern world.

In “The Best Disguises,” by Grayson Towler, Moira heads to Scotland to search for the Loch Ness monster, and to prove to herself that the friend—and monster—she’d met when visiting Scotland as a child had actually been real. What she finds is unexpected…because sometimes the best disguises are so good that you sometimes forget who you really are.

Trapped on an island with an abusive husband, Selene struggles with her fear of the sea every day in “I Sing a Song of Mourning,” by Dayle A. Dermatis. But when her husband abandons her to drown, the mermaids give Selene the power to exact her revenge. How she chooses to use that power—and how she faces her fear—will change her life forever.

After the Christians riot in front of Dionysus’ temple in Thea Hutcheson’s “Coming into the Iron Age,” Mneme, a water muse, and the satyr Krotos head to the mountains to escape. All the old gods have scattered, and the rest have faded into obscurity. What kind of life can a water muse live in this new age of iron?

John falls asleep while sailing in the Virgin Islands, and wakes up to find himself in the middle of the ocean, with land nowhere in sight, in Jamie Ferguson’s “Learning to Sail.” With no safety equipment, and no way to determine which direction land lies, he prepares for his impending doom…and then a mermaid appears in the water next to his boat.

Anthea Sharp’s “The Sea King’s Daughter” goes deep beneath the Irish Sea, where a kingdom beyond mortal men’s imagining lies. The daughter of the Sea King journeys to the surface, and leaves her tail behind so the fisherman she’s fallen in love with believes she’s a beautiful maiden washed ashore. She cannot speak to him in any voice, though her yearning shines from her eyes. But with forces of land and sea arrayed between them, will the couple ever find their happy ending?

Oz heads to a seaside town in Ireland to take photos of the wee folk at the bequest of his grandmother’s will in Brenda Carre’s “The Selkie’s Treasure.” Fairies don’t exist, of course, so he knows his quest is futile…or is it?

A mermaid falls in love with the man she rescued from the sea in “Blood and Water” by Alethea Kontis. She’s willing to pay any price to be with him, for she loves him more than life itself. But is the price of love too high?

Louisa Swann’s “Verbena Draws First Blood” is the tale of a deadly sorceress and powerful necromancer who heads to a lake high in the mountains to thwart her nemesis. But she didn’t expect the lake to contain a kelpie…

Three days after Japanese torpedoes hit the USS Indianapolis, Gordie is one of some six hundred US Navy sailors slowly dying in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in Brigid Collins’ “The Road Beneath Indianapolis.” There’s no food, nothing to drink but salt water, and sharks are feeding off the men. Or are they really sharks?

It’s 1934 in DeAnna Knippling’s “Of Drought and Harsh Moonlight.” Claudine lives in a small town stricken by drought and poverty. Change arrives when a sweet-faced, dark- haired, whistling man shows up…but why did he come to town? And how did he know the new bridge had been destroyed when the newspaper hadn’t come out yet?

Linda Jordan’s “Awakening” tells the story of Merial who, just before her sixteenth birthday, learns she’s only half naiad—the father she’s never seen is a dryad. She leaves the water and heads for the forest to find him, and finally understands who she really is.

In Deb Logan’s “Selkies in Paradise,” the seers Artie and Jed are on their honeymoon in Hawaii, far away from the terrors they’ve fought together in other parts of the world. They come across a sad young woman staring out to sea, and realize she’s a selkie—but her sealskin has been stolen, and she can no longer return to the water.

Hagen von der Lahn goes on a treasure hunt in the deepest gorge in France in Sharon Kae Reamer’s “A Recipe for Disaster.” But the historian he’s working with is searching for a different kind of treasure, one which involves poison, an ancient knife, and tangling with a river guardian.

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A Procession of Faeries

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Story spotlight: “An Idol for Emiko” by Travis Heermann


 
In 17th-century Japan, Emiko has always been an outcast in her fishing village. When strange coins wash up on the shore near Emiko’s fishing village, she is the only one who resists the wave of greed overtaking everyone she has ever known. How long can she resist the pressure from her neighbors and from her own poverty? How can she protect her son from the half-seen forms that now lurk in the nearby sea?
 
 
 
 
“An Idol for Emiko” is in the Beneath the Waves collection. You can learn more on BundleRabbit, Goodreads, and the collection’s Facebook page.
 


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About the Author

Freelance writer, novelist, award-winning screenwriter, editor, poker player, poet, biker, roustabout, Travis Heermann is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and the author of The Ronin Trilogy, Rogues of the Black Fury, and co-author of Death Wind, plus short fiction pieces in anthologies and magazines such as Apex Magazine, Alembical, the Fiction River anthology series, Historical Lovecraft, and Cemetery Dance’s Shivers VII. As a freelance writer, he has produced a metric ton of role-playing game work both in print and online, including the Firefly Roleplaying Game, Battletech, Legend of Five Rings, d20 System, and the MMORPG, EVE Online.

He has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, a Master of Arts in English, and teaches science fiction literature at the University of Nebraska Omaha. He has presented workshops on writing and publishing at the Odyssey Writing Workshop, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Pike’s Peak Writers Conference, and Colorado Gold Writers Conference, and regularly appears at conventions across the U.S.

He enjoys cycling, martial arts, torturing young minds with otherworldly ideas, and monsters of every flavor, especially those with a soft, creamy center. He has three long-cherished dreams: a produced screenplay, a NYT best-seller, and a seat in the World Series of Poker.

In 2016, he returned to the U.S. after living in New Zealand for a year with his family, toting more Middle Earth souvenirs and photos than is reasonable.


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