“Telling the Bees” by Dayle A. Dermatis
Some kind of weird Sleeping Beauty curse has hit a Portland, Oregon, suburb—the entire town has fallen asleep. Hedgewitch sisters Holly and Willow, and Holly’s fae familiar, Cam, head out to help. But “weird” doesn’t begin to describe what’s really happening…
“Telling the Bees” is one of the 15 tales in the Magicks & Enchantments anthology, which is available for a limited time in the Wild Magic bundle.
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Pack your bags, put on your good walking shoes, and make sure you bring plenty of water. We’re going out into the wilderness, and who knows when we’ll be back?
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I pulled into the parking lot of the Market of Choice, an Oregon-based grocery chain that wasn’t quite as hoity-toity as New Seasons or Whole Foods, but significantly above Safeway and the like.
I’d been here once before, seeking out Jayden. It had been in the middle of an unusually heavy snow season, but even then, there had been shoppers around. The market was behind a row of businesses, from a backyard bird shop to a Vietnamese pho place to a martial arts dojo. A Starbucks, of course. Can’t have a business area without a Starbucks. The local library and Post Office were nearby, too. The whole area was surrounded by tall trees, making it feel less strip-mall-y.
There were a few cars in the parking lot and along the street, but no pedestrians.
On a beautiful spring day like this, the area should have been teeming with soccer moms in yoga pants.
We opened our car doors, and as one, froze.
The sound…was wrong.
No cars, obviously, except the faint ones on the freeway bridge crossing the river, less than a mile away. No voices.
Like a thousand—no, a million voices humming together, a wordless tune. Barely a tune, because each note lasted so long, and eased into the next without a pause or break.
—from “Telling the Bees” by Dayle A. Dermatis
What aspects of folklore and mythology did you incorporate in “Telling the Bees,” and why?
The concept of telling the bees is a real thing. In Europe, beekeepers’ bees would be informed of important events in their keepers’ lives, such as marriages, births, and of course deaths. To not tell the bees about their keeper’s death, to not let them mourn and, perhaps, bridge the gap between life and death, could cause misfortune. The bees might leave, stop producing honey, or die. I find the idea that bees and their keepers have such a close bond fascinating.
You’ve written a couple of stories about Holly and Willow, the hedgewitches in “Telling the Bees.” What do you most enjoy about these characters, and do you plan to write more stories about them?
Holly and Willow, sister hedgewitches, started when I came up with the idea that witches’ familiars are actually the fae folk. The fae can shapeshift, which explains why familiars have been described in multiple forms (black cats, goats, whatever). My premise is that the fae are pure magic, which allow witches to channel/use magic. It’s kind of a symbiotic relationship.
The sisters have very different personalities. Holly is prickly (she fits her name). Willow is more floaty and gentle. They accept each other and get along well, but Willow generally is the face of their magic store, given her patience with customers.
Of course, Holly always manages to be behind the counter when a problem customer comes in…
I do want to write more stories, and hopefully novels, about them. Willow’s fae familiar has gone missing. I want to find out why (as I’m sure she does, too)!
Why do you think so many people are drawn to reading stories about magic?
I believe there is magic in the world, and fiction is one of ways people find it. When you get sucked into a book or movie or whatever, and you look up and hours have passed, and you feel like you were in a different world, isn’t that magical?
There’s magic in the glint of sunlight on flowing water, autumn leaves crunching beneath your feet, the scent of freshly mown grass. The curious carvings high up on city buildings and the mysterious alleys between those buildings. Laughter, and that deep bonding between friends.
And most of all, when you do something kind for someone. They feel good, and you feel good.
Readers seek magic in stories, and I hope that inspires them to experience the magic in their own lives.
Researching History for Fantasy Writers is a non-fiction book you wrote on how writers can make their fantasy worlds rich and compelling. Why did you write this book, and what did you yourself learn from the experience?
I loved loved loved high fantasy when I was younger. Then in my twenties, I joined the Society of Creative Anachronism, an international nonprofit group devoted to re-creating the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Unlike Renaissance Faires, we do it for fun and to learn the martial aspect as well as the arts and crafts.
And I found I couldn’t read high fantasy anymore, because it was so…detail-less.
A woman would be described as wearing a blue gown, but I had no idea what that gown looked like. The Middle Ages spanned a thousand years, and styles changed dramatically. So that finally compelled me to rant about it in a constructive way, which because Researching History for Fantasy Writers.
I asked friends for resources and information, and learned a lot from their research and knowledge. The book is part “think about this” and “this is almost always wrong” along with resources and how to use them (books, movies, websites, etc.).
You’re a founding member of the Uncollected Anthology, a group of writers who publish three urban and contemporary fantasy anthologies each year. What do you most enjoy about being a part of this collective?
I’m called the mastermind behind UA, because it was all my fault. I wanted to read more urban fantasy stories from my favorite author-friends. At the time, there was no way to “bundle” stories, and I didn’t want to be an accountant, so we agreed to publish our stories individually with a clear series cover and cross-promote each other.
I love the challenge of writing to a theme, but most of all I love reading the other authors’ stories.
You’ve written one novel and a number of short stories about Nikki Ashburne, a former party girl who accidentally overdoses, briefly dies, then wakes up able to see ghosts. Ghosted is Book 1…can you give us a sneak peek at what’s in store in book 2?
I set book 2, Shaded, aside during the pandemic because I just couldn’t access Nikki’s snarky voice. She’s back in my head now, I’m more than halfway through the book, and I’m going to be finishing it soon.
In Ghosted, Nikki had to strip herself down and learn to be alone—to be comfortable and solid with being alone. In Shaded, she makes tentative steps towards connecting with people she hopes she can trust, after the multiple betrayals she faced in Ghosted.
Shaded also brings more threats to the ghosts she calls friends. Power-hungry Wiccan wannabees—ugh! They’re the worst.
I’ll be following up that book with Spectered to round out the trilogy. I already know the shit I’m going to be throwing at Nikki, but not how she solves things and survives.
What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing??
Right now I’m finishing up a commissioned nonfiction book about being a groupie, because the publisher knows my devotion to the group Styx. I prefer to call myself an über-fan. I’ve seen them about 150 times, they know who I am…but more importantly, I’ve made incredible friendships along the way: dear friends whom I spend time with even when there are no concerts to attend.
I “interviewed” those friends during 2020, and it was a delight to connect with them when the world was otherwise a dumpster fire.
When I was asked to write the book, I couldn’t stop giggling. How can this not be fun?
Dayle A. Dermatis is the author or coauthor of many novels (including snarky urban fantasies Ghosted, Shaded, and Spectered) and more than a hundred short stories in multiple genres, appearing in such venues as Fiction River, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and DAW Books.
Called the mastermind behind the Uncollected Anthology project, she also guest edits anthologies for Fiction River, and her own short fiction has been lauded in many year’s best anthologies in erotica, mystery, and horror.
She lives in a book- and cat-filled historic English-style cottage in the wild greenscapes of the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time she follows Styx around the country and travels the world, which inspires her writing.
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